Michelle Sullivan Communications

Social Media: Getting away with the minimum

Social media is like your exercise routine: the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Hitting the gym for a few hours a day and working with a personal trainer may get you the abs that are the envy of all your friends, but sometimes all you have time for (or even desire for) is a quick walk after dinner to get the blood pumping a little at least. As much as I encourage my clients to invest fully in their social media initiatives, I also want to be sure that if they’re not willing to do as much work as I’d like, that they’re still covering the basics.

What do you do in the social media space when all you want to do is the very minimum?


Make your web content visible. As attractive as that flash website may be, it won’t win you many points with most search engines. Your existing clients already know how great you are … your prospects are the ones that need convincing. But first they have to find you. Great website content is dynamic, relevant, informative, easy to digest and, most definitely, optimized for search. Keep keywords in mind when you review your content. And if you must use flash, be sure to be aware of its limitations.


Make your web content shareable. Even if you’re not willing to step up your social media game by investing in a blog, you should be making what web content you do have shareable. Visitors to your site will be able to spread the good word on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or any one of a number of social networks with one easy click. Plugins like ShareThis, AddThis, Digg Digg and Sociable are just some of the options available to you and your web developer. Give your website visitors the tools they need to become effective brand ambassadors.


EgoSurf. Social media is just as much about listening as it is about engaging with communities. Not all companies are willing or even able to put the time and effort into really getting the most out of social media, but no company can afford to neglect its online reputation. Ignoring client comments will not make them go away. You may not want or be able to engage with your customers online, but just hearing what they have to say about your company, its products and services and the quality of your customer service will provide you with valuable insight. In Mad Men days, agencies used to run focus groups. They occasionally still do. But more and more they’re showing their clients that in the age of social media, the real focus group is already out there and just begging to be listened to. So be sure to monitor what’s being said about your company and brands online. A number of free and premium tools are available to you, from something as basic as Google Alerts, to Social Mention, to platforms like Radian6, Sysomos and Nexalogy.


Squat. You may not want to tweet just yet, but you should consider staking your claim. Most social networks allow you to open accounts with your company or brand name. Pepsi’s Twitter account is @pepsi. Nike’s is @nike. Simple, clear and most of all obvious to anyone searching for the Pepsi or Nike presence on Twitter. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find you. You also want to prevent anyone else from hijacking your company or brand name. If Pepsi hadn’t staked their claim early, soft drink detractors could easily have opened a Twitter account using the brand name. As the obvious go-to Twitter identifier for anyone searching for Pepsi’s account, the detractors’ account would have been in a position to do some real damage to the brand. Just ask BP. You’ve invested time, money and energy into building your brand’s reputation. Now’s not the time to neglect it. Better an unused Twitter account reserved in your name than your brand’s social media presence in the hands of someone else. Protect your reputation and stake your company or brand’s social media claim before someone else does.

These four tips cover only the absolute basics. Effective social media requires an investment of time and energy. If you’re not willing to put much effort into social media, you can’t expect it to do miracles for you. But do the minimum, if nothing else. Doctor’s orders.

LinkedIn back in the spotlight

After being in the shadows of more flamboyant networks like Facebook and Twitter for years, LinkedIn, the social network for business is quietly making its way back into the spotlight this year. Nowhere have I been made as acutely aware of this reality as yesterday evening at the Irish Canada Chamber of Commerce event where I was an invited speaker. While my presentation aimed at small business and focused primarily on B2C communications, with a little B2B thrown in for good measure, my audience was obviously hungry for information on how to better leverage LinkedIn. Unfortunately, given time constraints, it was a network I had chosen to leave off the menu. Lesson learned!

Needless to say I’ve already started working on a LinkedIn presentation for the B2B market, which will be available soon. Here are some interesting resources for you, if you’re hungry for more right now:

LinkedIn Traffic Statistics and User Demographics 2013
Glen Cathey of Boolean Black Belt presents demographics compiled from Quantast, in video format. He notes a dramatic increase in daily uniques and mobile traffic between 2013 and 2011. LinkedIn has added 40 million monthly visitors since 2011. Canada round out the Top 5 countries using LinkedIn, and India has just passed Britain at number 2. Interesting fact for companies and entrepreneurs interested in this emerging market. Asians as a whole are strongly represented on the professional networking platform. And ladies, where are you? Men outrank women on LinkedIn at almost 2:1.

LinkedIn for Businesses and Brands Webinar
Our good friend Chris Penn at Shift Communications shares his insight via webinar, audio and pdf. He talks, among other things, about lead acquisition, strategic content sharing and competitive research. Chris is a sharp mind with years of experience in the social media space. Check him out.

