What I learned from a day as an elementary school volunteer

Dads and Dad-type figures are welcome in schools

You can make a difference in a kid’s life. Yesterday, I learned that kids will give you high fives when you walk down the corridors of their school. They will enthusiastically participate in a gym relay and try to show you how great their reading is and how they can follow the music teacher’s instructions. And they are all happy to see a Dad (or Dad-type figure) in their classroom.

I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ school, so when my friend told me about the Watch D.O.G.S. program (Dads of Great Students), I volunteered to spend a day as a volunteer at East Ridge Elementary school.

Here’s a story on Watch D.O.G.S. that ran on the Today Show earlier this year:

What’s involved in being a volunteer? Continue reading “What I learned from a day as an elementary school volunteer”

As a community manager, how should you be using Twitter?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/2761252333/
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/

Imagine you are a community manager and today is your first day promoting the brand. How should you use Twitter? You might be overwhelmed with the river of information and wonder what are the “right” answers to questions like these:

  • How often should you tweet? And should you retweet?
  • How do you decide to follow people on Twitter? And should you unfollow?
  • Should you care about your follower to following ratio?
  • Will people share and discuss your content?

The Best Twitter Strategy (doesn’t exist)

I think the best Twitter strategy (and really, the best content strategy overall) for a community uses metrics like these and doesn’t live by them either. It’s important to measure your activity, and you should explain why you are participating in a channel.

Here are three core beliefs I think are important to build community on any channel:

  1. That you should share relevant, interesting content with your community and your industry;
  2. That the best content is sharable by nature because it teaches and informs;
  3. And that you build an ongoing community by writing and sharing that content.

Community=Actions + Beliefs

You can’t build a community on beliefs alone, so here are some tactics that are useful to consider when you are engaging on Twitter and elsewhere. The act of engaging in conversation means that you should do more than just share your own posts or your own news. You should ask questions. You should always respond to conversations, even when they feel difficult to start or to continue. And you should understand that Twitter is a fluid, changing medium.

The “rules” for engagement are changing constantly as well. Here are some ideas to consider to help you build the kind of community you want. Post as much as you want to – and understand that this may drive some people away. Follow as much as you want to do – and understand that the dynamics of Twitter favor a high follower to following ratio. For your next 10 posts, tweet 1 about yourself, 2 about your firm, 4 about your industry, and 1 just for fun.

Be A Human.

When you reinforce your brand message in the style and tone of the communication channel, people come back. And they talk to you. You should talk back to them and engage in real conversation.

So are all of those metrics up top important? Yes, and they are not the only thing you should consider. You should build real relationships offline with people whom you meet online when you building a community on Twitter or elsewhere. That interaction at a conference or an event brings a community to life. In the meantime, share great content and make sure you talk to the people around you (offline and online.)

Can you turn a critic into your biggest fan?

Don't feed the Trolls
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcolman/

Photo by Jonathon Colman.

Is it possible to turn a critic into a raving fan? Should you ever feed a troll? Should you even engage for fear of starting a flame war? In my experience, the answers to all of these questions are yes, yes, and yes. You can always win by hugging customers very, very tightly. No, you don’t have to hug them to within an inch of their life and you can always acknowledge what they are saying, redirect them to useful resources, and take the high ground.

Listening to your critics unlocks problems your company hasn’t faced

Your most passionate critic has the possibility of being your most passionate supporter, and you should help them to get there. There’s no guarantee that you can turn a critic into a raving fan, but the critics are telling you things you need to hear about your product, your brand, and your company, so you should listen (even when you feel that they’re wrong).

The process of turning a critic into a raving fan takes three steps. First, you need to let them know that you’ve heard them. That doesn’t mean ranting back at them. It does mean thanking them for their contribution, and clarifying (by sharing the facts, not your opinion) any counter-factual statements they’ve made. If you can do this action quickly, all the better — time is on your side when someone is yelling at you, because they’ve often been secretly annoyed with you for a while and something happened that immediately brought their frustration to the surface.

Empathize and learn

Second, you need to find out what the critic feels you did wrong. This part is perhaps the most important: the ability to place yourself in the shoes of the critic, to understand and empathize with their frustration, and to truly get what’s going on for them and what caused them to be so annoyed that they shouted at you (publicly or privately). It’s also really important to understand the one thing you might be able to do to make things better for your customer, so it’s important to ask them how to fix the problem.

Third, you need to reach out to the critic and demonstrate your good will. There are lots of great ways to do this, from engaging in public conversation to sending t-shirts or other goodies, or sometimes even to send cookies. The key item here is to address the specific concern the critic raised. If you’re never going to fix that problem, politely agree to disagree and suggest an alternate product or service. If you screwed up and need to do something to fix it, tell the customer how you can make it better. And if there’s no fixing it, just apologize and share the steps you’re taking to ensure that it never happens again. And you’ll know whether you got this right if they also thank you for reaching out (bonus points if they do this publicly) and let you know that they are happy(ier) again.

Know when to walk away

Except when they don’t. Because part of of the task of turning a critic into a raving fan is that — even if you believe in the basic goodness of people and try like heck to improve whatever it is they asked you to fix — you might get it wrong, be misinterpreted, or run into a critic who simply will not be mollified by any of your efforts. And at that point the best thing you can do is hug the customer (as tightly as you can) and move on. Responding quickly and effectively while offering a solution and steps for future improvement is the best way to move forward.

This post originally appeared on WordOfMouth.org.

How do you quantify the value of an online community?

Online Communities are similar to and different from their physical counterparts
photo courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/portland_mike

What’s the value of community?

How can you define both the idea of a community and the value of that community for a marketer?

A physical community can be hard to describe, and hard to grasp, as Phil Bartle suggests,

“we can not see a whole community, we can not touch it, and we can not directly experience it….Like the words “hill” or “snowflake,” a community may come in one of many shapes, sizes, colours and locations, no two of which are alike.”

An online community is a strange thing – it’s a hybrid of an idea (a shared space that people experience through their computers, tablets, and phones) and a thing – the interaction of that community in many channels (both online and offline.)

I propose a simple definition for the kind of community that marketers care about – a community is a place where people talk about and to the makers of your product. One of these communities happens online (we’re not not talking about channels – we’re talking about relationships with people)

Communities provide a place where you can have a conversation about the meaning and purpose of your brand, promote new ideas and products, and learn more about how people feel when they interact with you and your team. They are also places where you can guide the conversation, and not control it.

And by the way, how can you evaluate that?

Once you’ve defined the idea of a community, you need to find out who’s participating there. And establishing some hard and soft measurements of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will help you measure your progress so that you can know (both directionally and absolutely) whether anything is changing in your community and who’s talking about and to you.

One of the first things you need to do for your community is to learn more about the people who are already there. Who are the existing influencers? Where are they talking now? To whom are they talking, and how often do you engage with them? There are lots of tools and services that can help with this process, and if you stay focused on the idea of activating your 1000 true fans or identifying the 1% of web visitors who contribute the most content.

Ok, so get talking. But that’s really just the beginning. Continue reading “How do you quantify the value of an online community?”

It doesn’t take much to give back

Image
A newly painted foursquare court at Bryant Elementary in San Francisco

Who wouldn’t like to have fun in a playground game where the playground looks like this?

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a community event courtesy of the folks at the Salesforce.com foundation and my team at Desk.com. In the span of half a day (and with the help of the folks at Playworks, we transformed a dull-looking outdoor playground into a vibrant place where kids can have fun.

Yep, you say – kids can have fun anywhere – and that’s true. Yet there’s something different about an environment where school kids see grownups kneeling on the blacktop, taking the time to make their playground cool, and having fun doing it. For us, this was just a day in the sun having a good time where we learned more about our teammates and did some painting.

And it was a bit more too, because when the staff of the school walked by and said “Thank you – this looks great” and the kids ran by, stopped, and said “Thank you!” we realized we were doing something more than just painting. We were giving a little bit of ourselves to this school, and the people who work and go to school there every day noticed and appreciated our effort.

So thank you to the team, the foundation, and to the facilitators. I feel grateful for being able to make this playground a bit more colorful. It’s a great reminder to all of us to spend more of our time engaging offline with real people in person as well as sharing our thoughts, photos, and ideas online.

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