How Social Media Pros Can Help Find Missing People

The search for missing IU student Lauren Spierer has spread across social media like wildfire. From a Twitter feed, @NewsOnLaurenS to a Facebook page, find.lauren, thousands have taken interest in her case.

We talk about social media ROI and ponder the business results from engaging with customers and pushing out content on Twitter and Facebook. You can explore the same questions of the social media efforts for Lauren and other missing persons cases. Can 38,000 + likes on the Find Lauren Facebook page lead to information beneficial to her case? What is the outcome of getting country star Miranda Lambert to Tweet with the #FindLauren hashtag? The social media efforts seem to have generated even more media coverage for her case, which is potentially helpful.

I’ve seen more and more instances where families and friends use social media to get the word out about missing people. I would like to see “social media people” like myself get involved. I think we can use our online presences to help find missing people, spreading Amber Alerts and news about missing people in a way that meets these responsible/practical qualifications:

1) It engages the right people, increasing the liklihood for RT’s and therefore actually being helpful.

2) Isn’t spamming one’s network with constant updates, maintaining the personal brands you’ve built and not reflecting poorly on the companies you work for…enabling you to maintain that presence that offers you a platform to be helpful with.

1. Learn the Types of Alerts

Amber AlertsAmber Alerts are coordinated by the US Department of Justice. They are a partnership between law enforcement agencies, broadcasters, the wireless industry and the transportation industry to release urgent information to alert the community of missing or abducted people 17 years old and younger. All 50 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands use Amber Alerts. Over 500 children have been saved since this program began.

More information about Amber Alerts

Amber Alerts on Twitter

Amber Alerts on Facebook

Get Amber Alerts sent to your phone via SMS

Silver AlertsSilver Alerts are like Amber Alerts for seniors with dementia or people over the age of 17 with other cognitive disorders. They are not shared on Twitter in real-time (yet…) but you can learn more about the efforts to get Silver Alerts in all 50 states by following @silveralertbill. Currently 28 states offer Silver Alerts or similar programs.

More information about Silver Alerts

2. Identify the Location of Your Followers

Find out where the majority of your Twitter followers live. It’s not that missing people in your state are more important than ones who aren’t, but time is of the essence in the search for a missing person, especially with Amber Alerts. Seventy-four percent of children who are murdered by their kidnappers are killed within three hours of being taken. My thinking is this: If  you focus on broadcasting messages (like Amber Alerts) that are more targeted to your followers by location, you are more likely to actually put those Tweets in front of a person who is in the area where that person went missing and therefore could be able to help.

Plus, as we know with Twitter, your Tweets will be more effective and more likely to be ReTweeted if they are relevant to your followers.

Using SocialBro, you can run a quick analysis of your Twitter followers to see where they are located. I live in Boston, and most of my followers are also in Boston. I do have a lot of people in Upstate, NY as well. (That’s where I’m from.)

According to SocialBro, most of my Twitter followers are in the Boston, MA area.

2. Subscribe to Missing Persons Information For Your State

Twitter

@OurMissingKids is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). It shares information about missing children and endangered runaways. They use the hashtags #missing and #haveyouseenme for each one.

Subscribe to a Twilert for (where most of your followers are located) your state’s abbreviation and the hashtag #haveyouseenme. (It’s less cluttered than #missing.)

Create a Twilert for #haveyouseenme and your state's initials.

ReTweet if you receive one for your state.

@Amber_Alerts is the official Twitter account for Amber Alerts and this is where they share Amber Alerts in real-time. Use Twitter’s advanced search to subscribe to an RSS of “AMBER ALERT”, your state’s abbreviation.

Search for "Amber Alert", your state's initials. Using NC as an example of query with current results.

Facebook

Amber Alerts now offer Facebook pages for all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Find your state’s Amber Alerts page here.

A feed of active Amber Alerts targeted by state is what’s planned for these pages, although I haven’t seen posts quite yet.

The notifications might not make your main newsfeed with all the other clutter that Facebook has to offer, but you can subscribe via RSS to your page’s updates so you don’t miss them.

Manage your RSS feeds in a Google Reader folder just for this information for organization.

Blogging

Amber Alerts now offers a widget for your blog’s sidebar featuring missing persons information, Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts along with safety tips and a way for people to sign up to receive email notifications for these alerts. Sign up at AmberAlert.com to get your widget.

4. Not Everyone Has to Do This

Do I really think that every single person who reads this post will go through the trouble of setting this stuff up? No. But I do think a few people might do one or two of these things, or at least take an interest in this. And that’s where it begins.

As Gladwell wrote, activism via social media offers a low entry-point for participation: All it takes is a Tweet, Facebook share or “like” to be involved. If a few people start to share these things, that will lead to ReTweets and engagement to get the word out more. That’s what influence is about.

I’m clearly no Chris Brogan and I don’t know if people actually ever listen to what I have to say, but this occurred to me: For all the sandwich Twitpics I’ve sent, dumb infographics or half-read articles I’ve ReTweeted (you’ve done it too) and FourSquare checkins I’ve pushed to Twitter, can’t I occasionally share things that could help someone/something other than @JanetAronica?

The world is so much bigger than this echochamber of Tweetups and ninjas. Twitter for marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. Social business begins to scratch the surface. But there is an entire other layer of social media’s potential beyond just business that is practically untapped.

Will we participate?

I leave you with additional conversations on this topic:

Abducted (Boston Globe – I thought this was a decent and fair article regarding Amber Alerts’ limitations)

Finding Missing Persons: From Milk Cartons to Wall Posts and Tweets (Social Media Today)

Social Networking Tools Help Find Missing Children (Fox News)

Twitter Users Help Find a Missing Child in Just Three Hours (The Next Web)

Using Social Media for Missing Children’s Cases

My Twitter List of Resources

Facebook Groups vs. LinkedIn Groups: Which is Right for Your Community?

I use both a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group as community engagement tools. I like them both, but for very different reasons, and what I really wish I could do was combine my favorite features of each and get the best of both worlds.

I have tested different ways to build engagement and conversation with my audience. Last September I started a Q&A forum on Qhub called oneforty Answers where people could submit and answer questions related to Twitter apps and other social media topics. After two months, it wasn’t getting quite the traction I wanted it to, so I focused on a new LinkedIn group.

Around the same time, I got involved in Facebook’s new groups. They are a far cry from the cheesy groups I used to be invited to in college for purposes like “Hey I lost my cell phone give me all your numbers” or “Hey I need to do this survey for my senior seminar paper….” (Remember those throw-backs? Aw yeah…)

I love the functionality of the new groups so much that recently, with the beta launch SocialBase, I dared to try something different and use a Facebook group to engage our beta testers.

Which do I like better?

Pros of LinkedIn Groups:

  • People have a “business mindset” on LinkedIn. No distractions from personal things like on Twitter and Facebook that clutter conversations. That has always been the clearest benefit.
  • “Top Influencers This Week” shows you your most engaged community members
  • “Follow” functionality: If there is a certain noisy member of the group, community members can “unfollow” that person.
  • You can do open groups and your brand name can receive SEO value for conversations involved in the group (could be a good thing if they are relevant to your keywords.) I’ve chosen to keep my group private because I’m nervous about spam.
  • Granular admin options. Need to sell your boss or client on using social media? Show how you can customize this group to what is the right fit for your business.
LinkedIn Group Admin options - lots of 'em!

Cons of LinkedIn Groups

  • No reporting. There isn’t even so much as a Facebook Insights type of weekly email update that tells me about the number of comments or number of group members so I can gauge the progress or engagement week-by-week.
  • Invitations – I have to be connected to someone on LinkedIn in order to invite them. I have to send the invitation, wait for them to accept, then send the group invitation. It’s just a bit of a process.
  • No custom URL’s for brands. I’m hacking it with a custom Bit.ly… http://bit.ly/14tLinkedIn
  • Discussions are odd: Your comments are limited to 200 characters. It’d be nice to be able to “tag” another community member in a comment the way you can on Facebook, Disqus and Livefyre comments. This would enhance the conversations and drive people back to the group if they got a Tweet or an email update when they were mentioned in a comment.

And now for Facebook…

Pros of Facebook Groups:

  • I like that you can tag people in comments – drives a lot more engagement and it makes the discussions much more interactive.
  • You can add links, photos, videos, or do a poll with a question – more options than with a LinkedIn group. I share screencasts of SocialBase and it presents then better than they would be presented in a LinkedIn group.
  • Chat function would allow you to chat with group members. Haven’t tried this yet but could see this being useful.
  • Documents feature lets you collect things like Twitter handles if you are going to make a Twitter list of all the members.
  • Integrates with events feature. Again, I haven’t used this but could see this as useful if my group was bigger.
  • Better email notifications than LinkedIn. You can reply to discussions right from the email. It also gives you a better preview of the discussions to make you really decide if you want to actually login to Facebook and see the conversation. LinkedIn just tells you there was “an update” or “a discussion” added to the group.  That doesn’t peak my interest much and make me want to return.

Cons of Facebook Groups

  • No reporting – No way for me to get a report of number of discussions or group members to track engagement, no feature to show “top influencers” like with LinkedIn.
  • I have to add someone as a Facebook friend in order to invite him or her to the group. Obvious creep factor here…
  • No custom URLs
  • Can’t download a list or group members names or email addresses into an Excel sheet or anything so when using this in conjunction with other marketing activities it’s a little more tedious to track which beta testers have joined the group and who hasn’t.

This is what I want: I wish I could have the technical functionality of a Facebook group within the context of a LinkedIn group.

I’ve gotten more comfortable adding people on Facebook. I won’t add just anybody, but I’ve accepted that I’m out there and online…that it’s just this mix of personal and professional. However, when I have to add someone as a Facebook friend to have them join a Facebook group for my company, I might be violating other people’s boundaries.  Others might not be as easygoing about it. At least if you are adding someone on LinkedIn to join your LinkedIn group, it’s less personal.

It would be helpful if I didn’t have to be Facebook friends with someone to invite them to a Facebook group. Or, maybe Facebook could make it so if someone was a “fan” of our business page I could invite them to our (private) business group (which would be helpful for peeps like me with private betas). It’d also be helpful to have Facebook Insights-type of reporting just to be able to measure progress on group engagement.

However, I love the technical functionality of Facebook groups and wish I could have something like that surrounded by the business environment and mentality of LinkedIn’s site. People want to talk about business-focused things when they login to that site, so for things like B2B software, it’s a golden lead generation and B2B community building opportunity. I think that’s a mind-share thing that LinkedIn has and Facebook doesn’t (plus… why would it want to? They’re doing just fine…) But LinkedIn can change the technicalities of groups.

That’s my take on my my experience with these two types of groups. Are you using either for your communities? What’s your take?

5 Qualities to Look for in a Social Media Hire

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I graduated and that I’m on the other side of the hiring table. I spent most of last Friday digging through dozens of resumes, finally finding a couple of talented folks I wanted to chat with for a social media coordinator/intern position.

It made me think a lot about what social media means to me, who I was when I graduated in 2009 and what I’d look for in an entry-level social media hire, or any social media hire for any level. I’d say I try my best to practice what I preach on these, and here are some qualities that I think are important.

1. Social Media Presence

I’m hiring at the entry-level. It’s important to me that this person has a blog, an active Twitter account and a LinkedIn. I Googled a lot of names and it surprised me how few applicants ranked for their names in the results.

I’m somewhat of a blogging slacker here at Social Rant (busy guest posting and building a startup) but I still rank for Janet Aronica….

Yes, I was signed out of Gmail when I searched this. Let me know if you get different results so I can work on that!

When you have a couple of years of working experience, and if you were applying for a manager/director/specialist level position, it’s probably assumed you have a personal brand. However, if I was a hiring for that level of a position, I’d be more interested in seeing what results the candidate produced for a client or company.

Were you on the account team that ran the social media presence for a hotel? I’d be checking out that hotel’s Facebook page. I’d probably ask how the candidate measured the progress, what went well and what the candidate would do different. What you accomplished for a business would resonate most for me.

As far as your personal blog posts or Twitter followers, I’d check it out to see if you have a demonstrated interest in the space (and not to mention, make sure you weren’t Tweeting anything stupid) If you weren’t blogging every single day of every single week, I’d assume it was because you were too busy kicking butt for your company to be self-promotional.

I should screenshot more Tweets. Because one time, I saw Jason Keath from SocialFresh Tweet something that was pure genius and I wish I could quote him properly right now. He said something to the effect of: “You’ve never even heard of some of the smartest people in this industry because they are too busy getting things done to talk about themselves.” That about sums it up.

2. Phenomenal Writing Skills

Social media involves a lot of content creation and writing. Blogging, Tweeting, and Facebook page status-updating is all writing.

Take a look at Barbie’s Facebook page:

Glamping. That’s right. Glam-camping. A clever writer came up with that status and it’s hilarious.

This is why I want people to have a blog and read blogs. Blogging develops your voice as a writer. A strong writing voice helps you as a community manager or some type of social media person because people are drawn to your content – your blog posts, Tweets, Facebook page statuses, what have you. Reading helps you become a better writer you learn how other people use language.

Disciplines like PR, marketing and journalism tend to be very writing-heavy in their coursework. Not to say that all social media hires have to come from one of these majors, but these majors are more likely to introduce you to this space and bring you to an internship or extracurricular activity where you can build great writing skills.

3. Email Marketing Experience

I think that email is the glue that makes social media stick.

At some point you want this community, these Twitter followers and Facebook people, to come to your website and make a purchase. (Or come to your store, or download an app, or sign up for your event… whatever a conversion is for you.) Email is a way to re-engage them and keep them coming back. It comes down to making money as some point.

Like I’ve said before, social CRM is an exploding market, with recent investment for Sprout Social and aquisition for JitterJam and Bantam Live. Sure, there are sexier marketing tools than email. Q4 codes are sexy. So is location-based marketing.  But look: (only) 4% of Americans use location based services. Every single Facebook fan or Twitter follower has an email address. They couldn’t login otherwise!

We have tools that are attempting to connect email marketing and social media marketing. Why aren’t we aggressively looking for social media marketers to facilitate that strategy?

I’d love to see social media be taken seriously and tie itself to the actually business/sales process.  A marketing channel like email is a way to do it. This is probably trickier for an entry-level person to get experience in other than maybe using email (Mailchimp is free for a small list of subscribers) to promote an on-campus event or at an internship. However I think as social media marketers we should understand how email works.

4. Metrics-Driven Mentality

I’m trying to grow each day to be a more data-driven marketer. Numbers don’t lie, they unify teams and they motivate people.

Not many people know what to measure in social media. Also, not many people have time to dig into the analytics tools, understand the graphs and derive actionable insights. If you take initiative at your internship or job in this area, people will love you.

