How to Close A Social Media Account

How to Close A Social Media Account

How to Close A Social Media Account

While it’s nice to think that we’d all finish what we start, sometimes it’s not that easy. You create a Facebook page for your brand because you’ve got a marketing coordinator with extra time, but poof – the headcount is cut. Or you convince your CEO to start Tweeting, and she loses interest after about six weeks. It can happen to any brand….but there’s a right way and a wrong way to bow out gracefully.

The Wrong Way

Just stop posting. That’s what Sears Beauty did on Facebook in June 2010. They currently have 441 fans, but who knows, they may have had more at the time. But they abandoned the page without even a goodbye.

Here’s the completely confused, nonsensical Twitter account of Burt’s Bees.

burts bees

As you can see, they tweet only once every few weeks, and within the past few months they’re suddenly tweeting as some seemingly random guy, @WalkerUD97. Whoever he is. And they’re not even tweeting properly (using an @symbol at the start of the tweet….that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!). (As it turns out, Steve Walker is the Manager of Environmental Sustainability at Burt’s Bees – but you’d have to search for him and find his LinkedIn profile to know that.) Folks, if you can’t do it right, seriously, don’t do it at all.

You can exit a blog gracefully with a simple post and some information on where else to find your brand (or you). That’s what Jonathan Schwartz, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, did on his blog for Sun (now Oracle). He tells us why he’s closing the blog (the Sun-Oracle merger), where to follow him and that he’s planning to reopen the blog after the dust settles. But the sad truth is that soon after this post, Jonathan was fired from Oracle, and exited via Twitter thusly:

twitter

Unfortunately, even with all of his best intentions, his Twitter account became dormant back in September 2010. In this case, while it would have been difficult for a former CEO (or employee, if you’re one of the rest of us) to go back and re-update the blog, it would have been easy to close down the Twitter account in a better manner. Read on for some good ways to exit.

There are probably thousands of examples just like this, in blogs, Twitter, Facebook and any other social network you can name. I’m sure you have some favorites, do share them in the comments.

The Right Way

Jonathan Schwartz was so right in how he exited his blog, it’s too bad he didn’t carry through to exiting Twitter properly as well. The best way to exit is to say you’re exiting. If you’re shutting down a corporate blog, you can say so in a final post, with as much detail as you can give, and then stop posting. However, it’s imperative that you keep the blog content alive, because it’s earned you some search engine friendliness, and you don’t want to lose it.

You can’t shut down Twitter or Facebook, because you risk losing your brand names in those platforms. Twitter has released dormant handles in the past, so you need to be a tiny bit active to hold your place. And on Facebook, once you delete a page, you lose everything on it forever. So the best practice in both of these platforms is to put a placeholder in, indicating where else to find you. Do this every few months or so, until you’re ready to come back to it. Here’s a good example on Twitter from @InboxDollars:

inboxdollars

The same principle applies to Facebook – tell people where you’ve gone, why, and how else they can find you.

In the end, you’ll be saving some brand face, helping your most loyal fans, and making it easier for your team to reinvigorate those accounts somewhere down the road. We’ll talk more about bringing social media accounts back from the dead in another post, soon.

Do you have thoughts about how to mothball a social media account? Please share in the comments!

Fashion and Social Media

Fashion and Social Media

Fashion and Social Media

Is social media good for fashion? The answer is a resounding yes! The fashion industry has taken notice of social media’s ability to raise awareness, generate interest, and build loyalty; fashion’s movers and shakers have discovered that people prefer feeling engaged and connected right now to viewing even the most striking magazine photos weeks after the event is over.

It’s true, however, that some in the fashion industry express concern over the level of transparency that goes along with some social media strategies. The fashion world has long fed on exclusivity and insider information.  However, even the largest fashion houses have embraced social media, recognizing that they will become obsolete if they can’t keep up with changing times.

The impact of social media is especially evident when you consider this past February’s Fashion Week events. Sure, movie stars and other celebrities are still a major draw, but these days top bloggers hold major sway as well. As social media grows, fashion bloggers are actually enjoying their own celebrity; their influence translates into sales and exposure. In fact, their influence is so strong that majors brands are wooing them, and bloggers have been flown around the world to attend Fashion Week events.  This kind of access to non-celebrities was nearly unthinkable just a couple of short years ago.

Throughout Fashion Week, opportunities abounded for social connections into the events. If online users wanted to know what was happening behind the scenes, streaming technology allowed them to get in on the excitement no matter where they were. If they wanted to learn about the fashion trends as they were revealed on the runway? Social media made it possible. And tweets flew as people shared what they were seeing via their smartphones. All this translated into tons of excitement for the viewer and much needed exposure for the fashion world.

Also thanks to social media, anyone and everyone can try their hand at designing; social community Polyvore and designer Rebecca Minkoff partnered to invite budding fashion designers to create looks using Minkoff’s spring collection, including the Polyvore-Minkoff Dee Clutch. The winner of the contest traveled to New York to help Minkoff with the styling of her show. The Polyvore-Minkoff Dee Clutch was itself also the result of a Polyvore community challenge in which over 6,500 users participated, redesigning Minkoff‘s popular Morning After Clutch. The winner in this case had the clutch (“Dee”) named after her as well as the opportunity to travel to New York to see it on the runway.

Even with recent missteps – Kenneth Cole’s Egypt disaster, John Galliano’s firing from Dior exploding via Twitter – the fashion industry’s plunge into to social media seems to be starting strong.  We’ve likely only seen the humble beginnings of what is destined to be a long-time love affair.

organizing staff for social media

Organizing Your Staff for Social Media

organizing staff for social media

Just where does social media belong in an organization? Is it a marketing or public relations tool? Is it owned by customer service? Is it in a category by itself?  And – is it even important to put social media in a category? The answer is yes and no. You can implement social media strategies and enjoy success without choosing a classification. But classifying it may prove critical when you are creating social media policies and planning across the organization.

Which Department Handles Social Media?

Many companies, and social media practitioners, would have social media live in either PR or marketing. And its easy to see why. Social media has been proven time and time again as an important corporate communications tool, as well as a solid marketing tool.  And it’s clear that the length of social media’s arm and the receptiveness of online audiences make it an optimal tool for public relations departments. But social media is so much more. It has also become an important tool for R&D, customer service, and even employee recruitment.more

Each company may have a different strategy when it comes to deciding which department owns social media, but more and more are agreeing that it should be owned by everyone and therefore it may be classified as an organization-wide endeavor.  However, when ownership of social media is spread throughout an organization, communication and collaboration are key. Various departments must work together to coordinate the use of social media tools and ensure that the organization’s goals are met and everyone is on the same page. Internal communication and collaboration is critical for avoiding brand confusion and ensuring consistent implementation of cohesive strategies that benefit the organization overall. Many companies have established “social media councils” for this very purpose, bringing stakeholders from across the organization to regular meetings and online collaboration communities to work together on the company’s social media efforts.

Another school of thought is that social media should stand on its own as its own department. When social media is used across a variety of departments, some assert that it’s better for social media experts to hold the reins, communicating and planning strategies with representatives of the organization’s other departments. Others believe it’s a better idea to gradually spread ownership out over a range of departments as long as one department holds the reins initially. In this case, a department – say public relations – may explore social media and create strategies before moving on to educate other departments on the use of social media tools.

Departmental Uses of Social Media

Let’s now look at how individual departments can use social media.

Public Relations

Have a new product or service? Have exciting plans in the works? Social media makes it easy to spread the word. Start a buzz and encourage others to help you promote your products or services. Request reviews and testimonials and make sure everyone gets to read the great things people are saying about your company. Often, people who would be utterly disinterested in yet another new site or product are eager to check it out when someone in their network recommends it.

Other PR uses of social media include using social media to find, communicate, and develop relationships with journalists and bloggers; and monitoring what key journalists and bloggers are writing about and staying informed of their current topics of interest.  You can also deepen customer understanding of your company or product by producing online video and sharing it through your corporate site as well as YouTube and Facebook.  Some companies are also successfully supporting their corporate cause marketing programs by using their social presences to draw attention to their supported charities or causes.

Marketing

Social media and marketing are a natural fit.  Social media allows marketers to engage with audiences – providing valuable content, interaction, tools and tips which engender customer loyalty and attract new fans to the mix.

Increasingly, social media marketing is dependent on creating and curating a steady stream of quality content which becomes an entertaining or helpful resource to customers and potential customers.  In order to become a trusted resource for your fans, be attentive: listen to what your market wants and then offer it.  Use your own original content and curate from smart, non-competitive sources.  Provide 90 percent value and 10 percent sales/company information – or go even lighter on the company info.  This content mix works for Twitter, Facebook, your corporate blog or any other social platform.

Other ways marketers can socialize their efforts include announcing new products and services and giving community members the first chance to try or buy; posting special coupons or offers to fans and followers; promote marketing events through social platforms; and generating casual marketing research through polls, Twitter chats and blog comments.  Business-to-business companies use whitepapers, webinars or blogs to drive leads into their pipeline, and support that content with social network engagement.

