Getting Started, Socially

Spoke to a lunchtime crowd at the HFTP First Coast June meeting today. HFTP stands for Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals, or the people who oversee money & technology at private clubs & hospitality venues. Thankfully, a few marketing people were also in attendance, probably to play towards my comfort level since I was a filling in for a colleague.

My hospitality & club career ended when I was in college, but I have a few years of experience in the service industry and paid my fair share of bills in my early-20’s from tips earned as the beer cart girl. With that limited background to guide me, I pulled together enough of an overview and TIPS! to discuss at their lunchtime meeting.

Several in the audience today were CFOS, controllers, accountants and the like. These aren’t the people who will be posting status updates for their brand, so I spent more time on how to create the business case for engaging your current members/guests online. I wanted them to think about social media as a tool for online customer service and outreach. Responding & listening to your customers is much easier to make a case for, when your decision makers don’t view “social media” as essential.

Thanks to all who attended today. I’d be happy to hear your feedback and suggestions for future talks on this subject, and happy to answer any further questions you may have. (Like this one, that came up in the presentation…)

For the person who asked about Clubster vs. Ning…Clubster looks like a social network for members of professional clubs, who can link into their clubs’ community. Ning allows your club or group to set up a private social network powered by you and your community, that can live adjacent to your own website. I prefer to own my content, so I’d still lean to setting up a walled social network for my community through a service like Ning. Always do your due diligence to ensure you find what’s right for your company & members.

Hope to see some HFTP members at an upcoming Social Media Club JAX meeting. The next one is June 25th at Pablo Creek Library from 5:30-8pm (presentation starts at 6) and you can RSVP here.

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Altimeter Kicks Butt Again: Facebook Page Marketing Tips

Great post out this week from Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group, all about Facebook Page Marketing. Facebook & Facebook users are continuing to evolve and become more sophisticated on the platform, which means that brands who are just getting started with Facebook pages, or are doing the same thing they’ve done for a year or two, need to start playing catch up, and quickly.

I couldn’t embed the report directly into my blog, but here’s a link to 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing: Jeremiah’s post (w/ embedded report)

Jeremiah and his team identified 8 criteria to determine success for marketing on Facebook.

  1. Set Community Expectations
  2. Provide Cohesive Branding
  3. Be Up to Date
  4. Live Authenticity
  5. Participate in Dialog
  6. Enable peer-to-peer interactions
  7. Foster Advocacy (give value & a reason to share)
  8. Solicit a Call to Action

When I see a list like this, I put my work front and center in my mind while reading through each item, as a way to grade myself. Thankfully, I feel like we’ve been successful at most of these steps, but certainly have room to improve going forward. Some are easier to cross off the list (setting up your expectations, providing consistent branding and updating the page regularly are low hanging fruit), while working your way down the list might require more effort, sweat & tears, and getting others on your team involved to do them well.

Which items on the list do you feel are most important for a brand to do well (even if its easier to do)? What do you find you struggle with the most (either yourself or inside your organization)?  For me, it’s 3 & 5 for the first — and 5 & 8 for the second.

Thanks again to Jeremiah, Alan & Christine from Altimeter who published the report and gave me something else to measure myself against.

Six Steps for Setting Up Social Media Strategy

I went through a “101” call a couple weeks back and it brought back the reminder of that, while some of us do this social media stuff 24/7, most marketers and small businesses are still just getting started figuring out what to do with their Facebook profile/group/page,  YouTube channel/video, Twitter thingy. A lot of people I talk to are hesitant to even set up social media profiles because they’re sure there won’t be much time to learn about how to use them effectively — much less actually see a return on their invested time.

I made a few notes while listening to these concerns and questions and afterwards followed up with the group with six steps to getting started with social media. I wanted to share it here too, to help you start building your toolbox.

