As promised, here’s a copy of the PowerPoint presentation Sarah used during last week’s boot camp event. I know many of you were wanting copies of specific slides. I hope this helps as you implement what you learned:
Valerie Shoopman attended the Social:IRL social media bootcamp on behalf of Horizon Academy, a specialized school that seeks to achieve several goals using social media tools. After an intensive session with Sevans Strategy founder Sarah Evans, Valerie says she learned a valuable lesson.
Even though I really want to use social media for fundraising and soliciting, that’s not always the way to go,” she says.
Social media tips, tricks and best practices took center stage during the lively, informative six-hour session that covered everything from “The Big Three” (Facebook, Twitter and blogs) to generating content.
Sarah approached every topic head-on, dispensing information, suggestions and facts—did you know, for example, the average age of a social network user is 37? Sarah didn’t shy away from the sometimes stark reality of social media. When asked by several bootcamp participants about their concerns with social media time management, Sarah replied that sometimes social media isn’t for every company, especially if a business doesn’t have the personnel or resources to effectively initiate a social media strategy.
Another point that resonated with participants concerned using social media for fundraising or soliciting charitable donations.
“Keep in mind that people have a tolerance threshhold,” Sarah says. “Over-solicitation will actually drive people away. You need to focus on building relationships, then offer sporadic requests or offers.”
When in doubt? Use this formula. If you spend one month asking for donations or requests, spend the other 11 months of the year giving, whether you’re retweeting, providing resources or participating in conversations.
When presenting to what Sarah called “the largest classroom-type setting” she’s had yet to encounter, the best way to begin is by defining that elusive, many-headed creature called social media. This Wikipedia definition is commonly used, and in addition, Sarah shared a simple yet fitting analogy. Social media, like a telephone, is a tool. A telephone won’t do the work for you, but when used properly, can be invaluable in facilitating conversations and relationships. The same can be said of social media. Twitter, Facebook or Flickr won’t magically produce connections, but can be an effective part of a communications portfolio.
The bootcamp included a mix of new and advanced social media users, which created a varied range of questions that spanned from personal versus corporate branding to launching a new product. A particularly energized discussion occurred around location-based applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, complete with privacy concerns and Sarah’s preferred app—for now, it’s Foursquare, but she sees Facebook Places as having bigger and better potential.
For those who haven’t yet launched a social media strategy, several action items were outlined during the bootcamp. The most important? Know what you want to accomplish before you begin. Maybe you want to build your business, be an expert or provide a high level of customer service. Regardless of your goal, outlining a simple mission statement will help you identify which social media tools will help you see results. And once you’ve defined your accomplishment, consider creating and implementing a social media strategy that can merge with an existing communications plan.
John Clinger works in the finance industry and says one of his major questions at the start of the bootcamp was “figuring out whether to get into Twitter.” At the end of the day, John says he was “really hit hard” with a broader realization.
I’m not sure I know how to market in social media,” he says. “I’ve got to go back to the basics, back to square one, and learn to market. Social media is just another tool.”
Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the Social:IRL bootcamp is to remember—and prioritize—the “social” part of social media. Whether you’re conversing or connecting, social media is largely about people and bridging the digital divide.
“Follow who you find value from and who finds value from you,” Sarah says. “You want to get people in the door and keep them coming back.”
And just when you think you can’t follow another social media tool, Sarah suggests three priorities: structure, focus and strategy, an approach that she says can help social media users “stay focused and grounded without being overwhelmed by too many tools.”
Social media is an active, two-way street, and the bootcamp agenda reflected that evolving sense of engagement. The presentation was peppered with Q&As and activities designed to encourage discussion and brainstorming, as well as a continual Twitter stream projected on a large screen that displayed a secondary—and rather entertaining—conversation. In addition to leaving with a wealth of social media knowledge, participants took away individual content and strategy ideas that could immediately be applied to their business. That’s what you call a return on investment—or, as Sarah prefers, a return on engagement.
“It’s about reaching people we wouldn’t have normally reached,” she says.
Katy Ryan is a freelance writer and social media addict living in Kansas City. She writes for several local publications and is assistant editor of www.CharlesAndHudson.com. Her first book, a local travel guide called Moon Kansas City, published earlier this year. Connect with Katy on Facebook , @katywrites and follow her Kansas City adventures here.