Social Media for CEOs

Social Media For CEOs: I’ll Frame The Debate – You Decide

Social Media for CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

As a chief executive, as a leader, you have one primary responsibility: to lead. I’ve always said the greatest testimony to the value of leadership is what occurs in its absence – very little. Don’t believe me? Examine any aspect of business where performance is suspect, and you’ll find leadership is suspect as well. So my question is this: Are you leading when it comes to social media?

Social Media for CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Nary a week passes where I don’t hear from a CEO who’s grappling with this social media conundrum: should I, or shouldn’t I? The inquiry usually goes something like this: “I’m interested in learning more about social media, but my board thinks it’s a bad idea, I don’t have any additional bandwidth, and I’m not even sure where to start…is social media really effective for CEOs?”  The discussion about whether or not CEOs should become more digitally accessible  is certainly not a new one, but in my humble opinion, it’s a tired one that should have ended long, long ago. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s time to put a fork in the social media debate…

Background/Disclaimer
We have a social media practice at N2growth, I use social media, and all of the CEOs I coach are participating at some level in social media. That said, my feelings are not prejudiced, just biased- there is a difference. Experience matters in this debate, and frankly, most of those who opine in dissent don’t have much experience to draw from…In an effort to be balanced, I have nonetheless attempted to represent both affirmative and dissenting opinions below:   

The Dissenting Position:
The stance of the risk adverse is there is little to be gained, but the potential for much to be lost in social media initiatives involving C-level executives. The fear of exposing executives and the corporate brand to public criticism, along with disclosure concerns with regard to forward looking statements, and other confidential information have caused concern for boards and legal departments. They are risk managers who believe in protecting what was rather than embracing what is, and what will be.    

The Affirmative Position:
Proponents of C-level social media participation believe the digital universe provides the CEO with the ultimate platform to evangelize the corporate brand, and to effectively communicate across multiple constituencies. They are opportunity managers who believe engagement to be more valuable than silence, they believe in dialog not monologue, they believe in change and innovation – not in status quo.   

The Truth (as I see it)
A main point of consideration for CEOs is that social media transforms you from an enigma (the stereotype of the uncaring corporate executive) into a human being that people can relate to…social media personalizes you in a way that few other mediums can.  Whether you Tweet, Blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc.,  these communities allow you to be known for the whole of who you are as an individual, not just as a bio on the corporate website. The following list is comprised of  a few representative examples of reasons why all CEOs should be actively engaged in social media:

  1. Leadership Benefits: As CEO, you’re not supposed to be the relic, but the visionary. This may hit a little close to home for some, but the message needs to be heard. Great leaders lead by example. How can you ask members of your team to be innovative, engaged, proactive, creative, authentic, transparent, and communicative if you are none of those things? You cannot be an effective leader if you don’t model the behavior you seek in others. Be a leader or be a disingenuous hypocrite – the choice is yours.  
  2. Learning Benefits: Social media is not just a tool for pushing out corporate propaganda – use it as such and you’ll pay a steep price. What it is, is open access to people, relationships, communities, and constituencies. Put simply, it’s a chance to observe, listen, process and learn. A CEOs needs to understand that in addition to affording them with the benefit of directly engaging consumers of their goods and services, social media also provides a window into the insights or their employees and allows them to monitor the pulse of their culture. Social media also allows you access to business, market, and competitive intelligence in real time. 
  3. Business Benefits: Yes, I know, you’re the CEO and you have to pay attention to business. Well, social media does have significant ability to drive revenue, increase personal and corporate brand equity, open markets, create relationships, drive innovation, improve morale, build partnerships, attract & retain talent, and to generate communications leverage. Not only does social media work, but it works even better when the participant has a bit of cache. The truth is the farther up the org chart one resides, the more influence one possesses, the more leverage one creates, and the more one can accomplish via social media. You can do none of these things effectively by sticking your head in the sand and pretending social media doesn’t matter.
  4. Communications Benefits: I hesitate to mention this becasue it’s been so overused, but becuase it’s true, here goes: “The conversation is already taking place, so you might as well be a part of it.” Social media gives you the ability to be proactive in your communications, or if needed, provide a rapid response to crisis. Unfortunate things happen in business, and sadly, they’ll likely happen to you at some point. Having strong relationships, supporters, and fans created through social media is invaluable – so is having a channel to quickly and credibly communicate with those who are not.
  5. Legacy Benefits: I’ve often said the best legacy is one that can be lived before you’re gone. A legacy is shaped by the sum total of your personal and professional contributions, and most significantly by those contributions which have been the most beneficial to others. Social media takes your personal interests and your professional body of work and gives them access to a larger community. Social media can enhance the value of existing relationships and create new ones, it can help you evangelize your passions, recruit people to your causes, and to help others with their causes. Social media can help you and those you care about make significant contributions.     

