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10 Lessons Learned About Social Media From My Parents

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When I give presentations on social media, I often refer to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. After all, so much about social media is about building strong relationships with others. And that’s what Dale preached as well as anybody, especially in this classic book.

Yet I really only have to look as far as my parents for reference in this case. They may not be on social media, but so much of what I’ve learned about interpersonal communications I’ve learned from them.

And that’s what it all boils down to on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. The most successful business people and brands on these channels are those that have a knack for engaging effectively with others as human beings.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they have either a wealth of knowledge and expertise or a line of ridiculously cool products and services. When all is said and done, however, they are simply themselves – which just might be their most endearing quality.

They are like my parents, in a way, who are nothing if not the real deal. Ages 84 and 90, respectively, my mother and father have always been as authentic and unassuming as they come, people I look up to as the embodiment of character in every way, shape and form.


Specifically, here are the lessons I’ve learned from my parents that can be applied to activities on social media by individuals like you and me as well as small and big brands alike.

1. Be trustworthy.

This should go without saying, of course, but when it comes to sales and promotion, even the best marketers have a tendency to push the edges. Don’t even think about it on social media. Everything should be kept on the up and up. We’re not making deals here. We’re making friends, followers and fans.

2. Don’t brag.

If honesty is the best policy, so is modesty. No one likes braggadocio. A small shameless plug every once in a while is okay. Your audience should be made aware of your strengths and accomplishments. But the more you talk about others, not yourself, the more inclined they’ll be to pay attention to what you have to say and to eventually do business with you.

3. Stay positive.

Remember that nobody likes a complainer. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the Internet and not real life. There’s no difference anymore. Lift people’s spirits with your hope and optimism. Look on the bright side of life. See the glass as always half full. A positive attitude makes everything a lot easier not just for you, but for those around you.

4. Ask questions.

My parents are great conversationalists, always showing concern for what another person has to say. That’s why they’ve had so many long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with others over the years. They know that people are happy to share how they feel with you – and that they’re even happier if you actually take an interest.

5. Share.

I was taught as a child not to be selfish, to share with others, especially if they were less fortunate than me. While this notion that “sharing is caring” was ingrained in me at an early age, it applies to everybody on social media today. News and opinion, knowledge and information, activities and whereabouts. All of this is great fodder. All of this is what people and brands alike are expected to dole out to their friends, followers and fans.

6. Don’t knock others.

If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all. I can’t be the only one who heard this as a child. Such timeless advice applies to practically every opportunity we have to say something publicly. What you express on social media ties back to your brand. People want to feel good about their interactions with you, not deflated because you’re a downer.

7. Be empathetic.

If you’re there for your audience, they’ll be there for you. Listen to what they have to say. Respond in a supportive, timely fashion. Put yourself in their shoes. What can you say that will make them smile? What can you do to add dazzle to their day? What do you have to offer that will help them get more out of life? An empathetic ear and a kinder, gentler voice will go a long way toward winning over your audience.

8. Play fair.

If you look at social media as an extension of who you are in real life, this lesson is one of the most important. Be a good sport and don’t cut corners. Don’t step on any toes to get to the top. Be someone others can look up to for your values, principles and moral code. Play well with others. Corporate citizenship counts.

9. Take pictures.

When I was a kid, my dad loved his slide projector. That and stacks of photo albums were how our road trips, family reunions, summer vacations and campouts were documented. Pictures brought us together. And while they’re obviously still kind of a big deal, pictures aren’t just for families to share in the privacy of their own homes anymore. They’re to share with everybody on social media.

10. Look up.

As much as my parents appreciate what I do for a living, they’re the first ones to remind me to look up from my electronic devices as often as possible and to enjoy real conversations with real people. I can’t argue with them. Not only is it healthy and refreshing to go unplugged, it’s actually where most deals are made. Take your online relationships offline. Have lunch together. Play golf. Take a good long walk. Talk to each other face to face. Social media should be a complement to everything else you do as an individual or a brand, not the be-all and end-all.

Note: This post, “10 Lessons Learned About Social Media From My Parents,” was originally published on ClickZ on August 12, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 24, 2015 here.

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10 Ways to Find Common Ground with Your Social Media Audience

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True story.

I was having lunch with a colleague of mine a couple years ago or so, and as I began to take pictures of the food on my plate he asked me why I would do such a thing. I explained to him that food was a huge draw on social media, and that the restaurant where we were eating might reply to me if I tweeted about it, as might my followers. I was as convinced then as I am now that it’s a myth that no one on social media cares what you’re eating for lunch. After all, everybody likes food.

While there’s an art and a science to success on social media, there’s also a certain psychology of which brands should take note.

If you can identify your audience’s hot buttons and trigger points – that is, what’s going to capture their attention and cause them to respond – you can increase the chances of your social media activities resulting in more revenue as opposed to simply more effort on your part.

Of course, the majority of your content should be focused on your products, services and industry. But a portion of your posts should stray beyond those parameters every once in a while, highlighting your employees and corporate culture. The brand that portrays itself as interesting, entertaining and fun proves it has a personality, not just a pulse.

Which topics and themes are popular with almost everyone? What can you say or show that will resonate with practically everyone within ear- or eyeshot?

Here are 10 ways to find common ground with your audience on social media…

1. Love

What the Beatles sang in 1968 is still true in 2015 in real life (IRL) and online, too – “all you need is love.” And by love, I mean love in all its incarnations. Heartfelt romance between two people is one thing. But brands can also show love for those who work for them, their customers, their families and friends. Gratitude. Fondness. Appreciation. Praise. Love in the broadest sense is what we’re celebrating here.

Example: NHL

2. Recognition

If love is too strong, at the very least you can acknowledge the presence of your audience. Surprise and delight them with free swag. Treat them like VIPs. Provide them with a discount. Give them a shout-out. Move them to the front of the line. Even if what you have to offer is only a favorite, like, reply or retweet, your followers and fans will be grateful for the nod.

Example: Earl of Sandwich

3. Food

You don’t have to be a restaurant to share pictures of food on social media. Everybody eats. But don’t share just anything that’s on the plate in front of you, anytime, anywhere. If you’re enjoying a gourmet meal on a very special occasion, that’s a moment to seize. If there’s an opportunity to associate your brand with food in any way, shape or form, take advantage of it and take plenty of pictures.

Example: WSM Partners LLP

4. Sunsets

It’s something everyone can relate to, something everyone likes. No one can deny the magnificence of a colorful sky when the sun disappears below the horizon. No one can complain about seeing a beautiful sunset. One of the most popular images in our personal feeds should make at least an occasional appearance in yours.

Example: Carnival Cruise Line

5. Humor

As I’ve written before here on ClickZ, “many brands are going out of their way to let their hair down on social media, taking great pains to reveal their lighter sides.” The last thing they want is to be perceived as uptight and self-centered, unable to take – or share – a joke every so often. Humor shows you’re human, not some stiff corporate logo. Smile and the whole world smiles with you. Clown around from time to time and you’ll have your followers at your feet.

Example: State Farm

Go from BBQ bench-warmer to grill master this Fourth with these tricks to make your burgers the Most Valuable Plates. Happy Independence America!

Posted by State Farm on Saturday, July 4, 2015

6. Current Events

Many trending topics are related to what’s happening in the news. A big game. Political elections. Awards shows. Celebrity gossip. National holidays. The whole world is paying attention. And sharing their opinions with hashtags. This is your chance to not just weigh in with timely, relevant commentary, but to newsjack the story, injecting yourself into the global conversation in order to be seen by a much broader audience.

Example: Goose Island Beer Co

7. Weather

Small talk can be a big deal on social media. No, really. It’s actually a great way to break the ice and strike up a dialogue with someone you’ve met for the first time. Ask them how the weather is in their neck of the woods. Tell them it’s raining cats and dogs where you live. You never know where the conversation is going to lead.

