Using Research to Increase Engagement: Virtual Knowledge Sharing

What motivates people to share information or knowledge online? As social media professionals, how can we reach out to people to encourage engagement and sharing?  This presentation summarizes a research study done in Taiwan in 2011:  Theory of Reasoned Action and Virtual Knowledge Sharing.




Reach Out and Ping Someone

Maybe it’s because I work from home. Or am busy with two young kids.  Or have technology at my fingertips.  Whatever the reason, I find myself both wanting to “reach out and touch someone” and NOT wanting (or having the time) to leave my house.  Does using a computer make me less likely to have meaningful relationships in the “real” world or does it make the “real” world more accessible?

Social media has given us opportunities to connect with people across the miles, but sometimes, I’m looking for an alternative way to have a conversation with my neighbor (for the love of Diet Coke, please please please stop revving up that Harley at 3am).  This story about a local HIV/AIDS support group that’s begun to meet on Facebook got me thinking about ways that people can find advice and support online.  How many people would attend support meetings but are embarrassed to discuss their symptoms, or have already taken enough time away from their jobs/friends/family and can’t spare another hour?  How many might volunteer to help at the local schools but can’t work the meetings into their hectic schedules?  People are out there, creating and maintaining support groups on Facebook (and on their own websites) that may not be the best place to a) disclose your identity or b) find professional medical advice, but do point to a variety of resources and help people connect with others like you.

Fibromyalgia support on Facebook

Aimee shares news stories, helpful tips, encouraging words, and pictures related to living with fibromyalgia.

Bereaved Parents on Facebook

Using Facebook to share resources.

There are many ways to share our experiences and tell our stories, and sometimes, just in the telling we start to feel better.


StorytellingI wonder if social media could be similarly effective in terms of recruiting and organizing volunteers for organizations?  How many of us who’ve worked all day have the time to go to a two-hour meeting on a week-day night?  Even if dinner and childcare are provided, it’s still time away from the kids, their homework, the laundry…  Surely there’s a better way that we can all get on the same page (or URL).  I’m itching to try Ning, which is a social networking site that allows you to control membership and privacy for a small fee (has anyone used it??).  I wonder what it might be like to have Ning-mediated PTA meetings??  This way, I can sip a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed, and tune in for an hour for a live chat in which we plan the second grade Halloween party…  Is this utopian vision of volunteering possible?

Social Media Math: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words x 100 Likes/Shares

It’s been a horrible technology day for me.  Spent 1.5 hours trying to configure my new work laptop to be on my wireless network.  I hate feeling like a complete dunce when talking to IT folk…  What’s the difference between WAP and WAP2 really?  The process required two diet cokes and a large slice of leftover pizza (it’s only 10:30am) just to keep me sane.  While I was booting, rebooting and waiting for support to get back to me, I was writing for this blog.  Somehow I managed to lose my work too.  First rule of thumb for this technophobe, always learned the hard way: SAVE YOUR WORK!

It’s W-week (as in wedding!) here… The big day is a few sleeps away and things are very, very busy, exhausting, stressful, wonderful, beautiful, awesome…  I was going to take the week off from blogging, but then, noticed a few people using social media to thank their firefighters and police officers on the anniversary of September 11, 2001, and was moved by it.

NYPD Facebook cover - 9/11/12

NYPD Facebook cover – 9/11/12

When was the last time you sent a thank you letter?  A genuine, personal letter thanking someone you’ve met for helping  you, for volunteering for your organization, for buying lemonade from your kid on the tree lawn, for taking good care of your mom when you couldn’t be there?    Thanking people using social media platforms allows you to be creative, public and personal, to encourage interaction, increase engagement and loyalty, and to create original, searchable content.

After Sally Ride’s death, singer songwriter Anne E. DeChant created a tribute video featuring her song Girls and Airplanes. DeChant’s video is an excellent example of a way to both honor and recognize someone who has touched your life AND create meaningful, searchable content, which further optimizes your organization for search.

So you’re not a lovely and talented singer songwriter?  No worries! Thanking one of your volunteers, or someone who’s done something kind for you on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, or a blog is easy, and it means giving “public” recognition for their dedication.  Your message will be seen not only by the recipient, but all of their friends.   Sometimes, thanking is as simple as “liking” them back or acknowledging their comments as DeChant does here:

Anne E DeChant thanks fans

With social media, and a little imagination, the possibilities are endless and potentially quite moving.  A video of an elementary school janitor cleaning the floors dutifully and interacting with the children; a classroom full of second graders looking eagerly at their teacher with hands raised; a small child holding a tray in the lunch service line – these are the kinds of scenes that would move people to like, share or forward a message, giving a simple “thank you” to the teachers and staff of your local elementary school a new, global reach.  It’s the ability to share these human stories that makes social media exciting.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use photos and videos.
  • Use a platform like Animoto to make a video out of photographs you upload, and set it to music.

