4 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Local TV News Reporters

Send to KindleThis post was initially published on BostInnovation on July 28, 2011. To read the original post there, click here. Today – thanks to social media, smartphones and other new digital communications platforms and tools – what the savviest of consumers are asking of their favorite brands is almost as much as they’d expect from

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The Importance of LinkedIn Recommendations

Send to KindleGiven my outgoing personality, my obsession with the latest news and the fact that I’ve always been an early adopter of new communications tools, it’s no surprise that I’ve been enamored with social media from the get-go. I can’t tell you how excited I was to launch my own blog in early 2004, where I’ve written nearly

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10 Ways to Succeed as a Copywriter, Parts 1-10

Send to KindleIf you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, you know I’ve been writing a series of posts on copywriting. Similar to the approach I took with my series on social media, I’ve looked at copywriting from a 30,000-foot level, focusing on the principles you need to be mindful of if you want to

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10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media, Parts 1-10

Send to KindleIf you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know about the  “10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media” series of posts I started writing on January 13 of this year and recently concluded on April 5. But what you wouldn’t know is how much I’ve been looking forward to stringing these posts together into one

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The Importance of Character in Social Media

Send to KindleBy now, most people involved in marketing, advertising and PR have put aside any skepticism they may have had about social media and are using such online communications vehicles as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach out to and engage with others. They’re finally realizing that — as I’ve said before here on this

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3 Reasons Why Snapchat is Such a Big Social Media Hit

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snapchatDon’t look now, but the last bastion of social media for millennials, generation Z and anyone else in their teens or early twenties has pretty much reached the tipping point.

Yup, Snapchat is about to go mainstream.

Founded four years ago by three Stanford University students, this mobile photo and video messaging app earned a rather edgy, even controversial, reputation along the way to mass acceptance, but those days are gone. Snapchat has grown up.

You heard me. Once associated almost exclusively with teenagers and risky behavior in front of the camera, Snapchat is now being used by businesses and brands as a cool, contemporary way to call attention to their existence in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.

The numbers alone are staggering. Over 150 million people use Snapchat on a daily basis, a larger number than the 140 million who interact with Twitter every day. And while Snapchat is clearly a huge hit with the younger crowd, its awareness and adoption levels among older Americans is increasing at a surprisingly fast pace. Not to mention how pleased brands have been with the effectiveness of ads on the app.

From General Electric to National Geographic, Cisco to Domino’s, Target to Target Bell, a small army of brands have already jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon, more than happy to have the opportunity to toot their own horns in front of a new audience and position themselves as being more creative, inventive, authentic and hip.

Heck, even the White House has an account on Snapchat.

What’s the big deal? I’m not going to lie. If your job has anything to do with marketing, advertising, PR or publishing, you shouldn’t have to ask. Download the app instead and, well, snap to it. After all, we’re talking about one of the most popular social media apps right now. Chop, chop. Time is of the essence. You don’t want to be left behind.

Wait, why is Snapchat such a huge hit on social media? Ask Instagram. Why do you think they recently came out with Stories, a feature nearly identical to Snapchat’s that allows you to string together a series of photos and videos that will disappear after 24 hours? It’s called following the leader.

Fact is, there are a ton of reasons why Snapchat is all the rage right now. Let’s talk about just three that are quite obvious to me.

1. It facilitates creativity. Perhaps the most complicated channel on social media is also the most sophisticated from a user experience perspective. Never mind the fact that you practically need a glossary to keep up with the language of the network. On Snapchat, there are a seemingly endless variety of filters, lenses, stickers, captions and other special effects to leverage to make a relatively ordinary picture (er, Snap) extraordinary. You also have at your disposal such features as Stories (a compilation of your favorite photos and videos in chronological order that are saved for 24 hours), Memories (a collection of Snaps you’ve saved indefinitely instead of letting them disappear after they were viewed), Chat and more.

2. It encourages spontaneity. Real time is big time on social media, and with all due respect to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, there may be no better way to capture and share a moment with your online audience instantaneously than Snapchat. There’s Periscope, Facebook Live and other live-streaming video services, but there’s nothing quite like snapping a picture or video, adding some fantastically fun stickers to it, a filter like Face Swap (if you’re so bold), emojis, a little text for context and who knows what else before sharing it with an exclusive group of friends who more often than not will actually look at it. Ask anyone who’s already on Snapchat. Users develop an addictive, almost inexplicable compulsion to share raw footage with this app.

