Never Facebook Anyone Over 30 – The Dangers of Letting It All Hang Out Online

Thanks to Lori Gama

My wife just came back from a trip visiting her daughter at college and offered an interesting observation. The up and coming generation lives online. Okay, this is not a real revelation, but my stepdaughter and her friends seem obsessed with continuous connectivity. They are simultaneously chatting, texting, Facebooking, e-mailing. The objection that mom has is that multitasking is socially unattractive and her daughter can’t pay attention during a dinner conversation or even walking down the street because she is glued to her iPhone. (The solution, of course, is to text her while standing next to her, but this is not behavior we want to reinforce.) I have even caught my stepdaughter on Skype in the wee hours of the morning so clearly, this new need for ongoing Internet-driven access is becoming all-consuming. 

And just as everyone under 25 considers himself or herself indestructible, they also consider their online activities immune from extrenal judgment. You can post those frat party pictures on Facebook because you know your mom won’t see them. Right? Wrong! 

Here’s the perception: Microsoft commissioned a new Online Reputation Research study that show that fewer than 15 percent of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. think that information posted online will have any impact on their getting a job. Only 7 percent of U.S. consumers believe information about them online has affected their job search; in the U.K it was 9 percent. 

Here’s the reality: 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected candidates based on information found online. While recruiters indicated they are somewhat concerned about the authenticity of the information they find online, recruiters in all countries indicated that the importance of online reputation will increase over the next five years. And 85 percent of US recruiters and HR professionals say they were positively influenced by favorable information found online. 

Some of the smarter consumers are trying to manage their online reputations using multiple personas. They also frequently search for information about themselves,  they set up Google news alerts to track online mentions, adjust the privacy settings on social media sites, and they are cautious about posting information that could damage their online reputation. All of these steps are helpful, but they aren’t foolproof and are no substitute for common sense. 

Whether you think it appropriate for a potential employer, or partners, or client, or romantic partner should check you out online, you know they will. And the Web has a very long memory. Those drunken spring break photos you post on Facebook today could come to haunt you after graduation when you look for a job. And more importantly, your conduct online once you are working could affect your employer as well as your employment if you don’t use good judgment. 

These days, we all live in glass houses, and the Web focuses a lens on all our personal activities. So while there is tremendous value on social networking to promote connections and build your personal brand, understand that the same power of the Web can disseminate your faux pas just as rapidly and aggressively. So if you are going to live your life online, don’t do anything that your mother (or a potential employer) would be ashamed of.

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Online Experiments Make the Point – Social Media Works!

young_frankenstein_doc_smallI have run across some interesting experiments in social networking this week.

I want to give Larry Brauner a nod for trying a different kind of social media experiment. Larry is one of many social media gurus I have been following and he has come up with an innovative experiment he is calling the 4+ Day Blog and Website Promotion Event and Social Media Party. This is a web experiment in conjunction with Larry’s 58th birthday. For 96 hours, Larry will be soliciting open commentary from all of his online connections and, as part of the experiment, he plans to comment on every single submission and repost/retweet every comment and submit as many as he can to social media bookmarks. So basically, for four days, Larry has appointed himself as a one-man clearing house for online commentary.

Cool idea.

And more importantly, it will demonstrate the power of social networking in an interesting and tangible way. Those of us who join in will be able to track how the information disseminates, and watching the tendrils of the web at work. I read somewhere that the cool thing about the web is that, like a spider’s web, if you touch it in one place the effects can be felt everywhere.

I also want to thank David Meerman Scott for his kind words about my last blog post, but also for sharing his holiday Twitter experiment on his blog, WebInkNow. Over the holidays, David had to explain Twitter to his brother, who was skeptical about its value. Rather than trying to explain Twitter, David posted a tweet to his 33,000 followers:

My brother Peter doesn’t understand Twitter. “It’s weird – who cares what you do?” Can you guys help explain please!!

What was the response? I’ll let David explain in his own words:

“Isn’t it amazing how nearly 50 people can answer something, each in 140 characters or less, and in just a few minutes you have a better explanation than any one person could possibly think of in a lifetime! And people jumped in from all over (Coogee, Australia and Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic to name two).”

The proof is in the response. Social media just works, especially if you know how to use it effectively. So try your own experiments and please share the results. There are still skeptics out there who need convincing.

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Why It Makes Sense for the Twitter Guru Decides to Dump His Twitter Followers

If you are an advocate of Twitter, you have probably run across Joel Comm, author of Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time. I first heard about Joel when he agreed to host an Experts Connection teleseminar for a client on “Twitter for Executives.” I have been reading Joel’s book and following his blog, which is why I was surprised to see his latest blog entry announcing that he purged his Twitter account.

What? The Twitter guru has abandoned Twitter? What’s going on here?

When I read the blog post I see the wisdom of Joel’s desire to start over. As he says, Twitter has changed the way we communicate, and our use of Twitter needs to evolve with our needs. Many marketers approach social media as a numbers game, and you can make some assumptions about the quality of your Twitter followers by their bio and the number of followers they have acquired. But as Joel points out, the numbers have gotten out of control. His Twitter follower count had reach 83,000, and you can’t have a meaningful dialogue with 83,000 people. On top of that, the nature of a number of those followers was questionable. A number of followers were simply promoting their own businesses with direct marketing messages and not interested in an online dialogue. Other followers were spammers or generated by bots so they had no networking value.

To make social networking valuable and meaningful, you have to be prepared to engage with your followers, and be judicious about how you build your online network. As Joel points out:

“Twitter was just an extension of my life. It’s another way to be myself and interact with the world and people around me. To this day, when people ask me how often they should tweet, I tell them that I “tweet like I eat.” That is, when I am hungry or have food in front of me. It’s as natural as breathing. It’s just living my life. I may disappear for days and I may go on a streak of @replies. I don’t build my life around Twitter. I weave in and out as fits my own goals and lifestyle.”

Any social media outlet should be an extension of your marketing program, not an end unto itself.

The key to success with online marketing is being targeted with your strategy and selective with your follower outreach. Don’t try to pick up every Tom, Dick, or Harry who asks to connect with you on LinkedIn or Twitter. Check their bios and determine if you can have a meaningful dialogue about issues that matter to you, your clients, and your business.

The thing that a lot of social media mavens forget is the “social” aspect of online connections. It’s all about exchanging information, about dialogue. So I agree with Joel about his new Twitter strategy:

“…my new Twitter strategy is this.
1) I will follow who I want to follow because I want to follow them. That means I will follow friends, family, associates, those I find personally interesting and those who interact with me.
2) Don’t follow me if you aren’t interested in following me. My tweets will just clutter your stream.
It’s amazing how many people got hacked off because I unfollowed them. It’s almost an entitlement mentality. ‘GASP! I deserve to be followed by you!'”

Don’t let the noise drown out the conversation. Engage in meaningful online exchanges and you will reap greater benefits from your social media strategy.

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Is it Who You Know or What You Know?

How important are personal relationship in public relations? I can’t recall how many new business pitches seem to hinge on the quality of your Rolodex (or for you younger readers, your database). If you can name drop that you just had lunch with Walt Mossberg, or you just had coffee with the producer who handles bookings for Oprah, then people will generally say “Oooh, Ahhh” and be sufficiently impressed. But do those kinds of connections really help your clients tell a mediocre story?

Naturally, prospects want to make sure you know something about their business. You need to be able to demonstrate you understand what their company and its products offer, how they fit in their market, the value they offer target customers, and how to effectively differentiate their brand. The objective of every marketing campaign differs. Some are about brand building, others are focused on thought leadership, and others are to support sales. In fact, most PR campaigns measure success on multiple levels, but never by who you know.

So when I am pitching prospect or talking to a client and asked, “Do you know So-and-so?” or “Who do you know at this Trade Journal Weeky?” I usually respond, “Who do I need to know?” Granted, relationships are built and maintained over time, and I have a number of established and respected journalists that I consider friends as well as professional contacts. I also can name reporters at various technology trade magazines, and even have a lot of history with most of them. I reconnected with a former CMP editor who is now a freelance analyst, and we remembered each other from past stories and pitches.

So it turns out I do know a few journalists. But that doesn’t mean I can pick up the phone to pitch them a bad story. Without the solid foundation of strategy, storytelling, and an understanding of what editors need to make a good story for their readers, it doesn’t matter who you know.

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Online Intimacy is an Oxymoron

monitor_handshakeYou are a LinkedIn LION with hundreds, even thousands of online contacts. You are the king of social networking because no one has as many followers on Twitter, Facebook, or even Ecademy. What does this really mean? Not much. No one can maintain hundreds or thousands of meaningful online relationships. How many of those thousands of contacts will be there for you when you need a referral or help closing a new account?

So when it comes to online networking, do you want to go for quality or quantity? You can add as many contacts as you want to your online portfolios, but after a time they become unmanageable. You can’t tell the players apart, even with a scorecard. So continue to build your network, but be sure to keep a list of online contacts that is smaller and more intimate. Find people who can genuinely assist you, or maybe even buy your services, and establish a rapport.

How do you do that? I recently saw a new blog post by The Strategic Guy, Marc Hausman of Strategic Communications, with a few concrete suggestions:

  1. Meet ups. Marc talks about corporate sponsored meetups but what about area meetings, Tweetups, club meetings, regional seminars, and other professional gatherings. Anywhere you can find like-minded professionals sharing ideas and insights is a logical place to move from virtual contacts to face-to-face connections.
  2. Webinars and teleconferences. Okay, we are still operating in the virtual web world, but at least these kinds of gatherings with real folk discussing real issues let you gather around an online water cooler to share a mutual passion.
  3. Good old fashioned sales call. That’s right, close our e-mail and pick up the phone! For many, social media is an extension of the sales process. Get out there and make a connection! Contact that individual on the other end of the online connection and ask questions, learn, interact. This will help foster that real connection that will benefit you later.

In my years of pitching PR stories, I have learned that all the editors say they prefer e-mail pitches and don’t bother them when on deadline. So you send the e-mail to offer the story and make a virtual connection, but it’s the follow up phone call that cements the relationship. Most of the time the reporter won’t even remember the e-mail but, when you make the pitch by telephone you have an instant reaction, and an instant rapport.

There’s no such thing as virtual intimacy. Get out there and make contact in the real world, in real time, either face-to-face or at least by telephone. It’s still the best way to build your network.

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