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Content Marketing: Not Just The Basics

I reviewed the session Content Marketing: What Works Now from the Edelman 2014 Academic Summit. Content is a difficult thing to define and a hard thing to produce. It doesn’t have just one box that you can put it into, content can be anything and everything done by a company. It’s every action that the public sees.

You would never think content is so hard to produce, because usually when we see content all over Twitter it is clever and every brand is constantly coming up with changing content. I never  thought about how long it would take them to produce this content and how far in advance they have to look for content, work on producing content and decide where it would be best posted for the world to see.

I think the app, Insights, that the journalist created in the video is an interesting way of measuring what content works and what doesn’t. It doesn’t tell you the basic insights like how many clicks you get or how many times your post was shared; it tells you the things that mattered: how many people visited your site more than once, what other things they did while on your site (did they visit other tabs? did they get up and make a sandwich?) and what content on your page was the most intriguing. With content producers spending so much time on the things they produce, they need to know these things so that they aren’t producing unlikeable content over and over again. This would be such a helpful app, because it honestly doesn’t matter how many people click on your site. I have clicked on sites before by accident, because I meant to click on something else and the page accidentally scrolled down. Or I ‘ve clicked on what looked like something I would enjoy, but once I got to the page I realized that I probably wouldn’t like the story, so I’m not going to waste my time reading it.

Companies would measure my accidental click or my two-second interest click as “someone clicked on our link, our content is working” whereas that may not actually be the case. I’m really glad someone thought to come up with the application Insight, because if more businesses utilize it, it could solve a lot of problems and produce content that people actually want to click on and stay interested in for more than two minutes. They need to know what elements are working for them and what aren’t, not just basic analytics.

Twitter Reflection

I’ve Twitter for four-and-a-half years now. These past three-and-a-half weeks have been my most Twitter active weeks since 2012. Because of my June class, Web for Mass Communications, I’ve been able to explore Twitter in so many other ways than I would have done on my own. Through books we’ve read and just by tweeting fifteen times a week, my eyes have been opened to how much the rest of the world actually values Twitter and uses it as a tool of communication.

I always knew it was used, but I didn’t realize it was used so seriously. People converse with their favorite brands through Twitter. The good brands keep the conversation going. People live-tweet television shows and talk about things they have in common with, what used to be, strangers. Many companies who are active on Twitter use it as a marketing tool to reward customers for giving shout-outs to their brand or being loyal. They also use it to nip what could become PR crises in the bud, before they get out of hand. These days, Twitter has everything a marketing or customer service expert needs all in one place.

Three hundred and ten million people use Twitter actively (DMR). As a Mass Communication major, I can’t think of anywhere else you would have access to three hundred and ten million people besides a social media platform. And not only do you have access to them, your customers have instant access to you. That can make or break you. Thank goodness we read Groundswell and have taken a class on Hootsuite so that I can effectively use Twitter in my professional and personal life. They both have taught me how to engage with customers the right way, without getting overwhelmed, and how to do it without it taking up majority of my day. I

will definitely be using lists, hashtags, and the @mention function more often, because I was pleasantly surprised by the traffic that my Twitter page got for utilizing just those three things. I’ve gotten numerous retweets, mentions, and favorites from just using things that I’ve learned in this class and by using Hootsuite to keep track of a filtered Twitter stream, I’m able to see things that interesting to me without having to scroll through endless amounts of irrelevant information on my Twitter feed. I think it’s safe to say that Twitter has officially beat out Pinterest as my new favorite social media platform.

Hootsuite Review

My life is officially changed. Forever. As a Mass Communications major, much of your life revolves around social media. So much in fact, that I think my parents honestly believe that I’m majoring in the art of social media. If you use social media for pleasure it can consume your time, but you willingly let it. If you use social media for public relations or marketing, however, it forces you to let it take up majority of your work day. And I let it, until I stumbled upon Hootsuite.

If you don’t have Hootsuite, go download it right now. I give you permission to stop reading this blog, because Hootsuite is just that life-changing (but please come back). Not only does Hootsuite allow you to manage all of your social media networks in one place (which is pretty amazing in itself), but you can also schedule posts for every platform, see what other users are saying about you, search keywords to keep your SNS feed relevant, and allow Hootsuite to post for you even when you’re not logged in.

You would think that scheduling posts is pretty self-explanatory, but Hootsuite takes it to a whole-nother level. They have this feature called “bulk scheduling” where you can schedule a bajillion (I’m barely exaggerating) posts at one time. This is great for campaigns or if you simply like to have all of your posts planned out for the week and schedule them all on Monday. Either way, this feature will work wonders for your career. No more missing posts, setting reminders on your phone/laptop, or stressing out about finding content to post in an hour.

Speaking of finding content, Hootsuite makes that easy on you too. Like I said earlier, you can easily filter through content, by using keywords or hashtags, so it’s easier to find things relevant to you for retweeting or reposting OR you can schedule Hootsuite to pull content from blogs you like every time they’re published (or just once a day, whichever suits your fancy). They can check for new posts as little as once a day or up to every hour and can post as much as 5 times within that time span or just once, if you’re not a big fan of a bulk Facebook posts at once. Talk about cutting your web time in half while keeping your customers engaged and busy reading content.

Want to know if your customers are really engaged by what your posting? Hootsuite tracks that too! It provides you analytics including how many clicks your post got, the optimal time for posting to keep your customers engaged, and the basics you should know about your followers (gender, region, age, etc.). It provides you with everything you need to know about how you can improve that retention rate and what content you should be posting based on your audience. It also allows you to see everytime a consumer mentions you online, whether they use the @mention function on Twitter or not.

These are just a few of the amazing features that Hootsuite has to offer. You can also create multiple tabs and streams to share with your team members and assign responsibilities through them, that way it simplifies the process of who responds to what tweets. I promise that Hootsuite will simplify your life and keep your media team so much more organized. So, go install Hootsuite right now and I definitely recommend investing in Hootsuite University so you can learn and utilize all that the owl has to offer!

Blog Review: CURE

I have been apart of an organization called CURE for about a year now. It is on our college campus, but it’s not limited to just GCSU. CURE U has chapters all across the United States on thirty-four different college campuses (CURE U). It’s also an international, not-for-profit organization with hospitals in ten underdeveloped countries (CURE). They work on healing children who have deformities such as clubfoot, severe burns or broken bones. Through that, they also proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to places that would have otherwise never heard of him.

Their blog is a very unusual blog for an organization to have, because they let students of CURE University chapters contribute, volunteers from mission trips contribute, and even have staff from the hospital blog about patients and their stories. However, the blog series I most enjoy reading is “Mead Minutes” by the Medical Director of the Tim Tebow (yes, that Tim Tebow) hospital in the Philippines, Tim Mead. He writes various stories of his encounters with patients, how scary it can be, and how he is amazed by the attitude that some of the children carry.

The one that stuck out to me today was his blog about two little boys, both of whom came in on the same day, with the same injury, and had similar life stories. However, they didn’t know each other until their paths crossed at the hospital. Dr. Mead starts off the blog with how scary it is to be the only “pediatric orthopedic hospital on the island of Mindanao” because you get kids with problems that the surgeons don’t always know that they can handle. However, somehow their trust in God pays off and they are able to do something they didn’t think possible.

Even though he started his blog off that way, that’s not the direction Dr. Mead took his readers in. I thought that it would be a scary blog about a Grey’s Anatomy-like medical condition that had a happy ending, despite the reader thinking it didn’t. I guess I thought that Dr. Mead would end up boasting about himself and his medical techniques. But he didn’t. He not only gave the glory to God (at the end of the blog), but gave the glory to the kids. He talks about how, because of these boys’ contagious, happy attitudes and budding friendship, it made surgery a lot less stressful and the boys’ recovery a lot less painful. What I got from it was that the patients made the doctors’ job easier, rather than it usually being the other way around.

Being apart of one of the chapters of this amazing organization, I know that the blog wasn’t written for PR purposes, but it did do great things for CURE. Dr. Mead told a great story outlining how hard it is to be a doctor working in a hospital where you never know what you’ll see walk through the doors. He then takes you to the point of how God works in mysterious ways and how, instead of being scared, he is blessed beyond measure of the things he gets to see happen in this hospital on a daily basis. He starts out pulling the reader one direction and then does a 180, leaving the reader with a feel-good emotion knowing that, because of doctors like him, good things are happening in the Philippines.

Cognitive Surplus

If you love analogies and examples upon examples then this is the book for you. Clay Shirky explains the technology phenomenon through Gin in London, beef markets in South Korea, world-wide charity collaborations and so much more.

I have only read the first four chapters of his book thus far, but it has talked about the addiction to television and passing through that on to the internet (Chapter 1), the means that people have to use the Internet (Chapter 2), the motive and why people want to use the Internet (Chapter 3), and the opportunities that are available for everyone to use the Internet (Chapter 4).

The text is very, very analogy heavy so it wasn’t my favorite, but it was a good book nonetheless. My favorite and the most interesting part of Shirky’s theory to me is in the third chapter when he talks about the two different types of motivations that people have: intrinsic and extrinsic. “Intrinsic motivations are those in which the activity itself is the reward….Extrinsic motivations are those in which the reward for doing something is external to the activity, not the activity itself” (Shirky, 72). It reminded me of what my class read in chapter eight of Groundswell when the authors talked about “psychic income” motivating people to participate in online forums. People participate for good feelings, validation, a sense of belonging, recognition, or so many other reasons (Li & Bernoff, 160).

I am fascinated with the question that both of these books raised: why do people contribute online? What do they gain from it? Usually, money is not the answer. Extrinsic things are not available. In my opinion, they gain competence and validation, as well as the ego that comes with it.

Marketing Game Changer

If there’s one thing that has stuck out to me during my Web for Mass Communications class this Summer, it’s that social media can be a game changer in the world of marketing and advertising. I’m specifically going to focus on Twitter, because the term social media is very, very broad and for your purposes, I don’t want this to get too lengthy (I tend to do that).

Twitter is such a great way to recruit potential customers and to engage the ones you do. It’s not that difficult either. There are apps like Hootsuite who help you set everything up (if you’re a neat freak, like me) and compile everything you want under one tab, or two, or three…. or four. You can keep track of your Twitter timeline, who has mentioned (using the @ function) your brand, key phrases or words, hashtags and just about everything else under the sun.

The amount of companies that use Twitter is mind-blowing to me. A study showed that 65.8% of companies use Twitter. When you first think about it, that seems like a lot; “Yeah, it’s over half, that’s pretty good!” But then, if you think about how ridiculous it is to not set up an account and market your company for free, the companies who aren’t utilizing this amazing social media tool are insane. So, if you run a company and you’re not utilizing Twitter, I’m here to help you out.

Some of my favorite brands have a great Twitter feed, @tacobell, @chickfila, @jimmyjohns (I promise I’m not a fatty, it just seems that the fast food industry does a really great job of engaging people on Twitter) and that’s why I love them! Even though I’m not a huge fan of Taco Bell’s food, their Twitter feed always makes me laugh and occasionally makes me crave their food. So, get engaged on Twitter and I promise that your customer relationships will sky rocket!

Here a few links to get you started:

7 Tips For Using Twitter for Better Customer Engagement

10 Ways to Use Twitter to Effectively Increase Customer Engagement

Eight Rules of Customer Engagement

To 20 Brands That Know How To Engage With Customers On Twitter

And if you’re feeling really adventurous, be sure to check out Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff to teach you all about jumping in to the online groundswell without drowning.

 

 

Groundswell

The definition of a groundswell as defined by the authors is, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Bernoff & Li, pg. 9). After first reading this definition I was like, “yeah, maybe, I guess… but I still feel like people rely on corporations for a number of things.” However, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff did a great job in not only backing up their definition in the following chapters of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, but also showing me that I helped this social phenomenon become a trend.

People are going to rely on other consumers to review certain products and trust them more than they trust a big corporation. I’m going to be more prone to believe a stranger on the internet reviewing Nike tennis shoe than I am going to believe Nike’s advertisement (no offense to Nike; I actually own three pairs of their shoes and an unhealthy amount of their workout attire). You want to hear a product is great from a real person, not from the producer itself. This is what causes the groundswell. People want to hear from people.

While this can be scary for companies, the authors of Groundswell give them great tips on how to make the groundswell work to their advantage. I particularly liked the steps I last read about in chapters five and six: listening and talking. One quote in general stuck out to me when I read the book a few hours ago and has been in my mind ever since: “Your brand is whatever your customers say it is. And in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide…brands belong to customers, not companies” (Bernoff & Li, pg. 78). After Li and Bernoff point out this realization it seems stupid that companies would even hesitate to get involved in the groundswell. But, as they pointed out in earlier chapters, it can be overwhelming and a lot of executives don’t know how to begin. You can’t always control the dialogue in a groundswell and that will keep a lot of companies from participating in it at all.

In order to grow your relationship (which is the most important thing, even over technology) with your consumers, you have to get wrapped up into this world where consumers are talking about your product. You have to listen to what they’re saying, because that will help you define your brand, see what people are saying about you and be able to see what you can improve on; without spending thousands of dollars on a survey or research. In addition to listening, you have to take initiative and talk.

Listening is fine and dandy, but nothing will get solved if you don’t participate in the conversation. Not only do you need to start the conversation to get people talking about you and your product, but you also need to keep it going. Some of the brands that I respect most have established a strong social media presence by engaging and interacting with their followers. This is what the chapters thus far have been telling us to do. Rely on the groundswell to build and strengthen relationships with your consumers. And don’t expect them to always come to you, you should go to them, too.

