“What’s Your Theme? Everybody’s Gotta Have a Theme!”

In order to build a following on social media, people need to get a feel for who you are. We all grow more comfortable and tend to engage more when we know what to expect, and this is where social media themes play a role.

Themes are used to curate content regarding specific topics to share via social media. Themes are especially useful for Twitter, and if you are using social media for business as well as pleasure. Social Media Themes are the 5th step in the VSCATE™ model of communications (T is for Themes) and are more powerful if you have gone through the previous four steps prior to determining them.

Just as your Twitter bio should be a mix of business and personal information, so too should your social media themes. Create 3 – 5 themes including at least one that is personal. Whether you are curating for yourself or for someone else, here is a guide to creating a great mix of content that will help you build a following.


1. Support the business strategy

At least one theme should be based on a technology or strategic product group for your company. For the CIO client mentioned in Why Executives Should Make Social Media the Last Thing on Their List, we curate content on the themes of Unified Communications and Wearable Tech to support the technology space that is relevant to their business as well as the type of products that the company sells.


2. Be specific for the role

Create a theme around a trend that is relevant to the executive’s role. For example, one of our clients is a Customer Care exec and has the following for one of his themes: “Customer Care in the 21st century means providing access to support when, where and how your customers want it.” Specifically, companies must have web, social, phone, email, text and chat support options for their customers if they truly want to provide a best-in-class customer experience. We find articles for him to share on social media that support this view, helping to establish him as a thought leader in this space.


3. Be broad in universal topics

One Sales VP had “leadership and sales excellence” as a theme. These are broad topics and so provide plenty of opportunity to find good content. He wanted to get even more specific though, so we combined “leadership and sales excellence” with the space his company plays in, which is SaaS, and sought to answer the question “How do you build a best in class sales organization in the age of Software as a Service?” This is broad as it covers leadership, sales excellence and leading through change, and relevant as it encompasses a challenge many companies are facing as they transition from selling boxes to selling SaaS.


4. Don’t be afraid to get Personal

Some execs like to “separate church and state” and keep their Tweets and Posts exclusively business related. But check out some of the best loved, most respected business thought leaders on Twitter and see what they are tweeting. Guy Kawasaki, Richard Branson and Mark Cuban all have 1M+ followers, and all tweet about personal as well as business topics. Add some personal tweets and comments to avoid sounding like a content bot. One SVP client loved content that blended her work interests of wearable technology and one of her personal interests – her kids. We curated an article for her about a wearable fitness device for kids that both tracked and encouraged activity. She referred to it as “rockstar” content because it married a business and personal topic for her.


5. Sports

There isn’t a social media theme I like better than sports. Why? Because people are passionate about their favorite teams and there is always fresh content. In his article “How Pro Sports Teams Are Taking The Customer Experience To The Next Level”, Steve Olenski states that 83% of sports fans check #socialmedia while watching a live game. It is so much fun to share the moment of a great home run or heinous foul with other rabid fans. This is why I encouraged people to use sports as their jumping in point in the blog “The Easiest Way to Get Started with Social Media”

By creating themes for the topics you share on social media, you are supporting an overall narrative about who you are, what you do and your areas of expertise. You tell your story through the content that you share, so make sure what you post reflects the story you want to tell.


Is a 20-something managing your social media?  Hand them this cheat sheet

Recently the Marketing VP of a global networking company shared a story with me about the contractor she had helping her with her Twitter account.  The contractor drafted a tweet that began “I’m excited to speak at the ABC event next week”.  At her age, the VP explained, she isn’t “excited” about much, let alone speaking at an event.  They had to come up with a more appropriate, toned-down version of the Tweet.  And therein lies the challenge.

Everyone knows that social media is complicated and time consuming.  Wanting to participate, but lacking the time to do so effectively, many executives have hired 20-somethings to manage their social media feeds.  But getting to know the right “voice”, perspective and areas of expertise, let alone the corporate business strategy, takes time, training and experience.  Typically it’s the executive, short on time to begin with, who has to provide that guidance.  So how do you ensure that the content curated on your behalf reflects well on both your personal and corporate brands?  Here are some quick tips you can share with your social media manager to ensure both you and your company are being positioned correctly:

1.    Is the publisher and/or author equal to the caliber of the executive endorsing the article? 

Ensure the author and/or publication is of commensurate level with the executive.  Does the website look like a pay-to-play deal?  Could anyone pay to post an article?  If yes, then skip it.  At a minimum, either the author or the publication must have reasonable credibility.

2.    Did you learn something new?

There is so much content being re-purposed out there that you will quickly get a feel for a concept that is being rehashed vs. a new take on something.  Look for articles and posts that teach something new or provide a unique perspective.

3.    Choose a post architecture

There are many “best practices” on how to craft a tweet.  Twitter has a very entertaining guide on “how to make 140 characters sing.” Choose one, try it out, see what works and go from there.

4.    Never, ever simply repost the title of the article 

Always craft an original tweet, add an interesting comment, and post in your client’s voice.

5.    No advertorials or press releases

You can see these coming a mile away.  There is no value for an executive in tweeting about an article that is essentially a 3rd party advertorial.

6.    Don’t endorse an article unless you really mean it

Tweets and posts that contain comments such as “Great tips” or “Good perspective” coming from a senior executive are an endorsement of the content and the ideas it contains.  Don’t tacitly endorse an article by using a generic comment as an intro to a tweet or post.

It’s important that senior executives participate in the conversation on social media.  Beginning with these tactical tips will help create a more polished social brand for the executive and the corporation he or she represents.


The Easiest Way to Get Started w Social Media

You want to be using social media, but you just can’t seem to get going with it. How to get  started?  Here is the world’s easiest way to get in the game. Begin by “2 screening” (watching TV while using a tablet or mobile phone at the same time) the next time you watch your favorite sports team play.  Go to Twitter on your mobile device and set up an account if you don’t have one already (join Twitter here).  Follow your favorite sports team(s) by doing a search on their name.  Look for the Twitter Verified Account check mark twitter_verified_account to make sure you’re following the team’s official Twitter feed.  Then join the conversation during the next Warriors/Giants/Oakland A’s game by doing a search on hashtag (#) associated with your team.  By adding a hashtag, you are adding a tag to your Tweet that puts you in the conversation stream with all the other fans who are talking about your team.  How do you find the right hashtag?  Hashtags will be in the Tweets that your team is sending out (you’ll see them in the Tweets once you follow your team), or sometimes in the bio portion of the account (smart move Warriors!).

Here’s a list of Twitter handles and their relevant hashtags for some SF Bay Area favorite teams:

It is so much fun you’ll be hooked from the first time you do it!


If it’s fun, they will come

Want to get more employees using your newly launched social business platform like Jive or Chatter?  Make it fun.  An informal survey I conducted found that people tend to go to the fun and informal groups first and then engage with the business groups from there.  The “stupid pet tricks” group is what gets them to use the tool, collaborating for business is why they stay.  With social business platforms you are asking employees to change how they interact with colleagues.  In the beginning, it’s a bit awkward as people don’t know what is acceptable vs unacceptable behavior.  Knowing that the execs are watching, employees are reluctant to dive in.  The Sales VP of a client recently said he wanted to “lock down” the types of things that employees could post on Chatter.  It’s this attitude that strikes fear into the hearts of employees.  Try launching or adding something fun.  A pet group or community.  Mistakes will be made at first, but everyone will hit their stride.  The key in the beginning is giving people a safe way to engage.  I was talking with the VP of a successful talent firm that just launched Chatter and she said the first place she goes each morning is to check out the pet group.  Who has posted new pictures or videos of stupid pet tricks?  It’s fun, it’s non-threatening and it pulls people in.  So try giving employees a fun reason to use the social business software, not just a business one, and see how your usage rates improve..

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