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.