Social Media: Personal and Visual, Pt. 1 – Know Your Audience

The importance of knowing your audience.
Is your target audience a crowd of conservative men or does it have a greater variance to allow for more flexibility?

I recently spoke at a St. Cloud State Mass Communications alumni event regarding trends in social media–especially in the Public Relations industry. As an intern at Kohnstamm Communications and only a couple years as a social media manager at KVSC-FM under my belt, I’m hardly an expert on the subject, but I do feel I came out with some good points and generated an interesting discussion. I rarely write out word-for-word what I plan to say at these things, but for some reason that’s what happened. I ended up making an outline of speaking points for a more natural impromptu delivery and my original ‘script’ for my presentation “Social Media: Personal and Visual” is below.

I learned a lot as the Director of PR & Social Media at KVSC and a lot of what I learned along the way is directly transferable to the PR industry—whether the B2B clients I work with at Kohnstamm care about social media or not. I learned two main things while building KVSC’s social media presence: 1.) It is important to know your audience and 2.) People are very visually minded.

For the former, I learned early on that no one really cares about basic station updates that can easily be found at kvsc.org, people want to be entertained and involved in the conversation. In other words, people want to be reached at a personal level. I found that posting opinionated articles relating to the station’s music format or pop culture in general would garner a greater response than simply announcing what was coming up in the programming lineup.

It’s definitely important to know your audience and have a good understanding of what types of posts will get their attention without offending anyone too much. A great example of this is with a new recruitment firm I’ve been working with. At KVSC, it seemed I could get away with just about anything. Making fun of Nickelback, posting popular memes and silly YouTube videos are all commonplace on the KVSC Facebook wall. For example, one of the more popular posts on the KVSC wall consisted of a black and white photo of a little boy smoking a cigarette next to a chicken and the caption “Could someone please explain this picture?” (side note: the little boy happens to be a young István Ládai). With Grapevine – Targeted Sales Recruiting, I posted a picture of an Easter bunny portrait gone slightly wrong and wished everyone a happy Easter. It was all in good nature and was meant to be funny. However, someone didn’t like it and contacted the owner of the business and we took it down.

Lesson learned. Monitor and know your audience before you really test the waters. As with any good PR campaign, knowing your audience will help in crafting a news release, pitching a reporter or otherwise getting a client’s news out. Knowing your audience allows you to create much more targeted and personal messages. Maintaining personal messaging in any communication strategy allows for better conversation, but can only be achieved if you know what your audience is interested in talking about.

Further reading on the subject of knowing your audience:

Image via juicebag.blogspot.com.

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.

University Axes Homecoming, Social Media Lights Up

SCSU 2010 Homecoming Logo
St. Cloud State University eliminates homecoming.

During a live interview at KVSC 88.1FM, News Director Chris Duffy spoke with St. Cloud State University Student Government President Amanda Bardonner where she revealed the university’s plans to eliminate homecoming. Duffy waited towards the end the interview and caught President Bardonner a little bit off guard. He knew the news was big. Before ending his day, he made sure it was up at kvsc.org.

The next day, I opened up TweetDeck and noticed a heavy amount of mentions for @KVSCnews and in my “KVSC” search results. The story generated over 30 mentions for KVSC on Twitter, which is far greater than the normal one or two tweets per day from the same few listeners. As the director of social media at KVSC, I found it necessary to post the news on the station’s Facebook page as a ‘trending’ story.

The story generated 30 some KVSC-related tweets and 2,000 impressions on the station’s Facebook page, but that’s not my reason for writing. Why I’m writing is because this is the first time I really saw the power of social media at a personal level. After posting the story on the KVSC Facebook page and throwing out a couple retweets for the station, I did the same for my personal accounts.

Being from Oklahoma where homecoming is very important to most schools–even to my small regional university of roughly 2,000 students–I found this news to be quite shocking. Even though I had heard talks of doing “spirit events” throughout the semester instead of homecoming, I really did not think that was a serious notion. So, like many students and alumni, I did my duty to broadcast the news to as many in my social network as possible.

My first action was just a retweet. I then headed over to Facebook to post a link to the KVSC story with my headline of “What can we do to save homecoming at St. Cloud State University?” The story was cross-linked to SCSU’s Facebook page and it got a little bit of attention on my wall and a few people voiced their opinions because of it. I then read an article by the Star Tribune and found a quote I felt summed up my opionion on the matter and headed back to Twitter to post that link:

“I’ve never heard of it [eliminating homecoming]… They must be doing something wrong…” http://j.mp/hzLYUX #scsu

This is where I started seeing the power of social media come to life. This is pretty much where my homecoming rants ended. I was going about this rather passively as I was working on my final comprehensive exam for graduate school. I then received a tweet from @Aeikens who was putting together a story for the St. Cloud Times. We got in touch and before I knew it, I was doing a phone interview with Dave Aeikens (reporter).

I ended up having several quotes in the paper the next day with a block quote on the front page of State & Local. I also ended up on KSTP with my name and picture from my posting on Facebook. Pretty cool. Maybe I’ll go after that sweet social media internship for Charlie Sheen.

Learning Skills from KVSC’s Biggest Annual Event: Trivia Weekend

In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.
In front of my billboard for Superheroes of Trivia.

KVSC 88.1FM’s 32nd annual Trivia Weekend recently came to an end. Trivia Weekend is a staple in Central Minnesota and consistently sees around 70 teams compete in a 50-hour non-stop contest with nine questions asked over the air every hour. The questions range from sports and popular culture to science and general history with many theme-based questions asked throughout the contest.

This year’s theme “Superheroes of Trivia” was especially fun for the competing teams and question writers alike. The questions are very tough as the writers attempt to “Google-proof” them and the contest is complete with audio sound bites and visual trivia. This is a great contest and is one of the longest-running annual events at St. Cloud State University.

Personally, I never really get too excited about hearing the questions over the air or for putting in volunteer hours for this weekend-long event. However, this being my second year as a graduate assistant at KVSC, I did get excited about putting my public relations knowledge to the test and in exercising my social media and graphic design skills in promoting Superheroes of Trivia. From designing the promotional poster to teasing the Trivia Weekend junkies via Facebook and Twitter, I had a lot of fun building some hype leading up to Superheroes of Trivia and in keeping the conversation going in the social media world all weekend. Most of the design work was based on the poster and included designing T-shirts, small flyers, images for web/social media and even a billboard (pictured above).

Promotions for Trivia Weekend began before the theme was even picked in July. With social media, we were able to get trivia enthusiasts involved by including them in choosing a theme. By creating a social media contest around the idea of helping us pick a theme, we were able to interact with our audience and make them feel more closely connected to the station.

The privilege of being a graduate assistant at an award-winning college radio station has been the perfect supplement to my academic career at St. Cloud State. Jo McMullen-Boyer is a great station manager to work with and she really gives me a lot of freedom to make my position at KVSC my own. The position is mostly geared around creating content for kvsc.org and general public relations for the station as well as some basic graphic design when necessary. The freedom to make the position my own means I have put a strong focus on building the station’s social media platforms and driving traffic to its website. I also get to work on my skills as a photographer at concerts and other special events.

Soon after Trivia Weekend came to a close, postings on our Facebook page were popping up thanking the station for making the weekend so much fun and on what the theme should be for next year. Sadly, I graduate in May and am (hopefully) moving on to bigger and better things and will not get to contribute to picking a theme or teasing the “trivia junkies” via social media during the months leading up to Trivia Weekend. I’m sure my successor (whoever that may be) will carry the Trivia Weekend promotions torch well.

Tutorial: The Social Media Contest

How would you do a social media dance contest? I would use YouTube of course!

Feel free to consider this part three of my Twitter tutorial. In this entry however, I will walk you through the steps of a social media contest at KVSC 88.1FM where we incorporate both Facebook and Twitter. So far at KVSC, we have only done concert ticket giveaways as a social media contest. We are planning to do a costume contest during Trivia Weekend to coincide with the theme Superheroes of Trivia. That contest will be on Facebook only and participants will post photos of themselves in their superhero costume on our wall and winners will be chosen by number of likes and comments. That should be fun.

The process is really pretty simple and it gets even easier when you limit the contest to just Twitter (Mashable has a great “how to” on Twitter contests). First, decide what your marketing goals are–create brand awareness, find out more about your customers, increase engagement, etc. Once you decide why you are doing a social media contest, figure out how you want to achieve your goals. At KVSC, our main focus is to increase engagement with our listeners and hopefully drive traffic to our website and to increase overall listenership.

Second, you need a game plan. Now that you know your marketing goals, it’s time to lay down some rules. This is almost too simple for something such as a concert ticket giveaway. For Facebook, just state the rules in a status update. That’s basically it. Remember to tag appropriate pages (in this case KVSC and First Avenue) and provide any additional links. Here’s an example:

KVSC – 88.1FM is giving away ONE pass to ALL CONCERTS at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry for the remainder of 2010! Simply hit the “Like” button at the bottom of this message to win! For and additional entry, visit http://twitter.com/kvsc881fm and retweet the contest message. Visit http://www.kvsc.org/ for full details.

Then do the same on Twitter, only now, you are restricted to 140 characters or less. Also, you may want to add a unique hashtag to monitor and help in promoting some aspect of the contest (or your company, cause, etc). Remember to use @mentions where appropriate:

@kvsc881fm – giving away ONE 40th Anniv. Pass to ALL concerts @Firstavenue for ALL OF 2010! Retweet to win! http://kvsc.org/ #KVSC1st_ave

Be sure to have information on your website with full details and promote in anyway possible. For KVSC, we usually make an on-air push and promote in our monthly e-newsletter. Once you have made your posts and promoted the contest a little bit, sit back and watch. When the deadline comes, compile all the valid entries and draw a winner (or winners) from a hat. Notify the winners and do a simple follow-up to everyone else via another post, and you’re done!

The best thing about social media contests is it’s very easy to measure your success. For Facebook, look at the number of likes, comments and any increase in new people who like your page. For Twitter, count the number of retweets and any other interactions.