COM0015 – Blog #4 – Out of the Box

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When I first started this course, my social media savvy was limited, to say the least. But over the course of this program, I have come to look at social media and it’s capabilities through a different lens.

The possibilities are endless with what social media and it’s various applications can do. It’s fast, it’s constantly changing and evolving, and it can be extremely useful or extremely damaging.

The two biggest takeaways I took from this program are the array of tools that are available, and the importance of using the consumer information provided through online platforms.

I was initially overwhelmed by all of the tools and applications available to maximize a social media platform’s potential. But over the last little while, I have had the opportunity to explore and test some of these tools. Google Alerts and Google Analytics are two that I particularly like. Although Google Analytics is going to take much more exploration to figure out the ins and outs of the program, I can see it being a very useful tool when used to its full potential. I have had the opportunity to experiment with RSS feeds, and creating a dashboard, and while I still feel I have lots to learn, it’s useful to have had the exposure as a jumping off point.

The second takeaway, was just how important a company’s engagement is with its consumers through their social media platforms. And not just because consumers want to feel like they are being listened to; but because often the customer feedback and comments are what drive the direction of the company. For example, I profiled a Canadian lifestyle magazine for one of my assignments. And based on my discussion with someone in their online department, I discovered that they don’t just read and respond to consumer comments on the various blogs and articles available on the website. They actual derive usable information from the posted content. They look for trends, recurring issues that consumers have, topic requests that consumers would like to see, and this information facilitates the content that is ultimately published in the magazine. It seems like a completely obvious tactic, to give your reader what they want, but I didn’t think it was done quite so literally. So when you think you’re “posting on deaf ears”, that’s more than likely not the case.

COM0015 Blog#1 Tool & Sources

Like ButtonOne of my favourite social media trend listening/monitoring tools as well as source for news and updates is Twitter, which I would not have guesses a year ago.  Let’s just say, that before I started the certificate program, I found the 140 character messages confusing.  Now I appreciate the simplicity of its search function and the easy access of information or the latest trends.  A number of times I had information available before it made the regular news channels and which made me look good in front of the client.

The second trend listening/monitoring tool I favour is Hootsuite.  I think it’s simplicity is great. I love having everything on one screen.  To me it is a great timesaver to be able to schedule, follow up and monitor conversations and it is  affordable. Having said that, I keep using a combination of Netvibes, Google Alerts  & Yahoo Pipes as well, since taking COM0013 because I want to be comfortable using those free tools as well.

My second favourite tool for news and updates are RSS feeds and Newsletters. I find myself reading them when I have a bit of downtime and often lead me to check out others. If the question would be to name 3 favourite tools, my third choice would be   podcast’s. There are many “brainless” work moments in my day, where I can easily listen and learn. Podcasts became a great source for updates in my day to day life.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

COM 0011-521: Blog Post 2 – Listening to Online Communities

If there is one thing I learned from listening to online communities, it’s that the old saying “know your audience” still applies to the online world.

In most situations, brands will try to bend over backwards to their audience. Seldom will they engage in fights with their audience. With every post being visible to the internet at large, a negative tweet can quickly blow up and become an example of what not to do in a marketing class.

However, this rule doesn’t always apply if you’re talking about personal branding. I’ve followed a lot of video game reviewers and the one thing I found is that they will readily reply back to nasty tweets with their own level of snark. Interestingly, they won’t lose followers. In fact, they even have their defenders.

As an example, I follow Arthur Gies on Twitter. If you look at his most popular tweets in terms of retweets and the number of times it’s marked as a favourite, you’ll see that he doesn’t hold back. A choice example is “oh noooo all the dudes with anime avatars are commenting”. That’s a tweet that directly attacked a segment of his readership and yet he still manages to be fairly popular.

So what allows a game reviewer to respond to snark where a company cannot? Well it might be the fact that their job description requires them to be opinionated. We somewhat expect a certain amount of snark from film reviewers with regards to terrible films. Fashion commentators are well known for heaving insults on the poorly dressed. So those that follow game reviewers might have come to expect that the reviewers can be insulting.

If your audience expects you to be someone who is highly critical and snarky, they will follow you. This is even true if you end up insulting a portion of them. Companies, and especially those focused on customer service, are never afforded those luxuries. No one expects insults in return for a customer complaint. In fact, your customer base may leave you en masse as a result. So, in the end, if you know who your audience is, you can more easily figure out what is the best way to interact with them.

Raffaele Furgiuele

COM0015- Tools & Sources- My Picks

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere

In a world where information is not only at our finger tips, but available 24/7, it is sometimes difficult to sort through the “crap” and get to the good stuff.  It is my personal belief that anyone using social media, especially professionally must have a strategy. As discussed, a large part of this strategy is listening and monitoring.

How do you know what is making an impact? You have to monitor. My favourite monitoring tool has to be Google Alerts. I work in communications and this is huge for me. I do not have to search out the daily mentions of the organization that I work for; they come to me in a neat, tidy, customized email. Since I work for a Holding Company and manage communications for 4 organizations, this is a life saver. It is simple and meets my current need for tracking. The topper is that you can even generate an RSS feed and import the alerts into your dashboard tool, giving an overall display. In addition, this feeds nicely into Google Analytics which allows me to monitor the traffic each of our websites is getting and break it down into detail. I have not found another tool that is a) free and b) this effective in both instances.

Another preferred tool that I use for monitoring is Twitter. Hash tags are amazing, period. It allows tracking of an event, product, topic, location etc., just about anything under the sun. At any point in time I can go in and do a search on one of our products to see what people are saying about it. I recently got married and an upcoming trend is that couple are setting up a hash tag for their wedding so they everyone’s photos are linked together and easily viewed by attendees. On a professional basis, it allows my organization to monitor tweets that are linked to the company and respond in a timely manner. It is now part of my work day to receive several email notifications from Twitter. They are doing my work for me, who doesn’t love that?

When looking at news, each morning I get my local dose through therecord.com. In result of my line of work (communications and community relations), it is important that I am connected to the community in which my company does business. I need to be aware of the local trends and developments and this site allows me to have up to date knowledge when having conversations with clients or prospects professionally. I also read the headlines of the Toronto Star and New York Times out of personal interest and to see if anything catches my eye.

Secondly, I look to the Huffington Post quite frequently but if I am being completely honest, after I go local, I go to Twitter. Twitter provides me with the most up to date headlines and articles. Most papers online or print do not function in real time like Twitter does. When major things happen, such as the Ottawa bus/train collision, I can get the most current information and join in on the discussion on Twitter. This also helps from a business standpoint as in the past I have looked to Twitter for up to date weather conditions. When the roads were flooded, I needed to know where and if it would affect our clients. I am able to get an uncensored, general public view of what is occurring specifically at that moment and it doesn’t cost a dime.

In summary, there is A LOT to listen to. Find the right tool for you and don’t be afraid to try out new sources of news or new monitoring tools. Things are changing and the best tool today, may no longer be the best tool tomorrow.

*Image sourced from: http://www.projecteve.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/socialmedia1.jpg

COM0015 Blog #1 | Tools and Sources to Help You Achieve Your Social Media Goals

20-social-media-iconsAnyone who works with social media or who has read anything about social media knows that listening is the first step in developing a social media strategy. In fact, listening is the most important thing you can do on social media. Listening to what people are saying about you or about or industry, knowing what they like or the problems they’re experiencing will help you engage appropriately and develop content that will be appreciated and valued.

But with all the social media listening tools out there, how do you choose which ones to use? In all honesty, it’s a matter of personal preference, but from my experience, my two favourites are Google Alerts and Twitter. I like Google Alerts for its simplicity and convenience. You just enter the keyword or key phrase (one word or phrase per alert) you’d like Google to search the Internet for and you get emails sent to you with the search results. You can even create an RSS feed from the alerts and import them into a feed reader or a social media listening dashboard tool (a tool that gathers all of your feeds) such as Netvibes. Twitter is great for monitoring what is being said about you in real time. Twitter will alert you by email every time someone mentions you in one of their tweets. Twitter also has a great search engine that you can use to search key words, key phrases or hashtags. Twitter feeds can also be imported into a tool like Netvibes.

Now that you know of a few tools will help you monitor what’s being said about you on social media, how do you choose which sources to listen to? Where to go for news or updates depends on your objectives. If you’re looking for industry related content to share with your followers, you may wish to subscribe to an industry magazine’s e-newsletter or RSS feed. If you’re looking for general commentary about your product or service, you may wish to join an online community or discussion board. Of course, you could use Twitter as your main source for information and follow the people, organizations and publications that will help you meet your objectives. This is what I do. Twitter is my go-to place for news and updates because it’s current and convenient and it allows me to easily create content for my Twitter channel by sharing tweets with my followers and engaging with those I follow. A second source of information that not only helps me at work, but is of interest to my customers, primarily SMEs looking for best practices in customer service and marketing, is Inc. Magazine. I subscribe to Inc.’s newsletter and I follow the magazine on Twitter. This is an excellent publication filled with advice on anything business related–human resources, customer service, marketing, leadership–and updates on the latest trends and innovations in processes and equipment.

Listening will pay off in dividends if you do it right. It all starts with knowing why you’re listening, who you’re listening to and what you’re listening for. The right tools and sources will help you gather the information you need to be of value to your current and potential customers. I’ve provided you with some suggestions. What other tools and sources do you find valuable?

Image by GraphicsFuel