Lives Clashing Online: The Importance of a Social Media Policy

Employees' Social Media Activities under the magnifying glassLiveJournal. Friendster. Myspace. Facebook. Early on, social media sites began as online outlets allowing people to express themselves and connect with their friends. It was intriguing, it was experimental, and above all, it was classified personal. Over the years it’s become evident just how public our social media activities are. Recently, a New York Times reporter was reminded of how personal and professional lives are clashing online, by being assigned a social media babysitter.”

The Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the nation’s most prominent newspaper repeatedly posted messages on her public Facebook profile that her employer found to be problematic. As a result, she will now work closely with an editor on her social media posts.

According her New York Times editor, Margaret Sullivan, “The idea is to capitalize on the promise of social media’s engagement with readers while not exposing The Times to a reporter’s unfiltered and unedited thoughts.”

Watching what we say is not a new topic, but certainly one that bears repeating, as more companies are tracking what their employees post online.

As the employee, it’s important to know your company’s social media policy. If they don’t have a policy – ask for one.  Also remember that anything you say online can be tied back to your company, whether you like it or not. Platform Magazine, which included commentary from DVL in its latest issue, advises that before posting on social media to ask yourself, “Would you want your boss to read this?

As the employer, make sure you have a social media policy in place. From creating these for various clients, DVL knows policies can vary from industry to industry and company to company, so it’s not advised to “borrow” one you find online. There are many factors to consider, such as how an individual engages in social media for a company, how individuals engage in social media on company and personal time, as well as how the National Labor Relations Act and employees’ rights affects a social media policy.

Social networking has evolved from its beginnings and continues to grow, but one thing often holds true online and off – think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

MLB Continues Building Social Media Buzz During World Series

Baseball bat hitting ball in slow motion: MLB's social media efforts: Twitter, Trends, CampaignsGame 1 of the World Series generated the second-most social media comments in postseason history, according to MLB.com. Mentions of Pablo Sandoval (“The Panda”) accounted for 20 percent of the 813,000 Facebook and Twitter comments, thanks to the athlete’s historic three-homer night. No count yet on how many mentions the infamous Barry Manilow reference from FOX announcer Tim McCarver received.

Social chatter during sporting events is expected to increase, as the number of sports fans who use social media to follow leagues, teams and players has almost doubled since 2011.

This postseason has been very successful for the MLB’s social media efforts, having generated twice as many social media comments by Oct. 10 as it did during the entire 2011 division series. This could be in part to the MLB’s expanded online presence and digital campaigns. Nearly every team now has its own Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr account, as well as check-in services.

In an effort to make its fans feel more engaged (and in turn get more buzz about baseball), the MLB has run online campaigns such as #MLBmembersonly, #FlyWitness and Pictober (#postseason). One of the most successful social programs is the MLB Fan Cave – a physical venue that hosts athletes and other celebrities whose interviews, antics and musical performances are shared online.

If the Giants’ and Tigers’ social networks and online buzz were analyzed to predict an outcome of the World Series, the winner would be the San Francisco Giants. According to Sysomos, the Detroit Tigers’ social mentions are at about only 2.3 million, compared to the Giants’ 2.75 million, which account for 54 percent of the conversation. The Bay Bombers also have a larger social following (as of Oct. 26, 2012, 9 a.m.):

Detroit Tigers
• Facebook: 1,118,742 likes
• Twitter: 183,242 followers

San Francisco Giants
• Facebook: 1,586,853 likes
• Twitter: 340,691 followers

No matter who comes away with the Commissioner’s Trophy, it’s apparent the MLB is winning with many of its fans when it comes to social media. The platforms are changing the way not only the MLB connects with fans, but players, too. Athletes talk directly with their fans, respond to their questions, encourage engagement and even retweet followers’ messages – which is as good as an autograph for many people nowadays.

If you want to find out if your favorite athlete is on Twitter, check out Tweeting-Athletes.com.

Does Web Design Matter? Finding a balance between attractive design and clear, usable content

Website Design - Does it Matter? Web design/layout on blackboardDoes Web design matter? As a designer with a four-year, fine-art degree, that question pains me to type it out. But even more painful than the question, is my response – not always.

Now had I said, “Does web design matter to me?,” the answer would have been a resounding, “Yes! But, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m approaching it from the perspective of the average web user. I’m also referring primarily to ‘business-to-consumer’ websites where the main goal is communicate about or sell a product or service.

Imagine you’re at the dealership to purchase a new car. You probably wouldn’t expect to have a conversation like this:

You: “Wow! That’s a great looking car. How’s the gas mileage?”

Salesperson: “Hmmm…that one doesn’t actually have an engine.”

You: “Oh Ok. So what’s the point?”

Salesperson: “Well…you said it’s a great looking car, right?

At this point, it’s likely you would reconsider your choice to purchase a car from that particular dealership and take your business elsewhere. While this may be an extreme and highly improbable situation, the analogy makes sense. No matter what the car looks like, the most fundamental purpose of said car is transportation. The same can be assumed for a large portion of websites – no matter what the website looks like, the most fundamental purpose is communication.

