Reflections on Social Media, Take Two

As our final blogging assignment we were asked to once again reflect on social media and ascertain if this course has changed how we viewed it in any way. In my first blog post I stated that I was pretty familiar with social media as a whole. I also spoke abut how I used it mostly for personal reasons, but I could see how it would be of vital importance for a business.

Honestly, this course hasn’t changed my own personal views on social media. As I said in my first post – none of these tools or sites were really very new to me – though I did learn about a few I’d never used. One thing that has changed was initially taking this course I had thought that working in social media would be a great job. I love social media – it would be win/win, right?

However, I have found that social media for fun and social media for business are two different beasts. I enjoy personal use social media far more than the business side of things. Though it was interesting to learn about, I’m not so sure I’d want it as a career.

Overall, I don’t think my opinions on social media have changed at all throughout the course – rather they were simply augmented. I was further convinced in my belief that businesses need to involve social media as part of their overall business plans. Moving forward, I am hoping that the knowledge I have learned throughout the course will help me present a more professional persona forward for future employers to see.

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Destination Success

This week we’re discussing various types of tools that measure and analyze social media platforms. There are several generic ones available, such as Google analytics. There are even platform offered tools, such as Facebook’s Insights. I’m going to discuss three tools in this week’s blog, and I’ve chosen to focus on Twitter alone.

The first tool I’m going to talk about is Tweet Grader. It analyzes your twitter account and ‘grades’ you out of 100. They base this grade on various things, such as number of followers and the reach of those followers – how often you update, follower to following ratio, and engagement. All of these things are computed, and you are given a grade and a ranking among their users. I put in my own name, and scored the following:

As you can see, nothing surprising, considering I only started this account for this social media course. I am ranked 7,412,858 out of 13 million + users. My grade is 44 out of 100. I sincerely hope this doesn’t mean I’m failing Twitter. I also graded our instructor, Sara.

She’s clearly passing with flying colours. 97.1 out of 100! And only 322,251 users are ranked above her. Clearly, according to Tweet Grader, she is doing all the right things.

Tweet Grader isn’t a highly analytic tool by any means, but it allows users of Twitter to gauge their own reach. I think that though the depth of this tool isn’t necessarily the best, it’s a great tool for newer users of Twitter to check with. It’s simple, and easy to use and understand. Also free – which is never a bad thing.

The second Twitter specific tool I looked at was Twitrratr. I actually really like this tool for businesses, because it’s simple, easy to use, and free. It allows users to search for terms – for example a business could search for their name – and see how much that term is being tweeted about, if it’s positive or negative or neutral.

To display this, I searched for our class hashtag #smet. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how low the negative rating was. If you don’t know, smet is actually also a Dutch swear word – so it was nice to see the positive outweighing the negative.

How this tool works is it searches for the term you asked, and then runs an algorithm through the tweets to identify positive or negative terms. It’s not perfect by any means, but it definitely is a good tool for businesses to get a sort of snapshot of how they are being discussed on Twitter. But again, it’s not a very in-depth tool, and is only scratching the surface. It is not a tool businesses should use alone, by any means.

The last tool I am going to discuss is Twitalyzer. I can’t show you exactly how it works, since it is a paid service, but I can talk about it. Twitalyzer offers several sub-tools, such as visual timelines so a business or user can see trends in their posting and correlate surges in engagement with it. It can be used to analyze not only your own twitter, but any location (excellent for businesses who want to know what their local demographic is doing on Twitter), topic or hashtag as well.

Twitalyzer can profile any user – and can track several users, depending on the clients need. Businesses can profile their own customers and followers to be sure they are tailoring their own tweets for maximum impact. They offer a dashboard that users see when they sign i – offering them a snapshot of recent reach and impact on Twitter. It offers a trending tool that can work in conjunction with Google Analytics,  and there are full data exports available for customers.

Even though it is a paid subscription service, they offer several packages, so businesses are able to choose the best package for their size business. It is by far the best and most comprehensive Twitter tool for businesses to use so they can understand just what they are doing on the social media site. If a business is focussing only on Twitter – this tool is a fantastic way for them to understand how to best wield the tool that is Twitter.

Tools such as these take social media beyond simply something to do – tweet or start a Facebook or a blog and start talking. These tools teach businesses how to use these social media tools properly – what to post, what works and what doesn’t. How they should be engaging their customer base. It is not enough for businesses to simply hop on to social media and go. Social media is not a bus route that you get on, and it will just take you to your destination. It’s more like a car you’ve never driven before, that you have to get in, learn how to drive it through practical experience and reading the manual, and maybe then – if you’re a good driver – you get to your destination. Maybe you get a bit lost, or it takes longer than you thought because you didn’t check the maps for the best route possible. These tools are those maps. It would behoove every business looking to reach Destination Success to use them wisely, and consult them often.

 

Extreme Promotional Materials – a Social Media Plan

Introduction

Extreme Promotional Materials has a well-established, successful business within their local region that has provided quality promotional items to a variety of clients over the last fifteen years. However, every business needs to grow and this business is in a position to extend their reach beyond southern Ontario. They have a potential to reach nation-wide, because of the nature of their product and ease of shipping. Social media is the platform that can help them grow up to that national status.  The best way to do this initially would be to focus on one social media platform, since they have a small amount of employees, rather than spreading themselves too thin. The best platform for them would be Facebook – since it combines both visual media and an interaction platform, as well as the ability to interact with schools across the country, not just in their region. How can Extreme Promotional Materials best attain that recognition is detailed in the following plan.

Mission, Vision, Goals

Mission

  • Custom, high quality promotional items from apparel to office supplies.

Vision

  • New and creative ways to service customer’s needs, nation-wide.

Goals

  • Expand the business to a larger clientele.
  • Provide customised, innovative promotional solutions to fit the customer’s needs.
  • Create and maintain positive relationships with customers.

Key Messages

  • Customised promotions, bespoke for customer’s needs.
  • Positive, friendly service from a company they can trust.

Target Audiences

Extreme Promotional Materials’ target audience is schools across the province of Ontario, as well as businesses looking for personalised items for promotional purposes. They would wish to target schools specifically because of their previous experience with school uniforms and promotional items especially. If they wish to, they should extend their reach beyond the province of Ontario and make plans to ship country-wide.

Social Media Tools

This report will focus primarily on Facebook as a recommended tool, as well as Flickr – to be used in conjunction with Facebook. The visual nature of both of these sites would allow Extreme Promotional Materials to showcase previous promotional materials and offer customers an example of the quality of their previous work. It would also enable Extreme Promotional Materials to highlight any specialised, innovative marketing solutions they have helped past customers with.

Social Media Engagement Strategy

It is recommended that a Facebook page be set up for the business, attached to their Flickr, with a large amount of visual content posted. The page should be run by one of the more senior business members – they will have more knowledge about the business, and more invested than a newer, younger employee. They may need to be taught how to properly utilize the tools, but it is easily learned.

This report would recommend that the Facebook page go out and like several school and school board pages within the province of Ontario. They are encouraged to interact with these pages to create more traffic to their own page.  A twice weekly posting schedule would be suggested at first, so as to keep fresh content on the page and engage the audience. Suggested types of posts, in addition to photo displays of previous work. Would be possible coupons, or contests that involve schools – perhaps a competition for a prize of new uniforms.

The tone maintained should always be positive, highlighting and maintaining good relationships with current customers and future customers. A constant focus on their target audience through comments on school’s pages and developing relationships through these comments and interactions. Through these steps, Extreme Promotional Materials could extend their reach across the province, and possibly the country.

Conclusion

The recommendation of this report is that Extreme Promotional Materials take these steps to start creating a digital footprint through use of Facebook and Flickr.

Uncommon Sense

As a mature user of social media (most sites didn’t even start until I was well into my twenties) I don’t think I’ve ever for one moment lived in fear of my digital footprint being detrimental to my employability. The very public nature of social media sites has often been a concern for me. Owning a computer in the early boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s has always sort of drilled the concept of privacy and constant vigilance about your online identity to me.

