Category Archives: Engagement

Simplifying Social Media Is Not That Simple

So I’m presenting a 30-minute talk on social media to members of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME) tomorrow. My boss suggested that I should keep things simple, as it’s likely that many of these folks are not that well-versed in social media for business purposes. I understand the point, but to be honest, this isn’t so simple. No one really teaches the basics of social media because social media is by nature intuitive. There really isn’t any “basics” in social media – you either use it or you don’t. The differentiating factor between success and failure boils down to context, customization and a lot of “feels”.

There is another reason why I feel learning “basics” is a challenge in social media. It is that everyone has heard of it – how great it is, how essential it is to business, how easy it is to use, how everyone and their pet cat is on it (seriously, there are many pet cats on social media). But, like many other aspects of business, it’s only really great and easy if you have already have all the supporting factors in place, many of which are circumstantial. If you don’t, no amount of training helps.

Most people already know the “basics”, like “a Facebook page is good for marketing”. And even if you don’t, it’s just a google away. I won’t present a slide just to show people that.

Everyone knows you need good photos online – for the cover, the profile and for content – but I can’t teach you the art of photography in 30 minutes, and I’m not even qualified to teach it in 30 days.

People may have heard that Instagram is the in-thing now (with younger generations) – but saying that is not often news. In fact, the issue is that to say these “basics” is tantamount to stating the obvious.

So if I were to say “Content is King! Your Facebook Page must have great content to win customers!” – it’s painfully obvious. Even if for some reason someone wasn’t aware of this age-old (by internet standards) rule, saying so without going into extensive detail can lay the ground for disappointment, when said someone realizes just how difficult it is to come up with good content.

Picture Credit: http://jeffhester.net/2013/03/19/social-media-explained-with-donuts/
Picture Credit: http://jeffhester.net/2013/03/19/social-media-explained-with-donuts/

Point being: social media has seen enough widespread use that everyone (or at least those who choose to attend a “Digital Marketing” seminar) probably has an inkling of some sort, no matter how simplistic or even erroneous. And even if someone does not, I can’t really help you in 30 minutes and at the expense of the boredom of some 98% of the audience.

The title of the talk I’m giving is “Five Ways to Winning Customers on Social Media”. The challenge for me is to present 5 tactics or points that a) if you’re a complete newbie to social media, it would still make sense; b) if you’re a novice (but still inexperienced), it would still be useful; and in fact, c) if you’re an expert, you would still enjoy seeing the points reinforced or even learn something new about something you already know.

Take for example, the issue of content and hard sell. Most inexperienced online marketers will default to a majority of hard sell on their Facebook page, following the strategy of traditional marketing. Marketers more attuned to the paradigm of social media (or those who have watched how successful pages do it) may mix in other entertaining content. By and large, what I want to do  for people is to provide a more pointed definition or plan regarding what other content would work on a Facebook page.

For this reason one of the “Five Ways” has to do with the 40:40:20 rule which divides content type into hard sell, “soft sell” and a kind of “no sell”. For example, the idea that as a company, you can impress your potential customers by posting content that makes you look knowledgeable in your domain is a form of soft sell. Posting a picture of a cat – which would invariably gather more likes than any of your other posts – will be a form of “no sell”.

There’s a good chance, I would say, that anyone who’s on Facebook would have seen some degree of soft sell and no sell – but may never have realized that it works in terms of social media marketing. That is the sort of area that I will try to straddle in this talk – to help people realize what they already know, and articulate it as strategy.

Advertisements

Appreciate it, understand? The conundrum of implementing online collaboration

I recently gave a talk about the issue of getting social media to work in a company, using weight management as a parallel. The whole idea really was to show that, not only is it an endeavour that requires many moving parts to coordinate and be driven together, but that to get it to work on the external community, the internal community cannot not participate either.

While the topic is not at all new, I actually only had two weeks to prepare my presentation. To be brutally honest, I incubate my content for a very long time before I deem it worthy to be seen by public eye, so two weeks is not a lot of time.  Because my three fellow speakers were going into fairly intense topics (strategy, business, FB contests and content), I decided that, as the opening speaker, I’ll go easy on the audience and present something fairly high-level but easy to understand.

No, they didn’t want that. They wanted practical advice, stuff you can actually put into “doing”. Good on them, I say! It’s good that they want practical, implementable advice! It’s good that people are no longer satisfied with yet another philosophical speech on why Social Media Is Good For You. Because: We Know Already Lah. Instead, they want “Yes, yes, but how do I get it to work, dammit?”

So anyway, I made my point: it’s high time to take social media from its fashionable outward-facing marketing role, and bring it back into the organization. Because it’s high time we used social media internally, as an organization tool for knowledge sharing and collaboration. That’s the bit that’s missing in Singapore that keeps us from catching up with the mature social media markets out there, overseas.

