Why You Need to “Cross the Streams” on Social Media

Egon Spengler: “Don’t cross the streams.”

Peter Venkman: “Why?”

Spengler: “It would be bad.”

Venkman: “I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, ‘bad?’”

Spengler: “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Ray Stantz: “Total protonic reversal.”

Venkman: Right. “That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.”

-Ghostbusters (1984)

 

Even though Ghostbusters came out 30 years ago, many of the film’s lessons still resonate. Thanks to the movie, we know how to respond when a demon inquires if you’re a “God,” what the “magic” word really is, and why you should never, under any circumstances, participate in one of Bill Murray’s “experiments.” Another lesson from the film, and one included in the passage above, is to never “cross the streams.”

Why? Because, as Egon explains, it would be “bad.”

But anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the foursome–when faced with a VERY large and angry marshmallow man–breaks this cardinal rule in order to save New York City from ruin.

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Sometimes–whether you’re facing a seriously pissed off Stay Puft Marshmallow Man or a tepid Facebook audience–you have no choice but to “cross the streams.”

I used to feel the same way as Dr. Venkam and company about “crossing the streams” on social media. Because of this, I would silo my work on Twitter and Facebook; keeping the two completely separate.  I would NEVER try to bring an audience from Twitter to Facebook (or vice versa), and I rarely used Twitter to promote what was happening on Facebook.

But, like the protagonists in Ghostbusters, I had a change of heart and in this post I’ll share why I did and, more importantly, why it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while.

My Facebook Conundrum

Facebook, as a marketing tool, has always mystified me–even before they messed with their algorithm. While I’d had some success with the platform (see my post, “Cracking the Facebook Engagement Code”) as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office, capturing consistent engagement had proven elusive. One thing I found especially difficult was getting alumni to comment on my posts. When I FINALLY realized that my strategy–posting content or questions and waiting for responses–wasn’t working I decided to do something different.

This new approach began with people who liked the content I posted (see below).

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Using the HBS alumni directory, I determined which people who “liked” or shared my content were alumni AND on Twitter. After collecting this information on an excel spreadsheet, I then actively encouraged these individuals to “cross” their social media streams. For example, I would “ping” these graduates on Twitter and encourage them to share their perspective on something I had posted on Facebook. Before pursuing this approach in earnest, though, I spent a few weeks researching all the items I posted on the platform in 2013 (this process took a number of hours and, for the always strapped for time social media manager, this may pose a problem. But, as I will share shortly, this approach is definitely worth the effort) and by the time I was done, I had 50+ Twitter handles at my disposal.

Then, I went to work.

The first question I posed using this new strategy focused on entrepreneurship.

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And the first tweets I sent looked something like this.

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At first, the response rate was slow. But as the hours passed, things picked up. By the time I’d finished this outreach, 36 alumni had posted comments.

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But this “crossing the streams” approach is about much more than generating comments.

By knowing who responds to a post, I can then engage with the RIGHT people on Facebook. This engagement can also be more substantive than on Twitter since respondents are not constrained by a 140 character limit. Evidence of this “substance” is in the long, thoughtful comments alumni shared in response to my follow-up questions.

Furthermore, this user-generated content can be leveraged in a novel way on Twitter. Since my work on this platform is all about engagement (see my post, “Rules of Twitter Engagement” at http://robertbochnak.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/219/), I can use this Facebook activity as another means to bolster engagement with alumni on Twitter, especially those who are interested in a specific topic area, in this case entrepreneurship.

Below is an example of this strategy in action.

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This approach led to, among other things, 163 clickthroughs to my Facebook link and helped, albeit in a modest way, address the change in Facebook’s algorithm. Proof of this is in the vast difference in the “people who saw” my post on entrepreneurism (898) compared to those who saw the two posts that preceded it, which clocked in at 425 and 356 people, respectively. And since my Facebook “crossing the streams” strategy is in its infancy, I predict even more success as I identify additional alumni on both social media platforms.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.  Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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The Importance of Being Observant

There’s A LOT my wife doesn’t “get” about me.

She can’t understand how, if given the choice, I’d eat the same thing every day (i.e., burger and fries) or why I wear my torn and weathered jeans when I have several pristine pairs sitting in my closet. My spouse is also mystified by my obsession with superheroes–which is understandable since I’ll be 40 in May–and how I manage to splash water everywhere while doing the dishes.