Customer Service

Many organizations now use social media as a way to manage customer service concerns.  I tell clients that “Twitter is the new 800 number”  – customers expect to connect to your company using whatever platform they use the most, and they don’t care if you personally don’t understand Twitter.  Why?  Because social media allows customers to feel connected to your organization, by giving your company a more personal face. Use social media to answer questions related to your products and services, solve customer problems, and monitor customer issues before they get out of hand. Use the feedback you obtain through social channels to enhance the customer experience, plan for the future, and revise policies.

And whether you like it or not, people discuss products and services online, both before and after they purchase them. They share the good, the bad, and the ugly; not privately, but out in the open for fellow customers and prospects to see. By being engaged and responsive, you can enhance your company’s image and build customer loyalty.  And if you build your loyal social media following before the crisis breaks, they’ll be much more likely to help out when you really need them – versus trying to rally people after the fact.

Recruiting Talent

Social media tools make it easier to target talent from various geographic regions and attract tech-savvy candidates. Use social media to mount and enhance employee referral programs and to attract talent that isn’t actively visiting employment boards but is actively using social networking.  Post jobs (try using Twitter hashtag #jobs) and search for talent on popular social media sites, but don’t forget the importance of personal networking using social media, too. Your former coworker might just refer you to a top-notch candidate, and they could be just a Facebook message away.

Other Departments Using Social Media

The R&D or merchandising department might want to jump on the social media bandwagon too, to listen to the conversation about products, packaging and pricing.  Social might have bubbled up from your search marketing department, or maybe IT – or they could be important partners in your social media efforts. Internally-focused departments like HR or training may want to use it for social media to motivate and engage with employees.

There is no “right” way to structure or deliver on social media.  Every company is doing it a bit differently, and you should feel confident to forge your own path, knowing that there are lots of good examples out there of how companies are setting up their social media organizations to meet their needs.

What’s working for you?  What are you struggling with? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Why-PR-May-Not-Win-The-Social-Media-Agency-Wars

Why PR May Not Win The Social Media Agency Wars

Why-PR-May-Not-Win-The-Social-Media-Agency-Wars

The default position lately seems to be that social media is being grasped best by PR agencies, and a lot of PR agencies are winning social media business. As a former PR agency person who’s also worked in a social media shop, I’d agree that there are a lot of reasons that PR firms should win the social agency wars. But there are a lot of strikes against them too. Others have recently expounded on why social belongs in PR; I’m going to take the other side and outline where I feel PR is falling short and must catch up in order to win and deliver on integrated social media campaigns.

Budget

PR agencies have traditionally not controlled a lot of marketing dollars. They work primarily on fixed retainers, with some out-of-pocket budget, but generally have not had access to large, scalable media budgets like traditional ad agencies or digital agencies do. And since PR and marketing are still separate at most companies, shifting marketing money to PR departments in order to cover social media costs will be an uphill battle in many companies.

And there’s no question that there are costs for social. While some PR agencies continue to tell clients that social is “earned” media, it really isn’t, anymore. Most bloggers expect some form of compensation when they market brands, products or services. There is a cost to acquiring fans in Facebook. It takes time to drive a Twitter following. And creating content to fuel social media channels can be costly if done well. If PR is going to continue to gain ground in social, they must be ready to create, pitch and win budgets that go well beyond the traditional PR pervue.

Technology

Increasingly, social is a technology play. From Facebook applications to integration with Shopkick, brands are using new technologies to reach and engage with their communities, on the web and on mobile. And while I have great respect for my PR colleagues – I’ve worked with a lot of really smart people – I’ve just got to say: they are, on the whole, not the most tech-savvy group I know. Yes, the kids right out of college get it, and there are some very tech-focused PR execs, but many VPs and SVPs often can’t manipulate their own Blackberries, let alone use a QR code scanner. So how is this group going to be able to embrace, sell in, and deliver on technologies that will create or enhance social opportunities?

tecknology

I don’t think that PR firms necessarily need to create technology themselves – solid partnerships with trusted developers and platforms should be enough to accomplish a PR program’s goals. But there have got to be people within the PR agency who understand how to spec and manage development projects to be able to get projects executed professionally, on budget and in a way that impresses the client. I just don’t see a lot of PR firms even thinking this way yet, let alone hiring these kinds of people – it’s too difficult to justify a seemingly non-billable technology person in a traditional PR hierarchy. This will continue to be a huge hole for most agencies, and the shops that come around and get this will have a huge leg up on their competition.

Advertising

Forget the editorial/advertising church-and-state separation: PR agencies who want to win at social are going to have to at least learn to talk the talk about advertising. If Facebook ads weren’t enough, there are a whole slew of other social advertising opportunities out there, from iAds to Twitter promoted tweets to location-based mobile ads. And for many PR people this will be anathema. They want to work in the world of earned media, not paid; however, without a social media ad spend, some social campaigns will fall short.

