COM0011 – What’s Your Story?

Someone posted a quote on Twitter today that said “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell. – Seth Godin” This struck me because of what we have learned throughout the past few weeks in this course. The way that we plan our social media strategy, select SEO keywords, and create website content defines your story. We’ve seen that social media is more about building relationships with audiences rather than throwing information at them. It’s no longer purely about your product/service, but about how that becomes part of a lifestyle. People connect to stories because it is something they can relate to.

Klout posted an interesting article, How to Craft, Shape, and Share Your Story on Social Media. They make another valid point: “Each bio, post, re-share, favorite and like each help paint a clearer picture of who you are offline, and ultimately, why your audience should care about what you have to say.” By developing a strong biography, consistent and unique voice, strategically sharing content, and knowing your audience, you shape your own story.

As our class draws to a close, I find that the biggest lesson that’s stuck with me is defining your story. When you know what you stand for, you can begin to develop a strategy that supports and allows your connections to grow.

COM0011 – Mob Mentality Online

The important thing to remember about social media is that everything and anything can spread worldwide in the blink of an eye. Throughout this course we’ve thoroughly discussed how crucial it is to maintain a personal brand and reputation online. It is important to remember how a thoughtless tweet or even false information can be perceived and used destructively. Quite often the online world explodes as people stand for action in virtual mobs. This can lead to both positive and negative after effects.

One such example is when the director of corporate communications for IAC, Justine Sacco, rather infamously tweeted an offensive statement before boarding a plane last December. It spread very quickly online as news stations grabbed hold of the story. People were shocked, angry, and offended and they responded as such. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet and a mock account @LOLJustineSacco trended on Twitter. A fake Facebook account was also created. As a result, Sacco’s account was deleted and she was fired from her job (Story at ABC News). It must have come as a surprise to her  when she saw the trail of destruction. The mob mentality fuels the need for swift action against what is perceived as wrongful behaviour.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Reddit users banded together to find the perpetrators. While their intentions were meant well, they identified people who turned out to be unconnected to the event. This led to hateful comments and feelings towards unsuspecting innocents. The site has since apologized to the family for the treatment.

The bandwagon leads people to undiscovered talents or inspiring stories, but the mob mentality also has a powerful influence on the way news spreads (whether it be true or false). When discovering related content or following current events, it’s not enough to retweet or post trending hashtags just to join the current movement. A discerning eye is needed in order to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Inspired by Relevant’s article.

COM0011 – ROI: Relationships on Investment

I found it interesting to read about measurement in social media, particularly ROI (Return on Investment). Social media investment cannot be easily measured because there is more at work than numbers. The marketing field has been transformed by social media and the cultivation of relationships with consumers. Successful brands have established a connection to their audience, which in turn can lead into higher sales or website views.

I was curious to see which businesses were gaining a positive reputation in the social media realm and the common elements of popular brands. I know personally I prefer to follow companies which do more than spam their statuses with advertising. Instead, it’s more interesting to see related videos or humorous quips which still connect to their brand. Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show has incorporated social media into the show successfully, because it’s about getting the audience involved and listening to them (for example the Hashtag Game). This relationship may then translate into more engagement online and more viewers.

Cherise Luter wrote a blog post about Retailers Doing it Right on Social Media. She points out some businesses that are using various social media platforms to build a relationship with their audience. Quite often this involves posting behind-the-scenes pictures or interacting with people through retweets. Successful online brands create a space for their audience to be engaged while showing a personal side to the business. People are more likely to respond if they can relate.

Social media is about investing in your audience. If anything, crowdfunding demonstrates the power that the audience holds if they are invested in you.

COM0011 – The Ford Fallout

Each lesson in social media reemphasizes the importance of establishing and protecting a business reputation. Even more so, social media is about earning the respect and loyalty of an audience. Respect takes a long time to build and seconds to destroy. It’s even easier to destroy through the instantaneous online spread of viral news.

I can’t help but consider the destruction that follows in Rob Ford’s wake. He’s become an easy target for ridicule and he shows no control over the situation (despite his attempts to make light of his various situations).  His appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live sparked an online storm as people shook their heads in embarrassment or laughter. Kimmel showed viral videos of Ford and focused solely on his poor reputation (clips from the show can be seen here).  Though the intent was to promote Toronto’s film industry, Ford’s trip to Los Angeles has only encouraged the online mockery.

Councillors were taking to Twitter as well, showing a lack of support for Ford’s trip and appearance on the show. “I love my city. Today, it’s shamefully being represented on the world stage by a dancing circus bear,” Councillor Josh Matlow lamented on Twitter. “My apologies to dancing circus bears.” (taken from National Post). On the flip side, Councillor Michael Thompson is still determined to turn the tide around and create a positive opportunity to spotlight the city of Toronto.

As we learned about the risks and disadvantages of social media, what stood out for me was that people need to realize that they themselves are a brand that can be discredited. Rob Ford serves as an excellent reminder of how not to represent a brand.

COM0011 – Standardized Spontaneity

Social media at heart is a community for sharing light-hearted everyday pictures and events. As businesses and corporations realize the online potential for marketing and networking opportunities, they are faced with maintaining good PR in a world where news spreads like wildfire. Audiences desire an open and real conversation, not generic or automated responses.

This becomes a larger issue with governments. Social media is the best medium to communicate with residents, yet the Canadian government lags in their attempt to utilize sites such as Twitter. Tweets turn into sanitized and heavily edited posts with departmental re-tweets carefully scheduled in advance (as discussed in Metro). While establishing a social media strategy makes sense, enforcing a constrictive approval process only generates robotic posts.

Recently Canadian diplomats have been encouraged to take risks on social media in order to advance foreign policy in innovative ways (seen here). As John Baird states, “The closed world of demarches, summits and diplomatic dinners is no longer sufficient to project our values and interests.” Whether this approach is applied and used successfully remains to be seen, but it’s an encouraging step forward.

Social media cannot be forced into a box and expected to work the same way. Transparency and authenticity are the new standard for online communication practices, and the government cannot hide behind rigid policy.

COM0011 – Olympics & Social Media

With the kick-off for the Sochi Winter Games yesterday, I’ve been thinking about how social media has impacted the Olympics. Rather than watching events on the television or perhaps reading results in the newspaper, I turn to online webcasts and social media sites to get most of my updates. Social media has also given us a connection to athletes and newscasters with opportunities to chat live or cheer through commentary.

Host countries have a more difficult problem as they’re faced with negative backlash spreading instantly through sites like Facebook and Twitter. Most notably is the trending Twitter hashtag #SochiProblems which shows issues that athletes and media personnel are encountering, usually with their accommodation.

Unfortunately the response made by Olympic officials hasn’t improved matters (Russian Officials Fire Back at Olympic Critics). Claiming complaints were few and satisfaction high, Dmitry Kozak, deputy prime minister for Olympic preparations, commented “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day…” before the reporter was pulled away. Later a spokesperson commented that there is no surveillance in guest rooms, but the news was already spreading.

In the end, I try to stick to the games themselves and let the focus be on the athletes and their accomplishments. They deserve the attention.