Overview of Social Media for PR

Fourteen weeks have come and gone in my Social Media for Pubic Relations course. I have one more week to go, as I’ll be presenting a social media plan for a magazine alongside my teammates, Kyle and Vince, this week. You know, putting everything we’ve learned all semester into one proposal and presentation. Considering Dr. Hether’s class was my first public relations and social media course, I’ve learned a lot for a decent PR foundation.

When I began graduate school this past fall, I only had a relative idea of what PR was. Prior to this class, I thought it was all about crisis management, but it’s so much more. PR is about continually overseeing and maintaining a good relationship between a business and its public. It is a meticulous job, as a PR practitioner must be careful of what is being said and how it is said. It is being ready to mediate relationships when things go awry, as well as to energize relationships when they go well. PR also overlaps with marketing, but instead of “shouting” at one’s publics, it involves two-way communication. With the rise in social media use, two-way communication is easier than ever (if done right) for PR practitioners.

One of the most useful things I can say I learned in this course was everything I read in the Groundswell. I’d recommend it to anyone or any business beginning to learn the nuts and bolts of utilizing social media from a public relations or marketing standpoint. I will forever have the concepts of the social technographics profile and POST ingrained in my head as well as the ideas of talking, listening, embracing, supporting, and energizing. My favorite is “energizing” because it makes PR so exciting. Furthermore, seeing these concepts applied onto case studies, papers, and projects we’ve done served as great hands-on work.

In addition to the Groundswell, I enjoyed the weekly themed lessons on a particular social media platform or how to leverage social media. For instance, my main social media has been Twitter and Facebook, along with some form of blogging. This class gave me a little taste of content curation (Pinterest, Storify), social photography (Flickr), location-based social media (Foursquare), and social media metrics/analytics (Klout, Tweetreach). That is, social media and tools I otherwise would have never tried or heard of. Seriously, I’ve never heard of Storify before this class. I don’t have much of an opinion on Storify, but at least I tried it.

Overall, it was a very beneficial and thought-provoking class and I can’t wait to dive deeper into public relations theory and application in my future courses.

Advertisements

Did Somebody Say ‘Crisis Communication’?

“If a conversation takes place on the Web and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it really happen?” –Brian Solis

This week’s PR lesson is on crisis communication. In this day and age of social media, the way businesses must approach a crisis has changed a lot and it’s up to these businesses to adapt successfully. As the quote by Solis implies, one small comment made on the web—whether negative or not—will be heard. If lucky, the comment can be harmless, but why leave it up to chance for the comment to go unchecked? That’s the key point and idea of how businesses should now manage any crisis. Be proactive rather than reactive.

The traditional crisis management plan involved responding to a crisis once the crisis already surfaced. Thus, in comes the PR team to settle down the uproar and assess the situation over time. The new model on the other hand, takes much of the concepts provided in the Groundswell—listening, talking, supporting, embracing, energizing—which is all rooted in the need for two-way communication. Instead of reacting to a crisis, Solis teaches businesses to plan ahead by listening to what’s being said about a business’s brand on the web. It’s all about preventing problems from turning into a full blown one. Even on a low budget this can be done by simply Googling the business brand and seeing what’s being said. By continuously tracking a conversation online, businesses can know what’s going on, respond to a comment when needed, and initiate a conversation, keeping customers engaged and happy.

I really like this concept of being “proactive” over being “reactive”. Solis makes a great point and it can be easily done. To take it up a notch, there are even sites like Trackur to give businesses more accurate data on what’s going on, on the web.

As a future PR practitioner, I hope to apply such concepts. Though the question I have that stems from crisis management is how to deal with problems of ethics. If a client you work for has a crisis, a crisis in which this business intentionally initiated that you don’t approve of, what do you then? Do you manage its crisis against your beliefs because it’s your job? This is just a thought I have had.  Happy crisis managing!

For further reading, check out Brian Solis’s article on crisis communication for the web.

Location-Based Social Media: Foursquare Reflection

For this week’s Comm 193 assignment, Dr. Hether made us create a Foursquare account and check-in to places for a few days. I was initially against it because 1) I like my privacy 2) I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere of interest this weekend since I’m confined to my apartment doing endless assignments. Still she insisted, so here I am.

In setting up Foursquare I first made sure only my peers could see me. Once I felt at ease, I jumped right in. As an individual, I still can’t get pass the creepy stalking capabilities of the application. Upon starting up the app on my phone, I checked in at my apartment. Before you start, I know checking in from your home is a bad idea, but for the purpose of this assignment I had to check in somewhere, knowing I wasn’t really going anywhere else. Kyle, my only classmate that followed me within the hour of my friend request, also checked-in somewhere around the same time.

Now for those who don’t know, Foursquare has a map that shows your exact position and gives a list of nearby places. It also shows the profile picture of the friends you follow on the map IF they checked in pretty recently. Kyle’s photo was on the map fairly close to me, which makes sense since we were still lingering around campus. I have nothing against Kyle. He’s a good guy, but to be able to see him in my proximity was a bit too much. The whole concept seems to only invite trouble. Of course this is just my preference for privacy. I know social media is supposed to bring people closer, but I don’t want to be that close.

Yes, you can control who follows you, but I don’t need to know where my friends are 24/7 and vice-versa. Then there are those moments where an acquaintance adds you, but you don’t want to accept but have to or they’ll get mad. If you become guilt-ridden like I would because of social media courtesy/ethics, you’d accept. Now you have an acquaintance you don’t know too well tracking you. Peachy.

As an individual, I don’t see the appeal but I can see why businesses like restaurants would thrive off of it. By having people check-in, businesses can get an idea of what time of day people come in and who is coming in. By having a lot of check-ins, businesses can also become potential hotspots, receiving even more business. In addition, those using Foursquare can add a status or photo to their check-ins and write a tip about the business, reflecting why they are at a particular business. Therefore there’s a lot businesses can learn about their customers. But unlike Yelp, people can’t write long reviews giving a detailed reason why the business is a good place to go to. Yelp has a check-in option and offers promotions just like Foursquare, so I wonder how people decide which app to use. Personally, I find Yelp more useful for an individual, but perhaps not for a business.

Regardless, I don’t use either service much so I’m the worst demographic to target. Still, if location-based social media works, let it work!

Social Media Metrics: Reflections

Prior to last week’s class discussion of social media analytics and metrics, I had only a general idea of its value and what it was used for. The only time I heard of the term was in an online Adobe Dreamweaver course I took a year ago; I had to insert Google Analytics into a website I created. Being an online class, I never thoroughly understood what it was for except to observe the kind of traffic my website was receiving. My lesson was brief so I didn’t think much of it, although I did know Google Analytics was important and beneficial. I just didn’t understand why.

In terms of social media, I now know why. In class, Dr. Hether discussed the four components of social media metrics: exposure, engagement, influence, and action. I found these concepts interesting, especially when using a platform like Twitter.

Coincidently the day before Dr. Hether’s lesson, I had the idea of metrics in the back of my mind without even realizing it when I attempted to promote a tweet. For those who don’t know me that well, I’m a web editor for a new online literary magazine that showcases stories, essays, poetry, and art pieces that people have submitted and the magazine has selectively published. The newest issue was released last Monday and I wanted to reach as many people as I could. I tweeted the link once, keeping in mind the best hashtags to use. One of the essayists saw my link and retweeted me, adding how excited she was to have her essay included. I did the same to her tweet by adding my own commentary.

I then asked myself, how could I reach more people? Since I followed a lot of comic writers, who in turn have fans that are aspiring creative writers in general, I reached out to one of my favorite writers, Scott Snyder.

Scott is a rising star in the comic world, but aside from this, he’s a creative writing teacher at two colleges. Having followed him for a while, I know he’s passionate about helping writers break into the business. Considering he has 28.9K followers, I figured I could reach more people if he retweeted me. Therefore I tweeted him with this exact tweet: Can I get a RT to showcase some great writers and poets? Your aspiring writer fans can submit pieces too (link).

Hours later, he retweeted me. Though what made it greater was that he didn’t simply press the retweet button. He actually typed out “RT” and shortened my tweet so that his profile picture showed rather than mine. Thus, people reading his tweets from “lists” would still see his retweet. By putting his face on the tweet, it gave my tweet more authority. From there, three of his fans retweeted him.

