PR in Social Media: Owning up to Mistakes

Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.
Just like Homer Simpson, we all make mistakes sometimes.

In my last post, I talked bout the power of social media on a personal level as it relates to St. Cloud State University choosing to eliminate homecoming. I had a short anecdote I wanted to include, but omitted due to my goal of keeping posts at 500 words or less. The anecdote was about a typo I had on a Facebook post for KVSC on homecoming being eliminated at SCSU:

“Top story at kvsc.org today: St. Cloud State University to climate Homecoming.”

Not sure what “climate” homecoming is all about, but people started making fun of the typo almost as soon as it was posted. Although the headline was posted as KVSC, I was the one behind the typo (or auto correct more specifically). So once it was called to my attention, I had to make a choice: remove the original post (also removing user comments) or own up to my mistake with a personal remark.

Being a PR guy, I felt it was important to be transparent and admit the goof up. So I simply replied to the post (with my name and face next to the comment) and made a little joke out of it with a reference to damnyouautocorrect.com.

Many social media experts believe it is important to always put a face with a company status update. Personally, I feel it depends on the type of post. Posting an article that is “trending” on your site should not require a face behind the post. However, if there does happen to be a typo, whoever made the error should own up to the mistake.

Lastly, just as a reporter should never remove an article with a factual error, a company should never remove a post or tweet with a mistake. It is much more professional to admit fault. Plus, admitting your mistake can only create more impressions and build credibility as a reputable source of information.

Thankfully, this was merely a typo and not anything offensive. Some celebrities and journalists alike have made “jokes” on Facebook or Twitter that have turned out to be quite offensive and created backlash from their followers. Check this article out to learn of a larger-scale mistake and how Kim Wilson suggests handling a “Twitter Faux Pas.”

I should mention I had a mistake in my last post as well. When I omitted the part about my mistake, I left a sentence in that was completely out of context. It was up for a few hours before I noticed it. Can’t even remember what it was now. Did I just break my own rule of owning up to mistakes?

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.

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.

Twitter Tutorial: Using #Hashtags

Using Twitter #HashtagsIn my previous post, I discussed using @mentions by explaining what they are, how they are used and how to effectively use them. Now it’s time to do the same for hashtags.

Hashtags are way to add metadata to your tweet. As such, they are typically used in an effort to get your tweet more views. A tweet with a hashtag basically creates a hyper link to search results of tweets containing the same hashtag. Hashtags are created by adding the hash or pound symbol (#) in front of a word: #hashtag. The main purpose behind a hashtag is to help identify a topic and spread the information on Twitter. There are several ways in which people can use a hashtag.

Many conferences are using hashtags as a way for conference attendees to discuss what they are learning and engage with other participants or directors. They do this by choosing a hashtag related to the conference theme or topic and making sure everyone knows about the hashtag. Then, everyone at the conference uses the hashtag throughout the event.

Online contests are another way to effectively use a hashtag. The object here is to identify users who are entering the contest by using the hashtag. I have conducted several social media concert ticket giveaways for KVSC 88.1FM and I always try to find a unique hashtag for the contest. Another reason for using a hashtag for a Twitter contest is to hopefully generate a trending topic. This is usually only achievable with a company with lots of followers using the hashtag or one that can afford to use Twitter’s promoted tweets.

Another popular way to use a hashtag is to hold “tweetchats” for users with similar interests. For instance, PRSA uses the hashtag “#prstudchat” for public relations student to engage in conversation with one another and with potential employers. To hold a tweetchat, a hashtag related to the subject is chosen and a time is set for the chat to happen. With a little help from a moderator, all Twitter users need to do is search for the hashtag, tweet their thoughts or questions and hit refresh every now and then to join in the conversation.

If for nothing else, Twitter users like to use hashtags in a comical sense such as “#icanttakeyouseriously if you wear crocs” (by @loreeeeos). There are a number of other ways in which you can use hashtags such as introducing a new product or during a crisis situation. Whatever your reason, just make sure you use hashtags wherever relavent to help organize your tweets and provide your followers with media-rich updates to increase interaction.

Twitter Tutorial: Using @Mentions

Anytime someone tells me they just set up a Twitter account, I get questions about what a hashtag is and how to use @mentions or even what a retweet is. Lets see if we can get some simple definitions out there and how to get the most out of Twitter. We’ll start with @mentions.

@mentions are a way of including another Twitter user in your tweet. They are used either to mention someone in a tweet or to reply to someone else’s tweet. To use an @mention, simply use the at symbol (@) in front of a username on twitter: @eric_wheeler. The under score sign (_) is the only special character allowed in a username, so it’s okay to add a period or other punctuation after an @mention without adding a space. Remember, social media is not an excuse for bad writing.

Since the main purpose here is to mention someone in a tweet (twitter status update), they can be used to create conversations with other Twitter users or to simply recognize someone. One good thing about @mentions is that it pretty much guarantees at least one person will view your tweet and possibly interact with you. Anytime I share a link and think of someone who might have the same interest, I include him/her in the post. This increases the likelihood that someone will retweet (a topic for later) and, thus, increase my total impressions. Increasing impressions will help you in gaining followers.

Now that you know how to use an @mention, get creative in recognizing people in your online community and remember to reply if someone mentions you in a Tweet. We’ll knock out #hashtags in the next post. Using Twitter is not that hard, trust me. If you don’t have a Twitter account or if you’re new to Twitter, the video below is for you: