Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How NOT to use LinkedIn and Facebook to promote your business

I received several messages this week in my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts from friends who were promoting some service or another. The messages were basically spam: mass-mailed, impersonal, email advertisements offering little or no value to the recipient. They were perfect examples of What Not To Do.

Facebook and LinkedIn derive their value from being “networks of trust”. The whole point of personal networks like LinkedIn and Facebook is that they’re personal. We expect that a certain amount of the regular email we get to be spam, because such email is “public”. Anyone and everyone can (and does) email us that way. LinkedIn and Facebook are far more restricted. It is possible to send a message to someone who is not a contact, but it’s difficult, and you can only send one such message at a time. Your friends, however, have given you permission to include them on mass emails, because they trust you not to spam them. The value of your network is directly proportional to this level of trust.

Social Media is about reputations. Even if someone chooses to remain anonymous (and on LinkedIn, they never do), they're still identifiable by their relationships with other people and can be held accountable for their actions. This accountability is part of the reason why social media is such a popular venue for finding employees and service providers: usually you know someone who knows the person (or knows someone who or knows someone who knows the person) and can advise you about them. Also, as in the case of real life, reputations are contagious. A person who is connected to someone who is very trustworthy or influential (for example) is a more valuable contact than someone who is not.

Also worth noting is that Facebook and LinkedIn (especially Facebook) have "network update areas" for alerting your friends about your activities, and this is generally used for keeping abreast instead of email. If you send email to someone through either of these services, it's assumed you have something personal and urgent to say to them. This makes mass-mailings especially sketchy.

In general, the ideal LinkedIn or Facebook email should have the following qualities:
  • Appropriate – Your message should be suited to whomever it is you are writing to.

  • Useful – Your message should provide significant value. An opportunity to take your new seminar (for only $299.99!) is NOT “significant value”.

  • Altruistic – Network membership is about being a team player. It’s okay to ask for favors for yourself sometimes, especially, if they’re the sort of favors that network is meant for and your friends can reasonably expect you’ll reciprocate someday. (“Help me find a job” on LinkedIn, for example.) But in general, it’s best to avoid sending emails that are obviously only for the benefit of yourself. People are not stupid, they tend to be more trusting of people who exhibit altruistic behavior.
For Example: Another friend of mine sent me a job posting for a web developer. I am not a web developer, and I already have a “job”, but I’m in the Web industry and can be expected to know unemployed web developers. Jobs are badly needed right now, so my friend knew this email would probably be helpful – either by providing a job opportunity, by providing the opportunity to enhance my reputation by finding a job for one of my other friends. Furthermore, this friend was not sending the email solely for his own benefit. He was doing a favor for his employer, and (by doing so) demonstrating that he's willing to maybe do favors for someone else.

In conclusion: Social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook are more personal than email and should be treated as such. In general, it's helpful to think of these sites as a private cocktail party. We have all had the experience of attending a party where someone took advantage of the cozy environment to push their pet charity, business, or fund raiser. Don't be that person! If you abuse the trust of your network, not only will you earn a bad reputation, but you will make yourself a liability to the reputations of the people who have vouched for your character by choosing to be connected to you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Macworld 2009

Macworld is happening this week, and I went because (a) Vista sucks and since I no longer need it for pimping my mad SharePoint/TeamFoundation/etc. skills, I am totally switching to Apple now; (b) As a microbusiness technology consultant it is my job to go to expos and see if there might be any useful information (which there was); and (c) I never pass up a chance to geek out with my brother, especially if there might be drinking involved.

Here is a picture of my brother standing in front of the car from Back To The Future. For some of you, this will be reason enough to attend MacWorld, so I’m putting it first.

One of the best things about this expo was the profusion of comfortable places to sit down. Here is a picture of the W hotel lounge area. You can’t see it from here, but in addition to the couches they have cool-looking board games and puzzles to entertain yourself with.

Here is a picture of me with my amazingly tasty FREE blueberry cocktail from Viximo. Seriously, even though it was warm and served in plastic, this was one of the best cocktails I’ve had in the past three months. They had an ostentatious booth with a trestle full of iPhones showing off their new flirting application and the drinks were there to loosen inhibitions. Unfortunately, somebody at Viximo didn't allocate enough resources to QA and UE, so the application is too difficult to navigate and I doubt they're going to get the response they are hoping for.

I came away with a plastic Nikon-emblazoned swag bag with a bunch of software and flyers in it. (I deliberately skip the tshirts and keychains, as I have way too much of that stuff already). When I got home, I sorted through it, looking for information that you, dear readers (all ten of you) might find helpful. Here are the highlights:
  • MyVu personal media viewer – The eyeball equivalent of headphones, plus headphones. Plug it into your video ipod and watch a movie.

    This is probably the most seriously cool gadget I saw all day. They work. They look good. They’re relatively inexpensive (about $130). Unfortunately donning the device required that I remove my glasses and since I'm ridiculously nearsighted, it wasn’t as nearly as much fun as it should have been. But if you wear contact lenses (or have normal vision) this should be totally awesome.

  • Host a meeting from your iPhone - during the past five years or so, I’ve worked for startups and/or with distributed teams and we had a lot of virtual meetings. Mostly, we use one of those conference services where you call in. But it is really helpful to have some sort of visual console, and carting around a laptop can be kind of inconvenient. Fuze makes a little application/service that lets you do this from your iPhone.

  • “Mac Mingle” Free afterparty tomorrow 7-midnight at Jillians – For those who do their best networking while under the influence of alcohol. Free nibbles and a no-host bar. I’m posting this for those of you who want to mix with this crowd but can’t get a badge, because it seems like the sort of thing you’d probably be able to talk your way into. Or (if you are not socially fluent) just show up before they start carding. Jillians is a public space located in the Metreon near the Moscone Center complex.

  • Free and Discount Passes to MacWorld – I don’t know if any of these actually work because I have my badge already. But there are links here , here, and here if you need one. You’re welcome.

  • Where to Find Everything From Cable Shows to an Oxford Education Free in the iTunes Store and Beyond – I might go back to Macworld on Thursday just to attend this class. O’Reilly has an impressive list of free lectures that had their booth packed to overflowing every time I strolled by it.
That's it! I also went to Bill Ayers' event and met the 30-Day Challenge guy. But that's a topic for another post.

I might return to Macworld on Thursday or Friday daytime. If you want to meet up, ping me on Twitter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four Great Social Media Articles

Miscellaneous great links about social media that have graced my screen recently:

How to Get Freelance Work With Twitter - Kim Woodbridge breaks it down. Even if you don't know what Twitter IS yet, this should work for you, Her directions are that clear.

"Never in the last 100 years of business has there been such an even playing field for moms and pops and corporations as there is on the Internet right now. Knowledge can outdo cash - for a little while longer. Get educated and get in the game while you still can."
This article basically sums up why I'm going around telling everyone I'm a social media marketing consultant and why I feel it's so important I be doing that work now. It always takes a year or so for the big guys to catch on. I'm guessing we have about 8 months left.

The Firefly Manifesto I've chosen to adopt the attitude that the current economic situation - while it does mean there is less money floating around - represents a tremendous opportunity. Some people are better at this than others, and this guy's enthusiasm is infectious.

And, for balance:
How Not to Promote Your Business on the Internet - One of the things I reiterate with my clients is that social media marketing and permission marketing are NOT about making a pest out of yourself. This post explains how to avoid going too far.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I really need to get into the habit of taking a mid-day break

Because now my eyeballs are glazing over and I need a break but the sun is sinking and the idea of going outside is completely unappealing.

I tell myself this every day around 2pm, but it's practically impossible to pry myself out of my house. I'm not agoraphobic or anything, but the lengths I have to go to to get myself to walk out the door sometimes are ridiculous. I wonder if it's a female thing, because I've run into this problem a lot with girl friends. They always want me to come to their house.

When I get rich, I'm going to hire my own girl to come over here and extricate me. I'll probably call her an "assistant" or "personal trainer" but what she actually is is an Amy Extrication Device (AED).

I wonder if I could patent that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is Social Media Killing PR? - event writeup

So, I have a mission to visit as many events of interest to San Francisco Micropreneurs as possible. Today, I’m at the Horn Group’s "Is Social Media Killing PR?" blogger panel. This is the first event I’ve been to so far where I wasn’t already part of the group and I feel a little bit as though I’m crashing the party. I’m here partly because of Girls in Tech, which is comfortably resemblent to my old SFWOW conceptual stomping grounds. Most of the guests wearing nametags that refer to companies I’ve never heard of. There are a lot of attractive, slender, well-dressed women in their 30’s. I feel outclassed. Wine and catered food is served. It is very good. I can’t believe this is free.

It’s amazing what you can learn just by sitting around. Sabrina Horn is the president That would account for the Girls in Tech tie in. I tell people I’m a blogger with about six readers because no one ever tries to make themselves sound unimportant in these circles. The food is really good. I wonder who arranged this?

