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The Top 10 Restaurants Using Social Media [Infographic]

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Who among us wouldn’t love having nearly 31.4 million likes on Facebook or 2.8 million Twitter followers? That’s the kind of social media following Starbucks has–and it’s also dominating Google+ and Pinterest (and they come in second for YouTube and Klout, following Burger King and Taco Bell respectively).

Restaurant Social Media Top 10

Obviously, Starbucks and most of the other restaurants on this list have so many followers not only because they run their social media accounts well, but because people like their products. That’s a great lesson for all restaurant owners interested in boosting their social presence. Just like “content is king” in the blogging world, your content (i.e. your products) is king in the restaurant industry. It doesn’t matter how engaging you are on Facebook or Twitter if your food doesn’t taste good.

Some other observations I have about the above lists:

  • Restaurants are just starting to realize the importance of Pinterest. You don’t have to be a huge chain to break into the top ten list, since there’s not a ton of competition on Pinterest yet. (Check out our five-day series on creating a Pinterest profile from scratch if you don’t yet have an account there.)
  • YouTube is another place you can dominate, even if you aren’t a massive chain. Create interesting video content (not just commercials), and ask people to subscribe to your channel.
  • People aren’t really “checking in” to restaurants, but they are using apps to read about restaurants online. So make sure your restaurant has a presence on Yelp and other mobile apps.

Want to learn more about using social media for your restaurant? Consider grabbing a ticket to NMX’s Social Media Business Summit, which features speakers and sessions for every education level, from those of you new to social media to social media managers who have been using it for years.

Social Media Automation for Small Businesses: Is It Really For The Birds?

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is social media automation for the birds Is social media automation a good thing for small business owners? How can small business owners use social media quickly without it? This post covers what you need to know about automating your social media presence. It’s not all bad!

Putting social media on auto-pilot is like sending your customer complaint phone calls to voice mail. Sure, it might help some people who just want to vent or have specific questions answered by your recording, but it’s only going to tick off most people.

Yet, mastering social media takes time, and for a small business run by a handful of people, it can seem impossible to keep up with social media. Few small business owners have time to sit on Twitter all day.

I have good news: automation has a negative connotation, but all of your business practices should be automated sometime. You can’t scale if you do everything by hand. It’s just important to automate the right way. You wouldn’t stick a mannequin behind the counter but you also wouldn’t demand that your cashiers calculate everything by hand. With the proper tools, social media automation can help you run your social media accounts, even if you don’t have the money yet to hire a dedicated social media manager.

Things You Should Never Automate

First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: the dark side of automation. Social media automation has a negative connotation for a reason — lots of people do it incorrectly. There are certain types of automation you should never do.

  • Never create an account and leave it 100% on autopilot. Any platform — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. — requires your attention at least some of the time. You can’t just set things up and let them handle themselves.
  • Never automate customer service. You need to address problems and answer questions via social media if you’re going to have a presence there. Never leave customers to fend for themselves when an issue arises.
  • Never automate “from” live events. Bad stuff happens, all the time. If you schedule or otherwise automate tweets to look like you’re at an event, you could end up with mud on your face if things don’t go as planned. Look at this example of a tweet from LiveNation Ontario about a Radiohead concert that was canceled due to a stage collapse tragedy.

Depending on your business, there are other things you should never automate – but those are the big three that go for everyone.

Automation the Right Way

You can, however, automate some parts of the social media process to make things easier for you as a small business owner. The key is to make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You shouldn’t automate everything. So, start with a single social network, get the process down pat there, and then branch out to the next network. This is a much more streamlined process than trying to start ten profiles at once. (I recommend starting with either Facebook or Twitter, depending on your industry. Go to the network where your customers are most active.)

Let’s look at a few ways you can automate your account:

  • Automate stats tracking.

There’s absolutely no reason to collect and study your data manually. You should track stats, but instead of spending time trying to make heads or tails of Facebook Analytics and other platform-specific reports, go with a single system. Check out this really comprehensive list of social media monitoring tools. Remember, you get what you pay for. I highly recommend opening your wallet and spending a little money on an all-inclusive, detailed monitoring service unless you have the time to analyze free reports.

  • Automate your tweets.

Not all of your tweets should be automated, and some may disagree with me on this point, but I believe that it is fine to schedule some of your tweets in advance, as well as automate the tweeting process if you have a company blog.

Twitterfeed is your friend. If you sign up for this service, you can add your blog’s RSS feed and you’ll automatically tweet every new post as it is published. Unless you can think of a reason why you’d not want to tweet your own links, I highly recommend doing this. It just doesn’t make sense to do it manually.

If you are going to schedule tweets, I have two tips for you:

  1. Don’t schedule too far in advance. You want to keep track of everything you have scheduled so you can cancel the tweets if you want.
  2. Don’t schedule anything that isn’t 100%. Yes, you can cancel scheduled tweets, but don’t rely on this function. Don’t schedule a tweet that you wouldn’t be okay with going out instantly.