But it’s not that easy
But the problem with implementation is at least two-fold. First, there’s the usual stuff about identifying the right software, forming the project team, doing up the ITQ/tender (argh), tech specs, etc. Frankly, all the annoying, boring stuff (except maybe the first one). …. And the fact is, many people have already done this. I’ve done it before. And it didn’t work most of the time. Internal collaboration didn’t happen even when all this stuff was “implemented”. Why?

There are many reasons why. Chief of them is, why, people are still stuck with their emails of course, and unproductive habits of mailing each other Word docs to co-edit. Gosh, it’s 2013 and we’re still doing it! So much for progress! Ridonkulous! We nod at each other with chagrin, wondering why our colleagues still don’t get it. Six months later, nothing changes.

The root of the problem is a certain lack of internal practice. Two things are missing: an appreciation of the social, and the practice of social. Both are related. It’s like: it’s impossible to explain the beauty of Twitter to someone who simply refuses to use it. Even if you somehow get an approving nod at one strategic meeting where you did succeed(?) in explaining Twitter, by the next meeting, the heads that nodded have forgotten. Why? Cos they don’t use it.

It’s exactly like, oh everyone knows sugar is bad for you and you have to exercise. But how many practise that? Not many.

Now the thing is, failure to enable collaboration is not for lack of intellectual understanding. We know precisely, in descriptive terms (you know, like words in the grand Strategic Plan White Whatever Paper), Why Social Is “Good”/”The Future”/”What Your Business Needs”. But knowing the “why” does not translate into appreciation. Social needs to be appreciated. This is the missing bit. This is why 100% of everybody agrees that “collaboration” is holy and good, but only 10%* actually use it, cos that’s the percentage that appreciates it, because they actually use the damn tools.

So, what I’m telling you is that – we’re not getting anywhere in online collaboration, because we just talk, nod our heads in meetings and write papers about it. Stop that. Just do it already. Take a leap of faith – you say you know it’s good right? So just go ahead and implement it. And then you jolly well use it, bosses, managers, people and all.  I’ll have you know that I spoke to a consultant on successful implementation of online collaborative software and she and I had the same conclusion – it’s the support and leadership of management that makes the difference. We sighed in mutual understanding.

*Possibly less.

“SG” are two letters in Instagram – Singapore businesses #caughtgramming

Video by JinnyboyTV of Malaysia. (Of course they’re on Instagram)

Considering how obsessed Asians – especially Singaporeans – are with taking photos of everything, especially food – it’s no surprise that a low-participation-cost tool like Instagram has gradually and fairly quietly gained immense popularity here. It is said from July 2011- July 2012, the growth in the share of visits to Instagram, for Singapore, was 8121%. (Though, frustratingly, it is not clear it is 8121% of what figure.)

instagram_logo_smallInstagram is owned by Facebook, and it would seem that the recent trend of youths abandoning Facebook has been partly because they’ve been drawn to Instagram instead. Unlike Facebook, Instagram is more focused in its agenda and simpler to participate in – snap, filter, tag, share.

In designing my Online Community Management for Social Media #issocm course, one of my foci is Singapore case studies. Specifically, case studies of Singapore companies using social media to drive community and engagement. During my research and in the course of using Instagram myself, I’ve found companies using Instagram to connect with customers, and quite effectively too. It’s a pleasure to see these companies find success in a way which is still not quite commonplace in Singapore. Here are some of the ones I’ve encountered:

Instagram G2000

G2000 Singapore (http://instagram.com/g2000singapore)

On their Facebook Page, G2000 Singapore showcases their Instagram feed in an app. First ‘gram went up on 28 Feb, 2013, and they currently have 412 followers. G2000’s Instagram features an attractive and colourful variety of photos, from fashion statements (both professionally taken as well as informally posed), glimpses of lifestyle and modern living, humour as well as the occasional inspiring quote. (“Being male is a matter of birth, being a man is a matter of age, but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.”). All in all, an impressive presence on Instagram. #g2000

G2000’s social media presence is handled by Vocanic, Singapore.

* * * * *

Instagram obolosg

Obolo Cafe (http://instagram.com/obolosg)

Sometime in September 2012, I sat down at Obolo Cafe, and ordered a Yuzu Cheesecake. My friend had a Cassis. It was while we were both instagramming our cakes, as any true Singaporean would, that I noticed Obolo had an Instagram presence. “Tag us #obolosg to get featured” is the instruction. With nearly 1600 followers, Obolo has been ‘gramming since then in September 2012 (though one notes that their follower:following ratio is inverse, with some 5 times more following). Besides the usual food photos (lots of macaroons), Obolo also features customers and staff, and discount deals as well as job openings. There’s also a quaint Instagram of their humble beginnings. #obolosg

* * * * *

Instagram nutrifirst

Nutrifirst Pte Ltd (http://instagram.com/nutrifirst)

Nutrifirst, a health & fitness supplements company, calls upon customers to “tag us @nutrifirst if you wish us to repost your photo and stand a chance to get a one time sponsorship!” A win-win scenario taken up by mostly men, apparently, involved in bodybuilding/training, as seen on their Instagram feed. Instagrammers get to show off their muscles, receive gifts from Nutrifirst, and advertise the company’s product at the same time. Their first Instagram was posted on 24 April 2013, but the account currently has over 500 followers, which is not bad for a month’s work. #nutrifirst

Nutrifirst also has an impressive Facebook page boasting over 30,000 fans.

