CategoryCorporate Blogging

Social Media Guidelines. Got any?

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Agile Planning

After the first steps in Social Media, most organizations realize it’s time to get organized. Instead of every staff doing their own thing on the social web, organizations strive to speak with one coherent voice while preserving authenticity. This is where Social Media Guidelines (SMG) come in.

The SMG provide a framework that serves to provide direction for all social media activities. (And what on the web isn’t social these days?) They protect the company from rogue Facebookers, and they protect employees from their boss’ wrath.

Below I’ll list a few Social Media Guidelines that I find well-written, plus from a diverse set of organizations from non-profit to corporate to military. Please not that instead of “guidelines” they could also be called “social media policy”, “social computing guidelines”, “rules of engagement” or something completely different. What we’re looking at here is a document that helps define the rules for all activities regarding social media.

The list below is what I sent to a non-profit that had contacted me about drafting Social Media Guidelines – it seemed like the list might be useful for others as well:

  1. Laurel Papworth’s List of 40 Social Media Staff Guidelines. One of the classic compilations. Plenty of food for thought here.
  2. Intel Social Media Guidelines: A classic. Well written, knowledgeable, focusing on the practicalities.
  3. IBM Social Computing Guidelines: What’s great here is that there is an executive summary outlining the basic rules of engagement, but also a lengthier, in-depth discussion right below.
  4. American Red Cross Social Media Guidelines: Very detailed presentation that goes beyond just Social Media Guidelines. It’s more like a tutorial for your staff. Great stuff.
  5. Social Media Policy des √∂sterreichischen Roten Kreuz: The Austrian Red Cross have both their guidelines as well as some more background on their website. Brownie points for also covering the potential issue of private vs business engagement as well as political statements. The only one in the list that’s in German.
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology: What RIT provides here isn’t really a guideline, but rather an overview of which group inside the organization uses which social media channel. The Alumni Association? On Facebook and Twitter. The department of Software Engineering? You won’t find them on Twitter, but they’re on Facebook and YouTube. And so on. Very, very useful both internally and for external partners.
  7. LA Times Social Media Guidelines : The LA Times Social Media Guidelines provide guidance not just for external communication but also for their own reporters and how they deal with information acquired through Social Media channels.
  8. New Zealand State Services Commission: Principles for Interaction with Social Media: This document is basically a reminder that state servants have to act responsibly when engaging in Social Media just like in their offline workdays. Obviously state servants play a special role, and special rules apply. Don’t ask what your country can do for you in Social Media, but what you can do for your country’s engagement in Social Media!
  9. US Air Force: Social Media Triage: This diagram shows how the US Air Force reacts to blog comments and other social media feedback. (I stumbled over the diagram in this great presentation by Altimeter first.) A simple, yet effective diagram that can guide your staff through the process of reacting to external reactions. Very well done, like so much of the USAF’s online activities.
  10. Audible.de: Social Media Richtlinien: An example of Social Media Guidelines in German, from Audible.de. Short and sweet.

Copy & paste or write your own – just make sure they reflect your organization’s core values and you don’t over-regulate. Instead of trying to think of everything up front make sure to re-visit the guidelines regularly and, if necessary, tweak them. It’s not rocket science. It really isn’t.

Image: Agile Planning, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from [email protected]’s photostream

Social Media Trends 2010: ROI, what else?

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ReadWriteWeb (RWW) titled “Experts Predict 2010 the Year for Social Media ROI“.

My gut reaction, as shared on Twitter?

We definitively need more solid figures, but you can’t measure it all. It’s about culture change in companies. #socialmedia #ROI

RWW was referring to this presentation by Dr. Taly Weiss, editor of the TrendsSpotting blog:

So besides my initial thoughts (more solid measurement of ROI, while making sure not to lose sight of the culture change aspect), there’s a lot more in this nicely compiled presentation of smart tweets. Just a few to spark your imagination: Your company will have a social media policy (@armano). A new cadre of bonafide thought leaders emerges, with almost 100% turnover from five years ago (@peterkim). By the end of the year we’ll have a new interface for status updates that looks nothing like a microblog (@johnbattelle). Real-time reviews will scare the pants off many a brand & foster a new ‘radical-beta’ mindset. “Tracking & alerting” become the new searching. Business finally admit that social media ain’t some fad for kids and B-list movie stars (all three by @mzkagan).

That’s just a few I found particularly convincing. I recommend you dig into the slides for a bit. There’s some good, juicy stuff in there.

Once and for all: A beta test isn’t enough to create buzz

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It’s old news, it really is. But since I get confronted with invitations to beta tests everyday (in my role as a blogger, as a freelance consultant and as project lead for German blog magazine blogpiloten.de), I can promise you that a lot of PR agencies still think a beta test is enough to get bloggers to write about your product, and thus to create buzz. It isn’t. Period.

Beta tests are important. If you’re a bootstrapping web startup, you need to release early and release often. In order to to that, you need constant feedback from your users. Potential users (and testers) are most easily identified by their blogs, so inviting bloggers to your beta test makes a lot of sense.

That said, inviting bloggers to test your stuff just to get their attention and save money on marketing is a really, really bad idea. If you don’t allow for the feedback they’re willing to give, you’re being unfair, both to these bloggers and to your product. Whatever it is you’re developing, it’s not perfect. It cannot be perfect. So you’ll need that feedback, simple as that. Open feedback channels very early in the production phase. Post-launch is too late. Pretending to bloggers (who you should be trying to make your fans) that they have any influence that they don’t really have will almost certainly backfire, and badly so.

So, where does that leave us?

  1. Identify users who might be seriously interested in what you’re doing, for whatever reason.
  2. Invite them very early on in your production phase, so you can implement their feedback into your product.
  3. Give them feedback, respect, and credit. Lots of all of this. And then some.
  4. Make sure to hook them up with a free version of your product once it’s all set and done. They just put a lot of effort into your product, so you can make money off of it. It’s only fair not to charge them.

State of the Blogosphere 2008 (brief summary)

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Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere is back, this time split up into five daily installments. (Start with the introduction.) What can I say? Some impressive numbers. Note that the data is a mix of stats gathered through Technorati and feedback gathered in a survey of some 1.100 bloggers (methodology).

First up, and hardly surprising, blogs are here to stay. Also, the lines between blogs and mainstream media (MSM) are blurring ever more. While top blogs are becoming more MSM, those mainstream media are adapting techniques of blogs. Fun fact: “95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs (see The Bivings Group).”

Technorati also has some background on blogger demographics and motivations for us (Who Are The Bloggers). Sadly, the blogosphere is still strongly male-dominated: two thirds, globally, are male (that’s 73% for Europe, 57% for the U.S.). Bloggers are, on average, also well educated (70% have college degrees). Surprising to me: Nearly half are parents. Also, female bloggers are twice as likely to sell ads on their blogs.

In day 2, Technorati covererd The What and Why of Blogging. Not to go into too much detail here, one thing stood out for me and that’s the metrics bloggers stated to use to measure the success of their blogging efforts. The key success metric (for three out of four bloggers) is personal satisfaction, “with the average blogger looking at four distinct metrics. Personal satisfaction is by far the most popular measure of success, However, bloggers also track a variety of quantitative metrics ranging from revenue to number of subscribers or comments.”

Hardly surprising but worth mentioning anyway: The majority of bloggers stated to feel a positive impact of blogging on their professional life. (Like being better known in their industry or haveing used their blogs as a resume.) This is something I’m sure a lot of you would agree to. I sure do: even without actively pushing the topic, when speaking to prospective employers and clients my blog has always come up in the conversation, and never in a bad way.

Funny: About a third of bloggers received free products like DVDs, books or electronics. Personally, while I do get invites to services and the like all the time, I rarely get physical goods. In one somewhat absurd case a company offered to send me a laser printer cross-Atlantic from the U.S. West Coast to Berlin. (I didn’t accept.)

As I’m posting this, Technorati has made it to the third installment of the State of the Blogosphere, The How of Blogging. Here, you can find some info on how much bloggers invest annually (more if run ads, more in Europe), how they track their visitors (two thirds Google Analytics) and how they attract them (Technorati, Google, tags etc.). Nothing too surprising here. But only 17% of bloggers use mobile updating tools on their blogs, it should be interesting to watch how (or more likely: how quickly) that changes with iPhones, Android and other smart phones gaining so much traction lately.

So much for my very brief summary here. Over the next couple of days, there’ll be two more chunks of info. The two that are due should actually be quite interesting: The next installment will cover blogging for profit, the last one the role brands play in the blogosphere. For those updates, keep an eye on Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere page.

