Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3 creative ways with audio content: Ideas to get ears to your social media

Many observers think sound will be bigger than video online -- which is saying something, since online video's still the 500-pound gorilla of social media, any way you look at it. Yet lots of communicators see audio as the forgotten flavor of multimedia, and have to be talked into the idea that online audio tools can help journalists (and smart communicators). If you're one of the hesitant, or if audio hasn't made it to your to-do list, check out this trio of creative ways with audio content to steal, emulate or investigate further:
  1. Socializing a sound archive:  The British Library has just launched its online sound library with a selection of 50,000 spoken word, natural-sound and music recordings users can explore for free. The gigantic stash has been socialized, too. There's a section of sound maps, showing where recordings of accents and dialects or oral histories were collected; occasional "sound of the day" posts on Facebook and a blog with "recordings of the week;" case studies and video testimonials on how researchers and others have used the sound recordings; and basic audio tools to help users access the collection. (Fair warning: Some recordings will not work for users outside the European Union, but many will.) It's a lovely example of opening up an archive and paying attention to the ways users put it to work.
  2. Going from pastime to pro:  Nieman Lab took at look at how the popular Grammar Girl podcast went from being a hobby to becoming its own media network, a fine model if you're blogging or podcasting audio and wondering whether it will ever pay off. Audio is central to the growth of this business, but it's augmented and supported by email newsletters and social media outreach.
  3. Rethinking a sound offering: Audio tours in museums are getting a rethink as some museums look to use visitors' own smartphones as the listening device, but in France, they're taking it a step further. The Louvre is swapping its audio tours for hand-held game consoles with themed commentaries, multiple language capabilities and even 3D capability, through a partnership with Nintendo.
What are you doing with audio content and social media? Share your ideas in the comments.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

When you add up the weight of this week, where do you wind up?  Right here, where you can get smarter over the weekend with the good reads, resources and finds I discovered in my Twitterstream. Take a load off with these finds:
A different version of the weight of the week, to send you into the weekend. Thanks again for reading and sharing these posts!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Intern got you up a social-media tree? How to regroup and take back your feed

So you let the intern take charge of the social media and now...you're stuck, aren't you? Don't get me wrong. I love interns. But foisting your social media off on them isn't going to help you, now or in the long run. Here are the downsides of delegating social tasks to interns, and how to get yourself out of that tree you're in:
  • You don't know how it's done, yourself: Letting your intern set up your social accounts, choose the platforms or learn how to do the posting means that, at a minimum, you're going to have to retrain the next intern--if you actually understand how it works yourself. Make sure you all learn together, lest that intern graduate you right out of a social media presence, and set up a system where you have access to passwords and logins.
  • You don't share the strategy with them:  Deft as they can be at setting up a Facebook event, most interns use social media best as a personal tool to talk to friends--and lack the strategic mindset. So include them in discussions of whom you're aiming to reach and how and why.
  • You've tossed out the leader's voice: There's little in social media as irresistible as the chance to hear from (and exchange thoughts with) a leader, be that a vice president, manager or the CEO herself. Handing the Twitter feed, blog or Facebook posts to the intern means you've just given away a hometown advantage that draws readers. Get your leader out there and see the difference. Do it right, though--no ghostwriting. Remember, in some cases, the "leader" may be a member, a volunteer, a donor, or a subject-matter expert, not just the top brass in management.
  • The tone's not engaging: I'd be careful if I were an intern, wouldn't you? (Heck, I've been in client offices where someone stood over the intern, dictating a Facebook post.) The result is safe, but not engaging--and too often, because it's limited to pushing out information, there's no listening and responding going on in your feed. That'll quickly lose you readers, and attention. Work with whomever is posting to help them develop not just a push-out automaton tone, but the skills to listen and respond. You want to engage your members/customers/partners and that means developing a voice in your social posts--one you can live with. 
Need to come up with a smart staffing strategy for your social posts? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Smart, small, successful ways with social media for small business

If you're hanging back from using social media to market your small business because it feels like starting yet another business, or if you're overwhelmed by all the choices, think again. There are smart, small and successful ways to use social media strategically to boost your business without taking up all your time. Here are some strategic ideas and real-life lessons to consider:
I spoke on this topic last week at the small business committee of the Montgomery County, Md., Chamber of Commerce, and this post serves as their "handout" for the session. Let me know if you need a speaker on social media topics; email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Put out those fires yet? Well, hurry up, willya? We've got a weekend to get started over here. There was plenty of smoke and heat on Twitter this week, and my stream yielded a firehose-worth of good reads, ideas and smart stuff. Here's the best of what I thought was hot this week:
'Tis the season: I've just sent a dozen clients a package of information about full-day and half-day group trainings in media interview skills. It includes sample workshop outlines, considerations communicators should weigh when booking a training, tips on answering media interview questions, my clients' recommendations and trainees' reactions and more. Want one for your own planning purposes? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz. I'd love to work with you in 2012.

As usual, you're my best sources of info, so don't hold back on sending your suggestions, ideas and leads. I appreciate your reading--and U.S. readers, enjoy that loooong weekend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social media cre8ives x 3: Hashtags, Twitter handles, Pinterest boards

Every once in a while, as I monitor what's going on in social media, I come across ideas that at once strike me as smart and creative. Here are three that met that bar recently:
  1. The hashtaggable headline:Those New York Times reporters not calling you back? Might be because they're busy thinking up Twitter hashtags when they create the headline or title copy for articles. My question: Are you doing the same? I've been known to work a hashtag right into a headline for posts that my RSS feeder will push out to Twitter on the first go-round. A smart time-saver.
  2. "And now @hockeygod takes the ice...:" It's started in lacrosse: The Philadelphia Wings are the first North American professional sports team to use Twitter handles as the names on players' jerseys. This is so smart, it should have you rethinking everything from names stitched into physician labcoats to conference nametags and more. 
  3. The imaginary Pinterest: NPR Fresh Air associate producer Melody Kramer has started some Pinterest boards I'm predicting will catch on with others, by creating board with items that a famous artist, past or present, would have pinned if Degas had a Pinterest or if John Waters had a Pinterest. The celebrities need not be real people, either. There's the wry If Harriet the Spy Had a Pinterest board, for example. The possibilities are, well, endless. What will you create?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Was this week all wheels and gears--even if they were just whirring around in your mind? Well, here's the weekend, almost. The conveyor belt that was this week yielded plenty of good finds on Twitter, where my stream was full of the usual ideas, sources and cool examples we can steal. Here are the best of my finds to propel you into the weekend:
What a crazy week, on my end. Let's all say it together: TGIF. I'm grateful, as always, for having you on the other end of these posts, my dears.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

9 ways to blow your blog's horn without blowing it: Promotion you can live with

I'm often asked how to sustain a blog--a nod to the fact that they're easy enough to dream up and set up, but perhaps not so easy to keep alive. Or as my mother would say, "That blog isn't going to read itself."

Bottom line: You're going to have to blow your own horn, my friend, to get the readers that will make your blog more than an island of your thoughts. But how to do that without blowing it--in the wrong way? Here are some ways to promote your blogs and feeds that I think you can live with:
  1. Link your blog and your bio: You're an author and publisher if you have a blog, so make sure it's in every bio with a link. Add it to your email signature, one of your most frequent yet ignored promotional options. Link to your blog's "about" page on your Twitter profile (it's an amazing traffic-driver). 
  2. Give us something to go on: Every time I see a post on Twitter that says "I posted a new blog" I figure you're proud that you actually posted. If you want me to read it, stop focusing on your accomplishment and tell me what's at the link. The same goes for that email you just sent telling me you have a newly redesigned website. Focus on the content, folks. That's what we're looking for. And if all you do is push out your content, I'm far less likely to click that link. Prove you're a human and start having some discussions with people.
  3. Speak to your blog: Every speaking gig or presentation can become a gateway to your blog if you include it in your bio or introduction; talk about it in your speech; and write a post to serve as an electronic handout, rather than giving out your slides or just mentioning it on the final slide. I've even taken video of audience questions and posted them on my blogs later with answers and links--great way to keep engaging your speaking audience long after the presentation is done.
  4. Drive traffic on the right sites: Traffic-driving sites have been shaken up recently by Pinterest, which is a strong traffic driver despite its newcomer status. All you have to do is create boards on the topics that your blog covers, then pin blog items directly to them so that your pinned items link back to your blog. Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and and YouTube combined. At the same time, a design change in StumbleUpon means it's now less reliable as a traffic-driver. Twitter remains a top traffic-driver. Not sure which site works best for you? Do a three-month pilot test, measuring your baseline and results.  
  5. Make it easy for me to follow and share your stuff: I've lost track of the number of times I've read a great blog post, then searched in vain for a "pin this," +1, retweet, or Facebook "like" button. Failing those options, I look for an RSS feed so I can read and share from Google Reader--and often find that missing, too. Even if you already publish on the very shareable Facebook and Twitter, make sure your blog has the buttons to share, too. The functionality is built into most blog platforms, so this should be easy.
  6. Cultivate tipsters: When people start to bring you fodder for your blog--sources, articles, "this made me think of your blog" flotsam and jetsam, pictures, ideas--you know it's taking hold, since the tipster has to have read enough to understand your take. (The tipster's much better than the people who pitch releases and products, for bloggers just as for reporters.) A tipster's the best kind of fan, so thank them and do some periodic posts that let tipsters know their contributions are welcome. If you work at a company or organization, cultivate internal and external tipsters on different channels.  Don't forget to ask them for their ideas of what they'd most like to see on the blog, an easy and authentic way to get content ideas that people actually want to see.
  7. Tip off your mentions and those most likely to share or recommend: Got people you reference in your blog, top sources or those who take your posts and write their own around them? Send them an email, direct message or some other behind-the-scenes heads-up when you post something you think they can use. Don't overdo this, but do make sure they hear from you first when they are mentioned or it's their regular beat.
  8. Thank your sharers: A corollary to cultivating tipsters is to thank the people who share your stuff, via retweets, Facebook shares or other reposts, links or mentions. You can leave a comment on their blog posts mentioning your post, send a "thanks for the RT" tweet or other appropriate public recognition. Keep track of those who share your stuff, too. One of the best ideas I've seen about Google+ was to create a circle called "People who RT me," but you could also make Twitter and FB lists for the same purpose. Make sure they get thanks, and updates, directly from you for spreading your blog posts far and wide. This is the community-building part of your blog. I know some bloggers who've given this up as a time-consuming task, but it pays big dividends.
  9. Summarize your stuff: Not everyone will read everything you do (shocking, but true). So serve it up in different ways: Publish a list of the most-read posts every month, share them in a monthly newsletter via email, and make sure your RSS option includes the chance to subscribe via email.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Engaged to enraged: The "blister factor" in the Komen backlash

