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Google+ Is Here, But Keep it All in Perspective

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Chris S. Cornell
Chris S. Cornell

So Google+ is on the way. Another new platform saying it will bring its users to social media paradise.

Will Google+ be the answer we’ve all been waiting for? Truthfully, I don’t know. It appears that Google+ will offer some pretty cool things — including Hangouts, Huddle, Sparx and Circles — but I suspect those who will make the most of these new features are the same ones who’ve been kicking butt with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare over the past couple of years. And those who have been complaining that social media produces no results will have the same complaint with Google+.

What we’re lacking in social media more than anything else is the effort its users are willing to put into it. Social media is about building networks by providing value to others. It’s about building equity by building quality relationships. Hey, wait one second! How is that any different from the traditional ways businesses and individuals built relationships and networks?

With all that said, I am actually very interested to see how Google+ is received. If you are one of the early users, you can share your thoughts on the Westchester Social Media Facebook page for the benefit of others who may be interested in learning more. You can also use the comments section of this blog.

Perspective — This could be the subject of an entire column, and likely will be in the near future. If social media has taught me anything, it’s the importance of perspective. I often hear people dismiss the value of a social media tool — only to find out later that they haven’t actually used the very tool in question.

It’s easy to imagine how something works — but it’s amazing how far off base our preconceptions can be. I’ve been a very heavy Twitter and Facebook user over the past two years — and currently manage many accounts for businesses and orgainzations — but I never paid proper attention to the value of geo-based services like FourSquare and Facebook Places.  Thinking from the perspective of a business owner, I couldn’t quite picture how FourSquare could drive customers to businesses.

That changed during a meeting I had with Westchester’s Gerald Stern, founder and principal at WOW! Productions, LLC. Stern shared his views about FourSquare and showed me how to look at the service from a different perspective — through the eyes of a customer. Simple, but brilliant.

Despite my doubts, I started using FourSquare as a consumer — instead of from the perspective of the business owner. When I went to one of my son’s travel league baseball games in a county I’d never been to before — I used FourSquare to find a coffee shop in a matter of minutes.  The shop owner never would have known how I found his business if I had not told him.

I started noticing that many local businesses offer incentives for their customers to check-in on FourSquare or Facebook Places. The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, for example, rewards customers who check-in with a free small popcorn, and the results have been favorable, for both customers and the film center.

Why wouldn’t a business at least consider how a service like this could be leveraged to build customer loyalty (rewarding repeat customers) and reach out to draw in new customers? Too many businesses are locked into doing things the way they’ve always done them. If your customers are doing things differently, however, you’d better understand where they are coming from. You’d better look at things from their perspective.

Making Friends — I recently became acquainted with an organization called Friends of Westchester County Parks (FWCP), through my work at Thompson & Bender. FWCP, a client of T&B, is making a commitment to increasing its visibility through a variety of channels. FWCP is stepping up its use of new media like Facebook and Twitter and a blog, while fully utilizing  traditional media, including newspapers, radio, and magazines.

FWCP is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is securing and administering private funds that support the mission of the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. The organization helps fund a lengthy list of events and programs that benefit people throughout the county. These include the annual Music Fest and Fireworks at the Kensico Dam Plaza; Screening Under the Stars; Camp Morty, a camp for underpriviliged Westchester children; gardening workshops; children’s summer ecology programs; Eagle Watches and much more.

As FWCP began assessing its opportunities to engage with its target audiences, it was clear that the organization has no shortage of the most prized commodity when it comes to building community: quality content. FWCP is now on its way to getting that content out to its fans — in the form of articles, columns, photos and videos. And its fan base is growing as a result.

As you produce content for your business’s target audience, be sure to look at things from the perspective of your customer. Also remember that content can and should be repurposed for each of the different channels you use to reach those customers. Articles can be cut and shaped to make short posts on Facebook and shorter ones for Twitter. Opinions can be added and you have a column or blog post. Full-length videos can be turned into a series of short (but appealing) clips on a specific topic of interest. Photo albums can be grouped to appeal to different segments of your audience.

Never stop thinking about what it’s going to look like to your audience, and your audience will continue to engage and grow.

Chris S. Cornell is the Director of Social Media at Thompson & Bender — a Westchester-based PR, advertising and marketing firm. He manages several online communities, and consults, speaks and writes about social media. You can follow Chris on Twitter, or join the community he manages on theWestchester Social Media Facebook page.

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