January 11, 2010

One Approach to Org Twitter Accounts

I’ve been mulling over this post for sev­eral weeks now, but a con­ver­sa­tion that hap­pened on Twit­ter today prompted me to finally write and pub­lish it. It started when Ken­ley Neufeld wrote a post about par­tic­i­pat­ing in ALA and tweeted the link. Cyndi E. engaged Ken­ley in a con­ver­sa­tion about ALA fol­low­ing its mem­bers back on Twit­ter, which led Ken­ley to ask ALA’s Mid­win­ter Meet­ing account what its fol­low pol­icy is.

what's your follow policy?

Well, I work for ALA, and I run that account (along with three oth­ers), plus my per­sonal one. The “royal” ALA has no offi­cial social media pol­icy, although there is an inter­nal staff task force work­ing on one. I’m not on that group and I haven’t wanted to step on any toes, which is why I haven’t said much online about this topic, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought through some things for the accounts I man­age. Given today’s con­ver­sa­tion, I thought I’d share my approach and solicit feed­back for what you think is and isn’t working.

Before I go any fur­ther, though, I want to note that I kind of fly by the seat of my pants with this stuff at work. I already have a cou­ple of full time roles (as does pretty much every­one at ALA HQ), and track­ing what’s said about MPOW online is pretty near impos­si­ble these days. Amongst the good and bad about the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, the term “ALA” also gets used for A List Apart (espe­cially when they pub­lish a new issue), the abbre­vi­a­tion for “Alabama” in news reports, Ala Moana in Hon­olulu, ala mode, “ala” mean­ing “in the style of,” in Span­ish, and more. I do the best I can, but no one per­son could catch it all unless it was their only job respon­si­bil­ity. I know a lot of folks strug­gle to get sup­port from the top in their orga­ni­za­tion, and I’m lucky that this isn’t one of the bat­tles I have to fight.

All of which is my way of say­ing, your mileage may vary, even within ALA. These are just my thoughts for how I’m han­dling four Twit­ter accounts at work, and I’d love to hear how you think I could do this bet­ter. Maybe this list willl even give you some pro­ce­dural ideas for your own institution’s efforts.

I mainly mon­i­tor and man­age Twit­ter and Friend­Feed accounts, so that’s where I focus my efforts. I’m lucky that oth­ers have taken on the man­tle of man­ag­ing ALA’s Face­book, LinkedIn, Sec­ond Life, and YouTube pres­ences. These are the guide­lines I’ve been fol­low­ing for Twit­ter (I still need to imple­ment most of these on FriendFeed).

  1. My goals for the accounts are to lis­ten, answer ques­tions, inter­act, and inform.
  2. I fol­low most pub­lic accounts that fol­low us, as long as its not a spam­mer, bot, or “social media expert” who has thou­sands of fol­low­ers. I don’t have any­thing against the gurus, but they’re not the audi­ence I want to inter­act with. It may take me a week to log in and fol­low all the new folks, but that’s my goal. I’m some­what pas­sive about this because of the lack of an easy way to han­dle fol­low­ers from one source, although right now I’m actively try­ing to fol­low any human being who say they’re attend­ing our Mid­win­ter Meet­ing this week. I do this to make it eas­ier to lis­ten and respond, plus it gives these folks the abil­ity to direct mes­sage us.
  3. The excep­tion to rule #2 is that I don’t fol­low pri­vate accounts. I real­ize some folks make their accounts pri­vate to avoid spam­mers, but I can’t tell those from the folks who truly want their tweets to be pri­vate. As an orga­ni­za­tional account that mul­ti­ple staff mem­bers might have access to, I don’t want to expose those tweets or set up a sit­u­a­tion where some­one might acci­den­tally retweet some­thing private.
  4. I try to do more than just click a book­marklet, so I’ll rephrase con­tent to get it down to 130 char­ac­ters or some­how add value to the head­line of a press release. I try to be human and avoid mar­ket­ing speak, and I don’t get hung up on cap­i­tal­iza­tion, even though my under­grad­u­ate degree is in journalism.
  5. I do my best to shoot for 130 char­ac­ters to pro­vide for easy retweetability.
  6. Although this doesn’t apply to all orga­ni­za­tions, I’m a big believer in the “right of first tweet.” Within ALA, there’s no one “mas­ter” Twit­ter account for the Asso­ci­a­tion as a whole. Instead, every office, divi­sion, round table, etc., has its own account. In order to help build the audi­ence for those accounts and give credit, I try to not announce news first that really belongs to other ALA units. Instead, I do my best to retweet their tweets. That doesn’t always hap­pen, but I think it’s their right to have the first shot at it.
  7. Some­thing new I’ve been try­ing lately is to avoid retweet­ing some­one else’s con­tent imme­di­ately after they tweet it, espe­cially if they’ve used a hash­tag. Instead, I use Hoot­Suite to sched­ule the tweet at a dif­fer­ent time of day in order to try to reach a dif­fer­ent audi­ence that may not have seen the orig­i­nal one. If it was a morn­ing tweet, I’ll sched­ule the retweet for the after­noon, and vice versa.
  8. I’m cur­rently using bit.ly to shorten URLs so that I can get sta­tis­tics for how often links are being fol­lowed. I also try to use cus­tom bit.ly URLs for links I know I’ll re-use a lot. I fer­vently wish Hoot­Suite would get rid of the frames on its ow.ly ser­vice or at least give URL cre­ators the option to turn them off. Until then, I’ll keep using bit.ly.
  9. I delib­er­ately retweet from indi­vid­u­als, not just other ALA units or orga­ni­za­tions. My take on it is that we’re all in this together, and we’re all part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll be retweet­ing every­thing posted to the #nopants tag. ;-)
  10. Rather than count­ing the num­ber of fol­low­ers as a met­ric, I’ve started track­ing con­ver­sa­tions. I still haven’t found what I con­sider to be an opti­mal way to do this, but for the moment, I’m clip­ping tweets to a note­book in my Ever­note account (I’m on the free ser­vice for now) so that I can find them again. Because it’s so dif­fi­cult to track the term “ALA,” I haven’t found an easy way to report out what’s being said about us, other than by man­u­ally writ­ing up an email.
  11. Per­son­ally, I have an unlim­ited text mes­sag­ing plan (I <3 texting), so I use notify.me to have Twit­ter men­tions sent to my phone via SMS so that I get imme­di­ate alerts when some­one men­tions or directs a tweet to one of the ALA accounts. If you don’t want to go the SMS route, you can have the noti­fi­ca­tions sent to an email address, instant mes­sag­ing account, or to a desk­top app/widget. And this setup doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean I respond right away, espe­cially if I’m out with friends, watch­ing a movie, or if it’s late at night. I’ve worked hard to bal­ance my work and per­sonal lives, and so far it’s work­ing fairly well. But the notice gives me a heads up, and I can then assess the urgency.

Those are the var­i­ous Twit­ter issues I’ve thought through so far. Based on some other prob­lems that have come up at work, I have some gen­eral advice for other orga­ni­za­tions using social sites.

  • Did you know that the per­son who cre­ates a Face­book page can never be removed? Never, ever, ever, ever plus a day. The only way is to delete the person’s account, which an orga­ni­za­tion can’t do if it’s a per­sonal account. So be care­ful about who cre­ates your organization’s page(s), because you’ll never be able to remove that per­son as an admin. You can add other admins, but you can’t remove the orig­i­nal cre­ator. Add my voice to the cho­rus of frus­trated users who wish Face­book would change this pol­icy yesterday.
  • Be very care­ful when you’re set­ting up your bit.ly links. If you acci­den­tally paste in the wrong URL (which I’ve done), you can’t go back and change it. Ever, as in ever plus a day. If you mess up a cus­tom URL, you’ll never be able to get it back. Ever. Did I men­tion ever?
  • And speak­ing of bit.ly, if you haven’t already done this, you might want to go grab the most obvi­ous cus­tom bit.ly URLs for your orga­ni­za­tion so that some­one else doesn’t use/steal/hijack them. Espe­cially if you want a short and easy way to point to your own site on Twit­ter and get sta­tis­tics for num­ber of clicks. You can decide if you want to do this on other URL short­en­ing ser­vices, too.

So those are some quick thoughts that have been swim­ming around in my head. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how I can do this bet­ter, and what you’d like to see from the ALA accounts I run.

November 2, 2009

Is Your Library’s Content in the Stream?

Learn more about Gary’s Social Media Counter.

