What The LEGO Movie Can Teach Us About Social Media

As the father of two children under eight years old, I have seen The LEGO Movie A LOT. But I can’t really complain, especially since the other films I watch on a regular basis feature a pair of sisters with a seriously dysfunctional relationship (C’mon, Anna and Elsa from Frozen communicate exclusively through a door for, what, fifteen years, and we expect them NOT to have any issues?), a tow truck, named “Mater,” in serious need of a dentist, and a “castle steward,” voiced by Tim Gunn,* who serves a princess who ascended to her lofty post “overnight.”

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After spending many hours with Emmet and the gang–and since I see almost everything through the prism of social media–I thought it was an ideal time to write about The LEGO Movie, social media, and what we can learn from one of the highest grossing films of 2014.

Lesson #1: REALLY Listen to Your Audience

One of my favorite scenes from the film happens within the first half hour. After Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) narrowly escape Liam Neeson’s Bad Cop, Emmet reveals that he is not, in fact, “The Special.” Once Wyldstyle gets over her initial anger, she gives Emmet a detailed explanation of the prophecy and the nefarious plans of Lord Business. Emmet responds by saying. “Great. I think I got it. But just in case… tell me the whole thing again, I wasn’t listening.”

While Emmet’s failure to really listen doesn’t do any irreparable damage–Wyldstyle does end up repeating herself–the same can’t be said when it comes to social media, especially Twitter. Dismissing, or flat out ignoring your target audience, can alienate the very people you wish to engage and can lead to negative brand perception. But when you actively listen to your audience AND act on what they are saying–or tweeting–a number of engagement opportunities can arise. Below are a few examples of how, as social media manager for the Harvard Business School (HBS), I have embraced this approach to varying degrees of success.

On Tuesday of this week, alum Alejandro Goyen posted the following tweet.

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Recognizing an ideal engagement opportunity (after “listening” to this alumnus), I responded as follows.

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While Alejandro did favorite my tweet, we didn’t see any other engagement.

Things were much different when we interacted with fellow alumnus Tom Leung, as evident below.

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Like with the previous example, we reacted to what Tom tweeted, but in this case we received a more substantive response.

And once his offer was on the “table,” we had much more to work with social media wise.

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These two examples happened within hours of each other and serve as proof that listening is integral to effective social media engagement.

Lesson #2: Ignore the “Haters”

There are detractors (people who question your decisions and motives) and then there are the haters, individuals who seem to relish in despising you. Emmet has the latter in spades. Everyone from Batman to Abraham Lincoln seem to have it in for our hero, uttering such gems as “You are so disappointing on so many levels.” and “A house divided against itself would be better than this,” respectively.

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Granted, Emmet doesn’t help his own cause, especially when he delivers one of the worst motivational speeches of all time. But even in the face of mounting criticism–coming mostly from the Dark Knight himself–Emmet remains undeterred and succeeds, first by saving Batman and company with his double decker couch and later by convincing Lord Business to lay down his arms, um, Legos.

We can learn a lot from how Emmet dealt with the “haters.” As a field/discipline, social media is still fairly new and because of this it’s not uncommon for social media managers to have their work questioned or criticized. This is completely understandable, especially since much of the work we do is both unpredictable AND experimental. While I can predict some things (e.g., alumni responses to a question I pose on Twitter), I’m often surprised by which content resonates with my audience and which does not; case in point, I posted the link to an article penned by an alumna yesterday, with no idea how it would perform. Based on past posts, I expected 25-30 clickthroughs and maybe 10-11 “likes.” The post generated 600 clickthroughs (and counting) and 24 “likes.” I have absolutely no idea why.

So, how should you “deal” with the “haters?” I can sum it up in three words.

Data, Data, and Data.

Okay, that was four words, but you get the point.

Regardless of the social media platforms, or platforms, you’re focusing on, it’s imperative that you have a way of measuring your success. Here at HBS, I gather data on both global (clickthroughs, “likes”) and granular (individual alumni engagement) levels; for more on my data collection and reporting read, “Making the Case: Explaining the Return on Investment (ROI) of Your Social Media Efforts.” While choosing what you want to gather data on–I for, one, spend most of my time analyzing individual alumni interactions on Twitter–is difficult, it’s crucial that you have this information at your disposal. Because once you have this information in your arsenal, you’ll be able to respond to some (and hopefully all) queries regarding your approach.

