Tuesday Feb 25, 2014

Who Can You Trust to Handle Your Social Media?

social media trustWho’s writing and managing your social media channels? Because whoever that is, THEY are the public voice of your brand. They are your image. They’re the ones building relationships and forming bonds.


Who’s commenting on, liking and sharing your posts, seemingly everyone except your own employees? Are your people really that indifferent to the company and its products?


Much handwringing goes on over who should be allowed to speak for a brand on social. The result of said handwringing (and social policies the length of which rival omnibus bills of Congress) is that employees are not engaging around the brand on social at all. If that’s what you were going for, congrats!


Your social marketing is in the hands of your brand community managers, and the employees extending and amplifying the brand on their personal social channels. Do you trust them? Or are your days and nights spent stressing about controlling them?


Community Managers


For our purposes let’s take this to mean anyone contributing to or managing the actual brand-owned social channels. If they are all of the below, back off and trust them.


  • Intimately knows and represents the audience
  • Can get answers to questions, like now
  • Knows what’s genuinely cool about your brand
  • Has a human personality and recoils at corporate jargon
  • Cares about thrilling customers
  • Unceasingly creative and quick thinking
  • Calm, with great judgment
  • Master of the tech tools
  • Ever-curious researcher and curator
  • Confident and autonomous
  • Literate


Employees


Employees might be the greatest wasted natural social marketing resource of our time. Why have they built a wall between their personal social and the brand they work for? Because they’re scared to death.


When social policies are vague, malleable, and based largely on “eh…it depends,” any intelligent employee will choose to socially stay as far away from the brand as they can. There is NO incentive to engage and tons of risk in doing so. Safe + easy is an unbeatable combo.


Do you think your employees are so determined to help you on their personal social channels…for free…that they’re willing to curl up by the fire and read your social media usage policy? The shocking answer is…maybe! Over 50% of employees want to share news about their company. But just 45% of employers encourage employees to engage. It’s silly to not want employees to be active, engaged fans of their own company. So:


  • Make it clear you want them to engage, it’s not a trap.
  • Lay out a few big “don’ts” like competition bashing or violating confidentiality.
  • Have them apply workplace common sense, nothing discriminatory, etc.
  • Encourage them to put the good ol’ “opinions are mine” on their profiles.
  • Ask that they say nothing at all about the brand if they can’t say anything nice.
  • Provide them with content that’s incredibly easy to share.
  • Incentivize engagement. Give them the answer to “why should I?”
  • Offer social training, especially for new employees.


That done, if you still can’t summon up the trust to let your Community Managers and employees market your brand on social, how is it you trust them to work there at all?


@mikestiles
Photo: Piotr Dorabiala, stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 28, 2014

12 Reasons to Feel Awesome About Being a Social Community Manager

The below originally appeared yesterday on the Community Manager Appreciation Day site.  We hope all CM's were given an extra helping of gratitude and had a special day!

jumpI would debate you that the true stars of Social Marketing are the brand Community Managers, except for the fact that such a debate is long over. If you’re not sure how much you appreciate yours, briefly imagine them suddenly vanishing. What would you do? What would all your social properties look like? What would your social communities start saying about you?


Because they’re so due our appreciation, Community Manager Appreciation Day was established in 2010 and held January 27, featuring a 24-hour live hangout with all kinds of topics and experts.  But there's no reason you can't still take the time to thank your CM or sing their praises on social using #CMAD and #CMGR.


Meanwhile, here are just a few reasons Community Managers should also use this time to take stock of everything they bring to the social marketing table.


  • You have been put in the position of being the real-time public voice and representative of the entire brand. Not an agency, not the CEO…you.


  • If you’re good, you’re so in demand you have no idea.


  • You can write! And while that’s something everyone claims to be able to do, the reality is that most either can’t, are lousy at it, or don’t want to do it.


  • It’s highly likely you have one of the best personalities in the building. After all, your job is specifically to not bore people.


  • You know more about your brand’s strengths and weaknesses than your C-suite, and you know about them sooner.


  • You are the wall standing between your brand and a public relations disaster. It’s like Oracle's Erika Brookes likes to say around here, “You can’t teach judgment.”


  • You’re called upon to have nearly every marketing discipline in the book, and all at the same time, and in one position. If you aren’t already, you should start feeling really strong about your career prospects.


  • Yes it’s a hard, all-consuming job, but the good news is the tools are getting better.


  • Trying to describe to people what you do is a great mind exercise!


  • The job is making you thick-skinned. That’s going to serve you very well throughout your life and career.


