strategic communication

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

Archive for the tag “social media”

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.

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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.

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The Future Starts Today

Attention all smartphone users: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a flip phone.

Attention all FaceTime users: Raise your hand if you remember when a phone call was the only option to talk over distance.

Attention all bloggers: Raise your hand if you’ve ever kept a written journal.

Attention all Pandora Radio/iPod users: Raise your hand if you remember your first boom box/portable CD player.

Attention all Facebook users: Raise your hand if you used to log on AIM every day.

Attention everyone: Raise your hand if you are ready for what is next with communicative technology and emerging media.

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There should be a lot of hands raised. The future of technology is limitless and exciting. Think of the technology that seems so normal to you now, and then think of a time when you did not have it. It is so easy to take smartphones or the GPS for granted today because they seem like normal, everyday items to own. However, they are not normal devices. They are advanced- an evolution from an earlier product. Soon the world will be filled with other “normal” devices that will do things we cannot imagine. I can barely wrap my head around products like Google Glass. There are products that are ready to let us dive into virtual realities. There are products that allow us to share our information more than ever, and connect with our friends, family, and loved ones.

We can now say a short phrase to our phone and instantly get turn-by-turn directions to anywhere. Directors can film movies in a single studio that take place all over the world thanks to green screens and CGI. A job seeker can post an online resume and gain access to jobs anywhere around the globe. Everything is instant and convenient. The Internet and the World Wide Web have opened up doors for everyone.

Strategic communicators cannot fall behind on all of the effective tools for human connection. There are so many tools out there that will increase productivity. Check out sites such as Wired, Businesses Insider, CNN Tech, and more. There will always be technology innovations that will improve conversation.

Businesses have so many new options to connect with their customers. They can post on social media, offer e-commerce options, create apps, and anything else to get names and brands out there. Businesses can inform customers of their brand in a variety of ways: participating in live tweeting, creating a company hashtag, and sharing employee experiences through a company blog. The amount of time people are spending on their phones and tablets is only increasing, so there is an advantage to having a strong online presence.

I am finishing my first term in my graduate program and I cannot believe how much I have learned in just nine weeks. I am excited to continue learning throughout the program, and sharing information on this blog. There is so much out there for us to discover now, and so much more to come later. Stay tuned, strategic communicators. If you think it’s crazy to picture a world of holograms and advanced artificial intelligence, take a look at what AT&T predicted in the early 90’s and see what they got right.

Hype up the Crowd

A common theme throughout these blog posts is the power of a crowd. Businesses either thrive or suffer based on strong public opinions. Social media, blogs, and mobile phones allow people to not only have access to breaking stories, but to contribute information to the stories as well. Crowds can actually be used as valuable resources of both information and product promotion.

In its basic definition, crowdsourcing is pulling a wide amount of information from a large group of people. In many instances, this is conducted from the Internet. A Wired article describes an example of crowdsourcing by describing an instance where a project director, Claudia Menashe, was able to go to iStockPhoto and search through thousands of photos uploaded by users. Menashe then chose as many photos as she liked, each one only costing a small fee. Instead of relying on finding a professional photographer, she went to a place where thousands of users willingly posted their work. This process was easy, inexpensive, and productive. With more sites thriving on communities and allowing users to upload original content, there is a good chance anyone can find useful information. Photographers are motivated to keep posting their work because of the idea of being chosen. This enthusiasm means unlimited resources for those searching for the perfect stock photo.

Paul Lewis explains in his TED Talk instances in which crowdsourcing helped The Guardian obtain necessary details on two different stories involving causes of death: Ian Tomlinson and Jimmy Mubenga. Both deaths were the result of something happening in font of witnesses, and in both instances the whole truth was being withheld from the public. Lewis and his team went to Twitter and received first-hand accounts of both causes of death. One bystander actually had video proof of police brutality causing the death of Tomlinson. These situations show that professional journalists have struggled with not having all of the resources for their stories. Their knowledge can be limited to time and space if they do not know how to effectively seek out information. Luckily, the Internet has created global communities and offers sites where people can share information quicker than ever. Lewis and his team were able to find first-hand accounts just from inquiring on social media.

Sometimes it may seem that crowdsourcing is too good to be true. There are instances where crowds are responsible for misinformation, such as the spread of hoax stories. The article “Who the Hell Writes Wikipedia, Anyway?” shows that experts take time to write majority of the content on its pages. Professionals who work for the site simply edit links and conduct minor tweaks, but the bulk of information we read was written by someone from the crowd. Chances are if someone is taking enough time to write an encyclopedia article on the subject, one must have a strong background in the matter. Many may take comfort in the statistics that show most people who take time to post online are highly educated professionals. However, it is up to the person seeking out information to always double check any sources.

One of my friends wanted to see what happens when one attempts to update Wikipedia. He found an article on a public figure and made a change on the whereabouts of this person. Immediately, he received an e-mail regarding his change. The e-mail asked for more information on why he made the change, and if he had any sources or proof. My friend realized that the posts are constantly monitored for accuracy. He chose not to respond to the e-mail, and his edit was removed. While Wikipedia is frequently debated on its basis of a credibility, it is using crowdsourcing to obtain information just like major news sources will do.

Because there is no limit to the possibilities that can come from a large group of people with freedom and a voice, it is important to implement crowdsourcing in an appropriate strategy based on achievable goals. Businesses looking to promote their product and keep up with current trends would be best advised to use an open call strategy inviting everyone to participate in the gathering of information. Using the Internet for an open call would be the best way to attract a large crowd. One study specifically mentions the concept of Co-creation along with open call crowdsourcing. Co-creation not only asks customers for their opinions on products, it actually involves them in the process and makes them feel like they are part of something with a purpose.

American Idol owes its long-run success to crowdsourcing. There was a time when it was the most popular, high-rated show on television. They premised their show on the fact that anyone could audition to be the next big pop star. Those uninterested in the spotlight still had the opportunity to choose the winner by casting their votes each week. The producers behind the show went to the crowd for resources: participants, voters, commentators. So many shows took this idea and created their own reality show with voting such as The Voice and Dancing with the Stars.

Last year, American Idol took the concept of crowdsourcing and co-creation even further. Relying on its own popularity as well as the fan bases of Coca-Cola and singer Carly Rae Jepsen, the ultimate user experience was created with the Perfect Harmony Project. Each week leading up to the American Idol finale, viewers were able to use Facebook to vote on song lyrics for Jepsen’s new single. Not only was this project a goal for increasing viewership, but it also served as a productive way to create something new: a song. Their strategy was also smart in that they relied on the motivation of the crowd, but did not give the crowd complete control. Voting on pre-made lyrics was a much more organized approach than having thousands of users attempt to come up with their own words.

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Notice how the ads enhance crowd enthusiasm by reiterating that they helped create a new song! The countdown for the poll also pushes for voters to participate quickly to ensure their vote is submitted.

Businesses can adapt similar strategies by having their consumers vote on new products. Some can even try holding contests in which customers create their own product to be sold by the brand, similar to Lays chips and TOMS Shoes. Customer excitement is valuable when using crowdsourcing, because the enthusiastic individuals will be willing to do their best to achieve the company’s goal.

It is important to promote organizations in a way that will get crowds excited. Businesses should focus on how their product can be used in everyday life. Does their product work well in social settings? Does it work for the greater good of the world? Does it make people feel better about themselves? One way to find out answers to these questions is to ask the crowd. Once a community is established about a certain product, the organization can then involve that crowd in a variety of promotional activities. If a crowd is passionate, their own motivation will go a long way for the success of an organization.

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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