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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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September 2012

An amaaaazeball post about your social media voice, guys!

Do you write g’day on your Facebook brand page or ‘good morning all’?

Do you sign your posts ‘cheers’ or begin with ‘hey guys’?

Do you tweet using kisses (xxx) or write #reallylonghashtagsthatarehardtoread?

The language we bash out from our keyboards intrigues me – especially when it extends to the world of social media.

It’s worth thinking about the language you use because it can support or damage your brand. If you have time (and depending on what type of business you are), you might even write voice branding guidelines.

A lot of corporations and government bodies have branding guidelines. You may have seen some yourself.

It’s usually a document (sometimes a huge volume) dictating how to use the official logo, what the corporate colours are, and sometimes what the official fonts are. They’re like a bible for graphic designers, web designers, advertising agencies and others to enable them to carefully manage your visual brand appearance across different communications collateral.

The best branding guidelines – the ones where an organisation has really taken care to consider how it communicates – also allude to the brand’s style in terms of language. Sometimes a ‘brand persona’ has been identified. There may even be a separate Style Guide.

When I started working at the SA Tourism Commission in 2006, we had an uber style guide that outlined language use for brochures, websites, news releases and more. It laid out how the SATC referred to towns, regions, Aboriginal heritage, titles (as in Mrs, Minister, the Honourable) and so on.

Of course, a lot of organisations (maybe yours included) have not been able to devote any resources to a tone and style guide.

What sort of language do you use on social media?
What sort of language do you use on social media?

Which is a pity, because if you do have some, it can help you find your social media voice. And it’s especially handy when you have several people posting online on behalf of your organisation.

This means when you hit the keyboard, you’ll know how to phrase things. It makes posting to Facebook, Twitter and so on, much easier.

Need examples? Here are some simple questions I ask clients to consider, to illustrate how very different you might sound on social media …

What would you lean towards saying:

  • “Thank you” or “cheers”
  • “You’re wonderful” or “you rock!”
  • “Good morning everyone” or “hey guys”
  • “We are pleased to announce our latest report findings are available for download and look forward to your feedback” or “Amaaaazeballs! Our super-duper new download is OUT, bitches!”
  • Do you use emoticons? And if so, which ones?:-)
  • Do you LOL, ROFL, LULZ or TGIF?
  • Are you allowed to use a heap of exclamation marks or question marks at once??? Can you use gr8 text speak?

Aside from these language considerations, you might want to also reflect on whether you’re affectionate / corporate / excitable / calm / professional / supportive and so on.

There’s another interesting aspect to throw into the mix:

Is your social media voice, different to your ‘usual brand voice’?

This is an important question, because social media is quite a different to some other communication spaces. What works in the boardroom or in a news release may not work on Tumblr or YouTube.

But how far do you bend your ‘social media voice’ to maintain warm connections with people online (and also appear attractive and easy-to-read on screen) before you split your brand personality?

Facebook photo inspirations

Looking for some content inspiration?

I thought I’d share some nifty ideas I’ve noticed on some Adelaide Facebook Pages.

As many of you would know, it can be tricky and time consuming to come up with new content ideas. Ideally, your content will make connections with your community. It will be relevant to them, sometimes entertaining, sometimes useful and sometimes inspirational.

It helps if you have a brand personality or brand persona that you can bring to life online. More on that in a later blog …

For now, here’s some great local brands that have found some rhythm and personality via images. (And – as we’re told again and again – Facebook fans seem to enjoy images, awarding them higher engagement rates than other post types).

The Highway Hotel and its roadside sign:

The Highway Hotel
The Highway Hotel uses its outdoor sign to communicate not just with drivers, but also its social media communities. It uses a combination of funny posts with marketing messages.
The Highway Hotel
This sign related to the local fun run, The City to Bay – a huge event in Adelaide that passes The Highway.

Defined Image (personal stylist) and Natalie’s daily outfit:

Defined Image
Natalie, a personal stylist, shares an image of what she’s wearing daily on her Facebook Page. It’s something for followers to expect and look forward to, gain inspiration from, and acts as a reminder of what Natalie offers.

Flinders University and “Trim the cat”

Trim the cat, Flinders University
Flinders University occasionally places ‘Trim the cat’ in spots around campus, usually to emphasise key university events or milestones – and to have some fun.
Trim the cat, Flinders University
Trim the cat enjoys Flinders University’s open day.