A website may be the most beautiful, well-designed masterpiece that ever came across your screen, but if it doesn’t communicate the intended message or drive the user to act, it’s not accomplishing its primary function.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love websites that are beautifully designed! But web design is not art, and it has never pretended to be. Those of us in the web design business must determine how to present the intended information in the most usable (and beautiful) way possible.

When it boils down to it, I believe most people don’t really care what a website looks like as long as it has relevant information.

One shining example is Craigslist. Strictly from a design perspective, Craigslist is one of the most unattractive, unimaginative and ‘ho-hum’ sites on the Internet. But according to their FAQ page, it currently receives 30 billion global page views every month. According to Alexa Internet Statistics, Craigslist currently ranks as the eighth most-visited site in the United States. To give some context, numbers one though seven are: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Amazon, Wikipedia and eBay. That’s pretty good company for a site created by a small team of developers that draws its main source of revenue from fees charged for job postings.

The real challenge for any website is successfully finding the balance between attractive design and clearly-presented, usable content.

I believe that a great website has straightforward content for the average user, while at the same time, shows time and effort was spent by the designer to present that information in the most aesthetically-pleasing way possible.

Pixel-perfect graphics, grid-based layouts and animation are just a few of a web designer’s tools to create a great site, but they are still just assets to support the content. They should never get in the way of the main function of the site, which is communication.

Here at DVL, we strive to partner with our clients so their message becomes our message. In doing so, we can use our knowledge and tools to communicate that message as efficiently and successfully as possible.

And having a nicely designed website doesn’t hurt.

Billion with a B – Why Facebook Bought Instagram

Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. Some cry genius, while others call it insanity. If you’re not one of the 30 million people using Instagram, you are probably wondering what makes it worth that amount of money. Some common assumptions are…

It costs a ton to download. Nope. Free. You can’t even buy stuff in the app. You just use it to unlock more features.

It’s a huge company. Nope. 13 employees before the Facebook purchase.

It taps into hard to reach markets.  Yes and no. Yes because lots of “hipsters” use it—a group known for being hard to reach. But no because it’s mostly used by iPhone and Android users —you have to have a smart phone to access it. And those groups are getting less exclusive by the second.

It has a long track record of success. Actually, it just launched in Q4 2010.

So with those myths debunked, now we find out why Facebook made the purchase.

Instagram was competition. Instagram users take and share photos, share their location and interact with other users. That’s Facebook’s thing. And they were getting beat. They couldn’t beat Instagram. So they bought it. And finally, the real big reason that no one really wants to talk about…

Facebook will use Instagram to make a ton of money. Bingo. That could mean ads on your mobile screens. Keep this in mind: Facebook (and now Instagram) isn’t valuable because of its products or services—it’s valuable because of its users. And they will use their users to make money. If you’re not paying for the product, there’s a good chance you are the product.

The Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball recently sold for $2 billion. That’s 130 years of baseball tradition for just twice the amount of an entity less than two years old. This is the world we live in…But then again, the Dodgers don’t have 30 million brand ambassadors.

Guess who does?

Top Twitter Takeaways from UT’s Social Media Week

Leading up to Social Slam 2012, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, School of Advertising and Public Relations hosted Social Media Week. This two-day event featured presentations, panels and interactive sessions with social media experts from companies like Scripps Network Interactive, Cox Enterprises, McCormick & Company, Inc., and Dell(home of the splendid Social Media Command Center).

The digital world is growing and re-shaping public relations, marketing and advertising – not to mention communications in general. A new report cites 39 percent of Americans spend more time socializing online than they do offline.

An event that would typically cost hundreds for professionals to attend, UTK provided this learning experience geared toward students to teach best business social media practices.

Thanks to the beauty of Twitter and the hashtag (#), those not in attendance could still absorb great information. Search #UTSMW  on Twitter to view tweets related to the event. Many of the sessions are available online to view at Ustream, but if you don’t have 8+ hours to watch every session, don’t worry…DVL has compiled our top 15 Twitter takeaways below:

Twitter: Go where the people are and build your message there. #utsmw -@UTSMW

You can’t always expect your entire audience to be seeking you out.

Twitter: Listen. Engage. Act. You have to do all three, and you have to do them in order. #UTSMW

Find out who’s talking and what they’re saying. Interact with content that they’ll care about. Use feedback to better serve them.

Twitter: Not every social media platform is appropriate for every audience. @kgranju #UTSMW

Believe it or not…not every business “has to be on Facebook.”

Twitter: Purposeful Edutainment: don't tweet just for the sake of doing so. "It's about conversation." -@adamcb #utsmw

Have a plan and strategy in place.

Twitter: "@elizhendrickson @adamcb says new SM metric is "PTA" (People Talking About it), not impressions. #utsmw" Don't collect fans, engage fans! -@camimonet

Don’t focus on the number of “Likes,” but the quality of engagement.

