Tag Archives: fans

social media’s never-ending quality vs. quantity discussion.

If your college had a million students, but most of them didn’t go to class, would you consider that a success? No? Then why do people chase mythical figures in social media (“I want a million fans!”) for numbers’ sake, and not care about engagement?

The quality vs. quantity discussion on social media seems a never-ending debate. I come down firmly in the quality camp, frequently saying things like 100 engaged fans are much better than 10,000 fans who do nothing. And I believe it’s true. While it’s nice the SUNY Oswego Foursqure account has 3,277 followers, many list Indonesia as their address and probably won’t check into Penfield Library any time soon.

Back in the 1990s, collecting massive e-mail lists was a popular craze. Folks would brag about the size or their e-mail lists, but ask how many folks they e-mailed actually gave money or volunteered, and they would bluff some answer about the prospects of potential audience, etc. and change the subject. And how many of those people had a negative view of an organization or institution that plucked their name off an email list and spammed them unbidden?

Facebook and Twitter allow for very public, instantaneous engagement, which represents much of their appeal. Yet you’ll see folks do everything but beg to rack up large memberships, and we all catch ads or spam on ways to get more fans or followers. We should ask such entities: What does having all those followers really get you if they never engage? Do they have any true brand loyalty, any interaction, any connection other than being a fan or follower?

Granted, fan engagement can take all forms — including complaints, arguments, off-topic posts — but if they are genuine folks who stay connected and feel some kind of loyalty toward your institution (even after they complain about classes not being canceled), then that’s tangible.

When we posted on Facebook about our men’s basketball team, which set a record for consecutive losses in the ’70s/’80s, going to the NCAA tournament, reactions included many Likes, encouragement from current students and alumni from losing years expressing amazement and support. Those are parts of a greater narrative, a simple thread that tells us volumes about our community. Yes, numbers of Likes, numbers of comments, those figures count. If we had 10 times the number of fans and _none_ of them Liked or commented, that would say something much less flattering on the viability and vitality of our community — both physical and virtual.

Or have you ever seen a prospective student post on a page or group weighing attending your college vs. another one, and have a bunch of (unprompted) students and alumni tell them reasons why they should choose your institution? That is the greatest feeling and measure for any community manager — confirmation it’s not the overall size, but the spirit that counts.

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atlanta braves hit a home run on twitter.

If you’re looking for the potential to do awesome things on Twitter, look no further than the Atlanta Braves account, @Braves (huge tip of the cap to Joe Glad for the lead). In their use of social media, the Braves show responsiveness, creativity, awesome fan-friendly engagement and organization-wide buy-in.

Braves wish fan happy birthday

Many of us monitor our “brands” online, and the Braves are no different. But they take it a step beyond. Consider the above photo, learning of a fan’s birthday and having one of the Braves hold up a whiteboard sign of birthday greetings. Or when learning of a young fan (I assume) coming to his first game, tweeting a player’s message of welcome (below). Or when a fan tweeted a picture of a Turner Field cake she made for her father’s birthday, @Braves retweeted it, the image enjoying more than 1,000 views.

Hard to top that in terms of engagement. You get the feeling the organization loves fans as much as the fans love the Braves.

They keep the stream going with more functional news tweets (nightly lineups) or event-based in terms of near-live photos. The Braves stumped for reliever Billy Wagner to make the last-chance vote for the All-Star team, but they’ve also tweeted in support of charity. While @Braves racked up more than 23,000 followers, the account — unlike, say, Oprah — actually follows back a fairly healthy chunk of nearly 1,000 fans.

In addition to their responsiveness in identifying tweets and finding ways to pleasantly surprise their fans through creative engagement, I’m also impressed with the organizational buy-in. If you can get players, broadcasters and management to join in the greetings and Twitter games, that says a lot. While I don’t know how big the team’s Twitter-related staff is, I can tell that the support for it must come from very high for so many parts of the operation to happily play along.

However the Braves do it all, one thing is clear: Their use of Twitter is a home run. We can all draw ideas and inspiration with how they cover all their bases.

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a musician who puts social media to good use.

Canadian singer/songwriter Matthew Good is probably one of the more progressive practitioners of social media in his field. So it was really cool this weekend to meet him in person and ask him questions … because of a contest he ran via social media.

Good recently created M+, a sort of uberfan community where, for a $25 annual subscription, one receives access to bonus content — demos, videos, events, etc. It’s not dissimilar to how The Damnwells are using pledges from fans to finance their new record, which I blogged about a while ago. A few days before his show in Rochester, he posted the following:

Fig. 1: A Special Opportunity for M+ Members!

The reaction was swift and enthusiastic, some fans offering to drive several hours for the opportunity. As luck (and perhaps persistence) would have it, my brother and I both made the cut for the 10 fans for the soundcheck and Q&A. He played a couple of tracks (“Great Whales of the Sea” and “It’s Been Awhile Since I Was Your Man,” which they had not played in, er, a while and repeated the ending a few times), talked a bit and then threw the floor open to questions.

I asked a rambling question about his use of social media (it sounded much better in my head!) and his use of it to get straight to the fans. He responded that while he finds it a handy promotional avenue, it would be a mistake for up-and-coming acts to hitch their fortunes to social media in a vacuum. Good said touring, physically connecting with fans from town to town (which he’s done for 20 years), was key. Bands who bank on mainly spreading the word via social media without touring would just get lost in the “white noise,” he said. In short, it’s about selling the steak, not the sizzle. For Good’s full answer, see this video. (Also see more photos.)

While Good refers to his activities as promotional, it’s worth noting he doesn’t use it completely one-way. He is fairly responsive on his blog — which he updates feverishly — sometimes replying to comments and overall keeping the discussion lively (and occasionally intense). On Twitter, Good tweets regulary, but doesn’t reply often (his most regular @ replies include Pete Yorn, who ranks among the top musicians in overall social-media use). His Facebook page is more a place for fans to interact, as Matt closed down his personal account a couple years ago because he could not keep up with the raft of friend requests and comments from fans.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

So while he’s too busy to take full advantage of two-way communication opportunities, he certainly has more of a plan and earnestness than the Oprahs and Ashtons who jump on Twitter for trendiness or ego fulfillment. Matt’s tweets generally point readers toward his blog or feature observations about the town he’s visiting (or the occasional odd story such as the guy in NYC who somehow thought he was Brandon Flowers of The Killers). Instead of chasing a social media outlet because it’s trendy, Good has sound reasons for what he uses. Or to use a popular mantra: Goals first, then tools.

The experiment in Rochester is, I hope, the start of a new way of giving his fans a window into his life in a face-to-face way. The important lesson is that social media, to him, is not an end in itself but a means to build and better engage audiences. And for a guy who plays and tours hard, the live interaction, even if just a half-hour, between the mercurial artist and his band with the fans likely does all parties some good.

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one fan page to rule them all?

I see and field a lot of questions about Facebook fan pages on Twitter and in real life. One of the most common is whether colleges should focus on an extra-special overall fans page or seek a more decentralized approach for specialized audiences.

Our philosophy remains to prioritize a primary Facebook fan page serving all audiences. Sure, plenty of pages with smaller memberships have arose (some by us, most by others) serving specific audiences, academic programs and student organizations, but having this kind of interaction underscores the value of having a central page:

This just happened this week, as a brief post of mine about the upcoming application deadline led to positive comments from three parents of students, one proud alum and one incoming student. Say what you will about parental involvement, but I consider pleased parents who say good things to all their friends with children considering colleges among our most valuable ambassadors. In this post, each mother had her high opinion of our school reinforced by two other parents, an alum and a future student.

That interaction would not have taken place if we just ran separate fan pages dedicated to admissions, alumni and parents. I love the alchemy that arises when potential students, current students, faculty/staff, parents and alumni have one community where they can chat. I’ve seen current students and alumni give great advice to incoming students. I’ve seen current students and alumni swap stories about what makes Oswego so special to them. If you think of your institution as a brand belonging to many generations and stakeholders, the primary fan page is the main marketplace of memories, shared knowledge and institutional pride. Having so many different groups involved just confirms this continuum.

Other solutions let any page play multiple roles. By using the FBML app, you can create new tabs on your page that appeal to specific audiences or functions, such as admissions. I begrudgingly admit that Plattsburgh, our athletic archrival, and its Web wiz Devin Mason do a great job with audience-specific navigation tabs on their page. And with our college, related and approved fan pages also appear in the sidebar Favorite Pages tab.

You can still break down separate specific efforts under the big umbrella. We created an Official Class of 2014 group, with most membership built so far through references from our official page. I intend to turn the 2014 group increasingly over to students, first interns and potentially incoming students who show interest, aptitude and dependability. The more collaborative it becomes, the better for its members and the overall institution. But we can say that about any Web 2.0 community. Ultimately the rubber meets the road for all travelers, and so many interesting paths intersect, on our official and central fan page.

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thinking of ballparks as brands.

Just as the campus should reflect what your college finds important, so are ballparks the places where baseball teams really live their brands. That this may or may not have much to do with what happens on the field tells us how baseball is more like a civic treasure than it is a game.

This summer, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit four different baseball parks: big-time majors to small-town majors, new and old, large and small. Like any good brand, ballparks (imho) can be boiled to a single noun or adjective … one that often also says a lot about the surrounding community. (DISCLAIMER: These opinions are mine alone. Your mileage may vary.)

CitiField: A visual extravaganza.

CitiField: A visual extravaganza.

CITIFIELD, HOME OF THE NEW YORK METS.

In a word: Prestige.

CitiField opened this year with a lot of promise, as did its franchise. The Mets spend a lot of money every year on payroll and, in general, find ways to fall short. The ballpark itself, however, in no way falls short of its promise. It’s cool, it’s shiny, it’s a hot ticket. It’s the place to see and be seen. And yet, unlike its crosstown rival Yankee Stadium which was (rightfully) skewered for luxury prices, CitiField is fairly affordable yet affords you the prestige of saying that you enjoyed a game there. The huge video boards and ads rival the visual pollution of Times Square, but plenty of people love how big and loud New York is. And if some people are willing to pay $8 for the privilege of drinking Bud Light — when you can pay just as much for a vastly superior Hoeggarden — then CitiField is succeeding in making anything you do there feel like a luxury.

Safeco Field: Let the good times Ichi-roll!

Safeco Field: Let the good times Ichi-roll!

SAFECO FIELD, HOME OF THE SEATTLE MARINERS

In a word: Fun.

Seattle is a great sports town without the luxury of a lot of good teams, and its Sonics hoops team was recently stolen by a bunch of businessmen from Oklahoma City. Perhaps because the Mariners and Seahawks were mediocre for so long, Emerald City franchises learned to sell much more than the game. According to folklore, after all, Seattle is where The Wave started. And so Safeco Field gives you majestic views of Puget Sound, more in-game contests than most major-league games, odd distractions like the scoreboard hydro races and affordable regional/cultural cuisine (Ichi-roll, anyone?). When I visited, a large group of Japanese fans wearing Ichiro jerseys appeared to be having the time of their lives. And that, more than anything (even winning!), is what you want for a night out at the ballpark.

Alliance Stadium: Good seats, sights still available.

Alliance Stadium: Good seats, sights still available.

ALLIANCE STADIUM, HOME OF THE SYRACUSE CHIEFS (AAA MINORS)

In a word: Aspirational.

Just as the players on the Chiefs aspire to make the big leagues for parent club the Washington Nationals (or perhaps another, better team), so does Alliance Stadium seem to aspire to be something better. Caught between trying to serve up a major-league calibre experience and the corny promotions of minor-league ballparks, its brand is less certain than other parks. You score a box seat for $10 only to fork over $5.50 for a midrange beer. Most nights the crowd is small and even the exhortations of the scoreboards and announcers can’t lift it. As a bonus, the stadium sits near the mythical site of DestiNY USA, a much-promised mall/theme park/pipedream sold to transform the region if only its owner could get anyone else to pay for it. So the ballpark, the team, the city looks to break out of its own identity issues. Like many parts of Central New York itself, Alliance Stadium has potential with an eye cast towards opportunities for improvement.

Falcon Park: Little Leaguers on the field for the National Anthem? Sure.

Falcon Park: Little Leaguers on the field for the National Anthem? Sure.

FALCON PARK, HOME OF THE AUBURN DOUBLEDAYS (CLASS A MINORS)

In a word: Community.

Most Doubledays players don’t have much of a shot of making the majors. The cheesy between-inning fare includes arm-wrestling contests, racing a mascot, musical chairs. Little Leaguers take the field with the players for the National Anthem. Its most popular promotion is Dollar Beer and Hot Dog Night on Thursdays. That these are all embraced by the ballpark, the team and the community show everyone remembers baseball is more than just a game. I attended a Doubledays game a couple days after a Chiefs contest, and the latter had a larger, livelier, happier crowd. I sat with someone from Auburn and ended up getting upgraded to box seats right behind the home dugout. Most regular Doubledays fans know half the crowd in the ballpark. Folks ask each other how the kids are doing, how work was this week. Going to a Doubledays game is like attending a community picnic … one that happens to include a baseball game.

Intentionally or unintentionally, stadium experiences say a lot about both a team’s business ethos and the community it calls home. If you’re involved in any kind of brand marketing, what do your environment and customer experiences say about you?

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fans pages: hands-off? hands-on?

A funny thing happened to the SUNY Oswego Fans page while I was out of town this weekend.

A few questions came in from students entering this fall, not unusual in itself. But all of those questions were answered by other fans — quickly and correctly.

I did answer the question I saw on Saturday morning, but I was pleasantly surprised when — after driving, attending a wedding, sleeping and driving some more — I arrived home Sunday afternoon to find all the new questions handled. A similar thing happened when I was on my first actual vacation in years earlier this summer and most page questions were answered by others.

When members of a community become involved in problem-solving, this is good on many levels. It shows they care enough about their community — virtual or physical — to take care of it. It means that conversations are more organic than if the institution (or other moderator) always jumps in. And it also means that genuine connections are forming between those who asked the questions and those who answered them. (Interesting that it was three people, not just one do-gooder, who responded to the questions. NOTE: It looks like one of the answers disappeared. Am I the only one noticing comments disappearing on Facebook lately?)

Thus I’m kind of torn. I prefer good customer service, which means checking the Fans page frequently to provide answers. An unanswered question, to me, looks as out of place as an undone zipper. Yet I know that if fans answer the questions instead of me, presuming those answers are accurate, it’s better for the sense of the community.

It’s a teaser. What do you think?

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Fans pages become more conversational.

While I’m still not totally thrilled with the layout of the new Facebook Fans pages, I can’t deny the new setup does promote conversations. This comes mainly because Fans pages’ responses to questions show up in the news feeds of fans the way friends see status reports. Thus fans see their pages talking (in a way) and are more likely to ask questions or join conversations.

While the upshot is that those of us managing Fans pages now have more lively brands, increased conversations also mean more vigilance and time spent on responses. Much more time. Plus because it’s like a status message, if you’re speaking for a page you have a character limit less than when your response was like posting on a wall. Somewhere in there, Facebook wisely increased the limit to 420 characters, which helps form coherent responses. I take customer service seriously and, given the high visibility of responses attributed to SUNY Oswego from the Fans page, it’s vital answers are helpful and thorough.

Fig. 1: A lively discussion.

Fig. 1: A lively discussion.

On the up side, responses from the Fans page now appearing in the feed of any fans also can spark marvelous organic conversations, like the one above. It began with one future student asking about living in Hart Hall, our international residence hall that also has a community service component. A large number of former Hart residents chimed in on how much they enjoyed it. One person did note that the extra requirement of community service wasn’t for everyone, but others responded it felt more like a reward than a chore. And, best of all, the Fans page administrator could stand back and watch the real experts give their thoughts.

So score one for Facebook here. If the goal in giving Fans page responses similar feed treatment to status updates was to create more conversation, then it certainly succeeded.

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