Building Your Content Calendar

Content calendar

Using social media creates a content monster that needs to be fed. In most organisations a lot of thought and planning goes into the concept, design and development of content. Today’s post is a framework for building that content plan. I am focusing on social media, but the principles of building this plan work for other types of content.

Think about your content in terms of layers.

Content can be broken out into three types; evergreen, events and spontaneous. Each requires a different approach but when used together will increase the impact of your social media presence.

Evergreen Content

Sometimes also called drumbeat content, evergreen content can be planned and developed ahead of publishing.

  1. Use dates that are important in your industry
    Think more broadly than company specific dates. For example Philips, manufacturer of X-ray machines, posts on Marie Curie’s birthday.
  2. Build out from campaigns and events
    If you’re running a campaign on a specific product build brand content that supports your campaign message. For example, if a bank is running a campaign around savings products then the brand content could include articles on the psychology of saving.
  3. Build a theme
    Even if there is no specific date to connect it to you can build content around a theme, for example designate May as “Internet of Things” month and produce content around the trends, technology and developments in this field, of course you can connect this content to your own connected products,
  4. Build a series
    Use a specific rhythm to activate one idea. For example there’s a “Meatless Monday” trend in certain healthy circles if you’re a food company you could use this and promote vegetarian menus every Monday. Alternatively use a series of longer articles to go into depth on a specific area of your company’s expertise. f

To make this work

Research relevant dates for you and determine which themes/ series you want to build on.

Develop quality content, which means spending on design, photography, writing or filming the content you need.

Don’t be afraid to re-use this content, either posting highlights onto twitter/facebook, or repurposing it for other platforms.

Keep cultural differences in mind, not everyone celebrates the same thing, in the same way, or even on the same date. (Mother’s day is widely celebrated – but not on the same date).

Events

There are already a number dates to use on social media; those company announcements, conferences, events and campaigns that your company attends or produces.

Product launches are known months, or even years in advance, adding brand content to support the launch can increase the impact of the campaign.

Company leaders attend and speak at events throughout the year, decide which of these would be of more general interest, take any “infographic” or suitable images from presentations and re-use them on social media.

To make this work

Add the known events and campaigns to your calendar, include the event/campaign contact person.

Work with the event/campaign lead to develop content that supports their plans.

Use a simple hashtag for your own event/campaign and encourage a wider audience to publish under it.

Spontaneous

Your company wins an award, there’s the announcement of a merger (or divestment), you’re finally in the ranking you’ve been working towards, you hear of an significant date that matches your company’s portfolio – on the date itself.  Every content team I’ve ever worked with has “last minute” content needs. So while I’m a big fan of planning ahead you also need a little flexibility to take advantage of these opportunities.

To make this work

Prepare likely potential images for your asset library, eg relating to awards ahead of time. The more diverse your asset library is the more likely you are to have a suitable image to hand.

Use your social listening tools to monitor awards in your industry, and watch for the announcement of relevant rankings.

Maintain good contact with the colleagues who handle last minute announcements. Explain to them that you don’t need to know the content of the announcement which may be confidential, but if you know the timing and the sort of content they’ll need you can work with that. Encourage their input into the asset library, to build relevant assets.

Putting the three layers together we can see that the impact of your content, whether measured in exposure or share of voice, increase when the layers are combined.

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 21.42.05

Planning Ahead

All three forms of what does a content calendar need good planning to be successful, but how far ahead to you have to plan?

The honest answer is “it depends”.

For this blog I have a plan that’s about 2 months ahead, with a content deadline of about a week before publication. But that timing needs to change if you’re collaborating on content with a team or you have approval steps needed. Large organisations are more likely to have deadlines further ahead of publication and the plan for content themes is probably running 6-12 months ahead.

Tools

I use a google calendar, I can look at anywhere, on any device, I can add assets and links as I go. But my blog drafts are written directly into wordpress (not best practice). That works for a one person company and would probably scale up to a small team. For large companies there is an amazing array of sophisticated tools on the market. They enable planning and collaborative development of content, publication, sharing/editing of posts and assets, and reporting on content performance.

None of this is that hard to work out, but maintaining quality content requires a rare combination of creativity and discipline, with a dash of flexibility to take advantage of those out of the blue opportunities.

Image; Paper Craft Calendar | Berlin | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

3 Ways to Release the Content in Your Organisation

Balloon_ReleaseAt a recent meeting of Digital Experts (run by Advatera) the most common challenge raised for social media managers was sourcing content. Most participants knew there was content somewhere in the company but struggled to release it for use on social media. Most reported that they’d asked people to give them content but that hadn’t helped. The reality is that few people will think about your content needs and will need to be led into giving you the content you need.

One common cry from over-stretched social media managers is “I ask for content, but I don’t get any sent to me”. I recognise the frustration, but I can also see things from their colleagues’ perspective; it’s something extra in a busy day. However if you can lead them to give you content you’ll unlock the company stories needed for your social media presence.

