Tag Archives: social media

7 Ways to Leverage the Power of Social Influencers

Influencer Marketing Forum 2

While digital communication has afforded brands more opportunities to reach their audiences, consumers have developed a heightened awareness of traditional marketing tactics and look to their peers as a trusted source of information. Brands are now harnessing the power of those influencers for a return on investment that goes beyond retweets and Facebook likes. PR Newswire and Business Development Institute recently co-hosted the Influencer Marketing Forum featuring senior-level marketing and communications leaders who have successfully boosted sales by engaging their social influencers. Here are some of the valuable strategies they offered to help other organizations target and tap into their network:

Leverage the power of other brands that are thought-leaders in your desired market

Alberto Canal, Vice President of Verizon Communications Inc., hoped to establish his company’s brand as a technology innovator beyond cell phone devices. To accomplish this, Verizon teamed with the MIT Enterprise Forum and Mashable to host offline meet up sessions with start-up tech companies. Engaging with these notable brands and initiating personal interaction with other influencers enhanced Verizon’s efforts and increased their value as a part of the tech community.

Pick your social channels with a purpose 

Stats on social moms via Sharon Vinderine

Stats on social moms via Sharon Vinderine

According to Sharon Vinderine, founder and CEO of Parent Tested, Parent Approved Media, over 90% of the time spent online is by moms who rely on social media more than email as a means of communication. However, each social channel is valued for a different reason. Vinderine has observed that Twitter is used to view breaking news, Facebook to connect with friends and family, and Pinterest as a source of creative inspiration. Marketers need to understand their audience intentions on each these channels in order to customize the messages that connect and engage.

Establish a blog

Hosting a blog is key to reaching niche markets because it is viewed as an educational resource that builds credibility.  Sprout It CEO, Matt Armstead, sought the help of six influential bloggers within the home and garden industry to develop engaging content that promoted his company’s new iPad app and “backyard takeover” Instagram contest. The move helped Sprout It generate awareness among thousands of contest participants and firmly establish the brand within the home and gardening space on a conservative budget. It also earned Sprout It a spot on the list of 10 Best Influencer Marketing Campaigns of 2013.

Create visually stimulating content

Tap Influence’s Head of Business Development, Jennifer Swartley, believes that

Photos drive the most engagement on social channels.

Photos drive the most engagement on social channels.

in the age of constant connection, a brand’s social hub is “always on” and must be able to stand out against an overflowing stream of social chatter. According to Swartley, eye-catching images are the types of compelling content that “cuts through on every platform” and provides something of value for audiences to connect with emotionally. A recent survey conducted by PR Newswire supports this notion, proving that photos indeed drive the most engagement on social channels.

Mine your influencers and follow the people they follow

Social engagement is what drives discoverability of a brand’s messages. Therefore, brands need to seek out not just single influencers, but entire communities of people who are participants in the conversation. AARP was able to find a voice amongst an older generation of social media users by listening to conversations and targeting the same people that their identified influencers follow.  As Tammy Gordon, AARP’s Vice President of Social Communications says, “You want the people they care about to be delivering your messages.”

The 5 types of social influencers according to Neil Beam

The 5 types of social influencers according to Neil Beam

Know who your advocates are

Neil Beam, research and measurement council chair at WOMMA, identified five categories of social influencers: advocate, ambassador, celebrity, professional occupational, and citizen. According to Beam, advocates are the most powerful voice among all five categories because they are uncompensated and independent thinkers who bring the most financial return to the brands they support. By identifying advocates, brands are able to gain a number of valuable insights  such as competitive intelligence, locating target audiences , and diagnosing campaign strengths and weaknesses.

Drive new discovery through distribution 

Social media is undoubtedly a valuable tool for engaging with communities that share a common interest, enabling brands to gain visibility and traction among new audiences. To reach fresh audiences and continually introduce organization’s messages to new audiences, brands must put some thought – and some effort – behind the distribution of content they produce.  Reaching beyond your brand’s existing followers is crucial to both acquiring new audiences and driving ongoing discovery of the brand’s content.

Distribution can mean a variety of things, from developing a presence within a

A snapshot PR Newswire's press releases shared on Twitter within 3 minutes

A snapshot PR Newswire’s press releases shared on Twitter within 3 minutes

connected industry community to distributing granular content across a network of web sites.  Re-thinking your PR approach is important too – your audiences, as well as the bloggers and journalists who cover your space – are voraciously consuming and sharing content. Want proof? Take a look at the live feed of tweets about press releases issued via PR Newswire! Distribution beyond social channels will ultimately drive more visibility for your messages everywhere, including those same social channels.  When thinking about reaching audiences, remember that content distribution is additive, channeling more attention to your brand’s owned content.

For more thinking on how content distribution drives ongoing discovery and visibility for brands, click to download our free ebook Driving Content Discovery: How to Generate Ongoing Visibility for Your Content.

Real Time Reactions & Timely Tweets From #Chiberia

I live in the Chicago suburbs, and we’re freezing our tailfeathers off tonight as the polar vortex makes another swing through the Midwest. As I write this post, the temperature is -4 F.  However, the fun is just starting.  We’re going to hit -20 tonight.

At this point, most of us have pretty much had it with the weather, but let’s face it. It is what it is.  Complaining will get you nowhere.   And nowhere is that sentiment evidenced more clearly than on the #chiberia hashtag on Twitter, where local brands and their fans are not hunkering down.   Here are some great examples of timely, topical tweets from local media and brands that are generating positive exposure and conversation on this coldest-of-cold days.

