The Social Media Newsroom Part 3: Comments

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This is the third instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series will look at some specific suggestions for things you can do to make your newsroom social, with some good and bad examples of where other companies have done so.  Today I’m having a look at comments, Part 4 will be about using the newsroom to support your social channels and in part 5 I will look at how to make your content more personal.

When looking at how to bring in some two-way dialogue to a company’s newsroom one obvious place to start with is allowing members of the public, or the specific community you are targeting, to post their thoughts, comments and questions on your site in response to your news pieces, blog posts and even press releases.

However, one thing I really don’t like to see on a corporate newsroom or blog is spammy comments!  If you see a blog that has comments that are clearly spam lingering around on their site for days, weeks or even longer what does it say to you?  What it says to me is that there is clearly no-one moderating the site and probably no-one actually bothering to read what people are saying in the comments.

Comments spam and ignored questions – HP blogs

HP has a pretty-looking blog site that is actually a hub pulling together a number of blogs on various topics.

But are they really taking the comments seriously or is this just another gimmick?  Take a look at this post title “Answering your questions”.  Ironically, given the title of the post, no-one has bothered to reply to the people who posted questions in the comments in response to this post.  The last post here from “leo” is clearly spam trying to get some link juice from the HP site (and if you look around other posts you’ll find plenty of spam).  What do you conclude by looking at these comments?  HP isn’t really paying any attention to the community on their site…

Allowing comments and responding to them – Microsoft Hardware Blog

Microsoft have a vast array of blogs on a variety of topics nicely laid out with a summary of the latest posts.  Not all blogs allow comments and you do find the occasional spam but what I like about many of these blogs is that Microsoft does actually respond to the comments people post.

Microsoft Hardware Blog Imagehttp://www.microsofthardwareblog.com/we-want-your-feedback/

This shows a much more genuine attempt to use comments as a way of engaging with people through the site.

How much freedom should people be given to say what they want? Should negative comments be allowed?

This is a tricky question to answer and a lot depends on both the wider culture of a company and also on regulatory requirements.  Aside from preventing abusive posts, spam, blatant self-promotion or links to indecent or illegal content, how far a company goes in allowing people to air their views is really a matter of discretion.

One really interesting example of a company that takes a very tolerant approach to comments on their own site is General Electric.

Take a look at this post about the nuclear meltdown in Japan after the Tsunami and the role that GE played in tackling the crisis.  There are over 111 comments in response to this article, many go beyond negative and are quite damning, it doesn’t really get much worse than being blamed for a nuclear disaster, does it?

The people posting are a broad mix with some people claiming to be engineers and even nuclear experts themselves.  GE have not responded to individual comments but it is interesting to see how commentators with differing views interact with each other.

Do these posts damage GE’s reputation?  GE obviously don’t think so.  Everyone coming to the site first reads GE’s official statement and there are links to other information and posts from GE about the issue on this site.  The community that has developed on this site has also developed a degree of self-correction with individual posters correcting the most blatantly erroneous statements from other posters and there is quite a lively debate about how to tackle the nuclear problems in Japan and the pros and cons of nuclear energy more generally.

There isn’t the usual level of spam, off-topic posts or self-promotion on this site which suggests to me that someone from GE is moderating comments.  Meaning that these negative posts are not there simply because no-one has noticed.

Now the question is, would you let someone say this about your company on your blog?

Comment from a member of the public on GE Reports blog

But look also how the community on the site supply each other with information.  There are a lot of well informed commentators taking part in the discussion.

Comment in GE Reports Blog

I will be interested to hear people’s thoughts on whether such an approach is good for GE but what you can’t deny is that this is ‘social’ in a real sense and also quite ‘brave’ of GE to permit such criticism in a space they control.

In the next part of the series I will be looking at how to use your newsroom to facilitate conversations in other channels.  Thanks for reading!

Who is driving the conversation online?

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Last week I blogged about why social marketing may not be flawed, in response to a recent FT article. Without wanting to become too preoccupied with the same piece, I am returning to it for the final time to probe a little further into its definitions of influence.

