Programming Delay

I apologize for the radio silence.

Due to a family issue, everything has been turned upside down and we’re all reeling. As a result, I’m taking a temporary break from this space although I have every intention of returning. Thank you to the few that have kept up with this blog and I promise that when I come back, I’ll be more focused- and I hope better.

Defining the Metrics of Success, Twitter ed.

I wanted to title this week’s post, “‘I’m such a loser’ and other thoughts about Twitter” because that “losery” feeling descends upon me anytime I check my account. Followers are constantly coming and going; my tweets are unfavourited as easily as they’re favourited; in the end, I just don’t get it. While I’ll readily admit that I’m not the best or most prolific user, it can sometimes be demoralizing to see throw-away accounts gather more followers and traction than I could even imagine. In other words, I love Twitter, it just doesn’t love me back.

Some people will ask, “why do you care?” or “what’s the point of all these ‘likes’ ‘favourites’ and ‘retweets’?”. The simple answer is this: when I generate content whether it’s on this blog or my other social media accounts, I’m doing it so that I can build a community and I seek what so many others seek: engagement.  I want to know that what I’m doing means something, to someone, however remote. It’s not to suggest that I, or anyone, should tie our self-worth to other people or our social media presence, but the fact is that we’re all a part of this social web because we want to be heard. But how do we define success in this realm? Is it the number of followers, favourites, or retweets? We know that high numbers don’t always equal engagement. Is it the attention a tweet, individual, or brand receives? Or is it the magical golden egg known as engagement? Moreover, what does success in the realm of the social web mean for businesses/organization? Is it monetization? How do you translate the success of online campaigns to business initiatives? As you can see, there are many ways to define success which vary from situation to situation, and these goals will evolve as your brand, whether personal or corporate, grows. Your conversations will become more nuanced and represent a greater segment of people, and your voice will become stronger.

At the moment, what I’m trying to do on Twitter is find my space and where I belong. This is a personal mission and I’m doing this by participating more actively in conversations that interest and challenge me, finding clarity in my voice and concision in my thoughts/comments. For me, success is discovering where I fit in but how do I track and measure my progress? At this stage, it’s primarily a numbers game for me, which I suspect this will change over time. Even though it’s not my favourite way of measuring success, currently I define progress through numbers. How many retweets do I receive? When I post a link to my blog, how many people click through to drive site traffic? Which hashtags are most effective and what time should I post?

There are certain methods to improve your Twitter presence, as outlined here, here, and here, but what I think is most important is that you keep going, even when it doesn’t feel like anyone is listening. Just because people aren’t responding immediately doesn’t mean they won’t respond eventually. What you have to accomplish in the meantime is find your own voice, and figure out what you have to say. The social web is a crowded space and it takes awhile to determine where you belong in the conversation, and if you can’t find the space, then create it! All of this takes patience. Read more articles, interact with other users, listen, and adjust. It’s work but it can also be fun.

The Power and Politics of Business

(Note: My post from last week, as well as this one, veers away from the area of social media in the context of public relations and addresses broader social topics. I’ll return to my regular posting soon but lately I’ve developed a strong interest in community building, creating better online communities, and politics, which is something I’d like to explore for the time being.)

This week, after five short days, Starbucks ended its poorly conceived “Race Together” campaign, which was introduced by the company’s CEO Howard Schultz. The initiative was designed to generate conversations between baristas and customers on the very sensitive and extremely complicated topic of race. From its introduction, the campaign proved to be divisive and was met with significant online criticism – some saw the movement as “cause marketing,” and and others felt that the topic was too difficult for Starbucks employees to address without proper training. Some critics of the “Race Together” campaign found the discussion problematic because of the context; all they wanted was to get their coffee without having to engage in a political conversation. Meanwhile many felt that Starbucks was furthering its own agenda.

To my knowledge, the campaign was never rolled out in Canada so I don’t have first hand experience. However, scrolling through a Twitter search of #RaceTogether, you see a wide variety of commentary and while most of the posts were directed specifically at the Starbucks initiative, in and amongst those tweets you find messages revealing the extent and complexity of this topic. Although the company maintained that the initiative was only meant to be temporary, less than a week in, the plug was pulled. Admittedly, the campaign didn’t achieve its original goal but it did raise some important questions about what we want organizations to provide for us, outside of their core business or product. What level of engagement should organizations offer? And as users, what do we seek? What channels do we want to use? Would the initiative have been better received if it had been rolled out differently, primarily in an online forum rather than in person, allowing the consumer to opt-in rather than feel coerced into conversation? The answers obviously differ from situation to situation.

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SXSW 2015 Trending Stories

I’ve been working on a lengthy post for this week and initially wasn’t planning on writing a second one. However, with all the fresh, innovative technologies and ideas coming out of South by Southwest (SXSW), which just wrapped its interactive portion on Tuesday, I couldn’t wait to share. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the festival in person but here are a few stories I’ve seen trending online and I’ve gathered my favourites.

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Taylor Swift: A Case Study

Taylor Swift is undoubtedly one of the biggest pop stars in the world right now and I debated whether or not I should write a post centered around her because if felt like click-bait. Peruse any pop-culture site and you’ll find an article, photo, mention, anything really as an excuse to use Taylor’s name because mentioning her generates a boost in traffic. She’s on top of her game and people are responding with their “likes” “shares” and comments. All of this is fine to an extent but being a new, unknown blog, numbers aren’t my main goal and I don’t want to write about her for the sake of a few additional views. I wanted to scrap this post but the reality is that Taylor, or the people on Team Swift, have done an exemplary job using the social web and present a fascinating case study, one that I obviously can’t resist.

Full disclosure here, since the release of her album 1989 I’m what you would call a “Swiftie”, so I’m glad to see her not only succeeding but owning the moment so well. By all accounts, she’s a kind and talented person and her work speaks for itself. I’m not questioning her success or her intentions. Instead, I’d like to unpack the ways in which Taylor and her team have used the social web to accompany her re-branding as a bona fide global superstar and examine the ways in which she uses various channels to share content, focusing specifically on her Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts. While her other profiles share similar content as the three outlets I’ve chosen, I’d like to focus on Twitter which she joined in 2008, Instagram which joined in 2011, and Tumblr which she began using in 2014 because these are the channels that demonstrate the most interaction between Taylor Swift and her audience, with Taylor messaging fans, commenting on their posts, and reblogging their content. There are so many elements of Team Swift’s social media presence to discuss but for the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on what I believe is their greatest strength: tone and targeted messaging.

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Here We Go Again

Hello?

Is anyone out there?

I won’t be upset if there isn’t. After all, it has been more than two years since my last post. But if by chance there is a reader sticking around, I want to say hi (!) and thanks.

I have to admit that this – my return to blogging and this blog in particular- has come as a surprise. This site was born as a school assignment and was supposed to end along with the class, slipping in line with countless other abandoned blogs and online projects. But I’ve hesitated to delete this site, periodically coming back to check the traffic and read old posts, and now I’ve worked up the courage to start writing again, this time without the class syllabus to provide structure and guidelines.

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