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Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

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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Monday Mash

Today’s Topics: A Trio of Tales about Twitter Triumphs, the State of Convergence, and Books

Mashing together observations about where Twitter’s going, today I want to talk about encountering three examples from coast-to-coast that show how it is unique and useful for forging quick and convenient connections.

First, a recent acquaintance moving along early in his career moved up using Twitter. He carefully followed a prospective future employer, made a point to introduce himself at a meeting, and landed a job carrying out a social media PR practice. He mentioned that when we were among about 30 folks at a Hewlett-Packard-sponsored evening meeting in San Mateo, “Beyond the Hype: The Roadmap for Social Medi” (#hpsmr). More about that later.

When my well-traveled journalism friend lost her luggage at her home airport, she sent out a tweet. Bingo — an airport PR lady read it, got in touch — and found the luggage. Some tools  allow Twitter mentions to be tracked over varying geographic areas, so I suspect this is how that connection occurred.  More about that later, too.

Finally, I was impressed when a fellow PR forum member who is helping a family company on the side listened and engaged via Twitter so that a new product/service developed, with user input, through the conversation. His family’s company makes items in chocolate, and an organization planning a historical commemoration ran a poll to recommend which landmark statue should be re-created in chocolate for the occasion.

Following up on the mention of the talk sponsored by HP, a few of the panelists from eBay, Intel, and HP discussed carrying out social media through company blogs and related activities. One main impression was that the soft skills, as usual, are the hard ones — getting internal buy-in for the activity. In terms of a roadmap, the general consensus was that eventually, in a few years’ time, the activity should broaden so there are not just a few pioneering evangelists carrying it out as corporate communicators. Instead, it may become just another way employees can be ambassadors for their company in their social interactions. Naturally, some conversations need careful tending, as always, but the evolution looks like interacting through social media will continue to just become incorporated at some level among many people.

My sense was similar to what a presenter once said about change. He used an analogy of being so curious as a kid that he peeked inside a chrysalis as it was changing from bug to butterfly. Rather than looking like some hybrid, he said, it looked like mush.  That was his way of emphasizing that transition can seem formless right in the midst of major change, such as is taking place now in communications . . .

About the airport’s success with my friend’s lost luggage, I had the impression that the PR person was probably using a variety of applications that help listen to what is being said about her organization in Twitter, and to constructively engage in that conversation.

One little book I scanned recently seemed to have a range of such helpful tips and tools gathered together — “The Twitter Book” by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein. It seemed helpful for getting up to speed quickly and sorting through myriad applications that have cropped up. Also nicely written, if longer, was “Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day” by Dave Evans. It shamed me into getting around to uploading a photo in my Twitter profile, though I still have to throw together an informative custom background.

Having a hard-copy book where everything is gathered is a nice adjunct to trolling around online for ideas — although I do  sometimes wish hard-copy texts could be searched for keywords. I noticed my local paper was putting reporter’s email addresses under their names in lieu of the “staff writer” phrase — which gave me an impulse to tap the newsprint line like a decoy hotlink.

Speaking of convergence, I hope to be able to attend part of the Online News Association’s 10th annual meeting in October. I ran into a journalism multimedia instructor with a TV news background who hadn’t yet heard of the organization — which suggests convergence still has a way to go, yet.

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