Tag Archives: social media

Changing Twitter might not be such a bad thing

There’s been a lot written and tweeted about the new direction that Twitter is taking in terms of introducing a more algorithm based timeline rather than its current chronological feed.

Twitter purists aren’t happy about this change and there are those who think it takes the social network down a similar route to Facebook, which as we know picks and chooses which posts you see (or don’t see) and in which order.

Twitter was, or is, my favourite social network. I spent a lot of time chatting on Twitter to other mums around 2009-2012 during the time I had my two youngest daughters.

These days I use it more professionally. I think it’s a fabulous source of information, news, tips and advice from other professionals. For breaking news, or for seeing what others think of the TV programme you’re watching? It can’t be beaten. It’s also a great customer service tool allowing customers to interact with brands, get real time information, provide feedback and get answers to questions (when done properly).

But Twitter does have a problem. It isn’t making enough money and it isn’t attracting enough new users to the site. There tends to be a lot more pushing out of content and a lot less conversation than there used to be. And they’ve even lost Stephen Fry, thanks in part to the rising army of twitter trolls who aren’t using the network for good.

In my job I spend a lot of time advising others on how to most effectively use social media to communicate. When people approach me about using social media, they usually just mean Facebook. I always used to encourage people to think about Twitter too (as well as other social networks), because I loved it and found it so useful. But the other day when somebody asked me about using Twitter and whether it was worthwhile, I found myself hesitating.

For all that I love Twitter, there’s no denying that in my experience it’s nowhere near as effective as Facebook when it comes to the number of interactions you get with posts. The number of hits to our website that comes from Facebook far outweighs those coming from Twitter, and this always disappoints me. Especially when you have to spend a fair bit of time crafting several tweets on one topic to schedule at different times of the day over several days, compared to maybe just one or two on Facebook (if you get the post right).

In that respect, an algorithmic timeline on Twitter might be no bad thing. Craft a really good tweet with some great media and maybe it’ll have that bit more shelf-life, showing up in follower’s timelines for longer than before. If the algorithm got really smart it might even ensure those followers who were particularly relevant for that piece of information still got to see it, even if they didn’t visit Twitter for hours or days after it was posted.

I can also accept that Twitter can be difficult to get into, especially if you’re not sure of the ‘house rules’ and don’t know who to follow. Suggestions like making it easier to mention and reply and to take usernames, links and photos out of the 140 character limit that I read recently make a lot of sense and personally I’d like to see Twitter exploring this before opening up to longer posts. For me, the brevity and the challenge of crafting something meaningful within those 140 characters is part of the appeal of Twitter.

The problem Twitter has is that is knows a lot less about us than Facebook does. It hasn’t spent years gathering as much intelligence on our every move – what we like, where we go, our friends, family, favourite brands, personal interests and relationships – like Facebook has. With much less time than I used to have to spend scrolling through my timeline, as a user I’m open to the idea of something that curates those tweets which I’m most interested in so I don’t miss anything. I’m a fan of Nuzzel, which does exactly that. But I’m not sure Twitter knows me well enough to know which content I’ll value most.

One thing is certain, Twitter has to move with the times and it has to make improvements both to attract new users and to retain the interest of the ones it has. So unlike the purists who want to see Twitter stay the way it was I’m interested to see how it develops and what those changes will mean for me, as a user, and also as a communicator.

As communicators, we shouldn’t be too afraid of an algorithmic approach. What we’ve learnt from Facebook is that we just have to get better at what we do, challenging ourselves to produce higher quality content that people find useful and entertaining – and that’s no bad thing. Maybe a bit of ‘competition’ for timeline space will raise the quality of what we see on Twitter too.

Anyway, I’m up for the challenge and hoping that the changes will help reinvigorate Twitter so that I never have to hesitate when discussing its value again.

