Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

Blogger’s Little Helpers

I recently came across a little thing on Twitter that many may already be familiar with but which I had only seen occasionally and never really followed up on. A little thing called the Follow Friday helper.

Apparently there are several of these services in existence and they all work mostly the same way. They analyze your Twitter account and then give you suggestions for your #Follow Friday listings.

At first I thought, wow, what a neat idea. I registered and then pressed the magic button to see what suggestions it would give me. Now I am not knocking the followers it listed. They were all great and the good thing about the service is that is does give you justification for why it chose that person. Either they mentioned you, RT’d you, or somehow or another engaged in a lovely act of reciprocity that garnered them a nod from the algorithm used by the Follow Friday helper program.

What I noticed however is that the main people it suggested are the people I tend to talk a lot with on Twitter. Again, not that I wouldn’t recommend them…I usually do. But that isn’t what I generally use my #FF listings for. When the time rolls around for me to make suggestions I really try to make it personal.

Maybe I am still idealistic (or maybe I am just not huge and famous enough) but I still take the time to go back through my list of 500 or so followers and look for those that had something interesting to say over the past week. Something that caught my attention, or someone who needs a boost – maybe they are really awesome, have a ton of potential but just need a few people to help push them into the spotlight. I love it when I do that for somebody. Everybody needs a little good karma now and then.

So it seemed to me that by automating the process it was impersonalizing it as well and I am not into that. Maybe one day, when I have millions of followers…I would consider it but at the same time it seems like the same argument as the automated welcome message debate.  Those who are successful will tell you that having an automated welcome message is a big NO-NO. It turns people off. If someone decides to follow you, it is because they saw something they liked. If you can’t be bothered to welcome them, send a quick hello without a sales pitch, or an auto-DM, then maybe you really are not worth their time after all.

I know what you are thinking, if I sent a message every time I got a new follower I would be tweeting constantly. Well I don’t do that either. I keep track of my new followers using a column on my Tweetdeck. Then once a week or so I send out a welcome to my new followers, thanking them for following me. Takes maybe five minutes of my time.

Therefore, while some of these services might be neat, I think that I will stick with doing my #FF’s the old-fashioned way, and keep things personal. After all, just because you are online doesn’t mean you are not reaching out to people.

What do you think? Do you use any blogging/Twitter “helpers”? Where do you fall on the automation debate? Is there a point where using a service becomes necessary?

Staying Innovative is Crucial for Conservation

With so many non-profits and NGO’s, not to mention all the state and federal agencies vying for a piece of the continually shrinking resource pie, it is no secret that to remain in the conservation game, being innovative has become a critical component for survival.

The old stand-by tricks of the trade are no longer returning the numbers they used to which is part of why so many have turned to using social media. But just “using” social media or creating a social media plan is not enough.

In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to almost stay ahead of social media, a nearly impossible task. That means having at least one or more dedicated staff members that just work on social media campaigns, not just a summer intern. They stay current on what’s out there, using valid search methods and make sure your organization is represented on all the major social networks where it is relevant to be present.

But as the great Cat in the Hat said, “that is not all, oh no, that is not all.”

Twitter and Facebook, while important are considered the norm by today’s social media standards. To stay ahead and keep today’s 5-second attention spans on your web sites (and hopefully clicking on your donation buttons) you have got to have an innovative approach. You need something that will not only capture attention but then nudge them to act upon an impulse. Not an easy task I know (In fact I am currently working on a thesis about this very topic so please feel free to comment, I need all the help I can get!!)

First take a look at this list. I found it while perusing a great blog called NowSourcing and although a bit dated, it has some tremendous resources.

Next take a look around you and ask a few key marketing and demographic questions. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of sites do they generally frequent? What is your key demographic. Most organizations have access to this type of information and can sit down and come up with a list pretty easily.

Once you have your list, it is time to get creative. Brainstorm all the ways (in 140 characters or less if you can) that you can appeal your organization’s latest achievement to all the different demographics you listed. Try humor, trivia, promotion, a plea, whatever and see what you come up with. The point is start getting the creative juices flowing.The upside of this is that if you come away with anything really good, it is already pre-packaged for Twitter!

Once you are feeling a little looser, take your demographic and start researching some new networks where you might be able to connect with them. Depending on the type of organization you are a part of this could be Care2, GovLoop, GreenWalla, etc. Again be creative. Enter some key words into a few search engines and see what pops up, whether they be blogs, web sites, online magazines etc. Make a note of these search results and where you can begin to interact. Don’t hide your identity, the point is to get your organization’s name out there, to show you have an interest where your customers/constituents are spending time.

Okay, so you have a pretty good idea where your audience is spending their time and you’ve created a decent, maybe even humorous list of possible tweets/pitches for your organization. Now for the next step – to find out who is already talking about you and plug in.

Similar to the keyword search you used before, you will be using some social media tools to locate just how far your actual reach is on the web using klout, backtweet, twitter reach etc. A great discussion of these tools can be found here. What these will do for you is to help you determine just how influential you are being with your current campaigns, and where you may need to beef up your efforts.

So hopefully this short refresher has helped you but please note that this is a continuing work in progress. What additional ways do you stay on your toes in the name of conservation?

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

PR Tips: Public Relations on a (Very Tight) Budget

Today’s guest post comes from Ashley Wirthin, writer for Public Relations Blogger and marketing associate for H Media Group.

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Don't Let a Tight Budget Stop Your Campaign.

My senior year in college I worked for a non-profit as the event-coordinator intern, helping with an annual fundraiser. Even though the event was months to come when I began the internship, we seemed to always get behind in funds and deadlines.

While working, I learned a bit about PR, especially in relations to non-profits who seem to have an even smaller budget for advertising, PR, and marketing than your normal for-profit company. (The small company I work for now, which is comprised of 3 employees, seems to have a larger advertising budget.)

Here are a few things (some of which were free) I did to prepare and promote our event, and some things other local companies helped us to do through donations:

1.)   I requested the event to be added to event/community calendars. This involved contacting site admins, or simply adding the event myself. Most of these calendars allow you to submit your own information that will be moderated and added by the admin or editor. Others ask for an email with event information, but it all really depends. I simply searched in Google for event calendars for the local Portland area and added the event to most of what I found.

2.)   I posted the event information on my Facebook and MySpace accounts. (I wasn’t asked to, but I wanted to invite some of my friends, given they were able to attend the event.) This is a great way to get involvement and to rank in searches on the two social networking events, had someone searched for a similar event. Now, a year later, I would add Twitter and perhaps even LinkedIn to the mix and let my networks know about the event through those two vehicles as well.

3.)   We distributed and mailed a lot of flyers and postcards. On its own this is an expensive feat. However, we were lucky enough to get the printing donated by a local company in exchange for advertising. Collaborating and making a lot of calls and being persistent can help propel an already existing network of local companies and result in some donations of time or resources.

4.)   We printed flyers and posters and asked local companies (especially those that were sponsoring the event) to help out and place them in windows and on counters. We made sure to go local and throughout the Portland area.

5.)   With the help of a PR firm and PR specialists, we were able to get a radio spot with a local celebrity/personality and gave away tickets to the event. We also told local news about the event and a large TV news channel was present and recording at the event, even performing a few interviews. The PR firm also helped to get our stories in local papers and publications.

Along with these things, we sent out press releases (which can be done for free or at little cost, and can be handled internally), advertised (heavily) on our own website, and through other companies sponsoring, gained a lot of publicity and advertising on their sites when they would promote their sponsorship.  Some other things we could have done could have included creating a blog, held contests, or gotten in touch with bloggers who would have been interested in our event, both locally and topic related.

To further help your PR efforts, get involved in your community, network with local companies, and build up a professional set of contacts with which you can get in touch. Try not to get in contact with them only when you need something, but get in touch with them when you have something of value to offer. This can build a better relationship, and open the door for future collaborations.

Furthermore, make friends in the blogging world; having a good group of bloggers you are familiar with when you have a story to launch can be a great resource. Again, remember to offer something of value to them as well; they may be more prone to reciprocate in the future.

Like this? Check out Ashley’s blog now for more.

Ashley_Werthlin_14_AAshley Wirthlin is a Marketing Associate for H Media Group. She manages, edits, and writes at PublicRelationsBlogger daily. She is a recent marketing/management graduate of the University of Portland, and has experience working in marketing, non-profits, fundraising, and event coordination. PublicRelationsBlogger is an educational resource for anyone interested in the PR industry. Ashley plans to release a PR Certification program in early 2010.

Everyday Public Relations is Going Green!


WARNING: The following post contains some controversial opinions but is not meant to offend. These are simply my thoughts and ideas. Feel free to share your own, and all constructive criticism is welcome as always; but please no unsupported arguments or religious debates. Thanks.

A long time coming, Everyday Public Relations is making some changes. While still focused primarily on PR in our everyday lives, you may begin to notice that more and more posts have a conservation angle to them. You’ll see ideas and tips for those who practice “green” PR as well as helpful social media hints for those in the conservation world.

To better explain this change let me start by telling you that I have these two great passions in life. (I actually have more, but only two relate to my career directly.) I love PR & Communications and I love conservation work. I have been lucky so far in that I get to combine the two on a regular basis. Working for a conservation organization as a public affairs officer has really been the best job I’ve ever had.

I do not however come into the world of conservation as a blind idealist or a hopeless treehugger. My viewpoints on the subject may seem a little extreme, and are hard to define, but I will try, in an effort to help my readers understand the nature of some of my posts.

Here goes: The planet Earth is the greatest evolutionary miracle that man has ever known. “What about people?” you cry. We (humans) are but one species, a blink of an eye on a planet that has seen more change, more wonder than any other that we currently know about. Throughout the studies done to explore space, our final frontier, it has been determined that our home planet is the only one of its kind – and is that way because everything came together so perfectly, at just the right time. Practically the definition of a miracle.

Now whether you attribute this miracle to God, the Big Bang or some other theory is your opinion and not something I care to debate. I do not judge and do not care for those who do.

Humans will not be around forever. Sad, I suppose but true. Eventually the Earth will die, as everything that exists and has ever exists does. It is an unavoidable truth-the planet’s lifespan will one day conclude.

Now that we are all depressed thinking about the end of the world let me say this. The timing of that inevitable event depends largely on our treatment of this blue and green world we call home. This is what I want to change.

I love this planet, down to its smallest bugs. I’m fascinated by life. To that end I want to share the wonder I experience on a daily basis with as many people and future generations as I can. I want my kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and so forth to know the simple joy of a summer night listening to a chorus of frogs; the majestic imposing beauty of the Rocky Mountains; the frozen seemingly endless oceans of the south pole with so much life teeming underneath the ice; the intracacies of a mountain bog’s eco-system and the awe of a fire rushing across a prairie-renewing life from its ashy wake. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

There is not a ton of money in conservation work or what has been dubbed “green pr” by some. Often you work long hours for little pay, much of your efforts being difficult and thankless. If you don’t love it, or have some greater calling, you burn out fast. It is demanding and despite the growing green movement, often your audience is stubborn, set in their ways. money driven or simply indifferent, which is the worst of all.

So…that being said, and I know I’ve gone on a good while now, my blog is changing, I think for the better. I want to really reach out to those who are using their PR and communications skills for more than just to make a profit. If I can help those working for a better world via PR and social media then I have been successful. There will still be solid tips on using public relations, and social media in the new world of work, there will simply be the added component of using what I know to help others help the planet…for as long as it remains our home.

Hope you stick around and join the conservation. I look forward to your comments.

Karma for bloggers?

Girl twins with laptop computer.The Golden Rule Still Applies…

I have always been a big believer in karma, the golden rule, or whatever you choose to call it. Basically I try hard to put forth the same kind of energy that I hope to receive back from the world around me. I know this may sound idealistic, but hey that’s how I roll. I recently came across a similar viewpoint expressed very nicely on one of the blogs I follow,  The Urban Muse . Her post really made sense to me about how karma relays to the online blogosphere. I read several blogs regularly and I always try to pass on the tips and tricks that they so eloquently put forth. So therefore, in that vein, here are a few recent posts that I have come across that may help you in your quest to become a better blogger, writer and social media participant.

This is great stuff for helping your organization or blog to really develop your brand using social media.Here is an excerpt:

“In the Wild West of social media, over-protection would seem to be a natural response when faced with loss of control over the conversation, and indeed of the firm’s intellectual property, and yet this is almost certainly the wrong response.

Those brands that take the counter-intuitive path of celebrating their customers (even when they are infringing IP) and of sharing more of themselves (even if that means giving away more of their IP) will be the ones who will win.”

The next one, Understanding Social Media Guidelines for Employees – by Don Sears who writes at Careers, is probably one of the best short set of guidelines I have found for integrating social media into employee policy, which as we all are aware is moving to the forefront of many organization’s lists of concerns. He says:

“Protecting business and fighting negative perception are important to every company. The last thing they want or need is for employees to be out their in the social media sphere of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else spouting false information, making their work life too transparent or arguing with other employees publicly.

Two companies taking social media seriously are Intel and IBM. Intel is taking it so seriously it apparently has created a department dedicated to the practices of smart social media, says ZDNet’s Jason Hiner.

From a human resources perspective, it’s a really wise move to have clear guidelines and policies, and for most employees, it’s good to know where your company stands on posting information–especially with issues of legality, copyright, company secrets and the like. I could very well see other companies borrowing from Intel’s and IBM’s social media guidelines.”

Well that is all I have for now. Hope you found this useful and if so, please pass it on, as in essence, that is how karma works. What goes around, comes around, the good, the bad and the ugly.