Twitter Conversation Archetypes and What They Mean for Your Brand

By on Mar 12, 2015 in academic studies, online community, public relations, social business, social software |

Back in the mid-to-late 1990’s, I was one of what seemed like a small handful of social scientists investigating the structures of conversation and community in online spaces. Fast-forward nearly twenty years and I’m fairly certain social media is now one of the most popular areas of study amongst sociologists. Last year, Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the Social Media Research Foundation, used Network Analysis to develop six archetypes of conversations on twitter. It strikes me that insight from the research would be particularly useful to brand managers and their social media teams as they develop a channel strategy for their brand, so I’ve posted what I hope to be a helpful guide to understanding the connection between your brand and the archetypes of twitter...

does your brand have fickle friends?

By on Mar 8, 2015 in conferences/events, online community, social business, social software, stradigal |

Would your brand be sad if suddenly, without warning, a meteor came crashing down out of the sky, wiping out all of it’s fans and followers? It’s an interesting way, I think, to begin challenging the assumption that having fans and followers for your brand is a good measure of strategic social media programmes. (All My Friends Are Dead is a book by Avery Monsen and Jory John)

news feed algorithm changes not a problem for brands with an engagement focused strategy

By on Nov 20, 2014 in fleishmanhillard, online community, public relations, social business |

[Note: A slightly reworked version of this post now appears on LinkedIn] A new research report by a Forrester analyst, suggesting that brands are wasting their money on Facebook and Twitter, has generated lots of interest this week. The report itself is behind a pay wall, but has been covered on the Wall Street Journal CMO blog. “You don’t really have a social relationship with your customers,” analyst Nate Elliott wrote in a new report titled “Social relationship Strategies That Work.” According to Mr. Elliott, top brands’ Facebook and Twitter posts only reach around 2% of their fans and followers, and less than 0.1% of fans and followers actually interact with each post on average. What’s more, Facebook announced last week that another tweak to its news feed algorithm will soon make it even less likely brands’ unpaid posts will actually be seen by users. As a result, marketers hoping to interact with consumers online  might be better off investing in social features that exist on their own websites, or in smaller, more niche social networks, Mr. Elliott said. I couldn’t agree more with the view that many brands are indeed throwing their money at social media programmes that don’t generate measurable progress towards strategic outcomes, but it’s the lack of strategy, rather than the platforms themselves, that’s primarily to blame for this. It doesn’t matter if .01%, 2% or 80% of a brand’s fans and followers see a post if having done so doesn’t boost awareness, improve perception, give the consideration process a nudge, drive a lead, generate a purpose, or tighten the embrace of an advocate. The shift that Elliott speaks of, from the larger social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter towards more niche platforms and functionality provided by a brand’s owned web properties isn’t just about seeking refuge from news feed algorithms. It’s about ownership and control over users and their data and also enhances the ability of brands to establish and nurture smaller, better, more focused communities connected to business outcomes. A collection of fans and followers on a branded Facebook page is not a community because there is little shared sense of belonging or intention of those fans and followers to work together with the brand towards a common goal. This can only happen within a smaller community where stakeholders can be brought closer together, and closer to a brand, through the creation of meaningful participatory frameworks. It’s not the fault of changing algorithms that brands find it difficult or impossible to build genuinely meaningful “social relationships” with customers. The approach of most large brands on social media has been to apply a broadcast model on a medium that demands something more direct, personal and engaging. If the strategy is broadcast, then changes to news feed algorithms will diminish the potential for brands to succeed in social, but if the strategy is to engage in ways that are meaningful for customers, and generate outcomes important for the business, the algorithms are much less likely to impact whether brands succeed or...

don’t let your social media budget slip up up up and away

By on Apr 10, 2013 in online community |

The social media management industry has reached an important inflection point. One where it must demonstrate, with real data, its ROI to the boardroom. Back in 1999, in a document written by myself and Lizzie Jackson to justify investment in the BBC’s first audience communities, we suggested that online communities would increase loyalty, encourage return visits, and build deeper engagement with audiences. To demonstrate our progress, we created a “weekly message board health check” where we recorded the number of new user registrations, new posts, posts removed by moderators, and highlighted interesting quotes from participants. We had no targets – other than “up, up up” –  nor did we have a strategy beyond serving the needs of participants who we knew wanted spaces where they could interact with BBC brands, programme makers and each other. Sound familiar? This is the same message, nearly fifteen years later, that many agencies continue to peddle to their clients. In a recent post, Dachis Group Europe’s Lee Bryant quotes some insight from an Altimeter study of nearly 700 executives and social strategists, highlighting the disconnect between many brands’ social media strategies and business outcomes: “… we found that only 34 percent of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes and just 28 percent felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12 percent were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year.” As Brian Solis and Charlene Li put it in the report: “The crux of the problem is that many so-called social strategies are not innately linked to business goals. They are instead often guided by a peer- or competitive-driven “social for social’s sake” philosophy. And even where clear goals do exist, social initiatives face challenges in the form of a lack of defined strategy, governance, and funding.” As I’ve written here before, where a void exists between social strategies and business outcomes, brands are destined to fail. Those clients still fixated on “up, up, up” in their numbers of fans and followers might not recognise that failure today but they’ll soon cotton on. Where, however, a brand sets off to deliver against identifiable strategic objectives, not only are they more likely to achieve a positive return on that investment, but they’ll also be able to measurably demonstrate that success. I’ve benefited both personally and professionally from the rise and increased professionalisation of the community management industry over the years: a well managed community offers an undeniably better experience for participants than an unmanaged one, and I’ve built a career around my ability to bring people and brands closer together in digital environments. That, however, isn’t going to convince senior managers or shareholders that an ongoing investment in social media is justified. If, like me, you make your living by helping brands engage with audiences online, now is the time to dig out your brand’s strategy and make an honest assessment of how your social media activities thus far have contributed measurably towards meeting strategic outcomes. If the answer is “I don’t know”, “not much”, or “not enough” it may very well be time – before your client comes to the same conclusion and jumps ship to another agency, or reigns in their social media spending, in response – to shift gears. Don’t let that client slip...

slides: a potted history of online community management 1985 to 2013

By on Feb 26, 2013 in BBC, blogging, citizen journalism, conferences/events, edelman, headshift, journalism, online community, social software |

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving a rather personal presentation at the Vircomm Conference – a potted history of online community management, from 1985 to present, as lived from my own perspective. Some, but not all, of the stories I ended up telling can be found in the notes – although you miss out on the one about Beatrice the World Service “pool typist” and the Gay or Not themed chat we did post-watershed for BBC3’s That Gay Show. Really.     Community Management 1985 to 2013 from Robin...

a potted history of online community management

By on Feb 4, 2013 in BBC, blogging, blogging techniques, citizen journalism, conferences/events, edelman, headshift, journalism, online community, social software |

The past few days, I've been working on a presentation for the Vircomm Summit, a gathering of the online community management industry, which will take place in London this Thursday. Rather than showing a whole bunch of industry folk stuff they already know – strategies, models and case studies – I've decided to deliver what can best be described as a Potted History of Online Community Management. In the presentation, I'll cover the: pre-internet days of dial-up bulletin board systems (BBSs) wild frontier of usenet and IRC walled gardens of the mid-90's early days – and challenges – for audience interactivity at the BBC  launch of the BBC's web chat service investing in community management training and roll out at the BBC the first (??) multi-domain community management platform we developed at what "twitter" looked like in 2001 BBCi chat studio at Bush House and the professionalisation of online community management at the Corporation expansion by the BBC into building engagement on third party social networkign and content sharing services the state of the industry today – grown up strategies, approaches, platforms and measurement frameworks my thoughts on the source(s) of competition to the online community industry in the future Although my narrative and most of the screenshots are in place, I've yet to tidy up the visual presentation – stay tuned, I'll post the slides as soon as I can after presenting them at Vircomm on...