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A Key To Great Social Media Relationships

one2one-sm.gifRemember the days when the internet was like listening to news radio? You’d search the dial for news and interesting topics.

Then came talk radio. Now people could call in and add their two cents to the topic discussed by the host. I often think of social media as being like talk radio.

For instance, now people can interact with the ‘hosts’ of blogs; engaging in interesting, lively and informative conversations. Or they can meet each other in Facebook or on StumbleUpon. Yet it goes further than that. Now, rather than just commenting on topics, social sharing and networking sites allow users to have control over what content gets seen – which stories get pushed to the top. It’s really an amazing time. [Read more…]

Which Blogger Would You Most Like to Meet?

I get this question a lot from people. I guess I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many bloggers that it’s hard to say. Would I like to meet Darren Rowse or Brian Clark? Sure. I’d love to look them both in the eye and thank them for everything they’ve taught me about blogging.

one2one-sm.gifIt’d be great to meet Seth Godin – oh, wait, I did meet him last summer when he was on his book tour for The Dip. Great ideas, nice presenter, but didn’t find him too engaging personally. Maybe it was the setting.

I’ve also had this odd fascination with Robert Scoble, though truthfully, I’m not sure why. Maybe he just gets it in a way I’m still trying too. Or the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto. That book solidified how I look at business and it’d be great to bat it around with those guys a bit.

Gosh, really, there’s tons of bloggers I’d like to meet. After all, I’m blogging because I love the conversation. I love to learn. I love to share what I know. I just love meeting people. People from all walks-of-life. I want to hear their stories and learn from their experiences. So really, there’s tons of bloggers I’d like to meet…

Like you!

But since in our last one2one conversation Liz asked me who’s the person I’d like to meet, I’ll go ahead and choose someone.

muhammadsaleem.jpgBut you know, the blogger I’d like to meet most at this moment is someone I should have met last May at SOBCon07. He was there. I saw him around. We just never got a chance to meet. Who is it? Muhammad Saleem. Why? Because this guy knows social media and I’d love to pick his brain.

I’d call him a social media expert. Just take a look at what he writes on his own blog, [muhammad.saleem] or at Pronet Advertising. Or check out his numerous guest posts on sites like The Blog Herald, Copyblogger, Search Engine Land. And don’t forget to search for the huge number of interviews he’s given around social media. He’s even a top Digger and one of Propeller’s “professional social bookmarkers.

Really, just follow this guy’s trail and you’ll learn everything you’d ever want or need to know about social media, social networking, social sharing, social marketing, etc. Maybe I don’t need to sit down and pick his brain.

Nah, that wouldn’t be any fun now, would it? Not to mention, I’d miss learning who Muhammad, the person, is. And that just wouldn’t be any fun.

So is there a blogger would you most like to meet? Who? Why?

And for Liz, since this is a one2one conversation…

What’s one way you’d say social media has changed the way you do business?

Of course, when I’m asking Liz, I’m asking you too. So please, answer away. And Muhammad, if you happen to stop by, I pose the same question to you.

How Are Your Online Relationships Different From Your Offline Relationships?

one2one-sm.gifBoy do Liz and I have an interesting conversation going on about relationships.

My last question to her, if you recall, was how has your blog changed the way you think about relationships? She titled her response: I Knew Everything about Relationships Until an Audience Came. You’ve gotta take a read. Here’s an excerpt:

I don’t think about relationships anymore. I see the people I have relationships with and the incredible differences they make. I see the changes we make in each other.

Of course, she passed a great question right back to me when she asked:

Do you see a difference between your online relationships and those offline – beyond the obvious physical differences?

Without a doubt!

One of the most interesting differences, for me, has been how easy it’s been to get to know absolute strangers. Just from blogging I now have a number of people I’d call friends. People like Chris, Wendy, Char, Lorelle, Ed, Ben, Mike and Mike, David and David, Gayla, Phil, Kammie, Easton and Tony, to name a few. Most I’ve met in person. And all I stay in touch with by phone or email on some sort of regular basis (sorry I’ve been out of touch a bit lately, David).

What’s really neat is that they each live in different places. And I didn’t know any of them before I was blogging. Same with Liz…one day, some months back, I got an email message saying, “I’m calling you at 2pm today.” Then she did, we talked and we’ve not stopped since.

