Don’t Allow Social Media Contests to Throw Your Reputation to the Dogs.

I guess it is common for individuals to hastily jump on the social media wagon. I did it, and several years later, I still learn something new every day. For some reason, though, it surprises me when some businesses are quick to climb aboard and hire folks who say they’re Social Media Specialist without having any Marketing or Customer Service skills.

Social media is such a broad term. It’s fun to engage in it. Everyone wants a part of it. We may even benefit from it. Yes, it’s free… and literally just about anyone can do it. So why should businesses be any different, right? Why should they care if their Social Media Manager has no idea about Brand Identity, Creative Strategy, or Holding Power. Is it really necessary for them to practice Conflict Resolution or Stress Management skills? Would it matter if their Copy writing and Editing had errors? Some businesses are actually okay with their prospective employee simply having 500 followers, a blog in their own name, or a Facebook page history of 3 years.

I find that there is usually a noticeable difference between a business page run by a true social media professional versus a self-proclaimed guru.

I feel I should state here that I am neither. I have worked in Advertising & Marketing since 1999 and Customer Service for nearly 20 years. Even as an Art Director, I felt that I was never a guru in anything. However, daily I bring a new outlook from both Marketing and Customer Service that I try to convey in social media. I use social media in my line of work; social media is NOT my line of work.

The current fad on social media sites, like Facebook, are contests. I actually have one running right now through JennB.Creative. Contests generally are not a bad thing. It’s a great way to gain Likes or Followers, and create a buzz for your business. Where I feel businesses go wrong is selecting contests that are too far removed from the services that they offer, and failing to maintain the contest throughout its course.

I recently stumbled across a social media contest from a large car dealership. The dealership wants to give back to their community, so they created a 4-week Animal Rescue Contest. In researching their page, I was unable to obtain a written copy of the official rules. (Mistake #1 – Rules should always be clearly posted.) It appears organizations are allowed to post multiple photos of animals on the dealership’s wall as a means to campaign for votes. One participant even questioned if she was allowed to also post photos of animals that her rescue group had up for adoption. The dealership replied that it was okay to advertise the animals. (Mistake #2 – Limit the amount of wall posts from an organization to avoid a Spam-like appearance.) What I found most bothersome by this contest was the fact that – if I were a customer of the dealership who may frequent their page for oil & filter specials, recall information, or to preview their new car releases – all I see are photos of dogs. What do dogs have to do with this dealership? Is it really worth losing the Likes of loyal customers in order to gain 100 new Likes, who may Unlike you once the contest is over? I think the contest is truly a nice gesture. I am just not sure that it was well thought out from a Marketing and Customer Service standpoint. I literally had to scroll through weeks of photos and contest posts in order to find the last post made by the dealership. (Mistake #3 – Manage the contest and page as frequently as necessary in an effort to maintain the value of your page prior to the contest.) Contests should not inconvenience your customers or potentially damage your social media reputation.

Social media is a constantly evolving avenue that no one may fully master. However, the basics behind social media – Marketing and Customer Service – are fairly cut and dry. I encourage companies to not lose sight of these two important business factors. Remember to use social media as the tool that it is and not the lifeline that many want it to become.

The Downside to Social Media

I sat down at the computer tonight to blog about Social Fresh and the tiny couple of seconds it felt like I was involved in the two-day conference, when I noticed a Tweet in my stream that stated, “All: @NBCNEWS was just hacked. DO NOT RETWEET THEIR TWEETS. They are FALSE…” I stopped in my tracks and went straight to the NBCNews Twitter account. What I found were Tweets from a band-of-idiots who had illegally-accessed the account and stated an attack had been made on Ground Zero.

This being the weekend of the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, I immediately became disgusted by the hackers, their comments, and sadly, yes… social media. Who finds it comical to make such terrible accusations? Who has so much time on their hands that they sit around guessing the password to accounts? And why is social media such an open target for these opposing situations?

Lately I have noticed an increase in negativity via social media. Let me be more specific; this isn’t the hate that an angry teen posts on her Facebook status about her cheating ex-boyfriend. The conflicts that I mention are those that impact society on a far wider scale; conflicts that are created by malicious hackers, devious businesses, or even so-called-gurus. Although we all see the potential that social media has, we cannot lose sight that it is simply a FREE, open forum with no real rules, just waiting to name its next victim.

