Chris Brogan

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending November 12

I'm generally not one to follow celebrities - in the movie star sense - on social networks. I don't really care if they're on social networks at all, though I'm happy that so many with public personas have adopted social media as a way to connect with their audience. To me, it's a good thing. Mostly.

This week Ashton Kutcher made a gaffe on twitter (my paraphrase of his assessment) about Joe Paterno being fired. Kutcher declared he's going to hand over management of his twitter stream. I don't have a lot of interest in this story other than a distaste for anyone letting third parties handle their social media interactions. Chris Brogan nailed it in his piece talking about outsourcing your voice. .

The whole "busy" argument doesn't really fly with me. Why? Tweets are all of 140 characters. It doesn't take thirty seconds to type that out even on your phone. The other argument that doesn't fly is the whole accuracy of information. Who hasn't used social media to vent? Probably someone, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule. Not to mention that there are people out there who are sticking up for Joe Pa - rightly or wrongly, it is happening.

Interestingly, Chris Penn wrote a post this week about testing the value of your content - one of the tests was whether you learned from it. I'd hope that we all learned something from this Ashton Kutcher situation. If the takeaway from those tweets is nothing more than to learn the whole story first, then doesn't that content have a certain value?

This week, Google+ launched Pages for businesses and brands with significantly less fanfare and applause than the network itself. There was much begging and pleading for this to be rolled out in the preceding weeks and months. And what did everyone do when pages were finally rolled out? I'm pretty sure I heard a collective "Meh" from across the Interwebs. Admittedly, there are plenty who are excited about it, but I've seen just as much commentary on the negative end of the scale. I've officially claimed a few pages and that's about as far as I've gone with it. There are some good things about pages that were introduced upon launch, but I wish people would remember that it took years for Facebook to launch pages and then more years to get them to where they are today. Maybe we could cut Google a wee bit of slack and recognize page potential for the long-term. The best suggestion I've seen is to just claim your page and sit on it if you're not happy with the functionality. If you want to jump in - here's how. A little tip for you: Google+ has said no to contests. So, don't think that's a way to get around Facebooks TOS.

Have you been struggling to find the purpose of Google+? This smart post from SmartBlog on Social Media gives us all a good reason to want to be on Google+. I haven't spent a ton of time on it and sometimes I have to remind myself that it exists, but I think it's worth the effort. (And now I want to go to BlogWorld Expo more than ever!) Further support for Google+ came from Mathew Ingram at GigaOM. If you really don't want to get into another social network, that's fine. But if you work in marketing and communications, it's a bad idea to ignore G+.

Facebook gave us all reason to cheer this week when they finally announced they will henceforth treat all third party posting apps equally. I was skeptical so I've been doing a little testing between manual posts and automated posts. I've had mixed results. Sometimes my manual posts are getting more impressions and sometimes they're getting less. It has improved though. I can say that with certainty. So, go forth and use your Hootsuite and RSS Graffiti at will. But if you're using Notes as your feed? You might want to find another option. (I was never a fan of this one anyway.)

Are you a fan of the Top Stories in Facebook's latest updates? Some are, some aren't. That is the one thing in the September changes that I don't care for. Thankfully, Facebook is going to give us back our chronological option...soon.

In a huge win for privacy, Facebook has finally been told they need to stop making controversial changes opt-out (like Beacon, facial recognition, etc.). As for the recent "Take This Lollipop"'s a great perspective that I happen to agree with. We DO have control over our privacy on Facebook. No one forces us to post anything on there at all. I didn't install the app, but I doubt it would scare the hell out of me.

Speaking of Facebook, have you ever seen a page that resembles a Web site? Yeah, me too. Gini Dietrich has a great post about the pros and cons of this practice. The biggest downsides? You don't own your content and you limit your reach to those who use Facebook, even if that number does hover around 800 million-ish.

Email is officially middle-aged now. Well, at least in terms of human life expectancy. 40 years old last month. Who's heard that email is dying? *raises hand* My inbox disagrees, as do many experts who are pushing for companies to jump on the email marketing bandwagon. It IS a powerful tool, but I'll talk about that more another day.

Finally a LinkedIn post that doesn't encourage people to link their feeds from other social networks.

Do you ever wonder how to drive traffic to your site other than posting links on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook? Wonder no more.

What are your thoughts on the Ashton Kutcher story? Would you ever let someone else post content for public consumption under your name?

Customizing your social experience: The great reciprocal follow debate

Social networks as we know them today have led to various people generating a host of rules and guidelines, hoping others take heed and follow. One of the biggest areas of differing views is reciprocal following. It's a conversation I've had many times and I always encourage people not to pay attention to people who don't follow back or who unfollow them. We each use social tools in the way that works for our individual needs, so what I want out of it doesn't necessarily fit what you want out of it. But that doesn't mean I won't find value in your content even if you don't find value in mine. We have different and varied interests. Some are open to hearing about things they aren't interested in, others aren't. But there are some facets to Twitter and Facebook following that regularly result in hurt feelings or bring personal insecurities to the surface.

Expected Reciprocity - Twitter

I watch who follows/unfollows me on Twitter using Birdbrain (iPhone app), which tells me who has followed (this I pay attention to) and unfollowed (this I glance at in passing) since I last logged in. I also get to see who I follow that doesn't follow me back and vice versa (rarely use these features). What's truly valuable to me is other useful stats like number of mentions, retweets and status updates. I make mental notes of my personal stats and sometimes adjust what and how I'm tweeting to be more engaging. I'm not bothered in the least by seeing people unfollow me. In fact, I have been followed by 403 and unfollowed by 256 in the last 30 days for a net follower gain of just 147. Well over 50% of my followers (a fair number are spammy accounts) do not stick around. Why is that?

Because I didn't follow them back. Perhaps that's not true for all of them, but I strongly believe it's true for the majority. They followed me expecting that I would reciprocate and I don't do that unless I'm interested in their content or they fit into my personal parameters of people I want to follow back. I can't tell you how many times I've been followed, unfollowed and re-followed to get my attention. I don't get annoyed by it; it's a silly game that doesn't work. There's even a #TeamFollowBack movement. The people involved often have astronomical numbers of followers and I refuse to follow them. (They don't fit my parameters anyway.)

Forced Reciprocity - Facebook

Recently, someone I "know" from twitter (not really well) though we have met in person twice now, popped into my Friend Suggestions on Facebook. I decided to send a Friend Request, which I rarely do. I prefer to let others make the request rather than put someone on the spot. This person and I have dozens of mutual friends. In reply to my request, I received a note that said - very politely - that their Facebook profile was for family and friends and they'd love for me to join them on their page. Let me tell you, the note I got was a lot nicer than someone saying "I'm just not that into you." But that's how people sometimes take it.

I've since had a conversation with this person about it because I had a question that was related and it came up that not everyone is understanding of their stance. I can't say I was surprised to learn that. Not friending or following people (or unfollowing) can result in some embarrassing situations when the reaction is negative. This person I was discussing this with puts clear boundaries on their social involvement that only become awkward because we don't like to say no to people for fear of their reaction. But what they did was not inappropriate or meant to hurt. And I won't say who it was (not even if you private message me :)) because I don't want this person to be looked at differently for their choices - choices that I respect. Haven't we all been in that position before?

Here's the reality:

I could choose to mutually follow everyone who follows me, but it wouldn't be true following. In many ways I don't truly follow all the people on my social networks anyway - more than a couple hundred makes it hard. Certain names or avatars jump out at me as I scroll through my timeline and I slam on the brakes to go back and see what these people say. I do make a point to look for tweets from people I don't know well and respond to them so I don't get insulated and miss out on getting to know as many amazing people as possible - even if our interactions take place only once or twice.

I remember being amazed when I saw Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse follow me way back whenever they did. And I have to say I got a twinge of sadness when they both recently unfollowed me. But I can't fault them for it and, honestly, followed or unfollowed I was lumped in with everyone else. They, like you, me and everyone else, are choosing to use the tools at their disposal in the best way they know how at any given time. They add value to my stream so I don't want to unfollow them, but if their stream is full of hundreds of thousands, where's the value for them?

As soon as you start following someone thinking they'll follow you back, your focus is on the wrong part of the social experience. As soon as your instinct is to "call someone out" for unfollowing, you're perspective needs adjustment. Social media following choices are a seemingly selfish act. You essentially ask the question, "What's in this user's stream for me?" The decision not to follow isn't a reflection of the person behind the tweets, it's a choice made entirely to customize the experience.

Engage your audience: Dos and Don'ts for brands using social media

Source: stock.xchng

I love words. The dictionary is a constant companion. Even when I know a word's meaning, I'll look it up to help me form the thought I need to express. Often as I'm reading, certain words or concepts will jump out at me and trigger a response.

Today I found a common theme running through several posts. Let's go on a short blog tour:

The first post I read was by C.C. Chapman, who had some free (though very valuable) advice for a company that targeted him in a campaign. The implementation wasn't well thought out and was even insulting to the very audience that was targeted. Chris Brogan followed up with a tour of groceries tweeting examples of company accounts - the good, the bad, the ugly. Between these two posts I was shaking my head. From abandoned to spammy to RSS-feed-like to well-managed twitter accounts all in two posts. It was enough to make my brain spin.

Later, with thoughts of broadcast vs. engagement me floating through my head, I read this post from Mitch Joel and the three posts all came together for me.

The words that came to mind over and over today were:

  • Broadcast: to make something known widely; disseminate something ( Synonyms - advertise, announce, annunciate, blare, blazon, circulate, communicate, declare, disseminate, distribute, proclaim, promulgate, publish, report, sow, spread, strew, troll (, and

  • Engage: to attract and hold fast/to attract and please ( Synonyms - captivate, concern, consume, employ, engage, engross, fascinate, fill, hold, immerse, involve, monopolize, obsess, preoccupy, rivet (

I look at the definitions/synonyms and engage is infinitely more appealing. But there's an epidemic lack of understanding on how to engage as a brand. Brands are big companies who have products or services to sell. Many of them are stuck in the old broadcast mindset of being cut off from their customers, constantly having a one-way conversation.

So how do they change their mindset and engage?

  1. Stop thinking like a company and start thinking like humans.

  2. Stop trying to reach the masses and start connecting with individuals.

  3. Stop promoting your product and start to interact with the people who (may) use it.

The Bottom Line: BE REAL!
Will this take more time? Absolutely.
Will it be worth it? Yes, if it's done well.

The truth is, people will be interested in brands that engage them while the ones who are broadcasting will continue to fly by unnoticed in their timeline/newsfeed.

What are some examples of brands that are doing a good job using social media?

What is the price of integrity?

Last week I included a story in the Buzz and Brilliance weekly roundup that described a twitter account gone rogue. Since the stories I include are from reputable industry news sources, like TechCrunch, who reported on this one. The second comment on the TechCrunch post called it - "Think he is doing it himself to get more popular." by Goo Toor. That is, unless you believe the copious number of tweets Mark Davidson is sending out to justify his "satirical tweets" last week.

I don't think I would have followed up on it normally except that it popped into my mind and I thought to go look at his profile. I thought he was protesting just a little too much. During my usual news reading time, I came across this post on how to spot Twitter users who game the system to gain large numbers of followers. Essentially, your following on twitter will grow at a consistent rate if you're doing nothing to manipulate its growth.

All of this leads me to wonder what value people get out of this. More and more I see accounts with very few tweets and tens of thousands of followers. That's a dead giveaway to me that it isn't about providing good content as much as amassing as many followers as possible. This mentality is counter to one of the strongest beliefs I have about social media - that it's about adding value through quality content.

In the end, this guy has gotten a lot of media attention over tweets that added absolutely no value to anyone, but the guy has nearly 2,000 new followers in just a few days.

Apparently, you can buy integrity off of some people for the bargain basement price of a few followers.

What do you think of stories like this? Do they compromise the value of social media tools or will the crowd eventually weed out those who are gaming them?