By the way, while Technorati gives you the rundown on what drives the blogosphere and looks back to the recent developments, there’s also a look at where we’re headed: Adam Ostrow of Mashable has a neat brief overview of trends and the future of blogging and social media as it was being discussed at BlogWorldExpo. (Buzzwords include such things as comment ownership, widgets, ad networks and Twitter.) A good, quick read.

On the internet, we will always be beaten on price

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We will always be beaten on price (by Flickr user moleitau, all rights reserved) Image: We will always be beaten on price, courtesy of blackbeltjones

Somehow this picture by Blackbeltjones really resonated with me. It seems to sum up a basic dilemma fact of life everybody (or at least every web worker, freelancer, creative type and coffee shop dweller) faces these days: We’ll never be able to compete through price. On the internet, there’s always someone who’ll be ready to be cheaper, maybe even faster.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, not at all. From my experience, quality and good chemistry beat price anytime. If a client wants it primarily cheap, there’s decent places to get that. But the kind of work many of us are offering needs some time, creative input and experience. (To get an idea, check out Stowe Boyd’s Ten Day Rule, which pretty much sums it up.)

Why am I mentioning this? It’s not like any of my clients has ever complained in this respect, it’s always been good, constructive and trust-based relationships. But this photo was too good not to use it here. ’nuff said.

How to pitch media, bloggers, the web at large?

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For PR folks, pitching to the web is a problem. Talking to a PR firm recently, we ended up chatting about the challenges traditional PR firms face online. You have experienced professionals who know the ropes, the tricks of the trade, and their journalists. But facing a diffuse mass of bloggers is a different story altogether. What can you do about it?

Enter the Social Media Release, a concept that has developed over the last few months, maybe a year or two. The short-short version is this: Provide bloggers (and other online media) with as much material in as many formats as possible. These folks want to pick the materials they use, comment it, mash it up, and stir it thoroughly.

Lego Blogger Picture by Flickr user minifig Are blogs like toys, fun but not professionally relevant? Not any more. (Image: Lego Blogger Picture by Flickr user minifig, released under Creative Commons.)

(For further reading I recommend: Brian Solis (read his stuff thoroughly, starting maybe with what he says about blogger relations, his definitive guide to social media releases and social media releases, everything you ever wanted to know as well as the evolution of the press release.) Also, PR-Squared has a well-maintained list of successful use-cases of social media releases in the wild. (Update: and they have a template, too.) Just to pick one of those examples, Ford knows how to work the web: Note how everything is embeddable and the tons and tons of topic-related RSS feeds?)

Of course, this means you lose control over how your message is used, adapted, changed. The old rules of traditional media don’t apply here. They just don’t, so don’t even try. This is a hard lesson to learn for both PR firms and big brands, i.e. their clients. It requires a whole new approach to interacting with your stakeholders out there, and to some degree a new company culture.

It’s also tough to identify which bloggers to pitch, which services to use, and mainly: how to react to negative reactions on the web. For every campaign, you’ll have to find a decent strategy that works. A few basics like what’s listed in the articles above sure helps (think RSS feeds, embeddable pictures and videos, information in as many formats as possible). Also, forget embargoes, but that should be clear anyway.

If you’re a PR firm: How do YOU address bloggers (or do you at all)? If you’re a blogger, what are your experiences with being pitched?

Seven rules for a corporate presence on Twitter

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Twitter still seems to be one of the bigger mysteries for many folks out there, particularly in the corporate sphere. No surprise, it’s one of those phenomena that aren’t easily understood at a first glance. (When looking at a few hundred web 2.0 services for a study I was working on, Twitter was one of the very few – maybe the only one – I thought wasn’t even worth signing up for. Err, right.)

So all the better that Joel Postman over at Socialized shares his experiences with corporate Twitter accounts. His seven rules for success:

  1. Create a Twitter profile that helps people verify your legitimacy
  2. Let consumers know who they are talking to
  3. Empower your Twitter representative to make a difference
  4. Protect consumer information
  5. Include your social media affiliations on your corporate web site news page
  6. Be human, and have a sense of humor
  7. Turn control over to “regular” employees

That’s the short-short version, so don’t miss out on Joel’s more in-depth explanations. Also, to get a better understand Twitter and where they’re coming from, I recommend this video interview with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Vator TV. Jack Dorsey spent 15 years writing dispatch software for couriers, taxis and 911, so he’s very familiar with the concept of background noise and what has been called ambient intimacy: