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Just For Fun, Social Media,

Getting Smart with Your Smart Phone

Creating great content takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort. Every post, update, status or other online missive requires a good visual. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need expensive equipment or lots of training. Most of us are carrying a pretty good camera with us around in our pocket.

For my social media management workshop that I teach to incoming freshmen student athletes, we spent a day talking about smart phone photography. Here are my best tips:

Note: all photos in this slide deck are mine. Don’t use without permission.

News, Public Relations, Social Media,

Extraordinarily Tone Deaf Twitter “Promo” from Vanderbilt Football

As a social media strategist or manager, it doesn’t take deep institutional memory of controversy or even a particularly sensitive ear to be a decent human being with some common sense.

Yet, here we are with another case study of common sense in short supply:

Vanderbilt University’s football twitter account has been hyping the 2015 season and today tweeted the above “promo.” Even if the team had a squeaky clean record, the language is cringe-inducing. The volume of the conversation on ending sexual violence on college campuses has increased nationwide and schools, departments, administrators and communication teams have to be listening.

However, Vanderbilt Football doesn’t have a squeaky clean record. Two of its football players were convicted of rape in January of this year.

So when the promo tweet went out, the reaction from social media was swift.

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Three minutes later it was deleted. Then the standard apology.

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Well, I think we all assumed you didn’t mean it to be about sexual assault…

Why do organizations of all shapes and sizes seem to not be able to see past the end of their noses and make mistakes like this?

My theory? No one is empowered to speak up and say, “that’s a bad idea.” Groupthink is a powerful force and if an individual feels like they’re in the minority, it can be hard to go against the flow and disrupt the perceived cohesiveness of the group.

Organizations have to foster a culture where the discussion about content includes asking and answering to, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

What does that take?

  • Creating a team that’s diverse and brings a variety of perspectives to the table. You can imagine a locker room talk scenario in the Vanderbilt social media team where this idea came up. As football “insiders,” they knew what they meant and didn’t have to explain it to each other. (Honestly, I’m not sure what they meant in a football context.)
  • Building time into the content approval process to think it through and consider the worst case scenario. I’ve been part of many teams where you’re moving so fast that it’s hard to find time to stop and think and it’s easy to make mistakes. That’s dangerous.
  • Leadership that’s committed to all of the above.

And, of course, a society that doesn’t condone and tolerate rape culture would be great, too.

Social Media,

Wow Moments & Social Media

Why did this image (above) by Brian Davies “go viral”? Chris Pietsch, a multimedia journalist at the Register Guard, our local paper in Eugene, Ore. asked me just that question. I have to admit, I hadn’t given it much thought. I had watched the game and seen the photo, of course. I think I saw it when Brian posted it on Twitter. It seemed it was everywhere.

Chris was creating a multimedia piece for the RG and needed the “expert” view. Apparently, I’m the expert. As you know, I love doing interviews and I enjoy Duck Football, so of course I said yes.

My thoughts:

  • This is a great photo. Really the bottom line is that this wouldn’t have been shared so widely if Brian hadn’t captured a great photo. That’s not by chance or a “lucky shot.” Brian is a veteran photojournalist with tons of experience capturing great photos. If you don’t already, follow him on Instagram.
  • WOW! Chris asked me “What was your reaction when you saw the play on TV?” That first clip of me in the video (below) is it. WHOA! It captured on “film” what we all thought we saw watching on TV. Having access of a press photographer and being able to stand on the field and take photos is pretty rarified air. I’m not sure there’s a Duck fan that doesn’t wish to have that experience. Brian took full advantage of that access and provided an image that froze a moment, a feeling, an energy that was exciting to fans.
  • Social media. Social media lets us take a “wow” moment and make it our own. By sharing, retweeting, liking, commenting, we become part of the experience of that image and vice-versa. Without any barriers — we don’t have to be coders or designers — we can edit, modify, customize, filter the image to really put our own stamp on it.
  • The timing was perfect. Brian has taken thousands of amazing photos, but this one was the right one at the right time. Obviously the Heisman conversation volume was very loud by the time we got to the Civil War game. The photo of Mariota seemingly striking the Heisman pose added to the fervor and excitement. Fans were already talking about the Heisman, so this photo became part of that conversation with a big fat exclamation point.

