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First things first: define your brand ID in social channels

As social media use becomes the norm for brands both large and small, one constant that everyone struggles with is brand identity on social channels. Especially when you have more than one individual manning your account, or teams of copywriters trying to translate traditional copy to social snippets. How do you define your brand and ensure that anyone from customer service to front line community managers are literally speaking the same language? How do you ensure that when a key employee leaves your identity isn’t lost with them?

The first step to successfully translating your brand in consumer interaction channels is to understand who you are as a “person”, not as a corporate behemoth, but as an entity someone would want to interact with outside of from a customer service perspective. That’s how you can sustain engagement long-term and be invited to the dinner party that is social media.

Brands have a “brand book” that details everything from proper logo usage to mission statements, tag lines and beyond. Developing and integrating a social identity into that is a must. As there really isn’t an “above the line” and “below the line” these days, your social persona must be integrated into all aspects of your marketing, where and how it makes sense.

One of the ways I’ve found incredibly useful, as I’ve helped launch brands into the social sphere is to start with the “traditional” brand persona and then dive deep on social. This can take a variety of forms, but must include social listening for your core customers. Who are they? What do they care about? How can you add value to their daily interactions? What other brands do they use or care about? How does your customer service live up to your brand premise? (Or if it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?). If you could choose a living person to represent your brand, who would it be?

Pick your niche. Are you funny? Witty? Value-based? Traditional? Put yourself into your customers’ shoes (not all brands appeal to all people). This will help you to define a voice and channel-specific strategy and enable your creative team & strategists to brainstorm on effective ways of reaching them, and give you a solid platform to engage on a daily basis, no matter who is doing the talking.

[photo credit: nomadic_lass on Flickr]

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The difference between forcing a community and finding a community

The last couple of years have brought a shift in social “media” as ad agencies have tried to disrupt the space with clever gimmicks (Real-time marketing) which is what they’ve always done best. Disrupt conversations and grab attention. It’s a perilous game: one misstep and you’ve got an angry mob on your hands. And it doesn’t work to drive much of anything except a couple of articles and some goodwill. Until the next brand trumps it and you’re forgotten. It’s a zero sum game in the end, and one that costs a lot of money to boot.

The real growth is where your value meets a need. There are a few brands who are doing it right. They’re the ones who spend the time getting to know the community of people who could USE their product or service and deliver the value behind it in a way that impacts someone’s life.

The digital space isn’t all about YOU. It’s about how you can help US. Sure, wit and snark will always play a part, but that’s a small part. Customer service? Big part. Relevant content that I can use? Big part. Being there when people are just talking? Big part.

It’s time to get back to basics and start serving the customer, not just looking for the most likes and retweets. Pay attention to the people, they’re the ones who buy your products. Invest in that strategy and you’ll win.

[Image credit Robie06]

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MOCC does indeed Rock – Farewell my friend

How to start?

I met Michael for the first time over lunch at The Monk’s Table (it wasn’t called that then). It was ostensibly an interview but it lasted for about 2 1/2 hours and a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen were consumed. This was back in ‘07 I believe. We’d known each other online for longer. I was the ____ (insert statement here, you know you wanna) digi marketing person and MOCC was the PR genius.

That conversation ranged from who we thought was a BS artist as social media was starting to come of age to politics, music, family (yeah, he never thought I’d have kids either), and the city we both loved. He made it his home and I transplanted back here after 9/11.

We worked together for 3 months as we pitched and won a piece of business together. We had lunch almost every day (at the same spot listed above). He never questioned my insights and I never questioned his, but I had no exposure to the PR world, and Michael taught me a lot.

When I left, we stayed in touch and chatted people that drove us crazy and people that inspired us. We also talked about our families. I had my girls in early 2009 and MOCC was one of the first people to welcome them on Twitter while I was still in the hospital and had been wheeled out of NICU so I could let the world know we were doing okay. I’ll never forget that. “Felicitations Isabelle & Olivia”

I also remember our Twitter spat over his UID. Should he be @MOCC or @MichaelOCC. Bugger won that one.

Years passed, I saw him infrequently because we both had jobs and families, but we planned meet ups and we snarked at each other online. We also did see each other at events where we’d grab a corner and catch up. The most recent being the last HoHoTO where I left a colleague, and my date at the front door  (and I wonder why I’m single) the second I saw him to go outside and catch up.

We had tea at Media Profile in March, where he had found his place, and we chatted about our world and family again. We made plans to go hike the ravines in the Beach now that my girls were old enough that summer.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I will forever cherish Michael O’Connor Clarke, the fighting Irishman, the undisputed family man, and the smartest guy I’ll ever know.

I’m only sorry I didn’t meet him sooner.

His family could use your support, please consider donating to suppormichaleocc.ca his family needs us and we can help.

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Are you prepared for stormy seas as well as calm ones?

As social media platforms and participation become ubiquitous amongst all demographics it’s more important than ever to understand how to navigate both the calm weather and the storms that will inevitably occur. Social media is an extension of life and as such all the same variables come into play. If a customer loses their temper at your call centre rep they will certainly do so in the more public forum of Twitter or your Facebook wall.

It isn’t just about the huge crisis, it’s about day-to-day interactions where customers are upset with something about the company. How you handle the everyday interactions makes the difference between having a sustainable social presence outside of a “push” campaign mentality. It also allows your campaigns to resonate more as your customers don’t see them as your only use of the medium that they are primarily using to connect with their friends, family, and colleagues.

How do you handle the negatives? Be prepared in advance!

First, before you dive right in know that your company isn’t perfect. This is a tough one for most companies, but it’s true. No one is perfect so accept it and move forward with a plan.

Here are some initial steps you can take to get off on the right foot in social media channels:

  • Gather a list of known issues from your customer service department and any other customer facing departments (retail managers, etc). Identify how you are working to fix those issues.
  • Check your analytics – are there specific patterns you can discern? Content paths, keywords, time spent on specific pages?
  • Talk to your marketing team – what offers have resonated in the past and which have fallen flat? Talk to your PR department – what kinds of feedback do they get from journalists and investors? Have there been any big crises in the recent past?
  • Conduct a social listening audit across all of your business units and find out what your customers are actually talking about (your brand and your competitors).
  • Talk to your product development team – what’s coming down the pipe in the next 6 months and how will that impact your customer base (be honest about this; will it be received well without any need for spin)?

Now put them all together to determine what your hot button issues are likely to be and craft a plan to ensure your front line social media team can address them properly and transparently. Make no mistake, it isn’t a script, but an outline of who your company really is: a human-centric business.

Taking these steps and ensuring your employees are all operating from the same playbook will set your team, and your brand up to be prepared for any storms that arise (which they inevitably will as they do in the physical world) and hopefully allow you to mitigate them before they can manifest into an actual crisis.

Finally, keep in mind that it doesn’t stop here: the learning, discussions, info gathering etc. MUST continue. Change happens; be prepared to roll with it.

Happy sailing!

[photo credit: FnJBnN]

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Accepting what you don’t know

Part of what I strive to understand each and every day is what I don’t know, and being okay with it. It’s tough when you’re a perfectionist, let me tell you. But it’s true. I, and no other human being on this planet, can possibly know everything. The trick is to be okay with it and to surround yourself with people who do know the things you wish you did inside and out. In the end it makes for a much more peaceful & meaningful existence – not just in a personal sense, but in a business sense.

In practical terms, it means letting go of your preconceived notions about a lot of things; the urge to always have the answers; and in a lot of ways, to challenge your own status quo. I try to do this in all areas, not just business. I know I’m not a celebrity chef (or even much of a chef at all since I really don’t like prep or clean up), so I don’t just throw miscellaneous things into a bowl and make the family cope with the results. I actually seek out recipes. I’m pretty sure my family is happy about that. By seeking out recipes I also don’t waste my time trying to prepare complex and time consuming dishes that I’ll resent trying to make as soon as I start.

I also know that I’m not a Systems Admin, so I don’t even try to muck about with command lines when I have a problem, I call in help. Now, I’m sure if I spent enough time reading about it I could potentially figure it out, but truth be told, why would I want to waste time I don’t have learning something I’m just passingly interested in? Sure, it could make me a more rounded individual, and I’m not opposed to learning, but at the end of the day I need to ask myself: is this particular expertise going to make me happy or just more knowledgeable? Am I okay with partnering with someone who does have that expertise and actually *listening* to their advice? The answer in most cases, as I start to approach 40, is yes. That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to add… it just means I need to be comfortable shutting up every once in a while and letting go… and trusting that others have spent just as much time as I have building their expertise in a specific field.

Not always the easiest advice, especially as you’re embarking on your career, but in my opinion, it’s crucial for cutting through the noise and finding your signal.

[Photo credit: The Gifted Photographer via Flickr]

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