Posts Tagged ‘Social network’

Ever since my brother Fernando Varela released his DARE TO LIVE album in 2008, people all over our social networks have been asking, “When will Fernando produce a new album?”

We are happy to announce that Fernando and his team have just finished mastering PRELUDE, his new album. Here is what Fernando had to say:

The link to the track is at the end of this post. Once the album is up on iTunes, we will let you all know!

Alla Luce del Sole – FINAL – Prelude CD Track #1 by fvarela


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The social media obsession with large numbers of followers and fans is so 2010. It is clear more than even that as people, groups, companies, and brands all jump into the social media space, the issue of quality over quantity is more important that anything else. We had said this a while back in 2009, when Twitter was more fun and Facebook less brand-like.

Now that these two social media icons as well as a small number of other networks have grown in mainstream acceptance, just like a frothy latte, the time for the cream to rise to the top is critical. (Pardon the bad metaphor, it’s Saturday morning!).

So, the whole issue of engagement and enduring relationships is the goal EVERY social media profile should achieve. This maxim would also apply to brands more than ever. Social media is not, and never will be, a quick shot of whiskey at the bar, it is a long enjoyable meal, with several rounds of drinks at the beginning, a few appetizers, some killer first courses, don’t forget the dessert, and the mandatory after party!

The point is this: for any brand (or individual) to stand out in a growing and very crowded universe, you MUST take the extra few steps to establish a real and authentic presence online. This includes (wait for it): spending real time to WORK your profiles, meet real profiles, chat, be respectful, get to know your followers, and as my man Ted Rubin has been saying: FOSTER REAL RELATIONSHIPS ALWAYS. Sustain them. Nurture them. And guess what, everyone? That takes hard work.

Luckily for everyone, the social media giants are giving us free tools to achieve this. Don’t get us wrong: we know Facebook is king, and it looks like it will still be king for a while, but one of the biggest problems with it right now is that EVERYONE IS ON IT. When a local deli is on Facebook and the deli puts its Facebook page on its menu, you know that Facebook is a part of life. So now, users on Facebook  are inundated with Facebook Fan Pages. It has become a silly quest for numbers when it fact the ONLY STAT THAT MATTERS IS THIS ONE:

How many people are talking about you right now on Facebook?

That one little Facebook stat in a Facebook Fan Page is all that matters. If people aren’t talking about you, then you are just wasting your time. If at any moment of the day, you don’t have at least 5% talking about you organically, it is time to change your strategy.

Sure, even if you are a large Facebook Fan Page with large numbers, you can offset such a low engagement percentage, but wouldn’t anyone want to increase that percentage? Don’t you want to go from say 2.5% percent (which is a really low number in the grand scheme of things) to say, 5%? And wouldn’t you want to do it organically (not through PAID links and clicks and advertising)? That would be an 100% increase in your engagement.

We will take 20% engagement on a daily basis any time

When I formed Latino Rebels early last year with about 20 other social media influentials who understand what best practices are, we really worked hard to build relationships with our fans. Our Facebook presence was key to our company strategy.

We are happy to say that by BEING THE CONNECTOR and BUILDING SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS, our current Facebook engagement rate has ranged from 20% to 25% in the last four months. As we grow our Facebook presence, we build it slowly and organically, and it is actually incredibly fun to see how many of our Facebook fans now comment and more importantly, post on our Wall to share content that we eventually might cover for our main website.

UPDATE, January 18, 2011: And once in a while, we hit a blackjack. Latest stats from LR on FB:

That level of engagement takes hard work, it takes time, and most importantly, you cannot be lazy about it. Whenever someone comments on our Facebook posts, the Latino Rebels respond to those people. If there are long threads, we are part of that thread, encouraging people to comment, asking them questions and connecting in a truly authentic.

Because of this, LatinoRebels.com and the entire Latino Rebels social network have quickly become a destination point for a very desirable demographic. Our numbers are not only growing, but our fans are also engaging and opinionated! That is what community is all about. That is why we love social media, and if  brands don’t wake up and understand this, eventually people will tune out and just see their fake Facebook pages are forced, opportunistic, and not authentic at all.

