social computing

Listen to Your Community

Listen to Your Community

“[Social media is] a shift in how people discover, read, and share news
and information and content.
It’s a fusion of sociology and technology,
transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many).”

Brian Solis, FutureWorks

In preparing to engage your online community, you’ll want to collect lots of information. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Study Your Offline Community

Listen to the conversations inside your organization and in your real-world community. What kinds of things are the people you engage with on a daily basis talking about? What concerns do they face? Chances are very good that your online community will mirror these topics, but you may find they place the emphasis differently.

Stone carving of hands in circle

Make lists of topics of interest to your real-world community discusses — the things you, your staff, your volunteers, and your clients talk about every day. We suggest keeping a log for at least a couple of weeks. Determine what kinds of information your community seeks from you and start thinking about how you will provide it online.

If appropriate, create an outline indicating subtopics and different points of view on common subjects. Organizing the topics in some sort of framework will help:

  • Guide you in constructing your own community framework
  • Enable you to construct positions and responses on the issues you’ll face in building your community

Examine the framework you create and determine what your positions are on all the issues and questions, if you haven’t already. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to create the talking points that will form the basis of your social computing strategy. At the same time, you’ll want to extract the unwritten rules about how your community converses. Are there forbidden topics? Is there a preferred style of discourse? Do people avoid sensitive topics, or is there an accepted way to discuss them? Is there a line between too much info and just enough?

­In essence, you’re creating the first draft of the operating manual for your online community by understanding the communication styles, rules, and needs of your offline community.

Study Existing Online Communities

Find online communities discussing your product category and/or your organization. But, in general, you’ll probably find interesting blogs and forums of interest via a simple Google search for the name of your product category. Twitter and Facebook searches can provide additional information.

Lurk for a while. (Lurking means reading the material, but not responding or calling attention to your­self.) Be a wallflower, but take notes and update your community manual based on the new information you discover. Note any differences in the way people communicate online versus offline. Modify your framework as necessary.

After awhile, you might consider reaching out to influential bloggers[1] or other community leaders and influencers and asking their advice. Cultivate good relationships with these folks because you may want their help in launching your community later on. Be helpful, but be careful. If you approach them in the wrong way you could do more harm than good.

During this period, you should be thinking about how and where you’re going to create your com­munity. Are you going to create it (or find it) on an existing social media site such as Facebook or MySpace? Will you create a private space on your Website?

Or will you use sites like Ning,[2] Grou.ps,[3] or Qlubb[4] to create a branded com­munity apart from your Website? Do you want an offline and online hybrid such as Meetup?[5] If you have lots of offline events, you’ll want a way for people to discover, sign up, and help promote them.

One thing you should definitely assess: Is your community so attached to their current online home that trying to entice them to yours will alienate or anger them? Do existing communities completely satisfy their needs, or is there an opening for you to fill? Can you achieve your social media goals by contributing on existing communities, or does your contribution require its own defined, sponsored space? If you created your own community, what would be unique about it? Can you identify and market this uniqueness to attract members?

This assessment is critical to your future community success. You can waste much time and money trying to muscle your way into a completely functioning and satisfying community. Many organizations fail to consider the possibility that everyone in their right mind may not naturally flock to their commun­ity offering.

Profile Your Community

By now, you know a lot about your community, offline and online. You may have, or can collect, other information on your community that can help you sharpen your approach, such as:

  • Demographics — You may want to consider characteristics such as gender, age, race, income, marital status and so on and use them to design different approaches
  • Psychographics — Data on values, attitudes and shared cultural experiences of the community can help you better understand your community’s mindset and better address their everyday issues and concerns
  • Geographics — Your approach to your community may need to take into account their geographic location and how it informs members’ viewpoints

If you focus on this data, you’ll want to research the social media literature to see if others have develop­ed targeting and segmentation approaches you can adopt. There are great resources for finding out more about social media included in the Resources section starting on page 411.

Finally, you need to do an honest assessment of your organization and its commitment: Do you have the time, resources, and dedication to create or participate in a community? Can you be in it for the long run? Are you prepared to react if things get rocky?

If all is in order, you’re ready to start to engage.

Next up: Find Your Community


Listen to Your Community is the 17th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

 


[1] For an example of how to reach out to bloggers, read Chris Brogan’s great analysis of the perfect social media press release: bit.ly/cVBi8G

[2] Ning: bit.ly/dnx5Ck

[3] Grou.ps: bit.ly/ajDTN4

[4] Qlubb: bit.ly/9nqf04

[5] Find out more at: www.meetup.com.

Joining the Conversation

Joining the Conversation

As we’ve seen in earlier posts, if you’re a company of any size with sufficient history, people are already talking about you.

Do you ignore the conversation?

Or join in?

Well, if you’ve read this far, we hope you’ve decided that ignoring is not smart, and joining in is a real possibility. Let’s talk about how you engage those who are talking about you or your enterprise.

Two people in conversationAttributionShare Alike

Some rights reserved by Ed Yourdon

Social Media Performance Group Social Media Approach

You’ll find lots of prescriptions for social media success out there on the social Web, and many of them are known by snappy acronyms: The Five A’s, the Four C’s, 5×6, and so on. We couldn’t come up with a slick acronym; didn’t really try. What we have are five action verbs for execution (FAVEs? Oops. That one just sort of happened!) that you should keep in mind as you begin to engage with your community.

Here are the FAVEs in short, and we’ll detail each of these in subsequent posts.