I recommend scheduling tweets simply because you want to spread them out over the course of a day and this isn’t always possible, depending on your business. If you do have a business where you can constantly tweet via your phone or computer in real time, that’s usually the better option.

You can schedule updates for Facebook as well, though keep in mind that Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine how many people see your post. (Check out this great article from NMX speaker Rich Brooks about EdgeRank if you’ve never heard of it before.) Be aware that some forms of automation can affect how well your Facebook page performs, so it’s important to do things manually when possible.

  • Get notified! (But don’t rely on notifications.)

There are tons of mobile apps that will buzz every time you get a new mention or message or whatnot on your social media profile. If you’re on the go, this will alert you whenever you need to take care of something, rather than having to manually check you accounts several times per day.

You can also set up your preferences to get an email every time there’s an interaction on one of your social media accounts. I know, I know: no one wants more email. However, what you can do is set up a dummy email account just for your social media sites and sync that to your phone. That way, it doesn’t bog down your regular email and you don’t even have to check it (other than perhaps occasionally cleaning it out to free up some space), but your phone will still buzz whenever something needs your attention.

A word of caution however: don’t rely solely on automatic notifications. You should sign into every social media account you’ve create at least once per day (twice or more is recommended) to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

The bottom line? Not all social media automation is bad. You just have to learn to do thing the right way. Make sure to test every technique and be present whenever possible. Automation shouldn’t be the norm; it should simply be a way to add to real life presence via social media.

Want to learn more about using social media for your business? Register for the BusinessNext Social conference coming to Las Vegas this January!

Will Social Media Users Determine Who Wins the White House?

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The United States presidential election is heating up, and both incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are turning to the Internet to garner support for their campaigns. But are they using social media correctly?

And will it matter?

Check out this video from Voice of America:

In the last presidential election, Obama had a huge presence online, and his following has grown since then. Romney has a smaller following when you compare his Twitter followers and Facebook page likes to Obama’s, but that is in part due to the fact that he didn’t spend the last several years as president.

This isn’t just about tweeting and sending out Facebook status updates, though. Both campaigns are attempting to get a little more personal with their social media followers. For example, the Democratic National Convention hosted a tweetup for Obama supporters and the Republican National Convention confirmed that they have several staff members dedicated to reaching out to online voters, according to France 24.

That in-person touch is what will really make the difference, not Facebook likes.

In 2008, I was an Obama supporter (I am currently undecided for the upcoming election). I followed him on social media, but I wasn’t a strong fan and I certainly never considered giving money to the campaign until I attended a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania, near where I was living at the time. Seeing him speak in person and getting to shake his hand were what really convinced me to vote for him.

Yes, he blew John McCain (the Republican nominee in 2008) out of the water with his online presence, but he only won because he was able to connect with those followers in an emotionally-charged way.

Social media is great, but neither candidate has the time to send individual replies to followers. These accounts are run by staff members. If you look at either candidates’ streams, you’ll see little interaction. They’re just methods for broadcasting, like political ads on television. It’s not a two-way conversation.

That’s not to say social media has no impact on political elections, but it’s important to realize the power of personal communication. In my opinion, that’s why Obama won in 2008. It wasn’t that he had more fans online; it was that he got out there and spoke to those fans about issues they really cared about. Social media is just a tool for finding people who could potentially vote for you, not a method for convincing them to cast their ballot in your favor. In 2008, the candidate who was best able to connect with the people outside of social media was the candidate who won.

Ultimately, I think that’s who will win in this upcoming election as well – whoever can better connect with people about their needs, not whoever gets more retweets.

Do you think social media matters in the presidential race?

Confession: I Bought Facebook Fans (And I Don’t Regret It)

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I have a confession to make. Last month, for the first time ever, I pulled out my credit card and bought Facebook fans. Yes, I actually paid money for bigger social media numbers. I just started a new food blog, and I wanted to quickly grow my presence on this network.

But perhaps the more shocking part of my confession is this: I do not regret my decision. In fact, I recommend that you consider buying Facebook fans too.

How to Buy Fans the Right Way

I don’t recommend that you pay a social media company to boost your numbers. They might say they can get you “real fans,” but in actuality, what they do is pad your page’s numbers with dummy accounts and foreign users who are paid to like pages. They aren’t really fans. These fans are never going to buy your products, share your posts, or click though to your website. They don’t give a hoot about you or your business. You’re throwing money away if you buy fans this way.

But there’s another way to buy Facebook fans. If you’re brand new, building a Facebook presence can be done, but it certainly takes time to gain momentum. A way to more quickly build a following is to purchase fans – through the use of Facebook ads. Facebook ads help in a few ways:

  • More fans means more people sharing your updates, and with every share, you’ll be reaching new potential fans. So, one you have that base of fans, you can start growing exponentially if you update your page well.
  • If your page is empty, it can scare off people who come to it. With more fans, there will be more interaction on your page.

When you pay for ads on Facebook, you are buying fans – but you’re only buying fans who are actually interested in your page. I bought fans this way and I don’t regret it at all. I think every business can benefit from running Facebook ads.

Facebook Advertisement Choices

Facebook gives users two ad choices: CPC and CPM. With a CPC ad, you’ll pay for every person who clicks on your ad. With a CPM ad, you’ll pay for every person who sees your ad.

In both cases, you aren’t paying for a like – you’re paying for the potential of a like. If you choose to go with a CPC model, make your ad as clear as possible, since you want people to only click if they are actually going to like the page. If you choose to go with a CPM model, make your ad as enticing as possible so it grabs people’s attention when they view it and they click through to your page.

I recommend trying both CPC and CPM ads to see which you like best. Set a dollar amount and run your ad with each model to see which performs better. For me, the CPC ad was more effective, but that may not be the case for you. So do some A/B testing first before committing tons of money to one type of ad.

Creating Targeted Facebook Ads

Remember, with Facebook ads, you can also set parameters so only certain users see your ads. I especially recommend doing this if you go with CPM ads, since you don’t want to pay for your ad to be viewed by people who won’t be interested in your page. If you run a car detailing business, for example, a Facebook ad that isn’t targeted is going to be seen by a lot of people who don’t like cars – and even people who are too young to own cars.

Using targeting functions can also help you reach people who aren’t currently part of your fan base. For example, let’s say you run a fashion blog and most of your readers are female, even though you talk about male fashion too. A targeted Facebook ad that you set to only be seen by males who list fashion as an interest. This will help you reach people who will likely enjoy your content, but who have previously not found your page.

Reading More About Buying Facebook Fans

Here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog, we often write about Facebook , and we’ve also compiled a list of people in our community talking about Facebook likes in a past edition of Brilliant Bloggers. For specific advice about how to get more Facebook fans, check out these posts:

For me, Facebook fans were extremely effective for my needs: a short burst when my newest blog launched. If you already have a fan base, an ad may or may not work well for you. Have you tried running a Facebook ad to increase your fans? What were the results?

Working in Social Media at 27: Yes, I Am Over The Hill

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I’m 27 years old, and that’s me pictured at right pouting. Why? Because according to Cathryn Sloane, I am too old to be a social media manager. In her post yesterday, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25,” Cathryn writes,

“You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30. I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with social media. We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us. No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.”

Of course, outrage ensued. Nearly all of my social-media-savvy friends commented on this story on Facebook, with most linking to it and some even writing their own blog posts about it. On the New Media Expo Facebook page, there’s currently 50 comments on our share of this story…and counting.

In other words, people are not happy.

A New Understanding

Cathryn is right that every generation has defining events and overall themes. These events or themes shape the way you think. I would go even further and say that this is not age-related. When you belong to a certain group, you have experiences that shape the way you think. I’m from a rural area, so I’m going to think differently than someone from a large city. I’m female so I’m going to think differently than a male. I’m tall so I’m going to think differently than someone who is short.

I’m 27, so I’m going to think differently than someone who is 67.

These differences do not wholly define us, nor do they make us better or worse than someone else. But let’s not pretend that these differences aren’t there at all, and age definitely leads to a different way of thinking. We don’t always understand why someone older or younger than we are acts a certain way. This lack of understanding is not a problem unless we fail to acknowledge it.

In fact, I don’t like the term lack of understanding. I would instead say that with each generation, there is a new understanding of the world. Not better, just new. We need to be honest about that.

Generation Y has a new understanding of social media. When we dismiss this fact, we fail to see the whole picture.

How Generation Y is Different

Social media is nothing new. At the heart of it, marketing is marketing, whether you are doing it on Twitter or on in a print ad campaign. But when marketing to different age groups, you wouldn’t do it the same way. Think of an extreme case, like promoting a product to a 70-year-old grandparent versus a 7-year-old grandchild. If you use the same technique, you will probably fail because these people are at different points in life and want different things. But these people also want different things because of how and when they grow up. If you take that 70-year-old person and rewind until they are once again seven years old too, he’s probably going to respond to the same marketing differently than the 7-year-old from current times.

As the age gap narrows, these differences aren’t as stark, but they’re still there.

So a member of Generation Y is, in general, going to have different needs than a member of Generation X. In fact, studies have show that there are stark differences between Generation Y and other generations.

  • Less than half of 16- to 24-year-olds were employed during the summer of 2011. This is the smallest percentage since 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment at such high rates during young adult years is a unique experience for this generation. (Stats source)
  • About 5.9 million Americans aged 25 to 34 lived with their parents as of 2012, according to the U.S. census. This is a whooping 25% increase from 2007. Studies also show that Generation Y adults are putting off marriage longer than their Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts. Again, this “delay” of an independent life with family responsibilities is unique to this generation. (Stats source)
  • On average, 18-24 year olds send or receive about 109 text messages per day. This number drops to about 42 for 25-34 year old, and then drops even lower for Generation X and Baby Boomers (about 26 for 35-44 year olds, about 14 for 45-54 year olds and under 10 for older cell phone users). And keep in mind that this is just looking at cell phone users, not averaging in zeros for people who don’t have cell phones. So, one of the main ways Generation Y communications is not nearly as readily used by older generations. (Stas source)

These are of course just three examples of how Generation Y is different. Why does this matter when it comes to the age of social media managers? Because these differences aren’t learned and can’t be unlearned. They are natural and inherent. Many members of Generation Y don’t remember what it’s like to not have a cell phone in hand and they aren’t on the same life paths that members of older generations were on when they were leaving high school and college.

