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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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July 2012

#thesocialolympics

I’ve lost count of the number of times the London Olympics has been called “the social Olympics”. It’s envisaged that in today’s social media environment, these games will receive an incredible amount of online and crowdsourced coverage.

Are you prepared for the Twitter onslaught?

Twitter downtime this week has already led to speculation about the platform’s capacity to cope when the games commence,  although Twitter reps have said Olympics tweeting was not the culprit. Whatever the cause, you can expect the Twitterverse to be overwhelmed by Olympics updates, people cheering on their favourites or moaning over the results, retweets of athlete’s reflections, Twitpics taken at events and much more.

Twitter will take on a  more physical presence when the London Eye (a ferris wheel) becomes “a giant mood ring, projecting England’s Twitter-based sentiment about the upcoming Olympic Games” [read more].

Our national broadcaster, the ABC, has set up a new Twitter account dedicated to Olympics coverage called @ABCOlympics. Our Olympics team has an account and specific sports have their own accounts such as Swimming Australia https://twitter.com/SwimmingAUS , Rowing https://twitter.com/RowingAust and Basketball https://twitter.com/BasketballAus – long term accounts, but currently with an Olympics focus.

Australian Olympics team
Australian Olympics team on Twitter

Of course, the Olympics itself has an official Twitter account and you’ll also find one for the Olympics Village (couldn’t that one get amusing, if it wanted to be?) .

The battle of the hashtags will be interesting to watch. The official Olympics account uses a variety including #olympics and #london2012. Countries are using their own Twitter hastags, with the USA using #TeamUSA and Great Britain using #OurGreatestTeam while Australia features the rather dry #InspirationofOurNation in its bio, although it has used #theaussiesarecoming (which of course won’t be relevant during the actual games).

Within Olympics tweeting you’ll see users start to hone down to specific sports tags like #fencing and #football.

Hashtags will emerge to cover incidents that are amusing, outrageous, heartbreaking and more.

Hurdler Michelle Jenneke hit the headlines with her dancing warm up routine which has gained millions of YouTube views (see below). Search for her on Twitter now, and the search results will provide a lot of accounts. The real one appears to be https://twitter.com/MJenneke but I could be wrong – there’s no official verification there. And she’s using the hashtag #supportmichelle. Sounds like an awesome hashtag, to me.

Hashtags can mean #business

Twitter without hashtags would be like cake without sugar – less palatable and a whole lot less fun.

Hashtags help you cut a swathe through your tweetstream to follow the topics that matter to you and as a result, discover people that will interest you.

[If you’re a Twitter newbie, you might want to read
my introduction to hashtags before you continue reading]

Today, I want to remind business owners or corporate account holders of Twitter of the potential of hashtags.

Hashtags help you find ‘your community’

No matter what field you operate in, chances are there’s a relevant hashtag that shares news and links that you’d be interested in. Don’t simply set up shop on Twitter and start broadcasting information about yourself. If you want to be known as a participant in your industry – even a leader – then actively tweet using relevant hashtags. Put your opinion forward. Follow others who use hashtags relevant to your business. If there’s a hashtag you’re particularly passionate about, you could include it in your Twitter biography.

Hashtags help to identify you

When you use a hashtag regularly, you’re telling Twitter what you’re passionate about. And that includes your industry on Twitter, potential customers or clients, and even traditional media who may be looking for someone as a source in your field.  Hashtags help you build your brand online.

Look at potential of your own hashtag

Maybe you’re not happy with the hashtag for your field or industry. It might be US-centric or too inclusive of many other content or users which sometimes drags it off-topic. So consider creating your own hashtag. You can do it any time, just by typing it into a tweet. The trick, of course, is getting the buy-in of others!  Use your hashtag frequently, perhaps using it within the same tweet as other relevant hashtags. That sends a signal to your target community that you’ve set up shop. Tweet the tag to influential users or people to encourage them to take part; explain the hashtag, invite them to use it.

Host a live hashtag conversation

If your own hashtag gains traction, consider organising live tweet chats. Plan ahead and warn your community when it’ll be taking place. Have some questions drafted to stimulate discussion. Welcome everyone when the hashtag conversations ‘opens’ and drip feed the questions (preferably the conversation will be confined to an hour). Say hello to participants; encourage them to keep using the hashtag. And of course, be open to a variety of opinions that emerge on the stream, like a good meeting host should.  When the conversation time approaches its end, alert users and make sure to thank them for taking part. Consider using a tool like Storify to capture the hashtag conversation for posterity, and to share it with others who couldn’t take part.

Look out for topical hashtags

Lots of hashtags surround trending topics on Twitter. They come and go, rather than stick. You might be lucky enough to come across a tag you could take part in. Twitter.com itself displays ‘trending topics’ however tools like Twirus or Trendsmap may be better for looking at hashtags in your region. Make sure you assess the hashtag to fully understand what it means, and the context of any tweets you send. You don’t want to gatecrash a hashtag inappropriately.

Hashtag tools

If you use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, you can set up a dedicated stream (column) for a hashtag that’s important to you. If you prefer to keep things simple and just use Twitter.com, you can have a hashtag as a ‘saved search’. Either route will help you keep track of the hashtags that matter to you.

Example of a Hootsuite stream for a hashtag
Example of a Hootsuite stream for a hashtag

Finding the right hashtag

Sometimes ‘the right hashtag’ for you is highly popular and obvious, at other times  you’ll stumble across a more relevant and niche tag after spending time on Twitter and taking note of what your peers use. Over time, you’ll find and use the ones that are more suitable to you. For example you might enjoy #ttot rather than #travel,  #adelhills rather than #adelaidehills, #hcsmanz rather than #healthcare, #saparli rather than #auspol and so on.

Don’t be shy

Above all, don’t be afraid of joining hashtag conversations. They’re built for sharing. Follow them to learn more. Use them when you need help. Offer answers where you can. They’re part of the community glue of Twitter.

More reading:

Four must-do comms chats on Twitter

Conference hashtags

Tips for managing social media distrac

One of the challenges of social media management is undoubtedly staying focused.

There are a lot of distractions on social media sites. After all, they’re built to be friendly spaces where we’re hanging out with interesting people. So while you’re maintaining your Facebook Page or sending some important tweets, it’s easy to become dragged off-task. You might get caught up with the latest news, come across an article that you just have to read now,  join a hashtag chat, or find yourself building a new meme poster …

Social media time management
Social media time management

Pinterest is said to be a particularly ‘sticky’ site where users tend to spend a lot of time in one sitting  exploring colourful boards that seem to go on forever. Similar things happen in Wikipedia, where there’s hyperlink after hyperlink and reference after cross-reference for you to follow.

So how do you cope when social media management is part of your job?

It will all depend on your role, and how much social media is embedded within that.

For the social media professional – aka Community Manager – interacting on a personal and professional level throughout the day is part of life and something they’re adept at juggling. In many cases, a lot of their ‘personal’ online networking does in fact revolve around keeping up with social media news and keeping abreast of social media norms and etiquette. And they will probably more than make up for it by working on weekends and evenings.

But what if social media isn’t your full time gig? What if you’re a marketing coordinator or a PR officer who has had “social media” added to a long list of responsibilities on your job and person spec? You might be the business owner, who’s also the company face online.

If you find yourself looking at old high school photographs on Facebook when you’re supposed to be posting on your Facebook business page, here are some tips:

  1. Have a documented plan, with objectives outlining why you’re using  social media. Your plan will remind you of what you’re supposed to be achieving and can drag you out of distracting conversations. If your social media plan contains a content calendar, even better. That will give you the content ideas to enable you to swiftly post updates,  check on your community, and then leave. Summarise your plan in bullet points, print it out, and stick it near your keyboard.
  2. Close the web browser tabs for your social media sites. I know some people keep them open all day – I do. But if you find that your Facebook or Pinterest tab is singing out to you continually while you’re supposed to be writing a news release or making some phone calls, shut those tabs down.
  3. Keep a record of how much time you spend on social media sites. If you had a Facebook post to share today, how long did it actually take you to do that? Did you roam Facebook and get drawn into friend’s posts? Watch the clock and when you see the time you’re spending, you can address whether it’s a problem.
  4. Look at the social media tools you’re using. Some are more conducive  to personal distractions than others. You might prefer to use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite for example, rather than spend time in the Facebook platform, where the ticker pops up to tell you what your Friends have been doing.
  5. Consider scheduling posts, to do a raft of social media work in one hit. (Beware of using these exclusively however, because it’s also important to spend time in your network of choice to maintain conversations with others rather than relying on broadcasting.)

I should emphasise: I’m not saying social media is a waste of time. Not at all.

Time spent roaming outside of your social media business accounts can be time well spent. You might discover new ways to use a platform. You might participate in a new conversation, or even meme, that’s relevant to your business. You might make new connections on a personal level that  will be fruitful to your business over the longer term.

But when you’ve missed deadlines or turned up late to appointments because you’ve been LOLing at cat videos, you know you need to address your time management  …

I’m sure you’ll have more tips to share.

Or do you find that social media doesn’t distract you at all? Are you able to maintain a divide?

Social media tools to track the competition

Let’s face it. Sometimes you want to know what your competition is up to.

If you’re in businesses, chances are you’re not the only one in your field, and to keep growing and gaining customers, you might want to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. What new services are they offering? Have they hired anyone recently? What sort of promotions are they offering? Can you in fact work with a competitor on a joint project? All this and more might be of interest to you.

Watching your competition isn’t creepy and it isn’t stalking. It’s good business sense to know who else operates in your field, and indeed how your field may be evolving.

It’s another one of the many things that social media can help you with.

It’s easy to hop onto your competitor’s website or Facebook Page and read their content and see what level of interaction they’re getting (likes, comments). Here are a few more things you might be interested in doing:

Twitter Lists

Search competitor or just industry accounts on Twitter and add them to a Twitter List. You can name the List ‘Competitors’ or whatever your industry sector is. Make that list private. You can add someone to a Twitter List without following them.  That way, your List quickly takes you to their tweets, you haven’t alerted them to the fact that you’re interested, and you haven’t given them the value of another follower.

Twitter Lists
To add someone to a Twitter List, go to their profile and hover over portrait thumbnail, as illustrated.

Hyperalerts

Hyperalerts is a service that emails you summaries of the activity on a Facebook Page without being administrator of that Page.  It’s free and can be quite handy. Input the name of the Facebook Page and choose how often you’d like updates to be emailed to you.

Twittercounter

Want to compare your Twitter account growth to a competitor’s? Twittercounter lets you do this quickly and easily. You input the tweet names and Twittercounter does the number-crunching, spitting out a graph.

Klout, Kred, PeerIndex 

Search for your competitors on these tools which purport to measure ‘influence’. These measurements aren’t flawless and have been criticised for their methodology, but in the absence of other ‘influence measurers’ they are working hard to help benchmark people according to their digital footprints. Visit these sites and input competitors names – usually individuals rather than company names.

Socialmention

This search engine looks across social portals; you can use it to search competitors’ names or brands. Alongside the results, Socialmention attempts to provide data on reach and sentiment etc.  It also lists top users of that term – this can identify who works for your competitor, but also its broader community of supporters and partners, whom you might want to nurture yourself.

Hootsuite and Tweetdeck

If you use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you might want to set up a column (or stream) for your competitors’ tweets only. One for the super-vigilant.

What other tools could you use to keep up with the competition?

Surprise! Facebook Timeline: who’s using it? Who isn’t?

It’s been approximately six months since Facebook Timeline was released to individual Facebook users. You might recall that Timeline was unveiled by Zuckerberg at the f8 conference in September last year, to great fanfare, including a very emotive video.

Since then, a lot of brands have used the feature to varying effect. But what about individuals?

Let’s take a quick look at a few brands first.

Tourism Australia is well known for its popular Facebook Page and is increasingly recognised for its innovative use of Timeline, where it displays not its own history or even Australia’s history, but snapshots from real Australian holidays over the years (contributed by fans).

It’s no surprise that major brands like Holden and Levi’s use Timeline to proudly share their brand history. It’s interesting to see Coca Cola  do this with the good and the bad (it includes various points in history where its fans were disgruntled about changes to Coke).

