Real World Social Media Workflow — How Much Time Do I Spend Listening?

Social media maven Beth Kanter has been attending a conference on nonprofit use of technology. One of the speakers was Wendy Harman, who runs social media for the Red Cross.

Beth has a great recap of that session here, with these key takeaways:

  • First thing every morning, [Wendy] spends a couple of hours listening – reviewing hundreds of mentions that have been captured in their monitoring radar using a variety of free and professional tools, including Radian 6.   Wendy estimates it’s about 1/4 of her time presently.   I suspect it took more of time in the beginning as she developed her work flow and got over the learning curve – and of course was able to upgrade her tool set.
  • Senior management is not turned off by the term listening.  She often writes social media manifestos, filled with examples, pros/cons, and shows tangible, measurable results from their social media strategy.
  • She has a social media elevator pitch in case she encounters one of the senior people at the organization in the elevator: “I’m the social media lady who builds relationships with our community online.”   Perhaps she extends that to include “that results in increased goodwill, improves our reputation, and donations.”
  • She and the others on staff are no longer afraid of negative comments or posts.  “The opposite of hate is indifference, if someone bothers to post a negative comment it means they care.”  She was also pleasantly surprised about how much was positive.  Negative comments are an opportunity to educate and improve what they are doing.  “It is about being polite and honest.”
  • Wendy balances her personal/organizational social media profiles.  When she uses her personal social networking or twitter account, her rule is not to say anything that would embarrass her mother.
  • Challenges include dealing with the tidal wave of information that they have to analyze and manage. One of the values of a professional tool is that it saves a lot of time in the work flow.  Focusing on the how to represent learning in a visual way.  Laura Lee Dooley shared this example (bookmarked posts of people talking about her organization fed into Wordle)
  • Their community now knows that they are listening and the conversation has changed from talking to how we help you.
  • They have an extensive social media participation policy that has helped spur adoption internally.

Looking at my own workflow, I realize that my mornings are often spent “listening” — yet I don’t call it that. I have seen it as time I am wasting and that I ought to minimize. Now I see I ought to perhaps consider boosting it a bit.

Looking For Mr. GoodBlog

My friend Adam Pagnucco, who writes a blog on Maryland Politics called, natch, Maryland Politics Watch, had a fascinating post just the other day.

Actually, it wasn’t by him — it was by his wife, Holly Olson. In it, she chronicles the history of her husband’s involvement with MPW and blogging, and announces there are going to be a few changes. Seems the two have a bun in the oven, and Adam’s been asked to scale back a few of his bloggiest traits.

Holly ends the post with this: “[T]his would be a great time for all of you wanna-be bloggers to step up to the plate and start providing guest posts. There are plenty of insightful, witty, and thoughtful readers out there who could offer a post or two a month. So let’s keep MPW alive and active — but let’s do so as a community endeavor. After all, I know that you all will continue to need your political fix — baby or no baby.”

This struck me because in mid-2007 I started a blog about my town called Rockville Central. It’s a sort of civic experiment, trying to open up new spaces for people to communicate on local public issues. It’s been successful (at least along most of the the measurements I care about) but it has fallen short in one aspect: not as many other people have followed suit as I suspected might. There was one other Rockville-based online information source called Rockville Living when I started (a very good site by the way). There are other info sources for the county, and some arts-related things, but not many new sites have cropped up that are just centered on the city.

I think there should be more and I have hoped that folks would emerge with their own blogs, looking at various aspects of what’s going on. But it hasn’t happened to the extent I’d like to see. At least not yet.

Now, to be fair, I have not been explicit about that hope the way Holly is in her post. I will be watching to see how other individuals respond to her call. So far, though, I have seen a small uptick in “outside contributions,” but it doesn’t look like Adam is working any less hard.

Maybe, over at my end, it’s time to start suggesting the idea to certain people directly!

Run A Local Newspaper?

Yesterday two things converged that really got me thinking about localism.

First, I published my analysis of Rockville Central’s reader survey. It was my first chance to see what the readers of my hyperlocal news site really thought about my volunteer work over the last eighteen months or so. It was very gratifying, and at the end I wrote: “[It is] clear that many, many of you who took the time to respond see Rockville Central as ‘yours.’ That means so much and I will always try to respect that.”

Second, I ran across a fascinating tips-from-the-trenches piece on what it’s like to take over and run a local newspaper. This piece included a great sidebar:

You Want To Buy A Weekly?

Find an owner/operator who is retiring. Don’t worry about quality. You can improve the content and revenue yourself. 

Financing was tough before the credit crunch, and it’s next to impossible now. So you may have to do an owner-financed deal or pay for this out of your own pocket. The price of a paper depends on its annual revenue, so if you’re looking for a deal, think small and rural.

Pack a lunch. You won’t have the time or the money to eat out for the first few months. (Perhaps years.)
 
Consider your business skills. You can create great journalism, but do you know how to run a circulation program and print labels? Keep track of ads and expenses? You have to take a hundred bags and bins to the post office — who will do that? 

Be humble. Readers don’t care if you won Pulitzer or interviewed governors. They care about their community, whether you make it better and whether you spell their name correctly.

Be true to yourself. This is tough. You’re running a business and you’re a valuable member of the community, but you have to uphold your core values.

