Category Archives: Social Media

A “Spark” for social content

New ideas get me excited. It doesn’t matter if the idea is mine or that it comes from someone else. New ideas should excite everyone because it is a chance to see what the future could be like. NewsSpark, a new social content hub, is one of those ideas that I’m excited about.

I’ve known NewsSpark founder Chris Ehrlich for over five years now, mostly over social media. However, when I started JRM Comm, Chris chatted with me via phone and gave some incredibly encouraging and kind words that stay with me to this day.

Because of this, Chris has been kind enough to open the private beta of its digital PR and marketing channel to readers of my blog.

Original content

NewsSpark is a digital hub where creators publish original content through their favorite mediums. Creators can publish original news, blogs, updates, photos, videos and audio (soon) on every topic — or Sparks. The hub also features catalogs of content creators, brands and groups. The freemium model NewsSpark is planning to implement paid features, such as branded Content Galleries.

Chris Ehrlich

Chris Ehrlich

“Looking at the marketplace, we believe we’re the first digital channel dedicated to publishing and consuming original content,” said Chris, whose content career has included stops at LEWIS PR and the San Francisco Chronicle. “Some may argue the claim, but the hub’s makeup and utility are clearly distinct when compared to other digital channels.”

NewsSpark plans to exit its private beta and launch in June. The hub is made in East Grand Rapids, Mich. and metro Los Angeles.

Initial partners

After testing the hub with family and friends, NewsSpark has set up member benefit and/or content partnerships with several organizations during its private beta: the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America, or WMPRSA; stock video production company Uberstock; early stage venture capital fund Start Garden; urban business incubator GR Current; and Michigan State University Spartan Innovations, the university’s startup innovation division.

User-rated content

Sparks can be published by “anyone with great original content,” Chris said. Creators increase or decrease a Spark’s stoke count — and hub-wide rank — when they “stoke it,” “douse it” or mark it as a “firestarter.” The hub of user-ranked content is organized by a set of filters and designed to be “a meritocracy and front-line source for anyone who consumes digital content.”

“Right now, the community is in its infancy,” he added. “It will naturally grow as we grow.”

Private beta access

Here’s where you can get in on the fun. Chris is now opening up NewsSpark’s private beta to me, “a long-time tweep,” and readers of One Guy’s Journey. Readers can access the private beta hub and “stake claims to their industry categories” via my referral link, keeping  “JasMollica” in the referer field. Readers can also use the hub’s invite-a-friend feature to invite others into the private beta.

Content marketing problems

NewsSpark is designed to be an open and organized hub where creators can complete their content marketing cycles. “The hub lets their content burn and work for them in ways it can’t at other digital channels,” Chris said. He explained thatNewsSpark logo almost immediately after it’s posted, original content functionally disappears from other digital channels, where he said content is an ad unit, fleeting, disorganized, unfindable, isolated or in a closed network.

“There’s all this great content being created that gets lost online — as a fleeting mention, one-time broadcast or on a virtual island,” Chris said. “We wanted to create a hub where original content can be planted, judged on its merit and work as an ongoing catalyst for creators — in real-time and long-term.” The hub is also a platform for creators to package, consolidate and digitally present their complete range of content to their audiences in a professional-grade user interface, such as a plug-and-play social Content Gallery, newsroom or web presence.

“A brand’s content is diluted when it’s only fragmented across channels — and never unified in a single user experience for ongoing discovery,” Chris said.

Sparks flying

The hub is designed to potentially increase multiple near- and long-term content marketing metrics: brand awareness, SEO and social search, audience, engagement, web traffic, coverage by bloggers and media outlets, inbound leads and sales. “We’re simply engineered from the onset to deliver returns to creators who market their content,” Chris said. The hub is also designed to deliver cost and staff savings on managing and sharing digital content. “Trying to manage and use de-centralized content is hugely inefficient for teams,” Ehrlich said. “And when they turn to platforms to package and centralize the content, they often run into technical or pricing obstacles.”

Bigger picture

I’m a big believer in paying it forward and NewsSpark is doing just that, in a huge way. The company will donate 5% of its income to The NewsSpark R. D.  Ehrlich Communications Scholarship at colleges across the country, beginning with UCLA and Denison University.

Check it out and tell me what you think of NewsSpark!

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Better Social in 2015

So, we are on the verge of a new year (already?!). It’s a time to celebrate accomplishments and the good things we’ve done. It’s also a time to take a hard look at ways to improve for the year to come. I’m sure that whether you are a business or an individual, there are things you’d like to do better in 2015. Maybe it’s improving your bottom line or re-packaging your current brand.

