The two case studies that I would like to analyze are 1) Harvard Business School Blog – 500,000 Subscribers, and 2) CBC’s Unofficial Fan Page – 48,000 fans Without Any Advertising.
These are interesting in terms of 1) content creation and 2) managing follower engagement. Each case study has strengths and weaknesses in how they perform each of these functions.
The strength of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Blog is its system for creating content. The experts at HBS generate content once and apply it across all of the HBS collateral: in its publications, its on-line coaching/training service and now, this blog. New content is created daily. There is a decentralized system of content creators who are given tools, standards and procedures to follow. HBS encourages storytelling rather than blogging.
I am a fan of the story telling approach generally with communications. I like the author’s comment that “Content is not king. I think – great content creators who are gifted in storytelling is king”.
The objective of the HBS blog is to infiltrate conversations on entrepreneurship. Eventually, HBS wants to influence all significant conversations on this subject. HBS is working to create spikes in the trends of these relevant conversation topics. The overall goal is to change the brand of HBS. The sense is that when it comes to entrepreneurship, people think of MIT before they think of Harvard.
HBS is not quite there yet in achieving this goal. This is mainly due to the fact that they don’t have a strategy or a team to respond/participate in the social media conversations. HBS is experienced at publishing and distributing its content, but not as experienced in two-way engagement. they are slow to respond, if at all. On one hand, the decentralized system works well for content creation, but not so well for managing responses. I have the impression that no one is in charge of responding.
The existing reputation of HBS gave it 500,000 subscribers. This is compared to other blogs on the same subject matter which number around 500 followers, according to the case study. They are strong out of the starting gate, so to speak, but really need to improve their system and attitude for responding on social media channels. HBS is lacking when it comes to timeliness and quality of responses to its followers. My view is that, because of who HBS is, it will always have a large following, but if HBS does not start engaging properly, it has no where to go but down. It may be able to say that it has a large reach numbers-wise, but it won’t succeed in its objective of influencing the subject matter.
In the second case study, a non-official CBC page has a huge following. Fortunately for the CBC, it is run by a former CBC producer and radio host. It is run with the best of intentions and loyalty for CBC.
He does not have the arsenal of content creators that HBS has, nor does he have the 500,000 followers. Still, I think that his following of 48,000 followers is substantial for an independent fan page. I suspect that this is due to two factors i) he inherently knows what his followers like and ii) he responds appropriately to conversations. This owner is really good at engaging his following and he really understands the “social” in social media.
Some of the tactics that he used to build his following include: an automatic Twitter posting to advertise when he posts on Facebook, and following what he thinks are obscure sources. I find the latter tactic to be an understatement of what he is actually doing. He thinks that these sites may be obscure because they are not mainstream. What they really are, are the sites that his key demographic follows. He recognizes which ones are good (unconsciously) because he knows his people. His career at CBC gave him this knowledge. These links to so-called obsure sources are a main factor in increasing his following.
He develops a system for regular types of postings or “columns” as he refers to them. People know what to expect when he posts certain topics because he uses a standard masthead for each. He replies regularly to posts and watches as some of his postings grow in the thousands with likes by the minute. He believes that “putting a little bit of you in the page goes a long way to humanizing the content”. He also moderates his page by using the FaceBook insights tool – watching what posts create the most engagement. He uses this to hone his type of postings. He eliminates and blocks spammers immediately. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for HBS; add a more of a human touch and monitor reader reaction to posts. Perhaps simply, know your audience.
His goal is to keep awareness of the CBC alive and have the excitement of a fan club. His followers have bought into the fan club concept and to the CBC. His goals are not as complicated as to influence conversations or to undertake a rebranding exercise. HBS could tear a page from his book when it comes to responding, cross-posting and monitoring and managing spam. Unlike HBS, this page has nowhere to go but up in the numbers of followers, assuming that the owner maintains his responsiveness to the page.