An Interview with Susan Halligan, SMW12 Moderator

Susan Halligan, the former Marketing Director of The New York Public Library (NYPL), established the first-ever marketing department for the 100-year-old institution, transitioning the library from traditional communication platforms to new media platforms.  The library’s “Don’t Close the Book” advocacy campaign was named by MarketingSherpa to the 2010 Viral and Social Media Hall of Fame.  Today, she is a Social Media Consultant based in New York working with cultural organizations such as The American Museum of Natural History, various non-profits, startups, and authors on social media strategies spanning channel selection, content marketing, employee activation, stream management, listening and measurement. As a multidisciplinary marketer, her specialty is integrating social media into traditional marketing and communications channels.

Susan Halligan, twitter: @srhalligan

A familiar face at Social Media Week, Susan moderated 2011 panel, “The Inner Workings: Social Media Success Through Coordinated Staffing,” and co-keynoted “The Connected Network” at the Arts Marketing Association’s Digital Marketing Day in London in November 2011. On February 14, she will moderate Literature Unbound: Radical Strategies for Social Literature at NYU during Social Media Week New York 2012. I spoke with Susan to learn more about her work and experiences.

You have quite an impressive biography.  How did you become involved in social media?

Thank you, Lisa. I began to explore Facebook and Twitter in the early fall of 2008. Honestly, I originally started playing around with the platforms, because I had a very small marketing budget and was lured by the fact that the platforms were free. It was very much a “let me see what we can do with this” undertaking. I had no idea, actually, what I was doing, but spent a lot of time exploring and learning, and began to see that social could be integrated into traditional communication channels and that it was an opportunity to take the library’s brand and initiatives to entirely new audiences in a very powerful way. I became very passionate about social and remain so. While paid media remains an important component in any marketing campaign, the trend for marketers is to spend more resources on social and less on paid.

You established the first-ever marketing department for The New York Public Library.  What changed?

Most of the library’s outreach efforts prior to my hire were concentrated on print advertising. I was hired to create and implement an integrated marketing effort across multiple channels.

In 2010, you helped The New York Public Library win the PR News Non-Profit PR Award: “Use of Twitter, Success through a Coordinated Staffing Model.”  What went into this work?

I built a teamapproach to content marketing at the library. Non-profits have limited resources (i.e., people) to push messaging. But a big organization like the library has multiple message points: programming, customer service, circulation, collections, to cite just a few. It’s a matter of coordinating outreach. Though internal education and training, a regular working group of key stakeholders, the creation and implementation of polices, including a Crisis Plan, Best Practices and an Editorial Calendar, we were able to dedicate staff throughout the organization to message on a daily basis using team tools like HootSuite and Socialflow.

What kind of metrics were used to determine that The New York Public Library is #1 public library in the world on Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare?

Community growth, brand mentions, interactions and referrals. We published a monthly Metrics Dashboard using Facebook Insights, the HootSuite and Socialflow Twitter clients, Twitter Counter, Radian6, AddThis and Google Analytics. We shared the data with key stakeholders and examined it closely for insights about messaging, engagement and content.

How does social media for a library differ from social media from other companies?

It doesn’t. Like any business engaged in social, we had a long-term customer-centric vision. One of our major goals was discoverability. We wanted social users to be to be surprised and delighted to find us online (and to discover online and offline resources, like free databases and thousands of programs) and to think “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that at The New York Public Library.”

Have your ideas ever been challenged?  Which ones and how did you overcome resistance from others?

If an idea isn’t challenged, it may not be that good.  The first step in social media iteration is to identify the organizational challenges: internal resistance (turf, legal, security), lack of resources, lack of skills, an ever-changing technology space and the ongoing challenge of measuring ROI.

Alignment is key: the ability to rally internal resources and stakeholders is the #1 skill in successful social media integration. Evangelizers must be able to maneuver adeptly within an organization and rally the “deciders” for support.

Does Foursquare have any real purpose in relatively remote towns with a maximum of 30 retail businesses?

As part of its 2011 Centennial, NYPL was the first in the world to secure a Foursquare badge. The badge was yet one more way to introduce the library to new audiences and it proved a very successful partnership in terms of unique users, check ins and check outs.

AdAge recently did a post about Foursquare’s connection to “mainstream” retailers. Chris Copeland wrote: “Foursquare is a regional play that masks what it is not – a middle America, mainstream tool.” He suggested that Foursquare needs to continue to educate businesses about the benefits of its platform.

What do you think is Foursquare’s future?

Mobile location-based social networking will continue to be adopted.

Of all the campaigns you’ve led, which was your favorite?

The Centennial of NYPL’s flagship Fifth Avenue building in 2011. It was a perfect storm of owned, earned and paid media: there was an exhibit; a microsite; multiple programs; an advertising campaign that included print, radio, outdoor, transport and online; publications; signage; ecommunications; and a deeply integrated robust social effort across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube. I secured VIK sponsorships from The Wall Street Journal, Titan Outdoor and the MTA to support the efforts. One interesting metric from the campaign was the incredibly high level of engagement with the library’s social content.

What is the most innovative use of social media that you’ve seen?

I am a big fan of Coke’s social strategy and tactics. I love that their Facebook Page is governed by regular fans, not “experts.” At the library, much of its social success is owed to the contributions of its staff. Power to the people!

Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. View her online portfolio or follow her on Twitter.

Tumblbeasts: 14; Lisa: 0

I started blogging around 2004. Frankly, I didn’t think much about my choice of platform. Most of the blogs I followed were hosted by Blogger, so I registered there as well. Then Dartblog started offering students a blog presence. If you can’t already tell, I bleed green. Of course, I signed up for a Dartmouth-affiliated page. Shortly thereafter, more & more of my friends started LiveJournaling. Thus, I was “forced” to join LJ if wanted access to posts locked from public viewing and commenting.

That’s how these social networking sites gain new users. Make people register for accounts even if they only want to view content. Insidious!

Speaking of insidious… Well, hello there, Facebook. Do I really need to elaborate? I think we all know what happened. They know way more about the last 5 years of my life than my family knows about my entire life. (Granted, I chose to put all those details into their database.) Looking back, I’ve left a scattered legacy of abandoned false-starts & experiments on Blogger, Friendster, Orkut, Twitter, LiveJournal, Flickr… Just to name a several. I had multiple accounts on a few because wiping the slate completely clean was simply more efficient than editing an unruly mass of existing content. All part of the learning process that has led up to the internet as it exists today.

Which is to say, social media has matured, but it still has a ways to go. Every time Facebook makes a major change in its appearance, interface or “Terms of Service,” I liken it to a teenager trying on another identity. It’s getting a little old, though, and I’m surprised a younger upstart hasn’t disrupted the Zuckerberg monopoly.

Yet.

In any case, I decided late last year to take everything I’ve gleaned from my virtual journey and funnel it into a persona standardized across multiple platforms, connected via my personal launching page. You’ll see I left Blogger to try Tumblr. I didn’t think much about my choice of platform. This time, however, I was sorely disappointed.

* * *

Despite the deplorable color scheme of Blogger, it always worked. The interface was intuitive. Features most people would need or want were built-in. My self-taught HTML skills were handy on occasion, but not necessary. Kind of like buying a Subaru Outback for winter in New Hampshire. It’s not a stylish car, but everyone drives one because it does what you need it to do. Function over form.

Every so often, I am startled by my naïve expectation that new, hyped products on the market are supposed to be an improvement over its established predecessors. Isn’t that what is accounting for their popularity? No.

I learned that lesson the hard way. I let myself be lured by the Siren song of Tumblr. I could barely finish reading their “30 Reasons to Love Tumblr” list.

Email address / Password / Choice of URL

Start posting!

Easy!

Car salesmen wish it were that easy to sell lemons. And that’s what I got. A pretty, hollow lemon.

First, I had to dust off my HTML coding knowledge to customize my template. There are a lot of pre-fabricated choices, but many are very similar with slight variations. Then, because Tumblr doesn’t support native commenting, I had to install Disqus. Then I had to add anti-spam measures. Then Google Analytics…

When can I start blogging?  This is tedious! I expected a fully loaded car—erm—blogging platform.

Too many hours later, my blog looked close enough to presentable. I was ready to take it out for a spin on the [information] super highway, but…

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE WARN ME ABOUT THE TUMBLBEASTS???

Tumblbeasts are to Tumblr as the Fail Whale is to Twitter. The Tumblbeasts are enough for me to consider moving on to WordPress; however, if you are undeterred by them, I have other reasons to leave:

  • No auto save.
  • No one-click button to save drafts. (I’ve had to re-type several long posts.)
  • The bullet function does not work past one level. Indenting doesn’t work, either.
  • Dragging and dropping to rearrange the order of queued posts is inefficient, especially if you have several long posts.
  • Is there some way to compact the view of individual entries?
  • The dashboard feed takes too long to load, even if you’re on a dedicated Ethernet line.
  • A navigational button bar should follow user scrolling.
  • The feed page: It’s ugly and only utilizes a third of my page.
  • Tags that users have already created should be listed for easy reuse.
  • Where’s my tag cloud?
  • Grouping. I want to read my philosophy feed separate from my fashion feed separate from my social media feed.

The only reason I’ll consider giving Tumblr a little more time to convince me to stay is that it seems to be building critical mass. Fast. And in Web 2.0, you need to be where everyone else is.

Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. View her online portfolio or follow her on Twitter.

What is Social Media? Why Do We Care?

Social Media. Hate it or love it, everyone talks about it. And has an opinion about it.

While everyone is exposed to it daily, how many people really know what it is?

You, being a self-selecting audience, would likely be able to provide an informed response. Others, however, might simply blurt, “Facebook!” as if that alone explained all.

For my first blog post, I wanted to consider the basics of what we’re discussing. Together, the words “social” and “media” form fabricated jargon which appeared sometime after the advent of Web 2.0, as explained on Wikipedia:

“…web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups and folksonomies.”

Social media became inextricably tied to the internet sometime after 2004. Nonetheless, I argue that social media has existed as long as mass media has reacted to reader submissions and/or called readers to action. Media being a tool for information delivery; social defined as any form of interaction between two entities, corporations or individuals. Reprinted letters to the Editor? Social media. Paper flyers for organizing protests? Social media.

Communication + Collaboration = Social Media.

Social media as we know it today, rooted within a virtual context, crept into common households through online journals and college kids on Facebook. In 2004, I told someone I planned to do my independent study on blogging. He asked, “You want to study websites about people’s cats?”

Since the days of feline photos and emotionally fueled teenager musings, the growth of social media has grown exponentially. Can we visit any of the top 50 most popular sites on the Internet without coming across one-click options to Tweet / Facebook / + 1 / Share / email?

The number of social media users and social companies continues to rise globally, and the barrier to entry is relatively low.

Why does this matter?

The internet has made communications almost instantaneous and far reaching. Political groups can now rally more efficiently. Companies can spread their branding with ease. The possibility for danger and/or profit has been multiplied. Witness the revolutionaries who used Twitter to spread their message and organize troops faster and wider than any paper campaign could have achieved. Witness firms that pour money and time into data mining Facebook.

On a personal level, social media has simultaneously extended our networks while closing distances between degrees of separation. It transcends time and geography. It archives our lives online and allows some semblance of control over our public persona.

Social media is a powerful force we still don’t fully comprehend. It can be dangerous. It recognizes almost no boundaries, and it’s still growing.

And that’s why we care about this double-edged sword.

Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. View her online portfolio at http://about.me/GothamGreen212. Follow her on Twitter via https://twitter.com/GothamGreen212. (In case you’re wondering, she greatly enjoys social media, admittedly spending far too much time on it.)