How social media’s changing journalism and public relations

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Take a look at how companies are using social media with this graphic created by Dr4ward. Click to view a larger version of the image.

Social media is changing the game for many industries, including journalism, public relations, marketing and advertising.

I have seen this firsthand as a journalist. Information is quickly able to be shared with the masses, as individuals on the scene of breaking news can become citizen journalists. However, as Geneva Overholser says, especially with the advent of this new media, it is still important for journalists to keep an eye on public interests.

Here are some things journalists must watch for when utilizing social media:

It is still important to be right. As a story breaks, being right is still more important than being first. Jayson DeMers cited the search for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect as an example. A manhunt for the wrong man began due to word spreading on Reddit, and that wrong man ended up committing suicide.

Content is at your disposal, but you still need to ask. Yahoo! Small Business Advisor says that finding pictures and content “is just a keyword search away” on Twitter and HootSuite. However, journalism and legal standards do not go out the window. Journalists still need to ask permission to use photos/video.

Be yourself, but remember you’re still a journalist. In its social media guide, Reuters tells its journalists they are still people entitled to their opinions about a favorite recipe or movie. Yet journalists still need to be mindful of the impact that their social posts can have on their organization and their future coverage. Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes also writes about being sure to present yourself in a professional manner on social during a job search, but this tip also serves well for those who are currently employed. Bottom line: Think before you post.

Advertising, public relations, marketing — and social media!
Social media will need to be in lockstep with these three departments going forward. Lisa Barone writes for Search Engine Watch that public relations and social media departments should share editorial calendars so everyone is on the same page.

Here are some tips these field professionals can use going forward:

Have your brand evangelists keep separate social accounts. Meghan M. Biro writes for Forbes that this will keep that person’s personal brand apart from your company’s brand. This way, if that person leaves, their account is still in tact and your company’s account can move forward without losing momentum.

Decide what role you want social media to play. Social has definitely got to be part of the strategy. However, Scott Elser writes for Inc. that a company has to decide if it wants to use social media for advertising or public relations.

Get even better at focusing your pitches. As a journalist, I can tell you that I’ve heard my share of lame story pitches. Instead of calling everyone in the Rolodex or blasting out a blanket email, PR professionals can get even more focused in their pitches thanks to social media. Kate McKinney and Kiran Ross write for The Business Journals that tools like MuckRack and Cision can help PR folks find the journalists who’d be most likely to cover their story.

How have you seen social media change the game for other industries?

What social challenges/opportunities do you see going forward?

Return on investment will come if you are R.E.A.L. in social media

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It’s all about being being real. Social media is just an extension of real life.

Most major companies seem to understand that they should have a presence on social media. But do they really know what they’re doing there? Or are they just doing it because everyone else is?

Before we talk about measuring return on investment in social media, let’s go to the very core of what social media is: Another way for humans to connect with each other. Zeynep Tufekci argues strongly in The Atlantic that social media is not making us lonely, citing many other things that do just that: “Look at TV! Look at commutes! Look at suburbs! Look at long work hours!”

Knowing this, brands should strive to have “R.E.A.L.” relationships with customers — Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-lasting, Chris Heuer of Deloitte Digital writes for the Wall Street Journal. The actual economic value comes from the flow of conversation these customers create about your brand, as demonstrated in the engagement curve below:

Measuring value of social media

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP via The Wall Street Journal

Here are a few great tips to keep it real with social media and get a feel for your ROI:

Be ready to shift gears on a dime. Aaron Perlut writes for Forbes that occasions such as Social Media Giving Day are a great opportunity for businesses. By participating, brands can generate buzz about their brand by doing good and thereby really connect with their fans. Social Media Giving Day has come and gone this year, but there will be other opportunities to join the conversation in the marketplace and figure out how your business can be part of it.

Get input from your brand’s evangelists. No one knows your brand like your biggest fans do, Sid Shuman of Sony Playstation tells Mashable. So why not get their input in content creation? You could even curate content from them and give them a shoutout or some sweet swag for a job well done. The more you engage those who are loyal to your brand, the more that will spread throughout the larger social media conversation.

Communicate with your fans what you’re trying to do. Whether you’re trying to raise money for a good cause or share some pertinent information, you need to tell your social followers what you would like them to do. Jason Boies of Salesforce says to “use active language (Click, Share, Donate Now) to get people to take action right away.”

Know exactly what you want to measure. Do you want to know if your website is getting more clicks? How often your brand is being mentioned on social? How many sales you are making and exactly what channels they are coming from? Courtney Seiter of Raven says it is important to know exactly what you want to measure before you start measuring it.

Do you think social media return on investment is really truly measurable?

Do you think a company should have a specific goal in mind when it comes to its social media strategy?

Search Engine Optimization: Quick improvements for your site

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A list of SEO tips for 2013 from Cognito

When it comes to search engine optimization, you want your site to be on top — especially when it comes to a Google search.

According to a Chitka Insights study cited by MarketingProfs, sites that appear as the first result on the first page of a Google search under any given search term get 33 percent of the overall traffic for that search. Drop to the second position and your site’s share of the traffic drops to 19 percent. So what can you do to move up in the ranks?

Write good content chocked full of keyword phrases. If you are creating content on a regular basis, that content can always be tweaked for SEO. If not, there’s not much on your site that can be optimized. (Check out the infographic to the left for an even quicker list of great tips from Cognito.)

Headlines matter. Great headline writing is not just relegated to news stories. You’ll want to make sure your headline, of course, includes a keyword phrase. However, the placement of that keyword phrase matters too: It should be closer to the front. (This was news to me).

Images need to have keywords, too. Your images need to be optimized so they’ll come up in a Google search, because this can also lead people to your site. The following components of your images need to include keywords: file name, alt tag and title tag.

Organize your site. Ian Cleary of Social Razor gives many tips that include the use of Google Webmaster, which can help you “clean house” on your site. Google punishes sites with bad links in its rankings, so you’ll want to get rid of any that may be on your site. Also, clearing up any outstanding HTML and server errors that may pop up on your site should help.

Use Google Analytics to see what’s working and what’s not. You can see how people are reaching your site, how long they are staying on your site, how many are “bouncing” from your site without looking at any other pages and how many people actually return to your site over and over. Lucky for the little guys, Google Analytics is free for sites that get fewer than 10 million hits a month.

What SEO steps have you taken in the past to optimize your site or content? Did it work?

Do you think getting your content to go viral helps with SEO, or does it not really matter when it comes to viral content?

Plenty of analytical social media tools, but don’t forget to use the tool between your ears

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Here are some social media analytics tips from Araceli Perez. Click to make larger and see the full article.

You have built a social media presence for your business, but you’re not sure if your efforts are paying off. Luckily, there are plenty of analytical tools (some of which are free) to help you measure your success. I won’t list them ad nauseam, but you can visit this link to choose which one is right for your business. Whatever tool you decide to use, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Track your links
When sharing links, you want to be able to track how many clicks a campaign is getting on each social channel so you can adjust your campaign accordingly. You can use bit.ly to shorten links and track links, or you can embed Tweetspy code into your website to see who’s tweeting links from your site and how often.

You may already have an analytics tool
Do you use HootSuite,  SproutSocial or another social suite to schedule your social media posts? If so, you already have an analytical tool right under your nose. For these programs and others, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid versions to get more detailed analytics. The free versions are a good place to start though.

And then there’s Google
Of course, don’t forget about the almighty Google in your tracking efforts. Google Analytics can show you what social channels are referring traffic to your site, which pages on your site are getting a lot of traction on social media and what pages cause people to exit your site after they “flow” there from social.

Don’t be afraid to adjust
If a social campaign isn’t living up to the key performance indicators you’ve laid out, it’s time to make adjustments. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I post too often or not enough? What is my competition doing to gain followers that I could be doing better? Do I need to adjust my goals? Am I responding to customers/fans who reach out to my brand on social?

Really listen to consumers
Amongst all of the graphs and charts, let’s not forget what social media really is at its core: a gigantic listening tool. B. Bonin Bough, then the head of digital for PepsiCo, said Gatorade’s Mission Control helped his team tap into the health of the brand through social listening. They were able to use the opportunity to educate athletes, coaches and athletic directors about Gatorade’s benefits. Customers are talking about your brand and it’s your job to listen and respond accordingly.Social-Listening

Bonus: Gain clients by becoming a quick expert
Peter Odryna shared the story of Innovative Marketing Resources using his product SocialEars to create a campaign for a fiberglass company in a short period of time. For IMR, SocialEars eliminated the noise and enabled them to focus on what influencers in the industry were talking about on social media and the web. After they knew the latest trends and influencers, IMR was able to quickly create a campaign.

What is/are your favorite social analytical tools to use?

How do you strike a balance between analyzing and listening?

Going viral: It’s not all just dumb luck

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Here are some more tips on how to create viral content from Mark Smiciklas. Click to make larger and see the full article.

You’ve probably heard of videos, photos or articles “going viral.” You may have even wondered “what does that even mean?” or “why can’t that happen to my content?”

Let’s answer the first question: what does going viral mean? Simply put, Kelsey Libert writes for Moz, it involves “content that can spread in a way that creates massive attention.” Or even simpler, it’s when everyone and their grandma has seen or heard about a certain video, photo or article either by coming across it on the web or by word of mouth.

Whether you’re a content marketer, a journalist or Joe Schmoe writing a hobby blog, you probably want your content to go viral. Going viral = crazy spike in page views = more potential customers/readers/fans.

Here are a few quick tips to get you started on the road to virality:

Content needs to evoke emotions to go viral. People have to feel passionately about a piece of content to one, engage fully with it and two, feel compelled to share it. Citing a University of Pennsylvania study on the New York Times’ most emailed articles, Carson Ward writes in Moz that evoking high-energy emotions will get your content moving. Anger, awe and anxiety, in that order, tends to inspire sharing. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers shared the time he “pisssed a bunch of people off” when he challenged the popular held belief that “content is king.” This lead, he said, to a “traffic win.”

Be mindful of the news cycle.
Your content should be timely, and tweaked as necessary to reflect the latest updates. Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, shared his company’s experience of going viral. They released a study comparing Google Display Network with Facebook Advertising, just three days before Facebook was set to release its IPO (note the timing). Around the same time, GM ditched its ads on Facebook and presto, WordStream’s content was being cited on TV and all over the web. While this was happening, Kim said WordStream tweaked the headline on their original post to gain more traction. They also produced follow up content to piggy back off the original article’s success.

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Don’t let this be you

Don’t forget about offline virality. Some people may not be like you and me, plugged into what’s happening online each and every second. Take my beloved grandmas, for example. I don’t think they ever went on the internet by themselves in their lifetimes. You can’t forget about those people when building your content. “At the moment, 7% of word-of-mouth is online,” Jonah Berger, author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” tells Dorie Clark in Forbes. “It’s clear why marketers like shiny new toys and the next big thing, but most word-of-mouth is offline, face-to-face communication.”

Think of a viral piece of content – either something you’ve seen go viral or a piece of your own content that’s gone viral. Why do you think it went viral?

What do you think is better for a business: having content go viral a few times a year or steady, consistent page view success?

Let’s get visual: YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and sometimes Vine

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10-video-tips-for-businesses-on-pinterest-80c0f8594c_zps8dc6ed3aFeel like listening to Olivia Newton John’s 1981 hit “Physical?” Want to see a kitten fall asleep? Just pop over to YouTube, type the query in the search bar and presto!

When people are thinking about how and why to get their business involved in the visual side of social media, they need to keep in mind how they themselves use YouTube: as a search engine.

Julie Perry tells Fast Company that businesses can take advantage of the fact that YouTube is web’s No. 2 search engine. One way to do this is by tagging videos properly so they will come up as related videos in searches. Once users have clicked on that first video, Perry says the way to keep them hooked is by having a robust channel full of content.

YouTube users aren’t always coming to the site to find silly videos: They search for video reviews of products they are looking to buy. Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report found that YouTube beat Facebook 80 percent to 74 percent as the online site consumers use most.

“YouTube, and video in general, allows its users to see the action, to see someone using a product they might be thinking about buying,” said Technorati Media CEO Shani Higgins. “Consumers trust what they can see, and they trust people who have used the products they’re looking into.”

Since consumers are able to access YouTube in more ways than ever – smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles, streaming players like Roku and of course the good old computer – it would be a good idea for businesses to get in on the “watch anywhere” action.

Here comes Pinterest
Speaking of Facebook not being the only game in town, here comes Pinterest. Kathleen Davis reports for Entrepreneur that more users interact with their favorite brands on Pinterest than Facebook, 43 percent to 24 percent.

Pinterest continues to one-up Facebook when it comes to consumer buying: According to Wishpond data cited by Davis, 69 percent of users found an item they wanted to buy on Pinterest compared with just 40 percent on Facebook.

Disclaimer: The demographic using Pinterest tends to be women ages 25-54 and the industries that tend to be represented most are crafts, home décor and food/drink. But Pinterest’s power can’t and shouldn’t be totally ignored by businesses.

Swinging from the Vine
Twitter’s microvideo service Vine is trying to go head to head with photo video instagram-vs-vinepowerhouse Instagram. Sometimes one wins out over the other. On June 7 of this year, more Vines were shared than Instagrams. Yet since Instagram launched its video capabilities, Instagram shares on Twitter have gone up 37 percent.

Like Pinterest, Vine should not be totally ignored, but businesses shouldn’t put Vine and its six-second videos at the top of their priority lists.

Should businesses try to be on all of these different visual social channels?

With the power of all of these social channels, should a business invest more resources into them and less into its actual website?

The couple that gets LinkedIn together looks awesome on social media

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Me and my wonderful husband Jacob

I feel like an awful wife: For years, my husband Jacob has had a neglected LinkedIn profile and knowing what I know about social media, I never nagged him in wife fashion to fix it up.

Looking back now, especially at the times he was out of work, the neglected profile seems like a mistake. Yet I don’t think I realized how big LinkedIn had become. At the end of 2012, LinkedIn had an estimated 202 million members. Lewis Howes writes on Copyblogger that people are finding seven-figure investors, dream jobs and sponsorships on the network.

Even though Jacob and I are both happily employed now, it’s still important to keep our social media house in order and LinkedIn is part of that. So let’s look at a few quick things we can both do to improve our LinkedIn presence and usage.

First off, Jacob needs to have a professional profile picture as opposed to no picture. “Like a house that’s on sale, the assumption is that if there’s no photo, something’s wrong,” LinkedIn Career Expert Nicole Williams said in a Forbes article.

Next thing we both need to do: craft engaging headlines on our profiles. I’ve been writing headlines for years as a journalist, so I should be able to do this for myself and help Jacob if he needs it.

Then, we’ll need to update our profiles to fully reflect our past work and educational history.  Jacob only has one job on his profile from six years ago, and I removed some of my work history from my profile to match my resume. This is a “LinkedIn mistake,” Williams says.

After we get our profiles fully updated, we’ll need to start building a bigger presence on the network and actually become part of the community by posting status updates and joining groups (I have already joined some).

LinkedIn has been low on my social priority list, but that will need to change, especially since it can be a valuable tool in a journalist’s toolbox. It didn’t even dawn on me to use LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search to find current and former employees of companies I may be covering.

Though LinkedIn is another great tool for “putting yourself out there” professionally, it’s still important to protect yourself, as the passwords of some LinkedIn customers were apparently hacked last year. I went in and adjusted what can be seen on my public profile so my entire work history is not visible. I’m the only Amanda Winkle out there with my work history and I don’t want people taking that away from me.

ImageBefore you had to join LinkedIn for class, did you have a profile already? Were you active on it?

With the recent password hack, and people now suing the company for allegedly hacking into their email address books, do you have privacy concerns about the network?

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