IM2_PROLOGUE_VFX_12In December, I love to take stock of where I stand, personally and professionally. It gives me a chance to take a critical look at how I’ve served my clients and whether I’m growing. I want to be better, as a business owner, a person, and a professional. These improvements also include social media.

There’s been good social and bad, just like every other year. However, I hope that in 2015 we see social media improve. Here’s five ways to do that:

1. Be smarter with your posting– Far too often this year, we’ve seen mistakes by brands and individuals. There are more “gotcha moments” (see Franco, James) and hitting the send button before a post is really looked at closely (see U.S. Airways). Don’t rush to update your Facebook page or that Instagram photo because you want to be funny or beat another brand to the punch. Think your posts through. You’ll be better off in the long run.

2. Don’t cross-post from Facebook to Twitter- Or vice versa, for that matter. No matter how many times myself or one of my colleagues says that Facebook and Twitter are different social channels, there’s always a brand that decides they are too lazy to come up with separate posts. Cross posting from Twitter to Facebook shows you don’t really care about your audience, your message, or, frankly, your brand. People notice and they’ll eventually stop listening.
3. Don’t be so “salesy”- By now, you’ve probably seen that Facebook is going to get tough on businesses, big and small, that have posts that are heavy with sales speak. While some businesses are worried, they shouldn’t be. A smart business strategy on Facebook should involve posts that speak to fans, not sell to them. If you follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter, you probably like the product. Brands need to remember this and speak to customers as people, not numbers. And that leads me to…
4. Take the time to understand your audience, customers- This should really be a no-brainer, but, sadly, it isn’t. There are still plenty of brands that would rather treat their followers and fans as numbers, instead of as an important part of their business. Social media isn’t just a platform to get your messages out, it’s also a chance to connect with your audience and make them more of a champion for you. Don’t look at followers as numbers. View every one as a prospect!
5. Plan ahead- Remember the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This is absolutely true when it comes to social. A social media posting plan is something that you need to have. No questions asked. Now, when I say plan ahead, it doesn’t mean that if you schedule posts, you are in the clear. If you are a social media manager, it’s important that you keep your eyes and ears on the news and what is going on around you. Scheduled posts can come back and bite you if they don’t fit the tone of the day. The bottom line? Have a posting plan, but be ready to change at a moment’s notice.
Social media is still growing and it’s important to understand that we can all be better at posting to the large number of networks that exist today. Make 2015 that year to be better, more strategic, and more focused. Here’s to your social success!

Don’t Play the Social Media Blame Game

Do a Google search on blaming social media and you’ll find over 5.6 million results. They range from social media being blamed for your bad mood to the 2011 London Riots being blamed on social nets. Social media is an easy punching bag because it’s still relatively “new” in society.

Social networks have taken the world by storm. First, it was a fad, then it was emergent and, finally, mainstream. Many people and organizations are on board with using social. While social is widely hailed as helping to transform the way we communicate, it’s become somewhat of a target or crutch when someone needs to place blame.

The latest “blame social media” incident was during the July 16 MLB All-Star Game in Minnesota. St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Adam Wainwright clearly grooved a fastball to retiring New York Yankees All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter in the first inning. Wainwright admitted it in a separate interview and was flamed on Twitter. He then backtracked in a dugout interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews.

“Don’t you love social media…,” Andrews was saying tongue in cheek to Wainwright. He replied, “No, I don’t love social media.”

While this isn’t the most egregious violation of blaming social media, it is an example of the lengths people will go to place blame on social media for their own mistakes. Wainwright blaming social for his own error is akin to me blaming my kids You-cant-handle-the-truthfor not making dinner when I said I would in the first place.

Social media has become the punching bag for those that don’t really understand how powerful social is today. In this day and age, you need to fully grasp that your words and actions are magnified by social. Something that use to be a benign comment can be overblown very quickly. It’s not all social media’s fault; be responsible for what YOU do and say. Here’s how.

  • Don’t use social as a crutch- “I didn’t mean to post that,” “If I didn’t have a Twitter account, I wouldn’t do things like this,” or “Social media didn’t get my sarcasm,” are crutches that you need to throw away. They are excuses. You and you alone have the power to control your actions and virtual words. Period.
  • Understand what social can do for you- Social media is responsible for something of the biggest news events becoming bigger. Remember U.S. Airways Flight 1549? What about the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound that netted the Al Qaeda leader? These are examples of how social has changed news reporting, gathering and dissemination. It’s also become the place where brands make major announcements. With great power, comes great responsibility. Social media is a great responsibility.
  • Know your role- The more you understand how social works, the better off you will be when using it. If I post something and someone takes it the wrong way, that’s on me. I didn’t explain it well enough in 140 characters, or clearly in a Facebook post. Just because you don’t have a blue stamped check mark next to your name on Twitter or have a million followers on Facebook and Instagram, does not mean you aren’t being listened to closely. Your role in social media is a big one, whether you believe it or not. Appreciate what social is and what it has become.

