Over the years I’ve discussed social media strategy with quite a few executives from large organizations. It’s no wonder so many approach social media with caution. They’re well aware of worst case scenarios, and as a byproduct, the majority of executives today still hesitate to play a highly visible personal role in social media, despite the best efforts of evangelists such as myself to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Nonetheless, every major brand now recognizes the opportunity and necessity of engaging in social media conversations. And none that I know of are still relying exclusively on interns or just-out-of-school new hires to manage their programs. Projecting a brand presence into social media is a serious undertaking that requires communication skills, a certain amount of finesse, and common sense. This is where training and coaching come in, which is a topic for a future blog post, along with crisis preparation, which is the topic of a post I wrote that was published today in the Trapit blog.
Nowadays everyone has to have a strategy for managing the complexity of social media privacy. Approaches vary:
A relatively small number of people just don’t care who knows what about them. By default they let it all hang out. We see evidence of this every so often when someone gets fired by an employer who thought a photo was too racy, or a comment too racist.
On the other extreme, certain people have abandoned social networks altogether, or avoided them in the first place. People who have had stalker problems fit comfortably in this category, for example.
The majority are somewhere in between. We seek to filter our private information in a practical, socially acceptable way, while minimizing the amount of time and effort we spend understanding policies and tweaking settings.
Everyone in this third group should be aware of three basic privacy mistakes to avoid.
1. Don’t post truly private information on social networks
The most important thing you can do to protect your privacy is to use self-restraint. You simply shouldn’t put information that you consider “private” on social networks. For starters it’s easy to make a mistake with not-always-intuitive privacy settings, thus giving “public” access when you thought it was “friends only”. Facebook in particular seems to change its privacy system frequently in ways that make it easy to make such mistakes (so much so that it almost seems intentional on Facebook’s part).
Also, people you share “private” information with in social media may goof up and share whatever you share with them. This can happen accidentally (see privacy settings, above) or because they don’t realize that some information they receive from you via social networks is private…unlike all of the Continue reading “3 privacy mistakes to avoid in social media”
This is the first in a group of posts in which I explain why I have advised some clients to adopt a “dynamic brochure” social media strategy, focusing on publishing, active listening and “pulse” metrics while ignoring “performance”-related metrics.
As a client once pointedly asked me, “how much social media do we need?”
The answer lies in measurements of both the pulse and performance of social media activity.
Yes, I know measuring social media performance is almost universally considered a best practice. No, I’m not intimidated or uneducated when it comes to metrics (quite the opposite: I have an undergraduate degree in social psychology from a department with a hard-core approach to statistical methods). I am opposed to the abuse of metrics, however, and I accept the fact that not every organization is prepared to use them correctly.
For many businesses, the measurements that are accessible aren’t actionable. And often enough accessible metrics are abused just because they are the only ones available. I advise those organizations not to focus on metrics, and the strategy described in this post is for those organizations.
I discovered an interesting video recently while helping a client demonstrate how users of a SharePoint document management system can share information about the documents they are managing. The video is by Michael Gannotti, a technology specialist at Microsoft, and it apparently shows how Microsoft uses SharePoint 2010’s social media features in-house. The video covers other SharePoint 2010 features as well, but I found 2 segments particularly relevant.
Social Media features in SharePoint (from timestamp 6 minutes 49 seconds to 15 minutes 50 seconds):
people search — users can find people who are experts on the subjects they’re researching;
publishing — via wikis, FAQS, and blogs;
user home pages — users can fill out their own profiles, add types of content, see their friend and group feeds;
viewing other users’ pages — users can find out more about co-workers and their work;
adding meta-information — tagging, liking, and adding notes or ratings to alert others about the relevance of content to oneself, to a project, or to a topic; and,
publishing (blogging) options — users can post to SharePoint either via a rich web-based text authoring environment or direct from a Word document.
