I’ll admit it. My main Twitter feed can be hard to keep up with, but in a good way. It’s full of interesting people sharing great content and having good conversations, but even so, standing out amongst all that noise is difficult. Chris Hall seems to be a constant presence though, discussing all things social media, constantly sharing good links and making an effort to connect to people.
Chris, owner of the social media agency Cow Bell, has kindly agreed to answer a few quick questions. If you’re interested in social media, marketing, communications or just being sociable, read on:
How on earth do you manage to find and share so much content?
It’s a matter of experience and knowing where to look. I have over 20 years background across PR and on & offline marketing. A lot of what I share is based around the contacts and knowledge I’ve built up across that time. It’s important for new people to the social media sphere to look at the content others are sending out and ensure they’re use similar information resources. I still add new information providers every week. RSS and email deliver it all to me.
You always seem to be talking with people online. Does this leave less time to do the day job?
To be fair this has been a matter of trial and error. Many of us have realised that we’ve spent far too much time talking across the social networks. I’ve managed to find a happy balance between ensuring that the paid for work is delivered and keep in touch across the streams.
Along with many I check in early to Twitter & Facebook. I then handle any emails I need to deal with. Complete one or two tasks from my ‘to do list’ and dip back into a little social networking. This pattern is consistent across the day. I guess instead of walking to the water cooler or chatting with colleagues I’m on Twitter etc.
Remember much of my business is based around working with clients across the networks so it’s actually part of my paid for day too. New clients also come from relationships I form within Twitter especially. This is why my tweets revolve around getting people to think about what they want from social media and how they use it.
Your company aims to help clients “develop an environment where you are at the very centre of where your current & prospective customers live – on & offline”. For what type of businesses is this extremely difficult?
It’s fair to say that it’s extremely dificult and at the same time perfect for the same type of businesses, that’s generally business to business organisations with a real niche market. It’s difficult because the size of the audience can be tiny, but given time and the ability to listen, find, engage and know that audience then conversion and relationships are formed.
It’s really about how much time a company is prepared to put into it. It’s easy to find relationships for Coca Cola, as most people know it and drink it; much harder for John Brown Hand Dryers (an example, not real) in Bristol.
What advantages do small businesses hold over large businesses in the online communications arena?
The speed they can move at!
Decisions about what , where, how, why etc are much quicker for the SME’s, as are approval of change or reaction to the need for a new direction. I compare it to boats. The speed boat can choose a new destination and turn quickly, the oil tanker will be much slower.
Do you think a lack of understanding about online etiquette and best practice can cause newcomers to social media to find it difficult to make connections?
It’s the responsibility of those already there to make newcomers welcome. Newcomers are often intimidated & ‘attacked’ by some of the established faces. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ll continue to do so. It’s an important point, but there are no social media gods or a ruling body. How can there be when its a medium that’s so new & in its early stages. We’re all early adopters at the moment.
The actual usage of twitter is minimal across the country. Facebook has high numbers but as a business tool it’s in its infancy.
Which companies have you seen online that have been successful with a 100% “push marketing” strategy?
Most businesses are now online but the successful ones, who get direct results, include Burger King with its Facebook campaign; King of Shaves has used the online environment brilliantly and with it had an excellent uptake on product.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to use social media as a tool for personal branding?
Everyone using social media is their own personal brand. You are I are examples. We’re being ourselves with our status updates, Linked In comments and tweets but we’re portraying an image of ourselves to our friends and business associates both new & old.
Our digital footprints are being updated by the hour even if we’re not in social networks Google knows more about you than most imagine so my advice is my yourself and as you are in real life which includes happy, sad, fun, serious, knowledgeable, inquisitive but also careful, sensible and be wary of anything that may cause a problem.
Online technologies and popular platforms seem to be developing at a rapid rate, to suit the preferences of the user. Is there still a danger though that it is going to be hard to keep up with these developments, and the ways they can be best used for business?
Yes, that’s very possible. The truth though is the same thing has been happening for a hundred years. When the television was invented it began with one channel, growing to 3 for a long period of time but now we have access to over 300 channels and we consume information at a vast rate. We wouldn’t of imagined we’d be able to keep up with TV the way we do but it’s quickly part of our daily lives.
Social media is the same. Generation Y will take social media into business with ease and also take it to places we can’t even imagine. It’s up to us to keep up.
Do you think being able to communicate effectively online will be a key skill in the future, taught in educational establishments?
Absolutely - in almost all cases.
Which UK “social media events” should readers of this blog consider attending if they want to build real connections and gain a deeper understanding of developments in the industry?
1. media140. A social media community helping organisations understand the potential of social technologies. It’s an organisation that is always looking to pioneer to make change for industry, audiences, brands and the bottom line. It does this through events, workshops, training, seminars and strategy guidance
2. Likeminds . For face to face contact with some of the UK’s leading social media professionals and commentators then this is the place. No egos just a collection of like-minded people who will share, collaborate and engage with each other. Highly recommended.
Which one piece of advice would you give to users of social media who wish to gain benefits from their time spent online?
Listen first, find your audience (personal or business), engage in conversation and never forget the reason you came in [set some goals]. Measurement of all this is crucial too.
Thanks very much Chris.
If you have a view on what Chris has said, or if you want to answer some of the questions yourself, please leave a comment below.
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