MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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I’ve heard of an end-of-semester bash, but that was uncalled for

When I heard we’d be doing yet another client communications plan and pitch, I must admit, I pouted. Many of my classmates agree that the age-old client comm plan has gotten a little bit redundant over the past four years of the Bachelor of Public Relations degree. Fortunately this final project was different.

Working with Danielle Gaudet and the Women in Business initiative was an excellent experience. She was the most receptive and participative client I’ve ever worked with for an academic assignment. In addition to providing detailed responses to all of our questions, she asked questions of her own, demonstrating a genuine level of interest in our work.

The requirements for the communications tactics were also a refreshing change. Working solely with social media tools allowed us to transcend the monotonous press release rut that many of us have gotten ourselves into. I’m so grateful to complete my degree with an arsenal of fresh ideas along with the theory and practice to back them up.

On another note, I’d like to address something that happened toward the end of our class presentations—and I say this with the utmost MSN smiley emoticon-ness . After one team finished their pitch, several student spectators took it upon themselves to interrogate the team, questioning the validity of their research and the suitability of their tactics.

While we’re all encouraged to be critical thinkers, I don’t think it was an appropriate occasion to articulate those criticisms. From my understanding, the classroom should be a supportive learning environment where students can bounce ideas off one another—not squash them in front of a client to whom a team has just presented weeks of evident hard work.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned or just naïve, but I think the same standard should apply everywhere—even in this business world that we’re all so competitive and eager to enter. I would hope that we, as Public Relations practitioners, could set an example in mustering up some support and tact in regards to our colleagues. As self-gratifying as it is to be competitive, things seem to work better when we drop the cut-throat attitude and work as a team.

Okay that’s my beef.

It’s been an awesome semester and I’ve learned so much from everyone—what a sharp bunch of ladies (and gentleman) we are!

Best of luck to all! 

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 7 Comments

“social networks spread defiance online” – NY Times

Well guys and girls, this is supposed to be my traditional comment on my monitored site. But unfortunately my site has not been updated since May when I was originally assigned to Prof. Wesch’s blog. So lucky for you, I won’t be talking about YouTube or Anthropology today.

Instead I want to talk about how social networks are spreading defiance online. That’s right; I’m talking about the article in Monday’s New York Times. I found the link on Prof. Wesch’s blog.

Just so you know what I’m talking about: “As the embattled government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be trying to limit Internet access and communications in Iran, new kinds of social media are challenging those traditional levers of state media control and allowing Iranians to find novel ways around the restrictions.”

Yup, the government has limited the country’s access to the Internet and has tried to stop Iranians from using Twitter to form groups and organize protests. Basically it comes down to censorship. This is really quite depressing if you think about it. These social tools are what’s keeping Iranians focused and positive and providing them a way to communicate with one another during such a trying time. The government was restricting the media coverage regarding the election so the only way the stories were being told and heard were through social tools such as Twitter. These tweets were being re-tweeted or “echoed” across the world.

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School (an Internet expert) said “As each new home for this material becomes a new target for censorship, a repressive system faces a game of whack-a-mole in blocking Internet address after Internet address carrying the subversive material.”

I encourage the class and DeNel to pay close attention to this story as it develops. I have a feeling this will bring light to social media issues we have not thought about before.

June 17, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bull Twit

On June 15, Social Media Group posted a blog entry called “Tweeting your way into a Twinternship”. A Twinternship is essentially an internship where students can act as a Twitter expert, consultant or content manager for large organizations or high-profile individuals that don’t have time to Tweet themselves.

Considering Twitter’s sole mandate to determine: “What are you doing?” (“you”, meaning organizations and individuals on Twitter), does it make sense for someone from outside the organization to come in and answer that question? Does a fresh-faced student, not-yet immersed in the company culture have the knowledge and intuition to provide daily updates on the inner workings of an organization? Maybe.

On one side of the coin, an outside source would be free from the biases and cynicism that result from years of working for the same company. Someone with a fresh perspective could tweet about exciting news and events that they know would be of interest to the outside world.

On the other hand, that fresh perspective may not be an accurate one. Furthermore, it might not be articulated in a tone that is true to the organization or celebrity.

