Sean Luechtefeld – Guest Interview

  1. Leek: Hi everyone, it’s great to see you again this week and I’m excited to be here with Sean Luechtefeld who is the Communications Director at the American Network of Community Options and Resources, otherwise known as ANCOR. He was formally the Associate Director of Communications for another non-profit called Prosperity Now. He also happens to be one of my former students and is a very close friend so I’m grateful he was willing to give us this time tonight talk with me about using social media. Welcome Sean.
  2. Luechtefeld: Thank you Danielle and thanks for inviting me. I’m really excited to be here with you all.
  3. Leek: Well, Sean, as you know, the course that I’m teaching this semester is all about using social and digital media. And in the class, we have been looking at how an individual who works as a Social Media Manager might think about developing a Social Media Strategy and a Social Media Campaign. Can you take a minute and tell us about how you use social media in your current role or maybe in your previous position?
  4. Luechtefeld: Sure. I mean, I think there is really sort of a, wide range of ways that we use social media at ANCOR. Um, you know, and I will just say in principle of full disclosure that I have only been in, um, my current role for about four months. But, um, you know, there is some sort of broader use of social media in helping to, um, connect with our members, to kind of deepen the sense of community that we, um, have. We have 1,400, uh, members that are all across the United States and a few, uh, in other countries. And so, um, we think about them as a tool to help them, you know, connect with others, connect with us, know what’s going on. We also use it as a tool for, uh, mobilizing advocates, so the real reason most people join ANCOR is because we are the voice of disability service providers on Capitol Hill and so, especially with {unintelligible} uh, we really use that a tool to, um, understand what is going on in policy land, connect with federal lawmakers and their staff, um, and to give our members an opportunity to sort of do the advocacy and to mobilize and things like that. Um, but then we also use it in much more specific ways, uh, so for example, right now I am managing a three year multi-media campaign which is called, Included, Supported and Powered, uh, which is really all about how we, so, not only have successes with people with disabilities but also the providers who really help to facilitate those successes and so, social media strategy is for us to really raise visibility for the great work that providers are doing and, um, make people more aware of it so when the time comes to support of invest in provider agencies, uh, there is more public will to do that. So, you know, sometimes it’s really, sort of, specific and, and, limited to a particular purpose and other times it’s more of an ongoing effort to really try and build {unintelligible} and raise the visibility of the organization.
  5. Leek: Great. Well, after, um, the students in my class have heard this guest lecturer, I hope that you all will think about going to check out the ANCOR social media sites. So, maybe look at their Twitter handle and their profile page, or maybe check out their Facebook page. Sean, would you give me an example, maybe, of some of the content that you’ve been using to try and drive awareness about the organization?
  6. Luechtefeld: Yea, so, um, you know, I can give you, kind of, two examples, one that’s more, sort of, at the organizational level and one that’s a little bit more specific in the context of a campaign. Um, when it comes to, sort of the organizational level, um, one of the things that we’ve been working on is this bill, um, that would really kind of help give providers more time to, um, comply with the federal regulation that was introduced in December of 2016. Um, and so, what we want to show is that not only is this really important legislation, but that also that, you know, ANCOR was really, sort of, driving the conversation on Capitol Hill, and we were really, sort of, critical in getting this legislation passed. We just got the bill passed through the Senate, uh, a few days ago. Um, and, it, you know, it was really an opportunity, like, social media really gave us an opportunity, to, um, you know, to say thank you to the sponsors of the bill. Uh, it gave us an opportunity to really explain what the bill would do, and why it would ultimately benefit service providers and people with disabilities. Um, but it also gave us an opportunity to says, you know, look, ANCOR has been at the forefront, um, of this advocacy {unintelligible} so, um, like, on Twitter for example, we published a tweet thread that had, sort of, our advocacy victories by the number, where we, you know, showed the number of people who had made phone calls, sent emails, the number of members of Congress who voted for the legislation, things like that. On Facebook, we, um, you know, might share photos of those responsible for the bill or the supporters of the bill, um, you know, as a way of sort of getting people comfortable and being more engaging then just “eh, we’re just really excited that HR-6042 passed the House”, right? They are really thinking about what is it that will, um, not just communicate the information, but also to, um, make people want to engage with it. Um, in the context of the campaign I’ve been working on, the Included, Supported, Empowered campaign, you know, a lot of that has been news articles, blog posts and other kind of methods, you know, that really drives home the key point. And, we’ve also developed a couple of videos, and so sometimes we’ll publish those articles, or we might cross-book a PR site and then share a link on our Facebook page. Uh, or we might take a video and promote it and use Facebook ads or promoted posts. Um, to really just, kind of, get more people to see the videos, uh, and to interact with the kind of key ideas behind our campaign that our communications {unintelligible}.
