Sunday, April 24, 2011

Social Media, Meet Politics

Today is Tuesday. It's not quite half way through the week, but it is not the absolute beginning. Usually my Tuesdays are pretty dull. I go to class, I come home, I nap, I think about doing school work - pretty average if you ask me. Although it may be a boring day for me, there's never a slow moment in the social media world. Every second, millions of people interact with each other through social media networks. This week, I have decided to examine how social media will be a power player in next years 2012 Presidential Election. 

Writers and bloggers all over the country, have coined the next US Presidential Election as a social media battle. Mashable writes, "It’s clear that there will be more back and forth via social media this time around than in 2008, when Obama’s campaign pioneered the use of Facebook and Twitter to reach voters.In 2008, social media networks were not as developed and as popular as they are today. Facebook currently has over 500 million users, Twitter is a little behind with 175 million users, and Youtube is rapidly growing with 490 million users. With this type of major social presence on the Internet, it is no surprise that that social media is going to play a very influential role the upcoming election. As one of the quickest and most efficient means of connecting people and transferring news, social media will be a critical tool for political candidates to reach the American public. For anyone who doubts this, just type in the hashtag #barackobama, and you’ll be able to tap into millions of real-time conversations about the current President (or go on Facebook and observe his 19 million fans). 

On Monday April 4th, President Obama announced his 2012 re-election campaign. However, this time it was in the form of a video that went viral.  I say it went viral because within a matter of minutes my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded with "I'm In!" likes for Obama. In addition to releasing a video on Youtube, Obama offered ways for people to get involved via Facebook and Twitter. Simply go to Obama's website, click "I'm in!" and instantly, you are connected to the millions of other people backing Obama's campaign. Obama's video release was an excellent and quick way to spread the word about his re-election. The amazing thing about social media is that each time someone posted the video, someone else could share it, retweet it, email it, and spread it to hundreds of other people with the click of a button. This type of social media "storm" allows for news to spread within seconds. 

Shortly after Obama's video went viral, Republicans were prepared to release their rebuttal video. Whereas Obama wanted "change," potential GOP candidate, Tim Pawlenty (R- Minnesota) is telling us it's time for a "new direction." (Note to all politicians: I'm kind of sick of these generic "change" "directions" and "it begins here" mottos.) Pawlenty's video is the exact opposite of Obama's. Instead of smiling faces talking about how excited they are for the election, the GOP video uses brisk, rough images of gas prices and financial crisis to depict the current state of America. If you haven't seen the price of gasoline, I recommend just staying indoors. The video definitely uses "shock value" to convey the importance of this next election. 
In addition to Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney has also jumped on the social media bandwagon and released a video announcing his decision to run for President. Just like his fellow competitors cheesy lines, Romney informs us that he "believes in America." Mashable wrote a great summary of Romney's "believe in America" video. Romney talks about unemployment, the economic crisis, and directly blames Obama for all of these issues. In addition, Romney's video takes a different approach addresses the audience directly. Whereas the other videos used images and music to convey emotions, Romney uses facts as a means to evoke emotion. Romney talks about his credibility and the types of plans he has for America. Not that I don't like Mitt Romney, but this video was a bore. I found myself dozing off after 35 seconds. At least Pawlenty's video was so loud it kept me awake and focused. 

If you thought silent videos were no longer popular, clearly you have not been paying attention to the political storm on Youtube. Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, recently added a "silent" video of a Democratic Representative giving a silent speech. The video, entitled "Speechless," condemns the Republican Parties agenda for 2012. New York Representative Joe Crowley used posters with messages on them to deliver his "speech" to Congress last week. The video has already received 260,000 + views on Youtube. Although Crowley is not a political candidate, this video  helps show how other politicians are using social media as a way to fuel the 2012 election. 

While many politicians have used Youtube as a campaigning source, surely the battle does not end here. After this Youtube frenzy of political videos, politicians took their thoughts and ideas to Twitter. Republican Mitt Romney called out Barack Obama saying, "@barackobama I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as are 14m unemployed Americans.” Unlike Romney, other politicians were smarter and did not use Twitter as a means to bash a fellow politician. 

Recently, President Obama went to the Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, CA and participated in a live "Townhall Chat" with Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg. Obama answered questions about the government, current policies, and the future. I must say this was a smart move on Obama's behalf. By making ties with the largest social network in the world, Obama was able to spread news about his campaign and policies very quickly. In addition, Obama's consistent involvement with Facebook helps emphasize the importance of social media. Although this was a great PR move, hundreds of people protested outside of the Facebook HQ against Obama. 

Over the next few months, it will be important to monitor the political chatter to see the reactions to these videos and what type of topics are stirred up on social networks. I'm sure as it gets closer to the election, certain hashtags will be used to help organize information. It will be important for politicians to monitor the "social media airwaves" to try and learn more about the American public. By observing conversations and topics, politicians can better aim their speeches and ideas. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is Twitter Hurting Your Love Life?

With over 200 million users, Twitter is one of the largest and most popular social networking sites. With this type of major influence, Twitter has be subject to a number of studies on how it influencing individuals in their everyday lives. Recently, numerous articles have been published that talks about how active Twitter users tend to have shorter relationships. What's the real story behind this?

Both Mashable and Gizmodo published articles about Twitter's possible negative effects on your love life. Ok Cupid, an online dating service, recently performed a study on how romantic relationships do not last as long for the active Twitter user. Out of 833,987 Ok Cupid members, the majority who actively tweeted had shorter relationships. In addition, the problem continued to get worse with age. The study also examined that, "The average relationship for an 18-year-old that uses Twitter is about nine months." This is compared to an average of nine and a half months for 18 year olds who do not tweet. 

Ok Cupid's founder, Christian Rudder's has said that, "People who Tweet live their life in shorter bursts. Is this true? I have to believe it's very situational. I tweet a lot. Okay, I tweet too much, but it doesn't mean I am going to break up with my boyfriend because I happen to spontaneously updated my Twitter while I am bored in class. In addition, nine months versus nine and a half months? Two weeks isn't that big of a deal when it comes to dating someone. I don't think this is a really rational argument. The headline was more appealing than the actual research results. 

Gizmodo makes an excellent point in there article. What do we want from relationships? Generally something that is mutual, loving, happy, and easy. What is Twitter on the other hand? Gizmodo states, "Twitter is, for the most part, the antithesis of these things—unidirectional, cold, and vain." Perhaps they are right. Twitter for the most part is very vain. According to one study, "pointless babble" makes up 40% of tweets each day. Maybe Twitter is making us more self-indulged and consumed in ourselves. I can't speak on behalf of anyone else, but I know I don't want to be in a relationship with someone who is only concerned about their own well-being (as possibly their Twitter's well-being). 

Overall, I guess I am sort of surprised by this study (and let down at the same time). I was expecting a more "drastic" difference in relationship lengths. When I first read the headline I got a little nervous. I was hoping that I wouldn't be another person that made this statistic true (note to self: don't believe in self-fulfilling prophecies). At the end of the day, though,  I am going to keep tweeting. Stats are stats, this is real life. 

Monitoring Our Influences

For everyone in my Social Media for PR class (#COMM3309), we know tomorrow is the lucky day when most of our projects are due. In addition, it's also the amazing day when our social media audits are due. After stressing out all weekend, I took a break and decided to complete my weekly blogs. While I was reading through Brian Solis' Engaged, I realized how much this chapter relates to the social media audit project we have been working on for the past four weeks.

I didn't really understand what "social media monitoring" was, nor did I see it's importance. Solis provides a good background look at social media monitoring. He refers to monitoring as the eyes, ears, and heart o the organization. I did not realize how true this was until after I completed my audit. If I was running a company, I would be monitoring all over the web. It was fascinating to be able to tap into conversations and actually see what people were talking about. Normally, we only rely on what we hear from friends and families. Social media monitoring offers a completely new way to "assess" a company. In addition, it definitely shows where the company needs to improve.

For my social media audit, I chose a local business in Austin. After monitoring the company for a substantial amount of time, I thought of a number of a different ways that the company could improve their social media and thus increase business.

Solis also encourages listening. Sure, we can all read what customers are saying, but are we really listening to their opinions? By listening and taking customers opinions into action, the company can:

- grow
- create and ideate
- humanize
- enhance processes
- expand market share
- improve products and services

Solis provides even more outcomes from listening in chapter 19 of Engage. Listening not only benefits the clients, but the company as a whole. If it's a win-win situation, why aren't more organizations doing this? Maybe they do not know how. Solis goes on to teach us how to social media monitor and provides a number of websites and tools to help develop a strong monitoring campaign.

Friendfeed, Collecta, Hootsuite, and Twitter search were just a few of the tools Solis listed. After completing my audit, I wish I had used a few of these other tools in my Yahoo! pipe. By engaging in more online sources, the company can find more feedback and information on the internet.

Overall, this chapter was very informative and useful for the social media audit. My only concern is that it was just a little too late. With the social media audit due tomorrow, I cannot use a lot of the tools that Solis provided. However, this will be very useful if I ever run monitor another company.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Engaging Ourselves

Recently, I wrote a philosophy paper that applied Aristotle's theories of virtue and vice to internet behavior.  Looking back on things, I wish someone had warned all of us that the internet would come back to bite all of us in the butt. As a kid, I didn't think about what, why, or where I posted things. I acted in the moment and thought the "delete" button actually meant it would be erased. However, this is not the case anymore. Lucky for me, I don't have any "life threatening" information or photos floating on the web (that I am aware of...).

In chapter 13 of Brian Solis' Engaged, he talks about a variety of ways that we can brand ourselves on the internet. Before Solis dives into these branding methods, he warns about using cautious when posting information on the internet. Solis says, "Individuals who are currently employed are also at risk of losing their jobs based on their behavior on social networks and what they choose to share online" (Solis 165). Getting fired over what you share on the internet? I thought if I ever got fired it would be because of poor work, or always being late. Social technology is changing every aspect of our society. Solis also warns that "our contributions to the Web are indexed and archived for years to come" (Solis 164). It is crucial that we are very cautious about what we choose to post on the internet. For all you know, one post could land you in the unemployment line.

As we continue through Engage, Solis begins to teach us on "personal branding." Solis says, "We are now defined by the size of our social graph" (Solis 165). Our digital identity can be affected by our following. It is important that we develop our online selves with cautious by making sure we analyze every contribution to the internet. One tool that can really help define your online presense is a blog. Blogs allow for individuals to really let their voices shine through. Unlike social media networks, you can explicitly talk about interest, hobbies, or experiences.

In order to "brand" ourselves, we must get our voices heard. In class last week, we discussed how to use Google Insights and Ad Words to figure out what tags could be placed on our blogs to make them show up in search engines. Solis also encourages this and lists a number of websites that can help bloggers find better tags and terms to increase popularity.

Once we get an audience, how to interact with them? Solis provides an in-depth list of ways to successfully converse with your readers. Solis says:

1. Stick to your area of expertise and provide a unique perspective on what's going on

2. Post meaningful, respectful comments

3. Always think before posting - also, post timely

4. When disagreeing, keep it polite

Throughout the rest of chapter 17, Solis continues a detailed list of ways to keep healthy and efficient communication flowing through your social networks.

Overall, Solis provides a great starting point for branding, internet safety, and interaction. This chapter was especially enjoyable because it related to a lot of our recent in-class discussions. In addition, I know a number of kids in the class are doing personal branding projects, so this was probably helpful. Up until a few days ago, I never considered an online portfolio or personal branding. However, Solis has provided a substantial list of great reasons that I should take my skills to the internet. High five, technology.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Social Media: It's a Political Battle

Tuesday. It's not quite half way through the week, nor is it the absolute beginning. Usually my Tuesdays are pretty dull. I go to class, I come home, I nap, I think about doing school work - pretty average if you ask me. Although it may be a dull day for me, there's never a dull moment in the social media world. Today, I decided to examine the political stories unfolding on social media websites. 

Many writers and bloggers have coined the next US Presidential Election as a social media battle. In 2008, social media networks were not as developed and widely used as they are today. Facebook has over 500 million users and Twitter is a little behind with 175 million users. Either way, there is no denying that millions of people are connected and sharing thoughts every day over one of these social mediums.

On Monday President Obama released his 2012 re-election campaign. However, this time it was in the form of a video that went viral.  I say it went viral because within a matter of minutes my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded with "I'm In!" likes for Obama. Obama's video release was an excellent and quick way to spread the word about his re-election. The amazing thing about social media is that each time someone liked the video, they could share it, retweet it, email it, and spread it to hundreds of people with the click of a button.

