In this week’s reading, we’re taught how to “energize” consumers in the groundswell. That is, learning how to locate enthusiastic consumers (or convert those unhappy consumers to happy ones) in order for them to pass on a company’s positive image through word of mouth. According to the Groundswell, creators and critics play a critical role. They are the ones who will be doing the talking, and at little cost for a company if done right.

I find energizing to be the most interesting strategy in utilizing the groundswell because it just makes sense. In today’s world of social media, people are always talking, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or reviews. There are opinions, both good and bad. Though it’s important to be aware of the bad press, therefore having to “listen” and “talk” to the groundswell to mediate a crisis, being aware of the good press is just as important. In this day of reblogging, retweeting, and sharing links, digital “word-of-mouth” methods are the key to spreading and uplifting a company’s image. What’s even better is that it takes little effort and is cost-efficient in the long run. Assuming a company is already utilizing the groundswell to talk and listen to consumers, energizing can be seen as an added bonus.

In the case of eBags, they energize their consumers by encouraging those who have purchased their products to write up a review. If there are any bad reviews or a consumer contacts eBags directly with complaints, eBags makes sure to compensate those consumers with new bags or fix their problems. With such great customer service, consumers may then reciprocate by writing an enthusiastic review on both the service and/or product. Other consumers will then read those reviews, decide to make a purchase, and perhaps may even write their own review. It’s an endless cycle of energizing.

Another way to energize according to the Groundswell, is participating in online communities of your brand’s enthusiasts. In the case of Adult Fans of Legos (AFOLs), they started their own community, with no ties to the actual company. Rather then Lego having to start its own community and try to get those enthusiasts to move on over, it worked with the self-made community and created a Lego Ambassador program. The most influential of the AFOLs would then be selected as Lego Ambassadors, who worked with Lego to improve and design new products. I found this way of energizing important because the Groundswell teaches companies not to start a community if one already exists. That would only be a waste of resources. Therefore a company should use the Social Technographics Profile to locate their consumers, analyze their situation, and move forward from there on how they approach their energizing.

Overall, energizing is a great idea and can even be done on a small scale. For example, I’ve mentioned that I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. They of course, tend to tweet their works, retweet reviews of their works, and initiate conversations with their fans, which include such people as bloggers, reviewers, and other writers. As a result, these fans will sometimes retweet these writers in excitement, spreading those tweets to their own friends. This then increases the chance of a potential new fan to discover the work of the writer and give it a try. It’s amazing that such a domino effect can happen with a simple tweet or review.


Twitter Observation: Politician vs. Entertainer

For any readers outside of my class, this week’s PR assignment was to follow the Twitter accounts of a politician and an entertainer, and compare their feeds.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t follow politics. I know I should, but I haven’t yet gotten into the habit. Therefore my choice of politician is based on basic knowledge I know and a little bit of randomness rather than keen interest and activism. So who is the lucky politician? Cue the drumroll… it’s Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom! And as a juxtaposition, I’ve chosen late night host and comedian, Conan O’Brien.

I’ve mainly focused on the tweets that have been made available in the past week, although I’ve also glossed over older tweets to get a better picture of what kind of topics they tweet about and what their twitter persona is like.

Newsom tweets about what event (conferences, benefits) he is currently at to promote change and awareness in California. As of late, the majority of his tweets are about education and college tuition fees. For instance, he mentions the UC Regents meeting and expresses how frustrated he is that there are no alternatives to prevent a tuition increase if Prop 30 fails to pass:

He also retweets statistics and other people that are covering the meeting, doing a kind of mini live-coverage of the Regents meeting. In addition, he tweets about his campaign against bullying in San Francisco schools and promotes College Track, an afterschool program that works to increase high school graduation, college eligibility and enrollment, and college graduation rates. All his tweets, including retweets, reflects how important education is to him and emphasizes his wish that something needs to be done immediately.

Observing Newsom’s twitter feed as a whole, it appears he doesn’t reply to any tweets. I wonder why this is. Aside from the fact that he is a busy man, I assume it has to do with media control. That is, to prevent any misunderstanding he may have with a fellow follower, causing a political uproar. Regardless, I’m surprised how often he tweets. It’s not a lot, but it is more than one a day, and you can tell it’s really him who tweets and not someone working for him. Overall, his twitter serves to  send a message of awareness, keep people informed about policies in education, and to express a few opinions. Though there were a few tweets about Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Night Rises, and Looper, which I found to be outliers.

