Why You Have Social Media All Wrong

[excerpt from my upcoming Ebook: The Truth About Digital Marketing (a working title)]

Just about everyone I’ve ever talked to about digital A&M always throws in the importance of social media. Business owners, industry professionals, and laypersons seem to believe that social media is the solution to all of their digital marketing needs. I kindly submit; everything you know about social media is wrong. Before you click away…consider the notion that social media is not an all-encompassing concept, rather it is a multi-tiered channel of communication.

Additionally, social media is not a high producing digital channel. It does not produce a significant supply of website traffic nor does it produce high conversion rates. I have been in digital marketing and advertising for over a decade now…and was working in the industry when social started to rear its head in 2006-2007. The reality is, social media, as a general channel, converts well below 1% while other channels like paid, direct, referral, and email are much higher [Average between these channels is around 2.5%]. Moreover, social signals and their importance/impact on your SEO and website are very nominal. And play little role in your overall success if a ‘share’ action isn’t taken.

With some of these number in mind, it is paramount to your business goals to take a deep breath and let us all put social media in the right place. Communication, branding, listening posts, marketing, and publication. Most certainly NOT conversion and a primary traffic source.

I break down the concept of social media into five primary segments. Social media communication. Social media listening. Social media A&M. Branding and brand reputation. And social media publication.  Each portion should be treated as a collective and individually. In doing so, less work will lead to better experiences for both your business, social communities, and would-be visitors.

Social media communication is simply that. How you communicate with your audience on the various platforms. The individuals who have opted to join your group, cause, or business want to hear from you. They want to engage with your brand. They are not on social media to buy anything or to be sold your newest trinket. They want insights, information, and unique content that they cannot get anywhere else. Provide these things to your audience and you will gain more authority within your group and have a much better opportunity to spread your message far and wide. Continue to be self-promotional and you will eventually find your hard earned audience turning their collective backs. In short; unique, high-quality, relevant content will help you engage and communicate.

Social media listening give you, the brand/company, the opportunity to listen to your audience. Much of business and corporate communication is one way. We are speaking and messaging our clients and customers but we are not actively listening to their ideas, thoughts, complaints, and compliments. Therefore, active listening and contemplative responding is key to a successful social media endeavor.

 Social media A&M is the active practice of advertising and marketing within various social platforms. Yes, it is paid inclusion. Yes, it can be very intrusive. And yes, 4 out of every Facebook ads are ignored. And yes, MySpace went out of fashion due to too many ads and poor content. Marketing and advertising on these platforms are best for brand awareness but not so much for conversions. The good news is they are very cost effective for a CPV [cost per visitor] standpoint.

Branding and brand management is critical in the age of big data and in light of public demand for corporate transparency. Leverage social media networks to take over your brand name and mitigate future negative comments, features, and commentary. Without question there is a social component here and one you and your company should not ignore.

Social media publication is one of the most important aspects of all social media efforts. What you publish and what social media outlets you publish on matter. If your business target is B2B your best publication option is on your site [of course] and on LinkedIn. If your target is B2C in nature, Facebook may be your best shot. Of course, mixing it up and sending out high quality content is the name of the SEO game more than the nature of social media. However, the two work hand in hand depending on how good the content is. Truly unique and excellent articles can have a very far reaching impact [consider ‘going viral’] and can produce excellent website referral traffic.

I encourage you, dear reader, to reconsider how you are approaching social media. It is a challenging endeavor and careful consideration should be given to how much time, effort, money, and ideation is need prior to diving in. More importantly, understanding the different areas of social media can help you make smarter decisions and work more efficiently. At the end of it all, digital marketing and social media is not about working harder…but smarter.

Online Privacy & Freedom – Now At Risk

Most of us are aware of the Occupy Wall Street [OWS] protests and their message of raising awareness of the vast chasm between the rich and poor. The 1% get all of the breaks and the 99% get the boot. I am not one to argue their point. I am not one to say that there isn’t something truly amiss with the disparity between the very wealthy in this country and those less fortunate. There is…and it is systemic, ongoing and desperately needs to be addressed at the highest levels.

While most of us may believe that the aforementioned is a major issue…there is a bigger issue that is NOT being covered by the mainstream media and issues that are much closer the the very core and fabric of our nation. Our very freedoms are under direct assault by those who hold political office.

What I find interesting and a little frightening is this: the Occupy movement has awakened sleeping giants. The giants – those who seek to stop any type of protest in its tracks. The Bill of Rights allows freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably protest, right to petition our government and freedom of the press. These are the rights of Americans and this is not up for debate…until now.

Over the course of 2011, there were hundreds of protests in the Middle East which toppled governments and dethroned dictators. It was called the Arab Spring…and it’s primary communication tool was the Internet. Demonstrators and protesters used texts, social networks and Twitter to topple oppressive regimes. On one hand it was a true force of democratic will, propelled by well oiled and socially connected people. On the other was the most basic desire for freedom of oppression.

Simple desire created massive change and the vehicle that helped the people do it was social media.

When the Occupy Wall Street started to pick up steam…those in power in the U.S. started to get a little unhinged and are now pulling the plug on freedom, privacy, the press and you. Politicians [left and right] and corporate America do not want to change how we do business nor do they want to change that was once promised.

Don’t believe me…take a look at some recent stories –

  1. Freedom Index for the United States [now ranked 47th].
  2. Drones patrolling New York
  3. Homeland Security can now keep track of those “reporters” using social networks and social media outlets
  4. The new National Defense Authorization Act which allows the president to kill American citizens and indefinitely detain them with out trial or council.
  5. Failed attempt at full blow Internet censorship via SOPA.
  6. Failed attempt at additional Internet censorship with the Protect IP Act.
  7. Chicago’s mayor added on higher fees and stiffer penalties for the G8 summit.

The good news is items 5 and 6 failed. The bad news is we are teetering very close to a point of no return. Every move we make…as a reporter, blogger, or social media hipster or college student may be watched, monitored, collected and used against us in a court of law [if we are lucky]. In addition, you may end up held without trial, without legal council, without even being told why.

All of this seems like it has been specifically created and designed to curb, stop or totally shut down any unrest the current political and socioeconomic climate may bring about. By any means necessary. By all powers available. All in the name of security.

Social media and social communication has provided people around the world with a new voice and new tools to cause change. These new communication tools are extremely potent and to those in power…may be deemed dangerous. The status quo types don’t like change. They are making way too much just the way things are…thank you.

As Americans may agree, terrorism is a real threat. The individuals who darkened our skies on 9-11 are not unique…they succeeded. There are others that wish to do the U.S. it and its people harm. That is beyond tragic, sick and inhumane. However, as Americans…our parents, grandparents and millions before our time, bled to provide us the very freedoms we enjoy today. Online and offline. In private, on our person and within our own homes.

Freedom is that warm blanket of security we have all enjoyed for so long but have continually failed protect ourselves from ourselves. We are the government [as they are elected by us] and now they are digging into everything we hold dear in the name of security.

Let’s be honest. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Many of the top Al-Qaeda rank and file are dead or in GitMo. Many of the treats we once faced are now the size of a small kitten. Sure, there are more bad guys…there always will be. But what are we willing to give up for JUST A LITTLE MORE SAFETY?

I am not writing this post out of fear or conspiracy or hysteria. No. I am writing to sound the alarm that something is coming and it will be a fight for our online and offline privacy and freedom. Lets hope we as Americans are up for the fight. Paying attention is the very first step.

In closing, New Hampshire’s licence plate reads – Live Free or Die. I don’t think it will ever come to that again. The American Revolution ended in 1783…and if we continue to ignore the signs…we may not be able to stand up at all – as we will all be in Internet shackles with no one on the other side to hear our message or help.



Can You Get Sued For What You Post Online? You bet.

Fox News Chicago had a very interesting special report about a local doctor who sued patients over comments made on Yelp and City Search reviews. As I am not a lawyer, all though I like to play one in my own mind, it is not for me to debate what constitutes for libel and slanderous commentary. However, I believe it is important to stress the new state [emerging state] of our online world.

What you post online in FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, review websites, or your blog can land you in a world of trouble. It is unfortunate that we cannot share our thoughts regarding our weekend without the sneaking suspicion that a future employer may find the information and reject you for a job. It could be worse, you could write a truthful comment about a physician or business and end up in court defending yourself and pocket book. Worse still, is your teenage daughter or son ending their lief due to sexting escapades going viral.

