By Tim Leberecht (via: frog design)

We live in times of major uncertainty. The doom and gloom of the economic crisis, the deterioration of mass markets, the pervasiveness of the digital lifestyle, and the fragmentation of traditional societal institutions are not only inducing anxiety but also inspiring a search for simplicity and noneconomic value systems. Consumption-driven wealth and status are being replaced by identity, belonging, and a strong desire to contribute to — or to experience — something “meaningful” rather than to acquire more things. Trust and reputation are no longer enablers for the exchange of goods, services, and information, they are replacements for them. Values are the new value. Meaning is succeeding customer satisfaction. “The job of leadership today is not just to make money. It’s to make meaning,” writes management consultant John Hagel.

This new cultural climate presents a historic opportunity for brands to transform themselves into arbiters of meaning. When your brand is a vector, your base becomes a movement — as we learned from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. A “meaning surplus” will become imperative: Only businesses that give more than they take will be able to create sustained brand loyalty. Out: bottom-line pragmatists and financial wizards. In: philosophers, ethicists, and social entrepreneurs.

Although all corporate functions are affected by this path-finding moment, marketing is best positioned to lead the transformation. Effort is required to move beyond simply connecting products and customers with the goal of facilitating transactions. Marketing must now create “meaning” through actions and interactions. What is needed is the marketer as chief meaning officer — someone who negotiates a “New Deal,” a new social contract between brands, their stakeholders, and society at large.

There are two reasons marketing should take on this daunting task. First, marketers are disposed to transformation by the very nature of their role. They must constantly adapt to ever-changing customer behaviors, and because of this exposure to trends they can also act as innovators, challenging the status quo inside their organizations. Second, since marketers serve as the public interface of their companies, orchestrating the relationships between the key market actors (customer, media, and public), they can also fulfill that role within their organizations, facilitating among R&D, operations, sales, finance, and HR.

A Brand Is a Small Town That Never Sleeps
The advent of the social web has disrupted traditional marketing conventions and has democratized the concept of branding. The truth is, a brand is no longer exclusively the bastion of marketing. In today’s open-sourced, hyper-transparent economy, customers own the brand, and no platform, book, or rigid compliance guidelines designed to protect marketers’ idea of that brand can change this. You cannot control your brand anymore, period.

A brand is a small town that never sleeps. It is open to (almost) everyone, it is vibrant, and it is made of and by people who are willing to connect in pursuit of either utilitarian value or a common cause — or both. It is composed of myriad social networks, micro-communities that communicate 24/7. Companies that embrace this new continuum and act as “brand urbanites” will easily adapt to the new digital arena. Chief meaning officers recognize that in the Cluetrain Manifesto world of marketing, the brand belongs to everyone and everyone is the brand. But they also understand that this is their big chance to reconcile brand polyphony with a recognizable brand personality. Brands can be either the subject of conversations or the host of conversations moderated by brand advocates and attractors. It is the chief meaning officer’s job to design, enable, facilitate, and curate these conversations and make them as meaningful as possible. If brands don’t have a point of view, they won’t be able to connect. If they don’t have an argument to make, they won’t be meaningful. Brands need to be well-traveled, well-read, and educated. If they only repeat the same message again and again, they won’t be able to engage in a conversation.

In a blog post, John Battelle, chairman of the Conversational Marketing Summit, cited the venerable management guru Peter Drucker, who defined marketing as “the whole business seen from the customer’s point of view.” Put another way, every single interaction the customer has with a business can and should be seen as marketing. Accordingly, for Battelle, “A truly successful business is one that is an ongoing conversation. Those conversations are marketing — if you add value and connect to your customer, you’re succeeding. If you don’t, you fail.”

This is a significant change. A decade ago, marketing was viewed mainly as a one-way push to get messages about products and services out to customers. Then marketers began to recognize the need to encourage a dialogue, propelled by the benefits of online marketing. Interactive tools, from wikis to blogs to social networks, have enabled marketers to engage existing and potential customers, not only at the most opportune times (when deciding whether to buy, for example), but also at all points along the value chain, including the development of the products themselves. The trend toward engaging in the ideation, development, distribution, and support of new products and services marks a new era in business culture. Marketers now need to have more than just an in-depth understanding of their audiences’ needs, habits, and desires; they must also initiate or join conversations to engage their audiences in channels of co-creation.

Clustering customers into segments based on aggregated demographic or behavioral data has serious limitations in an “age of conversations” in which the boundaries between consumer and producer, amateur and professional, are blurring. An increasing number of companies, therefore, are adopting the principles of observational ethnographic research, looking at outliers and eccentric behavior on the fringes of their target audience. The resulting insights are often more meaningful than those from focus groups and quantitative consumer research, which are typically predictable and confirm certain assumptions. In this vein, Jump Associates’ Dev Patnaik posits empathy as a critical skill set and calls for companies to be “wired to care.”

The chief meaning officer’s role is to generate this empathy by opening the “open brand” even further. The new marketer needs to urge old-school brand guards (who still think they need to “protect” the brand) to let go once and for all. The more invisible marketing becomes, the more effective it will be. The more control it gives up, the more influence it gains. Axel Wipperfurth, author of the book Brand Hijack, calls this “marketing without marketing,” and author Stowe Boyd calls it “unmarketing.” Chief meaning officers should evangelize this philosophy across their organizations and work with their CEOs to agree on new metrics that reward the subtle, implicit, and collaborative element, which is critical for establishing and fostering brands in the 21st-century. “Brands aren’t defined by campaigns anymore, but by the consumer ecosystems we nurture to support them,” HP’s CMO Michael Mendenhall recently told Strategy + Business magazine. The creation of brand equity is a cooperative act based on the values that companies share with their customers. Brands are assets in the public domain. They are social funds. The chief meaning officer’s mission is to raise their intellectual and emotional capital by “activating” customers.

An effective way to do this is to activate the dormant social networks customers inhabit (often without even knowing it). All online communications essentially have a social component and can be seen as expressions of underlying social micro-verses, worlds within worlds in which — shifting time and place — individuals can travel and interact online. As marketers face the daunting challenge of connecting with increasingly fragmented audiences, activating dormant social networks is their foremost task.

