Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

QUIT THE DENIAL’S SERIOUS ANTI-SMOKING MESSAGE LOST IN ITS LAUGH TRACK

Saturday, March 30th, 2013
Hey all you smokers! Has anyone ever told you that your nasty habit is about as attractive as picking your ear wax, nibbling other people’s food, or breaking wind on a dance floor? Well it is, at least according to an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care smoking cessation campaign called  Quit the Denial.
The online campaign, and its humorous videos depicting smoking as a socially repulsive addiction, had been flying under the radar until the recent release of a video equating public flatulence with social smoking. That’s when mainstream media took notice.
While the other similarly-themed videos in the series had muted online success and garnered no mainstream media interest, the Social Farter as the video is calledhas gone viral, proving whoopee cushion humor still works.

But while the campaign is a good example of the kind of gutsy, out-of-the-boardroom thinking organizations need in order to take full advantage of social media amplification, it does raise an important question about how far one can go in the search of the Holy Grail of digital marketing without sacrificing message effectiveness.

As witnessed by the number of April Fools’Day prank videos many brands want to be associated with wildly viral videos regardless of content or tone because of the value of residual recognition. In the case of advocacy or public service advertising where it’s the message that matters, if the audience is only there for the yuks, the campaign risks missing the mark, and the audience the point.

Let’s compare Quit the Denial’s use of humor to an anti-drunk driving campaign by the New Zealand Transport Agency that also made effective use of humour to target its young demographic with a deadly-serious message.

Legend, an anti drunk driving ad part of a larger road safety campaign originally developed for  New Zealand television in 2011, made its mark as a social media phenomenon. The ad, which went viral within days of its launch,  has since logged over 2.4 million views on the Agency’s YouTube channel alone.  Its online success was such that its spun off fan Facebook pages and tribute music videos, and the term “ghost chips” – used in a scene from the ad – became an Internet meme that has since entered the country’s vernacular.

According to an evaluation study done by the New Zealand Transport Agency, more than its impressive online results,  the ad delivered where it matters most: changing young people’s attitudes toward drinking and driving.

Unlike in the Social Farter, Legend’s humour never overwhelms its core message.  This is one public health video that doesn’t talk down or preach to its key audience but instead frames the sometime heart-wrenching choices young people have to make in a language and manner that resonates with them.

To take advantage of social amplification, digital content has to be fresh and edgy. And humor is always a big seller.  But for organizations looking at developing digital campaigns the trick is finding the elusive sweet spot between cerebral and aloof and silly and forgettable.

With over 800 K YouTube views, the Social Farter is an online success. The question is whether the online amplification it has achieved is translating into conversations about smoking addiction or just a few laughs.

While we’ll have to wait for the formal evaluation to pass definitive judgement, from my perch, Ontario’s Quit the Denial campaign has yet to find its sweet spot. At this point, its serious anti-smoking message may just be getting lost in the laugh track.

TAKE THE SOCIAL MEDIA PLUNGE AND LISTEN

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

It never ceases to amaze me how so many organizations still remain outside of the social media loop. And while most senior managers readily acknowledge the importance of digital engagement, many still will throw up their hands and respond with a litany of predictable objections and roadblocks when pressed on why their organization is still on the outside or failing to fully leverage social media’s potential.

But whatever the reasons invoked for not actively engaging in the conversations that social media allows with clients and audiences, there is no reason for an organization not to take the first step in social media engagement:  listening.

Unlike full blown social media engagement where an organization openly and transparently shares content, responds to comments and queries, and actually becomes part of a community, listening is just the first step in successful social media engagement.

As a general principle of social engagement, listening  uncovers the nature of the conversations within a particular community.

Think of it this way: Just as you would not arrive at a cocktail party unannounced and elbow your way into a conversation, listening within a social network allows you to determine how best to ease into conversations in a way that’s relevant to the community.

That simple step can be the difference between a campaign or product launch with digital sizzle, or one that fizzles.

Whether it’s from a business perspective, or that of a not-for-profit advocacy organization,  listening allows you to determine who the influencers are in a given community and what it is that makes them most relevant.

Listening also allows you to  determine what content is most relevant,  what it is that makes it sharable, and on what platforms it is likely to be shared.

Most importantly, listening allows you to hear what people are saying about you, your brand or your issues.

There are a number of social media monitoring tools available, and these range from simple listening to advanced brand and reputation management platforms.

The point is that with the ever-accelerating growth of social networking and social media, organizations cannot afford to wait on the sidelines.  Whether the problem is figuring out the return on investment of social media, or uncertainty about its relevance within your marketplace; there is only one way to answer those concerns, and that’s by listening.

Take that first step, listen to the conversations, identify the online communities most relevant to your organization, identify who the movers and shakers are and why. Most of all, listen to what is being said about you in those communities. Whether your organization or brand is creating a buzz or total silence, you need to know and understand why. That’s the first step in either leveraging a positive vibe, or fixing a problem.

DIGITAL CONTENT:WILL YOUR AUDIENCE WANT TO SHARE IT?

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

While poring over Government of Canada online public service announcements for a presentation I was working on, I was reminded of one from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). This is one online ad government marketing communications shops would do well to look to for inspiration because it highlights that not all online content is created equal.

Legend, an anti drunk driving ad part of a larger road safety campaign originally developed for  New Zealand television, made its mark as a social media phenomenon. The ad, which went viral within days of its launch,  has since logged over 2.5 million views on the Agency’s YouTube channel alone.  Its online success was such that its spun off fan Facebook pages and tribute music videos, and the term “ghost chips” – used in a scene from the ad – became an Internet meme that has since entered the country’s vernacular.

But more than impressive online results, it appears that the ad has delivered where it matters most: changing young people’s attitudes toward drinking and driving.

While the ad was aimed primarily at young Maori males, a study released by the NZTA found more than 90 percent of people remembered the ad when prompted.  Most importantly, three quarters of those who remember the ad said it was likely to stop them from driving under the influence.  The ad is now being credited, at least in part, to the 50 percent drop in young people caught driving under the influence over the last five years.

What distinguishes Legend from the road safety ads we’ve all seen before is that it avoids shock and gore and uses humour instead. It also avoids a moralistic tone or preaching to its target audience. Rather, it  frames the problem – in the words of one of the characters – as requiring “internalising a complicated situation”.

Legend is a perfect example of cross-over content that not only survives the transition from paid TV advertising, but flourishes through social media. It is fresh, funny, and makes a deadly-serious point without being preachy, making it eminently sharable among its target audience of young males.

In trying to understand what content works and what doesn’t in social media, it’s instructive to compare Legend with the more traditional Donna Time, which was released by the NZAT last May. This ad has a more mature target audience and a focus on the family and family responsibility for making the right choices about drinking and driving.

While the message of both ads is virtually the same, the tone is markedly different, as are their online numbers: while Legend boasts over 2.5 million hits, Donna Time languishes in digital anonymity on the Agency YouTube channel with some six thousand views.

While the online numbers for Donna Time may be disappointing, its overall campaign may still be successful as it rests on a large media buy and also plays on a broad number of traditional channels, from television and radio to billboards.

The problems occur when organizations and their advertising agencies try to push content designed for  TV, a 1950’s medium, on 21st century social platforms. It’s like putting a CD on a stereo turntable–it doesn’t work.

This traditional advertising and marketing paradigm remains well-suited to large traditional media buys as ways to frame consumer perceptions, but not social engagement.  It works when you can buy eyeballs and multiple views. It fails miserably when your audience is your medium.

Why?

Because effective digital engagement requires content that is sharable. That means content that members of diverse online communities will feel comfortable sharing among their peers.  Anything else misses the point.

It doesn’t necessarily follow in all instances that content designed primarily for television will fail when migrated to the social web. Every year we see dozens of examples of memorable TV ads that become viral sensations. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Whether your target audience is made up of teen-aged males or middle class families, the question to ask when developing digital content is the same: Will my audience want to share this?

If the answer is yes, go crazy. Post it on your YouTube channel and Facebook page, Tweet about it to your followers. If the answer is no,  then there are two options:  back to the drawing board or digital irrelevance.