But going back to budgets for a moment, most PR people who won’t be able to create an appropriate ad budget, let alone have the knowledge to sell it in and execute on it. As with technology, PR firms may not need to develop ad buying capabilities in house, but they will need people who know enough about it to be good partners to people who do, and, again, execs who can sound smart in front of the client and get social ads sold in.

The bottom line: though PR seems to have the creative and storytelling capabilities that fuel a lot of what social is, most firms lack skillsets that they need to be able to deliver an integrated social media approach. This will keep some firms hopping for a while until they figure out how to plug the holes, or else they’ll just decide not to play in the social media arena.

Is your PR firm plugging the social media knowledge gaps or abdicating to others? Are you frustrated or elated at the direction this is going? The comments are yours.

This post was originally written for Social Media Explorer.

The-Case-for-Social-Media-Agencies

The Case for Social Media Agencies

The-Case-for-Social-Media-Agencies

Previously, I’ve written about how PR firms are missing some key skillsets that they need to win integrated social media business. The post generated a lot of great feedback, Tweets and Likes, and I think it’s because it really hit a nerve with a lot of agency folk – PR and otherwise.

So here on my own blog I’ll make the correlating argument that there is an opportunity now for pureplay social media agencies to really grow and thrive.  Of course, I’m completely biased, having spent nearly five years at award-winning social agency Converseon, and now as principal of my own social and digital marketing agency (I did work in PR for a year in between – so have some credibility on the PR side as well).  Please bear with me as I make the case and then tell me at the end whether you agree or not.

robot

New discipline, new agency

Social marketing is a new discipline within organizations, and it doesn’t fit within most traditional company structures. Aspects of social media cross into marketing, advertising, PR/communications, customer service and even R&D. And most of those departments have their own agencies.  When social media is on the table, there’s often a fight among departmental and agency stakeholders as to who gets the work – and often it’s the agency with the most clout among internal stakeholders, not necessarily the best skillset or even the best pitch.

I predict that within 18-24 months many corporations, particularly those that are consumer-focused, will have a new, cross-disciplinary department or group to manage social media (some already do). And many will start to hire social media agencies between now and then to help them learn to manage their social programs and platforms in this new, integrated way.

Tactics and technology

Most social media agencies have broad skillsets represented within their ranks. At Converseon we had search experts, direct marketers, PR people, research mavens, creatives and a savvy tech team.  Those of us who managed client engagements were mainly digital generalists – and I’m happy to wear that label today.  I know quite a bit about SEO, transactional marketing, digital advertising and mobile to be able to not only recommend these tactics to clients but spec them, build them (myself or through trusted partnerships) and manage them on behalf of clients.  Of course, not every social program will have these components (though it could be argued that search optimization should be part of every web project and is a key outcome of a successful social content campaign).

To develop and deliver fully integrated social media programs, social marketers need to be able to consider the entire range of tools and tech that power every type of campaign, or else they will be too narrow in their thinking and their campaigns will start to look stale and repetitive.  So don’t broaden your firm’s skillset if all you want to do is recommend Facebook pages to clients.  Just know that it won’t take you (or your clients) to the next level.

Budgeting and extending the engagement

As I noted in my Social Media Explorer post, I think one of the major downfalls for PR firms (and it can be said for some digital firms too) is the way that they budget.  They are most often tied to monthly retainers and then book people-hours against those retainers.  It seems they are having difficulty breaking out of that mold and considering new ways of budgeting projects, some of which may require that they hire people who are not directly billable to clients.

Social media agencies seem to be pretty creative and flexible in budgeting and pricing. Some projects are monthly retainers – those projects are often bigger strategy engagements, day-to-day executing on social media, or providing a safety net for clients who are engaging in social on their own.  Other projects are fixed-price, encompassing a particular campaign or project or covering things like training or creation of a social media policy.  Most social agencies that I’m aware of may conceptually scope projects based on people-hours but also account for the roles that non-client-facing staff may fill in technology, design, or ad buying.  These newer agencies may also be less rigid in terms of their costs – with less expensive office space and lower overhead generally.

Additionally, when it comes time to ask for more money, social media agencies could again have the advantage. If they have someone on staff who understands and has run Facebook advertising campaigns, they can bring that person in to win the ad business.  If they have the capability to build a mobile app (using either in-house or partner resources), they can make a nice profit on that work.  Again, the social media generalist rules here – if the blinders are off and you can see a broader world, you can sell a broader scope of work.