  • When fans are liking what the brand is doing on social, they’re liking what you are doing. That should be a nice ego boost.


  • You’re learning almost every minute of every day based on what customers do and don’t like, and what does and doesn’t work. You’re internalizing exceptionally good business instincts.


Social marketing, content marketing, digital marketing, influencer marketing…it a very exciting space to be in, and developments keep coming fast and furious. None of it would be possible without you multi-talented, dynamic personalities interacting with the people who matter most, the customers, and for that we are greatly appreciative.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday Mar 12, 2013

The Social Enterprise at SXSW: Why Community Managers Need Data and Marketing Integration

Guest post from Roland Smart, Oracle VP of Social and Community Marketing:

AustinSouth by Southwest has evolved considerably over the last few years. As a hotbed of innovation, it’s still a premier showcase for confirmed and would-be futurists: earlier this week, attendees were treated to demos of new 3D printers, which will supposedly one day mass-produce electric vehicles, homes, and — according to some hopeful people we met — spaceships.

On a more terrestrial note, it’s been exciting to witness the increasing enterprise participation at SXSW. The programming certainly reflects this: this year’s schedule was packed with panels and workshops on social business design and social media measurement.

It goes without saying, but the best thing about SXSW is the people. Our time in Texas has included wonderful conversations with hundreds of community managers, developers, and marketing executives who are all dedicated to innovating on behalf of the social enterprise.

SXSW has given us a great opportunity to share Oracle's newest technologies and integrations, and we’ve been thrilled by the response so far to our vision for Social Relationship Management. Just as important, we’ve been fortunate to learn so much from our fellow SXSW attendees, many of whom are leaders in the brand, agency, vendor, and enterprise worlds.

While I don't have the space to list all of my SXSW findings, let me share one crucial social enterprise lesson that has popped up again and again here in Austin:

The power of your community manager is directly related to the power of your social analytics tools. Let me explain by way of some industry background:

Even just a few years ago, it was common to come across large enterprises that saw their community managers as the functional equivalents of customer service representatives. Now, though, the community manager often assumes a number of roles as needed.

For example, the community manager might aggregate customers' qualitative feedback in order to validate research done by product marketing teams. Or, in light of the relentless growth of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, they might serve as a kind of social data translator — someone who determines customer attitudes and preferences from a giant pile of status updates, tweets, and clicks.

For the social enterprise, defining such responsibilities for your community manager is only one part of the puzzle; the second part is actually equipping this person with the tools they need to carry out their job.

One case in point — earlier this week, I attended a great SXSW workshop entitled "The Community Manager: Enter the C-Suite." In this session, a number of community managers discussed how they had been charged with providing reports on brand sentiment as it was instantiated on social networks. However, in the absence of dependable tools, these community mangers struggled to distinguish real brand sentiment from social chaff. One attendee even related how they were once asked to painstakingly and manually calculate (really, invent) a random “sentiment score” for every tweet produced by their brand's followers.

The workshop also allowed me to hear more about the challenges that community managers face in valuing different activities across multiple social networks. I had an enlightening conversation with another attendee whose social marketing efforts are centered on a thriving Facebook Page and a growing collection of YouTube product how-to videos. For this community manager, top-line statistics included likes, organic shares of stories and status updates, clicks on Facebook Sponsored Stories, and unique video views.

Now, notice the many types of social metrics that this community manager must learn how to evaluate and compare:

  • Organic content versus paid advertising
  • Views and impressions versus person-to-person sharing
  • Short engagement paths (e.g., a click on a Sponsored Story leads immediately to an external landing page) versus longer engagement paths (e.g., repeat video views over an extended period of time ultimately lead to sign-ups and sales conversions).

Here's the upshot: For a community manager — for someone who often creates and/or delivers customer-facing content and is often responsible for assessing the efficacy of this content — it would be difficult if not impossible for them to measure, learn from, see the relationships between, and iterate against these social data if these data remain trapped within disparate platforms.

If one person likes your Facebook Page some time this month in order to gain access to your newest white paper; and then retweets one of your messages a week later; and then signs up for your email list three months later; and then buys your product or service after attending your webinar six months later…given that we know such enterprise conversion paths are common, the key question for you is this: Does your social enterprise solution allow you to track such critical activity — and on an end-to-end basis?

The people we've met and the conversations we've had at SXSW have inspired us to continue innovating across the entire universe of our social solutions. As my colleague John Nolt wrote on this blog last week, Oracle is already leading the way in offering the industry's first unified end-to-end social management solution for the enterprise through Oracle Social Relationship Management. That said, you should know we’re just getting started.

Tuesday Feb 26, 2013

Hackers, Trolls and Troublemakers

trollAs brands on the social stage, we’re going to encounter hackers, trolls and troublemakers. They aren’t pleasant, but they’re not fatal. Our philosophy: if you’re going to play in the sandbox you can expect to get some sand in your socks. You can’t immerse in the public without running into these irritants. What you can do is manage them.

Hackers

Brand hacking incidents have been all too frequent and public. Naturally, your first line of defense is enterprise level technology security solutions that leave little to chance.

But as long as there’s a human that can be tricked out of info, there’ll be hacks. People trust online friends, so messages from them with malicious links get clicked. A social engineering experiment by a major manufacturing firm ended up with 17 out of 20 users with access to confidential data giving usernames and passwords to an intruder.

After putting top-notch tech security in place (don’t scrimp on that), defense #2 is due diligence. Make sure you use your moderation tools to detect suspicious characters in your community who aim to use you to victimize other fans. Educate users to increase the caution level (though most won’t exactly get excited about social safety lessons).

The social nets are doing what they can. Facebook stopped trying to play “whack-a-mole” and switched to an offensive strategy of cease & desist letters, lawsuits, and reverse engineering so the culprits can be found and arrested if warranted.

Social that works for everyone revolves around trust. For brands, it’s imperative to foster and preserve that trust to get continued engagement and for initiatives like sCommerce to flourish.

Trolls

Not nearly as likable as Hobbits. They’re usually slightly anarchic, attention-starved agitators. They live to post inflammatory comments that get a rise out of you. Sure it might be a brand’s natural PR instinct to jump in with both feet, but the standard best practice is to ignore them, thus imposing the nightmare of insignificance.

Some trolls are more persistent than others. Many are willing to kick it up to bullying and abuse. Once they cross that line, you can report them and perhaps get them banned from the platform completely. Some, most notably in the UK, have even been arrested. All social networks have abuse policies. Facebook makes it especially easy to block, hide and unfriend.

The customer may always be right, but trolls are not your customers, so feel neither pain nor guilt for deleting their comments. The real art for brands is using common sense to differentiate between a troll on the attack and a genuinely dissatisfied customer.

Troublemakers

They aren’t trolls, but they do things that make for a less than pleasant experience for others in your community. Chief among them are those who would use your brand to relentlessly self-promote. It’s tacky, desperate, and usually boring. A fan that uses your Page to solicit followers or push their link is ignoring the codes of social conduct.

So are all-out spammers. If I’m on my favorite cookie’s Page, I probably don’t want to “ask you how you lost 50 lbs. in 2 days just by chewing bamboo shoots.”

Varying language issues aside, literacy is always nice. A post that can be understood by the community adds value. We shouldn’t have to struggle to deduce what a commenter is trying to say. Nor should we have to decipher cryptic tweets filled with 8 hashtags and alien symbols.

Some comments may indeed be about your company but are a mile off-topic from the post they’re under. Yes, you should address their concern, but either answer in one quick post or take the issue offline. Don’t let people steer conversations into a ditch.

Your job as host and emcee of your brand’s Page is to create as positive an experience as you can, an environment that keeps fans coming back and leads to valuable engagement. Be firm with those who risk tainting your social turf.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Feb 22, 2013

Community Managers: What, Who, Where, Why

trophyWe recently presented VistaPrint’s Jeff Esposito with the Oracle Community Manager of the Year award. The trophy is tall and shiny so we think he liked it. We read Jeff’s CM wish list, but we thought it might also be a good time to further remove any mystery around the CM position. What is their true role? Who makes a good CM? Where do we find them? Why are they so critical?

What?

CMs are the bridge, the conduit, the front lines, the therapists, the entertainers, the advocates, customer service, the curators, the moderators, the publishers, the ambassadors, the face, the spokesperson, the brand personality, (I could go on).

In short, this person IS your brand. Given the enormity of that, the way the CM position has traditionally been staffed and resourced has been stunningly ill advised. Businesses are realizing it’s not a role that can be squeezed in as “part” of someone’s duties.

If your brand is a show, your CM is the host. Don’t be shocked if sometime in the very near future, the CM goes from one of the lowest paid to one of the most coveted, highly recruited positions at a brand. Their innate talents of entertaining, informing and relationship building are largely intuitive and organic (I know, two words not in most corporate dictionaries).


Who?

So how do we recognize the best ones?

