Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day: The Global Impact of Social Media

This Earth Day, let's pause for a moment to appreciate the global impact of social media. On any given day, I scroll through my various news feeds to see posts from coast to coast in the United States, and from friends and connections around the world in countries like the UK, France, Canada, Mexico and Australia. I have clients in Houston and Hungary and colleagues everywhere in between. Social networks are more than just tools to keep us in touch. They have created a global network of connections - a digital manifestation of the "six degrees" concept.

It can be easy to focus on the negative, but today let's look at some of the amazing things social media is doing for the world:

  • Cause Awareness & Fundraising: Since Earth Day is all about environmental protection, let's first take a look at the impact social media can have on causes. It provides us a platform to talk about causes we're passionate about, gives us a way to contribute, and encourages the viral spread of information and contribution. From small-scale Indiegogo projects to major awareness efforts by organizations like Sea Shepherd, social media gives people a platform to create change.
  • News: Whether you're watching breaking news unfold on Twitter or reading an article posted by a trusted LinkedIn connection, social media has put news in the hands of the people.
  • Personal Connections: Social media allows us to stay in touch with friends, coworkers, acquaintances and others around the world. Taking full advantage of social media's original intent as a networking tool means our networks aren't just social - they're global.
  • Family Reunions: After seeing her mother's plea for help reposted on Reddit and Twitter, a runaway Seattle teen was reunited with her family. Personally, I have several friends who have connected with birth parents and long-lost family members via social media.
  • Health: You may have heard the story of the little girl from Tennessee whose rare eye condition was caught due to a Facebook post. This is just one example of social media's health impact. Whether it's grassroots, like a friend recently posting to ask friends for their favorite natural allergy remedies, or global, like tracking the spread of disease through online posts and searches, social media helps us stay informed and connected on health and medical topics.
  • Positive Stories: From funny cat photos to heartwarming tales of human kindness, social media can make our day with positive, uplifting content we may not otherwise have seen.
These are just a few of the global benefits of social media. What others have you experienced?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alternate Meanings of a Facebook Post "Like"

15 people like chemical explosion injuries?
Chances are you understand the basic intended meaning of a Facebook post "like" when it's used to give a pat on the back, a thumbs up or a high five. Things can get tricky, however, when the original post is not something fun, funny, informative or interesting. Here are six common alternatives to the standard Facebook post like:
  1. Agreement: Whether a post is positive or negative, sometimes a thumbs up is a form of agreement rather than an enthusiastic validation.
  2. Saving for Later: People who are familiar with how their activity log works often like a post so that they can come back and see it later. 
  3. Sarcasm: When a friend is vaguebooking or whining, likes can convey sarcasm or mockery.
  4. Sympathy: For posts conveying bad news, a like can indicate sympathy.
  5. Confused Page Like: Often when people post an update to ask their friends to like a Page, their friends who don't know better will like the post instead.
  6. Call to Action Response: "Click like if you hate being asked to click like all the time!"
The trick to identifying these alternative meanings is to look at the context of the original post. What other meanings do you see in your Facebook News Feed? Leave a comment below.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Local TV Stations & Facebook Calls to Action

Local news agencies are making the most of their Facebook posts by using specific, targeted calls to action. This often takes the form of asking fans' opinions on controversial or positive topics. In many cases, however, this means benefiting from bad news by asking fans to share their condolences and sympathy in response to tragedies. Whether the topic is positive, controversial or tragic, these specific prompts serve two purposes: generating engagement, which boosts the Pages' EdgeRank, and reducing the likelihood of off-topic remarks and flame wars in the comments. Below are examples of calls to action from the four major TV news outlets in the Seattle area.

Among local news outlets in this area, CBS affiliate KIRO 7 seems most likely to prompt for responses to tragedies, such as this death in a car accident. Calls to action on tragic events like this draw an outpouring of support for those affected, but often a few negative comments towards the station for trying to benefit from a tragedy. In a formula that covers all the bases, KIRO's post uses a photo that appears to be pulled from the young man's Facebook profile, includes both a link to the story online and a prompt to watch the news story on TV, and closes with the call to action.

NBC affiliate KING 5 takes advantage here of a topic residents love to talk about - bad drivers! The photo they used is likely a screengrab from the news story. They lead the post with their excellent call to action that requests a specific type of feedback on a particular and popular topic.

ABC affiliate KOMO 4 taps into the popular throwback trend here. In a smart move that will increase their EdgeRank even further, KOMO's call to action requires users to engage with the photo they shared in order to answer the prompt. Like their friends at CBS, KOMO phrases their call to action as a statement rather than a question.

In their rather bland, cookie-cutter call to action, and accompanied by a stock photo, Fox affiliate Q13 comes across sounding like a psychologist. While people (dare I say Fox viewers in particular?) may have strong opinions about how the new Mayor is paying aides compared to the outgoing mayor, a clearer, more specific prompt would have been more effective here.

When crafting calls-to-action for your own Facebook Page, keep these examples in mind and strive to do the following: ask for responses to interesting, engaging topics, play with using statements vs. questions, tap into people's emotions, and ask for specific feedback.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

12 Ways to Engage Your Company's 12th Man on Social Media

Whether it's your mom, your best friend or an extremely loyal customer, chances are your business has at least one social media super fan. They're easy to spot; they like, retweet, comment on or otherwise engage with almost every post you publish. These people are for your business what Seattle's rabid sports fans are for the Seahawks. They are an extension of your team that boosts your confidence and helps you succeed - your very own social media 12th man. So how can you go beyond those basic interactions and use their enthusiasm and support to get you all the way to the Super Bowl? Here are 12 ways:
  1. Interact: Don't let their support for you go unanswered. Even if your 12th man leaves a comment on every one of your Facebook posts, make sure you reply to all of them.
    1. Name Them: Giving your 12th man a unique (and hashtag friendly) name will help them self-identify, connect with fellow fans and rally together in their support for you.
    2. Share their Photos: The 12th man often tweets photos or shares them on your wall - boosting the reach of those photos by reposting them to your broader audience will encourage others to do the same.
    3. Interview Them: Capture your 12th man's enthusiasm in a video, audio or text interview to post on your social channels.
    4. Give Perks: Give your 12th man an assignment in order to shape their interactions in the most beneficial way for your business. Ask them to take a photo or send you an anecdote on a specific topic.
    5. Ask for Content: Giving your 12th man an assignment, like a photo or anecdote on a specific topic, will help you shape their interactions in the most beneficial way for your business.
    6. Ask for Feedback: Your 12th man likes everything you do, but what would they like more of? Adjusting your content strategy based on their feedback will improve their engagement and probably create more super fans.
    7. Ask for Reviews: You know they will gush, so ask your 12th man to review you on Google+, Facebook, Yelp, etc.
    8. Acknowledge Them Online: Did your Foursquare Mayor just check in on his birthday? Giving your 12th Man a special online shoutout makes members feel recognized and encourages them to share more.
    9. Acknowledge Them Offline: It may seem awkward at first to reach out to the 12th man when you recognize them in person, but bridging the real life gap will strengthen your connection.
    10. Connect with Companies: Ask your 12th man to get their businesses involved in their enthusiasm for you - chances are the relationship will be beneficial for both organizations!
    11. Thank Them: Find personal and meaningful ways to say thank you and mean it. The 12th man will recognize and appreciate authentic affirmations of their enthusiasm.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Using Hashtags

    It seems like hashtags are everywhere these days, from comedy sketches to commercials. Brands of all sizes are trying to cash in on the conversation tool, with mixed results. To make the most of your hashtags, ask yourself these five questions:
    1. Are others using this hashtag?  It might seem basic, but if no one else is using the hashtag, what purpose does it serve? Fun or funny commentary style hashtags can make you seem clever and accessible, but excessive and unnecessary tags can lead to a decrease in engagement. Know your brand and what is appropriate for your audience. To stay professional and polished, leave it off unless you're creating a new conversation and have a concrete plan to promote it and get it to spread. 
    2. Are you using the right hashtag?  For a sexual health writer, it might be tempting to use #ED, since it is the commonly used abbreviation for erectile dysfunction, but a little research will show that the education community uses #ed in their conversations.
    3. Are you adding to the conversation?  When you use a hashtag, your post becomes part of the larger conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Consider what benefit you are providing to the community as a whole by participating in that conversation. 
    4. Will your hashtag benefit you?  If you aren't adding to the conversation, ask yourself if your hashtag contribution will provide a benefit to your account through exposure to people who are following that topic.
    5. If you're tagging a name, would an @mention be better?  If you are trying to get the attention of or acknowledge a particular account, an @mention may be more appropriate. On the other hand, multiple @mentions can seem spammy, so hashtags may be better. Hashtags will also help with searchability and cross-posting to Facebook.  
    How have hashtags changed your conversation? What other hashtag-use questions or guidelines would you add? Leave a comment below.

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Social Media Management from Afar

    Whether you're a traveling or representing clients in another part of the country or the world, there are three key things to keep in mind when managing social media from afar:
    1. Time Zone: Make sure you're posting at the best times for the fans.
    2. Local Voice: If appropriate, adapt the tone of your content to sound familiar to local fans.
    3. Local Content Sources: Source content locally to make it more relevant.
    For more details on why, visit my original guest post on Social Media Club's "From the Clubhouse" blog. 

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    The Importance of Subject Agreement & Active Verbs in Social Media Writing

    Credit: Dan Thesman / CNN
    A Facebook post by a local news station caught my eye today. It read, "Authorities in California say a man's leg was severed by flying shrapnel while watching an implosion today in Bakersfield, and is in danger of losing his other leg."

    According to this sentence structure, the man's leg was watching the implosion and the man's leg is in danger of losing his other leg. We know that the news outlet meant that the man was watching the implosion and that he risks losing his other leg, but some readers may have had to take a second look.

    News editors often use the passive verb structure, in this case "was severed," to avoid placing blame. ("A subject was shot by police" instead of "Police shot a man.") It's clear in this story that the flying shrapnel severed the man's leg, so the passive tense is unnecessary and sloppy.

    Let's take a stab at revising the post: "Authorities in California say flying shrapnel severed a man's leg while he was watching an implosion today in Bakersfield. He risks losing his other leg as well."

    Why should you ensure that your subjects agree, and use active verbs? Not just to appease grammar geeks like me! Here's why:

    • Passive verbs and sentence structures add unnecessary words to your posts and make them longer. Statistically, shorter posts generate higher engagement. If you don't mind a longer post, tidying up your tenses makes room for additional information.
    • Active verbs make your writing more direct and exciting, and your calls to action clearer.
    • Subject agreement eliminates confusion. Yes, we may know what you intended to say, but subject confusion will make many fans re-read a post. Confusion drives down engagement in the form of retweets, favorites, likes and shares. (Although it might earn a comment or two from grammar-conscious folks.)

    Social media is not an excuse for improper grammar. In fact, the short format and drive to create engagement make good grammar even more necessary!

    What are your grammar pet peeves? Share a comment below or tweet @lpmikov.