Creativity and communications

“But wait, where does creativity come in to this?” you ask. Of course, creativity and communications are critical for successful social engagement, and yes, digital/ad shops and PR agencies are all very good at one or the other or both – that’s their bread and butter.  But they don’t own the market on either.  I know lots of extremely creative people at social agencies, and many social agencies have smart communicators who have been in corp comms or direct marketing or who were copywriters in their previous lives.  Just because you’ve never had “creative director” in your title or you don’t have a rolodex of journalists on your desk doesn’t mean you can’t successfully brainstorm the next Old Spice campaign or create the Walmart Moms blogger outreach program.  Maybe with a different outlook you can do even better.

So are you with me? Can you see the case for the standalone social media agency? Or are you convinced that traditional (PR, advertising, digital) agencies will either win out, or just swallow up social agencies whole? I’m looking forward to the next chapter in this debate.

Gamification

Gamification and Marketing

Gamification

Mention Farmville as a potential marketing tactic to most marketers or brand stewards and you’ll get greeted by an “ugh, really?”  I have yet to work with someone, colleague or client, who plays social games online, so very few of them are convinced that gaming is the way to reach consumers.  But increasingly, gaming is an important and growing channel with regular new points of entry for engagement.

In fact, there’s an entire new industry cropping up to help brand connect to consumers via gaming; it’s called “Gamification” and it’s exemplified by a startup, Bunchball, which helps companies including Hasbro, Comcast and NBC “gamify” their interactions with their target audiences.  The concept of gamification is simple:

  • Make it fun and exciting to be part of a community
  • Reward audiences for participation
  • Encourage pass-along and recommendations
  • Build loyalty and sales through repeat visits and purchases

Gamification can happen online or off; companies like 7-Eleven are gamifying the in-store experience, Bobber is making financial education fun for kids and teens, and programmers’ community Stack Overflow awards badges for community interaction and engagement.

And consider Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based services.  Most of them are based on the premise of gaining something – either becoming a mayor, or finding an artifact, or getting another badge.  These services wouldn’t be nearly as compelling if the competitive aspects weren’t there, whether it’s competing against yourself or against friends.

What does this mean for brands?  You should be looking for ways to either gamify your own marketing efforts to take advantage of existing games to engage with your target audiences.  The average online gamer is a 43 year old woman and 38% of women say they play games several times a day.  So though it seems that my colleagues are all outside of that percentage, there are still 78 million users playing Farmville and millions and millions more playing other games.  Brands are placing products within games and other creative integrations are cropping up daily (no pun intended).

As a long-time geek who played role-playing games in her youth, I’m all about a good game, and love that companies are taking hold of these theories and putting them to use in attracting and retaining customers.

I’ve seen a number of great posts recently about gamification and wanted to highlight a few of them here.

Game Mechanics and Gamification Rationale

TechCrunch: SCVNGR’s Secret Game Mechanics Playdeck

This is a fantastic resource with 47 potential implementations of game dynamics. If you’re thinking about creating a game or injecting some game concepts into a campaign, start here for fantastic ideas and examples.

gamification_marketing

Maritz.com: 3 Reasons Social Gaming Is Not a Waste of Time

Refutes a recent AdAge column which was bearish on social gaming and outlines three experiences that gamified activities offer which attract and excite users.

Mashable: HOW TO: Use Game Mechanics to Power Your Business

A great construct for the process of  incorporating game mechanics. Includes this clever graphic:

QuickSprout: How to Use Game Mechanics to Improve Your SEO

I just came across this excellent post on how to use gaming components to encourage pass-along and content creation, which builds search visibility as a result.

Examples of Companies Gamifying

GamesBeat: Website builder Devhub gets users hooked by “gamifying” its service

This DIY website and blog platform has introduced game elements that encourage users to finish their web building projects. The gaming elements have increased site building activity nine times and average revenue per user four-fold.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: The Retailer’s Clever Little Helper

Roundup of recent retailer adoptions of mobile game apps, including examples from Campbell’s, Starbucks, and AT&T.

EpicWin

Bring more fun to your tasks with this iPhone app that promises to “level-up your life” by making your to-do list into an RPG adventure.  Choose your character and tackle those long-overdue projects.  I’m a Warrior Priestess, of course.

Replicator: Subaru adds “Game Mechanics” to Cars

The car company takes gamification offline by adding badges to the back of their cars.  Sounds crazy? Maybe. But what about all those little family stickers people have on their cars, or the multitudes of colored ribbons?

Snowboard Magazine: Vail Resorts Launches Epic Mix

In what looks like an extremely cool app that makes a non-skiier like me want to go to Vail, the resort company has announced a complex application that will track guests’ activity on their computers or smartphones and via the use of RFID tracking at the resorts.  Pins will be available to commemorate each activity, with special pins available for kids.