It’s one thing to Tweet about oneself. We don’t have to research the current events in our life, or adopt a specific tone in order to accurately portray our Twitter status. But when we Tweet on behalf of an organization or celebrity, we must assume the personality of that organization. Someone external to that organization would likely have to fake it.

I suppose that is what we, as communicators do when we write a news release or speak to the media on behalf of an organization. The difference here is that social media claims to be a more organic, or “real” medium. Can companies, political figures and celebrities really claim that they’re using social media to be “real” and transparent when they pay someone else to do the tweeting?

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YAY! We officially got the scoop on social media evaluation!

This is great news. Martin Delaney gave an amazing presentation to our class today, I learned a lot. But what’s really interesting is that I already knew some of the information he presented. I guess I just thought there was more to it than there really is.

When Martin said, “participation is the new consumption”, it all really made sense. A Social media campaign really does have a different overall goal than a traditional marketing campaign. Rather than getting people to go out and consume or purchase a product, we really want people coming together to be a part of the process.

So when I thought about measurement and evaluation, I definitely considered most of the things Martin said. It was interesting to hear him compare “soft data” to “hard data”.  In the end your social media evaluation will most likely be comprised of narrative research; talking and listening. I think that in the past, marketers did care about what their customers felt about their brand, but never actually listened. Social media presents us with this incredible opportunity to have this discussion with people, basically free research to enhance marketing initiatives. It’s so exciting!

Martin’s six steps for tracking a social media campaign:

  1. Benchmark
  2. Traffic
  3. Engagement
  4. Brand
  5. Sales
  6. Loyalty

This was really helpful, not only for our current client projects, but I will definitely use this information when I go to my next co-op and out into the working world. I thank DeNel and Martin, this is exactly what I wanted to get out of this course, and everything else is practice and the cherry on the top.

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

the great divide…

Today in class we touched on something again that we’ve talked about a lot – the great divide between the generations and their social media usage. I think it was Dee who mentioned that her group was finding it difficult to engage two generations of PR practitioners, and DeNel countered that by saying that there are a lot of ‘older’ people using these tools and there’s just the perception that they’re not.

My thoughts on this are that social media usage has become just one of those things that people have preconceived perceptions about, that may not even be true. Another example of this (which has been discussed in our PR & Gender class) is the idea of ‘bra burning feminists.’ In reality no one ever burned bras; it just became this idea that was naturalized into the history of feminism.

How does this relate to social media usage across generations? Well, I feel like the idea that older generations are not accepting of social media has transferred from just an ‘idea’ to people’s attitudes and expectations. Maybe the reason people are so hesitant to accept social media is because they are expected not to. In the same way that I feel I HAVE to understand it because of my age…

Does this make sense?

Thoughts, ideas, suggestions??

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , , , | 2 Comments

(SEO)ver-rated?

There’s a lot more to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than meets the eye. Google and other popular online search engines prioritize search results on the basis of several criteria. These criteria include whether or not a website has a user’s search terms in its title, slogan, text body and keywords; how often the search term appears within the website; and whether or not an organization pays to have its site bumped to the top of the results list.

This makes it very easy for organizations to promote their websites with a few simple SEO tricks. Through Google Analytics and other statistical tools of the like, organizations can determine what terms users search most frequently, then include those terms somewhere (or everywhere) on their website.

Organizations could even include the hot search terms in invisible text, thus bumping its website even higher up the search results list, and under the Googler’s cursor before other websites.

But is all this SEO action benefitting the Googler?

Those searching for “best quality cupcakes” truly want to find the best quality cupcakes possible. If an internet-savvy cupcake company with mediocre cupcakes is including the search terms “best”, “quality” and “cupcakes” repeatedly on their website, then Googers will find their website first. With the level of trust that many internet users place in Google and their go-to search engines, it’s likely that they’ll trust their search engine to find them the website for the best quality cupcakes. Little do they know, they won’t be finding the best quality cupcakes any time soon—just the best quality SEO. (Which is not nearly as tasty under a blanket of vanilla frosting and sugary sprinkles.)
I guess it’s up to consumers to look closely at the websites their search engine retrieves for them, to determine if it’s really what they want. But in today’s fast-paced web-based world, I worry that many consumers won’t take the time to look past the first three websites that Google populates.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s long, but a goodie!