The folks at Crain’s Chicago Business are (wisely) crowd-sourcing photos of the frozen locale, and they’re generating a fantastic (and beautiful) response. 

The team at Today’s Chicago Woman magazine know that many potential readers out there are stuck somewhere, and are offering empathy, and a suggestion to alleviate the boredom:

The Sun-Times is dishing secrets for staying warm from TV reporters – specifically, the intrepid souls who do live traffic spots at 4 a.m. on bridges above expressways:

The intrepid souls at Fleet Feet Chicago aren’t letting the cold deter them from encouraging and interacting with their audience.  Enjoy those runs, folks, wave as you go by.

The folks at LA Valet services are capitalizing in a very timely way by offering their snow-plowing services under the #chiberia hashtag.  It  may not be the most interesting tweet, but given the high winds we’ve been having, coupled the copious snow and frigid temperatures, there are probably more than a few people out there who are ready to seek professional help for snow removal.

The lesson here for brands?  Stay warm, and stay engaged. Follow trending hashtags, gauge the audience spirit and go with it.  The brand tweets I shared are very consistent with the resilient (albeit resigned) tone of the #chiberia tweets.  Spirits are pretty positive.  Heck, we’re even joking about the Cubs. 

Keep on top of hashtags, influencers and social conversations with the Agility platform. You can even research media, build targeted lists and distribute content while you’re at it – it’s easy and fast.  Learn more about Agility here: http://www.prnewswire.com/products-services/agility/ 
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebooks Driving Content Discovery and  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Social Media Lessons from The New York Times: They’re Not Just for Newsrooms

NYTimes

2013 was a big year for The New York Times’ social media staff; they added three editors to their team, expanded their role in tweeting the news, and grew @NYTimes by nearly 5 million followers.

Last week they took to the Nieman Journalism Lab to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Although the post was intended for newsrooms, many of their lessons can be adapted by any organization’s social media team.

Social Media’s Human Element

Social media automation has a few benefits – it helps your feed stay live in the evenings or days your team is unable to consistently tweet.

However, as NYT’s staff has learned from automation gone wrong, “our Twitter accounts are better when we staff them.”

When a headline was auto-tweeted implying Andy Murray of Scotland was English, the mistake snowballed in a way it wouldn’t have had a social media editor been there. Their team has caught and quickly fixed similar errors.

“When our hands are minding the feed,” the @NYTimes team wrote, “errors like that either don’t happen or have less of an impact.”

Instead of auto-tweeting your blog posts as they are published, have your social media team take a second look and manually tweet them. In addition to catching a glaring error the original author may have missed, they may also come up with something better for the tweet.

The best headlines don’t always make the most engaging tweets. For instance, the headline “The Rock ’n’ Roll Casualty Who Became a War Hero” did not perform nearly as well on Twitter as @NYTimes’ rewrite:

Monitoring the original tweet helped @NYTimes see that they needed a different approach for social media.

Tweet What’s Interesting and Helpful to Your Audience

Not surprisingly, breaking news tweets about the Boston Marathon, Supreme Court rulings, George Zimmerman, and Nelson Mandela were among @NYTimes’ most clicked and retweeted last year.

The public has historically turned to The New York Times in times of major events to stay informed and updated. It’s what audiences expect in the print and online editions, as well as on social media.

Subsequently, The New York Times’ social media desk works “in concert with, not independent of, our main newsdesk.” They coordinate with their reporters and editors to send out tweets tied to their news coverage.

We say it all the time: Know your audience. Know why they turn to you and how your products and services can help them. Know what interests your audience and pick content for your social media posts that reflects that.

Just as the NYT team coordinates with their news desk, your social media team should coordinate with your product teams, customer service, sales, marketing, and PR. Everyone will develop a better understanding of your organization’s audience, and you’ll provide consistently helpful content across all of your platforms.

Don’t Lose Your Tweet in Crafty Clutter

The New York Times experiments with their tweets, occasionally putting posts out there that are witty or tease the story they’re trying to get people to click on.

However, they learned a simple tweet that sets clear expectations for the article was often the most effective. If readers could quickly determine what they were going to get by clicking on an article link, they were more likely to click.

When writing tweets, headlines, and lead paragraphs, a funny, cute, or extreme turn of phrase may grab readers’ attention.  However, don’t let it go too far and steal attention away from the actual story.

If your content and call to action get lost in the pursuit of wit, there’s no point.

Revisit and Recycle – with Restraint

Even a well-written tweet can get lost in the sheer volume of other tweets. And sometimes a person may see a tweet that interests them, but want to go back to it at a more convenient time.

This is why The New York Times schedules multiple tweets around one article.  They found that tweets scheduled on Saturday and Sunday had a much higher click-per-tweet.

Weekends may not see a lot of traction for your company’s social media; however, everyone can benefit from experimenting with their tweets’ timing.  Schedule the same tweet throughout the week at different times of day. Then monitor the results for a pattern of higher engagement.

However, as The New York Times cautions, show restraint. Don’t schedule duplicates of everything. Keep an eye out for tweets that worked well the first time, and choose tweets that link to the most interesting, evergreen content. For instance, breaking news first tweeted on Monday was no longer of interest the following Sunday.

Lessons from PR Newswire’s Twitter Distribution Network

We try to follow these best practices not only on @PRNewswire, but also our Twitter Distribution Network of nearly 50 industry news accounts.

The human element plays a significant role in these accounts’ success. From @PRNpolicy to @PRNtech, a team of social media ambassadors consisting of volunteers  from across the company curates content relevant to the industry topic of the Twitter account.

Curators volunteer to cover topics that interest them; they understand what sort of content audiences want because they’re part of that audience.

“Our volunteer curators are part of the topic communities they tweet about,” says Victoria Harres, VP of audience development and social media for PR Newswire. “Most of them are very passionate about the content they volunteer to curate and it shows. Our Twitter network of curators was the reason PR Newswire won a 2013 IMA Impact award for Twitter.”

Wire content also appears on these feeds through our SocialPost service.

Clients provide a tweet that is sent over three of our Twitter accounts with a link to their news release.  The tweets are staggered a few hours apart to increase their effectiveness.

We encourage clients to follow the above best practices when writing their tweet. The press release headline can be used as the tweet if it’s short enough and interesting. However, when looking at six months of SocialPost data, one of the most-clicked links belonged to a tweet that took a different approach than the release headline: “How to Handle a Medical Emergency” was rewritten for SocialPost as “Find tips for handling senior medical emergencies in this easy-to-use infographic”.

To have your company news appear on PR Newswire’s Twitter distribution network, select SocialPost on our News Release Order Form. Additional tips on how to write a tweet can be found on PR Newswire’s Knowledge Center.

Amanda Hicken is a media relations manager and member of PR Newswire’s social media team. You can find her on Twitter @PRNewswire and @ADHicken, as well as the PR Newswire Pulse Tumblr.

Join us for a free webinar titled “Newsworthiness: New Context & Opportunities for PR,” on January 23.  What’s newsworthy? The very definition of “news” is changing, and this evolution creates the opportunity for PR pros to create timely content that earns credibility, earns media and generates ongoing (and relevant) visibility for the brand. Taking pages from the journalistic and content marketing playbooks, this webinar will include a discussion on the evolution of news, how to map the resources within your own organization and ways to identify different opportunities a responsive PR department can capitalize upon.

Blogging Basics from Big Time Bloggers

The New York Women in Communications Foundation’s 2013 Student Communications Career Conference (#SCC13) was held earlier this month. The conference consisted of different breakout sessions relating to media and communications. One of the sessions I attended was about blogging. The panel was moderated by Lori Greene, digital content innovator/blogger. The panelists were:

Q: How do you know when your blog has hit and made a difference?

Morris: I knew it hit when it was being supported by the beauty industry. I specifically mean the brands that I write about, the publicists for the brands, and other writers in the industry. I also started getting real traffic to my blog.

Q: How do you get to those big traffic numbers on your blog?

Heitlinger: At some point I learned about Google Analytics and copied that code into my HTML. I spent a few hours every couple days digging in, learning and tracking things. I started seeing what time of day most people were reading; where in the country/world people were reading from; where they would click after coming to the homepage, etc. This information will really tell you a lot about your readers. And Google Analytics has improved a great deal since I started using it.

Dooling: When you’re first starting out, you need to really think about where you want to blog. If you want to have your own domain or be part of someone else’s that has a larger following. Also, you need to figure out who you want to work with.

Q: Elizabeth, how do you go about hiring bloggers? What do you find works? What’s the best way to pitch to be posted on a professional blog like Huffington Post?

Perle: For my section, anyone can blog. There are very few instances where we will say no to a writer (if it’s an offensive post). I actually think that our most effective posts aren’t the kids who are the best writers, but it’s about the strongest narratives. Readers can smell from a mile away if you’re being unauthentic. Also a lot of our best bloggers enjoy drawing infographics — there are many different ways to tell the narrative. Another important thing is being an active member of the blogger community.

Q: How do you make a living from blogging?

Morris: Making money changes by the month and even year. Sometimes I can find consistent work for three or six months at a time. The main way I make money now is through partnerships with brands, such as beauty, health and fitness brands — because that is what I really know. When you start a blog, you want to pick something you want to become an expert in and have a passion for.

Q: How do you keep your credibility to your followers when working with brands?

Morris: As an online blogger, I am always able to say when something is sponsored or when I am being compensated. I have picked everything I do that is sponsored very strategically. The power of no is bigger than the power of yes. I can’t tell you how many things, regardless of how much money it is, that I have turned down because it doesn’t represent me or my brand. The best advice I can give when starting a blog is to always put your audience first. It is not about you but it is about your audience.

Dooling: When I started blogging there were no guidelines about what you could and couldn’t say. Now the FTC does regulate what you do as a blogger. You need to have it listed on your post and About page if something is sponsored, and you need to list out any large partnerships that you have. There are many different ways to make money from a blog. I think freelance writing is probably what most bloggers do, because you’re already writing anyway. You can also do sponsored posts or banner ads for money. You can do this by putting on your About page that you are accepting banner ads. Another thing is to have your own following. There are many communities out there who are doing what you’re doing and you need to follow them.

Heitlinger: What I think is really important is having multiple streams of cash flow. For me, freelance writing did not work out, but being paid to come speak at places or hosting events is a great income. This is in addition to the sponsored content, banner ads, etc., on my blog. And the bigger your audience, the more you can ask for. You have a lot more power to say no to offers when you receive 30 requests a day for sponsored content and you’re only accepting 2-3 a month. You have that flexibility and freedom when you build that audience. However, when you start receiving income as a blogger, you should think about whether that is something you want to do full-time. You have to realize that you are taking your hobby and passion and associating a value with it, because once you start taking money it becomes a job. Knowing that you truly love what you’re doing and who you’re partnering with is much more important than the money at the end of the day.