Lesson #3: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, matters

Near the end of the LEGO Movie, Emmet delivers a MUCH better speech than he did earlier in the film. With Bricksburg, Emmet’s home, on the brink of destruction, our hero appeals to the compassionate side of Lord Business , encouraging him to “take his hand” and join the “good guys.”

During the speech, Emmet also shares how everyone–Lord Business included–can be “The Special.” That, essentially, every person is important and has value.

This philosophy–one I’ve tried to embrace even while driving here in Massachusetts–is a key feature of my social media work. Each morning and throughout the day, I review my alumni lists (for more on list management, see “Rules of Twitter Engagement”) to see how I can connect with alumni. Sometimes these connections happen on an individual bases (see below) and sometimes they involve multiple alumni. But, ultimately, the important thing is making each individual alumnus/a we interact with feel valued.

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Granted, this individual engagement approach may be a tough sell to your supervisor. But here’s one way to look at it from a numbers perspective. If you have ten of these types of engagements a week (note: we typically have four to five times this number), this will translate into 40 individual engagements and month and 480 a year. These types of interactions, which may not have happened otherwise, can lead to alumni feeling more brand affinity (i.e., a feeling that the alumnus/a is being listened to) and can help open the door to other engagement opportunities through events, student mentoring programs, etc.

For me, this approach is a no-brainer…just like the double decker couch.**

 *While I may have take issue with the program “Sophia the First,” Tim Gunn can do no wrong in my book.

**I’m a huge fan of the double decker couch as well and would have built one myself–and probably gotten injured in the process–if I had thought of it while in college.

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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Two Wicked Awesome Social Media Ideas…That I Had Nothing To Do With Whatsoever

It really is all about me.

By “it” I mean the blog that you are reading.

Please let me explain.

When I first started writing this blog in August 2013, I did so for mostly selfish reasons. A few months earlier, I had started a new job at the Harvard Business School (HBS), one which focused entirely on social media. This meant, unfortunately, that I wouldn’t be able to write on a regular basis (contrast this with my previous position at the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences where I penned a blog, an e-newsletter, and was a contributing writer to an alumni magazine), so I decided to start blogging about the one thing I knew something about…

The boy band, “One Direction.”

Just kidding.

The answer is social media, of course (though, I must admit I know way too much about Harry, Niall, and the rest of the lads from 1D).

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Over the next year and a half, I wrote posts on everything from event coverage to my favorite social media mistake (actually, I wrote three separate posts on this topic, so maybe I don’t know as much as I think), with the majority of blog entries focusing on a social media strategy I conceived and what I learned from it.

Again, it was all about me.

But in this post I want to do something different. I want to write about a pair of social media ideas that my colleagues came up with and that I was charged with implementing. Because in social media, as in life, nobody can reach their full potential alone…or as T.V.’s favorite zombie-killing sheriff Rick Grimes would say, “We survive this by pulling together, not apart.”

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Idea #1: Social Media Ambassadors

During my tenure at HBS, we’ve developed close ties–well, as much as one can on Twitter–with a number of alumni on social media. The relationships have been forged through our direct engagement with graduates based on their personal and professional interests (for more, see my post titled, “Rules of Twitter Engagement”). Our approach, which has resulted in over 15,000 unique interactions–retweets, favorites, and replies–with more than 1,300 alumni since January 2013, is about more than alumni engagement, though. We have also used social media, especially Twitter, to drive traffic to our alumni website. We have done this by connecting alumni with content involving their section mates or classmates (see below).

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A few months ago, my supervisor devised another way we could increase web views.

He asked me to identify our most active alumni on Twitter–who had also graduated within the last five years–and see if they’d be willing to help amplify our content.

Once I completed my research, I sent the following email to my alumni prospects; these people would later become our first class of “Social Media Ambassadors.”

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All told, I sent 30 emails and 25 of the alumni I targeted agreed to participate in the project. The next logical step was to provide the ambassadors with content they could share with their alumni networks. Below is an example of this first “official” email, as well as one article I pointed alumni to.

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As expected, our ambassadors shared the content with their networks–via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email–and we have, at this early stage, seen an increase in web traffic. While the long-term success of this strategy is unknown (since we are most definitely in the pilot stage), I feel confident that this approach will lead to more web hits, especially when we roll it out to alumni from multiple classes.

Idea #2: Alumni Directory Twitter Handle Integration

My Twitter work, as I shared in previous posts, begins and ends with the alumni lists I have assembled. These lists, five in all, are critical to the work I do on a day-to-day basis. Each morning, I review these lists (an example of which is below) and look for opportunities to engage with alumni.

