I was lucky to attend PRNews’ Facebook Conference on August 9, 2011 in San Francisco. It was one of the best social media conferences I have attended and was packed with practical tips, excellent case studies, and quality speakers.
Another highlight was that participants sat at the same group tables for the entire conference. I initially balked at the set-up, thinking that I would be stuck with the same people all day, but in the end I found it to be a comfortable and natural atmosphere for networking with peers from all walks of life. With very little effort, I was able to meet interesting people and make useful connections.
The speaker line-up was excellent and their presentations were inspiring. Specifically, I learned the importance of engaging your fans in a two-way dialogue, and how to enable your organization to support an institutional social media presence.
EdgeRank: Making it to the Top of the Newsfeed
Ever wondered how Facebook determines what posts make it in to a user’s Top News? Michael Jaindl from Buddy Media provided some very useful information about EdgeRank, which is the algorithm that builds the news feed for each user.
For those of you who like equations, consider:
If you are like me and can’t get past the first symbol think of it like this: fans who have previously engaged with your content are more likely to see your page’s updates than fans who have not. In addition, the fan’s type of engagement (post or create, comment, like, tag, etc.) and how long the user has been a fan also factors in. This is why you want to issue posts that spur interaction.
Some key take-aways to generate engagement:
- Be explicit: if you want people to comment on your post, say something like “Please comment.”
- Ask questions or ask fans to fill in the blanks in a statement: “Angela Merkel visited the ____ lab in Switzerland last Friday.”
- Encourage fan engagement: Thank your fans and weigh in on their comments.
- Relate to current events.
- Include links, but beware! On Facebook, it’s best to use a long url that shows its origin rather than a shortened one.
- Post videos.
- Post games and trivia.
Engaging Audience through Dialogue
Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley’s Executive Director of Public Affairs, presented the university’s social media strategy aimed at engaging its active student population through social media. Using as a case study the school’s decision to cut the budget for their softball team, Dan showed how the university initially failed to engage its students and address their concerns. In the end, the softball team survived the cut and UC Berkeley learned a thing or two about audience engagement through social media.
Dan’s presentation clearly showed how staying out of the conversation is no longer a viable strategy for companies and institutions alike. The traditional model of pushing emails and publishing news is no longer enough to really listen to your audience and engage with your more passionate supporters. Although not public yet, UC Berkeley has developed a very interesting app through Facebook called Sproul Plaza (named after the location of many student protests on campus) that will provide fans a place to voice their concerns and share their thoughts, in a forum provided by the university. Another cool factoid about the Sproul Plaza app: it was developed by a firm made up of university Alumni.
Download the presentation for a preview of the new app.
Developing a Content Strategy
There were many statistics thrown around about when and how often you should post on Facebook: 0.5/day, at noon, at 7:30pm, etc. The correct answer will vary depending on your organization and your audience, etc. Janette Crawford from Storenvy shared an example of a weekly content calendar she created with the type of Facebook content to post each day of the week:
- Monday: “Like this if…”
- Tuesday: Fill-in-the-blank
- Wednesday: Your Own Photos/Videos
- Thursday: “Quote”
- Friday: Fun!
- Saturday: Question
- Sunday: Viral Photos/Videos
Although this may seem simple, it was a good reminder of the different kind of posts possible. As always, test your audience and be patient! If your audience has not been particularly responsive, try with low threshold items such as photos and videos which require a simple “like” and then gradually step it up to questions and polls.
Download her presentation (PDF).
It Takes a Village
Regardless of your brilliance and hard work, it does take a team to build and sustain presence on social media. For that, employees need to know the basics. A social media policy does more than delineate processes and structures. It gives employees guidance on what they can share through social media and what they cannot. A social media policy enables employees to participate and contribute./
Christi McNeill, Southwest Airline’s Emerging Media Strategy Specialist, shared how social media is structured and some very interesting details about their social media policy. Consider that Southwest became active in social media in April 2006 and it was not until five years later that they developed a social media policy for their organization (published in January 2011). Developing a social media policy took Southwest’s team six months. Working closely with their human resources and legal teams, the social media policy was distributed company wide and is now required reading for all employees.
Christi McNeill’s advise:
- Clearly outline your strategy and goals: this will be make it much easier for the rest of the company to understand what you are trying to do.
- Force your teams to think outside of the organizational chart: outside users and/or clients don’t care about hierarchy, they want answers.
- Equip your employees to understand and embrace social media: provide them with resources for more education and training if needed.
Download Southwest’s Social Media Policy (PDF).
Last but not least, Tim Marklein from WCG (a global communications firm) reminded us all to anticipate conversations that may arise when using social media for your organization. Consider the process flow below for managing issues that may come up.
What’s really important to consider is that not ALL issues merit a response. This seems to be largely driven by whether or not resources are available to address them, which is a reality that all organizations face. Regardless of the details, the above chart is a reminder that any plan is always better than no plan at all. Putting one forces you to prioritize issues, identify who would respond to them, and ultimately avoid making crucial decisions at the eleventh hour, when mistakes are easy to make.
Download his presentation.