Perle: If you’re going to blog for free, be strategic about it. Ask questions like, “Do I retain the rights to my own work?” Also, if you volunteer your time for free to write something for a publication, pick one that you want to work for.

Q: How often should you be blogging?

Heitlinger: I think it is a very personal decision, but I think they key is consistency. This doesn’t necessarily mean extremely high frequency, but it may mean that you write a killer blog post every Sunday night that goes up on your blog.

Dooling: Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to write something, because readers can smell that inauthenticity from a mile away. Figuring out when you have the time to put something up, goes very far.

Morris: Don’t make it into a chore, but always keep it as a passion. Your readers are coming to you because you are a source, so you have to be a source of credible information. You never want to post something to post it.

Q: If someone is starting their own blog, how much money should they be spending to start it?

Heitlinger: You should spend $0 starting your blog. Maybe buy the domain for $10, but if it is anything more than that, then find a new domain. The best thing you can do as a blogger is to spend as much time as possible building content, and then you can start to think about whether this is something you want to continue doing long term and if it will go somewhere. After all this, you can think about investing money.

Dooling: The best thing someone ever told me is that blogging is the great equalizer. Your dad doesn’t need to be a marketing executive to become a great blogger.

Q: How do you evolve your blog as something more professional?

Morris: You should crosslink with bigger blogs. You also need to really put yourself out there. So if your blog is fitness-related then a blog like Fitness.com might like something like that. Reach out to them by putting something on their Facebook page or tweeting them. Don’t be scared.

Q: If you want to publish original content and clips of content from another publication on your blog, do you need two separate blogs?

Dooling: I put my older clips on my personal blog. I differentiate them by adding an editor’s note at the top that says, “This was originally posted on [publication name] on [date of publication].” Or sometimes I will embed the image of the logo of where it was featured.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Using LinkedIn for Business & Personal Gain

A recent Social Media Club NYC held a meeting about the best ways for businesses and individuals to successfully utilize LinkedIn. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board member Danielle Simon, and speakers included:

Here are the questions presented to the speakers and their responses:

Q: What are the keys to being successful on LinkedIn and using it as a business building tool?

Dodaro: Have a great profile that is professional, credible, and well-optimized for search in LinkedIn. Mostly, the profile should speak to your ideal client. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they use LinkedIn for business is they use it as a resume site or they just post their professional bio. One of the things I say to business owners and entrepreneurs is nobody cares about you, but they only care about what you can do for them. Your profile needs to really speak to the target market you want to attract.

Egan: When we speak to a corporation, in our pitch we tell them that their employees are websites. To be successful on LinkedIn and build a social business, you need to wrap around this and embrace it. You really need to empower your employees to be using these tools for relationship management and communication purposes. For a corporation, they have to start to look at these tools as a strategic part of how they communicate, recruit, market, sell, and do research. It provides a competitive edge over other companies.

Simon: It seems like there are companies are afraid to let their employees do too much on LinkedIn, because they think are looking for a new job. However, I have been hearing more and more that there is a real shift where companies are trusting their employees and working with them to help them on LinkedIn, which in turn helps the company.

Quinones: It is a mindshift for companies to understand that employees are like mini-campaigns. I am working with a company where you see the referring traffic coming from all these employees LinkedIn profiles just because they put the company link on there or shared a piece of content.

Q: Since there is that fear of employees using LinkedIn to look for another job, would you suggest that companies show how they are embracing LinkedIn from a company standpoint and as well as from a personal standpoint (helping the employee set up their personal profile)?

Egan: The way I would explain it to somebody is that this is a new shared responsibility. It is called cobranding. This means, how does a company put your personal brand as well as the work you do for the organization together in a cohesive way that works for you and the company. It should be positioned as an employee benefit, because it is a real way to say that the company is investing in you and not monitoring you. The company would be telling their employees, we trust you and hired you because you have great relationships and experience, so enroll in this program and we will make you look better online and help you communicate more effectively.

Q: What are some things people can do better on LinkedIn to promote ourselves and the company’s they work for?

Dodaro: Start at the top of your profile — your headline. Make sure your headline is clickworthy, so it should be interesting and appealing. You want to add one or two keywords in your headline, because your headline is very powerful for LinkedIn’s algorithm, which basically determines where you are going to show up in the search result. Your headline can contain 120 characters, and you want to be able to use as many as you can. Also, what you are putting in skills and the amount of endorsements you are getting is affecting the algorithm. The five most important things to affect LinkedIn’s algorithm: 1) your headline; 2) your current experience, you want to have it in your title and in your description; 3) one past experience; 4) your summary section; 5) you want to use keywords in your skills, and hopefully you get endorsed for them. Of course, there are other places in the profile, but these five are the most heavily weighed.

Egan: Start with your settings. Do research about privacy settings and talk to people. Then you can work on your profile, network, and activity. I would be very careful to over-optimize for certain search words, because you have two audiences. You have the Web, which is what you have keywords for, but you also have people who are looking at your profile. Curate as if you were designing your corporate website.

Q: Can you talk about network building?

