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You DO know what to say in social media

I talk to folks about social media all the time. One of the things that I notice right away is the fear. Most people are worried that they don’t know what to do in social media. They are afraid that they will make a mistake. That they will say the wrong thing. Or, they fear that they don’t know what to say at all–even that they have nothing to say. All these fears are real and you might be experiencing some of them yourself, but you don’t need to. I’d like to convince you that you really do know what to say in social media.

Let’s take a real example. I know it’s real because it happened to me. When Twitter first came out, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to know what I was doing. I mean, we all think of ourselves as kind of boring and unsure as to why anyone would want to pay attention to what we do each day. I was no exception.

But, over time, I started to realize that I could share things in much the same way that I already do outside of social media. You see, when I saw an interesting article, I used to send an e-mail to a few people that wanted to know about it. Instead, I started sharing those things on Twitter. I have also recently began taking quick tips that I have written in my books and in blog posts and sharing those.

And a funny thing happened. Some people started to follow me. It’s not a huge number, but that’s OK. And they started to talk to me on Twitter. And I started following other people and retweeting some of what they said, and talking to them. It all happened gradually, but I realized that I do know what to say on Twitter.

But maybe you have a more difficult situation. Maybe you work for a company that fields its share of complaints about its products, and you are starting to notice customers bad-mouthing you in social media. Now, you are really nervous. What do you say to those angry people?

I believe that you already know what to say–you just need to overcome your fear to actually say it.

To channel your inner social media person, play this mind game with yourself. Imagine that whatever you see in that angry blog post or tweet or message board comment was said to you in person. Conjure up an image of that person standing in front of you and saying that to you to your face. Got it? Now think of what you would say back to them.

For one thing, you probably would not turn on your heel and walk away. You likely would not ignore what the person said completely. You wouldn’t act as if they weren’t there. Yet that is always our first impulse in social media–to ignore the conversation because we think we don’t know what to say.

When we do that, we are doing so because it is more comfortable for us, but not because it is the right thing to do. So, think about what you would say if that person was standing in front of you. You probably wouldn’t feel the need to know how to solve their problem right then and there–your first impulse would probably be something like, “I am so sorry that happened to you. I can see why you are upset. I can contact the people in that department for you and see what can be done.” Or maybe something like, “Wow! That doesn’t sound good at all. We pride ourselves on happy customers and you are understandably far from that right now. I am obviously not familiar with the details of your situation, but what could we do to make things right?”

You’ve probably got other things you thought of to say, also. That’s because you really do know what to say in social media. You just need to let yourself act like a human being towards other human beings. They will appreciate it.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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