Circling Back to Social Media Monitoring

For my final blog post for Dr. Daws’ Digital Social Media class, I am looking once again at the issue of:  social-media-monitoring1

According to the Financial Times Lexicon, “Social media monitoring is the active monitoring of social media channels for information about a company or organisation.”

Though it intimidated me at first, I quite enjoyed the assignment where we had to experiment with listening in to social media ourselves. The importance of this activity also turned out to be one of the biggest takeaways I got from our Arby’s guest speaker, Josh Martin. He mentioned that at Arby’s “we read every single comment.” With that translating into that company having to commit resources to handle some 1,000 to 5,000 social media mentions every day, this, to me, is a very solid example of a big brand demonstrating that it truly does value customer feedback and — what’s more — acts on it. One example of Arby’s tangible responsiveness is evidenced through their efforts to install baby changing stations in all of their restaurants because of the complaints they had been receiving through social media about this family-friendly restaurant not having facilities to properly accommodate families with babies.

Social Media Missteps

Contrast this level of commitment to stakeholder concerns with the approach of the Trinidad & Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF), the subject of my social media monitoring report. That organization took what was an already-sensitive national issue and made it exponentially worse by their non-responsive social media approach.

Although, admittedly, their Facebook page did not have daily posts prior to the announcement that raised all the furor (the last-minute replacement of the slated 2016 Olympic gymnastics representative), they went completely silent subsequently. In fact, to this day, the TTGF has not posted any status updates on Facebook. In other words, their strategy in dealing with the public’s anger toward them was to ignore the comments that called out what was perceived as an unfair decision mired in disreputable actions. This type of inaction is, in general, a huge no-no in the social media world, as expressed in an article written by Michael Maher on scribenet.com:

In some ways, an inactive account can be worse than not having an account at all. If you have an account, it implies to followers and potential followers that you monitor a social media account and that this may be a way to contact you. Many companies, especially start-ups, are encouraging users to contact them via Twitter with issues, questions, bug reports, and feature requests, which makes inactive accounts look bad by comparison. In short, be active and commit to a social media strategy and schedule.

Added to that, the TTGF was being slandered mercilessly on Twitter — and the TTGF doesn’t even have a presence on that platform. So, they deprived themselves of the chance to be in touch with public sentiment during that crucial time when the eyes of an entire nation were on them. Again, another no-no in the world of social media, which, let’s face it, is a tool so many brands choose to leverage to make great gains — and, often, in the most fun ways.

A Win-Win Case

Case in point, when Morton’s listened in on Twitter, the end result was a win-win for the the listener and the tweeter, social media consultant Peter Shankman — who has more than 150,000 Twitter followers. He essentially tweeted out to Morton’s his desire to be greeted with a porterhouse steak upon landing in Newark. The resulting follow-through from Morton’s meant a free fancy dinner for Shankman, yes, but lots of free publicity for Morton’s! Basically, what Morton’s got out of that gourmet gesture was thousands of dollars worth of advertising for the mere cost of one steak dinner. And, it never would have happened had Morton’s not been listening in.

Social media listening enabled Morton’s to pick out advocate from the crowd and create influence at a low cost.

Yes, indeed, the power of social media is in the listening. Agree?

 

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Storytelling the Visual Way

The power of telling stories has always been amplified when accompanied by powerful visuals. From the earliest of days, there has been evidence  — as noted in the white paper The Skinny: Instagram, which references the “depictions of hunting conquests sprawled across cave walls” — of our appetite for “showing” rather than “telling.”

Shortly after I joined Georgia Tech a little more than four years ago, there was a huge website redesign, which was part of the Institute’s attempt to satisfy that very appetite.

Recognizing that our main target audience was of a generation especially partial to a dynamic visual experience — and that our other stakeholders like parents, industry partners, donors, and professors were increasingly indicating that they were as much into visual content as the millennials were, we placed serious emphasis on ensuring that our web features were visually impactful. We were definitely on board with all the arguments in favor of solid visual content. We were ready to tell more compelling stories that would help our various target audiences really connect with our brand.