Now how many people my tweet reached and influenced through Scott’s retweet, I can’t say, but it’s definitely interesting to think about. From this incident with Scott and from Dr. Hether’s lesson, I’m more excited than ever to use social media metrics and analytics. While I didn’t necessarily look at the metrics of my tweet with Scott using an actual service like Google Analytics or Klout, I told the story only to reflect on the concepts of metrics.

Comm 193: Live-Tweeting Assignment

Here is the link to my live-tweeting of the PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco that occurred last month. It’s pretty long since I tweeted the whole day, so prepare yourself. To anyone unfamiliar with PRSSA, it stands for Public Relations Student Society of America. Enjoy!

Content Curation

When it comes to content curation platforms, I don’t see them having much benefit for companies looking for a social media strategy at this point in time. Platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest, Storify, and Delicious don’t yet compare to the opportunities that Facebook and Twitter can provide. Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge on content curation platforms, but they aren’t appealing to me as PR or marketing tools.

Content curation is all about collecting, rather than producing. Take Tumblr and Pinterest for example. Both platforms are known for its reblogging and re-pinning features (pictures, quotes, music, small blurbs). If an individual likes something they’ve read or seen, they collect it by reblogging it onto their Tumblr or Pinterest board. I can’t say too much for Pinterest since I don’t use its services, but the way I perceive it, there are thousands of Tumblrs out there that are just collections. In other words, there is nothing original or substantial. Of course, this negative outlook on Tumblr stems from me being a creator. I use my Tumblr as an actual blog for introspection and as a place for creativity. The majority of people I follow are those that provide original content, allowing me to learn from them, think about what has been said, and be inspired. I, and the people I follow, are exceptions.

Without a doubt, Tumblr and Pinterest works well for individuals. That is, both are good sources of entertainment (and maybe even inspiration) for users. However they aren’t as effective for companies. That’s not to say they are ineffective period, but they aren’t universally beneficial for every company. Content curation on these platforms is more about personal branding. Fashion, photography, publishing, and media companies work best with Tumblr and Pinterest since reblogging helps spread their brand to a wider audience. Nevertheless, Tumblr and Pinterest falls short in that dialogic communication is limited. In addition, they are audience specific. While Pinterest sways more toward women, Tumblr focuses on a younger crowd.

Platforms like Delicious and Storify are a different story. Unlike Tumblr and Pinterest, Delicious mainly reblogs news and articles. Though I do like the idea of content with more substance, I’m not sure how companies would use Delicious. Therefore, it’s not much different from Tumblr or Pinterest as another branding ploy. I have less to say about Storify. It is a good PR and marketing research tool for companies to see who’s tweeting about them and what kind of response they’re receiving. Still, I don’t see Storify lifting off any time soon or having other usages.

Overall, while content curation platforms are fun and entertaining for individuals (especially collectors), they aren’t too helpful for companies at large at the moment. Perhaps that will change later down the line, but I find they’re still steps behind Facebook and Twitter, which can be used to listen, talk, energize, support, and embrace.

Personal Branding: Good or Bad?

In today’s world of social media, personal branding has become an interesting and debatable concept. Individuals now have to be aware of their online image because consequently, potential employers can find incriminating information that can affect an individual’s employment. To this end, personal branding may appear negative as people become comparable to products ready to be sold. Yet despite these images, I don’t think personal branding is a bad thing in this day and age. Sure, more caution must be taken in what material we publish about ourselves, but in some ways, it levels the playing field for people seeking out the same positions.

As an introvert with little work experience under my belt, finding a job or even securing an interview after receiving my B.A. was difficult. I’ve look at my resume and become demoralized. I can’t get a job because I have no experience. I can’t gain experience because I can’t get a job. It’s a Catch-22. Though with social media and the idea of personal branding making headway, my situation has looked up.

I’m an avid Twitter user and in the two years between the end of my undergraduate days and the start of my graduate ones, I’ve been building my brand. In a face-to-face situation, my brand is indistinguishable in the first, second, or even third meeting. Shy, I have the inability to formulate what I want to say. I make the worst first impressions. While I may have trouble articulating things aloud, I have no trouble at all writing it down. That’s because I’m a writer.

