CIPRThe UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations ((CIPR) @CIPR_UK) this week released it’s best practice guidelines for social media monitoring and listening. The document, which is free to download and was prepared by the institute’s own Social Media Advisory Board (#CIPRSM), gives details on what is social media monitoring, the paid-for and free tools that are available and the how to create monitoring workflows.

Of course you would expect public, private or not-for-profit (NGO) organisations to be good at listening, but in fact it is a skill that is having to be re-learnt.

Until the rise of online and social networking, most public relations professionals relied on traditional broadcast media – print, radio or TV, to engage and accordingly shape perception amongst the client’s target audiences. That meant engaging primarily with journalists.

For many PRs the only weapon that they had in the armoury – primarily because PR was exclusively seen as media relations, was the press release. Weather it was in-house or agency-side the press release was the only tool that others in our organisations saw us use. And success was defined by the coverage secured, always measured by that awful Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) standard that the CIPR has recently disowned.

The rise of the internet changed all that. Very much like mobile is changing everything again.

Today people flock to forums and social networks to share positive or negative thoughts and experiences, to connect with one another, to create communities about anything and everything. As a result the web has changed the news and publishing industries as much as it has changed public relations profession. A issue can become a crisis in the amount of time that it takes an influencer to share a story with his or her followers.

All the data that is being shared has created an opportunity for organisations to improve how they listen and how they use that information to meet the expectations from their respective audience groups. But listening is not just an art-form, but a science that can give competitive advantage to companies that know what to listen for and how to use that data.

As a result the CIPR decided to produce a document that would give best practice advice to members and non-members alike. It is not designed just for PRs or social media consultants. It is a document that aims to highlight to management and c-suite staff the value of knowledge and how to gain that from conversations taking place online. As Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is Power.”

If you do have any questions then do reach out to me (@twofourseven) or members of the #CIPRSM panel. We are here to help.

A copy of the document can be viewed and downloaded below.

Introducing Facebook Graph Search
Introducing Facebook Graph Search

Facebook recently launched Graph Search, a facility that will allow users to find places based on their friends activity on the social network.

Graph Search aims to deliver a very different type of search from what Google offers. The objective for Facebook is to give users recommendations based on what your friends like and talk about.

For example, if you search on Facebook for a Curry House in London, the results you would get will be based on your friends Likes and Check-ins to Indian Restaurants in London. And if by any chance your friends haven’t been to a curry house in London, then Facebook will give you web results from Bing, with whom it has partnered.

The partnership means that we are going to have to spend more SEO time on Bing.

Writing for SearchEngineWatch.com Ben Straley (@bstraley) says that the, ‘simple rule of thumb is that the more content that gets shared, liked, or commented on through Facebook, the greater the chances of discovery of that content through Graph Search.’

How is Facebook going to offer me the best results to my search queries?

Facebook is currently the biggest social network in the world with over 1 billion active accounts. More than half use Facebook on a mobile device.

Every users journey through the network is recorded, giving it a wealth of data that it uses for advertising revenue.

According to Europe v. Facebook founder and law student Max Schrems data that the social network collects includes:

  • Your friends and family
  • The IP address used from every location you’ve used to log into Facebook
  • Dates and name changes
  • Your messages and comments
  • Every event you’ve been invited to
  • Check-in to places
  • The Pages and comments that you ‘Liked’
  • Camera metadata including date/time and GPS

How will Graph Search affect the reputation of my business?

Graph Search for Journalists
Graph Search for Journalists

Facebook Pages can be set up by anyone. If you are not on Facebook then there is chance that a supporter or detractor has already set up a Page. And if they haven’t, Facebook’s deal with Wikipedia enables it to deliver Wikipedia entries on companies or brands that do not yet have a presence on the network.

Remember, an unofficial Page can attract as many people, even more than an official Page.

Certain media outlets will look at content on Pages, official or otherwise, to see if they can find case studies during a crisis.

Journalists are really going to like Graph Search. In a note on the Facebook + Journalists page Journalist Program Manager Vadim Lavrusik says, ‘because graph search is in early stages of development, the first version focuses on four main areas: people, photos, places, and interests.’

Before adding, ‘the new search enables journalists to do richer searches when trying to find experts for stories. For example, say you’re doing a story on a specific company, and you’re looking to interview someone who works at the company’s New York office, you could do this by searching for, “People who work at ACME Inc. in New York,” to find potential employees to reach out to.

You could even make the search more specific to find people who work at the company with specific titles, for example. This could make it easier to find potential sources and experts to reach out to for stories you’re working on.’

What can I do to manage my reputation on Facebook?

First, and above all, offer a good service. Nothing works like recognising your customers. If they like you, then encourage them to share their praise, because if they don’t they’ll be equally happy to share their dislike.

In PR, the saying goes that good news is repeated 3 times, while bad news 11.

Social media though does amplify bad news. People like to share and shame. Not being on Facebook just means that you are outside the room while people talk about you.

