How Not to Fail at Social Media (CSIA 2013)


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  • Most people in the CSIA audience are actually fighting two problems when it comes to social media…
  • The first problem is that they are engineers, which is to say they (we, really) are left-brain dominant thinkers. The left hemisphere of our brains processes information sequentially and analyzes the pieces individually (and mostly verbally) in order to assemble a complete picture. Conversely, the right hemisphere works in more of a big picture mode, taking in the whole picture (mostly visually). The left side is about details, while the right side is about meaning. There are several aspects of social media – creativity, context, design – that require more right-brained skills. It isn’t that engineers aren’t capable of using their right brains, but that they are frequently out of practice due to the day-to-day requirements of their job.
  • For thousands of years, the Kakapo parrot lived in isolation on New Zealand. For its entire evolutionary existence, its biggest threat to survival was overpopulation. As a result, it developed a defense mechanism, which was a series of mating rituals that made it extraordinarily – and comically – difficult to reproduce. But in the 1840’s a new threat emerged when humans introduced new predators. Like it had done for tens of thousands of years, its evolutionary instincts for self-preservation kicked in and the birds started to reproduce even less frequently and were nearly wiped out.What does this have to do with social media? It’s because most of you work for corporations who do the exact same thing as the Kakapo. As soon as a new threat to their existence appears, companies have a tendency to do that which had always allowed them to survive in the first place. And so it is with the introduction of social media. Instead of forming new adaptive behaviors, most companies are simply employing the same old strategies and tactics that served them well in the good old days of mass media and outbound marketing.
  • Social media success does not look like a bunch of Twitter followers, a gaggle of Facebook fans or an army of YouTube channel subscribers. At the end of the day, success looks like new customers. Anything else is failure.
  • I mentioned earlier that engineers and scientists are particularly challenged because of their left brain tendencies. The left hemisphere of our brains processes information sequentially and analyzes the pieces individually (and mostly verbally) in order to assemble a complete picture. Conversely, the right hemisphere works in more of a big picture mode, taking in the whole picture (mostly visually). The left side is about details, while the right side is about meaning.It’s the right hemisphere that subconsciously fits the pieces together that are usually classified as “aha” moments. Because we are in the very early stages of understanding how these brain processes work, we tend to believe that innovation and creativity are gifts from muses or just say the people that experience them are “gifted.”The truth is that there are tools and techniques that will enhance your creativity and lead you on a path to creating remarkable content.
  • Companies need to escape from The Matrix. For a hundred years, they’ve been trapped in The Matrix that was created by the media channel owners (newspapers, radio, television). The challenge now is for companies to recognize that when it comes to social media, the users are the owners. That leads to a vastly different set of rules and norms than they are used to dealing with. This is the fundamental reason why (in my observations) 90% of all companies fail at social media; they simply copy and paste their old media tactics into social media.
  • The first and most egregious mistake I see companies make in social media is that they get talked into employing social media tactics without an Internet marketing strategy. This means understanding how the entire web presence will be used in pursuit of the ultimate goal; gaining customers. The website, search engine optimization and social media strategies must all be aligned and compliment one another before tactics can be considered.
  • Marketing maven and best-selling author David Meerman Scott is fond of saying, “Nobody cares about you or your products or your services. The only thing they care about is how you can solve their problem and how much it will cost.” People choose to follow social media accounts in order to get value for themselves, not to read about how awesome your company is, how you beat Q1 revenue estimates, how you just commissioned a new plant with your “world-class, industry leading, value-added, paradigm-shifting, scalable, best of breed, sustainable, actionable, robust, win-win” solution. Nobody cares and even if they did, they won’t believe you.
  • The word “authenticity” is over-used when talking about social media, but it’s because it really is a critical concept. In a medium where the users are also the owners, the only asset worth anything is trust. And if you try to pull a “fast one,” you will lose that trust forever. What I mean by pulling a fast one is faking authenticity. People have a great capacity to forgive mistakes if the company is authentic, transparent and self-deprecating. But you will lose that opportunity by trying to fool people into thinking you’re acting generously when it’s really self-serving.
  • Companies are used to having things their way and being in control. In social media they must understand that they can only participate in the conversation, not control it.
  • Let’s assume for one moment that all of your social media efforts are fabulously successful. You build a large, passionate, loyal, engaged audience who wait breathlessly for your next Tweet. Of the corporate websites I’ve reviewed in the automation industries, 100% of them are herding cats – which is to say that they are not sending people to landing pages with compelling calls to action. It’s the equivalent of rounding up a whole bunch of people on the street and shoving them down a dead end street. If you’re going to bother spending any resources on social media, make sure that your website is optimized to make the most of those visitors so they can be converted to leads.
