Context for champions: social media monitoring

Quick post is a good post I say!

Today I want to talk about how we’re managing information overload of social media and more importantly, if you’re a community manager, how you’re keeping your champions engaged, learning and willing to stand up for social.

I’ll need to reflect personally on a couple of recent “AHA” moments. Recently I was asked:

“I’m on twitter and I’ve seen pretty abysmal conversations going on that have nothing to do with what I do, can’t really see how it’s relating to me..are you going to tell me how I know what to look at?”

AHA.

For three plus years I’ve been working inside my organisation with a bunch of awesome individuals who can see the potential for integrating social media into our day-to-day operations.

Thing is, that when it comes to the crunch, the “unknown” poses too much of a risk for companies and individuals who aren’t comfortable in this space.

So the big question is “how do you excite people about social media when all they know is Facebook, Twitter and the horror stories of Dominoes, Qantas and Nestle ?”

More importantly how do you introduce tools for creating relevancy?

The quickest way to show that the conversation is worth having is to show the conversation itself.

I’m swearing on the deaths of my first five goldfish (jack x2) and (jillX3) that I’ve presented copious numbers and stats documents, but it means Nada, zip, zero until you see the context as it happens.

So, how do you do that?

Well deploying free and easy to use desktop tools such as TweetDeck & Hootsuite can really help. These tools can easily introduce key actions such as monitoring, scheduling and engagement to users who have limited social media know-how.

I also suggest a list of free monitoring sites that give quick (but not entirely accurate) snapshots such as socialmention.com and tweetreach.com, twittercounter.com and tweetgraph.com to introduce the concepts of social stats such as reach, sentiment, passion and influence. There are too many other monitoring tools to mention so I tend to start with the basics.

Ask someone what they want to know. Monitor and show them the “chat”…and then watch the change happen before your eyes.

As community managers, we know this.

Key take away? If you want to help people stay on the social journey, reveal the glimpses of context in a palatable and interesting way.

How do you do it?

12 things to consider about social media for your business

This time of year tends to bring the best kind of introspection and the perfect opportunity to prioritise your social activities for the new year.

To get the ball rolling I’ve prepared a few questions you can use to kick off your planning :

  1. Why are you getting involved in social? What core business objectives can this activity be tied to?
  2. Who are your competitors? what are they doing well in social media?
  3. Who is  your audience? what are they saying ? where (platforms) and why?
  4. Who are your major contributors to conversation (positive and negative): Why are they invested?
  5. Identify the list of common themes that you notice in conversation.
  6. Start reviewing existing content for optimisation and redistribution opportunities.
  7. Identify content gaps and work out how to fill them: consider hiring specialists to create content if you can’t deliver it yourself.
  8. Identify the channels you can manage, the ones that need more work and the ones you won’t engage in.
  9. Create a risk list: “What’s the worst that can happen?”. Use this to help guide decisions on engagement.
  10. Identify the people in your organisation who “get it”… get them on board.
  11. Benchmark before engagement. Set some measurable goals.
  12. Get yourself some support. It’s always good to have a few social experts on board who can “health check” your thinking.

Mostly, try to have some fun and push the boundaries where you can.

For more in-depth news and advice on social media, check out these publishers:

Shred the labels, let’s get human

I’m going to go out on a limb.

I really want to move away from the label “social media” and reshape the focus to be about the great content and stories that connect us all. The reason I do this is simple, social media is the platform, or the tools to create, distribute, share, interact, search, filter, propagate and connect to other great content.

All the same issues apply to social content as to the content in your traditional media or online (web) presence, such as:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What do they need?
  • How does your content support a user?
  • How does your content support the business/organisational goals? (what’s the gap?)
  • Who will create it and how?
  • What is its life cycle?
  • Who will manage and maintain it?
  • How will people find it? How will people share it?
  • How will we know if it’s good?

I’m deliberately moving away from my techno geek language of analytics, measurement, search optimisation blah blah blah…..because it’s not helpful in creating change in a large organisation.

For a short time, our organisation got engrossed with the shiny new toy called social, and let’s face it, what’s not exciting about working across multiple platforms and having the ability to tap into conversations as they happen, where they happen?

What has happened though, is really interesting.

As quickly as the shiny toy was torn from it’s wrapping, we fell in love with that sturdy box it came in. It could be a matter of timing perhaps. Our journey is coming up to its 3rd year, and so perhaps we’re maturing. It could also be a matter of understanding what’s important. I choose the latter 🙂

We fell in love with the idea that content connects communities. ..content creates bridges of understanding. We fell in love with the fact that we don’t necessarily need to be the people creating the content at all times, we can just share what learn from others.