3. It fosters camaraderie. This is Snapchat’s biggest advantage over the competition. The communities formed by its users are close-knit and exceedingly loyal. As the famous Shakespeare line goes, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave….” Although in this case, no one is trying to deceive anyone. Impress, maybe. Entertain, definitely. Personal intentions aside, brands can use Snapchat to inform, educate, capture and convert. You can take advantage of the tight bonds that are established quite easily on this platform by earning the attention and trust of an engaged audience, one that has so much passion for your products and services that they’ll not only do business with you, they’ll evangelize on your behalf.

While I’m not hear to tell you how to make money on Snapchat, I will say that it is a ridiculously popular place to hang right now, a place where many brands and businesses have already set up shop for advertising purposes. Like a great, big land grab back in the good, old days, if you want to establish a solid presence in this particular space, you want to move quickly. Who’s in?

Note: This post, “3 Reasons Why Snapchat is Such a Big Social Media Hit,” was originally published on ClickZ on August 4, 2016, here, on LinkedIn on September 12, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 11, 2016, here.

3 Things Marketers Can Learn from Lokai on Social Media

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lokai-and-fenway-parkIf you think social media is a big deal now, you’ve seen nothing yet. Social media is poised to take over the world, or at least it’s heading in that direction.

By 2018, projections are that some 2.44 billion people will be using social media in one way, shape or form. That’ll be about one third of the world’s population.

Yes, indeed, whether you’re talking about Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, social media user sizes are huge. You? Not so much. You’re just one lone brand, personal or professional, in a vast sea of accounts, each and every one of which is trying desperately to stand out among a cacophony of content.

With the half-life of a tweet less than a half hour and complex, ever-changing algorithms on most major channels undermining reach and engagement, marketers who don’t have to work harder than ever to use social media effectively are few and far between.

Unless whatever it is they happen to be marketing has got it all going on like Lokai.

Even if you haven’t heard the name of this brand, chances are you’ve seen it being worn on someone’s wrist. It’s a simple, silicone bracelet that has been the latest rage and fashion accessory of famous athletes, celebrities and everyday people like me and you for the last few years. And while this brand may not have to work as hard as others to succeed on social media, its popularity may have as much to do with how well it works the crowd – both online and in real life – as it does with how lucky it is to have an outstanding product.

Here are three things any marketer, B2C or B2B, SMB or enterprise-level organization, can learn from Lokai’s activities on social media and be a standout themselves…

1. Tell a good story. People are curious and inquisitive, if not downright skeptical. There’s a backstory to every product or service that your audience doesn’t just want to hear, but needs to hear. It’s this story that makes your brand more genuine, unique, credible and believable. Trust is something that is earned, not given. No brand is born overnight. In Lokai’s case, it was the brainchild of young entrepreneur, Steven Izen, who while still a student at Cornell University, came up with the idea for the bracelet. Inspired by his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the black bead contains mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, to represent the sadness Steven felt at the time. The white bead carries water from the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest. The name of the bracelet is a takeoff on the Hawaiian word, Lokai, which means unity and the combination of opposites, the hopefulness we feel when things aren’t going well and the humility we should exhibit when we’re on a roll. Do you have a story to tell to your own audience? How would it begin? Where would it end?

2. Build a strong community. Modern marketer extraordinaire Seth Godin wrote about it in his 2004 book, Tribes. Speakers at a GaggleAMP conference I recently attended at Bentley University preached about it. Popular rock bands have had them for years. Whether you call it a tribe, a gaggle or a fan club, you need to build your own tightknit community of people who live, breathe and adore whatever it is you have to offer, people who like to talk amongst themselves about what makes your product or service so special, people who are unabashedly proud to show off whatever you have to offer to their own personal networks. These are your very best customers, those who are going to gloat, advocate and evangelize on behalf of your brand. Lokai has them in celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Cam Newton, Paul Wesley and Gigi Hadad – each of whom has been photographed wearing the cool, newfangled braclets – in addition to literally countless others, who they celebrate and embrace on both their website here and on social media everywhere. Who are your devotees and how do you reward them for their loyalty to your brand?

Cultural desert – who's at #coachella?! Thanks @shelbypine

A photo posted by live lokai (@livelokai) on

3. Have a great cause. Many brands struggle to find any semblance of their own soul, if they even have one, never mind to actually use it to their advantage in their marketing campaigns. Yet like sharing a good story, baring your soul for your audience to see can be especially good for business. Associating yourself with a cause worth supporting betrays the human, compassionate side of your business, the side that may appeal to your constituency as much as your products and services. It shows you have a kind soul, if not a good heart, too. In Lokai’s case, 10% of bracelet sales’ net profits are “dedicated to giving back to the community thorugh a variety of charitable alliances.” Different, limited-edition colored bracelets associated with specific charities – such as Oceana, Make-A-Wish and The Alzheimer’s Association – are also rolled out from time to time, creating a strong sense of urgency around the buying process. When all is said and done, cause-associated social media marketing can provide a big boost to sales, and certainly can serve as a win-win business model. What nonprofit organizations mean the most to you and your colleagues? How can you do well by doing good?

