Let me take you back to October 27 last Fall.Usually, Academe Today hits my Inbox at about 5:30 am. So when I heard the chime hit my Inbox that morning and opened it up, I had a brief moment of excitement when I saw that the lead story mentioned Cornell. This rapidly changed to horror as I realized what the story was about.
The story was about the Senior Class Gift campaigns at Cornell and Dartmouth. It claimed that during the previous year, student volunteers who were pursuing a high rate of participation had, with the complicity of the staff members working with them, circulated the names of seniors who had not yet given publicly in order to up the level of peer pressure on the students and shame them into giving.The tone of the article was very critical, making it seem as though the advancement offices on both campuses had deliberately encouraged shaming tactics because of an obsession with campaign results. Since Cornell is in the midst of a campaign, this was a problem. Making matters worse, the author of the article was a Cornell alumna…this was Big Red-on-Big Red violence.I immediately forwarded the article on to my AVP. Many others had done the same thing to their AVPs. Quickly, a crisis response team swung into action. And as soon as we started investigating the situation, we relaxed – this was a highly tendentious account that took an isolated incident at one sorority involving a handful of students and blew it up into a blanket condemnation of the entire Senior Class Gift campaign at Cornell. Moreover, the reporter had engaged in some questionable behavior, interviewing staff members quoted in the article under false pretenses. In terms of the facts, we knew that we were on solid ground. Moreover, we had practices in place for dealing with correcting factual errors in the media. Our VP for Communications quickly dispatched letter to the editors of the CHE and Chronicle of Philanthropy addressing the accusations and presenting Cornell’s side of the story. And in an old media world, that would have been it. Accusation. Formal rebuttal in print. End of story.However, in the world of the social web, things work very differently. There are so many blogs devoted to higher ed that it was implausible that someone wouldn’t pick the story up from Academe Today and write about it. It was equally implausible that other commentators wouldn’t pick up on this and spread it to their own networks. So a question arose: should we also be responding to negative commentary about this on the social web? If so, how would we do it? How would we would we track the spread of the stpry?Fortunately, this crisis broke about two weeks after I had acquired a social media monitoring tool called Meltwater Buzz. While I’ll get into the mechanics of all this in much greater detail later, Meltwater Buzz is a tool that enables you to set up searches for specific terms or keywords. It then searches the social web for mentions of your search criteria. You can either view the results in real time or have daily summaries sent to you. So I quickly set up a campaign searching for mentions of the Cornell Senior Class Gift campaign and started monitoring the spread of the story on the social web.
My first report came in on October 28. As we had suspected, the story was being picked up in the blogs.I had a set of talking points from University Communications and the green light to customize them as appropriate.But did we really want to engage without taking the time to see if this story would really start to spread? I was worried about the Streisand Effect.Some of you may recall that in 2003, Barbara Streisand sued a photographer and an online archive of photographs of the California coast to force them to remove a photo of her cliff-top mansion in Malibu. She claimed it was an invasion of her privacy. And ironically, nobody had been interested in the photograph of her house until she tried to suppress it. At that point, interest exploded, bringing over 420,000 viewers to the page over the following month, Mike Masnick of the Techdirt blog coined the term “The Streisand Effect” to refer to the phenomenon of inadvertently drawing additional attention to something you’d rather not have out there in public by trying to hide it.We didn’t want that.
The next day, we could tell that the blogs were losing interest. It was picking up some traction on Twitter, however.We then asked ourselves another question: was this story beginning to penetrate into the more general conversations about Cornell taking place on the social web? If that was happening, it might be worth take a more proactive stance to correct misinformation.
By November 3, there was only one lonely blogger still pushing the story, The rest of the social web had moved on.Would the story have blown up if we had responded to each mention? It’s impossible to know for sure. I do think that the odds of it having picked up traction would have been greater if we had been more heavy-handed in our response.Any way you slice it, however, when you’re confronted with a situation that’s this nebulous – you aren’t sure what’s happening and you don’t have clear rules of engagement, it was awfully useful to have a tool that helped me track the conversation and use this information to make a recommendation to the folks who were still on red alert that things were not yet at the point that the benefits of official responses outweighed the risk of the Streisand Effect.Moreover, at a time in which many institutions may be unconvinced of the value of direct investment in social media staff and tools, this was a chance to collect and provide data for a high-level, high-pressure conversation about the correct institutional response in an arena that many decision makers still don’t understand very well, as well as information about the unique dynamics of the social web.
So let’s get out of the weeds in Ithaca and get to the core of our conversation today. What are we talking about when we talk about monitoring the social web?
Customer relationship management (CRM)
Taking the Next Step with Social Media Andrew Gossen, Senior Director for Social Media Strategy, Cornell Division of Alumni Affairs & Development May 6, 2011
CASE InfoCenter Social Media Policies http://www.case.org/Samples_Research_and_Tools/Samples/Social_Media_Policies.html
October 28 On Oct 28, 2010, at 12:28 PM, "Andrew A. Gossen" <email@example.com> wrote:There’s no discussion right now on Impact Alumni. I’ve got a draft ready to go, but if no-one is engaging with the topic, my instinct would be to just let it wither away instead of drawing attention to it with a response. How about I keep monitoring and when and if the time is right I jump in?
October 28 On Oct 28, 2010, at 12:53 PM, "Andrew A. Gossen" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: BTW, my new social media monitoring tool is letting me see that this doesn’t seem to be picking up much traction on the social web. It’s mainly on blogs right now, not FB or Twitter. The NYT blog is the most prominent. Some blogs are defending us, most notably MetaEzra. None of the blogs are getting much action in the way of comments. This isn’t to say that it couldn’t still blow up, but it’s less likely with each passing hour unless someone like The Huffington Post picks up on it. Andrew
October 28 On Oct 28, 2010, at 4:12 PM, "Andrew A. Gossen" <email@example.com> wrote: HuffPo did pick it up, but it looks like it’s being drowned out by news of the sustainability gift.
In 2010, the average annual social business budget at enterprise-class corporations was a mere $833,000. (http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2011/02/10/spend-wisely-finally-an-investment-roadmap-for-social-business-buyers-altimeter-report/)
Differences from private sector Customer service – staffed appropriately? Monitoring competition Comparing brands with competing brands Sales leads Customer acquisition Size of dedicated SM team Lower volume? (traffic and brands)
Limiting factors Staff time Expertise Budget Need
Road Map Revisit this presentation Read Socialbrite series Determine your budget and staffing capacities Identify various tools that fit within these parameters Try them out Settle on a tool/suite of tools that works for you.