Friday, September 30, 2016

The weekend read

Piles of leaves are fascinating, but it's time to back away from the pile, communicators. It's Friday, time to check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you. Rake up some inspiration:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Melanie Levi)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 things your company's sitting on that make great social content

Whenever clients say they don't know where to start in social media because they lack content, I usually say, "You're sitting on it." Rare, in my world, is the company or organization without these five options for great social content:
  1. Data: Calling data "the next big thing in content marketing" isn't just hyperbole. But it might be the real value-add your content strategy needs. Stop saving data for internal decisions, and find out what happens when you share it with your customers and users. Data also can power a wide range of content options, from infographics and white papers to charts and graphics. Start asking your colleagues all over the company what data are shareable. You might well be surprised.
  2. Photos: I know you have photos. Tons of photos. Whether internal or external, making sure your photo archives can be accessed online is an easy and smart way to power up your social content--both in individual posts, and grouped together as a resource. Don't think "new, latest." Think comprehensively when it comes to photos, and ask your customers for theirs, too.
  3. Comments: I just wrote a blog post based on a comment one of my readers added to a post of mine on LinkedIn, building on the idea in my blog post and adding perspective from her industry. I didn't just "like" the comment, I quoted it in another post expanding on the topic. If you're not recycling and expanding on user comments, you're missing a regular source of content. 
  4. Audience questions: When you get questions on webinars, in your comments, on your Facebook page or Twitter, via your call center or website forms, recycle them as the start to great, super-search-friendly content. That's because the way people ask you questions is the same way they ask them in searches...so the actual question posed is a little bit of SEO gold for you. I like taking reader and client questions and using the question as a blog post headline. Why answer just one person when you can benefit from a wider sharing?
  5. History: This category encompasses all of the others, naturally. Your archives are hiding data, photos, comments (they used to be called letters), and audience questions (ditto). Putting them into your social content mix will boost audience engagement and build a different kind of relationship with your customer.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rachel Chapdelaine)

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Friday, September 23, 2016

The weekend read

Time to erase the chalkboard that was your week, communicators, and focus on the weekend. It's time to check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and don't get caught on Facebook, and curated here for you. You don't need a schoolroom to get smarter by Monday:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bill Blevins)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Why I read the Bangor police department's Facebook page

I'm always unfollowing once-promising but ultimately disappointing Facebook pages. But one I've been reading with my full attention, and zero disappointment, is the Bangor, Maine, Police Department's Facebook page.

Let me be clear: My keen interest in the page does not stem from having had a car stolen there. Neither have I stolen anything from any of the locals, nor violated any local ordinances, living as I do in Washington, DC, with no recent excuses to travel to Bangor. Nor is this out of boredom, nor some odd desire to read everything on Facebook. Who has time for that?

But I do read this page daily. It never ceases to surprise and delight, two adjectives that marketers have beaten to a pulp. Here, they're true descriptors.

What really grabbed me first was the writing. It has flair, dry wit, and a side dose of public information about what might otherwise be considered the humdrum and mundane. I give you this bit of recent evidence in a post that summarized several recent police calls and stops:
We support the arts. However, there is a time and place for everything. A man near Bolling Drive called to report that someone had drawn, what appeared to be male genitalia, on his back door. This is not an appropriate use of a Sharpie. The man told Officer Perez that he believed that neighborhood teens might have done it. 
Perez agreed with his assessment as we do not get many complaints of the Daughters of the American Revolution pulling these types of stunts.
Posts like that are among the reasons that Bangor has a population of 32,000-plus, and its police department Facebook page has 173,000 followers at this writing. Visitors are encouraged to come have their photos taken with the department's duck of justice, pictured above. Most posts end with "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone and be kind to one another. We will be here."

Why does this work? It's a refreshing departure from what many organizations and companies do with their Facebook pages, where everything is polished, politically correct, and sunny, and all the actual interactions with the customer are shuttled offline as fast as possible. It feels real. It has the details that captivate us and make us want to know what happens next. On a practical level, it lets citizens know what kinds of crime are afoot--typically the ones that don't make the news, but affect real people--and teaches them how the police respond. While humor is a continuing tactic, the posts also can be reflective or serious, as needed. Read for the humor, stay for the variety.

Sergeant Tim Cotton, profiled here in the Washington Post last year, is the department's public information officer, and avoiding the humdrum was one of his motivations for creating the page as it stands today. From the Post:
“You learn as you go. I’m not exactly a social media magnate here,” he said. 
Cotton, a 27-year career cop, decided to draw on his sense of humor and hope he didn’t burn any bridges. 
“I think humor is the universal language,” he said. 
He proposed funny to his chief as an alternative to the typically stodgy fare put out by other departments. He got the okay with the caveat that he not mention religion or politics. 
And so it began.
You may be trying to develop a voice in your social media posts. You may be trying to use humor. You may be trying to figure out what you do with the boring, mundane, humdrum flotsam and jetsam that still has to be shared with public audiences, according to your boss. Your boss, is, in fact right about that, much as it pains me to admit it. Now, you have a model to follow.

UPDATE: Sgt. Cotton was kind enough to reply to my post this morning, and added a few insights. Specifically, he avoids using video or other special stunts that some police departments use on their social posts, preferring instead a simpler, more straightforward approach:
I personally dislike all of that. I know it works for other agencies but it does not seem real. Real to me is Adam-12. Cops, working everyday and taking on both the mundane and the exciting, terrifying, and ridiculous. That is all I wanted to show with the page....The way we become human to others is to be human to others. Those are my paradigms. It works sometimes.
He also added that he does no planning--just writes it all, then takes out the parts that are not presentable. "I actually know nothing about social media and I think that has helped me greatly," he said.

(Photo of the department's duck of justice via Bangor, Maine, Police Department)

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