Megan McQ’s Musings

Okay, Okay, the title of this post seems contradictory with the entire purpose of this blog. But just hear me out.

On Monday, The San Diego Business Journal wrote an article after an interview with Michael Olguin, who heads Formula PR. Formula PR was ranked No. 1 on the Business Journal’s 2008 Public Relations Agencies List.

OlguinThe article discussed Olguin’s opinions on social media, who does claim that social media is as important as any other element of PR. However, he doesn’t think that social media is for everyone. According to the article:

Olguin is a firm believer that Internet media, whether it’s social networking, online versions of print publications, or columnists and reporters who maintain their own blogs, is vital to his business. But he also concentrates his client roster on national firms, or locally based companies that are national.

I agree with this framework completely. There are a lot of companies who are hearing a lot of buzz words and want to get active in the sphere. But companies may not benefit from having a social media presence, especially those in the B-2-B sector. I also think that Olguin is wise to implement social media campaigns for national firms and companies.

However, I do think that all companies should understand social media. Just because an active presence on the sphere may not be in the cards for your integrated marketing communications right now, it doesn’t mean that companies can just ignore the sphere altogether.

This is especially true for companies who are B-2-C. Chances are, your consumers are talking about your company on online communities. Companies should therefore instill a social media monitoring system to be aware of the online conversation and the ‘loudest’ allies and opponents. Having this system in place will make the entrance into the social media sphere more seamless as it becomes necessary.

Wordle

Posted on: May 12, 2009

A couple of months ago, I came across Wordle, a word cloud generator. Word clouds create images using words (profound, I know). The larger the word indicates the more times it has been used throughout a particular area of text.

Wordle has a variety of options that allow for the creation of beautiful, unique word clouds. For example, users can cut and paste a section of text or use a URL to generate the text of their cloud. Colors, fonts and direction of text are other options that may be used.

I think the best element of this program is that it looks at the entire text to create the tag cloud. This function differs from most blog tag clouds because typically tag clouds only generate from the ‘tags’ of a blog post, not the entirety of the text within the post itself.

I told myself that I would use Wordle on my blog a number of times to visually represent what I write about. Admittedly, I went a little overboard and created three Wordle tag clouds this time. I hope you can see why!

I may also make a word cloud for one of my favorite songs or poems and update this post later. I’d love to see links to your Wordles, or if you know of another word/tag generator, please comment below!  Thanks! Now, without further adieu:

wordle1

wordle2

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All images created by the Wordle.net web application are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Last Wednesday, ReadWriteWeb posted that bit.ly was the most used URL shortening service used on Twitter.

What does this mean? Heck, what’s the purpose of a URL shortening service?

The advent of Twitter gave rise to new services to make the platform more usable. For example, Twitter’s 140 character updates leave little room to communicate long messages.

Thus, tweeple (people who tweet) tend to link to their complex messages through URLs. The problem is that URLs tend to be really, really ridiculously good looking long and complicated. Take for example:

http://www.thisisareallylongurl.com/do_you_see_the_ridiculousness_here/may_o5_2009/trying-to-continue-ridiculousness-with-more-words/i-actually-wish-this-was-a-real-URL/for-realzies.html

…you get my point. This type of URL alone would not fit in a tweet, nor be  explained in the limited space a tweet allows.

So, there have been more than several startups that shorten URLs so that they may condensed to less than 140 characters (typically 25 characters or less). While there have been some critiques of URL shortening services, the general consensus is that they are here to stay. To distinguish themselves from the market, each tiny URL service has unique attributes.

tinyurls

Here are 10 URL shortening services, and their distinguishing characteristics:

1. TinyURL: One of the more popular services, TinyURLs do not expire and the site has more than 900K visitors per month.

2. bit.ly: Bit.ly is the other popular URL shortening service. Users can register with the Web site and track the complete history of the link that includes real-time clickthrough reports.

3. is.gd: Super-short URLs. Perfect when you need to cram in a long title or explanation in 140 characters or less.

4. cli.gs: People can signup to use this service. Users can then view metrics about the link. This platform also has the ability to be embedded into Google or iGoogle, making the platform readily accessible.