If you’re looking for a social media coordinator or internship gig somewhere, position yourself as a metrics-driven individual by running some metrics on your own Twitter account with one of the dozens of free analytics tools out there and do a blog post about it. Even if what you are doing is very basic measurement, you are demonstrating a working knowledge of what it’d take to move the needle. You’ll learn the more advanced analytics like share of voice or sentiment when you work with a real client.

While I’m on the metrics point, knowing SEO won’t hurt you either. Google Analytics is a free tool. Install it on your blog. Read the Tutorials. Learn and have fun. It’s addictive!

5. Coachable

“Coachability” isn’t a quality unique to social media, it’s just a quality of good employees. You want someone who can take feedback and who will grow in their position.

I love this post from the fabulous Early Stager blog that explains this concept of being “coachable.”

When you’re at Stage 1, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you think you’re doing awesome. (Some people aren’t coachable. They don’t take feedback and they never leave Stage 1.) You want 2’s and 3’s: people who know there are things they don’t know, so they are open to your feedback and want to learn. That’s how they get to Stage 4, where they’re ready for you to delegate. 2’s and 3’s grow with your company.

A good way to look for the “coachable” factor in the hiring process is by assigning a project during the hiring process. (I’m assigning a blog post and a Twitter metrics project to a few select candidates.) Then, you give feedback and see if they’ll change it. That’s what my friend Jason did to hire me and I’d say I’m one of those “open to feedback” types.

So there you have it. The five things I think you should look for in a social media hire. What other things would you look for?

The Unpaid Intern: All Grown Up

I don’t think Diane Sawyer would’ve worried or complained about being an unpaid journalism intern. I can’t see her waiting around for her college’s career services center to place her in an internship. I envision her beating down doors to get the best opportunities she needed to perfect her writing, research and her on-camera presence, build her professional network – and, not to mention, craft her non-regional dialect of course. Her focus? Her opportunities. Not her limitations.

This recent NY Times article about unpaid internships compelled me to share my thoughts my internships two years after graduation from college, where I did four unpaid internships.

I have an admittedly odd take on unpaid internships.  Students work for free but have to pay for college credit. The companies they work for can say they are paying they student with credit. (The student paid for the credit…so the student is basically paying to work for free…so…um…get it?)

All that said, if I was a college student all over again looking for PR, marketing or journalism internships…here’s my take: I would not turn down learning opportunities at great companies just because they weren’t paid.

I know that’s controversial, but it’s true.

I took issue with several things in this article. I disagree with this:

“Colleges shouldn’t publicize unpaid internships at for-profit companies. They should discourage internship requirements for graduation — common practice in communications, psychology, social work and criminology. They should stop charging students to work without pay — and ensure that the currency of academic credit, already cheapened by internships, doesn’t lose all its value.”

Like I said, at face-value making students pay for academic credit for unpaid internships seems shady. But those were honestly the best college credits I paid for. And as far as the “cheapening of college credit”… Seriously? I’ve benefitted much more from internships than from a lot of the theory they teach in classes. I was delighted to skip out on that stuff that wasn’t going teach me to deliver value for a business, get into an office environment and learn skills that’d make me marketable upon graduation.

Discouraging internship requirements for graduation isn’t going to solve the problem of huge companies not paying their interns. It’s just going to lessen the likelihood that college students are going to take these vital professional opportunities for their careers. That makes them less likely to get jobs upon graduation. Quick! Name all the under or unemployed ’09 or ’10 graduates you can think of… without taking a breath. We’ll be here all night… The last thing we need to do is discourage students whatsoever from gaining this valuable experience.

Like the intensely career-driven 24-year-old I am today, I was a die-hard 19, 20 and 21-year-old as well. I aggressively pursued internships. I did five in college in various areas of marketing, PR and journalism. Then I graduated in the economic shitshow known as May 2009 and moved to Boston two weeks later for a paid internship at a PR agency in Boston. A paycheck?! For the first time?! I was thrilled.

I did a ton of free work throughout college other than internships. I ran my college’s newspaper for free. I did PR campaigns for local businesses through this student-run integrated marketing agency, PRIMA Connections for free. This free work helped me build a portfolio that I could bring with me to those internship interviews – where I would work… for free.

If I were a college student today, I wouldn’t wait around for a minute for my career center to place me in an internship. Why? Because the job market doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t work that way, either. Your college career center isn’t going to be there for you after college to pick your apartments, find you a dentist in a new city, find you a boyfriend who calls you back – none of that. Remember: good things come to those who wait, but only what is left behind by those who hustle. Some would argue that things like a career center is what you are paying a college for. I would argue that if you are a communications student like I was, you are paying a college to support opportunities like a school newspaper etc for you to hone your skills in addition to internships. I didn’t pay St. John Fisher for daycare, thanks.

Again, I would not turn down an opportunity I really wanted because it didn’t pay. You might have to work weekends or do the internship part-time to make time during the week for a part-time job. Most importantly, remember: You are not above Starbucks!

(Side note: If we’re going to take up real estate in the NY Times to talk about issues of unpaid internships, let’s really focus on the people for whom this isn’t an option. Perhaps single parents maybe who don’t have time for school + unpaid internship + jobs?)

When I was an unpaid intern, I complained a lot to my unpaid intern friends about the unfairness of the fact that I wasn’t being paid. It was really exhausting to wake up, work out, go to an internship all day, go straight to the restaurant, work all night, then come home…and do that all week and/or weekend.

So was this always fun? No, it was stressful a lot of times. But it was my time to pay my dues. A little hard work never hurt anyone, in fact – all that hard work helped prepare me for what I’m doing now. And that’s exactly what internships are supposed to do – prepare you for your career. I am glad I did what I did and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The NY Times article recalls the “plight” of unpaid WNBC intern Will Batson who “scrambled for shelter” during his summer internship in NYC. To Mr. Batson and other unpaid interns I say this:

One day, gentrified and successful, you will be married and live in a house on a cul-de-saq with things like “sofas” and “duvet covers.” You will have non coin-op washers and dryers from legitimate stores like Jordans and not Craigslist or the side of the road. Your fridge will be stocked with essentials other than Bud Light and hot sauce and when the hand soap runs out you’ll buy new handsoap instead of passive-aggressively re-filling it with water until your roommate buys new handsoap. You may have a salary, 401k and savings. Most of all you, will have security. You will have certainty. You will have a career. You may attend block parties or BBQ’s with other former unpaid interns. After a few too many you might talk about college or that crazy summer you spent in NYC couch-hopping and how much fun it was. You’ll laugh until your stomach hurts.

If we really focus on our opportunities and not our limitations things work out in the end. I hope so. I’ll let you know.

In your late teens and early twenties (your unpaid internship and entry-level years) I think there’s this balance of being really comfortable, but yet at the same time being really uncomfortable, with the uncertainty that defines those years. How so? What do I mean? My discomfort at ages 19 through 22ish with not knowing exactly what kind of PR/marketing/journalism (or maybe law school? I considered a lot of things…) job I wanted after graduation or not having a job lined up drove me to internships. Action comforted me because it gave me direction. Being “just” someone’s unpaid intern wasn’t the most glamorous role. But I was comforted by the certainty that I was definitely gaining great experience at that moment, yet simultaneously discomforted by the fact that I so badly wanted to do more than that and earn more than that one day.

So that’s where I am today: content yet restless. Happy but unsatisfied, I’m constantly driven to do better and learn more. Oh and I get paid now, not in tips, and I don’t wear a name-tag, apron or tuxedo to work. That still feels really cool.

Round-up of Tools from #SMCBoston Panel

I was really humbled that I was asked to speak on a panel about social media tools at yesterday’s Social Media Club of Boston Event, Evaluating Social Technologies: From Chaos to Strategy. I was joined by Kathy O’ Reilly, Director of Social Media Relations for Monster.com, Ben Boardman of Marketwire and Sysomos and Zach Hofer-Shall, an analyst for Forrester Research that specializing in social intelligence.

(Here we are chatting. Don’t mind my sweet accent. I’m from Buffalo. 🙂 )

We chatted about a variety of social media tools and primarily discussed them within the context of these four categories: Discovery, Measurement, Publishing and Social CRM.

I threw out a bunch of recommendations for tools and I know we were moving pretty fast so I wanted to give a quick breakdown and recap/elaborate on some of my recommendations. Most of these will link to their oneforty item pages where you can see reviews and screenshots of the tools for a little more information.

Discovery – Listening & monitoring tools

Twitter Advanced Search

This is a free way to set up searches for hashtags, keywords or your own brand name. You can even specify per location, sentiment or just search for questions regarding that phrase. You can even hack together a free monitoring dashboard in iGoogle with an RSS of these searches.

MarketMeSuite* – This is an affordable way for small businesses to take the geo-targeting aspect of Twitter searches and view them in an organized interface.

Measurement – Analytics Tools

Tweetreach – I love Tweetreach’s analytics. They break down reach, impression and volume of Tweets as well as show you your most influential community members who ReTweet you and generate the most reach for you. Variety of price ranges as well and great graphs.

Tap 11 – This is a client with FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn integration. I love the email digest of metrics that they compile for you, specifically the attention they pay to ReTweets. Tap 11 shows what is being ReTweeted the most and by whom. There’s lots of talk about how ReTweets are indexed by Google and help with SEO, so I think these metrics are increasingly important for brands looking to boost blog (and therefore, site) traffic.

I mentioned a few times that a lot of times people think the price point for tools is at $500/month and up. Tools like Radian6 and Alterian SM2 do start around there and they are appropriate for some companies. However I wanted to re-iterate that there are a lot of lower-cost analytics options. Viralheat* is $99/month and Ubervu is $50/month to $400/month. We gave a round-up of seven low-cost social monitoring options in this blog post.

To the question of social media ROI, I mentioned the availability of tools that let you apply in-page analytics and track conversions (Did this person fill out a form? Register for an event? Make a purchase?) from Twitter and Facebook. Three tools that do this include Performable, HubSpot and Argyle Social*.