New LinkedIn features for B2B marketing
Susanne Colwyn discusses two changes made by LinkedIn in July affecting B2B marketers. You can now sponsor updates, much as you do with promoted tweets. Colwyn also breaks down changes to LinkedIn analytics, including more detailed demographics.

I hope you’ll check out my upcoming presentation on B2B marketing and LinkedIn. Details to follow.

Until then, join me on LinkedIn!

3124.LinkedIn logo

Danger! Twitter! (or lessons learned from PR gaffes)

Is Twitter dangerous? Should agencies ban their reps … particularly their junior reps … from using it?  Or at least stay awake nights fretting about risk? Lately, there have been a slew of Twitter-related PR gaffes by unlucky (or irresponsible or unenlightened) PR types that have made senior agency and in-house executives particularly uneasy. But is their fear misplaced?

Let’s recap:

1. The creators of video game Duke Nukem fired their PR firm The Redner Group after their rep tweeted the following threat to reviewers: « Too many went too far with their reviews … we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom. »

2. A PR rep manning Chrysler’s Twitter account likely misapplied the following Tweet to his client’s corporate account rather than his own personal account (either way, it’s bad) : « I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive. »

3. Similarly, an internal social media resource at the Red Cross, made the following Twitter gaffe: « Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd. » The Red Cross apparently has a sense of humour, posting the following after deleting the tweet: « We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross  is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys. » The incident actually turned into a fundraising opportunity, thanks to the good people at Dogfish Head.

4. If you’re a fan of the classics, you’ll appreciate this flashback to 2009, when a Ketchum exec tweeted his distaste for the city of Memphis a few short hours after teaching FedEx employees all about Twitter at their Memphis head office: « True confession but i’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say I would die if I had to live here! » FedEx was not amused.

While I’m of the mind that these incidents speak more to very poor judgement than to the perils of Twitter, and that instilling solid values is what agencies should do to ensure their employees communicate professionally no matter the communications channel, there are a few things you can do to ensure this kind of slip up doesn’t happen at your PR agency:

1. Don’t mix business with pleasure: Tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite have features that let you manage multiple accounts. Choosing one for client accounts and another for your personal account means that there’s little risk of mistweeting.

2. Be transparent: While it’s not  best practice, many brands turn a portion … if not all … of their tweeting responsibility over to their PR agencies. They should do so transparently, ensuring tweets are identified; using initials is standard practice.  At least this way followers can identify the actual source and not necessarily link it to the brand (in an ideal world, anyway). It might help if accidents happen.

3. Remember crisis management 101: Own up to the error and, if possible and appropriate, keep a sense of humour about it. Social media is fluid and moves quickly. A well placed mea culpa and a bit of self-effacing humour can go a long way to quickly cooling off a heated crisis.

4. Think twice before hitting submit, share or reply: do you really want to spew venom through social media channels when you’re managing accounts that aren’t your own? Don’t let momentary rage or frustration get in the way of good client relations and a reputation you’ve cultivated over time.

5. Be prepared: Maintaining an active Twitter presence, becoming part of the community and ensuring your brand’s account always has a human face is the best way to ensure your Twitter account isn’t seen as the impersonal mouthpiece of a faceless corporation. The community understands that to err is human, so be human.

As for the Duke Nukem example, threatening people, online or off,  usually isn’t the best course of action. Just saying.

Social Media measurement: Charlie Sheen and Klout – on the wrong track?

Charlie Sheen has been a tabloid favourite for years … unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. This week has seen the American actor on a media tour, appearing on daytime and late night television talk shows from 20/20, to Good Morning America, to Piers Morgan Tonight.

Yesterday saw the appearance of a verified Charlie Sheen Twitter account (@charliesheen). The buzz spread from traditional media outlets and influential online publications like Mashable to the Twittersphere itself like wildfire.

According to Mashable:

Haven’t had your fill of Charlie Sheen’s rants? Now you can get them via 140-character messages, because the actor’s Twitter handle has officially been confirmed.

In a matter of minutes, Sheen has acquired more than 60,000 followers and a Klout score of 57 — without even tweeting.

That last sentence is particularly worrisome to social media specialists who turn to Klout for an analysis of online influence. The reason? While the fact that Twitter had verified the account ensured credibility, Sheen’s profile included no avatar, no biography and .. most importantly .. not a single tweet.

Within the hour, Sheen’s account had risen to 133,644 followers. Twelve minutes later, those figures had ballooned to 147,149, an increase of 14 000+. Still not a single tweet.

What does this mean for the credibility of tools like Klout that measure online influence? It means that they measure influence based exclusively on quantity, and not quality. It means that they don’t take much else into account (if anything).