Note: This post, “Three Things Marketers Can Learn from Lokai on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on July, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on August 14, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on July 19, 2016, here.

10 Ways to Beef Up Your Social Media Program

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Where’s the beef on social media?

In 1984, an 81-year-old woman by the name of Clara Peller starred in an incredibly popular advertising campaign for Wendy’s, in which she demanded to know “Where’s the beef?” at a make-believe fast-food restaurant. The question went viral, becoming a commonly used catchphrase whenever anyone was looking for more of pretty much anything.

Well, the same question Clara Peller had about hamburgers back in the day is the question I have now for brands, businesses, marketers, anyone and everyone who uses social media for professional reasons.

Where’s the beef?

Not to be a curmudgeon, but I have to say that far too many of you are mailing it in when it comes to publishing and sharing content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media channels.

This is not a dress rehearsal, after all. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. What do you think your audience of followers, fans and friends on social media thinks when you don’t care enough to engage with them, ask questions of them, respond to them, or share anything even remotely firsthand and personal about yourself with them?

This is not the time to sit on your high horse or seclude yourselves in your ivory towers while your social media activities are running on automatic pilot. While it’s important to have a steady, unrelenting cadence of content to share and disseminate, you also need to be creative, impromptu, resourceful, authentic and strategic in how you communicate with others on social media. You don’t want there to be an outcry for more beef. You want your audience to get more than a small taste of who the people are behind your brand and what makes them tick. More importantly, you want them to know that you’re actually interested in their success and wellbeing, not just your own internet fame.

Along with some excellent examples you can study and learn from, here are 10 ways to beef up your social media program…

1. Don’t be shy. Chalking up any lack of personality to a brand’s desire for privacy simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Audiences expect – and deserve – more than the equivalent of talking heads. Give them everything you got. The more you put out there, the more you’ll get in return. Leave it all on the social media floor.

Example: Gary Vaynerchuk on Facebook

2. Take pictures. Words alone aren’t enough to succeed on social media. Even if you have the best writing chops in the business, you need to accentuate your content with a variety of visuals. Stock photos are just the beginning. Custom, candid images you take yourself should be a critical component of your social media stream, not to mention video clips, GIFs, animations, illustrations, infographics, you name it. A picture of any kind is worth a thousand words. As I wrote here https://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2404858/10-ways-to-humanize-your-social-media-brand, “As a copywriter, I hate to admit this, but even the best written content can’t always capture the right tone of voice. Personality, mood context – none of that’s easy to get across in words alone. Pictures of whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, are more realistic, intimate and explanatory. Video is even better.

Example: Jimmy John’s on Twitter

3. Seize the moment. What’s the one quality of social media that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any other marketing channel? Instantaneousness. Unless you have a way to get on TV or the radio live, there is no easier way to involve an audience instantaneously than Twitter, Facebook and the like. Coincidentally, communicating in real time is also the best way to attract attention and spark engagement on social media. Anything happening now trumps everything else that is either scheduled, contrived, or both. Capitalize on any opportunity that arises to socialize on the spur of the moment.

Example: Patriot Place on Twitter

4. Don’t be selfish. Stop talking so much about yourself and start sharing other people’s content. Give attention to your customers, clients, prospects and followers. Everyone you respect and admire deserves the spotlight. Anyone you want to engage with in any way, shape or form should be on the receiving end of your praise and idolatry, not the other way around. Think quid pro quo. The more you give, the more you’ll get in return over time.

Example: Boston Children’s Hospital Trust on Twitter

5. Lighten up. Playing office and acting like a big shot on social media will get you nowhere fast. Authority counts, of course, but arrogance will hurt any chances you have of building a big, loyal following. Laugh and the whole internet won’t necessarily laugh with you, but you’ll be much more likable if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile and enjoy yourself. The cheerful side of your brand is what your audience wants to see.

Example: iRobot on Instagram

6. Inspire your audience. Arouse emotion in your audience one way or another. Get them pumped, jacked and all fired up. The last thing you want them to be is listless and lethargic. You want to prompt them to take some form of action, whether it’s having a conversation with you or simply liking what you have to say. Raise up your followers, fans and friends to the point where they become believers in your brand.

Example: Dr. Martens on Twitter

7. Tag other people and things. Don’t do what far too many businesses and brands do. Don’t forget the social in social media. This isn’t advertising, marketing, public relations, publishing or customer service. This is ALL of the above and a huge departure for those who have been beholden to traditional communications strategies and tactics up until now. Address others by handles and names. They’ll thank you for it, remember you for it and maybe even do business with you.