Listen

This one’s first for a reason. Many businesses forget that you must listen before you speak. You must offer before you take. You must engage before you ask for action. Spend the first month or more of your social computing engagement process just listening to what people are saying. Restrain yourself from responding, even (especially!) if you see things you don’t like. Gauge the tenor of the conversation. What words do they use? How are they feeling? What gets them upset? What goads them to action?

During this phase, follow the old adage: It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

While you’re listening, start sorting your community into segments. Who are the loudmouths? Who are respected? Who are emotional about your product? Who are skeptical?

You’ll want to devise different approaches to the groups you find. The beauty of social computing is it enables you to address different groups differently. Start planning your engagement strategy while you listen.

Find

OK this one logically comes first. How can you listen until you find who’s speaking? But we think you see why Listen has to come first.

Mark Zuckerberg, the young creator of Facebook, famously said, “Communities already exist. Instead, think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”

There’s a community out there talking about you or your busi­ness. You need to find it and engage with it. Help it do what it wants to do. You probably won’t have to look hard, but you should realize the community may exist only online, only off­line, or both. If it’s only offline, you’ve got a bit of convincing to do to get them online.

To find your community, ask around. Ask others in your field. Google your business, products, product category.

Engage

Engaging with your community means — at last! — joining the ongoing conversation. Don’t think that you can land like a ton of bricks and start dominating. Follow the 4-to-1 rule: Comment on four posts for every post that you write. Give — invest — in the relationship before you ask for anything.

A great personal example of the need for giving before getting came after we did a seminar for a job seekers’ group. After the presentation, an engineer came up to us and said, “LinkedIn doesn’t work for job search.” We asked why he thought this. “Well,” he said, “I did what you said and joined the same LinkedIn group as someone who worked at my target company. I sent her a connection request, and she accepted. So I sent her a message asking her to introduce me to the hiring manager. And she refused! When I asked why, she said, ‘I don’t know you.’ So LinkedIn doesn’t work.”

So what our engineer friend didn’t realize, and what you need to always keep in mind, is that it’s social networking. Ap­proach it as you would approach building a relationship in real life. You may be able to meet more people online, but they’re still people, and will develop a relationship with you over time, not immediately.

Once you have the hang of participating, you can begin to be more active — starting topics, offering more information about your business — but until your community is comfortable with you, don’t get too heavy. Your early aim is to get people to check out your Website.

Which means you’re probably going to need to renovate your Website. You need to make it social-media-aware and social-media-friendly.

Ask

After you’ve earned your stripes with your community, you can start asking for action. Your first Ask shouldn’t be as bold as, “By our product,” or “Give us your number and a sales person will call.” You’ve just met these people! It would be like arriving at a party in a beautiful mansion and asking, “So how much did you pay for this dump, anyway?” You could say that to your best friend, but you aren’t best friends with your community yet.

Make sure your Ask is appropriate to the reputation and amount of social capital you’ve amassed through your participation. By no means should you immediately set up your own community and ask everyone to join. That step comes later, much later, if ever, and you’ll probably know when it’s appropriate.

Nonetheless, there’s no harm in having lots of Asks on your existing site, and inviting your community to come by for a look. If people want to take an action, you need to make it easy for them.

Measure

You’ll read a lot about social computing measurement on the Web. It’s an obsession among certain people, many of whom swear it’s not possible to measure social media outcomes.

We think social media is the only medium where it is possible to measure outcomes exactly.

You’ll hear people claim, “I know exactly how much money I’ll raise if I do this direct mail campaign.” And they may be right. Through trial and error, they’ve discovered an approach that works. But can they tell you which of their messages go immediately into recycling? No, because if they could, they wouldn’t mail those pieces out in the first place.

It’s the same with TV and radio advertising. It’s an old saw in the advertising world: “I know half of what I spend on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Heh. Not really that funny considering you’re talking blithely about wasting more than $209 billion annually in the US alone.

Online you can connect your actions with the response. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. It may not be a snap to do, but it’s possible.


Joining the Conversation is the 16th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

Next up: Listen to Your Community

How to Engage with Social Computing

How to Engage with Social Computing

How to Engage with Social Computing is the 15th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


JObs Commandments

AttributionShare Alike
Some rights reserved by jonny goldstein

How to Engage with Social Computing

“Audience Engagement is the proportion of visitors who participate in a
specific marketing initiative by contributing comments,
sharing or linking back”

Web Analytics DeMystified/Altimeter

The Holy Grail of social media is engagement. You’ll see lots of blogs, comments, studies, and other discussion on the Internet about social media engagement. Everyone assumes this is the highest goal one can achieve using social media, because an engaged community is more likely to hear your message, do what you request them to do, and in general hang around and say nice things about you. But what actually is this elusive thing: engagement?

What is Engagement?

Oddly, for a medium that talks a lot about improving engage­ment, there’s not a lot of consensus on exactly what the term means. We present one definition — by two analyst firms, Web Analytics DeMystified and Altimeter — in the quote that begins this chapter, but it, like many definitions out there, actually seems to be more about defining the ways you can measure engagement than engagement itself. In their excellent report, “The world’s most valuable brands. Who’s most engaged?[1] Altimeter joins with fellow analyst firm Wetpaint to measure major brands’ level of social media engagement. Not once is the concept explained or defined. They obviously expect their audience of brand marketers to implicitly understand the term.

They’re not alone. Lots of other really smart social media folks also seem to think engagement is merely a way to measure success. Lee Odden, online marketing and search engine master at Top Rank Online Marketing, says:

Linking, bookmarking, blogging, referring, clicking, friending, connecting, subscribing, submitting inquiry forms and buying are all engagement measures at various points in the customer relationship.[2]

With all due respect to Odden’s enormous expertise, blogging is a measure? We think it’s an activity. That engaged people do.

Others talk about the rewards enterprises can reap from the engaged. Social media guru Brian Solis points to statistics about engagement’s effects on sales: “An impressive 51 per­cent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers indicated that they are more likely to buy since connecting online.”[3]

Along these same lines, social media expert Jason Falls simp­lifies the definition, but perhaps a little too much: “Did you get something from your audience that can make your business better?”

Online community expert Amber Naslund gets a bit more specific, and a bit closer to an actual definition of engagement, saying[4] it involves one or all of the following:

  • Interaction with unselfish intent
  • Conversation
  • Acknowledgement that we’ve been heard
  • Responsiveness
  • Unique contributions
  • Personalized connection

The rest of the definitions we’ve seen run from the simplistic, and not all that helpful (“Conversing with others online in public and branded spaces” for example)[5] to lists of things to do to engage your community (provide high-quality content, answer questions, participate in conversations, provide great customer service to customers and potential customers, go off-line, meet in person).[6]

We don’t really mean to tweak all these experts, but it is a sign of the new and maturing nature of social computing that so many talk about engagement, but so few attempt to define exactly what the term means. Apparently it’s like art: We can’t define it, but we know it when we see it.

We define social media engagement as interacting with a community that is:

  • Listening
  • Trusting
  • Responding
  • Communicating
  • Acting

They are listening to you, maybe not all the time, but regularly or periodically. They trust what you say because you’ve built a rapport and a relationship with them. They respond to you, either by means of comments or other online participation, or by telling others about you. They are communicating their concerns, needs, passions, and interests to you; thus you can know them better. And, most importantly, they are acting. They may be buying your products, telling other about them, commenting, recommending, rating, or taking any of the myriad of actions you provide for them to get involved.

If your community is doing these things, they are engaged. And that’s pretty much all you need to know about that.

Next up: Joining the Conversation


[1] Altimeter / Wetpaint report: bit.ly/csC04K

[2] Quoted by Jason Falls: bit.ly/bhqZbg

[3] Solis: bit.ly/djsMvj

[4] Amber Naslund runs social monitoring company Radian6’s online communities: bit.ly/9ax9pM

[5] SayItSocial, who define themselves as Social Engagement Consultants: bit.ly/bD6b3j

[6] In a post entitled, ironically, “Six Ways to Define Social Media Engagement”: bit.ly/aReh54

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 3

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 3

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, part 3 is the 14th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


JObs Commandments

AttributionShare Alike
Some rights reserved by Kei!

Thou shall balance online activities with real world activities

For best results, social networking relationships should translate into real world action of some kind. This action may be face-to-face (F2F) meetings, commitments to act on behalf of your cause, or some other action such as donation.

Social networking is a way to stay connected in between real world events. If your organization has periodic events, social networking can keep participants connected and top-of-mind in the intervals between real world community meetings.

Social networking is a dynamic way to quickly get the word out about real world events. Combine it with your normal online promotions, such as email lists, newsletters and online advertising.

If you put all your eggs in the social networking basket, you may one day realize that you’ve lost some of the real world connections you built up over the years.

Thou shall not try to control everything

As we’ve discussed, social media is about the community, not about you. And that implies that you have to give up some control in order to do social media. You may be used to thinking you’re in control of your brand, your message. Well, you never really were. What people think about you has always been your brand. Leroy Stick, the anonymous person behind the satirical, faux BP Twitter account, @BPGlobalPR, perhaps said it best:

So what is the point of all this? The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND. You don’t own it because it is literally nothing. You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manu­facture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?[1]

People have always talked about you (if you’re lucky), and sometimes they say bad things about you. Now their talk is visible on the social Web, and you can see, perhaps too vividly, what your brand is, and what messages your community produces about — you!

To engage the community, you’re going to need to give up control.

You won’t control the conversation. You won’t control the venue (close your site and they’ll go elsewhere and bad-mouth you). You won’t control how people react to you.

Giving up control is the toughest thing for all organizations — You’re not alone!

Social networking is dynamic; it belongs to the participants; it’s not about control, it’s about empowering people and energizing them to act on your behalf.

Social networking is about relationships, and relationships are based on a level of trust, not control.

But what if people are saying bad things about me, you ask?

Face it, if you act in the world, you’ll always have detractors. The difference social media brings is that now, for the first time in history, you can not only see what people are saying about you, you can react, in real time, and, by engaging them, perhaps change their minds.

This capability alone is worth giving up some control, isn’t it?

Thou shall enable people to become online evangelists

Not only can you find the naysayers online, you can also find your supporters.

Your goal should be to identify, cultivate, and empower these supporters to become your evangelists.

That requires training, teaching them how to use tools, and how to bring the message to others.

The goal of social networking is not to be a one-person show, but to create an army of people to take the message out.

According to Jeremiah Owyang, formerly of Forrester Research and now with Altimeter,[2] “An evan­gelist’s role is to go beyond understanding and get others to believe in your product or service. This is beyond just communication and advertising and gets to the fundamental root of human com­munications, building trust.”

People are many times more likely to take a friend’s recommendation than a stranger’s. Building an army of trusted friends will multiple your current efforts many fold.

