PR Part 2: The Social Frontier

PR Part 2: The Social Frontier

PR Social media

by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

As public relations professionals, it is our job to monitor and manage the reputations of the businesses we represent.  Traditionally, this was managed by working with media outlets to spread positive press about the businesses.  While these tactics are still employed, research shows that people trust the opinion of a friend over advertising and press.  Enter social media.  A large network we people can not only connect with their friends, but the friends of their friends.  The everyday person’s reach and influence has skyrocketed, and so has the value of their opinions.

Social media is changing the game of public relations.  Now as public relation professionals, it is our job to engage in social media networks to address negative responses and to encourage and highlight positive responses.  In order to effectively manage the conversation people are having about your business, we have to go where people are talking and looking for information.  That’s online and on social networks.

Why Your Business Should Be On Social Media

If you are a business, you should be on social media.  Why?  Because the people who use your services or buy your products are there, and they are talking about you.  Since they’re already talking about you, it’s a better idea to join in their conversation than to ignore it.  Just think if one of your customers has a negative experience.  Would you like them to tell all their friends and their friends’ friends how terrible your company is?  If you are a part of the conversation, you can spot this interaction early and address it immediately.  Think about it.  Social media provides you with a channel to connect directly with this individual and change their experience.  This improves your reputation with that individual and with all of their friends and their friends’ friends.

Customer Service & PR Become One

Customer service and public relations were once separate functions.  Customer complaints were listened to in person or over the phone and public relations happened behind closed company doors.  Not anymore.  People are not dependent upon the local print paper for news and they don’t limit their complaints to casual in-person conversations.  Instead, people are doing  both of these things in the same place – on social media.

Through social media, a company needs to promote their reputation and resolve their customers’ issues.  We help your business manage both of these tasks through tactics like responding to customers, sharing your press mentions, engaging with influential followers, addressing common questions/issues faced by your customers through content marketing, and more.  Today, if your company wants any chance at controlling their public reputation, then you need to manage your digital reputation.

Engaging Your Online Audience

When communicating online, the people you interact with will have different experience and comfort levels for how they participate in the online community.  The majority of people tend to be inactives, spectators, and joiners.  This means they mostly view content with minimal interaction with others beyond their immediate circle.  However, the most influential people are the collectors, critics, and creators.  These people create and curate content that the rest of the community will view and read.

Online users identified in Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.

If you want to distribute a message, all of these people have the potential to view or read your content.  They key to getting a message to spread farther and go viral is to engage collectors, critics, and creators.  Once these people are creating and curating content about your message, the message will spread further and faster.  As I mentioned earlier, people trust the opinions of their friends the most.  When their friends are the ones sharing the message, that’s when you get more clicks, shares, likes, and comments.

Our next post …

This post was the second in a series of posts taking an in-depth look into the public relations techniques we use to manage our clients’ reputations.  In our first post, PR Part 1: The Media Pitching Process we discussed the steps required for successfully pitching a story to the media.  If you enjoyed either of these posts, check back on September 25 when our next post, PR Part 3: Resolving a Media Crisis will go live.  In the post I’ll be discussing tactics for responding to a crisis.

Six Incredible Cave Drawings of Kittens at Play

Communications Social media

Article by Tim Colbert, public relations director at Shift Collaborative

While every generation thinks they invented sex, I’m starting to worry that a lot of our younger marketing and PR peers feel that they’ve invented communication. I blame social media.

kitten-cave-drawings-communications-trendsKids, I’ve got a message for you — social media is the latest but by no means the last in communications trends. From the days of the cave drawings in Lascaux, France; to Guttenberg’s printing press; to the advent of The Camel Caravan we human beings are veritable champeens at coming up with new and, one hopes, better ways to spread the good word.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities social media provides. I have helped clients launch new products, deepen customer outreach, hasten the sales cycle, and secure new business through the smart utilization of these powerful tools.

But tools they be. They are vehicles.

It’s Content that fuels and drives all the hotly sought after views, likes and click-heres. Nifty infographics, “Six Keys to Success” articles, compelling video, irresistible “‘What ‘Game of Thrones Cast Member Are You”-type questionnaires — this is content that in one form or another predates the social media era.

