Online PR and reputation management

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shutterstock_43532716In today’s world, online PR isn’t just about coverage from professional magazines and media sources. Brands also get coverage from the user-generated content that exists on blogs, forums, online communities and by using the other social media tools that are at their disposal.

This increase in online content can help with search engine rankings, website traffic and the spread of word-of-mouth. It can also help businesses get a better understanding about what their customers are saying, be it positive or negative. In fact, the online conversation should be monitored closely so that if any negativity occurs it can be detected,  qualified and responded to in the appropriate manner to ensure the reputation of a brand is not damaged.

But just how do you manage a brand when people are talking on multiple online platforms all around the world? And how do you use the social web to increase your visibility and coverage?

In June we’re sponsoring an Online PR seminar which will help you learn how to use social media as part of your online PR strategy.

Organised by B2B Marketing , the seminar will teach you how to:

  • Develop a ‘push’ strategy so you can better manage your brand’s reputation and influence market opinion.
  • Monitor online conversations so you can engage your audience and develop strategies to manage your reputation online.
  • Increase your visibility on search engines so you can drive more relevant and better quality traffic to your website.
  • Understand how to use social media monitoring monitoring tools to track media coverage and measure ROI.

One of our directors, Charlie Osmond, will cover how to develop a social media strategy to support PR activity. He’ll also cover how to use social media monitoring tools to track media coverage and help maintain your reputation online.

Other speakers at the seminar include Melanie Seasons and Charley Hayes from Online Fire and Sam Dorney from IAS B2B Marketing.

Book your place here or call +44 (0)20 7438 1379.

Twitter and Facebook follow Foursquare - 2010 is the year of location-based social media tools

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Where is @mattrhodes?It is a truth universally acknowledged that everybody makes predictions at the end of a year about ‘the big thing for next year’. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong. And sometimes you only really start to notice trends and change when you are in them. In social media it is becoming clearer and clearer that the big thing for 2010 is location-based tools.

We’ve posted before about how businesses can use Foursquare and only yesterday about Fourwhere, the Foursquare and Google Maps mashup. Foursquare is a great tool that lets you share where you are and add tips and reviews of cafes, shops, restaurants, bars, theatres. Anywhere really. From a business perspective it can offer invaluable insight into who visits your business, how often, what they think about it and where else they go. All good stuff. Of course, there is a serious downside to location-based tools (as we saw with Please Rob Me) and people should be aware of and sensible about any information they share in social media.

Why are location-based social media tools growing?

Location based social media tools are possible because more and more people own mobile phones that are GPS enabled. Phones that can tell you where you are and plot this information on a map. This is then data that can be shared with others or used in conjunction with discussions, reviews and other information to build a resource and community that is location-dependent.

There are many instances where location can add significant value to an online community:

  • People reviewing cafes and bars in a certain area and recommending places people might like to visit
  • People sharing tips of good and safe running routes
  • Groups of local activists looking to organise themselves
  • Parents wanting to find other parents near them to help organise safe walking to school
  • People wantingto identify and report on things that need mending in their neighbourhood
  • Friends wanting to share their location and tell others where they are

The utility of location in social media is huge and there are many cases where tying location to reviews, discussions and other content will really help, either for those generating the content or those looking for and benefiting from it. Adding in location could also save us from updates that say “Iam at…” with that information instead being tagged as in the tweet above. You can use the update to say something that has real semantic value rather than just indicating where you are.

What’s happening and what’s coming

Location-based tools are not new but they are growing and new developments are happening all the time as people use them more and in different ways. Some important developments recently discussed are as follows.

