Categories
Community Management

Community Management Tidbits – Analytics

Community Management Tidbits – Analytics

So, the truth is, analytics are a term that scares a lot of people. But don’t panic.

You’ve got a community. And you’re working hard on it. It’s growing. But you have no idea whether what you’re doing is having any sort of an impact whatsoever. This is where analytics comes in.

Community Management Tidbits - Analytics
Google Analytics: How to Identify Top Content Posts (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

Now, don’t panic if you don’t have a data analysis background. It’s not strictly necessary. What you do need, though, are (a) a means of measurement (preferably you should have a few of these) and (b) the willingness to measure. Really, it’s that easy. You do not need a degree in Advanced Statistics.

Google Analytics

First of all, the primary measurement stick you want is Google Analytics. And it is free and very easy to use. It’s also a rather robust measurement system, showing trends in Visitors, Absolute Unique Visitors, and more.

In addition, it shows, among other things, where your traffic is coming from, where your users land, and where they departed your site from. It also shows Bounce Rate, which is defined by Measurement Guru Avinash Kaushik as, “I came, I saw, I puked.” In other words, the visitor only visited one page of the site.

Keep in mind, it’s possible your visitor loved your site but got everything they needed in just one page. So, while they may have bounced right out of there, it might not have been due to any fault or failing on your part.

So, try not to take it personally, okay?

AHRefs

Thank God for AHRefs. While free website measurement tools have come and gone (apart from Google Analytics), AHRefs will review whatever is out there.

So, one thing to keep in mind is that as this post is updated, I keep finding new yardsticks. And then they go away after a while. At least AHRefs is still hanging in there. Whew.

Alexa

And another yardstick (albeit a far less useful one) is Alexa. Alexa really only works well for anyone using Alexa’s own toolbar for their search. Still, it is of some use, and it is free. Hence as an aside, ask your users if they will prepare a write-up about your site on Alexa.

Analytics From More Yardsticks

Furthermore, there are also measuring websites specifically designed to help you comprehend how you’re doing on Twitter and elsewhere, namely:

  • HootSuite – count the number of clicks you receive on shortened URLs, to supplement your Google Analytics click counts
  • HubSpot – measure how influential you are (with a hugely helpful diagnostic) and
  • Tweet Reach – measure how many people are receiving your tweets and any retweetings of your messages. Note: this one is no longer free!

Using Your Findings

So what do you do with all of this information once you’ve amassed it? Why, you act upon it! Does one page on your site have a far higher Bounce Rate than the others? Check it and see if the links on it are all leading users away from your site. If that’s not the culprit, perhaps its content isn’t compelling enough. Got a series of links you’ve tweeted that have consistently gotten you the most clicks? Then check to see what they all have in common, and offer similar links in the future. And maybe even build some onsite content around those subjects.

Has your HubSpot grade tanked in the past week? That might be due to external factors beyond your control, but check to see if any of it is within your purview. Perhaps your server was down.

Finally, small fluctuations over short time periods are perfectly normal and are no cause for concern. However, much larger hikes and drops, or trends over longer time periods, are more of an issue. But you’ll never know about any of these things unless you start to take measurements, and read and use them.

Categories
Book Reviews Community Management Quinnipiac Social Media

Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

Dave Kerpen has a rather interesting book here.

Likeable Social Media

Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen
Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen (cover image is from Amazon)

This book was required reading, as a part of my Community Management class at Quinnipiac University.

And it made for an excellent read.

For Kerpen, a lot of social media success comes from listening to, and then surprising and delighting customers and potential customers. Are your posts what they are interested in? If you received this post, would you bother clicking on it?

Case in point for surprise and delight

In May of 2015, my husband, parents, and I went to a Mexican restaurant in my parents’ town. We have eaten there before, but not so much that they know our names or our usual orders or the like. My husband and I don’t visit my parents too often. And he visits them even less than I am. To the restaurant, even if my parents are repeat customers, my husband and I surely don’t look like repeats.

There was a short wait until we got our food. Without prompting, we received a little appetizer, which mainly consisted of little breaded and fried mashed potatoes, configured a bit like sticks. There were three bits of sauce in different colors. The potatoes and sauce, most likely, were leftover odds and ends. It may have taken the chef all of ten minutes to make the dish. I didn’t see anyone else getting the appetizer. We thanked the server. The appetizer tasted good.

We were served our food, and you’d think that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. We didn’t order dessert. But we received a plate of flan and four spoons anyway. No one asked us; we just got the flan (it tasted really good). We weren’t charged for either little extra.

These twin activities impressed us, so much so that I’ve even linked back to the restaurant. Win-win!

Surprise and delight your customers. Or, as I’d like to say, where’s their flan?

