Living Popcorn Style in Zoomland

Popcorn Style in ZoomlandWe are all navigating untenable times — most of us connecting in isolation and many of us struggling in silence. This COVIDian chaos is our new global zeitgeist. What is normal, anyway? We had been living in our own private Twilight Zone since the 2016 election. But now, we’re conquering a brand-new frontier called Zoomland, where the women don’t wear makeup, the men don’t wear pants — and all the cocktails are above average.

I have at least one online Zoom meeting per day for various reasons — spiritual, professional, and ad hoc/friend (aka  Zoomtails). I guess it makes sense since the phone call became an anachronism in the last decade — especially for the under-30 crowd. My brave new technical world is defined by intermittent internet buffering, waning laptop battery life, and unflattering lighting. First-world problems, but I still find this new communication imperative to be strangely draining. Maybe it’s that I lack the energy to be “on” 24/7, or maybe it reminds me of just how isolated I am.

Adding to the awkward vibe is the practice of “sharing popcorn style” in Zoom groups. I suspect the idea is to allow participants to engage as they are so moved, but I find the expectation uncomfortable in a land of only two dimensions. It triggers my performance anxiety. I always thought I was an extrovert, but living in the depths of profound grief since my son Elliot’s tragic death almost two years ago, I have morphed into an introvert with occasional extrovertish episodes. In Zoomland, I have discovered that introverts simply need more time, and extroverts should probably take more time.

I sit alone in the cozy 10 ft. X 12 ft. room I call my office, staring at a Brady-Bunch array of faces stacked in perfect chessboard symmetry on the screen—  disembodied heads blankly gazing into vague, abstract space. The connection is an illusion, devoid of nonverbal cues and physical energetic exchanges —  except for that cute couple cuddling up in one box. I guess it’s better than nothing.

Should I go? Uh . . . Hello . . .  Argh, my screen froze, or was that someone else’s? Oh, I’m muted! Hello! Can you hear me now? Now? Now! Oh well, someone else started, anyway. I’ll wait. Betty always jumps into the dead air.

There we are, trying to take the edge off our baseline angst, but we are plastered across an electronic wall like a batch of newly apprehended hooligans lined up for our mug shots. This is Zoom lockdown. There also seems to be a heightened sense of self-consciousness on Zoom — ironic since no one has put on “outside” clothes since 2019, and almost everyone has given up all attempts at hair maintenance. Still, every time you speak, you are in that glaring spotlight of exposure without any immediate feedback. Everyone is looking at you  — or at least, the image of you. Or, they are checking out your room décor.

I have decided this “popcorn style” online group dynamic is an apt metaphor for broader pandemic experience. The dizzying randomness of messaging — so rapid-fire and scattershot. All news is breaking, a constant barrage of urgent nonsequiturs — as befuddling as they are horrifying. The extroverts dominate. It’s too much to process, so we don’t. We can’t possibly. Sometimes, I turn it all off to feel better but end up feeling more isolated. So-called leaders and self-proclaimed pontificators are popping their respective corn — on every channel. No plan, no strategy, no conscience. No method to their external madness — exacerbating my clandestine grief.

It’s Only a Test

Wear a mask. No, don’t wear a mask.
A mask does no good — but it might.
We have more than enough PPE. We are giving it away.
We don’t have enough PPE for the front line.
We’re “opening up” for business now. The case numbers are climbing daily.
Inject disinfectant in your lungs. It’s interesting. No, not really.
Just kidding. Are you laughing? I was being sarcastic. Can’t you tell?
No, I wasn’t.
The virus lives for three hours on most surfaces. No, ten. No, five.
We really don’t know.

Test, Test, Test.
Just disinfect everything. But you really can’t.
You may have had COVID already, or you could be asymptomatic.
Or, you probably had it in January or maybe December.
You’ll be fine — unless you are not.
You probably have immunity. If we could test you for antibodies.
But you will probably get it again. In the fall.  We all will.
The antibodies may not be enough.
When it mutates. And it will. Or, maybe it won’t. Or, it already did.

Test. Test. Test.
But we can’t test you right now. We don’t have enough.
Anyone can get a test. If they need it.
But not if they want it. Just ask. But not me.
I’m positive I’m negative.

Test, Test, Test.
But, not yet.
The tests are flawed.
They are broken. We can’t trust them.
We should not have released them. But we need more of them.
Trace all contacts. When? Now? How?
The virus lives in the vents. But it’s not airborne.
Sure, go inside. Have a seat but try not to breathe much.
Have dinner but wear that mask.
Shutdown your salon, but you have the right to open up.
Freedom has a price.

Test, Test, Test.
Sacrifice your life of the economy, silly.
Wipe down your groceries. No need to wipe down your groceries.
Wear gloves. Don’t wear gloves. Gloves don’t help. Wash your hands.
Only 25% of you can go out – go to a restaurant . . . but not to a bar.
But social distance. Just not at the same table.
You need to figure out what 25% capacity looks like. That’s up to you.
Washington doesn’t care –  much. About anything but the election.

Test, Test, Test.
But, don’t go out unless you must. To buy things. OK.
We need you to buy things, more things.
Work to feed our kids. The virus is deadly to kids.
Go to the store. Stay at home.
Don’t buy meat, but the packing plants will stay open.
Don’t buy toilet paper. The supply chains are fine.
Go to the movies. The theaters are closed.
Go outside. Don’t go to the parks.

Because—
There’s no vaccine. We are working on it though.

Popcorn style, it is — like living in a Twitter feed, asynchronous messaging and desynchronous realities. About 50% of us long for compassionate, competent leadership — demoralized by complete empathic failure, peppered with pernicious pouts. Unpredictability is the only constant.

At home, I am grateful for my shelter, but the walls are closing in. I have millions of things to do, but I do not accomplish much. Spinning my wheels. Then, suiting up to go out, decontaminating upon return, and again and again. All those Zoom meetings in between. I am busy but empty and scared —  about our world, mostly.

Every day unfolds differently than I expect — but wrapped in soul-numbing sameness. My days progress popcorn style. What day is it, anyway? Perhaps, the pandemic is internal. There is no plan. Is that the lesson? Be grateful for the ambiguity, Elaine.  Breathe. Soak in nature. Be gentle with myself. Peace is an inside job. But, hey, that’s another story . . .  for which I will need plenty of popcorn.

For Facebook, is it really about time?

They say it’s about time—that’s Timeline, the new Facebook interface. But at the end of the day or week or month, I suspect it’s also very much about money.

I have been encountering many questions about what Facebook’s newest alchemy means to marketing and business—but somehow, we are all sticking with it and muddling through. The impact on our brands, businesses and personal communications remains to be fully assessed, but in the meantime, a little Facebook insight can help you navigate the sometimes murky online waters. As Mark Zuckerberg’s latest strategic offensive – particularly addressing Google+, this metamorphosis may have you more than a little perplexed, befuddled or even impatient with the ubiquitous Facebook phenomenon. That’s OK. Still, 50 percent of the more than 800 million registered users visit daily for an average of 14 minutes. That’s ample time to get in line.

In so many ways, Facebook is still the Internet juggernaut—even as sites such as Pinterest seem to be gaining momentum on the starboard bow. One of my sassiest Facebook pals posted recently, “If Pinterest is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Interestingly, Pinterest is definitely doing something right—carving out a new niche or paradigm that is more about following content and less about “connecting” with people. Hey, let’s hear it for content! And with Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram for $1 billion, Zuckerberg is definitely becoming much more image conscious.