Using One Note For Sharing (from timestamp 17 minutes 34 seconds to 18 minutes 34 seconds):
A recent US Republican Party social media experiment misfired not because of poor moderation, as some critics have assumed, but because site managers failed to recruit and motivate the right community. This post explores ways to create an open, uncensored forum that can more constructively represent both loyal followers and potential converts who were (presumably) the intended targets of the site.
Saying they want to “give the American people a megaphone to speak out,” last week GOP Congressional leaders announced a new web site, AmericaSpeakingOut.com, an open “town meeting” where everyone has an “[o]pportunity to change the way Congress works by proposing ideas for a new policy agenda.”
New tools are putting the collaboration into “collaboration software” by creating a social media-inspired user experience for Enterprise knowledge management. But it’s taken a long time to get here.
Old school collaboration: floppy-net and shared drives
Until around ten years ago, when people talked about using software for “collaboration” in an Enterprise setting they usually meant transferring files point-to-point by email or handing off a diskette, aka “floppy-net” (or worse, by passing paper that would require re-typing). Advanced collaboration involved establishing shared “network drives” where documents could be stored in folders accessible to everyone on the local network. But under this “system” for collaboration, even when people devoted a significant amount of time to maintaining document repositories it could be difficult for others to find useful documents, or even know whether useful documents existed in the first place. Labeling was limited, document sets might be incomplete or out of date, authors, owners, or other contextual information might be unclear. Much like the internet before Google-quality search, folks could spend a lot of time browsing without getting any payoff.
Such collaboration systems are still quite common even though they aren’t very efficient because of the way that they rely on limited personal connections, memories and attention spans. In such a system the best strategy when hunting for a document is to ask around to try to figure out who might know where to find useful documents. People asked for help – if they have time – try to remember what documents are available, then either hunt through the repository themselves or point towards likely places to look. This system obviously doesn’t scale very well because there is a linear relationship between the number of documents being managed and the time and expertise required to manage them. Emails sent by people seeking help finding information can become a significant burden, particularly in the inboxes of the most knowledgeable or best connected. And because managing documents in this system is relatively time consuming and unrewarding, most people have little incentive to use or contribute to document management. Countless document repositories under this model suffered from neglect or abandonment simply because they were so impractical. And unless a critical mass of use and contribution is achieved, the appearance that a repository is abandoned or neglected in turn reduces the incentive of new or returning community member to participate. Instead people would rationally choose to “reinvent the wheel”, recreating documents or processes from scratch simply because the barriers to finding out whether what they need already exists are too high.
SharePoint and other web-like Information Management solutions
The rise of the internet has helped propel Enterprise collaboration forward, thanks in part to a new generation of internet-inspired collaboration software exemplified by Microsoft’s SharePoint. Sharepoint offers features such as alerts, discussion boards, document libraries, categorization, shared workspaces, forms and surveys, personal pages and profiles, and the ability to pull in and display information from data sources outside of SharePoint itself, including the internet (“web parts”). Access controls have also evolved, enabling people to have access to the files and directories that pertain to them, while limiting access to others. Meanwhile data storage capacity has exploded, costs have plummeted, and access speed has rocketed. Naturally, for most organizations the volume of documents being managed has ballooned exponentially. But we still need to ask: have knowledge management and collaboration scaled in proportion to the volume of information that is available and could be useful if more people could get their hands on it?
Notwithstanding features like Enterprise search, notifications, and improved metadata, many information management hubs are, in effect, still data silos where information is safe and organized but inconvenient to explore and share. In truth, despite powerful automated solutions now available, effective collaboration is still largely dependent on the quality of user participation.
Adoption and Engagement
Two key elements of effective collaboration are adoption, which corresponds to the percentage of team members who are able to use the system, and engagement, which corresponds to how many of them use the system regularly.
For a collaboration system to be effective it must maintain a critical mass of active users or risk becoming ignored and thus irrelevant. There’s a chicken and egg relationship here. A collaboration system must achieve and maintain a critical mass of adoption and engagement to be self-sustaining. Few people are going to adopt and engage if nothing of value is happening on the system because not enough other people have adopted and engaged. To attract this level of participation the experience should be easy (low frustration), useful (practical results are usually obtained), and emotionally rewarding (users experience satisfaction or even enjoy using it). Otherwise a collaboration system risks turning into a quiet information cul de sac no matter how impressive its technology.