KLM’s Africa and China clubs provide an interesting case study. The Dutch airline offers business customers the opportunity to meet fellow travelers who do business in either of these two regions — before takeoff and during the flight, online and in person. KLM plays the role of the matchmaker and adds value to the otherwise often value-free hours frequent travelers spend in airport lounges and in flight. It is the principle of the social-networking site Dopplr, applied to the exclusive crowd of business and first-class travelers: connecting travelers who share the same connections. KLM prefilters the club members so that travelers who sign up for the invitation-only network are afforded a certain quality of contacts. The clubs are a win-win-win: Trade groups and business offices from the travel regions are provided with a highly targeted way to advertise their services; travelers benefit from a true value-add and a richer travel experience; and, finally, the clubs bolster KLM’s reputation as an airline that cares about its customers. Of course, these networks already exist; they’re just dormant. KLM does not make immediate revenue, but it generates “social wealth” as long-term equity.

In this case, KLM activates the dormant networks through an actual common motivation, but the activation can also occur through a shared set of ideals, values, and beliefs. Joseph Newfield, founder and CEO of the marketing agency School of Thought, puts it aptly: “Start with beliefs and you’ll get believers. Marketers still need to use every trick in the book and dozens that haven’t been thought of yet to engage people in great, compelling stories. The difference today is this: To make believers, the stories have to be true.”

The catalyst for these stories based on shared ideals, values, and beliefs is social content. The chief meaning officer connects members of dormant networks, creating and distributing the type of content apt to trigger the desired network effect. If that occurs, content is passed from one individual to the next in a cascade of viral distribution: partly through formalized online social networks (Facebook, etc.), partly through activated dormant networks of existing online populations, and partly by individuals who establish new networks within what Logic + Emotion blogger David Armano calls “social solar systems.”

Increasingly, this content is small. Small content can go anywhere. With accelerated news cycles, shrinking attention spans, and communications fragmented into 140-character tweets, instant gratification and presence have become the predominant paradigms of online interaction. Microblogging services such as Twitter diversify meaning into myriad atoms of communication, hyper-targeted in-the-moment forms of looking at the world by expressing it in real time: As marketing strategist Geoff Livingston says, “Now is gone.” The shorter the attention span, the more important the role of microformats. The more sliced up the content, the richer the channels of communication. The smaller your brand, the more you can share it.

The Obama for America campaign masterfully utilized the power of social networks to generate this small-world effect. “As networks grow, they shrink,” says Jure Leskovec of Carnegie Mellon University. “As people accumulate friends, the distances shrink.” The more people joined the social Web hubs of the Obama campaign, the easier it became for the messages to spread and for the campaign to amplify its outreach and turn undecided voters into Obama voters and passive supporters into active volunteers. The bigger the network grew, the more the distance between the brand and its followers shrank. The campaign became an inclusive movement for everyone: Obama was us, and we were Obama.

A growing number of companies are realizing that their brand is “a small town that never sleeps.” Amazon (Amazon Flexible Payments Service), Netflix (Netflix Prize), Virgin Mobile (Virgin Earth Challenge), Procter & Gamble (Open Innovation Challenge), Dell (IdeaStorm), and Starbucks (MyStarbucksIdea), among others, have all moved from firm-centric to network-centric, empowering and leveraging their community of users by giving them a voice in strategy, product development, and marketing decisions. These companies understand that crowdsourced and peer-to-peer business intelligence helps them overcome the “not-invented-here” syndrome, reconciling inside-out and outside-in innovation. In addition, more and more brands are adapting to the new paradigms of the Distributed Internet and the new economy of micro-scale, and have launched a number of open-source Web services and APIs (application programming interfaces) that make their brands smaller and thus easier to share.

But only a few companies are currently committing to the underlying, more radical proposition: That they’re all more or less in the content business.

Sharing Is Giving Is Taking
In his seminal 1960 article “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt cited the railroad industry as an example of business failing to adapt to changing circumstances. Had it realized it was in the transportation business, it might have survived. Similarly, all businesses — regardless of their industry — need to realize that they’re not just selling products or services: They’re in the communication business, tasked with sharing information.

Bypassing ailing traditional media, companies can establish proprietary media channels to produce and disseminate their own social content and communicate with their audiences directly. These channels include social media, as well as micromedia (hyper-targeted formats that reach niche audiences). Through all of these channels, brands can “show by telling.” This applies particularly to service marketers and marketers who promote premium brands (see The McKinsey Quarterly or the firm’s recently launched expert group blog, What Matters, as examples). They sell intellectual capital, culture, and expertise, conveyed by stories based on shared values — in short, they sell meaning. In a digital economy where most transactions are free (or expected to be free), value is created through sharing. Sharing makes content meaningful.

A study from Nokia predicts that by 2012 a quarter of all entertainment will be “circular”: created, edited, and shared within peer groups rather than generated by traditional media. “People will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up, and pass it on within their peer groups — a form of collaborative social media,” wrote the study’s authors. Similarly, management guru Gary Hamel (The Future of Management) proclaims a new “gift economy”: “Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch — and garner the credit that might have been yours.” Economist Umair Haque points out that, “The pressure for sharing in a hyper-connected world is too strong to resist. It’s not a fringe effect, relegated to geeks and hippies — it is one of the foundations, as we’ve been noting, of next-generation value creation. And it’s doubly vital in a world where the fabric of value creation is breaking apart.” As an example, Haque refers to car-rental company Hertz, which introduced a new “micro-chunking” service that allows customers to rent cars by the hour. This has helped Hertz compete with ZipCar, City Car Share, and similar services that were micro-community-oriented and green-marketed well before Hertz got into the space.

Sharing means exchanging information through open conversations, in the spirit of what Wired contributing editor Clive Thompson dubs “radical transparency.” Companies that are not afraid of showing their vulnerability have begun to embrace radical transparency as an effective way to humanize their brands: Online retailer Zappos lets every employee blog, Comcast has its engineers go on message boards to answer customer questions, and more and more companies are using Twitter for what it is best suited for — ostentatiously public personal conversations. All these companies understand that personality — brand personality — comes from being personal. The more transparent and vulnerable they are, the more personal they will appear.

As much as transparency can underscore that you have nothing to hide, it can also highlight that you have a lot to give. Winston Churchill’s saying, “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give,” is true for brands as well. “Giving Is the New Taking, and Sharing Is the New Giving,” asserted a Trendwatching report, pointing at a new Generation G (for generosity) that is poised to reboot capitalism. “As consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences for the economy — and while that same upheaval has them longing more than ever for institutions that care — the need for more generosity beautifully coincides with the ongoing (and pre-recession) emergence of an online-fueled culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create, and collaborate in large numbers.”