Nevertheless, the latest series of changes signals that Facebook is about people sharing with their friends—not as much about brands sharing with people. Actually, Facebook is challenging brands to more effectively align with Facebook’s underlying user-experience philosophy and gestalt. As an early impresario of the “like” campaign for clients, I have mixed feelings about the latest changes that eliminate forced “like” landing pages to drive brand engagement. Intuitively, it was always a great concept, yet the reality produced questionable brand value with respect to “like” relevance, stickiness, and measurable brand ROI. And from a technical perspective, Facebook did not really make this kind of campaign an easy endeavor.

Brand pages can still offer action-focused, tabbed content–located along the middle bar. It is simply no longer an option to set it as a compulsory initial landing page to drive “likes.” As a visual junky, myself, I love the new masthead image bar. There are so many high-impact options to available for brands in that prime real estate above the fold. Just don’t include blatant contact information, such as phone numbers or arrows pointing to your flashing URL, or the “Faceboook police” may be knocking on your screen!

Back to the balance sheet–as Facebook has diminished the prominence of the “like” page and newsfeed presence, it has enhanced social advertising, pay-per-click and targeting opportunities. But, think about. Those are the money shots. Newsfeed exposure will still be important for brands–yet a harder nut to crack. We’ll have to work smarter creating engaging content and re-calibrating our publishing cadences since response currency, re-posting, and commenting will count more than the number of fans in determining message impressions and frequency. From a macro perspective, the latest changes have both expanded and refined the ways people can interact with each other on Facebook.

Here are the real tent poles:

Real-time interaction — Increased emphasis on real-time interactions with the introduction of the “Friend News Ticker,” in the upper right corner, which also integrates Twitter.

Image Focus — Larger spaces for pictures and video enhance the user experience and better prioritize the things users see in their news feeds. Plus, you can rank and filter some content, but for the most part, Facebook still decides!

List Maintenance — The new “List” feature, “borrowed” from Google+ and to some extent, Twitter, allows you to segment, tag, share and sort what specific friend categories can see on your wall. This basically pre-sorts audiences by actions and keywords. And yes, it’s all about enhancing advertising segmentation and sales. “But what about privacy?” you ask. Guess that’s another post.

Implications for Brands and Business:

1. Creativity and Activity — After one week of implementing the new Newsfeed, impressions (or reach) per post were down 33 percent in a study done by EdgeRank Checker. But likes and comments were up 17 percent, so it looks like Facebook is changing the dynamic as envisioned.

2. Frequency — Brands will likely need to alter tactics—publishing more engaging, relevant, fresher content more frequently to drive greater interactions rather than one-click passive likes/fans. If the average current fan access ratio is 10% or less, reach and impressions will take a short-term dip until we better understand and respond to changes in Facebook’s filtering algorithm.

2. Pictures and Videos Images are becoming larger on the page and much more important. If we need to get fans more engaged and spending more time, we’ll need to create and use more visuals more frequently.

3. App It — There will be more emphasis on building Apps that provide functionality and value to Facebook users to gain access to the Ticker, for instance. One idea might be loyalty points, interactive functionality, or useful tools, such as store locators to increase impressions and re-posting/sharing.

We’ll have to watch. We are already hearing rumblings that from some users that Facebook is becoming too complicated, too labor-intensive, or too intrusive. This is understandable. Many of us do not want to work that hard. We have enough to do in our lives. This won’t be the last Facebook iteration, and the impact is still unclear. However, it’s a platform you cannot ignore. The best strategy is to discover ways you can seize the opportunity.

What do you think of Timeline?

Buzz Pill?

Is there a magic social media pill? We all seem to be looking for it.

As a professional riding the social media tidal wave, I’m engaged—in witty Facebook banter, of course, but I’m also digging deeper—doing some serious soul-searching about the role of social media in marketing, how best to execute it, how to manage it, and how to leverage its power to make clients and associates successful and happy. I guess taking a hard look at my path is sort of a mirror to my life—as some of my most enlightened friends would say.