So why did it “go viral”? It was a bit of a perfect storm of variables, I think. Congrats to Brian on recognition of his work and to Chris for helping to tell this story.

Social Media,

How did that tweet get there? It’s not magic and unicorns.

As an intern or young professional, you may assume that because you know how to use Twitter that you are ready to step into doing so on behalf of an organization. However, strategic social media is a lot more complicated than personal social media and there’s no magic social media unicorn… 

This side of social is not necessarily intuitive and the learning the process is an important part of doing a good job for clients. We’re ramping up some social media work for a client right now and that has me thinking about the process I use and how to convey that to my team.

News, Social Media,

Strangers Kissing: Smart or Sleazy?

People don’t like to feel like they’ve been tricked. They don’t like to be drawn into a story and then learn that story is somehow a calculated concoction designed to get them to buy stuff. However, people also don’t like ads. They don’t trust most ads. They ignore them, change the channel, etc.

So should we get mad when an “ad” doesn’t say it’s an ad – doesn’t have a product name prominently displayed, but draws you in and makes you smile, get a little nervous butterfly stomach flutter and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy because we didn’t know that we were being “sold.”

Social Media,

Protected tweets? I won’t hire you.

I get it. I really do.

There’s a desire to have conversations, interactions, silly back-and-forths with a specific and “controlled” community — your friends. It’s nice to feel some sense of control about who sees or does not see your content. You don’t have to filter or self-censor.

In class last week, I made an off-handed remark that I wouldn’t hire someone who had a protected twitter account. When I said it, I heard an audible gasp in the room. What?! Why would she say that?

So here’s why:

When I hire, I need people who are smart and savvy about social media. For most entry-level professionals, the greatest indicator is how the individual uses their personal account. If your account is protected, I can’t see how you interact with people and what kinds of things you share (obviously). But what it also says is, “I don’t get how to use this tool as a professional. I’m just a student and the world revolves around me.” That’s fine. And your prerogative. But I won’t hire you. 

I know not everyone wants to manage social media and spend their days on Twitter. The entry-level professionals I work with do, so that’s important to me and to my clients.

However, there are plenty of other reasons you might want to reconsider protecting your tweets:

  • You’ll miss connections – plenty of people (including me) won’t follow people back with protected accounts. 
  • People won’t see things you might actually want them to see. Doesn’t do much good to share that portfolio piece or get job search advice if you’re not casting a wider net.
  • Your tweets aren’t searchable (and by the same measure, you can’t participate in tweet chats… just because you use the hashtag for a class, or a chat or a conference doesn’t mean everyone else can see your stuff. Only those people who are already following you can).
  • You can’t connect with new people and build your personal or professional network.
  • It’s not REALLY all that private – Screenshots, retweets and favorites make it really easy for others to share your stuff even if you don’t want them to.

Don’t take my word for it:

What do you think? Do you protect your tweets? If so, why? If not, why not?

News, Professional Advice, Public Relations, Social Media, Uncategorized,

What Applebee’s Should’ve Done: Armchair Quarterbacking a Social Media Crisis

The armchair quarterbacking as to how Applebee’s should’ve handled their total social media meltdown last week has begun. “They should’ve…”, “If they were smart, they’d…”, “Oh, you never do that!…”

First of all, if you’re not up-to-speed on the disaster that Applebee’s created, this is an excellent recap. You should read it.

As in most cases like this, the variables are hard to track and you’ll find speculation and rumors galore (not to mention rantings and rationalizations). So, for the sake of my argument, let’s start with a basic assumption: the server violated company policy by posting the image of the customer’s receipt.

With that in mind, here’s what I see as the problems with Applebee’s responses:

  • Firing people has a greater chance of making you look like a big, stinky jerk than not firing someone. This is especially true when the “facts” are in question and the violation is something that a lot of us have done (or can certainly understand why one would do so).
  • Not having a crisis plan with a social media component is stupid. Of course, not having either a crisis plan or a social media plan to start with is also stupid. Considering the shallow, promotional blather on the Applebee’s Facebook Page prior to this incident, I’m guessing it had neither.
  • The Applebee’s response on Facebook – from the contrite posts to the verbose comments to the time stamp of the responses (3 am? Drunk Facebooking anyone? This was an unfair comment based on time stamps reflecting time zone differences.) – violated social media management 101. But when you have no strategy and you don’t know how to talk to people, that’s what happens.

