In Users We Trust: Using social media APIs to build community

Sheri Lehman, Ben Cole | Chapman University 

In users we trust.
Our users are not only our target audience, its the people who use our web products — basically everyone. They read, comment, and share our content, but they also reinvent content, publish and fact check your content. Ultimately, they build community.

Our users want to hear honest, genuine stories.

To begin their process, Chapman University used several universities as inspiration for their social hub. They looked at Tufts University, William and Mary, and the Hamilton Scroll. What they came up with is Social.Chapman.edu.

Social.Chapman.edu
Their new social hub includes official and approved social media accounts from various departments and colleges on campus. In ten months, they collected 10,000 posts which averages about 30 posts a day–that’s a lot of content.

Their social hub was built in-house, using node.js and MongoDB. They’re pulling in content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress and Pinterest (when it wants to work).

They discovered much of the original content coming through their social networks was created on their blog network. Outside of that, Facebook and Twitter were just reposts/shares of links to other content. Chapman has a blog network of 15 blogs on WordPress of colleges/departments on campus. They decided to apply metrics to discover the level of engagement in three methods:

  • Pageviews: In order to get to the story, users had to decide to click on a link from somewhere.

  • Social Share: The users resonated with the content and chose to share with their friends and family.

  • Comment Count: Users will post a comment if they feel they have a personal connection with the topic the blog post is about.

Pulling the data together
Rank = Views + Social + Comments

Chapman created a WordPress plugin to pull the data together. They used a combination of Google analytics, Disqus.com, and sharedcount.com to connect nine social network APIs.

The display on the social hub is ranked by the data. Top stories get top billing on the layout, and little emphasis is given to where the story lives (ie Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). This encourages content owners to write great content because the popularity determines page placement. No one can force a story to the top.

Trust is a two way exchange, in order to get great content, you need to give up a certain level of control to give users more opportunity to participate. There is a fear of negative comments or posting inaccurate information, but many users are quick to come to the rescue and correct the incorrect information, or post positive comments to counter the negative. The users can do your job as moderator in a much more genuine way.

Photo Credit: Flickr user OpenSourceWay