Getting Started in Social Media and Overcoming Fears

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses!

People and companies are constantly coming up with reasons why they aren’t using Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn or other sites and why they aren’t blogging.

“It’s a fad”

“I don’t get it”

“No one is following me”

“No one cares what I have to say”

“I have nothing worth saying”

“I’d have to check the legalities” (really?!)

“It could hurt our business”

“What if people say something bad about us?”

“I don’t know how to use it”

“It won’t do anything for me or my business”

“I tried it, but it didn’t do anything”

“It’s too much work”

“It’s too time consuming”

“It’s a waste of time”

“It will decrease productivity in my company”

Honestly, that is only the tip of the iceberg,  I have heard many more excuses for the resistance to social media.

First off let me say this, Social Media and Digital Communications is not a fad, it is here to stay, so either get with it, or be left behind. I know that is kind of harsh, but really, at this point, it is the truth. If you aren’t using social media and your competition is, odds are they are going to generate more new business than you are and they may even tap into your existing business.

One statistic I found said that 77% of the Canadian population is online. Presumably in areas with a higher population density (like London) that number increases. Based on another statistic I found a lot of those 77% of people are spending a fair chunk of their time on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If a minimum of 77% of you clients are online spending most of their time on social networking sites, how can you possibly argue that social media isn’t for your business?

These are some of the tips that I have for people who aren’t yet using Social Media, or who are just starting out.

1) Start small. Sometimes companies will jump in both feet first creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and WordPress and who knows what else and then it becomes too much to handle and accounts go idle. Social Media is a use it or lose it medium. If you create a social media account you need to use it and keep it up to date and active. A dead or stale account can do more harm to a business or a brand than not having one at all (and no that is not an argument to not have a presence at all). Start with one or two accounts and learn how to manage them and then expand from there when you are ready and able to manage more.

2) Don’t worry so much. People seem completely preoccupied with all of the bad things that could happen in social media. One business I talked to said “What if I create a Facebook Page and people write negative or untrue comments?” I understand that this is a concern and a valid one, but you need to have more faith in people. Faith that there are a lot more people out there that want build you up, than those who want to tear you down. Also faith that if you’ve built a strong brand and someone says something negative, the people who know your brand aren’t going to buy into it and they will likely defend it for you.  Also in any business there will occasionally be unsatisfied customers, social media allows companies the opportunity to address those comments and exercise some customer services. If you aren’t online to defend your brand, then negative comments are left to interpretation. If you are online you can address issues and even if you cannot please that customer, making the effort to do so will show others how much you value your customers and what you will do to make sure that they have a positive experience.

3) People do business with people they know and trust. Social Media offers the opportunity for businesses to put a human voice (or several) to a corporate image. Sharing conversations with people who are following you, or who like your page helps build relationships. Blogging about something that is meaningful to you on your company website, even if it doesn’t necessarily relate to your business, offers people reading something human to connect with. If you blog about your kids, your pets, your hobbies, or a charity that is important to you, you are offering people access to you as a person. From there relationships can be built and sometimes those relationships can translate to business.  My philosophy on this is “build it and they will come” build the relationships first and when there is a need for the business, it will come.

4) Use tools and settings that make it easy for you to manage social media. Programs and sites like TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Seesmic allow you to bring together a number of your social media platforms in one place. You can watch feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and more all from one place, without having to sign into half a dozen different accounts and remember what the passwords are. Also take time to go through the settings for each of your social media accounts, it may take a bit of time, but it will save a lot of headaches in the future. Use the tools available, for example, Lists on Twitter are a great thing that few people use. Lists can be Public or Private and they allow you to stream the Tweets from the people that you follow into more manageable feeds. This can also be done in Facebook (Accounts) by creating Lists for your friends; you can stream your feed to view updates by certain groups only. There are many tools like this throughout social media, look for them, if you set them once, they can be really helpful.

5) Create a Social Media Policy for your company. Make it clear the expectation that you have for the members of your company regarding their use of social media. Make it clear who is responsible for what aspects of company Social Media. Create outline for acceptable content and behaviour. If you provide the people in your company with an organized structure for social media it will create cleaner more concise messaging for your company.

6) Have Fun! Enjoy the time you spend using social media. Get to know other people. Learn from other people or teach other people. Share interests. Talk, laugh and share memories or experiences. If you are enjoying yourself and what you are saying online (as long as it isn’t offensive), people will be drawn to you. It is like real life, if you are in a room with people, who are you going to go towards, the group of people laughing and enjoying their conversation, or the people standing stiffly in a corner barely carrying a conversation? If you are having fun, other people will have fun with you; a positive attitude goes a long way.

7) Turn virtual connections into real life connections when possible. Social Media is a great way to get to know people and create the opportunity to interact with them in real life. There several people now who I have followed on Twitter who I have since met in real life and I feel like I have created solid relationships with these people. There is now a person that they can attach to the virtual identity, which in my opinion adds more value to my personal brand both online and in real life. Conversations in social media can create relationships without a doubt, but there is still something to be said for human connection, it can strengthen the bonds and relationships that you have already built online. Being active in social media gives you a constant presence in the lives of the people who are connected to you, as opposed to real life connections that may only generate contact once or twice a year. Combine the two to create stronger bonds.

