Social Media Conversations - Which ones for You?

I call myself a "Chief Conversationalist" working with clients in developing their strategically tactical conversations. Social Media conversations are diverse. Based on my career past, these social media conversations could be in any one of the areas of government relations, public relations, word of mouth, social media, employee communications or community outreach. Regardless of the context, I always stop and ask "What Conversation do you want or need to be in?"

Strategically Tactical

At first blush, "strategically tactical" might seem as opposing fronts. They actually hang harmoniously, as you plan your communications plan. You will want to be on strategy for your business or entity. You will also want to be tactically oriented towards delivering something back to your business or entity. Thus on strategy for your business or intent and tactically on target for delivering a results. Strategy relates to your message, as well as the channels you choose to reach your audience. Tactically pertains to deployment.

What Conversation

It is very easy to get lost in social media. You could spend all day checking things out on line, seeing what's hot, what's not. You might be following the stream of social media conversations that are emerging via your twitter account, your newsfeed on twitter or the posts that are flowing through from your LinkedIN connections. STOP - the most strategic conversation is the conversation that you want to be in for your business or entity. What is important to you business or goals? Once you have that figured out, you can determine what conversation(s) you might decide to join. This fundamental question, related to what conversation you are in, is a critical first step. If you are in the business of tourism - you will want to ensure that you are in conversations related to tourism and all things related. You may get more focused if you are a tour boat operator, hence conversations related to tour boats. Choose leaders in your subject area and check out their conversations.

Get into the Conversation

Many folks lurk about and see what social media conversations are unfolding. They take this on as research into areas of interest. My point here is to take the leap of faith and get into the conversation. Whatever your business or interest, I guarantee that you will find conversations taking place. By getting in, participating, engaging, sharing, opining - you will get into the conversation and build important credibility for you and your perspective. There is nothing gained by staying on the sideline with an open ear without actively engaging - unless of course your strategic intent is simply to be monitoring a conversation for insights.

Finding The Social Media Conversations to Join

Pick a social channel and search. It is not unlike picking a subject, a topic or an interest and searching in Google. Pick a social channel and search in the search bar to see what conversation of interest is unfolding. In just about any social network the #'s (hashtags) will take you to particular references of that word and conversation. In LinkedIN you might seek various groups to discover conversations of interest. In LinkedIN if you search a particular subject, it will likely pop up individuals who have used that word in their profile.  You are likely to find some interesting individuals of like minded interests.

If you subscribe or search any traditional media or on line publications, you will most likely find comments following an article allowing you to jump in those social media conversations. Another approach might be search blogs related to a specific topic or area of interest on google.

Avoid Political Ping Pong

In my opinion there is little to gain by engaging in political ping pong. Ping pong I say ?? pong. Have you ever experienced the situation where you or others share an opinion and the counter opinions start flowing. This can be enriching, if it is truly open perspective dialogue. If someone is actually open to anothers' perspective, and you are as well - it may end up in wonderful an arena of collaborative thinking. However, if you are just batting one opinion vs an opposing opinion back and forth, I'd suggest that you've entered a game of political ping pong. Perhaps this is entertaining for bystanders. From where I sit there is little to gain for you, unless you want to show that you can shout loudly about  your entrenched position. This would be similar to engaging with "trolls" who just have an mission to discredit or oppose everything you stand for. I am often amazed by folks that get trapped into twitter debates at #onpoli or #cdnpoli on twitter. Wonderful game but little gain.

Where to Begin

Begin by choosing your conversation of interest.

Search areas of interest via google or in your social networks.

Listen intently for conversation or topics of interest.

Take a shot at jumping into the conversation.

After all...this is social media. Conversations you find will likely be quite rewarding and there will likely be doors that will open to many opportunities to explore with those with whom you engage.

What Conversation are You In ? I'd love to chat further with you if need help getting started or evaluating where to begin. Feel free to comment or reach out to me at any time. Cheers !

FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Those That Get Social

It is just awesome to see that so many more people are jumping into social networks (from my perspective anyway as an early adopter). I also think that it is awesome that people are finding "their purpose" in how "they will utilize" social networking. Some are strictly looking at networks as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, others are investigating and experimenting with ways to start connecting through modern channels of communication, maintain or build a business or brand. Whatever the "purpose", folks are finding out that it is likely a place that they need to hang out, be present and have a voice in a conversation. Those that get social also see it as a place of discovery. How you use a channel is personal. There might be some best practices and base lines, but really, those that get social, make it work for them in their own unique way. How often, how much, to whom, on what platform, on what topic, how much you share. It is all about what you decide as someone that wants to get social.

"Purpose" might sound a little lofty or serious but I truly believe that those that get social understand that there is a channel purpose in their communications. Those that get social have a reason to be in that social network, rather than just lurking about. Ha...not that lurking for information and insight is not purposeful ! I just believe that those that get social understand the power of conversation and the dialogue that ensues.

I have even found through some of my projects that the traditional connections of email or voice mail are less effective than reaching out via social networks. I have come to utilize Twitter as one of my key communication channels for my business, and for the business of my clients. Communication ? It's a least a micro news feed or flash point for seeing what conversations are emerging. Those that get social get dip in and dip out of these conversations and extend it to other channels if truly interested in engaging. I find that when I tweet someone either @ or DM that more than 50% of the time there is a response. What is your response rate on the last few emails or voice mails that you left ?  And how timely were the responses ? Those that get social are in the moment because that moment in time is important to jump into the conversation in that moment.

Those that get social determine what works for them. Twitter might just be a quick search on newsworthy items. LinkedIN is perhaps more of a professional hook up for a solid follow up on business leads. Blogs might be a platform to show your work and speak at great length about things important to you and your business or ideals. Those that get social with Facebook might make it highly personal, event based or totally business, or a nice mix of it all. Those that get social figure out their purpose quickly and as Chris Brogan would suggest - determine their home base and outpost balance in the face of what they need to communicate, to whom and how often.

Often times, when reaching out through government relations contacts, there is a maze of red tape one must weave through to get in touch with the thought leaders. In fact, I truly wonder how one might actually get through to the "thought leader" vs. their handlers or staff. I know that the reality is that most correspondance is "handled" by a staffer. Good old time politicos probably get a glance at the incoming and outgoing communications...but my feeling (and it's just a feeling) is that many of these communications are managed at arms length from the actual person.  I don't blame the politcial world for this. I think it is quite common in the corporate world as well. I know of one exception !  My former boss at Molson Coors in Canada - Dave Perkins - liked to be in communication with our retirees. He insisted that his direct phone line would be available on all communications and he took the calls ! Rather than filter communications on the way in to him, he'd assign tasks for follow up. I've got to say that our retiree community was very impressed with his openness and accessibility. This could apply to political figures and other corporate leaders. Daunting ? Yes ! But those that get social understand it is really about the conversation not the handling. Part of the handling is grounded in authenticity and genuine response and follow up. Frankly....I think that is a rarity and I'd challenge corporate leaders and politicians to prove me wrong on that front ! I'd love to hear of plenty examples where the thought leaders are truly connected with their communities, in real time, in the moment. Those that get social, like those in customer service understand that the follow up is where the gold and nuggets of opportunity exist. The ability to listen, to hear and respond can only lead to opportunity.

So...what' my point ? My point is that, those that get social are truly "turned on" within their social networks.  They take the time to monitor their social channels, whether through notifications, or just planning a daily time in their calendar to see what conversation is taking place. Actual people at the other end of Twitter profiles and social network profiles responding to incoming traffic is powerful and it helps build trust and enduring meaningful relationships. Whether on Twitter or LinkedIN, I find that more times than not, the actual person is the responding individual. might at least believe that your tweet got seen or heard by the individual (even if they chose not to respond to you). Those that get social and choose to be open to communication will be open to being in the conversation versus being outside the conversation. I know where I'd rather be ! What is your level of comfort or need to know in getting social ? I'd love to have a conversation with you about that. Cheers.  @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork

Public Relations - Essential on Your Team

In recent years, it feels like public relations, community relations, social media have become a bit blurred. In fact I see that some organizations still tend to group these various "communications strategies" in different silos of their organization. Some choose to place public relations in a corporate affairs group, some pull it into overall marketing and communications. I've also seen public relations largely "out sourced" and more of a "crisis management" call when needed. I like keeping communications leadership and strategy inside where they are close and "on the ready" when needed. Living the culture and knowing the people is an essential part of effective responsiveness.

