Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's time to evaluate

Are you aware that there are currently at least 54 social media tools that can help you measure your online presence? Yes, you have read that correctly - 54. And those are just the free ones. I'm shaking my head only because I've heard so many conflicting things about online measuring tools. Whether it's better to spend the big bucks for a more "accurate" reading of your web presence, or if you are better off with using the free tools that are available at the click of a button. I think these conflicts/questions/issues can be answered with one word: money.

Money dictates everything we do, whether it's personal or in business - period. Social media is not free. If you don't have the cash, you can't use the expensive, or for that matter ANY monetary valued monitoring services - end of discussion. That's not to say that anyone on a strict budget (or no budget) can't benefit, because there are some excellent monitoring services available for free.

Before the topic is discussed in a little more detail, this is just a brief, but humourous, digression on social media by parody masters the onion:

Had to laugh at that, but back to the topic at hand.

Measuring the overall success of any type of social media strategy can often be complicated and confusing. There are, however, a number of tools that can make it a little easier to navigate the social web waters. Below are three tools (all free!) that can help you determine how your messages are being discussed on the social media world.

1.Google Analytics

Google has developed a comprehensive analytics service that helps track user activity on your website in real-time. Within a matter of minutes, you can have Google Analytics set up to give you actual numbers of the daily visits to your site, the demographics of your users, how they got to your site, how long they stay, and which of your pieces of content are most—and least—popular.


The Klout Score measures influence, which Klout defines as “your ability to drive action on social networks,” and, increasingly, in the real world. Specifically, it measures the influence of your network across your social media platforms. Once you’re signed-up, Klout will let you see a map of your social media activity over the past 90 days, enabling you to cross-reference the exact moments your score increased (under their algorithm, at least) with the content you posted or ways you engaged at that time.

3.My Top Tweet by TwitSprout

This tool provides an easy way to figure out which of your tweets got the most retweets. With My Top Tweet, this measurememt tool can rank your top 10 most-shared tweets and the number of times they were retweeted. Not only is this helpful for your own brand, but it gives you an idea on how your brand competes with competitors.

Once you can see the analytics behind your social media outreach, you’ll have a much better idea of what’s working and what’s not.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

And now for something completely different..

Apparently I've been outed on Twitter of being a "pusher", and as a result of this, I've been accused (innocently) of causing a social media addiction in quite a few of my friends...and I say guilty!

Fair warning: this is such an addictive, awesome site it's crazy, so if you're not prepared to have a lot of fun online (for a LONG time), don't click this website link...just..don'

How are we doing out there?

That is the question of the hour, or even the minute, for social web managers, bloggers - anyone who has a presence on the web. How are we doing out there? Who is interested in us? Can this information be measured, and if so, how? Three words, known as the three A’s: action, attitude, and attention, may provide the answer to these questions.

image courtesy of

For organizations that have, or are developing a social media presence, just having a company profile online and checking on occasion to see if the site is visited, isn't enough to determine if the company has created a solid online presence. To determine a company's social web value and find out what is (or isn't) being said about it, regular monitoring is not only necessary, but some would say it’s mandatory. How else are you going to keep on top of what is being said in the social web world? The difficulty in maintaining a social web presence, however, is that someone has to tend to it on a daily basis. Monitoring and measuring an online presence is a huge task that some companies aren't willing to invest in, but there are three good reasons to reconsider that investment opportunity: action, attitude and attention.

As previously mentioned, the three A's are concepts that can help determine if a social web program(s) is meeting company objectives: Action: is the most important and least measured of the three A's. This is where campaigns can be tied to key performance indicators (KPIs) or other organizational goals for action. Return on investment can also be measured in terms of actions. Attitude: is the overall sentiment and relationship measure. 3) Attention: the overall volume of interest, which includes fans, traffic and other analytics.

These are not just theories. The three ‘A’s are proven winners in helping organizations fully understand the importance of social media measurement. A great example of an organization with a successful social web program that utilises the three A's, while simultaneously helping it meet its business objectives, is Starbucks.

This company is consistently held up as an example of social media excellence. Starbucks seems to have a much better grasp of the importance of social media, and has proven to be a leader in understanding how social media can indeed have a positive investment impact when it comes to return on investment (ROI). Starbucks developed and launched “My Starbucks Idea.”

