True Transparency?

Photo cred: Jey-Heich
Photo cred: Jey-Heich

This is a post I’ve been pondering for a while, but was hesitant as up to this point I haven’t necessarily practiced what I’m about to preach…and I’m sure a lot of people won’t like what I’m about to say, but I’ve decided it needs to be said.

I love social media (or at least the concept that is referred to as social media). I love what it does for communication.  I love what it does for community building.

One of the major concepts of social media is transparency.  Be yourself, act human, don’t lie or cover up anything, just be open about who you are and the things you do and your followers/readers/customers will appreciate you.

This concept has brought out the best in many, as the social web, namely twitter, has become a go-to location to find advice or answers when you’re facing a problem.  Almost everyone is ready and willing to take time out of their day to help you when you need it.  Everyone is supportive of (it seems like) everyone.  It’s truly amazing…but is it truly transparent?

Are we replacing the “formal”, nontransparent restrictions of the past’s professional community with restrictions of nontransparent, kindness?  Is this really who we are ?

Maybe the answer is yes, and I’m confident that given the career path chosen by those involved in this community, many of us are good people with good hearts.  Is it a matter of bringing out the best in us? Or, are we becoming overly kind and complimentary just to appeal/conform to the community?  Has the concept of sharing and contributing to the community committed us to sharing and contributing things that are not actually worthy of such promotion?

My point is that we preach transparency, but are we truly being transparent in our online communities?  Is it a bad thing to be so complimentative and supportive of each other? It’s certainly better than the alternative, cut-throat business values.  The problem is it’s laying a veil of falsities over the people and content we share, placing value on things that are not actually valuable.

There are a few people that this does not even apply to.  The people that are able to be generous, sharing, helpful etc…but still call it as they see it.  They’re not afraid to call issues or people out, respectfully, and keep true to their true, transparent personality.

Don’t replace honesty with a false concept of transparency.

Please…share your thoughts.

Are You Good at Social Media?

Photo cred: Hamed Parham
Photo cred: Hamed Parham

Look at the traditional tools like commercials, ads, press releases, newspapers, etc… These are practices and tools that could be taught because they are based on a systemized strategy.  For the most part, they could all be simplified down to lists, rules, and guidelines, seperating the successful from the not so successful by who can be efficiently creative and can execute.

You may be thinking, “Well so can social media.  I’ve seen plenty of expert’s social media strategy organized into lists”.

My point is that social media is simply the set tools that allow you to communicate in a different way…a human way.  You can’t be taught how to communicate in a “real”, human way.  You can advise on where, why and even how to use these tools but you can’t shave down human engagement to a few rules or guidelines and it takes more than a creative edge.

The traditional tools weren’t human; marketing, email, advertising, journalism and even PR.  Many of the tools and “procedures” used by PR professionals were aimed at talking to people, not with them. They’re all tools that allowed for a “systemic” communication.  Communication was meant to be efficient, not “real”. The concepts that have developed around social media tools aim to be both efficient and “real”.

Strategy and systematic approaches are only half of the game.  You have to be real.  Can you communicate with a real customer like a “real human”? Are you good at social media?

This is a post that I’ve had saved as a draft for some time, but haven’t been able to really develop my thoughts until I read Lauren Fernandez’s post and then Beth Harte’s comment on that post. (Surprised that these two got me thinking? I’m not…)

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The Musician’s Social Community

Photo cred: Angelo Cesare
Photo cred: Angelo Cesare

Music is passion. Music is everywhere. Music is everyone. That’s why musicians have so much to gain from social media. Where there are people, there is a potential community for your band.  Chances are, unless you have a completely new and outrageous sound, a community based on your genre already exists.

How can musicians and bands utilize the power of social media? Bands have been using social tools more and more over the past few years, changing the focus of Myspace to music, and providing free tracks on sites like purevolume, blip.fm and last.fm.  For the most part however, many of these musicians have used these platforms as a broadcast tool, and haven’t been using tools to build a community.  Similar to many businesses, musicians aren’t taking advantage of this great opportunity.

Contribute to the community

Like any business, you can’t just join myspace or another community online and start broadcasting your songs and concert dates. You want to engage and connect with your fans.  As an active musician, you’re probably knowledgeable about other bands in your genre.  Share their music with your fans, connect with their band members and build a relationship.

A beautiful aspect of the music industry is that there isn’t really any rivalry, or a threat of substitutes.  Getting your fans to listen to other bands with similar sounds will not make them listen to you any less.  It will encourage other bands to also share your music with their fans, ultimately combining and expanding your communities.

“Hey man, check out this band… I know the drummer!”

The same way a CEO and employees can use social media to create a “human” or “personal” image, bands can use these tools to create a personal relationship with their fans.  As someone who has been very involved in music scenes in the past, I can attest that knowing a band’s members on a personal level makes fans a lot more loyal and more likely to become “evangelists”.  Knowing a band’s members is something to brag about, and fans will recommend a band that they’ve connected with personally.