In contrast, Conan only posts one tweet every single day, with the occasional two related tweets to finish his thought. His tweets are basically witty one-liners or short jokes. Most of his tweets poke fun of recent current events (whether political, social, economical, etc.), although a good majority of them are jokes made at his own expense. He also attaches photos from time to time of himself being silly.

Just like Newsom, Conan does not reply to anyone. It seems the purpose of his twitter account is to only entertain, with his tweets having the appearance of having been planned out and scheduled ahead of time. I’ve often wondered if he himself is actually tweeting. Aside from the tweets in which he talks about himself, I’m sure he has writers on the side composing his funny one liners.

Looking at the Twitters of both Gavin Newsom and Conan, neither of them seem to utilize Twitter as a two-way interaction between themselves and their followers. While Newsom uses his twitter to inform and promote his politics, Conan’s twitter exists to provide a joke a day and make light of current events.

Listening Strategies

This week’s reading of the Groundswell focuses on how companies can utilize the groundswell for research. More specifically, it’s about listening to what consumers have to say and how that can impact the company both negatively and positively. The book offers two different strategies for listening: setting up a private community and brand monitoring.

Of the two, I feel the setup of private communities is the most useful. The book makes a great point that traditional marketing research tools, such as surveys and focus groups, don’t give any insight. They may be good for mapping trends and answering questions, but these tools do not tell companies anything about what consumers really think and how they feel about a particular product or company. For instance, surveys may tell a company how much of something consumers are buying, but not why they are buying it. It does not reveal underlying factors, which may sway consumers to choose one product over another.

By setting up a private community, a forum within your own company, it brings together people with a common interest or concern. A company member may initiate the forum, but the consumers are the ones that will talk amongst each other. How they talk and what they talk about will depend on the company/product, but in the end, it becomes a more natural focus group. Today, with many people using the Internet for information, it makes sense that they may stumble onto a forum and perhaps even participate. Whether they are spectators or critics, there will be chatter, which will then produce unforeseen revelations a company can work with.

And while a company has to seek out participants in a traditional focus group, I find there is a higher chance that those who join private communities come of their own volition and willfully participate. To me the private community, if executed successfully, holds a lot of potential for companies to benefit from, save money, be efficient, and connect to their publics.

The idea of brand monitoring is also a good tactic, but I don’t think it gives as much insight as private communities. I see brand monitoring as just an extension of survey and focus group techniques with the addition of analyzing emotional sentiment. It’s only great for seeing trends, picking up any PR crises and minimizing the effects, and understanding how a buzz about a product is shifting. Brand monitoring is a good start, but it can’t offer anything under the surface.

Regardless of which strategy is more useful and which one companies will use, listening in general makes way for both finding out the root of a problem and stimulating inspiration for marketing changes. That is a fact that cannot be ignored.

I now leave you with my final thought on this chapter. When all is said and done of listening and marketing, where does the public relations officer fall into this groundswell method? How do you decipher between the public relations officer (who wants to maintain mutually beneficial relations between client and their publics) and the marketing researcher (who wants to generate sales)? I hope to have this question answered over the course of the semester.

Tapping into Web 2.0

As discussed in the previous post, there are many social media outlets that the average individual can choose from. However, what about companies? How can they begin to utilize social media to bring forth consumers and be part of Web 2.0? According to the Groundswell, two ways: the Social Technographics Profile and POST (People, Objective, Strategy, and Technology).

Taking together the Social Technographic Profile and POST, I thought I’d apply it to two types of writers I follow on Twitter and see whether they promote their works effectively. The first is a novelist and the second, a comic writer. Lets assume that both are virtually unknown. That is, they’re not popular as say Stephen King.

The Novelist:

I did not follow the novelist on Twitter, but rather she followed me, probably based on computerized mumbo-jumbo that took into account my profile stating I’m a “Literature enthusiast” and the fact that I follow writers. Out of curiosity, I followed her back to see what she had to offer. Suffice to say, I was not impressed. All she does is autotweet the same generic advertisement of her novels. The purpose of her twitter is to sell her novel, which is fine, but she does not apply POST. The first three steps are very important here. How she targeted me was purely random, not taking into consideration what genre of books I may be into, but that I liked books overall. She doesn’t realize that I may also be a blogger who likes to write reviews. Her objective may be to sell books, but her strategy is nonexistent. She doesn’t try to establish a relationship with followers like me in any way. And it’s obvious she doesn’t read our tweets from time to time to figure us out and how she can cater her twitter to us. There’s no communication at all. Her tweets don’t acknowledge her thousands of followers and in turn, followers don’t read her tweets. She seems to only utilize O and T, which is ineffective. Of course, this is all speculation and I’m sure some of her followers may pick up her novels. But me? I ignore her tweets. In fact, I don’t know why I continue to follow her. Time to unfollow, perhaps.

The Comic Writer:

Unlike the novelist, I chose to follow this writer first, but for a specific reason. For anyone curious, he doesn’t write for DC Comics or Marvel, which comes with them stature and decent living, but a smaller company called Image. The only reason I knew of him was because I read a short article about his new comic book about Peter Pan in WWII. Being a Peter Pan fan, I blogged about the series and my anticipation. I then tweeted the title and link of my blog post. Days later, this same writer retweeted me and tweeted me directly, thanking me for blogging about his comic and hoping that I enjoyed it when it came out. I was impressed. He was actually searching tags about his comic and making an effort to promote it. I followed him after this incident to see what he had to offer.

This writer definitely applies POST and considers his audience. He doesn’t follow thousands of random people. He follows fellow comic writers, artists, reviewers, bloggers, and the like who can help him. The people are the fellow writers and reviewers I mentioned, but the people also consist of his fans. His objective is to market himself by talking and listening to both groups. His tweets don’t simply say, “Buy my comic!” He tweets sneak previews, sends us to his blog that go in depth about the process, engages his fans by making them excited, pitches other writers, gives advice to aspiring writers, and better yet, he talks directly to his fans. His strategy is therefore to energize writers and fans alike, and get feedback. By applying POST, Twitter (and blog posts) works for him. I’m now a huge fan and promoter of his works.

Granted these writers are different, being from different genres, but how they use their Twitter to market their work was important to me.

Social Networks: Why use them?

Remember the simpler days when you only had social media outlets such as Blogger or LiveJournal to communicate and express your thoughts? Better yet, remember when the internet never existed and you quietly wrote in a tangible journal that no one ever read? I sure do. Today, we’re bombarded with a million social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. How do we choose which to use and why use them at all?

Today’s world is that of ongoing, immediate information technology. If you don’t try to learn at least one type of social network, even loosely, you’re at a disadvantage. You fall behind socially, worldly, and well, economically. So which do I use? Too many, and all for different reasons:

Facebook – I opened up a Facebook account as a freshman in college because it was new and everyone was using it. It was a way of keeping in contact with all my friends from home who went to different colleges. It was also a way to meet new college friends and peers, by contacting them about homework, sharing stories, or setting up events. Today, I use it mainly and minimally to keep in contact with family and friends.

Twitter– Twitter is currently my favorite social network. I use it to reach out to three groups: runners, fiction writers, and comic writers/artists/enthusiasts. I follow fellow runners to swap advice and gain motivation. I follow writers in general to understand the process and development of a piece of work. It’s basically a learning process for me as well as an inspiration. In terms of comic writers and artists, I’m just a fan of their work and like to see what’s in store for the near future. However, I do interact with some writers with the hope of building my professional network. What’s great about Twitter is that I can choose who I want to follow and what topics interest me. I only have a handful of friends I follow, unlike Facebook, where I typically ignore everything on the news feed.

Tumblr – I created a Tumblr during my unemployment days to practice my writing and keep busy. My tumblr focused on literature and writing related topics. It became a way to network and sympathize with other writers.

DeviantArt – This one is recent. I use it to post original short stories I’ve written to get feedback, read other works, and network with writers.

LinkedIn – This is my professional version of Facebook where I keep in contact with former coworkers or peers in similar fields.

And there you have it! Aside from Facebook, which I use solely for keeping in contact with people I know, I utilize the other social networks to find people with similar interests and people who can help me better myself in my desired profession. I’m basically all business, with a need to gain knowledge and support in my field. Growing up, I’ve been surrounded by family and friends who are involved in the hard sciences, so social networking became a way for me to find people more like me. And that’s why social media is so important.

Social media brings people with similar interests and goals together with ease. There are no excuses for being passive about networking. Everything is a click away. What I find interesting is not how social media can bring family and friends together, but company and customer, celebrity and fan, etc. Take Twitter for example. I’ve been able to talk to a few writers I admire on a professionally intimate level rather than post comments of adulation.

Of course, social media has its drawbacks: information overload, frequent consumer dissatisfaction and therefore a decrease in company credibility, and the inability for people to communicate face-to-face. It’s a trade-off, but that’s why I’m interested in public relations. I want to understand social media to use it effectively, both for myself and for the industry I work for. Happy networking, everyone.