Further info on Twitter and PR

This week my CPR 590 partner and I gave a presentation on micro-blogging and its function with respect to public relations.  For this blog post I wanted to add some additional information and links that were not included in that presentation.

Although micro-blogging has become a very popular form of social media thanks to Twitter, it is not only used for fun interactions with friends or following your favorite celebrities and news outlets.  Twitter and other micro-blogging sites are being used by PR professionals to monitor their brand perception, identify and solve customer service/product issues, and to interact with their customers.   Because this is still a relatively new PR outlet, many practitioners are not sure how to use this tool most efficiently.  Mary Fletcher Jones, PRSA member and the owner of Fletcher Prince, a social media consulting firm, wrote a best practices guideline for PR practitioners using Twitter and other micro-blogs.  The most important points that I gleaned from her blog post were:

  • Keep focused on your message by posting only relevant updates
  • Respond to customers complaints, comments and praise
  • Post links to articles and blogs related to your industry/product/expertise
  • NEVER post negative comments
Mary Fletcher Jones has several interesting blog posts related to PR.  Follow her posts on the PRSA-NCC Blog
Here are some more links to interesting articles outlining how and why to use Twitter for business purposes:
-Nyasha Kimoy-
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The Myth of Cyber Privacy

A very sad event placed social media into the news spotlight last week.  According to news outlets including CNN.com,  a couple was murdered and their bodies left hanging from a bridge in Mexico for supposedly denouncing violence and illegal activities being perpetrated by Mexican drug cartels.  A threatening hand written message was found near the bodies warning of further violence to those who use social media outlets to speak negatively about them.  Although law enforcement has been unable to confirm exactly what the couple had posted online that made them a target, the murders underline an important thing to consider when using social media; Privacy.

The appearance of anonymity on the internet can unleash the beast in many people.  How many times have you read gossip blogs or other types of blogs that contain false or misleading statements about a celebrity or other public figure?  I have read more pregnancy rumors surrounding Beyoncé and Jennifer Aniston over the years than I can count!  What about the mean spirited comments left on these blogs by readers hiding behind an avatar and a fake name?  Because they do not believe that they will be held accountable for their comments, libelous and defamatory speech is wafting across the internet like a bad odor.  (Check out CNN’s take on ‘The Scourge of Internet Anonymity‘)

Although you may believe that whatever you post on the internet cannot be traced back to you, the undeniable truth is that there is no true internet anonymity.  Whenever you initiate a transmission on the internet it leaves a trail that can be followed right to your computer.  Every time you hear of some crazy (or not so crazy) crime that has been committed, you can be pretty sure that the police have confiscated the suspect’s computers for analysis. After all, even when you drop that file in the recycling bin or delete your browser history, almost everything you have ever done on that computer can be retrieved.  In many ways this is a good thing.  Remember when Dateline NBC was running constant installments of the ‘To Catch A Predator‘ series?  A government task force would hunt down pedophiles in chat rooms and other internet forums by posing as underage kids and engage in sexually explicit exchanges.  They would use these chats to set up meetings between the pedophiles and the fictitious kids and then arrest them when they arrived at the designated meeting point.  In the case of rampant pedophilia, or other egregious felonious behaviors, I am glad that there are ways of identifying the seemingly anonymous on the internet.

But what about cases in which, like the two unfortunate victims of the Mexico killings, the lack of privacy leads to danger?  There are tools on the internet that can track where you are in the world using your IP address and mapping software.  Accounts you thought you disabled years ago still show up in web searches.  Cyberstalking has become a serious and dangerous issue due to the wealth of personal information that can be found about an individual online, much of which is posted by that person themselves on various social networking sites!  Could the killers have tracked this poor couple down using sensitive information found on their profile pages?  Who knows?!

