Digital PR / Social News

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Be the troll that social media deserves, but not the one it needs. AWESOME!

internationally recognized troll face


Alright, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front. 

There is no sure-fire way to build content that will “go viral” (I hate the term so much it is going to be in quotes henceforth on this blog.) However there are “best practices” (ugh) that definitely helps our content get more attention.

What’s one of the best ways to get attention for social posts?

Everyone say it with me now … TRY BEING A TROLL!

Not so fast, you might say. How is being a troll going to help anything? 

Trolls are jerks, they make fun of people, they play off of stereotypes, they’re mean, they have bad breath. Trolls do not belong on our pages. So how can we be trolls?

Simple. The basic meaning of being a troll is not necessarily to be mean to others online. It actually refers to a person who creates opposition between different groups.

We WANT people to be passionate on our social pages. We WANT them to talk and get into issues. And We often WANT them to think about things in way that will translate into action offline. But it either happens under your control or under someone else’s.

Instead of an outsider controlling the action, you be the one who leads the discussion.

In fact, if you’re not willing to at least somehow tacitly address the differences in the community that you are dealing with, you are probably going to see different players step in and try to own the space.  There are no vacuums in social media, only people constantly stepping in to steer the discussion.

Here’s a quick exercise. On your social media pages do you see any natural groups? Which ones are friends? How about enemies? Is there any way to lead them into a discussion? Don’t be scared to troll them!

Before you can begin skillfully trolling your communities into a frothy mess, ask yourself some questions:

     1.      Why are these users following your social presence?

     2.      What kind of content do they want?

     3.      Are there any natural groups that form from this group?

Take the discussion to products and you can do face-offs that people are also passionate about, such as tea vs coffee, foreign cars vs domestic cars, supremacy of competing sports teams, and so on. Ask pointed questions that leave the door open for disagreement. For example, for a car company you might say, “Some people in our community say the Ford Fusion looks best in black. What do you think?”

Basically, always look for ways to push your fans into competition mode. Do NOT shy away from controversy or friction within reasonable limits.


You are far more likely to get your pages to be respected if you facilitate open discussion between groups then if you leave discussions closed. 

Certainly on a corporate page you have to be careful not to bring up issues that can lead into legal situations that you have no way of addressing, but the principle of being a troll can still apply. Legal teams and corporate clients should be trying to understand how social media is different from TV and radio, and how differences needed to be exposed and embraced, not hidden away.

So get out there and rouse your rabble. Being a troll might be the best thing you can do for your social media community. Just make sure to keep an eye on interactions to ensure that they stay civil and in line with your social media goals.

Monday, May 12, 2014

10 commandments for moving social media mountains

Charlton Heston in the 1956 movie, The 10 Commandments.














Think you know how to conceive and create social media that gets attention? Creating two-way conversations is a given, but you're going nowhere if you don’t know these 10 social media commandments: 

1.      Thou shalt not neglect photos/graphics. On social channels be brief with your words. If you need to say a lot then use a space that is not on social media channels to say it. The only people who are willing to read more than 80-100 of what you say are your friends, not most customers.

2.      Thou shalt not unleash plagues of ideas. Ideally you should be making one point. If you must, make two points. More ideas confuse the reader.

3.      Thou shalt cast lines that reel in all who are curious. These headlines are designed to get people to click a link to go beyond the social page. Can it be annoying? Yes. Does it work? Undoubtedly.

4.      Thou shalt not be predictable. People get tired. Don’t make them tired more quickly. Curious copy interspersed with different kinds of writing for maximum impact goes the furthest.

5.      Thou shalt avoid disclaimers and disclosures. These are ugly and scorned by all of humanity. Find a way around presenting such copy on your social pages at all cost.

6.      Use photos whenever possible, except on Tumblr when you might choose to go with .gifs first. You don’t generally want to push people invest time in a movie.

