Non-Profits and the Misunderstanding of Social Media

Recently it felt like I went to hell and back. Was I at the dentist? No.. Was I dealing with the IRS? Getting close! Was it my morning commute on the NYC subway? Guess again. My hell was trying to convince a non-profit organization the value of using social media for their business. That, my friends is hell.

A month ago I was asked by an associate to help a non-profit increase their social media presence. The non-profit provides assistance and advocacy for low income adults.They were on all the right social networking platforms so it seems they had some understanding of the value of social media. The problem was the content used and the lack of promotion on each platform. Facebook posts were erratic and sometimes didn’t have anything to do with the agency. Their Twitter account was underutilized with only 37 followers. They were also on Pinterest. When I asked what they used Pinterest for, I was informed the agency wanted to simply get on all the known social media sites. They had yet to figure how it would benefit them. So basically they were on it because it was there.

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After recommendations on how to transform their social media platforms, I was greeted with pushback from the executive director. He surmised it would be a wasted effort and they didn’t have the time or staff to insert content. It may also have something to do with the knowledge that while I was explaining how to use social media, he gave me a look like I was speaking alien.

Although I make light of it, the reality is, when it comes to non-profit organizations they often need to be convinced of not only the value of social media but how it can assist with their bottom line. The problem is non-profits have a misunderstanding of what social media can do for them. From my recent experience it became clear to me the missed opportunities nonprofits have in not embracing social media. For those who have attempted to use it, often it’s not understood how to effectively allow it to be a benefit to the organization. Another barrier is the limited resources nonprofits have and not having the ability to maximize the resources they have to still create a relevant social media platform.

There are many advantages to having a strong social media existence and similar to for-profit businesses, if done properly, it can increase the bottom line. These are what I think are the common misunderstandings nonprofits have when it comes to social media

1) Assuming it won’t help with generating revenue images (16)

The truth is that in today’s access to information everything is searched on the internet. When a non-profit solicit the public for money through fundraising campaigns it’s a very high chance the person being asked will research the company on the internet before donating. This is especially true for those who know very little about who or what the non-profit is. Having no social presence, one is less likely to donate simply because they have lack of information about the organization.
To better understand, recognize the fact we now immediately go online when choosing something like a restaurant or even a power drill. We want to see what other people are saying before we make our decision. Using the power drill example, you’re less than likely to buy a drill if you see no information about it on the internet. In fact, you even get a little suspicious about its absence. The same is true for businesses. For non-profits conducting fundraising, it will add to your financial campaigns as it provides a bridge for someone to learn and hopefully, donate to your cause.

2) Posting something simply to post

Many nonprofits and small businesses have the idea that something should be posted everyday on their social media platforms. It’s true you always want fresh content but is it relevant to your organization and its mission? Posting ‘selfies’ or inspirational quotes are good for your personal page but should it take up territory on your business page? If so is it meeting your company’s objective?
Thought should go into who your audience is and a remembrance that not everything should go on your business social media profile. Sometimes a cute picture or a joke is best left for your personal social media. And defiantly stay away from hot topics like religion and politics unless that’s your company’s trade. Those are the two subjects everyone has a different opinion on and standing behind the wrong one can drive people away, not only from your site but even your organization.

3.) Forgetting to tell stories

In viewing a known nonprofit’s Facebook page, I noticed they had posted a picture of an smiling elderly woman in workout gear. There was no text or any information that explained why they chose the picture and who she was. When I asked I was informed she was a recently retired client who just battled Cancer and because of the support the agency provided, she not only felt better, she started to teach low-impact aerobics to seniors. They should have shared that information within the post. It’s an amazing story and not only do I want to learn more about her but I also want to know about the services she received from the agency.
Telling stories have so much impact and allows the viewing to both identify and create curiosity for a company. And again, if I was looking to donate, I can see the success stories which would probably make me compelled to donate, based on the story I just read.
And when telling a story allow readers to conversate back. Social media is not simply pushing information out. It’s also listening to what your audience has to say.

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4) Not knowing the difference between a business page and a personal page on Facebook

I’ve seen this mistake happen many times with nonprofit’s. Someone within the company recognizes they don’t have a Facebook page so they create one. Only problem is, they created it as if it was personal page. The difference is that a Facebook business page has no updating newsfeed of what people had for dinner, the movie they just saw or the dispute they’re having with their landlord, for example. A business page is static and only has information which is provided by the agency and benefits the agency. A business page on Facebook also provide great measuring tools to show you if people are viewing your post, page visits and activity. Tools, which the personal Facebook page don’t provide.

5) Believing youth rules over experience 

Because some nonprofits see little value in social media, they’ll often let a young staff member manage it assuming because of their age they know best about social media. And worst, they don’t monitor what’s being posted. Yes young people have knowledge of social media but age shouldn’t be a factor. Experience should. An inexperienced person will probably approach a business social media the same way they would their personal. Content could reflect their personal views and not the agency and if no one is monitoring, the messaging (if there is one) is all over the place. Age shouldn’t be the factor of who is managing your social media. The responsibility should be placed on the person who knows how to push information that communicates your organization to your public.

6) Attempting to be on all social media platforms

Some organizations have the mindset they have to be on all social media sites. What ends up happening is that a ball is dropped and one or two platforms are overlooked with no fresh content. A company may have Google+, yet only post once every three months. What’s the point? Also it’s not reaching the intended audience because no research was done to determine what social media platforms their audience are using.
Because the social media platforms are there it doesn’t mean they all has to be used. The best practice is to first research and determine where to focus your energies. With research, a nonprofit can identify what social media platform works for them and what doesn’t. This is beneficial as time and effort won’t be wasted in contributing to a media your audience is not reading or responding to. In the world of social media, sometimes less equals more.


In part two of this article I will look at other misunderstanding nonprofits have and would love to hear what others think. I will also highlight examples of how other nonprofits have used social media to their advantage.

In the meantime, please share your advice on how nonprofits can integrate social media into their business strategy.


Am I Still SociallyStupid?

Readers of this blog may be wondering why I chose to name it Socially Stupid. As a current student in the Public Relation and Corporate Communication Master’s program at NYU, it’s has a double meaning. The first is to reflect my own learning of this world we call social media and all the conjoining pieces of it that contributes to marketing and public relations. The second meaning of it comes from the observation of existing entities using social media in practical and sometimes troublesome ways, which results in leaning lessons. So as my current classes come to an end, and recognizing this blog originated as a class assignment, I have to ask myself should I continue blogging.

Looking back at my journaling of social media, I see my evolution as I discussed a subject that I find fascinating. The world is now so ingrained by social media and there’s a huge benefit to knowing how to effectively use it whether it’s for personal or business reason. I understand the approach of social media is like jumping into unknown waters. You may not know how deep it is or how far out it will take you. But as they instruct you in swim classes, simply take a breath and tread. You won’t learn everything about the social media environment in a day but with enough practice you’ll be an Olympic swimmer.

Rather than rehash previous posts and turn this blog into a best of, I’d like to share some of the lessons learned as I blog.

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1)      Social Media Changed Us, We Didn’t Change Social Media– I recognize that social media and its many platforms have transformed the way we communicate, interact and engage. As discussed in the book Groundswell, we now expect two way communication with companies. To be part of the conversation businesses must adapt. As I look at how to integrate social media and business, I understand there must be a mandate in place to fully commit to the process and not have it on the peripheral of marketing. The approach also shouldn’t be entirely based on the assumption that if I build it they will come, but exploring ways to involve the community I’m reaching out to. As a blogger on this subject I know that it’s an extension of my experience-similar to any social marketing campaign.


2)      Never to Old- I have a greater understanding that there is no age limit on knowing social media. Not part of the Millennial generation and remembering how in my era, a ‘selfie’ involved snapping a Polaroid and waving the picture in the air to speed up the developing process. When it comes to this field, although the youngsters can run circles around me, I quickly learned how to keep up. Many established business have successfully shifted their way of thinking and are literally leaving previous competitors in the dust. I think the biggest mistake is for a seasoned professional to believe the only value Facebook and other platforms have is to upload food pictures or post irrelevant update status.  You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water as traditional marketing can effectively be inserted within a creative social marketing campaign. As I have explored the world of social media through my blogging and class practices, I agree that when it comes to this field, age is nothing but a number.

3)      Finding My Voice– One of my biggest fears writing about the social media world was less about what I was going to say and more aligned with, how I was going to say it. I currently have two existing published blogs and in each I have a strong voice. I know what I’m going to share and how to express it. New to scribing the social media field I felt I was in my infancy and had yet learned to walk. And as I progressed and moved into the awkwardness of my keystrokes I was transported back to my high school years, wondering if readers were going to like me. Looking back I would say that my first two blogs were written with others in mind. The writing felt forced and it seemed the words belonged to someone else. To find my voice I had to stop writing for others and approach the topic the way I would like to see it or read it. In other words I had to write for me. It was that mindset that allowed the doors of creativity rush out and help me discover my voice. Now when I write I have less apprehension and anxiety of sharing my views and thoughts of social media. I may have Peter Brady squeaky voice moments but if I write from the heart, my voice will be as deep as James Earl Jones.

4)      ‘Papa Don’t Preach’- Stealing a line from Madonna, it was important that I didn’t come out the gate waving my finger and preaching to the choir. I had to remember my blog will be seen by others who have years and years of experience in the social media world. The last thing they need is a pipsqueak like me telling them how to behave. So as I shared my perspective I learned to redraft advice and adapt it to my own learning lessons. I feel giving a human feel of messages learned will go further than having a know-it-all attitude.

5)      Bite My Tongue- Joining the Twitter crowd and knowing how I sometimes have a wicked sense of humor, I was really nervous on this instantaneous mechanism called Twitter. I knew that anything I wrote was archived and once the send button was hit, it was too late for regrets. As I progress in class and recognizing I will be in in this field, I accepted the fear and used it as a way to conduct my life on and off social media. Many careers have ended because of 140 characters and I had no intentions of joining that expanding list. I hope I applied this with my blog as I set out to do no harm. When you see ‘sociallystupid’ stuff, the will to insert destructive comments post haste may get me brownie points for creativity but in the long run it’s not worth the harm to reputation.

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 There are many more lessons to learn as I plan to continue this blog on a weekly basis. I feel it’s a great way to remain in touch with the field of social media and Public Relations and now that I found my voice I can speak to an area I have a passion for. So for new and existing readers, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my blog, following me and posting comments. You’re making me stronger as a writer and make me feel part of the community. Isn’t that what social media is all about!


Mind the ‘Ask’




I don’t know if I would ever open the doors to my home and invite strangers in to ask them what they think about me. I can just imagine what the response would be. I feel I’m a great person and would receive some accolades, but also aware a few with an ax to grind would let me know, in no kind way, what they felt. This is what recently happened to the New York Police Department when they invited people to use the hashtag #myNYPD to encourage followers to post positive photos of them posing with police officers. In other words, they opened the door, literally, to hear the public response. Unfortunately as my mother used to say, be careful what you ask for-you just may get it. mylapd-1-web

What happened next was something the NYPD probably didn’t expect as people responded in the most creative way their antagonist view of the police force. Instantaneously people across the nation retorted with Twitter posts that showed police in physical confrontational poses with the public, in particular with the Occupy Wall Street group. Not to be outdone, tweets poured in showcasing the boys in blue across the country.The hashtag #myNYPD turned into a bashtag as the social marketing campaign went viral. Needless to say it wasn’t exactly what the NYPD were looking for. The larger question is why didn’t they anticipate the reaction? After all this isn’t the first time a company or organization opened their doors to ask the opinion of the public. In fact, in recent years, other companies had to learn the hard lesson of what happens when you open your doors for public comments.


The best recent example is McDonald’s for their #McDStories on Twitter. Similarly to the NYPD, they asked customers to send in their favorite McDonald’s moments. I’m sure the executives were hoping for warm and fuzzy memories but instead of cute Walt Disney cartoon moments, they received a Tim Burton nightmare.  McDonald’s was inundated with tweets sharing the worst experience consumers had. Stories shared ranged from bugs found in food to the criticism of the chemicals McDonald’s uses in their products. The campaign was quickly closed down within a couple of hours.



I think the greatest lesson I learned if I was to ever open my doors to do a public ask, is to anticipate the response. It may seem like a great crowdsourcing idea to have engagement with your audience but awareness has to also be in place to expect the unexpected. And especially for large companies the rules seem to be the bigger you are the more you’re a target. This doesn’t mean a small organization or company are on easy street because no matter the size it’s all about reputation.



For the NYPD, if they had researched past marketing ‘ask’ campaigns they would have discovered the above mentioned McDonald’s experience. They also had a perfect case study from the failed example of JP Morgan Chase attempting a Twitter town hall type session. Hoping to answer questions, they instead were besieged with cruel jokes and references to scandals involving the bank. Although the campaign came from a place of fostering goodwill, it might not be the greatest idea if the public currently doesn’t hold your organization in the highest regard. A comprehensive research could gauge the temperature of public perception and be one of the important factors in helping decide to proceed.

So is it always a bad idea to ever ask for public comments? From my own research and personal opinion I think the answer is no, as long as you have the following:

A)     Great reputation

B)      Aware that Twitter can be raw and unfiltered

C)      No current or recent public controversy concerning the practices of the organization

D)     Be prepared to take action for the unexpected



This even applies to individuals as singer R. Kelly discovered while attempting to promote his new album through Twitter by having a talk back. The public instead, used the opportunity to express their feelings about his alleged relationship with a minor and his misogyny behavior.

So it might be best to mind the ‘ask’ or better yet past on the ‘ask’ if you don’t have a plan for the responses. Without a good action plan you provide the platform for your social marketing campaign to be hijacked and conversation redirected. And again if your organization’s reputation isn’t stellar- ‘Fugetaboutit’! Yes General Motor I’m talking to you and hoping you’re not planning an ‘ask’ anytime soon.

More details

Failed McDonald’s Tweet Campaign

Lessons From NYPD Twitter Campaign

JP Morgan Shows How Not to Use Twitter

To Read or Not To Read


To Read or Not To Read
One thing has been made clear to me while looking for a career in public relations and communications: If I plan to be successful in this field, I have to be a voracious reader. I’m not just talking about the assigned textbooks or instructor’s handouts from my classes. I mean the type of reading where you read so much the printed letters start to blur together.

While I realize the profound necessity and value of developing a deep knowledge of the world around me, I have to admit that my efforts have not reached the level I desire. As I try to absorb the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, DIGG, Mashable, and USA Today each morning, the formidable nature of the task can become overwhelming as I try to simultaneously keep up with my required course readings, long and sometimes obtuse academic subjects. With the barrage of course readings, it’s challenging (to the say the least) when “life” and the “world” around me want me to pay attention to them as well.

The biggest lesson I have received from reading is realizing how I look and approach written material. Since expanding my consumption of news headlines I have discovered my method in reading has changed. Because of time constraint and the mass number of articles that are produced, I have learned to quickly scan an article and obtain all necessary information. I’m not alone as the new way of reading has been transformed by social media and the quantity of information it pushes out. News intake happens quickly and people have an expectation to know the details of a story in the first two paragraphs, and even that is being generous.

With the advancement of today’s technology such as e-readers and tablets our brains have shifted in how news is comprehended.
Writing content today means getting straight to the point and having something to say. It also requires eliminating any unneeded words or jargons. Whether its news releases or any other form of communication, the new rule is, “less is more”. Therefore as a writer I must shift my production of content.
That said, I have found some new tools to help me manage all of my reading and still keep on top of today’s news. Thanks to the discovery of ‘Save for Later’ reading apps, I’m able to manage my readings.

Save to read later app

Save to read later app

My first go to tool is a great app called “Pocket”. Pocket is a lifesaver. Basically, you can save any news article or webpage from your computer and read it later on your phone. This is great for me as it allows me to read in complete stories that I might not have time to read while I’m sitting at my computer. I can instead read them “on the go”. It’s ideal because you don’t need a wireless signal with Pocket which means I can be deep underground in the subway and still be educating myself on world events and topics of importance to me and my career. And it has other features that add to its usefulness, such as being able to send articles to friends , tag articles, or even little things like choose different fonts.

Another app that was suggested to me was “Instapaper”. Initially designed for Apple products, Instapaper has made its way to other platforms. It is similar to Pocket and has basically the same news saving features. The biggest difference is the cost. Pocket is free whereas Instapaper costs 3.99 for the Apple compatible platform and $2.99 for Android friendly.


Read for later app

Read for later app

When I do find the time to study the headlines to see what’s current, a lifesaver has been the webpage This was brought to my attention by my Professor and, since then, it has allowed me to see the current news along with the headlines from any news source. The site provides in chronological time order news as its happening. It does it with easy to read headlines and a preview of the story itself. Want to finish reading? Simply click on the link for the full story. This is a dream site for someone in communications as each refresh brings you the latest.

Great organizer for news

Great organizer for news

I’m sure there are other tools and apps out there. If I missed anything I would love to know. Also if there is an effective way to deliver content with limited word usage, please share. To read or not to read isn’t a question. It’s a fact that in the world of communication you must. And recognizing how others read will help me create engaging dialogue, even if it’s 140 characters and less.

The ‘Selfie’ ish Nature of Samsung


It appears Samsung is aiming to become the king of guerrilla marketing with its recent marketing ploy.  Last week Samsung came under fire for its latest ‘unscripted’ marketing stunt promoting its Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone.  It all started with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, capturing a ‘selfie’ moment when the team made a recent visit to the White House. Samsung, who has an endorsement deal with Mr. Ortiz, decided it would be a great promotion for them since after all a Samsung phone captured the moment. The ‘moment’ was immediately tweeted by Samsung to its 5.26 million followers. Let’s just say the White House was not too amused. Since the ad, the White House announced banning ‘selfies’ with the President and conversations have populated message boards criticizing Samsung for disrespecting the highest office. The biggest criticism directed to Samsung, has been using the ad with non-approval.    note3


Is this the new form of advertisement? Not necessarily the ‘selfie’ moment but the captured ‘organic’ moment when a subject is inserted in marketing campaigns without permission? This type of advertisement isn’t exactly new as the trend, especially used by movie companies promoting their latest flick, captures supposedly unaware people in a scripted situation.  The one which quickly comes to mind is the advert for the 2013 horror movie Carrie, where oblivious NY’ers dining in a coffee shop, witness a woman toss furniture in the air with her mind. Of course the difference is once the camera stopped rolling, people were filled in on the prank and permission was asked to use footage.

Is the Candid Camera action of Samsung and others a rule changer or a fluke in advertisement? Should an everyday person have care when exposed in public to a ‘brand’ and unknowingly become the model for an ad?  And since celebrities are considered ‘public domain’ are they in the cross-hairs of guerrilla marketers? Considering the president is a public figure, does it supersede giving permission to participate? The second aspect of Samsung’s recent marketing act, according to the persons involved, was Mr. Ortiz not knowing he was snapping what would be an ad. What are the new rules and expectations of the new technology? Or is this all hyperbole? Can one truly fault Samsung for capitalizing on this once in lifetime moment which probably won’t happen again?

It’s clear this one moment of social marketing didn’t cause the world to end and provides a great example of taking a moment and using it as an advantage to market a brand. After all is it Samsung’s fault the White House has no current policy which applies to ‘selfies’ and the prospect for gain. If any lessons should emerge from this, it would involve current companies or institutions examine their own policies as it relates to this topic.

The best thing about it was the cost. How can you beat free?  Despite what monies were given to Mr. Ortiz if any, the ensuing news coverage provided more free press.  It’s clear, especially for companies with small budgets; this may be the preferable way to go. For the second time this year Samsung is being rewarded by 3rd party journalistic endorsement with its creativity. The first was the ‘selfie’ heard around the world when Ellen DeGeneres and celebrities attending the Oscars, took what may or may not have been a spontaneous moment.  download

Immediately her tweet became one of the most retweeted posts as 779,295 tweets were obtained in half an hour and within an hour the number had risen to a million. Samsung was the second beneficiary of this instantaneous moment since it was their phone which captured the moment. Looking at the Ortiz ‘selfie’ with the president, it may not have risen to the level of Ellen’s moment but thanks to coverage by news outlets and the viral nature of it, we know Samsung is the impetus for the moment.

With the upcoming roll out of Google Glasses there may be more instances of ‘organic’ moments that will make great marketing campaigns but is it responsible marketing especially if people in the ad are unaware?  What are the new rules of engagement? Is it an attempt to make something out of nothing? Until those questions are answered companies like Samsung and others will continue to be awarded with 3rd market engagement and any free coverage the ad provokes. In the meantime if you don’t want to be the next culprit, be mindful of those ‘selfies’


On Tuesday April 1st 2014, General Motors CEO, Mary Barra testified before the House subcommittee about GM’s failure to correct a defective ignition switch in their automobiles which has resulted in numerous deaths. How many deaths are still being debated as it ranges from 13 (according to GM) to 303 (according to the New York Times). One death is too many for any company and GM Motors finds itself in a communications crisis which could substantially impact its business. Now the company finds itself recalling a short list of automobiles with many unanswered questions and the perception GM knew about the issue and did nothing. GM’s crisis is being played out on social media and it provides a great case study on how companies handle crisis communication.
The problem GM is facing is that the cars’ ignition switch, where the key is inserted and turned to start the car, can easily be knocked out of the “Run” position into the “Off” or “Accessory” position. This can happen if the key is jostled by a driver’s knee, for instance. The loss of power means the power braking and steering, as well as the airbags, can stop working. In recent weeks GM has had several recalls with several of its models and the total number of cars recalled now stands at 2.6 million.