It is packed. There are too many people and I’m too intimidated / overwhelmed to introduce myself. I’m sweltering. I duck into the ladies to remove a few layers of clothing and they’re talking about …hashtags. Geeky!

When I emerge, the crowd has thinned somewhat, as people spread out into other areas of the office, grabbing perches in view of the “stage” and discovering there is food in more than one location. It really is a very nice office. Apparently the MC, Jeremiah, is a rock star. I’ve never heard of him.

I get up from my comfortable seat with no view so I can get look at Sabrina. She’s wearing a red wool cape and a matching red dress with black suede stiletto boots. You rock on with your bad ass self. OMG she challenged us to spend a day here to see what they do. I am so there. I’ll have to write her later and find out if she really meant it.

As the panel progresses, I realize that I know more about social media than most of the audience. Apparently I need to promote myself better ...I could totally consult on this if I wanted to. The panel discussion is illuminating in other ways. When I first heard the title, I thought it was utterly retarded. I mean: how can social media be a threat to PR? Isn't that like saying television is a threat to PR? Twitter, bloggers, etc. are just another medium for PR, aren't they? In which case, social media should be a *boon* for PR, because more channels mean you'll need to hire more PR people to cover them.

It comes out that the threat comes from transparency. Apparently, certain industries are in a tizzy because they've gotten used to there only being a few media outlets, which could be controlled with connections and money. They have been using PR, not so much as image consultants and story tellers, but as censors, making sure that the public heard about things that made them look good and spinning or repressing things that made them look bad. To which I say: too bad, and maybe you should stop doing things that are sketchy.

Anyhow, if you want to check out who was there and what they said, there's a hashtags link with everybody's tweets on it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Listening to Naomi reminds me of a Martha Stewart article

A few years ago, I read this article - not by Martha Stewart, but about her. The author (whose name now escapes me, as well as the title of the article) was writing about a video she’d once watched where Martha was demonstrating how to make a moss carpet for bonsai. She would pick up a clump of moss in her hand and crumble it over the surface, all the while explaining in a reassuring voice how easy it was to do and how the crumbs would grow into a smooth, green carpet in a few weeks.

Naomi is a lot like that. In her online business school, she talks about how she made tons of money by focusing on one tiny market and then it turned out not to be so tiny after all. And sure, that is part of it. And part of it is luck. But it is not just focus, or just luck. She breaks things down. She makes the impressive accessible.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Social Marketing Goodness

In my family of origin, if you really admire someone, you almost never say it to their face. For some reason, this is considered over-familiar and manipulative. If you really want to make someone feel good about themselves, you talk about them behind their backs. Loudly, so they can eavesdrop. If you’re the shy sort, you might confide in their “closest person” (parent/child/spouse). And if your appreciation is too embarrassingly gushy, just choose whichever relative has the biggest mouth. That way, your filthy praise will pass through many hands before reaching the intended recipient and be legitimized through hearsay.

I did at some point learn that normal people do not act this way, but this knowing has never translated itself into habit. Thank god for the internet where anything goes so long as you’re funny. I figure I might as well get this all out on the table now, in the third post.

Anyhow, tonight I went to this awesome presentation on social marketing by web geniuses Anna Billstrom and Janet Fouts who I know from my SFWOW days way back when I was skinny. (I think I’m supposed to introduce SFWOW at this point but you hosers should just go see for yourselves because if I stop to do that I’m never gonna finish this.) There were about 16 people there and they had beer. Then Anna and Janet told us about all kinds of useful things, like:
  • Pingfm – lets you post content to multiple networks at once
  • Friendfeed - aggregates all your shit in one place so you don't have to go clicking all over tarnation
  • Socializr - which is like evite, only better, and does mashups which may or may not be fictional*
  • Social Mention - mines Twitter, Delicious, FriendFeed, Flickr, Digg, etc. to see if anyone is talking about you.
  • Twitterpacks help you find interesting people to follow
  • Qwitter – lets you know when someone stops following you
Also, interesting tidbits, like:
  • Facebook has software that actually recognizes faces
  • Google indexes tweets in 15 minutes
  • Twitphone and Twinkle are good for iPhone but Twittlator is not
  • Your website's Bounce Rate should be under 40%
I have probably got some of this wrong, because it is late and I was transcribing from voice by hand without spellcheck or Google. So if you want to know more, you should check out the handout, or Anna's page because she was on the 'net since before there were pictures and knows more about email marketing than God. Or possibly Janet because she is famous and finds out about all the cool new web gadgets before Anna does.

*Actually this wasn't in the presentation, I found it on Anna's website when I was stalking her.