Twitter Lessons we Can Learn from Hope Solo

The public feud between US Olympic soccer player Hope Solo and Olympian-turned-commentator Brandi Chastain continues to make news as sports fans wait for the next salvo in a disagreement about the tone and content of Chastain's in-game commentary. It's not that Chastain is wrong, or Solo isn't entitled to her opinion, too, but sometimes these things are better handled in another way.

Hope Solo. JMR Photography.
For my part, I've heard announcers in gymnastics and ice skating provide commentary in much the same spirit, and it is a little critical. Still, Solo could have handled this differently.

Here's some things to consider next time you're tempted to start a public disagreement:

1) Does your beef really need to be on Twitter? This is the most public, unfiltered, exposed way you can start a conflict. Just because you need to say something, it doesn't mean you need to say it where else where millions of people will see or hear it. Solo could have just called Chastain privately and said, "Hey, we're all in the same gang, right?" I've heard Chastain be very complimentary to other teams - maybe she is just trying to avoid favoritism? A private talk could have cleared things up, but Solo lost her chance.

2) A little grace always makes you look better, and being defensive always makes you look bad. If Solo had held back, we'd all be talking about how hard Chastain is being on the team instead.

3) Do answer your critics, and consider what channels you'll use. Chastain has toed a firm line, saying she's "just doing her job," and has pointed out ways in which she's' complemented Solo's skills. She's resisted the temptation to get on Twitter herself and stuck to traditional corporate media to fit the image she's hoping to maintain.

4) Think about your audience. One of the many criticisms of Brandi Chastain's commentary is that it doesn't really tell the audience what's happening in the game. Does the audience really want to know what the team is doing wrong? Maybe a little, but most of us really need a basic guide as to which players are doing what.

How do you handle criticism of your organization? Please let me know in the comments.

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How to Feed the Social Media Content Beast

It can be really challenging to create, manage, and schedule content for your social feeds, especially if you work for a large organization where lots of people are responsible for delivering social media content, but few are actually held accountable for how often you post.

Feeding the social media content beast can be tricky
Social Media Beast. Photo: Doug Woods
Here's what I've learned about feeding the content beast:


Mine your email newsletters. If you work in an organization where several divisions publish their own email campaigns, you're in luck. This means each division is already identifying content that's important to them. All you need to do is convert their weekly headlines into social media posts.

Make a schedule. While it's always important that your social media schedule is flexible to accommodate breaking stories, it will give you important piece of mind to know that you have content available each day. Write multiple posts for each piece of content you promote so that you have some to save for later. We live in a 24 hour news cycle, but good stories are still relevant days, even weeks, after their original publish date. 

Repost and Retweet. Social media is a reciprocal environment. Identify partner organizations to your brand that you can share on your own social channels. Use Google Alerts to identify media clips and share those, too.

Share results. One of the best things you can do to motivate your organization to provide great content for social media is to show people what it does to support their goals. If you can explain how social media drives web traffic, sales, donations, or other support, you'll get more great content to share.

How are you feeding the content beast? Please share.

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Things You Can Do Now to Drive Sales, Traffic

It's easy to slip into the summer doldrums. People are on vacation, sales slow down, donations dry up, traffic disappears, and it's way too hot to do anything. Your business can't really take an extended leave of absence, so here's a few things you can do to get things moving again.

Don't get lazy about your marketing just because it's summer
Lazy Summer: Flickr user Cali4Beach.
1) Borrow a move from Target's playbook, and have a summer sale. If you get their emails, you'll notice that they had a Cyber Monday sale earlier this week. What's cool about this is that no one else is having that kind of sale right now - Target's event really stands out. Check out this little website for a list of things you can celebrate with customers.

2) Have a secret sales event for your best customers. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to give them discounts, either. Do you have new products that you haven't put out to the larger market that you can promote just to them for a short time, or limited stock of certain items? This is a great way to say thank you.

3) For you nonprofits out there, what about a summer friend-get-a-friend campaign? All you need to do is ask your donors and members to recruit friends to your mailing list, or to your Facebook page (preferably both). Then, when it's time for you to do your next round of asks, you have plenty of new names with which to work.

What are you doing to beat the summer blahs? Please share!


