Thursday, December 31, 2009

6 Social Media Lessons From The Movie Avatar

Two things are on mind. One is the film Avatar and the other is Social Media. In the movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron of Titanic fame, there are several themes that are really very important and striking. But as I have become a Social Media Guy (and watching the movie for the second time this time in English and in 3D) I couldn’t help but coming back to the theme of interconnectivity and “networks”.

I have been reading Trust Agents and I just finished Chapter 7, “Build an Army”. The chapter starts off with the words “You Can’t Do It Alone”. This isn’t exactly original thinking or ground breaking writing on the part of Brogan and Smith but this is what the social mediums do for me and hopefully they do this for you as well. What I am referring to is the very effective repetition used in story telling. When that first shot in the movie is connected usually towards the end of the movie and you have that “ah-ha” moment.
In James Cameron’s Avatar the movie begins and ends with the main character opening his eyes. Another reviewer of the movie pointed out the theme of “seeing” in the movie. The love story involves the partners “seeing each other” and acknowledging that verbally. Watching the movie in English and Spanish “Te Veo” sounds p
rettier than “I see you” but in any language the idea of realization and understanding is powerful.
Building an Army requires understanding people. Whether you are building a force to promote your brand or building a force to protect your country there is no shortcut to creating a truly motivated team. You must understand your people and your clients. The US military would not work if it did not understand its recruits. Make no mistake; recruiting is a business and understanding the people that the military recruits is a multimillion dollar, if not multibillion dollar, enterprise.
So why is this important to you?
1. See/Understand your clients and you will make more money.
2. See/Understand your partners, employees, co-workers and you will be more effective.
3. Create a connected network and you will never be in the dark about what your stakeholders are thinking and doing.
4. Maintaining a working vibrant reciprocating network is vital to nature and it is vital to your family and of course it is vital to your business.
Lessons from Avatar:

1. Never rush a partnership / If you do, be prepared to respect your adversary
2. Seeing is believing / It is what it is / If you don’t understand let someone help you understand / Don’t be hardheaded
3. You can’t do it alone!
4. Being connected is better than not being connected
5. Make sure that when you share information that you do so in a respectful manner to all your colleagues (not just the ones that are in front of you)
6. Faith comes in many forms (you will need to find yours)
Please comment and pass this around if you found it interesting. Thank you for reading!

How To Use Social Media’s Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Social media is hot! Everyone is talking about the effects of Twitter and LinkedIn and how many users are on Facebook. But how do we utilize these sites for your business and your personal use? How do we turn the buzz into dollars for your company and for your personal gain? We know the social media sites are powerful and that you should be on them. OK, now what?

Which social media communication tool is the right one for you? Should you be on all of them? This is hopefully what I can help you with! There are many social media communication tools other than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There is Plaxo, Hi5, Friendster, Yammer, etc. A detailed list of Social Media site and their general audience can be found on this Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites. What sets the big three apart is there search engine optimization (big speak for Google and other Search Engine friendliness) and the heavy interaction and participation on a national and global scale.

Engagement. Before we can talk about joining a social network we must talk about engagement. Do not join Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn if you don’t have the time to use them. Don’t join them if you won’t make the time to learn how to use them. If your profile doesn’t have a picture of your smiling face or you with your product chances are you probably aren’t using Social Media correctly. In order to successfully gain from the online world you will first need to contribute your presence. Give yourself over to the “Matrix”. Fight for good within the system! Leave spam messages, and commercial messages at the door they are not welcome here.

Can you advertise your product? No. Can you talk about your product? Yes! There is a difference. Educating people and informing them about your services in a conversational and community excepted way happens all the time when you are out networking. They are not called “Social Networks” for nothing. Think about a cocktail party. Everyone is there spending there free time to enjoy the company of others and perhaps a delightful cocktail. Social Media works in a similar way. It provides interaction with your chosen community and provides delightful tidbits of intoxicating information. Would you go around the real cocktail party and advertise your yard sale handing out flyers? I have a feeling you would not. Would you bring it up in conversation with a friend or trusted colleague? You very well might! And if you have something that they need there is a very good chance that they will attend your yard sale. Social media works the same way!

