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 https://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 https://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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Blog Email

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 have 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.

MakingADifference2

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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