Barra testifies before House subcommittee  April 1 2014

Barra testifies before House subcommittee April 1 2014

From Facebook to blogs, people are sharing their anger and fears of their car which may be a ‘death trap’. The slow response of GM has added to the fire as online reports state the problem was first identified in early 2000 and could have been fixed with a part that cost 57 cents. If true GM should have had in place a crisis management team to address this foreseen problem. It seems that not doing so has left the company in a reactive stage instead of a proactive one. Many companies have felt the impact of waiting to respond to controversy and it seems with social media, 24 hours is now an eternity to respond to any crisis let alone the years GM let pass .
One thing I have to give GM credit for is how they are now monitoring the social media for discussions about the recall. GM has taken to Twitter to provide information and Ms. Barra has also been posting videos answering consumers’ questions. Customers who are having difficulties with GM’s support line have likewise taken to Twitter. GM is trying to address the complaints. A recent New York Times articles shares how one customer voiced her frustration on Twitter because she was not getting a meaningful or helpful responses from GM. GM later responded and resolved the matter and she has since posted favorable tweets about GM.
When it comes to crisis communication can simply observing and reacting to tweets repair the company’s reputation? As it stands GM has the opportunity to answer many unanswered questions customers have. Questions such as:
• When did GM know about the problems?
• Why did it take so long to respond and was it because GM valued saving dollars over lives? How many people have been killed? (The difference between GM’s and the NYT’s estimates calls into question the accuracy of both estimates)
If using social media is GM’s approach at quelling rising questions, they walk a fine line as they also have to continue on as a business so that their business is not stuck in “recall mode” where everyone is talking about the recall but not about GM products. They can perhaps restore a small sense of trust by being transparent about information the public is looking for. They can rely on their ‘Standby Statement’ if they deem the information is too sensitive or will place them in legal hot water but understanding, whatever conversations they avoid, the public will be having their own on social media without GM’s participation.
Because of the delayed response to this recall and deaths associated with it, it may all be too little too late. A key point I learned for any organization is to closely and constantly monitor any communication crisis.

Crisis expert weighs in on GM
If there are lessons to be learned from this communications crisis, they would be the following:
1. Anticipate your crisis. GM, knowing their ignition system was an issue, should have been prepared for fallout and ready with a strategic response.

2. Identify your crisis team.

3. Identify your spokesperson. This person will be the face of your crisis. In GM’s case, does a CEO make a difference? It all depends on the person and the way they come across not only to people but cameras. A stiff, by the book numbers-type person may not be the best choice, no matter how smart they are. Someone who can express humanity could be the game changer.

4. Establish a monitoring system. To GM’s credit they have this in place as they are observing and responding to conversations on Twitter and Facebook. They are also following discussions on blogs and automobile forums. By knowing where their target audience is discussing, they are keeping a tactical ear to where their audience is talking.

5. Access your stakeholders. Who does this affect and are they able to deliver the same message you are putting out? Employees are often the most overlooked component. An employees disseminating wrong information can do more damage than any reporter. The goal is for messages to be clear and aligned with the corporate position statement. Misinformed stakeholders can create greater confusion about a situation.

6. As Will Rogers famously said, ‘When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” I’ll leave it at that.

Only time and the public’s memory will be the judge of GM’s crisis. Regardless, GM has provided some solid lessons in what to do and what not to do during communications crises. It seemed what worked for GM before won’t necessarily work this time as social media has transformed the way crisis are handled. From this case alone and many others it’s a step back to ask do we have a crisis communication or if not, why not?

I, Before E, the Bad Grammar of PR Professionals

As a current student in the NYU Public Relations and Corporate Communications Masters program I’m proud to sit among other future communicators striving to develop the voice for businesses around the world. So far it’s met my expectations as I’m introduced to new social media tools which continue to challenge previous thinking and in the process learn the foundations of what makes a great PR professional. What I wasn’t expecting was the usage of my fellow student’s bad grammar and my own mishaps. A reality check showed the derailment of a writing career before it could begin based on the inability to write properly. If anything has been honed into our brains by the professors since the semester started it’s the repeated mantra of, grammar, grammar, and grammar.  I can still hear all the unified educator voices in my head. “Learn to write well” Personally I felt the warning to be over-saturated but after taking a PR course where we are required to edit fellow students work, I became a believer in the dire foretelling our professors warned. Houston we not only have a problem but we have many uncompleted and misconstrued sentences.

