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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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December 2011

My year in social media

2011 was a year of hits and misses, in terms of my personal use of social media.

I stuck with platforms I love – Twitter and WordPress.

I committed to new loves – Instagram and Miso.

I maintained platforms I couldn’t do away with – Facebook and LinkedIn.

I continued to use Foursquare, despite some ups and downs (see my previous Foursquare post).

I signed up for Klout and integrated a lot of my networks; watching my score rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall until I didn’t care anymore, even if I did get a free RedBull magazine.

And I flirted with what turned out to be duds – Scoville (with its website down, and questions being asked on Twitter, is Scoville actually finished?) and pretty much abandoned GetGlue which I didn’t enjoy using as much as Miso.

Socadl Christmas function 2011
Socadl Christmas function 2011

Google unveiled GooglePlus, and so far it’s gained more traction and longevity than GoogleBuzz and GoogleWave. But users still seems divided between ‘passionate’ and ‘meh’ and while some brands are there, they too don’t seem to be sure what they’re doing on this newest Google platform.

I liken GooglePlus to Quora – they’re both networks with a lot of potential and dedicated communities are using them, with great personal and professional results. But they don’t have wider public resonance and are finding it difficult to work their way into our regular social media use. I visit both occasionally (and feel guilty when I neglect them). When I am there, I find I can spend a lot of time following links and reading useful information. But it feels like I’m doing homework: there can be some satisfaction in catching up, but it’s not something that I look forward to daily.

After lots of encouragement from Pinterest  fans, I started making my own Boards recently and enjoyed how easy it was. I’m yet to find ‘my best use’ for Pinterest but I’m convinced there will be one! I’ve got a Board for Matt Dillon (very useful), Board for ‘things boys like’ (useful for parents of boys), and ‘Events 2012’ which I thought would be great for earmarking events I want to attend next year, but is more suited to a list on another platform, as the events don’t benefit from the visual interest Pinterest thrives on.

I tried Stamp, an app which enables you to ‘stamp’ things you recommend (across a variety of segments). I didn’t find this engaging because 1) I don’t know what the next step is and why it’s helpful and 2) not enough of my friends were using it.

I installed Path on my iPhone and was quite excited with it for about a week, because of its ease of use and its attractive interface. I like the fact it enables you to share music, where you are (a la Foursquare) and photos quickly and easily (with some photo effects a la Instagram). I didn’t like Path’s ‘sleep’ and ‘awake’ tool which I thought was taking social connectedness further than it needs to go. But again, with other social networks already embedded in my life, it’s hard to see the need for Path right now.

I also tried Whim, which enables you to connect with friends in the hopes of organising activity based on a ‘whim’. This app fails because you can already organise activity via texting or a multitude of social networks, and it doesn’t have the offering to entice enough of your friends as yet.

This year, I also got out of bed at 2am to listen to Mark Zuckerberg unveil Timeline live at the f8 conference. I think Timeline, the new ‘cover photo’ and ‘ticker’ have rejuvenated Facebook and will see a lot of people reconnecting with their profiles again.

I set up camp on AboutMe … because I could. (Wait, was that this year or last year?). I haven’t seen a lot of traffic come through there, but admittedly I haven’t promoted the URL because I have other more important URLs to promote!

I continued to use Hootsuite, Echofon and Bit.ly because they serve me well, and also started using interesting tweeting tools like Crowdbooster which aim to analyse your Twitter use and provide helpful advice.

Away from the screen, the Adelaide social media community #Socadl continued to thrive this year. We met several times, with events including a Hootup organised by Ben Teoh, several local speaker gigs and a Foursquare competition. We also had live #socadl chats this year including one on international Social Media Day in June.

So, what are my plans for 2012?

Well, as I’ve begun my own social media consultancy, I’m going to look deeply into tools that will help my clients. They will often be social media platforms, from Facebook Pages through to LinkedIn groups, WordPress blogs or even Instagram accounts. But I’ll also recommend tools such as EventBrite and MailChimp as required, and also be very interested in Pinterest or Quora Board for communities of interest and even B2B projects.

Of course, I’ll also be trialling new platforms as they emerge.

What social media tools did you enjoy or dismiss in 2011?

The great and the scary things about Foursquare

Foursquare’s a funny thing.

It’s one of those social media tools that polarises people.  It’s also one that Joe Public still hasn’t heard of.

Prakky on Foursquare
Prakky on Foursquare

But if you’re  social media fan, it’s likely you’ve used this location-based app to share where you are, leave tips, read recommendations and meet up with friends.

Almost two years after signing up to Foursquare, I’d like to share  some thoughts about the tool.

I ‘famously’ wrote about ditching Foursquare in a post in February. At the time,  I didn’t promise that I was quitting entirely. I said I’d take a hiatus:

“While it’s going to be hard for me, I’m going to say goodbye to Foursquare for a little while. I won’t delete my account. I won’t slam the door. But I will stop checking in”.

And I did, for a time.

It was liberating but also strange. I had become so very used to checking in to Foursquare when visiting coffee shops, restaurants and the like. (Mind you, to fill that void, I simply started tweeting about where I was. Psychologists, feel free to step in any time now).

But then Foursquare upgraded and after reading countless tweets about people enjoying it, I decided to start wearing my check-in hat  again (and boy, did I hear about that from my online networks!)

Some of the great things about Foursquare:

  • If I’m meeting Twitter friends somewhere (which frequently occurs) I can check the venue on Foursquare and see if they’re there yet. (Sometimes, it also identifies others there that I’d like to meet – a nice side effect).
  • If you feel like going out, whether it’s to the beach, a winery, or a cafe, you can check Foursquare to see where friends are, and join them.
  • You can read Foursquare lists, or the checkins from trusted friends, to gain ideas for your next visit to a restaurant, café, hotel, even doctor.