I’m pretty certain that without my blog I’d not know any of these folks. Yet we each have things in common that bring us together. Each one of them (and many of you) have enriched my life in different ways. I feel fortunate to call them all friends.

And that’s where the internet, and the blogosphere specifically, continues to amaze me. Through my blog, I’ve met such good, caring, interesting and quality people. We may live thousands of miles apart, but we’re neighbors in the blogosphere.

So what brings us together in the first place? In each relationship it’s a little different. Yet a common denominator is that we have similar interests. Those interests bring us together. It gives us a ground to share what we know and what we love with each other. Combine that with wanting to meet interesting people and you have a formula for building relationships that extend beyond the blogosphere.

Now that’s not to say that the people I’ve met blogging have replaced friends I’ve already had. Not at all. Rather, it’s just expanded my circle of friends. And that circle keeps getting larger.

And you know, you’re a part of that circle as well. Yeah, I do mean you. Without you, I’m not sure I’d still be blogging. I’m blogging to start conversations and build relationships. So without you, without your interest, your readership, your comments, your sticking around to get to know me, none of this would be possible. Okay, maybe it’s be possible, but it sure wouldn’t be worthwhile. So thank you.

So please, drop me a line some time and introduce yourself. And we’ve already met, don’t be a stranger. I love hearing from you.

And there you have the difference, as I see it, between online and offline relationships. How could I invite a bunch of people I don’t know to start a relationship without my blog? And then give you the time to respond whenever and however you like…if at all?

Of course you should know by now that my goal is to turn my online relationships into offline relationships. And that happens organically. So I have to ask you, how have your online relationships differed from your offline ones? Let’s talk about it in the comment box.

You know Liz and I keep going back-and-forth in this one2one conversation. Remember, you can join in the conversation on either of our blogs as well. So when I ask Liz this question, I’m also asking you:

What’s the oddest beginning to a relationship that you’ve developed through your blog?

You can look for Liz’s response on Thursday. But we don’t have to wait til then to talk about it…

What Do You Do When A Commenter Just Isn't Hearing You?

one2one-sm.gifDid you all catch Liz’s last installment of our one2one conversation? It was great. I asked her , “What have you thought would work on your blog that bombed with your readers? And what did you learn from it?” Her answer was a lovely example of how the blogosphere works.

If you need a reminder, Liz Strauss and I are having a one2one conversation across our blogs. First, Liz posts a question to me that I answer on my blog which I, in turn, end with a question for her which she answers on her blog. It’s that simple, really. Of course we’re not selfish…you’re invited into the conversation as well. Think about it as all of us meeting up at the local coffee shop for a discussion – every Monday and Thursday.

And boy did she ask me a great one this week:

What do you do when a commenter seems to misinterpret what you're saying no matter how hard you try to explain what you mean?

I’ve certainly had this happen to me. I can think of a few occasions where what I’ve tried to say in my post gets taken out of context or simply misunderstood.

I’m actually surprised this doesn’t happen more often. It’s easy enough to misunderstand someone when they’re talking to you in person and can hear your inflections and see your body language. Just think about how often we misunderstand what our spouses are saying.

Writing leaves even more to interpretation because we’re not directly with our readers. They can’t see our bodies or hear our voices to know where we’re putting emphasis. So it can be so easy to misinterpret something written – especially around around hot and touchy topics where a commenter might feel charged.

How have I handled this?

For me, it’s part of the conversation. So I consider it with every other comment. First, I try to restate my perspective, writing directly to the commenter who I feel misinterpreted what I wrote. Then I wait for their reply. Sometimes I’ll even email them to let them know I’ve replied and wait for theirs. If we’re still missing each other, there’s a few things I might do, each depending on the circumstances:

  1. Remember, it’s you too. Communication goes two ways. If a commenter just isn’t getting you, sure it’s about them. But not fully. You share some responsibility in them not getting you as well. Not only is it your blog, your writing and your comment box, it’s also your ways of expressing yourself – which aren’t always clear to other people. So just keep that in mind as you proceed.
  2. Keep trying. I find it’s best, whenever possible, to keep the conversation happening in the comment box. I want readers to feel that they have the freedom to express themselves here – even if they have the opposing views. I certainly don’t know everything. And my readers have definitely taught me a few things (thanks, btw).
  3. Put out the fire. Sometimes when you’re not getting each other, the conversation turns spicy. Rather than either of you bridging the gap – it just gets wider. This can lead to heated debate – which can often be very interesting. But if it turns negative, I suggest putting out the fire. Most often you can do this with a benign comment or an email.
  4. Politely ignore them. Even when you put out the fire some commenters will continue. I usually just give them the space to vent their feelings and know that they’ll calm at some point. A great way to give them space is to politely ignore their comments. Acknowledge them, but don’t write anything that would encourage a response.
  5. Eat crow. Sometimes you just need to take the punch. Don’t reply in any way that would confrontational. Allow the commenter to believe they’re right. Thank them and let them know that they’ve opened your eyes to something you need to think about. Doesn’t mean you have to agree, but at least it doesn’t need to become an argument.
  6. Pick up the phone. This is all about conversation leading to relationships, right? So why not take the next step and phone the person. Most of the time, you won’t be locked into a battle, you’ll just be missing each other. So give them a call. Spending a few minutes on the phone can clear things right up. Seldom have I found this not to work. And even if you end up agreeing to disagree, you’ve made one heck of an impression. The fact that you care enough about your readers to phone them about their comments…think about the message that sends.

I always try to remember that it’s a person on the other end of the comment box. They have experience, thoughts and feeling that are just as valuable to them as mine are to me. Just because we’re not communicating well, doesn’t make one of us less than the other. Rather it makes for an interesting adventure as we get to know each other. And knowing each other is the point.
One thing I don’t recommend, really under and circumstances, is flaming someone on your blog. I just can’t see a need or reason to trash someone who you probably don’t know all too well. If you’ve written something on your blog that just doesn’t jive with people, then it doesn’t jive. Be honest about it and move on. If someone attacks you for it, is really worth going to war with them just to prove your point?

Just look at what happened to Liz. Was there any reason for her to be treated like that? I don’t think so. Better that she learn through politeness and compassion than through fire, I think. What do you think?

Oh, and while we’re talking about Liz, I’ve got a question for both of you:

How has your blog changed the way you think of relationships?

What To Do When People Aren't Paying Attention To Your Blog

one2one-sm.gifDon’t you want your blog to be noticed?

Sure, we each blog for different reasons. Some of us want to express our views or write about something we love. Others of us want make a buck or promote our business. And some just want to share their lives with others.

Regardless of why you’re blogging, it’s likely you’re doing so to get attention.

Now, I don’t mean that in a childish, acting out way. I mean that you want to be noticed; that you’re writing to gain an audience. And you want your audience to so something whether they’re just reading and commenting, clicking link ads or answering a survey. So you want attention – you want to be noticed.

But what do you when suddenly no one seems to be paying attention to your blog?

That’s the question that Liz Strauss asked me our latest one2one conversation.

As a blog and business consultant and coach, I get asked questions like this all the time. After all, the far majority of us blogging are doing so because we have something to share. But it’s hard to share when no one’s listening, right?

So what do you do when no one seems to be listening?

First of all, how do you know no one’s listening? Just about every blog that’s been around more than a couple of months sees some traffic – even it it’s a trickle. So people are listening. Okay, so they may not be listening, or even reading, but that trickle of traffic is finding you.

So you need to set criteria for evaluating whether people are paying attention or not. Doesn’t matter what you decide as the criteria, as long as you have some method to measure it. It could be traffic stats or referrals sources. It could be Technorati ranking or number of feed subscriptions. It could be how many comments you’re getting or how many ad click-throughs. Really, it doesn’t matter what your criteria are. Just be sure that it has meaning to you and it can be measured.

Once you have your criteria, you’ll want to begin measuring it. If you’re focused on comments it should be easy because your blogware (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, etc) will show you comment stats. If it’s traffic, you’ll want to look at your server stats either through your hosting company or a service like Google Analytics. Technorati, feed subscriptions, and click-through ads will all have ways of measuring your what’s happening.

Why measure? Because it gives you a more objective sense of what’s happening on your blog. Sometimes what you sense is happening just isn’t accurate. For instance, if you’re blogging for the conversation you’re probably interested in the number of comments your posts get. So if the number of comments goes down, it tells you that something in your writing isn’t helping your readers create conversation. In this case, you’d go back, look at the posts that have few comments and compare it posts that got more comments. What’s commonly different between them? It could be content, style or wording. Find what’s missing and write your next few posts with those elements in place – and measure what happens.

