Social Media: Censorship Not Welcome Here

A disturbing censorship trend is manifesting itself in social media in which people attempt to shut down content they don’t like by saying it doesn’t belong on a particular social network.

I myself have advocated that if you share cute puppy videos on Facebook, you don’t want to do the same on LinkedIn (unless you run a veterinary clinic). That’s just good judgment.

But, a reaction to a LinkedIn media post really stuck in my craw. A digital media specialist posted an article entitled The Video Selfie That Changed the World, pegged to the Facebook Live video created by the girlfriend of a man shot by police in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. To me, the headline was brilliant and the exposition in the article well considered and argued.

Well, of course, some commenters were downright caustic in response, contending that the subject matter does not belong on LinkedIn. Which subject matter, exactly? The topic was how real-time video on social media has become a driving force in digital media today and is rapidly changing how society disseminates and receives information, whether from journalists with news outlets or from citizens on the street. I believe those offended disliked that the content’s context is difficult: a dying man, police shootings, law enforcement challenges, the Second Amendment and civil rights, politics and, above all, racial divides in the United States. The video is also all about something central to American civics: the First Amendment.

the Medium is the message

Well, any college-educated person should be up to the challenge of contemplating societal challenges that impact our governance, a free society, education, the economy and the body politic. Still, many commenters were outraged that LinkedIn has become like Facebook and lamented that LinkedIn should only be about business, i.e., professional development and career advancement. To which I say, this video’s reach is of extraordinary interest to people in digital communications.

If you work in social media, communications, etc. and want to understand how impactful content becomes far-reaching, then you know why this examination belongs on LinkedIn. The medium is the message and the medium is now in everyone’s hands.

Eons ago, when I was in journalism school, a professor marveled how in the future we would dispense with newspapers and instead carry around small digital displays to read news stories. What was not predicted at that time (the early 1990s) was that we all would be able to immediately broadcast video to the multitudes via these handheld devices. That is still incredible to me. It is intensely powerful as well, as evidenced by the reaction to this particular video.

Here is the paradox: people want to be able to consume, immediately, whatever information they are looking for online, but they don’t want everyone to be able to post whatever they want. It’s called the free marketplace of ideas. If you’re not buying an idea, you cannot tell the purveyor of that notion that they must can it. If you are offended, you can just move along to subscribe to ideas with which you agree. An informed society – our democracy and the economy – requires such a free marketplace of ideas to make good decisions and action plans. Transparency is vital to business decisions as well. The next time you think a discussion doesn’t belong on a given social network, ask yourself why not? It might be vital to other people’s businesses. If so, let them have that discussion. It is for the betterment of a free market.

For more information about content in the digital age, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

How to Decide Which Social Media Marketing is Right for Your Business

When it comes to deciding how to go about starting social media marketing for your business, start by determining what aligns with what you sell. For example, if you own a restaurant, you ought to be on Yelp and Facebook because that is where diners seek information on local eateries. Moreover, before you pick which social media suits your business, find the medium that matches your strengths. It also is a matter of which media you will enjoy using. Are you a raconteur? Then maybe podcasts are the way to go for your storytelling. Do you like video? Would filming what you do make sense to convey to customers and prospects what the value is in your product or service? For example, I recently came across on Twitter a link to a YouTube video of a bathroom remodel. The craftsmanship and diligence on display was absolutely mesmerizing. Seeing how much knowledge and skill went into preparing the shower installation, I would certainly understand if the job quote from this contractor came with a significant price tag. I would certainly see the value. I would also trust the contractor because his video showed exactly what happens behind the scenes, behind the tile and under the shower. See if you are comfortable in front of the camera. Just try it on your phone to test the waters. If not yourself, is there something about your process you could put on video? Video, obviously, has become a constant in digital marketing for a good reason: it is compelling to viewers.