The feedback is faster, the measurement more refined, and the ability to engage in real-time conversations are all greatly, happily, enhanced through social media.

But it’s only a tool. One’s very presence on social media is no substitute for cleverness, story-telling, and a well thought-out and creatively executed message strategy.

Let me put it another way. The Big Brands shelled out an estimated $4 million for each 30-second spot during this year’s Super Bowl. While some of those ads generated massive social media attention (Coca-Cola) and a few may linger in the memory banks (The Cheerios Family), did any of the other ads have any real staying power? As in the kind that would justify such a significant investment?

Just because one advertises during the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that the ad will be any good, will connect with consumers, will, in a word, work. Likewise, one’s mere presence in social media channels ensures one thing and one thing only– that the Cloud just got a bit more crowded.

Five Reasons to Attend Podcamp 2014

Five Reasons to Attend Podcamp 2014

Community SEO Social media

by Sarah Mayer

You may not be familiar with Podcamp, so let me start there.  Podcamp is by its own description is an ‘un-conference’ although it does have some of those familiar conference components. Podcamp in Pittsburgh has been around for eight years and while the conference was started around podcasting, it has evolved each year to add on more new media elements. I’ve attended Podcamp for the last three years and here are five reasons you need to go to Podcamp 2014.

  1. Education from real local people: yeah, it’s cool to glean tips from a big name in social media, but I’d much rather hear from someone in my own backyard who is approachable, accessible and understands my market.
  2. Relationship building: I’m about to admit something here on my company’s blog that may come as a shock to some, but I have a touch of social anxiety.  Going to new places, where I’ll have to start conversations and/or keep conversations going freaks me out a little. The first year I attended Podcamp, I don’t think I knew anyone there.  I pushed myself to sit near other people rather isolate myself in a row of empty chairs. People talked to me and then I talked back and thus began the start to long-lasting relationships. I walked in this year less sheepish, immediately seeing and greeting people that I know and work with on a regular basis because of Podcamp.
  3. Talent recruitment: We are a small company but from time to time we need to staff up for big projects.  Podcamp (as well as that year’s conference hashtag) is a great place to source talent for digital, writing and media relations roles.
  4. New and old:  there are always new elements, themes and sessions from different folks, but you can hear from the people that have been a part of Podcamp since its inception and are still involved. That mix of new and old gives attendees an authentic blend of education and information from various sources.
  5. Swag: come on it matters a bit. I love my Podcamp t-shirts.  I have three now and when I wear one out, inevitably someone asks me, “What’s Podcamp?” And I exuberantly tell them what it’s all about. That’s a moment that most marketers pray for – fans owning the brand and spreading the word for them.

One more thing that isn’t so much a reason to attend, but a reason to support the event is that Podcamp is volunteer run and the conference is free. They sell VIP registrations for $25 and there are sponsorships available too.

Have you been to Podcamp Pittsburgh? What are some of the reasons that you attend?

VINE: The Latest In Short Form Communication

Social media

by Becki Davis, SH/FT Collaborator

Vine officially launched on January 24, 2013 – the same day, Twitter acquired the service. It is currently still operating as a separate entity (meaning, it’s an app that must be downloaded in order to be used rather than being an option that’s accessed via Twitter’s own software).

According to the Vine blog, “Posts on Vine are about abbreviation – the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life.” Essentially, they’re 6-second snippets that get looped into a constant video feed.


The snippets

What you decide to post on Vine is up to you. There are no rules for what you can post, as long as the content is yours. Of course, it must adhere to certain terms which include but are not limited to: no impersonations of other people or entities, no illegal activity, no spam, no harassment, no threats to others, and no violating anyone’s rights – all standard stuff. Otherwise, the sky is the limit.

If you’re a business owner posting on behalf of your company, just imagine the possibilities. You could give a quick glimpse of what a typical day may be like for you, a sneak peek at a new product that may be launching soon or show potential clients something they might not know about a product or service you offer.


A post such as this one made us think about those little flipbooks where you could turn individual drawings into animations by flipping through pages quickly. Vine allows you to do something similar by using images from real life as well as audio. The audio is recorded from whatever you’re filming; it doesn’t get added after the fact.

Lesson from the above Vine reference: the audio got distorted a bit because of the way it was filmed. If you don’t want choppy audio, (particularly if you’re making a product Vine for your own company as opposed to covering a fashion show), make sure there’s no audio in it.

