Recommended Weekend Reading

October 18, 2013

Moving a little slowly this weekend? Slower than molasses in October? Head on over to the Music and Molasses Arts and Crafts Festival at the Tennessee Agriculture Museum to enjoy old-fashioned activities like sheep shearing and country clogging while you savor homemade molasses and maybe a fried pie or four. Afterward, take some time to relax and enjoy our favorite online reads from this week.

Did you know that …

Well, now you do! Stay tuned for next week’s list of the Internet’s latest and greatest.

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VineCrop

The following is an email exchange between MP&F staff members Lacey Purcell and Colby Sledge, because we were probably going to email each other about this anyway.

CS: Lacey, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around Vine. I feel like we’re really just giving life to selfies, which, along with zombies and the Boy Meets World College Years, are things we just should not be reanimating. What is the audience for Vine?

LP: I’ll overlook your BMWCY dis, because we both know those seasons were critical development periods for Cory and Topanga’s relationship.

That being said, Vine is a great opportunity to engage social media users on all platforms. I think it gives brands a chance to explore different ways to drive traffic to a website and increase SEO, among other things. What problems are you running into?

CS: My problem is that brands haven’t figured out what to do with it. Urban Outfitters dresses dogs. NBC films a JPEG of Seth Meyers and pipes in weird stock applause. These people know GIFs exist, right?

So far, Vine is populated mostly with teenagers being bored. Is this really what brands want to associate themselves with?

LP: OK, I agree. People are jumping on the Vine bandwagon a little too quickly. But isn’t that what happened with Facebook and Twitter? It took brands some time to figure out how to tailor those platforms to fit their particular messages. I think Wimbledon did a cool job giving a behind-the-scenes look with this Vine.

CS: Sorry for the delay — I just awoke from the coma that video induced.

Look, I agree with you, in part: Vine’s biggest potential for brands is providing consumers with access — something they can’t see anywhere else. Sports presents a great opportunity for this. I think the Dodgers’ “#VineDeckCircle” is a step in the right direction.

NBA and NHL playoff teams should be making bank on Vine. If Zach Randolph appeared on my iPhone and told me to purchase a special-edition “Grit and Grind” playoff headband, I would buy approximately 700.

LP: Don’t act like you weren’t entranced by Wimbledon. But seriously, that video contains something tennis lovers may never have seen before: a guy who looks really un-legit drawing the lines for one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

However, Vine does more than behind-the-scenes. What about some kind of transformation? A home décor store could use the app to showcase a room before, during and after a renovation. Perfect place to showcase new products, feature new designers, etc.

CS: And what about fashion? A few runway shows at New York Fashion Week did a good job with this, but the possibilities here are limitless. Don’t people want to see what clothes look like when they’re actually being worn?

By the way, we’re going to have to wrap this up soon, because Tim Gunn and I have an early lunch.

LP: I’m impressed. Let’s tie a pashmina around you and call it a day.

I agree. The fashion industry could do so many creative things with this app, and it makes sense for it to have a presence because of the incredibly creative nature of the industry.

I like Vine. I like social media. I don’t like it for everyone. The ultimate goal shouldn’t be to have people watch the vines; the goal should be to drive traffic into a store, raise awareness about an issue, or increase sales in some way, shape or form. Vine can help do that, but, just like with Facebook and Twitter, there has to be a strategy behind its use.

CS: Agreed. Vine looks simple, but beneath it lies a tangled web – dare I say, a tangled VINE – of necessary strategy and resources. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to record a Vine on a bicycle, and potentially a how-to on avoiding ambulance rides.

CS: We attached my phone to my helmet using a very complicated lantern-strap-and-paper-clip model, which proved way more interesting than the bike video itself. WARNING: Do not view bike footage while operating heavy machinery.

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 had the great pleasure speaking to a group of emergency management folks in Southern California a few weeks ago. The topic was the use of social media in emergency management.

Emergency planners do yeoman’s work in terms of developing scenarios and potential responses. And, they spend a lot of time making sure that during emergencies they can communicate with each other.

Traditionally, emergency managers have relied on traditional media in terms of outreach to the general public. Those communications channels will remain valuable, but social media can and should have a place in an emergency communications strategy.

For example, social media can be used simply as another monitoring tool to augment traditional channels. A person trapped in their basement during an emergency might not be able to get through jammed 911 lines, but could post a tweet or update their Facebook page from their mobile phone to call for help.

Social media could also be used before emergencies to build grassroots networks of secondary responders. One of the things the folks in California talked about was transporting large numbers of people away from problem areas or to medical services. Being able to tap into organizations with transportation fleets that could lend a hand would be invaluable.

Just getting the word out about emergencies and instructions to the public using social media is especially critical for younger people who rely almost exclusively on Facebook and Twitter for their news.

As always, the key to developing any social media strategy is determining first how you want to use it, what specific audiences you are targeting and how it fits into your overall communications plan.

Today’s edition of the Nashville Business Journal includes a column I wrote about using Twitter effectively for business. Here are four questions that any company should consider when deciding whether to use Twitter:

1) Are you willing to devote at least 30 minutes a day several days a week to reading tweets from others and posting tweets of your own?
2) What call to action will you offer potential customers in the midst of all your other nonpromotional tweets?
3) Are you willing to abandon “broadcast mode,” the affliction of only blasting out self-serving promotional content?
4) Will you share articles from third parties and tweets from other users with your followers?

I like to think of Twitter as a cocktail party on the Web. Just like real life, no one will want to talk to you if all you do is blather on about how amazing your business is and push people to give you their money. On the other hand, if you’re willing to have mutually beneficial and interesting conversations with the users you encounter and blend in appropriate and relevant offers on an occasional basis, Twitter can be a blast, and it can be a boon for your business.

The full text of this column is available for Nashville Business Journal subscribers.

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.