Monthly Archives: May 2011

What I’ve Learned from Using QR Codes Part II

QR code in a print advertisement.

An example from an ad I created containing a QR code. I feel it is effective because it is intriguing, instructional and easy to scan.

A while back, I wrote an article about my experience in using QR codes at KVSC-FM and how I have used them personally on my business cards. Now almost two months later, I have a few more suggestions for the successful use of QR codes in marketing. QR codes are still quite the craze and I am seeing more and more show up on event flyers, print advertisements and even as profile pictures on Twitter. Many of these examples were flawed in some way and this article is meant to help prevent others from making the same mistakes.

The first advice I might give is to not include a QR code on something just to have a QR code on it. I admit, I have fallen victim to this. In creating a few print advertisements for an upcoming concert sponsored by KVSC, I really wanted to include a QR code to fill some blank space in the ad. However, both kvsc.org and the online ticket site were not easy to use on a mobile device and the only thing I could think of was to have the QR code link to the box office phone number to purchase tickets. We decided to remove the QR code. Why? Although the QR code likely would have raised curiosity, the destination would most likely serve as a disappointment to anyone who scanned it. We were better off just posting the phone number (old fashioned, I know).

Another thing we can learn from the above example is that it’s usually best to link to a mobile site. If the ticket service we were using was a site such as stubhub.com, then the QR code would have been a great addition to the print ad because the user would probably be discovering something new and would be excited about using the mobile site to purchase tickets. Along these same lines, linking to my ePortfolio from my business cards was probably not the best idea as I implied in my previous post on QR codes. Although my ePortfolio looks fine on a mobile device, the text is small and navigation is difficult. When I print new personal business cards, I will link to this blog because WordPress automatically directs users to a mobile version.

Lastly, I would highly recommend using a URL shortener service such as bit.ly to create your QR code. One problem I have seen with some QR codes is that they are too dense and thus, difficult to scan quickly (if at all). I do not completely understand the science behind QR codes, but I do know that dense QR codes are not only more difficult to scan, but are also less attractive. By using a URL shortener (namely bit.ly), you will not only avoid this problem, but you will also be able to track basic analytics of the QR code. With bit.ly, you can track the number of scans, location of the referrer, if the link is being shared on social sites, when the code was scanned and whether the referral came from the QR code or from the link posted elsewhere.

For those of you who watch CSI, here’s a simple definition of a QR code:

I hope these additional tips help you in creating more effective marketing campaigns through the use of QR codes. As always, if you have any tips or questions, please comment below or send me a message on Twitter: @eric_wheeler. And remember, sharing gets you more friends!

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10 Things I Learned as a PR & Advertising Grad Student

What I learned from grad schoolThis list is essentially a follow-up to my previous entry. Towards the end of that post, I mentioned how I really wanted the entry to be about what I learned in graduate school, but it ended up being the story of why I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in the first place. Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my two years of post-graduate education at St. Cloud State University, I present a “Top Ten” list of things I learned. Some topics were learned in the classroom, some while writing papers and others came about in other ways as a student. Though I am not going to elaborate on any of the topics, I do challenge you to ask questions or argue some of the statements. A few might even be considered controversial. Here goes:

  1. There is nothing ‘new’ about new media
  2. Learn the basic theories of psychology, and become a better communicator
  3. Even when you think you have produced creative content, you should step away and try again
  4. Always know your audience and do the research to find out more
  5. Differentiate, segment and tailor the message for each medium
  6. Never stop learning; I will never be an ‘expert’ in anything because there is always more to learn
  7. Media convergence is impossible, but web convergence is possible
  8. If you want to be successful in any communications-related industry (journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, etc.), you must live and breathe social media
  9. Huge corporate media conglomerates are the demise of democracy–nearly every media outlet is conservative … even NPR
  10. News outlets can no longer afford to simply push out information … people expect to participate in a two-way conversation about everything
Have you attended graduate school for mass communications? What did you learn?

Do Something Profound: Attend Grad School

In full academic regalia...

In full Master of Science academic regalia...

This past weekend saw the close of yet another chapter in my life: I have completed graduate school. Yes, I am now the proud recipient of a Master of Science degree with emphasis in PR & Advertising from St. Cloud State University. It was not long ago when I walked across stage at Northwestern Oklahoma State University after completing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

As an undergrad, I had little desire to pursue post-graduate education and only got the notion shortly before graduating in December 2007. However, I remember hearing inspiring words a few months prior from the (then) president of the Oklahoma Student Government Association that I just never shook out of my mind. While attending an OSGA conference, several of us were talking about our plans after graduation when John Stephen Bobb-Semple looked at me and said “Eric, why don’t you do something profound and attend graduate school?” I’m not sure how profound it is to attend graduate school, but his words did play a huge role in my decision to pursue a higher degree.

The story of how I got to Minnesota is a little longer and I have had many ask me how I got here and why I chose St. Cloud State University. Allow me to expand. During my final semester at NWOSU, I had a wonderful girlfriend and a job at a radio station that I thought would keep me in Northwest Oklahoma for a long time, and I was happy about that. However, once that relationship ended and I decided the radio station I was working at was not the best place for me, things changed.

St. Cloud State University logo

The great mass communications program and an assistantship made St. Cloud State hard to turn down.

As I was turning in my senior portfolio, I noticed a poster on the wall for a SCSU’s Master of Science in Mass Communications program. Triggering John’s words of wisdom, I became curious and tore off the reply card and mailed in my info. At this point I was already set to begin working for Acacia Fraternity headquarters in Indianapolis and thought it would be a great opportuinity to study for the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and hopefully check out a few programs while traveling around North America as a leadership consultant. As it would turn out, I had the opportunity to visit St. Cloud State in the fall of 2008 and found the campus to be rather quaint and the mass communications department quite impressive. I applied.

I ended up applying to several other schools, but it all came down money. Though it would have been great to attend grad school in Hawaii, spending $50,000 a year to make it happen wasn’t really feasible. Indeed, it came down to SCSU, and a couple affordable schools in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Choosing SCSU, however, was contingent upon obtaining a graduate assistantship. After applying for several positions, I had no such luck. In May of 2009, I would embark on my lifetime dream of traveling through Europe by myself with no idea what the future had in store when I returned. I would most likely wind up at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. as it was the most affordable, quality program I could find close to home.

KVSC 88.1FM St Cloud, MN

I learned a lot through my assistantship at KVSC.

I was stranded in Munich after losing my passport and rail pass when I finally secured a position at KVSC-FM, the campus radio station at SCSU. Apparently Loren Boone, director of university communications liked me enough during my interview for a position in his department that he thought of me when Station Manager Jo McMullen was still looking for someone at KVSC. In the end, it all worked out and my position as Director of PR & Social Media at KVSC has proved to be the most valuable experience I could possibly ask for.  I have learned so much at KVSC and in the classroom, I’m not even sure where to begin. That’s really what I wanted this blog to be about, but I couldn’t seem to sort through all the knowledge learned. I hope this story gives you inspiration as you look to further your education or your career. For me, it all comes down to one mantra: Do something profound.


The Perfect Minnesota Snow

Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve.

Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve. Shot & edited with Instagram.

 

I waited two long winters in St. Cloud, Minn. for picture-perfect snow to blanket my surroundings so I could trek the outdoors and capture the ideal winter wonderland through the lens. Though I think fresh snow is beautiful no matter when or where it comes, the temperatures in Minnesota are often too cold to get that perfectly fluffy snow that peacefully falls from the sky to rest on tree branches. Besides wind often making it impossible to stay on trees, the bitter cold known to permeate Central Minnesota in the winter usually makes the thought of spending a couple hours outside snapping photos a bit undesirable.

Alas, my winter dream came true this spring. Yes, spring. The perfect snow I was waiting for finally fell on April 20, 2011. The lakes in Central Minnesota had thawed out only days before and the snow that seemed to stay on the ground forever had finally melted away. When I woke up early in the morning and looked outside, I was excited to see such a perfect opportunity to capture the beauty of Minnesota. I had been to Quarry Park and Nature Preserve a couple of times before and figured it would be a great place to take in the spring surprise.

Thinking I would just hop out of my car and snap a few pictures before getting to my morning workout, I packed my camera and gym bag and headed out. Little did I know, I would spend the next hour and a half exploring the trails and capturing images of white trees reflected off still water, rocks climbing out of wintery surroundings and winding trails. I ended up snapping over a hundred photographs. The photos below are my favorites. Though the light was not necessarily ideal, I think they turned out nicely and no manipulations or adjustments were made. Shot with a Nikon D90. Enjoy!

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Photos from Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park, Minn. taken April 20, 2011.
 

30 Ideas for Providing Fresh Content in #SocialMedia

Providing content for social media can be a challenge.

Providing content for social media can be a challenge.

A while back, I discussed how I thought providing fresh content is the biggest challenge in social media. The post was geared more towards special practices such as a dentist or optometrist and how easy it can be to have ‘writer’s block’ in keeping up a Facebook page or Twitter account. After hearing responses from my readers both in person and on Twitter, I thought it might be of interest to revisit that post and provide a list of ideas for providing fresh content.

Listed below are 30 ideas I have brainstormed from my own thoughts and from other blog posts I have since come across. My goal in compiling this list was to take a marketing angle and focus on content that will improve interaction, build community and increase sales or foot traffic for a small business. When reading these tips, keep in mind that you should have a sense of humor and always respond to comments from your customers. Also, it is best to provide links and images whenever possible.

  1. Post trends or news in your industry
  2. Have guest posts from other professionals in your area or from other staff members or customers
  3. Video response to frequently asked questions
  4. Announcement of open appointments (use sparingly…)
  5. Trivia questions (I ask a #TriviaThursday question each week on KVSC 88.1FM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts)
  6. Name the movie quote (movie, actor, character) or song lyric (name and artist); when a user gets 25 right, they get a gift certificate for $25 (courtesy Iris Vision Care)
  7.  Special offers/discounts to customers or patients who follow you on Facebook or Twitter
  8. Hold a social media contest (this will help you increase the number of followers and keep people coming back)
  9. Video response to customer feedback (positive or negative)
  10. Post customer stories or testimonials
  11. Post video testimonials (YouTube integration)
  12. Stories from your staff (work/life experience–keep them positive and don’t get too personal)
  13. Highlight any community involvement or announce upcoming community events
  14. Highlight news from non-profits your business supports
  15. Add pictures from around the office, supplements to testimonials, products, staff, community events, anything that’s photo-worthy–people love pictures!
  16. Create polls: Why have you changed services in the past? Think of open-ended or simple yes/no questions. Use the new Facebook Questions feature (via Emily Bratkovich)
  17. Post upcoming specials
  18. Comment on positive news in the community
  19. Post new online listings of your business (Yelp, YellowPages, Yahoo! Listings, CitySearch, etc.) and ask users to comment or rate your business
  20. Post your other social media listings (don’t forget Foursquare!)
  21. Ask for shout outs and how you can find them on other social media channels
  22. Mention the businesses of some of your patients (don’t mention names)
  23. For optometrists: Ask patients to post photos of them in their very first pair of glasses (courtesy Iris Vision Care)
  24. Facebook 50: Iris Vision Care also posts a picture of a random frame each week–the first person to come in gets the frame at 50% off
  25. Quotes related to your industry (quotes with “vision” or “eye(s)” for an optometrist; quotes with “smile” in them for a dentist
  26. Post a how-to video or blog (Facebook note)
  27. Feature a customer or client of the week–tell your fans how great they are and maybe give them offer a discount
  28. Mention any TV shows, news articles or blogs in your industry
  29. Post a list of Do’s and Don’ts related to your business/product
  30. Ask questions about anything you can think of–easiest way to get a response
It is best to post something on Facebook at least once or twice per day–Fifty percent of Facebook “likes” occur within one hour and 20 minutes of being posted. Posting in the early morning or right before lunch is usually best. If you have any fun ideas for providing content that keeps the conversation going, builds your following or drives traffic to your business, let me know! Please comment below or send me an @mention on Twitter: @eric_wheeler. And remember, sharing is social!

Sources and additional resources:

Image from http://www.someforbusiness.com/


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