To those of you reading today’s post who still haven’t seen the light, and believe that social media is either insignificant, or that the window of opportunity has passed you by, I put forth the following demographics as proof of the power of the social media as a medium:

  • There are nearly 150 million social media users in the U.S. alone, which is more than 60% of the U.S. internet population.
  • According to eMarketer, the average time spent per user on social networks as of late 2010 exceeded 5 hours per month. Remember this is an average number, many users eclipse this number by a significant amount. As an example, according to clickZ, Blog readers average 23 hours online each week. 
  • Nielsen data  shows a 2x lift in brand metrics around social ads vs. non-social ads. 
  • GroupM’s research reports a significant lift in search behavior from users exposed to a brand on social networks. 
  • Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
  • I have clients who have tens of thousands of Facebook Fans, oodles and oodles of Twitter followers, popular blogs, have driven huge increases in revenue, and have quite literally changed the dynamics of their businesses, brands and cultures via social media. 

If I haven’t convinced you yet, let’s look at what some other CEOs said just in reference to Blogging in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine:

  • “More effective than any marketing budget for getting our name out there.”
  • “Within 60 days of launching our blog, it is our top referral source.”
  • “Results have been great – we had more than 100,000 visits in May alone.”
  • “Our clients love it, and lots of people in our industry pay attention to it.”
  • “The blogs are 50 percent of website traffic. Great participation.”

So, do I think CEOs should be actively engaged in social media? In a word; YES. If you’re a CEO who hasn’t taken that first step, or if you’re struggling with strategy or execution, give me a call and I’ll help. If I can’t help I’ll refer you to someone who can… 

Thoughts?

To Blog or Not to Blog?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I think you’d be shocked at how many people still struggle with the “to blog or not to blog” dilemma. Most of you who have been following this blog know that I’ve been an a strong evangelist of social media, and perhaps even more so of blogging for several years now. So why is it that so many people still seem paralyzed when it comes to taking the plunge? Let’s look at the numbers…While the numbers vary depending on which source you believe, the total number of blogs on the Internet is generally thought to be in the range of 200 million blogs. By any category analysis or analytical standard blogging has obviously developed into a powerful communication medium. However the question remains, do the numbers in-and-of-themselves mean that blogging is right for everyone?

I have read many a commentary ranging from the negative – “is blogging dead?” to those who argue the opposite – “Blog or Die.” Moreover, since I author a Blog (you might be interested in reading a previous blog entitled “Why N2growth Blogs“) I must believe in blogging right? Not necessarily…If you’ve taken the time to review a random cross section of blogs on the Internet, I’m sure you’ll agree that the world would be better off without some of the content currently being published. That said, I also believe the world is indeed a better place as a result of some of the good content available via blogs. While I don’t think a business will perish if it does not blog, I wholeheartedly believe a business will clearly fail to maximize its full potential without leveraging the significant benefits that blogging affords to those who do choose to participate.

Jason Lee Miller authored a post entitled: “Blogging Hits a Crossroads” last year which I believe is probably even more relevant today than it was when it was first released. The premise of his piece is that the landscape of the Blogosphere is changing radically, and that as such many “A-Listers” have either quit, or are contemplating giving-up their blogging endeavors. Miller’s post is quick to point out that blogging is competitive, requires a great investment of time, subjects the blogger to the ire of those who have dissenting opinions, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make money blogging. I concur with all of the aforementioned assertions, but must admit that I am far from quitting…In fact, I would say that blogging is just starting to get interesting.

What makes blogging so interesting is also precisely what makes it so annoying at times…the low barrier to entry. The simple fact is that anyone can blog, which explains the existence of the huge numbers of blogs I mentioned earlier. The noise in this space is simply deafening…As Miller so aptly stated in his post, “The good stuff lasts, the chaff separates from the wheat, the cream rises to the top, all that.” The dropping-off of a few “A-Listers” is of little consequence to me, or frankly to anyone else. The litmus test for blogging is, and always will be, does your blog add value, does it make a difference, and do people benefit from the opinions espoused?