Shortly after Obama's video release, Republicans were prepared to release their rebuttal video. Whereas Obama wanted "change" potential GOP candidate, Tim Pawlenty (R- Minnesota) is telling us it's time for a "new direction." (Note to all politicians: I'm kind of sick of these generic "change" "directions" "it begins here" mottos.) Pawlenty's video is the exact opposite of Obama's. Instead of smiling faces talking about how excited they are for the election, the GOP video uses brisk, rough images of gas prices and financial crisis to depict the current state of America. If you haven't seen the price of gasoline, I recommend just staying indoors. The video definitely uses "shock value" to convey the importance of this next election.

Surely, the political battle can't stop here. Politicians took their thoughts and ideas to Twitter. Republican Mitt Romney called out Barack Obama saying, "@barackobama I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as are 14m unemployed Americans.”

It will be important to monitor the political chatter during the next few days as million watch and share political videos. As we continue to share our personal thoughts and opinions through social media, the use of tags, retweets, and other tools will help politicians keep an eye on how the American public is feeling. #imready

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Like" Google

Google has been a pretty popular topic for discussion this past week. In class, we watched Inside The Mind of Google. CNBC's typical "dig beyond the surface" type documentary, examined Google's precense in our every day lives. Many of us use Google to search for things on the world wide web, images, videos, blogs, news, and  a variety of other sources. One guy in the video put it best, "We confess things to the Google search box that we wouldn't even tell to a priest." Now that I've got everyone hyped up on Google, let's talk about their latest and greatest feature - the +1 button.

The majority of us have Facebook's and use it on a regular basis. No matter what you might be doing on Facebook, at one point of another you have clicked the "like" button. This little button has become a revolutionary trend. The "like" feature has crossed over to clothes, movies, and advertisements. I am proud to say that I own a few items of clothing that say "I LIKE ____." It's genius. Liking something on Facebook can have a huge affect on your Facebooking experience. In light of this, Google needed to create something just as competitive - the +1

Google advertises the +1 as "The +1 button is shorthand for "this is pretty cool" or "you should check this out." Kind of a corny advertisement if you ask me, but none the less, it's a first try. 

Much like the "like" button, the Google +1 button will allow individuals to have a more "social" experience while surfing the web. As users +1 items, it will be archived and it will allow Google to get to "know" you better and thus make your search results as fitting as possible. In order to make this a "social" experience, Google will compare items you liked with others, in an effort to bring you more results and items that it thinks you would like.

Downsides? Facebook is a very personal social media website. We expose our interests, likes, family members, favorite books, gender, and a variety of other personal information. However, Facebook is able to use these tools to make sure ads and other pop-ups are directly related to what we post. Google is lacking in this category. An article on Mashable states, "If Google could get more profiles, it could increase the accuracy of its targeting beyond keywords and browsing data." 

Feeling a little confused? Dont worry, Google provided a 1 minute video to explain the entire thing using fun pictures. 

Engaging Our Audience

As we continue on through Brian Solis' Engaged, we learn a variety of ways to increase of social media skills and to engage the audience. In chapter 6, Solis begins by examining the "understated" power of photo-sharing websites like Flickr, Webshots, and Photobucket. Solis says that people who use Flickr are able to "build relationships" over a number of topics (travel, music, etc.) The word relationships really stuck out to me when I was reading through the book. Social media serves to bring people together and connect us and in turn, develop relationships. By sharing our interests and hobbies in images on a social media website like Flickr, we allow ourselves to connect with others who share the same passions.

Solis talks about how The American Red Cross used Flickr for members to share photos and experiences while working with The Red Cross. By sharing stories and photos, it helped the volunteers build relationships and increase connectedness. Despite being a great social network, websites like Flickr are most effective when they are used in conjunction to other social media networks. The American Red Cross also has a blog, Twitter, and Facebook account that are frequently updated. Users are able to interact across multiple social media networks. 

What are some other ways to increase social connectedness? Solis points out a number of ways to create chatter and effectively transmit information. One of the most popular, and socialized, areas of social media are forums/discussion boards. On discussion boards, individuals are able to openly talk about any number of topics. When I need a question answered, a lot of times I will type the question into Google and a number of discussion boards will pop up. Here, people who have the same question work together to find a solution. It is a quick, and generally, effective means of communicating. Solis uses Yelp as an example of a social forum. Members of Yelp provide personal experiences and stories at local businesses in any area. In turn, readers are able to get "real" insight into a restaurant before they go eat. This type of reviewing website is a great way to connect individuals and share stories. It is also very beneficial for finding out nitty gritty facts about restaurants and businesses. 

