Tag Archives: Social Media

Crisis Communications Steps for the Social Media Era

It used to be that crisis communications managers had the power to “beat” the media cycle.  They had a window of time, albeit small, to gather the crisis team in a war room and assess the situation in order to craft and refine key message points for reporters.

The proliferation of citizen journalism and social media has changed how crises are covered, yet a majority of companies have not updated their crisis communications plan to reflect new strategies and techniques.  A recent study conducted by Gartner Communications revealed that 84.8 percent of companies worldwide have a general crisis communications plan; however, only 20.7 percent of them have a social media crisis plan.

Below are eight steps to remember when implementing a crisis communications plan in today’s environment:

  1. Act quickly – The “golden hour” of a traditional crisis communications plan is gone.  After assessing the situation, respond as quickly as possible in a rational, respectful manner.
  2. Listen and engage – Understand the motivation behind the posts.  Know what is being said and why, and respond appropriately.
  3. Be open and human – People want to see a human response to a crisis, not a formulaic or canned reply.  Gauge the sentiment in people’s posts, and validate their emotions in your response.  If the company is in the wrong, admit it.  The two little words that can quickly dispel a social media crisis are, “I’m sorry.”
  4. Use your judgment – Not every negative comment requires a response.  Look at a person’s history and their number of followers.  If they consistently post negative remarks, think twice about engaging with them.  Do engage with someone who has a respectable track record, and know when to disengage.  Sometimes continued contact can be counterproductive.
  5. Fix the problem – If the crisis is bringing a problem to your attention, admit it, address it, and fix it.  If something isn’t really wrong but someone perceives that it is wrong, remember that perception is everything.  Take the opportunity to educate them in a helpful, considerate way.
  6. Allow negative comments – Do not delete negative comments.  You will only fuel the fire.  People will post negative comments elsewhere and voice their opposition to your company for deleting their original posts.
  7. Know when to take it offline – If there is one person leading the cause, suggest a one-on-one conversation via phone or e-mail.  Remember that e-mails can be reposted, so be careful what you type.
  8. Become the information hub – Create a page where you post stories on the issue, both positive and negative.  Bring in a Twitter feed and other real-time feeds of people talking about the issue.  You can’t control the conversation, but you can control the placement of the conversation on your page.  Make your opinion prominently seen.

Is your company prepared for a crisis played out in social media?  To ensure an “issue” doesn’t escalate into a crisis, it is mandatory to monitor key social media outlets 24/7.  There are several free tools available such as Google Alerts, Technorati, and Blogpulse.  For companies with a budget for monitoring, check out BuzzLogic, Radian6, and Trackur.

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Do QR codes make great marketing tools?

In a recent post, I asked what people thought would be the hottest trend in 2011. A lot of responses discussed the popularity of location-based social networking sites, but there were also quite a few mentions of QR codes.

QR codes are those interesting, fuzzy-looking squares that you may have seen pop up recently on

qrcodeproduct containers, convenience store shelving, or even online. First established in Japan in 1994, the QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode consisting of black elements arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The intent is to scan data at very high speeds, usually with a camera phone or barcode reader. Due to an estimate projecting that, in 2012, more smartphones will be sold than PCs, QR codes are going to affect the way websites are designed and products are promoted.

Take an athletic shoe product, for example. At the next World Shoe Association trade show, a company can add a simple QR code to its handout, which links to a sweepstakes landing page providing key information or even a special offer. Or perhaps it can be taken further to incorporate the product and the use of a durable hiking shoe by creating a QR scan treasure hunt – where each scan links to a new splash page featuring a clue to the next one.

QR codes can be used to swap contact information. Instead of exchanging business cards, a single QR code can be scanned, and the contact information will save to your smartphone.

As this technology becomes more and more popular, there are a few ideas that should be considered to optimize results:

  1. Offer exclusive prizes, offers, or information to those scanning the QR code that are different than what is available to everyone else.
  2. Optimize the website for mobile-browsing.
  3. Include an obvious call-to-action so that the audience is encouraged to scan the code.
  4. Establish a plan to engage people who scan the code over time, rather than a one-time promotion.

The important idea to remember is that QR codes create a new opportunity to enhance the relationship with a customer/prospect who has already engaged with the brand, building positive word of mouth or even a future sale.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

–          Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Is social media changing your world?

