Social Media: Game Changer in the Olympics

9 Aug

Recently dubbed the “Socialympics”, this year’s London Games has been dominated by social media, making it the most watched Olympics in history. According to a social media monitoring platform, Salesforce Radian6, the US had 15 million social mentions about the Olympics, as of Friday August 3. Possibly as a result, the London Olympics have outperformed the 2008 Beijing Olympics ratings by 10 percent. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has tried to monitor social media surrounding the games by creating guidelines for sponsors, athletes and spectators. However, the wide scope of social media platforms and the vast array of users have hindered their restrictions. Not without controversy, social media has become a mainstream focus of the Olympics, expanding its reach across the world.

The IOC set the stage for social media usage in the Olympics by launching the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, organizing photos, videos and chats from the Olympic Village online. Because of the explosion of social media in the past 4 years, the opening ceremony alone boasted more tweets than the entire 2008 Beijing Games.  Social media surrounding the games began positively; according to Adweek, the opening ceremony elicited five times as many mentions of the word “proud” than it did of  the word “bored”.

#Twitterverse Heightens Controversy

However, some controversy arose as the Games settled in.  First, the IOC banned athletes from using social media to promote personal sponsors, limiting what they could post on their social forums.  Many athletes were upset by this, claiming that in order to finance and support their Olympian status they needed to thank their sponsors. In response, they created the hashtag #WeDemandChange and complained about the ban on Twitter.

Another debate arose when NBC decided not to broadcast the Games live. Because of delayed footage in America, people often saw the results online before they were televised. A hashtag, #NBCFail was created after the result of the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte race was announced on NBC before the event was aired. NBC has emphasized that criticism about the tape-delay is a minority opinion, noting that in a survey of 3,000 viewers , 67 percent said even if they knew the result of a prime-time event they would still watch the tape-delayed broadcast later in the day.

Another mishap occurred when Twitter went down for a couple of minutes due to too many Olympic-related tweets. As a result, the IOC asked fans, athletes and reporters to limit their tweeting and picture/ video uploads.

Don’t Forget Mobile

With the rise of social media in this year’s Olympics, mobile interaction played a big role as well.

  • Before the games occurred, three quarters of US and UK survey respondents said they would follow the Olympics on their mobile devices in some way, according to a report prepared by the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. Also, 50% said they would use their mobile devices in relation to the Olympics while watching events on TV.
  • According to NBC and BBC, almost half of their Olympic video streams were from smartphones and tablets.
  • NBC’s Apple and Android Olympic apps were downloaded 6 million times since the start of the London Games.
  • According to Google’s mobile ads marketing team, the largest mobile and tablet audiences occur at night and around large events.

The Future of the Olympics

This year’s Olympics taught us how the integration of social media has changed the way we view and interact with the world. While mishaps and controversies ensued, social media played a large role in heightening the excitement around the Games and connecting fans, athletes and the media. In the future, the IOC and media outlets like NBC can learn from the mistakes made in 2012 and be prepared for an even more social world to come.

Video

My Life in Social Media

7 Jun

A look inside my use of social media throughout the years (made for my internship at Ketchum PR)

Content Curation as a Social Media Filter

2 May

As soon as a wake up in the morning I unlock my iPhone to find 4 Facebook notifications, 7 emails from Living Social, 2 Linked In updates, 10 Foursquare notifications and 3 tweet mentions. This doesn’t even include regular old text messages. The amount of information delivered to us from social media is growing rapidly and it’s becoming difficult to distinguish what’s a Facebook comment from an old friend and what’s a meaningless advertisement on LinkedIn. With the ever expanding presence of social media, smart consumers are finding ways to filter out information that’s worthless to them, and creating tools to organize the information that matters. These filters make it more important for businesses to assert their brands in a way that consumers won’t tune them out.