Next up: How to Engage with Social Computing


[1] Leroy Stick’s blog post on StreetGiant: bit.ly/btswHj

[2] Quoted by Ashley Lomas: bit.ly/8YRqmf


The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 2

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 2

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, part 2 is the 13th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


TED Commandments

AttributionShare Alike
Some rights reserved by dullhunk

Thou shall balance business and pleasure in social networking

Social networking is supposed to be fun; don’t make it all business. Don’t be ultra-serious all the time. Sure, your cause is serious, and important, but acknowledge that there are other sides to life, and don’t be afraid to have fun. Make a stupid pun. Link to the latest stupid LOLCat picture (bit.ly/dspJnq) or dumb YouTube video (bit.ly/9SQgex). It’s all about adding value, and sometimes that value is bringing a smile to your contacts’ faces.

Remember, you are competing with all sorts of entertainment, online and offline. You may find that a light and humorous tone may attract more followers or deepen existing relationships.

Be a Person! Be personal. Share things about yourself. Ask others for their opinions.

The more real you are, the better the online and offline relationship!

Thou shall be relevant

It’s not about your agenda — Talk about what’s important to your audience.

Sure you want to make your points about your cause, but do so in relation to your audience’s needs and interests.

One of the keys to social media success is providing what they want, not necessarily pushing what you want. Be relevant to their lives, even if it means straying off point. You want a relationship, a true, two-way understanding with your community. Think of the significant relationships in your life. How many of them are one-dimensional, built only upon a common interest in bowling, fishing, novels, disaster movies, or whatever?

Chances are in your best, most significant personal relationships, you connect on many levels. Ensure that you do that via social media as well.

Thou shall customize your strategy for your target groups

Before you even start using social media to improve your relationship to your followers, be sure you know who they are, how they differ, and how they want to be addressed.

How can you find these things out? Ask them.

Take the example of Fiskars, the Finnish manufacturer you probably know, if you know of them at all, as a maker of scissors. Scissors. A pretty boring category. Who cares what brand of scissors you buy? How utterly, utterly dull.

Well, if that’s the way you feel, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Think about Fiskars’ audience. What are they doing with the scissors (and punches, shape cutters, stampers, craft trimmers, embossers, knives and multitools, edgers, and other craft tools)?

They’re scrapbooking and doing other crafts.

If you know any scrapbookers, you know they can be very passionate, even fanatical. And they are inherently social. They like to get together IRL (In Real Life) and swap ideas, and work on their projects together.

So Fiskars did a very smart thing, way back in 2006: They created the Fiskateers social media site.[1]

How did they start their site? They found four women who were committed to scrapbooking and made them the heads of a nationwide campaign to create online and offline places (retail stores) for people bound by this common interest to gather and share ideas and community.

The site won awards. It generated results:

  • 6,250 members in 50 states
  • 1,000 certified volunteer demonstrators
  • In craft stores where Fiskateers are involved Fiskars has three-times-higher sales growth than in non-member stores
  • 13 new product ideas/month
  • 85 percent of “Fiskateers” likely to recommend the product to a friend[2]

And, by the way, Fiskars spent less than $500,000 on this effort.

So you need to understand the segments of your target market. And you need a strategy for dealing with each. For sure there are some you will not be able to reach online. But a surprising number will not only respond to you online, they’re already there and talking about you and your cause. Find their communities, listen, and tailor your approach to their needs.

So your question is: Can you find four women?
(Or eight men. 【ツ】 )

More Commandments


[1] Fiskateers site: bit.ly/9oBR3R

[2] Adam Singer, blogging about Jackie Huba’s (Church Of The Customer) Keynote at MIMA Summit Oct 5th, 2009: bit.ly/cPol5P


The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 1

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing, pt 1

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing is the 12th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


Moses

Attribution
Some rights reserved by osello

The 10 Commandments of Social Computing

“I think our nature is to be active and engaged.
I’ve never seen a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old
who’s not active and engaged.
That’s how we are out of the box.
And if you begin with this presumption,
you create much more open, flexible arrangements that
almost inevitably lead to greater satisfaction for individuals
and great innovation for organizations.”
Daniel Pink, media theorist

Social Networking, Social Media, Social Computing — what­ever you call it, it’s big, it’s new, and it’s growing rapidly. We’ve collected several rules for using social media as the 10 Commandments of Social Computing.[1]

Thou shall not social network for the sake of social networking

Social Media is Not:

Social Media is:

A Fad

Relevant to Enterprises

Just For Kids

For Everyone

About New Channels to Push Messages

About Creating Conversations

About the Tools

About Strategy

About the Techniques

About Planning and Execution

A Numbers Game

About Creating Relationships

A Replacement

A Supplement to Existing Techniques

Thou shall not abuse social networking

Quick Tips

  • Don’t push, push, push
  • It’s a conversation, not a soapbox! (we’ll talk further about this)
  • Avoid over-updating
  • Example: being 1 of 200 friends on Facebook, but making up 25 percent of updates — You’re not that important!
  • Constant nagging to join groups or causes
  • Sending out multiple requests to join your cause — If they want to join, THEY WILL!
  • Too many email blasts

Don’t Push, Push, Push

People who do marketing are used to pushing their message out indiscriminately, hoping to somehow connect with those who will respond. In the traditional marketing environment, there is little way to identify ready recipients of the message, and marketers spend billions each year trying to segment the market and deliver the right message to the right person.

Social Media is different in three important ways:

  • You can have conversations with prospects
  • You can know more about your prospects and under­stand better how they will respond
  • You can actually more-directly measure the effect of your efforts to attract and inform them

Because the medium offers these advantages, social computing users do not respond as well to the traditional push style of marketing. They may even be insulted if you blindly push your message at them.

Increasingly, online users respond better to relationship marketing.

It’s a conversation, not a soapbox!

Avoid Over-Updating

If you’re constantly updating your status, posting to your blog or otherwise creating a high volume of messages in your social media venues, fellow users are likely to see you as annoying.

