Google+ vs Pinterest

The two social media new kids on the block of the last few months have undoubtedly been Google’s offering Google+ and the visual network that is Pinterest. Both of these social media channels have their own pros and cons, but in this virtual dog eat dog world which one will prove its worth to businesses and consumers alike?

Having both Google+ and Pinterest accounts I have my own opinion of which I believe is better for personal and business use but before I divulge that information, what exactly are Google+ and Pinterest?

Google+ is the much anticipated social media network from search engine giants Google. Set to be the first real rival to Facebook, there are similarities between the two. The constant stream of your ‘friends’ statuses, the chat facility and the ability set up pages for businesses. The are some more unique features of Google+, the ‘hangout’ allows a Skype type conference call where you can have a multi user conversation using video and audio. Google+ also allows users to create ‘circles’ so that statuses can be targeted to specific groups of people in ‘circles’ that you create. The social network has been adopted by some influential people like Richard Branson and President Obama as well as business. Its slow up take of users haven’t dampened Google’s spirits for the site’s future, but is it a real contender to Facebook especially for business use?

Pinterest is an image base social networking site where users can ‘pin’ images they find on the internet onto ‘boards’ like a digital pin board. A simple toolbar add on is installed so that whenever you are browsing the internet you are able to pin images to your boards. These boards can be themed around anything you like from the latest fashions to your favourite typography. Being a purely visual site lends itself extremely well as a business tool and early adopters of the site for business functions have be online fashion website ASOS and Hugh Hefner’s empire Playboy. Pinterest lends itself to fashion, which is why ASOS has had such success with their Pinterest presence. It is also a great platform for food, crafts, home ware and photography.

Both of these social networks have positives and negatives that affect their useability for organisations, some of which are below:

Having profiles with both Google+ and Pinterest I have formed my own opinion of the social networking sites. Although I joined Google+ first I find that it’s just too similar to Facebook. Why would a business with an established Facebook page attempt to transfer this on to Google+ that has less users? A lot of businesses are setting up Google+ pages because it’s the next social media fad, this is a huge bug bear. DON’T set up a social media presence unless you are going to spend time and effort maintaining it and certainly don’t do it just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Pinterest on the other hand I have to admit is becoming a firm favourite for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person, but I find the uniqueness of the site (even though its not the first of its kind –  Wists) refreshing. For business Pinterest can be hugely beneficial. On one level it can become a virtual store with the ability to create boards based on the latest seasons or stories and on the other hand it is a place where consumers share their favourite things opening up free influential promotion. Of course as any new social media channel does, Pinterest has some issues it needs to iron out, not least its copyright and terms of use. I do however think that Pinterest offers more to organisations and consumers than Google+ does. That’s not to say that Google+ won’t prosper, Facebook is quickly loosing its appeal especially with its constant interface changes and the extremely unpopular Timeline, so there is room for Google+ to poach some of Facebook’s users. However I think Google+ has a good while longer before they reach the sort of numbers that will make it a truly useful tool. Pinterest on the other hand is the social media site of the moment and a tool that I think organisations would do well to adopt.

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Audit: find out if your PR is working for you

In my last post I looked at some online programs that you can use to research prospective and current clients and I have also posted about social media auditing and the importance of keeping tabs of your social media presence. These are both important for the public relations of businesses but what about the wider opportunities of auditing?

Auditing is integral for any business and can look into every aspect of an organisation, a public relations audit will specifically look at how you are being put across to the public, your brand value and reputation and in these tough financial times can asses how effective your PR strategy really is. It is often easy to forget that there is a world outside of the online augmented reality we have created for ourselves, so I’m going to briefly look into audit measures for both on and offline PR.

In a general auditing sense there is a cycle that is often followed and in it’s simplest form follows 4 steps: Planning, Audit, Analysis & Reporting. These 4 steps are the basics when carrying out any audit and are easily applied to a PR audit whether it be on or offline.The following are brief guides to some of the points I would include in an audit, they are not every step that should be taking, but in my opinion are some of the most important.

Online

Consistency is Key: it cannot be stressed enough that all URLS, domain names, Facebook pages and groups, Twitter accounts, Google+ and LinkedIn profiles are owned and maintained by the company themselves. There are various stories of companies that have discovered their .com is being used by another person, not only is it confusing for consumers but it can be potentially damagimng to a company’s reputation. This also goes for branding across sites, make sure you have a style book that is available to all employees so any logos used are always consistent with the company branding.

Integration: with new social networking sites popping up every 5 minutes, integrating all of these with your website is a very good idea. There are programs out there including HootSuite that can do this for you, linking all of your social media profiles on one dashboard so you can update them all simultaneously. It really is becoming too easy not to do this.

SEO: search engine optimisation or SEO as the jargon junkies like to call it essentially ensures that when you type your company name or area of business in to Google (other search engines are available) that the top hit is your website, followed by your Facebook, Twitter etc etc.

Unfinished business: there is nothing worse than getting to a company’s website and discovering that there is a gaping hole on the landing page or the contact details are missing. This is the same for Facebook pages/groups, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, it is essential that your social media and websites have all the company’s information on and

Maintenance: where possible maintenance to any sites should be done at low traffic times so as not to inconvenience consumers. House of Fraser for example carry out maintenance at 4:00am to avoid loosing customers.

Measurement: In my previous post I profiled some programs that you can use to track aclients, as well as being good for research purposes they are also good ways to measure your social media, collating information including how many followers or likes you have, mentions you are receiving as well in some cases the sentiment behind these mentions.

Offline

On and off: another point of consistency is to ensure that your offline profile is the same as your online. This includes messages and branding, the last thing you want to do is confuse your customers when they are looking for you in the real world after researching you online.

Inside and out: sometimes it is easy to forget that your employees are just as important as your customers. Your employees need to be singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak as the PR campaign for the company is to ensure that the same messages are being put across.

The media and your messages: as with social media measurement and monitoring it is integral to do the same with traditional media. Look into your recent media coverage including print, television and radio and see if the messages and reputation you are trying to maintain are what are being included in the coverage.

Auditing is not a one off and it certainly isn’t a quick task, but it is something that will benefit a company in the long run. It is important to carry out PR audits to ensure that you are portraying the right image to the public as well as knowing that the money you are spending on your PR program is well spent. A lot of these auditing measures can be ongoing tasks which will ensure that you are always on top of your PR activity.

For more extensive guides to PR auditing both on and offline I found the following useful:

Cindy Kim – The Marketing Journalist 

Kwame Boame – How to Audit Your Social Media Efforts: 20+ Questions to Ask Yourself

Client research made easy

I’ve harped on about how important I think it is to monitor your social media presence, which it is. It is also important for you to be able to collate this information on a perspective client. There are various different websites out there that offer online monitoring, which makes it incredibly easy for you to do this yourself. Depending on what exactly you want to know about a client, will narrow down the type of site you use. There are literally hundreds of websites out there offering you free and pay for services, so here are just a few examples:

Comparative: If you are looking to compare your client to a competitor and get a general day to day view of what is being said about them, a quick, easy and free service is Google Trends. All you do is type in the name of your client a comma and then the competitor and it brings up a graph of news references over the last seven years, links to recent news stories that explain the graphs troughs and peaks, and facts about the companies presence across the world. It’s a basic tool, but it provides instant results that are clear and easy to understand and it’s perfect to use if you want to see how your client is being talked about online in comparison to a competitor.

Website Analysis: If you want an in depth analysis of your client’s website including traffic, SEO and server information then you can use sites that allow you to search for information on your clients wesbite. Woorank is a website much like this, you enter your clients name and woorank provides you with a page of information on their website. The information ranges from your woorank rating to its SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Another site similar to woorank is Website Grader, this site gives you more information on a website as well as suggestions to how you can improve the way the site runs.

Everything you need to know: If you want websites that are a one stop for information on a client, then Alexa gives you everything woorank and website grader do and more. You can create your own dashboard where you can add one or more websites to receive daily information on these websites. This is great for an agency, as you can add a new clients website to your dashboard and get the information sent straight to you. Another all round website is Quarkbase, unlike Alexa Quarkbase is more basic. You are given an overview of the website, but included in this summary is information from the current CEO to the latest comments on the company on Twitter as well as contact information and site traffic.

