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Social Media Marketing in Times of Tragedy

Boston-BombingBy: Marsha Friedman

If you’re using social media for marketing, what should you say following a tragedy like the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15?

The horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.?

The October storm that took lives and devastated communities across the Northeast?

Sometimes, nothing at all.

The age of digital marketing brings with it new challenges, including how to respond during a national tragedy. Remember, as recently as Sept. 11, 2001, we had no MySpace, much less Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Except for email, no vehicle for delivering instantaneous marketing messages existed. After 9/11, one of the most painful days in American memory, most of us had time to pause, reflect and put on hold print, radio and TV marketing campaigns that might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive.

In recent months, there has been lively debate on this topic in the marketing community, including how and when to tie – or not to tie — a marketing message into the news of the day, a  widely used strategy.

Gaffes can occur with the most innocent of intentions in any media content, marketing or not. Earlier in April, a new episode of the musical comedy “Glee” upset and angered parents in Newtown, Conn., because the plot featured a student bringing a gun to school, where it accidentally discharges.

“A lot of people were upset about it and that I feel horrible about,” Jane Lynch, one of the stars, told Access Hollywood Live days later. “If we added to anybody’s pain, that’s just certainly not what any of us wanted. … We’re always rather topical and rather current.”

Usually, however, simply applying your own sense of decency and good taste can help you avoid a blunder. Consider American Apparel’s notorious “Hurricane Sandy Sale – in case you’re bored during the storm,” advertised as tens of thousands of people endured freezing temperatures without power. Most of us wouldn’t have even considered such a ploy!

Here are a couple more suggestions for do’s and don’ts:

• If you use automated posts scheduled through a site such as HootSuite, turn them off immediately. If people don’t find them insensitive and uncaring or silly, they’ll likely conclude your messages come from a robot – not a real person – which is just as bad.

 Can you be helpful? Hours after the blasts in Boston, with cell phone service out in the city and family and friends desperately trying to connect with loved ones, Google.org launched “Person Finder: Boston Marathon Explosions.” There, individuals and organizations could share information about the status of marathon participants and spectators for those trying to find them.

If your community has suffered a tragic event, perhaps you have helpful information to share. Here in Florida, which is affected by hurricanes, people use social media to help evacuees and their pets find shelter, and to alert others to danger, such as downed power lines. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be able to provide more general information or commentary. For instance, an educator can share tips for answering children’s questions about the event. Philanthropists might comment on those selflessly step up to help.

 Of course, social media is also about reactions and, for many, that’s a sincere expression of sympathy for and unity with those affected.

If you want to post something and you’re unsure about what to say, take a look at what businesses and other brands are sharing, and how online users are reacting. You may decide to just say nothing for a day or two, or whatever time seems reasonable given the nature of the event.

Sometimes, saying nothing at all speaks volumes.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.

 

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How To Put On A (successful) Gig

32612c95eab017aa71621705f40Slash-05The music business is one of THE most difficult businesses to get yourself into, believe me I have seen many try and fail!  But one thing I did notice about people who were looking to get into the business is they had the thirst and the determination to put on some really crummy gigs in some even worse bars.

So I thought I would share some of my experience of putting on a gig and hopefully can help some people who are thinking about putting a gig on somewhere and how they can put it all together.

Seek some experience

Ask around some local music bars and get in touch with organisers and promoters who can set you up with some experience.  Offering to be a roadie, which essentially is a dogsbody but what this allows you to do is to be near musical acts and understand the finer points of putting on a night of your own.

Speak to local acts

Build up a relationship with local acts and meet as many as you can.  By doing this you can then approach them about playing at your night and also puts your name out there.  Don’t forget all the online resources there are too such as Twitter and MySpace.

Find a venue

Check out your local area for venues that are available for rent.  Schools, cinemas and function rooms should all be available to you but keep in mind the size of the venue and also the facilities that they offer as part of the deal.  Will the venue provide sound engineers or a PA system and in particular the last point as this can save you money down the line.

Costing the project

It always makes sense to cost the venue for the night and add it to your total budget, some venues insist on taking a cut on ticket sales and if this is the case make sure that it does not exceed 40% as this can eat into your budget too heavily.

Organise Security

This is one point I cannot stress enough.  Speak to a reputable company and have them supply security for you.  If something happens then it is always safer to have people who are trained in dealing with those situations.  Some laws even insist that security is undertaken by professionals.

Liability insurance

Going to all the hassle and expense of putting on a gig shouldn’t be at jeopardy because of $200 or so.  Getting Public Liability Insurance protects you from any damages that may occur and is generally a good idea.

BANDS

Determine which bands you will have playing at your gig and a wise move is to choose a band who have a good following so you have a better chance of getting more people through the door.

PROMOTION

I cannot stress enough how important it is to promote your night as best as possible.  Get some friends to hand out flyers, set up a Facebook page or Twitter account and push what you are doing to people.  Ask the bands that are to perform to mention the night on their profiles too.  Also another great idea is contacting local radio station and ask them to spread the message, sending demos will do no harm either.

Michael Wood has spent many years providing merchandise including lanyards and badges to bands and music promoters, if you would like to speak to Michael about blogging or seek advice you can email him at woodie19838@gmail.com.

 

 

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What Is Consumer Social Networking and How It Can Benefit Your Business

Consumer social networking is harnessing the variety of social media available so consumers can determine the usefulness and value of a product. Not a few have turned to this sort of information sourcing to gather the whats and hows of a product. The reason largely lies on the strength of market feedback and the personalized touch seen in exclusive pages, which give consumers details they don’t normally receive in most other product ads. All income brackets and both genders participate in social consuming with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Myspace taking their roles as leaders of this trend. With the vast market at their disposal and the efficiency with which they can reach out to this audience, businesses have much to gain from plumbing the potential of consumer social networking.

Expanded Customer Service

Customers are the fuel of any enterprise and social networks have done an extraordinary job in bringing together people from different walks of life, living locally and abroad, into one portal. Consumer social networking lets consumers address their questions and concerns about a product or service and lets the business respond timely in return. The range of feedback also gives the business a sampling of their market, providing the business leverage in knowing where to improve on and which of their marketing strategy works.

Advising Customers About New Products and Services

Reading a Twitter message doesn’t take 10 seconds but the site is popular enough to get a message across to a group who know another group and another group ad infinitum. A business web page can also be streamlined to highlight the freshest products and services it has to offer to its followers and possibly to others who are interested in its latest outing or teaser. Social networking sites gives businesses a platform to list down their advantages over competitors and highlight facets of the product that consumers are looking for.

A Way to Reward Consumers

Taking customer service a step further, businesses can use consumer social networking to reward customers who have been loyal to their products. Through specials or loyalty programs, businesses can attract more customers and keep the existing ones satisfied as they get to own not just their initial buy but more than what they expected. If they tell their friends and families about how cool a brand is for that, the better.

Introducing a Product Through Different Media

By using social networking sites, businesses can advertise products from photos to videos to write-ups. The additional feedback contributed by consumers adds to the knowledge of potential customers who might be looking for more reasons to convince them to finally purchase.

There are various ways to introduce a product and get in touch with customers but not every one of them may be effective. One way businesses can learn about this aspect is through consumer social networking which serves both a way to relate with customers and advertise a product. By taking advantage of this trend, businesses not only level with the customers but also share the good points of their product in more ways than one.

Julian Hartley is a social media consultant for one of the top talent management firm, DianliC.com.

 

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Are You In Control? Social Media and IT Security for Businesses

Most companies in the internet age now routinely monitor their employees IT usage while they are in the office. Who are they e-mailing? How long are they spending on social media? What are they doing on those web pages? These are questions that IT managers should have answers to. The issue of course comes, that as a company grows larger, and the number of employees grows along with it, monitoring becomes difficult, time consuming and tends to rapidly become an activity conducted ex post a major incident, rather than preventatively ex ante. Indeed monitoring by its very definition can only catch an action after it has happened and allow disciplinary/reparative action to be taken (which is by far better than nothing). One need only look at recent high profile leaks from the US military, arguably one of the most highly monitored IT systems in the world, to realize the pitfalls innate to relying purely on monitoring as a security, or information protection method – especially when the number of users reaches a certain level.

Unknown Risks

Most employers and employees are unaware of the ease with which an e-mail address can be followed to all of the: forum profiles, social media profiles and user names associated with it. Not only are there a huge number of ‘public tools’ available for these purposes (pipl.com being one example of such an aggregator), there are many other for pay, or proprietary search systems that are far more effective at the task. As people become more and more active on the internet, their concerns for privacy seem to have declined with their apparent familiarity with the medium.

The majority of profiles on ‘Facebook’ for instance now, (if one is a friend, and in many cases if one is merely a friend of a friend) display the current employer, location and sometimes even job title. Even if this information is absent, some common sense and an e-mail check can easily tie most social media pages to a Linkedin page, and as a result an employer.  This means that your employees, (or you if you are an employee) are in a sense, representing your/their employer every time you/they post on-line, unless you have taken concrete steps to insure your anonymity, or as an employer, you have strict and strong social media policies in place to insure that employees know the limitations of what they can and cannot post with regards to work (or on any site which may reasonably become connected to you as their employer).

Most security breaches or information leaks happen unintentionally and because employees and employers are unaware of both the value of the information they are discussing in public, and/or how easily connected it is to the company they are working for, and how actively sought after such information is by business intelligence firms and competitor marketing departments. (Not to mention, activists, hackers, and criminals). Some simple tips that everyone can follow can greatly mitigate risk:

If you are an Employee:

  • Assume that your boss can see everything that you post on Facebook, Google+, MySpace, etc. That includes the picture of you engaged in illicit activities. Never post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to see. Read that over, say it again, now actually go and fix it if there is any incriminating evidence.
  • Never accept a friend request from anyone at any time unless you have met them face to face, no matter how pretty/handsome they are, or how nice their profile seems. Corporate Intelligence entities and researchers routinely use this technique to gain access to your information and there’s nothing strictly illegal about it provided they don’t manifestly lie about it. (i.e. claim they’re a cop).
  • If you are going to post on forums, or other pages, create an e-mail address (under  a pseudo name, and that bears no resemblance to your name) specifically for that forum, and a new username linked to that e-mail address, and that forum only, and use it for no other purpose. That way your scathing attack on your competitor’s products or an offhand comment about work can never be linked back to you, or your employer.
  • Never post anywhere from a work computer, especially not a user group or forum. Most of them track and log your IP number (a unique number identifying your access point to the internet) which can be traced back to the client company via any number of IP address searches (www.ipaddress.com being one example). More often than not, along with the ISP, is the name of the corporate entity that owns the computer, that’s right – your boss.
  • Remember that if you take your computer home with you, it’s still a work computer. Keep your personal information off of it. It’s risky, and worse than that, results in your privacy being at issue.

As an employer:

  • Educate your staff as to why certain pieces of information are important, confidential and should never be revealed.
  • Actively monitor your employees’ use of IT infrastructure.
  • Regularly check up on your employees accessible social media activities. (You do not have to, nor should you ever ask for their passwords. If you can’t see the information without it, then no one else can either and so there’s no risk.)
  • Have a robust policy in place as to what is and isn’t acceptable
  • Use both carrot and stick! Have disciplinary procedures for breach, but also rewards for exemplary behavior or spotting breaches before it’s too late!
  • Remember that illegal actions by employees using your IT infrastructure can result in you going to jail, or your firm being sued. It happens more and more often and is a huge risk to a small business.
  • If in doubt hire a professional to conduct an Open Source intelligence audit/policy review

It’s never too late to plug a leak or correct errors and by following these simple steps, the job of your average open source researcher would become largely impossible, which is exactly how you should want it to be!

Richard Farley works as a digital investigator in London for Atris Aqua. He specialises in employee monitoring through the use of only open source intelligence techniques.

 

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What Is A QR Code And Why Do You Need One?

qr codeby Marc Lyne

We all know that one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated, new and fresh. Whether you do this with a blog, or you change your homepage with new offers, coupons or new products, it serves to show Google that your site is “alive.” For many small businesses in particular, this is a real challenge.

So you already have great, fresh content on your site—what’s next? Do you know what is coming that may benefit your small business?

Have you heard of QR codes yet? Here is a quick introduction:

What are QR codes?

They come to us from Japan where they are very common. QR is short for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone). They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone. You may soon see QR Codes in a magazine advert, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

The reason why they are more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including url links, geo coordinates, and text. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan them, many modern cell phones can scan them. The full Wikipedia description is here.

How does the cell phone read the code?

The cell phone needs a QR code reader, like this one from Kaywa. It takes literally 1 minute for someone with an iPhone or Android phone to find and install the reader.

How do you generate a code?

You can easily generate a QR code using a site like Kaywa.com or you can use the Open Source code to generate codes for you if you have a smart developer on hand. Google also has a tool — see our separate article about that:Close-Up With Google’s New QR Code Generator.

How can you use QR codes to benefit search marketing?

We are only just scratching the surface of how they will be used. We have added one to every business listing in our directory. Here are a few examples of how others are using them.

You can also watch this BBC Click interview on YouTube.

How will Google see them?

If you add them to your website, the search engines will see that your pages have changed, and that you are updating pages. The search engine will see a new image and index it accordingly. At some point soon, the search engines will likely recognize QR codes and possibly index the content in them.

Will your customers use them?

Today, few may use them, but those that do will certainly appreciate your tech knowledge, and those that don’t will certainly be inquisitive, which may open the door for conversation and a potential sale. Those that do use QR codes will definitely have a high tech know-how and may be more receptive to your presence on the web, your Twitter presence, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube etc.

How could you use a QR code?

Your business, no matter how small or large, could use QR codes in a number of ways. You might auto generate one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, the number to call and the URL link to the page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so its easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print advertising, flyers, posters, invites, TV ads etc containing:

  • Product details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • A coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, MySpace IDs
  • A link to your YouTube video

Want to know more about QR codes? Check out these articles:



About The Author: Marc Lyne is co-founder of Brownbook.net, a free directory that anyone can edit. Follow Marc on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marc_lyne. See more articles by Marc Lyne

 

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