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WhatsApp, Doc?

If living in Spain has taught me one thing these last eighteen months, it’s that sometimes things take a while to catch on over here in good ol’ Europe (that and MAN I love churros con chocolate during the chilly holiday season.)  At least as far as tech that has already launched and thrived or died out in the States goes.  So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that messaging apps are now all the rage over here and one in particular, called WhatsApp.  It’s almost too cute, right?

You may remember the explosion of the messaging app back at SXSW 2011, I think it was. No? Come on! Ashton Kutcher was there! I myself was getting ready to launch a messaging app client at the time and was totally bummed out by the veritable barrage of similar apps that burst from the scene at the same time. Ugh, talk about your PR nightmare. We held our own for a good while, but in the end GroupMe was declared the winner when it was acquired by Skype and Beluga was acquired by Facebook (now Facebook Messenger). Anyway, my point is this happened in 2011/12, and then the remaining players slowly began to die out. And then something weird happened. One or two new apps emerged a few years later and caught on a bit. I guess not everyone liked using Skype or FB Messenger for free text messaging, videos and photos, etc. It was really annoying, because I thought, “HEY! My client did this and BETTER. What gives?” I chocked it up as one of those fickle consumer tech flukes, or maybe it was just a timing thing. Who knows?

WhatsApp logo

Fast forward eighteen months ago when I arrive in Mallorca, Spain and EVERYONE is using this cool new app, WhatsApp.  “You’ve gotta try it!” they all said. “You can text and share videos and pics for free!” they all said. You can see the attraction for the euro set, where mobile costs are through the friggin’ roof.  “Yeah, yeah,” I said. You see, having lived and worked in the Silicon Valley tech scene for ten years before moving out here, I had both been there and done that and stuck my nose up at the idea of downloading another cute little messaging app that was sure to fail just like the others had done.  But no. EVERYONE in Spain uses WhatsApp and it’s pretty popular throughout much of Europe, as I understand it.  Everyone we know in our little pueblo here is on it; everyone at my little girl’s daycare uses it; our entire family out here swears by it.  Right now I’m working with a graphic designer on developing a new ad for a client and how did he send me the proof?  On WhatsApp!  Well, what do ya know, maybe messaging apps can work, when people you actually know and want to communicate with are on them.  Huh.

I have to say, I finally downloaded the app after several months of browbeating from the hubbies’ fam and local friends and I’m sold.  I save on text messaging costs using this app instead, I’m in the loop on what’s happening at my little girl’s daycare and even getting to know some of the parents!  That’s right, people.  I’m being semi-social and making friends!  If you knew me, you’d say “Shocker!”

Why has this app succeeded where so many others have failed?  I don’t know.  Timing? Bigger marketing budgets?  To be honest, as far as my knowledge of the Spanish and their culture goes, I’d say the name has a lot to do with it.  It’s annoyingly cute and English, which they love to sporadically throw into their daily exchanges along with “that’s so ‘fashion!’” “cool” and so on.  It’s all adorable and kudos to WhatsApp. Whatever you guys are doing, it’s working.  At least in Spain and other parts of Europe.

Figuring Out Journalists: Three Tips for PR Pros

The more you know about your target media, the better chance you have of placing an article. That is a good reason for getting to know journalists individually.

At another level, it helps to be aware of common characteristics and larger trends. What traits or dispositions do journalists share? And how are they coping with the industry’s simultaneous contraction in size and expansion into the digital realm?

MediaJigsawStuartMilesHypersensitive, overworked, influenced

I touched upon one of common traits in a post last month, quoting former New York Times technology writer David Pogue, who said buzzwords were a “universal pet peeve,” at least among fellow tech journalists. Maybe that applies even more broadly. By definition, journalists are word experts. Even as they often grow jaded and distrustful of their sources and authority, journalists remain sensitive – at times hypersensitive – to the use and abuse of language. For that reason it is best to approach them accordingly, with direct, plain and truthful words.

Every profession has its “enterprising” and “lazy” practitioners. Most fall in between. Yet journalism has acquired a reputation for inefficiency. In a recent Bloomberg opinion piece Megan McArdle attacked that line of thought – “Lazy Journalists Aren’t to Blame for the Death of Print.” What’s to blame, she said, was the loss of ad revenue, not the output of journalists, who are as efficient as ever. There are fewer of them, to be sure. And over the past decade, many have had to scramble to maintain print products even as they shifted into digital-first mode. Journalists can be hypersensitive; they also are often overworked.

What else do we know about journalists? They can be biased. Which reminds me… In a previous life, as a third-tier subject matter expert in Washington DC, I once agreed to sit for a recorded interview with ABC’s Nightline. Duly made up and under the glare of camera lights, I began answering questions – and re-answering them. After the third or fourth try, I realized that what this producer was after: A cleaned-up version of something I’d said in passing at the outset. Not all journalists “pre-write” their stories and go searching for quotes. But most have inclinations, if not biases, and are already under the influence of a story line.

What to do?

Your job is to become another influence. The templates that journalists carry around with them are often as much timesaving reference points as ideological crutches. Figure out what that prevailing narrative is, then position your news or story pitch within that framework, using simple and direct language. Whenever possible, include a range of evidence – sources, quotes, trend lines and other data. Let your target journalist connect the dots.

 

 

What Works – and Doesn’t Work – When Pitching Tech Journalists

In more than a decade of technology journalism, I read – or scanned – hundreds of emails from PR agencies. Why was one pitch any more successful than another?

A PR rep always had a better chance of connecting if the pitch aligned with my current tasks. So being aware of what was on my plate helped. In that sense, I agree with former New York Times technology writer David Pogue, who recently blogged: “Rule #1 for PR folks: Know your target.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles_FreeDigitalPhotosThree Things to Avoid

There’s another angle to Pogue’s know-your-target rule. He thinks that if PR reps did their homework, they would be aware of his pet peeves, which include buzzwords. But Pogue also contends that buzzwords are a “universal pet peeve” among tech writers, which points to a broader rule.

Professional writers dislike bad writing. Most PR pros get that, and so they work hard to clarify their pitches and related press releases. But it never hurts to remind. What follows is a quick look at three elements of bad PR style: overused marketing lingo, unsupported superlatives and gratuitous adverbs

  • Buzzwords. Which words bug which writers will vary. A mass-market journalist may put a word like WiFi on the black list, as Pogue did in 2008. A trade journalist will be OK with the jargon – but will want to know which version of the IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) spec a vendor is promoting. The problem is imprecision. Take the classic “end-to-end solution.” Which ends? Where are they? And who owns them – vendor or service provider? As for solution, that word is ambiguous. Does the solution involve software, IP routers, optical transport – what is it precisely?
  • Superlatives. Whether by nature, training or learned experience, writers tend to be a skeptical crowd. Calling your end-to-end solution the “best” is the equivalent of a dare. You’re the first? Fastest? Most reliable? OK, prove it. Journalists may have little time to follow up, but if you want to win their trust, avoid goading them into second-guessing you. If you are breaking new ground, let the facts speak for themselves. 
  • Adverbs. So your end-to-end solution “seamlessly” or “successfully” integrates with something else. That’s not surprising. Could it have integrated in any other way, say “defectively”? Adverbs such as “extremely” or “significantly” beg the same question as superlatives: can you back that up or prove it, please? The list of empty and superfluous adverbs goes on. In a random sample of recent pitches and press releases, I stumbled upon the following: positively, highly, especially, readily, clearly and cleanly. Were any necessary? Don’t think so.

Pitches and content marketing

Journalists are a special case. An editor may be vexed by words that could win over a prospective customer. After all, getting a prospect’s attention traditionally has called for copy that builds enthusiasm and excitement – even hype. But that tradition is changing.

Content marketing – a topic for another day – calls for the kind of precise, factual and clear language that passes high editorial standards. In that model, a compelling pitch to a business prospect resembles a persuasive pitch to a journalist.

 

Keeping Organized with Hootsuite

hootsuite

In my last post on Fireside, I talked about the series I write about the great social media resources available to businesses and ones we use here at Wireside.  In writing the post, I realized that the one tool I use day in and day out had not yet been highlighted in that series on tools we endorse.  It’s the common case of not recognizing what’s right under your nose.  But I’m rectifying that omission today.

Today, I’m writing about the tool I rely on every day to organize our social media output – Hootsuite.  Hootsuite was originally developed as a way to organize tweets.  It has since evolved into a service that helps users manage a number of social media platforms.  The free membership allows a user to set up to 9 streams that display different feeds for each social platform.  Here at Wireside, we monitor Twitter feeds about our clients, trending topics, and any mentions about our own brand.  It’s all in one place, easy to monitor, and keep track of the topics of greatest importance to our company.  We also have our Wireside Facebook and LinkedIn pages integrated with Hootsuite and monitor our wall posts and company updates.

The best feature I’ve found with Hootsuite is the ability to schedule tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts in advance.   It’s a great feature to make sure that relevant content is going out throughout the day and not all at once.

The free version also allows users to generate basic analytic reports that help to determine what is resonating best with their audience.  My favorite analytic report is the Ow.ly Click Summary which shows which links were clicked on most frequently.  It’s quick to generate and easy to understand when distributed throughout the company.

But even for all the wonderful things that Hootsuite does for me, it isn’t without a few quirks.  As it was originally created for use with Twitter, it still works best with that platform.  I still find the need to log in to Facebook directly sometimes because a wall post doesn’t display properly.  I’ve also found the search feature, to search for a person to follow or a hashtag, to be a bit limited and have found myself logging into Twitter directly on occasion when I can’t seem to pull the necessary information.

Yet, these are very minor inconveniences when compared to the amount of time saved with Hootsuite.  If you’re looking to get organized, I highly recommend setting up your Hootsuite account today.

A Brave New, Overshared World

SocialMediaI write a series on Fireside about social media resources we use here at Wireside that we endorse.  There seem to be so many great (mostly) free tools and resources for businesses to track and analyze social media output.  I’ve written on this blog about resources like Klout which allows individuals and businesses to gauge their influence on social media; RebelMouse which compiles a user’s social media output into a dynamic, colorful, easy-to-read format; and Bottlenose which allows users to analyze their social media influence and trends in real-time. And I don’t know what I’d do without Hootsuite, which allows me to schedule tweets and Facebook posts in advance, see a number of designated streams at once, and provides basic analytic tools – all for free.  It seems that every day a new start-up pops up to make my life as a manager of our social properties easier.  And I love that businesses use social media; it allows for a two-way dialogue with clients and customers rather than the one-way dialogue of the past.  As a marketer I love engaging with, not just talking to, customers.

But lately, I’ve read news account after news account about adolescents who are being bullied on social media, who are having their lives destroyed by one unflattering picture being posted online and remaining there forever.  In a recent article, in a series focusing on what they term “Generation Overshare,” an HLN.com reporter points out the difference between adolescents growing up today and those of past generations.  He notes that all of us encountered embarrassing experiences in our teen years (oh yes, I can attest to that!), but what’s changed is that now those embarrassing moments are turning up on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram to exist in perpetuity and be shared and shared until kids in the neighboring town and around the world have seen it.   Sometimes those images come back to haunt them into adulthood when they go to get their first job and the hiring manager does a quick Internet search.

It’s definitely a brave new world and it has gotten me to thinking about what resources are out there to help adolescents analyze and protect their social media output.  Sure, they could sign up for Bottlenose and track the trends around their handle and their personal brand, but such services are marketed towards people like me – the digital marketing managers – not adolescents.  Where are the start-ups in Silicon Valley dedicated to sniffing out digital bullies and erasing derogatory, bullying posts and tweets?  Are there engineers working to build programs that can erase those awful, embarrassing images once teens graduate to adulthood and realize that hiring managers know how to use Google as well?  It seems there is quite a market for such services judging by the news coverage.  If you know of great tools out there to manage social media output for teens and anyone interested in protecting their personal brand, please leave a comment below.  After all, teen years will always be filled with embarrassing moments and kids will be kids, but should teens be judged forever on one embarrassing, overshared moment?

How Much Klout do you Have?

You’ve set up your company Twitter account and are tweeting with your followers, your company Facebook page is up and running and the number of likes are increasing.  Now what?  How do you measure how well your social properties are performing?  Enter, Klout.  Klout is a free service that measures influence across a number of social media platforms.  Originally just for individual users, the company recently released Klout for Business (currently in beta) to help businesses better gauge their influence on social media.

Klout defines influence as the response received from what a user shares on social media.  The more you engage with your audience and they engage with you in return, the higher the Klout score.  With the individual accout, Klout tracks more than 400 distinct points across a variety of social media channels to create a Klout score, including Wikipedia pages.  Having a number of properties linked will only help the Klout score increase.  Data is updated every 24 hours and scores fluctuate based on how much engagement there is.  Stop tweeting for a week and your score could go down sharply.  Klout The site also includes insights into what topics influencers care about the most and recommendations on how to better engage with your audience.

One limitation with a business account, probably due to it still being in beta, is that not all social media properties are available for businesses as for individual account holders (for instance, LinkedIn can only be connected to an individual account, not to a company LinkedIn page, and there is no way to link a company’s Wikipedia page).  Even with its shortcomings, however, having a Klout for Business account is still a good tool in your arsenal to track how your social media program is performing.  It should not be seen as the authority – each company has unique goals and expectations for their social media program which should be measured individually – but adding Klout for Business into the equation allows one more metric for measurement.  And today, when everyone seems to want to know ROI and have hard metrics behind their communications strategy, having another metric – and a concrete score – is a helpful tool in any communicator’s toolkit.

Powerful Presentations with Prezi

PowerPoint is so last century.  Presentations today need more than just a couple graphs on a page and basic animation.  They need movement, they need to come alive.  A presentation needs to be able to captivate an audience that is constantly bombarded with other attention grabbers – email, phone calls, another cute kitten video on YouTube.

Luckily, there is a company out there that can help.  Prezi is a start-up that allows users to create interactive presentations on the web.  Users can even upload old PowerPoints into one of their templates, make a couple of updates, and in a flash have a visually appealing, 3-dimensional, interactive, exciting presentation that will blow colleagues away.

Prezi

Like with many new technology start-ups, Prezi currently offers a free membership option.  The free option allows a user access to the online database of templates and much of the functionality of the paid versions, but all presentations are housed online and publicly available to anyone who visits the site.  An upgraded “Enjoy” membership, which costs only $59 per year, allows for presentations to be stored online privately so users can choose with whom they’d like to share it.

It’s about time to shake up the boardroom – why not try out Prezi today?

Social Media Sonar Graphs with Bottlenose

So you have the Twitter account up and running and you’re posting daily, interacting with others, and following the conversations but how do you really know what the key trends are so you can contribute in a more effective way?  How can you take all those conversations and put them into a visually appealing graph so others can quickly digest the conversations?  Or, how can you synthesize the conversation occurring around one, key term?  The answer, my friends, is Bottlenose.

Bottlenose is currently in beta with a pro, paid version on the way, but for now you can use their service to analyze trends in real-time in your twitter and other social media feeds, generate sonar charts based on your choice of keywords, and more.  It aims to make sense of what is happening now so you can react and interact as conversations are happening.  And the best part?  It’s free!  It takes a couple minutes to set up with your Twitter account and then you’re up and analyzing the trends and conversations happening between you and your followers.
Wireside_Bottlenose

The feature I like best is the Bottlenose sonar graph.  It is a graphical depiction of the conversation around a chosen key word.  It’s great to use if you’re running a campaign and want to see in real-time what people are saying around a key term.  You will probably discover some trends you didn’t even know were occurring that will lead to richer engagement in the future.

Bottlenose Pro promises to have more robust analytic capabilities, but for those just starting to measure their social media reach and engagement, the free version is a good way to start.  So, what are you waiting for?  Jump on in – the water’s fine!

 

 

Visualize Google Analytics with Visual.ly

Have you ever gone into your Google Analytics account and wondered just how you can distill all the information into an engaging report that anyone in your company can understand and wants to read?  If so, you need to visit Visual.ly to try their new, free offering that takes your site’s Google Analytics data and populates it into an eye-catching infographic, easy for anyone to read.

Visually

And it’s easy to set up.  Simply sign up on their website and allow them access to your site’s Google Analytics account.  Within seconds a graphic depiction of your web traffic will pop up.  Best of all, they will send you a report weekly straight to your email so you can track your website’s progress week over week. Visual.ly pulls in a number of metrics including traffic to your site via social channels (Twitter, Facebook) as well as SEO traffic.  It’s so easy and hassle-free, why not try it today?

If you’re interested in other types of infographics, and don’t want to create your own (see our last post on a service to create your own infographics), Visual.ly also offers an online marketplace to connect with designers who will create infographics for you for a fee.   They also have quite a gallery of fun infographics to peruse and waste away an hour or two… not that I’ve ever done such a thing!

Impactful Infographics with Piktochart

Do you feel like you’ve been seeing eye-catching infographics everywhere and wonder how you can produce one too?   Do you not have the $700+ needed to hire a graphic designer to produce one for you?  Are you not a graphic designer but secretly wish you were?  If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then you need to check out Piktochart.

Piktochart is an online platform that allows you to create your own infographic from their pre-designed templates.  Unlike other infographic services out there, the templates are easy to customize with your own colors, images, charts, etc. with Piktochart’s WYSIWYG editor.

infographic_for blog

Piktochart offers a free version that includes access to 7 basic templates.  While not a huge range to choose from, they are each easy-to-use, customizable, and will get you started on the road to creating impactful infographics.  Once you get going, you can upgrade to their PRO version (currently $29 per month/$169 per year) which includes about 100 additional templates and removes the Piktochart watermark from the infographic.  After creating your infographic, you can export it as a jpeg, png or export to HTML and embed it in a webpage.

And voilà, your own, self-produced infographic to show off to friends and colleagues!