The site actively encourages users to join and submit product suggestions or improvements, which are voted on by Starbucks consumers. The most popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed. Starbucks then takes it a step further with the “Ideas in Action” blog, providing up to the minute updates to all users on the status of the suggested changes. In one swoop, Starbucks has provided all the three A's: intensifying its relationship with its customers; receiving the necessary feedback it needs and wants on its products, plus opening the floor to suggestions - any suggestion, which in turn empowers the consumer and brings them back to the site. Starbucks understands the importance of social media and it’s not afraid to engage with its users, an understanding that many organizations will need to invest in if they hope to emulate the social media success of Starbucks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

XL Foods - the crisis gift that keeps on giving

Why do I get the feeling that the owners of XL Foods are walking around with the following button on their clothes? See below

Public relation practitioners, or anyone interested in looking for examples on how not to handle a crisis can look no further. Introducing XL Foods, current candidates for the 2012 worst in crisis communications planning award. Caught in the middle of the largest beef recall in Canadian history, XL has demonstrated every characteristic of a company in complete communication denial. Anyone not familiar with the story, can click here or here for the latest updates.

XL Foods are doing everything an organization can do to worsen what should have been a simple case of apologizing for their mistakes, correcting the problem, and working very, very hard to get consumers and the general public back onside. It's incredible in this day and age that there are still organizations that believe in times of crisis, keeping quiet is the preferable method than dealing outright with the problem. Silence rarely works as a tactic, and simply provokes more questions, more intensity, and much more scrutiny. What is particularly amazing about the company's situation, is that the media and public sh*tstorm they are enduring could have easily been avoided. All XL had to do was follow the gold standard in crisis communications - particularly from a food industry perspective, as demonstrated by Maple Leaf Foods.

Watch how powerful an apology can be:

Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, was the face of the organization during the company's very public crisis. He expressed true remorse over the people who were sickened from the tainted Maple Leaf products. He made himself available to the media, and worked overtime to reassure a very sceptical public while simultaneously trying to contain damage to the brand. His communications team took full advantage of every available communication vehicle, including social media which was a very big deal at that time. The company recognized the importance of social media, and the impact it would have on the company's image, not to mention playing a pivotal role in its rehabilitation. Where are Brian and Lee Nilsson, owners of XL Foods? Do you know who they are? Have you seen them? Heard them speak? The media are even calling them out for their behaviour, wondering where they are. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile the behaviour of XL in an age when social media itself can make a scandal or crisis remain in the public conscious much longer than a traditional news cycle. It does make you wonder if the communications team at XL are ignorant, or not being allowed to do their job.

From a societal perspective, it horrible to know people have been sickened from XL Foods tainted products. From a communications perspective, this strengthens the argument of not only have a strong communications plan in place, but also developing a crisis communications plan to avoid the mistakes demonstrated by XL. The XL brand may be irretrievably damaged, but there are still some valuable lessons pr practitioners can learn from this mess including:
1) Update your communications plan. If your organization doesn’t have a plan in place, write one - you won’t be sorry that you did. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should at least give you guidelines that you and your organization will be able to follow in any situation.
2) Develop a crisis communication plan. Even if you are told that your company won’t need one, do it anyway.
3) Understand that social media can be a benefit and a hindrance, but be vigilant about the latest developments and updates so you can use it to your advantage.
4) Silence is not golden in times of crisis.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Let the image do the talking

The picture above says it all, doesn't it? If you ever find yourself wondering why your website traffic may not be where you want it to be, it could have a lot to do with the way your content is being presented. Content is all about providing an audience with something to read, see, learn, and experience, and your content strategy needs to reflect that. If you can honestly ask and answer these questions: 1) Am I letting people know what I'm about? 2) Does the content really reflect my identity? 3) Are there images that can explain who I am better than words? Then you're on the right track to developing a pretty solid content strategy.

There is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It's true of course, depending on the image you select. A powerful image can speak volumes. It can tell an audience who you are, and what you're about. It can provide context in a way that words sometimes can't capture, depending of course on the image you select - like this for example:

Look at it closely - is it not persuasive? Are you being informed? Is it instructive? Does it validate the message? You better believe it does. This is the sort of imagery you need to create in order to capture and hold a viewers attention, exactly what you need to do regarding website content. A far less controversial, but nonetheless effective, way to capture content strategy with images, is with food.

Who doesn't love a burger? More importantly, who wouldn't be compelled to learn more about what the image was presenting? The use of the hamburger bun, toppings, and meat to illustrate the importance of each component of content strategy is brilliant. Ultimately the main point of this image is to put some thought into your content strategy!

Finally, we have the equal importance of content and context:

Simple, but effective non? So why does this image succeed? Not to be repetitive, but again, because it’s simple. It’s easy to remember and sometimes that is all you need. When you’re creating content for your site, it's so easy to get lost in the weeds. You want to create something that stands out, that looks different from all the rest, but thorough planning of your content will make all the difference to how your site looks, feels and most importantly in what you’re trying to say.