7 Ways to Get Inspired this Weekend

get inspired

With so many people working such crazy hours how do we get inspiration? Here are ten ways you can get some inspiration this weekend.

1 Learn Something New

I’ve become a big fan of podcasts lately, partly because I can listen while I do domestic tasks. Here are a few of my favourites;

  • The Infinite Monkey Cage; a witty take on big science questions, the panel includes experts in the theme of the programme.
  • Click; ranging widely over topics in the digital world, including social and ethical issues.
  • Hidden Brain; more science, more on the human or psychological side.
  • The Broad Experience; women in business, partly discussion on the realities of the gender divide in business and some coaching style advice.

2 Break from Digital

Do something, anything, that doesn’t involve a screen. No TV, computer, phone, or kindle for at least an hour.  Leave your phone at home and go out. Read a book, one made with paper. Bake a cake – get the recipe from a book not a website.

It’s easy to get so absorbed online, there are always more posts to read, more videos to watch, more photos to see. But it is a time sink and it can be bad for our health.

If you struggle to stay off the screen try “gamifying” it, either give yourself a real life reward or try the Forest app, it’s designed as a productivity aid to monitor the time you’re not checking your phone and reward you with virtual trees. But you can also use it to break your phone-checking habit.

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3 Be Creative

And that’s Creative, with a capital C. Take a pottery class, write poetry, paint a portrait, write, paint, pottery, play music, photography find a creative hobby. It does our brains good to use them for something creative and it’s a stress reducer.

One easy way for me to feel a little bit creative is to go for a walk and take photos for Instagram, I love this city and have fun finding new views of it. Plus the walking is exercise. And you can be surprisingly bad at taking photos and it’s all OK on Instagram.

4 Exercise

You knew this was coming! It doesn’t really matter what form the exercise takes, but exercise has benefits beyond physical health. It improves your immunity, lowers your stress, improves your sleep. You know all this. What you might not know is that regular exercise improves your thinking.

5 Music

Years ago I had a neighbour who played the piano after work, somehow it was always Beethoven when he’d had a really tough day. It was Beethoven quite often.  Music can be a de-stressor and it’s good for us in multiple ways.  Listening to some music outside your usual collection – search on YouTube for “classical music for exercise” for playlists of energetic tracks for example.

6 Change Your Surroundings

Best option is a city break; one of the joys of living in Amsterdam is that I’m a train trip away from Cologne, Brussels and Paris, and a short flight from any European city. A couple of days exploring a new city can give you a mental boost. I love Budapest for this – it’s a surprising city, lots to do but somehow not too touristy.

If going away is not an option trying changing up where you do things, take a book to a cafe, take your lap top to the library. Change it up for a new view on your world.

7 Laugh

Every day. Every day.

Laughing can relieve stress, among other health benefits.

For me there are four options;

What’s your “restart” button for new inspiration this weekend?

Image: Idea   |   Daniele Marlenek   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Brand Story

brandstory

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company, was founded by two guys; Ben and Jerry in 1978.  They ran the company until it was bought by Unilever in 2000. They come across as a couple of regular guys, and they were the authentic face of the company for more than 20 years.

In contrast Häagen-Dazs is a name invented to sound Danish, and included maps of Denmark in its original branding.  They’re not the only company to hijack a nationality for their products, Australian Homemade, a chocolate company, was founded in the Netherlands by a Belgian.

Other companies have invented a company backstory to give their company a nostalgic veneer to their company’s branding. The Hollister clothing company rests on a fictitious founder John Hollister Snr, and uses a date of 1922. The company promotes a hippy-ish nostalgia and encourages employees with stories of the founder’s adventures “He and Meta sailed around the South Pacific, treasuring ‘the works of the artisans that lived there,’ and eventually settled in Los Angeles, in 1919.” The only problem? The guy apparently never existed and the company was only founded in 2009. Does it matter? Teen-aged shoppers don’t seem to care.

Liberty's of LondonIn the 1920s Liberty’s of London built a wonderful mock tudor department store in the heart of London. I’m sure that anyone who thinks about it realises the building is 500 years old, but it does give the company an air of age and stability beyond its establishment in 1875. As creative backstories go it less explicit than creating a founder with an adventurous past.

All the best business books talk about authenticity, all the communications and branding talks about authentic stories. Yet customers are buying a feeling not a truth. So do the brand stories need to feel true or be literally true?