Frankly my perspective and stance on the matter is that public relations (which I would suggest included PR, social media, corporate reputation and community outreach) is a critical role that should have high profile and some influence within and organization. They need to be in the "know" to have the greatest benefit for your business.

In a world where the news is instantaneous and on "twitter" within seconds, organizations need to be nimble, responsive and open to engage in conversations quickly on line and in the media to manage the impact to reputation. The old days of calling back the reporter, assessing their context, asking them when their story would run, completing a fact check, digging in on the "real intent of the story", offering the "key message" have long since passed us by. However, the principles and protocols of that procedures are now accelerated to unfold in minutes. Thus, the role of the public relations or communications individual or department within the corporate or business structure is critical.

Would you turn that "twenty something" over to the business reporter calling in from the Globe and Mail or National Post ? I think I know your answer. So...let's make sure that your business in paying real attention to how well equipped and ready that "twenty something" is to respond to the conversations that will unfold in the social media channels. It sill requires a trained professional communicator that understands public relations and has the total backing of the c-suite to ensure that reputation of the business (small, medium or large) is protected.

Further...for public relations and communications must take the stand for your position and role. Playing the victim role of "they call me too late, I'm called in at the 11th hour, they leave it too late" are all excuses that your could have challenged and changed. Educate the leaders in your organization about the "new media". Help them to prepare for the possible conversations that could unfold in social channels. Like you would have prepared for various situations that might happen in the business, you can prepare potential responses so that they are ready when you need to respond within seconds to a conversations in social media channels.

Cheers to conversations and being part of them - it takes listening and a state of preparedness to respond. Public Relations - essential on your team. @FergDevins

First Week...Connecting a Network

First week in this new career stage and lovin it ! What's particularly gratifying is the wonderful community in which I live, work and play. It has been tremendous to re-connect with friends, former colleagues and advisors from years gone by, as well as new introductions to people that have reached out to TheDevinsNetwork Inc.

Some observations I think are worth sharing as it relates to my "social networking". While at Molson Coors I had used linkedin as a place to keep abreast of colleagues, university and college contacts and a link to the broader world of communicators, busines and community leaders. I am somewhat overwhelmed with how relevant and constant LinkedIn has become in my day to day. It's a tremendous place to connect and get informed with people and their ongoing projects and needs. Thus I've created a Devins Network group in LinkedIn as a placeholder in that channel.

Facebook has been a "personal network" for years. It's a place for private close and long term friends and colleagues to share more personal stories and experiences. However, I've been surprised at how much interest has showed up in Facebook, thus I've created a DevinsNetwork page in Facebook, in addition the ConeyMusicFest page that I manage in there as well.

Obviously MolsonFerg on twitter is no longer active and I was surprised at how easy I was able to convert to @FergDevins and maintain a solid following and dialogue. I still really enjoy the engagement and channel that Twitterville represents in my social networks. I have felt compelled to create @DevinsNetwork alongside @FergDevins. I'm not sure if that will continue but at this stage, I will keep them both alive and see how the Network brand unfolds. I recall my counsel to folks over the careful not to create too many "phone lines" in your house because it will be impossible to answer them all !

I'm still learning and experimenting with google plus but have booted up there as well.

And right here at it has been an interesting experience of setting up a web profile, determining what services I might provide and being "open for business". I still think that I'm likely more open for conversation and opportunity than open for business at this stage. In time I would think that I'll find a "sweet spot" to focus on in communications but at this point it's just a great feeling to be wide open to whatever opportunities or possibilities might arise. It is really great to have a home base to point people towards when they are inquiring about "what's up".

Acknowledgements...Thanks to Kevin at Paper Ideas for the logo work. If you need a person knowledgeable in wordpress to help get your site set up, I suggest you check out Stacey Hood. Good ideas, easy access and a great sense of humour and straight talk.  Thanks to Richard Binhammer for the referal to Stacey. I'm also really looking forward to checking into the Human Business Works seminar on Mastering the Digital Channel later this month. I'll find out exactly how much I don't know about the wonderful world of social networks. Cheers ! conversation should you and I be having? Cheers ! @FergDevins (Photo credit to Clark Devins Photography)