But there’s one thing that perplexes my wife more than anything else.

It’s the regularity in which I bump into walls, chairs, bed frames, and other inanimate objects in our house.

Her sentiment makes complete sense; we have, after all, lived at the same address for 7 years so I should be able to find my way around. But, unfortunately, this isn’t the case and my wife believes my “bumps” in the night, morning, and afternoon are because I’m not observant.

(She’s probably right. After all, I have been known to ask, while driving, “Hey, when did that Pizzeria Uno open?” Only to hear, “Um, it opened 6 months ago, honey.”)

Now contrast this with my social media work for the Harvard Business School (HBS). If anything, I can be too observant, but I believe this as an asset as opposed to a deficit and in this post I’ll share why.

Making Your Time Count

My office is located a half mile away for the HBS campus. Because of this, I spend very little time on the main campus. When I do go there, it’s usually for a meting or to hit the gym, which I do  3-4 times a week. The gym is a five-minute walk from the school’s parking lot, so the amount of time I’m actually on campus each week is about 40 minutes–20 minutes of walking to the gym, 20 minutes strolling back. These walks, while short, have been very helpful from a social media perspective. I have witnessed glimpses of campus life that I’ve been able to integrate into my Twitter and Facebook work to great effect. The screen shots below are glimpses of what I’ve seen.

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While all these screen shots are different, they do have something in common.

None of them were planned.

In each case, I happened to notice something interesting, whipped out my Android, and took a few photos. I usually waited until I got back to the office to post the photos and then I waited to see what kind of response we’d get on Facebook. I also used Twitter to drive followers to the page.

The results for this type of unplanned social media activity were positive. The first three posts, which together, resulted in 66 likes, 5 comments, and 4 shares, outperformed, by a fairly significant margin, the content I’d usually post on Facebook. The fourth post of the child “riding in style” was different. With 97 likes, it remains one of the highest performing items I’ve posted.

There is, of course, a lesson to be learned here beyond the importance of “awareness.” The lesson is that opportunities for social media engagement can happen anywhere and at any time. You just need to pay attention to the right “signs” and have the proper tools to act accordingly.

Below are the “signs” I look for and the tools I typically have at my disposal.

1) Audience Benefit

Whether I’m sitting at my desk or strolling to the gym, I’m usually thinking about my audience. My audience, for example, is interested in connecting with HBS and they feel a genuine sense of nostalgia for the school. Since the alumni are on the “older” side, many have families which is also a consideration. So, when I’m walking through campus and I see something of interest, I usually stop and think A) will this be of interest to a critical mass of alumni and B) how can I use it if I do take action? There have been many cases where I’ve seen something cool, but realized that it wasn’t a good fit and kept on walking. The “riding in style” opportunity was a perfect example of all the right elements coming together–the child’s riding through a building alumni are very familiar with, he’s a child (which appeals to the parent set), and, in a more general sense, he’s doing something unique; after all it’s pretty rare to see a three-wheeler racing across a tiled floor at Harvard.

2) Move Fast

Life, as the philosopher Ferris Bueller said, “moves pretty fast” so too must the social media manager. When capturing unplanned content, it helps to have a camera or phone at the ready. I would suggest having the latter since it’s very easy, with today’s smartphones, to take a photo and post it onto social media in minutes, if not seconds, after you take it. It only took a few minutes for the boy to ride by, so time was of the essence. Fortunately, I was ready.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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Taking it to the Next Level with Twitter

If you believe almost EVERY romantic film ever made, there comes a time when a relationship reaches that point; the stage where one party needs to–as 2gether, the greatest fictional boy band of all time would say–take it to “the next level.” If this evolution doesn’t happen it can get real ugly, real fast in the form of confrontations involving tears, thrown objects, cursing, and sometimes all of the above.

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Direct messages can help you take it to “the next level” with your social media.

While relationships on Twitter aren’t nearly as complicated and emotionally-charged as those in real life, there are some benefits to getting to a deeper, more personal place with your followers. For social media managers, this often means exposing the person or people “behind the brand,” and in this post I’ll share how, in my role as the Twitter guy for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office, I’ve used direct messages to both enhance the relationships we have with our @HBSalumni Twitter followers AND support specific outreach projects.

