Twitter- The New Form of Journalism

For myself, and I’m sure many others, my favorite part about the election coming to an end was that I no longer had to avoid my Twitter newsfeed during the debates or anytime either one of the candidates said anything and anything (seriously, anything). I was shocked to see how many of my friends were suddenly “political experts” taking their own feelings and opinions out on their own newsfeeds and timelines. Don’t get me wrong, we should all be able to express our own opinions via social media, that’s what it’s there for, however the constantly erratic and at times uneducated statements that were being thrown out into the Twitter-sphere were beyond annoying.

We expect our peers to be making these types of comments, but when it comes from a journalist how do we know what to believe or not believe? Many reporters took to live-tweeting the presidential debates and coverage through their own personal accounts. The hard part was trying to dig through all of these “bits of news” to decide what was in fact true and what was their own personal belief.  For me, it got so bad that I felt that the journalists I follow were not in fact journalists but rather much like my peers with little credibility besides their own personal beliefs.

I think that if a professional news reporter is going to cover important election pieces like this, their tweets should be substantial news coverage. Some would disagree with my and argue that Twitter is like a big focus group- every one brings their own opinions and beliefs to the table. While agree that this true, when you consider yourself a professional journalists representing a news outlet, its best to keep your comments as factual, substantial, and neutral as possible.

The fact of the matter is, most people do look to Twitter for their news. Before the election I considered it to be one of the breaking sources for live, up-to-date information. But afterwards I had to step back and ask myself, is Twitter helping or harming journalism?

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Case Study- Kraft Mac & Cheese Goes ‘Adult’

If you had a childhood that was similar to mine, yours probably consisted of boy bands, great Saturday morning cartoons, turtlenecks and legging outfits- and Kraft Mac & Cheese. And no, mom, the generic brand is NOT the same. Kraft will be happy to know that their Mac & Cheese has continued to be a staple meal in my college life diet as I have stayed a true fan ever since my younger years. While I’m sure I’m not alone in my age group of a young adult still a true Kraft Mac & Cheese fan, how do you suppose Kraft is marketing to those older than me who are not aware of the cheesy amazingness that lies on the macaroni aisle at the grocery store.

Not only did Kraft’s new ad campaign, themed “You know you love it”, engage millions of Americans through TV advertisements, but they have also taken this campaign social.

Kraft took the campaign to Twitter to target an older age group and since then it has been a wild success. The initial campaign, titled “Mac & Jinx”, encouraged users to tweet something with the phrase Mac & Cheese in it, which Kraft would identify and send the two users free Mac & Cheese after identifying them together. The campaign was a hit within the targeted older adult age group and led to a 400% increase in Kraft’s Twitter followers as well as 300 mentions per minute of Kraft on Twitter. This also led to a 400% increase of Facebook likes, not too bad in my opinion.

The infamous ‘adult’ Kraft ads were also based on tweets made by users, which proved to be wildly successful. The Kraft Mac & Cheese page currently has over 6,000 followers (and that’s specifically the Kraft Mac & Cheese page, not the Kraft brand page).

The latest phase of the Kraft Twitter campaign is their “Smile Tagging” program in order to increase their Facebook presence. Smile Tagging is similar to the “like” concept on Facebook and allows users to install a “smile” button on their profiles, allowing them to take pictures of their smiles every time they see something they like on Facebook.

I think it’s great that Kraft Mac & Cheese as upped their social media presence where it counts- targeted towards adults. While most of us associate Kraft Mac & Cheese with childhood, I personally have carried this obsession into my adult life and would recommend that the generation older than me do the same.

Best Buy Knows Best

In an age were more and more people are losing their jobs over the things they post on their various social media outlets, it is vital to have a company-wide social media policy.  In doing some research on what’s already out there in terms of social policies, I found that Best Buy is known for their very well laid out and clear policy.

The Best Buy social media policy is it’s one entity of the organizational guidelines, titled “ Be smart. Be respectful. Be human”, which perfectly lays out what should be considered when utilizing a social media tool. The policy states that the guidelines are applicable to any form of communicated whether it’s tweeting or just talking to a friend, which I think is very important. However at the end of the document it also references several of the other company policies if any further questions should arise.

The policy is broken up into two main sections: what to do and what to not disclose. A few highlights that I found to be key in the policy is that one of the first points that it makes is that if one is going to be discussing work on their pages they must disclose their affiliation with Best Buy, however one should also make it clear that if they are tweeting about work related issues they must state that their views are only theirs and not the views of the company. The policy also warns employees to protect themselves and to act responsibly and ethically.

In the “what do not disclose” section the policy outlines important things that employees should never discuss on social media outlets. These include legal and personal information, confidential information about the company, or anything that belongs to someone else (illegal music sharing, copyrighted works, anything trademarked by Best Buy).

The policy then outlines and warns employees of the consequences that will take place if they break any of these rules. Losing your job over something that you post online without thinking is a pretty embarrassing thing to happen and not only causes damage to your reputation but also to the company. Having a social media policy helps a company avoid having to fire people over related issues as well as protecting their own reputation. 

Instagram Sells Out

A wise man once said, “If Facebook is a bowl of Lucky Charms, Instagram is just the marshmallows” and I could not have agreed more. Instagram is social media’s way of taking all of the junk in my newsfeed that my friends post, and boiling it down to a select number of images. While some people do abuse their Instagram profiles by continuing to put images that are irrelevant, but still the amount of crap that I don’t want to see is far less than on Facebook.

Most of us heard the big news that Instagram had been bought by Facebook back in the spring of ’12 for 1 billion dollars. I was pretty nervous when I heard this because the last thing I want to see is Instagram becoming more like Facebook, and to my disappointment Instagram recently announced the launch of their ‘profile badges’. Profile badges are simply a web version of the once-app-only social network, aka users can now have their online Instagram profiles linked to their brand websites or blogs instead of only being able to access and view profiles from their smart phones or smart devices.

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Look a bit familiar? The visual layout of the new profile badges looks strangely very similar to that of the Facebook timeline. Instagram’s new owners claim that the purpose of this change to the site is to allow for companies to create better brand profiles.

While I do agree that this is great news for brands looking for develop their digital marketing strategy, as a user I prefer to keep my Instagram free of online advertising. My fear is that Instagram’s new owners will change the site much like they did Facebook, into the same ‘sponsored ads’ and stalking my profile-like activities that allow them to create tailor advertisements specifically to my liking. A great get rich scheme for Facebook, but it lessens the value of the site for the user.

 

Case Analysis- VSX by Victoria’s Secret

All different types of people love the world’s sexiest brand- Victoria’s Secret. Women love it because of the image surrounding the brand and men love it- well, I think you can figure out why. Until recently, I’ve always been rather unimpressed by Victoria’s Secret current online presence and ad campaigns in general. They currently have a successful Twitter and Facebook presence. Yeah, we get it, the Victoria’s Secret ‘Angels’ are the most attractive women on earth, however any person with half a brain knows that they aren’t going to magically look that sexy by putting on a pair of wings and some VS underwear. But regardless of that fact, Victoria’s Secret has always been wildly successful in their online marketing efforts even in spite of their uncreative campaigns- that is, until recently.

While doing some holiday shopping a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Facebook page called ‘VSX Sport’ and didn’t even realize until I was halfway down the page that it was a Victoria’s Secret brand. The page doesn’t feature incredibly attractive half naked women, but instead features incredibly attractive women wearing the new VXS sports line. The campaign includes a series of workout videos that are all titled “Train Like an Angel”, and I was immediately intrigued because not only am I always looking for new workout material, but who doesn’t want to get on the same workout regimen as the most attractive women in the world?

Unlike the other Victoria’s Secret marketing efforts, this campaign is targeted exclusively to women, which makes a lot more sense seeing as their products are for women. Not only have they nailed their campaign method, but also the content is truly phenomenal.  The page features a series of ‘challenges’ which are workout videos focusing on various strategies and areas. For example in preparation of the highly anticipated VS Fashion Show, the recent challenges have been for ‘Runway core’, ‘Runway Legs’, ‘Runway Arms’ etc. Finally, they have provided a realistic way to show women how to get as close as possible to looking like a VS Angel (still a far-fetched goal, but still more effective than the wings). Of course in all of these videos the Angels are wearing the VSX sportswear line, thus promoting the new products.

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The page not only features the Angels, but also profiles all of the trainers that work with the models. This not only adds credibility to the workouts and challenges but also takes the focus off the whole “sexy” aspect of the brand and allows the consumer to focus on what’s important- the sportswear product. Additionally, seeing that perfectly average looking people are able to achieve the same level of physical fitness as the models is quite reassuring to us normal people. The content also includes healthy eating tips from the angels, specifically what they eat for snacks and daytime meals which promotes a healthy message that to be skinny you should still eat.

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The campaign is not only made successful by the good content, but also by the level of interaction that is apparent on the page. Content is posted 2-3 times a day, and always with a visual. With the page only being launched recently, they are up to 315k likes (compared to the 2m that the regular VS page has), which is a decent amount. This page is specifically for product promotion, not promoting of the models or the VS brand.

This Facebook campaign is a brilliant use of this social media platform and engages the consumer on such an immediate level. Victoria’s Secret is a multi-billion dollar brand that is still finding new ways to engage and educate their consumers.

The Next Big Thing In Online Branding

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Like most online shoppers whenever I need a new book, gift idea, or household item I go to the one-stop online shop for pretty much anything you could imagine to order online: Amazon.com. To my surprise- and pleasure- Amazon has decided to hop aboard the social branding wagon with the announcement of the launch of their new ‘brand stores’.

These Amazon brand pages are more product-focused, allowing the users to shop more interactively browsing through the various products and services. Like other brand pages, they are visually appealing. You can also post and schedule content and updates, much like a Facebook brand page. The hope of these brands and Amazon is that this new accessibility will encourage more immediate buying. Amazon has also promised easy metrics and analytics by measuring reach, view and considerations to provide brands with ROI.

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The next thing on online branding has arrived, and in my opinion it’s brilliant. While more common social media platforms are known to market to consumers through brand pages, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, why hasn’t anyone thought to create this idea through a site where actual online shopping occurs? Experts predict that this idea will either take off and help both grow Amazon’s customer base as well as encourage brand growth within the site, or fall flat on it’s face. I personally believe the former will be the case, seeing as so many brands are already growing their businesses through Facebook branding pages. These brand stores simply combine the traditional brand page with the shopping experience that Amazon provides.

As made evident by several failed and successful online branding story, it’s not necessarily what medium of social marketing you use, it’s how well you use it. Only time will tell if Amazon brand stores will be an aid or a hindrance on brand growth.

Checking In, A Look At Location-Based Apps

When I first explained the concept of Foursquare to my mother she looked at me like I had told her that I was dropping out of school to pursue a career in monkey training. “Why would you want people to know where you are at all times?!” she asked me, which was actually my first reaction when I initially heard about any location-based network. I came around the idea of Foursquare about a year ago when my roommates were arguing about who was ‘mayor’ of our apartment, and I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to compete with my friends on a social media platform. Since then I have been completely hooked, I’m only friends with a small group of people so the whole world doesn’t know my exact location and I will check in as much as I can in order to rack up as many points, mayorships, and badges that I can.

While the competitive side of Foursquare is fun, I mostly enjoy it for the great deals I have come across. By checking into select places you can get deals like free food, drinks, or whatever else the place has to offer. The app also allows users to make dinner reservations, see where your friends have been, any tips they have left, top places near by and any specials they offer, and monitor popular destinations. All of this makes the app so much more valuable to the user, creating a good amount of retention and hopefully preventing people to lose interest in the platform.

Another location-based app that recently came into my attention is called Scene Tap and informs the user what the current situation at select near-by bars or restaurants is. The app will tell you how full it is, about what percentage of men vs women are occupying the bar, and what the average age of the patrons is. The participating restaurants have facial detectors that scan the occupants, which brings up a big issue of privacy. However I could not be a bigger advocate of this app, it makes my Friday nights a lot easier when it comes to bar hopping, and I’ve also been able to discover some great new spots thanks to Scene Tap.

Location-based social networks are on the rise, and while I couldn’t be more thrilled about it others are wary of their privacy. Thankfully the makers of social platforms like Foursquare give the user’s the ability to control their settings, which is why I am comfortable with letting my friends know my whereabouts.  I look forward to seeing where location-based apps are headed over the next few years and which ones have enough retention to hold users attention. After all, we’ve already had our first Foursquare check in on Mars.

Myspace- Out With The Old, In With The New?

 

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When I think of Myspace, I think of profile songs, my top 8, and getting friend requests from way too many people that I had never met before. For me, Myspace was big when I was in 8th grade up until about my sophomore year in high school when Facebook apprehended my attention. I think it’s safe to say that most people can agree that once Facebook took up all of our social media mind power; Myspace literally vanished from our lives.

Having forgotten my account password, I was beginning to think that Myspace was just completely gone… that is until I recently read that they are completely redesigning the failed site. According to this article published on theverge.com, the new design is very visually appealing. The revamped site will also integrate both Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to find friends and share things via the other two sites.

One thing that Myspace is staying consistent with their old image is that music will continue to be a pivotal part of the site. Through the site users can share playlists, stream music, and new artists still get their shot at stardom through music uploading and sharing. Expanding on the initial appeal of this aspect of the site is a great way to get fresh interest in the site.

Myspace launched this video this video to preview their new redesign, and I have to say it looks pretty decent, decent enough for me to give the once-dead social networking site another try. Following suit of the recent launch of Google+, new users must get invited to the new Myspace in order to join. Like I said in my last post, people want what they can’t have so perhaps the invite idea is good enough to get people to want to rejoin the site that we all once knew as the site that started fights over something like a “top 8”.

Facebook Branding With the Timeline: The Good, and The Brilliant.

When the Facebook timeline first started butting its ugly head in my news feed, I rolled my eyes at yet ANOTHER new Facebook layout that I would try to avoid for the longest time possible. But while I dreaded the change for my personal page, I couldn’t help but notice all of the interesting changes this layout created for branding. The difference between the new timeline layout and the old layout is pretty simple in terms of branding: if used creatively and correctly, it should tell a story for your brand. With all sorts of new features such as tabs, apps, and cover photos, the timeline makes a brand’s page look more like a vibrant personal page for the product rather than a stiff, corporate advertisement.  Most importantly, the timeline changed the way that consumers are able to interact with the page’s product which in my opinion takes social media marketing to the next level.

So here’s a look at what has been successful for some brands and what has evolved social media strategy to the next level, almost a year after this extravagant Facebook change.

I have to give a shout out to some of the obvious ones. Coca Cola and Oreo are among the best recognized examples of branding on Facebook, and they live up to this honor. Both of these brands have earned their millions of likes (50 million for Coke and 27 million for Oreo), and while a good number of these likes are probably due to the number of people that can’t get enough of these cookies or soda I’m going to give most of the credit to the way these pages interact with their consumers. Coca Cola’s page states in the about “The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today” and that is exactly what it is. People come to this page to share and engage. I have to credit Oreo’s success on their ability to engage their fans through memorable and genius images. A few years ago who would have guessed that this picture would have gone viral with over 20,000 likes on Facebook? Even when Oreo posted a controversial gay pride image that led to boycotts, the brand took little-to-no hit. While the picture created controversy, the brand’s page was still picking up fans like a wildfire.  Pages like these are what evolve Facebook marketing.

However, I cannot talk about Facebook marketing and not discuss the new, highly talked about, Grey Poupon Facebook page. In case you haven’t already read about it, here is an article outlining the pages new guidelines of only letting people like them if they have “good taste”. An app on the page gathers users information (with their permission) to decide if they have enough Facebook influence to join the page. Many people are saying that this is a poor decision because it actually excludes people from becoming fans and therefore the brand is missing out on potential engagement and profits. However I think this is one of the most brilliant pages I have ever seen. Put simply, people want what they can’t have. Most people don’t necessarily think to go on Facebook to interact with a mustard product, but it worked for me. Everyone wants to join “the society” as Grey Poupon is calling it, which leads to high demand to be on the page. Once one has passed the test of good taste and can like the page they are rewarded with free giveaways, which adds to the demand to get on the page. Who would have thought that making a Facebook brand page exclusive would completely change the dynamic of how people interact with the product? I think it is pure genius.

The Facebook timeline was a small step in social media strategy that led to big change and evolvement. The more platforms such as Facebook and Twitter make these adjustments, the more anxious I am to see what will happen next in the world of social media.

Age or quality?

ImageWhat age is the best age for a social media manager? That is the question that has been thrown around for the past couple weeks, as numerous articles have been published on the topic. While both arguments may have valid points, I would like to make a point of my own- perhaps people should stop focusing on age and pay more attention to skill.

When I first read the INC. article, “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media” my initial reaction was to be defensive. I am currently the social media manager for a local non-profit, in the past I have contributed and managed several other accounts, and I am also 21. When I graduate I would like to work my way towards a position in strategic social media so the reasons for my irritation with this article are clear. First off, I think that the points that Hollis Thomases makes to support her argument are way too generalized. Yes, certain members of our generation may be too immature to handle managing social media accounts, but Thomases is wrong to claim that our entire generation is. I may only be 21 years old, but I have learned that age and maturity do not always align.

One point that she makes that I agree with is that “No class can replace on-the-job training.” While I have gotten an immense about of knowledge out of my educational experience at Marquette University, I have to say that the skills I have acquired through my internships are the ones that I find most valuable. Smart members of my generation would find it in their best interest to get as much experience in a variety of positions. While four or so years of internship experience does not compare to the professionals that have been working for decades, I believe that it is possible for students to gain the experience they need to make them fully capable of managing social media by age 23.

When Lauren Rothering came out with her response article “Why Millennials Should Handle Your Social Media” I was happy to know that there are others that shared my reaction, particularly the point that “Our age doesn’t reflect our maturity”.  I also agree with Rothering’s point that people of our generation can be trustworthy. Trust rarely has a lot to do with age, but rather character and level of responsibility.

After reading both sides of this argument, I can’t say I agree nor disagree completely with either side. Yes, I do believe that my generation has a better grasp on how to utilize social media; and yes, I also agree that years of experience in the marketing or PR field can’t compete with growing up with years of personal social media usage. But the main conclusion I have come to is that age should not be the deciding factor of job suitability. Experience, character, and skill of the field are far more important than age.

My hope is that hiring managers consider much more than age when hiring social media managers.