Bag Men & Rock Stars; Lessons From a Bad Week

We’re still thinking about the terrible events last week.

The nation was riveted to social media, the Internet and television, first watching the bombing of the Boston Marathon, followed by a massive industrial explosion in a West Texas fertilizer plant and then a search for the suspects of the Boston Marathon.

I do not recall being so riveted to media since the slow chase of O J Simpson in 1994.

How does this impact small business?

What lessons can you learn for your small business, if any?

The Awl does a good job, I think, of putting these events into perspective. In a post by Choire Sicha, the social media efforts of several news organizations, represented by their ‘social media editors’, is dissected by examining Reuters ‘Deputy Social Media Editor’, Matthew Keys.

Keys, who has tweeted this morning that he has been terminated by Reuters, reported to his followers updates from his bedroom in San Francisco on the chase in Boston. At one point he admits he is getting his information off the television.

Sicha quickly gets to the nub of the question about social media. “Companies have taken on social media editors, lots of them young-ish, lots of them ‘digital natives’,” Sicha notes. “Decision-makers don’t know where to start with social media. And lots don’t know where their social media editors should stop and start in their work.”

Sicha gives an example: Tumblr. It was “a big vogue” that “literally didn’t do a single thing.”

There are a lot of digital natives out there. They do not understand your business. It is not enough to hear about the many ways of putting a message out there. Your business needs to know which is effective selling your message. You need a simple plan. You don’t make money Tweeting. You make money selling homes, hamburgers and hockey pucks.

Let’s go back to the just unemployed Mr. Keys for a moment. Social media last week failed to get the message across. Keys was just part of the whale that failed.

Mr Keys was indicted on federal charges in March that he conspired with members of the hacker group “Anonymous” to hack into and alter the Tribune Co. website.

Mr. Keys, it should be noted, was some sort of social media maven. He was probably considered a real catch by Reuters.

Keys is 26.

There are in this field many people who are very good at promoting themselves. I refer to them as ‘rock stars.’ They are the ones attending the best parties at SXSW, getting invited to address conferences, and being relied on for quotes. They are rock stars if they do not have a history of success somewhere. Anywhere.

Communications During Emergencies

As you know, Next Century is publisher of The Welles Park Bulldog, a online local news publisher.

We’ve been monitoring the situation in Boston all week. We’ve also been watching as our neighborhood was pummeled by a storm that dumped an estimated 5” of water.

Some of the worst of media and some of the best has come from the reporting.

Like Boston, local police were restricting movement in our neighborhood. Flooded streets and viaducts meant that vehicles were unlikely to cross some areas of water. Residents in our neighborhood had to be rescued by boat from rising water. North Park University was closed.

This morning I’m finding myself glued to the radio, listening to updates on the manhunt in Boston. The day has dragged and nothing has been done.

Our local Patch asked residents to share locations to avoid. However the offer seems to have fallen flat, there are no shares evident on the site this morning. And, a search for social media news on Twitter showed that Patch was the most active user of the social media site, putting news out about the flood.

It was a good effort by Patch. We should have done something similar.

How should you react to emergencies on social media?

I hope our example on The Dog is a good case study. We shared photos. We shared what news we saw on other sites.

We shared a video of a sewer opening shooting water at Ravenswood Ave. and Lawrence. We shared some photos from our friend and photojournalist Peter Bella of the water nearly overflowing the bridges in Albany Park. And we shared a photo from North Park University, also of the overflowing river nearly overflowing a pedestrian bridge on the campus.

When we received news we shared it.

People are losing their property. They are being forced from their home. This is not a time for levity about their situation.

There is a saying about Twitter. It is indispensable in the first 15 minutes of a tragedy and useless after that.

News people following Twitter about the Boston situation noted it was worth monitoring last night, but that as people flooded the site (sorry for that pun), it lost coherence. Finally, local police asked the media and the public to stop broadcasting police activity on Twitter, fearing for the lives of public safety officials.

I’m not in Boston, so I’ll limit my comments to Ravenswood’s flood.

Locally, what would have been good to know? Hardware stores could have been broadcasting the availability of pumping and cleaning supplies. That is commercial, but under the circumstances it is also required information for clean-up.

The city could be discussing how to dispose of damaged goods. Health officials could be discussing how to clean the basement of sewerage. Schools could note whether they were open or not. Insurance agents could use the opportunity to discuss what to do after clean-up.

Mobile Search Continues to Grow

StreetFight (Rollison): A comScore/Neustar/ 15 miles report issued last week says mobile searches are 20 percent more likely to complete a purchase than desktop searches. In addition, the report states mobile searches are up. The top search tool is Google Maps followed by Facebook. Third place Yelp follows “by a significant margin.” StreetFight (Jones) 81 percent of consumers search for restaurants on mobile apps.  StreetFight (Jacobs): Mobile is about 40 percent of search. Speaking of local, national firms miss from 67 percent and up of local feedback. Why? No one is listening. Lesson? Small businesses have some key advantages over larger businesses, provided you are doing a few things right.

LinkedIn Endorsements v Recommendations

TopDogSocialMedia (Dodaro): The lengthier endorsement is better than the shorter recommendation. That’s clear. If someone takes their time to write a thoughtful discussion of your accomplishments it has more weight than a quick Facebook ‘like’ click. Ask for both from your LinkedIn contacts. Write out a summary of what you are looking for and submit it to your contacts. Forbes (Anders): Headhunters will be pleased with the new algorithm at LinkedIn. Basic members, who don’t pay for the service, won’t notice. But recruiters will. The algorithm, “People You May Want to Hire,” will sort through the data to suggest candidates based on factors such as migration. “Over time LinkedIn will realign its matching patterns in an effort to deliver more of that’s valued and less of what isn’t.”

LinkedIn v Facebook Hiring

Forbes: LinkedIn is becoming more and more important for hiring. The post notes a survey of staffing professionals, that is HR people and recruiters. 98.2% used some form of social media for recruiting in 2012. 97.3% used LinkedIn. Google+ came in 19.1%. In between were Facebook, 51.3%, and Twitter, 45.8%. The numbers for Twitter and Facebook are down from 2011 (60.2% and 51.5%, respectively). But watchout as Facebook rolls out the social graph search. Improved search may be able to find those individuals with the right mix of skills for your company.

Nimble Foot Work Scores Superbowl Wins Off-field

AdAge: The marketing king of the SuperBowl was Twitter. The blackout allowed quick thinking brand to promote pegged to ‘power outage.’ Did you brand during the blackout? AllThingsD: NYT/ Hacked; WSJ/ Hacked; WaPo/ Hacked; Twitter/ Hacked. Wait, Twitter too? Yep. And the US Government too. The hackers are getting smarter and better. Expect more revelations and more intrusions. Sometimes its not whether or not you’ve been hacked, but whether you have the expertise to know.

Facebook Culture

WSJ Blogs: An early Facebook employee talks about how the culture of a company is built from the start. Facebook, Kevin Colleran says, had a clear mission statement decentralized new employee orientation, having a tenured employee speak to each new employee so the company’s values are clearly understood; conducted ‘all-hands’ meetings each week, allowing any employee direct access to the CEO; lead by example; encourage social activities outside work; HR must promote the culture. At Facebook a senior tenured engineer stepped up to fill the newly created position of HR Director. He built an HR team with an understanding and focus on company culture.

Mobile Tracking Guidelines

BusinessWeek: Facebook location tracking app is designed to help users find nearby friends. It would run even when the app is closed however. That leads to privacy concerns. Facebook would use the data to sell ads based on daily habits. StreetFightMag: The FTC issued mobile guidelines may be required to give ‘up-front’ disclosures and ‘do not track’ abilities to consumers. ‘Tell consumers what you’re doing with their data; don’t mislead them; be a responsible steward of their data.’

How to use #FF

TopDogSocialMedia: How to use FollowFriday (#FF). You can’t reasonably expect people to check out and follow every user that gets a #FF. So what are best practises? Tell people why they should follow the users you suggest with your #FF; make your suggestions relevant; have a genuine interest in your followers