Responding to Golden (State) opportunities

I was recScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 2.16.36 PMently reminded that publicity is perhaps one of the most important tools for a non-profit organization. Athletes C.A.R.E., a student athlete organization focused on ending homelessness and hunger, received an unexpected shout out from Nick Young of the L.A. Lakers on a recent episode of Cupcake Wars: Celebrities.

This was an unplanned windfall for Athletes C.A.R.E., but absent a plan to respond and capitalize on the event, it would have ended as a one-time happening missed by many.

Fortunately, Athletes C.A.R.E. took advantage of its active social media presence. For non-profits, leveraging social media can mean a huge boost in messaging attention, and even fundraising.

The first step is to post about the event. Take to every platform where you have an active presence and let followers know your organization has been publicly recognized. In those posts, be sure to tag the relevant names and organizations. For Athletes C.A.R.E., this meant tagging Nick Young, the L.A Lakers, The Food Network and Cupcake Wars. By tagging the appropriate parties (and their social media accounts) you widen the reach of your post and expose your organization to broader audiences. Now not only will your followers see the post, but the followers of anyone you tag will see the post as well.

Additionally, you can reach out to your local newspaper and other local media outlets to alert them of events such as having Nick Young reference your non-profit on national television. Something at that level might warrant a local news story.

Finally, you can follow-up two or three more times via social media over the course of the following week, pointing out different aspects of the initial event to extend the message and the reach. However posting more than that will likely be unwelcome. And any additional social posts about the event should be broken up by other content on social media.

With limited budgets and personnel, publicity and social media are two of the strongest tools in a non-profit’s arsenal. The ability to capitalize on and expand your organization through opportunities such as the situation with Athletes C.A.R.E. will strengthen your organization and help spread your message.

This post is courtesy of Cassidy Taylor, Lafayette College class of 2017, Kimball’s summer 2016 intern.

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You can run, but you can’t hide #TwitterFails

Twitter Fail!

Photo credit: Transferwise.com

Social media is to branding a successful business as cheese is to mozzarella sticks. We’ve known for quite some time that marketers need to look alive every second of the day (or even just six hours per week), on the Twitterverse. But when opportunity arises or crisis strikes, it’s all about tactical PR. A strong media presence requires time commitment, creativity, and responsiveness; dedicated and experienced PR support is the best way to meet these demands. Without a practiced PR team or agency, your company may fall victim to the #nightmares detailed below.

#Wheresthecheese

Speaking of mozzarella sticks, McDonald’s launched them as a new item on their menu recently. Customers quickly took to social media to vent their frustrations with their cheesy purchase turned “lactose-free.“ McDonald’s came out with their explanation/ apology via The Chicago Tribune, but not before some smart competitors took to social media to boast the cheesy goodness they offer.

PR Takeaways:

1) Keep a close eye on social media callouts, so you can respond to the problem before the hashtag becomes the new problem.

2) Seize the opportunity, or dare we say, “cheese the opportunity.” Use humor and offer incentives to keep the situation friendly. Your audience will get a good laugh and hopefully drop in for a bite to eat. Just be sure to put your money where your mouth is if you’re going to play this card.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has discontinued this product in response to negative feedback.

“Fire your agency. Then fire everyone who hired them”

Twitter users across the country did not appreciate the response Red Lobster gave to their Super Bowl Sunday shout out from none other than Queen Bey herself in her newly released single, “Formation”. The somewhat controversial lyric referencing Red Lobster turned all eyes on the seafood chain restaurant. While clearly trying to maintain their family-friendly rep, Red Lobster landed themselves in hot water with the masses on Twitter who waited hours for a clever response.

PR Takeaways:

  • Always be ready. You only get one shot to impress a lot of people.
  • You need to impress all of those people while sticking true to your brand, so tread lightly, but not too lightly.

#RIPTwitter

The social media site fell victim to the power of its creation when rumors spread that they may change their news stream from reverse-chronological order to an algorithm based feed, similar to Facebook’s. Even a few celebrities got on board with #RIPTwitter to express their discontent, to which CEO Jack Dorsey had to step in and quell the chaos.

PR Takeaways:

  • It never hurts to have employees at all levels involved with social, even the CEO—his word over all when it comes to shutting down rumors.
  • Don’t stick to just one outlet. With Twitter’s user growth slowing, it’s important to maintain messaging across multiple media outlets, social, news or otherwise.

