6 ways to speed up your social media response times

Speed is essential to developing the right social media campaign, response or update. In my last post, I looked at how the right kind of market research program can support faster and more responsive social media management, inspired by The Quick and the Dead, a new ebook by my Vision Critical colleague Ray Poynter. Ray’s argument about the role of speed in business today, and the need for real-time market research, gave me a new perspective on the relationship between social media and community panels.

Social media managers need many tools in their speed-it-up arsenal, however. Here are 6 more ways you can speed up your social media response times:

  1. Pre-shorten your top pages and posts: You can tweet or share a beloved blog post or key web page much faster if you remember its URL. But nobody can remember http://yourcompany.com/really-long-name-of-web-page-truncated or even http://bit.ly/vFACLf. So pre-shorten the links to pages you share frequently, and give them memorable short links like http://bit.ly/customURLS. If you really want to nerd out you can even set up a vanity URL shortener like my own “alexlov.es”.
  2. Anticipate your best and worst case scenarios: You don’t want to be Mitt Romney with no concession speech. There’s a reason that newspapers pre-write obituaries, and Oscar nominees draft their acceptance speeches: it’s best to be prepared for every scenario. So stay in the loop on your company’s pending risks and wins (the gloomy quarter, or the award for which your CEO is already shortlisted) and make sure you’ve got at least the outline of the blog posts and tweets you’ll send out if and when the moment arises.
  3. iGoogle it: Even if you check Google Reader twice a day, you want to monitor your key feeds even more frequently. My favorite technique is to subscribe to my ego feeds (i.e. blog, news and Twitter searches on my name) from within iGoogle, and to set iGoogle as my browser’s default homepage. That way, every time I open a new browser window (which is about every three minutes, all day) I immediately see anything someone has written about me. Yes, it’s narcissistic, but the same technique can be applied to monitoring your organization or brand. And yes, iGoogle is going to go away in a year, so it would be smarter to use one of these alternatives, but I’m in denial.
  4. Master the tether: Nothing is going to slow you down in a social media crisis like your iPhone’s on screen keyboard. Make sure you are a master of the art of tethering: the trick of connecting your computer to your phone so you can use its 3G or LTE connection to hook up to the Internet, even if you’re in a location with no wifi. An iPad or other tablet is another good line of defense against disconnection, as long as you pay for 3G or LTE service and (ideally) carry a hard keyboard that lets you type at full speed.
  5. Keep an evergreen file: Make sure you always have at least 3 timeless blog posts and 10 tweets or social media updates ready to go. That way you’re well-armed if you suddenly need to blog or tweet out an awkward mea culpa — and want to push it off the top of your blog’s home page or Twitter feed as quickly as possible.
  6. Set up phone alerts: This one is a recipe for madness, so use it sparingly. If there is a journalist or blogger whose online comments about your brand must be addressed in real time, set up a Google news search that will email you anytime that journalist mentions you; then use this approach to push those emails directly to your phone as a text message. If you’re as religious as I am about checking your text messages, you’ll know about those key posts virtually as soon as they go live.

A great many social media tactics come down to doing social media faster — which often translates into better, since this is a medium where quick responses are widely expected. What are your favorite tricks for speeding up social media? Share them here, or tweet me as @awsamuel.

Why the speed of research matters in social media

How quickly do you have to reply to a critical tweet? How long does it take for the right video to go viral? How often do you have to update your company’s Facebook page?

Speed is at the heart of many of the questions that come up over and over again in social media. Whenever I give a social media talk or training, I can guarantee that somebody will ask about the expected pace of social media updates and responsiveness.

And no wonder, since speed is one of the core challenges that businesses face today. As my colleague Ray Poynter observes in his new ebook, The Quick and the Dead,

The latter part of the last century was the high-water mark of a focus on being the fastest person….Over the last twelve years, the focus has shifted to a different kind of speed. It’s no longer about making things go faster. It’s about moving ideas faster. It’s about delivering answers faster. (And it’s about attention spans getting shorter.)

Ray is the Director of Vision Critical University, and his ebook has been one of the most useful resources to my own process of getting up to speed in a new job. The key question is how social media fits with Vision Critical’s central product: the community panels that companies all over the world (including a third of the top 100 brands) use to track their customers’ opinions. In a typical panel, a company recruits anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000 customers who agree to answer regular surveys — surveys that a company’s market research team can design and deploy themselves using Vision Critical’s software.

