Tuesday, 30 September 2008

More justification of Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Increasingly, at meetings and networking events, I am finding that Twitter is getting into my conversations with people. It has clearly grown up a lot and the profile of this tool is spreading way beyond the geeky, nerdy space that it was initially supporting.

However, the usual thing I get is "yeah, I looked at Twitter, but I just dont have time for any more social stuff" or "ok, but what's in it for me, there's no revenue I can earn, is there?"

Others use it, but dont have a clear justification as to why - they just "do".

Me? I used it initially to keep friends and family up to date with my activities, filling a useful, non-invasory, more personal space where they can look if they want, or ignore if not.

I've expanded on that to keep up to date with other people who's work or profile I am interested in, and hopefully vice versa. I have definately gained leverage, and here's a good example:

There was someone who's blog I used to read fro time to time, that I then followed on Twitter, got to understand the real them a little more, then entered into infrequent dialogue. Then I was able to connect to them on LinkedIn, and a while later, when I was looking for a contact at a particular organisation, I found that I was connected via this original individual, so was easily able to effect an introduction. Fantastic!

There are lots of ways to use Twitter to engage, or to disseminate useful information, and I have blogged before (and again) about some, but I found out recently that some enterprising soul (Tom Morris) has set up a London Underground Twitter tracker to spread service information on the lines - its starting to catch on, what would you rather have - an SMS every 10 minutes, 90% of which you dont want to receive (as you are already at work?!), or a feed that you can look at at your leisure, whilst en route to a station?

I think this is another great example of an application for the Twitter tool, just think how easy it would be to do the same if you were a small courier company, with the drivers texting back the last delivery they made, the traffic situation and so forth to a central operator, with the other drivers able to find that information via SMS or WAP; a really simple, non-invasive and time-saving business tool. what do you think?

There's a whole load of tools, tips and advice on how best to use Twitter, which Connie Benson has kindly recently summarised here.

At the very least I recommend visiting these (my favourites):

> Twitter in plain english (well, American, anyway) on YouTube

> A Bloggers guide to how to use Twitter

Rather than aim for a follower profile in Twitter of thousands and have no real strategy for it, there are many ways you can use it effectively in a small scale; I'd love to hear more examples.

What do you think? How are you using it, or why wouldnt you?

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Monday, 8 September 2008

Building your personal brand

Chris Brogan, social media expert blogger and speaker in the US, often writes about building your own personal brand in his blog.

He has recently published this excellent, free e-book on the subject and, whilst in the web 2.0 / social media / online world it is something that is perhaps easily understood and related to, in the less-aware offline world of networking amongst business professionals, the same thoughts are valid and have formed the cornerstone of many a business person's networking for years - Chris manages to link the on and offline "rules of engagement" really well.

Many years ago, at a previous company, my boss had several simple mantras that ran through every aspect of his business focus;
He would tell me "people buy people" and
"its not what you know, its who you know"
and, having generated the bulk of his work through personal recommendation for his whole life, would always ask clients "if you are happy with our work, please tell someone else, if not, please tell us!"
It worked.
And he had an impressive, yet simple database of all contacts, clients and prospects that he could easily sift to find a particular person.

I learned early on the value of these words and have always valued my contacts - you just never know when you are going to need a bridge to someone or somewhere, maintaining trust and respect with your network is essential to being able to use those contacts.

Over the years I have stayed tight to those mantras and with the advent of social tools, the whole process is much simpler to put into place and manage.

I can use LinkedIn to manage my business contacts (and now have a clearer idea as to who they can get me in touch with by), Twitter to keep my network up to date on what I am doing, my blog to publish thoughts and insight and garner response from my network and Facebook and other sites to manage personal contacts whilst maintaining a consistent profile across all sites.

Having a clear idea about your personal brand is essential, knowing how to implement it online is the next stage and Chris Brogan's ebook covering strategy and 100 tips on tactical suggestions and ideas should be on everyone's reading list this week. Thanks Chris!

The key things I think anyone should take from it at the very least are:
> Be yourself
> Be honest
> Listen
> Be confident and passionate, but dont brag
> Apologize if you mess up, and be sincere
> Dont try to SELL. Few people like being sold to, but most like buying. Help them to buy.

I hope that my old boss will be pleased that I have developed his ideaology into my own variant:
"Its not (just) what you know, but who, and how you can use it for and with those contacts"

What do you think?

Picture credit Brymo

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Tag clouds - identify your core messages

Tag clouds have been used for a while in blogs and article publications on the internet. They provide a means for any casual passer-by to gather, at a glance, what an article or blog is focussing on. Usually they are made up of the keywords the writer has used to categorise and reference their articles, but often are an indication of the most recurring words in a site. In a tag cloud the most frequently used tags are shown biggest, reducing in size as the frequency diminishes.

Some tag clouds are interactive, so you can click on the tag and be taken to relevant articles, others are merely informational, visual indicators.

Now there is a (fun?!) tool for any blog, article, or indeed, any section of text - www.wordle.net.

You can use it to either trawl your entire blog, or paste an article into the "wordleizer" and let it (after removing all common words such as and, the, in etc) give you a tag cloud where the most repeated words are presented in a stylised fashion.

It's bit of fun, but is useful to see which key words come up most often in a particular block of copy and a great visual check to see if the core messages and aims of your writing are coming through.

Here's one I did for a recent post on Social media opportunities for Businesses:

And the really nice thing about it is that it is free to use, since it is licenced under the Creative Commons initiative

Saturday, 19 July 2008

New BMW Advert - no test pilots

BMW have without doubt got a fantastic and valued brand that has its values deeply embedded, which makes for a great platform for creative advertising and marketing.

This interesting new advertising campaign draws on the implied faultless nature of their pre-owned cars, making a (nearly) seamless jump from a car manufacturer to human beauty, with all their brand values intact. A great example of advertising brand value rather than product.

I was going straight to my local dealer to kick some tyres and arrange a test drive (!!) before I realised that the ad would work just as well as part of a Government STD awareness campaign.

Replace the BMW inset panel with "Get yourself tested" - hey presto!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Are you missing out on a social network opportunity?

social sheep
The BBC report that Gartner have announced that many businesses are failing to embrace the "huge" opportunities of social networks.

The point of the article, however, is for once not about trying to market via social networks, but about how firms can understand and embrace how their staff engage via social networks to make efficiency savings and improve communications within their business.

But the opportunity goes further. Open-minded businesses can help be involved as staff build tighter communities in their organisations, places where they can share and innovate, in really constructive ways that are so fluid that staff will not even realise they are doing it.

So you get innovation.
And honesty.
And communication.
And community.
Which gives stronger loyalty and almost without doubt, numbers that hit the bottom line and therefore please the men in grey suits in finance, too..

Of course, this will not happen on its own, but an open-minded business can use social networks to truly engage with it's staff to ask questions and embrace collaboration, understand (and then potentially counter) areas of distrust or disenchantment and, in a broader sense, start to show the external world how they are listening to issues and feedback internally.

Its not just about listening, or even throwing sheep - careful use of tools like LinkedIn enable individuals and businesses to use the power of referral and networks of contacts, resulting in richer relationships and ultimately, better business with shorter lead times.

We all like to be heard and social networks enable ALL of us to share our innermost (or shallowest!) thoughts with our friends and peers.

Whether a business likes it or not, its staff, stakeholders and clients WILL be talking about it online, somewhere. So it is best to, at the very least, open an ear to what is going on and try to understand. If the business can engage, then there are potential riches that are otherwise almost certainly out of reach in this new, open World.

Picture credit Powi