Of course I would need to be perfect in my own writing skills to bring up such an important issue, but I will freely admit I’m not. Yet the bulk of my writing experience comes from composing blogs, research reports and even letters. From this advantage point writing well is a tool I’ve developed, recognizing I’m publishing material for public consumption. Another convenience I had growing up was not having access to today’s technology. I admit I’m not from the millennial generation so the short cut technology of platforms like Facebook and Twitter wasn’t a strong part of my toolkit. There was no such thing as ‘LOL’ or ‘Bcuz’ as we had to write out the entirety of our thoughts on paper. Yes I said paper!

Unfortunately the using of social media made us lose the valuable skill of grammar and sentence/paragraph structure as I discovered among my fellow mates. Upon reviewing a colleague’s paper I was inundated with fragmented sentences and confusing word choices. The biggest infraction is the overuse of commas. You’d think they were giving them away based on the freely placed symbols blanketing each sentence. Another common issue witnessed is the insertion of copy and paste material. One such fellow student’s PR media kit had 85% copy and paste material and 15% original.  And worse, the copy and paste submission didn’t have the not proper citations. Plagiarism much?

Grammar is not as difficult as it seems but if I could offer some advice I would say:

  • Read until your eyes fall into your lap. Facebook timelines don’t count like other printed such as newspapers; books and magazines are a great source of reading material. This helped expose me to words I could introduce into my vernacular. In addition my writing is now more relevant based on my awareness of current events.
  • Edits are your friend and not your enemy. In this age of wanting to be the first to report, many don’t take the time to “READ ALOUD” what they just wrote. If so done they would immediately recognize how their writing is not clear. You would have to be frickin’ geniuses to produce non-error writing in one take. Step back and then go back has always been my motto.
  • When it comes to edits, don’t take it personal when others point out your mistakes. I know a classmate who doesn’t let others edit her paper as she was disturbed by all the red correction marks she got back. She felt they were trying to rewrite her paper. I wanted to say to her, he/she who wields their red pen aggressively is a good friend. Even with my own experience I had to tell myself it’s a good reflection on me as a writer to go through the process of putting out a well written paper.
  • The past is the past so let it go. This is my biggest stumbling block, turning off my passive voice and shifting to one which is active. I blame the many years of blogging and writing plays. Writing for business whether its press releases or articles requires the here and the now. So words like, ‘was’ ‘will’ and ‘has’ should become eliminated from any writings set in the present tense.
  • Administer the pertinent pronouncement unadulterated. The following line deciphered in real people talk means, ‘keep it simple’. I’m not a big fan of unnecessary words. I rarely observe moments when I’m saying, “Wow this writer is so smart”. Instead I’m more like “Why don’t they just say what they need to say”. I think the only people who are impressed by big words are your parents as they see all the money spent on your education paid off. Me-not so much.
  • Microsoft Word is not always your BFF. I’m sorry to shatter any relationship with the big blue W but honestly depending on Microsoft to catch all your writing errors is like expecting Justin Bieber to sing opera. It’s just not going to happen and Microsoft will let you down repeatedly if your litmus test is the red squiggled line under your misspelled word. Nothing beats correcting your work like a good set of eyes, preferably not your own.
  • Lastly-what are you trying to say? I think one of the evils attending college is the fear we’re not reaching the word count. To achieve this we add a lot of fluff and make our sentence lines double space to fill out the paper. In actuality you’ve just filled your paragraphs with meaningless information and have nothing to say. Having a good idea of what you want to write is a good start and for myself I actually begin with the ending. By knowing how I want to finish I can focus on supporting my argument. The key is to know when to stop and recognize you said all which needed to be said. Just like using big words, unnecessary long reports will not make you an enduring person.

So as I pursue my own education I disclose this blog entry you’re reading has been read and reread by me and several other people. But I know I’m going to see episodes where I’m not going to catch all the mistakes. As long as I sharpen my tools of grammar I feel confident as a public relations professional I will learn the ability to communicate strongly and effectively…..without all the fluff!

Ethical Commandments of Social Marketing

Bloggers do not usually take the Hippocratic oath and agree to “do no harm”.  Despite being just a guy (and a non-journalist, at that) who had something to say, readers trust me.  The trust that what I blog is accurate and reliable. This trust can be quickly revoked, though, if readers begin to feel in any way that my approach is unethical. The same goes for social media marketing. There is an unspoken promise or expectation that no harm will be done.  However, as we have seen over the last few years, some major companies have walk a very thin line when it comes to ethics and social media.

So, when do we know that harm is being done? When the following code of ethics is being broken.

Thou Shalt Respect Privacy:  Data gathered by analyzing consumers’ online habits can be a goldmine for companies. This valuable information helps companies reach their target markets.  However, some recent cases have seen several companies violating consumer trust by inappropriately using consumer data. Google and Facebook are the biggest rule breakers and both have come under fire for their blatant misuse of consumer data. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg goes further stating that privacy is no longer a social norm, which sadly is true. Yet, at the same time, it does not give companies like Facebook an unfettered right to collect consumer information and sell that information to the highest bidder. If an advertiser asks someone to click on a link to learn about a product, we should have the right to opt out of having our information shared with others unrelated to the advertiser.  A company that does not provide an “opt out” option can leave consumers with a negative impression of the company and its business practices.

