Social Media for Business: Avoid the Dark Side of the Hype

Hype Sidious on Thisissamstown

Teens are on Snapchat. Facebook is dead – but records 1.55 billion users. Pinterest was and is the new visual thing while Instagram is in the top 3.

In a few sentences, that is the logic of social media summed up.

It is a strange, ever-changing world of magic and fantasy where trolls cross path with gurus and ninjas.

As businesses are making their way towards digital and social media adoption, they also face the dark side of this force to be reckoned with.

Every business can easily create a Facebook page, a Twitter account or any other presence on one – or many – of the numerous networks available. Yet, social presence, especially for businesses, has to be handled like the business itself.

Social media require strategy

A business plan is a mandatory path to starting a business and following a defined line. Strategy and planning is similarly needed for social media. Here are some of the basics to keep in mind when getting started:

  • Audit your brand, message, audience and competition. Define where you stand, what the voice of your business is and who – and where – your audience is.
  • Define the main – most relevant – media to use to listen, reach out and engage with your audience. Nobody can be everywhere and do everything. Select the top 3-4 relevant networks and focus on these. Add some others, if relevant, once the foundations have been set.
  • Create a playbook. Every network has its own parameters and special features. Prepare materials and documentation for all of them. Starting with profiles. Even if the profiles have to be consistent, the size of pictures will differ and so will banners (where some may be leveraged for added communication) and the number of characters allowed in each bio. Get some templates ready for posts and pictures as well.
  • Plan. Planning is the crucial part. Put together an editorial calendar and global repository (if many team members are involved) for content. Create and curate content relevant to your market and industry, stay on top of trends to feed your content machine and plan the posting.
  • Be human. No need to be a robot. No need to wear a positivity mask (I would call your bullshit). Just ensure having human beings behind the tools. Acting like humans.

There is plenty more to say but follow these pieces of advice and you should, at least, be off to a good (educated) start.

Then, I am only a tweet or email away – and a human ;)

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Social media management 101: use a dashboard, use Hootsuite

Social media management on Thisissamstown

Most people engaged in social media management will tell you the same, you should use dashboards (like Hootsuite which I am focusing on here) and other tools to make your daily life easier. With an ever-growing base of tools and social networks, having one place to rule them all (or some of them at least) does make a lot of sense when looking for efficiency. Managing several profiles across just as many social platforms can become near impossible – or, at least, seriously time-consuming – if not using dashboards like Hootsuite.

Hootsuite main features: social media 101

I have been using Hootsuite for years now and I keep recommending it, especially to beginners, because the tool’s features also act like a tutorial for social media management. From the ability to shorten links to the scheduling of content or the analytics attached to your activity.

Here are a few top Hootsuite features – and must-do – for every social media manager.

Hootsuite: Mobile and Web App 

Hootsuite is available on various devices, through the web or apps. Although they may not offer all the same features, your accounts are still synced so no matter which device you’re using, you’ve got the most up-to-date information. The most important feature of the mobile app is the notifications. From a strict community – or social media – management, you can be alerted to tweets and messages even if being on the go.

This may sometimes create some hassle but it is also crucial from a customer service and experience point of view.

Scheduling Content

Firstly, please note that scheduling is not automation. Strict automation, for example having an automatic direct message (DM) sent to every new follower on Twitter should absolutely be banned.

Why? Do you really like to get dozens of spams everyday in your mailbox? Question answered.

Scheduling, if not mandatory, is a major time-saving functionality. And a strategic tool.

You can not shoot all your content out at once when you are online. At the same time, you can not be available 24/7 on all social platforms. Hence, for the sake of spreading out your content, saving time and reaching a larger audience, the need to schedule it. Hootsuite gives you this ability to create a tweet or a post (LinkedIn, Facebook, …) and define a specific time for each tweet/post to be sent. To make it even easier for beginners, there is an auto-schedule feature which allows you to create your content and let Hootsuite ensure posting it at the best time to reach the most of your followers. Magic!

Shorten your links

Back to basics, shorten your links!

Twitter only allows 140 characters; why spoil some of these on posting full urls? Hootsuite has a built-in link shortening option (ever seen some ow.ly links?) available when composing your post. Just paste your link and shorten. Not only does it save space for your content but also adds analytical capabilities (Hootsuite analytics coming next) and you can also customise the links to make them easy to remember and share or even for tracking purposes.

