Archive for the ‘best practices’ Category

Facebook Strategies: Content Over Creative

Are you focusing your Facebook investment in the right place?

The immensely smart Jay Baer directed my attention to research conducted by Jeff Widman of Brand Glue, who found that 99.5% of comments on his clients’ status updates come from peoples’ newsfeeds, not from the pages themselves.

Interesting, right? As Jay notes, this means that a lot of effort which is expended on customizing fan pages on Facebook is, frankly, wasted.

The first time that people come to your page is absolutely the most critical. They’re not going to keep coming back for the sake of coming back. So, your job #1 as a steward of your brand’s Facebook page is to draw people to your page and maximize your conversion rate of visits to “likes.” Beyond that point, investment in “ongoing” features for pages may be money down the drain.

The continued rise of Facebook community managers

This shines the light firmly on community managers as the key to Facebook success for brands. As with so many other aspects of social media, it’s not all about having a flashy, creative, well-designed page layout. It’s not about dazzling people with creative gadgets. Success on Facebook depends on companies  providing interesting, valuable content that engages people through their home base on Facebook.

Facebook itself doesn’t make things easy for brands. Well, to be more specific, it doesn’t make things easy for brands who provide mediocre content. You see, Facebook doesn’t treat all content equally. The site uses an algorithm to prioritize content based on both recency and on engagement with that content. The key, then, with Facebook content, is to ensure that the things you’re posting actually drives people to interact with it rather than passively consume it. To do the latter is to ensure that the content appears in few peoples’ streams and is soon relegated to just appearing on your wall for the 0.5% of people who may interact there.

This isn’t universally true, of course. Specific initiatives can draw people to engage directly on your page (contests, for example). However, that kind of interaction isn’t sustainable from either side of the equation.

The rise of spacial marketing

My colleague Steve Rubel has begun to talk recently about a new dimension we need to add to our digital engagement: time. In an age of Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds, it’s no longer enough to post the right content in the right place. We need to post it at the right time, too.

Mashable yesterday featured research conducted by Vitrue into the days and times that Facebook users are most active. As they summarize:

  • The three biggest usage spikes tend to occur on weekdays at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • The biggest spike occurs at 3:00 p.m. ET on weekdays.
  • Weekday usage is pretty steady, however Wednesday at 3:00 pm ET is consistently the busiest period.
  • Fans are less active on Sunday compared to all other days of the week.

To maximize our effectiveness, we need to take data like this and optimize our timing even further to reflect the activity pattern of our own community.

Shift your budget

The bottom line is that many marketers on Facebook are paying insufficient attention to content design while paying undue attention to creative design. While look and feel does matter, instead of spending the bulk of your budget on custom design and widgets, consider splitting that budget differently, with more of a focus on:

  • Converting people from visitors to fans – optimize your page; use tools like Kontagent to test and tweak your apps to get the best possible results
  • Effective community management – generating genuinely useful content and interacting with people in the community over the long term, and driving towards your objectives

Do you agree? How do you approach your Facebook activity?

Altimeter Report Provides Facebook Page Guidelines, Benchmarks

In the latest of a series of practical and helpful resources for marketers, Altimeter Group has released a free report entitled The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing.

The report, based on input from 34 industry vendors and consulting agencies, outlines – you guessed it – eight criteria for determining the success of Facebook pages from companies’ perspectives, and in doing so provides a useful set of general guidelines for marketers managing or launching Pages.


 

The report also uses those criteria to evaluate the success of the Facebook pages for 30 well-known brands.


Some key findings:

  • Most of the brands examined did a good job of branding their pages and keeping them updated. However, making them pretty and posting content isn’t always enough.
  • The brands generally did poorly at setting users’ expectations, engaging in two-way dialogue, encouraging peer-to-peer interactions, fostering word-of-mouth and providing calls to action.
  • Most brands neglect to set expectations through guidelines, commenting policies etc. Strangely, Nestle still hasn’t learned its lesson.
  • Most brands hide the identities of the team interacting on Facebook, lowering the “authenticity” of interactions. Brands under fire online fared worst for this.
  • Brands still tend to talk at people, not with them.
  • Few brands deliver direct calls-to-action to fans, thus missing out on opportunities for conversion.