Bloggers will continue to come and go…while some will be missed, many will not. Nevertheless the reality is this…blogs are not a tool for those looking to get rich quickly (that train left the station a long time ago), nor are they likely to transform insignificant thoughts into something other than what they are. What blogs do offer is a viable and robust platform to be leveraged by those that have a message worthy of communicating. Blogs can clearly be accretive, and will continue to add brand equity to those companies and individuals who grasp the value of social media and understand how to incorporate blogging into their social media efforts.

It should also be noted that while blogs can and certainly do take people that previously lived in relative obscurity and turn them into almost overnight sensations, the reality is that the higher-up in the org chart you tend to find yourself the more benefit there is to blogging. This is simply due to the fact that more people want to hear what a high profile CEO or entrepreneur has to say. Taking into account the above considerations, not everyone can or should blog. In this author’s humble opinion, blogging only makes sense if the following conditions can be met:

You Have Something To Say: I don’t have any particular affinity for useless musings. Time is a precious commodity these days and most people I know are looking for valuable information that they can put to work for some benefit. I’m also not a fan of going to a blog to read third party news, press or the re-blogging of someone else’s information published for no other reason then to boost their search engine rankings. There are plenty of legitimate news sites and other aggregators out there so if you can’t produce your own content you shouldn’t blog.

You Know How To Say It: Mark Twain I’m not, but for the most part I can put across a cogent thought. While there is no requirement that you be a Rhodes Scholar to blog, it does help if you can communicate well in written form. The worst thing you can do for your business is to lose credibility via poor communication and a lack of professionalism. Not everyone is a writer nor should they try to be.

You Have The Time To Say It: I generally produce 5 blog posts per week (one each business day) and it normally takes me an hour or two per post. I don’t simply link to another article or make trite comments, but author original content that I hope adds value, which in my opinion is mission critical. If you don’t have the time to make blogging a priority the effort will end in frustration for both you and your audience. Post frequency is an often debated topic, but how often you post isn’t as important as meeting whatever commitment you make, and doing so with quality content.

You Have Someone To Say It To: Make sure that there is a viable audience for your content. Whether the blog is a tool for internal communication to employees or an external channel to third parties you must have an audience to either receive or pass along value. If no one is reading your content, you might get some cathartic benefit from your efforts, but there may be better uses for your time.  

There Is Some Benefit Derived From What You Say: Back to value – whether the value is received or given (in a perfect world both) does not matter as long as value is created. A blog can serve educational, social, business, philanthropic, political or any number of other agendas so long as a clear value add is present. A simple cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis should indicate whether your effort will be of value to you, and even if it is not of value to you, it may be to others.

The bottom line is that the numbers do in fact speak for themselves. Blogging is much more than the latest trend and is here to stay. So as long as you can meet the criteria mentioned above blogging can be a tremendous platform from which to effectively communicate your message. If you’re still on the fence, I would request you try and answer the following question: If you can engage those with whom you conduct business, or otherwise desire to interact with in a meaningful and value added fashion why wouldn’t you do so?   

Thoughts?

Social Media Demystified

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Social Media DemystifiedI had a few conversations this week that caused me to realize that as much as social media has evolved, there still remains mass amounts of confusion around the topic of social media. Given the prolific amounts of misinformation in circulation, I thought it worthwhile to repost this piece. If you find all the noise around social media to be confusing, rest assured that you’re not alone. If you’re among the group of active users who no longer find it confusing, but still haven’t hit your stride, you’re also in good company. Blogging since 2002, being actively involved in digital marketing since the early 90’s, and being online since the days of the ARPANET I have a bit of history with most things digital.  What’s interesting to me is that with every major advancement in the web comes a mixed bag of apathy, over exuberance, confusion, chicanery and even outright skulduggery that makes life much more complicated than it needs to be. In today’s post I’ll bust a few myths, reveal an evil secret or two, and share with you what you need to know in order to be successful with social media…

Understanding the Context
Let me cut right to the chase – business is fluid. Successful businesses adapt to market innovations and thrive, while those that fail to make iterative leaps fall by the wayside. With each major advancement in technology, communications, or business practice we find ourselves yet again at this all too familiar precipice. If you adapted to desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet, then I suggest you need to view social media as the next progression on the continuim of advancement. When markets make a major move, you either move with them or get run over by them. As a leader how can you make good decisions, set the vision and model behavior for something you don’t understand or participate in?

