Entries from September 2012 ↓

The presidential election can teach you how to use social media

This post was originally written for Dubtizzle on 9.20.12:
Four years ago, I watched social media explode right in front of my face. I watched the Obama campaign use Facebook and Twitter. I watched newsrooms crowdsource images and information. But four years ago, social media was not mainstream.

Fast forward to now.

Social media may not reach each and every person who can be a customer or client, but it certainly gives you a direct line to thoughts, opinions and interest groups. For years, I have watched the White House post photos on its Flickr account and other social outlets before releasing them to media outlets in more traditional ways. Social has removed the middle man and allows politicians to speak directly to voters. If you’re ever looking for new ideas on how to share and gather information about potential customers, watch politicians closely.

A presidential election year is a perfect time to study up. Not long ago, Ad Age created an infographic showing the reach for Obama and Romney (and their wives) along with some statistics on how the two candidates use the powerhouse tools: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

With November getting closer, the two candidates have done some interesting things to encourage social media sharing and information collecting on voters.

The Romney camp has two different apps available for mobile users. One allows you to take your pictures and brand it with different sayings like “I’m with Mitt” and “Romney Ryan 2012.” The other app keeps you up to date with the campaign. The campaign encouraged people to sign up and use it so they could be the first to find out Romney’s vice presidential nominee. The app released Paul Ryan’s name before Romney announced it at a public event.

The campaign also became the first political campaign to purchase a sponsored hashtag on the final night of the Republican National Convention. The price tag to promote #RomneyRyan2012 is said to have been cost around $120,000.

While the Romney campaign spent a lot of money to engage the Twitter community, the Republican National Convention tweet with the most retweets was this image:

53,877 retweets to a photo responding to Clint Eastwood’s convention speech where he spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama. (Which also launched the #eastwooding meme.) That’s a huge response on Twitter.

That same week, Obama reached out to a social community that has never seen a presidential candidate make a visit: Reddit. The president spent about an hour answering questions that ranged from political to sports and beer. Did you visit that link? It’s had almost 1.9 million views with more than 24,000 comments. That’s remarkable engagement.

It doesn’t matter where you sit on the spectrum of political preference. Both camps can teach you a lot about ways to reach different audiences. Watch what works and doesn’t work for the candidates and consider giving it a try for yourself or your brand. (An interesting study by the Pew Research Center found the candidates are doing a great job talking inside social media, but not really engaging.) Do you have a public Spotify account? Both candidates do. They also have Instagram and Tumblr accounts. Watch and learn. Both camps may teach you how to share and listen in ways you’ve never tried before.

Groups are your secret to community

This post was originally written for Dubtizzle on 8.28.12:
Facebook Pages are a great way to extend your public relationship for yourself or your brand. Facebook Subscribe lets you share your personal posts in a public way. As your news feed fills with branding and professional talk (kind of like when Twitter feeds automatically appeared on LinkedIn), you may lose track of actual conversations. There was a time when you could post a question on Twitter or Facebook and you could get a stream of input. It just is not as easy as it used to be.

Mind you, my streams are loud. I have 1,786 friends on Facebook and like or subscribe to more than 2,000 brands or people. When I post a public item, my 50,000+ subscribers have a chance to comment. I follow 5,649 brands and people on Twitter from years and years of using the service. (I started in 2007.) Clearly, my most dominant social media tools are “loud” with nonstop chatter.

You don’t need that many people and brands to feel overwhelmed and watch conversations disappear into the social ether.

Enter Facebook Groups. Sure, there are LinkedIn Groups but where are you when you want to build conversations with customers or clients? How can you grow a relationship with your most committed brand supporters? If Facebook comes to mind, you’re probably right. The difference between Groups and Pages? Groups give you a more personal space to talk to a members-only collection of people.

Groups have different settings depending on how private or public you want your conversations. Secret groups are invite-only. Closed groups are request or invite only but the group names are searchable on Facebook. And then there are open groups. Open groups are searchable and anyone can join. Groups become a more directed conversation than the type of posts you add on a fan page. (Pages use the kind of posts that encourage conversation but also likes and shares.)

There’s another secret you may not know about Facebook groups. Not only is it a great way to create an extra relationship with potential brand ambassadors, you can find groups that benefit your career as well. There are groups for every topic you can think of. Many are focused on career-minded topics that help benefit the members. Other groups help people of similar careers share stories of success and failure. Groups can even be created just to help manage a project.

Let’s say you are a photography business and you want to grow a more personal relationship with your customers or potential customers. Using your Facebook page, you can invite your fans to join an open or closed group where you can share special tips and answer photography questions. (A closed group would require you to approve member requests.) From that group, you may find a small number of super fans who want to spread the word about your business. You could invite them to a special secret group where you can offer special deals or tips. You could even brainstorm ways to spread the word about your awesome business.

Facebook groups are one of the few places where I find I’m participating in excellent debates, conversations and updates on parts of my job that matter to me. At times, it may seem like it’s a spot where only the “cool kids” hang out. But the real power behind it is when you can’t find a group you want to join, just make one of your own. Invite friends, colleagues or clients. It just depends on what you want to get out of the group experience. If there’s any piece of advice to make a Facebook group experience really work for you, it’s to just try it and make it your own.