What if your life isn’t as perfect as that dude’s in the Timeline video?

Disclaimer: This is a knee-jerk reaction to a feature I will probably come to love and/or find extremely awesome in the next few months.

Facebook introduced a boat load of new features at f8 today, including Timeline, which the Zuck is calling a virtual scrapbook that will show off who you are, what you do and where you’ve been. Along with this announcement came this nifty little video of who I am now referring to as “Timeline dude.”

“Timeline dude” not only has a well populated Facebook page, but he has a kickass life. He was born to a loving family who spent summers in the valley. He graduated from high school and went on to meet pretty lady #1. After a few more years, Timeline dude married pretty lady #1, honeymooned, got her preggers, had a healthy baby and lived happily ever after. Oh, and he documented this all clearly and succinctly on his favorite social network (and probably where he gets his paycheck from) Facebook.

So my question is – what if you don’t have a life like Timeline dude? What if you don’t meet pretty lady #1 or it doesn’t work out and you end up miserable while Facebook stalking her with her new husband and kids until you’re a crotchety old man with lots of birds?

Or what if you don’t want everyone to remember everything you did in your life? It’s pretty clear to me that Timeline dude has never got “naked wasted” (not that I have…) or had his friends take a photo of him breaking into the Rec Pool at 2am wearing a ninja mask (haven’t done that either, I swear). He also probably didn’t live at home for 6 months after graduating from college while trying to find himself. And I’ll admit, I did that one.

I don’t want everyone to know every thing about my past. And I don’t want to have to worry about what people think of every thing that I do in my life. I don’t want to feel pressure to make my Facebook Timeline perfect.

Facebook may have plans to make the Timeline manageable for users in terms of choosing what does and what does not appear. We could have the ability to curate what people see. But who wants to or has the time to spend doing that? I don’t. I love the simplicity of using Facebook. Logging in, seeing what my friends and favorite brands are up to and moving on. I’m worried nothing about Facebook will be simple anymore.

Along with this loss of simplicity may come a loss of users. One of the craziest things to me about Facebook users is that they aren’t all young, early tech adopters. They are moms, dads and grandparents. They’re middle class, working class and every other class in between. Are these users going to feel overwhelmed by these changes and leave? Google+ is open to everyone now…

So will I stand by my annoyance and only migrate over to the new Facebook kicking and screaming? No. I’ll sign-up early, edit my Timeline and upload my damn baby pictures. Why? Because Mark Zuckerberg is smarter than me. And I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. But add me to your circles on Google+, just in case.


Why recent changes won’t help Facebook

I can’t believe I am actually posting about the changes being made to Facebook. And, more importantly, that I’m going to complain about them. I’m usually of the mindset that the bitching is unnecessary because in two months you will still be checking Facebook freakishly often.I felt the need to write this post because of an interesting article I read yesterday on The Next Web. It’s a short article about what Facebook needs to do in order to start getting users to flock to their new “Subscribe” feature, which, at the time, I knew very little about. I wanted to write a blog discussing some of the key points.

But instead of writing last night, I decided to watch my DVR recording of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It seemed like the best decision at the time!

Fast forward to this morning: I get online this to start writing and what do I find? The entire Facebook landscape has changed overnight. And people are freaking out (duh). And “Subscribes” are the least of their worries.

So after some more thinking (but only 4 hours because I don’t want this post to become completely irrelevant) I’m standing by the opinion I would have given you last night if not for my addiction to trashy reality TV with a few minor tweaks. Facebook’s subscriptions new updates won’t help them beat Google+. And here’s why:

– My main qualm with the latest updates is that they are doing too much, too fast. And they are just trying to become G+, instead of trying to be themselves, but better.

Facebook isn’t focusing on what has made them great – creating personal connections. A Facebook profile is a look into who someone is. Or, at the very least, who they want to be. It’s transparent and honest. And you can find out a whole lot of info from it (have you ever heard of Twitter stalking? I thought not).- Another big issue I have is why? I don’t think G+ is a huge competitor with Facebook – at least not in the form it is now. I personally think G+ is more like Twitter. I find myself spending the time I would usually be on Twitter on G+. I’m still on Facebook just as much.

I don’t want to figure out who subscribe to. I’ve already spent time figuring out who to “follow” on Twitter. And who to “add to circles” on G+. Friending someone or “Liking” a brand has been enough for me. And I don’t want to rate the importance of my friends’ updates, either (Gmail “important” filter much?). Social media has already become overwhelming to people. These changes are just adding to the clutter. And now Facebook is more like Twitter. Is that what anyone wanted? It’s not what I had in mind.

– And lastly, the changes don’t focus on what their users wanted.

I wanted was a way to organize my friends more into groups that I could consume information from quickly and easily. In this day in age, I have actual friends, frenemies, coworkers, parents, grandparents, cousins, bosses and crazy ex-boyfriend stalkers all on Facebook. I don’t want all those groups to see everything I post.

Facebook did address this with the creation of “Lists.” I would have liked to have seen this rolled out first. And alone. Now I can look at my top friends, favorite brands, fashion blogs, and social media experts without getting lost in a bunch of cruddy other content.

Everything else is just “meh” to me. But check back in two months. I’m sure I’ll be singing Facebook’s praises.

What makes a successful community?

I went to a great presentation last week on digital metrics for one of my brands. The numbers and stats were informative and useful, but when it came time to discuss Facebook I got to thinking – can these numbers really define the success of my page?Answer? Oh, hell no! Especially when you start talking bad about my page.People were saying we fell short in terms of total fans because the number didn’t match the “benchmark” set by other brands.


I don’t think you can set benchmarks in social media. The industry still hasn’t been able to define any standards in terms of measurement analytics, so how can we say what numbers define success?

For example, a Facebook fan page may have garnered over two million fans by offering a coupon. But what if they don’t post regular content? And what if, when they do, it gets no response? Is that a success because their fan base is still over two million?

I say a big resounding no. And I think anyone who has spent any time managing a brand page would agree.

Now back to my “your Facebook page sucks” meeting. As the conversation continued, people started throwing out ideas on how to “gain more fans.” No one seemed to want to point out that, even though small in comparison to other brands, our page has some of the most dedicated, active fans out there. They respond to posts, click links and talk directly to the brand and each other without any prompting.

They are quality fans who love the product  and want to feel connected to it. They are dedicated to our community.

We’ve built this dedication by showing them the love and giving them our dedication in return for theirs. Posting regular content, responding to fan questions, sharing inside news and handing out exclusive deals (when budget permits, of course).

But not all numbers in social media are bad. Just the ones that say I’m not doing my job well. Obvi.

Let’s change gears a bit and take a look at those quality fans in more detail by analyzing some more specific numbers, like how they respond to (what else?) our content. What do our fans engage with? Which means what do they ‘Like’? What do they comment on? And what links do they click? Those are fan conversions.

If we look at these numbers, we get a better idea of how we can not only keep our existing fans happy, but how we can get more of them. And this will make our page even more successful.

Overall, surface numbers aren’t enough. As community managers, we have to dive deeper into the analytics and create definitions of success ourselves.

The Spaghetti test: Define your community by what sticks

My friend and former colleague Josh-Michéle Ross recently wrote a great blog post about the difference between traditional media audiences and social media communities.

It got me thinking about what exactly defines a “community.”

Ross points out that the main difference between an audience and a community is connectedness.

Well, there ya have it. End post. Thanks for stopping by.

I kid, I kid. I agree with Ross completely, but I also think something else defines a community – the users themselves.

When creating content, my boss talks about the “Spaghetti test.” We try out a bunch of content every month on our walls and Twitter pages and see what “sticks.” Whatever sticks is what makes our community what it is. Do they respond to humor? Sarcasm? Honesty? Are they folksy? Hip? Quirky?

In traditional marketing, if your content doesn’t work, you pull the campaign and decide what you would like to push at your audience next. There is probably some discussion about why things went wrong, but you never have a direct line to these people to know exactly why your ad with a talking cat pissed them off so much (hypothetical, as always).

Social media is that direct line. If your community doesn’t like a talking cat, they tell you. Trust me. They really tell you.

And that’s how users define a community. It is my job as a community manager to listen to their reactions and adjust to them and keep the content dynamic.

So here is a content tip for the week: try out something new. Create a new bucket, write some copy and go for it. Make the spaghetti. If your community lets it stick, keep up the good work. If they let it fall off the wall, move onto the next pot.

How to: handle bad content

A funny thing happens when you’re a community manager – you become oddly possessive of your community. It isn’t just a kitty litter Facebook page. It’s my kitty litter Facebook page. So step off!

Okay, I don’t say “step off” when someone sends me content to post. But I have been put in situations where a coworker or someone from our PR agency sends me content to post that I’m not happy with. It isn’t that it’s off voice or off topic – it’s bad. Just…bad.

The even funnier thing, though, is usually the content is coming from someone who is my superior. Even though community managers spend their days in the trenches – on the walls, fielding customer service questions and getting called out for not responding to issues – we actually rank low in most companies in terms of organizational hierarchy.

So what do you do when you get a bad status update from the VP of brand management? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Breathe. When I first read bad content, I tend to jump straight to the freak out phase. But instead of running into your manager’s office and yelling that the PR agency is a full of $*!%ing idiots (hypothetical situation, of course), stop and take a deeeeeep breathe.

Step 2: Dissect the content. Read the content again. And again. And again. Pull out what the goal of the copy is, especially the main idea. This may take a lot of dissection if the copy is riddled with fluff and length, but make sure you come away with an understanding of what the person was aiming for.

Step 3: Edit, edit, edit. Want to email whoever sent you the content back and tell them you can do better? Prove it first. Re-write the copy (main idea included!) and make sure it is actually better.

Step 4: Write back (with caution). Now is the time when you ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” If it is, write an email back in a positive way (i.e. Avoid dropping any F bombs). Start out thanking them for the content and telling them the idea is great. Then outline your suggested edits. Make sure to clearly explain why you made changes and how you feel it will increase engagement and work better on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Step 5: Accept the result. In my experience, people are more likely to accept your changes without any complaint when they trust you. Once you prove yourself on your social network they will start realizing that you know better than them. Because you probably do. I mean, I know I do…

But if, for whatever reason, the person comes back saying they prefer their original copy, repeat Step 1. Then accept that this one status update or blog post won’t ruin your community and you’ll personally be able to recover (And make sure to mention in your metrics presentation that you did not write that post).

And no matter how many times they shoot you down, keep fighting for the content you believe in. That’s part of being a good community manager – advocating for and recommending best practices based on your experience.

Strategize that content

Content is king. And usually I’m okay with that because I love writing. When I first started as a community manager, I was spitting out fun, new content about cats left and right. “Who would ever complain about this?” I thought.

Answer: I would. That’s who.

It isn’t easy to develop content your fans not only want to read but engage with three times a week, every week…for the rest of your life. Well, not your life, but at least until you can pass this brand onto some other poor soul.

In order to avoid sitting in front of your computer on a Wednesday at 5:30pm with absolutely nothing to post about when you really want to go to happy hour ($5 margaritas!) you need a content strategy.

Create content buckets. Define the different categories of content you’re going to produce for your brand. This doesn’t mean polls, questions, and tips. Those are types of posts that you can use within each of your content buckets. The actual buckets are things like ‘Health related’ and ‘Funny posts.’ Try to develop between three and five buckets for each brand to keep things interesting. And make sure it is what your audience wants to hear – not just what you (or your boss) want them to hear.

Make a content calendar. Do this before you even start writing. This is what you want to write – the space that needs to be filled for the coming month. You can create a Google calendar and add an “event” for each day you want to post. Give the event a bucket and a type, like ‘funny – poll’ or ‘health-question.’ This helps you ensure you aren’t producing the same content over and over and over and over and over…

Write the content. This is where those content buckets come in handy. Instead of creating random content on the fly, stick to the buckets. Be one with the buckets. Mix things up with polls, open-ended questions and insider tips and tricks. Remember: the goal is always to get your community to engage with you. Not just read and move on. That isn’t memorable for anyone (especially not your boss, who is looking for some action on their Facebook page…wait, what?).

Lay it all out in an editorial calendar. This is the nitty-gritty stuff. Create an Excel worksheet or Word doc with a big table that has everything – the week of the post, day of the post, actual content (Facebook in one column, Twitter in the next) bucket and type, picture and any links to include. It is always better to have everything in one place. Otherwise you post a poll asking users for feedback on a photo and, oops, no photo.

All this will enable you to click that ‘Share’ button well before happy hour starts.

But how do you know if the content you created is actually working? Stay tuned (which means I’m still figuring it out and True Blood is on).

(Special thanks to my manager, Helen, for arming me with this super sweet strategy for success)

5 things I had to unlearn as a community manager

When I tell someone who is 40-55 years old that I am working in social media, they say “Wow! That sounds so interesting and engaging.” When I tell someone who graduated in 2009 (like me) or earlier, they say “How on earth did you make Facebookyour job?”Well, first off, Facebook isn’t my entire job. Social media is. But that isn’t the point. The point is that members of my college class and generation view social media very differently than those who are older. Especially those in brand marketing. To us, Facebook has always been a place where we post embarrassing pictures, try to find the latest hookups and see just where exactly Saturday’s Pimps and Hos party will be.

But to generations above me, Facebook is a business tool. A business tool employing new technologies and growing like crazy that needs to be tapped into. Like, right now. Hell, like 3 years ago.

Understanding this point of view leads me to the topic of this post: the 5 ways I had to unlearn about Facebook to be an effective community manager:

1. A ‘status’ update shouldn’t be your status at all. Status updates are the best way to access your fans because they aggregate and appear on users news feeds. So they need to be engaging, relevant and damn interesting to gain their attention. Not what you had to lunch or what super awesome rave you’re heading to tonight.

2. Not all Facebook users are like me. Not even a small minority are like me. In terms of age alone, 50% of Facebook users are 36+ years old, while I’m 24. And most users don’t list their interests as celebrity gossip, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (don’t ask) and black coffee. I have to work to better understand who they are and what they want.

3. Fans ain’t nothing but a number, baby. Having the page with the most fans, photos and posts does not make you an influencer. Finding the balance of what you can give and what your fans can take is key. Don’t focus solely on numbers.

4. It isn’t about ME. I may think everyone in my brand’s community should love to hear how a famous celebrity uses our product every day. But they don’t. And won’t. No matter how hard I try to push it. Content is dictated by your users, not you. So stop talking about Britney Spears and Oprah all the time (This could be just me).

5.  I don’t know it all. I’m not a guru, expert, evangelist, swami or ninja. I’m learning how to best utilize this technology just like everybody else. You have to roll with the punches, learn from your mistakes, take it with a grain of salt…all that stuff. If Jane Doe from 555 County Road X in Nowhere, USA is unhappy with a post I made (that I happen to think was awesome) then I have to listen her gripes and learn from it moving forward. My community will appreciate in the long run.

This list grows longer every day. But I think these are the most important factors when transitioning your use of Facebook from stalking to marketing.