Example: WCVB Channel 5 Boston

Bryan Farr shared this great lightning photo from the Andover area. Please share your weather photos with us by…

Posted by WCVB Channel 5 Boston on Tuesday, July 15, 2014

8. Inspiration

People use social media for a number of different reasons – marketing, sales, networking, entertainment, gossip, news and information, you name it – but everyone could use a lift now and then. Pump up your audience with motivational sayings and stories, anything you can think of that fills them with confidence, boosts their egos, inspires them to achieve more than they could imagine and helps them to enjoy life to the fullest.

Example: ASICS

9. Selfies

I’m not going to lie. Selfies are kind of a big deal right now. Take them. Share them. Ask for them. As I’ve written before here on ClickZ, “The selfie has gone from a silly little trend to a mainstream phenomenon, something almost everyone has embraced”…. Selfies aren’t going anywhere soon but onwards and upwards.

Example: Nathan’s

10. Pets

There’s a reason pet ownership in this country has more than tripled since the 1970s and that more than 60% of U.S. households today include at least one pet. Dogs, cats, fish and ferrets. Pets are wildly popular. Employee pets. Customer pets. Ordinary pets. Unusual pets. Include them in your content stream and you’ll get plenty of likes, favorites and retweets, never mind all the oohs and aahs.

Example: Steelcase Store

Note: This post, “10 Ways to Find Common Ground With Your Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on July 14, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on August 17, 2015 here.

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How 10 Beer Brands Rock the Social Media Scene

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As the number of breweries in the United States continues to grow rapidly, so does the number of beer brands that are establishing a presence on social media, especially craft beer brands.

Beer. It’s not just for the barroom or the ballgame anymore. It’s not just for radio and TV anymore, either.
Beer has never been more ubiquitous. People are coming together for a cold one or two in real life and sharing those same experiences with their audiences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Talk about social drinking.

But seriously, it’s only natural that beer is making such a huge splash online. Beer is part and parcel of so many happy occasions and celebrations, the good times of our lives that we can’t help but want to share with the world out of pride and posterity. And today’s digital and mobile technologies make it so easy to do so.

Here’s how 10 beer brands are rocking the scene on social media…

1. Budweiser

“The King of Beers” may be one of the oldest beers on the market, but it’s as cool as its competition on social media, as over 40,000 followers on Instagram would likely attest. Here you’ll see plenty of beer bottles posed to perfection and shiny, happy people toasting to good times, each pic accompanied by a short, catchy caption that may inspire you to throw one back yourself.

#NationalBurgerDay means it's #NationalBudweiserDay.

A photo posted by Budweiser (@budweiser) on

2. Schlafly Beer

Raising money for a charitable cause while enjoying a new, limited-edition beer? Yes, please! With over 40,000 fans on Facebook, here’s guessing this fundraiser for baseball slugger Matt Holliday’s Uncork for a Cause charity was a huge success. Good for Schlafly Beer. And good for everyone who participated in this unique cause marketing initiative.

We made a Red Lager for Matt Holliday's Uncork For A Cause charity benefiting Siteman Cancer Center. The event is…

Posted by Schlafly Beer on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

3. Allagash Brewing Company

Even if you drink wine, not beer, these two beers might appeal to you. Brewed with grapes and “special wine yeast,” Victor and Victoria are being introduced here on Facebook in a rather impressive photo collage that includes both the red and white products themselves along with a team shot in the vineyard of the some of the players involved.

Have you tried Victor and Victoria yet? These beers are each brewed with either 350 pounds of freshly picked Chardonnay…

Posted by Allagash Brewing Company on Monday, June 1, 2015

4. Stone Brewing Company

Excellent branding. Excellent pose. Even if that keg was empty, it still couldn’t have been too easy to capture this moment on camera.

5. Pabst Blue Ribbon

Like Budweiser, here’s another classic beer that’s been around the block more than a few times. But also like Bud, it tweets like a millennial. This tweet features a ridiculously cool shot of a skateboarder going vertical with a tall boy of PBR placed perfectly in the foreground. Their four words: “Pabst does the trick.” My four words: Pabst gets social media.

