Tag Archives: Facebook

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.

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Change is good for you: the perpetual beta of social media

imminent-ned-facebook1Every time Facebook rolls out an update, (some) people will complain. Every time your company intranet rolls out an update , (some) people will complain. The difference? Facebook updates every other month (sometimes more often). Your intranet probably hasn’t been updated in years. Either way, people – some people – will always dislike change. Even for the better.

Are you one of those people made to use ancient software for your company intranet or other internal “enterprise” software? Software that looks and works like it was made in the 1990s? Software that looks awfully outdated next to Facebook, iOS7 or New York Times?  Many people still do. Why do they still exist? Well, there are many reasons. But I will say that the chief reason is a resistance to change. Inertia. An unwillingness or even lack of courage to lead the change, however painful.

Facebook changes a lot, and if you ask me I’ll tell you that that’s a good thing. Because at least Facebook is trying to improve. Sometimes for its own benefit, and sometimes for ours.  (OK, to be honest, I am very annoyed by Facebook’s recent algorithm changes which have reduced the overall organic reach of Pages, but apparently it is in the name of individuals’ news feed relevance).

Regardless of whether your company’s internal software tools are upgraded for IT’s benefits or yours, the point is that it occurs too rarely. The problem with a lot of modern enterprise IT “solutions” is that they are built for today using yesterday’s technology and are unable to change tomorrow. They lack nimbleness and flexibility. They are also “governed” by rules that add to the picture of ponderousness. Some people may argue this is necessary, that at enterprise level, care and security are of utmost concern. I won’t disagree – but at the expense of updatedness? At the cost of relevance? Has anyone ever calculated the cost-benefit ratio of security at the expense of updatedness vs the fall in productivity and competitiveness due to obsolescence?comfort-zoneMany software systems slide into obsolescence in the name of governance. Is it worth the productivity of employees to be always using obsolete or near obsolete software and computing paradigms? What is the true cost of using software that is a year out of date? 2 years? 5 years? Computing evolves too fast today to tolerate such a cost. I reckon this is one of the key reasons that in recent years, the disconnect between IT departments and business users have grown – including the disconnect between IT departments and social media users, such as marketing and customer engagement, and even customers themselves. When was the last time you were a potential customer of website and left without buying because the website didn’t work smoothly as you wished?

Exacerbating this is the natural bias of management to side with the secure, the governed and the predictable; and to resist the risks and unpredictability of change. Many managers want upgrades but do not want change. They forget that the two come hand-in-hand. Such managers often take the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance, praising the merits of “stability” – but two or five years down the road, the software has only become a ponderous deadweight of “stable” obsolescence. Perhaps that software has had a few patches, maybe even a mid-life upgrade. But in the world of enterprise software, issues of maintenance contracts, budget and even the nature of internal “expertise” often limit just how far the upgrade(s) go. In the end, a Symbian phone with upgraded Symbian OS is still a Symbian phone. (Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for Symbian/Nokia – they gave many many years of great mobile experiences!).

The term “perpetual beta” came about around 2009 when Tim O’Reilly was talking about Web 2.0. Not surprisingly, it is closely associated with the social (media) movement.  In a way, it translates as the software or service being likely to have on-the-fly updates without being fully “tested” (which might simply mean not fully ‘project-manage’d or ‘governanc’ed). While it is a means of seeking users’ understanding that certain things might not work properly or may even break down, it also allows developers to observe actual use and take real user feedback from the software.

Gmail is one of the most well-known examples of a perpetual beta – it was in “beta” for some five years from 2004 to 2009. Do you remember the days of asking for a gmail invite? Point is, some of the world’s most popular and modern, up-to-date computing tools today are those that are constantly changing, such as Google apps and social media tools like Facebook.  O’Reilly describes some of the characteristics of perpetual betas as having:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them.
  • Trusting users as co-developers.
  • Harnessing collective intelligence.

