The BlackBerry Break-up

We had our moments, but sometimes you just need to move on...

This past October, BlackBerry and I ended our relationship of two years over a trackball disagreement. I rebounded with Droid, and unlike most rebounds, I have found this relationship to be very satisfying and likely long-term.

It’s easy to get into a comfortable groove with your smartphone, but just because the relationship is familiar does not mean you should stay. It wasn’t until I left BlackBerry that I realized that I was, in fact, not in love with its functional ability anymore. It wasn’t just about the trackball. I was beginning to envy other friends and their healthy app relationships. I had become complacent with frequent crashes and one-sided arguments that always ended in a reboot screen. BlackBerry was so familiar, and I’d never known another smartphone relationship. So if it weren’t for the final straw of my trackball becoming permanently stuck in a left-to-right roll pattern, I may have stayed with this mild form of misery to avoid any uncomfortable new operating systems.

However, a clean break is necessary. New can be exciting.

Once you break up, you realize the broad horizon of options available: Versitle apps, faster processers, enhanced graphics cards, wifi compatibility, and OS freedom. Smarter operating systems that can help make you a better smartphone user. However, until you gain the courage to leave, you will never experience the great new options out there.

Appreciate the good times. Just because you’ve broken up does not mean that you should forget your time together – after all, it was your first real smartphone.

4 Steps to Facebook Privacy

Did you know that you can select what groups of people can view different parts of your Facebook profile? By using listing and customized settings, you can help keep your professional life and personal life separate.

At a recent event, I ran into several people who expressed apprehension when it comes to getting involved in Facebook professionally. What if the wrong person sees the wrong thing? How can I keep my personal and professional life separate? While, it’s not possible to plan for every contingency, there are ways to ensure that your information is protected. Here are a steps you can take to sure you have good Facebook hygiene.

1)    Set Lists. Before we even talk about privacy settings, make lists of your different kinds of friends. For example, my lists are: Personal Friends, Family, Co-Workers, NCRA Networking, and ASAE Networking. Be sure to create at least one list for people you only want to interact with professionally.  By making these lists, you will enable yourself to create personal privacy settings. Too create a list:

  • a.    From your “Home” tab, click on the “Friends” link on the right hand menu.
  • b.    Then, click the “Edit Friends” button that appears at the top of the page.
  • c.    Click “Create List” at the top of the next page.
  • d.    Enter the name of your list and select the people who belong to that category.

2)   Use Customized Privacy Settings. Once you have created your lists, you are now ready to customize your privacy settings. Based on the lists you created, you can allow different levels of access to different groups of people. To do this:

  • a.    Click on the “Account” button in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook homepage and scroll down to “Privacy Settings.” You will then see a basic matrix of what parts of your profile are available to the public as well as different general groups of people.
  • b.   Click on the “Customize Settings” link at the bottom of the chart.
  • c.    You will then see each element of your profile listed with a drop down menu. You may use the default settings “friends, friends of friends, etc.” Or, you may choose to allow only certain lists view this information. Click on the drop-down menu, and scroll to “custom.”
  • d.    You will then see an option to make this section of your profile visible to only certain groups. To select a specific list you created in section 1, simply type in the name of the list. Once you have done this, only the people you selected to be members of this list will see this information.
  • e.    If you only want to hide information from specific people, you can list them out individually in the “hide this from” section. However, I have found it easier to simply use listing.

3)    When someone friends you, add them to a list. When you create a new friendship on Facebook, you have the option to add them to one of your pre-created lists. Once you have this system in place, you can vet all new contacts and add them to their appropriate location.

4)    Use Common Sense. Just because you’ve created these lists, doesn’t mean that you now have a blank check to post photos of yourself doing tequila shooters without anyone knowing. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but my philosophy is never to post anything that I wouldn’t mind either my boss or grandmother seeing.

My only disclaimer with any of these steps is that Facebook has a tendency to change its layout from time to time, so the exact order of these steps may change. However, they are usually found in the same general area.

Getting Started in Social Media

As someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes social media, I often forget that there are those out there just testing the waters. Here are some tips to find where to begin.

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from those starting out in social media. In particular, I received a message through LinkedIn that asked me the following:

Hi Sara –  If you could point me to any of resources regarding getting up to speed on the following, it would be very much appreciated:

1. How to use Twitter.
2. Creating good content for blogging.
3. How to start a blog.
4. Basic understanding of SEO

I could have written a book on each, but that would have not only been overwhelming, but I’d likely still be writing a response. Instead I wrote back with some quick bullets and resources to help my enthusiastic LinkedIn connection. So, since this has been a reoccurring question, I thought I’d also post a paraphrase of my response here. To those of you just beginning your endeavor into social media, I hope you find it helpful!

1. How to use Twitter.
Twitter is one of those things that makes sense after you do it for awhile. Start by creating an account on Twitter; then start following other people in the industry. If you are looking for handles to follow, you can find people by using http://www.twellow.com or http://www.wefollow.com . Also, here is an article you may find helpful. It’s from Mashable.com, and provides 7 online tutorials for getting started: Twitter Tutorials from Mashable.

2. Creating good content for blogging.
My general advice is to provide your own take on your industry. What do you have to say that no one else is saying? Don’t be afraid to give your own opinion, be honest, and keep it short. Blogging is more about engaging with your community than it is about advertising your services. There are a lot of resources out there to help you get started. Here are a few:
ProBlogger – Writing Great Content
UnMarketing on Good Blogging

3. How to start a blog.
The two biggest sites are Blogger and WordPress. I myself prefer WordPress because it is more user-friendly. All of you have to do is visit the site, create an account, and then start posting. It is a fairly straight-forward platform. However, if you are doing this for your business, you want to think about the blog in the context of your company’s branding. For tips on how to go about this, here are some references that might help you:

WikiHow Starting a Blog
ProBlogger – Starting Your First Blog

4. Basic understanding of SEO.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is essentially knowing how search engine algorithms work, and using this knowledge to make sure that your website shows up at the top of the list when someone searches for topics related to you. Done properly, it can be like having free advertising. This can get very complicated, but here are some resources that can get you started:

Jeff Bullas – SEO Master
Mashable SEO Tips

There is a great deal of information out there, and it can feel overwhelming at times. My advice is to start small – over time, it will all fall into place. 

The Long Hiatus – 5 Ways to Stay in Touch With Your Industry

After a long writing hiatus, I'm back. Since I don't have a better excuse, let's just pretend that I've been somewhere with abundant palm trees.

So, despite my love of writing, I have clearly been neglectful of my little blog. I have no excuses other than I didn’t think I had anything particularly unique to add to the online dialog. After speaking at a recent conference, however, I did get a few questions about where to find online content that relates to your business. When getting started in the online community, it can often be an overwhelming sea of content. Here are a few easy ways to narrow your focus.

1.) Set Google Alerts. The easiest way to glean the Internet, setting Google alerts will bring your news to you. Visit the Google Alerts page, and type in the terms you would like to receive updates on. Depending upon your settings, you can get updates either daily or weekly sent to either your personal e-mail or to your RSS reader (see number 5).

2.) Utilize Twitter Directories. If you are new to Twitter and don’t know who to follow, take some time to peruse the online directories. Twellow and WeFollow are great places to start. For those of you who are in the legal industry, TweetLaw is another great place to begin.

3.) Search Industry-Related Hash Tags. Hash tags are the way that Twitter users catalog information into the right subject area. Some tags can be as silly as #awesome or #epicfail, but others can be industry-specific such as #legaltech or #socialmedia. To figure out what tags are relevant to your industry, just try playing on Twitter for awhile. You’ll begin to see the tags emerge that tie together the trends that define your industry.

4.) Try Addict-o-Matic. Think – Google Alerts on steroids. This fun stats platform provides an in-depth online glimpse into any online query. Searching multiple sites, this site will give you a snap-shot of any topic you desire. If you sign-in and create a profile, you can even customize the experience and get statistics over time.

5.) Use a Reader to Track Blogs. Once you begin doing 1-4, you will begin to see trends emerge for where you can find reliable sources of information. Rather than visiting these sites every day and consuming hours of valuable time, feed all of your favorite findings into an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) reader. My preference is Google Reader. Don’t know what a reader is? Check out this  straight forward explanation from Common Craft.

5 Ways to Track Your Social Media ROI

Are you tracking your return?

What information will help you determine if your campaign is effective?

Today, I was sent an article in which one writer argues that tracking your number of “interactions” on social media platforms will not yield an actual return of investment (ROI) for your business. According to the author, likes, re-tweets, follow-backs, and posts are only anecdotal in nature and really don’t do anything to improve your overall revenue goals.

While I agree that tracking tangible returns is important, I disagree that developing increased involvement within your community isn’t a worthwhile activity. Online communities have many moving parts, and I feel that tracking only one aspect of your involvement is a mistake.