It’s a pretty powerful thing when an organisation starts to see the sum of it’s parts, the stories of it’s people and the community around it as a real, living, breathing thing, rather than the technology.

It’s an incredibly liberating thing when you shred the labels and start looking at the humanity of the technology, rather than the technology itself.

Fragmentation: Profile reality vs the real you.

Sometimes, when all of this manic activity reaches a crescendo, it’s like a light goes on, everything slows down, and I realise that in all of my ‘connectedness’ I’ve become fragmented.

I think we all have in some strange way.

This new social “presentation layer of ourselves” has created the ability to obscure who we really are. The proliferation of online tools to connect us has in fact added an 11th dimension of  ” you and me”.

This “me” is the culmination of multiple profiles, addresses, IP’s, devices, conversations, comments, tweets, photos, journals, presentations, videos, music, book selections, apps, purchases, locations, pathways, and more.

All of these various facets of  “you and me”  also represent a space in time. I think back to my first profile  in 1997 and compare it to now. What my profile represented of “me”  back then was something entirely different, to what is written now. Yet it still exists and both are true.

This 11th dimension of “me” has while interacting over various levels of time, created my own personal story that is seemingly linear. However, for the end-user who searches for me,  the results can be a mix of  fragmented, unrelated, apparently unified results, which define the person at a glance, but is not representative of the whole.

This is where the fragmentation lies, in-between the snippets we reveal over time, their continued existence online, and the perception of the end-user to this information.

As humans, we make ‘snap judgements’, we connect based on similarities, we group together when we feel we belong. We do it this in our  “waking world” and also in the virtual one.

However, in our waking lives, rarely do we have the opportunity to present different versions of ourselves at exactly the same time, and also to go back – Orwellian style and rewrite history.

Interestingly, in order to appear as “whole” and connected nay, credible online, we need to align all of these facets and point them in one direction, make them consistent for the person who searches on us. To create a “brand” of personality. To create a “presence”.

The question is, should we rewrite what was?

I know my gangly teenage limbs are thrashing about out there in the online world, and part of me wishes I could lock her under the stairs never to be seen again but on the other hand, it’s a truth about me at a particular moment of time. We are the sum of our parts, past and present, and hopefully the future.

If social media is the catalyst for a more connected universe, who are we connecting with? Are you presenting the sum, the parts, who you really want to be or who you really are?

Content strategy (a.k.a alchemy)

Each piece of online content created, with or without intention, is a social object.  Online content is no longer static “words and pictures on a page”.

What it has become quite rapidly,  is an exponential factor for potential and risk.

As Web Content Managers our role is to mitigate the risk by creating processes for;

  • Analysis
  • Strategy
  • Management
  • Creation
  • Usability
  • Proliferation
  • Maintenance
  • Archival

Crafting a strategy is difficult when you consider the complexity of audience, platform, device/s and associated user experience for each delivery method.

Add the necessity of aligning mobile, social and search with an overarching content strategy, and it can become overwhelming.  A great strategist can simplify the complex.

I know that we have had to go back to basics just to get started.

Where I work, we’ve decided to build a thorough understanding of how our content is created, accessed and used. This has become the propellant for improvement.

We’ve also agreed that we need a single source of truth…not necessarily for content storage and distribution (though it that is the holy grail) but on it’s perceived value.

We’ve agreed that great content is valuable to our customers, and our organisation.  It is an asset, in and of itself.

For us, content value, is completely aligned with its usefulness. Our content and the strategy that supports it, can only be measured by how easily both are understood.

That’s why it’s been necessary to create a broad “no-lingo” vision,  linked  no-nonsense business objectives. Strategy at some point needs to move from theory to practical.

All of this content alchemy and alignment of stars still needs to result in a hands-on, no jargon, simple list of tasks that helps us get the job done.

For me, it seems like the only tangible way of attacking the beast.

This is a call out to Web Content Managers! Share your experiences about how you are herding cats, wrangling beasts, and aligning all of your online content activities..

What’s working? What’s not?

The world according to users

directions on web content
guide your users

“How do we make sure that our users know that they are in logged into our intranet, when with one click they could be in an another environment, or a kiosk”.