What say you? Are you loving the gamification of everything, or hating it? Do you shut off Farmville and Mafia Wars in your Facebook news feed or are you an addict yourself?  And now that Farmville is on the iPhone, are you less bored waiting at the bank? Please leave us your thoughts in the comments.

Editorial Calendar Continued: Creating a Facebook Calendar

As a further extension to my series on editorial calendars, let’s talk about Facebook.  If you’re running a Facebook brand/fan page, you’ll want to create an editorial calendar for that, too.

Facebook needs an editorial calendar too
Given how many friends people have, and how quickly status updates get pushed down on people’s home pages, Facebook recommends that brands post status updates at least twice per day in order to capture the greatest audience for your brand content.  That means creating (and posting) 10 to 14 updates per week (depending on if you include weekends – which Facebook recommends but most brands don’t do).  That’s a lot of content!

Goals for Facebook engagement

Of course, you’ll first want to establish your goals for engaging in Facebook – you could be looking to:

  • build awareness
  • develop relationships with brand fans
  • promote new products/services, deals and specials
  • crowdsource ideas/get input from brand fans
  • encourage fan evangelism/advocacy about your brand
  • all of the above!

Your goals will help determine the content you should include in your Facebook calendar.  Building awareness requires more frequent posting.  Product promotions may happen infrequently.  And you may want to ask fans questions on a regular basis – it’s proven to be one of the best ways to get fans engaged on Facebook.  More on that in a moment.  So let’s assume you know why you’re on Facebook.  Now for the what.

Steps to creating a Facebook calendar

1. Determine your posting schedule. Is it twice a day, weekdays only?  Once a day? Are you including weekends?

2. Setup a calendar (I use a simple Excel spreadsheet) to include the following columns:

  • Day/date
  • Theme/category
  • Notes/ideas
  • Actual copy
  • Links
  • Images
  • I also use the spreadsheet to track results, with columns for Impressions, Feedback, Comments and Likes – all info you’ll get from Facebook through their Insights tracking

3. Consider whether you want to include recurring topics and themes.  As with blogs, you could set up various days of the week for specific topics or coverage areas.  For some clients I’ve done media clips once a week on a specific day, for others I’ve included a video once a week – the brand’s or a link to another video that was relevant and timely. Block out these recurring topics in your calendar.
4. Be sure to include a mix of media in your posts.  You can post links to outside content, photos and videos; you never know what will catch a fan’s eye, so experiment with various content types at various times of the day/week to see which ones generate the greatest results.
5. Don’t be overly promotional, but don’t forget that you have brand goals for using Facebook in the first place.  Look at your overall marketing calendar to see if you can use coupons, marketing promos, sales or other events in your Facebook content. Consider creating specials just for your Facebook fans.  But keep in mind that Facebook’s Terms of Service are pretty specific about how you can market using promotions, so be sure you’re staying on the right side of their terms.
6. Find ways to make your posts interactive.  Ask questions. Create polls.  Be open to feedback.  From my client experience, I’ve found that an open-ended question can generate as much as 200% more interactions than a statement.
7. Write out as many posts in advance as possible in your spreadsheet. Use your themes/topics and marketing calendar to guide you. While you could write long(ish) updates on Facebook (420 characters is the max), the system cuts off posts that are over 320 characters and adds a “see more” link which requires an extra click from readers. So try to be brief, unless you need to communicate a lot of details about something special.

Status vs. Publisher posts

Did you know that there are effectively two kinds of status posts in Facebook?  There is a “status” post, which can only be text or a text link (you can’t use Facebook’s linking feature), and which stays at the top of your fan page until you write a similar post.  And then there’s a “publisher” post, which can include links, video or photos, and which shows up on your fan’s walls but does not stay at the top of your fan page.  Here’s an example from the Gap fan page.

Facebook editorial calendar

I recommend that you think about what you want to keep at the top of your page and build those updates into your content specifically.  From the Gap example, if there’s a link to a hot product you want to keep front-and-center, use a text link in a text-only update.  But if there’s an event which is time-sensitive, or a promotion that may not last, create links using the Publisher link option in the status box, which will give it some graphic “oomph” and allow it to move down the wall as you add new updates.

Tools for keeping your page up-to-date

There are a number of third-party resources which can help you manage your Facebook page, including scheduling updates and moderating comments. Many will also let you share this responsibility with a team. A few to check out include Context Optional, Buddy Media and Involver. There are also free tools such as HootSuite, but HootSuite only currently allows posting of text-only updates, not media-rich publisher posts (as described above).

None of the more robust Facebook management tools come cheap, so consider your staff resources when putting together your editorial calendar as you may need to have an actual human doing your posting every day!

What’s in your toolbox for keeping your Facebook page fresh? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments.

Image via Wikipedia

 

Don't Forget to Monitor Forums

Don’t Forget to Monitor Forums

Don't Forget to Monitor Forums

When I speak with clients about the need to listen to social media to know what people are saying about brands, products and services, most of them understand the need to monitor the most prevalent social outlets: what people are discussing on blogs, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  I usually suggest that it’s also possible to monitor YouTube and Flickr (are people tagging or describing videos with brand terms?) as well as LinkedIn.  Yelp and Foursquare are two other important venues, particularly for local businesses.  But what about monitoring web forums?

forums

Forums, you ask?  You mean those old-school bulletin boards and message boards?  The ones that grew up in the age of AOL and are frequently the platform for heated discussions (we called them flame wars back in the day – are they still called that?). According to Wikipedia, modern-day web forums first appeared in 1996, growing out of bulletin boards and Usenet electronic mailing lists.

It seems to me that web forums may be the front runners to what we now call social media.  They are communities of like-minded people who engage directly with each another.  Participants build trust with one another and rely on key members of the communities as authorities.  One key difference is that in forums many participants assume aliases or screen names and in today’s social media most participants are transparent with their identities.   However, forums still represent an important part of social media community management; therefore, it’s important to listen to the conversation on forums in order to create and maintain a comprehensive social media plan.  Popular forums such as CNET, Gaia Online, Jalopnik and Gamespot have millions of unique visitors monthly, topping most blogs and websites.

Monitoring Forums

There are a few ways to effectively monitor forums; it’s a bit more manual than setting up a Twitter query but well worth doing, given the volume of people you could potentially be listening to.

  1. Sign up for an account at boardreader.com, a forum/board aggregation service.  You can setup queries by typing in a search (for a brand, product, category, keyword) and then selecting the “Show Tools” link at the top of the query.  Your queries can be emailed or fed into an RSS reader so you can monitor them daily.
  2. Use GoogleAlerts to monitor discussions for your keywords or brand. Most people already have Google Alerts activated for their brand; make sure you’re receiving discussions as well as news, blogs and video and consider adding some alerts that are keyword-based vs. brand-based, if you haven’t done so already.
  3. Sign up for individual forums that are applicable to your community.  You can often receive new posts in your RSS reader or via email; some forums software will allow you to subscribe to individual posts (to see followups), users, or keywords/topics.
  4. Use a comprehensive (read: paid) social media listening service such as Radian 6, Alterian SM2 or Sysomos.  Make sure that the solution you choose does include forums and newsgroups; not all of them do. Boards are notoriously hard to pull into a listening tool because their structure (threaded conversations) is different from other platforms and many boards use proprietary software.  Therefore many listening providers subscribe to boardreader (see above) or other aggregators such as omgili to do the heavy lifting for them, then they pull the results into their dashboards.  Then you get to see everything in one place.

Are you using information gathered from forums in your social media strategy and planning?  Are you engaging with forums participants to build your community?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

Image via Wikipedia

Dads Are the New Moms

Are dads the new moms? All signs in social media point to yes.

As I sat in the Dads and Social Media session at the Evo Conference last weekend I was struck by how unusual it was to be applauding four men on a panel (below, from left – Adam Cohen from DadaRocks.com, Greg from TellingDad.com, Drew Bennett from BenSpark.com and Troy Pattee from Dadventurous.com) – four of the hundreds of dad bloggers who have begun emerging as a new category in blog content.  It wasn’t unusual to see men on a conference panel – we women have been struggling with equal representation in tech/social speaking roles forever – but it was unusual that they were talking about fitting in blogging alongside their full-time jobs, how their spouses feel alienated by their new blogging “hobby,” and how people berate about them blogging publicly about their kids.  Funny, it all sounds familiar – if you’re a mom blogger.  These are all recurring topics in the mom blogosphere and have been part of every women’s blogging conference since time immemorial (well, at least since the first BlogHer in 2005).

 

dads are the new moms

So what does it mean that these guys have not only infiltrated women’s blogging conferences, but that they’re seeing their blogs become highly successful, well-trafficked parenting destinations?  It seems to me a testament to their great writing and perspectives on parenthood, but, given that most of them are starting to monetize their blogs, host giveaways, and create brand campaigns, it’s also indicative that brands are looking for the next new way to reach whomever is in charge of the household budget – increasingly no longer only the mom of the house.

