Art of Networking

Have you ever come across that person that just seems to "know everyone"? I'd bet dollars to dimes that they have mastery with the art of networking.

Like communications and public relations, I also believe that there is more art than science, when it comes to networking. There are those who are introverts and those that are extroverts. Those who feel at ease with striking up a conversation with just about anyone are most likely to be a natural networker. There are those that find that small talk flows easily for them. Any topic can spark a conversation. Those are the natural artists of social networking.

There are several basic steps to getting grounded in networking. Whether you are a natural conversationalist or not, this fundamental framework will undoubtedly serve you well in establishing a network for success:

Pick Your Channels - Start Somewhere

Oh my goodness; where does one begin to turn on channels for communication. I actually use a platform called EClincher to help me manage across my various networks. I also have maintained a Buffer account for similar reasons. Within those platforms, I network through Twitter, LinkedIN, Instagram, Facebook and Google+. I also maintain home base with my web/blog at www.thedevinsntwork.ca. I also maintain my "contacts" within my Google accounts. If you are just starting out in establishing your network, start with one or two and build strength during those early stages for you.

Communicate through Dialogue

If you are one who researches blogs, articles and posts; I would hope that you are turning that into a two-way opportunity for communication. By adding your voice to social networks, you will gain notice and awareness for you and your brand. If you are merely lurking and observing on the sidelines, your time on research may be well spent, but you will not be building a network through conversation. Step into a conversation with authority and opinion. You need not be controversial to strike up a conversation and be recognized through dialogue. Offering supportive comment and building on posts by others is a good place to start.

Build Your Lists

Start to develop an update contact list. Whether this is on your own mobile or desk top system, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Instagram community, Pinterest likes, LinkeIN connections or Google+ interests - you have a natural community with whom you connect. They are fundamentally your initial "list" of contacts and the base of your network. Once you've got your lists built you can determine how you might initially connect with these contacts. You can do this via email, through your LinkedIN connections or choose an email relationship management tool like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp.

Post

As mentioned earlier, lurking and observing can be quite informative. Actively engaging in social networking can will be more impactful. Take the time to plan, schedule and generate posts that demonstrate to your followers and the world through social media just who you are and what you stand for. Over time your posts will generate a followership. You will see that people will agree and re-post. Or, perhaps people will have a different opinion to share in contrast to your post. All of this will bring attention to you and your business or interest. Get active and learn through your posts. You will also learn through posts that images and video will generate more interest and engagement. Take the time to consider what image to associate with your post. There are lots of platforms to share your ideas.

Engage

Keep your contact and network "hot". By "hot" I mean keep them engaged. Ensure that you are in touch and engaged with your contacts by keeping in touch, liking their posts, and retweeting their tweets. You can also build up your social network assets by joining various interest groups on Facebook and LinkedIN. You will then be in groups with like minded people, sharing insights and ideas on topics important and of interest to you. By keeping in touch you will be top of mind and valued within their network - which will bring value to your network.

The Art

The "art" is that all of this is done from the heart of a genuine authentic "you". There will be obvious tricks on timing, when to post/not to post, length of post etc. However, the strength of your art of networking will be solidly found in the authenticity of your communication. When people understand what you stand for - they will follow and support you in your endeavours. Create your own posts, tell your own story, post your photos, link to things of interest to you. One caution is not to just become a stream of "re tweets or re-posts". Create your own voice for content in your channels.

Wishing all you network artists much success out there. Cheers !  @FergDevins

 

 


Consider Blogging

A @ChrisBrogan Nudge

In Chris Brogan's weekly newsletter February 12th , I was reminded of the wonderful early days of exploring social media in 2007. It prompted me to suggest that you consider blogging. 2007 was a time when blogs were exploding. If you couldn't get traditional media to tell your story; you could develop your own media and shout your story out as loud as you wanted. Well, that said; you could create and post it - the level of sound and noise was up to you. In fact you had to follow through with your integrated and well-defined communications plan.

You Are In Control

They were the best of times. Brands were "early adopting" and exploring social channels. Marketing practices and long-standing media planning was put to the challenge. A community was unfolding and growing as people sought out social networks as channels for communication.

Chris' Sunday newsletter wasn't so much about challenging readers to write blogs, but it was a nudge to embrace what we have in our command. I see his nudge as a challenge to stand in a place of action, rather than contemplation. How many times have you seen a post and let it pass? Have you ever read a blog and considered commenting, but didn't? Now more than ever, it is time to engage.