 

 

As newspapers prepare for a future online, PR must stay ahead

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This afternoon was the CIPR North West’s event Social Media and the Law, with speakers Tony McDonough, Business Reporter at the Liverpool Echo, and Steve Kuncewicz, a media law specialist.

I like to think I have quite a good grasp of legal issues surrounding social media, but Steve’s talk was really interesting and very informative – especially on issues like NLA copyright and recent legislation like the Right To Be Forgotten and changes to the Defamation law.

Steve also stressed the importance of being aware of a social network’s terms and conditions in relation to hosting competitions (I imagine many marketers fall foul of this) and of being careful with paid brand advocates, who can find themselves breech of Advertising Standards Authority regulations, which apply equally to social media and websites.

Meanwhile, Tony McDonough from the Echo gave us a good oversight about how the newspaper landscape is changing. He talked about research by Ross Dawson, who estimated that in the UK, the last print edition of a newspaper will go to the presses in 2017. While Tony didn’t necessarily agree with that timescale, he said he accepted that print newspapers will, at some time, “go off the edge of the cliff” and that their future lies online. He also cited some really interesting stats about how many hits the Liverpool Echo website gets daily – and how much this has grown in the past few years. In 2009, when the Echo’s digital news team launched the website was getting 56m hits a year. Now it achieves that in a little over a month, with around 1.5m hits every day. This has risen as high as 5.5m on key news days such as Ladies Day at Aintree and the recent visit of the Three Queens to the River Mersey.

In contrast to that, however, 70% of the Echo’s revenue is still from print adverts – so it seems that advertisers are slow to recognise the size and potential of the online audience, and the Echo’s challenge is to convince them of that before the print edition does “go off the cliff”.

Tony said the newsdesk ethos has changed from: “What can I put in the paper tomorrow?” to “What can I put online now?”, and that the paper is operating a ‘web first’ policy. But he added that he had never known a time when the newspaper had so few staff and yet so much content to create.

And that, I think, is where public relations can come into its own. Tony said that multimedia is very much part of the consideration when deciding whether a story is a runner or not. He said that, as a bare minimum, a story has to include one high-res landscape image – whether professionally shot or just snapped quickly on a phone. The Echo are also happy to receive video and audio for their online stories. At this point in time their requirements aren’t particularly sophisticated – just a quick grab of video could help you get your story on their website or social feeds – but I guess that in the very near future the requirements of journalists will begin to be more exacting and simple talking heads and video grabs will no longer suffice…. But that’s one for another day!

It was also really interesting to hear the impact that social has on the traffic to the Liverpool Echo’s website. 50% of traffic comes from Facebook but in contrast just 5% from Twitter. It would be really interesting to delve into those numbers and figure out the reasons for that – I wonder if that is a common theme of all news outlets?

But it was clear that press releases are still important to journalists and will remain so for some time. So whilst we, as public relations people, must get better at providing journalists with the multimedia content they need, that will still need to be accompanied with written text in one form or another that can be quickly and easily recycled into a news story by time-pressed journalists.

I’m certain that the need for multimedia content will only grow and grow – as will expectations about its quality. With so much opportunity to work with our journalist colleagues we can’t afford not to move forward to help them create the kind of content Tony said he wants – “interesting, compelling and relevant”. And we need to do it quickly.

Want to know what digital journalists really want from PRs?

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I think we all realise the world of newspaper journalism has changed almost beyond recognition in the last few years – and will continue to do so in those to come.

Newspaper journalists are increasingly concerned with creating digital content – recording video and audio interviews, breaking news on twitter rather than waiting for the next day’s print edition.

Our main local daily newspaper the Liverpool Echo, is no exception and recently advertised for a number of ‘bloggers’, rather than ‘journalists’.

As PR people we need to keep up too – yes we’re trying to create digital content for our own organisations but we mustn’t forget our mutually  important relationship with our old friends the newspaper journalists.

And if we aren’t paying attention to what they need to help them create compelling content, we won’t be doing our jobs properly.

So, if you are in the North West you may be interested to come along to a really interesting sounding CIPR North West event on Friday, June 26 (12.20-2.30pm) in Liverpool. The guest speaker will be Tony McDonough, the Liverpool Echo’s senior business editor, He will be talking about how he and his colleagues source and promote stories through social media – and give an insight into the type of content he wants for today’s print and online publications.

As well as Tony, the event will also hear from  media law specialist Steve Kuncewicz who will talk about some of the legal considerations for PR people on social media and how to avoid the most common pitfalls.

It promises to be a really interesting and useful event.

If you’d like to go along, tickets are available to buy online now.

Facebook’s newsfeed is becoming a bore

Much has been made by Facebook lately about making sure user’s newsfeeds are full of interesting, relevant content. It’s been the reasoning behind many of the algorithm changes that have penalised Pages’ content in favour of content from ‘real’ people that you are friends with on the network.

But lately my newsfeed has been jam packed with irrelevant stuff – not from brands – but from the friends of my friends, people I don’t know at all.

A quick glance through my Facebook newsfeed tonight reveals plenty of stories like “Random Person Changed their Profile Picture” (I’m seeing that because one of my connections likes it – I have no idea who these people are). Or “Somebody You Know Commented on the Status of Somebody You Don’t Know”.

To be honest, it’s a real turnoff and I’ve not really felt the need to check my Facebook newsfeed much lately while it’s full of this stuff. I have to wade through tonnes of it to get to anything really interesting. And the only reason why I stick with it is the ‘fear’ of missing something important from an actual friend.

I realise I am biased, because I manage Facebook Pages for organisations, but if anything one of the more useful and relevant things about my Facbeook newsfeed is when it brings up news and events from Pages that I’ve specifically chosen  to ‘like’.  For example, my family recently joined the National Trust and I would certainly be interested to see more of their posts with ideas about family outings, things to do in my area and so on. I haven’t seen a post from my local council for a while, or from the local residents group that posts usually quite interesting stuff about my neighbourhood. Whilst, admittedly, not everything they share is relevant to me, it is probably more interesting that hearing what somebody I vaguely know from outside the school gates thought of a complete stranger’s new haircut.

Basically, I have chosen to like the pages I’ve liked for a reason. I’m happy to see their content. It’s up to them to make that content relevant and interesting. If I decide it isn’t, I will ‘unlike’ them.

And of course, I’m interested in seeing what my (actual) friends are posting about themselves – I don’t want to miss big announcements like babies or weddings, that kind of thing. But sadly if one of my real friends spends a lot of time liking or commenting on other people’s statuses then all that is just becoming like a load of spam in my newsfeed.

It would be great if you could choose to see ‘more’ of the posts you like from pages you are interested in , and less of the inane updates about what Random Strangers are eating for dinner. But Facebook is such a control freak that it would much rather decide this stuff for you. However, it isn’t going to do anything for their stated objective of making the newsfeed more relevant and engaging for users. Certainly not this user, anyway.

Is anyone else having this issue, or is it just me?

Let’s use social media for good, not evil

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Social media gets such a bad press at times.

It’s no wonder when there are so many trolls relishing in the ability to make nasty, vindictive comments; a seemingly uncontrollable rumour-mill in which the unwitting victims are guilty until proven innocent and a tendency for people to unleash their angry side if something irritates or inconveniences them.

Managing social media accounts for an organisation you see on a day to day basis the willingness of people to take to Twitter or Facebook and have a right good whinge. And I am the first to admit that I have done the same on occasion (EE will certainly have felt my wrath a couple of times…)

Some of those moans are rightly justified (workmen carrying out noisy, non-urgent works outside your house at 5am), others a little more pedantic (person held up for one minute while bins are emptied) But either way, complaining via social media is quick, easy and popular.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m an advocate of using social media to contact organisations and let them know what’s going wrong. But also what’s going right too – and that’s where I think we could all help to spread a little more ‘love’ on social media.

For example, today we took our kids to get shoes in Clarks. We were served by a very pleasant and professional lady called Lindsey. She took the time to remember the kids’ names, and was very thorough in making sure we got what we came for and that the shoes were a really good fit for them. We left thinking less about how much we’d just spent on shoes (clue: a small fortune, Clarks ain’t cheap), but more about the good customer experience we’d had.

Customer service is a major ‘thing’ of mine, and its sadly a much rarer breed than it should be.

So I took to twitter to give a little praise where praise was due:

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It really didn’t take me any time at all, hopefully the message does get passed back and that Clarks employee – a great company ambassador – will get to feel that the effort she goes to to give great customer service is valued and has been appreciated. She’ll feel good and I feel good, because I had good service and because I’ve given a little something back.

As somebody who manages accounts for an organisation, it is always lovely to get some positive feedback, especially when it relates to a specific service or individual. And it’s nice to be able to pass that feedback back to that person (and their manager).

It’s easy to take to Twitter or Facebook when you’re angry and dissatisfied. And that’s fine. But let’s also remember to do the same when things go right, it might just make the world a slightly happier place, even if only for a little while.

 

A cautionary tale

This really interesting article from The Guardian was doing the rounds on social media this weekend: ‘Overnight, everything I loved was gone’: the internet shaming of Lindsey Stone.

It demonstrates how easily your internet life can be hijacked, sometimes after a single tweet posted by you or others, and how that can have potentially disastrous repercussions for your offline life.

If I were a teacher or parent of teenagers, I’d urge them to read this article. In fact I’m sure we all could benefit from taking a moment to consider what lessons we can learn from this. The fact is that the throwaway comments or ‘in jokes’ you might safely share with people you know offline can take a whole new meaning when typed out and shared with the world online. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. But the internet can be a very unforgiving place.

It also reiterates the importance of brand building, not just for companies, but for people too. And once you’ve built that brand, you need to look after and protect it. As the article sadly demonstrates, sometimes your reputation can be rubbished online in a very short space of time, and through no fault of your own. But there are also plenty of silly mistakes you can learn to avoid.

I was fascinated to read about how Lindsey Stone was being helped to repair her online reputation with the aid of content creation, designed to fool search engines into pushing the results about her earlier misdemeanour further down the rankings. And it worked – but it requires an ongoing concerted effort with content being churned out to keep repressing those stories from two years ago.

None of us wants to be in the position that Lindsey finds herself in, and I hope that she is able to genuinely move on and stop living in fear of one past mistake constantly resurfacing. For her sake and for all those other women who share her name!

But certainly I would urge you to read this article, and bear in mind what lessons we – both as individuals and as guardians of brands online –  need to learn.

More changes to Facebook newsfeed

On Friday, Facebook announced more changes to the way in which it selects which of a Page’s posts will appear in the newsfeeds of those who’ve ‘liked’ it.

Facebook say the changes are designed to reduce the amount of promotional posts in users’ newsfeeds, and instead encourage pages to produce more engaging content.

These are the two examples of the kinds of status updates which will, from January 2015, see a much reduced organic reach on Facebook:

Example post1

Example post 2

Encouraging quality content in itself is no bad thing – organisations and brands should already be striving to do this.

And while this change is probably not as alarming to public sector pages as to those companies whose main purpose is selling products or services – it should be taken as a wake up call that unless we get more creative about our content, nobody is going to see it!

Clearly, Facebook is much more focused these days on encouraging companies to turn to paid advertising and promoted posts. But in the public sector where budgets are squeezed, the main focus has to be on organic reach, which is decreasing all the time.

We hear a lot about PR being the new ‘brand journalism’, and this is an excellent reminder of why that must be our focus.

Facebook has given us a fantastic way to build and participate in communities, reach stakeholders directly and develop positive relationships online. Now we need to work harder to make sure that the content we are producing is relevant, interesting, and of value to our audiences.