Two Birthdays One Post!

Photo cred: Don Solo

So…one year ago today, I was on winter break from college, and decided “screw it, I’m going to start my own blog.”  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  NO IDEA.

But before I get into that, I’d like to wish the most important birthday wish of all to my girlfriend, Alison (her actual birthday…she doesn’t blog).  She’s an amazing girl who supports me every step of the way, regardless of how much of a geek I can be at times ^_^.  She’s also always begging me to talk about her on my blog…so here it is.

Happy Birthday Alison, I love you!

annnnnd back to the boring stuff.  One year ago I wrote “The Dreaded First Post“.  I said,

I am extremely excited to grow as a professional and learn new things from those that I work with.  I have found my passion in social media and when you love something, it’s almost too easy to learn more and more about it every day.

Now here I am, working full time for a website for bloggers, part of countless communities, and still learning every day.  I know so much more than I did that day, but still have so much to learn on the grand scale.

I never thought I’d connect with so many amazing people.  I’m so thankful for the people in my community that I consider to be friends, mentors and more.

Lauren Fernandez has become an amazing friend, colleague, and more.  Working with her on #u30pro has been one of the most inspiring and rewarding experiences of my life.  For all of you that join us every week for u30pro and have helped us build such a great community, thank you.  She motivates me to be better every day, and I’m extremely grateful to have her in my life.

You’ve seen all of them at some point in my Mentor Monday series or just around my blog, but they’re also amazing friends, without whom, I wouldn’t be where I am today…

Arik Hanson, Chuck HemannSonny Gill, Danny Brown, Beth Harte, Gloria Bell, Stuart Foster, Keith Burtis … (I know I’m forgetting a lot more, and I’m sorry). I can’t begin to tell you how much your support and friendship means to me.  It’s been a crazy year for me, and knowing that you guys have my back keeps me going.  Thank you, really.

So here’s to second year of blogging, connecting, debating and growing.  If things move as fast as they did in 2009, I better get my seatbelt on.

It’s Easy to Half-Ass Social Media

Photo cred: Rennett Stowe

The biggest downfall of social media for business is that it’s really easy to half-ass and think you’re doing it right.

You can set up a twitter account, create a facebook fanpage, and start a blog in a total of 10 minutes. Literally.  So if you’ve done that much, you’ve literally done 10 minutes worth of work. You’ve scratched the surface.  Knowing why and how you will use those tools however, is where the real work comes in.

The reason many continue to question the value of social media, and many fail to draw any value out of their efforts, is because they’re not putting the time and effort into it.

If you read this post, it should pretty much clear up any confusion you have.  Huge props to Amber Naslund for writing such a great post.

No seriously. Stop reading this post and click that link.  It’s so simple, and yet one of the greatest posts I’ve read about social media.  It’s marketing 101 stuff, that we sometimes forget, but is so essential.

It explains very simply, how much thought and planning should be going in to your time spent on social media platforms.

If you’re half-assing it on social media, it’s probably because:

  1. You haven’t thought about why you’re using the tools in the first place.
  2. You haven’t set objectives with specific goals that you aim to reach (and can measure to determine your success).

Are you tweeting just to tweet, or are you tweeting with a purpose.  Do you have a specific goal in mind?

It’s easy to half ass social media, but not if you want real, identifiable results.  To access the business value in social media, takes as much time and effort as any other business strategy.

Committing to the Customer… Forever

Photo cred: Jose Téllez

How does your business view its relationships with customers?  It’s very easy, and common, to withdraw commitment to helping a customer once they make the purchase…but the relationship should be more than a sale.

Sometimes there’s a formal arrangement.  Sometimes the customer has to pay for any help after a purchase.

If a business is really there to help, however, they should view every purchase as a long term commitment to making that customer’s experience amazing.

Even if the customer has no intention of buying more products, you should provide them with as much help as possible (within reason, of course).

If I buy a camera from an electronics store and I have a question, I should feel confident in asking an employee for advice long after I bought the camera.  Because I bought that camera from them, the store should make sure that my overall experience with that camera, and their brand, is a great one.

Hell, even if I didn’t buy it from them, helping me out provides them with the opportunity to build trust and loyalty with a new customer.

Take it further and straight up ask your customers to come back for help.  Apple is a great example with their genius bar.  They want their customers to be happy with the product they bought, even if there’s no guarantee of future purchases.

Your relationship with a customer shouldn’t stop at the sale…the relationship shouldn’t stop at all.

