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Step Away And Step Up: Putting Social Media In Context

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Guest post contributed by Cathy Brooks

It’s that time of year.

A crisp chill in the air, the rich scent of fireplaces beginning to crackle and, of course, the ever-present commercialism of the holidays. The truth, though, is that this time of year brings an opportunity for something more important – the opportunity to take stock of things for which we’re thankful, to connect with loved ones and to look ahead to the New Year thinking about how we want to up our game just a little bit more.

Peering through the lens of social media towards this introspective and thought-filled time, I muse on the way in which social technologies have not only enabled us to connect and do good, but also find ways in which to show our gratitude for the things and people in our lives.

The good news is that great advances brought by the social web have galvanized millions to act for social causes and be thankful. From raising money for cancer to digging wells and providing clean water in developing nations, from pushing for an end to malaria to putting smiles on children’s faces and providing relief for victims of disasters – social networks and technologies expand our awareness and streamline the ability to engage.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that in spite of all this connectivity – and actually in many ways because of it – our society teeters precipitously close to dissociation and detachment. “Now Cathy,” I can hear you saying. “That doesn’t make sense. How could we possibly be dissociated and detached when we’re so connected?

The truth is that just because we are digitally connected doesn’t mean that the quality of those connections is any better. In fact, the maelstrom of connectivity makes it very hard to focus and so skating across the top of a connection rather than diving down deeply becomes almost de rigueur. With the sheer volume of people to whom we are connected on all these platforms, it’s impossible to have deeply qualitative relationships with them all. Now consider the younger generation and think about how this is evolving.

This recent article in The New York Times details the increasingly distracted nature of today’s teens. The inexorable march towards digital saturation has rendered the attention span of your average teen – which was never all that great anyway – into something resembling a gnat on a hot brick.

That’s a problem, especially because it’s the up-and-coming generation that will be seizing these platforms more fully and taking them forward. So what of a generation that is so busy skating across the surface and snacking lightly, never really connecting or staying present long enough with a subject to engage? Charitable fatigue, already an issue for social causes leveraging new technologies to reach out, could become even more of an issue when presented to a generation that is almost constitutionally incapable of focusing in the first place.

There is hope, however, and that lies in making sure we don’t forget the most powerful part of the social media equation – the individuals who are using the technology. Instead of looking at the social stream as nothing more than a whoosh of 140 characters, take a step back and think about the person whose keyboard tapping sent the message your way. Any community, any network, any social platform is nothing more than an aggregation of individuals whose voices together create the whole.

We cannot stop the racing river, but we can step back from the banks and take a breath before diving in.

About Cathy Brooks
For most of her career Cathy Brooks told other people’s stories for them. Today through her Story Navigation workshops she helps companies and individuals navigate the story-telling process for themselves, turning business-speak into powerful narrative. She also advises companies on influencer outreach, crafting narrative to build relationships. A prolific writer, Cathy writes for myriad blogs including: Dot429, BrianSolis.com, and her own blog, Other Than That. She also hosts a weekly Internet radio show, – Social Media Hour. You can also connect with Cathy via email or on Twitter.

Keeping Up With Community

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Social media is an ever-shifting industry. There are always new headlines in the news, tools that solve a problem we didn’t know existed, case studies developing everyday and new interest community platforms forming daily. As a community manager it is your job to keep up with not only your community, but all communities as a whole.

Participation in all Forms
Every good community manager should know how to engage and participate across all mediums of social media. While it’s not necessarily a requirement that community managers be an expert in both Slideshare and Facebook, an understanding of the various platforms and its uses will help a community manager engage more thoughtfully within their respected communities.

While still remaining authentic to their current interests, a community manager should join communities so that they can understand how the community functions as a whole, what mannerisms the communities exhibit and how the community platform ethically behaves. In order to truly gain an understanding for each community platform, a community manager should interact with these communities regularly.

Keep up with Facebook and Twitter Brands

In the same vein as actively participating in communities online, it is a good idea to watch what other community managers and brands are doing in the social space. Usually the largest social media successes will show up on sites like Mashable, but it tends to be the unnoticed status updates that teach us the most about a community.

For Twitter, browse through the Who to Follow directory by interest to find companies and brands that are currently using Twitter as a social media outlet. Once you have selected a few accounts that are doing it right (or wrong) compile them into a private Twitter list that you can reference throughout the day. Referencing these accounts to see how users react to content, how brands respond to customer service requests and how often a company updates can effect how you operate within your own community.

