Archives for category: social networking

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Quark, Technorati, Tumblr, SlideShare, Blip.tv, Flickr, Bebo, Ning, Zynga, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, WordPress, Reddit, Myspace, Okrut, Meetup, Eventbrite, hi5, Myspcace….is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Business owners keep getting told that they need to start engaging online. Advice most business owners have taken to heart according to  a Webs.com survey that says nearly 70 percent of small businesses now use some form of social media to promote their products (More info). I’m skeptical of this statistic, especially because most small business owners I have worked with still do not understand how to effectively use social media. Some have set up Facebook Pages, but haven’t actually posted anything since it was created. And some use the sites in detrimental ways to their image. Part of the reason I believe that small business owners are still feeling at a loss when it comes to social media is because they have no idea how and WHERE to direct their efforts. They’re told to join the online space, but not how to decide what platform will work best for them.

This is an issue I ran into a lot while working for the military; many of the unit level public relations offices wanted to do social media but they didn’t have enough resources or people to devote full-time to it. They would call in wondering how they could manage hitting the big 4 networks (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, & Youtube) that the headquarters levels used. I would have to work with them to pick one platform where they could concentrate their efforts that would give them the most benefit. Which is my key advice here: Concentrate on platforms that will give you the maximum  benefit only!

You know the big networks, but is your key audience really there? Most networks give out their demographics. For instance, Living Social & Groupon look similar but they cater to different audiences, and they’ll show you on their advertising pages how. Some demographics might be harder to find, but it’s worth it to your business to find the networks where niche interest groups exist. For instance, Tumblr has a huge arts and crafts community (I like to bake and paint so I’m always Tumbling). Tumblr also makes it easy to share infographics and photos, which is why The Economist features their cartoons and charts on the platform. The point is, Facebook might have half of the human planet on it, but it’s harder for niche interest groups to get found. These groups will be the difference between simple views on your site or walk-in’s at your location and sales. Views mean nothing if they don’t result in more sales in the long run.

Finding the right platform for your business will take research, but it will be worth it to your marketing efforts in the long run. If you’re looking for a place to start, The Top 100 Directory has a great list of 350 Niche Social Networking Sites. And remember just because you build an audience on one, doesn’t mean you won’t get attention on other networks. Most of your audience participates in more than one social network, so odds are they will share your posts and you will still be seen on the top social platforms. Let your customers spread the word, they’re best at it anyway.

We’ve all heard about how society is slowly declining due to individual’s inability to communicate with each other. The argument that technology will be the ruin of us is abundant. According to a recent study, technology not only makes us unsociable, it makes us sleep deprived (More Info). Most zombies cannot speak anyway right? We’ll fit right in!

All joking aside, there are a couple of issues I have with these arguments. The biggest issue I have with people arguing that technology is ruining our ability to socialize, is that the way the internet has evolved has made most of our online activities sociable in nature. Hence the term Social Media. Instead of Sunday brunches with family and hand-written letters, we now have Skype calls and text messages. Now I’ll be the first person to admit that this new way of interacting and communicating with each other might not be in fact, better, because of moral or educational issues, etc. That is not what I wish to discuss however, you can go to editorials and scientific journals for that. My argument is that each time we sign online, we are using at least one program which requires us to be sociable with other human beings. Whether we are on Facebook, reading blogs, checking into Foursquare, reading comments on retail stores, recommending restaurants on Yelp, playing games on Yahoo! Games and more, we are socializing. I could make the argument that no matter what you do on the internet, you are taking part in a human interaction.

Marketers, advertisers, and public relations professionals try to utilize the human connection in developing digital and interactive communications. They develop social media toolkits, or best practices for digital media that always cite one of the best ways to build online communities is to make sure you reply back to your followers or ask them questions. “Two-way communication is key!” they say. Even I have been guilty of boiling down success in online communities to this in the past. Communication is important, but success depends on so much more than just understanding the need for it. If you want to be successful, you have to understand how to communicate on a person-to-person level. It’s all about the human connection. If you have a million followers, you must act as if you are speaking to each of them individually. You must understand not only their basic needs, but what they want or crave. While working for the United States Marine Corps’ social media team, I quickly realized that our online communities were different from others. Each fan on Facebook was already deeply devoted to the institution that is the Marines. Marines that joined the community wanted an arena where they could clear up speculation and rumors, and tell their experience in the Corps. Family members wanted an arena that would allow them to express their pride in their loved ones who joined or meet up with other family members to express their joy, pain, or other sentiments. Future Marines needed a space where they could chronicle their journey, making it more concrete by expressing their dream out-loud. Our information and news we released were simply part of their experience, but not why they joined our online communities. They joined because it made them feel connected to others, to the Marine Corps, and to something bigger. Individuals who join online communities and participate with organizations and brands’ digital media do so because they are looking for a human connection. Your products and services matter, but your followers’ ability to converse with others about their experiences and opinions matter more.

