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.

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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 Two: Facebook ROI

This is the second 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 part one here.

Facebook: One Tool to Rule them All

In this post, I’ll highlight the built-in metrics tool for Facebook, as well as some other hints to putting together a report from your findings. Social tools like Twitter require you to make use of several third party services to get information about your audience and growth. But Facebook has one, built-in tool that can handle most of your data-driven needs.

Quantitative Measurement

In the left-hand column of your Facebook Page, you’ll find a section called “Insights” and a small link that says “see all.” Click it, and you’ll be presented with a couple of graphs representing the status of your Page. While these graphs are all well and good for a quick snapshot, the most important part lies under the “Export” button in the top right corner. Click that and you’ll see this:

Select your time frame and click download. What you get (either in CSV or XLS) is all the info you’ve ever wanted about your Page, dumped out into a big ugly spreadsheet. BUT all of that ugly is soon to become your best friend. That spreadsheet contains the raw data to create custom graphs and charts depicting the exact parameters you want to highlight and display. Using the charts tool within your spreadsheet software of choice, you can graph the number of “Likes” you’ve garnered over time, the increase in Fans, anything you like.

Back on the Insights page, there are two more links in the left hand column: one called “Users” and one called “Interactions.” The Users section will provide valuable info about your audience members – including age and gender. Interactions will give you data about how your audience interacted with individual wall posts.

The Users section provides valuable information about your audiences you can’t find elsewhere due to the fact that Facebook can pull internal data from individual user’s profiles.

Qualitative Measurement

Don’t forget to capture positive comments and interactions on your wall. Use whatever system you’d like: take a screen shot, copy and past the text into a spreadsheet or database, whatever works for you. Just remember to keep all of them in one place so you can pull them up later and share them.

Analysis

Gathering all of this information together in one place doesn’t mean your task is complete. Now the real work begins: the analysis. Take a good hard look at what the numbers and the comments are telling you. Ask questions such as:

  • Which posts were more popular? Which ones weren’t as popular? Why do you think that is?
  • Which days of the week had more response than others?
  • Who are your biggest fans?
  • Who is re-posting your content to their Page?

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?

Stay tuned for next week’s ROI installment: Twitter.

Why Can’t I Quit You, Facebook?

There has been quite a bit of hubbub about Facebook lately, particularly about the arrogant attitude towards privacy and user data. Yes, Facebook sucks, and has managed to steadily increase its suckitude over the past few years. But even with the calls for quitting Facebook, many of us still linger (myself included).

Why?

Staying connected to friends: There are people in my life I’d lose contact with completely if I left Facebook. I like having an ambient awareness of what they’re up to and what they’re working on. These people don’t have blogs, twitter feeds or utilize other ways for me to connect with them socially online. So for right now, I don’t have a good replacement for Facebook for this purpose.

Keeping up with Facebook itself: My consulting clients’ communications strategies almost always include Facebook. I have to be a Facebook native in order to speak intelligently about it and have a grasp on its ins and outs. If I leave Facebook entirely, my intimate understanding of the user experience will weaken and eventually fade entirely. Setting up a fake profile wouldn’t give me the same ability to learn the subtle nuances, specifically the ways in which Facebook connects users to one another, to brands, to services, and to the web.

So what to do?

Give Facebook as little information about yourself as possible: Zuckerberg and crew do not need to know your address, your cell phone number, your favorite books or your relationship status. If all you want to do is find old friends, keep education info simply to find former classmates. Otherwise, get all of the irrelevant details out of your profile and lock your profile down. Don’t install applications (yes, this means Farmville, Mafia Wars and Sorority Life). The less Facebook knows about you, the better.

Set your privacy settings: If you haven’t done this yet, DO IT NOW. Don’t assume that Facebook (or any online tool, for that matter) is going to protect your privacy by default. When you set up a new profile on any site or service, check the privacy settings and the privacy policy. It just makes good sense.

Four Tips for Feeding the Social Media Beast

Keeping social media content fresh is a job all by itself. How do you keep content from going stale without feeling overwhelmed? What do to when you don’t have breaking news to tweet, blog or post? Here are a few tips for keeping that hungry social media beast fat and happy:

Teamwork: Use your colleagues, friends and family for new ideas. What’s new? What’s interesting? What do they want to hear more about? Use these questions as a way to brainstorm and get new ideas for content.

Keep a List: Store your ideas in a Google doc, as draft posts, or even written down good old-fashioned paper. Circle back to them when you feel stuck.

Keep Your Post Pantry Well Stocked: Start writing out posts in advance; they’ll be ready to roll when you feel like you’ve got nothing to say. Choose subjects that are not time sensitive, and can be posted days or weeks in the future.

Plan Ahead: This can be tough, but planning your posts a week or two in advance can help you feel less manic. It also insures that your content is part of a cohesive strategy, not a one-off without clear direction or purpose.