Example: Boston Scientific on Twitter

8. Listen carefully. If you’re not doing as much listening as talking on social media, you’re not doing it right. Go online often simply to monitor what other people are saying. Listen and learn from your customers and competitors. Don’t hem and haw, but don’t just say the first thing that comes to mind, either. Gain a good understanding of what your constituents expect to hear from you before you join the conversation.

Example: Crocs Shoes on Twitter

9. Offer to help. Be generous with your time, talent and resources, not stingy. The golden rule is the most important rule on social media. Offer your assistance to people, whether they’re asking for it or not, and your big-heartedness won’t be forgotten. Leave the cold, corporate-speak at the office along with any bottom-line thinking. This isn’t the time or place to worry about overextending yourself or your team. The greater your sensitivity, empathy, kindness and consideration online, the greater your ROI.

Example: United Healthcare on Twitter

10. Avoid negativity. To underscore that last point, let’s just say that unless your name is Donald Trump, you should always take the high road. Seriously. No one likes a whiner. Dissing this, that and the other thing may get the attention of customer service, but it will turn off everyone else. Compliments, kudos, shout-outs, plugs and props work best on social media, not criticism and complaints.

Example: ATTN: on Instagram

Note: This post, “10 Ways to Beef Up Your Social Media Program,” was originally published on ClickZ on June 14, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on July 31, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on June 21, 2016, here.

Three Key Ingredients to Success on Social Media

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To say that businesses and brands have come a long way in their usage of social media would be an understatement. After all, not only have more of them than not established a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like, many of them are finally looking at social media as a valuable, respected communications stream as opposed to a necessary evil.

Gone are the days when so many marketers were debating the pros and cons of investing even a small portion of their time and budgets in social media. Almost everyone agrees now that we’re talking about a permanent, revolutionary sea change in how consumers interact with companies, not merely a passing fad.

That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, despite how much progress we’ve made when it comes to social media technologies, tools and tactics, we still have a long way to go when it comes to people using all of the above effectively for business purposes.

Far too many otherwise accomplished professionals are misguided, even clueless, in thinking that they can take the same old sales and marketing practices that are working elsewhere and use them to their advantage in social media.

Far too many of them had better think again or else find themselves barking up the wrong tree and beaten at their own game.

Truth is, social media works wonders for those who understand its nuances and idiosyncrasies, but those who don’t will get nowhere fast on these relatively new online channels. They’ll only get frustrated in their failures and futility.

Social media works best for those who understand that it represents an unprecedented, seismic paradigm shift in not only how people interact with one another, but in how business is conducted today.

There are many different ways to achieve your goals on social media, paying to promote your posts ranking up near the top, but there are three key ingredients to success in this area that simply can’t be overlooked.

1. Authenticity. Your audience can get their news anywhere, but they can’t get your particular outlook on life anywhere else but from you. Be your own brand. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Those who are the most successful on social media are those who keep it incomparably real. They are as honest as they come, open, candid, revealing and opinionated. Put a face on your brand and a smile on your face. Pause before you post, but don’t think everything you have to share has to be scripted, sculpted, rehearsed and rehashed. Some of the best moments on social media are those that are up close and unguarded.

Example: Ben & Jerry’s on Twitter

2. Immediacy. It is one thing to schedule some of your content to be published automatically. A steady cadence is important. But you don’t want to simply set it and forget it. The more impromptu you are with your news and opinions, the better. Real time is big time when it comes to success on social media. Monitor what’s trending for opportunities to opine. Jump into conversations. Reach out and connect with someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Live in the moment on social media as often as possible. Tweet, post, share and comment whenever the opportunity presents itself. The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, all the respect and credibility.

Example: Dell on Facebook

3. Frequency. I hate to break it to you, but the chances of you sharing something – anything – on social media at the exact same time your audience is there is slim and far between. Nobody’s hanging on your every word and picture. The good news is that there are a lot of steps you can take to put the odds in your favor that your content will be seen by those whose attention you covet. Including keywords and hashtags is important. Knowing when your followers, fans and friends are online will help you increase your reach and engagement rates. Promoting your posts every once in a while will also make a difference. But not being shy about sharing content here, there and everywhere, time and time again, is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your presence will be duly noted at one time or another.

Example: #DailyFoodFeed on Instagram

Note: This post, “Three Key Ingredients to Success on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on May 26, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on July 5, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on June 3, 2016, here.

10 Ways Brands Can Use Facebook Live

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It was only a matter of time. On the heels of Periscope’s wildly successful run as pretty much the only game in town over the course of the last year or so, Facebook has finally released its own live streaming app, Facebook Live.

While Twitter’s Periscope basked in the glory of having grown to over 10 million users after only four months in business, Facebook Live promises to be even more popular.