    Personal thank yous on Facebook

    Personal thank yous on Facebook

  • Don’t just say thank you – tell your readers who this person is, what makes them special, how they help you or impact the lives of others.  Keep it personal and meaningful.
  • Design a badge and give it as an award, encouraging the recipient to post it on his/her Facebook wall and/or blog.
  • Retweeet regularly.
  • “Like” them back, and “likes” are even more meaningful when they are accompanied by comments.
  • Feature volunteers and the work they do on your own wall (be sure to tag them by name):
Volunteer featured on Facebook Page

Volunteer featured on Facebook Page

  • Write a feature story about them, or allow them to share their own story in their own words like this Diet Coke love story:
    Diet Coke love story

    Diet Coke is the netcar of the gods… Making this a match made in heaven (and, an excellent way to use social media to engage followers AND build a brand).

    For other great ideas, check out this blog.

    A thank you post isn’t complete without acknowledging those of you who like and share this blog regularly.  Thanks so much for your patience as I learn along with you!  Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, suggest topics, etc.

    This post is dedicated to all the fantastic friends who’ve listened to the planning rants, run the errands, and are otherwise helping me to survive W-week:  Nancy, Keith, Adam, Carolyn, Marj, Sheryl, Joe, Michelle, and of course, Deb.

How Engaging Are Your Beans? The Importance of Channel Selection

Anna loving her baby brother (note he has no control of his movements).

Having three years between my kids seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, for the first few months, it was ideal.  When my youngest, Noah, was born, Anna was nearly 3.5.  She was potty trained.  She was content to pretend to “nurse” her doll in the chair beside me.  Or do puzzles at my feet while I spent hours in the rocking chair with her newborn brother, whom she loved… Until, at about four months of age, Noah became a chubby, happy, and very social little baby and Anna became jealous of my interactions with him.  Ever since, juggling to keep these kids happy and in line at such different stages of development (and patience) has been nothing short of back-flipping on a tightrope with flaming batons in my hands.  One-on-one parenting is easy: I know how to package the message to get the behavior change I’m looking for.  But, the packages are very different for my now 7.5 year-old daughter and my 4 year-old son.  If I tell them the same thing – kids, if you don’t finish your dinner, you don’t get dessert – I get two different levels of engagement.  My daughter will generally do what I ask if the reward is sweet (we usually have fresh fruit for dessert).  My son, however, when faced with a plate full of yucky-mucky beans, will drag his feet, whining and complaining for an hour if I allow it.  It takes twice the work (and twice the patience) to get messages to the both of them that will lead to action.

Now they only work together for evil (like staying up past bedtime, and stealing my laptop to make silly movies of themselves).

I face the same dilemma as a communications professional, especially when it comes to using social media.  Many companies are just worried about their reach – they send the same messages across all the social media challenges in the hopes that the messages will be received and acted upon.  What this method lacks is strategy.  Social media allows us to connect with millions of people each day, but those connections will only be meaningful if they are engaging enough to be lasting.  As my four year-old son requires more than a simple warning about the pending end of the meal, folks on Facebook are looking for different things than folks on Twitter. Twitter has become a channel of delivery for in-the-moment news to a targeted audience. For me at least, Twitter feels less engaging.  Though I may browse through the feed and often click on links to read related articles, I do so only if I have time and seldom interact further with the content.  I’m an English major-geek who gets a thrill when a single word is over 140 characters…  Noah demands much more engagement if he’s to perform even simple tasks (like eating his beans or clicking on a link).

Perhaps one of the things I find more engaging on Facebook is that it’s visual.  I love photography and feel more connected to people and brands when I see pictures, read text, watch videos, talk back, and build a community around what I see.

How do you decide what channels to start using first? Especially if you are strategizing for small non-profits or start-ups with few resources to devote to marketing and social media, you may be forced to choose which social media channel would most increase your ROI.  If this is the case, do a little research!  Find out where your audience spends the most time online.  Take a look at what your competitors are doing in social media.  Think about what you like and what you’d do differently.  Take careful notes (and lots of screenshots) and then develop a plan that’s best for your brand.

If you’re already using social media, but finding that engagement is less meaningful or fruitful than you’d like, be sure that you’re using social media channels strategically. Respond to comments about your brand in the same channel in which the comments were made.  Recognize usage trends on each channel and use the channels accordingly.  Use Twitter to deliver up-to-the-minute news that clients might find interesting (news, sales, severe weather closings, etc.).  Use Facebook to focus on something beyond what people can find on Twitter, and leave the marketing messages for your blog/website.  Facebook gives you the opportunity to show the human side of your brand, to focus on the people you serve, the people who work for you, your community involvement, etc.  Repeating the same messages on all channels leads to burnout (for you and your customers).  Sometimes, in business and in parenting, we jump right to the message without stopping to think about whom we are trying to reach and which ways would be best to reach them.  Without a doubt, creating a strategy involves more work initially, but it’s the kind of work that will be rewarded by building relationships with loyal customers.  Now, if anyone can tell me how to get Noah to eat his dinner within 30 minutes at the table (mucky veggies included) – I’m all ears.

Please tell me that a circus act isn’t required to get my kid to eat this