Here are some quick connectivity facts:

  • Facebook was launched in 2004 and as of 2010 has over 500 million active visitors.
  • Twitter was founded in 2006 and has 190 million visitors a month. 
  • According to a recent survey 91% of the U.S. population is wired up to a cell phone. 
  • 77.3 % of the U.S. Population uses the Internet

With so many people online, so many ways to be connected, it can take a strong will to refrain from writing our thoughts down at any time from just about any place. The major concern it privacy and now self preservation. Our world has been condensed because of the Internet and mobile. What once took weeks or months to communicate now takes seconds. With power comes a great deal of risk.

This is not a warning so much as it is a “heads-up” that what you say can and will be used against you in a court of law if you are not careful. At the very least your words, photos, and videos can be used against you in the court of popular opinion. I am certain as time marches on, we will see more court cases, more lawsuits, and more issues arising due to our addiction to connectivity and urge to post or latest night out or photos or our last meal.

While I believe the doctor mentioned in the Fox News Report is attempting to protect his reputation, it is nothing more that brute force by way of law. The good news is if social media is used with caution and some type of respect of self and others it can be a juggernaut for positive change, communication, and promotion.

Moving forward, use social media and other communication outlets with great care because someone is watching, reading, and looking for a reason to reply…one way or another.

Blocked From Facebook – Not So Social

Very recently I was blocked from sending messages on Facebook. I am an active participant in the social media craze and it has been a real treat catching up with long lost friends. After all, the purpose of social media and Facebook is to be SOCIAL. You can imagine my surprise when I was suddenly blocked from sending messages on this social media outlet.

As it turns out, I am not the only one who has been banned. For starters, I’m not sure why I was banned and it flies in the face of being social online. One would assume that reaching out to friends, family, and sending several messages in a day or within a 24 hour period would be the norm. Facebook does not see it that way. Apparently, if you send out too many messages in a short period of time the Facebook powers will block your ability to send out messages.

For a split second I felt pretty terrible, as if I was some type of SPAMMING monster hiding under the bridge waiting for the opportunity to hit all my friends with the latest AMWAY product. Better yet, sending out the newest multi-level marketing ploy which only the tops in the program make money and all others pay for conventions and books created by compete idiots.

After running a few searches for “banned from Facebook” and “blocked from Facebook” I found hundreds of threads and posts about the subject. As you may imagine, the vast majority of responders regarded the situation as downright mean, unwarranted, and counter productive. If you can’t be social and are limited to HOW SOCIAL YOU CAN be….what is the point?

I certainly understand the need to protect others from SPAM, stalkers, unwanted-long-lost-connections, and repetitive messages. I also understand that there may be only so many messages Facebook can send through their servers. However, the rules are very unclear as to how many messages and message types any person can send out. These are the possible reasons for becoming banned on Facebook, but I would submit another, yet more dubious reason: Facebook may be in the process of testing the waters for some type of social media model which you will have to pay for via subscription.

According to the Facebook Blog, they have 100 million users and growing. This could be a huge cash cow. How many users would drop out if they came out with a subscription based social media service? Is this not the very nexus of a oxymoron?  Be social, but not too social. Be found but don’t reply too much or too often. Put your social life up for the world but be sure to reign it in. I wonder if Facebook punishes business or fan pages for posting messages…I think not.

Based on all of the posts I have read, I may be banned for 24 hours and on some type of watch list thereafter. Social media was created for individuals to be social and if you can’t be social in a legitimate way via online interaction, why be social online at all? It was not my intention to go on a rant, but share the experience on the Searchology blog as a message to all you social media users out there; if you are too social on the biggest social media network, Facebook, they’ve got your number.

Did Social Media Just Get Mean Or More Honest?

This morning in the Chicago Red Eye, I read a very brief segment about Unvarnished, the new social website which allows users to rate their coworkers, bosses, business partners, and more. Certainly this raises a lot of questions about what is going to happen with social media. What if you have a coworker who constantly shows up drunk? What if your boss monitors a site like this? Could your reviews of your peers act as the new Big Brother? What will be the impact on your future career?

Those of us that are in ‘the know’ or have figured out that your privacy is no longer really yours…know that what you put online can come back to haunt you. Last night on Fox News Chicago, they ran a spot about a young teenage girl who was coaxed by her then boyfriend to create a video starring her in flagrante delicto. The resulting video was sent around the world and is illegal to own and publish in most countries because it is child pornography. The problem is this video has traveled the world and the poor child’s life is in tatters because of the viral nature of the Internet [of which is, in part, propelled by social media].