Case in point: the San Francisco-based firm Virgance, which shows that the new kids on the Web want to make a difference. The Economist described Virgance’s model as “for-profit activism.” Named after a plot device in Star Wars, the company aims to support social causes through a multi-pronged campaign platform that resembles the way Obama for America mobilized its supporters, and it typically consists of four core elements: a web-empowered network of volunteers, a presence on Facebook, a team of paid bloggers to promote the campaigns, and YouTube viral videos.

Virgance is not the first for-profit do-gooder, of course; there have been plenty of others whose business models have combined bottom-line thinking with social values. But Virgance is more like Facebook’s Causes. It adopts the forces of amateur self-organization described in Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody and builds its entire business on a social Web platform, embracing the principles of open source, mass collaboration, and transparency. The Virgance Web site describes the company’s ambitious mission: “If a for-profit company did the type of work that nonprofits often do, but did it more efficiently, would people trust it the same way they trust nonprofits? What if everything the company did was completely transparent? What if it was open source? If we can create this kind of company, and succeed, how many other companies would follow our example? Along the way, could we change the face of the business world itself?”

Does that language sound familiar? Clearly the Obama-nization of business, both in terms of substance and style, has arrived, and we will see more examples going forward — brands that provide emotional, intellectual, and moral guidance and are steered by chief meaning officers.

Generation G has internalized the claim by philosopher Alain de Botton that “there is no wealth but life, so concentrate on your portfolio of life, and not your portfolio of cash.” While the boundaries between work and life are dissipating, “lifeholder value” is gaining traction as the ultimate return on investment. But Generation G not only demands new concepts of quality of life versus concepts of material wealth, safety, status, and comfort — it also wants to have a say in developing them. Were Maslow’s hierarchy of needs still a valid model, it would have to include social and environmental needs that are bigger than those individual, and it would also look less like a pyramid and more like what the Catalan tradition calls a castell, or a human tower, offering an endless array of configurations of balance that are possible through openness, experimentation, and cooperation.

Brands seeking to engage Generation G must replace outdated concepts of ownership, control, and coordination with concepts of open source, open IP, open innovation, and transparency. They must turn customers into “brand holders” by “activating” them, promising one or more of the following benefits: personal or professional growth; new insights and learning; a connection with like-minded people; and the opportunity to contribute to a common cause by using their talent and potential.

Download the Meaningful Marketing Chart (PDF)

Meaningful Marketing
Transparency, Generation G, gift economy, social network activation — no wonder management consultancy McKinsey identifies a new need in a recent marketing report: “As companies confront changing consumer behavior, increasingly important third-party scrutiny, and more diverse target markets and segments, they must broaden the roles of marketing and the CMO.”

Enter the chief meaning officer — a Renaissance man or woman, an interdisciplinary generalist who in light of the disruptive forces described above can carry out multiple tasks and integrate company, customers, and other “brand holders.” The chief meaning officer is a disrupter, a storyteller, a “strategic activist,” a media entrepreneur, a socialite and socializer, a leader, and a believer in personal union. The marketing tools this person employs look vastly different than the ones still taught in business school. They’re a mosaic rather than a list of stringent strategies, tactics, and campaigns.

Starbucks’ “I’m In” campaign is a great example of a brand applying this new model. On the day after President Obama’s Inauguration, the coffee chain launched a major marketing initiative that encouraged latte lovers to visit soup kitchens or otherwise commit to giving back. For five days, Starbucks customers who promised to do five hours of community service during 2009 got a pledge card and a free cup of coffee at their local Starbucks store.

Starbucks’ campaign was supported by HandsOn Network, the nation’s largest volunteer organization, and tied to the national call to service by the incoming President Obama. “Everyone has heard loud and clear that this is a time to act, and what Starbucks is doing is breaking down the barriers of how to connect with your local community,” said Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe. The campaign provided a blueprint for meaningful marketing and presented the quintessential win-win-win situation: The coffee chain reinvigorated its grassroots image and underscored its ties to the local community; consumers were recognized in their desire to do something meaningful and provided with an effective and user-friendly platform to take immediate action; and the brand-facilitated volunteering benefited the common good.

The design of the “I’m In” campaign exhibited the key characteristics of meaningful marketing:

The campaign not only helped the community but also built one online (Facebook, et al.) and offline. Through pledges, consumers could connect with like-minded people, make new friends, and take collective action. This provided them with a sense of belonging and identity, social recognition and impact: “Let’s work together!”

Like Obama’s fundraising campaign, Starbucks’ effort relied on micro-contributions (of time, in this case) that were feasible and fully customizable for the volunteers. To reach its goal of a combined one million pledged hours of community service, the coffee chain sold the five-hour commitment as something anyone could do with just 25 minutes a month for a year. The campaign’s Web site gave consumers a list of conven-ient volunteer opportunities, and the consumers determined individually how exactly they wanted to be “in.”

The campaign was cleverly timed with Inauguration Week — as well as with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which the president-elect suggested be celebrated through acts of service — and it hijacked some of the attention directed towards these bigger events. Participants became part of a greater narrative that echoed the memorable lines of JFK’s inauguration speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” “I’m In” wove together a historic moment, the consumer’s “power of one,” grassroots activism, and the resurrection of a once-proud American brand. That the campaign not only helped America but also helped Starbucks made sense in the context of the campaign narrative. The story transcended the brand.

The campaign challenged conventional advertising and surprised many consumers because it was something different and new that was immediately relevant for them. In addition, the campaign’s signage disrupted the typical Starbucks store experience, and customers may even have felt some peer pressure at the point of sale (especially when in groups) to commit to the program.

The campaign leveraged both the Starbucks brand and the Inauguration to attract maximum attention to a cause on the national stage. Honoring its customers’ desire to do good, Starbucks offered personal recognition, a sense of community, and appropriate tools in order to prompt action, converting even those who may not otherwise have pledged their community volunteer commitment. Starbucks acted as the catalyst, and the campaign created social value far beyond business.

The Desire to Connect
We have seen that marketers can create meaning in a vibrant, open, 24/7 brand environment that exists mainly on the Internet. We understand that their efforts are increasingly collaborative and need to “activate” customers to co-create social content, which serves as the main catalyst for those cross-media conversations that provide the fabric for brands. And we are realizing that marketers can be change agents for causes that transcend the mere purchase push.

The chief meaning officer has the potential to transform business through meaningful marketing — marketing that consistently creates social value, not as an afterthought but as a sine qua non. While marketing has always been the art of turning friends into customers and vice versa, it is now the art of finding, befriending, and “activating” the like-minded for a common cause, for the common good — and for profit. Brands that have a reason to exist, an argument to win, will be more appealing than ever. The chief meaning officer, as the voice of good business, is the interface in a time when interface is everything.