If your traffic’s dropped, look back at your stats and see why. One place to start is with your referrers. Are you getting the same amount of traffic through your referrers? If not, find out why. Compare the headlines from your most popular posts and those that are less popular – see a difference? Also, think back to those higher traffic times and consider what you were doing then that you’re not doing now. Maybe you used to comment more on other blogs and you’re not now. That’s easy to remedy.

In general, you can almost always measure what’s going on with your blog. After you’ve set the criteria that’s important to you, it gives you a place to spend your time. That way you don’t have to be bogged down with the many aspects of your blog – you can focus on the one to two most important parts.

Probably the biggest thing is to remember that blogging is for your readers. So if you can’t figure out why it seems people aren’t paying attention to your blog, ask your readers. As in a post and elicit comments. Maybe even email a number of readers and create a dialogue with them. They know why they read your blog better than you ever will. And if they like you, most will be more than happy to help. So ask.

The key to all this is to see what works for you and your readers and what doesn’t – or at least what works less well. Blogging is a bit of trial and error – even if you know what you’re doing. Even Darren Rowse is still experimenting with Problogger. So be willing to explore things, try things and see how they work.

Which is what leads me to my next question for Liz…

What have you thought would work on your blog that bombed with your readers? And what did you learn from it?

You know, I’m not just asking Liz, but you too. Let’s see if the comment box can carry two conversations – one about what to do when people aren’t paying attention to your blog AND the other around what have you tried that’s bombed with your readers.

Are You Having A Conversation With Your Niche Audience?

You’d think the latest question Liz asked me would be simple to answer. And on the surface it is. Yet, I’ve needed an extra day to think about where to take this one2one conversation next.

When you go around the Internet, what mistake do you see most often?

one2one-sm.gifThat’s her question. Think about it for a second. Do you see what I mean? I could answer this from so many different levels and perspectives that I’ve actually been stuck on how I wanted to answer it.

Since Liz is asking me for one mistake, I’m going to need your help. So let’s have a discussion in the comment box. I’ll start it off…

Having been a web designer for so many years, you’d think the mistake I’d see most often would have something to with visual design, site architecture, or layout. Sure, there’s plenty of poorly designed sites out there. And we all know plenty of blogs that are poorly organized and cluttered.

But the mistake I see most often isn’t in the way a site looks. The mistake I see most often is how a site owner uses their site to communicate with their audience.

I’m bias, that’s certain. And my bias leans heavily in the direction of conversation and relationship. Yet, I know from experience, that it’s conversations that lead to relationships that lead to business. People want to do business with people – not with businesses. In other words, they want conversation and relationships.

Most website owners, most business owners and a lot of marketing coaches simply don’t get this. They focus on slick or carefully crafted marketing copy that’s meant to evoke an emotional response to create action. I’m not saying that’s bad – not at all. I just think that there’s more.

So what I often see are business owners trying to fit themselves into a method of copy writing that’s not so much about building relationship and which I feel is unnatural. Pick a handful of business websites and read the copy. Tell me if you feel like the business owners want a relationship with you or do they just want your business?

I advise all my clients – even those working with copy writing and marketing gurus – to consider their websites as the beginning of a dialogue with a person in their target audience. Don’t just meet them where they are, engage them in conversation. Write as though you’re sitting with them over coffee, listening closely to the problems they face. And respond with an open, conversational tone.

This is easier to do on a blog because of the chance for conversation in the comment box. The blog has the advantage as well in that you continue to engage in that conversation with your audience each time your write a post. But you can do this on a static website as well. As you write, just picture yourself having a conversation about where they are.

Remember, people want to do business with people. So don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person. You can be a marketing professional and still be person. Anyway, you know from your own business interactions that connection, personality and temperament play an enormous role in successful business relationships. So why not build your personality into your marketing materials. Let people know who you are right out front. Let them see you as a person. Then invite them to sit at your table with their cup of coffee. Who knows what can happen next.

So I think not actively engaging people in a conversation that can build a relationship is the most common mistake I see in websites.

There are many others – certainly – even around content. So I turn my site over to you to share what mistakes you often see was you’re perusing the web.

And I have to be sure to continue our one2one conversation by asking Liz

What’s helped you go from just being a writer on a blog to becoming a conversational dynamo?

I can’t wait to see Liz’s answers. She is truly a master at writing conversational copy, if you ask me. But until she answers, let’s talk…