5 Tips for Curating Your Social Media Feed(s)

social media

I got to thinking lately about people who still struggle with keeping their personal lives and business lives separate- especially when it comes to social media. In my mind, the “struggle” isn’t so much with how to do it as why you would even think there’s a need for it.

For a long time I carried two cell phones. More specifically, and to tell you how long ago this was, one flip phone for personal use and a Blackberry for work. My thinking was I needed to keep my work life separate from my personal life. I didn’t want to be having a quiet dinner with my wife and have my “business phone” ring. Sounds good on paper, right?

When social media came along, I kept the same system. I used my Facebook account for family and friends and Linked In and Twitter for “business.” When I look at how I use my smart phone, tablet, and social feeds TODAY, I can’t believe this was ever even an issue for me. It certainly isn’t anymore. But, the fact is, it was an issue and perhaps it still is for some people so if this blog post helps even one person, I’m glad I took the time to write it.

It’s understandable when I stop and think about it because, let’s face it, I was in business before cell phones and computers came on the scene.  I’ve had to live through several “eras” of the technology learning curves. It’s like when I first got a car phone and they installed a little pig’s-tail antenna on my back windshield. I rang up enormous bills because I didn’t realize it cost much more if I called someone (outgoing) than it did if they called me (incoming). Yup, a learning curve. When I finally got a “cellular” phone, I still carried a pager because everyone had my pager number but very few had my mobile number. Here’s how it went. My wife would page me. I’d call her back from my cell phone and then hang up after one ring. This was her signal to call me back because incoming calls were cheaper.

Fast forward to 2015. I have no landline in my home. Cell phone calls are free. My smart phone knows what time I typically leave my office and, without prompting, tells me what the traffic is like and suggests the best route. I hear they’re working on new fabrics for clothing that generates electricity while you move around in order to supply power to your cell phone. No biggie.

So why in the world would I think there is any hope (or need) to keep my personal life separate from my business life? News flash, dear readers. You have only one life and we can all see it anyway. Might as well let your freak flag fly.  Therefore, the curation of your social media feeds should reflect this reality. If you scroll through my Facebook feed today, you can learn a lot about me. Even better, I can learn a lot about you (or anyone else). So let’s just all be our authentic selves and let the chips fall where they may.

As a business owner and entrepreneur, I’m very thankful there is so much data available on FB, Twitter, Linked In, Pinterest, Instagram, and other sites. Networking and research are the lifeblood of my business! I’m always amused when I see someone who’s Tweets are on lock down. If neither the Pope nor the President lock down their Tweets, what makes you think you are so special? The only people who need their Tweet’s protected are under-aged children and what the heck are they doing with Twitter accounts anyway? But, I digress.

The key to doing all of this correctly is in how you curate your feeds. I love the word curate. It describes perfectly what you are doing. Like a museum director, you are making decisions about what is valuable enough to “display” for the entire world to see. The “value” in social media, I believe, is content that’s meant to inform, inspire, and entertain. At least that’s a good place to start. There will always be people who want to use social media to bully, provoke dissent, and otherwise harass. But you don’t have to be one of those people, do you? I like to be intellectually challenged as much as the next guy but putting the verbal equivalent of a “kick me” sign on my back is just not going to endear me to your feed. Sorry. I digress again.

So here, at last, are my 5 Tips for Curating Your Social Media feeds:

