Getting Social to Discover Your Audience

Audience is everything when creating a campaign. Anyone trying to convey a point to group of people must consider whom they are talking to and how to reach them. A communicator must know what the target audience doesn’t want as much as what it does. Most importantly, what will have the best results for your efforts.

Why is this important? Crafting the perfect message and knowing your customer or stakeholder can only take you so far in our oversaturated digital environment. Not knowing precisely where to find your audience in the vast digital landscape will produce lackluster results and drive up your CPM (cost per measurement). Shouting your message in one direction where no one wants to hear it while failing to spread your message in the area in which it would thrive is deadly combination.

What are the most popular social media platforms and which fits your campaign or message best? This year, Tracx produced analytics on user characteristics for each platform, revealing insights that public relations practitioners should use.

Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social media site with more than 1.9 billion unique monthly users. With the highest traffic of any social media site, Facebook can be one of the most effective marketing tools. Facebook offers some of the highest ROI of any advertising on social media because of its high traffic and information about its users.

Facebook users

• Facebook user base is primarily female with 83 percent of online women, compared to 73 percent of online men.

• Facebook is also one of the best places to reach Millennials and Generation X. Facebook’s primary user base is the between 18-49 years old. According to the study, Generation X spends almost seven hours per week on social media.

Instagram

Instagram is regarded as the fastest growing social media platform. As compared to Facebook’s 1.9 billion monthly unique users, Instagram only attracts around 600 million monthly unique users. Instagram’s UX limits the capabilities that users are able to publish and utilize. In my opinion, however, this is one of Instagram’s strengths compared to Facebook’s endless features. Sometimes simplicity can trump complexity.

Instagram users

• Like Facebook, Instagram’s user base is predominately female with 38 percent of women online using Instagram, as compared to 26 percent of men online.

• One of the most interesting statistics is the age of users. As compared to Facebook’s broad age range spanning over three decades, 90 percent of Instagram users are under 35. This statistic shows that advertisers and public relations specialists can use Instagram for targeting younger audiences.

• In addition to the age of users, 53 percent of users follow brands. This means that users actively follow brands for curated and organic content as opposed to Facebook users.

Twitter 

Twitter has been named one of the most oversaturated social media platforms for many reasons. Twitter has approximately 317 million monthly unique users, close to half of Instagram’s and about a sixth of Facebook’s. Earlier in 2017, Twitter was struggling to make any profits to support the large social media platform. Twitter’s inability to monetize its free services, like Facebook and Instagram have been able to do, are the result of the platform’s capabilities and its user base.

Twitter users

• As opposed to the predominately female user base of Facebook and Twitter, 22 percent of online men use Twitter compared to only 15 percent of online women.

• Like Instagram, Twitter users are younger than Facebook with the majority of users between the ages of 18 and 29.

• The next two statistics give insight into how and why Twitter has been struggling to monetize its platform. Over 50 percent of Twitter users never post updates. This means that these accounts are ghost accounts or these users only use Twitter as a feed instead of a publisher. In addition to this, the average user will only spend 2.9 minutes on the mobile app per day. These two statistics are red flags to advertisers when they know the window of viewership is so limited and active use on the site is minuscule.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the few major B2B social media platforms that brands can use to get their message out to other companies. Compared to the rest of the platforms in this analysis, LinkedIn has the fewest users, coming in at 106 million monthly unique viewers.

LinkedIn users

• The breakup between male and female users on LinkedIn is fairly equally, with 31 percent of online men using the platform and 27 percent of online women using the platform.

• One of the most interesting aspects about the survey results showed that LinkedIn users are typically slightly less likely to use other social networks. This can be important while evaluating if campaigns revolving around LinkedIn should expand to other platforms.

• People making higher salaries are more likely to use LinkedIn, i.e., 45 percent of individuals make more than $75,000 annually. This is compared to only 21 percent of those making $30,000 or less who use LinkedIn.

Using these guidelines, PR practitioners will increase the chances of reaching their target audience. Platforms, while overlapping, also feature distinct user preferences.

Knowing your audience and then locating them are among some of the most effective techniques a digital strategist can use.

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Is Dove Stain Permanent?

In a recent Facebook ad for Dove Body wash, a black woman is seen removing her brown blouse and as she does so, a white woman in a cream colored top is revealed.

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The ad is a three-second gif that has since been removed. The ad actually featured three women, each removing her shirt to reveal another woman of varying skin tones and ethnicities.

However, consumers latched onto only one portion of the ad — when the black woman is whitewashed into her fair-skinned counterpart. This concept is not new — the idea of soap cleaning a “dirty” black person into a “clean” white person has been featured in racist ads since the late 19 century.

However, there was immediate backlash from the social media community. Many users were outraged that Dove would perpetuate such racist ideas and were baffled as to how such an ad was able to pass review.

The Unilever-owned company has apologized and removed the ad.

Dove has since explained that the ad was not meant to offend or misrepresent people of color but rather “to convey that Dove Body Wash is for every woman and to be a celebration of diversity.” Dove also has said that it is reevaluating its review process to avoid future miscalculations.

But many consumers were unimpressed with Dove’s apology, pointing out that this latest controversy is in a string of many.

How can Dove repair its reputation or is it stained forever?  What do you think?

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Defining Cause in Marketing Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — so get ready to see pink! The American Cancer Society projected there would be 255,180 invasive breast cancer diagnoses (252,710 women and 2,470 men) and 41,070 breast cancer deaths (40,610 women and 460 men) in the United States this year. This disease has affected many lives and many have joined the fight against it. No matter where you go, whether your local grocery or an NFL game, you’ll see some form of pink as a symbol of support. Even the White House was lit pink for this year’s campaign:

Some retailers will donate a portion of their sales of pink products to support different breast cancer charities. With all of this support, it begs the question how brands can stand out from the rest while becoming synonymous with breast cancer awareness.

Scott Panksy (@Spanksy), partner and co-founder of Allison and Partners, explained  there can be a disconnect between breast cancer awareness organizations and companies that support them with “programs” and others that support them with “platforms.” As defined in Pansky’s 2014 Must See Monday presentation: “Evolution of Cause Marketing,” a platform is: “a more holistic effort that is part of a company’s or organization’s culture. It’s strategic, connected to the brand and usually creates a synonymous connection in the consumer’s mind.” Therefore, in order for a brand to be meaningfully connected with a cause, they must have a higher level of connection than simply turning their products pink.

Susan G. Komen, whose goal is: “to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026,” has significant corporate support levels including:

Among these three categories, the “Champions” are the best examples of those brands/individuals that regard Susan G. Komen and breast cancer awareness as a “platform.” They not only support the cause financially, but donations of “time, resources, energy and effort.”  The Dallas Cowboys showed their support by kicking off this month with pink cheerleader uniforms:

Although it may be hard to get lost in all of the pink, companies should continue to get involved in organizations, like Susan G. Komen and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. However, to create a successful cause marketing campaign, must be more than simply turning products pink. In order to be recognized as an advocate and authentic supporter for breast cancer research, companies need to fundraise and donate their time (including hosting events and personal interactions with people suffering from the disease) to be effectively engaged with the cause.

What companies can you identify when you think of breast cancer awareness?  If one of your clients wanted to launch a breast cancer awareness cause marketing campaign, how would you define them from all the rest?

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Activist a Hypocrite in Weinstein Probe?

According to The New York Times, Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax and Weinstein Co., has arranged at least eight sexual harassment settlements.  Through its investigation, the Times found records of these allegations spanning three decades.

Who is Weinstein? He “has held a lofty position in Hollywood as one of the industry’s most powerful figures—an old school, larger-than-life movie mogul who was never shy about throwing his weight around,” ABC News said about the producer.

Left: Weinstein Right: Bloom

After the Times reported the investigation, Weinstein released the following statement:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone.

I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed.

I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.

Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons. Over the last year I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened. I hope that my actions will speak louder than words and that one day we will all be able to earn their trust and sit down together with Lisa to learn more. Jay Z wrote in 4:44 “I’m not the man I thought I was and I better be that man for my children.” The same is true for me. I want a second chance in the community but I know I’ve got work to do to earn it. I have goals that are now priorities. Trust me, this isn’t an overnight process. I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.

Though he released an apology and announced a leave of absence, the producer’s lawyers released statements calling the investigation false with plans to sue the publication. Since the report, Lisa Bloom, a women’s rights activist, began advising Weinstein.

She tweeted her statement here.

This pairing, which many publications are calling hypocritical of Bloom, raises the PR question… how is Bloom’s credibility affected? How does this strengthen or weaken her reputation? If you believe it weakens her reputation, does it strengthen Weinstein’s?

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Can One Wrong Post Smear a Brand?

Social media can make or break the success of a brand. But can one post ruin a long history of great social media strategy?

Tarte Cosmetics is a brand that includes makeup and skincare products. The brand is known for its natural products that are vegan friendly and cruelty free. The brand’s social media following is large. Tarte Cosmetics reports 1.1 million likes on Facebook, 615,000 followers on Twitter and 7 million followers on Instagram.

Tarte Cosmetics has positioned itself as a brand that knows how to run social media accounts effectively in order to engage with its customers. For example, the brand has created a lexicon of hashtags that it uses for specific posts. The brand refers to its customers as #Tartelettes, vacation-time is #trippinwithtarte and new launches are #workoftarte. Women’s Wear Daily included Tarte Cosmetics on its list of most innovative digital and social media beauty brands of 2016, stating that Tarte’s earned media value was at $44 million in August due to collaborations with key influencers and the hashtags they use.

In late September, the brand experienced backlash for an insensitive post and the company’s response to it. It all started with the brand posting this meme on its Instagram:

The post received significant criticism in its comments on Instagram and on Twitter because of the racist term “ching chong.” Many people were upset with the brand for using a term regarded as negative toward Asians.

People took to Twitter to express their disappointment in the brand, including Allure magazine’s editor-in-chief Michelle Lee who posted a thread of tweets in response to Tarte  Cosmetic’s post:

Customers also took to Twitter to express their disappointment:

When Tarte realized its misstep, the brand posted this apology on Instagram:

We deeply apologize to anyone we offended today, it was a complete oversight & we absolutely didn’t mean to post with that intention. We removed immediately & spoke with the intern explaining why it was offensive”

People on Twitter and in the comments of this Instagram post thought that Tarte wasn’t taking the blame for their post but instead blaming an intern for it. The brand deleted this post when it responded in a follow-up apology from the CEO but since it’s the Internet, there are screenshots that customers will be able to find whenever they want. The company posted a second, longer apology from the CEO where she apologized for the post.

I don’t think the brand handled this situation in the most effective way but rather prolonged the negative reactions. Of course, the meme should have never been published but posting an apology that cast blame on an intern should never have occurred. The CEO and direct supervisors of the interns are ultimately responsible for what goes out on social media. I wonder if a company with such a strong reputation as expert social media strategists will lose many of its followers due to a situation like this.

Do you think the brand will recover?

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FB Algorithms Face PR Nightmare

Over the past year, Facebook has faced numerous problems that has put its reputation at risk. From legal issues to marketing mistakes, the $400 billion company has generated severe backlash from consumers and the media for its involvement in the 2016 election and most recently, for failing to manage algorithms that allowed advertisers to target anti-Semitic groups.

According to a new report by ProRepublica, Facebook ad buyers could use information like “field of study” and “college” to better target desired demographics and narrow the site’s 1.2 billion active users based on interests. However, accounts that listed anti-Semitic phrases in their profile caused those tags to automatically appear as options in Facebook’s advertising tool.

Screenshot by ProRepublica

Some of the tags listed included “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” “History of ‘why jews ruin the world,’” and “Hitler did nothing wrong.” Using these tags would allow the advertiser to reach an audience of about 2,000 people and approximately 8,000 people when combined with the tags “Nazi Party” and “German Schutzstaffel,” which is also known as the Nazi SS.  

Upon realizing the error in its algorithm, Facebook responded quickly by temporarily disabling the “college” and “field of study” categories in the advertising tool.

The site also published a post Thursday night addressing the issue: “Keeping our community safe is critical to our mission. And to help ensure that targeting is not used for discriminatory purposes, we are removing these self-reported targeting fields until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue. We want Facebook to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook.”

Photo by Paul Walsh

This is not the first time Facebook has dealt with this type of issue. In fact, algorithms have been at the root of three of Facebook’s biggest public relations problems within the past 12 months. During the 2016 election, various news organizations were able to find that Facebook’s News Feed was used to proliferate misinformation generated by fake personas, while inauthentic Russian accounts bought $100,000 worth of political advertisements that were purposely meant to harm the reputation of certain politicians.

To make matters worse, Facebook knowingly approved the purchase of the Russian and anti-Semetic advertisements, and evidence shows that these problems could have easily been avoided with stricter surveillance/management of algorithms and tags.  Now, Facebook might have to testify in front of Congress as part of the on-going investigations of the 2016 election.   

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

All of these problems paint a bad picture of Facebook and put the company at risk of losing the trust and respect of social media users as well as advertisers.

“We know we have more work to do,” Rob Leathern told Vanity Fair, “so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

It is too soon to tell if these issues will have a financial impact on the company’s worth or cause a visible decrease in sentiment among social media users. However, there is doubt that its public relations team must work hard to minimize the severity of each mistake by making swift changes/statements and diverting attention. After all, it’s difficult to believe that Facebook coincidentally released an exciting new feature within hours of ProRepublica publishing its own article.  

What’s your take?

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Making the Most of Live Stream

While browsing the Internet, I discovered this article on PR News featuring a interview with the senior director of digital communications for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Erin Flior. It addresses how to best utilize live streaming to bolster your promotional efforts.

This topic was of immediate interest because as an intern at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a student in the PR Lab, I have found that live streaming is an increasingly valuable tool. While not universal to every client, the question is how to design the best possible live stream for the given situation.

Photo via getmevo.com

How do I design a live stream that makes viewers feel engaged in the politics of local business, an industry that often appears exclusionary with lots of outsiders looking in?

As a person working on the inside, I understand just how pivotal the ongoings of the business community may affect the average citizen. The challenge is helping them to understand that. Flior advised that it’s most effective to craft an agenda that’s uniquely directed to your live streaming audience, if their engagement is a high priority.

In my case, this means ensuring that stakeholders — legislators and businesspeople — take a break from the jargon to speak in plain language to those tuning in. As Flior says, viewers are more inclined to continue watching, and also engage on social media and in real life, if they feel they are an integral part of your organization.

Another piece of advice that Flior offered was that a successful live stream should be conducted as its own event, not an afterthought to the physical proceedings. Previously, I thought that simply streaming the event from a fly-on-the-wall perspective would generate excitement.  Now, it is clear that this only reinforces watchers as outsiders. A live stream is truly worth doing, but only if it offers its own unique content, conveying to watchers that they might miss something if they fail to tune in.

Above all, the most important takeaway: Is this live stream meaningful to viewers, and will it therefore enhance my communications efforts? If the answer is no, I simply will not do it.

Flior put it best: “The key is to only use it in a way that is authentic to your audience and goals, and not try to check a box just because it’s the latest technology.”

Ask yourself the same questions next time you plan a live stream, and if you have never experimented with one, consider how it might help you reach those populations you’ve struggled to tap into.

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Check In Triggers Unexpected Exit

In a time of political turmoil, a relaxing motel stay may be the perfect getaway, if the police don’t detain you first.

The Phoenix NewTimes reported employees of a Phoenix Motel 6 may have been sending guest information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This comes after Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez was taken into custody at a Motel 6 in June, after handing the motel employee his Mexican voter ID card at check-in. The article did not confirm the involvement of the Motel 6 employees but suggested it was true.

As the allegation triggered an uproar in the Phoenix community, the public relations world waited patiently wanting to see how the major motel chain would respond. But alas, the excitement was short lived after a brief, impersonal message was all the public received.

via Latinos Matter Twitter

The 24-word post was not well received. Motel 6 took no responsibility for the situation and shifted the blame to the local level. The two-sentence response offered no sense of remorse.

According to PR Daily, when dealing with crisis communications you must take the right steps to manage the media, put the right plan in place and send the right messages to employees and customers. Did Motel 6 do any of those three things? The chain has been silent after the original tweet, executives did not address their employees or customers and did not appear to have a plan in place before addressing the public.

Will Motel 6 be affected? It occurred in only one location and not at the corporate level. But is the chain and their brand affected as a whole, not just in Phoenix? Should they have apologized in their original statement even though they claimed not to have known?

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Equifax Response Fails to Add Up

On July 29, Equifax, a credit-rating company, first learned that consumers’ trusted data had been breached. Equifax holds highly sensitive personal and financial data for more than 800 million consumers.

Equifax’s statement revealed in part that, “the information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.  In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers, were accessed.”

However, Equifax failed to disclose the hack to the public until Sept 7, nearly six weeks after the company first discovered the cyber security attack. Matters worsened when the public found out executives sold company stock before disclosing the breach.

Why did Equifax wait more than a month before disclosing the leak?

What can the 143 million U.S. consumers, whose information was exposed, do to protect themselves?

Is there anything they can do?

These are the daunting questions that millions are asking. Questions that Equifax is failing to answer.

According to the Washington Post, Equifax waited before disclosing so they could conduct the proper legal matters. Despite its efforts, the company is still vulnerable to several lawsuits, according to MSN News. Because of the situation, how executives handled it and when they handled it, not only is the company in legal trouble but it is also faced with a flawed reputation among millions of consumers.

My public relations mind can’t help but ask the question, when, if ever, should reputation come before legal concerns? Can Equifax’s reputation be repaired?

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Hurricane Irma Spins PR Crisis

Earlier this year, United Airlines incurred the wrath of people all over the world after videos that depicted a security officer dragging an unconscious passenger off a plane went viral. The severity of the crisis doubled following the seemingly callous and defensive response by United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, who expressed no immediate concern for the passenger who was forcibly removed from the flight after he refused to give up his seat for compensation.  

Although it is within the airline’s legal right to involuntarily boot people off an overbooked flight, the security officer’s seemingly excessive use of physical force ignited harsh criticism and anger from people online who bombarded United Airlines’ official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

This accident turned United Airlines into a crisis management case study about how not to act during a public relations emergency. Since April, the media have increased coverage of airline-related news, curious if any other airline stumbles into a similar disaster.

On Sept 5, people thought that moment had come after several Twitter users posted screenshots of their ticket purchases online, which showed huge price hikes for flights leaving Florida. Immediately, people criticized a handful of airlines for raising prices by about 200 to 600 percent for those fleeing Florida before it was hit by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane.

One specific tweet generated 40,000 retweets and 58,000 likes. 

The viral tweet made Delta look uncaring and greedy, pushing them to the edge of a full-blown public relations crisis. However, there are several parts of this story that are important to note. First, the screenshot that was originally posted by Twitter user @LeighDow displayed an algorithm error that was promptly fixed after the airline was made aware of the mistake, which they claim took place before @LeighDow ever posted their tweet at 12:35 p.m. that day. Second, Delta reached out within two hour after the tweet was published and helped @LeighDow resolve the issue.

According to Delta, and other airline representatives, ticket prices automatically fluctuate according to basic laws of supply and demand. If more people express interest in traveling during a certain time or season, the ticket prices automatically increase, but the algorithm that adjusts prices does not recognize when the increase in demand is caused by a natural disaster, so it must be manually corrected to reflect more reasonable prices.

Delta and other airlines/traveling companies were quick to correct the algorithm once the issue was brought to their attention and made considerable strides to accommodate people escaping Hurricane Irma.         

However, the story does not end there. Because the original tweet had already gone viral and continued to spread false information about Delta, tarnishing its good image. In an effort to counteract the increase in negative sentiment toward airlines, Delta, JetBlu and American Airlines promoted capped prices for flights—some as low as $99—and a rise in seat availability/flights leaving Florida.  

Delta, in particular, announced that it would not charge more than $399 for flights to/from southern Florida and the Caribbean, including first-class tickets.

Despite each airline’s strong and admirable efforts to avoid another United Airlines-sized crisis, this social media uproar showed the tricky side of public relations and raised some important questions: How can public relations professionals address the spread of misleading information? Does Delta deserve the negative publicity?

One person’s response to @LeighDow’s tweet, summaries the issue nicely.

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