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Monday, January 25, 2010

Interactivity...interactivity!

For some reason, I've been singing the word, "interactivity" to that old Schoolhouse Rock tune, "Electricity".  Not sure why, but it amuses me.  There's been a lot of talk about social media changing long-standing, established paradigms.  Things like elections, movies, dating and even business have all been impacted by social media.  In fact, I think you'd probably be hard pressed to find one aspect of our daily lives that haven't been touched in some way by the burgeoning world of social media.  Hell, even our daily commute is "plugged in" with our Blackberries and iPhones.  We can get the latest updates from other drivers, get info. about speed traps from fellow commuters, even monitor traffic officials.


Here's an interesting article about how social media is even effecting the Grammies.  A quick thank you to Kirsten Hammling of Traction Media for the heads up about the article.  She posted it on her Facebook page, I saw it, and now you get to see it.  See?  Social media in action.

The article itself is from the Mashable website.  Really a great site for anyone interested in all things social media.  Here's a quick excerpt.  Click on the link to see the entire article.

"Social media introduces an entire paradigm shift into how the Academy can both connect with music lovers and with how its message is consumed and presented. That said, the Academy is aware that the paradigm shift is happening, not just to the industry, but to our culture as a whole. In order to stay relevant and connected, the Academy would have to embrace this new way of communicating. I spoke with Evan Greene, the Chief Marketing Officer of the Recording Academy about how the Grammys are embracing social media this year and how and why that decision was made."

There's a secret to effective use of social media that, clearly, some industries and organizations understand better than others.  The funny thing is that, it's not really a secret at all.  And if you can harness this powerful secret, you'll be way ahead of most of your competition in terms of your social media efforts.

Connectivity, Interactivity:

By now, we've all seen, and recognized, that social media increases your connectivity in ways few other media can.  Certainly more traditional media can connect you, or at the very least, expose you, to a mass audience.  But for the most part, more traditional media is a bit like a buckshot approach.  You get some coverage, and your story or message hits a random sampling of your potential audience.  Don't get me wrong, this is a vital part of your pr campaign. 

But what makes social media so unique is that it allows you to reach out to a much more focused group of individuals, allows you to really get your message across on a personal level while still maintaining control of how that message or story is told.  You cut out the middle man of producers, reporters and editors.  This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your own editing skills.  At least with social media, if things go wrong, there's no one to blame but yourself.

Social media allows you to go out and search for groups of like-minded people.  This is what is called the "Tribal Mentality."  Groups, or Tribes, are very beneficial for small businesses and non-profits.  They get you in touch with others who are interested in what you are interested in.  They might be folks looking for the kind of service or charity that you provide. 

There are groups on Facebook and Meetup and Twitter that are focused on helping Haiti, or aiding the homeless.  There are tech groups, religious groups, massage groups, medical groups.  Any kind of group that you can imagine, there's a good chance that there's a place reserved for it on most social media sites.

The trick is finding these groups.  Do your searches, look for specific keywords, peruse profiles.  This can be a time consuming effort, but it's one well worth your time.  I have several meetup groups I belong to that are focused specifically on startups, entrepreneurs, small business and non-profits. 

If you're a small business owner or non-profit director just making your first forays into social media, take the time to search out the groups that link in some way to your organization.  If you've been finding little success with your social media efforts thus far, start joining these groups.  You want to connect with people who might be interested in your business or non-profit, but they can't connect with you unless they know about you.  And one of the best ways of getting exposure to a group of people who might be interested in you is to join a group, regardless of what social media platform you use.

Now what?

Joining a group is really just the first start, though.  Once you find the right groups, and once you join, the real work begins.

One of the wonders of social media is that it allows for more interactivity than any other media outlet.  Certainly, talk radio, chatrooms and forums allow for interactivity, and, in reality, these are also tools of social media.  Live podcasts, message rooms, forum rooms, chatrooms can all be found within some social media groups.  Even Facebook is starting  a live chatroom feature.  Being able to talk to others within the group you belong to is a great way to let people know who you are in an anonymous, relaxed setting.

But even without these tools, being in a group allows for you to make constant updates, respond to other members' updates, start topic discussions and offer content to other members so they get a better idea of who you are and what you do.

Patience is a big word here.  If you're like most of the small business owners and non-profit directors, you want the overnight success.  And it would be nice if you could simply post something to your Facebook page or Twitter page and suddenly everyone takes notice of you.  But that just doesn't happen.  It takes time to make those connections and raise your profile.  But being active and allowing interactivity with your content is a way to speed up that relationship building process. 

As I write this, a commercial just played for the mattress-maker, "Tempurpedic".  Usually I wouldn't notice commercials like these, but the ad made a point to ask viewers to check Twitter and Facebook, and to ask friends who have used their product, to get feedback about the product. 

It wasn't a hard sell, just an encouragement to use their social media connections to get real life information from other consumers about Tempurpedic.  It's a slightly risky campaign, but one that I think will probably be very effective. 

This is the kind of interactivity that can build a following very quickly.  You're not just posting information about a product.  You're not even posting testimonials.  You're literally asking people to interact with others for honest, real time feedback.  Try doing that with your product or service.  If you're a non-profit, have users ask some of your staff or charity recipients to tell their stories in their own words. This is powerful stuff.

In groups, offer advice, answer questions, conduct interviews, or open yourself up to be interviewed.  Interactivity is social media's powerful secret.  Obviously you have to provide contect that other users will find helpful and useful and interesting.  Remember, useful and interesting is the cornerstone of successful pr and social media.  But even if you're posting useful and intersting content it might take a while for people to take notice.  Remember, you have all the tools, blogs, podcasts, IM's, chatrooms, groups, etc.  You have to use more than one, belong to more than one group, and be interactive on all of them.

Being interactive, listening to what others are saying and opening up a dialogue will speed up that process and allow you to build success.

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