Do you have a visual prop on your premises or within your business, which may become a focus of your future images? Let me know if you try anything, or if you’ve seen similar interesting examples online.

RUOK Target?

It’s no surprise that people can be cynical about brand-sponsored online communities, including Facebook Pages.

This cynicism is neatly captured by the new Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook which cleverly shares some of the ‘typical content’ you may see from corporate pages.

Condescending Corporate Brand Page
Condescending Corporate Brand Page

People have been cynical about advertising and marketing for years and why should social media be any different?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while – and trying not to become deflated by it. There are a lot of corporate online spaces that are trying to genuinely engage with the public; to listen to people, support communities, ask for input and work on projects together. But how do brands walk that fine line, when some members of the public will never be pleased to see them in social media at all – a space they may see as their own, for their family and friends.

So today I was a bit surprised to see the following occurring on Target Australia’s Facebook Page:

Target Australia on Facebook
Target Australia on Facebook

For those of you who don’t know, R U OK? Day is “a national day of action dedicated to encouraging all Australians to ask family, friends and colleagues ‘Are you ok?’ It’s on the second Thursday of September”.

I wasn’t surprised to see a brand like Target talk about and support the RU OK Day message, but I was surprised at how many people interacted when the question was asked. More than 1,000 people liked it. There were 38 shares and 75 comments (so far, since its posting two days ago).

Would you tell a brand that you were feeling down? Would you answer that question if a corporation prompted you? What would you expect would occur, if you said ‘no’, you weren’t feeling ok?

Target Australia on Facebook

Personally, I wouldn’t be motivated to do this and wouldn’t expect a helping hand or listening ear from Target. To me, the company is there to provide cheap cotton t-shirts for my children. But clearly, for others, social media (and indeed the online world) is a space where they will feel comfortable enough to share their feelings with anyone who asks.

I must admit I was heartened to see many of Target’s Facebook fans genuinely interacting rather than being cynical. Some people could howl down Target for venturing into the mental health sphere, or tell them to spend more time tidying their store aisles. But instead Target received a lot of praise for its post, in particular for following up its initial R U OK? post and sharing the website link to more information.

Target Australia on Facebook
Target Australia on Facebook

Social media is wonderfully unpredictable, isn’t it? But this also points to influence. What would have occurred if the first few responses had been cynical or angry? Or if the first few responses started to make inappropriate jokes about RU OK Day? The conversation could have taken an entirely different turn.

What do you think of this Target comments thread?

Twitter and poetry

This is a piece I wrote for the SA Writers’ Centre newsletter. I thought some Prakkypedia readers might enjoy it:

Twitter – the social media platform belittled as the broadcast tool of celebrities such as Shane Warne, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber – is so much more than inane short messages. And that includes being a hotspot for poetry.

With each tweet limited to 140 characters, it’s a challenge that can be a tempting and inspiring for many writers. When you’re tweeting, you’re doing what any poet does at readings, festivals and through print – sharing your work with the world.

Poetry and Twitter
Poetry and Twitter

You might say Twitter is an ideal publishing platform for poetry. Poets have been known to share a single line in one tweet which is a sample of a longer piece or work.

Some take the alternative approach by drip-feeding many lines, tweet by tweet. As with any social media tools, the account holder chooses how to use it and decides how much they’re willing to share.

You might have a Twitter account set up purely to read, share and critique other people’s work. Your approach might be to tweet a few lines of your poetry and then link back to your own website. You might have some work that is for “Twitter only” as a means to keep your mind sharp and interact with others and have fun. You could even share a photograph of your handwritten poetry on Twitter, to give it a different feel.

The thing to remember is this: Twitter is a community. Don’t approach it as a marketing tool whose only purpose is to send traffic to your website or to encourage people to buy your work  now. It’s a place where people relish a genuine conversation and expect you to be available over the long term. When you understand this about Twitter, you’ll discover the massive benefits to joining, both as a reader and as a writer.

Twitter works best when you find the accounts of most interest to you, and when you visit Twitter often and interact with others (that means at least several times a week). You might build your Twitter network into the best community you’ve ever subscribed to. So, how do you discover poetry on Twitter? There are several approaches.

You can search for and follow Twitter accounts that are based on poetry, beginning with for example Poetry Australia. There are more US-based poetry accounts including Poetry Daily, which aims to help “make poetry part of daily life, presenting a new poem each day from new books and journals”. There’s also Poetry Magazine and the Poetry Foundation.