It’s a quick snapshot

You can write long posts describing your company. Create 2-minute videos to show folks the ins and outs of your products. Exhibit your wares at trade shows and conferences. Run print ads. Get reviewed. Get word-of-mouth referrals. And countless many other marketing tactics, too. But in our modern society where attention spans run short, even folks that are interested in your product might not take the time to investigate further.

We’ve all saved something in our favorites or emailed a link to ourselves to read later – but do we always get back to check that favorite/link? Probably not.

But most of us have six seconds to watch a short video without too much challenge. Hence, Vine can be an interesting complement to existing marketing efforts. It’s an easy way to raise brand awareness, show off features, and get people interested in something that you’re doing.


There are always glitches and kinks to be worked out anytime new technology comes out. Vine is making improvements based on feedback from its users. For example, when Vine first launched, you could only post to Facebook/Twitter.  If you did so at the time that you originally posted it, there was no way to go back after the fact and repost the video (for example if it didn’t work the first time). They addressed and fixed this issue.

We noticed two main drawbacks. Vine is not yet available for Android, but it is reported to be coming soon.  The other is that it doesn’t always work in non-native Twitter apps.  For example, we tried to get some Vines to play via TweetCaster, but it kept getting stuck and wouldn’t play.  It does seem to work just fine when using the regular Twitter app and we haven’t noticed any issues with it via web.

Applications of Vine

Not sure how Vine can apply to you/your business?

Think about taking something that might normally take a while to cover and using Vine to show an abbreviated version of it. If you’re trying to think of ideas for your restaurant, for example, you could show a bunch of quick shots of ingredients, then food being prepared, then a dish as it’s ready to go out to the client.  If your business is to fix cars that have been in an accident, you could do a time lapse of the car coming in smashed up, then show the work being done on it, and then the final result of a car that’s back to normal.  Here’s a post that shows you 15 examples of how businesses are promoting their products using Vine.

We want to see your creativity using Vine and we’ll reward you. SH/FT staff will select the finest video. The winner will receive a copy of Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Get your index finger working – shoot a video, post it on Facebook or Twitter, copy the url and add it to our comments section of this blog with your email. Tap away, our 6-second video Coppolas! 


Simple Human Rights Campaign Generates Big Awareness

Non-Profit Organizations Social media

by: Paul Carboni, A Fellow at Shift Collaborative and Senior at Carnegie Mellon University

A couple weeks ago you probably signed into Facebook and quickly noticed something was different. If your wall was like mine, you noticed that the myriad pictures of your friends and family were gone. They were replaced by miles of red and pink railroad tracks running down your news feed. And unless you already knew what was going on, you probably took a couple seconds to Google the explanation.


Which of course, is exactly what Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group based in Washington DC, wanted. In late March they pushed for Facebook users to change their profile pictures to the pink equals sign to raise awareness of the Supreme Court’s deliberation on two cases central to marriage equality.

The campaign was a phenomenal success, spanning across the country and generating a 120% increase in profile photo updates on Tuesday, March 26 when compared with the previous Tuesday. That would be kind of like if all the people at your office decided to show up wearing red and pink one day, and a fifth of them brought a friend that did the same.

What’s so impressive about the campaign is how simple it is. By getting people to click a few buttons, Human Rights Campaign was able to both talk to and engage with the Facebook community. It sent a message to LGBT individuals that they were supported, and it got people to align themselves to their cause. The high rate at which the simple logo was remixed shows how much people liked engaging with the message.

Image source:

And that message got out. Google Trends shows a sharp spike in search volume for the terms DOMA, Human Rights Campaign, and marriage equality for March 2013.

Image source: Google Trends

Bravo HRC. Not only have you motivated people to fight for the right side of history, you’ve managed to demonstrate what a successful social media advertising campaign looks like in the process.

Social media. What's all the fuss about?

Marketing Strategy Social media

If you’re not using social media for your company right now, maybe you have a reason.  Possibly it’s because you haven’t had the time. Maybe you just don’t see how social media can impact your company. Maybe you haven’t been wowed by the results.  In this article, we will show you some extreme examples that hopefully will ‘wow’ you with the possibilities of what social media can offer.