As Ray observes, this kind of approach is essential to providing market research insights at the speed of business today: “When a business question arises, it can be sent straight to the community, often eliciting an answer in hours rather than weeks.”

Anyone who works in social media knows how crucial it is to get intelligence that quickly — so that we can develop campaigns, replies and updates that move at the pace of online conversation. As a direct route to quickly validating or unpacking what you hear through your social monitoring program, a community panel can be one way of getting the speed of business intelligence you need, so that you can develop the right campaign, response or update that much quicker.

In my next post, I’ll suggest 6 more ways you can speed up your social media response time.

Should copyediting be part of your social media strategy?

I’ll admit it: I’m a grammar nazi. When I see a poorly punctuated tweet, I cringe, and when I see a blog post with a comma splice in the title, I want to tear my hair out. I’ve fantasized about a supper club for copy editors — the folks like me and my husband, who begin any restaurant meal by proofreading the menu — a fantasy that turns out to resonate with many fellow nitpickers. I’ve even got admin rights on the blog of a brilliant friend whose blog I refused to read unless I could correct his typos.

So it has long blown my mind that so many professional and corporate websites and social media presences are riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and just plain old-fashioned bad writing. Don’t people care about the English language? Don’t they cringe at all the mistakes they’re putting forth as part of their public image? Don’t these companies know what they’re doing?

No, no and yes.

No, most people don’t care about language — not with the obsessiveness that we linguistic nitpickers regard as the minimum standard of acceptable usage. No, most people don’t cringe at their mistakes — because they don’t see them.

And yes, the companies that allow spelling and grammatical mistakes to become part of their online presence absolutely know what they’re doing. In fact, they may be smarter than the companies with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook presences that could get 100% on a high school English test.

Because social media isn’t a high school English test. It’s a conversation: a living, breathing dialogue with an organization, and between an organization and its customers, members or supporters.

And like any conversation worth listening to, it’s spontaneous, authentic and messy. In fact, unless you’re running a social media presence or web community for English teachers, you can only have an authentic presence if you are willing to put up with that messiness.

Any social media pro worth her salt will tell you that the foundational principles of a successful social media presence are authenticity, spontaneity and a willingness to relinquish some degree of control. Disciplined copyediting — the consistent attention to every last comma and vowel that’s necessary to achieve a flawless written record — is just another way of exerting control.

If you’re insistent that your company or organization’s social media presence live up to the highest standards of your high school English program, then you are condemned to a model of control that is the enemy of social media success. The alternative is a policy of trust: trusting your employees and community members to exercise good judgement about what to post, and even how to spell.

Learning to live with erratic spelling, incorrect grammar and even the occasional profanity is an extension of the trust principle you have to adopt in order to generate a lively, engaging and reflective social media presence: one that anyone in your organization feels like they can participate in or contribute to.

That means allowing and celebrating contributions from people who’d end a blog post with a dangling preposition, even if they’re not the kind of people you’d have a copyediting dinner with.

Take a one-way road trip with Ridejoy

Dear Ridejoy,

Thank you for allowing us to undertake a 2,000-mile road trip with two young kids at a relaxing pace.

When we first decided to road trip to San Francisco as our family vacation, we thought we’d visit the coastal redwoods and Yosemite on the way down, and take the interstate on the way back. Then we realized that doing that much driving with two young kids — even kids equipped with iPads — would take all 16 days of our vacation, and leave us virtually no time to explore or to stay in San Francisco itself.

TIP: Use Ridejoy or Craigslist to find a driver who can bring your car home the next time you want to take a one-way road trip.

We trimmed our itinerary aggressively, consulting our Facebook friends on the relative merits of Yosemite and California coast in July. (The consensus was all in favour of coast.) But even that route would take at least 4 days — and would be possible only if we did long stretches of driving each day, leaving us little chance to actually explore. The only way to have more time on the coast would be to trim the time we spent in San Francisco — but it seemed like a very long drive to undertake for just a few days in the city.

Out of curiosity, I looked into the possibility of Amtrak. The famous Coast Starlight route, running from L.A. to Seattle, could get us back from San Francisco to Vancouver in just about 24 hours. (Unlike Mum and Dad, Amtrak doesn’t have to stop just because the kids need to pee or run around.) Taking Amtrak back would allow us much more time for the drive down, because we’d only need one (fun!) day for the return trip, instead of three or four (hellish) driving days.

There was just one problem: how would we get our car back to Vancouver?

The obvious answer was to book a rental car for a one-way trip to the Bay area, and then leave the car there. But a one-way, 14-day minivan rental would cost at least $1,000.

In the course of looking for one-way car rentals, I came across the phenomenon of “drive away” services, which could provide a driver to take our car back to Seattle while we took Amtrak. Cost: $500.

I decided to check for independent drive-away offers on Craigslist. Mixed in with the “ride wanted” and “ride offered” ads on Craigslist, I saw the occasional request for one-way drivers. And appended to one ad, I saw the intriguing line, “contact me on Ridejoy”.

That’s how I discovered Ridejoy, a ride-sharing site that matches drivers and riders in 790 cities across North America. Ridejoy cross-posts to Craigslist, so you still get the benefit of Craigslist’s rideshare board, but you get a much better search and matching tool.

Here’s how it works: you post the dates (or date range) when you want to travel, and the start and end points. If you are a driver, Rideshare can match you with riders who are looking for rides along all or part of your itinerary (so if you’re traveling from San Francisco to Seattle, it can suggest riders who are traveling from Oakland to Portland). If you’re a rider, it suggests potential drivers. Drivers can specify how much they want passengers to contribute to travel costs, and both riders and drivers can specify their ride preferences or perks they are offering (like AAA membership or wifi tethering).

I used Ridejoy to post an ad asking for someone to drive our minivan back to Seattle while we took the train. I noticed that Ridejoy’s would-be passengers ranged from advance planners (“I’m a teacher taking a bicycle trip up the coast in 2 months, need to get a lift back down to the Bay”) to relaxed itinerants (“been in the Bay a while, feel like it’s time to move on, looking for a ride heading somewhere in Washington in the next few days”). Since we were planning to hand over our car full of possessions, we wanted to find one of the advance planners, who we thought would likely be older, more experienced drivers.

Our ridejoy adI posted our ad on June 12, looking for a driver for the weekend of August 4. Within a couple of days, I had heard from several people, including a couple of “advanced planners”. One of these had put Ridejoy’s Facebook integration to good use: she had noticed that we had a Facebook friend in common — someone we both knew from our nonprofit work. That made me feel a lot more comfortable about the idea of handing over our car.

I looked up E. on Google and LinkedIn and confirmed that yes, she was a responsible adult with a regular job — not a permanent traveler with no fixed address. I made a phone date to talk with her about driving our car from the Bay up to Seattle, and to discuss potential timing. She sounded very responsible, and happily sent me a reference (her boss) and a copy of her driver’s license.

I checked with our insurance company (ICBC) to make sure that that our insurance would cover an American driving our car in the US; no problem, as long as it was legal in the US. I checked with US border services — it was fine with them. (Note that the reverse is not true: it’s illegal for a Canadian to drive a US-plated car in Canada, a measure that prevents Canadians from buying cars more cheaply in the US.) Then, just to be on the safe side, I increased our liability coverage to $5 million, something our insurance broker recommended for anyone driving in the US (even us!) because it’s more litigious and accidents can lead to much higher claims.

We agreed to a driving schedule in which E. would leave the Bay area the morning of August 4th; we were scheduled to take the Amtrak train that night. Since E. was driving without kids, she figured she could easily drive up to Seattle in 2 days (it’s a 15-hour drive, roughly.) We paid for the gas so that E. wouldn’t need to find additional passengers; we were more comfortable handing our car over to one person, rather than a group of people, as long as she felt comfortable doing that much driving.

I met E. at her office the day before she was scheduled to start driving, so that we could make eye contact and ensure we both felt comfortable with the arrangement. She turned out to be a totally lovely person who reminded me of a lot of our friends — someone I had no worries about giving our car to. I showed her the car’s various quirks and we went for a short drive so she could get a sense of the vehicle. Since she’s used to driving a (smaller) Honda, our Honda minivan felt very familiar to her and easy to drive.

That night, we packed up our minivan with all the luggage and detritus of our trip, except for a couple of bags we needed for our last day in the Bay and our night on the train; we also packed an extra night’s worth of clothes in case E. was delayed or some other hitch kept us from re-uniting with the car on schedule. The next morning, I drove to E.’s house in our car, and picked her up with her baggage. She dropped me back at our hotel, and headed on our way.