Repurpose the ugly stuff

Almost every company produces reports on a grand scale, inside these reports are ugly tables of data. You can use that data to create infographics which have a visual impact that works on social media.

For example, the UNHCR’s data on refugees is transformed into a visual showing the scale of the crises in refugee source nations in the last 24 years. This is shareable, the original report is not.

RefugeeData

Take another look at your annual report, sustainability reporting and employee satisfaction reports. Very often these are produced with infographics, add a requirement to the briefing that a certain number of “mini-infographics” are produced for sharing on social media. It’s much easier to build this into the production stage than add it afterwards.
Tweet this
Look also for other data in the company, years ago we included “cups of coffee drunk per day” in a series of company data images. Of course that was the image that got the most attention.

To make this work

Add specifications for images for social media in your designer briefing. You’ll need to say the size, file format, any limits on the image and as far as possible identify the data points you think would be worth sharing.

Leadership Quotes

Your executives speak at events, press announcements, Annual General Meetings, staff meetings and write statements for company publications.

Pull quotes from these sources and present them in a branded template with a head shot, add a link to the report or event, and magically you have content to share.

You can also create events for them to speak, it would powerful if your leadership posted their new year’s resolutions for example. You can make a simple template for this

To make this work

Start early, particularly if you’re looking for new quotes, leaders’ calendars are stupidly busy and finding time to ask them for thoughtful input can be challenging.

Employees as Ambassadors

I guarantee your employees are active on social media, there will be people willing to co-create the content and share company’s branded messages on their own social channels. This has the benefit of reaching a different audience from your own company’s channels, and showcasing your employees pride in the brand.

In some countries – including the Netherlands – this is tricky, the Works Councils/Unions are really concerned at any expectation that work life crosses into private life.  Philips found a way to build a brand ambassador community that didn’t pose that risk using an employee community on the internal social network. They addressed potential concerns by;

  • Using an ‘invite-only’ community on the internal social network
  • Members invited once they’ve completed their initial social media training, ensuring social media knowledge of all participants was at a good level
  • Members are invited to contribute to content
  • Sharing content is always voluntary for each campaign
  • The company does not list, share, or monitor personal accounts of employees

The model of working was first tested on world coffee day in 2014. A series of image templates was developed that met house guidelines on brand and left room for a coffee slogan. On the brand ambassador community members were asked for their ‘coffee slogans’, those with the most likes were used to create assets for world coffee day. And all community members were able to share the images on their own social accounts. Here’s one from my former colleague.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 08.27.46

To make this work

First build a community of people willing to contribute to content, and promote your brand. Work with your brand experts to develop templates for use across campaigns. For each campaign collect the internal input 2-3 weeks ahead of the campaign date, this might sound last minute by other campaign standards but this step can help build momentum for the publishing phase.

You’ll notice that to make each of these work you need “pre-work”, there are no quick fixes. Years ago in digital it felt like we were the last to know, we’d beg for content and then get it right before it needed to be published because the running assumption was that publishing was no more than pushing a button. I think we’re seeing the same sort of tension for a lot of social media teams. The answer is to have the discussions about what’s needed for social media earlier in the process, join the editorial process earlier and discuss with the content writers what will work on social media.

Image; Balloon Release  |  Garry Knight  |  CC BY 2.0

Go Home Black Friday

The latest import from the USA appears to be “Black Friday”, that day falling between Thanksgiving (on the last Thursday of November) and the weekend when everyone goes shopping and the retailers offer amazing bargains.

It’s got nothing to do with Europe, so why in the last 2-3 years have retailers here started offering Black Friday deals?

MediaMarkt – The Netherlands

“Giga-many offers on top products” for their Black Friday Cashback.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.17.22

MediaMarkt – Spain

“Save on your Christmas Shopping”, and a countdown of the hours left to shop.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.17.04

Amazon – UK

Amazon have a complicated series of offers for “Black Friday Deals Week”, extending their one day campaign to seven.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.18.44

News promoting offers  – UK

It’s even making the news, where are the best deals for Black Friday, and Cyber Monday – that’s today, the day where there is apparently a peak in online sales. The video is set to the stirring tunes of Rossini’s William Tell Overture and the scenes it depicts are enough to keep me out of stores, I guess that means that I hate crowds more than I love a bargain.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.18.14

This is all happening at the same time as a movement begins in the USA to point out how consumerist Black Friday is, this popped up on my Facebook feed;

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 13.21.24

 

But my favourite action come from Cards Against Humanity; They closed their site for the day leaving just a “donate” button on the site. They collected over 70,000 USD.

This is one American import I hate. I do understand the marketing angle on this; all sales are good, lets drive sales. But take a moment to think about it. We’re heading into the busiest shopping season of the year, discounting right before that can’t increase your profit. But it’s a race to the bottom, once one retailer jumps on the American Bandwagon their competitors are under pressure to do the same.

I did shop on Friday, I bought milk, coffee, soap and toilet paper. There were no “Black Friday” discounts.

 

What Does a Great Leader Look Like?

What makes a great leader?
This month the Harvard Business Review asks a pertinent question; “what makes a great leader?” From the image accompanying question, the answer seems to be “a white guy”.

We know that images have a bigger impact than text, we know that role models are hugely important, so I decided to tease this out a little and have a look at what happened when I searched for images of “leader”.

The first search I did was “leadership icons” on Google. I thought that by using a search for icons the results would be relatively untainted by any news items. Here’s the result.

Leadership Icons

Most of the icons are explicitly male, and wearing a tie. Apparently that’s our standard impression of a leader.  In fact when I clicked on “more images for leadership” I still had to scroll past about 80 images to find one that had a figure that could be identified as specifically female. Let’s call her Eve, here she is.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.15.07

You’ll notice that Eve is ahead of a group of people as if to lead them, but she’s not alone. Apparently Adam can lead alone, but Eve cannot.

If I search for “leadership” in Google there is an image using a fish metaphor for leadership that ranks higher than any image featuring a woman.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 16.05.46

That’s just one search engine, do others perform any better? Bing and Duck Go Go deliver roughly the same set of images. My hopes rested on Yahoo!, with a female CEO perhaps it would be reflected in their search results. I tested it and the answer is,  maybe. At position 45 there is an icon of a woman leader.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 14.28.23

A leader who bears a passing resemblance to Marissa Mayer, in as much as icons can resemble people. However she’s very lonely on the page, I found no other representatives of women leading in the next 50 or so images.

Just for fun I tried the same test looking at “programmer icons”, the results were depressingly similar, although google did manage to have a female appearing icon in the first group.

I’m not blaming Google et al for this, search results are a reflection of our collective choices, over the lifespan of the internet we’ve created more images of men as leaders, and chosen images that depict tie-wearing males to represent leaders. I’d like to see this imbalance redressed; perhaps if we all started depicting leaders with a range of icons and images reflecting the range of people in leadership roles. And any designers out there working on icons, or photographers working on stock images, please include a gender balance and a mix of ethnicities in your depictions of all occupations. Of course changing the number of icons won’t automatically result in massive increases in the number of female CEOs, but it may help women leaders be seen as normal, and help young girls and people of colour to have that level of ambition.

Going back to the HBR issue; it features an article on the 100 best CEOs of this year, of which just 2 are women. The “white guy” on the front seems to be Lars Sørensen who topped the leader-board this year.

More than a Tweet; Cold Hard Cash

Money for Social MediaIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 7 of a 7 part series.

It’s free to use social media as an individual, but that’s not the case for businesses. There is still a lot you can do on a small budget, but costs rise steeply with the scale, complexity and ambition of your social media strategy.

Beyond staff salaries the costs come in three buckets; content creation, tools and promotion.

Content Creation

The best content for social media can be in the form of text, long form articles, images – photography, graphics and infographics, video, and streaming video.

It’s a very rare company that has the expertise in house to handle the creation of all forms of all content. If you want great looking content you’ll need a designer. I’ve found that using freelance designers works well once they’ve built an understanding of your brand.

There are some ways to manage costs here;

  • use a standard format for infographics, particularly if you’re using a single data point for an image. This will cut down the designer’s time needed to create content and give you a more consistent brand look.
  • Look for tools that format images per platform, Canva is one tool, but there are others out there. Reformating/resizing can be done easily and possibly in house.
  • If you’ve got a piece of content that is valid for a longer term like a report, ask the designer to create a suite of infographics at once so that you can re-use and promote the content with original content.
  • Get your social media managers/community managers trained to use photoshop. This is NOT the same as replacing the designer, but it might allow them to work with quality templates to add variations to text.

Tools

There are a lot of tools needed to support an effective social media presence, and the costs range from free to big bucks.

For example social listening tools; for my current needs I use tweetdeck and google alerts, and there are other free/cheap tools around, but large corporations invest huge sums into tools like Radian6 (Salesforce), Engagor, and Sysomos because the volume of mentions in social and the complexity of their social media structure require it. The same range exists for social publishing; from free use of the native platforms – including platforms like wordpress and medium for longer form content – through to large-scale complex tools like Sprinklr and Percolate. These large scale tools enable companies to save costs of production, planning and publishing. They’re worth it in large complex companies – really, I worked on the business case for one.

How much you need to invest in tools comes back to the scale and complexity of your company and the ambition level.

Promotion

The open secret of social media; increasingly you “pay to play” on platforms. As an example, in a recent campaign for a new charity I’ve been working with the best performing post for organic reach had 295 views, the worst performing of the boosted posts in the same period had a reach of over 3000. Often the spend isn’t that high – in this case it was just 18 euro that gained that reach.

Spending for reach is strongest on Facebook, but Twitter and Pinterest also enable promoted posts and Instagram may follow suit.  Platforms allow you to target your audience based on demographics and interests, and the cost of “reach” will depend on the value of your target audience.

In my experience we’ve had better results promoting content rather than an account, promoting accounts on twitter may increase your follower numbers, but tends to decrease the total engagement in my experience.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY: NewArt Museum

The NewArt Museum decide to use free tools as much as possible in this initial phase,  they want to focus their efforts on Facebook and Instagram, and Facebook’s native platform offers plenty of scope for scheduling and reporting. Instagram doesn’t offer scheduling options and has had a history of closing any apps that allow scheduled publishing to the platform. The team do set up a shared calendar to plan and co-ordinate content for publication.

There is a web designer engaged to the project already, the scope of that is extended to included design of assets for sharing on social media.

A promotional budget is set aside, this includes money to promote posts on Facebook, money to work with influencers on Instagram and money to offer prizes as part of the campaign. The dream for Instagram is to curate a series that interprets the hashtag #NewArt in inventive ways.  The social team start reaching out to influencers.

Image: Cash Munney  |  Tom Godber  |  CC BY-SA 2.0

More than a Tweet; Measure to Improve

MeasureTapeIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 6 of a 7 part series.

As with most online activities you can measure pretty much everything. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage!

There are two types of measurement to think about; measuring success and measuring the process.

Measuring Success

The really important measure is around whether you meet your business goals. These are drawn from the strategy you’ve defined earlier. For example;

  • Increasing sales (or qualified leads)
    If this is within your online sales environment it is relatively easy to measure using tagged URLs or cookies, but often people buy in a physical store based on their online experience. In which case you could use a discount coupon to social media buyers to estimate the social influence or you may need to research whether in store buyers did see your social media campaign.  The last option sounds complicated but it could be as simple as sales personnel asking “did you know about our Facebook campaign?”
  • Brand awareness and brand recognition
    If you’re using social media to build brand awareness and brand recognition you can measure via survey whether more people recognise your brand.
  • Brand Perception
    If your goal was changing how your company is seen then you can measure via surveys whether the public perception of you has changed.
  • Improved Service
    Some companies make significant use of social media to provide services to their customers, KLM the Dutch airline does this particularly well, solving thousands of customer queries per day on their social media channels. This has become a brand builder for KLM.

One of the tricky things about these measures is that the change measured might not be entirely due to social media, since it’s unlikely that a company will improve only its social media without other communications, marketing and campaigns happening at the same time. To tease this out you could use specific questions within a survey, ask customers, or ask your followers on social media.

Pick 1-3 KPIs that align with your business goals and measure those. The “K”  in KPI stands for “Key”, if you’re measuring more than 3 they are no longer the key performance indicators.

Measuring the Process

There is a loose relationship between the number of followers you have, the amount of engagement, and the number of people who take action. I have sometimes likened this to the traditional sales funnel, but it’s a very very leaky funnel.

  • Followers
    “Followers” is often dismissed as a vanity metric, and I agree that if you are running a twitter account with the goal of getting a million followers it is a vanity metric.
    But the truth is if you have zero followers you’re not having any impact, and the more followers you have the bigger your potential reach and the bigger your potential impact. I should qualify that – quality followers – fake accounts, dead people, and bots don’t count. That quality requirement is why you should never pay for followers. Follower and fan numbers tell you that you’re getting some traction with your activities.
  • Reach
    Measure how many people saw your posts – this is likely to be a lot less than the number of people who follow you. Twitter feeds move fast, and not all your followers on Facebook will see all your posts in their timeline.
  • Engagement Rate
    How many likes, retweets, +1s etc do your posts get divided by some measure of the audience.
    It’s a good measure of how  your content is being received but it should be treated carefully since it is presented as percentage. A large drop in engagement might be that your content got worse, or that your audience grew massively, and the new arrivals are less engaged. When using this measure I look at the trend, and at the underlying figures of total number of engagements and audience. It’s worth remembering that engagement by itself is not a strategy, it’s part of the process to reach your strategy.
  • Click Through Rate
    The number of clicks from social posts through to your website, divided by the reach of those posts. If your goal is to drive traffic to your site then this is a crucial measure.
  • Applause rate
    The number of shares/retweets/+1s etc divided by the number of posts. This is a measure of content quality, and is therefore useful for those creating content. However it doesn’t seem to be commonly used (Engagement rate is preferred) and it comes with a caveat; we know that pictures of beautiful babies or cute kittens will generate a high applause rate, but unless you’re in a very specific industry that won’t help you reach your business goals.
  • Fan value
    This is a perennial marketing question, and the real answer is that varies for lots of reasons, explained very well by Oliver Blanchard. To be pragmatic and arrive at a useful answer for you, you would need to calculate the value generated by your facebook page/youtube channel/twitter account, and divide that by the total number of fans/followers (on a per channel basis). This becomes a useful measure when you are trying to justify investment in the channel.

