Successful Social Media is More Than A Campaign

Mild rant forthcoming.

I see so many case studies for social media being presented – in their entirety – as:

  • social discounts and coupons
  • a video campaign
  • a clever Facebook contest

But this drives me crazy insane. Here’s why.

Social media is not just direct marketing parked online.

Ultimate social media success by my definition is far more than whether you took advantage of the latest application craze to market the same stuff you always have.
Part of the trouble is that we rarely distinguish between Social Media, The Tools and Tubes and Social Media, The Business Philosophy. And they’re different.

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Going Beyond Social Media Reach

We’re a little too focused on collecting humans like marbles.

Our fans. Followers. Subscribers. Impressions.

Once upon a time, numbers like gross circulation mattered a bit more, because the available channels and paths for information were somewhat limited. So by putting yourself visibly in one of them, chances were pretty good that you’d actually be seen, and command a fair bit of someone’s attention, at least for a few moments.

Now? Not nearly. Clicking “follow” or “like” is a fleeting, non-commital moment. And just as easily, that attention is off and elsewhere. (How many pages have you liked – whether sincere or just out of support for a friend – and never revisited?). It’s the equivalent of someone picking up the flyer and tossing it in the next trash can. Veneered attention is so easy to give out, because it doesn’t take our time, our effort, or even our brainpower. We simply need to click. And move on.

Is that really the only way you want to define success?

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I Still Believe

I’m a pragmatist.

One of my strengths is that I can take a big, lofty idea (usually conceived by someone else), and help bring it down to earth. Break it down into reality, make it happen. Tamsen excels at that, too. (The blog’s tagline here is no accident). So for most purposes, I’m pretty practical, and I’m sometimes the killjoy as a result.

But I’d like to say something.

I’ve been in the business world for nigh on 15 years now. I’ve worked in nonprofits and the corporate world, mostly in communications roles like fund development, marketing, client services. I’ve seen little business, big business, slow business, and fast business. I’ve experienced bringing the web into the business world, and all that’s entailed (for better or worse). I’ve watched a lot of stuff change, and a lot of stuff stay the same.

In the 3 years or so that I’ve been working in and around social media specifically, I’ve seen some amazing things happen. I’ve been in awe of the implications, the changes, the subtle shifts (and the not so subtle) that have been happening in the way we communicate with one another, be it business or personal.

And I’m still excited.

I know negativity sells. Controversy catches eyes, and it’s all the rage right now to, well, rage against the machine that is social media. Or point out all its shortcomings. Or declare things or people dead, over, overhyped. Or spend time tearing ideas down instead of applying true critical thinking, and figuring out how to build something from the rubble.

But I just don’t think that’s very helpful.

We are indeed at a time of unprecedented opportunity. The web and its agility give voices where there were none, ways to connect that defy time and geography, opportunity for ideas that might never have seen the light of day. It’s helping businesses rethink everything from their culture to their people to the systems they’ve built, and even big ships are finding themselves turning in new directions.

And we’re starting. We’re trying. We’re learning with little things that feel comfortable and familiar (and don’t always go so well, but that’s the nature of progress). There are missteps and misunderstandings and lots of imperfections, but those will always be there. The nature of a gawky adolescent with limbs too long and a mind too easily distracted.

But we are moving. Waking the sleeping giant. Growing and maturing with flashes of brilliance amid our zealousness. And things are indeed changing around us…for good.

I think that’s pretty spectacular. We’re part of history right now, and not an insignificant part. To all of you with enthusiasm and knowledge, I say let’s leave people with things they can do. Focus some of our boundless energy into the hard work of creating, of criticizing with thoughtfulness and progress in mind, and laying a foundation upon which we can build this next generation of human connectivity.

I still believe. Do you?

Amber Naslund

photo credit: Bob Jagendorf

Calling for the Death of Consumption Guilt

How often do you lament the fact that you can’t get through all of the stuff in your reader? I know I’ve done it.

Do you feel guilty when you unsubscribe something or unfriend someone in your network? Why?

Consumption of content is not a democracy. Giving of attention is not a democracy. We each have to decide what we find value in, and leave the rest behind. If that’s one blog or no blogs or five Twitter followers or a hundred, it’s up to us. And there is no standard that’s fit for everyone.

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13 Truths About Social Media Measurement

1. If you aren’t measuring anything else, social media measurement isn’t the problem.

Measurement is a discipline, and it needs to be business-wide. If you’re going to ask about the ROI, value, or impact of social media and how to measure it, I’m going to ask how you’re going about determining those things for other areas of your business, and ask you to translate or adapt some of those practices over to social initiatives.

If you’re not measuring anything else, you’ll have a learning curve. A steep one. It’ll come complete with needing the right tools and platforms to collect data, the right people to analyze it, the buy in from management to spend the time doing all of this, and the commitment to use the measurement as a means to underscore your strategy. The social media data is available for the taking, so that’s not the problem. The *real* issue is connecting the dots. See #4.

2. Measurement is not the goal.

The goal is to derive insights that teach you something of value, and then act on them. Measurement is a waystation, a path, but is not the goal in itself. You don’t get a cookie for measuring.

You probably need to spend three times as much time and effort evaluating and acting on your data than you do collecting and formatting it. Why? Because the analysis is what yields direction, plans, action steps, you name it. You START with the data. You need to end up with a course of action, or the act of measuring (and all the time you spent doing it) is wasted.

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Engagement as a Universal Constant

How familiar are statements like these?

“Gee I really wish such-and-such would just engage.”

“Be engaged in order to be successful in social media.”

“Social media is different than marketing because it’s about engagement.”

“We really want to engage our community.”

All fair statements, through their own lenses.

But the trick is that the definition of engagement is in the eye of the beholder. What you perceive as an “engaged” customer might not suit their definition at all. And the limited online periscope through which you view someone’s behavior (and consequently judge it) may not be all-encompassing.

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9 Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Blog


I’m not much of a numbers hound.

I don’t pore over my stats with a fine tooth comb, I don’t obsess about unfollows or subscriber numbers or any of that stuff. In fact, I don’t even have that nifty little widget here to tell you how many people subscribe – even though I understand the benefits of social proof – simply because it’s never been that important to me.

So it’s a bit contradictory for me to say that I’m proud to have recently crested 10,000 subscribers for this blog in the two years I’ve been musing here. It’s been an amazing adventure, and one I intend to evolve, shape, and carry forward for a while to come. I thank each and every one of you for making this place the rewarding adventure it’s been.

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Growing Into Leadership


People aren’t born into leadership positions. We usually start in the trenches, as the doers. The bricklayers. The people touching all the parts, from the inside out. We earn the right to lead the projects and the vision by doing the work itself, and doing it well. But therein usually lies the rub.

Because the hardest part of learning to lead well is letting go of the execution, the very thing that earned us our spot at the head of the team, and entrusting others with the building and construction.

The old saying of “if you want something done right, do it yourself” just doesn’t play at scale. That’s not how great ideas come to fruition, and it’s not how great businesses are built.

As I’ve learned to lead rather than do (and that’s a constant process), a few key concepts have helped me a great deal to stay on track, and perhaps they’ll help you too, or someone you know emerging into a leadership role.


* Build consensus around shared goals and direction.
* Present the what – the shared vision or goals – but not necessarily the how.
* Communicate expectations clearly and often.
* Avoid dictating the plans yourself, but rather help refine the roadmaps that others have built and presented.


* Champion and enable others’ ideas instead of always handing others ideas to execute.
* Allow your teams sometimes to fail in their search for the approach that works, and to help them find the lessons in those failures.
* Protect nascent ideas and allow them time to incubate without immediate interference from bureaucracy and naysayers.
* Encourage respectful discourse and sharing of opinions and viewpoints, including opposing ones.
* Recognize success openly, sincerely, and often.


* Provide context, history, and organizational intelligence to empower your teams with information upon which to build their plans.
* Look past today’s projects to envision what tomorrow might look like and how you can guide toward it.
* Present alternative views or looks at stubborn problems.
* Consistently evaluate team dynamics and capabilities, and make the tough people decisions to ensure you’ve got the right people in the right roles.


* Provide direct lines of communication with each team member, and be available.
* Keep confidences, period.
* Hire capable, smart people, and be willing to get out of their way.
* Be responsible and accountable for your decisions and their results, and avoid scapegoating and blame.
* Share the credit, and the spotlight.

Learning to be a leader can be challenging when you’ve built a career on doing the work. Old habits die hard. It’s sometimes hard to believe that anyone can do what you do and do it as well, or better. But if you’ve got designs on building something bigger than you, you’re going to need to build and empower a team around you. It’s just not possible to do it alone.

So what would you add to my list? How would you help new and emerging leaders get comfortable with their roles? I’m looking forward to your comments. Fire away.

Will The Business People Please Stand Up?

I don’t care about social media gurus or experts or mavens or whatever. That whole thing is going to settle itself out eventually, when the good work starts getting more concrete, and the people actually doing the work continue demonstrating and illustrating their learnings and results.


What concerns me far more than some nerd slinging his Facebook skillz around the fishbowl is the fact that in so many disciplines – social media included – we’ve got legions of people out there that are missing fundamental business acumen.

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Tough Love: We Have Work To Do

I say “we”, because I include myself in what I’m about to say.


Yesterday, I posted that what we really need is more people with solid business skills. And Justin commented, rightly so, that many of the people shouting AMEN might just be part of the problem. He’s not wrong.

It’s not likely that each of you reading this post have all of your business skills down pat, even as you agree with me about the need for them. I know I certainly don’t. But I’m working on it.

For example, financial operations is something I know at a basic budget management and profit-and-loss level, but I don’t always understand financial management strategy and revenue modeling. So I’m learning from people that do, so I can be less ignorant in that regard, and more useful to my business and projects. That’s just one thing on my list.

Go back to the second to last point on yesterday’s rundown:

People who can admit what they don’t know, and seek knowledge or help.

That means you, too. US.

Each of you undoubtedly has a solid set of things you do well. Meg Fowler is an outstanding writer and wordsmith. Bill Sledzik is an experienced educator. Kellye Crane is a solid PR professional.

But each of us could do with a gut check about the things we need to improve. And we can help hold each other accountable.

I’m thrilled beyond measure that you guys come here and comment and like what I write. It makes me feel good to know you’re out there, and that you want to spend time to connect with me. I love that people shared yesterday’s post on Twitter and Facebook and said how much they agree with the premise. But here’s the thing.

Don’t you dare come here and say “great post” or “Amen”, write a few words of endorsement, and walk away. That’s lip service, and I’m challenging you to something better than that. Something bigger.

Don’t comment here that you agree with me. Don’t tell me this post was awesome. I’m here to change the way things are done, and that means mobilizing people to action, not talk.

What I need is for you to know what you don’t know. Have the stones to face it down. Think about and communicate what will help you be a better business person, and then do something about it. Share it here if putting it out publicly motivates you. If it doesn’t, leave here and go do whatever compels you to move. I would much rather your silence than your inaction. Please.

If you share this post, please do it because you’re encouraging others to get real, too. My having a voice out here does very little good if all I can ever get people to do is read, tap out a few words, think briefly, and go back to doing things as they always have. There’s work to be done, is there not?

Are you with me?