Category Archives: Twitter

7 ways to better do corporate social media

Forbes (@Forbes), the famous American business magazine and perennial taxonomists, recently stated: “The strength of your social media presence will directly impact your brand, products and services with respect to their position online.” Everyone can have an account, but getting it right is a different matter. Here is my take on staying clear of the pitfalls, based on my experiences.

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1. Don’t ignore people, or give the wrong information. You should be able to be trustworthy and transparent.

Your customer service team, service areas and people on the ground are the real experts. Have a system for being able to contact these people and get the information in a timely manner. If it is not quicker than a phone or post query, there is no point in doing it.

2. Have a policy on when to engage.

I’m not saying you need a social media policy! Liam Barrington-Bush has written a marvellous book (see this blog) about how social media policy is based on a mistrust of adults, and if you cannot trust the employees in your organisation, they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. However, I will say; responding to every comment is simply not viable. Sometimes a rant is just that; a rant, and people won’t expect a reply. However, if misinformation or misleading information is given, it’s probably best to link to or refer to a source of factual information.

3. Don’t just have one or two people who know how to, or have permission and training to respond with social media.

If you can’t cover holidays, sick days and lunch breaks, you are letting your audience down, and could be undoing the good work that has been done. Anyone who is willing and able to communicate on these channels should be trained and ready to step in or take over.

4. Don’t have everyone doing it, it should be coordinated and on message.

At the same time, don’t just give everyone access without the proper training. Messages should be coordinated and on message, as temping as it seems to create a genuine democracy where all voices are heard, be careful. There haver been some great examples of this working well, such as @sweden (curatorsofsweden.com) but this is not right for all organisations, and may not be right for yours.

5. Use images, video and have a sense of personality.

The most clicked on posts contain images and videos (click here). You should be doing it too, this could be a great opportunity to raise the profile of representatives of your organisation, and give a human face to an organisation. Again, there are several pitfalls to using video but with a bit of care and a decent bit of kit (tripod is essential!), it’s an excellent and cheap form of communication.

6. Let your audience know who is tweeting or posting. Again, this is personal and your audience is more likely to engage, which, after all is the main idea, is it not?

This is simple, and not everyone will agree with me here, but I think it helps create the feeling of a human face to an otherwise faceless organisation. Also, it gives your audience a chance to have an alternative contact if they cannot get a response from the corporate account.

7. Always check that a hashtag is not already used. This could end up being embarrassing, confusing, or illegal.

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This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many times this has gone wrong. Also keep them short and snappy. Don’t need to have #Worldaidsday2014 when #WAD14 would do the same job. Look at this post from earlier this year on comms2point0 by Mike Underwood, communications officer at Charnwood Borough Council. Similarly, although with far less humour, we used a hashtag which was also being used by a big event in America, causing a little confusion for the public, but also playing havoc with our monitoring tools. Also, make sure you have someone with a slightly dirtier mind than you check it. We all know what happened to Susan Boyle’s album party (#susanalbumparty).

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G-Force: Or, what goes up must come down

Every social network site has a life cycle. Some last longer than others but there will always be something bigger, better, faster, stronger waiting in the wings. Have a listen to this delightful song as you read my take on it all.  My delve into the brave new world of Google+.

Everyone, at some time in their lives goes through a stage when they realise they are set in their ways; stuck in a routine (comfortable). It can happen when you’re in a relationship; you can plan out the week by what you’re having for dinner, or what television programmes you’ll sit and eat it in front of (I know, but we all do it, the table has got the ironing pile on and the laptop is charging). It happens with the places you go too.

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“would you like your usual?”
Image courtesy of BocaDorada

When you’re young you go to every bar, cafe and club you can. You have an appetite for new experiences and a hunger to meet new and exciting people. But then something happens and you get comfortable again. You find yourself frequenting the same bars, and the same cafes (clubbing is simply out of the question; too many young people making loud noises).

What if the same thing has happened to your social media life as has to your social life? Well let me tell you, it has! We all quite happily discarded the passé charms of MySpace without a second thought when we realised the ‘in’ crowd were hanging out on Facebook in their droves, and we were quite happy, after a few complimentary words from our most cutting edge of friends, to spend a little of our time in that new place where everyone was twitting or tweeting or something like that. Yes, we all give it a go and learned how to fit in and order what we wanted, but that’s when it started to go a bit stale.

Sure, your networking friends started to dabble with LinkedIn, and you go to show you’re face every now and then, just to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. But we’ve been hanging around the same places for so long we seem to have settled. Have we really though? Are we prepared to accept that this is it for us now? (Why not, I hear you say; we haven’t listened to any new music produced after 2002!) If we open our eyes, and remember our bygone wanderlust we may get a pleasant surprise.

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Does Google+ have the potential to overtake Facebook?

Ok, the new place looks pretty good. It seems to have all the best bits of the regular places with a few really cool new bits, but is it worth the hassle of signing up for something new? Is Google+ really worth all the stress of learning how to get around somewhere new and signing up to be a member of yet another new club? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I for one am prepared to be one of the first to give it a go. Yes I know, it’s full of young people and strange men who know the difference between a cloud and a klout, but that’s what we thought about Twitter back in 2007. I’m prepared to uproot and rebuild my life in a new place, safe in the knowledge that you will all join me in a couple of years (if that!).

Google+ faces an impossible task trying to convince people to leave the people and places they have grown to love (if only through familiarity). They must rely on the early adopters, and the advocates to spread the word. Admittedly so, I left it too long to be able to call myself an early adopter, but I’m doing it now and I implore you all to follow suit.

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If you’re not part of the conversation, at least be privy to it!

Monitoring the conversations that are taking place about you is a must-do. There is no excuse for not listening and it could help save your reputation.

I was driving into work on 14th March wondering if  Spring was ever going to spring, when BBC Newcastle radio station announced in a report that TT2, the company that operate the Tyne Tunnel linking South Tyneside with Newcastle and Northumberland, had not installed speed cameras in their tunnels despite substantial rumours.

TT2

“You have about 20 minutes northbound and 15 minutes heading south.” I was always going North!

The Tyne Tunnel was once a frequent utterance on local radio breakfast shows; mainly in the traffic reports. But since the construction and opening of the second tunnel it faded into memory; especially for me now that I had moved my place of work from Ashington to the much more conveniently situated Walbottle.

The Tyne Tunnel was great now. They opened it up on time, in an era when construction company deadlines held as much weight as your wallet after you’ve bought a season ticket to Wembley Stadium, and they had received  generally good press coverage.

However, all this was to end one cold day in March when rumours started on Twitter that they had secretly installed speed cameras. Furthermore, the tweets seemed to indicate they had not publicly announced this as it had been their intention to use it as a profiteering tool.

All of a sudden TT2 had a PR crisis on their hands, and what’s more it was not even true!

This spread of information was contained to Twitter, but had already spread to a huge reach, and damage to TT2’s reputation was at the heart of the discourse. There was a conversation happening that they were not part of.

I don’t know exactly how they found out about the rumours on the electronic grapevine; they should have had someone monitoring there name, but I fear they were probably contacted by a journalist, or someone else who monitors social media as part of their everyday tasks.

All organisations need to monitor social media

Interestingly, even though they have a Twitter account they chose not to use it in their efforts to get their side of the story out. They used local breakfast radio as their medium. This optimised their potential to reach their key public – motorists in the area of the tunnel.

So even though you are not communicating through social media platforms, don’t forget the importance of using them as a monitoring device. There is no excuse for ignoring it.

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Rhetorical Symmetry: I tweet, therefore I am.