The report also delivers a few recommendations for Facebook page administrators:

  • Put aside your read-only playbook and tap into two-way social marketing
  • Bolster your Facebook pages with applications from third parties
  • Connect the Facebook experience with existing efforts, like your corporate website
  • Measure and analyze based on business goals – not by fans or “likes”
  • Reduce risk: Use the success criteria to analyze your efforts over time

There are a few holes in the report, including a couple of dubious conclusions – I hardly think that not explicitly encouraging peer-to-peer interactions counts as “muzzling” your fans, for example – and a sample size of five per industry is far from sufficient to draw conclusions about entire verticals. Overall, however, Altimeter has released a useful resource for marketers with success criteria, best practices and the case studies for which we are all clamouring nowadays. For those reasons alone, I highly recommend that any communicators using Facebook to reach their audiences download and read this report.

Check out the report, and let’s add to it – what are your best practices?

57 Social Media Policy Examples and Resources

Over time I’ve found myself doing more and more foundational work for organizations looking to dip their toes into social media. One of the key elements of this work, in my opinion, is creating a social media policy that fits well with the organization’s goals, culture and risk tolerance.

But where to start?

As it happens, lots of organizations publish their social media guidelines online, ready for you to review and use yourself. Here are 57 61 great social media policy templates and resources to use when building your own. (thanks for the suggestions in the comments!)

Social Media Policies and Guidelines

Source Resource
American Express Open Forum 3 Great Social Media Policies to Steal From (Kodak, Intel, IBM)
American Institute of Architects Policy on Staff Use of Social Media
American Red Cross Online Communications Guidelines
Australian Public Service Commission Interim protocols for online media participation
BBC Use of social networking, microblogs and other third party websites
BBC Editorial Guidelines
British Telecom Social Media Guidelines
Best Buy Social Media Policy
Chartered Institute of Public Relations Code of Conduct
Cisco Internet Postings Policy
Coca Cola Online Social Media Principles
Dell Global Social Media Policy
Daimler AG Social Media Guidelines
FedEx Blog Policy
Feedster Corporate Blogging Policy
Fellowship Church Blogging Policy
Flickr Community Guidelines
General Motors Blogger Policy
Georgia Tech Guidelines for Student Blogging
Harvard Law School Corporate Blogging Policies and Guidelines
Hill & Knowlton Pledge for Bloggers
HP Blogging Code of Conduct
IBM Social Computing Guidelines
Intel Social Media Guidelines
International Olympic Committee IOC Blogging Guidelines
Jaffe PR Social Media Policy Procedures and Social Network Policy Procedures
Kaiser Permanente Social Media Policy
Kodak Social Media Tips
Krones AG Tips for using social media (English and German
LiveWorld Creating social media guidelines for your employees
Mayo Clinic Participation Guidelines
Mayo Clinic Comment Policy
Mayo Clinic For Mayo Clinic Employees
Mosman Municipal Council Twitter Guidelines
Opera Employee Blogging Policies
Oracle Social Media Participation Policy
Plaxo Communication (Blogging) Policy
Porter Novelli Blogging & Social Media Policy
Razorfish Employee Social Influence Marketing Guidelines
Reuters Social Media Guidelines
Robert Scoble The Corporate Weblog Manifesto
U.S. Air Force Blog Assessment
U.S. Air Force New Media and the Air Force
U.S. Coast Guard Social Media – The Way Ahead
U.K. Civil Service Principles for Participation Online
Yahoo! Employee Blog Guidelines

Other Social Media Policy Resources

Source Resource
Dave Fleet Corporate Social Media Policies eBook
About.com Blogging and Social Media Policy Sample
Business Week A Twitter Code of Conduct
Doug Cornelius Blogging/Social Internet Policy (for law firms)
Electronic Frontier Foundation How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)
Elizabeth Hannan Corporate Social Media Policy Guidelines
Mashable Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?
New PR Wiki Blogging Policies List
Nonprofit Technology Network Tips for Writing Your First Social Media Policy
Shift Communications Social Media Guidelines Template
rtraction Policy Tool for Social Media
Social Computing Journal Enterprise Social Media Usage Policies and Guidelines
Social Media Governance Policy Database
SocialFish Social Media, Risk, and Policies for Associations
SocialFish Drafting Social Media Guidelines

Altimeter, Web Analytics Demystified Release New Research On Social Media Measurement

Measurement is one of the most interesting areas within social media right now. Not only is effective measurement critical to demonstrating results in an emerging space, but sophisticated measurement can offer valuable insights to shape communications strategies, both online and off; proactive and reactive. This challenge is being compounded as the social web expands beyond companies’ websites and individual networks with Facebook’s new announcements.

While smart people like Katie Payne have been working hard to nail down effective measurement approaches, there’s a long way to go as social media continue to shift and evolve. So, a 26-page white paper released by Altimeter Group and Web Analytics Demystified, with the input of some of the major players in this emerging industry, offers some much-needed insight into the problems and potential solutions we’re all facing in this area.

