Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Social media resister or risk taker – both need slower approach

April 6, 2011

I have two types of clients that present a challenge to me when it comes to social media. One is the client who is so intimidated by the use of social media sites that they come up with every excuse possible to avoid even examining whether they could be of use. The other is the client who sees creating a Facebook page or Twitter account as an end in itself. As if just being on these platforms will result in engagement. They want to be “there” without any thought to why or how.

In the first case, I encourage the organization to  start by just exploring how other, similar organizations are using social media before examining how they might use these tools themselves. I urge them not to get anxious about what they should/should not be doing. Just listen and observe first. There’s no risk involved and no huge rush to jump in. Those of us who are immersed in it every day forget that there is actually a lot to learn both technically and culturally when it comes to using social media. Move too fast and the uninitiated become overwhelmed and turned off quickly. Take it one step at a time.

Interestingly, the approach I take with the client at the other extreme is similar. I ask them to slow things down. Take a look at the big picture and appreciate what social media can do for your organization from a strategic point of view. How will you use these platforms to meet organizational goals? Why do you need a Facebook page? “Because everyone has one”  is not a good answer. You need to set specific goals around what you are trying to achieve. Otherwise, you won’t know if your engagement is successful.

Before dismissing social media or leaping in head first, take a look at some of these resources to inform your approach:

Things your organization should consider before social networkingAn earlier post from this blog that promotes a thoughtful approach to social media planning.

Top 10 Business Social Media Pitfalls A post on The Social Roadmap blog by Sam Fiorella that emphasizes the need for a social media plan and points out some common mistakes.

Conquering your fears of social media – a blog post by Todd Heim, an Internet marketing professional who counters many of the basic fears about getting started.

8 Reasons Not to Fear Social Media – A blog post by Aliza Sherman that points to some great resources that can help to reduce the anxiety of wading into social media.

Where do you fall on the social media anxiety scale? Are you quick to adopt every new social media tool that comes along or do you tend to agonize about experimenting to the point of avoidance and inaction?

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Things your organization should consider before social networking

February 22, 2010

If your small business or nonprofit is thinking of entering the realm of social networking, way to go. Opportunities abound for meaningfully engaging with your customers, clients and other stakeholders. Be aware, though, that although it’s easy to create a Facebook fan page or Twitter account, sustaining an effective social networking presence involves thoughtful planning and likely a whole lot more time that you think it will. Here are some things you should consider before taking the leap.

Choose the right social networking vehicle

Just because you like using Facebook for your personal social networking doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right space for your organization. Do some research about where your audience is hanging out online and match the platform to your business.

Business social networking also must be part of a larger communications strategy. Know what your overall goals are and how social networking will help to achieve those goals. This will help you to choose where to locate your presence as well. Most important, make sure you set up some basic measures so that you can evaluate your efforts.

Start with one and then build

If your organization is new to social networking, it’s better to start with one space and do a good job with it than to try to engage in two or three spaces all at once and risk spreading yourself too thin. There is a bit of a learning curve when getting started and that will add extra time to whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

Plan for the long haul

Social networking is relatively easy and inexpensive and it can be especially exciting at the start. You’re gathering followers, getting a few comments and reveling in the ease with which you can get your message out. Without thoughtful planning, though, social networking can become a burden and difficult to keep up. Most people who start a blog, for example, quit after the first few posts. Sustaining a social media effort takes discipline and a commitment to providing  useful/valuable content. If you’re worried about the commitment required, take a step back and re-evaluate your plan.

It’s not all about you

For your social networking initiative to be successful, you need to create a two-way conversation. That’s what it’s all about. So if all you’re blogging or tweeting about is what your organization is doing—linking to your latest media release and the like, you will see your follower numbers stagnate, or worse, decrease.

Take some time looking at how the social media stars in your particular industry do it. It’s okay to promote your own news but if you can involve your audience in that news, even better. Ask them questions, post surveys, generate discussion. Take an interest in what your audience members are doing, comment on their activities on their blogs or fan pages etc. You can’t create a social networking account and expect everyone to just come join the party. It takes a concerted effort to gain long-lasting fans and to monitor your opportunities to engage with your audience.

Plan for the time factor

Social media efforts often take much more time than you think they will when you get started. You need to plan for that as an organization. Obviously, the vast majority of organizations do not have the resources to designate a social media position. However, you will need to make sure the person responsible has more than a passing interest in social networking as well as a reasonable number of hours to attend to it. You may need to hire a social media consultant to help you get started. It would be well worth the investment to ensure you get off to a good start, considering all of the things you’ll need to in order to be effective.

It’s also not a 9-5 gig. Social networks are active around the clock. Conversations on your social networking site can and do happen just as readily on Saturdays as they do on Mondays. Who is going to monitor and potentially respond to that activity?

You’ll need more than one person involved in this effort to cover off sick days, vacations and the like. The last thing you want is for a disgruntled customer to start spreading his unhappiness on your site (and probably others) with no one to respond from your company until after the weekend. Controversy can evolve very quickly online. You need to be ready to respond.

Lots to consider

Part of your planning will need to involve defining your whole approach to social media. How will you use it and for what purpose? How will you respond to possible negative comments on your site? Will you have policies around your staff commenting on your social media sites? How will you define success?

There are huge opportunities available to business and nonprofit organizations within the social networking world. Every organization should consider how it can benefit from these opportunities. However, entering the social networking space is deceptively easy. Technically, opening a Facebook/Flickr/YouTube/Twitter account and getting started is a cinch. Doing it right to meet your goals, on the other hand, involves more than you might think.

If you’ve discovered things you didn’t anticipate upon entering the social media world, I’d love for you to leave a comment on the blog.

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Getting Twitter buy-in at your nonprofit

August 4, 2009
TBS campaign photo

From Twitter: "Placards very vibrant. Can see them well from the street."

Last week, I “live tweeted” an event for a client. It was a first for me but something I had wanted to try for quite awhile. Twitter is a new communication platform for this client and tweeting an event was a great way to introduce them to it.

Beyond Borders is a volunteer-driven, national NGO speaking out globally on the issue of child sexual exploitation. The organization is part of a network of NGOs affiliated with ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).

Beauty retailer The Body Shop, has joined forces with ECPAT and the Somaly Mam Foundation to engage in a three-year campaign to stop sex trafficking of children and youth. Part of the campaign involves the launch of a new hand cream with a portion of sales going to ECPAT affiliates.

For Beyond Borders, this campaign will not only generate a new source of funds to carry out projects  benefiting victims of exploitation, it will also bring the organization unprecedented attention. As the result, Beyond Borders decided to invest in an entirely revamped website that was easy to navigate and that also incorporated social media (including Twitter) to further engage the community at large.

For most of the organization’s board members and volunteers, Twitter was an unfamiliar platform. Sure, most were aware of the hype around Twitter but they were unsure about how it works and how the organization could use it.

I made the case that Twitter would be a great way to connect with related NGOs as well as other stakeholders. It would also provide Beyond Borders volunteers (who span the country) with a quick and easy way to stay abreast of the organization’s news and activities.

Getting Twitter buy-in

With the majority of volunteers not using Twitter, the first order of business was to introduce the platform to them and to cultivate openness to using it. That was part of the rationale for putting a Twitter stream right on the website. Providing a “window” to recent posts on Twitter within a platform comfortable to everyone (the organization’s website) we were one step away from having them click on the link taking them directly to the Twitter profile.

The next challenge will be to post information that will be relevant to the Beyond Borders community. The launch of The Body Shop’s campaign was a perfect place to start.

Event tweeting increased motivation to use Twitter

As part of the launch of the campaign, the retailer hosted a rally in Toronto to provide information to that region’s staff members as well as to interested media. I attended the launch and agreed to “live tweet” the event. For Beyond Borders members unable to travel to Toronto for the launch, Twitter would be the next best thing to being there.

Using an iPhone and the Twitterrific application that allows you to tweet using a mobile device, I was able to upload several photo links and provide a running commentary of the event. By going to the Beyond Borders Twitter profile or its website, visitors could see images and read updates in real time.

The importance of this event to Beyond Borders as well as the novelty of being able to hear about it in real time was a great way to motivate people to try the platform. Volunteers who followed along gave the experience a positive review.

Many nonprofits/NGOs are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon. It’s important, though, to do some thoughtful planning about how the organization will use the platform and to make sure that it is integrated with the organization’s larger communication plan. Creating a Twitter profile and posting updates to it does not mean everyone, including your volunteers/staff, will embrace it. As with other communication tools, the content has to be easy to absorb, relevant and useful. Overcoming the barriers to adopting this new tool also needs to be part of the plan.

Has your organization recently adopted Twitter or another social media tool? I’d love to hear about your success and challenges.

Still not sure about Web 2.0? My vacation with Twitter might convince you

June 4, 2009

I’ve been away from my blog for awhile. I spent last month in Paris. It was a remarkable experience. Interestingly, even though I spent most of that time away from work, technology and social media played key roles in my day-to-day life. It left me even more convinced about the incredible potential of Web 2.0. I know many people remain skeptical about just how useful the likes of Twitter and Facebook are. Some can’t get their heads around just how it all works or why to bother. Perhaps the story of my month away will get you to reconsider.

Eiffel Tower at Night

After almost a year of planning, my husband Steve and I visited Paris for the month of May. We did a lot of research.  After “virtually visiting” various neighbourhoods using Street View on Google Maps, we decided on an apartment rental.  We planned restaurant visits, bike tours and museum trips all via the Internet.

One of the most helpful resources we used to prepare for our trip was  Katia and Kyliemac’s Tourist Tips podcast. Each week, these two expats living in Paris host three separate podcasts. Tourist Tips doles out helpful info for the Paris traveller—everything from cultural differences and how to use the Metro to how to find public toilets. Their other podcasts cover what it’s like to live as an expat in Paris as well as lessons in French idiomatic expressions. Their engaging style and enthusiasm has garnered quite a following. They also have a blog, forum and Twitter profiles.

Steve is an IT geek who adores his iPhone and is rarely disconnected from the Web for longer than a night’s sleep. He’s also what they call an “evangelist” when it comes to extolling the virtues of technology. He has even been successful at getting his grandmother (80+ years) to visit his Twitter profile. Although she doesn’t “tweet” herself, she likes to check in on what Steve is up to. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, visit this previous post.

Throughout our trip, Steve took pictures and tweeted them along with comments. Although I sometimes got annoyed when we had to stop what we were doing so he could tap out his messages, it was a great way for interested family, friends and co-workers to see what we were up to in real time.

Sometimes these tweets led to unknown Parisians sending us direct messages. Once, Steve tweeted about problems we were having finding vacant Velib stations. The Velib is a public bicycle program in Paris that allows users to take a bike from one of the many stations throughout the city, use it and then return it to any another station. Sometimes, however, the station is full and you are unable to return the Velib and must find another station. Within moments of the tweet, someone sent Steve a  message directing him to a handy, free iPhone application called A Bike Now that displays all the Velib stations as well as which ones had vacancies for returning bicycles. Brilliant!

Another time, when I couldn’t find skim milk in my local grocery story, I sent a direct message to Katia (from the podcast) and she actually messaged back letting me know where I could find it along with the colour of the packaging so I could easily identify it. We also learned, via tweet, of a book signing event taking place at a local bookshop of an author we had read.

We instantly had this little Parisian community around us and it definitely increased the quality of our stay.

On our last day in Paris, feeling a bit sad about the prospects of heading back home and to work, we had planned to go out to a restaurant, get home early and pack for our  morning flight. Then, in the late afternoon, Katia and Kyliemac tweeted that they were organizing an impromptu picnic on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower and all of their followers were invited. The prospect of actually meeting these two women we had been listening to for months was too much to pass up. We bought a baguette, cheese and some wine, hopped on a Velib and made our way to the Tower. Not able to immediately find their location, Steve sent out a quick tweet and we saw a woman standing up waving her arms in the huge crowd of picnickers. It was Kyliemac. The evening was the perfect way to end our trip. About 20 people had assembled for the picnic—all of them expats living in Paris from various corners of the world. They were all listeners of the podcast. It was a remarkable evening.

I told Katia how useful the Tourist Tips podcast had been to us and how much we enjoyed listening. She told me that she and Kyliemac are constantly surprised at the large community that has come together around the show, both in Paris and abroad.

The story of my Twitter-infused vacation is not unique. Interesting and useful connections are being made via social media networks all the time. Yes, it takes some time and effort but the power it has to shrink the globe, create community and reach out to others is truly remarkable.

So, if you’ve been a skeptic,  are you now convinced to get on the social media bandwagon? Have you had a remarkable social media experience either professionally or personally? Please leave a comment.