Author Archive for Rebecca Bellini

The Power of Relationship Blogging Partnerships

blogging partner

Photo by eliselovesprada

According to Dictionary.com the definition of a blog is “a web site containing the writer’s experience, observation, opinion, etc., and often images and links to other Web sites.”  But in today’s blogosphere many people and organizations are taking the ideas and benefits around blogging a little deeper by expanding their blogging reach through incorporating the concept of Relationship Blogging.  In the article 5 golden rules for relationship blogging the author sites that relationship blogging is a method of blog marketing by which positive relationships are created.  He goes on to explain that it is all about building good “social” relationships that can help increase trust and build credibility for your website.

So how does one build great Relationship Blogging Partnerships?

In the article Nine Tips for Better Blogging Partnerships the author explains his ideas around developing a collaborative blogging enterprise.

The flowing are some of his tips:

  • Edit each others work…if one is looking for quality…this is a must
  • Form a Publishing Schedule…always a good idea, and partners help keep each other on track
  • Social media times two…the social media component is a key to Relationship Blogging
  • Respect each others opinions…remember, the concept of writing about one’s opinion is the cornerstone of blogging

While this author works in close proximity with his blogging partner, the fact is that many blogging partners may never meet in person.  Therefore, it is of even greater importance that there are goals set directly regarding the idea of building a strong relationship foundation that is based on trust and honesty.  The author of the article How to start a blog partnership suggests that it is wise to make  a point of actually speaking to blogging partners and always taking the relationship slow.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Soglammedia states that there are over 1.5 million new blog posts each day, and 77% of active internet users today read blogs.  They see business owners and PR firms reaching out to more and more influential bloggers to promote products and services.  That is precisely why relationship blogging partnerships have the ability to offer everyone benefits,  for example, gaining a larger audience.  The blogging space is large and filled with people interested in sharing their expertise.  This creates an avenue to generate real, tangible value for organizations looking to capitalize on the marketing side of blogs.

Creating blogging relationships sounds like a smart idea to me.  It is a solid way to help increase brand awareness and capitalize on social media exposure in a more dynamic way.  After all, two heads, (or more) are better than one!

We talked about the positive aspects of a blogging partnership, but what problems can you for see with this type of relationship?

Social Media A Customer Service Response Mechanism

customer servicePhoto By nic2050

As more companies move toward integrating traditional customer service responsibilities into their social media strategy, it will be vitally important for them to gain an understanding of the underlying keys to success.  For starters, organizations must consider that it is likely that they will not be able to simply move their current customer service representatives directly over to social media.   This is because, as Jen Rubio, head of social media at Warby Parker points out, we cannot assume that someone who deals with customers over the phone will know what to do over social media.  Olivier Blanchard, author of the book Social Media ROI explains, “Social media is serious business.  It moves customer service from the back office to town square, and if you want to do well in the new digital space, you will not only have to put your best people forward but train them for crisis resolution as well.”  Blanchard calls this the “rules of online conflict resolution” and he offers 9 tips that all boil down to this…social media customer service can win the crowd by being kind, cool, polite and professional.

Changing Expectations of Customer Service

In the article 4 Quick Tips for Using Social Media for Customer Service  the author provides advice taken directly from a panel discussion at February’s Social Media Week conference in New York City entitled “Changing Expectations of Customer Service.”

4 Quick Tips:
1. Have a separate customer service account.
Create an account that’s separate from your company’s main feed or page that can specifically handle customer service-related messages and requests. The customer service account should have the same voice and similar branding to your main account.

2. Aim for single-contact resolution.
In this tip, it is suggested that a company do everything that is can to resolve an issue over whichever system the customer reaches out to, whether it is by phone, email, or social media.

3. Be smart when handling a crisis.
When trouble strikes, social media can be a useful tool for communicating directly to customers.

4. Train your staff.
During a crisis or heavy customer service times, a company might need everyone helping out.

The Social Business world is waiting

We are in a new age of the Social Business where companies can take advantage of the power of social media for more than just its marketing benefits, but also for its customer service benefits.  It is time for companies that have been relying of the “wait and see attitude” to start looking forward with an open mind.  Natalie Petouhoff, business consultant and lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management commented in the article, Social Media Customer Service Sorely Lacking, Study Shows  that companies tend to “stick their head in the sand and they think if they’re not looking it’s not happening” when it comes to social media customer service, but customers are 30 percent more likely to commit dollars to a brand that is present and attentive on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Social Media is becoming more pervasive in everyone’s lives.  For the benefit of both customers and profits, it is no longer an option organizations can continue to bypass.

“Book Review: Get Bold”

getbold200

Why should a Social Business have a Community Manager?

Let’s face it.  The concept of a Social Business may be overwhelming to organizations that are still using traditional business practices.  After all, what does Social Business even mean?   Is it opening up a Facebook page or Twitter account?    Maybe…

Organizations may use social networks as part of their plan of action, but being a Social Business is so much more!

What is a Social Business? 

If you ask Sandy Carter, author of the book, Get Bold, she would explain that a Social Business does not just use social media as a marketing tool, but integrates and embeds social practices throughout the entire organization.  It is about focusing on relationships with their clients, partners, citizens, and employees by engaging new technologies and platforms that powerfully and easily connect in trusted and experiential ways.

As the Vice President and Social Business Evangelist for IBM, Sandy has the background and experience to help guide her readers.  In the book, she provides a complete Social Business framework she calls AGENDA.

A.  Align organizational goals and culture

G.  Gain Social Trust

E.  Engage Through Experiences

N.  Network Your Business Processes

D.  Design for Reputation and Risk Management

A.  Analyze Your Data

The Community Manager’s role in AGENDA

A. Align organizational goals and culture

Sandy suggests that companies consider launching internally first, as this will provide employees with a practice ground in which to learn how to be effective with social tools. By virtue of doing what they do best, a Community Manager will help to foster the internal communication and collaboration, especially in larger businesses where multiple locations exist.

G. Gain Social Trust

Sandy feels that there are three components necessary to develop social trust:

  • Expertise and thought leadership–  A good Community Manager knows her audience and is always working to provide thoughtful content for her community.
  • Responsiveness and consistency-  A good Community Manager is there to respond to her community’s needs and takes the time to listen and understand
  • Transparency and open conversation-  A good Community Managers is continually looking for ways to foster open conversations within her community.

E. Engage Through Experiences

Community Managers are engagement gurus.   It is their job to realize the value of participation and provide leadership, direction, and purpose to their communities.

N. Network Your Business Processes     

Community Managers have the ability to take the lead in supporting both internal and external communities.  Their direct influence will not only help the organization achieve a more fluid social transition, but also will enable faster knowledge sharing and improved collaboration.

D. Design for Reputation and Risk Management

Community Managers are on the front line of their communities, whereby through the sheer act of just listening, they are given the ideal opportunity to counter negative opinion and help shape reputation.

A. Analyze Your Data

Metrics give Community Managers the opportunity to better legitimize the hard work they perform and offer a way to measure the direct effect they have on all 6 work streams.

Get Bold is full of compelling evidence that supports the worth and importance of the Community Manager in the Social Business.  Sandy Carter sees the role of Community Manager as not only one of the fastest growing professions, but also a requirement of Social Business success.  I concur!!

 

 

 

 

A business case for blogging, Content Marketing Magic!

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Photo By esalesdata

How much can blogging really help with your content marketing strategy?   Before we answer that question, let’s talk about what content marketing means?  The author of the whitepaper, The University Guide to Blogging and Content Marketing defines it as simply, “Any and all materials an organization creates and shares to better engage customers and prospects.”  The paper goes on to address several benefits of using blogs to power content marketing efforts:

  • Blogging is controlled.  Any content that comes into your blog should be approved before it goes live, meaning you never have to worry about off-message or inappropriate content hurting your organization’s image.
  • Blogging is conversational.  Blogs humanize marketing efforts as they give people a way to share thoughts, experiences, and ideas in their own words.
  • Blogging improves search.   By creating frequent, relevant, focused content, you’ll have more opportunities to provide value and create relationships with people who need your help.
  • Blogging demonstrates thought leadership.  Blogging about what you’re thinking and doing shows people what you’re really all about.
  • Blogging is linkable and sharable. Blogging provides a platform for promoting content on social networks.
  • Blogging is a more permanent repository for social media marketing. Using a blog to manage a social media marketing strategy gives the organizations the ability to take control of their content.

There is no doubt, blogging makes content marketing sense!

The author of the article 7 Tips for Making Your Blog a Marketing Magnet,  contends that the blog is the content hub.   That may be true today, but what does the future hold for bogging and content marketing.  If blogging platforms such as Overblog  are any indication, blogging may become an even easier content marketing solution.  What make Overblog different?  It can assist users in organizing a stream of social content onto their pages, whether it’s coming from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, or Instagram.   It also includes free designs that can be customized with HTML or CSS, analytics tracking on the dashboard, multiple user access on one page, and it offers a 50-50 revenue split with bloggers who receive at least 500 unique visitors per day.  The CMO of Overblog, Liva Judic, states, “If you intend to be a serious blogger and you want visibility, [our platform] is good for you because the SEO approach is really comprehensive.  It puts it all in one place, enriching the content and making you more visible to the search engines. So if you’re an individual or small business wanting to build a brand, it’s a good strategy to be on Overblog.”

Blogs give organizations of all sizes the ability to focus marketing efforts, even small companies with few resources.  Blogs can be a powerful and important foundation to an organization’s content marketing strategy.  Their significance should not be overlooked.  If you own a business and you have not started blogging, it’s time to consider this content marketing jewel.  In fact, the perfect time to start blogging was a year ago.  The next best time is today!   Just consider advice from the article 10 Commandments of Blogging, the Path to Content Marketing Salvation.  In it, the author urges her readers to just “Begin with the basics and practice to learn. You won’t get it perfect with your first post, but you’ll learn as you go.”

So what are you waiting for?  It’s time to get that content marketing ball rolling.

Get out there and start blogging!

 

It’s “Communication” Evolution Baby!

evolution

Photo credit: Knezeve

Olivier Blanchard, author of the book Social Media ROI suggests that, “In order to understand the true power of the web, you have to look into the nature of humanity itself.”  Humans are inherently social animals, plain and simple.  That means that by definition, we are a species that thrives on member interaction.  We love to talk, we love to listen to and tell stories, we love to communicate, and we love to belong.  It is part of our genetic makeup.

We love to communicate!         

Let’s switch gears for a moment to ponder the evolution of communication and how it relates to the understanding of our love of social media.   In the video,“The Evolution of Communication” we are treated to an epic trip across time, chronicling each successive communication innovation, from cave paintings to the globally integrated world of today.  Communication techniques have changed since the beginning of human history, but one thing remains the same.  We clearly crave technologies that allow us to connect easier, faster, and better…social media provides all three.  It truly stands out from all other forms of communication breakthroughs.  In the video, they describe social media as “the biggest human activity shift since mankind first walked the earth.”

Which means the implication of social media’s power is staggering!

Blanchard explains that, “Social Media, at its heart, is people communicating and interacting, but can be considered a force multiplier as it takes word of mouth and multiplies both its velocity and reach.”   So, while our human evolutionary path has lead us to grow in numbers so large that we are considered a cosmopolitan species, meaning that our existence is completely widespread across the earth, so too should our communication abilities be considered cosmopolitan.  The article, “The Brief History of Social Media,” explains that  Social Media has enjoyed an incredible rise to unbelievable popularity and estimates that internet users will double in just 2 short years (in 2015) to a global total of some four billion, or nearly 60 percent of the Earth’s population!

Social Media has already evolved into a communications force to be reckoned with and it is still growing and expanding every day.   The digital age is here and will continue to advance to meet the needs of an ever interested population.   It is clear that social media satisfies our innate communication desires, but it is not the end of the communication road.  Only time will tell us what the next wave of communication improvements will bring.

The VALUE of Social Media

Value by alshepmcr

Photo Credit: by Ashepmcr

Everyone in the business world talks about the importance of creating value, but many would probably have a hard time explaining the meaning of their value’s without resorting to vague explanations like, “We value our customers.”  That’s great, but what exactly does that mean?  How do you conduct your everyday business to realize that value?

There is no shortage of articles, blogs, and books available to help companies develop, define, measure, set, and communicate their values.  It seems almost absurd that a word that is so pervasive in society (and seemingly simple on the surface) would require so much thought and explanation.   The author of the blog Setting corporate values and brand values suggests that a company should ask itself one simple question, when setting its values, “What do I want people to think about when they think of my company.”  While that seems like an easy and reasonable way to determine an overarching company value set, several questions still remain:

  • How is it even possible that a company would not be in touch with something as precious as its values?
  • Why is value such an elusive concept for many companies to define?

I propose this simple answer:   It is precisely because it is a concept, which is not concrete by nature, but inherently abstract, general, and subjective since it is often be based on individual experience and bias.  Consequently, value is in the eye of the beholder, whether that beholder is the CEO of the organization, or the customer with which that organization serves.

Now, let’s pause for a moment to consider value in terms of a company’s social media practices.  Many organizations, big and small, struggle to figure out how to integrate the social media element into their business without the benefit of understanding why they need it, how it works, or how to apply it in a meaningful, beneficial way.  Because of this, it is almost impossible to assign a set of social media values that correlate to the company’s overall values.  Olivier Blanchard, author of Social Media ROI advises companies to consider building their social media program by first gaining an understanding of the fundamentals around how social media works, with a focus on creating value and desired outcomes (for the company and the customer), as opposed to just creating content.  He asks us to think of social media as a driver to whatever is important to the organization by considering the following questions:

  • What do you ultimately want to accomplish with social media and why?
  • What are you trying to improve within the organization?
  • What is important to your organization?

But it is important for one to always remember, the value proposition works in more than one direction.   Companies must not only ascertain what the value of social media means to them specifically, but also if it aligns with their customers, clients, or communities perceived values as well.  All of these considerations are precisely why the “value of social media” and its power is so compelling!

What values do people generally derive from social media?  What kind of things do you see companies do that don’t create value for their fans or followers?  How can an organization figure out what is truly valuable to their customers?

 

 

New to Twitter Chats? This Can Help

large twitter chat

Photo: Labor Day Twitter Chat, by: Us Department of Labor

At the risk of revealing any information that might give the impression that I am out of touch with the world, this week I joined my very first twitter chat.   Now, I know this statement probably sounds overly dramatic.  I could easily choose 50 friends and family at random and be quite positive that none of them had ever participated in a tweet chat before, so my dramatic declaration comes from more of a personal sensitivity that I felt out of touch and out of alignment with everyone on the chat.

The chat I joined centers on Community Management and is usually held weekly, with a focused topic of conversation.   This week the group discussed, “Transitions: Gracefully Exiting your Community.”  I knew this in advance, so I spent that morning preparing my thoughts by doing some research on the similarities and differences between leaving an online community vs. leaving a typical job, with the hopes that  I could participate intelligently if the opportunity arose.  However, I was completely (and very quickly) caught off guard by the chat process.

My observations, as a twitter chat beginner:

  • I was not ready for the pace of the conversation and found the constant steam of tweets very difficult to keep up with.  (There were almost 40 posts in just the first 10 minutes).  I had to read along at a pretty good clip, and I still felt behind the conversation the entire hour.
  • I was using hootsuite rather than the simple twitter feed.  Each time it refreshed, I lost my place when it spilled 20-30 more tweets into the stream.  That was very frustrating.
  • It was a challenge to keep up with answers and comments within the conversation, especially if they were not directly related to the moderated questions.  Basically, I am referring to tweets made in response to others’ tweets.  For example, if someone tweeted:“@yyy @rrr @mmm I love that idea. Thanks Mary!”  I wanted to know what Mary said so I could follow the conversation, but I could not find Mary’s original tweet (partially because I did not know who Mary was so I did not know who to look for, and partially because Mary’s tweet may have fallen into the stream 20 tweets before) so I had no way of knowing what “idea” was loved.
  • All of the above issues left me unable to gain a strong enough comfort level to tweet any of my own comments.
  • The pace of the moderated questions was easy to follow and I liked that they were re-tweeted several times.  That allowed for a good sense of conversation re-focus… even when there were tweets that had nothing to do with the questions steaming in between the “answer” tweets.

At end of the chat I sat back, surly I had missed something.  People who participate in twitter chats love them, but I just felt like I was lost in a very unfamiliar, crowded room.  So I took to the internet to see what I could find on the following topics:

  • How to navigate or better manage a fast paced tweeter chat,
  • Advice from others who encountered the same frustrations as myself

Much to my surprise, there was very little out there.  It seems that no one else was talking about the opportunities that I had encountered!

What I did find though was a lot of good content that focused on How to participate in twitter chats with helpful dos and don’ts.   So I dug in a little deeper and started playing around with different keywords combinations.  I then came across a blog by Bruce Sallen, How to participate in #dadchat or any other chat.  In it, I finally found a little validation. He suggested using services like Tweetgrid to help with the issue of trying to keep up with speedy chats.   I checked the service out, but did not care for its format.  So I pressed, on until my search brought me to JD Roth’s blog, GRS housekeeping: comments, follow-ups, and tweetchats.  In it he recommended Tweetchat.

This service seems very user friendly as it links directly to a twitter account through the services “sign in” button, and also has several nice features:

  • Each tweet automatically gets the #hashtag added when one posts (something I could not figure out how to do on hootsuite).
  • It allows the option of a “user control” feature so one can focus on specific people or block spammers.

tweet chat serviceI plan to participate in more twitter chats so I can get more practice.  I know that that will help my comfort level.  However, the next time I will be using the technologies of the service:  Tweetchat.  Hopefully, it will help me through some of the opportunities that I encountered today and will make the next twitter chat much more enjoyable.

 

 

So am I the only one in the world that has found tweet chats overwhelming?

Is it just a matter of getting used to the pace, platform, and people participating in the chat?

Community Managers are Leaders!

Community by Jeff Kubina

Photo Credit: Community, by Jeff Kubina

The author of the book Social Media ROI, Olivier Blanchard, encourages his readers to “be a leader, not just a manager.”  This makes perfect sense given the roles and responsibilities of a Community Manager.

Allow me to explain…

Over the last few years, organizations like JCPenney and Old Navy have decided to change the title of key positions within their company, from “manager” to “leader.”  The title change was enacted to encourage people inside (and outside) the company to think differently about the company’s direction.

Why, what’s the difference?

The thought is that leaders are forward thinkers.  They work to open up avenues of communications and collaboration.  They build teams and weave a broader sense of community.  Whereas, the concept of management implies to many, a top down bureaucracy…the old way of doing things.  To be fair, all leaders are not created equal and the traits of a good leader certainly depend on the individual person and the organization, but please take a moment to consider the comparisons in the graph below.  On the “leader side” are a set of coveted leadership skills offered to us by Leadership that Gets Results.   On the “Community Manager” side are the compared set of job role descriptions set forth by 5 Things on What a Community Manager is and Differentiating between Social Media and Community Manager

Leadership Skills       VS.      Community Manger Skills

A good Leader…                                 A good Community Manager…

Takes ownership & solves problems     — Assures communities’ concerns are heard

Is flexible & willing to change course    —  Is able to adapt

Earns Trust                                                 —  Ensures trust in the brand

Allows team to communicate openly     — Offers open communication

Builds connections between people       —  Gets people talking to each other

Sets vision, goals, & objectives               — Plans & develops strategy

Inspires the team with the vision            —  Acknowledges shared purpose w/ community

Builds bonds                                               —  Builds relationships w/key community members

Builds Relationships                                 —  Strengthens relationships within the community

Is a great communicator                          —  Facilitates effective inter-team communication

Solicits input from those around them   —  Promotes productive collaboration

To be sure, a good Community Manager must take on numerous responsibilities that encompass the roles of a good leader.  And if one still needs more convincing, take a look at the definition Wikipedia offers for an “offline” Community Leader:   “Community Leaders help to build healthy communities.  They are perceived to represent a community of common interests, purpose, or practice.  They act as a liaison between that community and authorities.”   So it seems that an offline community leader and an online Community Manager perform very similar tasks, just in a different setting.

So it is settled!

I propose that it is time to update the position title of the Community “Manager” to Community “Leader.”  It is time to recognize the leadership role that the Community Manager plays within their online community and within their organizations.  They are true leaders in every sense of the word!

What other things do Community Manager’s do that make them leaders?  In what ways are they not leaders?  What would be the benefits of a job title change for Community Managers?