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9 Social Media Crimes to Avoid

September 9th, 2011
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Given the prevalent use of social media among professionals, small businesses, huge corporations, and everyone in between, it still surprises me that the following 9 social media crimes are continually being committed, and it’s driving me nuts.

The funny part is that all of these crimes totally ignore the fact that social networking is SOCIAL.  Communicating on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is no different than talking to someone in person, on the phone, via text, or through email, it’s just a new platform for doing so.

This post originally ran over at Network Solutions’ Grow Smart Business blog.  Many thanks to Amanda Fischer at Grade A Marketing for her help with adding crimes to this list.

OK, time to get up on my soapbox.  In no particular order, here are the 9 social media crimes you need to avoid making:

1. Sending LinkedIn invitations without personalizing the message

“I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  Great, but why?  And also, please remind me where we’ve met if we’re not super good buddies.  Throw in something you remember me mentioning for extra brownie points.  But basically, don’t be so lazy you can’t take 30 seconds to compose a short note to me.  It smacks of sloppiness.

2. Sending LinkedIn invitations to total strangers

If I had a dollar for every invitation I’ve received from complete and total strangers (who also ALWAYS commit Crime #1), I could go to a very nice restaurant for dinner tonight.  Doing this is akin to walking up to someone on the street who you’ve never met and asking them to be your friend.  It’s weird.

Instead, go through our mutual connections and request an introduction from someone we both know.  Or, for pete’s sake, take 30 seconds to write me a personal note and explain why you want to be connected with me.

When I get one of these invites, I reply very nicely with something like this: “I am so sorry, but your name doesn’t ring a bell.  Have we met?”  Then I go scream into a pillow.

3. Using Twitter like it’s a megaphone

By now, I can spot the Twitter spammers: they’re the ones who have 10,000 followers and 3 tweets.  But when I get a notification that someone is now following me on Twitter, I generally check out their feed to see what they’re tweeting, if they’re retweeting, if they’re mentioning other people and companies in their tweets, and if they’re having conversations with others.

If you are not doing any of this and just using Twitter like a megaphone to push out your own content and tweet your own ideas, I have zero interest in following you back.

4. Locking your Twitter account

Will someone please explain to me why it’s OK to restrict your Twitter account so only select people can see it?  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of Twitter? A few times a week, I get followed by people with locked Twitter accounts.  I have to then ask their permission to follow them back.  Not very social, is it?  Why don’t they just hang up a velvet rope around their account and hire a big burly bouncer while they’re at it?

5. Not sharing photos or videos on Facebook

Facebook is a very visual medium.  If all you do is update your status with text, you are boring, and by extension, so are your brand and company and products and services.  I like fun people and companies, as I am sure you do too.  I don’t want to work with boring people, and if I think you’re boring, I won’t work with you.

6. Friending strangers

Just as sending an invitation to total strangers to connect on LinkedIn is not cool, same over at Facebook.  It’s very stalker-ish behavior.

7. Using Facebook Groups as a sales platform

Do not start a group on Facebook and then use it as a sales platform.  As Amanda pointed out, the person who started the group is usually the only one contributing, which means the posts are one-sided, uninteresting, desperate and usually pushy.  It’s a social media tactic for those who are used car salesmen at heart.

8. Trying to connect with everyone everywhere

Repeatedly sending invitations to connect on multiple social networks – including ones that no one has heard of – will cause people to avoid you like the plague.  Social networks are only beneficial when widely adopted, and if I am already using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, why would I spend time and energy on a new, unproven network?  I am going to focus my attention on my existing networks and ignore EFactor, Referral Key, and FastPitch.

9. Sharing is not always caring

Amazing as it sounds, some people don’t seem to understand that no one cares what you had for lunch or what errands you ran this evening.  This is not newsworthy unless it is somehow tied to a major company success or failure, encountered a news item in the making, made an embarrassing mistake, or ran into a celebrity.

Monika Jansen

Monika, President of Jansen Communications, is a marketing communications consultant with over ten years of marketing and corporate communications experience. By writing and editing fresh and succinct copy that is aligned with an organization’s overall marketing strategy, she positions her clients as thought leaders and energizes their lead generation and nurturing programs. Her expertise includes website content, blogs, newsletters, marketing collateral (brochures, white papers, and articles), and annual reports.

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First Things First: Starting with “Why” in Website Content Development

May 15th, 2011

I have often railed about how web content should connect with your target audience and not simply broadcast what you do.  The audience is in charge online and, therefore, you need to speak directly to their needs and what they look for during a search.  Then you bridge from those needs to how your services or product benefits them.

Creating this type of website is easier said then done, but a lightbulb kicked on at a talk I heard recently that focused on not only how to create audience- centered content, but how to have your client get 100% behind that effort.

At PalantirLive, I had the privilege to hear Simon Sinek give a talk similar to his TedTalk.  His principle point is that people make decisions in their limbic system, which is non-verbal.  Therefore if you want people to follow you or buy your product, you need to make an emotional appeal first.  Then you can make a more logical appeal.

This is done most successfully if you provide people with the “why” of what you do.  If they agree with your “why”, they will want to benefit from it.  He goes on to say that this is reason great leaders (whether companies or individuals) are great.  Once you establish the “why” you move to the “how” and then finally to the “what” of your company.

Simon Sinek on 'Why and The Golden Circle'

For a company, the “how” is your unique method or special formula, and your “what” is simply your product or service.  Too many websites only give the “what” but don’t attempt to convey the “why” or “how”. This means they often do not successfully “connect” with their target audiences’ needs.

So, during web content strategy meetings, I have started leading clients through the “why” of what they do and “how” that “why” connects to each of their target audiences. (See my previous post on the Find, Connect, Engage, or FACE, model for the importance of the “connect”).

I just tried this method out earlier this past week, during which I teased out the “why” of the company and “how that connects” for each target audience of a company with 4 divisions and about 10 distinct audiences.  We systematically took our company-wide “Why” and explained how that “Why” and the subsequent “How” benefits each of these audiences.

The result?  Well, Monika is still working on the content, but we did have immediate feedback.  Everyone loved participating in the 2 hour meeting even though it went for 3 hours. And they left motivated and enthused about “why” they do what they do.  But most importantly we will soon have audience-centered content for their new website that connects the company to each of their target audiences’ needs.

Ken Fischer

Ken Fischer is the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for Inc, a web-based software and social media strategy company. At CFH, Ken has led over 100 software and web projects, including creating online communities, tools to measure the effectiveness of public service announcements, web based messaging, and online collaboration tools with unique search capabilities. Ken has also led software development projects in a wide diversity of industries such as finding new way to better deliver reliability centered-maintenance, to onsite visual iAHAection to creating online communities. Ken is also the founder of Gov20Labs and Director of Gov 2.0 Events for Potomac Forum. He has been involved in the Gov 2.0 movement to create continuing education workshops, as a sponsor, and as a solutions provider for over three years. Ken is especially interested in using technology to make Government more effective, efficient, and accountable through transparency, participation, and collaboration. He actively blogs on Open Government and creates training programs for the planning and implementation of Open Government. (He does not speak on behalf of any federal, state or local governments.) Ken also blogs about the commercial side of web 2.0 at web20blog.

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5 Ways to Promote Your Business for Free

May 1st, 2011

Free signFavorable PR is always helpful to the bottom line of a small business.   There are many paths leading to business exposure that come with a price tag, but many people don’t know about all the ways you can gain exposure with little or no monetary investment.   Here are five you should try:

1. List Your Business: There are many websites that are widely used as search tools, and it is free to post information about your business on many of them.  Just think: People may actually be searching for your specific product or service….If you are not listed, you are losing out on a valuable sales opportunity.

Line up your free or low cost listings at Google Places, DexKnowsSwitchboard, InsiderPages, SuperPages and DexKnows helps customers find local businesses in search-engine fashion, with side-by-side comparisons, maps and more. Yahoo Local Listings are based on a flat fee (or no fee) basis. A basic listing is free; enhanced listing is $9.95 per month and featured listing is $25 per month.   The search box at lets users search for “What” and “Where” at the same time. Add or update your own business listing; a basic listing is free, a featured listing is $10 per month, and a full-blown “Master Profile” is $40 per month.

2. Develop Social Media Pages: Social media is not just for interacting with your audience, clients or colleagues.  Representation on these sites helps to drive traffic to your website and increase your organization’s web presence and SEO ratings.

I suggest starting with a Linked In company page, Twitter, and YouTube account.  Especially in the business-to-consumer space, a Facebook page for your business can prove exceedingly beneficial.  Professionally, it helps to have a personal LinkedIn page where people may read your bio and view testimonials.  My Space is absolutely necessary ONLY if you are in the music industry.

3. Seek Out Public Speaking Opportunities: Actively look for opportunities to speak on panels and participate in seminars, workshops and presentations.  This type of platform allows you to express your industry expertise while adding credibility to your business.  You can look for openings to showcase your business through public speaking in many networking groups including your local Chambers of Commerce.

4. Start Writing: Writing a blog or articles places you in the conversation.  Even better, you increasingly become viewed as an expert.  What business owner doesn’t want advice from a field expert?

