Identity crisis: I’m not a marketer

Ok, in full disclosure, the title of this blog post is misleading. If you know me, you know I protest vigorously any time someone calls me a marketer. Hell, I did it during my yearly review. If you really know me you know that the reason I protest goes much, much deeper than the age-old techies vs. marketers holy war.

What I do for a living is not marketing.

Marketing by definition

Here is the definition for marketing by the American Marketing Association (via wikipedia):

‘Marketing is the process which creates, communicates, delivers the value to the customer, and maintains the relationship with customers. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.”

Marketing in practice

In practice, I’ve mostly seen marketing process that create, communicate (message), and deliver content to customers. You know, tell customers about our beautiful babies. Talk at them. Social media provides so many easy to use platforms with which to message at people, and since its web based it super easy to grab numbers on how effective a tweet or a Facebook post has been at reaching an audience.

Customers really want to be involved with the brands they buy from. That’s why if you have the resources, it’s not that hard to get tens of thousands of followers on Facebook or Twitter. But if all you do is market at these new followers, you end up with thousands of followers who ignore you because you are not giving them what they wanted – a real relationship with you.

Followers want to interact with you. On a personal basis. They can read the content of your perfectly crafted and approved tweets and Facebook posts on your website, in the emails you send them, or in the letters they get in their mailboxes from you. They don’t want another vehicle to be messaged TO, they want to communicate WITH you.

The costs of real engagement

Providing this personal engagement isn’t fast, and it involves lots of planning.  To do this right, you have to allocate budget for actual humans to do the work. You need to let these “social workers” engage with your followers. They need to build friendships.

You need to architect a plan for when your new friends are comfortable enough to tell you what they *really* think about your stuff, when they ask you why your competitor’s new thing seems better and even less expensive than the new thing you just announced, or when they reach out to you when they have issues with the stuff they bought from you. This plan will involve tapping into existing support structures, and it will involve collaborating with other departments in your organization. It may also mean training the other department about social media tools and persuading them to take on additional tasks that they may not have budgeted for.

Its about building real relationships

If you do social media correctly, you are building real relationships. With people, not with metrics. That’s what I do. I  build relationships between the storage industry and the talented people that work at Dell in the Enterprise space. I collaborate internally to build a support structure that allows internal policies to bridge and accommodate the personal relationships that are being forged.

It’s not much different than the work I did as an instructional designer and technical trainer. I had to take the technical info from engineering, compare it to what was being messaged to customers by marketing, and mix the two into something helpful for customers. People pay for training because they want someone to give them the real deal about the products they bought. What I do now isn’t much different – except the content and relationships don’t need to be funneled through training any more.

Back to my identity crisis

I know I’m not a marketer, and I know the fact that I’m not a marketer is one of the strengths I bring to whatever we are going to call what I do. My experience as an enterprise educator has prepared me for the job I’m doing now. The fact that I’m a techie helps too – I speak the language of our audience fluently. My educational background has helped too – I learned the whys and hows of the ways people fill needs for information, and have a strong background in systems evaluation and management.

So, what am I? A community builder? An architect….a manager? A new world educator? Its frustrating not to have a word to describe what I do. Its frustrating to be grouped into a profession that doesn’t really represent my profession.

It doesn’t really matter I suppose, I really like what I do and I think I’m pretty good at it. So I’ll just keep working at it. I can’t be the only person that “does” social media for a living having this crises. Anyone else out there? Any advice on how you deal with it?

 

How many times a day should I tweet?

Someone asked me yesterday in a meeting: how many times a day should my people be tweeting?  He has been asked to provide his team’s plan for social media. He was having a hard time wrapping his head around what that meant as far as actual deliverables to expect from his reports, and what outcomes were actually expected of his team.

So he asked me: how many times a day should my reports tweet? How often should they blog?

He admitted that he didn’t get social media, but he knew he had to include an element of social media in his planning. In all fairness, he was looking out for his team. They are already oversubscribed on the content they need to produce – technical solutions marketing materials. In his mind, he’s trying to keep from adding another time consuming task to his team’s plate.

So we had a discussion, which I think was a little frustrating to someone who wanted to come out of the meeting with a simple checklist.

How do you “do” social media?

Is it possible to make a checklist? What activities should be on that checklist?

I think many times people equate social media with a set of tools. So they may have a checkbox on a marketing plan for social media, and to them that means they will send some tweets, add a post to Facebook and maybe a LinkedIn group, and write a blog. To me, this is not “doing” social media. This is using social media tools for corporate communication.

To me, doing social media is using all of the cool social media tools to build community. If you are using social media for marketing, the beauty of social media is that you can find your audiences and interact with directly with them. You audience is already engaged, perhaps even in a community about your product, on the social media tools we commonly think of using (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, etc). You can use these tools to find your audience, to deliver content, and to invite them to a different online meeting place, etc. You can get to know them as real people, and they will trust you enough to tell you what they really think about your services and products. The interaction part is what doing social media is all about.

