Do what makes sense, and more from #FredNMT

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Yours truly, in the role of Tweet Zapper at #FredNMT. Photo by: Jessica Hibbard / Stories and Ideas

Yours truly, in the role of Tweet Zapper at #FredNMT. Photo by: Jessica Hibbard / Stories and Ideas

Last week, I attended the 5th annual New Media & Technology Conference (#FredNMT), hosted by the Frederick Chamber. In my role as volunteer guest-tweeter, it was my job to share key points in real-time… in 140 characters or less. I was a bit overenthusiastic, earning me the nickname Tweet Zapper at the comic-themed conference, and a stint in Twitter limit lock-up. If you’d like to view the highlights, check out the Storify page.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend FredNMT–the brainchild of my friend Jessica–for several years now. The first year or two, the conversation was mostly focused around defining social media and how it could be useful for businesses, and avoiding common pitfalls. This year, I noticed some different themes. (I purposely waited a week to write this post because I wanted to see what stuck.)

Do what makes sense. Whether it’s personal branding, mobile marketing or media relations, we heard in various ways that new media isn’t one-size-fits-all. The sheer number of social media platforms makes it nearly impossible for organizations or individuals to be active everywhere. A better option: choose a few platforms based on your business needs/goals, and use them well.

Curate responsibly. This presentation by Jessica Hibbard and Beth Schillaci covered a wealth of information on finding content, crediting original sources, and avoiding pitfalls of user-generated content (contests, for example). On finding content, I’m partial to Jessica’s analog advice: read books. Finding themes and patterns and adding context for your audience is impossible if you don’t read … a lot.

Be consistent. In what conference attendees would call the “skimmers presentation,” Michelle Kershner talked about the “festival of confusion,” where she saw a festival advertised, but couldn’t locate the pertinent details (or even mention of the event!) on the organization’s website. Think about where you’re sending people. If you say, “visit our website for more information,” make sure the information is there. And easy to find. Having different messages and graphics everywhere confuses your audience and dilutes your brand.

Be yourself. I’ve long believed that organizations with a human behind the brand are the most successful on social media. @AVDawn took this a bit further in her personal branding presentation, talking about how she and others in the AV industry have built a successful online presence. She also made her own Twitter handle necklace, which helps people recognize her at conferences. (Check out Twitter necklaces and geek accessories here.)

One thing that hasn’t changed: it’s always great to see my “online friends” in person, and meet new fellow geeks social media enthusiasts. For those who attended, what conference advice are you still thinking about, or using in your business?

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Who Can Inspire Me?

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White sign saying "Your Purpose Awaits" with an arrow pointing right

I saw a tweet this morning: “who can inspire me?” It stopped me in my tracks. The tweeter was looking for motivation to go to the gym, on a day when she really didn’t feel like it.*

Of course, we’ve all had those days. When the gym is less-than-appealing. When work seems like a long, slow trudge of meaningless, thankless busy work. When the family has, yet again, completely obliterated any evidence of the hours you spent cleaning.

How do you find your motivation on those days? If you’re a self-starter, you won’t ask anyone else to inspire you. You might read a few of your favorite blogs or newsletters (my new favorite: Snarketing), or make a list of what matters. Why do you do those things?

I go to the gym to stay healthy. I go to work because I believe the end result of my efforts–combined with those of my colleagues–lead to a safer world. I clean my house because my in-laws are visiting soon. (OK, maybe that last one isn’t the best example of intrinsic motivation.)

You can’t fake self-motivation. If you take a job just for the money, it will wear on you. Sometimes you don’t have a choice–I have been there, and completely understand. That’s when you have to find some other way to express your passion to keep from getting discouraged. It may not happen immediately, but keep plugging away at your passions and you’ll perk up eventually. (I had to wait a week before posting this, to make sure that was true. It is; be patient.)

I keep a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on my bulletin board. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

What have you done today to stay true to who you are?

*Note: Sometimes, you should listen to the devil on your shoulder saying “skip the gym and stay home with this delicious novel instead.” When your body is tired, inspire your mind.

