We Are Communication Architects

Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

October 10th, 2012

How Not to Embarrass Your Brand (and Yourself) on Twitter

In college, I majored in radio. Back then, in the days vinyl still ruled, the common nightmare was not being able to put the needle on the record, much like the victim in the horror movie who couldn’t get the car keys to work. The resulting dead air may well have been a bloody death. Another waking dread was leaving the microphone on and saying one of George Carlin’s Seven Words.

Why do I bring this up? The new nightmare for brand marketers is putting the wrong message over social media. Worse than dead air, the misguided and often offensive message is what keeps many of us Tweeters and Facebookers up at night.

There is no shortage of examples:

HPIM6387Add to that two high-profile examples from the past week or so:

Each case is different, and the reactions – and consequences – have also been different. Since I am someone who helps brands manage their online social media presence, I have my own waking nightmares of having this happen. Thus, I have a few thoughts:

  • Most of these problems happen with Twitter. That is not an absolute, but Twitter is especially dangerous due to its ephemeral nature. Many times we publish and move on, and it’s easy to make a mistake. In the early days of Twitter I had the occasional private direct message go public due to a simple mistake. I survived, but as these brand issues show that can be a matter of luck or circumstance.
  • I use Tweetdeck as my personal social publishing tool. I use it largely for Twitter and Facebook, but under no circumstances do I add client accounts. I know myself too well, hilarity would not ensue.
  • I use separate browsers when logging in to a client or corporate social account. The best side effect of the Browser Wars is that I can have my own accounts on Google Chrome, and client’s in, say, Safari or Firefox- think of it as using separate kitchens to bake cookies due to peanut allergy. Actually, that’s a stretch, but that’s the best analogy you’re going to get when I write on a Monday night.
  • Always log out. What’s a bigger pain, logging in anew for each session or explaining how that offensive Tweet got on the corporate account? I’d let you think about it but if you have to think about it I don’t want you in charge.
  • Don’t be profane in your personal accounts. You will rarely see me swear in my public social media posts. I may get edgy here and there, but the fewer F-bombs I drop, the fewer F-bombs that have a chance of slipping into the wrong social media stream. It’s a personal choice with which others will differ, but I like to take down the odds (metrics!)
  • Are you still hiring “interns” to do your social media? A lot of this, outside of the mechanical mistakes, is relying ont he judgment of someone representing your brand. I’m not going to say a 25-year-old can’t manage your social media (and people on our teams fall into that age group – I exempt all of them as they wouldn’t be with us if they couldn’t handle it), but I will say that maturity, regardless, of age, is an absolute requirement.

What’s it going to be? Are you going to be careful with your brand? I’m entertained by the mistakes for the most part, but these things are keeping a lot of us up at night. Put the needle on the record, make sure the mic is off and avoid dead air – or worse.

Original version posted at DougHaslam.com
Flickr photo credit: jennconspiracy

About the Author
Doug Haslam is a Supervisor on the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing client programs and developing strategy. In addition to Voce Nation, Doug writes his own personal blog and you can find him on Twitter as @dough.

Filed in Publishing Programs

October 8th, 2012

Voce Monday Morning Five: 10/08/12

  • Twitter Says More Than Half Its Users Follow Six Or More Brands: While the presentation in question was directed at potential advertisers it provides an important insight into user behavior and what people are doing on Twitter.
  • KitchenAid Tweet Shows, Yet Again, Why Social Needs Mature Talent: Social media is as much a professional practice as traditional marketing, PR or advertising and should not be left to rookies or people whose judgment hasn’t been proven. On top of that it’s another reminder not to use just one tool but instead break them apart by account so the chances of posting personal opinion to a corporate/client profile happening are as low as possible.
  • Guardian and Tumblr to ‘live-GIF’ presidential debates: The format of live-giffing is gaining steam as a way to immediately supply the community with assets that fuel their conversation and sharing about a live event.
  • More Mobile News Consumers Choosing Web Over Apps: Using the web rather than apps is up sharply among mobile users – this could be partly due to the evolution of some of these browser-based news experiences as adaptive and truly mobile-friendly. The last fifteen years have shown how hard it is to get consumers to pay for content on websites or pay attention to ads there. In the app environment, all that was going to be different. And so it is.
  • Delving deeper into social data: Some good advice in here about focusing monitoring efforts – don’t cast too wide a net or the results become unmanageable – as well as the recommendation to get out of a reactive mindset and into one that is more in line with business goals.

Filed in Media, Publishing Programs, Social Networks

September 27th, 2012

Emotion Increases Engagement

According to a new study by LinkedIn, engagement on social networks goes up when the entity doing the publishing shows some emotion whether that’s an individual or a brand.

As with most studies this one likely falls victim to the curse of generality, the idea that one finding can be applicable to all situations. But putting that aside it does stand to reinforce a central tenet of social media marketing:

While your company is not and never will be a person, that doesn’t mean what’s published under the brand’s name has to be impersonal.

Keep in mind, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean making emotional appeals. What it does mean is that you know your audience, you’ve done the research to know what kinds of messages are resonating with them specifically, are executing accordingly and aren’t treating social channels like they’re push marketing outlets but instead part of a conversational strategy.

As usual the primary purpose of these sorts of studies is to remind you to check in on your own program, both from an analytical point of view and just from a gut-check point of view. How are things going? How are people responding? What are the pain points that are showing up? These are all valuable questions to ask on a regular basis and anytime you hear someone talking about what does or doesn’t work on social media it’s an opportunity to do just that.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs, Social Networks

September 20th, 2012

Tumblr’s Continued Growth Makes It a Search Factor

Has Tumblr become a part of your corporate publishing strategy? At one point, as Twitter and Facebook took off, it seemed that this “blog-network” platform (my term for something that isn’t as full-featured as WordPress or other software but definitely more feature-filled than a true social network) was going to be overshadowed by those ascendant networks. But in the last year or so Tumblr has staged a remarkable comeback, despite – maybe even because of – a handful of direct competitors that sought to fill the “just let me post something quickly to my friends” space.

comScore recently released a study showing total unique visitors to Tumblr.com have grown significantly in the last year while the growth on mobile, which is a big way people consume and interact with those they follow, has grown even more sharply. And the number of clicks to Tumblr sites that are happening through search is even greater.

The comScore post mentions one solid reason why brand should be paying attention to Tumblr: Search. That goes not just for evaluating their own publishing programs but also for monitoring since the footprint that Tumblr posts now occupy in search results is increasingly significant. And that’s true – Just as we all kept saying in 2003, if you’re not paying attention to the front page of search results for your brand/product name(s) and seeing where it is that people are talking about you you’re not doing your job.

The flipside of that coin is, of course, what are the brands themselves doing to impact (in an absolutely legitimate way and without resorting to any black-hat tactics) the kinds of results on that front page? As always the best way to do that is a combination of good customer service based on that listening program and a proactive publishing program that gives people something to talk about. So how does Tumblr fit into that?

Just as with every other publishing platform, regardless of size, there are four questions to ask:

What’s the story we’re trying to tell?

Who are we telling it to?

How are we tailoring our story to effectively reach them?

What conversations are they already having that we can be (respectfully) part of?

There are always a ton of good corporate reasons to add a new platform to an existing publishing program. Those only get you so far, though, and often don’t add up to a sustainable or successful addition. Instead it’s important to know the answers to the above questions – and there are more that need to be answered that get into specific tactics, of course – before deciding that something has to be done because hey everyone is talking about it and wow, the kids are there. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, isn’t measurable (or won’t have a measurable impact) and doesn’t appear to fit within an existing community then what might be a great idea needs to be stripped back down and rebuilt so it can become an executable idea.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Microblogging, Publishing Programs

September 11th, 2012

Bigger Companies Use Big Tools: Corporate Blog Usage Rises in Fortune 500

The University of Massachusetts Darthmouth is out with its latest study on social media usage by companies in the Fortune 500. I’ve discussed previous UMD studies on this topic here and here in the past year or so.

This study, as in the past, focuses on public-facing blogs at the corporate level, acknowledging that blogs may exist at the divisional level or be only for internal consumption that won’t, then, be included in these numbers.

The study found that the number of companies with public-facing blogs grew from 23% in 2011 to 28% in 2012. Compare that with the most recent study of blog adoption by the Inc. 500, which found that blog use was actually dropping and you can safely conclude bigger, more mature companies are opting for bigger, more mature tools while smaller, growing companies are instead choosing smaller, growing tools.

Unsurprisingly, the percentage of companies with official, corporate-based Twitter and Facebook profiles is much higher, 73% and 66% respectively. This is indicative of how these profiles are more agile, allow for smaller content (and therefore are less time/resource-intensive to source content for) and are focused on interaction with customers, though obviously not everyone takes advantage of that to the same level.

For the first time this study looked at specialty platforms, meaning blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages devoted to a singular purpose such as recruitment, CSR or other topics that still were being managed at the corporate level.

It also found that 2% of the Fortune 500 companies are participating on Pinterest. Unsurprisingly, especially if you’ve been paying attention to the handful of case studies that have eschewed over-enthusiastic hype, most of those are companies with not only strong visual components but also strong ties between those visuals and a retail experience.

So what does this all mean? The increasing number of companies who are using tools of any size or weight – blogs at the bigger, heavier end and nearly pure curation sites like Pinterest on the other – shows that more companies realize there’s a story to tell. It might not be a big story but it’s a story and anyone who ever said there was a one-size fits all method to brand publishing was likely trying to sell you something.

Along with that there are, presumably, structural changes that have happened within those companies to accommodate the publishing program, whatever level it exists at. Material needs to be sourced, vetted, written (or created in some manner), approved and published. When you think about the fact that this isn’t just a “Oh hey, let’s start a Facebook page) decision that was made (or if it was it hopefully wasn’t long before someone came along with a reality check) but one that required substantive changes to be made to the organization. That’s a deeper story that lies under these numbers.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Publishing Programs

August 2nd, 2012

Voce’s Platform Team Partners with Automattic’s WordPress.com VIP Program

In 2001, Voce’s Platforms team came together to do one thing – build great web experiences upon great content platforms. Since then, the team has delivered products across a myriad of platforms while always in search of the best platforms that could deliver for our programs. In 2006, we had the opportunity to build the Sony PlayStation Blog and it was that point that we decided to test the WordPress platform for our team.

So, over six years the PlayStation Blog has grown from WordPress version 2.1 and we have grown to use WordPress not just as a solution for blogs, but a full-featured content management system (CMS) for some of the largest companies in the world. It’s no secret, we are firm believers in not only WordPress’s capabilities, but the community supporting it.

When delivering projects of this scale, we’ve had the good fortune of working very closely with the folks at Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) to deliver the best solutions possible for programs of this scale — and today that relationship gets a little closer in the launch of their VIP Service Partner program.

Paul Maiorana talks more about the program on the WordPress.com VIP Blog, but for me, involvement in this program is a testament to the work this team delivers day in and day out. We’ve been diligent in building a team focused on great user experience, development talent and customer service for the most demanding programs today.

We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to WordPress’s potential and this relationship with Automattic really has us all excited for where this takes us. If you’re a passionate developer and you’d love to join us, learn more.

About the Author
Nick Gernert leads the Platform Services team that's part of Voce Connect and oversees all web development efforts as well as making sure all those efforts are strategically sound. He is on Twitter as @nickgernert.

Filed in Development, WordPress

July 30th, 2012

An Internship is What You Make It

Many people think of an internship position as a non-paid position, usually held while in college finishing up a degree requirement. However, during the recovery from one of the worst recessions in recent U.S history, what if you’re choosing a new career? How can one proactively jump into a new industry without getting a new degree altogether? An internship is the perfect opportunity for anyone looking for a change. But the opportunity is all controlled by the actions that the said intern demonstrates.

