What do you do with old Facebook pages?

Posted on March 27, 2012 Under Social Media

This week’s switch to the new timeline format is forcing us to confront a puzzle we’ve been putting off for a while: How and when do you retire a Facebook presence?

At EDF, we’re fortunate not to have many old Facebook pages hanging on, but the few we do have are awkward baggage. One goes back to the early days of Facebook when we were still working out our strategy for what gets its own page. Another was for a campaign that we thought would continue, but didn’t.

These pages have a few thousand likes each, and still get a little activity. We can’t message the fans, as we could with a group. And there’s no direct successor to these pages that we can point people to, so it doesn’t seem worth posting announcements.

We quietly redirect or replace web pages all the time. But something about hitting the “delete” button on a page with 3,000 fans seems like much more of a waste! What if we have a reason to communicate with them someday?

On the other hand, letting the pages sit there moldering away doesn’t seem like a great representation of our brand, either.

How have you solved this challenge? If you have a graceful strategy for retiring old pages, I’d love to hear!


Social Media Guidelines, One Year Later

Posted on March 31, 2011 Under Social Media

by Flickr user kmiller799

A year ago, we pulled together a team at EDF to create our social media guidelines. The all-time most popular post on this blog tells how and why we did it, so I thought I’d share an update.

The best news is that it they seem to be working. They’re part of our new employee and intern orientation materials. Since we released them, we have not had any social media disasters big enough that I’ve heard about them!

Last week, spurred by conversations at the NTEN conference, we revisited the guidelines. (more…)


Link: Why Most Facebook Marketing Doesn’t Work

This post on ReadWriteWeb was written from a for-profit perspective, but it applies to the nonprofit context, too. My key takeaways:

  • “Photo and video contests rarely work.” We haven’t seen this on Facebook, in fact we had nice response to our latest profile picture contest. But we’ve learned to be very cautious about photo and video contests in general for all the reasons mentioned in the post.
  • “Like blocks rarely work.” This is when you require someone to like your page before they get something from you. This was a surprise to me. I wonder if people react against the framing of it — you’re setting up a trade of information for a benefit (a market transaction) rather than being generous and counting on reciprocity (using social dynamics). I know I’ve felt grudging about giving away my “like” for a download, and the “like” didn’t last.
  • Consistent, lightweight engagement works. This make perfect sense, since this is what most people’s experience of Facebook is like.

I’d love to hear other thoughts on the original post.


9/11 Online: Trends and Tools, Then Versus Now

Jennifer Darrouzet at Connection Cafe wrote a thought-provoking post after she visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City. She imagined how that week might have been different with all the social communication tools we have today. For example, we might have checked Facebook and Twitter obsessively to makes sure loved ones were accounted for.

Nine years ago, Jennifer was visiting Los Angeles. With flights grounded indefinitely, she hopped in a car to get back home to Texas. She recounts how she stayed in touch with her family:

I still hadn’t been able to talk to my husband, but my mother-in-law had gotten word to him that we were headed East on I-10, and he was able to track my progress via our online, real-time credit card statement. Now we are friends on Google Maps, and I can see his dot throughout his evening commute.

This concrete re-visiting of those intense days really got me.

It also made me think of a tool I did have access to then: online search. I was managing editor of search at AOL at the time. Our trend data wasn’t visible to the public, as so much search data is now. But as insiders at America’s number one Internet service, we had a direct view into the American mind that day. (more…)


Fire and Guns: The Local Blogs Win Me Over

Posted on August 13, 2010 Under Social Media

My first full-time job was on the online Metro desk at the Washington Post, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Let us mark today, though, as the day my allegiance for local news shifted to the local blogs.

This afternoon, a fire broke out under my office building. (Here’s my obligatory cell-phone photo of billowing smoke.) (more…)


Thursday Panel: How Can Your Organization Embrace Social Media?

Posted on August 2, 2010 Under Social Media

Gloria Pan and Suzanne Turner over at Turner Strategies kindly invited EDF to join another conversation about the big picture of changing communications.  Please join us Thursday at noon, if you’re here in DC. [Update: Video from the session is posted.]

This is a great chance for me to use the Way Back Machine and pull out some favorite slides — I was on a similar panel in 2008 at my first NTEN conference, and shared lessons from EDF’s earliest social media forays.