Channels are Open - Start Communicating

We have more social networks and media channels at our fingertips today than ever before. Many traditional media outlets have opened up their journalists and reporters to comment and debate. Unfortunately, some members of the public have been hiding behind trollish profiles and crass comments, compromising this dialogue in some areas. Respect is key, in creating meaningful dialogue. Mutual respect and appreciating and valuing that there are differing opinions, is critical to meaningful engagement.

Tell Your Story

What opportunity are you missing by letting others tell stories about you, your brand, your cause, your business or your community? Why let someone else lead that conversation?  You can embrace the opportunity to jump into the dialogue and bring your voice to the discussion, or sit in the stands and watch the play go back and forth. There's more fun in the heat of the action, isn't there?

Choose a Channel

For me, I like to be in the conversation. You need not be a techno expert to get into social media and generate a conversation. There are so many platforms options to consider blogging. Platforms today are built for any and all levels of comfort with technology. Gosh, if you can type or use a key board - you can create media for yourself, your brand, your cause, your business or enterprise. If you've got a solid idea or concept then write, click, drag and drop - you're ready to roll. Personally, I'm active across many different social channels - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Obviously, this "blog" is also part of my footprint. I use a few tools to keep it all singing together. These include but are not limited to EClincher, Promo Republic, Commun.it, Buffer and Co-Schedule. I utilize CisionPoint, for media outreach, and Constant Contact for CRM. Canva is wonderful for developing photo assets. Filmora is terrific for video editing and pulling together quick video clips. Lots of resources to discover once you start exploring.

Naturally, it is not just about posting the story and they will come. It will take some planning and targeting of an audience. These channels are also wide open and easy to access and use.

Happy to Assist

If I've sparked something here for you let's chat further. If you've got a story but don't know where to start, connect with me and I'd be glad to talk about your business or peronal brand or cause purpose and where you might begin.

Truly, the first step is really up to you. If you don't consider blogging, at least consider what network might help you get in a conversation with your community.

Let's get that story out there now. @FergDevins 

PS - If you'd like some terrific ongoing coaching from a couple of guys that "get it", check out @ChrisBrogan and @RobHatch and all that they've got going on at Owner Media Group.


Get Your Network Working

A Network

This visual from the Sunnybrook Trails in Toronto reminded me of our structure of social networks. Roots that sink deeply into the forest bed, paths that wind in different directions. Branches that spread out in many directions with various twigs and buds emerging. Some branches overlapping, interchanging, seemingly collaborating. In the distance, blue skies of opportunity. All held together in its own eco system and community networks.

Have Purpose

The social networking world can seem to some to be very ominous. I'm also convinced that, regardless of age or stage of life, everyone can benefit from the right social network designed for the individual with a purpose in mind.

If you think of your current role and how you might benefit from a stronger use of social network, you might be pleasantly surprised at what nuggets of opportunity arise. Even if there is not a "role" for you in a formal context. Think of your interests, your passions, your dreams, your travel, former friends and colleagues, the old home town.

Let's think of a few examples of purposeful social networking

Possibilities of Purpose

Professionals, Business Folks, Not for Profit Leaders, Students seeking a new job opportunity in the work force, Mid-Career changing Individuals, Community Leaders; the one sure place that you need to be networking is LinkedIN. LinkedIN offers a world of connectivity and an opportunity to lay your profile out in a very professional setting. You have the ability to join groups, search conversations and interests and even take a peek at their constantly updated job boards. A sure bet for professional networking.

If you travel, TripAdvisor is just such a wonderfully rich catch of information, reviews, suggestions, photos and interesting insights from those who have gone before you. Once you've seen the power of TripAdvisor you might like to add your own reviews to help others in the pursuit of travel insights.

Quilters may find great opportunities to connect via Pinterest or Instagram as they share the joys of the various works of art. Extend that to any number of artists and their communities.

Artists may also find the outlet of blogging a wonderful way to express their works of art and bring attention to their creative genius and works. I use Wordpress but there are many platforms to assess for blogging. There are also a lot of web design tools. Frankly, I'm just not that technically suited so I had the folks at JIB create my website.

Those in public service or community influence are likely to find that the news feed benefit and keyword search and #hashtags on Twitter is an easy wasy to keep an eye on what's new. It's no surprise that just about every news cast and newscaster has resorted to profiling their Twitter handles, when reporting the day's news.

