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The Importance of Being Yourself on Social Media

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Back in the day, when I was a member of Toastmasters, a public speaking and leadership organization, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be president of a local club. I was honored, of course, but I had no idea what the role entailed. Besides being briefed on the many responsibilities that came along with being the head honcho, I needed some advice, some good, old-fashioned words of wisdom.

Just be yourself, I was told. There is no need to overthink it.

That’s what I learned at that time about being a leader and speaking in public. And that’s what I’ve learned ever since then about communicating on social media. Don’t put on an act. Just keep it real.

After all, the path to success, or at least a modicum of effectiveness, on social media can be excruciatingly long and winding, as there are just so many variables that can get in the way.

Never mind the fact that so many people and brands have no idea what to say and share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. Even when they have figured out the content conundrum, the time, talent and tenacity it takes to harness what is still a newfangled way of communicating can overwhelm even the best of them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if I told you that perhaps the most effective way to stand out on social media, whether you’re a big brand or small fry, is well within your means?

What if I told you that strategy can often be overrated in this space and that the size of your budget doesn’t have to equate to the influence you wield?

What if I told you that the easiest way to get from point A to point B on social media is to simply be yourself? No spin. No filter. No beating around the bush. Just showing up every day with energy, enthusiasm and enlightenment for anyone who’s paying attention.

Whether you’re streaming live on Periscope or sharing a candid moment with your Twitter followers, updating the crowds on Facebook or chiming in on LinkedIn, planning your every move will get you nowhere fast.

Yes, of course, you need a semblance of a strategy and a good idea of your objectives, but any obsessing over your tone of voice, brand and anything remotely resembling a corporate style guide is only going to muddy the waters.

Social media is different than anything you’ve ever done as a marketing, advertising, publishing or PR professional. Social media is the long lost art of conversation brought online. Social media works best when you are using it to engage with others in an honest, open dialogue.

That’s not to say you don’t need a steady cadence of content in your stream, because you do without question. Your presence on social media has to be felt on a continuous basis.

So on your own or with the support of a team, go ahead and schedule an indefinitely lasting series of status updates, messages and posts about who you are and what you do as a brand.

A steady drumbeat is important. But accentuate that beat with a strong personality and point of view that is indelibly you as the human behind the scenes. That’s where the rubber meets the road on social media.

Take a look at Beth Comstock, GE’s CMO, on Twitter. Not only does she talk about innovation and technology, she also doesn’t hesitate to share a picture of a beautiful sunrise in New York City with her more than 80,000 followers.

Then there’s billionaire businessman, Elon Musk, who’s not afraid to publicly reveal his sadness over the passing of David Bowie. Genuine. Heartfelt. Liked about 5,000 times, too.

There’s also T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, who’s as refreshingly candid as they come, especially for someone among the C-suite ranks.

Finally, check out what Bill Gates shares on Twitter. Go behind the scenes with the richest person in the world as he shares words and pictures on a multitude of subjects, from digital technology to the Zika outbreak to what music he’d listen to if he were stranded on a desert island.

Wait, there’s one more. Whoever is the writer behind the Georgetown Cupcakes Twitter account has a fabulously fun personality. That’s just the right image to portray, even if you are representing a logo, not your own personal brand.

There you have it, five examples of big name brands who understand the importance of transparency and authenticity on social media.

Surely there are others, but if you ask me, not nearly enough. Unlike those above, far too many users are stuck on playing office and mired in corporate speak, lost in the noise of a madding crowd.

If they were listening, of course, I would tell them to follow the lead of Beth, Elon, John, Bill and even Georgetown Cupcakes. I would tell them to just be themselves.

Note: This post, “The Importance of Being Yourself on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 16, 2016, here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 24, 2016, here.

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10 Ways Brands are Using Social Media for Good

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Asking questions. Running contests. Sharing pictures. Promoting products and services. There are many ways for brands to attract attention on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. Included among this list of ways to get people to sit up and take notice on social media is to show the softer side of your brand and declare your support of a worthy charitable organization.

After all, almost everyone on these channels is trying to sell something, whether it’s a product, service or simply themselves. Almost everyone is like the carnival barker cajoling the passersby to step right up and come inside the tent.

But a small percentage of them are associating their brands with a noble cause, giving those in the audience a reason to feel good about making the decision to follow, like, share, reply or click.

The truth is, not everyone on social media is there as a consumer. If you appeal to those people’s philanthropic self-interests, meeting their need to help make a difference in the world, they may be more likely to engage with your account and ultimately respond to your pitch.

Call it cause marketing, fundraising or strategically placed altruism. Whatever you call it, it’s good for the nonprofit world, your audience and you. It’s good for everybody involved.

Here are 10 ways brands are doing well by doing good on social media:

1. Feeding the hungry: Anheuser-Busch on Twitter

You may associate Anheuser-Busch with drinking, but this is an example of the brand tying itself to eating, providing meals to those less fortunate during the holiday season. Crowdsourcing pictures of Thanksgiving celebrations, AB makes it easy for its customers and followers to participate in a kindhearted group initiative and have fun at the same time.

2. Putting shoes on their feet: TOMS on Twitter TOMS puts their money where their feet are by making an impressive commitment to give a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair sold. In fact, thanks to its generous One for One offer, since the company’s founding in 2006, TOMS has given more than 45 million pairs of shoes to children in over 70 different countries.

3. Standing up against bullying: Detroit Pistons on Facebook

Taking a stand and making a strong statement against an injustice can be more effective than simply making a charitable contribution, which is exactly what this NBA basketball team does here. Asking their fans to take the pledge and join them in going purple on #SpiritDay, they’re scoring big points in the cause marketing field, never mind on the basketball court.

Today is Spirit Day! The Pistons are joining with NBA Cares & GLAAD by going purple to stand up against bullying! Take a stand against bullying and make your #SpiritDay pledge! glaad.org/spiritday/pledge

Posted by Detroit Pistons on Thursday, October 15, 2015

4. Delivering presents for Christmas: Sports Authority on Twitter

There’s always an opportunity to give to the less fortunate among us, but the holiday season is an especially good time. Here the large chain of sporting goods retailers, Sports Authority, shows how they teamed up with the Universal Surveillance Systems Foundation to arrange for Santa to surprise 100 deserving kids with bikes and helmets.

5. Caring for children: Kohl’s on Twitter There are a variety of reasons why people buy, most of which are wrapped up in emotion. Consumers may not necessarily need this or that, but in many cases their impulses get the best of them. Whether they’re being materialistic or benevolent, Kohl’s Cares gifts are a win-win proposition for those who have the urge to purchase a little something and make a big difference at the same time.

6. Protecting our oceans: Dell on Instagram

Taking full advantage of its technological prowess, specifically in the area of virtual reality, Dell is doing a whale of a job in helping to inspire people to care more about the health of our oceans and marine wildlife through its support of actor Adrian Grenier’s the Lonely Whale Foundation. While they’re talking about it on Instagram here, you can learn a lot more about it on YouTube.

7. Showing solidarity with Paris: Cisco on Facebook Part of the responsibility of using social media – especially as a brand, for whom the bar is set higher – is to be aware of what’s going on in the world. The last thing you want to do is be promotional and pushy in the midst of a tragedy or any other cataclysmic event. Don’t hesitate to pause your regular flow of content and join the broader conversation with a message of support like Cisco’s on Facebook.

We stand in unity with France. #PeaceForParis (photo via Jean Jullien)

Posted by Cisco on Saturday, November 14, 2015

8. Volunteering their time: Eli Lilly and Company on Instagram

Last fall, thousands of Lilly employees took part in this global pharmaceutical company’s eight annual Global Day of Service, proudly sharing their good deeds on social media with the tag, “WeAreLilly. Clearly there are countless beneficiaries of such a massive demonstration of volunteerism, including the brand itself whose initiative goes a long way toward building camaraderie and unity among its workforce. To see even more pictures from this campaign, visit here.

Soon we’ll nearly go off the grid, donning gloves, goggles and smiles to help the world around us. #WeAreLilly #volunteer

A photo posted by Eli Lilly and Company (@elilillyco) on

9. Responding to emergencies: Lowe’s on Twitter After the area was hit by a devastating wave of violent tornadoes, members of Lowe’s Heroes, a volunteer program involving store employees, joined first responders to provide emergency relief. Coming through for the local community in such a meaningful way not only makes your team members feel good about themselves, it sends a strong, positive message about your corporate culture to anyone who’s paying attention. To learn more about Lowe’s Heroes, go here.

10. Helping kids with cancer: Sevenly on Facebook

Founded less than five years ago, Sevenly is a hip, philanthropic online retailer that donates a portion of its revenue to a number of different causes, in this case The Young and Brave Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people fight cancer. I’m not a customer (yet), nor am I a fashionista, but I love their unique business model. Given the idea that you can help others with your purchase makes their clothes even more appealing to me.

NEW CAUSE: Support young cancer warriors & their families! –> http://svnly.org/1O6FjsO Around the world, more than…

Posted by Sevenly on Monday, January 4, 2016

Note: This post, “10 Ways Brands are Using Social Media Marketing for Good,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 27, 2016, here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on February 2, 2016, here.

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10 Ways the Presidential Candidates are Winning on Twitter

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shutterstock_117513211There are less than two months to go until the Iowa caucuses and less than a year until we elect a new president of the United States on November 8, 2016. And while each of the candidates for the highest office in the land is more than competent and capable, there will only be one winner at the polls.

To some of us, however, what happens between now and then is just as interesting as voting day itself. Who doesn’t enjoy sitting on the sidelines and watching a good, old-fashioned, knock-down, drag-out presidential campaign, especially in this digital day and age?

The candidates may be crisscrossing the country on what seems like an endless campaign trail, but they are also sharing news and opinion, commentary, quips and barbs across the social media landscape as well, especially on Twitter.

If you ask me, no matter how they feel about gun control, homeland security, healthcare or the economy — whether they lean to the left or to the right — all of them are getting the job done in 140 characters or less. In fact, in many cases they’re taking businesses and brands to school. Even if you don’t agree with their politics, you could probably learn a thing or two from following them here.

Here are 10 ways all the presidential candidates are winning on Twitter, each and every one of them a lesson for those vying for more votes of confidence from their own constituents on this channel…

1. Opinions

Opinions are like noses. Everybody’s got one. But not necessarily on Twitter. Seriously, businesses, brands and corporate executives are all too often afraid to share how they feel online. Yet that’s how they’re going to gain the most traction. Toeing the line is boring. Your followers want to know what you think. And the presidential candidates know it. They pull no punches when it comes to their points of view. And that’s putting it mildly.

Example: Bernie Sanders

2. Immediacy

When you’re running for office, every second counts. And honestly, it should be no different for those who are running a business. Every presidential candidate realizes he or she can’t afford to miss a beat. They’re on the clock, practically 24/7. Their tweets are a reflection of what’s happening in their world almost up to the minute. Brands should take note. Real time is big time when it comes to success on Twitter.

Example: Chris Christie

3. Variety

If you’re a one trick pony on social media, you’re going to get nowhere fast. And in the race for president, the candidates – and the teams behind them – know it. Their tweets stand in stark contrast to the verbiage they dispense in person. Their streams are far from a monotonous barrage of the same old, same old. They’re as varied as possible, full of candid pictures, customized graphics and short video clips pulled together especially for this channel.

Example: Martin O’Malley

4. Audience

In direct mail, the industry in which I earned my livelihood for so many years, the axiom was that a bad offer to a good list performs better than a good offer to a bad list. Same goes for social media. You could be sharing the best content in the world, but if you don’t have an audience, what you have to say is moot. The more people following you, the better the chance of your voice actually being heard. Except for Jim Gilmore, who surprisingly has less than 3,000 followers, each of the presidential candidates has an incredibly large number of followers, from George Pataki’s just under 100 thousand to @therealdonaldtrump’s over five million.

Example: Marco Rubio

5. Creativity

Too many accounts on Twitter are either afraid to step out of line or downright incapable of thinking out of the box. Watching what they tweet about is like watching paint dry. Not that all the presidential candidates are completely innocent in this category, but by and large they’re creative and clever, willing and able to mix it up every once in a while.

Example: Ben Carson

6. Authenticity

Those who want to be elected the 45th president of the United States in 2016 are nothing if not themselves. Even though their goals and objectives are surprisingly similar, each and every one of them is the genuine article, their own man or woman through and through. Whether they’re delivering a big speech or sharing a few words to a few thousand followers on Twitter, there’s no mistaking who’s who among them, and for what they stand. Which is how it should be for anyone on this channel.

Example: Jeb Bush

7. Pictures

The writer in me hates to admit this, but it’s true; still and moving pictures tend to increase your engagement rates. Yup, it’s not all about the words. What you say is important, of course, but what you show counts even more. Just ask the presidential candidates. They know the value of an opportune photo op. They know a picture is worth a thousand words.

Example: Mike Huckabee

8. Relentlessness

One of the biggest mistakes made on Twitter is not realizing just how much time you have to spend on the channel in order to succeed there. Tweeting once or twice, even three times a day is probably not going to get the job done. Unless you’re a celebrity or a household name, you have to work hard for the attention. Follow the lead of the presidential candidates, who in many cases are household names yet tweet like there’s no tomorrow.

Example: Donald Trump

9. Engagement

Another way that so many in the corporate world drop the ball on this channel is to miss the opportunity, unintentionally or not, to have a conversation with their followers on this channel. In underestimating the importance of a reply, share or like, they’re failing to close the loop between themselves and their audience. For the presidential candidates, engagement with constituents is even more important. That’s why they not only shake so many hands in real life, but also acknowledge as many followers as possible on Twitter.

Example: Ted Cruz

10. Newsjacking

Something like this is easy for this bunch. Wake up. Look at the calendar. Turn on the TV. Tweet about what’s trending. In many cases, you are the news when you’re running for the highest office in the land. But anybody has the opportunity to inject themselves into the national, even global, conversation on Twitter. As I wrote here, “Taking advantage of trending news by writing about it as it is breaking can be a very effective way to inject your brand into the conversation if it is done in a clever, timely, and tasteful manner. The Grammys. The Academy Awards. The Olympics. Special events like these are ripe for the picking.”

Example: Hillary Clinton

Note: This post, “10 Ways the Presidential Candidates are Winning on Twitter,” was originally published on ClickZ on December 3, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on December 10, 2015 here.

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Social Media: A Revolutionary Change That is Impossible to Ignore

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#SocialMedia in 140 Characters or Less 15
I’m not going to lie. While I have been writing copy for what seems like forever, not until social media came along did I feel my words were actually making a connection with my audience.

Direct mail, even email, may be addressed to your customers, donors, members and prospects by name. But short of face-to-face conversations, there is nothing quite so powerful and promising for a marketer than having the opportunity to interact in real time with someone who is genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Social media makes it possible for brands – and their proxies like me – to connect with members of their target audience directly and instantaneously, building strong, mutually beneficial relationships that have the potential to last indefinitely.

Of course, to traditionalists, luddites, skeptics and naysayers, social media is like the proverbial uninvited dinner guest who never leaves.

They can blame it on technology. They can blame it on millennials. They can blame it on whatever and whomever. But like it or not, social media in some way, shape or form is here to stay.

Social media is a disruptive, revolutionary change in how customers and prospects are courted, one that marketers, advertisers, publishers and PR people ignore at their own peril.

Yet there are still a surprising number of holdouts, people who are desperately clinging to old strategies, tactics and channels like life buoys on an open sea, afraid they will drown in today’s new marketing waters.

What they’re doing to attract and retain business may work for them today. But chances are that very same business will fade away soon if they don’t adjust to the times.

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. These are not just new marketing channels at the disposal of the corporate world. These are outrageously popular social media properties which our industry shares with the general public. The playing field is level and the competition is fierce, as it is no longer simply paid media we’re talking about, but owned and earned as well.

As the late, great Marshall McLuhan said more than 50 years ago, “The medium is the message.” And today, given the ubiquity of social media, never mind the mass appeal of television and radio, those words still ring true, perhaps more than ever.

Social media is the message of the millennium so far. It has changed everything about how we communicate with relatives and friends, fans and followers, customers and colleagues, even complete strangers. It has changed the world as we once knew it.

Yet many brands, B2B and B2C alike, are still fiddling and diddling when it comes to social media, or even scarier, aren’t using it at all. Thinking the jury’s still out on whether it’s worth the time or not, they’re missing the opportunity to join the biggest revolution in communication since the printing press.

I hate to break it to you, but this is not the time for hesitation. Seriously, we’re closer than you think to a turning point in social media. You’re either all in with it now or at risk of falling alarmingly far behind the competition.

For brands that are dabbling in it, but not fully on board, consider doubling down on your investment. Don’t rely on only one person for all your social media activities. Have a team at your beck and call. And don’t be just putting anything out there to see what sticks. Think strategy, not tactics. Create content that puts not just your products and services, but your people in a positive light. Keep it real. Be yourselves. Make a commitment to the long haul, but make sure you’re on the grid every single day, not just every once in a while. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. If you’re out of mind, well, you could be out of business.

For brands that haven’t even begun to establish themselves on social media, you have no time to lose. Learn from the activities of your customers and competitors who have beaten you to the punch in setting up shop there. Hang your own shingle on all the major channels today. Chop-chop. Build your audience. Announce your presence. Publish. Broadcast. Post. Tweet. Engage. Take whatever steps are necessary now to connect with your constituents online and convert them into believers in everything you have to share before it’s too late.

Note: The original version of this post, “Social Media: A Revolutionary Change That is Impossible to Ignore,” was published on ClickZ on November 15, 2015 here.

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10 B2B Brands That Are Killing It on Social Media

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Social media. It’s not just for B2C brands anymore.

More than just dipping their toes in the social media waters, many of those in the B2B space are now diving in head first, making a big splash not just on LinkedIn, but on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and pretty much every other related channel.

Like everyone else, of course, they’re publishing the requisite stream of news and information. But more and more of them are beginning to resemble their counterparts on the B2C side, going above and beyond to express their opinions, let their hair down and reveal the personalities behind the brands.

But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Here are 10 examples of B2B brands that are killing it on social media.

1. IBM on Twitter

Known for having had one of the corporate world’s strictest dress codes back in the day, it’s no surprise that IBM’s social media channels are equally buttoned up in 2015. I mean that in a really good way, of course. After all, not only does the largest computer company in the world know its way around social media best practices, it’s not afraid to push the edges of creativity, either, as this animated GIF on Twitter illustrates.

2. Cisco on Instagram

Many brands, B2B and B2C alike, are at a loss when it comes to developing new content to share on social media. Not this brand. In this classic case of newsjacking, Cisco shares a perfectly executed graphic to commemorate World Wide Web Day, complete with hashtag and logo. Great copy. Great picture. Great example of how to work the crowd on Instagram.

We remember the feeling just like it’s 1991. Happy #WorldWideWebDay!

A photo posted by Cisco (@cisco) on

3. Oracle on Twitter

The social in social media is what many companies overlook, but not Oracle. The softer side of this global computer technology behemoth is front and center here, giving nearly 400K followers an indication of how much they care about philanthropy, not to mention a good look at the heart and soul of their brand.

4. Intel on Facebook

In support of last summer’s #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement, Intel used social media to celebrate the diversity of their own engineers. Jumping on this viral bandwagon with such enthusiasm called attention to the strength of Intel’s corporate culture and surely went a long way toward helping its recruitment efforts.

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8 Intel Engineers Breaking the Mold #ILookLikeAnEngineer http://intel.ly/1MwqZxy

Posted by Intel on Friday, September 18, 2015

5. Raytheon on Twitter

It’s understatedly written, but this tweet speaks volumes about this big defense contractor’s caring corporate culture. Ambiguously worded to leave you in wonder, it’s referring to the fact that so many Raytheon employees are happy to honor U.S. servicemen and women on RED (Remember Everyone Deployed) Shirt Fridays. Awesome picture. Awesome cause.

6. Novartis on Instagram

You’ve got to give props to this pharmaceutical giant not just for having an Instagram account, but for using it in such a clever way. Calling attention to a rather fascinating interactive exhibit about the role nature has played in medicine, Novartis does an excellent job of piquing its audience’s curiosity and coaxing traffic over to beautifulmedicine.com.

7. GoTo Meeting on Instagram

With so many brands competing for the audience’s attention, the quality of what you share on social media is as important as the quantity. Consumers and customers expect to see you on these channels, but they have very little patience for content that isn’t either informative, helpful, pertinent or entertaining. Don’t waste anybody’s time. Follow the lead of Citrix GoToMeeting on Instagram, where you’ll find less than 100 posts, but almost every single one of them of the highest quality.

8. Salesforce on Facebook

Far too many brands focus too much on selling their products and services on social media rather than promoting the virtues of their employees. Not Salesforce, which salutes its team for reaching a one million-mile milestone in movement. Humblebragging about those who work for you shows you care about their health and happiness. Demonstrating pride in your people not only makes them feel good, it assures anyone who’s thinking about doing business with you that you stand behind your team.

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We crushed the 1 Million Miles Challenge! That means our employees ran, walked, biked, or swam 1 million miles…in just…

Posted by Salesforce on Friday, September 25, 2015

9. Illumina on Twitter

Two of the most important characteristics of any social media program are transparency and immediacy. Case in point is this example from Illumina Live Events. Thanks to the author’s introduction, you know who’s doing the tweeting, which helps her build a bond with you right off the bat. Anytime you have the opportunity to extend a warm, personal greeting to your audience and engage with them in real time, take advantage of it. The trust and credibility you’ll gain will be more than worth the effort.

10. Gartner on Facebook

Not every post you share on Facebook is going to stand out in the News Feed – unless it’s accompanied by a graphic such as this one. Gartner may appear to be merely driving its audience back to a blog post, but it’s also doing a superior job of branding its Smarter With Gartner series of stories. Good for them. And good for those who are taking this legendary research and advisory firm up on their offers. It’s a win-win all around.

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Gartner’s @julierhopkins lists 5 questions every social marketer should answer http://bit.ly/1Kanj2y

Posted by Gartner on Friday, August 21, 2015

Note: This post, “10 B2B Brands That Are Killing It on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on October 7, 2015 here and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on October 15, 2015 here.

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