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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

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

“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 ( and

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 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 Payment may be made in check or via PayPal to

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.

Three years is a long time for a PR effort, but sometimes that’s what it takes, especially if the stakes are high. Alexander and Associates’ work for Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. paid off when the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the county modify its comprehensive plan to  allow AEHI to move forward on its plans or a nuclear power plant in that county. I’m pleased to say my term as head of PR for AEHI has produced success for this stage of the project. Dan Hamilton, a former KTRV Fox 12 newscaster, has taken the reins as head of the PR effort, and I know Dan will do a stellar job. I remain on as a consultant and fanatically committed to the project.

I first started helping AEHI in April 2007; the company’s chief goal in Idaho is to develop a nuclear power plant and CEO Don Gillispie has been highly persistent in the face of a difficult investment climate, setbacks and governmental delays. It was very heartening that the Payette P and Z last week voted 9 to 2 in favor, after a lengthy public hearing in November.

One of the two commissioners who voted against AEHI’s request said the company hadn’t submitted enough information to support its plans (several other commissioners correctly pointed out that, at this stage, AEHI had explained its plans sufficiently and it would have to submit highly detailed plans as it sought further approvals). This commissioner said the company appears to have “spent most of its money on public relations.” I take this as a backhanded compliment, but the use of public relations in this context, unfortunately, appears cynical.

In the past three years, I’ve visited close to 1,000 homes and businesses in three counties to pass out information, discuss our project and/or collect petition signatures in a half-dozen towns  – decaying downtowns, strip malls, restaurants, pawn shops, secondhand stores, used car lots, smoky bars, neighborhoods, banks, machine shops, espresso stands, barber shops, corner stores, food assistance lines, subdivisions, trailer parks and office parks. In between this community organizing work, my company sent out news releases, arranged advertising, fielded media interviews, blogged, researched/wrote newsletters, attended local government meetings, recruited people to write letters to the editor and brought AEHI into the new frontiers of social media. AEHI CEO Don Gillispie spoke in front of chambers of commerce, service clubs and anyone else who would listen, while other members of the team did their respective parts. This is honest-to-goodness commitment and community outreach, not merely “public relations.”

We won this round because we put our faith in the majority of the people.

The Snake River Alliance fought us to a near-standstill in Elmore County, but in Payette County, I believe the P and Z was more inclined to listen to the testimony. Shortly before she cast a favorable vote, one Payette P and Z commissioner said testimony was about 81 percent in favor and that was something she had to pay attention to.

The Snake River Alliance’s approach to community organizing, as I have come to see it, is to find a few key people on their side, then work largely behind-the-scenes to assemble a small but influential coalition of opposition. That approach may work well in a community where the political culture gives a disproportionate amount of weight to a small but well-connected group. In such cases, hundreds of voices in support of a proposal may not be enough to overcome those few opposed.

In Payette County last week, we saw officials genuinely consider the wishes of the majority, especially when they themselves identify with those who want a better life for themselves and their neighbors. In that kind of climate, the Snake River Alliance will have to emerge from the shadows to do the grunt work of knocking on doors, networking with local businesses, approaching common people and offering something of value that will help struggling families put food on the table.

Wherever the AEHI proposal goes, I and many other people appreciate that the Payette County Commission gave a small company a fair chance to make something tremendous happen. Thank you and we will do right for your county.

As many of you know, I do a fair amount of consulting for clients using social media especially Facebook and Twitter. I’ve helped dozens of businesses set up and maintain Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

More and more, I see businesses using personal profiles to promote their businesses. Bad idea! Facebook will eventually shut down your account, without warning, embarrassing you and erasing all your efforts to build your brand with your customers.

A personal profile page must carry the name of a real person and the legit way to promote your business is with a business page. However, many businesses don’t do this out of ignorance, or intention. Local marketing firms that advise clients on social media (and ought to know better) are misusing profile pages, as well as local media.

You see, it’s much harder to collect “fans” for a business page than it is to collect “friends” for a profile page. The only way a business can get fans is for existing fans to recommend the business to their own friends. However, a business using a personal profile page can reach out and solicit “friends.” This makes the tough work of social media marketing much easier, but it’s an abuse of the system and degrades the experience for everyone.

Facebook is about people and relationships between them. Commerce is secondary and to prove your business’ worth, you need to get your fans talking about you. From a practical standpoint, Facebook is concerned about businesses overrunning the network with “friend requests” to push products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with using Facebook to push products and services, of course. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I’d compare it to being at a cocktail party or backyard barbecue. If someone in a business uniform asks you for a moment of your time and starts saying why you should have lunch at their restaurant, you’d get annoyed of course. However, if you were talking to a friend of yours and they said, “Hey, I found this great place for lunch” or “I’m now doing marketing for this great lunch place,” that’s more in keeping with the purpose of the event. If you bug your friends with this too much, you won’t have them for long. This keeps the element of personal accountability very much in play.

Facebook is becoming a backyard barbecue at which businesses are piling out of the van, handing out leaflets and pushing their products. If you are a business, promote yourself the legit way: Set up a fan page. Put your name, or the name of a representative, out there to promote you correctly. Give people a reason to talk about your brand and your product and they will reward you by becoming a fan. And, you will avoid the nasty surprise of finding your Facebook account deactivated – and it will happen when Facebook monitors make it to this corner of the world.

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 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

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 and he can be Tweeted @mjohncox or emailed at

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 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.