Image: Dave Gutter; Rustic Overtones  |  Todd Heft  |  BY NC 2.0

 

Community Manager Appreciation Day

cmad

Your online presence is often the first “place” customers go to talk to your company, and the first “place” potential customers meet you. The people managing those communities fulfil a very important role for your company, and there are lots of reasons (I wrote about five) to show your appreciation for them, and Monday is the day to do it.

It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD) on Monday so if you manage community managers here are some ways you could show your appreciation.

1 Say Thank You

Include some specific examples of posts that have been important, significant discussions/events or initiatives that have helped the company. You could, particularly in internal communities, post in your thanks to the community.  You could also make a public notice to go on the water cooler/coffee machine. If you don’t want to do this publicly, an email of face to face thanks also works.

2 High Level Recognition

You community is delivering value to business, find a business leader who can say this in email to your community managers. Many community managers take on the role as an “add on” to their usual job, if this is the case include their managers in the email list.

3 Buy coffee/tea

Not every company has free coffee on tap, your social media/community managers will appreciate the coffee/tea of their choice. Ask the barista to write “thank you” on the cup.

4 Invite them to join the CMAD webathon

The group behind CMAD has a day long programme of speeches and lectures all relevant to the role of a community manager. You can see the whole agenda and sign up on the site.

5 Run Your Own Web Event for Community Managers

I have done this, we ran an online meeting in two sessions (to cover Asian and American time zones), we had expert sessions on webcare, content calendars, and examples from round the world on local challenges (this was the most popular session).  If it’s too late to pull this together for this year how about announcing it on Monday, and making it a showcase for other colleagues to understand the role of the Community Manager.

6 Bring Cake

Yes, I have done this. It might be my colleague’s favourite  😉

If you make a small occasion of cake with coffee and say a formal thank you it’ll be a very personal way of showing your appreciation.

7 Small Gift

Put a card on the community manager’s desk with gift or an appropriate gift voucher inside, your thanks will have more impact if you add a written acknowledgement of specific achievements. If you’re not in the same place look for an email option – there are plenty of online gift voucher options.

8 Join the Community Manager Roundtable

The Community Manager Roundtable has a wealth of resources, training and research that can help your community managers improve their work, and professionalise their role. They can also contribute to the annual survey on the state of community management.

 

If you’re a member of a community you value take time to post a message thanking your community manager. If you can, ‘@’ their manager in the message to increase the recognition for their hard work.

If you’re a community manager pat  yourself on the back, and take a moment to reflect on how your community has evolved and grown in the last year, then plan one thing you want to improve in your own arsenal of awesome community manager skills.

Big personal thank you to the wonderful community managers I’ve worked with, it’s been a pleasure and I’ve learnt from you all!

Image: thanks  |  ren_7

Blockchain

Blockchain

Blockchain is the technology behind cyrptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Namecoin and Titcoin. These currencies work as any other currency in terms of spending them, but their creation is a little differently and relies on cryptography,

When I first heard about bitcoin I was working for a financial services company, and the person telling me was gleefully announcing it would be the end of banks. Lots of things have been touted as the end to banks over the years, this was just the latest. I admit I had a bit of a mental block about it, I couldn’t see how value was encapsulated in the bitcoins – which is probably exactly how people felt when paper money started to be issued by national banks.

It’s a little complicated so here’s the best explanation I’ve been able to find on the internet so far.

(Want to know more? Here’s an even more detailed version from the same expert.)

Blockchain is a distributed decentralised ledger recording transactions. At its heart it provides a mechanism to encode the trust on each side of a transaction.

It’s that documenting of trust that has led to further consideration of the blockchain technology starting with central banks themselves. Blockchain solves two problems for established banks and central banks (1) transactions become faster (2) transactions become more secure. Because the transaction is recorded in a distributed manner, and because the transactions form a sequence, it’s extremely difficult to create a fraudulent transaction.

There are other areas where documenting trust is important, The Economist reports on changes coming to the land register in Honduras that will use a form of blockchain. By distributing the land register in a blockchain system the country will finally have a single land register.  IBM is part of a consortium working on a “hyperledger” that will allow private use of an open distributed ledger to track a variety of transaction. They note that a transaction dispute can take 40 days to resolve, but with an open ledger that time should be reduced.

Using Blockchain to verify contracts, sometimes called “smart contracts” could have uses in multiple industries. In this podcast from the BBC’s “Click” programme they explored the idea of using blockchain in the music industry to codify ownership of music, and enable simple payment.