What if I told you that your organization or company could get these results in social media with almost no preparation and in just 72 hours:
  • 20 posts per minute from your Facebook followers on the wall of your corporate page;
  • For some of your Facebook posts, as many as 7,000-10,000 comments and more than 400 shares apiece; and
  • More than 130,000 views of your CEO's video message on YouTube, with close to 5,500 comments and about 8,000 people hitting a reaction button.
Or these results, achieved with some groundwork already in place:
  • 1.3 million posts in three days supporting your organization on Twitter, with 460,000 of those occurring on just one day;
  • Raising $3 million in three days, based on social media posts; and
  • Increasing your individual donors 400% within hours of losing a major six-figure funder.
In both cases, those fans weren't just engaged. They were enraged. The first set of numbers represent overwhelmingly negative online feedback followers and others sent to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure during the three-day firestorm following news of its decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings for low-income women. The second set of numbers go to Planned Parenthood.

How negative was Komen's feedback? The 20-posts-per-minute were 20 negative posts per minute on Facebook for Komen. The close to 8,000 button-hitters on YouTube hit the dislike button 6,500 times. Komen had a long way to fall from the top in social media: In October, All Facebook put it among the top five "liked" nonprofits on Facebook and it still has more than a half-million "likes" there. 

Dubbed a mega-outcry, the controversy had some discussing why this de-funding of Planned Parenthood took off like a rocket, when the U.S. government almost shut down over the same issue last year, with a lot less public debate.  I chalk that up to the palpable relationship that thousands have with the foundation and its activities, based on their very real offline walks, donations and fundraising efforts. (They contribute taxes and votes to the federal government, but don't feel the same way about the relationship, I'm guessing.)  Similarly, traditional media coverage pegged this as a "social media firestorm," focusing on the numbers and the technology. But before you even start counting the social-media stats, Komen counts a base of "100,000 survivors and activists," and notes that it rallies "local activists in more than 120 cities and communities, mobilizing more than 1 million friends and neighbors every year" through its races and events.

Call it the blister factor: the millions of blisters developed, miles logged, friends asked for contributions, pink t-shirts donned and products bought with pink ribbons on them. The value of these volunteers, activists and survivors is their real-life presence and contribution, and while it may not match Komen's big-ticket sponsors in dollar value or social-media oomph, it matters to those who gave up their time, money and sweat. Cruise the comments and you'll see people pledging never to give, race or campaign for Komen again. Ironically, our love affair with virtual likes, fans and followers might have us forgetting the real people who do real things for our companies and organizations, from buying products to volunteering, donating and more.

