Social Media

  • Move Over, Millennials: Brands are Targeting Gen Z on Social

    In Social Media on

    By Caroline Lee, guest blog contributor

     

    PRSA Boston’s Faculty Forum, a group of passionate educators creating the next generation of leaders in PR, is offering a series of guest posts written by talented students majoring in the communications field. For this guest post, we welcome insights from Caroline Lee. An aspiring journalist, Caroline is a senior at Boston College with a double major in Communication, and Applied Psychology & Human Development.

     

    For the past years, Millennials and their unrelenting obsession over their cellphones and social media have been hot topics in the media, and an opportunity for brands to drive sales. Numerous prominent brands invest in social media to connect with this growing population. Yet, in the fast-paced world of social media and branding, Generation Z members – born between 1995 and 2012 – are quickly surpassing Millennials as a key target audience for brands.

     

    Generation Zers are just like Millennials in many ways, just more wired to their devices. Members of Gen Z, the cohort immediately following Millennials, are the first to be born completely immersed in the digital age. They hold an estimated buying power of more than $44 billion, making Gen Zers an appealing and lucrative target audience for businesses.

     

    If businesses want to connect emotionally with Gen Z, and drive brand loyalty and gain market share among these young digital natives, investing in social media is the best bet. According to a study, 80 percent of the shopping decisions made by Gen Zers are influenced by social media.

     

    Which Channels Should You Choose to Use?

    PR experts can connect with Gen Zers through their channels of choice, namely Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Today, Instagram may be the most important social media platform for public relations and integrated marketing campaigns. According to recent data, 44 percent of purchases made by Gen Zers were impacted by Instagram, making this social media channel the most influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions. YouTube was second, followed by Snapchat, according to the study.

     

    Snapchat—with its Story feature that allows users to post pictures and short video clips that can be viewed an unlimited number of times for 24 hours before they disappear—used to dominate the Gen Z market. However, Instagram Stories are quickly becoming more popular than Snapchat Stories. Instagram reported that, as of April 2017, more than 200 million users engaged with Instagram Stories, which is 40 million more than those who use Snapchat Stories. This user-base, which only took months for Instagram to accumulate while it took Snapchat years, continues to grow rapidly.

     

    Stories allow a business to post a series of photos or short video clips— instead of just choosing one or two—in a more casual way because they know their stories are only temporary. This creates a more authentic feel, which Generation Z members enjoy, according to research. Plus, users get fresh content daily and companies can market their products and services on a daily basis. Ephemeral media content is only growing in popularity, as Instagram continues to attract a vast user-base that has a taste for instantaneous media content that is constantly being updated.

     

    Instagram also reported that 80 percent of Instagram accounts follow a business profile. And even when users aren’t following business accounts, more than 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily. Instagram users are not shy about following brands they like, giving companies plenty of chances to post content that will resonate with potential Gen Z customers.

     

    PR practitioners, marketers and advertisers should seriously consider hopping on the social media train. Whether they like it or not, social media is increasingly becoming an integral part of peoples’ lives. And it may be the most effective way to reach the millions of Generation Zers – many of whom have never gone a day without using social media.

     

    To learn more about social media and how it can boost business to consumer engagement, save the date PRSA Boston’s 6th annual Social Media Summit, May 11 at Bentley University. The Summit will feature trends and insights from a wealth of social media experts. Last year’s Summit drew more than 300 PR and marketing professionals from the New England region.

    Get your ticket HERE!

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  • Fast 5: Five Things to Know about Social Media and Crisis Communications

    Elaine Driscoll, Massachusetts Gaming Commission

    @ElaineDriscoll  @MassGamingComm


     

    The words “community policing” typically conjure up images of police officers walking the beat. In the 21st century, cops on the beat have moved online as well.

    The Boston Police Department was one of the pioneers of the use of social media as a communications and outreach tool. Elaine Driscoll was with the Boston Police Department when it began using Twitter in 2009, and it has turned into a method of community engagement as well as crowdsourcing tips. Elaine, a media relations professional with almost 20 years of experience in public relations, crisis communications and community outreach, now serves as Director of Communications at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

    We caught up with Elaine in advance of the Social Media Summit to talk about social media, crises and what she looks forward to most about the summit.

    Q: What role can social media play in a crisis?

    Social media is the gasoline that spreads a crisis like a wildfire; it can also be the bucket of cold water that helps to put the fire out. The traditional sense of “news cycle” now has far less significance when considering the timing and strategy for addressing a PR crisis. As a result, an organization must be prepared to be nimble and decisive with an initial response, whether the crisis was anticipated or a spontaneous occurrence.

    Social media also provides an organization with a quick and efficient mechanism to respond directly to the masses. This direct access to the public provides an extraordinary ability to control the presentation of your message and influence public perception minus the filter applied by traditional media outlets, but that’s IF you get your response right. You can count on the court of public opinion to let you know quickly if the response is inadequate (Hello, United Airlines).

    Q: You have worked at both the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the Boston Police Department. How have those organizations used social media to communicate to their audiences?

    The Mass Gaming Commission and the Boston Police Department have different missions, but they are similar in their need for a robust communications infrastructure. MGC and BPD require a communications outreach strategy that is efficient and practical for executing a high volume of external communications, provides for two-way interactions and public participation, and enhances transparency. Both agencies depend on social media to achieve their organizational priorities and goals.

    Q: Can you give an example of how you may have effectively managed social media during a crisis in the past?

    Social media is a tremendous tool to assist with the management of a crisis, particularly one involving public safety. It’s important to note that it will only be truly effective if it has been test-driven before an organization needs it to perform. Building an audience and your organization’s reputation for communicating prior to an inevitable crisis is paramount. The BPD is highly adept at crisis communications because of how they utilize their communications system when they are not in crisis. The BPD was one of the first police departments in the country to use Twitter. It started in 2009 by simply issuing public safety and traffic instructions for a St. Patrick’s Day parade. In the years that followed, the department’s use of Twitter and other social media channels evolved significantly and became everything from a friendly and innovative way to connect with the community to the remarkably effective use of crowdsourcing tips and investigative leads.

    The 2011 Occupy Boston movement offers an interesting case study in the department’s advanced use of social media. Other cities had a far more contentious experience with the Occupy movement than Boston. I believe that strong and non-adversarial communication was a major contributor to the largely successful outcome of the 70-day protest in Dewey Square – much of that communication took place over Twitter, which was an approach unique to Boston.  That same year, the BPD’s Twitter account had more followers than any other police organization in the world.

    Q: With the number of social media platforms out there, how can organizations effectively monitor the conversation and address crises?

    There are many effective ways to monitor social media conversations. I prefer Tweetdeck and Meltwater News. When an organization is deciding which social media channels to use as part of its communications infrastructure, it depends on what you are selling and to whom – a high fashion boutique has different communication needs than a government agency. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all strategy except that I would always urge quality over quantity. I don’t think most organizations can adopt every social media channel and do them all well. An organization should identify where it is most likely to reach its target audiences and master that communication before casting too wide a net.

    Q: What are you most looking forward to about the Social Media Summit?

    I enjoy the opportunity to share my experiences and also deeply appreciate the chance to learn from my peers. As PR practitioners, we have to continue to evolve in our trade and enhance our skill set in order to stay relevant and keep up with an ever-changing world of traditional and social media.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics (https://prsaboston.org/hot-topics/) blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is on the fly! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, authors’ books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com (mailto:josh@joshuamilnepr.com) and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

  • Fast 5: Making Social Media a Judgement Free Zone

    Jenna Reynolds, Planet Fitness

    @JennaAReynolds  @PlanetFitness


     

    Jenna Reynolds is a proud tiny-house owner and dog mom who spends her days as a Digital Communities Manager professional at Planet Fitness World Headquarters, the home of the Judgement Free Zone. She spearheaded the creation of Planet of Triumphs, the company’s very own social community, where elevating positivity and inspiring members is the goal.

    We caught up with Jenna to talk about how social media can help people achieve their fitness goals, what she is looking forward to at the Social Media Summit, and what life is like in a tiny house.

    Q. Just when the news feed couldn’t seem to be any more crowded, the flow of information seems to have picked up to a dizzying pace. How can brands break through that noise?

    A. Every brand’s focus should be on what works for them and their brand personality. Planet Fitness members’ feeds are filled with the latest fitness and diet trends. We aim to break through that noise by empowering our members with positive messaging about our Judgement Free Zone and by celebrating their fitness triumphs, big and small.

    Q. What was the drive behind creating Planet of Triumphs? Why was it important to create a social community for Planet Fitness?

    A. We have seen first-hand the amazing things that are possible when our members encourage and support one another in our gyms. We wanted to forge a special community where they could do so digitally as well. The platform has truly taken on a life of its own and our members have used it to detail their fitness journeys, cheer each other on and ask for support when they need it.

    We surveyed a focus group of our members, and more than 70% said that they don’t post their fitness experiences on traditional social channels as they are afraid of being judged; Planet of Triumphs provides them a place where they can feel comfortable doing so.

    The platform has become an important part of our brand, and our CEO visits the site every day to learn about our members’ stories and offer words of encouragement. As a company, we are diligent about keeping the site from becoming overly promotional and instead have let our members build their own community and celebrate their everyday wins.

    Q. What advice would you give brands that are nervous about engaging on social media?

    A. It is all about trust. Using social media helps immediately open up direct feedback and establish trust between your brand and consumers. It isn’t just about pushing out content. It should also be about how your fans respond and the learnings that you can distill from that, not just in terms of social media, but in all areas of your business.

    Additionally, my biggest piece of advice would be to closely monitor your response volume and ensure that your social media strategy is equipped to handle it.

    Overall, don’t overthink it. You’ve got this!

    Q. What are you most looking forward to about the Social Media Summit?

    Lanyards. Besides that, connecting with other social media advocates. No matter the industry, it is always a positive learning experience to hear about other brands’ successes and challenges, along with the trends that they are witnessing, when it comes to social media.

    Q. You say you are a tiny-house owner. Doesn’t it get a little cramped?

    The winter months can test my two dogs’ patience but otherwise, we utilize our yard which has a mini outdoor theater, fire pit, dining area, etc.  I am social by profession and personality, so not being able to entertain a lot of people has been the biggest challenge; however, I am also addicted to re-decorating, so living in a smaller space has helped me to successfully limit my HomeGoods visits.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics (https://prsaboston.org/hot-topics/) blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is on the fly! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, authors’ books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com (mailto:josh@joshuamilnepr.com) and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

  • Fast Five: Tweeting from the Train

    In Crisis, Events, Fast Five, News, Social Media on

    Lauren Armstrong has been a Public Information Officer at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority since June 2014. A passion for helping others motivates her to provide the best customer service to those who ride the T. Communicating via social media, managing mbta.com, and tracking operational performance data, is a glimpse into her day.   @MBTA

    We caught up with Lauren in advance of the Social Media Summit to talk about how the T uses social media and what she looks forward to most about the summit.

    Q. What role can social media play in a crisis?

    I think social media is one of the most powerful, and sometimes underestimated, communication tools available. It can be used to interact directly with stakeholders during a crisis, answer their questions/concerns and provide accurate and timely information.

    Q.How does the MBTA use social media to communicate with its audiences?

    Our use of social media is two-fold. Firstly, we use it to announce service delays/disruptions, news/updates, media stories and important reminders. Secondly, we use it as a tool to engage one-on-one with riders. We can answer their questions, resolve their complaints and pass along the much-appreciated operator shout-outs that we receive.

    Q.Can you give an example of how you may have effectively managed social media during a crisis in the past?

    Winter 2014/2015 was an opportunity to announce service schedules and updates to answer questions like, “What kind of service will be running tomorrow?” “Is my bus on snow route?” or “Will my commuter rail train be cancelled?” But it also gave us a few opportunities to highlight the work being done by MBTA employees to keep platforms and bus stops clear of snow and ice.

    Q. How can organizations use the vast amount of data available from social media and website traffic to spot and address potential crisis situations?

    Organizations can use data available to get ahead of a potential crisis. For example, when our web team spots a high increase in traffic to our winter service updates page, we make the decision to redirect our homepage right to our winter page. That way, customers get the exact information they’re looking for and don’t have to spend time looking around for it.

    Q. What are you most looking forward to about the Social Media Summit?

    I’m excited to connect with other leaders in the social media industry, and am looking forward to sharing what we do at the MBTA.

    About Fast 5

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics (https://prsaboston.org/hot-topics/) blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is on the fly! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, authors’ books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos

    Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com (mailto:josh@joshuamilnepr.com) and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization. 

     

  • The Importance of Leveraging Social Media Expertise

    In Career, Research, Social Media on

    Help Explore Best Practices for Leading Inter-Departmental Collaboration

     

    By Kirsten Whitten, adjunct lecturer of communication and public relations at Curry College, Stonehill College and Regis College, Ph.D. candidate of Regent University and PRSA Boston Member

    Public relations (PR) publications and conferences nationwide are focusing on the importance of staying relevant in today’s collaborative environment. Last year’s PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference focused on “multidisciplinary knowledge, actionable approaches and critical skills” necessary to become and stay significant to an organization’s communications strategies”.

    This was also a topic of discussion at PRSA’s Annual Northeast District Conference (PRXNE) in Boston in June 2016. During this assembly, the panelists in the C-Suite Success discussion focused on the importance of education and leadership in working with c-suite executives. Moderator Carl Langsenkamp, Senior Marketing Manager for Xerox Corp. asked panelists Duane Brozek, Senior Corporate Communications and Public Relations Executive for Epson America, and Jane Carpenter, head of Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Wayfair, how they position themselves as leaders in collaborative planning across the organizations they represent. Jane pointed out the importance of “integrating with marketing to work together for unity in brand infinity”. Duane said he, “positions [himself] as a partner [by] making sure he is a part of the [c-suite] conversation”.

    One area where PR professionals can impress corporate executives is in social media relations. Since public relations and corporate communication professionals have had primary responsibility for social media monitoring and participation since its inception (USC Annenberg, 2012, 2014), it seems plausible that they could leverage this expertise to take a leadership role in planning these responsibilities across the organizations they represent. But to take advantage of this opportunity, industry experts point out that PR executives need to act more boldly. As Fred Cook, Director of the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and CEO of Golin, said recently in a PRWeek interview, “My outlook in the future of PR is simply that PR needs more balls and I translate balls to mean courage“.

    As a PR professional, educator, and Ph.D. student, I wondered about the current state of this situation and what type of guidance is available for PR executives to answer this call. I found that a handful of prominent PR companies and scholars have offered models for guiding collaborative efforts, but most of these do not focus on leveraging social media expertise as the guiding principle. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to survey PR, corporate communication and social media executives to explore what types of leadership styles and collaborative planning practices have resulted in successful social media integration efforts. If you would like to help answer this question for our industry, please take this 8-minute survey: www.SurveyMonkey.com/r/SocialMediaCollaboration.

    My hope is that the results of this study will unveil specific strategies and methods that PR executives can use in their quest to lead successful collaboration of social media efforts across the organizations they represent. Also, please feel free to comment to this post and share your own experiences in leading social media initiatives across functions

  • 72Point

    Fast5: Q&A with 72Point.US’s Vice President of Strategy & Client Services Mindy Gibson

    In Media Relations, Social Media, Writing on

    Bill Gates was right. Content is king.

    It’s been 20 years since Bill Gates published his infamous “Content is King” essay on Microsoft’s website, accurately predicting “…content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” Today, content marketing firms like 72Point are engaging audiences, inspiring earned media and creating points of entry to businesses everywhere.

    We recently caught up with 72Point’s Vice President of Strategy & Client Services Mindy Gibson and asked her about the process of creating content and feeding the media beast.

    Why should infographics be a part of my strategy?

    It’s actually not about whether infographics should exclusively or specifically be included in your strategy. It’s about the broader category of visual assets – and the “why” is digital media demand. Each visual type – infographic, video, animation or interactive -contributes to digital news outlets’ success metrics, such as dwell time. Some outlets require stories be accompanied by videos because they enable pre-roll ad insertion.

    Visual assets help sell the content story of the story too, as it tells the story from multiple angles and can determine which outlets you’re pitching, and what your budget can support. We advise all our clients that integrating visuals increases the likelihood their story will get picked up, and the absence of visuals decreases their chances.

    How can a PR poll be used to increase brand awareness?

    A PR survey is first and foremost about news generation, with earned media as its primary goal. A survey-supported news story is therefore no different in its role increasing brand awareness than any other type of earned media initiative. The better the concept behind the story, the more media earned. Surveys have the advantage of being conversation starters. The more talk-ability, the more “legs” the story will have with other media outlets and, so importantly, as part of the social conversation.

     

    Are PR surveys only for earned media news generation or do they have paid media applications?

    While PR surveys have been traditionally used for earned media coverage, the basic principles can certainly be applied to creating paid media content.  The results of a compelling survey with reference to brand but not banging readers over the head with brand help branded content and other paid advertising feel less “branded” which is a good thing. One thing we’ve learned with the growth of paid media is that consumers do not want to be “sold to”.  They want to be informed, entertained and engaged but not sold. This is particularly true for younger consumers. Research is informative, and if done well, the results can be entertaining and engaging. We see our clients reaching to us more often for content to support paid media initiatives, and can track social media shares resulting directly from the story and assets and provide that information in our post-project coverage books but we don’t dissect it nor do we track the social media initiatives our clients control using the same content.

    Is email still relevant in the age of social media?

    At the risk of giving my age away, I am not a millennial and so grew up in business before social media had business applications and long before it had any life application at all.  Without intended reference to any current political story, in a business setting, email is absolutely relevant. Email is how I communicate regularly with colleagues and clients of ALL ages and generations. It is still the most efficient, effective and private method of business communication – if anything is actually really private. I do not foresee myself IM’ing business communications. That said, the use of email for social communication is already irrelevant to younger adults and future business applications of email may not be far behind – whether I like it or not.

    Mindy Gibson is a Boston University grad, and a strategic and creative media executive with domestic, multicultural and global content and communications experience in charge of strategy and client relations at 72Point.US.

    About Fast5:

    This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in
    demand, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as… winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands, and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos.

    Do YOU have a candidate for a Fast5 Interview? Email Joshua Milne at josh@joshuamilnepr.com and pitch your subject expert!

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or  board of directors of either organization.