5. tr.im: Creates unique URLs. Statistics that are generated are only representative of that particular link. Some URL shortening services share the same URL. For example, if two people want to shorten the same link, the service will generate only one URL. However, tr.im does not repeat URLs.

6. BudURL.com: BudURL’s interesting element is that its metrics track the user location and IP address. Creepy? I think yes. However, BudURL also updates its analytic information in real-time.

7.  Awe.sm: While this is a paid URL shortening service, the platform aggregates your domain name’s shortened links from multiple platforms and tracks how the link is dispersed across the Internet, a pretty powerful tool.

8. ow.ly: This URL shortening service is an element of Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a Twitter toolbox, which helps users manage multiple twitternames.

9. Lnk.by: A shortening service that allows users to use different top-level domains depending on the type of information that’s being posted: i.e., wach.it for videos, lstn.in for music or seee.it for photos.

And…just for fun:

10. Bacn.me: “There are only a couple of rules for bacn.me; bacon links only please and no spam. That’s it.”

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Notice: This blog is not politically affiliated. This blog post does not support nor condone the political initiatives of any political party. This post is using the Web 2.0 features of the present administration as a positive case study of new media use.

Now that stakeholders have the opportunity to engage with one another on the Digital WoM forefront, it is the responsibility of the company to react to what the stakeholders are saying.

It is important to note that by “react” I don’t mean ‘talk back to’ or ‘defend your company’ to these stakeholders. By “react” I mean be cognizant of the stakeholder’s concerns and allow these concerns to be an element of future decision making.

Take for example, the Obama Administration. Obama understood that his stakeholders wanted an increased voice in the government. His campaign acknowledged this desire and encouraged individuals to add their own unique perspective on his campaign platforms through the submission of user generated content (UGC) on social media platforms.

Following his election into office, he established a White House blog that allowed for users to submit their opinions. He promised that the government would increase communication, transparency and participation. So far, the Administration has sought to uphold this goal, despite a few set backs.

My point? If the obsolete, stagnant and Mezosoic-esque government (see fig. 1.1) can acknowledge the needs of its stakeholders and respect the voice of its public, why can’t you learn about the platforms and their implications for your company?

Fig. 1.1

Fig. 1.1

Uncle Bob: Hey Meg.

Me: What’s up?

Uncle Bob: What’s Twitter?

Companies all over are asking themselves this very question. And that’s a good thing.

twitter-future-man-cartoon-med

With millions of people on the Web every day, there’s no doubt that people are talking about your company; their experiences, their praises, their critiques, their general opinion about your awesomeness, etc.

In sum, the digital word-of-mouth (WoM) conversation is already out there. Which is why it’s great that companies are echoing Uncle Bob when they ask, “What’s Twitter?”

It’s a difficult task to learn about new platforms that are revolutionizing the way companies do business. Especially because the new media industry moves so quickly.

If your company isn’t already in the new media space…how can you catch up?

The first step would be to learn a) What new media is, and; b) How the ‘important’ platforms function. This step takes time, but as with every new venture, it starts with a single step.

It’s important to note that it could be potentially devastating to your company’s brand to join the platforms and start using them, especially if you don’t know with whom you are conversing.

That’s why it’s great to ask questions.

UPDATE: 05.05.09, Ragan.com (a prominent communicator guide) posted an article by Geoff Livingston at The Buzz Bin on how to introduce your company to social media. The post sites that forming an internal blog to share and recommend sites privately may be a good way to become familiar with the sphere.

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This past February, The NYT wrote an article that covered a ‘viral’ communication trend on Facebook. Millions of users wrote notes in their pages that told their friends ’25 Random Things you Didn’t know About me.’

While I am finally going to attempt to uncover ’25 Random Things you Didn’t know About me,’ I think it’s more important to explain why I put ‘viral’ in ‘these parentheses thinggys.’

The ’25 Random Things’ conversation trend was definitely viral. However, there are viral marketing companies that promise viral marketing campaigns-which is a complete myth. I believe that you can create online marketing campaigns that go viral, not create viral marketing campaigns.

In other words, the ‘viral’ element of an online marketing campaign is a secondary outcome to a campaign. If the content of a campaign isn’t buzz worthy to online constituencies, then it simply won’t go viral. Any company that specializes in ‘viral campaigns’ should definitely be met with a cautious eye.