If you already have a Page, then Facebook has shared a few tips about SEO to help you when Graph Search goes live. These include:

  • The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the “About” section all help people find your business and should be shared on Facebook.
  • If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.
  • Focus on attracting the right fans to your Page and on giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis.

Remember, your presence, activity and authority on social media are signals that help your SEO. Make sure that you own it and can influence the perception.

Does Graph Search mean that Facebook Likes finally have a value?

Hypothetically yes. A Like is one of the key signals that Facebook will use when they filter data to answer your question. But, there is a difference between Liking a Page but never commenting, and commenting and never Liking a Page.

In any case, the Likes from people in your network are the ones that are going to count. Likes from fake Facebook users should be considered a waste of money.

Instagram, here today, gone tomorrow?
Instagram, here today, gone tomorrow?

Everybody loves a start-up. They are new, agile and the so-called ‘gurus’ like to describe them disruptive. The problem though is that many often lack basic business experience – common sense leads many to be here today and gone tomorrow.

Enter Instagram, which was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010. Instagram was one of the first photo sharing and social networking services that enabled users to ‘take a picture, apply a digital filter to it, and share it on a variety of social networking services, including its own.’

Instagram was a runaway success. Within it’s first year the application had over 5 million users, a figure that grew to 30 million by April 2012 when Facebook approach the company and bought it for a cool $1 billion. Today, Instagram has 100 million registered users.

Facebook though isn’t going to buy such a company without thinking of how to monitise it.

Which is why on 5th December this year Kevin Systrom announced at Le Web that Instagram was going to block Twitter from displaying photos as Twitter Cards. This announcement didn’t go down that well with users who shared their photo’s on Twitter.

The removing of Instragram from Twitter cards was nothing in comparison to the announcement on 18th December that the company was changing its terms and conditions. Under the new policy, the company would have the rights to sell users’ photos to advertisers without “compensation or notification.”

This announcement was described by users as a ‘suicide note‘, especially after Instagram announced that the only way to opt-out was by deleting a users account before 16 January 2013.

Instagramers took to Twitter to denounce the new terms and conditions. High profile photographers deleted their accounts and the media, rightly so, went negative.

Kevin Systrom took to the company blog to try and manage the crisis. In a post he appeared to claim that users had misinterpreted its revised terms of service. He blamed the furore on “confusing” choice of language.

Blaming the language is an odd strategy, as legal documents are supposed to be written in plain English. And in any case, any change in terms of use should have gone through both compliance and PR.

What is stranger is that given that this was not the first time that a photo sharing site had both been caught trying to claim copyright over users content, it was odd for Systrom to blame ‘confusing language.’

Let’s remember that in May 2011 Twitpic, which went mainstream after a user captured a US Airways plane crash landing on the Hudson River, announced a change in its terms and conditions. The changes sought to secure copyright over all images on the network. A backlash ensued with users hastingtaging #twitpic #delete.

Twitpic founder Noah Everett apologised on the site’s blog for the “lack of clarity” in the language used. Photo sharing network Plixi was also caught in a similar situation when entered into a deal with World Entertainment News.

Fact is that many photo-sharing sites have tried to monitise their business by trying to grab exclusive copyrights from users.

Networks such as the Yahoo-owned Flickr tried something different though. In May 2009 Flickr entered into a deal with Getty Images. As part of the deal Getty can approach users in order to secure a deal on an image that they have taken. Users can then take anything between 20 and 30 per cent of sales through the renowned global picture agency.

And Getty is not the only site that offers to pay users. The Agence France Press backed Citizenside acts as an agent for pictures that are sold, often passing 50 per cent to the user.

So the question to Instagram and Facebook is, why try and grab everything and then blame the lawyers, when you could have set the scene for crowdsourcing opportunity for amateur photographers?

Photo sharing sites have tried to grab copyright from users in the past and failed. Perhaps, sharing money earned would have enhanced Instagram’s reputation.

Perhaps speaking to your PR, Instagram could have saved themselves a lot of grief.

As it stands, and according to Andrew Beaujon at Poynter, ‘unhappy Instragram users are still suspending their accounts.’

Google Author Rank - Own Your Content
Google Author Rank – Own Your Content and Share Your Expertise

Last year Google quietly began to support ‘authorship markup’, which the search engine giant described as ‘a way to connect authors with their content on the web’.  Initially, the authorship markup was seen as exclusively benefiting journalists and bloggers.  Google stated in it’s blog post that, ‘if an author at The New York Times has written dozens of articles, using this markup, the webmaster can connect these articles with a New York Times author page.’  But, what about the content that PR professionals write? What about the press releases, features, briefing documents, blog posts of industry influencers?

Public relations professionals are responsible for developing and writing content that pitches a story to specific communities and audiences. More often than not, this collateral is nameless and as such acts as background for respected writers in the public domain.

So, What Is Google Authorship Markup and Google Author Rank?

Google Authorship Markup is very simple.  It is a basic coding procedure that allow authors to connect to their content online.  The purpose is to help people find and ‘read content written by credible and knowledgeable individuals.’

Meanwhile, SEOmoz state that AuthorRank is how Google will assign authority based on a number of key criteria:

  • Average PageRank of an author’s content
  • Reciprocal connections between high AuthorRank authors
  • The level of on-site engagement – comment’s, responses, etc
  • Third-party authority indicators – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, presence on Wikipedia
  • A Google +1‘s of author’s content
  • Number of people in your Google Circles and proportion that score a high AuthorRank

When you put it all together you start to see the importance that AuthorRank delivers individuals with real world expertise – thought leaders.

Writing plenty of posts is no longer a way of getting up Google’s rankings.  What you willneed is the support of a network of influencers to see and read your posts and give them a ‘+1’ endorsement.

How is Google Author Rank relevant to my brand or company?

Google Authorship Markup and AuthorRank are going to transform the way in which niche thought leaders and experts are found online.  If it is your job to help build the reputation and authority of individual industry, political or academic individuals then you are going to need to know about how Google is changing the search game.

Reputations are built on authority.  Those with increased authority command a higher share of voice in the communities that they are members of.

You have to remember that online there are many voices fighting for the attention of individuals that in a quick second make a decision based on the authority and credibility of those that they read.

Companies, organisations and individuals compete every day to stand out from the crowd.  They do this by sharing knowledge, expertise and solutions.

Look within your own organisation and you will see individuals with specific insight.  It doesn’t have to be expertise at a global level, it could just be at a local level and within a niche sector.  Audiences are everywhere and it is by understanding how to best deliver your experts that you will meet the needs of your employer and audience.

Owning that authority online today is as important as owning it in offline media. This requires specific strategies that position spokespeople as leaders in their individual areas of authority.

Ok, so how do I help build authority online?

Firstly, continue to write good content.  In fact, great content that demonstrates expertise and gets people to share it within their own circles and communities.

Asses the material that you currently write, such as press releases and features.  Traditionally they are seen as ‘announcements’ written for the media.  Move away from a stale style of writing towards an engaging style for your audience that better resounds with the community you are working to position your expert in.

Remember to attribute copy to experts within your business that you are trying to position as thought-leaders.  It’s what newsrooms do, which is why you should.

Consider using brand ambassadors who have a presence online to guess blog.

As a PR, don’t let SEO’s, IT staff and web teams promote your content online.  Learn their skills and keep remembering the strategy and bigger picture.  Coding and SEO are a must-have skills for 21st Century PRs.

Oh, and you are going to need a new social network.  There is no if’s or but’s, you need to link your content to a authored Google+ account.  While Google remains the number one search engine, Google+ is going to become the must participate network for everybody who has expertise and wants to be seen online.

Google is changing business and communications.  Authorship markup and AuthorRank is a huge opportunity for PR.

Will all this make a difference to search rankings?

SearchEngineLand.com confirms that ‘there’s a hidden benefit to having authorship status.’  This being that if you click on a ‘authored story’ in Google search results, go to said site, read the story for, say, two minutes and then return to the search results, you will see a ‘more by the author’ area with 3 extra stories.

So how do I get a verified author status?

Simple, click on this link and follow Google’s simple instructions to get your author profile.

If you need to know more get in touch by email and we can talk strategies and solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ticketing for the #London2012 Olympics came under fire this week after pictures of hundreds of #EmptySeats at multiple venues where athletes where competing appeared on broadcast coverageSports fans at the sites themselves also started to post images on Twitter, forcing LOCOG and the IOC to embark on a face-saving exercise which appeared to backfire after Lord Coe contradicted these images by claiming that venues were ‘stuffed to the gunnels.’

The crisis of course has started way before the opening ceremony when UK residents found it difficult to secure tickets for events, leaving many to question the ticketing process.

At a press conference LOCOG did their best to steer the public anger away from sponsors and towards the Olympic Family by stating that the empty seats were in areas reserved for accredited sporting officials, media and athletes.  That though didn’t satisfy the thousands of people that had no luck in the various pre-Olympic ticket ballots that took place.

The standard rebute from LOCOG didn’t do well with the public, who used the #EmptySeats Twitter hashtag to post pictures of half filled venues.  Even the IOC’s own Twitter account posted a picture showing a less that filled Table Tennis event.

Social-media has changed the game.  Crisis spread in real-time.  Twitter gathers people who empathise with the issue.  This forces organisations today to have to resolve issues quickly.  UK Prime Minister David Cameron was asked about the seating fiasco while travelling to the Olympic Park on the Tube.

There is little room for spin in today’s connected world where the audience questions every defensive statement being issued.

Today, amongst PRs, there is a need of real-time forensic ability to analyse the audience and offer counsel.  Some might see this as pandering to the community..  It is nothing like that.  It is more a case of delivering the transparency that has been absent for so long.