7.      Thou shalt not cheat with thy neighbor’s information to create boring photos. Infographics are so 2012. The only place they still really work is on LinkedIn. Want me to prove it? Just see how often the biggest and best companies using social media (Oreo, Samsung, Red Bull, etc.) use infographics.   

8.      Thou shalt remember to execute as you wish, not as social companies want. For example, Facebook wants you to upload your videos directly through FB. Instead, you can use a bitly link pointing to a video on YouTube. You get people's attention using a flashy pic for lower investment buy-ins. There are other things you can do too. (Ask me in the comments below or in any of the LinkedIn groups this is published under. I’m happy to bounce ideas.)

9.      Thou shalt know your age. Trendy sites mainly aimed towards younger folks, like Reddit and Tumblr, see plentiful use of memes. This is where memes should remain for the most part. Occasional use of memes on other sites to remind users of our their youthful days is fine. Likewise, when on social channels for younger folks, trying to advertise or use approaches blatantly vetted by a legal team or PR group is going to explode in your face. Try advertising elsewhere and your paid posts will have a much easier time, although even many people are tired of sponsored posts (advertisements) that they see as SPAM.

10.   Thou shalt be a hep cat modern. Look for trending events and try to quickly create posts that play off of sentiment. You’ll be seen as more with the times, not creating posts that you feed into some sort of machine to be spit out at regular intervals.

BONUS COMMANDMENT! Look at what your competitors are doing with your target audience. Figure out why it works, not just how it works. Now use the why to find your own approach and do it better. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

LA Clippers owner sunk by social media



Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the most hated man in America right now is the owner of the LA Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling.

Sterling, who allegedly made racist remarks while recorded telling his ex-girlfriend to not bring black people to Clippers games even one of the great players of all time, Magic Johnson, has seen the attention of basketball fans shift from his team’s series with the Golden State Warriors. He is clearly unable to confront the overwhelmingly negative sentiment being shown by the public, ranging from ridicule to outrage.

http://imgur.com/Ddqov35
I don’t personally know if Sterling made the comments he is being accused of. I do know that his estranged girlfriend is widely being reported as having recorded the tape, but her involvement does not seem to matter much to most people angry with Sterling. Sterling does have a long history of being accused of horribly racist conduct. His brand image has been damaged for a long time and that doesn’t do him any favors.

You won’t find many, if any, who think Sterling is innocent. As far as I can tell, the best that Sterling can hope for at the moment is that calls for his tape to be analyzed gain traction. But even then it would be no surprise if he fouls out. You don’t need to be found guilty in court to be tried and sentenced in the court of the public. Right now the institution that best exemplifies this is social media channels.

Red light, green light

There’s an example that I like to share with people regarding crisis communications. The traffic light metaphor. It’s simple, but it makes sense.

If you look at a traffic light with red, yellow and green signals, you can actually use the colors to identify different groups of people during a crisis.

The red lights are the people who never agree with you and are against you.

The green lights are the people who agree with you and support you. 

The yellow lights are the people who are not sure of which group to join.

In a crisis what should you do? That’s right, gather up your green lights and established a way of convincing the yellow lights to join you. There is no point in trying to convince the red lights to join your side because there it would be a waste of time – they won’t ever change.

Sterling’s efforts

I’m not interested so much in this article whether Sterling actually said racist things as how this social media battle – and it is a battle – is evolving.

Let us just get it out of the way at the beginning. Sterling is currently losing big time on the social front. He is not rolling out statements to convince the yellow lights, whether online or off, to join his side. Sterling seems to not have any green lights on his side to convince others either. He and his team are not addressing old concerns about alleged racist behaviorsaying that those incidents have been settled and are over – although the old stories are out in the open and can no longer be avoided. He is not yet dealing with them the way he needs to if he wants to recover his reputation.

I don’t know if Sterling has any kind of site to provide information in the form of a FAQ or anything. Most of all, Sterling does not seem to have any players on his side, even from the Clippers, the team he owns. Team representatives are saying that they do not know if the tape is real or not, but that his ex-girlfriend was the subject of a lawsuit for trying to embezzle money from Sterling. The last point hurts the legitimacy of the tape, but I would not be surprised if many people were thinking that they would also want to embezzle money from Sterling after all he has allegedly said. The sympathy then falls on his ex-girlfriend’s side, or at least if sentiment is overall neutral for her, opinion is still solidly against Sterling.

