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Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

I admit to reading most of the half-dozen-volume diary of Samuel Pepys, the 17th-century British administrator, whose collection was passed on to me in a stack of paperbacks and whose entries often ended with “and so to bed.”

Those few words come to mind with the recognition that the early days of blogging to explore being a modern-day diarist are past. Or, in the words of JD Lassica of Socialbrite at a recent Social Media Breakfast, “No one is going to go home and blog about this”.

Maintaining a lookout for potential topics, however, with the intent of mixing medium and message on a social media platform, has led to a few recent observations to share:

First, I was advising a colleague about selecting effective keywords for AdWords by combining a broad general term with a specific one. Later, I saw someone post that broad + specific = tailored in marketing in general, indicating that observation is not unique to one medium. (Just like finessing headlines was important even before the SEO days.)

Second, someone else was pondering the utility of having a social media presence. Does it equate earned exposure? Not participating is a lost opportunity to cultivate an impression from the standpoint of having a professional persona. Maybe the public portrayal lacks the panache of external validation by, say, a major media outlet. But it also is part and parcel of having a virtual identity in the days when distance is dead, audiences are fragmented, content gets forwarded fluidly, and mass channels are waning.

It can be a milieu for connecting to a constituency directly and developing a climate of transparency, trust, and interaction that sets a tone just like other hallmarks of an enterprise do – from its letterhead and utterances to its location, architecture and reception lobby.

Plus, managing perceptions by intentionally crafting a relatively uniform voice and approach indicates the organization is self-confident and responsive to appropriate opportunities.

In the days of crowdsourcing, people curious about your enterprise may be as apt to check your social media sites, or view posts by avid industry-watching bloggers as they would be to navigate first to your own home page. The validation comes from the crowd.

If you are already accessible and have built a trustworthy baseline, you do have an established path to disseminating information, perspective, and alerts when necessary.

Social media may serve as a resource among a stream of content that is shared, providing a different sort of credibility, esteem, and reach.

While participating in posts and comments may not be your main business pastime, the virtual connections made possible by curating your own content in a digital world still allow your organization to establish its unique niche, count for consideration, and wield a bit of influence at the same time.

The shift in perceived value is reflected in priorities evidenced by business sectors; among a cross-section of organizations, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts reports that universities, followed by nonprofits, are the biggest participants, with large corporations apparently lagging in blogging, at least.

With that, this particular blog will officially draw to a close, while leaving archives up for future browsing.

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I was speaking the other day to representatives of a public agency that intends to increase its social media engagement by moving judiciously into this arena. Going in, there seemed to be considerations about perception and resources.

My recommendation to this research organization, whose activities are distributed throughout a region, is to build a presence with the future in mind – including mobile platforms and geolocation services.

A phased approach seems best. Ramping up would entail identifying likely internal participants and establishing systems. Having clear processes and expectations facilitates targeting time and resources to provide frequent updates required by social media. A gradual approach would support researchers’ interests in retaining the estimation of their peers and limiting time on non-research demands.

In this example, an early phase would involve sharing, listening and guiding. Those aspects of establishing a toehold  are described below.

Share: A simple place to start would be to create a Twitter identity, or extend an existing one, and use that channel to send updates about new publications and related announcements. A sensible place to start following groups would be to begin with organizations in the same sector.

What happens then? Chances are many of the organizations will reciprocate and follow back, as well as forward along updates through retweets.

Some of their followers are likely to notice and expand their network by adding this newcomer to streams they follow. Other audiences will find these new posts through keyword and hashtag search.

Listen: Set up Hootsuite or a related monitoring dashboard to track mentions of the organization and/or issues that matter. Listen to what is being said and concerns. Use that knowledge to tune outreach topics or approches.

Promote your Twitter presence in existing media – for instance, send employees a recommended email signature file that includes this information. Add a follow button and/or other social media tagging and sharing widgets to existing web pages. Place the Twitter ID on news releases and other relevant printed material.

Guide: Draft an initial social media policy that encourages employees to act as ambassadors and offers resources (training or answers). Once the policy has been reviewed, approved and issued, keep it a living document that can be updated and refined.

In the middle phase, actively welcome participation. Below are thoughts on doing that through inviting, modeling, extending, building, tracking and reporting.