We realize that the companies we are about to cite have built a large following. They have sizable teams of people working for them to grow and keep followers. They have brand recognition. But, they also have quick-thinking social media teams that react (literally within minutes) to current events taking place. And, they use social media to get a message out to the masses for FREE.  The last two pieces are things any business can do.

How social media can be great for your company’s image

During the Super Bowl, an event witnessed by 108.7 million viewers according to this Huffington post article, you probably know that the lights went out in part of the Superdome. The game was suspended for 34 minutes. The post, 6 Brands That Moved Fast During Super Bowl Blackout, highlights some of the big brands’ sharp moves to address the situation.

The power went out at 5:38 pm PT (8:38 pm ET).  The two most successful tweets posted during the blackout that the above post highlights are Audi and Oreo’s. At 8:40pm ET, Audi posted the following tweet:


This one tweet yielded 9710 retweets and 3218 favorites. At 8:48pm ET, Oreo posted the below tweet and gained 16,067 retweets and 6,159 favorites on Twitter.


Let that sink in for a moment. Those two individual tweets combined had a total of over 25,000 posts and over 9,000 favorites. And that doesn’t count the number of manual retweets (those in which a Twitter user RTs a post with their own comments before or after, usually with the original post either in quotation marks or marked with RT somewhere) that the post received. Nor does it count the people that talked about the tweets without directly quoting or linking to the post.

A little bit of math

According to this study from, the average twitter user has 208 followers. The combined total of followers from Oreo and Audi notwithstanding, the potential reach of those two tweets would be 25,777 x 208=5,361,616. Audi has 314,085 followers and Oreo has 75,168 = a total of 389,253 (stats as of 2/13/2013). Their posts reached more than a potential of 13 times their (already large) existing following base. Now, we realize that some of these followers overlap, and that not every person that follows each of these accounts would have seen it, but those numbers are still pretty staggering.

Imagine you’re a small business that is starting up your social media. Let’s say you have 50 followers so far.  In comparison, it would be like your tweet being seen by potentially over 650 people. Audi’s post didn’t involve any setup, any props, any cameras. Oreo’s was a very simply put together tweet that probably didn’t cost a lot to set up or create.

How not using social media can reflect negatively on your company

Folks on social media are very much in search of instant gratification. This is a large part of the reason why those Super Bowl tweets were so hugely successful. Users grab on to things as they’re happening and ride them out. Fast forward to the State of the Union address (#SOTU), there was a moment during the Republican rebuttal address given by Marco Rubio (@MarcoRubio) in which Marco paused to take a sip of Poland Spring water. Sounds inane enough, right?

The amount of social media attention this drew was far beyond anything anyone would have expected.  According to this Huffington Post article, “Within the hour, #watergate was trending, a Lil’ John remix was in the works, and Rubio himself had even tweeted out a photo of the bottle.” There were fake Twitter accounts being created pretending to be the bottle that Marco drank from, and those fake accounts were tweeting and getting retweeted.

What was Poland Springs’ response? They didn’t even seem to know anything had happened. It took more than 14 hours for them to post an official response on their Facebook page. There are two Twitter accounts that appear to be in their name, one of which hasn’t been used since 2011, the other since 2010. While the posted response was appropriate, it was not timed appropriately to really cash in on the momentum that social media could have given it.

And then there’s this:


The fact that Poland Spring didn’t have a timely response drew negative publicity, despite the fact they had no way of knowing it was going to happen. Andrew has close to 70,000 followers.  And he’s not the only one to react in this way. Many articles and blog posts (not to mention tweets) address the fact that Poland Spring missed the boat. In fact, this article from Brand Channel goes on to point out the volume of the tweets going out during the course of the evening (9200 tweets per minute at the point of the now infamous water bottle sipping) from which Poland Spring could have easily thrived.

What’s your next step

So – we’ve told you why being active in social media can potentially be great, and we’ve told you why not being active in social media can potentially be detrimental. How do you think current events could make an impact in your organization’s social media feed?