Getting Some Action

My supervisor and I first decided to use direct messages as part of our #HBSMakingADifference initiative. The project asks HBS alumni to print out a “card,” write how they are making a difference in their professional or personal lives, take a photo with the card, and then post the pic on Twitter or Instagram (the project can be viewed at  http://instagram.com/hbsalumni). Before embarking on our social media outreach, we took photos of alumni while they were on campus for reunions, conferences, and other events. We also included an ad for the project in our quarterly alumni magazine. While we had good participation during events, we found that alumni weren’t submitting photos between these gatherings. Tweeting and posting on Facebook and LinkedIn wasn’t working either, so we decided to take a more aggressive approach using direct messages.

In the beginning, our strategy was to send direct messages to our most active followers (to see how I track active alumni activity on Twitter, check out “Making the Case: Explaining the Return on Investment (ROI) of Your Social Media Efforts” at http://robertbochnak.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/850/). In time, though, we decided to reach out to as many followers as possible on our Twitter tracking list (for more on my tracking process, go to http://robertbochnak.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/219/).

All told, we planned to send 250-300 direct messages so it was necessary to 1) have a template for the direct messages and 2) have a template follow-up email for those interested in participating. In the direct messages, we also wanted to provide an example of the #HBSMakingADifference project so alumni could have a visual marker for the initiative. Here’s the direct message and email we decided upon.

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So, how did we do? Well, it’s been a mixed bag so far. Quantitatively, over 100 alumni (and counting) expressed an interest in participating. Up to this point, though, only 23 ohave either posted their photo or emailed it to me. We are in the process of following up with these 77 other alumni, but I’m not too optimistic that we’ll be able to vastly improve these numbers.

One silver lining, though, is in the quality of the 23 photos. For the most part, the photos taken during events have the same backgrounds and “look,” but this is definitely NOT the case with the images gathered through our social media outreach, evident in the screen grab below.

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Also, now that many of our followers know who’s behind @HBSalumni, it may be easier to solicit responses or content for other projects in the future.

While there have been some highs and lows with this project, I believe that direct messages not only encourage alumni action (albeit in a modest way), but also may improve alumni engagement/participation both in the short- and long-term.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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Collaboration Works: How Social Media Managers Can Make the Most of Their Interactions with Fellow Communications Professionals

Nothing beats a good rivalry.

Whether it’s the Red Sox versus the Yankees, the Hatfields versus the McCoys, or Kanye West versus, well, everyone, these complex, often dysfunctional relationships keep life interesting. Just imagine where we’d be if fans of Star Trek and Star Wars actually got along? If they did, we wouldn’t have such epic–and, let’s be honest here, VERY, VERY dorky–throwdowns like this.

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(And to think, I thought I was uncool growing up. At least I never donned a stormtrooper outfit, though I’m not sure what would have happened if I was given the opportunity.)

Not all rivalries are a good thing, though. The tense relationships that can occur between social media professionals and their communications/marketing counterparts falls into this category. Tension between these parties is understandable. As a social media manager, my primary goal is to engender as much engagement as possible. While “content” is important, I rarely generate it myself; the only “content” I create is of the user-generated variety in the form of, for example, Twitter chats (some examples from my work with the Harvard Business School (HBS) alumni office can be found at http://storify.com/hbsalumni/the-year-in-review and http://storify.com/hbsalumni/where-did-blackberry-go-wrong).

On the other hand, the people who write articles, press releases, brochures and other marketing and communications materials are all about content. Engagement (at least of the measurable kind) is secondary and, as a former magazine writer, I can relate to how difficult it was to gauge engagement with my audience (Case in point: The magazine I wrote for had a circulation of 11,000 and I heard from our readers maybe 40-50  times over the course of a decade. Contrast this with my social media work; I often have interactions with as many individual alumni, via @HBSalumni, during a single WEEK).

But these relationships don’t need to be strained. They can actually be mutually beneficial and in this post I’ll share how we have managed to do this at HBS.

All Together Now

Three things happen when you spend winter break watching a High School Musical marathon with your six-year-old daughter.

1. You have some seriously messed up dreams when you go to sleep.

2. You become convinced that every basketball game should conclude with a choreographed song and dance.

3. You end up singing songs from the films in your car, in line for coffee, and during meetings (yes, this did happen and yes the song was “I Don’t Dance“).

HS Musical

What can “High School Musical” teach us about social media? A lot.

But there is something to be said for the messages conveyed in these songs, particularly those expressed in “We’re All in This Together.”  The song, played at the conclusion of the first High School Musical, highlights that, to be successful, everyone from the star athlete to the “nerd” needs to be working toward the same goal (in the case of the movie, making sure that Troy and Gabriella can participate in the “Big Game” and the “Academic Decathlon,” respectively, while also making their audition for the school musical).

This collective “ethos” is also critical when it comes to having productive relationships between social media managers and their communications colleagues. At HBS, we have done this (and by “we” I mean my supervisor) by having bi-weekly content meetings to share what we’re working on. These gatherings are critically important. They help us, as a group, determine the best ways to collaborate and they put EVERYONE on an equal footing. This second point is important since it’s very easy for social media professionals to work in a vacuum and feel that they are on the outside. We don’t create content, at least not in the traditional sense, and it’s difficult to express our work in a tangible way (e.g., a magazine editor can hold up his or her magazine, someone in web communications can pull up a website they have created). But, with an office culture that breeds collaboration and a more fluid hierarchy it’s possible for ALL communications professionals–those in social media included–to work together effectively.

Choose the Right Approach and Channel

With the right office culture in place, the next step is finding a communications-related project that’s a good fit. Typically, this is a project that will gain moderate to high traction on social media (i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook) and will lead to the creation of user-generated content that can be used in a print or online publication.

We followed this approach at HBS when a few of our writers embarked on a new Case Study initiative. The objective of the project was for an alumnus/alumna to share a business challenge he/she was having and we would solicit ideas and other feedback via social media. Since we were hoping to get longer form answers, we immediately ruled out Twitter based on its character limit. We considered Facebook, but decided against this platform due to the difficulty we had experienced in bringing alumni “across channels.” By “across channels,” I’m referring to our practice of promoting an engagement opportunity via Twitter with the hope that alumni would make the jump over to Facebook (note: While we’ve had some success doing this, our results have been so erratic that we’ve abandoned this practice for the time being). Our best option, therefore, was to use LinkedIn as the primary engine for this initiative (see below).

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Once we posted this item, we went to work in earnest. Since our goal was, naturally, to have broad alumni participation we sent a series of LinkedIn messages to members of our alumni group. Our rationale for doing this was basic; if we could help “seed” the responses a bit, we believed the discussion might go “viral.” Well, as viral as a discussion within our group could become. So, we sent the following message to a number of alumni who had responded to a previous question or article we had shared on LinkedIn.

And then we waited.

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We didn’t have to wait long. Comments, like those listed below, came in within hours of our messages, and at last count our outreach led to 30 alumni comments–many of which were included in the case study story our editor wrote.

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Take Two

We took a different approach for another case study. Like with the previous example, our content manager hoped to use social media as a means to generate user-generated content that could be used in a print or online publication. He began by posting the following to our alumni site.

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Once this information was posted, we sent targeted tweets to our “highly engaged” alumni (for more on alumni Twitter engagement see my post, “Making the Case: Explaining the Return on Investment (ROI) of Your Social Media Efforts”) over the course of 2 to 3 days using TweetDeck. In the body of the tweets, we used vernacular common to HBS alumni; we told them they were being “cold-called.” The tweets also included the url for the specific alumni web page. While we didn’t get the volume we were hoping for, our content manager got more than enough copy for his article, as illustrated below.

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Ultimately, I feel that these efforts were a success. I got the engagement I was, as always, looking for and our content manager got the copy he needed for his work. Furthermore, this process was incredibly helpful for me when it came to using LinkedIn, specifically. I had never thought of using direct messages to encourage conversation and I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been forced to think–and I HATE to use this overused term, but I think it applies here–outside the box.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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My Favorite Social Media Mistake and What I Learned from It (Part 2)

What do Toy Story 2, Superman 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Shrek 2 all have in common…besides being totally awesome sequels to popular films?

Answer: All of these sequels have happy endings.

So, why is this particular detail important? It’s relevant because I want my readers to know upfront that the sequel I’m writing–to my inaugural favorite social media mistake post–has much more in common with the dark conclusions of The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and The Sixth Sense. Obviously, we can debate whether these films truly end happily, but we can agree that it’s hard to feel “good” as the credits roll (case in point: Luke’s dad, Darth Vader, chops off his hand at the end of Empire; by the time Aliens ends, Ripley’s entire crew, save for Newt, a “sliced and diced” robot, and a busted up Corporal Hicks have all perished; and Dr. Crowe, Bruce Willis’ character in The Sixth Sense, realizes he’s actually been dead THE WHOLE MOVIE). 

While my “story” doesn’t have any “daddy issues” or cute little tikes who can “hear dead people,” it does have all the elements of a good movie…drama, suspense, and resolution (albeit it’s a denouement–and yes, this is the one word I remember from high school French–that left a cold taste in my mouth). Fortunately, though, I did learn a few things from my second social media mistake and in this post I’ll share what happened and what I learned from it.

My White Whale

I had been an admirer of it for a long time. Each day, I would log on and see scantily clad models, athletes in action, photos of food from around the globe, and at least fifty photos of “One Direction” crooner Harry Styles.

Yes, the object of my affection was Instagram.

Before coming to the Harvard Business School (HBS), I had never used Instagram in a professional capacity. This was the case, at least for a while, even after I started working at HBS. Three months ago, this all changed. As part of a new photo project, I was asked to launch our Instagram feed and start populating it with photos. We chose a hashtag for the pics (#HBSMakingADifference) and I got to work. The process wasn’t particularly easy since I had to load the photos onto Instagram from my laptop; the images were taken with a handheld camera during a series of events. But I was able to find software (i.e., Gramblr) that enabled me to do this. Things were proceeding as planned (i.e., the photos were loading successfully) until I noticed something peculiar.

The hashtag wasn’t functioning properly.

That is, when I clicked on #HBSMakingADifference none of the photos appeared. After freaking out for a few minutes (okay, it was more like an hour) I went to work trying to solve the problem. Over the next three weeks, I…

-Uninstalled/reinstalled Gramblr and tried reloading photos: Strike 1!

-Uninstalled/reinstalled Instagram on my Android and tried reposting photos: Strike 2!

-Contacted our central communications office to see if they could help: Strike 3!

-Sent seven (!) “help” messages to Instagram: Strike, um, 4?

-Sent four “help” messages to Facebook: Strike…well, I think you get the idea.

All told, I spent several hours trying to solve this problem, hoping to avoid the inevitable: my having to reload EVERY photo I had posted previously.

Realizing I was out of viable options, I went onto Instagram, created a new account, and posted one of my photos with the #HBSMakingADifference hashtag as a test. Fortunately, the hashtag worked so I immediately began reposting the photos onto the new page. Once all the images were uploaded, I deleted the original Instagram account I had set up.

Since this post is about a social media mistake (and I use the term “mistake” VERY loosely since I could argue that I was victim of a technical glitch more than anything else) I made and what I learned from it here are some things I took away from the experience.

1. ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, make sure your Instagram hashtags are functioning properly at the beginning of your project. It’s never fun to put a lot of time into a social media initiative only to realize you have to start over from scratch.

2. Sometimes the best plan of attack is right in front of you. I knew early on that I would probably have to start over. At most, I should have contacted Instagram and Facebook twice each and then moved on to solving the hashtag problem myself. Putting my problem in the hands of other “people” wasn’t the right strategy.

3. Don’t be afraid to “pivot.” In business vernacular, a “pivot” is when a company changes direction when a particular approach isn’t working. I knew that I needed to pivot, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I was so hung up on the hours I had invested in my project, that I was unwilling to see any other way out. In social media, you always need to be objective and concentrate on solving the problem at hand and moving onto the next item on your list. In this case, I failed. Big time.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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Wet Willies, Kegs, and Social Media Causality

Things were much easier when I was younger.