Yet, it’s surprisingly tough—on all levels. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPads, Nooks, etc., social media is embedded in every fiber of our awareness. Personally, I feel unhinged without my Apple. (Remember Eden?) With something so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of our daily behavior, one would think clarity and monetization would be a cinch. But not so fast. It can be difficult to put the buzz back in the bottle! It is not enough to simply offer up content and post updates.

Brand advocates and marketers who want to take advantage of social media are encountering a tangled web. They are finding they need to design a fully integrated program of active and ongoing engagement, connecting customers with the actual human beings in their organizations who can meet their needs. It’s part Marketing 101 and part online alchemy, I suspect. Gosh, maybe it’s really not about the technology at all. It’s the humanity. Could it be that the stuff that happens offline is what really makes social media sing?

For instance, Dell currently engages with customers through what they call the “four pillars” of the company’s social media ecosystem:

  • 100,000 employees
  • Dell.com–ratings, reviews and customer feedback relating to Dell products and services
  • Dell communities, such as IdeaStorm, a platform launched in 2007 that is designed to give voice to customers and enable the sharing of ideas
  • External platform communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

That first pillar represents one of the biggest changes in Dell’s use of social networking, lately—and possibly the most powerful. Although social media initiatives began with public relations teams at Dell, employees now play the role of brand ambassador across the company, notes Buck. This requires a purposeful, dedicated engagement plan, as well as policy development and training to ensure that the employees who will be representing Dell clearly understand company guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media.“Our employees play a vital role in our social media outreach, and, to date, we have trained more than 8,000 Dell employees to engage with customers through social media,” says Michael Buck, executive director of global online marketing. “Dell’s Social Media and Communities University is a key enabler for the company to leverage the power of 100,000-plus employees as brand ambassadors, confident that they have been empowered to use it the right way.”

Perhaps the most effective social media strategy is to train your company’s employees to use social media—whether 3 or 300,000, fully integrating the support process and empowering interaction with customers/prospects on behalf of the company. This has not only spread the marketing buzz, so to speak, it has also building the brand across the farthest reaches of the vast social media psycho-sphere. To infinity and beyond!

Where are you going?

Twitter or Facebook?

Is that one of those fundamental questions like–The Beatles or The Rolling Stones; chocolate or vanilla; Letterman or Leno; paper or plastic?

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an article published by Slate“Who I Follow on Twitter and Why.” It was kind of a light-bulb moment. We seem to lump Twitter and  Facebook into the same bucket, “You on Facebook and Twitter?” But they are really so radically different.

I love discussing this stuff, because we are right in the thick of such a pervasive transformation in communication. We have no concept how this moment in time we are living right now will impact our behavior, relationships, culture, and lives in the next few years–and for the rest of eternity.

Not that Twitter will stand the test of time or  be around in the year 2100, but who knows what communication will look like then? Getting back to the here and now, I really do think there are “Twitter people” and “Facebook people.” I deal in both professionally–and more and more, Linked In. But they all render fiercely different experiences and visitor payoffs. As I was exploring this “Twitter person” concept, I found this Venn diagram from BoingBoing. It provides another way to slice and understand social-media behavior.  I guess the increasing interest in Twitter is understandable–as sort of the nexus of it all.

I agree with erudite Shafer in Slate  that Twitter is most valuable as a resource and a research tool.  It’s like a custom real-time info stream that’s completely personalized.  Connect with the great thinkers and follow the interesting things they say. Plus, you have the added benefit of commanding much higher quality attention from Google–from an SEO perspective. Hey, I smiled when I received a notification that Yoko Ono was following me on Twitter — even if it’s “her people.”

I read somewhere that Facebook is like playing in your fenced-in backyard. Twitter is like playing in the street. You are much more exposed, yet the asynchronous format is much more impersonal. Following is actually much less social than friending. Except for the way Mark Zuckerberg can mine our clicks and our navigation paths, I don’t buy the security complaints on Facebook. A user can manage access. You can protect everything you post with your settings dashboard. My son Elliot is a very good example. His profile is so well hidden, the way can see it is when he accidentally leaves it up on his computer. LOL. That’s security, huh?