6. Jack’s Abby Brewing

It’s not always about the beer, as this family-owned brewery in my neck of the woods (Framingham, MA) demonstrates here on Instagram. In this case, it’s about a pair of “flippy-floppies” with a built-in bottle opener.

Limited Edition Jack's Abby flippy-floppies w/ bottle opener drop tomorrow! Available in sizes S, M, and L.

A photo posted by Jack's Abby Brewing (@jacksabbybrewing) on

7. Michelob ULTRA

It’s only six seconds of video and simple six words, yet this Vine has been looped over 350,000 times (and counting). To say it’s to the point would be an understatement. It’s everything you could ask for in your own brand’s marketing outreach – attention-getting, well-targeted and strategically sound.

8. Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Many of those who are uninitiated to social media don’t understand how much you can get across in 140 characters or less on Twitter. Yet if you’re sharing the story of your business in a video such as this one, the possibilities are infinite. Great lakes. Great stories. Great tweet, indeed.

9. Lagunitas Brewing Company

Sharing the label of an upcoming, new release in this update, Lagunitas establishes both strong brand recognition and a feeling of exclusivity among its fans on Facebook. While this pic may not be as exciting as seeing a tall glass of the beer itself, for a serious beer connoisseur, it’s actually more revealing.

Here's a lil peek of our new #CitruSinensis packaging. The latest in the limited #OneHitter beer series shipping out soon to the real cool bottle shops near you.

Posted by Lagunitas Brewing Co on Thursday, May 28, 2015

10. Dos Equis

Like many of this Mexican beer’s ads, this tweet captures “the most interesting man in the world” in an unusually comical situation, in this case behind a heaping pile of paperwork on the day that income tax returns are due. He doesn’t always appear on social media. But when he does, he’s a riot.

Note: This post, “How 10 Beer Brands Rock the Social Media Scene,” was originally published on ClickZ on June 16, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on June 23, 2015 here.

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Happy 90th Birthday to You, Dad!

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Father and SonToday, August 6, 2015, my Dad is celebrating his birthday. But this isn’t just another birthday for him. This is his 90th birthday. That’s right, my Dad is entering his 10 decade of life here on earth.

It’s hard to believe.

Wow, Dad, so many memories. So many good times. So many accomplishments. So many games of Cribbage.

You, Dad, are a modest, unassuming and relatively quiet man, but to me, your family, relatives, friends and colleagues, your character has always spoken volumes. You have always been someone others can trust. A real man of your word. You have always been caring and kind to not just those who know you, but to even complete strangers. You have always treated everyone with the utmost respect. And because of all that and for countless other reasons, you have always been looked up to and admired not just by me, Mom, Tom and Cathy, but by everyone who has ever had the pleasure of knowing you.

You are not just my Dad, you are the quintessential role model.

I used to belong to a public speaking group called Toastmasters. One of the speeches I wrote in Toastmasters was about my Dad. In fact, he’s actually heard me give this speech twice, once at Toastmasters and a second time at his 80th birthday party. And then less than three weeks ago, at our annual family reunion, I read the following part of it to him again…

As I approached college age, I became a rebel of sorts. I listened to loud music, stayed out late and hung out with a rough crowd. Yeah, my late teens meant not always getting along with my Dad. In retrospect, he had every reason to disown me — which, of course, he didn’t, thankfully.

Instead, Dad demonstrated great patience. And stick-to-itiveness. In fact, I’ve never seen him give up on anything or anybody. He has taught me the virtues of being honest, loyal, conscientious and persistent. He has been generous when others may have chosen to be greedy. He has always said, “What can I do for you?” when others might have asked, “What’s in it for me?” He has always spoken softly and carried a big stick. And some of that, I hope, has rubbed off onto me.

And so, as a tribute to my Dad, and all Dads everywhere, I would like to quote from a book by Leo Buscaglia entitled Papa, My Father, A Celebration Of Dads, in which he speaks about his late father. My dad’s still alive, thank God, and this excerpt does not relate specifically to him, but it does serve as a rather eloquent pronouncement of what my dad means to me.