Facebook is another excellent venue for monitoring competitors and like-minded social brands. Currently, there are 355 brands on Facebook that I have “liked”.  These brands range anywhere from from Barbie to Duck Tape. All of these brands are sorted in a private list within my Facebook profile. It’s here that I see social media examples and case studies developing in realtime.

Try the Tools
Tools are meant to be your friend, your best friend in fact. They are there to help you, support you and make your daily activities easier. By keeping up with the latest tools available, you can use your time efficiently. Sites like OneForty (an application and tool directory for Twitter) can help community managers find tools to manage followers, archive conversations and even provide in-depth analytics. A general awareness of the tools that are currently available can come in handy when the brand you manage asks for lists of all of the Twitter followers with “beanie babies” in the bio (Refollow is a tool that does this exact task).

Keeping up with the fast paced world of social media is a job in itself, but immersing yourself in a few select areas in addition to your community can be beneficial in the long run. As a community manager, how do you stay up on current trends, tools and social programs?

— Suzanne Marlatt

As the Community Manager for Edelman Digital Suzanne re-launched the Edelman Digital website in March 2010. Since then she has established a presence on 5 large social communities and manages the EdelmanDigital.com community and content daily. Prior to Edelman, Suzanne worked for Sittercity.com, a website for connecting care providers to care seekers, as their Social Media and Marketing Manager. When she’s not tweeting or Facebooking you can usually find Suzanne with her two dogs, Hannity and Opie. You can find her on Twitter @edelmandigital

Image Credit: Nerea Marta

How Social Media hasn’t changed the World

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“to see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events… to see things thousands of miles away… to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed… to see, and to show…”
— Henry Luce, Publisher of Life Magazine

This afternoon I ran across “Today in History” and found a very interesting mention that today is the 74th Anniversary of the first issue of Life Magazine, originally published on this day in 1936.

It really got me to thinking how things have changed in 74 years in so many ways; but really has that much changed or are we simply delivering things in new ways? The highly successful publisher Henry Luce, who also was also the publisher of Time, created in Life Magazine a picture-based periodical with the specific focus of showing the world what other magazines and newspapers only described in words. Life did exactly that with its first issue with a stunning cover photograph by Margaret Bourke-White of the Fort Peck Dam, one of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” public works projects completed in the 1930’s. Life Magazine was an overwhelming success in its first year of publication, its concept changed the way people perceived the world and the events there in. At its peak, Life Magazine had a weekly circulation of over 8 Million; or an average of more than 400,000,000 magazines a year. Life Magazine defined an era; it shaped minds and opinions; but like its name sake, Life wasn’t endless and ceased its run as a weekly publication in 1972 citing the growth of Television as a cause. In 2004 it resumed weekly publication as a supplement in numerous U.S. newspapers its combined circulation was once again in the millions.

That’s the quick history lesson on Life Magazine – The parallels in what we now refer to as the “Media Dinosaurs” are actually pretty remarkable. The vision that Henry Luce laid out 74 years ago still rings true, just in ways he and the world could never have imagined.

Facebook says that more than 3 billion photos are being uploaded every month – 3 billion a month; that is close to the combined results of other content (defined as “web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, etc.”). If we had to describe it in 1936 terms it would be like every person has their own printing press and personalized magazine – all 500,000,000+ of them. The parallels don’t necessarily end there either,
there are plenty more examples of how Social Media is really just a continuation of what was started on walls with pictograms when we were just able to also make a fire… and like pictograms — this too shall have its time.

I’m frequently asked if Social Media is “worth the time”, well of course it is – for the first time in history we the story makers are also the story tellers. My mother, who was around for the first issue of Life, recently joined Facebook. She was amazed at how many “friends” she had in mere days; and now has the ability to follow (and unfortunately comment) on the daily life of her children. She’s an interesting demographic because she’s lived through the invention of television (and color television in case you didn’t know they were two different things), the moon landing, bellbottoms, fax machines, cell phones, satellite dishes and now Social Media. As we sit on the “bleeding edge” of technology one has to wonder what will be the thing we’re amazed by in 74 years, just how much smaller can our world get?

Its worth pointing out it’s also the 47th anniversary of the BBC’s SciFi television show Doctor Who. The Doctor travels in time — so he already knew about Facebook, and what’s next… cheater.

Pete Housley has been a featured panelist and speaker at a number of social media conferences including the Twitter 140 Conference and BlogWorld Expo. With more than 15 years of Fortune 50 business consulting and analysis experience Mr. Housley now focuses on implementation and integration of Social Media. A coder and innovator Pete developed the Candid Tweet Twitter aggregation engine which is the framework for sites including pornstartweet.com, comedytweet.com and vegasstartweet.com. Contact Pete by email at phousley@vegas411.com or on Twitter @petehousley

The Now Revolution: Jay Baer and Amber Naslund Give Business a Social Media Blueprint

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Business have adapted to every revolution throughout history, but the move to understanding and using social media hasn’t yet happened. We’re on the cusp of a new media revolution, and that’s exactly what Jay Baer and Amber Naslund talked about during their presentation for the Social Media Business Summit at BlogWorld Expo.

This is a topic that personally interests me not because I’m a business owner, but because in marketing products on my own blog, After Graduation, I’ve had to reach out to businesses and organizations who do not yet use social media. Several have told me that learning about blogging and social media isn’t relevant to them. *insert gasp and shocked face here*

If you’re a business owner, I think you can learn a lot from some of Amber’s parting words: “This is real!” Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are not going away, and ignoring this method of connection with your consumer is going to hurt your brand in the end. As Jay noted, we’ve moved from a master and servant type of relationship between businesses and their consumers to a real peer to peer connection.

During the session and in Amber and Jay’s book, The Now Revolution, the two give seven key shifts that a business needs to make. You’re going to have to pick up a copy yourself to read all about them yourself, but I wanted to mention one of the most important points they referenced in their session, which is also a part of their book:

“The spokespeople for your business aren’t just the leaders anymore, the ones that are quoted in the New York Times business section, on the cover of Fortune magazine. In real-time business, team members of every stripe are on the front lines, as representatives of your company, your brand, your purpose.”

In other words, your social media isn’t just handled by your PR department or your media department. Every employee is a representative of your company in a way that they never were in the past. You need to acquire talent you can trust. People are connecting with others via Twitter, Facebook, and other new media platforms, and they’re ranting or raving about your company to anyone that will listen. If they know and employee, even a janitor or intern, they feel like they have an “in” with the company.

So, if you wouldn’t allow someone to run your Twitter, you probably need to think twice about hiring them at all. The Revolution Amber and Jay talk about in their book is all about quick response, and it’s a 24/7/365 job, so when your PR team is sleeping, the front line of attack with a crisis are your other employees.

I was super impressed by Jay and Amber’s session, and highly recommend picking up their book when it comes out everywhere in February 2011! Check out more right now at www.NowRevolutionBook.com.

Social Media Tips & Setting World Records – An Interview wth Ryan Abood

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Imagine waking up one day to find that Google had penalized your site, knocking it from one of the top spots in search, and costing you 80% of your sales. How do you rebuild? Well Ryan Abood, founder of GourmetGiftBaskets.com, had this happen in September, 2008. He turned to social media and affiliate marketing to build sales again and make it back to the top. I recently had a chance to talk with Ryan about his story, and about setting a World Record at BlogWorld 2010!

Social Media:

I read your story regarding the Google Penalty – what made you realize social media was the way to go after that?
We honestly don’t believe social media is “the” answer to diversifying away from Google. Social Media is definitely an important piece of a diversified marketing plan and it seems to be a cost effective channel but we are still trying to determine how effective it really is for us. We have seen our greatest success from other channels, such as Affiliate Marketing and Corporate Sales.

How did you work to build up your social media fan base?

We started off by just providing interesting, non sales, content to our fans and followers on Twitter and Facebook. We still try to incorporate that philosophy through social media because we are trying to build a relationship with our fans and you can’t do that by selling to them all the time. We currently have 2,176 Twitter followers and 3,854 Likes on Facebook. The majority were attracted through the gift basket giveaway sweepstakes we were running regularly. Although, we ultimately strive to maintain our fan base and promote interaction with the content we are sharing.

How has social media impacted your business?
We seriously started promoting our company through social media in February of this year. We can’t really make an honest determination until we get past the holidays.

How do you respond to customer feedback?
99% of the feedback we receive from social media is positive and we always try to respond and thank them for being a customer. If we receive negative feedback it will be handled promptly and we will do everything within our power to satisfy that customer.

Do you have any one particular tip for niche businesses looking to use social media?
You can’t be successful in social media without being consistent. Don’t start unless you have the resources to be in it for the long haul.

Philanthropic Efforts:

Tell us about your decision to go for the World’s Biggest Cupcake Record, and how that all occurred.
The news of the World Record, at the time, came across my desk in the wacky news section and it was 151 pounds. And my thought with world records is they’re supposed to be awe-inspiring. They’re supposed to be something that when you look at them sort of defy logic and reason. And I thought a 151 pound cupcake was really not spectacular. So we set out to bake a 1,000 pound cupcake and then we went to 4,000 pounds and then it was 7,000 pounds. That cupcake actually died in the oven. So we sort of regrouped after the first cupcake imploded per se and then cranked out a 1,224 pound cupcake that was in excess of ten times the previous record.

What made you decide for a second World Record for the Biggest Cup of Coffee?
We’re actually going to break two records in two days, the World’s Largest Cup of Coffee and the World’s Largest Iced Cup of Coffee. We wanted to stick with an item that has ubiquitous comprehension among the entire world. The world’s largest cupcake is easy. It’s tangible. It’s something that everybody understands. Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage by a mile. So by shattering the existing record of 900 gallons, we figured where do we go? 1,200 gallons? 1,500 gallons? We decided on 2,010 gallons. Not that this is a boring element, but when we got our Google penalty a large chunk of breaking this world record was planting a flag; letting Google know, “Hey look. We’re a prominent brand.” Eric Schmidt clearly states multiple times, “Prominent brands deserve prominent placement in our search engines.” And after we got our Google penalty we said, “What can we do to re-establish our prominence in the marketplace with Google.” We’re one of the largest gift basket companies in the country growing much faster than our competitors are. How do we prove that we’re worthy of this top place ranking? And that was sort of the original foundation of the cupcake was really for us to plant our flag and say, “Look. We’re here. We’re not going anywhere. And no, we will not allow you to continually penalize us.” Because some people have never survived Google penalties. They just sort of go the way of the wind of the dust. And for us that was really the first major step to making sure that we weren’t going to be denied.

Any secrets you can share about preparing for the attempt?
Surprisingly, you can actually plan a Guinness World Record in less than a month. That is how long it took us from start to finish with the World’s Largest Cupcake. I wouldn’t recommend it and we certainly didn’t follow that philosophy this time around.

What do these philanthropic efforts mean to you and the company?
We are a family business and we even view our employees as extensions of our family. When you have a family this large you can’t avoid confronting a struggle with cancer and anything we can do to support a cancer fighting cause, such as Susan G. Komen, is very near and dear to our hearts.

Anything else you’d like to share?
The record for the World’s Largest Coffee Cup will officially be announced by a Guinness Book of World Record’s representative at 12 p.m. on October 15 at Booth #335. Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media and Social Media celeb, will be pouring the last cup of coffee into the cup when the record is declared. We would also like to thank Rick Calvert and the rest of the BlogWorld team for providing us with the utmost support in this endeavor. We couldn’t have done this without them.

Don’t forget to follow GourmetGiftBaskets on Facebook and Twitter!

BlackBerry & Social Customer Service

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… An Interview with David Armano and RIM’s Social CS Team

Research In Motion (BlackBerry), is one of the sponsors for BlogWorld 2010 and also an Edelman client (my employer), but what you might not know about them is that they are quite active in the social media space, especially when it comes to providing customer care in addition to tips on how BlackBerry fans can get the most of their devices. With over 154k followers on Twitter, the CS (customer service) group regularly engages customers out in the open in a variety of ways. I was able to catch up Michelle Kostya and Baldev Solanki who are two of the architects’ behind the social customer service efforts at BlackBerry.

DA: Blackberry offers support to customers in a variety of ways including online forums. Why did you extend this in places such as Twitter with @blackberryhelp?

MK: Due to the nature of the business, customers usually dealt with their carriers rather than directly with us. This meant that when we launched the forums we were able to truly connect with our customers in a way that wasn’t possible before. All of a sudden we had the ability to gather valuable feedback and work directly with our customers to solve their issues. By being able to help our customers immediately and by showing them neat tips and tricks we were able delight them! But, we recognized that just as not everyone will call to get help, not everyone will visit a forum to ask for help. It became our goal as the Social Media Support team to be where our customers were. Our Digital Marketing counterparts had set up channels on various social channels and customers were asking support questions – it only made sense that we were there to help!

DA: Doesn’t interacting with customers who may be frustrated with your products open the door to public displays of dissatisfaction? How do you manage the risks?

BS: On the contrary, every dissatisfied customer is an opportunity for us to provide a great support experience. The real risk is not engaging. Our goal is to always be professional and follow through. It is a great feeling to delight a frustrated customer and see them become a raving fan.

DA: You decided to take a somewhat personal approach to providing customer care in a social channel by putting the faces of the team behind the account vs. it being the single brand. Why?

MK: Customers service is about a 1:1 conversation. Even when you are talking about traditional customer service it is one person talking to another on the telephone. We wanted our followers to know that the team on Twitter are real people. So they sign their name on each tweet and have their pics up on the background. And, we are taking it offline too! At Blogworld two members of the team will be “live” at the BlackBerry booth providing on-site help and tips!

DA: In the traditional customer care model, success in channels such as call centers is often measured by volume and time per call. What are some of the ways you measure success?

BS: Sometimes defining success measures feels like a quest for the holy social media grail. We tweet a lot of tips so we use retweets as a measure of how useful the content is. In addition we treat positive tweets and thanks as a measure of customer satisfaction. On our forums, Accepted Solutions from the community is a good measure. Remember that some of the standard call centre metrics still apply. Response time and mean time to resolve are definitely things to track.

DA: @blackberryhelp isn’t the only social embassy you’ve built to help your customers get the most out of BlackBerry products. You also have the BlackBerry Help Blog. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and other “shiny objects”, what does a blog get you?

BS: Blogs are about sharing with authenticity. A good enterprise blog can help you really connect deeply with your customers in a meaningful way because the content is not only relevant but insightful and personal. I think most enterprises miss that point. When you do it right, your customers will walk away not only having learned something new but will also feel much more connected to your brand.

MK: Some of the CS staff already wrote how-to posts for Inside BlackBerry Blog and we discovered that these posts were incredibly popular. Our customers wanted to be better (or, the best!) at using their BlackBerry and these posts gave them the info they needed to do this – in a fun and personal way. As with all of the Inside BlackBerry blogs our intent is to get our readers the inside scoop – just focused on the know-how we have on cool tricks, shortcuts and how-to in more than 140 characters.

DA: What are some of the most common requests you get from BlackBerry users? Do your responses vary?

MK: There isn’t really a “typical” request coming to our @BlackBerryhelp team. They get 800 tweets a day from our 155,000+ followers and they range from technical questions to feature requests and from questions about release dates to conversational tweets asking the team how they are doing. So, yes our responses definitely vary although we do have some typical answers for more common requests. Plus, we have a huge library of helpful tips and tricks that we share throughout the day.

DA: What is the one piece of advice you would give to other major brands looking to help their customers leveraging social media?

BS: Don’t succumb to “Cheshire Cat Syndrome” (remember how confused Alice in Wonderland was in choosing a path?). Be careful of starting down the path of social media customer support if you don’t know where you want to end up. Define objectives first, and then try a pilot to limit the risk. A lesson learned from the trenches – most of the time in Social Media land, when you open a door, it’s really hard to shut.

MK: I would say the biggest piece of advice I have is that you need to recognize that customers don’t care what department you are from when they are talking to you via a social channel. A customer is just as likely to ask a technical support question, as they are to provide you with product feature requests, or post they are looking for a job at the company! No matter who “owns” the channel internally– you need a way to route feedback and respond when necessary to your customers. Participation in social channels means breaking down silos inside your business.

Michelle, Baldev, Thank you both for your time and insights. If you’re reading this and attending BlogWorld (and have a BlackBerry device), feel free to bring it to the BlackBerry booth to receive complimentary tips and general assistance from members of their customer service team.

BlackBerry Help:
Twitter: @blackberryhelp
Website: http://helpblog.blackberry.com/

David Armano:
Twitter: @armano
Website: http://davidarmano.com

65% Of Marketers Surveyed Say They Do Not Use Twitter

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For five years now I have been saying Social Media (I still prefer to call it New Media) is still in it’s infancy. Here is the latest proof. In SmartBlog’s most recent weekly reader poll they asked:

What do you think of Twitter’s new home page design?

Surprisingly for some more than 65% of their readers said they don’t even use Twitter.

  • I don’t use Twitter, 65.10%
  • Love it, 22.15%
  • Complaining about it now, but I’ll probably get used to it, 10.07%
  • Can’t stand it, 2.68%

Now when you think about this response for a moment its even more significant. This is a reader poll by a site that has a very social media savvy readership. That tells me the real number of marketers who aren’t using Twitter is even greater.

Just keep reminding yourself every time you think New Media has finally really blown up and hit the big time you have not seen anything yet. Am I crazy?

Headlines Mean Nothing If You Don’t Deliver

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This week, one of the top-clicked SmartBrief on Social Media stories was from Tim Ferriss: “How to Create Headlines That Get Retweeted.” If you haven’t yet come across Tim Ferriss, he’s the author of The 4-Hour Work Week, and while I’m pretty sure that even the best headlines won’t make it possible to work just four hours per week, this is definitely part of the equation when it comes to creating a popular blog, especially through social networking.

Tim’s post gave a lot of good tips, including some that I use often myself. Something that his article doesn’t address, however, is the necessity for you to deliver on the headline promises you make. I talked about this a little when I wrote “The Secret About Secret Posts” earlier this month.

Unfortunately, when I read a  great headline, only about half of them actually deliver with a great post.

Some of the points Tim made in his post is that it works well to use questions (I agree) and it also works well to pique curiosity with something unknown (I also agree). The example he gives that does this well is “Why Are You Single? Perhaps It’s The Choice Effect” – a guest post from his own blog about relationships. When you click through to that article, it’s entertaining, well-researched, and helpful. The article delivers.

Too often, however, I’ll click on a headline like this one only to be disappointed. It’s just a bunch of rehashed tips that basically boil down to common sense. You hyped me up with a headline that promised to teach me something brand new, and all I got was crap.

If that’s your game – write mediocre articles that have great headlines, yes, you are going to see retweets and maybe even a ton of traffic. Many people tweet links based on headlines before they even read the article or blog post. So, you’re going to get that traffic spike, whether or not you deserve it.

But beware of boy-who-cried-world syndrome. Eventually, people are going to start to understand that you don’t have any spunk behind the spark of your title. You can only fool people so many times. That’s no way to build your readership.

Consider this as well: You aren’t going to make sales with traffic spikes.

Having a huge traffic day is great, but only if you can convert those page views into long-term readers. Someone who visits your site for the first time isn’t likely to buy anything from you or even click on any of your ads. They certainly aren’t going to sign up for your mailing list, comment of your sub-par post, or feel compelled to follow you on Twitter.

Tim’s tips on writing great headlines are on point. Just make sure you go a step farther and write great content to deliver on your headline promises. That’s the only way to actually build your blog’s readership.

What other social media stories were popular this past week? Check out the SmartBrief on Social Media top ten:

  1. Learn the secret of irresistible headlines
  2. 3 things holding back your Facebook marketing
  3. How to blend e-mail with social media
  4. How marketers can harness Google’s secret weapon
  5. 6 niche networks you need to know about
  6. 6 rules for managing a social-media catastrophe
  7. How Best Buy uses social media to wow customers
  8. What should a social-media marketing plan cost?
  9. Why marketers should forget about viral videos
  10. Older generations flock to Facebook

Fitness Tips for Social Media Geeks: Get in Shape for BlogWorld!

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Dave’s Fitness Tips for Social Media Power Users – 1st Installment: Get Moving with an Easy Walking Routine.

It’s getting pretty close to BlogWorld time, and every year I think to myself “I’m spending so many hours at the computer working, not exercising or eating well enough, this cannot be good for my body. I’m an active person, what am I doing?…Come BlogWorld time, I’m going to feel (and look) like a wreck.”

Walking Shoes

Break out of your inactive lifestyle behind the computer, start getting healthy with a simple walking routine!

This year, I’m going to take a new approach, scheduling a little time each day to exercise, eat better, and I’m going to share some of the simple fitness and diet tips I’ve learned over the years with you. I’ll even seek out the advice of fitness and diet experts to help from time to time. Hopefully, together we’ll get to BlogWorld feeling and looking better, and it’ll be a great start toward a healthier 2011 for all of us geeks and busy social media fanatics.

First, a little backstory on my past history in geekdom, and my health wake-up call.

When I moved to San Diego in my early 20’s, I was a graphic designer and copywriter working long hours, trying to save my pennies toward an eventual condo purchase so I could settle down with my college sweetheart. I worked 8am-7pm, then 9pm-Midnight (sometimes later). All the while, I was eating seldom, but when I did, it was large portions and not the best food, mind you. I ate based on convenience, not quality. And since I was surrounded by computer geeks, designers and video gamers, it made a whole lot more sense to take a break from work in an action-packed video game networked with my buddies, than getting up and actually getting myself in action.

After a couple of years of this, I’d gone from my previous svelte, high school athlete weight of 176 lbs up to 218 lbs, my hair was thinning, my skin was a mess, my trouser size kept increasing and I was even getting out of breath going up the stairs to my second floor office…not good.  I felt like I was aging rapidly, and at this pace, I’d most certainly be following in the footsteps of my father–having a heart attack and open-heart surgery (or worse) in my 30’s.

I looked in the mirror one day, astonished to see a completely different person looking back at me than I once was, and I made a decision. I was not going to die young, dammit. I was going to get my health back, and get in shape. Good shape!

My life was too busy to add more complexity. No fancy cable-driven workout machines, no time-consuming drive to the gym, no gear. I just wanted a simple start to getting active again. Shoes, shorts, t-shirt, door, outside. I began walking. Such a simple thing, right? I’d been a competitive athlete in so many sports (tennis, cycling, skiing, baseball, etc) and yet, I’d never thought of walking as an athletic activity. But it was for me now. I was so out of shape, I just needed to get moving. Simple goals.

I began walking early in the morning before work several days each week, 30-40 minutes at a time, just a long loop through the rolling hills of my neighborhood. After 2 or 3 weeks, I was able to jog a little bit here and there. Walk 10 minutes, jog 3 minutes, walk again. Every couple of weeks, I’d add more time to my jogging segments until it was a 50/50 ratio of walking to jogging. I’d never been a runner (sort of despised running actually, used to think it was incredibly boring) but this was actually fun! I had no special training, fancy equipment, I was getting fresh air, seeing some great trees, sunshine and I was feeling like me again!

After a few more weeks, I hooked up with my neighbor and began jogging non-stop for 45-60 minute stints. He was a “real” runner, fancy shorts, special running shoes and all, but he liked me anyway. Why, I have no idea. I must’ve had a great sense of humor, or perhaps he was amused watching me run and dragged me along for the entertainment value. After a few months I was down to 183 lbs…I’d lost 35 lbs, holy cow! I felt so much better, and the person in the mirror was starting to look familiar again.

So, that’s how I started getting back in shape. Walking. For those of you behind the computer for long hours, days strung together with no exercise mixed in, neck, shoulders, legs and back stiff and sore, here’s your fitness tip for the week. It’s a simple one…

Get outside and walk for 30-40 minutes, 4 mornings this week before you begin your day. Just open the door and go. Simple as that. Below is the walking routine I used to get back on the road to fitness when I was in the most unhealthy, inactive time of my life.

Dave’s Easy Morning Walking Routine:

(Take deep breaths of fresh air as you begin; in through the nose, blow gently out through closed lips.)

  1. 10 Minute Moderate Pace Warm-up: Walk at a moderate, easy pace for the first 10 minutes to get your muscles and body awake and warmed up. (Moderate means you’re not trying hard, not straining, walking at an easy-to-maintain pace, but not going slow enough to shuffle your feet.)
  2. Interval 1 – Brisk Pace 1 Minute, Easy 4 Minutes: Take brisk strides for 1 minute, then slow down to moderate/easy again for 4 minutes.
  3. Interval 2 – Repeat Brisk Pace 1 Minute, Easy 4 Minutes: Same brisk pace as before; it should feel easier and more fluid the second time, now that your muscles are warm and pliable. After 1 minute, slow to your moderate pace and try to feel your feet rolling through the strides, touching the ground mid-foot first, rolling through the ball of your foot. Feel the muscles of your feet and legs cushioning your stride—don’t let your heels take the shock of your stride, you’re designed to walk and run with muscles absorbing and giving you a cushy ride, so don’t force the shock into your skeleton by hitting your heels on the ground!
  4. Interval 3 – Brisk Pace 2 Minutes, Easy 3 Minutes: You’re now warm, fluid in motion, and you can maintain the brisk pace for 2 minutes, with a 3 minute easy pace to cool down. If you feel like you’re straining during the 2 minute brisk segment, you’re walking too fast, slow it down and just keep a pace which requires effort to maintain. You’re training your muscles and lungs to develop some endurance, this is a good thing!
  5. 5 Minute Cool-down, Easy Pace: You’ve done great, just walk at your moderate pace for 5 minutes, feel the cushioned stride, keep your arms active and keep breathing deeply—in through the nose, out through the mouth. Gradually dial down from your moderate pace to a really slow pace. Keep your good form, don’t hit the heels, maintain cushioned strides, just shorten them to match your slow forward progress.
  6. 5 Minute Stretch: While your muscles are warm, this is the time to stretch, get some flexibility back, and help avoid future range-of-motion injuries. Do your favorite stretches, basics are fine. Stretch arms up to the sky, clasp hands and slowly hang down at the waist and reach for the toes; next put hands on hips and bend to each side reaching outside hand up and over toward the leaning direction; next gently stretch Achilles tendons with one foot flat behind you while leaning with hands against a wall or bench. Add a couple of stretches you like to finish off, and remember with all stretches, you can prevent strains and pulls by doing doing them s-l-o-w-l-y.

That’s it, a simple 35 minute walk, including a nice stretch at the end. If you haven’t had any exercise in a while, I’m betting you’ll feel pretty good. Do this 4 mornings per week, and in a couple of weeks, you may actually be feeling great!

The first step in moving toward a healthy and fit you is literally, taking forward steps! You just need to move your body, and your body is built for walking (and running). You will feel better, and trust me, you’ll be on your way to getting healthier for BlogWorld!

Next post, we’ll talk about eating light and basics of weight loss.

Tweet me your health & fitness questions! If you need help with health & fitness, or if you’d like to share or discuss training or exercises, tweet me @dave_blogworld and let’s talk about it!

Important: Check with your doctor before any new exercise routine, and get professional guidance and oversight. I’m not a physician, just a social media fanatic like you. If you have injuries, a disability, pain from exercise, or other warning signs that something’s “wrong”, seek medical attention immediately. Being healthy includes being smart, and safe! And remember to hydrate: drink water before and during exercise time; you’ll decrease muscle cramping, avoid overheating and speed muscle recovery.

Disclaimer: Posted health & fitness tips are suggestions and anecdotes provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.

Effectively Interacting With Fans Through Social Media

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The use of social networking by professional sports teams has exploded over the last two years, and the topic has received an overwhelming amount of media attention. With an ever-increasing number of teams and athletes using social networking platforms as a tool to communicate with fans, it’s probably easier to count the number of teams NOT using social media than the ones that are.

There are a number of teams across the country and throughout professional sports doing amazing things to interact with fans through social media. Here are a few concepts that have worked well for the Sacramento Kings:

  • Consistent Two-Way Dialogue: Unfortunately, many sports teams and brands in general are still using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs as one-way broadcast tools. The philosophy of the Kings new media team is to respond to every fan question on Twitter, engage in the dialogue under wall posts on Facebook and actively participate in the comments under blogs. This gives the team a great platform for listening to and addressing fan feedback and it gives the fans a chance to get to know the people in the organization on a more personal level.

  • Making Fans the Stars: The Kings try to showcase fans who interact with the team online as much as possible. There are some simple tactics such as consistently listing loyal Kings fans in Follow Friday posts, re-tweeting comments and showcasing photos and videos posted by Kings fans on a regular basis or giving a shout out to Kings fans who are active in the comments on the Facebook wall or under the blog. Then there are some bigger initiatives that have been received well, like using a loyal and interactive Kings Twitter follower in an online video promotion for a ticket special along with a Kings player, using raw video footage a Kings fan shot and posted online in an actual TV spot promoting ticket sales or having a local blogger participate in an in-arena interview with the Kings PA announcer before a game.
  • Making Fans the Reporters: Before nearly every media availability session, the Kings ask their Twitter followers if they have any questions for the team and always try to get a handful of those questions asked and then post the answers online. The team’s new media reporter also shoots special video segments with players consisting of all questions from fans on Twitter, where the fans who asked are always named along with the question. The team has also used some loyal fans as guest bloggers on its site on occasion.
  • Trivia and Other Contests: Everyone likes free stuff, especially sports fans. The Kings new media team has discovered a great way to engage loyal fans is through regularly posting trivia questions or incentive-based offers that come with a simple prize like a jersey, a hat or even an autographed ball. Foursquare has also proven to be an effective social media tool to increase awareness of Kings events by offering those who check-in at a Kings location a chance for a special prize.
  • Exclusive Offers: In order to show Kings fans who follow the team online the benefits of doing so, the team consistently creates exclusive offers on tickets and merchandise which are promoted only online using a special promotional code for redemption. Word spreads when a good deal exists, and it generally leads to the team picking up new fans in the digital space.
  • Offline Events: The Kings new media team believes it’s important to foster relationships with the team’s fans both online and offline, and always looks for ways to create a stronger bond from fans to fans and from fans to the team. Events such as Social Media Night at a Kings game give the team’s loyal online followers a chance to meet each other, meet representatives of the organization and even hear from players who are active in the online space.
  • Real-Time Interaction: In an ongoing quest to bring the fans closer to the team, the Kings have found live chats with players and team personnel using the Cover It Live platform or streaming video with UStream with a chat function for fans to ask players and staff questions they can answer in real-time are effective ways to increase the team’s online fan base and brand loyalty.

These are just a few concepts that have been effective for the Kings over the last few years. There are numerous other examples of teams throughout professional sports doing very creative and impactful things online to interact with their fans, and we look forward to many more fun things to come as technology continues to evolve.

Mitch Germann is in his fourth season with the Sacramento Kings and his first as Vice President, Marketing and Communications. He had served the previous three seasons as the vice president of business communications. In his new role, Germann oversees the Kings marketing, new media, business public relations and community service teams.

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