Ensuring A Successful Corporate Facebook Presence

[This contributed article for Mediapost originally ran on March 22, 2010]

Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find a large brand that isn’t at least thinking about how it can participate in social networking phenom Facebook. With over 400 million members, Facebook teases with an audience that is nearly four times greater than that of the Super Bowl… every day. Unfortunately, many brands are finding that there is a big difference between setting up a fan page and creating a meaningful presence that attracts real customer engagement.

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The single biggest point of failure according to my colleague, Kevin Tate, principal of StepChange, is an unwillingness to follow the four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence. Kevin knows a thing or two about this topic, as he has worked with nearly 100 brands to create meaningful Facebook presences in a world where many have failed. The four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence are fairly straightforward, but to rush straight to stage four is where companies typically fall down.

  1. Strategy – Before you start building, there are a few things to think about. For instance, who do you want to talk to? What do you want to talk to them about? What do you want them to do? Figuring these questions out up front will help ensure a successful step two.
  2. Presence – With most companies, creating a solid presence requires creating one or more fan pages with several tabs. This is the "getting the house in order" step. Presence can be a difficult step, as this step requires patience while you build your following.
  3. Activation – This is the "what do you want them to do" part. A brand can have all the fans on Facebook, but what’s the value of a fan just sitting there? Activation is the "what do you want them to do" portion of building a fan page. Real value is when a fan is doing something for you outside of being just another follower.
  4. Amplification – This is more of an outcome than a stage, but if you have the right presence and you’ve done your activation, amplification should allow you to tap your Facebook presence to amplify or build on current campaigns, in-store promotions and other marketing activities.

A good example of a company that has done a great job building out its Facebook presence, with a little over 1.1 million fans, is Dunkin’ Donuts. The company has a "fan of the week," where it highlights that fan in its profile picture. In addition, fans celebrate promotions that are going on in the different tabs where they can dunk themselves in chocolate, design their own donut (leading to hundreds of thousands of likes and comments by fans) and even upload photos taken in stores or with Dunkin’ Donuts product

Unfortunately, for every Dunkin’ Donuts, there are fifty other brands that have failed to lead with a strategy or even create a meaningful presence on Facebook, but instead have gone right to trying to "activate" their customers. Some will eventually figure out a way to engage with the 400 million-plus members of this increasingly popular site, while others will abandon their efforts and just assume that Facebook "isn’t for them." 

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What Makes a Good Influencer?

During my time at interactive conference, South by Southwest (SXSW), I had the opportunity to do a few interviews. The one below conducted by fellow Social Media Club advisory board member, Deb Micek, speaks to how to be an influencer or one that brings values to relationships. During the interview (2 minutes), I talk about the importance of:

  1. Introducing everyone — never leave people out of the conversation. You’d be surprised who doesn’t know whom.
  2. Being a content creator, regardless of which channel you use (photo, video, audio or written).

What are your recommendations on how to be a good influencer?

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3425737&dest=-1]

How I Spent My “Geek Spring Break” (aka SXSWi)

It’s been exactly a week since South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and I’ve had a little bit of time to let the dust settle. While this was definitely the most stressful of the three SXSWi’s I’ve been to, it was also the most professionally rewarding. Yes, you heard me right. I actually had a good time at SXSWi AND found value unlike others who complained that it’s become too big, too commercialized or too whatever. Rather than pile on, I’ll let my friends Kyle Flaherty and Jessica Smith and sister, Heather Strout’s posts speak to this point as they’ve really covered all the base

What I would like to cover in my recap of my experience at SXSWi are five things. I’ve bulleted the items below so you can focus on the areas you care about and skip the “who gives a you-know what” stuff.

  • Key take away’s from the Dachis Group’s Social Business Summit on Thursday
  • Location-based services – my $.02
  • Speaking at SXSWi and what I think it takes to get on a panel
  • The @Redsoxgnome photo meme
  • Parties: which ones I liked and why (including our very own Powered Inc. party)

SOCIAL BUSINESS SUMMIT
Fortunately or unfortunately, I was not able to attend very many panels this year. Believe it or not, it was not a lack of want on my part but rather a lack of time (thus the stress) between meetings, briefings, client events, prospecting, etc. I did have the good fortune of sitting on two panels this year (more on that under bullet three) and did get a chance to catch my friend / mentee, Sydney Owen’s panel, “GenY Wants to Work with You, Not for You (my friend, Elysa Rice was also on the panel — both did a wonderful job). I also caught the first half of Twitter founder, Evan Williams’, keynote. Like many folks, I was underwhelmed but found a little additional value in moderator, Umair Haque’s blog recap/apology.
The reason I’m providing this prologue is that I didn’t feel as bad about not attending panels during SXSWi because I had a day of great inspiration on the Thursday prior. (A big thank you to Peter Kim / Jeff Dachis for inviting me). You can visit the agenda to see a list of all the speakers and topics but the highlights for me were the breadth and depth of what was covered. In particular, I really liked Charlene Li’s (Altimeter Group) talk on open leadership, Jaime Punishill’s (Citi) discussion of operationalizing social, Kate Niederhoffer’s (Dachis Group) primer on social psychology,  Frank Eliason’s (Comcast) focus on social’s impact on cultural change and finally Jackie Huba’s (Ants Eye View) highlighting of why the “one percent-ers” matter. Don’t get me wrong, all of the speakers were fantastic… these just happen to be the handful that really stood out.
LOCATION-BASED SERVICES

One of the biggest takeaways for me at SXSWi is that location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are here to stay. Those two may or may not be the dominant players in the long run (I like both companies but my money is on Facebook for winning this game in the long run) but they definitely got their day in the sun at SXSWi. Author, Alan Wolk and 140 Conference founder, Jeff Pulver, shared some interesting thoughts here and here on what LBS lack and why they played a bigger role at SXSWi than Twitter.

As someone that’s spent more time than is healthy experimenting with location-based services — I started using Brightkite in early 2008 — I had the opportunity to experience the good, the bad and the ugly of Gowalla and Foursquare during SXSWi. For one, Gowalla and FourSquare helped me find out where the best panels, lunches, dinners and parties were during the conference. In particular, a simple check up on the whereabouts of Mssrs. Chris Heueur, Brett Petersel, David Armano or Robert Scoble more often than not let me know where the action waUsing FourSquare and Gowalla was also particularly useful in trying to track down friends and colleagues when we got separated (which happened fairly often). Lastly, I was also able to figure out who was in the blogger’s lounge at any given time (to that end, big ups to Porter Novelli, TechSet, Brian Solis, Stephanie Agresta and Windows for making the BL possible). The Bloggers’ Lounge continues to be one of my favorite places to hang out during SXSWi.

On the bad/ugly side of LBS, there are privacy issues that are starting to arise. For one. FourSquare has developed a feature that automatically includes other “friends” that are checked into a common location when a user decides to cross-post on Twitter. Normally, this is no big deal but increasingly is starting to cause confusion or even trouble. As an example, think about this use case… I check into the Iron Cactus for lunch. As the day wears on, I get caught up with work and forget to check into another location. At 3:30, a female friend that I’m connected with on FourSquare checks into the Iron Cactus and says “doing tequila shots.” The problem is, unknowingly the aforementioned female friend’s tweet might look something like this, “@SusieQue is doing tequila sho
ts w/ @aaronstrout at Iron Cactus (225 Fourth Street http://4sq.com/4r8adF).” While I may, or may not care whether I’m being accused of doing tequila shots, if my boss and/or wife are watching Twitter, they might see this tweet and wonder, “what the h3ll is Aaron doing with Susie Que at 3:30 in the afternoon when he should be working?

On a side note, one of the bright spots of SXSWi for me was a social network / platform called Plancast. I covered this with my podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, a few weeks ago on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show and will be interviewing their CEO, Mark Hendrickson sometime in April. Even if you are not socially inclined, it is a great way to discover events (and keep track of events that you have signed up for). You can also find out more from the interview that my friend, Simon Salt, did with Mark here.