Bylined articles are articles written for the print media (usually at the invitation of the editor) about your area of expertise. Opportunities can range from a 250-word squib to a 2,000-word feature. A short paragraph at the end of the article usually recaps the author’s credentials, explains his/her company or organization title and affiliation, and provides the reader with website contact information.  If you can score an opportunity like this, take it.  If you can’t, start by blogging.

5. Protect your Reputation: Don’t under-estimate word of mouth (or WOM).  Good customer service goes a long way.  Stay top-of-mind with clients, prospects and colleagues by remembering that givers gain.  Reputation is a powerful marketing tool.  Good intentions, follow-through, and delivery are all imperative.  If you provide great service, you can ask your customers to help you enhance the reputation of your business.

For example, Angie’s List has become one of the most popular sites on the web for customer reviews and recommendations of local service businesses in 150 cities nationwide. You can’t review or even list your own business there, but you can get yourself on their radar, correct inaccuracies, AND ask customers who belong to Angie’s List to recommend your business on the site. Angie’s CompanyConnect section has information for small business owners about how the site works.

What about bad PR?

Some people believe all PR is good PR….as long as they spell your name right.  I tend to disagree and do believe that bad PR can be detrimental to your business, if even for a short time. Of course you want to stay top-of-mind, but being top-of-mind with a potential customer will do no good if the overpowering feeling associated with your business is negative.

Buying decisions are powered by feelings.  If the prospect has bad feelings about your company, the decision will not work in your favor.    Indeed, bad news travels much faster than good news.  If your client has a great experience, they are likely to tell zero to one person.  If your customer has a bad experience, he or she is sure to broadcast their distaste to ten people or more….And then there’s the internet which compounds this process infinitely.

Still, if you manage your “bad PR” properly, you can come out of the situation on top.

Freedom of speech on the web is important.  Not everyone is going to like everything about you or your company.  Maybe it’s honest feedback, and you really should listen.  Maybe the harmful comment shows a lack of perspective.  In these instances, so-called “bad PR” can help you grow.

Use the feedback to create a favorable impression by addressing the concern and offering additional resources.   Even “bad PR” can create a great opportunity if attended to appropriately.  Look how Taco Bell has spun their “it’s not meat” situation.

Image courtesy of Flickr user jking89.

Amanda Fischer

Amanda has worked with over 300 companies in areas of operations, communications, public relations, sales and marketing. Her company, Grade A Marketing supports a wide variety of organizations with extensive experience in professional services, consumer products and health care. Amanda strives to unite marketing and sales goals by forming practical and purposeful plans to ultimately increase revenue.

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PHAAT – Five Essential Presentation Components

April 21st, 2011

I’ve been a screenwriter for almost 20 years and have taught screenwriting for half that long. The elements of dramatic storytelling that all screenwriters learn from day one are equally important and relevant to entrepreneurs. When I coach entrepreneurs and executives preparing for high-stakes presentations, this is where we start. The five essential presentation components are as follows:

Passion – Why tell us this story? Why should an investor care? Your story must be appealing, personal, and original. If it’s important to us, it better be important to you.

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to ask local Democratic committees to host his fundraising events at a place of local significance. He would open his remarks with what that local place and its history meant to him. This homage to a place of local sentiment created a rapport that made people open their wallets and donate to the party.

Hero – Who will lead us? The answer to that question creates audience buy-in. We love to root for the underdog. Are you passionate enough to take a risk? Why should an investor shoulder risk if you won’t?

Ronald Reagan used heroes to make abstract or difficult concepts concrete. Reagan would point to an “American Hero” placed at the edge of the Congressional Gallery who exemplified an issue’s human face: a single mother without health care, or a wounded veteran.

Antagonist – What are the threats you or your venture face? For a doctor, the threat is disease. For passengers aboard the Titanic, it’s the onrushing and frigid seas.

In the stellar 1984 Apple Super Bowl commercial, the antagonist was IBM (the PC).

Awareness – What did you learn? What’s that Eureka moment when you knew you had something, and you knew what you had to do?

Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered a mold that had blown into one of his petri dishes. He was looking for a way to kill germs. He had tried for ten years, and overnight, the winds brought him the answer in the form of a spore that settled in the uncovered dish and grew to become a colony that eradicated the deadly staph colonies within the dish. That was his Eureka moment, even though it took another decade to figure out how to produce penicillin in mass quantities. Fleming was knighted and won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

Transformation – Make no mistake, this is an opportunity to define yourself as a leader. How will you save the world (and make your investors rich along the way)?