8 ) Say something. I think one of the biggest concerns I’ve heard, and one I’ve had myself is that I wouldn’t have anything to say that would add value. That was my reason for not starting a blog, or for starting it and stopping half a dozen times. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute, because there are many people out there smarter than I am and I didn’t think I had anything to offer that hadn’t already been offered. I realized though that I just needed to dive in and say something. It didn’t need to be world-changing writing, but it needed to be something meaningful or interesting to me. While we are all unique individuals, there are people out there who share our interests who will be interested in what we have to say or even if they aren’t they may care enough about us to want read it anyways. We all just need to have the courage to say something and not be afraid that the world is going to reject us, because not matter what some people may tell us, everyone has something to offer.

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Twitter Blue Jays – part 2

So last night I wrote a blog post about the benefits of Blue Jays being on twitter, which can be found here and I thought about it more today and thought of one more reason twitter participation could be beneficial to the Blue Jays, it’s actually an extension on the point I made about the players being ‘imports’ and fans not really knowing them.

Not only are the players imports, but they’re celebrities.  They make big bucks, play a game for a living and are in the public eye. When players are celebrities, fans tend to forget that they are people too and often feel free to be angry and mean when speaking of them, because well the players are celebrities and really what are the odds that an average persons comment is going to get back to a celebrity baseball player and really affect them.

Well previously that could more or less be assumed. Sure you’d have hecklers at the game, but players have learned to more or less tune out the negative in the middle of the game or when dealing with the media.

But now thanks to twitter, not only do the fans have access to the players, but the players are now open to the comments of the fans in a more real way. This became evident today when some individual in the twittersphere attacked a Blue Jays starting pitcher  for his rocky performance and fellow starting pitcher Brett Cecil stepped up to the plate to defend his teammate.

It is going to take some time for players and fans to adjust to this new level of accessibility, but I think in the end the Jays presence on twitter can help eliminate some of the ‘Haters’ if you will. If fans get to see more that these players are just regular guys, guys like the ones I went to school with (yes most of them are my age), then they will feel more compassion for them and want to support them. And I have to say I have been guilty of it. While I completely support and cheer on the Blue Jays sI have referred to Encarnacion as E5 a couple of times due to his frequent errors at third, which upon reflection, I now feel bad about. He is a real person, working hard at a job that is a lot harder than it looks and he is a person who is making sacrifices to live his dream and entertain the fans. So for my E5 comments, I apologize. When I played I had my own difficulties at 3rd, after playing 1st most of my years, it is not an easy position.

But yes there will still be the jerks out there who run their mouths, but I think fans will start to realize that these players who have been untouchable for so long are now touchable and can be affected by what is said. Fans will realize that these million dollar athletes are just your average guys.

In the mean time though, I can’t help but wonder if the Toronto Blue Jays organization/marketing team has thought about doing some social media training with their players or if they have. Yes it is the players personal choice to be on twitter (I assume so at least), but they are at all times representing the organization. They need to be aware of trolls and haters and how to handle and deal with those people effectively. Cecil did fairly well today, but you could tell he was getting a bit hot under the collar (which I understand why). But I think some social media training might not hurt for athletes, if they aren’t already getting it (though I am sure there has been some form of orientation on the topic.

Again though I want to commend all of the Blue Jays who are sacrificing things in their lives to reach their goals and commend them for the hard work they put in day in and day out in an attempt to bring a championship back to Toronto and the fans . Further I commend the Blue Jays who are on Twitter and making an effort to interact with players and bring fans back into the fold. You are doing a commendable job and the true Blue Jays fans are behind you and believe that you are going to succeed.

Twitter Blue Birds are really Blue Jays #jays #mlb

So if anyone reading this is following me on twitter (@Sadie_Liz) you will already know that I am a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. You may also know that I am a communications consultant, who is big into social media.

This season many professional athletes have taken to twitter, creating accounts, interacting with other players and even fans. You can follow a list of professional MLB Players or follow a number of individual players like Toronto Blue Jays JP Arencibia (@jparencibia9), Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19), Travis Snider (@Lunchboxhero45), Ricky Romero (@RickyRo24), Jesse Litsch (@JesseLitsch), Brett Cecil (@CEC0208) and soon to be reactivated Brandon Morrow (@2Morrow23). Turns out the Twitter Blue Bird is really a Blue Jay.

Last week JP Arencibia and Ricky Romero (I think it was) asked if they should try to get 2nd baseman Aaron Hill and utility man John McDonald on twitter. My answer was “Absolutely, Yes!”

Of course I would love to see veterans Hill and McDonald on twitter just because well, they are Hill and McDonald, what Jays fan doesn’t love those two, especially Johnny Mac, a fan favourite.

I’ve thought about this from a marketing and communications perspective though. I believe twitter can be hugely beneficial to a team like Toronto.

  • Blue Jays are not just a Toronto team, they are a Canadian team. The fan base for the Blue Jays is from coast to coast and twitter helps to overcome the geographical distance for fans
  • The Blue Jays organization is built on ‘imports’. Meaning that with the exception of a few (Stairs, Richmond, Lawrie) all of the players are coming from outside of Canada. Even if there were players from inside Canada, it wouldn’t be like Hockey where the Canadians come up through the CHL and World Juniors and are highly familiar to the Canadian Public. Twitter will give fans access and insight into who the Toronto Blue Jays players really are, it will humanize them beyond their celebrity status. And this is even more important for the guys who are just coming up, or who were acquired through trades. Fans got to know Doc and Vernon Wells and invested years into them and now they’re gone. Fans need to find new favourite players and Twitter will help speed and intensify that process.
  • Over the years a number of fans have disengaged due to the fact that Jays haven’t seen the top of the AL East since their back to back World Series Wins. This has caused a decrease in game attendance and likely merchandising. By having Blue Jays players on twitter engaging with fans or participating in ‘Twitter Parties’ on off days  (not something that has yet happened) Toronto will be cultivating a new group of fans or re-engaging fans who have long since disconnected from the Toronto team.I was a huge Blue Jays fan as a kid, and while I’ve always been a big fan, I’ve been more engaged this year than any other year because of the players who are on Twitter. I’m getting to know the players that make up the teams. I almost feel like they’re guys from down the street, or someone I know from somewhere, instead of celebrity athletes. I’m invested in this team, their wins and their losses, how they handle the wins and losses and in the personal details that they share through their Twitter accounts. I feel connected to these players and I want to see them succeed. I wish I could go to their games and give them the support that people always gave me when I was playing. If I am feeling this way, I can’t imagine others aren’t feeling the same.If people are more connected to the team and engaged by the players they are going to watch more games, buy tickets and go to more games, spend more money at the ball park or online in the Jays store, or contribute more to the Jays Care foundation because it is something their ‘friends’ value  and therefore they value.
  • John McDonald is probably the most popular player on the Blue Jays team, at least I would contend that he is because last season when a little boy could choose any player he wanted to throw the opening pitch to, he chose Johnny Mac and the crowd roared. Johnny Mac has been one of my favourite players since he arrived. I’ve always cheered for him and been thrilled when he gets to see playing time. There is just something about him that is endearing. He is the underdog, the average Joe. Last season some sports analysts said that he didn’t deserve his spot on the roster, but fans disagreed and so thankfully did Cito. Johnny Mac by everything the fans know, is the hardest working person on the Blue Jays team. He doesn’t play every day, but he works hard everyday to be sure that if he is on the field he is ready. When he is on the field it is amazing to watch him work and succeed. To see him excel when he gets a day on the field is like a win for the little guy, even though he is probably the best utility player in the league. Now take that and think of him from a Marketing Perspective. He is the Jerome “JYD” Williams of the Blue Jays. He might not be as outlandish as JYD is, but he is just as, if not more beloved by the Blue Jay fans across the country. John McDonald has more ‘star power’ within the Toronto fan base than probably any other Blue Jay, though JP Arencibia may be taking over the young female demographic, so having a beloved veteran like him on Twitter would be HUGE. He feels like a guy you’ve known forever for some reason. If he got on Twitter, he would have droves of followers in no time. Twitter would connect people that much more to the already most relatable guy on the team. Honestly how many Blue Jays fans wouldn’t want to find a way to make it to a game if Johnny Mac tweeted a plea to fans to come out and support the team. Or if Johnny Mac tweeted about Jays Care, who wouldn’t try to scrounge up some spare change or canned goods to help? Johnny Mac is a fan favourite already, I have a feeling that would translate to Twitter and fans would just be on cloud nine, and if marketing decided to use that to their advantage, well they’d probably end up pretty happy.Even if marketing didn’t jump on that, all of the players are invested in the team and the work the team does. They want the team to succeed, the want the causes they support to succeed. The players are passionate about their team and they want to see fans return to their former glory of the World Series Years, who wouldn’t. I know when I played baseball not only did I want to win, I wanted to have the crowd energized, it makes the game that much more exciting as a player. Every player they get on Twitter, especially the fan favourites like Johnny Mac, Hill and rising stars like JP Arencibia, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the more fans are going to invest in the team emotionally and probably more importantly invest with bums in the seats, increased ticket sales and merchandise sales.

From my perspective the Jays already on Twitter absolutely need to be getting some of the other Jays on Twitter as well, especially fan favourite veterans like Hill and McDonald. It’s time to get this nation excited about the boys of summer and it has to start somewhere. If the players are pumped and have a never die attitude that is evident to the fans how can the fans not follow suit?

It’s time for the Blue Jays Nation 2.0!  Let’s go! Blue Jays! Let’s Go!