A Discussion, Not a Debate

I’m not afraid to admit that Cathryn is right: at 27, I’m already over the hill. How do I know this? Because whenever I’m visiting my family over holidays, I take the time to talk to my younger cousin, Katie (pictured at right), who is now 17 years old. Technically, we’re both members of Generation Y, but I find picking her brain is fascinating and enlightening.

Did you know that when her and her friends want to plan something special, they don’t send out evites? Okay, maybe not so surprising…but how about this: they usually don’t create events on Facebook either. It’s not for lack of checking Facebook. They’re just not into it for anything casual. They instead start a text message chain and invite people and track RSVPs that way.

Did you know they don’t have email? Part of the reason they definitely don’t do evites or any other party-planning that requires email is not because they see it as out-of-date. It’s because most of them do not have email addresses that they check with any level of frequency, just throw-away accounts they can use to sign up for stuff, but they never check.

Did you know that there’s an immense amount of social pressure to be “seen” with the right people online? If someone who’s not part of the “in” crowd in high school likes your Facebook status, your other friends will automatically NOT like your status unless a third person steps in and also likes the status? It’s seen as a social stigma if you and a single other undesirable person like the same status.

I’m not ashamed to say that I did not know any of that stuff until Katie told me – and I don’t understand it. I grew up liking evites and Facebook events. I grew up liking email. I grew up without social pressure online. I am different than she is. I wouldn’t know these things without a discussion because they don’t come naturally to me.

And that’s what we need: not a debate or all-out war over who understand social media better, but rather a discussion so we can education ourselves about how different age groups view social media differently.

Opening the Doors

When you write definitive and defensive posts about how your generation is better, you close the door to this discussion. Similarly, when you leave comments on said post that are patronizing, you close the door.

I think Cathryn’s post was poorly written and her argument was full of holes, yet every commenter who called her a child, claimed that she needs to grow up, or otherwise dismissed her opinions based on her age just proved her point that the older generation does not know how to effective communicate with the younger generation. We can’t respect your experience if you can’t respect our fresh point of view.

Where Cathryn ultimately fails in her piece is not in suggesting that companies need to consider hiring younger workers for social media management spots. I actually agree with her on that one to some degree. I do think that omitting younger people from this industry based on lack of professional experience is the wrong approach. Practical experience with social media should be worth as much as professional experience.

No, where I think she goes wrong is in asserting that there is nothing to be valued in professional experience at all. Being in the workplace, no matter what your job, teaches you valuable skills like team work, leadership, and organization. I know several people way past the age of 25 who do a lovely job as social media managers. What they lack in social media immersion they make up for in real-world education.

The solution is to open the doors to discussion in the world of social media. As a business owner, it’s important to hire people who “get” social media. This might translate to mean hiring a 60-year-old candidate who has been active online in a professional sense for several years and was a marketing professional for decades before that. Or it might translate to mean hiring a recent grad who has a passion for social media and understand your consumers. Better yet, it might translate to mean hiring a team comprised of people from several different backgrounds.

In any case, in the new media industry, we need to open the doors to discussion more often. Instead of talking about why we’re better and what we can teach one another, let’s talk about why we’re different and what we can learn.

The Most Important Ingredient in Your Social Strategy Recipe

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Good social media strategy is a recipe. When automation starts to get stale though, it’s time to mix up a recipe from scratch, starting with a base dough of promotion. Then you add in a cup or two or customer service and heaping tablespoon of retweets. Depending on your company, you might add other ingredients to the mix as well.

But many companies forget the most important ingredient of all.

In fact, anyone using social media to promote their content, products, or services need to add this important ingredient to their social strategy. Leaving it out is a disaster waiting to happen.

Scott Stratten at BlogWorld New York How Social Ranting Reminded Me of the Most Important Ingredient

I started writing this post in my head when listening to Scott Stratten rant about social media during his BlogWorld New York session, “7 Deadly Social Sins.” He admitted at the start of his talk that he would be ranting in this session about several social media practices that he sees all the time. These included linking Twitter with Facebook (and other accounts), being too stubborn to check out technology your audience is using just because you don’t personally like it, and trying to cover up mistakes instead of going with the flow. (You can hear his entire Super Session via the BWENY virtual ticket here.)

I’ve heard Scott speak several times, and what always strikes me about his sessions is that the audience does a lot of nodding and even applauding throughout. His talks aren’t typically about tools to use or how-to steps you should take or other specifics. They’re about broad ideas. He tells us what we already subconsciously know.

His sessions always seem to point out the most common ingredient that we often miss: common sense.

“Common” Sense?

When talking about social strategy, I’m constantly reminded of the saying, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense,” which dates back to at least the 1800s. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in squeezing the ROI out of social media that we often forget that social isn’t some kind of fancy new thing in the business world. The technology is new, to be sure, but at its core, social is really just basic human interaction.

People think that because their is a computer screen they can act differently than they would face-to-face with consumers. But it should be common sense that the computer screen is not important. What is important? Treating your customers like human beings. When someone walks into your ice cream shop, you give them a spoonful of one of your flavors to taste. When someone walks into your wedding dress boutique, you pair them with a consultant who spends hours helping them try on gowns. When someone walks into your restaurant, your host or hostess puts on a huge smile and welcomes them. When someone walks into your bar on a Tuesday night like usual, you ask “the regular?” because you took the time to remember his or her favorite beer.

These are the things you should be doing on social media – giving your audience a taste, giving your audience help, giving your audience a warm welcome, and giving your audience that feeling of, “I’m special.” It’s common sense when you’re face to face with a customer. It should be common sense online too.

These are Not New Concepts

Let’s think about business back in the days before social media.

In the early to mid 90s, when you were the coolest kid in school if you had Internet access at home, you didn’t get online to like your favorite band on Facebook (though MySpace days were right around the corner). Bands didn’t have a way to personally connect with you like they do today through Facebook, but they did have the ability to send you cool stuff in the mail via their fan club. Some CDs of the day even came with trading cards, and reality shows like Making the Band and appearances on MTV gave listeners the chance to “get to know you.”

In other words, it was about connection. Usually, the bands who made it big were the ones out there connecting with fans as often as possible. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

Let’s go back even farther to, say, the 1930s. There was no Pinterest for women to share their favorite recipes with one another, and no way for a company like Betty Crocker to build their brand on this platform. But you know what Betty Crocker could do (and did do) back in those pre-Internet days? They could recognize that the housewives buying their products would also be interested in other kitchen items, so they began putting a coupon for Oneida Limited flatware in every bag of flour. It was such a hit the later introduced a whole catalog of items.

In other words, it was about promoting related products that would interest their community, not just slinging their own products. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

Even father back in history, let’s talk about the 1700s. If there were two blacksmiths in town and your horse needed new shoes, how did you decide between them? Well, you probably asked someone you trusted and they gave you a word of moth recommendation. If you were one of those competing blacksmiths, you probably tried to treat your customers like they were special to instill a sense of loyalty and get those word of mouth recommendations.

In other words, you treated your audience as valued customers, not just dollar signs. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

In his book, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk writes, “How do people decide they like each other? They talk. They exchange ideas. They listen to each other. And eventually, a relationship forms. This process is no different for building relationships with customers.” It’s an idea that goes back to well before the days of the pioneers. People do business with people they like. Just because social media is thrown in the mix today doesn’t change that.

Common Sense in Your Own Social Strategy Recipe

So how can you take the idea of adding common sense and make it a reality? Here are my tips:

  • Stop over-thinking things. Yes, you do need to have a strategy and putting social policies in place is a good idea. But hire people you trust and then actually trust them. When your social accounts are run by someone who “gets it” you don’t need to approve every tweet or analyze every word in a Facebook post. You just need to be real.
  • Think of this as a conversation tool, not a marketing tool. Social media can do wonders for marketing products, services, and content online. But if that’s all you’re doing, few people will care. Use social as a way to actually talk with people and help people. If you do that, they’ll naturally start sharing your links and promoting your business. You won’t have to coerce them.
  • If you wouldn’t say it to a person face-to-face, don’t say it online. I’ve seen more than one rude tweet from a professional account. It always mystifies me. Be as nice to customers online as you would be to them if they walked through the door. Yes, even if they are being difficult.
  • Make time for social if your audience is there. Not every business needs to spend 8 hours a day on Twitter. Not every business needs an active Google+ account. Not every business needs to be pinning stuff for their followers. But find out where your audience lives online and go there. Make time for it, because it’s as important as answering the telephone. It can be as simple as setting up your phone to alert you when you have a new comment on your Facebook page. You don’t have to sit in front of your computer all day to be really good at social media. Jonathan Fields is a good example of someone who limits his social media presence to make time for other projects, but still does social really well.
  • Be helpful. One of the ways Syed Balhki built his WordPress blog was to simply go on Twitter and help people who had WordPress questions. Being helpful about problems related to your products, services, and content is ten times the promotional tactic than tweeting out links or even offering coupons.

Above all, stay educated. This is the point of the post where I tell you to come to the Social Media Business Summit at New Media Expo to learn more about successful social media strategy for your business, but go beyond what we have to offer. No matter what your industry or niche, subscribe to blogs about social media like Social Media Examiner, pick up books like Scott’s UnMarketing and The NOW Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, and yes, take the moment to go to events, classes, and seminars to learn how to be better at social. Common sense may be the most important ingredient, but staying educated about the other ingredients is important too.

Is New Media Destroying the News? How the Obamacare Ruling Highlighted a Growing Problem in the Media

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Yesterday, several politicians tweeted in celebration that Obamacare (new and controversial health care law in the United States, for those of you who are living in other countries and not paying attention to U.S. news) was repealed. The problem? It was actually upheld by the Supreme Court, not found unconstitutional and repealed. Mashable actually has screenshots of tweets from six politician, and these mistakes were later deleted when the real news about the ruling came out.

But don’t be too hard on these Republicans, no matter what your political persuasion. It’s hard to blame individuals when several media outlets on both sides of the political spectrum, including CNN, Fox, Huffington Post, and TIME all got it wrong too.

This is a growing problem in the United States and around the world – and as much as I love social media, blogging, and other online content, I think it might be new media’s fault.

The Race is On

One of the reasons newspapers are failing is that news reported this day is delayed. I subscribe to The Washington Post, but I have to admit that I rarely read the actual news, except local stuff about arts problems and the like. Op-eds are interesting, but when it comes to straight news stories, almost everything printed in the paper is stuff I already read online the day before. Being so connected means that I see breaking news when it is happening, and I don’t even need to leave Twitter for this information in many cases.

The world of news reporting online is extremely fast, and this need to be first is permeating other news sources as well. Everyone wants to break a story, and you know longer have days or even hours to do that. You have minutes. Sometimes, you have seconds. If you want to be the first source, you have to be incredibly fast or someone will beat you to the punch.

I think that’s what happened here. News sources like Fox and Huffington Post are pressured to try to report on a major news story first, and when that happens, mistakes are going to be made. It’s inexcusable to put speed before quality, especially when it comes to reporting the news. I can forgive a typo or even incomplete information, but it’s a harder pill to swallow when a story is completely wrong simply because it was more important to report first in the hopes of being correct than it was to spend a few minutes doing some fact-checking.

This is certainly not a new problem, as even before the Internet became such an important news outlet there were people who put speed before quality. I am, of course, reminded of the famous Chicago Daily Tribune headline “Dewy Defeats Truman,” which was published in 1948 even though Truman was the real victor in that presidential race. But I think the fast pace of the new media world has made large factual mistakes more commonplace. If you aren’t quick to report on a story, a million no-name bloggers, tweeters, and would-be journalists are already talking about it, and you’re late to the conversation.

A Culture of Not Caring about the Facts

More alarmingly, I think the new media world has created this culture of putting opinions first and facts second. Look at the incorrect tweet issue, for example. A politician, no matter how powerful, is not a news source, so the pressure to be first, as media outlets like CNN might feel, is absent. But just because you don’t have this need to be the first in reporting the news doesn’t mean you don’t have an inner need to post your opinions immediately.

This is, in my opinion, something that has invaded our culture due to new media. We don’t give ourselves time to think. We have this internal feeling of bursting if we don’t tell you want we think right now. Facts be damned.

It’s a problem.

Although several media outlets got it wrong in their struggle to be first on this issue, plenty of sources got it right. Still, the politicians called out by Mashable weren’t the only ones who tweeted incorrectly about the situation. This tells me that one of two things happened:

  1. The tweet was queued up and ready to go as soon as the announcement was made.
  2. The person immediately tweeted after seeing one report about the “repeal” without doing any additional fact-checking.

But why? Why the need to voice an opinion about something so quickly that you barely give yourself time to skim an article about it? At least TIME has a business reasons for being wrong – they were trying to be competitive in their industry where being first matters. But why do we as individuals subconsciously put speed before quality when voicing an opinion?

It’s the same thing that drive people, sometimes 20+ comments deep, to type “FIRST!” on a post by a popular blogger. It’s the need to be important.

Being important feels good. I’ll go back to something comedian Jordan Cooper once shared with me. When you make someone laugh, you feel good, and that’s why humorous posts and videos often go viral. Because you don’t have to create a joke – you just have to be the first person to share the joke with a friend. When you tell someone a joke they’ve never heard before, you feel good, and  you feel important. The same thing is true of a news story. When you’re the first to voice your opinion, when a friend hears it from you first, you feel good, and you feel important.

Social media and blogging has made it hard to get this “fix” of feeling important. Before, you could say to your neighbor “I really don’t agree with the Obamacare ruling,” and they might say, “Oh really? Tell me why you think that.” Now, the answer might be something like, “Yeah, that’s what a lot of people on Facebook have been saying.”

If we don’t express our opinions quickly, our thunder is stolen. At least, that’s what it can feel like subconsciously (or even consciously).

The New Media Monster

So is new media destroying the news? Yes, in some ways, I think it is. We’re smack dab in the middle of a major media shift, and although there have been some definite improvements, the Internet is still an informational free-for-all. I don’t think this is a reason to dislike or avoid new media, but I do think that we all have to start taking more responsibility for what we say online so that we never let the egotistical feeling of wanting to be first overcome the duty we have to be correct.

Tom Webster Talks About the State of Social Media

Author:

56% of Americans have a personal profile on a social network.

93% of Americans have heard of Facebook and 90% have heard of Twitter, (which is significant because only about 85% of Americans have Internet access).

22% of Americans – about 58 Million people – use social media sites every single day.

These are just a few of the stats Tom Webster shared during his session, “The Social Habit 2012: How Americans Real Use Social Media.” Tom works for Edison Research, and his presentation revealed some interesting – and even surprising – facts about today’s social media users.

Twitter’s Interesting Growth

Facebook is still killing it when it comes to social networking, but that doesn’t mean other networks aren’t growing at all. Twitter, for example, has seen some interesting growth. About 26 Million Americans use Twitter, but even more interestingly, people are starting to become more engaged on this network. People aren’t just “silent users” watching that is going on – they are no using the network more to send tweets.

In addition, more than four in ten Americans hear or read about tweets nearly every day in the media, even if they don’t have a personal profile on Twitter. Says Tom, “I have to believe the amount of content that gets shared, the way it gets shared…it’s changing the way we process and learn information.

Following Brands Online

Another interesting group of stats Tom shared was about how people follow brands on social media sites. Most follow on Facebook, which is unsurprising, but what is notable is that people are becoming more aware of how they’re following brands online. Fewer people are simply hitting the “like” button and are instead making a conscious decision to follow brands they like online. 33% follow a brand on social networking sites – this number has doubled since 2010.

Want More Stats?

This is just a small taste of the stats Tom shared, alone with his dissection of what these stats mean. Want the whole thing? Check out our virtual ticket, which gives you access to full recordings of all of the sessions you may have missed at BlogWorld New York 2012! It’s great for those of you stuck  at home or for those of you already at BlogWorld and worried about missing sessions you want to see. (And if you’re on the East Coast and don’t yet have a ticket, there’s still time to head over to the Javits Center in New York to check out Wednesday and Thursday sessions.)

The Ten Annoying Social Media Friends We All Have

Author:

Just a bit of goofy fun for today, mostly because it’s my birthday and I wanted to spend it taking silly pictures of myself. If you read one of these descriptions and think “I don’t think that applies to any of my friends…” it’s probably you. (And we love you anyway.)

Getting messed up at 10 AM because I don't have a job, mofos! WOOO!

Annoying Friend #1: The Chronic Partier

You never quite figured out that Facebook doesn’t need to know when you get so drunk that you throw up all over the bed. So wasted that you peed in your bed…again? Who among your Twitter friends doesn’t need to know that?! Your persistent bad grammar and constant need to post silly pictures of yourself makes us cringe, and although we often try to hint that it’s very hard to remove stuff once posted online, you never seem to apply that tip to your life. It’s beer-o-clock somewhere! TOGA PARTY!

Why We Still Love You: Okay, you might party more than we did at our college worst, but you’re a fun guy/gal. And although we hate to admit it, we sometimes envy your carefree spirit…at least a little. But most of all, we can’t bring ourselves to hit the delete button because then we wouldn’t get to see all the stupid crap you do anymore, and that’s part of our daily entertainment. You might make us roll out eyes, but you’re anything but boring.

Don't worry about me, guys. Somehow I'll manage to carry on even though I just got a hangnail...

Annoying Friend #2: The Person with the Worst Luck in the World

Every day is worst than the last for you, my emo friend. When we see you in real life, you seem relatively happy – at least, not worse off than the rest of us – but online, your life is falling apart. Today your car wouldn’t start. Yesterday, your dog ate your shoes. The day before that, your loud neighbors kept you awake at night. AND IT WAS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD. Somehow, you fail to mention all the happy things that happen in your life and instead focus on telling us why we need to pity you and constant confusing us with your Facebook messages. If you post something sad, are we supposed to hit the “like” button to show support? Or is that seen as liking that something bad happened to you?

Why We Still Love You

We still love you because…we still love you. You’re a dear friend, so we can’t bring ourselves to unfriend/unfollow you even though we stopped genuinely caring about how “bad” your life is every single day. Be careful. If you cry wolf too many times, one day when something bad actually happens to you, people might not notice.

You'll all miss me when I'm gone. Because I am NOT coming back. Seriously.

Annoying Friend #3: The Constant Quitter

We know, we know. You’re quitting Facebook/Twitter/email/whatever. YOU ARE DONE. And this time it is for real. Just like last time. And the time before that. And the time before…

What prompted it this time? Lack of phone calls from friends in real life? An annoying “stalker”? A need to “clear your mind.” Whatever it is, we don’t really sympathize anymore. We know you’ll be back.

Why We Still Love You

When you’re not going on some pretentious rant about how social media is for fools or we aren’t your real friends unless we actually call you to hang out in real life, you’re actually pretty cool. Those in-between times make it worth sitting through your adult temper tantrums. We’ll see you again in a few weeks.

OMG LOL BBQ!

Annoying Friend #4: Lovable Idiot

You make us facepalm more than all of our other friends combined. You might be one of the most ditzy people we know, and you somehow feel the need to share everything on social media, from p’offed statements about how horrible your babydaddy treats you to pictures of the seventh car you’ve wrecked this year to updates on your yeast infection. Your posts push the character limit and are sometimes unreadable due to ur need 2 talk lik dis, but at least you aren’t a malicious person.

Why We Still Love You

Your status updates might be a little crazy, but they’re also pretty funny. You have great stories and your daily drama is as addicting as a soap opera. We actually do care about you, but you also keep us entertained. Especially when you talk about your on-again-off-again relationship with The Chronic Partier. We believe in you, though. Someday, we hope you’ll mature a little and will actually find your way in life.

YOU HAVE TO CHECK THIS OUT!!!

Annoying Friend #5: The Link Maniac

We have no idea what’s going on in your life. You could be living in Peru and raising emus. You could have ten kids living on a ranch in Texas. You could be next door to us selling drugs for all we know. And we don’t know about your life because all you post is links. We can respect your privacy, but when you go on a bender, it takes over our entire stream and we want to bang our heads in frustration.

Why We Still Love You

You might overdo it sometimes, but your links are actually pretty interesting a lot of the time. And who are we kidding? You’re our primary news source.

Oooo, you can have this too for just three easy payments of $49.99. BUY TODAY!

Annoying Friend #6: The Door to Door Salesman

What are you peddling this week? You latest blog post? An affiliate product? Some charity event? You ask too much! Social media is great for content creators, but at the same time, you never seem to just chill and live your life. You just want us to buy or click or attend an event or like or subscribe or whatever. Following you is like a chore!

Why We Still Love You

We might get sick of the constant sell, but when you do hit it on the money, it’s something we actually need or want to know about. We can’t bring ourselves to quit you because of the valuable stuff you’ve sold us in the past…but be careful because you’re on probation.

Who needs a picture of ME as an avatar? Look at my fluffy baby from THIS angle!!!

Annoying Friend #7: The New Parent / Crazy Pet Lover

Oh. My. God. Your infant moved a few inches to the left. GRAB THE CAMERA. Listen, we get it. You’re a new parent. Or you’re a crazy pet lover. But do you need to post 2139 pictures every day? Do we have to know about it whenever your child burps or your dog licks your face? Put the camera down for the love of god so you can actually enjoy time with your child and pet…and so we can actually read our stream without another picture that looks exactly like the last twent you posted.

Why We Still Love You

We understand. We’ve all been there – passionate about a new baby or new pet (or even a new inanimate object like a new car). You’re just bursting with pride. And while your baby pictures might get boring after we’ve seen the first thousand, we do know that you’ll calm down eventually and maybe even start telling us some entertaining stuff your growing kid does…or even better, what else is going on in your life.

Oh honey bunny, I wuvs you sooooo much!

Annoying Friend #8: The Emotional Couple

Yes, it’s very special that you love one another. Yes, that picture of you kissing is super romantic. Yes, it’s cute that you like and retweet everything the other person says.

No, actually, it isn’t.

We might love love and want to see you happy, but there’s a line you have to draw. I don’t need to see another picture of you shoving your tongue down her throat and if he retweets you, you don’t have to retweet that to say thanks and he certainly doesn’t need to retweet that to say “no problem.” It’s a never-ending loop and I think that’s how black holes start.

We We Still Love You

When you’re not virtually groping one another, you’re actually interesting people. And we’re hoping that once the puppy love wears off, you can still be happy and share the important thing in your relationship, like an engagement, without sharing the vomit-inducing cuddly stuff that’s better left in private.

I'm so tough that I'm going to flick off my WEBCAM. Take that, society!

Annoying Friend #9: The Honey Badger

You don’t give a sh*t. We know, we know. Honey badger don’t care about his followers, his partner, his government, his roommate, his family, his job. You’re all for anarchy and chaos. You know, as long as you still get your morning Starbucks.

We We Still Love You

You have good ideas and we admire how passionate you are, even if your constant rants and assertions that you don’t care about society induce eyeball rolls. Hopefully, someday you’ll channel it into something good, rather than just acting like you’re smarter than everyone around you and complaining about a status quo that you’re doing nothing to change.

The beautiful, amazing, beyond-awesome Mama Boyer, who has never once logged into Facebook.

Annoying Friend #10: Mom

Yep. Sorry mom, but you’re kind of annoying. How can we giggle at dirty jokes and let the occasional curse word slip through if mom is going to read it??? Ugh, setting up lists and remembering to use them to control what you see is so annoying. Not to mention that we’re constantly living in fear of what embarrassing story about our childhood you might share next. And the fact that you’ve awkwardly friended all of my friends too…I think I’m going to be sick.

We We Still Love You

Because you bake awesome cookies and make our beds when we visit for the weekend. Duh.*

And okay, also because you hold us accountable. Your presence reminds us that it’s a slippery slope to becoming The Chronic Partier or The Emotional Couple or someone equally annoying. Because you’re looking over our shoulder, we stay classy…and it’s an ego boost that you like every single thing we say. Thanks, mom!

*And because MY mother isn’t actually on Facebook/Twitter. Thank freaking god. Though some of my friends’ moms have friended me, which might as well be the same thing.

UPDATE: People have already started adding to this list with their own “annoying friends” descriptions. You guys are seriously cracking me up. Leave your own addition with a comment below!

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