  • There is a commonly used business theorem that says, “Ideas are easy, execution is hard.” Entrepreneurs frequently overestimate the value of their ideas and underestimate the importance of execution (to their detriment). But there’s a corollary to that theorem from none other than Mike Tyson, which is a personal favorite of mine that goes, “Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.” And so it is with social media: The most carefully crafted and well-thought out strategies will only get you so far without solid tactics and good execution. My keys for social media execution are summed up in my acronym “BARE” that stands for Be Authentic, Relentless and Everywhere.
  • There is an old maxim in journalism that advises, “If you don’t have a story to tell, write one.” That applies very well to social media and especially to this audience.As an engineer, I was guilty of boring writing, and most engineering and scientific stuff I read is much the same. It is attributable to left brain thinking, which processes information sequentially, one detail after another. We feel the need to provide information in a linear, start to finish, beginning to end fashion where each fact or detail logically builds on its predecessor. There are two problems with this approach. One, it’s boring! Two, the reader may not last long enough to get to the good stuff because you haven’t given them a reason to be interested. Your content must be remarkable.As humans, our brains learn from actions and consequences, and conflict is always in the middle. We have a need, a desire, a lust to find out what happens. How does the story end? All conflict begins with what Robert McKee calls the “Inciting Incident”, which is an event that “radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life.” The remainder of the story is a quest to restore that balance and that can only be accomplished through conflict. Your challenge is to identify the conflict in your story and personalize it for your reader by attaching it to an emotion. The frustration of knowing a control valve PID loop can perform better. The accomplishment of achieving a software certification. The friendships that are formed at your non-profit group’s meetings.It’s not about turning facts into fiction – it’s about presenting facts in a particular order that creates curiosity and then meets expectations.
  • I was watching a horrifying and emotional television show on the History channel called “World War II in HD.” As they were recounting the Battle of the Bulge, describing the inhuman conditions, the savagery and sorrowful loss of life, suddenly these three happy-go-lucky hosts from the American TopGear television show popped and looked directly at a GI loading a Howitzer, smiling and chuckling all the while. It was completely inappropriate and made me furious. Obviously, these promotional spots were pre-programmed to pop up all throughout the day and nobody paid any thought to what images against which they would actually be juxtaposed.There is a similar risk in social media. There are hundreds of great tools on the market that can help you be more efficient. However, they need to be used carefully to avoid a TopGear situation of your own. By example, there are lots of programs available that allow social media updates to be pre-scheduled. I’ve seen many situations where something tragic has occurred and is dominating the social media discussion but obviously automated updates are happily talking about something completely inappropriate for the moment.
  • Another axiom of journalism is “Don’t bury the lead.” This means that within the first few sentences of the opening of a blog post or presentation, the reader needs to know what the payoff will be. They need to understand what they will earn from investing the next two, five or ten minutes of their lives to read your content. This is a big problem in many engineering and scientific publications because they feel the need to go from start to finish, chronologically presenting facts that build on one another. In our attention-deficit world of information overload, this approach doesn’t work. Another favorite quote of mine comes from former New York Times editor Francis Flaherty. He advises us that “Your writing should never be as heavy as a fruitcake. Remember, every word you write, the reader must read.” Be economical and remember Mark Twain who said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” It’s not easy to be concise.
  • My final bit of advice is to learn the basics of visual design and don’t create ugly stuff. I always thought that people were either born with a natural artistic ability that allowed them to create visually appealing content or else they became engineers. But as I began reading books about how to create great presentations, I was steered toward books about visual design and I learned there are rules! There are some basic principals and best practices that can be learned and followed that can help anyone create better looking graphics.
  • How Not to Fail at Social Media (CSIA 2013)

    1. 1. how not to FAIL atSOCIAL MEDIAby Jon DiPietro
    2. 2. Jon
    3. 3. what’s the PROBLEM?
    4. 4. Sirocco the Kakapo from Department of Conservation on Flickr
    5. 5. what does SUCCESS look like?
    6. 6. #like 2 by misspixels on Flickr
    7. 7. how does one avoid FAILING?
    8. 8. Analytical Creative
    9. 9. ten ways to avoid FAILINGat social media…
    10. 10. 1. “Tactics without strategyis the noise before defeat”Art of War by nbarreto on Flickr
    11. 11. 2. Don’t be a bragger
    12. 12. 3. Don’t be diabolicalDr Strangelove from tsmall on Flickr
    13. 13. 4. Don’t be a control freak
    14. 14. 5. Don’t herd catsDead End by monstersweare on Flickr
    15. 15. 6. “Strategy without tacticsis the slowest route to victory”Art of War by nbarreto on Flickr
    16. 16. 7. Don’t be boringBored… by Saxsbiker on Flickr
    17. 17. 8. Don’t be robotic
    18. 18. 9. Don’t be long-winded
    19. 19. 10.Don’t be repulsive
    20. 20. ten ways to avoid FAILINGat social media…1.Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat2.Don’t be a bragger3.Don’t be diabolical4.Don’t be a control freak5.Don’t herd cats6.Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory7.Don’t be boring8.Don’t be robotic9.Don’t be long-winded10.Don’t be repulsive
    21. 21. Jon