Social Media: Not Just Personal Anymore

I am going to switch gears a tad and give a little bit of a personal story. This pastweek I helped out at the Northeastern Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association (NEWSPA) conference at my university, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. High school students from around the state come to the university to attend different sessions on journalism subjects. My ‘job’ was essentially live-tweeting the event. We developed a hashtag, #newspa12, in hopes that the high school students will use it to pass on information to other students about the sessions they attend. I set up a live feed of it on a wall outside one of the main conference rooms.

While it did catch the students’ attention, it didn’t get them real active. The majority of the feed was filled with tweets from UWO journalism students that were also in attendance. I found the hashtag quite useful, you can’t attend every session so as everyone tweets from their session, you can learn what others are. It got me thinking about why the high school students weren’t tweeting as well. Immaturity? Lack of practice? Lack of interest? I wasn’t sure so I asked a few of the students. They said the main reason was because social media isn’t allowed in their school. It is considered a ‘social’ tool and not an ‘academic’ or ‘professional’ tool. I could go on for hours about how social media should be taught in classrooms as a helpful tool but I won’t bore you with my thoughts. I just believe that students can’t learn about Twitter and Facebook from a textbook, it has to be learned in the classroom. I think it is something that teachers should consider. I am not saying there aren’t cons to it but there are also pros. I honestly don’t know how my college classes would be if we didn’t have social media to interact. It helps me retain more information and continue the conversation beyond a professor’s lecture.

What do you think? Should social media be used in high school classrooms as a learning tool or is it too much of a distraction?


Sick of the Facebook Timeline? Sick of hearing people complain about the Facebook Timeline? Well it sure isn’t going away so your brand may as well evolve and take advantage of it.

The first thing that you need to do for your brand is adjust the new layout. You need to be able to add an eye-catching cover photo. There is even a program to help adjust photos to look perfect. A cover photo has infinite possibilities, don’t just use an existing photo — get creative!


Next you need to really engage with fans. The timeline has become a great gateway to interact and get fans involved.


Brand involvement

Once the fans are engaged, their posts can be a little cumbersome. With the timeline, it neatly groups all fan posted comments together and allows a brand to “pin” the most important information at the top. This is a great way to put something that first time viewers will want see.

Finally — you should add milestones. This lets customers learn a lot about the brand and it is always a great history lesson! Just make sure that your brand doesn’t have a milestone before the year 1000!


Starbucks’ First Milestone – Their Opening

There, that should get you started. There are many more features to the Facebook timeline. Experiment! Have fun with it, get fan feedback!

And so I ask: What is your favorite feature of the Facebook timeline? What brands do you see using it well?

Foursquare is a free mobile app where users can “check-in” to whatever location they are in. It is much more than just letting your mom know where you are. This has proved to be beneficial especially for businesses. With over 15 million users to date it is almost imperative that businesses get invovled because there are a lot of benefits to be had. Here a few…

  • One of the biggest advantages Foursquare has for  both users and businesses is the ability to add specials. When people check-in to your business they get a special such as a dollar amount off  or if someone checks into your business enough they will become the “mayor” and could get even greater specials. This entices customers to come into your  business and maybe even come back again and again.
  • Another tip is to encourage customers to check in and leave recommendations on the business’ Foursquare profile. This is a great way for companies to get free advertising and users to get feedback on a location before deciding to go in. Not all feedback will be positive though. Use negative feedback to help improve your business!
  • Foursquare can be a huge influence to those traveling to your city. With the explore feature users can type in what food they are craving or what kind of shopping they would like to do and it will give them local businesses that they are looking for. For restaurants, it also can provide them with a menu to view. Having your business included with these features can bring in more customers than ever before.
A screenshot of the Explore feature

Having a positive Foursquare presence is key. It is yet another social media tool to interact directly with your target consumers. Get your business on Foursquare, add a special or two and use feedback to make the best business you can!

The latest trend in social media is Pinterest. In a quick and simple description Pinterest is an online community for users to “pin” their favorite ideas for recipes, fashion, home decor, weddings, etc. It is a visual site where users see photos and when a user clicks the photo it brings them to a website, usually with a description (e.g. a recipe for the item in the photo). It can be a virtual organizer of thousands of ideas. That is, at least, how it is known to most of it’s 11.6 million users, 82% being women. But just like all other social media platforms Pinterest is starting to evolve into a presence for businesses and non-profits.

Since Pinterest is mostly viewed by women, it is a wonderful asset for places that women shop at or view to join in. It is no surprise that within the top ten most followed on Pinterest are homemade marketplace Etsy, magazines Better Homes & Garden and Real Simple, television network HGTV and The Beauty Department with famous face Lauren Conrad. It’s the new way of “word of mouth” advertising.

Non-Profits are also capitalizing on the Pinterest phenomenon. They use it to post infographics to about their cause. Seeing as Pinterest is a free site it is a great way to get advertising without paying a cent. Non-Profits can also sell products to the entire country as opposed to just their local chapter.

Be weary of “Pin it to win it” promotions. There have been a lot of spam and phishing issues with those types of contests. Go with brands you trust. When done properly Pinning contests can be effective.

There is so much more to Pinterest and it is worth a shot to join, man or woman. I endorse it mainly because it often decides my dinner and has enormously helped my wedding planning!

But beware — it can be addicting!

For years the symbol # meant pound, a tic-tac-toe board or the number symbol. Since Twitter’s induction in 2006 that symbol has completely changed meaning. That symbol is now known as a Hashtag  Twitter defines a hashtag as “used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” Hashtags are a great way for people to see what everyone else in the Twitter world is saying without following a million people. They have a lot of different uses.

The Right Way to Use Hashtags

  • #followfriday or #FF is one of the most popular hashtags. Every Friday you can suggest to your follows whom they should follow as well. This is a great way to promote colleagues and influences.
  • Hashtags are an easy way to live-tweet an event with other people there and share information to those who couldn’t make it.
  • You can save hashtags that you view frequently (e.g. I always track the #brewers during baseball season to get up-to-date news). On social media dashboards like Hootsuite you can save your favorite hashtags on a stream.

The Wrong Way to Use Hashtags

With these tips I encourage you to integrate hashtags into tweets that you’d like others to read. I also encourage you to search hashtags of things that you enjoy (e.g. music, sports teams, television shows, etc). When done correctly they are a great way to gain followers and find people follow.

The best way to start something new is to look what other people have been doing and what is making them successful. How companies handle their social media sites can prevent customers from or encourage customers to purchase a product. I’ll be outlining a great Twitter presence by Whole Foods Market and a great Facebook presence by Kohl’s.

Whole Foods – This company is mostly known as a healthy market for customers to shop at. In the age of social media it is getting praise for it’s presence on Twitter. Whole Foods’ main Twitter page is maintained by one employee: Global Online Community Manager Michael Bepko. The account has over 2 million followers, half a million following and over 28 thousand tweets. The tweets contain news, recipes, food facts and active conversations with customers/followers. Not only is there a main Twitter account for the company, there are also accounts for topical tweets, metro areas and every city that a Whole Foods is located in. That is pretty impressive to have such a national presence and a local one as well. Twitter is often used by companies to only talk about themselves and link to their website while Whole Foods does that with its recipes  and news, it also directly speaks with customers.

Kohl’s – Although there are articles out there about Kohl’s efficient Facebook presence I actually wanted to write about them because I had a personal experience with their company and their Facebook page. About a week ago I was doing a little online retail therapy and found a great deal on Rachael Ray cookware. What also enticed me was their online promotion for free shipping and 20% off. Unfortunately, the website was not applying the free shipping. Being the frugal, border-line Extreme Couponer, I wasn’t going to make my purchase without getting that free shipping. I went directly to their Facebook page and noticed other customers reporting the same thing. The customer service representative(s) replied to every single comment with an apology and directions to email them with an order number so they could get a credit. I did, and received my credit the day after my order shipped out. Color me happy. It is much harder to maintain a Facebook page because users can post comments for the public to see. From what I can tell Kohl’s does not delete any complaints. They embrace them and use them to help the company improve. They also do much more for their over 6 million fans including styles & trends and Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program.

There are so many more companies doing it right on social media sites. I encourage you to look at your favorite company’s sites a little bit harder and look at what is working and what is not. Use their successes to help influence you make yours a success as well.

When it comes to learning anything new it is always best to start at the absolute beginning; get the basics and always keep them in mind while you are learning.

As I begin this journey into the blogging world I am going to do just that: start at the beginning. That beginning is how to blog and how to sustain a good blog.

In doing research I stumbled upon ProBlogger and it’s main author Darren Rowse. In 2006 he compiled a list of How to Blog: Blogging Tips for Beginners. It is a great resource for any type of blog you may come to writing. The one section that caught my attention is how to write good content. Good, unique content is the driving force for a successful blog. He summed it up quite well by saying, “‘for a blog to be successful your content needs to be useful and unique to your readers'” and “‘Start with the customer – find out what they want and give it to them.’”

So, for my blog content I decided to look at social media and personal v. professional: how to balance both and how to know when to use what. This is a subject  very close to me. I am a UW-Oshkosh Journalism student graduating this May. Social media has been integrated into almost all of my classes in some way. I have used social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) mainly for personal use but as I look to my future and the possibility of using it to enhance an organization I am looking to transition into a more business-esque approach.

I welcome you to join me on my journey and learn along with me.