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.


Social Networking Fatigue

February 18, 2009

For well over a year now, social networking fatigue  has been in the news, and it’s not hard to see why.  After all, attempting to participate fully in multiple social networks–LinkedIn, Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Spoke, and on and on–would get tiring.  Add to that efforts to keep a blog, a podcast, and a website going, and it quickly becomes easy to see why some have opined that social networking fatigue is the next big hurdle facing these sites and services.

Meanwhile, AxisPortals has been, it seems, receiving more social networking invitations than ever.  Well over a year after some of the earliest advocates of social networking started complaining of burnout, it seems that more and more professional adults are discovering these sites for the very first time, and just beginning to explore their business potential.  How can relative newcomers to the social networking scene avoid fatigue?

Some suggestions:

  1. Explore First:  Before committing yourself fully to any social network, try playing around with several versions to see which of them best suits your style and your purpose.  Keep in mind that what you may have heard about a given site is no substitute for experience, and that it can take some time to grow familiar with the functions and local expectations of that particular space.  AxisPortals suggests using a screen name as you explore, and asking colleagues who are familiar with that space to add you to their friend lists so that you can get the best the possible feel for its possibilities.  If you explore first, then when it comes time to pare down your social networking profiles, you’ll be making an informed decision.

  2. Just Say No:   Many sites and services offer new members the option of issuing invitations to everyone in their address books.  Almost always, it is possible to turn off this option, and it’s a good idea to do so.  Netiquette dictates that it’s in poor form to abuse your contact list that way.  Meanwhile, if you are on the receiving end of of a mass invitation, please understand that it is not only okay to say no, but often wise to do so.  If you don’t really know the one who is extending the invitation (and AxisPortals assumes that almost all of us have some fairly distant contacts in our address books), then you needn’t feel even a twinge of regret over simply deleting these things from your inbox.  “Just say no,” after all, is one of those bits of advice that tends to deserve high ranking on most any list of suggestions for avoiding burnout.

  3. Clarify Your Purpose and Your Audience:   Exactly what do you want to accomplish with your social networking activities?  If your goal is to stay connected to friends and family, and you intend to make your interactions fairly casual, then it may be that a Facebook account is perfectly suited to your needs.  If you are looking mostly for professional connection, then concentrating your efforts on LinkedIn or Spoke might make the best sense.  If your business demands that you be a leading source of breaking news in your area of specialty, then you might find that some combination of Twittering and blogging works best for you.  On the other hand, do keep an open mind.  You may think of Facebook, for instance, as strictly youth oriented and not at all relevant to the business world, but the over 30 population is actually the most rapidly growing demographic  on the site.   As usage increases across all age groups, corporate presence on social networking sites expands in kind.  It seems natural for youth oriented Pepsi to have both a Facebook and a MySpace presence, for instance, but you’ll also find H&R Block and Hewlett-Packard on Facebook.  Local businesses, too, have found that establishing social networking profiles can be an effective marketing strategy.  So, explore a variety of sites, and know what you want to accomplish, but don’t automatically rule any site out. 

  4. Set Boundaries:  AxisPortals suspects that boundary blur is one of the leading causes of social networking fatigue.  Colleagues who are college professors, for instance, often note that they aren’t exactly sure how to approach friendship  requests from students.  Since the way that we interact with friends and family members is often quite different than the way we interact with our professional peers–or with  students, teachers,  employers, and employees–it makes sense to set some clear boundaries, and to guard them.  No matter which of the sites you utlimately choose to make your social networking home, you might consider setting up one profile for your business or your professional persona, and a separate profile for your personal interactions.  That way, you never have to worry that the casual tone and the personal details that are right in one setting will bleed uncomfortably into settings where they aren’t as appropriate.  You might also spend some time thinking about how you want to address your privacy settings.  It may be best for your personal details to be available only to close friends and family members, but for your business information to be readily available to all.  Some online marketing experts would disagree with this approach, but AxisPortals is going with common sense and personal experience, here:  I do want to hear which conferences my professional peers are attending,  what kinds of projects they’re working on , and which books are influencing them at the moment, but really don’t care to know what they had for lunch, much less how much they’ve had to drink.  From a rhetorical standpoint, it makes sense not to dilute your professional voice that way.

  5. Have Realistic Expectations:  Social networking is a rapidly evolving phenomenon.  Setting up a LinkedIn profile or establishing a Facebook page won’t turn you into an instant millionaire, and a new blogging or microblogging account will take some time to establish in an already crowded marketplace.  So, do keep your expectations realistic, and do understand that the time you devote to social networking is a long term investment.  Even if it doesn’t pay off in immediate profit increases, it will pay off in deeper and subtler ways for a long time.  Actively participating in the Web 2.0 revolution puts you in the enviable position of being able to make informed decisions about the role of technology in your personal and professional lives.  An added bonus: social networking humor will make a whole lot more sense to you.

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Don’t burnout, but do begin.