All posts in “relationships”

Your Blog Isn't Special And You Have No Followers

There is a quaint notion surrounding social media that ‘everyone is special and every voice matters’.  This viewpoint is a powerful one: that every voice has an equal footing and every one deserves an equal audience.  Every blog post, every tweet, every Scribd and Digg and Delicious item on the net needs a watch.  Needs to be thought over.  Responded to.  Engaged with.

Whether you have a million readers or just a dozen,” goes the refrain, “your voice is just as important.

That’s a very nice, warm and comfortable notion.

But it’s wrong.

The plain truth of it all when it comes to social media for your organization; some people matter, some people don’t.

Okay.  Now that we’ve broken the taboo and put that out there, let me see if I can speak over the din and wailing and gnashing of teeth in order to clarify.

Communications and Marketing do not have unlimited funds and one-on-one relationships can scale only so far.  You want to leverage the network of the people you build relationships with to act as an amplifier for your message and to serve as a qualified filter for information flowing back into the organization.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is a real problem being discussed online, then it doesn’t matter who points it out, you need to act as soon as you can to fix it.  But as anyone in customer relations can tell you, there are legitimate complaints and then there’s whinging, whining and just plain old trolling.  With limited time, money and staff you want to be sure that you don’t get sucked into arguing with every person on the Internet with an opinion and a blog.

Consider: Is the complaint arising from a customer?  Do they speak directly to your customers?  Is there any chance on this great, green earth that they or their audience could EVER be your customer?  No?  Well then shuffle them to the bottom of the queue.  It’s okay.  Really.

When you have a message to communicate, you are looking to get that message as far and wide as you can.  Who do you want delivering that message: a blogger with one hundred readers or a blogger with a hundred-thousand readers?  Or better still, a blogger whose audience consists of several bloggers with a hundred-thousand readers.

You want your message to be in context and to come from someone with credibility on that subject.  Now a blogger like CC Chapman, Chris Brogan or Mitch Joel could blog at length about the benefits of using some brand of organic yarn in knitted goods and a sizable audience would see that message. But I question how many of their readers would actually be interested in, let alone accept their opinion on the matter.  Were I counseling a manufacturer of yarn on social media, I would suggest that a post from Amy at Indigirl holds much more weight than a post from CC, Chris or Mitch.

Talking in the abstract, it’s easy to toss around platitudes about connecting with everyone.  But for anyone with a budget to manage, prioritizing who you connect with is key.

How do you keep track of your relationships?

When I first started in the digital influencer relations practice, here at SMG, I had no need for a contact management system outside the one I had on my mobile. We’ve done some growing since then and the need for managing those relationships has changed. It’s not only managing the growing number of contacts we’ve established but our team growing as well, so the keeping-everything-in-my-head method isn’t really going to cut it for much longer.

When we brainstormed as a team about what we wanted out of a contact management system there were some of the obvious features – the ability to customize, having numerous search functions and the basic ‘name, blog, contact’ fields – but we all agreed on the not-so-obvious fields as well. The information that changes it from a contact to a relationship; the truly rich information about each person we converse with.

We build relationships, not lists.

By cultivating information that goes beyond contact information we are able to build a comprehensive system that will enable us to be more successful with our pitches. It will take a lot of the leg work of searching every time we need to do outreach and it will significantly minimize stupid errors.

So…what kind of rich information is important to us?

Who owns the relationship? – Knowing who owns the relationship can prevent one of the worst outreach tactics – over pitching. This is especially helpful when you work with other agencies for the same client. It also helps you to be more successful. Obviously, a pitch coming from someone they are familiar with is the way to go.

Where else do they exist? – You know that very popular writer on that big important blog? She even has a personal blog. And did you know she’s also very active on Twitter on three different accounts? Oh, and she is a talented photographer; I looked at her photos on her Flickr account. My point? Yes, most bloggers have lives and day jobs outside of that one blog you are pitching. The more you know about a particular person, the more likely you are to find something that interests them.