We had planned to rent a car for our last day in the city, but it turned out that the car rental offices near the Amtrak station weren’t open after 1 pm on Saturdays, so there was no way to drive to the train and leave a rental car there. So we went carless for the day, and some kind friends took us to the station that night.

We had kept the train trip a secret from the kids, partly because we didn’t want to disappoint them if it turned out E. couldn’t do the drive, and partly because we thought it would make a fun surprise and a great finale for our vacation. I was intrigued that our kids didn’t ask about how we were getting back from our time in the Bay; perhaps they assumed they had another long drive ahead of them. They did ask some questions about where the car was on Saturday (we told them it was getting a pre-departure tune-up) but were amazingly uninquisitive when our friends dropped us at the train station at 9 pm on a Saturday night. After all, there were vending machines! and the job of getting change so that they could buy Skittles was much more interesting than wondering where we were.

Eventually, our daughter stopped to ask what we were doing. We encouraged her to look around, and she noticed we were in a train station. Her eyes widened: “Are we taking a train home?” Yes, indeed, we told her — complete with sleeper car. She burst into tears of joy. Her brother was somewhat less excited, mainly because he was almost asleep.

Our trip home was a wonderful 24 hours of exploring the train, enjoying the scenery and eating a virtually non-stop series of meals and snacks. Thanks to the sleeping compartment, we got a decent night’s sleep, which left us ready for the late-night drive home to Vancouver. While our train was a little late to depart, we made up time en route, and we kept in touch with E. via text message and cel phone. When we got to Seattle, she was waiting at the station with our car!

We got back in our minivan at 9 pm on Sunday night, and were back in Vancouver by midnight. The trip that had taken us eight leisurely days on the way down took us only 24 hours on the way back. Thanks to Ridejoy’s help in matching us with a responsible, efficient driver, we were able to organize our vacation around a slow-paced drive down the coast, stopping two nights in each spot along the way, while still enjoying a full week in the Bay area.

Ridejoy has opened up a whole new horizon for family vacations. Now that we know it’s possible to do a one-way drive, I can see us organizing future vacations throughout Western Canada and the U.S., or even across the continent.

Thanks, E., for helping us enjoy the best road trip ever. And thank you Ridejoy, for making it possible!

Better vacations with social media

First, the bad news: planning works.

If you’re anything like me, you love the romantic idea of spontaneous travel; of hitting the road with nothing but a toothbrush and a change of underwear (plus the entire Apple product line, of course). Get in the car, and let the fates determine where your vacation will take you.

We tried that approach last summer, and we had a pleasant but intermittently stressful holiday. (There are no hotel rooms available for 60 miles! I can’t find a restaurant our kids will eat at! how come you didn’t notice there were no gas stations here?) So this summer, I tried the opposite approach.

I planned our vacation down to the last detail.

I did the vacation planning with social media.

We had a truly fantastic vacation.

So now it’s time to write my thank-you notes: the richly deserved acknowledgements to the different social media services that made our blissful holiday possible. My thank-yous will include the details on the creative and tricky ways we used each service, so you can use the same tools and techniques to plain the next great vacation (or business trip) on your own itinerary.

When to Stop and When to Keep Going with Your Social Media Strategy

This post originally appeared on the Harvard Business Review.

Push through the discomfort: It’s tempting to stop (or never start) using social media when you realize that you are opening yourself up to the world in a new way: “you mean people can write whatever they want on our wall?” But, often rewards await those who push through the discomfort of the unknown. You can always change your settings if you encounter a problem, but in the mean time you may be surprised at the trust that is built with your customer base if you are open and willing to talk about the good and bad sides of your businesses. Where else are you able to hear what people are really thinking? Use it to your advantage to build better products and better service.

This gem comes from Mike Knutson in Lessons Learned: Using Social Media to Support Entrepreneurship in Rural Communities on the Canadian Rural Research Network site. And it describes probably the most important success factor in any social media effort.

Mike’s post reminded me of a physical therapy session I was in the other day. I exercising for my shoulders when a muscle in my head started to hurt. “If it’s just uncomfortable, let’s keep going,” the physio said. “But if it’s painful, you should stop.”

A physiotherapist would call what I felt in my head “referred pain” — the parts of your body that hurt are the weak parts that can’t cope with knots, tension or dysfunction elsewhere (e.g. the pain in your neck caused by the tension in your mousing shoulder).

Your social media “pain” is similar: it’s caused by knots in your customer service, operations, HR or other area. Social media is just the place you feel it. If you’re getting smacked down publicly for your missteps, taken to task on YouTube for your poor products or lousy customer service, suffering organizational implosion from the overtime hours that are going into your Twitter presence, then maybe it’s time to stop what you’re doing.

Any of those pain points signal that you are not just going too hard too fast, but that you may be using the wrong muscles. Your social media relations team can’t overcome an outdated brand or tone-deaf advertising; your clever blog posts can’t disguise a fundamentally flawed value offering; your tweeting won’t be sustainable unless you’re prepared to expand or reallocate your staff resources. Most of the actual pain that organizations suffer from entering social media isn’t from social media: it’s from all the other organizational problems that social media simply begins to reveal.

But all that just speaks to pain. Mike talks about a different creature: social media discomfort. You will feel discomfort when you talk in a personal voice on your company blog, rather than The Official Voice found in press releases, and when you let your customer publicly declare their dissatisfaction with you. The Facebook wall, as Mike points out, is an invitation to discomfort.

For most of us, this discomfort often boils down to one question: “What if people say mean things about me?” Forget “what if.” People will say mean things about you, and it will be annoying and uncomfortable. But you should do what my physical therapist said I should do: Keep going. Respond to the substance of those comments (if they’re offered with anything other than violent or profane hostility); ask a colleague or two to read your response before you post, to make sure your discomfort isn’t leaking in and making you sound hostile. Then step back and see what happens: I’ll bet that after three or four cycles of responding to negative comments, you’ll discover that the discomfort doesn’t cause pain. You’ll probably even find that living with it, and responding to it, makes you more accessible to — and more liked by — your key audiences.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between discomfort and pain. In my physio session this morning, I decided to keep going; the discomfort was tolerable, and working through it helped my muscles get a little stronger. Tomorrow I’ll know that I can handle the uncomfortable sensation, and I’ll stand just a little bit taller. Work through your social media discomfort, and your organization can stand taller, too.

Meet Your Pinterest Customer

This post originally appeared on the Harvard Business Review.

Pinterest is the social media darling of the month, growing madly and reported to be driving more traffic to third-party sites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn put together.

Think of Pinterest as a hybrid between a photo-sharing service like Flickr and a social bookmarking service like delicious: on Pinterest, you “pin” images the way you bookmark URLs with Delicious. You can curate these images into thematic “pinboards” and follow other people’s pinboards to find inspiration or images you want to “repin.”

From the beginning Pinterest has seemed like it should be useful to marketers, and the hype has only amplified companies’ desire to be there and figure out who’s the Pinterest customer and how to reach her (so far, it’s predominantly her).

I’m here to help, because I am that customer. I’ve been an active Pinterest user for over a year, experimenting with how to use this new kind of social networking service, and watching how others use it. Here are some anecdotal observations from my year with Pinterest.

Shopping: Both compulsive shoppers and anti-shoppers who aim to get in and out of stores fast like and use Pinterest. I’m in the former camp. I created a Pinboard for my quest for the perfect grey boots, and used it to poll my friends on the best option; I’ve now got Pinboards going for Lego storage options and the perfect computer case. While Pinterest makes shopping even more fun for enthusiasts like me, Chris Tackett of The Atlantic points out that it can also reduce their actual volume of purchases by providing form of virtual acquisition that displaces a certain amount of consumption. Sometimes, just looking at all those pretty grey boots is enough.

What it means for your business: Target Pinterest users’ experience of shopping as a creative process, not just a potential transaction, by making your online presence as pleasurable as it is functional. Product photography matters more than ever; you want your prospective customers to pin your hot-looking products, and you may want to engage with the people who’ve pinned your products to see if you can nudge them toward a purchase.

Bonding: Pinterest nudges online shopping into something more like the real thing: a social experience shared by friends. When I joined Pinterest it was still an invitation-only site, so I used my invitations on the friends and colleagues with style I admire or share. Like many groups of Pinterest users, we follow each others’ pins to help each other find the kinds of clothes, shoes and home items we love. It’s the online equivalent of that age-old female bonding ritual, the shopping spree. Marketers might note the opportunity to foster and track the social influence on purchasing, but they should also see an opportunity to build on this experience and reinforce the social experience created here, just as retail stores pipe in music and offer snacks and other freebies to bring groups of friends into the store.