It is perhaps of no surprise to any seasoned tweeter that 90% of tweets are never re-tweeted, and most of the remainder are only re-tweeted by those in the person’s immediate followers. The research quoted also claims that it is impossible to predict which tweets will be re-tweeted. This is perhaps the case, although other research refutes this. Either way, this is not what interests me. For PR people, it is perhaps less important to understand what sort of content is likely to ‘go viral’ (leave that to marketing), and more important rather to understand who is driving the conversation online, and who, therefore, are the dominant influencers potentially affecting a company’s reputation.

Whilst re-tweets are certainly one metric which can be used to look at content success, if we consider the definition of influence to mean “the action of producing effects on the actions, behaviour, opinions, etc., of others” they are clearly far too simplistic in themselves. What if someone simply reads a tweet about a product and later purchases that product in a shop with no further online trace? It’s a problem that plagues word of mouth marketers – how to link online and offline activity.

Influence is of course a very tricky concept, and there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all metric, although it’s clearly high on the measurement agenda. With that in mind, despite now heading off on holiday, I’m already looking forward to my next blog instalment where I’ll take a closer look at some of the influence tools already available, and how PRs can use these.

Happy summer!

Sam C

Tea anyone?

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You can’t escape the latest reality show; Obama versus the Republicans – I probably shouldn’t joke about it, given the global havoc we are told the US debt crisis will wreak. But, (to mix my metaphors,) it’s a game of two halves, in this case the media and the Social Media channels. GlideIntelligence News and its sister Social Media platform has the ability to map the causes and effects between the two ‘worlds’ – interesting to see where they connect, and where they don’t…

I say this because President Obama’s election campaign was widely reported as a ‘Twitter’-led phenomenon, yet it’s this very phenomenon which allowed the Republican Tea Party to mass broadcast its views and appear to take control of a political debate all the way up to the US Senate (which bowed to pressure to delay a vote while the established political parties try and get a grip). Love them or loathe them, the Tea Party raised a much more interesting issue – just how connected to ‘opinion’ is the established media? A few numbers: courtesy of GlideIntelligence. Media reaction to the Tea Party involvement in the debate was about three days, time taken for the Tea Party to react to print news – about 12 minutes – and under 45 minutes to have over 1,000 posts out in the ‘twittersphere’.

Another aspect is the fact that the media (including many of the ‘heavyweight’ financials) was full of reports about how little is known about what will happen if the politicians failed to reach a compromise – really? They should have looked at the traffic between twitter, Facebook (public) and LinkedIn.

In the post Murdoch (no privacy invasions) world maybe they were overly cautious?

And lastly, for the politicians, read the message walls will you: 86% of posts on the topic from ‘non-political’ posters were screaming at you to just get on with it and compromise – there’s probably a new series of ‘come dine with me’ or ‘glee’ scheduled and it makes for much better reality TV viewing.

Keith

Social Marketing, Peter Serafinowicz, and a price-comparing meerkat

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Tim Harford recently wrote in the FT about why ‘social marketing doesn’t work’. The article was based on a study by Yahoo! Research which tried to predict how to identify ‘influencers’ and what sort of content is likely to ‘go viral’ or be retweeted extensively. Harford claims the results are ‘not encouraging’, citing one of the paper’s author’s fruitless efforts to promote his book on Twitter. It may not, however, be the channel’s fault…

The comedian Peter Serafinowicz has built up a Twitter following of over half a million people, based on his ability to provide a constant stream of original, witty and topical content. Despite a relatively modest TV career, his social media success was highlighted as the main factor in his first DVD selling out completely on Amazon even before its release date. Here’s someone who has fully embraced social media and converted this into a very successful (free) marketing campaign.

Price-comparing meerkat, Alexandr Orlov, is another good example of how social PR and marketing can be done very well. Harford notes that we are likely to overestimate the likelihood of success in social media because we ignore the failures, and highlight the great successes. The same, however, is true of all media. Great ideas, and great adverts and campaigns will always stick in our memory, regardless of the channel. The dull will not.