What is the profile of the people on your team

This team is made up of customer facing SMEs. One of the goals is to make sure their expertise is known to our customers and partners. The individuals on this team really do need a social presence, but how can we get them there when their boss is already concerned about their available bandwidth?

This was easy to explain from a thought leadership perspective. I suggested that everyone on the team become Dell SMAC certified. Then they should follow a list of thought leaders on Twitter, and see how those folks engage and use social media tools to talk about storage topics. Spending a little time listening and interacting with the storage community with the goal of becoming part of that community is what should dictate how the individuals on the team use that tool.

I also suggested thinking of ways of integrating social media tasks into the normal work flow for his team. For instance, if a new solutions paper is released, that person also should tweet the link, write a blog post, work with my team to organize a Google Plus hangout or Twitter chat, etc. There should be a predictable pattern of events that happen with every project, so that the individuals can guarantee a slow drip-feed of good content to our external communities. This should be the bare minimum of involvement from his team members, the goal would be to find a few individuals who want to do even more.

So how many times a day should I tweet?

Even though the person I was meeting with is a solutions marketer, he still didn’t like it when I said “it depends”. Since he was making a list and metrics for his team, any number I gave to appease him would have been too high (you aren’t tweeting enough) or too low (why are you tweeting so much!!). He wanted to know to recognize tweeting success. Someone else on the call said “when they are having discussions with other well-known storage SMEs on Twitter”. I said, when other people tweet questions to your team members, you will know you they are successful.

I think in the end, he decided 2 tweets a week was a good number. Sigh. I guess #FF could count for one, right?

I offered my help to mentor and hand-hold the members of his team, and to introduce them online. I also reminded him that none of this is set in stone, and I’m looking forward to working with his team and seeing what ideas everyone else has.

How would you have answered this question – how many times a day should I tweet?

 

Google Plus – its really all about *you*

Google has released a new social media platform called Google Plus (g+). It has all the typical elements of a social networking platform:

  • You can follow people, and people can follow you back
  • You can organize your social connections them by adding them to “circles”.
  • You can posts links and videos, and comment on posts other people make.
  • You can Hangout.
    Hangout is by far my favorite feature of g+. It is basically video chat. You fire one up, and anyone can join it. So far, the most concurrent users I’ve seen in one chat is 10. There is chat functionality in the Hangout, and you can also watch YouTube videos with everyone in the chat. I experimented with broadcasting our chat on Justin.tv, but the first try was pretty bad (if not trippy). Need to work on that again.

If you are interested in a HOW-TO document for g+ check out this crowd-sourced Google doc (its a work in progress..).

My take: g+ is different because this platform is all about **you**:

  • Displaying your social network: You decide how to arrange your social networks in circles, and that info is not shared. This means you can organize your connections as you really see them, you don’t have to organize people the way they expect you to organize them.
  • Filtering information: You are responsible for scanning and filtering the firehose of information that comes at you from the people you follow.  Some people think this filtering should be done from the application side, but I think its something that has to be done on a personal level.
  • Connecting to everyone: Depending on how you have your Google account privacy set up – anyone can talk to you, and you can talk to anyone.One of the first times I fired up a Hangout, Michael Dell was the first one to join me. The founder and CEO of the company I work for – video chatting with me. Seeing my basement, and hearing my very goofy family in the background. He was just as excited as I was to experiment with g+. I told him what I was most excited about – the serendipity of meeting people you would have never known about – and he said let’s get more people in this chat! Several engineers came in because of Michael’s invitation, and I’m still talking to a couple of them. Cool technical guys from China and Singapore who I would have never met if it had not been for that serendipitous hangout meet-up.

My tips for g+

  • Don’t worry so much about how to organize your circles. Put people in circles the way that makes sense to you. Here’s how I’m organizing things:
    • Since you can read streams from the people in an individual circle, you may want to organize circles based on interest groups. Some of mine are company-based, then discipline-based, then pure personal-based
    • If one person posts lots of content it can make it hard to see posts from other folks in the circle. To solve this, create a chatty circle for the original circle. For example, I have a circle called education, and a circle called chatty education. Put the chatty person in the chatty circle, and remove them from the original circle.
  • You can broadcast messages to circles. You may want to group people based on how you want to send messages out.
    • Follow influencers in your field, add them to a circle, and send relevant content to that circle (be sure to listen to that circle as well).
    • Put the people who will appreciate your weird humor in a circle, and send them the strange links that no one else will appreciate.
    • Put your mentors, or your closest friends in their own circle. Bounce new ideas off this circle.
  • Get on Google plus now, while highly influential people are still accessible.
    From my level, and my job function, I may have at most been able to rub elbows with Michael Dell at an event, but not talk with him. That’s not how communications in a huge corporation are supposed to work.

