Don’t Panic!

When to act, and when to do nothing?

Community and social media managers deal with this conundrum on a regular basis. When managing a social media presence, what constitutes “action-worthy” audience behavior, and when should you just stand by?

The chart below was inspired by Charlene Li’s “social media triage” as blogged here by Andrew Careaga. The idea is to use the chart as a way to determine the “threat level” – from low to high – and assess the amount of action required to manage it.

Social Media Threat Level Graphic

Most of the issues we deal with on a regular basis fall into the “low” category: combative comments, unofficial groups, spam, etc. These require little to no action to manage, other than consistent monitoring. In fact, reacting too quickly or being defensive could do more harm than good.

“Medium” level issues not only need more attention, but also may require the involvement and input of higher levels of management and other members of your team, including alumni volunteers and other campus departments.

Finally, “high” issues require coordinated action and involve the highest levels of management. While situations that fall into the “high” category are relatively rare, it pays to have a strategy in place for managing these types of situations, similar to a crisis communications plan. Be sure to include strategies for coordinating efforts across campus departments. Also think about how and when to involve Provosts, Vice Presidents, and general counsel. These high-level administrators should know about the situation, and your strategy for managing it.

This chart is meant to help guide your thinking about social media issues, and does not cover every single situation that might come across your desk. It should, however, help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Keeping Up

One of questions I hear most often is, “How do you keep up with all of this stuff?” Meaning: “how on earth to you find the time, energy and motivation to keep up with the latest trends, tools and social content?”

The short answer is that I find “this stuff” interesting, so keeping up is easy. I want to do it. But if you are new to all this, or maybe just burned out, here are a few specific ways you can keep up with the social media universe:

1) Use Twitter.

Follow people who distribute great content. Follow hashtags like #casesmc. Engage in conversations. Using Twitter to both obtain and distribute information and ideas is one of the best ways to use the tool.

2) Read blogs.

There’s a list of some of the blogs I read in the right sidebar on this page (“Blogroll”). Check them out, subscribe, and hear from some of the smartest, coolest, most thoughtful people in education and communications. Also see EdSocialMedia and BlogHighEd; both have a diverse array of contributors with great insight and perspective (full disclosure – I’m a contributor to both of those sites).

3) Talk to people.

Go to a Tweetup. Start an email thread. Pick up the phone. Attend conferences. Having actual conversations with people you respect, find interesting, or just want to learn from is a great way to get new information – and to spark your own creativity.

4) Get industry news.

Read industry sites like Mashable. Even though it isn’t education-specific, the trends and tools they talk about will likely apply to your institution, school, etc. Sign up for the Smart Brief on Social Media. It’s a daily (M-F) email and it always, always has great content. Smart Brief has digests on EdTech, Education, and many other topics as well.

What did I miss? What other resources do you use to “keep up with this stuff?”

ROI Update: Report Templates in Hootsuite

If you’re a Hootsuite user, you may have noticed a new built-in tool provided by our friend, the Owl. It’s called Report Builder. This new tool makes generating data reports a little more streamlined and a little easier. But as I discussed in my series of posts about ROI, numbers and graphs aren’t the only thing you need to provide insight into your social media presences. YOU and your human brain are still the most important element.

Here’s how it works: log in to Hootsuite, and in the left hand column you’ll see an icon that looks like a bar graph. Click it, and you’ll have access to the Report Builder. Click “create new report” to get started.

You can choose a built-in reporting template, or create one from scratch. The drag and drop interface lets you customize to your heart’s content, and you can add in the different elements you want to highlight from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Analytics. Some of the more customized options require you to spend “points” – the Owl’s currency. Pro Users automatically get 50 points per month, and you can add more points on an a la carte basis as needed. Don’t worry, free users: there are still plenty of tools for you to implement as well. You can also opt to have your report sent to your inbox on a regular basis, should you want reports delivered to you or your team.

In all, this service makes things a little easier to get under the hood and pull together data from disparate sources. But it doesn’t do away with the human element – actually taking a look at the data, analyzing it, and making strategic choices based on the results. Yes, the Owl is pretty cool, but he can’t replace you…yet.

Sharing Your Success Part Five: Bringing it All Together

This is the fifth in a series of posts exploring some of the ways you can gather data about your social media presences, make sense of it all, and report your findings. Read all five parts; the most recent post is at the top of the page.

You’ve done the gathering, analyzing, crunching, and assessing – now you need to create your report and summary. You’ll want it to be clear, concise, and easy to digest. Make sure you know who it is intended for, and what level they are within your organization. Managers, directors, trustees, volunteer leaders? What types of information do those different groups need, and what questions will they have?

The key is to break down your report into categories. You can plug and unplug each category for the audience you are addressing. I’ve created a template to guide your efforts. Download it here (45K PDF). Copy and paste the general outline of the template into a new document and fill it in with your own organization’s information.

Here are a few tips for working with the template:

  • Start with an executive summary. This will give people like trustees and VPs a high level overview of your progress, goals, and the status of your efforts.
  • Assess your audiences and stakeholders. This is critical for making strategic decisions about engaging those groups. The more you know about your audience(s), the better. Show off what you know.
  • Describe your efforts in all of your social media tools separately (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and so on). Show qualitative and quantitative data. Draw conclusions and make assessments.
  • Highlight new tools and trends. Describe technologies that are new to the social media space that might solve a problem or fill a need within your organization. Explain why these tools are on your radar screen, why they may be effective, and if/when you plan on using them in an official capacity.
  • Restate your communications strategy. It is important to remind your reader that everything you do is governed by big picture, long term thinking.
  • Briefly summarize your report and write a conclusion.

These tips will help you provide the information your reader needs without bogging them down in unnecessary detail. Over time, your reports will help you assess long term growth and change in your social media efforts.

Sharing Your Success Part Four: Blog ROI

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring some of the ways you can gather data about your social media presences, make sense of it all, and report your findings. Read parts one through three here; the most recent post is at the top of the page.

So you have a blog…does anyone care? Is anyone reading it? Let’s find out.

Many blogging platforms have built-in metrics dashboards. These will give you basic stats, like how many hits the blog received (lifetime, in the past month, or even a particular day) and the most viewed posts. All of this is valuable quantitative information that will give you a few pieces of the metrics puzzle.

Having numbers is great, but counting the number of times that someone landed on your site doesn’t tell you much about your audience. How did they get there? Did they like what they were reading? How did they interact with the content?

Gathering data from multiple sources will give you a clearer picture of the impact of your blog.

Don’t underestimate the comments. Just like Twitter and Facebook, the things people say about your content can be incredibly valuable. Copy, paste, and save comments and feedback. Take a critical look at the comments and use them to guide your future efforts. What did people like? Not like? What generated the most interaction?

How long did they stay? By using a tool like Google Analytics, you can find out the amount of time people spent on your site. This is a particularly useful stat for blogs. If on average, users spent more than 20-30 seconds on a blog page, they were probably reading. Remember the lurkers: readers who don’t leave comments or otherwise interact. This is a good way to get information about those enigmatic readers.

How did they get there? You can learn a lot about your traffic by taking a look at your other social presences. I call this “data layering.” For example, look at the shortened urls you used to promote blog posts via Twitter. How many people followed those links? How many people RTed those links? And how many people mentioned that post in a tweet?

Search Terms: What search terms brought people to your blog? What did they search for once they reached your site? Frequent search terms can provide valuable insight into your audience’s needs and interests. Make note of them.

Next time…bringing it all together: tips on generating reports.

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