The tumbling people of Düsseldorf

Radschläger Uerige

On our first visit to Düsseldorf, we soon met the first Radschläger, in the Old Town, right in front of the Uerige city brewery. Clad in copper, an with a U for Uerige, initially I thought it was an advertising gimmick from the brewery.

Small Radschläger

However, as we discovered more of the city, the Radschläger turned up in more places. Sometimes easy to find, sometimes a bit hidden away behind a mall, like the one above. Always slightly differently looking, and always captured in a different moment of his acrobatic moves. Sometimes sponsored, and sometimes not.
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Why you need great community managers

Quality Hunters, a successful improvement program thanks to great community management

Quality Hunters, a successful improvement program thanks to great community management

Now that online platforms have established themselves as places where your customers talk about your brand, they have also become important factors for companies to thrive. Whether it is really understanding what your customers want (to buy), increase your innovative power, or enabling customers to complain to you and share their delight with others, online platforms can make or break your company.

And with this, the role of community managers becomes increasingly important. Without talented people who identify issues, challenge (potential) customers to come up with new products or services you can sell to them, and nurture relationships with (dis)satisfied consumers, you will be lost in the ever-growing Tower of Babel that places like Facebook and Twitter have become. Without great community managers, your message will not be heard by the right people. And they will not talk back to you.

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day, and this is a great day to think about how you have organised community management in you company. For two great examples: follow Meena Kadri and Quality Hunters on Twitter. You’ll get some great insights on what great community management looks like.

Choose your social media channels wisely

The first photo to illustrate a poem on A Poem Each Day

The first photo to illustrate a poem on A Poem Each Day

When you start a new public project (or breathe new life into an existing one), increasingly you need to consider how to fit social media into it. Especially if you want to draw attention to it. The worst you can do, is making the decision to be everywhere just to be sure you don’t miss a potential audience. So before you start creating new accounts on all the social media channels you know, it’s good to take a step back and think about it first.

So, when I started to publicize my poetry project last year, I had to make some decisions regarding sharing on social media. My two favorite channels are Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter I have a sound personal follower count, and some good interactions with people I have connected with. From earlier projects I’ve found it hard to build a new account that resulted in traffic leading to websites, so I decided not to have a dedicated Twitter account, but use my personal account for sharing links to the poems and telling people about it. It added an extra dimension to the overall content I shared through my personal account on Twitter, and in this way I could build on the network I already had there. To separate the poetry project posts from other ones, I used a hashtag for them.

Facebook was a slightly different matter. Because I wanted to keep the website I had for the poems ‘clean’, meaning that I wanted the content there to be predominantly poems, I decided to build a dedicated Facebook page to share links to the poems and generate traffic, but also to share links to other poetry related content, and maybe share some other news and thoughts around the poems. And updates about the crowdfunding campaign I ran.

I also tried to share news and links from my poetry project on Google+, but quickly found out that there was no significant response or other result generated from that, so I stopped the effort there.

Then came the decision about share buttons on the website itself. I wanted to give people who read the poems an opportunity to easily share them. But what I don’t like as a user myself, is to have too many options. Since I had focused my attention mainly on Twitter and Facebook, share buttons for those platforms were mandatory. I also added Google+, and left it there. Since I’m quite fond of Pinterest, I also wanted to have a Pinterest share button, which meant something for my content publishing guidelines. Since Pinterest is an picture-oriented website, I needed to make sure that my poems were accompanied by shareable imagery as well. So I tried to have as many poems illustrated by photos or other pictures as well. As an added benefit: blog posts with an image in them tend to have a higher reading and sharing potential than those without.

The lessons I learned from this, can also be valid for your projects involving social media. Simply put, they are:
Choose channels to focus on, that help get the best exposure to your work;
Leverage existing channels and communities when possible;
Make sure your content is in line with what people expect to find on the channel in question.

Lessons from the poetry project
This is the second post in a series in which I share the lessons I learned from my A Poem Each Day poetry project. Earlier I wrote about reciprocity.

Reciprocity, why it works and when it doesn’t

A handwritten poem on a postcard - an acknowledgement for contributions

A handwritten poem on a postcard – an acknowledgement for contributions

If you want to have some success with your social media campaign, reciprocity is a phenomenon you should take into account. At least, if you’re not Nike, Google or Coca Cola. Or Justin Bieber. The basic, age old principle of give and you shall receive is a strong one in social networks, both online and off. It’s what makes them work, and what brings you results. If you handle it with care.

But, first of all you have to understand the results that you want to achieve. Sure, getting followers and likes can be easy, but is that what you really want. In my poetry project, for example, the result I want is that people will buy the poetry book I am going to publish. The followers on the blog, the likes and comments on the poems are all contributing to that. If I manage to publish poems good enough for people to like and if I manage to engage with this audience in such a manner that I keep them interested enough to want to buy the book.

What will not work? Well, getting people to like or comment on the poems out of the sentiment of just giving back what I gave to them. Commenting on, liking and sharing work from others can make them want to push the like button on my website once. But if it’s only that once, and only because I clicked a button on their blog, it’s not going to help me sell an extra copy of my book. The same goes for these ‘follow-me-and-I-follow-you-back’ tweeters. Those are connections that will not bring you results. The value of that connection will not go deeper than one extra follower. The trick is converting that follower into a potential buyer of your product, service, or, in my case, book.

So, you have to identify those that really take an interest in your campaign. Thsoe are the people that share your campaign with their friends without you asking for it, and participate in the conversation. Give feedback. Those people you need to cherish and strengthen your ties with. You can do that by acknowledging their contributions, maybe give them a small present. As an example: in my poetry project, I sent out some handwritten poems on postcards to people that really made a difference.

You can also strengthen ties by finding common interests other than your campaign, and work with that. The key thing is: be authentic in giving. It’s always directly very clear when someone just tries to get you to return the favor, so that they can show a higher retweet, follow or like count. And it’s not that hard, it just takes some sincere effort. But, that sincere effort will bring you not only a higher chance to achieve the results you want, it can also bring you the satisfaction of discovering new friends, new content and contributing to the success or work of others.

Brown, grey, yellow and blue: the story of the four müll tonnen

The four müll tonnen

The four müll tonnen

In our previous place of residence, life was slightly simpler in terms of household waste. Simpler, but with a slight feeling of guilt, I must admit. Because Riga had no real, or at least: not a mature, recycling policy, all household waste ended up in one bag, that was taken to the waste container by the building staff. We simply put it outside our door, and the rest would be taken care of. Now, at our new home in Germany, we found four separate containers for waste: a brown, a grey, a yellow and a blue one.

The blue container is one of the easier ones: paper goes in it. And cardboard. But, only paper, so laminated paper do not go in it. It almost triggers memories of the days of primary education, when I would have waste paper collection duty with a friend. We would attend the large shipping container on the school premises, and collect the paper waste that people (mostly parents of other school kids) would bring. I think it all was sold and proceeds would go to the school. A nice job, half a day off of lessons, and when the weather was nice, it was brilliant. If not, we could hide in the container and go through all the papers and magazines people threw out.

Also easy to use is the grey container. It’s the collection bin for ‘anything else’, or restmüll. Whatever does not go in the other ones, goes in here.

It gets complicated with the yellow container. Some refer to it as the one for plastic. But that’s not the whole story. Plastic goes in here, but only recyclable plastic. And it’s not just plastic. It’s also milk and other drink cartons that have plastic or aluminum lining in it. Oh, and cans also go in here. So, it’s more the packaging than the plastic container.

The last one is the brown one. The bio-tonne. Or, the container for compostable waste. It seem easy. All the garden and food waste goes here. Well, it’s not that simple. Garden waste: yes. Food waste? Only partially. All fresh waste from peeling or skinning fruits and vegetables goes here. But not when it’s cooked. Not any type of food that is cooked goes in here, by the way. Coffee filters do go in here. But not meat.

It all seems a bit complex, but I guess it’s a matter of getting used to it. In the mean time, fortunately, the municipality has some great information available: an A-Z guide for waste, including locations where you can bring things that don’t go in either of the four waste bins. Because that’s also an option.