As ever-quotable Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”


Khris Baxter is the founder of Baxter Baker & Associates ( Baxter Baker & Associates engages the power of Hollywood story craft to help our clients (entrepreneurs, inventors, executives) share their passion, sell their ideas, and win more business. We craft creative and compelling presentations your audiences, investors, and customers remember. Our market is anyone who needs to tell a clear, concise and absolutely compelling story. Khris is also a screenwriter, producer, and adjunct professor of screenwriting at the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. He is a member of the Virginia Film Office.

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Social Media Revolution: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

March 23rd, 2011

People seem so determined to quantify the effects of social media.  What is it doing?  What difference is it making?  Who’s benefiting?  How can it help ME?

Malcolm Gladwell published a piece in the New Yorker asking if Egypt needed Twitter to overthrow Mubarack.  He claims Twitter didn’t cause the revolution in Egypt, but that it was merely a tool.  We didn’t innovate the revolution.  The underlying causes weren’t limited to technology, and the people didn’t rise against tyranny so they could try and get to 10,000 followers.   Gladwell goes out of his way to humanize us, and take the credit away from Twitter and Facebook.

The punishment from the blogosphere was swift and merciless.  Brian Solis actually titled his response “Malcolm Gladwell, Your Slip is Showing.”  You couldn’t open a social media blog without finding a post bashing Gladwell.  Everyone claimed Egypt needed Twitter.  That revolutionaries wouldn’t have been able to unite without Facebook.  That Gladwell had lost it.  Very cute graphs and charts showing how many tweets were made and profiles updated were pushing the raw, unbridled power of social media.

The uprising in Tunisia was spawned by a street vendor who burned himself alive to protest the way authorities were treating him.  That is the power of the individual.  That is not technology.  Protestors took to the streets and were violently beaten.  As an Iranian-American I can tell you these are not uncommon events in the Middle East.  As few as five years ago, this could have been the end of this story.  Now, these incidents are recorded.  Video of the protests hit Twitter and within days a small protest in one town became a national cause.  TV stations were broadcasting the videos they pulled off social media.  There are no more veils of secrecy.  The world sees everything.  With all its benefits, social media also creates a much higher level of danger for the protestors.  If they had not been victorious, the government would know exactly who they were.  They would have paid with their lives.

Even in the recent tragedy in Japan, I’ve found many articles about how social media affected the response and news dissemination as I have about what actually happened there.  But I haven’t seen much about how social media is helping to reconnect victims, and groups are only starting to use social media for Japanese emergency relief donations.

Which brings me back to my original point.  Everyone is trying to jump on the social media bandwagon.  Everyone wants a piece of the action.  Everyone seems to have an agenda.  Everyone wants to give it credit for everything…or to diminish it.  The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.  Did Egypt need Twitter?  Need is a funny word.  They didn’t NEED twitter.  Would Mubarak have resigned without the power of social media?  Today?  Probably not.  Would he have been forced out eventually?  Maybe.

The power of social media lies with us though.  It makes all our thoughts, information, and events in our lives immediately accessible to everyone.  Like any form of power, it can be abused and used to our detriment.  If you’re new to social media, or just looking to get more out of it, here are some tips.

  • Be yourself – People often say you can be whoever you want on the internet.  If the person you decide to be isn’t you, you’re not helping anyone.  Winston Churchill used to say a lie got half way around the world before the truth put its pants on.  That is no longer the case.  The truth is right behind you, and it will catch up.
  • Be open – Not just with yourself, but to the ideas of others.  There’s plenty of room for debate, but just as social media strives for the truth, it doesn’t respond well to those it things are hiding it.  People will disagree with you.  Embrace them.  Teach them.  You’ll get your message across by appealing to the highest common denominator.  Try to quiet someone’s dissenting opinion, and you will be punished for it.
  • Be careful – The internet is forever.  Think about what you say.  You can’t take it back.
  • Be consistent – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t impact anyone in social media in that amount of time.  Keep plugging away.  People will pay attention if you have a good message.  They will care.  Probably not right away.

Could you imagine if the real world were like that?  With today’s instant video-capture,  global feedback, and the fact that social media gives EVERYONE a voice, that day could be coming.

Borzou Azabdaftari

Borzou is managing partner of Falcon Printing & Copying, a full-service printing and graphic design company in Tysons Corner, VA. His company focuses on building relationships and delivering the highest quality print materials, from poster to invitations to business stationery, to their clients. Passionate about printing to a fault, Borzou eats, breathes, and sleeps paper and ink, and his rare combination of intellectual curiosity, technical savvy, creativity, and interpersonal skills have transformed him from a print service provider only into a branding consultant as well.

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