12 Lessons from Successful Social Media Journeys

We hear so much about the “best practices” in social media and what they’re doing right.  Won’t there be much more to learn from their journey to social media success, rather than the success itself?

Every journey has its mistakes and its lessons.  If we share what we’ve learned from overcoming our obstacles, we can help others avoid making similar mistakes.  We can better our industry.

Photo cred: Andrés E. Azpúrua

So I interviewed six people that we’ve known to be “social media success stories” and asked for the lessons they learned along their journey.  Welcome to The Spinks Blog,

These companies/professionals truly showed their commitment to honesty and transparency, by sharing the mistakes and obstacles that they’ve faced.

Here are 12 lessons that can help guide you through your own journey.

1. Don’t force yourself into the conversation

Traditional marketing meant interruption.  The goal is to catch the attention of the audience and get your message across.  In social media marketing, it’s about joining the conversation, and no one likes it when their conversation interrupted.

“When you are reaching out to someone, do not try to interfere in any way.  So instead of just providing an answer, we may open the conversation with “can I help?”  If they want assistance, they will respond.”-  Frank Liason, Comcast

2. You CAN be too personal

Transparency is a big aspect of social media engagement.  It’s highly encouraged by many social media consultants.  Every time you post content, however you have to think about what you’re saying, and how they might react.  If you don’t have to say it, and it might offend some people, it’s probably better you didn’t  share.

“I remember during the first Presidential debate I was following much of the discussion via Twitter search. During that debate Jim Lehrer tried to control both candidates.  Not thinking it was political, I tweeting “Jim Lehrer for President.”  I did not realize that some people view him leaning one way or the other, but responses I received made that clear.  So much for being too personal!” – Frank Liason, Comcast

3. You can’t just jump in and expect success.

Simply investing in social media won’t help your business.  You have to be ready to truly engage and to build a relationship.  Money won’t buy relationships.

“Coming in and saying we’re x company and have x name so we’re going to throw a bunch of money at this space and it will give me credibility.  If you haven’t put in tons of value, communicate etc you’re not going to do well.” –Keith Burtis, Keith Burtis Consulting

4. You have to show results.

Measurement measurement measurement.  You’ll hear a lot about measurement in the social media space because it’s so important.  If you’re not measuring, there’s no way you can tell what’s working.

“It’s all an experiment. At the end of the day we still have to prove ourselves.”    –Keith Burtis, Keith Burtis Consulting

5. Separation of personal and professional networks for employees.

It’s great to get your employees involved in your social media presence.  Most companies would consider themselves lucky to have the type of engagement that Zappos’ employees being to the table.  It’s important however, to avoid a situation where your corporate presence take over your employee’s personal interactions.

“I think a lot of employees feel that they have to follow everyone who follows them (especially other Zappos employees), and at some point they are overwhelmed trying to follow too many people, at which point they just decide to give up on Twitter completely instead of unfollowing some people.” –Tony Hsieh, CEO – Zappos

6. There is such a thing as too much content.

Organization is key.  If you have too much content, users and customers can be overwhelmed and will leave with no value.  Make your content easy to find and browse.

“We have over 400 employees tweeting… Our blog site is actually an aggregation of blogs from a lot of different areas of the company. There is so much content there that even I’m not able to read each and every blog entry, so my guess is that most of our own employees probably aren’t able to either.” –Tony Hsieh, CEO – Zappos

7. Social Media is an addition, not a replacement.

Social Media isn’t just a fad. But it’s also not a silver bullet.  While social media brings a lot of opportunities, traditional tools and methods still have their place.  The key is to find a balance, where you can use both traditional, and new media together.

“One of the biggest challenges is the perception that Web 2.0 is more cost effective than traditional media and can replace more traditional approaches. The fact is you need both traditional and new technology approaches to fundraising, and new technology approaches require following many of the strategies used to successfully deploy traditional methods.” – Scott Bennett, VP of Marketing, American Cancer Society

8. Social media is not an end.

It doesn’t matter how many followers, readers or fans you have.  If you’re not tying those numbers back to your bottom line (even if it’s in the long run) you’re not successfully using social media tools.

“ACS has discovered it’s best to think of social networks as a means to an end versus an end in and of themselves. Social networks, like traditional media, can be leveraged to reach certain audiences to accomplish broader strategic goals. – Scott Bennett, VP of Marketing, American Cancer Society

9. Know your audience.

Every site and community is a bit different from the next.  The way you approach people on facebook is very different from how you should approach people on linkedin.  Forums are “peer to peer” focused and will probably remove any promotions.

