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:

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