Twitter: Social media has expanded customer service even further. Sorry businesses, you cacn't escape. #utsmw -@utsmw

Showing them you care – in real-time – can go a long way.

Twitter: Final word: Social media lets companies get past "the velvet rope" and reach clients they might not have been able to otherwise. #utsmw -@utsmw

Discover a whole new world of engaging with customers and clients.

Twitter: EdgeRank is how Facebook has figured out who your close friends are (and why you no longer see "that girl from high school"'s posts). #utsmw -@utsmw

Facebook’s algorithm decides which posts you get to see in your news feed – and where they show up.

Big underestimation... Twitter: Facebook contests can be surprisingly complicated to run. A "like" is not equal to a vote. #utsmw -@utsmw

Facebook has strict rules about how you can conduct contests, giveaways and sweepstakes on its platform.

Twitter: Now in a psychology class where it is impolite to Tweet during speakers/presentations #feelingdefensive of #UTSMW -@CaitlinBradley

Remember, not everyone was born with a smart phone in hand…

Twitter: Great quote! "For this generation, a retweet from an athlete is like an autograph" @tomsatkowiak #utsmw

From the “Social Media Use of UT Athletics and Policies for Student Athletes” session

Twitter and College Sports: Top twitter football page is Michigan w 86,000 followers. They put a hash tag on their field to raise awareness. UT is 20th w/ 21,000 #UTSMW -@ErinWhiteside

Michigan’s “Big House” is the largest college football stadium.

Twitter and College Sports: On a side note, if you're aching to see that Pat Summit tribute again, here it is, courtesy of @Vol_Sports's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYqHMcn_Fbw #utsmw -@UTSMW

Had to share this touching tribute to Pat Summitt, “Chances,” from the UT Athletic Department:

And just for fun…

Twitter: This is hilarious! Thanks #UTSMW http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUs7iG1mNjI -@Holly_Kane

Katie Couric to NBC “Today” show producer, circa 1994: “Can you explain what Internet is?”

Zig While Others Zag – Willie Nelson & Chipotle

In today’s cluttered world of traditional and social media, getting your message out – and heard – is the challenge we face in this business of public relations. To accomplish your goals, I’m convinced you have to “zig” while others “zag.”

And that’s where Willie Nelson comes in. Willie, known for his commitment to social causes, is also known for his willingness to tackle pretty much any musical challenge (let’s face it, who does a duet with Bob Dylan or records an album of 1930s standards?).

So, when Chipotle Mexican Grill launched a campaign to promote their commitment to sustainable farming, they turned to Willie who covered Coldplay’s “The Scientist” as the soundtrack for their “Back to the Start” short film. Willie Nelson sings Coldplay?

Well, it worked.

The film ran as a commercial during the recent Grammy Awards and Twitter was abuzz that night with fans tweeting that Willie did Coldplay better than Coldplay. Earned media impressions about the Chipotle and Willie pairing have to be in the tens of millions (and all with Chipotle’s key messages about sustainable farming). And the film has enjoyed more than 6.1 million views on YouTube.

The song has been so popular that it’s included on Willie’s highly acclaimed forthcoming album, “Heroes,” out in May that will surely include additional media coverage of the song and cause.

Perfect song. Perfect singer. They zigged instead of zagged.

The more things change…

Public relations professionals can’t seem to stop talking about the dramatic changes our industry is experiencing, particularly as social media becomes firmly rooted in communications playbooks and technology offers more ways to shape our clients’ brands. However, change is nothing new to PR, or to communications in general.

In his book “I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works,New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton points out that “new” methods of communication have been rocking our world practically since the beginning of time. He recounts a long line of doomsday scenarios that came with the invention of the telephone, the printing press, the television – the list goes on and on.

With each new innovation, behaviors shifted and certain aspects of communications changed forever. But through the ages, there were also many constants. Public relations is no different. While we are experiencing change that feels monumental, there are some tenets that are the same today as they were 20 years ago.

Ethics matter

Whether communicating via a 140-character tweet or at a good, old-fashioned press conference, honesty and integrity always win the day. Doing the right thing for the right reasons never gets old.

Listening is key

Making an effort to listen to clients’ objectives and strategize accordingly is timeless. Wants and needs don’t always match up – it takes an active listener to navigate that gap.

Relationships rule

The two-martini lunch may have been replaced by the tweetup, but either way, investing time and effort to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with media, clients and vendors is critical.

Substance trumps style

Bells and whistles are abundant in the digital age, but if they aren’t supported by relevant content, attention spans will be short.  This is especially true in media outreach, where the best way to make news is still to do something that is newsworthy.

Target, target, target

Knowing your audience and how to reach them is a tried and true recipe for success. Clients who requested a paper newsletter in the past most likely wanted the same thing a client improving their social media game wants today – more tools to connect with a core audience.

The list of new opportunities and changing tactics seems to be endless. But the constants in our industry, while less frequently debated, also exist in abundance.

What are some of the things that you’ve noticed haven’t changed in PR over the past several years or even decades?