Facebook: Convert your Static FMBL to iFrame – It’s not as painful as you think!

Facebook recently put into action the long anticipated change from Static FBML to iFrames, requiring all new custom content on Facebook Fan pages to be built as a Facebook iFrame application.

This new update will be forced though on March 11th but you can (and should) get a jump on it now. This is actually a really good thing for Page owners and developers. It means that you can use standard html, css and javascript becuase your content will be calling a page directly from your site. You will still need to plan and build for the limitations of 520×720, the depth/height limitation is new, but you can figure ways to work with it).

The previous Tabs we are all used to will be gone, but you could create your own tabs within your 520×720 framework, if you want a more multi-page feel (check out Trailsherpa’s facebook page here to see how I solved for that). Again, this is a great thing because you will have full control over the length, appearance and style of those tabs.

Alright so how do we do this thing?

I create and implement your new iFrame app you’ll need to do 3 things:

1)      Create a Facebook iFrame application and associate it with your Fan Page

2)      Create a PHP page on your website that you will call from your iFrame application

3)      Upload that PHP page and its related assets

Step 1: Create a Facebook iFrame application and associate it with your Fan Page:

1)      Login to Facebook and go to http://www.facebook.com/developers/createapp.php to create your new app

a.       Give your application a name (this name will not appear on your Fan Page) and agree to terms

2)      Add an icon and or logo, contact email and privacy policy links (if you don’t have those policies, just link to the main page of your site). Add an icon, it will show up next to your app in the left nav of your Fan page. The logo is more for if you intent to share this app with others (think Farmville). Save changes.

3)  On the Website Tab, add your site url (not actually neccesary).

4) Go to the Facebook Integration tab. This is where things get mildly complicated.

a.       For Canvas Page select a folder that makes sense as the base url for your application. This will need to be DIFFERENT for each application you create and can only contain lowercase letters, dashes, and underscores.

b.      Canvas URL: this is going to be the FOLDER on your site where you create your PHP page and its related assets. MUST HAVE TRAILING SLASH (i.e. be a folder).

c.       Select iFrame and autoresize (not that it will resize) or show scrollbar if you have a page deeper than 720. They are pretty unpleasant looking, avoid them if you can.

5)      Scroll down to Page tabs at the bottom.

a.       Create a page name, limited to 16 characters. This is the name that will appear on your fan page as a link on the left and at the top of the iFrame “page” .

b.      Tab url: this is the actual page that you will be calling for the iFrame content. Where is says CANVAS_URL, once you save that will change to the name of the folder you designated above. This page can be called whatever you want, as long as it’s .php (.html will not work). So in effect, based on my current inputs, my new iframe content will be pulled from: http://www.vestorlogic.com/my_awesome_app_folder/index.php.

c.       Save changes. Your app is set up!

6)      You are now on your applications main edit page. Associate your new application with a Fan Page

a.       Click the “Application Profile Page” link on the right.

b.      Now you are on your apps public page, click “Add to My Page” from the left nav. This will bring up all the pages you admin. Select the correct one and add it.

That’s it for the Facebook integration!

STEP 2: Create a PHP page on your website that you will call from your iFrame application

1)      This is where things get a lot more standard. You’ll want to create a page on your site in the folder that you designated in your app. In mine it was: http://www.vestorlogic.com/my_awesome_app_folder/index.php.

2)      If you already have a Static FBML tab, you can go to that tab, copy the code and paste that into a new .php file, save and upload. In the above example my file would need to be called index.php and it would need to live in the “my_awesome_app_folder”  folder.

STEP 3: Don’t forget to upload this page and its related assets!

Now you will see your new app listed as a link on the left nav of the fan page you related it to. You can see ours here.

See that little Welcome link on the left with the icon? Awesome!

Special shout out to Paul Kortman’s great post that helped me figure it out.

WordPress – The Ultimate Web Development Tool

There was a time when developing your web presence meant finding that socially sequestered brainiac hiding in his basement who could actually write executable code to create your website. The irony of finding a geek to help you become popular!  Today it is much easier to maintain control over the look and content of your website and to easily update it as your brand evolves.

You’re likely familiar with WordPress as a blogging tool accessible through WordPress.com.  This is an excellent starting point for many bloggers who don’t need to utilize a custom url. All blogs on wordpress.com have a “mysite.wordpress.com” url.  However, this is unacceptable for most businesses.

WordPress also offers  a free, open source, easy to use content management system (CMS) through WordPress.org, which allows the user to create a custom-looking website, using their own url, without starting from zero.

Vestor Logic believes in the power of WordPress and its ability to power the social web for companies in any industry around the world.  There are many benefits to using WordPress as the content management system for your website:

  • By eliminating the complicated build process, WordPress allows you to bring your brand online faster, saving design time and money.
  • Because WordPress is web standard, Google recognizes it quickly and gets you listed on the most used search engine in the world in only a few days.
  • WordPress is an open source project, which means interested users contribute to its creation by recognizing what works well in the industry, adapting to it, and solving problems often before most users knew they were there.

The WordPress CMS is highly customizable through a multitude of outside vendor “themes”. At Vestorlogic we often use themes based on the Genesis Framework from StudioPress.com.  These themes are well written, extremely customizable and boast top-notch support.  With the right knowledge you can make intricate changes to these available themes for true customization. For most businesses, this often requires the help of a web designer who knows .css and .php.

Because WordPress is an open source project anyone can develop themes or plug-ins to add “custom” features to WordPress websites. Plug-ins run the gamut from extensive events calendars to simple Facebook like buttons. The right plug-ins are imperative for creating not just a great site design quickly, but a “social web design”, a design that integrates social sharing features for Facebook, Twitter, Linked In , etc. seamlessly. Enabling users to easily share your content with their friends is what social web design is all about, and is a Vestor Logic core offering.

Our social media clients cover numerous industries but one thing remains constant: they all want to use their website and other social assets to engage with the right crowd.  This may be the root of why we love WP as much as we do.  Flexibility in the design process, a head start with StudioPress’s Genesis Framework and Child Themes (saves design time and money), easily integrates with other platforms and apps via plug-ins, and a very dedicated development community that is constantly raising the bar.

Your search for a geek is over!  Contact Vestor Logic today to discuss creating your social web presence.

Social Media Monitoring and Analysis: 2 Great Tools

Through social media, people are connecting, sharing opinions with others at all times of the day. The party, so to speak, is never-ending. In a perfect world this works to your brand’s advantage.  When someone has a positive experience with your brand they can go public immediately and share not only that experience but their excitement—while it’s still fresh—with their friends and followers.

Knowing what your fans, and detractors, are saying about your brand is essential in today’s connected business environment.  But how can a company, large or small, keep track of the constant chatter being generated?

Quite simply, as it turns out. By employing social media monitoring platforms you can now listen in, actually know what others are saying about your brand. Let’s take a look at two that we feel are worth the time and resource allocation:

Argyle

The first social media monitoring platforms is Argyle, a small company which focuses on solid data relating to your brand.  By setting up an account and providing keywords, Argyle monitors social media brand mentions, analyzes the volume and content of those mentions and reports the online interaction to you or the relevant member of your team.  Their detailed data can follow the reactions to each post or tweet to let you see the overall effect of your social media efforts.  Your social media presence is organized in one place. With Argyle, you can also schedule posts and updates even when you’re away.

Radian6

The second tool is Radian6, a larger company that offers enterprise-level social media monitoring and analysis of what’s being said about you by whom, where, how often, and the duration of the talk.  One of the most effective tools available through Radian6 is the ability to monitor who is advocating your brand online, allowing you to nurture those integral relationships.   Brands can also use Radian6 to monitor the mentions of their competition, as well as their own. Since a tool is only as powerful as the user’s ability, Radian6 provides on-site training to insure that you are utilizing their platform most effectively.

How Vestor Logic can help

The data generated by these tools is just the first piece of the puzzle. To effectively take action, you’ll need that data analyzed and organized in a way that makes sense for your team, and strategic guidance on where to go next.

Depending on your level of need and the size of your brand, Vestor Logic can help you choose the appropriate monitoring tool for your brand.  We will create a social media listening channel allowing us to monitor your brand mentions. We’ll know what people are saying about your brand, where this talk is happening, and who’s initiating the conversation; allowing you the opportunity to stay in front of the talk and to respond to your advantage.  Vestor Logic will also provide brand-specific social media analysis in the form of detailed, plain-English reports, affording you at-a-glance understanding of the trends and interests influencing your customers.

Armed with this crucial insight, social media monitoring will be the most valuable tool in your social media program.

Never leave the party.  Contact us to get started.

Case Study: 2010 World Series of Barbecue

Synopsis

The organizers of the World Series of Barbecue wanted to increase awareness for their charity poker event and shine light on the role that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas plays in the lives of the kids that participate in their programs throughout the year.  Every year, the WSOB organizes its annual event to raise money to help fund the programs for the BGCLV.  The organizers were looking for a way to reach a larger audience, increase exposure in markets outside of Las Vegas, and ultimately raise more money for the BGCLV.  They asked Vestor Logic to help.

Event Background

The World Series of Barbecue is an annual charity poker event that benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas.  Howard & Suzie Lederer began this annual charity event in their backyard several years ago. Each year it has grown, both in terms of the number of attendees and the amount it has raised for the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas. In the past, the marketing effort focused primarily on the enormous reach that Howard & Suzie have in their network of friends.  The 2010 event would be the first to include any social marketing initiatives as well as any defined online content strategy.

Goals & Objectives

Vestor Logic set out to define a clear set of objectives for both our efforts and the event as a whole.  The following represent our vision for both:

  • Use social marketing to raise more money for the BGCLV than in previous years
  • Build a centralized database of donors to serve as a base for future events
  • Offer supporters a way to officially register for the event in advance
  • Provide a secure way to accept donations online from supporters that cannot attend the event
  • Share the experience with videos and photos from past events

Techniques & Implementation

Our initial meeting with the organizers revealed that very little, if any, social outreach had been used in the past.  Our first action was to establish the primary base for the event, in this case a Facebook Page.  We designed a welcome tab that was set as the default for all new visitors providing the basic details of the upcoming event along with media from events of the past years.  We used Flickr to aggregate a stream of images from the past year’s events which we embedded on the Facebook welcome tab so that visitors could access them easily.

We also created a Twitter account to share details about the upcoming event as it drew closer.  This account was integrated with the Facebook page feed.

Perhaps the most powerful platform that we leveraged was the Vertical Response email management platform.  We created a database for the event with separate lists that represented the sources for new registrations like Facebook, direct email, and past attendees.  We wanted to know where the registrations were originating from.  Because Nevada Gaming Law requires that the casinos collect all funds for the event, we just needed to register RSVPs.  Vertical Response allowed us to do this very easily and build the database for future events.  We will now be able to leverage this database for the 2011 event and even tailor the email correspondence to the platform that they originated from.

Our email marketing efforts were spaced about two weeks apart and over the course of all emails help to inform the participants of all the necessary details from buy-ins and re-buys to parking information.

We built out all of the creative elements for the event including the Facebook fan page, the custom Twitter background, a micro-site, the Flickr stream, and the email databases.  Once these elements were in place, we began the outreach efforts including regular Facebook updates, tweets, dedicated emails to past attendees, and the “Bankroll your favorite player” promotion.  This short lived campaign was used to establish financial support for a group of local celebrities that would be playing in the event.  Supporters could donate to their favorite player adding to their total bankroll for the charity poker event.  We launched this campaign just two weeks before the event.  Despite the short exposure, the campaign was very successful and encouraged supporters to share it with their friends.

You can read more about the specific implementations and techniques used here.

Results

We couldn’t be happier with the results of the 2010 World Series of Barbecue.  The 2010 event saw many new experiences for attendees and all measurable results showed sizable increases.  Here are a few of the most notable:

  • 228 “likes” on the Facebook page
  • 310 “followers” on the Twitter account
  • Two satellite events were held by supporters which sent the two winners to the WSOB Charity Poker Event
  • 68% increase in the number of paid entries
  • 65% increase in the number of total players including comps
  • 59% increase in total donations
  • The event raised more than $217,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas

Working with Vestor Logic

If you would like to discuss your upcoming events with our team, just send us a consult request.  We would be happy to discuss how social media might play a role in marketing your event.

The Santa Experiment (Facebook communities, donations and Wepay.com)

I have a friend from High School (pictured in action on the left) who, although he’s only 39, makes an exceptional Santa. So much so that each Christmas he is paid to be a Santa for various stores and parties. This year he decided to go big time and make a road trip from Ct to Tupelo, MS to take a Santa Thanksgiving-to-Christmas gig at a giant mall.

Unfortunately, the trip has not been good. He’s gone through contract drama, he’s had items stolen from his car, and he’s endured crime scene-esque living quarters. He’s been posting his frustrations on Facebook for the past few weeks, since the trip began right before Thanksgiving.

Now this is a good guy, a really good guy. He’s a firefighter, a Mason, he’s involved in several charities, and even has plans to start a non-profit of his own. He still lives in the town where we grew up and is practically the unofficial mayor. Suffice it to say, friends of this guy were not too happy to hear about the treatment he’d been receiving.

So being the internet-y social media chick that I am, I decided to do a little something about this, albeit remotely. I started a Facebook community called Save This Santa and added a donation component on Wepay.com. I began imploring our former classmates and friends on Facebook to turn this into his “Best Christmas Ever” to help replace some of the items that were stolen, and generally restore his faith in humanity and his Christmas spirit.

Was he embarrassed? Yes. He felt extremely undeserving of this attention and outpouring of donations.  I suggested he could always donate the overflow to charity, or put it towards some crazy Santa-related caper like showing up at a hospital with a bag full of new toys.

This process allowed me to really dig into creating and promoting a Facebook community as well as the chance to thoroughly explore Wepay.com, which is establishing itself as a competitor to Paypal. It allows you to accept donations, request payments and sell tickets. The fees are passed directly to the buyer, as opposed to the payee covering the fees as with Paypal, which is ideal for a donation.

Another cool element to Wepay.com is that it is a group based payment system, you can create groups and hit up those people directly for one-time or recurring payments. I can see a lot of personal scenarios where this could come in handy: splitting a vacation rental, collecting funds for a group gift, a school fundraiser, club dues or fees.  It also ties seamlessly into Facebook and Twitter to make sharing painless.

So far, the Santa Experiment has been a big success. We’ve raised quite a bit of money, and definitely changed our Santa’s outlook this season. This may also help our Santa launch the non-profit that he has in the works. Gotta feel pretty good about that.

Update:

I have a writer friend in Chicago who became aware of Save This Santa via my Facebook updates. She decided to write up the story and pitch it to some newspapers and magazines. She also published it here.

Check out the facebook group here: Save This Santa

Facebook and Bing: It's just the beginning of social search

It’s been a long time coming, a truly social search experience.  The announcement today of the partnership between Facebook and Bing is just the beginning.  This version of social search is a good start but the promise for something greater is still out there.

My team has been speculating, like many other social media practitioners, about what a social search engine in the wild might look like.  Today, we got our answer or at least a glimpse at the first real iteration of a social search engine.

