As public affairs officials determine how government agencies should use social networking sites to communicate with the public, the rest of the governments employees are busy communicating on their own site, Govloop.
Govloop was developed by former DHS IT Specialist Steve Ressler and is often described as “The Facebook for Government.” It was designed to give government employees, government contractors, students, and those who are simply interested in the government a forum to share ideas and information.
In logging into Govloop, it does resemble most of the other social networking sites out there. Each member has a profile and can join groups, send messages, update their status, and add friends. Where Govloop differs however, is in the content. The conversation and blogs posted on Govloop truly do stick to current topics and issues within government. Sections dedicated to upcoming events and job openings also provide a forum for members to share valuable information to one another.
One reason the conversation has remained focused on topics such as (links for Govloop members) teleworking , enabling collaboration , and diversity is due to Ressler’s explicit statements on Govloop etiquette. He explains that members shouldn’t overly promote their company, service, or event, and that open debates are encouraged but says not to “excessively criticize any idea or person.”
With around 20,000 members, Govloop has proved to be so successful that NIH is now funding a forum aimed at becoming “The Facebook for scientists.”
By: Jameson Strotman, Allied Media Corp
Twitter is simple. Twitter posts contain a maximum of 140 characters. Posts can be witty, coy, or simple lead-ins to links. I’m currently operating two twitter accounts; in my experience I’ve witnessed a number of different types of Twitter users. I argue that there are three types of sophisticated users: the Engagers, the Feeders, and the Observers. This observation comes from several months of using Twitter every day. I remain open to new user classifications.
The Engagers have tended to be the more sophisticated, web savvy, early adopter types. These people are the pioneers, who have paved the way for the rest of the folks on Twitter. Even though they have paved the way, I’m not sure they will remain long enough to shape the future of this specific tool. This question should be left for another day. The Engagers are folks like Kristie Wells, President and Founder of Social Media Club.
The Feeders are organizations or people representing organizations, such as Guy Kawasaki, who use Twitter as a feed to blog articles, websites or news articles. In the words of Kawasaki: “I repeat a handful of my tweets because I don’t assume that all my followers are reading me 24 x 7 x 365. This is the same reason that ESPN and CNN repeat the same news stories (without updates, simply identical reports) throughout the day.” News organizations, companies, and government entities all fall into this category.
The Observers are the final group. This category consists of everything from the casual user – who tweets once a week – to the regular user who comments on social, cultural, political or entertainment trends. This category consists of both light-hearted Twitter users as well as users with a more deliberate cause, such as political demonstrators in Tehran. Observer users can reach very different results, as 28 year old Justin Halpern recently learned.
Currently, I am tweeting from two different names for two very different reasons. On one name, I represent Allied Media Corp. on twitter as primarily a Feeder. I’m increasingly trying to move this name into an Engager role in order to reach potential clients and other interested parties. On another name, I am an observer – but am attempting to grow into an Engager’s role. In which category do you find yourself or your organization?
These categories lead me to several other questions. Some of these others have asked recently. Is Twitter a search tool or is it a form or social media? Are Twitter lists appropriate? Will categories matter as demographics change?
I recently attended the Adobe Government Assembly at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington, DC. The event was very well done with speakers from organizations such as DHS, DOD, and EPA. Government employees and government contractors gathered to discuss and consider the idea’s of government transparency.
While many topics were debated, one question that emerged was “how does the government share ideas and ask for feedback from the public, without sharing too much, or creating unrealistic expectations?” As Al Kamen’s Washington Post column examines, (washingtonpost.com), even the “super secret” NSA is conversing with the public on Facebook.
An extremely bright panel including Alan Cohn (Strategic Plans-DHS), Price Floyd (Public Affairs-DOD), and Dee Dee Myers (Former White House Press Secretary) debated how to handle public interaction and information sharing, while answering questions from the crowd (answering questions from the public about how to answer questions from the public?!?). Myers pointed to the release of the White House Visitor list (bbc-white house list) as an example of how sharing some information increases the demand for more information. The public responded to the list by saying, “Thanks for telling us who was there, now tell us why they were there and what they were talking about!”
While the panelists agreed that this can become problematic, they also agreed that it isn’t something to be afraid of and that it is the reality of today’s world. The days of government communication to the public being a one way street are over. Today, US Government officials aren’t only deciding what to share with the public, but what to tweet, what to re-tweet, and how to respond to difficult wall posts.
So I’m sitting here, wondering what I should blog about, wondering what innovative concept I can come up with in order make my mark in the social media arena. I’m wondering if there is any point to wondering these things at all until I realize that being INNOVATIVE doesn’t mean coming up with a new CONCEPT, but rather an angle or idea that can make ANY concept more effective.
People spend a lot of time trying to be early adopters, never taking the time to look back at establishments in a field that could be improved. For example, blogging, everyone is doing it, I’m doing it right now. Blogging is a tool, used by individuals with a cause, to spread their word to others who share a common interest. In short, it is a tool that connects people. I guess this is why blogging is considered social media. But how can I come up with an innovative way to use this tool to connect me to the people I want to connect to.
But before I go any further, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Paul Young. I live in northern Virginia, right outside of Washington DC. I work for a multicultural marketing firm in the area and have recently been exposed to the idea of utilizing social media for the purpose of marketing. This then brought me to the idea, “how can I use social media to help find solutions for MY clients?” That said, I need to learn about all the different aspects of social media and experience them firsthand. As my father used to say, “There’s no better way to learn how to swim than to jump right on in.”
Today, I’m going to embark on a journey, into the world of social media and this post is my first step. Every week, I’m going to read blogs (and respond to them), write blogs (I think the term is blogging, j/k), watch online videos, make online videos, tweet, network, and find any way possible to connect with people. And though this idea might not be NEW, I think I can still make it innovative by adding a little bit of spice. My journey into the world of social media is going to be a multicultural one.
What is Social Media? Why does Social Media matter? Where do I fit in? These are some of the questions constantly being asked in offices and cubicles around the country and around the world every day. In actuality, the questions are more direct and less casual; driven by fear many ask: but what’s our ROI? Social Media, the buzz word, has a safe place among serious integrated marketing campaigns, so let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. Social Media or New Media is a conversation that bridges the divide between a social cause and an activist, a product and a consumer, or a tag-line and a consumer. Marsha Lindsay wrote a nice piece on social media about the evolving conversation economy.
Social Media matters: traditional, unidirectional, media won’t reach all main stream audiences; it certainly won’t target in-language ethnic communities – an increasingly important ability. As some bloggers have noted on recent Census survey information, including Allied Media Corp.’s Johanna Kinsely, the American consumer continues to become increasingly segmented. Social Media matters today because it allows large organizations to hold conversations both internally and with their respective audiences. Of course, the implicit assumption here: increasing information leads to better understanding.
We all fit in. Social Media in all of its metaphysical glory has demands. Social Media must be: user centric, agile, omnidirectional and creative. Social Media is content, as Guy Kawasaki takes note of Brian Halligan’s notes. Content within content – that’s deep. Before I digress, Social Media allows for individual agency and this can be explored through tools such as Twitter. Last Friday, I had a chance to listen to Shel Israel speak at the last Blog Potomac unconference speak about his latest book Twitterville. It was an interesting conversation about conversing online. We all fit in. Go find your voice and jump in. I’m looking forward to your comments – thanks!
Regardless of Market, Focus Should Be on Cultural Relevancy, not the Technology
Listing: Blue Chip company seeks experienced Online Community Manager/Social Media Strategist/person who understands the Internet to develop company’s integrated marketing initiatives across new media channels. S/he will be responsible for monitoring Twitter, making a Youtube channel, adding friends on Facebook, and managing intermittent “blogger outreach”. 3+ years experience in updating status messages required.
Sound familiar? If you’re working for any brand with a half-functioning marketing department, it should. Even amidst the downturn, companies are clamoring to get in the social-media game by hiring social-media managers or looking in-house to indoctrinate their own. The question around social-media strategies is no longer if, but how: How can we acquire more Twitter followers than rival Brand Y? How can we tap into our Facebook fans to promote our new product? How can we use social media to tell our story?
Any brand that considers itself competitive is already engaging in social media on several levels. And even if they haven’t answered the “why” of it all, many have already launched headfirst into the how, getting their logos and well-briefed spokespeople on every social networking site/platform/channel they can, spreading the message of their latest promotion or new campaign.
Of course in the growing flurry of tweets and blog-buzzery, separating the signal from the noise has become an increasingly difficult task for consumers. Brands tirelessly pump out their messages across the standard platforms, but many users are often left wondering what it is they’re “friending” and whose purpose it ultimately serves to do so. What does it mean to become one of Brand X’s 7,000 Facebook friends, and why should we read its CEO’s latest blog?
For most businesses, being part of the social-media evolution is no longer a new opportunity; it’s a necessity. And yet for many, one of the most basic elements of a successful strategy seems dangerously undercooked: the “what?” What exactly is this currency we’re now wielding? What are its different forms, how do they travel, and do we have a real understanding of them? What makes the content we’re creating socially, culturally and distinctively relevant?
For multicultural audiences, this is an especially crucial consideration. For the growing “non-general market,” social media means much more than just Twitter, Facebook and blogs. It includes a wide range of content and channels, paths to entry more nascent than the staid mediums and content we’re all familiar with.
African-American, Hispanic, and Asian consumers download more mobile ringtones, games and images than their white counterparts. They share shopping and entertainment advice and consume a wider range of mobile media (from Internet to live TV to streaming audio) than their peers. They engage in niche social networks that are grounded in offline interaction. They’re more likely to store and share photos, contacts and calendar information on their mobile phones than anyone else.
Hispanics, in particular, are more likely to befriend a brand on a social-networking site than non-Hispanics. And African Americans as well as Hispanics are more likely to use social-networking spaces to share opinions with friends about products, services and brands than “general market” consumers.
Needless to say, when speaking to a multicultural audience, research into the different content and mediums most valued by these segments is a necessity. This is particularly important in the social-media game, given the minority market’s high adoption rate of new means of accessing and sharing content, entertainment and opinions — often about brands. Understanding these morphing modes and pieces of cultural currency is the first step for any brand trying to truly resonate with a highly differentiated audience.
But this culture-based approach shouldn’t be limited to the multicultural sphere — especially when dealing with media designed to be social. All brands and agencies should be thinking beyond Twitter updates and Facebook pages when considering their interactions in the social media space. Every user today has a voice, a culture, a distinct perspective. For a brand’s efforts to be meaningful and worthwhile, it must explore the diversity of its audience — and strike up relevant, authentic conversations founded in a true understanding of their cultures. From multicultural to general, the market today must be spoken to via media that is more than social — but cultural, as well.
When we think about social media, for any type of audience, we must consider the spectrum it represents, and which pieces are most relevant and valuable to the consumers we’re trying to reach. This means thinking about:
- Culture-based insights about your audience: What kinds of content are they consuming and sharing? Why, where and how?
- Using these clues to guide the content you offer: Does a viral video make sense for your audience? Or should you consider a niche community outreach? Or, both? (Scion has been successful in this area: From its design-your-own coat of arms to its fine arts events to its extreme sports sponsorships, the brand has taken a culture-based approach to reaching its heterogenous audience while maintaining its brand’s core values)
- The relevant pathways to entry: Should you invest in a Twitter promotion? Or would a mobile entertainment campaign make a bigger impact? What mediums and networks do your most loyal consumers use and trust?
Of course, none of this is easy. It requires a keen understanding of what lies beyond the known conversation and its oft-used channels. But we present this challenge to brands and to agencies: to think outside of the social-media template, to venture beyond the conventions already established and to create fully-considered strategies that speak to their increasingly diverse audience in more meaningful, relevant ways.
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Christine Huang is head of cultural trends at GlobalHue, the U.S.’s leading multicultural marketing-communications agency.