Six-Step Process for Organizing Social Media Goals & Strategies

  1. Set your objectives for using social media. There are no “wrong” goals, as long as they tie into your other business objectives. Some objectives may include driving sales, raising awareness, creating online buzz, connecting with your friends/fans/customers or using the channels as additional outlets for marketing.
  2. Determine the resources you can dedicate to social media. If you have a team, great. One person, great. One half of one-half of a person’s time, sure. Just make sure that you’re allocating the appropriate amount of resources that are in-line with your overall business objectives.
  3. Decide what social channels help you achieve the objectives you’ve set and align with the resources you have available. You don’t have to have a presence on every social media website to be successful. PGA TOUR player Stewart Cink only uses Twitter, but he does so really well and is the most popular golfer on Twitter. Each channel (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) is unique in how the users engage, who uses it and even where its more popular. Pick the channel or channels that will reach the people you want to reach, fit with the resources and content you can produce and the outcomes you want to achieve.  [Hint: the Groundswell Social Technographics Profile Tool is a great resource to help you identify who & what your audience is doing online.]
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel just for your social media profiles. Use the content you’re already producing for your website & newsletters (can go into Facebook notes, videos, photo galleries, etc). Make your social channels another extension of your plans for marketing, communications & digital efforts.
  5. Use insights from Facebook (Page Insights) and YouTube (Insights), as well as third-party sites like www.tweetcounter.com and TwitAlyzer.com to track your growth and successes. Hootsuite.com and Bit.ly let you track clicks on links posted on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. Measure everything and use the data to back up your gut instincts about what goes well or not as good as expected.
  6. Try new things! and share your successes or hardships so we can create a better community to help each other.

What do you think? I welcome any comments, challenges or additional tips that will help others get more comfortable with starting out, or resetting their goals for using social media to connect.

SMC Jacksonville Chapter Launch Tues 2/17

Calling all social media types (and those interested) in Jacksonville to the chapter launch of Social Media Club JAX. We will be launching the club next Tuesday, February 17th, 6:30 – 8:00 PM at the Pablo Creek Regional Library. (click for map)

This will be the first open gathering of Social Media Club Jacksonville for everyone interested in joining the club. The plan is that it will be an informal meet-up to introduce the goals of  Social Media Club, talk about what the Jacksonville chapter can look like, and a way to meet like-minded people in the community.

From the founders: Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells started Social Media Club (SMC) in July 2006 to help people find all the relevant communities of interest in which they want to participate. We want to help you explore your personal and professional passions by helping you connect with a community of your peers based on both geography and areas of interest. We want to ensure that the world of Social Media does not become an echo chamber of self-reinforcing thoughts, but is instead fueled by diversity of opinion and perspective.

If you’d like to learn more about the Social Media Club parent organization, visit socialmediaclub.org. The  About page and Our Tag Line give really good background to the principles of why SMC is rewarding for everyone involved.

Social Media Club JAX is for everyone with an interest, everyone is welcome! To RSVP for the meeting, you can tweet to @smcjax, comment on this post, add your info to the wiki or email us. Also, if you have ideas for what you’d like to see, let us know or bring them with you to the chapter launch. Hope to see you there!

Don’t Kill Your Community Before It Starts

Earlier today, I participated in a webinar called “Community Killers”. It was presented by Miles Sims of Small World Labs. Miles gave some advice on what Small World Labs sees as choices that can lead to destroying, or at least hampering the success, of online communities.  Below are the four ‘community killers’ and some thoughts of mine, blended together.

1. Being too Tech-Centric
It gets easy when building a new online space to get caught up in all the cool things that can be done, especially on a white label solution. People get excited and start thinking ‘we need more features, right now!’ and ‘Our users [or CEO] will love this!’

Remember that features come and go, but the community needs a reason to stick around.

  • Begin with the end in mind – what is the purpose of building the community?
  • Start small and focused and build out your platform as the community grows
  • Add the bells and whistles as the community requests them – listen to what they want!

Without a complete strategy on how to add and manage content or who is in charge of creating content, the community site is in danger of becoming all flash, no substance. There is enough flash online. Give your community substance.

2. Lack of relevance to customers
Building an online community is not like building a baseball field. Do not go into this project  thinking ‘If we build it, they will come.‘ Simply put, the community space is not about the company. It is about the customer. Give them a reason to join the party and a chance to participate in shaping the brand.

