Archives for posts with tag: social media

Not long ago, groups planning a festival or other large event had few effective ways to spread the word. And even fewer cost-effective ones.

Social media, and Twitter in particular, have changed that.

Based on work I just finished for a client that involved marketing, public relations and outreach for a major event, this post summarizes 10 steps any group can use to promote an event with Twitter.

These 10 steps lay out some solid basics for Twitterers unaccustomed to these tactics. And they would also make a good check list for those more familiar with using Twitter and related tools on the social web to influence and draw attention.

You need at least 3-4 weeks before the event, if possible.

Step 1. Prepare

In this phase, scout for the partners and people connected to the event who have the most influence online. Good indicators are the numbers of engaged and active followers they have on Twitter, as well as their scores from Kred or Klout. (I’m a fan. But both have detractors — however, that’s another post. )

The point is, you need to swiftly identify the folks to pull into the social campaign who will have the biggest impact as they promote the event on Twitter and through apps that work well with Twitter. Once those people are identified, contact them and make sure they are involved in planning the event promotion from the start.

Step 2. Pick a hash tag

This is not as easy as it might seem. The hash tag for the event is important because it will let you monitor Tweets about it and let fans and participants follow the Twitter conversations about the event.

The hash tag must:

  • be short
  • be easy to use/type
  • make sense

And the hash tag must not:

  • be used yet (check by searching options on Twitter)
  • be an acronym that is, or could be construed to be, profane (checking an urban dictionary is a good idea)

My suggestion isn’t just to monitor the Tweets using the hash tag, but also to track Tweets with the name of the group or event. When responding to those Tweets, you can add the hash tag for the event to spread awareness of it. Tweetdeck is handy for monitoring those mentions, as it allows several searches to be set up in columns right next to each other.

3. Start to Tweet

Now that you’ve got your most influential partners on board and a great, effective hashtag to use in all Tweets and mentions, you’re ready to start Tweeting. This could happen about two weeks before the event. Using a tool that lets you schedule Tweets is helpful. I really like Bufferapp and Hootsuite.

4. Create conversations

Automation can be helpful — you don’t want to swamp followers with Tweets at one time. But don’t rely only on that. Engage and interact with those who Tweet about the event or share the Tweets that you and your partners send. Create catchy Tweets that refer to the event’s highlights. Mention some of the influencers, and the event hash tag, of course. This encourages responses, sharing and interaction.

5. Keep it interesting

Sending out the same Tweet (or very similar versions) will bore followers, at first, and then annoy them. Mix it up. Send out some Tweets that offer a countdown to the day. Send others that tease highlights. Send others with a map or other interesting info. Send some with a question, like “What are you doing on ____?” (fill in the date of the event) and link back to a website with all of the details.

6. Use tools to drive more influence

The technology and apps that exist now to turbocharge the effectiveness of Twitter and enable smooth, frequent sharing are amazing. Twylah is a fabulous tool for amplifying Tweets and dressing them up so they are curated and presented in a magazine style. Scoop.it is also a great site for creating a customized magazine of links and Tweets. As traditional media cover the event, links to those articles could be added through Scoop.it. Make sure to mention the Twitter handles of partners, in addition to the event hash tag, when posting to encourage sharing.

7. Use art

As you send out a mix of Tweets, include art, such as the event’s graphic or logo. A pretty easy way to create art to Tweet is to make a tag cloud of words that characterize the event, using the logo for the shape of the cloud. Here is an example I did for this client’s event. Maps, guides to transportation (or street closures, if relevant) or the lineup of bands or other highlights can also work well.

8. Build promotion to a peak

The wonderful site Storify, which makes stories from Tweets and other social posts, is often used after an event to summarize it. However, it can also be used very effectively just before the event. Here’s the one I made the day before this client’s event. With Storify, you can gather the promotional Tweets that have been sent about the event. It can concentrate the excitement. And the Storify story can be easily shared, which also ramps up the social sharing. So make sure you mention others who can ReTweet.

9. Monitor and stoke engagement

On the day of the event, keep monitoring the hash tag associated with it and the names of the group hosting the event as well the name of the event. Respond to Twitterers who are talking about the event. Keep the conversation going by asking those folks to Tweet about their favorite aspect of the event. Then share those. Monitoring also alerts you to trouble spots. Are lines too long? Are the bathrooms unkempt? People will often Tweet about that. Deal with any complaints, proactively. You can acknowledge and respond through Twitter.

10. Afterwards, take stock

Assess what worked and what to improve upon for next time. Hashtracking is a great site for providing information about impressions on Twitter that specific hash tags received. For the 24 hours surrounding Discover Gordon Square Arts District Day on June 9, there were more than 128,000 impressions of #GordonSquare!

I’d love to hear the ways you’ve used Twitter to promote an event.

This post breaks down the steps for promoting an event on Twitter, making them easier to digest. But if you’re new to Tweeting, it might still feel overwhelming. If so, pull in someone more seasoned in social media to help.  You can find me on Twitter here.

Today was one of the busiest days for my blog since I started it more than a year ago. Part of that is because PRDaily picked up a post of mine that initially ran on this blog last month. (I am going to start contributing to that awesome site regularly with original posts. Thanks, Michael Sebastian!)

But part of the reason for traffic and clicks, I’m sure, is because I got ripped off by a PR agency that knows better — or damn well should.

When I saw that this agency posted my work, literally word for word, as its own, I sent a comment to the blog. The “moderator” didn’t approve it. Shocking, I know.

I decided not to blow off this one. We creative types who dream up and send out our content have every right not to have it stolen. Yet so often, that’s exactly what happens. Many bloggers and others have weighed in on this, including my friend Peggy Fitzpatrick in this wonderful post last month on her blog. Still, it seems as if the stealing is only growing. It sure is easier now than ever to do it.

When my feisty #takeitdown Tweet went out, many members of the Twitter community rallied to my defense and also fussed and Tweeted about and to the offender (neither of whose Twitter handle nor pilfered link I am going to include here because, while I want the burglars outed, I don’t want to give them exposure of any kind that would likely just boost their analytics.)

That support heartened me. It definitely drove extra traffic to my site. And, in a perverse way, it probably also increased my standing as a blogger and content creator because I was deemed good enough to rip off. After all, those counterfeiters fake only the high-end goods, right?

Set aside the extra attention and support that came from this incident, which totally reaffirmed my belief in the social web’s ability to self police and to form and support their community.

This is what I keep contemplating as a result of today: as content becomes easier to share, how can we find better ways to ensure creators and owners get the credit for their intellectual property and effort? After all, these are the folks who help keep the social web spinning.

I know nothing about programming or coding. But I do create a ton of content for clients, for my own blog, for other blogs like the best list blog on the web 12 Most. Can’t the whip-smart brains in our community make tighter seals of authenticity around the art and content being created and shared?

I see infographics, for instance, without Twitter handles or even names of the brainpower behind them. I try to track down the designer, where possible, and include them when I Tweet the art. I will often send great infographics through a Power Tweet on Twylah because of the turbocharged exposure it gives to Tweets, like this one. I figure if the Tweet I use to share an infographic is going to get a longer half-life, the creator of that content deserves at least as much of that as I do.

It sometimes comes down to leverage.

When I freelanced for major publications in the late 1990s, and electronic platforms were still pretty young, it made me laugh that I had to sign away my rights to the articles I pitched and wrote whether they ran on a long list of existing media channels “or any that hadn’t yet been created.” Those lawyers think of everything. What choice did I have?

If you work for an agency or creative, digital firm, it owns your work. That’s the trade-off for getting the protection and security of full-time employment with benefits. Because of its resources, the firm can also help guard against illegal use of the work.

However, if you run your own shop, as I do, then you get to keep control over the rights. But you also run greater risk of getting scavenged by the scum who swoop in and think that with a simple ‘cut and paste’ your work can be theirs, for free.

I have given up on the idea that stealers will be reformed. Have you seen the statistics on the percentage of college students who cheat on exams (including the gem about cheaters having higher grade point averages? Yuck!) Or the number of folks who cheat on their taxes, including those nominated to Cabinet positions?

So, I get that it’s going to keep happening. And I’m not stuck on this because it’s a morality issue, which it is.

This matters to me and to many tens of thousands of other creative people communicating, marketing, leading, influencing and coaching on the social web. Why? Because of the commercial threat that stolen intellectual property presents to all of us.

Like other content creators, I get business because of the quality of my content and the wheels that turn inside my brain that think up the ideas, strategies and concepts I offer clients. It angers me that vultures take what they want with no regard for their prey — us.

We can put tracking devices on cars. We can put microchips inside pets to help them be safely found, if lost. The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, struggling to turn a profit, manages still to return letters gone astray, for goodness sakes! Why can’t we do a better job of making content harder to steal? I imagine that kind of technology would have many customers and make its inventor good money.

Yes, I know some tools exist, such as trackbacks and pingbacks. I use Google alerts and Topsy.com as well. But I am picturing something like an alarm that prevents the content from being lifted in the first place. Like one of those ink-filled security tags stores use. When a shoplifter gets a dress home and tries to snip off the device, ink explodes, rendering the garment unwearable.

Getting ripped off, and seeing my friends get ripped off, clearly still has me steamed.

So, thanks for visiting my blog on one of my busiest days and bearing with me as I think of, and strive to create, better solutions. It’s what I do for a living. Oh, and I’m happy for you to share this post. But don’t steal it…otherwise, I’ll shame you with Tweets, and so will some of my Twitter chums. (I picked up about 30 new followers today, too!)

When I started my consulting practice more than two years ago, my immersion into social media was, maybe, knee-deep. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I had joined LinkedIn in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2009.

Still, the social web has exploded since then. And so has my insight — although the thing about social media is that it’s easy to feel as if you’re always playing catch up because it’s changing so quickly.

Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to redo my website. I wanted to make it more interactive, to highlight my blog better and to enable posts to be shared easily. It needed a big upgrade with respect to its social presence and capabilities.

The journey has been bumpy and difficult. And it’s not over, yet. But it sure has taught me a lot!

5 lessons I learned by redoing my website . . .

(that I wish I’d known beforehand!)

1. Make sure your programmer and designer listen, well, to what you want and can convert those ideas into action

I definitely should’ve spent more time interviewing former clients of the first designer I hired to make sure his skills and approach would translate into a partnership. He ended up designing the site he wanted. Not the one I wanted. And then kept trying to talk me into it, and told me that others he showed it to had liked it. Ugh. To the team redoing your website, you are the important audience. The project should feel like it completely meets your specs and communicates what you want it to.

2. Check their Twitter feeds and blogs

Find out: Do they communicate on a somewhat similar plane as you? Do they share as frequently as you want your posts Tweeted, Buffered and Pinned? Do they know the kind of tools and plug-ins that are on the cutting edge? Just because a designer or programmer is talented doesn’t mean he or she is going to really understand the way you’re going to use the site and need it to work. If your potential designer/programmer’s social presence clashes with yours, RUN. Tweets with expletives? A dead giveaway (and now I know.)

3. Study up so you know what you want

If I am going to have my house painted, I don’t need to know the best techniques. If I am going to get my taxes done, I am not going to brush up on the latest  regulations. But social is different. Week to week, things change. Tools come on the scene that make things better, easier, prettier. Trends shift in warp speed. This is not the area to outsource completely to a designer or programmer — even a good one. You’ve got to know the tools you want to be able to guide the process and site development so you end up with something close to what you envision. I’m not talking about being a dictator. But I am suggesting you have to a partner if you want to love the final product.

4. Know when to give up

I stayed with my first designer (who brought in a programmer I didn’t know — another big mistake) way too long. I knew he wasn’t getting what I wanted, or more precisely, wasn’t listening to what I wanted. I knew this wasn’t going to be the partnership I needed as tweaks to the site would crop up. I began dreading meetings and phone calls, which were not returned very promptly. I got to the point where I had paid for 3/4 of the job. And still hated it. Why didn’t I just leave earlier? That is my advice to you, if things are sliding steeply down hill… just start over. And get an escape clause in the contract that doesn’t leave you paying for work that didn’t meet your specs. I got out of the last payment, but not before it got ugly, which was unfortunate.

5. People skills matter as much as designing/programming skills

This is social media, for goodness sakes. The person or team you pick to redo your website needs to not just display professional social media skills. They have to display professional social skills, period. This project you are embarking upon is intensely personal, very important to your business, a reflection of you and responsible for driving customers and clients to act and buy. You need someone who totally gets that and can translate it into a site that works for you. And to get that, you need someone dedicated to working with you.

So, my website redesign odyssey is, finally, almost done.

I am thrilled with my new team, Yurich Creative. They did my new logo. They found fonts I love. They made awesome design suggestions. And they took my requests for plug-ins I wanted and the sharing capability I pictured. They didn’t know every tool, but were open to discovering and incorporating things into the design.

Their suggestions clearly showed that my descriptions of how I wanted the site to look and work resonated with them. It was wonderful! Ahhh.

I wish I could’ve made this progress without learning these 5 hard lessons. Some of them might look silly, in hindsight. But I learned. And I think that’s why this go-round went so much more smoothly.

And, hey, all of those hassles did provide a great idea for a blog post. Feel free to share it. I want others to learn from my mishaps, as well. And I would love to hear about your bloopers and triumphs with your own website redo. What lessons would you add to this list?

Fans of my blog know I love word clouds.

I use them in presentations, blog posts and even in reports. They show the proportional use of words, in a graphic form. And word clouds can give real power, visually, to analysis.

I decided to see what my Tweets looked like in a word cloud. Tagxedo has a great tool for this, which allows customization in many ways, including the word cloud’s layout, color, fonts and shape.

Using the tools on the site, I typed in my Twitter ID and downloaded information from my Tweets. I chose to remove (or to skip, as it’s called on the site) Twitter handles, so the words in the graphic included only those within my Tweets. Then, I played around with aesthetic aspects, picking fonts, colors and a shape I liked…

…a quote!   

With the specifications I chose, Tagxedo’s tool created a visual representation of my Twitter stream — what I Tweet, ReTweet, post and comment on in chunks of 140 characters or less! While simple and fun to do, this exercise actually serves a very useful purpose: it is, essentially, a visual representation of my brand on Twitter.

What about yours? Does it look like and say what you want it to?

Social media gives us access to many more people than we’d meet otherwise. It lets us be touched in more ways. It lets us be influenced by more people — as well as influence more people, ourselves.

Data matter. ROI matters. And analytics matter. Yes, all of that is true.

But this wonderful post by Jure Klepic shows why that’s just part of the story. “As marketers, we need to start focusing on measuring intent instead of just measuring online influence,” he says.

Kait Brand’s intense message of love and courage, which unfolds in this video, reached me through Jure’s blog. I don’t know either Kait or Jure personally, yet both have profoundly influenced me through social media. The more complicated technology gets, the clearer it is that community and simple, emotional connections matter more than ever.

How are you incorporating this reality into your social media outreach?

We all want customers or clients who are so thrilled with us (and our work, service or results) that they voluntarily and enthusiastically spread the word among their contacts and networks. But how does this work if you’re not a superstar brand with a ton of money to spend?

You need to do four things:

  1. Know your customers and what they want
  2. Give them something they perceive to have real value
  3. Don’t attach any strings or hide any gotchas
  4. Make it really fun

Here’s a quick case study based on an experience I had today that shows all four elements at work, really effectively.

We have an annual pass to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. When it opened about two months ago, the aquarium seemed like it would be a super cool place to visit, especially during the months in Cleveland when it’s important to have    indoor options to keep kids busy and entertained. (We have two boys, ages 3 and 7.)  My husband went once with our 7-year old son. At the time, we decided to get an annual pass.

Here’s why: if our family of four went to the aquarium together, and bought tickets for just that day, it would cost us $75.80. (Tickets for adults are $21.95 and for the kids [aged 2-12] are $15.95. The annual pass is $130 for a family. So, if we go even two times a year, together, the pass becomes the better deal. I had planned to take the kids, too, but hadn’t fit it in, yet.

Last week, an email arrived announcing a special Toddler Time party for annual pass holders with children aged two to four. It would give the 40 or so respondents who RSVP’d access to the entire facility from 8 am to 10 am, before it opened to the public. But the little ones wouldn’t just get to roam, unfettered, around “40 tanks of all sizes, which are home to thousands of living creatures. From the Ohio-native brook trout, to the ferocious piranhas, as well as the sand tiger sharks that reach more than seven feet long,” as the aquarium’s website touts.

As well, the inaugural Toddler Time party featured music, dancing, touch exhibits staffed with plenty of friendly aquarists, snacks, juice, storytelling, Captain Neil (with a booming brogue) and friendly, furry costumed sea creatures to cuddle and wave at. Oh, and the lovely folks at the aquarium set out hot coffee for the parents, too.

We were truly treated to a special, private and fun time. It cost an additional $7. But I would’ve paid five times that and still felt like it was a deal. My three-year old, Max, had fun, too. (And he ate three packages of Teddy Grahams!)

The experience converted me into a brand ambassador, for sure. Here’s how the aquarium delivered on the four elements:

1.  Know your customers and what they want

The set up is exactly what works with this age group: space, movement, food, things to touch, music, animals and water. And, it was what the parents wanted, too. About a 1/3 or so of the caregivers at the Toddler Time party were guys/dads — a much bigger chunk than I expected. The morning timing and location (the aquarium is downtown) made it a great way to fit in some fun time and wrap it, smoothly, into the rest of the day. I did the same thing.

2.  Give them something they perceive to have real value

It wasn’t just the thoughtful additions of snacks, drinks and coffee or music, dancing, stories and characters that made this so great. The private access made us feel like we were truly special guests. The staff welcomed us warmly and showed us around with pride. It wasn’t at all crowded. We got to feel like we were being honored as annual pass holders. Smart! I’m not going to be the only one who talks this up, and that’s bound to entice more folks to become annual pass holders.

3.  Don’t attach any strings or hide any gotchas

No one made me sign anything or promise to send anything in. I wasn’t hounded to buy one thing. In fact, the gift shop was closed — which was a sigh of relief to this mom, who dreads the parade past the goodies in the grocery checkout line because of the pestering. The experience was all treat and no tricks, just the way it should be when a business is trying to show customers extra value. Problem is, it doesn’t always happen like this. Customers notice.

4.  Make it really fun

This is almost the easy part, if you nail the other three elements. The aquarium took care of everything, including making it fun for the grownups. I had such a good time that when I dropped off my son at day care, afterwards, still chatting about it, our caregiver said she’d look into joining so she could take the kids. (She looks after five toddlers and takes them to the zoo and concerts and plays for children, so this facility would be right in line with those fun excursions.) And I am blogging about it. And I’m posting pics on Facebook. And I’ll Tweet. How much in advertising would that publicity cost?

The upshot is this: if you want to turn customers into brand ambassadors, it takes forethought and planning. But it doesn’t take a ton of money or a huge marketing staff. The effort is mainly in giving your customers what they want as well as value and fun, like this Toddler Time party. I want to share about it through social media because I now consider myself an ambassador of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and its brand.

When advising clients or others about seizing opportunities on social media or through other marketing channels, keep in mind the experiences you have when you are the customer. That’s a great way to test out the ideas to see if they are authentic and would work. This experience with the aquarium is just one example of how to do that.

The company Visual.ly has come up with many incredible tools. But its latest development (I have no stake — monetarily or otherwise) fascinates me as someone who devours all forms of media and data to stay on top of trends and advise clients who want to do the same.

Using the option to create infographics, anyone can see how a topic spread across Twitter in the past 30 days, as indicated by a #hashtag. This feature also shows the most influential Twitter accounts that used and spread the topic’s hashtag.

The implications for research into cultural and media trends are profound. We can see — admittedly though just one imperfect vehicle: a Twitter #hashtag — how information about a specific topic or news item ripples through a social media site with more than 300 million accounts and that handles 1.6 billion search queries each day.

I decided to look at the spread of news about Trayvon Martin by analyzing the use the hashtag #Trayvon. As media reports indicate, Trayvon, a 17-year old African-American teenager from Miami Gardens, Fla., was unarmed when fatally shot last month. George Zimmerman, the man who says he fired in self-defense, has not been arrested as of today. He has been described in different news reports as White and as Hispanic. And the case has sparked widespread outrage and protest. Trayvon’s school has been criticized for not announcing his death to the students until almost a month had passed. The police and prosecutor connected to the case have also been criticized their conduct. And the police chief has temporarily stepped down.

In this case, I input the hashtag #Trayvon in the Visual.ly tool and created an infographic. What appeared surprised me. I expected to see use of the hashtag swell after the shooting of Trayvon. Instead, there was just one reference. That appeared on Feb. 26 — the day of the shooting. And then, weeks went by before the hashtag #Trayvon was used again on Twitter. After that, it rose dramatically.

Many observers of this tragic death charge that the mainstream press delayed and downplayed coverage because of race. This infographic shows that a weeks-long lag in spreading awareness of Trayvon’s death is apparent also through a common social media marker: the Twitter hashtag. By examining this and blogging about it, I hope to illustrate a new way that those of us who care deeply about issues in society and the media can add dimension as we explore and analyze important current events that affect our communities and our relationships with each other. I also wish peace for the young man’s family, friends and community — and for calm as justice unfolds.

#Trayvon Twitter hashtag absent for weeks after his death Feb. 26

If you want to increase the influence you have through social media and attract more followers on Twitter, the best way is to be human: approachable, humble, informative, engaging and a little funny. In other words, don’t try to get more Twitter followers. Instead, try to find people whose work interests you, whose posts inform you and whose viewpoints make you reflect.

Through conversation, connections and the social sharing that happens in creating and posting solid content, ReTweeting and giving credit to others, followers will come.

My experience proves this. I signed up for an account on Twitter three years ago — almost to the day. But until about three months ago, I didn’t update very regularly. I didn’t hang out and learn or actively follow people who posted interesting things.

I really didn’t understand the community that Twitter involves.

I made a concerted effort to jump in and learn more near the end of last year. And I started blogging more regularly. I became more engaged through Twitter and other social media sites. I wanted to be able to apply the knowledge to better help my clients and increase the profile and credibility of my business.

But in the process, I also found empathetic guides who shared selflessly and helped me make other connections. They led me to other social media tools, sites and data. And they still help me. Through them, I have found bloggers I love, as well great Twitter chats, resources, books and other mentors.

The social media community is very welcoming — as long as you’re not a spammer, a plagiarizer, buying followers or ceaselessly selling your wares. It turns out that, by engaging, I also found followers. In three months, my followers grew from 200 to more than 800. For proof, have a look at this chart.

The yellow bars show my Tweets. The red line reflects my followers.

If you’re famous, you’ll get followers anyway. But, if you’re not, and you do want more followers, here’s some things I’ve learned. It’s best to:

  • create and share relevant, fresh content
  • say thanks and give credit
  • follow back most of the time (though I always check out a new follower’s Tweets first, and I never automatically follow because of the ‘bots)
  • be present and be yourself
  • know you’ll make some mistakes and feel like a newbie as you go
  • have fun

Others might have another route, but for me, this is the path I found to be the most productive.

So, that’s the secret: you get Twitter followers by jumping into social media with both feet and an open mind. And it turns out the people already doing this knew it all along.

If you liked this post, feel free to follow me. Chances are good that I’ll follow back and share interesting posts and content from some other great folks I’ve met through Twitter.

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See my entire social presence here: http://XeeMe.com/beckygaylord

I do much of my grocery shopping at Giant Eagle. In the warmer months, we get a weekly goody bag of fruit and veggies from a local farmer as part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) But most of the year, we’re lured to Giant Eagle because of the discounts it offers regular shoppers and the wide selection of gluten-free and organic food.

I have a rewards-related credit card associated with the company, which bestows discounts at all branded stores. When consumers with reward cards patronize the company’s gas stations with car washes, and grocery and convenience stores — taking advantage of many of the weekly specials — it really adds up. Our family has saved almost $2,000 in the past year. My local Giant Eagle grocery store has a Starbucks inside, too, so I sip coffee as I shop. (And all spending, even on my beloved java, is counted toward a discount on gas when I fill up.) Lovely.

But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about targeted marketing and customized perks based on buying habits. Of course Giant Eagle is tracking everything I buy. Otherwise, it couldn’t offer me every fifth cup of coffee free (which is tracked electronically on my rewards card). And it also wouldn’t know to give me $2.21 off the last tank of gas I filled up with, based on the amount I had spent — and saved on — in-store grocery specials. Nor, would the company be able to tell me that I’d saved $1,996.75 through the various perks and savings and other tied-discounts it offers customers who take the time to look for those deals.

Of course, the company is keeping very close dibs on me, mainly, to serve itself. And I feel more than a little conflicted about this.

In an era filled with consumer scoring, from Klout to frequent flyer perks to special grocery store offers, it makes me a wee wistful for the days when we were all more anonymous. I love the treats that come from being a “regular.” There’s nothing new in that. It’s a concept even older than tabs the barkeep ran for local cowboys whetting their whistles in the saloons. Their chums knew them. The bar keep knew them. But no one else did (except the Sheriff, who likely also knew the shady ones…)

Nowadays, though, we need to realize that to snag perks that come from being “score-able” we trade-off the ability to be unknown. The benefits that come with being a good customer in this era means we have given up enough privacy that our service providers are able to know, accurately, what kind of customers we are. They know when we shop. What we buy. And where we live, among other things. That brings me to the hummus and the organic apples.

Today in the mail (snail mail, interestingly), Giant Eagle sent me coupons truly customized for me. They fit my buying habits. And they give $1 or more on things I already buy frequently, such as “loose organic apples” and “Market District hummus” and other specific items I buy. (They know this, of course, because it’s monitored, recorded and parsed.)

I was pleased and a little freaked out all at the same time. I didn’t ask for these or even know they were coming.

There’s no going back to a time when this kind of thing won’t happen. Now, no matter what the venue, customers who are deemed more valuable, loyal or otherwise influential are wooed. They have more Klout. And technology makes this possible to track and act upon.

Still, it makes me aware that with great advances technology brings, we need to be careful how the data are collected, used and analyzed. It’s innocent enough to give me $5 off my apples and hummus and other items. It’s more complicated and perhaps more concerning, though, as the special deals offered to consumers become increasingly targeted and connected to their behavior and choices — and to their personal information and social scores, online or offline. I wonder if related technology will make more polarized and striated our society, which, to my mind, is already experiencing a too-wide gulf in income and with access to medical care and quality, public education and job prospects.

I just finished Mark W. Schaefer’s excellent book on influence and social scoring called Return on Influence. Undoubtedly, this is why the issue was top of mind. So many aspects of this trend are wonderful and open up opportunities for sellers that make their jobs more efficient and cost-effective and for buyers that make their experiences more fun and rewarding. (Could this technology give rise to marketing that’s so targeted it ends junk mail someday? Well, we can hope!)

Technology and social media enable amazing access and reach. And social media is a great equalizer in many respects — you don’t need an Ivy League degree or the “right” pedigree to influence on social media. You do need to reach and interact with an influential audience that finds you and your content that way, too, and that shares your content and comments on your blog posts. This is among the points that Return on Influence makes so well.

Yet even though the power hierarchy of decades past doesn’t apply in the same way today, segregation between the haves and have-nots or between the influencers and those without influence continues. It just looks different.

I am going to go buy my apples, hummus and other items and happily claim my discount at Giant Eagle. (I’m seeing if I can get my 12 month savings to $2,500. And I’m thinking of approaching the company to tell them about my quest, blog about it and see what else that yields…) But I remain mindful of the power that modern-day consumers can amass as influencers. It’s great for marketers. And great for some consumers. But maybe not so much for others.

As this power gets shaped and grows I believe we should be aware of, if not concerned about, the gulf. I love the concept of using social media for social good, where access increases so the benefits from technological innovations spread. Anyway, that’s part of my goal in working with and through social media.

The question is: Can this be done? And, if so, how?

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You can see my full social presence at http://XeeMe.com/beckygaylord

My office is about 30 miles from Chardon, Ohio, the close-knit town of about 5,000, where three teenagers died after a young gunman opened fire in a school cafeteria not long after sunrise yesterday and shot five students, spreading permanent, piercing darkness

The murders are tragic, senseless and horrifying. Profound loss and pain have sliced through the hearts of parents, teachers, friends, families — and an entire community. Grieving washes outward and affects us all, portraying our worst fears that something so evil could happen at a place where young people deserve to feel so safe.

Amidst the mourning, healing begins. Community bonds firm. Neighbors reconnect and reassure. Love deepens.

Much of that has happened virtually, through social media. Right from the start, children near the carnage were quicker than the official news with texts to their loved ones. And ever since the first shots sprayed in that school building, social media has continued to enable and ease the spreading of condolences, heartfelt wishes of sympathy and sorrow for the families, survivors, victims and their community…on Twitter, Face Book and other sites.

That social media has anchored this outpouring reminds us, in this high-tech age, we humans still need — indeed, thrive among — community. We crave community because it soothes, connects and offers us a foundation for functioning amidst the mourning.

The physical community around Chardon is joined and supported by other communities, nearby and far-away, all connected through social media. The friends and relationships we make and sustain through social media can be every much as comforting and connecting for us as our neighbors. Even more so, in some cases.

A tragedy that snuffs out the lives of bright, young people, reminds us of what’s most important in our lives: the love and communities that surround us. It’s also a reminder that the communities fostered through social media are real and growing deeper and broader. This most modern of technology complements a human need as old as history — to share, connect  and comfort. Social media helps spread the support, love and healing that so desperately needed to flow right now, reminding us of the power the technology presents.

Below is a Storify chronology of the Tweets associated with this horrible event. It has been edited and curated by Michael Scott, a seasoned reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. While filled with emotion and difficult to read, in places, it shows the outpouring of compassion  and concern that took root through Twitter in the aftermath of this tragedy.

My wish is for peace for Chardon’s residents, for you and for all of us — now and tomorrow.

[View the story "Day after Chardon school shootings: Mourning in virtual and personal space" on Storify]

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