Thursday, June 23, 2011

Social Media Pruning: Time To Trim `Deadwood'?

At first, it seemed strange. Then, it happened so often that it started to seem, if not normal, at least not so out of whack. And eventually it became almost commonplace.

I’m referring to the experience of someone I’ve never met asking to connect with me on social media sites, specifically LinkedIn and Facebook.

Usually, I’ve declined the invitations. But not always—and as a result, more than a dozen names have crept onto my accounts without my really understanding why.

So I recently went through the process of pruning these tenuous connections. I call it “pruning” because it’s not about subtracting names (and the individuals and their spheres of influence that flow from those names). More importantly, it’s about elevating the value of those with whom I choose to remain connected.

As the Wikipedia definition states, in part, “pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant…Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health (and) reducing risk.”

A little reflection on some of those keywords is instructive in thinking about the “how” and “why” of our social media activities:

Selective: When we say “yes” to too many, including people whom we don’t know (or at least couldn’t pick out of a crowd), we are diluting the quality of affirmations we’ve given to people we trust, respect and, in some cases, actually love.

Especially on LinkedIn, it’s important to have your connectedness mean something beyond a list of names or glorified business cards.

Deadwood removal: How many of our contacts and connections resemble “deadwood,” insofar as our social (think Facebook) and professional (think LinkedIn) lives are concerned?

Now, I don’t doubt that, for the most part, these are good people who play a vital and positive role in the lives of any number of people. But to me, they are like “deadwood.” Lest I seem harsh, I should add that I have no illusions about my own speck-on-the-map status with these very same individuals.

Yes, I am sure that I too must resemble deadwood in some circles.

But until and unless they (and I) take the time to alter matters, then I’ll be the proactive one and say it’s time for me to let them go (and vice versa).

This can be a bit scary—I’ve played out vague scenarios in which, at some magical future juncture, Joe Linkedin suddenly emerges as a significant connection to have, and now I’m kicking myself for cutting him or her loose.

Then, after reflecting on the years of my own personal and professional history on LinkedIn and Facebook, I've come to a conclusion: such a scenario simply hasn’t played out yet.

Besides, if and when an opportunity arises with Joe Linkedin (or Jane Facebook), then that’s a great reason to kick-start a re-connection with him or her.

For a related post, from April 2009, see "Time To `De-Link' a Non-Responsive Contact?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Overcome Weakness in Your LinkedIn Chain: Invest in Relationships When You Don't `Need To'

As the saying goes, "You're only as strong as the weakest link in your chain."

And when it comes to LinkedIn, the formula that some follow goes like this:

1. Accumulate as many contacts as possible by sending an impersonal, automated request to Link-In.

2. Proceed to ignore aforementioned contacts for weeks, months or even years. (If you're especially ambitious, write one or two recommendations.)

3. If and when you lose a job, or have a decline in business, send impersonal, mass notes to LinkedIn contacts announcing that you'd appreciate their steering leads your way.

4. When you come up dry on Step 3, complain that LinkedIn is useless.

Referring back to the introductory line--and boiling down these four steps in one word: weak.

If you've read any of my prior social media tips and observations, you know that Inside Edge PR has derived significant benefit from LinkedIn and other social media: new clients, stronger relationships, media coverage, and the development of social-media workshops that have led to more work.

And here's the biggest reason why: I've sought to help as many of my links as possible...without seeking anything in return.

That's not bragging, and that's not charity--it's straight-up common sense about human nature. Think of it this way: when is the best time to buy a car or sell a house?

When you don't need to.

That way, you're not desperate or otherwise painted into a corner. You can take the deal or leave it.

The same principle goes for LinkedIn, Facebook or any other personal or professional transaction, online or offline--the best time to nurture a relationship is when you don't "need to."

The truth be told, if you don't want to do this, for the sheer enjoyment of maintaining and strengthening connections with other human beings, you ought to consult the closest mirror.

Even failing that basic test, you should consider exercising some self-discipline, consistency and long-term thinking. Drop a note to five or 10 people at a time, simply saying "hello" or offering some words of encouragement or insight that will benefit them.

In "The Professional's Platform," one of Seth Godin's recent blog posts, he eloquently makes much the same point. An excerpt:

"We remember what you did when you didn't need us so urgently...It means investing, perhaps overinvesting, in relationships long before it's in your interest to do so."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Best Buy's Big Social Media Blunder: When Common Sense `Ceases and Desists'

Someone needs to send Best Buy an historic bit of writing known as 1 Samuel 17.

That's the chapter in the Old Testament that relates the story of David and Goliath. For those who may not have heard (spoiler alert!), wee David cuts off giant Goliath's head thanks to his faith in God and one amazing demonstration of accurate sling-shotting.

In modern parlance, that's known as a big "W" for the underdog.

Speaking of modern times, just recently Best Buy (aka "Goliath," at least for this post's purposes) made the foolish decision to overreact to a rival company's commercial parodying Best Buy's notoriously, ahem, subpar technology know-how.

Whereupon, Best Buy's crack legal team (or maybe it's "cracked"?) dashed off a cease-and-desist letter that was sure to spur on far more coverage of the parody--and awareness of that competitor,, (aka David in this example).

Oh, that reminds me: check out the 30-second commercial here:

Adam Singer, in his Future Buzz blog, offers a great take on the blunder.

As I related to Singer, someone should send a C & D letter to Best Buy's legal counsel. Is there a Department of Common Sense over there? The David versus Goliath analogy is so obvious, as is the inanity of Best Buy's response.

I can't help but chuckle, too, at Best Buy's repeated use of "slovenly" in the C & D letter to describe the blue-shirted employee. That word belongs somewhere in the early-1970s, methinks.

As Singer articulates so well at Future Buzz, the episode clearly reflects Best Buy's lack of social media awareness--how else to explain its clunky attempt to shush a company with a hugely loyal and tech-savvy following?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Social Media Policy: How To Get Started, And Why Your Organization Should Get it In Writing

Has your organization developed a written social media policy? Do you know where to begin, or why it's important in the first place?

A few months ago, when the Kenosha Area Business Alliance asked me to develop one, I at least knew where to start: Google, of course.

I typed "social media policy" into the search engine and within moments, came upon resource-rich sites like Social Media Governance.

There you'll find a bevy of templates from which to draw inspiration and adapt--in your own voice, in your own words and tailored to your organization's communications objectives.

Last week, after working through some drafts and gathering feedback along the way, I posted KABA's Social Media Policy in a logical spot: its Facebook page.

There are many reasons why it makes sense to develop a social media policy. As I consider Inside Edge PR's experience in providing social-media service to clients over the past few years, here are three benefits of creating a policy for navigating in this rapidly expanding terrain:

1. It compels you to think through the reasons why you are on social media in the first place--and thereby develop a focused approach to the process.

All too often, and admittedly in my own experience, social-media activities have been helter-skelter. More than a few times, I've posted something for the sake of making sure observers and prospects knew that the administrator (me) hadn't been abducted by Martians.
With a social media policy, you will set parameters of what you wish to communicate and any ground rules relating to how or what administrators and visitors/fans ought to communicate.

2. It offers another platform to articulate your organization's distinctive mission, employing your distinctive voice and creating an opportunity to forge a deeper connection with your audience.

Seize this kind of moment to express your organization's culture, especially via humor.

One that I highly recommend you check out: Kodak's 16-page `Social Media Tips: Sharing Lessons Learned to Help Your Business Grow.'

3. It explains, in clear terms, why you take certain steps to respond to, remove or otherwise regulate content that appears in your social media space.

In other words: beware and begone, spammers and saboteurs!
Having a social media policy in place last summer would've helped expedite some action I took for Tom & Eddie's on its Facebook page.

Some individuals associated with at least one other area restaurant, obviously feeling threatened by the new rival, were making bogus attacks about Tom & Eddie's service and food.

After internal discussions about how to respond, I removed the remarks within 24 hours. With a social media policy in place, it would've taken all of 24 seconds.