Tag Archives: Facebook

U.S. Navy Virtual Scavenger Hunt Charts Fan Interest

June 30, 2011

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Is your Facebook Insights Dashboard filled with peaks and valleys? Do the same people do all of the commenting and liking? Do you have a lot of likes, but very little comments? Does your organization have several sub-pages with little or no traffic? If you answered yes to any of the questions, then you may want to take a cue from the U.S. Navy and reality shows everywhere and consider a scavenger hunt. You heard me right – the simple game you may have played as a little kid or a more advanced version you did in hiding a present for your significant other can help you in social media as well.  The Navy found this out last month when they launched the first Navy Virtual Scavenger Hunt to help increase engagement among their Facebook fans and teach them about Maritime strategy at the same time.

Take a look at the case study they pulled together below detailing why they developed the scavenger hunt, how they did it, their results, and their lessons learned.

[slideshare id=8199879&doc=navyfacebookvirtualscavengerhuntsnapshot-110603133357-phpapp02]

According to LT Lesley Lykins, the Navy’s Director of Emerging Media Integration, they are constantly looking for new and creative ways to educate their fans and more simply understand what is the Navy does for them every day. The Scavenger Hunt helped them do that. It allowed them to mobilize their substantial Facebook fan base (334,000 people)and get them to visit some of the other Navy command Facebook pages and learn more about what they do too. LT Lykins said the activity was definitely a worthwhile investment and has increased the level of engagement they’ve had with their fans on the Navy Facebook page. Even more importantly though was the impact it had on the Navy commands’ efforts – one Navy Public Affairs Officer shared, “ Our fan numbers spiked during the scavenger hunt and have continued to grow since then. Additionally, the interactions have slightly increased as our fan base has continued to grow.”

The Scavenger Hunt was so successful that not only have many of their fans have asked that they do it again, but some of the other Navy commands who didn’t participate the first time around are itching to get involved the next time too. To satisfy this demand, the Navy is continuing to develop other new creative ideas to showcase more commands in the future,  although they aren’t ready to release any of those details yet.

While the Scavenger Hunt was fun and creative way to engage their fans, it doesn’t compare to the day-after-day-after-day engagement they are able to conduct with their fans. The Navy uses Facebook and other social media channels every day to reach out and touch the Sailors, veterans, family members, people interested in joining the Navy, Navy advocates and so forth. This is what has allowed them to build much closer ties.  You can now feel just as close to the Navy and our Sailors whether you live in a land-locked state or a major fleet concentration area, and that’s something that just wasn’t possible before.

So, what’s the number one piece of advice for other government agencies interested in doing a Scavenger Hunt for their Facebook page?  According to LT Lykins, it’s to “think outside the box – we do not have to remain stuck telling our stories and sharing our messages the way it has been for the last 30 years. Our team says that if you aren’t willing to share the content on your own personal social media properties then it isn’t good enough to be shared on the official page. You also need to make sure you still maintain strong ties with other communicators in your field because a lot of this is planned and coordinated off of social media and through email and phone calls. Maintaining those relationships and communicating often helps build a stronger campaign vice simply tagging other social media properties. Finally, remember as an organization there should be a point to all the fun – we have an obligation to communicate what they Navy’s doing on citizens’ behalf, so once we get their attention we hope to make it worth everyone’s time.” (emphasis mine)

[FULL DISCLOSURE – Booz Allen is supporting the U.S. Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO), and Tracy Johnson provides direct support to the Emerging Media Office]

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Can Greater Social Connections Improve Higher Education?

March 3, 2011

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I’ve written about my interest in the potential of social media to improve higher education before, and as one of the members of the SMCEDU Board of Advisors, I want to help increase awareness among colleges and universities in how social media can help improve the quality of education and why students should be learning the business applications of social media in college. That’s why when I saw that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently invested $2 million in a Facebook app to improve post-secondary education, I knew that I had to find out more about this app and how it might help further the SMCEDU mission.

