Virtually everything I read about social media and small business these days focuses on marketing and very little else.
Now, I get the fact that building your brand and generating leads for your business is important. No sales, no business. But if that’s all you use social media for, you’re missing out big time on the opportunity to enrich your mind with the myriad of stories, ideas, opinions and philosophies that experts, authorities, and thought leaders locally and overseas expound regularly via blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Used properly — with passion and purpose — social media can help you professionally by broadening your perspective on a number of fronts, more so than at any time in our history.
Why? Because it’s never been easier to interact with thought leaders — to check out the links they share, read their blog posts, listen to their podcast interviews, or get involved in their conversations online.
While it’s incumbent on small business owners to stay up to date with what’s happening in their profession or industry, you will only grow as a professional by constantly expanding your horizons and challenging your thinking.
If you want to gain an edge over the competition, you really need to be in tune, not just with what’s going on in your industry specifically, but also with the business world generally. What are the thought leaders saying, what trends are bubbling under the radar, what are the new challenges facing companies, where is technology heading and what opportunities will emerging new media bring?
19 thought leaders
By all means continue to read the mainstream press, listen to the radio and watch television. But set aside part of your day to absorb the words and actions of people such as the 19 thought leaders I have listed here:
Adam wrote the post because he was attending meetings where the topic kept cropping up.
The reason why there is so much debate about it is because there are so
many different types of people, of widely varying experience, who can
occupy positions with a social media remit, he wrote on his blog.
As many large Australian companies are starting to think more strategically about social media and its role within the organisation, it stands to reason this topic will continue to be the subject of much debate.
So I cornered Adam virtually while he was on holidays on the Gold Coast for a chat about this very topic. It's a super-meaty subject - we discuss each of the seven different types of social media consultant (listed below) - so it's a bit longer than my usual videos. But if you're interested in the space, I think it will be worth your time :)
The world is moving so quickly in terms of the
public’s dizzying uptake of social networking and new media technologies
that many company executives struggle to know where to look in terms of
trends and inspiration.
Of course when the business world experiences
tsunami-like change, such as what is occurring currently, companies keep
their eyes peeled: firstly to see what their competitors are doing; and
secondly to see what others in similar types of industries locally and
overseas are doing.
That’s all well and good, and it’s research that
needs to be done, but in today’s information-overloaded, hyper-connected
marketplace, it’s recommended to look even further afield for
inspiration and ideas.
May I suggest, in addition to looking at the usual
suspects in their industry, that companies check out what’s happening at
the smaller part of town, and then lower their eyes even further to
what a cadre of forward-thinking, high-profile individuals are doing in
their particular niche.
Late last year I was lucky enough to be asked to join 10 other bloggers on a sojourn to Bright, a picturesque hamlet nestled amongst mountains in regional Victoria.
In the PR biz, this activity is known as 'blogger outreach' - done properly, it's the art of building relationships with bloggers for mutual benefit.
For example, if you're a fashion brand, you might invite some fashion and lifestyle bloggers to your warehouse and give them a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at your next range before it hits the shops; perhaps you're a technology company, you might get together with several bloggers who are interested in your space and demonstrate your latest app ahead of the market.
It's not always about getting immediate coverage on blogs; sometimes it's more important to build genuine and respectful relationships with relevant bloggers over time because you both share a similar audience.
If you can help the blogger add value to the relationship they have with their
readers (or viewers if they're video-focused, or listeners if they're
podcasters), happy days. But if you just approach it from a perspective that
it's all about you and your message, that's not really cool. There's got to be something in it for the blogger (and by extension, their audience).
Bloggers tend to seek the 'experience' versus the 'news'; this is not black-and-white of course - some journalists are into the experience while some bloggers chase the news - but as a rule bloggers are immersive types who tell stories from different angles, often using multiple mediums (i.e. video/Vine, photography/Instagram, 140 character tweets etc) in addition to their blog.
The goal was to bring 11 bloggers to Bright and get them to experience what the township (and immediate area) had to offer - the wineries, restaurants, attractions (such as Patrizia Simone's Country Cooking School) and views (via helicopter).
In this interview Kim takes us behind-the-scenes of the #brightdelight blogger outreach program - why and how she came up with the idea; how she got it off the ground; what worked (and lessons learned) plus highlights of the program.
Kim reveals she was hoping the initiative would garner 100,000-200,000 potential impressions on Twitter, but that according to a report from TweetReach, this figure reached as high as 1.2 million.
Another highlight was that an article written by Caz and Craig Makepeace from Y Travel Blog that featured on the National Geographic website.
All up a great experience for everyone concerned, so much so there's talk about saddling up again later this year.
I found this infographic (below) interesting given more and more larger companies and organisations in Australia are now starting to approach social media in a more strategic way compared to several years back when many were jumping in 'willy nilly', putting the channel first and then trying to build their efforts around certain mediums without first asking: "What is it we're trying to achieve?".
From everything I hear and read locally, Australian companies are starting to put more resources into their social media efforts, or the people they're putting in place are tending to come with more seniority and experience and thus command a bigger dollar.
Again, compare that to a few years ago - if you were a 21-year-old intern with a Facebook account and a whiff of confidence, you probably could have picked up a social media gig with a major company (and been given some pretty incredible responsibility to boot). We saw that all too often, we don't see it as much today.
I recently caught up with Karan and Jamie White from the Australian law firm, Pod Legal, which is making a name for itself in the areas of intellectual property, technology law and social media law.
Pod Legal has become a thriving practice with offices in Brisbane and Melbourne.
The firm's growth has been partly fuelled by the Whites' strategic (and passionate) use of social media to create useful and relevant content as well as connect with the marketplace generally.
Their socially-driven approach is not just winning them fans in the community and the media but is also generating new business leads. This is one company that knows it gets a return from social media!
By now you will have heard about the 'social media backlash' Domino's Pizza in Australia experienced.
Pizza chain Dominos is suffering the ire of social media backlash after it promised to make a "game changing" announcement, “the biggest in 20 years”. After running a series of teaser ads in prime time for more than a week, the company's CEO Don Meij appeared in an ad revealing that Dominos would be adding more pizza toppings to its menu. The new flavours include the ‘interesting’ combinations of shiraz lamb, chicken and cranberry, and BBQ duck and blue cheese. Talk about an anti climax. (PERTH NOW).
Bottom line: Domino's over-hyped what it claimed was going to be a 'game changer'. The public didn't buy it, the hype did not match the expectations of the marketplace and the social media commentary came in thick and fast.
Domino's mistake is that it did what people dislike intensely - it indulged in over-hype; the brand's marketing people (including the CEO by the looks of things) 'drank the company Kool-Aid' and started believing the puff and hysteria they were whipping up internally. Naturally the public commentary seeped into the social media universe.
And Meij using phrases like "revolutionise the Australian pizza industry" and "We are democratising great pizza..." (source) - what the heck was that all about? What does democratising pizza even mean?
If it's one thing social media has taught us, it's that we - the public - don't like being interrupted by, or bombarded with, advertising that's hollow and meaningless. But perhaps worse - and this is the real lesson here - we do not warm to jargon, weasel words or grandstanding corporate statements.
Revolutionising the Australian pizza industry...democratising great pizza...err, I don't think so.
A more effective strategy would have seen Domino's ease up on the Kool-Aid and communicate its story in ways that were more interesting, meaningful and respectful.
Domino's will probably point to the fact people are talking about its new offering, thus the campaign was a success. But I'd be counting the cost in terms of reputation - if the company has a genuinely important announcement to make in the future, will anyone believe it?
To be fair to Dominos, CEO Don Meij did front up on the company's Facebook page field any questions the public might have on the 'pizza revolution'; I'm not sure too many CEOs of publicly-listed companies would do that.
CEO Don Meij will be available on our Facebook page to answer any
questions and comments you have from 6-7pm tonight (EDT Sydney time).
Don will do his best to get through as many questions as he can in the
Members of a company’s leadership team, including the CEO, need to take a more hands-on role in their brand’s marketing and PR efforts if they want their business to thrive in today’s “connection economy”.
Because we live in a hyper-connected world, thanks to the emergence of new media technologies and the social web. The smart brands – established ones and those emerging from the pack – understand this and are taking steps to be more open, useful, relevant and human. And the marketplace is responding positively.
But we have a Twitter account, I hear you say. Our Facebook page has thousands of ‘likes’. We’re all over this social media thing!
