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Using Social Media for Effective Communication


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Presented at the Cooperative Research Centres Association conference, Brisbane, 17 May 2011.

Presented at the Cooperative Research Centres Association conference, Brisbane, 17 May 2011.

Published in: Business

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  • Social media are an increasingly important tool for business to engage with followers, users, and customers.We used this definition in our SSCRC reports.In other words, social media are more than simply Web 2.0 technology – the community is the crucial ingredient.
  • Without community, Web 2.0 spaces are simply virtual ghost towns – and sadly there are plenty of those.Which means: to do social media right, you need to understand how communities work – and what makes them work.This is what our social media reports have addressed.
  • Communities aren’t simply some amorphous mass – they have their own, sometimes complex, internal structures.They are usually arranged in a concentric fashion – for one, in terms of their values.At the centre are a set of core values and beliefs: you can’t be a football fan without liking football; you can’t be religious without believing in a god of some form.Derived from these are a range of key principles, which you should adhere to but may be able to ignore from time to time.Yet further out is a larger collection of shared, communal knowledge – the better versed in it you are, the better a community member will you be seen to be, but you don’t have to know all of this to be accepted.
  • So, here’s a clear statement of core values and attitudes – you won’t be able to join the community unless you accept it.
  • What follows from this is that there are more central and more marginal community members, too:Community leaders will embody the values and principles of the community almost perfectly, and will be well versed in its shared knowledge.More general members will subscribe to the core values, but may not always follow all the rules, and may have a more limited understanding of community knowledge.Marginal members are marginal because they have limited knowledge (or dispute agreed facts), break the rules more often, and may not even subscribe to the community’s core beliefs.
  • See if you can spot the marginal member here.If you were confronted with an absent-looking guy wearing a backpack in the middle of an excited crowd, you might want to step away from him.
  • So, the community leaders – who have the most social status in the community, and are often also the most active members – fulfil an important role: they embody the community spirit, and in doing so encourage others to participate in constructive ways.They are a key group to work with, then: they model what should be seen as desirable behaviour for the more marginal members,and in doing so they encourage marginal members to show more commitment to the community by participating more constructively.
  • In other words, the community leaders are the bright stars at the centre of the galaxy,who through their activities pull in others from the margins,and encourage them to shine as well.
  • We can call this participation pull, and in social media it may also help bringing people to a closer engagement with the brand:From generic third-party spaces – like Twitter – where a brand may be discussed,to branded spaces on social networks like Facebook where more loyal fans gather,to in-house spaces operated by the brand itself where the most committed users communicate directly with brand staff.
  • But again, this is also about following people where they are interested in going, rather than pushing them to go where they don’t want to go.Here’s an analogy: a landscape designer looking at this image should know immediately where to put a new walking path, and where not to put it.It’s about reading the lines in the landscape: working with people’s interests, not against them.
  • Overall, then, these are some key pointers to working with – and for – online communities....But this isn’t easy, nor can it be done as a little part-time job on the side. Using social media now is a core corporate communications activity.Do it wrong, and it will hurt you. Don’t do it at all, and you’re conceding defeat to more or less uninformed discussion about you.But do it right – and you can significantly affect your own brand perception and visibility.
  • Here’s an encouraging example from recent months: during the Brisbane floods, the Queensland Police Service managed to become far and away the most central Twitter account.Each of their messages was amplified by the community, by being retweeted many dozens of times.And their community increased massively – on Facebook, too, their follower count increased tenfold, from some 17,000 to 170,000 within 24 hours.Clearly, the immediate emergency acted as a catalyst here – but the same is possible in other circumstances, too.
  • That’s just a very quick introduction to social media communities, of course. We provide more information – and strategies for how to engage with communities through social media – in our two reports for the Smart Services CRC.More information, and contact details, are here…
  • Transcript

    • 1. Using Social Media for Effective Communication
      Assoc. Prof. Axel Bruns
      ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
      Queensland University of Technology ––@snurb_dot_info
    • 2. Social Media
      Working definition:
      Platforms which build on Web 2.0 technologies to provide space for in-depth social interaction, community formation, and the tackling of collaborative projects.
       Social media = Web 2.0 technologies + Community
    • 3. Image by barjack
    • 4. How Communities Work
      Communities are concentric – in values:
      Shared knowledge
      Key principles
      Core values and beliefs
    • 5. Image by Johnny Grim
    • 6. How Communities Work
      Communities are concentric – in membership:
      Marginal members
      General members
      Community leaders
    • 7. Image by Steve Crane
    • 8. Growing the Community
      Encouraging constructive participation:
      encourage commitment
      model desirable behaviour
      marginal members
      number of members
    • 9. Image by
    • 10. Encouraging Brand Loyalty
      Developing closer brand ties:
      Third-party spaces
      Branded spaces
      participation pull
      In-house space
    • 11. Image by Maproom Systems
    • 12. Success in the Share Economy
      Engaging with social media communities:
      Be open.
      For users (access) and with users (transparency).
      Seed community processes by providing content and tools.
      Model desired behaviour, assist productive participation.
      Support community dynamics and devolve responsibilities.
      Engage promising community leaders as they emerge.
      Don’t exploit the community and its work.
      Making money is fine, but you don’t own your users.
      Adapted from Axel Bruns and Mark Bahnisch. "Social Drivers behind Growing Consumer Participation in User-Led Content Generation: Volume 1 - State of the Art." Sydney: Smart Services CRC, 2009.
    • 13. #qldfloodsNetwork: @replies & Retweets(Degree >= 15 / Node size: indegree / node colour: outdegree)
    • 14. More Information
      Social Media Reports:
      1 – State of the Art
      2 – User Engagement Strategies
      Axel Bruns
      Associate Professor
      ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
      Creative Industries Faculty
      Queensland University of Technology
      Brisbane, Australia
      Twitter: @snurb_dot_info
      Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond:From Production to Produsage(Peter Lang, 2008)