Ethics and Censorship in Social Media, Part 1

author’s note: this is a repost cause I accidentally deleted my blog! Thank goodness for backups!

I personally believe in all writing, decision making, and expression, there is an inherent bias.  As impartial as we all claim to be, our experiences, environment, nurturing all affect our expressions.  As such, we enjoy reading our blogs and other irreverent commentary, because we can pick and choose what bias best calls to our own.

I believe that this is also the major reason for the decline in print media.   Every newspaper is pretty much a blue-chip commodity anyway (ask yourself what can you buy for $0.50 these days).   But I feel the decline is because print media it is not speaking to its core audience.  (Which by the way, I also believe if you do start losing your audience, it’s helpful to look at yourself to figure out what you are doing to lose them, rather than blaming the competition) Traditional print media I also feel has lost some credibility, in the face of other available opinions and media.   This says nothing about the quality of the work that Print media produces; however, it calls to human nature.  Which is ‘perception is reality’

Then there is the ethics debate, which gets really messy.   I actually enjoy this debate, because the line between a ‘journalist’ and a ‘blogger’ is blurring.   Not to mention, there seems to be one thing separating the two, and that is an ‘ethics’ code voluntarily in place by journalists.   There is also a call for ‘ethics’ for bloggers, if nothing else, more disclosure in reviews and opinions.

Ethics you say?  I thought that was the benefit of being a blogger.   The kind of arm-chair quarterback talk, the unfiltered opinion.  Ethics?  Who needs them!    Why would you trust a journalist over Michael Moore, for example?  Over any other blogger turned subject matter expert?

I think some rules, generically need to be applied to any kind of print medium.   I believe these rules become even more important when compensation is involved.  I believe people would care less about the opinions of others, but if someone is being paid to present an opinion and touted as an expert, people feel as if they are owed some kind of justification.   I’ve read plenty of articles and blogs where I don’t see any kind of standard or ethics involved.  Not to mention, some are riddled with affiliate marketing links, so I feel the person isn’t writing for the audience, but for the revenue.

When would marketing and advertising be okay for a blog? (That’s a whole other article) When would it be okay, say for myself, to ask for compensation for the content of my blog?  And what type?  The answer seems muddy for many of my blogger friends.  Me personally? I’d prefer to build my audience and provide as much value as possible.   I want that audience to eventually hire me and my firm to do work for them.  Heck, I wouldn’t even mind some of my articles being re-used on other sites.  I also toyed with the idea of doing review postings (i.e. Product Reviews) and pointing to an Amazon Affiliate link, saying clearly that it’s my Affiliate link.  (I believe this is the Chris Brogan approach, but I could be wrong).   But the idea would be it would be clear it’s a promotional (or ‘puff’ piece) on a product or service, and it would be used sparingly.

Part 2 continues in the next post

7 things NOT TO DO with your online Social Media Presence

With Social Media, people have the greatest opportunity to market themselves and expand their networks at a rapid pace.  However, with this new channel of communication comes a different level of dialogue.   Some conventions we have used in the past when information was not accessible do not apply in Social Media.   We cannot assume that no-one else is paying attention, or can hear your voice.

These are some conventions that EVERY Brand can use.

DO NOT gripe about your current employer / DO NOT bite the hand that feeds.

An employer who knows or sees any dissent among the ranks, especially without prior knowledge of said issue can be grounds for termination from your place of employment.  It is a good etiquette and practice not to burn bridges anyway, but online, the damage can be residual if future employers decide to look through your previous status updates.

DO NOT gripe about specific people or brands.

Calling someone out over a social media line of communication is really bad form.  Not only does it damage the other person’s brand, but it also damages your reputation as someone who doesn’t respect boundaries.  Take every precaution to deal with issues and conflict offline.   Escalating an issue should be a last resort, and there are plenty of resources to gripe about brands with authority.

DO NOT gripe about relationship issues, especially during legal matters.

Again, this is more of an etiquette rule.  Relationships don’t work out, for whatever reason.  Burning bridges and ‘letting everyone else know too’ is also bad form.   This become more prevalent in legal matters, especially divorce.  Even ‘relationship status’ changes can be tracked and used against you.

DO NOT incrementally update your whereabouts.

This is a common sense rule concerning your safety.  Some enterprising young thief may follow your Social Media presence to find out when you will be away for extended periods of time and take advantage of the opportunity.

DO NOT share your physical address online unless absolutely necessary.

Just because we’re sharing information about our lives online is not a license to trust that the information shared will be used by the intended audience.  Following this, posting all sorts of personal information is not recommended, especially if you plan on being found.  Follow the safety rule of if you want to meet someone, do so in a public place.  If you’re having a party at home, share the location privately.

DO NOT share pictures, photos or art that could potentially incriminate or embarrass you.

While it was a fun bachelor or bachelorette party that you attended with your friends last year, or the trip to Cancun that you were wasted, those pictures should not be shared online.   If someone chooses to share a picture of you (or tag it in facebook, etc.) request that friend to take it down or de-tag yourself from the photo.   Make it a policy if you or anyone else wishes to engage in those activities to respect your online boundaries.  Repeated violation of this boundary usually leads me to block any access the offender has to my brand.  (One picture of Michael Phelps smoking weed destroyed his reputation and credibility as a Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record Breaker, think about that)

DO NOT immediately react to negative spin or press.

Think about it before you respond.  Most of the time, the other person wants to vent and get out his or her frustration.  He or she chose to do it in an immature and petty fashion online.   People online have a tendency to say things they normally would not say in public due to perceived lack of consequences.  How you respond can make or break your brand / reputation.   A rule of thumb is that unless the message is being broadcast on your brand (i.e. your wall, facebook page, etc. ), it’s a safe bet to ignore the online bait, take the opportunity to contact the user directly or offline, and then post the resolution as a reply.

Be CAREFUL what you say online.  MONITOR your brand closely.  If you don’t, your customers and your competitor’s are defining the message FOR YOU.

The Event Planner’s Dillemma in the age of Social Media

(and my first ‘rant’ post)

NOTE: This post is partially inspired by Blagica’s article

http://www.blagica.com/2009/03/nightlife-promoters-club-owners-and-lounge-hosts-there-is-no-velvet-rope-in-social-media-get-over-it.html

NOTE 2: I am ranting here.   I will not name names, but I would like your input and comments.  Someone rubbed me the wrong way so I’m trying to bring constructive action to it.

To preface my post, let me start by what my current dilemma is.

I recently delved into Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” book, and one of the chapters is dedicated to courting Public Relations members and Journalists.  I felt a cringe as I realized that eventually I would run into this.  The most successful connectors that I know, and love, all host their own events and clubs.  Keith suggested putting together bi-weekly dinner parties.   I was instantly reminded of my disdain for the majority of the Nightlife/Event Planner types that I meet.

I put most Old Guard Nightlife types in the same vein as Old School Salesmen.   If you’re not buying from those sales guys, they want NOTHING to do with you.  With the Nightlife types, if you’re perceived as a value taker without giving them something first (bottle service, hordes of cute girls, or flaming their collective ego’s), then they want nothing to do with you.

My experience stems from being a part of both industries, Event Planning and Nightlife.  I was a DJ for a few years and moving up the ranks to be part of the scene.   However, what I ran into is what I felt was the ‘old guard’ of the industry.   For some reason, I’m not ‘cool’ enough to be part of the scene, and thusly my rise stopped wherever it was determined.  It’s kind of sad to me, considering it’s like the revenge of the nerds.  Even worse, in the long run IT DOES NOT MATTER.  And most of those people (mostly the IT girl of the moment, and most aren’t even THAT cute) are a dime a dozen.  To quote Blagica “we can easily find another party to attend, or better yet, create our own.”

I get invites from 4 or 5 people on Facebook for EVERY weekly event they throw, regardless of what I replied to on the previous event.  In addition, the past and present email blast lists I get for events are filtered to a folder from my inbox and marked read.  What I feel is that these blasts are a bit disingenuous.   Not to mention that on Facebook, I didn’ t OPT-IN to be invited to every event. (Worse still, my blackberry synced with Facebook does reminders for all of these events whether I said yes or no).   One particular planner scheduled an event for 2 months that was only for a few days out of that span.   I was not a fan of having the event being listed first on every scheduled calendar I saw.

There are a few event planners that have wrote personal emails to me about their events, and I focus more on trying to attend those than the ones that get blasted.  Not to mention, there are events that I do get blasts from because the general vibe and scene is that everyone gets value from it and is looking forward to the next event.   For the aforementioned old guard nightlife types, they may have 5-10k people on their lists, but only 5-10 people show up.

I’ve tried at various points in my career to be an Event Planner on my own accord.  I’ve done it for other companies and entities, but I’ve had very little success on my own name and presence alone.  I want my event invites to be less disingenuous and more value oriented.  In addition, my perception is that I don’t want to be the old guard nightlife type.  I want to be all encompassing and welcoming.  My goal is to get to the super-connector status that we all love and dream of.   Having the biggest numbers seems to be irrelevant.

I hope to gleam from other people in the industry and throw really good parties.  An age old challenge with a recurring theme appears before me.

To your Success in 2009!

Personal Branding

I hate buzzwords.

I’ve made a decision. A rather bold one for my tastes, but regardless.

I’ve decided to drop all the various handles I have online, and just brand myself and my image for various things.

While I created my company awhile back, DLW Consultants, it’s sort of evolved. When I started, it was a joint-venture between myself and a few people I wanted to start the company with.

What I realized however, through feedback and whatnot, that at this point, I AM the company. (Talk about drinking the kool-aid, no?) And that what I’m selling is myself. I very rarely talk about my business (except in the beginning).

I want to make connections, and connect those people with other connections. I want to make money as well, there is no doubt about that part. But to me, it’s much more fun this way. Especially when I realized that you really don’t need a company name to be a ‘brand’. Which is awesome.

And so, I probably will end up de-linking my dlw site. Or turning it into a online business card, one of the two. The new company now is just myself. Me. I really don’t have any catchy one-liners or money-back guarantees.

This does a few things for me, if I decide to develop a company, I can hire someone else to maintain the brand. I don’t have to be in two places at once. The articles that I would have wrote for the DLW blog now are going to be on this site and this blog, in a separate category.  Not to mention, closing both my original Livejournal page and my MySpace page was an awesome feeling.

I do believe however that developing my personal brand is a dual edge sword. It requires diligence on my part to maintain my image. Not to mention, that if I make a mistake, I have that much more of an incentive to make things right and be honest.

I’m sure that other people will come along the way and help me to greater heights as far as my brand goes. But for now, it’s a huge sigh of relief, and a push into a new frontier.

To your success in 2009!

Watch your snobbery!

So I wasn’t familiar with the term ‘geek snobbery’ until quite recently.

Until then I was wracked with guilt when I dealt with it, I always assumed it was something I did.  At the same time I lamented the mechanics of it, and vowed to get revenge against being snubbed.  The other call was for the end to ‘high school drama’ and petty politics.  (Sounds familiar doesn’t it?)

Quite recently at my last conference, I was faced on countless occasions of being snubbed.   As it seems, I’m not part of the ‘cool clique’ anymore.

Then again, I’m getting older and wiser.  Being part of the ‘cool clique’ is not on my list of things to do this afternoon.  Tomorrow isn’t looking too good either.

My point is this.  Although we are tribal and have a tendency to create communities of like-minded individuals (i.e. sub-cultures), we have to fight the urge and tendency to be exclusive.  Not that we cannot be selective of who we include in our tribe, but the ‘snobbery’ limits our success and fruition of said tribe in pretty dramatic ways.

I was exposed recently to experts at SOBCon a few weeks ago, and I was finally exposed to the fact that we can all be geeks and share our knowledge with the world.  That technology expertise is not limited to the chosen few, but it’s for everybody (and you can make money doing it).  Adopting an all inclusive attitude and abundance mentality has brought me considerable wealth and resources as of late.

When I returned to an old geek social circle, I was reminded very quickly of the difference between inclusive and exclusive.  I realized that it wasn’t me causing all of the drama, but it was the environment itself.    The tribe wants to be exclusive and protect itself from all outside influence that doesn’t agree with their reality.   Even worse, it’s at a subconscious level (read: it’s not about you) and very reactionary.  It’s sad to me because those who choose to snub others and be judgmental are really missing out on the fun and resources in life.

Check your Snobbery at the door.

Here are some things I keep in mind

  • There are plenty enough resources for everyone.  Adopt an abundance mentality.

The best example I can give is when my geek friends attempt to court members of the opposite sex.  Most of the time, when things don’t as expected in said relations, there is a backlash of anger and resentment.  When the truth is, it just didn’t work out.  It’s not a permanent reflection of yourself or your personality.   And there are plenty of other guys and gals out there.   Same with friends and groups that set themselves up to be the authority.  If you adopt this mentality, then the snubbers will get exactly what they want, which is to be alone and miserable.

  • Check your motivations and intentions, and take responsibility for them

I used to be horridly guilty of this one.  Most of my actions revolved around one-upping or besting someone else.  It was even more annoying when someone else was trying to one-up me.  It’s a destructive cycle that damages everyone and everything in its path.  When I took responsibility of my intentions and I connected with the things I enjoy doing, then one upping becomes less attractive.  Even better, when being one-upped, it reflects poorly on said person rather than yourself.

  • Be open to better and different experiences

I remember the “Everybody’s Free” song in which ‘do one thing every day that scares you’.  In addition, having the courage to ‘be bold’.   The only way you can accomplish either is to be open to things outside of your ‘comfort-zone’.  Remember, you’re only limiting your own success by keeping things that you’re not familiar with out of it.  You didn’t learn how to walk without falling and bumping your head.

Lastly, If you find yourself in an environment that is stagnant, drama filled, and very negative, do a gut check.  Ask someone outside of your circle for an objective opinion.  You may be surprised what you find out.  Another way is to combat this is to socialize with other groups of people.  I try to meet someone new every day.  I like going out to networking events for this exact purpose.  I meet people that I would have never run across keeping my door shut.

To your success in 2009!

Social Media ‘experts’

So the bandwagon has officially been jumped.

You know it has when we go from Whoopi Goldberg saying that Twitter is silly, to geeks revolting over the fact that Oprah has decided to get on Twitter.

But even further back from that, we have a buzzword for ‘Social Media’.   I’ve had a personal blog since 2002 on LiveJournal.  I’ve had a MySpace page (which I purposely ignore) before Movies decided to use it as their promotional tools.  (insert chest-puffing geek cred here).   I don’t know if when Twitter hit mainstream, all of these various ‘social networks’ got grouped under ‘Social Media’.  But I was amused to hear the buzzword when I started hanging out with the Twitter crowd.

But back to the ‘expertise’ issue.  Seems the bandwagoners and other dreamers now want a piece of the pie.  So a call for a ‘social media expert’ has been made.  The debate even permeates through the real end-users of the technology, the geeks.   We’ve been screaming at the mainstream ‘where the hell have you been all of this time?’

I personally think that the call for Social Media experts really boils down to various people who don’t understand it, wanting overnight success in the arena.  “If I build this website, use Twitter and Facebook to promote it, I’m going to make a ton of money.  Automatically.”

As much as I like to engage in dreams, I caution those people that it’s all been done before.  This premise was the reason for the ‘dot-com bust’ that we all know and loved.  I always believe that if it were that easy, the skillset could be duplicated and EVERYONE could be doing it.  Regardless, what I consult people on is that

Social Media is part of your overall marketing strategy.

The equalizer now is the concept of Authenticity. Sure you can draw attention to yourself, but the question is Why the hell should we be interested in you?  The people that stick around are the most authentic.   I hope to display that authenticity to the best of my ability, hence the blog.

Lastly, I also believe if you need an ‘expert’, the only reason is that you want to ‘get from where you are, to where you want to be.’  If I had to go to someone for advice, one person I look to is Liz Strauss (http://www.lizstrauss.com/ and http://www.successful-blog.com/).  I chat with Nick Kinports from Ad-Maven (http://admaven.blogspot.com/) who preaches the ‘total package’ solution as well, and is part of a larger advertising firm.  Keep in mind also, that I don’t consider these people ‘experts’ with higher value than me.  I’ve met them in person, and consider them friends.  I connect with them on that level.

What a social media expert is not.

People with higher Twitter Follower / Facebook Friend counts than you. We have a saying amongst friends that the number of social networks friends is inversely proportional to the number of real friends you have.  Although I can toot my own horn to say I defy that logic.

Any ‘social media expert’ with no business experience or education behind it: Again, read the authenticity piece.  I love all of the internet marketers and get rich quick people out there to death. I really do.  But the main reason I’m in business is because I got tired of being pitched by said people.

An expert should not be the first person you talk to or the loudest voice in the room. I run into this all of the time in my IT consulting business.  Their ‘expert’ has led them astray and I have to not only help them out but gain their trust as the new ‘expert’.  There are various strategies to ‘position you as an expert’ but chances are they are not the best resources for information.  I always have the thought of ‘trust but verify’ and challenge them.

To your success in 2009!

AD-Maven’s article http://admaven.blogspot.com/2009/04/opinion-on-big-brands-state-of-game.html

Liz Strauss’s article http://www.lizstrauss.com/2008/10/27/everyones-business/experts-and-gurus-arent-necessarily-the-best-social-media-teachers/

Image courtesy of clementpetit2 on Flickr

There are some things I’m not good at.

When asked about my business, or service, I can never really define what I actually do or what my business does.  One of the main reasons I do this is because I believe that I gain more opportunities by building relationships.   As opposed applying a ‘pitch’ to all ‘customers’ and situations.  However, I do know a few principles that I try to keep in mind when I’m out networking or talking about business.

I’m good at a few things, I’m not good at others.  I want to help people get back to what they are good at so that we both prosper.

Obviously I meet people in various fields and careers.  Each of them represents a subject matter expert in my word on their specific trade.  However, one thing I do know is that in any successful operation, each person has a role and does it to the best of their ability.  When they are asking for help, it does not come from a place of lack, but a place of abundance.

At the very least, that’s my view of people asking for ‘help’.  They are asking the universe to return to them what they have given out (karma) and in return it attracts the correct energy.  (It takes alot for most people to even admit they need help, but trust me, it’s a good thing!!)

But back to my point, I find those little niches and I serve them in the best way possible.  Which leads me to my second thought I keep in mind. . .

Never say NO to work.

I’ve gleaned this from a few CEOs, and various social mavens I’ve met along the way.  And that is whatever opportunity presents itself, they never say no.  They either find a way to make it happen or fall flat on their ass.  Either way, they learn something which makes them a better person for the next experience.  I know one person who makes it a habit to never say no to an invitation.   He will always accommodate it if it’s possible / not already committed to something else.  I find that awesome as a philosophy, but I’m not there yet.

The ‘never say NO’ principle just brought me a major opportunity that may pan out in the coming weeks.   I tend to think about sometimes what if I said no to it, it would have never manifested itself.

To your success in 2009!

Image provided courtesy of Elvert Barnes

The Sales Pitch

So I went to a networking event this evening, which was the March meetup of the Chicago Business Development Forum http://www.meetup.com/ChicagoBusinessDevelopmentForum/ .  This event was hosted by longtime friend and tangential mentor Jason Rosado of http://www.distinctivecoaching.com/.

The topic for the evening was about blunders of networking.  Two things stuck out to me, one was not following up.  This is an issue for me, considering I don’t have a secretary.   Expanding on this, I have two things that I plan on doing in order to resolve the follow up issue.

  1. Hire a PA.  I realize that at this point, my only choice is to bring someone else in.  His or her cost will be justified if I have a few more sales.
  2. Using sendoutcards.com + cardscanner.  Buisness card scanning + OCR is the GREATEST timesaver for me, and those people that I wish to get in contact with immediately I can add a few notes from the evening on their contact page in Outlook and I remember what my conversation was about.

(btw, I’d love to hear strategies from other small business networking guru’s, send an email to will [at] dlwconsultants.com)

The second thing that stuck out was something that I mentioned, and it’s something that I will expand on in a later article “Networking Mindsets”

Trying to close a sale at a networking event, instead of making a connection.

What do I mean by this?  When I go to a networking event, I have to let go the notion that I’m going to make a sale.  I don’t have my equipment with me, and I’ve made an executive decision that either I’m going to network and develop connections, or I’m going to be working and making money.  (So obviously if you see me at a networking event, it means I can devote my time to it).  I have no other objective or motive.   It also takes the performance pressure off me, to let my personality come through, focus on connecting with a prospect on a personal level, make him or her my friend and then do business together.

At some point during the open networking, someone pitched me.  Now keep in mind, I wanted to connect with that person, not for his product or service, but for another thing of value he offered.  Said person immediately pitched me another service, and drilled down.  What made it even worse to me was that I felt it was a bit canned and impersonal, and while I was smiling and nodding, I decided to disengage myself and run as quickly as possible in the other direction.

His product or service might have been the best in the world (ironically, it’s part of my next move in marketing) but it represents to me what everyone hates about selling.  Being seen as a prospect instead of a person. This is analogous to the ‘pick up’ line in dating.  When seen in action, very little value is attached to the person executing the line.  That person doesn’t seem real, because infact he or she isn’t being real.

This is not to say don’t rehearse what you’re going to say in your pitch.  We did do an exercise on determining what to say during the ’60 second commercial’ or whatever amount of time we have to initially interest someone.  I had trouble with the exercise because my ‘pitch’ is dynamic.  I usually open with helping ‘small businesses’ because that is my target market.  The trick is to make it personal to you, and let that intrigue your prospect.  Ask them questions and get them involved in the process.  To me, the distinction between a canned pitch and a real one is how does the other person feel leaving the interaction?  I know that for the particular interaction I was in, I was being talked at, and my values were assumed.  That doesn’t bode well for me, and it’s something I try to avoid in my travels.

Image courtesy of Flickr and JustinTravels