  • They believe in your brand and products. They see the value proposition and genuinely want to tell the world.
  • They’re autonomous. It’s 24/7, always on. Attempts to impose a punch clock environment show a lack of understanding of the job and won’t end well.
  • They’re agile. Social technologies and behaviors change fast and often.
  • They’re creative and consistent. You can’t start a social channel then vanish.
  • They know how to communicate short, clear, and visually.
  • They know their audience.
  • They’re smart enough not to use social for desperate, aggressive pitching.
  • They’re patient and have thick skins.
  • They recoil at corporate marketing-speak. They communicate as human beings.
  • They’re good listeners.
  • They cultivate go-to people internally so they can get fans the answers they need.

radarWhere?

So with an order that tall, where do you find these amazing people? Here are some suggestions…some expected, some out-of-the-box.

  • For big brands, draft CMs at smaller brands. Dazzle them with your grasp of the importance of the position.
  • PR People - used to representing brands, used to coming up with attention-getting ideas.
  • Radio Personalities - go on the air for hours at a time daily, creating original, compelling content that attracts, builds and holds an audience. Sound familiar?
  • Your Biggest Fan - They deeply self-identify with your brand. Could there be a stronger fan-advocate?
  • Writers/Journalists – great at knowing their audience. Very little content was created without a writer first sitting down at a blank page and making it un-blank.
  • Political Managers - a CM is trying to win their brand top of mind awareness, “votes,” and serve their constituents.

Why?

Why is it more important than ever to secure the right CM? Brands now understand social is not about fan-collecting. It’s about productive engagement, which is driven by content and relationships. If you have successful connections and relationships on social, they were built by a CM not a faceless corporation.

Get the right person or people. Let them practice their art and win for you. Encourage them to be forthcoming about what fans are saying, good or bad. Resource them with tools that help maximize their time and capabilities. Then enjoy the rewards of being a brand that took the Community Manager role as seriously as it should be.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


Tuesday Feb 05, 2013

The Community Manager Wish List

Jeff EspositoJeff Esposito of VistaPrint was the winner of our yearlong search for the Oracle Community Manager of the Year. Associated with Jeremiah Owyang’s Community Manager Appreciation Day, the award is intended to honor the frontline work being done by these social brand representatives and relationship-builders every day (including weekends and holidays). We asked Jeff to tell us what, from his perspective, might improve a CMs ability to hit homeruns for their brand. What follows are his thoughts:

There is no question that the role of a Community Manager is a unique one. Outside of working for Tony Soprano, I am not sure that there is a position where you need to take as much time trying to describe what you do to family and coworkers. I’ve given up trying to be eloquent and typically sum it up as, “I get paid to talk to people for a living.”

Despite the headache of trying to describe what I do, I can safely say that I have a rewarding job. Community management is something where no two days will ever be the same, you’re pushed each and every hour that you sit behind your desk, and you have responsibilities that exceed anything that might be on your business card.

For those of you in a community management role, you know that the job is not perfect. You often find yourself wanting more. It’s OK. I find myself in the same position every now and then (read often). These are the 5 things that always seem to stay at the top of my Community Manager wish list:

More Time 
There are 24 hours in any given day, and you have to sleep sometime. If you ask any Community Manager what their biggest problem is, you will more than likely hear something about wanting more time. I know that’s what I want. You’ll never have enough time in the day to keep up with all the trends or touch everyone that you want to that day. The best you can do is to manage what time you have effectively and prioritize all the things that you’re called upon to do.

Continuing Education 
We all remember school and how un-awesome it was. Sorry Mrs. Callendar. It’s not you, it’s me. While going back to school is not exactly at the top of my priority list, it is important to keep learning. This can be accomplished any number of ways, from brushing up on white papers to networking with a professional group like the Community Roundtable (you should be a member).

Resources 
Much like time, we’ll likely never have all of the resources that we want. That said, it is important for Community Managers to push for tools that can make their jobs easier and help them deliver better results. If the answer is “no,” you shouldn’t throw in the towel. If there is a tool or membership that will enhance how you do your job, make a solid business case for it and show the value to the higher ups.

Good Friends 
There is a lot to be said about having a strong support network. For Community Managers, having friends who perform a similar role is vital for success. This is especially important when you hit a wall or need to bounce something off of someone. Plus they’re great to have even if you just need to vent a little bit.

Better Members 
While friends who are fellow CMs are good, a community wouldn’t be a community without great members. Maintaining the quality of those members and thus making sure the community is a pleasant, productive place to spend time is very much part of the job. So be thankful for the great community members you have, but keep coming up with ways to foster new super fans.

@mikestiles

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