While these may not apply to all kinds of enterprise tools, I dare say these are qualities often cited as valuable to companies, in the area of IT, enterprise architecture, business management, human resources and the marks of an effective modern business. These are precisely the qualities afforded by social, by social media, including socially empowered internal enterprise tools. The reason many of these qualities are still missing in companies is because the paradigm of a perpetual beta is still anathema to many corporate mindsets. Unfortunately, this means the perceived costs of nurturing social is inherently not welcome, even though its advantages are highly sought after.  The intranet needs social to survive. Unfortunately, inertia needs little to survive. Think about this next time you are forced to use an antiquated version of Internet Explorer to use your intranet, the next time you are shown the cost of making a small change to your website functionality or the next time you have to log in twice in a Single-Sign-On system. JD houston change

Online Community Management – the Unobvious Job

What’s the difference between “Social Media Management” and “Online Community Management”? Is it the same thing?

The term “online community management” is still relatively new in Singapore. And that’s one reason why I’m writing this.

Though perhaps the concept isn’t new – isn’t it basically social media management? Yes and no. Social media management is, simplistically, the running of social media channels, everything from setting up Pages and accounts, tweeting, curating and posting content to reporting   metrics. Its activities are centred around the channel – in a sense, it is channel-centric.

It is implicit in “social media management” that managing the fans, followers and members is involved. That’s where online community management has its focus. It’s in the people in your community, people whom you want to engage, people for whom you want to get a sustained positive response.  So, in a sense, online community management is a part of social media management, inasmuch as social media marketing is part of digital marketing.

I believe the main reason the term “online community manager” is only just beginning to take root in Singapore is that until recently, the focus of most organizations has really been exactly about social media as (marketing) channels, with community management as a secondary concern.

The Obvious vs the Un-Obvious Job

It is inevitable that as companies gain a better grasp of social media channels, they run into issues that are specifically more about online community management. Like the “webmaster” of the past, it will gain importance as the jack-of-all-trades character who is not just doing the obvious thing (“running the Facebook page”) but also the less obvious thing (“managing fans and driving engagement”)

Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/
The Online Community Manager is sometimes called a “one-man team” or “crazy madness”. Source: http://www.freshnetworks.com/blog/2011/01/community-manager-appreciation-day-pros-and-cons-of-community-management/

We might argue that not every online community is on social media. For example, the discussion community around a popular blog might not be considered social media (especially since these existed before “social media” did).

Regardless, it’s fair to say that social media management and online community management have many things in common. But here are some ways to differentiate them.

Note: These are not exclusive differences. Social Media Management has some aspects of Online Community Management, and vice versa. The points below are an attempt to differentiate their foci, not to divide the two disciplines. They really do share a lot in common.

* * * * *

If you would like to learn more about my thoughts on
Online Community Management, do check out my OCM course
at the Institute of Systems Science, NUS. </end self-promo>

* * * * *

Focus

  • Social Media Management focuses on the channel. “We want to grow our Facebook fanbase.”
  • Online Community Management (OCM) focuses on the people. “We want to make our Facebook fans happy and engaged.”

Consider: it’s possible to have a social media channel with tens of thousands of fans/followers, but little engagement.

Channel

  • Social Media Management is often channel-specific. “We engage fans on Facebook and Twitter.”
  • OCM is in principle channel-agnostic. “We engage fans. Wherever they are.”

Consider: Many companies start off by saying they want to “get on Facebook” (or the like), not “We must engage fans”.

Target Segment

  • Social Media Management uses marketing to gain new fans. The objective is to bring new fans in.
  • OCM “uses” its community to market to itself. It focuses on keeping fans within.

Consider: social media campaigns often use marketing tactics, such as marketing lingo and giveaways, to attract new fans, while the professionals involved (they could even be the same ones) are tasked to focus on content and engagement to keep existing fans engaged.

KPIs

  • Social Media Management ultimately is often designed to drive a hard business objective. E.g. sales
  • OCM wants to drive participation, interaction, discussion and other means of engagement. Typically these are considered a means to an end (the end being a business objective)

Consider: management often grills social media teams as to what is their ROI, and how do they benefit sales. When a crisis occurs online, management asks how the team will handle it – the latter is a matter of OCM since it involves pacifying a community; whereas the former is about marketing/bottom line.

…. and so on.

All points are entirely arguable. This is no attempt to define the two terms definitively. It’s just food for thought for those of us trying, perhaps, to make an un-obvious job a little more obvious, a little better appreciated.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading to the end! Once again, allow me to introduce my
Online Community Management 2-day course starting from July,
at the Institute of Systems Science, National University of Singapore. Care to join up? 

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

The Inexplicable Like: is there a minimum population for an online community?

Around 2003-2004 (i.e. a few years before social media took off), I helped start and run a forum for hobbies and entertainment in Singapore – Katoots. By 2007, it reached 5000 registered members and was one of the largest and most active of its kind in Singapore. It is now defunct, but the experience taught me quite a few things. One of the observations I made was that it takes about 20 active users for an online community to truly come and feel alive. Regardless of the number of registered members you have in your online community, the important number is this active user number.

If I recall correctly, we had something like 200 registered members, of which the key, or core, 20 active users are part of. This means that 10% of the membership was active. Interestingly, this conforms to the rather old 1:9:90 rule – that is, 10% of the total community are the ones that actively create and contribute. More recently, there are also observations that the post-2010 ratio should be 10:20:70 now that people are generally more active online.

90-10-1-rule-online-community-participation
Diagram from “Is the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Engagement Dead?”
Posted by Paul Schneider (click image for link to his article).

It could be said that in the end, it’s still the 10% that matters, in either case.

Below 20 active users, your site may not display enough activity to pique the interest of new visitors, i.e. potential new members. It will probably display  No Reply Syndrome.  Below 20 active users, the site may not feel alive, and in this way does not encourage revisits.

You will notice that based on the old 1:9:90 rule, you should theoretically need 100 registered members to get your 1st active creator user. Let me tell you that that’s not really enough. You see, that active creator user is likely to be none other than you. :)

Working backwards, to achieve 20 active users, you would need to get at least 200 registered members. At least. Your mileage will vary according to the nature of your community, especially its topic and focus.

The Active Threshold
Anyway, in the above example, the 200 figure is what I call Active Threshold. It is the minimum number of registered (in whatever form) members needed for the community to come alive. Once you achieve this number, you have to observe if your Active User Group has manifested, i.e. 20 active users. If it doesn’t seem like it has appeared, your Active Threshold may be bigger.

In modern, i.e Facebook, times, I have learned, consulted about, and observed the Active Threshold for Facebook Pages on a handful of occasions. PR/Marketing agency Conversion Hub once observed to me that the figure to aim for is 10,000 fans.

This sounds like it should not just generate 20 active users, but 1000 (10%). But you know of course that Facebook pages don’t work that way. There are theories and reports that Facebook’s Edgerank “hides” fanpage posts from the majority of your fans, either in the name of filtering newsfeeds for relevance….. or because they want brands to pay for eyeballs. There are also more considered suggestions that despite the lower quantitative reach, the qualitative reach (or real engagement) is preserved or higher.

That aside, the point is that Facebook Pages have their own form of Active Threshold, a much higher number than forums. In a recent conversation I had with Damien Cummings, Regional Marketing Director, Digital & Social Media at Samsung Asia – he cited a range of 5000 to 10,000 fans as the active threshold. It’s a range that I nodded in agreement with.

But it still depends on the nature of your community’s topic or interest. For example, a page that I worked with which had no product, but sold an ideology, did not come alive at 10,000 fans. I observed that its active threshold was closer to 16,000. The less apparent your product offering or value to the fan, the more fans you need to gain traction.

The Inexplicable Like
What was it that I observed actually? I mean, how do you determine when you’ve reached the active threshold? My answer would be: when everything that you post on the page gets a response without prompting. Sometimes within minutes. Say, when posting even a somewhat bland status post on the page, on a lazy Monday afternoon, gets an inexplicable like (yes the sort that makes you wonder why a fan liked the post, even though you’re grateful for it).

skittles camel post
The ultimate in Inexplicable Likes. Don’t try this at hom… I mean, unless you have the clout of the Skittles Facebook Page.

This means you have a target
What all this means is that you now have a target, if you’re still in the journey of building an online community. You have a target to tell/show/commit/over-promise (haha) to your management, which is really a good thing. You shouldn’t be growing a community without a target, even a quantitative one like this is helpful as a reference milestone.

Would anyone like to share what your active threshold experiences are/were?