Wednesday, November 12, 2014

IST 486: My Experience as Community Manager for Two Weeks

As part of IST 186, which is this social media class that I’ve been taking this semester, students were assigned two weeks to assume the role of class community manager. While I do consider myself a bit savvy when it comes to social media, I wasn’t exactly all that keen on doing it, particularly since I’m not exactly much of a people person. Anyway it was finally my turn the past two weeks (October 27 through November 9) and as much as I dreaded doing it before the two weeks started, I’m glad that I’ve had the experience. The past two weeks has given me a glimpse of what to expect if I ever had to assume a similar role when I do eventually enter the business world.

Being community manager, I was tasked with initiating and controlling discussions amongst my peers and also summarizing key points from what we’ve been learning throughout that week of class. This involved tweeting things that we’ve been learning from class while also interacting with other people in class using the hashtag #EnterpriseSM, then summarizing the tweets on Storify. In addition, community managers also had to start a discussion thread on Canvas based on the topic of the week. For the two weeks that I was community manager, the reading was on Chris Holloman’s The Social MBA where he discussed the topic of returns on investment from social media. To sum things up, Holloman generally discusses the steps needed for a company organization to form a social media strategy that is capable of delivering the intended message, which will in turn generate profit. I found this topic incredibly interesting, which may be why I enjoyed my two weeks of being community manager.

Even though I do like to think that I’m fairly comfortable with social media, having to use three different platforms while being community manager did catch me a bit off guard. The biggest struggle I had was changing my approach on using social media from my personal standpoint to using social media as a community manager. That meant that I had to adjust the way I tweeted, particularly using a more formal approach to put tweets together. For example I’d come up with some idea to tweet under the #EnterpriseSM hashtag, however it’d take me forever to come up with the right words (especially with the 140 character limit). However my experience highlights what social media in the enterprise is in real life. Community managers and social media strategists working in the corporate world go through similar struggles, which is the challenge of delivering the right message using the right words.

Another struggle that I ran into was keeping up with the tweeting traffic under the #EnterpriseSM hashtag. It’s just near impossible to keep up with the tweets, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when IST 486 (the undergraduate session) meets. However this gave me the opportunity to get back on TweetDeck. I was first introduced to TweetDeck during freshman year of college. Even though I do go on Twitter a lot, I don’t exactly tweet a whole lot, which is why I stopped using TweetDeck a couple years ago. Struggling to keep up with the class, I decided to brush the dust off my TweetDeck account. It absolutely made a difference as I was able to track tweets that use the #EnterpriseSM hashtag a lot more efficiently, especially since TweetDeck automatically updates the column feed when a new tweet is made out. Tools such as TweetDeck are absolutely necessary for people that use social media in the corporate world. With things moving so quickly on Twitter, TweetDeck “slows things down” a bit so that we can actually read about what’s happening. Even though my time as community manager for the class is up, I’ve gotten really used to the convenience of having TweetDeck. This experience has allowed me to embrace (or should I say re-embrace) TweetDeck into my life.

Utilizing three different social media platforms over the past two weeks has also given me a better understanding on how these platforms really work. The experience gave me an up-close look on the affordances and limitations of these platforms, and how I should be making the most out of these platforms with their affordances and limitations in mind.

Amongst all three platforms that I had to use, Twitter is hands down my favorite. The great thing about Twitter is that conversations are instantaneous. As soon as I tweet out something, it’s only a matter of seconds before someone else sees it and interacts with me. However as I previously mentioned, the amount of tweets can get fairly overwhelming and it’s hard to keep track of who said what. Moreover it gets a bit annoying when you try to interact with someone but don’t get a response.

I did really enjoy using Storify as well because it helps convey a message utilizing different platforms altogether. It keeps things short and sweet while also being effective in delivering the message of the story. I’ve never actually used Storify before and there definitely was a bit of a learning curve to it. However once I got the hang of things, it was really easy to put things together. The main challenge really is finding the message that I wanted to convey as well as the tweets and other media that I needed to tell that story/message. The biggest problem with Storify is that there really isn’t a strong following. It somehow just comes across as too academic, which is why I think it doesn’t have the critical mass. While I can’t really see how Storify could be used externally in the commercial world, it would make a fairly effective internal tool for companies and organizations (think short presentations and office instructions).

As for Canvas, I can’t exactly say that I loved it but I certainly could see how such a platform could be used in the business world. Canvas generally provides a solid platform for discussion. It has a very simplistic user interface so that it is easy to navigate around. Moreover, the discussion forum also supports features like image uploads and even the ability to embed videos. I particularly like how Canvas gives users the ability to receive email notifications and updates. All in all, Canvas really is a great office management tool. I could see something like this used to service office functions such as IT helpdesks, workplace discussion forums, as well as workplace notifications. The biggest problem I believe is that it is hard to get people to react quickly to discussion interactions. Personally, I’d see something posted but I’d rather choose to wait till I’m available to answer these posts. This isn’t exactly ideal when you want a platform to foster instant interaction in a workplace.

All in all, being community manager the past two weeks was a very eye-opening experience for me. It was actually a bit fun coming up with ideas to stir up conversations and discussions. While it was hard keeping track of all the ongoing conversations that are happening on the three platforms our class uses, it did give me a good taste for what to expect when it comes to social media in the enterprise. It does highlight the fact that organizations are adopting multiple teams to support and oversee the organization’s social media activity.

I highly doubt that I’d ever get a job where I’m directly involved a organization’s social media but even so, I’m glad I’ve had a taste for what to expect. Social media has become an important aspect of the business world and the experience I’ve had of being community manager has showed me how I should always have an eye out for social media to improve both the external and internal operations of an organization.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

IST 686 Blog #4 - Social Media Analytics

After going through the past weeks reading from The Social Media MBA by Christer Holloman where he discusses what needs to be done in order to ensure positive returns on investment from social media, I was particularly interested on how this might apply to Foundation by Zurb’s social media strategy. Outside of the fact that Zurb creates one of the web development industries best programming framework, I actually had no idea what kind of a tech company Zurb is. Since Foundation is essentially a free resource for web developers, I was keen to find out how exactly Zurb made money. I needed a better understanding of the company in order to determine its returns on investment with their promotion work on social media.

Zurb is actually a tech consulting company that does web development for startups and small companies. Foundation was actually a product the company developed for rapid-prototyping when they realized that there was a need for such a framework in the market. That essentially means that Foundation isn’t exactly their bread and butter, but rather an open resource that helps promote the Zurb brand. In that sense, I believe that Zurb approaches social media platforms such as their Twitter and Facebook profile as well as their blog as tools to really get their name out into the web programming community. While Zurb won’t directly make revenue from making out blog posts and sending out tweets, it does help inform developers, from the amateurs that are new to web development to the experts that know what they’re doing, about the framework’s latest developments. Moreover, their social media presence also helps form a self-helping online community amongst developers.

With a better understanding of Zurb’s, I moved on to look at how successful they have been with promoting Foundation through their social media profiles. As I previously mentioned in my last two blog posts, majority of the content that Zurb puts up on Twitter, Facebook, as well as their blog contains promotion images and simplistic writing. There really isn’t really a lot of technical writing or code references at all. When they do have to reference technical terms in their tweets or blogs, Zurb would then have links to their own tutorial page instead. While I won’t exactly say that Zurb caters towards beginners and amateurs, I do think that they at least try to reach those that are relatively new to the ideas of responsive design or framework-based programming with their posts on social media.

When you come to think about it though, this approach actually does make sense. While the people that follow or come across Foundation through social media most likely are programmers, there most definitely would be a huge variation in terms of their programming skills. By “dumbing” down their content, at least Zurb can guarantee that anyone that may come across the tweet or blog post would understand the purpose when they read it. Programmers essentially make up Foundation by Zurb’s followers anyway so their approach absolutely makes sense. Even though this approach doesn't exactly cater towards beginners and those that are unfamiliar to programming might get lost when going through Zurb's social media feed, I'd like to think that the comments section would be a great place for these people to catch on. It still would be important for Zurb not to make things too complicated though. This approach very much captivates Hollomon’s point on “Knowing Thyself”. Zurb has demonstrated that they are very well aware of the people that make up their target market is and how these people might thing. As a result, they are able to build their social media campaign with the idea of appealing to this market base.

Moving on, I wanted to see how effective Foundation’s tweets and blog posts are in order to measure the returns on investment Zurb has placed on their social media campaign. As of November 10, Zurb has a Klout score of 63. While not that high of a Klout score, you also have to consider the fact that Zurb’s pool of followers is primarily consists of programmers. I’d like to think that 63 is a fairly decent score for a tech company like Klout and it does reflect a certain amount of influence it has in their social media campaign. It really isn’t all that surprising considering the fact that each Facebook post or tweet that Foundation makes gets a fairly large amount of retweets and favorites (between 5 to 50 retweets/favorites) and likes (between 5 to 100 likes). All this goes on to prove is that their followers actually get what they’re trying to say. Most importantly, these posts on Facebook and Twitter garner quite a large amount of interaction, as followers will often follow up with tweets and posts containing questions or comments. I find it particularly interesting how followers of Foundation by Zurb prefer commenting through Tweets and Facebook posts rather than actually commenting on the blog posts that Foundation puts out. I guess this is for the better since social media would allow these users to access other followers of Foundation by Zurb to answer any questions they might run into.

With the primary goal of promoting their framework and keeping their users up to date with their latest progress, I’d like to think that Foundation by Zurb has been pretty successful with their social media campaign. Even though I couldn’t exactly find figures on Zurb’s market share in the web programming framework industry, I do work pretty closely in the industry to know that Foundation is preferable to many programmers. In that sense I believe Foundation by Zurb has been successful in achieving their primary goal.

In addition to promoting their product, Foundation by Zurb has built an excellent community through social media. This allows Zurb more flexibility in that they don’t need to invest a lot into providing supporting to their framework. If anybody happens to run into problems whilst using Foundation, that person has a very good chance of having his or her question answered through interacting on Zurb’s social media platforms. This strategy highlights Hollomon’s point on “Embracing Disruption as a Strategy”. There is just no way Zurb can effectively provide support to their millions of users. Embracing social media enables Zurb to provide users with solutions while also doing so at almost no financial cost at all. Most importantly, their community is essentially doing their promotion work for them as they generate interactions through social media. Its just a matter of time before these interactions show up on someone’s social media feed – pretty genius strategy when you come to think about it.

All in all, I think Foundation by Zurb’s social media campaign has proven to be very effective. Even though there aren’t exactly financial returns on investment, they have been able to improve their overall while also establishing their name as one of the leading web programming frameworks in the industry through the use of social media. Zurb's social media strategy certainly captivates many points that were highlighted by Hollomon. Their effective social media strategy definitely has played a large role in establishing Foundation as one of the better programming frameworks in the industry. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

IST 686 Blog #3 - Social Media Messaging Analysis

Social Media and the Ladder of Engagement 

Reflecting on my last blog post, I really got to see how Zurb’s Foundation as well as Twitter’s Bootstrap were able to use their blog to keep developers updated on the latest developments on their respective frameworks. However these blogs do not necessarily give both Foundation and Bootstrap the ability to directly interact and engage their followers. As a result, I decided to take a closer look into Foundation’s (by now it should be pretty obvious that I prefer Foundation to Bootstrap!) Twitter profile to study their approach on social media and to get a feel for their social media strategy. As it turns out, Foundation is fairly active on Twitter (tweeting roughly 5 to 6 times a day) so there were quite a lot of tweets to go through. I particularly wanted to see how Foundation’s tweeting patterns fit into Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement.

Throughout the past week of studying Foundation’s tweets, I found that the majority of their tweets were promoting the Foundation framework itself. These tweets almost always contained a short catchy blurb followed by a promotion image or a short video. These tweets also contain a link to either the Foundation website or the latest blog post on the Foundation blog.

Going through all these similar tweets, I’d like to think that Foundation primarily uses these tweets as a way to raise awareness of their framework to developers across Twitter. Thinking in terms of Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement, I believe that Foundation approaches Twitter from a creator or a conversationalists perspective. These tweets are meant to inform followers by creating tweets that contain information on Foundation’s developments. Moreover Foundation also seeks to promote themselves to developers (especially using eye-catching promotion images and videos to attract to beginner and amateur developers) that are on Twitter.

I find it really interesting how followers of Foundation somehow prefer commenting an interacting through these tweets as compared to actually making comments on the blog posts. Now that I think about it more, it actually makes more sense for Foundation to take a more active approach to interact their blog posts through Twitter than on their blog, particularly since it allows them to reach a larger audience. Most importantly, they don't exactly have to put a lot of effort into promoting their blog posts because their followers can do that for them as they retweet and favorite the tweets that they send out so that other people that don't follow Foundation might come across these tweets.

Foundation also tries to take the conversationalist aspect further with tweets that just contain a simple statement or a question to stir the discussion amongst their followers. While it does take some time for followers to eventually respond to these tweets, Foundation does reply to their followers fairly quickly to answer any questions or concerns they might have. In addition to stirring up conversations, Foundation also replies to any tweet that mentions their framework in hopes of starting a conversation.

Taking a closer look at these tweets that utilize the conversationalist approach, I’ve discovered how these tweets are purposely worded so that they are search-engine friendly. Being a developer, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve turned to twitter solve any coding problem I might have run into. Utilizing this conversationalist approach while also making the content of their tweets search-engine friendly enables Foundation to efficiently engage developers across Twitter. It also gives developers the chance to connect with each other in hopes of solving each other’s problems. It most definitely is a faster way to get solutions than posting and waiting for replies on Stack Overflow ( or searching hopelessly on Google for solutions, at east that's based on my own experience. In that sense Foundation doesn’t necessarily have to become the provider of solutions but rather to facilitate the process of finding solutions while also promoting their own brand at the same time. Quite genius when you actually think about it, it most certainly makes for efficient online marketing.

I also found it interesting how Foundation promotes itself by tweeting about users and big-name companies that use the Foundation framework to build their websites and web-based applications. By doing this, these tweets by Foundation most certainly add a lot of emotional appeal to users that are new to the whole concept of responsive web design as well as developers that are trying to decide on a responsive framework.

While these tweets are a great way to generate conversations amongst Foundation and their followers, it also enables to fulfil the critic role as highlighted in Li and Bernoff’s Ladder of Engagement. By commenting and contributing on Twitter about the users that utilize the Foundation framework, they in turn are able to generate interest by highlight what they can potentially accomplish using the Foundation framework. These tweets also have the potential to generate conversations as well as the chance for Foundation to connect with their user base. Once again, these tweets also enable Foundation to promote their own brand at the same time.

Based on the week’s worth of tweets that I studied, it is pretty obvious that Foundation seeks to gain a more personal approach in a way their blog never could. The great thing about twitter when you think from the perspective of Foundation is that it gives them the opportunity to effectively connect with their user base. This instant interaction allows Foundation to truly understand the needs of their users so that they can tweak their product base to meet the demands. This is essentially the whole purpose of the Ladder of Engagement that Li and Bernoff discussed. 

The whole ladder concept is meant to allow users of social media to understand their users in order to meet their marketing goals. The Ladder of Engagement also enables users of social media to identify their target audience as well as to find ways to enter new markets. That could be why Foundation’s tweets cover such a broad mix of topics from the shortcuts of Foundation, general web programming tips, to even career advice in the field of web development. By being creators, critics, and conversationalists, Foundation is able to approach Twitter to accomplish their goal of keeping users updated by being directly connected to them. At the same time, these roles enable Foundation to find chances to grow their customer base.

While the Foundation blog and their Twitter platform do seem unique, I’d like to think that they actually work hand in hand. The Foundation blog gives followers a broad and general idea of what Foundation is all about. Twitter on the other hand makes up the blog’s shortcomings by giving Foundation the chance to connect individually with their users. In that sense, both Foundation’s blog and its Twitter profile help fulfil functions of the Ladder of Engagement.

Just something random that a realized as I was ending this blog post. While it was my supervisor at work that got me into learning and using the Foundation framework, I actually first learnt about the framework from a friend of mine back home that tweeted something about how he started to use the framework and how much he loved it. Even though this tweet wasn't from Foundation, I'd like to think that the community that they have built through Twitter has helped them reach larger crowds of people. I guess this really highlights how useful the Ladder of Engagement can be when used effectively.

Foundation's Twitter Profile: