Can generation Y manage social media?

After starting my first job at The Works just over six weeks ago, an article published by Inc. magazine last week really annoyed me. The article, titled ‘11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media’,made the point that young people should not be left in charge of an organisation’s social media profiles as they cannot be trusted to use it correctly.

Part of my role at The Works is to develop the agency’s social media presence as well as support social media activity across the agency’s client base. After turning 21 just over three weeks ago, I fit into the age bracket that the author believes is irresponsible.

The article states that 23 year olds aren’t mature enough to handle social media accounts and don’t have enough understanding of online etiquette. It also states that you can’t control what the individual’s friends post to your sites and talks about the person keeping your passwords and locking you out of your profiles.

I agree that not everyone aged 23 has the skills to effectively manage social media for an organisation. However, the situations discussed in the article are very extreme cases and portray the idea that no 23 year old can effectively manage social media accounts.

In reality, however, there are a large number of people in the given age bracket who can and who, the majority of the time, can manage social media better than their elders. People of my age group, those slightly older and definitely those younger than me have grown up with social media and use it as a primary form of communication. We have been bombarded with messages from other organisation’s using social media and understand what makes good or bad online communication. Anybody can post negative or inappropriate comments to a site, whether they are friends of the 23 year old managing your accounts or not.

There are some valid points made in the article and I agree with some of them to a certain extent. However, I believe age is just a number and doesn’t reflect maturity or ability. The decision about whether a person is responsible enough or not to manage a social media account comes down to each individual and the situation. It is not possible to tarnish all people of the same age with the same maturity level or ability to manage a situation.

I’m sure there are a number of views about this topic, what do you think? Do you agree with the author or not?

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Are Twitter and Facebook the new call centres?

Last Friday night, I was evacuated from the Odeon cinema in the Metrocentre half way through a film. Whilst being stood outside for nearly 20 minutes with no Odeon staff around to ask what was going on, I took to Twitter to voice my complaint. After being let back into the cinema and finding out from a member of staff it had been a fire at The Handmade Burger Company next door, I tweeted again. “So after a long time waiting it turns out it was a fire @handmadeburger“.

On Monday morning, I received a tweet from The Handmade Burger Company (@HandmadeBurger) asking me to email them with further information about my complaint. A few emails later, I was told I would receive drinks vouchers from the company as a way of apologising for my inconvenience.

On the same day, I read an article on the BBC news website asking if “Twitter and Facebook are changing the way we complain?”. This got me to thinking, pre social media would I have complained about the evacuation? Or would I have just got on with it?

We’ve all experienced some form of poor customer service, but would that normally lead us to calling the company’s customer service department to complain? I think not. Social media has given people the opportunity to complain there and then, on the spot, and this can have a huge impact on companies.

One of the first things I did after being evacuated on Friday night was to get my phone out and take to Twitter to voice my opinion. Something I would never have thought about doing a year ago. Social media is no longer for just communicating with friends.

In the BBC news article, it discussed a number of cases where people have taken to Twitter and other social networking sites to complain, with problems being resolved very quickly. It seems like the idea of public humiliation is what causes companies to take problems a lot more seriously online. It poses the question though, why do we need to publicly humiliate a company for them to take us seriously and react?

If companies didn’t realise before, surely they realise now how important social media is for their relationships with customers. I’ve still had no reply from the Odeon Metrocentre, however Handmade Burger Company handled my complaint very well and I look forward to receiving my vouchers and dining with them in the future!

Using Linkedin

After spending some time during the summer sorting out my CV and putting together a portfolio of my work I thought it was about time that I gave my Linkedin profile a bit of TLC.

After having an account on the site for nearly a year and not really doing much with it (and to be honest not really knowing how best to use it), I thought it was about time I gave it a bit of interest.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other people’s profiles on the site, looking at things like the type of information they include, how they set their profiles out, what applications they use, what groups/networks they join etc in order to give me some knowledge of how I can use this site as effectively as possible.

After updating all of the information on my profile to sit side by side with my paper CV as well as with my other social networking sites, I thought I was just about done. Then just as I posted the link to my new profile on Twitter, Aimee Carmichael (@aimee1986) posted a link to a blog post discussing how to get the most out of LinkedIn.

The post (which can be found here: How do you use Linkedin- Infographic) discusses how LinkedIn can be used to network with professionals in your industry and create business opportunities. Later on in the post, four tips are given which tell you how to create new connections, strengthen relationships, position you as a thought leader and hopefully provide you with leads and future business opportunities.