Good Writing Matters

Same goes with still images. The greatest blog in the world might go unnoticed if it isn’t accompanied by a picture – even something as simple as a photo of the author. Are you or someone on your team a strong writer? Which social media call for good writing? All of them really, but clean, tight, illustrative and professional writing is especially important on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Even Pinterest requires strong writing for catchy, inspirational or informative captions for the images that people pin. The eye-catching and addictive Pinterest is popular with women who craft, cook and shop, but it has other useful applications, such as organizing and sharing business guidelines, study guides and consumer instructions. Are there product guides you could easily share with Pinterest that would be helpful to customers and prospects?

Map Out Your Social Media Campaign

Plan what you want to get across in social media marketing and at what time. If your business has seasonal cycles, this is simple. Decide who from the business is going to contribute to creating content and give them a schedule with firm deadlines. There is a saying that nothing would get done if not for the last minute. If people don’t have a deadline, they will not perform. Set a schedule, period, no, ifs ands or buts.

Don’t Tell the Whole Story

There are a few reasons not to make your content the be-all, end-all of your subject matter. First of all, you don’t want to give away the farm. Instead, you are giving people a reason in their shopping decision-making process to proceed further with your business. Besides, the be-all, end-all is simply too long for social media and blogs. Set out to write 500 words. This is approachable for your reader and easier for your time management.

Social Media is a Two-Way Street

Digital marketing is not an add-on or an elective anymore – it’s a basic necessity in validating your business. It’s like the lottery, you need to be in it to win it. No one will find you if you are not putting yourself out there. Social media, blogs and websites provide validation for your business. If a word-of-mouth referral is given by a happy customer for your wonderful business, then what will that prospect find online about you? An old website? A social media account with no activity? You want to be engaged to show you are active and give customers a strong sense they get what you are about. You should also set aside time to follow others, including competitors, in your sphere of influence. Social media is a source of news about your business space. Where did a competitor open a new location? What products are customers seeking? Be in the social media loop to be part of new trends and growth for your business.

To Post or Not to Post on Social Media about Politics

There’s an old saying that politics and religion should not be discussed in a bar. Many extend that logic to LinkedIn and want to stop seeing political or religious opinion memes on this professional networking social media channel.

What if politics or religion is your job? By all means, post on trends and crucial issues in your sector. (Exception: I previously lived in Washington and the neighborhood bar always had C-SPAN or CNN on the TV because politics was the business of its patrons and that’s pretty much all they discussed. But not religion.)

What if geopolitics affects your market? For instance, if you are engaged in global shipping, then a pirate attack on a tanker matters in your business and it would not be out of place at all for you to post on pirates, whereas that would be irrelevant or off-point for many other professions. Similarly, if you work in financial and commodity markets, terrorist attacks can move market prices, so posting about terrorism news and analysis makes sense.

Be judicious. Don’t post something that a reasonable person could deem as inflammatory. Ask yourself, is this content something I would feel comfortable saying in a boardroom meeting? At the coffee machine? To a customer?

But, if you are selling something outside the political and global market realm, stop and ask yourself if all your clients, prospects and colleagues really want to know your emotional response to a political candidate. Remember, LinkedIn is for business, not personal discussions. Do you discuss your dog or cat on LinkedIn? Your favorite recipes? I didn’t think so.

Exceptions
Social media is important for business, and even if you are not a political consultant, you may have good reason for a political post.

A business news story by a major news outlet about economic policy considerations of candidates, such as trade policy, would make sense to post if your business directly involves global trade. Do you manufacture products in the United States for export? Are you in shipping, finance or otherwise exposed globally? Great, go ahead on post on trade policy concerns. There are other areas where the intersection with terrorism is inevitable: airlines, travel agencies, etc.

If you really feel compelled to vent or otherwise express your political views in a way that may be inconsistent or counterproductive to your business needs, then use Facebook with the privacy settings adjusted to your intended audience. Remember though that everything digital is captured and can be shared, so ask yourself is there anything you are saying that would embarrass you? If so, perhaps you need to be asking yourself additional questions about why you think something and whether you are correct.

The United States is a free country and as a former journalist, I am an ardent supporter of the First Amendment. Just bear in mind that there are limitations on speech in terms of consequences. Libel, hate speech, etc. are not protected from legal liabilities. If someone really doesn’t like your content, they may drop you from their sphere of operations, which is their prerogative in this free marketplace of ideas. The question is, did you want to lose them?

For more communications consulting, contact Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives.

Hi-touch Marketing vs. the Dreaded Spam

When it comes to online marketing the most important thing is your audience. Who are you trying to reach and did you speak directly to them? Here I’d like to walk through some DOs and DON’Ts.

One of my online groups is for fellow alumni and one fellow in particular has been apparently grating on people’s nerves by uploading his client letters to this forum when the content has little or nothing to do with the school, alumni networking or other alumni career discussions. He’s received online pushback… and, he says, some support. One commenter urged discretion when it comes to social media etiquette: yes, it may be a career social media platform, but the group is for alumni of a specific school and the content should specifically relate to that affinity community.

Likewise, ever wonder why a Facebook friend is selling a product on their personal rather than business page? Humans crave categorization and we tend to get bent out of shape when people don’t follow the mores of those categorizations.

The right note to the right people

If you are going to solicit business through social media, consider which one when you go about it. For LinkedIn, you can post a blog link to your profile or post a commentary to LinkedIn Pulse. That blog should showcase your expertise in a field without the brash tone of a late-night TV ad (“act now!”). If you are seeking new business, then use a direct message or email to a specific individual, not a blanket note to Planet Earth.

I sat in on a marketing webinar that basically suggested sending such notes to as many people as possible on LinkedIn that have some connection to someone you know in your target market. Make that even more targeted and send it to people you actually know. A career coach I know advocates that you ask people you know to introduce you to others on LinkedIn who are in your target market. Again, ensure they really are the right kind of referral, i.e., they actually know each other and that person can qualify the referral, or at least offer to make a non-committal introduction.

Plus, don’t just ask for their business; tell them what you are doing and whether they know someone who is seeking such services. It may actually be the recipient of the note himself. If he doesn’t know anyone, you haven’t pressured him to do anything. At the very least, the next time someone he knows mentions they are in the market for what you sell, he may recall that and pass along your contact information.

Yes, sometimes it’s just better to pick up the phone. Yet, we all benefit from the written word in digital channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. You want to get your message out to the right people at the right time. These online posts also serve to reinforce your message.

Let’s not pretend to be too personal

In 1990s, I paid close attention to how bankers went after new investment management clients, something they needed to ramp up after brokers and insurers starting coming aggressively after the high net worth individuals who were used to big bank trust companies taking care of all their needs. One trust company touted how they were using variable data printing on high-end paper stock with embossed lettering to look just like personalized stationery in their direct mail campaigns to ritzy zip codes. That’s lovely, but if the recipient doesn’t know you, does it really matter how fancy the lettering is? Not unless the content has a great proposition, such as an invitation to a cocktail party with an esteemed speaker. For the most part, leave the personalized stationery approach to actual personalized stationery when you send a real contact a real thank-you note.

Treat your email as marketing

When you dash off an email do you read it before sending? Include greetings and salutations? It is considerate? If your email is sloppy or comes across as rude, it could be hurting your image. Take that extra moment to ensure it reflects well on you with a professional tone, economy of words and courtesy. Email is marketing and it lives forever. It is also oh-so-easy to share, so don’t write anything that would embarrass your business.

Tweet, tweet, tweet

It is OK to toot your own horn on Twitter, but there are some optimal ways to fashion these highlights of your business or area of expertise:

  • Exciting event announcements
  • Informed observations and insights
  • Helpful tips
  • Celebrating someone else’s accomplishment
  • Linking to a news story about you or your field

Tone and place

There is a tone and place for everything. Twitter lends itself to a convivial tone, but it might not transfer well to LinkedIn, where posts tend to strike an even professional tone. Think of the difference between breakroom banter and boardroom strategy sessions.

For more information on enhancing your business communications, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Adroit Narratives