For example, if your Facebook activity comprises more than your fair share of the discussion, your friends may either tune you out or hide your updates.

It’s not all about you. It’s about the relationships and community that you build.

Similarly, if your messaging is one-note — join my cause, donate to my cause, write your congressperson about my cause — people will stop listening. You must balance your overt messaging with other messages of interest, either on or off topic. You’ll need to discover the exact proportions that work for your community for yourself, but a good rule of thumb is to contribute four times for every time you ask for something.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party. You are making the rounds and you start to talk to someone who, although he’s talking about a topic you’re interested in, totally dominates the conversation and constantly asks you to come to his seminar and learn more.

Do you hang out with this person, or do you find an excuse to move on, and never re-engage with him?

Social media is like a big cocktail party. The boring monologists often end up speaking only to themselves.

How do you know if you’re over-sharing? Ask. Often. But not too often!   【ツ】

Thou shall focus on connections and community

People join social networks to be a part of something bigger than themselves. So it follows that most of the time, that something bigger is not you (personally) or even your cause. Remember, no matter how successful your community or your Website is, people will spend 99 percent of their online time elsewhere. So be careful to give them what they expect, and what they want, while they’re at your place.

One of the main things people want online is for their voices to be heard, especially by others who are passionate about a cause, issue, or topic. Enable that. Support their desire to be heard, to be valued, and to connect. What you say is important; what they say is essential.

Everyone is looking for a group that accepts them for who they are. Your job in creating a social media space is to foster that acceptance by giving them the tools, the space, and the permission to become a cohesive, self-sustaining group. That’s the Holy Grail.

People want relationships that translate into the real world, not just online! Nobody spends all their time online (well, they’ve at least got to answer the door and pay the pizza guy). Many people look to make their online time and relationships meaningful in TRL (The Real World). There are many ways you can encourage these offline connections:

  • Have real-world meetups[2] where virtual friends can press the flesh
  • Show your followers evidence of how their commitment to your cause benefits others by providing testimonials — written and via video or audio — from people you have helped
  • Encourage your followers to share details from their own lives, and the positive effect their commitment to your cause has on those they interact with offline

 

Thou shall not commit social networking narcissism

Narcissus was so in love with his image that he gazed at it all day, to the exclusion of other activities. Sound like anyone you know online?

The Web is full of people who are full of themselves — the kind who might say, “Enough about me. What do you think about me?” Many organizations act the same way online, showing an alarming sense of self-absorption. They may be talking with you, but conversation is one way — all about them, their organization, their fund drive, their issues and obstacles, their successes.

One sign of social networking narcissism may be constantly updating your status on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social sites. This is like push advertising and your contacts will soon tire of hearing all about you, especially if your status is boring trivia such as, “The line at Starbucks is long” or “My cat just rolled over” or “Going up the stairs.” Yes, these are all real tweets!

Of course, you may be over-sharing about your cause as well. Remember, it’s not all about you, your group, your cause! People spend most of their time elsewhere. You need to be interesting first, and interested always. This means you comment on other people’s posts; you send them messages asking how they’re doing; you help develop and sustain a relationship with your contacts.

Narcissism, self-promotion, and boring/excessive status updates are often cited as the top reasons people “unfriend” or disconnect with others online.[3]

Finally, the form of your communication also counts. Don’t just make statements; ask questions, and especially open-ended questions, even if they’re off-topic: What’s your favorite movie? What’s your best idea for promoting our cause? What could we be doing better?

 More Commandments


[1] For other folks’ 10 commandments, see: bit.ly/c2L97N , bit.ly/9NWATb, bit.ly/c5s1ZT, bit.ly/ceUjEs, and bit.ly/8ZNxQG

[2] Meetup.com allows people to organize real-world networking meetings online: bit.ly/btNB8n

[3] Reasons to unfriend: bit.ly/asCI5j


CIOs: Brand Your Enterprise Online

Part 9 of our series, What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media. A post on Mashable from a year and a half ago is still relevant to enterprise CIOs grappling with the impact of social media on the enterprise. In the post, Lon S. Cohen lists seven things CIOs should be considering. We’re taking a closer look at each of the item in Cohen’s framework. In this post, we take a look at Cohen’s fourth item.

  • Web 2.0 Content and Presentation Standards
  • Review and Approval Processes
  • Managing Corporate Reputation
  • Versions and Update Controls
  • Impact On Operating Environment
  • Establishing Project Priority
  • Compliance

Brand Your Enterprise Online

Your enterprise may employ branding tactics in your offline marketing, or you may feel that you either don’t need to, or don’t have the money to.

Online, you must pay at least some attention to branding efforts. A brand is a promise, and it’s also a handle by which people can find you, refer to you, and talk about you online. We’ve said before that online, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. And if you have a haphazard, disorganized, or confused brand online, they may not come because they don’t associate what you do with your online presence.

Online Identity Calculator

Online Identity Calculator – cambodia4kidsorg

All your online marketing efforts should reinforce your brand, and aim to drive traffic to your Website, the center of your brand presence. It’s great to get people to read your blog. It’s great to have thousands of followers on Facebook or Twitter. The goal, however, should be to make your Website the hub of all your social media activities.

The first step is to ensure your domain name (the part after the www) is easy-to-remember, easy-to-spell, and content-appropriate. Make it simple, direct, and if possible, the first thing that comes into people’s minds when they think about the problem your business solves. Don’t be too clever.

For example, if your products deal with drinking water filters, ensure that the word “water” is part of your domain name.