And the scary? I hear some people say:

  • I don’t want people to know where I am
  • It’d be too easy for people to stalk me

I wrote about ways to combat these scenarios in my first blog post about Foursquare. As with any social media tool, you choose your level of involvement, your privacy settings, and what you’re willing to share in order to gain something from the tool.

Organisations still aren’t embracing Foursquare enough to make it exciting for the wider public to adopt. However with companies like Westfield using Foursquare to reward Mayors with a carpark, and  pubs like The Duke offering a free drink if you show the doorman your Foursquare check in, it’s gradually being trialled and adopted.

Foursquare remains a fascinating evolving platform and I’m looking forward to continuing to track it.

p.s. I organised Adelaide’s first Foursquare swarm in August last year.  I don’t know of too many others   since – though recently we achieved another one during the Foo Fighters concert. The magic of Grohl …

Is the new Twitter a mirror image of the old?

Social media is a competitive space.

Our favourite platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are continually working to keep us engaged and loyal. They’re also looking for more ways to monetise their platforms. That’s why they regularly change their user interfaces and service offerings.

Twitter.com has changed again, this time to quite a marked new layout.

But is it just me, or is Twitter.com a mirror image of the previous interface? The new layout swaps your profile details from right to left, and your newsfeed from left to right.

This is how my new Twitter looks
This is how my new Twitter looks

A few more cosmetic changes include:

  1. When you click on a Follower’s profile link to see more info about a Twitter account, you’re served with a new popup window. Previously you’d see this info neatly to the right of screen, with no popups.
  2. When you want to read a conversation, it’s a similar story: it used to appear to the right of screen, now it expands within your newsfeed. It could be in danger of being lost there, but it does have a grey background to help you see the conversation.
  3. You can see your own Twitter background more than before, because Twitter has used an opaque effect when you scroll down far enough.

As well as those superficial tweaks, Twitter is more layered, with new Connect and Discover tabs.

Connect shows your Mentions and Interactions; Discover is more about propelling you further into Twitter (as the name suggests). It’s where you’ll find:

  1.  Your Activity tab (only recently introduced and still new to some users)
  2. Suggestions for who to follow
  3. Find friends (linking you with email accounts)
  4. Browse categories (which will be especially useful for people new to Twitter). This offers a search function or suggestions in categories including Entertainment, Music and Sports. I would have liked to see alt tags over the suggested Twitter account avatars to find out more, but they’re not there, so you’re forced to click to find out more.

    Twitter's new Discover / Categories section.
    Twitter's new Discover / Categories section.

I’m not going to offer a blow-by-blow “how to” on the new Twitter, because of course the good folk at Mashable have already done that.  Read Mashable’s new Twitter tips.

I don’t use Twitter.com very often, because I find other Twitter tools serve me better, such as Hootsuite or Echofon. That’s yet another reason for Twitter’s evolution. It wants me back, spending time on site and contributing to its visitation stats. And with this current iteration, I think it might just see more of me, because I’m finding the ‘newness’ intriguing.

What do you think of the new Twitter?

Community management not for fainthearted

There’s an old saying that doctors bury their mistakes, lawyers gaol their mistakes and journalists publish theirs.

Social media managers not only publish their mistakes – they have their mistakes raked over in real time for all to see.

And if your ‘mistake’ hits the big time, you can expect opinion columns, analysis and derision to appear in the mainstream media within hours.

Being a Community Manager is a seriously brave occupation to undertake. And it’s never more nerve-racking than when you’re about to see a new campaign go live online.

It’s a nail-biting time, because we’ve entered a cycle where tweets  (in particular) can have the opposite effect to what you intended and within minutes your carefully-crafted campaign can take on a life of its own. Of course this post is inspired in part by the so-called ‘disaster’ of the #qantasluxury hashtag competition. I can’t imagine what the Qantas social media team was going through at that time, but I’m fairly sure there would have been some stomach-turning moments and sleepless nights.

Community managers publish their mistakes
Community managers publish their mistakes

The role of Community Manager is a relatively new one. It certainly wasn’t in the career counselling handbook when I graduated from high school. Community Managers take care of online spaces such as Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts on the more mainstream networks, through to custom-built and owned platforms, such as online gaming networks or sports enthusiast chatrooms. They may come from all sorts of backgrounds and combine myriad experiences, including website management, marketing, advertising, community engagement and digital – or their specialist background that the community focuses on, eg sports, IT, fashion, architecture.

The best Community Managers nurture their communities and  moderate the space to keep it friendly and on-track. They post interesting content that encourages engagement. They also keep up with technical changes to platforms, the availability of new tools, and sites’ evolving terms and conditions. Some of them work in difficult areas where a duty of care is required, such as spaces dealing with young people, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and so on.

And the best Community Managers have maturity (not in years but in persona), tact, empathy, creativity, foresight and humour.

It’s a big ask to constantly require that of someone.

To add to the mix: professional Community Managers are often part of a bigger communications team, which may take in public  relations professionals, marketers, lawyers, HR and management. They don’t always have a say in the online content being shared or the campaign being created – they may just be the conduit.

It’s a role that also has many rewards. There’s great satisfaction in seeing your content inspire others, your engagement metrics go through the roof, and your company’s or clients’ goals being reached. You can have an impact on people’s lives, inspiring them to great actions, just as you can if you work in mainstream media, offline community engagement or public relations.

But it’s not for the fainthearted. Thank goodness Community Managers have their own online communities to support each other …

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