Whether you work for a fast food giant or an insurance company, it’s important to control your own message. A small business may not generate viral hashtags the way Red Lobster would, but you can never be too sure what will happen in the realm of social media. Stay alert, stay focused, and stay out there.

Why it’s a bad idea to link Facebook and Twitter posts

I sometimes cringe when I see Facebook and Twitter posts/accounts linked. Linking accounts automatically posts the same content from one account directly to another account. My initial thought when I see a Facebook account linked to a Twitter account or vice versa is a robot is running the account. I fear no one is listening to their customers on a given platform if the two are linked.

Brands may think it makes sense to link these accounts for a few different reasons. Someone running the account simply may not realize he/she should not be linking the accounts. Brands may think it saves a significant amount of time and cuts out a step.

Though it may save brands a minute or two, it may hurt the business in the long run. Yet, some companies still link their posts. Below, I’ll discuss why it make sense not to connect Facebook and Twitter accounts.

striatic / Foter.com / CC BY

Here are a few reasons not to link Facebook and Twitter posts/accounts:

  • Linking accounts gives brands a robotic feel. It can make it seem like brands are not listening.
  • Less clicks may occur when posts are the same across networks.
  • It lacks personality. It’s like a machine is just spewing out information and tweets instead of a human.
  • There’s no conversation/engagement when Facebook is linked to Twitter. Brands could be engaging with other accounts and mentioning Twitter handles.
  • Often people pause when they see accounts linked and may be less likely to visit a page.

If time is an issue, which it is for most, take advantage of a social media management platform. This will allow brands to login to one account to manage multiple social media networks. This way businesses won’t have to login to Facebook and Twitter separately. We like HootSuite and SproutSocial for managing our accounts.

Photo credit: striatic / Foter.com / CC BY

9 Tips To Make Social Media Work For You At Conventions

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

Last week (Sept. 25-28) more than 1,200 vendors attended Natural Products Expo East to attract the attention of retailers and bloggers while also winning some valued name recognition for their brands.

Surprisingly, only a handful of vendors used social media to truly maximize their advantage.

I’ve attended many conferences and conventions and I follow some simple social media steps for events.  I urge many of the brands I met with at Expo East to review the following tips and plan to incorporate them next September in Baltimore or in March 2014 in Anaheim for Expo West. Because of its profound reach, extensive use in business and dexterity of messaging, these tips focus on using Twitter, but could be adapted for Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and others.

Twitter Screen Shot

1. Tell the World Where You’ll Be

About 45 days before the show, tweet from your company Twitter handle that you will be in attendance. Use the show’s hashtag (usually #ExpoEast or #ExpoWest; other shows will include this info. in registration materials), your booth number and invite people to visit your booth at the show. For example: We’re thrilled to be attending #ExpoWest in Anaheim in March. You can find us at Booth #3100.

2. Make a Social Media Plan for the Show

Conference attendees cling to their smartphones. Task someone to monitor, post and respond to social media during the show in real-time. Either on the floor or back at the home office, participating on social media will help garner attention for you long after the tradeshow floor closes.

3. Give Followers a Behind the Scenes Look

Tweet behind-the-scenes pictures and video of your team preparing for the show, traveling to the show and setting up your booth. People like to get to know the brands they love, and feel included. Be sure to include show hashtags and your booth number.

4. Give Attendees a Reason To Seek You Out

Entice attendees to visit you by offering samples, raffles or exclusive news on upcoming brand news. Make it worth attendees’ time to find your booth in the crowd. And, of course, use the show hashtag and your booth number. For example: If you’re attending #ExpoWest, stop by Booth #3100 for free samples of our new mango and coffee-flavored smoothies.

5. Recruit Attendees to Be Your Ambassadors

People share content in which they are featured. Invite interested attendees to take a photo with you and your booth. Then you can tweet the picture, with the attendee’s Twitter handle and the show’s hashtag with a “Thanks for stopping by” or other conversation-relevant comment. Retailers might not partake, but bloggers and brand enthusiasts will – and they share!

6. Comment on Show Happenings

You’re at the convention. Make sure you are aware of educational and training sessions taking place, who the guest speakers are, and what events attendees are talking about most. Tweet content related to each – with images where possible. For example: Willy Wonka’s talk on the health benefits of sugar at #ExpoWest has fired attendees up. What’s the most interesting seminar you’ve attended today?

7. Respond To Those Who Tweet About/To You

It’s just like a conversation. You wouldn’t ignore someone who said hello to your or complimented you, so don’t do it on social media. If someone tweets at or about you, tweet them back with a tailored thank you (i.e., don’t just say ‘Thanks’).

8. Spelling Counts

Proper spelling is key, especially for people’s names and Twitter handles. It demonstrates professionalism as well as being able to react correctly to real-time events with aplomb.

9. If It Goes Badly, Get It Offline

If someone tweets a complaint or comments negatively about your product, let them know you are sorry they are unhappy, and that you would like to speak with them (by email, cell phone or in person) right away to try to help. Do not engage in a back-and-forth dialogue via social media. Get the conversation off of social media as quickly as possible. For example: We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Email willy@willywonka.com and let us help or stop by booth #3100 & give us a chance to make it right.

There is a lot of good that can come from live social media posts at a conference or convention. Retailers search the related hashtags to see what brands are trending, and what attendees liked and didn’t like. And whether you use social media or not, if you are a vendor at a show like Natural Products Expo, you are being talked about on social media. So make sure you are taking an active role to help shape that conversation.

If you have questions or would like to create a social media plan for Anaheim or Baltimore in 2014, email me at rhughes@kimballpr.com to learn how the team at Kimball Communications can help. Or tweet us at @KimballPR.

Hack of a Whopper

On Feb. 18, 2013, Burger King's Twitter account was hacked garnering national media coverage and the ire of brand followers.

On Feb. 18, 2013, Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked garnering national media coverage and the ire of brand followers.

Crisis happens. When the crisis involves social media, it can have one heck of an impact on brand.

When Burger King’s Twitter handle was hacked today, the brand’s logo was changed to that of McDonald’s. The hackers also posted crude language, @ messages to questionable accounts, and video and photographs that had little to do with the brand and no doubt annoyed followers. Oddly, they boosted Burger King’s followers by more than 20,000 before the account was suspended.

Twitter followers noticed, as did CNN, ABC News and Fast Company’s Teressa Lezzi who published stories about the hacking within minutes.

If you manage a Twitter account for a brand and that account is hacked, what steps should your crisis plan include?

At the first indication of trouble, immediately log in and change the password. If you are able to log in and change the password, go into your settings and review all of the third-party apps connected to your account. Revoke access to all third-party apps until you can better assess the situation. (Be sure to revisit these apps once the situation is under control to ensure all brand account functionality.)

If you are not able to access the account and change the password, go to the Support Request section of Twitter and under Account Access select the “Hacked account” option. This will give Twitter the necessary “heads up” to suspend your account and avoid endless amounts of spam being sent to your followers. It will also allow you to reset your password.

While you work to regain control of your Twitter account, post a notification to your brand’s blog, website and other social platforms. This notification should simply state:

  • Your Twitter account has been compromised
  • You are working to remedy the situation, and
  • Your Followers should not click on any posted links until otherwise notified.

Such action lets your followers know you are aware of the situation. It can even foster good will among followers irritated by the hacking event.

As a precaution, make sure you use a secure password including letters, numbers and capitalization that cannot be easily determined. This password – especially if multiple people have access to the account – should be changed regularly.

Using dashboards like SproutSocial or HootSuite can also help minimize risk. We also suggest you follow @Safety or @Spam to stay alert to the latest spammer activity or malware.

Some crises can’t be avoided. But they can be mitigated through close monitoring, training and ensuring a workable plan is in place.

Interested in training your team to handle a social media crisis? Email us at info@kimballpr.com for information.

Instagram, Community and the Monetization of People

With the recent uproar over Instagram’s proposed terms of service changes, I think it’s time to talk about what social media is and isn’t. Perhaps it’s also time to talk about changing social media’s status from golden calf to useful tool.

As a lover of Instagram, I was unhappy with the proposed changes (at least how they were first written). However, this is not because I expected the service to always remain free and unadulterated by advertising. I enjoy nothing about advertising. Still, I understand social media services are businesses, and as such, are in the business of making money. Instead, I was upset that “users” (the widgets formerly known as “customers” or even “humans”) were being treated as the product. In fact, the entire “Instagram community” becomes a product to be sold. Our digital presences are becoming little more than chattel.

