Yardsticks for social media

A good tool, but not what we are looking for

Analytics: colourful ways we use charts and graphs and other mathy things to show how our online communication efforts translate into something we can boast about (or really need to work on, depending).

The web offers many different analytic/measurement tools for free that we can take advantage of. Here is a brief summary of three of them, as well as a look at one paid measurement tool.

1. Trackur

Trackur has different packages available for purchase, but even the cheapest one at $18 per month gets you sentiment tagging, monitors Google +, Twitter and Facebook and saves five searches for you. Probably not all you want for a paid service so it looks like it makes more sense to spend a bit more and get the Trackur insights feature. This feature will provide analytics and charting to help you navigate your dashboard. For a large or medium business this fee is nominal at $88/month. The added features in the $377/month deal hardly add anything useful for the price: being able to add your logo to the dashboard and choosing the dashboard colours are listed as the additional perks to the most expensive package. Still, Trackur’s medium and low-end packages don’t seem too bank-breaking and may be good options if you are looking for a paid service.

2. Hootsuite

The beauty thing about Hootsuite is the simplicity. Just open their home page and it reads “social media dashboard.” Awesome! After looking around at other sites like Google Analytics and Yahoo Analytics this is much more inviting for the user who has little experience with analytics and is just looking for a place to monitor their major social media accounts. Even with the limited free version, users can still monitor and post on up to five social media accounts at once using Hootsuite; this is in addition to being able to follow brand sentiment and follower growth. Plus, their logo is tops.

3. Google Analytics

Free! That’s the great thing about the level of comprehensiveness and Google Analytics. Google Analytics seems to be at the helm of free, mainstream website monitoring services, but seems a little bit heavy on the business side of things rather than the sentiment and tone of mentions and posts about your brand. This is a good service to use if you are a business and looking for better ways to market your product or where to advertise best.

4. Klout

Instead of measuring clicks and hits, Klout rounds up your social media efforts through your various accounts to give you a score out of one hundred. The higher the score, the more influential you are online. I don’t spend as much time on my personal accounts as I would like so I was a little disheartened to find out my own Klout score was a lousy 18. 18! Man. I have a lot of work to do with my personal social media accounts! At least I have a baseline to start with.

For organizational accounts, I could see a Klout score as being a good tool, especially when paired with your traditional media monitoring and social media dashboard. These three tools together should give you a very complete look at your media efforts.

18? Is that out of 20?



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PR, who do you think you are?


Who else wants a try at defining PR? Anyone want to come up here?

I’m sure by now you may have noticed that the PRSA is working to develop a new definition of PR. Three draft choices are up in an article posted on Ragan.com and the chosen definition is to be announced on February 27 after public voting.

I don’t know about you but I just wonder if this exercise is in vain. Isn’t there any definition out there right now that we can just keep using? Or has the corporate social landscape changed so much over the past twenty  or so years that Cutlip and Center’s definition doesn’t work for us anymore? And what does the surge and growing importance of social media mean if we want to redefine what public relations means?

In any case, I don’t really think the three definitions to vote on (please look them up and see what you think) are really all that different from the original. Only one of the definitions even mentions communications!

If I was to explain PR and what we do to a friend or relative, I think I would just tell them: “We communicate. So we write, we read, we listen. We get in touch with people who matter to us. There are a lot of way to do this. It’s important because our organization is a big part of our community and we have to know what’s happening and what’s important and our community needs to know what we’re up to.” Put another way: Public Relations is when we manage relationships through effective communication.

I don’t think I’m too far off base. And we’re not cluttering the definition up with words like strategy and organization and stakeholders and blah blah blah (note that synergy, dynamic and robust are not words I chose either).

I’d like to know what you think.


