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Better Social in 2015

So, we are on the verge of a new year (already?!). It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments and the good things we’ve done. It’s also a time to take a hard look at ways to improve for the year to come. I’m sure that whether you are a business or an individual, there are things you’d like to do better in 2015. Maybe it’s improving your bottom line or re-packaging your current brand.

IM2_PROLOGUE_VFX_12In December, I love to take stock of where I stand, personally and professionally. It gives me a chance to take a critical look at how I’ve served my clients and whether I’m growing. I want to be better, as a business owner, a person, and a professional. These improvements also include social media.

There’s been good social and bad, just like every other year. However, I hope that in 2015 we see social media improve. Here’s five ways to do that:

1. Be smarter with your posting– Far too often this year, we’ve seen mistakes by brands and individuals. There are more “gotcha moments” (see Franco, James) and hitting the send button before a post is really looked at closely (see U.S. Airways). Don’t rush to update your Facebook page or that Instagram photo because you want to be funny or beat another brand to the punch. Think your posts through. You’ll be better off in the long run.

2. Don’t cross-post from Facebook to Twitter- Or vice versa, for that matter. No matter how many times myself or one of my colleagues says that Facebook and Twitter are different social channels, there’s always a brand that decides they are too lazy to come up with separate posts. Cross posting from Twitter to Facebook shows you don’t really care about your audience, your message, or, frankly, your brand. People notice and they’ll eventually stop listening.
3. Don’t be so “salesy”- By now, you’ve probably seen that Facebook is going to get tough on businesses, big and small, that have posts that are heavy with sales speak. While some businesses are worried, they shouldn’t be. A smart business strategy on Facebook should involve posts that speak to fans, not sell to them. If you follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter, you probably like the product. Brands need to remember this and speak to customers as people, not numbers. And that leads me to…
4. Take the time to understand your audience, customers- This should really be a no-brainer, but, sadly, it isn’t. There are still plenty of brands that would rather treat their followers and fans as numbers, instead of as an important part of their business. Social media isn’t just a platform to get your messages out, it’s also a chance to connect with your audience and make them more of a champion for you. Don’t look at followers as numbers. View every one as a prospect!
5. Plan ahead- Remember the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is absolutely true when it comes to social. A social media posting plan is something that you need to have. No questions asked. Now, when I say plan ahead, it doesn’t mean that if you schedule posts, you are in the clear. If you are a social media manager, it’s important that you keep your eyes and ears on the news and what is going on around you. Scheduled posts can come back and bite you if they don’t fit the tone of the day. The bottom line? Have a posting plan, but be ready to change at a moment’s notice.
Social media is still growing and it’s important to understand that we can all be better at posting to the large number of networks that exist today. Make 2015 that year to be better, more strategic, and more focused. Here’s to your social success!

Is Social Media Evolving or is it Stuck in Neutral?

Over the weekend, I was going through some mementos of my younger years. I found one of my old yearbooks, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from the first space shuttle launch and when the 1986 New York Mets won the World Series. Oddly enough, I also found an AOL start-up disk. If you are like me, you remember they came in the mail with an offer to try it free for 30 days. Ah, dial-up.

That's the QuestionThis find got me thinking. AOL and Prodigy went by the wayside pretty quickly; it sort of evolved, but then ended up dying. Prodigy is a footnote in online history. AOL, as it was then, isn’t the same. Are we in for the same sort of slow shuttering of social media platforms?

Now, this blog isn’t meant to be the “Five Reasons Facebook will Die by 2015” or “Why Twitter can’t stay free” type post. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to go in the opposite direction. Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to be starting a frank conversation about social media and whether it’s evolving or is stuck. We’ll talk to pros and students about their feelings and findings. You be able to see and hear these things via my YouTube channel and brand new podcast.

But, let’s start the conversation right now. Is social evolving or is it not? Leave your feelings in the comments section.

New Blog Series!

I enjoy giving back when I can. So, as we start a new year, it’s time to help those in our great fields of PR, social media and marketing. Starting on Thursday, Jan. 3, I’ll have a five-part blog series on things you can do to improve your career, day-to-day life in the office and at home and much more.

Here’s some background on the series:

New Blog Series

I can’t wait for you to join me weekly here and get your feedback and insights.

To PPT or not to PPT

Over the last few months, I’ve done a number of presentations and I’m asked the same question: “Will you have a PowerPoint to present?” My answer (so far) is always, “yes.” But, it was a discussion with my wife about a PowerPoint presentation that really got me thinking.

She asked after my most recent talk, “What if you DID NOT have one?” I shuddered and thought, “I can’t just NOT have one. What would I refer to?” But, she made a great point: Do we really need to use PowerPoint during a talk and is it always effective? So, I was officially conflicted.

I decided to reach out to trusted colleague Deirdre Breakenridge; she’s done a few presentations (understatement). I wanted to get her opinion on which way to go. Deirdre stressed the importance of knowing the audience and to have the resources prepared that will get their attention.