These tips made me realise that LinkedIn is more than just having an online CV/portfolio that other people in your industry can see, it is about networking and really making the most of the opportunities social media has given us. The four tips are as follows:

1. Commit once a week to use LinkedIn to connect with several current or former business associates this will put you top of mind for opportunities that may emerge out of these strengthened connections.

2. Over the next month make the effort to join ten groups on LinkedIn. This will raise your visibility and personal brand.

3. Once you have joined these groups start a discussion in each of these ten groups you have joined. As you are an expert in your field people will notice your thought leadership and will want to engage your services for their companies.

4. Go to LinkedIn’s Answers section and answer 5 questions a week. This is a long term strategy but will pay off over time.

After reading this post, I have decided to challenge myself to carry out each tip in order to use my LinkedIn profile more effectively. I hope these tips help others who like myself were not really sure how to best use the site.

My LinkedIn profile can be found here: Amy Lockhart

Quick Response Codes

Until recently, I never realised the magnitude of the world of QR Codes. Although I knew what a Quick Response Code was, what it was used for and the ways in which they could be used, I had never really thought about how an organisation could use them in their day-to-day promotional work and I would never have guessed how popular they were becoming with big companies.

Last week, when on placement with Newcastle United Foundation, the idea of putting a QR code onto data collections cards was discussed. Instantly I knew this was a easy and space saving way of putting the charity’s newly launched Facebook page details on the copy, yet until that point I didn’t realise how easy these codes were to make and how they could have a positive impact on increasing views to an organisation’s social site.

I thought that the codes would have to be made by a specialist with some high-tech piece of equipment, yet it took me no longer than five minutes to create and send the image of the code to the printers. All it takes is the URL of the page you are wanting to create a code for and the Facebook app ‘QR Code Generator‘ (which can be found through Google) and you’re done.

After making the code for the Newcastle United Foundation, I stopped at Pizza Express for lunch where on the table decoration was a QR code with ‘scan me’ wrote next to it. I found that by scanning this code I could download the Pizza Express App where I could search the menu, book a table at a Pizza Express restaurant and even pay for my bill via my smart phone, meaning no more waiting for the card machine to be free when you’re in a hurry, perfect!

After two encounters in two days with QR codes, I began to research them and found that they are becoming more and more popular. Not only are organisations using them to promote their social sites, places such as New York Central Park are creating campaigns around the use of QR Codes to interest and entertain a younger, more tech-savvy audience.

I believe that we will begin to see more and more use of QR codes in our everyday lives, whether it be on copy sent out by organisations or integrated campaigns like the one above, either way they are most definitely the future!

The importance of social media…

Since breaking up from University for summer just less than four weeks ago, the importance of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more apparent to me than ever before.

In the past four weeks not only have I won a £50 shopping voucher courtesy of Metrocentre and their ‘What’s in the bag?’ Twitter competition, I’ve also won a free car valet courtesy of Benfield Motors and their ‘Enjoy the Journey’ campaign. I’ve also spent some time helping out at Newcastle United Foundation, with the aim of raising the profile of the charity and the work that they do.

The more my personal use on sites like Twitter increases and the more industry experience I gain, the more I’ve realised that in todays market, social networking sites play a huge importance in an organisations development.

Organisations who don’t use social sites need to quickly come to grips with the idea that social media is fast becoming the main way to communicate with an audience and they need to understand how and why these sites can work to benefit them.

It is no longer enough for an organisation to just have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. An organisation must be constantly using these sites to connect with existing and potential customers, ensuring the information they post is both timely and relevant. Having a Facebook page is one thing, have an effective Facebook page is another.

Running competitions on Twitter like ‘Retweet for clean seats! Free valet for 1 winning car lover at a Benfield dealership’ can generate a huge amount of interest in your company. When I saw the competition on my timeline last Tuesday, I automatically re-tweeted without thinking about whether I would win or not. By Tuesday night I was the winner of a free car valet and I haven’t stopped telling people about it since. I don’t know exactly how many people I’ve told, but I’ve definitely talked more about Benfield this week than I ever have before, I think that speaks volumes for itself!

Organisations need to understand that social sites aren’t difficult to run or operate and they can bring huge benefits to a company. All it takes is a little bit of time and effort…

Here comes the summer…

This week I finished my second year at university and just like last year a feeling of great excitement hit me, I was about to start my four month summer holidays! However, a feeling of both reflectiveness and nerves started to kick in too. This was going to be the last time for a while that I would have a four month summer holiday, as this time next year I’d be just about to graduate and be getting ready to go into the big bad world of PR.