Enter social media
Lessons learned from the social media phenomenon – examining the virtual footprints of the hundreds of millions of people using Facebook – are radically enhancing Enterprise knowledge management by promoting ease of use, practical results, and emotional gratification within collaboration systems. To get more information about this development I recently met with J. B. Holston, CEO of NewsGator, whose Social Sites solution adds Facebook-like features to SharePoint. Available for only 3-1/2 years, Social Sites’ committed customers already include Accenture, Novartis, Biogen, Edelman, and Deloitte, among others.
The basic idea behind Social Sites (my take, not necessarily J. B.’s) is that SharePoint users experience less frustration, find better quality material, and receive more emotional gratification when their SharePoint experience is more like Facebook. And because a social media approach to collaboration is both useful and gratifying, more people use the collaboration system – adoption increases – and they use it more often for more purposes – engagement increases. Teams get more done while having more fun. Additional benefits of a social media overlay on top of a standard SharePoint install is that it to draws attention to and promotes increased use of available resources and encourages users to find out about and experiment with collaboration options they weren’t using before, which may convert them into more valuable collaborators themselves.
Social Sites extends the functionality of SharePoint in a number of respects. The first generation of Social Sites added features including:
marking and tagging items;
providing custom streams of their “friends” activity updates (imagine keeping up with important developments with key people down the hall, in other regions or departments as they happen);
making it easier to move content in and out of SharePoint; and
making it easy for people to connect with the people who posted specific items with a single click.
The latest generation of Social Sites offers even more features (70 webparts in all are available), such as:
idea development (“ideation”);
the ability to follow people and events;
automatic updates when specific things of interest happen;
the ability to ask questions;
the ability to make requests; and
the ability to pass word along about things that are happening.
An open API makes it possible to customize activity streams open to groups of users that is also accessible from mobile devices. Social Sites also lends itself to community management and governance.
As icing on the cake, Newsgator also offers iPhone and iPad applications for Social Sites to enable everywhere, all of the time mobile interaction with SharePoint (including Social Sites social media features), completing the Facebook-like user experience.
For companies already using SharePoint, Social Sites allows them to upgrade their team’s collaborative performance without fundamentally reengineering their current knowledge management systems. For example the way information is stored and structured and integrations like workflows can be preserved. They can also avoid the costs of migration, retraining employees on new systems, or hiring specialists to manage the new systems. On the flip side, to the extent that Social Sites upgrades SharePoint to make it competitive with, or superior to, other collaboration options, the combination improves SharePoint’s attractiveness to companies considering swicthing over from competing knowledge management solutions. Finally, customers who seek to make this level of interaction widely available within their organizations may buy even more SharePoint licenses and invest in more customization.
Special thanks to J.B. Holston @jholston and Jim Benson @ourfounder for many of the ideas and information that found their way into this post.
The owner of an online-only business recently asked me whether I thought social media should be used to reach out to retired people. Because he had received a number of telephone calls from older customers having trouble with his online application, his fear was that very few retired people were computer literate enough to complete a transaction on his web site or to use social media.
A recent Nielsen survey revealed that 17.5 million people aged 65 years and older now use the internet. Of that group, approximately half (8.75 million) use the internet to send email, read news, do online banking, and use social networks. (Citation: http://mashable.com/2009/12/10/seniors-online-habits/ ). As such, one would have to assume that at least 9 million retirees are computer literate enough to be high value customers for any online business. They can be acquired through the same combination of media outreach as other consumers online, and they can be serviced at the low marginal cost of an online transaction.
I also asked for input from a friend who held a strategic role during a formative period at Amazon.com (for a number of years Amazon didn’t even publish a telephone number for customer service inquiries, as you may recall). He harumphed, then opined that besides being more than capable of completing online transactions, retired people can be quite viral because they are likely to use their leisure time to share product and services information with their friends.
Certainly, some number of people from any given demographic – including retirees – will have trouble with every web site. But so long as you focus on making your site user friendly, don’t be afraid of reaching out to retired people through social media. They may just find you, and tell their friends.
The 2009 Forrester Research report about what influences IT buyers in a B2B context presented the following list of the most influential sources of information for technology buyers. As it happens, the positive impact of all of the sources of influence on Forrester’s list can be enhanced through social media efforts. Starting from the top, in order of influence, the sources are:
Peers and colleagues
Vendor, industry, trade web sites
Your direct vendor salesperson
Technology or business magazines
Consultants, VARs, or SIs
Industry trade shows or conferences (in person)
Industry analyst firms
Forums, online communities, social networks
E-mail or electronic newsletters
Web events or virtual trade shows
Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos
(surveying 1217 technology decision makers at companies with more than 100 employees).
Also according to Forrester, 91% of B2B technology buyer decision makers use social media to gather information.
It’s critical to recognize that a successful social media lead generation strategy doesn’t require reaching out to every customer on a one-to-one basis. Instead, the most powerful online strategy is to use existing communication channels by reaching out to the influencers who already have a one-to-one relationship with customers. Here’s how this strategy maps to Forresters list:
“Peers and colleagues” – People will go out of their way to share good news with their friends. It’s human nature to tip off friends about big finds. The right tools can make it extremely easy for people to share information about products and services via email, Twitter, and other channels. State of the art viral messaging hooks can be built into the sellers web site, including a subscrition email messaging system and connections to other transmission mechanisms on the web (like Twitter). These are all trackable, incidentally, to provide feedback about the spread of a seller’s messages via various channels.
“Technology or business magazines,” “Consultants, VARs, or SIs“, and “Industry analyst firms” – I lump all of these together under the category public relations (PR). The experts and commentators in almost every B2B community are constantly trading information. More and more of this discussion happens using social media. Social media like Twitter and blogs are now a key conduit for building relationships with journalists, bloggers, analysts, consultants, and other experts, who in turn influence IT decision makers. (See my post earlier this week for more about this.)
“Your direct vendor salesperson” – Social media can reveal which specific people working for potential buyers are looking for a seller’s solution. For instance, LinkedIn provides a virtual directory of who does what inside many companies. Twitter and blogs can provide a blow-by-blow account of the projects specific people are working on.
“Web site“, “E-mail/newsletters“, “Web events“, “Interactive media“, and “Blogs” – Initial contacts are stickier, stronger, and last longer when people can effortlessly keep in touch with a seller using the form of online communication – email, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, webinar, etc. – that they are most at home with. But a surprising number of B2B sellers aren’t using these off-the-shelf subscription and interaction options to convert contacts into leads.
“Forums, online communities, social networks” – These three are pure social media. But a company must actively and consistently participate in them to have an impact.
Last but not least, within every communication channel mentioned above it’s important to listen and learn what people are saying about your company, its competitors, and its markets. Companies that don’t make an effort to become aware of what influencers and customers are saying are likely to miss both sales opportunities and criticism. It takes an effort, but a wide variety of tools are available to automate the process.
Earlier this week I participated in an exciting brainstorming session for an online fundraising event. My client is an education-focused non-profit. They want a homegrown solution that is customized to their needs and frees them from 3rd party fees. And it has to be ready for launch at a live breakfast event next month. (Yes, it is a short time frame – viva la technology!)
We arrived at what we think is a new framework for online fundraising, a hybrid between the time-honored “this thermometer shows progress towards our goal” and the scavenger contest vibe of mobile social crowdsourcing apps – like Foursquare and Gowalla – which is along the lines of “you just added your tenth new venue to our database – here’s a virtual prize to reward you and keep you going.”
First we’ll offer supporters an opportunity equivalent to “sponsoring a table” at a physical event. But instead of offering companies or individuals the opportunity to purchase enough tickets to fill one (or more) tables in a hotel conference room, we’ll offer supporters the opportunity to form a team and sponsor one or more students, at $1500 a student. In this way people can participate whether or not they can contribute $1500 up front.