I started my career at Voce Communications as a Public Relations Intern. During my first few weeks as a “Vocian,” I was handed various responsibilities. As an intern, you’re not expected to know how to do everything. However, knowing when and how to ask questions is important in order to for the internship to be a beneficial experience. When asking and seeking answers, it is important to listen, learn, and improve on each task assigned to you. Working as an intern in any business, everyone can point out the “new guy.” But, can the “new guy” actually make a lasting impression with their work? There are some interns that blend into the background and do the minimum that is expected of them. It’s all up to the individual to turn the internship from a temporary position into a permanent one. Hard work, determination and bringing up new ideas or new ways of doing things will set an intern apart from blending in.

Go the extra mile; volunteer yourself to go to conferences or brainstorming sessions. Introduce yourself to anyone that works for the company. How many interns feel comfortable making a fool out of themselves at the drop of a dime? Well, you probably won’t be asked to do that. But, my point is, if you leave a lasting impression of the work ethic you bring with you into the internship position, you have the ability to turn a temporary position into a permanent one and the opportunity to establish the beginnings of a new career.

You can follow Sundeep on Twitter as (@SundeepDosanjh)

Filed in Career Development, Voce Culture, Voce People

July 2nd, 2012

Twitter Timing Study and the Need for Small Adjustments

If you are in any way running or otherwise managing an online publishing program then you’re likely always looking at stats. Not just for how things are performing on-domain but also how what’s being published on Twitter, Facebook and other networks are going to drive traffic back to a “hub” site, how those items are garnering on-network engagement and more. It’s kind of what we do.

One recent study that caught my eye looks at Twitter posting and shows that engagement rates are higher than you might otherwise expect on weekends. While the numbers vary from one industry to the other, Buddy Media found overall engagement was 17% higher than on weekdays. Some might be surprised by this since it’s probably broadly assumed that people are out and doing other things on the weekend and not sitting there checking Twitter, either on their computers or on a mobile device. But the same study shows that posts published during weekday “busy hours” – between 8AM and 7PM – see higher engagement than whatever the baseline is.

Other advice for increasing the number of mentions, replies and Retweets from this study includes using hashtags (not a terrible idea when there’s a real purpose behind doing so but it also makes your updates look ugly), using images (even more important with Expanded Tweets and the fact that images display in apps like Tweetdeck) and only Tweeting about four times a day (not exactly a realistic option for any sizable publishing program but I get what they’re saying).

Meanwhile Buddy Media also looked at Facebook publishing timing and found that, when it comes to dayparts at least, almost the exact opposite is true, with posts published outside that 8AM-7PM window performing better than those broadcast during the so-called “busy hours.”

Much was made in some of the industry press in the wake of this study about how the results showed marketers were “failing” at Twitter in particular but, as usual, that’s not quite accurate.

In order to “fail” the game has to be over. And the game’s not over.

Social media is a game of small tweaks. The word “pivot” gets thrown around a lot by commentators who like to sound interesting and professionals who want to make sure they’re using the latest jargon. But I always think about it in terms of driving and the way you never keep the steering wheel perfectly straight for very long, instead making small adjustments in one direction or the other as the road and conditions dictate.

Yes, you turn sometimes and occasionally turn all the way around to head in a completely new direction. But it’s not always about big changes that completely reconfigure how you’re doing business. It’s sometimes about the small adjustments that help make a small improvement that then is built on the next time you make a small adjustment that leads to another small improvement.

So take the findings of this study and, if warranted, make small adjustments. Then measure and see if it’s working for you since, as with all findings from every study, your mileage is going to vary. Then keep turning the wheel.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Microblogging, Publishing Programs

June 29th, 2012

Voce Turns 13: Let the Teenage Years Begin

Voce San FranciscoEvery year on Voce’s anniversary, Richard Cline, Matthew Podboy or I sit down to write a blog post about what it means to be another year older. We talk about our culture. We talk about our clients. Then we drop an obscure reference to a Will Ferrell movie. It’s a great formula and I can write posts like that for the next 20 years (assuming Will Ferrell is still a box office draw…which he will be.)

But the three of us share one primary perspective. A perspective of someone that has been at Voce since the beginning.

So this year it’s time to hear from someone else…the Voce Nation.

Dave Black, Voce Old Timer and 80′s Rock Aficionado

But before Vocians from across the country publicly make fun of my many character flaws, I would like to thank our people and our clients. You have made Voce a puberty-stricken, awkward teenager, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Andy Burt (1+ years)

Moving into PR was the scariest career choice I had ever made. After building a career in the games industry, I was considering joining up with a PR group run by three guys who I was convinced were either brilliant, insane, or possibly a mix of the two. I’ve also never had a boss who’s high-five could literally kill someone, but Matt Podboy wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking back, I’m happy I made the move, as the tightly-knit community of people here is, in my opinion, unmatched at any other company. Here’s to many more years, Voce!

Pete Schiebel (3+ years)

When I joined Voce I thought I was joining a company, but instead I joined a culture. It’s refreshing to feel so close to so many people all the way across the country.

Lindsey Smith (6+years)

When Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” I think he was looking into the future at the “Voce way.” To me Voce is such a special place because when I come to work I don’t feel like part of a headcount or a dollar sign – I feel like a person that matters. So how do I feel about Voce? Lets just say Voce was kind enough to take me in at 22 years of age and I haven’t updated my resume since the day I started. – Lindsey Smith, 6 years, 6 months, 20 days (Plus 4 months as an intern!) and looking forward to many more

Dyani Vanderhorst (1+year)

At Voce I have had the great pleasure of working with and learning from the best in the industry. My team members inspire confidence, lead by example and empower me to deliver work to the best of my ability every day.

Ryan Lack, (7+ years)

Voce has given my family and me a lot in the last seven years, including a big dinner party on my very first day. That day happened to coincide with today, the anniversary of the company’s humble beginnings, but I chose to look at it as a celebration of me. It made me feel very special, let me tell you.

In my time here I’ve seen the company grow from small independent firm with approximately 25 employees to a recently-acquired business with 80+ employees in the Bay Area alone. It has been a tremendous honor not only to grow within Voce’s walls but also to be a part of helping build them. I’m often asked what keeps me here, “Wow, seven years. That’s a long time. What keeps you coming in everyday?”

The answer to that is a pretty simple one, actually – it’s the family. We try to make a habit of hiring not only the best and brightest but really cool and interesting people, too. Voce has given me a lot, but what it’s given me most of all are what I generally consider to be many, many lifelong friendships. That’s what has made it such a special place for me and is most certainly chief among the reasons why I’m still here.

Gina von Esmarch (5+ years)

The best team to work with bar none. I am always impressed with this company and it’s love for hard work and hard play. This is one of the few places where the years just fly by. Thanks for executing such a great biz model, hiring like minded folks and giving us a place to enjoy our work.

Terrell Neilson (6 months)

Voce’s culture is defined by the down-to-earth people who work here. Everyone at every level is approachable, friendly and fun. This is why I came to Voce. Like they say, “it’s all about the people!”

Tiffany Curci (12+ years)

It’s been a little over 12 years and I’ve always loved the people I work with (and not in an HR-infraction kind of way), those that have gone on to do other great things and those that remain, like our three founders. They’re still funny, even the 10th time I’ve heard the same joke, because apparently Groundhog Day and Anchorman jokes just never get old. Oh yes, and I’m still challenged and inspired every day, even if it’s a high-kick contest (HT to Jeff Urquhart for the best high kick I’ve ever seen). Gotta love that in career choice and work family (which does kind of remind me of the ‘family’ of news anchors from Anchorman).

Filed in Voce Culture, Who We Are

June 5th, 2012

It’s Not Curation; It’s Storytelling

If you want to get into the social media equivalent of a bar fight (and who doesn’t, they’re a hoot) there’s no better way to do so than to bring the conversation around to “curation.” Choire Sicha’s recent post on the topic is a great one that’s well worth reading, especially if you stick with the bar fight metaphor and read it with a “your mama” type of voice in your head.

Let’s be clear, for the sake of argument, about some definitions here. I’m not in this instance talking about taking someone else’s content and repurposing it in some manner on another site. So this isn’t about a story that first appeared on the New York Times’ site and rewording a couple sentences before posting essentially the same story on another site. The “curation” I’m talking about is taking links to stories, posts, photos and other material and linking to it from a platform like Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. And that’s something that doesn’t need to be controversial since it’s simply all about telling a story.

I’ve been pondering Matthew Ingram’s post about blowing up the concept of the news article for several days and how it relates not just to journalism but also corporate publishing programs. Specifically I’ve been focusing on where he makes the point that increasingly the model that works best is “small pieces, loosely joined.” That’s where the idea of curation comes in since it’s those smaller pieces that curation fills in.

There’s a new study from (of course) a company that specializes in content curation services that shows the number one reason a company will engage in a curation strategy is “thought leadership” and that makes sense. “Thought leadership” looks nice on a presentation slide and hey, who doesn’t want to be leading the thinking. But when you stop and think about it the idea of achieving a leadership position (where people pay attention to what you are saying) through curation (where you are riffing off of what others have already said) falls apart rather quickly.

It’s better, in my mind, to curate with the mindset of it being just one part of an overall storytelling strategy.

If you know what the story your company (or brand or division or whatever) is trying to tell is then you’re already likely executing the biggest chunk of that on your home blog or other publishing platform. But there’s only so much that can be put there, both because of time constraints and because the audience will only support so much output.

That’s where curation comes in. If you’re trying to sell vacuum cleaners and the main blog is 75% about your product and the remaining 25% is about the industry that’s a pretty good mix. Then your status network outposts (Twitter, Facebook etc) can become where you share stories not just links to those posts but also to reviews of your products, consumer stories, industry trade show information and whatever else, all in proportion to what you have found your audience to be most interested in.

So those links to other people’s information, writing and other material isn’t because you want to be the end-all-be-all of your space and the first mover whose every word is hung off of (though that would certainly be nice. Instead all those links and updates that you are curating are ultimately helping you to better tell your story. They are the small, loose pieces that fit together to make something bigger.

There’s an example I go back often: If you have three big stones and a bag of gravel and you need to get them all in a single bucket the best way to do so is to put the big stones in first. Then when you pour the gravel it will fill in all those small spaces to fill the bucket.

So too with publishing material. The best way to fill a program is to start with big stones (your own blog posts, photos and videos) and then allow the smaller pieces (retweets of fan comments, links to reviews on industry news sites) to fill in the holes.

That’s not to say any of this is easy. It may seem quite a bit simpler to retweet a bunch of other people’s updates than to write a whole new blog post but it really isn’t. There are serious considerations that need to go into every single bit of material that’s published, every interaction and more. While the level of difficulty is similar, though, the payoffs are much different in terms of how it connects the organization doing the talking with the people who have opted in to listen.

The reality of the current media world is that we rely on filters. That’s always been the case, even when the dominant media was radio since people ultimately decided one station (or filter) was better than the other, but now it’s been heightened because of the sheer volume of potential inputs. Some of those filters will likely be corporate-based since it’s easier than ever to connect and interact with the companies and brands we have chosen to align ourselves with publicly.

Curation is a means to an end, and that end is reaching the audience with a meaningful story. Ultimately that should in some way lead to a conversion of some sort (there are a plethora of potentials to choose from here) but they don’t mean a thing if the story isn’t working at reaching that audience. Which means it comes back to simple, solid storytelling and the tools and tactics put in place to achieve those goals.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs

Voce Photo Stream