Awesome photo by Decoded Science, which has a nice recap, too. 

So, what should Applebee’s have done?

  • Not fired the server. I’m sure the company panicked, was trying to “set an example” and any number of knee jerk responses. Likely the action was taken by the franchisee and not the company (indicating the franchisee experience with social media and access to it is totally divorced from the corporate presence), adding a layer of complexity. But not firing the server would’ve saved a lot of headache. 
  • Issued an update early (as early as possible!) that said something like, “We value our relationships with our employees and our guests. We wouldn’t be here without them. We feel compelled to share our view on the photo shared by one of our servers. At Applebee’s, we’re committed to doing the right thing for everyone involved. We have apologized to the guest. In addition, we will immediately begin social media training with all our employees across every Applebee’s franchise, starting with the one in St. Louis where this occurred. We want our employees to be smart about risks not only to our business, but to their customers and to themselves. We also want employees who are empowered to share.”
  • Created a social media policy, which could be shared on social media channels.
  • Been transparent, authentic and, yes, human, in all its interactions.
  • Followed up with social  media training and demonstrated the company’s commitment in tangible, visible ways. Like maybe sharing photos featuring and taken by employees?

By responding quickly and framing of the discussion, rather than letting it get completely out of control, Applebee’s gets to come out looking like the good guy instead of the big, stinky jerk. By treating everyone involved – the server, the guest, the Facebook fans – like people, the conversation would’ve stayed civil and “on topic.”

Taking a longer-term view, Applebee’s clearly had no social media policy that was relevant to employees, had very little strategy in place (how many photos of food & promotional nonsense can you post?) and does not appear to have a crisis communications plan that included social media.

As with most things like this, there were a lot of things Applebee’s should’ve been doing well in advance of any incident occurring to build goodwill and provide a culture in which something like this wouldn’t have happened (because employees understood their role) or if it did the company could’ve activated a plan to minimize damage and maintain relationships.

Come sit in the armchair with me and do a little quarterbacking. What would your advice to Applebee’s be?

Professional Advice, Social Media,

Bad Judgment Creates Twitter Crises

In the last month we’ve seen two really high profile mistweets. In fact, they occurred one right after the other in the same week.  In both cases, the tweets were apparently meant to be sent from personal accounts, but instead were sent from the corporate accounts.

In case you missed it, the first was from KitchenAidUSA. It was tweeted the night of the first presidential debate.


The second was from StubHub (pardon the language). You can read more about this situation here.


Of course KitchenAidUSA and StubHub aren’t the first corporate accounts to have this happen (remember Chrysler?). What really stood out to me about both these tweets was this:

If you’re a company that’s hired someone who would tweet EITHER of these tweets (even on a personal account), you’ve made a bad hiring decision. Both of these twitterers used unbelievably terrible judgment. These are not the kind of tweets that should be sent out ever on a social network. Ever. Much less by someone who “does” social media for a living. The first error in judgment was KitchenAid and StubHub not taking their respective social media seriously and ensuring the people in place to manage corporate channels had the skills, sense of strategy and maturity to do so.

The second error in judgment was, of course, on the part of the individuals managing those accounts.

I’ve mistweeted from client accounts before, it’s pretty easy to do (and pretty easy to avoid). In each case for me, the tweet was not relevant to that client’s audience or the kind of content typically shared on that platform. But they were not offensive. Guess why. Because I do not tweet offensive things.

The mistweet issue is certainly one that, if you’re helping manage a brand account, you have to pay attention to. But I think the bigger issue in the KitchenAidUSA and the StubHub case was that the individuals responsible for those accounts showed a complete lack of judgment and shouldn’t have been in a position of responsibility.

No, I’m not suggesting that you have to tweet like you’re a corporate brand, but everything you tweet is part of your personal brand. And that should be just as important to you as if you were tweeting on behalf of a client or an employer. It’s through your personal brand that you can demonstrate your expertise, your professionalism and your good judgment. And it’s because you bring expertise, professionalism and good judgment that you’ll be a valuable employee. One that doesn’t tweet something that results in your boss having to apologize to the President of the United States of America.

As usual, a Chipism sums it up… In an interview last week, Oregon Ducks Football Coach Chip Kelly said this about Twitter (after the Washington State coach banned his players from using it).

What do you think? How do you think about your own presence on social media and how does that relate to managing a company or client account? I’d love to hear your experience.

News, Social Media,

Managing Social Media Summer Workshop

This summer, I’m co-teaching a workshop in the CIS department about managing social media. See below for course description & more info on how to register. 

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest… social media tools are a ton of fun, but also have the ability to make or break your reputation. Even as a student, you have to think about what you’re putting out there on the Internet – after all, someday you want to be gainfully employed, right?

Managing Social Media (CIS 199) is a one-credit workshop that will help you understand the ins and outs of all the major social media platforms and how to use them effectively. We’re not going to tell you to stop being yourself or to self-censor to the point of being boring online, but we can help you figure out how to be smart about what you share and help you create a plan for yourself.

Through guest speakers, hands-on practice and lively discussion, you’ll leave this workshop better prepared to manage your own social media channels.

CIS 199

CRN: 42382

June 25 – July 8

Mon-Thur 11 – 12:20

About Kelli Matthews

About Nargus Oskui

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Getting Started, Social Media,

Tips for Setting Personal Social Media Goals

Young professionals often struggle with how to adjust their approach to social media from personal/socializing network to something that’s more in line with helping them reach their career and education goals. My advice is to apply the same planning principles to a personal social media presence as you would for an organization. Start with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? And then think about what you’re going to do to get there.

Listen & Learn: Any social media strategy should begin with listening and learning. It’s very difficult to jump into blogging or tweeting if you don’t know how they work, how other professionals use these tools and what best practices you can take away for our own participation.

Possible strategy/tool: Subscribe to 10 or 15 blogs in your field of interest through a feedreader (ex: Netvibes or Google Reader) and review them daily.

Build Relationships: Your offline networking at industry events or through student associations can, and should, be extended to online. Having a “building relationships” goal in your personal social media strategy can allow you to focus your efforts both in terms of tools (where do those people you want to connect with spend time?) and content (what are those people talking about?).

Possible strategy/tool: Build a Twitter profile, follow at least 30 people in your industry, share related links and news, retweet and mention industry professionals.

Create Great Content: Content comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just blog posts or long-ish pieces, but can also be tweets, Facebook updates, video, audio, photography. Focusing on creating great content opens up a great deal of possibility for exploring how various platforms differ in form and function. Every piece of content you create is a potential portfolio piece, after all.

Possible strategy/tool: Establish a blog with an editorial calendar that requires you explore different multimedia formats. Plan on doing a video blog once, or maybe a short podcast with an interview.

Establish Your Reputation: Yes, it is possible to establish your reputation as a young professional, even in a sea of public relations bloggers and twitterers. But your approach to social media needs to be clear (to you) so you can participate with focused intention. This goal may work best if you have some experience in social media and have a sense of what area in PR you’d like to work. It may not be the place to start if you’re just kicking off your social media adventure, but it’s always worth keeping the big picture in mind so you can continue to refine your presence.

Possible strategy/tool: Across your social media profiles, create content and make connections around the topics that you are not only interested in, but have something to contribute. Blog, tweet and post regularly about that content to demonstrate interest and expertise.

Find an Outlet for Self-Expression & Creativity: Social media is fun. It has to be. Why would we all hang out talking about PR all day? I mean, really. Don’t forget to include some “fun” in your social media strategy. Whether it’s music, film, art, photography or fashion, you’ll find niche social networks and social media platforms that allow you to connect with like minds.

Possible strategy/tool: If you’re interested in fashion, join and use Polyvore to create fashion boards, subsequently sharing them on Pinterest and ensuring they’re appropriately tagged and categorized. Connect with like-minded fashionistas on both platforms to share ideas.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible goals for personal social media. What are your ideas?

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