Facebook is ten years old, Twitter is only eight years old. That’s still very young. However, social media has come a long way in that time. You need to understand that before you go placing blame on a social network for your words. Be better with social and you’ll appreciate the benefits.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Guest Post: Why Your Company Needs a Social Media Policy

[Jas’ note: I’m glad to have my friend Ben Butler provide a guest post on a very important topic]

The company handbooks given to new employees nowadays seem to be getting thicker and thicker. Unfortunately, it seems that one potentially brand-crippling area is neglected—social media.

Here’s why your company needs to add a social media policy to its employee handbook:

It Clarifies Expectations

Your company may not be on social media, but I can almost guarantee that your employees are. You should never assume that your employees will represent themselves or your company properly. In fact, it often seems that some people forget the standard rules of engagement when they’re online.

Establishing a social media policy puts all of your expectations in one, formalized place. This will help you explain what behaviors are discouraged and even what could get someone fired.

Some of the topics you may want to cover include: best practices for discussing the company, what company topics are social-policyrestricted (confidentiality concerns), venting about customers, racist comments or posting inappropriate photos.

It Helps You in Times of Crisis

Remember Justine Sacco?

The former director of corporate communications for IAC Tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding. I’m white!” before getting on a plane. Not only did her Tweet created a personal crisis for Sacco, but it suddenly created one for IAC as well. Sacco’s rank in the company immediately attached them to the chaos.

Because they knew how to handle employee conduct in the digital realm, they were able to quickly and properly react by denouncing her comments and publicly firing her before she even landed in Africa.

It Can Enhance Your Company’s Brand

It’s difficult to control exactly how and when your employees talk about your company, but it’s wise to add a best practices section to your social media policy.

Sometimes employees want to share the news, but are unsure how to do so. Be sure to provide examples of how employees can advance your company’s brand on social media. It also probably wouldn’t hurt to include stories like Sacco’s so that employees know what happens when social media is used incorrectly.

How has your company used a social media policy?

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Ben Butler is the founder and president of Top Hat IMC, an integrated marketing communications firm in Wexford and Pittsburgh, Pa.

The JourneyCast Podcast: Michael A. Brown, Sr., Ph.D.

Over a year ago, Michael Brown, Sr. reached out to me and asked if he could use one of my blog posts in his upcoming book. It was flattering to be asked, since I’ve never been included in a book, and I agreed.  Fast forward to April 2014 and that book is now out. Michael is the co-author (along with Tracy Schario, APR) of the book, “Social Media 4EVR: Identifying, Achieving, and Nurturing Social Capital.” 

MikeBrownWebsiteIn this edition of The JourneyCast Podcast, we discuss Michael’s career, his unique skill set, and why the book is important for new and experienced pros.

The JourneyCast Podcast, episode 7- Michael A. Brown, Sr., Ph.D. 

You can find Michael on Twitter, @MichaelBrown76

Let me know your thoughts on the podcast and leave a comment below.

You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Improving Yourself as a PR/Social Media Pro

When it comes down to it, we don’t know everything (Captain Obvious statement). From time to time, we are challenged with strategies, tactics, and platforms that are new to us. So what do you do? While this may sound like an easy enough answer, finding trusted pros and avenues to get educated (or re-educated), can be tough.

improving who you areWhen I first started out in public relations, most of what I learned had to be self-taught. Even as I ventured into social media, much of the knowledge came from a little trial-and-error. As PR, marketing, and social media continue to evolve, we must do the same. I always quote friend and colleague Stephanie Florence and her “Student Always” mantra.  We can never stop learning; it is the only way to improve. I compare it to a baseball player taking extra batting practice or looking at game film.

Here are a few ways to continue to grow, whether you are a new or experienced pro.