There may be specific poets you would like to follow. Type their names into the Twitter search box and cross your fingers.  Of course, not every poet has a Twitter account, but if you use Twitter search you’ll discover if they are there.

If your favourite poet isn’t on Twitter but has a high profile, you may find there is a Twitter account set up to honour and share their work. You can also search and follow Twitter hashtags.

Funnily enough, the #poetry hashtag doesn’t reveal a swathe of good works.  More often, it’s used to promote poetry events including photos from live readings. Occasionally, you might find a gem.

Try searching for #micropoetry or #haiku instead. They appear to be more focused on sharing work.

Any questions? Of course, you can tweet me via @prakky 

Facebook complaint or corporate responsibility cue?

Heard of corporate social responsibility?

It’s a key plank in the PR world and is a concept that’s been around for many years.

CSR involves the idea of businesses being proactive and doing more than just trying to avoid breaking the  law. It’s about contributing more than profits and employment opportunities and recognising the importance of supporting your local communities, the environment, your employees’ wellbeing and more.

It’s one of the reasons why corporations have volunteer programs, sponsorship programs, environmental programs and so on. Today, we expect business to be good corporate citizens and do more than make a buck.

In fact, some corporations even report on these efforts as a key part of their annual reports. People use this to make assessments for corporations they’ll invest in; some of you may even assess potential employers through this lens.

Related reading: Social media, the new complaints department

Our growing interest in corporate social responsibility is overwhelmingly evident in what we see happening in social media pages today. One of the most high profile recent cases came after a mother posted a comment on Target Australia’s Facebook page to complain about the clothes available for young girls; Target afterwards announced the following:

Target Facebook post
Target Facebook post

Look at the Facebook Pages of other major brands and you’ll see exchanges like these:

Recent posts on Coopers Facebook Page
Recent posts on Coopers Facebook Page

Social media is your listening platform and can give you your Corporate Social Responsibility direction.

Want to know what people want? What they’re saying about you and your competitors?
Want to solve their problem – like all good inventions and products do? Wondering how to be a good corporate citizen? Read what your community is saying online.

This doesn’t mean that you adjust your whole business premise and raison d’être; it doesn’t mean you go bust trying to support community groups or send your employees into volunteer programs. But you can view social media not as a place for whining and complaints, but as your listening post, as a litmus for community expectations and a source of ideas for good corporate citizenship.

This post is based on a section of the presentation I gave to Marketing Week #MICON in Adelaide recently. You can find the Storify summary here.

Social media: the new Complaints Department

Once upon a time, companies entered the social media universe hoping to talk about their terrific products and to find thousands of new customers.

They placed their shiny new social media channels in the hands of eager (and perhaps nervous) marketing and communications teams. And they started working on lots of happy content to share.

What they failed to recognise – and this is still evolving – is that many members of the public didn’t see social media engagement in the same way.

For many consumers, social media is the new complaints department.

And no matter what type of good news you share, your organisation may find that some responses you get from the community are negative, critical, angry, aggressive and off topic.

Related reading: PR and social media – cousins in conscience

In Australia, perhaps one of the sectors which has rolled with this more than others is the telecommunications industry. After all, it is one of those industries which historically “can’t please all of the people all of the time” and has long devoted substantial resources to its customer service centres.

So we see now that companies like Vodafone and Telstra have spent some years in Facebook and Twitter and are taking a somewhat more mature and measured approach to social media than many.

I was interested to see that both Vodafone and Telstra have a ‘customer service’  Twitter account and a separate company Twitter account that provides news and product updates. So in this way, they’ve separated customer service and marketing (though of course both accounts will get varying interactions from the community). This separates the tweeters who are interested only in ‘online help’ and those who want to be in touch with company news and marketing. (I searched the Optus presence on Twitter and it would appear it only maintains one Twitter account. Correct me if you find another.)

@telstra_news on Twitter
@telstra_news on Twitter

If you’re a newcomer to social media, you might look at the telcos Twitter accounts and be aghast at the tweets they’re receiving. After all, it looks like a long list of frustrated complaints and bad publicity. But if you consider that this is occurring for all major telcos you realise they’re on a level playing field.

And after all, we know that telcos get complaints. As do the banks. As do airlines.

What matters is how these companies respond – and this is where they can set themselves apart and even ‘win back’ disgruntled customers.

@vodafoneau_help Twitter account
@vodafoneau_help Twitter account

(Additionally, when a customer complains about a telco online publicly, it provides an opportunity for a competitor to step in and tweet an offer to entice that customer away).

These complaints used to be billed as ‘social media crises’ but we’re growing up now and recognise that they’re not the end of the world. Today, they’re a business reality.

Related reading: Coles and other social media crises I’ve met

This post is focusing on your day-to-day service complaints. But we know that corporations experience much more than this online today. Many public posts demand that corporations make a change to the way they behave. I’ll be writing about this – and Corporate Social Responsibility – in my next post.

This post is based on a section of the presentation I gave to Marketing Week #MICON in Adelaide last week. You can find the Storify summary here.

Footnote: I had a chat with Jason from the Optus social media team and I really appreciated his time. Optus does in fact also have an @optusbusiness and @optus_careers Twitter account, but the main community interaction is via @Optus as I outlined above. Jason says they put a lot of time and effort into the social environment and what they do is always evolving, but the focus is very firmly on support and help.

@Optus on Twitter
@Optus on Twitter

How we’ve celebrated the humble tree

This is a post that’s off-topic in terms of social media, but I felt compelled to share …  and if you stick with me,  I may just make it socially relevant.

I heard author Andy Griffiths speaking about his latest book, The 26-Storey Treehouse, on radio this week and it got me thinking about legendary trees throughout our literature.

Off the top of my head, I thought of:

  • Enid Blytons’s The Faraway Tree
  • The ents in the Lord of the Rings books (do they count?)
  • The glorious Truffula trees in Dr Seuss’s The Lorax
  • And even the trees which help Katniss stay alive in The Hunger Games

Can you think of some more?

I love that we celebrate trees like this; they’re a part of nature that protects us and yet also something that needs to be protected.  Yet clustered together, as in a forest, trees are often depicted as spooky spaces populated by wicked wolves …

Botanic Gardens of Adelaide tree, @prakky Instagram
Botanic Gardens of Adelaide tree, @prakky Instagram

I searched #tree in Instagram today and there were 2,983,470 results. That’s nearly 3 million images! Sure, some weren’t relevant (in the best tagging tradition) but for the most part there was a glorious collection of branches, limbs and stately, uh, treeness. It makes for quite calming viewing.

Similarly on FlickR, there are plenty of tree groups including one with more than 3,000 members. Pinterest has a healthy smattering of leafy giants too, including a board by Cara Fontaine which is quite spectacular.

The biggest tree community on Facebook appears to be Save Trees to Save Earth. If you know of a larger one, I’d love to hear about it. Great organisations like Trees for Life also have nice Facebook communities.

I’ve often said that you can use social media to follow absolutely any interest or passion, and that’s one of its strengths. I’m glad to see such great celebrations of the humble tree.

Now, it’s a beautiful day in Adelaide so I might just go and lie under one  …

Radio interview: trolls and Twitter

This morning I spoke on Adelaide radio station 5AA about Twitter trolls, following the Charlotte Dawson incident which has become somewhat of a case study of what can go wrong on Twitter.

5AA segment on trolls
5AA segment on trolls

One of the ideas I raised was that adults need social media training – not just children! Too often we assume adults know how to handle themselves online and understand the best way to deal with negativity on social networks. That’s not true.

There are a lot of resources online to give you ideas and to help you report abusive or threatening behaviour, including Twitter’s tips on reporting abusive behaviour and Facebook’s safety centre. You may also be interested in Facebook’s ‘safety philosophy’ which points out that this is “an ongoing conversation”. I think Facebook does that, in part, because we are still working out “the rules” and what part social networks play in online bullying versus the part that individuals play. No doubt the other factor for social networks themselves is resourcing – they simply don’t have the resources to monitor, assess, judge and report inappropriate activity.  But that’s a topic for another post …

Twitter itself suggests the following when dealing with abusive tweets:

Block and ignore
When you receive unwanted communication from another Twitter user, it is recommend [sic] that you block the user and end any communication. Specifically this will prevent that person from following or replying to you. Abusive users often lose interest once they realize that you will not respond. 

You can listen to my  discussion with Mike Smithson and Jane Doyle on the 5AA website now. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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