Egan: The idea of curating those in your network will not only be valuable for you, but it will also be valuable for your network. If I do a search to find a specific person, but you keep popping up as the person in-between because you have a ton of first-degree connections, then I will just think you don’t really know this person. I would even suggest that you not connect with your colleagues unless you really know and trust them. Even in my own company where we have 30 employees, I have a process before I let them into my network. I shut down the ability for people to send me invites without knowing my email address and that sort of stops one layer of it. However, if someone knows my email and sends me a connection request, I won’t accept it but will instead respond. If there is no message, I won’t even respond. If there is a message, I will try to build a relationship and then connect. I will also go through and drop connections about once a quarter, and I will then upload my Gmail contacts and add connections this way.

Quinones: I am also judicious about whether the person I am connecting to has a good audience. I join groups that are beneficial for me and are in quantity. I have really benefited from LinkedIn. I went to Greece earlier this year because someone looked me up on LinkedIn.

Q: How important is geography in your profile?

Dodaro: Geography is only important if you service a specific geographic region. If you work and serve only a certain area then it is great to put your city name in there. However, if you have clients internationally then don’t put in a specific region.

In the next part of the meeting, a few attendees offered to show their LinkedIn profiles. The speakers then provided the following tips to help improve their profiles:

  • In your summary include your specialties and strategic key terms that will valuable to your audience.  –Quinones
  • Have one recommendation per title, so if you have someone who knew you from two companies, get it for the one you don’t yet have a recommendation for. -Quinones
  • You get up to fifty skills, so when people are endorsing you for skills you haven’t added to your profile — be careful, because it might not be what you actually do. -Quinones
  • I would join some of the larger groups, because being part of those groups makes me more visible. You get up to fifty groups, so take advantage of it. You should be part of your alma mater group; it can be common shared history. –Quinones
  • Having a vanity URL for your profile is very important. It helps for coming up in Google when someones searchs for your name. -Quinones
  • Change the words “company website” in the contact info section to the name of your actual company or whatever else is being clicking on. This will help with SEO on the bigger Web and people will be more likely to click on the Web assets that you are promoting. -Egan
  • You should put your high school in your profile, because it adds a human element to your profile. People are more likely to do business with people they know. -Egan
  • Less is more in your profile. Be selective with what you put out there. If you have fifteen PDFs and a lot of rich media for people to select from, then put the one that you want them to actually click on. –Egan
  • Change up your profile. If you change your profile picture once every six months it will drive up your click-throughs. People want to see that. –Egan
  • Don’t status update too much. If you status update a lot, then people are probably hiding you. –Egan
  • In your summary section, I wouldn’t recommend talking about yourself in the third-party. It might turn some people off. Also, if the action you want the reader to take is to contact you, then give them a little blurb and phone number/email address. –Egan
  • If you have LIONS in your network, I would tell them they shouldn’t be a LION. People question whether they are real and not just spam. -Egan
  • In your summary section, you almost have to think of it as an article. Since most people scan instead of reading the entire section, you need to make sure there are certain things that jump out for the reader. -Dodaro
  • Listen to the language your ideal customers/clients use for figuring out the best keywords to include in your profile. You don’t want to put your marketing spin on it, but you want to use their language. –Dodaro
  • Put your board and volunteer positions in the volunteer section. Anything you are being paid for should be listed in experience, and anything you are not being paid for should be listed under the volunteer section. –Dodaro

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

The Q&A Team: A Google Helpout Primer

Dear Q&A Team,

My marketing team wants to learn more about Google Helpouts. We want to get a better understanding of this service as well as how we can use it to promote any of our products and/or services. We also want to know whether we should charge for Helpouts, and if there are any legal issues we should take into consideration.

Help Me Out

_____________________

Dear Help Me Out,

It is always exciting to see whether you can integrate a new service into your marketing efforts. Here are four ProfNet experts who answer all your questions about Helpouts:

Explanation of Helpouts

Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, says, “When someone needs help or assistance with a specific question or situation, they can now turn to Google Helpouts, a free or pay-as-you-go video help line where experts are available, or can be reserved, to assist with questions or needs by providing real-time advisory services face-to-face.”

The experts can provide advice on the following subjects: art/music, computers/electronics, cooking, educations/careers, fashion/beauty, fitness/nutrition, health, home/garden, adds Melanie Trudeau, digital strategist at Jaffe PR.

Sarah Hill, digital storyteller at Veterans United Home Loans, also explains that Helpouts are really Google+ Hangouts plus services plus financial transactions.

Hill says, “Helpouts are a new layer of e-commerce, ‘See-Commerce’ if you will. The difference between Helpouts and traditional Hangouts is there is a Google Wallet integration and customers have the ability now to pay for a service from within that Helpout.”

Marketing Using Helpouts

“Whether a marketing department should use Helpouts depends on the nature of the company’s core business. Marketing departments should ask themselves: What service about my product or business could I offer to the rest of the nation,” suggests Hill.

Trudeau thinks that marketing professionals need to look at Helpouts as another “channel” to reach their target audience. They first need to determine whether Helpouts will reach their intended audience, and then decide how they will “package” and price their offering.

In addition, “Helpouts are searchable, meaning, when you type in a search query in Google, you could see results pointing to Helpout sessions. My guess is that Google’s review ratings will play a strong role in ranking Helpout sessions in search results, i.e., the sessions with better reviews will raise to the top of search results. This is important for marketers,” says Trudeau.

Abramson believes that marketers can use Helpouts for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs that can be conducted with groups where apps and services are shown off. It can bring the actual product owners closer to the potential users to gain real-time feedback and interaction.