The danger, of course, is unnecessarily overestimating the importance of social media, and the need to ‘do it’, because everybody else is. A luxury car manufacturer I spoke to not only has no interest in social media, but online media as a whole, and to an extent even print media. As the company knows each of its buyers personally, and given the cost of its products, social media do not even feature on the marketing plan.

The old mantra will never change: the right message, to the right audience, through the right channels. It’s the marketers’ and PRs’ jobs, of course, to work out what they are…

Sam C

Do you see what we see?

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When Glide set out to transform the current market for monitoring and sentiment analysis, we recognised that to succeed our solution must be both timely and deliver new value for customers.

Not much has changed. The two pertinent questions as we go to market remain:

  • Why now?
  • Why a technology-enabled solution?

Here are three reasons that shout “now”:

  1. The sheer volume of comment
  2. The emergence of multiple channels
  3. The fast-moving nature of news

And, of course, the answer to the second question lies in the confluence of those three reasons. Simply put: there is now an obvious mismatch between the established methods of monitoring and evaluating the news and today’s media environment.

The ‘old’ methods reflect a set of circumstances that no longer prevail. Now, stories unfold and gain momentum within hours rather than days. Comment flows and intersects across multiple channels. The ‘window of opportunity’ within which to respond in an informed and effective way continues to shrink.

Not surprisingly the needs of organisations have evolved. New circumstances create new challenges and opportunities. They require new tools that are fit for purpose.

And so to the last question. If the very nature of media environment is increasingly driving organisations to source solutions that can meet their needs then what are the pertinent questions they might legitimately ask:

  • Do I need separate solutions for print and online media?
  • Can I synthesise social media and traditional analysis?
  • Can I source analysis in a timeframe that enables me to respond effectively?
  • Will it enable me to measure results against planned outputs?
  • Will I be able to track the correlation between sentiment and business performance in real-time?
  • Is the old, content-based pricing model still relevant?
  • How far can technology help me and where is human input best applied?
  • Can new technologies deliver more value for less cost?

If your organisation is unaffected by the changes in the media environment and your need remains a summary evaluation report on a quarterly basis, then new solutions will have little relevance.

On the other hand, for many organisations, perhaps the majority, they see what we see: new opportunities in the new media landscape to grow their brand but also new threats to brand value that must be guarded against.

Apollo

Perfect imperfection

There are lots of things wrong with the Kindle. But I love it. How can that be? How can it be that I’ve spent a hundred quid on a piece of kit that doesn’t work 100% as I want it to, but I still think it’s brilliant?

Well it does what I mostly want it to do. It presents me with a million books at my fingertips. It lets my computer-weary eyes rest on delicious matt print which honestly looks as good as a book. I can turn pages with one finger and no lengthy tome can defeat my single hand. It’s great and I take it everywhere.

It’s a bummer that you can’t quickly jump between chapters. Its a pain that sometimes it forgets what page you’re on and you have to scroll for ages. It doesn’t deal with symbols very well and some of the free books have been formatted by volunteers so they don’t read all that well. Apparently you can listen to music while you read, but I’ve not worked out how yet and it did some funny things to me when I was browsing Amazon in Ireland. Browsing the bookstore unless you know the name of the book or author is fairly tough full stop.

But I still love it. And I never thought I would. The idea of giving up on paper and print was abhorrent – until someone mentioned the number of books I could have on it. And how many were free. And how I could have a book within 30 seconds and be reading it. At that point it was all over – I was in lust and the honeymoon period seems to be lasting.

But more than this, I love the way they deal with their imperfections.

In the manual they have a whole section on things that are included on your Kindle which are still in development. It asks for my comments, suggestions and feedback. It actually makes me feel part of something that’s growing and improving. I feel that as a reader, I have ownership of the direction that this wonderful little device is taking. I feel part of a community and will take the time to show other commuters (who always ask me how the screen looks and how I’m finding it) and tell them honestly how much I love it. I’m a zealot of an imperfectly wonderful bit of kit.