Content curation is one way thought leaders are emerging as a critical filter. Curation is a way for individuals with a passion for a content area to find, contextualize, and organize information. Curators provide a consistent update regarding what’s interesting, happening, and cool in their focus.  When brands find a way to act as content curators for their consumers, adding meaning or value to their daily lives, they are truly engaging brand loyalty. For example, “Eat This Not That”  shares exercise and eating habit tips on its Facebook page daily, engaging thousands of consumers.

It is important for brands to recognize the “to-do” list for their audience. For example, clothing brand Free People found that the music festival Coachella was an important event for their customers, so they made a how-to video on DIY body paint for on-trend festival decoration. This shows how closely Free People was listening to its customers. A key aspect of content curation is listening to the web and pulling out breaking news, trends, wisdom and inspiration related to your audience.

Pinterest, the fastest growing web service, creates tools to organize information, which can work well for brands also. Whole Foods Market on Pinterest has over 11 thousand followers. It frequently re-pins other users’ pins, reflecting the interests of its followers and embracing the social-sharing aspect of Pinterest. A less obvious brand on Pinterest is General Electric, which features inspirational pins, “badass machines” and other boards that bring GE to life.

Some important questions  to ask yourself when utilizing social media are:

  • Is this content worthy of a share?
  • Will this content add value to my consumer’s life?
  • Is this content unique from the other million posts out there?

User Engagement for Brands Increases with “Memes”

4 Apr

As social marketing for business becomes more necessary with the rapid growth of social media channels, we often hear the phrase “Content is King”. While traditional marketing on Facebook and Twitter may help reach business goals through sales and customer following, there is a different kind of content that sets companies apart on social media and elicits more user engagement. This content involves the creation of memes- a cultural element passed from person to person. These can be viral videos, animated gifs, trending catchphrases, mash-ups of content, etc. While memes may be irrelevant to your business objectives, they spark user interest and can help a company become noticed.

Social media revolves around viral interactions, and the more users see and share your content, the more engagement your company will gain. Users share the content that makes them react, because they know their friends will have similar reactions. A meme can be anything from a funny image:

Or a funny video promoting something. For example, Wonderful Pistachios teamed up with meme-maker Randall from The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger to develop a new commercial. In the original video, Randall  narrated a video of a honey badger in a very funny way. The video’s viral success reached over 40 million views on YouTube.

The key to using memes for social engagement is understanding your audience’s tastes and sense of humor and making the content relevant to your audience. Another great example of a meme is the ‘Sh*t girls say’ video, which spurred a variety of similar videos that pick on certain stereotypes. All in good fun of course! So next time your company Facebook page is lacking in user engagement, create a funny meme, or share one you like, and I guarantee you’ll get a few laughs (and more importantly, viral shares!).

(This post was originally published on eZanga.com)

Facebook Timeline for Brands: Creates Sense of Identity

29 Feb

Facebook’s launch of the Timeline for brand pages allows brands to showcase their unique stories and identities. Along with the added design of a “cover photo”, which helps display logos, products and personalities, the Timeline features the history of a company and their specific milestones. Milestones and posts that are “starred” by a company appear twice as wide as other posts, calling extra attention to important stories. The new landing page also shows how many of your friends like the brand, as well as your friends’ public mentions of related topics. For local businesses, a map appears in the row of apps below the cover photo as well. A new messaging feature allows users to send direct or private messages to your Page. This creates a new customer service channel where you can address users’ concerns without having to discuss issues publicly on your Page’s wall / Timeline.

The true value of the Timeline can be seen on Livestrong’s brand page.  The page features personal milestones and history dating back to 1996, like photos of Lance Armstrong bed-ridden with cancer and his first win of the Tour de France title- “three years after being given a 40% chance to live”. This rich, emotional history that took place long before Facebook existed is now available for fans to interact with and get a sense of the community and culture that embodies Livestrong.