Here are some interesting facts that help to bolster this idea:

  • 17.3 percent of all children aged 0-4 with an employed mother have a stay-at-home dad (US Census data, via RebelDad)
  • AlmightyDad has ranked 125+ dad blogs, all of which have significant traffic and web presence
  • There is already an “At-Home Dads” convention, now in it’s 15th year, catering to this segment of the population; I’m sure that blogging is a topic of conversation at this event
  • My husband, who happens to be a stay-at-home-dad and dad blogger, is a member of the NYC Dads Group, one of dozens of such groups that have formed around the country – according to Meetup.com, there are 157 groups in their network

I’m not the only person who believes that dad blogs and daddy bloggers will continue to emerge as an important category of blogs and consumers that marketers will increasingly want to target.  Some brands are taking close note. Others will surely follow.

img credit: Gena Morris @themorrisbunch

 

Editorial Calendar Continued: Curating Content for Twitter

In Tuesday’s post I described how to go about setting up a steady stream of tweets to populate your Twitter account.  The post covered the mechanics of the process, so now you might be wondering where to get all that content from.  Here are a few ideas for how to curate outside sources to provide relevant, timely content to your followers.

Develop some “go-to” sources for content

I gather most of my outside content from two places:

  1. My RSS reader.  When I’m doing my daily reading I take the most interesting articles that I think will be pertinent to my audience and I plug them into HootSuite (my Twitter platform of choice) for future posting.
  2. Daily email newsletters.  I subscribe to about ten, most of which I read regularly.  Some, like SmartBrief on Social Media, aggregate key content from around the web, making it one of my daily must-reads.  If you do tweet out content that you get from other aggregators, it’s nice to indicate your source with a “HT”(hat tip) or “via” acknowledging that source as well as the original author.

For some people the emails are “old school” and redundant with the RSS reader, but I still like ’em.

When I select articles I almost always write an intro for them myself; it’s extremely rare that I only include the article title in my tweet (it would likely indicate I was tweeting on the run from my iPhone and felt something was so great I just had to get it out there).  So my tweet of an article from Christopher Penn looks like this:

curating twitter content

Actively promote others and ReTweet often

Whether you’re actually RTing or saying an article is “from” or “via” someone (see below), sending out their content is promoting them.  I primarily tweet out info from people I know, I want to know, and those I admire and believe in.  I closely watch their blogs and Twitter streams and draw on my “favorites” often for my curated Twitter content.  I’ll send RTs on the fly throughout the day from my iPhone or from TweetDeck, and setup more “formal” scheduled tweets via HootSuite.

Include your own content, too

That’s at least partly why you’re here, right?  To have a dialogue about what you’re doing with your friends and followers.  So include your own content – your blog post, a note on your Facebook page, a link to your video on YouTube.  And don’t forget to tweet out links to your own media placements or speaking engagements.

Engage with and use your followers for good

Twitter is a fantastic medium for getting get quick answers or developing deeper polling data (likely unscientific, but good enough for most purposes).  You can schedule questions or polls right into your Twitter calendar.  Twtpoll is one app that makes polling easy.

Be sure to attribute your sources

For all of the sources from which you curate content, it’s always nice to acknowledge the author.  I typically use “from @source” or mention inline the actual author or website, and “via @source” for the place where I found the article.  So my tweet of an article by Dennis Yu that I found on SmartBrief for Social Media will look like this:

acknowledge sources when curating twitter content

I’ve followed lots of people who tweet out articles without attribution, and I often assume that it’s their own content and am then surprised when I’m taken to another blog or article that has nothing to do with them.  It’s not entirely dishonest – there are no laws on tweeting – but I feel it’s just not right.  Give credit where credit is due, and make it easy for your readers to know that you’re curating content vs. including only your own content.

Save all your content!

Now that you’ve curated this amazing set of content for your followers, be sure that you’ve saved it for your archives too.  You want to be able to reference back to these articles in the future.

First of all, make sure that you’re bookmarking all of your tweets in your Delicious.com account.  I use Packrati.us, they have amazing customer service (I had a problem with an old account) and it’s really simple to use – you just connect it to your Twitter and Delicious accounts and it automatically feeds your tweets into Delicious.

Next, be sure to regularly backup your Twitter stream.  I use Backupify for this and archive an Excel file of my tweets every so often; I have my entire @stephanies Twitter history going back to 2007 on my external harddrive and in my cloud server for safekeeping.  It’s pretty cool to look back to see what I was tweeting in those very early days, and also to see how my personal twitterstream topics changed as I got pregnant and had my son.  There are a number of other services too; look at OneForty.com for more.

Hopefully this has sparked some ideas for you; I’d love to hear how you’re curating Twitter content too, so I can add it to my own content planning.