Feb 24, 2009

Little Brother's Advice


We’re doing some research in our spare time about how companies can be more strategic in their use of social media. In other words, how should companies use blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms to connect with existing and potential customers? Who should be in charge of this channel of communication, and how do you do it without being cheesy?

Last week, Adam Jackson was kind enough to stop by our office and let us pick his brain about social media. You may recognize his name from his site Adam’s Block.  Jackson is the guy who stuck a webcam out his window in the Tenderloin and created an Internet sensation.

For years the city of San Francisco has tried and failed to make use of its network of surveillance cameras. (Can you say Big Brother?) But Jackson has managed to use the popularity of his homegrown spy cam to impact crime in his neighborhood. Think Little Brother. Now he has plans to turn his idea (grassroots neighborhood watch meets the web) into a company that can impact high-crime neighborhoods across the country.

That’s what Adam does in his spare time. His day job is working as a social media consultant and writing a book about Twitter. For a guy in his early 20s, Jackson has a lot of wisdom to share.

Here are some of my notes:

Why should companies be trying to connect with people through social media?

Because that’s where “the kids” are. Lots of young adults spend more time on their computers than watching TV, and some of them (like Jackson) don’t even own a television. But Internet consumption is going up and up and up.

How important is it that you own your own content?

For companies who are trying to decide whether to build their own social networking platform or just build their presence on sites like Facebook, this is the million-dollar question.

What should companies look for if they’re trying to hire a community manager?

It’s hard to find the right person. Personality is very important in a community manager. Companies have to find people who truly embody their company in human form. Good example: the community manager from U-Haul. Very personable “family guy.” You also want someone who lives and breathes social media. They will already have a following. How “captivating” is their dialog online? How influential are they? One way to measure influence on the web is the number of replies and re-tweets you get when you send a tweet. “I only have 2,300 followers on Twitter,” Jackson says. Only? Do you need “governance” rules for a community manager? Adam says it depends on the community manager’s experience.

What is a typical day of a community manager?

Wake up. Use Twitter a lot. It’s fast, it’s personal, and it allows you to connect directly to a lot of people. It makes people feel their voice was heard. Then look through the blog comments. Makes replies public. Don’t email people directly, because you want lurkers to see what you have to say. You might do one or two blog entries a day. Then you troll the other social media platforms (Facebook, Myspace, wherever you have a presence). You want to touch each one every one to two days. If you don’t have activity, then people will purge the group, or it will be so low down on their list they’ll never see it. Jackson also recommends in-person networking. Yeah, that’s right. Close your laptop and go to a bar. Facebook has an app called Party Buzz. You can find gatherings in your area where you can meet other people with similar interests. If you’re also doing customer support, this can get really time consuming and you may need a team of people.

What do you do about negative reviews or comments?

You show your authenticity by how you handle negative comments. Usually there’s a good rebuttal, so it’s in your company’s interest to publish the negative comments (rather than censoring them) in order to be able to tell your side. But negative comments can take up a lot of energy, especially when you’re trying to respond to each individual one. Jackson has a great strategy for blog comments. Rather than giving a rebuttal as another comment (where a lot of people will miss it), he recommends writing a new blog entry that summarizes similar negative comments and gives a well-reasoned rebuttal.

How do you measure a community manager’s progress?

At the end of each week, you can do a baseline report that can include things like

  • Number of reviews of your site/company/product and whether they were positive, neutral, or negative
  • Number of Tweets
  • Number of emails
  • Summary of Facebook comments
  • Number of blogs mentions (through Technorati)

Some interesting ways companies are interacting with customers online:
Dell’s “idea storm”
User Voice—good if you are only looking for customer feedback
Get Satisfaction—this is the service Jackson recommends for customer support
Zen Desk

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Katrina's picture

Yum. It would be interesting to see the demographics of their new customers. There's such a big generational difference in how people use Twitter, etc. So is it just the 20-somethings showing up for their spicy pork and burritos, or is the word getting out to the "older" folks as well?

Eric Grant's picture

There was a great story on PRI's The World today about how a small Korean BBQ truck in LA (Kogi) is using their blog, Flickr and Twitter to get the word out about where they are each day. It's resulted in an explosion of growth for their little business and a huge online following (over 5,300 to date).

You can listen to the story here: http://www.theworld.org

And here is their site: http://kogibbq.com

Adam Jackson's picture

Katrina, it was a pleasure meeting with you last week. Thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts and I hope these methods prove useful in your efforts to embody the passion of Hot Studio in a community manager position.

Take care.

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