Cross Post: Social Media Careers: In-House vs. an Agency

Cross-post from the book Web site:

What You Need to Think About Before Making the Jump

Whether you are graduating from college or considering a career change, consider that, in order to be successful in both the short and long-term, you’ll need to make a lot of people happy:  both internal and external clients.  Let’s spend some time discussing how to make these internal and external clients happy – and keep them that way.

Tips for making internal clients happy



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5 Hard Truths About Working in Social Media – by Antonia Harler

I am posting this tomorrow on my other blog, Starting a Career in Social Media, but it’s good. So good that I am posting it here today.  So if you subscribe to both (which you should), get over it.

Today’s post comes from (with permission) from my friend, Antonia Harler, who is one of the up-and-coming rising stars in social media.  I interviewed Antonia for the book, but she was kind enough to let me share a great post of hers, “5 hard truths about working in social media.”  It’s like Antonia:  honest, smart and fun.

Here goes: 5 hard truths about working in social media

I knew I wanted to work in social media for quite a while before I actually started my job. I envisioned what a social media job would entail and quite liked what I came up with. A combination of creativity, people & strategy. And while, yes, a social media job does in fact combine all of these things the reality and my vision are worlds apart. (Yes, I do love my job nonetheless.)

When people find out how I went from jobless to employed, they usually ask me what they should do to find a job in social media. And while many of them have a lot of passion and natural talent, there are just as many who are a bit too dreamy and haven’t really thought about their choice. I was dreamy, but I did actually think my decision through. At the same time, however, I jumped into the unknown because no-one told me what the reality looks like, which is precisely why I’m going to tell you some tough truths about working in social media.

Social media by itself doesn’t work!

I don’t work for a social media firm. I work for a PR consultancy, which has expanded into the digital sector. But the traditional stuff is still all there. It didn’t disappear and social is an addition to everything that’s been going on for years. My background isn’t in PR so you can imagine that it’s not always easy. I want and need to learn how PR works. From scratch. And that’s just it. Social media is never JUST social media. You’ll have to learn many things that you may not necessarily be interested in to make it work for your company or clients.

The job will follow you home!

Social media is constant. And while you may know that, you really don’t until you work in social media. People don’t stop talking when you leave the office at 6. In fact, that’s usually when they start talking. You have to learn how to deal with time differences, constant monitoring and engaging. If you are anything like me you’ll have a tough time ignoring your beeping phone or the constant stream of Emails. You’ll keep thinking about strategies, updates, monitoring etc after you leave the office at night.

Social media equals a sh*t load of research!

Before you do anything remotely connected to social media, you’ll do a lot of reading. A lot of googling. A lot of combing through directories and statistics followed by a whole lot more reading. And once you are done with all the reading, you start to analyse what you just read which then, somewhere down the line, evolves into a strategy. Then eventually, you’ll put the strategy into practice which, again, is followed by a lot of research and analysis. Until you start over.

Working in social media isn’t just fun and games!

Social media is SOO much fun, you say? Well it is, until it isn’t. You have to think a lot. Especially about wording. The way you say things in your private life may not be right for your client/company. You’ll have to adapt your writing style. Your way of thinking. And *actually* do some work. It’s not just about playing around on Facebook all day. It’s rather the complete opposite.

You need to stay on the ball!

Social media evolves. Constantly. You can’t afford to miss out on these developments because they may be good for your client. How do you do that? Through reading. As you can see, there’s a pattern.

This post isn’t meant as a discouragement to anyone who wants to work in social media. It should rather help you evaluate your decision and make it easier to decide whether it’s right for you. There’s no shame in it being wrong for you. Not everyone is made for it. It’s always better to find out sooner rather than later. ;)

BTW, have you become a fan of SocialGlitz on Facebook yet?

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Doing Corporate Blogs Right: Disney Parks Blog

Disclaimer:  This past week, I was a guest at Disney and had the pleasure of speaking with many of their social media, marketing and communications professionals.  That visit is the nexus of this blog post.  I have not been compensated in any way to write this post.  So there.

Since it’s early days, there have been rules about blogging.  I grabbed a pretty concise history of blogging from Wikipedia:

The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. A few called themselves “escribitionists”… Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers,as is Jerry Pournelle. Another early blog was Wearable Wireless Webcam, an online shared diary of a person’s personal life combining text, video, and pictures transmitted live from a wearable computer and EyeTap device to a web site in 1994.

So as I write this, “early” blogging was a scant seven years ago and has now grown into more an an estimated 450 million”live” blogs in English alone according to Hattrick Associates.  This does not include “zombie” or “sleeping” blogs on which you wrote a rant about your ex-girlfriend, forgot about it, never wrote again and forgot to tell the fine folks at Blogger.  Until you got back together, she found it and she broke up with you all over again.

While blogging began on a personal level, corporations started to figure out that this was, in fact, a viable communications channel.  Cheap, easy and fast.  And if the guys living in their mom’s basements could do it, we can do it too, right?

Kinda sorta, but not really.

Traditional corporate communications was and in many ways still is, based upon a top-down, one-to-many model.  Company A makes a pronouncement from the Top of the Mount, and people will gather and eat the communications crumbs tossed down.  While this worked in a press release model, it is a train wreck in the blogging model.

Blogging is about interaction between people.  It’s about honesty, transparency and above all, being social (duh, the term “social media”).  And above all else, it needs to be authentic. Blogs are written in first-person and are designed, in most cases, to begin a conversation among either the author and readers via comments, or if things really go well, among those who are reading and commenting.

Top-Down Communications Model meet Authenticity.  Some successes, some train wrecks.

Let’s start with who does it well:  Disney Parks Blog.  As I mentioned before, I had the chance to meet some of the smart people who write and run this who understand that a blog that is clearly inauthentic, marketing-speak or the zeros and ones equivalent of a QVC commercial at 3:00 in the morning is doomed to failure.  People who read will not only be turned off, they will likely call you out.  More on that later.

What I like about the Disney Parks blog is its authenticity. People are not ghost writing;  it’s people writing.  They are not trying to shove the latest shiny object down your e-throat, they are communicating, with passion that comes through, excitement about things that Disney-philes (and there are LOTS of them) want to read.  Here’s more of what I like:

  1. The blog does not attempt to misrepresent what it is or fool you.  It’s fine to sell stuff on a blog, but be honest about it.  If you are writing about flat feet and are Dr. Scholls, people will figure out who you are and what you sell.  Duh.  But don’t give me three steaming paragraphs of marketing bwana disguised as conversation and then point me to your latest product.
  2. It is first-person.  The people who write on the blog have pictures, job titles and links to their prior blog posts.  They are real people, not robo-bloggers.
  3. Its doesn’t overwhelm you with with sales - it offers information that readers want.  Here’s an entry from November 18 of this year – in its entirety: “Guests visiting Tomorrowland in the 1950s and 1960s would encounter a unique original Disneyland character that symbolized Americans’ interest in space exploration. In this rare photo from the summer of 1960, the Tomorrowland ‘Spaceman’ is apparently joined by ‘Spacewoman.’”  Yep.  That’s IT.  And that one paragraph drew 20 comments.  So clearly someone is listening and interacting.
  4. It feeds the Disney Fan Boy Beast.  All the way back in 2009, I wrote a post entitled “I Love Disney. Ok.  There, I Said It.”  I wrote about Disney Cruise Lines and how the really got the use of the Web to provide information as well as generate interest.  And there are many, many Disney Fan Web sites out there with thousands of aficionados who make Apple Macolytes look like disinterested teenagers.  So rather than attempting to create a need, they are filling an existing thirst for information.  Big difference.  I don’t see a place where Maytag dishwasher people convene to exchange the latest settings for the rinse cycle.I don’t consider myself an A-List blogger by any means, but I have been pitched to write about crap that I don’t care about or I have seen gross misuse of social media.   But I am not going to “Like” the Facebook page of a kitchen appliance in my home – because all if want it to do is wash my dishes right.  Way back in 2009, Michael Arrington wrote in Tech Crunch:  “It’s nice to know that if I’m a facebook loser my virtual mom will call up the other kids and ask if they’ll come play with me. Because that sure worked in the real world when I was 10.”
  5. It is clear that the purpose of the blog is to inform. Rinse, lather, repeat.  The people who get it know that the real purpose of a corporate blog is to inform you.  Not sell you.  Not carpet-bomb you will corporate double-speak.  It’s like the equivalent of a TV network (by mere mention of the slogan I will get at least three flames) “We Report.  You Decide.”  As I read the Disney blog, I see it as informing me of stuff that I want to read and want to know – I am the parent of two young children.  They aren’t selling me discounted park passes or encourging me to “tell a friend” about how to buy vintage Minnie Mouse merchandise.

I would go on here, but I think you get the point.   The train tracks of corporate blogging are littered with the corpses of self-inflicted wrecks.  Sony, Wal*Mart and McDonalds.  Mazda.

Disney Parks blog gets it right.  No blog gets everything right one hundred percent of the time (I still don’t understand the “Go Network” and how it is still alive), but this is a darn good blog when you run it past the authenticity check.

And Wal*Mart, McDonalds and Sony?  I hope you are listening.


Image sources:  Disney Parks blog and AE Ashley Ellis.

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Twitter, Moods and a Screaming Grasp of the Obvious

In this morning’s Washington Post there is an article entitled “Tweets tweet our emotional status.”  This article is both mundane and presents and screamingly firm grasp of the obvious.

The premise of the article is as our moods change, so do the tone of our tweets.  Well, duh.  An excerpt:

Optimism is reborn with each new day and slowly erodes as we work, study and go about our quotidian affairs. Our mood lifts as we head home to friends, family, entertainment and beer. Our outlook tends to be sunnier on weekends. And speaking of sun, when it starts to pile up in the spring or disappear in the fall, that affects our mood, too.

Well, there’s some groundbreaking news.  We hate work, errands, and love to party.  I know very few people who, on their deathbeds would say “Gosh, I wish I had done just one more day at work…[cue EKG sound of flat-lining].

There are a couple of things that caught my eye in the article, which to be honest, is not really worth reading unless you have not make the connection that we tend to share our emotions with others – or are perhaps more likely to do so via social media.  But here’s something interesting:

A new study in the journal Science examined the contents of more than 500 million tweets sent in 84 countries over two years, looking for signs of good moods and bad. It found what a lot of us could tell by looking at our own lives.

Let me see if I get this straight:  it took people or Cornell University two years, 500 million tweets and 84 countries to prove that people have emotions that go up and down and are shared via Twitter?  Wow!  And if you are a Cornell alumni donor, I would think carefully about where your money is going before writing the next check.  Just another manic mondayI doubt that you are getting a new basketball arena any time soon.

But it was the last part of the article that caused me to spit out my (expensive) Starbucks coffee:

“This is a stone in the foundation of a new social science that is being built,” said Nicholas A. Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the research. “We’re in a similar place that we were in in the 17th century with the discovery of the telescope and microscope.

Telescope.  Microscope.  17th century?  I suppose that sending a man to the moon, working on discovering a cure for cancer or eradicating such diseases as polio are way down on the list.

I think what chafes my saddle sores is that first, this is viewed as serious research rather than a firm grasp of the obvious, or second, a formerly great newspaper like the Washington Post found it newsworthy – in the A section, no less.

What’s next?  “One billion dollar study from the University of Phoenix shows that giving someone the middle finger in traffic may be tied to annoyance?”

Yeah.  Annoyance like reading this steaming pile of  pseudo-journalism.


P.S. – I would normally state something here like “Image source:  Washington Post,”  but I am pretty sure they would kick my ass if they read this post.

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Social Media, Thin Skins and Minions

Try saying the title of the post three times fast and you’ll see just part of the problem.

Social media used to be about the word “social,” as in interactions between human beings that, for the most part are civil – and made us all better for having been a part of them.  At some point, I think this has changed in many ways.  With the relative anonymity of email, a blog post, Twitter or Facebook, it’s now a whole lot easier to criticize someone.  I often wonder if my own idea of the offline equivalent of social media, a circle of people at a party, would dissolve into name calling over a topic or a person who is not present.  I doubt it because the face-to-face component of “social” means that a certain level of decorum is established and maintained.  But what is increasingly being blurred is genuine criticism based upon solid opinions and some pretty thin skin that misinterprets it as an attack.  And the odd involvement of third parties.

For some reason, perhaps due to the relative anonymity of the interwebs, people have begun not only to take personally what they perceive to be comments about themselves too seriously, but more bizarre, implied or overt criticism of other people. This is where it gets a little weird.

This week, there was a very public disagreement between Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks (among many other pursuits) and Rick Calvert of BlogWorld.  The dispute did not even involve each other, but Chris Brogan of social media fame.  If you are in social media, you know who Chris Brogan is.  ‘Nuff said.

The past week, Chris Brogan was selling a Webinar for $47 about the inner workings of Google+.   We still have some vestiges of capitalism in this country and Chris has every right to make an offering and see if people bite and fork over $47.  But  Gini offered a point of view that Google+ is in its infancy, still not even released to the public yet, so no one could possibly claim to be an expert, including Chris Brogan.  She wrote in her post, Beware the Google Experts:

…But there are still people out there claiming to have all the secrets because they claim to have introduced Twitter to the business world so surely they understand how Google+ is going to affect your daily life. Add to that, they’ve spent 250 hours inside the tool, learning and using.

If that’s the case, I want their jobs because that means they’ve spent 11 hours, every day, for the past three weeks using Google+.

Sure, it’s my job to stay ahead of the trends and to understand them so that you can short cut your education. But it’s been 24 days.

Not everyone agreed.  In fact, Rick Calvert of BlogWorld (respectfully) disagreed with Gini’s point and asked her to publicly apologize to Chris.  Gini refused to and a debate ensued. His comments in the BlogWorld post (ironically, written by a third party) included the following:

Trust me Chris knows more about Google + and how it works today than just about anyone in the world. And yes I would bet other than taking care of his family it is all he has been doing since the day he got in beta.

“What she should not have done was use a good mans [sic] name to drive traffic to her post and associate his name with said snake oil salesmen. I’m sorry Delores but I don’t see how impugning Chris’ integrity is defensible…Gini consistently has, intentionally or not, besmirched Chris’ reputation and ethics. I still fail to see how that is defensible.

“I don’t see anyone who agrees with your opinion saying you did otherwise. You should apologize publicly. That’s my opinion.

So Gini said (and I am paraphrasing) that it was way too early to declare one’s self as a Google+ expert, and to do so was questionable.  Rick countered with the fact that he thought that Gini was singling out Chris as a charlatan or snake oil salesman – and had in the past as well.

The BWE post does not number comments, but there are lot and you should read them.  I did, and I even commented, to which Rick replied.

My point about all of this is that the “kerfuffle” (borrowing a word from Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson) a debate over a third person. So we are criticizing the criticizers and then an “amen chorus” follows in a stream comments?  It’s like a wave of third party regurgitation washing up on the shores of social media island.

Bob LeDrew also weighed in in his own blog post this week:

What concerns me is that there seems to be a feeling that there are people whose actions are beyond criticism in the social media sphere. Criticism not as in someone is gauche, has bad breath, or is stupid. Criticism as in “this is an inappropriate venture”; “you’re wrong”; “The facts don’t bear out your argument”; or “you’re contradicting what you said last week. Which is it?”

I agree with Bob.  There is snarkiness hidden behind a blog post and there is legitimate questioning – and then there is “slander” – a word that Rick used.  They are all different. It’s a fine line that is increasingly being interpreted as open warfare I think that Gini made some legitimate points and that Rick is friends with Chris and felt the need to defend him.  Again, the discourse was, for the most part, civil but I can’t help but wonder what started such a debate about a third party.  I mean, Chris is a big boy and take quite ably take care of himself.

I have felt the wrath of others myself. Oh, boy, have I:

Yeah, I got snarky in March 2009 (post is entitled “Shut Up, Mr. Scoble” when the Scobelizer made comments about the public relations industry – that in which I have worked for more than 15 years, that include the following:

  • “PR is dead.  The way that PR is practiced is just..lame.”
  • “Most of PR has ’sucked.’  If you think it’s not, just be a blogger for a little while. And watched the thousands of stupid-ass pitches flow through your screen.”
  • “Anybody who pitches you on email is stupid.  The chance that I am going to listen to anyone who pitches me email on frikkin’ email is one percent.”
  • [Someone] showed me a block of wood…that was better than the stupid-ass pitches I get in email.”
  • People who stand up for the PR industry, they just don’t get it.”

I took offense to this – big time – and my major point was the following:

If you become an A-Lister and make a good living (while many of very good public relations people in this country are being laid off, by the way) it is beyond self-absorption to complain about “stupid-ass pitches” that you receive because of the very notoriety that you sought, built and benefit from.  You even mentioned that you get pitches from people who are panicked that their companies are going to go out of business – and call them “lame.”

I’m not enough of a A-Lister (hell, I am probably not a C-Lister) so Mr. Scoble never responded.  But again, like the situation that I described above, a third person took up the cause for Scoble, John Aravosis in his own post, “Robert Scoble is Right“.  Without naming me – I am the “one public relations ‘expert’” (but linking to my blog post – thanks for all of the click-throughs, John):

It was suggested by one public relations ‘”expert,” the one who posted the shirtless picture of Scoble, that Scoble deserved the spam he got because he’s a successful blogger [editors note: I was not the one who took off my shirt and had pictures taken.  He did].

Regardless of whether Scoble, I, or anyone else wanted “the notoriety,” I’m not sure how that excuses a PR expert, who is presumably paid a good deal of money to promote their boss or client, from sending a bad pitch to the wrong guy.

PR Expert: I emailed Scoble and Aravosis the latest pitch about the new floor wax our client is selling.

Client: You asked a tech blogger and a political blogger to write about our floor wax? How does it help us get the message out there about our new product by sending it to people who we know, in advance, don’t even write about products like ours?

PR Expert: They’re A-listers and they wanted the notoriety – they deserve whatever they get!

That’ll be $50,000 up front, and $20,000 a month in retainer.

I am not going to revisit Aravosis’ comments – that I still disagree with – but again, this debate took place over a third person. Has social media devolved into a spitball match with a degree of anonymity in which we are not allowed to lodge what we believe to be honest and insightful criticisms of others without third parties taking us to task, defending their buddies?

I sure hope not, because then through legitimate discourse and criticism, the criticism becomes slander, the defensible becomes the indefensible and the “social” goes out of “social media.”

I sure as hell hope not.


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