Twitter has helped promote a democracy of ideas

Twitter has helped promote the democratisation of ideas

Twitter is the agency for the realisation of true rhetorical symmetry. It has forged a forum where the equality of ideas is nurtured and promoted, and where all participants are involved in the co-creation of shared meaning.

‘Shared meaning, a vital outcome of public relations, results when each market, audience, or public that has a stake in some matter co-creates meaning through dialogue.’ (Heath 2001)

Rhetorical symmetry is the idealistic notion that each idea contested in public has an equality of strength. It is ethical because it empowers participants to engage. It bypasses the market-like struggle for superiority, where the luxury of having the ability to speak loudest to the largest audience (the traditional media) is subverted, empowering the voices of everyone.

The outcome is favoured at the expense of the process.Photography by Matt Fowler

The outcome is favoured at the expense of the process.
Photography by Matt Fowler

The traditional media, in the days before Twitter, had the authority to be heard above any conflicting voices. Organisations with the financial means to command the process of transmission reigned superior over less powerful stakeholders.

Social media platforms have provided everyone with the resources required to become a journalist, and the audience, segmented and emancipated, are in control of where they decide to learn about news stories or where they seek new information. This shift of power has opened the door to true two-way symmetrical models of communication.

The idea of a two-way symmetrical model of communication was born at a time when it was an idealistic notion. An attempt to make the inherently unfair struggle for dialogic equality seem achievable. But this supposed utopia is now upon us.

Twitter functions as a negotiation situation for a pluralist society, providing every stakeholder with a platform to share ideas and co-create meaning through dialogue and engagement.

There is of course still a process of negotiation but the thoughtful idea is champion, not the transmission process. The better argument is superior to the stakeholder who is better at arguing, or who has access to more effective means of arguing their point of view.

The challenge for PR is how we embrace this opportunity. It will not go away and it can not be defeated; the counter argument to every argument has the potential to be in the public domain, and it is very likely it will.

It is time for the true value of public relations to be recognised and utilised. Public relations can play a vital role in the building of communities and assist in the construction of micro-societies where organisations can take part in the conversation, and engage in discursive challenges to their point of view or practices.

The days of organisations disseminating information to stakeholders on their own terms have passed. Genuine engagement is essential in the quest to gain social value, or build reputation.

Welcome to democracy, what have you got to say?

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8 reasons why all PR is online PR: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love to tweet

  1. 90% of media consumption is done via a screen
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Courtesy of the Telegraph

Research carried out by Google has suggested that all but 1/10 of media consumption happens looking at a screen. Although this statistic includes television, it highlights the increased dependency on mobile devices with an internet connection.  According to Ofcom 58% of the population owned a smartphone in 2012, and almost a fifth of U.K. residents owned a tablet; and this number is on the rise. This graphic from the Telegraph shows that internet shopping and social media exceed making calls on our mobile devices.

  1. The demise of the press

Although some newspapers, such as the Sun would suggest otherwise, print versions of newspapers are in rapid decline. In 2005, when the Guardian bought new printers at the cost of £62 million to accommodate their Berliner format, the editor said that this would be the last printers the paper would invest in. The life span of such machines is about 12 years. Many local newspapers have also been forced to reduce staff, relocate and amalgamate to survive.

  1. Real-time news

The role of the journalist is changing and the powers and influence they once had has dispersed. The move to online versions has eradicated the copy-date and phenomenon born from the power of social media, such as citizen journalism has transformed the way people consume news. Traditional sources of information have been challenged putting influential content in the hands of the masses, not just the privileged few.

  1. Online formats allow audiences to engage with content easily

An engaged audience is an audience that can contribute. Media which promotes consumer participation will have a more engaged audience. Modern consumers want to be in control of content; they are active participants in the conversation. Audience contributions give PRs the opportunity to hear genuine opinions and learn about audiences’ wants and needs. This is invaluable information that is easy and in most cases free to acquire.