I would suggest that anyone can find a purposeful advantage on Facebook. Facebook is just so large and far reaching. Who can deny that there might be a place with a number of different purposes to engage. Whether you create your own group, with specific interests and privacy - a page for a specific cause or undertaking - an event in your community where you can create a special event and invitation page - or perhaps a page for your business or cause. Facebook also provides a very reasonable "boost" to pay for advertising and targeting those within the Facebook world that you might like to reach.

Google+ is terrific for building a following and community and grouping within specific interests. Google has a wonderful set of applications and suite of business tools including a special drive, google alerts, YouTube etc. Google Apps for work is a great place to check out tools for your business.

Speaking of YouTube, you might well have your own collection of moments; or your own special stories to tell via video and collect them on your own YouTube channel. YouTube is also such a huge resource to find out how to do just about anything. From learning to play your favourite tune on the piano, to building something of interest for your home or cottage - you'll find it all on YouTube - get in there and search something out!

If you are just looking to "listen", you might find Blab or Periscope or Vine applications of interest to you on a given subject matter. You can participate, or just watch and listen. Video is just simply a powerful way to communicate. The one "caution" is not to make it too long. In my humble opinion, you'll lose the viewer after a few minutes max (if recorded, different if live streaming of course).

One more network that you will find is more youth oriented, for the time being that is. Until the parental units catch on to how much is being communicated via this platform (smiles)  SnapChat. SnapChat offers a quick, casual, easy way to keep in touch and share photos, collections or quick videos with friends "in the moment". There are also a number of ongoing features and newsfeeds through SnapChat.

In closing, don't forget that your email and contact list continues to serve as a critical foundation of your social network. Keep those contacts neat and tidy. Keep them updated with today's relevant information. Attempt to include social networks along with phone and address. You'll find fax numbers less important and Twitter Profiles more use today. Along with your email service there are a number of email tools to utilise for list outreach and campaigns. Mail Chimp and Constant Contact are just two of many services available.

Get Your NetworkWorking

All in this is just a nudge for you to get that network working.

Whatever your interest, passion, cause or focus - there is bound to be information, people and learning that you can find and network with, across the social channels.

Have fun engaging. If you need more direction or support, I'd be happy to chat further on some ideas best suited to you and your business or cause.  Ciao for now !  FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Calling All Farmers To Social Network

Farmers ? Yes you bet !

I had the privilege of speaking at the Central Ontario Agricultural Conference a few weeks back and was very intrigued by the opportunity that exists for the farming sector in social media.

In a room of close to 40 people, I was first struck by how people were reluctant to see themselves as being engaged in "social media". I was quick to remind them that prior to the formal channels of social media, they were likely some of the pioneers and drivers of what social was all about. Let's face it, the traditional weekend "farmers' market" is a pretty long-standing weekend "social" event for their business.

Farmers' Market - It's Social

If you take the concept of farmers' market to the web - you have a wonderful platform for Farmers in Social Media.

I was also intrigued by the number of people in the audience (farmers as well as a collection of other small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs) who fully embraced the need for a website - but had not necessarily considered multiple channels in their social networks. It seemed to me like people felt that the website got their story out there. Where I see opportunity is telling the story through the utilization of social networking.

Start with Purpose

Naturally my first two premises for engaging in social media are:

A - Have a purpose for getting into social media and

B - ensure that you are going to commit to what resources you will need to do it well.
Please don't do it because you read this prompt, and certainly don't do it because someone said you should be on Twitter. YOU need to truly feel that building social networking into your marketing and word of mouth plan is done with purpose and outcome identified.

Some Examples

So Farmers? If you consider that many farms today rely on a mix of wholesale and consumer direct sales, there is a wonderful opportunity through social networks to get closer to and engaged with their audience. Depending on the farm product, there are quite possibly many audiences that already exist in farming. This article from BEEF back in 2012 was clearly pointing to the opportunity for cattle ranchers. Here is another great article from Australia that talks about livestock opporutnities in social media. It does speak a little bit about social media taking over traditional channels. I'm not going to get into that debate. What I will say is that social media can serve a role, within your overall integrated communications strategy. Another article compares how articles of the past in a specific trade magazine related to corn can be applied to how you converse through social media. The point being made here is about developing "trust". "Agriculture More Than Ever" has some terrific resources for telling the agricultural story.

Find Your Conversation

One real advantage of social media is that you are actually engaging in a conversation. Let me re-phrase that. One of the opportunities of social media is that you can actually start to engage in a conversation. Through conversation, you can get to know your customer, supplier or associates. Through conversation, you will understand each others' needs better. Through conversation, you will start to build trust and understanding. Isn't it true that we tend to buy from those we trust? This is an advantage of social media for the farm community.

Accept the Nudge

So, I am calling all farmers to social media. Take a look at your online presence. See how you are performing in your particular category. How are your competitors showing up in this social media space? What are your customers saying about your business in this space? What conversations are taking place now on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Instagram or through video posts on YouTube that you should consider being part of.

Here to Help

If you'd like a little coaching on these questions, I'm ready willing and able to help you out. Cheers to the next conversation that you find yourself in and I hope that it moves you towards new growth in your business. @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork


Employees On Social Media Networks

I'm often asked about how companies and employees work together in "social networks". There is a wide range from restrictive, to total trust. Some companies may still feel that social networks are not a place for their employees to be a voice for their business. I actually think that this approach is one that misses real opportunity for business. Employees can be ambassadors, envoys, supporters, promoters of business through their social networks. Moving from a constrained and restrictive policy driven approach, one moves to the other end of the scale where the business expectation is that employees will just "be smart". By being smart they converse and participate in social networks by being polite, factual, friendly, neighbourly and helpful. An employee speaking about their employer, business, brand or not for profit in this context; can only help build a positive reputation for the business. I know that the folks at Molson Coors (former employer) have also adopted the use of Post Beyond . It is a wonderful platform that is based on encouraging employee advocacy for one's business. A series of social posts are created to amplify through employee social networks. Employees are also encouraged to create their own posts. Now that's progressive !

As employees and employers consider collaborating through social networks, I offer up these ten tips to help you generate corporate and community goodwill through these emerging channels.

Top 10 Social Media Tips for Employees

Transparency

  1. Be aware of your association with your company in social networks. Is it evident ? Are you actually using your business in your profile...@AndyorAmyBusiness ?

State your role

  1. Identify yourself—if you and your employer have agreed that you are going to be an ambassador in social media, let people know your real relationship to the business. This will help establish what information you can share, within your knowledge and scope of your role in the business.

Content Context

  1. If you are posting something that is not in the voice of, or on behalf of the company, let people know. It may not be necessary to state "opinions here are my own and not representative of my employer"...but that is essentially the context that you will want to establish. Remember, you may be seen as speaking for the company. Setting the record straight is important.

Fact Based

  1. Use good judgment and strive for accuracy and fact based information. Social networks often turn up the noise on debate and opinion. You are best to engage from a place of fact, rather than subjectivity and personal opinion. Detractors can shoot holes in opinion but it is difficult to dispute the facts.

Legal

  1. Obey the law. Don’t post any information or conduct any online activity that may violate applicable provincial or federal laws or regulations, including copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws. Make sure your brand folks or internal counsel are ok with the way you represent images or assets.

Confidentiality

  1. Be sure that what you are posting is not commercially sensitive material. That new brand launch or organizational announcement in a few weeks is likely something that your communications team should lead. Hey...when it is public...they'd likely love to have you share it for them...when it is public.

Be respectful

  1. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in your workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion. If you show respect, you will likely be shown respect in return.

Inform, Don't attack

  1. Avoid personal attacks, online fights, and hostile personalities - there is simply nothing to be gained by entrenching with "trolls" on issues. Social ping pong has little added value on an issue, for either party.

Interesting Stuff

  1. Add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective in your social posts. No doubt your business, community cause, or not for profit has some interesting news or information to share that is of value to your audience. Share it !

When to call support

  1. If your social engagement turns to something more "official", involving members of the media, competition or industry affairs - you are likely best to quickly engage the official spokesperson in your business for a response. Keep your social networking light and lively and relevant to what you are truly confident and authorized to speak about.

I hope this helps ease the way for you and your employer to be more active in social networks. If you'd like to chat further about tips and thoughts feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @FergDevins or @DevinsNetwork. Cheers !


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 ?? Yes...ping 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

 


Main Street Social Networking

Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario - Kenora - I recall such wonderful experiences of "Main Street". I used to love just driving into small towns across Canada and the USA and enjoying the sites, sounds, flavours, aromas and unique bits of each Main Street in each community. Heck, Disney made a feature out of "Main Street USA" - and what a great stroll down memory lane that is at Disney World.

