By Stephanie McKinney

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It affects how we communicate with each other, how we share our experiences and how we do business.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, join MP&F for a walk down memory lane through the history of social media. Here are just a few moments that we found to be meaningful.

The Evolution of Social Media

Of course this is just a brief glimpse. We can’t forget milestone developments such as Compuserve, Bulletin boards, Usenet, AOL, Tumblr, Blogger, Pinterest and Google+.

Today, social communities are created around subjects – Goodreads for books, Spotify for music. Others emerge with a single purpose like Snapchat for 10-second images and Instagram for artistic images of everyday life.

As the evolution of social media continues and new networks arrive on the scene, remembering the earliest social networks and how far we’ve come might make us all more eager to explore and share.

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By Will Krugman, intern

You don’t get many physical threats working in public relations, but other professions aren’t as lucky. I spent some time working in a home for troubled boys before beginning my career in PR, and during my time there an especially indignant youth threatened to “beat the living &%$# out of me.” While this may never happen in your office, I believe that I can put to use the lesson I learned on that job.

The young man lashed out at me because I had not developed as strong a relationship with him as I had with the other residents – an act he considered disrespectful. I incorrectly assumed that the relationship that I built with the group would automatically transfer over to every member. However, I did nothing to build bonds or communication channels with this individual, and I suffered for it in the form of a physical threat.

Some of the same mistakes happen in social media today: so-called experts who don’t listen to feedback, brands that are all mouth and no ears, businesses that pay no attention to their customers’ satisfaction.

The people and organizations that get it right really stand out, like our client Nashville Electric Service. We helped NES develop Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to push information to their customers and interact with them in real time. Starting dialogues about energy efficiency and letting customers know when their power will be restored if it went out during a storm put NES into context with their customers.

NESTwitter

NES gets it right by putting itself in its audience’s shoes. They listen, provide feedback and have become one of the first public electric distributors to understand and use social media. Critics may find a social media plan for a power company unnecessary, but NES’ ingenuity gives them credibility with their audience.

You might not consider yourself a social media powerhouse yet; but if you avoid my mistakes and build communication channels, you will do much better. In the meantime, consider this: Even if you don’t do social media right, nobody wants to beat you up.

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most often asked about our business.

Question 14: How much commitment does a social media strategy require?

By Tara Knott, Intern

With 85 percent of marketers reporting that social media is increasing their companies’ business exposure, a well-defined social media strategy can be critical for your business’ success.

Between emails and meetings and the millions of tasks you have to cross off your to-do list every day, social media may seem like another commitment you just don’t have time for.

Thankfully, once you’ve done your homework, creating an effective social media strategy is easier than you think, and the commitment you put in will be well worth the results. Companies with great social media strategies have better relationships with their audiences and ultimately stronger online reputations, which is increasingly integral to overall business success.

1. Know the platforms and understand which one(s) work for you – If the prospect of managing Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube/Pinterest/Flickr/Foursquare accounts for multiple clients makes you sweat, don’t worry:

Not every company has to be everywhere all the time.

As Jason Kintzler, founder and CEO of PitchEngine, told Deirdre Breakenridge in her book “Social Media and Public Relations,” if the technology isn’t making your life better, “ditch it and move on.”

So if your business caters specifically to men, it might not make sense to be on Pinterest, since its users are mostly female. You should research companies like yours, see which social media platforms they’re using and then use those platforms better.

2. Set realistic goals – What are the goals of your company or client? How frequently can you realistically update social media? Once you have a better understanding of where you want to go, you can figure out how to get there.

3. Create a calendar – Once you’ve decided which platforms to use, you’ll need to create a content calendar. This can be as detailed or as flexible as you’d like, depending on the situation.

For one client’s Pinterest account, we’ve set up a very specific calendar with images, videos and captions for each day. All the text has been routed through our copy editors and is ready to post. While it took a few hours of work to set up on the front end, it takes no more than a minute to update each day.

For other clients, and for MP&F itself, we prefer a looser approach. We brainstorm what to post on our own social media accounts during weekly staff meetings, and the marketing committee spreads out those posts throughout the week. That way, if three of our clients have events on the same day, we know not to flood our followers’ timelines with content and can spread out our posts accordingly.

4. Build your audience – Even the best social media strategy won’t do you much good if nobody’s looking at your content. Start by creating shareable content: Keep it short, interesting and easy to read.