NEW RCMP SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY MISSES THE MARK

Monday, August 27th, 2012

A news story out of Vancouver, says the RCMP  warned its employees against identifying themselves as members of the force when posting personal comments on social media sites.

If the story is correct and the force’s warning goes beyond a reminder of members’ code of conduct obligations, then the RCMP, an organization with over 28,000 employees, is depriving itself of as many potential and powerful online ambassadors.  With the RCMP brand tarnished by news reports of bad behaviour, the organization’s focus should be on sharing its stories to put a human face on the red serge, not stifling social interaction.

But the RCMP is not alone in its digital skittishness as fear of social media seems to have replaced fear of reporters in many organizations.

In some ways, this is understandable. It is the nature of social media that content, good or bad, can be shared and viewed almost instantaneously. This is what makes it such a powerful communications and marketing tool. It is also what makes it potentially very damaging to reputations, brands and bottom lines. And it is what spooks many organizations, public and private.

There is no doubt that the real time nature of digital communications makes responsive damage control very tricky. Just  ask United Airlines who in 2009 got caught in the  social media turbulence created by a disgruntled passenger and his now iconic video, United Breaks Guitars The airline saw the value of its shares tumble by almost $ 200 million and its reputation take a hit it is still struggling to recover from.

That is why many organizations batten down the hatches when it comes to social media engagement.   Their fear of the digital faux pas, forces them to adopt stringent social media policies and practices that limit direct engagement and impose top down message control. And so doing they deprive themselves of their best tool for countering negative stories and bad PR: their community.

One of the reasons (and there are several) United failed to contain the online firestorm was that it was unable to mobilize the thousands-strong army of Twitter followers and YouTube susbscribers–all potential brand ambassadors–to share, amplify and most importantly, validate its message.

Where were United’s brand ambassadors in its time of need?  They were on the sidelines watching the airline they trust to move them safely, efficiently and economically, being grounded by a story and catchy tune gone viral.

In United’s case, it was less a matter of existing social media policies hindering their ability to mobilize potential support and more a lack of community building and engagement coupled with poor tactical execution.

But for many organizations, the very policies they develop to mitigate and manage risk,  hamstring their ability to respond effectively to online communication crises and attacks on their brand.

In theory, social media policies are easy to develop. Most organizations have policies governing just about every aspect of corporate and employee behaviour. From the size of their cubicle, to what they can wear at work, to the type of car they can rent on company business, policies spell out what employees can and cannot do. And in fact,  more and more organizations are adopting precisely those kinds of policies to govern social media interaction. The problem is that many of them miss the mark, like the RCMP’s new policy appears to do.

Effective social media policies should allow the emergence of brand ambassadors within and outside an organization by providing clear, common-sense principles that facilitate engagement.

The difficulty in implementing effective social media policies lies in the very essence of social interaction: spontaneity. Throw up a wall around what people can say or do online, or when they can say it,  and you limit spontaneity and genuine interaction.

This may not be a problem for organizations that see social media as something that should be managed and controlled. But for organizations that recognize the potential of employee and community online engagement, developing policies that do what they’re supposed to do should be a priority.

A few months ago, while developing a social media policy for a client, I came across a great social media policy database that provides examples of the best and the worst policies around.

I found the best policies to be ones that eschewed highly prescriptive language and focused on four things: trust, clear principles, common sense and simple rules.

In the case of the RCMP, and most police organizations, the code of conduct should form the base of the policy framework. This is what governs police officers’ behaviour in and out of uniform, it governs how they should interact with the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, and it is what should govern their social media interactions. This basic framework would need to be augmented by proper social media training along with socialization of the critical role that sworn and civilian members can play in supporting the organization’s standing in the community through their online engagement.

Like most corporate policies, rules governing corporate social media use cannot cover every contingency or situation. Policies that are too stringent will only serve to discourage online interaction or render it stilted and lacking in spontaneity.

Social media engagement is like casting a pebble in a pond: Networks grow in concentric circles. Policies that force officers to shed their uniforms before engaging with their friends, family and peers, fail to tap in the networks and communities closest to the organization.

The best police social media policy is one based on clear principles that empower and guide the exercise of discretion. Policies that impose limits above those contained in members’ code of conduct risk seeing the organization forced to fend off PR challenges through corporate spin and traditional media, while absent from the channels where the conversations are taking place.

CORPORATE SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT NEEDS C-SUITE BUY IN, PARTICIPATION

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Social media engagement is like casting a pebble in a pond: Networks grow in concentric circles. For any organization  looking to build its online presence, the networking and socialization should begin from within, and start at the top.

An interesting study released last spring by Austin-based PulsePoint Group, illustrates the importance of the “C-suite” in fostering organizational buy-in and excellence in social media use and engagement.  Notably, it found that:

  • Two-thirds of the  organizations  achieving the highest returns reported that their  C-suites are active advocates– that is, they commit to social engagement  as a strategy and they reallocate resources to make it happen.
  • However,  a full 28% of C-suite executives still don’t believe in social  engagement. And the number one reason? The inability to gauge ROI (45%).  For engagement to work, the C-suite has to believe in it and see  measurable returns.

For an organization exploring social media as a way to connect with its clients or audiences, the place to begin should always be with its employees and associates and the initial pitch should be made by the boss.

Enlisting your employees to be part of the conversation has a number of advantages. It allows you to tap into their networks and a large ready-made community of interest, and  synergize ongoing conversations to help project your brand and message. It  serves to bolster internal communications and create an organization-wide sense of empowerment and ownership of a new strategy.  It  also helps staff internalize and articulate the key organizational values, ethics and goals that make up your corporate brand.

This exercise can be formal or informal. Anything from training workshops to “lunch and learn” sessions will do as long as these provide the time and space to freely discuss the organization’s social media strategy and policies,  its benefits and costs, and everyone’s role in its implementation.   The most important point of these sessions is that they are opportunities for the organization’s leadership to share and discuss their goals and vision for the organization, how social media can help achieving these and explain how employees and other associates are key to achieving those goals.

In any hierarchical organization, a disconnect from the corporate leadership can cause uncertainty among the rank and file, stifling initiative and lead to a fallback to the safety of the status-quo. In a rapidly eveolving and competitive  environment, this can cause a brand to sputter and fail. And while in the past organizations embraced a tightly controlling spokesperson policy in the name of message discipline, in a communications environment where your audience becomes your medium, engagement and conversations must be the norm.

Making an organization’s chief executives its evangelists-in-chief and the face of online engagement will send a powerful and empowering message  to its employees.  Effective online social engagement is all about the capacity to engage and converse based on genuine caring about your community. A corporate social media strategy that begins from within, serves to empower employee engagement as brand ambassadors by bringing them into the corporate loop and recognizing the importance of their participation.

Effective social media engagement  requires a more horizontal, less hierarchical, and more trusting approach to external communication.  A critical part of this approach must involve bringing the c-suite and all employees into the social fold, and into the conversation–internally and externally.

ELECTIONS 2.0? SAY GOODBYE TO PLEASANTVILLE

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Recently, a number of Quebec commentators mused about the extensive use of social media before and during the current Quebec election campaign, with several calling it the province’s first election 2.0. In an op ed in yesterday’s L’Actualite.com,  Chantal Hebert waded into the discussion with a thoughtful piece   on the true value of social media in election campaigns, arguing that online discussions tend to be far removed from voters’ mainstreet concerns.

Hebert says that while there are good tactical reasons for using social media in election campaigns, it would be a mistake to assume that the conversations populating the various online platforms are the ones that resonate with ordinary voters.

The key problem is that  (in Quebec and in Canada) political parties have yet to embrace the social paradigm that actually drives engagement and digital sharing.  We can see it in the content that they generate. Complex issues are dumbed down to a few simple talking points. Individuals and personalities become (in some cases, literally) black and white cardboard cutouts.

This content is based on what Andrew Coyne calls “the totalitarian assumptions that inform most advertising, and its close cousin, politics” He adds, “in the world inhabited by this brand or that party, nothing bad ever happens, nothing ever goes wrong, no one ever is unhappy”.

It’s  what I call the Pleasantville school of advertising. Pleasantville was the 1998 indie film where two teenagers are transported into the black and white world of a 50’s sitcom.  And it’s a view of the world that still dominates Canadian politics.

A good example can be seen in negative ads (its not a coincidence that these are often in black and white). Once the exception, these have now become the staple of election campaigns.  More interesting though, is their use between elections where political parties traditionally do not engage in large media buys and rely on earned and social media.

A quick look at the YouTube channel of both the NDP and CPC shows that neither of their most recent negative ads went viral.  The NDP ad generated some 68,000 hits while the CPC anti-Mulcair ad generated a little over 30,000 views. And a large number of those were views not from social platforms, but from the online pages of mainstream media outlets.  Hardly game changing stuff.

This traditional advertising and political marketing paradigm is well-suited to large traditional media buys as ways to frame consumer perceptions, but not social engagement.  It works when you can buy eyeballs and multiple views. It fails miserably when your audience is your medium.

Why?

Because effective digital engagement requires content that is sharable. That means content that members of diverse online communities will feel comfortable sharing among their peers. It means content that is real.  Anything else misses the point.

Let’s look at one politician who got it.  We don’t have to go far, right here in Canada, Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi went from long shot to mayor, largely thanks to smart, funny and personal social-media engagement.

Three things distinguished his use of social media from that of our federal parties in the last  election: content, tone and genuine engagement. Mr. Nenshi was able to use social media to engage with a growing audience because, from day one, his message was positive, fresh and, most important, sharable. His commitment to dialogue built political capital and most importantly, trust. And while municipal elections don’t have the partisan trapping of their federal or provincial cousins, Nemshi succeeded by avoiding shrill personal attacks and focusing instead on positive and optimistic messaging. Ultimately, his approach translated into boots on the ground, contributions to the campaign and votes.

In the last federal election, social media was used largely as a one-way bulletin board and echo chamber for partisan talking points and videos. Absent, for the most part, was any genuine engagement or content with broad non-partisan appeal.

Unfortunately, what we see in Quebec and in the rest-of-Canada today suggests that parties will continue to use social media as a tactical tool to energize their base, raise funds and generate traditional media coverage. And so doing they will fail to capitalize on its true transformative potential: Its capacity to amplify messages a million-fold and to mobilize thousands.

But capitalizing on that potential would require acknowledging the world is not black and white and the bad guys can sometimes be good guys. It would mean saying goodbye to Pleasantville.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO CREATE MAINSTREAM MEDIA BUZZ

Friday, March 30th, 2012

In an earlier blog, I wrote that social media can transform how organizations operate. One important way it can do that is in helping create mainstream media (MSM) buzz in support of their brand. For any organization, this involves taking advantage of a changing media landscape which is characterized by: 1) a growing MSM online presence; 2) changing news cycle; and 3) reporters’ growing reliance on social media channels for story ideas, breaking news, background and fresh voices.

Today, not only is real-time monitoring of social media chatter a must for news organizations, but traditional media organizations have begun using all of the tools in the social media toolkit to maintain market share and relevance.   Strategies such as search engine optimization of stories, social amplification, and increased use of shareability-enhancing video, are being used by MSM to leverage social media traffic and influence and push their own online and traditional content.

In response to this changing media environment, organizations that in the past monitored traditional media channels and coverage as part of their environmental scanning, are now turning their attention to the monitoring of media chatter on social platforms.  They are also using social media platforms to engage in conversations with reporters and news outlets, or push out statements, news releases and background information.

The most popular of these platforms is Twitter.Twitter is ideally suited for the real time nature of the modern news cycle. In fact, the immediacy of Twitter has contributed to changing the news cycle.

Before the rise of social media, radio was the medium that provided the greatest flexibility and ability to cover breaking news. Twitter has now outgrown its role as amplifier of mainstream media news to become a “news breaker” as seen in story of Osama Bin Laden’s killing by U.S. special forces.

For organizations looking to use social media to enhance their MSM reach, Twitter can provide an important and direct channel to news rooms but it also means competing for attention on what is becoming a very crowded platform.