If my younger brother was watching television and I didn’t agree with his program selection, all it would take was a “noogie” or a strategically-timed “wet willy” (and the threat of more to come) for him to cede control of the remote–until, of course, my parents found out what I did and I would be sent away to my room for the rest of the day or evening.

As a college student, things were even simpler. When I lived off campus, all we had to do was purchase a few kegs; make some phone calls (I was an undergraduate well before Facebook and texting arrived so we had to rely on much more rudimentary modes of communication); and, before long, our living room would be crammed with fellow students sipping (okay, chugging) red solo cups full of “Natty Light.”

Now that I’m a little older–okay, I’m more than a “little” as my fortieth birthday will be arriving this spring–I find that it’s much more difficult to “make things happen,” especially when it comes to my kids; I consider it a huge victory when they put away their dishes or hang up their coats. This challenge also extends to my social media work, and in this post I’ll share some strategies I use to influence (I hope) the actions of those I interact with and how I can “prove” the causality of my outreach.

Directing (and Measuring) Traffic

In my previous post titled, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Social Media,” I shared some best practices for “selling” the merits of social media to your supervisors and other leaders in your organization. Another way to make the social media argument is showing, in concrete terms, the results of your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media-related work. Granted, this isn’t always possible as I’ve found it very difficult to prove causality when it comes to Facebook and LinkedIn. By “causality,” I mean being able to say with clarity that my efforts contributed to an alumni contribution or event registration. I’ve spent A LOT of time thinking about measuring impact–if you’ve read any of my previous posts, especially “Explaining the ROI of Your Social Media Efforts” and “Social Media Event Coverage: An Integrated Approach (Part 3)” you understand this–but it’s always been a challenge (if near impossible) to claim that “yes, I helped play a part in making this–webinar registration, donation, etc. happen.”

But I do think I’m on to something, specifically a way to use social media to both influence and measure alumni action. Here’s the story…

A few months ago, I was approached by a colleague at the Harvard Business School about promoting a webinar. In the past, I would have gone right to TweetDeck–after getting approval from my supervisor to help my colleague–and start tweeting immediately to alumni who might be interested in the webinar. This time around, I took a different approach. First, I spoke with my colleague and found out when she planned to share the webinar information with alumni via email, since I wanted my tweets to be sent at least a week after her email was so I could determine, with some reliability, if my tweets had led to an increase in registrations.

Once I determined the optimal dates for sending out my scheduled tweets, I went to my Twitter tracking sheet (for more on social media tracking, see my post titled, “Rules of Twitter Engagement”) and, since the webinar focused on charitable giving and its positive impact, I pulled Twitter handles for all alumni who included “nonprofit,” “President,” or “CEO” in their bios.

Using these handles, I created four different Twitter “messages” and scheduled them, using TweetDeck, to be sent at one hour intervals over the course of seventy-two hours. Prior to scheduling these “direct” tweets—and by “direct’ tweets, I’m referring to those that include the handles of specific alumni followers—I sent a series of “broadcast” tweets (those that did not include handles of alumni), as well as posts on Facebook and LinkedIn

Once I completed my social media outreach, I conducted my analysis. Here’s what I came up with.

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As you can see, the numbers above aren’t that impressive. Even though we have more than 8,000 followers, I didn’t see much in the way of clickthroughs, retweets, or comments. Also, I have no way of gauging if my broadcast tweets had any impact on webinar registration.

Here’s what happened when I sent out my direct tweets.

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Obviously, I had a lot more activity with this direct approach, evident in the amount of clickthroughs (68), retweets (12), and comments (11). But more importantly I was able to draw a direct link between my direct tweets and event registration–five alumni registered for the webinar based on my tweets.

How did I figure this out? It’s simple, really. I contacted my colleague and asked her to send me a spreadsheet listing all alumni who registered for the webinar in the hours after I sent my first direct tweet. I then reviewed the list and located the names of alumni I tweeted the event information to.

Granted, five webinar registrants is nothing to brag about (I was actually very disappointed by the tepid registration response, but I was happy with the number of comments) but what I have now is a model that I can replicate–in fact, the day after Thanksgiving I have a series of direct tweets going out for another webinar. Moving forward, I will be able to make the argument that, at least when it comes to event registration, there is a casual relationship between my activity and alumni action. This is yet another way to sell–especially to “higher ups”–why social media matters.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Social Media

If you’re reading this post, you’ve undoubtedly had “the talk.”