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When we do have an alumni interaction–that is, when an alumnus/a favorites, retweets, or replies to one of our Tweets–I add the individual’s name, Twitter handle, year of graduation, and other details to a tracking spreadsheet.

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The spreadsheet provides the raw data I use to connect alumni with each other based on everything from geographic region to year of graduation. The list currently stands at 1,300 alumni, which is nice but…

We have more than 5,000 alumni on our Twitter lists.

This means there’s a large cohort of alumni we haven’t interacted with. These alumni may find our content engaging, but this is mere speculation since we haven’t had a confirmed interaction with them. This has troubled me for some time, but I couldn’t think of a solution to this problem.

Until, a colleague in our web communications group suggested a rather ambitious research project.

The project, which I estimated would take 3-4 months to complete, involved taking all the alumni we have tracked and adding their Twitter handles to our alumni directory. This would be a painstaking process, requiring one of our staff members to go through each individual name on our lists, copy his or her handle, and then add this information to the corresponding alumni record in the directory.

But once this project is completed, we’ll be able to extract these Twitter handles, as well as a wealth of other alumni information, onto a separate spreadsheet. So, if we pen a profile on a 2010 graduate from section A, I will be able to send this content to ALL alumni we have tracked from this section. Currently, I can only send this content to those who have made it onto my tracking spreadsheet based on previous Twitter-related interactions.

And once we have a larger pool of alumni data to draw from, I feel confident we’ll see a significant increase in alumni engagement on Twitter.

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 ofGradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.

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

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An Easy Way (Really!) to Integrate Video into Your Social Media Work 

There comes a time when a man–let’s say this man is, I don’t know, a tall, dashing, and worldly social media manager named Robert–reaches a crossroad. At this point, there are two choices: surrender and retreat or proceed forward on the path of self-discovery. The latter course is, naturally, the more difficult of the two, and can involve everything from a REALLY long run to an ambitious, albeit thwarted, “walkabout.

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I was recently at a crossroad myself–social media wise. I could keep doing the same thing I always had on Twitter and Facebook (and continue to achieve some level of success) or I could take the leap into the unknown.

In the end, it was an easy choice.

I jumped.

And soon after, I posted my first video on Vine.

But, first let me back up.

I arrived at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in early 2013. My goal then (as it is today) was to engage as many alumni on social media as possible. The primary channel for this engagement would be Twitter, but I would also use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to achieve these objectives. Over the months that followed, engagement with alumni increased significantly (since January 2013, we’ve had more than 15,000 unique interactions with alumni on Twitter alone) and, today, our alumni are much more engaged on social media than they were when I first arrived at HBS.

But…still, I was worried. We were, to some degree, successful but our approach on Twitter, specifically, seemed to be getting formulaic, especially when it came to event coverage. I would set up shop at an event, tweet what was going on, try to get conversations going with several alumni, post a Storify of the coverage, and then move onto the next thing. While this approach seemed to work, something was lacking.

I wanted to include more than tweets and photos.

So one night, while commuting to work, I started thinking more and more about video.

Off the top, I had a few things going against me. 1) I had very little video training so whatever I tried to do myself would appear amateurish at best and just plain bad at worst and 2) even if I did have the requisite training, I would not have the time–between live-tweeting and running from one event session to another–to set up shop and film event happenings.

But what I could provide, using Vine (and at some point in the future, I hope, Instagram) were short glimpses of an event. After letting this idea percolate for a bit, I approached my supervisor and got approval to experiment with video. My primary argument was that Vine videos could increase the scope of our event coverage and make our Storifys much more engaging.

So, at last week’s HBS Global Networking Night I pursued this idea in earnest and posted the following videos.

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My goal for each Vine was different. For the first one (which can be viewed at https://vine.co/v/OhZu6EaOXXw), I wanted to present the scope of the event (i.e., alumni chatting and “hanging out,” which is mostly what they did since this was a networking event). My strategy for the second Vine was different (see https://vine.co/v/OhZmEpPIYmA). I focused on one portion of the venue and over the course of an hour I filmed the space as it filled up.

Once the event concluded, I integrated these videos into my Storify coverage.

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When viewing the Storify, the videos run automatically (see https://storify.com/hbsalumni/hbs-global-networking-night-2014) which gives the page, in my opinion, and added vibrancy since portions of the event “story” are no longer static. In the future, I may be able to interview event attendees or record speeches/talks which will make my event coverage even more compelling.

But, I didn’t stop here. In the days that followed, I recorded videos unrelated to any event and posted them on both Twitter and Facebook. Since alumni, naturally, feel a strong connection to the HBS campus, I thought the best strategy was to capitalize on this and record, for example, students playing flag football and a quiet Harvard Stadium, which is just across the street from the HBS campus.

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These videos (which can be viewed at https://vine.co/v/Ob9JF3IAr9j and https://vine.co/v/OMqMb0eWzvl, respectively), are useful in a number of ways. They serve as another, unique type of content to post on Facebook and they provide more opportunities for direct engagement with alumni on Twitter. Case in point are some interactions we had with alumni football fans after sharing the video with them.

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Granted, I’m just starting to use video as part of our social media efforts, but I’m encouraged by this “dip into the water.” Using Vine, we may be able to get around the challenge of training (or lack thereof) and time AND may have discovered a way to improve our event coverage and engage alumni in a new, visually appealing way.

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 ofGradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.

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

 

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Engaging Students on Social Media

Spring in New England is pretty sweet. After “suffering” through frigid temperatures, epic snowbanks, and awful driving conditions, the warm winds of spring are a welcome respite from winter. Spring is also graduation season, when college and university students from Maine to Connecticut don caps and gowns and pose for family photos. This is also the time-May 29, 2015 of this year to be exact–when I can officially engage with the newest alumni of the Harvard Business School via Twitter and Facebook. Up to this point things are, well, complicated. While I’m not prohibited from reaching out to current students during their two-year stint at HBS, students are not considered to be part of my social media “beat.” But, over the past few months, students have started interacting with us on a more regular basis and I’ve felt emboldened to engage with them; and in this post, I’ll share some strategies I’ve used.

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Scaling the Conversation

Each day, a number of alumni follow us on Twitter. The same is true for students. Whenever we get a follow notification from an alumnus/a, we tweet the handles of his or her section mates to them. When a student follows us, we take a slightly different tact. The first thing we do is confirm what year a student is in. If the student is a first year, we’ll ask him about his first impressions of HBS or what he’s looking forward to most in his inaugural year. If the student is in her second year, we’ll try to find out what she hopes to do post-HBS.

Below is a glimpse at how one of these recent interactions played out.

Once Cherian responded to my tweet and shared what he had on tap for the future, I was able to attempt to “scale” the conversation; which involved extending an offer to the student.

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I’m able to make this offer–and follow-through on it if necessary–due to the way we track alumni on Twitter (click here for more on my alumni tracking approach) and how we use LinkedIn (read my post, “Tipping the (Social Media) Scales” for more information). It didn’t take long for Cherian to accept my offer and once he did, I went to LinkedIn, accessed our alumni group, and typed “Shanghai” into the “Advanced” feature field. Once I found a trio of alumni in Shanghai who were also on Twitter, I sent the following tweet.

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Capture (and Share) Campus Life

Cherian’s case was an example of reactive social media, an approach predicated on waiting for a student to engage with us in some way. But there are times when I’m more proactive. This typically occurs when I’m able to capture an aspect of student life, something which occurred last week.

Since my building is only a half-mile away from the HBS campus, I usually walk to meetings. During my travels, I noticed several flag football games being played on a nearby field. I approached some players on the sideline and was informed that the games involved current HBS students. Before long, I was snapping photos of each contest on my smartphone and then posted the following on Facebook.

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Soon after adding the collage, I reached out to individuals on my Twitter student tracking list and sent the Facebook link to them.

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While I wasn’t happy with the amount of “likes” the post received (six is REALLY low for us), I believe it’s an approach that could–if done correctly–engender significant student engagement.

Another strategy I’ve employed is connecting students with topical alumni-generated content. Last month, we asked alumni on Twitter to finish the following statement, “My Welcome to #HBS Moment was…” Once we completed our chat–which, at last count, involved 30 individual alumni–we tweeted the ensuing Storify to new students on our Twitter list during their first two weeks of classes. My rational, like with the section football collage, was to share a specific type of content with students, one that would appeal to as many of them as possible; and sometime next month, I plan to send the same query to first- and second-year students so I can add new, fresh perspectives to the Storify.

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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 ofGradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.

