November 18, 2009

Definition

Posted in Social Media at 9:21 pm by R

Being that the field I’m now in is relatively new (it didn’t exist when I graduated college), there’s the issue of definition. It’s been stated here before that there is no “expert” in social media, and I maintain that’s true.

So, the thing to do then, is to define what we who practice in the field of social media actually do.

Like a Wikipedia entry, it’s my sense that this will be an evolving definition, made richer with the various contributions of other as we collectively discover the many facets this new communications industry covers.

Social media isn’t all that different from the traditional definition of PR, which according to my PR 101 professor is:

To build and maintain relationships.

When we are called to be community managers in the social media space, we are building relationships. When we work to engage on an ongoing basis, we maintain. But social media extends well beyond this definition, not because it’s a broader field, but because we are called to master so many tools.

A lot of social media “experts” offer Twitter strategies, Facebook strategies, blogging strategies, etc. But that’s getting too granular to really be effective (which, coincidently is probably how “experts” are earning a bad rap). Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Ning, YouTube, Flicker, you name it, they’re all tools to execute a strategy. And therein lies the real calling and the real challenge: Keep it strategic, don’t be a tool…er, don’t get caught up on a tool.

What’s my definition for social media practitioners/strategists?

One who is tasked with building and maintaining communities, inspiring engagement, creating meaningful interactions and conversations based in the scalable publishing technologies; listening, evaluating and learning from interactions and commentary; continually evaluating strategy to ensure network growth, engagement and resonance to achieve measurable goals.

Sounds nice…but I’m sure tomorrow it will be different. That’s the beauty of this gig!

What would you add to this definition?
~R

November 4, 2009

A one horse (read:paper) town

Posted in In the news, Media, Uncategorized at 8:12 pm by R

Phoenix, Arizona is the fifth largest city in the U.S. of A. It is now also a very large metropolitan area served by only one newspaper. As of December 31, 2009 the East Valley Tribune will cease to exist.

I’ve written here about papers closing, but not until today did I understand the impact these closures have on the cities they served.

You see, the East Valley Tribune served a significant niche of the Valley. Phoenix is Phoenix. Then there’s the East Valley. It’s a huge portion of the metro area population. It’s a huge portion of the population which is at risk for being journalistically under served.

And while this concerns me, there’s a bright side. Metro Phoenix is also home to some innovative journalists who have launched various news blogs to fill in the blanks and fill in the gaps like City Circles and the Zonie Report and of course Arizona Notebook.

Perhaps this is simply the way of things to come/it already is: hyper-local news accessible via well-written blogs courtesy of (many times) journalists and reporters given the slough off from failing publications.

And while those sites continue to grow and newspapers figure out what their future is, I guess Phoenix is just a one-horse town, so to speak anyway…

Giddy-up.

~R

October 26, 2009

What’s Your Policy?

Posted in Social Media at 8:32 pm by R

Whether you’re a large corporation or a mom and pop shop, any business venturing into social media needs to have a policy.

  • Who is your spokesperson in social media?
  • What brands will you align yourself with (don’t kid yourself, people are interested in who you’re following if they’re following you)?
  • How will you respond to inaccurate commentary?
  • Negative commentary?
  • Will you friend/follow everyone who’s following you?

Yep. It’s a lot to think about. There’s a lot more strategy for entering into the social media playing field than coming up with a secure password!

So where do you even start? By stating your purpose.

Are you here to:

  • make friends
  • promote products or events
  • listen to conversation about your product/service
  • use social media as a customer service tool

Your purpose will drive your strategy.

For example, if you want to create a large following, your policy should probably be to accept as many followers as are interested in you and make it a habit to follow them back.

As another example, if you’re promoting products or events, make good use of your status updates/tweets and establish a minimum of posts for the day to stay at the top of a news feed.

Social media policies, like businesses, are all a little different. So simply borrowing ALL the ideas from someone whose done it before you might not be the best way to build your policy. What work well for one may be a total flop for another.