Big data and Analytics

We live in a data world. Whether you are speaking growth hacking, data science or just social media strategy, data are at the core. Base your decisions on actual facts and figures.

With Hootsuite, you have a range of reports available, some for free, some through paid options, covering everything from your Twitter following (the one vanity metric) to clicks on your links (see previous chapter).

One of the challenges of social media being reporting and ROI, make use of every opportunity to gather data and use them to assess your goals/results and make educated decisions for the next steps to take.

Last but definitely not least, searches. It is in fact the most important feature on Hootsuite – and advice for social media. Search and explore. Keep track of tags, mentions, topics or people in your circles. 

You may see the people speaking about “listening” being even more important than sharing or posting on social networks. 

This is a rule of thumb. Do not go out making noise when you do not know what you are talking about. 

Create Streams for hashtags or keywords

This is one of my favorite features of Hootsuite: the ability to save a search as a stream. Like the Twitter timeline, the feed keeps updating.

The uses of this feature are numerous. Whether you use it to keep track of your competition, a specific hashtag, things happening in your industry, in your region, etc. You can also use it to stream the tweets from people you have gathered in a Twitter list.

Twitter lists will certainly become a massive tool for you as you progress too.

Why? As your account(s) grows, so do usually the number of accounts you follow, creating a fast-running timeline which becomes increasingly difficult to read and curate.

Twitter lists do allow to create boxes/folders making it a lot easier to cut through the overall noise.

Having used and tested a fair amount of tools, I have become a Hootsuite ambassador and keep recommending it for the same reason: it is the Lord of the rings of social media.
The one tool to manage them all.

And a tool you get get started with for free, prior to accelerating and going pro.

You’re now set and ready to go. Open you Hootsuite dashboard and start going professional on social media.

Join the Hoot gang and get in touch anytime!

Uber logo for "An Uber apology" on ThisIsSamsTown.com

An Über apology

Uber logo for "An Uber apology" on ThisIsSamsTown.com

A little before Christmas, the worst happened in Sydney. Martin Place suddenly became the center of attention when one man took hostages the customers of a café and the the whole started fearing about whatever was happening at that time.

In the wake of this event, Uber sent a communication that would trigger an immediate and angry response from the public. A tweet I came across, boasting surge pricing in order to draw drivers to the scene and “help” the people of Sydney get away from the danger zone.

More than a communication mistake. Just sheer stupidity from any point of view.

And on December 24th, an email came from Uber Sydney. A letter of apology. I copy the whole text below :

The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added. 

Our priority was to help get as many people out of the CBD safely in the midst of a fast-moving event. The decisions we made were based only on helping to achieve this but we communicated this poorly, leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations.

Surge pricing is algorithmic and kicks in automatically when demand for rides outstrips the supply of cars that are on the road. This encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides. As an increasing number of people were requesting rides that morning in the CBD, surge pricing came into effect automatically and this is when you might have seen higher prices.

We didn’t stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and provided free rides to people needing to leave the CBD. In the end, no rider was charged to leave the CBD on Monday and all higher fares resulting from surge pricing earlier in the day were fully refunded.

It’s unfortunate that the perception is that Uber did something against the interests of the public. We certainly did not intend to. We will learn from this incident and improve as a result of this lesson. Uber is committed to ensuring users have a reliable ride when they need it most – including and especially during disasters and relevant states of emergency. We take our community commitment very seriously in the 250+ cities Uber serves around the globe.

Please know that we have listened to the feedback and we are working to standardise a global policy to ensure we’re serving communities in the most efficient, effective and helpful way possible at all times. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims’ families, those that were injured and the Sydney community of which we are so proud to be a part.

The “mistake” was more than a mistake as it led to misunderstanding and did seriously hurt the brand. Especially at a time when Uber should definitely not have to be handling more “shit” than it does already.

Let this serve as a lesson for every social media manager, for every brand representative out there. Whatever the situation, whatever the need for speed that social media push on people, just sit down, relax and … Think before acting stupidly!