There’s a point at which facts can be ignored or used to toss even more fuel on a situation, and Sterling seems to certainly have passed that point.

Seeing how badly this crisis is being addressed by Sterling almost makes the next part too painful to cover. Sterling’s problems mentioned above extend from traditional PR all the way to quick-shifting social media responses. He seems to either not have invested much in it or care.

At this rate this game of one-on-one is going to be over faster than Kevin Durant or LeBron James stepping up to a JV high school team. He seems like he doesn’t have any plan for isolating red lights, drawing in yellow lights or reinforcing his green light supporters. If he has any green lights that is.

Tomahawk slammed

The people who are on one side against Sterling cover such a widely-encompassing racial range that trying to break it down by that measure is pointless. This is clearly a national movement emerging that cuts across many backgrounds. It is the extension of well-established anti-racist movements and ideals, and therefore has many pieces already in place to address the situation.

All the following approaches reinforce green light supporters and give yellow lights a reason to join. None of them seem to waste energy on replying red light opponents, only isolating them.

Big guns: ESPN reported that Magic Johnson, one of the people Sterling had allegedly made disparaging comments about, said that Sterling “shouldn’t own a team anymore.” The league should “come down hard on him.” Michael Jordan said that if he was a player that Sterling’s comments would completely enrage him.

These are athletes highly respected by basketball fans as living legends, but if that was not enough then yesterday President Barrack Obama condemned the recording as well.
The statements made by these three individuals, are not generally made directly on social media, but across a wide range of traditional and digital media. Although it seems that journalist trawl social media for stories more often these days (a topic in itself for another day), the individuals who made these statements are at the level that their statements resonate with very large members of the public, and people will mobilize out of respect for them if they feel that their role models or leaders are being attacked.

Twitter appeals: NBA players, past and present, across Twitter are speaking against Sterling’s alleged comments. These players are not only in perfect position to fan the flames of outrage, but they are doing it as well. Sterling is in no position to inhibit all these players, especially when they don’t play for him. Athletes have enormous followings online and can mobilize communities, especially if they are united (hint: if you want to get people behind your cause, see if there is anyone with an online following who might be interested in hearing about it.) Suffice to say, Sterling does not have any support like this.

Fans: That the NBA players are going after Sterling on Twitter is especially damaging to him. Although people across racial lines are outraged, Twitter is a battle front. This social channel has high numbers of well-linked users from the Latino and African American communities, which naturally see the recording as a personal attack. However, these groups are welcoming whites as well, not lumping them with the owner. There are anti-Sterling groups on Facebook and Reddit, but Twitter is really where the action is happening right now, and it’s happening in a way which is mutually affirming for the participants. If you want to defend yourself during a crisis, you want your green lights and yellow lights interacting exactly like this, in a free-flowing self-policing storm that drowns out out opposing voices.

With as many as half of user accounts being dormant and screen names being very easy to change, Twitter is very difficult to police or monitor for criticism. Sterling could not face a worse place to initiate a social media battle, especially since he has next to no natural presence there already. His being an owner is not an excuse for not being strong on Twitter. Mark Cuban is also an owner and has a very vibrant Twitter presence. Just check out how many people follow him on Twitter, his brand goes well beyond just being an owner of a basketball team.

Clipper players: Sterling’s players are not showing that they are standing by him. In yesterday’s playoff game with the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers all wore their warm up tops inside out (check out a whole stack of such photos here!). The photos provided a powerful image of opposition to Sterling that quickly spread across the net. Such images are far more memorable than images of Sterling sitting on the sideline with his ex-girlfriend. When you want to make an impact in social media, have at least a photo to show what you mean! People remember photos that pack emotion, not legal statement that look like they were written to cover ones tracks. 

