Sticky Social Media: Why it Matters and How to Make it Happen

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know that I’m easily impressed.

Whether it’s a towel at the Harvard Business School (HBS) gym or complimentary donuts during “Free Donut Day,” I get irrationally excited about seemingly trivial things. So, when my wife called me at work one day and informed me that Boston’s Museum of Science was giving members, which we are, an early, first look at its new Pixar exhibit I was pretty excited….um, for our kids, that is. Yes, for our kids.

Once I hung up the phone, I called the museum, plunked down $20 bucks for the family, and reserved our spot for last Sunday.

The exhibit itself was great. We spent some (digital) quality time with Sully, Mater, Joy, and the gang, and learned a lot, such as….

  1. Making a single Pixar film requires, like, 8,000 people. Okay, it’s not that many, but it’s quite a few.
  2. There is A TON of math involved in making Pixar movies.
  3. Because of #2, there is no way I could ever work at the company. (I also couldn’t work there because I’m an epically bad artist, don’t have cool hair or spectacles, and definitely cannot, especially compared to the employees profiled in the exhibit, rock any cool computer programs.)

Soon after we left the museum, with two very tired children in tow, I took to Twitter and expressed— including the handle of the Museum of Science in my tweet— how much I enjoyed the exhibit.

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To GIF or Not to GIF

Working at the Harvard Business School (HBS) is pretty sweet. The facilities are top notch (the gym has wood-paneled walls AND they give you your own towel during each visit!); the faculty are “wicked smaht,” and the students are a diverse and impressive lot.

But, for me, the best part of HBS are the people I work with. Each day, I’m impressed by the creativity and talent they bring to each and every project, many of which I’m involved with in some way.

So I was intrigued, naturally, when my co-worker knocked on my office door recently and said, “I have something you may be interested in.”

This “something” was a GIF he had created for an article he had penned for our alumni magazine. Before this impromptu meeting, I hadn’t given much thought to GIFs or how I could use them in my social media work; I had been much more focused on finding ways to integrate video into efforts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Hacking Facebook…or How I Got 40+ Comments to a Single Post

Me and Facebook have a “tortured” history.

Before I came to the Harvard Business School (HBS), I used Facebook sparingly. I would jump onto the platform once every few weeks to see what was happening and to post a photo or two. At the time–early 2010–I didn’t have much use for Mark Zuckerberg’s creation. As a senior writer/communications manager for the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), I was responsible for, among other things, the social media presence of the school. This “presence” included Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr. We stayed away from Facebook, though, assuming that graduate students didn’t want us “invading” this space. With no opportunity to use Facebook on a professional level, I didn’t see much reason to use it from a personal one, either.

This all changed when I joined HBS in early 2013 and took over management of the school’s alumni Facebook page at The next two years were marked by great successes and epic failures. For every post that performed like this one, there were multiple ones that performed like this. I don’t know why some posts hit the mark while others didn’t. Maybe it had something to do with changes Facebook made to its algorithm or bad post timing on my part. Whatever the reason, I was getting increasingly frustrated with the platform’s unpredictability and in March 2015 I decided to do something about it.

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Can’t-Miss Tips for Social Media Community Building

I worked for the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) for thirteen years. I started as a project coordinator and by the time I departed in late 2012, I had risen to the level of senior writer/communications manager. There were many aspects of the job I enjoyed. Along with gaining valuable writing experience, the school subsidized my graduate degree, helped foster my enthusiasm for higher education, and provided me with my first exposure to the world of social media.

But there was something I struggled with throughout my tenure at GSAS.

Community building.

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Social Media and My Worst Haircut EVER

When I was 10, my mother cut a piece of my ear clean off.

I had been misbehaving for quite some time and she wanted to teach me a lesson. So she grabbed a pair of scissors and…

Okay, I should stop here since this isn’t exactly how it happened. Yes, my mother did cut my ear and it was not only an accident but, to this day, I’m convinced that I shoulder some responsibility for what transpired.

Here’s how it really played out.

One afternoon, my mother decided the time was right to cut my flowing locks (yes, at one point, I did possess hair on par with one of “The Beatles,” though it was probably Ringo).

So, we headed to the backyard–which was where she typically cut my hair to avoid having to sweep the kitchen floor after she was done. Besides, it was a nice spring day and my mother thought I might enjoy the warm weather. We were a few minutes into the haircut when the phone inside my house rang. I didn’t think too much about it though, since phone calls were rarely directed at me. This day was an exception and soon after the phone stopped ringing I heard my brother calling my name, informing me that, indeed, the call was for me.

I turned my head immediately toward my brother’s voice at the exact moment my mother was cutting the hair behind my left ear.

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What Being A Waiter Taught Me About Good Social Media

Once upon a time, I was a waiter.

It was the summer of my freshman year of college and I needed to earn some extra cash for books, food, and, um, spirits for the year ahead. Since my older brother had worked at Friendly’s for a few years, I figured I had an easy in. So, after a brief interview–mostly a formality, really–I soon found myself donning the restaurant’s classic visor and red shirt and learning the ins and outs of the menu.

My time at Friendly’s wasn’t too memorable, save for the time sparks flew from a weathered coffee machine and when a patron said she couldn’t understand me because I was “mumbling.” My response to the latter? I grossly enunciated my words when I delivered her order: “Here. Is. Your. Milkshake. Please. Let. Me. Know. If. You. Need. Anything. Else.” Naturally, this resulted in a “talking to” from my boss.

But there were a few things that made the experience a valuable one. I not only met some great people, many of whom I remain friends with today, but I also developed a deep appreciation for customer service. This “service” included everything from helping make the restaurant experience more enjoyable for my customers to resolving the “problems” they had. During a given shift–between delivering Reese’s Pieces Sundae’s and SuperMelt sandwiches–I would help patrons clean up spilled milk; find directions to their next stop (I worked at Friendly’s way before GPS and MapQuest); and locate a place to dispose of their assorted scraps of paper and other refuse.

While I wouldn’t consider myself the most altruistic of individuals, I truly enjoyed helping those I served and this customer service perspective is something I’ve embraced in my current role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

But how do you apply a social media customer service model to alumni relations? I’m not, after all, selling anything. My main concern is alumni engagement, which is an abstract concept that’s difficult to quantify (i.e., it’s almost impossible to determine whether or not my social media work has helped inspire alumni to donate to the school or participate in some other way by, for example, attending an alumni event).

But I do believe there is tremendous value in applying customer service approaches to social media and in this post I’ll share some examples of how I’ve put this into practice.

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