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If you learn anything about communicating across social channels in 2011, let it be this: Never write anything when you’re angry. I’ll take it one step further and add that you should never  respond to any comments that bring out emotions you feel you cannot control.

Here’s an example: You’re reading a highly critical comment about your company, yourself or one of your colleagues or employees. After the first few sentences you are fuming. You know it’s a lie and you cannot wait to rebut. That is when you have to walk away. You are in no position to respond.

Not yet.

I have seen this time and time again, and the people who would seemingly understand this concept, and the permanence of any content posted online, fall victim to their emotions.

One comment turns into two, unfinished thoughts morph into uncontrollable rants, and when the dust settles, they look like a fool.
Consider the tale of this back and forth on Twitter, as described by MG Siegler over on Techcrunch. This is just one case of bad judgement and it probably won’t have much fallout for those who participated, but it is chronicled on a popular blog, something they may not have expected.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Diving into a community head first can be intimidating for some people, even though it may be second nature to you and me.

Sometimes it’s much easier to stay in the background and lurk, enjoying the community with no real commitment.

It’s the lurkers sometimes, who contribute to that valuable “time spent” stat community managers often covet and it makes sense to consider lurkers when you’re developing features for a new online community.

I don’t believe that every action should require registration, and learned from experience that it can take a lurker up to six months to finally bite the bullet and jump on in. I specifically remember an e-mail from a member and a blog from another indicating that they’d both been hanging around for months.

By the time they did sign up, they knew which groups they wanted to join, which members they’d like to connect with and understood the community culture as well.  Lurkers are also less likely to create a new profile  and abandon it, never to return. They already view your community as a destination and that’s a beautiful thing.

By locking everything down, you don’t give people a chance to dabble, and sometimes you have to have a little taste before completely committing.

So as you think about ways to engage the community, do consider the lurkers. Include polls and other interactive features. Host live chats that allow guests to sign in, and publish snippets of your member newsletter in a blog post or forum so they can see what they’re missing.

This is an important audience, so be sure to show the lurkers a little love.

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If you’re looking for your first job as a community manager, the best piece of advice I can give you is not to get too caught up in the shiny job description.

The second best piece of advice I can offer is that you embark on your journey with a clear understanding of the fact that it can be a very lonely gig and quite the emotional rollercoaster.

To be fair, I will acknowledge that job descriptions by their very nature are meant to be exciting, and persuasive with all of those imaginative  action verbs that make you feel like it will be the most fulfilling job of your career if you were so lucky to land it.

But there are a few things to consider about this role, particularly if it is a new position at the company.

  • There’s a good chance that no one within the organization has ever held this job – even the hiring manager – so they have no idea of what you will encounter.
  • The term “ambassador” is widely overused and rarely means what you think it does.
  • There are widespread misconceptions about the qualifications needed to be successful.
  • Members can and do, go rogue.
  • You may face  very hurtful name-calling.
  • You could quite possibly end up being the only person internally, who cares.

You will never find any of this in a job description, and I’m sure you can understand why. I get asked all the time about how to break into this field  and what qualifications and skills one needs to succeed.  My best answer to-date was used in this article on Mashable:

…“I’m talking about razor-sharp interpersonal communication skills, the ability to exhibit an enormous amount of tact, an extremely thick skin and a boatload of compassion for people you would rather not give an ounce. Did I mention grace under pressure, courage under fire, openness to criticism and tolerance beyond belief?”

If you don’t possess those skills, think twice before hitting apply, because trust me…you will need them  all.

My main point here is this isn’t a glamorous job and I am increasingly seeing it depicted that way, which I find a bit troubling.

So before you dive in head first, reach out to some community managers or former community managers and get their perspective. Talk to people who have managed a variety of online communities.

That way, when you read your next irresistible job description, you’ll be able to read between the lines.

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Have you ever gotten into a discussion with someone about personal vs. professional accounts on social networks?

Some people believe it’s impossible to separate the two. Others create two different profiles on their favorite social networks and drive themselves crazy trying to manage it all.

There are people who freak out each time they get an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn. (That’s my old boss, I don’t know…” or “I never really liked her, do I have to say yes?”) I know people who refuse to look at their friend requests on Facebook because they don’t want to have to make a decision on whether or not they should let a person in.  In many cases they keep these people in what I call “Facebook purgatory” so they don’t hurt their feelings.

This is a real struggle for many, but it doesn’t have to be. Quite honestly, I think it’s madness and if you’re one of these types, it’s time to take back your power.

If friend requests, invitations to connect and potential Twitter stalkers are keeping you up at night, that needs to stop. Today. All you have to do is develop your own personal social media policy. Determine your own rules of engagement and apply them. And don’t be scared to let people know how they can connect with you.

If you don’t want to chat it up with your co-workers on Facebook, don’t. And even if you are connected already and don’t want to be, adjust your privacy settings. Create lists within your friends lists and limit what they can see.

I have no problem telling people how I connect. I had a friend request from a former co-worker on Facebook just today and declined it. I told her that I would prefer to connect with her on LinkedIn instead. I hope she doesn’t take it personally but I have a certain way I choose to connect that works for me.

I liked her when we worked together, but our relationship doesn’t fit with the way I communicate on Facebook. She doesn’t need to see the pictures of my children I post from time-to-time or read my fun rants with my cousins. Because our work relationship never reached actual friendship, (like many do) she doesn’t belong there.

My policy works something like this:

Twitter: Anyone except the porn people and hard core affiliate marketing types. I’m pretty much professional on twitter. I have a niche there and try to stick to it. If you don’t like live tweets, journalism, or social media, you won’t enjoy following me at all.

  • Direct messages: If you send me a DM, I will respond.
  • @Mentions: If you mention me in a reply, I will respond accordingly. It may not be immediately but you will be acknowledged when warranted. I don’t typically thank people for retweets. I figure it was of value to them so they shared it. I will follow them so I can return the favor some day.

LinkedIn: Any business connection I’ve made. This includes people I meet at conferences, former co-workers and anyone I know professionally. I haven’t met all of these people, but I know of them in some significant way.

Blog: If you post a comment on my blog, I will try my best to respond, especially if you’ve never posted before. Again, it may not be immediate but it will happen. Sometimes  I reach out via email instead. I will never have a heated argument online and do not engage with trolls or disrespect other bloggers.

Facebook: Family and friends. Co-workers or former co-workers who have transcended co-worker and moved into “friend” territory. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you are likely someone I would invite to my house.

This may be a bit formal for you so consider it food for thought. It took me a while to figure out what works best. So don’t be offended if you reach out to me on Facebook and we don’t connect.

It’s not you at all. It’s me, and that’s how I manage it all.

I’d love to hear about your personal policies and boundaries in the comments.

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Every tweet, Facebook update and comment posted online is a form of communication. Whether that comment is on a blog post, news article, YouTube video or Flickr photo, it counts.

So my question is this: Why isn’t this content being held to the same high standard and given the same level of thought as traditional communications?  I don’t know what your answer is to that question, but mine is this: It should be.

In 2010, an increasing number of brands began treating Facebook like the new internet. That’s because, for the most part, it is. A Facebook page today is what a website was ten or more years ago. Facebook is a destination site. Actually, it’s THE destination site, having surpassed Google as the number one site on the internet.

People spend insane amounts of time there, and this is why businesses are also setting up shop, in droves. I know you’ve seen marketing material with the Facebook icon or have heard TV commercials and radio spots urging you to follow Brand X on Facebook. If Ford can unveil the 2011 Ford Explorer on Facebook, do I really need to say more?

This time last year, Nielsen reported that the average American spent 421 minutes on Facebook, each month a number that has surely risen since then and will only continue to do so. So what you put there matters.

But this isn’t a post about Facebook, it’s about social communications as a whole. It is no longer wise to pour over the content of a press release, editing draft after draft until it reaches perfection, while giving very little if any thought at all to how you are going to represent your company across social media channels.

Communications professionals have a new job description, whether they want it or not. It is that of Digital Communicator.

As social media platforms mature, evolve and become even more mainstream, clients need a presence in this space, and the smart, savvy digital communicator will make sure they have one. But it isn’t enough to simply show up, you have to actually communicate and have a plan for harnessing the power of new media and getting messages straight to a target audience.

I believe that 2011 is the year to deliver or die. PR professionals have to think more broadly and deliver more value. In the social media space, nothing is too small to matter. We are no longer solely seeking attention of reporters and journalists affiliated with traditional media organizations. It is critical to understand the needs of the new media professional, whether journalist, blogger, power tweeter forum participant or vlogger.

We have to produce the type of content that will increase exposure  and extend reach for clients.

So what does all of this entail? New-fangled communications plans with new attitudes right alongside them.

Deliver or die!

Note: This is a cross-post from my Company Blog.


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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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