This post was authored by GEORGY COHEN and originally published in January 2012 by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI.) It serves as a good follow up to our Dec 2011 webinar. We recently rerecorded the webinar.
We, as community managers and content marketers, are well-positioned to create relevant, useful, and interesting content that serves both our audience’s needs and our goals. We live and breathe those goals, and we know our brand identity almost as well as we know ourselves.
But just because we can do it all on our own, does that mean we should? The truth is, our brand belongs to our community as much as it belongs to us, if not more so. That identity is not a decree that gets passed down; it is shared and, more to the point, it is co-created. While we shape and communicate it, they are out there living it.
It’s tempting to approach community management like we are conducting an orchestra. We want to lead a performance of everyone playing the same song in tune. But I think of it more like the scene from “Big,” where Tom Hanks’ character is playing “Heart and Soul” on the giant keyboard with the CEO of MacMillan Toys. In truth, we are writing and playing the song together.
Simply put, if our brand is a story, our community members are the co-authors. Their investment in our brand is a potent commodity to tap into. Finding ways to leverage that investment is powerful — the authenticity of their external perspective can bring tremendous value to our content marketing efforts. To that end, here are a few ways to integrate our community members into the content creation process.
1. Let their expertise take center stage
Whether it’s through the contact form on our website, an old fashioned phone call, or a query via Twitter or Facebook, we may spend a good part of our day answering questions from customers, prospects, and other interested parties. While we are perfectly able to answer their questions, there are likely experts within our community who are just as qualified to address issues and share their experiences. Queries present a great opportunity to highlight their expertise.
Use your social media channels to solicit responses to a query you feel others may be able to answer. Be sure to share those responses (just the accurate ones, of course) with the original requestor; you can also collect them into a knowledge base of questions and answers powered by your community.
Highlight their responses on your website, give credit where credit is due, and make this type of crowd-sourcing a regularly scheduled item in your editorial calendar in order to keep the knowledge base growing and up-to-date. After all, customer service is often the best marketing.
2. Activate your community in real time
The value of real-time content can be short-term, but high-yield. When a window of opportunity presents itself — say, due to a breaking news item or a special event —relevant content has tremendous potential to be viewed (and appreciated) by a large audience. Once that window closes, however, the content’s value and potential drops sharply. It’s a tricky proposition that requires being in the right place at the right time, ready to turn around and execute on short notice.
The same goes for soliciting content from your community. Activating your community members in real-time will help you see their true colors. Here are some options you can explore:
- If there are current events with relevance to your organization, ask people to weigh in while they’re still hot topics of conversation.
- Repost customer questions, and let others respond with their answers.
- Share reporter queries with your audience and encourage them to post their take.
- Use both online and offline channels to encourage event attendees to post pictures of themselves (preferably holding something with the company logo with a big smile) or share feedback on the day’s activities.
- Got a deadline you want people to hit? Get your community to spread the word for you.
Also, pay attention to what is happening in the world at large. Anything from a particularly striking sunset in your city to Thanksgiving dinner to an awards telecast can spark a conversation and content creation around your brand. Tools such as Storify — which allows you to curate bits of content from various online sources and stitch them together into a narrative — can help tie all of the responses together.
3. Leverage the power of the hashtag
Whether it’s on Twitter or emerging channels like Instagram, hashtags are the topical threads that bind people and conversations on the web. By spurring conversation around a popular hashtag — whether it’s related to an event, a product launch, or just a brand theme — you can not only get your community talking about you, but you can trace and organize that conversation.
Using social conversation tools like Storify or Cover it Live, you can capture tweets from a selected hashtag and embed the collection on a webpage, blog post, or online article. A Twitter widget can simply scroll a raw feed of all tweets with the chosen hashtag (though be aware of the attendant risks of publicizing a feed you can’t edit). Alternately, you can simply mine the hashtag thread for interesting tweets that you can retweet, highlight as testimonials on your website, or use to inspire blog posts.
4. Curate and celebrate
Psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.” Listening to our community members is integral to communicating in a way that will resonate with them. By listening, we can monitor our brand and find our fans (and foes); but, more to the point, it also helps us discover a trove of content and conversation. Turns out, the community is already talking and creating content about us, so why not use it to your advantage?
Tracking terms or hashtags on Twitter, finding blogs that mention certain keywords via Google, and subscribing to tags on Flickr and YouTube are just a few of the ways you can listen to the community chatter. Then, you can curate the resultant tweets, blog posts, photos, and videos to create a community-authored reflection of your brand. Don’t be afraid to celebrate content that isn’t your own. In the end, it doesn’t matter who created it; it just matters how well it tells your story.
5. Reach out and ask them to contribute
Along the same lines as the earlier point about letting your community members be the experts,sometimes getting your community involved in content creation is as simple as asking the right questions. Use your social platforms, newsletters, and other touch points to solicit responses to queries. You want your audience members to be interested in you, so it’s only fair to show some interest in them.
The questions you ask could be about your product or organization, for example, “What should we do better in the new year?” or, “What’s the most interesting way in which you’ve used our product?” Butyou can also use this as an opportunity to get to know your community members, and let them get to know each other, by asking questions that will be interesting to them, such as, “What are your new year’s resolutions?” or “How do you beat the winter blues?” or “What’s your favorite vacation getaway?” These are easy, straightforward topics people like to talk about and for which pretty much everyone has an answer.
6. Get a little chatty
In an e-commerce context, live chat functionality has been shown to lead to increased conversions and time on-site. In a content marketing context, live chat can help make our websites more dynamic, draw visitors who may not regularly go to our sites, and give our audiences the opportunity to shape our content with their questions and to feel heard. A live chat is great content both during the chat and as an archive after the fact. Also, topics that come up during a live chat may inform future content.
Rather than just publishing a Q&A interview or a two-minute video with a subject matter expert or notable individual, schedule and promote a live chat with them. One of my favorite services that deserves more ink than it gets is Cover it Live. As mentioned before, it not only can help you curate social conversation, but also allows you to host and moderate live web chats that you can embed on your website.
7. Add the sound of music
Music is the soundtrack to our lives, so make it the soundtrack for your content, as well. Social music services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, and Turntable.fm have become popular spaces for audiophiles to build networks around musical tastes. Spotify and Grooveshark are centered on the creation and sharing of playlists, while Turntable.fm combines a chatroom with collaborative DJ function.
Find relevant themes — they could be related to travel, holidays, exercise, geography, current events, you name it — and use your social platforms to ask people to suggest songs they think would fit. Create those playlists via Spotify or Grooveshark then share the links. On Turntable.fm, you can create your own room and encourage your community members to join and play songs around a chosen theme.
What other ideas do you have for integrating your community into your content creation efforts?
Sharing information is the one of the most important things that we can do as a community. In order to keep the information flowing, we are pleased to bring you together again on May 16 for our Second Annual meeting in Kloten.
We have built the day’s agenda so that all participants, regardless of level of knowledge, can obtain practical information, insights, and learn from selected social media experts as well as each other. Keynote sessions will present information applicable to all participants and concurrent sessions will cater to different needs, interests, and levels of knowledge. In addition, we will hold a panel discussion with three Swiss universities that will share lessons learned, challenges, and successes about implementing and managing social media at their institutions,
We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the best social media experts and leaders in Switzerland to bring you knowledge, examples, and tools to help you advance your social media efforts or overall awareness. Follow them on Twitter, read their blogs, and connect with them so that you keep growing your professional network.
Christian Luedi, Social Media Manager, Swiss International Air Lines
|Christian Luedi, 31, is Social Media manager at Swiss International Air Lines, where he has been employed since graduating from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in autumn 2008. In April 2009 he was tasked with the development of the airline’s social media presence, which encompasses responsibility for all of SWISS’s social media activities, both in strategic and operational terms. He also lectures on social media management one day per semester at the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich.
Follow and connect with Christian on:
Kelly Hungerford, Community Manager for Paper.li
|Kelly is Community Manager and evangelist for Paper.li, a micro publishing platform by SmallRivers SA. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of internal and external customer and client service across multiple industries including retail, banking, mobile commerce, and social media. Kelly leverages her multi-channel client service experience in her role as Community Manager at Paper.li to find new ways to build, develop, educate, listen to, connect with and support the Paper.li micro publishing community.Kelly and her team at Paper.li help empower ANYONE to be a publisher and curator. Paper.li’s social tools help draw deeper engagement and conversations around the topics you’re most passionate about. Kelly will share best practices on how to take your interests and turn them into community with a little help from tweets, hashtags, keywords and rss feeds.Kelly is a native of Silicon Valley, has been living and working for over 17 years in Europe. She holds a degree in Marketing and International Business from San Francisco State University, speaks three languages and lives happily with her husband and two daughters on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Follow and connect with Kelly on:
Mike Schwede, Co-Founder of Goldbach Interactive
|This is how Mike describes his background and track record: I have been working in the Internet and Marketing fields for the past 15 years and am now teaching at the HWZ University of Applied Science in Business Administration Zurich, MAZ Lucerne and the Somexcloud Academy, as well as engaging in a number of public speaking opportunities. As the Co-Founder of Goldbach Interactive I have been working for Companies like AXA, Beiersdorf (Nivea), EA, McDonald’s, Ringier, SBB, TUI, Migros and Swisscom. I live together with my wife and my three kids in Biel, near the capital of Berne. For the year of 2012 I’m taking a break.
Follow and connect with Mike on:
David Schäfer, Founder & CEO of SOMEXCLOUD
|David is the founder and managing director of Brand Social (social media strategyconsulting, implementation support and coaching) and has worked for over 15 years of online media. David co-founded SOMEXCLOUD. He studied Social Sciences and Law at the Universities of Zurich and Geneva as well as communication at USI Lugano and studied at UCLA (Executive Master of Science in Communications Management). Member of the board of the Swiss Social Media Community (SSMC).
Follow and connect with David on:
Ferdinand Kobelt, Partner, Ernst & Young
|Ferdinand is a Partner in the EMEIA Advisory team focused on Social Media Strategy and Governance. He has more than 30 years experience in information technology and in serving complex clients.His practice responsibilities extend from Project Management to Information Security and Risk Management to Cloud Computing Governance through Social Media Strategy and Governance. Today he leads the Social Media Competence Center and drives Social Media projects in Europe, USA, Brazil, Argentina and Asia. Ferdinand’s career started 1982 as a Project Leader and Business Unit Manager within the Telco Industry and joined Ernst & Young in 1990. He holds a Bachelor in Computer Science Engineering from and a Post Graduated diploma Executive Master of Corporate Management and Business Administration from the University of Applied Science in Berne. He is Certified Social Media Manager (SOMEXCLOUD), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC). He is Member of Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) since 1991 and Member of Information Security Society Switzerland (ISSS). He speaks German (mother tongue), English, French and Italian.
Follow and connect with Ferdinand on:
Robert Beer, XING’s Country Manager Austria & Switzerland
|Robert Beer is Country Manager for the business network XING and manages the development and implementation of regional policies in Austria and Switzerland. His responsibilities include the development of close relations with key strategic partners, and increasing brand awareness in both countries. He manages two of Xing’s core markets. XING is a market leader in Germany.Robert Beer has extensive experience in strategic market development of online and cross media platforms. Prior to joining XING, the Swiss-born senior held positions with various companies in the areas of online video and online ticketing.He holds an Executive MBA from Strathclyde Graduate Business School.
Follow and connect with Robert:
Michel Benard, University Relations Manager, Google CH
|Learn more about Google University Relations.
Follow and connect with Michel on:
XING | Twitter | LinkedIn
During the meeting we will use the hashtag #swissedsocial so that we can share thoughts, ideas, opinions, questions, and more. We rely on all of attendees to share their thoughts so that we can pull together the highlights of the meeting.
Planning your day
The day has been designed so that all participants can get the most out of the sessions offered. Twice during the day, we will hold concurrent sessions (simultaneous) catering to different interests and knowledge levels.
Track I sessions on “Making the case for Social Media in your institition,” will focus on building an argument for devoting efforts and resources to social media and how to make this case to upper management. SOMEXCLOUD experts, David Schäffer and Ferdinand Kobelt will lead this session. This session is recommended for those making the case for a social media budget and educating others in their organization about the value of social media. This session is good for all levels and will be held twice for the benefit of all.
Track II sessions will focus on Metrics. Mike Schwede will help you organize your monitoring and listening efforts, develop KPI (key performance indicators), and dashboards. This is an essential activity that all teams must implement whether they are getting started or have already implemented social media. This session is good for all levels and will be held twice for the benefit of all.
Track III session (only one) will focus on content. Kelly Hungerford, Community Manager for Paper.li will show how others are creating content and how they are leveraging Paper.li to build community. This session will not repeat and is a good choice for those who are already quite active in social media and/or manage a community. A medium or advanced level of knowledge is recommended. This session will not repeat.
Learn more about the sessions and the agenda.
Please confirm your attendance and select your sessions by April 19, 2012! We appreciate your prompt feedback so that we can plan appropriately.
Just when you thought that you were getting a handle on social media, something else starts creeping in: the rising use of mobile. There is more than enough data out there to support the fact that mobile is on the up and it will not stop anytime soon. As Michael Stoner emphasized during our two study tours, “everything is connected to everything.” A mobile site is just another aspect of a good overall web presence and an important gateway to a university’s content (including social media.)
- Mobile devices count for 8.9% of global web visits
- The U.S. alone has 98 million mobile subscribers and is 3rd behind China and India
- 40% of those 98M own smartphones
- And 54% of smartphone users are 18-24 yrs old
Mobile in Higher Ed
Note: Even though the data that follows is U.S. based, I think it’s still relevant.
The 2012 State of the Mobile Wed in #highered Survey Report shows that while many universities offer a mobile option, many still don’t have a budget for it. Dave Molsen in his Higher Ed Mobile Website Survey paints a bleaker picture, with only 9% of universities out of a total surveyed of 178 offering a mobile site.
For the most part, universities are building these mobile solutions with students (and prospective students) in mind first, and then faculty & staff. In addition, these solutions are oriented towards supporting campus life, calendar of events, bus schedules, maps, etc.
As far as devices supported, Dave Molsen’s exhaustive research shows that only 31% of schools surveyed supported more than one device. And perhaps it’s not very surprising that 71% of schools created their mobile solution in-house without the help of consultants of specialized developers.
But what do students want to see?
Noel-Levitz released an E-Expectations Trend Report on the Mobile Browsing Behaviors and Expectations of College-Bound High School Students. Produced with research partners OmniUpdate,CollegeWeek Live and NRCUA, the study surveyed nearly 2,300 college-bound students and found a whopping 52% have viewed a school’s website on a mobile device before.
List of wants by those surveyed:
- Academic program listing
- Cost/scholarship calculators
- A calendar of important dates and deadlines
- Specific details about academic programs
- An application process summary
- Online application forms
There are some great examples and cases to draw and learn from. Beware that very few address the six points above.
- West Virginia University’s Dave Molsen has written and researched extensively about his experience building a mobile site. Check out the mobile site for West Virginia University: http://m.wvu.edu/about/
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘s (MIT) mobile site uses open code allowing others to take it and adapt it.
- And here’s a glossary of a higher ed mobile sites: http://www.edustyle.net/gallery_mobile.php
Google offers a pretty good set of resources to make the move to mobile in GOMO. You can test your site and see how it is viewed by mobile users and even build your mobile site if you wish to take the plunge.
Finally, Seth Odell also shares some great insights in this video: