Personal Branding- Your Insurance Policy When Life Gets Tough

I stood in front of my students a few weeks ago to talk to them about creating their personal brand strategy. This is a semester-long project I’m having them do. It was a bit emotional for me given that just a few days previously my full time position had been downgraded to contractor work and I’ve found myself suddenly in the position of turning back to my personal brand to get me to the next step in my life.

It’s made me reflect on how it all began…

We talk a lot about personal branding in the marketing world. Some people really dig the opportunity to talk about how great they are but that’s never been my thing. I’m most comfortable being the geek behind the scenes who makes it all come together. I love empowering others and building communities. I don’t relish the spotlight.

BUT it is no longer enough to send in a resume and hope someone will notice. That’s particularly the case with my background. I’m not the person with a marketing degree and 6-8 years experience working with brands and agencies. I’m the grad student who spent time in Belgrade talking with nationalists to understand what made them tick. I’m the girl passionate about understanding why communities come together and what internal psychology fuels that sense of group identity.

And I’m the PhD student who stumbled into social strategy by accidentally leading a grass-roots revolution at the University of Virginia to reinstate their first female president.

My first job in social strategy was at UVA while still a grad student because they figured it was better to bring me into the process rather than have me outside at the gates. That ended up being my out once my advisors made it clear that my research on public opinion and social media just wasn’t going to be supported (that was 2012… have a feeling they’d be singing a different tune now)

January 2013 I knew that I needed to leave and get into the private sector if I wanted to continue to follow my passion of harnessing social analytics to understand how individuals participate in communities. So that’s when I started my blog, ramped up my Twitter and Linkedin accounts and got rolling.

That’s how my personal brand was born. Out of crisis and out of necessity.

It was this that I worked to communicate to my students, particularly those currently working or leading start-ups. Your personal brand should be something that you can use in your job BUT it should be more than your job. It’s your opportunity to think about what makes you YOU. What makes you unique?

I broke them into groups and it was probably a class more akin to psychology than marketing as they talked with each other about who they are as a person and then shared that to the class. We learned that one student is a single mom another a veteran. One guy spoke up with a lopsided grin and said that there was nothing that made him unique and that he was in fact rather stupid and easily distracted but he said it in a way that made the whole class laugh. We encouraged him to run with that- and by the end of the class he had begun to think about how he could actually leverage that bit of him into a full strategy.

That’s what personal branding should be. It’s not about the humble brag. It’s about introducing yourself and entering different communities to share your story and engage with theirs. As humans we want to build relationships and we want to help each other. Creating a personal brand allows that human attribute to translate online. It’s why we embrace each other when we meet IRL. We know each other and are rooting for each other. That’s the power of the personal brand.

I’m Suzie. I’m the girl with the red hair. I’m quirky and caring. I am at my best when I’m building and creating new opportunities for engagement. I work to translate this passion and personality online through my blogs, engagement in groups, and participation in conversations. It’s honestly who I am.

I’m Suzie. I’m a kick-ass strategist and I’m on the market. Tweet, DM, InMail me- let’s talk.

How to Craft A Facebook Strategy that Works

Building a social strategy for Facebook is getting more and more difficult thanks to their “quality control” features. Ignite Social Media estimates that with the latest rollout of changes on average 3% of your fan base will see unprompted posts. That’s it. To make it worse, there’s little information as to how that 3% is decided. Of course you can pay to promote posts which is some companies are now saying is essential to do. I was at the Brand Innovators Social Summit this past February at which Addie Connor, Chief Innovation Officer at SocialCode gave a keynote. Her basic point was that there is no reason to have a Facebook Page if you aren’t promoting your posts.

Really? I’m not so sure. A key with all social media platforms is to start with understanding how your target customer interacts with them. Where do they go? How do they get their information? What makes them “like” or “share” a post? We’ve become so obsessed with getting “likes” on Facebook Pages that we’ve forgotten the central mechanism behind Facebook use. An underlying assumption behind this doom and gloom view of Facebook Page posts is that people consume Facebook primarily through their home feed. It’s true that Facebook is pushing this model as much as possible. But the fact of the matter is that Facebook is not Twitter. It’s about community. For this reason no matter how much Zuckerberg & co. attempt to modify it, the reason we use Facebook will never be the same as the reason we use Twitter.

For Twitter it would be absolutely disastrous if only 3% of your followers saw your posts. This is because on Twitter our chief way of consuming posts is through our timelines as opposed to visiting an individual’s Twitter page. We might do targeted listening via hashtags but as long as you know which hashtag to include to reach your targeted community that’s easily included in a social strategy.

Contrast this with how you approach Facebook. In particular think of how you see Page posts. Page posts hardly ever pop up on my home feed. And to be honest when they do I tend to ignore them. My reason for consuming Facebook is to keep in touch with my friends and family. I want to see what they post and share. So when they share something from a Facebook Page THAT’S when I pay attention.

See the difference? This is a different metric at play. Now of course there is also a percentage used to calculate whether I’ll see my friend’s post share on my home feed assuming I’m not tagged or they don’t share it to my wall. But that’s something that we can work with as social strategists. We know how to harness influencers and advocates. We know how to organize communities and create content that gets shared.

1. Harness Power Users
Facebook revolves around the social network. Pew and others have identified the prevalence of “power users” on Facebook who make up the vast majority of content that gets shared. These are the people who you want to engage on your Facebook Page. You want them to share your content with their friends. You want your page to be the one that they check out for the latest on “x”. A great way to get them to return to your page is to engage them in conversation. Did they make a humorous comment on a post? Respond in kind.

2. Mobilize internal Influencers
We do this on Twitter and LinkedIn but not Facebook. Who are the thought-leaders in your organization? Get them to interact with your Facebook Posts. You might even think of sending you an email to alert your thought-leaders to an interesting thread on the Page that they should enter into. Encourage them to share your content.

3. Engage with like-minded Pages
Every Page is looking for engagement. So set up a mutually beneficial relationship. If a Page has an audience that you would like to reach or that is similar to yours getting them to share a link to your Page is a great way to increase your content views. Facebook is a concrete social network. The power of sharing means that your post can very easily go viral and THAT is the way that Facebook Pages become useful.

Here’s a practical example: Craft-beers have very loyal followings and some have done a great job building a social media presence but they are always looking to get converts. Pubs and bars have a community presence but are always looking to get more customers in, particularly on weekdays. They also tend to have a weaker social media presence. But by supporting each other through their Facebook Pages each can exponentially increase their fan base. Also, going a step further, there is a high probability that at the intersection between the Craft Beer Community and Pub Community you’ll find some strong advocates.

Bottom-line? 

Changes to the Facebook algorithm do not herald the end of brand presence on Facebook. Rather they signal the need (which has been long in the making) of moving away from a broadcast model to a social network model of social marketing. Pulling out of Facebook is the absolute LAST thing brands should do. Rather, they should renew their focus on their Facebook campaign via the creation of a targeted social strategy.

A Social Strategist’s Guide to Free Social Analytics Platforms

It seems that I’m constantly searching for a good list of free analytic tools. As a freelance social strategist I’m often dependent on the “lite” versions of fancy platforms. In some ways I think this is a bit of a boon. Social media analytics are still quite fuzzy. Be honest- do you actually know what “reach” means? Using the free versions of tools means that I have to access multiple platforms to get the full picture as opposed to relying on a one-stop platform. It’s always useful to compare and contrast what the different visualizations show. It makes you think through what the numbers actually mean as opposed to getting swept away by the pretty pictures. Or at least that’s how I justify this to myself!

There are some great products out there. The paid versions are incredibly powerful and most will act as one stop shops for your analytics.  Many of these platforms have corresponding free version that often specializes in a certain type of analytic. By using several of these tools together you can create your own powerful analytic platform without spending a dime.

Tweetreach

This tool allows you to search for a url, twitter handle, phrase, or hashtag to get an over all picture of user interaction with it. I like to use this tool to gauge the influencer level. The free version provides only a general snapshot but I find it to be a good jumping off point. It also generates some easy to explain analytics which are great for basic presentations. I find the url, phrase, and hashtag search features to be less useful. In the free version tweet reach plays around with the sample size in a way that can be misleading and if you’re looking to do some in-depth analytics you might as well look elsewhere.

Tweetreach

Hashtagify

This is a very simple yet very cool hashtag research tool. Tools like sees.aw allow you to track hashtags but you first need to know what you’re looking for and that’s what hashtagify.me provides. It also provides you a list of the top 5 influencers in that given hashtag as well as an overall look at the hashtag’s popularity (be careful of sample size for this analytic).

In this example I’m searching for hashtags related to #cognitivecomputing. I can also see the most recent tweets using this hashtag. That’s a great way to double-check the reliability sing With hashtag trackers there’s always the danger that spambots have taken over.

Hashtagify

Tweepi 

A great tool for account acceleration both for yourself and your clients. The free version is really all you will need. The only feature of the paid version that’s nice is the ability to keep track of when you followed or unfollower a user. But you can get a general idea of this by going chronologically through your “following” list. Followers who have similar interests to you are much more likely to follow-back. Tweepi also allows you to see the likelihood that a persona will actually follow you back. This can be very helpful particularly when you’re getting an account started. A high level influencer will probably not follow someone who only has 60 followers.

