Social Media, Clients and My Philosophy

photo credit: Darren Lewis
photo credit: Darren Lewis

As you all know, I am what I call a Social Media Gal. What that means for me is I get to work and play in this space for a living. What I enjoy most is sharing my knowledge with others through both community events and client interaction. Seeing those light bulb moments happen when an audience or a client recognizes the value social media could have on their business or cause is what I enjoy the most.

My philosophy when it comes to social media is that the folks with the boots on the ground should be the ones telling the story. We all know social media is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It is more like a newborn infant which needs to be watched and fed often. This “boots on the ground” philosophy does require the entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations I work with to invest in what I call the Three T’s:  Time | Team | Tools.

Time

Discoverability meetings, staff training and education, profile optimization, design, page creation, social media guidelines, response flowcharts et al., all take time to explain, understand and implement. Anyone who is delving into this social media needs to understand which platforms will work best for their needs, the use and languaging for each platform and how to participate in the space effectively.

Team

One of the decisions a company will have to make is who will be responsible for monitoring, posting and responding on their social channels. I stress the importance of this position so that they understand that every tweet, post and comment is a direct representation of their brand. This is not something that should be taken lightly nor maintained long term by an intern or someone who “will get to it when they have time”. So, making sure they have the person or team who can actively participate is key to the ongoing success of a company’s social media outreach.

Tools

The tools are fairly simple: computer, smartphone, tablet and of course internet access. Make sure your team members are equipped to represent and respond. You do not need all three to succeed, but removing barriers to access is important. You can post, audio record, live video stream, photograph and more all from a smartphone. I know some folks run their entire business from their phones. We are truly living in the Age of the Jetsons.

 

Not everyone I speak to is ready for this kind of commitment  That’s ok. There are plenty of companies that provide social media services who will do all the heavy lifting for you. They create, post and engage with your followers and fans on your behalf as if they were your brand. When I come across folks who want to hire me to “do it for them”, I smile politely and tell them, “I’m not your gal.”

Each company has what I call a unique flavor. In my mind the customers who frequent your company know how your receptionist answers the phone and how your team talks, walks and interacts with them on a daily basis. If your online presence doesn’t also reflect that same flavor then there can be some disconnect.

So, it should be no surprise that when I work with a client they are someone who subscribes to my “boots on the ground” philosophy and have put the Three T’s into action. In my line of work, I am fortunate in that I can be selective and choose the clients I enjoy spending time with and projects which interest me. One of the clients I have been working with for the last few months is Linda Elliott of Elliott Connection, LLC.

LInda Elliott, Connections Expert
LInda Elliott, Connections Expert

Linda contacted me when she made the decision to delve into the world of social media after she saw me speak at a local event last year. We had seen each other at events throughout the year so I already knew we got along. However, it wasn’t until we sat down to have our discoverability meeting I knew we would be a perfect fit. Linda is a Connections Expert and has a unique talent for finding the perfect partnerships for her clients. Personally, I would describe what she does as an elegant introduction. To experience it is to understand it. Once you have, you will never forget it. I know I never will (more about this in a future post).

As with all projects, you spend months building the platforms and training the team and then there is the moment when they are ready to go live. It is a true pleasure to share the news that today Linda Elliott is launching her Power of Connections blog. Wander over there, take a look and let her know what you think. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

…and that’s all I have to say about that

Building community is no easy feat. It takes a long time to create something where there was nothing before. Back in 2005, I heard about this thing called podcasting and was seeking local support. My husband suggested I create a MeetUp group in order to be a beacon for folks like me in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. I had no idea where that first step at building community would take me.

The San Antonio Podcasting group allowed me to connect with folks who were just as excited about podcasting as I was. It also became a place where we could educate and encourage the curious. We shared our knowledge with anyone who was interested in podcasting. The folks I met during those early years are folks that I consider my good friends to this day.

Back then most online interaction was either through our local meetup group or the larger far reaching Podcasters Yahoo group.  It was through these online interactions that I started meeting folks who were creating these events called Camp. I had never heard of it before and was intrigued. On Sunday, August 27, 2006 my life opened up in a whole new way. I attended my first unconference event,  Barcamp Texas.  This was my first introduction to how community building could extend past a city.The folks I met there were bursting with energy. I remember the discussion topics ranging from Ruby on Rails to podcasting to video blogging to leadership and much much more. The conversation was so rapid fire and varied. It was exhilarating.  I learned about all kinds of upcoming events and got connect with these folks online.

The next camp event I attended was in in March of 2007 and it was organized by these same folks. It was the first Barcamp Austin. I knew about this event with enough advance notice to include the podcasting group. I shared what I had gleaned from my experience in August and got a group together to represent San Antonio. It was during this planning phase the question, “When will we get a Podcamp in San Antonio?” was asked in an online discussion. You see Boston had just held the very first Podcamp in September 2006 and the idea of having an event dedicated to podcasting was very appealing.

We made the official announcement at Barcamp Austin about Podcamp San Antonio. We went back to San Antonio ready to make it happen but with no clue how. Up until then we had only been on the participant side of a camp. Now we were going to have learn how to be organizers of a camp.  Lucky for us we had folks more than willing to share their knowledge and insight to make this dream a reality. We sought out the advice of the folks who were doing it. The organizers of Barcamp Austin and Podcamp Boston were our models.

There had never been a camp in San Antonio. So the first challenge was to educate potential sponsors, participants and encourage folks who had something to share to join us. On May 19, 2007 the very first camp event in San Antonio was held. It was a labor of love for the all volunteer San Antonio Podcasting group. At the end of the day we were so appreciative of our wonderful sponsors and donors who made it possible to make this event free to participants.

The thing we knew about camp was this: It was a no-pitch zone, It was a Learn, Share, Grow event. Sponsors gave money to encourage and support community but did not speak or solicit business in any way shape or form. This was such a new and radical concept and so different from typical conference style events. The thing that made it different was that it was called an UnConference.

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations. Wikipedia

Once the dust had settled from our day long event, we knew that we would do this again. From that point on we have had a podcamp in San Antonio each and every year (4 so far). We branched out to organize Barcamp, Freelance Camp, TweetCamp, ActionCamp and more. Through camps we were able to come together to build community. It was absolutely wonderful.

I can honestly say it wasn’t all wine and roses. There were times I had to take a firm hand with folks to help them understand that although we were in possession of participant registration information, it was never to be used for non-camp purposes. I had great teachers and knew that to spam this newly found community would be counter productive to all of the collective efforts to build a community in San Antonio. We had to set ourselves apart from traditional events in order to succeed.

At every event folks came up to us and told us they never knew such a wonderful and giving community existed. By hosting events that encouraged the open sharing of concepts, ideas and knowledge a wonderful thing happened. It was like watching a newly born foal trying to stand up on it’s gangly legs. Our community was slowly but surely growing and learning to stand on it’s own. Most of the folks I consider my friends and peers I met through the camp community. I think most folks will say the same of me.

Fast forward a few years and the camp model as we know it is changing. I have always stood by the concepts I learned from those pioneers who introduced me to the unconference world back in 2006. Sponsorships have been the way for camps to maintain the free model. If the organizers are the brains of the operation and the participants are the heart of the event, then sponsors are the lifeblood that make it all possible.

There are plenty of fantastic sponsors ready to help support camp events. Finding these sponsors does take time. Bringing a camp into fruition is an all volunteer effort. I have never heard of an organizer getting paid for putting a camp together. The funds for the event held here in San Antonio have always come from sponsors and donors. Every single participant has attended for free.

Let me share a secret with you. It doesn’t take a lot of money to host a camp. Your biggest expenses are always the venue, shirts, badges, banner and maybe a lunchtime meal. I usually opt to allow folks enough time to manage their own mealtime expenses to keep costs down. Many times venues will either donate their space as sponsorship or the cost of the space can be translated to food or snacks for participants. I have always liked handing out a camp t-shirt and badge as participant take-aways. I love it when I see t-shirts of our past events around town. I still hear from folks who hold onto their camp badges as keepsakes. It is a reminder of their shared experiences. However, even then that is only if you have enough sponsorship to afford those items. The main purpose of a camp to Learn, Share, Grow. You don’t need a shirt or badge to make that happen.

For some unknown reason the free model is changing. I’m seeing camps charging fees to participants. It saddens me to think about how folks who are new to the camp concept are joining the party too late. The  free and open Learn, Share, Grow model is becoming less common. I’ve always held the belief that if you charged for an event it was called a conference, a seminar, a workshop. Those existing models work well if you want to charge for knowledge. Camp was called an UnConference because it was the opposite of a traditional conference in so many ways. A few of them being:

-No set speakers (whoever shows up creates the event)

-Open and free to all (sponsorship & donations made this possible)

-No pitch zone (before, during or after)

If you were lucky enough to attend one of these free events it changed the way you thought about San Antonio and started you on the journey to being a part of this wonderful and thriving community.

I feel for the folks who are discovering the camp concept for the first time in a pay for admission environment. I recently attended an event that had the word “camp” in it’s title and charge a $20 fee. It was different than what I would call a traditional camp. It had a keynote speaker, preselected speakers and topics. Attendees were not part of the creation of the event. So yes, it was different.

The challenge I face with folks using this concept to then take what was an existing free model and then turn around to charge an entrance fee while still crowdsourcing goes against everything I’ve held dear about camp over the last few years. It seems counter intuitive to charge a fee to participants and while asking them to create the event.

I reached out to my peers. I connected with the folks who led the way. The folks whom I consider to by my mentors. It seems that those folks don’t “do camp” anymore. For varying reasons many of the pioneers have opted out of creating camps. This has left a gaping void in communities far and wide. I understand why. As a pioneer, you want to lead the way. You want to show folks how to do it and do it right. You want to allow for each city event to have it’s own unique flavor. It really can be a wonderful thing to see something grow and blossom where before there was nothing. However, seeing the rules change for the folks who are new to the game has left me with a hollow feeling. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me.

I have been approached by several folks in the community asking me about this new pay to play model. There is disappointment and frustration coming from folks who understand camp. I had tried to stay away from what I knew is one of my hot button topics.

I have always believed that camps should be free.

I went on a recent rant about this and allowed my frustration to show through. Probably not the wisest decision I’ve made, but I’m not going back to delete those posts. To do that would be the opposite of being transparent. Being social sometimes means we don’t agree. It’s okay. Every family goes through challenging times. This is one of them.

The fact of the matter is that it takes work to make a camp a success. It takes time out of already busy schedules. Finding a venue, soliciting sponsors, encouraging folks to attend. It might seem easier to charge a fee to cover costs instead of working the sponsorship model.

Here’s another secret: Sponsorship for camps I have been involved in have started at $100.

Let me repeat this, “It really really doesn’t take that much money to create a camp.”

It is not about the shirts or badges or anything else. It is only about the Learn, Share, Grow.

Everyone I know has been lucky enough to be a part of this in a free model. It would appear the folks who are only now joining the party aka the late adopters will not be so lucky.

I’ve said my peace and ….. that’s all I have to say about that.

January 2010: You Are Still You

 

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get things right” ~Oprah Winfrey


With a new year comes the feeling of a fresh start. Which seems especially exciting if the previous year was less than stellar. I know some folks who could not wait to shake off 2009 like unwanted mud on the bottom of their shoes. Others were sad to see it go, but looking forward to what 2010 has in store. You can count me in with the latter group.

 

Good in = Good out

Regardless of which group we fit into, we still look at a new year as a chance to “get things right”. I refuse to look at 2010 as a way to fix real or perceived wrongs. I prefer to look at the glass half-full and tend not waste time worrying about things I cannot change.  It seems to me that we as humans are bound to do things that work well for us as well as things that do not work out well. The best thing we can do is applaud our successes and make a concerted effort to modify the behavior and decision making that was not successful.

Seems simple enough, right?

Do more of the things that are good for us and less of the things that are not good for us. By doing those two simple things our life should be golden. Sure, except for the fact that we are human and not robotic in nature. There will be circumstances good and not so good that will affect our decision making. Which over the long haul will once again result in some folks shaking off 2010 and looking forward to 2011 and so on.

So what is a human to do?

To begin with recognizing that we are human and will make good and bad decisions is key. Just because the calendar has changed doesn’t necessarily mean that our world has changed. We still live in the same place. We still have the same friends and business associates. We still have the same food in the fridge. Our health and physical fitness levels are still the same at 12:01am on January 1, 2010 they were at 11:59 on December 31, 2009.

 

Hope springs eternal

Let me reassure you this is not a doom and gloom post. Quite the contrary, this is a post of hope. Here are a few things that can help make far-fetched resolutions and goals obtainable:

•  First of all, be kind to yourself. The list of resolutions and goals you have made are wonderful. In a perfect world we would all be able to check them off in a manner so efficiently we would be the envy of everyone we know. In our imperfect world we’ll be lucky if our resolutions last through the month.

•  Second figure out what exactly constitutes success for you. Sure we all want to loose weight, but we could modify this by instead stating, “I will walk for 30 minutes 3 days a week and eat salad for lunch 2 times a week.” Stating this as a goal seems more manageable and certainly healthier for us in the long run.

Walking for a few days a week and a slight modification in a couple of meals doesn’t seem like a huge change, but I will bet that after 30 days of doing this you’ll feel a difference. Maybe not in pounds lost, but in energy gained. Plus isn’t a fitter more energetic version of ourselves something we would all like to see?

•  Third, take people on your journey with you. It may be a surprise to you that there are other folks who also want to lose weight or become more organized or ______________ (insert your goal here). Making a change with others is like having a helping hand. Being part of a group dynamic means that not only are we in this together but we have one another to lean on when the going gets difficult. We can rejoice in the success and encourage one another through the challenges.

 

Slow and steady wins the race” – Tortoise from The Tortoise and the Hare


One Step At A Time

My goals for this year revolve around organization, fitness, faith and family. The fastest road to failure would be for me make an extreme change and attack these goals all at once. Since I have always been a fan of the Tortoise method of thought, I have opted to slowly add the steps that will help me accomplish goals. By making small changes that will over the course of time lead me to make a lasting change.

I would love to hear the things you have done successfully or maybe not so successfully.  What are some of the small steps you are taking to make those resolutions turn into a lasting change?


image by Milo Winter