Meaningful and respectful
Errr, no you’re not. You’re getting confused between simply using social media tools because, well, everyone’s using them, and leveraging them strategically to open up your business and communicate with people in ways that are meaningful, respectful and that have impact on an ongoing basis.
Forget the tools for now. The moment you start thinking about channels specifically – around ‘what’ platforms you should be on – your social media efforts will be severely compromised.
Instead, start asking why you should be on Twitter? Why should you have a Facebook presence? Why should you produce videos for YouTube?
First work out what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to:
• Retain customers by providing superior service?
• Assist people with their buying decision?
• Understand trends within the marketplace?
• Increase awareness of your brand?
• Highlight the expertise of your people?
• Educate customers in a particular area?
• Increase sales using alternative channels?
• Grow your brand’s thought-leadership positioning?
• Attract potential ‘star’ recruits?
Changing the ballgame
The other key thing you need to think about as a business leader is how social media is changing the ballgame. We all know digital technology continues to level the playing field in many industries, occasionally skewering established players along the way.
But there’s an underlying theme at play here that social media is responsible for, over and above the disruption caused in many industries now that the “middle man” is all but redundant.
The theme is this: humanisation of brands and all that goes with it – openness, transparency, authenticity, adding value via interesting and relevant content (as opposed to one-way broadcast of advertising messages), senior leaders who are visible, passionate and authentic rather than carefully crafted, polished, templated ”personas”.
The brands that I see doing this well, for example, Patagonia, FreshBooks, HubSpot, King Arthur Flour, 37 Signals, and at the bigger end of town, American Express, Ford Motor Company and Whole Foods Market, are real and inclusive.
They blog, tweet and interact with customers on numerous social networking sites. Importantly, they have each cultivated growing, vibrant communities of people who genuinely like and respect their brand (and are not afraid to tell the world via their personal online networks).
I refer to these companies as “connected brands”. Crucially, they understand the power of human-to-human interaction, the importance of telling stories, of getting their in-house experts out from within company walls and talking to potential customers, of being interesting (and interested in others).
How can your company tap into this trend?
Help people, don’t hype. Be relentless in reaching out to people via social media channels, adding value through content that’s helpful, empowering and/or inspiring or entertaining.
Collaborate with bloggers and other content creators. Get involved in interesting projects that serve the community in which you operate.
But above all, get out of your office and on to the social web. Participate as an individual, a human being, in social media channels. Write blog posts, participate in online videos. Come out from the shadows and show customers you give a crap.
If nothing else, encourage your people to “socialise” the business through education and empowerment. Who knows, the results might just bring a smile to your face.
Dana White is president of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The mixed martial arts phenomenon is now firmly positioned as one of the world’s most popular sports brands, valued by Forbes at more than one billion dollars.
The chrome-domed 43-year-old former bouncer exudes a street-smart attitude, but he’s no mug.
In 2001 White (pictured) hooked up with brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to purchase what was then an ailing UFC business. White has since presided over a growth curve the envy of business entrepreneurs the world over.
Today, UFC is:
The fastest-growing sports organisation in history
The largest pay-per-view TV provider in the world
The best-selling selling sports brand on DVD
Growing massively online, with 930,000+ followers on Twitter and more than 10 million fans on Facebook.
Throw in the fact UFC programming is available to more than one billion households in 148 countries and territories and you have a sports juggernaut that shows no sign of slowing down.
A key to White’s (and UFC’s) mind-boggling success has been social media. It’s no coincidence the rise and rise of UFC has run parallel with the continued popularity of social networking sites. With mainstream media reluctant to cover UFC, the organisation built its own following via online channels.
"Twitter for me helps me run my business in a way that I never could if I didn't have social media,” he told the audience at New Media Expo in Las Vegas in January.
FOUR LESSONS FROM DANA WHITE:
1. Be active in social media channels
White has nearly 2.5 million followers on Twitter (and more than 730,000 on Facebook) but he’s not there for show – he tweets constantly and regularly takes photos of his life on the road and uploads them on Twitter.
“I speak directly with the fans, I talk to the fans one on one...It’s me – you’re talking to me personally,” White says.
He also uses Twitter as an alert mechanism for when things potentially go wrong. The time a group of VIPs tweeted at a major event that their view of the ring was obscured by camera equipment, White saw the tweet and sorted out the situation pronto.