There are enough public relations lessons from the Komen controversy to fuel 1,000 dissertations or more. But for those of us who need to maneuver strategically and in real time, here are the lessons I'm taking away from this, in terms of social media, followers and volunteers:
  • It's really time to get away from the more-is-better theory of fan numbers:  I know my savvy communicator-readers know this, but your senior management may still be calling for "more, more, more!" when they ask for proof that this social-media thing is working. Here's an opportunity to point out that more can backfire...
  • ...but there is one "more" to which you should pay attention: That would be the friends of your friends, the followers of your followers, the sharers of your likers' likes. I'm one in this case: I'm not a donor, volunteer or follower of either Komen or Planned Parenthood, but this week, I shared news, hit the like button and used my wall to pass on Planned Parenthood's messages in protest. By the way, Facebook's advertising tool makes it easy for you to get a count of the friends of your friends, and easy to reach them directly as well.
  • There are better ways to find out about the wisdom of the crowd: Social media or not, when I see a company or organization this far off-base about its followers' reactions, I know that it didn't just get out of touch yesterday. So I'll ask you: How often are you asking your followers what they think, not just about issues of the day, but about decisions you are considering or steps you might take? You won't be able to please everyone, but taking the sense of the crowd will increasingly be important if you are to avoid this kind of backlash. What would this have looked like if Komen had conducted a "listening tour" about whom it funds and how? Less like a surprise, for starters.
  • If you're not ready, we'll be able to tell right away: Social media can make your tin ear or blind eye obvious not only to your devoted followers, but the rest of us...fast. The New York Times tells us "The controversy that burst into harsh public light this week had been brewing for years" and "When the decision was finalized in December, the thinking was that not announcing it publicly would help avoid controversy." But you knew that, just from the way this presented itself. If ever there were a case for saying, "Okay, but let's prepare something just in case we do need it," this would be it. Planned Parenthood, already used to attacks of this type, had a "Stand with Planned Parenthood" logo, Facebook profile badge and messaging already in use, and sounded as if its messaging was well-thought-out in advance...and ready to share to keep up with the explosive reactions.
  • What's the blister factor? If your online supporters have been active offline for you--and here I count groups like university students, consumers, and neighbors as well as volunteers and donors--figure out how to factor in their offline contributions when you consider their "likes" and follows and shares. If they've put some elbow grease behind their online presence for you, expect stronger reactions and the need to spend more, not less, time seeking their input.
Komen officials are now in "full damage-control mode," with a focus on fans and followers. But as any runner could have told them, the best time to take care of a blister is before it develops.

(Photo from Kodamakitty's photostream on Flickr. Sources for the social media statistics include coverage in the New York Times, YouTube, Jezebel, the Komen Foundation Facebook page, All Facebook, Please note that these numbers will have changed by the time this post is published.)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Did you get through the week without having a big idea? Here's one that will recur: The weekend's here. On Twitter, my stream was full of good reads, finds and yes, ideas. Here are the best ones, saved up just to help you transition out of the week:
What a week! I appreciate your readership here...it makes the blog work. Enjoy that weekend.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Drumming up Pinterest in your brand, business, school, or cause: 9 smart steps

Brands and communicators are feeling their way around Pinterest, the "virtual pin board" social network that's growing by leaps and bounds: Just since the start of 2012, total views of Pinterest jumped from 10 million to 17 million. But Pinterest doesn't let you message people or forward posts to particular groups, and the visual has to drive your thinking.

Those factors are slowing down some otherwise aggressive marketers while they figure things out--and that's not a bad thing. And there are plenty of businesses and marketers dismissing the network because it's used primarily by women, a big mistake that may work in your favor. You can stand out early on Pinterest by using these nine ways to drum up interest in your Pinterest posts, many of which work just fine for individual users as well as brands, businesses, universities, government agencies and nonprofits:
  1. Repost your best content here: Pinterest, new as it is, drives more traffic to blogs and websites than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube--combined. I'm already seeing this on my blogs, where Pinterest is now the number two referrer after Google searches--in less than a month. That means you really do need to include photos or videos with your blog posts, since it's the visual that pulls in the Pinterest user. To make sure it links to your post, install the Pinterest "pin it" button to your bookmarks bar and use it to repost your blog item. Pinterest wants you to write a few words about any post to put it in context, so make sure you make this short plug tantalizing. 
  2. Remember that Pinterest is not a text-heavy blog: Don't, on the other hand, post a photo and write a lot of text about it on Pinterest if you could have pointed the user to your blog or website. A little text goes a long way here. Images with some text, however, work well here. 
  3. Don't put all your blog posts on the same board: Subdividing your blog may seem unnatural, but  it makes more sense on Pinterest, where the specific seems to draw interest. So if you post on more than one topic within your subject area, it pays to make a board for each one. You may want to divide your subject by month, color (thinking visually), theme, issue, activity, age group....you get the idea. This is a great opportunity to find those interested in your niche topics.
  4. Show me where you fit into my life:  It's a lifestyle network, so start thinking about how your brand, cause or business affects people's lives when you're coming up with a content strategy. Can you show me a role model, give me some inspiration, share some tips, give me a new perspective on something I've seen a million times, save me time or money, shorten my search for the perfect ______ or just give me more things from which to choose? Then you'll do well here.
  5. Don't just post about work issues. Pinterest doesn't ban brands outright, but asks that your posts not be wholly self-promotional.  As with other social networks, those of you using them for work purposes need to add some personal information, in my view, lest we see you in only one dimension. Check my tips for how to balance personal and professional on Twitter to get started. Share what you're reading, where you're traveling, what you're eating--all easily translated to the visual. Comment on others' posts where you share an interest. You know, socialize.
  6. Help users populate their wish lists. Brands know (or should know) that readers keep lists of things they might want to buy or do. Pinterest really takes that to another level by serving as an aspirational network. It lets us share our bucket lists, good intentions, inspirations, shopping lists, and lists of ideas for our next event, birthday, trip, cocktail party or volunteer effort. So you get a couple of advantages: You can use Pinterest as intelligence-gathering on your users' wish lists, and then you can start building boards with items that will make it onto users' wish lists, with all the great benefits that come when they start sharing your items.
  7. Make boards reserved for repinning others' posts related to your work.  Repinning others' posts is an easy way to get new followers and build relationships. So when your university's alumni post photos of their favorite spots on campus or your hotel's guests share photos of the spa and pool, repin them on a special board for that purpose. When you repin, you can retain their note, and add more text--so add a special tip or fun fact that your pinner might not know. They'll get a notification when you repin, so this is a basic way to connect with fans.
  8. Use your other channels to make sure users know where to find you on Pinterest: Whether they're early adopters or just catching on, everyone's scrambling to find people on this network, which doesn't yet suggest people to follow. So use your blog posts and tweets and Facebook page to make sure your followers know where to find you. While you're at it, ask your home crowd how they use the site and what they'd like to see from you there.
  9. Stay smart with search and scouting: Use Pinterest's search box to search for boards, pins or people on the site, and scout around for others posting in your specialty area. Some users have been playing with Pinterest for two years now, and it pays to pay attention to their likes and dislikes. At a minimum, use your scouting to find out what they are already posting, and figure out how to build on it. Just like any other social network (and maybe more so), you won't engage users if you are not interested in what interests them--nor if you're just pushing out your own stuff.
While you're using Pinterest, stay smart about copyright. Here's how Pinterest avoids violating copyright, but that puts the onus on you to properly credit your sources. And check your settings: You'll want to turn off the options to share with Facebook and Twitter every move you're making on Pinterest, trust me. Want more ideas? Read my list of 17 things you can pin on Pinterest that are not pillows or dresses to get your creative ideas going--it's already one of the most-read-ever posts on this blog.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Where to catch me....speaking

While you're making sure you don't get caught unprepared, you can catch me speaking to these fine organizations in the next month or so. Let me know if you'll be attending one or more of these meetings, and keep an eye out for related posts on the blog--as most readers know, I prefer to put my "handouts" here, in electronic form, as a permanent resource for all to share. Catch me speaking at:

  • The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows' professional development series. I'll be facilitating a workshop on media interview skills on the morning of February 13, helping fellows use "elevator speeches" as a guide to developing their media interview skills. AAAS policy fellows only can register here. You can get a head start by reading my post on how to use your elevator speech in a media interview without sounding like a robot.
  • The Montgomery County, Maryland, Chamber of Commerce small business committee will host me to speak about "Smart, Small, Successful Ways with Social Media for Small Business," focusing on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and more--and how to make the most of marketing on social media without letting it take up all your time. For Chamber members, February 15 in Rockville, Maryland.
  • At the Ragan 2012 Speechwriters and Executive Communicators Conference, I'm moderating a panel on speechwriting while female at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, March 16. Register at the link.
Need a speaker on public speaking, presentations, social media or the shifting sands of communications strategies for your organization? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.