Posts filed under ‘Social Media’

Just Say “No” to Social Media Automation

I’m a big fan of automation. When I met my now-wife, she was writing out checks each month for various bills – a time consuming process that could easily be accomplished with auto-bill pay. In no time, that’s just what she did. No more checks, and no more stamps. Routine tasks should be automated. What should not be put on auto-pilot is content creation and promotion, particularly with respect to social media.

The world of professional services PR has changed rapidly, even in the relatively short time I have called it my career. Intense cost-cutting has reshaped publications ranging from national to local on both the general consumer and professional trade sides. B2B companies – such as architecture, accounting and law firms – have gradually come to embrace content creation (robust, well-maintained blogs and byline articles) and content promotion (especially social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter) as a key part of their promotional and thought-leadership strategies. With this dynamic, the temptation to take time-saving shortcuts, such as automation, is great.

The issues with “set-it-and-forget-it” content promotion strategies are multiple:

  1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all offer different promotional tools and reach audiences in different ways and at different points in their day. Twitter’s character restriction has made it the birthplace of many social media posts, with companies dropping the same skinny content into LinkedIn and Facebook. Alternately, Facebook’s truly awful option of posting to Twitter simply redirects viewers to Facebook, forcing them to leave a platform where they are actively engaged. If asked, do you want to link your LinkedIn to Facebook or your Twitter to LinkedIn, just firmly answer, “No.”
  1. The Perils of Scheduled Promotions – One of the core functions of an engaged communications team is to offer companies constant assessments of both the media landscape and how current events – locally, nationally and internationally – can affect messaging. A company does not want to be posting a jovial tweet when a serious international tragedy hits. Timing matters (in real time).
  1. You Can’t Sell the Steak Without the Sizzle – Basic social media posts follow the old Dragnet saying, “Just the facts, ma’am” – post title and URL generally. This means that the opportunity to tag authors, publications mentioned (especially if promoting a media mention) and add hashtags are lost. READ: “Steak.” By engaging communications teams to craft bespoke, platform-specific promotions, the reader is far more likely to be engaged. READ: “Delicious, Kobe beef steak served with garlic mashed potatoes and a truffle demi-glaze.” Communicators are adept at pulling out and highlighting salient passages and creating eye-catching headlines.
  1. Unappetizing Leftovers – The “set-it-and-forget-it” options also mean that repeat promotions are all the same and all quite vanilla. Rather than highlighting an alternate part of the content in question, they basically churn out a generic invitation. If your automation strategy turned your beautiful grass-fed steak into a hardened piece of shoe leather, you are unlikely to entice any more diners with the next “promotion.”
  1. Automation = Disengagement – Personally and professionally, social media proficiency takes work. We are gradually transitioning from heavy  professional services rejection of these platforms as too juvenile/opaque/avant garde to more (somewhat begrudging) acknowledgement of their importance. As such, many companies are at the point where they know they need to have a presence, but don’t quite know how to go about doing so. One option is to pursue the automation strategy. But, in addition to the aforementioned deficits associated with this path, it often hampers organizational social media understanding. Accounts are basically rooms that no one goes into and checks for engagement. Retweets, likes and interactions with clients and members of the community – all image- and brand-enhancing – go ignored.

Great content deserves great, creative and considered promotional campaigns. For professional services companies, where the key differentiators in the marketplace aren’t tangible, physical attributes, creating, packaging and promoting content to clients, potential clients and referral sources is impactful and thought-leadership is essential. Pay your cable bill automatically. Don’t automate your content.

Michael Bond

December 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

Online Content Cheat Sheet…You’re Welcome

Clients frequently ask us about content length and frequency for different mediums:

  • What is the desired length for a video?
  • How long should press releases be?
  • Are our blog posts too long?

Our friends at Adweek put together this informative infographic using data to suggest the ideal length of virtually everything online.

We think it’s a great guide for professional services industries, emphasizing that succinct and direct content provides a greater impact in most mediums, but that there are still platforms where readers prefer longer formats.

For professional services companies, it’s particularly good to know that audiences with interest in specific topics will be engaged in informative blog posts that are up to 1,600 words long (six times as long as this one), according to data findings.

This takeaway is encouraging, knowing that professional services companies are built upon expertise of its providers, and clients want the thorough content to learn about how to navigate the issues keeping them up at night. Keep that content coming!