The Art of Social Media, a book in review

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick

Social media, is it really an art ? Whatever the right answer – if any – may be, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick are saying yes to it with their upcoming book, “The Art of Social Media”.

With the book due to be available in just a few hours (on the 4th of December), what is there to be expected from it ? Let us have a quick look into it since I had the chance to get a copy for review.

The book I wanted

With the extreme rise of web-based publications and tools, I do admit that books have become a rarity in my vicinity. Yet, upon notification of this upcoming book, I really got curious; so much that I actually pre-ordered the book and paid for it … . Prior to receiving a copy for review.

Call me eager and dumb but the combination of Guy, Peg (both for whom I have the utmost respect) and social media made it quite an appealing piece of content. My precious … .

Now, on to topic. Does the “precious” deliver ?

“Power tips for power users”

Social media has become quite a standard and everybody uses at least a few platforms and tools. So getting the tips from the best in order to go the extra mile did sound like a sweet promise.

A hundred pages later, I felt like having browsed and clicked through my everyday Twitter timeline, full of tips and how-to in the sense that there is little to nothing new brought to the table for the non power user I am.

Hence my reading here, “Social Media for Dummies”.

The 100+ tips and tools to succeed with social media

Guy mentions that he loves a “how to” title or whatever kind of “x tips for social”. This book does actually feel like a larger than life how-to post. How to get started and develop on social media, the mainstream ones that is.

It does feel good to get a written validation from experts in regards to the tools used or the strategies developed though.

Yet, I ended up strolling through the book feeling like it missed one thing … a Wow factor that would make it stand out from – again – just one of these various posts to be found on the web everyday. And making it a book does actually not help as the visuals do not give a sound representation of what quality pictures should be. Not to mention screen captures cutting paragraphs in a strange and non consistent way.

Why so ugly ?

One general take about social “leaders”, “influencers”, “experts” or whatever you call them, they, for some reason, have the most ugly/old/scam-looking personal pages or websites to be found on the web.

Quite appalling for people going on about design and pictures all day long.

Well, one thing struck me when I saw the cover of this book … it feels the same as these sites. Definitely not an appealing visual. And it proves an even worse template to use for promotion around the book. I mentioned it already but the inside does not really get any better, not helping a free-flowing read.

Book or bookmark

I have compared the book to a blog post about social media earlier and the e-book does actually prove to be quite a twin to blog posts to be found out there.

The e-book does offer clickable links. Plenty of these driving the reader to various pages where additional content is to be found, turning a 100 pages book into a massive 1000+ pages encyclopaedia.

For the better ?

Yes from a homework point of view when wanting to focus on a particular chapter and willing to get the most of the paragraph in order to implement tweaks on a personal page or strategy.

As far as reading a book is concerned, the links tend to serve as substitutes to an actual clear and concise example or use-case, hence impairing the “power” experience of reading it. Not to mention that they are doing what is usually to be avoided on the web for your sites, take the visitor/reader away from the site/page.

On a side note, some pages end up being seriously overloaded with links (18 on pages 30-31 … just a random pick).

Engineering vs art

Calling the content of this book basic is a mistake of mine.

Not that I need to apologize for a troll moment here. Most of the book is about standard tools, strategies and recommendations.

But there come times when rocket science tips come into the mix, the “how to Peg a post” is a great example, where we suddenly move a lot more towards expert level but rather in the realm of engineering than art.

The art of social media is about the interactions, the listening and engaging, mostly the very basic foundations of social. Then comes the engineering for the power – or power-to-be – users.

Encyclopaedia Universalis … of social media.

encyclopaedia universalis

An encyclopaedia. For the older ones (yes I mean millennials … ) there was this time when we would work out of dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Oh the good ol’ times of browsing through standard paper pages with a few pictures here and there in search for added smartness.

The Art of Social Media is a book of this kind to me. A place where to go search for an item and get added knowledge about it. A support tool.

Maybe, in this regards, then it is a tool for power users and not for people looking for a quick and easy user guide to rocking social media. Burn the “for dummies”, this one is for social media nerds.

In the end, this is a nice-to-have book which I would not necessarily consider buying after being able to browse through it.

Oh wait, I actually bought it … .

Me, Myself And I : The Many Us On Social Networks

Rubiks cube

Social networks and social media accounts. Not only for individuals but also businesses, leisure, sports, etc.

Quite the basic standard nowadays. But what about multi-tasking individuals.

The many faces of me

Even if not being tech-savvy, most people tend to “exist” on various social networks. A single person may easily be found on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other Snapchats and co.

However, pepper that with a mix of dedicated personal and professional accounts and that may add another bunch of accounts.

Volunteer for your local sports club and you may end up with the community management of the Facebook page and Twitter account.

Want more fun ? Launch a business and have the corresponding social media accounts created.

Bottom line : a single individual juggling with about two dozens of accounts.

Social media schizophrenia

A thing of our times ?

One can gather information of any kind through multiple sources. On the web only there are tens, hundreds, even more, websites pushing information everyday.

Though the reliable sources may be counted on a few fingers.

In this era of information and content, these findings then need sharing … for existing on networks.

Tools do exist to manage a variety of accounts and of networks.

Mistakes too. Happening even more often.

How easy does it get for any random Community Manager with half a dozen Twitter accounts on a smartphone to pick the wrong one and send some seriously bad drunken tweet out in the open ?

Therapy ?

Is there even any cure for that ?

Just certainly a few means in order to put social media back to where they belong when it comes to corporate accounts. Back in the hands of people with a real job title. Companies are moving very slowly towards understanding social media but far too few of them do really have dedicated community managers (hint, interns are not there to handle the public voice of the company. At least not on their own and without skills and training).

As for individuals, well, cut the useless networks, assess where you stand and what you want to make of these. Keep only the useful tools and accounts.

In the end, for all, it comes down to a matter of being smart enough.

Do not get fooled by the urgency created on social networks.

Do not enter the race for spotlights or ephemeral stardom of breaking news.

Be yourself !

Social Media FOMO and Politics in Business

Amuse Museum, ThisIsSamTown
Social Media, social networks and the overall new social behaviours.
Old stuff for some and look into the future for others.
When youth knows but does not
A scary discovery, even in top schools and marketing courses, people know about social media, have accounts but mostly no clue about the actual use of them in the “real” world.
Think looking for work through LinkedIn or Twitter, corporate use of Twitter, etc … .
When Twitter is mainly about sending a LOL to some random TV show, then social media marketing may definitely be at risk when these people hit the real world of day work.
And so do corporations
Another step into the future for corporations. From old-fashioned companies to old-fashioned companies with a Facebook profile.
With the loads of tweets, blog posts and various press articles sent about the need for every business to have social media presence, the idea has made its way into corporations as well.
A late(ish) move but still a progress.
For the best or worst … .
Corporate FOMO
FOMO (“Fear Of Missing Out”) is one of these new first world “diseases” that as spread in a time when everybody wants to the The Man (gender neutral meaning here).
Breaking the news, tweeting ASAP, catching up with the high and mighty, etc … .
This behaviour has also made its way in the corporate world.
In this very world where politics are part of the daily deal, the corporate FOMO has grown to the next level.
The “social media” criteria sit in a few words : knowing Twitter & having an account.
Bottom line, no strategic vision, no understanding of the actual DOs and DON’Ts of social networks and social media marketing strategy.
This does lead to random, “shopping-list tweeting”, using dedicated channels for every single kind of message and just going for the digital pat on the back by virtually touching influencers or just the golden goats of the corporate charts.
Stopping the BS and getting things right
Marketing and communications have always been jobs with best practices and rules.
Social media marketing is the same. And even more.
Due to the huge amount of tools and channels available, the extended reach and the ability of clients to interact in real time, social media are to be handled seriously and a strategy put in place (starting with defining the voice and message).
It can not be the playground of marketers aiming at greatness – rising above the corporate non social media users … – nor a tool seen as the megaphone of all random messages.
That would then not be any different than standing on a cardboard box, in the middle of a street and shouting words of apocalypse … . Note that even crazy guys doing so are still better since they have this one topic and message.
In the end, social media for businesses is indeed necessary nowadays. Just reminder it is nothing funny – rather a powerful tool for developing a brand – and has to be handled in the right way : smart and serious.

(Article originally published on my personal blog, This Is Sam’s Blog : http://thisissamsblog.postach.io)