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When the Competition Unknowingly Becomes Your Friend

If it sounds like this post was written over the holidays (yes…Christmas 2009), you are correct. Heavy winter storm damage has turned my life over on itself several times and some posts I’ve had in the queue have been neglected. So, here is one from the archives… :)

Right before I left work for the holiday break, I noticed something unusual in our corporate blog analytics. I normally check at least once daily to see how folks are coming to our blog, what they are reading and what they are clicking…standard stuff, right? One of the referral links was one I had never seen before, so I clicked on it. The site it went to was a company who offered the same services we were trying to attract from our blog. They were using our RSS feed to pull in contet to their site. The problem (for them) is it linked to our blog.

I alerted some of the folks around the office and we had an internal debate to determine if we should be uspet at this or not. I also solicited some feedback from the Twitter community. All were in agreement — although this is very odd for someone to do, we should view it as a compliment and an additional outlet to promote our services. Who knows…if we get enough leads from them posting our content, they may make our fruit basket list next year.

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you?

Who is Leading the Social Change?

Originally published on “Economic Architecture.”

There’s pretty much a social network for everything. As I mentioned in a recent post, government is no exception. Mashable recently recognized several tools providing a link for citizens to connect with government.
Effecting real change is never easy, but in the areas of government efficiency and transparency, some are starting to succeed with hard work and the help of social technologies. A key component in these efforts moving forward will be online trust networks.
Keys to this success DO include efficiency and transparency. However in order for these tools to succeed, there needs to be one tool to serve as the leader. How will this “leader” be selected?
That depends on who is listening and to what tool they have their ear. Tools will only be propelled to “leader” status if the right government officials are tuned in to the right channels. Healthy competition exists between communication tools, but the tool is only effective if the government is listening on the other end.
Since Spring has sprung, let’s look at the basic example of reporting a pothole in Pittsburgh. You have some options…
I’m sure there are other ways, too. Which of these tools will become the “leader?” It depends which one(s) has a responsive government official listening on the other end.
Is a “leader” necessary? Of course. Otherwise time, energy and money will be wasted on both ends of the communication channel. Governments should indicate which channel is preferred to prevent this waste. While we have made significant strides towards transparancy and public communication avenues with government, it’s only a matter of time when a “leader” will need to be chosen…unless governments create new positions to monitor the growing number of outlets for public communication.

Extreme Web 2.0 Makeover: Government Edition

Originally published on “Economic Architecture.”

With all of the talk about government transparency lately, it’s natural to connect this transparency with social media and Web 2.0 solutions. Citizens can directly connect with their elected officials and local governments to facilitate change and progress, right?

Truly, that’s no different than picking up the phone and making a few calls. Typically, in developing social media strategies, “listening” is weighted more heavily than “responding.” However, in the case of government social media strategies, “listening” and “responding” need to weighted equally. It is just as important, from a citizen’s point of view, to understand that their concern has been heard as it is to know that their concern is being acted upon. Therefore, for a social media campaign to be of any value whatsoever, government officials and/or government social media managers need to be responding to those who share their concerns, for the sake of transparency…and social media wellness.

Now…enter Code for America (CFA). CFA will be providing Web 2.0 strategy and solutions to select cities across the country in an effort to drive citizen participation. Five cities will be chosen from applications due to CFA by February 1, 2010 to host developers that will work to establish online collaboration tools set to launch in 2011.

2011?

Think of how far social media and collaboration tools have come since a year ago. 2011? While the idea, concept and effort is in good spirit, I sincerely hope it’s not in vein.

I Don’t Want to Market to Your Personal E-mail

Recently I’ve been doing some online research for projects. If a website has content that seems to have value, I’ll normally check to see if they have a newsletter that will benefit me in the future as a way to stay in contact with the site (in addition to RSS feeds). I subscribe to a lot of enewsletters. I don’t read them all as they come in, but I do glance at them and file them appropriately (if only I could keep all aspects of my life that organized). Typically, I have all of these enewsletters and correspondence set up to go to my personal e-mail address. Due to corporate e-mail retention policies, I found it easier to manage in my personal account for archival purposes.

Recently, I was on a marketing website which required a corporate e-mail address to allow me to sign up. Required?! By restricting to “corporate only,” this company was ignoring large portions of its potential client base, or, at the very least, partners for projects. It’s only an e-mail newsletter, after all. Why not expose your brand to as many people out there willing to accept it?

Here’s who they are neglecting:

  1. Freelance community – Well connected individuals who have the ability to forge and develop new partnerships.
  2. Entrepreneurial community – Although they often have not established “corporate” e-mail addresses, these are regional movers-and-shakers.
  3. Business community – Just because they may prefer to give their personal e-mail, doesn’t mean they don’t have professional jobs. The possibilities are endless.

With filtering features available in e-mail marketing software across the board, there’s no viable reason I can think of for a company to restrict e-mail addresses.

Don’t restrict your e-mail acquisition fields. You may be neglecting a large segment of your audience. You never know where your next lead will come from.

Do We Need the FTC for Social Media Transparency?

Originally published on “Economic Architecture.”

An article released yesterday by the Pittsburgh Business Times disclosed a number of local businesses who are adopting corporate policies relative to social media efforts and online activities. With the FTC including “new media” as part of their application of the FTCA as of December 1 in an ongoing effort to push corporate transparency coupled with Bayer Corporation‘s Twitter news feed and social media policy launching shortly after the birth of 2010, the relevancy of this topic is, again, forced to the headlines.

In the article, Bryan Iams, head of strategic and external communications for Bayer, keeps their social media policy very simple, stating:

“It’s not as if there are brand new guides or instructions to employees, but this is another vehicle that, if they are representing the company, they need to be mindful of what proper behavior is.”

Simple enough. I wonder if this is corporate shtick or if the employees feel the same way. Without actually reading the 13 pages of guidelines, it’s hard to understand the severity of these new policies. But, with this quote, it appears that Bayer has established guidelines for social media and online use when representing the Bayer corporate entity. Seems fair. Kudos to any company or organization using social media and understanding enough about it to further monitor their online reputation and enforce policy to keep their name clean. Less headaches that way (pun intended).

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When LinkedIn is LinkedOut

We all know someone who is a “financial consultant” …someone who has tried to get us to buy their mutual fund or buy their better life insurance policy. I’ve had several of these “consultant” types contact me — normally because a friend, acquaintance or coworker passed along my name as a “person of interest”.

That’s how I landed in my most recent predicament — a coworker recommended me as a person who fit the criteria of a “person of interest,” which apparently is defined as being young and having a job.

Mouth salivating with the opportunity for a new sale, the consultant called and I agreed to meet with him. The first meeting actually went pretty well, even though it ended with him asking if I had any contacts who were young and had jobs that I could recommend to him (I knew it was coming). I declined his request for my contacts, but did agree to meet with him again to find out the next steps.

It was probably a month before we met again. In the interim, he requested to connect with me on LinkedIn. I obliged, as I often do after at least meeting with someone*.

The second meeting with the consultant came around, which, again, went well. I was ready to consider signing up with him. Again, at the end of the meeting, he asked me if I had any contacts I was comfortable sharing with him. I told him no.

[Right here is where he should have ended scene.]

He then pulled out a list of my personal contacts asking me if he can use my name as a reference for contacting any of the individuals he swiped from my connections…ON LINKEDIN. The names on the list were family, former coworkers and some folks that I met with only once. I immediately told him I was not comfortable with him using my name as a reference to contact anyone on the list. He proceeded to insist I give him my permission. I conceded that he could say that he and I are working together, but I in no way endorse his services, nor did I give him any of their contact information. He seemed satisfied with that. I have to admit that pulling out a list of contacts from LinkedIn was a little shady, but I understood that I kept my connections public and I accepted the consultant’s invitation to connect – I’m just as much to blame. Lesson learned for me.

[If the scene wasn’t ended before…here’s another opportunity to do so and still have my business.]

Over the next two weeks, three people who appeared on that list contact me. Contact A thought it was a business referral, which I then had retract and explain in detail. Embarrassing. Contact B met with the consultant. At this meeting, the consultant pulled out a list of Contact B’s company roster and told Contact B that I had given it to him. A blatant lie. Contact C met with him with no incident of consequence.

So be warned. There are those out there who are using LinkedIn to develop and expand their sales funnels — understandably, as that is one of the great benefits of LinkedIn. However, going behind someone’s back and using their name as part of your recruitment efforts is not only shady…it’s not ethical. LinkedIn has an established introduction process to connect with your connections’ connections. Use it.

Another personal philosophy of mine is to invest with ethical people. I’m old fashioned like that. No one who preys on my contacts without my permission is going to see a dime of my money. And, no one who lies about where they obtained information will see a dime of my money either. In my mind, they follow the same decent as Justin Kownacki‘s Marketing D-Bags.

What I have given this consultant is a mouse click…removing them from my LinkedIn connections.

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*It’s important to establish your own LinkedIn philosophy for accepting connection requests. Do you want to accept all requests to gain a larger reach, or a more concentrated connection circle? Only you can decide, depending on what you want to do with your circle of influence. A lot of times, your philosophy should/could be based on timing as well. Are you unemployed? Connect with everyone…etc. etc.

You Need to Give…Before You Can Receive

With the holidays winding down, time is finally becoming available to reflect on the whirlwind that was the end of 2009. With the economic downturn and nonprofits stretching for every possible dollar, there’s one thing Holiday Season 2009 manifested…a great deal of solicitations for donations.

We’ve all run into the red kettles, the e-mails and the Facebook causes. While each and every one may be valid in its own right, many nonprofits are doing it all wrong. With the thousands of spam lists and free social media tools at their disposal, simply using these to solicit requests for donations will bear little result. Nonprofits have forgotten to develop a sense of community — a network of impassioned people who may, at some point, desire to make a donation to your cause. Chris Brogan uses the 12:1 ratio. Before you make a single promotion about something benefitting you, you should make at least a dozen promotions for others. Doing this establishes yourself as a committed and respected member of our social online community and builds your credibility with your network. Community first, ask thirteenth. It’s a simple rule that will help build your network of trust and make your online donation efforts all the more successful.

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