What is integral for you to remember when using these sites, is with the ever changing landscape of the internet as quickly as these analytic sites are created, the internet is evolving and changing. The tools out there are fantastic as a general overview when researching a new or prospective client, but there are glitches to these tools. For example woorank ranks Google the world’s largest website at only 84.5, so some of the information that these sites provide will obviously need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Timing is everything!

The internet and social media has made it infinitely easier for consumers to contact companies about their products and services. This is fantastic for the consumer as they have direct contact, and in most cases it’s beneficial for the companies to hear what their consumers have to say. However when the feedback is less than complimentary these comments can snowball and cause significant damage.

Listening to your customers and valuing their opinions is very important for companies, as without loyal customers (in turn buying products or services), there really is no point to a business. So when they have something to say about you, you need to listen and take note. With the popularity of blogs, social media and forums soaring, consumers can talk to each other about their experiences as well as talking to the companies. It is integral that companies monitor these online conversations so that when something negative is said they can prepare a response and have it instantly posted.

Public Relations is all about creating and sustaining a positive reputation, and today this is done partly through instant online communication. The important of communicating with your public today is no different to before the internet was so popular and user generated content was the norm. Back then if a company didn’t react quickly to a crisis or a negative comment made about them, then the public would start to loose trust in them. For example when Coca Cola had had their recall in Belgium during the summer of 1999, the main factor in escalating the crisis was CEO Douglas Ivester’s silence on the whole thing. Today there is no excuse for CEO’s not responding to a crisis, a statement can be made immediately and posted onto a company’s website. In some cases you can prevent a crisis simply by watching what the public is saying about you and officially responding where appropriate. People want to know what is going on and they hate being left in the dark, so to avoid idle gossip it is hugely important to keep them informed and it is now than ever.

There are various tools out there that you can use to monitor your online mentions. There are online web searches like Ice Rocket or Addict-o-matic. There are social media specific monitoring tools like Brand Watch and Radian6 (more can be found here) You can even track mentions of your company on YouTube videos and other sites that host video via Google Videos. A lot of these services are completely free allowing any company to monitor what is being said about them, whether it be your local cafe or major international businesses like Starbucks. Even if your business doesn’t have an official social media presence it doesn’t stop people using Facebook or Twitter to talk about you, where user generated content is concerned anybody is fair game which makes it all the more important for companies to invest time into tracking what is being said about them.

It really is integral for any serious business to have measures in place so that they can act fast and respond quickly to user generated content like blog posts or Facebook comments, especially when they are negative to your company. You can’t afford to ignore the influence and importance of these online conversations, in these situations timing is everything the faster you can respond, the better the outcome will be.

What does Social Media say about you?

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (yes people still use it!), LinkedIn, Bebo, Flickr, Foursquare, Google+ and list goes on! Worldwide there are literally hundreds of social networking sites and if you have one, you probably have at least 2 or 3. But is the information you have on these sites damaging you or your company’s reputation?

It’s becoming a well known fact that employers will Google candidates and check out their social media presence even before you get to interview stages. So now that these sites have moved on from just a place to connect with friends, to somewhere where employers and customers will get their first impressions of you it is vital that what these sites say about you is positive and not detrimental.

I have come up with 5 top tips to keep your Social Media presence a positive attribute rather than a negative one:

1. Picture Perfect

Everybody has embarrassing drunk photos on their Facebook profile and it is good to show that you can let your hair down at the weekends, but if these odd one or two photos are more like every other photo, then you may need to think about cutting them down a bit. It’s one thing to show that you can have a good time, but you need to remember that employers more importantly want to know that you’re not going to turn up with a hangover every morning!

2. Up to date

With new Social Networking sites popping up all the time it’s easy to forget that old MySpace account or YouTube channel you set up when you were 15. It’s good to do a Google search for yourself every once and a while to re-discover these lost profiles and either up date them or delete them. Make sure that all of your current accounts are also up to date, especially education and employment history.

3. Honesty is the best policy

Now you know that employers will be looking at your Social Media presence don’t fall in the trap of embellishing the truth. Honesty really is the best policy, employers will pick up on what you have written about yourself and may question you at an interview, much like your CV so it really is important to be truthful on all of you profiles.

4. Sticks and stones

Every man and his dog has a blog these days and sometimes the things we write about can be emotionally fueled and negative to say the least. If you know you have written something about a company in the past that you may regret now and you think reflects badly on yourself then address it in a new positive one. Explain why you wrote it and how your view point has changed, because one day you may find yourself wanting to work at that company. Similarly future employees don’t want to see that you have slated a former employee on your blog or Facebook page, why would they employ somebody that could turn around and do the same to them? Keep those sorts of opinions private, because they could affect your future professional prospects.

5. Common Sense

Before you publish that post or update your status, think what it says about you to all of your potential audience. In essence use your common sense, if it’s just a rant to make you feel better after you’ve been reprimanded at work it’s probably going to reflect badly on you when you come to want a new job so don’t publish it. If it’s a subjective piece on a company that you strongly believe has done wrong and you are sure you won’t regret it in the future then go for it.

Although these tips are for personal Social Media usage, organisations also need to take heed, instead of going to official websites consumers are increasingly using Facebook as their first port of call. This means that a company’s Facebook page could become their front of house, so the information and comments on it need to portray a positive image.

These tips aren’t meant to stifle how you represent yourself online, they’re meant to make you think twice about what information you have about yourself online. Public Relations is about creating and sustaining a positive reputation, this is no different for how you portray yourself using Social Media. Often people fall into the trap of using sites like Facebook and Twitter as a platform to air grievances and in the heat of the moment you may find it helpful, but down the line you may find that they turn around and bite you on the bum!

Make sure that your Social Media profiles are saying the right things about you.

An infographic paints a thousand words?

“A picture paints a thousand words” or so the proverb goes and the current Infographics trend is certainly relying on this still being true!

Now I’ll be honest when I first learnt of Infographics, I thought what a waste of time. Who has 4 hours to spare and while it away on Photoshop attempting to design a glossy image when you can just put the information into a table/graph and be done with it. However after the obligatory Google of Infographics I’m not ashamed to say that my viewpoint did change.

When an Infographic is done well, it can be a great tool to get your information across and have the reader actually take it in. There are hundreds of great examples of Infographics one that I found entertaining is the below:

I like it because it’s engaging, funny and it does what it sets out to do, which in my humble opinion is the point of an Infographic. Graphs, tables and endless streams of text can be boring, so why not have some fun with the information you need to get across. Obviously the average Joe will look at the Twitter Infographic and see it as a bit of a laugh, but social profiling like the above is great tool for PR. It is also a good way for organisations to produce important but dry information in a way that their employees or consumers can really understand.

So I thought I’d have a go, there must be an Infographic generator out there that can save me spending a day getting frustrated on Photoshop. Well there isn’t, or more accurately there are lots of generators out there that say they’ll give me a personalised Infographic and after signing up for most of them, 99% of the time they’re just long winded graph producers. There are a couple companies out there on the cusp of creating an a genuine Inforgaphic generator, visual.ly say they will be launching there’s soon and Google have nearly got the idea! But essentially you need to be proficient in Photoshop or run the risk of ending up with something like this:

It’s meant to demonstrate the the top 3 reasons why American Facebook users ‘Like’ brands pages. Yes I know it’s crap, after all the searching and signing up I resigned myself to Excel and found the SmartArt tab. Which is my point, to create useful and effective Infographics you need to be able to use Photoshop. I have no doubt that there will soon be an online generator, but I think that would take the creativity out of the image. Infographics to me are so impressive because you know that someone has spent the time designing and creating the image around the information. By taking this away I think the novelty of the Infographic would be quickly lost, which would be a shame as they have potential to develop further. Maybe in the future we’ll see interactive Infographics, animated Infographics or even instant Infographics that chart your daily web use, the possibilities as they say are endless.

So yes I have once again changed my mind (it is a women’s prerogative after all) Infographics may be a novelty but in actual fact they’re a pretty useful novelty, but in hindsight it’s probably best to leave it to a Photoshop Pro!