Being Likeable

By no coincidence, Kerpen named his company Likeable Media. From its positive name to its obvious association with Facebook, the book and the company are all about creating positive and meaningful experiences for customers and potential customers. Kerpen begins with listening and with careful, accurate, and specific targeting. E. g. not all women in their 50s have the same interests. He strongly urges marketers to dig deeper. He also encourages them to have empathy for their customers. Is a post interesting? Would it be welcome to the customer base? The first fans should be preexisting customers, with perks for the really rabid fans. Another skill to master: engaging in a true dialog. This means not just accepting praise, but also effectively and expeditiously responding to complaints. It also means owning up to your mistakes when you make them.

Honesty

Kerpen advocates authenticity, honesty and transparency in dealings, and promoting an exchange by asking questions, which goes right back to listening. From listening, comes the surprise and delight. Did the restaurant hear us complaining about slower than normal service? Possibly. The appetizer and the flan certainly helped to quell those complaints and win us over.

Because he’s talking about social media (and not restaurant service), Kerpen’s flan moment doesn’t just cover coupons and offers. It’s also the sharing of stories as social capital. Some of this includes stories of the company (e. g. how a product was invented that spawned an industry). But it also encompasses the stories of the customers themselves. Imagine being a soft drink company and asking customers who drank your soft drink during their first date to share their love stories?

Finally, rather than hard selling, Kerpen exhorts marketers to simply make it easy to buy. Good products and services will always have customers. Generally, you don’t need to massage demand. But you do need to make it easier for customers to open their wallets.

A terrific, breezy read, well worth your time.

Rating

5/5 stars

Categories
Community Management

What Would You Do For the Love of Communities?

Love, Communities, and the Captivating Charm of Togetherness

What would we do for the love of communities? What is it about an online community?

Just what, exactly, draws people together online? Perhaps that is the better question.

For the Love of Communities
Cornell/Microsoft Research International Symposium on Self-Organizing Online Communities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So when you look at Groundswell, the authors have the thing all figured out, or at least it seems that way. Internet users are divided into various social technographics profiles.

First of all, people who join online communities are called Critics (about 25% of the United States). People who create content, including not just making and contributing to discussion topics and blogs but also uploading photographs and other media are called Creators (approximately 18% of the US).

And the lurkers, the folks who watch but don’t participate, are Spectators (48% or so of America). People overlap and can be members of any or all of these groups, or of other groups I won’t get into here. Furthermore, of course, this only covers people who are online. Note: this tool was created by Forrester, but it’s gone now.

This is in our nature, or at least in some people’s natures. But there may be more to that so what follows is my own personal story which I hope will be of interest.

My Own Background

I first really got online socially (although I had used computers offline for years before then) in 1997. Princess Diana had just been killed, and for whatever reason I wanted to discuss this with someone, and my husband was not being too terribly cooperative. We had a fairly new computer with Internet access. I don’t know what possessed me — I just felt the need to talk to someone about Princess Diana, someone I hadn’t even been a particular fan of before. Perhaps it’s because her death, at the time, was so shocking.

I found mirc, a chat client. There wasn’t anyone to specifically discuss the matter with, but there were people to talk to. And so a love affair with social media and online communities began.

More Challenges

By 2000, I wanted a more challenging group of conversationalists. The Presidential election was so close and so interesting that I wanted to talk to someone about it. A colleague from India was even asking me: Are all American elections like this? and I did not have a good answer for him. I wanted to learn. Plus, it was the same feeling as in 1997 — I just wanted to have a conversation. I found Abuzz, which was owned and operated by The New York Times and The Boston Globe (the Globe is important to me because I live in Massachusetts). Here were intelligent people who were just as fascinated by the extremely close election! It was exciting.

A2K

By 2002, Abuzz was losing steam and my friend Robert Gentel contacted me. He told me he wanted to teach himself PHP and create a forums website, but that he didn’t want to manage the community. Would I do that? Would I become the Community Manager? Of course. And so Able2Know was born. I’ve been managing it ever since.

In 2005, I joined Trek United – again, with the username Jespah. I even did some moderating there, but it was too much to do that, my regular work, Able2know and also work seriously on my own health. I wrote a column for the original Hailing Frequencies Open ezine, and enjoyed it, until it, too, became just one more bit of overwhelm and so I put the column to bed, in 2009 if I recall correctly.

Branching Out

In 2008, when I joined SparkPeople, it was obvious to me that my username would be Jespah, and that I would actively participate.

In 2009, after my Reporting Analyst job was outsourced and I came to a personal understanding – given that I already had over seven years of Community Management experience under my belt and hence had more to say about it than many experts – I decided to shift gears in my career and go into Social Media marketing.

I began attending Quinnipiac University for an Interactive Media (Social Media) degree in 2013. I wanted to learn about communities, and about why some things in social media work, and some just plain fall flat. And I graduated in 2016.

What does this all have to do with the price of tea in Poughkeepsie? Well, perhaps nothing and perhaps everything. My Internet identity was forged over a decade ago, and in a very different set of circumstances than one that is seen these days with online collections of users.

Working in Social Media

As a professional Community Manager and Social Media Specialist

For the Love of Communities
Neuron Robotics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(I worked for a startup called Neuron Robotics, and now work in the freelance writing arena), there was much more of an emphasis on staying on message and keeping the talk within the confines of what the company needs. However, that startup had a looser feel than in a larger corporation but the principle was the same: get people their information and then move on to answering the next inquiry, or at least get someone who can answer it. Socializing, per se was not totally out, but it was limited, and not just on the company side of things. It was the users, as well, who did not wish to socialize. After all, do you go out for a beer with the guys manning your local Help Desk?

Specialities

And so online communities become far more specialized and almost scripted. User asks question. And user receives answer. In addition, sometimes, another user offers a second opinion. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I occasionally used to get together with fellow Community Managers to talk turkey. And it surprised when I mentioned I’d written perhaps a dozen user obituaries.

What?!?!?!

Yes, really. I have done that (for Abuzz and Able2know).

And I’ve written user newsletters, not only for Trek United but also for Abuzz (we called that one AARON – An Abuzz Regular Online Newsletter – I loathed that acronym, still do).

What Are Users Doing?

Users go to communities and find that they have their own intrinsic values. One of the things that online communities have over Facebook (at least for now – never underestimate the power and ingenuity of Facebook’s IT staff) is that you can still carry on a truly sustained conversation here. People talk, and not just for a few hours or days or weeks, but for years! The Trek United Countdown Club started back in 2005. Yet in 2010, it continued. On Able2Know, word games and political discussions can go on for years. Users love these communities within the whole.

Online communities have shared values and in-jokes which other communities do not have, either on or offline. It’s like the Masons’ secret handshake, or wearing a Mogen David around your neck. You subtly tell others who you are and what you love.

Secret Handshakes

Trek United had the countdown and Hailing Frequencies Open. Abuzz had nutella and a mysterious green Chevelle. Able2know has capybaras and Asian carp. SparkPeople had (or at least my little corner of it had) the Top SparkPeople Pick Up Lines and diet haikus. Those who are in, understand. Those who want to be in, make an effort to know. And those who don’t want to be in, can never seem to understand this kind of love.

It is a small jump from this kind of enclaving to creating one’s own community, and then the process repeats itself and, like all good little processes, it winds down and then winds back up again as users come together, break apart and reconfigure like so many amoebae in a petri dish.

But it is more than user cycles and outside determinism like access to the Internet which drives this dance. It is the music of the spheres and the essence of what it means to be a social creature. It is hard and soft, slow and lightning fast, familiar and different and a billion more things. And isn’t that a part of what love is?

Merrily we roll along, for it is love which, to misquote The Captain and Tennille, brings us together.

Categories
Community Management

A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

A Day in the Life of a Community Manager

A community manager tends to have some fairly similar tasks, whether paid or volunteer. Community Management can be a piece of Social Media Marketing and Management, but it doesn’t, strictly, have to be.

The community manager : a jack of all trades
The community manager : a jack of all trades (Photo credit: La Fabrique de Blogs)

A Community Manager’s time mainly divides up into three different modes:

  1. Discussing
  2. Nurturing and
  3. Disciplining

Discussing

The discussing piece involves creating new discussions and shepherding them along. Users will not return, day after day, without new content. While the users are, ultimately, responsible for the content in a community, the Community Manager should create new content as well. This is not always topics as it can also encompass changes to the site’s blog (if any) and Facebook fan page (if it exists).

The discussing piece evolves as the community evolves. In a tiny community of less than one thousand users, the Community Manager’s content may turn out to be the only new content for weeks! As such, it can loom very, very large, but can also have a much stronger ameliorative effect if the other content being created is overly snarky. As the community grows, the Community Manager’s contributions should proportionately diminish but there should still be some involvement. Otherwise the Community Manager can be seen as hanging back a bit too much. It is a Community, and that means that the users want to know the Manager(s). An easy and relatively safe way to do this is by creating discussions.

On Topic/Off Topic

And the discussions need not always stay on topic! Lively discussions can be almost spun from whole cloth if the Manager can get the people talking. An automotive community might thrill to talking about cooking. A cooking community might engage in an animated discussion about the Olympics. And a sports community could very well bring its passion to a topic like politics.

In particular, if the community is single-subject-based (e. g. about, say, Coca-Cola), going off-topic should probably at least peripherally relate to the overall subject. Hence Coke can branch out into cooking and, from there, perhaps into family relationships. Or into health and fitness. But a push to discussing politics may not fly unless the discussion is based on a major recent news item or if there is precedent for it. Finally, if a member is ill, or has passed on, getting married or having a child, an off-topic discussion can spring naturally and effortlessly. This happens regardless of the community’s main subject matter. Corporate management may not absolutely love off-topic discussions but they keep a community together, and keep it viable.

Nurturing

The nurturing piece relates to the discussing aspect. However, it tends to encompass responding to and supporting good discussions on the site. If the Community Manager should identify certain superstar users who are good at making topics who the community likes. And then nurture them to promote those persons’ discussions over more inferior ones. Use nurturing power to encourage newbies and members who might be on the cusp of becoming superstar users if they only had a little more self-confidence, and a track record of support and positive reinforcement.

Relationships

Nurturing can also take the shape of developing relationships with members. The Community Manager doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, even if the site is very small. However, they should get to know the users. Private messages (if available), writing on a wall (if possible) or otherwise somewhat intimately communicating with the membership can accomplish this.

Furthermore, the Community Manager can use private messages, etc. as a means for heading off potential problems at the pass. Headstrong members might be perfectly wonderful if/when they write on topics not related to their overarching passion. The Community Manager can encourage those members to participate in those other discussions and also to reach out to other community members. Friendship can help to minimize flaming.

Disciplining

And that leads into the disciplining part, which is often the first thing that people think of when they think of community management. That includes things like pulling spam. It also includes giving users timeouts or even outright suspending them when their actives contravene a site’s Terms of Service. And it also includes shunning and ignoring. These can be extremely powerful. The Community Manager can help to mobilize other users.

But Do It Right

An email or private message campaign is almost always a very poor idea. Rather, the Manager must lead by example. Don’t take the bait when challenged, unless it’s absolutely necessary (rare). It’s the Community Manager’s call when to take it, particularly if personal insults fly. Often the best tactics include: (a) get offline and cool off and (b) ask another Community Manager or Moderator to determine if it warrants disciplinary action. And then enforce that if it is.

One thing a Manager should never forget: there is far more to the community than just the people posting. There is often a far larger audience of lurkers, both registered and unregistered. They are watching events unfold but rarely comment. By leading by example, the Community Manager can influence not only active posters but also the community at large.

During a typical day, new members register. And members lose their passwords, start and respond to topics. Furthermore, they answer older topics, and people engage in private communications (if permitted on the site). Members may disagree on something and they may do so vehemently. The site may get spam.

The Community Manager should mainly become involved as a content creator if content creation lags or goes too far off subject. He or she should discipline difficult members if necessary. However, generally, a Community Manager’s main task, both daily and over the life of the community, should be to carefully nurture and shape relationships.

Categories
Community Management Opinion Work

Collaboration

Collaboration

Do you like collaboration? C’mon, all the cool kids are doin’ it.

Well … maybe.

We Mean Well

We all start off life (or, at least, us American type folk – your mileage may vary) learning to collaborate. First of all, we learn how to share. And we are broken into little groups. Furthermore, we pass our science classes because of, in part, how well we work with lab partners. In addition, we might try out for a class play or community theater, and become a part of an acting troupe. Or we play on sports teams or join a fraternity or a sorority. We join churches and volunteer groups.

So why is it so difficult for so many people to collaborate at work?

To be sure, I think a lot of us try. We dutifully send out some sort of an enormous email to the people on our team. And we attend meetings, and we might even take notes at them. In addition, we put our two cents into various documents. We may even attend various team-building exercises and emerge from them confident that our collaborative hurdles have been overcome and from now on, it’s cooperation all the way.

Lone Rangers

However, lots of us, aside from what is almost forced togetherness at work, end up as Lone Rangers. And we don’t even have faithful sidekicks.

I think that some of it may have to do with work itself. The process of education is competitive. And the process of interviewing is competitive. The process of advancing a career is also competitive. No wonder it’s tough to get together and set all that aside.

I think that email fosters the siloed feeling of being alone out there, just you against the onslaught of various missives. When was the last time any of us truly enjoyed the process of grabbing emails, opening them and answering them?

I mean at work, people.

Email feels like nagging. And it feels incessant. It is a baby bird. Baby robins Collaboration And while I love little baby critters as much as the next person, I have to say, these little guys can get annoying awfully quickly.

So … what to do? How to deal with the baby birds or, maybe, deal with fewer of them?

Collaborative Software, Forums, Wikis and Spreading the Wealth

Email is so last week!

Kinda.

The thing of it is, email is a perfectly fantastic medium for a lot of things. And Word, for example, is a perfectly fantastic word processing program. But just like Word is not the best tool for making spreadsheets, email is often not the best tool for collaboration.

Instead, you need to work with software that truly fosters communication and collaboration. You need to draw upon the wisdom of crowds.

Forums

Oh my God, you want me to do what?

I want you to talk to a bunch of people. In a forum.

But they’ll be mean to me. They won’t answer my question. They’ll steer me in the wrong direction. 

Not necessarily. Consider (insert shameless plug here) Able2Know. Yes, it’s true. There are people who will be less than wonderful to you. There are people who will misdirect you. And there are people who will be friendly but, essentially, cannot answer your question, and so their presence on your question thread is a waste of your time.

However –

There are also people who will take time out of their day to Google for you. In addition, there some people have actual knowledge, and will help you out with things like Latin translations, geology inquiries and philosophical arguments. And there are others, because it is a large and (mostly) friendly forum, who don’t know the answer but will steer you to the people who do.

Wikis, Databases and One-Stop Shopping

There are plenty of other places online with common, pooled information. Memory Alpha, for example, is a large wiki about canon Star Trek in its various forms. SparkPeople, while it has dedicated health, fitness and nutrition experts, also has a huge section filled with the weight loss and maintenance wisdom of people like you and me. And IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) is the product of all sorts of people working together, including actors and actresses, agents and fans, to get the most comprehensive information on film and television, all together into one neat, easy-to-use package.

What do these three rather diverse sites have in common? They all have people who have a passion for the subject matter, who are willing to do a few things –

  1. Research and make sure that their information is as accurate as possible
  2. Spend time getting the information onto the site and
  3. Work with IT in order to assure that the site remains fast and easy to use.

Oh and, except for IMDB Pro, they all have another thing in common.

Amazingly, they are all free to use.

Collaboration: Bringing it All Back Home

So what’s in it for you, to use a forum or a wiki at your place of business?

  • Get out of the email rut and make it easier to actually find what you’re working on. 1,000 emails in your inbox are not possible for you to read, digest and work on. You may as well delete them. Because you are not reading them.
  • Make it easier for everyone to see, at a glance and at the same time, what you’re working on. The mass email to fifteen people will inevitably begin to splinter, as someone changes a status from the To: field to the CC: field, or leaves someone off the distribution list entirely, or hits Reply instead of Reply All. Using a forum or a wiki eliminates that as a possibility and fosters collaboration better.
  • Urgency can more granularly be communicated. I use Yahoo mail at home, and I like it, but there are only a few possible modes. Read/unread, star/no star. Well, what about urgently starred? As in, it’s not only important, but I need to do it yesterday. Alas, the only way I can get this across in my own mailbox is to use an “Urgent” folder. But that doesn’t tell anyone else, at a glance, that a particular item is red-hot. Life is not binary, not really. Why should your communications be that way?

More Benefits of Collaboration

Oh, and one more thing. Collaborating on one thing can often lead to collaboration on other things. The people on Able2Know who get together to help solve problems that someone might have in introducing a new puppy to a household also do things together like play Fantasy Baseball. They rally around when someone is ill, congratulate users when they marry or become parents or grandparents and even meet on occasion. In short, they reach through the pixels and become friends.

How ’bout that, eh?

Collaboration rocks!

Categories
Community Management Opinion Social Media Twitter Work

The Rise of the Auto-Service Economy

The Rise of the Auto-Service Economy

The Auto-Service economy is coming. And as computers have increased in sophistication, as have other aspects of automation, it appears that the fundamental underpinnings of our lives are being altered.

The Twentieth Century

Consider how life was at the start of the twentieth century in the United States. Many people did not own a refrigerator. Automobiles barely existed. A trip in an airplane (excuse me, aeroplane), was an occasion for diary entries and letter-writing and was practically a media event unto itself. A lot of people lived and died within a small area.

The Rise of the Auto-Service Economy
English: The River Transformed Exhibit at the Wannalancit Mill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The economy was mainly driven by the production of goods, and by farming. Jobs existed in service industries, of course, but a lot of folks made their livelihoods in factories, steel mills, coal mines, and the like, or they stayed down on the farm.

End of the Twentieth Century

As that century ended, however, the economy had changed to more of a service model. Factory and farming jobs went to machinery and, increasingly, to robotic workers. All of these people needed to have jobs and so they changed over to service industries. In particular, as the population aged and also became wealthier, many of those service jobs migrated to the medical and hospitality industries.

However, given the rise of the internet and customers’ familiarity with tablets (and their impatience with slow, inattentive, or error-prone servers), the service economy seems to be on the cusp of changing over to what I’ll call an auto-service economy.

Humans Replaced By Robots?

Instead of getting a human at the other end of the line when calling customer service, we’re lucky if there’s a phone number at all. As I have told numerous people complaining on Able2know – you’ll never talk to a human when seeking Facebook help. Unless, of course, someone could legitimately answer your call with, “How many I help you, Mr. McCartney?”

The Boston Globe published an article about how to handle this new paradigm shift. Because it happens as we move further and further away from human interaction. We move away from service, and help, and into the realm of mechanized assistance as the norm. In Use tech to your advantage when seeking customer support, perhaps the most helpful tip they provide: mention in a never-ending customer service phone call that you want to ‘escalate‘ the problem. Evidently that’s the magic word which gets you to a supervisor.

But if the supervisor is a robot, well, you’re on your own.

Categories
Career changing Community Management Content Strategy Social Media

The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions

The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job Descriptions

Social Media Job Descriptions! This is a shout-out to Blaise Grimes-Viort, Community Manager extraordinaire. His older blog post still rings true today.

The Deal Behind Online Community and Social Media Job DescriptionsSo in 2010 (it was his most popular blog post), Blaise outlined some differences in Social Media job descriptions.

Blaise’s Theory

His thinking is: there are internal and externally-facing types of jobs. And the internally-facing ones tend to look more like Community Management, e. g. what I do for Able2know. Those tasks include pulling spam, making peace among the users, interpreting site statistics and measurements, or scrubbing graffiti tags. Furthermore, they can also include adding correct tags to topics, and working on that site’s Help Desk. Those jobs tend to be called Community Manager, Head of Online Community, etc. Content Strategist and Content Curator seem to fit into this bucket as well. However, those other jobs can be more about promoting content rather than serving those who make it.

On the other hand, externally-facing jobs are more like what I did for Neuron Robotics. Because in that role, I attended events on behalf of the company, conducted product demonstrations, did outreach and sales, communicated with potential customers, etc. Hence those jobs tend to have words like Marketing or Marketer in their titles.

Blogging seems to be either external or internal. However, it all begs the question, though: what happens when you’ve got skills in both areas? Must you choose one or the other? See, this is what’s been bothering me, all along, about the whole Social Media career-changing experience. There seems to be a requirement that a person drop themselves into one pigeonhole or another.

And I say, why can’t I be in both?

So for more information, check out Blaise’s February 8, 2010 blog entry and make please help to make it even more popular. Kudos to him!

Categories
Community Management Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 527 – Message Strategies

Message Strategies

Social Media Message Strategies
The Medium is the message – Marshall McLuhan

With all due respect to the late Marshall McLuhan, the medium is still the message, but the message is now also the medium and the two are now joined at the hip, at least when it comes to social media.

As Smith notes on page 172, the communication process can be divided into three types –

  • Information – press agentry and public information
  • Persuasion – asymmetric advocacy and attempts to influence
  • Dialogue – symmetric, rooted in relationships

Information is a one-way street. E.g. I tell you that the world is round. You hear my message and either agree or disagree with it, or perhaps you request further information or even a second opinion. However, the relationship is not a symmetrical one, as I am feeding you data but you aren’t responding in kind and I am not getting information back from you.

In the persuasion model, things are even more asymmetrical. I’m not just informing you of the roundness of our planet; I’m making a case for it, whether it’s with photographs taken from space or images of the shadow from eclipses over the moon, or even the results of a public opinion poll.

For the dialogic model, however, the information and persuasion both flow, and in both directions. I might put forth the premise of the earth’s roundness; you might counter with personal observations or even your own survey. The entities in communication can trade opinions or information or both. On page 173, Smith refers to dialogue as a “deeply conscious interaction of two parties in communication.” This is give and take.

Our messages are not just verbal or written ones; they include our tone, our word choice, and our body language, according to Smith, pages 212 – 214. There is a measurable difference between referring to the same medical condition as shell shock, battle fatigue, or post-traumatic stress disorder, as George Carlin famously said.

This is the kind of doublespeak mentioned by Smith on page 211 that seems to embody the worst parts of public relations.

Messengers carry different degrees of weight as well. Astronaut testimony of the roundness of the earth should carry more credibility than a raving madman on a street corner somewhere. As the Vocus  article puts forth on page 3, “Not all online conversations carry the same weight. Many will have no impact on your company and not every mention of your company or brand will require the same amount of attention. The trick is to understand what does and does not matter. While a discussion on the latest product release or customer feedback may be worth engaging in, other discussions may be trivial and will not require your participation.”

Social Media Message Strategic Approaches

The Vocus idea to pay selective attention is good advice. It offers a model for cutting through the noise. As social media professionals, strategic planners need to listen to their publics but also discriminate intelligently among the many messages being promulgated.

Vocus also mentions creating and maintaining a steady and consistent presence and not just dabbling (Page 3). This dovetails well with the Smith idea (Page 182) of familiarity adding charisma to a speaker, where personal charm enhances a message and gives a public a feeling that it is more likely to be correct or helpful. The message and the messenger can only be familiar if they are consistent and not dilettantish.

This is perhaps the most important tip from Vocus, to not give up when social media becomes dull or burdensome or the ideas have run out. There has to be a commitment there.

As Mundy 2013 adds, on page 387, “Social movement and public relations research share similar goals: to investigate communication practices that develop collective understanding between organizations and publics, and to examine how organizations position issues as legitimate in the eyes of diverse stakeholders.” This development of collective understanding – dialogue – brings an organization closer together to its publics. Once the publics see why supporting the organization’s positions is worthwhile, they will need far less persuading. The equal, bilateral dialogue will do all the work.

Applications of this reading to our client

The most obvious application to the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration (ILSC) is that adding a social media presence means preparing for the long haul. It means budgeting for at least a part-time Community Manager to research strategies, keep up with industry trends, listen to the public’s concerns and questions and weed through the noise, and help the ILSC to demonstrate thought leadership. As I had mentioned last week, Rick Flath has got to be a master networker (which was confirmed by Professor Place), as a tiny company doesn’t get the ILSC’s opportunities unless an individual is very charismatic. Now the ILSC needs to translate some of that networking, and charisma, and thought leader power to social media.

Categories
Community Management Content Strategy

The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy

The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy

On June 2nd, 2010, I got to attend The Five Elements of Hip-Hop Content Strategy. The speaker was Ian Alexander. Ian is down to earth, informative and fun. The meeting was hosted by Content Strategy New England. A special shout-out must go to the tireless Rick Allen.

Ian led us through a history of both hip-hop and content strategy as a discipline. Neither one sprang up overnight. So the roots are in the 1970s or so, perhaps earlier.

Then it was down to business — an outline of the Five Elements.

Hip-Hop Content Strategy – Five Elements

#1. DJ’ing – on the Content Strategy side of things, this is the technical expertise. It’s being able to understand and apply semantic categories. It is being able to interpret analytics. So a Content Strategist cannot be a Luddite. She cannot fear spreadsheets.

#2. MC’ing – on the CS end, this is the editorial expertise. Often, this is what people think of when they think of Content Strategy. It is acting as a copywriter, a librarian, a research analyst and something of an artist. The Content Strategist finds and tells the story. He or she selects the format and helps to promote the brand.

The Content Triangle

hip-hop content strategy
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is where Ian introduced the concept of the Content Triangle.

Building Trust

(a) The first type of content is Trustbuilding. This is where a company establishes its expertise. So it is also where it provides value to its clients and potential customers. Here is where the company is informative about internal and industry trends.

For a product-based company, this area should encompass approximately 30% of all of the content. For a service-oriented company, this area should be about 70% of all of the content.

Informational, Please

(b) So the second type of content is Informational. This is basic internal site information, such as the Contact Us page and the FAQ. This is for users to understand how to, for example, return a defective product.

For a product-oriented company, this area needs to be around 30+% of all content. For a service company, that figure should be around 20+%. So in either instance, start here.

Calls to Action

(c) The third and final type of content is Sales/Call to Action. Somewhat self-explanatory, here’s where you close the deal. The deal need not be a commercial one; your call to action may very well be for your reader to sign up for a newsletter.

For the product-based company, this area will have to be around about 40+% of all of the content. In the case of the service company, it’s less than 10%. So either way, this should be A/B tested.

So in all instances, analytics must drive the percentages and the content.

Hip-Hop Content Strategy – More Elements

#3. Graffiti – for the Content Strategist, this equates to design expertise. Infographics are, according to Ian, only going to continue to become more and more popular.

#4. Breaking – to the Content Strategist, this element represents Information Architecture expertise. The two are related but not identical — cousins, not twins. Yet the gist of it is the concept of movement through a site. So, what are the funnels? What kind of an experience do you want your users to have? What’s your preferred destination for them?

#5. Knowledge – this final piece of the puzzle speaks to the Content Strategist’s Project Managerment/Change Management expertise. Change concepts are disposable, iterative and proposed. It is the idea of moving from a concept to a solution. The best solution is not the best solution, per se — it’s the best solution that you can implement for, without a consensus (and a budget and a signed contract!), the so-called best solution is no solution at all.

But What Does it All Mean?

Content Strategy is different from Content Marketing. So the first must drive the second. One of the best ways to help the discipline to get more respect is to branch out the network. Get to know people in vastly different disciplines (say, Robotics, for instance).

So, what about helping the client? Think differently. So generate a 404 error and see what happens. Sign up for something: what kind of message does the user get? Is the message consistent with the remainder of the site’s look and feel and philosophy? Is the footer out of date?

Check sites like Compete and Tweetvolume for more information about how a company is really doing. So note: Compete does not exist any more!

So consider CMS Watch as well. Know the company’s baseline strengths and weaknesses and understand related practices and disciplines. So note: CMS Watch now redirects to Real Story Group.

Takeaways from 2010

The Content Strategist often wears a millinery’s worth of hats, not just during a particular project but in any given day. For the CS to excel, he or she needs to have an understanding of fundamentals in a lot of areas, and be able to speak knowledgeably.

Fortunately, acquiring and applying that kind of knowledge makes and keeps this discipline fresh and exciting. Plus, Ian clearly has fun every day. And who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

A Look Over 9 Years Later at Hip-Hop Content Strategy

Welp, things have changed. Big time! Ian is no longer under the above URL. So you know, it’s the one in the first paragraph. And two other sites no longer exist. Plus, the world is a lot different now. So that includes my life.

Now, as I look back on older posts like this, I can see where I did not write them too well. So I can also see where older events were, can I say it?

Kinda gimmicky.

So I get what Ian was trying to say. And a lot of his advice is still spot on. So now, though, I think there are other ways of saying it.

Categories
Community Management Facebook Social Media Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 526 – Social Media in a Crisis – a Look at Sabra Hummus and Listeria

Social Media in a Crisis – a Look at Sabra Hummus and Listeria

In April of 2015, Sabra hummus faced a social media and public health crisis. Some tests for hummus flavors contained the listeria bacterium.

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 526 – Social Media in a Crisis – a Look at Sabra Hummus and Listeria
English: Listeria monocytogenes grown on Listeria Selective Agar (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (image is reproduced for educational purposes only)

What is Listeria? Why is it such a Problem?

Per FoodSafety.gov,

Listeria is the name of a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk. It can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats.

Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator. Listeria is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

Complicating matters is that listeria ingestion can sometimes be fatal, or can induce miscarriages. Beyond just threatening the Sabra Dipping Company, hesitation, quite literally, could prove fatal.

Sabra’s Response

Per Sabra, “The potential for contamination was discovered when a routine, random sample collected at a retail location on March 30th, 2015 by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.”

Before anyone was sickened, Sabra acted quickly and pulled potentially contaminated product from store shelves.

On their blog, Sabra announced the recall and provided a list of potential symptoms, so customers could judge for themselves whether they needed medical treatment. This included a list of UPC/SKU numbers and names of affected flavors, so customers could know if they’d bought a container. Use by dates on the list were posted in English and French, although the blog post was just in English. Neither the post nor the list received a Spanish translation.

Twitter War

As tweets poured in, Sabra’s community manager seemed overwhelmed. Finally, it was suggested that concerned customers contact their doctors

Any concerns or questions you have about your health are best discussed with a physician.

Further, sometimes the information being given out was flat-out wrong. For example, the company’s blog listed the dual classic and garlic hummus product, whereas this typical tweet implied that only the classic flavor was affected. Mixing would imply that in the dual package, the garlic half would potentially also be contaminated. –

Hi Kate, only our Classic Hummus is affected by this recall. No other product manufactured by Sabra is included.

The community manager insisted that only classic was affected even when a customer said that she had had a reaction to the garlic flavor. Later, the community manager had a change of heart and told the customer to report her case directly to Sabra’s customer service team.

Suzanne WillettApr 9
Sabra I had a fairly immediate GI reaction to the Roasted Garlic one yesterday. Advise?

SabraApr 9
SuzanneWillett Hi Suzanne, only our Classic Hummus has been affected in the recall.

Sabra Apr 9
SuzanneWillett However, please report your case immediately to our customer service team by calling 1-888-957-2272.

How the Brand Did

Sabra acted perfectly to quickly remove product from stores. This was not a direct social media response. However, it not only potentially saved lives, it also made the community manager’s job far easier. Consumer deaths were not a part of the equation. Offline behavior directly affected online behavior.

For a company in crisis, it seems the CEO did not publicly respond. The blog post is an author-less press release. Twitter didn’t point to anything the CEO had said. Without an authority figure behind the social media response, Twitter offers the impression that the community manager was left to twist in the wind.

Facebook

The same was true on Facebook. There was just one post about the crisis. A comment from the husband of a pregnant woman elicited the same rote response, suggesting calling a doctor. Other customers called out Sabra, demanding better answers and compensation –

Christine Schaefer
That’s a really weak answer Sabra. Of course a person who ate your contaminated product should follow up with their doctor, but what are YOU going to do about it? How are YOU going to support and compensate anyone who has been affected or has been frightened by eating one of your recalled products?

As for their blog, Sabra could have spread the link more widely. Part of the list had a French translation. Hence the list and the blog post should have been translated into both French and Spanish.

It’s as if Sabra did fine to start but then stumbled. They seem to have recovered, though, and are back to posting recipes now, much later.