4 Social Media Lessons from Obama’s Google+ Hangout

President Obama Google HangoutRegardless of where you stand politically, last night’s Google+ Hangout with President Barack Obama highlights some important aspects of social media engagement.

The Google+ hangout was diverse with two wives, a group of students, a war veteran, a small business owner and others. President Obama listened and communicated with these Americans and others while effectively leveraging a platform that was comfortable for them and a vast majority of his audience. How do we know this? Before the hangout, a total of 228,094 people submitted 133,184 questions and cast 1,630,369 votes on the White House YouTube channel. This was a successful example of knowing where your audience spends their time. Here are four lessons you can apply to your social strategy:

Be innovative. While Obama has incorporated townhall meetings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn during his presidential campaigns, this marked the first ever Google+ Hangout with a President. Talk about catering to your audience and encouraging dialogue. You too can be innovative if you know your audience and find a way to connect with them.
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Engage your advocators and face your detractors. Obama faced the difficult questions about the economy, foreign aid, homelessness and unemployment rates head on. While some Google+ Hangout attendees had voted for him, others had not. Challenging questions are inevitable, especially in social media, and your community is judging you based on your ability to handle such questions. Think of this as an opportunity to turn your detractors into brand advocates and to further confirm the decisions of ambassadors. Honest, sincere and transparent answers go a long way.
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Use multiple platforms. If you’re going to host multiple parties, you’d better mix up the venues. In this case, the White House effectively utilized several social media channels. People could submit a question on YouTube, watch on Google+, or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #askobama. The next time your business wants to engage with your community be sure to know when and where to host the party (or parties!).
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Understand public relations 101. Never turn down an opportunity to sway public opinion. It is important to use every conversation as an opportunity to improve your image, even if that means laughing at an impersonator.
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It can be challenging for a brand to be knowledgeable, educational and laugh at the same time. Social media takes practice and requires companies to take chances. Find the right balance and your community will grow and reward you in return. What did you think of the first ever Google+ Hangout? I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you missed the hangout, watch it here: here.

This post originally appeared on the Radian6 Social Strategy Blog where I contribute to the community engagement team.

How to Wow Sports Fans with Social Media

Social Media Sports

“My kids, if I ever accidentally have some, will not go to school. They will start twitter accounts and learn from the people.”– Paul BissonettePhoenix Coyotes

It’s tweets like these that have made Phoenix Coyotes’ enforcer Paul Bissonette generate a healthy following on social media. And there is something to be said about how athletes engage on social media.

Most sports fans know their favorite athlete’s height, weight, jersey number and noteworthy statistics. But that trend is changing as more and more athletes dive into social media and fans around the world subscribe to their every tweet.

Just like in business and other industries, professional sports organizations are seeing the vast promotional potential of social media. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White has even announced that he would dish out $240,000 towards improving his fighter’s followings. How’s that for incentive? Paid to socialize, sign me up.

So what is it about social media engagement that fans really enjoy?

Accessibility: Fans want to gain access and connect with athletes. Social media has made that a possibility. Whether it is a  brief exchange about last night’s game, insights into fitness regimens or injury updates, all of these provide something meaningful to the fans. People connect with athletes through social media to learn more than they would get from the radio and television. Takeaway: Be accessible to your following. Make them feel special.

Be Human: The public sometimes forgets that athletes have significant others, children, and even a life outside the game. Interacting with fans via social media shows a human side that online communities desperately want to see. My personal favorite is Paul Bissonette, the professional hockey player mentioned above who has amassed a following of 211,686, despite only tallying 5 career NHL goals. If you’re looking for personality, he’s your man. Takeaway: Crack a joke, admit you were wrong, or thank your social followers for pointing something out. Show you are human.

Insight: Just like someone who works in law, business or education, athletes have a significant level of insight about the sport they play and can build their community up by educating their audience. Takeaway: Whether you work for a sports related brand or not, share your knowledge so the rest of us can take it in.

Relationships: Social media gives athletes and their fans a chance to connect and deepen relationships. Your audience is constantly evaluating the strength of their relationship with you so take the time to show them you value their support. Takeaway: Show them love and it will come back 5-fold in long-term support.

Regardless of who you are or what you do, make your audience feel valued.  Give them access, show your personality, and provide any insight you might have. You can manage the relationships by consistently WOWing your audience. For Bissonette, that is providing humor and insight that fans don’t expect to get from professional athletes.

To learn more check out the top 100 tips to live by via @darrenrovell. Can you think of any other methods to engage with your following? Share below! This post originally appeared on the Radian6 Social Strategy Blog where I contribute to the community engagement team.

Communication Trends of 2012: Need to Know

After reading several articles from socialmediatoday.com, mashable.com and others I’ve decided to round out my COS blogging contribution by highlighting some major industry trends that have started to transpire, or some that might. Most of the changes in the industry, they suggest, are attributed to advancements in technologies.

1. The Shift to Digital

More companies are  giving priority to their digital media marketing and communications before their traditional print media. Case in point: news organizations. More people are flocking to the Internet and it provides more flexibility for news networks as well. Some call that a #nobrainer

2. Decentralization of Social Media

People are becoming more and more competent on social media and realizing that it is no longer acceptable to limit organizational members from participating.  According to Paul Holmes, “the more consistent a company’s message, the less authentic it sounds. […] Any consistency should be organic – a natural result of shared values and cultural cohesion, rather than imposed by the message police.” As mentioned in mine and @Tatjana’s #PC8005 seminar, the key to success is empowering staff members by educating them on social media and ensuring that they understand the company values and they ought to be portrayed. Censoring employees will only result in resentment, which can backfire.

3. On the Go

Mobile, mobile, mobile is the biggest adjustment that communication professionals need to make because everything is going mobile. Don’t believe me?  Check out this #shocking slideshare. Yes, I sometimes hashtag my blog. That might warrant its own category…next year. Social Media Today maintains that this is because of convenience, context and fun. Mobile is convenient. It enables people to be connected ‘24/7’ and, as a result, work more efficiently. Finally mobile is fun…because, well….it’s fun.

4. Playtime

Consumers need more enticement than ever when it comes to mobile phones, which means communications and PR specialist must find creative ways to engage their audience. Make digital media a game. What do I mean by that? Check out how BMW turned a Mini Cooper giveaway into a real life game of manhunt. Mobile media has become more than inviting the public to scan a QR code that takes you to their company website. Consumers are more adept with the technology and expect more out of communications professionals. To be successful, we must exceed those expectations.

5. It’s a Brand New World

My personal favorite, is the shift towards companies thinking and acting like journalists. It relates back to a Web 2.0 concept that instead of being a consumer or a producer companies must all think like “prosumers”. In a nutshell, tell stories about your company. Be modest, unbiased and critical of yourself when need be. Nissan was one of the first companies to participate in brand journalism. What does this tell communication professionals? Start thinking like a journalist. Tell your company’s stories.

Blogs, Vlogs and Splogs

Blog, internet, social media, SEO, meta tags, URL. What is a blog, How to incorporate a corporate blog, public relations in business.

The following are examples of a search engine optimization rich URL, specific keywords and phrases that will increase a blogs ranking in search engine’s like Google. By positioning them in such a spot, I expect this post will now get a total of 5 readers (Dr. Freeman, Dr. Fung and Dr. Mason, myself…someone else?)

After reading Mark Deuze’s article “Participation and Media Production: Critical Reflections on Content Creation,” I discovered that there are many variations and motives behind writing a blog. Deuze describes them as, “a networked form of deeply personalized and indeed ever so slightly narcissistic self-expression,” (Deuze, 2002).  I have been the primary producer of a blog for some time now without having actually put much thought or analysis into what other variations are out there. I view mine as a virtual garage, a digital dumping ground and, at times, an electronic resume. Deuze introduces us to the existence of Vlogs, Flogs, Splogs, Spings, Spamdexing, and the act of Blogola. Say what? That’s what I thought too!

According to a survey by PRWeek in the United States about 10% of corporate communicators had a weblog in 2006 and 8% of them were Fortune 500 companies. So here is a quick breakdown of what these terms mean:

Flog: a fake blog, a stealthy way to improve public relations with customers and stakeholders. They have become a marketing tool designed by professional companies or ad agencies to promote, directly and indirectly, certain products or services without being transparent about the corporate-sponsored identity.

Splog: an artificially created weblog in which the author uses to promote affiliated websites to increase SEO. There are an estimated 3,000-7,000 new splogs created each day (Technorati report, 2007).

Spings: are short for “spam pigs” which send automated messages from blogs and other online publishing tools to a centralized network service providing a notification of newly published post or content. This gives the impression that an older post is suddenly new and improved, though it might be dotting an I or crossing a T.

Blogola: is the act of flooding bloggers with free stuff in hopes of flattering them enough that they’ll provide positive coverage in return. Companies will try to tap into the social networking power of the blogger. I believe there are guidelines against this for accredited journalist but not for bloggers. #opportunity

Spamdexing: is a method of manipulating the relevancy or prominence of an article for over-indexing it with an abundance of keywords, meta tags and search items. This way search engines will pick up that article before another that isn’t as thoroughly tagged.

So what impact does this have on the blogosphere? In my humble opinion, it is blurring the lines between what blogs were originally intended to do: publish raw, uncensored thoughts, opinions and position into more of a corporate playground. It is manipulating the open, collaborative, give-and-take framework blogs were created for.

For a look into one of the most fascinating bloggers I follow, visit “Charles Leblanc’s Other blog”.  His original blog was shut down and you’ll see why. He is a journalist without any credentials that pushes his limits with local companies and politicians. It is raw, uncensored and very successful even without proper spelling or SEO. He is the Stewie Griffin of New Brunswick’s blogosphere. Warning: take this with a grain of salt.

References

 Deuze, M. (2008). Corporate Appropriation of Participatory Culture. In: Carpentier, N., Livingstone, S. (eds.), Participation and Media Production: Critical Reflections on Content Creation, pp.27-40. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishers

The End of the Print Newspaper?

The following is excerpts taken from a speech written for Master of Professional Communication student Debbie Kwan. For more on Debbie, check out her blog

The ongoing belief that print media is on its way out, well, is still ongoing. All signs point towards the Internet and social media as becoming our primary means for getting news. Left in the dust is one of the most ancient mediums for communicative story telling, the newspaper.

Traditionalists would argue that although it is certainly deteriorating in terms of popularity – the print newspaper still offers considerable value to the reader and has a place in the consumer market. For some reading text from a hot, radiant screen is incomparable to holding a tangible newspaper that is easy to view and truly one’s own to keep. E-readers have been mimicking the viewing style of newspapers for some time now, and for good reason.

But it would be naive to think that the industry isn’t shifting and newspapers aren’t trying to redefine themselves based on a more cost-efficient model.

As the 2008 recession hit, companies began to cut advertising budgets and allot greater portions to the Internet. To give you an idea of how much the industry has changed, in 1920, newspapers achieved market penetration of 123% in the U.S. This means the average American household received 1.23 newspapers. That number has fallen to well below 50% in the United States (State of the Media).

So how is print media surviving?

One strategy is not exactly new, but certainly reinvented.

If you have ever rode the TTC you’ve likely read Metro News.  Metro is an example of one newspaper that has reinvented the idea of advertising as a means to subsidize the cost of printing and distribution.  The model was first developed in 1833 by The Sun, a New York daily newspaper that was in circulation for 117 years. By dropping the price of their newspaper from 6 cents to 1 cent in 1833, The Sun drastically increased their viewership to compete with the other two giants in New York; the Times and Herald Tribune. In 1995 Metro delivered it’s first free daily in Stockholm, Sweden targeting the morning commuters. 17 years later, they have 67 editions and are positioned in 22 different countries, including 8 locations in Canada. It was a risky model that paid off. Metro News in Toronto now has a daily readership of more than 1 million and generates substantial ad revenue. And that’s just in Toronto alone!

This strategy appears sustainable, but only time will tell. Print newspapers are in stiff competition with a medium that has all the ingredients to appeal to today’s new media consumers: ease of use, instantaneous, mobile and cost efficient. The Internet as a source for news is a convenient choice given that websites have become one-stop shops for all things multimedia, and the wireless infrastructure to facilitate its growth will only continue to improve.  There is no doubt, however, that there’s a class of readers out there who will forever be proponents of the print newspaper. It is probably safe to say that print media is not dying just yet.

What do you think? Does print media still have a future or will society turn completely digital?