“When I visit colleges and meet with groups of students, I usually don’t use PowerPoint,” she said. Instead, the discussion is interactive with questions about them, their interests and their needs. “I find the PowerPoint in the classroom setting can be distracting. There are instances, however, where I’ve embedded videos in a PPT during a classroom presentation, which are used to ignite passionate discussions.” But, Deirdre stays away from the typical PPT with bulleted information.
With larger groups such as professional associations and training session with businesses, the PowerPoint can be very helpful. “Once again, it’s important for me to use visuals that I can speak to, rather than a lot of bulleted information,” Deirdre said. “Sometimes large, colorful visuals or charts specifically calling out numbers are a great way to get attention and to get a point across.” Deirdre made certain to stress that PowerPoint should not be the sole discussion, but rather a helpful reference (or jumping of point) to aid the speaker to deliver more compelling information.
I think Deirdre’s points are very valid, especially when it comes to understanding your audience. One of the things I’ve done is prior to any talk is to chat with the head of the group. What are the people like? What information are you looking to learn more about? Is it a big room or more intimate setting? All these things are important.
Let me know your thoughts on PowerPoint and how you use it or don’t.

Monday Minute: Smart Content

In today’s Monday Minute, we discuss content. Sure, you can post anything you want in blogs and in the social space. But is it smart?

How are you making sure your content is smart? Let me know in the comments.

Monday Minute: Leadership

Are you a leader? There’s often the thought that just because you are in a leadership position, you must be one. I discuss leadership in today’s Minute.

What are your thoughts on leadership? Let me know in the comments.

Guest Post: Still Learning Two Years Out

(Jas’ note: I’m happy to have Stephanie Florence back to guest post on the blog. As college seniors wrap up their college careers, Stephanie has some great advice in moving forward.)

I’ve been out of college for two years. Looking back, the time feels both long and as though it’s all happened in a blink. One very blatant observation I’ve had since graduation is the integration of social media.

I took an Intro to Social Media course my senior year of college and compared to then, my understanding today has improved tenfold. I joined Twitter that year, but thought it was only status updates, not the great source of networking and education it has become for me. I created a personal website to use as a portfolio, but never considered incorporating a blog to share insights and showcase my writing.

Recently, one of the students I’ve met tweeted about her final college paper: the power of social through Twitter and Foursquare. I caught this example on video last month, but as a student did not realize this could become the topics of college papers.

Social media has become engrained in our daily lives, both professionally and personally. After a call with Jason to plan our guest post collaboration, I realized some of my blog posts have been written under one very big assumption: that all students get “it.” It includes taking on the next chapter post-college, specifically with social media.

Students and recent grads are continuously receiving advice on what to do in preparation for their next big move. Here are my four go-to suggestions:

* Stay current on industry and world news. Always ask questions and be open to learning.

* Engage on social networks. Study influencers and successful brands for insight.

* Start a blog. Whether it’s WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr or Blogger, find the platform that works for you.

* Never lose the personal connection. Make phone calls, host chats via Skype and go out to lunch. Relationships require interaction to become truly beneficial and worthwhile to those involved.

You can read Stephanie’s blog at: StephanieFlorence.Posterous.com and connect with her on Twitter: @StephanieFlo.

Jobs vs. The College Student

By now, you probably have heard and read about the controversy that surrounds Apple CEO Steve Jobs and the email exchange he recently had with a New York college student.  To summarize: journalism student Chelsea Kate Issacs originally called Apple’s media relations department to ask about iPads being used in an academic setting. She didn’t get a response, so she wrote Jobs.  His first reply?

“Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.”

After another exchange between Issacs and Jobs, the Apple CEO finally said this to her:

“Please leave us alone.”

At first glance, this is a PR problem for Jobs and Apple. You have the CEO telling a young college student to basically buzz off.  Then, you have Apple’s media relations office ignoring her as well.  Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a business of five people, not answering an inquiry is flat out wrong.

However, I take issue with the student as well.  I don’t have a problem with her inquiring for a comment.  I may seem nitpicky here, but my issue is with Ms. Issacs saying, “The completion of this article is crucial to my grade in the class, and it may potentially get published in our university’s newspaper…”

Why mention the grade part? Jobs is right.  It’s not Apple’s responsibility to help her get an “A.” And it “may potentially” get published? If you are a journalism student, never say potentially.  For example, say “I’m working on a story on (insert subject) for this week’s edition of the (newspaper name).”

I’ll let you read the actual emails over at Gawker.

Ms. Issacs was annoyed at the fact that Jobs was rude in his replies.  She’s right. He acted like a world class jerk. And Apple’s media relations should have had a statement at the ready for inquiries like this. But, let’s be honest.  We’ve all heard that Jobs isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type.  That’s not an excuse, though.

When I read the mails from Ms. Issacs, I detected some snark and, honestly, desperation.  This is a great lesson for any young journalism student.  Don’t make it seem like you are begging and never get testy with a potential interviewee.  The chances of getting the response you want will drop.

Of course, the media is giving Jobs the business.  As a PR person, it annoys me that he wouldn’t have the sense to, at least, call his own media relations department and ask them for a short response. And who’s running Apple’s media relations?

But, Ms. Issacs should also have some criticism. Steve Jobs was rude to you.  It stinks and isn’t acceptable.  But going email-to-email with him solves nothing.  A journalist should never make themselves the story.

What are your thoughts on Jobs’ responses? And is the student in the wrong as well? Leave your comments below.

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