For the first time since starting at university, I thought about how much I’d learnt about myself as a person and the knowledge I’d gained. I realised I’d learnt a lot more than I first thought! Writing a critical evaluation for my social media module, the main reason I started this blog, made me realise just how much I’d learnt. Evaluating my blog and the online presence I’d aimed to create in January really got me thinking. When I first started university, I didn’t know a lot about PR apart from ‘it being something to do with communication’, now I can’t understand how I didn’t know about it, when everything that surrounds me on a day-to-day basis bares some relation to the PR industry.

Not only have I gained a huge amount of knowledge about the PR industry, I’ve also realised the importance of social media tools and personal reputation management. This time last year, I can remember both Philip Young and Josh Halliday telling me in a social media workshop that Twitter was the best thing since sliced bread. I took no notice what so ever, saying that I just couldn’t understand it and it looked so complicated. Over the summer of 2010, I made it my mission to understand the frenzy and one year one I don’t know how I survived without it!

My era of being addicted to Facebook has finished, and I’m now addicted to Twitter. Not only do I use it as a tool to communicate with influential people in the industry, I also communicate with friends through it and I now find out the latest news right from my own phone! It’s the last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at on a morning, (sad I know!)

All of this thinking made me decide that instead of having four months off doing nothing, I’m going to really make the most of my time. I’m going to continue to maintain (and hopefully increase) my online presence and I’m going to gain as much experience of the PR industry as possible. So that this time next year, the prospect of being in the big bad world won’t seem as big or bad after all!

Measuring social media

In recent posts I’ve talked about social media and the great impact it’s having on the way we do PR. I’ve also discussed the Barcelona Principles and how I believe they are a sustainable set of tools that will help PR practitioners effectively measure their work.

Last week, the CIPR produced a detailed document that explained ways in which social media could be measured. The document aims to work alongside the recent research, planning and measurement toolkit that the CIPR launched in October 2010. Both documents aim to provide CIPR members with the most up-to-date ways of thinking and measuring their use of social media.

Like I’ve discussed previously, I believe PR practitioners should not only be identifying and monitoring tweets, Facebook likes and online conversations, they should also be getting involved in current conversations and initiating new ones with the aim of understanding how all of these interactions can have an impact on an organisation. For example, just because somebody has ‘liked’ your product or organisation doesn’t necessarily mean you have created a lasting ‘relationship’ with them. Ask anyone who ‘likes’ items on Facebook and I’ll guarantee they can’t tell you everything they are connected to! PR practitioners need to firstly understand why people operate like this on social media platforms and secondly find a way of measuring how effective each ‘like’ is.

The first point the document makes is that it depends entirely on what you have set out to achieve whether metric measurement will be interesting and most valuable to you. Not all social media can be effectively measured using metric techniques. They may tell us how many people have clicked a link but they don’t tell us what the reader thought of the information or whether it changed their opinion on the subject in question. An organisation needs to decide whether metric measurement would be an effective way of measuring social media use depending on the needs of their organisation.

Secondly, there will never be a set of concrete principles that will allow PR practitioners to effectively measure how successful an organisations use of social media has been or is. This is because as the document points out ‘each marketplace is unique, and as your organisation is unique, your strategy will be unique. And so, therefore, will be the suite of measures you design, deploy and manage by.’ No two organisations can use the same method of measuring social media when no two organisations will have the same social media strategy. I think this is a very good point to keep in mind! You can never compare how another organisation has achieved such results when your organisation could be using completely different platforms in completely different ways.

The document goes on to state points such as:

  • Social media measurement is a discipline, not a tool or a ‘single metric’
  • Evaluating quality and quantity is critical, just as it is with conventional media
  • Measurement must focus on ‘conversation’ and ‘communities’ not just ‘coverage’
  • Basic quantitative data is easy to measure – but not terribly valuable

Although quantity is valuable, quality is a lot more worthy and substantial when it comes to measuring social media. The quality of a ‘tweet’ is more beneficial to an organisation over the number of ‘likes’ their Facebook page has achieved over a period of time. Quality shows us exactly what our audience are saying or thinking about us, where as a metric number doesn’t really give us this information, it only tells us how many people have connected with us. As the fourth point states, metrics may be easy to be measure but they aren’t really valuable.

For more information on other suggested ways of measuring social media and to read the rest of the document click here . The document is also available on the CIPR website within the research, planning and measurement pages and is also available for non CIPR members to access until 11 April. After this date, the document will be incorporated into new Social Media Guidance for members which will be launched at the CIPR’s Social Media Conference.

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