And I guess that’s the point of this ramble. If you want your service or product to be what your users want it to be, just be honest about what you have, and get down on your knees and beg for their feedback and ideas. Make it their product not yours. Keep it moving and improving and keep your ears open and mouth shut.

That’s my new role in a nutshell. I’m here to ensure that Glide develops the platform in the direction that our community of users wants and needs, making it the best PR tool available on the market. Simple? You tell me!

Samantha

Best Practice Online Newsroom – Part 2: Measuring the success

As outlined in part 1, online newsrooms are an essential tool in helping you to engage better with your key audiences, increase your exposure, and protect your brand’s reputation.

As Sam Phillips explained in his post, it is now essential for corporate communication teams to be able to demonstrate their value. Setting up and measuring key performance indicators (KPI’s) has become fundamental to evaluating the performance of an online newsroom and proving its success and presenting its value at director level.

1. Focus on what matters

First of all, it is important to start with your objectives in mind when establishing your KPI’s. You may be looking to increase the number of repeat visits or sign-ups to your corporate communications via the newsroom.

2. Use analytics to monitor your traffic

Treat your newsroom like a corporate website and implement an analytics solution to allow you to analyse traffic and user behaviour.  This is a great way of providing you with insight so that you can understand how people get to your site and what content they like. Some basic KPI’s are listed below:

• Number of visits
• Number of unique visits
• Average time spent
• Sources of traffic i.e. search engines, blog, social media

Google Analytics is a good free solution that can be used.

3. Evaluate your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Understanding how your newsroom is performing in the major search engines allows you to ensure your optimisation work is paying off.  If you’re not showing within the top 20 results, the chances are you could be missing out on lots of relevant traffic.

Some basic SEO KPI’s:

1. Number of pages indexed – this allows you to understand how easy it has been for the search engines to read and index your content
2. Number of external links – this allows you to assess how popular your content has been as people are linking to it. It’s also a really important factor when it comes to gaining a high ranking in Google
3. The range of keywords driving traffic to your site – if you’re only being found for brand related terms then you could be missing out on a ton of traffic for keywords which relate to your products or services

If you’re providing multimedia content on your newsroom you should also look at the ranking of your assets on the search engines.

Use “link:www.yourdomain.com” within Google or Yahoo to assess link popularity, or site: www.yourdomain.com to analyse the number of pages indexed.  Tip: Yahoo is a bit more transparent when it comes to disclosing the actual volumes. 

4. Measure through Social Media

If you have prominent links/feeds from your social media channels within your newsroom, on a basic level you should be monitoring the number of people who ‘like’ you on Facebook and the number of followers you have on Twitter.

Another simple way to use social media is to incorporate Facebook “Like” and Twitter “Re-Tweet” buttons. They automatically count the number of interactions and will allow you to easily identify your most popular stories.

5. Access full engagement reports

Taking it a step further, an online newsroom combined with a communication management platform will provide you with much richer reporting. This powerful combination will track engagements, such as:

- Number of visits per release
- Number of interactions with each of your assets (e.g. watched video, downloaded a document)
- Number of media requests

In effect, it will allow you to understand the success of each of your releases and assets.

Adding login access to your newsroom will make you aware of each individual visitor, allowing you to track the success of your communications based on your key contacts.

6. Evaluate the impact in the media

Good monitoring and evaluation tools allow you to analyse your offline and online coverage and link it to each of your releases. As stated in the Barcelona Principles, “measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.”

Those tools can provide you with an in depth breakdown of those effects:

• Your coverage by release
• The tonality of your coverage per release (positive, neutral or negative)
• Evaluation of the coverage that is linked to your newsroom
• Share of voice amongst your competitors

Such a solution will let you understand the success of each of your stories and the impact that your newsroom has on your coverage.

These best practices should allow you to evaluate what has been popular and why so you can refine your future communications. You will also be able to demonstrate the newsroom’s overall success and Return on Investment.