Several weeks ago, Ari Herzog approached me about writing a guest post on my best practices in social media. My initial reaction was the same as it always is when I’m asked to write a guest post: Why? More specifically, Why me?
Considering the topic and overall tenor of Ari’s blog, what value could I possibly provide for those intimately involved in social media?
Initially, I was convinced he came to me looking for a Midwest perspective. Surely that had to be it. Here in Minneapolis alone, we have nearly as many social media professionals as Minnesota has lakes and walking paths. There was only one problem with that idea . . .
I’m neither a social media strategist nor consultant.
I’m a talk radio host, freelance writer and voice-over artist. And prior to the aforementioned, I spent 26 years as a classically trained actor performing on stages in the United States and Great Britain.
All things considered, I’m going to venture a guess and say I’m probably not the guest writer you had in mind when you came here today, am I?
Let’s face it, the circles I travel in–though media-friendly and very social–have little to do with social media. At least that’s what I believed. Think Othello; It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul . . .
Stay with me here.
My Line-Up Card
I have a blog (Blog Harbor) that’s published by major news groups including Reuters and the Chicago Sun-Times. Then again, a lot of folks are syndicated.
I’m on Twitter (@cgprogram), but so are most of the inhabitants of Zelcor 7.
I’m on LinkedIn. Why, just today I connected with a Sherpa and two goats in Nepal. How many of you can say that?
Ok, fair enough, maybe I am involved with a few social media platforms but let’s be very clear about something: I’m a far cry from being a social media expert; I write, I tweet, and I connect. Period.
But who is an expert? And who decides someone is an expert?
The vast majority of social media–from the foundation it’s built upon to the myriad of ways it’s evolving–is viewed, strategized, and implemented in as many different plans of attack as there are theatre critics and academics more than happy to argue over who was superior performing Shakespeare’s verse: Olivier or Gielgud.
What’s in a Brand?
About 18 months ago, a publicist told me I needed to brand myself. Even at that point, with social media’s wheels already spinning vigorously, I was at my limit of hearing any variation of the word “brand.”
Your brand, his brand, their brand, my brand . . . enough already!
Shortly thereafter, he sat down and explained the entire concept to me much the way I explain to my five-year-old daughter how to make pancakes.
My view on the importance of branding, and what it truly meant, changed at that moment.
It was just a few weeks later, on November 11, 2007, I published my first blog post. In short order after that, I joined LinkedIn and Twitter.
The value of social media seems oh-so-simple now.
Riding the Carousel
Looking at it from a larger perspective, one that includes Facebook, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and a seemingly endless array of platforms for personal presentation, social media is tantamount to a giant business card; a business card in the form of a carousel.
There are dozens of horses that keep circling in front of you. Each of them is just a little bit different than the other. What appeals to you may not be the least bit attractive to the person standing next to you. But its relevance and ability to perform a viable function for you and/or your business is a constant. It’s always there, waiting for you to jump aboard. How it operates–be it static, demanding a more aggressive approach or one that’s fluid, doing much of the work for you–can work for or against you.
Ultimately, it’s about matching the rider to the horse . . . the person/business to the platform.
In talk radio and theatre, most of us held the belief what we brought to the table in the way of our own creative statements on the air and on the stage was enough.
Who needs social media when one merely needs to tune in or show up? That, more than anything, would enhance both our own market viability and that of our station/theatre.
But that was then. This is now.
In the field I left and the one I’m now in, being out of work is a fact of life. Sooner or later, a radio station will let you go or the show you’re performing in closes. Then what?
It used to be you simply made some phone calls, went to auditions, or sent out demo tapes. Now, social media changes all of that. And for those who understand how to use it responsibly and effectively, the down time is minimal and spot-on business relationships are able to be fully realized in a far more expeditious manner.
Using my blog, my website, LinkedIn, and Twitter in a coordinated marketing effort increased my visibility and viability by just over 300%. That’s not a random number. Since combining the horses I’ve chosen to ride, blog readership is up . . . way up!
Readers traveling over to my website to give the Audio Archives a listen–those hits, and most importantly the subsequent contact made with me–are also way up.
Seeing what’s happening, I am introducing new audio features in the coming weeks: first on the blog, and then on my website. With iTunes lurking, and the ability to cross-pollinate on Twitter, it’s the arms and legs of social media that are facilitating new contacts and opportunities in traditional media.
Today’s Oracle at Delphi
As an artist, whether it’s your performance number 150 in the long run of a show or the 300th installment of a radio program, you’re always looking to improve. There’s always a deeper characterization of Iago; there’s always a better way to break down and flesh out the nuances of news or sports headlines with your listening audience. One of the ways to better that performance is seeking out your acting director or program director for notes.
It’s no different in social media but for guidance here, you go to those who do it for a living; those who are familiar with every nook and cranny of the carousel. The directors of social media, as it were.
And when I need to seek out those directors, I’m drawn to names like Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Liz Strauss and, naturally, Ari Herzog. Or, in the language and style of Twitter, @chrisbrogan, @ambercadabra, @lizstrauss, and @ariherzog.
Each of these individuals are forever providing wonderful insights, analyses, and strategies that are sound yet attainable for those of us out there still trying to stay on the horse. Have I beaten down the carousel metaphor enough yet?
Two other must-read sites are Copyblogger and Mashable.
Copyblogger is superb at offering up ways to improve your content while marketing it more effectively. On the surface, if you’re an experienced writer well-versed in The Brilliance of Blog, you might think “sure, whatever . . . I’m beyond that.” Not so fast zippy. My Uncle Solos from Cyprus said it best:
“There are those who think they know everything and those who want to know everything.”
Which category do you fall into?
Mashable is a never-ending rollout of article after article on anything and everything that’s new, improved, or renovated in social media. Every social media platform, every new feature, everything you ever wanted to know, already knew, didn’t know was out there, or didn’t think possible–Mashable covers it. Thoroughly.
(Social) Change We Can Believe In
In the Word of the Year Open Championship, “Change” is your current leader in the clubhouse. President Barack Obama stated, in so many words, he’s going to change the culture of this country from A to Z. The economy, health care, public education, national defense policies; you name it, change is in the air and on the way.
We’ve already seen signs of it; most notably his weekly radio address on YouTube. If this is the starting point, why not take it all the way?
Why not have a Twitter version of a Town Hall Meeting? Nothing planned out, nothing screened; all of it straight from iPhones, BlackBerries, and computers. Sure, there would need to be some form of a moderator but what a wonderful twist on the First Amendment. And the twist would be that it’s a worldwide Town Hall Meeting. TweetDeck would need a vacation when it was over.
People from all corners of the globe, some not used to freedom of speech as we know it, would be free to communicate their thoughts, hopes, ideas and opinions to the President of the United States. Good, bad or somewhere in the middle, it would all be fair game. And though it would take a wee bit of planning, if there’s a country that could pull it off, it’s the United States.
President Obama has shown himself to be more than willing to break through the conventional parameters of how a President is supposed to communicate. The more legitimate transparency he is able to project, the more he’ll truly represent an instrument of change.
Why can’t he begin making full use of his Twitter (@BarackObama) as President the way he did during his campaign? And although I don’t mean some Georgetown University graduate student interning at the White House pumping out sterile, nicely-scrubbed updates that have gone through 40 levels of security approval, I’ll take it.
For every person who gives a dozen reasons why it’s not possible, I can think of a dozen more why it is possible. One would be Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (@pmharper). His updates are generally from the web which suggests a staff member is writing them. But they’re on top of it. They’re using Twitter–social media–to communicate. They are making the attempt to keep followers abreast of his activities.
I realize the President has a few pressing things on his plate. But considering the economic storm clouds in a holding pattern over the entire nation, what better time to further his message–to maintain a dialogue–than now, through the immediacy of Twitter?
And why can’t the President blog? Not the slick 250 words from a speechwriter but, again, something from The Man himself? I’m sure he could find a WordPress theme to his liking. I’d be more than happy to get him started. I’d even consider writing a guest blog. He and I are both White Sox fans so we’re practically best friends!
Who decides all of this stuff anyway? Who says he can or can’t do something? Who, who, who?
Probably the same person who decides which individuals are the social media experts.