by Sherry Heyl
About a year and a half ago, in addition to running Concept Hub, I also started working with eRollover as their Community Director. What I enjoy most about doing both jobs is the ability to get a 360 degree view of integrating social media into an organization. I have years of experience helping a variety of clients as a consultant, and with eRollover I get the experience of working inside an organization.
A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany. The companies who need community managers the most are typically larger companies that are faced with the challenge of changing human behavior internally. Smaller, more agile companies, and especially start-ups can create a culture that embraces social media as part of everyone’s job. I suppose I came to this conclusion because of how quickly eRollover is becoming a social company from the inside out.
As I pondered this, I came across an infographic published by Mashable that suggests an integrated approach gets more results than having a dedicated social media team. Their examples compare larger organizations with different approaches to social media.
Of course the integrated approach within a larger organization has many challenges. How do you keep everyone on message? How do you harness and distribute the valuable information that can be gathered from social media? How to you keep everyone involved in social media up to date with what seems like daily technical changes happening on the social web? How do you keep people focused on their core job as opposed to getting distracted by the social web? When, how, and what should be measured on the social web?
A community manager should be managing the entire community, both internally and externally. Perhaps a community manager is not so much a “social media expert” but someone who specializes in change management and organizational development.
Should you hire a community manager? As I ponder that question I now believe that depends not on the size of your organization, or the maturity of the organization, but on the expected rate of change your organization is facing.
What do you think?
by Sherry Heyl
I recall long ago when we, social media evangelist, warned brands that consumers would be talking about about them and that those conversations would be more influential than any marketing material. Now there are stats after stats showing that to be the case and many people have either outsourced brand monitoring or brought in tools such as Radian6 to monitor conversations around their brand.
But what if no one is talking about your brand or your competitors? Does that mean that there is no insight you can get from online conversations?
Not necessarily. I would suggest that although brand mentions may not be central to conversations, the services needed may still be part of the conversations.
Take health care as an example. Do a social media search for any medical facility and you will find very few review and conversations, yet search for symptoms and diagnosis and you will find communities of people talking about their experiences.
Although there are many ways to measure conversations, the challenge brand managers will face is which conversations to measure.
Again, using health care as another example. A common acronym used is ENT for ears, nose and throat. If one were to search for ENT alone they would find all kinds of results for Entertainment News Tonight. It is important to gather key words together as a way to filter out the conversations that are irrelevant and even more important to know if the audience you are trying to tap into are even using the same acronym or words that you think they are using.
Beyond that, even if you are tapped into all the right word combinations and working with tools that tap into the influential conversations, are you sure that you are listening to real people with real motivations. Many sites that show up as user-generated content are either spam sites that are using all kinds of tricks to sell advertising or sites that are modeled after media sites where the content is more like a published article than a conversation.
To really get to know the people who you want to connect with, I believe the best thing to do is to “rub virtual elbows” with the most relevant people.
This means sorting through the conversations to identify who is talking about what is important for you to hear? What are they saying and to whom are they saying it to? Whereas monitoring tools can start pointing you in the right direction, it still takes human eyes and insights to gather the real meaning of what is being said and how it can influence your brand.
Recently Mashable posted an article that provided a glimpse into the future of brand monitoring and the semantic web.
… cluster analysis works on the basis of math, but it can’t differentiate apple (the fruit) from Apple (the company). Semantic technology, he says, can add additional insight because of its ability to identify entities and nuances in language.
But the semantic web has a long way to go and in the meantime millions of conversations that can provide insights for you or your competitors are happening online everyday. Until we can get our computers to think like humans the best brand monitoring you will have will be actual humans tapping into the conversations of other humans. It may sound like a lot of work, but so is throwing darts at a target with a blindfold on.
by Sherry Heyl
Social Media is an ever-changing, overwhelming sea of possibilities. For most people the biggest challenge is figuring out where to get started with social media.
We all have heard the familiar and sound advise to start by listening. Listen to your customers, listen to the community, listen, listen, listen.
Everyone says to listen! Listen to what?
The reality is that there is so much information or noise being generated every second that you could spend an entire career listening and never do anything else.
The trick is to not just listen, but to participate, as well as be able to adapt the voice of authority.
Think back to being a kid on a playground, or go visit a busy playground and observe for awhile. What you will notice first is that it is a noisy place. There are little girls having secret conversations in one corner, groups of boys raiding each other on the equipment, and a group of boys and girls building castles at yet another section of the playground. Each of them are living in their own world and are tuned into their own activities, but the call of an authoritative voice raises their attention and will cause all activities to change directions.
How does this relate to developing your own social media listening program? The social media world is very similar to a child’s playground (in oh so many ways!)
When a child arrives at the playground they will first glance around to see what is going on and who they know. I relate this to casting a wide net to gather a high level insight of conversations that are happening related to:
- Your Brand
- Your Competitors
- Your Services
- Problems you Solve
Once we understand the landscape and ecosystem of all the activities going on, we will begin to focus in on what we know best and where we feel most comfortable. On the playground this would be equivalent to saying hi to our friends and checking in on what they are doing. In the social media world it is very much the same thing. We will check in on our customers, prospects, and people who know us that we should get to know.
As we play we begin to learn the rules of the playground. Who is in charge of which activities and which children are committed to those activities as well as which children are just exploring various areas. In social media we call the leaders of certain circles influencers. Social media influencers, like the children leading various playground activities, were never appointed as leaders and they have no real authority, but they have a personality that entices others to follow along. As we play with them we strengthen existing relationship bonds as well as make new friends.
In business this would be equivalent to understanding the context of each conversation, the sentiment within each community and the connections among different social ties. Look for who is the center of influence within your market.
The child who wants to lead his own little tribe will be successful only if he or she has tapped into areas of play that children are most drawn to and story lines that they want to act out. Similar to the business person who needs to create messages that resonate with their customers needs and desires and to attract an audience who are willing and able to respond to various calls to action.
Once you are not only part of the community, your community also becomes part of the ecosystem and you will be tapped in to new opportunities as well as potential threats to your playground enterprise. You will be able to respond to these opportunities and threats to the best of your ability.
However, there is always the inevitable call from the voice of authority that changes the game. On the playground it is the voice of the parent saying it is time for your best friend to leave, thus shaking up the connections within your group. Online it is the voice of a social networking site enticing your community members away from your chosen channels with promises of better tools, friendly user interfaces, or more efficient ways to track the enormous amount of information we are all keeping track of. The child must be prepared to rebuild or move-on, as does any business investing in social media.
However, to keep up with it all, you have to continuously be listening.
by Sherry Heyl
1. Get each department involved in the organization’s social media efforts.
2. Create a culture of sharing.
3. Create a presence in the channels where your customer are.
I mentioned that once you have made it up the social media on-ramp, the next step will be to keep up with traffic. This will require having a well-oiled machine and a clear view of what is ahead.”
This will require taking an in-depth look at your organization to identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Below are a few questions that can guide through such a process.
Identifying Your Strengths
- Who are your Ambassadors? Who on your team are the ones who seems to be passionate about the company, knows even the most obscure information about what it happening, and is always willing to pitch in to offer an idea, a creative idea, or simply a helping hand?
- What creative assets are available that can be used within your social media channels? What pictures, videos, articles, and stories can be repurposed and shared with the community?
- Where is your organization already active in the community? Are their conversations happening right now about your brand that you can begin participating in? Do you have an active email list that you can leverage to invite your customers to join you on other online channels? Do you have partners that already have an online presence where your voice would be welcomed
Identify Your Weaknesses
- What information silos within the organization that prevent collaboration?
- Where is there a lack of, or inconsistent visions related to the goals of participation in social media?
- What knowledge gaps exist and what additional and ongoing training for the team will be needed?
- How can that organization improve efficiency and save money through social media channels?
- How can the sales team leverage social media to identify better qualified leads and get a jump on the competition?
- How can customers be involved in the organizations ongoing development of new products and services?
- How will your organization protect intellectual property and the organization’s reputation?
- How can information and use of various channels be managed in such a way that it does not become a chaotic, noisy mess with no purpose.
- With so many people and departments involved, how can we maintain accountability?
The answers to these questions will vary depending on the size and culture of each organization. However, it is vital that these question are addressed or you may find your social media efforts stranded on the side of the road before you ever gained any momentum.
by Sherry Heyl and Kate Rasnick
This past week I had the opportunity to get to know Kate Rasnick. Kate is launching a mobile marketing consultancy. As many of us know, Mobile Marketing is rapidly growing and proving to have a greater reach than many other marketing channels.
After meeting and getting to know Kate, I was inspired to host my first podcast as a way to introduce her to my readers. Although I have been a guest on a number of podcasts, I never actually hosted one. It was a fun experience and I look forward to hosting more. You can listen to our 15 minute discussion by clicking on the player below.
by Sherry Heyl,
Not long ago a friend of mine shared some responses from a pre-event survey about social media. Some of the responses stated;
- [Social Media] is premature
- Our audience is not linked in to this new technology
- [Social Media] is an untested business model
Many people continue to look at Social Media as a new online trend. However last night as I was stumbling through the Internet, I came across a video from more than a decade ago that might suggest that social media is actually a component of a maturing World Wide Web.
