Friday, January 08, 2010

are you social-media-ready for success?

 If folks at your organization think you can just add water and get a social-media presence, or are fussing that it needs to be perfect, here's a thoughtful reminder from Zack Barnett, director of web communications at the University of Oregon, who aptly said "you have to be willing to suck" at social media:

When you do have a success you want to share on social media channels, you need to be ready to catch that wave. There's no way to have insta-Facebook fans or a crowd of Twitter followers. Instead, you need to be trying, putting your toe in the water, falling off that surfboard, and learning about social media well before you get the chance to ride the wave of glory.

In Barnett's case, the willingness to try social media without insisting on perfection paid off when his university went to the Rose Bowl and he was able to build a special site, Celebrating Champions, that gathered up content from all the different social networks the university had cultivated. From his post:

See, we didn’t wait to generate momentum on those channels until we needed it. We consistently built our audience, moving runners around the bases with regular status updates, new videos and consistent — and fun — tweets. Then when it came time to swing for the fences, we hit more than a solo shot because we already had a loyal, growing and active community of fans. The Celebrating Champions site captured all the enthusiasm around athletic success to highlight the university’s excellence in scholarship and service. We grabbed a feed from an existing — and fan-created hashtag, #goducks. We solicited fan photos on the UO homepage and Facebook and used some of the photos in a slideshow on the Champions site.
His post details how they were able to maximize the social-network impact of the Champions site, and is well worth a look. It's similar to the groundwork my clients at UMBC accomplished with their social-media strategy, which began with a training retreat that involved a cross-functional team from advancement, public relations, marketing, alumni relations and graphic design and advanced into pilot projects. Then, six months later, UMBC was ready to take advantage of its social-media strategy, training and practice, when it was named number one in up-and-coming universities in the U.S. News & World Report America’s Best Colleges Guide, and later, when its president made TIME's list of top ten college and university presidents. UMBC units were ready with Facebook updates and Twitter posts that shared the good news with alumni and students followers, a solid group built up over time thanks to UMBC's extensive social-media presence--and a group that was happy to share the news with its networks. All that activity drove traffic to this celebratory page, which, like Oregon's, offers opportunities to find more specifics, donate or engage further.

All too often, I see people setting up barriers for social-media communicators, barriers that are sometimes created by looking at the ground one step in front of them (But I only use email! I'm too old to Facebook!) rather than the vision of success on the horizon. Taking that long view--and the lumps that come with falling off your surfboard a few times--should be part of your social-media strategy.

Related posts: You can't be Mary Poppins in social media

Is social media "unprofessional?"

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1 comment:

Zack Barnett said...

Wow, dueling posts! Very cool. Thank you for mentioning us. I'll have to delve more deeply into UMBC's effort.