***

I am not sure if the NBA will force Sterling to give up ownership of the Clippers. It has happened before in baseball, and I don't know why it couldn't happen in NBA action either. If his past is any record, he will probably get a slap on the wrist or buy his way out of this. But if pressure continues to increase he could ultimately be forced to cave in for business reasons. A lot of things could happen that still have not been decided yet.

Even in the event that Sterling has not said what his detractors accuse him of doing, my guess is that his ship is probably already sunk, but at 80 years old and his fortune made I wonder if he will care. One thing is for sure, he probably had no clue what he was about walking into just few weeks ago, but in a way, neither do we know what will happen. 

What do you think will happen next? Is social media helping or hurting this debate? Sound off in the comments, I almost always reply within 24 hours!

Monday, April 21, 2014

1 huge way business clients tick off social media pros! >:(

I have something to say.


There is something that bugs me to no end when a client requests me to run a social media campaign.

“What’s your existing target audience, both online and off?” I first ask. This is the foundation.

Sheepish glances around. 

“We don’t know / we’re not sure / we never thought of it / can you do that for us.”

How can you not know the people you say you want to reach? 

“We just want to do something online and get people to like our business. We haven't really thought of marketing so much, we're letting it work itself out.”

Oh, heck no! They lost me at that last sentence.

Unless I'm doing pro-bono work, in this situation I usually try to provide some help for the duration of the meeting and eventually bow out. Let me explain.

A business without an understanding of its own broader marketing situation and goals is usually a headache and half to deal with. If it is difficult to convince a confused business what its current audience is, convincing it of who the projected audience should be can be is excruciating. I find that being asked for help that a client should know is generally a waste of time.

It’s one thing to not have a strategy or know how to execute. It’s a completely different thing when clients are either paralyzed or don't have an eager desire to narrow their sights on a viable target market. 

That’s not even something as focused as “social media marketing”. That is just plain old marketing. If a person cannot answer either what is the target audience, online and off, they have bigger problems. Social media marketing just happens to be a part of marketing, if even marketing is not given importance than social media teams are going to be limited.

Finding gaps in social is our job, but we do it far better with support.
Marketing is a very simple concept. Let me boil down my studying at Northwestern to explain it for a second: Where is there a gap in the consumer market that others have not found? Ok, now that we found the gap, what are we going to it with to get customers. 

This is what marketing is all about. And it is so very important. You don't need to go to Northwestern to learn and dominate with this concept, just discipline and constant learning.

Social media just does marketing in a way that touches people and launches a two-way stream of communication, hopefully steering it to stay under the banner of the business’ marketing goals.

Marketing goes hand in hand with social media. Social media marketing and broader marketing augment each other, they do not fully replace one another.

The importance of marketing applies to social media in general as well, whether targeting consumers or people in the press (this is social media PR).

I’ve heard business people claim that social media marketing isn’t important, yet they’re some of the first people who want to show that they’re doing it. When they show up at first meetings you might be surprised by how little they they know about social media, and they act surprised that the social team would want information about marketing.

I might be wrong here, but I cannot understand why clients who don't know enough about their business, or at least remember at meetings, care about social. Perhaps they're doing it out of a vague sense that social media is the cool thing to do and will make them money. Unfortunately it does not work that way. Social media marketers themselves do not make such claims.

Because social media marketing is a form of communications, that means it’s less about revenue than it is about brand building and raising consumer sentiment, even though it falls under communications. The goal is to encourage users to go out and convince others that the product is good. That’s where the company makes its money. 

Social media: improving consumer sentiment with happy dogs.
Social media marketers still need to know who who they’re talking to before they can convince consumers that the business is worth talking about to their friends. Of course there is listening software and analytics, which social media marketers can use to derive valuable insights, but the business needs to do its own homework and take an active stance in its social media progress first and foremost.

Which brings us back to the original point: how can a business use social media marketing without knowing who wants your products/services or having a flexible, realistic and, paradoxically, committed idea about what it wants?

Answer: it can’t.

Social media marketers can look for trends and present them back to the business, but they cannot decide for the business what it should stand for. That is at best a mutual decision, not one that can be foisted upon social media marketers. 

Mutual, as in, business clients should not cling to enforcing offline business ideas if the data that the social team brings back shows gaps in their online market analysis that could be filled. For example, if you’re targeting suburban audiences and the social team thinks that targeting urban audiences is possible, then business owners should consider doing so, not just shoot it down because "that's not us". The social team is part of the broader marketing effort, not either extreme of having all marketing pressure on its shoulders or not having any marketing role whatsoever. 

Relationships work best when there are degrees of collaboration, and areas where there is a clear delineation of power, not one or the other. Collaboration is in the business' favor, so long as social team also understand that they are being trusted and clients ultimately have the final say. Everyone, including clients, needs to be ready at meetings, not just the social team.

When the social media team find market gaps that are potentially lucrative, what should business owners do? They have a choice. They can stick with an old business plan or jump into something new. All I'm saying is that they should make that choice based upon an understanding of who their business naturally reaches, both online and off, and dumping all responsibility on social professionals is not only an unwise decision, but a bad one.

If you’re not used to giving your social media teams clear information about your business and who you want targeted, you might want to think over whether you’re sending your social media team into a gun fight to represent you with just a switchblade.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Is an upgraded LinkedIn account worth it?

Graphic courtesy of www.noop.nl 
Have you ever wondered if upgrading your LinkedIn account could actually help you get a job? So did I! That's why I ponied up for the Job Seeker service to see what it could do for me.  

Let me be clear. I love LinkedIn. LinkedIn can make job searching and recruiting easier through recommendations on candidates’ profile pages. Applications can be added to profile pages, making them more visually appealing and easy to process for both sides. It’s undeniable that LinkedIn can be very useful as a starting point for job applicants, recruiters and business people looking to build connections.

And seriously, show me an individual who isn’t thrilled that they can see who has viewed their profile, and I will show you someone who either doesn’t ‘get’ social, or has so much money and so little time that they probably check their profile once every few years, if ever! I have no figures to prove it, but anecdotally this feature comes up time and again as a key drawing point when speaking with users.

BUT (there always is a 'but', isn't there?) where LinkedIn does come up short, in my view, is in offering expanded services that go beyond basic service to help job seekers. LinkedIn also offers upgraded accounts for recruiters and sales professionals, but those features are not the subject of this review. This is mainly because I am neither a recruiter or a sales professional, and therefore less able to accurately judge those services. 

The following features don’t represent everything you get with upgraded service, just that they are features I tended to use more often during my test drive.

Get featured

This might be the most useful feature of having an upgraded account. When you apply for a job on LinkedIn, you can request that your application be listed in a featured section above all the candidates who don’t have this privilege. 

The idea is that your application is more likely to be seen since other candidates’ materials won’t be ahead in line. Consider yourself to have a VIP position, while simultaneously being at the head of the line. Drink the Kool-Aid that is being at the front of the line, even though you showed up last! I think it's fair to assume that you'll be sharing that with other Premium users, but it is still better than being at the bottom of the page if you didn't get to the listing quickly enough.

I had no way of accurately measuring how effectively being featured got me interviews during my test period, but I did notice that a few employers that already had over 100 candidates apply contacted me. Then again, I’ve experienced replies when applying for positions with high candidate volumes, even without an upgraded account. These days even with an upgraded account if the number is above 50 I don’t even bother applying, mostly because the job has already been listed for awhile, but I still think I'm getting more responses for jobs with a high number of applicants than I would without the service.

My work record and my education as mentioned on my resume, as well as my LinkedIn recommendations, are usually enough to establish contact with recruiters. But I can’t deny that being listed in a special place where recruiters can see me has given me a leg up on other applicants, especially when the volume of job seekers is high. Score a point for LinkedIn Premium.

How do you stack up?

When you apply for a job, so long as 10 or more people have already applied you can see pie charts and info about the candidate pool. For example, if 20 candidates apply, you can see the percentage who have an MA or higher, the percentage who are experienced non-managers or managers, and most importantly how qualified you are as a job candidate compared to the others who have also applied.

The problem with this feature is that how you stack up compared to other candidates is only one determinant of whether or not you should apply for a job. There may be jobs that require certain qualitative skills or characteristics not picked up by LinkedIn that a flesh-and-blood recruiter would immediately recognize and value.

I did hear back from recruiters for positions that I was listed as not being as qualified as the top 50% of applicants. This also tells me that LinkedIn’s system of measuring amount of talent applying for positions does not necessarily prove that you should still not go after the job. 

I did wonder how accurate LinkedIn is in comparison to job aggregators like ZipRecruiter, which sends job listings to your inbox with percentages of how compatible you likely are for the roles. I also wondered how many of these statistics could be seen by recruiters and how much stock they put in them.

Granted, LinkedIn does not claim that it’s a waste of time to apply if you’re not ranked among the most qualified, but then that’s just another way in which upgrading my account seemed to me to either not be useful or a distraction. Personally I would rather not know how I rank then be given statistics that may not matter to the recruiter posting the job.

Get paid

LinkedIn lets you filter jobs by how much they are projected to pay. This sounds useful in theory, but in practice filtering jobs by salary was wildly inaccurate. For example, I applied for a position that LinkedIn suggested would pay $40,000. I applied not because I thought the salary was amazing, but because I recognized that the company was very innovative, well regarded and could definitely do better.

After applying, within a week I got an email from a recruiter and a follow-up conversation for an hour to see if I was interested. The recruiter brought up salary even though it was our first phone meeting.

How much do you think the company was actually offering compared to LinkedIn’s projected salary?

Around $75,000 a year plus good benefits. Benefits are not mentioned when LinkedIn projects salary.

I could understand being off by $5,000 or $10,000, but $35,000 is a huge difference, almost the yearly projected salary. It's a good thing I hadn't cared about the projected salary.

For me, LinkedIn’s filtering system was not accurate enough to be worth the monthly cost of having an upgraded LinkedIn account. If it was a free feature I might have let it slide.

InMail

LinkedIn has a neat little messaging system called InMail. It is not covered by basic membership. 

Upgraded account users receive a certain amount of InMail credit each month, depending on level of membership. With InMails, you can send a message to people on LinkedIn, even if they are not contacts, as long as you label your message with one of about 10 different intents. I'm not sure if there is even a way for people to block InMails from reaching their inbox.

Photo courtesy of Robert Ganzer on Flickr
If an InMail you’ve sent is not responded to then the credit is returned to your account. Rolled over credits stay in your account for up to 90 days for upgraded subscribers.

Although my coverage was for a job seeker account, I found that sending InMails to recruiters to underscore my interest, while not something I recommend, almost never got a response. I tried different writing styles, I tried different timings for sending InMails, I even asked for pointed questions from recruiters who had listed “job inquiry” as one of the types of messages that they are interested in responding to. Nothing, zilch.

I wouldn’t be surprised if recruiters are sick and tired of applicants sending them InMails and don’t respond the vast majority of messages they receive.

Why does this matter? Because people expect their job seeker account is going to help them get jobs. If InMails can’t help them do that with recruiters, then what is so special about them that only Job Seeker accounts can have them? This is especially troubling because LinkedIn comes out and says "send InMails to recruiters".

Maybe LinkedIn should be offering at least some limited InMail capability to everyone, even if all they have is a basic account. I think that people who are using the site deserve at least five free InMails, if not more.

Where InMail’s came in handy was when I wanted to get in touch with people other than recruiters who are not yet contacts, and who might still be useful to reach out to. I made a few connections this way with one individual even asking me unprompted if I’d like to work on a project with him. I couldn’t have done that without InMail. But it also probably wouldn’t have happened if I had approached him as a job seeker.

