The State of Social Media in 2015

The social media landscape has become so saturated that communications professionals are struggling to keep up with the latest trends. Facebook sat atop the iron throne for quite some time, Twitter experienced rapid growth during its golden years and life was cozy for the few major players enjoying the view from a relatively quiet social media summit during the mid-2000s.

Fast forward to 2015, and now I have coworkers asking what “a snapchat” is and how “the vine” works. If you so much as blink, you will be swept up in this fast paced social media shit storm. In less than five years, Instagram exploded in popularity and is slowly strangling a competitive field once dominated by its owner (Facebook). YouTube is a video behemoth, and there doesn’t seem to be any website that can rival its superiority. Google owns it, and with their money, resources and creative direction it’s hard to imagine Vimeo or Hulu making any push to challenge the tube. Apps like Vine and Snapchat offer short form video storytelling, and a handful of brands have found success using these tools. From how-to videos on Vine (Lowes) to stop motion animation, it will be interesting to see how brands continue to reach younger audiences and create compelling content. Telling a story in six seconds is an art form in and of itself. I continue to be amazed at the creative process behind the amazing Vines being shared on a daily basis.

The best part is, brands will seek out influencers to create content for them! Every social media platform has its poster boys and girls, and brands are leveraging these influencers to reach new audiences looking for content that is genuine and not coming from the mouth of a money-hungry marketer.

Today’s social media lineup is so deep it feels like a new platform is sprouting up every week. Periscope is an app I’ve been keeping a close eye on. Twitter bought it in March for a cool $100 million, just like it bought out Vine in 2012. I don’t mean to stray off topic, but something tells me that Twitter is struggling to remain relevant. It is a social network that is here to stay, but the decline in the number of monthly active users is little concerning. However, no service can match Twitter in the realm of breaking news. The public controls the message, we’re empowered as our own reporters and news breaks on Twitter before traditional media outlets even have a chance to turn their cameras on. Let’s get back to Periscope. It’s a live video streaming service, and in its infancy it appears to have a lot of potential. Journalists are using it to cover live events and breaking news, politicians and other organizations are live streaming speeches and other notable talks and the general public is live streaming pay-per-view boxing matches and Game of Thrones episodes. What a time to be alive.

LinkedIn is a toss up for most brands, but if anything use it to build your personal brand. Employers want to see that you’re active on social media, and LinkedIn provides an outlet to showcase your career history and accomplishments. Flickr will always be a hub for more professional leaning photographers. It lacks in social where Instagram thrives, but Flickr is not trying to be an Instagram. It’s an image hosting site that has a traditional leaning audience, much like it’s parent company Yahoo. Times changed quickly for companies like AOL, Yahoo and Digg. They lost their competitive edge, their products became obsolete and now they’re playing catch up in a race they had no business competing in.

At the end of the day, it comes down to quality content. Satisfy a need, make someone laugh, make someone cry. Be genuine. Remain transparent, and remember that the audience always comes first. Social media is a part of our culture. It’s our generation’s printing press, and it has revolutionized the world we live in. In my own little world, I’m lucky enough to say that it’s my job.

The News Release is not Dead, but it’s Dying

It’s been over a year since my last entry, but for good reason! I’ve been working as a social media coordinator for almost two years now, building an online brand and reputation that has thrived since my humble start at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in August 2013. A job in social media may sound fun to most since it’s something we all use on a daily basis, but it takes an incredible amount of hard work, dedication, planning and strategy to manage social media for a company or organization. I’ve been fortunate enough to promote the great research being done at the institute via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, and the most rewarding part of it all is getting to learn about Florida’s natural environment and the many fascinating marine science and research projects happening around the state. I’m learning something new everyday, and the knowledge I’ve gained over the last year and a half is something I never could have never imagined when I first started in this position.

One thing I’ve come to find out while immersed in a social media career is that the media no longer relies on the traditional news release for ideas and story leads. Reporters now have the luxury of scanning social media sites for story ideas, and the PR industry has benefited by reaching the media via different channels. On the institute’s Facebook page, print reporters and local, state and national television news stations track our content on a weekly basis, and our stories have gone viral from news outlets picking them up directly from our social media channels. As our audience has grown larger, we’ve become more aware that the general public is not our only target audience. Technology and the rise of social media has transformed the PR industry for the better, and it’s given us an opportunity to foster trust and good will with not only the public but with members of the media. The news release will always be a staple in our profession, but social media gives PR pros another avenue for reaching reporters at the right time, with the right message and on the right medium.

Social media is here to stay, and public relations professionals need to begin identifying how it can be best leveraged to achieve important communications goals for a client, company or organization.

 

Publicity Does Not Define Public Relations

the oscars
Publicity and public relations do not go hand in hand. As a communications professional it’s easy to make this distinction, but to  the general public it may not be as easy to differentiate the two. The 2014 Oscars are tonight, and while it’s a great event honoring our best and brightest in film, a problem still persists that continues to plague the PR industry, which is suffering from mistaken identity.

To put it lightly, the entertainment industry has belittled the value of public relations. If an actress sleeps with her married director (cough Kristen Stewart) and her reputation is at stake, what are the first words you hear? Public relations. Need to do some damage control? Get the PR person on it, because that’s clearly all we do as PR professionals. Our profession strives for transparency, trust, and a strategic approach to communication. A word like publicity is grouped with public relations so often, that if you don’t study our trade it’s easy to assume public relations is superficial and lacking depth.

Unfortunately we have many forces working against us, with the media as one of the primary culprits. They’ve perpetuated the false idea that public relations is only newsworthy and relevant when a major crisis erupts. Crisis communications is only one of many concentrations that fall under the large umbrella of public relations. Our work is not one-dimensional, but to outsiders I can see why that common misconception is alive and well.

To fix this problem, we must do what we do best. Educate, then persuade the public to maintain a certain point of view about what we really do as communications professionals. We’ve had a difficult time branding this new era of public relations, which isn’t just about manipulating news stories and unethical practices of the early years. Our profession has matured, and it’s time to make an effort to change the negative, uninformed perceptions and attitudes associated with PR.

2008 Obama: Where Art Thou?

President Obama Makes Statement On The SequestrationHow quickly things change after a honeymoon period. I was in love with a, no, the man during my freshman year of college in 2008, and I didn’t even follow politics or listen to NPR news. I’ll admit, he knew his target audience which is key to any successful PR campaign. It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated, strategic communications plan to win over an impressionable, young and naive demographic.

Obama used, and still uses social media to relate to me and my fellow Gen Y peeps! Social media! Ask any republican in 2008 what social media was and they’d tell you it’s literally socializing with members of the media (media and Fox News are synonymous in this case). In 2008, we had no clue who this striking, young, questionably American man was but one thing was certain. He was not George W. Bush. I liked the idea of Obama more than his actual plan to turn our nation around. Blinded I was by that damn word. Change. Haven’t seen anything from himin a while (Barack is change in this case. Personification is nifty. Nifty is a fun word. I’ll stop).

As a PR man, Barack’s 2008 campaign is a case study that will be talked about for years to come. A brilliantly executed digital plan, Facebook swag is on full attack and Obama is suddenly cooler than Maroon 5 when they were still together. Still together? I choose not to believe. So the campaign is a success, Obama wins and reality hits. The voter high wears off, and what’s next? He’s still the only one smoking, blowing smoke right in our faces because his team successfully used every great PR tactic in the book to influence our ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Every brand should strive to do the same, but please deliver on your word so you have more to show for your efforts than a busted healthcare launch and the cutest Portuguese Water Dog I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Weiner Sacrificing his Reputation for a Chance to Become NYC Mayor

anthony-weiner-loses-campaign-manager-suffers-a-brutal-day-on-the-sunday-talk-showsAfter months of ridicule spawning from leaked photos of Anthony Weiner exposing himself to multiple women via Twitter, he’s recently made the decision to continue his New York City mayoral campaign. The man’s got more balls than I do, (see what I did there?) but his choice to stay in the race is unwise on many fronts. He’s surrounded himself with yes men, and he has no business running for mayor with all of this negative publicity affecting his personal and professional life.

His situation is dire. Ultimately it’s his call on whether to ride out the storm or drop out of the race, but at this point he should be more concerned about repairing his severely damaged reputation. Weiner’s dilemma can be compared to a PR firm working with a client in a time of crisis. The client may think they know what’s best as far as goals, strategies and tactics to implement, but a forward-thinking client will take a PR consultant’s advice seriously to eventually agree on an effective crisis communications plan.

Weiner is acting as the client who is disillusioned, uncooperative and stubborn. Dropping out of this race in his eyes would be a blow to his pride, but sometimes you need to swallow that pride and make the selfless decision to cut your losses. If I were his publicist, I would strongly urge him to put the mayoral campaign on hold and focus on stabilizing areas of his life outside of politics. The countless hours he’s spent on the campaign trail could have been better spent improving relations with his wife Huma or attending sessions with a therapist to eliminate his embarrassing problem.

The title of my post says it all. By staying in this race, he’s digging himself into a deeper hole by choosing short-term success over long-term happiness. In order to save his political career, Weiner must take care of personal matters first to show his family, friends, supporters and the voting public that he’s ready to be back in the limelight.

The NFL and its Lingering PR Problem

nflThe National Football League is arguably the most popular sporting league in the world, but it will never reach its full potential unless there’s a concerted effort to rid the league of players who continually damage the NFL’s reputation. Roger Goodell & Co. conduct business as usual with a “too big to fail” mentality, but if they don’t address this pressing issue soon it could lead to damaging consequences for the league and each of its 32 NFL franchises.

Since the Super Bowl in February, 27 active NFL players have been arrested for a number of different crimes. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is one of those 27, pinned with murder and five related gun charges just two short weeks ago. I thought the Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick incidents would be enough to push the NFL to make drastic changes to its player misconduct policies, but apparently not.

The league’s public relations crisis can be analyzed from a strategic communications perspective. The NFL has a reputation to uphold, and as of now the decision makers have been reactive instead of proactive in combating off-field player misconduct. To salvage the league’s image and restore credibility with the fans, media, and other invested stakeholders, these steps should be taken by the NFL commissioner :

  1. Set an overarching goal that will be the main focus of your efforts. In this case, ” Decrease the number of off-field player incidents.”
  2. Establish strategies, which are the broad approaches you’ll take to achieve the goal. Revising player misconduct policies and enforcing stricter penalties and repercussions are a few good examples.
  3. Identify measurable objectives that will be used to see if the chosen strategies are being met. Banning or suspending players who act out could be an objective that’s easily measured to see if player misconduct decreases due to increased player bans and suspensions.
  4. Tactics need to be implemented to identify the tools you will use to achieve the already set strategies and objectives on a day-to-day basis. Working with the press to get the message out about revised policies and forcing players to seek professional help to fix behavioral issues are a few useful tactics that will aid in achieving long-term goals.

This problem is not going away anytime soon. Regardless of what the NFL decides to do, it’s imperative to take action and communicate goals, strategies, objectives and tactics with those who have a vested interest in the long-term success of the National Football League.

Yahoo Can Keep Buying, But It Won’t Help Their Image Problem

yahoo_purple_large-prvYahoo is vying to stay relevant in this social media centric world, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. So desperate in fact, that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012 she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.

While Marissa makes it rain in hopes of getting Yahoo her groove back, she’s failing to realize how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of contemporary web culture. When I think of Yahoo, AOL comes to mind. They are massive tech companies with the resources needed to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to jump on the social media/mobile bandwagon.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at most. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger, coveted demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions younger generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective brands and users. These companies weren’t afraid to meet the changing digital landscape head-on, and Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge.

To ultimately fix this image problem, I’d first avoid making any other $1 billion acquisitions. Embrace the existing and acquired products and services you now have, and focus on improving these products to meet the changing needs of your users. If the products and services you offer are the best they can possibly be, the image problem will eventually fix itself.