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Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category

What to do with Whiners and Trolls

There have always been Whiners. They whine about their jobs, politics, their lack of income, school, a product or service, and World of Warcraft (beware: this video has some swearing, but it’s hilarious). Before the internet, the only people who had to put up with Whiners were those who physically associated with them. Now Whiners can gripe all over the place. They can whine in online forums, on blog posts, on YouTube, or in the comments of a news article. They can even whine on your Facebook Page or on Twitter–there are just so many opportunities to complain!  Sometimes a Whiner gets to a point where he or she devolves into a Troll. A Troll is someone who comments or posts online solely to make people mad or to offend.

So what do you do? Some person or group has invaded your Facebook Page, your blog, or some other online community, and is causing a ruckus. Do you respond or just ignore them? It depends. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Delete comments if they are offensive or use bad language – It’s important that people feel comfortable coming to your online community. Generally speaking, if people come to your site and see offensive language or comments that degrade individuals or groups, they most likely won’t feel comfortable coming back. If someone posts something regarded as ugly or offensive (particularly if it’s racist, sexist or bigoted), it’s best to delete the comment. As tempting as it may be, do not delete someone’s comment just because he or she said something negative about you or your product. You’ll never have a strong community if you restrict differing opinions. Just make it clear that you delete offensive comments but encourage debate.
  2. Let it be – Sometimes you’ll get a Whiner or Troll who says something that is totally irrelevant, makes no sense, or is just plain dumb. In this case, ignore it. Keep an eye on the comment to see if other people begin voicing the same concern–then you may want to consider responding. In a lot of cases you won’t need to because most will just ignore stupid or irrelevant complaints.
  3. Let your fans defend you – Often the Whiner’s complaint isn’t something that you have to respond to because your fans will for you. If you’ve done a good job of creating an interactive culture in your online community, people will be used to contributing and discussing. If someone starts ranting, the community is usually equipped to take care of the situation. Your defenders can also say things that your company can’t without getting in trouble.
  4. Respond directly – Sometimes the whining is warranted. Your company messed up, your product is bad, or you just made a mistake. If someone complains or calls your company out on a mistake, respond appropriately. Sometimes your response can be a simple explanation, and sometimes you may have to change the way you do things. If you let a legitimate complaint slide it can come back to bite you. Just look at how Steve Jobs is getting all sorts of backlash on how he’s handled the new iPhone debacle.

Don’t let Whiners and Trolls get under your skin. Respond when you need to. Otherwise, just let the openness of the Internet take care of it.

What do you think? Have you had any experiences dealing with Whiners and Trolls?

Alumni & Online Personal Branding, Part 1: How spotless are your social networks?

It's finally time to clean up your social networks.

It's finally time to clean up your social networks.

Over the last few years, two remarkably surprising and unpredictable phenomena have radically changed the way most Americans spend their time and lives. One is the rise of social media. The other is the Great Recession.

First, social media is quickly altering the way humans communicate and interact with one another. Don’t believe me? 95% of employers polled in a recent business survey say they use LinkedIn to attract job candidates. The United States government just eased sanctions on Iran and Cuba to encourage social media use among their citizens. CNN now sees Facebook as a bigger competitor than FOX News. And on and on it goes.

In the mean time, the economic recession has paralyzed millions of businesses, families and nations. It’s harder now for a recent college graduate to find a good job than it’s been in decades.

So what do these two changes have in common? It’s simple: College graduates must use social media to foster personal branding in order to beat the recession. But how?

I was going to spill out a half-dozen suggestions in this blog post today, but my wise business colleague suggested I create a series of posts that address this important issue, step by step. I gladly took his advice, and I’ll focus this morning on the importance of keeping your social networks clean and appropriate.

Clean up your social networks: A study last year revealed that 45% of employers use social networks like Facebook and MySpace to screen potential job candidates. That number is bound to increase as social media becomes even more widely used. What does that mean for you?

  • Learn about privacy features on Facebook. I cannot tell you how many people I come across that have no idea that all their Facebook information, including phone numbers, private notes and embarrassing pictures, are public online. Educate yourself and make invisible sensitive information on Facebook.
  • If you’re smart, you’ll simply erase any negative or compromising material on Facebook, especially photos. If your friends occasionally post inappropriate comments or pictures on your Facebook wall, see the link in the point above.
  • If you have a blog, that is very good. But, like Facebook, make sure your blog is appropriate for all to see, including potential or current employers.
  • Make sure spammers aren’t following you on Twitter. Block them. Oftentimes, spammers will use pornographic images in their profile pictures which are visible to someone looking at your Twitter followers.
  • Abandon MySpace. It’s filthy and chaotic and ridden with 13-year-olds. It will do little, if anything, to further your career. Say goodbye and walk away.

In short, remember to make your social networks clean and don’t ever post anything online that could come back to embarrass or hurt you.

Over the next couple years, social media will become even more mainstream and will evolve and grow in ways we can’t yet predict. The recession will (hopefully) wither away into oblivion, like the Wicked Witch of the West slowly melting in a pool of oozy water. Those transformations are good, but it highlights the point that the time to use social media to establish your personal brand is now. The world, as it recovers from the economic downturn, will not wait for you to catch up.

How to Grow Your Small Business Using Social Media

don't give upOkay, this is a pretty generalized topic to be blogging about. But Blue Helm is in the middle of its first annual Social Media Library Series, and I know an all-purpose post like this will be helpful to some of our class members. So let’s jump right into this—the following are a few basic, general tips on how to grow your business using social media:

1. Educate yourself: Before jumping onto the social media bandwagon, search around online and find out how other professional leaders in your industries have used social media to enhance their business opportunities. You’ll find stories of shopkeepers using Twitter to advertise specials and driving customers to their stores, financial advisors using LinkedIn to network with prospective clients and construction firms sharing home improvement tips on blogs and Facebook pages. Take the time to learn more about social media and how it works, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Like we tell our class participants, you don’t have to use all the social networks at once. Learn about the tools, start small, develop a simple marketing plan and go from there.

2. Use Twitter: Go here to learn more about the basics of how to set up and understand your first Twitter account. I think what I want to stress most to our readers is that Twitter can be a powerful listening tool for your business. You can easily search for what tweeters are saying about your business, product or industry in the site’s search box. Then you can respond and engage. For example, let’s pretend you manufacture juice makers. You get to work each morning and type “juice maker” into Twitter’s search box to see what people are saying that day. You happen to see a lot of complaints about complicated or expensive juice makers. You can respond personally to these people on Twitter, explaining to them that your company’s juice makers are neither complicated nor expensive, and that you’d love to send them a generous e-coupon for your product if they’d like. Maybe one or two will respond and purchase your product that day. And the whole ordeal took ten minutes.

3. Blog: Read that as a verb—BLOG! Your business must have a specialty or area of expertise and it doesn’t matter if it’s plumbing, accounting, rock climbing, electrical engineering or chimpanzee grooming. You should blog about it. You should share valuable, genuine, consistent content with readers about your area of expertise. You should communicate and enhance relationships with your readers and other bloggers. This will generate buzz and excitement about your product and augment your status as an opinion leader in your field. Find out how to start blogging here.

This should get you started. Remember: educate yourself, try Twitter and blogging, and don’t give up! Social media can be overwhelming at first but the more you use it, the more you’ll come to understand it and discover your special niche.

Using social media to build your personal brand and find a job

3348784725_9d6244993eThe economy is down. Jobless rates are still climbing. New college graduates are struggling to find work. Times are tough, but tough times provide opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs and hard workers to thrive.

Today I want to write to those of you who are struggling to find a job. Maybe you’ve just graduated, maybe you’ve just been laid off or maybe you need to go back to work to pay the ever-rising bills. Regardless of why you’re looking for a job, the fact remains that there are a lot of people who are vying for the jobs you want.

So what do you do to separate yourself from the competition? What do you do to get the job you want? The answer: social networking.

Social networking is an extremely powerful tool and I’ll list a few suggestions that will get you well on your way to the job of your choosing, but you must understand that it will take time and effort.

Businesses spend a lot of time and money developing and improving their brand. You are no different than a business. You are responsible for your personal brand. What do people think of when they see your name? What do they think of you when you walk into the room?

Here are a few tips you can use that will help you develop your personal brand. I’ve linked to multiple articles written by Dan Shawbel, an expert in developing an online personal brand. So be sure to read Dan’s posts too; they provide additional in-depth, how-to instruction.

Get online

The first step to building your personal brand is to pick the most appropriate networks to join. The biggest social networking tools to consider are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogging.

Twitter – You’ve probably heard a lot about Twitter, but you still aren’t clear on what it is or how to use it. Stop being confused and get started! Twitter is more than just a place to tell people what you’re doing. It’s a place to share links to relevant news, blogs and stories. Twitter is a great place to connect with important people in your industry and to become one of those important people as you further develop your personal brand.

LinkedIn LinkedIn is the social network for professionals. Many people think LinkedIn is just an online resume, but there is much more to it. You can drastically improve your personal brand as you join and participate in groups, as you utilize the Q&A tool and as you build a larger and more interactive network.

Facebook – Facebook is more personal that Twitter or LinkedIn. LinkedIn is like taking people to your office and Twitter is like going to a networking lunch or talking at the water cooler. Facebook is like bringing people to your home. As you connect with people on Facebook, they will begin to see more of who you are as an individual. The more they like you, the more they’ll be willing to work with you.

Blogging – Building a blog is a great way to show off to potential employers. I would recommend starting a professional blog as opposed to a personal blog. Your professional blog should talk only about things in your industry. You should absolutely inject your personality into the blog, but have the focus of the blog be in your field of choice.

Become an expert

What are you interested in? What did you go to school for? What job do you want? Answer these questions and become an expert in your field of interest. Find the most popular blogs in your industry and start reading them regularly. Study books and other resources that will help increase your knowledge. Follow industry leaders on Twitter and read the updates and links they’ve posted. You can find a wealth of information online, just be careful that you don’t overload.

Voice your opinion

After you’ve studied and feel like you can carry on a relevant conversation in your field, start voicing your opinion.  Re-tweet posts that are interesting to you. Comment and have conversations on great blog posts. Answer questions in the Q&A section of LinkedIn or start discussions in the groups you’re a part of. Share relevant links on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Write blog posts that others will value. The more you study and share with others, the more you will be perceived as an expert.

Connect with the right people

The business world runs on connections. The more people you’re connected to, the more powerful you become. If you go into a job interview already knowing someone of influence in the company, your chances of landing the job are much better than someone who doesn’t have a connection. Connect with people at companies you would like to work for. Choose a few companies and look up people in the departments you would like to work in. See if they’re on Twitter, LinkedIn or if they have a blog. Connect and interact with them. Once you’ve developed a relationship with them, you can approach them about employment.

Don’t stop

If you don’t get results right away, don’t give up! And once you’ve gotten the job, keep networking on your own time. Effective social networking takes a while to develop. But the ball is now rolling, and it’s much easier to keep it going than having to start over again later when you may need social networking again. So never stop.