Consider this your fair warning. Post [online] only what you would share with your future boss or grandmother. All else is fair game and will be used against you in the public court of opinion. I guarantee you, for those who choose to ignore the power of billions online…you will surly parish from the masses willing to hunt down the scandals and trash we post about ourselves.  

Tear down your beer photos and college pics…and any comment [left, right, or middle] which may offend the your neighbor. Rest assured our future online holds more transparency than we really want to share. It is the nature of social media to share, rate, discuss, and socialize. Think back to your high school days or college days which for many of us was prior to the social media explosion.

Some rumors and unscrupulous events could be hidden or waved away. Now, once it’s online it may take the end of humanity before it comes off billions of prying eyes. The good news, and there is good news, some of us really don’t care about our privacy and what we post online. If you don’t mind airing your dirty laundry, emotions, drunk photos, and still believe in freedom of expression…I say let it rip and roll.


Hearding The Social Media Cats

I a fantastic post by Rebecca Lieb, “Here Come The Social Media Carpetbaggers” from Clicks, she discusses the hoard of social media experts who have come streaming out of the wood work with proposals in had and “expert banners” waving. I’ve said for some time now that social media should be taken in stride and should not be used to generate sales of any type. Sure, if sales “accedently” or unintentionally arise from social media marketing…that is a wonderful thing. If your objective is to accomplish this task it is going to end up a major epic fail.

I find it as amazing as Rebecca does, how everyone and their distant uncle can now execute, build, track, and offer bright shiney success stories about how well they have done for their clients with social media. Much like Rebecca’s comments, I firmly believe that if you are going to pursue social media you should do it in house. The cost in human hours to build out social media outlets, run comments, and interact with your auduience can be a very large task.

Don’t believe all you hear about how wonderful and magical social media is. It is what it is…a way for people to communicate online with each other. It is not a new toy or marketing outlet for you to make your next fortune. The majority of individuals on social networks are there to interact with each other, their friends, family, and grow networks. If you REALLY want to interrupt that interaction with ads, or annoying pokes into their “social webworking” I would hazard to say that you will be engaging in demanding your message is heard and it will backfire.

As I’ve said many times over now…social media, if used as a tool to allow for communication, idea exchanges, developing brand awarness, and credibility can crate a special relationship that will pay you back in the long term. Be wary of the salesperson who suggests a large investment in the social media space. If you are going to take the leap…get your goals, expectations, and self in check.

Social media is still very new [about 2 years old now] and Internet marketing is around 12 years old. We are still dealing with a new digital era. Social media should not be confused with direct advertising…social media is a communication tool and not an advertising tool. Use it wisely and you will prosper…force you message and it will come back to haunt you.

Google is Going Social

An article recently released on Informationweek.com, Google plans to tackle the social search. Soon Google Labs will allow Google account holders to open new accounts and allow their social information to become integrated into Google search results. My first knee-jerk reaction is; oh, boy, here we go…social media is going way beyond the boundaries of providing information up to the second…that is…information ON YOU.

My second reaction [the other knee], was…I’m going to be the first to sign up for this one. Who knows how much will be served and indexed? Will I [we] be able to choose which social channels are posted? Or will it be all for one and one for all?

Once my initial ‘shock’ was over…this is not a surprising move. The search is all about search results based on keywords, lightning fast and accurate. Why not include ALL the information about your personal life and social life?

Consider how much fun it will be explaining to a future client or employer how an erotic monkey got on your Facebook page. When you get tagged with a photo or video…it does not exist in a location where you can alter it. It exists on the posters site and shows up on your profile. Will this type of garbage show up in the SERPS?

The issue really comes down to this: if you are socially adept online and in person this can be a very good thing. I may provide credibility, link juice, added content and it would be kind of cool to say, “Google me.” However, all things are not created equal. Well, without a question social graces are not learned and executed equally by all people. You can control what you say but you can’t control what others say or tag about you on various sites.

Will this lead to some type of consistant need to survey and monitor all of your social profiles? Could be the case. Then again, you don’t have to participate. But this is the shot across the bow, social media is going to go just one step too far and invade our social networks and channels. This is going to be a really interesting ride kids. Bring your Scooby Doo lunch box and an extra snack.