One thing that remains true as you create your own personal policy, remember that credibility, humility and authenticity (CHA) are paramount in your social media communication no matter what your policy dictates.

Cha-cha!

That’s right. If nothing else, do the Cha-CHA and you’ll be fine 🙂

~R

October 25, 2009

The value of status updates

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:11 pm by SD

Everyone, including me, loves the status update. In fact, a new Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that one in five Internet users use Twitter or some other service to share status updates about themselves. Unfortunately, status updates have turned into the ultimate tool to share mundane details about your life from what you are eating for breakfast to what you just watched on TV. This is a perfectly acceptable use of a status update if you are a college student. However, if you are a professional doing this, you are throwing away a valuable opportunity. For you, the status update is the ultimate expert positioning tool.

How do you use the status update as an expert positioning tool? First, you must change the way you think of it. Status updates should answer the question “what has your attention?” rather than “what are you doing?” This opens up the door for you to:

  • Comment and link to a recent news article
  • Comment on a recent trend
  • Link to an article or blog post you just wrote
  • Mention an event you are speaking at or attending

The key to successful status updates is balancing self-promotion (e.g. links to articles you have written) with sharing relevant and valuable information (e.g. commentary on a recent news trend). It’s a tough balance to find but your network will tune you out if you only use status updates to promote yourself. However, if you continually provide them valuable information, they will view you as a thought leader and be more inclined to read your articles/blog posts and attend your events. So, next time you are thinking of Tweeting about the hot dog you ate for lunch, resist the urge and use the opportunity to comment on the recent hot dog trend.

~S

October 15, 2009

The Big Change

Posted in Our News at 9:30 pm by R

You may have noted over the past months that my posts have become increasingly focused on social media and its impact on communications. It’s true that I’m utterly fascinated with these new practices, their nuances, facets and ever-expanding capabilities. For this reason I’m taking my career in the direction of social media.

That’s right, I’m going to become a social media strategist! I’m very excited about the new position I’ve accepted and can’t wait to get my hands really dirty in all of this social media stuff.

Point being, expect that my posts will become even more focused on social media.

What I realize as I mentally prepare for my new job is that at the very heart of social media still lies the simple principles of communication. The pipelines are more sophisticated and the pace is faster, but it all comes back to humans relating to humans. I think that if you are in public relations, that is probably why you got into the field — to help humans relate to one another.

So stay tuned, because Cut Me Some Flack’s scope just got broader … officially anyway. Denver PR Gal will hold down the agency fort with her breadth of experience and professional perspective and singular insight.  I’ll bring my new perspective working in social media to the table too. And A, well, she’s expecting a little bundle of joy in the form of a baby boy any day now (actually any minute since she was due today), so she’ll bring the new mom perspective — with her classic wit of course.

Perfect combo.

~R

October 10, 2009

The “I Need a Facebook Page” problem

Posted in Facebook, Social Media at 12:15 pm by SD

According to a recent research study by Citibank Small Business by GFK Roper, three-quarters of small business say they have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn helpful for generating business leads or expanding business in the past year. While I don’t know the exact reason for why small businesses aren’t finding their forays into social media successful, I have a hunch that they may be approaching it the wrong way. I like to refer to this as the “I need a Facebook page” problem that is plaguing small businesses across the world.

If I had a dollar for every time, I heard someone say “Our business wants to use social media so we set up a Facebook page,” I would be able to do a lot of shopping. Hearing this statement makes me visibly cringe especially when I ask them if any research has been conducted to see if their customers are using Facebook.

You can have the best Facebook page in the world but if you’re customers aren’t on Facebook, then it is a waste of valuable time and resources.

To all the small businesses out there, before you jump on the Facebook bandwagon, take some time to conduct a little research. And, I don’t mean spending a ton of money on a research study. Simply, ask yourself these critical questions:

1. What audience do I want to engage with online? Is it current customers? What is the demographic profile of this customer?

2. Where does this audience spend time online? Are they frequently using Facebook or Twitter? Are they reading blogs or visiting local social networks such as Yelp?

3. What message do I want to share with this audience?

4. What do I want this audience to do as a result of my business’ presence online?

Only after you have answered these questions, can you begin determining your strategy to engage in the online conversation. By not answering these questions, you are setting your social media campaign up to fail. Avoid the “I need a Facebook page right now” mentality and take the time to do your due diligence to find out where your customers are really spending time online. This approach will allow you to actually engage in the online conversation and be among the 25 percent of small businesses that are finding value from social media.

For some helpful tips on social media for small businesses, check out this Mashable article.

– Shannon

October 7, 2009

RIP: Saturn

Posted in Branding at 8:47 pm by R

Back in May, I discussed the serious brand issues General Motors was dealing with as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy and considered potentially selling off GM brands Hummer and Saturn. Well, it has come to pass that Saturn is having a stake put through its proverbial heart after a sale to Penske Automotive Group fell through.

Saturn had a lot of potential when it emerged as a subsidiary brand for GM. They wanted something fresh and totally different. And for a few seasons of cars, they delivered on that promise. But eventually, Saturn’s vehicles looked like any other GM model with a Saturn logo slapped on the grill.

Ultimately, Saturn (and GM) failed to deliver on the brand promise for Saturn. This I believe was the opportunity and the pitfall for the Saturn sale.

At the heart of Saturn were some really great characteristics: Innovation, personality, responsibility, fresh appeal and an air of “elevated every-man” if you will. These things were all assets to the potential buyer (Penske) in the possible sale of Saturn. But the outright betrayal on those brand promises would have required a serious investment to resuscitate the brand.

By no means am I saying this sale fell through because the brand was too damaged. Goodness no! Companies and their brands have recovered from much worse (a la Audi in the mid ’90s — That being said I’d totally rock a Q5 now, clean diesel of course). But if you have to look at all the aspects of a business as part of a significant purchase, a damaged brand has to go in the con list.

So the Saturn saga ends and an automotive brand is laid to rest.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from Saturn it’s the critical importance of remaining true to your brand characteristics in EVERYTHING you do.

Even as a subsidiary brand, it might have been a much different story if Saturn had insisted on honoring its own brand promises. The cars would have been different, the customer experience would have been different and, if Saturn found itself in the same situation it faced in March, the end could very well have been different.

So take a moment of silence in memory of Saturn, and go be true to your brand as a way of honoring the ringed planet’s automotive name sake.

~R

September 24, 2009

These days brands find you…even the wrong ones

Posted in Social Media at 7:02 pm by R

I just got a notice on Twitter that I’m now being followed by someone called “Mark V Tweezers.” It’s a tweezer company based out of Florida. They’re following 595 people, have 54 followers and three tweets.

“How on God’s green earth did you find me and why did you follow me?” I wondered upon reviewing the follow notice.

I quickly scanned recent tweets. Nope. Nothing about grooming my brows. Not even a reference to “pluck” — as in “moxie.” (Though those are both words I should work into my vocabulary more often.)

Nonetheless, this brand found me. But not strategically.

Social media is an opportunity to build relationships with customers in an incredibly intimate way — much more so than some glossy mailer I’ll immediately relegate to recycling without reading. But you have to build the right relationships to even have a chance at developing that intimacy.

So what are the strategic door-knockers for creating meaningful, intimate social media relationships between brand and consumer?

  1. Research your desired audience — Who is actually talking about you/your industry/your category/your competitors? People who care enough to talk about a product, problem, scenario, competitor etc. are more likely to care what you have to tweet (and not block you, like I plan on doing to “Mark V Tweezers”).
  2. Friends in common — Social media word-of-mouth is important. Examine who is following you. Then, take a look at who your followers are following. The reception is probably going to be warmer when you have network connections to vouch for you. Also, take the time to look at who your competitors are following and who their followers are. You want in on that conversation. Speaking of…
  3. Tap into conversation — Are you coming up in conversation? Join it. Bring those conversation-starters into your network.
  4. State your rationale — If you do choose to follow someone you have no connection to, tell the person why you want to hear what they have to say. My attitude about “Mark V Tweezers” might have been totally different if it had been followed up with a quick @ message like, “Enjoyed the link you tweeted about the new post on your blog. Good stuff!” Show me you’re paying attention and why I’m relevant to you and why your brand should be relevant to me.
  5. Check a map — I’m in Arizona. “Mark V Tweezers” is in Florida. I don’t plan on going to Florida any time in the near future. So how am I a relevant follow in terms of spacial relations? If you follow for marketing purposes, be sure to do so with regional appropriateness.

It is now the business of brands to find their audiences and engage them in social media, but it has to be thoughtful. Big, established brands have it a little easier their credibility is already there in many cases. Smaller mom-and-pop brands have to establish their credibility among the people they reach out to in order to obtain any significant benefit.

Quick recap: Research, be relevant, then follow.

~R

September 23, 2009

Trusted v. Untrusted

Posted in Industry Standards, Social Media at 9:40 am by R

A few posts back, I addressed the ethical ranking of public relations professionals. And frankly, we’re a morally solvent bunch. Though, there is an emerging crowd who have coined themselves as experts in social media…and their tactics for securing business are not so morally solvent.

These experts come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds — so beware.

For many, the question becomes how to find a social media resource you can trust. Here are a few red flags, in my opinion:

  1. One size does NOT fit all — businesses have different communications strategies to reach different audiences. Naturally, it follows that a company must have a completely unique  social media strategy (they’re like fingerprints really). Therefore, anyone offering social media success based on one platform or formula = suspicious.
  2. Tell me about your background — PR practitioner, communications director, digital media specialist or internet guru. GOOD. Knife salesman, personal assistant, travel agent = suspicious. Not to say that the latter examples don’t have some level of experience, but can they rock the strategic implementation?
  3. It’s a guarantee — if this person guarantees they will work hard to understand your business and deploy a social media strategy  customized to achieve specific business goals…GOOD. Promises a specific number of followers or any other metric = suspicious.

So how do you spot qualities in the ones you can trust? SmartBlog on Social Media @SBoSM put up a great post about some of the less tangible qualities one should consider in candidates as they build their social media team or select an outside vendor.

  1. PassionAndy Sernovitz (who authored the post) notes that this is something that can’t be taught or trained. Your team needs to have the proverbial fire in their bellies when it comes to your brand.
  2. Don’t measure candidates/agencies by number of followers — Sernovitz points out that any spammer can have a thousand followers overnight. I’d like to add to his thoughts here though — take a look at who your potential team member/agency is following and is followed by. Size up the quality of their network.
  3. Look for helpers — Because social media is as much a customer service tool as it is a communications tool, your team should be comprised of people who love to help people. Making meaningful information accessible and understandable for a variety of social media audiences is a big task not for the faint of heart. Your team should be equipped with the desire to learn (from good and bad experiences) and help make the social media experience with your brand even better.

The right team, either built internally or found externally, will be slightly different for every company. But any business looking to bring in social media minds ought to be aware of these criteria to find the right fit (re: Trusted v. Untrusted) and create success for their brand in social media.

~R

September 17, 2009

I’m not a creative director but…

Posted in Who was the advertising genius... at 10:02 am by R

Gabrielle Reese

Gabrielle Reese for Purevia

I’ve seen this ad a couple times in magazines I subscribe to and it drives me NUTS! I’m no creative director, but I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who finds it unappealing that this Purevia plant appears to be growing out of Gabby’s armpit. Ummm…gross!

And it’s the image for their home page…only animated! To me it looks like a very long, green armpit hair. Natural I can understand, but is this some subconscious hippie thing?

Just an observation. Am I alone on this one?

~R

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