How do we maximize ourselves on Twitter? Solis provides 21 tips that will help increase connectedness and spread information for brands. Tips include concepts such as: special offers, focus groups, customer service, curation, fundraising, and events. Each of these tips can help brands make their mark on Twitter. 

It is important for brands to make sure that they do not "cross over streams" when they are using social media networks. Each network requires a certain type of behavior. On Twitter, we use short words and language because of the space we are allowed. However, the same sparse language should be avoided on a blog.

Overall, Solis provides an excellent jumping point for brands and individuals to maximize their social networking experience. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Zuned Out

By now, I’m sure most people have noticed that I have an “Apple bias” on my blog. It’s not that I necessarily prefer Apple over any company, I just really enjoy my Apple products. While I was perusing the internet last week, I stumbled upon a  headline that caught my eye: "RIP ZUNE." 

In November 2006, Microsoft released their own mp3 player called the Zune. The Zune was supposed to be the competition for Apple's iPod. However, that's not how it worked out. As Mashable writes, the Zune was neither cheaper, nor better, than Apple's infamous iPod. If it's not cheaper, what's the point in buying one?

According to Best Buy, for $199 you can buy a 32gb Zune mp3 player. Okay, let's check out the iPod. For $274 dollars, you can get an iPod touch, or for $244, a 160gb iPod - THAT's SO MUCH MUSIC AND SPACE. I myself use the 160gb iPod and have never been let down. Now, in some aspects the Zune is a better deal. Compared to an iPod touch, you are saving a decent amount of money and still get a lot of great features. The Zune HD, which is the latest model, has a multi-touch screen and wireless capabilities. At the end of the day, I'd say it all depends on what operating system you prefer and how much music you have. A lot of people I know refuse to go Apple. They are comfortable with their Microsoft products and would prefer not to switch over. I have around 90 gb of music, so a Zune wouldn't cut it. And for the price, I get way more gb/dollar with an Apple iPod.

I think the major "pitfall" for the Zune is its inability to sync up with iTunes and that is can only operate throgh Windows. After reading a number of articles, it appears that you can "unlock" your Zune, but who wants to go through that mess? On the other hand, iTune is readily available for all Windows operating systems. Bonus points for Apple, again.

I've only used a Zune once. All in all, it looks like a pretty decent product. As a Mac-obsessed consumer, I'm actually pretty interested in the Zune after doing the research. However, it looks like my time to acquire a Zune is coming to an end.

Microsoft plans on continuing the Zune software for Windows phones, but the product itself won't be released anymore.

Maybe I missed my chance, or maybe it was a sign that I did the right thing in 2005 and bought an iPod. Either way, my regrets go out to anyone who is mourning the death of the Zune. Perhaps it's time for that iPod. 

Social What?

"Social Media" is a fairly familiar word to most us. We use Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of other websites to keep up with friends and exchange news. But what does "social media" really mean in today's technologically savvy society?

In chapter 3 of Engage, Brian Solis helps us define and understand social media in a different light. Solis says, “we should never strive to master something that evolves much faster than our ability to fully grasp its lessons, benefits, insights, and pitfalls” (Solis 33). At first, I was slightly confused by this statement. Surely, I am a social-media-sophisticated 21 year old, of course I can grasp everything. Soon I took a step back and thought of how frequently the social tools I use have changed. In fact, it seems like Facebook is always changing, thus causing millions to relearn the social skills they had just acquired.

For most people, social media networks are just social forums. They serve as tools to help individuals stay connected with friends and loved ones. However, for marketers, social media is the microscope into niche markets. “We’re simply becoming aware of our markets, the people who define them, and our place within each community” (Solis 33). Social media networks are helping marketers really reach out to their consumers.

Solis provides an in depth list of social media tools, each with a variety of different purposes. For the most part, I had heard of the majority of the social networks in Solis’ list. However, I was floored by how many exist and how many were probably not listed. Social media tools can vary from a simple blog, to videos, location devices, and photographs. The possibilities are endless. In addition, social media networks have broken down into specific elements. Flickr is a great forum for individuals to post photographs. Websites like Youtube and Vimeo are excellent tools for bands, film aficionados, and others.

So far, we have been able to see different social media networks, but we still have yet to come up with a concrete definition. Solis puts it best when he says, “Social media is many things to many people” (Solis 36). How someone chooses to use social media network will result in their own definition.

One definition that Solis uses is, “Social media is the online tools that facilitate a conversation” (Solis 36). To me, this is the truest definition. No matter what social network we use, we are someone engaging in some form of communication. Watching videos on Youtube can spark comments, thoughts, and opinions. On Facebook we comment, read, and converse with others. No matter what social media tool we use, we are engaging in some form of communication. Perhaps that’s why it is simply called “social media.” Socializing through media.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Live Blog: Pretty Little Liars

Tonight's the night - it's the season finale of ABC Family's 'Pretty Little Liars.' I'll be live blogging the episode, keeping everyone up to date on what's happening. Enjoys!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

iPad therefore iAm

If you haven't heard about the Apple iPad by now, we shouldn't be friends. This past week, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, appeared at the keynote event to present the updated iPad. Clad in his usual black shirt and jeans, an ill Jobs proudly took the stage, and presented the iPad 2. This new and improved version of the iPad was built to impress. 

I've never owned an iPad. In fact, when it was first released last year, I spent more time laughing at the name than looking at the product itself. iPad? While it's fitting because it's like a memo pad, the name is just hilarious. Who knew Steve Jobs could be so funny. Anyways, the first iPad was released in April 2010. When it first came out, many people were skeptical of it's use. I remember hearing countless people say, "It's just like a big iPhone," or "Why would I need that thing when I have an actual computer?" Both statements are very valid and I do agree with them. Despite not needing an iPad, I can now appreciate its purpose and importance to many folks.

What makes this iPad different? Let's start physically. The new iPad has a very sleek new body. Apple cut the thickness from 13.3 mm to only 8.8 - that's a 33.3% cut. As you would assume, slimmer body means less weight. The new iPad weighs only 1.3 lbs (compared to 1.5 lbs.) In addition, Apple released both a black and white version of the iPad. I really think this was a great idea because after the failed release of the white iPhone 4's, Apple needed to redeem itself somehow. 

Hardware. Apple's operating systems are amazing. They are easy to navigate and usually run hassle free. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better. Apple released a new dual-core processing chip, the A5, that they would be using in the new iPad. According to Jobs, this allows graphics to be 9 times better, and for the device to run twice as fast. In addition to operating faster, the battery lasts 10 hours. What a huge leap from just a year ago! Apple products always manage to impress me. 

One of my favorite additions to the new iPads is the ability to face-time. The iPad 2 has not one, but TWO cameras. One on the front, and one on the rear of the device. Users can face-time while surfing the web. How revolutionary.

The prices for the new iPads start at $499 and go up from there depending on size. If you don't plan on buying one, I highly recommend going to the store and playing with one. iPad, therefore you should too, iM serious. 

Engaging in Conversation

Last semester, I took an Entertainment Journalism class that focused on how social media is influencing the way news is transferring. The majority of us probably acquire our news from some sort of electronic medium. The idea of print journalism sounds almost foreign (well, not to me, but many others - personally I prefer reading off paper). Today, news can be obtained through online newspapers, magazines, eBooks, and many other print forms gone technological. However, many of us rely on social media outlets to provide us with day-to-day headlines. If it wasn't for Twitter, I would be clueless on a lot of current events. Social media is completely changing the way we consume news, and how we use it. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and even the unpopular Delicious, help us find news from different sources we would normally not be exposed to. 

Now, that I have completely diverged from my original thought, let me get back to the Entertainment Journalism class. In the syllabus, it said, "speak once, read twice." In addition, it said that listening was an integral part of the course. At the time, this really did not matter to me, but after reading the first chapter of Brian Solis' Engaged, it suddenly dawned on me how important listening can be. 

In class, we talked about how to get more followers on Twitters and how interacting with your followers can help boost your image. Solis talks about how social media is a "conversation." I believe this is a very integral part to the marketing side of social media. An idea I am very fond of, in relation to music, is the "connect with fans" theory. How many of us would love to get a reply from Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, or any other celebrity of your choice? Making your fans, or people in general, feel wanted and part of a conversation is likely to better your image. 

Marketers and customer service representatives tend to interact with consumers in a, how to do I put this, awful manner. Consumers are people too and don't need to be spoken "at." In order to effectively sell yourself or product, you should engage in conversation with your followers or fans. Social Media allows users to get to know their fans/followers personally. You have the ability to tap into specific markets. How you choose to use that information is at your own discretion. 

Overall, I think listening is something everyone needs to remember to do. Sometimes I find myself talking way too much and have to remember just to pipe down and listen. It's amazing how people are changing communication. If you open up your ears you'll learn something you never knew. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Consumers: The New Marketing Department

As discussed in my post last week, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define groundswell as,  "a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from a traditional institution like corporations"(Bernoff, Li 9). Later in the text, the authors focus on "energizing" the groundwell. What exactly does it mean to energize the groundswell? I'll use a personal experience to break it down. 

I am a member of Lifetime Fitness in Austin. I joined the organization in Dallas when I was 14. Truly, I have never been a part of a better gym in my entire life. The staff is great, the facility is state of the art, and it's 24 hours. This past semester I was running low on money, so I froze my membership. After a horrible experience at another gym in the Austin area, (if you had a class with me last semester, you heard about my troubles) I decided to return to Lifetime. After explaining my financial status, and desire to rejoin, the manager in charge worked with me so I could become a member again. 

Since I rejoined, the manager has followed up with me to make sure I am happy with the gym multiple times. They asked for my opinion and genuinely made an effort to see how I was doing. This type of customer service was unlike anything I had ever experienced. In fact, to this day, I still rave about how much I love Lifetime's customer service.

Now, you're probably wondering what does this have to do what does this have to do with anything. The answer: everything. Without even realizing it, I became so enthused by Lifetime, that I started advertising for them! This type of reaction is what many companies aim for. 

In chapter 7 of Groundswell, the authors discuss that word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, it is "the most honest form of marketing, building upon people's natural desire to share their experiences with friends, families and colleagues." In addition, the text highlights some other key reasons why this is such a successful marketing agent: 

1. It's believable: People - especially ones you know personally - are way more believable than the media or any advertisement 

2. It's self-reinforcing: If you hear it from one person, you are interested. Hear it from more than that, you are likely to believe it - even if you do not know the person who told it

3. It's self-spreading: Like most things go, you tell one person, they tell another, and so on. It creates a wildfire effect. 

In the opening of the chapter, we hear a story about a man named Jim who had a piece of luggage that broke. He contacted the company about their poor production and not only did they fix Jim's back, but they fixed the product as a whole. Jim, now satisifed, talks about the company all the time and what wonderful service they have. Again, without realizing it, Jim has become a marketing tool for the company.

How do companies achieve this type of success? One example from the text talks about how companies can create "forums" for feedback and advice. This is a very critical step if a company really wants to get to know, and satisfy, their consumers. Forums allow for the consumer to express how he or she feels about a product, or provide tips for future products.

Have consumers become the new "marketing department" of companies? I think it is safe to say that the answer is YES. Just as we post reviews on websites, we communicate verbally about our experiences in stores, with products, or customer service representatives. These "experiences" become marketing tools, thus we have successfully "energizing" the groundswell. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Internet Explorer 6, it's time to go

As an avid Mac user, the words "Internet Explorer" are not really a part of my vocabulary. In some ways, I cringe at the sight and sound of those two words put together. Let me take a stroll down memory lane.

Internet Explorer...reminds me of my Toshiba laptop that crashed three times in one week, or the time my web browser froze during an online quiz. Oh wait, that happened almost every time. Clearly, I am biased, but it appears I am not the only one who has had these types of problems with the 10 year old web browser.

Well, good news for all of us that have been affected by the failings of Internet Explorer: Microsoft has announced the SHUT DOWN of the second most popular web browser in the world (Firefox took first place), Internet Explorer 6.

Now, this is not to be confused with Explorer shutting down completely, but basically Microsoft wants to have users move to a more modern day browser: Internet Explorer 9.

In order to launch this campaign, Microsoft themselves made a website to increase movement towards the newer browser. The title of the page says, “10 years ago a browser was born. …It’s time to say goodbye.” You can check the website out by clicking here. 

In the past, Internet Explorer 6 has received harsh criticism for a number of reasons. One of the main problems with Internet Explorer 6 is it's pitiful security. In fact, the security and privacy problems are so bad that France and Germany warned citizens not to use the "old school" browser. 

In addition, Internet Explorer 6 doesn't have CSS capabilities. Even Facebook doesn't operate correctly on IE 6. (If Facebook doesn't want you using it, clearly it shouldn't be used.) Digg and Youtube also stated that they would be cutting back on support for IE 6. If even Microsoft is telling you to stop using the browser, obviously something isn't right with it. 

Overall, if you're still using Explorer, you might want to consider updating. Not only to enhance your web browsing experience, but for your own security. Currently, users can update to Internet Explorer 9 free of charge (SWEET). Nobody wants to deal with a virus eating their hard drive. My advice: get a Mac (or at least start with Firefox or Chrome). 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Understand the Groundswell

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's book, Groundswell, explains and teaches readers about the importance of social technologies. The text describes a number of reasons, and ways, that companies can use social networking sites to understand their consumers, and increase sales.

Chapters 4-6 focus on the "groundwell" and how to tap into it. In order to understand what the authors mean by the groundswell, we must define it. In chapter 1 of the book, the author says, 

"[the groundswell] is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from a traditional institution like corporations" (Bernoff, Li 9). 

The text goes on to explain that the groundswell has existed for years. On eBay you purchase from people, through Craigslist you interact directly with people over the internet, and many other actions we partake in are influenced by these large social technologies.

In order for a company to be successful, they must have a good understanding and application, of the groundswell in their everyday business tactics. Li and Bernoff developed a planning process for tapping into the groundswell. Chapter 4 of the book covered POST: people, objectives, strategy, and technology. As the book says, it is "the foundation of groundswell thinking" (Bernoff, Li 67). 

Let's break this acronym down to understand it's importance...

People: What are your customers ready for? It is important to understand your audience before you act on it. 

Objectives: What are the goals? Do you want to sell a product? Do you want to advertise to your customers? Having a set plan is important to ensure the efficiency of your sales.

Strategy: How do you want the relationship with your customers to change? This step is important in understand how you will achieve your goals.

Lastly, technology: What applications and tools will you use to achieve your goals? Making sure you choose the right tools and networks that work best for your company will help ensure productivity. 

In addition to the POST tactic, chapter 5 of the text goes on to explain another important step in understanding the groundswell: listening. 

One thing that stuck out to me like a sore thumb, was when the authors said, "your brand is what your customers say it is." This is a HUGE point that I think many companies are still missing. In our technologically consumed society, advertisers need to LISTEN to consumers in order to adequately reach their audience. 

The first week of school we discussed the top-down method, where the power used to lie in advertisers. Now, as the internet opens a whole new type of communication, the power of influence lies in the consumers - thus creating a down-up model, where the consumers are in control. 

Companies use market research to better understand their consumers. Surveys, and syndicated research is a great way to get opinions of people. However, the internet now offers many of those opinions right at your finger tips. 

Twitter is an amazing tool to use if you want to tap into a market. Being able to type in anything in the search box and see who is talking about it, and what they are saying, helps companies get more personal with their consumers. Twitter's ability to allow open communication with followers/consumers also allows people to feel more connected to the company and, as a result, more attracted to the company in the future. Happy consumers are more likely to come back after great service and attention.

Li and Bernoff offer two listening techniques for companies. 

A great concept discussed in chapter 6 talks about a "marketing funnel." The funnel is a model for how consumers move from awareness of a product, to purchase, then to loyalty. 

Groundswell talks about how consumers in the middle of the funnel are heavily influences by blogs, reviews, and other social technologies. According to the text, 83% of people trusted recommendations from friends or family. More than half trusted online reviews from strangers. What does all of this information say about consumers? They are influenced by one another, not the company (as discussed earlier).

Just a few days ago, I decided where I was going to get my haircut based solely off online reviews. Internet communication is unavoidable. It is the fastest way to get, and spread, communication. 

Overall, Groundswell offers a fresh, new outlook on marketing and the effect of social technologies. Social networks are changing every dynamic of the public relations and marketing industry. Now, we have the ability to reach consumers on a very personal level through social networks. By doing so, we can better adjust our advertisements to fit THEIR wants and needs. Internet reviews allow companies to see where people want change. By engaging in this type of internet communication, it allows for a "win-win" by both the consumer and the company. Social media is key. Those who underestimate social media networking power have probably already been a victim of it and don't even know it.