  1. Just be yourself. I mentioned this above but some of you just skipped right down to this list, I know. I spent most of my life in the corporate world and I wasted so much energy trying to “be” a certain way and project a certain image. I see a lot of you doing this right now. Please, just be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you care passionately about something, let it show. Nothing draws people in so deep as authenticity.
  1. Share/post other people’s great content. I, like many people, get all my news and happenings on my iPhone and iPad. I love great blog posts and when my “friends” post great content on their feeds, it makes my life easier. So, I try my best to reciprocate. Whenever I finish reading a particularly enjoyable piece of writing, I share it to one or more of my feeds. This is one of the easiest and most valuable ways to curate your feeds.
  1. Use hashtags correctly. I’ve wanted to do an entire blog post rant on this one and maybe I will but, for now, let this short tip suffice. Get your Google on and spend ten minutes researching what hashtags are all about. They are powerful and useful – IF they are used correctly. For example, when I use a tag like #socialmedia, thousands of other people who are monitoring this subject have the potential to pick up my content. If I use the hashtag, #truth or #me, I’m joining literally hundreds of millions of users and just making useless “noise.” Conversely, if I use a tag like #whydoesthisalwayshappentomeonSundays, NO ONE (and I mean no one but you) will see it.
  1. Be kind. Does the world really need more anger? Didn’t your Mom teach you if you don’t have something nice to say, keep it to yourself? Didn’t she also teach you about getting more flies with honey than with vinegar? Hey, I’m all for free speech and social justice but its Facebook and Twitter, for Pete’s sake, not the UN.  Lighten up. If you really want to change the world, by all means go for it. But there are far better vehicles and places than your social media feeds.
  1. Engage with others. OK so some people post too much and others not at all. Can’t you strive to be somewhere in the middle? It gives people great joy when you “Like” and Comment on their posts. It gives them a total thrill when you share their post on your feed (see # 2 above). For more on this subject and the power it represents, do yourself a favor and get a copy of The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. There’s a reason they call it “social media.” So go forth and be social.

So, you see, there’s no need to waste time and energy trying to keep your personal and business lives separate. This is the internet age (with more “scary stuff” coming, believe me). We already know who you are, where you live, where you went to college and where you vacation. There’s no point in trying to hide. But, here’s the good news: we like you, anyway. S0, please, show us more of your authentic self.

The Future of Selling is Already Here

the-future

I’m halfway through Daniel Pink’s book, “To Sell is Human” and enjoying it immensely for two reasons. First, it’s the book I wished I’d written. I have all these ideas running around in my head so it’s very affirming to see someone else express similar concepts in such vivid detail. It validates so much of what I believe and how I think about the profession of selling. Secondly, the book does a fantastic job of something I’ve been struggling to do lately, which is to articulate the big shift that is taking place right now in the world of sales. I can feel it. I try to warn others about it. But I struggle to explain it. So, thank you Mr. Pink. You’ve emboldened me to press on in my attempts to convert traditional sales pros into what you so artfully call, “non-sales sellers.”

 

I also recently attended Dreamforce 2015, the giant, global convention for Salesforce.com and it’s users. During a seminar called, “The Evolution of Technology,” I made a note of a powerful prediction. The most important force shaping the future of enterprises and what disturbs C-level managers most is technology. The second most important force is “customers.” Now, just stop and let that sink in for a second. The good news for most of us in sales is whenever you hear the word, “customer,” you can be sure our jobs will be secure for some time to come. The bad news, however, is unless we keep up with technology; we’ll be obsolete by the time the summer Olympics kick off in Rio.

 

Now, what I’m about to say is super-hard to grasp for most people making a living in sales today. In fact, if you’re in your forties or fifties, odds are high you may have neither the desire nor the willingness to go down this road with me.  Feel free to just pass the link to this blog post along to your younger counterparts because they need this info too, and might already be way ahead of me.

 

I recently heard a factoid stating, in today’s world, a working engineer needs to spend at least 7.5 hours a week for 48 weeks per year reading and learning just to keep pace. So, just because you’ve graduated from college does not mean you’re done studying. It’s simply the reality of the world we live in today. Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate while, at the same time, the half-life of facts is shrinking. I reel in horror when I think about the tens of thousands of sales pros running around the country who have not read a non-fiction book since college. They are literally stuck in the 80’s.  Many of them may be working for your company. You might even be one of them. So here is your big wake-up call.

 

Sales people of the future will look and sound nothing like the “traditional” sales people of today (and yesterday). In fact, since the future of selling is already here, I’m going to use the present tense for the rest of this blog post. The mobile phone is now the most powerful piece of business equipment. Cloud based CRM and analytics tools provide data-driven action steps for sales pros, at their fingertips. Data about your customers, their usage of your products and services, and even their attitudes about their engagement with your company (via social media feeds) are all now, quite literally, in the palm of your hand. Data and analytics for sales teams used to amount to little more than, “What happened.” Thanks to today’s technology, we now know why it happened, what is going to happen next and how to make it happen again.  News flash to all you stuck-in-the-80s sales folks out there: data helps you perform better. It helps you be more precise about whom you target and what you target them with. Yes, the future is here now but are you here, too, or are you getting left behind? Here’s a quick test. If you’re using legal pads, Excel spreadsheets, Outlook address book, and your email inbox to manage your customer data, you are getting further behind every day.

 

In “To Sell is Human,” Daniel Pink says, “What salespeople do and how we do it must change. What an individual does day to day on the job now must stretch across functional boundaries. We are now in an era of non-sales selling.” Salespeople today need to be part I.T. pro, part customer service pro, part marketing pro, and part social media pro.

 

Most reasonable people would agree when I say the way people sell today has changed a lot in the last 20 or 30 years. What keeps me up at night, however, is how little awareness there is about how much the way we sell has changed in just the last year. Wake up, my friends. You’re in the future!

Twitter for Boomers

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Consider this an “intervention” or, at the very least, a public service announcement. This post is for the Baby Boomers who struggle with understanding why anyone would want to subject themselves to public scrutiny via social media. Now, full disclosure here, I am a Boomer myself. Born in 1960 and raised in the pre personal computer age. I didn’t even get my hands on my own computer until I was 33 years old and had already been in the business world for more than a decade.

Although I wasn’t aware of the term at the time, I was an “early adopter” of technology. I threw myself into training classes on Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. I also learned to use some of the early contact management software tools like ACT and Time & Chaos. For the last two decades, I’ve continually worked hard at keeping up with the times – technologically speaking. I taught myself to write databases with Access and I’ve become quite adept at CRM using Salesforce.com. Of course, my current repertoire also includes the major social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Instagram. As proof of my affinity for technology, I rarely meet another mid 50’s person who has as many Twitter and Instagram followers as I do.

So, I feel very qualified to be the one to throw a lifeline to my fellow Boomers who, by all estimation, could really use the help. News flash, Boomers: technology in not just for young people! If you think Facebook is a frivolous waste of time and that Twitter is nothing but the narcissistic muse of pre-teens with selfie sticks, you are only partly right. Don’t throw the cyber baby out with the bathwater. FB and Twitter are also powerful business tools, which, in competent hands, are capable of providing significant strategic advantages in the marketplace. For every here’s-what-I-had-for-breakfast Tweet, there are a hundred, legitimate, high-quality posts and links. You’ve been sitting on the sidelines for too long and I’m here to help you get into the game.

As a proponent of the Jeffersonian saying that “It is better that something be well started than quickly finished,” I’d like to suggest Boomers begin their social media quest by becoming proficient in the use of Twitter. Because of its ease of use, small number of moving parts, and low maintenance, it’s the perfect place for a stuck-in-the-80’s Boomer to start. To help start you on your path, I’ve compiled a list of Ten Easy Steps to becoming proficient in the use of Twitter.

1. Open a Twitter Account

If you’re not sure how to do this, just Google “how to open a Twitter account.” There are also many brief, instructional YouTube videos. No need to go out and buy the book Twitter for Dummies. Remember, we are starting small, here. Twitter can be complex but it doesn’t have to be. And, if you are one of those Boomers who still don’t trust putting your info out on the Internet please consider if the Pope and the President of the United States aren’t worried about it, neither should you be.

2. Choose your Twitter handle

For the novice, a “handle” is the name by which you will appear on the Twitter feed. Since you’ve waited this long to get onto Twitter, you should know all the good names are already taken – including your own name. However, the kind folks at Twitter will recommend a handle to you that is not already taken. Unless you have a clever idea of your own (and an extra 25 minutes to see if each of your ideas are already taken), I recommend you choose one of the suggestions Twitter provides for you. The good news is no matter what handle you choose, you still have a chance to list your full name in your bio.

3. Fill out a short bio

Boomers are particularly prone to skip this step because here’s where it starts to look narcissistic. Get over it, please. Social media is, theoretically, about trading information and content not glorifying yourself. Let people know who you are, where you work and what your current role is. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to list your current role. This will come in handy later as you begin to connect with your peers, customers and – yes- even your competitors. Best practice here: study how other people are doing it before you write you bio. You can change it any time you like.

4. Upload a photo of yourself

Once again, many Boomers are hung up on this idea that there’s something sinful about promoting yourself. Again, please get over it. The purpose of this photo is so we can all make sure, when we search for and “follow” you (see below), we’ve indeed found the right person. There are most likely a dozen or more people who share your first and last name. Your photo is for OUR benefit- not yours. And for heavens sake don’t over think the photo. No need to wait until you’ve had a professional headshot done. Any old snapshot will do. If you can’t bring yourself to take a selfie with your smart phone, have your spouse take it for you. If you want to add a little cool factor, put a black and white filter on it before you upload it. If you don’t want to stare into the camera like the proverbial headlamp-lit deer, have your spouse snap your mug at a 45-degree angle that shows you staring off into the distance doing your best to affect an air of indifference and detachment. But, by far, the best option is to put a big smile on your face and look straight into the camera so we can all see what a nice person you are. No matter which style you choose, DO NOT leave this blank. In fact, if you can’t bring yourself to post a pic of yourself you are probably not ready for social media. Sorry to be so harsh but its for your own good.

5. Search for and start following all of your customers

By following your customers on Twitter and regularly monitoring their posts, you will, over time, become intimate with their marketing strategies and tactics. Monitoring the Twitter stream of your customers is like putting a wet finger in the wind of commerce to see which way the wind is blowing. It just makes good business sense.

6. Search for and start following all of your competitors

I know this sounds creepy but trust me, its very Kosher. Everyone is watching everyone so you might as well jump in with the rest of us. Why does everyone follow their competition? For the same reason your dog cleanses himself: because he can.

7. Search for and follow all the people you admire and look up to.

I think Seth Godin is a genius. So I follow him on Twitter. I’m also a big fan of Tony Robbins. Who are your heroes in business and in life? Follow them and hear what they have to say. While you’re at it, you might want to follow your favorite sports teams and the brands you love. And please, by all means, follow the Twitter feeds of the local businesses near you where you shop and dine.

8. Get ideas of whom else to follow from the people you follow

This part is both easy and fun. I like to see whom other people are following because maybe I want to follow some of them, too. All you do is click on the person’s profile, then click on their “following” list. Review the list shown and just click “follow” on the ones that look interesting. It’s a great way to expand the list of people you follow. Don’t be surprised when people start following you back!

9. “Listen” and learn

Now you are ready to start extracting value from the Twitter feed. Resolve to check your feed at least twice a day. You do this by downloading the free Twitter app to your smart phone and logging in. I suggest once right before or after lunch and again just before you quit work for the day. Give it some time. Try this for 30 days and see if you don’t come away feeling much better informed about what’s going on in the world and in your industry.

10 Contribute content

At last you are ready to start behaving like a genuine member of the 21st century, global community. There are two ways to get started contributing content in a low-risk way. The first is to “re-Tweet” a Tweet that you like that has appeared in your feed. It’s easy to do and the person for whom you are re-Tweeting will love you for it. Just make sure you use a “Quote Tweet” so the original poster of the content gets credit. The second way is, when you’ve finish reading an online article or blog post that you really like, post it to Twitter and share it with your followers. Almost everything you read on the Internet today is ready to post to Twitter. Start looking for the little blue Twitter icon at the end (or sometimes at the top) of the article. Just click that icon and it will cue up the post for your Twitter feed. NOTE: another way to do this is cut and paste the web address to your feed. Just make sure you use a URL shortening tool like Bitly because you’ll be limited to 120 characters and you don’t want to burn up those characters with a long web address.

Here are a few final tips and tricks to get the most out of your Twitter experience. First, if someone follows you, it’s generally polite to follow them back. The only exception is if the follower is just trying to sell you something or you have nothing at all in common with that follower. Check them out before you follow back. Second, keep your privacy settings very loose. Unless you are under 15 years old, there’s not much point in “protecting” your Tweets. Act like a businessperson and you’ll seldom have any trouble. Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself (a very Boomer-like trait) if you neglect your Twitter account for a few weeks or even a month. Just come right back to it whenever the mood strikes. I, myself, have “seasons” when I’m very active and other periods of time when I’m not. Strive for progress, not perfection.   So that’s it. Welcome to the Twitter-sphere! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. ben@salisburycreative.com