Created by Inigral Inc., the Schools App allows you to create a private, branded social network for your students within Facebook that will engage them in ways that Pages and Groups can’t.  It leverages the connected power of Facebook’s social graph with the added functionality of creating “lighter” relationships — that is, connections that don’t require friending each other — centered around common hubs like interests, classes, or programs. I got an opportunity to talk with Inigral CEO, Michael Staton about the Schools app, the $2M in funding, and his vision for the future of higher education. Below is our Q&A.  [note: Neither my company or I have any financial interest in Inigral or the Schools App – I am writing this solely from the perspective of an SMCEDU Advisory Board member]

SR: First of all, I just want to say that I absolutely LOVE the idea of the Schools App – college students have been self-organizing on Facebook, and MySpace before that, for years before classes actually started. It was only logical that a platform would emerge that would make this easier and “official.” Can you give me an overview of the advantages that the Schools App provides over the self-organization that typically occurs?

MS: I like to use analogies with physical spaces for this.  When people look into building a Student Union or Student Center, do people ask themselves – well, aren’t people already hanging out on the campus green?  The answer is: sure they are.  But if you made spaces for people to effectively congregate, hold meetings, and access information and services that would be more effective for the institution than just letting people hang out on the campus green. Students self organize on Facebook all the time.  That’s great.  There’s two issues though –

  1. Institutions have no way to monitor or further facilitate that organization and that kind of activity, even though they’re starting to understand that engaging online is important to student engagement and retention.
  2. Facebook isn’t focused on organizations like universities.  Facebook’s objective is to get everyone on the planet on Facebook and then advertise to them.  To keep them engaged, they make features that help people connect, but they choose what their priorities are – and right now Higher Education isn’t even on their radar.  Pages are great for brands to push out information.  Groups are great for small groups of people to share and communicate.  Community Pages are mainly good for Facebook’s attack on Google search and Wikipedia search results.

So, we’re the only company that’s asking ourselves “How can we engage students around their college and academic experience through Facebook, how can we drive student involvement, how can we make sure that students are getting issues resolved?  Let’s make sure that students are getting connected and involved in ways that help them succeed and graduate.”  So, our design goals are different, our products are different.

SR: But why is it so important for students to get connected and involved with other students? What impact does that have on things like grades, graduation rates, student satisfaction, etc.?

MS: Research by ACT has demonstrated that three of the top five reasons students drop out are social in nature – they didn’t feel like they fit in, they didn’t get involved, or they didn’t have a supportive group of friends.  What the direct impact of a great foundation of friendships has is unmeasurable and elusive, but everybody knows theres an ROI in giving students a great experience, and that a lot of the college experience is in the relationships students make with one another.

SR: What are the biggest challenges that the schools that adopt the Schools App face?  Is it getting people to log on and contribute? Is it typical Internet behavior (bullying/trolling/flaming), etc.?  Is it maintaining engagement once school starts?

MS: In general, our clients’ hope their Schools App is a self-sustaining and self-regulating community.  And, for the most part, it is.  They run into issues when they try to approach it like “administrative” software, as if it’s going to work precisely within their business workflow.  It doesn’t.  It just does it’s own thing.  They also feel like somehow this is “competitive” with Pages that have sprouted up, been promoted, and are generating traction.  But, it’s not competitive.  This is a space for students to connect, meet one another, communicate, and share.  Saying that a Schools App is competitive with a Fan Page is like saying the Student Center is competitive with the Football Stadium.

SR: What kinds of services does Inigral offer – is it just the platform and maintenance, or do you offer professional services like community management and user adoption as well?

We make sure that students are adopting the Schools App, and we do some best practices sharing within our Customer Success services.  Customer Service and Technical Support are available with our annual agreement.

SR: You just received $2 million from the Gates Foundation – how are you going to use that funding?

We’re going to make the product even more useful throughout the student lifecycle, and make cutting edge developments in converting online engagement into off-line involvement.  We’ll use these advancements to contribute and lead the dialog on how to better measure and predict the types of social integration that lead to retention and graduation outcomes.

SR: Where do you see the Schools App going from here? I can see tons of potential for integrating this into classes to enable collaborative note-taking and enhance group projects; I can see clubs and sports teams using it to help coordinate meetings/work collaboratively, etc.  I can also see a lot cross-over application beyond the world of higher education – any thought to leveraging this sort of thing for other groups (churches, community groups, etc.)?

MS: We’re solely focused on education.  We believe there’s enough there to fulfill a lifetime.  Higher Education alone is a $400 billion dollar market, with Lifecycle engagement representing a $7 billion dollar a year effort by our nation’s institutions.  Right now, we’re focused on issues around student engagement and connectedness, and we’re staying away from “transactional” and “management” problems.  There’s lots of technologies that (no matter how poorly) help manage office  information.  Over the next four months, we’re imagining better ways to facilitate interactions across siloes and make sure that students start school with a supportive and diverse group of friends.  We’re imagining better ways to match roommates, organize study groups, foster academic advising and peer-to-peer mentorship. In the next nine months, we’re also exploring ways we can be even more important to the student recruitment process.  We want to get a schools most enthusiastic students to be a part of the recruitment process online, and give prospects a window into the student experience.  In addition, we’ve been dreaming about how to better collect student experiences and work, so that as our users graduate we remain something they come back to as young alumni.

SR: Let’s say I’m a student, faculty member, professional advisor, or administrative staff and I think the Schools App is something that my college or university should be using – what’s my next step? Who at the University should I go talk with? The Director of Residence Life? The Dean of Admissions?  And, do you have any sort of ready-made presentation that I can use to advocate for the Schools App with these people?

MS: We’ve found that the VP of Enrollment Management and the person in Admissions in charge of interactive marketing and social media are our best allies.  It’s a no-brainer for them  – we optimize yield on Facebook and make a great hand off to the Student Affairs crew.  We’ve also found that Presidents, believe it or not, sometimes immediately see that this is a long-run move to make the institution more successful and tighten the community.  When the President has gotten involved, we’ve had decisions to move forward in ten minutes. Lots of other people can be our allies, but we’ve found that getting too many people involved can create a sense of indecision – almost like there are too many moving parts to know if they should be moving forward.  So, limiting the conversation to leadership and admissions is the best way to approach it.

For more information about Inigral and their Schools App:

For more information about SMCEDU, make sure you check out:

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The “Getting Started with Government 2.0” Guide

April 2, 2010

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In the last few months, I’ve received an increasing number of “hey Steve, how would you recommend someone get started in social media or Government 2.0?” emails, and I’ve gotten tired of sending out the same emails time and time again. I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while, but even I was little overwhelmed at the resources available! So, here’s my attempt at creating a post (with comments) that will hopefully become a helpful resource for those interested in learning more about social media and the Government.

*I realize that there will be GREAT resources out there that I miss in this post – PLEASE add them below as a comment so that others may benefit!!!

The Fundamentals

  1. Government 2.0 is about more than just social media. I define it as “the strategic use of technology to transform our government into a platform that is participatory, collaborative, and transparent” but that’s just one definition – there are a LOT more.  However, to make this post manageable for you guys, I’ll be focusing primarily on the social media and communications side of Government 2.0 here.
  2. Read the Twenty Theses for Government 2.0 – if you’re interested in this world, read these basic tenets of how social media and the government works
  3. You’re not going to learn this stuff via books and blogs alone – you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and actually use these tools to interact with the people you’re trying to reach.
  4. Don’t apply mass media (press releases, TV, radio, etc.) rules and processes to this. Good fundamentals in interpersonal communication will serve you well.  There are no audiences or eyeballs any more – you’re going to be dealing with real people here.

    Gov 2.0 milestones from 2009

  5. Getting “good” at this is going to take time. I can’t give you a checklist of things to do and magically, you’re going to be good at it when you’re done. While I wish it were that easy, just keeping up with all of the changes that are taking place in the government is hard enough. The environment has changed so much even in the last year. That’s why all these steps will get only get you started – it will be up to you to keep the progress up!

The Starter Videos

Baby Steps

  • Do a Google search on your name. Find out what’s available online about you already – this is your first impression to most people.  Do you have a popular name and the results are flooded with data that’s not about you? Doesn’t matter – I don’t know that that’s not you.  You NEED to be aware of what’s out there about you and what can be associated with you.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your name/organization so that you’re notified whenever someone writes a blog post, news article, etc. about you or your organization.
  • Read Chris Brogan’s “If I Started Today” and his “Social Media Starter Pack” posts
  • Do some internal research.  Search your organization’s Intranet to see who in your organization is already doing something with social media or Government 2.0.  Find out who the experts are within and introduce yourself to them.  Have a meeting with them and find out what they recommend/where you might be able to help. I know this is all new to you, but chances are, someone has already started doing something with social media internally.
  • Do some external research.  Google your organization’s name and “social media” or “Government 2.0” or “open government.”  Find out what, if anything, is being said externally.  Maybe you’ll find out additional names of people you can reach out to or maybe you’ll find nothing – either way, it’s better to have done your research first.
  • Find your organization’s social media policy/guidelines and memorize them. Print them out and stick them to your wall.  If your organization doesn’t have any social media guidelines, find your external communications policy and see if it’s covered in there. If not, then go and talk with your public affairs/external communications team and have a conversation about this.

Setting the Stage

The government – federal, state, and local – isn’t some late adopter in social media. In many cases, they’re leading the way. Before you start thinking that just because you work in an office that still only has Internet Explorer 6, and any social media knowledge is just going to blow everyone away, take a look through some of these influential  documents on what the government is doing in this area.

Books

If you’re a book reader, go out and get the following:

Daily Reading

Become Part of the Online Community

  • Get on LinkedIn. Here’s a good primer on how to get started there. LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented social networking site there is. It’s low risk, and it will give you a starting point for your online activities.
  • Join GovLoop, the “Facebook for Government” with more than 25,000 members, and read through their Getting Started Guide. Try to visit at least once a day.

    Join GovLoop if you haven't already

  • Join Twitter (watch Twitter in Plain English). No, it’s not just a site where you’re going to hear what people ate for lunch. This is where you’re going to get a chance to meet and interact with some of the top social media and Gov 2.0 minds in real-time.  Once you create your account, start by following these people/lists:

Protecting Your Privacy

  • As you’re signing up for these social networking services, and you start “getting out there,” don’t forget that there are privacy implications to everything you post online. While the following resources will help educate you on the privacy policies and best practices of social media, I always tell people not to post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss/mom seeing. I don’t care what check boxes you select or what privacy setting you use – if it’s online, consider it public.  Facebook doesn’t have a setting to prevent “right click, save as” or from hitting the PrintScreen button and grabbing a screenshot. 

Newsletters

  • Subscribe to the Daily Scoop from FedScoop
  • Subscribe to the SmartBrief on Social Media – fantastic daily email newsletter on the top social media stories of the day (disclosure: I’m on their Advisory Board)
  • Subscribe to KD Paine’s Measurement Standard newsletter for the latest news, tips, and strategies for measuring and evaluating social media
  • If you’re a member of GovLoop, you’ll also receive the GovLoop Weekly, a newsletter highlighting the best of GovLoop each week

Bookmark These Government 2.0 Resources

Social Media is About Connecting Offline Too

Becoming comfortable and effective with social media doesn’t mean just mean sitting in front of your computer either.

GovLoop profiles a new member every week, and GovFresh has highlighted several members of the Gov 2.0 community as Gov 2.0 heroes. If you get a chance, introduce yourself to these people as I can virtually guarantee you that someone has already experienced whatever challenge you’re facing and can probably help you overcome it.

Congratulations if you made it this far!  At this point, you will be pretty overwhelmed – that’s ok!  Back when I got started with social media at my company, it took me around six months to go from “hmmm, this is interesting” to “let’s actually do something with this as an organization!” Spend some time reading, learning, playing, meeting, and talking with people until you are comfortable with the concepts and tools of social media and the government.

The Sunlight Foundation's interpretation of a logo for open government

Taking a Strategic View

Once you’re comfortable with the principles and tools of social media, now you can start applying them to your organization. Start by reviewing this handy social media strategy worksheet from AIDS.gov, as well as this super list of social media case studies from organizations around the world. From the public sector, check out all of the case studies that were highlighted at last year’s Gov 2.0 Expo Showcase and this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo.

Your next step will likely be step 3 in my “Bringing Social Media to Your Organization Playbook.”  By this point, you should be pretty saturated in the world of social media, (and have hopefully dropped me a tweet or two), so I’ll end this massive post here as you should be well on your way to adding yourself to my lists of resources above.  Just keep in mind that you may soon find yourself following the evolution of the social media evangelist – be aware of the stages that you may very well find yourself in, and start identifying ways to mitigate the challenges that they may present.

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Coast Guard Talks the Talk – Can They Walk the Walk?

September 25, 2008

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Photo Courtesy of http://www.uscg.mil/

Photo Courtesy of http://www.uscg.mil/

The Coast Guard’s top officer, Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen, recently discussed the need for the Coast Guard to start using social media like Facebook and blogs to improve communication amongst one another and with the public (Read the full article over at MarineLink).

“Whether you’re a civilian, auxilarist, reservist, active duty, contractor or retiree, to understand that when you’re blogging, that’s no different than operating in a social environment on a Coast Guard base or anyplace else,” he said. “We have a duty to the American public; we have a duty to each other to be guardians of each other. And to the extent that we have core values, I think we need to demonstrate that as we operate on a daily basis in the blogosphere.”

When I saw this, I was simultaneously impressed and skeptical. One the one hand, I applaud the Commandant on his realization that social media has the potential to improve the Coast Guard’s ability to communicate, especially in times of crisis. On the other, I’m skeptical that the Coast Guard as a whole will be able to really commit to using social media, or if the Commandant will be the only one to really embrace this approach. I love that he’s not just talking about using Facebook, but that he’s personally engaged with it. However, will the Coast Guard middle management buy into using blogs to communicate with the public and with each other? Or, will they too experience the issues encountered by General James Cartwright when he brought blogging to U.S. Strategic Command?

One of the things that I’ve seen happen time and again when supporting my clients implement social media in their organizations, especially government organizations, is that it’s not the leaders who need to be convinced – they’re leaders for a reason. They’re visionaries; they’re innovative thinkers who understand the potential of social media. It’s not the junior employees – they’ve grown up in this culture of information sharing. It’s the middle management who need to be convinced. These are the stakeholders who will make or break the social media initiative.

Middle managers are typically of the Baby Boomer generation, have been with the organization for a while, and are often set in their ways. They’re often too senior to be able to take risks and try new things yet too junior to be directly impacted by the proclamation of the organization’s leadership. However, as General Cartwright experienced, they can severely inhibit the ability of the organization to realize the potential of social media. The key is to show these middle managers how social media can help them be more efficient, communicate better, and most importantly, how it will help them in a very real way, in their day-to-day work.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out – it will be interesting to see how social media changes the way the Coast Guard communicates both internally and externally. The Coast Guard is lucky to have a leader who understands how social media is fundamentally changing the way the government interacts with the public – I just hope that the rest of the organization realizes this opportunity as well. Here’s to you Commandant Adm. Thad Allen – good luck in your endeavors!

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