What it means for your business: Busting in on a circle of Pinterest pals to hawk your wares is not unlike sticking your head into the dressing room where two girlfriends are discussing whether that dress makes her butt look good. Better to send your pro-bonding signals from afar, perhaps with a product comparison page that encourages users to pin their top choices so their friends can help them choose what to buy.

Collaboration: It’s not all about shopping, though. I’ve also found Pinterest to be a powerful collaboration tool for both work and home. At work, I’ve used it build a shared file of visual inspiration for an ebook design project. At home, we used it to help find a fence that also appealed to our neighbours. By inviting other people to contribute to a board, Pinterest users can collaborate in way that is easier than Google Docs, more fun than Delicious, and quicker to scan than either one.

What it means for your business: Recognize that a single pinboard may reflect the tastes or interests of several contributors. If your customers are frequently comparing a similar set of products, consider collecting all those products on a single Pinboard.

Inspiration: Many pinboards are highly personal, eclectic or quirky collections of images that users find exciting or inspiring. When I joined Pinterest, I decided it was finally time to create a “vision board,” a widely-praised technique for visualizing your professional and personal goals; I collected representative images on a single pinboard that I occasionally look at to reinforce my focus. I now use a separate pinboard to create social media infographics that can inspire my research. For users like me, images that inspire are as pin-able as images that represent what we plan to buy or wear.

What it means for your business: Engagement and branding! Create inspirational custom graphics for your blog posts or website that will appeal to your customers or clients. Cultivate your own well of inspiration by identifying the major areas where you want to develop your professional skills, and curate pinboards of inspiring images or examples that will push your own practice forward.

I try a lot of social media tools, but only a handful become part of my daily workflow the way Pinterest has in the past year. That’s why I’m convinced it’s here to stay, and why you should start using it to target your customers in the year ahead.

Who Are You Online? A 360-Degree View

This post originally appeared on the site of the Harvard Business Review.

Who are you when you go online? That’s a question that goes way beyond how you feel in your own virtual skin, and affects how we perceive and relate to one another in the world of social media. I recently gave a TEDx talk based on my HBR post, 10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life. When that talk appeared on sites like The Atlantic and Slate, the comment threads revealed that many people have already embraced their online lives as real — which is why we need to stop using the acronym IRL (In Real Life) to refer to the offline world.

But many wonder whether online people are real. Those who remain reluctant to engage online often blame the frequently confrontational, hostile, or even cruel tone of online conversation. That rudeness might be a sign that we aren’t our real selves online, but some kind of demonic creature that is unleashed by the computer. Or it might be a sign that we are all too real online, liberated to be our real selves by the remove or anonymity of online communications.

The truth, of course, is that people are their real selves online — but they make wildly divergent choices about which part of that real self they’re going to share and project. Some of us may get real by becoming angels: letting down our defenses, sharing our creativity and insights, or even our most personal experiences (sometimes by getting real anonymously). Others get real by becoming devils: losing the sense of diplomacy or offline inhibitions that restrain their brusqueness, narcissism, or cruel sense of humor.

Most worrying, people are often utterly aware of whether they’re being angels or devils. They read their outbound emails through the lens of their own good intentions, their clever tweets as funny rather than mean. Online, the human struggle to honestly understand your own strengths and weaknesses is intensified by the newness of our online customs and interactions.

Fortunately, we have some offline tools that are designed to compensate for our natural inability to see ourselves as others see us — most notably, the 360. The 360 is a widely-used HR and leadership tool in which a range of colleagues, friends, and family offer their different perspectives on your skills, talents, and character, to provide a 360-degree view of who you are.

While the 360 is sometimes criticized for its limitations, undertaking an online 360 offers a huge advantage over the way people usually evaluate their online personas (either not at all, or using a dubious indicator like Klout).

To get a clear picture of your online persona — and make no mistake, the variety of ways you communicate online define your online persona in the eyes of the people who know or follow you — send an online 360 to people who know you both on- and offline, as well as to people who know you online only. (Ideally you’ll also do a 360 of people who know you offline, so you can compare your online persona with your offline personality.)