We’re in the midst of some rather transformative times. Especially if you happen to live in the Middle East.  Some are crediting Facebook and Twitter as key catalysts that helped to overthrow a 40-year dictatorship in Egypt. This phenomenon has spread throughout the Arab world from Yemen to Bahrain and is currently erupting in Libya. You can follow the revolution on Twitter.

And last year, we witnessed a revolution in Iran from our social media accounts.  Marshall McLuhan believed that all media is transformative – that when you engage it, it changes you. Social media has indeed changed the flow of information to a more democratic forum – especially in more closed societies.

I believe that social media is having an effect on all our relationships. Will it ultimately change the world for the better? I hope so. But one thing I do know is I will not be watching CNN while it happens.

Tips for following events in social media:

  1. Check trending topics on Twitter.
  2. Create a column in Tweetdeck and use it to search a popular hashtag like #libia.
  3. Search YouTube for uploaded mobile video.
  4. Check Facebook for any pages that protesters are posting to.

Don’t assume that people who are not from your country spell the same way you do.  Arabic words, especially, have many translations.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter

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Making Your Customers Comfortable

A big part of what makes the online arena attractive to marketers is the ability to engage customers and potential customers in a variety of ways. The most important “engagement” aspect, however, is a user’s experience with the site. If a site is cumbersome and not user-friendly, people aren’t going to spend a lot of time trying to navigate through what is fast becoming a bad experience for them.

Add to that the aspect of being asked to register, and most users will alter their behavior as a result.  A recent study by Janrain in conjunction with Blue Research noted that:

  • 75% of consumers take issue with being asked to register on a website and will change their behavior as a result
  • 76% of consumers admit to giving false information or leaving forms incomplete when creating a new account
  • 54% will either leave the site or not return
  • 17% go to a different site

The research indicates that “…consumers are frustrated with the traditional online registration process and will favor brands that make it easy for them to be recognized.…”

One method that surfaced as a solution to being recognized was being able to sign in using an existing social media log-in such as from Facebook, Google, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers said that this would be an “attractive solution to the problem.” Of this 66%:

  • 42% feel that companies who offer this are more up to date, innovative and leave a more positive impression.
  • 55% say they are more likely to return to a site that automatically recognizes them
  • 48% say they are more likely to make a purchase

Making your site user-friendly goes a long way in your effort to keep customers engaged. Listen to what your customers tell you about your site. They spend the most time there. Make their time on your site beneficial for both them and you. Like most things in life, people use things that they are familiar with and make them the most comfortable. Sometimes that’s a website, and most times that’s your customer.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Connection Planning

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Marketing in the New “Mocial” Environment

The marketing buzzword of 2011 will likely be “mocial” – the convergence of mobile and social media.  Mobile technology encompasses speed and accessibility, and social media enables people to stay connected.  Merging the two fits today’s new cultural communications environment, where time and attention reign supreme.

Most brand managers understand the power of social media and have incorporated at least one social media tool to communicate with customers.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.  Seventy-five million of Facebook’s 500 million customers follow at least one brand or company, and nearly 50% of Twitter’s 190 million do the same.

Meanwhile, the use of mobile devices has grown exponentially, and recent statistics prove that mobile users are much more likely to engage in social media.  Currently, there are more than 200 million users accessing Facebook through their mobile devices, and these users are twice as active on Facebook compared to non-mobile users.

Building a personal relationship via mobile is a surefire way to influence customers and their buying behavior.  The power of mocial is the ability to reach people at key decision-making moments.  A Harris Interactive poll recently showed that of consumers who receive some form of permission-based text marketing from a company, 34% said the messages have made them more likely to visit the venue and 27% more likely to make a purchase.

Mocial marketing offers an opportunity for a company to interact with customers, rewarding them when they visit your location to make you aware of their interest in your products or service.  Other ways to engage customers include: discounting/couponing, instant feedback, interactive competitions and flash events.

Domino’s Pizza is one company that has capitalized on mocial marketing and reaped the benefits.  It attributes a 29% increase in 2010 pre-tax profits to an effective use of promotions on Foursquare.  Companies that follow in the footsteps of Domino’s Pizza and put a sound strategy behind mocial have an opportunity to make significant financial gains of their own in 2011.

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Surviving the Social Media Storm

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…

It snowed in Atlanta this week.

And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.

Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.

Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.

My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.

And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.

Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.

Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.

Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive

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