Since there hasn’t been any new material posted to the blog I decided to try out the website Professor Wesch links his blog from. I found this amazing video of a presentation he gave at the Library of Congress last year. The interesting thing is Wesch decided not to use a PowerPoint but rather prepared over 40 minutes of video – mostly YouTube videos.

The title of his presentation was “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. Wesch and his students study the culture of YouTube and together collaborated to build this incredible presentation. The video I’m referencing for this post is 55 minutes long, so I’ll spare you the summary and allow you watch it yourself. (Just a word of advice: don’t watch it in the library, you may LOL at any point and “apparently” that annoys people…just sayin…)

In a nut shell, the video tells a story about how YouTube gives people an outlet to create  “new forms of expression, new forms of community, and new forms of identity”. The video is captivating from beginning to end, and touched on some things that Kimberly and Ben talked about last class.

Wesch says there is a “cultural inversion” where people are increasing expression of individualism and simultaneously increasing their value of community. Humans are becoming increasingly independent while longing for stronger relationships and we see increased commercialization all around us but we long for authenticity. As Kimberley and Ben addressed the “argument of authenticity”, I thought about the many organizations we learn about who try to mimic authenticity, and fail horribly. The “wigging out”, “I killed my best friends” and lonelygirl15 vlog that created an explosion of drama all over YouTube are just some examples. It seems almost commonsense to me that a foggy YouTube campaign would fail, and I wonder why, after so many have proved it doesn’t work, organizations continue to try and fool their audience. Clearly all the YouTubers are much smarter than these organizations and will no doubt do their research.

But, back to authenticity, I wonder how authentic one can really be? What about the saying “put your best face forward”? Do we have more than one face, more than one self? How we define ourselves changes depending on who we are defining to and the desired outcome of that definition. Maybe I’m going a little too far, but Wesch makes a great argument for authenticity. He asks, “Can YouTube be authentic?” When everyone around the globe is uploading a video, ripping someone else’s and editing it to create a different product, aren’t those people actively producing content? If we are uploading videos of ourselves, aren’t we producing ourselves? Aren’t we toying with our identity?

I’ll take it one step further, how many times do you “un-tag” a picture of yourself on Facebook that someone else produced? Is that not editing your identity? People get an understanding of who you are by studying your profile, looking at your picture, reading your interests, and watching your videos. By editing or deleting a picture are you not censoring your identity? Which is the real you?

It is important for us, as individual users of these social tools, to recognize this struggle and tug-of-war we have with authenticity. Without understanding it on a “self” level, I don’t see how we could understand it on an “organization” level. To be effective social communicators we must understand how we as individuals identify with the tools themselves and the communities we belong to, and ultimately how we identify ourselves in these spaces.

Are you authentic?

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Think like an economist

The Ashing reading I thought was really interesting because it further discussed the issue of full transparency and audience participation.  I guess, like with everything new, pessimism seems to be the name of the game. Although the benefits of social media have been celebrated I think that because it’s new we sometimes expect the worst to occur, audience participation in particular.

As we’ve discussed various times in class, and was one of the first questions asked to Harold, we agree that participation is necessary, but for many organizations drawing the line between audience participation and justifying inaccurate or distasteful comments is very thin. So organizations need to prepare (aka behavior guidelines) to deal with these negative situations.

 I think that’s why I really liked the Ashing piece, because it was refreshing to hear a positive example of audience participation. He identifies The Economist magazine and explains how they chose to post “ALL of the letters to the editor they received on their blog, compared to a handful they print” and were proud to report that they all remained high quality.

 I guess you can never know if they are really posting all of the letters, but it’s nice to know that full participation and integrity between both the company and its audience can exist… even if it’s only in the economist (seriously, think about all the nasty things that could be said at a time like this).

I think that while we are excited about the opportunities in social media, the reality of actual two-way communication is much scarier than just the idea. Thus, as a communicator and human being it’s much easier to expect and plan for the worst than to just cross your optimistic fingers.

Thoughts?

 The Bee Dub

June 4, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Champions & Cheerleaders

Gooo Harold!

Gooo Harold!