As to Shafer’s being nonplussed about receiving a friend request from someone who ostensibly does not like you, consider Winston Churchill’s recommendation, “Keep your enemies close.”

Are you a Twitter person or a Facebook person? And why? Let me know . . .

TEDx-traordinary in Chicago

Am loving the first day of moderating a TEDx independent corporate event — a cultural juggernaut for one of our nation’s most formidable brands — nestled just outside the Windy City. From the fusion of black holes on the frontiers of deep space, to social media-facilitated upheaval of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, TEDx packs a wallop.

I’m savoring the opportunity to orchestrate the live and in-person talks as this conservative, yet thirsty, corporate employee audience drinks in the the intoxicating elixir of ideas worth sharing. Now, back to the stage. . . .

Have you experienced TED or TEDx? would love to know what you think.

Freedom of Tweet?

Elaine

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net.

I was just listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR and KERA/90.1. The discussion was a recap of the State of the Union Speech – #SOTU on Twitter. I embraced much of what President Obama said last night – particularly his statement about celebrating the winners of the Science Fair, as well as the winners of the Super Bowl.

I just did a quick search to confirm that the discussion is still chirping around the speech, and indeed, it is. There are tweets from Obama, the White House, elected officials, listeners from all over the world, news publications—and the list goes on. Communication and dialogue are the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, and I am heartened to see the banter.

The panel on Diane Rehm was discussing some of ostensibly incendiary tweets that flew during the actual speech. Rehm posited, “Should tweeting be banned during the State of the Union Speech?” I love Diane, but I truly believe she was showing her generational bias.   Conversation ensued that questioned the appropriateness of speaking out in real time. Hmm?  The question took me aback.  Rehm was concerned about the respect level of these Representatives (no matter where they were sitting) in deciding to “tweet the speech.”  Is tweeting during a speech disrespectful? Or is it actually the sincerest form of engagement?  It’s participation without yelling out disruptively, which the infamous elected official did not so long ago.

This is where the mobile rubber meets the road. It’s the clearest indication that new media is redefining the practice of communication from almost every perspective — not just the medium, not just the message, but the mores.  Just what is acceptable behavior? How must our behavior and associated social tolerance shift in conjunction with our morphing media modus operandi? Diane, I think this IS the new political dialogue.

Here’s the rub—our media revolution touches every aspect of our lives. If we are to reverently honor freedom of speech, shouldn’t we preserve the slightly  irreverent “freedom of tweet”? What do you think?

“The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.” – Clay Shirky, NYU

2011: From “Oh, Wow!” to “So, How?”

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

I’m really not sure how many people do this sort of thing, but I am actually going back to my predictions for 2010 – to compare them to what really happened.  It was as daunting and perplexing a task as I imagined. Especially since social media evolution is anything but linear. One thing we do know it that Google Wave never quite hit the beach.

My most significant memory from last year’s missive was actually my delight when Chris Brogan actually chimed in. Wow. Now that’s what I call social media He wrote:
I like and agree with the first four. I disagree with 5. Email is still the main protocol of the Internet age. I *wish* it were different, but definitely not in 2010. Great post.”

My number #5 was: “Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.”
So, I guess we’ll begin with the end – #5. Well, as Chris Brogan said, email did not go away in 2010. But, I venture to add this was probably just slightly premature. With Facebook’s Messaging Hub beginning to bubble up and mobile technology/SMS infiltrating our lives in terms of behavior, I think we are looking at more of an email mutation than elimination.  When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her prediction that email is “probably going away” at the Nielsen Consumer 360, many balked, but her point about teenagers is well-taken. Stats she cited indicate that only 11% of teens email daily, and as we know, teenagers are really “the beta testers” for future techno-media trends. In fact, I have my own focus group right here in my own home. My 18-year-old would rather text than talk. He has Facebook up on his laptop whenever it’s turned on, sends very few emails and never uses the speaking function on the phone. My 14-year-old son is really text only. Good thing I have unlimited texting, or I we would be under a bridge somewhere. He never opens up email or even Facebook. Should Mark be worried? Hmm. We’ll just wait and see.

The most interesting shift between late 2009 and late 2010 is that the questions people are asking have changed dramatically. People don’t seem to be asking, “Hey, what’s the next big thing?” “What’s the next Twitter?” It’s more about implementation and impact – “What’s the most effective platform for my business?” “How do I integrate this into my daily operations?” “Where’s the best ROI?”  It’s no longer “oh wow!” It’s “so, how?” Social media tools and behaviors are now a given, our modus operandi. We just need to figure out how to do it. The old advertising model of trading money for attention is the anachronism. The new formula is trading time (even  energy) for attention. The activity is just as important as the message.

“Social Media Will Become Less Social.”hmm
I’d still like my term – “return on engagement.” It’s more active, deliberate and participatory. However, I think our trajectory has been very different from what I expected — largely due to the meteoric growth of Facebook. Engagement is now defined by the quality of the experience itself, rather than some tangible outcome. The value I spoke of last year was a slippery concept, because “value” can now be defined in brave, new terms, as well. Who knew Farmville and Mafia Wars would become the new American pastimes? Who could have predicted you can actually buy Facebook points in the grocery store? And the metric that “one-third of women 18-34 check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning,” according to an Oxygen Media study?

“More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge”oops
Enterprise platforms continue to exist, but boy was I wrong on this one. I did not see the mobile app locomotive, powered by Apple, flying down the track. I think the branded in-house community concept has quite literally jumped the rails. And, to think, I was once so on board with that idea.   Simply, there is an app for that – in fact, what many signify as the emergence of Web 3.0 – targeted, segmented, defined and delivered to the user on demand. So, interesting how things can change in a year. Still, we may be moving in this direction yet.  Fast Society, a new iPhone app, allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook is also providing ways to communicate with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups Feature allows segments friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities to better manage privacy. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

“Social Media (Engagement Media) Will Become More Integrated”bingo
I think I get the winning buzzer for this one. Organizations of all sizes are embracing the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for marketing, customer service or fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional communication techniques. This includes email, website, online ads, SEO, face-to-face interactions, print advertising, social media platforms, blogs, events, and managed promotion to all media. This has become pivotal to social media success in general. Integrate and align with overall objectives. It’s a must.

“Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important”yep
There is no more compelling spokesperson for an enterprise or organization a passionate customer, employee, or supporter. This is the core strength of word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer fundraising. And there is a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a customer making a recommendation for a new restaurant on YELP! The brand voice is now filtered through the customer in his or her own geographic and psycho-graphic universe.

As we look to 2011, we can’t deny or ignore the brand power of Facebook “likes,” which will become the core advertising and promotional objective for many businesses on Facebook. “Like” strategies will become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the overall marketing strategy.  For instance, instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies will be leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.” The art and the science.

Finally, there’s mobile and SMS. The app has arrived and has consolidated the expansiveness, chaos and clutter of the worldwide web to the simplicity and focus of a tiny button the size of a stamp that fits in the palm of your hand.  . . . Oh, wow!

What are your predictions for 2011, infinity . . .and beyond?

What’s to Like About Facebook Business Pages?

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach — providing the practical tools you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world — listener, writer, blogger, speaker and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle. Email or comment to reserve your place. First 10 are FREE and $10 after that – Thurs., Jan 13 or Fri. Jan. 14 — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m. Location details in Dallas to come. Join me at the B &B.