He adds, “Helpouts are ideal for new product introductions as they allow prospects to discover more about the product or service in more complete ways. Prospects can ask questions, and the Helpouts can be recorded so others can view it later.”

“In admissions at Colgate, we are planning on using Helpouts to help parents and students understand the application process. Last year we did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the admission’s process. This year, we plan to use Helpouts to help people in the same way,” says Matt Hames, manager of media communications at Colgate University.

To Charge or Not to Charge

Trudeau explains that a marketing department has three basic models to consider, they can: offer their expertise and charge for their services; offer free or paid support for their products; offer free information and advice that highlight their product(s).

If marketing decides to go with the first option, then they need to keep in mind that Google keeps 20 percent of their fees. Trudeau thinks that participants will be willing to pay for one-on-one attention to address their specific questions. But with free content readily available online, time will tell if personalized attention will command fee-based advice online.

If marketing goes with the second option, then people may be more inclined to purchase products knowing that they can get individualized support via Helpouts. Communicating this support option at purchase decision time will be crucial, warns Trudeau.

Last but not least, if marketing goes with the third option, it may give them the opportunity to connect with an audience that may seek out their product(s) and make a purchase after the Helpout.

Hill has another thing for marketers to consider. She says, “Offering your service for free can bombard your inbox with individuals wanting your service, so as a matter of supply and demand, you should seriously consider the consequences of offering a free Helpout as those sessions are indeed demands on your time. However, if your marketing department’s intent is simply to get individuals in the funnel and not as a money making endeavor, then a free Helpout is a great option.”

Abramson thinks, “Marketers should not charge for remote pre-sales consultations and walk-throughs. The idea is to service and support customers or prospective customers by being informational and demonstrative. Of course once it takes off, there can be a value added service offering based upon the same premise for more advanced discussions.”

Hames says, “We will never charge for Helpouts. Reddit, Hangouts and live chats are free, always will be.”

Legal Concerns

“Marketing should always be aware of legal and regulatory concerns as they always should avoid making false claims or misleading statements. The rule of thumb should be to never say or present anything that could come back to hurt you,” says Abramson.

Trudeau adds: “Certain professional services representatives may be excluded from using Helpouts due to state and federal laws. For instance, if lawyers want to charge for online advice, they must first contractually establish an attorney-client relationship, which would be impossible in Helpouts. If attorneys were to offer free advice online, they would need a fairly hefty disclaimer as dictated by the rules of their state bar. From a marketing standpoint, this may create a barrier to entry.”

“You must own the rights to the photos and videos used in the Helpout or the video trailer promoting your Helpout,” cautions Hill. “You have an option to decide whether to let your client record the Helpout. Both you and the client must agree to that recording and both of you get a copy of the video.”

Here are additional Terms of Service for Helpouts: bit.ly/18l0GoV

Have fun exploring Helpouts! Good luck!

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

image via Flickr user emiliarossijewellery

3 Reasons Why Active Workforce Engagement is Good for Business

internal commsGallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace study finds that 70% of American employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, costing the US $450-550 billion dollars annually. On the other hand, organizations in the top 25% of Gallup’s employee engagement database report significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, than those in the bottom 25%. These startling results show that organizations need to improve the emotional connection between employees and their workplace through interactive communication.

Business Development Institute’s recent event “The Future of Internal Collaborations and Communications Summit” featured senior-level communications leaders who are challenging workforce disengagement. Their presentations offered creative, technology- driven solutions that enhance collaborative efforts among employees and improve business outcomes.

Active engagement enables collaboration around the globe

Trevor Loe, VP of compliance and investor services at Vintage Filings, explored the use of webcasting to communicate with internal stakeholders.  The ability to reach hundreds of employees anywhere in the world creates limitless possibilities for engagement. Webcasting can be especially effective for executive speeches with staff, employee training, and crisis management.

Active engagement increases an employee’s sense of worth and contribution

Patrick Durando, Principal at Enterprise Strategies, recognizes that employees are passionate about topics that may not be fitting for casual conversation. Internal company blogs are a valuable platform for expressing personal opinions about industry-related topics.

Nina Kelley-Rumpff, Program Manager and Knowledge Management at SAP, adds that enterprise social networks are a portal to the company’s skills and assets. “People want to be known for their expertise,” she says, “this gives them a vehicle to show what they know.”

Active engagement boosts performance outcomes

Jeff Corbin, Founder and CEO of theEMPLOYEEapp, believes that today’s costly apathy is due to the “struggle to communicate consistently and simultaneously with a workforce that is everywhere,” but the solution sits in the palm of our hand. As mobile engagement continues to rise at an astonishing rate, push notifications on apps cater to today’s on-the-go lifestyle and can reach target audiences at any time. Based on Gallup’s study, organizations that successfully engage employees and customers report a 240% boost in performance related business outcomes compared to organizations that don’t.

The discussions from “The Future of Internal Collaborations and Communications Summit” prove that there is a lot to be gained through active engagement in the workplace, and a lot to lose without it. Using social technology for internal collaboration can still have as much purpose in a professional setting as it does in our personal lives.  By fostering workplace engagement, companies are empowering their employees and creating a healthier work environment while driving business growth.

To learn more about the future of internal collaborations and communications, check out the presentation slides from the event’s remarkable speakers: http://www.cvent.com/events/the-future-of-collaboration-internal-communications-summit/event-summary-ca8eb79a547c42b6ac55955d22133e3f.aspx

Author Shannon Ramlochan is a proud Brooklyn native, a pop culture enthusiast, and a member of PR Newswire’s marketing team.

Q&A: How to Incorporate Tumblr Into Your Marketing Campaigns

Dear Q&A Team,

My manager has assigned me the job of looking into new social media platforms that we can add to our marketing campaigns. I have been trying to learn about Tumblr and its capabilities. What type of content should we post onto Tumblr? What are some examples of successful Tumblr accounts run by businesses? Are there any legal issues we should be aware of when using Tumblr?

Stumbled Upon Tumblr

_____________________

Dear Stumbled Upon Tumblr,

It’s great that you are exploring other social media platforms. Here are three ProfNet experts who provide their expertise about Tumblr:

Reasons to Use Tumblr

Web marketing expert Lorrie Thomas Ross explains, “If an organization is looking to maximize awareness, information distribution, connections and service to support sales, then social media marketing needs to be part of the marketing mix. Tumblr is a blog platform that can help organizations harness the power of social media marketing.”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, agrees: “Tumbler is a rich content outpost, another blogging service that offers you an additional place to put content on the Web. Tumblr’s strength is its tremendous and active community that often re-blogs items that are worthy of attention and interest.”

Penn adds, “Tumblr’s secondary strength, especially for technologically less ambitious PR practitioners, is that it’s incredibly easy to use and quick to set up. You can begin on Tumblr in a matter of minutes, and its mobile apps make content creation simple and friendly.”

In addition, “platforms like Tumblr can be a great way to boost SEO,” says Ross. “Tumblr was architected to be search-friendly and help search visibility, so, if used effectively, it can help with a business’ SEO.”

However, you may want to disqualify Tumblr as a marketing medium if your company’s tolerance for risk is exceptionally low. It has an active adult content community, and many of its members enjoy blogging and re-blogging content they find, explains Penn. “For most brands, it shouldn’t be a significant problem — obscurity is a far greater risk than being discovered and re-blogged by someone whose content you might not agree with.”

Content to Include in Your Account

“People flock to Tumblr to be entertained and inspired, not to be pitched to,” says Francis Skipper, executive vice president of 451 Marketing. “Therefore, it is key to be very visual and to use humor on Tumblr. Pieces should be easy for your audience to digest and promote sharing. And try to provide evergreen content that will have a longer shelf life, so your content can be shared often.”

“Tumblr is also a great way to create a very human side of a brand by giving insights into the people and ideas behind your company,“ he adds.

Even though content needs to be engaging, it is important to remember that every organization has a different target audience. This is why it all starts with strategy – strategy first and execution second.

Ross suggests that marketing managers think about the content they have, their target audience, and what their target audience needs. Then they can decide what to post on Tumblr.

Once marketing managers are ready for the execution stage, it is important to know that the best content on Tumblr is graphical content — static images, graphics, animations, and video, says Penn.

Successful Examples

  • Comedy Central: This page is authentic, integrated and engaging. It supports the overall brand’s purpose. The purpose is very clear — to create viral clips, awareness and an audience.  –Ross
  • Capital One’s Bucket List and Art Institute of Technology:  Tumblr is a highly visual medium, and both these blogs maximize their use of imagery to make them eye-catching and appealing. –Penn
  • CNET:  They have been really smart about Tumblr posts, releasing “cliff notes” or abbreviated versions of their articles. They create a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content on their site. -Skipper
  • General Mills: Their Tumblr focuses on whimsical content that taps into people’s inner child and even showcases some amazing DIY arts and crafts projects that were created from cereal boxes with tutorials. They create a fun lifestyle around their brands using Tumblr. –Skipper

Legal Issues & Tips

“As with any form of online content production, you will be held liable for intellectual property (IP) rights. Re-blogging something that falls afoul of IP rights can land you in serious, very hot water,” warns Penn. “For example, re-using an image from a licensed imaging service like Getty Images can cost you up to $60,000 per violation, even if the original content is not yours. By re-blogging it, you open yourself to the same liability as the creator.”

Also, remember to respect the FTC guidelines, says Ross. You can read more about them here: tinyurl.com/nxvvszl

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies need to commit to using Tumblr.

“Tools like Tumblr don’t make marketing magic,” cautions Ross. “It is how and why these tools are used that make marketing magic.”

Skipper reiterates Ross’ last statement: “First, have specific goals in mind before you start. Don’t just join Tumblr because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.” Some of these goals include: building brand awareness and identity, educating customers, and creating a brand persona.”

Last but not least, Penn cautions that “‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work any better on Tumblr than it does on the Web. You still have to invest resources in outreach, awareness, advertising, and support of your initiatives there in order to make it successful.”

After deciding your Tumblr strategy with your company, I hope you have fun posting to this social media platform! Enjoy!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Social Media NYC Recap: Real-Time Social Media Response

Stephanie Grayson, Pictured/Photo Courtesy of Kevin Lui

 Last Thursday, Social Media Club NYC had a meeting about real-time response on social media. The discussion was moderated by board member Danielle Simon, and the guest of the evening was Stephanie Grayson, social media editor at Yahoo Finance.

The Social Media Club NYC meeting began with everyone sharing any interesting social media updates:

  • WordPress users can download a plugin to export a list of all the commentator’s details as a CSV file that can be used in Excel.
  • MIT research shows that angry tweets are the most influential, which means users are recognizing and retweeting more of these type of tweets than any other type of emotion.
  • Pinterest rolled out promoted pins.
  • For social listening, check out Adobe Social and Topsy Pro. Topsy Pro allows you to start with a two-week trial.

Grayson then had the group put together a list of the risks and rewards of real-time response. Here is the list:

Risks

Rewards

  • insensitive/incorrect information
  • damaging brand
  • backlash
  • public safety
  • losing customers/vendors
  • legal issues
  • innovative/industry leader
  • gain credibility
  • gain customers
  • gain advocates
  • gain loyalty from customers
  • gain PR/marketing

Grayson explains that there are certain dates on an events calendar for a brand where expectations can be set for something occurring. However, there are also events that occur that are not on the calendar and that start trending without any sort of expectation, and people have come to expect a quick response. There are opportunities for real-time response for the events that are not on the calendar, and if there is trust in an organization then you can gain some of the rewards in the above list even if not everyone in the organization is together.

The next part of the meeting was a group exercise, which you too can try:

Instructions: Break into two groups. Each group will become a brand. (One brand will be B2C and the other brand will be B2B.)

Decide: 1) What is the name of your brand? 2) What product/service does your brand provide? 3) Who is your biggest competitor?

*Have someone outside the two group’s make-up a situation that starts trending real-time.*

4) Your brand will react in real-time on social, but how will you do it (i.e., Vine, meme, etc.)? Keep it realistic, so take 25 minutes to come up with a solution.

*Come up with potential real-time backlash that can occur to the opposing group.*

5) How does your group deal with the backlash?

Have fun!

_________________________________________________________________

Here are the two groups that were created during the meeting:

               

(B2B Group) Green Mohawk –Full-Service   Entertainment Agency (B2C Group) Vine & Go – wine that is in a   Tetra Pak-style Juicy-Juice container
What is the best-selling service? PR Moscato/sweet whites
Biggest competitor? Edelman Other single-serving drinks (Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Lime-A-Rita)
Scenario: A celebrity did something bizarre on Talk Like a Pirate Day and the hashtag is trending like crazy. How is your group going to handle it? What will be your method of real-time response? They have a big pirate party, because as an agency they are aware of the event and have been tweeting about it all day. They hashjack with the tweet: You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk? #actlikeapirateday. They also have a Vine with   people walking like pirates. They are at a bar and they get seven people to each say, “Yo ho ho and a box of wine,” and they make a Vine  of it. They tweet it out saying, “Party like a pirate with Vine&Go,” with the hashtag #vine&go.
Potential real-time backlash that can occur to the other group. Send a tweet saying: @Vine&Go Real pirates drink rum not wine. #realpirates The “walk the walk” killed somebody, because they walked off the Brooklyn Bridge.
How does your group deal with the backlash? No response, because there is no connection to the individual going off the bridge with any of the agency’s messaging. Also there are policies in place on the website saying that everything is for entertainment use. They would tweet back saying: It is 2013 and 9 out of 10 pirates prefer arrrhh wine. #vine&go

Check out this Realtime Marketing Lab event: bit.ly/15bRnmm 

*Register with code SMCNY to save 20% and score a pass for only $276.*

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

A 14-Tweet Press Release? Genius.

amazon tweets

Amazon created buzz yesterday among the denizens of Twitter (read: important target market)  when it issued 14 tweets about the new Kindle Fire HDX, earning themselves a lot of extra attention from high-influence, well-connected social media and marketing gurus.

The genius in this story isn’t in the tactic of issuing a spate of tweets.  The genius is in employing tweets in a way that earns the company extra coverage for their broad-appeal product.  lil tweet tweet it!

The approach got me thinking about other opportunities these sorts of tactics offer communicators, especially with respect to visuals. Personally, I would have liked to see more visuals loaded into the tweets.  A beautiful FlipBoard or Storify collection of the brand’s tweets, along with tweets about the resulting media coverage and enthusiastic response from the Twittersphere would make a compelling presentation and give the whole story more continuity, and longer legs.

Lessons for all press release writers from the Amazon Twitter release  

One of the most important lessons from Amazon’s example is how a focused press release should break down into crunchy bullet points.    If you can go through a release, and pull out a dozen pithy and interesting tweets as you skim it, I’d say your content is in pretty good shape.  However, if you find that in your inspect of the copy that you’re hamstrung by run-on sentences or myriad topics from easily extracting a coherent series of tweets that tell the story — well, I’d say that some editing is in order.    Thinking of a story as a series of tweets creates a great framework for press release writers, and builds discipline into the process.

There’s another reason why thinking of press releases in a series of tweets is a good idea – it surfaces information that appeals to niches.

amazon niches

Case in point: I’m not in need of scrolling music lyrics (the words of my favorite 80’s tunes play in my head and that’s almost all I listen to, I admit it) I am a frequent traveler, and I am always interested in smaller gadgets and better batteries.  I’m also tech support for my mom, and I won’t kid you – I looooove the idea of a “mayday” button.  Point is, while a tweet about the lyrics wouldn’t have elicited any notice from me, the others would have.  This is why it’s a good idea to tweet out different nuggets from your press releases (and white papers, and blog posts and ….) rather then just firing out the headline and calling it a day. 

A series of smart tweets derived from your press releases –  if your target audience is on Twitter – is a great way to earn additional visibility for your company messages.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School Press Release Tactics and Driving Content Discovery. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.