    In big corporations there is a certain protocol that is followed in order to access the head honchos. So seeing our CEO embrace this cool new technology has reaffirmed my decision to come to Dell. Michael opens up hangouts and talks to anyone who shows up, and has been posting ads from the early days of the company. He’s totally embracing the openness of this platform, and that makes me super proud to be working for him.

  • Don’t turn g+ into yet another platform for messaging. Let’s take a step back and realize the potential of this platform. Instead of trying to control the flow of information in a one-size-fits all fashion, lets mentor and encourage people to break down the organizational and cultural norms that keep us from truly connecting with each other. Let’s embrace the overflow of information, and share the methods that we are personally using to make sense of the mayhem. Let’s try to connect all.

How I manage the deluge of social information

I’ve been an information junkie my entire life. I will read anything I can get my hands on. When I was a little girl I read almost all of the books in my school library, but during the summers there was a problem. We lived pretty far away from the public library. Luckily there was a bookmobile that came around, and read almost everything on that too.

I was an expert at researching the Reader’s Guide to Periodic Guide Literature (kids that’s what we used before Google). I’ve always loved to tap into whatever it took to get the scoop on a story, and to find out how something worked. I’m sure this inner librarian bug I have is why I love social media.

me-at-library

Me perusing the Reader's Periodic Guide to Literature

In this post, I’m going to explain how I curate social information using Twitter and my RSS Reader. I may update this in a few weeks once I obtain my Dell SMaC certification. From what I understand,there are some pretty cool tools to tame the social data deluge that are available once you get that certification – I’ll report on that later.

Twitter

In addition to using clients that allow you to separate tweets into streams, I use lists and favorites to capture interesting nuggets of info.

Here are the Twitter directions for making lists. You only get 20 lists, and you can have up to 500 Twitter accounts on each list. I have some huge generic buckets for my lists (edupeeps, emcpeeps, storage). I have a list for my family, because their tweets get lost (and they get mad at me when I miss something). You can also follow lists that other people have created. I love following conference lists, because it gives you an organized list of people who are in the same industry, but don’t necessarily tweet about the same topics. Also, most Twitter clients allow you to access lists you have created on Twitter.

I use Twitter favorites to bookmark tweets. Most of the time I’m on my Android when I do this. I’ll see a tweet with an interesting-looking link but I don’t have time to really read the link. I’ll bookmark it, and then several times a week I go through the bookmarked tweets.

My biggest Twitter advice: don’t try to read every single tweet. You will just make yourself crazy. Create lists to organize the folks you follow. If you are new, follow lists other folks have created, you will probably make some new Twitter friends that way.

RSS Reader

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Most social content will allow you to pull the RSS feed of their content into an RSS reader. I tried to find a nice list of RSS readers, but there doesn’t seem to be one, maybe that will be a future blog post. If you want a more detailed explanation of RSS, check out this video.

I use Google Reader. I am subscribed to 276 RSS feeds. I have those organized into 29 folders. I always have more than 1000 unread blog posts. I like to browse through the reader at least once a week. I follow all sorts of feeds on topics ranging from storage, technology, our competitors, online comics, women in technology, food, autism, and general geeky goodness.

You won’t be able to keep up

Maybe the key is to managing the deluge of social information is to understand that you won’t be able to keep up. Do your best to organize the information you pull from social sources. If you are doing social for work, pay the most attention your work filters (ignore the geeky goodness if you start getting overwhelmed!). If you start pulling lots of information, be sure to set a filter for your family. And remember to leave time to be social, share some of the info you find with others and interact with the people who have shared the information with you.

How do we prevent our teams from being overwhelmed by social media?

I’ve seen lots of posts, and been in lots of discussions recently from this thing Cammy Bean has pegged as SoMeFat- or social media fatigue. Cammy describes it as the burnout from constantly being in the public eye.

@SANPenguin posted a link to an article about the dichotomy between sharing information and actually building someone else’s application. The post talks about Quora, which is another “free” app that relies on the contributions of experts to build content.”

I have to agree – constantly being “on stage” is exhausting – and we have to find ways to carve out time and space for reflection and being alone.

One thing that strikes me about these posts is that they are primarily focused on the personal side of things – what if you are leading a team at your business that is goaled on social media activities?

My colleague Nada Wheelock and I have been discussing this…if you are leading a corporate team that is engaging in social media, where do you have them focus? The tools, applications, etc change from day to day. What is the most important thing for them to focus on – especially if social media is but one of many job requirements? And how do you choose a tool that will be long lasting – in other words that will exist next year? How do you protect the individual privacy of that team?

To take that to an even further extreme — is it possible to chose a tool for the enterprise where we can be sure that the data generated by our resources stays with and benefits the enterprise? If you read this article on big data by @acrolll, I’m not sure that is something we can do with any certainty. We may be past the era where we can be sure we own the data generated by our resources.

This post is not really explaining things, it is more asking things. How do you make sure the time spent by resources you manage ends up benefiting your company as much as (if not more than) the owner of a social media application?