I never thought I would be part of the blogging brigade— leading the social media charge. “How did I get here?” as David Byrne one asked. For heaven’s sake, I ran computer programs on punch cards in a box. I trie dto make some semblance of sense of those bleeding lines of purple Fortran code on the never-ending accordion-folded pale green and white-striped paper—in the bowels of the Vogelback computer cave at Northwestern. I remember thinking, “Geez, I’m a theater major. How will this stuff ever have a practical application in my life? I guess my life has been more Lennon-esque – what has happened while I have been busy “making other plans.”

But it’s still a hard place to be–as so many are still generally nonplussed about the power and process of integrating this brave new media communication phenomenon into their customer/donor-development strategies. “The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history, ” proclaimed NYU media guru, Clay Shirky, also a former theater major.

It’s hard to completely comprehend the full impact somewhere in time (more great music, sigh), but I predict this period in communication media innovation will assume milestone prominence in retrospect-–similar to the era of the printing press, the telephone, photography and motions pictures. Shirky continues, “A revolution does not happen when a society adopts new tools. It happens when a society adopts new behaviors.” Can you imagine life without the mobile phone?

So, as we begin to navigate and maneuver the tools that are quite literally redefining our relationships and behaviors, here are a few solid ideas for making the most of on of your core social media tools–your Facebook Business Page. Like it or not, Facebook is the new black. Remember, to maximize effectiveness and results you should carefully customize this list for you and your distinctive business objectives:

1. Create a personal service “direct line” to the brand and paint a personality that differentiates your business.
2. Respond to your customers quickly and personally to create authenticity and loyalty.
3. Provide notice of special events – with the ability to catch RSVPs—photos, videos and after-party conversation.
4. Post quizzes: In addition to providing fantastic engagement opportunity, your page is also a rich research resource. What’s your personal style? Why do you support programs to help the homeless? What three things mean most to you in the world?
5. Present special offers – one-day-only deals, Facebook-only bonuses, “Like” incentives.
6. Register for preferred customer email and coupons.
7. Create participation and passion around your preferred cause – feature the link on your page.
8. Post how-to videos, which might be a little wacky or unconventional – to ignite viral sharing.
9. Photos,photos, photos. Tag, tag, tag.
10. Subscribe to the tip or quote of the day – stat on homelessness, inspirational quote, green tip, how to tie a scarf, etc.
11. Feature links to blogs related to your business/organization – enhancing authoritative rank in organic search.
12. Sell gift cards – online with PayPal transaction.
13. Secret sales – “Skip lunch” or “Mimosa Mondays.”
14. Enter a contest to go to Vegas with our BFFs.
15. Highlight your customer of the day – tell the stories.

The list goes on – and the very best possibilities relate to your particular mission or customer, depending on your individual objectives.

Start writing down ideas, and watch how they be gin to flow . . . and join me at the B&B on Jan. 13 or 14, 2011!

The Art of Social Enterprise

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach — providing the practical tools you need to thrive in the brave new media world — listener, writer, blogger, speaker, creator, actor, mom.

I attended the 15th annual “Food for the Soul” Stewpot Art Program exhibition at the Bradshaw Gallery at the Dallas Public Library downtown today.  Impressive does not begin to describe the breadth and emotion of this remarkable work. Such raw energy and delight for souls in such turmoil.  On view through Dec. 28, this breathtaking show is part of is a community art outreach program serving the homeless and at-risk populations of Dallas through the Stewpot ministry at the Dallas First Presbyterian Church.  But it’s really so much more than that. I think this program exemplifies a new “brand” of social initiative that not only strengthens our nation’s rapidly fraying safety net, but empowers individuals through creative expression and supports financial self-sufficiency through micro-commerce. Love it!

I must admit I’m still struggling to synthesize by own artistic voice, so my heart is full when I see these developing artists talking about their work with such confidence and aplomb. Watching a program on ADD on KERA/Channel 13 tonight, I was struck by the quote, “We have found that success is not really depend on how much we know; it’s dependent on how we feel about yourselves – our self-esteem.” Well, these artists are definitely moving in the right direction—and what a win-win-win to support them. The artists receive 90% of the sales of their work, and The Stewpot receives 10%.

I found a small piece by Charles William I could not live without – an intricate ink drawing of intertwined harlequin figures. I was mesmerized by his precision and sense of whimsy–with a disturbing edge.

Take a moment to visit the show and be part of social entrepreneurship that’s part solution, part treasure and part blessing.

Hours are 1:00 – 5:00 on Sundays, closed on Monday, open 10:00 – 5:00 Tues and Wed., 12:00 – 8:00 on Thurs and 10:00 – 5:00 on Fri and Sat.

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Conducting Your Social Media Symphony

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer, and social media strategist. Contact her at elgantz()yahoo.com.

A client  told me last week that he hired us to “do” social media so that he would not have to be involved.  What!? Really? Would he ever consider having a storefront without a sales staff? This is the essential conundrum we have been wrestling with in recent weeks.  Businesses, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, are running lean and over-tasked—especially in this rocky economy. Therefore, it’s difficult for many of them to even conceive of adding a litany of new online tasks to their already maxed-out agendas.

And yet, a thriving, organic social media presence is critical to practically every business’ success in our new-media marketing universe.  From texting to tweeting, we recognize the value of involving customers and empowering word of mouth online, but the question is — What is the best way to get it done? How do we manage it all?

It seems to me it comes down to two options — coaching or doing. Should you hire a coach or consultant to train you and/or your employee(s) to blog and work the key social media platforms? Ideally, strategy and daily activity must work in concert to achieve best results.  A post here and there does not a social media campaign make.  The other option is t0 hire someone outside of your organization to “handle it” –posting, responding, blogging, monitoring, driving, and analyzing.  What is most productive?  How will you optimize ROI? How will this outside person or team integrate with yours and the unique needs of your operation?

Here’s the rub — we are trying to force social media into a traditional public relations and advertising paradigm.   Hire an agency; produce some ads; run the ads; hope for good response, and move on to the next campaign. However, social media defies the typical one-way, sequential marketing communications models. It requires ongoing attention, 360 degree tending, focused involvement, authenticity, transparency, systematic monitoring, creative energy, and a real persona. Thus, we need an entirely different delivery system and process. But what will that be? How does that look — parsing together so many pieces:

1. Blogging
2. Promoting your blog
3. Driving and participating in conversation on your blog
4. Commenting on other related blogs
5. Monitoring and responding to Tweets
6. Tweeting and responding with value opportunities
7. Driving Twitter crowdsourcing campaigns
8. Facebook product launches
9. Facebook “like” campaigns
10. Facebook applications and lead capture
11. Driving Facebook conversation
12. Integrating social media in email and website
13. Promoting social media connection in your store.
14. Rewarding Foursquare or Facebook checkins
(Just to name a few.)

Of course, the program will vary in size and scope –whether you are Best Buy or Frank’s Nail Salon, but the realities of execution  may not be that different. For many retailers, it’s all about customer service – an inside team that monitors and responds to customer comments and complaints. For others, it’s about launching new products via Facebook, for example, or running limited-time discounts and deals. Regardless of the content or appeal, the relationship-building objective probably surpasses the importance of the final tallies of coupons redeemed or contests entered. It’s not realistic to think you can have a “social media department.” It should be woven in to the fabric of your operations.

So, maybe we need to think of “doing” social media more like conducting an orchestra in real time, as opposed to, say,  downloading a series of iTunes.  An orchestra needs a conductor to keep time in real time, indicate when to come in and when to stop – or know when to staccato  or to legato. Like an orchestra performance, a social media campaign can be led by a “conductor.” But for maximum effectiveness, the organization’s actual players (the musicians) should be directly involved in making the music. They listen to each other, sense the audience’s reaction, drive the melody, layer the harmonies–and know the score.

What do you think? How are you managing you social media efforts? What has worked and what has not? What are your biggest challenges? Share your stories.