Main streets not only existed in small towns, but also within neighbourhoods in major urban centres. Each urban centre tends to have it's old fashioned "Main Street" nestled somewhere in their community.

Main Street Hubs Eroding

I would suggest that "Main Street" has eroded in its impact as a true hub for community. With the emergence and continued evolution of strip malls, Big Box and major retail - Main Street has taken a significant hit as the merchant destination in smaller centres. Even major centres like Toronto that used to be speckled with hardware stores in every community now witness the larger footprint stores as the destination for all. One would be hard pressed to find any long standing independent hardware stores in major urban centres. 

This offers a challenge and opportunity for the remaining Main Street businesses to rally for their cause and their collective organization in getting more active in Main Street Social Networking. Grab some real estate for your brand in social networks and work with your business improvement group or association to draw people to your Main Street or downtown. 

Survivors on Main Street

Many "Main Street" businesses (I'm generalizing Main Street now as smaller entrepreneurial independent businesses) have survived and carved out their particular niche and clientele in spite of the consolidation and larger store formats.

I would propher to say that many of these stores have maintained a unique offering and a connectedness with their clientele. They really sweat their data based, their relationships, their customer loyalty. They keep in touch with their client base.

I would also suggest that for those to continue to succeed, there will be a natural migration to great use of social media applications for Main Street Social Networking as an impactful approach to raising awareness, generating trial and interest in their products or services and connections to work on building loyalty.

Social Media Networking a Critical Tool

By ensuring that they are deploying Main Street Social Networking by engaging in social media, connecting with their customers, placing features in social networks, liking, being liked and keeping up on all things relevant to their core customers - the Main Street business can be relevant and top of mind by Main Street Social Networking.

Critical in being social on Main Street is letting people know that you are up and active in social networks. Be sure to highlight your social networks on shelf, at the cash register, on your door or window. Let people know that you are connected and they can connect with you. Main Street businesses that are maintaining relationships with their network will naturally engage in conversation.

Real Life Example on Eglinton

Walking on Eglinton Avenue in Toronto last week I was impressed by the work that Sense of Independence Boutique has done to bring their social networks to street level. They have posted their active social network platforms in the front window. They also have their social networks in a prominent placement on their website. It is somewhat reminiscent of days gone by, when businesses posted "phone numbers" on their signs on store fronts. Today's approach is as easy as posting a website or social network. The business can then be searched and found.

IMG_1220

Remember to connect in a dialogic way with your audience. You might just want to talk about that new winter wear that has arrived. But think more contextually about that message. Refer to the school yard play, the Christmas pageant, the first taboggan run. Share photo and video where appropriate - create a stronger connection with your audience through visual representations of you and your shop. Get into the lifestyle conversation with your audience - rather than just talking about you.

Get Social

I look forward to seeing more Main Street Social Networking in the coming weeks and months. I'll tweet about what and where I see it. If you're interested in having a conversation about how you might do a better job at your Main Street Social Networking, just comment below or contact me. Cheers !  FERG @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Back To School Social Networking

Ah, the last weekend of August and time to get organized for "school". When I refer to "school" I am actually referring to school or work. Whether you are the student prepping for a return to the classroom, headed off to college or university for the first time, or a returning student - a little time spent on your social networks can set you up for an impactful back to school autumn.

Thinking of "back to school", we can also use the timeframe to think "back to work" as well. Time to consider back into the work stream and refining your social networks for the business year ahead, following summer vacations and time away.

Who to Connect With

If you already have your social networks up and running, this is a great time to re-assess your networks and think about those people that you want to ensure that you are networking and connecting with socially or in a more formal and purposeful connection. Some provocations for whom to connect with include:

  • Newly hired employees...have you connected with them on their networks
  • New classmates
  • The new professor, tutor, assistant
  • Student Groups you are planning to join or events to attend
  • Community Not for Profit you are going to assist
  • Parents' group page
  • Student Union
  • Workplace social committees
  • Work group or study group peers
  • Your summer friends and colleagues - maintaining connections through the winter
  • Summer events that you enjoyed - looking forward to next summer, calendarizing
  • Travel destinations, profiles, Trip Advisor (have you posted your reviews ?)
  • Housemates and their parent contacts in case of emergency
  • Your close colleagues and their contact information
  • Newly elected officials - election mean change in contact information
  • Refreshing important contacts in your data base, culling those no longer meaningful

If you are reading this blog and have not set up social networks for yourself, I can provide some coaching on that. Be sure to leave a comment below and we will connect.

