The 3 Rules of Social Media

Stravinsky, doing what he loved before the Twitter bird rolled over his head in this promo shot for The Modern Ear.

Stravinsky, doing what he loved before the Twitter bird rolled over his head in this promo shot for The Modern Ear.

The great composer Igor Stravinsky, known for his controversial Rite of Spring ballet music, once said:

“the more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”

Social media marketing is not as easy as it sounds. How can something with so many users be funneled into a powerful tool for brands, websites, products, and causes? What’s the purpose of it all? Why are there all these character limits? Why can’t I upload GIFs to Facebook but I can to Twitter? Lo, the shackles!

It does not happen overnight, or with a small budget, or just one mystical intern.

You might be going at it the wrong way, or you’re trying to be too over-the-top. Here are a few rules to help you organize your “everyday” and that “annual report.” These are the ingredients to a more successful strategy:

  1. Worry less about creating awesome content, worry more about listening to people. Social media is a gold mine of data. And that data? That data is a bunch of real people. If you are a new eco-friendly clothing brand, search on “eco-friendly” or “environmentally conscious” or “green energy” – build your branding and reputation by engaging in conversations that matter. You will probably generate some leads and uncover new partnerships.
  2. Stop writing long tweets and Facebook posts, post more pictures and video and be thematic. Sometimes the answer to that visual content is laying on your desk or in a store room. Grab some of those promo items, turn them into little figurines that playfully move around your desk in a fun Vine, or make a crossword puzzle that can be tweeted out as an image. Everyone wants to interact and see something atypical, few want to just read your promotional copy. (Unless it’s funny?) Make a schedule, think ahead. You’ll start drawing parallels and connections you never would have thought about. Oh – loop in public relations and marketing calendars too… social media is a tool for them. Be a useful tool.
  3. Set goals and analyze success. What’s attainable and realistic, and how will you measure it?

What are some stories you have that illustrate the “rules” above?

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PR in 2015: How to Pack a Punch

Over the past few years, many trends have emerged in our beloved communications industry. Email marketing is still strong, paid and earned social media continue to have their intrigues, and some are still doing customer service well…. but we’ve been through QR codes, Viddy, Google Plus, sponsored flash mobs; enough trends to make a landfill jealous.

However, do not let these fads mislead you. It is often not the platform or device that sells, but the people responsible for steering the ship. So, how are you going to be one of those people this year who packs the punch in 2015?

Photo on 1-10-15 at 10.16 PM #2

You’re going to get better at being editorial (because-you-already-were-kind-of doing it, right?)

This means, and don’t take it lightly:

1) You will look ahead this year (and into January or February of next, because we all know that stuff hits the fan when you come back from winter holidays). Plot out what the highlights will be for your company (product release, quarterly report dates, etc…), and the nation/world (elections, holidays, and more). I find a big whiteboard helps, but hey – pencil and paper does just fine.calendar-36971_1280

2) You will look at all those opportunities, and fill in time for necessary preparations (brainstorming, meetings, analysis, and more). Don’t underestimate anything. That ship might be steered by great people, but they depend on you to sail with the winds and do it quickly. Stay the course!

3) You will block it all into a schedule. Best be on iCal, Asana, and/or whatever your favorite taskmaster tool is. You will not remember it all – commit to this law of PR. Hint: morning time is the best creative time for your mind (based on a little science), but I like to think that this because the morning is generally before everyone rains on your day with their inquiries, maladies, and whatever else.

4) You will sugar it with all your fun new platforms, devices, events, and other trendy communications phenomena. But, worry more about getting the job done, not how cool it is to use Snapchat if Snapchat won’t be the most useful. No matter what those thought leaders say :D, you and your team (+ a good consultant?) are the best judge at the end of the day. Right? If you answered no, I am worried for you.

5) You’re willing to see some things fail and succeed surprisingly, and you will be okay with it.

If you do it all right, think of all the fun PR buzz terms you can use to describe yourself, like “content marketer” or “social media evangelist!” *DISCLAIMER: Please don’t use these terms. They are but one part of what you probably do and are generally limiting.

So get to it, Monday’s here. 

The Fall of the Traditional Telephone

Phones, like any other medium we use to communicate, are a form of social media. In fact, any time we communicate to each other than face-to-face, that is… (say it with me)… social media.

Pen and paper, the public writing walls in Pompeii, the Gutenberg press, Elizabethan aristocratic poetry, Morse code and telegraphs, and even that pesky morning newspaper that once hit your front door but now lives in an app…. all forms of social media. I highly recommend Tom Standage’s book Writing on the Wall, available at your local, independent bookseller – it dives a bit deeper into the history of social media in very insightful ways.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Reading-the-Writing-on-Pompeiis-Walls.html

Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. From The Art Archive / Alamy, via an article by The Smithsonian’s writer Kristin Ohlsonon.

Modern telecommunication services like Skype, FaceTime, Google-Hangouts, and those cheap cable phones (VoIP) are the best examples of how much we have revolutionized our communications. We can type and speak to each other at the same time, and even see each other – or all three! Long-distance calls are cheap and three-way calling is a synch with VoIP phones. However, all of these sources rely on several vital resources: power lines, cable lines, and/or wireless routers and voice/data centers.

How??? What.

That’s right, your Grandma’s phone didn’t need a cable line, just a phone line. The mechanism powering her phone is simple, just a couple copper lines controlled by the phone company’s circuit board that connected her to who she called with a voice-to-electric-signal conversion technology created by Alexander Graham Bell. Our contemporary dependencies, fueled by the cable company (some of these companies were once just phone companies, remember?), make our life easier… but not if the power is out.

An analog phone.

An analog phone.

When the power does go out, like as a result of a major disaster, that old analog phone line still works (permitted the buried, copper cables didn’t break, an unlikely occurrence anway). You can still make calls!

But, with a VoIP connected phone, you have to depend on two things both working: power (to charge the phone) and the cable line (to supply the call service). These are two things that are unlikely to hold up during a major disaster.

And that iPhone? That will not last you more than the end of a day. The voice and data towers could be destroyed, too. Or your phone will just die.

But the FCC likes you.

They do. They want to make sure that by 2018, we are all connected to and reliant upon the VoIP network, a cable network that allows calls and other data across internet lines. The old telephone system will be completely removed, says the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Wireless phones will still exist, and you should learn hoFCC Logow to tweet via SMS in order to broadcast your emergency request in times of limited data, or just learn what SMS is and how to use it. Understand, however, that wireless phones require batteries that must be charged, typically by an A/C outlet, and those will be scarce in a major disaster and/or loss of power. The towers may also be damaged, disallowing any connectivity.

What should I do?

Hang on to that old telephone company line if you still have it. Chances are you cannot get it as a new service – most companies do not offer it anymore. If you know of any, please respond in the comments below!

Here are some other tech-savvy ideas to keep you connected:

  1. Read my last post about using Twitter via SMS during an emergency, for starters, and heed the advice. Install other social media apps onto your wireless device if it allowed (Android and iPhone users can). Facebook is especially helpful because the people you will be broadcasting your message to are your friends and family, also known as people who probably actually care about your well-being.
  2. Consider a battery back-up option for your home phone. A recent call with Time Warner Cable said, however, that many of their telephone modems do not allow a battery back-up anymore. This is an important question to ask your cable company!
  3. Keep a pencil, pen, notepad, and tape in your home’s emergency kit. You may need to tape a note to your door letting people you are okay and to meet somewhere at a certain time, for example. You may also want to write down directions to the nearest shelter. The American Red Cross apps are fantastic at finding shelters and giving you information about what to do, either before, during, or after a disaster, by the way.
  4. Get a NOAA weather radio. Seriously though. It may be your only source of information during a major disaster.

There are many more concepts to explore. For further reading, consult the FCC website on “Emergency Communications.”  FEMA also has an excellent blog post about this too with far more detailed tips. I look forward to comments too, as always!