Defining the Metrics of Success, Twitter ed.

I wanted to title this week’s post, “‘I’m such a loser’ and other thoughts about Twitter” because that “losery” feeling descends upon me anytime I check my account. Followers are constantly coming and going; my tweets are unfavourited as easily as they’re favourited; in the end, I just don’t get it. While I’ll readily admit that I’m not the best or most prolific user, it can sometimes be demoralizing to see throw-away accounts gather more followers and traction than I could even imagine. In other words, I love Twitter, it just doesn’t love me back.

Some people will ask, “why do you care?” or “what’s the point of all these ‘likes’ ‘favourites’ and ‘retweets’?”. The simple answer is this: when I generate content whether it’s on this blog or my other social media accounts, I’m doing it so that I can build a community and I seek what so many others seek: engagement.  I want to know that what I’m doing means something, to someone, however remote. It’s not to suggest that I, or anyone, should tie our self-worth to other people or our social media presence, but the fact is that we’re all a part of this social web because we want to be heard. But how do we define success in this realm? Is it the number of followers, favourites, or retweets? We know that high numbers don’t always equal engagement. Is it the attention a tweet, individual, or brand receives? Or is it the magical golden egg known as engagement? Moreover, what does success in the realm of the social web mean for businesses/organization? Is it monetization? How do you translate the success of online campaigns to business initiatives? As you can see, there are many ways to define success which vary from situation to situation, and these goals will evolve as your brand, whether personal or corporate, grows. Your conversations will become more nuanced and represent a greater segment of people, and your voice will become stronger.

At the moment, what I’m trying to do on Twitter is find my space and where I belong. This is a personal mission and I’m doing this by participating more actively in conversations that interest and challenge me, finding clarity in my voice and concision in my thoughts/comments. For me, success is discovering where I fit in but how do I track and measure my progress? At this stage, it’s primarily a numbers game for me, which I suspect this will change over time. Even though it’s not my favourite way of measuring success, currently I define progress through numbers. How many retweets do I receive? When I post a link to my blog, how many people click through to drive site traffic? Which hashtags are most effective and what time should I post?

There are certain methods to improve your Twitter presence, as outlined here, here, and here, but what I think is most important is that you keep going, even when it doesn’t feel like anyone is listening. Just because people aren’t responding immediately doesn’t mean they won’t respond eventually. What you have to accomplish in the meantime is find your own voice, and figure out what you have to say. The social web is a crowded space and it takes awhile to determine where you belong in the conversation, and if you can’t find the space, then create it! All of this takes patience. Read more articles, interact with other users, listen, and adjust. It’s work but it can also be fun.

The Power and Politics of Business

(Note: My post from last week, as well as this one, veers away from the area of social media in the context of public relations and addresses broader social topics. I’ll return to my regular posting soon but lately I’ve developed a strong interest in community building, creating better online communities, and politics, which is something I’d like to explore for the time being.)

This week, after five short days, Starbucks ended its poorly conceived “Race Together” campaign, which was introduced by the company’s CEO Howard Schultz. The initiative was designed to generate conversations between baristas and customers on the very sensitive and extremely complicated topic of race. From its introduction, the campaign proved to be divisive and was met with significant online criticism – some saw the movement as “cause marketing,” and and others felt that the topic was too difficult for Starbucks employees to address without proper training. Some critics of the “Race Together” campaign found the discussion problematic because of the context; all they wanted was to get their coffee without having to engage in a political conversation. Meanwhile many felt that Starbucks was furthering its own agenda.

To my knowledge, the campaign was never rolled out in Canada so I don’t have first hand experience. However, scrolling through a Twitter search of #RaceTogether, you see a wide variety of commentary and while most of the posts were directed specifically at the Starbucks initiative, in and amongst those tweets you find messages revealing the extent and complexity of this topic. Although the company maintained that the initiative was only meant to be temporary, less than a week in, the plug was pulled. Admittedly, the campaign didn’t achieve its original goal but it did raise some important questions about what we want organizations to provide for us, outside of their core business or product. What level of engagement should organizations offer? And as users, what do we seek? What channels do we want to use? Would the initiative have been better received if it had been rolled out differently, primarily in an online forum rather than in person, allowing the consumer to opt-in rather than feel coerced into conversation? The answers obviously differ from situation to situation.

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