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.

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.