Tech This Example

As we ramped up our visual storytelling efforts, I was fortunate to be part of the team that produced a web feature that was not only a 2015 PRSA Bronze Anvil Award Winner but one that had earned the distinction of being Georgia Tech’s highest-ranked homepage feature. At a time when Tech’s typical feature article attracted approximately 3,500 page views, 24 Hours at Clough Commons pulled in 19,704. The Clough Commons feature remained No. 1 for at least a year, and, today — more than two years later — it’s ranked 11th among Tech’s most popular homepage features. The consensus has been that this feature’s success is, in no small part, due to our visually driven approach in producing it.

Created specifically to prompt prospective students to take a thoughtful look at Georgia Tech by showcasing one of our main academic attractions (a student learning center open 24/7 — which not many universities offer), this feature provided an hour-by-hour look (chronicled on March 11, 2014) at Tech’s state-of-the-art Clough Commons through student, faculty, and staff stories.

Each segment was written with the on-the-go, website-switching college-bound millennial in mind. So, no one piece exceeded 300 words, and all were supported with appealing visuals in the form of mega photography or engaging, relatable videos — or both.

The Proof Is in the Paper

Apart from triggering a spike in page views for the Institute’s homepage, this feature produced anecdotal evidence that we had been successful in engaging our primary target audience. For example, one student from an Idaho high school fashioned a portion of her admissions essay around 24 Hours at Clough Commons, answering the question “Why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech” with a response titled “A Dream 24 Hours.” She concluded her paper with, “Why Georgia Tech? Clough Commons – The Academic Place.”

Interestingly, the most popular homepage feature spot is now occupied by The President Visits Georgia Tech, which I don’t find to be nearly as visually exciting. But perhaps POTUS just has that kind of No. 1 power. What do you think?

 

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Social Media Monitoring Report

To the Trinidad & Tobago Gymnastics Federation:

Following the conclusion of the 2016 Olympic Games — the event at the root of your organization’s recent troubles — I am providing you with a snapshot of the public’s perception of the TTGF after your handling of the selection of a gymnast to represent Trinidad & Tobago at this year’s Games. This is with a view to arming you with feedback that should be considered key in determining the TTGF’s modus operandi moving forward.

Your last-minute April 16 announcement to withdraw Thema Williams jnftxtnfjkiahbt-800x450-nopadas the slated Trinidad & Tobago gymnast to compete in the final gymnastics Olympic qualifier — on April 17 — in Rio de Janeiro stirred up a salacious scene in the news and on social media. With her replacement Marisa Dick being of Trinidadian parentage but Canadian-born, an already-sensitive situation became the source of race-related arguments, accusations of nepotism, and even conspiracy theories.

The Two Hotspots

Twitter and Facebook were particular hotbeds, which is why those two channels are the focus of this report.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 6.23.54 PM

Infographic courtesy Venngage

The tweets and Facebook posts examined were from the period between the TTGF’s announcement date of April 16 and the start of the drafting of this report, August 27. While most of the conversation took place immediately following April 16, it made sense to have the examination period extend into August to try to capture any sentiments that might have been expressed with regard to Dick’s actual performance at the Olympics.

Unfortunately, the conversations on both forums — regardless of timing — reflect very poorly on the TTGF. Terms such as debacle, fiasco, and scandal were all closely associated with any TTGF social media search; common adjectives describing your organization included: unethical, dishonorable, and even sinister; and expletives were liberally sprinkled throughout, with many commentators also inserting profane puns wherever Dick’s surname lent itself to easy innuendo.

Sobering Stats

To put it in terms of statistics, of the 122 posts on the TTGF Facebook page in response to your April 16 announcement, 100 percent were critical of the TTGF — if not utterly defamatory. The post by Tenille Clark below, sums up this point well.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 11.51.55 PM

Additionally, supplementing the 122 inflammatory posts were 54 Facebook reaction icons signifying anger.
With Twitter, of 60 tweets generated through searches for ‘Trinidad & Tobago Gymnastics Federation,’ ‘TTGF Dick,’ TTGF Thema,’ just 12 were not negative. That isn’t to say, however, that those 12 were in support of the TTGF; they were merely tweets that were more neutral, sharing news reports, for instance, as in the example below.
Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 12.01.42 AM

 

Recommendations

Based on all of the overwhelmingly negative feedback, allow me to respectfully put forward some suggestions for your consideration.