The partnership between Facebook and Bing will likely fuel a new debate on what needs to be improved, what works and what doesn’t, and where to go next.  But it does offer a very useful social context to searches NOW.  Every search will show, if possible, a sample of content your friends have created or liked that is relevant to your search term and will even rank that information in with the other traditional search results.  The integration of this Facebook “module” in Bing search results will also be seen in the web results on a Facebook search.

The integration taps into some of the information that is provided by the your social graph including likes, profile information, user photos, and even profiles.  This new integration will provide a deeper level of social relevance when searching for things that represents a common interest to you and your friends and it will even make the search for new friends easier.  Bing will now be able to provide a more myopic set of filtered results when you search for someone by name.  It will reference your connections as well as the connections of your friends in an attempt to find the most targeted matches to your name search.  This will make searching for people on Facebook that you have just met offline a little bit easier.  You can read more about the details on the integration here from Danny Sullivan.

Though our team is excited for this new integration to come online, we still think the best is yet to come.  Facebook and Bing have other integrations on the roadmap for both the near and long term.  It will be interesting to see how the service matures over time and even more interesting to see how Google responds.

What are your predictions?  What comes next?  What will Google do to answer this news?

Interview: The folks at Downtown Boulder know social media

Downtown Boulder

I actually heard about the #BoulderFire from Jessica, our Director of Social Media Design.  She lives in Denver and has been on the listening end of my long rants about how great it will be when I am able to move my family to Boulder, CO.  It’s been a favorite city of mine for a few years.  I’ve made numerous weekend trips to Boulder, using the “it will allow us to learn more about the city” excuse.  My wife loves it too so it has never been a hard sell.

I began following the #BoulderFire hashtag to learn more about the crisis.  What I discovered was the power of Twitter and Facebook as crisis management tools.  The folks at Downtown Boulder were posting on both platforms, sharing tons of updates as well as resources for local residents.  It prompted a new research project here at Vestor Logic on how cities and municipalities use social media to engage with their residents.  We’ve been following 50 cities across the country and even a few in Canada.  We are learning a lot about how cities use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with the locals.

At the forefront of this group is Downtown Boulder.  The folks at Downtown Boulder know social media.  So I reached out to them with an idea – an interview of sorts, designed to capture some of their story with social media.  The Q+A’s below reflect the story of Downtown Boulder as told by Terri Takata-Smith and Eli Madrone, the social media voices behind Downtown Boulder on Twitter and Facebook.

Tell us a little about the Downtown Boulder. What is the mission of your organization?

There are two distinct groups that fall under Downtown Boulder.  The first is the Business Improvement District.  The BID was formed about a decade ago when property owners in a 49 block area decided to tax themselves to create the district.  The BID supplements services already provided by the city (e.g. additional maintenance & security), works on ensuring economic vitality and provide a comprehensive consumer marketing program.

Downtown Boulder, Inc. is a membership based organization. Members support the overall vitality of downtown through public advocacy, political involvement and community events that enhance the Boulder experience for residents and visitors.


How did your foray into social media happen and when did you start your efforts in earnest?

In early 2009, social media buzz started generating throughout the Denver/Boulder marketing/PR communities.  I started reading lots of articles and attending workshops.   I attended one hosted by Andrew Hyde (http://andrewhy.de/) and a light bulb turned on in my head.   It was at that point, Downtown Boulder dived head first into social media (specifically Twitter & Facebook ).   We had a YouTube channel, Flickr account and Yelp presence but not much else. Andrew was about ten steps ahead of the rest of us.  He had been using Twitter and blogging successfully.  In fact, by the time he was teaching the workshop, he was looking forward to the next big thing.  In a way, he was over Twitter before the rest of us even got started.   Andrew used social media to get his message out to the masses and the masses were listening, paying attention and engaging with him.  

What was your initial goal(s)?

Connecting with people.  We wanted to find out who exactly was out there and were they listening.  Did they care what we had to say (and why) and what did they have to say about us?  We wanted to figure out how social media could be could be used to market Downtown Boulder.   Even more so, we wanted to be able to educate downtown businesses on how they could use social media to enhance their marketing campaigns. We wanted to be involved with our community and use our knowledge as a resource to our merchants and public.

What do want to accomplish with social media now?  Has that changed over time?

We want to figure out what’s next and how “it” can help downtown businesses.   Social media has forever changed marketing and communication plans for businesses big and small.  We’ve created a community in social media that connects us to people who share an affinity for Downtown Boulder.  We realize that it’s not about “selling” in the traditional sense.   We don’t use social media to “market” the district.  We keep people connected, informed, entertained and engaged. Realizing also that social media is just another arm of a multi-pronged effort to increase awareness, it can’t be the only thing we do, but can be leveraged in certain situations to enhance the effect.

When did you realize that you were “onto something” with your social media efforts?

Within a few months of developing a Facebook and Twitter account, the numbers of people engaging with us continued to grow on a daily basis.   In fact, in the past year and a half, our numbers have continued in an upward motion.  We haven’t had one month of decline since we started!  We also have been recognized in the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook community as being leaders in our field, even so far as to have been contacted by other business districts as a resource.

What tools do you use for engagement (facebook, twitter, etc)?

Mainly Facebook & Twitter.  We also have a YouTube channel, Flickr account, we keep up with Yelp and have explored BrightKite.  We are now also experimenting with location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook places.

How do you monitor the online chatter about your company, your city, and your downtown business partners?  What is powering your “listening”?

Eli is the ears (and mouth) for Twitter and I oversee Facebook.   We follow all the downtown businesses who use either/both and also stay well connected to local “social media” leaders.  We monitor keywords important to our mission, receive Google alerts and have created a community to where other partners are also on the look out for chatter.  In Boulder, a true community has developed through social media.   By listening to what our followers are talking about, we’ve been able to join in on the conversation and engage them in a meaningful way.

How many staff members are directly responsible for your updates/posts?

While Eli and I focus heavily on Twitter and Facebook, we like to engage our interns to find their voice through our blog.  The nice thing about having so many downtown people and businesses interacting with us is that we have a wealth of information to share from multiple sources.

Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced, or mistakes you’ve made along the way.

Finding our voice was hard at first.  We are speaking as “Downtown Boulder” but really need to be transparent.   People don’t want to engage with a company/organization.  They want to interact with other people.    We had to learn to speak as individuals while representing our downtown.    We realized that Twitter and Facebook are two different audiences and need to be handled as such.  We linked both for a few days and the Facebook audience was overwhelmed by the number of tweets.   We also have different approaches and “voices”.   Eli’s humor and tone works extremely well for Twitter and my “voice” fits well on Facebook.

Can you share some of your best results.  Any ah-ha moments?

People don’t use social media for one way communication.  We measure our results in the number of interactions (Facebook wall posts or re-tweets) we get with each post.  Our fans like to share their thoughts, opinions and ideas.   We ask a lot of questions.   This past summer on Facebook, I posted a quote from a movie that was playing each week at Boulder Outdoor Cinema.  I then asked people to post their favorite quotes from the movie.   Yesterday,  I asked everyone to tell me their favorite downtown coffee shop.   It’s post like those that get the best interactions.  For Twitter, the more irreverent and “only in boulder” moments you can post, the more people like it. Pictures are great to include, as it links to video and being an active member of the community during times of crisis, as we were during a recent fire the threatened Boulder.

If you were starting over today, what would do you differently, or what would you do more of in the initial phase?

I’m not sure we’d do too much differently.     We moved forward pretty quickly and once we started to get the hang of things we shared the information with anyone who wanted to listen.   The biggest mistake we made with Facebook was initially setting up our page as an individual rather than a fan page.   Facebook took away our page but I was able to convince them to give us all our fans back!

Can you offer any recommendations to other municipalities interested in developing a social media presence?

Set goals and expectations.   Remember to use social media as an engagement tool.  Don’t talk at your audience.   Find a voice that works (a tone and persona – don’t be fake but genuine) and talk about things that people want to hear about.    Before you start talking…listen! It’s not a marketing tool, it’s a listening and engaging tool.

What can we expect to see from Downtown Boulder in the coming months?  Any special social initiatives that you can tell us about?

At the beginning of this year, we launched our mobile site (m.boulderdowntown.com).   Look for us to enhance the site in the coming year.   We are also dabbling in FourSquare.  We are not exactly sure how we will use it but we are watching other businesses who are using it well.   We are about to launch a new photo contest (I am Downtown).   We will rely heavily on social media to encourage participation.   Watch what Andrew Hyde (and other industry leader) are doing…remember he’s always 10 steps ahead.  We will see what he’s up to and maybe follow suit!  The best part of being in the heart of Boulder is being surrounded by so many talented individuals who are amazing resources for social media and other cutting edge technologies.

Is your city using social media effectively to connect with locals?  What are they doing?

You can find Downtown Boulder on Twitter and Facebook.

What do businesses want from social media?

Are you going to answer me or just read on in hopes of uncovering the big secret?

I searched Google for answers to the question “What do businesses want from social media?” and got “about 229,000,000 results”.

What was noticeably absent from the results (at least the first few pages I reviewed before I reached my conclusion) were answers directly from businesses telling me exactly what they wanted to get from using social media.

Of course, I got tons of results that promised to reveal “7 reasons you have to use social media” or “10 things every business should do today” and even “5 social media tools that every small business should be using right now”.  But the answer I was looking for, framed something like “Businesses want social media to…”, was nowhere to be found.

This is a question that we ask all the time at Vestor Logic.  We want to provide answers to our clients.  The answer varies from business to business.  Authors want to engage with their readers.  Non-profits have hopes of increasing fundraising activities.  Retailers want more foot traffic.  The answer is specific to each company’s needs and typically complements their existing marketing efforts.

So the pursuit of this answer raised another key question.  “What should social media agencies, like Vestor Logic, provide to their clients?”

If the answers vary, the value add must vary in form as well.  What we bring to the table for our clients must fit with their end goals.  We either specialize or try to be the jack-of-all-trades.  Already, social media agencies are beginning to define their role in the social ecosystem.  Some focus on launching new products, others on training and lecturing.  Many are focused on the analysis and monitoring functions.

In the end, social media companies must find their comfort zone, specialize in a specific aspect of the social marketing life cycle, and seek to align with other social media agencies that are complimentary to their process.

Vestor Logic, well, we see ourselves as transition agents.  We’re good at building systems and processes that promote effective social interaction for our clients.  We see our role as a temporary one – building the foundation that will allow our clients to become self-sustaining social organizations.  Our role is to help companies transition to a more social organization.

So what does your company want from social media?

20 Ways for Cities to use Twitter

DSC01241 The #BoulderFire tore through the canyons just west of downtown Boulder, CO a few weeks ago.  We have been considering a move to Boulder for a few years so the need to get real-time news on the fire was strong for me.  What I found was surprising.  Organizations, both for-profit and non-profit, were leveraging Twitter to disseminate news, updates, and resources to the public.  In my opinion, Twitter delivered better information than the traditional news sources.

So I decided to see how other cities were using Twitter to communicate with local residents.  My findings were somewhat surprising.

Cities and towns of all sizes are using Twitter but not many are effectively leveraging the platform to create a real connection with residents.  Most just post updates about upcoming events or share the occasional “special offer”.

Here are 20 ways for cities, towns, and downtown organizations to leverage Twitter to the fullest.

  1. Promote upcoming events
  2. Pass along special offers from member businesses
  3. Share your newsletter with email management platform integration (@DowntownGB and @DowntownYorkPA do this with Constant Contact)
  4. Tell the story of your downtown with photos and videos from live events (@DtownDallasInc does this frequently)
  5. Survey your followers for real-time feedback on what they are doing downtown right now
  6. Run ticket giveaway promotions for concerts and events
  7. Provide updates on local sport teams for followers (@DowntownPitt does this for Pirates, Penguins, Steelers games)
  8. Find vendors and suppliers for downtown projects
  9. Promote open job listings for local businesses
  10. Update residents on public works projects (@DowntownStLouis shared news of a bridge demolition)
  11. Provide real-time traffic reports
  12. Promote fundraising efforts for causes, non-profits, libraries, etc.
  13. Highlight available resources during and after crisis situations (@DowntownBoulder used Twitter to share information during the #BoulderFire)
  14. Encourage residents to participate in the political process with meeting announcements
  15. Real-time interaction attendees at live events
  16. Cross-promote your other social outposts like Facebook page, Flickr photostream, or even your website
  17. Share content created on your website
  18. Promote the Twitter accounts for other relevant city departments and services
  19. Share personal experiences with local businesses (you know, “your” stories not the marketing sounding ones)
  20. Highlight acts of social good in your community

We have been following 50 cities around the country to see how they use Twitter.  What we found is that most are only doing a handful of the activities mentioned above.  Engaging residents in multiple ways will lead to a more fruitful conversation for both sides.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  How is your city using Twitter to engage with its residents?  What can you add to the list?

The Day I Knew Marketing Was For Me

Years ago, I worked at an internet company as the Creative Manager. Initially this company was pretty content focused, (hey it was 2000!) but eventually we hired a CEO who was a marketing genius, had years of proven experience and knew what he was doing. Many of us transitioned from content producers into the newly created marketing department. Until that point we didn’t even have a marketing department.

This transformation was fine with me, I’d always loved the idea of marketing and advertising, the creativity, the teamwork, the problem solving, and according to Mad Men, the gin-soaked lunches. The only problem was I didn’t have any actual training or education in marketing. I felt I had an innate sense of what might work or inspire people to action, my creative background helped me create visual representations of these ideas, but really I was guessing. Could I actually do this job?

One day, as we were preparing to move offices, I came across a box of old mouse pads* featuring our old logo and design scheme. I didn’t really want to throw them away, but they were old and everyone already had perfectly good mouse pads. So I typed up of few sentences of what I considered to be a mock-ad email touting the glory and value of owning one of these “vintage, pieces of X company history” ending with the obvious “hurry, supply limited!”.

I fired it off to the coworkers around me, expecting to hear a few snorts. Within seconds my coworkers were popping up, literally running over to the box to grab handfuls of these old mouse pads. I watched in stunned silence. Wow! I couldn’t believe my email had had that sort of effect, people jumping out of their seats, following my directive. I was moving mouse pads, and quick. That was the moment I realized the power of marketing and a halfway decent spin campaign. I was hooked.

Granted, that was an easy one: targeted market, engaged audience, free product, immediate gratification. I’ve spent the 8-9 years since that day learning how to deliver a message to the trickier marks.

Today I am immersed, not only in my work but also in passive exposure. Monitoring marketing trends and social media is part of my job, but it’s hard to remember a time when I went hours without being exposed to marketing input and opinions. I personally love it, it feels like a rapid fire tennis match of ideas and creativity. I know many find it overwhelming, but I’m in there looking for ideas, analyzing what I see and hear, plotting ways to twist and transform this input for the benefit of our clients. That makes it fun for me, and amazing. The conversations we can have with people we never would have met 10 years ago. The instantaneous reach we now have.

May I humbly suggest taking a moment to be amazed, at how far we’ve come in such a short period, how these tools allow us to precisely target a message or campaign and monitor the results. Are you amazed?

* Youth of America! Once upon a time we had to use a thing called a “mouse” to move our cursor around a computer screen. They had to be plugged in, with a cord. They only really worked if used on top of a small, foamy pad, usually besmirched with a logo or bad advertising. They were dark times.