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“Social Media Minute” gives radio listeners practical tips and advice on communications phenomenon
Idaho public relations company provides affordable pre-recorded segments to stations, which can present them to local advertisers

For more information:
Martin Johncox, Alexander and Associates, 208-658-9100
martin@alexanderandassociates.com
facebook.com/alexandermarketing
twitter.com/alexandermktng
twitter.com/mjohncox

Hundreds of millions of people are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media, yet there are few resources in the traditional media to help them – until now.

Martin Johncox, a public relations and social media consultant, has started the “Social Media Minute,” a tip-of-the-day for radio listeners. The 60-second spots are available for radio stations, which may purchase use of the spots and package them with sponsorship opportunities for local advertisers. Sample segments can be downloaded at www.idahowork.wordpress.com.

“Social media experts are off in their podcast silos, thinking traditional media are irrelevant – even though traditional media are still command enormous audiences,” Johncox said. “Meanwhile, many traditional media people are not sure how to make social media relevant to their listeners. The Social Media Minute can help bridge this gap.”

Each Social Media Minute will focus on a common issue in social media, with an emphasis on personal and small business use and how-to tips. Johncox is considering the potential for a syndicated call-in talk show with guests. Similar talk shows are popular for computers and technical subjects, but Johncox is not aware of any yet that explore social media specifically.

“One national weekend tech show is actually advising people not to use Facebook – good luck with that,” Johncox said. “Social media are fundamentally changing the way people communicate and the public is eager to learn more about them, not ignore them.”

There are about 123 million Facebook users and 17 million Twitter users in the US. About 41 percent of Americans have a Facebook profile and about 7 percent are on Twitter. While Twitter is smaller, it is more influential, as its members are three times more likely to discuss brands (http://www.edisonresearch.com/twitter_usage_2010.php and www.facebakers.com).

Johncox is a former Idaho newspaper journalist and holds a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oregon. Since 2001, he has been public relations director for Alexander and Associates Inc. in Boise. His social media work has won industry awards and he regularly makes presentations to chambers of commerce and business groups on getting started and moving forward with social media. Current clients include Ted Mason Signature Homes, Clothesline Cleaners, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., Metro Express Car Wash, Breeze Thru Car Wash, Rail City Car Wash, Express Car Wash, Harrison Dental, YMC Inc. and many others.

Johncox, who voices sponsor spots for Boise State Public Radio and local advertisers, writes and professionally records the social media tips and emails them to purchasers. Pricing for the segments is $10 for radio stations in small markets (up to 199,000), $20 for stations in mid-sized markets (200,000 to 499,000) and $30 for stations in large markets (500,000 and above); see http://www.visionentertainment.com/html/us_radio_markets.html for market sizes).

Purchasing rights for the segment allows unlimited use for 30 days. Segments are purchased on a one-off basis and no long-term buying agreements are required. To purchase spots, email socialmedia@clear.net. Payment may be made in check or via PayPal to mjohcox@cableone.net.

Social Media Minute #1: What kind of social media should I use?

Social Media Minute #2: How do I set up a business page?

Social Media Minute #3: Business and personal issues.

The Idaho Business Review occasionally prints columns I write about public relations. The paper was kind enough to print this on July 20, 2009. Apparently it was only published in the print edition and is not available online.

Do-It-Yourself social media for the small business

These days, it seems like everybody is on Facebook and the more adventurous are on Twitter. But did you know many of the “people” on Facebook aren’t even people, but small local businesses?

I’m a relative newcomer to social media and I don’t hold myself out as an expert. But over the past few months I’ve put food on the table setting up and maintaining Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for clients. With a little dedication, any business owner can benefit from social media.

Even the best Web site is just a brochure with limited abilities to network and engage customers. Social media are word-of-mouth advertising and if your business isn’t at least taking advantage of Facebook, you’re missing out a free way to build and reach your customer base.

When it comes to social media, LinkedIn has been compared to the business meeting, Facebook to the hallway chat, Twitter to the cocktail party and MySpace to the smokers in the alley. It’s a good analogy, because each medium requires you present yourself in certain ways.

Here is how to get your business started in Facebook:

  1. Set up a personal Facebook page. Head over to http://www.facebook.com. More than 200 million people are on Facebook, so it must be easy to use. Anyone with basic computer skills can teach themselves the basics: find and make friends, upload photos and videos, link to Web pages, write on walls, post notes, tag photos, etc. Don’t worry about messing up, as you can delete any mistakes.  Collect as many friends and colleagues as you can, at least a few dozen over a couple of weeks. If you get stuck, ask for help from a friend or a professional consultant.
  2. Set up a business Facebook page. Click on the Groups link at the bottom of your Facebook page (silhouette of a couple of people). Click on “Create a new group” in the upper right. Fill in the information, upload photos, link to favorable reviews and your own Web site, add trivia, hours, etc. This is the fun part, so talk about your business and what makes it special. You can always add and change information.
  3. Prepare to invite people. Once your business page is presentable, invite your friends to become fans. To prevent spamming, Facebook only allows people to invite their confirmed friends to a business page. If you have a customer email list, you can upload that to Facebook and invite these people to become your friends, then invite them to become fans. To do this, type “search” in the search box, then click “Friend Finder” in the top middle of the page.
  4. Use your page. Install the Memorable Web Address application (it is easy to do) to make it easier to send people to your Facebook page.  Put the Facebook logo on your Web site and link it to your Facebook page. Email your customers and tell them. Put Facebook on your sign out front, on your advertising, on your menus, on anything you give customers. Give people a discount for becoming a fan and writing on your wall.
  5. Consider advertising on Facebook. Facebook ads are on the right of the page and unobtrusive. Facebook pays attention to the words people write and uses that to targets ads. Talk about your favorite books and music and ads related to them will start to appear as if by magic. Facebook advertising is very inexpensive and can be tightly targeted.

For a good example of a local business page (and my handiwork), see http://companies.to/carwash.

So what’s next? Update your business page regularly with photos, videos, links and notes. What about your business is interesting, fun or fascinating? Do you have history, machinery or processes that people can geek out on?

Get fans to write nice things on your wall because this will show up in their status updates for all their friends to see. Ask your hardcore fans to invite their friends. Think about alliances: If you’re going to donate money or hold a charitable event, find the beneficiaries and related groups on Facebook and get them to talk about it.

Keep in mind not to bug people or message your fans too often. Engage customers and talk to them – it is a precious thing when someone thinks enough about your business to become a fan and write on your wall. If you get a negative comment, do not delete it, or you will lose authenticity. Rather, display your ability to handle customer complaints appropriately and you will come out ahead.

If you are new to social media, this can seem intimidating. However, a few hours of effort will reap big rewards and in 2009 and beyond, social media are an essential part of doing business.

Martin Johncox is public relations director for Alexander and Associates. His company’s Facebook page is at http://groups.to/publicrelations and he can be Tweeted @mjohncox or emailed at martin@alexanderandassociates.com.

Update @2:50 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25: The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 13 to 5 today to kill the proposed beer and wine tax. The Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association and The White Space have done an excellent job using social media for public policy, the first such use I am aware of in Idaho.

Like every other communications specialist on Earth, I have been diving into social media, including Facebook and Twitter. I have set up a number of Facebook pages for myself and my clients (including Metro Express Car Wash, Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., and my own company) and gotten the word out on Twitter.

I’m especially interested in the public policy applications of social media, however, since that’s my area of focus as a PR practitioner. Marketing firm The White Space has done an amazing job rallying public attention around a proposed hike on the beer and wine tax, opposed by the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association. As of this writing, nearly 1,200 people have joined a Facebook page and more than 800 people have registered their e-mail addresses on donttaxmybeer.com. I am one of about 240 people on a Twitter feed and the group hosted a Tweet Up on Thursday night. Did I mention they have a blog?

The White Space has done an excellent job using social media to raise public awareness (they’re also getting me and other bloggers to discuss the issue). But the results at this point are mixed: at the end of the day Tuesday, Feb. 24, 27 testifed in favor of the tax and 21 against, with one neutral. There’s plenty of mobilizing information on the Facebook page and Web site and dozens of Tweets have kept peopel abreast, yet only 21 people have spoken against the proposed tax. Of course, that’s going to change tomorrow, as the Legislature has had to extend hearings into Wednesday, because so many people wanted to testify. It wouldn’t surprise me if hearings went beyond Wednesday.

It’s easier to get people riled up about something than it is to get them to trudge to the Legislature in the middle of the day and wait an hour or more for the opportunity to speak their mind. The White Space and the beer and wine association have done a remarkable job in getting public support for their position. If they can translate that into large numbers of people testifying on their behalf – the most prized kind of public involvement – they will have shown that social media buzz can translate into serious clout in the public policy arena. PR wonks like me will be keeping close watch.

The White Space has blazed a trail for other Idaho PR firms and, at the very least, their work for their client is to be commended. While I support the tax, a little tiny part of me wants to see the effort to defeat the tax succeed, just to show that social media can be a potent force in the political process.