Taking a pulse on blogging

•November 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So the semester is almost done and naturally that means time for reflection.  After a six year break from graduating college I returned to conquer graduate school at NYU.  And moved cross country to do it.  It’s been a long year and it’s hard to believe the first semester of school is almost under my belt.

When I moved to New York I started a blog for my family and friends in California to follow all the adventures of living in New York.  In no way was it meant to be written in a professional manner – just a fun side project for friends.  So I found it challenging when I began blogging this semester for my social media class.  Not only did I have trouble deciding on the central theme for the blog, but finding topics in social media to write about.  It all felt so “techy.”  Rather than write about the latest programs, devices and mergers I was interested in the everyday consumer’s use of social media.

After the first couple of weeks I relaxed and began writing like I did on my personal blog, but a bit more professionally of course.  I decided to focus the blog around my opinion of how social media is used by companies and the public, as well as the consequences of social media.  Simple stories such as a shopper tweeting a picture of an aisle sign or a journalist apologizing for blogging about obesity were what caught my attention.

As the semester progressed it became easier to find stories in the news that were catching my attention.  Often times I found multiple stories to write about, but lacked the time to comment on all of them.   My roommate even became interested in what topics and stories I was going to write about for the week!  It was actually the assigned topics that were a bit trickier for me to write about.  I guess I prefer the freedom of selecting my topics.

What I did enjoy most was reading my classmates’ blogs.  The topics and issues that each person focused on were fascinating and showed the diversity of our class.  Some blogs opened me up to new ideas and causes that I will likely keep an eye on in the future.  The trickiest thing for me was commenting on other blogs.  And again, it was a time restraint issue above all else.  Even though I hadn’t commented on blogs prior to this class, I often found topics and blogs that interested me, and would bookmark to revisit and comment on them.

Looking forward, I do plan to maintain my blog and continue writing about stories that interest me in the social media field.  Professor Rubin’s idea of self-branding for the future, especially for jobs after graduation, stuck with me.  So as a result I will keep the blog and Twitter accounts active.  Both provide real life examples of my work aside from intern experience.  With that said, anybody know of an internship for me?

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Generation C: Connected? Really?

•November 24, 2010 • 3 Comments

Ever have one of those moments with friends when you rehash childhood stories?  Inevitably, you end with, “things were so different back then.”  Lately I’ve been finding myself in that very situation.  We often compare our childhood experiences to those of our younger nieces and nephews.  And speculate how much will change by the time we have families of our own.

Back when things were simple. (photo by .Dianna)

I’m convinced my nieces and nephews spend too much time engaging in online activities: games, music, movies, and social networking sites.  But what I think is too much is actually nominal to them.  What I’m learning is that my nieces and nephews are part of what is called Generation C.

Generation C, unlike prior generations, is not based solely on age.  Rather, it has to with the use of social media.  Users can range in age from 11 to 25 to 39.  And according to Mr. Dan Pankraz, Planning Director/Youth Strategist, DDB Sydney, the ‘C’ has shifted in meaning over the years.  He refers to Generation C as the ‘Connected Collected’ Consumer.

Mr. Pankraz presented several marketing strategies for targeting Generation C when he spoke at the Nielsen’s Inaugural Consumer 360 Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia this past October.  I found his key points and suggestions interesting as they related to the first of 95 Theses in The Cluetrain Manifesto: Markets are conversations.

He suggests that this generation no longer just consumes what companies and marketers throw at them.  They expect to participate and co-create alongside the brand.  In fact, “they demand to be part of the brand story.”  Companies need to feed these users fresh content to generate conversations and demand among their peers.

According to Pankraz teens consume 13 hours of content daily.  That is more than half a day!  They are constantly connected to online content as well as friends through the use of social media networks.  The newest mobile phone models make it easier to have a lifeline to the Internet.