SPEAKING AT SXSWi / GETTING ON A PANEL

As I mentioned earlier, this was my third year attending SXSWi. My first year here, I was just in awe of actually coming and did not submit for any panels. For 2009, I submitted for a panel that made it all the way to the finals before being nixed. And then there was this year. I only submitted one panel and that was on behalf of my colleague, Kathy Warren. It was to include Kodak client, Tom Hoehn, and friends, Shawn Morton of Nationwide and Peter Fasano of Coke. The focus was how businesses were generating ROI using social (I mean, who would want to see that panel, right?) Unfortunately, that panel did not make the cut but my friend, Tim Walker’s panel on using sports metaphors in social did. I was also lucky enough to be asked to join a panel on Digital Identity Theft by my friend Beth Gwazdosky at CSIdentity.

What’s the moral of this story? One, it’s an arbitrary process from what I can tell and two, make friends with people who have a good shot of getting their panels approved. Oh, and keep trying because as frustrating as it is to submit and fail, you don’t have a shot (unless you’ve got the right friends) unless you try. For summaries of the Digital Identity Theft panel I did with Bill Morrow, see my sister’s post (referenced earlier). My friend, Christine Major, did a nice wrap up of the sports metaphor panel that Tim and Kyle Flaherty were kind enough to include me on.

THE REDSOX GNOME

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and that couldn’t be more true when it came to this year’s photo meme. For those who are wondering “what’s up with the gnome,” the short version of the story is that my good friend, Jim Storer (the photographer responsible for many of the photos in this post) decided to start a photo meme last year called, Sad, Mad, Glad. This year, our goal was to one-up that meme so we solicited suggestions from Twitter. Former colleague, Susan Koutalakis, teed up the idea of taking pictures with the Red Sox Gnome ala Travelocity. I’ve included a few of my favorites below but be sure to head over to Jim’s Flickr stream to see all the victims participants in the meme.


THE PARTIES

I could wax poetic on this last topic for a while. But I won’t. Mainly because I don’t want to reinforce the perception that SXSWi is all about the parties. Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of parties. But for anyone that really “gets it,” you realize that the networking is what’s important and that can happen in a number of different ways including breakfasts, hallway conversations, the Blogger’s Lounge, car rides to the Salt Lick, et

With that said, here are my five favorite parties/events from SXSWi in no particular order:

  • Allhat II at Guero’s (thrown by Richard Binhammer and David Armano): Great people, great venue, great music and great food. Have I used the adjective “great” enough yet? (photos)
  • Firefly Fandango at Molotov (thrown by Jason Falls, Tim Hayden, Tom Martin and Chillie Falls): all the right people on a roof deck with enough room to move around. (photos)
  • TechSet at Speakeasy (thrown by Brian Solis and Steph Agresta): this party always tends to be one of the “Bells of the Ball.” Fun accessories like Kyle Flaherty’s boa (pictured at the top of this post) and funky white shades. Got a little crowded mid-way through but fun nonetheless. (photos)
  • Flash Party at Belmont (inspired by Chris Heuer): sometimes the best parties are the ones that happen spontaneously. I think this was the most fun because of who showed up and that it wasn’t on anyone’s calendar. Chris just made it happen. (photos)
  • The Powered Party at Scholz Garten (thrown by my company, Powered — props to Drillteam and Beth Lopez for making this party kick @ss): If the venue, people, food, weather etc. made Allhat II great, add actor/comedian, Brian Posehn, to the mix and you had a perfect mix of funny and chemistry. Thank you to everyone that showed up for this party. It meant a lot to me/us. (photos)
  • Honorable mention: The group that Peter Kim and I got together at the Salt Lick. (photos)
  • Also honorable mention: the Chevy party thrown by Christopher Barger at the Salt Lick. And yes, I got my share of BBQ during SXSWi as evidenced by the Porky badge I earned as a result on FourSquare.
So that’s a wrap. Longer than I wanted it to be but missing a bunch of things I wanted to talk about. Isn’t that always the way. An additional shout out to some of my peeps that I hung out with during SXSW including: Joe Jaffe, Doug Wick, Bill Fanning, Sydney OwenMason Nelder, Zena Weist, Adam Cohen, Selina McCusker, Zane AvetonBill Johnston, Jaime Punishill, Anna O’Brien, Frank Eliason, Deb Micek, Aaron Brazell, D’Ann Faught, Alexa Scordato, Keith Burtis, Rocky Barbanica, Brett Petersel, Reem Abeidoh, Heather Elias, Hadley Stern, Martha Hayward, David Smutek, Liz Phillips, Marlooz Veldhuisen, Jeremy Tanner, Maria Ogneva, Greg Narain, Ginger Wilcox, Derek Overbey, Andy Kaufman, Jeremiah Owyang, David Berkowitz, Maggie Fox, Lionel Menchaca, Greg Matthews, Shawn Morton, Chuck Hemann, Bryan Person and about a thousand other people I’m going to cheese off by not mentioning here.

Special thanks to Jim Storer for being my partner in crime and making the conference incrementally more fun with all his awesome photos. And special, special thanks to my loving and supportive wife, Melanie and my three awesome children for letting me be an absentee husband/dad for nearly six days.

Social Media for B2B: It CAN be done

This was originally posted on my friend Tommy Landry’s blog, Return on Now, as a guest post on February 8, 2010.

 

Why is it that when it comes to conversation about social media, business-to-business (B2B) seems to draw the short stick every single time? As someone that does a lot of webcasts, blog posts and speaking gigs, the questions/comment that always comes up is, "what about B2B examples." Fortunately for me, I’m able to mention companies like BreakingPoint Systems and Hubspot that do a great job tapping into the power of social media but I often wish there were more examples (with public results) that I could discuss.

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In thinking about this topic, one of the main reasons that B2B has taken a little longer to adopt social media into its marketing mix is that it’s harder to do effectively. It’s also feels risky because there is less control then there is in other channels. With that said, I personally believe that B2B companies stand to benefit the most from social media because they live and die based on the strength of their customer relationships. On top of that, many B2B companies actually know exactly know who their prospective customers are so seeking those folks out in a meaningful way and creating relationships with them can have a huge impact on the bottom line. Given that I’m a prescriptive kind of guy, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t offer up some ways that companies can start thinking about putting social media into practice. There are obviously tons of ways but here are a few (including a diagram that provides more color commentary on item number three):

  1. Start listening. This is easier to do than you think. Set up a Google alert for your company’s name, your competitors’ names and keywords for your industry. If you’re already doing this, consider hiring a "listening" service like Techrigy, Radian6 or Meltwater Buzz. This will help you find out where all the relevant conversations in your space are happening.
  2. Create a Twitter account for your business. However, resist the urge to put up links to press releases, product specs and links to press that are signing your business’s praises (at least out of the gate). Instead, talk about things that people in your industry care about. For instance, if you create bill payment software, talk about the needs of small to medium sized businesses across the financial spectrum (payroll, credit, vendor managment, etc.) Link to reports and industry analysis. Point out other people’s blog posts and magazine articles.
  3. Set up a blog. Before you do this though, make sure you have someone (ideally internal) that is willing to commit to posting at least 5-6 times/month. This can be someone on your marketing, product, or PR teams or even better, one of your executives. Think about creating an editorial calendar to help guide your topics. Most importantly, spend time looking at other industry related blogs — in fact, you should spend at least a month doing this before you set up your own blog. Be sure to comment on those blogs (talk about the topic, not your company). This will help with getting to know the relevant "social" people in the space.
  4. Create an online community. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with items 1-3, start thinking about a online community. Ideally, this is for both customers and prospective customers. Some businesses feel more comfortable about creating private communities where customers can talk to one another. The key either way is to hire a great community manager and let them help you create relevant content via webinars, blog posts and conference calls (see diagram below). A community manager will also help you draw out your customers and insure that conversations stay relevant and productive.
  5. Measure, measure, measure. This is less difficult than you might imagine. This really should start with looking at your current goals i.e. new customers, greater retention, larger share of wallet, referrals, etc. Then make sure you benchmark e.g. look at your webstats and current KPI’s before you launch your social efforts. Then look at how your moving the bar over time. A key place to look is at your web analytics to see what kind of traffic and engagement your Twitter feed and/or blog efforts are driving. Also, it doesn’t hurt to survey customers and ask them if your efforts are impacting their loyalty to your company.
Screen shot 2010-03-01 at 12.57.25 PM
 
I won’t lie to you, everything I mentioned above takes effort. But it’s worth trying, especially when it’s done right, because it will yield results. One thing that I failed to mention is the importance of integrating the recommendations above with your existing marketing/channel activity. Social media doesn’t live in a vacuum and if nobody can find the fruit of your efforts, you may as well not have exerted the time and resources. Am I missing anything? You bet I am. But that’s where you come in. What types of social media have you tried? What’s worked? Please feel free to share in the comments section below. 

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 33: Reunited Edition!

About nine months ago, I started a weekly podcast called the Quick-n-Dirty show with my friend and co-host, Jennifer Leggio (Jennifer is a blogger for ZDNet). Jennifer and I take turns recapping the shows on my personal blog and Jennifer’s ZDNet blog but my colleague, Beth Lopez, recently convinced me that I should be cross-posting my re-caps here. If you’d like to see more recaps, you can go here.

——–

It’s been a few weeks since my podcast partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio, and I have been able to do a Quick-n-Dirty podcast together. For two weeks in a row, travel prevented me from joining her on our weekly show. Fortunately, we had a couple of more than capable substitutes in Brian Solis (author and principal of FutureWorks) and Greg Matthews, director of innovation at Humana. Write ups from the shows with Brian and Greg can be found here and here on Jennifer’s ZDNet blog.

 

This week, Jennifer and I were back in the saddle again with me broadcasting live from Jackson Hole, WY (yes, I took one for the team). We had an action packed show starting with our featured social network of the week, Hollrr. Neither Jennifer or I had had much of chance to play with Hollrr but saw some decent potential in this site that Mashable likens to "Foursquare for product discovery" (full review here). Both Jennifer and I appreciated Hollrr’s off-the-shelf integration with other social networks like Twitter and Facebook and I personally look forward to getting product recommendations from friends and connections. Oh yeah, they have a pretty cool logo too.

Next up was our featured guest (and former "Twitterer of the week,") Simon Mainwaring. If you don’t know Simon, you should. Officially, he is a branding consultant, advertising creative director, blogger, author and speaker. A former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy, he now consults for brands and creative companies that are re-inventing their industries. During this week’s show, Simon shared some fascinating updates from a recent trip he took to the Middle East as a guest of the Brookings Institute. The focus was on social media and foreign policy, two disciplines that traditionally don’t share the same space. I won’t pretend to do Simon’s interview justice so just this one time, I’m MANDATING that you listen to at least Simon’s portion of the show (starts about 7 mins in and runs for aproximately 25 minutes).

Speaking of "Twitterers of the week," this week’s choice was principal of The Community Roundtable (and close friend), Jim Storer. As I mentioned during the show, nobody has done a better job at taking community management skills to Twitter than Jim. Regularly mixing helpful tips, humor, love of bacon and Red Sox commentary into his stream, Jim is a "must add" to anyone’s Twitter follow list irrespective of what industry they are in.

Last but not least, our point/counterpoint focused on one of Jennifer’s recent blog posts, Twitter: Becoming Nothing Special. Jennifer’s post theorizes that the recent announcement of Yahoo’s partnership with Twitter pushes them from "new shiny object" into the merely "ordinary" category. While Jennifer didn’t see this as all bad, she wondered aloud if this might hurt Twitter’s future potential. Taking the opposing side of this issue, I argued that this is exactly what Twitter (and social media) need. Making Twitter and other social networks like "electricity" — something we don’t ever even think about in spite of the critical role it plays in our daily lives — is a good thing. To me, this means that it’s so ingrained in our daily lives, personal and professional, that we can’t live without it.

Looking forward to next week’s show, Jennifer and I will switch places and I will be working with friend and founder of Oneforty, Laura Fitton, as my guest host. Jennifer will be attending the RSA Conference and thus will be out of pocket for this week’s Quick-n-Dirty. I’m sure she’ll want to listen to the show (as will you). Fortunately for her, our shows are archived here and on iTunes (search on "quickndirty").