  7. Leek: Terrific. So, would you tell me again: What is the campaign called again? It’s Included…
  8. Luechtefeld: It’s Included, Supported, Empowered.
  9. Leek: Included, Supported, Empowered. So, um, what’s an example of an objective that you might be measuring to see if you’ve been successful at the end of this campaign?
  10. Luechtefeld: Yea. I think that’s a great question, but I, I think I wanna kinda take that back a step though and say, um, kind of our broader strategy is really to think about how do we advance the image of service providers, um, and important role that they are playing, right. When, when you read about, you know, what is happening in, um, a group home, for example in your local newspaper, so often you are hearing the stories that’s sort of abuse and maleficence, right? There is something really awful that happened, or maybe there is some instance of Medicaid fraud. But for every one of those, like, horrible stories, there are ten thousand stories that go untold, um, about the really important role that service providers are doing and, uh, the role that they are playing to help individuals with disabilities and their family members who want to know that their loved ones are being taken cared for. Um, and so, our broader strategy is really to share more of those positive stories, and to, sort of, reshape the public narrative about, um, you know, disability service providers, and, and the reason why it’s worth investing from a public policy perspective, or from a funding perspective. So, when it comes to objectives then, the, the, much more specific frame, one of our objectives is to ensure that by the end of the campaign, there have been at least 100,000 people who have engaged with the campaign’s messages. Um, and, we define that engagement in really specific terms, right? So, for example, it’s not necessary the reach of a post on Facebook because we don’t necessarily consider that as meaningful as if someone who watches a video or 10 or more seconds. Right, so, we look at things like, um, the number of people who share or comment on a post and rather than just reacting to it. Uh, we look at the number of video feeds, we look at number of people who, um, are actually clicking through from our social media page to the front posted version of the {ineligible} on our website. Because, for us, all of those are indicators that people aren’t just happily being exposed to the information and the content, but they are actually absorbing it, processing, and, and, and perhaps engaging with in a way that we think, over time, will bring it to an, um, increased perception of the provider community.
  11. Leek: Well, you‘ve made a really good point about the value of social media and its ability to try and help us hear the stories of voices we may not hear all the time, and I think that’s definitely a way social media contributes to the communications landscape that we have today. Which leads me to kind of a historical question, I guess. You’ve been doing this work for over a decade now. Can you, maybe, give us an example of something that has changed on a social media platform that really allowed you to advance the kind of campaign work that you are trying to do?
  12. Luechtefeld: Yea, that’s a, that’s a really good question. I think, probably, the clearest example I can point to, um, was when Facebook introduced its Live Platform, uh, which would have been in probably early 2016. Um, and, and, the reason the Facebook Live, uh, Platform was transformation I would say is was for two reasons. One, is that, uh, it really was an opportunity for people like my organization; I was with Prosperity Now at the time, who have limited budgets, to, you know, engage in paid social medial advertising. Um, it was an opportunity for us to actively create content that Facebook was actively willing to, um, you know, promote, right? So, we are always talking about, sort of, how do you crack the algorithms, right? But, but the reality was, like, you know, Facebook was actively trying to support the platform as so if you developing content on Facebook Live, uh, that content was being delivered live and was increasing in movement and people were starting to interact with our page in a ways that we’d never seen before. Um, in a way, that didn’t require a lot of our time or any of our financial resources. The other reason I think that Facebook Live was sort of transformative for us in that moment, was because, you know, for so long, we knew, right, it’s not news to us, that {unintelligible} video and that video content really performs well. But the reality is that unless you have an in-house video team, or if you have the resources to outsource video production, a lot of non-profit organizations don’t have the capacity to develop that kind of engaging video. Um, and so, as a result, what Facebook Live allowed us to do was really to create video that didn’t have to be expensive or, or, or high production quality. In fact, there is kind of an expectation that it might be a little bit rough. It might be a little bit raw, um, but people still engage with it deeply and I think that’s an example of how social media changed in a way that really advanced work with {unintelligible} and really gave us an opportunity that we, we, I think pretty successfully were able to achieve.
  13. Leek: Yeah, I think that’s a great example. I’ve been thinking about this question a lot too over the past, um, you know, the rec-near history, I guess of another example of a change in a platform that may end up having a significant impact on communication and that might be the change to the number of Twitter characters that someone can use in their Twitter post. I wonder if, uh, political communications might be a lot different right now if people were more limited in what they could say in Twitter?
  14. Luechtefeld: Right, well, and you know, I, I, I think, you know, that all of these changes are, of course, a two-way street. You know, I think the, the expansion of the character limit in Twitter is a really good example of that, right? Um, now many of us, you know, we use Twitter for advocacy purpose, in particular, are really excited that we aren’t quite so limited. Um, and like I mentioned earlier, like, the opportunity to, you know, create Tweet threads in, in a really easy way, um, rather than having to number them and you know, kind of {unintelligible} your Tweets like you used to have to do have, have made it easier to create longer form content then we once could. Um, but at the same time, let’s not forget about when the, um, Twitter character limit was expanded, um, it was sort of piloted with a limited number of accounts and there were several, uh, Twitter accounts of, um, maybe prominent government officials, not naming any names, um, where suddenly, while we were all using 140 character tweets, they were sending 240 character tweets with some, um, pretty divisive rhetoric, right? So, um, on the one hand the technology has enabled, you know, organizations of all kind, profit, non-profit to really, um, do more and do better, but at the same time, you know, that welcomed other people who are maybe not harnessing the technology for the best purposes to, to have the {unintelligible}. So, you know, obviously these things are often a double-edged sword I would say.
  15. Leek: Yeah and I think it also highlights the importance of remembering that once you’ve started to learn about social media, you’re never done learning, right? It’s never enough to know how to use Facebook today, you’ve got to be willing to stay up on how to use Facebook and its changes tomorrow. And that goes for any of the different social platforms, uh, that exist or are going to merge in the future. I think that’ll be one of the challenges for anyone who wants to get into this industry.
  16. Luechtefeld: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right and I think, you know, that one of the things my students struggle sometimes is that, you know, they wanna, you know, sometimes they even take my class because they want to learn all the, sort of, theory, or they want to learn all the background, um, and, and, they wanna, sort of, commit it to memory and they want to use it in their job and they want to be ready to go, and I think there is value in that, but the reality is that you’re not just going to take one class and be able to learn it and know it, and, and, and do it, right? You are always going to have to be pushing yourself, you’re always going to have to be willing to read what’s happening in terms of trends and things like that and you’ve really got to be willing to try things out and see what works, because, you know, even in the past six months, Facebook has changed its algorithm to preferred content from your friends and individual students rather than brands. And, so the result ends up being that what worked really well for my brand six months ago isn’t what is working well for my brand now and so you always have to be nimble in that way and be willing to adapt.
  17. Leek: Well, since you’re headed in this direction anyway making some suggestions for how we should think about working with social media, um, I don’t wanna, I wanna be respectful of your time. So, let me just ask you to conclude today. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share with us sort of, I don’t know, five keys tips for how we should think about working with social media effectively.
  18. Luechtefeld: Sure and, and, you, you, you want to be mindful of my time, but you might have just opened up a Pandora’s Box because I could probably come up with a hundred different things. Um, especially things in the category of “if only I had known then what I know now.” Um, in five years from now I’ll say “oh gosh, how could I have been so naive back then.” But, I mean, I think the one thing, the first things I’ll say is that you have got to be really willing to fail fast. You know, with the way things change and the fact that technology is going to change more rapidly than the sort of reflecting published knowledge on it. You’ve got to be willing to try things out and, and, and learn from your mistakes. You can’t be afraid of, um, being perfect, uh, because if you do that, you are going to end up with sales content that doesn’t end up, um, being engaging, um, for the audiences you want to reach.

Um, um, the second thing I would say is, and this is somewhat related but, you know, there is all this rhetoric out there about, you know, you need to be data driven and you need to collect all the data and be looking at your data all the time. And I think that being driven by your data is less productive than being informed by your data. Um, and what I mean by that is the reality is, unless you are a, uh, huge marketing team that has unlimited resources, you aren’t’ going to be able to track every single metric, you not going to be able to look at your Facebook insights in a deep way every single day, you’re not going to be able to, uh, you know, do anything with the data you are collecting. And, so, from my perspective, it’s much more important to, to keep an eye on your data, to know what metrics or analytics are most important for your purposes, um, and to think deeply about what those metrics and the data you are collecting on them actually mean for your approach, right? It doesn’t do any good to collect a bunch of data and dump it in a spreadsheet if you’re not then going to, sort of, um, tweak the way you, sort of, approach your work and, and publish something on social media.

Um, the third thing I would say, and this is something I have really struggled with in my new role recently, is being willing to pay to play. Um, we were talking a minute ago about Facebook’s recent changes to the algorithm in which you’re not really seeing the same performance on brand pages, um, as you are with individual user content. Um, and, the, the reason for that is because, you know, Facebook and a whole series of the challenges it’s had recently, um, is, sort of, trying to course correct in its own way. But, the reality is, if you are a non-profit or if you are a, uh, company who is trying to engage audiences on social media, you can’t just publish and pray, right? You’ve really got to be willing to invest a little bit money. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money.  But, I think investing a little bit of money and resources into Facebook advertising and to promoting posts, um, into boosting video, things like that, um,  you end up with, uh, a much more significant, um, level of engagement then you would otherwise. But, at the same time, I would say, when you are willing to invest that it grows your audience and having that bigger audience also then begets better engagement rates. So, you know, it’s not, I’m not saying you need to spend $50,000 a month in Facebook advertising, um, but even if you are willing to spend, you know, a couple hundred bucks a month, I think that’s gonna go long way and it’s something that, um, especially in the non-profit section we are so hesitant to do, but it really will pay off in a big way.

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I think two other, uh, pieces of advice I could offer. Um, one is to really know your audience in a deep way. And when I say know your audience, I, I really mean, understand what their motivations are and what is driving the reasons for engagement on your site. Um, and that’s on your website, that’s on social media, that’s on email, like, it doesn’t matter which digital media platform you are talking about. I think it’s critical to, to really, sort of, think into the client journey or customer journey, um, and, and, and, to map that out in terms of audience’s persona. Right, so, you know, if I’m Uber, and I want to increase the number of people who are using my app to, you know, to do ride sharing or to use Uber Eats or something like that, knowing that my target demographic is, you know, 18-34 years old, living in a, um, you know, a major metropolitan area is a lot less helpful to me than if I can think about, you know, “This is Danielle. Danielle is a, uh, 24 year old graduate student who is, uh, living in the suburbs of a major city on the West Coast. She really, you know, doesn’t have a lot of disposal income, but she really is, um, eager to spend time with friends and balance the busy schedule that she has. All of that can help me understand what are the things that are motivating Danielle and how can I encourage the person that looks like Danielle to download the Uber app and use it, um, and to develop that {intelligible}. So, so, really knowing your audience in a deep way I think is critical and data can, of course, help with that.

Um, and then the last thing is probably the simplest thing and, and, thus maybe the thing I should have started with, but be patient. Sometimes it’s a long, slow trudge. Um, and there are other days where, you know, you don’t expect you’re going to see many results and then, boom, something really cool happens, and something goes viral and you get really excited. Um, don’t let the slow trudge detract you from being willing, to sort of, stick it out and, and, and, and wait for those bigger victories because they will come but it will require persistence and it requires patience, and, and, the reality is, we can talk about day about how to create the best content or how to develop the perfect audience for whatever it might be, but at the end of the day, there is no {intelligible}, right, and, and, and if we let the {intelligible} good, we’re never going to see the results we want. So, be patient. Um, you, know be willing to say “You know what. That didn’t work the way I wanted to, but that’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day.” Because you are always going to another chance to make it right and if you have that attitude, then you’ll be able to go the long haul in your career, uh, rather than very quickly getting discouraged by what can sometimes be an overwhelming and daunting process.

So, I mean, like I said, I could go on for days, but, uh,  I think those would be the five pieces of advice I would offer for folks who are either in the early stages of or considering a career in social media management.

D Leek: Sweet. Thank you so much, Sean. I really appreciate your insight and for sharing us your stories. I think it’s especially interesting to think about the context of social media use for a non-profit organization that actually has to represent a number of different constituencies with a lot of different messages. It sounds like your job is really complex and it sounds like you not going to be bored anytime in the future.

  1. Luechtefeld: If I ever I wanted to be, I’m not in the right role, that’s for sure.
  2. Leek: Right. Well, we really appreciate your time and I look forward to the next chance I get to have to speak with you.
  3. Luechtefeld: Cool. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

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