Teens today consume 13 hours of content daily. (photo by Zawezome)

After reading this article I was taken back to all the conversations that I’ve had with friends about the generational differences in childhoods.  Although Generation C is not considered the younger generation, most of them are in fact children who have grew up in the age of the Internet (my nieces and nephews included).  With so much time being spent online and consuming content I wonder what the long term affects will be on Generation C.

Is it possible that they will lose the capability to have human-to-human contact?  By communicating mostly through the use of technology such as IMing, chats, and emails will the next generation be less articulate orally?  I believe that when social media platforms were created they were meant to be used as an additional means of keeping in contact with friends and family.  Unfortunately, it seems that most users are using social media as a total replacement for the old fashion telephone call or lunch date.  How do see the next generation of internet users surviving in the future?

How far is too far? One blogger apologizes

•November 16, 2010 • 2 Comments

I came across an article at the end of October regarding one blogger’s comments about obese couples.  Maura Kelly is an active contributor to the magazine Marie Claire. Her blog post centered on the question: “Think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?”  The question appeared simple enough, but thanks to Kelly’s choice of wording public backlash ensued.

Kelly’s blog addressed a question that viewers of the new television show “Mike and Molly” had already asked.  The CBS sitcom is about two overweight adults who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group.

Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy play Mike and Molly on the CBS sitcom (courtesy of CBS)

Kelly ultimately decided yes, she was uncomfortable watching two heavyset people make out.  It wasn’t her stance on the issue, but the words she chose to use in explaining her decision that offended readers.

I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room. – Maura Kelly, Marie Claire contributor

Kelly’s blog post, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room?” was originally published on the Marie Claire website as well as Yahoo! Shine, a content sharing partner with Marie Claire.  It wasn’t long before readers sounded off.  Marie Claire received approximately 28,000 emails regarding Kelly’s insensitive comments about obese members of society.  Many left any comments demanding that she be fired.

There were two issues that stuck my interest in this story.  First, was the fact that Kelly apologized for her blog post only hours after she initially posted it.  Kelly should have kept in mind that she was writing for the magazine’s blog and not her own personal account.  I’m not suggesting by any means that she should have censored her post, but she should have been aware that she is representing a well-known women’s magazine with a larger readership.  Words and phrases such as “fatties” and “grossed out” were sure to generate buzz.

I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I’ve said in this post…a lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn’t productive, either. – Maura Kelly

I don’t think she should have apologized for her point of view, but rather her approach and word choice in explaining her stance.  Or better yet, she should have written the article from the viewer’s perspective since they were the ones who originally asked the question.  Kelly could have researched why society is uncomfortable with obese people making out. I believe it would have made an interesting piece.

The second issue that caught my interest was the public outcry over the issue of obesity.  This is an issue that I am deeply passionate about, and I was happy to see others are too.  Unfortunately, I think the public took their passion for the issue of obesity out on the wrong target.  Kelly was simply expressing her opinion, albeit with insensitive terminology.  What I find more unsettling than Kelly’s opinion piece is the fact that the writers of “Mike and Molly” constantly use overweight jokes in the sitcom.  I think actions such as the overweight jokes give the impression that it is okay to poke fun of obese people.  More so than Kelly’s blog post does.

Blogging is meant to be a form of self-expression.  I don’t think any less of Kelly for her comments about overweight people making out.  It was her opinion.  I do, however, question her choice of platform since she was writing on her company blog.  But does that mean that bloggers posting on behalf of a newspaper or magazine should be held to the same standards as their print journalist counterparts?  And when is it appropriate (if ever) to apologize for your personal opinion?

CASA: Using social media for a good cause

•November 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In May of 2009 I signed up to volunteer with an organization called CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate.  I learned about this organization while in college and made a mental note to get involved once I graduated.  Five years passed before I was in a position to volunteer the necessary time and resources required of CASA volunteers.

CASA is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children in foster care.  The organization provides training and support for volunteers acting as advocates for children within the court system.  After passing the initial round of training each volunteer gets sworn in by the court and then picks a child to begin advocating on behalf of. 