Adriaan Pelzer of RAAK of Nexalogy Environics here in Montreal recently ran a test of Klout, based on this hypothesis and the results are quite compelling. A series of four automated bots, tweeting relative nonsense, quickly attracted followers (mostly other bots) and reached a Klout score of 51, 37, 26 and 25 respectively. That last first figure is higher than mine and either higher or slightly lower than that of other Montreal influencers and early-Twitter adopters like tech bloggers Laurent Maisonnave and Sylvain GrandMaison, art of entertaining and design blogger Kim Vallée and fashion blogger Cindy Laverdière (CindyLou of  Mode Trotter).

What does this mean for you?

Well … it’s important, as in everything, to be critical in our use of tools that measure social media influence. Klout is only one example of many. No tool is perfect. These tools should be used as part of a larger mix. They should provide guidance, but not represent a bible of online influence measurement.

After all, if you’re into green glowing snow-ball abacuses, and there’s only a widow in Wales and a teenager in Chile interested in green glowing snow-ball abacuses too, and you’re only interested in following their Tweets, Klout isn’t likely to judge you favourably. But think about the quality of the tweets the only three people in the world into green glowing snow-ball abacuses can exchange with one another. Of the influence they can have within their tiny niche.

If you’re selling green glowing snow-ball abacuses, do you want to reach out to these three Twitter users? Or do you want to reach out to Charlie Sheen?

I think the answer is clear.

Will I continue to use Klout? Absolutely … as I always have. With a grain of salt. As a jumping off point. As one measurement tool among the many which — along with my knowledge of online networks and my own judgement — allow me to create a portrait of the online influencer I may present to my client in an influencer audit or as a possible participant in a blogger outreach campaign.

Online tools are great, but in the end nothing beats experience and human judgement.

Now … don’t get me started on sentiment analysis!

* Note: To his  credit, Klout founder and CEO Joe Fernandez responded to Adriaan Pelzer’s assertion that Klout is broken in the blog post’s comments section as follows:

Hey Adriaan,

I am one of the cofounders and the ceo here at Klout. This is a great post, even though we get slammed 🙂

A couple things:

– Clearly there is more we can do to recognize and punish bots. This is something we are working on and I think you’ll be impressed with what we have coming. That said, this is an incredibly hard problem that even Twitter still has trouble with (judging from the clear spam bots I see following me and not disappearing).

– The score right now is actually doing what it’s supposed to in the sense that it’s measuring engagement. Take a look at search for @burroughsbot (http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%40BurroughsBot). This account is actually getting way more engagement then it should. We do measure for noisiness but obviously we need to look at how we handle extreme cases like this.

We have a science team working on stuff like this on a daily basis. Post like this get us really fired up so I am excited about your challenge to step our game up.

Would love to chat sometime about how we can throw some data your way for some more independent testing.


Hat tip to Diane Bourque who followed the growth of Twitter followers after I’d shared the Mashable article with my Facebook network and provided the statistics contained within this blog post.

For posterity: Charlie Sheen’s first tweet. At time of publication of this post, he was at 817,083 followers and had been included on 5569 Twitter lists.

L’Armée américaine: Quand on dit non aux médias sociaux

Vous êtes occupés. Vous avez des projets importants à lancer, une stratégie à implanter, des employés à gérer. Vous n’avez tout simplement pas le temps pour les médias sociaux. Ou même pour les considérer.

Votre marque doit être protégée à tout prix. Vos secrets industriels sont trop importants pour que vous preniez le moindre risque qu’un employé fasse fausse route et dévoile vos stratégies à la compétition sur Facebook ou dans son blogue. La transparence et l’authenticité? Jamais de la vie.

Vous devrez simplement continuer à communiquer comme avant, c’est tout et ça finit là.

Votre entreprise doit être pas mal plus occupée que l’armée américaine. Et ses secrets encore plus sensibles.

Stephen R. Lanza, grand responsable des affaires publiques de l’armée (qui doit passer son temps à se tourner les pouces) dit ceci dans la lettre qui accompagne le guide d’utilisation des médias sociaux 2011 de l’armée américaine:

You already know that communicating your organisation’s messages is important. Today, it takes more than press releases to successfully communicate. Being an effective Army communicator today relies on proactive planning, nesting messages, engaging audiences on a variety of platforms, monitoring what is being said both online and in traditional media, and taking a proactive role in telling the Army’s story.


Our Soldiers and their Family members are the strength of our nation. Nine years of persistent conflict have shaped our shared experiences, which can be told through the social media platforms to assist those new to our Army Family. This builds resiliency in the force and makes our Army strong. Soldiers have always been and always will be our greatest story tellers, and social media tools allow us to tell their story more effectively.

Parce que l’armée américaine n’a rien d’autre à faire, c’est certain.

Le guide d’utilisation des médias sociaux 2011, publiée et rendue publique par l’armée américaine est disponible sur Slideshare.