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

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Tipping the (Social Media) Scales

The question I’m asked most often—besides, of course, “Seriously, why did you do that (insert stupid thing)?” by my wife—is “How do you plan on scaling this?” This question usually comes from my colleagues at Harvard Business School (HBS) after I cite some of my Twitter engagement stats during a meeting or in casual conversation.

The query is definitely a fair one.

HBS has more than 70,000 alumni and since January 2013 we’ve engaged with 1,200 of them via Twitter. “Engagement,” as we define it, is when an alumnus/a replies to us—including our handle in his or her tweet—,“favorites” one of our tweets, and/or retweets one of our posts (for more on our approach to alumni engagement, read my post, “Rules of Twitter Engagement”). Granted, 1,200 is a paltry number compared to 70,000, but this small slice of the alumni population has engaged with us on more than 15,000 separate occasions since early 2013.

And while I am happy with these overall engagement numbers, I constantly feel like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when it comes to Twitter.

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Simply put, I want more….engagement.

But unlike the gluttonous fellow from the fictional town of Düsselheim—and the first one to meet his unlikely (or likely?) demise in the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder—I know that Twitter engagement is a lot harder to come by than chocolate.

Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve experimented with a few approaches that have helped us “scale” our alumni engagement at HBS; strategies I share in the paragraph below.

Two Novel Approaches
Over the past two years, we’ve published 80 “stories” via Storify (check out our feed at https://storify.com/hbsalumni). We’ve used the platform to aggregate tweets and Facebook activity around events or topical questions we’ve posed. Our typical approach—especially on Twitter—is to schedule a series of tweets to a select group of alumni (for example, our question about leadership was tweeted to alumni interested in this area) and then wait for the targeted alumni to respond. But, for our most recent chat about great brands, I took a different approach. While I still concentrated on alumni interested in branding on my tracking sheet (for more on Twitter tracking, read my post “Making the Case: Explaining the ROI of Your Social Media Efforts”) I also did two other things for the first time.

1) I went to my “lists”—which include all the alumni I have found on Twitter—and searched for individuals we had never interacted with before.

 

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I then scheduled direct tweets to some of these tweeters with the hope that they would respond. I felt confident in this approach since the topic—brands and branding—was so general that it was bound to stimulate a response, or responses. That is, alumni didn’t need specialized knowledge to comment on the topic. Below are a few of the responses we received. In total, of the 32 alumni who commented 15 of them responded (i.e., engaged with us) for the very first time.

 

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2) The second thing I did was much more time-consuming. I searched our HBS alumni LinkedIn group for graduates who listed “branding” as an area of interest in their profiles. I then accessed each alumni record to see if the alumnus/a included a Twitter handle under their “Contact” field. If they had, I tweeted our question to them as well.

 

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So did this process work? Was I able to scale alumni engagement in a meaningful way? The answer is yes and no. As the chart below illustrates, I was able to increase new alumni engagement by 82% (from 33 to 79) from August to September…but I’ve had more productive months–specifically May 2013 and June 2013, where I interacted with 88 and 96 alumni, respectively, for the first time.

Naturally, more testing is necessary which I hope to write about in a future post.

 

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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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Telling Stories with Twitter

Last Saturday night—while the younger set was out clubbing and bar hopping—my wife and I put the kids to bed and then got a little crazy ourselves.

That’s right. We spent the evening organizing Legos.

Picking through mounds of tiles and throwing them (my idea) into the appropriate colored bin (my wife’s idea) got me thinking. I wondered why so many pieces were tiny (probably to piss off parents like me) and why so many of the figures were missing pieces—there’s something sad about seeing Lego Wolverine both declawed and decapitated.

These observations aside, I also thought about the organization process and its relationship to social media event coverage. In each case, the goal is to take a number of disparate pieces (e.g., Legos or Tweets) and organize them into a coherent whole, like my wife and I did (see above).

But the process of transforming social media activity into a coherent story isn’t child’s play (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun) and in this post I’ll share the approach I’ve followed in my role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

Read more by clicking here. 

 

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What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Social Media

When the Founder and CEO of Icebreaker Consulting asked me to pen a guest post on Star Trek and social media, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I am, after all, the same guy who dropped a few (okay, I admit it was many more than a few) Star Trek references into blog posts I wrote for the Tufts University of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Social Media Mattersmy personal blog, and like Raj from “The Big Bang Theory,” I believe Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is one of the finest films ever made.

But I had never really thought about the films, based on Gene Roddenberry’s short-lived television series, and how they related to social media.

Until now, that is.

Read the full post by clicking here.

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