Tag Archives: social media

Techniques for Monitoring Online Communities: WebVisions Video

Our WebVisions panel about Techniques for Monitoring Online Communities was just released on video thanks to the wonderful team over at Strange Love Live.

I’m a little biased since I was moderating the panel, but I thought it went really well thanks to the amazing people who were part of the panel: Marshall Kirkpatrick, Justin Kistner and Nathan DiNiro. These three have some awesome tips and techniques that they shared during our session. Enjoy the 60 minute video!

Who is the Voice of Your Brand?

I’ve talked before about the importance of having someone you trust as the face of your company:

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture.

Tom Fishburne’s latest cartoon and blog post are a great reminder of the importance of having someone you trust representing your brand in public facing, social positions.


Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

On Tuesday, I gave a presentation about Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques for the PDXTech4Good group organized as part of NTEN’s 501 Tech Club, so the presentation was targeted to nonprofit organizations. It was about a 30 to 40 minute presentation followed by 2 breakouts:

  • Learn more about the tools (Twitter, etc.) with Crystal Beasley
  • Monitoring social media sites with Dawn Foster

Here are the slides from the first part of the presentation, and you can download the full size version from SlideShare if you want a better copy than the version embedded below.

View more documents from Dawn Foster.

Monitoring Breakout Section

In the monitoring section, I shared some of my favorite tools.

Keeping up with industry news:

  • Find any good RSS reader and populate it with the top blogs from your industry. Netvibes and Google Reader are good choices.

Real time Twitter monitoring:

Find shortened links to your websites when posted on Twitter:

Advanced monitoring on the cheap:

  • Yahoo Pipes: More involved tool, but you can do some very advanced monitoring. I have a bunch of video and written tutorials for getting started with Yahoo Pipes.

Transparency and Disclosure: Honda on Facebook

This week there was yet another example of someone within a company talking about his company’s products on Facebook while posing as a consumer instead of disclosing his relationship with the company. In summary, don’t do this. It’s slimy, people will find out, and it reflects poorly on both the person and the company.

Honda on Facebook

I’ve talked about transparency and disclosure before on this blog, so I won’t go into details. In short, if you have a business relationship with a company that you are mentioning on any social media site, disclose it.

Online Community Research and Social Media Planning

As I work with clients to build online communities, I find that external community sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an increasingly important part of the overall online community strategy. As a result, I was excited to read the results of Bill Johnston’s recent Online Community Research Network study on this topic. The study looked at how organizations are incorpating external communities and social media sites in their online strategies. Bill posted more information about the results in his post, but here are a few of the highlights.

Twitter and Facebook are the highest priority external community sites for most organizations followed by LinkedIn. This is consistent with what I have been hearing from clients. My clients also tend to ask about YouTube and occasionally MySpace.
Each organization’s business goals for using external community sites are slightly different, but some of the most important goals included:

  • Educate and inform
  • Peer-to-peer evangelism
  • Retain customers / loyalty

The most surprising part of this research is the number of people who don’t think they need a plan for these efforts. I disagree.


It’s important to approach your external community efforts (including social media) with clear goals and some thought (i.e. plans) for how you want to approach each site and how everything fits together. The plan should include objectives along with roles and responsibilities that clearly outline who will update each site, how often, and with what content. Without good planning, your corporate presence is likely to look either disorganized and scattered or abandoned and barren.

I think this helps highlight the difference between knowing how to use communities and social media for personal pursuits and knowing how to engage in them to meet the specific objectives of an organization. I don’t have a plan for how I use social media in my personal life, but I do work with clients to help them put together strategies, plans and content roadmaps for using external online community sites. If you don’t already have a plan for your external online community engagement, you should find someone (internal or external) who has experience building corporate online community strategies and plans to help you get organized. You don’t need to spend months on the plan, and it doesn’t need to be a 100 page document, but you should have some kind of written plan.

Does your organization have a plan for your external community efforts?

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

I was in Eugene today to talk to the Willamette Valley AMA about social media. The presentation was similar to the one that I gave earlier this year at WebVisions, but with a few more details on how to use some of the various tools. Here are the topics that I covered and a copy of my slides.

  • Guiding Principles & Strategy for Participation
  • Social Media Activities / Tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • FriendFeed
    • Blogging
  • Monitoring
    • RSS
    • Monitoring Twitter
    • Yahoo Pipes
  • Managing your social media efforts

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

Transparency and Disclosure

I wanted to remind everyone about transparency and disclosure when posting online. If you work for a company, you should disclose your affiliation when posting about the company online. The people participating on social media sites are smart people. If you don’t disclose your affiliations, people will find out, and it won’t reflect favorably on your company if people feel like they have been misled.

Kohl’s V.P. of Digital Marketing, Ed Gawronski, is the most recent example of this faux pas (described by Augie Ray):

Based on his activities in Kohl’s Facebook community, Ed Gawronski seems to be a big fan of Kohl’s. Two weeks ago he noted, “Less then 4 hours to get a great deal at Kohls.com. I just hit the jackpot and saved 30% on some ASICS sneaks. Cost me almost nothing.” And a couple days later he had another scoop for Kohl’s Facebook Fans: “make sure to give your email to kohls.com. I think they give you $5 when you give it in. The deals get even better too. I’ve seen special online promotions every week.”

You might think Ed is just a helpful guy and a big supporter of Kohl’s, except a visitor to the Facebook page outed Gawronski as a Kohl’s marketing executive. In a reply to one of Ed’s posts, the anonymous visitor notes, “Interesting. Ed Gawronski is the VP of marketing for Kohl’s. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ed-gawronski/8/b1b/875 Masquerade much?”

Quoted from Transparency (or Lack Thereof) on Kohl’s Facebook Fan Page in Experience: The Blog

Keep in mind that open, honest and transparent conversations are the norm for most social media sites. Spend some time thinking about your social media / digital strategy, and think about how your actions reflect on your company. When you are thinking about doing something questionable, ask yourself 2 questions:

  • Would I want my mother to know that I did this?
  • Would I be embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

If your answers to either of these questions is anything other than yes, you should find another course of action.

Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:

“Would you let a company intern:

  • Man your customer service line?
  • Be your receptionist?
  • Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
  • Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?

If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”

Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog

This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.

These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.

I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.

I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).

Online Community Metrics

This morning, I ran across a list of social media metrics on the Page One PR site, and I realized that I spend quite a bit of time talking to clients about success metrics, but I haven’t spent much time writing about metrics on this blog. In a previous post, I talked about my general guidelines for online community success metrics:

The metrics that you select will depend on your specific goals, but common community metrics include page views or visits, new member sign ups, and participation (new posts or replies). It is easy to go overboard and measure everything; however, I recommend that you pick a couple (no more than 4 or 5) of the most important measurements to use to report to management on your success. You should have an analytics package or reporting tools that allow you to drill down for more details that you can use to help troubleshoot issues and understand the data, but use these as background materials for your team.

In other words, your success metrics are a small number of items that you use to determine success or failure over a period of time. You should measure many other items that you can use as indicators for what works or what doesn’t work, but make sure you separate what you are measuring because it helps you do your job vs. what metrics you are using to determine success.

Now, let’s get more specific. Online community efforts, including social media, can be very difficult to measure. I try to focus success metrics across three areas: awareness, membership, and engagement.


Awareness is focused on getting people to notice your community and visit it to learn more. I typically use a general purpose website analytics package, like Google Analytics, to track visits to the community or page views as my primary measure of awareness.


Membership looks at the people who are paying attention to your community on an ongoing basis. These are the people who take the time to sign up and join the community as members. I usually use the number of new members or the total number of members of the community as the success metric for membership.


Engagement is all about the conversations that people are having in your community and their interactions with other community members. The number of discussions, replies, or comments are typical ways to measure engagement in a community.

While awareness, membership, and engagement are long-term metrics, you should also have success metrics for shorter-term programs that also tie back into your overall community metrics. For example, you will want to keep track of when you do any kind of outreach (online or offline) and watch relevant success metrics for your community both before and after the outreach activity. This additional measurement will help you determine what methods of outreach work best for your community and will determine the success or failure of a shorter-term program.

While the success metrics mentioned above are geared toward online communities, you can use a similar approach for social media efforts. Awareness could include mentions of your company or product name across various social media sites (Twitter, blogs, video, etc.) Membership might include Twitter followers or RSS feed subscribers for your blog. Engagement could include comments on your blog posts and Twitter @replies.

Exactly how you will measure these success metrics depends entirely on your community dynamics, the community platform capabilities, and what activities in the community are the most important for your members. Don’t get too caught up in the examples I’ve listed here. The important part is finding a way to measure all three of these areas: awareness, membership, and engagement. Exactly how you will determine success will probably be a little different for each community.

Social Media Users Are Older and More Business-Like Than You Think

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently who was expressing doubt about whether their audience, less technical business professionals over 40, was participating in any meaningful way in social media. As a result of this conversation, I spent some time digging into the data, and I wanted to share what I learned.

Your Competitors Are Investing in Social Media

Companies are continuing to invest more money in social media, which will continue to fuel the growth of social media technologies. At least some of your competitors have plans to invest more resources and increase spending on social media. Here are a few examples from eMarketer and Forrester.emarketing1 emarketing3



Twitter Users Are Trending Older

According to Nielsen, Twitter is growing rapidly and people using Twitter tend to trend older than you might expect with 35 – 49 year-olds making up almost 42% of the traffic to Twitter.com.

twitter growthtwitter age demo

Nielsen has also found that the majority of Twitter users access it from work:

“Twitterers (a.k.a. Tweeters) are not primarily teens or college students as you might expect. In fact, in February the largest age group on Twitter was 35-49; with nearly 3 million unique visitors, comprising almost 42 percent of the site’s audience. We found that the majority of people visit Twitter.com while at work, with 62 percent of the combo unique audience accessing the site from work only versus 35 percent that accessed it from home only.”

comScore has also noticed a similar trend in Twitter users:

“18-24 year olds, the traditional social media early adopters, are actually 12 percent less likely than average to visit Twitter (Index of 88). It is the 25-54 year old crowd that is actually driving this trend. More specifically, 45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group, followed by 25-34 year olds, who are 30 percent more likely.”


Facebook Users Are Trending Older

According to Nielsen:

While social networks started out among the younger audience, they’ve become more mainstream with the passage of time. Not surprisingly the audience has become broader and older. This shift has primarily been driven by Facebook whose greatest growth has come from people aged 35-49 years of age (+24.1 million). From December 2007 through December 2008, Facebook added almost twice as many 50-64 year old visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under 18 year old visitors (+7.3 million).


According to Inside Facebook:

Looking at Facebook US audience growth over the last 180 days, it’s clear that Facebook is seeing massive increases in adoption amongst users 35-65. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is still women over 55 – there are now nearly 1.5 million of them active on Facebook each month.

The biggest growth in terms of absolute new users over the last six month came amongst users 35-44. Over 4 million more US women 35-44 and nearly 3 million more US men 35-44 used Facebook in March 2009 compared to September 2008.

Online Community Participants Also Increasing in Age

online community ages

There you have it. A big data dump of various research into social media and online community age demographics. If you know of other research, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts: