Posts tagged social media
I came across something on Twitter last night that made me go “Wow!” It was this 4-minute video interview between Emily Chang of Bloomberg West and Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Dr. Lee is a venture capitalist for Chinese mobile app developers with an impressive Google-Apple-Microsoft resume and was recently named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2013: How Will Social Media Change China?
In my opinion, commentary on Chinese Internet censorship falls into three themes:
- The morals and human rights of freedom of speech/information
- Assertions that freedom of access to information strengthens national economies
- Can U.S.-based websites that are popular everywhere but China get uncensored, and if so, will Chinese people even use them?
In the the video, Emily and Dr. Lee insightfully and accurately address all of the above themes in just over four minutes.
The only thing I would add is something that is always missing from media coverage on censorship in China: People outside China think that the government universally bars everyone from visiting certain websites, but actually you can access all the same sites as in the United States if you are privileged enough, meaning you have the money to pay for a VPN that makes your computer think it’s based outside China and the personal connections to find out which VPNs are the best to use at any given time. It’s more of a pain than using the Internet in the U.S., but it’s possible. Some businesses, such as global public relations agencies, pay for VPNs for their China offices’ computers so their workers can have unlimited website access.
Here is Emily and Dr. Lee’s full interview, which includes the segment above plus Dr. Lee’s thoughts on Apple and Google in China and China’s smartphone market: Kai-Fu Lee on China’s Mobile Market, Innovation.
At Social Media Club Seattle, Leaders at Amazon, Microsoft, REI, City of Seattle, PwC Talk 2012-2013
Tuesday night I attended a packed Social Media Club Seattle event where a super-smart panel of people who lead social media efforts at major Seattle-headquartered companies talked about both broad trends and companies’ activities for social media in 2012 and 2013.
- Moderator: Dustin Johnson, Managing Director at the impressive part of PwC formerly known as Ant’s Eye View
- John Yurcisin, Director of Social Media at Amazon
- Sabra Schneider, Director of Online Communications at the City of Seattle
- Lourdes Orive, Director of Community and Online Support at Microsoft
- Lulu Gephart Manager of Online Engagement at REI
You can view all tweets from the event at the #smcsea Twitter hashtag and another blog post on the event, by Kelsey Kaufman: Social Media Club of Seattle: Trends for 2013 (And What They Mean for Digital Marketing).
My top takeaways:
Connecting social to ROI in 2012 and 2013
- In 2012, there was heavy pressure to connect social media work to business impact and in 2013 there will be even more.
- Some brands are cutting the number of social media sites they use or are more hesitant to add new ones.
- Hopefully 2013 marks the end of “shiny object syndrome” where brands add the Pinterest or Vine of the day just because it’s new and cool. (This relates to a good point I heard at Seattle Interactive Conference 2011: Make sure you’re using the sites you’re already on very effectively before you add new ones.)
Community management: Leveraging community to lighten your workload
- Microsoft’s MVP (Most Valuable Professional) customer advocate program has extended online to customer support. If a big brand you work with has a need for more third-party online advocacy, existing customer advocate programs are a good place to start.
- Brands should establish what their audience wants and what motivates them, then tell the audience what the brand wants, and use this information to establish and maintain a non-monetary exchange (aka gamification.) Establishing what both parties want is difficult.
- REI has launched a crowd-sourced photo project leveraging the rise in photo-sharing and checking in on social media titled the REI 1440 Project.
Reaching non-English-speaking and niche audiences
- The City of Seattle hosts informal meetings with Seattle’s cultural media to ask them the best way to communicate with the communities they represent. For example, they ask if the City of Seattle should translate materials or give the reporters materials in English for them to translate themselves.
- REI has social media communities for each of its geographic markets where it has stores. Store employees run the accounts. Note: I know Nordstrom killed store-specific activity to consolidate to one account on each site. I wonder if REI has seen success in this that Nordstrom didn’t.
Data and measurement
- Defining and measuring success for social media support is much more difficult than with traditional support due to the wider variety of reasons that people use social media for support. With traditional phone and email support, customers usually have one question that they are seeking an immediate answer to, whereas with social media support, customers could be looking to continue a previous conversation, complain or other reasons.
- Amazon and REI are prioritizing development and successful of their own social platforms in 2013. They didn’t elaborate on why; my guess is so they can own customer data.
- Amazon and REI rely heavily on measurement and audience data to drive strategy:
- Impressive for REI given that its social media team is only 4 people. REI is weighing options for buying a paid measurement tool so they can get comprehensive information on where people talk about them online.
- Amazon values experimentation via small tweaks in social media and measuring the impact., much like Wetpaint does.
Photo of January 29, 2013 attendees taken from a Facebook photo album by Social Media Club Seattle
Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft 40 hours a week via my job at Waggener Edstrom, but I don’t use my personal blog or social media profiles for work purposes. My boss tells me that I can blog about whatever I want within the boundaries of common sense.
Since about 2009, I’ve been on a fairly constant quest to prioritize one area I’m truly passionate about and makes me employable so I can center my online personal brand around it. After all, people tend to be most effective at developing an online reputation as being qualified if they talk about one thing all the time. My struggle with this is I have so many seemingly unrelated curiosities, which I develop more and more of the longer I work in public relations:
- public relations
- social media (which I maintain public relations professionals should know as much about as media relations)
- communications measurement
- business-to-business communications
- how to manage companies and teams
- cloud and mobile computing (which are connected)
- increasingly, LGBT rights
- various pop culture, usually involving LGBT celebrities
So what do all of these have in common? When people ask me why I like Beijing so much, the answer is very obvious to me: “I like Beijing because it feels like you are in the middle of something very important that is changing very quickly.” I realized that I could say the same about any of the other topics listed above. All my professional interests are:
- changing quickly
- misunderstood or under-appreciated
“Important” is a subjective term. In this context, I mean something that currently affects large numbers of people, creates a lot of financial opportunity, will become part of history textbooks decades in the future, or some combination of those factors.
In terms of the under-appreciated or misunderstood aspect, this could be why I took American Sign Language as my high school language and why I’m drawn to an industry with such a bad reputation among the general public as public relations. The main reason I was interested in traveling to China as a child, before I ever anticipated I would work there for two years, is that China is the world’s most populous country and has an amazing history, but in school we learned mostly about the U.S. and Western Europe. There is a lot of ignorance within the U.S. about what China is really like and vice versa, likely as a result of China and the U.S. not having even basic diplomatic relations until President Nixon visited Beijing in 1976.
So, there you have it. I will blog and tweet and do whatever else online (on websites I use for professional interests) about things that are important, changing quickly, and misunderstood or under-appreciated. I think for the sake of simplicity now, though, I’ll call the topics China, public relations, and a little bit of high tech. :)
An article in Inc. today, Toss Out Your Social Media Metrics, is based on social media philosophies from Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO). The title, while attention-grabbing, is a tad misleading because at first glance, it sounds like an opinion that social media metrics don’t matter. However, instead, Peter makes a point I’ve always wholeheartedly agreed with, which is that you can absolutely measure social media results, but you should do so in a way that directly ties to your business objectives, instead of choosing arbitrary numbers to track.
In my opinion, the argument over whether there is ROI to social media comes down to the argument of whether there is ROI to public relations. If you can say that there is ROI to landing an article in a hard-copy trade magazine, then you can certainly argue that there is a ROI to tweets or YouTube videos that reach tens of thousands of people in your business’ target audience. In fact, I would argue that web analytics and public, detailed information on the profiles of whoever interacts with you online makes it even easier to measure success of online-only efforts than success of traditional public relations.
In order to be as effective as possible in justifying time and money spent on social media, I recommend you always operate with the following considerations in mind:
1. Tie your social media strategy and measurement to something other than social media.
Why are you ultimately using social media? Recruitment? Sales? Getting a piece of legislation passed? You cannot justify the return on investment of social media without first establishing what the return looks like. If someone says we are using it to “raise awareness,” why are we raising awareness? If you can’t get this information out of whoever you are reporting to, then establish it yourself by observing what sort of activities and audiences top management have consistently made a priority.
2. Always start with the strategy, not the end technology.
If someone goes to you asking for you for advice on social media measurement tools, ask them what they are trying to measure. There are a lot of great tools out there, but they all excel at measuring different things. You therefore need to know what you’re measuring before you pick a tool.
3. Measure how much time and money goes into social media, if you don’t already.
A great point that came up at the Seattle Interactive Conference this past November was, “Can you really complain about lack of ROI when you didn’t put any I in?” Show the relationship of return to investment, and compare it to ROI on activities that the company is already doing outside of social media. Did you reach 40,000 people with one tweet that took 10 seconds to write and 40,000 people with a magazine article that took 10 hours to write? Tie results to amount of time or money spent in a compelling way.
4. Provide context to your measurement.
Reporting out on your success or areas for improvement for social media is not necessarily helpful to your colleagues or clients unless they have an idea of what you were trying to accomplish from the beginning. If you say, “We got 10 great job applicants for one position as a direct result of strategically using LinkedIn,” make sure people know that you set out to use social media to help with recruiting.
[image courtesy of Flickr user aussiegall]
I recently started reading “The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online” by Yang Guobin. I’d like to pull out a quote from the introduction that hit home for me:
“Learning about Internet culture is like learning a new language. Immersion is the most important approach – but immersion in cyberspace has its seductive side. There is always something new: there are new developments related to the Internet, whether technological, social, cultural, or political. Studying the Internet did indeed feel like shooting a moving target. …To be sure, the Internet changes daily. But that does not mean what happened yesterday is meaningless today, for every little development in the past becomes part of the present. …Seen in this way, no research of the Internet can be outdated.”
I love this excerpt from a social media studies lens for two reasons, first because it addresses the idea that books on the Internet (and therefore social media) are pointless because both are changing so quickly, and second because the “always something new” factor is a major challenge I see in credibility of people who work or consult in social media. I have yet to decide if I ever want to make the commitment to constantly pay attention to what’s new online, which I view as a necessary step in social media professionals’ taking me seriously as an industry peer.
In preparation for some of today’s PRSA Jumpstart attendees’ likely visiting my blog after meeting me, I’m writing two back-to-back posts on how my expectations of public relations as a student in 2008 differ from my work experience so far in 2011. I’d like to highlight not only my predictions when I was a student, but lessons and skills agency work exposed me to.
This post is on the public relations industry as a whole. The next post is on my job duties. These two posts aren’t meant to make me seem highly knowledgeable or opinionated on public relations, but rather provide insight for people who are in the same place in their careers that I was a few months ago. Note: I didn’t work or intern in public relations for the two years following graduation, hence the time gap.
It’s possible to do entry-level public relations for something you know nothing about.
I think this may be a big difference between public relations for the arts versus business to business technology. It can be pretty difficult to get even an internship at a prominent arts organization without a major in the same arts discipline – for example, a theatre arts major if you want to intern at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – but no one expects an intern on a Microsoft account at a worldwide public relations firm to have studied computer science. Decision makers on the account must be familiar with the business, products, industry, and target media, but not interns starting out.
A big part of public relations is knowing what not to share.
I’ve observed my supervisors and their corporate clients decide to approach company news either proactively or reactively and draft a plan for communicating with media regardless of which they choose. Business relationships, competition, and what people have already decided are key messages can all influence the proactive versus reactive decision.
Social media use is not prolific, and its relationship to public relations is not yet standardized.
When I was learning how to blog and use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in class in the winter of 2008, I expected that social media would be much more widely adopted in general and much more integrated into public relations in 2011 than it is now. There are still media professionals without Twitter or LinkedIn accounts, and people still email press releases that are not the least bit interactive and result in media coverage.
Who should manage a brand’s social presence: someone whose job is entirely digital in nature, a team in the digital department of a public relations agency, or someone who is also skilled in traditional media relations? Should community managers get free content reign or do they need to draft tweets for approval? Answers to these questions still vary quite a bit within the profession.
Public relations internships and entry-level jobs are more competitive to land now than they were in 2008.
I’ve observed that this is for two reasons: companies made long-term cuts to their junior public relations positions during the recession, and three to four graduating classes are now competing for the same jobs. The top two students in my graduating class and major spent the summer of 2007, between our junior and senior years, interning at San Francisco offices of worldwide public relations firms, and neither of them are from California. Now, this is so much less likely to happen, because a full-time public relations intern almost always has a college degree, if not a masters or public relations work experience, and is already living in the same city as the job.
The good news is that the industry, while still recovering, is very visibly growing instead of shrinking. It’s much less likely that an account coordinator will get laid off now than it was in late 2008.
Prominent in student life at my alma mater are student groups who perform pop song covers a Capella. The men’s group, On the Rocks, is active in social media as a promotional tool; they have a Twitter account and broadcast their performances live online. About a month ago, they uploaded a performance of Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” with annotations onto YouTube as a fundraiser for their trip to Los Angeles to audition for the NBC television show “Sing Off.” The video currently has more than 3 million views.
Last night, as I was watching the original music video for “Bad Romance” on the Chinese site Youku, I noticed On The Rocks’ performance video, uploaded by YoutubeSpace, as a suggested related video. The video has more than 300,000 views and about 300 comments (in Chinese). I shared it on my own RenRen and Q Zone profiles (with a note that this was my alma mater, of course), then found out one of my good Chinese friends had already shared it on his RenRen as well before learning that the video had any relation to me whatsoever. On RenRen, the video has more than 41,000 share views and 233,000 views.
Watch the video on Youku, YouTube, or both below:
And if you want to compare the choreography and arrangement, here’s Lady GaGa’s version. (Nudity warning for those who haven’t seen it already.)
A couple of months ago, I decided I needed to do some public relations for myself as a teacher. After having problems motivating the students in one of my classes, my Chinese friends suggested that I make myself seem like more of a friend to the students. I signed up for the most popular instant messenger client in China, QQ, specifically to communicate with students at my university. I also think this is a nice contact information alternative to my phone number, which many students I meet at campus events ask for.
Nciku is a Web site worth blogging about. It’s a popular site for native English speakers learning Mandarin and vice versa. I’m highlighting what I view as their excellent Web development efforts, public relations efforts, and a little bit of both.
Web development efforts:
- A dictionary with Chinese character handwriting recognition
- Abilities for users to add vocabulary words and sample conversations to the site as well as ask each other language-related questions
- Personal vocabulary lists that the site automatically updates every time a user looks up a new word
Public relations efforts:
- Participation in popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter
- An accurate, succinct, catchy core message: “More than a dictionary.”
A little bit of both:
- A blog that people actually want to read daily
- An on-site social network
- Multiple levels of involvement for users to choose from (kind of like President Obama’s online election campaign headquarters)
How did I find out about Nciku? Someone on a Facebook group for my university’s Chinese-language students recommended it as a good online dictionary, specifically mentioning its hand-drawing tool. I’ve been using it as my primary Chinese-to-English dictionary ever since, and have recommended it to a few friends, who are happy with it as well. Nciku’s public relations efforts would be fruitless if it wasn’t a Web site that satisfied its users.
Image taken from Nciku.com without permission