* * * * *

Instagram NLB PLS

Public Library Services, National Library Board (http://instagram.com/publiclibrarysg)

(Not a commercial business, but worthy of mention). I used to work at the NLB, a member of the Digital and Knowledge Services division where I worked on social media/online engagement and knowledge sharing services. Their Marketing folks have always been proactive on social media and it is with no surprise that I found them on Instagram. The Public Library Services, which handle all the libraries except the National Library at Bugis, have 616 followers to-date and post a great variety of Instagrams, from featured books to various promotions, events, happenings involving the public libraries, visitors young and old, and even art. Among the very useful things they post are notices on the days the libraries are closed. All in all, a very lively and useful account to follow if you’re a frequent library visitor. Tag @publiclibrarysg to get their attention.

The NLB is also responsible for the Singapore Memory Project, also on Instagram (below) with the handle and hashtag #iremembersg.

instagram iremembersg

I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the surface.  I feel that in Singapore, where many smaller businesses may not have taken full advantage of social media yet, Instagram is a viable opportunity, or at the very least, a good platform for testing the waters.  For one thing, it’s a heck of a lot easier to explain than Twitter! Instagram is:

  • Free
  • Lost cost of participation – for both yourself and for followers.
  • Already popular among Singaporeans, especially the 18-29 demographic.
  • Relatively “light” and clean engagement. Compared to Facebook or Twitter, Instagram crises are almost unheard of.
  • Attractive, being entirely focused on the visual.
  • With diligent hashtagging and geotagging, you can quickly build up content and engagement around your social as well as physical “locations”.

All you need is someone among your staff who has a good taste in filters.

* * * * *

instagram logo small

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/dustofhue

Online Community Management for Social Media Course (Jul/Sep/Dec 2013) #issocm

I’m developing an Online Community Management course at the Institute of Systems Science, National University of Singapore. Do check it out – if you find yourself attending, we’ll be certainly playing with Instagram hands-on. #issocm.

Online Community Management for Social Media Short Course at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS

Curiosity Engages – how big is a full-sized Gundam?

What on earth is that?
What on earth is that?

At a recent training programme for trainers, i.e. teaching teachers to teach better,  every participant was asked to do micro-teaching. Basically we had to do a short presentation and be critiqued about our teaching ability. Most of my class chose to teach their existing subject in the university, which ranged from cancer research to performance studies. I decided, since my courseware wasn’t ready, to do something a little different. I talked about a pet subject of mine, the Japanese cultural phenomenon known as Gundam.

But Gundam isn’t the topic of this post. Curiosity is. When my little talk about this 30-year-old franchise ended, one of the participants commented about the above photo, which I included in a slide about Gundam as a cultural phenomenon in Japan. Among the various pictures of Gundam artwork, packaging, cosplay and merchandise, I had included the above shot as a teaser to something bigger. She felt that this was very effective in keeping the audience’s attention. They were curious.

Earlier in the programme, we had the opportunity to hear Professor Alex Ip from the Department of Biological Sciences speak about life as academic in the NUS. He is a multi-award-winning teacher and his talk proved why. He teased us right from the beginning about the story of one his students who began as an average-grade pupil. We were curious.

Curiosity and Engagement
Curiosity killed the cat? Have you ever wondered what that means? Well, you can google it to find its literary roots. But this post isn’t about cats getting “killed” (unless you can’t stand kitten videos), it’s about engaging people.

When you are in the business of engaging people online, you have quite a few advantages on hand. For one, information is in a sense just a click, google or comment away. This morning, for example, I was waiting for the bus and surfing my Facebook feed when I saw this:

Smashing Magazine Facebook post
Despite my horrible 3G connection, I couldn’t help looking through the comments (which involved loading “View previous comments”, i.e. more waiting time) because I wanted to learn. I was curious. And I willingly paid precious time in anticipation of it. (Still wondering if “[space] instead of &nbsp” was meant as a joke).

It was engaging because it got me curious. So, when you are designing content to engage your audience, do bear this in mind. The examples in this post can be described as:

  1. Teasers. A picture tells a thousand words, but don’t show them all at once. Here is a gallery of the full-scale Gundam statue built in Japan.

  2. Stories. Prof. Ip’s student, whom he took in despite her unimpressive grades, became an eminent Professor of Oncology herself. It is a classic story of “rags to riches”, professionally speaking. The story that people want to finish reading is the key.(Though, be aware that many of the highly shareable stories you see on Facebook of late are generally of dubious origin; some are unsubstantiatedsome have good intentions but aren’t exactly true; some are funny but still untrue.)
  3. Questions. Ask questions that allow others to fulfill your curiosity, and yourself to fulfill others’ curiosities.

By no means the only ways to leverage curiosity in engagement and content development, but certainly among the consistently effective.