If it’s going to serve the purpose of being a hub of social networking activity, your Website needs to be optimized. At a minimum, your site must:

  • Have a call to action
  • Clearly describe your business, purpose, and products
  • Enable users to bookmark, tag, or email your URL to a friend

Have a Call to Action

Of the Must Have Three, the call to action is the most important. If your site merely explains what you do and, somewhere buried on an interior page, allows your visitors to take an action to support you, it fails. Period.

Design your site to clearly communicate what visitors can do to help you, and give them a positive action they can take, whether it be a buy button, a “Like Us on Facebook” button, or at the very least, a newsletter signup button.

If you’re not doing these things, don’t begin using social media.

The reason is simple. Much of your activity on social networking sites can’t actually enable a direct action. For example, the best action that can happen upon reading one of your tweets is for the reader to click on an URL to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is your Website. Other social media sites are similar: Blogs, tagging sites, photo sharing sites, and so on, all lack features to complete a significant action. They’ll all lead people to your site, where you must make it easy for them to act.

In our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises, we discuss the importance of a consistent social media branding and graphic presence in the Triangulate Your Social Media Presence section, and we talk a bit about site org­anization in the Engagement on Your Site  section. These activities will help re­inforce your online brand.

Socialize Your Website

Here are a few other specific recommendations for “socializing” your Website:

  • Ensure that your About page clearly describes your business in a way people will respond to. Yes, your board and your corporate structure is important, but is that the main thing you want people to know about your enterprise? Link to all your social media sites in this section.
  • Organize your site from your users’ perspective — If your site is organized based on your organizational structure it likely is not optimized for your users. This penchant for site structure mimicking organizational structure is called showing your corporate underpants.
  • Add commenting to your site — You’ll come to love it. And don’t require approval before comments are posted. See the previous section, Dealing with Negatives on page 203 for reasons why. A nice, free option for adding comments is DISQUS,[1] but be careful of privacy concerns when users use Facebook or Twitter to log in to post comments. We use DISQUS on our site.
  • Add an RSS feed to your site — RSS is short for Really Simple Syndication and is a way for people to subscribe to a page or a site and receive updates using an RSS reader such as Google Reader or others. It’s what’s behind those little orange icons ( ) you may have noticed on Websites. If your hosting software doesn’t already provide the ability to add RSS feeds to your pages, you may need to get a techie involved. You can also use third party software such as FeedYes[2] and others.
  • Ensure your site is usable — Usability is a deep and broad subject and beyond the scope of this blog. But in general, use text and background colors that provide a lot of contrast; don’t make text too small (especially if you want older folks to read your site); and avoid garish or distracting graphics. Also you need to think about your major navigation and whether it is logical to the typical user. And beware of putting important material in the upper right of pages. Users often ignore that area since it very often contains advertisements.
  • Ensure your site loads quickly — Sure, everybody in your organization might love the Flash movie that loads every time a user goes to your main page, but is it really worth a 30-second load time? And will it just annoy frequent visitors? Aren’t the frequent visitors you want to optimize your site for?
  • Register your site with all the top search engines — You need to be found.
  • Claim your blog on Technorati.com — Technorati indexes tens of millions of blog, but to be sure you get into their directory, you need to claim your blog.[3] This allows you to specify categories your blog will appear in, and specify tags for the blog, enabling others to find it. In addition, Technorati will track the effectiveness of links you embed in your blog, calculating your Technorati Authority.
  • Search Engine Optimize your Website — Use WebsiteGrader.com[4] to make sure your site is attractive to Google.

Once your main site is optimized, you’re ready to start to build or improve your online brand.

Next we’ll consider Cohen’s fifth point, Impact On Operating Environment.

For soup-to-nuts, strategy to execution processes, procedures and how-to advice, see our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


[1] DISQUS: bit.ly/cbLzgB

[2] FeedYes: bit.ly/b7etvb

[3] Find out more about claiming your blog at: bit.ly/97muSS

CIOs: Versions and Update Controls – Social Media Optimization

CIOs: Versions and Update Controls – Social Media Optimization

Part 8 of our series, What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media.

A post on Mashable from a year and a half ago is still relevant to enterprise CIOs grappling with the impact of social media on the enterprise. In the post, Lon S. Cohen lists seven things CIOs should be considering. We’re taking a closer look at each of the item in Cohen’s framework. In this post, we take a look at Cohen’s fourth item.

  • Web 2.0 Content and Presentation Standards
  • Review and Approval Processes
  • Managing Corporate Reputation
  • Versions and Update Controls
  • Impact On Operating Environment
  • Establishing Project Priority
  • Compliance

Creating and Managing a Social-Media-Aware Website

Frankly, Cohen’s discussion about version and update controls doesn’t really talk about anything different for social sites. Every enterprise site should have a content team, a Web Content Management System (we like Tridion), and enterprise-quality search engine (we like Endeca), a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team, and good policies and procedures to ensure that dynamic and static content is managed, updated, edited and retired – in other words, a Content Development Life Cycle (CDLC).

Integrated Content Development Lifecycle

Integrated Content Development Lifecycle

The social media component of your enterprise site must fit into these structures, and can be treated in the same way as any other dynamic content. What we think changes when your site goes social is the necessity for a Social Media Optimization (SMO) strategy and practice. Developing SMO and integrating it into your version controls and update calendars is the essential activity you’ll need to undertake if you want to succeed in socializing your Website.

Social Media Optimization

SMO is a very deep subject, but let’s get started with a quick list of Social Media Optimization rules, created by Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations, who coined the term, and explained it like this:

The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs, podcasts and vlogs .