  1. Your publics will talk about you whether you contribute or not
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Influential blogs can cause companies a lot of trouble

Online platforms allow consumers to publish their opinions about you to an audience of millions even if they are complaining. It is surely better to take part in the conversation, respond to their complaints or at least give yourself the opportunity to hear what they are saying. There have been several examples of consumers costing companies big money, and more importantly running their reputations, by refusing to acknowledge the power of the web. See Dell (who spent an estimated $150,00,000 on customer service after the ‘Dell Hell’ blog) or United airlines, who watched their reputation being ripped up to the sound of Canadian band; Sons of Maxwell.

The video has over 12 million views.

  1. There is a lack of trust in large organisations
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The opinions of online strangers has more value than your own promotion

People are increasingly looking towards supposed independent, non-bias opinions online before making decisions. Sites like trip advisor are the first port-of-call for many before making accommodation choices for a weekend away. Reputations are organically grown in the field social media where bloggers and posters are influencing consumer decision making. Finding out what is being said and being able to contribute to and influence the conversation is vital.

  1. Television

The way we engage with our televisions is unrecognisable to what it was 10 years ago. Tivo and Sky+ have rendered scheduling and therefore targeted advertising futile. The patterns of consumption is firmly in the hands of audiences who can choose to watch their favourite programmes at any time regardless of when the schedulers chose, and access to inline media players with the click of a button has brought multi-media viewing into our living rooms, offering a huge range of choice thus, segmenting audiences to a much greater degree than ever before.

  1. Online suits PR

The social web suits the way PR has always defined its target audience; a plurality of publics with a range of different opinions, ideas and levels of engagement. Publics are segmented by their increased choices into specific groups and sub-groups allowing for more specific targeting and evaluation.

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Twitter’s Deadline Day Duty

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Jim White

It occurred to me while watching ‘transfer deadline day’ that it has been completely transformed by twitter. It got me thinking…what has twitter had the most profound effect upon? The very concept of ‘deadline day’ is a relatively new one; the transfer window was only made compulsory in the 2002/03 season before then the comings and going of professional footballers was a much more casual drawn out affair. Of course, Sky Sports have long since operated a real-time(ish) programme documenting and reporting on the latest rumours, done deals and last-minute dramas, and various internet sites have offered ‘as-it-happens’ update feeds, but never before has a medium offered such a multitude of opinion, insight and information. The show has even developed cult status among fans with its Scottish anchor: Jim White. But is it set to be snubbed in the eleventh hour?

Journalists perpetuate exclusives and inside information direct to their twitter feed as they hear it rendering their on location vox pop; over excited, slightly bewildered, “if you can hear me over the…as you can tell by the…just seen…look I’m on telly!” slightly passé, and well…a little obsolete. But it’s the interactive mass-engagement of the non-journalistic input which really makes it; contradicting and endorsing in equal high-velocity measures. It’s a fine example of two-way symmetrical communications, where the hierarchy of authoritative voices is tenderised and left to marinate through the evening.

It seems it was what twitter was born to do.

The zeitgeist is littered with #tags and pleads of “follow me…” but they mostly all seem like an afterthought, or a sorry attempt to earn acceptance into a brave new world; like an uncle dancing ‘Gangnam style’ at a Christmas party in an attempt to be a part of something that he erroneously considers resemble his stolen youth.

Some TV shows have successfully espoused their output with the dynamics of tweeters’ habits and created an imagined social space where interactivity augments the viewing pleasure; but examples of this are few and, alas, far between. The running commentary offered during channel 4’s ‘The Undateables’ gratifies me and there seems to be genuine audience interaction and participation when ‘Million Pound Drop’ is aired live, are there any others?

There must be other examples of twitter transforming the way we experience things, but I am struggling to suggest any phenomenon twitter has so overtly transposed.

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The Plurality of PR twitter accounts

Image courtesy of eldh's

Image courtesy of eldh’s

After convincing a class-mate over lunch in the university cafe to ‘follow’ me on twitter I triumphantly tilted my head southwards to check the latest boost to my ‘followers’ statistics only to be blocked with an abrupt exclamation, “Was that my real account or my professional one?”, evidently she wanted to know if she had used her original twitter account, or her alternative, more formal PR ‘professional only access’ account.  Of course, this was not the first time I had heard of dual accounts; one for weekend associates and an alternative account strictly for co-workers, employers or indeed, potential employers.  However, it did get me thinking.

As Public Relations practitioners and ambassadors of the corporations we represent should we not be more willing to show a better level of transparency.  Transparency after all seems to be the main thing publics want from the corporations they buy from or rely upon. Shouldn’t we be defending the media image of PR. Parsons (2004:15), like many propagates PR’s ostensible powerlessness to communicate its own identity in a positive way?  “Like it or not the notion of failing to tell the truth, or spinning the facts, is part of the public’s image of public relations.  And who can blame them when this is the media image that is cultivated?” PR isn’t very good at doing its own PR!

Part of the CIPR’s vision is for practitioners to “(make) an important contribution to society through our ability to build dialogue and trust” and the first of the Institutes values is trust. As a society and a professional body, do we not strive for an atmosphere of transparency and trust?

Yes, what about trust?  Are we sending out a subconscious, or indeed an overt message that we are doing something that we should not be when were not networking with our industrialized kindred?  Are we sending out invitations for suspicious thoughts and the creations of cynical narratives of what we might be ‘really’ like?

If potential employees can trust that they know what we do on a Saturday night (if indeed they care?) are they able to trust us more, or perhaps even find a little common ground?  Can’t we all agree to accept that we are all normal people who have a career and a social life?

Reichstag, Berlin

The Reichstag, Berlin.
Photography by Oh-Berlin.com

The Reichstag, the parliament building in Berlin has a glass roof, which functions more as a metaphor than an actual opportunity or request for Berliners to spy or check up on their politicians.  The message is simple: this is what we do, all of the time, not just when we have arranged appropriate times for you to watch us.  Needless to say (I hope), that I am not claiming that a strictly confidential personal twitter account in an uncontrollable phenomenon where our Id will shatter the defenses of the Super-Ego; we are all obviously conscious that we are blogging (or micro-blogging, to be precise) on an unrestricted open and public platform.

Okay, so I am not going to write on my CV that I love the Smiths, but it doesn’t mean I won’t talk to my boss or a colleague about their poetic prowess.  I’m sure my boss would be very offended if I orchestrated a refusal to disclose any shared hobbies or passions we may have.

I may wish to discuss the effects of government spending cuts on the quality of journalism on Wednesday afternoon, but then complain my football team’s new £10million striker should have let my Granny take that penalty for him on Saturday evening.  Is social media a reflection of society? Is our society segmented and fragmented dependent upon the specific publics we communicate with? Yes.  But do the other publics need to be restricted from knowing our other communications?

If you chat with someone on twitter, and my @tag is not included, am I eavesdropping if I read it?   If I use twitter to promulgate ideas and splutter confessions during the small hour when my inhibitions elude, me to no-one in particular, am I not shouting out of the metaphoric window to unwilling passers-by?  If someone is interested in your day to day happenings that you happily and frequently blog, cant that help another person form their opinion of you (if they even choose to take notice in the first place), or should people only get to see you at your most competently sharp?  You may even show someone a more favourable side to yourself, someone with multiple interests, some one who is human, just like you.

The public want to see transparency in the companies and businesses they spend their money on or trust for advice and guidance. As PR people, with the most listened to public voice, and the embodiment of what the public perceive as the corporative world, I feel we have a responsibility to show a transparent and trustful outlook and that these values should be reflected in our actions.  The media has done a great job of making PR look bad, why can’t we now use the media to start to put the record straight?
In any case, why can’t we just have all of our specialist extra-curricular tribulations on Facebook?

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