Archive Page 2

What I’ve learned

I’ll be honest: I never thought that I would be able to learn anything new about social media just by maintaining a blog. Having read the previous 12 posts, however, I discovered that before I started this little project, there was a lot I did not know.

I never knew that there were advantages and disadvantages to using Facebook pages over Facebook groups until my blog forced me to think critically about the issue. I would have never thought about the problem that news feed sites such as Digg and Reddit presented in terms of broken conversations, and I would have never guessed that services such as Yacktrack existed to fix this problem. I would have never included blogs such as ReadWriteWeb or ProBlogger in my RSS feeds.

Most importantly, I would have never thought about the impact that social media has and will continue to have on Internet users, and I certainly would have never thought about how social media and the Internet relates to my future career.

In light of this, I believe that I will continue to blog about social media in hopes of learning more about how the Internet relates to us as public relations practitioners and Internet users in general.

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Credibility

Sometimes, a good idea gets ignored because people do not believe the idea is good. Often times ideas that receive attention, however, are ideas that come from creditable sources but are not great ideas (just turn on the television and look at the plethora of un-inspiring commercials from big businesses).

People sometimes assume that an idea can only be credible if it comes from a well established source or if it receives the endorsement of a well established source. However, there are a few ways to maintain an idea’s credibility without coming from a source already endowed with credibility.

  1. Use convincing details. Specific details that are easy to remember will help your idea gain credibility. Find a way to make those specific details concrete.
  2. Make your details tangible. 5,000 nuclear warheads is an abstract concept to most that will not stick. 5,000 BBs dropping on the ground all at once will, even if your audience doesn’t remember 5,000 specifically.
  3. Think of Frank Sinatra’s famous lyric: “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” Pick the most difficult situation that your idea will encounter and show that your idea can succeed there.
  4. Allow your audience to test your idea. Give them a way to sample your idea at no risk to them.

‘Above the Influence’ commercials, which are designed to keep teenagers and young adults off drugs, have almost no credibility. Target audience members either don’t recall the ads whenever they air, or they don’t pay attention to them.

But consider this: An ad shot by a person using a hand held camera who attends a party where drugs are being consumed. The attendee walks into a back room where two or three teenagers are preparing to inject themselves with methamphetamine. The camera records one of the teenagers injecting himself… only for the teenager to overdose. It’s a way to present a convincing, tangable example that would make a seasoned drug-dealer shutter. The idea is controversial, and would involve investigation as to how to create the ad in an ethical manner, but it would undoubtedly convince most teenagers to stay away from drugs… or at least meth.

Simple ideas are hard to forget

Chapter three of “Made to Stick” talks about taking ideas and finding out what they’re really about. Concrete ideas are easy to understand and even easier to remember. Every idea has a core message it is trying to communicate. Unfortunately, that core message is often times wrapped up in abstractions, such as jargon or hard to understand concepts, that make the core message confusing.

When he was running for his first term as the president of the United States, Bill Clinton could have talked for hours on his policy reforms on health care, foreign policy, or the economy. However, most of these involved discussing ideas that are abstract and have very little meaning. Instead, he had three short and concrete messages he made sure to re-iterate in most of his appearances: “Change versus more of the same,” “It’s the economy, stupid,” and “Don’t forget health care.” (These three ideas were created by Clinton’s campaign manager, James Carville.)

Even though Clinton had three concrete ideas, only one of them stuck. Most people remember “It’s the economy, stupid” more than they remember the other two. Despite having three concrete ideas, the public also had a say in what they thought stuck best. Sometimes, it’s impossible to guess what the public thinks will work and what they don’t think will work.

Google Friend

Google announces Google Friend, an application that allows users to make any website a social media website. More later.

Google Blog Review

The following post is a blog review for the Fortune 500 business blogging Wiki. I will be reviewing the Official Google blog. The blog will be judged in eight areas. Each area will be ranked on a scale of 1-10 in order of how well the blog is written.

The mission of the Google blog: “Insights to Googlers about our products, technology, and the Google culture.”

Ease of Finding: 6. Despite being the most popular search engine (and Web site?) on the Internet, Google’s Official blog is surprisingly more difficult to find than it needs to be. There is no link on the front page, and there isn’t any reference to an “Official Google Blog” in Google’s upper tool bar. However, It comes up as the first Google search entry when you type in “Google blog” and loads automatically if you type it into your web browser.

Frequency: 8. Google does a pretty good job of posting frequently. They generally post once every day and occasionally post two or three entries in a day. However there are times when Google doesn’t post an entry for two or three days.

Engaging Writing: 8. The Official Google blog has a few different authors, but most of their posts are clean, fairly concise, and error free. However, the content on the blog isn’t always compelling.

Focused: 6. The posts typically fall under the rubric of “products, technology, and the Google culture,” but the mission statement of the blog is too broad in itself. One post might be centered around Google’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, but the next post might be a how-to guide. Google’s blog could benefit greatly from being a little more focused.

Relevant: 8. The posts stick pretty close to the subject’s header, and all the links tend to be relevant.

Honest: 5. Google does provide a note at the bottom of a post whenever they change something on their site, but it’s hard to give Google too many points in this area when they don’t allow users to comment on (and therefore respond to) their posts.

Social Interaction design (interactive): 1. Even though Google close to the center of the Web 2.0 revolution, it has completely disregarded one of the main tenants of social media. Google’s Official blog does not allow readers to comment on blog entries. Audience interaction is key in maintaining a blog; otherwise, the blog is nothing more than an electronic journal.

Responsiveness: 1. If you don’t allow users to leave comments, how can you expect to address your reader’s concerns about a particular issue?

Overall: Google earns 43 points out of 80. The blog could benefit from being more focused and easier to find, but not being interactive takes away from what blogs are about. A lack of consumer input defeats most of the purpose that a corporate blog is supposed to have (issues of transparency and customer trust come to mind).

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Blogger relations 2.1?

It all started with this: Gina Trapani of Lifehacker , apparently tired of getting news releases sent to her personal email address, created a wiki page that allows bloggers to automatically filter any domain listed on the wiki page as spam in Gmail (if you look at the bottom of the page, she explains in detail why she created the list). Matt Haughey explains his and Gina’s feelings about “PR Spam” in his personal blog, saying that he rarely receives anything useful from public relations practitioners in his inbox.

The public relations community, especially those that are passionate about using social media as a part of public relations, was quick to respond. In response to a post by Kelli Matthews on PR Open Mic, Robert French argues that while “blast emailing” news releases worked a long time ago, it is both unprofessional and doesn’t have the same effect as it did back in the day. Rick at Blog World believes that part of being a blogger is press releases sent to blogger’s inboxes and responding accordingly. Brian Solis at PR 2.0 emphasizes that practitioners cannot cut corners when it comes to pitching by mass emailing and offers some insight on how we should look at pitching to bloggers:

The honest answer is that if you’re looking at the process of shifting from automated outreach to one-on-one pitching, then the road from here to there may seem endless and improbable. If you start on the path and decide that 1/2 way is sufficient, then you may want to glance ahead and realize that the right way to do things is just ahead of you. That’s where you need to be.

Long story short: Blogger relations is still a relatively new and evolving area in public relations. And while firms such as SHIFT Communications have made leaps in bounds in the area of blogger relations, I think there is still plenty of room for progress to be made.

This is what I think needs to change in order to successfully build relationships with bloggers:

  1. Stop sending out traditional press releases: Traditional press releases are boring. I know this is a cliché in the PR sphere, but this should be a no-brainer when talking to bloggers. A lot of the complaints made by Gina and Matt are that their personal inboxes are being spammed by practitioners, and I can only assume through what they’ve written that they’ve been receiving nothing but traditional press releases. Try this: Small, 200 word emails with a link to a website that hosts a social media release.
  2. Don’t rely on email to pitch: …at least to an extent. Again, small pitches containing a link with more information is going to be more helpful to bloggers. One of the ideas behind Web 2.0 is that consumers choose what sort of media they want to see (pull media) instead of media being pushed on consumers(push media). Mass emailing using services such as Bacon and Cision go against the the push media mantra by forcing bloggers to either read the email or delete it.
  3. Establish a strong web presence: If you want to coerce bloggers to write about what you’re pitching and are looking to rely less and less on email, a well established blog or website is essential. I personally think that both a blog and a website are necessary. Blogs are excellent for generating rapport and websites can host a social media releases. In addition, you can use the blog to point to your social media release.
  4. Read and comment: Relationships are built through authentic conversation; reading and responding to blogs will help you achieve both. Follow the blogs that you are looking to generate coverage from. Comment on anything you find interesting.
  5. Follow up on pitches: The bloggers who are complaining about press release spam feel as if the practitioners they are dealing with are making no attempt to establish a relationship with them. Matt Haughey wrote in a later post that he would appreciate a follow up email or phone call asking if the press release was relevant or not.
  6. Go with what works and trash what doesn’t: Because blogger relations is still evolving, there is much room for experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to discard any methods that don’t work, even if they fall under the umbrella of traditional media relations.

Any other thoughts on what works and what doesn’t work?

Why use social media?

I recently attended the PRSSA Northwest Networking regional activity where keynote speaker Kyle Warnick delivered a presentation about the importance of networking. Even though he only devoted a few minutes of his presentation to social media sites, he did say that we need to take advantage of the free networking tools that are available to the general public. In fact, if you are not taking advantage of social media, you’re missing out on one of the simpleist ways to network.

So the question is this: how do we use different social media sites to create and maintain relationships? The answer, of course, depends on the social media site you choose to use.

First of all, there’s nothing that can replace physical interaction. If you’re looking to make a contact, it’s easier to establish a working relationship with by meeting them face to face. Chances are that you will not be able to replicate the same sort of relationship with any social media outlet.

However, you can create relationships in the blogosphere by reading and reacting to other people’s blogs, as epitomized by (the controversial) De-conversion.com website, where readers regularly discuss blogposts with authors on a day-to-day basis. It’s a good way to become informally introduced to others, but it doesn’t have the same dynamic as a physical meeting.

Facebook and Myspace are fairly ineffective for creating meaningful connections, but they are excellent mediums for maintaining existing connections. Facebook is a little more intuitive than Myspace at this, however, considering the popularity of group features, pre-existing networks, and, most recently, the addition of Facbeook chat.

With Twitter, you can both maintain and create contacts, but on a lesser level than conventional blogging or social networking sites. Twitter lets your contacts know what you are about on a day-to-day basis. It’s acceptable Twitter etiquette to follow people you don’t know, but try not to have a following/being followed by ratio of more than 2:1.

LinkedIn has set itself up as a social media site for professionals, which makes contacts on LinkedIn have a little more social capital than those on Myspace, Facebook, or even in the blogosphere. However, LinkedIn has comparatively fewer capabilities for interaction.

There are other social media sites on the internet that perform various functions, but the essentials are a blog, Myspace or Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Of course, if there’s another site that you feel is absolutely essential for public relations practitioners to have, or if you disagree or have a different perspective on how a social media site I’ve listed can be used differently, please feel free to leave feedback.


About Bryan Saxton:

I am a Journalism Student at the University of Oregon and the Public Relation's Officer for the International Student Association.
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