Most of what social media presents us isn’t particularly new. Rick Levine’s essay But How Does it Taste in The Cluetrain Manifesto provides a great quote on this:
“It’s … practical to think of social media as the use of the mundane, commonplace technology around us in the pursuit of a goal transcending that technology: fostering conversation and connection between people.”
The quote is one of the most profound in the book – the web and social media are simply tools to accelerate communication, particularly conversation. When I think about the integration of social media into content, then I don’t feel this is particularly new either. Certainly, ten years ago we wouldn’t be asking viewers to upload a video of themselves to YouTube to enter a contest – the technology wasn’t there – but almost all magazines have had a letters section since they were first printed. There has been an interacting connection between reader and writer, just social media has broadened the range of this and accelerated its execution.
What Size Following Do You Need?
On Facebook, you can collect content from an engaged fanbase incredibly quickly. I’ve previously noted in my post Social Media Drives all Traffic Sources, that a ‘Larger Social Media Profiles’ stage, where you can capture data and poll users meaningfully really starts at around 10,000 for media brands. However, that’s not strictly necessary to collect content from your users, and size really depends on vertical – if you’re an ecommerce provider of white household goods, for instance, you’d probably have a much lower quantity. And it also depends on what kind of questions you want to ask.
Creating Regular Features
With regard to creating content, then you can use Facebook and Twitter to ask questions of your fanbase. You could create a regular feature: ‘Facebook Fan Views’ and have the subject the trendiest topic in your vertical during a given week. Let’s think you operate as a seller of computer hardware. This week your post could be:
So this week Steve Jobs resigned from his role as Chief Executive of Apple. How do you think this will affect Apple’s next hardware releases?
Let us know in the comments – selected ones will be used in this week’s Facebook Fan Views.
You may get tripe from this, but you may get some really useful insight. Create an article, lead and open the debate but then express the best fan views for different schools of thought. Make sure that you allow user comments on the article too so you can take it further. People who contribute there may want to feature in the main article next week rather than down in the comments, so they’ll be waiting for you to make the next similar post. Make this a regular thing and you’ll quickly be able to see top contributors and highlight these people as advocates. Talk to them – use them for your own insight.
You can also collect data very fast through using the Facebook Question tool (the far right option of the status update). You can poll fans quickly on any topic – get their views and then use this data to create content. You could say, we polled our 2,000 strong Facebook fanbase and 800 of them let us know their view, then express the results (data visualisation skills desirable).
The final thing you can do is collect more privately held views. Examples might be a medical practice that wants to find out stories of embarrassing illnesses. With this, a public poll or comment would be largely inappropriate. But since Facebook apps rely on iframes it’s incredibly easy to do – create some forms on your website that collect name, contact details and then a larger form for message input, then iframe it in via a tab application. Of course, you’ll need to drive people to the tab, so make sure you create posts on Facebook and Twitter that link directly to the tab – of course you could direct them direct to your website too. I just think it’s good to keep them within the network and build the engagement with your fans on the network itself.
Here’s a great example of the form builder in action on Jillian Michael’s Facebook page. Click on submit and then a modal window appears where you can input free text – great for finding out the personal fitness stories of her fans. The page is powered by Buddy Media, but you could build an ‘app’ on your site and iframe it in.