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How to Raise Your Level of Social Media Engagement

...or, Social Media, You're Doing it Wrong

There are a lot of social media skeptics out there - people who say that networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest are a big waste of valuable time. Common curmudgeonly statements include:

Social media isn't just about cats, it's about engagement on many levels.
Gratuitous cat. Photo: L. Ibraheem
  • "It's all about kittens and what people ate for lunch"
  • "It's all women planning fairytale weddings and picking out nail polish."
  • "It's just young dudes playing video games and sharing some kind of code."
  • "My mom/grandpa/auntie uses it to get photos of the kids. "
  • "It's not for business."

I think they're missing the point. It's true that people do all of these things with social media, but

They do a lot more.


Like:

  • Sharing and supporting meaningful social causes.
  • Watching video how-to's
  • Inviting friends and family to send caring messages to a loved one with cancer.
  • Creating and sharing original art.
  • Getting in touch with experts about sticky business problems.
  • Finding jobs and employees.
  • Discussing the news of the day, and new developments in almost any field.
  • Learning about subjects that interest them.
  • Just keeping in touch with friends.
So, if you're finding that people aren't really engaging with you on social media,

Can you help them do any of the things I just listed above?

I bet you can. If you're not sure how, drop me a line. I can help.

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Be Generous with Your Business


The New York Times recently reported that the key to happiness is giving to others. How can we apply this to our businesses? Here's five ways to give back:

From Flickr user ThisParticularGreg.
1) Help a less experienced colleague. People who do the same thing as you do are your partners, not just your competitors. Giving a little advice now and then is a way to make connections, give back, and great karma for later. Now is also a good time to look at how you're mentoring your own employees.

2) Give a customer a break. Have a difficult order with a return problem, shipping issue, or an "I'm just not happy" problem? Make that customer's dream come true. Give a full refund. Extend your return policy. Waive the shipping charges. Send a replacement for free. A little goodwill now will get you a customer for life.

3) Embrace your community. Do you reply to posts on Facebook? Do you retweet your customers' tweets? Do you help the recent college grads who follow your company on LinkedIn? Social networking is a two-way street. Don't just broadcast, contribute. You'll find that your Facebook wall becomes a vibrant community.

4) Get your company involved in local good works. How involved are you in the community where you live? It's easy to ignore our hometowns when we do all of our business online. Can you support your local Girl Scout troop? Kids' softball team? Food pantry? Get out there with your employees and find a way to help out in the community you call home.

5) Get your customers involved in good works. Ask them to donate to a good cause whenever they order, or just to support a favorite charity anyway. Donate a portion of their order to charity. Make it easy for them to share with their friends on social networks. 

How are you giving back? Please share in the comments.

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Four Steps to Writing Copy With Passion

Whether you run your own small business or you're getting the word out about a worthy cause, a little passion goes a long way. If you're getting stuck while writing your next donation appeal, e-mail newsletter, or Facebook post, passion might be what you need.

Ready to write. From Flickr user Rob Pearce.
Here's four steps to adding a little passion to your copy:

1) Get rid of distractions, take a deep breath, and really think about why you got into your business in the first place. What did you what to achieve? Who did you want to help? Write it down. These are the seeds of the story you're going to tell today.

2) Now, ask yourself, "Why should people care?" Why do people need to donate to your cause, buy your product, or tell a friend about it? This is deeply connected to your answers to the first question. When you understand why you care about something, you can understand why everyone else should care.

3) Now that we've covered the whys, now let's get back to the what. What's the goal for the message you're writing today? To let people know about a great new product? To inform your audience about needy children who need help? To thank people for staying loyal to your business? When you understand the message goal, it's easier to write with passion.

4) Now, tie it all together. Explain why you care, tell others why what you care about is important to them, and then ask them to act. This is the root of your message and you use these passionate statements to write the appeal, newsletter, Facebook post, or anything else you're writing today.

Did this work for you? What do you do when you have writers' block? Please share in the comments.

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It's Time to Think About Your Holiday Promotions

We've had some record heat lately, so it can be challenging to think about silver bells, holly trees, and frosty air. But if you don't plan your holiday promotions now, you can be left without the homey glow of candlelight to keep you warm. Today, you need to make a list and check it twice - whether you have a retail business, a non-profit, or any other kind of operation:

Holly, from Flickr user Arquera.
1) What are your goals for this holiday season? Some retailers get up to 40% of their annual sales during the winter holidays and the end of the year is peak time for most non-profits as people want to be generous and be sure to have their tax deductions ready. Do your financials and figure out what you need to bring in.