While we cannot be deterred from standing up for what we believe is right by the murderous drug cartels, overreaching governments or others who seek to silence us, it is important when using the internet to protect yourself at all times.  For tips on avoiding cyberstalking visit privacyrights.org.
But first, go ahead and Google yourself, and don’t forget to check Google Images as well.  What you find might freak you out. . .

-Nyasha Kimoy-

Did Social Media Kill the PR Star?

A topic of debate for many a PR professional is whether Social Media has rendered public relations obsolete.  I recently came across a video posted by Kara Swisher, a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and popular internet commentator, regarding a panel held in San Francisco to address this very question.  The panel was in response to Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington, three controversial bloggers who had stirred the pot by suggesting that,
with the advent of social media sites, pr is no longer a necessary field/tool.  The conclusion that the panel ultimately came to was that times change and pr tactics change with it.  Of course a room full of pr people are not going to make a statement that their industry is dead, after all it is their bread-and-butter, but there is evidence to support their conclusion.

In an article entitled ‘The Nine Lives of Public Relations’, Don Wright, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, who is a professor of public relations at Boston University and editor of PRSA’s peer-reviewed PR Journal, mentioned to the author in 2009 that he estimates about 70% of all social media programs are driven by pr professionals.  One can only imagine that that number has held steady or even increased over the years.  Remember, public relations professionals are the guardians of the all-important message, and their purpose is to get the message, whatever it may be, to the right people in the right way.  The benefits of social media with regard to public relations is that it allows one to bypass the traditional media outlets and disseminate a message directly to one’s target audience.

I believe social media will cause public relations professionals to become even more creative in how they operate and will produce even more employment opportunities for the tech savvy among us.  15 years ago companies were not concerned with hiring young professionals to exclusively manage their image online image.  Now they are employing more and more young people as social media managers, essentially hired to tinker about on Facebook and Twitter for a living (of course their roles are more involved than that but you know what I mean!).

Social Media certainly hasn’t killed the PR star, in fact it may have given it new life.

-Nyasha Kimoy-

Virtual Social Worlds – Cool or just weird?

This week I had the pleasure of reading an article for class outlining the different types of social media that we all use.  Along with the usual suspects (Social Bookmarking, Blogs, Social Networking, etc.) there was a section about virtual game worlds and virtual social worlds.  Virtual gaming involves large groups of people playing with/against each other under the guise of a character.  One of the most popular virtual game worlds is World of Warcraft where people assume a mythical persona and explore the virtual world while fighting battles.  Personally I have not played World of Warcraft or any other virtual games but I do have much experience with the bane of many girlfriend’s existences: Call of Duty for X-Box.  Anyone who knows someone who is being held captive by this game knows that it is all consuming. Men will ignore you utterly and completely while playing that game.  I think the thing that they find so fascinating about this game is that they are able to talk with their teammates and  opponents and can therefore build strategies together on how to win. Watch this video for more info on gaming addictions.

Now virtual social worlds are a little different.  Communities such as Second Life allow people to choose a persona/avatar and explore their virtual world, interact with other people/avatars, shop, sell virtual goods and more.  Think ‘The Sims’ but every character is controlled by and actual living human being.  Some people are even able to earn real money by creating virtual products and selling them to other Second Life residents.  Many retail shops also have a Second Life presence including Dell Computers and Reebok athletic wear, to name a few.  There are some other cool and educational aspects of this virtual social world. One can visit planetariums and learn more about the cosmos, visit zoos and more.  in an article for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Robert Hof defends Second Life and other virtual social worlds as being just like any other form of entertainment, but one that you can manipulate and control as much as you want.

Is it just me, or is fashioning a virtual alter ego and living your life online kind of creepy?  I even created an avatar on Second Life years ago after a friend introduced me to it.  I didn’t last long however, because I was much more interested in exploring the real world than the virtual one.  I am all for entertainment, but when it becomes a destructive addiction then one must reevaluate whether playing is really worth it.  Maybe I am old fashioned, but there is something to be said for going outside and getting some fresh air and exercise.

-Nyasha Kimoy-

Fun with Bacardi OakHeart

Surprise Surprise! Unbeknownst to us our class, our professor is a consultant for the Bacardi rum company.   In class we were asked to put together a social media campaign for the new Bacardi OakHeart spiced rum.  It is meant to be in direct competition with Captain Morgan spiced rum.  When I think of Captain Morgan, i have an image of young, college aged people chugging drinks in a frat-party type environment or tailgating.  Their advertisements support this image.

Our group decided that we would differentiate Bacardi OakHeart  from Captain Morgan by marketing it as a drink for young professional men.  In order to create that association with the new drink, we decided to suggest creating Facebook and LinkedIn groups called ‘The Gentleman’s Club’.  Men would join the club and have the opportunity to network with other young professionals, learn about special Bacardi OakHeart sponsored events in their city and enter contests to win a case of rum and other prizes. We also toyed with the idea of starting a trending topic on Twitter with the hash tag #only an OakHeart man.  Twitter users would then be encouraged to come up with creative endings to the phrase (for example: Only an OakHeart man refuses to let a lady pay for her own drink, etc.) and the best one of the day/week would win a prize.

Our campaign differed greatly from that of our other classmates.  While most groups chose to market the product through Facebook and other popular social networking sites, our group was the only one to market specifically towards young professional men.  Other groups targeted college-aged young people and tailgaters.   Both approaches could work.  After all, Bacardi wants as many people to enjoy their new drink as possible.  I was very proud of our presentation however, and I hope Bacardi found our ideas useful.

-Nyasha Kimoy-

Revolution & Social Media

Arab Spring - Example of Social media's influence on politics and revolution

Arab Spring - Example of Social media's influence on politics and revolution

While browsing CNN.com, one of my favorite websites, I ran across an article entitled “When social media ‘hinders’ revolution”.  The article basically states that, although social media websites have been integral in revolutions/uprisings around the globe as of late (Arab spring, UK riots, etc.), they may also be keeping their users from meeting face-to-face and effecting real change.  Quoted in the article, Navid Hassanpour, a Yale grad student, had this to say: “Social media can act against grass roots mobilization,” he writes. “They discourage face-to-face communication and mass presence in the streets. Similar to more traditional and highly visible media, they create greater awareness of risks involved in protests, which in turn can discourage people from taking part in demonstrations.”  Others quoted in the article also argue that social media discourages meetings because, once you are up to date on what someone is doing via social media sites, you may not feel the need to actually catch up with them in person.

Although I totally get their points, I think the revolutionary events of the last couple of years is proof positive that, when it comes to big political demonstrations or responses to social injustice, social media sites have in fact prompted those who would not have necessarily organized before, to take action.  It also offers a broader reach than other traditional methods of organization.  Now one can get thousands of people to converge on one location at the same time by posting one comment, where before people were limited by their resources (you can only hang as many flyers as you physically have).

On a smaller more personal scale, sites like Twitter and Facebook each serve as a medium to get smaller groups of friends or people with like interests together.  For example, in the C-Span interview with Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, Biz references a tweet that solidified in his mind that Twitter would indeed be a force to be reckoned with.  He recalled a time when a man at an overly-loud bar tweeted to his friends that they should all leave and converge on another bar down the street.  He did this because he was physically unable to speak to the people in his group due to the volume in the establishment.  Within 8 mins of having tweeted this message, the bar that he had suggested was swamped by hundreds of people who had either received his original tweet or viewed re-tweets of his original message. This became the first official “Tweet-up”, or meeting of Twitter friends offline.

On an even more personal scale, I am a bridesmaid in a wedding in Ghana, Africa at the end of this year.  I found about my friend’s wedding plans on Facebook when some of her other friends were posting on her wall.  Distressed about not having been invited to the soiree, I promptly sent her an email professing my sadness at not being included.  Laughing-out-loud, she referred me to my Facebook messages inbox where I discovered a “Save-the-Date” note about the wedding.  Since then, I have sent her my measurements via Facebook and discussed plans with her via Skype (She lives in London).  I am also able to chat with her other bridesmaids to commiserate on flights, lodging, gift ideas, etc.  Voila!  A grand-scale meeting planned on a social-networking site! The future of the internet is integrating the virtual world more into the physical world.  What could be a more fitting example of that?

Although it may be impossible to find accurate statistics on how many meetings of a social or business nature are organized on social media sites, one can only deduce that these meetings happen all day, every day.

In your face Navid!

-Nyasha Kimoy-

Mobile Apps vs. The Web

I recently watched an interesting C-Span interview about the future of the internet featuring Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the co-founders of Twitter.  This video addressed everything from Twitter’s influence on the “Arab Spring” (a revolution organized by social media users that erupted in numerous Arab countries during the spring of 2011.  These uprisings threatened the governmental structures of many Arab nations and lead to the fall of some regimes.) to the potential of more collaborations between amateur and professional software writers.

What I found most interesting about this televised interview was the brief point made by Evan Williams that, while social media brings us together in many ways, other tools such as downloadable applications (“apps”) may actually be moving us away from each other (This part of the interview begins on the C-Span video around 22:57.  You can watch it by clicking on the following link: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/FutureoftheInternet5).  The discussion begins with talking about going from web-based content to publishing exclusively via downloadable applications.  Evan mentions that “I think in many ways Apps are a step backwards from the web because they’re not connectable”.  The interviewer, Walter Isaacson (formerly of the New York Times), then likened mobile applications to the AOL of the 1990’s.

Why did this quick soundbite stick in my head?  Well, perhaps it is directly applicable to my life.  I recently purchased my first smart phone over the summer after much arm twisting and sales pitches from my boyfriend (he should work for Sprint, I swear!).  After bringing my new baby home (that is how attached to it I have become) I began playing around with all of its features and discovered the wonderful world of applications.  There is an app for almost everything.  Thanks to applications I am now able to listen to radio stations broadcasted from my native Trinidad & Tobago or New York City.  I can browse the Huffington Post and Al Jazeera without using my web browser.  I can even connect directly to Twitter (which I have yet to sign up for) and Skype my friend in London while on the road!  Applications have seemingly made my life that much easier (I say seemingly because, in all honesty, do I really NEED any of these applications to live productively? No, but I like them a whole lot) and I feel like I am more connected than ever to the world around me because of them.  What I had noticed though, while browsing through and downloading the many free apps in the apps store is that, while I have all of these resources at my fingertips, I no longer really need to sift through information that doesn’t typically interest me.

While it is a good thing that I am able to filter out all things irrelevant to my world, I also believe that some information that I do not want to receive is important nonetheless.  By bypassing the internet and all of its SPAM, I am missing out on learning more about what is going on in the world outside of my world.  For instance, while I am interested in U.S. politics to an extent, I don’t want to read about what the Tea Party is doing from day to day or who is undermining the president’s efforts this week.  However, when Michelle Bachman says something totally out of left field, because I was not on the web aimlessly browsing and being inundated by whatever news is floating out there, I am sure to miss it.  Like the time she said that the founding fathers had worked tirelessly to abolish slavery, even though they themselves were slave owners.  I found out about that gaffe a whole month after she said it because I actively avoid most news about her or most things political at the moment.

Since we all know that communication is a 2-way street, I am really interested to know what you readers out there think about all of this. Do you think I misinterpreted what he is saying about applications and lack of connect-ability?   Should I give Michelle Bachman a chance? Any bits of news or information that you find interesting that you want to expose me too?  I am ready to hear from you!

In an upcoming post I will explore a little more the idea that social media is actually drawing us apart rather than bringing us together.  As with any opinion, there are opposing viewpoints on this idea.  Stay tuned.

-Nyasha Kimoy-