Bhargava proposed 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)[1] which were later expanded to 16, and which we’ve adapted below:

  • Increase your linkability
    Enable and encourage others to link to you, and you should aggregate and link to your other content as well
  • Make tagging and bookmarking easy
    Enable others to tell a friend; list relevant tags on your pages
  • Reward inbound links
    Enable permalinks (links to, say, a blog that will never change) and feature bloggers who link to you
  • Help your content travel
    Submit PDFs or videos, and the like, to other sites to increase their reach
  • Encourage the mashup
    A mashup is when someone else does something with your content; the classic case is the Google Maps Mashup[2]
  • Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you
    The classic give to get; contribute to the community and it will come back to you; link users off your site if it will help them
  • Reward helpful and valuable users
    Reward influencers and champions by promoting their works on the homepage, develop a rating system, or just drop them a quick note in private telling them you appreciate them
  • Participate
    If you’ve read this far, you know why
  • Know how to target your audience
    If you’ve read this far, you know why
  • Create content
    While this seems like a duh moment, think about the content you create in terms of how it can be spread by your community
  • Be real
    If you’ve read this far, you know why
  • Don’t forget your roots, be humble
    Just a good rule to live by, overall
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh
    Pundits from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) to Woody Allen (A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies) have advised this
  • Develop a Social Media Optimization strategy
    A Social Media Optimization strategy, like all strategies, involves defining objectives, setting goals, and tracking progress
  • Choose your Social Media Optimization tactics wisely
    Don’t do social media to keep up with the Joneses — the Joneses may have a different audience, different objectives, and different resources
  • Make Social Media Optimization part of your process and best practices
    As we’ve stressed, don’t graft social media onto your organization; assimilate it and make it part of your way of doing business

Next we’ll consider how to Brand Your Enterprise Online.

For soup-to-nuts, strategy to execution processes, procedures and how-to advice, see our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


[1] Bhargava’s 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO): bit.ly/cbHXMh

[2] Google Maps Mania: bit.ly/an0Hly

CIOs: Techniques for Handling Trolls

CIOs: Techniques for Handling Trolls

Part 7 of our series, What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media.

A post on Mashable from a year and a half ago is still relevant to enterprise CIOs grappling with the impact of social media on the enterprise. In the post, Lon S. Cohen lists seven things CIOs should be considering. We’re taking a closer look at each of the item in Cohen’s framework. In this post, we continue our look at Cohen’s third item.

  • Web 2.0 Content and Presentation Standards
  • Review and Approval Processes
  • Managing Corporate Reputation
  • Versions and Update Controls
  • Impact On Operating Environment
  • Establishing Project Priority
  • Compliance

General Approaches to Trolls

So how do you deal with trolls? Well, first you need to determine that the person is really a troll, not just a clueless newbie uninitiated in the norms of your community. This can be a difficult process, and so you should refrain from taking any action until the troll has established a body of work that has annoyed your community. Of course, that means letting a potential troll stir things up a bit first.

In the following we consider various strategies for dealing with trolls. When we refer to community below, think your Facebook page, your blog, or perhaps your proprietary community space.

Antisocial Networking - By planeta Ron Mader

Ignore Trolls

Many online pundits recommend ignoring trolls. This, however, is easier said than done, although it can be a very effective approach. The problem is, everyone has to ignore the troll. If even one community member engages the troll, the chase is on. However, the community manager should respond to trollish posts with a gentle reminder of the community guidelines for behavior. You may want to repeat this a few times, after which you should counsel the community to ignore the troll.

Ignoring trolls works because the main need a troll has is to be recognized, and responded to. If the troll’s posts are ignored, their behavior is not reinforced, and they may go elsewhere or fall silent.

But universally ignoring a troll is very hard to do. While long-time community members may recognize the troll’s posts for what they are — cries for attention — new members may respond to the outrageous or off-topic troll posts and give the troll the recognition they crave.

Others recommend responding to troll posts with love and understanding. We think that any response is likely to reinforce the behavior. While it may be effective to take the discussion offline, where possible, and try to convince the troll that their behavior is self-defeating, this is an approach with a low likelihood of success. Remember, the troll is probably a troll in real life as well. You’re not likely to be able to change a troll’s personality (at least, without years of psychotherapy).

OK, here’s a bit of troll humor:

  • How many trolls does it take to change a light bulb?
    Three. One to change the bulb; one to severely criticize the bulb for going out; and one to insult your parentage for complaining about the dark.

Do Not Confront and Out Trolls

There’s a school of thought that confronting and shaming trolls will be effective in discouraging them. For example, blogger Kirsten Sanford recounted[1] how she dealt with a troll who personally insulted her: She exposed his email address and his network address:

Everyone, say hi to Paul! [email address and IP address redacted] Paul left this wonderful comment for me recently. It left me feeling confused as to why someone / anyone would take the time to spew so much vitriol. It really makes no sense.

We do not recommend this approach. Sanford is not likely to change Paul’s mind, and also not likely to convince him to stop harassing her. What is more likely is that Paul will change identities and network addresses, and step up his harassment.

But even more important, confronting Paul as Sanford did runs the risk of making her look petty and vindictive. As Abraham Lincoln said, it’s better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Ban Trolls and Troll Posts

If you’re in charge of your community, you may have the power to delete troll posts and to ban members who are trolls. In fact, there are probably lots of things you can do about trolls:

  • Delete the post — This can be a controversial move, and could harm the trust you have build with your community members. We recommend that before you delete troll posts, you ask your community to weigh in on the move. Of course, you should only take this step after ignoring the troll has not worked, or if you’re unwilling to try that approach.
  • Ban the troll — This can also be controversial. If you have control over the membership of your community, you may have the ability to ban a troll for a period of time, or to remove them from the community altogether. If your community requires new registrations to be approved, you may even be able to prevent the troll from coming back. Be sure you have community support before taking this action.
  • Moderate all posts — Once again, if you have control, you may be able to require that all posts and comments in the community be approved before being published. This affects your entire community, and puts a big burden on your community manager. You are essentially saying that you don’t trust potential and existing community members, and that’s not a good way to start off or maintain a relationship. We recommend that this be a temporary solution at most. Requiring moderation for all posts will definitely affect community trust, and may cause defections.
  • First post moderation — Moderate every member’s first post. Once approved, the member is free to post anywhere. Depending on the level of control you have on your community software, you may be able to require moderation for the first post in each forum the user posts in. This technique can help blunt the effect of trollbots,[2] and it probably won’t bother your community members as long as they understand its intent. But it will do nothing to prevent the chronic troll.
  • Let trolls become part of the conversation — If your community can handle it, then let them handle it. It’s probably the next best solution if ignoring doesn’t work.

No matter how you want to deal with trolls, you need to create a troll policy as part of your community guidelines and make sure all community members understand it.

Next we’ll consider the fourth point in Cohen’s list: CIOs: Versions and Update Controls – Social Media Optimization.

For soup-to-nuts, strategy to execution processes, procedures and how-to advice, see our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


[1] Sanford’s Dealing with Trolls: bit.ly/aOgy9L

[2] Trollbots are automated programs that cruise sites looking for open comment boxes that they can paste in advertising or other obnoxious material. There’s a hilarious automated troll simulator on Alex Kigerl ‘s site: bit.ly/ohUjUz

CIOs: Techniques for Handling Social Media Negatives

Part 6 of our series, What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media.

A post on Mashable from a year and a half ago is still relevant to enterprise CIOs grappling with the impact of social media on the enterprise. In the post, Lon S. Cohen lists seven things CIOs should be considering. We’re taking a closer look at each of the item in Cohen’s framework. In this post, we continue our look at Cohen’s third item.

  • Web 2.0 Content and Presentation Standards
  • Review and Approval Processes
  • Managing Corporate Reputation
  • Versions and Update Controls
  • Impact On Operating Environment
  • Establishing Project Priority
  • Compliance

Dealing with Trolls

Trolls can wreck your community. And pretty much every community eventually has its trolls. Trolls exhibit negative, hostile, antisocial, and deliberately provocative behavior. They may have an axe to grind, or they may just be people who thrive on discord, on getting a rise out of people, and who may not really value the community. We say may not because there are some trolls who just can’t help themselves. They may actually be the most committed members of your community. They just have the type of personality that produces antisocial behavior.

Offline, the troll might be the person in your book club who never shuts up. Or the busybody that, while often productive, needs to poke her nose into everything. Or the guy who always offers off-the-wall solutions during meetings and insists on bringing them up repeatedly, long after the decision has been made.

Online, trolls are empowered. If there are no policies and procedures in place to check them, they can dominate every conversation and sidetrack every productive dialog.

Types of Trolls

The Communities Online site[1] categorizes trolls into four types, which we adapt below, adding our own fifth category:

  • Mischievous
    Mischievous trolls have a humorous intent. Often, they might be a regular community member playing a good-natured prank. They are not abusive and rarely create trouble. Generally there is no harm in responding to them. Some members may find mischievous trolls annoying, particularly if their presence leads to lengthy threads that distract the community from its true intent. Other members find that the troll’s humor and light-hearted antics provide the community with an opportunity to laugh together.
  • Mindless/Attention Seeking
    Mindless trolls have a tendency to post lengthy stories of questionable veracity, or commenting on every post with off-topic or provocative statements. Mindless trolls are generally harmless, although their activities can rise to the level of extreme annoyance. On rare occasion, the fictitious posts of a mindless troll may lead to insightful debate and discussion. There is generally no harm in you responding, but it is often best to simply ignore them. If response is necessary, let the community respond.
  • Malicious
    A malicious troll is blatantly abusive to the group and/or specific individuals within the group. One of their characteristics is that within a very short time of gaining access they begin targeting and harassing members. In some cases, the troll has a prior history with the group or someone within the group. In other scenarios, the troll is simply looking for a fresh meat market. As a community manager, respond to such trolls carefully. Generally, community members will step up and enforce community norms themselves.
  • Destructive
    Around 1999, destructive trolls began to appear in mail groups and online communities. The primary purpose of this type of troll is to completely destroy the group it has infiltrated. Destructive trolls may work on their own, or possibly in teams or gangs. As a community manager, you may need to directly confront this type of troll, and eventually may need to ban them. Be sure to enlist the support of the community to take any enforcement action. If the troll does actual damage to the community forums or software, feel free to immediately ban them, assuming you are supported in doing so by your published community policies.
  • Trollbots
    Sometimes a troll is not actually a person, but an automated program called a trollbot. Generally, these bots are not interactive, and usually just post canned text as comments to other posts. An example of a recent trollbot was the Ron Paul trollbot from the 2008 presidential campaign. Such bots are an annoyance, but if you run an open community — one that doesn’t require registration and approval — you will get visited by trollbots. Enlist the community in identifying their posts and feel free to delete them.

Our next post will go into more depth about General Approaches to Trolls.

For soup-to-nuts, strategy to execution processes, procedures and how-to advice, see our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV


[1] Community Online’s Communities Online: Trolling and Harassment: bit.ly/cuCoEG