Which of course isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy some sites that would make me look less employable. Or adult for that matter – I just happen to really love TV a lot. I like to discuss it. Talk about it. Write about it. But I’ve always kept a secondary e-mail account for those sites, for just that reason. It’s the smart thing to do.

Likewise with my social media sites. MyFacebook is locked down – I’ve never been a fan of their fast and loose changing of their privacy settings, so I do tend to go in and check that my security settings are as I wish them to be quite often. I own two Twitter accounts – one is locked and one is public. I Google myself regularly – it’s a bit of a morbid curiosity – but also the fact that I have a bit of a unique name. I can’t really hide amongst the crowds on Google.

I think overall, being an older user of social media when it really emerged really helps me be aware of what I attach to my name out there, online. I’ve always been conscientious about it, usually out of a fear of my own privacy being infringed upon. Now it’s more of a sense of not wanting to put anything too personal, or detrimental out there.

Overall though, it’s common sense. I wouldn’t put anything out there digitally that I wouldn’t want the world to see.  For me – it’s less what I plan on doing and more what I will continue to do. Be conscious of what I say, and where I am saying it at all times, because even deleting accounts doesn’t necessarily make things go away. It’s okay to have your fun on the internet, but do it in a way that can’t really be connected back to your ‘brand’.

Buried by Mail

In this week’s blog I’ll be finding, locating and analyzing three articles from the websites Mashable, Social Media Eplorer, and Tech Crunch. I’ll be honest, I had a bit of a difficult time finding three articles I could link together. Once I moved out of the frame of mind of finding three articles that linked obviously together, it became a much easier task.

I decided to start with my SME article, and work from there. The article I chose was Becoming a Social Business isn’t just for Social Media by Ilana Rabinowitz. It discusses the concept of how business culture is affected within a social media world – social media has altered communication within business culture. In today’s world, employees expect faster response time to communication, and it has turned communication into a ‘web’ function within today’s successful businesses. Communication is key, and social media eases that need for quick, real time communication.

But what does this social media approach to business culture mean for today’s employees? Even if we rule out Twitter or Facebook or any of the large social connection websites and just focus on e-mail. Some people feel e-mail is passe. It’s today’s ‘snail mail’ because why e-mail when you can tweet or text? But e-mail in today’s business holds weight. It sits in your inbox, confronting you each time you log in – unlike tweets that disappear down your timeline or texts that are meaningless reminders unless you recheck it.

My approach to e-mail is simple. I’m not an e-mail hoarder – which I think is probably a large issue in today’s world. I get an e-mail – read it and I either respond right away and delete or move it into the appropriate folder if it needs to be archived. If it’s a task I need to finish – I leave it in my inbox, a reminder every time I log in – these are the tasks you have not finished yet.

But it’s a source of stress. And today’s business people answer on average 112 e-mails a day, according to E-mail: it’s a love/hate thing by Sam Laird. It’s not about the volume of e-mails – it’s about the time taken to reply. Tone is vitally important in e-mails or any written communication. Things get misinterpreted, misconstrued, and skimmed. Clarity is an important factor in business communication and if today’s employee’s are out of practice with clear, concise business writing – thanks to overuse of sites where brevity is valued – the time they spend composing more important e-mails can eat up their day and be a source of high stress levels.

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I find the statistic that most employees feel stressed after 50 e-mails interesting, because the average means that employees today are performing under a feeling of twice the allowable stress limit – which has to be affecting their performance. Mashable’s tips for coping with the stress are actually rather smart – to set times to check e-mails, and turn off notifications. I’m not sure how effective recommending phone calls instead would be – especially with young employees today. More and more I am noticing a trend personally in young people – a phone-phobia if you will. Phone conversations make them anxious and nervous, because they grew up in a world of texts and e-mails – it’s not a skill they’ve honed, when it really should be.

E-mail programs are making organization within your inbox easier and easier – so one doesn’t check their e-mail and feel buried by hundreds of e-mails, simply sitting there – potentially unresolved. Outlook has always been a leader in that instance – with easy folder organization, threaded discussions so you can easily find previous points in discussion to refer back to. Up until recently – Opera’s Fastmail has fallen short in this department. But they’ve recently rolled out a new upgrade (Fastmail escapes the 1990s with sleek new interface by Klint Finley) that emulates Outlook’s system and improves on it.

Overall, e-mail, twitter and texts are vital communication tools in today’s business world. It is important to have communication become more of a conversation among all levels of business, not just top down and bottom up. But even these tools that assist us can be in danger of overwhelming our time, and eating away at our productivity levels at work. Balance and time management when it comes to these tools – knowing when to log off – is vital in today’s business environment.

Tricks for Treats

This week’s assignment is all about online video and how to use it to promote your business and enhance your customer’s experience with it.  We were given a profile for a fiction business, Pet Pawsitive and asked how we would use online video as a tool to enhance our business experience.

The first thing I would do for this business would be to include training tips and tricks like the video below:

It would help familiarize customers with our training methods, and also introduce our trainers to new and potential customers.  One new video could be uploaded bi-weekly, and we could encourage customers to let us know what training tips they would like to see in the next video via comments.

In an effort to promote our affiliation with local shelters, perhaps the dogs used for the training videos could be dogs looking for their forever homes – with a link provided not only to the Pets Pawsitive website for more training information, but also a link to the shelter’s site if people were interested in adopting our ‘star student’. Once the dog becomes adopted, we could remove the link and instead embed a message about how they found their forever home, thanks to Pets Pawsitive.

Another good idea would be to hold video reply contests. Have a video demonstrate a series of tricks, and then have the channel subscribers record their own little stars performing these tricks and submitting it via video reply. The prize could be a free training session, or a gift basket of holistic treats for their pooch.

Shelter videos featuring animals up for adoption could also be an option, it would be easy to dress the animals in a Pets Pawsitive scarf and even showcase our holistic pet foods and treats through these videos. They could be a sort of bi-weekly or monthly feature, depending on demand and turnover in the shelters.

Behind the scenes videos of training sessions in progress (with obtained permission obviously) would also be helpful, or just videos that feature new incoming product explanation by staff to further educate customers. Videos about food or product selection and brand comparison could be useful to help customers increase their knowledge so they can make more informed purchasing decisions.

It is most important to keep new content, constantly refreshing and giving customers a reason to visit out channel often and to subscribe. It would encourage customer engagement and help customers feel familiar with our staff before they even enter our store.

Enhance the customer experience, which will increase our customer loyalty. Train them to ‘come’ into the store, and ‘stay’ with us for the treats.

 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Fast-Paced Facebook

This week we’re looking at businesses on Facebook. Not my most favourite of sites, so to combat that I chose one of my favourite companies on there, teefury.com.  Well, one of my favourite companies ever to be honest. For a litte bit of introduction, if you don’t know what Teefury is, it’s an online company started by a bunch of graphic designers who liked exclusive graphic shirts. Teefury sells one shirt (or sometimes two pitted against each other in a battle of sales) every twenty-four hours, with a unique design, often with a bit of a nerdy lean to it – each design appeals to a genre specific audience. Once the shirt sells out, or the twenty-four hours is up – that’s it – it is gone and gone forever and you can never buy it again. It’s a brilliant site, and an even more brilliant business concept.

Their Facebook page is simply laid out, their logo as the icon is easily recognizable. They post lots of photos of currently selling designs and designs you’ve missed out on. It can be equally awesome or frustrating if you see one you’ve missed out on. They also feature their t-shirt designers and will link to their individual sites to promote their work outside of Teefury. They utilize their likes area well, and customers can post on their wall with comments about merchandise just received, and ideas for upcoming shirts. Teefury interacts well with them, and their photo posts always generate a lot of likes, shares and comments.

They could utilize their About Me page better, but they are succinct and to the point – which sort of falls in line with their presentation as a company. Their Facebook page, like their business idea is simple and to the point. It very much feels like you are interacting with the same people who run the sit on a daily basis, and it engenders a sort of familiarity. There is definitely room for improvement, but as a customer you tend not to notice the areas they lack in, because you are too busy buying t-shirts.