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A bit of a letdown

Does anyone know how to get a retweet from a corporate brand? Not that I need to validated by a brand, or the person at the other end of a Twitter account, but I would think there has to be some level of courtesy…or are we still trying to figure out what that is? Or how special does a tweet have to be to get retweeted? This weekend I did a bit of an experiment. I tweeted pics of products and signage to two major food retailers with pretty positive comments. The most I got was a follow from one and I haven’t heard a peep (or tweet) from the other. I also tweeted a pic of a model to the creator of the character that the model was designed after — nothing there either! The same thing with another item I tweeted with a pic attached. That’s four brands on Twitter I reached out to over two days.

Is it because it’s the weekend? Were my tweets too banal? Did they feel the photos weren’t good and could maybe hurt their brand more than help it?  It couldn’t have been that the keeper of the Twitter account for the four organizations didn’t like my grammar! I could see being snobby about something like that but come on!

Sigh. I don’t even know why I care of that I even do — maybe these brands have just set me up to think they were alert, ready to retweet or mention captive followers to keep them feeling like they’re being a great customer and helping to share the love of the brand of their own accord.

Or maybe they still need a lesson or two and need to read Social Media ROI?


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Appreciation for commas knows no bounds

They should be in bed by now!


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Who’s doing some (online) community building?

As PR practitioners, we want to take advantage of the opportunities the many online social web platforms afford us in connecting to our many stakeholders. Definitely so for hospital communications, where we want to build relationships of trust and dialogue with our communities. Here are two organizations that are doing good things on the social web to connect with their communities.

The Scarborough Hospital

The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) operates on two campuses in Toronto’s east end. Lately I have been noticing many tweets and other online updates related to “ReFRESHing our Menu,” the patient food revitalization project. Using  foods grown in Ontario, TSH’s chefs have been at work creating new menus of fresh, home-made dishes to feed patients rather than the ubiquitous “hospital food” some have had the pleasure of experiencing. To connect with stakeholders on this food journey, TSH has used their Facebook page to ask followers to tell them what their favourite comfort foods are. TSH’s consultant chef Joshna Maharaj (@joshnamaharaj) tweets often about the kitchen escapades and occasionally tweets photos of new creations as they happen.

These are not groundbreaking ways to share information, but I believe it does well to share  good news about the hard work TSH is doing in  improving the patient experience, especially where nutrition is considered, while at the same time asking for patient/follower input. While TSH uses other platforms like their blog, Twitter, and Flickr to share all sorts of media, organizational news and health news in general,  I think what I have seen so far regarding just this one little project on patient nutrition and menu redesign is a good example of how we can create hopeful, lighthearted and forward-thinking online communities — even in the sometimes scary and politically fraught land of health care.

Tomorrow, Chef Rodney Bowers will be on The Scarborough Hospital’s  General Campus to create a special menu  for patients with the resident chefs as reported here.

Trillium Health Care Foundation

Health care is largely about the relationship between patients and caregivers. Trillium Health Care Foundation knows this, and has been using it as the backbone of their current “Calling all Heroes” campaign. To engage their donors and patients, Trillium’s Foundation started a visually – poppy project inviting people to share stories about the Trillium health care provider, volunteer, or employee in general who was their “hero.” Enticing participation with the chance to win a year’s supply of Tim Hortons coffee (yeah, I don’t know why Tim Hortons doesn’t have an apostrophe either), Trillium’s Foundation will award both the nominee and the winner when the contest closes. In the meantime, they have been tweeting and sharing videos on YouTube about the upbeat reports of great patient-to-staff interactions. All this is to encourage donor support for their “Giving 110%” campaign on now as the organization needs to raise $110 million for three key priority areas.

Why is this a good example of how to use online communities? Trillium Health Care Foundation uses more than one platform to drive interest while generating input from their communities. By aiming the spotlight on “Heroes” they may be very successful in reminding their community (and their donors) about the very good work they do for their community — and thank them for the gratitude bestowed on them by patients and their families.


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Help with Yelp!

Don't let bad reviews blow up in your face



Just in time to close out out week on location-based services, ragan.com posted this handy article on how to best use Yelp!

While this article is useful for business-based companies, I wonder what we can take of it for public affairs? I mean, publicly accountable organizations like schools, recreation facilities and hospitals don’t really have customers: they have tax-payers who expect excellent service. All the time. And they should.