Don’t get me wrong. From a marketing and customer service stand point, the world has really struck gold with social media sites. It allows us to engage with our audience of clients and potential customers in a quick and cost-effective way. Yet, I feel the industry is largely, if not solely, relying too heavily on these sites. I’m not saying those of us who use social media for the good are at fault, but we have to question if we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

What are some of the problems that we face by using these free, open sites?

  1. Although some of us use social media from a business standpoint, there are plenty of folks on these sites, bored and ready to cause problems. Take for example, the hackers who compromised NBC’s Twitter account. We cannot take any material on social media sites for more than face-value. You may ask, “Doesn’t this contradict using social media to promote the validity of a business?” Yes, to a degree. This is why we shouldn’t depend solely on Twitter, Facebook, etc. until there are ways to control them.
  2. Prior to social media, businesses primarily gained visibility by means of radio spots, television ads, or print space in a magazine. All of these marketing efforts cost a significant amount of money, required skill to execute, and were heavily managed. It made retaliation difficult, which made a business really “think before they spoke” negatively. Although word-of-mouth cannot be regulated, it takes a great deal of time for your opinion to reach an audience of 100 people. An individual or business can now say whatever they want about a business to a broad audience, whether their statement is true or not, changing the actions of their peers almost instantly.
  3. Some self-proclaimed social media ‘gurus’ have a tendency of sharing information, often aggressively, in an effort to sway friends, followers, or clients into believing that their way is the “right way” to use social media. The only right way to share in social media is with effectiveness and etiquette. After all, the last time I checked there is no written rule of how Twitter must run, or how often a business (or individual) MUST use their accounts. We should share why it would benefit an individual to use social media etiquette – i.e., too many similar posts will look like spam, avoid language that could be offensive, etc. – or how effective it can be for a business to engage with their followers. There are many people who are still unsure about social media and someone coming across as the Twitter or Facebook police, only looks arrogant.

Social media makes it very simple for an average Joe to express their opinion and influence a large crowd. What once took organizing a rally in a large area with a p.a. system (and guts) now only takes 140 characters and the click of a mouse. We are a far braver society now that we can voice our opinions while hiding behind our computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. We need to be reminded, as professionals and as humans, that our words can be hurtful when presented irresponsibly. I am just as guilty of this. Who hasn’t had an email they’ve written be misinterpreted? Who hasn’t Tweeted bitterly about poor service in the midst of disappointment? Who hasn’t told a little white lie as a joke, not considering the consequences?

I will find myself, at times, being disgusted with social media. The term alone “Social Media” can turn my stomach on certain days, like today. Why are so many people comfortable with it? …so reliant upon it? …completely fascinated by it?

Then I have to remember, this is all still relatively new… the businesses and even the social media professional are still learning. Sure, the shiny-new has worn off to some of us but others just created their account last week. There are even businesses who jumped in, completely oblivious to social media and struggled, and left their accounts dormant while re-evaluating their decision. For myself, in just two short years Twitter alone has brought me so many positives to my life. I have met so many terrific people, learned so many wonderful things, and been a lot of great places because of it! However, I once abandoned my account too. It was the encouraging words of my brother, not a series of aggressive or negative Tweets, who coaxed me back on to use the site to it’s full potential. Had I received from him the response of “You’re doing this all wrong. You suck. You’ll never get it.”, then I would have missed out on a lot. There is no capacity for social media. We shouldn’t try to scare off people who aren’t as knowledgable as we are, we should help them.

…which brings me back to Social Fresh. It’s a conference spear-headed by some of the most helpful faces of social media. You can truly see the real professionals shine during conferences like this one. They stand out.