Never mind the fact that Live works almost the same as Periscope – seamlessly, easily, instantaneously – its potential user base and audience of over 1.5 billion casts more than a large shadow over any predecessors and competitors in the live streaming app space.

How do you use Facebook Live? It’s simple. Just go to Facebook on your phone, tap the “What’s on your mind?” field and hit the icon to the right that’ll ask you to describe your live video before clicking on the big honking “Go Live” button. Boom. You’re on the air.

That’s not to say it’s easy to use this new app effectively for business purposes, though. After all, how do you as a personal or professional brand stand out among all the clutter of competition in the News Feed? What do you say to command prospects’, customers’, client’s or even your friends’ attention? How do you keep your audience begging to see more of you no matter what you have to say?

Here are 10 ways brands can use Facebook Live and win over their audience at the same time.

1. Go behind the scenes. People are curious. They want to know what goes on inside the boardrooms and behind closed doors. Take them around your office. Give them a tour of your warehouse. Invite them to join you the next time you sit down with your colleagues to discuss business. Share the secrets of your success with those who are willing to watch.

2. Give pep talks and provide inspiration. There’s a reason the hashtag, #MotivationMonday, is so popular on social media. Everybody needs a lift. Facebook Live makes it possible for you to easily jump online and share a few quick words of positivity and power with your audience, encouraging them to seize the day seven days a week.

3. Share news and information. Talk about a no-brainer. Be like a reporter and talk about the day’s top stories. Schedule a time when you will appear regularly in the News Feed. Condition your audience to be looking for you on Facebook like they tune into their favorite shows on TV, enthusiastically and faithfully.

4. Offer opinion and commentary. Just the facts will only get you so far on social media. The more you show your true colors, the more you’ll be trusted and respected. Live streaming video enables you to tell it like it is in real time. Don’t be afraid to editorialize and opine. Think like a talk show host and act like a star. You are the expert witness to the top stories in your field.

5. Take questions from your audience. Access to you and your brand is a big reason why people follow you on social media. They want a pipeline to the source. Nothing makes them feel more empowered than having their questions answered promptly. Like a virtual town hall, take questions from audience members and answer as many as possible. Their loyalty and commitment to you will intensify and increase.

6. Share tips, tricks and tactics. What can you do for others? How can you help them? What do you know that will help them get more out of either their personal or professional lives? This is your forum. This is your chance. Streaming live video to an audience that has already indicated they are interested in what you have to offer puts you on a pedestal as a thought leader, role model, stander-bearer, influencer, ambassador and advocate. Take full advantage of the opportunity.

7. Deliver presentations, demonstrations, speeches and soliloquys. Anytime you or anyone in your organization has something notable to say, whether it’s a prepared gig in front of a large audience or an extemporaneous piece of advice for anyone who will listen, consider streaming it live on Facebook. Share a short snippet or the whole kit and caboodle. If for no other reasons than the immediacy and authenticity of the content, you will stand out among the clutter of crafted, pre-written regularly scheduled updates.

8. Be humorous and entertaining. As I wrote here on ClickZ , “if people are smiling, they’re usually less guarded and more agreeable.” That’s why you want to try to open a conversation with something positive and lighthearted, no matter how serious the subsequent topic. Tell a good joke or engage in lighthearted banter. Don’t be all about the hard sell. Be funny, witty and chill. Market your brand softly with humor and entertainment to the point where fans crack a smile and hang on your every word.

9. Profile employees. Anytime you use social media is a good time to put a human face on your brand. Authenticity is a key contributor to the effectiveness of your updates. Facebook Live makes it incredibly easy to put the spotlight on your people. Give them a starring role in a short Q&A and viewers will start looking at your organization with greater interest and trust, not skepticism and doubt.

10. Speak impromptu and off-the-cuff. Not everything you do on social media has to be scripted, choreographed, planned and scheduled. In fact, some of the most popular content you share is likely the most candid. Even if you don’t have anything important to say, go out on a limb and just say hello. No, it’s not that easy to win friends and influence people using Facebook Live, but you don’t want to overthink it, either. The more you hem and haw over how you’re going to use it, the more likely it is that you’ll never use it at all.

Note: This post, “10 Ways Brands Can Use Facebook Live,” was originally published on ClickZ on April 25, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on May 31, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on May 3, 2016, here.

10 Ways a Personal Brand on Social Media Helps the Corporate Brand Behind It

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10 Ways a Personal Brand on Social Media Helps the Corporate Brand Behind ItNo one can say that there aren’t many benefits of having a strong personal brand on social media. After all, your LinkedIn profile is where practically everyone goes to check you out if they’re considering doing business with you in any way, shape or form. If you have a few presentations uploaded to SlideShare, a few dozen posts published on a blog and a few hundred followers on Twitter, even better.

