The Art of Follower Recognition

Long gone are the days when brand auto responses were socially acceptable. And by socially, I mean on social media. We call them consumers, but at the end of the day, the people who flock to a brand’s social channels are part of an audience, a community, if you will. They choose to dedicate however many minutes — and in some cases hours — each day to following their beloved brands, for whatever reason, and can all too easily get lost in a number.

Like many people in a social strategy leadership role, I’ve spent much of my career working with clients and colleagues to demystify vanity metrics, teaching what success actually looks like — numbers that actual have strategic implications versus what’s just shiny but ultimately without long-term brand value. And the reality is, for so many brands, the community gets lost in the numbers.

As we push brands to embrace engagement as the lead performance indicator, we have to identify opportunities to recognize and reward the “every-follower” — the person who’s not necessarily an “influencer” (its own class of buzzword that requires clear definition), but has nonetheless made the conscious decision to follow and actively react to a brand’s social story.

 

  • Start Simple: People don’t hear the words “thank you” often enough. Not every brand action on social needs to be draped in pomp and circumstance. If your main goal is to showcase appreciation for your community, start by saying it with words.
  • Say it with a Surprise: Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile for a person (or people!) who has been an especially active and supportive member of your brand’s social community. Surprise them with something offline, like a handwritten thank you note and their favorite product from your portfolio, or even something brand-agnostic based on what you know from being a careful listener and community manager.
  • Build Sustainable Relationships: Nurturing your existing community is as important as growing it. Establish a regular community management routine that involves not just “listening,” but learning — about your audience, their interests, their motivators, and their values. Get to know the people who believe in the brand messages that you’ve worked so hard to craft. Their follow, like or retweet is their way of saying “we care,” and as a community manager, it’s your job to look for ways to keep that message reciprocal, and ongoing.

 

 

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Talking About My Generation

While I’m sometimes guilty of using industry jargon (a practice which has inspired physical jargon bells in my office), I really cannot stand buzzwords.

Public relations may have deep roots, but as far as industries go, social media is a relatively new speciality area, and when it emerged, so too, did a smattering of descriptors for its target demographic.

Calling me a “millennial” — and worse yet, an “older millennial” — will summon the most cold-stone serious of stink-eye stares from my otherwise shayna punim.

The phrase millennial casts a wide net — it technically accounts for some 75 million people born between 1980 and 2000. Farhad Manjoo put it best when he said:

Although millennials are now the largest demographic group in the country (sorry, boomers), and though they are more racially diverse than any other generation in American history, they are often depicted on TV, in movies and music, and in the news (including The New York Times) as a collectively homogeneous cliché.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in corporate America, especially in the technology industry, which has long been obsessed with the dubious idea that young people are in the cultural vanguard.

Don’t get me wrong, I think I’m pretty fabulous, but I would never dub myself a cultural vanguard. Not even close.

I wince at the thought of being part of a generalized cultural clump that discounts the diversity of my generation. And, as Manjoo goes on to explain, “there’s a glaring problem with these and other efforts to go after the younger among us: Millennials aren’t real.”

I couldn’t agree more. My passionate disdain isn’t just in reaction to a perceived misnomer, but more so because of my larger beef (or tofu) with the closed-mindedness of generational marketing.

I lead a team of social strategists, and while the clue may be in their title, everything they (really “we”) do is rooted in strategy — a practice that’s very foundation is dependent on understanding the target audience.

Caging an entire segment within the confines of broad generational rhetoric is lazy, and it’s high-time to un-teach it. We live in an age where mapping out a sophisticated set of personas — or personality types that your content should speak to — is conveniently at our fingertips, just a few taps away. Alongside the rise of the social strategist has been the role of digital analyst, a function that every digital team should have. These are the people that offer credibility to what would otherwise be healthy hunches with strong strategic intent.

With the data available, it’s downright irresponsible to rely on generational marketing to guide any sort of smart thinking and most importantly: authentic, relatable stories.

I guess my problem is that I expect more — from myself, my industry and even consumers. I expect us to think of ourselves as deeper than “boomers” or “millennials.” I’ve been called a lot of things — and yet somehow, millennial irks me most. I’m a communicator, a wife, a dog-owner, a pescetarian, a Michigander and more; my age doesn’t define me, and yet because I’m young and grew up in tandem with the booming tech industry, I get stripped of what makes me standout.

Social Media: War of the ages?

I start and end my days by reading and watching the news. As I was leaving my office tonight, I hopped onto Google News and one particular story caught my eye: 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.

The only thing that makes me cringe more than being called “Alex,” is being referred to as “kid.” I’m often hesitant to share my age, because while it may reveal biological youth, I’ve been more successful than people several years my senior, so please, spare me any patronizing rhetoric.

I’ve worked in social media and digital PR for almost 5 years, 3 of which have been spent working for a major firm in New York. As an ambitious 20-something, I’ve made a point to carve out personal guidelines for social media etiquette that have overlapped into professional practice.

Despite some scattered gray hairs and bags under my eyes that I’d be charged for if traveling, please take my word that I’ve not yet hit 30, and yet I’ve been tasked with more than running several successful digital media campaigns or maintaining social profiles for clients, I ran an entire division devoted to new media for a book publicity firm.

To assume that someone at age 23 has not had formal training or experience is short-sighted.

I’ve been stewing since reading the article 3 hours ago, and would like to take a moment to respond to each of Hollis’ 11 points:

1. They’re Not Mature Enough – I’ve been called a lot of things at my age, but immature has never been one of them. Maturity is not at all reflective of age, nor is it reflective entirely of experience. I’d prefer to work with someone who was clearly on a path of self-exploration, than someone who was entirely content with life at present, because the explorer would likely bring that same open attitude into the workplace, and hopefully discover new skills and strategy in navigating the social space.

2. They May Be Focused on Their Own Social Activity – Paranoia is never healthy, and neither is micromanagement. I take two social media breaks throughout my day — one is usually at lunch, the other closer toward day’s end. At each break, I allow myself 10 minutes to peruse Twitter or Facebook for news to comment about and share across my personal platforms. In communication, you build a pedigree of relationships and know-how, none of which can be accomplished without staying informed and connected throughout the day. On top of which, an all-work, no-play environment is not conducive to productivity or workplace happiness.

3. They May Not Have the Same Etiquette –or Experience – My personal feed on Facebook should not be seen as an indicator of my ability to succeed on the job. Talk to me about who I know, who/what I read, what trends I’m following, which platforms I use. If you were to look closely at my Facebook, you’d see many more Instagram photos of my dinners than my social media two-cents. And that’s just one reason my feed is private.

Any good agency or brand should have a social media policy in place, and a strong on-boarding program for sharing that policy and its best practices with staff. In an agency setting, each client should have its own respective social playbook or list of best practices.

The development of these policies is the responsibility of the company, the employee should then be trusted to implement accordingly.

The standard etiquette of appropriate subject matter may be just as absent for a 23 year old as it is for a 50 year old.

4. You Can’t Control Their Friends – Most friends and family engaged to join a page or follow a feed don’t interact beyond the follow or “like.” My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t hold up. It’s more likely that my friends will be crass directly on my personal feed, which should not be reflective of my ability or behavior, especially if I don’t indulge the profane post in a response.

5. No Class Can Replace On-the-Job Training – Young people are consumers, and experience and observe many elements of marketing, customer service, PR, branding, and crisis management. Experiences are transferrable, and can help inform and grow a skill set.

6. They May Not Understand Your Business – Again, that’s the job of the employer. To set goals and procedures. A campaign shouldn’t even be considered before goals and true needs are explored. That all said, each job should be accompanied by a fair learning curve.

7. Communication Skills are Critical – Communication is indeed an art, but it’s unfair to assume that someone at age 23 is ill-equipped to form a sentence.

8. Humor is Tricky Business – Boundaries with respect to content, especially as it relates to humor, should be set up by the employer as part of a policy. With a strong editorial calendar in place, any questionable content can be flagged as a precaution.

9. Social Media Savvy Is Not the Same as Technical Savvy – Well, duh. This goes back to the need to establish goals. When goals are set, metrics are defined for measurement, tools are chosen for efficiency, and so tech savvy is born.

10. Social Media Management Can Become Crisis Management – Sure, there are some great examples of people screwing up on a company handle. This, among other things, is why it’s important to have a crisis plan in place for social media channels. No one is perfect, and that’s a fact that doesn’t change with age.

11. You Need to Keep the Keys – The one point I agree with. Be informed. Stay in the loop. Ask to learn about the trends your social staff is staying on top of. And really, if you don’t understand social media to begin with, perhaps you owe it to your company/brand to educate yourself — at least on some level — before hiring someone who will ultimately know more than you.

Summer Fridays

I don’t often pick favorites. I don’t have a favorite color, or food, and up until I entered the publishing industry, I would have declared that same unbiased view on days of the week. Sure, Wednesday is termed hump day and is closer to the weekend, but to me, it may as well have been Monday or Tuesday – at the time, it made no real difference to me.

Enter Summer Fridays.

Companies on the creative end — advertising, public relations, publishing, etc. — operate on some variation of a slowed summer schedule, where employees have an early-release-style benefit most, if not all Fridays from Memorial Day until Labor Day.

My first taste of Summer Fridays should have excited me — the idea of working an extra half  hour Monday-Thursday, and then having an early release every Friday. There was even a clause that if you worked for a full Friday, with your manager’s approval, you could take off the entire following Friday. Young and naive, I didn’t take advantage of my first summer with this industry perk. Instead, I worked full Fridays throughout the summer, thinking, maybe next year.

And, so, here we are. I really like my job, and the work I get to do — and trust me there is plenty of it — but pulling myself away regularly is difficult. So, instead, I’ve found my own ways to enjoy Fridays this summer when I can’t get to Long Island or the Hamptons. I work late pretty often, sometimes past 8 0r 9, and being at the office alone at that hour is neither fun, nor comforting. That said, being alone at the office at 3 p.m. on a Friday is kind of magical. No foot traffic, plenty of sunlight (on a good day).

Silence is golden, sure, but I’ve also been lucky enough to have gone away a bit over the summer, and without those 2 p.m. early releases, I’m not sure I would have been able to finagle said adventures.

August is reaching its half-way point, and soon, Summer Fridays will be retired and hopefully revisited in 2012. With three Fridays left, I’ll find myself in DC, Long Island, and finally, in Detroit.

Are you treated to Summer Fridays? If so, how are you spending your final 3?