Tips from the Trenches: Q&A with Social Media Week Founder Toby Daniels

“Be purposeful in what you do. Think about the why of every action you take, every piece of communication you share and every interaction or new relationship you forge.” — Toby Daniels, Founder, Social Media Week

When we met Toby Daniels, founder & executive director of Social Media Week (SMW), and CEO of Crowdcentric, we were instantly impressed with his vision of how the world could be better connected through the power of social media — as well as live interaction – and wanted him to share some of his wisdom with us here.

Since Daniels founded Social Media Week in 2008, it has become a major global conference reaching more than 100,000 people in 26 cities around the world, aiming to connect people and brands around emerging trends in social and mobile media. In order to build SMW into what it is today, Daniels and his small team have done a great job leveraging word of mouth – and, of course, social media – to spread the gospel worldwide.

SMW 2013 kicks off on February 18 in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Lagos, Miami, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, DC. Join the worldwide conversation by posting on your own social media platforms with hashtag #SMW13.

 

When you first started Social Media Week, how did you promote it to the world?

Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and outreach through my personal network were my primary outlets. One of the most important things I did early on with SMW was establish an advisory board of key influencers, community leaders, academics and luminaries in the emerging media and technology space. When we announced the conference in early 2009, they were a key factor in helping to get the word out.

Since then we’ve refined our approach, but even to this day, our most effective form of promotion is through our community, which in four years has grown to more than 100k professionals worldwide.

 

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

Two slightly conflicting pieces of advice:  1) No one does PR better than you and 2) Let your community do your PR for you.

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6 Ways to Build Buzz for Your Brand on a Budget

How to get people talking about your brand.

You have a great idea, a website, a business plan and maybe even some funding. Now what? That doesn’t mean anything unless people are talking, sharing and buzzing about your brand. If no one hears the proverbial tree falling in the forest, how will they know it actually exists — and why would they care?

For most startups, publicity typically falls to the bottom of the expenditure list. Yet, in this day and age, with so much competition for coverage and attention, it can be the thing that connects the dots, raises your profile and attracts consumers, advertisers, partners and investors. The reality: Those who put public relations as the lead horse will likely cross the finish line first. But if you’re bootstrapped and feel you just can’t justify the cost of hiring a PR firm or an in-house communications specialist, you can learn how to be your own publicist — and kick-start the drumbeat about your brand through press coverage and social media buzz.

Recently, Jessica participated in a panel at the Golden Seeds Innovation Summit — a conference run by an investment firm that supports companies founded by women entrepreneurs — called “Building Your Brand: Lessons in PR for Early Stage Companies,” where this topic was discussed. Moderated by The New York Times bestselling author and former Hearst Magazines Chair(wo)man, Cathie Black, the panel also included The Daily Muse co-founder Kathryn Minshew, Business Insider tech reporter Alyson Shontell and Joannie Danielides who runs an eponymous PR firm. Below we share some of the advice that was given during this panel.

  • Know your elevator pitch. Have a great story and know how to tell it…quickly. What you pitch to the media is not that different from what you have to “sell” to potential investors and, similarly, you have a short period of time in which to impress them and gain their interest.
  • Find a news hook. Understand how your business fits into a bigger trend or story. Don’t just pitch in a vacuum. Minshew of The Daily Muse said that she often pitches reporters when new job numbers come out or as part of a story on young female tech entrepreneurs in the career space so they use her as an expert on a particular trend. Shontell advised startups to identify how their company or story relates to a broad audience.
  • Be scrappy and resourceful. Follow reporters who cover your industry on Twitter, then retweet them and respond to them. Also, read relevant media about your industry and stay up on the latest trends. [Read more…]

Bragging on Social Media: Useful or Annoying?

Can bragging on Facebook and other social platforms backfire? In an extreme example this week, a gang of thugs in Brooklyn boasted about committing murder on their Facebook pages and got arrested as a result. Verdict? Not smart! While most of us are bragging about much less criminal things (we hope!), touting your accomplishments through social media may still have a negative result.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last month ago called “Are We All Braggarts Now?”, which examines whether social media has given people a platform — and permission — to constantly boast about their accomplishments, children, jobs and lives in general. In the piece, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that “we’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.” We believe this is a generalization and that, while select folks spend all their Tweets and Facebook posts talking about how their child is the world’s most talented and beautiful, there are ways to leverage social media to promote yourself and what you’re proud of in a smart and more subtle way.

In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, we dedicate an entire chapter, called “Toot Your Own Horn (but Not Too Loudly),” to teaching people how to be their own publicists without irritating those on the receiving end. There’s an art to self-promotion and part of it is building your reputation slowly and strategically so you don’t come across as too in-your-face. (Though we don’t see what’s so bad about posting “Got my first royalty check for my book,” as referenced in the article. As authors ourselves, we know what a huge deal it is to finally see some rewards from all the hard work you put in!). Nonetheless, here are a few tips on how to avoid being pegged as a braggart:

Pat yourself on the back but pat others harder. It’s okay to post something about an award you won, but make sure you’re also congratulating others when they’ve received accolades. Hit the “like” button on Facebook or re-tweet it when you see that people you know have posted about their personal milestones and they’ll likely do the same for you. A third-party endorsement often has more impact than if you tout your own accomplishments.

Offer a take-away. If you wrote a great blog post about how to avoid being a braggart, for example, linking to it might actually offer useful advice to the folks who click on it. Or if you say, “Our nanny is a rock star,” maybe you can tell people where you found her so they can find their own personal Mary Poppins or link to the great sample sale where you scored amazing Hermes piece, so others can benefit too.

Don’t make others feel bad. We haven’t had a real vacation in a while (that’s a whole other blog post!), so it’s natural to feel a wee bit jealous when we see our friends post amazing beach shots of their tropical trips (though we’re mostly happy for them). That happiness would be dampened, though, if they posted or tweeted things like, “Ha, ha! I bet you wish you were here!” or “I feel like I died and went to paradise.” instead of “Great view from my hotel room in Costa Rica.” The upshot: Be cognizant that not everyone is as lucky as you are, watch your tone and try not to over-post. (You are on vacation, after all!)

You can always dial down who sees what posts on social media, if you fear that you are over-sharing to your extended crowd. And, on the flip side, if you feel that some of your Facebook friends or those you follow on Twitter are getting out of hand with their self-promotion, simply filter out their posts or stop following them. That way, when you see them face-to-face next time, stories about their child landing first seat in the school orchestra or their latest major deal at work won’t irk you quite as much.

What kind of posts annoy you?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Using Social Media to Burn Bridges: A Good or Bad Idea?

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about the trend of kissing off your former employer (or soon to be!) in a very public way online, whether on Twitter, Tumblr or YouTube. While this may be a “cathartic” experience, as one person interviewed in the piece said, this kind of behavior can have negative repercussions that will affect your future career. Here’s some advice from Be Your Own Best Publicist for what to think about before you post a big f-u to the job you just left on your social media channels:

Your digital legacy outlasts you. Your online profile lives on even after you don’t. Every tweet you make ends up in the Library of Congress. Your Facebook page stays up unless someone physically removes it. And Google is your first resume these days. If you blog/tweet/post nasty things about a past employer, it won’t take long for potential employers to find it. Most HR professionals are checking out candidates’ social media profiles these days and wouldn’t look too kindly on someone who publicly bad-mouthed their last company or boss.

Patience is a virtue. In a world of instant gratification, where it takes a second to tweet, post or email something, we tend to act immediately instead of taking a breath and thinking about it before doing the damage. In the old days, you’d write an angry letter, put it in a drawer somewhere and re-read it a day later. (In many instances, it went back in the drawer or in the trash, never to be seen by its intended recipient). Now, when we’re upset, we vent in real time without always considering the consequences.

The high road is usually the best route to success. You may have had an abusive boss, a terrible job or were fired without good reason. But any time we interview someone and they trash-talk their former workplaces, it’s a huge turnoff. In PR, we teach our clients to deflect tough questions such as why they’re better than their competitors so they’re not spending an interview saying negative things about someone else, but rather positive things about themselves. If asked why you left your last job, simply say, “It wasn’t the right fit for me” or “I learned a lot but was ready to move on to a new opportunity.” Enough said.

Gripe all you want — in private. Listen, we all have bad experiences at work and feel like yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” but try to limit your complaining to a small circle of friends and family, who will let you vent your frustration before you post it on Facebook. Or, instead of blogging about it, write it in a good old fashioned journal that the world won’t see. Remember “Dear Diary”? Not everyone needs to read about your deepest darkest emotions on WordPress.

Have you ever publicly griped about work?  What were the consequences? Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Social Media and the Summer Vacation

Social media continues to change the way we live our lives and, according to the Wall Street Journal, how we communicate when we’re on vacation. A recent story by Elizabeth Holmes shared the challenge that people who have a strong social media presence have when taking a summer vacation: Stay connected and tweeting to keep your followers happy but face the pressure to remain “on-message,” even when you are officially off the clock.

If you’re a super user — or just super into the social media scene — here are some tips if you want to unplug on your time off:

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Going Back to College: An Inspiring Lesson on the Future of PR

UM students working on their group presentation

Millennials are often painted as lazy, entitled, impatient and unfocused but a group of college students with whom Jessica recently spent a weekend dispelled all of those stereotypes and gave us hope for the future.

At the first-ever PR Workshop for the University of Michigan’s Communication Studies program, 30 undergraduate students dedicated their entire weekend — giving up their Friday night and showing up at the ungodly hour of 8:30am on Saturday and Sunday (including having lost an hour to Daylight Savings Time) — to get a crash course in the public relations field.  UM does not offer vocational classes — nor did it when Jessica was enrolled there many moons ago — but because so many students have expressed an interest in the PR industry, the brilliant and energetic Susan Douglas, who heads up the department, decided it was worth doing a pilot program that involved alumni in the business sharing their lessons and knowledge with the undergrads.

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A Lesson in Going Viral: #rejectedgroupons

In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we spend an entire chapter talking about how social media and the Internet have changed communication forever and how vital it is to be aware of how quickly something can spread online — for good or bad. As Mark Twain once said (somewhat prophetically given this digital age), “A lie can travel around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Think about all those rumors of various celebrities’ premature death (Jon Bon Jovi, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Brown, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford and Rick Astley just being a few examples) and how they spread like wildfire on Twitter. On the flip side, consider how rapidly an amateur performer like Rebecca Black could catch on through YouTube with her hit song “Friday.”

 

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News You Can Use: Generation Sell, Share or Self-Employed? What People Saying About Gen Y

In one day, we read three articles about Generation Y in The New York Times and The New York Post — that covered topics from self-promotion and gossip to whether or not you really need to go to college to succeed. Here are the soundbites:

Millennials Embrace Entrepreneurialism & Salesmanship: On the front page of the Times’ SundayReview section, an article entitled “Generation Sell” by William Deresiewicz, paints Millennials as “polite, pleasant, moderate, earnest, friendly” and  comments that “We’re all selling something today, because even if we aren’t literally selling something…we’re always selling ourselves. We use social media to create a product — to create a brand — and the product is us. We treat ourselves as the business, something to be managed and promoted.” Our question is, “What is wrong with that?” In this extremely challenging job market that Gen Y is graduating into, if they don’t sell themselves, no one is going to do it for them. In order to get noticed, as we discuss in our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist, you must treat yourself as a product to be promoted.’

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News You Can Use: First-Time Job Seekers May Be Struggling for a Reason

In this week’s New York Post @Work section, there’s a great cover story on how many young job seekers may be ruining their chances of getting hired because of various errors they make during the interview process. We’ve blogged about this several times before but it’s imperative that applicants learn to stand out to potential employers — and we don’t mean in a bad way!

Some of the common gaffes covered in the New York Post article include:

  • Spelling/grammar mistakes: It’s amazing how frequently job candidates submit written materials — whether resume, cover letter, writing sample or thank you note — riddled with errors. Even if you use the spell check function on your Blackberry or computer (and our guess is that most don’t!), read it again aloud before sending it and, even better, get someone else to review it first. If job candidates aren’t careful enough to check for mistakes during the interview process, they’ll only get worse once you hire them.
  • Dress for the job you want: We spend a whole chapter in our book Be Your Own Best Publicist on personal style and how to dress appropriately for an interview. We share advice from loads of fashion experts and they all agree that candidates need to be well-groomed, polished and stylish and not be tone-deaf when it comes to the industry or position for which they’re interviewing. For example, if you’re going for a job in a creative field, you may want to dress a bit more fashion-forward (but still no flip-flops, people!) than if you were applying to work in banking or the legal arena.
  • Come prepared: This seems like a no-brainer but endless job candidates apply for positions without doing the proper research on the company, the industry and the person with whom they land an interview (if they get in the door). Having just come from college, where students must do research and study in order to succeed, it’s shocking that recent graduates don’t realize that they need to put the same effort and preparation into a job search, particularly in a tough market where there are fewer jobs available.
  • Keep it professional: An interviewer is not your friend; if you’re lucky, he or she may be your future boss. So don’t get too chummy or casual during your conversations. Don’t discuss your personal life or ask about theirs. Don’t post about your interview on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t curse (yes, people have done this during our interviews!). And please don’t use emoticons in your follow-up email.

Many Gen-Yers suffer from a bit of culture shock when they enter the workforce after college; in most cases, just being “good enough” is simply not going to cut it. And any sense of entitlement certainly won’t either. Young job-seekers need to go above and beyond in order to make a good impression on potential employers. (We share lots of advice on how to do so in our book.) Because as the New York Post article ends, “Not everyone gets a trophy in the real world.”