It’s a great question for a few reasons:

  • User centric questions are good, it shows we are thinking about them!
  • It highlights how interchangeable and connected platforms are becoming, which poses both great opportunities and risks for web people like me.

If a task naturally asks the user to click-through multiple environments,  should we tell the user that they have “now left the building”…To me, the answer will always be “Yes”.  It’s important to manage expectations both for accessibility reasons and that it’s just the right thing to do.

For example,  if your task starts in an intranet but then navigates out to complete the task, you are moving a user from an internal, secure environment into something that may not require a log in.

Users need signage letting them know where they are, where they are going and what they will find when they get there.

A user’s behavior will change slightly given the platform, the security, the device and the task in those settings. Just think of how you browse a mobile device to how you search from a desktop.  It’s the same task, but slightly different in execution.

One thing that we can do, to create a seamless experience, is to use a templated information architecture, that is scalable to platform, and provides the user with familiar experiences between the two. By this I mean, using labels that are informative and reflect where you are, but are similar across mobile, web and app. A templated design approach also assists in this.

Any other great ways to help users know where they are, but give them a seamless experience across platforms?

Threading user and customer experience into everything..

Claire

I’ve recently read this great article from Harley Manning (Forrester Research)  stating that customer experience needs to be an organisational competency, rather than one persons distinct skill set.

Each part of the business has capacity to contribute to a seamless customer experience. He’s has also highlighted having customer centric end to end processes and culture ingrained so that it’s no longer an add-on to your existing web, IVR, traditional media or bricks and mortar  customer points. It’s thread into the very fiber of day-to-day operations.

His two big-ticket items from this long, but well worth reading article are to :

One is you can try to add stuff that’s going to delight people and there are proponents of that strategy. The other thing you can do is try to eliminate problems that create detractors, defectors, people who hate you and go online and say horrible things about you.”

The third was to get your self a champion, seems simple enough right! No, I know it’s not, but I really think that the customer experience has to drive how we conduct business, what we aim to improve, how we create content, who we talk and why, and then finally how we measure a positive experience.

How are you getting customer experience into your business? What challenges do you face?

Direction on content

Recently I had a chat with a social media expert, trying to get some advice about how to build my “social chops”, and she quite rightly pointed out the amount of work I need to do.

In retrospect, reading past posts, it looks like I might know a little about social. I don’t. I’m learning. I think we all are. It’s moving so fast that it’s hard to keep up.
So, I’m going to go back to the foundations and strip the building back to it’s bones. Social, mobile, web, whatever you want to focus on- it’s all about content.
A few years back, I started a new job, and tried to share my enthusiasm about content with a list of inspirational sites. Weirdly enough, two years later they are still as relevant now as they were then.

Here we go:

Content usability and design:
Jacob Nielson
Steve Krug

Standards
Differences between HTML 4 and 5
Meeting WCAG 2

Pioneers that haven’t lost their way (excluding the aforementioned gurus!)

 Jesse James Garrett
Gerry McGovern

Who else can I add to this list?

A guide to avoid burning social media bucks in 2011

Over the last few days I’ve been reading keenly from blogs suggesting where you should invest your social media budget to get the best rewards in 2011.

I read this little piece from Kenan Erden in social media today, which was really surprising. It was all platform and marketing focused, with no real emphasis on how you get to this point. For the novice getting into social media, it reads like all you need to do is pour your hard earned cash into some scantily clad ads on Facebook, buy a few blog opinions and “lo-behold” here comes the money train.

I’m no expert, but advice like this, to me is the same as saying “set your hair on fire and someone will notice”- Well, yes I suppose they will, but the question is, will they notice you for the right reasons?

I don’t think so. So much so, that I’m going to go out on a limb, actually, a soaring soapbox and give you my humble opinion on where you should spend your dollars first.

I think the first call of order when assigning budget for Social in 2011 is a social landscape survey, otherwise known as research. I say this, because some markets just don’t respond to Facebook ads because;
a) the demographic isn’t interested in advertising
b) the product isn’t interesting or tangible…

Consumers can see through advertising or sponsored blogs too, it’s an incredibly risky thing to do if you haven’t done the research first.

I really believe the best dollars spent are:

1. Research: either get listening tools in-house, or pay someone, but understand your audience, sentiment, and reach before spending money on marketing.

2. Plan: get a social strategy together, which is aligned with your digital and/or content strategy. This takes time and does cost money, but well worth doing, so you’ve got benchmarks, objectives, frameworks for engagement, and a clear path of activities for the year. It also identifies risk, which can be the most costly oversight of all.

