Program Notes: CASE Europe and Beyond Social Media

The recent CASE Europe seminar “Beyond Social Media,” developed by Ken Punter (@kenpunter), Ellie Lovell (@ellielovell) and me, was structured to give attendees the opportunity to go beyond the basics and learn how to develop strategic initiatives for social media.

Ellie’s vision for the seminar was to look past the day-to-day details of social tools. She describes the overall approach:

“We have been talking about social media for a long time now, and we’re all doing it in some way or another…but I wonder how many of us are doing it purposefully. We seem to talk more about the tools and the ‘how?’ rather than the principles and the ‘why?’ I was really keen to look at what we want to achieve and how social media can support those objectives. We need to demonstrate the value of using social media and online channels. It’s an area that will continue to need investment if we are going to do it purposefully.”

The Sessions

We heard from a variety of speakers representing higher ed, private industry, schools, communications, fundraising, alumni relations and marketing. Ken Punter kicked off the day’s talks by reminding us of the roots of basic human behavior. Ken believes that people should be at the center of everything we do with regards to social tools. “It’s an approach, not a technology,” he said. This reminded me of Andy Shaindlin’s “Ride the wave, not the board” concept as discussed on his blog, Alumni Futures. Both speak to the heart of the social web—it’s about people and behaviors, not software and platforms.

We also heard from staff at three institutions—Leeds, Open University, and York—who provided case studies about their efforts in social media. They included a bespoke solution (a custom platform built in-house), a “walled garden” hybrid (using a private alumni directory service alongside tools like Facebook and Twitter) and using solely third-party tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). While the approach highlighted in each case study proved effective for the respective institution, the success of varied methods also speaks to the fact that there is no magic bullet for “solving” social media. Each institution has its own character, stakeholders, culture and community. Taking a hard look at an institution’s strategic initiatives is the key to selecting an approach for effectively engaging audiences with social technologies.

Measurement, return on investment and garnering support for initiatives is also key, as highlighted by the seminar’s two final presentations. First, a panel session on measuring and monitoring social media considered different approaches to both qualitative and quantitative measurement and stressed the need for benchmarking. I closed out the day featuring issues related to growing support for social media initiatives and reporting successes to peers, managers and high-level leadership.

In all, the day’s presentations provided a cohesive look at the issues that go well beyond starting a Facebook page or tweeting for the first time. Strategic thinking and being true to the voice of your institution are major components of a successful implementation of social tools.

In case you missed the program in person, learn more by following these links.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Social Media Blog.

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.

Sharing Your Success Part Three: Twitter ROI

This is the third 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 three parts here; the most recent post is at the top of the page.

Measuring your Twitter presence turns out to be a little more complicated than Facebook. Instead of just one, there are several tools you can to use to get a good picture of your progress to date. Below, I list some of the tools I use (and each name is a link to that service), and summarize the service(s) they provide.

The Tools

Hootsuite: Dashboard for managing your Twitter presence. It can also be used to manage other social media tools (LinkedIn, Facebook) but I find that it is most effective for Twitter. Hootsuite includes a built-in URL shortener. Provides user stats such as language and home country. Lists your most popular tweets, and greatest advocates (users who retweet your content). Hootsuite, a previously free service, recently converted to a paid model. I find their new service and pricing menu a little overly complicated, but it still provides the useful services I’ve come to value.

Twitter Counter: Graphs the number of new followers of your Twitter account over time (see example below). Creating a graph for a time period of up to three months is free; six months or more requires you to send a tweet from your account lauding their services.

HashTweeps: Lists the number of times a particular hashtag was tweeted, the user(s) who tweeted it, and how many times that person tweeted it. Use this for measuring your institution’s hashtags.

WhoUnfollowedMe: Notifies you when users stop following you, which may help you better assess how your tweets are coming across to your followers.

Don’t forget to capture tweets that you want to highlight in your report – good conversation threads, positive feedback, etc. Copy and paste the text and the user who said it into a spreadsheet or database for future use. This is a similar tactic to the one I described in my earlier post about Facebook.

Analysis

Much of what I mentioned last week about analyzing your findings in Facebook applies to Twitter as well. Here’s what I said with a few updates for this week (changes in italics):

Take a good hard look at what the numbers and the comments are telling you. Ask questions such as:

  • Which tweets were more popular? Which ones weren’t as popular? Why do you think that is?
  • Which days of the week and time of day had more response than others?
  • Who retweets you most frequently?
  • What kinds of tweets cause people to unfollow you?

Asking good questions about what you’ve found will help you draw smart conclusions on your findings. Use those findings to set new goals. What new things will you try? What will you continue to do the same? What will you abandon entirely?

Next time, we’ll talk blogs – how many people read yours, and are they really reading it?

Note: Thanks to Andy Shaindlin of Alumni Futures for first telling me about HashTweeps.

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