Using social media to showcase your background, skills, talent and expertise is a no-brainer.

But the benefits of personal branding on social media aren’t limited to the owner of that brand only. Everyone around those who are prevalent and popular online, the “corporate all-stars” of the business world, as Edelman’s Steve Rubel so astutely labelled them in 2009, enjoys the fruits of their labor, from direct reports to supervisors, colleagues to clients, partners to employers.

How? Here’s how. Here are 10 ways a personal brand on social media works to the advantage of the corporate brand behind it and is a win-win for everyone involved.

1. Reach. A small company may not have a big audience on social media, but it may have a handful of people among its ranks with their own extensive networks. Riding employees’ coattails makes sense if they can help get the word out to a broader, perhaps even better, audience. Like a good ripple effect, the more help brands can get from the people who work for them, the further and faster their messages will travel.

2. Thought Leadership. Social media makes it possible for almost anyone to establish themselves as a renowned expert. All you need is the time, talent and tenacity. Write a blog post. Record a video. Comment here, there and everywhere. Leaders within an organization should be leaders in their industry. From a selfish standpoint, that may be how to ascend the corporate ladder, but that’s also how to generously increase the visibility and credibility of the corporate brand behind you.

3. Education. Anyone who spends more than a modicum of time on social media knows what a treasure trove of educational resources can be found there. Never mind attending conferences and signing up for webinars. Log in to this channel or that one and boom, you’re privy to all the news and information that’s fit to share. Social media is a living, breathing education on demand, and more often than not it’s on the house.

4. Camaraderie. Imagine having access to a circle of like-minded professionals, connections you can count on to keep you up to date and in the know, wherever you are, whenever you want. That’s social media. People may not pick up the phone when you call or respond to your email, but if you mention them in a tweet or tag them on Facebook, suddenly you have their attention. That’s influence. That’s clout. That’s a big benefit to both personal and corporate brands.

5. Social Proof. People are more likely to trust and support other like-minded people, not distant, impersonal corporate logos and brands. When you earn likes, shares and comments as an employee, not only does it go a long way toward establishing a great reputation for your own personal brand, it benefits the corporate brand behind you. Your influence and authority on social media reflects positively on the products and services you represent and can be leveraged by those who employ you.

6. Inspiration. We all know the importance of keeping team members properly inspired. While often employers can’t afford to send their people to conferences and industry events, they can easily permit, if not encourage, employees to spend time on social media, listening, learning, reading and writing. Regular exposure to such resources goes a long way toward enabling and empowering people to go above and beyond in their work on behalf of the brands they represent.

7. Scalability. If practice makes perfect, social media is the place to go to hone your skills in the areas of writing, networking, research, thought leadership and branding. For the individual practitioner, work done with these tools and technologies can lead to something more valuable to the brand he or she represents. Status updates can result in potential new customers and clients. Blog posts can be turned into white papers. Time spent on Twitter can yield new findings, data, insights and connections that are ripe to be taken advantage of at an enterprise level.

8. Accountability. Those who are active on social media for business reasons are invariably those who are passionate about their jobs, careers and professions. They are bold, brave, outgoing and engaging, people who are blessed with the qualities associated with leaders, accountable to their respective roles and responsibilities. After all, like speakers, writers, artists, athletes, performers and entertainers, they’re putting their reputations on the line every time they share something with others. Their activities are both public and permanent, so they had better know what they’re doing or else they’re subject to criticism.

9. Networking. They don’t call it social media for nothing. The more active you are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the like, the more connections you’ll amass. Yes, those so-called “corporate all-stars” Steve Rubel referred to have legions of followers, people who can help not just themselves, but the brands they represent. Unless a corporate brand is a household name or a celebrity of some type, it takes a lot of time to build a large, engaged audience. Those with strong personal brands can help their employers get there more quickly by providing access to their own networks and triggering engagement among their constituencies.

10. Authenticity. Even if you are well-known for one reason or another, a corporate logo will only get you so far along the path to long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with your audience members. The trust factor looms large on social media. That’s where a good personal brand enters the picture. Employers can draft behind their employee ambassadors in order to win over new followers and fans, people who will give them much more attention if only due to their confidence in their friends.

The bottom line is that it takes a village to come out ahead on social media. Both personal and corporate brands should take great pains to work together and to realize that we’re talking about a collaborative activity, not one that exists in a silo. It pays for employers to not just activate their employees on these channels, but to join them in the conversation.

Note: This post, “10 Ways a Personal Brand on Social Media Helps the Corporate Brand Behind It,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 24, 2016, here, on LinkedIn Pulse on May 15, 2016, here — and a version of it was posted on the Overdrive Interactive blog on May 10, 2016, here.

The Importance of Being Yourself on Social Media

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Back in the day, when I was a member of Toastmasters, a public speaking and leadership organization, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be president of a local club. I was honored, of course, but I had no idea what the role entailed. Besides being briefed on the many responsibilities that came along with being the head honcho, I needed some advice, some good, old-fashioned words of wisdom.

Just be yourself, I was told. There is no need to overthink it.

That’s what I learned at that time about being a leader and speaking in public. And that’s what I’ve learned ever since then about communicating on social media. Don’t put on an act. Just keep it real.

After all, the path to success, or at least a modicum of effectiveness, on social media can be excruciatingly long and winding, as there are just so many variables that can get in the way.

Never mind the fact that so many people and brands have no idea what to say and share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. Even when they have figured out the content conundrum, the time, talent and tenacity it takes to harness what is still a newfangled way of communicating can overwhelm even the best of them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if I told you that perhaps the most effective way to stand out on social media, whether you’re a big brand or small fry, is well within your means?

What if I told you that strategy can often be overrated in this space and that the size of your budget doesn’t have to equate to the influence you wield?

What if I told you that the easiest way to get from point A to point B on social media is to simply be yourself? No spin. No filter. No beating around the bush. Just showing up every day with energy, enthusiasm and enlightenment for anyone who’s paying attention.

Whether you’re streaming live on Periscope or sharing a candid moment with your Twitter followers, updating the crowds on Facebook or chiming in on LinkedIn, planning your every move will get you nowhere fast.

Yes, of course, you need a semblance of a strategy and a good idea of your objectives, but any obsessing over your tone of voice, brand and anything remotely resembling a corporate style guide is only going to muddy the waters.

Social media is different than anything you’ve ever done as a marketing, advertising, publishing or PR professional. Social media is the long lost art of conversation brought online. Social media works best when you are using it to engage with others in an honest, open dialogue.

That’s not to say you don’t need a steady cadence of content in your stream, because you do without question. Your presence on social media has to be felt on a continuous basis.

So on your own or with the support of a team, go ahead and schedule an indefinitely lasting series of status updates, messages and posts about who you are and what you do as a brand.

A steady drumbeat is important. But accentuate that beat with a strong personality and point of view that is indelibly you as the human behind the scenes. That’s where the rubber meets the road on social media.

Take a look at Beth Comstock, GE’s CMO, on Twitter. Not only does she talk about innovation and technology, she also doesn’t hesitate to share a picture of a beautiful sunrise in New York City with her more than 80,000 followers.

Then there’s billionaire businessman, Elon Musk, who’s not afraid to publicly reveal his sadness over the passing of David Bowie. Genuine. Heartfelt. Liked about 5,000 times, too.

There’s also T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, who’s as refreshingly candid as they come, especially for someone among the C-suite ranks.

Finally, check out what Bill Gates shares on Twitter. Go behind the scenes with the richest person in the world as he shares words and pictures on a multitude of subjects, from digital technology to the Zika outbreak to what music he’d listen to if he were stranded on a desert island.

Wait, there’s one more. Whoever is the writer behind the Georgetown Cupcakes Twitter account has a fabulously fun personality. That’s just the right image to portray, even if you are representing a logo, not your own personal brand.

There you have it, five examples of big name brands who understand the importance of transparency and authenticity on social media.

Surely there are others, but if you ask me, not nearly enough. Unlike those above, far too many users are stuck on playing office and mired in corporate speak, lost in the noise of a madding crowd.

If they were listening, of course, I would tell them to follow the lead of Beth, Elon, John, Bill and even Georgetown Cupcakes. I would tell them to just be themselves.

Note: This post, “The Importance of Being Yourself on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 16, 2016, here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 24, 2016, here.

10 Ways Brands are Using Social Media for Good

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Asking questions. Running contests. Sharing pictures. Promoting products and services. There are many ways for brands to attract attention on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. Included among this list of ways to get people to sit up and take notice on social media is to show the softer side of your brand and declare your support of a worthy charitable organization.

After all, almost everyone on these channels is trying to sell something, whether it’s a product, service or simply themselves. Almost everyone is like the carnival barker cajoling the passersby to step right up and come inside the tent.

But a small percentage of them are associating their brands with a noble cause, giving those in the audience a reason to feel good about making the decision to follow, like, share, reply or click.

The truth is, not everyone on social media is there as a consumer. If you appeal to those people’s philanthropic self-interests, meeting their need to help make a difference in the world, they may be more likely to engage with your account and ultimately respond to your pitch.