There are many more measures possible, as discussed in this handy  Guide to KPIs for Content performance.

KPIsforContent

But the reality is it’s time-consuming to measure everything. Pick the measures that give you information about how you are reaching your business goal, understand how each of those measures is tracked and what the limits might be and measure those.

Your process goals tell you whether you’re on track to meet your business goals. They also tell you whether you need to alter your content, frequency of posting, time of posting, or promotional budget. You should be looking at them at least daily.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArtMuseum

The NewArt Museum’s goal is to increase the number of younger people, between 18-30, visiting the museum.

The measurement for that business goal is very clear; number of young people visiting the museum should go up. Measuring that is trickier, you will need to ask visitors some information.

NewMuseum takes a baseline measurement by asking all visitors to complete a short survey as they leave the museum during a single week. One of the questions is around age; and gives age brackets for the visitor to choose from. They also ask which information source people would like for their museum news; (paper) newsletter, email, newspaper, social media, to help shape the future communications.

In about the third week of the new initiative they make the same survey, but ask those in the target audience some additional questions. One finding is that that the target age group works during the week, so could only ever visit on a weekend. This insight leads to the museum opening on Friday nights with music and events aimed at the 18-30 age group.

For the social media part of the campaign the goal is building an audience in their target age group. The chosen platforms are facebook, instagram and experimenting with periscope for some “behind the scenes action”.

On all platforms they measure follower numbers and engagement. When they get closer to re-opening day New Museum tries two things; Firstly a targetted discount ticket offer via facebook for which they measure click through rate. Secondly a campaign on Instagram using the hashtag #NewMuseum which asks people to post images of things they thing are design icons. The social media team will choose a favourite image of the day and reward that person with two free tickets to the opening. The social media team then measures the reach of the campaign, and looks for comments that indicate people want to visit the museum as indicating intent.

Image: Maßband  |  Net Doktor  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

 

 

Refugees Welcome; Zuidas Cares

zuidas caresAnd now for something completely different – this week’s project is supporting the social media behind Zuidas Cares as they run a donation drive collecting urgently needed warm clothes and toiletries for newly arrived refugees in the Netherlands.

Like many in the Netherlands and across Europe I’ve seen the images of people walking across this continent, taking to rubber dinghies to cross the narrow straits between Turkey and Europe, and people trapped in train stations and makeshift camps while our governments struggle. The response so far has been too little, and not co-ordinated. I think governments, NGOs and individuals have been overwhelmed by the scale of the migration.

This is the biggest forced migration of people since World War 2. Many countries are affected by conflict or war and the result is refugees/asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Syria and Somalia. (Source UNHCR).

Of those countries Syria is the biggest immediate source of refugees, and the refugees are fleeing more than four years of war. If you haven’t been following the news here’s a handy guide from BBC.

Syria has gone from being a destination country for refugees from Iraq to having about 11 million people forced from their homes. Some 7-8 million of those remain within Syria, living under conditions of war and extreme poverty. The majority of those who have left are in camps in Turkey and Lebanon.

A relatively small number are making their way to Europe, by whatever means they can.

Of course accepting a large number of people into any country creates challenges – where will they live, how will they support themselves, where will they go to school, can they live in a different culture. And it’s very normal that people experience some anxiety about the impact such a group will have in Europe.

But many many people have stepped up, saying they cannot stand by and watch people die. A group of Spanish life guards, Proactiva Open Arms,  are working to pull people out of the water in Lesvos. Volunteers have been handing out water, food and clothes to refugees en route. And Danish people ashamed of their country’s official response have been transporting people to Sweden.

It seems that individuals can step up.

I’m stepping up; by supporting this donation drive for those who have made it to the Netherlands.

Please spread the word about this donation drive by; liking our Zuidas Cares Facebook page, and sharing content from it, following us on twitter and sharing that content. Tell your friends, challenge your friends to donate their coffee money for a week. Ask your family for any warm clothes that are in good condition, clean but could be spared.  The Dutch winter is not kind.

This week I am donating my time to promote this. Next week I am donating whatever warm clothes and toiletries I can.

I challenge all Amsterdammers to make a donation.

If you cannot donate in person please consider donating one day’s lunch money to The Red Cross.

Thank you.

More than a Tweet; People

sharingpeopleIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 5 of a 7 part series.

There are two aspects to explore in relation to people, one is finding the right people, the second is creating a culture that supports your strategy. There will be some links to help you go further, and we’ll see how the NewArt Museum faced the people questions.

Inspired team

I have this weird idea that when people like what they’re doing and are inspired about it they’ll do a much better job. This is even more important on social media – after all it’s increasingly where our customers first meet us. For the team working on social media there is a diverse set of skills needed. Here are my top five;

  1. Communication skills
    The social media team will be talking, albeit in text form, to customers and stakeholders. They need to be skilled communicators, able to understand online comments, and react in a productive way.
  2. Writing skills
    Someone needs to create all that great content, that person needs strong writing skills.
  3. Design skills
    Increasingly social media is a visual medium, with images used on many tweets and almost all Facebook posts, so you’ll need some design skills in your team (note; installing photoshop on your computer doesn’t make you a designer).
  4. Analytics
    Improving your performance in social media relies on someone crunching some numbers. Major platforms give you feedback on likes, shares etc, but you will want to analyse which posts perform best.
  5. Company knowledge
    Your social media team need to know your company, the history and the brand (beyond the visual identity). They need to know your audience and what will work for them, and they need to understand how the social media strategy connects with the company’s vision and strategy.

You’re unlikely to find all of these skills in one person, but equally I’m not suggesting you need to hire five people. If you have the luxury of a bigger team look for people with a mix of skills that overlap. If it’s just one person – you –  then focus on the first two skills, force yourself to learn enough analytics and outsource the design. If you cultivate a good relationship with a freelance designer they’ll soon understand your brand and deliver great graphics. Even larger companies often end up outsourcing a chunk of the design work.

Hire interns. In the past I’ve seen excellent contributions from interns as designers, content creators, and community managers. I would advise against simply handing over social media accounts to interns and giving them free rein – interns new to the company are unlikely to have the company knowledge needed. But equally the interns I’ve seen have come with great ideas and given solid input, so don’t assume they’ll just be posting automatons for your social media plans.

Personally I want to work with people who are self-motivated, interested in what they do, forward looking and positive;  I do recruit for attitude. In addition for social media roles I look for an opportunist mentality, someone willing to experiment.

In my experience the good ideas for content creation and use cases for new platforms don’t come out of long meetings, they come out of a conversation that sparks and idea.  The good ideas and the exploration of new platforms comes naturally to those who are inspired by working in social.  I accidentally caught two of my team making a vine about the circular economy; it took about fifty post-it notes and an afternoon but no out of pocket costs. Just their willingness to try something.

Committed Leadership

It’s almost impossible for a project to succeed in an organisation without the support of the leadership.

Commitment is different. Think of a plate of bacon and eggs; the chicken was supportive, the pig was committed.

So the leadership not only need to support the execution of the project they need to be visible on social media as well. This could be a small role – eg short video interviews onto Facebook and twitter, or it could be a highly visible role – eg; Richard Branson. But their presence on social media removes a lot of internal discussion, and it is a credibility point for the organisation externally.

Organisational Culture

The organisational culture needs to support the use of social media. There needs to be a culture of openness and sharing with collaboration as the norm for the “social” part of social media to really fly. The social media manager cannot create content in a vacuum, and the community manager cannot respond to customers without the support of the organisation.

This means as few rules as possible, make it easy for people to share content within the company, celebrate and reward great uses of collaboration. Find some ways to cultivate the building of a social media presence – it’s probably going to change how you work inside the company.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

So far the social media accounts have been looked after by the communications manager with a little secretarial support. For a relaunch and the campaign they’re planning this is clearly not going to work.

Two interns are chosen; one from a design course to focus on visual elements and developing assets for social media, and one from a journalism course to focus on the written content and doing some community management work. The interns are both avid social media users themselves and the designer has a reasonable following on instagram already. Some analysis of the accounts of other museums and the NewArt Museum’s own accounts gives them ideas to share and their enthusiasm energises the other content developers who have struggled to see how social media content can be developed.

They start brainstorming about running events; supporting “wiki loves Art“, holding a “Night at the Museum” event with instagrammers, inviting influential instagrammers to curate the museum’s instagram account, children’s art classes, a “child artist” lecture series. They’re looking forward to the next content development meeting to discuss all these ideas.

Image; Sharing | Andy Woo | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

More than a Tweet; Infrastructure

abcIt takes more than a tweet to make a company social. This is part 4 of a 7 part series.

By infrastructure I mean all the building blocks that make it possible for you to start in social media as a company, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and it might seem like the “not fun” part of social media. But if you haven’t put these in place you’ll spend a lot of time solving problems as you go.

Most of the things are not visible to your audience, but their absence will eventually be observed. And if you’re ever unfortunate enough to strike a crisis in social media you will struggle to respond well without these building blocks in place. Think of it like an iceberg, the visible part of social media is the presence on platforms and the content produced, but most of the work is below the surface.

I’ll explain what these building blocks are at a high level, give some resources to help you and take the next step with the imaginary NewArt Museum.

Governance

The word governance seem off-putting, but it’s really about figuring out how things should work. It’s helpful to think of it in three parts.

  1. Roles and responsibilities
    How will you make decisions? Who needs to be involved? Often you will need high level steering on a strategic questions, and then agreement on who makes decisions on a day-to-day level. If this is not in place you will risk either no-one taking needed action, or in-fighting for who should act.
    My three recommendations;
    (i) on a day-to-day basis put as much decision making in the hands of the social media managers as you can.
    (ii) Form a team from senior stakeholders to steer overall strategy, often it’s on the social media managers’ recommendation (why ignore expertise!) but it’s important that stakeholders in your organisation are committed to the effective use of social media. This is more likely to work when they’ve been included in making the decisions the stakeholders are most likely drawn from the communications and marketing teams, but will often include representatives from risk/compliance/legal teams.
    (iii) Document the roles against each process, I’ve often used the RACI techniques which feels horribly detailed the first time you do it, but does force you to think through the steps of the process.
  2. Processes
    Define the processes you’ll need for the long term effective management of your social media presence.
    – opening social media accounts (who, how, why)
    – closing social media accounts
    – planning content
    – creating content
    – responding to comments/reactions
    – issue management (including errors made on a social platform)
    – social media in crisis communications
    – reporting
  3. Guidelines, policies and  playbooks
    You will need to think through all aspects of presenting yourself on social media. Most companies build this into playbooks and guidelines and cover;
    – naming
    – visual branding (headers and avatars, use of images in posts)
    – tone of voice
    response matrix
    guidelines on using personal accounts to share company information on social media
    – platform specific guides, for example hashtag use on twitter.

Accounts on Social Platforms

Drawing on your naming convention register the required social media accounts. Acquire as soon as possible, and watch for new platform launches to acquire there as well.

What if your company’s name is already acquired by someone else? If the account is being used honestly and fairly then you’re out of luck and need to come up with an alternative, perhaps by adding “the” to the beginning, or an underscore between words or a suffix (eg; ING uses @ING_news for their group account). If the account uses your name to impersonate your company or to send spam you may be able to reclaim it; check the platform’s terms and conditions for how to do this. From experience the main platforms have got better at solving this quickly as they have seen business use rise.

Acquire names pre-emptively. Your strategy will determine which platforms you should be most active on, even if your resources don’t limit you. But acquire names early for future use.

Make sure your accounts use consistent branding, link to your company website, and from your company website to the account. In this way visitors will know that it really is your company posting.

Tools

When you use social media for fun, as an individual, your needs are simple. When you use social media for a company the needs get more complex;  social media listening, secure protection of accounts, content creation and scheduling publication. The more complex your organisation, and the bigger your social media presence the more likely you are to be paying for some of these.

I’ll go through the free and paid options for these; note that lots of tool suppliers have “freemium” models so it’s pretty easy to test and play with the tool before investing.

Social Media Listening
You need to know what people are saying about you across social media; to provide webcare, to monitor a campaign, or to uncover issues.

There are several free tool options for social listening but none of them do everything, and not all give you real time options. For individuals, freelancers and small companies with limited social media presence a combination of these will probably be enough.

For bigger companies this won’t be enough and they’ll look towards Radian6 from Salesforce, Engagor, or Synthesio to filter through the thousands of mentions of the company globally. (Assessing which one is right for you is a challenge; luckily Forrester assesses this space regularly and you can also use software comparison sites such as Trust Radius which include user reviews).

Social Risk and Compliance Solutions

There are plenty of social media fails around where someone tweeted from an official account in error, or where accounts were hacked. For companies in regulated industries there are also a range of compliance policies to follow, eg; you don’t want customers sharing account numbers online if you’re a bank, or medical information if you’re a hospital.

There are some serious solutions out there, once again Forrester assesses them. The one I have used is Nexgate, which can act as a vault for all account information, apply policy limits to what can be published, and monitor what is posted on your social media channels for any compliance issues.

This is heavy duty stuff. For most people it’s more than what is needed and you’ll be OK if you keep protocols in place (one good reason for people using a work phone for social media rather than their own phone), set strong passwords and monitor accounts frequently.

Scheduling Publication

Yes you can schedule posts. More than that; you should schedule posts.

In this category there are several free tools once again. Some are specific for the particular social media platform, and a word of warning here – Instagram doesn’t allow scheduling, but obviously you can still plan your Instagram posts. Hootsuite offers a free service that will let you publish to multiple platforms, and it’s fairly easy to use. If you’re a heavy twitter user then Tweetdeck is a super-simple tool and allows you to listen to specific hashtags, see your own mentions and respond within the tool.

Whatever tool you look into also consider the mobile version – you want to be able to do everything from a smartphone that you can do from a desktop.

Congratulations on making it this far! This post is longer than usual and even then I think I could probably write a post about every item listed above.

NewArtMuseumCASE STUDY; NewArt Museum

The communications manager is responsible for the social media deployment. She begins by forming a stakeholders group to be responsible for the strategic decisions; the group includes the curator of the exhibition to be running at launch, the artist liaison manager, and the brand designer who is an external advisor.  Together they work through the high level decisions and agree that the social accounts need branding with the brand team’s designs, and that content development will need work from the brand team and the exhibition team, so a working group across all three teams is set up for content development.

