Monthly Archives: April 2011

“Use Your Digital Nativeness”

Children's Cancer Research FundThe headline to this article is a direct quote from Kris Huson, marketing and communications manager for Children’s Cancer Research Fund. I had the pleasure of listening to Kris speak at today’s St. Cloud State PRSSA weekly meeting. If you’re confused as to why I chose “Use your digital nativeness” as the title for this blog entry, don’t be. We’ll get to that in a bit. (Hint: Think about the importance of social media)

As a professional communicator Kris has a rewarding job, but with the usual stresses that come with fundraising and marketing for a non-profit organization. The first advice given on reaching a target audience is to keep the message personal, tangible and emotional. The most important aspect in regard to communicating a message for a non-profit organization is to make an emotional connection with the audience. Obviously an organization such as the Children’s Cancer Research Fund has plenty of emotional stories. The trick is to recognize those stories and relate them to the target audience.

Once emotional stories are discovered and the message is disseminated to defined audiences, that’s when engagement rises to importance. Social media can be a great tool to create engaging online conversations and to relate emotional stories to the stakeholders (potential donors). Of course, as any successful non-profit organization knows, once someone does make a sizable donation, the money needs to be well spent. If you can prove to the donor the money went to a truly worthy cause that may not have been possible without his/her contribution, then the donor will give again.

Kris admits they are still trying to figure out return on investment (ROI) for social media in the non-profit sector. However, she definitely agrees social media for non-profits is important. This is where the “Use your digital nativeness” came about. When giving advice to students starting a career in public relations (non-profit or other), she pointed out the importance of understanding technology in the new media landscape. Basically, there are three types of people: Digital natives (those who grew up on computers and technology), digital immigrants (those who have adopted technology as life progressed) and digital ignorant (self-explanatory).

As a student looking to get into public relations or a young professional looking to advance his/her career, being a digital native is an advantage if used properly. Just as Kris has to be able to take medical language and make it consumable to a wide audience, young PR pros need to use their ‘digital nativeness’ to their advantage. This means having a deep understanding of trends in social media and how to use it to leverage marketing for a company. Maybe more important, students and young professionals need to use online social networking  as the term suggests: To network. Kris believes Twitter is the best networking tool for business professionals and it is imperative to not only understand how it works, but to actively engage with other professionals in your industry. This all proves once again that social media changes everything.

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Providing Fresh Content: The Biggest Challenge in #SocialMedia?

Social media content: Conversations matter.

Social media content: Conversations matter.

When I came across Social Media Examiner‘s call to write about the biggest challenge in social media, I immediately thought of the struggles of providing fresh content for a company that doesn’t necessarily provide a product or otherwise turn a profit through sales. More specifically, the challenge of a small business providing fresh content to get patrons to continually visit its Facebook page or interact via Twitter.

I recently read an article by Ken Serota on the topic of social media content for dentists. The opening of the article was geared toward answering the question “As a dentist, what should I post?” Though not a specialty practitioner such as a dentist, optometrist or something of the sorts, I can see how it might be easy to have “writers block” on providing fresh content across the various social media platforms. I think it’s safe to assume most dentists primarily use Facebook as their main social media platform due to its versatility in providing announcements, images, video, audio and more.

The article pointed out some simple ideas to provide daily content such as video responses to common questions and patient testimonials, open appointments and commenting on trends in the profession. While these are all very good ideas at keeping fresh content on a Facebook page for a dentist, I might argue that most of these ideas do not necessarily facilitate actual user engagement. It’s been said over and over again that social media is all about interaction and engagement. Thus, the biggest challenge I come across in social media is not only creating content, but actually creating a conversation.

Large brands such as Pepsi or Nike might not need to work quite as hard to initiate conversation and might even find that monitoring and contributing to the conservation is actually of greater concern. For the small business, however, creating content that opens the door to the online conversation is difficult. It is simply not enough to have a high rate of Facebook impressions. It is far more valuable to see a high percentage of interactions when looking at the insights of a Facebook page. However, the question remains: How can a small business create engaging content that opens up actual online conversations?

If you have a great idea on maintaining online conversations for a small business please comment below. I would love to hear your ideas!

UPDATE: Read my follow up “30 Ideas for Providing Fresh Content in #SocialMedia


What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes

Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!

Intrigued? Scan this QR code with your mobile device to see where it takes you!

QR codes are the latest marketing craze. The QR, or Quick-Response, code was invented in 1994 by a Japanese company called DENSO Corp., a subsidy of Toyota and was initially used to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. Though QR codes have been commonplace in Japan for some time, they are only just now becoming popular in the United States. With over 73 million smartphone users in the US, marketers are embracing the technology in some very unique ways. In this post, I will give a few examples of how I have used QR codes at KVSC 88.1FM, at a personal level and what I have learned along the way.

My first venture with QR codes was in promoting “Superheroes of Trivia,” KVSC’s annual Trivia Weekend. The poster I was designing for the event was to resemble a retro comic book with a modern twist. After I had placed a traditional (non-scanable) bar code at the upper left of the poster to make it look more like a comic book, I got the idea to make it interactive by using a QR code.

Superheroes of Trivia Table Tent.

I used a QR code in a table tent for Trivia Weekend.