Share your experiences, your goals, and anything else that’s on your mind.  Call on your fans for their contributions.  Start a blog and encourage your fans to read by mixing in some inside info/backstage footage. One of my favorite bands, Incubus is a good example with how they use their blog. They post news and events about the band but also write personal posts to their fans and to call on their fans to contribute.  You can take it a step further, and start using twitter to connect with your fans in a live, more direct manner.

Your product isn’t limited by geographic constraints and social media allows you to tap into communities anywhere.  Whether you’re a small local band or you’re considered “mainstream”, drive the passion of your potential and current fanbase into a collaborative social community and get your sound heard.

I’d really be interested to hear about smaller, local bands you know using social media.  If you know of any bands using online tools to build/engage the community, be sure to share them in the comments.

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Bias in the Age of Transparency

Photo cred: Tyron Francis
Photo cred: Tyron Francis

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a close acquaintance of mine, who is also the Director of Emerging Technologies and Social Media for a big advertising firm.  I asked him to take a look at my blog and linkedin profile to see if he can give me any advice for improvement.  He brought up something that took me by surprise.  He said, “Why do you have your picture up on all of your social media sites? People don’t need to know how old you are.”

I was a bit surprised because one of the big things I’ve heard from the social media community is how important it is to be consistent in your online presence. Use the same picture for your twitter, linkedin, facebook, etc to build your personal brand recognition.

I think sometimes we get caught up in all that social media has to offer and forget the reality of some situations.  What we so quickly forgot is that there is a great deal of bias in human beings. Everything from your age and gender to your race and religion can and does effect how people view you.

As most of my readers know, I am going to be graduating soon and I am looking for a job.  Social media has given me amazing networking opportunities, allowing me to communicate on a daily basis with people that I never would have met..but has it also hurt me? In this new age of transparency, where you’re expected to be honest and open with who you are, I have put who I am out there for anyone to see. By doing so, I may have also given a lot of companies a reason to weed me out of their recruitment process. Sometimes, all it takes is a picture.

I opted to keep my pictures up and to continue using social media as I have been, because I believe in the values of transparency and honesty.  I think its something that the professional world has lacked in the past and social media is helping us change that. 

Am I being naive? I am looking for an entry-level job in one of the toughest job markets this country has seen in a long time and cannot afford to sacrifice any opportunities. Should I be more careful? How will bias play a role in the “Age of Transparency”? … What’s your take?

13 Tips For Your First Networking Event

Kelly Samardak (@socialmedium)
Mashable NYC Event Photo cred: Kelly Samardak

I recently attended the Mashable NYC event which was in fact my first professional networking event (not counting those completely useless job fairs).  As a first timer, I had no idea what to expect.  Is this going to help me? Are people going to take a college student seriously? How should I dress? Am I going to know what to say?

Well I set my doubts aside (big step), signed up for the event, attended and could not be more happy with my decision.  I can now provide you with some answers based on MY experience. Of course, everyone’s experience is different.  This will apply more to younger professionals, specifically college seniors, who are looking to expand their network in social media. Here are 13 things I learned…

  1. Make connections before the event. My night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t connected with attendees before the event.  Most events will have a list with contact info for anyone attending the event. Don’t be afraid to send them an email or look them up on twitter and tell them you’re going to the event and wanted to connect with some people before hand.  It’s a huge confidence booster to see some familiar faces when you first arrive.
  2. Dress semi-casual. One of the things I love about the social media / interactive industry is how laid back it is. Don’t show up in a t-shirt and jeans but you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie either. A nice, clean sweater or button down and khakis or nice jeans will do just fine.
  3. Get there early. If you walk in late, you’ll find it harder to meet people who are already engaged in conversations, and you’ll miss out on whatever free promotions are provided (Peroni sponsored the Mashable event).  Everyone likes to have a drink to take the edge off at these events and if you miss the free drinks, be ready to pay (a lot) for them.
  4. Go Alone! This is something that I was torn over when going to this event.  Now that I went alone, I can say with full confidence that you should not bring a friend with you to a networking event.  It’s tough going to a social event without a wingman but if you bring one, you’ll find it is nothing more than an excuse to talk to them instead of meeting new people.

    wearenommashev
    Photo cred: Kelly Samardak
  5. Be creative. Think of something creative that will make you stand out and help break the ice, commencing conversation. The best example I saw was Arthur Bouie representing We Are Nom who carried around a basket of cookies to give out. They were a hit…and delicious.
  6. State your goal first. Everyone at the event is there for the same thing you are, to make some new connections that may provide future business opportunities and share ideas.  Whether you’re there to look for job, hiring, or collaborative opportunities, the first words out of your mouth should be your name, what you do and why you’re there.
  7. Pick up a nametag. duh right? Well I didn’t even notice the nametag table since it was so crowded until Colleen Eddy was kind enough to point it out to me. Here’s a tip that combines #5 and #6: Write what your goal is on your nametag! I simply wrote “I NEED A JOB!”nametag2 under my name and it worked like a charm. The name tag is the first thing everyone looks at when walking around and people started approaching me!
  8. Be prepared to tell people exactly what you can do for them. This was one of the most common questions I was asked and I regrettably have to admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for it.  As a college student, I expected to only be qualified for entry level jobs where you’re pretty much told what you need to do.  There were a lot of people however that wanted to know what services I would provide for them.  You may know what you can do for companies but you have to be able to convey it to them in a clear and precise manner.
  9. Relax! I don’t know how networking events are in other industries, but the social media crowd is typically very friendly and obviously loves to talk!  Don’t be afraid to go right up to someone and say hi! You will only be received with a big smile and a hand shake.  I had some great, in depth conversations that stemmed from a simple, “hi, I’m Dave =D”.
  10. Bring business cards and a pen. These are really the only things you need on your person.  When someone gives you a card, after you’re done talking to them write a note on the card to help you remember who they are and what you spoke about.  I didn’t do this and found it difficult to match faces to cards from memory when I got home.
  11. Know when to stop talking. Some people you meet will want to have long, interesting conversations with you.  Others will want to know who you are, what you do, get your information, and move on to the next person.  It’s not hard to pick up on the vibe that someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.  Say “it was great to meet you” and move on.
  12. Send e-mails the next day. I’d say that you have about 2 days before someone completely forgets about you if no further communication is attempted.  While you’re fresh in your new contacts’ minds, drop them an email.  Keep it short and sweet, tell them how great it was to meet them, and if you’re looking for a job, attach your resume.
  13. Don’t wait until after graduation! I very well may have been the youngest person at the event, but I received only positive feedback.  People thought it was great that I was networking before I graduated.  Most professionals were impressed and commended my enthusiasm.  I made some great connections with some amazing people and created job opportunities come graduation in May.  It’s never too early to start networking. (Well you have to be 21 to attend most networking events but you can still network in other ways!)

If you’re a college senior and you’re thinking about attending a networking event but can’t bring yourself to go, then please just trust me and GO!  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from connecting with like-minded professionals.

Feel free to comment with your own tips and experiences.  Would love to hear about YOUR experience at your first networking event!

You can find the rest of Kelly’s picture set from the Mashable event here.

A Community For Your Community

Sky view of Long Beach, NY - My Community
Sky view of Long Beach, NY - My Community

Does your local community have a web community?  My neighborhood just started one on facebook and I think it’s an awesome idea that really takes advantage of the benefits that social media provides.

The group description says it pretty well. “Our group aims to grow, build and strengthen relationships in our local community of Long Beach in order to bring about progressive change.” Those of us familiar with social media, know that it is all about building relationships.  In a local community, relationships are everything.

Bringing your neighborhood together creates a general compassion for eachother’s issues.  When you feel like you know someone personally, you feel more inclined to want to help them.  By creating a common place for discussion and relationship building amongst local community members, you give people a chance to tell their story, and to care about those around them.

The Long Beach “Community of Hope” facebook group aims to educate community members on issues discussed in meetings and events in order to bring about change.  Let’s be real, not everyone in your community is always involved in community issues.  By creating a place for these people to quickly and easily stay up to date on what’s going around them and express their opinion from their home computer, you allow them to contribute to the voice of the community, while staying connected with other members.

Social media, because of its ability to reach anyone in the world, is commonly applied to large, widespread campaigns. There are so many more opportunities through social media that can be applied to local, real world communities as well. What are some that you’ve seen or come up with?

Happy Employees Make For Strong Communities

Photo cred: Lee Chisholm
Photo cred: Lee Chisholm

With the growth of social media came the increased power of the customer voice.  Everyone is now focusing on establishing strong, loyal relationships with their customers in order to create “brand evangelists.” Employees’ voices have enjoyed the same increase in power and should not be disregarded.

My good friend was recently fired from Lids in a less than respectable manner.  Without getting into too many details, he was brought in as a store manager of a location that was experiencing very high rates of theft to try to reduce those rates. After a few months, the store was audited, and he was able to reduce theft by 30% which apparently was not enough. This store had no cameras, no sensors, and my friend worked on his own over 50% of the time.

They told him he was fired, searched his belongings before he left the store, and sent him on his way.  The way my friend was treated was unfair.  His story left a bitter taste in my mouth and got me to thinking about how important it is to treat your employees well in the age of social media.

One of the the hardest parts of establishing a presence online is the time commitment it takes to build strong and meaningful relationships.  Once you have established a good amount of legitimate relationships, it becomes easier to build more, because customers trust their community members.  Starting off however, this can prove to be a bit more difficult unless you already have strong, established relationships with community members. Your employees provide exactly that.

Your employees can be brand evangelists too and although some customers might assume a bias in their viewpoint, in an age of transparency they will be more inclined to trust their opinion.

If your employees are loyal, enjoy working for your organization and believe in the value of the services or products that your company offers, they will represent you well in online communities or they can help you establish your own communities.  Well treated employees are employees that care and are willing to speak up for your company. If you treat your employees like crap on the other hand, you better hope they don’t have the internet.

What are your thoughts as employees / managers?