Business and social media folly

My wife Gloria and I met an apparently very pleasant fellow at a weekend barbecue recently. We had a long chat covering a wide range of non-contentious subjects, and it emerged we had a hobby in common – amateur radio, or ham radio if you like. He is also good at repairing gadgets such as vacuum cleaners. One might think a useful person to know.

Afterwards we thought it would be good to stay in touch, so I went to “friend” our new acquaintance on Facebook. It was then I saw that not only was his personal page full of extreme politics (and I do not do politics in social media) but that he had used profanities of the worst kind to describe those whom he saw as political opponents. That might include me although as I say, I keep my politics to myself.

Needless to say, I have not “friended” this guy. I do not want anyone to think I approve of such strong language by association with this individual, especially when so many of my Facebook friends I know in a business context.

Suppose the guy is looking for work in the future, applies for a job and the prospective client or employer sees all this stuff on Facebook. Will he get the work? I think not.

What a pity.

My Twitter for business rules

  • No politics
  • No following back of people using software to follow me
  • No following of people who just post quotes
  • No following of those who intend to be offensive whether with swear words or wind-up comments
  • Follow genuine likeable people
  • Follow people with quality postings
  • Follow people in my business unless they transgress another rule
  • Try to tweet valuable content but not news stories followers might have seen or can see for themselves.
  • Engage with those I follow and who follow me
  • Re-tweet posts of value

I have no compunction about unfollowing people who annoy me.

Oh, and keep the politics out of Facebook and other social media too. Thank you.

Do you have a tax issue I can help you with? Get in touch and I will guide you.

 

Politics, social media and small business. Yikes!

Here in the UK we have had a steamy time, and I do not mean the weather. There have been huge political debates adding heat to a very poor summer. All that is fine in news programmes, documentaries and in the newspapers which I read avidly on-line.

What I do not need is political opinions on my Facebook pages. Many of my FB friends, probably most, are people I know through business. If I had not had respect for them they would not be my friends. Yet more and more on my Home Page I see political opinions and diatribe. You might gather I do not agree with a lot of it, or in fact most of it that gets served up there. They will not get referred by me or I suspect other people too.

Of course I find certain opinions annoying as will many others. That is not why I would not refer the politicals. The reason is that I believe it disrespectful to foist one’s political views on my friends. I would not want to go to dinner with people who spent the whole time criticising my views and beliefs. Why should I put up with it on Facebook or any other social media site?

On Twitter I can choose who to follow and it makes it more selective. On Facebook I can “unfollow” someone while remaining their friend. That way I will not see their political output in my Home stream. But then why should I bother to be their friend?

Politics? Just leave me alone, please.

Self-inflicted damage

Some signs we ignore at our peril

Some signs we ignore at our peril

I have been doing business with someone introduced to me by a networking friend. I have been buying his services.

Networking sites being what they are, this week LinkedIn prompted me to connect with him and at the same time he was suggested as a friend on Facebook. The LinkedIn profile is professional if rather brief. The Facebook page (and his privacy settings are low) is really unpleasant; prejudiced and smutty and full of nasty innuendo. He may think himself clever and funny. I do not, and I would hardly class myself as a PC zealot.

I am really disappointed. I will not connect on either platform. I will now feel uncomfortable with the guy. I would not want my connections to see I was connected to him because they might judge me by what he posts on Facebook.

The guy’s services have been very satisfactory. I have no complaints. However, I still might be reluctant to refer him as I would not want to be associated with his on-line views.

If I were this guy I would delete my Facebook profile and start again. A lot of our stuff is out on the internet forever. Some material can be deleted, but it is best not to have anything out there which might damage our reputations. But we don’t, do we?

How to make your business personal

TweetdeckThe uninitiated

I am active in social media as you know, and you probably would not have found this blog if you were not also active.

The other day I was explaining to some fellow tax practitioners how useful I find social media, and particularly in the course of business. I told them that on Twitter in particular the interaction with other businesses helps me build relationships and I have a bigger pool of people to whom I might refer work for my clients or for myself. I feel I know many of my Twitter contacts because I see them talking, or talk to them on a regular basis.

Twitter feeding

So Twitter is part of my referral networking strategy and so are Facebook and LinkedIn as are various other social sites. However Twitter is also one of my means of keeping up with the latest news in my business niche, good and bad. Many of my contacts (I follow them and they follow me) have their ears to the ground for the latest breaking stories via the newspapers, websites and professional magazines. Some of them are writers and journalists in the business. They know what is going on, and therefore I know what is going on. Sometimes I can even add to what they know, and so it all goes around.

Interacting with my on-line friends is therefore part of my marketing strategy, and also part of my professional development, because it helps me know what is going on in a business environment which is forever changing. Talking with these friends allows them to form their opinions of me as well as my having impressions of what they are like.

Making it personal

In the end it comes down to building and imprinting a personal brand on my business. People buy me, or choose not to sometimes, based on what they already know of me.

The tax people to whom I was trying to explain all this did not understand what I was saying. They all work for larger firms than mine. I guess none of them is responsible for marketing. They do what they do within their firms. They think that they don’t have the time to use social media because they believe it is a waste of time.

Maybe it is a waste of time for some, but more people know who you are and I am than know any of these partners and managers in bigger businesses. We also know more people who are valuable to us in our work, and we know all the latest news in our industry as it happens. We are less likely to be caught out by a customer, a client or a prospect.

People know us professionally; who we are, what we do and what we are like in business. That is personal branding, isn’t it? Doesn’t it make us so much more approachable?

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Social media gaming and business reputation

iStock_000005618867XSmallI care about my business reputation. Of course it is up to you what you think about my tweets and my Facebook posts, but I can assure you they are all authentic and deliberate. Everything everywhere which is under my name, out on the web, is something I have thought about, even if not much. 🙂 There is no automation other than the odd feed from my blog posts, but they are of my original content.

I see other people who automate their tweets, presumably to help their Klout scores and to boost their SEO or whatever. I have no idea if it works, but if you are like me you unfollow people who just put out automated tweets of quotations from famous people. It really is lazy to tweet second-hand material nobody cares about.

What is even worse is those who tweet or post automated feeds for which they are not responsible at all. Some attach their feeds to news stations or business sites, but many of the stories they appear responsible for are inappropriate for their business, with more raunchy celebrity news or reports of kayaking or something. That’s fine if you are in show biz reporting or sports, but not if you are in invoice discounting or factoring. It makes you look ridiculous.

You have to be careful tweeting feeds from specialist forums too, especially if you don’t monitor your output. Public forums are going to be spammed, and I saw a tax practice tweet spam about Viagra as a result. No doubt the forum moderator deleted the post, but our Twitter friend still had a dodgy web-link out in the ether.

Not everything I tweet is about my business. I post what I find interesting. I have conversations. So do you, I expect.

None of us uses social media perfectly and certainly not I, but we all do have to be sensible and be able to stand by our posts. Don’t we?

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Taking our business lives seriously

Be nice to your customers!

Playing at business

You may think the title states the obvious, but some people don’t use their heads. They take short cuts in their work, such as the carpenter who does a quick botch job, or they take long holidays and wonder why their business income falls and they are broke. It would be hard to believe for most of us, except it happens. Not attending properly to customers’ or clients’ needs means they will go elsewhere.

Doctor Doctor I feel like a pair of curtains. Pull yourself together!

If those slackers, because slackers they are, don’t pull themselves together and offer proper consistent reliable customer service rather than indifference and shoddy work, their businesses will suffer. In so many ways it is easy to make the change. I don’t understand how there can be such people who must rely on the next mug to sign up because they don’t keep their customers for long.

Don’t neglect the marketing

‘Doctor, doctor, people keep ignoring me.’ ‘Next please!’

It is no good setting up in business and not marketing. It is much better to make sure that everyone knows about you. You have to be visible. We know there are people who don’t market, but that is when they are so established and offer a great service or product. They get brilliant and deserved referrals.

If you have a new business or one quite young, that won’t work because you have no track record. Otherwise no one will know you are there. Get out there and market, and if you don’t know how, find someone with experience to help.

Make sure you are taken seriously

‘Doctor, doctor, there’s a strawberry growing on the top of my head.’ ‘I’ll give you some cream for it.’

Some people trash their businesses at meetings or networking event by talking too much and not managing their reputations. It is even worse on-line, so everyone needs to watch what they say on Facebook, in on-line forums, in their blog, or even in a thoughtless email. Google is our friend generally, but our enemy with our careless talk because it will come back to haunt us.

Reputation is the most important asset we have in business. Do you know people who are careless about their main source of income?

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Did you miss the boat?

Don’t rue your luck

Nr. St. Brelade, Jersey

Recently I have witnessed people publicly regretting that they did not manage to create a worldwide on-line network before Facebook appeared. Why didn’t their big idea grow the way Facebook did? The fact is that hard though they worked, and entrepreneurial though they were, Messrs Zuckerberg and co were very lucky in simply being in the right place at the right time. The right time was neither before they planted the seeds or afterwards, but exactly at the time they happened to start. That’s life.

Others may think “should we have sought venture capital rather than going alone? Should we have asked for support from this media person or that?” It doesn’t matter. The time has gone. We need to deal with the present.

We all make “mistakes” in our working lives. Sometimes we can benefit from them and learn. Just over ten years ago I left a comfortable but boring job with a large accountancy firm to go for what looked like a more interesting opportunity with a niche consultancy. I was warned against it by my then boss. “You will regret it” I was told. “They don’t treat their staff with respect.”

Being fired

Of course I didn’t pay attention. I took the new job. Thirteen months later I was given fifteen minutes to clear my desk when I had been under the impression that I was giving a presentation on the firm’s latest ideas to an invited audience in Jersey the following week. I had been puzzled that my flight and hotel accommodation had not been confirmed.

No regrets

My departure from that firm cast me into the world of self-employment. Do I regret joining that consultancy? No, it was the right decision at the time. I enjoyed the work hugely in that thirteen months. It boosted my confidence. I realised that I was very good at what I did, which I had begun to doubt having been starved of quality work at my previous employer.

We cannot dwell on what might have been. As independent business people the future is more in our hands. We may think sometimes “suppose I had accepted this offer or gone for that contract”. Such thoughts are a distraction and no more useful than wondering about how our lives might have been had we stayed with a past girlfriend or boyfriend.

Our past experience is how we learn to plan the future of our business. We just keep getting back in the saddle, and as business owners, at least the horse belongs to us.

Don’t look back. Does this ring a bell with you?

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The Daily Culture Shock

A great chippy

If we use social media in our marketing, we can easily get distracted by the latest fashion or the latest scare story. It can all get very confusing.

You know what I think of Klout and its ilk. I think Klout is a fun toy, but as a measure of how much noise we make it is hardly useful in measuring our on-line influence. The measure of that will be in how much engagement we have from our friends, followers, call them what you will, and ultimately in a business setting, how much pay-back we get from giving as much as we can. That sounds a bit mercenary, and I have some lovely friends I have met through various websites and platforms, but most of the time I commit is related to my need to market. OK, I admit to enjoying new friendships and straying from business matters.

Still, we cannot keep worrying about every new story such as whether Facebook will achieve world domination. Have you heard that one? Could we be totally reliant on Facebook for every human interaction, financial, business, social or in every other way? That is quite amusing in reminding me of the short story by E M Forster, written over a century ago, “The Machine Stops”. Would the world end if Facebook collapsed after taking us all over? You can download the story here.

The world changes and I have no idea what the on-line world will be in five years time or even twelve months from now and nor does anyone else.

In the Sixties, Woolworths was a successful business where one could by anything cheaply and the only fast food was from the fish and chip shop. The food was wrapped in newspaper and it was the only chance I had to see the Daily Mirror, which was frowned on by my parents. It was a greasy read though. My parents did not approve of the Beano and the Dandy either so you see what a strict upbringing I had.

Back then, going to an Italian restaurant would have been the height of chic (mixing two countries there) and there were simply no other cuisines available.

We had absolutely no idea what the next best thing was going to be, and we were swept along by events such as the Vietnam War and the pop culture and in my case the modern rock and folk culture.

We are still swept along. Back when I was growing up we didn’t worry about every new fashion or embracing every sort of movie or music. We chose what we wanted. That is what life is like.

Not worrying about certain on-line tools is not going to be fatal to our businesses. If something has legs for us, test it and see, but don’t dive in just because everyone else has. You might be wasting your time. See how they get on if you are not sure. If you fancy it, have a go. It is OK to be an early adopter. I had a ZX81. It was brilliant. I taught myself Basic and then DOS. Yes, I have a geek streak. However, you don’t have to adopt any and everything.

I believe that striving to have a high score on some index can be compulsive, like gambling or gaming. As a licensed radio amateur (ham) I have chased high scores for contacts and distance so I know what it can be like – a serious distraction from what we should be doing.

Of course what we should be doing is marketing our business and having fun doing it, and not striving to keep up with the Joneses. Follow your own instinct, not that of the chattering classes. Don’t you agree?

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Measuring web influence?

Twitter logo initial
Image via Wikipedia

When some people talk about their personal relationships, we want to cry out “Too much information” but when on-line that’s what we get. It is so difficult to filter out the noise. We are constantly being urged by various web pundits and bloggers to follow certain paths. Many of these opinions may be the right ones. We have to be selective because otherwise the noise will drown out all the information we could use.

Resources

It is the same with different web tools and social media sites. There are just too many to give the time to all at once. I avoid most of the invitations I get to join new social networks and try to ascertain those that are most likely to be useful. I will dive properly into Quora and BranchOut when I have time, which for a tax practitioner certainly is not in January, no matter how I manage my time and outsource.

However, of all the tools we do use, how do we know how much on-line influence we have? We can use sites which purport to measure influence, such as Klout, but they are very crude. My Klout score as I write is 46, which according to Klout is pretty decent. “Jon Stow is a Specialist

You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.”

All well and good, but I think a site such as Klout simply measures how much noise one makes. I have been very active on Twitter and Facebook in particular the last couple of weeks (as I write) but noise isn’t influence. Some people might be covering their ears as far as my noise is concerned.

How does it feel?

The only real measure of influence as far as I am concerned is the number of website and blog hits I see, the comments on the blogs and the number of conversations or (more critically) responses I have to initiate conversations on other people’s blogs, my blogs and Twitter. These are climbing steadily while my Klout score has varied between 18 and 51.

In the end social media influence must be not how other people measure it but how it feels. Pain and pleasure are subjective feelings influenced usually by multiple factors. One’s on-line influence may be measured by clinical factors such as website and blog hits, but the manifestation is the number of sales we are making through our internet influence. I am pleased to say that these are climbing well from almost nothing a couple of years ago, but on this receiving end, subjective personal measuring of new business is really the only way I can truly know. It’s as subjective as just knowing whether or not we are happy. I certainly am, but definitely not complacent. What do you think?

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