MIT (who else?) have been looking at using blockchain as a certification mechanism on qualifications and memberships. They’ve written on the background and purpose of this project. If you’re a nice honest person who never lies on their LinkedIn profile you might struggle to see why this is important, however there are lots of CV ‘exaggerations’ out there and it is important to be clear about what qualifications, experience and memberships a person holds when they apply for further education, a job, or enter public office.  In the future our CV may come with blockchain codes to verify our statements.

Lastly governments are examining the potential of blockchain. The UK Government released a report on blockchain technology this year in which they state the potential power it has in government business;

Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries, assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services.

In fact Estonia is there already, their digitally-savvy president, Toomas Hendrik, has overseen significant use of blockchain technologies in securing identity and health records within his country and he’s working for a closer integration with outer countries across Europe.  There’s a broad vision Estonia’s digital programme, and the implementation has simplified a great many processes for its citizens.

In the future some form of blockchain technology will be behind how you access government and financial services. It will be more secure, more able to protect your privacy, and less likely to disruption or loss of data.

Image: Chained  |  Danna § curious tangles  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Book of the Month: Non-Obvious

BOMApril_NonObvious

I have both the 2015 and 2016 editions of this book, it’s not necessary to buy both as the 2016 edition covers everything in the 2015 edition. This is book of the month for May.

Non-Obvious 2016 Edition – How To Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict The Future

By: Rohit Bhargava

This book tries to do two things; teach you how to collect your own trends and secondly discuss the trends they’ve collected and see as important. Maybe I’m too lazy to be a trend curator – I preferred the second part of the book.

In the mass of news it can be challenging to sort out trends for fads, which Bhargava recognises in naming his method “The Haystack Method”. He likens the mass of information to a haystack, but considers the insight you apply to the information to be the needle, and sets out five steps for trend curation.Trend Curation Process

Gathering is simply saving interesting ideas from the mass of content that surrounds his, he prints out the ideas and labels them with a sharpie, finding this easier to work with in the aggregate step than online options. (I’m a fan of online options – Pocket being my current favourite).

Aggregate is grouping the ideas into clusters, looking for broad ideas affecting multiple unrelated industries, perhaps focusing on a human need rather than a technology. Give each group a working title that conveys why the grouping is interesting.

Elevating is looking for the big ideas across your clusters, connecting ideas from different examples and determining which ones represent a shift in business practices. It’s the toughest step, and may result in you disturbing the clusters from step 2.

Naming a trend in a way that is both understandable and memorable. Bhargava often uses word mashups, alliteration and twists to create something that works. Examples in the 2016 edition include “B2Beyond Marketing”,  “Reverse Retail”,  and “The Reluctant Marketer”. I’m generally not a fan of the word mashups.

Prove check that the trend you’ve identified really is a trend. Bhargava looks at the strength of the underlying idea, the impact on behaviour and the potential acceleration of the idea.

In each section he provides tips and tricks to help you follow the process, and provides some examples of how he’s approached each step. Even so the guidance is rather high level, and since the underlying assumption is that you collect ideas and read widely I’m not sure that this really works as  guide.

The second, and larger, part of the book discusses the trends, and this I enjoyed more. Each trend is explained in context, with industry examples and closes with “How to use this trend”, which mostly made me want to do more research.

My two favourite trends for 2016 were I’ll point out a couple of the trends that appealed to me.

Mainstream Multiculturalism

Mainstream multiculturalism

My worlds collide in this one trend, I’ve now spent more of my adult life outside my home country than in it, and I’ve lived in five different countries, my friends are from all over, and speak all sorts of languages so I never really fit the mainstream wherever I am. I think the patterns of migration, the rise of the children of migrants and the increased opportunities all feed into this.

The other side of my life, the geek side, makes this all possible; technology now delivers a range of platforms where anyone can contribute, so we have more “voices” in entertainment.

But the trend goes beyond entertainment, into our food and our politics with Justin Trudeau commenting that the make up of his cabinet, and specifically the gender balance was important “because it’s 2015”.

In “how to use this trend” Bhargava points to new hiring practices, instructing you to hire for unexpected diversity, but is light on the “how”. I saw an interview with a filmmaker recently about building more diversity in films who made the very good point that it’s not enough to just hire diversity, you need to mentor and train and listen to the stories being told.  (I should have written down the filmmaker’s name, I only remember her words!)

Strategic Downgrading

Strategic downgrading
Our consumerist mentality assumes that the new shiny thing is better, that more functions are better, that more data/information is a good thing. But some consumers challenge that, rejecting complicated functionality, or valuing one characteristic over all others or favouring single function devices.

Farmers apparently are rejecting the most technologically advanced tractors, favouring instead a more robust model, perhaps one that is easier to use and easier to fix.

Consumers valuing privacy may choose the “Blackphone”, which puts privacy first. There are a number of “un-smartphones” out there with no internet functionality and no camera – but battery life greater than 24 hours.

I could read e-books on a laptop, a tablet or my phone, I don’t, I choose to read either paper books or on my kindle, because when I read I want zero distractions. We’ve recently seen a rise in sales in print books, perhaps as people rediscover the joy of being absorbed in a book and rejected the screen experience.

I doubt I’ll ever be a trend curator professionally, however I found inspiration amongst the trends discussed and some reassurance that my chaotic collecting of ideas might be useful. I like the presentation of the trend chapters with the wide range of industries covered, the blending of ideas in to a human trend and the “how to” sections to guide future use of the trend. I think the “how to” sections following each trend should be seen as inspiration for your next steps rather than specific actions to take.

I did find several errors in the book that seemed to hint at overly-fast production. The diagram of the Haystack method has the steps in the wrong order, and Noma is mentioned as being in Amsterdam (it’s in Copenhagen) are two that grated.

Overall the book is thought-provoking, the trends are characterised on a human need level – rather than the tech-heaving “VR is big” type of trend often seen – and cover a wide range of industries. I think this makes it easier to see applications of each trend across other businesses.

Security is Like Water

1A pipe in my kitchen broke this week, water leaked everywhere, seeping into everything, through the smallest gap. This got me thinking about other types of leaks. I think there’s a reason we talk about information and security leaks; you can do everything you want to contain information but it will pass through the smallest gap.

The reason is that there is a natural tension between the measures needed to make a company secure, and the activities people have to perform in the line of their work. Every attempt to lock down security across an organisation pushes employees to find alternative routes to perform their work.

Ars Technica reported earlier this year that when Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, had requested a secure Blackberry she had been refused. Blackberry is Clinton’s preferred tool for answering emails, and a secure Blackberry had already been provided to Obama (and to Condoleeza Rice, Clinton’s predecessor).  Now this seems a very odd decision to me, Secretary of State is the third highest office in the US, and a role that would obviously involve a lot of email correspondence with the president, presumably of a similar “top secret” nature.

I’ve heard of the same thing playing out in different ways in companies.

  • Generic USB sticks were banned, the company provided USB sticks that had a nasty habit of corrupting movie files, and it was already impossible to email large files. So employees doing presentations outside the company would use a hotmail account to email the video to themselves so that they could play it at a conference or meeting outside the company.
  • When new board members wanted meeting notes electronically. The security advice was to give them company laptops. But these were people who travelled extensively and sat on the boards of several companies. Password protected pdfs were used as an interim measure, but longer term measures involved a secure site.
  • When security teams became aware of the possibility that social engineering techniques were being used on LinkedIn and specifically targetting company employees they blocked LinkedIn from the company network. Ignoring the fact that this just moved the risk to outside work hours, or via personal mobile phones.

In all these cases employees quickly found a work-around. In some cases the risk was reduced in this process, in others not.

As Tom Seo wrote in a recent Tech Crunch article “security is defined as a largely operational function, which in turn leads to reactive, incohesive decision-making”, and I think that security has been seen as an operational function for a long time with a defensive or reactive mentality.

To keep something perfectly secure we lock it away, put it in a safe, behind a wall, or in a fortress. But for companies there is no way to build an effective wall around a company’s digital information, since using that information is an operational necessity. Sure, we use the term “firewall” for a sort of digital approximation of a wall, but we still send information across a firewall, and use technology outside a firewall.

Years ago a security colleague said to me “we can no longer build a completely secure system; we have to choose which risks to remove and which to manage”. It’s a good start, but I look forward to the day when security teams think in terms of solutions rather than rules.

Image: Security Wire  |  Lydia  |  CC BY-2.0

 

 

5 Things to Increase Happiness at Work

2016_03_happy

Sunday is the International Day of Happiness,  I’m not sure who decides these things but I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at happiness at work. For many people “happiness at work” will sound like an oxymoron, but it turns out there’s good research to demonstrate that happiness increases motivation and productivity. Shawn Achor talks about the “happiness advantage”, which significantly increases performance “your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.”  Alexander Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer, has come up with five ways happiness is important at work one of the really cool things he cites is that relatively small actions can have a big impact. 

5 Things to Make Work Happier

Here are five ways you can make your team happier as a manager,  and the good news is you’ll be happier as well

  1. Team Purpose
    According to Dan Pink’s research a sense of purpose builds a person’s motivation. Knowing how your work and your team’s work fits into the company’s goals helps you feel that your contribution is valuable.
  2. Help Someone
    One way to make yourself happier is to help someone else; by sharing expertise, suggesting solutions, or sharing a tough task. Helping someone in your team provides a positive role model for others in your team, helps the person and will improve your happiness.
  3. Give Positive Feedback
    Genuine, open, freely given positive feedback and appreciation is guaranteed to improve someone’s mood. I’ve written before on the importance of saying “thank you“, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced the mood-lifting effect of positive feedback from someone we trust.
  4. Team Jokes
    Laughing together is a bond, a mood improver, and it can help your team be resilient in the face of challenges or crises. The best teams I’ve worked with have had this, with lots of the jokes relying on a particular brand of “geek humour”, which is why my farewell card from one job is a poster of memes.
  5. Share food
    I happen to like baking, so have taken in cakes, muffins, biscuits to share in my team. Many teams have a tradition of bringing back food from exotic holidays (which is how I developed a taste for Turkish delight), and one team I worked with had a tradition of having a team lunch outside the office.  Whatever suits your team, but nothing beats eating together as a metaphor for sharing and a move improver.

 

And as a bonus three ways to build your personal happiness this weekend;

  1. Practise Gratitude
    Write down three good things that happened to you in the last week. If you can build this into a daily habit you’ll learn to see the positive things more easily, which builds your happiness.
  2. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
    Helping others increases our own happiness, if you’re stuck for ideas there’s a website dedicated to kindness.
  3. Meditate
    Twenty minutes of meditation a day gives rise to measurable changes in the brain, increases creativity and reduces anxiety.  It’s a tough habit to build, but there are some apps to support you, start with fewer minutes and build up.

Happy International Day of Happiness everyone.

Image; Let your reach exceed your grasp  |  Scott Swigart  | CC BY- 2.0

 

 

Believe Data

Content calendarWe were sailing back to our home port and a dense fog descended. Suddenly we couldn’t see more than a boat length ahead. My father, a mariner by profession, plotted a course and steered by it, sending my brother and me forward as lookouts.

My mother was convinced we were sailing in the wrong direction, that we’d steered off course (and this was before the reassurance of GPS). “No,” said my father “you must trust your instruments”.

We made it safely home; it was an early lesson in believing data.

The amount of data produced and collected every day continues to grow. “Big Data” is a well-known, although poorly understood term. In many companies we’ve moved on to “data-driven decisions”. But we’re not always good at believing the data.

I was in a meeting recently where the most senior person in the room looked at a graph of twitter follower growth and said “I just don’t believe this data”. The data showed that goals for follower numbers would not be met. Leaving aside the argument on whether follower numbers is a good goal, the data don’t lie. If there’s a straight line of progress that won’t reach the goal then you need to change something or accept missing the goal.

It made me think about when we believe data and when we should be sceptical.

We tend to measure progress against an expected path, and in a large organisation invariably report that progress upwards in the organisation. In our plans and projections that progress follows a nice upward curve. But the reality is different, every project encounters setbacks, and the graph is more jagged than smooth.

In fact a smooth graph, where targets are always met should raise questions.

Years ago I was chatting to a guy who left his previous company after about four months. He left because the targets for the quarter were increased by 25%, and everyone met them. As an experienced business person he knew that a situation where every business unit met the stretch goal in the first quarter it was applied was very very unlikely. His suspicions were raised and he left as quickly has he could. A year later the company collapsed under its own lies. The company? Enron.

In his articles (and books) Ben Goldacre campaigns for greater journalistic care in reporting data, and better education on scientific method. He points to the dangerous habit of pharmaceutical companies in cherry-picking their data, choosing studies that support their product and ignoring those that don’t.

I said earlier that we should trust the data, but we also need to know how the data was collected, what errors might be inherent in the data collection methodology, and what limits there might be to interpreting the data. This should be part of everyone’s mental toolkit. It would help us evaluate all those advertising claims, refute 90% of the nonsense on the internet, be honest about progress to goals, and finally make data-driven decisions.

 

Image; Research Data Management  |  Janneke Staaks  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

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