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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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June 2011

Happy Social Media Day

Today, on Social Media Day I’ve decided to share some of the things that social media has enabled me to do or given me (in no particular order):

Stored a cache of content about my sons growing up which is now a family treasure; followed breaking news on Twitter from world disasters through to road traffic updates in my neighbourhood; connected with family on Facebook including those who speak a different language; organised Adelaide’s first FourSquare swarm in Chinatown; formed Facebook group for my high school where many happy stories and photographs are shared; sat back in my armchair to ‘watch TV’ with Twitter friends; saw what other people were watching/reading and found good recommendations; watched The Social Network with 70 Twitter friends; found buddies that I can sound out for good professional advice like @twillyon, @oliyoung, @malchia, @aqualung, @leehopkins, @stevedavis and a  hundred more; had a suite of photos taken by dear tweep @cathietranent; supported other mums online; helped me get to know clients better by connecting with them online; gained speaking opportunities including the chance to lecture at university; free headbands from Bjorn Borg corporation after tweeting about headbands; helped found the very supportive and informative #socadl community; won book pack from @dymocksadelaide; gained and provided job references on LinkedIn; branded myself and made myself more easily found online; won clients; found a zumba buddy in @tripleb; participated in conferences via Twitter hashtags; hired people who first started making an impression online; gained travel recommendations on TripAdvisor; helped my husband @cave_man_dave and I find new friends like @rebeccamezzino and hubby; reconnected with former colleagues on LinkedIn; gained answers to questions on Quora; found dozens of drinking buddies including @ashsimmonds, @baxters, @luluran, @taschad; provided me with thousands of tweets that have made me laugh, vexed me, supported me and educated me; given me a world of friends on tap who are there 24/7.

This list still doesn’t cover it, but it’s a start!

What has social media done for you? Please leave some ‘top experiences’ in comments below.

When Google made me frown

When Google +1  was announced recently, I was a little concerned. I may have momentarily furrowed my brow, before moving onto the next piece of internet news.

I wasn’t quite sure why Google +1 worried me, but I continued to gnaw over it for a few months.

This is how Google describes this search innovation: “Sometimes it’s easier to find exactly what you’re looking for when someone you know already found it. Get recommendations for the things that interest you, right when you want them, in your search results”.

Today, I decided do some more research and write this piece. And I was glad to see I’m not alone.

Google
Google

The idea of +1 disturbs me in the same way that I’m disturbed that so many of us don’t work past the first page of Google search results. Because the question is: what are we missing? When an online tool presumes to know what information we’re looking for (and to know our searches even better than we know them ourselves), how can we be sure all our information choices are fair and open?

I suspect I’m not being very clear. So happily for me (and you, dear reader), there are many more clever people out there who have already written about this vexing issue:

“ … according to Eli Pariser, personalisation on the web is becoming so pervasive that we may not even know what we’re missing: the views and voices that challenge our own thinking” – New York Times

That’s exactly what has been furrowing my brow.

And also: “… it is already way too easy for someone to spend their entire day surrounded with information they favor, and never hear a contrary voice” – Between The Numbers.

I don’t want Google to become so super helpful, that outside views or contrasting sites, authors and opinions are hidden away from me. I imagine my sons studying for a school paper, and finding that during web searches the past searches of their friends influences what they find, thanks to +1. Scary.

Now, like any successful, competitive global company, Google is always in search (no pun intended) of improvement and growth. Google wants to serve its customers better. It’s always been fantastic at giving us exactly what we want and strives to improve the user experience.

But did we really need +1? What do you think?

Further Reading
Google Instant Search = Instant Echo Chamber 
Google Echo Chamber

What social media consultants have in common with Jennifer Aniston

I’ve read a few articles over the year talking about what it takes to be a social media manager. (Yes, yes, I’ll get to Jennifer Aniston in a minute).

When you work in social media, there’s certainly a lot to keep up with. And it can make you weary.

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston

Now, this is definitely a #firstworldproblem post because, let’s face it, I’m not working on the chain gang or on the frontline. But there are long hours involved in my job.  And it’s not long hours of keeping up with my clients and my projects – it’s long hours of keeping ahead.

That’s a big difference.

As I’ve tweeted recently, when you’re a consultant, people expect you to have the answers (or at least know where to find them). They expect you to be aware of new, up and coming platforms. You need to know about changes to Google, Facebook and the Twitter interface. You need to be aware of the latest outstanding campaigns and what brands are trying out on social media.

(Jennifer’s still to come – wait for it, wait for it).

There’s no definitive end to your working hours, particularly if you’re in the competitive consulting field, where you also maintain your own digital footprint. So as well as keeping up with changes to the social media space, you’re:

  • Writing your own blog
  • Tweeting (and that often means reading dozens of online articles to see if they’re worth tweeting)
  • Trying new platforms (which means spending time there; loading your own profile; seeing how it works; connecting with others)
  • Checking in across places like Foursquare and Gomiso to maintain a profile
  • Loading photographs to spaces like FlickR or Instagram

I could bemoan that this means my job is a seven day job. But then, I’m not the only one who can’t afford to switch off.

And this is where Jennifer Aniston comes in.