Call it cause marketing, fundraising or strategically placed altruism. Whatever you call it, it’s good for the nonprofit world, your audience and you. It’s good for everybody involved.

Here are 10 ways brands are doing well by doing good on social media:

1. Feeding the hungry: Anheuser-Busch on Twitter

You may associate Anheuser-Busch with drinking, but this is an example of the brand tying itself to eating, providing meals to those less fortunate during the holiday season. Crowdsourcing pictures of Thanksgiving celebrations, AB makes it easy for its customers and followers to participate in a kindhearted group initiative and have fun at the same time.

2. Putting shoes on their feet: TOMS on Twitter TOMS puts their money where their feet are by making an impressive commitment to give a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair sold. In fact, thanks to its generous One for One offer, since the company’s founding in 2006, TOMS has given more than 45 million pairs of shoes to children in over 70 different countries.

3. Standing up against bullying: Detroit Pistons on Facebook

Taking a stand and making a strong statement against an injustice can be more effective than simply making a charitable contribution, which is exactly what this NBA basketball team does here. Asking their fans to take the pledge and join them in going purple on #SpiritDay, they’re scoring big points in the cause marketing field, never mind on the basketball court.

Today is Spirit Day! The Pistons are joining with NBA Cares & GLAAD by going purple to stand up against bullying! Take a stand against bullying and make your #SpiritDay pledge! glaad.org/spiritday/pledge

Posted by Detroit Pistons on Thursday, October 15, 2015

4. Delivering presents for Christmas: Sports Authority on Twitter

There’s always an opportunity to give to the less fortunate among us, but the holiday season is an especially good time. Here the large chain of sporting goods retailers, Sports Authority, shows how they teamed up with the Universal Surveillance Systems Foundation to arrange for Santa to surprise 100 deserving kids with bikes and helmets.

5. Caring for children: Kohl’s on Twitter There are a variety of reasons why people buy, most of which are wrapped up in emotion. Consumers may not necessarily need this or that, but in many cases their impulses get the best of them. Whether they’re being materialistic or benevolent, Kohl’s Cares gifts are a win-win proposition for those who have the urge to purchase a little something and make a big difference at the same time.

6. Protecting our oceans: Dell on Instagram

Taking full advantage of its technological prowess, specifically in the area of virtual reality, Dell is doing a whale of a job in helping to inspire people to care more about the health of our oceans and marine wildlife through its support of actor Adrian Grenier’s the Lonely Whale Foundation. While they’re talking about it on Instagram here, you can learn a lot more about it on YouTube.

7. Showing solidarity with Paris: Cisco on Facebook Part of the responsibility of using social media – especially as a brand, for whom the bar is set higher – is to be aware of what’s going on in the world. The last thing you want to do is be promotional and pushy in the midst of a tragedy or any other cataclysmic event. Don’t hesitate to pause your regular flow of content and join the broader conversation with a message of support like Cisco’s on Facebook.

We stand in unity with France. #PeaceForParis (photo via Jean Jullien)

Posted by Cisco on Saturday, November 14, 2015

8. Volunteering their time: Eli Lilly and Company on Instagram

Last fall, thousands of Lilly employees took part in this global pharmaceutical company’s eight annual Global Day of Service, proudly sharing their good deeds on social media with the tag, “WeAreLilly. Clearly there are countless beneficiaries of such a massive demonstration of volunteerism, including the brand itself whose initiative goes a long way toward building camaraderie and unity among its workforce. To see even more pictures from this campaign, visit here.

Soon we’ll nearly go off the grid, donning gloves, goggles and smiles to help the world around us. #WeAreLilly #volunteer

A photo posted by Eli Lilly and Company (@elilillyco) on

9. Responding to emergencies: Lowe’s on Twitter After the area was hit by a devastating wave of violent tornadoes, members of Lowe’s Heroes, a volunteer program involving store employees, joined first responders to provide emergency relief. Coming through for the local community in such a meaningful way not only makes your team members feel good about themselves, it sends a strong, positive message about your corporate culture to anyone who’s paying attention. To learn more about Lowe’s Heroes, go here.

10. Helping kids with cancer: Sevenly on Facebook

Founded less than five years ago, Sevenly is a hip, philanthropic online retailer that donates a portion of its revenue to a number of different causes, in this case The Young and Brave Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people fight cancer. I’m not a customer (yet), nor am I a fashionista, but I love their unique business model. Given the idea that you can help others with your purchase makes their clothes even more appealing to me.

NEW CAUSE: Support young cancer warriors & their families! –> http://svnly.org/1O6FjsO Around the world, more than…

Posted by Sevenly on Monday, January 4, 2016

Note: This post, “10 Ways Brands are Using Social Media Marketing for Good,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 27, 2016, here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 2, 2016, here.