The people forming teams, hereinafter “team captains,” are really pledging to assemble a personal fundraising network big enough to sponsor some number of students at the rate of $1500/student. Of course a team’s captain could opt to cover their target contribution entirely by themselves if that’s how they roll. But we expect to be able to find many more captains who think they can achieve $1500 (or some multiple thereof) by combining their own personal generosity with outreach to generous friends.
Here’s where it gets interesting from a social media standpoint:
We’ll provide each team captain with a unique link to their team’s own donation page. (From a technical standpoint, it’s really the same donation page dynamically rendered as the donation page for a particular team depending on the link followed – more about this below.) Captains can distribute the team’s link to their friends, and their friends can disribute it to their friends, and so on. And when I say “distribute” I mean via email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., accompanied by the non-profit’s own call to action or whatever each captain thinks will get the job done.
When people click on the team link they arrive on the team donation page and are presented with encouragement to contribute to the team’s success. On one side they’ll see what the team has commited to, and how far along the team has come (our take on the classic thermometer-of-progress graphic), and a leaderboard that compares the commitments and progress of the various teams.
Suggested contribution amounts will be in increments of $10, in an effort to attract small donors (as Obama’s campaign recently demonstrated) as well as higher-rollers. A key feature is that each donation increment is tied to a symbolic (“virtual”) milestone towards the $1500 goal. For example, $10-40 could buy a virtual sponsored student virtual school supplies; $50-100 could buy virtual text books or a backpack; $150-250 could buy a virtual chair or a desk; etc.
Once someone makes a contribution on the team page they are rewarded not only by a thank you message, and by seeing that they have moved the team towards its goal, they also see graphics depicting the symbolic milestones – virtual books, supplies, etc. – their contribution equated to.
Once someone makes a contribution they are also given the opportunity to invite their friends to join the team (via quick links to email, Facebook, and Twitter).
Before people make a contribution on the team page they are also asked to enter into the team donation form the name of the person who sent them the team page link (hereafter “the referrer”). This may have been someone besides the team captain, it may even be someone the captain doesn’t know. Each referrer’s name is recorded, along with the donations attributed to them, and the organization, the team captain, and the referrers themselves can all be kept informed of the impact of each referrer. In this fashion referrers can bask in the knowledge that they were successful in recruiting contributors; captains will know who to thank (or who to give a pep talk to); and the organization can get intelligence about which team captains and team members were the most effective recruiters – handy for subsequent campaigns. In addition, referrers who ran particularly successful “campaigns” can be debriefed in order to discover, and potentially duplicate, their secrets.
As alluded to above, all of the team donation pages required for multiple online fundraising events can be created with relatively few tweaks to the current web site, using the current online donation form and the existing donor database. Basically all that is required is:
a single new dynamic web page that mashes-up (embeds) the current donation form;
a few additional visible and hidden form fields (adding team ID, referrer name);
a couple of new database tables (or a new database if needed for security) to associate donor and amount with team and referrer; and
a handful of simple but colorful icon-like graphics.
Its a relatively simple matter to query the new data tables in order to compute what is needed to dynamically display the team leaderboard and the graphics showing milestones available or acquired through a donation.
Version one of this framework will have to be kept simple – some of the above features may not make the cut. Future editions will have additional features, like enabling people to sign themselves up as team captains. To keep it simple we’re keeping this an administrator-only process for this event. Summary reports about referrers will be generated by a human administrator behind the scenes now, but later this can be automatically emailed or displayed via an online dashboard. Yet another feature addition might be a referrer leaderboard that encourages friendly competition between individual referrers.
Looking forward to your feedback! Is this being done already by anyone? Are there any low-hanging fruits we could add to this framework?
Last week I had the pleasure of spending an hour over coffee with a couple of Seattle-area independent filmmakers to talk about their social media strategy. In honor of the occasion I put together a short (9 slides) introduction to social media.
While there are details that are specific to filmmakers, most of the concepts are relevant to almost every organization, both commercial and non-profit.