How do they like being pitched? – This is a very simple courtesy.

Past articles – What have we pitched them on already? What were they responsive to? What did they ignore? Of the articles they wrote, what kind of feedback did it garner with their audience? This kind of information will remind us what we should avoid and what we should focus on.

Of course our system contains more rich information but I thought to highlight a few of the key areas we really focus on. What kind of information do you prefer to have on hand when doing any type of outreach? What would you add? Is there anything you would take away?

Most Useful iPhone App You Might Not Get To Use.

This was supposed to be a post about a cool iPhone app that provides direct (and easy) access to every roadside traffic web cam in the city (available cities listed on the website). The app provides a list of every web cam available; to simplify you can pick which sections of the highway you want to keep close tabs on. With the flick of a thumb (or index finger, depending on how you use your phone) you can easily scroll through to-the-minute views of your route with green highlights meaning ‘good’ and red meaning ‘bad’. Read an encompassing write-up about it on BlogTO.

Instead, this is a post about ‘cease and desist’ letters.


The developer of this app, Mark Pavlidis, received such a letter from the Transportation Department in Calgary (one of the cities in which you can use the app). It stated that he is required to pay a hefty $5000 licensing fee in order for his application to link to their web cam images.

Double huh?

This is an odd situation. Basically, the application is just linking to images on the web. As Wayne MacPhail states in his post on the topic, it’s the same that “Google does to images worldwide millions of times a day, generating revenue from that service every microsecond.”

However, is it fair in either case? If someone made an application that was linking to my Flickr images and was making money off of it, would I care? Probably. But this situation isn’t so black and white.

(side note: Pavlidis states that he is not violating the terms as presented on its website because he only links and does not pull and parse other data)

In this situation, Pavlidis is providing a tool that encourages and enables citizens of  Calgary to drive with more ease. Potentially, it could help ease traffic congestion, prevent further accidents and make the roads safer. All things that I’m certain the Transportation Department of Calgary would want. Isn’t that the reason the web cams are there in the first place? To “keep Calgary on the move“? (that’s one of their tag lines, BTW).

Pavlidis has come up with an innovative idea. His innovative idea builds on these web cams and makes them more accessible and easier to use. It enhances the ‘product’ that Calgary is offering and makes it better.

Now, if someone built an application for my Flickr images that did all that for me, I wouldn’t be upset. Instead, I would reach out to them; I would work with them on integrating a strategy that fits both of our needs.

I would build and maintain a relationship with someone that can do something that I can’t.

It’s important to nurture relationships, especially ones that we can benefit from. It’s unfortunate that Calgary fails to see that and, instead, chooses to look at innovation through the eyes of their lawyers. Perhaps by shedding some light on this situation Calgary will attempt to participate using other means of communication? I would definitely welcome them to offer up their side of the story.

p.s. To get a firsthand look at the application before buying it, check out this Traffic How To video that Pavlidis created.

Building relationships is the end goal

Our CEO said it best “we transform companies.” Our goal is not to help companies build brand awareness through social media tactics. Our goal is to help them take steps to form meaningful relationships with their stakeholders. That’s what we like doing and what helps our customers be most successful.

With such a big goal in mind, the starting point is always the same. We listen. Where are people talking, what are they talking about and how do these conversations create an opportunity for our clients? Now; the definition of opportunity will vary, but we never lose site of our end goal – building those relationships.

So that’s what we do for companies. Can you apply this to yourself, as an individual?

Take a look at Chris Brogan‘s Guide on Personal Branding. It’s full of great, practical advice on how to build your personal brand. Chris starts out with the reasons why you would want to build your personal brand; being memorable, differentiating yourself. These are your opportunities. When you read the eBook, think about the differences between your end goal and your opportunitues. Today might be about a new job or a new client. Tomorrow it’s about research or customer satisfaction. The tactics are all there, just don’t forget that building relationships is the end goal.