This means your interactions must be fresh, interesting and newsworthy. And it means building your network and community BEFORE you launch your campaign.  Invest in getting to know editors, reporters and producers.

Tips on using Twitter for MSM relations

  • Use Twitter Search to identify reporters that cover or are interested in your issues and start following them
  • Listen. Use Twitter to learn about specific journalists’ interests, needs, styles
  • Build an early  rapport, engage in conversations, be genuine
  • Respond to queries in a timely fashion
  • Provide value; become a trusted source for information, story ideas
  • Be available for on-the-record comment, including online
  • Use Twitter to inform reporters of upcoming media opportunities (press conferences, product launches)
  • Post your news releases on Twitter
  • Do not use Twitter to pitch your stories directly; paticularly if you have no rapport with a reporter
  • Don’t neglect personal, face-to-face interaction with reporters

Success in this new environment means being nimble  and responsive, and it means understanding the reality of the modern news room: fewer resources and more pressure to break stories. Failure to do so means running the risk of being left behind when your story breaks.

In practical terms, this means all organizations have to take stock of their internal media relations procedures and streamline decision-making.  It  means empowering front-line communications staff to engage with reporters, frame the story and provide comment.

In this new environment, organizations–private or public–no longer have all day to ponder the text of a statement,  news release, or Tweet. Overly cautious or bureaucratic media relations procedures will fail in the hypercompetitive real-time world in which MSM outlets operate.

POLICE SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT SHOULD START AT THE TOP

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Social media engagement is like casting a pebble in a pond: Networks grow in concentric circles. For any organization  looking to build its online presence, the networking and socialization should begin from within, and start at the top.  This is particularly true for organizations that interact with the public as front line service providers.  Police organizations fall into this category.

For a police force exploring social media, whether it is simply a question of populating its Facebook page or jump-starting a Twitter account, the place to begin should always be with its staff, sworn and civilian.

Enlisting your staff to be part of the conversation has a number of advantages. It allows you to tap into their networks and synergize ongoing conversations to help project your brand and amplify your message. It will serve to bolster internal communications and create an organization-wide sense of empowerment and ownership of the new strategy.  It will also help staff internalize and articulate the key organizational values, ethics and goals that make up your corporate brand.

This exercise can be formal or informal. Anything from training workshops to “lunch and learn” sessions will do as long as these provide the time and space to freely discuss the organization’s strategy, its benefits and costs, and everyone’s role in its implementation.   While technical know-how is important, online social engagement is all about the capacity to engage and converse.

Most importantly, these sessions should be opportunities for the organization’s leadership to share and discuss their objectives and vision for the organization and how social media can facilitate achieving these.

An interesting study released today  by Austin-based PulsePoint Group, illustrates the importance of the “C-suite” in fostering organizational buy-in and excellence in social media use and engagement.  Notably, it finds that:

  • Two-thirds of the  organizations  achieving the highest returns reported that their  C-suites are active advocates– that is, they commit to social engagement  as a strategy and they reallocate resources to make it happen.
  • However,  a full 28% of C-suite executives still don’t believe in social  engagement. And the number one reason? The inability to gauge ROI (45%).  For engagement to work, the C-suite has to believe in it and see  measurable returns.

In hierarchical organizations a disconnect from the leadership can cause uncertainty and a fallback to the safety of the status-quo.  And while in the past organizations embraced a tightly controlling spokesperson policy in the name of message discipline, today’s real-time social environment requires investing in engagement and conversations.

Effective social media engagement  requires a more horizontal, less hierarchical, and more trusting approach to external communication.  A critical part of this approach must involve bringing your  leadership into the social fold, and into the conversation–internally and externally.

In addition to helping to maintain message discipline and unity,  internal engagement will allow the organization to leverage its all of its networks, further amplify its message and extend its reach, and most importantly build buy-in.

If a police force wants its members–sworn and civilian–to become brand ambassadors it must empower them not only with the technical tools–from training, to the narrative, to PDAs–but also with the trust and support of their leadership.

ONLY ONE ONLINE PERSONA: YOU

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Call me old fashioned, but when I do business with someone, I like to know who they are. Online personas, avatars and other forms of identity cloaking are the stuff that online trolls and teenage bullies use, not professionals.  And isn’t social media supposed to be all about genuine engagement and transparency?