“Suddenly your part of a new mesh of people, programs, archives, ideas”
“If feels a bit like human fellowship, but it’s bigger and more precise.”
This was the promise of the Internet more than a decade ago. These are not new ideas or new trends. What is new are the tools that make these promises a reality.
Adoption of social media is accelerating at such a rapid pace that no one can really keep track of it. The graph below is taken from Pew Internet which shows the adoption of the Internet itself.
I realized a few years ago that being online meant being impacted if not impacting social media. People were reading user reviews and getting their questions answered on online forums. But in a survey these same people would say they were not in MySpace or reading blogs and therefore were not accurately counted as someone adopting social media. I believe the accelerating trend of social media adoption is much steeper than any survey has displayed. I also have observed that the tools and communities that people are joining have more to do with their personalities and personal objectives than their demographics.
The past week I have been delivering customized training sessions on the various Social Bookmarking tools. I can not stress enough that each tool has a different purpose and therefore a different reason to use them. One of my favorite tools has been Delicious. Delicious is a social bookmarking tool that people are using mostly to save their personal links, as opposed to voting a story up or down like in Digg or Reddit. Because the use of Delicious is mostly driven by personal motives, the consumer insights a marketer can get from the community can be much more authentic than what they would glean from other communities where people are choosing to voice their opinion to their community.
Below is a case study of how we used Delicious 2 years ago to gain insights into our client’s rapidly growing consumer segment.
As the video above suggests, the promise of the Internet was to enable people to join a mesh of conversations with other people, to share and discover ideas, and to access archives and programs. However too often the Internet has been hijacked for the purpose of being turned into an advertising and marketing channel. I am still amazed at how many brands are setting up Twitter accounts thinking people want to get a stream of marketing messages from them.
Marketers can benefit most by spending a majority of their time listening and getting to know who is online and how they can best add value to the online communities as well as how participation can help a company meet their business objectives. This is the foundation of good business, with or without the web.
A friend of mine claims that social media has caused many people to stop thinking. He sees people looking at social media as the magic silver bullet that will solve all kinds of business challenges or they see social media as a new passing fad. Neither is true. Social Media can help business owners meet their business objectives only if the business has set good core objectives and it has existed for as long as the Internet. Although over the years the tools have evolved, the unfortunate reality is that many poor and inefficient business practices have yet to fade away.
by Sherry Heyl
Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to launch a couple of social media initiatives that I will also be managing. That will make 4 social media initiatives I will be solely managing plus managing the consulting side of our business and my own personal and family time. This has forced me to be as efficient as possible with how I spend my time, to focus on the core objectives of each activity and to best leverage the tools that are available.
Because two of these initiatives have a rapid launch date and I have been put in complete control of all aspects of the social media program, I have been able to see things from a new angle and I have some new insights as to why many social media programs are not working.
1. It’s About Content Not Conversation.
I know, I know. This goes against everything you have ever read about social media. But think about it, all statistics show that more than 90% of your audience consumes content and less than 10% will contribute. This is like having a conversation with someone who listens but simply refuses to respond…not much of a conversation, huh? But the content is what is keeping them around, they are learning and thinking and will respond in their own way.
2. Personalization Is More Important Than Anything!
Four years ago when I started consulting on social media that #1 concern was reputation management. “What will they say about us?” Most organizations have come to realize that Pandora’s box has been opened and people have the ability to say anything they want to say. That makes for a very noisy web. The response I have seen is that more and more organizations are responding by simply adding to the noise. FAIL
The key to an effective social media program is to get the right message to the right people at the right time through the right channel. This is nothing new in the world of communications. What is new is that people have many channels to choose from. Not long ago the choices were print, a few channels on TV and a few channels on radio. Now the choices are unlimited from blogs to text to social networking sites to video sharing sites to Twitter. Our job is to make sure that our audience can get the message the way they want through the channel they choose to get it from. This is what we refer to as optimizing your communications for social media.
3. Social Media Should SAVE You And Your Audience Time.
If you are stressed about how much time social media takes, you are doing it ALL wrong. This past week I instructed my husband on a few techniques where he can efficiently get and share information with his team using social media. The speed of which he was able to get personalized articles delivered to him as opposed to searching through pages and pages of “old media” truly astounded him.
An effective social media program is about personalized channels and strategic data flow of relevant content. This creates value. Add in the ability for your audience to post their questions, insights, and reviews, what you get is conversation and community. The impact is enhanced business intelligence, more effective R&D, more successful marketing programs and increased customer satisfaction. If these are not the results your social media program is delivering, it is not working!