Although I was offered a free ticket by one of social media’s brightest stars, DJ Waldow, I regretfully still wasn’t able to rearrange my schedule on September 6 & 7 to attend. Instead I waited patiently on Tuesday for the first Tweets to start popping into my stream, and shortly after lunch, I was already recapping the events from earlier that day. Around 4:30pm, I left work and headed to Charlotte. I had planned to meet my dear friend, and social media’s most sparkly star, Stephanie Wonderlin (whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year) for dinner. We were joined by my brother, Dean, and a table-full of outstanding folks from Justin Levy and Carly Durham to Eric Boggs and David Horne. As I sat across the table from Stephanie, catching up on [and giggling about] real life, I wondered what my life would be like had I never started using social media. I hope that the positive impact Stephanie and some of the others have made on me, I am making on someone else. I really love to learn but I equally love sharing my knowledge with others. There is no reason to be negative in life… and certainly not in social media. If you have time to hack into an account and Tweet poorly-executed jokes or blog about how terrible someone is for not being as cool (i.e.; knowledgeable) as you are on Facebook, then perhaps you should step back and re-evaluate yourself. The time you spend being negative could be spent, instead, teaching others about social media, offering your time to show someone how Twitter or YouTube works, volunteering your time in the community, or spending time with loved ones. There is always a handful of positive options to counteract one negative effort, even in the midst of social media sites not having sufficient rules to keep others from being negative. Thank you to the crew of Social Fresh for pulling me out of my disgust and allowing me to see the good in social media often outweighs the bad.

Since my blog took a turn from it’s original path, please take the time to visit the Social Fresh Facebook page to read more about the sessions that took place on Tuesday & Wednesday in Charlotte. Hopefully you will take from this blog, and their notes, the positive impacts that social media can have in our society if we choose to share it.

My Name is Jenn, and This is My Ah-ha Moment.

What an honor it was last month to receive an invitation to participate in Mutual of Omaha’s Ah-ha Moment campaign. What a surprise to find out the campaign’s tour would be scheduled in Winston Salem on June 10th, my 35th birthday. Without hesitation, I quickly accepted the offer with both gratitude and enthusiasm. This would certainly help make my day memorable.

What exactly is an Ah-ha Moment?
Mutual of Omaha describes it as:

It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.

Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and we think, worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha celebrates and honors these moments and the people who act upon them. We’re proud to have the products and services that can help people insure their possibilities.

A few weeks after accepting the invitation, it started to sink in that this was really going to happen! I needed to prepare. I researched the campaign, and debated which of my life’s many ah-ha moments would I choose to share. The more I anticipated this somewhat surreal situation, the more nervous I became. Am I really worthy of this invitation? What IS my ah-ha moment? Does anything I say or do really inspiring others? Finally remembering that I also had to renew my license on June 10, I considered contacting Mutual of Omaha and gracefully stepping down.

How many invitations were given out? Would backing down from this opportunity be a huge mistake? I continued to review my life, searching for something that would be meaningful. I knew that I had many moments of clarity in my life, but one alone just didn’t seem to hold the value of all of them put together. Then it hit me. There is something pretty amazing about my journey. It is like a giant puzzle. Could this realization be the ultimate in ah-has?

I started to make note of my time line:

  • At age 4, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
  • Age 18, I entered art school.
  • Age 22, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
  • Age 24, I was victim to my first layoff.
  • Age 26, I fell victim again.
  • At age 30, I was burnt out. Tired of ‘corporate America’, I desired a job that meant something. I wanted a job that made a difference. I looked to the medical field for a solution, and enrolled in nursing & coding courses. In September of that same year, I had officially retired from Graphic Design and was employed in a medical office.
  • At age 32, I realized that even a job in medicine doesn’t always make your life fulfilling. That, and I really missed being creative. I looked for opportunities to freelance, but I still sought something more. I dove into volunteer work with well-known charities. Although I gained a lot of knowledge working with these nonprofits, I was heartbroken at how some ran their organization like a corporation. Yes, a corporation – the same thing I fled from two short years before.

 

I had spent the better part of the past three years fine-tuning my freelance business into JennB.Creative. I wanted my creativity to be used to a maximum, while assisting nonprofits and start-up businesses. I wasn’t in it to become rich; I just knew the struggle of wanting to get a business off the ground. I aspired to give them the opportunity to have professional marketing material on their budget. I did all of this while working full-time for a local hospital and searching for the right nonprofit that best suited my beliefs.

As you read last month, my search is over. I am now happily involved with Invest Hope, a faith-based mission seeking to end poverty in Haiti by providing means for Haitian businesses to get off the ground. I never saw the entire correlation between my life’s desires and Invest Hope until I was forced to search for my perfect ah-ha moment. I think it’s pretty awesome to see things come full circle. It reminds me that there IS a purpose to my life, and it is unfolding at just the right speed.

Today, after renewing my license, I pulled up to a Silver Stream travel trailer parked outside of the Old Salem Visitors Center. Still a bit nervous, I walked up to a petite blonde sitting under a canopy, and introduced myself. It was time to share my moment with the world. I was still very nervous… okay, beyond nervous. Even with words of assurance from the Mutual of Omaha crew, I could feel my chest turning red with anxiety. I was escorted to a bar stool in the front of the travel trailer, and prompted to tell my story. I was probably too enthusiastic about it, but the emotion overwhelmed me. Anxiety turned to appreciation, and I was overcome with happiness. This experience was, in fact, my biggest eye-opening moment. Ah-ha!

I was told the video should be posted on Mutual of Omaha’s YouTube channel in roughly 14 days. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to see my video, I am really looking forward to it, checking out the other videos taped in Winston Salem, and to see where the tour stops next. I am forever indebted to have had this experience. Happy 35th to me!

Mission Statement

It seems as though I have had some struggles lately… pondering my life’s purpose. I was on a mission to determine how I could make the most of my years and figure out just why God has lead me down the path that He has.

I woke up one day – figuratively – when I realized that graphic design wasn’t satisfying my desire to help people. My solution was a job in the medical field. Certainly that service-oriented career would appease me. After going back to school and receiving certifications in Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Coding, and Nurse Aide, I quickly realized how badly I missed the creative release found in my previous art positions. Still trying to find my niche, but forgetting often to pray for guidance, I spent the course of 5+ years becoming more involved in community groups and national nonprofits.

Each year I donated more and more of myself, from designs to cash to time. I spent hours folding tshirts, selling ads, and raising money. I fell in love with the idea of turning this new-found hobby into a career, and started to apply for area organizations. With my marketing experience and my years of volunteering, I was called in for some interviews but all-in-all was unable to secure a position. This made me start to question my involvement… was I donating myself for the right reasons? …were the nonprofits I helped close to my heart? …did the money I raised or donated truly go towards the purpose I had intended?

After establishing my freelance business, I felt like I should start focusing more on faith-based or small local organizations, especially start up nonprofits. I was disappointed with the way larger nonprofits lost their focus and were filled with too much drama. I wanted to help on a smaller scale, in hopes of making a larger impact.

Jump ahead a few months. After making a VERY difficult decision to walk away from my most comfortable nonprofit (and the group of folks who I felt had become an extension of my family) I began praying that I would be introduced to whatever it was that was meant for me to serve God the best. I knew only He could provide me with the organization that would pull all of my strengths and fulfill my passion to help others. I was tired of trying to make things work on my own. I was bored with the limitations. I was annoyed with the drama. I was ready for a change. I was ready to make a significant difference!

Today I received a phone call from a friend. A friend, whom I have actually never met… and was only introduced to six short months ago. He (JW) was calling on behalf of his sister Ginny, whom I have also never met and have known for even a shorter amount of time. It’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve known them longer than I have, and I just never stop to question it.

Ginny lives in Haiti. She is an RN from Ohio who has put a halt on a comfortable life here in the States to serve in a third-world country  devastated by earthquakes in Jan 2010 – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Ginny spent most of her time in Haiti working as a Missionary Nurse for a nonprofit based out of the midwest USA. During that time, she was introduced to and later granted guardianship of her daughter, Odessa. The first time I heard her story, I actually was a bit jealous. A nurse, living on an island, helping people – AND the adoptive mom of one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. I joked that she was living the life that I thought would best fit mine!

However, the more I learned by reading her blog, the more I realized how strong Ginny is and how weak & unprepared I am to take on such roles. My biggest set back was that I never finished nursing school due to financial reasons. I didn’t feel that I had anything to contribute, even for a short-term mission. However, I couldn’t help but feel like she and I had been introduced for a reason.

The phone call today was brief, but covered a lot and can probably be considered life changing. Ginny has decided to start her own mission in Haiti. She wants to offer microloans and vocational training to Haitians as a way to build their trade skills and boost the economy. Initially I was asked to design the logo and assist with social media marketing. Before I could jump at the chance to scream YES! the conversation went a little further. I couldn’t believe what JW was asking. He said that Ginny wanted me to sit on the mission’s Board of Directors, if I would be interested. He said that if I agreed, Ginny encouraged me to start planning a trip to Haiti within the next year and explained that her mission would be built around the principal that everyone has something to contribute to the country. Having lived in Haiti for the past 3 years, Ginny has seen first hand the need for more than just medical and construction missionaries. In this 10 minute phone call, everything practically fell into place. God not only puts people in your life for a reason, but He uses them to answer our prayers.

I am so excited to see where this adventure takes us all. I hope that it will provide a chance for me to meet these friends, to gain new friends, to travel, to advocate, to help make a difference in Haiti, and most importantly to serve God!

Our first step is to actually name the mission, and establish the board members so that we can request nonprofit status and a 501c3. I’m sure I will be posting regular updates as this thing unfolds. Please keep Ginny & Odessa in your prayers, as she is the heart of this mission & the only one on the board living in Haiti, and pray for our mission.

Spotlight: Tweetheart TV

To paraphrase Wikipedia; creativity is the phenomenon where a person brings about something new, and that new thing holds a significant value.

My friend, Stephanie Wonderlin, has done just that!


On January 4, 2011, Stephanie Wonderlin, creator and host, unveiled cutting-edge creativity when she launched the first interactive social media show on her channel, Tweetheart TV. What once provided social media information in the form of exceptional, well-edited videos, Tweetheart TV has broken the creative barrier to now offer its viewers the choice of which segment they would like to watch! At the end of each segment, the viewer can choose to return to the main menu to choose another available segment. Episodes of Tweetheart TV promise to be packed with social media tools, interesting sites and gear, social media tips and tricks, and a little bit about the host, herself. Since this unique style of show is brand new to the industry, it can currently only be viewed on a computer and not on a mobile device. I feel certain it is only a matter of time before the creatives at Tweetheart TV resolve this minor exception.

Take a moment to enjoy this NEW interactive show below. If you enjoy it, please share my blog with others… and don’t forget to subscribe to Tweetheart TV!

Stephanie is a significant voice in the social media world. She is a great mentor with a wealth of knowledge and fabulous personality. If you aren’t already, consider following Stephanie on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  Stephanie also works as Director of Social Media for Digital Street, and was chosen as one of only twenty women bloggers to participate in the Nike Make Yourself Movement.

Geekend2010: Session Highlight

I was fortunate to be able to attend a technology and new media conference in Savannah, GA on November 4-6 called Geekend2010. One of the most interesting sessions of the weekend was hosted by Mimi Chan, National Creative Director of CBS Outdoor Canada. It was entitled When Out-of-Home Meets Application Programming Interface.

Ms. Chan demonstrated an array of unique perspectives on how technology trends have enhanced some of the oldest mediums in marketing, such as billboards. “If you put a picture in a public place, you already have an audience,” Chan explained. “All you need is an outdoor campaign to catch the attention of your audience and through smartphones, mobile apps and God-knows-what-else [will be invented tomorrow], it will be seen around the world by millions.”

It is important to create a big idea. If designed correctly, things like billboards and transit ads can serve as encouragement for social media interaction. Take, for example, a mural campaign where small QR codes were displayed together to create a larger image. The QR codes were randomly placed in the image, which engaged interaction from the audience, who spent hours scanning the codes and retrieving information.

Mimi Chan discussed three key ingredients to a great marketing campaign. Those items sure to bring success are:

outdoor medium – an “in your face”
approach to catch the eye of the public

interactive/social media – integrating
modern technology into the campaign

creativity – focus on “out-of-the-box” ideas
that will help your ad stand out

Chan discussed the Adidas campaign in length, explaining that the company’s interactive billboards often resulted in viral marketing. Though most of their designs had no immediate social media connection, billboards often became the subject of many viewers’ text messages, posts, or photo uploads.

In conclusion, the When OOH Meets API session left guests feeling a sense of artist freedom and limitless options when considering their marketing campaigns. Chan delivered a great presentation that reminded us that old-school mediums combined with new technology can create quick, effective advertisement.

More examples of interactive billboards can be found by clicking here.