Social media lessons from health care

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Heart, stethoscope and EKG

Yesterday I attended the Ragan Health Care Social Media Summit, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN (albeit virtually, as I have no travel budget). This conference was attended primarily by hospital and health care marketing and PR types, but some of these take-aways can be applied anywhere.

  1. Social media is giving patients power. We’ve known for years that it gives consumers power by magnifying their voices (read: complaints). Patients with rare diseases are now using that power to band together to fight rare diseases, and that is a wonderful thing. This story about spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) from the Wall Street Journal is just one example. Doctors were dismissing the concerns of patients because they’d never seen their condition before; the patients went online and banded together, resulting in new clinical research about their condition. Lesson to marketers in health care: social media isn’t about you. It’s about your patients.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of humor and whimsy. And video. (Noted in a tweet from @MeredithGould ) We’re all human. It can be risky to use humor in a conversation about serious diseases. But when it’s done well, no press release, newsletter or Facebook post could possibly compare. Case in point: the Mayo Clinic Know Your Numbers music video parody of 867-5309, educating patients about preventing heart attacks by knowing the numbers for blood pressure, lipids and BMI. Lesson to marketers: don’t forget your audience is human. Tell a story, and have some fun.
  3. Content is what people are looking for online. And content is what they need to change their behavior. Not marketing. Patient communities are powerful, and they’re something hospitals have always done. The next step is extending those support groups online, to help more people. In marketing we call this reaching a broader audience, but we should never forget it’s about helping people. Across all age groups, 80% of us look for health information online. Health care communications reach people often in their darkest hours; we have a responsibility to make it as easy on our patients as we can, and truly help them. @chrisboyer created a community for expectant mothers (myhealthybaby.org) because patients weren’t looking on the hospital website for answers to their questions. Lesson to marketers: Communicate with people in the way they prefer, and seek to truly help them.
  4. Set aside an hour a week to think strategically. Both Chris Boyer and Julie Norris of @kptotalhealth mentioned this. Chris said—I believe in all seriousness—that if you don’t know how to measure your results, your successor will. You can’t measure without a strategy. And you can’t create a strategy or figure out how well it’s going if you never come up for air. We’re all busy, but this is one of those things you just have to make time for. You don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing with social media; the best way to learn is by doing. But you should have some goals in mind. Talk to your clinicians (doctors, or in other industries your operations people) and find out what their frustrations are. Can you address some of them using social media channels? Lesson to marketers: Keep track of both the forest and the trees; know your value to the organization, and share your results.

You can follow along for the final day of the conference (October 19, 2011) on Twitter #mayoragan. Attending? What are your take-aways?

Addendum: books recommended or mentioned by speakers at this conference. (Please comment if I missed one!)

Get Stuff Done: Silence = Acceptance

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Gray keyboard with green O and K keys

Silence = Acceptance.

If you’re not quite ready to ask forgiveness instead of permission, try this instead. Next time you need approval from someone (or a group of someones) not known for speedy responses:

  1. Tell them what you plan to do*
  2. State when you will do it
  3. Include something like “I wanted to be sure everyone had the opportunity to review our new ___ and provide feedback. If you have any comments or concerns, please let me know no later than September 9, as we plan to go live on the 10th.”
*Email works best, so you have proof that you informed them. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s always good to have a paper trail. Be sure to allow a reasonable amount of time for review; this will vary depending on your organizational culture and the length of time people will need to spend reviewing, but at least a couple business days is ideal.

 

On step 3, use collaborative language–you want buy-in, not resistance. This tactic not only allows you to loop people in, it allows them to self-select out. Maybe managers from other groups would like to know about a feature article before you post it to the website, but they don’t necessarily want to provide feedback. Trust me: they’ll let you know if there’s a problem.

 

Each week on Tuesday I’ll post quick tips that have worked for me (and occasionally, things that haven’t). Please feel free to share your own tips in the comments.  Have you found another way to get the approvals you need to get things done?