The Automatic Investment: Social Media Presence and Your Company

July 30, 2009

For AxisPortals, the lesson to take away from the much talked about case of the Chicago realty company suing a Twitterer who was critical of their services is that all of us–every company, every brand, every product, every service, even every individual professional–has an automatic investment in the online social sphere, whether we realize it or not.

To the Twitter aware, it was immediately apparent that the company’s move was ill-considered, and the company’s official explanation of the background involved did little to alter that take,  which was swift and widespread.  The case immediately passed into the permanent archives of “how not to approach social media” lore.

AxisPortals, though, is less interested in the particular case at hand than in the larger lesson:

The Online Social Sphere Automatically Matters, and you Automatically Belong to It

You may not have a Twitter account or a Facebook profile, or belong to any of the other  similar services.  Nonetheless, you are always only a post away from participation, and because a good portion of your customer base or audience is likely to be participating actively, there’s a good chance that such a post will come sooner rather than later.

Are you ready?

The renter and the property mangement company apparently had a contentious relationship well before the twiticism and the overreaction to it ever hit the news,  so perhaps nothing much could have been done to repair that particular situation. Nonetheless the case makes a good illustration of how crucial it is to respond to criticism in the social sphere in productive fashion.

The main thing is not to fear it.  Indulging in the fight-or-flight response leads to either escalation or avoidance, neither of which are productive.

These strategies are better by far:  listen, learn, offer to repair the problem, extend a genuine thank you for the feedback, and make your moves towards establishing good will apparent.  After all, your response, too, will enter the social sphere, whether you deliberately put it there or not.

Here’s are just a handful of the many products, institutions,  and brands that AxisPortals has referred to via Twitter or Friendfeed over the last few hours:

St. Marys School, West Chicago

St. Mary's School, West Chicago

Good N Fruity

Good 'N Fruity

Dennis Uniforms

Dennis Uniforms

Cascade Drive-In:  Pretzel Coupon

Cascade Drive-In: Pretzel Coupon

Blackberry Smartphone

Blackberry Smartphone

Add in the products that friends and colleagues have referred to, reviewed, discussed, and provided links to, and such a list would run for pages and pages.

These spontaneous references are the natural result of people interacting with products and with each other.  We share our passions, our complaints, our desires, our gut reactions, our criticism, and our praise.

No company or product is immune.  Every company or product has a stake in the conversation.  It’s an automatic investment, and one that should be tended wisely.

AxisPortals Aphorism: Your automatic investment in the social media sphere costs you nothing, but failing to understand its worth can cost you everything.

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Healthcare Organizations are All a-Twitter

May 6, 2009

Just a Tweet Away | Articles & Archives | Healthcare Informatics.

Key article in the May, 2009 Issue of Healthcare Informatics.

AxisPortals’s favorite passages:  

I don’t want them just to know what our strategic plan is or what our IT plan is.  People like to work with people, and so this is a mechanism of letting my personality show, along with what we’re trying to accomplish as a healthcare organization, and as an IT organization.–Will Weider, CIO Affinity Health System, and Ministry Health Care.

And

Some might argue that e-mail is sufficient for staying in touch with employees, and that social media is just another obligation for already busy executives, but Weider, who receives hundreds of e-mails every day, says he can better manage his time with sites like Twitter by more quickly sorting through messages.  By limiting posts and direct messages to 140 characters or fewer, the site forces users to communicate as efficiently as possible.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Social media personalizes communication, and supports institutional growth and education.


Community Health: Digitized and Widgetized

May 5, 2009

Over the last few weeks, AxisPortals has been deeply impressed by the public health community’s embrace of the digital, particularly in the form of widgets, but also in the form of embeddable audio and video public service announcements and press conferences.  

Initial fears of swine flu, and the accompanying gallows humor concerning the “aporkalypse”  rapidly gave way to solid information and education about H1N1 influenze prevention and treatment.

Digitized, widgetized information–prepared by authorities and designed to be portable and shareable–largely accounts for that movement away from hysteria and toward the calm dispensing of useful information. Consider these examples:


Information spreads quickly online.  Indeed, it spreads quickly enough that producing the bit of information that succeeds in becoming viral is every online marketer’s dream.    Often, the most successfully viral information is either sensational or just plain silly,  as was the case with the following picture of a toddler kissing a pig, which flew around the internet at record speed:

Public health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services are wise, indeed, to take advantage of social media and multimedia to promote education and awareness.   

An awareness pandemic?  That’s the one form of pandemic we can all happily embrace.  

