Monthly Archives: February 2014

Seeing Something New While Looking at the Old

I have to be honest. Having participated in social media since the chat room days on AOL in the 90’s, I came to the point of questioning the importance of participating in the whole social media world.

I am not one of those folks who likes to broadcast my every waking moment and I do not feel the need to post every thought that enters my mind.

That being said…

I have accounts on most of the popular social media sites; Pinterest, LinkedIn, google+, twitter and I even made the reluctant switch from Myspace to Facebook when everyone seemed to have jumped ship.

But again, I asked, what is the point of it all?

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A Shift in Purpose

It was not until I started my master’s program in Library Science that I started to understand that social media is more than just a place where people share pictures of their kids, what they had for dinner, their current vice, or crazy drama that really should be kept private.

People can use social media as a tool to connect to companies and organizations that are important to them. From a business perspective, companies and organizations can use social media as a tool to make their customers or participates feel important and involved.

Oliver Blanchard’s book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization makes a clear distinction between what social media is and how it is different from social communication.  Social media is the platform that can be used, while social communication is the actual connection between people in the community and people working within the organization (pg.7). It is not enough for a company or business to just start up a social media presence and think the social communication will just appear.  Blanchard stresses the point there needs to be actual value for the company to have a social media presence and it is important to define the purpose of being on social media and set goals (pg.13-15).  The management of the online communities is to be taken seriously because the creation of the connection between people and the organization is not guaranteed.  It is the social communication that is the key and changing factor for me.

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A New Value

I apply Blanchard’s teaching to the profession I aspire to be in.  I am going to be a librarian. One of the key responsibilities of a librarian is to connect the library users to the library resources.  Social media can be an incredibly valuable tool to make the library’s communities members have a connection to their library.  Without a community, a library would be irrelevant.

I am now starting to see a new value in social media.  The value can really be seen when we stop focusing so much on ourselves and the mundane details of our lives and start using the tool to connect with people and organizations we are truly passionate about.

Giving Your Blog a Facelift

One of the overarching themes of all the articles and posts on blogging is to make sure that you are producing useful content. Whether the author is talking about constructing an editorial calendar or finding content, the main message is to make sure that you’re writing about a topic that is useful or informative to your readers. Sometimes we start off blogs without thinking about the concept all the way through– here’s one way a company I interned for gave their blog a facelift.

Two summers ago, I interned for startup Lab42, a market research firm. I worked primarily on communications and marketing, which Consumer Insights meant that the weekly blog fell into my hands. Lab42 pools its respondents from social games, blogs, and applications; as someone who’s always been interested in social media, I decided to capitalize on this part of Lab42’s brand identity, blogging on topics like Instagram and live-pinning. While this was a good start, it wasn’t exactly tailored to Lab42’s offerings, and didn’t tell readers too much about the quick, professional research we were able to conduct.

After an in-office workshop on blogging, we decided to give the blog a much-needed facelift. Here are some lessons learned throughout the process:

  1. Find your value Figure out what you can offer your readers that no one else can (or almost no one else). There are tons of blogs about using social media, but not too many about conducting your own market research… that’s where we found our niche.
  2. Leverage your experts You have smart people in your company… use them! You could assign blogging responsibilities to a different team member every week, or at least have them give some input on content and posts before they go to press. And don’t forget about guest bloggers! guest-bloggers-welcome
  3. Have a point person While you do want to leverage everyone on your team, blogging is still a branded tool. A marketing or communications person should be responsible for making sure posts are contributing to the overall brand.
  4. Have a variety of content Solid, writing-heavy posts are nice, but you can post other kinds of collateral. Lab42 produces really great infographics, so we used the blog as a home to post those so that we could link to them later, like this SuperBowl infographic. We also posted information about events we were hosting.
  5. Use an editorial calendar They really do help! A half-hour brainstorm session with your team could be all you need to fill one out for a month or two. You might not have all the ideas hammered out, but at least you won’t be scrambling when Blog Day comes.
  6. SEO is everything SEO is especially important on blogs, where you’re able to update  content often. Even just skimming a few articles online will help you learn how to link and keyword your way to success.

Now, the types of blog posts you’ll see at the Lab42 blog are informative and tie straight back to their service offerings (good example: Infographic Best Practices: 3 Ways to Shape Your Story). Have you ever gone through a transition period with your company blog? How did it go?

Social Media Goes Down in History

We tweet, we like, we follow, and we share. But it wasn’t always that way. If you tell your parents to tweet about something, they might look at you like you have three heads. It speaks to how new social is and where its biggest impacts lie. But the fact is, social has been around for a really long time – just not in the same way that we think of social today.

Here’s a brief timeline of the evolution of social to what we know it to be today:

1950s Phone Phreaking —> 1960s Email —> 1969 ARPANET —> 1970s MUD —> 1978 BBS (Bulletin Board System) —> 1990s Modern Social Networking

So what is all of that? Let’s start with phone phreaking. Sounds phreaky, but it’s not. The term refers to Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.40.26 AMpeople who used go rogue on the telephone lines to try and use circuits to make free calls. Many phreaks ended up hacking into corporate unused voice mailboxes to host the first forms of blogs and podcasts.

Next came email. Okay, we all know what email is, but in the 1960s, email was very exclusive. The Internet was not publicly available until decades later, but a basic infrastructure for email did exist in which both computers that were looking to exchange communication messages needed to be online at the same time. Email has certainly evolved since then, but think about it, aren’t we almost always connected now on our smartphones?

ARPANET in the late 60s refers to the Advanced Research Projects Agency. ARPANET was an “early network of time sharing computers that formed the basis of the internet.” Two key words jump out in that description: “time” and “sharing.” Isn’t the basis of modern social media based around real-time sharing? Hmm, we’re on to something here.

By the 1970s social started to become more sophisticated with virtual worlds like MUD and real-time information sharing platforms like the Bulletin Board System, which allowed people to upload and download files as well as post and share information and news.

Finally came modern social networks and social media in the early 1990s. By 1991 the Internet was publicly available, and that created a rush to be the biggest and best social network out there. Many failed, few still exist.

The history that social has painted is an interesting one. It shows us that being social is in our nature. We want to interact with others and create communities where we can be social. So now that we have taken a peak at the past, let’s look into the future. How are you social now, and how do you imagine us being social in the future? Share you comments below or tweet me @JaredMandel!

5 Tips to Grow Your Community – From the Experts

People always say “Build It and They’ll Come,” but that’s not necessarily the case when building an online community. An interactive and successful community does not grow overnight, but rather it takes time to form a community in which users post independently post content and interact without moderation.

Author Richard Millington of Buzzing Communities offers the following tips to Community Managers:

  • image by artofdieting.com

    image by artofdieting.com

    Research Research Research

Do you want to know who is using your products in your industry, or rather what motivates them to buy it? Do you want to know where they shop, or what media they like? The answers to these questions and many more requires collecting data about the audience and the status of any current communities out there. A brilliant strategy can only be conceived through extensive qualitative and quantitive research.

  • Make Your New Members Feel Special

It is important to develop a relationship with your community members right out of the gate. If you invite people individually, it seems less like a mass invite, and more like an exclusive invitation to join a new community. You can send these invites through email or social networks, but it may also be more meaningful to present these invitation in person at events or other community meet-ups. This is a reliable way to jump start your community in its early stages. By forming these relationships early on, you have members that are dedicated and will more likely help you improve community later on through constructive feedback. Individualization is an ongoing process that should continue even as your community grows. Reach out to individual members to learn what they are interested in, ensures a higher rate of community member activity.

  • Diffusion of Ownership

As time goes on, you should be straying away from direct invitations and encourage the existing members of your community to invite their friends. You can create a collective goal to gain new members that can only be met when everyone gets involved. This puts the responsibility and ability to grow the community in the hands of everyone, not just the community manager. As well, you should create relationships with the media in order to make your community known to those in your target market.

  • image by lyved.com

    image by lyved.com

    Don’t Get Stuck in a Bubble

Remember that life is going on outside the realm of the internet. You are still talking to real people, and you have to remember to treat your community members as such. Once your community is more established, have a “tweetup” or an event relating to the interests of the community members.

  • Plan Your Future

Once you have everything in place, you need to put your plan into action. Millington splits this way of planning into a three-month calendar, as well as a 12-month plan. In order to break this down into more manageable chunks of work, it is helpful to make to-do lists at the beginning of each week.

Do you have any other tips? Leave them in the comments below!