  • Twitter: Twitter has for some time allowed users to tag their updates with their location details - this has mainly been done through third-party apps, such as Tweetdeck, and to date locations have not been shown on Twitter’s own website. Briefly this week they started showing location on Tweets on their site - with maps overlaying tweets on both the individual tweet page and on the main stream. This update was quickly disabled but adding this back in would certainly add significant value to the Twitter site and pave the way for search for people and issues that are trending ‘near me’ - based on where people are when they share their information and not where they say they are in their location.
  • Foursquare: Foursquare is growing in use and in the ways in which people are using it. The most significant recent development is increased analytics for businesses. They have recently introduced a dashboard for businesses to see information about who had ‘checked-in’ at their location. This reports on when people check-in, how they communicate this (do they share it on Twitter, for example), the people who visit them most often and those who visit most recently. This is useful and valuable information for any brand as it lets you start to understand your customers in a way that you haven’t previously been able to do. Brands should be taking advantage of Foursquare and of the ability to control their profiles (adding in ‘Staff’ for example) and should use this dashboard and analytics in a clever way to inform their understanding of their customers and identification of their advocates.
  • Facebook: Perhaps the most interesting announcement this week is talk of developments at Facebook to include location features. The speculation is that location will accompany status updates and changes to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions last November appear to have been made in preparation for this (“When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post.”) Sharing location in Facebook status updates would highlight both the importance of mobile use of Facebook and of the spread of location-based social media tools. It will also add yet another set of data that Facebook captures, can report on and can be used by other users to find people, information and discussions. It will be interesting to watch both what Facebook release and how users use it, but it is likely to yet again highlight the importance of search to Facebook as the amount of data and content it captures grows.

Why Drupal is a great social media platform (in layman’s terms)

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shutterstock_41177428Drupal, Drupal, Drupal. Ever since I organised the “Drupal for Doughnuts” gathering during social media week back in January, all I seem to hear about is Drupal.

At our nfp and membership breakfast seminar a few weeks ago, Bertie Bosredon from Breast Cancer Care was talking about the benefits of Drupal as a content management system. And while some of the US government’s various administrative bodies have been using Drupal as their CMS system for some time now, the big news for Drupal in the UK was when Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt unveiled Data.gov.uk, a new government website allowing access to public sector data for mere mortals like myself. The Data.gov.uk website uses Drupal web technologies to encourage people to create and manipulate data in clear, imaginative ways - a great validation for Drupal’s adoption of the semantic web.

Here at FreshNetworks we have always believed in the power of Drupal, which is why we’ve chosen to use it as our social media software platform.

Now I’ve heard, time and again, from our Tech team about why Drupal is the best choice for developing online communities, but being a layman and not a Drupaler (I work in Marketing), I thought it might be beneficial to explain, in simple terms, my top 5 reasons for using Drupal as a social media platform:

1. Drupal supports the tools and modules needed to develop a successful online community

In order to engage your community and get them talking to each other you need to provide them with an online arena to interact. With a bit of techie know-how, Drupal can be used to build the various tools that are proven to encourage online conversation, including:

  • Blogs: a person or multiple people can publish posts and comment on posts on a regular basis.
  • Forums: an area for a structured group discussion about an idea, theme or topic.
  • Profiles: people can publish information about themselves to help engage users and make the experience more “real”.
  • Wikis: several people can jointly edit a document or group of documents to encourage collaboration and teamwork.

In fact, we’ve used Drupal to develop a variety of different tools and modules so that we can alter the function of the community depending on the needs of our clients.

2. Drupal is open source

Drupal is an open source platform. This is a fancy way of saying that the source code for the software is published and made available to the general public so that everyone can access it.

To me, the benefit of an open source platform is that it is supported by a large developer community. This means that if you use Drupal as a social media platform it’ll be improving all the time - vital in the fast-moving era of social media marketing. And as Drupal is quite a mature platform, it has been through several different version releases so it’s an extremely secure system.

3. Drupal is highly scalable when coupled with a good hosting platform

In a nutshell, Drupal has history of running big websites with lots of content. So you are free to add videos, articles, newsletters and downloads to your online community platform without fear of it crashing.  It also means you can keep on increasing the size of your community and its members.

4. Drupal has great SEO

You don’t have to do much to Drupal for it to be SEO friendly - it has good SEO straight out of the box. You can easily add in page titles, metatags and URLS to give your online community more SEO juice.  Drupal can also be integrated with google analytics so that you can track and monitor the success of your online community.

5. It’s easy to add, edit and change content in Drupal

Once your online community has been built you will want to add, edit and change content on the site. Speaking as someone who barely knows their cascading style sheets from their linen bed sheets, Drupal allows you to pretty much create and update content without any programming knowledge. This means that whoever manages your online community should have no problems changing, adding and altering things, making life easier and freeing up more time for other stuff like growing the community and managing online reputation.

Take a look for yourself at some notable brands running Drupal sites:

  • Warner Bros. Records
  • Sony BMG Myplay
  • FedEx Newsroom

Social media for small businesses 3: Blogging and building your brand

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Image by robpatrick via Flickr

Many small businesses are unsure about what to put on their website beyond their services team and contact details. They know they need a website but don’t always have the time, resources or content to add to it on a regular basis. It can be daunting for them, and the website can quickly become out of date. Too many websites for small businesses can date and look stale. And this is easy to recitfy.

Blogging is a useful tool for any business. It can help you to show your expertise on a topic. It can provide a less formal way for you to share your thoughts, experiences and ideas. And it can allow you an easy and versatile way to add up-to-date content and thoughts to any website. For any small business this can be a useful tool.

Imagine you run a small chain of hairdressing salons. You are busy, as all small business owners are, but understand the importance of your online presence to attract new customers to walk through your doors. Any organisation, however small, will have things that it is passionate about, and things that it can talk about in social media. In your role as owner of these hairdressing salons, you spend your time split between working in store and visiting suppliers, competitors and events and trade shows where you see the latest techniques and the latest products. Rather than have a simple, and soon dated, website that just states where your salon are and when they are open, you could use blogging to share these experiences and to share your passion for hairdressing.

You could blog each week about the latest trends, you could encourage a trainee in one salon to write about their experiences, you could review new products or highlight new haircuts. Writing a blog is easy for any business, it just needs structure. Our salon could include a review every Monday, highlight new trends on a Wednesday and have a trainee’s diary on a Friday. Every week. Easily and quickly you can start adding 1,000-2,000 words of relevant and interesting content being added to your site each week. Rich in keywords that will help people find your site more easily (and so lead to more people visiting your salons). And showing your thought-leadership and knowledge in the market.

For many small businesses, blogs are a tool that can help them punch above their weight. The content, themes and information that they share can lead them to be thought of as much larger or much more established than they really are. Blogging provides an easy way for organisations to share their thoughts and their content. And people will respect you for this.

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here

Social media for small businesses 2: Making the most of Twitter

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Image by clownbastard via Flickr

Twitter is a great way to reach and engage people online. Many people think that Twitter is a number’s game. That the more people you follow, and the more people that follow you, the better. This can sometimes be true, it very much depends on what you want to achieve with social media. For many small businesses, Twitter can be a great way to engage niche or smaller groups that you might never otherwise have been able to, or been able to afford to, reach.

Twitter works well with large groups but it can be particularly powerful with small groups. Imagine you are a small firm of accountants in a large city. You have a certain set of potential customers but there are people that are never going to be right for you - either because they are too small, too big, too spread out or for other reasons. Any business knows its target customer base and then wants to find ways to reach out to them.

Twitter lets you target these people via shared content. Taking this small accountancy firm as an example, their customers will all share some things in common. They are all likely to be in the same region, of a similar size and potentially in the same industry. They are all facing some of the same issues and our accountancy firm will help them all in similar ways. Twitter lets you bring people together who share similar issues like this.

Small businesses like this can start using Twitter, not to tell us what’s happening in their office (to be fair there is only so much of interest to the outside world there) but to talk about these issues. Provide a small but powerful resource of links to news stories, events, discussions or pieces of advice on these topics. Then start to promote it. Run your feed of your tweets on your website and in the email signatures for all your employees, put the details on your business cards and your notepaper and other marketing touchpoints. And talk to people about what you’re doing. If you meet potential customers tell them you bring together issues that might be of interest to them on Twitter and send them your way.

Slowly but carefully you will start to build a following of people who are interested in these issues. And if you have chosen issues that are of interest to and unite your target customer base you will be beginning to engage new customers. You will be providing  a real service to them and have a reason to speak to them, in our example, about your accountancy services too.

You can read all our posts on social media for small businesses here