Over time, I plan on exploring recent case studies that demonstrate how online marketing can go wrong if not planned carefully. But since I know you’re incredibly curious about my ’25 Random Things,’ I’ll continue to debunk and explore the hot topic of ‘viral marketing’ soon. Until then…

1. E-A-G-L-E-S!  EAGLES! eagles

2. I value human connection. I enjoy talking to random people and hearing their stories, I’ve learned some of the most fascinating things.

3. I’m left-handed, but I play all of my sports right-handed.

4. I like customer service; something about helping and connecting with people is something that gives me a lot of pleasure and meaning. This is probably due to the fact that I am very intuitive and can tell what someone needs (a majority of the time) without them having to articulate it.

5. My Myers-Briggs letters are ENFP, although I’ve taken the test several times and sometimes get different results such as ENFJ.nocats

6. I’m allergic to cats. Just thought I’d throw that one out there.

7. I like to be creative. I don’t know in what capacity, per se. While I like developing strategy and persuasive ways to present and create said strategy, I think this is due to the fact that I like to ‘think outside the box’. I am in envy of those who can express themselves creatively, through art forms (photography, dancing, etc.), and I think it is a shame that our society does not value them more.

8. I believe that knowledge is power.

9. I make a mean tomato soup…from a can.tomato1

10. I was on the policy debate team in undergrad, I learned a lot about the art of persuasion and found a passion for the law. It was incredibly difficult and extremely rewarding.

11. I’m a middle child.

12. I tore my ACL when I was a senior in high school. We still went on to go undefeated and win states, but it still changed my life forever (one of those pivotal moments). I was unable to play volleyball in college and it was as much as a set back as an opportunity. I didn’t touch a ball for four years, but I am trying to get back into the sport and play several times a week.

13. I’ve broken my left wrist two times. Ow.

14. I’m horrible with learning new languages–but I still would like to learn Spanish or Mandrain Chinese.

15. I have an off-beat sense of humor.

16. Ben Folds is my hero.benfolds2

17. So is Mozart.

18. And Mahler.

19. I used to sing in a professional children’s chorus, I was the youngest member when I started and I was in it for 6 years. We performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and actually performed a mass at the Basilica in Rome. As a result, I know 15x more about Mozart than the popular music of today.

20. I socialize with people 3-4 years older than I am, and always have.

21. I’m quite an epistemological person.

22. I like mayo on my french fries.

23. I really like the theory of globalization and its implications on our society.

chapice

24. I’m obsessed with my chapstick, it’s called ‘Chap Ice’ and I never go anywhere without at least one. I actually bought 50 direct from the manufacturer one time because I was having trouble finding them.

25. My alma mater is James Madison, I will always bleed purple.

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is the strongest influence on consumer purchasing decisions. Take for example a conversation you had with Uncle Bob last Thanksgiving:

Uncle Bob: You know what really grinds my gears? Nationwide Oil Change, Co.

You: Why, Uncle Bob?

Image of "Uncle Bob"

Image of "Uncle Bob"

Uncle Bob: Well, there was just nothing special about my oil change from last week. I took my car into my local branch for their signature service but they took nearly 6 hours to give me my car back. It was quite a horrible experience.

Now, apart from Uncle Bob’s Minnesota accent, there’s just nothing funny about this story–especially in terms of Nationwide Oil Change Co.’s bottom line.  While you had no personal interaction with Nationwide, you’re less inclined to frequent the store. The next time you need your oil changed, you’re more willing to try out the no-name shop as opposed to the large oil change chains (say that 3x fast).

New media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are creating new ways for customers to disseminate WOM. These tools, then, could have potentially damaging reputational implications for your brand, even if 9/10 customers have amazing experiences with your company.

One customer with a poor experience could tweet about it and could potentially reach hundreds of people. These people could become less likely to invest in your brand because ultimately, they trust their friends’ opinions over paid advertisements.

The point is, new media is changing the way companies interact with their key publics. There has been a paradigm shift from one-way traditional advertising and marketing to a more dynamic and integrated approach. Companies must leverage their online presence to engage with their public and increase brand recognition.

Of course, nothing in life is that simple. Which is why I’m writing this blog. I’d like to help de-mystify the new media space as well as analyze new trends and platforms from a reputation management standpoint.

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