 

YouNow: The New YouTube

We’ve all heard of YouTube. Well, what exactly is YouNow? According to the application, “YouNow is the best way to discover talented broadcasters,watch live streams and video chat live with people around the world.” On their about page, the makers say with YouNow you can 1) Broadcast  Yourself: “Tap ‘Go Live’ and you’re on! Broadcast to a live audience, expand your social media following, and grow your very own, loyal fanbase!”, 2) Discover Great People: “From live DJs & musicians to YouTubers & Viners, discover talented content creators and promote your favorites to the top!”, and 3) Uncover the Power of You: “Whether you are in front of the camera or behind it, join a friendly community of people who love spending time together, and make your mark!”.

YouNow “hosts 100 million user sessions a month and 50,000 hours of live video every day” (YouNow). Among those millions of users and hours of live footage are broadcasts from Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Refinery29. Public Relations teams from all media outlets are using this new Internet sensation to their advantage (Hackl). So, why do these news and entertainment outlets choose YouNow instead of YouTube?

Unlike YouTube, YouNow is broadcast live, allowing the audience to participate and interact with the broadcaster. “Viewers can make comments and ask performers questions, which appear in real-time alongside live videos” (Shields). Danny Shea, the editorial director of the Huffington Post, stated that they have always believed in “going where the audience is” and they’ve “been impressed with their [YouNow subscribers] level of engagement” which is why they decided to start a weekly broadcast on the new site rather than stick to their own platform (Shields). Huffington Post has over 41,000 fans and close to 600,000 views on the site where they host two weekly broadcasts.

The fact that the videos are broadcast live also forces the brands to be transparent, which the viewers love (Moses). Refinery29 hosts a broadcast once or twice a week where the staff talks about anything from politics to fashion to food. The chief content officer, Emmerich, believes that “the realness comes with that raw and unfinished look” (Moses). The transparency of the broadcasts drives the viewers to watch them and makes it feel like a one-on-one broadcast, not a one-to-many broadcast (Shields).

People Magazine even utilized YouNow during the Oscars to reach a younger fan-based audience. “It’s a younger platform, and the engagement is extraordinary. They told us there was a 43 percent engagement rate. That’s high for any platform,” said J.J. Miller, the executive producer of video for People (Moses).

Media is choosing to embrace YouNow because of the younger fan-base and the fact that it’s easy to engage and interact with your audience. Users of the new Internet phenomena must be ready to be transparent, be put in uncomfortable situations and have a sense of humor, because anything could come their way.

 

 

Social Media: New Customer Service

In Socialnomics, a book written about the business side of using social media by Erik Qualman, I have learned some surprising statistics and that I’m pretty wrong about the statistics I thought I knew.

Social media is a powerful tool in today’s society. It connects everyone and it is where half of the users get their news (Anderson & Caumont). If they get their news there, you can imagine how much time they spend on social media. It is such an easy tool for companies to use to market to and interact with customers, however “70 percent of big company CEOs have no presence on social media” (Qualman). What an opportunity missed.

Studies show that “63 percent of business to consumer marketers found social media helped them develop loyal fans” (Qualman). What’s better than creating a loyal fan base for free? Nothing. The real question is, once companies get this loyal fan base because of social media, are they using social media to keep them loyal?

In his book, Qualman points out that so many companies focus on acquiring new customers and forget to reward their existing ones. But, why? One study found, “the cost to acquire a new customer is six to seven time higher than to maintain a new one” (Qualman). So, why would companies put so much effort into bringing in new customers and so little effort into rewarding their new ones?

I took it upon myself to do a little research based on a story that a professor told me about last semester. Long story short, she found a bug in her food at Taco Bell, called customer service, told she would be called back in two-three days and never was. She took the problem to Twitter, posting the picture for the world to see, and Taco Bell immediately responded. Public embarrassment clearly goes a longer way than a private phone call with a Taco Bell representative.

After reading this chapter, I decided to see if Taco Bell’s response to positive tweets was as on-point as it was to negative ones. Secretly, I was hoping it wasn’t, just so I could have something in line with Qualman’s book to write about, but surprisingly it was. They have a very active Twitter presence and respond to almost every customer. Whether the tweets are good or bad. They can be sarcastic with customers, serious, or goofy. Their personality really shines on their Twitter account, making them transparent and a respectable company.

Some other companies that are active on Twitter and respond to their positive and negative customer tweets are Chick-fil-a and Sonic Drive-In. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these three restaurants are multi-million fast food chains. Everyone knows Taco Bell, Chick-fil-a, and Sonic. Everyone knows the brand: what food they serve, their logo, what their colors are, everything about them. This alone proves that social media is a powerful way to please your customers. If you can be active on social media, you’ll have a great relationship with customers and a greater retention rate.

While acquiring new customers is important, you can let your loyal customers do that for you. If you have a great relationship with existing customers, others will see that via social media and want to try out your product as well. Personally, I think it says a lot when a company has a powerful presence on social media and majority of the companies I shop at are based on customer service.

 

 

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