In customer service writing an email response to a complaint, using a template is more acceptable.  When replying to a complaint in the comments section of a blog post, it has to be more personal and less “canned”.

“We thought all of our twitter followers would be interested in discounts and deals. While people are interested in receiving information on ticket deals, it took us a while to learn that Twitter was an incredibly powerful channel because people finally had the opportunity to speak to someone at Cirque directly.  We realized its much more informational, and back stage kind of insights.” – Jessica Berlin, Cirque Du Soleil

10. Reward the customers that want to be rewarded.

If there are perks that you offer so select individuals, like family members…why?  Is it helping your business?  Shouldn’t you be rewarding the people that count: your customers.  They’re the ones that will really appreciate the rewards, and return the favor.  Reward your evangelists.  Show them how much you appreciate their continued business and support.

“About two years ago we began doing a “Friends and Family” promotion for our employees.  We quickly started seeing the special rate appearing on Facebook pages and word spread quickly.  While at first, our execs were upset… it took that for us to really recognize that people’s networks are now much bigger and they are eager to share information with those networks. We [now] know these are people who are interested in Cirque and they should be the ones rewarded for taking the interest in following us.” – Jessica Berlin, Cirque Du Soleil

11. Use what you have first.

Look at the content you’re currently producing and resources that you already have.  Can you make it more social?  Mayo Clinic asked their employees to use flip cameras when conducting their interviews that are typically just used in written articles. The videos were shared across social platforms helping them spread the same content they’ve been creating all along to entirely new audiences.

Don’t be so quick to bring in a social media expert, or hire a social media consultancy.  Look at where you can incorporate social media with the employees that you already have.  Ask them to wear just one more hat, to learn and to grow.

Set someone loose from inside because they already have the culture and the trust from internal people.  If the program gets killed, its okay because you’re not spending more money on it.” –Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic

12. Learn along the way.

I’ll leave you with this important reminder.  I know, in #5 I mentioned that you have to prove results.   That doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment. Be willing to try out new things, to learn and to grow.  Making little mistakes, and tweaking the process along the way isn’t just alright, it’s recommended.

Companies think about all the potential horror stories that they’ve heard.  The key is to make minor adjustments along the way.” –Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic

So as you embark on your own journey implementing social media in your business, remember that we all make mistakes along the way.  It’s all part of the journey…and yes, even the “success stories” had to make some hurdles along the way.

What lessons have you learned?

Don’t Judge People By Their Generation

Photo cred: Ian Atwater

I read this the other day: “[Millennials] are relatively laid back—until they feel they have been wronged… and then may quickly apply pressure to make big changes fast. They expect transparency and accountability, just as it is expected of them in the marketplace.”

I read generalizations of Millennials like this one pretty much every day.  Millennials are lazy…inspired…entitled…tech savvy…etc etc…

I have yet to read a description of the Millennial generation that was based on any sort of reliable statistics.  EVERY one of these generalizations are based on a limited point of view based on biased research or on personal experience and fail to take into account a number of aspects, namely socioeconomic status.

When marketers talk about millenials with these unfounded generalizations, they’re contributing to a highly inaccurate conception of an entire generation.

Even wikipedia makes unfounded generalizations, and describes Millennials based on studies performed solely in colleges.

My high school featured a very diverse range of lifestyles and socioeconomic statuses. A majority of the Millennials that I grew up with, do not fall under any of the stereotypes that marketers constantly apply to them.  With that personal experience, I’ve seen first hand how inaccurate the typical millennial classification really is.  I won’t base my argument on personal experience though…

Here are some stats from 2008 pulled from the United States Department of Labor:

  • 68.6 percent of 2008 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities
  • 56.8 percent of the nation’s 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.3 million young people, were either enrolled in high school (9.7 million) or in college (11.7 million).
  • “…about 6 in 10 recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended 4-year institutions.”

My class year (2005) had some similar stats, with 68.6% of high school grads enrolling in college. Many high school graduates go right into the labor force.

The false generalizations we hear about all the time are based on the Millennials that get their college degree or are in the process of doing so.  The fact is, by basing your characterization of Millennials on this segment of the larger population, you’re making highly inaccurate assumptions.

Generations are too vast and diverse to justifiably apply characteristics to the entire population.

Tell a millennial that works 50-60 hour work weeks doing construction in the winter that he’s entitled.  Or maybe tell the millennial facing jail time for selling drugs that they were “pampered” by their parents.  I know a people in both situations.  Do they represent the millennial generation? No, but they’re certainly a part of it, and shouldn’t be neglected when discussing the traits of our generation.