What the Soothsayers Want You to Believe
Have you ever noticed that profiteers seem to congregate around the complex, or at least what they can alter to appear as complex? Anytime new advances can be spun into something bewildering or beguiling there are fortunes to be won and lost. Regrettably, there seem to be legions of social media “experts” who take great delight in unnecessarily complicating something that is really not complex at all. Allow me to let you in on an evil little secret – social media is really quite simple.

While I’m not going to deny that social media brings with it new tools, platforms and communication channels, I vehemently object to the premise that you need to morph into an uber geek or communications savant to learn to use them and to reap their many benefits. Spare me the complex charts & diagrams, and the trite commentary from the latest guru. What’s needed is less smoke and mirrors and more common sense. As you’ll see below, social media is nothing more than leveraging technology and resources to communicate with meaningful constituencies in meaningful ways – How could that possibly be a bad thing?

The Evil Secret Revealed
The simple reality is that social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science. Let me make this as simple as I can…social media simply provides you with tools and channels that allow you to extend your reach and better engage those with whom you wish to communicate. What’s so complicated and confusing about tools that put you right where you’ve always wanted to be, and perhaps more importantly, right where you need to be?

Forget all the buzzwords and acronyms, social media is about meeting your constituencies where they are – in a setting of their choosing, and communicating with them on their terms. Social Media affords you an exceptional opportunity to listen, gather intelligence, build trust, engender confidence and credibility, publish valuable content and have meaningful dialog in ways that were once thought to be impossible. Social Media doesn’t make things more complex, rather it reduces things down to the ultimate level of simplicity. It’s really this simple…if it’s not a priority for you to efficiently and effectively engage with your stakeholders, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.

The Key to Success
Success or failure in social media is nothing more than making a simple set of good choices. You must choose to get off the sideline and into the game, then you must choose to endure the learning curve, and finally you must choose to deploy the needed resources to be successful. Let me be very clear here – as the CEO or entrepreneur, YOU and not your legal counsel, marketing director, ad agency or PR firm must make this choice. Don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded by conventional thinking, flimsy logic or uninformed opinions. 

If you believe the hype, social media will immediately solve all your problems and require no time, energy or effort on your part. I’m always amazed at those who think all they have to do is launch a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, put up a Twitter page and open a Facebook account and all their business problems will be solved. If you buy into this line of thinking my guess is that it won’t be the first time you’ve fallen prey to a failed initiative around the latest trend.

I always love the excuse “I don’t have time for social media.” Really? What are you so busy doing that you don’t have time to build better relationships with precisely those individuals and groups who can help you achieve your goals and objectives? Social Media is no different than anything else in life in that you get out of it what you put into it. No effort yields no results, part-time efforts yield part-time results, and exceptional efforts lead to exceptional results.

Yes – social media will require an investment of time and resources. That said, prudent investments into social media serve as a force multiplier catalyzing both leverage and velocity simply not available via other mediums, platforms and channels. My advice is simple…stop rationalizing and justifying doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, stop whining & complaining  and get in the game  – do the right thing.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions – please share your insights in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Social Media Expert or Wannabe
Social Media Influence

Social Media Influence

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Social Media InfluenceSocial media influence; the harsh reality is that you either have it or you don’t. I’m going to tell you the cold hard truth about social media…what you need to know that most people won’t tell you. While anyone can have a social media presence, not everyone possesses social media influence. It’s clear to those in the know that social media is a universe of the haves and have nots. It’s the difference between relevance and irrelevance, visibility and anonymity. You might have something to say, but without influence, nobody will be listening. Put simply, having a social media presence without influence is little more than an exercise in frivolity. In today’s post I’ll share some thoughts on the importance of social media influence in the building of personal and corporate brand equity.  

Before we go any further, I think it’s important to address social media critics and the naysayers by answering the questions: Does social media work? Is social media right for business? Can you generate an increase in revenue and brand equity with social media? How does social media compare with other mediums? If you’re still asking these questions WAKE-UP – get your head out of the sand, and stop broadcasting your ignorance. Validating proof of concept around social media ROI is a discussion that may have had a bit of relevance 24 months ago, but unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the last couple of years you know that numerous case studies abound which validate social media beyond any reasonable doubt.

If you think you don’t have time to Tweet or Blog, the reality is that you don’t have time not to. Here’s the bottom line: How can you possibly justify not communicating with your key constituents, stakeholders, and influencers in an environment of their choosing, where they are actively having conversations in real time? News Flash: you can’t. That said, if you’re still a social media basher, watch the following video we put together and judge for yourself:

 

Okay, it should be clear after watching our video that social media can produce huge ROI, but here’s the real story line: only if you know what you’re doing. The one thing that each of the personal and corporate brands profiled in the video all had in common is that they leveraged social media influence to accomplish their objectives. If you choose to dive into the social media world without a strategy, without understanding how to create social media influence, you will not be pleased with your results. Like anything in life, if you’re going to do something, you’re better off to do it right or not to do it at all.

There’s nary a week that passes where I don’t have a conversation with somebody who proudly proclaims that they created a Twitter page, to which I usually respond; “that’s great, but why?” Don’t get me wrong, recognizing the value of participating in the most powerful medium on the planet by getting in the game is a good thing, but it’s an even better thing when coupled with a plan. Let me say this as clearly as I can…a ready, fire, aim approach will rarely find the target.

For all you well intended ad agencies, consultants, marketing managers, brand managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals ready to dip your toe, or your clients toe in the water that is social media, keep in mind that it does no good whatsoever to have a blog that only has one published post in the last 6 months, a Twitter page with 4 followers, a LinkedIn profile with 18 connections, a Facebook account with 7 friends, etc. It’s like flashing a neon sign that says I’m irrelevant and nobody cares. It won’t do anything to help you, it will only hurt you. In today’s world no one wants to do business with a company that’s not connected, has no influence, isn’t engaged, and that doesn’t get it.

While having little or no online following can easily brand you as being without influence, having legions of followers solely for the sake of amassing large numbers doesn’t necessarily mean you have any real influence either. Anybody can amass tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers just by following as many people as they can and waiting for them to reciprocate. The important thing to understand is whether or not anything of substance or value underpins the numbers? Think about it for a moment…almost nothing can hurt a brand faster than constantly messaging irrelevance to a large constituency. Not a good move… 

Who you choose to follow on Twitter, which blogs you read and comment on, who you add as a friend to your Facebook account, or which invitations you accept on LinkedIn speaks volumes about what you’re attempting to accomplish online. Like most things, building and maintaining your social media footprint should be engineered by design, but the truth is that most people allow it to be constructed by default. In a perfect world you would build relationships with the largest possible universe of targeted constituents where you can productively engage and contribute.  Just as you don’t want to add to the noise, nor do you want to remain part of the silence. Having a relevant, highly engaged social media following means you have influence and can create action. Here’s a simple formula to ponder as you create your social media framework:

Social Media Influence = engagement+relevancy+knowledge+trust+presence+value+time

So, how do you start to build social media influence? The best way is to start off on the right foot by not tainting your brand or reputation.  Don’t begin by trying to sell something, but rather by listening, engaging in conversations, building trust, and adding value. Contribute knowledge and information to the constituencies that you want to build influence with. Become a part of them as opposed to a vendor to them…This is a difficult concept for old-school marketers to get their arms around, but a critical one nonetheless. I would strongly suggest reading two previous posts: “Shut-up and Listen” and “Stop Selling and Add Value” as support for these positions.  Following are a few tips to help you build influence online:

  1. Have a Strategy - If you want to create success and influence using social media you better have a plan. This sounds reasonable enough, but here’s where it gets a bit tougher – the plan isn’t about you. To be successful in creating social media influence your efforts need to be centered around others. It’s not how well you sell, it’s about how well you listen, add value and build meaningful relationships. Remember that connections are not the same thing as relationships, but that connections can develop into relationships with the proper effort on your part. 
  2. Commitment-  While technology is a natural accelerant helping to catalyze new opportunities and extend relationships, creating trust and influence will still take time. While there are exceptions to every rule, don’t expect overnight success. Regardless of the medium, you’ll rarely find influential people who don’t recognize the value of staying the course.  
  3. Don’t breach trust- you work far too hard to create a trust bond with your followers, so don’t blow it by not following through on your commitments. I would also suggest resisting the temptation to have all your communications be self-serving. Do this and you’ll be viewed as just another sales broadcast. When you do sell, do it properly, and for the right reasons.
  4. Don’t be a jerk, hater or taker – People don’t want to hear from those they don’t like. If you want to build lasting social media influence you must be seen as valuable resource and not a taker of other’s time, resources or ideas. Take a sincere interest in others – help them become successful – give more than you take.
  5. Have command over your subject matter – If you don’t know what you’re talking about, remain silent. Voicing your opinion isn’t nearly as important as helping someone else refine their thinking with wise counsel. The easy rule is to stay out of conversations where you don’t add value.
  6. Listen and respond- If you’re forcing an agenda rather than responding to the needs of your followers you’ll lose any chance at creating influence. Remember that most people will go to great lengths to help someone who has been of assistance to them.   
  7. Publish quality content that adds value – what you produce in terms of content will be become synonymous with your online reputation. It will either serve you well, or be your undoing. Frequency is important but only to the extent that qualitative considerations are not sacrificed.