However, Facebook brand pages still have a downside that affect user engagement and return on investment. With the explosion of Pinterest as a hot new online community, we can see the benefit of being able to choose what content to follow based on interest. On Pinterest, a user can subscribe to a brand by selecting a specific board they are interested in, as opposed to following everything the brand posts. The issue with brand pages on Facebook is that there’s no way for fans to funnel what content they see. The brand pages lack user customization, meaning the brand is in control, rather than the fan.

If a brand’s audience doesn’t find value in their messages, it can hinder the company’s ROI, despite a large fan base. If Facebook brand pages could find a way to customize their messaging to niche target audiences, they could derive a lot more value through social media.

(Origonally published on eZanga.com: http://www.ezanga.com/news/2012/02/29/facebook-timeline-for-brands-creates-sense-of-identity/ )

Social Networks Satisfy Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

23 Feb

Over the past ten years, our perception of social media has transformed from a seemingly useless fad to an integrated way of life. As over a billion people worldwide use social media every day, we can recognize how it is becoming a vital channel in society. It is now second nature for people to search Twitter for the news, connect with an old friend on Facebook, or seek a job opportunity on LinkedIn. Not only do we desire the luxury of these tools, they have become a necessary aspect of our lives. As different needs develop, social media finds a way to fulfill them. It is easy to see how each successful social network strategically establishes a specific need for its users.

According to a blog post from All Twitter, social media may even play a role in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that addresses the stages of growth in humans. Facebook and Google+ help us maintain a sense of belonging through connections to friends and family. Twitter is good for our self-esteem, because it empowers us to reach out to others and self-promote, while keeping us informed. LinkedIn satisfies our need for safety, by providing security in employment.

With this realization in mind, we can see why some social networks are successful, while some are never adopted.

  • When Facebook launched in 2003, it was exclusive to large groups of people in college. It gained popularity through social proof and eventually people everywhere joined the network because they didn’t want to feel left out.
  •  A more recent addition to the digital world, Pinterest, saw the need for connectivity and sharing that social media users crave. Pinterest’s popularity sparked because it is integrated with Facebook. When a user joins they are automatically shown which of their Facebook friends are on Pinterest, revealing several accounts full of interesting and exciting pictures to “pin”. Once a user “pins” a picture, it can easily be shared through Facebook as well.  Pinterest also fulfills a need by sharing photos that inspire a call-to-action- whether it is a recipe or a home decorating idea.
  • Other examples include Foursquare’s ability to make location relevant online, Google+’s integration with the world’s largest search engine, Twitter’s ability to spark creativity with the #hashtag, and LinkedIn’s discovery of a professional way to interact online.

Additionally, the more these social networks integrate with brands, the more useful they are to businesses and customers. Brands can create fan pages on Facebook, have Twitter chats with their followers, pin their products on Pinterest, track their customers on Foursquare and increase their search engine optimization with Google +. Also, LinkedIn is known as the best social network to generate business leads online.

If a social network can satisfy an individual’s needs, it is essential for companies to take advantage of these platforms.  Have you capitalized on your business’ need to be socially available?

(originally  published on eZanga.com: http://www.ezanga.com/news/2012/02/22/social-networks-satisfy-user-needs/ )

Going Digital: The iPhone and Emergence of Connected Devices

7 Feb

I obviously have to blog about the iPhone, since I  hopped on the bandwagon this Saturday. As I am currently enjoying a 4 day break in between winter session and spring, I had time to chase around my iPhone delivery at FedEx and spend my days learning the ins and outs of this new technology. Not only is the phone the biggest upgrade my life has ever experienced, it enhances my day to day significantly. Bye bye BBM, hello Siri!

Some of my favorite features so far include:

  • I can basically touch random buttons without making an effort and the phone will figure out what I’m saying
  • When I send people pictures they can actual make out the objects in clear definition
  • I can listen to my iTunes music, research a workout on BodyRock.Tv, answer a text and calculate how many calories I’m burning with Nike +, all on the same device, while on the treadmill
  • I don’t have any excuse to not read the Washington Post and stay informed
  • I can find out the weather by touching one button
  • I can see my boyfriend’s face anytime I want
  • The app store is unlimited, as are the opportunities I have yet to discover on this magical pink touch screen wonder

On a more serious note, I just read a really interesting article, “Get Ready for a World of Connected Devices”, that shines light on the ever-changing world of digital media. Just as Ketchum executive Nick Ragone said during my PRSSA visit to D.C., “The challenge in PR these days is creating content that is so relevant that it will filter through our carefully selected channels”. Consumers are now able to have a personalized media experience wherever they go. For example, sites like Pandora allow consumers to listen to selected music on their computers, smartphones, tablets and in their cars. This article emphasizes that, “The implication [for marketers] is that you’ll need to reassess how people discover and keep informed about your product or service.” For example, people will listen to the car radio less now because they can access Pandora in their car, so there goes your 30-second advertisement.

According to the GSMA, a worldwide association of mobile operators and related companies, there are 9 billion connected devices in the world today, (meaning connected to the internet). By 2020, there will be 24 billion and over half of them will be non-mobile devices such as household appliances like TVs, cars, washing machines and refrigerators (Really??).  The possibilities are really endless, as you can see through all the iPhones abilities, and that’s just a mobile device.  Having the iPhone has eliminated my need to go to bankofamerica.com on my lap top, to buy a notebook, to use a GPS, to look up movie times in the newspaper, or to own a camera, iPod, stopwatch, Gameboy, the list goes on. We’ve seen this technology begin to merge into cars and TV’s, like Ford’s connected car that integrates smartphone apps and Samsung’s Smart TV (below). Marketers need to realize that the internet will begin to empower everything else around us, besides smart phones and computers.

The bad news for marketers is that these tools narrow the range of broadcast media where you can easily reach consumers. The good news is that because media is so much more personalized now, you will be able to target your message more precisely to the audience you want to reach, through the internet’s smart data collection abilities. Fascinating stuff, right!?

How Research Can Impact a Public Relations Campaign

23 Jan

At my current internship at Maier & Warner PR, a boutique agency that specializes in real estate, I am developing a situational analysis to help build a public relations/marketing strategy for a new mixed-use community, Crown Farm. Maier & Warner’s client is in the planning process of developing Crown, which encompasses 182 acres and will include 2,250 homes and 350,000 square feet of retail. Located under a mile away from Shady Grove Metro Station and situated along a major highway, Crown will attract residents from around the D.C. metro area.

There are countless factors that play into the PR/marketing campaign for Crown. In order to develop the right tactics and implement a successful strategy, it is vital to consider all aspects surrounding the development. Since Crown is located in the heart of Montgomery County, and within commuting distance from Washington, D.C., it is important to know how the community can appeal to potential residents, in a competitive market.

S.W.O.T. Analysis:  Part of my research involved developing a S.W.O.T. analysis, to highlight the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that Crown encompasses. In order to successfully pinpoint these areas, I researched the economic and residential real estate conditions in the area, growth predictions for the future of Montgomery County (including jobs, population and new homes needed), demographics/psychographics, and the surrounding competition. Based on this research I found that Crown has multiple strengths, for example, its location and access to key aspects of the region and the appeal of a smart growth community. These factors will be important to highlight when marketing Crown. On the other hand, certain threats, like the economic recession, will also be a factor to consider.

Demographics: Demographic information is vital when considering who your target audience will be. One important aspect of Montgomery County’s demographics that largely affects Crown is the convergence of two major generations in American history: the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the Millennials (born between 1979 and 1996), which today represent half of the total population. Boomers, who are now empty nesters, want to live in a walkable urban downtown or a suburban town center according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors. The Millennials, just beginning to emerge from the nest, also favor urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars. This means Crown will target empty nesters as well as up and coming young professionals who prefer the urban sense of a mixed-use community.

Another demographic trend in Montgomery County is the rise of minority and foreign born residents, with the Asian ethnicity being the greatest proportion of minority growth. Also, the number of Montgomery County Asians living in homes they own increased from 55 percent to 70.9 percent, the largest shift of any racial group in the last decade (U.S. Census 2010). These statistics show that marketing to the Asian population will be important in Crown’s strategy. One way Maier & Warner plans to do this is through advertisements on AsianFortune.com, an English newspaper that targets over 800,000 Asian Americans in the Metropolitan Washington Area.

Psychographics: Besides knowing the demographics of our target audience like age, race and income, psychographics can help us understand the audience’s values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.  According to a recent survey of Internet usage commissioned by Prudential Fox & Roach, almost two-thirds of home buyers said they used the internet to identify potential homes, and thirty-five percent said they used recommendations found on social-media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Therefore, a key aspect of the marketing strategy will be utilizing social media to draw potential buyers to Crown.   Since Crown will be targeting an older generation, it is also important to know if they can be reached through social media.  According to research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, social media usage amount adults 50-64 has doubled since 2009, and among adults 65 and up, social media usage has increased 150%. Along with other supportive statistics, evidence shows that social media can impact a broad range of homebuyers, and should be an aspect of Crown’s marketing and public relations strategy.


 

The goal of a public relations campaign is to break through any barrier that stands between an audience and a product, idea or service.  The goal of Crown is to develop a successful community in which residents live happily among thriving retail and in close proximity to jobs and resources. The barriers that exist in this campaign, for example the economic recession or the competitive communities in Montgomery County, can be addressed and defeated with the right strategy. Through my research I was able to help Maier & Warner develop this strategy and create a PR/ marketing campaign that will impact the success of Crown. Now, only time will tell if our strategy works!

Pinterest Captures Visual Learners: New Marketing Tool for Businesses

17 Jan

Pinterest, a hot-new social networking site that everyone is talking about (and many have spent hours fawning over), has cracked the current list of top 10 social networks, according to Mashable. An invitation only site, Pinterest takes social sharing to another level,  acting as a platform to organize and post interesting or inspiring online images. The images are referred to as Pins, which users assign to specifically themed Boards. Popular themes for the 4 million users on Pinterest are interior decorating, wedding planning, and recipes. Thus, a bride-to-be may have a Wedding Board, and post pins of her dream dress, ring, flowers, decorations, etc. As simple as this may sound, there are a few key factors of Pinterest that have determined its success and make it a viable candidate for business marketing.

Viral Sharing: Pinterest encourages users to connect their accounts to their Twitter and Facebook pages, along with personal websites. Account widgets for these sites appear below a user’s profile bio, and individual Pins can be shared through each network. An important feature of Pinterest is the “Pin It” button, which can be added to a user’s “bookmarks bar” on their computer, allowing them to pin interesting images they find anywhere online to their Pinterest Boards.  Businesses can also add a “Pin It” button to their websites, allowing visitors to share something they find to their respective networks.  All of this online connectivity makes Pinterest convenient and relevant to already developed social networks, allowing companies to further increase their reach through new and exciting content. One example of marketing used through Pinterest is a “Pin It” contest that Samuel Gordon Jewelers did.  In order to win Honora Pearls, Samuel Gordon encouraged people to visit their website, pin photos of the jewelry to their personal boards, and share with their networks. The viral effect of this contest was huge, because of its simplicity and incentive.

Valuable Tool: Besides the fact that pinning random cool pictures all day can be very entertaining (cough, all I did yesterday: www.pinterest.com/swight), Pinterest can actually be a very valuable tool for someone with a specific purpose in mind. For example, some people create a Board for each room in their house and then pin decorating ideas for that room. Cooks can keep an online recipe box and students might create a shopping list of things they need to buy for school. Therefore, because people can create a variety of purposes for the site, and it’s geared towards actual online images that can potentially lead to product purchases, it is a key marketing tool for businesses to pursue.  Even though I created my profile for fun, it has prompted me to buy ingredients for multiple recipes, including a honey facial, day dream about my future honey moon in Bora Bora, check out the spring line of Stella & Dot jewelry and shop online at Nordstrom.com. Oh and not to mention the idea I found about putting a dollar in a jar every time I work out so I can splurge on a manicure every now and then. Talk about a call to action!

Visual Branding: According to a blog post on SpinSucks.com, a professional development website for PR pros, 84% of people are visual learners. Pinterest heavily feeds into this and creates a simple way to connect and group images to portray a sense of who you are. For example, let’s say I am developing my personal brand through Pinterest. I have chosen to emphasize my desire to travel, my sophisticated appetite, my appreciation for humor and romance and my dedication to fitness and appearance.  My Pinterest is a very clear and quick way for me to show potential friends, employers, in-laws, etc. what I encompass as a person. A company can market themselves on Pinterest in a very similar way. Not only can they post images of their products (with witty descriptions), they can personalize their brand by interacting with other users, and revealing their interests and ideals.  A really good example of this is Whole Foods Market- they don’t just market their products and they paint a picture of everything they stand for.

Image from their “Edible Art” Board

People use social networks to stay connected with friends, keep informed and engage with others. They don’t go on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn to read a bunch of advertisements and buy products. Pinterest is a space where people can create a virtual wish list, without any pressure to buy products or services or a time share in Thailand (although a girl can dream). It’s simply a place to post your cravings, goals and ideas that define who you are or wish to be. Meanwhile, it’s a subtle way for companies to display products that line up with your desires, without pushing a sale. Seems pretty perfect to me!

(*Side note: the use of V’s was a coincidence but I guess now I can call it the 3 V’s of Pinterest!)

The Reality of Senior Year

8 Jan

For me, and many other soon-to-be graduates that I’ve talked to, senior year has turned out to be way more stressful and less “college” than expected. When catching up with an old friend recently, I said I wished I had prepared more for this year and paid more attention to my career goals, etc. throughout college. However, she said she’s glad she was able to live her underclassman years with a carefree attitude and certain oblivion that has begun to disappear as graduation approaches. I completely agree; last year when I thought about graduation, I looked at it as a faraway place I wanted to avoid for as long as possible. I thought senior year would be full of reminiscing, having fun and dreading my life after. Although the stress that comes with entering the real world is unpleasant at times, I feel ready for it, and am looking forward to the next stage of my life.  My advice to the underclassmen who are still living in the somewhat carefree oblivion of college- enjoy it while it lasts. To those who feel the wave of maturity beginning to hit- doesn’t it feel surprisingly nice?

Applying to jobs takes a lot of time, hard work and planning, but setting goals for yourself and recognizing the rewards of your actions is very satisfying. Working on my resume, cover letter or researching different PR firms is actually enjoyable to me now. Every time I post something on Twitter that’s career related I feel a sense of accomplishment. What’s even more revealing of my growth as a soon-to-be PR professional is that I truly enjoy my internship projects.  When I interned during the summer after my freshman year, and even after my sophomore year, I avoided working extra hours and probably did the minimum of what was expected. Now, interning at Maier & Warner PR/Marketing, I like going into the office, accomplishing tasks, taking on challenging projects and learning from the experienced professionals I’m surrounded by. Thankfully, I know I chose a career path that is going to suit me well.

To summarize, I’d rather spend the day getting my life together (aka meeting PR professionals, editing my writing samples, or beefing up my resume) than sitting around watching Teen Mom. I’m assuming this means reality has set in and the façade of college is wearing off- just on time. It is honestly a relief that my natural ambition has set in, and I’m looking forward to life after college.

Unfortunately, it’s a little late in the game to have just started a blog, but writing for The Black Sheep publication kind of delayed my Word Press creation. However, as my job search continues, and I take on spring semester and an interesting digital internship before graduation, I hope to blog about relevant topics that will reveal my passions as I enter the real world.

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