3. Identify: your internal champions. Train them. Train them to write, train them to research, train them to train!

4. Influence: Identify influential bloggers in your market. Invite them into the fold. This might cost the amount of a lunch, but the outcome is far greater than the investment, getting transparent, objective communicators out there representing your company or product is social GOLD.

5. Share: Invite your creative, marketing, digital agencies into the same room and share all the above so that everyone working in the online space understands goals, risks, benefits.

Again, this could possibly cost a morning tea, and a few hours lost shooting the breeze, but in doing so, you may find you don’t need to do a PPC campaign at all. Your market may prefer discussion forums in context or a Youtube channel. You just won’t know until you spend the money researching.

Last but not least, if all of this sounds like too much for one person to carry alone, then spend the money on getting content and social specialists to guide the process. This is possibly the best investment of all!

Don’t worry, I’m not scouting for work, I just think it’s really important to do the legwork before you act, after all, once it’s out there, it can’t come back.

Good luck spending in 2011!

Keeping social on the straight and narrow.

Strip back the fancy language and social is the culmination of technology platforms that we use to communicate with each other.

It is the great leveler. It doesn’t matter where you live, or what car you own, we all behave in a similar ways online. Social has become the world’s largest democracy powered by technology but driven by humans.

It forces us to listen, reflect and engage with customers based on what they need, not what we want to tell them. As a web content manager, I’ve been banging the same drum (against my own head at times) for years- so the advent of social has really helped bring other naysayers along on the journey.

My only fear now is that the words ‘social’, improving ‘customer experience’ and the ‘user journey’ are really becoming part of a new found buzzword bingo- and are usually dropped surreptitiously into conversation with little actual data or research backing them up.

Recently I’ve been working with some larger Creative Agencies, who are hopping on the social bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at Creative Agencies, the creative side of their work is breathtaking, and so it should be, it’s their area of expertise.

I’m just finding that hybrid offerings are coming out of Agencies who don’t necessarily have the greatest understanding of the social landscape. It’s an entirely different monster to running an above the line campaign via traditional marketing methods.

To me, it’s a real danger employing Creative Agencies to run social campaigns, particularly social marketing campaigns. Unless your Agency has a thorough knowledge of your corporate landscape, (meaning all the issues facing your organisation from customer opinion, to call centre operations)- then a marketing campaign can go from trying to raise awareness for the right reasons, to landing you in incredibly hot water.

Customers are not stupid, they are able (and willing) to make connections about your company that even you haven’t. Drawing attention to how great you are as a company, or new exciting products that you have on offer can only really work if you’ve got your house in order. Customers don’t want to see shiny happy people if they are getting poor customer service, or over billed for example.

This is where the democracy and true transparency of social platforms is fantastic. More often than not, if creative agencies conducted social media monitoring before campaign development, they’d understand how to direct a campaign, and hopefully come up with ideas to mitigate risks in the social world.

Customer feedback via social platforms provides great creative direction for those willing to listen.

Creating Facebook fan pages for campaigns, when you haven’t listened, is pretty much the same as asking someone how they are, and not really wanting the truthful answer. Yes, it’s nice to think that everyone is happy and having a great day, but it’s not realistic. More importantly, it heightens the risk of turning a positive into a negative. Sometimes the truthful answer is worse than you imagined. In social, it’s out there for good, so it really does pay to work out who you are talking to, and find out what they are already saying.

Soap box moment over.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are a few things you can do to make sure that a brilliant creative campaign is not derailed by an angry flash mob of social trolls.

1. Get your brand, marketing and corporate risk people together in the same room. Air the laundry. Turn over stones. Tell stories, share information.

2. Get your agency across the issues before they begin a creative strategy.

3. Monitor before, during and after the campaign.

4. If you’re not actively engaged in social media, and your company isn’t responding, then at least make sure that you have some ways of harnessing sentiment and directing it towards the positive. Get busy with your existing advocates and ask them what they think about your direction.

5. Listen, listen and please listen to your customers and try to make sure that some of their issues are resolved before going to market if possible. If not, ACKNOWLEDGE that you are listening and let them know by any means possible that you are trying to make changes. It’s called communication! Everyone wants to feel heard.

I’m sure there are more, but at the risk of boring you to death, I think I’ll post a separate article before Xmas about some of the other ways you can make sure the whole process is a positive one. If nothing else, it’s a great learning experience.

Okay, that’s my Friday rant. Over and out!