Email subject lines are an entirely different animal – keep it short or your open and click rates will be pitiful. The data shows that the same brevity extends to Facebook posts (40 characters max), paragraphs (40-55 characters) and hashtags (only eight characters).

Speaking of animals, how they determined which animal to represent a stat is a mystery to me, but it’s awfully cute. However, they missed what I believe to be the most appropriate one for online content consumption – Squirrel!

Squirrel

You’ll notice my headline is six characters. Bam. Thanks, Adweek!

— Melinda Hepp

February 27, 2015 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

The Evolution of Media at-a-Glance

In recent months, a few news items have stood out as noteworthy, as they are emblematic of the shifting media landscape:

So what does it all mean?

  • The cable “bundle” is under attack.
  • The traditional over-the-air broadcast model faces threats as well.
  • While audio programing, and even long-form storytelling, remains viable, traditional programmed broadcast radio remains under pressure.
  • Mobile and social are king and the new “editors” are tech programmers. The physical print product is quickly becoming the ever-changing “feed.”

OK, but what does it mean for professional services companies?

  • Traditional ecosystems and gatekeepers are no longer sacrosanct.
  • Traditional content consumed by new technologies is still content consumed.
  • Wield the tools of the Internet. The printing press and the radio tower are on your desktop and in your pocket.
  • Get social and get mobile. Happily, the two go together.

Here are some potential, forward-thinking resolutions:

  • Don’t get hung up on, “Did we make the print edition?” (or be disappointed when you didn’t.)
  • Stop qualifying online media mentions.
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal website” – NO
    • “John Smith on The Wall Street Journal” – YES
  • Leverage social media. Focus on publishing content on well-trafficked outlets and use company-level accounts to amplify impact.

By being aware and forward-thinking about target audiences’ content consumption, one can evolve with the times and maximize exposure.

Michael Bond

November 14, 2014 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

The Deliciousness of Social Media Engagement

Check out Adweek’s recent “Brand of the Day” – Cinnabon! I listened to Kat Cole, their chief operating officer, speak at the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Annual Conference last April, initially wondering what a young woman who markets cinnamon rolls (come chicken wings) would have to offer a room full of legal marketers accustomed to supporting the “sale” of $500+ per hour professional services. Within minutes, all skepticism about the “fit” with this audience was gone, and I was actively engaged (and, no, it had nothing to do with the Cinnabon vodka samples on the table).

A key message from that presentation was “know your audience” – something Kat had clearly taken the time to do with the LMA crowd prior to walking on stage and something her brand does consistently in its marketing (and in its employee/franchisee relations). Much of the value of social media for professional services marketers and communicators is the insight it provides into human behavior, current events and issues. Listening to your target audiences has never been easier – their thoughts are often in the public domain and even searchable and sortable by hashtags. Similarly, we can see current media trends and interests – both in reporters’ Twitter musings and in the published and shared content created and consumed. Heck, on most social media interfaces you’ve even got a box on the side of the page telling you what’s “trending!”

But my own personal takeaway that day is even more directly tied to the reason Cinnabon has 63,000 tweets and an avid following. Personally, I’m not a terribly active tweeter. I’m episodic at best, and generally tweet when it’s professionally warranted. (See previous lurker listener comments about the nature of my usage.) At the LMA Annual Conference (and most other professional development gigs), I make every effort to share a nugget or two of tweetable wisdom with my colleagues back at the office and friends who couldn’t make it to the event. On the day Kat spoke, I tagged her in a tweet about halfway through her presentation – noting my new-found respect for Cinnabon and Hooters (Kat joined Cinnabon after serving as Vice President of Training and Development for Hooters of America Inc.) two brands with which I’d had only limited interaction until that moment. Within minutes of her standing ovation and while she was still out of breath from her energetic presentation, @KatColeATL replied – and so did Cinnabon:

tstuarttweet

To this day, I have never stepped into (or eaten) a Cinnabon, but I perceive that I have a “relationship” with the brand thanks to a 10-second interaction with one of their brand ambassadors via Twitter.

Social media is about connecting – plain and simple. The most effective connections involve both listening and interacting.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I did give the Cinnabon vodka a shot.)

— Traci Stuart

September 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm Leave a comment

Crowdsourcing – Lawyers Quickly Embracing the Idea

The statement “all the cool kids are doing it” is usually signals a fad. However, in the case of crowdsourcing, the idea is no longer a trend and quickly becoming a staple of the Internet. While most think of crowdsourcing as start-ups looking for capital, it is actually broader and, in the modern era, encompasses the established idea of asking for help or offering services with an online twist.

