4 issues surrounding Google Plus

There are a couple of issues surrounding Google Plus and its success or lack thereof. One of them seems to be that it’s hard to survey people because they get confused. Are they talking about their usage of Google Plus, or of any Google service? Offering everything as an integrated, wholistic Google universe can do that. Continue reading

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Online conversations: is automation worth your while?

A while ago there were plenty of blogs, including my own, reporting on the ways (fake) Likes, fans and followers on social media were at the heart of a commercial industry. Bloggers and heavy users of social media tend to automate or streamline at least part of their interactions.

Can you automate part of your actions without appearing – or being – ‘fake’ in the human sense? Should you?

Levels of engagement in conversations

Visitors and commenters: to automate - or not?The level of engagement involved in an online conversation can differ enormously. Dealing with online conversations can cost you hours upon hours. ‘Likes’ don’t seem to get a lot of follow-up by companies. However try to check up once a week or so – getting zero response is discouraging.

Related posts: Twitter automation, and A Clone War.

The role of automation in online conversations

What actions can you safely automate?

  1. Standard replies like “Thank you for the follow!”, “Thanks for the RT”, “Thanks for the mention”. This category was hit by Twitter’s decision to make automated actions by tools like IFTTT difficult. Meanwhile tools like Commun.it still collect new followers and interactions and compose standard messages for you to send. My advice: edit them.
  2. Messages on repeat thanks to tools like Buffer, like “Read my post on subject X” for the umpteenth time. My main problem is with people who quote at me when they’re not even online 🙂

Automating your responses to questions

While it’s up to you to decide what to automate, here’s my tip:

Try not to fool people into thinking they have a personal and meaningful relation with you when they don’t.

Answering questions literally on autopilot is tricky and that’s why not many businesses are doing it (yet). I once asked a new follower who had sent an automated “Thanks for the follow” tweet if they’d had a busy week, and the response was something like “Busy week! Check my FB page…”

I can’t tell you how to do this type of automation on Twitter without IFTTT but it’s probably either down to your budget or your technical abilities. But that’s beside the point.

Questions indicate a sincere interest in a topic or in you. Personally I would say never automate this type of action. Not even to seem polite.

Comments – the life blood of conversations

This is what you can’t yet leave to an automation tool (unless you have a really big budget). You don’t need me to point out that all comments are not equal. I suppose you could automate replies to really short “Great Post!” comments but is saying “thanks” really that much of a time waster?

For the more relevant comments: if you’re used to putting yourself on the stage through blogging or on social media, don’t forget others are not. The important thing here is to have a heart 🙂

Why relationships deserve your time even if you don’t have any

A while ago I happened to read Mark Schaefer’s reply to a comment on his blog. He stated that nowadays there seems to be less time to nurture client relationships since the first few contacts are online. What are the consequences of our online quests?

Marketing concerns: points of contact

Network: How Are Your Business Relationships

Network: How Are Your Business Relationships?
– Cartoon by HikingArtist.com

From a marketing point of view, relying on face-to-face contact means you’re missing part of the client’s route towards making a buying decision – and you may miss out on a sale without even knowing it.

A lot of effort from (social media) marketing is aimed at going where your customer has gone. When you find them you don’t want to annoy them with pointless ads in a place where they don’t want your darn ads.

Content marketing is a way to patch up the hole in the long road of relationship building caused by the people’s access to online information. You want to be found before your potential clients create a shortlist that hasn’t got your name on it.

‘Online’ and the impact on professional relationship building

If you leave aside the commercial impact of having fewer meet-ups, there’s also a ‘human’ aspect that you need to address. Research and experience give you a good idea of what goes on in your client’s market. But to know instantly what’s in your client’s head even without having talked to them recently, you need to have a fairly complete understanding of your client’s personality and experience. It’s hard to really care about people you don’t know, and you’re at your best if you do care about them:

  • if you care you want to know,
  • you don’t care if you don’t know,
  • … it’s a Matrix again I think – feel free to sketch one 😉

All this means just one thing:

Your relationships deserve your time, even if you don’t have any.

If you have a lot of clients you may be able to buy some marketing tool to support this kind of online/offline relationship building. But not everyone has a lot of clients or the access to such a tool (and tools can’t solve every issue). Fortunately you can look at what you would have done in an offline relationship – rather than viewing social media as a megaphone you shout your message down.

You do need to plan when you need to meet up and what you’ll share at what stage in the relationship. Another thing you want to know is if your online content has inspired the trust you want to inspire in your clients. And: what can you expect from them at what stage?

Invest time in your relationships. Risk really getting to know each other. There are probably worse things in life.

Read more:

How do you view the time and effort you invest in your (business) relationships?

How to start your career on LinkedIn

Last week I read a post about LinkedIn that got quite a few comments. One of them was “this is all very interesting but I’d like tips that will help me get started”. I recently updated my profile so I decided I’d think up some tips that might actually help rather than frustrate your career without your even noticing. Today’s post is the short-cut for hasty people – if you want to know more, read my next (Friday) post.

How to best invest your time and effort on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not where you’d start your social media ‘career’ today. Instead, you’re on Facebook or Twitter and at some point you’re told you need to be on LinkedIn for your career – or, at least, to make sure you don’t miss out on job opportunities because you’re not there.

My advice is to take the professional approach from day one. I have been on LinkedIn for over 4 years and all I can say is it probably pays to start even before you finish your education – in stead of switching careers 2 or 3 times beforehand, like I did 😉

Your career on LinkedIn: start here

Get your profile sorted first. To show you just how much this matters, I’ve written a separate post about it. If you want to get started today, but you don’t want to share your unfinished profile with the whole world just yet, sign up and then check out your settings – profile – Edit your public profile.

LinkedIn settings: Edit your public profile

In the next screen you can opt to share only the bits you’re happy about, or hide your profile altogether with this useful menu in the column on the right:

LinkedIn Profile Visibility

Here you can review your public profile and hide anything you feel is not up to scratch. If that leaves you with a minimalistic profile you know which parts you need to tackle at once.

Continue to work on the other parts and share those after extra thought and editing. After all it’s important information – based on this, a recruiter or a potential client may decide whether or not to contact you. They may check for your name elsewhere but let’s assume they’re human and therefore either too lazy or too busy.

Don’t forget to change your settings back when you’re done!

Tips to turn your profile into a career on LinkedIn

Try any or all of these actions. If you’re on LinkedIn but don’t have a clue how you should do any of it, just ask – I’ll write a post or two on individual actions I’ve listed here. My comments section below is open for business 😀

  1. Follow a couple of businesses you wouldn’t mind working for (as an employee or a business owner).
  2. Seek out recruiters who match your standards for social media usage. Some hide their networks from their connections, some don’t. Decide which kind you’re comfortable with.
  3. Connect with fellow students who basically face the same questions and consider teaming up to get the LinkedIn part of your lives up and running together.
  4. Find some active groups that are relevant to your professional interests. This way you keep up to date about your field of expertise, and these groups are shown on your profile (unless you hide them).
  5. Connect with a couple of teachers/professors. Criteria: depth/breadth of expertise, network, they teach your favorite topics, or you just get along with them well.

If you’re thinking of starting on LinkedIn and/or getting serious about your career, you’re welcome to share your thoughts – I promise to reply to any non-spammy comment 🙂

Online engagement: the future of Favorites

In the past few weeks, every single social network I’m on (and possibly a few I’m not using) changed in some way.

Just a few examples of recent or announced changes:

    • The ‘like’ is getting even more important – the Facebook search engine (Entrepreneur.com)
    • Profile photographs are getting more important on Facebook and on Twitter (larger photographs on Facebook & the added Twitter headers)
    • StumbleUpon changed its favorites to likes – this completely escaped my attention (thanks Andy Nathan for mentioning it)
    • Twitter is closing down any sharing option which allows Twitter content to be shared without showing its origins (LinkedIn, IFTTT)
    • Facebook is adding a Twitter-like follow option (“subscribe”). LinkedIn has done the same.

What is the future of the favorite - how will we mark items?At least two of these developments affect the future use of Favorites.

Time to look at how Favorites are currently being used – and what the future holds for them.

How to interpret a favorited item

In itself, marking an item is not an action which you would use to ‘engage with others’, it is a way to ‘engage with content’.

However, if someone favorites an item published by you on Twitter then you will receive a message about what they did – depending on whether you have decided to read that type of message. In other apps and social networks, different actions are triggered.

I’ve come up with 9 reasons anyone could have to mark an item:

  1. For later reading
  2. To thank the sharer for sharing (if you’re aware of the message being sent to the sharer)
  3. For later sharing (if you’ve sent too many messages out already)
  4. For later use in their own content
  5. To trigger an action (for example by IFTTT – until next week anyway) which will publish the favorited item onto another social network.
  6. On Zite, a ‘thumbs up’ will help determine what kind of content you are shown in future visits. Zite also has a ‘thumbs down’ option – this app is for your personal convenience.
  7. In StumbleUpon, a ‘like’ (or previously favorite) will help determine what kind of content you get to see in future visits to their websites. In case you’re not familiar with StumbleUpon: use a large screen for interests like Nature or Landscape and prepare to go “Wow!”
  8. To show the item to your followers – others with similar preferences, when they visit the StumbleUpon community to browse or ‘stumble’ their interests
  9. To give you more relevant search results (in Google Search). Google Plus has probably got a bigger over all impact than other forms of marking items: your pluses (as well as your other online activities) are tracked in order to personalize search results.

Note that this list does not include social motives I mentioned for Facebook-type likes in my previous post.

What to do if your tweets are favorited?

If someone adds one of your tweets to their favorites you have several options:

  • Ignore them. It is up to the reader to decide if they like your tweets.
  • Thank them. Most people are now on several social networks, and that means the use of favorites changes. However you may still surprise Twitter newbies if you respond to their actions – especially if they’re not active on other social networks.
  • Send a diplomatically worded message when you have another piece of content which might interest them (unless they’re following you of course).
  • Follow them.

A quick look at someone’s previous likes or favorites, or their presence on other networks, will give you the necessary insight into how that person values his or her actions.

Favorites and the future: social search

In some ways, networks are looking more and more like each other. They check what people like about each of them and implement whatever is lacking, or in need of improvement in their own network. A few trends:

  1. Social networks are drifting closer together. Certain aspects are viewed as normal, and any network lacking them does not meet the criteria of the mainstream users. ‘Social’ has become a commodity.
  2. Judging from recent news on social networks, the future contains more social search. Facebook’s search engine will apparently allow you to check things like: what nearby restaurant have your friends visited recently – and liked? By the way, there is a whole section “Facebook marketing” on Entrepreneur.com if you’re interested.
  3. Favorites will go pretty much in the same direction. Favorites on nearly every social network may turn into likes, if only to blend in with the rest. The way in which favorites are used will converge as well.

Social media convergence, social search – so what?

My main concerns with social search are: I want to know when I’m doing ‘social’ search – personalized search – and I want to be able to turn it off (I’m not kidding).

We need to be able to know what the (online) world looks like when we’re not influencing it.

How do you feel about the current tweaks, chops and prunings social networks and apps are getting? Are you looking forward to enhanced marketing opportunities? Or are you really not liking the way things are going? Love to hear from you!