The paper offers steps for companies to follow in their measurement efforts:

  1. Revisit tradition for solid innovation: Follow traditional business and communications best practices – align success metrics with business objectives and measure against those
  2. Make learning your primary goal: Make continuous improvement a key goal, and take advantage of the opportunity to gain insights from your customers
  3. Define requirements first, then select vendors: Develop your measurement approach THEN figure out which company’s solution to use
  4. Develop your social media measurement playbook: Get the organization on the same page with regard to goals, objectives, expectations and actions of your social media efforts. Then implement the technologies and processes you need to measure against that
  5. Make our measurement framework your own: Adapt generic models to suit your organisation, as there’s no “one size fits all” solution

The paper also provides a simple framework for considering the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you may want to consider in your efforts:

This is a rudimentary list of business objectives, but provides a useful starting point for discussion. Like Shel Holtz, I’d like to see more discussion of this in a future iteration.

The KPI discussion, meanwhile, is excellent, providing simple explanations of each metric along with practical ways to measure against them and pointers to vendors who can help organizations in measuring against those factors.

In summary, this white paper provides some extremely valuable insight into some of the measurement context, challenges and solutions companies face. It’s worth a read for the business objective and KPIs section alone. I should also note that unlike many other similar organizations, Altimeter is providing this white paper free of charge (thanks!), and for that reason I’m able to embed it below.

If you haven’t checked the paper out yet, I strongly recommend you do so. You’ll certainly get more than your money’s worth :)

What do you think of the report?


 

Do The Old Timing Rules Still Apply For Media Relations?

When I first got into media relations, a few pitching best practices were hammered into my head on a regular basis. For example:

  • Know who you’re pitching and what they’re after
  • Tailor your pitch
  • Don’t bcc a “mailing list” of pitch recipients (pitchees?)
  • Don’t pitch journalists when they’re on deadline

When it came to print journalists, that last bullet translated to “don’t pitch journalists after around 2:30 or so.” I’ve stuck to that as much as possible since that time (of course, it varies for radio and television depending on when the show runs, and hence when people are around). However, a conversation I had recently with my colleague Karen Nussbaum has got me rethinking that approach.

New rules for timing pitches?

Photograph of a newspaperHere’s the theory:

The idea of print journalists’ deadlines has always centred around the 24hr news cycle, where stories were assigned in the morning, researched and drafted during the day and which culminated in a deadline for the story to be filed mid-afternoon. Trying to call a reporter anywhere near that deadline would result in you getting ignored or (sometimes) told off for not respecting their time.

In today’s media environment, stories are filed for the web throughout the day. Often they’re filed multiple times, with information being added as stories develop. As a result, the afternoon deadline has turned into constant pressure and ever-looming deadlines. For the media relations folks, that means:

  1. Journalists are always pressed for time (as one said to me a little while back when I asked if it was a good time to talk, “it’s never a good time – I’m always busy”).
  2. Afternoon pitching is no worse than morning pitching. In fact, it may be better as they’ve had a chance to clear out their inbox from the morning… and if everyone else is calling in the morning, you may have a better chance of getting through in the afternoon.

What’s more, the emergence of email as a pitching tool means initial outreach can be asynchronous- if journalists are busy they can read them later.

Is it time to re-think the old rules around when to pitch print journalists?

Public relations pros: does this picture fit with your recent experience?

Journalists: does this ring true for you?

(This is a re-post of a piece I wrote for the Marketing Profs Daily Fix. To check out the original and my other posts there, check out mpdailyfix.com)

Seven Reasons You Should Care About Disclosure on Twitter

A tweet from Eden Spodek caught my eye the other day:

“Am I in the minority in thinking consultants should disclose when tweeting about clients?”

DisclosureNow, I’ve written about disclosure plenty of times in the past, but given the recent introduction of disclosure rules by the FTC down in the US (check out Louis Gray’s fun post… is it just a matter of time until we have them in Canada?) and the growth of promotional postings on Twitter, it’s worth revisiting – especially in light of the new contributor function within Twitter.

From my perspective, I don’t think it matters if you’re being paid to talk about a client, if you’re just doing it yourself or even if you’re writing about a client’s competitor (a risky task). Either way, trust and relationships you’ve developed online are at play.