3. Implementing Web 1.0 Strategies in a 2.0 Environment

Companies that don’t ‘get it’ will treat an online community like just another marketing campaign.  They don’t want to lose control, so they see no reason for the company, or its employees on the site, to be open, transparent or authentic. Those that don’t get it are thinking ‘push our message’ and not ‘what can the community tell us?’

Brands that get the strategies behind social media understand:

  • The difference between what people will view and what they’ll share.
  • If people are passionate about the community goals, they will be committed to making it grow
  • Ask the question ‘What does your community empower people to do?’

4. Poor Metrics
Everyone wants to base success on the the number of users signed up in a community. That isn’t the best way to measure the successfulness of a campaign. Use this rule of thumb: If it’s important to your business, measure it!

As community spaces mature, companies are seeing increasing customer loyalty, adoption of new products/services and cost savings. These are good things to measure, if they fall within your business objectives. When a business ties its goals directly to the metrics, they will have an accurate gague of success. Also, don’t forget to measure what the company invests into building, moderating and maintaining its online community.

Finally, when you do report on the number of users in a community, make sure to differentiate between actives and registered, lurkers and superusers. Not every user is counted equally!

Thanks to Miles and Small World Labs for providing some insight into what makes online communities fail and succeed. Now I pose the question to you, what other decisions lead to the road of online community failure? On the contrary, what are the best choices that can be made to help a community succeed?

Surfin’ down to Blog Orlando

This weekend I”ll be attending Blog Orlando 3 at Rollins College. It’s a one day un-conference for the Central Florida community of new media avids to come together, share and learn new things. It’ll be my first Blog Orlando experience (I only moved to Florida five months ago) and I’m excited to see what its all about.

One of my big picture to-do items for the remainder of 2008 is to increase my contributions to my online communities. I’ve spent the last 12-16 months reading, studying and asking questions about social media, PR 2.0 and the like. My experiences so far have been life-changing, literally. Before I left Oregon, I started helping others learn more about the theories, tools and getting started in new media. Lately though, my focus on giving back has been more internally driven. Learning a new side of business, a new company culture and starting to make my footprints here have set me back in giving into my online communities as much as I would like. Hence, another reason why I’m excited to attend Blog Orlando.

I don’t get many weekends in Orlando, so I plan on taking full advantage. I figure the solo trip is an excuse to start my Couch Surfing adventures on the East Coast. The Orlando CS community isn’t as large as those on the left coast, but I get the impression it’s a hospitable one. I’m also hoping to check out Halloween Horror at Universal Studios one night, as I heard it is a can’t miss scare-fest. I recently purchased annual passes to Sea World and Universal that I might use on Sunday if I can round up a group to go with (no one likes to see Shamu alone!)

In short, I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s adventures. I follow many of the speakers at Blog Orlando on Twitter, including Sarah Perez, David Alston and Phil Gomes, and look forward to seeing them in person. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@ltbeyer) to connect before/during Blog Orlando or to get updates from the sessions. I’ll also be posting news, recaps and notes here as I can.

Know what your audience wants

From the “best thing I read today” files (courtesy of Clickz):

Widgets on a social network are different from those on a personal platform. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. The most successful applications on Facebook harness the social network. This includes music and video applications that allow users to see what others are interested in. Less successful are applications that are of value only to the profile holder. This is different from widgets on personal platforms, which center on the individual user’s needs. Both can benefit from adding true e-commerce, however. (For the rest of the “Widget World” article, click here)

The main thing I took from this paragraph? You have to know what your audience (users) want and be willing to give it to them. A headlines widget might be just the right thing for a personal blog or homepage. On a Facebook page, though, the app would be better suited to show what articles the users’ friends (using the same app) are reading, sharing and commenting on.

If you don’t know what your users want, ASK THEM. Go to the message boards, blogs and sites they are and become part of the conversation. Offer to have coffee, buy them a sandwich or arrange a meetup for happy hour.  L-I-S-T-E-N

In the spirit of Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, that’s all.