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Cory Booker’s Twitter Love Goes to Washington

cory bookerIn the recent campaign for Senate in New Jersey, Republicans tried a completely predictable communications strategy. They blasted Newark mayor Cory Booker as a “celebrity” candidate, who was interested mostly in his own reputation, something he’d carefully built using Twitter.

It is true that Booker is the Twitter mayor, and critics have denounced his Twitter feed as narcissistic, disingenuous, and self-promotional. There may be a bit of truth in all of that – one doesn’t run for office without a bit of chutzpah and ego – but the impact of Booker’s Twitter feed is far greater than his reputation alone.

I live and work in New Jersey, so I’ve a bit of perspective not just on the race, but also on the cities in our state. I travel about quite a bit, and I have business meetings everywhere from bucolic Hunterdon county to gritty Trenton. One of the big disappointments of New Jersey is that almost all of its cities are under assault: too much crime, too much corruption in government, too much apathy, too much decay.

Newark traditionally has been one of these cities. Its reputation, for as long as I can remember, has been poor. Most people never go beyond the train station, a transition point for the trip into New York City.

But Booker’s Twitter feed has succeeded in reacquainting the rest of the state to what is our largest city. Whatever you think of Booker, he is the face of Newark. More importantly, to the city-shunning suburbans, he has introduced the people of Newark. The rest of the state must now acknowledge: There are folks who live and work in Newark, and who love it. To the many Twitter followers outside the boundaries of Newark, he shone a bright light on these residents, and gave them a megaphone.

This could become his biggest legacy, if the next mayor chooses to carry it on.

Booker was successful because he connected personally with the people of Newark. This new way of governing – of giving everyday people a real and intimate voice – was a promise extended by the Obama campaign in 2008, but never realized during the Obama presidency. It has been a huge disappointment, because the opportunity to listen to the unfiltered opinions of the electorate seems so, well, democratic.

Booker’s election reignites that hope. Maybe it’s not possible for him to answer every tweet from every Jersey Girl or Boy, but I’d sure like to see him try. Even simple analytics on his Twitter feed – measuring the sentiment of the people about the government shutdown vs. defunding Obamacare, for example – would be an amazing act of political insurgency.

My vote is always with the people. Let’s hope Booker represents it well.

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What a Jersey Girl Thinks About Sandy

Photo: Nick Harris

Simply Talk Media is a New Jersey company, so of course we were affected by Hurricane Sandy. We were rather lucky that we lost power for just a few days. Actually, it was a good excuse to clean our refrigerators, though I’m convinced that my wine fridge is now not working properly.

Thus, I’ve been able to focus on the coverage of the storm and its lasting impact. I grew up on the Jersey shore, so the devastation is very personal. I’ve been impressed with what people are doing to help out those who’ve lost their homes. There have been numerous food and clothing drives, and many have volunteered time to help clean up. In fact, I’m proud to say that my own son is giving up his Thanksgiving break from college to help with Hurricane relief.

Here are a few of my observations of the storm coverage and conversation:

The role of the public library. I wrote a guest post for the New Jersey State Library (also a client) about how social media was critical for staying informed during the storm and how public libraries became refuges.

Best digital and social practices. Over at Biznology, where I’m a regular contributor, I looked at how digital media marketing was used during the storm by governments and the utilities.

Regional dialect differences, even within the state: One internet meme included a photo with this statement overlaid: “We don’t ‘go to the beach,’ we ‘go down the shore.’ Like if you understand what we mean.” For a shore girl, this is the difference between feeding the seagulls and shooing them away. I lived at the beach, so I never went ‘down the shore.’ As a native, though, this meme spoke volumes about how much the Jersey shore means to anyone who has spent time there: Tourists love the shore and are willing to support and restore it. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your help.

Misplaced blame. Now that immediate danger is past, as well as the presidential election, it has been fascinating to watch the rhetoric. The New Jersey governor is being vilified by his own party for excessively praising the president. While the hurricane was bad luck for Romney, effectively neutering his campaign just days before the election, the Christie-Obama lovefest didn’t cause a loss at the polls. It’s pretty simple: Romney’s campaign strategy was off throughout the entire campaign. He failed to attract large demographic groups that turned out to be pivotal to a win. That’s a messaging problem, not a NJ governor problem.

I’ve been lukewarm about Christie since he campaigned for governor. While I’ve always appreciated his passion for defending our oft-maligned state, I disagree with many of his positions, and initially I resented his attitude. I’m not sure if he’s learning how to direct that attitude more appropriately, or if I’ve simply become used to him. Either way, he doesn’t have that “bull in a china shop” appearance anymore, although where Obama is concerned, I’m sure the GOP would disagree.

What our nation needs now is bipartisanship. I get the feeling that Christie has recognized that earlier than the rest of the party.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Christie’s drive-by at SNL, it’s well worth the watch.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Social Media is Not the Jazz Age: It’s the 60s

In June, my family and I took the ferry to Governor’s Island. We’d never visited this small island in the New York bay, and we wanted to take advantage of nice weather and bike rentals to explore it.

On the ferry, we suddenly felt transported into another decade. Dapper men with handlebar mustaches, straw hats and bow ties were escorting pearled ladies with hats and gloves. Parasols abounded. Flappers with bobbed hair and short fringed dresses pursed their darkened lips while surveying the modern-day crowd with disapproval.

And we deserved it, I think. I looked around at the rest of us, those not aware that the Jazz Age Lawn Party started at noon on the island. We looked god awful. Faded T-shirts, gym shorts, women make-up free.

It made me feel sad, and it made me miss a time that I’d never really experienced, when people actually dressed up for a weekend outing.

My grandmother was a child of the 1920s era, and she never lost a bit of decorum, insisting on dressing in her Sunday best even at casual weekend gatherings. Unfortunately, I was a child of the 70s. So as a teenager, I rebelled against the formal dress code. Dismissed it. Donned the ripped jeans and the concert T-shirt. I also thought fashion was shallow and below me. I believed in deeper things, stuff that no matter how you dressed it, it demanded respect and thoughtful consideration.

I eschewed the dress code, but I never let down my guard on good writing. Over the years, I did come to appreciate both the art of fashion and the value (and the return) of dressing well. But slipping my writing into a pair of blue jeans never held much appeal to me.

Social media is the 60s counterculture of our era. There is, I think, a deliberate disregard for the finer points of good writing, good spelling, and good grammar.

We’re all too familiar with SMS lingo: “R U @ home?” I understand that all of our text messages can’t be written with perfect grammar (although if you text me, I will reply in full sentences, with words spelled correctly and commas in all the right places). I get it, I do.

But, in all other communications, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for perfection. We need more decorum in our emails, our blog posts, even our Facebook status updates.

Because even if we think the bar is set lower and our colleagues expect imperfection in electronic communications,  a status update riddled with spelling errors (using their for there, for example) creates an insidious impression on your reader.

Whether you’re a business or an individual, people form prejudicial attitudes about you with every word you write. If you want to create a positive reputation, remember that words count. So dress them up – every day of the week.

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The Art and Science of a Viral Speech

Anyone who has ever sat down to write an executive speech understands how hard it is. It has to be: on-message, cover the relevant content (and no more), fit the exec’s personality, and be interesting. But these are just the basic requirements.

The most effective executive speeches are the ones that aspire to a higher goal: inspire the troops, motivate the line workers, compel the investors to invest.

I often read great speeches for inspiration. I keep a copy of Winston Churchill’s speeches nearby, and I rewatch Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” when I have a particularly bad case of writer’s block.

Here and there, I collect great speeches that have moved or inspired me, and I find that commencement speeches are some of my favorites because the best ones incorporate all of the essential components of a great speech.

The Art of a Viral Speech: Personal, Emotional, Funny, Unexpected

In my opinion, a great speech needs to inspire and motivate. To do this, it must evoke emotion, include a bit of humor and unexpectedness, be personal, and use story to illustrate the main points.

Here are some of my favorite commencement speeches from the Class of 2012.

Personal: Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard Business School

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivers an inspiring address about managing your career, using her own experiences as examples. She tells the newly minted MBAs that today’s career analogy is not a ladder, but a jungle gym. Her advice hits home because it’s illustrated with the choices she herself has made.

Emotional: Marina Keegan, Yale Daily News

Marina Keegan graduated Yale in mid-May, full of excitement and hope for the future. She decided that she could do more for the world by turning down the lucrative investment banking job and following her passion of becoming a writer. She was to start a job at the New Yorker today, but fate intervened. She died in a car accident on Memorial Day weekend.

Keegan’s commencement essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, reflects the conflicting emotions of youth. We can all relate to those feelings. Of having so much hope and fear as you stand on the precipice of your life, the one that is just – really – beginning. In it, she says: “We are so young. We are so young. We’re only 22. There’s so much time.” It’s emotional and heartfelt – and all the more poignant because of her fate.

Funny: Steve Carrell, Class Day, Princeton University

If we expect anything from funnyman Steve Carell, it’s that he will make us laugh. He does just that here, from skewering the class of 2012 for the way they communicate through technology to a series of silly pieces of advice, the best of which is the last: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” This is good advice for speechwriters as well. The most memorable speeches are the ones that hold our attention with bit of humor.

Unexpected: David McCullough Jr., Wellesley High School, Mass.

Commencement is supposed to be a day that rewards all of the hard work that a graduate has completed. Commencement speeches, therefore, are supposed to recognize accomplishments. So, when a speaker uses the occasion to tell the graduates that they are, in fact, NOT special, that’s attention-grabbing.

David McCullough Jr.’s speech quickly spread through the Web because of its unexpected title and theme: “You are not special.” But the underlying message is that graduates should aspire to an extraordinary life and work hard to get it:

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.

The Science of a Viral Speech

Each of these speeches went viral on the Internet.

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How to Set Up Your Social Media Marketing Channels

A few days ago, I started writing a post about how to set up your social media channels. Alas, I never finished, and today I was scooped by Chris Brogan, who wrote about Starting your social media channels. On the bright side, it’s reaffirming when you find your head is in the same place as Chris’s.

Chris provides a great overview of the ecosystem and some strategies, so I’ll let you read his post first. Then, come back here and find out what I have to say about how to determine the best channels by knowing your objectives and your audiences.

So, go on and read Chris’s post. I’ll wait.

First Step: Defining Your Objective

Welcome back! Many of my clients want to jump in to social media right away, but beyond a belief that they “must” do social media, they haven’t yet worked out what they want social media to do for them.

Like any communications strategy, the first step to being successful is understanding your objectives. For some, it might be increasing awareness of the brand, while for others it’s to generate sales. And yet for some businesses, being there is most important. Social media is deceptively simple. We all see teenagers using it, so it must be easy to do. The truth is that there is a learning curve, and sometimes, your objective might just be to get up and over that curve.

Whatever your objective, it will determine the strategy you start with. That, in turn, will determine the channels you launch, the tools you use, the content you create and the resources you apply. It also gives you a measuring yardstick.

For example, let’s say I have a goal to improve customer service for my pet store business. My in-store sales staff has been spending 30% of their time answering phone calls. Many of the questions ultimately come to me and my partner, because we have more experience. I’d like to cut the time my staff spends handling calls in half.

So, my objective for my social media channel is to become the go-to resource for pet care questions, and the measure is reducing the time my sales team spends on customer service by 50% by the end of the year.

Now I know something about the content I need (expert advice), who needs to provide it (my partner and I) and how I will measure success. I don’t know yet what social media channels I’ll need. That’s step two.

Second Step: Choosing Channels Based on Audience

This is probably the most critical step, because if you don’t define your target audience, you may as well not spend the time or resources on any communications strategy.

So who are the customers calling in for pet advice? Look through your customer call logs and evaluate the data. Are they young? Married? With children? Baby boomers? How many pets do they own? What kind? What is their income level?

Likely, what will happen is that several pictures will emerge. For the sake of the example, let’s say that retired baby boomers with one dog tend to call  your store most frequently. Mothers with elementary age children and several household pets make up the second demographic.

Now do a bit more research. Call a few customers back and ask: How do you find out information about your pet? Do you search online? Are you active on social networks? Which ones? Do you read blogs?

Another dimension is likely to emerge. The baby boomers say they spend a lot of time on Facebook, sharing photos of their grandchildren and their dog. The moms enjoy reading blog posts as they sit through dance class and baseball practice.

This creates two very specific places for you to start building your social media channels: Facebook and your own blog.

Suddenly, social media is a little less daunting. You don’t need to engage in every channel, just the ones that matter for your objectives and your audiences.

Feel free to share your tips and experiences for beginning your social media strategy below. I’d love to hear them.

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Turning Social Media Metrics into Business Metrics

How do you measure your social media program? In the number of likes or  followers? ROI? Clicks to your website?

All of these metrics have their place – just not in the C-suite. Executives and small business owners need an understanding of how their investment in social media is going to increase their bottom line. Full stop.

Most do not understand – or care to understand – that their organization has a lot of followers. The only time this does matter is when a crisis occurs and their Facebook page explodes with criticism. Reputation, they get.

In some ways, the challenges of social media measurement are the same as those of public relations measurement. You need to evaluate your programs using business metrics, and you need to communicate your results in the language of business.

I wrote an ebook about this several years ago, based on my graduate school work. I thought I’d share it here, so that you can download it (note that I wrote it while at Dow Jones, so they are the sponsor). I’ve also included a few updated tips for social media below the ebook.

Tips for Sharing Social Media Metrics with Executives

  1. Track sales. Nothing says success faster than revenue. Unlike PR, which has an indirect impact on sales, you can establish a direct connection between social media and sales. One way to do this is to use a call to action linked to a form on a landing page.
  2. Track opinion. Mine your conversations for opinions and suggestions about your products and services. This is a form of market research, and sometimes it’s even better than that, especially if customers uncover an unknown problem.
  3. Tie social media objectives to business objectives. This one is the most important. Don’t start any social media program without understanding how it supports the broader organizational objectives. Yes, everyone must be in social media today, but there are many ways to do it. Just make sure it makes sense for your business.
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Looking for Social Media Statistics?

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly misplacing my social media statistics. This is frustrating, because they’re so useful. Nothing underscores the importance of a social media recommendation more powerfully than being able to support it with facts.

There are still many people who are skeptical about the impact that social media can have on their marketing campaigns and – more importantly – their bottom line results. That’s why I always provide a “State of the Union” on social media at the start of my strategy recommendations.

I’m a master searcher, having spent most of my career building online business information services for corporate librarians and knowledge workers (Boolean search language, anyone?). Yet, even I have a hard time keeping track of the latest social media statistics.

I’m not a particularly good bookmarker, and like many people, I appreciate visually represented material. This is why I’ve started to use Pinterest to keep track of the latest and greatest social media statistics. Feel free to follow my board.

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Is it Time to Join Google+?

Google announced that search results will now include posts from its social network, Google+. Called “Search Plus Your World,” the new format will include public posts and posts shared privately with you by your friends. Search results will be commingled with Web results.

The new feature has generated a lot of comment, most of it critical. (Read the New York Times, PaidContent, Mashable, and SearchEngineLand articles to get a good overview.)

With personal results now turning up in a Google search, what does this mean for businesses and personal brands? While Google+ is still a fledgling social network, it’s potential shouldn’t be discounted. Search Plus Your World is a good reason to pay attention.

Every business should have a Google+ page, even if you have it on low maintenance. If you’re looking to promote your personal brand – whether you’re looking for a new job or new clients – a little bit of engagement in Google+ can be worth it. In the case of Search Plus Your World, it could be very worth it.

For example, let’s say your expertise is in Drupal development. Every week you write a blog post, and send about 20 tweets. If you share that content on your  Google+ profile, it will likely show up in search results when people in your network search for Drupal news and information.

And now’s a good time to promote thought leadership on Google+. Relative to other social networks, there aren’t many people there, so the content you feed into this network has a better chance of being seen. With social search, it has a better chance of being read.

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Relationship Economy: Personal Branding on Twitter

How many postings like this have you seen this week:

“Unsubscribing from all my email newsletters so that I can start the year with a clean Inbox. Good-bye Groupon, LivingSocial, and Staples newsletter.”

It’s not just email that needs cleanup. Your social networking channels probably need some TLC too. I’ve been cleaning up my Twitter account, unfollowing inactive accounts and marking others as spam (Ashley from Houston with 0 tweets, following 6,453: It’s time we said good-bye).

Some followers’ profiles, though, don’t just scream: “I’m an Ashley too!” Unfortunately, they are very ambiguous, making it hard to decide whether to cut them.

The problem is that many people don’t take the extra step of completing their profile. So it’s incredibly difficult for me to decide if I should continue following them, especially when they don’t tweet often. If I’ve met them somewhere in person, it’d be really rude (and disappointing) to unfollow, just because I didn’t recognize their online persona.

This is the Relationship Economy. Your next job or client will come from the relationships you build both online and off. This won’t happen unless you open up and let people know who you are. Here are three easy steps to keep yourself from losing followers:

  • Write a sentence to tell me who you are, what you do, and what you’re tweeting about.

Ken Mueller of Inkling Media is one of my favorite marketers to follow (@kmueller62). He has a fabulous – and very informative – profile:

Social Media/Inbound Marketing Strategist, Inkling Media. Music, books, coffee, & Philly sports. If you want me to follow back, tweet at me! I work on a porch.

To paraphrase a line from The Social Network, have you ever learned so much from just a couple of sentences? He even includes a call to action. And he works on a porch! How cool is that?

  • Include a photo!

Anatomy of Twitter Profile

This matters more than you think. We live in world of visual thinkers, where we gravitate to images before words. It’s much faster for us to recognize a face than a name. So, if I met you at a one-day seminar, I’m quick to make the connection when I view your photo.

You may be reluctant to post a photo of yourself for privacy or security reasons, but I believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. (Remember that new job or client?) If it’s truly a problem, create a gravatar, use a logo, or find an image that represents who you are in some way.

I’ve seen people use cartoon characters, images of inanimate objects such as typewriters, and photos of birds or flowers. You can also be clever with photos of yourself: hide behind sunglasses or be waving from a distance.

However, I much prefer to put a face to a name. I’m much more interested in what you have to say.

  • Tweet at least twice a day.

Finally, if you want me to follow, you must tweet. I always read the last few tweets someone has sent before I decide to follow them. If you haven’t sent a tweet in three months, it tells me you’re not serious. If your last three tweets read like advertisements (“Free Credit Card Consolidation!”), I’m unfollowing.

Be assured, it’s fine to lurk – for a time. Twitter is much more useful to all of us when a conversation is happening. So, listen for a bit, then jump in and tell me what you’ve got going on.

Diane Thieke now hopes that she hasn’t encouraged anyone to unfollow her after reading this post. Probably Ashley, but that would be ok. Follow Diane on Twitter at @thiekeds.

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What is Pinterest and What Can it Do for Businesses?

Pinterest is a social network that launched in March 2010. Currently, Pinterest  is invitation only (I have invites, so comment below or email me if you’d like one). It has been growing like crazy, so it’s worth checking out.

For me, Pinterest solves a critical pain point. Keeping track of the latest technology, communications, and social media trends and stats is one of my biggest challenges.  I couldn’t settle on a simple way to keep relevant ideas together in an orderly way. I needed something that was easy to scan and search, was fast to create, and that I could share with clients.

Spreadsheets and Word docs were cumbersome, and not easily shared. Evernote captures info with a click and its search feature is amazing – it even searches the text of images. But it’s not very social.

And then I discovered Pinterest.

What is Pinterest? A Virtual Pinboard

What is Pinterest? A Virtual Pinboard

Most of the users (apparently) are women, and this virtual pinboard is used to create image collections around shopping, food, and art. Popular uses include planning a wedding, decorating your home, and swapping food ideas. Retail marketers should be paying close attention.

Here’s how it works: Start a board about a topic of interest, download the Pin It bookmarklet, surf the web, pin images of items that you find interesting. Once pinned, the image retains the original link, so you can easily surf back to the source.

Because it’s visual, it’s easy to scan board items and keep track of things you care about.

I’ve adapted my boards to business use: I’ve started boards to track trends and stats, books I recommend, and my favorite websites for monitoring innovation and future thinking.

I think Pinterest has huge marketing potential for retailers, small businesses, and B2B. Wedding planners could use it to help brides evaluate catering and flower options, for example. For B2B, it’s a great way to collect and share thought leadership.

I know it appeals to women, but honestly, can’t you see this as the perfect place to run your fantasy baseball league?

Definitely one to follow in 2012.

Diane Thieke is trying to find a way to pin her hopes to Pinterest. Email her if you’d like an invite to Pinterest.

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