No, this isn’t the discussion that includes the words “your services for the company are no longer needed” “it’s not you, it’s me,” or “I’m sure it happens to a lot of guys.”

Not that I’ve had any of these chats myself, of course. They’ve involved, um, a friend of mine. Yes, that’s it. A friend.

Rather, the talk I’m referencing is the one that all social media managers have with their superiors, the discussion where you have to share the impact–or Return on Investment (ROI)–of your work with the “powers that be.” While I have blogged about this topic in the past (see Making the Case: Explaining the Return on Investment (ROI) of Your Social Media Efforts”), this post will take a deeper dive into the actual meeting, or meetings, where you have to “talk the talk.”

And while these meetings can be stressful, they are also great opportunities to “sell” the merits of your work and get buy-in from those in your organization who may be skeptical about the benefits of social media.

Come Armed…with Data

I can–as I shared with a colleague the other day–talk all day about the merits of social media. I can provide numerous anecdotal tales of how this alumnus or that alumna engaged with me via Twitter, Facebook, or another social media channel. While these stories can be compelling, they are qualitative measures that can be easily dismissed by a skeptical audience as inconsequential, mere blips on the screen that don’t mean very much.

But there are some numbers that are difficult to challenge. With well-thought-out-data, it’s possible to make the case that social media is an essential part of your organization’s outreach efforts. I’ve included the type of data I collect as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office below.

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With this data, I can show how our social media efforts are 1) making an impact, based on how we are trending upwards in areas such as “total alumni interactions” and 2) something that can be measured in a quantitative way; that it is possible to gauge the impact you’re having in one, or multiple, social media arenas.

But my social media data is far from perfect. The question remains, “well, what does this data mean?” Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. I can’t say with authority if my social media engagement resulted in more gifts to the university or higher attendance at an event, or events. The only way to uncover this particular information would be to survey my social media contacts or speak with them directly; both of these approaches would be very time-consuming and might not even provide the feedback I’m looking for.

But there are some ways to address this question of “data meaning,” and this is where qualitative measures can be useful. By tracking social media conversations (i.e., qualitative information), it’s possible to show that these engagements do mean something; namely that you’ve been successful in capturing the sustained attention of your audience.

Below are some examples of the qualitative measures I’ve used to make my social media case.

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B)

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Examples like these, coupled with “hard data,” can go a long way in displaying the many benefits of social media engagement.

Have a Plan

When meeting with your superiors, it’s a good bet that you’ll be asked to provide a social media plan for the next six- to twelve-months. So, it’s essential to have a strategy in place before you meet. But where do you start? What makes for a compelling, long-term social media strategy? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question since every social media manager has different goals and objectives. But the important thing is to have some kind of plan.

For me, some of my long-term aspirations are as follows.

A) To reach 10,000 followers.

B) To determine which of our current 8,500 followers are alumni and then add those who are to the appropriate Twitter tracking list (for more on Twitter tracking lists see my post at http://robertbochnak.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/to-do-lists-staffing-and-a-whole-lot-of-strategery/)

C) To establish, if possible, a causal relationship between our social media activity and increased registration for alumni webinars and other events.

D) To increase our total alumni interactions by 10% each month.

C) To increase the number of individual alumni we interact with by 5% each month.

Keep an Open Mind

Will Smith was right, “parents just don’t understand.” Some social media managers may feel the same way about their supervisors when it comes to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels. But regardless of your assumptions–many of which prove to be incorrect–it’s important to go into social media meetings with the right attitude, one in which you’re open to the suggestions of those who may not work in a social space. Colleagues who produce or manage content, coordinate events, or interact with prospects can provide invaluable information and suggestions that can positively influence your approach to social media. On a personal level, counsel from colleagues have impacted events I’ve covered (e.g., suggesting specific speakers or panels to live-tweet from); posts I’ve shared on Facebook (e.g., one colleague suggested I post questions on Facebook related to the HBS experience, something which has led to an increase in “likes” and comments); and my day-to-day tweeting (e.g., co-workers have shared articles and other content I may not have found otherwise).

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.

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