social media tips

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Hit Your Proofs.

Here’s the deal on social media and branding. If you have a brand strategy you need to prove it in social media. Every day. Random posts diminish your brand.  The brand strategy framework at What’s The Idea? is one claim, three proof planks. If you are posting with pictures on Instagram, you need to be hitting your proofs. If you are creating some sort of engagement post on Facebook, hit your proofs. Sharing news on Twitter? Yep, tap those proofs.  Pinning a crafty thing?  You get the idea.

Every day I look at companies and brands who are active in social media and can’t figure out what there are trying to do strategically — other than put more social flotsam into the ether. And please, please don’t think this claim and proof array approach is limiting, It’s not. It’s freeing. It’s less random.  Your goal is to put deposits in the brand value bank, not confuse your buying and prospect publics.

Find your brand strategy, then live it every day. Your custies will thank you.



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You’ve seen Twitter personalities with an inordinate number of follower. Or those with 100,000 tweets. Are these serious and effective business people or subject matter experts?  Often, no. They are all about creating churn on Twitter. And if they do it on Twitter they’re apt to do so on Facebook as well.

When I see these people, unless they are Kardashian, I know they’re in the business of social media; trying to make a living selling their social media expertise. Twitter is best when it’s not overtly commercial. When the important stuff floats to the top. Not when the important stuff is buried under a bunch of promotional blather. Once something good is under the fold, it’s pretty much gone.

We need to do a better job of filtering out the Twitter blather from our feeds. I plan on removing some Tweeps beginning today. I love Twitter. I follow smart business people, strategists and thinkers. When I hide them among the weeds, it’s a problem.





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At what are you expert? It’s a question I ask clients looking to fathom and navigate the world of social media. If the answer is “nothing,” social strategy becomes more of a grind. If you (or your brand) are expert in something and it is in great demand, your social media strategy can be quite easy.  That said, if your expertise is in a commodity market, say search engine optimization or low-priced appliances, the difficulty picks up again.

It is the strategist’s your job to find an expertise or sub-expertise that really makes the brand best in class. A friend of mine is a fish wholesaler in NYC. He sells to sports stadiums, cruise lines and top fine dining chefs. His expertise is in getting fresh fish to clients faster than competition at reasonable prices. Inside his head is more information about fish seasonality, migration, weather, shipping and demand than 99% of the people on the planet. Not great cocktail discussion but something of great interest to tops chefs and buyers.

He’s s SME. A Subject Matter Expert. Not a journalist. Not an MBA. Not an oceanographer. When he has something to share about fish quality, futures and price, people listen. Taking that information and creating a social program around it – and finding the right followers – is a business home run. Commercially, it’s a market-changer.

At what are you or your brand expert? That’s where you want to start.




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I posted a presentation on SlideShare called “Social Media Guard Rails,” that was created for a Social Media Club of Long Island in 2011. Its subtitle was “14 Dos and Don’ts.” Good strategy work is timeless and future proof, but only a fool would say things don’t change. As I reread the 14 points I stick by them all.  There is one new “Don’t” I’d like to add at this point which was born out of the law profession:

“Don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer to.”

Many managers of social media programs like to engage audiences by asking questions. Ask a good, funny, category-endemic question, the logic goes, and you’ll engage people. You’ll start a conversation.  When Ronzoni asks “What’s your favorite healthy pasta dish?,” the sharers will share and you get some SoMe traction.  By caring about what customers care about, you’re in a positive ballpark.

But if the questions are too open-ended you may get McDonalded. They asked followers to tell stories about McDonalds using hashtag #McDStories — and it didn’t work out so well.


If you have a brand strategy (One claim, 3 proof planks), and manage your social media program with the intent of putting deposits in the brand bank, you should be okay. Then, you will be asking questions you know the answers to (ish).


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An interesting piece of research conducted by The Altimeter Group and published in Technorati suggests marketing departments handle only 51% of all corporate social media activity. (Here’s the link.) That’s not good. I understand marketing can’t control word of mouth, but the internet isn’t word of mouth. Didn’t your momma teach you that? What you say or show online stays there.

If 49% of corporate outbound social media is potentially random then the company is leaking. Even if benign, these leaks aren’t putting deposits in the brand bank as they might.

Here’s how to fix it. The marketing dept. needs to share the brand strategy (idea and planks) with all employees. It must emphasize that all outbound messages, pictures, videos etc. toe the brand strategy line. Employee creativity, on message, can be a wonderful thing. Off message, not so much. And I’m not talking about getting your people to parrot the latest ad campaign, I’m suggesting let them express the strategy in their own words, actions and deeds. The fact is, marketing oversight of all social media is optimal, but giving employees the guidance to share what the company s good at and what consumers want can provide wonderful learning, field testing and brand personality.








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When talking about social media programs to clients I tell them “be interested in what your customers are  interested in.”  Of course, these interests have to align with their brand strategy (1 claim, 3 planks). Yesterday I was looking at some Instagram photos of Love Grace cold pressed juices and admired how they pointed to a blogger sharing a number of yoga poses.  I haven’t written a brand strat for Love Grace, but feel what they are doing. And I’m sensing the neighborhood they’re living in. 

When a company owns a space, owns an idea in the customer’s mind, and they choose to not always sell product, customers relax around them.  This constant need to sell reminds me of going to a party and talking to a car salesman who is always “on.”

I’ve been trying to get close to PC Richard and Sons, a huge retailer in NY, who knows a thing about selling.  They have a marketing dept. and a dedicated social media group. They’ve even hired a social media agency, I suspect. But they don’t have a visible brand strategy they follow when it comes to social. Their’s is a tactics-palooza plan. Unlike Love Grace, PC Richards & Sons talks about promo, price and service. That’s not a plan. That’s the category.

If you understand what your customers care about and use social media to prove you also care about those things – and if those things put deposits in your brand bank, you are using social the correct way. Peace.

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Steve Rubel is an acquaintance who has done lots to alter the landscape of social media.  He’s got pop.  (Baseball metaphor.)  He once tweeted a post of mine about “Google’s culture of technological obesity” which got hit by Lifehacker and earned me 1,000 blog visits a day for a while. That’s power.

Steve works high up at Edelman PR and though less visible to the public these days, is no doubt making the company some nice profits.  We all miss him, I’m sure.

Edelman is doing some leading edge stuff in social media and PR.  I came across a Twitter handle of theirs yesterday:  @edelmanfood.  Whoever is managing the account, and I’m sure it’s a small group of people, are thoughtful category trollers.  This is advanced stuff. Leadership stuff.  They’ve created their own little practice area topic on Twitter – something extensible into other media which in a fast twitch media world is an idea with ballast.

While category trolling is broad and much better than brand trolling, it does not hit the requirements of “Have a motivation” (Google “Social Media Guard Rails+Slideshare”). That’s next. For now let Edelman troll the category and do it better than most. A Twitter account or a Fotchbook page with a branded motivation, though, offers real pop!  Peace. 

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