5:43 pm Comments Off

September 23, 2009

Social Media Policies

Yes­ter­day I was invited to the DuPage Library Sys­tem to give a pre­sen­ta­tion about ALA Con­nect as part of the kick­off ses­sion for their year-long series of pro­grams called “Let’s Get Social.” I had a great time, and I was pleased to hear pos­i­tive com­ments about Con­nect and its future, so thanks for invit­ing me, DLS! If you’re in the Chicagoland area and want to learn more about social media, this is a great oppor­tu­nity (see the rest of the series listed in the entry here).

Dur­ing the lunch break, I was asked about social media poli­cies for libraries, so rather than just send the URL for the Data­base of Social Media Poli­cies to two peo­ple, I fig­ured I’d post it here in case you haven’t seen it yet. While it’s more business-oriented at the moment, it does include a cat­e­gory for gov­ern­ment and non-profit orga­ni­za­tions. If your library ends up imple­ment­ing a social media pol­icy, help out and use the “add your pol­icy” option on on the site so that we can build a repos­i­tory of library poli­cies, too.

If you haven’t tracked it, the site Mash­able also has lots of great tips, rec­om­men­da­tions, and sug­ges­tions, includ­ing a post from April ask­ing Should Your Com­pany Have a Social Media Pol­icy. If you find the site a lit­tle over­whelm­ing, try track­ing just the How to cat­e­gory as a start.

5:34 am Comments (1)

January 7, 2009

Choosing Your Social Media Drug

Last week I noted that of all of the social media sites, I’m prob­a­bly most engaged with Face­book right now. Twit­ter tends to frag­ment my atten­tion too much, so I started restrict­ing my time on it to about an hour a day. The con­ver­sa­tion there is too dis­jointed for me, and it’s impos­si­ble to find and refer back to all the pieces of a con­ver­sa­tion even just a few days later. The best I’ve been able to man­age is to use Tweet­Deck to cre­ate groups to check in on peri­od­i­cally, as opposed to try­ing to keep up with every­one all the time. I still don’t let myself sit on Twit­ter for too long because as Ed Viel­metti says, “If you keep refresh­ing it will never, ever stop..” In fact, my rule of thumb on any social site is that I never hit the “older” button.

Then Friend­Feed came along, which helped unify con­ver­sa­tions and brought pic­tures, audio, and video into the mix. The breadth of ser­vices it aggre­gates is pretty impres­sive, so when a crit­i­cal mass of friends hit there, I switched my hour a day to check in there.

Let me pref­ace this next state­ment by say­ing that I love the serendip­ity of Friend­Feed, and it def­i­nitely restores fun to aggre­ga­tion. That said, it moves way too fast for me. As a result, I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that Friend­Feed is Twit­ter on speed, while Face­book is Twit­ter on Ritalin, and for where I’m at right now, Face­book is my pri­mary drug of choice. I need some­thing to help me con­trol the fire­hose so that I can more eas­ily focus on spe­cific pieces, and the fact that I can sep­a­rate the links and posts from the sta­tus updates on FB does exactly that. I have the sta­tus of about three dozen folks texted to my phone, which means I see what I con­sider to be the most impor­tant func­tion of the site for me front and center.

I had been friend­ing peo­ple there for a while, watched what libraries were doing, and gone through the “play with var­i­ous appli­ca­tions” stage of Face­book love, but then I found myself using it less and less. I fell back in love with it, though, when they added the abil­ity to com­ment on a friend’s sta­tus, because that’s the piece I was hav­ing trou­ble track­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in amongst all of the con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place on Twit­ter. Even bet­ter was a change in the way SMS responses are han­dled so that replies from my phone now appear as com­ments on sta­tuses, not inbox mes­sages attached to pre­vi­ous emails. That means there’s con­ver­sa­tion around updates, and it’s at a man­age­able pace.

I still check Friend­Feed a cou­ple of times a day, but I’m swamped with enough stuff right now that I use my social net­works first and fore­most for friend updates, and Face­book turns out to be per­fect for that, espe­cially for my non-library friends. I can lit­er­ally see oth­ers get­ting a lot out of Twit­ter and Friend­Feed because they mon­i­tor those sites a lot more closely, and more power to them. There are a lot of con­ver­sa­tions right now about the ROI of blog­ging ver­sus Twit­ter ver­sus Friend­Feed, but it’s impor­tant to exam­ine what you want to get from these tools in order to eval­u­ate which one(s) are best for you at any given time, remem­ber­ing that it’s all cycli­cal and is likely to change just when you get com­fort­able with your rou­tine. Of course, that can be a good thing.