Powering Up your Networks

Summer has likely had you spending a fair amount of time with family and friends, sharing highlights of your summer. You may have spent a fair amount of time on photo sharing platforms like Instagram or Flickr and connecting with friends and family on Facebook. With summer season almost behind you - you might now want to think about your social networks and their set up for the school or work year.

  • Is your content viewable to "all" ? Make sure you have your privacy settings where you want them?
  • Have you made your "Twitter List" of summer friends to keep in touch with?
  • Have you created your "Twitter List" for this new season, or updated last year's list?
  • Have you updated your LinkedIn profile "professionally" for the coming year?
  • Have you determined what groups are most relevant and interesting for you on LinkedIN?
  • Is your bathing suit avatar photo parked and replaced with your "school" or "business photo"?
  • Does your background or header photo display the right context for this time of year?
  • Have you planned your Facebook ad "campaign" for that special project you are planning?
  • Are those "friends" most appropriate in that channel ?

Planning Deployment of your Social Networks

I am a huge believer in ensuring that whatever social networks you deploy - you deploy with purpose. Some thoughts of purpose may include:

  • Twitter as a "newsfeed" with interesting folks you follow, and for those who follow you
  • Facebook as an anchor with friends, family and those closest to you
  • Facebook "page" or "event" for things that you are involved with
  • LinkedIN for outreach to a professional network of colleagues, prospects, staff, academics, interest groups
  • Instagram for photo sharing
  • Vine for that 7 second video clip
  • Periscope for live streaming
  • Hootsuite  or Buffer to coordinate all your social streams
  • Google+ for that unique stream of like minded individuals
  • Shared workspace - perhaps a DropBox account or Google Docs as good baselines
  • Measurement tools (Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, Hootsuite, Buffer, Bitly, Sniply)

Each of these networks or tools can play a slightly different role in your communications efforts. You will intuitively place yourself and the conversations you want to engage in within these various platforms. And, by the way, you might just choose "one" to be your central communications channel - there is nothing wrong with that !

Connecting With Others' Social Networks

Depending on your interests and plans for the year ahead, you will likely want to connect with friends, colleagues, study or work group associates through common social networks. There are some natural places to connect with like minded folks or find those events and groups that are most interesting to you. A couple of suggestions include:

  • Facebook events or pages or interest - a quick search through the search bar will get you there
  • LinkedIN groups - search via subject of interest and see the multiple choices pop up
  • Twitter Search - always great to search or generally on Twitter #hashtag for topics of interest
  • Google+ will also provide a powerful search within Google+ and of course google as a search engine
  • AllTop can play a great role in centralizing blogs and websites of interest to you

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

My intent here for you was to at least get you thinking about a bit of planning on your social networks as the calendar flips to autumn.

By looking forward in the calendar and the year - you can determine how best to put your social networks into play as meaningful communications assets.

Social Networks are as strong as you put them to use. Focus on where you want to generate news and conversation is your call and in your command. Have an awesome "back to school" season. @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork


Strategically Social in 2015

There is a plethora of year end assessments, recommendations, views, retorts, suggestions, debates around how social media will evolve in 2015. For me, and for those I will advise in 2015, I would suggest some very basic, but critical, ideas to be strategically social in 2015.

DEFINE/REFINE YOUR NETWORKS

Determine where you want to have a voice and presence in the social networks. If you are like me you likely have your baseline of established networks. My established networks include email and campaigns via ConstantContact. Twitter is still my favourite daily choice. Facebook remains more personal for me, but I've also created a Devins Network page, as well as a page for the Coney Island Music Festival (volunteer founder). YouTube is established, but I'm not generating a lot of content there (just me at this stage I think I'd be wise to do more there) but, it remains critical as a network. Google + is set up but I'm drawn there from posts I receive, more than regularly generating content myself. I've found that LinkedIN is a really strong networking site for business opportunity and personal outreach. LinkedIN has a lot of interesting groups to engage within. Ello is still a discovery frontier for me...more to explore there as I define my game plan for getting more strategically social in 2015.

