Online and offline

My screen time has made me more social, not less

I’ve met a ton of people from online in “real life”One of my biggest pet peeves is that people think that all real life personal connections have been lost with the advent of new online social channels.  They believe that mass numbers simply hide behind a screen constantly, becoming anti-social.

While I will fully admit that most people are spending more time in front of a screen, I want to scream the following from the rooftops:

Social media builds relationships, it doesn’t remove the need for them! 

Online to offline

Twitter is especially amazing for this, as are Facebook (or LinkedIn or Google+) groups.  You meet new people, you have conversations about the subjects you have in common and then, whenever possible, you bring those relationships offline and build on them. 

Karen and I met on Twitter.

My core group of friends that I hang out with, I met on Twitter/online.

My kids’ friends are the kids of the people I met on Twitter/online.

Many of our current clients met us online.

People are eager to bring the relationship offline, and also maintain it offline. 

Offline to online

Whenever I meet someone “in real life”, at a conference, at a meeting, at a networking event, etc., I like to connect with them online later.  Perhaps we connect on LinkedIn, or I tweet them, or I friend them on Facebook. 

What could have been a really superficial meeting at a networking event just got taken to the next level of a relationship within the same day or two. What would have happened before? Perhaps an email would have been sent, or you would have waited until you ran into each other at a networking event and possibly remembered you met each other before.  

You are keeping top of mind on a regular basis with people you met in person by continuing that relationship online.

Communities of support

Whether I started a relationship online or offline, the online community I’ve built for myself supports in me in almost every part of my life.  Whether I have a business question or a parenting question, I know where I can go and ask people I trust for the answer.

I’ve never felt so connected to others in my life.

Has social media helped build your community?  Leave a comment and share how!

Engagement isn't just something you do online - 5 tips for brands at conferences

In my professional life, engagement has been a buzz word for years for various reasons depending on the industry. Right now, I do a great deal of work in social media both personally and professionally and everybody talks about the importance of engagement. Not everyone understands how to do it well, though. This lack of understanding is particularly troublesome when you take the context of engagement "offline".

Source: CL Buchanan Photography

This past weekend, I attended Blissdom Canada, a writing and business conference that focuses on social media, marketing, public relations and blogging. Blissdom is geared toward females in this realm and, as such, attracts sponsors who gear their products toward females. Primarily food, travel, family vehicles, children's toys and household products. While I would personally love to see more tech industry brands represented, I recognize that there's a great divide between female-oriented conferences that always seem to be geared to the "mommy blogger" and other conferences that have a general audience. That's a discussion I could get into here, but I'll refrain for now. I have a few things I'd like to say to brands at conferences based on my first-hand experiences and second-hand stories (from a variety of conferences, not just Blissdom Canada).

1) Know what your goals are and why you're at the conference. When I walk up to you and say hello, I'd love to hear something from you. I'm not just walking by your booth to take what I can get. Now, if you had a stack of iPads, I might be tempted to grab and run but most of you don't have said iPads so get my attention another way. I happen to be a blogger who hasn't worked with brands very much and I don't seek out that relationship. So, why should I talk to you, try your product or potentially write about it? Having an awkward 20 seconds as I pass by on my way to the next booth means I'm going to forget about you even though you handed me a bag with your logo on it.

2) If you want to give away "swag", make it meaningful, useful and audience appropriate. There were several food companies at Blissdom Canada this year. Every last one of them showed and gave away products that are or can be controversial to various segments of the population, but most particularly among health-conscious mothers. Other brands handed a pile of paper or promotional items to visitors. All of this in the name of getting their name out there. To get noticed. To get exposure. I wonder how many of my fellow conference attendees made a generous addition to their recycling bin and the landfill today with these things they can't really use or don't want. (I vow here and now that the first brand I feel comfortable giving an endorsement and who does an eco-friendly promotion at a conference is getting a blog post from me - no strings attached to it.)

3) The Golden Rule is the best practice for booth staffing. I heard from countless people about a staffperson who was repeatedly rude or short with visitors. While I understand that a crowd around your booth can be overwhelming and your booth activity might be keeping you far busier than expected, staff should always be courteous to visitors and not treat them poorly. Here's why: I may not know that staffperson's name, but I know your brand name.

4) Social media conference engagement starts and ends online - before, during and after. Yes, you have a physical presence at the conference. Of course you're busy talking to the stream of people flooding your booth at all times of the day. Don't forget to check your twitter and facebook accounts. Attendees will interact with you during sessions and overnight when they have questions and comments. Be sure you have resources to stay just as engaged online as you are face-to-face.

5) Don't let the connection you made die: Follow-up. I've been the brand at conferences before. I know how busy it is when you get back to the office and work piled up while you're gone, in addition to all the new work generated by all the conversations you had at the conference. If you don't follow-up within the first two days after the conference, the adrenaline rush is going to fizzle out and your opportunity to engage potential influencers will vanish. When visitors finally get your email a week, two weeks, six months later it won't generate nearly the enthusiastic response you'd get if you sent it within the first two days to a week.

Reaching out to bloggers is an effective and efficient way to reach a targeted market with information about your product and services. As the marketing world catches on to just how valuable a relationship with bloggers can be, the brands who do that interaction right will stay ahead of the game in terms of their reach. The ones who don't will continue to rack up missed opportunities that will make them question the value of social media. The key to doing this right is to engage, engage, engage. It isn't about selling to your connections. It's about developing a relationship online and off.

To be or not to be...anonymous

Source: morgueFile

Social media is bringing people all over the world together. You can live in Canada and have chats with your "friends" in Australia. But do you really know who you're connecting with? Is "Trina Evans" really Trina Evans? Or is it someone else, hiding behind a mask of anonymity? And if so, is that a bad thing?

The decision of what name to use in your online activities can lead to some healthy debate. Some view anonymity of any kind with scorn. Others are proponents of anonymity. I happen to agree with those who believe in giving everyone a choice, even though I use my full name online.

I don't buy the argument of authenticity or transparency when it comes to using a real name in online interactions. Why not? Because anyone can apply a pseudonym to themselves and use it exclusively online and no one would ever know that the person they're interacting with is actually Jane Smith instead of "Trina Evans" as shown on various Web sites. (BTW, I'm not outing anyone - these are just names I pulled out of the air.)

The question of whether to use a real name or not has become a hot topic again since Google is requiring Google+ users to use a real name in their profile (Facebook has a similar requirement). One blogger I know deleted her Google+ account because of the real name policy. Annie presents a number of valid reasons for not wanting to use her real name - and the reasons might apply to anyone.

So, why would you need or want to be anonymous online?

Comfort levels around sharing personal information online differ from person to person. It can be about safety or privacy or general self-preservation. Maybe someone wants to comment on a blog post that relates to their work, but can't do so as themselves. Maybe someone wants to freely write about family and friends without it being connected to them. The site, My Name is Me (thanks, Annie) provides countless situations where anonymity/pseudonym use is appropriate.

I'm not one who believes that everyone who wants to remain anonymous online does so for nefarious reasons. Whether you agree with the reasoning or not, if anonymity through a pseudonym or non-disclosure of name is a choice made by any individual, their decision should be respected. The only caveat I personally have is that anonymity shouldn't be used as a shield for bad behavior. I'll allow comments on any blog of mine, provided they aren't spam, rude, degrading or worse.

My biggest concern with people who want to be 100% anonymous is that the Internet just isn't truly anonymous, unless you work at it and even that isn't a guarantee.

What are your thoughts? Do you think individuals should have the freedom to remain anonymous online?