All sounds very much like the advice I gave anyone thinking of starting their own community news blog!

It’s all got me thinking: Is it time to develop a real business model for Rockville Central, and embed it even further as a local institution?

Living In Public

My friend Thomas Kriese pointed me to a piece by a NY-based VC named Fred Wilson. It’s about “living publicly.” There are a lot of ways you might take that term — in this case it describes the state that it seems many of my friends experience these days. With all the blogging, Twitter, FaceBook, FriendFeed, and whatnot, it seems like we are living on display, out there in public for all to see.

Fred bases his post on an email message from Jason Calacanis that outlines a number of the negative consequences that one faces when one is a blogger. One such observation: “At some point, a participant, or more typically his or her thinking, will be compared to the Nazis.”

That seems a pretty steep price to pay, just because one writes a blog. But I can tell you, the negative feedback inherent in living in public is real. While you may take great care over each specific blog post, the sad truth is that most people who are moved to comment do so becuase they disagree with you, and they only rarely take as much care with their comments as you did in the first place. The result, for many bloggers, is a constant, low-grade irritation. Any given post will generate resentful comments or emails. It adds up and eventually you just become inured.

Still, it’s disconcerting. “But, this is what you asked for,” some might say. After all, aren’t you seeking fame? The thing is . . . no. Most bloggers I know actually want to connect, to hold a meaningful dialogue, or have a forum within which to flesh out their thoughts. (That’s typically what I am after in my various online fora.) They aren’t seeking celebrity. So it seems an unfair thing to say that they somehow “deserve” negative attention for having the courage to speak up.

Nevertheless, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, at least in my view. I feel a greater sense of connection, encounter a greater diversity of ideas, and connect with a wider range of people than I would otherwise, all through online social media.

Fred Wilson has been living publicly in this way for some years, and his post ends with a series of useful rules for doing so and keeping a smile:

1) Keep your family out of it until they want to be in it
2) Be nice.
3) Demand that others are nice back.
4) Encourage the community to police the comments. Early on Jackson was my “bouncer” and now Kid Mercury has assumed that role.
5) Take the nasty comments lightly and use humor to defuse them.
6) Do not delete comments unless they are hateful to others, porn, or spam.
7) Ignore the trolls even though it kills you
8) Be careful with photos. They greatest lesson I got was when I posted a photo of me on vacation looking smug. Bad move that I learned a lot from.
9) Give more than you take.
10) Enjoy yourself. Talking, discussing, and debating is fun. Keep it that way.

Great advice.

Selling To Business And Thinking About Using Social Media? You're LATE.

A remarkable report crossed my desk from the Groundswell folks at Forrester Research. It’s a study of the social media habits of a representative sample of business-to-business buyers.

These are the folks you imagine are dry. Buying stuff for their company, from other companies. Where’s the innovation to be had there?

Well, you’d be surprised. This group of people are among the most socially active. Fully 91% of them use some form of social media — 69% are using it for business purposes. This isn’t just sucking time with FaceBook. “This means you can count on the fact that your buyers are reading blogs, watching user generated video, and participating in other social media,” according to the Groundswell blog post.

A key finding of the report:

If you’re a B2B marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you’re late. We’ve seen a lot of excellent activity here from the likes of Dell and National Instruments (both won Forrester Groundswell awards) but a lot of the blogs, communities, and other social outreach from business to business companies is less than mature, to say the least. This is your chance to stand out. Take this report and show it to your boss to convince her that it’s time to get started.

Selling To Business And Thinking About Using Social Media? You’re LATE.

A remarkable report crossed my desk from the Groundswell folks at Forrester Research. It’s a study of the social media habits of a representative sample of business-to-business buyers.

These are the folks you imagine are dry. Buying stuff for their company, from other companies. Where’s the innovation to be had there?

Well, you’d be surprised. This group of people are among the most socially active. Fully 91% of them use some form of social media — 69% are using it for business purposes. This isn’t just sucking time with FaceBook. “This means you can count on the fact that your buyers are reading blogs, watching user generated video, and participating in other social media,” according to the Groundswell blog post.

A key finding of the report:

If you’re a B2B marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you’re late. We’ve seen a lot of excellent activity here from the likes of Dell and National Instruments (both won Forrester Groundswell awards) but a lot of the blogs, communities, and other social outreach from business to business companies is less than mature, to say the least. This is your chance to stand out. Take this report and show it to your boss to convince her that it’s time to get started.

"I Divorce Thee . . . "

I recently witnessed an interesting event. 

Some people I know on Facebook, who had sort of reconnected after a long hiatus since childhood, got into a political argument and appear to have “broken up.”

Each side had their points, but it was a great example of how hard it can be to engage with people you disagree with. We like to call for people to “disagree without being disagreeable” but it’s easier said than done.

In this case, the rhetoric was OK for almost the entire exchange, and then — it seemed almost in the midst of a post — one of them got angry and made mention of unfriending the other. At that point, the other basically said “fine. See if I care.”

“I divorce thee,” in other words.

It’s easy to wring one’s hands and think “oh, it could have been avoided.” But I’m not so sure. Sometimes people just get in fights. It takes a lot of energy to stay out of that paradigm when you feel strongly about something.

Will they patch it up? I don’t know.

I do know that, once things are said . . . they become very difficult to unsay.