Rob’s blog

Know the people doing your social media marketing – and their methods and ethics

It can happen so quickly: a few misplaced tweets, an ill-considered blog post, and suddenly an organization is at the center of an online firestorm. They’re called spammers and liars, and tagged with the Hashtag o’ Doom, #FAIL. And the worst thing of all is they had no idea what was happening.

Where, oh where, did it all go so wrong?

Probably somewhere around the moment they decided to outsource their social media marketing.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with outsourcing per se. Organizations often have limited time and staff resources, and don’t yet know the online terrain; recognizing that you aren’t going to be able to keep up with conversations, and taking measures to increase your capacity, is actually a positive step.

But you need to do a lot more than just hand over the keys (and usernames, and passwords) to an agency, and let them run wild. You need to know they won’t trash damage your good name by doing things like spamming Twitter conversations about the Iranian elections.

How do you know if you’re dealing with a responsible firm that will respect the communities you’re engaging with – and protect your reputation?

  • Know who you’re dealing with, and who will be managing your social media presence. Do an online search – both a traditional web search, and a social media search using tools like Technorati. What’s the reputation of the company and the individuals involved?
  • Check for the level of personal experience the people have who will staff your presence. Do they participate actively in social media, with a blog, Flickr account or YouTube channel? Are they currently engaged in the communities you want reach? How do they act online personally as well as professionally?
  • Talk with them: in person if possible, by video (or audio, if you’re visually impaired) otherwise. Get a sense of their personalities, and your own sense of their trustworthiness.
  • Ask them about their track record and the tools and approaches they use. Ask for references from past engagements, and follow up with those clients. Find out whether the company stuck to the straight and narrow, or took some ethical shortcuts.
  • Ask them what they plan to do, and how. What you’re looking for here isn’t a strait-jacket – you don’t need to know exactly how many times they’ll post to Twitter and the exact minute they’ll do it – but the ethical compass guiding their approach.

Here are the red flags:

  • They take a cavalier attitude toward disclosure, offering to pretend to be staff members or even specific people within your organization.
  • They plan to pay people to “seed content”, link to you or blog about you.
  • They’re vague or evasive about their tactics. (They may tell you that it’s proprietary information; remind them that it’s your reputation on the line when their “secret sauce” turns into egg on your face.)
  • They brush off ethical questions, telling you that less-than-honest tactics are the way the game is played.
  • They have no real social media presence of their own – which is a sign they lack both accountability and direct knowledge of the field.
  • They want to operate completely on their own, without regular contact or reporting to you.

And if you do decide to outsource, here’s one more thing to look for: a commitment to building your own capacity for social media engagement. The greatest value you may get from your outsourcing contract may well be your organization’s growing understanding of social media… and ability to engage on its own with your audience.

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Alex and Rob to teach Introduction to Social Media at UBC

One of our favourite things about working in this field is the chance to pass on what we know, to see what happens when people start to grasp the potential of social media… and to see what they do when they run with it.

So I’m delighted to announce we’ll be teaching an introductory course in social media this September at the University of British Columbia. The course runs for three Wednesday evenings at UBC’s downtown Robson Square campus, from Sept. 9 to 23. Tuition is $375 plus GST.

Here are the details:

This introductory course provides an overview of social media: its history, theories and the principles behind online communication. Through hands-on demonstration of a variety of social media tools including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, RSS, wikis and social bookmarking, you discover how these tools are shaping modern communication and how to incorporate them into everyday business and personal communications. Topics also include upcoming trends as well as predictions for what’s next in social media.

For more info or to sign up, visit UBC’s registration page. We hope to see you there!

(By the way, the first night of the course happens on – get this – 09/09/09. Can you imagine a more auspicious date?)

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Just because there’s no price tag doesn’t make you aren’t paying for it

It happened again today. Every time an online service like Twitter or Facebook hits a roadbump, or stops working altogether, there’s an outcry of protest from its users. Then, just as quickly, comes the backlash: “How dare you complain about a FREE service?”

At one level, I understand the thinking: there is an army of developers, sysadmins, designers, administrators and other great people who work hard to conceive, create and maintain the web apps. And behind that, a lot of money is being invested.

On the other hand, there’s another kind of investment being made in these services, and that’s the time and content that you and I put into participating: the photos we post to Flickr, the videos we share on YouTube, the hours we pour into Facebook – and the millions of observations, complaints, links, updates, insights, jokes, memes and random stuff we tweet on Twitter.

That effort doesn’t just represent an opportunity cost on your part (you could be spending that time working out on your Wii, for example) – it represents value to the owners of the web service you’re using. Facebook’s business model involves delivering highly-targeted eyeballs to advertisers, as does YouTube’s. And while nobody’s quite sure what Twitter’s business model is, it isn’t philanthropy.

Look at it this way. If Twitter was nothing more than its hardware and software, does anyone seriously think people would be bouncing around multi-hundred-dollar valuation estimates?

The implicit bargain between social application provider and user is this: they’ll provide these amazing tools whenever and wherever you want them, and you’ll provide the content, conversations and relationships that create value and help them realize a return on their investment: financially or (in the case of reflected-glory marketing) in brand equity.

Now, most of us understand that these are still early days, and sites will have the occasional hiccup. But when repeated or lengthy outages seriously impair our access to tools, people and content – especially when those outages come without an explanation – then our patience rightly wears thin.

So if you’re a user on a social web site, do cut them some slack (especially during a denial-of-service attack)… but don’t feel you have to apologize for feeling irritated over repeated fail whales and error messages.

And if you’re running a social web site that’s running a mild fever or fending off a cough, thank your users for their patience, explain what’s happening… and do what it takes to get back up and running.

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Some Twitter “crimes” are anything but

Twitter‘s no different than any other hot social-thing-of-the-moment: if you’re just getting into it, you’ll find lots of people out there with advice on how to use it (including us).

But not all of it is couched as advice or recommendations. Many of those voices are framing their suggestions as directives… even iron-clad laws. One blog post warns that disregarding its suggestions amounts to “Twitter crimes”.

May it please the court, I submit to you that many of those charged with Twitter crimes should be acquitted on the grounds of reasonable doubt – not just over their guilt, but over whether these should be crimes at all.

Here are four charges that the prosecution (in all its forms) is levelling… along with rebuttals from the defence.

1. The charge: Being followed without following back

The prosecution’s case: If you don’t follow back nearly everyone who follows you, you’re being hostile, standoffish and rude.

The defence rebuttal: My learned colleague has mistaken an arbitrary convention for legislation… and an artificial numerical parity for justice.

Okay, let me drop the flowery language. Just because someone is interested in what you’re saying doesn’t mean you feel the same way. And we all have different ways of listening on Twitter: some of us follow thousands upon thousands of people, segment them into groups and dip in and out of a lot of conversations; others decide they’ll focus their attention closely on a few conversations instead. Who’s to say going broader is better than going deeper?

2. The charge: Linking your RSS feed to your Twitter feed

The prosecution’s case: Twitter is for conversations, not broadcasting. Shovelling your content onto the web is just obnoxious.

The defence rebuttal: Your honour, if I follow Environment Canada’s weather feed on Twitter, it’s not so I can gripe about our recent hot spell; it’s because I want to know what the weather’s going to be like. The prosecution is making a classic mistake of thinking tools can only be used for the purpose for which they were originally created. For many people, Twitter isn’t just a conversational forum – it’s also becoming their alternative to an RSS reader. The defence is prepared to call witnesses from Social Signal who will testify that their most retweeted posts are often the ones tweeted automatically from their blogs.

3. The charge: Responding to celebrities

The prosecution’s case: If you reply to celebrities, you’ll look ridiculous… because what famous person is going to pay attention to you?

The defence rebuttal: My learned colleague from the prosecution wants to have it both ways. Apparently this is supposed to be a conversational medium… yet some are more worthy of conversation than others? Your honour, I am by no means a celebrity, yet I have had pleasant exchanges with them on Twitter. (Of course, most of my conversational salvos have gone unheeded… but that’s to be expected when you’re trying to catch the attention of someone following tens of thousands of people at once.) One of the great strengths of social media is its ability to flatten hierarchies – and fame is at least as vulnerable to that flattening as any other pecking order.

Incidentally, your honour, it often doesn’t matter whether the celebrity sees a response or not. My friends do, and it can spark a conversation among us that goes off in a whole different direction.

One last point: we have one set of prosecutors telling celebrities to follow everyone who follows them because that’s somehow conversational, and another set telling us not to engage in conversation with those same celebrities. The defence is preparing a motion to dismiss both counts on the grounds of whatever the Latin is for “get your acts together, people.”

4. The charge: Asking people to retweet you.

The prosecution’s case: If your tweet is worth repeating, people will do it on their own. Asking them to is just gauche.