The key to success for non-profits such as CASA is funding and public awareness.  Social media can help influence both components.  CASA operates on a national level as well as local chapters.  Each chapter is responsible for individual recruitment and funding.  The National CASA association and my local chapter, CASA of Contra Costa County, appear to be using social media in different ways.

FACEBOOK

Both chapters operate a profile on Facebook, and actively update status postings.  The primary focus of this form of social media appears to be general announcements.  The Northern California chapter does include local news related to foster care issues, such as the passing of the law AB12 that extended the legal foster care to 21 in the state of California.  The National association, however, does use the Facebook Causes as a form of fundraising, and my local chapter does not.

Both the National and the California programs also offer discussion boards for followers to ask questions and receive peer-to-peer support and feedback.  These discussion boards allow for user interaction.  And the good thing is that users are actually using them! 

 

National CASA Association Facebook profile

 

 

OTHER FORMS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Unfortunately, it appears that my local chapter of CASA is only active on Facebook.  They are lacking in the other social media outlets.  They could look to the National CASA association as an example of how to use social media to raise awareness about the organization and to help raise funds. 

The National CASA is active in several different forms of social media besides Facebook.  They have an active Twitter account where the CEO, Michael Piraino, alerts followers of current issues affecting the CASA cause.  I also found it interesting that the National association operates a YouTube channel as well as offers Podcasts.

There were two elements of social media that both chapters do not currently participate in: blogs and Foursquare.  The latter is understandable given the strict privacy policies that CASA and the volunteers are held to since the organization centers around juveniles.  Blogs on the other hand could prove to be a useful to in raising awareness and providing prospective from multiple points of view.

Overall, I was happy to see both chapters using social media to help spread the word about such a great organization and cause.  Of course I do feel the CASA of Contra Costa County could use increased exposure on social media outlets.  Based on my interaction and experience, many CASA volunteers are educated professionals, active and familiar with online content and networks.  Getting their volunteers connected to all the organization has to offer could lead to increased referrals for volunteers or donations.  And that is the ultimate goal for all chapters of CASA.

Have you found your magic at Macy’s?

•November 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ll admit up front that I may be a bit biased when writing this post.  I worked at Macy’s for over four years; three years spent in the San Francisco buying office and one year working store line.

At the ripe age of 152, Macy’s is surprisingly on board with the use of Social Media.  The company has accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.  And they are using each account in a different way.  I find this interesting since Macy’s is considered a truly traditional business.  They play on the company’s heritage.  Below is a quick breakdown of how Macy’s  is using social media.

FACEBOOK

 Macy’s currently has 616,955 ‘likes’ from Facebook users (617,275 by the time I was finished writing this post).  From the looks of it, the account is used mostly for announcements.  They offer postings of “Daily Fashion Challenges” and video trend reports.  Macy’s has created an interactive site for its customers complete with incentives to participate by offering $100 gift cards.  I think they are successfully using Facebook to target their key customer: working women in their 30’s with families.

Macy's Inc Facebook account

TWITTER

After looking at the Twitter account that Macy’s operates it’s clear that the company is using this form of social media as a monitoring tool.  There are few event or promotion announcements.  Most of the tweets are responses to other users’ mentions.  Generic tweets at that.  Popular tweet topics include how to get a job, sensors left on clothing items and great deals found while shopping.

One example of a typical tweet mentioning Macy’s:

Tianajimeno: Thank you b*%@# at Macy’s for not removing the security tag on my jeans. I didn’t want to wear them or anything, it’s fine. #shopkohls

This was tweeted on October 27, 2010.  Macy’s responded with a tweet back on October 29, 2010, that read, “We are sorry for the inconvenience! Please stop by your local Macy’s and a store assoc. will be happy to remove the tag.”

Monitoring a company’s image is important.  But it’s also important not to come across as sterile or disconnected from your customers.  The generic responses that Macy’s tweets feel like a robot is typing.  I think Macy’s needs to re-evaluate how they are using Twitter, and begin to work more event and promotion oriented material into their tweets.

Macy's Inc Twitter account

FOURSQUARE

I’ll admit a part of me was shocked that Macy’s participates in Foursquare.  However, users can only check into the Herald Square location and the corporate buying offices on 7th Avenue.  This seems a bit limited for a company Macy’s size.  I know it’s unrealistic for Macy’s to offer a check-in to every store location – that’s over 800 stores nationwide. 

Instead, I think they should focus on the company’s key flagship stores.  This would allow customers nationwide to feel connected with the company and participate without having to travel to New York.  Macy’s could even create a special badge for those who check into all of the flagship stores.

I would also like to see Macy’s use Foursquare to market the company’s special events (like the San Francisco flower show), limited time promotions (Thanks For Sharing), and in-store events (guest appearances/product launches).

Overall, I’m happy to see Macy’s taking the plunge into social media.  But I do feel there is plenty of room for improvement.  They seem to be on the right track with Facebook, and I would love to see them transform their Foursquare account into a true interactive experience as well.  Possible rewards for employees checking in at the corporate offices?  Gift cards for monthly mayor badge winners?  Encouraging the consumer to engage and participate will be a win for both parties involved – the customer wins a gift card and the company generates sales.

Blue light special aisle 10: trash bags

•October 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

I received an email from a friend a few days ago titled: is this the type of thing you tweet?  Naturally I opened the email.  I found a link to a news story about a grocery store chain in New York confronting a customer who tweeted an innocent observation on a recent shopping trip.  The course of events that unfolded after the initial tweet was anything but typical.

The man responsible for the tweet, Jonathan Hoster, wrote, “Every time I go to @PriceChopperNY I realize why they are not @wegmans. Tonight – bare produce areas & this sign 4 ex http://yfrog.com/2tf9sj

Which of these items is not like the others? Price Chopper store sign tweeted by Jonathan Hoster.

 

It seemed like an innocent observation to me.  I’m guilty of taking pictures of signs that I find entertaining.  Unfortunately, Ameerah Cetawayo, public relations specialist for Price Chopper, was not as amused as I was.  In fact, she confronted Mr. Hoster about his tweet via her personal Twitter account. She also contacted Mr. Hoster’s employer to notify them of his actions. It should be noted that the company was unaware she responded, let alone from a personal account not associated with Price Chopper.

It wasn’t long before Price Chopper received backlash and negative mentions on Twitter regarding Cetawayo’s behavior and “their poor use of social media.”

“It was an associate who went rogue.” – Heidi Reale, Director of Consumer Insights

Social media professor, Anthony Rotolo, of Syracuse University took a particular interest in this story since Mr. Hoster is a colleague.  Rotolo went to his blog, pricechopperfail, to discuss the actions and strategies taken by the grocery chain to use them as a learning opportunity.  He invited members of Price Chopper to join the discussion, and to his surprise they obliged.

While the four member panel from the grocery chain did openly discuss the events that took place, they didn’t seem to take responsibility for the Cetawayo’s actions.  In fact, they wouldn’t comment on what punishment (if any) Cetawayo received, only that she violated the company’s social media policy.  Heidi Reale, Director of Consumer Insights, stated, “Price Chopper took corrective action both with our social media policy and with the associate.”  What does that mean?  Anybody?

Photo by carrotcreative

This whole situation got me thinking – with the increase in social media usage among employees how can companies best handle these types of situations?  Many companies create social media policies to monitor employee behavior. But the way I see it, the policy will only be effective if it is continually regulated and enforced.  Not only when there is media outcry over said behavior.

This raises another question – how far should companies be allowed to monitor or filter employees on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook?  In this case the employee used her personal Twitter account to respond to an annoyed customer, rather than using her business address.  What about when employees make comments about their company on personal time and on a private social media account?  Should the company be allowed to take action against the employee for potentially damaging the company image?

For now I give Price Chopper kudos for monitoring their company’s image and reputation online and responding to concerned customers.  The actions taken by the company proved successful in this case.  Perhaps now they’ll address Mr.Hoster’s produce concerns?