Yet, today, in another twist in the bizarre robocall saga, RackNine, the company that provided the automated calling service to the mysterious “Pierre Poutine” acknowledged that one of their employees uses an online pseudonym when dealing with clients.

The true identity of one Rick McKnight became an issue Monday when reporters, digging around the edges of the story, became intrigued by this person, who notwithstanding a massive online footprint, didn’t seem to cast a shadow.

RackNine decided to reveal the mystery man’s true identity and end media speculation. Rick McKnight–who has (had?) some 500 Facebook friends–is actually Rafael Martinez Minuesa, a Spaniard who works in web design and marketing for the firm.

In a statement, Mr. Minuesa said “Rick McKnight is a name I came up with to work with RackNine’s clients online and offline. I use this to discuss projects with clients, and online because it’s just convenient to have a persona for all the different social media sites.”

His boss, RackNine chief executive Matt Meier, says there’s nothing wrong with practice of using an alias when dealing with clients.

“We’re happy with people choosing whatever name they like. As a matter of fact, one of my tech support staff right now is named Timo.”

Now,  my name, like Mr. Minuesa’s, might not roll off the tongue as smoothly as say, Rick McKnight; and I may have to repeat and spell it from time to time, but it carries with it  the baggage–bad and good–of  five decades of personal and professional experiences and interactions.  Professionally and socially, one’s name should be their bond.

Creating an online persona to compartmentalize and cloak personal and professional experiences and social interactions is not only bad online form, but a terrible business practice.

Call me old fashioned, but whether they’re dialing our number, reading my blog or checking out  my LinkedIn account or our Facebook page I think our clients have a right to know that the “persona” they’re dealing with is the real McCoy.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND NONPROFITS: THE COMMUNITY MANAGER

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Many nonprofits looking to  use social media to boost their profile, mobilize their base or raise funds assume that all they have to do is create a Facebook page or a Twitter account and people will automatically converge.  That may be the case for the most visible brands (personal or corporate) but for most nonprofits, building a network and a following requires work and genuine engagement.

That’s where a community manager can help.

While for smaller organizations it may not be necessary to have a  person dedicated full-time to social media engagement, it is absolutely necessary for every organization that hopes to leverage social media to have  someone on staff with primary responsibility for online outreach and engagement.  

The role of an organization’s online community manager is to listen, engage and fuel conversations within the social environment created for the organization.  

Typically, the community manager is expected to interact with the community to help maintain a smooth flow of information as well as coordinate and moderate online discussions; less frequently, they are expected to act as the corporate social evangelist.

Too often the role of corporate evangelist is overlooked because of an exclusively external focus by the organization, and that is a mistake. 

By keeping the entire organization focused, engaged, contributing to the conversations and following policy guidelines and principles, the community manager can help employees, associates and volunteers become brand ambassadors and leverage their own networks in support of the organization’s goals.  

Another way that the community manager can play a key role is by ensuring that content responds to the needs and expectations of both the community and the organization.  

Social content is what brings people to your site; jump starts conversations and amplifies messages. The best content is informative, timely, original and easy-to-share.  Content should always be developed with an organization’s audience and community in mind, and the best way to start is by listening to ongoing conversations and identifying what it is that most resonates or gains traction within the key communities.

The community manager’s role is to listen to these conversations and figure out how they align with the organization’s own narrative and then help develop content that reflects and leverages these linkages.

It’s not everybody that can be a good community manager.  Sure,  it helps if they understand the basic technology and functionalities of the most popular platforms, but it doesn’t mean that they have to be tecchies.  Howvere, they do have to be good communicators and most important, they have to be social.

A good community manager is someone who understands the basic principles of effective communications and who genuinely likes to connect with people and share information, ideas and opinions.  It is also someone who is passionate about social media and who can communicate that passion to colleagues as well as to the organization’s leadership.

For a nonprofit that is struggling to gain traction in the social sphere, creating a commuity manager role within the organization can bring focus, energy and ultimately, success.