Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

NEW RCMP SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY MISSES THE MARK

Monday, August 27th, 2012

A news story out of Vancouver, says the RCMP  warned its employees against identifying themselves as members of the force when posting personal comments on social media sites.

If the story is correct and the force’s warning goes beyond a reminder of members’ code of conduct obligations, then the RCMP, an organization with over 28,000 employees, is depriving itself of as many potential and powerful online ambassadors.  With the RCMP brand tarnished by news reports of bad behaviour, the organization’s focus should be on sharing its stories to put a human face on the red serge, not stifling social interaction.

But the RCMP is not alone in its digital skittishness as fear of social media seems to have replaced fear of reporters in many organizations.

In some ways, this is understandable. It is the nature of social media that content, good or bad, can be shared and viewed almost instantaneously. This is what makes it such a powerful communications and marketing tool. It is also what makes it potentially very damaging to reputations, brands and bottom lines. And it is what spooks many organizations, public and private.

There is no doubt that the real time nature of digital communications makes responsive damage control very tricky. Just  ask United Airlines who in 2009 got caught in the  social media turbulence created by a disgruntled passenger and his now iconic video, United Breaks Guitars The airline saw the value of its shares tumble by almost $ 200 million and its reputation take a hit it is still struggling to recover from.

That is why many organizations batten down the hatches when it comes to social media engagement.   Their fear of the digital faux pas, forces them to adopt stringent social media policies and practices that limit direct engagement and impose top down message control. And so doing they deprive themselves of their best tool for countering negative stories and bad PR: their community.

One of the reasons (and there are several) United failed to contain the online firestorm was that it was unable to mobilize the thousands-strong army of Twitter followers and YouTube susbscribers–all potential brand ambassadors–to share, amplify and most importantly, validate its message.

Where were United’s brand ambassadors in its time of need?  They were on the sidelines watching the airline they trust to move them safely, efficiently and economically, being grounded by a story and catchy tune gone viral.

In United’s case, it was less a matter of existing social media policies hindering their ability to mobilize potential support and more a lack of community building and engagement coupled with poor tactical execution.

But for many organizations, the very policies they develop to mitigate and manage risk,  hamstring their ability to respond effectively to online communication crises and attacks on their brand.

In theory, social media policies are easy to develop. Most organizations have policies governing just about every aspect of corporate and employee behaviour. From the size of their cubicle, to what they can wear at work, to the type of car they can rent on company business, policies spell out what employees can and cannot do. And in fact,  more and more organizations are adopting precisely those kinds of policies to govern social media interaction. The problem is that many of them miss the mark, like the RCMP’s new policy appears to do.

Effective social media policies should allow the emergence of brand ambassadors within and outside an organization by providing clear, common-sense principles that facilitate engagement.

The difficulty in implementing effective social media policies lies in the very essence of social interaction: spontaneity. Throw up a wall around what people can say or do online, or when they can say it,  and you limit spontaneity and genuine interaction.

This may not be a problem for organizations that see social media as something that should be managed and controlled. But for organizations that recognize the potential of employee and community online engagement, developing policies that do what they’re supposed to do should be a priority.

A few months ago, while developing a social media policy for a client, I came across a great social media policy database that provides examples of the best and the worst policies around.

I found the best policies to be ones that eschewed highly prescriptive language and focused on four things: trust, clear principles, common sense and simple rules.

In the case of the RCMP, and most police organizations, the code of conduct should form the base of the policy framework. This is what governs police officers’ behaviour in and out of uniform, it governs how they should interact with the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect, and it is what should govern their social media interactions. This basic framework would need to be augmented by proper social media training along with socialization of the critical role that sworn and civilian members can play in supporting the organization’s standing in the community through their online engagement.

Like most corporate policies, rules governing corporate social media use cannot cover every contingency or situation. Policies that are too stringent will only serve to discourage online interaction or render it stilted and lacking in spontaneity.

Social media engagement is like casting a pebble in a pond: Networks grow in concentric circles. Policies that force officers to shed their uniforms before engaging with their friends, family and peers, fail to tap in the networks and communities closest to the organization.

The best police social media policy is one based on clear principles that empower and guide the exercise of discretion. Policies that impose limits above those contained in members’ code of conduct risk seeing the organization forced to fend off PR challenges through corporate spin and traditional media, while absent from the channels where the conversations are taking place.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO CREATE MAINSTREAM MEDIA BUZZ

Friday, March 30th, 2012

In an earlier blog, I wrote that social media can transform how organizations operate. One important way it can do that is in helping create mainstream media (MSM) buzz in support of their brand. For any organization, this involves taking advantage of a changing media landscape which is characterized by: 1) a growing MSM online presence; 2) changing news cycle; and 3) reporters’ growing reliance on social media channels for story ideas, breaking news, background and fresh voices.

Today, not only is real-time monitoring of social media chatter a must for news organizations, but traditional media organizations have begun using all of the tools in the social media toolkit to maintain market share and relevance.   Strategies such as search engine optimization of stories, social amplification, and increased use of shareability-enhancing video, are being used by MSM to leverage social media traffic and influence and push their own online and traditional content.

In response to this changing media environment, organizations that in the past monitored traditional media channels and coverage as part of their environmental scanning, are now turning their attention to the monitoring of media chatter on social platforms.  They are also using social media platforms to engage in conversations with reporters and news outlets, or push out statements, news releases and background information.

The most popular of these platforms is Twitter.Twitter is ideally suited for the real time nature of the modern news cycle. In fact, the immediacy of Twitter has contributed to changing the news cycle.

Before the rise of social media, radio was the medium that provided the greatest flexibility and ability to cover breaking news. Twitter has now outgrown its role as amplifier of mainstream media news to become a “news breaker” as seen in story of Osama Bin Laden’s killing by U.S. special forces.

For organizations looking to use social media to enhance their MSM reach, Twitter can provide an important and direct channel to news rooms but it also means competing for attention on what is becoming a very crowded platform.

This means your interactions must be fresh, interesting and newsworthy. And it means building your network and community BEFORE you launch your campaign.  Invest in getting to know editors, reporters and producers.

Tips on using Twitter for MSM relations

  • Use Twitter Search to identify reporters that cover or are interested in your issues and start following them
  • Listen. Use Twitter to learn about specific journalists’ interests, needs, styles
  • Build an early  rapport, engage in conversations, be genuine
  • Respond to queries in a timely fashion
  • Provide value; become a trusted source for information, story ideas
  • Be available for on-the-record comment, including online
  • Use Twitter to inform reporters of upcoming media opportunities (press conferences, product launches)
  • Post your news releases on Twitter
  • Do not use Twitter to pitch your stories directly; paticularly if you have no rapport with a reporter
  • Don’t neglect personal, face-to-face interaction with reporters

Success in this new environment means being nimble  and responsive, and it means understanding the reality of the modern news room: fewer resources and more pressure to break stories. Failure to do so means running the risk of being left behind when your story breaks.

In practical terms, this means all organizations have to take stock of their internal media relations procedures and streamline decision-making.  It  means empowering front-line communications staff to engage with reporters, frame the story and provide comment.

In this new environment, organizations–private or public–no longer have all day to ponder the text of a statement,  news release, or Tweet. Overly cautious or bureaucratic media relations procedures will fail in the hypercompetitive real-time world in which MSM outlets operate.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR MAINSTREAM MEDIA ADVANTAGE

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

In a blog earlier this week, I wrote that social media can transform how nonprofit organizations operate. One important way is in leveraging traditional or mainstream media (MSM) coverage in support of their brand or to advance their advocacy agendas. This involves taking advantage of the changing media landscape which is characterized by: 1) a growing MSM online presence; 2) changing news cycle; and 3) reporters’ growing reliance on social media channels for story ideas, breaking news, background and fresh voices.

Today, not only is real-time monitoring of social media chatter a must for news organizations, but traditional media organizations have begun using all of the tools in the social media toolkit to maintain market share and relevance.   Strategies such as search engine optimization of stories, social amplification, and increased use of shareability-enhancing video, are being used by MSM to leverage social media traffic and influence and push their own online and traditional content.  

In response to this changing media environment, nonprofits that in the past monitored traditional media channels and coverage as part of their environmental scanning, are now turning their attention to the monitoring of media chatter on social platforms.  They are also using social media platforms to engage in conversations with reporters and news outlets, or push out statements, news releases and background information.

The most popular of these platforms is Twitter.Twitter is ideally suited for the real time nature of the modern news cycle. In fact, the immediacy of Twitter has contributed to changing the news cycle.

Before the rise of social media, radio was the medium that provided the greatest flexibility and ability to cover breaking news. Twitter has now outgrown its role as amplifier of mainstream media news to become a “news breaker”. This has generated huge pressure on MSM outlets to be the first to report–with predictable implications for the quality and depth of reporting.

For organizations looking to use social media to enhance their MSM reach, Twitter can provide an important and direct channel to news rooms but it also means competing for attention on what is becoming a very crowded platform. 

Tips on using Twitter for MSM relations

  • Use Twitter Search to identify reporters that cover or are interested in your issues and start following them 
  • Listen. Use Twitter to learn about specific journalists’ interests, needs, styles
  • Build a rapport, engage in conversations, be genuine
  • Provide background and respond to queries
  • Be available for on-the-record comment, including online
  • Use Twitter to inform reporters of upcoming media opportunities (press conferences, product launches)
  • Post your news releases on Twitter
  • Do not use Twitter to pitch stories directly; paticularly if you have no rapport with a reporter
  • Don’t neglect personal, face-to-face interaction with reporters

Success in this new environment means being nimble  and responsive, and it means understanding the reality of the modern news room: fewer resources and more pressure to break stories. Failure to do so means running the risk of being left behind when your story breaks. 

In practical terms, this means nonprofits have to take stock of their internal procedures and streamline decision-making.  It  means empowering front-line communications staff to engage with reporters, frame the story and provide comment.  

In this new environment, organizations–nonprofits, private or public–no longer have all day to ponder the text of a statement,  news release, or Tweet. Overly cautious or bureaucratic media relations procedures will fail in the hypercompetitive real-time world in which MSM outlets operate.

THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU TWEET

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Everyone who tweets as a professional sideline owes player agent Allan Walsh a debt of gratitude for reminding us to think twice before we tweet.

Walsh, who represents Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, caused a stir in cyberspace when he posted an unflattering tweet last week about Halak’s teammate Carey Price. 

Walsh, who has since deleted his message, later claimed his tweet was just “tongue-in-cheek” and chastised his critics for not having a sense of humor.

This latest Twitter faux-pas illustrates the risk inherent to real-time micro-blogging as well as the conflict between genuine, transparent conversations—the essence of social media—and brand management. People who use Twitter or other social networking platforms for brand support or marketing must always walk a fine line between being too conversational and too contrived.

Phony doesn’t work, but too chatty can get you into trouble.  I guess the lesson is–as Allan Walsh learned–when tweeting,  it’s best to use your outside voice.

Forty Years after Woodstock, the Buzz Goes On

Friday, August 14th, 2009

What does Woodstock tell us about social networking?

I wasn’t at Woodstock for those “three days of peace and music” in August 1969, but I knew about it.

I was a recent graduate, mopping floors at a White Tower Hamburgers stand in Washington, D.C. I heard from a friend there would be a big concert at Bob Dylan’s farm in New York. He got the Dylan part wrong. My brother, a teenager in New Hampshire, heard about it too. He was one of the thousands who drove there, walked miles from the highway, got in free and slept in the rain.

Neither of us saw the guitar-and-dove Woodstock poster until much later, and neither of us saw any advertising. We heard about the concert from friends, as did many of the 400,000 people who went. When they showed up in Bethel, N.Y., they jammed the New York State Thruway and created a civil emergency.

All this was before Twitter, Facebook, texting or even faxes. Woodstock went viral when viruses just caused colds. So what does this tell us about today’s social networking boom? Two things: first, web-based social networks are effective because they tap a basic human urge to share what you know (whether your facts are right or not); second, sometimes we don’t know our audience until it shows up.

One lesson from Woodstock is that this mammoth flowering of the “counterculture” was a wake-up call to many in a divided America. Those who sang in the rain realized they were part of something big, maybe a movement. Older people found reasons to think these strangely dressed kids weren’t evil. Marketers saw a huge pool of potential customers, people who rejected materialism but would spend money on what they cared about. And politicians found the times really were a-changin’.

Today, social media makes it possible for an organization to plant its flag on the web, start a conversation and wait for people to rally around, creating a community in the process. Communications advisors and marketers used to tell us to identify our audiences, then target them with tailored messages. Now audiences identify themselves as they coalesce around a cause, a band, a brand or a viral video.

No one knew “Woodstock Nation” existed before Aug. 15-18, 1969. After that weekend, it was impossible to ignore for decades. More recently, we’ve seen social media used to generate the grassroots political movement that carried Barrack Obama to the White House. We’ve seen thousands of tweets about the Iranian election. And we’ve seen bloggers stoke fears about U.S. healthcare reform. What other social forces are germinating, waiting for an issue or call to action?

We do know that the communications model built on audience segmentation and manipulation is history, outrun by instant mass interaction. Audiences appear in a tweet and boil up over a blog post. Knowing whether the froth will harden into a political position or enduring brand preference takes time. Meanwhile, if we want an audience for our cause or a market for our brand, we must tell our story and stay tuned for the response. Most important, we must keep listening. Forty years after Woodstock, the buzz—and the beat—goes on.