Snapshot from Britney Spears's Timeline
Snapshot from Britney Spears’s Timeline

Guinness World Records Timeline is surprisingly dry, considering the content it could share. Lots of its Timeline entries revolve around editions being published, and often there are records there without any picture to bring them to life. Perhaps it’s a work in progress?

One of the most fascinating uses of Timeline is by The Wall Street Journal. Its page Tracking FB’s IPO centres around that one news story of Facebook’s public float, with a Timeline that outlines Facebook’s history.

I thought it would be a no-brainer for celebrities to use Timeline to share their personal biographies, so I was surprised that Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber  haven’t used their Timeline in that way. Britney Spears has, including photos of her with the Mickey Mouse Club. Madonna has. Guess who else has used Timeline? Keith Urban. Don’t ask me why I searched that … (You know what? Nicole Kidman has spruced up her Timeline too. Perhaps husband and wife have the same Facebook team?)

The social media president, Barack Obama, also has a Timeline populated  with milestone stories. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Facebook team  has had a go too, although it’s lacking in colour and images.

Flicking through these Timelines, I am reminded that they don’t render seamlessly. The milestones tend to jump around or take some time to load, so the user experience isn’t super-enjoyable.

Snapshot from Coca Cola's Facebook Timeline
Snapshot from Coca Cola’s Facebook Timeline

What about individual use of Timeline milestones?

There’s little available research on the number of Facebook users who have added milestones to their personal Timelines (and by research, I mean no relevant articles turned up in my Google searches). Six months into Timeline, very few members of my Facebook network have proactively used Timeline to share their past.

I put this down to a number of  potential reasons:

  • Time. It takes effort to decide on milestones suitable for sharing, to make sure you have the dates right and to source an appropriate photograph. The best Timelines have photographs; and finding and scanning these is too much like hard work. (Though you can cheat and take a smartphone photo of your photo ..if things like resolution don’t bother you).
  • Caution about oversharing. We already have a lot of our life’s story on Facebook. Some users might feel it’s unnecessary to give the social network even more details of their lives. Our ‘real friends’ know all about us already, right?
  • A reluctance that comes from looking needy or like we have nothing better to do.
  • Timeline has already built itself. We each have a skeleton timeline, beginning with our birth date, then the date we joined Facebook, and statuses following that.  Perhaps users think there’s no need to go back in time because of this organic build up.

Tom’s Timeline

One friend who has added some stories to his Timeline is fellow social media professional Tom Williamson. He’s been generous enough  to answer some of my questions below.

Question: What motivated you to use Timeline?

Answer: curiosity more than anything and the ability to share milestones in my life that matter to me. My friends have been part of my life much longer than FB has, by tagging them in accompanying comments and descriptions, I was able to let them know I remember the moments we shared and make them part of a platform I’ve spent the last 5 or 6 years investing my time in. As a result, friends I tagged Liked and commented on those milestones and I’m sure they spent a few moments remembering the good times we shared.

Q: Was it hard?

A:  the most difficult part was remembering dates the events occurred! Luckily, I use iphoto to store my images so most of the milestones I added were already documented in there. It was just a case of looking through photos and adding the ones that made me smile or had fond memories attached to them. I spent a good hour on the phone to Ma and Pa finding dates attached to images they gave me of me growing up. Items I added without images I took and educated guess on. I had rules around what I added – milestones are important times in my life that have neutral or positive sentiment surrounding them.

Q: Was it worth it?

A: Yes. I have a feeling Facebook will be around for a while. I remember when my Grandad was ill before he died, Dad asked him to document his life by putting pen to paper so he could pass his memories down through generations. While I’m sure he wrote as much as he could remember, there’s probably stuff he missed. Now that I’m adding milestones to my timeline, everyone I care about has access to the important times in my life. As long as I maintain it, there will be decades of history available to anyone who cares to look.

Tom has reminded me of other reasons to use Timeline – and they go back to some of the reasons we use Facebook. It’s about connecting with friends and reminding them of good times together. And when you use Facebook to document your life, it’s a good reminder to Download your profile now and again.

What about you? Have you used Timeline milestones? Do you intend to?

 

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