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

The keys in the definition for professional service firms are “services” and “ideas.” PricewaterhouseCoopers identified these methods in a whitepaper published in 2011. Similar to blogs and even websites, law firms may have been weary at first, but once the value was identified, crowdsourcing has become entrenched in the legal arena.

Case in point, AttorneyFee, Jurify, LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, BriefMine and MyRight have all launched within the last couple of years.

Adam Ziegler, the founder of Mootus, an online platform for legal argument and insight, said the more he learned about crowdsourcing, the more it made sense as a potential tool for lawyers.

However, it is not just services and research that have embraced crowdsourcing. A divorce law firm in North Carolina turned to a “crowd for marketing help and ended up with more effective pay-per-click ads and a new logo that reflects its practice focus.

Legal marking professionals have even suggested that crowdsourcing can be used for publishing articles and optimizing websites and lawyer bios.

For further proof of crowdsourcing’s influence on the legal industry, consider that others may follow the example of an employee who raised money for an appeal through online donations. The White House even considered crowdsourcing the review of patents.

Needless to say, the population “cool kids doing it” is quickly expanding to lawyers.

Chuck Brown

June 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

Embracing Facebook as a News Conduit

I’m a bit of a dinosaur. On a good day, three physical newspapers are dropped at my doorstep. Of the things that motivate me to get out of bed: coffee and those newspapers play a large role. Being a media relations professional, I am steeped from dawn to dusk (and often well beyond) in the news. This has given me ample time and frequent opportunities to consider whether news is consumed less than it was 10 years ago or at the same rate but via different mediums. For some, public enemy number one is Facebook – thanks to how we, as a society, are seemingly discarding the life of the mind for an existence defined by an endless loop of memes, cat videos and political railings. I used to challenge the notion that one could “get the news” from Facebook. Now, however, I see that it is possible and that this publishing platform is a rich resource for professional services firms.

A physical newspaper is a closed-circuit: all the stories that the editors deemed “news” are bundled up into a defined space. A platform like Facebook is a bit like outer space: you can zoom around in your spaceship endlessly in virtually any direction. Beyond capacity, the critical difference between the two mediums is that a newspaper has a gatekeeper – an editor – and Facebook, and social media in general, do not and are do-it-yourself.

On Facebook, you can follow and curate news sources – including “old media” outlets – so as to create a compelling and deep news consumption experience. You can also choose to follow fringe outlets if you desire. Essentially, you can build a solid house or a conspiracy-theorist bunker. There are virtually no news outlets remaining that do not post their content on this ecosystem.

Personally, I follow everything from The Wall Street Journal to PBS to industry trade publications and groups. Their content is interspersed among the minor curiosities posted by friends and family. Increasingly, I have found Facebook as a conduit to worthwhile content posted by trusted sources I have followed.

The easiest way to view Facebook, in terms of news, is that it is an additional platform for content consumption with a robust built-in audience and top-tier mobile applications. For professional services companies, it is an additional distribution channel to utilize, reaching a broad audience in their leisure time and on the mobile platform. It is worth considering for use in everything from pushing out press releases to posting photos of firm events.

People still actively consume news: it is just that the mediums on which they are doing so have multiplied. Newspapers matter. So does social media such as Facebook.

Michael Bond

June 4, 2014 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

Why You Should Keep Personal Social Media Use Professional

Online privacy policies, especially with respect to social media sites, have redefined the word ephemeral. Just when one thinks they have successfully navigated the complexities of properties such as Facebook, new “terms of use” are introduced for review and agreement.

The most recent example was Google’s early November introduction of “Shared Endorsements,” meaning if one has a Google+ account (and many do without realizing it), and they “+1” something (the G+ equivalent of clicking the “like” button on Facebook), their name and picture may appear in an ad endorsing a product or service. One is automatically opted in and can only opt out after poking around in settings. The bottom line is that for anyone, but especially for professionals, knowing both the scope of what is being shared and the impression left via an online presence is crucial and often unexplored terrain.

Tracking a Public Profile

It is important to begin the process of curating one’s online presence by first putting together a “briefing document” on what has inevitably already been revealed online.

Google

Start by Googling your name. Add geographic parameters to narrow down the results. See what comes up and start clicking through to determine what each site reveals. An important caveat is to be careful to only click on trustworthy sites. (If unsure, search the site’s name and see what information about it is available.)

Facebook

Google will likely show a link to Facebook near the top of the results. Log out of Facebook and click the link to reveal what the public sees. Facebook’s privacy settings, while a labyrinth, do allow one to limit severely the information shared. Some might not want a publicly facing profile and that is perfectly acceptable. The reality is that most users never take the time to consider what they are actively broadcasting to the world — from the political (e.g., “Obamacare sucks!”) to the personal (e.g., an awkward family photo posted for “Throwback Thursday”).

Twitter

More than Facebook, users think they can create “masked” Twitter accounts and vent without revealing their identities. While this is possible, many times the tech savvy can easily connect the dots. Even with a private account, one’s avatar (e.g., the NFL cheerleader) remains public and their followers can retweet protected messages.

LinkedIn 

Signing up for LinkedIn, while not a difficult process, takes a small amount of dedicated time. Many have gone through the first steps of registering for an account (perhaps prompted by the deluge of requests to “connect”) but have failed to build out their presence. This has created a virtual army of zombie LinkedIn accounts, the walking dead staggering along with incomplete information, previous firm affiliations, misspellings and other grammatical faux pas. Despite their poor quality, Google still displays these accounts prominently in search results.

Oversharing

These hyper-connected, always-on times provide incredible benefits that are tempered by very real risks. The concept of going home, closing the front door and retreating to the “privacy of one’s home” has changed dramatically and will only accelerate as younger generations enter the workplace. The water cooler has morphed into Facebook and Twitter feeds. For instance, as the “Breaking Bad” finale aired, more than 1 million tweets entered into the ether.

This is why, to the extent possible, personal public-facing accounts should be pruned of any posts of a political, sexual or profane nature. Beyond this, posts with the potential to inflame or irritate potential employers or clients should be removed, as well. It is fine to show some personality and humor on a public-facing account, but one should always — before posting — run the content through a personal filter that asks, “Does this complement my professional Web presence?”

As previously noted, photos present an additional area of concern. For instance, a day at the beach, while fun, can lead to swimsuit shots or other unflattering content (e.g., asleep on a beach chair, mouth agape with terrible sunburn) that is most likely not what one wants clients (even the friendliest of clients) to see. Also, be aware that with a profile set to be largely public, users can “tag” an individual in photos for the world to see — unless one has taken the time to apply an “approve tags first” setting.

Oversharing is a notion to be considered. While one might be thrilled to have purchased a Groupon for reflexology, it may be wise to resist the urge — and the chipper suggestions from the site of purchase — to publicly share this find on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Such information is likely more than anyone needs to know and reflects poorly on one’s personal brand.

Curation

With the Internet constantly in one’s pocket, it is difficult — if not impossible — to stay offline. While it’s not the case that everything done on the Internet is entered into the public domain, more is than most realize. Privacy settings, while tedious, are important. Both for an individual’s personal development and an organization’s brand, it’s critical that regular social media audits be conducted.

With a well-thought strategy, one can effectively employ social media for both personal and professional benefit. A sample game plan for the most popular properties follows:

Facebook

Be friends with family and close friends. Share the beach photos with them. Utilize privacy settings to severely limit one’s public profile.

Twitter

Keep a public profile with an avatar that has zero chance of offending. Run all content, including followers, through the does-this-look-professional filter. Be strategic and tasteful when tweeting. If comfortable, use Twitter to enhance personal marketing efforts (e.g., “Check out this article on indemnity that I contributed to The Law Journal).

LinkedIn

Simply put, this site is too important to be ignored. Take the time to create a full profile, complete with a professional photo. Connect with colleagues and clients. Use this vehicle to amplify marketing efforts through strategic updates to connections.

All Other Sites 

With sites such as Instagram, Google+, Pandora, Goodreads, etc. be mindful about what is shared and said. Explore your privacy setting in-depth.

With most online engagement, assume modest privacy, at best.

Life Online

Opposing counsel, employers and clients all Google. By combing through the information that seeps out from one’s personal social media accounts, a fairly complete profile can often be created. Hobbies, political persuasion and other interests can all be deduced.

These are interesting times and should one find themselves in the spotlight, every scrap of online information will be pored over extensively. While that scenario may be extreme, a well-curated online presence is critical for reinforcing one’s credentials and public image, for connecting with the next generation of decision makers and for interfacing for business development purposes.

— Michael Bond

This article originally appeared on Law360 on Jan. 8, 2014.

January 8, 2014 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

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