Connected to this service is that an upgraded account allows anyone on LinkedIn to contact you for free. There are plenty of ways around this though that don't require an upgraded account. Set up an email account and list it as the best way for people to contact you. Boom, you're done.

Show me your badge!

LinkedIn lets premium users display different badges next to their name throughout the site, indicating that the user is a “job seeker”, has a “premium account” or is an “open networker”, meaning that the user does not only establish connections with people he or she knows.

I could not see how such badges helped my chances with recruiters, except that the “job seeker” badge seemed somewhat more subtle than screaming out, “hey world, give me a job!” 

I don’t know that most people would notice the tiny badges. No one said anything to me during the time period that I displayed the job seeker badge. Interestingly a recruiter from a Fortune 500 company did reach out to me when I wasn’t using a badge, but she said that had more to do with her searching for profiles that contained certain matching information than anything I did. None of my badges got anyone to listen to me respectfully or even comment on my fine taste.

To summarize badges, they look nice but in my case they do no more than dress up my profile. I don’t understand how anyone could get anything out of this feature.

Weekly updates and expanded list of viewers

Every week LinkedIn sends a collection of numbers and statistics to show premium job seeker account holders how they’re doing, such as how many people have looked at your profile this week, how many jobs you’ve applied for, and so on. For me the problem was that much of the information being sent was something I knew anyway. I could look at my profile manually and see that I received six views one week and the following week.

One nice feature that LinkedIn likes to play up is that premium account holders can see an expanded list of who has viewed their account. However, in practice I found that it didn’t really help me with anything. Actually, being able to see everyone who looked at my account removed a considerable amount of the mystique behind that part of LinkedIn. Many viewers had toggled their accounts to not show their identities, But it was not like I was able to see through their cloak of anonymity. They might have been recruiters, but it would have been nice to see who they are.

Community access

When I upgraded my LinkedIn account I was granted access to a special locked forum called Job Seeker Premium. Think of it as a VIP lounge for very motivated job seekers to build connections.

My problem wasn’t that the forum didn’t have very smart people with good ideas. My main issue, again, was that it seemed to me that much of what could be done in the forum could be done in open groups. Being part of the group didn’t seem so much of a perk considering the amount being spent per month. I felt it needed to be more than what seemed largely to be stories of people telling each other how to use Premium accounts, or sharing good news about getting new jobs.

$ticker $hock

So this is what it all comes down to. Ready to ante up? See the screen grabs below for the current pricing (apologies for the tool bar scrolling across the grabs, that couldn't be avoided):





Some people say that starting out at $23.99 and moving up to $59.99 a month for a further upgrade is worth it if it gets you a job. I’m just not sure you need to spend that money to still get a lot out of LinkedIn.

Many of the Premium services were not very useful for me, could be replaced by free alternatives or could be figured out with a little time spent. I think that for what you get, upgraded LinkedIn Job Seeker accounts get expensive in a hurry, which for people out of work might make upgrading a luxury.

So at the end of the day LinkedIn offers a number of benefits. If you decide to upgrade and get a lot out of it, I’d be the first one to be happy for you. But do I personally think that provides such a huge leap over the basic package that it’s worth the cost?

I downgraded my account yesterday.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to shop for a social media marketing & PR agency



If you asked a store owner who has the best store, what do you think they’re going to say?

That’s right. “My store!” Even if their store has no goods, no customers and no working plumbing.

But while most people would understand that it would be absurd to rely on such a testimonial, this is exactly what many businesses looking for a digital marketing and PR service do. Confronted by many choices, they look up agencies or professionals and try to be a client. It's also what job seekers tend to do. They fall for the claims without thinking them over.

I know this because as soon as some businesses find out that I know about marketing communications and social media work they ask me if I can run a campaign for the them. All. The. Time. I actually have to turn away business that I'm not looking for because of the demand.

Businesses like this have remarkably a lot in common with beginning social media job seekers also, the subject of last week’s article (Reasons for NOT Starting a Social Media Career). This is good and bad. Mostly good for the agencies and mostly bad for clients and beginning job seekers.

Aside from how to negotiate with a social media agency or pro on a job, which requires it's own article, here’s what to keep in mind.

Look up companies on Glassdoor, Google Reviews, Facebook and LinkedIn

Do you really want to be served by or work for a company that has a lot of issues? Of course not.

One of the most powerful ways to find out if an agency is worth working with is running through a number of sites and seeing how it presents itself. Does the company have good Google reviews (search)? What kind of building is the agency housed in (Google street view)? How much does the agency update its own Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and do updates have substance (pride in presentation)?

But by far the most potentially useful thing you can do is to look up the agency on Glassdoor.

Glassdoor lets employees submit anonymous information about their employers. You can see reviews, salaries and interview experiences. Although the information can be skewed since it is self-reported, it can be very accurate and worth taking a look.

The data can give information about reliability of the company, treatment of clients, company morale, retention and much more. Next time you walk into an agency and see a sign that says it is one of the best places to work, but meanwhile you know morale is low, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of environment you’re dealing with.

Turmoil = trouble

With the proliferation of agencies and individuals saying that they are good to go into business with, you might well wonder if they are knowledgeable enough and can prove that they will take care of you, either as a client or as a job seeker.

The first thing to do is see who the agency’s clients are. Are they big clients commanding respect, or at least clients that carry weight in their industries? Or are the past clients not great? Did at any time the agency have a big client that left? What happened to the number of employees and morale? Does the agency focus on serving one client or many, so that your business as a client would be welcome?

Basically, how stable and consistent is this place in its policies, internally and externally? Hearing that a place has a start-up mentality five years after it launched is not a good sign. Look up the employees on LinkedIn and see what their past histories entails, especially if they have the position you're gunning for. Do the same on Facebook. It's not creepy, you're doing research about stuff which is right out in the open.

Do the math

When looking for information on what the agency did in the past, always steer towards hard numbers that show how the agency’s ideas had an impact on engagement rates. The amount spent on a campaign or how many industry awards were won has nothing to do with the bottom line: attracting consumers and getting them to stay.

There are plenty of Super Bowl ads that people remember fondly, yet how many actually got you to buy the product? If the goal was to get people to buy and they didn’t then engagement didn’t succeed. Always find out if your idea of success matches up with what the agency says it can do for you. Of course you’ll need to have enough data so that the agency can tell you if what you want is doable.

Of course, if you’re a job seeker and you see that the company has a lot of money to spend on campaigns, that might be a good thing – it will mean that you probably going to get a decent salary if you get in, and get to work with smart people and cool technology as well. But you have to ask yourself if all the money but lack of social engagement is worth the approach.

Always act in good faith

If you are willing to reach out to an agency or individual for help, the assumption is that you need help. The people who work at the agency can only help you so much as you are honest in admitting your company’s weaknesses. Although you might feel reluctant to do so in a casual meeting or first-time get together, not telling the truth in the beginning is absolutely guaranteed to get you labeled as a bad client and one who can’t be helped. 

The number of people who actually know how to do digital marketing and PR is surprisingly small, and you don’t want to get a reputation for being an unnecessarily demanding or otherwise delusional client. Marketing and PR professionals gossip just as much as many clients and take things personally, so keep in mind that your manners have just as much of an impact on how you might be treated as the issues that the people you're dealing with him. For example, seeing a client zoom into a handicapped parking spot whenever showing up at the office instead of a normal spot is obviously not going to win them friends. But even doubling back on promises and demanding changes in deadlines with zero input from the agency is likely to damage the relationship. We don't spit in your food, but we will take it personally.

Job seekers, when you want to work at an agency always make sure to do your side and tell the truth about what you can and can’t do. Even if you’re working for the hottest agency in the world, not being up front about your capabilities is going to cause problems. This is doubly so in a sweat shop type agency. You can always move on from an agency, but your reputation will follow you, especially in the online world.

Good luck!