When you build your online communities start thinking about how you can help individuals feel a human connection while associating with your brand. Stop talking at them and stop trying to define your community by your standards; instead begin to think of ways in which you can help enrich the experience they are already having with your organization and the thousands of others who are experiencing it with them. The deeper they are able to connect, the more often they will return, and the more invested they will become in your organization.

In my previous post I introduced Seth Godin’s idea of tribes. Seth believes that social communities have evolved into tribes that form their own set of cultural norms and behaviors. While I believe whole-heartedly in this concept, thinking of them in this way still leaves you with very little in understanding how to communicate effectively to social communities.

Ever since entering this career field, I have been trying to understand the basic needs of building social communities that are dedicated to brands or organizations. While theories like Godin’s definitely help, they have never quite covered it for me. That’s when I turned to Psychology. Recently, I took an Industrial Psychology class as part of my own personal development. Industrial Psychology (or Organizational Psychology) applies psychology to organizations and workplaces. An Industrial psychologist researches and identifies how behaviors and attitudes can be improved through hiring practices, training programs, and feedback systems. While covering worker motivation, I had that proverbial moment where the wheels started turning in my head and something just clicked.

Social communities, or the communities you build to support your brand or organization are in themselves like a team or group that you “hire” to help make you successful. These communities, whether they are blogging about you or just simply referring your service to a friend over lunch, are essentially working day-in and day-out for you. It’s their commitment and dedication that support you. Each time you ask them to comment on, or even take a test-trial of your product, you are giving them the ability to have an effect on your sales. And now, thanks to the internet and mobile technology their efforts are in real-time. It makes sense that you need to help foster an environment and provide these communities with enough resources, just like you would with any other employee.

But how do we make sure these communities are willing to do some work for us and continue communicating and interacting with our brand? It’s as simple as looking at how you foster motivation and work output from your employees. In Industrial Psychology, there are many theories that look at worker motivation. One of these theories is called the Expectancy theory. The Expectancy Theory proposes that a person will decide to behave or act in a certain way because they are motivated to select a specific behavior based on what they expect the result of that selected behavior will be. In essence, a worker is motivated to work harder and achieve more if they believe they will get something out of it. There are three parts to the Expectancy Theory; Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence. Expectancy is an individual’s perception that their effort will result in meeting a performance goal. Instrumentality is an individual’s perception that their performance will lead to a desired outcome. And Valence is the importance that the individual puts on the outcome. So basically, an employee will work to produce results if they believe they can meet the desired goal, are rewarded for doing so, and believe that reward is worthwhile to them. If this is met then the worker will be more motivated to perform their jobs successfully. Some companies use this theory everyday. It can be as simple as a company defining its goals to employees in achievable steps, and then telling their employees that if they follow these steps they will be rewarded with not only praise, but the opportunity to have a raise or promotion because the company values hard-workers. By doing this, employees will believe that their efforts are 1)easily achievable, 2)valued and noticed by the company, and 3)will benefit the company and themselves.

If we look at social communities as organizations or teams that benefit the larger business structure, then we can easily apply the Expectancy Theory to achieve greater success. Some ways we can fulfill Expectancy Theory are:

1) Let customers/communities know that their concerns, comments, and efforts to promote your company are valued. This means acknowledging new individuals to your community, responding to their inquiries and addressing comments, and then encouraging them to interact with your community more.
2) Give individuals achievable steps that they can meet to become valuable players in your community. This can be as simple as giving them badges on FourSquare, or making them subject matter experts you can call on. Ensure that becoming a valuable player means that they will participate not only in your online communities, but in the real world as well. This means they have to keep recommending your product to people, participate in contests, go to your events, and buy your product.
3) Let individuals know that their interaction and sales are important. Make them believe that it will not only benefit your company, but themselves as well. Easiest example of this? Clothing stores that offer online coupons for liking their Facebook page.
4) Don’t ever take your users for granted. Keep applying steps 1 through 3 and individuals in your community will believe that the outcome of interacting with or buying of your service will benefit them.

You motivate your employees because your success depends on their everyday ability to perform their job. Why not motivate your social communities so the power of viral connectivity will work for you instead of remaining underutilized? Applying a little bit of psychology can equate to a more engaged fanbase and extra profit.