“Papa never climbed Everest or made the Guinness Book of World Records. He never read the classics or saw an original painting by Braque. He was proud, self-taught, and left no debts. If he had any hidden dreams, other than of being a good man, a committed father, and a loving husband, no one ever knew about them. If deep regrets, fears, or personal doubts tormented him, he never stated them. I am aware that years of having known and loved my father have transformed him from Papa, the simple human being, into Papa, the near saint. And I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with that.”

Happy Birthday, Dad. Happy Birthday to the “near saint” to me, your family, your relatives, your friends and everyone who has ever known you. I love you.


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How 10 Nonprofit Brands Roll on Twitter

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Branding. Marketing. Selling. There are countless reasons why you would use social media for business. And if you’re a nonprofit organization, one of those reasons would be fundraising.

In fact, as direct mail, telemarketing and other traditional methods of acquiring and retaining donors give way to digital communications, nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are jumping on the social media bandwagon. And many of them are working the crowds on these online channels as well or even better than their commercial brethren.

Not only are they on social media to ask for financial support, they’re on it to mobilize their advocates, recognize their volunteers, illustrate their needs, report on their progress and much more.

Good for them. And good for the worthy charitable causes they represent.

Here’s how 10 nonprofit brands, in no particular order, roll on Twitter…

1. Operation Smile

The before-and-after picture included in this tweet is not just a moving testament to the transformative work done by Operation Smile – which provides cleft lip and palate repair surgeries to children – but also a powerful appeal for support.

2. Rainforest Alliance

One of the slowest moving animals on the planet, a sloth like this is easy prey for jaguars, not to mention hunters. It’s got enough decreasing its chances for survival, never mind the fact that its habitat is threatened by deforestation.

3. Robin Hood Foundation

Donors want to know that their money is being spent wisely. They want to see the results of their financial support. Which is exactly what the Robin Hood Foundation does here in less than 140 characters, recapping the year with a link back to its most recent annual report.

4. Room to Read

Don’t be surprised to see this organization that focuses on literacy and gender equality in education tweeting in near real time about a natural disaster. Because the Nepal Earthquake had such a big impact on the communities it serves, Room to Read has good reason to be all over this story, even going so far as to set up the Nepal Education Fund.

5. Gates Foundation

Add an image to a tweet and the chances of it being shared increases. Here’s a great example. Not only does the Gates Foundation illustrate the potential result of donor support, they include a personalized messaged from Bill Gates himself and not one, but two strong calls to action. No wonder they received so many RTs and favorites, not to mention how much money they may have raised for their cause with this one tweet alone.

6. Central Park Conservancy

Besides the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping others, there are many benefits to supporting a nonprofit organization. Some are exclusive to you and other donors, while others may be available to the general public as well. In this case, the Central Park Conservancy is announcing one of its many free tours. Wish I were there!

7. RED

Of course, the primary goal of most nonprofits is to raise funds. But that’s easier said than done on Twitter, as many followers, even if they support you, will shy away from a direct pitch. That’s why I like this tweet so much in which RED offers their audience a nice choice of Mother’s Day gifts in support of the fight against AIDS. It’s a win-win proposition.

8. The Jimmy Fund

Emotion goes a long way on social media. People are pumped to see the lengths others will go to fight for their rights, demand justice, provide shelter to the homeless, feed the hungry, save animals from suffering or, in The Jimmy Fund’s case, conquer cancer. Followers are more likely to get behind a cause if you can strike an inspirational chord in them.

9. Christopher’s Haven

Thanking their donors, whether it’s everyday people like you and me or wildly popular celebrities like Chris Pratt and Chris Evans, is something nonprofits can’t do enough of, as Christopher’s Haven does so perfectly in this tweet which just so happens to have been retweeted more than 2,000 times.

10. World Wildlife Fund

Having a legion of followers is one thing. Getting them to pay attention to you is another. Ask them anything. Stimulate audience engagement by posing a good question, as the World Wildlife Fund demonstrates here with this true or false pop quiz.

Note: This post, “How 10 Nonprofit Brands Roll on Twitter,” was originally published on ClickZ on May 19, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on May 28, 2015 here.

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