September 22, 2011

Top 10 tips for promoting channel shift

By Dave Worsell, Director of Government Solutions, GovDelivery UK

In July I presented at the SOCITM Building Perfect Council Websites 11 (BPCW11) in London on theService_desk topic 
of Channel Shift.  The presentation was entitled “Is Developing Channels more Important than Promoting Shift?”  Although the event was aimed primarily at Local Government, many of the concepts I presented are relevant to both Central and Government clients so I thought it worth sharing.

Developing online services has been a top priority for all levels of Government.  The potential cost savings of encouraging the public to self-serve online are well documented which is why the “Digital by Default” agenda is moving ahead at full steam.  However, I believe that many public bodies don’t realise the full potential that the shift to digital offers, primarily because they are failing to engage with their audience. 

Developing these cool new digital channels is only part of the solution.  Promoting channels to encourage shift and foster engagement is a vital component, something many public bodies frequently overlook. 

I have drawn together the following tips from the successes of innovative GovDelivery clients who use effective promotion to boost subscribers and deliver that “elusive” channel shift.

  1. Promotion is as important as developing channels.  Ensure your project has the necessary resources to promote your efforts otherwise the considerable development effort is often wasted.
  2. Promote online and offline.  Use every available means to promote the service especially as those people most in need of shifting use the most expensive channels.  Why not promote on your answer phone message, telephone helpdesk and in all printed material/newsletters?
  3. Take every available opportunity to engage.  Ensure subscription options and sign-up links are clear and concise.  Use bright logos to draw attention and place links and sign-up boxes well above the fold on as many web pages as possible.
  4. Explain the benefits of engaging with you.  Ensure subscriber benefits are made crystal clear. The benefits of any service you offer must appeal to your audience and their needs (not yours).
  5. Brand the service.  Who wants to sign-up to receive boring “Email Newsletters”? Branding your service, e.g. “News Direct - News direct to you, when you want it” is simple and a much more effective way to increase subscriber numbers.
  6. React quickly to events.  Events, e.g. snow fall, present an unbeatable opportunity to engage with your users.  Ensure you maximise subscriber opportunities whenever something unusual occurs.  For example, why not change your home page to engage your large new found audience?
  7. Integrate digital with offline channels.  Your back office systems should enable you to capture electronic contact details at every opportunity (privacy policy allowing).  Use these details to initiate the shift online and sell the benefits to your audience.
  8. Provide support for multiple digital channels.  Your audience uses different channels for different activities.  To reach the widest possible audience you need to support as many of these channels as possible.  Email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular respectively.
  9. Produce a promotion plan and review it monthly.  Things change, channels change, user requirements change, channel shift targets change.  Make sure your promotion plans reflect this.
  10. Don’t stop promoting.  Never be satisfied with the subscriber figures you have.  You can always do better.  Continuous promotion and innovation will help you achieve greatness. 

How are you increasing your promotion? Have you been successful? Please share your story in our comments section.


September 21, 2011

Changes to Facebook great for government

By Mike Bernard, Digital Marketing Specialist, GovDelivery

Tomorrow, Facebook will host their “f8” developer conference. It’s rumored that Facebook will roll out some new features that could be very beneficial for government. If reports are accurate, Facebook will release “read,” “listened,” “watched,” and “want” to supplement their hugely popular “like” button. Obviously, Facebook wants to use this information to provide more opportunities to expand their advertising network.

Beyond advertising for Facebook, think about the possibilities for government.

  • You create a useful brochure called “What you need to know about Stafford Loans” and you post it on Facebook. There’s potential for millions of teens to click “read” and share it with their friends who are looking into financing higher education.
  • The Army posts their latest commercial on Facebook and people start clicking “watched”.
  • Your state releases a limited edition license plate or the county zoo has a new Red Wolf exhibit. People click the “want” button to let their friends and family know what they want.

The possibilities are endless! In the September issue of Forbes Magazine, David Kirkpatrick sums it up perfectly, "The 'meme,' or idea, can go viral and spread almost instantly to vast numbers, if it happens to strike a chord with the zeitgeist."*

If Facebook rolls these new features out, the ability spread your message quickly and easily will exponentially grow.  Even if they don’t proceed with these new features, the release of the “subscribe” button last week is making it easier for government to get the word out. With a little bit of creativity when developing content, you can easily produce material that will rapidly spread throughout the social world.

*Want to hear more from David Kirpatrick about how social media is revolutionizing the way we communicate? If you're in the DC area, and work for the government, you can hear him for free. Get the details here.

September 20, 2011

Lessons from Netflix: what not to do with social media

by Mary Yang, Marketing Communications Manager, GovDelivery

If you’re in the US, you’ve no doubt heard the discontent over Netflix, which describes itself as “the world’s leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows.” They gained prominence over Blockbuster as a DVD-by-mail service and then solidified their status  by offering streaming videos and shows directly to your television.

In July, Netflix restructured their pricing. There was an immediate uproar among their customers. Netflix customers took to social media channels, voicing their disapproval and discontent in huge numbers. In fact, the Netflix blog  shows over 12,000 comments from their integrated Facebook feed. However, Netflix, as an organization that was founded and grew from the Internet, didn’t obey the number one rule of the social media: listen to the customer! Despite the outrage, Netflix stuck to its new pricing scheme, without any answers. They merely regurgitated the talking points their team developed, telling customers that this new pricing structure would save customers money, even if that was hard to explain. To that end, PCWorld estimates that Netflix has lost 1 million customers since their pricing changes.

The saga continued yesterday morning, with Netflix announcing the split between these two services as an organizational restructuring: their DVD-by-mail business is being branded Qwikster, with their Internet-streaming service remaining under the Netflix name. By the end of the day, countless articles had developed around Netflix’s next social media quandry: the Twitter handle for Qwikster is already taken – currently being used by a man whose avatar yesterday was a picture of Elmo holding a joint (he has since changed the image.) This is the prime example of Netflix violating the second rule of social media: don’t dismiss the power of social media. If anyone on Netflix’s restructuring, organizational, marketing, or product team had simply done a quick Internet search before they chose this name, they would have easily uncovered this issue prior to their rebranding effort. If social media is not an integral part of your communication efforts from the start, you could be in for more than one sleepless night.

I know what you’re thinking: what does this have to do with government communicators? Netflix may be a business-to-consumer service, but their mistakes can be a lesson for you in your social media efforts. David Amerland published this blog post with Social Media Today about some key lessons, including the two I discuss above and a few more that I’d like to call out here:

From Amerland – Rule #3: Create a dialogue. In his blog post, Amerland is speaking to a business-to-consumer audience, but this still holds true for government organizations. Beyond sending information to the public, you also need to be listening and responding to the feedback your stakeholders are providing to you. This virtual dialogue allows you to further engage with the public and also sets the stage for more collaboration efforts – much like FEMA’s campaign.

From Amerland – Rule #6: Show you are human. Again, Amerland discusses this point with regard to the private sector, but it may apply even more in the public sector. As you begin to make inroads with your communication efforts using social media, there’s no doubt that you’ll receive and probably triage complaints, issues, concerns, and more. As a social media communicator, you must remember that the virtual world doesn’t replace the real one – it only augments it. As Amerland states, “If you are not prepared to put a human face to your communications, admit mistakes, explain faults and give well-reasoned arguments for everything, the only thing you’ll do is manage to alienate your customers.”

Read Amerland’s full blog post.

Netflix's restructuring, as told by a comic strip.

September 19, 2011

Why face-to-face events about digital communications are important

By Mary Yang, Marketing Communications Manager, GovDelivery 

With increased budget pressures and constraints on our schedules with expanding workloads, finding time to attend a face-to-face event is difficult. Not that there are many face-to-face events anymore: studies show that 60% of US marketers are planning to increase their spend on virtual events while 42% plan to decrease their spend around physical events and conferences.

That’s unfortunate.

While we live and work in a digital world, there is a definite need for face-to-face events that promote interaction, collaboration and networking. In fact, Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg believes that.

In David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect, he recounts this very idea: “Popular though it may be, The-Facebook-Effect-small Facebook was never intended as a substitute for face-to-face has always been explicitly conceived and engineered by Zuckerberg and colleagues as a tool to enhance your relationships with the people you know in the flesh – your real-world friends, acquaintances, classmates, or co-workers.”

The idea is so simple but revelatory when I think of how social media has drastically changed the way most of the world communicates. Maybe that’s why Facebook has been winning the social media wars to date: because, at its core, it has not forgotten that people are friends with people and that people do business with people – not a social networking site.

Social media has become essential to our everyday lives, but only because it helps us extend our face-to-face relationships. That’s something to remember when crafting your social media strategy.

Want to learn more? GovDelivery is hosting a free, face-to-face seminar for government empolyees and contractors in Washington, DC on October 19 around social media and its role in digital communications. Bonus: our keynote speaker will be David Kirkpatrick!

Register online today to reserve your spot.

September 16, 2011

Facebook Rolls out New Subscribe Button

By Lauren Modeen, Manager of Online Strategy, GovLoop

Yesterday Facebook rolled out a brand new feature that allows people to not only "friend" each other, but now "subscribe" - - making a personal profile more like a fan page. For example - let's say I want to know what is going on with Mark Zuckerberg, but I am not "friends" with him. If he sets up his profile so I can "subscribe" to his page, I will get his updates in my newsfeed.


3 main functions of new subscribe button:

1. Subscribe to interesting people who you aren't friends with. BlogFacebook2

2. Allow people to subscribe to you (you get notified who does, by the way, and you can control what they can comment on and "like").

3. Control how much information you see from those you subscribe to. When you subscribe to a person, you immediately select if you want to see "All Updates," "Most Updates," or "Only Important."

I think this will bode interesting for government officials and I wonder if it will change what and how they share...

Your thoughts? More info here if you are interested...