The communications team is re-enforced with two interns for the purpose of the launch and the team set about pro-actively acquiring accounts on social media platforms using NewArtMuseum as the standard name. The accounts to be used are connected to a social media management tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer.

Their strategy is to focus on Facebook and Instagram, as these are both image focused platforms, and to try to find a way to build user generated content into the campaign. They’ll also experiment with periscope as they get closer to launch date, given it’s short lifespan it seems a good option for “sneek previews”. Twitter itself will be used for more press type communications.

The communications team set out the ways of working in a playbook,  and start working on content development with the curator and the brand designer. They want to start building and audience and creating some buzz before the museum re-opens.

Next week in this series; People

Image; ABC easy as 123 | Michael Verhoef | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Drones for Good

droneAt Expo 2015 in Milan I spotted some examples of drones being used in ingenious ways, as a navigation aid in a sand dune environment for example, connected to a four wheel vehicle with its very own built-in “drone helipad”.

So far my exposure to drones has either been the militaristic  or the artistic sort. I started to wonder about other uses, commercial uses, and not the hyped up “Amazon will deliver to your fourth floor apartment window”. So I did some research. Here are some of the coolest uses I found.

Agriculture

droneagNicknamed “precision agriculture”, drones are giving farmers better data and more detail on their crops. Enabling them to target any treatment, and follow a crop’s progress.

I saw a couple of examples of drone use for agriculture at the EXPO, at the Kazakhstan pavilion where they were using drones to target insecticide and fertiliser use.

The Dutch pavilion also showed a pair of potato farmers who use drones to  assess areas that need more seeding, watering or fertilising.

A great way to save costs, but also to reduce the chemical run off to waterways, agricultural use is seen by some as the biggest potential market for drones.

Inspecting Oil Rigs

Oil rigs and wind farms sit out at sea in tough operating conditions and need regular inspection. Using drones has taken the inspection time from 8 weeks down to 5 days, a massive saving of operational costs.

Real Estate

Drone photography and video is seen as a great potential marketing tool in the Real Estate industry – but it’s subject to various regulation in most countries. In the UK and Australia commercial drone operator permits are possible, but in the US the FAA is banning commercial use of drones, although they might be fighting a losing battle.

A second potential use is for monitoring real estate development projects, a site visit from the ground as it were.

Movies

Drones are used for creating sweeping views in advertising, TV documentaries, and movies.

It means that some of those shots once out of scope for those on a limited budget are now possible. Good news for indie film makers, not so good for helicopter pilots.

Events

Pretty sure you couldn’t make the high level shots in the Rockin1000 without drones (now someone will tell me it’s a camera on a super boom).

Burning http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_28682001/drones-improving-oil-rig-inspectionMan now issues permits for drone use at the event and limits the number to thirty. It’s also produced a guideline on drone use to address safety concerns.

Less commercial but still interesting developments are uses of drains for humanitarian aid and wildlife research.

Humanitarian

Drones have been used as tools for disaster relief in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake on a scale unseen before. In part because the technology has matured, and partly because the country already had transport issues reaching its isolated villages. Combined with crowd-sourced work from volunteers around the world, the drone images are helping researchers document damage and prioritise rescue efforts.

Amazon and Domino’s both had PR wins out of trialling drones for delivery but there could be a sensible application; delivering medicine to isolated areas. Medicines are high value yet small, and so could be worth the investment. A Gates Foundation funded team are working on this, and Deutschepost DHL have apparently been testing it as a means of delivering to an isolated island.

Wildlife Research

While researching for this post the video below turned up all over social media. It’s a view of whales that is taken from the air, and obviously doesn’t disturb them in their habitat. And for anyone worrying about the dude on the paddle board, these are Southern Right Whales, baleen feeders. Of course they could still wipe him off the board with a flick of the tail.

The whale video is more opportunistic observation, but scientist have also been using drones to research wildlife in more inaccessible areas, for example monitoring orangutan populations in Indonesia.

It’s not a new idea, WWF Nepal began using drones to monitor the endangered one-horned rhinoceros and tigers more than three years ago.

Future Uses

I’ve seen a few documentaries recently that have used camera techniques and helicopters to increase the understanding of ancient structures like Angkor Wat and Stonehenge. Surely there’s a role for drones here.

There is also space for “drones as a service” companies, offering drone + operator for a single use, in fact a number of drone start-ups are already developing companies to cash in on this concept.

Some predictions suggest that the next big use of drones will be as Christmas presents, I do get the appeal – another toy to play with, even though some people don’t seem to understand when it might not be a good idea to play with the toy. The genie is out of the bottle on drones, and countries/authorities need to find ways to regulate and licence drone pilots for responsible use. After all, we all need a licence to drive a car.

Image: Drone and Moon (cropped) | Don McCullogh | CC BY 2.0

Digital | Social | Innovation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,664 other followers

%d bloggers like this: