“Who?” first: planning successful social media strategies

Posted: May 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Design, Metrics, Social networking | 3 Comments »

Not “Mac or Windows?”; rather “who’s going to help?”

I used to dread when friends or family asked: “Chris, what sort of computer should I buy – laptop or desktop, Macintosh or Windows?” The people who needed me most were the hardest to help – they didn’t know how they’d use a computer, weren’t settled on much of a budget, had very high expectations, but little sense of what it would take for them to put a computer to good use.

But turning the question back on them (“how will you use the computer? do you need to hook it up to a printer or a PDA? how much do you want to spend?”) led to embarassment, not insight.

Finally, I realized that people who asked me a question like this would rely on a friend or family member for troubleshooting, when things went wrong. It was surprising that most of my questioners knew right away, when asked, who that techie would be. Of course, if there were problems, they’d call on Cousin Amy, or Joe from church, or that nice man down at the High Tech Depot.

Bingo.

The next time I got the question I responded with a question that was useful, not annoying: “who’s going to help you with your new computer, and what systems do they know?” A light went on in my friend’s eyes: they knew what to do.

The moral: Those first questions about technology are almost always, really, questions about people.

Thus, for organizations, not “Twitter or Facebook?”; rather “who’s going to make this work?”

Now, if you’re an organization seeking social media strategy and technology advice you’ll need a little more help.

Josh Bernoff and Forrester to the rescue, with a shiny (and useful) acronym: POST.

Consider, in order:

  1. People: “[K]now the capabilities of your audience.”
  2. Objective: “Decide on your objective…. Then figure out how you will measure it.”
  3. Strategy: What processes “will be different after you’re done?”
  4. Technology: Twitter? Wiki? Facebook? Blog? etc. “Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide with confidence.”

For non-profits and government agencies, I’d widen the circle of People: your staff, your management, your donors, and your partners are important, too. Who will need to participate in this new strategy to make it a success? What’s their training? What are they capable and motivated to learn?

And I’d start the search for Objectives and – more importantly- measures by writing the stories you’d like to tell when the initiative is a success.

Say you’re putting a state legislature online in a more friendly and accessible way. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say, once you were done, that a particular group of constituents that had been out of the loop for years used your new site to track a proposed law that threatened to hurt them and, instead, shaped the legislation to help them?

That gives you a rich picture of what success looks like — reaching new, non-expert audiences, providing early warning, making legislative content and procedures comprehensible — and how you might measure it.

So, those first technology questions are, almost always, really questions about People, Objectives, and Strategy. Technology, in POST and in life, is the last question, not the first one.


A better question than “what’s the business case for Gov2.0?”

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Civic engagement, Government, Social networking, Technology | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Don’t ask “how do I make the business case for Gov2.0?”; tell us about your agency’s relationships, and the case will become obvious.

Imagine that you’re a savvy Federal staffer in US Defense Military Health System Program. You’re excited by what the US Patent Office accomplished with its Peer to Patent program, eager to copy the success of Twestival 2008 which used Twitter to kick off events in 200 cities across the globe and raise $250,000 for water charities, and inspired by OSTP’s open government initiatives. So on Govloop, or on your blog, you pose the question: “what’s the business case for Gov2.0 (or social media or Web2.0 or Twitter)?”

and … crickets – a kiss of death for the conversation. You may get some well-meaning feedback from others who have confronted the same challenge, but the thread runs out pretty quickly. It seems that no on can help you.

What happened? You’ve focused your readers towards technology (Twitter? Youtube? Maybe a wiki?) and generalities (“communication is good”; “crowdsourcing rocks!”), and away from the relationships, mission, history, and other specifics of your organization that would give you and your readers the raw materials to create the business case.

Worse, we’ve all become distracted from your unique role in this conversation: you know the agency’s goals, its current challenges, what keeps senior management awake at night, what appropriations they’re looking forward to, and what headlines they’re dreading. You know that, or ought to. The rest of us don’t.

So, consider, instead, this conversation opener:

I work for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. As you may remember, one of my boss’s predecessors was featured in the Washington Post’s 2007 expose of poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and we’re still working to rebuild trust with injured soldiers and their families. We’re also trying to strengthen our relationships with medical researchers. And, by the way, we run TRICARE, the military’s HMO, and we’re working hard to keep the program affordable, with low deductibles and co-pays. What Web2.0 tools would be useful to us and how should we measure results?***

Imagine the roaring conversation this would inspire:

  • Your readers from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be typing their suggestions before they’ve finished reading your post.
  • Someone might point you in the direction of OrganizedWisdom — an aggregator of health expertise — and suggest that you to explore how you can engage your customers in becoming guides to military health issues
  • The success of PatientsLikeMe will be mentioned as a model for supporting the wounded warriors you serve.
  • Someone else might point you to Healing in Community Online, a sort of Second Life for patients and their families.

The question of metrics would become easier as well: TRICARE already surveys its beneficiaries regularly to determine how they perceive the accessibility and quality of care (and if you didn’t already know that, rest assured someone would tell you). Surely you could work some questions into that to evaluate your Gov2.0 initiative?

Now, with your help, your readers are brainstorming how your agency can accomplish its mission and deal with its challenges.

So, tell us about your agency’s key relationships, inside and outside government, and the ones that are most troubled, and watch the conversation explode.

(***Background on USDOD – Health Affairs is drawn from NAPA’s description of top “prune” jobs in the Federal Government. It might be an eye-opening exercise to review the other positions listed and brainstorm how Gov2.0 could, specifically, help each of these appointees.)

(Cross-posted from Govloop.)


CAP’s great Twitter 101 – and ways to make it even better

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Civic engagement, Social networking | Tags: | No Comments »

What was good.

Returned earlier today from a useful Twitter 101 session hosted by CAP’s Alan Rosenblatt at the Internet Advocacy Roundtable.  It was great. The next one could be even better, if we could learn more about what the presenters knew in their bones (see bottom).

Like many discussions on how to get started with social media, the conversation bounced around.

Tech: twazzup,  übertwitter for blackberry , and hootsuite were new to me and look interesting. Much more on Twtter resources here, courtesy of Shaun Dakin.

Stories: AAUW is drawn out of silent lurkerdom when they respond to a tweet from a disappointed soon to be ex-member who has misinterpreted a local chapter’s action; conversation results, the member is mollified and AAUW managers see the value. Dakin’s carefully nurtured network of robocall sleuths identifies the first (known) robo-sex-call one night, and the next day, the news hits the Rachel Maddow show.(I realized Dakin is, in effect, the real-time web’s ombudsperson for robocalls. )

Tips: Twitter is a tool, not a strategy. When you start, decide what your voice is going to be. Keep your twitter stream focused  – eclectic is ok, but beware that if you veer from months of all business to throwing in your sports enthusiasms, you’ll lose followers. (Via @epolitics)  Why would you want to hear only from people who agree with you? (Via @digitalsista)

Get senior manager’s buy-in by getting him/her on the rostrum for a new media conference, and let the infectious energy work its magic (Via @GloPan)

Conservatives tend to cluster around a few hashtags, e.g. #tcot, while progressives tend to use specific hashtags for specific issues. (This seems important, perhaps because it demonstrates degree of focus.)  (Via  @digitalsista)

Effectiveness requires listening, which amounts to research, and it’s hard, time consuming work.  (Via @henrim)

What would have made today’s session even better?

One of the presenters crystallized this for me when he insisted that the social – non-technical – aspects of using twitter could only be discovered in practice, not taught, and that it was more art than science.  But there are more than a few art schools, and though you can’t teach inspiration, you can teach craft.

I suspect that today’s presenters (and more than a few audience members) knew in their bones more than they could say about how to do it well. These questions might have helped:

  • How do you insert yourself in conversations and get heard?
  • What are your rules of thumb for getting started on a new campaign?
  • When you “listen” to Twitter, how do you do it, what do you listen for, and when and how do you respond?
  • When you’ve “fallen off the horse” in your use of Twitter, how do you get back on?

I’m sure that the presenters did their best to tell us all they knew how to say, but I doubt they told us all they knew how to do. I’m hungry for more.


You can’t “own” a social network, but maybe you can teach it.

Posted: December 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Democratic businesses, Social networking | Tags: | No Comments »

Craig Stoltz writes that it’s a mistake for Obama or anyone else to look for ways to use his extensive social network to govern. Instead, the instigator (for lack of a better word) should/can use the social network as a place to listen to the community and, respectfully, to join the conversation.

So far, so good. But there’s another opportunity: if you’re part of the conversation, you can also teach people. That’s a lesson from democratic businesses, such as Jack Stack’s Springfield Remanufacturing. Stack committed a long time ago to an employee-run business, and found that training is crucial:

Nobody can think and act like an owner without understanding the basic rules of business….
We start with the idea that there are two things every company must do to stay in business: make money and generate cash…. [E]mployees learn about all the subtle and not-so-subtle challenges of doing these two things in the various industries in which we compete.

How could the Obama Administration encourage the development
of primers on key issues? On any contentious issue, various parties would want to have their say — I can’t imagine the conservative Club for Growth letting the Service Employees International Union frame the issue of labor organizing rules, or vice-versa, and neither organization would want to leave the framing to the Administration. Or perhaps the Administration could make available the information they’re considering as they come to policy decisions. Jack Stack relies on Open Book management. What’s the equivalent here?

Links: search Citizentools resource links for more information on open book management.