1) Engage your social media audiences.

The fact that you have not posted anything on the TTGF Facebook page since the April 16 announcement is detrimental in more than one way: It gives the impression that you place no value on keeping the public abreast of TTGF developments — even though your organization has been at the center of a situation of national significance; you have also missed the opportunity to defend your actions and correct any inaccuracies — silence in this case is both consent and concession, with your consenting to the public bashing, and, by default, conceding to wrongdoing.

Likewise, because you don’t even have a presence on Twitter, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to give a voice to your own narrative in a forum where your reputation has been fodder for the very influential Twitter community.

2) Ensure your operations are transparent and void of conflict-of-interest scenarios.

The overriding sentiment behind the tainted perception of the TTGF is that your unilateral decision to withdraw Williams was an act of subterfuge — in favor of Dick who has close connections with two TTGF board members. The information reported to the public that the TTGF did not observe all elements of protocol before replacing Williams with Dick —which you did little to refute (refer to the previous point) — supports that theory. Had there been absolute transparency in the decision-making process and no conflict-of-interest situations, there would’ve been no grounds for accusations of misconduct. And that is why the last point is being proffered.

3) Consider a change in leadership.

The TTGF’s credibility has suffered tremendously as a result of this situation — and perhaps irreparably so because of the lack of damage control online and offline. Fresh faces at the helm might just be the very thing needed to signal a new beginning for the TTGF and fuel the public’s renewal in the hope for the country’s collective Olympic aspirations in the realm of gymnastics.

I hope you have found this information insightful, and I would be pleased to further discuss the aforementioned recommendations with you. Meanwhile, I invite you to leave comments on your initial impressions of my report.

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Social Media Savvy

Addiction

I check Facebook every day. Though I rarely post anything, I can get lost on it for a couple hours at a time just scrolling, checking out how long-lost friends have aged, fantasizing about friends’ perfect families and exciting travels, and saving recipes that I’ll never get around to making. Before I know it, it’s past midnight, and I’ve still not completed my homework, still haven’t cleaned up the kitchen, still haven’t organized myself for the next workday. Why is that? I’m in not a 16-year-old with ADD; I’m a graduate student in my mid-40s (OUCH) with a husband, two kids, a full-time job, and all the attendant responsibilities. I feel constantly overwhelmed by the endless demands of a typical day, yet I can’t help but allow Facebook to suck me in for a good chunk of that typical day. I might well say I’m a little addicted.

So, that would be one of the three aspects of social media that I want to learn more about in my Social Media Theory & Concepts class. What makes social media addictive? Social Media Is a Bigger Problem Than You Think suggests the phenomenon of FOMO might be the reason behind it.

Social or Antisocial Media?

Another aspect of social media that I think would be interesting to explore is to what extent social media is making us antisocial. Does this trend of tweeting our reactions, posting ramblings, and even instant messaging breakups mean that we’re evolving into humans that eschew actual human interaction?

Also, what about the divide it creates when we become involved in forums that pit us against each other politically, for instance, when we ‘like’ a Donald Trump meme or retweet a Hillary Clinton quote. How Politics Divide Facebook Friendships gives some food for thought on that point.

The Narcissistie

Then, there are those folks who make me wonder if social media is giving rise to a certain personality disorder. For the life of me, I cannot relate when I see my contemporaries — who cannot be considered even close to the millennial generation figuratively born with selfie sticks — posting photo after photo of themselves on Facebook or Instagram. Their self-obsession makes me think of this: They Call It a Selfie. They can’t seem to get enough of themselves and feel the need to insert that into my life via my newsfeed. Not cool! Not to mention hugely annoying!

Who agrees that constant selfie-taking is outing the narcissists among us?

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