The defence rebuttal: Your honour, my client understands that when she is asking people to retweet something, she’s asking for a favour. She’s asking them to spread the word – something we often do in other fields.

And the court will notice she is not deluging her friends with these requests; instead, she makes them judiciously, and repays her friends in kind.

Finally, she understands that these are requests, not demands. She asks politely, and only when she has something of value to share that she especially wants passed around.

In summation

It’s up to you, the jury. Should these in fact be crimes – the punishment being merciless unfollowing? Or should these and other laws be struck from the books? Render your verdict in the comments below.

The defence rests.

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Mars needs women!

Mars needs women!

(man at a conference to the man next to him, as they look at the only female member of the audience) Nice to see so many women turning out.

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Tipnorati

Tipnorati(waitress to couple at a restaurant table) My name is Kelly, and I’ll be blogging about this later tonight.

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24-hour blogging marathon raises funds for charity

Blogathon 2009 is here.

Starting on Saturday at 6:00 am, nearly 200 bloggers from a number of cities – Vancouver prominent among them – will be posting to their blogs every half hour for 24 hours. They’ll be raising money for a wide range of charities; so far, nearly $27,000 has been raised.

Here in the Vancouver area, Rebecca Bollwitt is serving again as the rallying point for local participants. Many of them will be gathering at Workspace in Gastown, where she’s sponsoring a tweetup for the duration.

It’s a terrific event. So tomorrow, give a thought over the course of the day to those bloggers (especially as the wee hours approach!) – drop by their blogs and leave a comment, and maybe make a donation via their widgets.

Good luck, folks!

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Job posting: site animator for TheBigWild.org

One of our favourite projects has been The Big Wild, a site where people who love Canada’s wilderness can share stories, connect with each other and take action to protect our big wild spaces.

We worked with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Mountain Equipment Coop, the site’s founders, to make it more engaging and easier to use, and for the past four months, our own Aaron Pettigrew has served as the site’s animator – encouraging contributions, promoting the site and ramping up participation.

Now The Big Wild has reached the stage where it’s ready to hire an animator on their own. And for a conservation-minded social media type – someone who feels just as at home wrangling blog posts and Flickr photos as they do sleeping under the stars a day’s hike from the nearest human settlement – this just might be your dream job.

But you have to act now: the posting closes on Wednesday, July 22. That’s just five days from now. So set down your pack, drop your oars, toss the pitons to one side and head to the CPAWS website, where you’ll find this:

Social media genius wanted
thebigwild.org

Location: Vancouver, BC, MEC Head Office
Reporting to: CPAWS National
Type: Contract, part time, 20 hours/week
Start date: Mid-end August, 2009
Length: 1 Year with possibility of extension
Application Deadline: July 22, 2009
Salary: Hourly

Are you the next site animator for thebigwild.org? We are looking for someone with social media savvy and a love of Canada’s wild places.

You’ll be the face of the Big Wild (www.thebigwild.org). The Big Wild celebrates Canada’s outdoor culture and large wild expanses: our forests, lakes, free-flowing rivers and stunning coasts. It’s an open and fun online community of people who are passionate about outdoor activity. And it’s people working together to keep at least half of Canada’s public land and water wild forever. You’ll be the site’s moderator and animator, posting news, encouraging more people to add their voice on The Big Wild, supporting Big Wild Challenge takers, and keeping the Big Wild social network pages hopping.

About you:

You have three great obsessions: the outdoors, building community and online technology. Chances are you’re involved with a volunteer or advocacy organization. And you probably have your own blog, a personal web site or an online community you call home.

You’re web-savvy, confident, ecologically aware and funny as all get out. You’re just as comfortable talking to bloggers as you are squeezing out Twitter updates, ideally in both English and French. And you understand the demands – and potential – of an intensive public outreach campaign.

What you’ll be doing:

  • Encouraging traffic to and supporters of thebigwild.org
  • Animating our online community. You’ll kick off discussions, moderate comments, and defuse conflict
  • Creating regular content for our blog (Blog Wild)
  • Maintaining and grooming the site, helping great user-generated content to rise to the surface
  • Creating and maintaining profiles for the campaigns on leading social networks
  • Responding quickly to queries from the public, and networking with likeminded bloggers
  • Conducting ongoing social media and web monitoring and providing reports
  • Participating in promotions and engagement strategy
  • Carrying out additional project(s) when agreed upon by all parties (e.g. training)

What you’ll need to do it well:

  • Be proficient and comfortable with social media “Web 2.0”. You’re at least as obsessed with what makes an active community as you are with online technology.
  • Ideally, you’re familiar with Drupal.
  • Be confident and articulate, in English and preferably in French too, in public and online. You write quickly and well, with a distinctive style that works on the printed page, a static site or a blog post.
  • Be an organizer who can engage and motivate supporters. You’re a friendly face and diplomat who quickly responds to queries from the public, and networks with likeminded bloggers.

About us:

The Big Wild was founded by CPAWS and Mountain Equipment Co-op:

CPAWS is Canada’s pre-eminent, national community-based voice for public wilderness protection. Since 1963 CPAWS has taken a lead role in establishing two-thirds of Canada’s protected wild spaces — an area over seven times the size of Nova Scotia.www.cpaws.org

Mountain Equipment Co-op is Canada’s leading outdoor retailer and largest co-operative. MEC is nearly 3 million members strong and counting. www.mec.ca

How To Apply:

Please submit resume with cover letter (can be a combination of written and other media), quoting posting BIG WILD SITE ANIMATOR by July 22, 2009 to:

Mountain Equipment Co-op
Human Resources, MEC Head Office
149 West 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 4A6
Fax 604.731.3826
Email: Jobs@mec.ca

We thank all applicants for their interest, but we will only contact selected candidates.

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Make the most of your conference sponsorship

Hey, you’ve sponsored a conference – good for you!

Chances are good you wanted to help these folks out, and support some productive conversation, learning and networking. Chances are also pretty good you want to get some benefit out of the sponsorship yourself with goodwill and exposure.

And when they said you’d have an opportunity to speak to the participants, you jumped at it. And you have a great 15-minute pitch carefully crafted by the folks in marketing, including a PowerPoint video that hits all the key selling points.

So why do you have this nagging feeling of impending disaster?

Maybe because you’re about to turn that goodwill into impatience, even hostility.

Because those selling points are about to bounce off a wall of indifference and distraction. And because you’re about to lose a great opportunity.

But I have two pieces of good news.

The first is, everyone’s expecting you to do just that. It’s what sponsors usually do at conferences. They deliver a pitch to an audience anxious to get on with the actual business of the conference: people who are painfully aware of the bill for conference fees, hotel, food and travel, not to mention time away from work, and who don’t want to waste a minute on someone else’s self-serving agenda. And then the sponsor walks offstage to tepid applause, silently wondering if maybe it would have gone over better with more animation in the PowerPoint deck.

So at least you have plenty of company.

And second, it’s not too late to turn things around.

From someone who’s attended and spoken at a lot of conferences, and who’s written those speeches for other people, here are some ways you can do yourself and your audience a lot of good at your next sponsored event:

  • Lose the sales pitch. Whatever else you do, please don’t pitch the audience. If all that means is you throw out the PowerPoint, and all you’re left with is a quick “Hi, we here at Social Signal are thrilled to support this conference. I’ll be here for the whole thing, and I hope you’ll grab me to say hi. Have a great four days!”… well, you’re now miles ahead of where you were.
  • Make it fast. Thank the audience and organizers for the opportunity to support the event, say briefly why it’s important to you, add a personal note, and wrap up inside of three minutes. Rehearse it to make sure you’re under that limit; if possible, record yourself and then listen to it from the standpoint of an audience member. Does anything sound false, self-serving, trite or dull? Cut it.
  • Introduce someone else. Instead of delivering the keynote, arrange with the organizers to introduce one of the conference’s featured speakers – someone people are really anxious to hear. Keep your introduction short; you can indicate why the speaker’s background or subject matter are so interesting to your company in a sentence or two, but the main thing is to get a little credit for helping to make an engaging presentation possible – and that means getting to that presentation quickly. (An added possibility: see if the organizers would be willing to name the keynote after your organization.)
  • Hyperlink. Prepare a longer message about your organization and why you’re participating – on your own web site, or on a site like YouTube. Let your audience know they can see it there if they’re interested, and that they can get more information about your products and services there as well. You’ll be helping the people who are genuinely curious about you, without alienating the folks who aren’t.
  • Announce something. Give your audience some genuinely exciting news… something that’s exciting to them, and not just to your organization. And it should actually be news, not something you’ve announced already.
  • Razzle-dazzle ’em. If you can be genuinely entertaining, then go for it. Sometimes it works best to set something up in advance – for instance, by preparing a (genuinely) funny video.
  • Deliver a public service announcement. Talking about something you and your audience care deeply about, a cause your organization is supporting, can identify vital common ground. Be sure to have a call to action: a way interested audience members can learn more and add their support.
  • Pull an Oprah. Give your audience members something then and there. Chances are your budget doesn’t allow you to give away cars, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer something of real value. Have people on hand to hand out copies of a book, announce there are keychain drives with an ebook on them, or put up a claim code onscreen to download something free and valuable.
  • Deliver the keynote – really, really well. If and only if you have great content to share, then deliver a keynote. Lose every single one of your selling points; instead, deliver high-value information. Tell stories, and make them part of a compelling overarching narrative that speaks to your audience’s hopes, dreams, ambitions and passions. Make it the best, most memorable speech of the event… and if you don’t think you can clear that bar, then reconsider.

(Now, if you’re the kind of discerning person who’s reading our blog, chances are good you already know that it’s better to engage your audience than to bore them. But maybe there’s someone in your organization who hasn’t quite figured that out yet… or figured out how to act on it. I’m not saying you should slip this under their door… but I’m not saying you shouldn’t.)

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“Chicks Who Click” this Saturday in Vancouver

Here’s an event that looks terrific: a one-day conference in downtown Vancouver for women in social media.

The details:

Chicks Who Click, a conference and networking event for women engaging in social media, is expanding internationally and will host its next conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Chicks Who Click is a community of like-minded women using social media to further collaborate, listen, learn and experiment with new media tools that will enhance their careers and personal networks. Conferences have sold out in Kansas City and Boulder, Colo., and are also planned for Dallas, Raleigh, N.C., and San Jose later in 2009.

The one-day conference will take place Saturday, June 26, at Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson Street. In addition, conference registration will also include a Friday night networking session, Chicks Who Mix, at the Alibi Room (157 Alexander Street) and a Saturday cocktail party.

“Chicks Who Click creates an opportunity for women to learn and collaborate in social media whether you’re just getting your toes in the water or run your own startup,” said Denise Smith, Chicks Who Click conference director.

Vancouver’s keynote speaker is Monica Guzman, the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s first online reporter and the main contributor to The Big Blog. In addition to Guzman, Chicks Who Click has 10 speakers including Rebecca Bollwitt, a renowned blogger and co-founder of sixty4media; Megan Cole and Victoria Revay, Co-Founders SPLRG; and Gillian Shaw, a journalist with The Vancouver Sun and Canwest. One of the goals of each of these conferences is to highlight local speakers along with national speakers.

Event sponsors include WalMart, Metzger Associates and Crocs.

The price for the entire conference weekend including all networking events and the Saturday evening cocktail party is $220. Attendees who may need an introduction may attend the 101 track on Friday afternoon for $59. Registration information may be found at http://www.chickswhoclick.net or by calling 720.833.5923.

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When it comes to engagement, social media is the art of the possible

I can’t believe it!! Your organization isn’t on Twitter? You don’t have a Facebook page with discussion groups and a wall? You’re not on MySpace, Bebo and FriendFeed?! OMFG, that’s so weak! What are you thinking?!

Well, maybe you’re thinking, “We don’t have a large organization, and we have very few resources.” Maybe you’re thinking, “Some platforms make it easier to manage conversations than others.” And maybe you’re thinking, “I’m going to put our limited resources and finite attention where they’ll do the most good.”

You know what? Good for you.

I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago. He works with a public-facing organization that gets plenty of attention, both favourable and overtly hostile – and there are a lot of demands on the time of their tiny staff complement. They want to be sure they can respond to the inquiries they receive. And because they operate in an adversarial arena, their organization has to be constantly on the lookout for inappropriate content that their opponents and media critics would pounce on.

My friend wanted to know why he shouldn’t dial back his organization’s Facebook presence. It was all his team could do to check their page’s last 20 posts for comments; keeping tabs on the hundreds that had preceded it was out of the question. And Facebook does nothing to help: no RSS feeds or notification stream for new comments, no back-end tools for monitoring engagement.

It’s a dilemma facing a lot of organizations – government, for-profit and non-profit alike. Participation and conversation are the lifeblood of the social web, but they come at a real cost in terms of time and, often, money. And when a service like Facebook has deficiencies that amplify those costs many times over… well, then comes the time to make some hard choices.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably hearing constantly from people a lot like me who are gobsmacked that you aren’t throwing your organization into the latest, coolest online spaces. But while the digerati might roll their eyes, they aren’t the ones who have to live with the consequences of your decisions. And one-liners cribbed from The Cluetrain Manifesto aren’t much help when you’re dealing with a media feeding frenzy or an alienated supporter. (“I’m sorry we missed your anguished comment asking for ‘a response, any response,’ but what you have to understand is markets are conversations.”)

So when you’re thinking about where to direct your social media efforts, how do you handle the tension between limited resources and limitless demand for conversation?

Understand the space and what you’re trying to accomplish there. I’m convinced the number one reason for organizations that fail in a new space is a lack of clear intention: they didn’t know why they had to be on Twitter; they were just told they did. Understanding what you want to achieve – even if it’s just to experiment and learn more about the platform and what you can do there – doesn’t just help you shape your initiative at the outset; it’s the only way of gauging whether you’re succeeding.

Inventory the strengths and weaknesses of the platforms you’re considering. Get a clear idea of the limits of the social network or web application you’re looking at – both from a user’s perspective and an administrator’s, and looking at both the technology and the community. (For example, you may find that Digg has features you love, but a toxic commenting culture.)

Hang out. Nothing gives you an intuitive appreciation for a new space, online or offline, quite like spending time there. Play anthropologist and observe the rituals, the unspoken rules and the way people participate.

Understand the table stakes. What’s the minimum level of engagement required to have a credible presence on that platform? If you aren’t able to deliver that over the long haul, you probably want to call things off now until that changes. That said, you can always…

Constrain your presence. Your first foray onto a new social network doesn’t have to be your organization’s definitive, all-encompassing presence there. Instead, consider creating an outpost with a focused, limited purpose: for example, around a particular event or campaign. If that purpose has a built-in expiry date (say, when an event ends), so much the better; it gives you a graceful exit should you decide this isn’t the platform for you. (An added advantage: focus often means a more compelling reason for users to participate.)

Identify the best bang for your buck (or your hour). Get to know the platform well enough to know where you get the highest-value engagement. Is it through comments on your own posts? Intervening in discussion boards on someone else’s page? What kind of content attracts the best participation from your community?

Assess your needs realistically. Recognize that reaching out to people and responding to queries takes time. Make sure you have the resources to cover your engagement plans… or scale those plans down accordingly.

Get creative about staffing. You may not have enough time to monitor everything happening on a particular platform… but maybe your supporters can help you out. Consider asking them to help you identify comments that need replies, contributions that deserve to be recognized, offensive content, and content elsewhere on the network you should know about. Be upfront about what you’re asking for and why – you don’t want to look like you’re trying to astroturf – and you may be able to magnify your impact online.

Start small and build out. One thing Facebook gets right is letting you switch engagement features on or off. You can launch a Page with only the Wall enabled, and begin calibrating your ambitions according to the level of conversation that emerges. Then, as time goes on, you can start switching more features on. (Or not.)

Manage expectations. Be upfront with your visitors about your intentions and goals, how you’d like them to participate, and what they can (and can’t) expect from you. You might be surprised how willing most people will be to operate within those constraints… and how tolerant they’ll be when you have to deal with people who aren’t.

Assess how it’s working for you. Look at the benefits and costs of your presence. Are you and your audience getting real value from your conversations? Are you freeing up resources you might have had to spend elsewhere (for instance, in customer support)?

Not the place for you? Plant a flag, move on… and monitor. It may well be that you decide right out of the gate that – hot new thing or not – a particular platform isn’t a fit for you. Or maybe you’ve given it a shot, and the value just isn’t there. Now may be the time to scale your presence there back to a bare maintenance level.

Wind down most of the conversational features of your profile (don’t just shut them off without explanation; if there’s been any kind of discussion there, the participants won’t be happy) by explaining what you’re doing and why. Include your contact information and links to platforms where you’re focussing your community efforts. And then continue to provide the baseline level of attention you identified before you launched as the platform’s engagement table stakes.

A minimum presence does three things: it ensures your organization’s identity isn’t being claimed by someone else on that platform; it provides a rallying point for your supporters on that platform to connect with you; and when the need or opportunity for more in-depth engagement arises, you have a great starting point.

Yes, there are people who will still call your presence weak. Let ’em. It’s a lot better to keep a modest promise of engagement than to break an ambitious one. The lessons you learn from engaging in a small way will lay the foundation for larger-scale efforts in the future.

And nothing can shut a critic up quite like success.

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