The shit fight is beginning- should you join in?

Social media is easy and it’s fun – but as social media’s popularity grows so does its impact.  Which is why it’s important to develop a social media strategy.

“When you don’t have a destination in mind, any road will get you there.”

As you use social media, you can expect at some point to see another social media primates start flinging shit at each other.  If you’re caught without a social media strategy – well, you won’t know whether to join in or run for cover.

I’ve found myself examining my social media strategy more often than not lately.  There have been plenty of opportunities to pick up the nearest pile and start flinging shit with the best of them.  Recently,  I happily joined in on both the Belkin Review Payola and the Cash4Gold social media firestorm.  Like most bloggers- when opportunity knocks I’m usually willing to answer!

If you don’t have a blog – then you should know that finding fresh content is a constant challenge for EVERY blogger.   A good old fashioned shit fight can provide WEEKS of content, not to mention currying inbound links and a bit of notoriety as added bonuses along the way.

Shit fights can be good for your blog – when used judiciously.

However, you not only have to decide which fights you’ll join but also where to draw the line.

Before either of these recent “social media disasters” appeared on the radar, another social media ruckus was brewing.  At the time, one of my fellow “social marketing primates” started throwing shit and I was faced with the decision of whether to join.

Since I wasn’t personally attacked, that meant I had a choice on whether or not to join.   When Jason Cohen found himself in the middle of a social media shit fight, he had no choice.  The shit was being flung DIRECTLY at him and he had no choice but to respond.  Fortunately, Jason’s a REALLY smart bear and defused the situation BRILLIANTLY!

When the shit is aimed you – you don’t have a choice.  However, when the shit isn’t flying directly your way, that’s when you’ve got a decision to make.

Do you join in or do you sit this one out?

I wasn’t named in the incident in question and now I have a choice to make.   When you’re faced with this choice, you can

  • ignore it.
  • report on it “objectively” and yet not include yourself directly in the line of fire.  You do this by NOT be naming names or disclosing URLS.  (See a great example of Darren Rowse doing this in Twitter is a Stage – Be Careful What You Say.  He doesn’t give link luv to his detractors.)
  • name names, list urls and make yourself a potential target.

Let it be known that there are times when joining in and naming names is EXACTLY what you should do.  That’s where your social media strategy comes into play.

It’s what Arlen Parsa did with regards to the Belkin Review Payola Scandal and  the choice Rob Cockerham made with the Cash4Gold blog post.  It’s a social media strategy that has paid off well for both of these bloggers.

However, on the other hand, I also advised my own client not to participate in a brewing shit storm as a part of HER developing social media strategy.

There is no “one size fits all” advice when it comes to social media strategy!

Unfortunately, when tempers flare in social media,  it leaves a lasting trail.  Unlike the footprints left in the sand at the beach – these footprints are cemented online forever.

Ask Ian Capstick of the Media Style blog.  He reports in his post Twitter Fight,  about an exchange which became heated on Twitter between reporter David George-Cosh  and  April Dunford, principle consultant with Rocket Launch media.  The portion of the “tiff” that happened “online” has left a trail of words set in stone.  At last count, the comments to the post numbered 85 and the trackbacks for the post were at 15 and counting.

One of those trackbacks is from the blog of Jennifer Leggio of ZD Net.   In A tale of two faux pas: When transparency meets bad behavior she writes:

My quick summary based on Capstick’s post: George-Cosh reached out to Dunford regarding a story he was working on and she took a day or so to get back to him. He was, according to Dunford’s Twitter stream, rude to her during the eventual call back, so she expressed frustration in a tweet. It was clear to George-Cosh, it seems, that she was talking about him since they’d just hung up the phone. Her defense was, and I paraphrase, “Dude, I didn’t say your name.” George-Cosh swore. A lot. She put on a show of trying to calm him. It ended… poorly.

Here’s the upside to this story – April is “social networking aware”.  She knew when the internet was talking about her and was able to post “her side” of the story.  She does so in a comment on Jennifer’s blog.

Another “bonus” is April’s online reputation was already well established when this occurred.  Because she was properly “inoculated” and her online reputation was already well established, this tussle is NOT the first that that comes up when you Google her name.

Unfortunately, David George-Cosh is not so lucky.  His Twitter feud with April comes in at #4 with the newspaper article Journalists are not above the rules of decorum when you search for his name on Google.

The National Post has apologized, but the damage is done. David’s name will be coloured by this event for a while. And the Post will be associated with it, too.

What’s your social media strategy?  How do you decide between “fight” or “flight” when it comes to social media?

Social Media Marketing – What you don’t know CAN hurt you

Maybe you don’t think you need social media marketing.

Maybe you’re hoping that if you ignore it, this whole “social media” craze will fade away.

Maybe what you don’t know won’t hurt your business.

Whether you like it or not, social media is happening and it’s affecting your business.  Your customers and your potential customers are using the web to gather information about everything under the sun.  They are then talking about the products and services they’re using.  Good or bad, the conversations are happening and now they’re happening online as well as off line.

Conversations about products and services  have been going on since humans first began to communicate.  Eons ago, Caveman Joe and his friends sat around the fire trading stories of where the best hunting sites were.  Fast forward in time and a decade ago neighbors would trade tales of which neighborhood dentist is good and which one is not so good at the PTA meeting.  (This was known as word of mouth advertising.)

Today, we’re more likely to go online and do a Google search before we have the conversation in person.

The difference between then and now:  back then when those stories were told – they didn’t leave a digital trail.  In order for a story to hit the news, a reporter had to hear about it and most importantly CARE about the issue.  Long ago, the buzz – or the damage – ended when the sound of the voice speaking faded away.  Silence the voice and  the story was gone.  There was no proof – there was no evidence – if the story was bad, there was the possibility of it fading away and there was ALWAYS the possibility of forgetting the details.

That was then – this is now.

Now, these same conversations are happening online.  The stories are being told in a different venue – where they are indexed, compiled and offered up for retrieval at a moments notice.

Now, instead of asking about your business at the PTA meeting – social networking Joe will simply log on and plug in his search terms to see what Google knows about your and your business.

What will he find when he searches for you?

What kind of first impression will you and your business make upon him?

Recently, Belkin – a manufacturer of electronics – got caught in an attempt to play the social media marketing game by gaming those results. Rather than rely on customers to post real reviews of Belkin products- they decided to advertise and offered to pay for post positive reviews.  Their advertisement was seen by Arlen Parsa who happened to have a blog.  Even though he’s not a reporter, he broken the story like a pro in Exclusive: Belkin’s Development Rep is Hiring People to Write Fake Positive Amazon Reviews.  Other bloggers saw this post, picked up the story and carried it as well.  Suddenly, Belkin has a PR problem.

Here’s a news flash for everyone who thinks they can do business “as usual” (a.k.a. without an expectation of transparency) in today’s world – an era I’ve dubbed the No Trust Zone. This is a time when there are literally tens of millions of blogs, authored by even more bloggers who are constantly on the prowl for new fresh content:

THE WEB IS WATCHING!

Your customers have access to the web.  Even if they don’t have a blog themselves, chances are they either know someone who does or can find one pretty easily and drop a comment.   If a blogger gets wind of the story  you’d rather not have told- well, that’s the downside to Web 2.0.  If that happens, you’d better bring out the bullet proof vest for your PR department – because it’s going to get ugly.

Belkin is not exactly a techno-unsavvy business – yet even with their considerable web presence, a search of Google for their business name “Belkin” returns on the first page a story of the recent scandal: Gizmodo’s post: Belkin Employee Sheds Light On Belkin’s Supposedly Dirty Practices.

In Belkin Gets Caught Buying 5-Star Reviews & My Alternative Recipe for Ratings Success, Andy Beal offers suggestions on how to get HONEST product reviews from satisfied customers.  (Unfortunately, according to the Gizmodo post, the whole REASON behind the for the Belkin review payola was that the products couldn’t get positive reviews from real customers!)

Fortunately for Belkin, they “own” their own number 1 listing at Google – otherwise, a scandal such as this cound be the “top result” for a search for the business name for a long time to come.

Unfortunately for Micheal Bayard – Business Development Representative for Belkin – he’s not so lucky.  He’s making headlines such as  Michael Bayard and Belkin: What’s the Big Deal and Belkin Representive hires people to write positive reviews for their product on Amazon.

Those search engine friendly blogs are great at delivering top results on desired keyword terms, aren’t they?  Unfortunately that’s not a good thing for those who thought authenticity was a word used to trip up 6th graders during a spelling bee.   The “power of the blog”  blade cuts deep and can leave a permanent scar on an online reputation.

This is the new way of the world.  The web is watching.  “I’m blogging this,” is more powerful than you think.  Even a “tiny” blog can get a big voice in a hurry.

Oh, and authenticity is NOT an obscure spelling word – it’s the new “way of the world”.

VIVA AUTHENTICITY!

Social Media Warning: I am Rubber – You are Glue …

Remember that chant – back when you were a child. Someone would say something mean or hateful, and your response would be the sing-song, “I am rubber – you are glue! Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to YOU!”

Web 2.0 gives us a real opportunity to share our thoughts spontaneously. Whether it’s posting to your own blog, making comments on other blogs or sending bulletins via MySpace – sometimes we might share things we wish we hadn’t. If we’re lucky, the rest of the world will be so self absorbed that most people won’t notice when we expose more than we planned.

I recently got a notification about an article which is getting a lot of attention on one of the various social networking sites to which I belong.  The article was written by a member who is telling business owners to get control over their personal spending lest it ruin their business. I think I’ve gotten more insight to her spending habits than she may have been planning on providing.  I thought it was just common sense, but if you want to promote your services as a financial manager, don’t tell me how many checks you’ve bounced in the past few weeks!

Meanwhile, the article makes me laugh because I am currently working with a client who has EXACTLY the opposite problem. This client is processing her own credit card orders manually because she doesn’t want to PAY an assistant to do this menial task for her. As a result, it’s taking WEEKS for some orders to get processed – money that could be safely in her bank account – less a small fee for hiring an assistant to handle the order processing.

We’re in the process of automating this process for her, by the way so she doesn’t have to hire the assistant – however, she’s reluctant to make the investment needed to make this happen.  Her business is relatively new and she’s having trouble making the transition from “requisition forms” to “you’ve got to spend money to make money.”

I can TOTALLY relate to my client because I too have battled trying to achieve balance between the art of bootstrapping and being silly.

For example, I remember that I worried for MONTHS over the prospect of spending $35 per year to register my domain name (way back in 1998) and the subsequent hosting fee!  It took me a long time to get used to the idea that I had to SPEND money to MAKE money. I’ve learned that it’s just a part of the transition from “employee” to “business owner” and for some of us, it’s a tough hurdle to overcome.

Meanwhile, the world is full of therapists involved in horrible relationships who spend their days “fixing” other people’s relationships – doctors who smoke, drink and abuse drugs but reach out selflessly to heal their patients – accountants who can’t keep their own finances in order. The list goes on and on but a key player in this kind of behavior are the MMO bloggers who aren’t making any money.

While it’s true that “The cobblers’ own children rarely wear shoes,” if you want to convince others that you know your stuff – you’d better have some impressive samples.

As always, this is going to come BACK to blogging.  One of the reasons I ADORE blogs is that it’s hard to “fake” expertise over the course of 100 or more posts.  When these MMO pretenders post their monthly earnings and think $89 a month is a sign of their success – well, it’s yet another reasons I ADORE blogs!

If you’re not authentic – or if your SOLE purpose is trying to fleece the masses – then don’t launch a blog and DO NOT participate in social media marketing.    If you’re a pretender, your blog will expose you as one!

If on the other hand, your business is in the business of helping people solve their problems, achieve their goals or placate their desires – the step right up to blogging and Web 2.0.  While you won’t find OVERNIGHT success, you’ll find it’s a fun and fulfilling path to travel.

Your blog won’t be a 30 minute solution to your marketing dilemmas – it may not even earn $89 per month in direct income for you, but it will be great way to begin spreading the word about the solutions you offer!