When creating a social media plan, include a way to measure all of your metrics. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

1.) Find out how many interactions you get per month. An interaction can be anything from a “like” to a re-tweet. While some interactions may not have a direct impact on your revenue, the time you spend building this community will have long-term positive affects on your business relationships. Social media creates a unique opportunity to create heightened trust between you and your client/customer. The higher number of interactions you have, the more likely you will see a payoff when it counts.

2.) Track your direct ROI from posts designed to increase revenue. When you make a post that is designed to illicit a transaction, track your sales for the next 24 – 48 hours from the post. For example, if you are providing an educational training, see if there is a registration spike that correlates with your tweet or Facebook post. If there is, you are doing something right.

3.) Survey your existing customers. Periodically survey new or existing clients and customers to find out where they heard about your services. If none of them mention your social media sites, your may be talking to yourself on your outposts.

4.) Track what isn’t working. Some material and tactics will turn off your audience. When I first starting using Facebook for a professional purpose, I noticed that if I posted to our page more than once per week, I would start to see spikes in unsubscribed users to our feed. As a result, I made it a point to not post to our page with too much frequency unless I had a good reason. Doing this decreased the spikes. Knowing what doesn’t work can sometimes be just as useful as knowing what does work.

5.) Periodically review your overall return. In general, most of us are already asking the question “is my effort worth my investment?” If you are putting a large amount of time and energy into your outposts, and you aren’t seeing any positive gains, it might be time to re-evaluate your strategy. However, if you are seeing increased networking opportunities, or better yet, an increased revenue stream, the time you are putting into your campaign may be well worth the effort.

Are You Advertising or Engaging?

Why high-pressure sales tactics can backfire on social networks.

Is this how you come accross to your online audience?

We have all seen “those” tweeters – the ones who immediately send you direct message about a new product when you follow then; the ones that post with an overabundance of exclamation points and capital letters on their latest service; the ones who, for a modest fee, can change your life.

There is the Law of Averages after all – if you hit enough people, and someone has to bite, right? So why is this a bad idea?

There are the obvious reasons: the posts are annoying, there is nothing interesting to read, and they sound like an infomercial. These things may true, but there is something larger at the root of this issue that makes this barrage tactic less than desirable.

Users who over-advertise on social networks, regardless of the platform, are in violation of unspoken rules of engagement that have been established by the community. Social media, at its very foundation, is built on the very simple need for human connection and relationships. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have crossed over from basic networking and random interaction into robust and thriving communities. As a result, traditional community values of honesty, respect, and trust, have translated into the virtual world. Conversely, any actions that make you appear dishonest, disrespectful, and untrustworthy, (like posting a constant stream of, “Gain 2,000 followers a day for only pennies!”) will earn you the cold shoulder of your network.

Think about it – would you rather do business with high-pressure Slick Sam and his flailing airdancers outside of the used car dealership or with a friend you have gotten to know and trust over the years?

I’m not saying that you should forego promoting your products and services. Rather, look at how you present your online message to the community – instead of thinking about how to advertise, think about how to better engage.  Provide your “friends” and “followers” with non-sales related content, and give them some insight into who you are. Show a degree of vulnerability. Give your honest opinion. Then when you say, “Hey guys, we just launched Service X, we hope you like it,” your network will be much more receptive to what you have to say. I know I will.

Sara Finally Joins the Blogosphere – Why?

Lately, I’ve been getting requests to start a blog. To be honest, I’m not sure why I’ve haven’t had one up to this point. It hasn’t been for lack of things to say. Since I started managing social media outposts for the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) two years ago, I’ve been through my share of triumphs and disasters with the great social media experiment. So, what makes me finally take the plunge into online exposition you ask?

This morning I was listening to a podcast by BNET Australia in which they interviewed Scott Stratten, president of Unmarketing, about his recent blog post titled “The Seven Deadly Sins of Twitter.” During the interview he said about Twitter, “It’s a community. I really think it’s a community, and it sounds cheesy… but I love the thought that the more you give the more you get.”

Bingo.

Considering I am currently building an entire seminar around the concept of community and communal rules of engagement, this really struck a proverbial chord with me – not only because I am in the midst of elaborating on this very subject, but because I realized I wasn’t exactly giving very much back to the community I have grown to love. What a hypocrite I’ve become.

So here I am – first post and all. I hope I will be able to add something new, or at the very least something entertaining, to the sea of discourse and further prove the age old saying, “You get what you give.”