social media, Technology

Praising, and not Burying, Foursquare

This isn’t a post designed to slavishly worship at the altar of Foursquare – the app that allows you to broadcast your location to everyone following you on Twitter, Facebook, and… oh yeah, your Foursquare account. And the jokes about telling people when they can break into your empty home have already been made, so I won’t make them here.

(And I’m sure this post has been written many times before by other smarter people than I, but bear with me, please. )

In fact, and this may surprise you (and to bastardize Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar), “I have come here today to praise Foursquare, not to bury it.” Foursquare could be one of the great saviors for many small businesses that always appear to be under threat.

By keeping an eye on who checks in at a business via Foursquare, savvy businesses are already able to offer special discounts, or menu items (in the case of a restaurant), etc. to people following their business.  But what about those people who are walking by a business?  Since most of these smartphones are (or will be) equipped with GPS (how else can you run Google Maps and Directions?) it should only be a short jump until these phones can signal that they are in the proximity of your business. Then you do the same thing, offer discounts, freebies, etc to swing by.

How will the person behind the counter know if the discount is legit? You might be able to send a picture of a QR Code or Bar Code for the specific item in question, in order to try and minimize people gaming the systems with bogus tweets/etc. At the end of the day though, let them work the system a little bit, the end result will still be sales.

The most important aspect to this will be creating a system where people can opt-in, instead of pushing your message to any phone capable of receiving a text message. Because at that point your message becomes nothing more than spam and will drive people away.

Monitoring Foursquare for check-ins, and Twitter for tweets, and responding appropriately will help you to attract more customers, and to handle customer service issues. Look no further than ComcastBonnie (@comcastbonnie on Twitter) for an example of those tech savvy peeps doing it right.

social media

“Don’t Look At Me!” – Twitter and “off the record”

This is starting to become quite the epidemic for communications professionals.  Not all communications professionals, but those who still insist on operating in the pre-2.0 mindset of a centralized command and control structure.  These people still think they can dictate the terms of engagement to the social media-sphere.  The actor in question this time is Matt Farrauto, the former N.M. Democratic party head honcho and currently working as a communications professional on Capitol Hill.

In an exchange with myself and with the Albuquerque Journal’s Washington Bureau chief Michael Coleman, Farrauto claimed we didn’t get his point about not commenting on his Tweets.  They were off the record – he said so.

Specifically, Farrauto put up a sentence on his Twitter account stating that all of his “musings” are off of the record.  It’s like standing in the middle of a room of people, some of whom are his friends and others of whom are reporters, and shouting at the top of his lungs, then not expecting the reporters to write about any stupid things he said. Right, I really see reporters giving up that kind of control.
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social media

It’s Twitterific! A lesson from ESPN

Bird in farmland bush, May 1972
U.S. National Archive

Today I was driving back to work from lunch with some of the members of the new NMPRSA board and listening to ESPN radio. The host of the show was talking about athletes who are on Twitter, and the potential of these athletes to “leak” confidential team information. (firings, new players, etc.) SEC fans found out the dangers of Twitter earlier this year when Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin tweeted the name of a recruit who had might signed with a team – a violation of NCAA rules.

One of the points the host (whose name I can’t remember right now) talked about the problems he saw with athletes preempting team announcements about fired personnel, cut players (especially before the players found out) and the like – and asked how long it would be until players were accidentally – or staffers were purposefully – pulling a Kiffin and violating some kind of rules structure.

So I sent out a tweet mentioning the topic and got a couple of interesting responses back. First from Albuquerque PR firm owner Tom Garrity:

@desertronin , interesting tweet on ESPN and their percieved “danger”. Team owners should be embracing twitter, not fearing it.

And a follow up by blogger and online journalist Matt Reichbach:

@tg123 @desertronin but athletes should use common sense on what to tweet and what not to tweet. (e.g. things that haven’t been announced)

This reminded me of the recent cluster-tweets I’ve talked about before. Sometimes people don’t realize that Twitter is not just a communications tool between friends, but between you and (up to) hundreds of thousands of their closest “friends.” Any one of which can resend their tweet, or take one tweet out of context. (See above link)

Not to mention how many of them might be reporters, especially if you’re a celebrity. And then the story’ll take off. For fun, replace team with “your company” and athlete with “an employee.”

Now, stop hyperventilating at the thought, take a deep breath and go get a stiff Old Fashioned. Feel better? Great!

So what’s to be done?

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internet, public relations

When does what "you" say interfere with who "YOU" are in PR?

Recently I (and quite a few other people) wrote about the recent Twitter-gate post of Ketchum VP James Andrews. As I’ve explained already, I thought it was a mistake, and if he had a problem with where he was, he should have given constructive criticism. However, he was there to share his knowledge of social media with FedEx employees and his Twitter post got turned upside down before the end of the day. It sucks, and he got a bit of the raw end of the media dished at him.

As usual there is more than one side to a story, and Mr. Andrews gives his side of it here. This is a learning exercise for all of us on the importance of counting to ten before speaking when angry (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson), but as my fiancee says when I screw up, “No one died, move on.”

So we are moving on to a question that’s been bouncing around my mind for a while. When you’re working in public relations, where is the line between the “public YOU”, that is connected to your business or clients, and the “private you,” where you’re allowed to have personal opinions and viewpoints that might not always be sweet and nice but shouldn’t cost you your livelihood?

When I was working at a former gig, a memo floated down from on high, stating that we were not allowed to write anything for any electronic outlets, or we’d be fired. I was told this included blogs (hence the reason I blogged under a pseudonym for many years). Since I wasn’t a writer, I didn’t know if that applied to me, but as an employee, anything I wrote, even on my own time, appeared to be held to this standard. (in fact a friend of mine got suspended a couple of weeks without pay for writing something for an online-only outlet).

Regardless of where you work, when you are off of the company time and dime, should you be forced to take Ari Fleisher’s advice to Bill Maher and “Watch what you say?” This is especially prevalent in public relations, the field that thousands of us toil in daily. We are seen not only as employees, but due to our profession, representatives of our respective companies. (or as in the case of Mr. Andrews’ Twitter-gate, representative of not only his firm, but also the companies we represent)

As people in PR talk about “Brand You,” the idea that what you write/podcast/etc. is connected to the “you” brand, discussion is moving closer towards the idea that the “you” brand, and the “YOU” brand are interconnected – allowing your employer to connect to and impose upon your online/social media persona. If these two brands are interconnected, then everyone must be careful about what they post, whether privately or for their employer, as the perception is these actions somehow reflect their employer.

On the other side of the equation, corporate America needs to change enough to realize that people are people. They are going to react to things that happen to them. If you watch CNN’s iReport or FoxNews’ YouReport pages, people have taken on the mantle of citizen journalists in a big way, and are reporting news in a pixel instant, because seconds have become too long now. Social media (previously called “new media”) now allow anyone to write anything anytime.

By recognizing the importance and influence of communicating through social media outlets like Twitter, employers will go a long way in providing their companies with the key element it needs to succeed in the social media-sphere: a personality.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? In this new media world of 24-hour iReporting and the all-day media cycle, should PR people be forced to represent their organizations 24-7?

Edit: Peter Himler has a great post, and an interview with Edelman’s Social Media maven Steve Rubel here.