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Alex-Knapp-LunchIf you follow the @Brainzooming account on Twitter when I’m live tweeting a luncheon with someone incredibly tweetable, don’t be surprised to be inundated with forty or fifty tweets (sorry!).

That’s exactly what happened when Alex Knapp, Social Media Editor and staff writer at Forbes, headlined this month’s Social Media Club of Kansas City lunch talking about the intersection of publishing and social media strategy.

For those who don’t follow @Brainzooming on Twitter, here via reformatted tweets and paraquotes, are just a few of the social media strategy insights Alex Knapp shared.

Mistakes Publishers (and others) Make with Social Media Strategy

According to Knapp, the biggest mistake publishers make is thinking there is something new in social media. Publishing changes based on the platform, and the only thing that changes over time is the type of content you put on each one. The challenge (and opportunity) with social media is that it is communicating, engagement, and marketing all at once.

Social Media Talents

Social media requires multiple abilities from someone in a short time in a small space. Many publishers (and other types of companies) make the mistake of picking people with only one talent who then struggle. Among the many skills needed to be great at social media, headline writing is THE social media skill.

Alex Knapp proposed a thought experiment: You have two people, one of whom you can hire to do social media for a publication. Do you pick someone who is early in a business career and all over Twitter or someone more senior with lots of work experience and no clue about Twitter? Knapp advises picking the more experienced person since it’s possible to train someone on Twitter in an hour. Training someone who understands social media to write well, think better, and market more effectively? Well, that takes considerably longer than an hour.

Not Every Social Network Should Have Identical Content

When it comes to taking the best advantage of varied content across channels, Knapp pointed out a great example from the world of publishing to illustrate his point: The New York Times wouldn’t run an arts story on the sports page unless it had a very specific sports angle. Given that, why would an organization run the exact same story at the exact same time on very different social media platforms?

Similar to how we covered Mall of America featuring different content by social network, Knapp shared that at Forbes, Google+ is for tech news, LinkedIn is for startup news, and there are twelve different topic-oriented Twitter feeds, some of which have come and gone over time based on what’s working. Ultimately the goal for each platform (which may have much larger readership than a publication’s paid subscriber base) shapes how a brand approaches it.

When faced with too many social media options and not enough time to go around, Knapp recommends to start where a brand has its biggest audience and focus there. He also advises against the common idea of not putting resources toward social media because it’s free. He asked why a brand WOULDN’T want to put resources toward something that was free and worked vs. paying money for marketing efforts that cost a lot and are difficult to track.

Social Media Strategy Fundamentals

  • Social media is the industrialization of word of mouth, so it’s vital to make sure social content is easily shared.
  • If you have great content that’s working, run it again, adding variety to how you feature it. He suggested pulling out a quote (because people love quotes), trying an alternative headline, or featuring a specific item from a longer list.
  • Invite and reward engagement with personalities, content, and readers themselves (i.e., readers whose content and comments are featured will turn around and share it with others). It’s vital to show you are listening to social media exchanges and are able to engage your audience.
  • Data from multiple sources helps determine the effectiveness of social media efforts. Social data sources may disagree, so you have to compare and contrast them. Knapp points out that Google Analytics doesn’t provide accurate information on Facebook traffic.
  • Run analyses as often as possible (or as makes sense), measuring to the extent the results will drive change in what you are doing. While you’re measuring, look beyond the top clicks and shares. If you avoid going deeper or looking at alternative views, you’ll miss other valuable insights.
  • Don’t get caught up in your own preferences. If readers love something you do, even if you hate it, keep doing it anyway.

Social Media at Forbes

There is a 3-person core social media team at Forbes. Their efforts are complemented by many, many freelance bloggers who are paid (very well according to Alex) based on the hits on their blog posts. (Hey, Alex, where do I apply?)  – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3 Responses to “Social Media Strategy – The Tweetable Lunch with Alex Knapp of Forbes”

  1. Great info here Mike! Thanks for sharing… Sounds like Alex Knapp was a great speaker ~ I liked hearing his take on old-time marketing applied to modern tools (my paraphrasing). Makes so much sense and refreshing to hear someone else say what I have thought – reassuring given how much social media experts seem to “pop-up on every corner.” Old time strategic thinking and marketing know-how are still, always, ever so valuable… add social media know-how, and “poof” you’ve got a winner! Great that you pulled together your tweets into paragraph form – appreciate the great reporting! Thanks!

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Here’s Bill Mullins’ take on this post. As is typical, I love that Bill’s comments really deserve to be standalone blog posts on their own:

    “Reading today’s post I was strongly moved to take exception with a couple of points.

    “These attributed to Knapp: “…l the biggest mistake publishers make is thinking there is something new in social media. Publishing changes based on the platform, and the only thing that changes over time is the type of content you put on each one.” And later, “Knapp advises picking the more experienced person since it’s possible to train someone on Twitter in an hour.”

    “And still later a comment I believe you made: “Social media is the industrialization of word of mouth, so it’s vital to make sure social content is easily shared.”

    “In regard to the points by Knapp – that would seem to fit in the category with “jets aren’t different from propeller engines, they’re only faster.”

    “And I’ve been around Twitter for a couple of years now and am still not a user. From where I sit, Twitter is a second language, there are aspects of it that seem as formidable as learning Spanish in my Medicare years. I could do it, but I’m conscious about what measure of value added it has for me. For those who learned Social Media more or less in parallel with their spoken language this is not an issue.

    “But, in any case, the notion that “a channel, is a channel, is a channel; it’s only the content that differs” strikes me as a very naïve take on the nature of discourse. It is one in line with my growing suspicion that those with a vested interest in traditional corporate brand channels have a strong need to “bring social media under control.” That looks a lot like slowing it down to the pace of a marketing agency employing its traditional business model.

    “Maybe Knapp sounded different in person. Still, proprietary content and gate-keeping control of the pathway between seller and customer are the traditional Marketing “content behind the content” that Social Media pretty much puts to the test of necessity – moment by moment. I see a fair amount of evidence that the traditionalists don’t get that.

    “Also, I suspect that you will find that with time it will become clear that Social Media is the anti-toxin to the strong, linear, and behaviorist mechanization of ordinary discourse. That notion directly contradicts the assertion that Very Broad Bandwidth Access and Engagement is properly addressed with an initiative termed “Digital Drive.” Human’s are analog – as is all of the natural record of adaptive beings – yes the tools are neat, but at the end of the day they’re still tools – things for humans to use in ways not imagined by their designers!

    “Or so it seems to this senior citizen.”

    Bill Mullins, Principal
    Better Choices Consulting

    • Mike Brown says:

      On the point of Twitter being a second language, it’s certainly a different way and style of communicating, but I don’t know that makes it a language unto its own. I will admit that I see users who use it actively but don’t seem to understand its limitations and advantages. Often this involves extended, multiple tweet monologues aimed at no one in particular that don’t generate any response. The Twitter model isn’t a classroom (where a professor is lecturing and maybe gets a question). It’s closer to a university environment where you can get together and hang out and talk with a teacher afterward. It starts as something two-way and different than a classroom setting.