  • Find pros that are learners, not Jedis– I’ve always appreciated pros that share what they’ve learned. They don’t tell you what you should know, they tell you what they continue to learn. People like Amber Naslund, Deirdre Breakenridge, Kirk Hazlett, and Chuck Hemann. They are always sharing what they’ve learned over the years, but they also soak up new ideas every day. It’s something to emulate.
  • Personal audit/SWOT analysis– This is something I started to do with students earlier this month. A personal audit can be valuable in getting yourself to take a critical look at your career. I do them every quarter to see if I’ve slipped, gotten better, or plateaued. The SWOT analysis is something I love to do. It forces you to pick out your weaknesses. But, it also shows where you may be missing the boat on something. Try it!
  • Twitter Chats- If you are on Twitter, it’s a good bet you’ve taken part in one or more since you’ve first signed on. What you may not realize is that these aren’t just chats, but virtual classrooms of learning. Whether it’s #PRStudChat, #CMGRChat, #NPPRSA, or #BrandChat, these gatherings of students and pros can be an invaluable tool to you. I’ve participated in all of these chats above and each time I do, I come away with something I can apply to my business and/or clients.
  • Lean on organizations like PRSA/PRSSA- Both have incredibly valuable opportunities to grow as a professional. If you can’t make it to a national conference, make sure to go through the websites and see what is being offered. PRSA national has a solid slate of webinars/events and PRSSA’s Progressions blog is a perfect mix of student and professional advice.  Your local PRSA chapter is also a great tool. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Social Media Club. They have many outstanding roundtable events that help to push the learning envelope.

If you don’t learn something new from the above, let me know where you are learning and how you are becoming a better pro.

Tuesday Tip: My Thanks to YOU!

This has been a wonderful year. One of growth, success, and honors. But, it would not have been possible without YOU. So, as I make my last post of 2013, accept my thanks for a year I won’t forget.

THANK YOU, ALL!

What My Media Career Taught Me

Long before the thought of being a public relations pro entered my mind, I had one dream: To work in television and radio.  When I started as a member of the media, the landscape was very different. The internet was fairly new. Smartphones? Not very smart. You were lucky enough to not have a call drop. Pagers were still the rage and you could get news and sports updates on them, just not very quickly.

What hasn’t changed, though, are the traits that (still) make a good reporter, producer, and anchor. Trust, reliability, tenacity, and focus. These same traits can be seen in the best PR and marketing pros and social media community managers.

The great thing about having started my career in radio and television is that it set me up for success in PR. I truly believe I would not be where I am today without those experiences. There were three stories that really helped shape my then-future PR career.

“How about we start over?”– I was lucky enough to do field producing during my time in Philadelphia, especially when it came to hockey. I love the sport, so walking into the Philadelphia Flyers locker room was always a thrill and honor. Eric Lindros was one of the top players in the NHL and I interviewed him many times. One afternoon after practice, I was asking him some questions and we both stumbled through a few questions and answers. He politely stopped me, laughed, and said, “How about we start over from the beginning. We both aren’t having a good day!” The overarching thing this taught me was that we aren’t always on our game… and that’s ok. Show people that you are putting forth a Media scrumhonest effort and they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Breaking News- When you work in the media, you need to be prepared for everything. During my time at Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio, it was integral to be ready at a moments notice. When the first missile was fired into Iraq in March of 2003, we had to switch our focus from the regular news of the day, within seconds. You always need to be ready for anything. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. This is true in today’s PR and social media world. Don’t have a plan for your social media launch? Odds are it won’t be successful.

First and wrong, last and right- I’ve lived by these words for a long time. Princess Diana died a few hours after I left my shift in Philadelphia with “MSNBC on the Internet.” However, the news was still trickling out that she was only badly injured in a car accident.  Since we were a newer operation, I decided to go back into the office and update our web story. I was there for a few hours and there were unconfirmed reports that Diana had died. We could have run with that, but I didn’t want to see our new operation be caught in a credibility trap. Finally (and regretfully), NBC News confirmed that Princess Diana had died. I had gathered all the details from what we knew and confirmed, then published our story to the Philadelphia page. At the end of the day, if Diana had lived and we posted she was dead, it would have looked bad for us and our station. There is nothing more important that being accurate, especially in PR.

When I finally made the transition from television and radio into public relations, I felt that I was well-prepared for anything. Planning, focus, accuracy, and calm; these are all things that PR pros must have to be great at what we do. And if it wasn’t for working in the media, I know that I wouldn’t have the perspective that I do today.

5 Tips for Making Social Media Work Together to Boost Your Reach

(Jas’ note: I’m glad to welcome back Alicia Lawrence with another great guest post.)

If you’re like most business owners, you probably want to use social media to expand your marketing efforts and reach new customers. After all, social media is a powerful, free tool — you can use it to access countless new contacts. Here are several tips for having social media work together to expand your influence and reach new customers.

1. Make Social Media Complementary

According to a survey done by Accenture this holiday season, over 65% of customers preview products online before looking for them in stores. This makes it crucial that your online presence accurately reflects how you and your products are in person. In addition, 63% of people also plan to do the opposite — check out products in-store and then shop online. That means it’s important for the transition between your actual store and social media presence to be as seamless as possible. To do so, focus on a few channels and make sure you’re always delivering content that is entertaining and useful to your audience. Remember: your social media efforts should complement your brick-and-mortar business — if the two work together you’ll almost certainly attract customers.

2. Have a Blog

boosting reachOne of the best ways to gain customers’ attention and trust is to have a business blog. Now more than ever users are accessing news, information and articles online. They highly value content, especially if it comes in the form of a well-written blog post. If you regularly post original, engaging content you’ll very likely attract followers. You can write about a number of things — for example, if you’re a software company, you can write about tips for buying a new computer. The more you can tie your business in with information users want to hear, the better. Remember: consumers want a relationship. The more you share with them the more likely they’ll be to buy your products in return.

3. Work Together, But Be Different

When managing multiple social accounts, it’s easy to fall into posting the same content on each one. Instead, get to know the users on each different channel and learn what they would want to see on your social feed. This might mean sharing entertainment Facebook, news and deals on Twitter, and product reviews and photos on Pinterest. If you can pin down what your followers are looking for on each channel you have better chance of boosting your reach to others who are looking for the same info. The brand Havahart does a great job at this on their Facebook and Pinterest.

Beyond that though, some sites allow you to tailor content to different contacts. On LinkedIn, for example, you can sort connections by category and send a private message to everyone in that category. Do a little research, and figure out how to tailor your posts on various sites and platforms. This way you may be able control which followers receive regular blasts and updates, and which receive messages only occasionally. At the very least, you know how many contacts you have in each category, which is very useful when you’re developing a new campaign. It can also allow you to see if one social media platform is more successful, and if so, you should ask yourself how you can emulate this success on your other sites.

4. Hashtag It

Even though you’ll be sharing different content tailored for each social channel, that doesn’t mean they should never connect. Hashtags are a great way to integrate your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and even YouTube videos! Just in 2013, hashtags on the YouTube video Dance Pony Dance helped it go viral on both Facebook and Twitter.

5. Know Your Brand Mavens
Brand mavens are individuals that are highly influential to your target audience. This isn’t just celebrities, they can also be those just with a large following or with a blog that has high traffic. Make sure you identify your brand mavens on each social channel so you know who to outreach to when you have a message you think their fans should hear.

Alicia + Page

Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land and CJ Pony Parts. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.

The Passion Principle

One of the many points that I mentioned during my CEO of You talk on Oct. 26 in Philadelphia was that you have to have passion to make your personal brand work. If you are nonchalant or ambivalent, it will show in your brand. You have the opportunity to be great, so why not jump at the chance to do so.

1420035_820830198011_132505009_nMy daughter celebrated her 7th birthday this week and we ordered cookies from a new cupcake shop in our area, Prohaska’s Oh, Sugar. We had never tried them out, but their Facebook page showed that the products looked pretty awesome. When I went to pick up the cookies for my daughter’s class party, Jeanette, the owner, was there. In talking to her, I immediately saw just how much she enjoyed what she was doing. The passion showed in her products and as well as in her demeanor. You could hear how passionate Jeanette was about making her business a success and, by the looks of the comments on her Facebook page, it’s working.

What this little trip to a cupcake shop continued to prove to me is that passion is the center of all success. Whether you have a business of one person or 100,000, if you don’t have the drive for what you do, you might as well not do it at all.

At some point in our lives, we lose a little bit of that passion. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. But, it’s up to you to find a way to get it back. During PRSSA’s National Conference, I mentioned a number of times how much being there really energized me. The energy of the speakers and students re-ignited my passion for public relations and being a better professional.

Ask yourself these two things if you feel like you are starting to lose your passion: What can I do to improve myself/my career? What is the one thing that I truly enjoy about my life? If you can find one answer for each question, your passion principle can be fulfilled. While you may have an “A-ha Moment” in your life, you essentially have to have the passion to move forward. Life without passion is not great. It’s flat. But, life with passion opens up a completely different way of looking at how you want to succeed.

To paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, some people go through life and ask why? I chose to see things that never were and ask why not? Ask why not… because your passion will emerge and take you to great things.

What is your passion principle? Leave your thoughts in the comments!