There are also "new networks" emerging and worth considering as a fit (or not) for your business purpose. I'm not on snapchat, but I sure see a lot of the younger generation using it voraciously. An idea might be refining your current networks to make sure that they are really working hard enough for you. Once you are totally satisfied that they are working hard for you, look at what others you might play with and explore. For a reality check, I always like to consider my networks as "separate phone lines" in a home or office. Truly assess and evaluate how many you want to be answering daily. These communication vehicles will be your "strategically social in 2015" pathways to success, or just long winding paths in a dark and crowded woods.

What defines working hard ? What is fundamental to choosing your networks ? Fundamental and working hard is knowing what "purpose" the networks will lead and generate for you, your business, your brand, your campaign or your community project.

MEASUREMENT - ANALYTICS

Is it just a fire hose of tweets, posts, videos, chats and photos coming at you from the web ? If it is, it might often feel like a blizzard or a hurricane wind. However, if you actually determine how you might map out measuring what's coming at you - you will discover nuggets of insight that will ultimately help you shape your networking to meet your business or personal goals. What are your goals and how will you measure success. It's a simple as that to define the metrics that are most important for you to be strategically social in 2015. Have you at least undertaken to load google analytics or a measurement tool for your social channel ? Lots of choices out there. The folks at Simply Measured offer great articles on a regular basis.

PICK THE TOOLS

In refining, defining and systematizing your networks; you will likely find comfort with a few tools in social. Great standbys are the early platforms of TweetDeck, HootSuite, Google Analytics, Google Apps. I have personally found that SocialBro is a great tool for managing Twitter. I've also used Ubervu as a tool for managing twitter response with my team and associates. Buffer and Hootsuite offer good tools for communicating across social channels. I haven't seen a single person dispute that video and photos will continue to be critically important in drawing attention to your posts and content. I continue to like Vine, for seven second video clips. I have experimented a bit with Keek and naturally Instagram continues to realize significant growth and adoption.

AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE

You can determine when you want to be "on" or "off" but the recommendation would be to have access on all of your devices. Be up and running on your laptop, desktop, phone, tablet or droid. There will likely be more aggregators and cross platform offerings through 2015. Accessibility and the ability to communicate is key.

DIALOGUE

The medium is "social". Thus, get social with people in your networks. I notice that many brands appear to be slipping into more of a a traditional marketing "push" approach in their social networks. Do you ever ask "why" someone unfollowed you ? I've always been a huge proponent of "engagement" in social networks. That means talking with (not to) your followers, supporters, franchise or audience. They also feel a lot more positive about you as a brand or person if you actually engage in dialogue with them.  You can build loyalty and franchise support by two way communication. Catch yourself when you might be falling into a one way communicative approach and trap. Be more strategically social in 2015 by having more conversations within your networks each day.

CONNECT

Where are the nuggets of opportunity in your connections ? You may have a large network of followers or likes or views, but are you truly harvesting opportunity through all of those connections ? A consideration for getting strategically social in 2015 is to really get to know what connections are your loyalists, referrals and business prospects. Connect and target for results.

LEARN

I smile each day that I hear someone suggest that there is a "rule" or a "best practice" in something that they are doing or seeing in social networking. I'll give credit that there are some powerful consistent learned approaches. But, I fail to accept that we're at the end of learning in social networking approaches. I also think that approaches can differ between individuals, brands, associations, organizations, politicians and campaigns. Folks...we are still writing the book(s) ! Thus embracing the opportunity to continue to learn more, explore more, try new things is a great start for being strategically social in 2015. One of my own personal favourites is the work that Chris Brogan and Rob Hatch do. They have a passion for learning, taking on new approaches and embracing opportunities to re-invent throughout the year. On a more macro basis I've always been a big believer and admirer of the work conducted by Legacy Transformational Consulting.

NEW TO ALL THIS ??

If "new" to all of this, I just realized that I may have lost you way back up at the top of this post. If you are just starting out, I'd recommend assessing what network might be your natural choice. Who have you heard is on it ? Where are your friends networking ? Where are your customers networking ? Who is important to your business, brand, campaign, life; and where are they connecting on the web ? What are your competitors doing ?  Is it better for one to one, business to consumer or business to business ? PITCH - I'd gladly chat with you on some ideas that might be suited for you to launch into social networks to learn, grow and bring power to you and and / or your business, brand, community or campaign. I would gladly have a conversation about how you might get more strategically social in 2015.

So, here's to the new year and an opportunity to embrace it with an approach that is a little bit more strategically social in 2015. Happy New Year ! @FergDevins @DevinsNetwork.