Three Fundamentals Of Social Media That Will Never Change

Trends in the way people use social media are constantly changing. What was once a good practice six months ago might not even be worth the effort or relevant today. In fact, over my years of blogging and using networks like twitter, facebook and more recently instagram, I’ve seen things change rapidly.

Don’t you feel like there is so much going in social media these days that is hard to keep up? New technologies, new social networks, new ways people communicate and share content. It fast, it’s changing and it’s still right where it needs to be.

One of the things I love is watching people catch on to how other people communicate and share content. Hashtags were once a part of twitter that not many understood. Now hashtags are their own language and bring certain connotation to the conversation.

Example: Where once you might hear a friend say “You’re the bomb dot com” or “You’re the bomb”, you might just as easily hear them say “Hashtag You’re The Bomb!” #yourethebomb

Why do things change online? Because networks like twitter, facebook and instagram function as a living entity where the heart beat and movement is completely user generated. As the online community grows, communicates, reacts, responds and intervenes… practices and methods of what’s acceptable change. It’s amazing to watch over time, but even more amazing to see how we as an online society make small changes because of the subtle changes everyone seem to make as new ideas and practices emerge.

However, even through the change, there are still three fundamental characteristics that still and always will remain the same at their core.

  1. Content is still king. Rule #1 Quality, compelling and engaging content attracts readers. Rule #2 posting content keeps readers coming back to your blog. Rule #3 when in doubt about whether to post content or not, refer back to Rule #1 and Rule #2.
  2. Authenticity still matters. There are a lot of great bloggers and social networkers out there, but the ones who write from their heart… and their gut are the best ones to read. There’s nothing holding them back in the way they communicate what they have to say. And yes. This means, bloggers don’t have to be great writers and they don’t have to always be polished. It’s the readers nature to expect grammatical errors, typos and poor sentence structure. Thank God, because I wouldn’t have one reader or follower if that were the case.
  3. Transparency is the window to all things that really connect with the reader. It’s about sharing those bits of info you might otherwise guard. It’s about sharing those hints and little sides of life that people really don’t know about you or about what you do… or more importantly, how you do it. Example: want to know how Michael Hyatt became such a great blogger? Read his book Platform or clue into his blog. He lays it all out there… all of it.

One thing I would caution in being transparent. Sharing info that you would otherwise guard doesn’t mean airing out your dirty laundry or telling the world about all of your problems or even you bringing others down in public. Having said that, there will always be people who do that and get lots of readers because of it. I’ve watched a blogger go from encouraging to critical over the past year and watched their readership, twitter following and business decline with every negative post. No one likes a sour puss… even online.

On the other hand, there are some people who are so transparent in a good way that they give us permission to grieve with them through personal loss like in the case of my friend Angie Smith. She turned the loss of her daughter at birth into a journey many women have experienced and created a forum for growth to encourage people to keep moving in life. Hats off to those who can be that vulnerable online.

So no matter what is the newest, next big thing is in the social media world, these three characteristics will always be at the foundation of blogging and your favorite social media network.

Thoughts?

Why I’m Switching Hotel Brands

For the past 12 years, I’ve been traveling like a mad man. Flying about 25 – 30 round trip flights a year on American Airlines and staying in Hilton brand (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites) hotels almost every night of those trips. About 40 – 50 nights a year, sometimes more. But it’s time for a change.

I really like what Hilton has done over the years. They are a great brand but I find my personal tastes changing. So I’m switching to Marriott. I’m needing more from a hotel brand that makes travel just a tad easier and honestly… I like seeing big brands who are updating their look to keep up with travel trends.

I saw this when I walked into a Courtyard Marriott. I felt like I found a hotel that looks as cool as Aloft but with a lot more comfort.

I was very impressed.

One of the reasons I’m switching is this. Over the years, I’ve paid close attention to how loyalty and points programs have changed. What seems to be happening is some big brands tend to make it harder and harder to get to a higher level of status and to accumulate points. Thus making it harder to book a free night stay or a free flight.

When I looked into Marriott rewards a little closer I noticed not only is can you accumulate points and status a little faster, Marriott also has a very competitive structure for redeeming rewards for a free night stay.

Example: I booked our family a free night with Courtyard Marriott for our Thanksgiving trip. It cost 10,000 points. The Hampton Inn down the street costs 25,000 points. Both hotels are in the same area.

Here was something of a surprise for me as well. I went to re-activate my Marriott rewards number, which I haven’t used in YEARS! I was shocked to see I still had 17,000 unused points with Marriott. Yep… so I used them:)

Marriott also has a very intuitive app. I just booked a weekend of hotels for a run in Texas using the app and it was just as fast, if not faster than going online to book the rooms.

Now… let’s say most things in the travel world are equal. Many large hotel brands are close in comparison. Nice rooms, good prices etc.

But here was the one deciding factor that put me over the edge. I decided to tweet out that I was thinking of switching from @HiltonHHonors to @Marriott.

I immediately got a response from @Marriott and @CourtyardHotels. I had a short conversation with both of them. Brought @AmericanAir into the conversation… they responded as well… and made my decision.

Any brand willing to engage the conversation people are having about them is worth taking my business there. It’s one of the main reasons I fly American Airlines and rent cars from National.

As a side note… @HiltonHHonors was silent the whole time.

Am I mad at Hilton? Not at all. Do I feel like I deserve something from them? Not at all. I’ve given them 12 years of loyal business and they have served me well. But times are changing and becoming more updated with the needs of this new travel world.

Big travel brands need to remember. There are a lot of business travelers like me wanting to engage with them online to better the experience all the way around from talking favorably about their brand online to getting some faster customer service.

Marriott gets it. So does American Airlines.

If you are loyal to certain brands… Why? What is it that makes you proud to be their customer?

Is The Conversation On Twitter What You Want It To Be?

I was looking at my twitter feed a couple of weeks ago and noticed the main list I follow was mostly retweeted links from other twitter profiles.

Part of me loves this. The part that wants to learn more, read more and tune into what others are reading. The wealth of knowledge out there on any subject really is overwhelming when you think about it.

But there’s another part of me that is actually overwhelmed by all of the info and trying to keep up with all of the great info out there.

Then there’s this part of me. The part when the first couple of years I was on twitter, it was mostly conversation with friends… or making new friends on twitter.

It was the funny banter going back and forth. It was the annoying conversation I was watching between two or three people that I really didn’t know. It was the interaction that was happening that allowed you to really peak into the life of someone else in a way you wouldn’t have known before.

It was… Conversation.

I’m always telling people they should engage more with others online. But then I look at my twitter habits and think… “I’m so guilty of not being part of the conversation or adding to it… or engaging others.” I’ve become that guy who is there… but not there.

Now… there are some people I follow on twitter who just put out links they are reading and some really cool bits of info with the occasional personal stuff thrown in.

Those twitter people serve a very important purpose in giving us very valuable info from what they are reading and experiencing in their lives. I think people like this get a hall pass in my book. They are huge bloggers and are known for their content as well as finding great content by others… keep it coming.

But for me and my own twitter experience, I think I need to go back to the conversation. Take a little time to get to know people and say hi.

Some of the greatest friends in my life… in my non-virtual life… came from building relationships on twitter. Yes… it can happen.

So I think I’m going to start trying something a little different.

I’m going try and spend 10% of my time on twitter tweeting out links to what I’m reading and another 10% twittering content that is specific to what I’m trying to promote.

But the other 80%? Instead of just retweeting others… I’m going to try and just have good conversation as well or show you what I’m seeing as the day happens through instagram.

I know… it must sound a little lofty but I think my twitter experience is a little stale and needs a little more focus on others.

So, again I ask you…

Is The Conversation On Twitter What You Want It To Be? If not, how will you change it?

Why I’m Resetting My Example Online… For The Kids

Now that I’m walking into being a stepfather, I’ve been noticing a few things about me that I need to shore up. You see, I’m feeling the need, want and desire to be a much better example to these two incredible kids whose lives I get to be apart of. Not just in the real world we live in but the the virtual world as well.

I don’t want them to be embarrassed of my online presence and I want to set the right example for their online presence as well.

I’ve never known what it is to be a parent. I love kids and I love these two kids the most. I look forward to every day I get to be with them because I know I’m always going to experience something funny with them or get surprised with some sweet moments of just being together. We have those moments together where they ask questions and want real answers and there are those moments when I get to ask them questions… to get them thinking a little bit.

As I walk along side these little lives, I’m noticing something…

For all you parents out there, I know you know what I’m about to say…

These kids notice everything. Even the things I don’t think they notice… they notice. It’s eye opening for me, but also a great reminder of the man I need to be… and also the man I want to be.

So, as I have been stepping up things, I’ve been going through my life… like re-arranging my closet so that I know what I have in me that needs to stay or go away. Again… A little eye-opening for me. I’m not single anymore and I can’t live like I’m the only one I answer too. It’s amazing how much has changed in this part of my life in the past two months.

One of the big things I’m paying attention to these days is the example I set for them online.

They are on Facebook with their friends. They sit down and watch YouTube just as much or more than they turn on the TV. They are engaged in community with their family and friends online… and they see what I do, what I say… and ultimately how I live my life… even online.

If the kids are paying attention to what I’m putting out on twitter or facebook, then I figure others are as well right? So, some of the things I used to throw out there won’t be coming out in my twitter stream or showing up on facebook like they once did.

The changes will be subtle and some of you might not even notice, but I will… and so will the kids.

I think it’s important for the online world to be a place where people learn from others and are encouraged to move forward in life. Not a place to bully people. It’s not a place to air out our anger against others or to bring someone down in a 140 character statement or a blog post. I don’t want these kids thinking it’s ok to do that or that it’s even productive for anyone. Honestly, I think when people bring others down online, it’s a selfish move. I’ve seen it happen in these kids lives with their friends and it was devastating, but also an important time teach them how to be with their friends online and how to handle them in real life.

How about you? How do you view your example online and where do you draw the line?

Social Media In Moderation

When I first got into blogging, I found the whole experience to be fascinating. I couldn’t believe I could write about anything I wanted and that other people would randomly find it online using searchable words on Google. Then they would actually read and comment. I know, it must sound a little geeky for some of you but for me… it was a new frontier to be conquered.

So I started blogging… almost every day.

In 2007, I joined Twitter and my online life went to another level. The experience, again, was fascinating and I immediately saw the vast opportunity to connect and engage with people on a whole new level. At first, myself and my close friends who started on twitter in 2007 were made fun of and joked about around casual conversations by people who weren’t on twitter … YET … and didn’t understand at all what it’s potential was.
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