Ask your respondents to provide a scaled assessment (1= never, 10=always) on the following:

  1. Is polite and respectful in their emails, tweets, or other online communications
  2. Provides useful or informative content in their online contributions or comments
  3. Makes effective use of their time online, and responds to online communications (e.g. emails, messages), comments (on blogs or in Twitter mentions) and feedback in a timely and effective way
  4. Provides constructive feedback and generous appreciation in their online comments, replies, and other online communications
  5. Is transparent about their relationship to or financial interest in the brands, companies, and products they discuss online
  6. Makes thoughtful and appropriate choices about which on- and offline communications channels to use for different purposes or in different circumstances, and inspires or encourages others to do the same
  7. Builds online relationships that support their own work and their organization’s goals
  8. Is an online leader within their field

Combine the results of your 360 into a single tally that gives you your average score on each indicator. When you look at your average numbers, don’t worry if you’re not a 10 on all eight indicators. What’s actually most useful is to look at the relative variance across each dimension: if you’re strong on content and leadership, but weaker on politeness or constructive engagement, that tells you your persona is recognized for expertise more than conversational style. If the same is true for your offline 360 — perhaps people describe you as a smart person who can be brusque in pursuit of a goal — then your online persona may be a very accurate and consistent reflection of who you are, period.

But if your personas diverge — if you’re known for your personal touch offline, but come off as a bull in a china shop online — you may want to think about how you can translate your face-to-face interpersonal skills into your online relationships, or conversely, how to speak so that the authority and expertise you hold online is also recognized by the colleagues who work down the hall.

Just like your offline personality, your online persona now forms a significant part of your professional identity. Understanding how those personas align, diverge, and complement one another is crucial to ensure your professional effectiveness, on- and offline.

3 reasons to check out the latest research on social media and food

In the past, ethnicity and family traditions dictated the foods we prepared; we bought our groceries at a neighborhood store; we learned our recipes from “mom” or a cookbook; and we ate our meals together around a table. In contrast, today social media introduces us to new tastes, cuisines and possibilities; we source food via multiple channels including restaurants and online, often basing our decisions on the recommendations of friends; we learn recipes and techniques from TV shows, websites, blogs and online videos; and it is normal to eat with computers, phones, televisions and, increasingly, alone and often without a table.

That is from the executive summary of Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture, a new research study from the Hartman Group. It’s worth a look because:

  1. It’s a focused snapshot of how the very uses of social media that we most eagerly embrace — like integrating it into our passions, hobbies and meals — are also the uses that can most profoundly disrupt crucial social ties and relationships. Calling my mom for her advice on whatever I’m cooking remains one of our strongest ways of connecting; it’s the one place where my desire for advice and my mom’s desire to be heeded consistently align. Yes, I consult Epicurious, but if I listened to Epicurious users instead of my mom, I’d have to give my mom absolute authority over some other aspect of my life, like how I dress. (Hello, ankle-length skirts!)
  2. It demonstrates the value of focusing social media research on a narrow slice of culture change. As social media permeates more and more of our work and personal lives, big-picture, across-the-board analyses must be complemented by targeted investigations of specific areas of social media’s impact.
  3. Food is good. Social media is good. Food + social media? Delicious.

Does social media have to make you happy?

At Simply Zesty, Lauren Fisher asks a provocative question: why happiness?

Her point is that social media is frequently challenged for its (purportedly) negative impact on happiness:

What’s also strange, is the idea that social media in some way owes us happiness, that this is what it was created for. Yet when we look at the whole reason the internet was developed in the first place, knowledge and collaboration were the motivators. It was to develop a medium that allowed academics to collaborate and share documents in a way that wasn’t previously possible. This has since developed wonderfully to allow connections all over the world, continually contributing to increased knowledge of the world. But that doesn’t mean it has to bring us happiness. Maybe these things are more important than happiness.

Perhaps social media has been forced to carry this load because it’s arrived on the scene at roughly the same moment as a newfound interest in happiness. From The Happiness Project to the burgeoning academic literature on the science of happiness, more and more people are taking a close look at how, exactly, we get to be happy. And we’re asking that question just as we’re also asking how, exactly, we want to be online.

As Lauren points out, there’s no intrinsic relationship between the two. Social media may make some of us happy, some of the time…but it can also make many of us stressed out, much of the time. That doesn’t mean we should dismiss its potential value as a catalyst for social change, as a provocation to new ways of thinking, or as an enabler of new forms of relationship — some of which make us happy, but some of which will have other kinds of value altogether.