Category Archives: Best Practices

About techniques and best practices

fig’s blog – The WELL’s Rules

Years after The WELL launched, a term was invented to describe what it was made of: User-Generated Content or UGC. The WELL was all text. No graphics, just letters and numbers sent to its Picospan platform in the form of words, sentences, conversations and mutual entertainment.

There was a potential problem, though – liability. What if one of its members wrote something on the WELL that was illegal or libelous or in some other way litigious? Couldn’t yoyowthe business be sued? What exactly was The WELL and what responsibility did it have for the content it carried?

Some discussion took place in the Whole Earth offices concerning this question and Stewart – who was the master of pithiness – offered this simple declaration – You Own Your Own Words.

Where today one is expected to adhere to Terms of Use that run on for pages of fine print, The WELL kept things simple. If you were going to post words (and sentences, paragraphs, short stories, arguments, insults, jokes, etc.) on our system, you agreed to take full responsibility for their legal impact. For their karma, as it were. We described the WELL as a “conduit” for delivering our members’ words to other members who could respond to them, maybe in equally offensive manner. In any case, The WELL would not be held responsible.

Of course there were no legal precedents for this position; it just seemed to make logical sense and we felt confident that the courts would agree with us if and when it ever came to that.

Some WELLbeings later attempted to expand the meaning of YOYOW to mean that one could expect to have total copyrights for words posted to the community, and that The WELL would enforce those copyrights on behalf of its members. We refused to buy in to that interpretation, which implied that we would engage lawyers and go after plagiarists both on and off of the WELL. Our actions would, at most, amount to strong language aimed at journalists who quoted individual members in newspaper or magazine articles without asking for permission. That made sense to us and on several occasions we were successful in persuading writers to honor that arrangement.

Another important factor in WELL governance came with our paid subscription model. In those days before advertising and e-commerce, online systems supported themselves through paid membership and member accounts – in what later became known as Profiles – carried the member’s true name. These were the names attached to their credit cards or checks. Members were expected to choose user names,which appeared with the posts they wrote and submitted, but those user names could be used to reveal the true names.

In other words, there were no anonymous accounts on The WELL. This had a self-regulating effect on behavior. This was not the case on USENET groups, which had no paid membership, true ID or anonymity. A short visit to many USENET groups would quickly demonstrate what the term “flame war” was all about.


Whack-a-Mole Social Media

As a business or non-profit you don’t need to maintain accounts on more social media platforms than you can effectively manage. Yes, on the face of it that probably sound like “Well, duh” information, but my own experience and that of others whom I have observed tells me that the desire to contact customers and constituents through as many channels as possible leads to spreading social efforts too thin.

Whack a mole creative commons
Flickr creative commons

Your social marketing should be based on establishing valuable and lasting relationships rather than raising metrics and spreading visibility. Yes, those goals are important but little is gained by jumping from one social media account to another, posting whatever can be scrambled together every day just to prove you’re alive.

Instead, consider your options for social media platforms that will provide the most benefit to your company because they are where your most beneficial relationships can be developed. Start with one platform and do a righteous job of using it to connect and engage with influencers in your target population. Work on it to spawn relevant conversations and popular events. Drive people to your website. Build the community to critical mass where users’ contributions sustain a good level of interaction. Once you’ve established sufficient momentum on that platform, begin to develop the next most promising platform.

For most but not all companies a Facebook page will be the prime platform with Twitter serving as a short-form secondary locale. But for many of you, LinkedIn or Pinterest may be your starting point. It may be your best move would be to select platforms that support different types of populations. Or you might want to use a primarily discussion platform and a primarily graphics platform.

In any case, doing a great job of connecting in one environment will serve you better than doing a hurried half-assed job in several.


Is Engagement a Number?


I ran across this article today, written not by a social media specialist but by an engineer – Mike Bailey, an engineer who now champions employee advocacy.

Social-Media ROI: The Surprising (and Inconvenient) Truth

I’ve had to deliver this inconvenient truth countless times to eager clients: you can’t measure social ROI, just as you can’t gauge engagement by the number of times your readers click on something on your Web page.

It’s inconvenient because, of all the  means available for assigning value to social interaction, the one nearest to what I consider useful is engagement.

To engage – as one does when changing gears on a manual shift car – is to have two gears, as it were, meshing their teeth. It’s a coming together of two things to transfer power.

It’s crucial that the gears are sized and positioned to make the engagement work. In the social world, the equivalent of this mechanical design is the matching of interests with the interesting. This  engagement of interests is an intangible but measurable thing.

There is an invisible transfer of power where a piece of content so moves the reader or viewer that she feels compelled to respond with a reaction and might even expect a reply to her response. At least the content elicits an emotional response.

Ideally, this engagement reaction would measure a physical change – a quickening of the pulse, a rise in blood pressure, observable activity in the brain, dilation of the pupils. But technology and ethics have not brought us to that yet, and in our virtual connections where video is still maturing we don’t witness the expressions on faces or changes in voice tones that indicate emotional engagement.

Thus we depend on metrics tools and various link clicks to provide some indication of something more than a fleeting, accidental visit to content pages. This “engagement” has different definitions on different analytics platforms. It may be as simple as clicks on Facebook’s Like buttons or a response to a discussion thread.

So you find that Facebook Insights tells you that your engagement numbers are trending upwards. To what do you attribute that encouraging trend? Did you change something? Did one piece of content light a fire? Did you hit a relevance bullseye? Did you mean to and just lucked out on the timing?

These difficult-to-answer questions can leave the community manager hanging – wanting to take credit for the improvement but often unable to replicate the outcome the following week. We humans and our attention spans can be so unpredictable.

Bailey concludes that “Measuring reach, impressions, mentions and engagement for an item (all now accepted by the Public Relations Society of America as metrics for social-media measurement) is entirely within the capabilities of most social-media analytics packages. ” Getting results from these social media metrics will provide a basis of comparison with more traditional marketing metrics, justifying (or not) the investment in social activities.

Bailey’s conclusion does not, in my opinion, answer the question of how the current metrics for engagement tell us what we’re really looking for – that feeling and belief in real relationship between the business and its customers.

As an example of an engaged audience, take a look at Web pages featuring any automobile with a long history and a personality, such as the Ford Mustang.