Check all social media outlets at least once a day so you can respond to anybody who is interacting with your page, and don’t be afraid to let them see the human side of your company. Sharing a funny picture of your staff at work or a behind-the-scenes video will help you connect with your audience on a more personal level.

5. Make sure all communications channels work together – Social media should not be just another way to push out your news releases. What works on your company website is different from what works on social media, so adapt your content for each platform

For instance, you might post a news release about an upcoming event on your website, upload an album of photos to Facebook, and pick the most compelling photo to share on Instagram or Twitter. Each platform should tell the same story in a different way.

If you have designed a social media strategy, we would welcome your feedback on what has or hasn’t worked.

Check out this social media marketing infographic from Go-Globe.com.

 

I commonly advise people to think twice before posting anything on Facebook that might come back to haunt them at the office, and I stand by that advice as good common sense. Nonetheless, as digital communities become an ever larger part of our lives, society is struggling to adapt to what is and what isn’t permissible on the Web.

This month’s ruling from the National Labor Relations Board is the latest decision establishing that employees have the right to share their opinions about their jobs online. The NLRB determined that employees who were fired for alleged off-duty harrassment of another employee on Facebook must be rehired. That’s going to be awkward.

Despite this development, don’t lose sight of the fact that your conduct, whether online or offline, is likely to reflect on your employer even when you are not on the job. You may not be fired for what you share on the Internet, but posting something offensive could still be harmful to your company and your career.

Your news feed is about to get a little more crowded.

Social media users spend virtually all of their time online keeping up with the latest updates from their friends and other sources they follow, and social media sites and advertisers are taking notice. Looking for a cure for “banner blindness,” users’ tendency to ignore advertising, both Facebook and Twitter are expected to cautiously begin adding promoted content directly to their social streams. Neither platform wants to do anything that might turn off users, but both need to do something to keep advertisers plugged in.

Until now, the news feed has been sacred ground reserved solely for content that users have chosen to subscribe to see, but that’s about to change. How it changes, and how users respond, will shape the future of how we consume content online.

The recent riots in London provided frightening insight on the implications of how pervasive social media is in today’s culture.

What began as a nonviolent protest in response to the shooting of Mark Duggan quickly turned chaotic and dangerous after a few hours.

Many blame the rapid progression of violence on the communications abilities that social media provides. Outraged British citizens first rallied together on a Facebook page in memory of Duggan, and then took to the streets, torching buses, looting stores and creating mayhem. Participants received numerous messages via Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry Messenger to join in the action and to then upload footage and post text detailing their involvement. The accessibility of social media and its ability to rapidly and widely disseminate information caused the events to spiral into an all-out war between citizens and police personnel.

While social media has the potential to evolve into a forum of grievances and a launching pad for orchestrated violence, it also has the ability to serve as a community space for unifying for good.

Nashvillians were witness to the benefits of instant access to information in the spring of 2010 during the unprecedented flooding that engulfed the city. During this time, citizens received updates on the locations of standing water and the damage done and, afterward, were provided with ways to help rebuild the community.

Currently, Londoners are following the #riotcleanup hashtag in an effort to restore their community and to re-establish Twitter as a positive social medium.

Ultimately, the public should reflect on the message they are attempting to send and the possible consequences of their actions before literally broadcasting their text to the entire world.

Social media itself is neither a force for evil nor a force for good; it is the people who use it who inject it with meaning. Many messages deserve to be condemned, but don’t condemn the medium in the process.

There is a very simple way to figure out if you take social media seriously.

Imagine you are at work. You are busy. You need to speak with a colleague about something that he should be busy on as well. You walk over to your colleague’s office. Your colleague is on Facebook.

How do you feel?

If you feel annoyed, then you are not taking social media seriously. Don’t agree with me? Imagine the same scenario, but substitute either “the telephone” or “Outlook” for “Facebook”.

Yes, it is possible to be wasting time on the phone or doing a multitude of nonwork-related tasks in Outlook, but I suspect the assumptions we make about our colleagues’ intentions relative to these communication resources are vastly different than those we make about Facebook, Twitter and other social media resources that are quickly becoming go-to gadgets in our client toolbox.

So, next time you find yourself muttering, “I’m in here working and he’s in there on Facebook,” just remember that your company is supposed to know all about this social media stuff.