The idea was simple enough; I would place a QR code on the poster and have it link to an MP3 file that could be changed out with different audio files. This seemed like a great idea because this was for a radio station that was running a three-part promo on air and we could use the poster to bridge a connection to the series. However, it didn’t quite work out. The QR code worked fine, but the audio file would only play on Apple devices. When the audio file was opened on any other device, it would not play due to some type of Apple encryption with MP3 files. So I learned two things:

1. Always test your QR code on multiple devices/operating systems.

2. It’s better to link to an HTML document with an embedded audio file than to link directly to the source.

Also for Trivia Weekend, I placed a QR code on a table tent (shown above) encouraging students to volunteer for the event. The QR code simply linked to our volunteer resource page on the KVSC website. Though not as cool as opening an audio file to be entertained by a three-part trivia epic, the QR code on the table tent raised curiosity and drove traffic to kvsc.org.

QR Codes on Business Cards

On my business card, I used a QR code to link to my online portfolio.

At a personal level, I am in the midst of an aggressive job hunt and have placed a QR code on the back of my business card. Most people use QR codes on business cards to link to contact information. Personally, I have linked it to my online portfolio at eFolioMinnesota.com. I feel this is more appropriate for me since I am advertising myself as a job candidate and not myself as a business. Another tip to keep in mind when creating a QR code is to make sure the link is easy to use on a mobile phone. I initially wanted to link the QR code to my about.me page because it is much more visually appealing. However, it takes too long to download on a mobile device and is simply not sized correctly to be viewed on a 3.5 inch screen.

Another way to avoid compatibility issues with a URL or media file is to simply link to a text file. This can be used to direct the user to take further action or act as a coupon with instruction to the customer and cashier on how to redeem the offer. A good example involving text was with the concert venue First Avenue promoting an upcoming concert. A QR code was posted on its Facebook wall with the caption “We’re going hi-tech with today’s Etix ticket giveaway and it’s a doozy. Decode the QR for your chance to win.” When scanned, the QR code directed users to a text which simply read “Leave a comment with where First Avenue tickets will be available this Friday.” This is a great use of a QR code because it not only integrated social media, but also prompted users to learn about the venue’s new online ticket purchase option (eTix).

Here’s a list of ways I’ve heard of QR codes being used:

What are some ways you can think of to use QR codes? Do you think QR codes will be around for a long time or are they merely a fad? Please comment below, and remember: Sharing is fun!

**UPDATE: Read “What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes Part II.”


iPhone App Review: Instagram

Great Wall of China taken this summer and edited with Instagram.

Great Wall of China taken this summer with a Nikon D90 and edited with Instagram.

Let’s call this my first iPhone app review. In my very first blog entry I promised to throw in some posts on photography. Living up to that promise, I want to talk about one of my favorite iPhone apps: Instagram. This is the perfect iPhone application for someone who’s into art and wants to share his/her world with others through photos.

Taken from the Instagram website, Instagram is “a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.” The app definitely lives up to its motto and it is super easy to use. All you do is choose a photo (either by taking one using the app itself or by choosing from your iPhone’s camera roll), apply one of the filters, name the image and you’re done! The app even has the option to apply tilt-shift to make your pictures look miniature or more mysterious by blurring the edges. In short, Instagram is a great way to make otherwise boring or uninspiring photos come to life with simple filters. The photo in my Gravatar at right was manipulated using Instagram and I now use that same image across all my social media platforms (this might be a good time to attribute the photographer: Danielle Morris).

Photo of a bar in Rapid City, S.D. with tilt-shift applied.

Photo of a bar in Rapid City, S.D. with tilt-shift applied.

The Instagram iPhone app also is very much a social media application and even mimics some of the same features as Twitter. Users can create hashtags, use @mentions, add a location and follow other users. With photos of people you follow showing up in a photostream, Instagram is essentially Twitter, but with photos. Another fun aspect of this iPhone app is that you can send your creations out across a number of sites supporting photos. I typically add a location via Foursquare and send the photo to Facebook or Twitter (sometimes both). The photos you see in the sidebar at right are Instagram photos synced to my Flikr photostream.

The one drawback of Instagram is that the actual website is worthless from a user standpoint. Although every Instagram photo published on another site has its own URL, the site contains no way to share the image, comment or rate the photo nor does the site contain links to any other photos. Basically, the site does not support user profiles. This is a little frustrating and disappointing all at the same time. However, I’m sure the developers chose to keep the website simple and maybe they are still laking the infrastructure needed to host the nearly 300,000 photos uploaded each day. This means Instagram is limited only to iPhone users (as well as  iPad and iPod Touch users).

I found a donut shop that had bacon on their donuts!

I found a donut shop that had bacon on their donuts!

Many organizations are using Instagram already and it will be interesting to see what type of marketing campaigns will be launched using the app. I currently follow NPR, the Boston Celtics and MTV just to see what type of images they come up with and to see how they are using Instagram to connect with their audience. Although KVSC-FM does not have an Instagram account set up, I have used the app to create interesting photos to post on the station’s Facebook wall. Organizations with a larger following could easily conduct contests or use the app for awareness efforts of national or worldwide events. How do you see Instagram being used as a marketing tool?


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