Do you think it’s easy winning the Decade of Hotness Award?  Do you think Jenny lolls about all day, eating what she likes, taking in movies, sleeping in? Oh no sir. She’s got a strict exercise regime and she cannot ever, ever let up. If she does, boom! She gets saggy and before you know it, unflattering photos of wobbly thighs are on the cover of Famous  magazine and his/her agent isn’t getting his calls returned.

According to the article:

Aniston’s commitment to her body is paramount and a source on the set of her film, The Bounty, revealed to Life and Style Weekly magazine, ‘She runs before filming starts. We were filming from 6am until almost 11 at night and her body looks amazing.’

So if Jennifer can “run and work out every day”, surely PR and social media consultants such as myself can manage to keep my nose to the laptop grindstone?

I just wish we had the same pay cheque …

Further reading:
The hectic life of a social media manager

How did you choose your Twitter name?

When we’re born into this world, we don’t have a say in what our parents name us.

We’re given a moniker for life that tickles their fancy. It’s assigned without our say and – unless we’re among the rare few who feels compelled to officially change their name – we go through school, life and romance with that name.

But when it comes to the digital world, we can choose almost any name. And that choice can be exciting, scary, vexing – and very easy or very difficult.

How did you choose your Twitter name?
How did you choose your Twitter name?

I don’t know if anyone has conducted research into Twitter names, but there appear to be some broad categories for our choices:

  • Use your real life name
  • Find your ‘real life name’ has been taken and use something as close to it as possible. For example @mjprak or @itsmichelleprak
  • Use the good old underscore for example @michelle_prak or use a meaningful number with your name @michelleprak1970
  • Weave in a passion or your profession, ie @bieberforever @retailgal @bookstoreboy
  • Come up with something completely random and silly (often under pressure when quickly opening a Twitter account and with no time to ponder the long term ramifications) like @bonzaibanana @itsgettinghotinhere
  • There are some who weave the term ‘tweet’ or ‘Twitter’ in their handle and that makes me laugh. It’s absolutely redundant. Why call yourself @PrakTweets when it’s bloody evident that it’s Prak tweets?

If you want your Twitter account to be anonymous, that will certainly flavour the context of your name and you can be very witty and even open a parody account, if you have the time and energy to sustain it.

But here’s a tip: if you ever, ever intend on using Twitter to meet people in real life, do give your Twitter handle some second thought. Would you be happy approaching someone at a conference or Twitter social event and saying ‘Hi, I’m @juicygoldfish’ or ‘Hello, I follow you, I’m @rancidmophead’. (Some of you may relish that as a bit of fun. Myself, I think that’s some awkwardness I don’t need. I’m sure I’d soon tire of explaining where the name came from).

It’s like having an embarrassing hotmail name that you finding yourself giving to a potential employer. “Yes, please email me the job and person spec. My email is RandyDenimGal69”.

For me, choosing ‘Prakky’ was easy because it borrows my real-world surname and it’s what my high school best friends called me. How did you choose your online name?

Why Twitter? Most common questions answered …

In a recent series on Prakkypedia, guests have shared why they use social media.

One of the questions I’ve posed in that series is: What’s the question you’re asked most about Twitter? I’ve listed those most common questions below, as offered by those guests, and added my own responses. It would be fantastic if you could offer your thoughts in Comments below.

Common questions about Twitter

 Isn’t it just for talking about breakfast? People may occasionally use Twitter to talk about their breakfast. Or dinner. Or brunch. Or their favourite restaurant. People don’t behave differently on Twitter. In real life, you expect people to share their everyday experiences with you. Why should Twitter be confined to sharing educational links, newsbreaks and existential musings? We’re real people, no matter where we are, and sometimes it helps make connections and long lasting friendships when we admit that we like Sultana Bran.

 But don’t you find it distracting or time-consuming? TV is distracting and time consuming. Children, partners and pets are the same. Hell, I resent the four minutes a day I spend brushing my teeth. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. You get out of it, what you put in. Twitter (which results in so much learning, laughter and support) is a welcome distraction and often well worth your time.

Twitter
Twitter

 How do you get the time? How much time does it take in your day to manage your Twitter? For me, I consciously make time because it’s part of my professional role. But I also enjoy it on a personal level… and my iPhone is where this makes all the difference. So when I’m waiting for my takeaway latte for example, I’m tweeting from my phone. When I’m at a chilly train station, I’m tweeting. When I need a break at work, I check Twitter via Hootsuite. There’s plenty of time to fit it in. And yes, I still make time to daydream and stare at the sky. I’m not a tweet robot.

 Isn’t it just people spouting inanities? What’s your definition of inane? One person’s inane is another person’s profound. And admit it – in the same way that we have a guilty pleasure in the form of a reality TV show, a trashy magazine or a chocolate bar – we need a welcome break on platforms like Twitter. We don’t want to read industry journals all day, so if someone groans that their mother in law is about to visit, or tweets that they’re drinking a simply delicious red wine, these are the tweets that help make the world go round.

Why bother? Do you like talking to people? Do you like friendship? Do you want to know what’s happening in the world? Do you want to ask for advice or support some times? This is why we bother to connect with anyone at all – and Twitter is all about connections. On fire.

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