strategic communication

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

Archive for the tag “Facebook”

Strategic Social Media

Happy Halloween! Are you celebrating offline and online? There are tons of companies taking advantage of posting Halloween themed messages on social media!

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Social media has made it easier for companies and organizations to connect with their consumers. One would think a public relations professional would have it easy, too, right? When you look closer at different company Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, you will see that most of the popular pages feature the company responding back to fans even in the latest hours of the day. Successful social media pages are those that are made up of strategic daily posts. Public relations professionals, as well as professional communicators, must constantly have access to all media sites to ensure customer satisfaction.

A story on Walmart costumes went viral this week when online users posted screenshots of Walmart’s official website that listed the category of “Fat Girl Costumes.” Post after post shared the image along with disdain from customers. The category has since been taken down, but the screenshots will live on the Internet forever. When Walmart was off of the cyber world for even a minute, this story spread before they could do anything to stop it. Walmart issued an official apology, and has been busy apologizing to individual users on its Twitter account. This issue was a result of negligence, and it was enough to make a wide audience angry. Someone representing Walmart is constantly updating the Twitter page and responding to each user’s tweets.

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Walmart’s Facebook page features select products that customers can comment on or share. I noticed that even a customer simply stating “I love this product!” will get a reply from an official Walmart representative. These representatives are trying to ignite conversations with customers in order to build that relationship between company and consumer. However, on each product picture, there are users who choose to post negative feedback. Sometimes the feedback has nothing to do with the picture posted, but Walmart still tries to respond by giving a link to their feedback site.

An article titled “Corporate Facebook Pages: When “fans” attack” states that “negative complaints, personal insults or incriminating gossip make far bigger impacts on us than do positive comments.” If a company is under fire for a negative post, product, or error, there will always be those who choose to hold on to it. It is important for strategic communicators to develop and sincere apologies, as well as make genuine connections with customers. Customers do not want to feel their complaints go unnoticed, and especially do not want to support a company who claims nothing bad ever happened. Listening comes into play on the Internet, even if it is a conversation through typing. If a customer has a complaint, it is the responsibility of a representative to completely read the complaint, interpret exactly what the issue is, think progressively on how to fix the issue and ensure it does not happen in the future, and then respond fully to the customer.

Companies do best when they have a unique branding strategy on social media. YouTube has become a popular site where videos go viral and are seen by millions of people around the world. These videos go viral because they are interesting, unique, entertaining, or attract the attention of taste-makers that will share it. Strategic communicators should want the best possible image for their organization on such a powerful platform. The possibilities for a viral video are endless. For example, Tom Dickson, the CEO of Blendtec, used YouTube to create a series called “Will it Blend?” where he places a variety of objects (including an iPhone) in his blenders, turns the blenders on, and watches what happens to the objects. There are enough people in this world willing to witness the destruction of valuable objects at their own amusement, and Dickson successfully got his name and his product out to the masses.

Will it blend?

Will it blend?

Strategic communicators must think about their products when posting on social media. What does their product do or what is it used for? Who is using it? Understanding their audience is key on social media because the audience varies. The audience could consist of consumers, clients, employers, and job seekers. It is important to be able to create content that appeals to the masses, and that is concise enough to post quickly and daily. Sometimes an elaborate story gets looked over if someone is seeking out specific information, which is why Twitter’s character limit can be used to an organization’s advantage. There are also third party apps such as Google Alerts that allow businesses to search within social media sites and receive alerts when their content is viewed. Businesses can use this data to figure out what types of posts get the most views, and adjust their communication plan accordingly.

While looking at companies during a job search, I notice that most company Facebook and Twitter pages include group shots of the staff working together. The staff is bunched together at conferences or even community service events. This shows me that the company culture is important to them because they spend time at events together, and look like they are enjoying it. Social media is not only effective for promoting a product, but for promoting the business as a whole. There is so much talent out there, and companies know that the more information about they can share out in the open, the more enticing their company looks to job seekers. Company blogs are excellent tools to show off all accomplishments. Reading a post that a company just received an award or was featured on a “Best Places to Work” list increases my interest in learning more about the company.

I was viewing a twitter account that is dedicated to posting jobs North Carolina and found that the account was live tweeting an awards ceremony. With each announcement of a winner, the twitter handle also included a link to the official website and stated whether or not they were hiring. I was able to access so many different companies in the area because of this event. The twitter account helped get business names out there I never would have heard of otherwise.

There is a lot to keep up with when using social media as a PR tool for an organization, but leaders with a strong online presence will reap the benefits of online connectivity. As long as posts are informative, professional, and sincere, customers will continue their interest and support for a company.

Growing up in the Digital World

Looking back on previous posts about mobile use, social media, blogging, and technology tools, I now realize there is a generation that has been born into all of this. Children and teens today have always lived in a world of instant accessibility through the Internet. All of these strategies for going mobile and posting on social media are practically embedded in their brains from an early stage.

Alison Gopnik’s TED Talk presented some fascinating evidence on how children naturally use problem solving strategies. In one experiment, a four-year-old boy was asked to figure out how to make a block light up. The child actually tried five different methods, rationalizing aloud as he did so, and finally figured it out. The curiosity of a child is a wonderful thing, and it can be taken even further when using technology. This article on how the Internet is a major part of life claims that even if an older sibling shows a younger sibling the Internet, it is the younger sibling that becomes the “computer genius.” Another TED Talk by Sugata Mitra showed how children in India with no exposure to computers or the English language actually taught themselves how to browse the web and speak about 200 English words. Technology sparked their interest and motivated them to work until the reached success.

Children are quick to absorb technology. Almost anyone can share a story of seeing a toddler playing on a cellphone and figuring out how to open up game apps.

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With this instant exposure comes great responsibility for the guardians of these children. Parental control options and firewalls at school are some ways parents are attempting to protect children from suspect content. When I was completing my student teaching for my undergraduate degree, I constantly overheard students’ conversations about social media and the Internet. I used this information to create a lesson on the legitimacy of online resources. They were interested simply because they got to use computers in class, but the lesson is extremely important. Nowadays, high schools across the country are adopting the one-to-one initiative: one iPad, tablet, or laptop for each student. How can we deny children’s use of technology when it is being enforced in an institution where they spend most of their days?

The fact that I am enrolled in an online Master’s program shows how far technology can take us. I have had plenty of experience with technology ever since I was young and AIM was the coolest way to talk to my friends. I had no trouble transitioning to online classes, and those younger than me will most likely have exposure to online classes throughout their years of education. I have already seen many commercials for online K-12 schooling which shows how young this “online generation” really is.

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Elementary level students that use technology should use it in a way that promotes learning: reading apps, vocabulary apps, math games, etc. At school, teachers frequently monitor content when taking their kids to computer labs. One way to ensure young children are using the Internet safely at home is to bookmark their favorite websites that have been approved, and instruct them to go to the bookmarks to access this content. This prevents the child from having to type anything into the browser. As students enter adolescence, their schooling requires more use of the Internet. Research papers require the use of secondary sources, most of which are found online. It is absolutely crucial for all students to learn how to conduct professional and productive research while in school.

Outside of the fact that children are online for schooling purposes, there is, of course, the entire world of social media. Teens need a mode of self-expression, and have found the Web to be the perfect platform for it. Unfortunately, they are not protected by the privacy of a written diary, rather their posts and pictures are on the Internet for anyone to see. I remember when MySpace was huge. I believe the minimum age was 14 to sign up, and the site automatically made your profile private, or “friends only” until you were 16. Many students simply lied about their age, or just accepted every friend request that came their way. I remember making the decision to make my profile private even though I was old enough for it to be public. There were too many news stories about strangers trying to stalk people on social media. Stories like this still occur today, and it is important for children and teens to know so they can protect themselves online. Privacy settings have been a huge topic today, particularly with Facebook. Facebook has gone from no privacy, to some privacy, to it offering personal privacy settings.

Looking towards the future and how all of this relates to strategic communication, adolescents are currently developing their own personal brand on social media and personal blogs. They decorate their sites in a style that fits their personality, and recognize changing trends such as going from a colorful, sparkly layout to a very plain and simple layout. These adolescents post pictures that reflect their interests, and they keep up with their friends. They know what their friends want when it comes to online pages: comments, tagging, and interactive conversations. They feel they have to comment on other pages so that users will comment on their page. Major business strategies have been demonstrated: advertising a brand, keeping up with trends, and knowing target audiences.

Businesses will benefit from these technologically advanced youths in the future. Imagine a company trying to start up a social media platform. Recruiters for this businesses would quickly develop a pool of interested candidates, because that is something this new generation will know. There are certainly strategies to be learned for appropriate, effective practices online, but there are more people than ever who have online exposure than ever. These potential candidates can will just have to fine tune their previous knowledge instead of learning from the basics, allowing for more productive opportunities for the company.

Children and teens will continue to grow with technology for years to come. Parents, guardians, and educators must engage in open conversation about online use. We cannot protect them from everything, but we can try to ensure security through frequent monitoring and parental controls. There are no limits to what children can learn, and technology tools can enhance the overall learning experience.

Bring Your Brand to Life

A successful business or organization owes much of its accomplishments to good branding. Brands are how people find out about services. One may have a great organization, but without a strong brand and clean reputation, the organization will never be seen. What are some ways brands can be used to promote a product or organization?

By definition, a brand is used to “evoke…a certain personality, presence, and product or service performance.” A Business Insider article instructs that the meaning behind a brand must “fulfill a specific unmet need in a well-defined target audience, AND be perceived as special and valuable.”  These two sources stress the importance of not only establishing what you want your brand to be, but to prove to the audience the importance of your brand and how it is relevant to them. Unique brands that take time to reach out to customers are working toward establishing trustworthiness.