Here are seven reasons I think you should take those extra few keystrokes to disclose your client relationships:

  1. Undisclosed posts can be revealed – nothing is secret on the web.
  2. Social media is all about trust (it’s why Technorati did so well for so long (authority rankings) and why Google is doing well now). Failing to disclose your bias can contribute to losing trust.
  3. Most clients (Kanye excepted) won’t thank you for stirring-up controversy.
  4. Every string of characters you post can either build or damage your reputation. Which would you prefer?
  5. Your reputation is worth more than eight keystrokes – “(client)”.
  6. The benefit you’ll get from better conversions may be negated by the people who complain about you – to regulators, to the media or to others online (and those groups may overlap).
  7. Content exists online over a long period time thanks to Google (all the more so if Twitter fixes its ridiculous two-week search limit). If rules around disclosure get tightened down the line, you’re better off safe than sorry.

Opinions often vary on this – what’s your take?

(Image credit: margolove on Flickr)

Corporate Social Media Policies Ebook

Earlier this year I published a short series of posts on how to go about creating social media policies for your organization.

I’ve now pulled the essence of these posts into an ebook on corporate social media policies, to make the content even easier to reference when you’re working on these documents for your organization. You can download the Social Media Policies Ebook here, or check it out on SlideShare.

View more documents from Dave Fleet.

Build Your Social Media Strategy With Rocks and Sand

Social media is taking off right now. It’s all over the traditional media; there are books on it being released in every direction, and everyone seems to be on at least one of the various social networks, be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or any other.

Meanwhile, from a business perspective it feels like every company we talk to is at least including social media in its plans; in many cases it’s front and centre.

Some of those companies immediately look for the “quick wins” – campaigns that will get them immediate bang for their buck. In those cases. it can be difficult to explain what I believe to be the truth:

Quick wins are difficult in social media and it’s often ill-advised to seek them. Social media works best as a long-term initiative.

Can of stonesWe occasionally use (and wreck) a ‘rocks and sand’ metaphor when thinking about social media. You can have a jar full of rocks in it, but there are lots of gaps. To truly full it, you need sand to fill them. Social media is similar – you can have lots of big campaigns, but for your efforts to truly pay off you need the ‘sand’ – the long-term foundation that keeps everything in place.

What is that foundation? It’s the infrastructure you build – the policies, training and workflow that keeps things running smoothly. It’s the executive support that lets you move beyond a publicity-based approach. It’s the listening program that lets you identify issues early and learn from ongoing conversation. It’s the ongoing presence that gives you the credibility to maximize those short-term pushes.

Bottom line: it’s the fundamentals.

Try to push ahead with your ‘big rocks’ without the ‘sand’ and you’ll come up short, with holes in your plans.

(Image: Shutterstock)

Social Media Agencies and Transparency

On Tuesday, Rachel Kay asked a thought-provoking question during a Twitter Q&A with fellow PR practitioner Sarah Evans:

How involved can an agency get in a clients SM execution & remain transparent?

In my view, agencies can get involved in every aspect of clients’ social media execution without sacrificing transparency. I say that not just from personal opinion, but because I’ve been there.

Note: I say “can” not “should aim to be.” More on that in a moment.

I place great importance on transparency (see my earlier posts on ghost blogging if you need convincing). However, that hasn’t stopped me from being involved in the full gamut of social media strategy development and execution, from brainstorming and drafting through to manning the Twitter account and blog.

How do you achieve that level of involvement while maintaining integrity?

Disclosure.

We make a point of disclosing client relationships at every turn. That runs from disclosure in blog comments, to naming individuals in bios on blogs and Twitter accounts, to even naming who is writing individual tweets. By disclosing who you are, transparency is maintained.

Now, on to an important issue: I don’t think this is an ideal long-term solution.

In the short term, there are many reasons why an agency might get involved in executing social media tactics:

  • Clients may not have sufficient capacity to undertake the work
  • Clients may lack the expertise necessary to execute at the best level
  • Clients may want to pilot-test an initiative before committing in-house resources

All of these are valid short-term reasons.

However, in the long-term I think the best solution is for much of the tactical execution to be taken in-house if appropriate staff with the right skillsets and framework within which to operate are available. Agency roles in the long-term are best played as a strategic advisor, training staff, developing ideas and strategic direction and offering advice on tactics where required. Agencies can also play a valuable role doing some of the “arms and legs” work – monitoring, reporting, designing and developing online properties, email campaigns, etc.

In summary, agencies can be involved in every aspect of social media execution without compromising transparency. That just doesn’t mean they always should be.

For the record, here’s Sarah Evans’ response to the question:

I think that agency SM involvement should ultimately result in biz’s online sustainability (i.e. can they do it themself?)… #prexaminer

It’s a lot about working with them, teaching, listening, identifying (or creating) the right tools. #prexaminer

…I created a “clients” section on my blog to disclose who I’m working with. I’ll be up front if we’re connected. #prexaminer

What do you think?

Social Media Policies For Your Company: External Policies

In my last post we explored the policies that companies should consider internally, within their organization, when getting started in social media.

This time we’ll take a look at the social media policies that organizations might consider posting publicly, for everyone to see. There are two:

  1. Comment moderation policy
  2. Interaction policy

Comment moderation policy

Comment moderation policies are closely related to one of the “norms” of social media, and one of the aspects which organizations that can find hardest to stomach: People expect that when they leave a comment, it will appear on the site.

If someone posts a comment and it doesn’t appear on the site, they may react badly. These reactions can range from repeated attempts to post comments, letters to your boss, to independent posts on other sites that are out of your control, through to sparking the organization of activist activities on an ongoing basis.

Frankly though, if you have an official blog you may want to review comments before posting them. You’re probably quite sensitive about the site content anyway, and you know that the Google has a very long memory.

So how do you protect your organization from a consumer backlash, while protecting the conversation on your site from being derailed?

You publish a comment moderation policy, to which you can point if you have to reject someone’s comment. It’s out there, up-front, and nothing is hidden so people should have no complaints if they violate it. Think of it as an insurance policy, just in case something goes wrong.

Consider covering the following:

  • Language and manners: Will you reject comments which include offensive or inappropriate language?
  • Personal attacks: Will you rule out personal attacks? Ideally you might allow people to question or argue the content – after all, this medium is about conversation. Aggressive attacks, though, are another thing.
  • On-topic comments: What will you do with comments that veer away from the topic of the post or other peoples’ comments?
  • Comment spam: Will you allow comments that appear to be spam?
  • Number of links: Do you want to limit the number of links that you will allow? Will you use no-follow links?
  • Blocking: Will you take action against repeat offenders?
  • Contact: Will you provide a way for commenters to contact someone if their comment is not approved, or if they have other questions?

Online interaction policy

Let’s say you recognize the importance of listening and, as your online efforts mature, you’re starting to engage with the people talking online about your industry. The trouble is, you know that once you start to engage with people online they’ll expect it and you know that you’re not going to want to respond to everyone. You should try to avoid the “dark side” of social media.

How do you draw the line? 

As with your comment moderation, you state up-front which conversations you will engage in, and which you won’t. Again, having this posted publicly on your site gives you the ability to point to it if someone asks why you haven’t responded to their posting.

An interaction policy also helps by adding some credibility to your approach, as you can publicly set clear standards for your interactions. This has the additional benefit of reinforcing your standards with your employees.

You may want to consider the following facets of an engagement policy:

Conversations:

  • Spam and off-topic comments: Will you respond to spam or off-topic comments? Likely not.
  • Defamation: You may want to avoid responding to defamatory remarks.
  • Misinformation: Ideally, you should aim to correct misinformation as soon as possible. Remember, if people don’t see a correction they may assume an incorrect statement to be true.
  • Dissent: What’s your approach to commenters who simply disagree with you? Will you debate with them? Will you avoid the conversation? Where do you draw the line between dissent and trolling?

Standards:

  • Timeliness: Assuming your processes allow for it (which they ideally should), consider stating that you will reply to online comments as soon as possible.
  • Honesty and accuracy: Consider stating that you will take all possible steps to ensure that what you post is complete and accurate.
  • Error correction: Make it clear that if you post something that you discover is inaccurate, you will endeavour to correct it immediately.
  • Confidentiality: Publicly state that you will not discuss confidential information.
  • Disclosure: Note that when employees engage  in public conversations about the organization, they will disclose their affiliation.

Your interaction policy will also benefit from an internal component – a clearly-defined process for how to go about those interactions. The US Air Force has a well thought-out decision tree that lays out the considerations for whether to respond to posts. You may want to tweak it for your organization, but it provides an excellent starting point.

Beyond this, though, clearly lay-out who is responsible for what in your process, and the timelines involved. As Alex de Bold said to me last week, social media moves in dog years. You won’t have time to figure this out on the fly. Will you triage posts? What approvals are needed at each level?

Thinking this through in advance will not only make your life easier, it may also save you if things do go wrong at some point and people ask why things were handled a certain way.

Conclusion

This is the final part of a three-part series on social media policies. To get the full story, check out the rest of the social media policy series. Once again, a big hat tip goes to Michael O’Connor Clarke for his ideas on this topic over the last few months.

Do you have these kinds of policies? What would you change in the approaches above?