2. Empower your people to engage in social media
Not only is White super-active on social media, but he encourages his staff, plus the UFC’s 400+ fighters, to do the same. White knows there are potential dangers in letting so many brand ambassadors “loose” on Twitter, but he’s pragmatic about it – so long as they don’t try and be funny! “Leave the jokes to your friends...in your inner circle,” he says in this interview with Dino Dogan from Triberr.
3. Take people behind the scenes
White is a big believer in producing content and distributing it via social channels. Obviously there is the mountain of programming his company produces for pay and free-to-air television, but “on the fly” video and photos also play a part in helping White keep the buzz going for UFC.
His “insider” video blogs, raw productions of about 10 minutes in duration, regularly attract hundreds of thousands of views worldwide.
“It's us doing what we do," White says.
4. Be true to your DNA
Wine guru and startup entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, calls it being true to your DNA – in other words, be real, and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s never been a good move to switch between ‘business’ and ‘personal’ personas, but in today’s pervasive social media world you will be caught at some stage ‘faking it’ and people have little tolerance for inauthenticity (remember former prime minister’s Kevin Rudd’s angry swearword-laden rant when he thought the video camera was turned off?).
There’s a difference between spruiking your brand because you feel you have to, and spruiking it because you love it. White doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a fan of UFC, and it’s this passion he shows for the sport which endears him to legions of UFC fans around the world.
In a world where leaders sugar-coat the negatives, White continues to win fans for his brutal honesty. Mashable.com reports him as saying: "Some fights are going to be the best fights you've ever seen, and some are going to suck," White said. "And I think you're better off to go out and talk about why the fight sucked and you know, be honest about it. You're not going to fool anybody.”
A lot has been written of late about content marketing, and rightly so - creating online content that inspires and/or entertains and/or educates your target audience is a smart strategy in today's noisy hyper-connected world if done correctly (and with dollops of enthusiasm).
Social media too. Participating on the social web as a genuine (and generous) human being can provide wonderful side benefits for a business 'cos people do business with people whom they know, they like and they trust.
Unfortunately, much of what I read these days about content marketing (and I read heaps) is skewed towards the more technical aspects of producing content and using social media tools. It seems that anything with an acronym in it - SEO, ROI et al - gets the attention of people, yet often the 'secret sauce' is missing.
All important, yes, but I ask: where's the darn passion?
Where's the purity, the humour, the vision, the generosity of spirit? Where are the cool and interesting content-based initiatives that engage people, make them sit up and take notice and get involved?
By all means, get SEOed up to the hilt; ROI yourself 'til you're blue in the face. As I say, all important, but along the way, every now and then try to be a wee bit interesting. (I expanded upon this theory in Leading Company).
Here are a three examples of how being interesting can cut through, get noticed and engage people (well, they caught my eye!):
GARY VAYNERCHUK: VaynerMedia
Gary Vaynerchuk is a hugely successful entrepreneur and best-selling author who has parlayed his growing personal brand into numerous revenue-generating ventures. The foundation of his success is the $60M+ WineLibrary.com business, but he has also in recent years overseen (in partnership with his brother AJ) the tremendous growth of his bi-coastal social media branding agency VaynerMedia.
Vaynerchuk is a renegade who stays true to what he likes to call his 'DNA'; he is passionate about growing relationships and building his ever-growing tribe of fans and followers.
Vaynerchuk recently floated the idea of participating in an interview (podcast, video, blog) every day for 2013. Now, Vaynerchuk is a super busy guy but he still finds time to (thus far) make good on his promise.
Follow the journey via the Twitter hashtag #1ADayQandA - Gary Vee has even set up a page on his website to promote what is a really interesting (albeit time-consuming!) initiative.
TOPRANK ONLINE MARKETING
Lee Odden and the crew from online marketing agency TopRank understand the need to add value, but more than that, be interesting at the same time.
I like what they did in the run-up to the recent New Media Expo event in Las Vegas (it used to be called BlogWorld - I went to the conference when it was in LA in 2011, it's a must-attend event if you're into blogging, social media and content marketing).
You've got to get your hands on this bad boy - it's extremely value-packed and free, delivered with context in terms of the Vegas event. In short, it's interesting and fun and informative. DOWNLOAD HERE.
Trevor Young has built PR Warrior into one of the world’s foremost showcases of what can be achieved at the intersection of public relations and social media.” - Brad Howarth, Smart Company, September 2011 More »