AxisPortals Aphorism:  If you want to spread a message fast–and make it portable and engaging–digitize it, widgetize it, and certainly don’t hesitate to Twitter about it, too.


The Small Business: Bridging the Digital Divide II

May 1, 2009

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players:

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts

AxisPortals quotes Shakespeare this morning for two reasons.  First,  she loves the Bard of Avon, and does hate to miss an opportunity to work in some of those classic lines.  Second and more importantly, though, it occurs to AxisPortals that all the world’s a multimedia, interactive social network, and that the wise small business will therefore provide its web visitors with plenty of opportunities–plenty of entrances, if you will–to interact with both the site and with the business itself.

So, how to go about making your website not only a static web presence, but an active staging area for forging interactions, relationships, and connections? Here are few quick and simple approaches:

  1. Icons and Badges and Buttons, Oh My!  The major social and business networking platforms all make it very easy to create attractive, clickable connections to your profiles so that visitors can quickly connect to you and interact with you.   FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, for instance, all provide easy, built-in badge or widget creation tools.  Some of these simply provide links to your social networking profile.  Others actually display your status updates and activities.  Simply customize your page to suit your purposes and the style of your destination page, then copy the code and insert it into your website or blog.  Then, your web visitors can rapidly scan your online network, and can easily connect with you. If you are working with a web designer, ask him or her to work with you to ensure that your website and/or blog include badges that represent your main public social and business networking profiles.
  2. It’s Alive, It’s Alive:  Every website does need some core information that is relatively static (though religiously kept fresh and up to date) and always easy to find.  For instance, you will want to ensure that your contact information and product and service descriptions are stable and easy to access.  However, today’s web is multimedia driven.  That means that your small business website would do well to incorporate not only polished prose but also arresting graphics and absorbing audio and video elements that not only inform and create interest, but also make it easy for users to share your key content with others.    Note, for instance, how effectively the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services have leveraged podcasts and videos to disseminate authoritative information about the Influenza A H1N1 virus. Multimedia elements bring your website to life, often quite literally giving it a voice.
  3. Feed Me!  Websites are a lot like teenagers:  they require nearly constant feeding.  Fortunately, the web itself provides abundant sustenance for your business site in the form of newsfeeds.  Select appropriate newsfeeds based on the nature and focus of your business. What kinds of information can you feed to your site that will most interest and best serve your visitors, whether they are current or prospective clients?  Once you identify the relevant feeds, configure RSS widgets to match the style of your site, and embed the feeds in your pages.  Embedded news feed widgets ensure that there are areas of continuously refreshed content on your site.  Embedded podcast widgets are also a good idea, for they not only offer all of the advantages of a feed, but also add another multimedia element to your site.
  4. We Really Have to Talk:  You might also consider adding real-time discussion tools to your site.  If real-time web-based discussion plays a major role in your business plan and you can devote personnel to monitoring your online chat tools, then investigate paid services such as Bold Chat, Volusion’s LiveChat,  or WebsiteAlive.  If you are just beginning to explore the possibilities of real-time web-based discussion, then it might be worthwhile to experiment some of the free or less expensive tools, such as those offered by Meebo and CoffeeCup. Embedding your Skype badge also introduces an element of real-time communication to your site.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Make your website an active staging area for forging interactions, relationships,  connections, involvement.

 


Social Media Dependence?

February 20, 2009

MediaShift’s Mark Glaser warns of the dangers of  overdependence on social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.

It hadn’t occured to AxisPortals to worry that anyone might consider making any social networking site the one and only online home of his or her business entity or professional persona.  Although Glaser’s overall point that these technologies are still emerging is well taken, his dire warnings seem like overkill.  Some relatively small handful of social networking zealots might be putting all of their marketing eggs into that one growing but still emerging and shifting basket, but for the most part it  seems fairly obvious that the strength of these sites lies in their ability to extend and enrich online presence, not to provide the whole of it.  Like any networking or marketing strategy, social networking should be strategically implemented, and subject to regular review and analysis.  What works always trumps what’s fashionable, and a multi-faceted approach is always wise.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that social networking is as old as humanity. People will always seek out connection.  The golf outing is a social networking tool.  So is the business lunch.  Now, we have ways to extend our connections and relationships online, but no matter what happens to the specific services we have now, the human propensity for connection isn’t going anywhere, so it’s likely that even though social networking online will continue to evolve in interesting new directions, it’s beyond unlikely that it will ever disappear entirely.  The services and their details will change, but the basic fact of forming networks won’t.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Due caution, yes; unreasonable fear, no.

AxisPortals Aphorism Two (with apologies to E.M. Forster):  Only connect . . .but of course not solely on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.