Publishing – Content management and Scheduling Tools

Buffer – This helps you load Tweets into your “Buffer” at ideal times for you to Tweet and sends them out for you throughout the day. Instead of individually having to schedule each Tweet, write the Tweets and Buffer will send them out at the pre-selected times. It gives you some basic analytics as well like reach, ReTweets (including who ReTweeted it) and number of clicks.)

Timely – This is similar to Buffer only it doesn’t let you control the times or schedule Tweets days ahead of time. You can load up your Tweets and then Timely sends them out throughout the day at times selected based on performance of past Tweets. Timely also offers some basic analytics like number of clicks and reach.

Garious – another content publishing tool that pushes your content out throughout the day for you and helps you be more efficient.

Crowdbooster and Socialflow are two more tools I mentioned that help you identify the best times to Tweet by analyzing your previous Tweets and when your audience has been most responsive with @replies, ReTweets and click-throughs. I wrote more about this is a guest post for SocialFresh.

Raven Tools – Raven Tools is a great way to compile your SEO and social media efforts by being able to monitor your Twitter and Facebook activity plus view your Google Analytics and do keyword research all from one clean and simple interface. It’s affordable, the team there is super nice, and it pushes you to take a full 360-view of your online marketing efforts. My friend Kristin Dziadul uses this for her marketing efforts at Backupify and chose this over other tools.

A few more content publishing tools to check out: Dlvr.it, Sprinklr and Hootsuite.

Social CRM – (WTF?)

I loved this chat that we had because I think we called into question whether or not social CRM even exists yet. It’s something I’ve wondered about as well.

The space is getting a ton of traction though. All within the past month or so, Sprout Social just raised a $10 million Series B, JitterJam got acquired, as well as Bantam Live. All three are fantastic social CRM options that attempt to collaborate a customer contact database with Twitter and Facebook interactions. Other options to look at are Blue Camroo (specifically check out their Social Network Scout feature) and Nimble.

To just get started in integrating social CRM tactics into your work, using a tool like Gmail plugin Rapportive will help you connect your email contacts to their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Gist does this too, in a prettier way. 🙂

So there you have it! All the tools I mentioned. I love talking about this stuff as you can tell so feel free to shoot me questions any time.

*oneforty affiliate. (But still a badass tool!)

Are We Iterating When We Should Be Pivoting?

I think the unfortunate thing about caring about your job as more than just a job is exactly that: you care. You emotionally feel something for your idea or project that you are working on. When things change or don’t go well, you feel that too.

To be honest, this social business hub thing is a pivot and this is tough. I enjoyed a refreshing moment of clarity going home last week and spending time with my parents. They ask questions like “when is a startup not a startup anymore?” and just recently understood my job thanks to a news piece they watched on Fox News about Charlie Sheen. Far outside of the Boston startup/social media echochamber that I live in, they loved me when I was a waitress and don’t really care what I do when I grow up. I’m enough for them. I think a point of reference is important.

What is a pivot? I hear that word tossed around a lot and I wanted to make sure I was acurately diagnosing my experience. I researched a little and found this inspiring video. In this video, super angel Mike Maples outlines three different pivots he has advised and defines that pivots are not about product iteration, but business model. We’re not adding a couple new features; we’re re-drawing sales funnels, kids.

Yea, this is a pivot.

What does this feel like? I feel like the B2C, UberTwitter-loving Twitter App Store dumped me on prom night. And I loved that app store. It feels like a breakup. Like a Ben & Jerry’s, vodka and chick flicks breakup. I feel like this:

You fall in love with your original idea. You sweat and toil and commit to it. You’re quoted publically about it. You wear the t-shirt. You spend time away from other things, on the weekends holidays and nights, because you are working on this thing. Your passion for this idea re-prioritizes your life.

But then it’s not getting traction, so you have to breakup and make a change. Quickly. I’m not even a founder but I’m…sad. It’s the best way to describe it. (Don’t get me wrong: I actually love what we’re focusing on even more now. I just invested a lot into that original idea, and other people on my team who’ve been here longer even more so.)

I’m learning more about pivots. I found this post on Fred Wilson’s blog about Hashable. Did you know they used to be a company called Tracked? If you scroll down to their CMO’s fantastic comment, you can learn a little more about their process. It sounds like they considered simply focusing on a few good features of Tracked (iterating) but they ultimately chose to completely relaunch as a new site with mobile applications, Hashable. They pivoted.

They focused on finding product/market fit during the concept, alpha and beta stages and then once they had more confidence in their product, began to build buzz. (Although, they were never in “stealth mode.”) Will they be successful? It’s an interesting concept to me, almost like a “CRM for Twitter” in my mind and people seemed to be warming up to it at SXSW. And they have evangelists already. I know how tough it is to build community. I give them huge credit for that.

What I really give them credit for is making the big pivot. The big switch. Digging through research for this blog post I found a ton of Slideshare presentations on “pivot case studies” that to me weren’t about true pivots. They were about product iteration – which is important! I subscribe to the lean startups ideology and think you should iterate and iterate and iterate based on customer feedback until you find that thing that sticks. It’s about perfecting and not perfection. But what I’m wondering is this: How many startups out there are iterating too much? How much time are we wasting iterating on a concept that isn’t getting traction, when you should really make the big jump and target your business model?

I’m talking about mothballing that site you built while you missed your kid’s soccer game and moving onto something else. I’m talking about alienating half of a community you built because they aren’t in your target audience anymore. This is a difficult but necessary choice. I wonder if some startups don’t do this early enough and are left to wonder about the business model that got away.

This is my first startup and like I said, I’m not a founder. I just wish the Twitter App Store and I broke up at homecoming so I could take another business model to prom.

The Career-Girl Manifesto

Computer science Barbie inspires me. She happens to be a girly girl, and happens to like computers too. So that’s how she presents herself. The combination of her intelligence plus her authenticity shows her capacity for effective leadership. She’ll be your boss one day. I’m talking to you, lame startup guy.

Women are told that we need to act more like men to get ahead. We need to downplay our feminine ways and stop sabotaging our careers by doing girly things, like over-explaining ourselves, leaving crappy voicemails and using emoticons in emails. And we can’t cry – that makes guys uncomfortable. And God forbid we make people uncomfortable by being too girly.

But you know what makes people really uncomfortable? Downplaying your girly side. Embrace commanding body language. Be assertive, take charge and leave the emoticons at the door.

You just can’t win. The messages are confusing. They’re telling you you have to act a certain way to garner the respect and trust to earn a high-power position, but you can’t try too hard or else that’s distracting and threatening and people won’t like you. This message is conflicting, frustrating and unproductive, especially for young women like myself who are just starting out in our careers.

Men and women are not equal – we’re different. In Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”, she diplomatically explains some reasons men get ahead in the workplace and points out some things they do better than us:

  • 57% of men negotiate their first salaries. Only 7% of women do this. (Wonder where the pay gap begins?)
  • Men attribute their success to themselves (“I’m awesome!”) while women attribute their success to external factors (“So and so helped me along the way…”) No one gets a promotion if they don’t think they deserve success!

I like to see behavior differences between myself and my male peers and think about things they do differently (and in my opinion, better) than me. I find the guys I work with to be more direct in how they communicate than I am. They make decisions faster than me. I think that’s because they’re more confident than I am and they don’t waste time second guessing themselves. They take credit for their work. They never seem to feel like people are taking advantage of them, whereas I do. You teach people how to treat you. Is this a difference between men and women in general or just between some assertive guys and a learning-to-be-more-assertive girl? I’m not sure.

While these points are somewhat worth exploring for personal growth I think it’s more worthwhile for young women to identify and cultivate their personal strengths than it is for them to try and act like one of the guys just for the sake of downplaying our feminine sides.

Because honestly, no matter what you do to downplay your feminine side, your gender is still out there. It’s this pulsing theme in the background of your life. No, not all women want to be moms, but the potential and desire for motherhood has a huge impact on your career, the choices you make and the stresses you feel outside the office. Women have miscarriages at the office. Then they go to board meetings. Even the most conservative/prepared/cautious birth control-pill-popping-20-something career girl secretly does a little fist pump and thinks “Yes! Dodged another one!” every month. She doesn’t want kids, she’s focused on her career. She’s in law school or getting her MBA or something. All of this only to end up doing IVF at age 35 and squinting at a pregnancy test every month praying she gets the two pink lines. (Worth noting: 11 of the 12 female Fortune 500 CEO’s are moms.) Even if you do end up on Forbe’s 50 most powerful women in the world list, they’re still gonna list your marital status and the number of children you have. Sure it’s 2011 but we’re still somewhat defined by our ability to reproduce and get hitched, not only culturally but also by the personal choices we have to make along the way. You’re still a woman. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a push-up bra or shoulder pads.

I imagine and celebrate a scenario in which an up-and-coming sales exec will go out for manicures to chum up to her female CEO just like how men go golfing with their male bosses. Embrace who you are. I don’t think it needs to be an either-or situation of being taken seriously and being feminine. To encourage more female leadership in tech, it doesn’t need to be a choice between science camp or jewelry. Wear your jewelry to science camp. To get to the corner office, it doesn’t need to be a choice being between an iron-fist or a nurturing hand, it just means choosing a leadership style that reflects who you are.

Furthermore, you’re allowed to hate manicures too. Go smoke cigars with your up-and-coming sales exec if you ladies prefer that. And if you hate jewelry, wear a baseball cap to science camp. Just make sure you are being mentored by your CEO or role model. And get your butt to science camp. Be who you are. I demand this. To be anything else is a distraction from your goals.

I think the article “Can She Lead” offers a good solution:

It seems that authentic leadership is the most important factor women can maintain to rise as leaders for society. Women shouldn’t feel they must lead with an iron fist to thrive because, nor that this is the only way they will ascend the corporate ladder. Leadership should not be garnered by fear, but rather by consensus and a belief in the leader. In addition, women should not feel that they must act passively to conform to traditional ideas of female leadership. Rather, they must be true to themselves and realize their influence as leaders… Female leaders can rise to the top as they embrace their own strengths as women and maintain a leadership style that is embedded in their individuality. This is what will draw others near, inspire, and motivate.

When it comes to female leadership in the workplace, I hope my little blog post is just one piece of an increasing discourse centered around embracing individual strengths. And if we do generalize about differences between men versus women, I hope we see more conversation that emphasizes the benefits of a “female style” of leadership. Positive reinforcement, people: Let’s talk about what we’re doing right once in a while!

We’ve got a ton of work to do. 85% of PR practitioners are women but the top 80% of management is male. The glass ceiling still exists in many industries. I’m painting my nails and I’m getting a hammer.

How to: Be a Startup Kid

Considering a job at a startup? New to startup life? Based off of my extensive eight months of experience, here are my tips:

1. Be Agile

Take your job description. Print it out. Burn it. Be ready to wear many hats. Depending on the direction your company takes you may need to take on different projects or tasks that you didn’t initially set out for. Be flexible, learn as you go and multi-task.

2. Be Decisive

Make decisions quickly. Be really confident in your choices, knowing that usually things can be iterated on and re-considered later. Act quickly and trust yourself. Second-guessing wastes time you don’t have.

3. Drink

Chill with other startup kids. Mingle. Go to events. Startup friends understand your work life in a way that others usually don’t. They’ll be able to offer really great feedback and advice, and some of the best networking opportunities come from just hanging out. True story: I met my friend who I hired as a freelance blogger when we were just hanging out drinking wine with other startup geeks once. Networking doesn’t just happen at conferences.

4. Drop the Perfectionism

You do not have time to nit-pick over minute details that don’t move the needle. Some jobs are extremely detail-oriented and are totally focused on shipping only the most perfect product or document possible. At a startup it’s less about being perfect and more about perfecting as you go along. “Ship it and change it based on customer feedback”  or “let’s test this and see if it gets traction” are more the themes at a startup.

5. Get Over the Rainbows and Butterflies

Your bad ideas that you love so much but just don’t work? Love ’em and leave ’em. You can’t get emotionally tied to and hung up on specific ideas or projects at a startup. Test your idea, measure the results and be ready to scrap the whole thing and move onto the next one if it wasn’t the right solution.

6. Play Ping Pong. Wear a Hoodie.

Be the type of person who gets bored with the mundane and thrives under pressure. Learn to be happy despite a strong level of uncertainty. Show up at work and get stressed. Then, when you need to relax a little, play ping pong or something. Startups are nuts and being able to keep an even keel – in whatever way you do that – is key.

7. Know Your Needs

Feeling sick? Need a day off? This one’s tough for me too. Part of what makes you a successful startup kid is knowing your needs and taking care of yourself. If you need more sleep, sleep. You need exercise and a diet that doesn’t only consist of PBJ & PBR. When you take care of yourself you help your team by making sure their engineer or product person or marketing person is ok. Know your needs and take care of them.

8. Choose Your Choices

Not everyone is going to “get” the startup thing. They don’t understand how your job isn’t just a job to you or why you’d want to work such crazy hours or do what you do. Get behind your own life choices and commit to your own decisions. Then, it really won’t matter to you who does or doesn’t understand or approve. They’re your choices and you want them, after all, so who cares.

9. Be Hungry

Be hungry to learn. Be hungry to figure it out. Be hungry to find someone who already knows how it’s done and then go ask them how it’s done. Identify your weaknesses and seek the knowledge or experience that fixes them. You’ll likely be “punching above your weight class” and will be challenged with a lot more responsibility than you initially thought. If you are absolutely die-hard hungry to learn all you can, succeed in your own role and make your contribution to the team a success, that’ll be ok.

10. ELAMF

Execute like a ___ ___. There is a unique level of productivity and motivation needed (demanded) from each member of a small team. It’s beyond the level of just getting to the bottom of a to-do list, it’s about asking “What’s next?” and being able to immediately act on that feedback. It’s about bringing new ideas to the table, asking questions, giving your input to every part of what’s going on. Showing up isn’t good enough, and participating isn’t intense enough either. This is about being really involved and applying your expertise to each aspect of your new business.

Startups are crazy, but somehow I love this. What other qualities or tips would you add to the list?

Trunk.ly is My Jam

Twitter has re-branded itself as an information network, and tools like Trunk.ly support this effort. It allows you to follow just what links your Twitter friends share on Trunk.ly. It’s like a personal recommendations Google Reader thingy and I love it.

This is very helpful for me, as I write a weekly “news roundup” style post for my company blog. It’s great for curating content from the community and reviewing what the popular topics were that week. If you’re interested in that content curation type of stuff you might also like Packrati.us, which not only will collect the links that you share on Twitter but also the links that you Favorite. So, essentially it’s assumed that the links you RT you’ve already read, correct? But I think you and I both know that people don’t always do that. If you want to Favorite the Tweets with links that you want to read later though, it’s a way of bookmarking them. Packrati.us will collect those and then you can save those to read when you have time (which most likely isn’t at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday when you see the Tweet, correct?)

Hope this is helpful!