Here’s how I showed some of EDF staff’s early desire to blog:

And our first attempts to edit and approve blog posts:

Two and a half years was a long time ago! We’ve got many happy stories to share now. Here’s how Gloria describes the session:

For advocacy/nonprof orgs, one of the toughest barriers to effective use of social media is how to get key decision makers and other internal stakeholders on board because many are used to a world when all communications was taken care of by the comms department. There’s going to be a discussion about this very problem on Aug. 5 at noon at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, organized by Turner Strategies.

Among other things,

  • The chief strategist from the American Association of University Women will talk about resource distribution and staff management from the executive leadership perspective;
  • Environmental Defense Fund [<– That’s me and my boss, Dave!] will look at training and other processes to educate and win over staff and other stakeholders;
  • and the Service Employees Union International will talk about the necessity of making the social media case over and over again, especially when there’s been a major change in leadership.

This is an important conversation for any communications/social media person still struggling with how to get buy-in to get your work done. Please join us.


EDF's New Social Media Guidelines: Why and How?

Posted on March 17, 2010 Under Social Media
By flickr user Wysz

By flickr user Wysz

A few weeks ago, we released a new set of social media guidelines for Environmental Defense Fund employees. Since not many workplaces have policies, I wanted to share not only the actual guidelines, but also how they came to be.

Why develop guidelines? Within minutes of the final applause at our all-staff social media extravaganza, we started getting questions about what was okay and what wasn’t in using social media for work. Lack of clarity about what behavior was expected was going to be a hurdle to participation.

Who wrote them? We assembled a working group of six people. Lauren Guite and I represented the web team, and we asked colleagues from HR and the media team to join us.

How did we decide what they should say?

First, we agreed to a goal — guidelines that would help employees exercise good judgment as they use social media. We didn’t want to prescribe in too much detail or scare people off completely.

Next, we reviewed all the social media guidelines we could find. We looked at a huge range of examples — formal, casual, restrictive, open, indecipherable, friendly. Intel’s guidelines stood out as striking a tone that felt right for EDF. If you look at our guidelines, you’ll see their influence. We also asked our lawyers what they recommended, and were pleasantly surprised when their advice wasn’t too legalistic to follow.

Then we circulated and refined several drafts. This ended up being much less painful than I imagined it might be. The team had reached good consensus already, so declaring the guidelines “final” was almost anti-climactic!

How did we introduce the guidelines to staff?

Since posting them on our Intranet, we’ve been scheduling discussion time with various groups of EDF employees. We thought people might be uncomfortable with them, but the guidelines have mostly been greeted with nods.

However, we’ve heard some striking examples of uncomfortable situations staff have encountered because of the way worlds collide in social media. Two of the ones that most stick with me:

  • One staffer posted a link about EDF’s work on Facebook. A family member who doesn’t believe in global warming attacked EDF’s position. It was very embarrassing to the staffer that her professional contacts could witness this family scuffle. It underlined the point that on these networks, your friends’ and family’s behavior can embarrass you.
  • Another staffer posted on Facebook how happy she was to be going to a work retreat. A former employee who was very conscious of last year’s layoffs at EDF criticized spending money on a retreat. The current employee was horrified that her casual excitement might have hurt former colleagues. It was a great reminder how tough it can be to consider all the perspectives people might bring to your posts.

And finally, since we are grateful to all the people whose guidelines we looked at, we’ve published ours, too. Take a look at them, and please share any thoughts or questions they spark.


Link: Social Media Game Wrap-Up on Beth Kanter’s Blog

Beth Kanter, a creator of the game that EDF used in our social media training extravaganza, just published a wrap-up from me of how it all went.

The timing’s perfect — we just experimented with a new twist on the game a couple of weeks ago. The results were very good, and I’ll be sharing that story here, too!


Rare Find: An Easy-to-Read AND Super-Technical Blog Post

One of the things I hear a lot is that we can’t possibly make a certain piece of writing clear and engaging — the topic is just too technical or complex. I know that’s not true, but it can be hard to convince people that it’s worth even trying when all we have to look at is a dense economic text.

Richard Denison, who works on toxics for EDF, recently provided an excellent example of a blog post that makes a complex argument easy to follow. This post really pushes the boundaries for depth and length: It has 2,250 words and molecular diagrams! Here’s how he made it work:

  • He takes a clear position right from the headline, and does nothing but support and illustrate that position. He walks you through and doesn’t let you get lost in irrelevant details. That focus makes the substance much easier to take in.
  • The conversational tone makes you feel like you’re connecting with an actual person. And little touches remind you that the person you’re listening to cares deeply about what he’s saying: “…a wholly debilitative lung condition whose name speaks for itself: obliterative bronchiolitis.”
  • Finally, he uses headings, lists and structure wisely. Even if you don’t read every word, just skimming the headings and lists shows you how he’s building the argument and what piece of it is where. And if you do read the whole thing, it’s like having the Google map view in addition to turn-by-turn directions — it’s easy to see how things fit together and grasp the overall destination.

Again, here’s the post to check out. When everyone at EDF learns to structure posts this well, I will do cartwheels in the hallway!


Facebook Bra Campaign: 3 Lessons for Online Organizers

Posted on January 11, 2010 Under Social Media

In case you missed it, a meme swept Facebook last week that had women posting the color of their bras in support of breast cancer awareness. No one seems to know who started it, but it’s everywhere.

As I watched the colors wash over my news feed, I had some thoughts about what online marketers can learn from all this.

1. Anyone can start a powerful viral idea


All signs point to no professional organizer behind this: No one stepped forward to take advantage of all the publicity (CNN, Business Week, Times of India!). No link was circulated as part of the campaign.

That’s the beauty of social media, but it’s also frustrating — think how much more could have been accomplished for breast cancer awareness had all this energy been harnessed better.

2. Viral fads can create huge opportunities for a cause

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the biggest and best-known organization working on this issue, was taken by surprise, but still got more attention in a week than most cause advocates can hope for in a month. They were quoted in dozens of news stories, and got more than a hundred thousand new Facebook fans.

3. Lots of opportunities were left on the table.

But there was a lot more organizers could have done to capitalize on this.

  • Give people a place to go — and promote it. The Komen home page has a link to how you can make a difference, but most news stories I saw didn’t include their URL, and the quotes they placed mostly didn’t encourage people to visit the site, either. And the link on the home page wasn’t tailored to the opportunity — it would have been a great chance to feature, say, a blog post with a few simple facts about breast cancer prevention.
  • Ask your supporters to make it bigger. I’m not on the Komen email list or Facebook group so I don’t know if they sent a message about it. (If you are, post a comment?) I would have loved to get a note saying “What a great idea! When you post your bra color, include this link so your friends can get more information.” I do know that I saw not one status pointing to Komen.
  • If your cause is related, jump in! My guy friends were feeling a little left out, and resorted to doing things like posting their t-shirt colors. Where was the men’s health group getting guys to post the color of their boxers to support prostate cancer awareness?

Are YOU ready for lightning to strike?

Fads like this are lightning strikes — they happen in an instant, and you could sit around a looong time waiting for the second bolt.

I’ve pointed out more that Komen for the Cure could have done, but the honest truth is that most organizations (including mine) would probably come out of a Facebook lightning strike the same way — some good, but a lot undone. How would you do?

I started a quick list of things to make organizations more lightning-ready:

  • Can people find you? If people think of you in relation to a particular cause, they’re likely to come looking for you. Komen was positioned perfectly to take advantage of press interest — as I said, they got quoted in tons of news stories.But on Facebook, it was different. I wasn’t sure of the exact name of the organization (I think was a re-branding when I wasn’t looking) and a search for a variation on their name turns up only these results. A ton of other groups come up if you search Facebook for “breast cancer.” It took me four searches to find this Komen Facebook group, which looks like their official one. I kept looking, though, since one news account referred to 100K+ fans. I finally found this fan page through an NPR blog post. How many possible supporters never found them?
  • How quickly can you offer an online resource? I’m talking about something really simple — a basic landing page or blog post you can send curious people to. It needs just a few things they can do right now for the half-second they’re thinking about your issue. Don’t just think about the technology. Can you get information from the right people? Do you have to ask permission?
  • Who on your team wants to help bottle lightning? If you’re lucky enough to get a trend like this, it’s really easy to watch it, have some cool ideas, then just go on to your next meeting. It’s a lot easier to act if you have someone to toss ideas around with, to reinforce the idea that you can actually do something about this. Who can you turn who’s itching to be quick and creative?

Those are just my quick ideas — what other opportunities do you see?

Update, Jan. 12: Carrie over at the U.S. Humane Society found this new promotion, where Facebook is donating money based on how many new fans join the Susan G. Komen for the Cure page.

Update, Jan 14: Rabia Shirazi started a donation campaign inspired by the color campaign.?  Shashi Bellamkonda has a nice write-up of it on his blog. It’s great to see someone build on a good idea.