In comes Twitter. I’m able to brand myself with my words, both in my brief bio and my tweets. Though I’m a writer, I’m actually more than that. I brand myself as a running and fitness fanatic and a literature enthusiast (from classics to mysteries, from philosophy to comics). In addition, I engage in conversations with runners and writers. My tweets also give me a personality, such as being witty and a workaholic (as described by friends). Building my brand has been useful, going so far as being offered a staff writer position because of what I tweeted and the blog link attached to my profile.

Thus I’ve found that personal branding can be beneficial, but it’ll depend on the industry you want to work in and the type of person you are. The way I see it, each of us have always possessed a brand. It just wasn’t as easily accessible and visible face-to-face as it is today online.

I agree with William Arruda and Chris Brogan that we need to make ourselves stand out and manage our own careers. As Brogan writes, “A personal brand gives you the ability to stand out in a sea of similar products. In essence, you’re marketing yourself as something different than the rest of the pack”. Seth Godin takes a different standpoint. He says we shouldn’t see ourselves as brands, but as people. He dislikes “branding”, but what he does emphasize is that we’re entering a world where we can be people again. What I take from this is that personal branding, regardless of the term, is now about being who you genuinely are, not what you want yourself to be. Godin may be slightly cynical to the phrase “branding”, but he does stress the same idea that Arruda and Brogan employ.

Social Photography

As a public relations practitioner, you may be expected to take photos for the client you work for. Professional or not, you’ll have to do it and now is a better time than later to do so. That’s why this week’s PR assignment is to learn social photography by taking at least 3-5 photos, taking into consideration the framing, the background, alignment, and overall composition. We also had to make a Flickr account and understand its functions.

Because I went home for the weekend, I was able to play around with my brother’s old Nikon D60. Please note that I have no expertise in photography, nor do I know how to use such a camera. Rather than use the lens the camera originally came with, my brother suggested I use this other lens which allows me to play around with the aperture, causing a more artsy effect by blurring.

What I’ve learned is that I’m terrible at framing. I took quite a lot of shots. It was a little frustrating as well that the camera kept auto-focusing on the wrong spot. I was told later how to manually do it though. I definitely don’t have the artistic vision, so I’ll stick with writing and running. Regardless, it was a fun experiment. I’m sure clients that need you to take pictures for them don’t expect something overly spectacular, but knowing how to do a simple and decent job is a plus.

In terms of Flickr, the site is really easy to use. Uploading is made simple by either dragging photos in or going directly to your folders and selecting the one you want. Flickr offers quick edit options as well through a partner company called Aviary. You don’t have to make an Aviary account. It’ll just open up within Flickr and you can do basic edits such as cropping and changing the orientation of the photo. I don’t know what companies can do with Flickr, but I imagine they can use it as a hosting site for their event photos or give a chronological history of their company through pictures.

Below are a few pictures I took while I was at home. You can find additional photos on my Flickr page.

Palm Tree

Palm tree in my backyard

Lemon

Lemon Tree

Diving Board

Diving board

Green Lantern vs. Trunks

Green Lantern vs. Trunks

Literature Books

Literature books

Medals

My running medals

Magazines and Social Media: Runner’s World

For this week’s post, I’m looking at how a consumer magazine is using social media: what platforms are being utilized, what information is being provided, and how successful and social the magazine is in relaying its messages and interacting with its publics. I’ve chosen to focus on Runner’s World.

Runner’s World (RW) has many platforms. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr and has forums and multiple blogs. Beginning with the first three, there is very little dialogic communication that occurs. Tumblr just posts pictures of their magazine covers, beautiful running-related pictures, or pictures with running-related mottos and quotes. While this is fun to look at occasionally, there’s not much going on there.

Facebook and Twitter pretty much post the same information: links to articles, blog posts by fellow RW employees, quotes, tips, and basically everything you’d expect from a running magazine. RW occasionally asks questions, like what was your favorite sign you’ve seen during a race, to engage its public. There are many fans that comment, “like” Facebook posts, and retweet amazing, motivational stories provided by RW, but RW doesn’t reply. Rather, it just spills out information and the public responds. I find the employment of these social media platforms okay and mediocre. The stories provided are interesting and inspirational, but RW could use more two-way communication to pump runners up. However, RW does make up for the lack of dialogic communication in different ways.

Though RW’s twitter is only informational, it does direct you to employee twitters or another division of RW. For instance, RW directs you to RW columnist Alex Hutchinson, who provides information on the science of running and will reply to any questions. He also has his own blog on the RW website. RW also has the twitter account @RWHalf, where people can talk about the Runner’s World half marathon in Pennsylvania. So while the general RW social media platforms are mainly informative, you can find twitter accounts that are catered to certain areas like health and training, which are more dialogic.

In addition, RW does blogs really well. Instead of having one blog, it actually has a specialization of blogs. There is a blog for beginners, trail running, nutrition, blogs where you can asks questions, and so forth. You can find them here. These are helpful as you can narrow down which blog you actually want to read about. Some of these bloggers have twitter accounts as well, so you can go and talk to them directly. Aside from blogs, there are also forums on the RW website, which have different categories. There, fellow runners help each other out and share stories.

Being the biggest and leading running magazine company, I think RW does a good job. It’s not excellent, but if you’re a running fanatic, you’re probably following their social media to be hyped up and motivated by reading such articles like this and reading tips. If they want to really chat with other runners, RW does direct them to the right people. It just takes a little more work to find, but it’s not that difficult.

The only other running magazine I can compare RW to is Running Times, which has a Facebook,  Twitter, and a few employee blogs. Running Times utilizes Facebook and Twitter the same way, however they have less activeness by fans. While Running Times has about 27 likes on a Facebook post, RW will have likes in the thousands. Though this may have to do with Running Times being a much smaller magazine. The blogs on Running Times aren’t specific either like how RW has a blog for such topics as tips, nutrition, and trail running. Running Time blogs are more general.

Thoughts on The Social Network

Last Thursday, my Social Media for PR class viewed The Social Network. Before I share my thoughts on the movie, I would like to point out that prior to the class screening, I have never seen the movie, nor do I know much about Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook’s history. Though I do know general information.

What stood out to me right off the bat was how Zuckerberg was portrayed as a completely arrogant and socially inept prodigy programmer. Despite hearing from others that the real Zuckerberg can be a little condescending and—to sugar coat it—a jerk, it’s hard to believe the CEO of Facebook can be that cruel and condescending to virtually everyone he comes into contact with. Clearly for Hollywood purposes, his social awkwardness and mannerisms are an exaggeration. Though what I can believe is that he is a gifted programmer and innovator with a true understanding of communication and connections. No one can create a “social” networking site without understanding how and why people communicate and for what possible end goal. This leads me to my next thought.

Though Zuckerberg was portrayed as overly arrogant (although I don’t doubt some of his arrogance), what the movie stressed through this arrogance was his steadfast belief of Facebook’s mission as stated in Wired magazine in 2010: making the world open. In the movie, everyone involved with Facebook was concerned about the profits except for Zuckerberg. The Winklevoss twins and Narendra were angry not just with Zuckerberg stealing their Harvard Connection idea, but the potential for the idea to make millions. In addition, Eduardo Saverin as CFO immediately wanted to include advertisements to make money after Facebook was launched. Then there were others in the movie that saw no potential in a social network at all, which is remarkable to think about considering the way Facebook has changed advertising, marketing, and public relations. However, that is a whole other matter.

In the lawsuit that ensues in the movie with all three parties (Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss and Narendra, and Saverin), Zuckerberg states in front of his accusers and lawyers that he doesn’t care about the money, but for Facebook to connect people in ways still unimaginable. He insults everyone in the room, stating they are too foolish to see the bigger picture. This emphasis on the mission rings true for the real Zuckerberg. Even with Facebook going public in the past year and decreasing in stock value, Zuckerberg firmly states Facebook does not exist to please investors, but to achieve its mission. From what I remember, the speech was very blunt. Regardless of how arrogant he may be in real life, I like that he’s truthful (to an extent) and dedicated to the idea. That, I believe, is what the movie did well. At the same time, I think that was also the take-home message: How a simple site like Facebook catapulted us into the modern era of Web 2.0.