I have a few suggestions to add for those civil servants who are practicing PR when using Yelp!:

1. Always respond to reviews, especially those that are unfavourable. Don’t offer up specifics online but instead try to contact the person off-line, especially when the subject may be confidential. Make it your prerogative to resolve the issue quickly.

2. Recognize that web-based forums are just as important as someone phoning or writing a letter or taking the matter up in person with a staff representative. Maybe more so, as the internet has a particularly unstoppable reach. Word of mouth is powerful but…

3. Take advantage of good reviews (this echoes Kruse’s point #5).  You want to be able to collect good reviews to share with staff and other stakeholders. It is never a bad thing to celebrate your good work. Thank reviewers for letting you know their experience with your organization was a good one. Try to share these good reviews via your other social media channels.

4. Use Yelp! to get reviewers engaged in other projects your team is working on, whether it is building a panel or advisory committee or looking for some volunteers. This could very well be a cost-effective way to draft community members rather than performing something like a civic lottery.

If anyone else has any ideas, I would love to hear them.


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Here I Am!

Oooh! Almost at my 50-point goal! Uh, can anyone tell me why this would matter?

“I’m the Mayor of Starbucks!”

This is the kind of kooky thing that really means nothing if you haven’t yet been exposed to Foursquare, the location-based social web application that beckons you to check in every time you open the door at a business or other establishment. If you’re lucky, you will be able to see who else has “checked in” at a location in case you want to stalk them (I assume that if they wanted you to know they were there they would tell you). And if you go to a number of different places, you get kitschy online badges that mean nothing. I mean, you can’t exactly sew it to your Social Media Merit Badge Sash, right? So why the draw to something that seems at first trial to be gimmicky, and how can we use this gimmickiness to our advantage as PR folk?

As with other location-based services, connections are made through places, not through contacts we already had. Users can learn all about the experience of people who have checked in and left tips behind them (or reviews, in the case of Yelp!). So for one, PR folks need to use services like Foursquare to monitor the sentiments of visitors to their organization and should probably be checking in at their own businesses/client’s businesses often to read reviews and tips. This is especially useful in health care, retail and the entertainment industries, where a good experience followed by a good review is a pinnacle achievement. And sometimes someone may take a picture and upload it to an LBS site that may actually be of good use to you in your outgoing communications. Free photography? Customer feedback? These are good things!

If we explore some more, we can surely use LBS for more than gauging sentiment and grabbing the odd photo. We can develop plans of action to help develop better relations with our customers or patients based on the tips and reviews.

The Other Square: QR Codes

I’m sure these things are designers’ nightmare. Though they may not be attractive they sure can be useful in helping link print media to practically anything online: contests, video, surveys — anything you can upload to a website. They are  becoming fundamental in allowing us to share even more information or collect information without costly mail-outs or placing expensive ads. Imagine how one piece of paper can lead someone directly to a survey that you would have otherwise had to spend a lot of money on (a booklet mailed out or having a telephone survey poll done). We can use QR codes to collect information and drive traffic to our websites. In essence, we can spend very little to have a lot of information put out there. As more and more people switch to smartphones, the flexibility of a QR code will be evident.

We should focus our efforts on how QR codes can help us create better relations with our publics. I think if we them to help us gather information and feedback in exchange for some good or service, this may be a good application. I don’t see them as being standalone pieces in any situation; merely a new tool to allow people access to information.

The Buzz on Stumbleupon

I’m already addicted to Buzzfeed, my favourite discovery engine. If you’re looking for a fun distraction (read: kitten pictures, some nerdy art, a comedic list and the newest trending whatever) Buzzfeed should be your first stop. What’s great about discovery engines is that they give us a good indication of what people are paying attention to that day or week or even month. By paying careful attention to this, we may be able to tailor our messages and use appropriate mediums to get people enticed in what we have to deliver.

Or, you can watch Kittens at the Superbowl: Behind the Scenes…


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