Tweepi 1

Tweepi 2

SumAll

A very powerful tool to track the overall health of your social media presence. You can get one stop stats for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google +, WordPress, and many many more. But be forewarned, this is one of those platforms where the free version is meant to tantalize you towards the paid version. I’ve found this incredibly useful for tracking the results of account acceleration.

sumall

Simply Measured

This is a great example of a free version of a powerful analytics platform that can absolutely stand alone. In particular it’s useful to analyze your twitter audience. It generates great charts that you can export directly to powerpoint. You can also download the entire dataset to an excel spreadsheet. A note of caution– the analysis is based on a sampling of 1,000 of your followers to make sure you treat the data accordingly.

simply measured

Spider by oneQube

This is a forerunner of the next generation of social listening tools. Their goal is to harmonize listening with interaction. You can put together a detailed project based on link-targeting, hashtags, keywords, mentions, geolocating, influencer status, gender, biography, number of followers, basically you name it and they’ve got it.
All tweets matching your criteria will be put together in your report. You can even have Spider email you whenever a tweet is added to your project so you can immediately respond. They’ve added a new feature allowing you to export the matching profiles into a twitter list.

Spider combines realtime listening with realtime response. For fun I put together a report looking for mentions of the IBM Food Truck at SXSW. I added a geographical filter to only give me results coming from Austin. Just take a minute to think of all that can be done with that type of tailored info generated immediately in realtime. Very very cool. Spider is available for  a  7 day trial.

Spider

What are your go-to free social media analytic tools? Comment below or tweet them to me @suzimcc

Tweeting At Strangers In the Night

J.P. Morgan’s tweetchat attempt is now in the books alongside AT&T’s 9/11 realtime marketing flop as another big fat #FAIL. Why does this keep happening? Over at Forbes, Deanna Zandt proclaims “It’s The Relationships, Stupid” saying “These are not communications tools, these are relationship management tools.” I get what she’s saying and, as a social strategist, completely understand her frustration. But I think the problem is deeper than this. Social media rose so quickly that we fumbled for terms to capture what we were observing. “Relationship”, “Engagement”, “Conversation”, and, of course our new favorite “Listening.” They’re not the perfect fit but they seem to describe fairly accurate what we seen in online interaction so we run with them. This is how we end up saying, don’t focus on the conversation, focus on the relationship. Which, if you think about it, is completely nonsensical. Relationships begin with conversations.

It’s time to take a step back from this muddle of terminology and think about what makes social media so special. To do this it’s also important to step away, for a moment, from the even more confusing realm of brands qua individuals. Let’s focus on Twitter. The power there is not about relationships, rather it’s about the power of words exchanged (even if they are completely ridiculous).

Doonesbury Twitter

Conversations on twitter most resemble the random and unexpected conversation between “strangers in the night.” For me some of the most poignant have been those with complete strangers. Those situations where we have thrust together by some shared event. Sitting next to each other on a plane or train; chatting at the counter in a diner or at a pub. You know you’ll never see each other again and often that creates a situation for genuine no-holds barred conversation.

When it comes to individual use of social media, much attention and hand wringing is focused on the lack of relationship building within social media (the Facebook Relationship) that I think we forget that these “strangers in the night” conversations have always been a key part of our lives. I’m sure that reading this some of those conversations are coming to mind. Memory of these conversations is proof that they are important to us. The goal is not to build a relationship, rather it is to have a real conversation unencumbered by any thoughts of “where is this going” or “let’s not fight”. There aren’t any “taboo” subjects in fact often they are the source of the conversation: religion, politics, sex- it’s all fair game.

These conversations occur with much more frequency particularly on Twitter. A few weeks ago I stumbled into a Tweetchat on sexism hosted by a prominent feminist scholar. I ended up in a fascinating back-and-forth with a guy about the emphasis that is placed on how a woman dresses. It lasted for about twenty minutes and we’ve never connected again. I don’t think I even followed him on Twitter nor he I but it was quite meaningful. (Ironically it occurred while I was waiting in a terminal for a flight!) Think about another exchange that famously occurred after the horrific Boston bombing in April.

Boston and Syria

This was nonverbal and occurred between two groups halfway around the world from each other. What a powerful point of interaction.

Capturing that point of interaction- that “strangers in the night” moment is the holy grail for social strategists. The trick is that you can’t force it. THAT’S where J.P. Morgan went so wrong. Wearing a three piece suit and top-hat, they sat down next to a college student and said “Hi. We’re going to talk now. Tell me what you think of me.” But the solution isn’t to stop talking. Quite the opposite. It’s to act like a stranger in the night. Engaging here and there with meaningful points of interaction. Then follow them. See where they go and THAT’s when you build the relationship. But it all begins with the exchange of words. That’s the power of social media and that’s what must be at the core of any solid social strategy.