One of the most important factors for companies to add value to their brands is to develop a strong social media presence. As I have previously mentioned, avoiding where technology is harmful. The more digital, mobile, and social the world is becoming, the more important it is for brands to adapt to these platforms. Individuals will avoid waiting in line for customer service, or dialing multiple extensions for help if they can. Social media has made brands seem that much closer to customers. The concept of i-Branding features four pillars that all companies should keep in mind:

  1. Understanding the Customer
  2. Marketing Communications
  3. Interactivity
  4. Content

PRNewser posted an article titled “10 Brands That Do Customer Service Right on Twitter.” Each brand mentioned in the article provides examples of responding to customer complaints, questions, and compliments on Twitter. These brands have succeeded in using the four pillars of i-Branding. The fact that someone from any part of the world can communicate with a brand is amazing. Brands that actively participate in conversations with customers show that they really do care what the customer thinks of them, and will work to fix any problems that arise. In 2013, @XboxSupport claimed to hold the “Guinness World Record for ‘most responsive Twitter feed’” and account holders reply to tweets from customers every minute.

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A company’s brand can also use Twitter to promote their new product in a humorous way. The key to these brands having successful Twitter accounts is that they are creating personable and unique characters that relate to customers. People love positive energy, so bringing a brand to life with an enthusiastic personality is great for promotions.

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Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation

Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation.

Sometimes a little bit goes a long way on Twitter. Tim Leberecht mentions that a brand is what people are saying about you when you are not in the room. He continues by stating the importance of simply helping customers and employees to establish a positive reputation. For example, someone was having a bad day and venting on Twitter, and a flower company offered to send that person a free bouquet. Imagine how that person must have felt, and how positive that person’s perception of that company is now! Even if a company cannot offer a concrete product, a simply acknowledgment will suffice. One humorous example is my friend tweeting at the official account for Moe’s Southwest Grill. She tweeted that the Moe’s she went into did not give her the traditional “Welcome to Moe’s!” greeting as she entered the store. Shortly after she tweeted, they replied a personal apology on behalf of that store. She laughed at how serious Moe’s takes their welcome greeting and retweeted it so all of her followers could see the reply. Brands like those of fast food places benefit from reaching out to their customers because it is not always expected, but can be enjoyable.

The Shorty Awards honor the best brands on social media. The 2014 Shorty Award for Best Brand on Twitter is American Express. Reasons for this win ranged from business propositions to personal connections with their customers and followers. Not only did American Express offer specialty prices for those who connected their cards with hashtags, they also hosted a Twitter party for its 163rd birthday. This party showed personalized birthday images from users who wished them a happy birthday. American Express successfully used Twitter to promote new ideas, and establish a strong sense of community with its users. American Express clearly used the four pillars I previously mentioned: they understand customers want convenience and rewards when shopping, they advertise promotions on Twitter, they interact with customers in celebration of a birthday party, and their content is both informing and engaging. The Shorty Awards feature many more nominees of brands that are excelling on social media. It is worth it to take a look and take note of their success!

There is clear evidence how social media helps promote brands, but establishing a social media presence can be difficult. The American Red Cross uses social media to engage in customer relationships and recruit young volunteers. Social media strengthened their relationship with customers and kept them informed by posting information on upcoming events. It clearly improved its brand by being able to reach all of its customers through its Twitter and Facebook pages. However, they reported the struggle with limited time and staff available for keeping up with their pages. A Midwest participant said their region struggles with keeping social media a priority because of lack of staff. Other participants say they simply forget about bookmarked pages.

My recommendation for companies that are trying to establish their brand on social media is to reach out to young volunteers. Most college Communication programs require students to complete an internship. A company would truly benefit from offering a position such as a social media intern because they would be hiring someone who has studied current trends and will work for school credit. Free work along with ideas from someone who knows the best strategies sounds like a win-win for any company. Furthermore, there are recent graduates who are looking work to help them gain experience. These graduates will most likely be interested in an internship so they showcase their talents. A company can hire an intern and if there are clear benefits from the intern’s work, then the company may find value in offering the intern a full time position. Internships prevent staff from being spread too thin and offer learning opportunities for both students and employers.

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Branding and digital advertising go hand in hand today. To show that your brand has personality and value, you must promote it in a way to reach the highest volume of customers. Businesses should make their brands accessible on social media and show customers they are reading and willing to provide the best products and services.

Using Social Media to Stay on Top

Social media has become more than a place to connect with friends, relatives, and strangers. It has become a habit–something to scroll through while passing the time. Whether individuals are waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch or taking a study break, social media is available on computers and a variety of mobile devices. A recent Business Insider report found that Americans are spending most of their Internet use on social networking sites. With so many people spending hours scrolling through newsfeeds, it only makes sense that businesses use social media to share information about both their products and their company. Businesses that post consistent, professional content will maintain strong relationships with customers.

Many online communities thrive on the concept of homophily, that is people wanting to engage with others similar to themselves. Someone who has just joined a sorority may feel compelled to “like” Total Sorority Move on Facebook. Perhaps a recent graduate wants follow @PostGradProblem on Twitter. While some content on these sites may irrelevant to the user, this target user finds comfort in knowing there are thousands of others in similar situations. It would be a business’s advantage to have relevant ads posted on these pages. Companies ranging from apparel, collegiate items, and even recruiting firms would be very attractive for users in these groups. These social sites also share links to other websites that will peak the interest of this age group. Individuals who are loyal to these groups and continually post comments can have enough influence to change how organizations look at advertising. Alexis Ohanian of Reddit explains in a TED Talk that an organization determined to stop the hunting of humpback whales achieved this goal because a group of Internet users got really involved with voting on the name of a whale. Content from businesses that is displayed on popular social media sites will get noticed, and people will respond if it sparks enough interest.

This morning I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and in the middle of all the GameDay tweets and hashtags, an advertisement from HomeGoods from August 29th appeared. I do not follow their twitter account, yet there was a tweet blending in with the rest of my newsfeed. This is an example of a Promoted Tweet, a tweet that can seamlessly appear in a home screen to all non-followers. Promoted tweets can be created based on location, interest, or device.

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As you can see, HomeGoods is advertising their app because I am looking at Twitter on my phone. The organization understands that a Saturday morning during college football season where Twitter hashtags become trending topics is the perfect time for advertising. The ad did not pop up or flash, but still caught my attention in my newsfeed because it was so different from the surrounding tweets.

Shoe Carnival’s Instagram has recently posted pictures of students in school hallways in honor of back-to-school specials. This morning they posted a picture of shoes with the caption “Where are you headed this weekend?” followed by hashtags. Many users will respond to the question simply because it is nice to feel that one can connect with a national company. Over Labor Day weekend they tweeted a picture of corn on the grill as if at a cookout. Although no shoes were present in the picture, the post was still connected to the company’s profile and showed they are aware of holidays and traditional practices of the public. This account has mastered the social media strategy of personality which is effective for a family-focused company.

Strategic communicators know that using social media is one of the most effective ways to reach a wide audience. Last week I mentioned DiGiorno Pizza participating in live tweeting and becoming a trending topic. It should be a goal for businesses to have popular hashtag trends related to the success of their product and customer satisfaction. If a company tweets information followed by a hashtag and that tweet gets favorites and retweets, it has potential to be shared with consumers outside of its inner circle. Furthermore, users can produce their own tweets using the organization’s hashtag and reach an even wider audience. Trending on twitter in a positive light will improve an organization’s reputation and allow millions to see their brand or product.

Having a positive reputation online is extremely important because of how fast information spreads on the web. One bad comment can be seen by thousands of users and ultimately destroy any credibility the organization holds. One of the backlashes of social media is the amount of deception and fraud behind accounts that anyone can make. Twitter has become a competitive news source but fake profiles are easily created and have the ability to spread false information. Fake profiles for celebrities or politicians can often skew the opinions of users who blindly follow them. Twitter attempts to solve these problems by providing a blue “verified” check mark next to legitimate profiles. The check mark certifies that tweets are from the user or the user’s team, and accurately represent that user’s views.

Many businesses are not only using social media to promote their brand, but to promote their company itself. LinkedIn has become increasingly popular for those looking for jobs, but many recent graduates don’t have enough information or experience to make their profiles stand out. Organizations are posting open job opportunities on Facebook and Twitter because it increases the chances of the job being seen or shared by users. For example, Phi Mu Fraternity was hiring a chapter consultant for the 2014-2015 year. Information about the job and how to apply was listed on their official Facebook page. Since it is a national organization, Facebook was an efficient way to reach as many members possible. Local organizations can also use social media for recruiting. Research Triangle Park, located in North Carolina, has a Twitter name @WorkTriangleNC. Every Tuesday they use the hashtag #TriangleTuesdays and post about 10 open positions for companies in the area. Once every job has been tweeted, the account will tweet a link to the complete list of jobs mentioned throughout the day. This makes it easy for job searchers to see what is available. Anyone interested in working in RTP can have access to this information just by following their account. The account is especially beneficial for those looking from out of town who do not benefit from local word-of-mouth information.

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Social media is a unique platform because everyone has access to post anything they want. Organizations, along with their members, must keep in mind that information posted on social media has the potential to be seen by millions in a matter of seconds, no matter the location. Those who establish a trusted reputation will retain a consistent following, ultimately keeping their products and their company on top.

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