Let others be the rainmakers; the professional marketer, as chief meaning officer, is the new sense maker, the one who leads the tribes, cultivates identities, tells stories, and offers people valuable choices. This new marketer studies and produces the social fabric of business with compelling narratives, affection, empathy, and imagination. Marketing stems from a deep desire to connect and to be understood, to experience and create meaning. In this sense, we are all marketers. The ability to harness this collective desire and convert it into action is the new social power — and the great responsibility — of the new marketer, the new business leader, the chief meaning officer.

Tim Leberecht is vice president of marketing and communications of frog design.

The Five Principles of Meaningful Marketing

Transparency enables true collaboration.

Authenticity trumps image.

Conversations are more engaging than messages.

Sharing values and a common cause through social content allows you to “activate” your customers.

The smaller your content, the easier it is to share.

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The 10 Rules of the Chief Meaning Officer

Listen: Have a solid grasp of the conversations on the social Web. Know how to respond, join, amplify, and spread them. Make your brand the water and not the rock.

Be at eye level with your customers instead of larger than life: Connect with them at every opportunity, and engage them in meaningful conversations. Every interaction with your customers is a referendum on the brand. Re-create your brand every day and make it the fabric that connects your customers’ networks.

Co-create with your customers: Branding is an act of immersion, of becoming one with your audiences and understanding the (small) things that matter to them. When you think you need to discuss your brand’s attributes (again), know that thousands of people out there have already done that part of the job for you. Consider them an extension of your marketing team and work with them. In fact, consider them employees you need to motivate and nurture (in terms of expertise and commitment). Your leadership skills apply to them as much as to your employees.

Think and act like a media entrepreneur: Your main responsibility is to research, develop, produce, and distribute content that catalyzes conversations with internal and external audiences. Establish media channels — most of them digital and social — for the effective dissemination of content; narrow your focus and broadcast via peer-to-peer or mass media. In a time of shortened product life and news cycles, turn your team into a newsroom. Build what Steve Rubel, senior vice president at Edelman Digital, describes as “content franchises,” and apply the Disney formula: Create unique content and leverage it across every community and channel.

Think fast and micro: Identify the micro-universes of your multiple audiences, track their constant evolution, and provide content (information and entertainment) that is relevant at a specific time, to a specific person, in a specific context. Change your marketing mix every day.

Give more than you take: If you have something to offer, say it clearly and share it freely. Create a meaning surplus.

Be the number one communicator: Be the go-to person, the clearinghouse for all communications. Everyone in business — from the receptionist to the CEO — is in the business of communications, but that doesn’t mean they communicate effectively. Communication is the glue that holds it all together, and if you establish yourself as the “communication expert,” you will be in the mix at all times.

Make impressions instead of buying them: Create and tell compelling stories; people will listen to them.

Be the change, the innovation agent, a think-and-do tank: You can spur internal innovation and drive change programs by being what McKinsey calls a “strategic activist.” Innovate and move beyond traditional advertising, marketing, and branding to transform the entire business.

Be yourself: No one said it better than dance choreographer Alonzo King: “It has to be based on truth. Has to have a sense of wonder. You must bring something to it that no one else has because of who you are. What’s interesting about you is you.”


by Aaron Friedman

Social Media Presentation

First, a step back in time… I remember it being the summer of 2000 when my colleagues and I stood and watched as the tech bubble burst. The ideas and investments of most were on the rapid decline as anxiety levels in the air could be cut with a butter knife!

Social Media MarketingLeadership and Management

There is little doubt of what caused tech stock prices to drop in 2000. Some point out, Technological Revolutions imply an Increase in Risk. If so, Why? Is it because the productivity of new technologies is uncertain? I feel it is a strong combination of two things… 1.) Productivity of new technologies is uncertain. 2.) Too much leadership, not enough management. During the dot com era, any company that put an e- in the front of their name or a dot com at the end would watch their stock prices rally. This alone should have been the wake up call. If we have learned anything we have learned this: great leadership without great management doesn’t hold a lot of water. You can be a great innovator, but without the discipline or management structure needed to execute and deliver, your vision is bound to fall short.

Paraphrased from Fast Company (April 2009): It was during their summer break of 2004, when Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz hit the road for Palo Alto, CA in search of venture capital. Two years later, in fall of 2006, midterm elections approached. Facebook took what must have then been a bold step of allowing political candidates to set up modified profile pages, well before celebrities and products could have fan pages of their own. When a freshman senator from Illinois came knocking, it was Chris Hughes who provided the customer service. Barack Obama wasn’t a midterm candidate, but he wanted a Facebook profile anyway. The approach came from Reggie Love, Obama’s now famous body man. “I liked the Facebook idea,” says Jim Brayton, then the senator’s Internet director, “but Reggie really got it immediately.” After Love set up the profile, Brayton says, they realized its potential for an Obama presidential campaign. “We quickly wanted to be able to do more with it. Chris got it right away.”

Facebook and other Social Media moguls today have demonstrated the two key ingredients needed to execute and deliver a successful online medium: Leadership and Management. The question is: what can Social Media do for you and how can you benefit?

Adaptation in Challenging Times

During these difficult economic times one must adapt to their environment in order to grow and ultimately survive. The results prove that Social Media is coming to the business world at a faster rate than many had anticipated. Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500, features(?) a list of the U.S.’s fastest-growing private companies. The report surveyed marketers’ familiarity with six prominent Social Media platforms (message boards, blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking, wikis), and the importance each placed when incorporated in their marketing strategy, in addition to what they were currently using. Of the 121 Inc. 500 respondents, 66 percent felt that Social Media was “somewhat important” or “very important”. What this data tells us is that if your competition is using a Social Media platform, then you’d better know how to use it too!

Friend and colleague Autom Tagsa @autom8 published an article on his blog this month titled, “Resistance 101”. Autom illustrates for us in this article how certain business practitioners prefer (and would only practice) networking face-to-face over networking virtually, and examining why some claim that Social Media is not really an effective networking tool.

Let’s generate some additional insight to something both Autom and I strongly agree on and converse about often. How can an individual or company truly benefit from the uses of Social Media? To answer this question let’s use two examples that plague us today:1 .) The job market; 4.4 million plus Americans currently unemployed. 2.) The struggling small to mid-sized business. Today’s financial crisis challenges all of us to find innovative ways to promote brand awareness, build brand loyalty, and get our message out. How do we this effectively?

Efficient Self-Marketing

Let’s tackle the job market first. There once was a time when one only had to be qualified and submit their resume in writing via fax, email, and snail-mail or as those famous Super Bowl commercials tell us If submitted via all avenues your chances would be increasingly in your favor. Today, you’re lucky if that gets you a phone call. The job market today is so saturated with incredible talent that you practically need your own PR firm to get noticed. So, how does one get noticed? Through the power of Social Media. Social Media is viral, gives your resume a personality (unique brand) and best of all its “FREE”. With the ability to easily leverage Social Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, Blogs, and the ever growing micro-blogging services of Twitter, any individual can quickly layer [a visual bubble of personality] [a more appealing visual and content-enhanced brand] to their flat, text-based resume, which today so easily get blurred among thousands of others that look just like it. As a technologist, entrepreneur, and leader I have the pleasure of networking with some of the finest talent in many different industries. I have the privilege to hear many different views; what works well for one and what doesn’t work for another. My in-depth experience can tell you this, “Those who leverage Social Media while in career transition, will have a distinctive advantage over those who do not.” You can either take this experience and make use of it, or sit on the sidelines and watch opportunity fly by.

Social Media and Your Business

Leveraging Social Media for your business in a downward economy; what does it mean for you? Don’t just take my word for it. A look at some early adopters practically self-promotes Social Media’s staggering success to date: Zappos (offers incredible customer support to their online customers), Team Barack Obama (he won the presidency! Need I say more), Wells Fargo (first U.S. bank with a blog, first bank on MySpace, first bank with a VP of Social Media who also appears to be proactively reaching out to the blogging community), Southwest Airlines (building customer relationships as of first quarter 2009 to cope with recession), ComcastCares on Twitter (provides real-time support to Comcast customers). The list goes on.

Many entrepreneurs make the common mistake of isolating a dollar figure on Social Media to prove ROI. In fact, they continue to have a hard time showing what the revenue increases were from blogging or other Social Media efforts. The medium has not advanced far enough for ROI metrics to be secured in a meaningful way; however, the practice of the medium itself has advanced far enough (and continues to do so) to the extent that you need to be part of it. With that said, Social Media is indeed a very viable form of corporate marketing, and there are a number of ways the medium can be sold up the chain and measured during the course of business:

·         Don’t Isolate Social Media: Position Social Media as a component of your overall marketing plan. If you engage in print advertising, you’re used to making the case that print advertising is a branding component that is used to support your overall marketing messaging. Like Social Media, the ROI from print advertising is very hard to measure. Social Media should be one medium you’re using among many in your communication with your audience and customers.

·         Sales Tool: When was the last time you created a brochure and were asked to measure the ROI from that effort? You created the brochure to support the overall success of a product or service. The brochure helped to position and describe your product development effort. Blogging as a Social Media medium could be considered along the same lines. With every piece of content you create for your company blog, make sure your sales people are aware they can share that content with interested customers. It essentially becomes a unique and innovative tool they can use to spread the word. As long as you’re providing useful content for your audience, they’ll appreciate your effort and most likely visit again.

·         Feedback: Blogging has found great success as a method for gathering customer feedback through surveys, new product ideas and product feedback forms. Social Media engenders conversation. This is a valuable mode of communication which allows you to understand your clients. Take advantage of it and let your audience participate in shaping the future of your products.

·         Promote Realistic Expectations: I think many marketers who are just getting their feet wet in Social Media and blogging are a bit misguided as to the effect blogging will have on overall marketing efforts. In the marketing blog community, you can quickly start a blog, link out to 50 other bloggers in your first week and pick up traffic and subscribers, and then appear to easily measure your success based on your “accumulated audience”. Not all niches have that opportunity. Many communities lack a large enough niche in which to socialize. What then? I encourage people in less sociable niches not to pump the benefits of thousands of subscribers, millions of page views, or hundreds of comments. It could take years to develop that following in some online communities as the medium matures. Focus less on expected statistics and more on how Social Media will be integrated with the rest of your product marketing efforts.

·         Multipurpose Content: It’s always music to my ears when someone says that I can use content I’ve created for multiple purposes. If you’re blogging, you should be creating valuable content. Have you thought about using portions of that content for an eNewsletter creation or the beginning of a white paper? Make sure you have a plan to have multiple purposes for your efforts.

·         Search Engine Relevance: Most website traffic originates from how well a site is optimized for search engines like Google, so it only makes sense to continue efforts to get in their search results. Blogging platforms are very solid ways to optimize content for search engines – especially if you’re updating often and using the right methods (increase your relevance and watch your overall traffic increase).

·         Stats: While cold statistics do provide a certain traditional comfort level that allows us to quantify and measure, not all Social Media efforts can be effectively measured with stats-based analytics. Believe me, I do follow stats, but I pay more attention to subscribers, comments, and from where the visits originate. At this point, your analysis should focus on how well your audience is receiving and disseminating your content.

How Can You Benefit in the Social Media Revolution? Are You Kidding; How Can You Not?

BY Kristin Moyer (A member of the Gartner Blog Network)
(original post – click here)

Social media in the banking industry spans a range of online communications using Web 2.0 technologies, including:

  • Financial social networks (FSNs) – for example, Prosper, Virgin Money, Lending Club, Mint, Wesabe, Stockhouse
  • General social networking – for example, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn
  • Blogging and microblogging tools – for example, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress
  • Podcasts
  • Wikis such as SocialText
  • Mashups
  • Widgets – for example SmartyPig and iGoogle widgets

These methods enable banks to communicate in a personalized manner to an audience, and also enable “unofficial” communications (peer-to-peer rather than brand-to-consumer) that many users accept as more relevant, more authentic and more credible than the official sources (see Social Media Lessons From the U.S. Presidential Campaign).

Social media does not replace already-existing channels, for example, the Internet, branch, VRU.  Rather, a social media should complete both online and offline strategies.

(original post – click here)

Social media marketing is the process of promoting your site or business through social media channels and it is a powerful strategy that will get you links, attention and massive amounts of traffic.

There is no other low-cost promotional method out there that will easily give you large numbers of visitors, some of whom may come back to your website again and again.

If you are selling products/services or just publishing content for ad revenue, social media marketing is a potent method that will make your site profitable over time.

Those who ignore the efficacy of social media usually fall into three categories; the ones who don’t know much or anything about social media, the ones who are interested but don’t know how to use it and those who don’t believe in the value that a social media strategy can bring to any site or business.

The Value of Marketing Through Social News Websites

Web 2.0 poster
Image Credit: Poster Web 2.0

For those who don’t understand or see the value of social media websites, let’s take a look at the benefits of creating viral content and effectively promoting them through social media channels.

Developing link baits and successfully getting it popular on various social media websites like Digg and StumbleUpon will lead to multiple benefits for any website:

  • Primary and Secondary Traffic. Primary traffic is the large amount of visitors who come directly from social media websites. Secondary traffic is referral traffic from websites which link to and send you visitors, after they come across your content through the social sites.
  • High Quality Links. Becoming popular on social news websites like Digg or Reddit will get you a large number of links, some of which may be topically relevant, some not. A good story can realistically acquire a large number of high quality editorial links, most of which cannot be easily bought.

Now let’s translate this into tangible benefits for your website:

1. Links = Better Search Engine Rankings.

When a website receives a large number of natural, permanent links from trusted domains, it develops authority. Search engines trust it. If you optimize your linkbait and website structure properly, you can easily start ranking for competitive keywords, which will in turn bring in search engine visitors.

Do this often enough and your search traffic will undoubtedly increase. In a sense, you are obtaining these quality links through borrowed trust. Many bloggers and webmaster still think that if an article is on the Digg or homepage, then it’s probably worth checking out and referencing through a citation link.

A new website may find it difficult to gain links from a critical mass that is not familiar with it but a trusted social news resource makes it easier for links to come in, because the community and buzz has somewhat ‘certified‘ the value of the site. Note that the actual strength of the article is still of utmost importance for all.

2. Primary + Secondary Traffic = Community/Supporters.

Some people claim that social news websites only send useless traffic, visitors that will often just view a specific webpage and click away. Yes, that’s usually the case. Sites like Digg are notorious for their poor bounce rates: many visitors drop in for the article and then leave after reading it. StumbleUpon is much better in this aspect.

But don’t mistake this with a lack of interest. Your subscriber figures will often take big jump up and then stabilize after a few days. If your entire site is relevant to the general interests of the social media website, there will always be a handful of social users who will start to track your site in order to submit future content.

Detractors also ignore the power of ultra targeted secondary traffic. General sites or blogs in the same niche will link to a story that’s popular on social sites, because it adds value for their readers or users. This is done naturally on a daily basis for many.

While primary traffic usually comes in a larger volume, I would argue that secondary traffic is more valuable. Why? Because links from other websites bring visitors who are very likely to be interested in your content. These citation links demonstrate recognition of your site in the eyes of others. It builds your brand.

Think of the social news site as a platform or a soapbox. As something that gives you a chance to be heard or read, even for a brief moment of a few hours. The people who are drawn to your message will visit your site and recommend it to others.

Four Reasons to Practice Social Media Marketing

Web 2.0 poster
Image Credit: Poster Web 2.0

Why bother exploring social media as a marketing channel for your website or business? After all, you could stick to link exchanges, search advertising or the purchase of banner and editorial ads on relevant sites.

Here are some reasons why you should consider using social media:

  1. It’s natural. Not only do you get natural links without any discernible pattern, your website is exposed to large groups of people in a spontaneous fashion. This differs from paid advertising which has overt commercial overtones.
  2. It’s defensible. Once successfully mastered, social communities can be a great source of web traffic on top of any traffic you are already receiving from search engines. While you can’t easily increase your search engine traffic, social media traffic can be very easily controlled through strategic marketing.
  3. It’s low-cost/high returns. If done by yourself, costs are limited to only time and perhaps the expenses involved in hiring a freelance programmer/designer. The benefits will often exceed the cost. It would take you thousands of dollars to buy many links; social media has the ability to give you that for free.
  4. It complements other efforts. Social media optimization and marketing is usually community-specific. It doesn’t interfere with any other methods of getting traffic to your website. It can and will fit perfectly with an advertising campaign targeting other websites or search engines.

So How Does Social Media Help Me to Make Money?

It doesn’t. At least not directly. Every site or business that wants to expand and become profitable, needs a core group of supporters who will be willing to make purchases or recommend the site to others. Your site needs to perpetuate itself.

The more supporters you have, the faster word spreads about your site. Social media marketing is an excellent way to get people to come into your site to take a look at at what you have to offer. You will grow when there are a group of loyal visitors ready to always act upon what you have to offer.

Because social media websites can be leveraged for links and better search rankings, they can greatly increase your site’s income potential. For example, you will be able to price ads higher or generate revenue from any paid business models.

Why Bloggers Should Learn How to Use Social Media

Bloggers and social media
Image Credit: Climate Change Protest

There are many ways to build a popular blog and many methods to promote your website. For example, you can start leaving comments regularly on many high traffic blogs in your niche or perhaps, consider guest posting on other bigger blogs.

My marketing strategy for blogs is very simple. I don’t comment actively, hold contests or write guest posts. I’ve never done any of that for any blog I’ve ever set up. Some people might enjoy doing it but its just a little too tedious for me.

What I do instead is strategic. I focus on creating just one excellent blog post, which I will then push through social media sites and email pitches to other bloggers. This is straightforward and I don’t have to run around many blogs putting up my URL and thinking of something insightful to say.

Think about it. Why write 50 guest posts for 50 different blogs when you can easily just write one article and get an equal amount of links and greater traffic through the use of social media? Guest posting builds relationships but I reckon there are many more powerful ways to network with others.

It isn’t just about creating articles and then promoting them on social sites as an afterthought. It’s about putting social media in the center of your marketing strategy, optimizing your site or content and making it an attention magnet.

Social Media and It’s Potential for Your Site: An Example

I recently launched a new blog a months ago and took around 20 hours to create a feature article. I subsequently promoted it on various social websites through my own influencer profiles. I also sent out emails to large sites in the same niche.

The article eventually got to the Digg, and Reddit frontpage and received over 140+ reviews on StumbleUpon. It accumulated well over 800 unique links, including some from very heavily trafficked websites. Some of them alone sent more traffic than the frontpage of

The article is more than a month old and it is still receiving incoming links. Subscribers are up by over 800% and I received around 12K pageviews everyday for the first month. Bear in mind this is only a one month old site.

While not every article in every niche will receive the same amount of attention or success, this illustrates the great potential of social media. I’ve become a firm believer in having a solid social media strategy for every website I develop. It is important for success on every level, even for sites that are already popular.

BY Sergio Balegno (Senior Analyst with the MarketingSherpa Research Group)

On average, about 80% of marketers are integrating social media with other communications tactics. But clients and their agencies disagree on whether social media is being integrated into the mix with both online and offline tactics.

Social Media Benchmark

This chart shows the response we received from 1886 agencies and client-side marketers when asked if they integrate social media with other communications tactics.

We found that, while agencies and their clients are aligned on the integration of social media with other online tactics, marketing and PR professionals who work at an agency or consultancy are far more likely than those who work at a client-side company to integrate social media with both online and offline tactics – 38% to 22%, respectively.

It’s no surprise that nearly half of all marketers combine social media with other online tactics because integration is often accomplished simply by adding a link. Integration can initiate the movement of a vast community of prospects through the pipeline from initial social-media engagement to lead capture and qualification to sales conversion.

Tracking these prospects through each stage of the buying cycle and reporting on performance metrics may also be automated, making social media integration very appealing to agencies and client-side marketers that are being required to be more accountable for marketing programs than ever before.

Client-side marketers are more than twice as likely not to integrate social media into the marketing mix. This may be directly related to the most common barrier to social media adoption mentioned by client-side companies – the “lack of knowledgeable staff”.

The percentage of marketers who do not integrate social media (20%) is likely to decrease further as they become more proficient in online tactics, and the ease of social media integration becomes more apparent.

BY Zeke Camusio (Serial Entrepreneur)

Twitter @aaron116

@aaron116 - Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. It lets you update your status and lets the whole world know what you are up to. There are millions of Twitter-addicts all over the world, and the number of active users has increased by 900% in the past year. Companies can also use it to promote themselves.

On Twitter you will have people “following” you, and you will be “following” others. “Following” is being updated every time a new post is added to one of your contacts’ profiles. Being followed is the same; every time you have something to add, all your “followers” will be updated. The more people that follow you, the more exposure your business will get. But it’s not about adding as many people as you can to your friends list. You need to be smart about building your follower base.

The problem is that many companies that try to market using Twitter don’t understand how this community works, and consequently their Twitter Marketing efforts don’t pay off.

To help you avert this fate, the following steps will guide you in understanding what to do and what not to do to give your company huge exposure using Twitter.

Step 1: Import Your Contacts

Twitter allows you to to import contacts from Gmail, Hotmail and your own address book. Do it.

Step 2: Make Sure that Your Profile is Complete

Fill in all the fields (both required and optional) and include your website URL. You can also personalize your Twitter page to match your company’s branding.

Step 3: Understand the Dynamics of Twitter

Twitter is a social tool, not a classifieds site. These are some tips that will help you to get followers:

  • Don’t spam others about your specials
  • Follow other users
  • Be active in the community (tweet and post comments about others’ tweets often)
  • Only post useful and relevant information
  • Don’t tweet every 5 minutes. It becomes annoying.
  • Engage in conversations. Retweet (reply to others’ tweets) often
  • Don’t promote your company directly. Do it the smart way. For example, if you sell widgets, write a buyer’s guide about the kind of widgets that you sell and tweet about that blog post. That is useful information. Avoid tweets like “Great Widgets On Sale – Starting at $9.99!”

Step 4: Build Your Followers Base

There are many things that you can do to build your followers base:

  • Put a link to “Follow Me on Twitter” everywhere (your email signature, forums, website, and business cards)
  • Every time you post on your blog, invite people to follow you on Twitter
  • Search for Twitter users whose followers base you would love to have for yourself. See who is following them and follow those users. They will follow you back.
  • See who is following your friends and follow them.
  • There are Twitter directories that are great to find members who are likely to follow you. Examples include Just Tweet It and Twellow.
  • Use Twitter’s search feature to find profiles that interest you. Use Twitter’s RSS feed to be notified every time a tweet containing a certain keyword is made.

Step 5: Balance Your Followers/Following Ratio

Try to have a balance between people you follow and people that follow you. If a lot of people follow you and you don’t follow them, they will stop following you. If you are following plenty of people but just a few are following you, you’ll be seen as a spammer trying to grow your follower base as quickly as possible.

These are some ideas to keep both numbers balanced:

  • Grow slow. Instead of adding 200 new friends all of a sudden, add maybe 50 and wait for them to follow you back. Then follow another 50.
  • Use tools like Friend or Follow. This tool lets you check who is following you whom you are not following. It also allows you to see who you are following who are not following you. This is the best way to balance your ratio in just a few minutes.
  • Avoid following others so they follow you, only to stop following them once they are on board following you. If you do this, you will be seen as a spammer.

Step 6: Make it Worthwhile to Follow You

Tweet interesting stuff. Every time you are about to post something, ask yourself “Is this something I would be interested in?” If the answer is no, chances are that your followers will feel the same way.

Step 7: Learn from the Best

Find users with several hundred followers and learn from them. See what they are doing right and get ideas from them.

Done right, Twitter Marketing can lead to positive exposure for your business. Companies have been known to make tens of thousands of dollars from customers that found them through a Twitter account. Depending on your business, Twitter could be one of the most successful weapons in your Internet Marketing arsenal.

Twitter beginners need to understand the rules of etiquette for the service. So before you stick a foot measuring 140-characters-or-less in your mouth, check out our advice on how to follow and un-follow, share politely, direct message appropriately, and more.

By C.G. Lynch @

In our beginner’s guide about how to get started on Twitter, we examined the basics of the social networking service that allows you to share short messages (140 characters or less) with friends, family and colleagues. But like any social network, the Twitter community has its own set of unwritten guidelines — or etiquette — that dictates good (or bad) behavior on the service. Some people call it Twittequette.

We call our tips guidelines, instead of rules, because Twitter was designed to be a very open forum. Some people might feel differently about what constitutes good Twitter behavior, depending on what they hope to get out of the service or their networking philosophies in general.

But based on interviews we did with social media and career experts who have seen people try to balance their personal and business lives on Twitter, we worked up five dos and don’ts for the average Twitter user, from deciding whose Twitter messages (known as “tweets”) to follow or what content to share without jeopardizing what matters most in your professional and personal lives.

1. How to Follow and Un-Follow People

Even social networking experts share different philosophies on how to deal with “followers” — the people on Twitter who subscribe to your tweets. Some people believe that if someone follows you, it’s impolite not to follow that person back. (Under Twitter’s default settings, you’ll generally be notified by e-mail when someone decides to follow you, and you’ll be provided with a link to the person’s Twitter profile, where you can choose to follow the person back and receive his or her tweets.)

But especially if you’re just starting off on Twitter, you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow all people back, even if you worry they’ll think it’s rude of you, our experts say. Instead, you should follow people who share your interests or whose tweets you find meaningful or compelling.

“You should only follow people who you trust, you think are interesting, or that you learn from,” says Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), a senior Forrester analyst who researches social technologies and keeps a blog on Web strategy.

It’s possible you’ll offend some people, but ultimately it’s harder to maximize the value of Twitter early on if you’re Twitter homepage is flooded with tweets unrelated to your field or tweets that don’t make any sense to you, Owyang says.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to take some risks and follow someone outside your immediate circle, says Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd), a social media consultant who writes the /message blog.

“It’s like wandering around at a cocktail party,” Boyd says. “You don’t just want to hang out with people you only know well. Pick ten of your friends who are using Twitter, follow them, and then pick ten of their friends and follow them. You can always drop people and add new ones.”

Similarly, don’t be offended if someone un-follows you or chooses not to follow you back. Boyd says he’ll stop following someone, for instance, who keeps tweeting things for a few days (such as from a conference) that don’t capture his interest. He’ll begin following the person again after that event is over.

Unlike a cocktail party, however, where the attendees aren’t journalists with recorders and notepads, Twitter is a publishing medium where your messages will ring with finality to a lot of people. Because a tweet must be 140 characters or less, context can be easily misunderstood. Also, don’t assume that people who are your immediate followers will only see your tweets. A tweet can be picked up publicly by Google or Twitter’s search tool.

“It’s open social discourse,” Boyd says. “As a result, to some extent, some of what you say is going to be available for the public to see.”

One complaint often voiced in the Twitter community concerns people who tweet too frequently, dominating users’ homepages with their messages. Again, you can avoid this by examining a person’s profile page before you sign up to follow him. If you don’t want to follow the person, don’t get mad at them for tweeting in volume .

Also, if you’re just getting started, it’s not recommended that you start following the more celebrity accounts or power Twitter users who tweet a lot, says says Laura Fitton (@pistachio), who runs Pistachio Consulting, which advices businesses on how to utilize Twitter. “They’ll dominate your stream,” Fitton says, whose Pistachio account has more than 18,000 followers. “I say follow me on RSS instead, which is an option on Twitter.”

2. Be Up Front About Your Twitter Aspirations

As the divide between our consumer and professional lives blurs at the hands of social technologies, the content of your tweets can take on a whole new meaning, especially if you work at a traditional corporation that doesn’t acknowledge this reality.

As such, you might want to make it clear who you represent and why you’re on Twitter. Some people put messages on their Twitter background (which can be customized under the “settings” tab), noting that the opinions expressed in their tweets don’t necessarily reflect those of their employers. They also might provide a link that explains with greater detail why they’re on Twitter. While this can allow you some leeway, it doesn’t necessarily mean your employer or your followers won’t call you out on some tweets.

“There’s a real difficulty there,” Boyd says. “For people who are employed by companies, to some extent, they’re always a representative of the company. It’s almost impossible to divorce yourself from that. They need to figure out where they can draw line, and for some people where that line is is different.”

In the end, the more up front you are in your profile description about who you represent and what you plan to talk about, the more you’ll allow yourself some cover, says Kirsten Dixson ( @kirstendixson ), a reputation management and online identity expert. But that also means you shouldn’t get upset with people if they tweet something that’s in line with their stated Twitter goals.

“They might have things that are off-putting, that are overtly religious or political and not in your own views,” she says. “But if they’re up front about that, they’ve been fair.”

3. Be Personal (to a point)

While you should heed the advice of the aforementioned section, you also shouldn’t be afraid to be personal in your Twitter account. Most people wouldn’t join Twitter to be spun by your corporate boilerplate statement or marketed to in traditional fashions. For individuals, Twitter can be a very personal medium, and that’s not a bad thing for business people.

Twitter can humanize you in the eyes of your followers (who might want to do business with you in the future as a result of that human interaction).

“Work relationships have always been infused with some aspects of the personal, and Twitter is no different,” Fitton says. “If you walked around the office and talked to people sitting in the cubes, people have different personality styles and quirks.”

Your personal tweets should have meaning to your audience. Tweet about issues that are fairly universal to your list of followers and that will make them feel welcome to reply to with their own comments.

“People’s Twitter streams are uninteresting if they’re just declarative sentences like ‘I’m going to the movies’ or ‘it’s gray outside,'” Boyd says. “It’s better if it’s something that people might feel interested in replying to.”

4. Reciprocate Gracefully

Advice on using social media outlets is often served up with a slew of jargony slogans like “engage with the community” or “build your social capital.” But sometimes what that means can be unclear, especially on a service like Twitter, which is still relatively young.

So more to the point: how do you become respected by the community and benefit from the give-and-take that happens between users on Twitter?

It’s not all that complicated.

“Be honest, interesting and unselfish,” says Laura Fitton, @pistachio), who runs Pistachio Consulting, which advices businesses on how to utilize Twitter.

That means not just tweeting links to your own company or website. It also means when you tweet other people’s work or news, you shouldn’t make it look like a chore. Add some feeling or commentary, or people will see through you.

“You can’t just pretend the unselfish part and phone it in,” she says. “You either are or you aren’t.”

One way to show how unselfish you are: contribute to topics of interest to you by replying to tweets on that subject. But just replying isn’t necessarily enough to convey that you care. Don’t be afraid to stir debate and define your views.

Individuals should avoid making their personal account an RSS-like stream of their own content, unless they explicitly say that’s their intention. Organizations have more leeway to make a Twitter feed of that nature because it’s implicit in their name. If, for instance, you follow @nytimes, expect to get an stream of New York Times content, not the Washington Post’s. If you follow @jetblue, expect deals on Jetblue flights.

5. Use The Direct Message Correctly

Although Twitter generally operates as a one-to-many medium, the direct message allows you to reach out to a follower privately. (In order to direct message someone, they must follow you.). But direct messages can be misused, too.

Direct messages, in their best form, should be used as a Web-based version of the text message. Message someone private information such as when you plan to meet up for an appointment or share your cell phone number. You can use this option for any message that doesn’t concern the rest of your followers.

However, direct messages are not just a way to e-mail spam people. Some marketing and PR professionals have been criticized for sending direct messages that say “thanks for following me” accompanied by a blatant product pitch.

“That annoys me to no end,” Dixson says. “Sometimes, people have told me they get so annoyed with those that they’ll un-follow a person.”

Remember, many people have direct messages sent to their e-mail inboxes. In this case, you could increase their e-mail overload problem.

Also, remember what someone sends you via a direct message isn’t for public consumption.

“There’s an implied confidentiality there,” Boyd says. “It wouldn’t be good etiquette to post a direct message with someone’s name on it unless you got permission.”