Invite: Suggest to researchers and others that they might share content, such as photos (might they be placed on Flickr, with a Creative Commons license to publish with attribution?). This spreads the reach farther. Images are already available for use there from public institutions, such as the military! Again, offer coaching/logistical support if needed.

Model: If respected individuals or agencies are already employing some social media practices, passing along those tidbits helps with acceptance of new approaches. Other public institutions, such as the Executive branch or Congress, could set the tone for the types of social media activity and outreach that is deemed appropriate or desirable.

Extend: The new social media program should extend and build on outreach already taking place through existing newsletters, announcements or events. Here’s an example – if a news release results in coverage, send a tweet with a link to the news article. Or, if a partner makes a discovery that creates a big splash, such as finding unusual wayward wildlife, offer additional multimedia and background resources in an online news page.

Share links with related organizations where appropriate – this boosts search ratings. Determine where the people you want to reach are interacting, and consider if there are any downsides to reaching out to engage with them there on occasion by commenting or participating.

Identify a small team within the organization that can provide backup for daily responsibilities and resolve issues raised through social media interactions, such as customer service questions.

Build community: Invite fans to add their photos to an organized Flickr community, started with researcher’s images. Moderate comments, but welcome them to foster a greater sense of involvement. Periodically remind audiences about this presence, via tweets or other outgoing messages.

Track & Report: Tools on YouTube and elsewhere allow providers to see who is accessing their content. Let internal stakeholders know how the effort is going through periodic summaries of tone, impact and measurement.

A mature program incorporates content creation and strong community interaction. Capturing presentations through recording and sharing can be straightforward to execute. With some coordination, additional material can be made available online for sharing, too. What to pick? Consider the needs of the audience, and factor in proactively fashioning opportunities to reach out with relevant information through events linked to online follow-up, or by creating and following an editorial calendar for fresh content.

As the program matures, there may be a small group that closely follows the organization and may function informally as ambassadors. Remote employees or trusted external supporters and advocates may serve as reporters or frequent commentators whose contributions help build community.

Meanwhile, new technologies will continue to evolve and be added to the mix. Below are thoughts on this phase.

Record and share: If resources exist, social media is excellent for sharing slides, podcasts, or other content from presentations that are already being given. The talks can be uploaded and commenting enabled and monitored.

Also, if resources exist to create or gather this content, strong outreach includes sharing multimedia materials with reporters, bloggers, educators, government officials, and event partners. The capability of adding multimedia through a “social media” release on PitchEngine is among the possibilities. The National Science Foundation is very active in encouraging contributions to its channels, such as Science360 – some of its offerings are not limited to research receiving NSF funding.

Serve their needs: An organization’s supporters and constituents may appreciate content that provides safety advice, how-to tips, or educational content. A publicly funded entity can also consider operating as a conduit for information to be made available in an even-handed fashion about policy and programs that may be subject to a diversity of views.

Consider new vehicles: There may be a time in which it makes sense to devote the time and resources to create new outlets – say, partnering on an education outreach event. There, organizers may capture email from attendees and send out an invitation to sign up for an RSS feed or to otherwise invite attendees to turn to the organization as a resource for information or activities.

One new-content-creation approach would be to create short biosketches of featured researchers, and build an annual editorial calendar to rotate periodically among each of them, creating updates about work in progress, research interests, or even a favorite factoid. Post these online, add related links to visuals or video/audio, and announce via social media channels. The goal is to personalize investigations a little and make the research interests generally accessible and engaging for non-specialists. The online posting could be a WordPress site linked off the traditional website – updating content on that blogging platform could be slightly simpler and more straightforward than altering the website itself.

Also, as more and more people participate in Facebook to the point that it is no longer considered a questionable diversion, it may make sense to have a fan page there, or possibly a company page on LinkedIn.

A Facebook thumbnail image could brand the organization’s outreach through using a pre-existing logo. Interactions on fan pages (and demographic breakdowns) are automatically tracked and reported to page owners each week. Employee ambassadors could become fans whose participation could informally influence keeping posted comments on point. Appropriate photos can be posted to generate excitement about the research thrusts, as well as links to more multimedia content.

Mobile is increasingly becoming a favored platform for accessing content, so traditional web pages should be built for clear display in small segments. Geolocation services, such as digital maps and social media tools, offer good possibilities for an organization with widespread activities to publicize.

Down the road, providing contextual information through augmented reality may be feasible and desirable too.

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