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Anya and I have been excessively excited for the “small” change that Facebook made the other day that allows you to use the Twitter-esque “@” symbol to add contacts, pages, groups etc to a conversation pretty much anywhere you would normal post content on Facebook.

For example, on our Facebook page, you’ll see that once I inputted “@,” a drop-down menu pops up where you can choose from your contacts, your groups, your pages, etc.  I was posting up Anya’s post on academics having open access to scholarly work and wanted to attribute it to her, and I also got to let her know that I did so.  You’ll then see the prior post, citing Adam’s thoughts on social media ROI, and his name has been tagged.

Since I’m pretty interested in what this means for viral capabilities, I was playing around with the Walls today.  Here’s what I’ve seen so far  just using Wall postings.

Personal Profile:

  • You can post a status update with a contact name and/or a public profile (businesses/organizations) and your update will show up on their or its news feed.  [Note: It does not seem to update on a group page]
  • If it’s a contact, they will be notified via email, just as they would if you had tagged them in a photo in your own album (assuming they’re set up for email notifications). [Update: if you go to our FB page now, you'll see that Adam has already commented on the link we posted.  Most likely because he was notified that we posted it.]
  • Your tagging allows people to click on the contact/group/etc directly from your newsfeed, or their own home feed.
  • You can only link to contacts that you’re friends with, groups that you’re a member of or pages that you’re a fan of.

Business Public Profile/Page:

  • Much the same as a Personal Profile.
  • You can post an update or a link with the same information as above, and tag someone you’ve mentioned. Again, groups do not seem to be affected.
  • It it’s a contact, they will be notified that they’ve been tagged.
  • Other fans of the page are able to click directly through to the tagged party, whether it’s the author of a posted link or a group that was mentioned.
  • Any fan can post something that is tagged with a contact/page/group that they are connected to.

Implications for business:

  1. You are in front of more people, in places more removed than your page. Being tagged allows you to reach people one layer out, by being able to be mentioned in a way that’s interactive on profiles and pages that are not your own. Because your fans also have these capabilities, anytime you’re mentioned by them, you’re exposed to all of their contacts in the same way.
  2. It draws people back to your page more easily. If your page is tagged “somewhere else” it is much easier for new eyes to connect to your page, click, and be there.  No one has to actually interact with your page directly for that to happen now. If a person is tagged on your page, they’re notified of that discussion, which isn’t directly on their profile.  This will ideally bring them to your page.  All-in-all, you’re drawing people back to your content from further away and in an easier manner.

Still playing around, I’ll update when/if I find new features.

Did I miss anything? Any other cool features you’ve come across that increase virality?  Do I have anything wrong?

I recently had a conversation with someone about numbers and social media.  It was not unlike many conversations I’ve had before.  I was asked to defend my mere 2,000 Twitter followers against someone else’s 5,000 or so.  Doesn’t that make them better at social media?  To his credit, he was merely playing with me, and was not necessarily a numbers guy himself, but many people DO base your skill level on this!

My answer is flat out no.  I’m a huge proponent of value.  Value, value, VALUE.  I can’t even say it enough.  And that’s why I’m very picky about my own numbers and my company’s numbers when it comes to what that audience means for me and Other Side Group in the long term.

As an example, let’s talk about my Twitter following.

So firstly, I don’t think 2,182 is so paltry in terms of followers.  Secondly, I feel that over 75% of my followers (basically, the ones I’m following back) are of high value.

I have not actively sought additional followers since I reached the 300 mark or so. Which means almost everyone past that followed me.  Which then means that, as mentioned above, the 75% that were not spam, found me worth following in the first place. I’m offering them something.

What type of qualities in a follower or fan do I define as valuable? Everything that we say is important in social media:

  • They are seeking value from the people they go to
  • They engage in discussion and conversation
  • They seek two-way communications
  • They are actually listening to the people they are following - in this case me - because of these things.

I follow people that I know will have great ideas, pass along great articles or resources, respond to me when I’m seeking advice or answers, be receptive to my discussion and advice-giving, and want to have “meaningful” online relationships.  That’s what I’m here for.

Fred Wilson had a great post about total users versus active users in which he said:

“Your best advocates are always your most active users. So focus on them, make them successful in your service, focus on growing that number, and the non-active problem will take care of itself.”

In my opinion, you should work from the get-go to get users that have the most chance of remaining active and engagement in the long-run, which further lessens you having to “deal” with the problem of non-active users.

A few more numbers that I would be interested in, or that I’d love people or potential clients to be asking me (and that I care about when people tell me their social media “numbers”):

  1. I am regularly “nominated” by at least 5 people each week for #followfriday.  Now, some people will scoff at it, but at the very least I feel this is testament to the fact that I am offering them at least some reason to follow me.  Yes I have to work at it, but it’s worth it to me because they’re loyal and I know I can go to them when I need to.
  2. When I need answers or advice, I get responses to questions within minutes from people following me.  They are engaged in their community (of which I’m a part) and they want to give back.  I love this, and I thank them.
  3. When I invited people to the Other Side Group Facebook Page, I could have easily sent it to every one of my 700+ friends and Boom! I would have an envious fan following for a firm our size.  But I didn’t.  I went through each of those friends and decided who I thought would actually value what we were doing and providing, who might interact with our content, etc.  That’s all that matters to me.  We’re at 113 fans right now, and it slowly grows every day with new people who are being exposed to our information through those initial fans.
  4. I was able to organize - which means find speakers, find sponsors and promote - an event that brought 150+ attendees in the short span of about three weeks using almost solely my following on Twitter and Facebook.  I’m not tooting my horn, I’m highlighting how darn powerful that is! (Thank you guys!).

These are just a few examples, but my biggest question remains.  Why don’t people ask more about the value of these networks rather than just the numbers?

We talk a lot in marketing about Reach (R), Frequency (F) and Impact (I).  From my observations, too many people are focusing on just the R and F when it comes to social media marketing.

R and F cater to the 0.5 second blasts that people send out, which are usually memorable for perhaps 1 second total by the majority of “listeners.”  This can be useful for general brand awareness.  But what about the I? The brand IMPACT?

More emphasis needs to be placed on the I and how to achieve that, because that’s really all that matters in the long run.  This is the only way to achieve long-term brand loyalty.

I would venture a bet that my 2,000 Twitter followers have way more Impact than someone who went out and aggressively sought followers from anywhere just to get their numbers up, which is what I see time after time again. [I've met so many people at social media networking events that say things like "yeah I just reached 5,000 followers."  Great, I say, what's their profile?  What are they doing for you? Will they still be around in and paying attention in six months?

This may not matter as an individual (although it may), but it becomes poor strategy (or no strategy!) when it comes to business.

Case in point:

I recently spoke to a company that was marketing the fact that they were "social."  What this meant, to them, was listing on their homepage the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans that they had.

Well, that could be great if it weren't for the fact that the way they GOT those fans was by running a promotion for a giveaway of a prize completely unrelated to their product offering.  The "fans" rallied behind the brand for the prize giveaway, and once the prize was given out and the contest ended, the majority of the fans were completely uninterested in the product offering, and those that may have been were left idle because of a lack of sales follow-up on the part of the company.

This is a waste of money and a missed revenue opportunity.  Period.

Yet they still tout their numbers on their homepage.....

So let's start talking about value more when you're both increasing your own social media presence and when you're analyzing others.

What do you think about numbers?  Are you getting value out of your numbers?  Are you wishing you got more value?  Have you found a straight numbers approach to social media useful in anyway?  We'd love to hear from you!

It’s a different world out there as more people are tweeting, meeting and friending left and right. The explosion of social media has brought a lot of light to the online community for purposes beyond practical use. However, some people are very hesitant to get involved because they are wary of sharing personal information.

Any internet user should definitely be smart about what information they are displaying, but to cite a great point from a fellow social media user, Mattan Ingram, there is a difference between privacy and security. Before you put up the paranoia guard, there are a few things to keep in mind:

You get what you put into social media
If new media is being used solely for purposes that the general public is not interested in, then it’s not as much of a concern that you will be “discovered” and “passed on”.

Viral marketing is only really successful if many links on the communication chain are interested in passing the information on. If someone is too paranoid to be followed by or chat with a stranger on Twitter, then it will be impossible for them to really understand and utilize social media effectively because that is the beauty of social media. The rise of social media increases open two-way communication. As Mattan said,

“The more transparent society is, the better and healthier it will be. We just have to get through the adjustment period. Transparency is not just top down, Big Brother style. It goes both ways.”

This applies to many areas, from consumer-business relationships to government-citizen relationships. The paranoid resisters are actually the ones that could benefit the most from social media; yes by putting up a profile on Facebook, you allow others a snapshot into your life, but in turn you’re also allowed access to theirs. Again, this can apply to individuals, businesses, or government.

We are not lost behind the computer screen. You still have your identity and it is an extension of your being
In a different vein, some people use social media interactions to hide behind a computer screen and act in a completely inappropriate fashion…Ever read YouTube video comments? It’s best not to if you want to keep faith in mankind. To be honest, many of these people probably would never say those things face-to-face, but for some reason have a really nasty internet alter ego.

Be it comments on other peoples’ blogs, YouTube videos, or other opinions, some people really take their comments to the level of just blatantly offensive. This deters a lot of people from using social media because they just don’t want to deal with arrogant rude people, or are afraid then of voicing their own valuable opinions.

Now with more streamlining, such as Facebook Connect, where a Facebook user can use their account to log in to other 3rd party websites, instead of making a separate one for that site, our identities are following us online. This may again strike a note of paranoia in some, but if you think about it, it could actually make the internet community closer and safer.

Of course there will always be weirdos, people who make multiple fake accounts, hackers, etc, but isn’t that say the same for face to face interactions? There will always be people who cut you in line, people with road rage, criminals, etc., but as long as you are smart with what information is put online, just the same way you lock your car door, then we can continue to be comfortable in the online community. For example, if you are reading a review on Citysearch, it has more merit when you can see their Facebook profile and know there is a real person behind it, even if it is a stranger. It eliminates the internet unknown, which is what strikes fear in some.

Where does this leave social media?

While not everyone is on board, there are plenty of people who see new media and internet services as an opportunity for information and positive communication. I consider E-mail, Instant Messaging, and other internet based communication as an opportunity to think about what you say before you open your mouth, instead of saying something completely distasteful, and not having to deal with repercussions, or anyone seeing who the person behind the screen is.

I must say that opinions are great. I like when people don’t agree with me because that is the basis of a good conversation (read: conversation, not a YouTube comment battle). However, when people take disagreements out of context and make personal insults, they are not going to get anything of value from their social media presence, and will also deter others from interacting.

Even though social media is being stunted by two angles, paranoia and terrorizing others, by nature, social media is working on breaking down these barriers. Paranoia is being resolved as more people begin to see that these platforms are used for listening to others, gaining insight/opinions, and communicating with people they normally wouldn’t. Online bullying is being battled inadvertently by creating more ties between different internet platforms. There will always be some resistance, but ironically it could be that as social media grows, it has the potential to resolve some of the current oppositions.

How do you feel about social media? Have you embraced it yet? How can we help make the online community more constructive? Please feel free to share thoughts, comments, ideas.

We like non-profits and socially responsible organizations here at Other Side Group.  Being a non-profit, community involvement is especially important, and it seems a natural progression that non-profits would become more involved in social media outlets.

We’ve highlighted five non-profit organizations that are not only involved in but effectively using social media:

1. The American Red Cross has an established presence on both Facebook and Twitter. With over 70,000 fans on Facebook and 18,000 followers on Twitter, they not only have successfully reached members of the community, but they are doing several things right: When directing traffic to their Facebook page, all visitors land on the photos tab. This may seem like a minute detail, but so much of the support for the Red Cross comes from community involvement. Without fail, any page visitor will see, even briefly, the photos taken of real-life volunteers from blood drives, disaster relief efforts and other community events.  The Red Cross Facebook page has even set up the Causes application to accept online donations directly from their Facebook page.  They also are communicating with their followers well on Twitter. Being such a large organization, it would be incredibly difficult to track down all the tweets regarding the Red Cross, but they do a good job of individual retweets. Also, to support community involvement, they post relevant tweets to their blog feed with a short personalized message: Red Cross Blog.

2. Babson College is also on both Facebook and Twitter, and managing the two quite well.  Their Facebook content is dynamic enough that fans are consistently interacting with it by posting comments etc.  Additionally, they have content fed into Facebook from many sources: the blog, manually, notes, fans, etc.  As for Twitter, while they could be posting more frequently, they are responding to people directly and creating conversation.  They’ve even set up a blog for students to share their summer internship stories with the community (All fed into Facebook of course).

3. Share Our Strength interacts on their Twitter with members of the community and other organizations with a similar agenda. They tweet very frequently, (even on the weekends!) which is the best way to stay involved and current.

4. The Livestrong Foundation has a very interactive Twitter account. They create a close community by responding to individual tweets, and interactions are based a lot on personal experiences, support and sharing. Because they have created such a strong community foundation on Twitter, it is a good way to spread information about events and fundraisers.

5. The National Wildlife Federation is also active on Twitter. They have the NWF main account, and other accounts for their other campaigns, such as Green Hour, which gives tips about being active outside. This allows them to reach different niches with appropriate information.

There are many ways non-profit organizations can use social media to their advantage: fundraising, recruiting, spreading their message, etc. Depending on each organization’s needs and goals, social media interactions can be different for everyone, but the above organizations are definitely using these outlets effectively to their benefit.

Interested in seeing what social media can do for a non-profit you’re involved in? We’re having a contest, and the winning non-profit organization gets a free social media report!

After reading the recent Mashable article about Twitter fTags, I’ve got one concern: Is Twitter turning into Facebook?

These new Twitter fTags are an alternative to Twitter hashtags. Hashtags are keywords that allow users to find relevant tweets on a topic of interest, and also if desired, to have their own tweets easily found by others seeking discussions on that topic. Simply entering a hashtag into the search bar pulls search results from other tweets containing the same hashtag, similarly to organic search results from a search engine.

This is obviously a good feature, as social interaction is the very essence of being a social media outlet. When I first joined Twitter, I was surprised at its simplicity. Unlike Facebook, which provided personal information, pictures, quotes, favorite movies, groups and countless other applications, Twitter didn’t have those search options, so it was more difficult to find discussions or people of interest.

Before hashtags and trending topics on Twitter, you could search for specific terms, but if that exact phrase did not show up in any tweets then the search would not pull any results. This would be further limited by tweet context; say you were looking to tweet about photography tips, a search for “photography” would pull results for anyone who had mentioned the word “photography” in a tweet, name or description.

Hashtags bring it one step further, allowing a search term to pull results from other tweets that authors deemed relevant by putting in that hashtag to their tweet. Twitter fTags are even better than hashtags. fTags are real-time streams about any topic (already created or an original discussion), but is best for niche discussions, as the fTag discussions can be very specific.

fTags are also great because, unlike a hashtag, which is usually a keyword related to a topic, fTags are labeled so it is not obvious what the discussion is about. This way, in order to participate, a user must actually understand what the stream is about, and as a result, fTags can help cut down on spam tweets, where every word is preceded by “#.”

Despite the obvious interactive benefits of fTags, I think there is a potential vulnerability. While it is good to be able to find specific discussion topics, these advancements are very reminiscent of Facebook Groups. Are these fTags eventually going to have the option of private discussions or invite only scenarios? Will these fTags evolve into Twitter Groups, as this author has pointed out. What originally set Twitter apart was the openness and lack of privacy; not a lot of personal information was asked for, but the whole point was that everyone sees everything. Facebook too, has been blurring the lines between the different social media platforms with their addition of “status updates,” which is very similar to a tweet.

I am curious to see how fTags and subsequent applications are received. fTags are a great application because the discussions are still interactive and communication based. Twitter and Facebook have not yet lost the fundamental essence of what makes them social media outlets, but they need to be cautious about maintaining the qualities that keep the social media platforms distinct. We are able to do so much with social media today, because there are many channels to go through, but if they all eventually have the same exact capabilities, we will not have accounts for more than one platform. You will either have Twitter or Facebook, not both, which could undermine the growth of social media and limit its user potential.

What are your thoughts on fTags?

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

I was having a Twitter conversation late last week with Conner McCall about the definition of Twitter.  Is it social networking?  Is it a social network?  I had asked:

“Twitter - Social Network? Still just microblogging? Somewhere in between?”

Conner wrote a follow-up post on the topic, in which he brought up some good points about why defining Twitter just shouldn’t happen.

Under most circumstances, I too shy away from defining and corralling social media tools into categories.  Honestly, what’s the point sometimes?

However, I’m involved in some research through DigiActive concerning the use of digital tools in activism efforts around the world.  When it came time to coding qualitative data on how people use their mobile phones for their advocacy work, I had separated out Twitter from all of the other social networks such as Facebook.

While going over the survey coding with the research team, someone suggested that several of the responses get combined in some way, and one of those ways was to lump Twitter in with the social networks.  In fact, it was more like “Twitter is a social network so let’s put it in there.”

I really needed to push back on this because I see some key differences between the two, at least in terms of this project.  Firstly though, some important similarities:

  • One-to-many communication
  • Everything is public within your “network”
  • Information/data sharing

Aside from those major similarities, there are some differences that are too important to overlook for the purposes of trying to define how people use these tools to disseminate information and communicate with people.

In Conner’s thought process came one of the very reasons I needed to have a definition of Twitter.  He said:

“It’s a free eco-system that allows you to talk about what you want, but by limiting you to 140 characters it keeps conversations clean and neat.  E-mail, instant message, and social networks will all be around for a long time, but you get messages that take minutes to read where Twitter’s messages take seconds.  This enforced brevity let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily basis.  Twitter just takes online communication and adds what events like Ignite add to presentations.”

It’s this quick, one-time communication aspect of Twitter that makes it very different than some of the longer-standing ways in which people interact on places like Facebook.  You can have months-long campaigns on Facebook, where you gather fans and advocates for your cause.  Or you can share photos or videos that can still be top-of-mind (read: in the first two pages of your friends’ Stream) the next day or several days. The interaction with information on a platform like Facebook is much more dynamic than it is on a platform like Twitter.

Twitter, on the other hand, is done-and-done.  Information is disseminated real time, and often forgotten after that.  This comes into play in any sort of activism effort because the length of time that Twitter is really useful is often much shorter than on social networks, and the reason that Twitter is used is usually much different than the reasons that Facebook is used.

Additionally, “this forced brevity [that] let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily [or hourly] basis” is one of the reasons why people will use Twitter over social networks to mobilize efforts.  Such was (sort of) the case in the Moldovan protests last month (note: the Twitter aspect of these protests was, in my opinion, overblown by much of the media).

The one tough thing about this question is that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with calling Twitter a social network.  It is a network of people that you interact with socially, through social media (whatever that means), which is, at a high-level, what happens on Facebook and other “social networks.”  I have a problem bunching them together when you get into the specifics of how those social networks work at a functional level.

In closing, while I like to also leave thing undefined a lot of the times and agree, for the most part, with Conner when he says that Twitter has no rules, there are times when the distinctions between these tools, like any set of tools, need to be highlighted.  And usually these functional distinctions translate into at least small conceptual distinctions as well.

I would love to know your thoughts on how you might define social networks, or how you would make the distinction between Twitter and what everyone else considers social networks, or what you think about the whole definition thing in general!

Amy Sample Ward was unable to present at our event, but has a really great presentation that she’d like to contribute.

Amy Sample Ward, Consultant and Blogger for NPTech (@amyrsward)

Amy is dedicated to supporting and educating nonprofits and the progressive social change sector about evolving technologies that cultivate and engage communities. Her passion is in connecting nonprofits with new media technologies, watching the field of nptech evolve, and having conversations about where we can go next while still getting everyone on board with what we have already. Much of her work in the US was based out of Portland, OR. She’s currently located in London, UK, and finding it a great opportunity to continue engaging with the US but look at social change projects and the work of nonprofit organizations on a more global scale.

Gradon Tripp, Founder of Social Media for Social Change
Joe Waters, Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center
Ken George, New Media Production Manager for WBUR
Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of HubSpot
Kate Brodock, Founder and Principal of Other Side Group (Moderator)

Case Studies:

Sam Vaghar, Managing Director of Millenium Campus Network
Julie Soforenko, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator of ACCION USA

We’ve included a decent clip of the general discussion, followed by a full transcript.

Note: This transcript was recorded in real-time and is therefore an incomplete record of the panel discussion.  Which is to say that this is the jist of what was said.  Before attributing any quotes, please first seek permission from the speaker.

Q: Please introduce yourself and answer the question, “What is your definition of social media?”

Joe Waters: I’m the director of cause marketing of Boston Medical Center – and we do a lot of “between non- and for-profit” partnerships, like Project (RED). We partner with many for-profits (point of sale or percentage of sale programs, generally) — a lot of that to raise money for the medical center.  One big event, Halloweentown, is put together with iParty, and has been a big fundraiser and very attractive to the what we call “the four-legged four-armed monster” — mothers with kids.  I write a blog on cause marketing, as well.

Social media to me is (1) two-way communication (I like sites that talk back to you, like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs), and (2) user-generated work.  We’re seeing the idea of someone sitting in an office and generating content going away.

Ken George: Public radio, online production manager for WBUR.  Thank you for pledging to your local radio station.  I recognize that pledging is a particular type of fundraising, and I’ve been working on pushing WBUR toward social media in the past year.  What Obama did with social media to engage and mobilize was great, and I’d like to see public radio do that, too.  We have monthly social media gatherings at the station.  It’s important to break down the walls between the customers and us.  I think a key part of the definition of social media is Creating Value.

Gradon Tripp: I’m in business development at Firstgiving.  We use the tools of social media to raise money for non-profits.  I think there’s a lot of nonsense out there about social media.  I think it’s the just new tool of communication, like a telephone.

Brian Halligan: HubSpot is an inbound marketing company.  The tried and true marketing techniques don’t change much across the for- to non-profit spectrum, and you and I are getting better and better at blocking out traditional, interruption-based marketing messages.  The old rules are broken and getting more and more broken.

My co-student at MIT created a blog in the early days and was very smart about engaging others.  And this helped develop my theory that marketing needs to move from outbound – interrupting you – to inbound.  I think of social media as interactive, two-way, many-to-many.  It’s great for marketers because you can really lower your marketing costs.

Q: Why did you start using social media, and what’s the process of bringing people onboard?

Brian: When we first started using social media, we initially researched for the idea of our company by checking on the social mediasphere.  Blogs, emails, etc. are all important channels to be used, and social media is one of them.  And we measure over time the conversation rate for each channel, including social media.  Step 1 is creating remarkable content, such as a blog.  You want to optimize the blog title, short and sweet, for both Google and concise sharing, such as on Twitter.  You almost need to be a professional title writer for social media.  Then step 2 is to market it through all the channels.

Joe: We have to be a proactive, progressive fundraising operation – our customers don’t make enough to be our main source of donations, so we have to widen our net.  Getting into social media was the next step, and we always want to be ahead of what our partner companies are doing, and now that they’re getting into social media, we can help them with our expertise, helping with the audience, the tools, building a presence, and when they see us as an organization that’s helping add value, that makes a difference when of the many nonprofits they work with, one of them is helping them achieve their marketing goals.  It helps us stand out, compared to a nonprofit they work with who they don’t hear from except for once a year when planning the annual fundraiser.

Ken: My eureka moment came when we got comments through some Flickr pictures.  It has taken me a good 6 months to demystify social media, and it was scary at first given our prestigious brand, which we’re rather protective of.  As a journalistic organization, WBUR is concerned with brand and appearance issues, like avoiding biases.

The goal is to demystify social media to the WBUR folks, and getting our listeners into the building has been a large part of that.  Our progress has been in fits and starts, but I think we’re out in front of the comparable public radio stations out there.

Gradon: We have tweetups – take a word, at the letters T-W, and it’s a twitter word.  But many of them are just having a beer.  So I wrote a blog post, “Let’s have a social media fundraiser.”  And this one event that was supposed to just raise a few thousand dollars turned into a $20K fundraiser.  Our most recent event raised $30K — half cash and half in-kind donations.

Q: How do you convert followers into volunteers or funders? Followers into doers?

Gradon: You ply them with alcohol.  Our fundraising events aren’t different – raffles, silent auctions, alcohol.  We had a successful event, advertised as $45 for an open bar in NYC, where that’s a cheap night out.  After 90 minutes of that, we bring out the raffle tickets.  Things like that – raffle tickets, silent auctions – are the tried-and-true tools of fundraising, and it’s not like social media is going to replace that.

Everyone asks, “What’s in it for me?” We teamed up with content producers who thought we were doing good work and asked them to point back to us, in the channels we work in.

Joe: On twitter, you’re getting a lot of branding and marketing people as early and heavy adopters, and so as a non-profit guy you can have conversations with them about what they’re doing, what their clients are up to, and even looking at collaboration.  And a nonprofit talking to a for-profit PR director — that’s an easy and productive connection to make.

Brian: There are several types of content we push out through twitter: blog articles, webinars, video

Joe: Is twitter the death of blogging?  Or does blogging fade as Twitter grows?

Brian: Everyone wants to be a publisher.  If you create interesting blog content, that works for both social media tools and Google.

Kate: And HubSpot has great video spots.

Ken: Some parts of fundraising, pitching for pledges, doesn’t work as well on social media, since public radio-style pledge drives tend to be very direct appeals, which doesn’t translate as well to social media. But the visits to the station are very powerful.

Gradon: Ken does something subtle — a week before a pledge drive, he’ll ask followers to respond, “Just say hi.”  I.e., If you like WBUR, let us know.”  Which helps prime the pump.  Very clever.

Q: Local vs. National scale efforts in new media, what say you?

Brian: It’s about your product – can it be scaled nationally?  If so, social media works, because it too scales nationally.  But if you’re a local business with local services, it doesn’t quite work.

The Facebook search bar is one of the most used search engines, and I think it will grow to be a way to find local services.  But slicing and dicing down to your neighborhood is still tough.  Far more benefit taking something small and expanding nationally.

Gradon: We’re seeing charities raise money online where only a small portion of donors are in the state of the services rendered.  The rest live elsewhere.

Q: What is value of using social media to get information, feedback, to avoid mistakes?  Research value?

Gradon: I don’t think one should be afraid of making social media mistakes.  Jump in.

Brian: It’s a great way to get Beta feedback quickly.  Obama’s campaign was great at that market testing.

Joe: I was listening to Blue State Digital talking about social media – they’re the ones who did Obama’s web campaign – and they’re very nice about it, but said that email is the killer app because everyone still reads their email.  It’s a better way to reach people, and it’s more actionable.

Gradon: Social media is a tool in the toolbox.  Still, the largest response rate is from email.

Brian: At HupSpot, we track a metric called reach.  The social media side of our marketing list is growing.  I think when someone wants to communicate, you’ll need to tap email as WELL as twitter, facebook, etc.

Joe: Zappos is a great example of doing more of having a logo online, giving the logo purpose and personality. But it is labor-intensive.

Q: What are 1 or 2 really important things for the audience to take away about how to use social media?

Ken: At WBUR, it requires a bunch of people to believe in it and carry the torch.  The other crucial thing is consistency.  Someone in my organization wants a blog, I give them that, and they post perhaps once a month.  It is a time investment, which is something that many don’t realize.

Brian: When my parents watched TV in the ‘70s, they watched the ads.  A bit by bit, through TiVo, the remote, Internet content, that interruption-based marketing model has melted.  We’re starting to see more and more Fortune 500 companies grow through expertise in the social media and Internet space.  You can see it in the quick churn rate of Fortune 500 companies, how many new ones there are every year.  My advice is to just get on with it.

Gradon: You get in, you do it, you don’t question yourself, and if you believe in yourself, you’re figure it out and thrive.

Joe: You need to be really into social media, or you need to find someone in your organization who is.  You know the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You”?  It’s like that.

Kate: A lot of companies try to restrict who can blog or communicate about the company’s activities.

Brian: I think it’s dead wrong to keep employees from blogging.  If you were to rank all the marketing efforts of your organization, let’s say there are 15, and if you replace the worst one replace it with a blog, and I guarantee in 6 months, you’ll have a new bottom ROI marketing initiative that is not the blog.

Gradon: Sometimes it’s Steve the mail guy who IS one of the best faces of the company.

Kate: If you can draw parallels between problems like blogging on company time with how companies have dealt with other issues, like personal email, personal phone use, etc., it’s not really that different.  To prevent employees from blogging when blocking personal email isn’t done seems misguided.




Q: Isn’t spam an issue?  Having your audience feel like you’re selling to them?

Brian: Well, with Twitter you can choose who you follow.

Joe: The twittersphere really sniffs out sincerity quickly.

Gradon: Zappos doesn’t ask you to buy shoes.  Instead, it’s a balance between demonstrating personality and providing value.

Joe: It’s about presenting yourself as a progressive, thought leader in the industry.

Kate: It’s about value.  It’s not marketing.  It’s linked to who you are, and it’s where people go to get information.

Julie: How do balance your personality on twitter vs. expertising yourself?

Gradon: Chris Brogan is a thought leader in social media.  He writes more blog posts in a week than I write in a month, and a lot of the time it’s, “I had an idea, here it is.”  You get a mix of “if you run a company, here’s what you should be doing” and “It’s Wednesday and that means spaghetti day.”

Ken: I’ve struggled with how to balance my personality Ken George with WBUR.  It works best when it’s blurred, but it’s a challenge.

Brian: They’re real currency and social currency.  And if you have 5 minutes with Chris Brogan, you shouldn’t ask him for money, you should ask him to link to you on his blog.  You’ll get way more out of it.

Q: I work for AIDS Action Committee.  We’ve found it difficult to make the conversation two-way.  How can we do this better?

Gradon: Before you ask a question to your audience, you have to answer them. Talking to people.  If you are the thought leader in the Boston AIDS community, think about what you have to offer.

Joe: One of the things we’ve talked about at BMC is, “What are our issues to talk about?”  Health insurance, because people worry about that.  Emergency services, because people are fascinated with it – think about the success of ER.  For the 2 or 3 things trending in your area, get talking about it if you’re not.

Q: Have you every used a controversial blog posting to spur discussion?

Gradon: My philosophy is to let others be negative, to be bigger and better than that.  When I’m negative, it’ll be about a small thing about a site’s layout and then I’ll compliment the site for its content and mission.  One time we had an item make it on Digg, and that brought a lot of negative trolls.  Digg is full of those.  And we let them have their way on the message boards and soon they left.  It was easier not to engage.

Brian: I would suggest being polarizing.  We did well on Digg at the beginning of HupSpot by posting polarizing articles about Google and Apple.  …  Or think of it this way: If someone makes a negative comment on your site, use it as a way to show what great customer service you have.

Ken: Occasionally people cross a line, and you do need to set standards about what  will be censored.  We moderate after comments are posted, and that works for us.

Image via CrunchBase

The Twitter tool kit of the business world only holds so much relevance in the higher ed space.  But there are some tools that would really add to the efficacy of using Twitter for educators who may have different needs.

We’ve listed several great ones below to start off:

Tweetdeck: A desktop application that let’s you organize who you’re following, save and display searches and organize your Twitter account to accommodate issues such as distinguishing student Tweets from colleague Tweets.

Tweet Later: With this tool you can schedule Tweets in advance, so they get posted when you want them to….like during a classroom lecture.

Twits Like Me: This allows you to find other Twitter users who are talking about the things you like to talk about, so you can follow more people who offer you value.

Tweetworks:  Move classroom discussion online into threaded groups that can be responded to from most Twitter applications, with each discussion having its own url.

Seesmic: The new version of this desktop app is great for educators and those in higher ed. It’s Tweetdeck plus maintenance of multiple accounts at the same time.

Twitilator: This is an iPhone app that has a lot of great options for Twittering from your phone.  Twitterberry has gotten some kudos for the blackberry.

TweetGrid: You can break this real-time search browser into several searches that update in real time, not only perfect for general monitoring, but a great visual addition to a class lecture.

Hashtags: Combining this service with something like TweetGrid or Tweetdeck, you can assign a specific hashtag to your lecture for students to Twitter live comments or questions, and project them onto a screen, or pick out the juicy ones for post-lecture content.

Tweetscan: By getting a notification everytime your custom search terms are mentioned on Twitter, you’re able to keep up-to-date on pertinent items coming out in the Twitosphere.

Breaking Tweets: By compiling the latest world news and Twitter feedback on that news, you can know not only what’s going on, but what people are saying about it in the Twitosphere.

TwitTrans: Have your Tweets translated into any language!

Twitscoop: This tool allows you to track trends in what’s being talked about online.  Know what’s going on in your discipline as soon as it comes out, or add some last minute content to the classroom setting.

postica: Have a note you want to get out to your students or your department?  Put it on a post-it on Twitter.

twtpoll: Conduct your own poll, including students, colleagues, etc.

Image via CrunchBase

This is a little delayed (I was reading an old TIME at the gym this morning), but I feel compelled to respond to Lev Grossman’s article from the 16 March issue, titled “Quitting Twitter.”

The subtitle of the piece is “It’s the social network du jour.  But what do we really get out of it, aside from interrupted?

I certainly can’t blame Lev for thinking this.  Heck, 90% of my friends always ask me “What’s the deal with Twitter?”  And maybe 30% of those still haven’t even heard of it.  So I thought I’d take a few minutes to throw my own observations out for people in this position to ponder about.

My biggest piece of advice for Lev, since he seemed to not being finding value out of people’s Tweets is to find where he value is and who’s giving it!  Search for people in your field or interested in general news, or nerd topics like technology.  Read their bios, read their first page of Tweets.  If the tweets are mostly about getting burritos with hot salsa instead of mild or how awesome it is to watch their cat playing with a tennis ball… it sounds like that might not be valuable to you.  If they’re on interesting news, observations on specific topics, or they seem to be having good conversation, that’s a great start.

Just as I could pick up a romance novel to read in bed at night, I could also pick up a book that had substance and meaning.

Awesome (and useful!) ways I’ve seen Twitter being used

  1. Early crisis warning, like what Nate Ritter is doing with CrisisWire. (@nateritter) [Note: In my opinion, the aggregation of Twitter is one of the coolest things I see happening to Twitter's future].
  2. Speaking of aggregation, how about getting updates from around the world on Inauguration Day experiences on Inauguration Report?
  3. Getting yourself out of Egyptian jail, as was the case for student James Karl Buck last April.
  4. Finding out about local and national information on industry networking events, gatherings, news, information, products… you name it… all from Twitter.  Oh!  I forgot to mention we got a paying client too!
  5. Raising a lot of money for charities or social good, as was the case with Twestival (among many, many other cases).
  6. Starting meaningful conversation, like PR professional Sarah Evans (@PRSarahevans) has done with #journchat.
  7. Helping people and families close to you using your social network, as David Armano did for his friend Daniela and her family. (@armano)

Some of my big favorites to follow for value, aside from those already mentioned? @guykawasaki, @shelisrael, @timoreilly, @knealemann,…. I’m gunna stop here, I could go on for a really, REALLY long time.

If you want to check in with the funders of Twitter?  Follow @Fredwilson at Union Square Ventures, or you can check out his blog, A VC (search for “Twitter” and you’ll get all the information you need to see why he supports it).

Lev ends by reminding us all to “just remember, the un-Twittered life is still worth living.“  Lev, thank you, really, but most of us do know that.  Some people, of course don’t.  Some people also don’t think regular old life is worth living either.  It’s all about how you use it, and how you work it into your life.

Do you have any other examples of great Twitter usage?  Anyone Lev should be following?  Any advice for him about getting the most out of Twitter?

[Sidenote: I'm currently watching an ABC News clip on this exact topic, pointing to several cases where maybe Twitter is getting out of hand.  I can't find the video at the moment, because it was literally just on, but when I went to search for the video, I came up with this nice clip about using Twitter to teach.]

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