As I’ve espoused before, I’m not a huge fan of one-size-fits-all strategies, and this opinion holds true in regard to building your network as well. Despite countless opinions to the contrary, I’ve come to the conclusion that while no single “right” methodology exists for building your online network, I regularly observe many “wrong” approaches…

The conclusion here should be obvious – you’ll be successful in creating real social media influence when you take the time to seek out wise counsel, and implement an authentic approach to a well crafted social media strategy. If you don’t, while you might not fail, you certainly won’t maximize the potential that exists for you. I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve put forth above – Please leave a comment and let me know whether you agree, disagree, or have a different take altogether…

Social Media Expert or Wannabe

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Social Media Expert or WannabeDetermining whether someone is a social media expert or a just another wannabe can be a difficult task for the typical consumer. There is a tremendous amount of noise out there being created by a plethora of “consultants” professing expertise in what I refer to as the new social sciences: personal branding, social networking, social media marketing, etc. I just did a Google search for the term social media expert and had more than 96 million returned search results…give me a break. So my question is this: what constitutes a “social media expert,” and how do you tell the posers from the players? Which of these professed miracle workers are true professionals, and which ones are simply attempting to gravy-train a rapidly growing market niche in pursuit of a quick buck?

Let me begin by dispelling a popular myth oft espoused online – It seems to be fashionable of late to state that there is no such thing as a social media expert. The thinking (albeit flawed thinking) of those who hold this opinion is that social media is so new, and so rapidly evolving, that there simply could not be any real experts.

My answer? Ridiculous…Every industry has experts regardless of maturity of life-cycle. In fact, many of the real innovators and experts are those early adopters doing the heavy lifting and the ground breaking. There are experts in every industry and at every stage of maturation. Some early experts mature as the industry grows, and others fall by the way side because they don’t keep pace giving way to new generations of innovators building on what the first generation of experts created. The issue is not whether experts exist, as they most certainly do. The issue is finding them among the hordes of pretenders and wannabes.   

I’m going to cut right to the chase and give you six things to beware of when attempting to discern the true professional advisers capable of delivering a certainty of execution, from the rogues and scoundrels simply looking to separate you from your money:

  1. Beware the Part-Time Expert: My father has an old saying that I’ve found to be very accurate over the years: “part-time efforts, yield part-time results.” If the person seeking your business has a day job that constitutes something other than the services he or she is pitching, run for the hills. If your potential advisor is moonlighting then they really have no business asking for your business.
  2. Beware the Shoemaker without Shoes: Your position should be one of “don’t tell me…show me.” If your would-be social media guru cannot be found online, doesn’t blog, tweet, or is invisible on the major social networking platforms you might want to rethink their qualifications. Important Caveat: the mere existence of a blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Facebook account, or a Twitter page doesn’t guarantee competence…any idiot can amass thousands of followers on Twitter just by following everybody and their brother, so look for someone who has amassed a quality list of followers, who has more people following them than they follow, and who actively engages with their followers.
  3. Beware the Expert without Clients: No referenceable clients equals zero credibility. It’s one thing to show you their own work, but quite another to show you demonstrated success on behalf of paying and satisfied clients.
  4. Beware the Expert without Industry Recognition: If your so called expert isn’t referenced as such by credible, independent third parties, isn’t published, doesn’t speak, lecture or teach, doesn’t have a column, hasn’t won any awards, etc., then they might not be a true expert.
  5. Beware the Expert too Aggressive in their Pursuit: There is a big difference between professional follow-up and desperation. Let me be blunt…most professionals at the top of their game haven’t made a cold call in years. In fact, even in this down economy they typically have more business than they know what to do with. If your world-beater of a consultant is chasing you down like a hungry dog after the meat wagon then you may want to take pause.
  6. Beware of Bargain Basement Expertise: In most cases the reality is that you get what you pay for…True expertise doesn’t come cheaply, but is well worth the investment. Few things in business will get you in as much trouble as not getting advice and counsel when needed, or worse yet, getting poor quality or incorrect advice. I would much rather pay an expert a larger fee for 30 minutes of their time and get what I need rather than pay someone $50 dollars an hour who is hoping to fake it until they can make it…Questionable advisors will take much longer to get from point a to point b (if they get there at all), and will likely cost you more money at the end of the day when contrasted with true professionals.  

If you need help in integrating social media into your business I would recommend the following individuals (some you may know and some you may not) as they all pass the litmus test mentioned above. Those listed below are in no particular order of preference and you can rest assured they are not “info-product” sales people masquerading as social media professionals, but they are in fact the true subject matter experts who can get the job done:

  • Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan): Chris is smart, approachable, innovative, has a high degree of integrity, probably the hardest working man on the planet, and a heck of a nice guy. I’ve enjoyed every interaction I’ve had with Chris, and he has earned my trust and respect.  
  • Mack Collier (@MackCollier): I don’t know Mack personally, but have enjoyed reading his candid and ever straight foward opinions online.  Mack is well respected and his the loyalty of his followers more than speak to his capabilities.
  • Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) I’ve known Lee for several years (before he was rich and famous). In fact, in a prior life as a corporate executive Lee was the consultant I chose to place on retainer. He is smart, seasoned and delivers on his promises. 
  • Amy Martin (@DigitalRoyalty) I guess the moniker Digital Royalty says it all…Amy represents some of the biggest names and fastest growning brands online. Nothing bodes as well for an agency as success, and Amy has plenty of pedigree in that department.  
  • Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) Ashton combines his celebrity status, a fascination with social media, and a disarming and ever inquistive intellect to head one of the fastest growing social media agencies on the web.   
  • Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) – Liz is well known for her approachability, friendliness and candor. She also happens to be one of the savviest bloggers and social media consultants online.
  • And if you’re slumming:), feel free to check out our social media practice or ping me @mikemyatt – nuff said…

Related Post: “How to Select a Professional Advisor

Do You Have An Internet Strategy?

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Do you have an Internet Strategy?What drives your internet strategy? I’m always amazed that in today’s digital world where web based technologies reign supreme, at the number of companies that still don’t get it…It is not at all uncommon for me to find corporate internet strategies that are at best cobbled together if they exist at all. It is as if digital marketing and branding initiatives are the corporate version of the “hot potato,” such that everyone wants to have their say, but no one wants to take responsibility. Rarely do I come across corporate internet strategies that are aligned with the core business strategy. In an earlier post entitled “Who’s In Charge of Your Internet Strategy” (dated but relevant), I address many of the typical mistakes made with regard to the management of corporate internet initiatives, but in today’s post I’ll focus on the benefits derived by engineering a well conceived internet strategy. 

Is your internet strategy engineered by design, or has it just evolved over time by default? There are few assets that can be leveraged across the enterprise as effectively as a company’s web assets. Furthermore, your company’s brand credibility is often judged by the quality and consistency of a user’s online interaction and experience, so why would you want to put anything other than your best foot forward? Rather than complain about your online initiatives I would suggest you correct performance gaps by taking a step back and revisiting your overall internet strategy to insure that it is properly aligned with your core business strategy. 

Rule number one when developing your internet strategy is that it must be inclusive and not exclusive. Your corporate web presence should not be driven by IT, marketing or sales to the exclusion of one another, but rather it should be developed collaboratively in order to unite all departments to deliver real business value across the enterprise. A company’s digital strategy should balance ROI and contribution to the bottom line with growth-oriented business and IT initiatives.

As part of the cohesive and collaborative approach mentioned above, it is important to once and for all understand that your corporate website is where things begin, and not where they end. Believing that a corporate website can function as a single, stand-alone asset shows a complete lack of understanding of how to leverage the internet. Your corporate website needs to rest at the center of a spoke and hub architecture that includes, blogs, wikis, profiles and groups on social networking communities (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), a network of related product/service/group microsites, article and video marketing, internet radio, TV, and PR, and the list goes on…The internet is a constantly evolving space and has changed radically from the early dot-com days.