First of all, I want to send a shout out and a thank you to Rogers Communications Director Harold Simons, who woke up at 5 a.m. Vancouver time to Skype with our Social Media class at MSVU. If anyone would like to continue to mooch off of Harold’s expertise, fear not: I’ve already done some preliminary internet creeping for you. Check out Harold’s Twitter and Harold’s Facebook. Sometimes social media just makes me feel like a big stalker.

So I was thinking about Matt’s question/suggestion for Harold via Skype today. Matt asked if Rogers had assigned employees to champion Rogers’ ning employee site. From what I understood, these employees would act as gatekeepers, encouraging less vocal members to speak up and cheerleading for increased involvement in the website.

What would be the best way to implement this cheerleading role? Would other employees be aware that the cheerleaders were encouraging them because it’s their job? Or would they be secret cheerleaders, sort of like social networking moles who posed as regular (but eager!) Rogers employees? I think both options would present some problems:

Give me a B! . . .

Give me a B! . . .

Identified Cheerleaders: Employees would know that their input was being encouraged by someone whos job it is to encourage input–rather than someone who is genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Undercover Cheerleaders: Employees would get duped. Concealing one’s identity and motives is not a transparent or honest practice.

Another concern that arrises from planting cheerleaders is the fact that they have been planted, or perhaps scripted in the first place.

Harold mentioned that Rogers’ Toronto office recently implemented a Social Media Specialist position. (Hey Steph, its exactly what we were chatting about yesterday!)

My worry here is that when people engage in social media with corporate motives, or as a job function, it takes some of the power away from “the people”, meaning, Regular Joes who blog from their basement apartment about their political philosophies which, before social media, would not otherwise have been heard. Regular Joes finally have a cost-free platform to share, debate, complain, promote and question aspects of everyday life, without the influence of power structures silencing or overpowering their voices.

Furthermore, Regular Joe social media users expect their communications to be real. This means unscripted, unbiased and free from hidden (corporate) motives.

As a communications practitioner, I’m well aware that regardless of whether you’re a 100K Social Media Specialist, or a Regular Joe, your online input is rarely un-biased or free from hidden agendas. My point here is that the Social Media Specialists are less likely to be percieved as such by the Regular Joes.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ll put my virtual foot in my mouth…

Foot in MouthWow! Just hours after my May 25th weekly blog review, Hey SocialMediaGroup, Update Your Darn Blog…,  SMG’s Founder and CEO Maggie Fox replied:

 

“You’re right – you’re right! We have been struggling to keep our blog relevant and updated. The irony of course is that the reason it’s been such a challenge is that we’re so busy with REAL client work, and our clients take precedence over self-promotion, fortunately/unfortunately (depending on your perspective).

Nevertheless, thanks for the poke – you’re right, we should be setting a better example!”

I was floored. I certainly did not expect to receive a response from SMG’s CEO–let alone such a quick and thoughtful response. While I poked at SMG in my orignal post for not setting a good example for social media newbies, I must say that they set an incredible example in responding to my post:

1. The response came straight from the CEO–it made me feel like my opinion really mattered to the organization.

2. Maggie Fox acknowledged my accusation, and offered an explanation as to why their blog hadn’t been updated as frequently as they’d like.

3. They reposted my blog entry as a comment on SMG’s blog, for all their viewers to see. This shows that SMG has nothing to hide–not even harsh criticisms from student blog-monitors like myself. (This also created a link to our class blog from SMG’s website–promotion for us, woo hoo!)

4. Fox acknowledged my comment once again on SMG’s blog, promising to do “a better job of getting [their] insights out there.”

5. Since then, SMG has posted several new articles which I look forward to reviewing here!

I definitely understand where Maggie is coming from. It’s a huge challenge to keep a blog updated and relevant, especially when you’re busy. Between classes, part-time work, family affairs and fighting the flu, I have to confess that I haven’t posted to our blog in a week (sorry DeNel). (Lucky for you guys, I’ll be bombarding our blog airways over the next few days with an array of thoughts and arguments to make up for my recent lack of input.)

Which brings me to an interesting question: why do we put social media on the back burner? In both my case and Maggie’s, we neglected our blogging responsibilities when more pressing responsibilities arrose. Why is blogging less pressing anyway? Is it because the online world isn’t as tangible or real? Does this present problems for companies striving to communicate and meet deadlines in the virtual world?

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments