Facebook etiquette: Event invitations

Maybe my blood's up a bit because someone pushed hard for a meeting I didn't want to have and then canceled last minute, but I have to be honest, I'm really sick of getting Facebook invitations to events I'm obviously not coming to.

And by "obviously not coming to," I mean the event is 300 miles away, on short notice (a day or two), on a weekday, and is something you have invited me to half a dozen times in the past without me showing up.

In short, there's no reason for you to believe I have any interest in coming. Add to it that I've actually spent time in your presence only a few times in the past eight years, and every time it's because I'm close with your brother- and sister-in-law, and I have to wonder if I should consider cutting the cord.

No, seriously. I understand that I could just delete the event invitation from my email, but I wrote about this in June about a local social media conference: if you want to be a customer service-driven business, you may as well show some good customer service.

Because frankly, if you clutter up my inbox with stuff I didn't ask for and that I'm already not responding positively to, I'm not only unlikely to patronize your business, I'm unlikely to recommend it. And if I don't like the way you run your business, I'm unlikely to view you as one of my favorite people.

So here is how the etiquette on this works. Let's say you have over 500 Facebook friends and you have an event that's of a special interest. Don't blast all your friends. Reach out to the ones who are likely to come -- those who first are in your general location, and if you really want to target people, invite those who are already your customers or those who are likely to get something out of it.

If your event is a social gathering on a weekend, you might be able to stretch that radius to people who are within an overnight trip. This doesn't include your Facebook friends across the country or across an ocean.

If it's your wedding, well, that's different. If it's a funeral, same thing. But a specialized, very local workshop? Come on.

If you don't clutter people's inboxes, they're unlikely to clutter yours. And if you clutter other people's inboxes repeatedly, they may either reach out and ask you to stop, which, let's face it, is a conversation you don't want to have, if you're the defensive sort, or they may just unclutter themselves, cutting you off.

It's really just a matter of being polite. Get some online manners.

Get engaged!

Well, civically. You don't have to be in the under 40 set to join the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force in a social networking event tonight at 5:30 p.m. at World Martini Bar, 134 E Genesee Street, in Hanover Square (map).

Check out the Facebook event page. There's no need to RSVP. Just show up, bring people, meet people, you get the idea. No fee for the event, just whatever you opt to purchase.

The social media bill of rights

The good people at the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference this year put together something of a "Bill of Rights" for users of social networking sites. I'm going to go ahead and call it a cute idea, because mostly the "rights" assume that the point of putting together a social networking site is to let users do whatever they want.

In case you've been living in a socialist economy since the advent of the Internet, the truth is that social networking sites exist to sell highly targeted advertising and provide companies with very specific information about users.

No, really – that's the truth.

I can get on board with some of the 14 ideas the conference put forth, but not all of them. Not even most of them. Here we go:

1. Honesty: Honor your privacy policy and terms of service.

This, for me, is a no-brainer. The only agreement you (as the owner of a social networking site) and I make when I sign up for your service is that I accept your privacy policy and terms of service. If you don't stick to it, you've broken our agreement.

2. Clarity: Make sure that policies, terms of service, and settings are easy to find and understand.

When I first got started on Twitter, the Terms of Service was short and easy to understand. And it probably wouldn't have done them a lick of good if they had wound up in court for any reason. It's not like we're a litigious society or anything.

So now it looks like this. At least they have tips in there so you can understand it, unlike Facebook's (scroll to the bottom of that and look at how long the list of associated documents is!).

I have to be on the side of social media companies on this, though. If you don't like the terms, don't sign up. If you can't understand them, don't sign up. When you check that box, you're agreeing to those terms. If you don't understand your mortgage and you sign it anyway, you're still responsible for everything in it. Which is why you hire a real estate lawyer. If you really want to be part of Facebook's community but you don't understand the contract you're signing, hire a lawyer to explain it to you. Seriously.

3. Freedom of speech: Do not delete or modify my data without a clear policy and justification.

Let's be clear on this: The U.S. Constitution gives us freedom of speech. That means we can say whatever we want (with a few exceptions). As someone who used to deal with feedback from a large website with a social media component, your right to say whatever you want does not mean someone has to publish it. When the terms of service say, "We have a right to remove whatever we want, with or without cause or explanation," that's what it means. The network can just take something down because it wants to. Deal. You signed the contract, remember?

4. Empowerment: Support assistive technologies and universal accessibility.

This is just a smart move for networks. If you can make your network easy for people to use, they'll use it. That means that if someone with a disability can't use your site, she's not going to use it. If you want everybody to use your site, make it so everybody can use it.

That's not a users' rights thing, that's a smart business decision. If you run a dry cleaner and you have three steps leading up to your door and the dry cleaner next door has a ramp, who's going to get the business from anybody who can't walk steps?

5. Self-protection: Support privacy-enhancing technologies.

This runs entirely counter to why social networks exist. If you as a user need privacy, stay off of social networks.

6. Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.

Again, this is not why social networks exist. If you don't want to share information, don't share it. If you want to share it with some people but not others, don't accept those others' friend requests. It's not brain surgery.

7. Control: Let me control my data, and don't facilitate sharing it unless I agree first.

I'm in conditional support of this one. If the terms of service or privacy policy tells me what I can control and what is automatically shared, it's up to me to decide whether I'm comfortable enough to join your network. If you change the rules of the game in the middle, though, I take big issue with it – this is what Facebook did, and it's why my profile is nearly empty and you can't write on my wall.

8. Predictability: Obtain my prior consent before significantly changing who can see my data.

This is essentially what I said above in #7. If you're going to change the rules significantly, give me an opportunity to decide whether I want to play by them before you force me into it.

9. Data portability: Make it easy for me to obtain a copy of my data.

Let's get this straight: Social networks are not your personal thumb drive. No joke. If you want a copy of your information, make a copy. If Flickr went away tomorrow, would you lose all your family photos? If the answer is yes, back them up yourself. Flickr should not have to play nice with your hard drive, or with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other business it isn't partnered with. Otherwise, what's the point of competition?

10. Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised.

Emm, no. If you don't want to share something, don't share it. It's easy not to join a network: just don't sign up. See how easy that was?

11. Right to know: Show me how you are using my data and allow me to see who and what has access to it.

Every social networking site already does this. If you read the user agreement, privacy policy, and terms of service, you should know this information. If you didn't, you shouldn't have agreed to them when you signed up for the site.

12. Right to self-define: Let me create more than one identity and use pseudonyms. Do not link them without my permission.

I disagree here, for the protection of the social networks, who are held responsible if they allow, say, a sex offender to contact a minor. The terms of service of most sites basically say, "You agree that the information you provide is truthful." If it's not, they have a good reason to refuse service to you as a customer.

13. Right to appeal: Allow me to appeal punitive actions.

This would be reasonable business sense, and many sites do allow users to appeal punitive actions. Twitter and LinkedIn do, for sure.

14. Right to withdraw: Allow me to delete my account, and remove my data.

You shouldn't join any social network that doesn't allow you to remove your data. Before iMeem was picked up by MySpace, it didn't let you delete your account, and they made that very clear in the terms of service and also on the help page, in case you didn't read the terms of service before you agreed to them. But they did let you delete the data. Same with Blue Goose News – while I couldn't delete my account there, I was able to delete my blog posts, my name, my email address and anything else that identified me. That was in their terms and I knew it when I signed up.

It all comes down to smart consumerism. If you don't like the way a business operates, don't patronize it.

Book Review: The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani

You know who's smart? Shama Kabani.

A young entrepreneur and head of The Marketing Zen Group, Kabani's book The Zen of Social Media Marketing is among the best social media books I've read – not least because it's a living book.

The problem with writing a book about anything social media is that social media is changing really fast. The book Twitter Revolution, for instance, came out in paperback in October 2008. Twitter has undergone so many changes since then, I can only imagine about 10% of that book is still relevant.

What Kabani does with Zen is start with the basics – how to use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, including how to set up your profiles and how to be found – and at the end of her book she gives you a link to ZenOfSocialMedia.com and a pass code to get into the online version of the book, which is updated as new information becomes available.

Which means that when Facebook changes its look and procedures, suggestions for making your Facebook profile great are updated in the book.

My one hope for Kabani is that she hasn't buried herself (or her interns) under decades of book updates.

In addition to how-tos for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Kabani offers some good general purpose tips, like outline your overall social media strategy and know what you want to achieve for your business before you send your first tweet.

She also enrolls David Kaminski of Web Video University to write a chapter on video.

Next up for me is going to be The Mirror Test by Kodak's chief marketing officer, Jeffrey Hayzlett.

Why social media isn’t working for your business

I've been told several times over the last month, "Social media doesn't work for businesses." Really? In that case, one of two things is going on:

  1. Your expectations are in the wrong place.
  2. You're doing it wrong.

Actually, I bet it's some combination of the two.

Setting Expectations

Approach social media like you would an in-person networking event. You don't walk in the door and expect people to write you checks because you're standing there. You meet people. You tell them what you do. You hand out business cards. You learn who others are, what they do. You take their business card. You have conversations. You build relationships. You nurture relationships. Maybe if you're lucky you get a sale out of the event, but more than likely you're going to have to do some follow-up work to get that sale. Or maybe you just nurture those relationships, exchanging emails or having coffee here and there, keeping yourself at the forefront of people's minds so that when they need your product, they come to you first.

It's the same thing with social media. Sure, if you put a link to your website on Twitter, you might get a sale or two. But if you converse with people, build relationships, nurture relationships, congratulate them on their victories and pass on their successes, they will think of you first when they need your product. If you're there when they don't need you, you'll be there when they do.

Your expectation shouldn't be, "I just tweeted a link to my website and signed up for Facebook. Why isn't anyone buying?" It should be, "I'm so glad I was able to build these relationships with people all over the world."

A successful social media campaign starts with meeting new people and building relationships with them, and having them eventually turn into customers. You don't start converting people at "Click here!"

Doing it right

I'm going to keep this brief, because frankly, there are hundreds of people who write about doing social media the right way, and we're all saying the same thing. Work on relationships. Be involved. Have conversations. Connect with people. Work your networks without being pushy. I want to recommend you read these blogs for some ideas. There are plenty more out there, too; these are just some of my favorites.

Chris Brogan
eNetworking101 (disclosure: I've done work for this site)
Outspoken Media

Convention and relationships

I come back to Chris Brogan's piece about conventions frequently. Brogan's punchline is:

New marketing is more like: find people who make more sense. Start relationships with them before selling them. Learn more about them. Make the offer if it makes sense.

This isn't anything new. If you've touched your toe in on social media blogging, you've said this. I've you've ever advised people on using a social media tool, you've said this.

But are you doing it? Whether your social marketing is mediated or not – that is, whether you're looking for the sale in a face-to-face or an online environment – are you closing the sale before you've learned enough about the person to discover that you sell pipes but they need doors?

Sure, you do pipes, but if you knew someone who did doors, you could be selling their products to this new customer instead. And if you help the customer out when she needs doors, she'll remember you when she needs pipes.

True story.

How to personalize a LinkedIn connection request

One of the great things about LinkedIn is that you can connect to people who share your interests, who work in the same industry, and who live in the same area. One of the other great things about LinkedIn is that its focus is on professional connections.

Unlike Facebook, which is overrun by people sending you Farmville invitations and acquaintances who bugged your for weeks to accept their friend requests and now insist that you like their girlfriend's sister's boyfriend's second cousin's tropical fish shop in rural Kansas, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to connect, share knowledge and nurture relationships.

One of the things I greatly appreciate and wish more people would take advantage of is the ability to personalize LinkedIn connection requests. If we meet regularly, are involved in several groups together, and are already connected on Facebook and Twitter, chances are I know who you are and what you do, and will accept a LinkedIn request from you without blinking.

But if we met at a networking event last week, I probably also met 20 other people there, and I probably have met a few dozen more since meeting you. Use a custom message to remind me who you are, where we met, and what you do. And if we haven't met, I'm unlikely to accept your connection request unless you tell me why we should connect. Maybe you read this blog post, learned something from it, and decided it would be a good thing to try out.

Here is how you send a personalized message.

1. Start at a person's profile. My public profile is here.

2. In the top right, click "Add Josh Shear as a connection" (it's the second link down next to my photo, just under the contact link).

3. Select a reason LinkedIn is a good way for us to connect (it will tell me what you selected; that might provide me a clue). If you select "Friend" or "Other," LinkedIn will ask for my email address. Use joshuanshear@gmail.com.

4. There's a box that says, "Include a personal note (optional)." That's where you should tell me where we met, or why we should get to know each other.

5. Press the Submit button.

That's it. What you don't want to do is send out a bunch of generic invitations to people you don't know. If they tell LinkedIn they don't know you, LinkedIn may penalize you, either limiting the number of connection requests you can send out, or, worse, suspending your account.

Social Media Newbie Night and Conference

Here's an interesting event in Syracuse (press release). It's aimed at small business owners trying to find their way into social media (if you're well-established, this probably isn't for you).

Have you attended the one and two hour social media sessions and find yourself wanting more? Have you been tweeting but not getting followers? Have you been maintaining your fan page but it’s still just your friends who are fans? Syracuse BizBuzz won’t leave you wanting more. Read On.

This conference features keynote addresses, case studies, workshops and discussions that provide strategic knowledge, insights and real world examples on how to successfully plan, implement and manage your social media efforts to achieve your business goals.

Social media platforms are fundamentally changing the sales, marketing and operations process.

It is redefining the way businesses:

* acquire customers:
* generate leads and customer response;
* create competitive differentiation and brand awareness;
* and manage crisis.

Register today at SyracuseBizBuzz.com

Follow the conversation at #syracusebizbuzz

The Syracuse BizBuzz Social Media Conference is a gathering of newbies, dabblers, users, and power users who are interested in what’s possible, what’s working, what’s now and what’s next in the business use of social media.

This full day conference (8:00 am to 5:00 pm), explores the impact social media has on marketing, advertising, and the tools used today to engage the public. Social media is dramatically changing how traditional marketing media is used for brand development and sales. Syracuse BizBuzz will explore how social media is successful today through case studies from local companies, but will also delve deeply into the practical methodologies of each tool.

SyracuseBizBuzz is a production of The Events Company, Site-Seeker Inc., and Digital Vertical with partners Syracuse University's iSchool, Falcone Center, Center for Career Services, Newhouse School of Public Communication, Syracuse.com, CNY Business Journal, Visual Technologies, Plus Sign and Graphic, and Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.

A Newbie Night, presented by Syracuse University'si ISchool, will be held on May 26, 2010, will provide business professionals the opportunity to learn the basics and to network.

Involvement Fair 4 heads downtown May 27


40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force Brings Fourth Involvement Fair Downtown
Event to bring together non-profit organizations and volunteers across Central New York

Syracuse, NY — The 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force is pleased to announce the fourth Central New York Involvement Fair, Thursday, May 27 from 4 until 7:30 p.m. at SUNY Oswego Metro Center, 2 Clinton Square, Syracuse. The fair will be followed by a networking event hosted by Syracuse First at Al's Wine & Whiskey, 321 S. Clinton St., Syracuse..

The Involvement Fair is a place for local volunteers to find non-profits to become involved with. Picture a job fair, but instead of company recruiters sitting behind tables collecting resumes from nervous students, the tables are staffed by passionate non-profit volunteers or employees, and the people walking around are local residents looking to engage in their communities.

The first three involvement fairs, held at Drivers Village, Le Moyne College and Pensabene's, have been hugely successful for area agencies and organizations, and bringing the event downtown will only mean easier access for more area residents.

There is a nominal table charge for non-profits (RSVP required), and the event is free to attend for anyone looking for volunteer opportunities (no RSVP needed).

The networking event at Al's, hosted by local non-profit organization Syracuse First, will feature food and drink specials for Involvement Fair vendors and attendees with name badges. The event is free to attend.

Local media outlets, non-profit organizations and anyone wishing to attend are invited to contact Civic Engagement Task Force co-chairs Kelly Bayne and Josh Shear at the information below. The task force website is 40bcetf.org.

Kelly Bayne: baynek@gmail.com
Josh Shear: joshuanshear@gmail.com

Sorting out 140conf

Yep, that's my to-do list. Thanks, Jeff Pulver.

My Twitter friends are aware of this, but I spent a couple of days this past week in New York City for the 140 Character Conference (140conf). I didn't tweet much from the conference – only those things that really inspired me – instead, I took good old-fashioned notes on good old-fashioned paper. [Full Twitter coverage is here.] That photo above is me organizing my notes before jumping on the train back up to Syracuse. The piece of paper with all the scribbling? That's my to-do list.

Here's the deal with 140conf. It happens in four or five cities each year (well, this is the second year). It's the concept of Jeff Pulver, who is more or less responsible for making Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology widespread (if you're reading this, you're aware of VOIP, even if you've never heard of it – it's what Vonage uses, and if you're using Time Warner Cable or another cable service for your telephone, you're using VOIP).

Unlike academic or industry conferences where you have either a person who speaks for 45 minutes or a panel that runs for an hour, this is bang-bang stuff. Most individuals had 10 minutes; a few had 15. Panels lasted 20 minutes. In all, there were about 150 people speaking in two days. The audience already understands the tools and understands why you'd use them; there's no need to do that part of it.

There will be much blogging about the current and future of things in the coming weeks, but I wanted to get started by mentioning some of the people I met and some of the things I have on my list to check out. Supposedly videos of all the presentations are over here, but I'm having trouble loading them. Hopefully I'll be able to get them up on the screen as I go to blog them.

Anyhow, I met Evan Blackford, who is a super-nice and creative guy. We had a mediocre Middle Eastern lunch (Effy's does a nice coffee, though – definitely went back the second morning). I met Cecily Kellogg of Uppercase Woman, who seems to be a lot of fun in addition to being insightful. I'll be checking out and reviewing her blog.

I met David Hendricks and Eric Oldfield of an emerging advertising system called LiveIntent, as well as Andy Oterson, co-founder of eatbytweet, something I will definitely be looking at in the coming week.

I also met Melinda Emerson, a small business coach who runs a weekly Twitter chat – some of you will know her as @SmallBizLady.

I had lunch with a bunch of Gen Y rockstars, including, among others, David Spinks of Scribnia and #u30pro, Sarah Cooley of Postling, and musician Peter Marinari.

I also got to spend some time with old friends in the city, including one who recently started a new production house called Omega Darling.

Coming up on the blog will most definitely be items about Epic Change, Twitter and education, comments, news and more. I also owe Jeffrey Hayzlett (Chief Marketing Officer at Kodak) a donation to the American Heart Association in exchange for the copy of The Mirror Test.