A solid internet strategy is born out of both analytical and practical considerations with the internet strategy simply being a tactical extension of core business strategy. A well conceived digital strategy will be deeply based on customer, competitor, industry and constituent research used to identify and prioritize key business opportunities for internet channels.  It will guide you towards the identification of new opportunities for increased revenue or cost savings by applying rigorous analysis of customer behavior, needs and financial value. The strategy should define associated costs and expected return as well as put forth metrics-driven implementation roadmaps.

It is also important that your internet strategy create multi-channel integration which serves to combine business and technology assessment, requirements development, and implementation. It is essential to evaluate and clarify channel strategies for effectiveness and profitability, as well as assessing areas of vulnerability and opportunity. A well designed internet strategy will also accelerate go to market time-frames and add to customer lifecycle value. With constantly evolving technology, and a better understanding of consumer behavior, barriers to adoption are falling at rapid rates. The proper strategy will leverage these trends to build strong sales funnels and increase conversion ratios. By building in strong up-sell/cross-sell mechanisms, and effective customer self-service options, margins should increase due to an increase in average order size with a lower cost of fulfillment.

Internally, the implementation of a well defined internet strategy will increase operating efficiencies by automating business process, stimulating innovation and collaboration, increasing the effectiveness of communication, and shortening production cycles. Virtually any application that was once administered through desktop solutions can now be addressed through web based solutions at lower costs with greater efficiency and scalability. Externally, the internet must align and propagate your brand promise and message in a way that works cross platform and medium to increase revenue and brand equity by reaching all constituencies in the manner in which the prefer to be communicated with. 

Bottom line…the internet is only as powerful as your ability to understand and harness its strength to your advantage.  

Social Media Careers

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Social Media If you haven’t bought-off on my arguments for jumping on the social media bandwagon, and you’re still looking for validation that social media is something more than where degenerate minds go to waste time, just look at the careers available for those who possess the right qualifications. In doing a bit of research I found several hundred private and public sector jobs available for titles such as Director of Social Media, VP of New Media, Digital Media Strategist, Social Media Coordinator, etc. Before you dismiss these positions as not being “real jobs,” you should know that I found several government positions that offer a high five figure starting salary (here’s one), and many private sector positions in the $150K to $250K range. So my question is this: Who is in charge of your social media initiatives?  

Social Media Marketing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth
Social Media Marketing
Social Media marketing will be critical to your businesses success moving forward. If you don’t have a well conceived and deftly executed social media strategy it will be difficult to drive brand equity in an ever increasing consumer driven market. Our social media practice is the fastest growing segment of our business simply because of the demand-side pull from the market place. Consumers won’t engage with companies and brands they do not trust, and in today’s world trust is most effectively established via social validation on the Internet. How times have changed…

If you’re still of the opinion that social media is not ready for prime time think again…Earlier this week Coca-Cola announced the creation of a new office of digital communications and social media within its public affairs and communications department. Clyde Tuggle, SVP of corporate affairs and productivity at Coke, noted “mass media is declining in importance…Our future success depends on our continued ability to connect people to our brands and our Company all around the world, one person at a time.” Tuggle also stated “Our new office of digital communications and social media will help us become even more comfortable and effective in these new spaces.”

Wells Fargo is also a big believer in social media as a marketing platform. They were early adopters to social media and The Wells Fargo Blog has been groundbreaking in many ways as far as the banking sector is concerned.  You can always tell an oganization’s committment to an initiative by who they place in charge of it. Wells Fargo has had a Vice President of Social Media since 2005. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk…These are just two examples of how some of the largest brands on the planet are shifting their thinking…less TV and print and more Internet.

If you think Squidoo, Del.icio.us, and Furl are foreign language vocabulary references, if your company doesn’t embrace blogging or the use of viral videos, if you’re not leveraging LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or any number of other valued social media platforms then you are already way behind the curve. Your current and future customers are looking for you online, and if you’re not there they will simply select one of your competitors who is.

What we find in working with many companies in developing their social media marketing strategy is not that they haven’t heard of it, but rather that they don’t know where to start. The biggest issue for most companies is that social media requires active management and coordination between platforms, which in turn requires an understanding of the medium, and also a significant amount of time and resources. The landscape is confusing for the uninitiated, and is further complicated due to the rapidly evolving nature of social media technology.

You can find more information on social media marketing by viewing other posts in this category. Bottom line…Go social or go home.