Facebook is relevant to your business because there are 350 million potential customers on Facebook ready to link to your “Fan Page” or profile if you can garner their attention. Where else can you set up shop and have potentially 350 million people walk by who could possibly see and shop in your store? Numbers are powerful and if you have a product that is interesting and if you can engage Facebook communities in an interesting and engaging way those numbers will work for you. As in any business it is up to you to close the sale. How do you that? Make sure customers have a way to contact you and purchase your product.

Setting up your Facebook profile is very easy. Upload your picture and interesting personal information that you do not mind sharing with the world. This is really important as a general rule. Do not publish anything to the web that you are not comfortable seeing on the cover of every major Newspaper in the world. Do not publish your birth year if you do publish your birthdate. This is to help protect you from identity theft and ageism. If your intention with your personal Facebook page is to create business connections if you set privacy settings to be too strict there is not much point for having a page. The point of being on a social network is to socialize. Make sure you create difficult passwords and store them in a safe place to protect your online identity and brand.

LinkedIn is a great tool for business people to connect. My favorite part of LinkedIn is recommendations. For years I struggled with how to ask for recommendation letter and the struggle to have someone commit and feel comfortable providing one. Format issues always provide difficulty. Now with LinkedIn it provides a easy way for anyone to write a paragraph or longer recommendation with that person’s relevant job title and company and their relation to you. Bam! Problem solved! LinkedIn is a powerful business connection tool that allows you to display who you are and demonstrate it with evidence such as recommendations from other people and tools that allow you to post your presentations and more. LinkedIn is a bit of a closed network and is not as open as Twitter (which is wide open) or Facebook that really pushes friends to contact friends and so on.

Setting up your LinkedIn file is basically very easy but you will want to create a professional looking photo for your profile if you do not already have one. While it is not really expected for Facebook a professional photo for LinkedIn is! Have your resume ready and make sure you are not making common resume mistakes like not scanning for typos are including false or misleading information. LinkedIn users are very business savvy and will spot your inconsistencies and since the first people in your network will probably be those who know you that means the first people to look at your information and that will have some responsibility for helping you to gain trust from other colleagues will not want to recommend you or introduce you to other people. If you think people can be cold in real life imagine what they are doing on the other side of the glowing screen and they see something that looks ridiculous in your professional information.

Twitter is my favorite tool and it will be yours as well if you utilize it in interesting and creative ways. Creating a Twitter account is easier than most other sites. It requires very little personal information and beyond a Twitter name and password asks you to write a 160 characters about who you are. That’s it. Click your user settings, public of course. And you will be off to the races. OK. It might be a bit more difficult than that. You shouldn’t use Twitter to tweet. I know, you are probably saying, “What?!”. Twitter is a microbogging service which means people write 140 characters or less about “What they are doing?” are so the Twitter site says. But Twitter is much more than what people are doing. I am writing right now but I would not tweet that I was writing right now. What I would tweet is my work when I am finished. People will want to see what I have writer or they will not. Currently on Twitter I have over fifteen hundred people who have all decided @CameronToth occasionally posts some interesting things that I would like to check out. Many others have seen my tweets and sometimes have responded but didn’t think I was interesting enough to follow. And that is OK. The complicated part is how did those not following me see my tweets. How did at least 1,500 people see my tweets when they weren’t subscribing to them already. Well my friend that is the power of Twitter!

Setting up your profile is the easiest part of Twitter. What you will need in order to use Twitter more effectively is some party clients such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. These two are my personal favorites and make quite a Social Media Tool Team! There are many mobile Twitter tools as well and because many people have different phones and accessibility I won’t go into them. I will say using Twitter from a laptop is almost always much easier than from a mobile phone. While it is easy to broadcast messages it is not always easy to access links and create “trackable” links for your posts. I have gotten a little ahead of myself but I wanted make that point about mobile phones.

So how do people see your tweets. Join up and find communities. For the events community #eventprofs is a great community and event professionals will post links and comments and include the hash tag #eventprofs in their post. This is now trackable in Twitter and you can see it by searching on twitter for #eventprofs are creating a column in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for keeping track of that hashtag. #assnchat, #ISES, #Meetings and #MPI are all great hashtags to follow if you are an event planner or you are looking to interact with event planners. If you notice I did not use the word sell to event planners even though that might be the goal it should not be your intention. I have a website dedicated to Electronic Medical Record research and for posts on the corresponding Twitter account I use the hash tags #EMR, #Healthcare, #PHR (Personal Health Record), #HCR (Health Care Reform), etc. For the community that you are searching for it either exists already are you will need to create it. The #eventprofs community that is a vibrant one due to the regularly scheduled tweets on Tuesday nights and Thursday afternoon (Eastern Coast US Time) was created by an Event Professional by the name of Lara McColloch who goes by the Twitter name of @Ready2Spark. I feel very indebted to her for creating a great community on line that is responsible in many ways for writing this article now. When you create a community I imagine you will feel a great amount of accomplishment and a gain a great deal of credibility in that community. So you shouldn’t be afraid of stepping out on a limb. For those people who do and succeed we blindly follow. For those people who fail and try again and end up succeeding eventually, well we will end up blindly following them as well.

Lets talk about trackability. Bit.ly and ow.ly links both provide tracking. Bit.ly is provided by bit.ly.com and can be used very easily with Tweetdeck. But because Hootsuite helps me manage multiple Twitter accounts that I use and provides several ways to manage these accounts I prefer using Hootsuite and their ow.ly links. Now, what am I talking about? Well, I am talking about the ability to track ROI. I post links. A lot of the time those links are to interesting web pages and articles that I have come across. Google alerts is a great way to find interesting articles to post for your particular field or interest. Sometimes I post links to my business web page or to partners and affiliates that I am working on projects with. I can track how many times someone clicks the link. This lets me know how successful my efforts are. You can pay Google AdSense to drive hits to your website or you can work for it and build relationships with people on Twitter. As you get more people clicking on your posts they will do thinks like respond. They will “retweet” which means they will repost their message to their followers and their followers may very well “retweet” as well. This can be very useful when publicizing an event that you would think your online community would be interested in attending. Do you see where I am going with this?

Find your customers through Twitter search and engage them in real conversation. Provide excellent advice and customer service when it is called for. Soon you will realize that Twitter and Social Media in general helps to get you outside your familiar circle. It will help you expand the box of ideas that you have making it seem to others that your knowledge is unparalleled and always “outside their box”!

Check out this article for more ideas on how to Tweet: http://ow.ly/LnmX

Check out the Webcast this article was written for http://ow.ly/Q2sY Webcast was sponsored by Sonic Foundry and I recommend them for your next professional webcast. I sought them out to sponsor the webcast due to their level of quality and available interactive options.

Cameron Toth is a social media consultant, a program manager for a non-profit that works to prepare high school students for college and career and he is the Social Media Chair for the communications committee of MPI WestField Chapter. To comment on this article or contact him regarding his services please email him at SocialMedia@MPIWC.org

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Social Media Communication: Selling To And Changing The World

I have been reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julian Smith. The topic of the book has to with becoming a trusted agent for yourself or your company on the web. They advocate social media in a big way. They tote Social Media as a tidal wave that we can choose to ignore or ride. For those that ride the wave they will enjoy the benefits. For those that choose to ignore it they will see the effects all around them to the point where ignoring social media will be impossible.

One of the interesting things about social media is the lack of typical communication skills involved in face-to-face communication or even a telephone call. Those that are familiar with email know that language when not accompanied by body language and vocal tones can be very challenging. How do you write criticism and bad news in an uplifting and positive way? When we are face-to-face it is challenging but we have tools at our disposal. Our body language is conciliatory as well as our tone. We can stress the care and desire we have for the other to feel well about what is being said. It takes much more talent than most of us possess to communicate that same emotion I the written word.

In Trust Agents they say that typed language omits 93% of all human signals (38% vocal tones and 55% body movement). In today’s world I find myself communicating more and more with that 7% that is left. For sales people this can predict why face-to-face and telephone conversations can be so much more effective in closing a sale. For the rest of us we know why there is less confusion when we speak directly to those who we are trying to communicate with.

In Trust Agents, Chris and Julian also say that there are “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” and surely communication depending on who is communicating and their talent for written, vocal, and body signaling surely can change those numbers. I know some people who are not particularly talented at body language, others who need help to write a complete sentence and others who communicate much better on paper than when giving an actual spoken presentation.

Moral of the day is that communication is becoming more important as the world increases its connectivity. I am fascinated with Google Wave’s “Rosetta Stone” robot playfully named Rosy. You type in any language in a wave and I am able to read it in English. Similarly, I can write in English and instantly translate to Chinese to garner an audience or clientele in one of the biggest markets on Earth. Communication is the key to your next sale and it is also conveniently the key to world peace. As we all take steps to communicate with the world around us in the interest of business we may be creating an amazing bi-product of world communication that can help solve the problems of the world. It may be a bit far out and lofty but I love looking at the big picture and seeing how our small individual actions can effect great change. My Republican friends may cringe when they here this but to quote a recent campaign that was communicated very effectively through traditional and social media “Yes we can!”

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Show at Randolph - SBI College and Career Preparatory Institute

On December 17, 2009 Sound Business, Inc (SBI) College and Career Preparatory Institute held it's annual December Show and it was an electric and satisfying show. The lighting effects, audio production and stage management made the show work flawlessly. A special shout out to Vivien Bognot who helped to organize this show two months out from the show date.
Photo: Desi DVD @ Rehearsals
Performance coordinators along with Carolina Saavedra and Beatrice Hyppolite really helped to make sure that our fantastic performers were on task. Vivien along with Joanna Sanchez, Brenda Fantasia, Maryland Feliz, Stephanie Medina, Osvaldo, Christopher Wallace, Jamilla Lewis, Natasha Rosado, Aisse Magassa, and many others helped coordinate every practice which helped us prepare for an incredible show.
  • Our production crews for light and sound are amazing. Anthony Rodriguez was an excellent leader on Stage Management. Albert Then led the sound board responsibilities with the sharp talents of Javier Rodriguez behind him. Michel Mendez and Ariel German put together an amazing light show for the Randolph community's viewing pleasure. Geordano Abreu led the slide show effort with Christopher Wallace. Benny Calderon and Keagnia Saturria helped to record the show for the history books and we will have videos being uploaded into the new year.
  • PERFORMANCE GROUPS ROCKED THE HOUSE! Special shout to DESI for coming back from the brink of extinction to be one of the best acts in the show this year. Everyone is looking forward to Desi DVD staying in the game for a long time to come. May is looking brighter and brighter with each passing day! Sistas Only Step Team closed the show with a great team of ladies that stomped the stage into submission. West Indian DVD had the hottest music of the night and got the crowd moving. Latin DVD thrilled the crowd with the "Latin Flava" that only they can bring! Speaking of "flava", Urban DVD brought the city all around us into the building and pumped us all full of energy! World Beat DVD grew from a small little group of about seven people to twenty-five. They have a tradition of great costumes and they all looked fantastic on stage. Last but not even close to least, UB! United Brothers Step Team (UB) had the crown chanting "Uuuuuu Beeeeee". Hearing the crowd chant UB got my heart beating and really touched me. The power of their performance and the crowds reaction to them was just awesome.
Special shout out to the captains:
  • DESI DVD - Moury Akter & Bella Dapilma
  • LATIN DVD - Melissa Montano-Ariza & Elizabeth Rosa
  • SISTAS ONLY STEP TEAM - Monifa & Evelyn Alexander
  • URBAN DVD - Akosua & Genesis Garcia
  • UNITED BROTHERS STEP TEAM - Trevor & Selwyn Plunkett
  • WEST INDIAN DVD - Dominique SaintVil, NaDeja Lindsey & Fabu Cox
  • WORLD BEAT DVD - Crystal DeLaCruz, Jasmine Matos, Jennibeth Bencosme & Liane Guadalupe
World Beat DVD Evening Performance
video