COM0015 – Embracing the unknown

I’ve found that in the world of social media you really never know what’s going to happen next. It presents a relative unknown where in more traditional communications practices, one could make a fairly accurate prediction about how a campaign or news feature would progress.

With social media, it’s as almost as there’s an “all bets are off” vibe that professionals are constantly trying to harness and control. In the world of marketing, knowing consumers, their behaviours, their habits and all the demo- and psychographics about everyone has become a business in itself. But with social media, anything can happen. All it takes is for one person to be offended, or thrilled, or upset or supportive of a tweet or a post and a whole campaign can go viral – in a good way or bad way.

The thing is, it’s really hard to predict how something will go. A seemingly innocuous campaign that was focus-tested could be trashed on-line because another perspective never came into play during testing. Conversely, a simple, off-the-cuff remark on Twitter could go viral with thousands of people loving it. But making something go the much-coveted positive viral, can’t happen. And reacting and mitigating the much-feared negative viral is difficult to control.

I find it fascinating how so much focus and pressure is on all the analytics where it seems to me that this should only be another piece of a bigger picture. True, thing have evolved in the comms and marketing worlds in terms of tactics, but, really, the strategies to achieve goals and objectives remain the same. I find myself wondering if too much focus is on the analytics now that the big picture gets lots in the personas, SEO and engagement metrics.

That being said, the communications world has finally found a way to appropriately measure itself. Engagement, re-tweets, likes, thumbs up, thumbs down, a heart all instantly let organizations know what their target audiences are thinking about them. Months of evaluation are now minutes. Analytics are instant and can become as granular as desired. It’s a whole new world that is fascinating and, can easily be addictive (see above re: losing focus). All those years of being ambiguous about whether or not target audiences received or followed key messages can now be easily tracked from anywhere. Communications easily transitions into marketing with the use of ads and promoted tweets. It’s as if both of these worlds have finally figured out how to cohabit together in a productive environment.

Through this program and the Digital Analytics program, I’ve learned so much about the field of social media and how to maximize the dissemination and collection of information.

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Photo: www.pixelbay.com

 

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COM0015 – Networking: A necessary evil

In the communications world, networking is a necessary evil to stay relevant and informed. I use the term necessary evil because one has to be in the mood to network and after working all day, dealing with kids and other commitments, going to an event to schmooze just isn’t at the top of my list. Now I always enjoy these events once I’m there and I always take home a useful nugget of information or meet someone interesting and have a great chat. But it’s hard to always be “on.”

Online, thanks to platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, I find it easier to network because I can multitask and can participate as much or as often as I like. It’s convenient and it helps to connect directly with those I find the most knowledgeable and interesting in a forum. Tweetchats and live-tweeting, for example, are for focussed events in which I have a particular interest. My likes, retweets, and comments form a diary of sorts that I can refer back to when those helpful nuggets of information are required. I can form lists of organizations or people to target my focus and I can choose to follow particular accounts that I think may be helpful during the course of my career or project.

LinkedIn provides more detailed components such as blogs or articles. I can also check out what others use in the profiles (e.g. job descriptions for my own CV) and how they are structured. There is also the opportunity to send someone a note or check out their profile on Twitter too.

But the hard-core reality is that face-to-face networking isn’t only the more productive, it’s the more effective. People remember good chats and friendly faces. They will recognize a name in another forum and will actively then look you up on social media to keep up that conversation or nurture the professional relationship. Networking in person brings about more opportunity be it a new job, a new contract, or even a new collaboration. They lift the weary work spirit and bring a refreshing perspective to the aforementioned “working all day, dealing with kids, etc.”

That is why one of my New Year’s resolutions was to become more active in face-to-face networking. I’ve been to events offered by IABC, CPRS and through the federal government and each time they’ve given me a different outlook on the ordinary. I’ve reconnected with former colleagues and classmates and grown my professional network as a result. I’ve face my extreme uncomfortableness in approaching a stranger to start a conversation and I’ve swallowed my anxiety to introduce myself to a speaker to discuss their presentation.

In my view, online and in-person complement each other in the networking world, and my commitment to my professional self is to stay the course and continue to immerse myself in keeping my career fresh and informed.

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COM0015: Social media savvy – Companies that soar and others that need to clean up their act

The difference between the strong and the weak is awareness of what’s happening around you and knowing your audience. The minute a company decides it’s the authority on a subject, even its own product, and attempts to own it too much, their messages fail.

One company that’s doing it right is WestJet. In its advertising WestJet uses the hashtag #ownerscare to convey the message that, as owners, they have a vested interest in how the airline operates and will go the extra mile to ensure excellent service and promote a positive corporate culture.

In total, there have been five annual campaigns including last-year’s tribute to the people in Fort McMurray who had to evacuate because of the wildfires. While all the campaigns have been meticulously executed, I think the campaign from 2013 as my personal favourite. The sheer logistics involved were, in the pure sense of the word, awesome. And, while it may not have been a “miracle” per se, it gave off all the warm feelings associated with the wonder of Christmas.

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The award-winning campaign was an immediate hit which garnered over 35 million views on YouTube and exceeded its goal of 500,000 views by 7,000%. It trended in Canada for two days and received 3.2 million Facebook impressions and 42.2 million Twitter impressions specific to #WestJetChristmas and related key words. (Source: http://shortyawards.com)

Once an organization has actually listened to what its markets are saying, it can then transition to participating to become a trusted brand. One of those ways is to use key influencers – those whom other people trust – to help pass along or reinforce your messaging. Another way is to simply be aware of what is happening and be in a position to react, to show your markets that you’re involved in the same things that they are interested in.

One of my favourite examples is from Oreo and its famous tweet from the 2013 Super Bowl. To start with, it has a significant presence on social media, considering it’s a cookie. It uses its social media channels to consistently promote the cookie and its paring with milk in various ways. It has recruited Shaquille O’Neal and Christina Aguilera as brand ambassadors, which is an interesting combination of personalities and sub-audiences. It is a social media-savvy brand that was proven during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout when the tweet below generated 8,000 new followers and was re-tweeted over 15,000 times.

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The same image on Instagram grew its followers from 2,000 pre-game to 36,000 with over 16,000 photos submitted for a contest, which was tied to its Super Bowl ad. (Source: www.forbes.com)

It was a situation where the social media team was present and keenly aware of what was happening at the time. They went from watching what was happening at the time, to participating in the conversation about the blackout. It played on the feelings that were happening at the time and won the Internet over with the simplicity and timeliness of the ad. And, it was able to tie in an existing marketing initiative to generate more interest.

Dove, however, is a company that seems to have lost its way in its social media campaigns. It started out a unique, by communicating that all beauty is in everyone through its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” In 2015 its campaign #speakbeauty won a Shorty Award It used real people as models, not industry stereotypes. It made its social justice causes known and it had a pretty good line of products. Then over the past two years, the brand has slipped. It’s as if it wants to hold on to the original spark of the beauty campaign but can’t figure out how to do it. The first slip was redesigning its product bottles to resemble shapes of real women. People hated it mostly due to the fact that the bottles were difficult to handle in the shower – Talk about losing sight of your users needs.

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The most recent one being so awful it was forced to apologize for it.

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It’s clear that Dove needs to take a step back and reconnect with its target audiences and be aware of the world around it.

COM0015 #StayingInTheKnow @ work and @ home

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When it comes to social media analytics I find that the simplest method is the best given the tight timelines that seem to be always required in my job. While there are many that provide better and more in-depth analysis, the reality is that higher-ups want the big picture, not the details and they want it presented in a way that’s simple to understand and easy to read.

Hootsuite and Google Analytics are, in my view, the best tools to meet this criteria. Simple stats and easy to understand data help to provide information needed quickly. Easy to used and download, there is no requirement to seek additional help or guidance from someone else to gather necessary stats either to respond to a request or to satisfy my own curiosity or business need.

I have also used Alexa and the amount of information that can be gleaned from the “interwebs” is amazing. To understand the impact of a social media post and to see the interest in a website is addictive. Anyone who’s launched a campaign of any kind knows the feeling of seeing the retweets, the likes and the web hits climb.

For best sources of news and updates Twitter is my go-to every time. It’s a bit of a joke in my house as someone will always ask me to “check the Twitter” to see what’s happening in the world. As a communications manager, it provides me with real-time updates in the news cycle, the political world and what key stakeholders are focused on. For me, it’s the best source of news for my professional life.

For my personal life, I rely on Facebook. While updates from friends and family are important, the forums and groups also provide updates that are tailored so specific interests. My only issue is the algorithms Facebook plays with regularly so proper updates aren’t being presented chronologically. More than once, I’ve missed an update because for a Facebook reason, it didn’t meat the algorithm at the time. However, Facebook provides the personal updates, news and trends that I need and seek on a regular basis.

I find both Facebook and Twitter to be unique communities that, together, keep me connected with what’s happening in my neighbourhood, my city, my province, my country and around the world.

 

S-17: Digital Communications Blog #7 – Personal Reflection

The most essential items I’ve learned in this course is to make sure that you have a story to tell.

Everything should link together to ensure that your target audiences can find information quickly that is clear and easy to understand. The story doesn’t have to be particularly creative nor does it have to be elaborate; it has to link the key items of a business together to keep the audience engaged and interested in the product/service.

In creating great digital content, to me it seems that people focus more on the platform versus whether the content is appropriate. A story is only as good as the storyteller and if it isn’t communicated properly, the effort is lost. Not all social media platforms are required to tell a story, nor are they all important. What is important is knowing where your audiences are, the best way to reach them, and then to speak to them in a context that they understand.

Content should always be guided by the communications strategy which is ultimately linked to the business goals. I think that, too often, content is treated as a business goal when it isn’t. It is part of a tactic and a tool to communicate to target audiences. By ensuring that the content flows properly, the story will also flow properly and allow a business to engage with its clients appropriately.

S-17: Blog #6 – No regrets.

The Internet is clogged with inspirational memes that decry regret. It’s a shaming disguised in inspirational motivation: No regrets. We are not allowed to regret anything. Ever.
But, we all have them. They’re important lessons and I would even argue more important than the mistakes that we are all apparently allowed to make (as long as we don’t regret them J)
Regrets form the “should haves”, “could haves”, but didn’t. They pick at your conscience and nag at your soul. But instead of looking at them as weights around us, dragging us down. I look at them as safety nets to stop me from making the same errors in judgement.
For me, the biggest regrets are the ones where I really did know better but did it anyway. The biggest one of all was when I took a job just to get away from the one I was in. “They” say you should never run from something, you should run toward something. And normally, I abide by that little life rule. Except for the time that I didn’t. And boy-o have I regretted it.

My normal list-making, risk-weighing, talk-about-it-until-even-I’m-sick-of-it self threw all caution to the wind jumped ship. Had I done even an ounce of research I would have known not to accept that job offer and saved myself years of headaches. Had I simply asked one question about my future boss, I would have known to steer clear of the passive-aggressive-control-freak egoist. Had I just asked one person if they were happy, I would have had a clear heads up of a bubbling toxic workplace that was about to erupt.

Do I regret this choice? Absolutely.

Have I learned tonnes from it? Definitely.

Will I make the same mistake again? Never.

Regrets aren’t about wanting to live in the past, they’re living reminders to help you make better choices in the future.

S-17 Digital Communications: Blog #5 My personal brand? I don’t think like the rest of them.

 

My Twitter bio states that I like to figure out the system and use it to my advantage. While at first glance that may seem selfish, it’s one of the main ways I add value to everything I do. It’s because I don’t always take things at face value. I ask questions and I don’t take to bureaucratic or office-speak for an answer. I don’t think “linear”.

Why this sets me apart from others, and makes me valuable, is because I don’t always think like other people. In a world where process rules, I find ways to make it more efficient or circumvent it altogether. In a world where layers upon layers of approvals are required for the most mundane item, I skip as many levels as possible so as to ensure work continues to move forward.

I always look at the big picture, without losing sight of the important details. I think horizontally, not in silos. This doesn’t always resonate with people. Many can’t understand why I would even consider something that is not distinctly specified in my job description. The fact is, I can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t. It is here that my value is unparalleled. It is also here where my colleagues confirm that it can be the most frustrating thing about me that ends up always being on point.

This overall strategic sense is what I am most proud of and apply it to everything I do.

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S17-Digital Communication: Blog post #4 B2C? Wendy’s is deliciously different.

Over the past several months Wendy’s has seen a seemingly innocent rebuttal to a request go viral – several times over. It’s taken on its critics – and won. It’s responded to bold questions – and nailed the answers. Over the past couple of years, it seems to be the year where companies have grown comfortable on social media and also a bit bold, to the delight of consumers. Asked about this new rebellious tone, a Wendy’s spokesperson shared with Entrepreneur, “We see ourselves as a challenger with charm, so we can take advantage of opportunities to engage with our fans in very different way from our competitors.” (Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/292839)

And take advantage of those opportunities, it has. For example, the quick, clever responses to innocuous statements:

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(Source: http://www.boredpanda.com)

Then, shutting down (literally) a hater:

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When the competition tried to keep up, they couldn’t:

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(Source: http://www.boredpanda.com)

When they were asked for relationship advice, it was sweet:

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(Source: http://www.boredpanda.com)

And then the mother of all social media events happened. And it shot Wendy’s to number one on the social media interaction scale. On April 6, 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson tweeted at the fast food chain and asked “how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?”

Quickly, Wendy’s responded with the challenge: “18 million.”

The teen rose to the occasion and tweeted to the world to support him in his quest. And in true Twitter fashion, the world responded. As of May, that post had been retweeted over 3.5 million times. The most retweets, ever.

It is here where B2C was applied to perfection.

Where most companies choose to ignore the comments and questions deemed silly or risky, Wendy’s embraced them and engaged their target markets beautifully. But did it translate to sales? It depends. 2017 Q1 results indicated a fall in overall revenues but an increase in North America same-restaurant sales increase 1.6% (+5.2% on a two-year basis). (Source: www.wendys.com)

However, from a consumer engagement perspective, it’s doing all the right things.

 

 

 

 

S17 – Digital Communication: Blog Post #3 Employee Engagement

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a keen interest in the field of employee engagement. I believe it’s an area where most organizations lag, mostly due to a lack of understanding its importance. Many companies will proudly state that their employees are the voice of their organization or the first impression for a client. However, little is done to nurture an organizational culture of engaged employees.

I’ve started to follow more and more people on Twitter whose careers are dedicated to employee engagement and the there is incredible work being done in this field. These are the people who will drive change in an organization and the ones that need to be communicated to. They have their fingers on the pulse of what drives people and have tremendous recommendations and experience. They are also extremely savvy in social media, which makes it the perfect vehicle to communicate to them. Twitter is my go-to and I’ve found so many influencers this way. Their tweets lead me to blogs and webinars and to follow hashtags of conferences and tweet chats. The abundance of information being communicated is amazing. Facebook posts are full of quick tidbits of information and websites provide white papers of detailed case studies. Communicators link to HR officers who speak to executives initiating discussions on LinkedIn.

Those in the field of employee engagement are “in the know” when it comes to social media and communicating to them means developing a solid strategy that incorporates the tools they use the most.

 

S17 – Digital Communication: Blog Post #2 Honestly? Make it a good story.

The key to storytelling is honesty. If the audience doesn’t feel like it can trust what you wrote, you’ve squandered an opportunity to engage with it. The way to get there is through clear, concise, correct and complete content. Making sure your content doesn’t “trip up” the reader means that your message will not be lost and your call to action may be headed.

Not everyone can be a storyteller but everyone can write properly. Sometimes that’s the way to engaging your audience. Using the inverted pyramid as a guide means that the most important information will be read first. At the very least, you’ll have someone who can quote what they’ve read. At the most, they’ve continued to read and can elaborate on the points you want them to remember.

Getting the reader’s attention is the hardest part. A catchy headline and lead helps to draw that attention. However it’s the honesty of the writing that will keep that attention. Proper grammar, plain language, clear sentence structure and solid research will gain that trust and open the door for more engagement.

If you open that door, make sure that you stay engaged with your audience. Facebook responses must be timely. Replies to tweets must be immediate. Commenting on Instagram photos are required. Audiences like to feel that the businesses they engage with are interested in what they think or how they feel. Creating that bond is important but maintaining it is critical.

An attention-getting story, well-written content and staying engaged with audiences will help a business move forward with achieving its business goals.