Arguably, this is a paradigm many social media services function from; that is, the customer as both product and consumer. I believe this is a large problem with how social media services are monetized and how customers react to that monetization.

Social networks and their customers need to stop conceptualizing social media services as communities. Facebook is not a community, and neither are Twitter and Instagram. Rather, the communities are the groups of people that use these services to gather, share or discuss.

left-hand / Foter / CC BY-ND

Think of a small-town pub. In the evening, people gather there to talk to one another, sing karaoke and drink. Devoid of people, the pub is just a building. Full of neighbors, it is a community (or a part of it). Amazingly, people pay to be there, buying drinks and food and tipping their servers.

The web is no different. Facebook doesn’t get to be a community just because it calls itself one. It is actually many communities, comprised of real people of infinite complexity who exist in relationships that shift and change.

I think this is why some social media advertising schemes might rub people the wrong way. If the aforementioned pub used fine print to retain the rights to photos you snapped while within their walls, you might be a bit uncomfortable. If they copied the photos and then used them in ads that would pop up in the middle of the table while you were chatting with your friends, you’d probably stop going there. However, you gladly comply with the expectation that you spend money while you’re socializing. In fact, you may even put quarters in the pool table while you’re there.

This is where social media services have it wrong. I will pay for the privilege of being there, and I’ll bet many other people will, too. We will spend a little more to get a little more (like a pool game). We, the customers, just don’t want you to make money off of us in ways that feel icky, like using our photos to create “customized ads.”

This “ick factor” is related to those early, misguided attempts by some brands to enter the social media sphere. This is something with which all public relations pros are quite familiar. Uninitiated brands treat Twitter and Facebook like free advertising space instead of a town square. People don’t want to encounter ads next to pictures of cousin Sally’s new puppy.

As PR pros, we are quite comfortable illuminating for our client the distinction between an acceptable and unacceptable social media post. This should also be true when it comes to discussions of social media monetization. It is not enough to say “it’s a business” and call detractors naive. Success is not predicated on disrespecting your customers. In fact, many argue success has more to do with understanding your audience.

Some social media services and users get it. For example, Twitter successfully employs advertising, with appropriate and unobtrusive sponsored tweets. I find Google search ads acceptable for the same reasons, and I don’t think they’re exactly struggling for cash.

I think we all need to accept ads as a part of our social networking experience. However, there are other models that work for services where ads can be a distraction. Flickr, which has somehow come through this Instagram debacle as a bit of an underdog champion, seems to have understood this for a while. They charge a reasonable fee for enhanced accounts that give professionals more tools and services. New social network App.net also gets it. They are ad-free and instead charge a monthly membership fee.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that fee or subscription-based social media would require a shift in thinking for most consumers. But I think part of the reason we don’t want to pay for social media services is because we think of them as the communities themselves, not a forum for communities. From that perspective, charging for the privilege of using the service seems cynical.

However, we must remember neither Facebook nor Instagram nor Twitter owns our communities. From that perspective, paying for the service seems to be the most direct, least cynical-seeming approach to monetizing social media. Monetize the service, not the people. Social networks aren’t communities; communities are made of people. Social networks are tools, and people have been paying for great tools since the beginning of recorded history. Social media services should be the products bought and sold, not the people who use them.

What does community on social media mean to you? What would you be willing to pay to use Instagram or Facebook, or do you prefer ads? Tell me in the comments.

Photo credit: left-hand / Foter / CC BY-ND

#RFTweet: And now for something completely different

Yesterday, Aloft Hotels officially ended their novel #RFTweet process. Most businesses vet PR agencies through a time- and paper-consuming Request for Proposal (RFP) process, one with which we have ample experience. We were game to try something new in the pursuit of a fun, new client.

If you follow @kimballpr on Twitter, you’ll notice that we aren’t hourly tweeters like many other agencies. Frankly, we’re busy writing and calling and posting and tweeting for our clients. But don’t let that lull you into think we can’t deploy our social media skills when necessary. We did what we’re best at, producing a thoughtful yet timely, multimedia-enhanced pitch. Even if we don’t get a call for the second round of vetting, this was a valuable exercise in practicing what we preach, namely:

  • Acting, not reacting, on social media
  • Incorporating video, photos and fun
  • Making use of evergreen content

See our Storify of the experience for the full story.

[View the story “#PitchAloft with Kimball PR” on Storify]