It’s kinda like high school or college cheerleading. These days, many people feel you just gotta do everything and anything you can to keep the crowd lively to keep the team motivated. But, while Tumblr, Twitter and Flickr may occasionally need a little face paint, adult beverage and a large foam hand or two to keep your readers engaged, you don’t need to overdo it. After all, we’ve all had the misfortune to see the streaker at your favorite college game, or maybe you’re one of the fortunate few. Or, maybe you know this guy at right?
So, let’s talk about low intensity, smart ways to keep your readers engaged in your micro-blogging forays.
FIRST, before you determine who you wanna reach and how, start with the basic examination of what your real programmatic or policy goals are. What do you want to accomplish ultimately? Is it to over time convince more people to eat organic or farm fresh foods? Or, do you want a piece of legislation passed in your state legislature or Congress that legalizes marijuana? Either of these might take on a different path, timetable and group of readers. So, before deciding who you want on the team and who you want cheering the team, decide the game and whether or not you’re going for a single night of play or a weeks-long tournament.
SECOND, before recruiting your team of thought leaders, cheerleaders, fans and readers, Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein suggest conducting some marketing research on your target audiences in their paper The Early Bird Catches the News: Nine Things You Should Know About Micro-Blogging in Science Direct. They profiled an effort by computer manufacturer Dell to really put its employees in touch with the end user customer by creating an online “Communities and Conversations” tool, which allowed employees to share their experiences with customers and the customers’ preferences and interests. Essentially, the employees held a focus group vicariously through customer experiences. Now, Dell probably spent quite a bit on developing the tool, but for nonprofits and public health agencies, creating a free, private message board is quick and easy.
THIRD, Kaplan and Haenlein also caution that agencies should show relevance and Anita Jackson backs them up. After knowing your goals, really get to know the issues your readers work on and keep the conversations focused on those issues, and even more importantly, how they intersect or dovetail with your goals. In addition to being relevant, be reliable. Set a schedule of posts, so that readers know when to expect a new post, rant, cheer or tweet from you. Plan ahead. Look ahead. Read other news sources and anticipate what other topics or issues may be covered in the next week.
FOURTH, build a robust online community of readers and bloggers. Identify your policy colleagues—those that agree and those that may not agree with you. Look for partners that inspire and lead all parts of the community. Be inclusive. And, don’t forget to use your friends and social circles in the real world to drive interest in your goals and drive use of micro-blogging tools. Remember, you aren’t just guiding them to your program, you’re also simultaneously creating new users.
FINALLY, you won’t know the impact of your strategy if you can’t keep score. There are many great tools out there to provide you with analytics that can show your impact and provide the insight you need to tweak your strategy or throw away the playbook all together and start over. Get key data on who’s talking and what people are talking about. Several tools, such as Crowdbooster and TweetReach, are great places to start.
So, knowing your goals, doing some research, staying relevant, building your base and knowing how you’re gonna keep score are tried and true ways to win the game. Work hard and stay vigilant my friends. Or, you could just do what this guy does to bring attention to health. Tumble, tweet and flick with care.