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So last week, Sports Illustrated opened up its cover selection process to social media, letting anyone in the world vote for the best picture of 2011. In the end, the fans chose Rutgers’ Eric LaGrand and his inspirational story. Granted, it was a good choice, but the explanation by SI’s Terry McDonell reveals that in the end, big brands don’t get social media, and you are left to wonder if they ever will.

This is what McDonell wrote in last week’s issue:

The idea that the editor should relinquish that call this week and ask fans to choose the cover came from Scott Novak, SI’s vice president of communications. Novak is editorial minded and brilliant at driving connections with readers through social-media platforms such as the SI Facebook page, where he proposed to invite visitors to vote for the best sports moment of the year, with the winner featured on the year-end cover. The argument against him was simple: As much as readers may second-guess the magazine’s cover choices, that’s where they want SI’s credibility and authority to start. And who said the voters would be readers in the first place? But the argument Novak, his team and a growing number of staffers made was that letting the public in on the selection process would strengthen the bond between the magazine and its readers and, further, allow SI to plug into a new two-way relationship with a wider landscape of sports fans.

Again, it was a noble effort, but McDonell’s words reveal a few misconceptions that brands still blindly follow when it comes to social media. This is why in the end SI missed the mark:
  • It’s all about control. There is still this assumption by media outlets that in order to succeed in the digital space, they must still control the message. And that is where the problem lies. Once you commit to social media, everyone becomes an equal, from the magazine to the readers to the people who tweet about the brand.
  • Social media credibility comes from actual engagement. It is just hard to believe that SI truly “gets it” now. The SI example, as much as its editors think it is “two-way conversation,” it is still SOCIAL MEDIA LITE. SI missed the opportunity to take their cover selection process and really make it 100% engaging. Sure, people voted and chose the cover, but SI’s team failed to make something out of it. They should have spent more time shouting out the people who voted, mention them, thank them for the votes on Twitter. THAT would have strengthened the relationship SI sought. Instead, SI was still the story, and not the voters. People will quickly see through that.
  • Where is the real engagement? True engagement is when both sides of the channel are highlighted. SI still thinks that it is better than the people who follow its accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe if SI lightens up a bit and not feel so concerned about losing control, people would become even more loyal.

It is encouraging to see that McDonell has a Twitter account. But his profile on Twitter just has four tweets (although kudos for using an @ reply for one of those tweets, maybe there is hope?). And McDonell has only tweeted once this December, the month when he should have done more to prove that SI is becoming more social media savvy and friendlier. And before that, he tweeted once in October 2011, once in December 2010 and his first tweet was in October 2009. Knowing how smart the guys at SI are, I do believe they will understand that they must practice what they preach. I am rooting for you, Terry. Come dive into Twitter and enjoy it.

Trust me, I love SI. I think it is the best weekly magazine in the world. The writing is vastly superior and the photos are top-notch. However, if SI REALLY wants to dive deeply in the social media sphere, it should, for example, take the time to simply reply to people, their readers, the ones who buy their magazine every week (their current Twitter presence is the perfect example of how NOT to do it).

So maybe, if their editors are open to it, they should publish a Social Media edition of their magazine, where individuals who follow the brand choose and develop the brand for one week. Publish the tweets, shout out the opinions, and maybe even have some content creators publish some of their pieces. Now THAT would be cool. Let’s hope SI stops hiding behind the image of the BIG BRAND that thinks it is doing social media. It would actually be more fun for them and it would change the needle for them, especially in this age, where ANYONE can be a publisher now.

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God bless @mskittyalvarez. Not only is she an amazing Twitter and Facebook friend (even though she went to Penn), she is one of the most positive angels who has entered my life.

Kitty is the real deal and she is one of the most smart and engaging online peeps in our universe. Today, Kitty came up with an AMAZING IDEA that will make the #LatinoLit community even better. This is what she tweeted out:

So, Kitty, we are SO IN! What book should be read first?

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Brands are everywhere on Twitter.

Still the Social Media Gold Standard

A few brands are really really really really good (see @JetBlue) in terms of creating the right level of engagement and community building. But for most brands, they will never achieve Jet Blue status for this very simple reason:


Case in point: @SearsLatino, the Twitter account of Sears’ efforts to capitalize on the growing Latino demographic in the United States.

As with any new Twitter account, @SearsLatino seemed to be doing Twitter somewhat right. They had some of the basics down. They shouted out other Twitter profiles. They thanked people for following them.

But when it came to true engagement, @SearsLatino missed the mark and for the we give them a Social Media F for their Twitter Strategy.

This assessment was confirmed after we read a blog post by Latino blogger Raúl Colón, who decided to call out @SearsLatino on its bluff. The blog post, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here, basically summarizes some very key points as to why the @SearsLatino Twitter strategy needs major improvement. Raúl does an excellent job on his blog post describing what @SearsLatino did, but we will share his summary here:

They started following random people. They are trying to harvest followers so they can look good on the number of followers side.

They followed me showing interest, offered to answer my questions and later retracted when they saw it was going to cause them work.

They sent mix messages and contradicted themselves on some tweets. You either want to engage with people or you just want people to follow you so you can push your products.

Overall I really think @SearsLatino needs to get on track. If they had a goal of reaching so many followers they should really consider engaging with the ones that are interested or have a low follower count like me.

I know of a few other individuals who reached out to them and since there follower count was high I guess they where more than willing to take their request.

I think I know what metrics they are using to measure influence!

This story could have just ended, but here is where it gets weird.

Comments on Raul’s blog that immediately criticized him came from URLS where Sears HQ is located.

Well, we asked @SearsLatino if indeed people associated with Sears or work for Sears were leaving extremely negative comments questioning Raul’s intentions. We got a simple DM back saying the following: “That is not accurate. We have nothing more to say.”

So instead of just facing the issue head on, @SearsLatino makes a few mistakes here:

  1. The easiest thing was to just give Raul a statement via email when he asked for it.
  2. The doubt that people associated with Sears were posting very negative and personal attacks on Raúl still lingers.
  3. Stop overthinking Twitter. Just be. That is the beauty of Twitter. It is organic, it is fluid and it cannot be approached as if it were traditional PR.
  4. All of us are now PUBLISHERS. By ignoring Raúl, @SearsLatino basically said that this prolific blogger from Puerto Rico doesn’t matter to them. There is the BIG MISTAKE. Instead of getting a nice little blog post about what @SearsLatino is doing on Twitter, Sears instead gets a critical blog that contains nasty comments that quite possibly come from people associated with the Sears brand.
  5. Stop tweeting about YOU. Really, no one cares about your products. Start engaging and be authentic. Don’t sell us. Connect with us.
So we asked @SearsLatino for a statement and we got nothing. Bad move. What are you so afraid of?
We did get a statement from Raúl:

The main reason I reached out to Sears Latino was to help them with their effort. I found it very disappointing that although I was willing to find more about them the did not have the time to answer my questions even when they started following me.

Here’s hoping that @SearsLatino gets it. But apparently they don’t.
How do we know?
Well, ever since we asked @SearsLatino to give us a statement about all this, they have stopped reaching out to us on Twitter, when previously they would do it about 2-3 times a day.
That’s ok with us. We are huge Target fans.


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They had me at the circles.

Thanks to the great RizzoTees, I got an invite to Google+, the Internet giant’s third attempt at a social media site. After all the failure of Google Wave and Buzz, we think the Google boys and girls FINALLY got it right—creating a very simple (and Facebook-like, yes very Facebook-like) and engaging network in Google+.

After playing around with it for a few minutes, we LOVE IT! Here are our top three reasons:

  • The interface and dragging and moving of profile avatars is fun.
  • The idea of having different CIRCLES to sort out your gazillion friends and family members outdoes Facebook. Well, right now.
  • Even though they ripped Facebook off and made some enhancements (with actual focus groups, yeah, Google!), the new network by the Google crew is just simple and not so full of that many ads.
Now once Facebook buys out Google, we will be all set, and get the best of both worlds. For now, hoping that Hootsuite will add Google+ accounts soon to their dashboard.

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