Dear Facebook friend: Don’t expect me to manage your online privacy for you

General Social media

There’s nothing like waking up in the morning to Facebook notifying you that a friend has tagged you in a photo with your ex- from three relationships ago with the caption “True love 4evah!”  Or perhaps you’ve been tagged in the comments of a post that’s become uncomfortably political.  Or maybe your friend’s recent post to your timeline is an obvious advertisement for cosmetics.  Or deeply discounted airline tickets.  Or a free iPhone 5.  

Your immediate reaction may be to contact your friends and request that they untag you from their content.  If you’re unwillingly tagged in content, that is a breech of your online privacy and your friends should respect your privacy, right?

Continue reading

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Content Marketing General Social media

two women reading newspaper on park bench

I’m cool with “social marketing” and businesses’ presence in social networks. Obviously.

I like blog comments. A lot.

However, it seems I will forever cringe while reading comments on social marketing blogs.

What do you say we try a little experiment with this social marketing blog post!

[I should probably clarify, I’ve never had a problem with any comment on this blog. We don’t get many, and they’re rarely, if ever, from the cringe-worthy marketing professionals you see elsewhere.]

Here’s my idea:

Shut out the centralized, public comments.

There are other places where you can commnet on this very post. Google Reader, Google Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and other blogs. Heck, you can even talk about it offline! Hopefully, you already know plenty of people who want to hear your opinion of my ideas. People who want your answers to my questions. People who are interested to know which questions you find most interesting.

You’re not commenting just because you like people to see your name and link, right?

So, I’m going to offer a few ideas and questions, in conclusion. Now that you’ve read this post, start a discussion about it amongst the people who already know you. Feel free to invite me into your network to participate. Tell me I’m wrong to my face, it’s cool.

[I was trying to decide if I should leave the “trackbacks” (pingbacks) on.

Cindy offered, “One hazard of this suggestion is that it becomes the original author’s (your) responsibility to report back to the blog audience on responses to posts. So then you’re setting yourself up as a filter. Open comments avoid this problem; so do trackbacks. They promote transparency.”

So, the comment thread can link back to those responding blog posts.]

Okay, then. Here are those questions:

  • What does my post and this blog lose from closing the comments to this post?
  • What do I gain? What do other readers gain? What do your blogs, and social circles gain by commenting “locally?”
  • I’m drawing my line at posts about and for social marketing professionals. I’m not suggesting businesses using blogs to talk to their consumers should do anything like this. But could that line be better drawn some place else?

Let me know where you think.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon

FAQ: Should my organization create a Facebook Page or Facebook Group?

Social media

Q: I’m on the leadership team of a nonprofit, and we want to use Facebook to connect with potential donors and volunteers. Should we create a Page or a Group?

A: If you’re creating the official presence of an entity on Facebook — whether an organization or a business — you should create a Page.

Here’s how Facebook describes the difference between Pages and Groups:

Like a friend’s profile, Facebook Pages enable public figures, businesses, organizations and other entities to create an authentic and public presence on Facebook. Unlike your profile, Facebook Pages are visible to everyone on the internet by default. You, and every person on Facebook, can connect with these Pages by becoming a fan and then receive their updates in your News Feed and interact with them.

Authenticity is at the core of Facebook. Just as profiles should represent real people and real names, so too should Pages for entities. Only the official representatives of a public figure, business or organization should create a Facebook Page. …

While Pages were designed to be the official profiles for entities, such as celebrities, brands or businesses, Facebook Groups are the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content. …

(Thanks to @broganmedia for tweeting about this explanation.)

Pages have several features that Groups don’t. They can import an RSS feed into their Notes, so any blog posts your organization’s site generates could automatically be posted on your Facebook Page; they display visit, interaction, and fan demographic stats to Page administrators; and they have more flexibility in adding apps (including fundraising apps and store apps) and displaying information.

The next question we often hear is, “What if we already have a Group and want to switch to a Page?” There’s no easy way to make the transition. But you should transition anyway, to get the benefits of Pages. The sooner you make the change, the better.

Here’s what to do: Create your new Page, add information like your logo, photos, blog feed, and other content, then send a message to all the members of your Group that you are switching to a Page and the Group will be deleted. Invite the Group members to join you at the new Page; include a link to the Page so they find it easily. Send a second reminder about the switch a week later, and after two weeks send a final notice and delete the Group.

Then, work on creating great content and inviting participation on your new Page, so fans have a reason to visit often and interact with your organization and with each other.