Thanks to Lisa Grimm, Dave Folkens and Chuck Hemann for their help in refining this post.

#u30pro Needs an Intern!

It’s been great to watch the community grow around u30pro.  Lauren and I can’t thank you all enough for contributing your time and thoughts every week.

As it continues to grow, u30pro has taken more and more of our time.  Both Lauren and I are very busy with our jobs, and have decided to bring in some help to manage the u30pro projects.

We need an intern.

What can we offer you?

Well, no money…u30pro doesn’t make any.  But we can offer you the chance to gain valuable experience building a strong community, working with the best team ever, some resume juice, and the chance to be part of something fresh and exciting.

What would you do?

  • Help with the weekly digest.
  • Manage other areas where the community expands. (linkedin, facebook, etc…)
  • Participate in chats/help with moderation.
  • Work with partners on our cross-promotional efforts.
  • General promotion of the community.

We’re not a business.  We’re not revenue driven.  We’re just providing a forum for communication amongst one of the most enthusiastic communities around…and loving every minute of it.

If you’re interested in joining us, email me at dspinks5 at gmail dot com with one paragraph explaining why you’d make a good u30pro intern.

Social Media Has No Borders

This is a guest post from Grace Boyle, a 20-something adventurista. She lives in Boulder, CO and does Business Development for the tech startup, Lijit. She blogs at Small Hands, Big Ideas where she writes about the startup world, career and daily inspirations.

This last weekend I took a trip back East, to Burlington, Vermont. It’s the last place I called home and where I attended college.

Before the epic reunion with my girlfriends began, I had to stop by my beautiful campus of Champlain College. My marketing professor, Elaine Young, who taught me about Twitter, internet marketing and blogging in college asked me to speak in her Marketing 250 class. Of course I obliged.

Elaine began her class; it was informal, real and honest. Elaine began to talk about #u30pro. I giggle to myself, as I just spoke with David Spinks on Twitter and in my inbox I have the #u30pro newsletter, where my recent blog post was featured. The students enthusiastically talked about joining in on the conversation (tweeting is part of their homework, Elaine is so smart) and what they learned.

Furthermore, as I tweeted I was in the classroom presenting on blogging and transparency a Twitter and blogging friend (who also happened to live in Burlington, Vermont) sent me a DM for an impromptu coffee date.

I immediately told David the students in this very class were talking about him and #u30pro. Right away, I thought to myself, it’s a small (social media) world. Here I am, Friday morning in Burlington, Vermont with a small group of students passionately talking about blogging and social media. We talk about the same blogs, the same people and many of the same ideas. Only difference is the filter to our lens and place in life.

worldismyfamily.jpg

Photo Credit: WeHeartIt

It’s Like the Social Media (Verizon) Network

We get caught in our world – tweeting and blogging from your favorite coffee shop or the same desk each day. We forget, we’re enabling a worldwide network and everyone you’re talking to really is real! More than likely, your paths will cross and you will meet.

It’s interesting, because my gratification aha comes at a time when other blogging friends have been talking about blog crushes and the blogger is real. It’s like the Verizon Network always behind you, available if you need them. This is your own Social Media Network, tiptoeing behind you, smiling, holding their smart phones and laptops.

Making It Real

Starting this year, I have had the privilege of meeting up with blogging and Twitter friends in real life (IRL). It’s exhilarating because some are just as you imagined, some surprise you. It keeps you on your toes and gives way to more layers. I even had a blogging friend who moved to Boulder stay at my apartment before she got settled and found her own place. That’s right, social media has me welcoming a “stranger” into my home (yes, I’m being facetious).

It sounds cheesy, but the line, “The world is my family,” really holds true. Think about how special this is. You can interact with these people every day. Share stories, ideas and thoughts, regardless of their geographical location. You can talk through e-mail, skype, chat, groups or Twitter. This means, you are never really alone. This means you can travel virtually anywhere in the world and find a connection. This shouldn’t feel claustrophobic; this should feel enlightening as it broadens our senses and connecting capabilities.

These tools (we use every day) are bridging the gap to great connections. Borders don’t exist and barriers dissipate. I owe many friendships and my current job to social media. There’s something to be said about a connection and whether it’s 140 characters worth or a 500-word blog post that makes you smile, it’s worth it.

I will end with this quote by Charles Eames. It speaks measures on how powerful a connection really can be: “Eventually, everything connects-people, ideas, and objects. The quality of these connections is the key to a well-lived life.”