People have become more comfortable sharing private information online, says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

People have become more comfortable sharing private information online, says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Thou Shalt Not Deceive: As a blogger, I have been approached by friends to blog about a service or product they were offering. Before agreeing, I inform them that any articles are going to be fair and impartial. Most importantly, I would alert my readers to my association with the subject of my editorial. Social marketers should play by the same rules. It is deceptive when a marketer and a writer/blogger coalesce and fail to reveal the relationship to consumers.  A blogger has a responsibility to inform readers of any relationships with the subject of their writing. Additionally, according to the Federal Trade Commission, they must not only inform but also refuse any monetary compensation. These practical rules help ensure that consumers have the ability to make well-informed buying decisions.  Case-in-point:  Read the Business Week story about the discovery of Wal-Mart’s relationship with a blogger.  Wal-Mart discovered not disclosing relationship with bloggers

Thou Shalt Not Review Falsely:  The great thing about online shopping is that a customer can make decisions based on reviews left by others. I find it more helpful to read what your everyday person’s experience has been with a product. However, while I may find consumer reviews helpful, , social marketing outlets have (without the knowledge of consumers) started inserting their own favorable comments about their products.  Sometimes it’s obvious.  A product that has numerous positive feedbacks each with language that sounds eerily similar is immediately suspect. Other times, bogus positive reviews can be more subtle and, thus, harder to detect.  . This is a clear deceptive practice that is meant to mislead and misinform unaware buyers. And yet this unethical behavior has actually become big business. In 2013, the State of New York (after a yearlong investigation), found 19 companies who intentionally misled consumers by posting phony reviews.  Not only do such unethical actions create mistrust in products but they also lead consumers to be suspicious of the site where they find bogus reviews. For example, Yelp, with its online urban guide, has quickly become a destination for consumers wanting to read business reviews.  However, Yelp reviews often need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Yelp reviews are often unreliable and Yelp itself will reposition negative criticisms of a business (such as a restaurant) for a fee from the business.

Yelp-an online review site

Yelp-an online review site

A company that employs unethical social marketing practices is saying more about the company and its product(s) than anything else. Employing high ethical standards will help increase the standing of its marketing and the value of its business.

Related Readings

Privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder

Give Yourself 5 Stars? Online, It Might Cost You

How to Succeed in Business Without Social Marketing

So, you’re excited about starting your new business and, when it comes to planning a strategic marketing campaign, you consider yourself a rebel. Despite evidence that a great social media strategy will boost your market presence, you remain stuck to the notion that traditional marketing is the way to go. After all, in your day music was played by real musicians, men were men, women were women, and you walked 25 miles to school in snow that went up to your chin. It’s admirable when you stick to your guns and employ the classic methods. Such attitudes must be supported and in four easy steps I’ll share how to succeed in business without really trying…..I mean without social marketing.

1)      Advertise in newspaper – This could be considered the granddaddy of all marketing methods.  Promoting your business with full color ads and splashy graphics earns you brownie points. Especially if your ad is placed in the first section of the newspaper.   And ignore the warnings that ads in newspapers are from the Stone Age and status quo. Of course there are other mediums used to advertise such as radio and television but I’m assuming you don’t have the budget. Studies show that 93% of marketers are now using social media for business. That leaves you in the 7% who have yet to make the jump. You also may not want to pay heed to the evidence that proves businesses that use social marketing reach larger audiences by employing such methods. Never mind that businesses using social marketing can tailor their ads using myriad demographic tools. Unlike the huge net that print advertisement casts (catching unwanted flotsam), specifically targeted online media speaks directly to desired customers. As you can see the traditional model of company advertising is still there, it’s has just been adapted to fit the social online domain.

2)      Nothing good is free– As a business owner you may have been raised with the notion you get what you pay for. And, if you’re receiving free advertisement, then there goes the quality. You probably feel any business worth its salt should have a huge advertising budget. To not have one is bad business practice. The joke is really on the companies that have transitioned to social media and discovered that in taking advantage of social platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, advertising costs are not the big factor they once were. Online platforms have changed the way businesses reach the public and have helped replace huge advertising budgets with sharp, creative online campaigns.  Although not every platform opportunities are free, they are defiantly at a lower cost than traditional advertisement.  Social marketing has afforded businesses leverage compared to companies that may shy away from social media platforms. The key of course is using something smart that will quickly grab viewers’ attention. Done right, a brilliant campaign can effectively push your company’s brand and draw in consumers who were unaware of your product(s).  You may be thinking perhaps’ free’ isn’t such a bad word after all.

3)      Invest in a great comment box– You may recall those nice hand-painted boxes placed on the edge of business counters. Roughly all had a pen attached to a large item, such as a shoe so it wouldn’t be mistakenly taken accompany with sticky size paper. They were designed for customers to insert their complaints or ideas. That has to be the definition of good customer service, allowing your patrons to give you feedback. And those who didn’t bother to leave a note you feel may just have nothing to say. The truth is that your customers have plenty to say and by not being part of the online community chatter, you’re missing out on an important dialogue that can affect a business bottom line.  Your ancestors would be rolling over in their respective graves to hear that you’re calling your customers a community. Yet social media provides business access to that community. Immediately, by listening to the “chatter” you can respond and join the conversation. Social media provides immediate access to the conversations about your brand. Unlike the earlier one-way modes of business-customer transactions, customers are engaging with each other, good or bad, about your brand. It’s a unique opportunity that has value and ignoring it can blow your chance to participate.

4)      Table for one- Your competitors haven’t jumped on the social marketing bandwagon so why should you? Besides, if you want to know what they’re doing, you can peek in the window. While sitting at that table for one, realize that now more than ever most businesses have adopted some form of social marketing strategy. New businesses have quickly adopted this tech-based form of selling and, more traditional companies, seeing the benefits, are also coming on board. Social marketing allows a company to stay ahead of the curve and monitor their competitor.  You can also see exactly what’s working for your competitors (and what’s not). If you’re smart, you’ll pay close attention and jump in to grab new business when the timing is right. To have a new business and remain unplugged leaves a company at a huge disadvantage. The pros outweigh the cons and, while traditional methods have value, it’s critical those methods are transformed within the sphere of social media.


So, as one proceeds with a new startup, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using social marketing platforms. The success of many companies today can be attributed to the integration of social marketing within traditional advertisement. Studies have shown that social marketing has changed the way a business markets itself and by doing so, reap the benefits. If you craft a smart, strategic social marketing plan that engages and speaks the consumers’ language, it creates more of an opportunity for customers to give you a shot. And that is how you succeed in business… trying social marketing

The Social Media Reach of Netflix

As the viewing habits of the world have shifted, Netflix promotes consumers’ ability to watch television anyplace, anytime, and anywhere. Consumers are disconnecting from the “boob tube” and connecting to the many other options that allow us to consume entertainment running the gamut from first run shows to classic TV and movies. Not too long ago, it was unimaginable that we could stay in the comfort of our own home and simply hit a button to have a multitude of viewing choices delivered to us.   And now with wireless networks we’re no longer tied to just our living rooms.  We are free to move about the house with our Netflix literally in-hand. As Netflix continues to look for new ways to offer its product, the company has also examined how to integrate social media into its practices and developing technology.  So, how has social networking worked for Netflix as a form of communication and what can other companies learn from its example?

Icon Netflix logo

Icon Netflix logo


Netflix, with its bright red background and bold black logo, has become a familiar choice for viewer’s, thanks, in part, to its ease of use.  Founded in 1997, Netflix began as a DVD company, initially mailing rented discs to viewers along with a nifty pre-paid return envelope. This Netflix business model and its new method of providing access to entertainment was the reason for the closure of many brick-and- mortar video rental businesses.  No longer did customers have to be worried about or unavailable titles.  You could rent and keep a movie as long as you liked.

Using advances in media and technology, Netflix has broadened its service and access to it. As more consumers adopt new technologies, Netflix responded and changed its way of doing business. No longer restricted to the home television, consumers have new options, such as Smartphone’s, tablets (think Apple IPad and Amazon Kindle), as well as gaming devices such as Microsoft Xbox and Sony’s Playstation 3. With a Netflix app and account, audiences can instantly watch their favorite programming without having to wait for a physical disc.

When it comes to the marriage between Netflix and social media, we just need to take a look at a couple impressive statistics:  Netflix has an impressive 579,000 followers on Twitter and 5,130,227 likes on Facebook. Of course, as most anyone can tell you, having a huge number of followers on a social media platform doesn’t necessarily mean one has developed a social media strategy that transforms into revenue. If that was true, with 2,000 followers on Facebook, I should be sitting comfortably in the upper middle income brackets. What it does mean is that Netflix has created solid brand recognition that people identify with.

While Netflix doesn’t have a social media campaign that goes much beyond banner ads on websites, the one thing it has done successfully is offer products that create community.  And by doing so, Netflix gets its “community” members to push its product. Consistently adapting its business model and being innovative, Netflix now wants to go head-to-head with major studios.  It has now entered the market of television production. As a way to increase its customer base, the on-line on-demand company has produced television shows you will only see on Netflix. In 2013, viewers were introduced to “Orange Is the New Black”, “Arrested Development”, and “House of Cards”.

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black

Netflix and its members have enhanced the term “Binge” watching, a term used to describe the viewing of an entire season of a show in one sitting. Unlike regular television programming which is rolled out on a weekly basis, Netflix offers its subscribers the full season without the wait. Viewers have taken to social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to describe their experience in watching the shows and, in essence, creating that Netflix “community”.  Netflix has fostered the development of this community and its dialogue by inserting conversations to visitors of the website ‘TV Tag’ which is formerly known as ‘Get Glue”.  It is a site that allows one to “check in’, comment, and react to TV moments with other fans.   This generates “buzz” not only among viewers of a particular program but also among those who may not be watching, thereby encouraging them to participate.  Good social media management means getting your fans excited enough to share things on their own. Social media amplifies the voice of the customer and amplifies the product. As fans broadcast on their own, they show the relevancy of the company.

On the other hand, having customers take such an active role in developing a company’s “voice” could be a risky move. The fickleness of subscribers is just that:  fickle.  Unpredictable.  And viewing habits eventually shift, no matter how popular a program might be. As a social media strategy, Netflix has always been a somewhat forward-thinking company, but while it offers new technology, Netflix should  also spend effort on promoting itself on social media platforms.  It has slowly started to recognize its weakness in this area.  Netflix has recently created a relationship with Facebook that allows people to keep track of what their friends are watching and recommend shows. People can also do this within Netflix across its online platform. New approaches like this can only grow Netflix’s customer base.

By offering new, quality, original programming, Netflix has an edge over other streaming companies entering the field. Its ability to quickly learn from past business mistakes (such as the Qwikster debacle) shows Netflix is able to recognize mistakes, be agile, and shift their business practices to meet the needs of consumers. As social media becomes a necessity for practically every company, especially online ones, Netflix can be the one to watch.

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