2) What's your strategy for reaching that goal? Are you going to start before Halloween, as more and more retailers do? Are you going to peg big sales/donation drives to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa? When do you expect to meet each goal milestone? Are there particular items that are going to drive most of your sales? Do you have an overarching theme?

3) What tactics are pegged to those strategies? Is it the 12 toys of Christmas? Give for Thanksgiving? How are you going to use email, social media, your web site, your telepresence, videos, traditional mail, and everything else in your arsenal to support your strategies?

4) What do you need to do now? If your major holiday promotion is tied to polka dot ties, you need to make sure you have them, and their displays, packaging, and shipping materials, in stock soon. If you're going to be sending out holiday cards to donors, you need to get these designed and ordered now. If there's some heavy lifting to do on your web site that your in-house staff can't do, think about what you need and talk to a consultant now. Lots of us are busy during the holidays and we'd much rather help you today.

What are your holiday plans? Please share.

How to Design a Great Email Newsletter

It's never a bad time to take another look at your email program and see if it could use a bit of a facelift. Here are five key factors to consider when retooling your email design.

From Flickr user Howard Dickins.
1) Digestability. I received a newsletter today that had more than 20 different articles in it. It was just too much. What three or four things should readers pay attention to and why? It's your job to tell people what's important.

2) Sharability. Are all of your articles sharable on social networks? They should be.

3) Consistent branding. Does your email match your web site? Consider replicating your top menu at the top of your stationery and using some of the same graphical elements. Readers who click from your email to your web site should feel like they are still dealing with the same organization.

4) Reader experience. Readers click on a link from your email, and then what? They read the content you're promoting, and then what? Think about your goals. Do you want readers to enjoy your content and then share it with friends? Buy something or donate? Attend an event? Always have your overall organizational goals in mind when you create the landing pages for your emails.

5) Visual appeal. Sometimes it doesn't seem right to spend your hard-earned cash on photos or a graphic designer, but it's a sound investment. A well-designed email makes your brand look the way it should and leads the reader through your content the way you want them to.


What would you change about your email program? Please share.

Need help updating your email strategy? Drop me a line - I can help.

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Twitter: Hey Dominion Virginia Power, You're Doing It Right

Last week, I gave Morgan Stanley Smith Barney some pointers on using Twitter a wee bit more authentically.

This week, I'd like to extend some props to Dominion Virginia Power, which used Twitter in a highly effective manner to keep more than 900,000 customers informed who were affected by power outages which began as a result of a derecho storm on June 29th.

Since the outages began, the folks who are in charge of Dominion Virginia's Twitter feed have been Tweeting pretty much non-stop, and they've done a great job using these tactics:


  • Replying to pretty much every Tweet that's sent @DomVAPower. Their feed is full of @this and @that, and they do their best to answer every question.
  • Referring people to the right resource. Sometimes customers are directed to call and report an outage; other folks are referred to press releases, interactive maps, or web pages that show outage status. Dominion uses the resource that best matches the questions customers ask.
  • Partnering across the organization to get content out. Dominion is able to send customers to online resources that tell them what they need to know because the people who manage their web site are making those updates available non-stop, and the rest of Dominion's organization is working to get this information to their online team.
  • Keeping the right tone. Dominion celebrates when we're happy our lights are back on and sympathizes when it's 100 degrees out and we still don't have A/C. I didn't see any tweets where they became defensive, inappropriate, or unhelpful.
  • Being authentic and real. It's clear to me that real people run Dominion's Twitter feed and I appreciate them being available non-stop until everyone gets their power restored.
 
What's your takeaway?
  • For certain types of businesses, Twitter can be an effective customer service tool.
  • During an emergency, Twitter is a great way to let people know what's going on right now.
  • Since everyone can see your tweets, you can answer many customer questions by replying to one tweet.
  • Even though it took three days for Dominion to get power back on in my neighborhood, I still felt like they were doing their best. I knew they were on top of the situation because I could see what they were doing any time I checked their Twitter feed. I felt like Dominion was paying attention to the situation and that I could connect to them if I needed to. 
  • Dominion uses its Twitter feed to show that it cares about its customers. Do you do that with your feed? How many of your tweets are broadcast news ("Check out our new...") and how many are conversations with customers? It might be time to tweak that ratio a bit.
What do you think about Twitter for crisis communications and customer service? Let me know in the comments.

Need help making your Twitter feed more nimble, authentic, and useful? Drop me a line. I can get you moving in the right direction.

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