IABC launches online social media workshop for communications professionals

International Association of Business Communicators

Professional communicators who want to extend and deepen their knowledge of  social media will be interested in a new online social media workshop being offered for the first time this month by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

The course, Develop and implement an integrative approach to social media, will be delivered through online training modules that participants can review at a time convenient to themselves combined with live sessions with the instructors. The program material has been prepared by Shel Holtz and me – and we will be the live instructors for the first set of sessions.

We’ll start with an orientation session on January 9 during which Shel and I will outline the course content and answer questions from participants. Following this orientation, the first two of eight learning modules will be available to participants to review at their convenience. Then we begin the weekly live sessions on January 19 and they will run through February 23.

Each module will focus on a different aspect of social media:

  • Module 1: Social media’s role in communications and PR
  • Module 2: The key categories of social media
  • Module 3: Monitoring social media
  • Module 4: Strategizing and measuring social media
  • Module 5: The core skills communicators need to acquire
  • Module 6: Social media behind the firewall
  • Module 7: Adapting corporate culture to embrace social media
  • Module 8: Social media during a crisis

So, in just eight weeks, you will acquire up to date knowledge on how social media is being integrated into corporate communications and the best practices you can apply in your organization.

Does this sound like something you can use? If so, click over to the IABC site to register for the IABC’s social media online workshop.

This will be only my second experience offering online training. So, I’m very much looking forward to sharing what I know with the participants and learning from their feedback.

 

Defining social media

What is social media? I hear this question from executives and conference attendees alike. And the question was asked again this week on For Immediate Release, the excellent podcast by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson.

Defining Social Media

Social media has evolved rapidly. So, I thought it would be time to update the definition I published in 2008. Here’s the definition I offer today:

Social media are online communications in which we shift instantly and easily between the role of audience and creator – without needing to know how to code. We do this by using social software that incorporates functions like publishing, sharing, friending, commenting, linking and tagging.

Essentials of Social Media

Invariably, when I present this definition, I see people’s heads nodding. Why? Because it presents the definition of social media from the perspective of the user, not the technologist. It also hits on the essentials of social media:

  • Online: We’ve always been social beings. But social media allows us to express ourselves and connect with others who share our interests regardless of where they are. Being online extends our reach to anyone who has an Internet connection.
  • Audience and creator: We have a voice, and given that voice, we’ll use it.
  • No need to know how to code: This is the big difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. It’s the factor that opened social media to all of us. In Web 1.0, publishing was restricted to those who had coding skills or those who could afford to hire them. Today, we all are publishers.
  • Social functions: This is what it comes down to. The reason we participate. What can we do with the software? Express ourselves, find others, share, form community.

Take it. Use it.

That’s how I define social media. If it makes sense to you, feel free to use it. And if you think I’ve missed something, please leave a comment below. I’m always keen to improve it.

Three things every PR practitioner should know to succeed in social media

If you were asked to give public relations practitioners the three best pieces of advice about how to succeed in social media, what would you tell them?

I’ve been asked to do that at a PR Agency Bootcamp organized by the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. I’ll be appearing with some social media-savvy panellists: Martin Waxman, Mark Evans, Michael O’Connor Clarke and Alex de Bold. So I’ll need to be on my best game in order to keep up with these folks.

As I thought through all the advice I could offer about being successful in social media, I settled on these three pieces of advice.

1)  Be a blogger.

If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you won’t have a stand-out career. You no longer are competing just with the person across town, but with people across the continent and the globe. The age of social media has made it possible for really smart and creative people to project their voice and their identity online – beyond their own local market right into yours. If you don’t raise your voice, they’ll scoop the best jobs and assignments right out from under your nose. Where will that leave you? Probably competing on cost for low value assignments and routine jobs. Competing on cost leads in only one direction – razor thin margins, working longer and longer hours, and burnout.

So, you need to stand out. And stand out in a way that will impress others who may be looking for smart, talented people.

“But,” you say, “I’m on Twitter and Facebook and I have thousands of followers and friends. That makes me stand out.” Well, maybe it makes you stand out as a well connected person and a person who likes to be part of the flow of chatter. But it does not make you stand out as a smart, thoughtful person.

Look around and you’ll realize that virtually all of the people in PR with large followings on Twitter and Facebook also have blogs in which they frequently post content into which they’ve put a lot of thought. Look at people like Steve Rubel, Mitch Joel, Shel Holtz, John Bell, Jay Baer, and Gini Dietrich. Yes, they have thousands of followers on Twitter. But they seed the conversation with intelligent, long form blog posts. That’s thought leadership. And it’s different from being a gadfly on Twitter or Facebook.

Don’t lurk in the shadows. People respect and follow those who have something original to say. There’s no excuse today for being unknown. You a unique perspective on the world. Share it.

And when you do share your perspective, put that perspective on your own place where you can develop your ideas over time. Where people can see your body of thought. Blogs are still the best place for that. You own your blog. It’s searchable. It is a platform for every type of content: text, audio, pictures and video. It’s linkable. If you have something worthwhile to say, why wouldn’t you put it on a blog?

Stand out from the crowd. Be a blogger.

2) Become the new beat.

We are in a constant search for expert opinion. Research is a neverending activity for people who need to write about a subject. So contribute to the body of knowledge.

Don’t think about yourself as someone who’s going to pitch stories to reporters. Think of yourself as a contributing member of a community of interest. Research and write as if you were a beat reporter.

Pick areas that you care about and structure your public relations practice around becoming a member of the expert community. Write about your area of expertise. Share what you know. Become recognized as someone who knows your stuff and contributes real value on an ongoing basis.

As you do this, you’ll find that you attract a following of other people who share your interest. Many of them will have blogs of their own. Some will even be reporters. And as they follow you, you’ll build credibility and trust. When you do talk about a client, you’ll be able to do this (with full disclosure, of course) to a group of people who already care about the subject area. They’ll know you and they’ll listen to you.

This is the future of public relations. Isn’t that better than building your workday around a series of cold call pitches to reporters who are little more than names on a media list?

3) Develop your own sources

There’s been a lot of talk from some people about how they stopped subscribing to RSS feeds or using their feed readers because they now get pointers to the content that matters to them through the people they follow on twitter or via Facebook status updates.

If you’re a serious professional trying to develop a reputation for expertise in an area, you absolutely need to recognize that getting your links through twitter or Facebook links means that others are making the primary judgments about what content you see and framing it in their perspective. That’s lazy and it’s also biases your own thinking. You should make up your own mind about what’s important and approach content from your own unique perspective.

I may see one thing in an article. You may see something totally different. Why? Because we are approaching that content from our own unique perspectives. So if you want to be taken seriously and if you want to be able to generate interesting, original writing, start looking at your feed reader again. Start finding and subscribing to interesting and authoritative voices and read those every day with a fresh eye to what may be in that content. That primary research will give you an advantage over everyone who is dependent upon what others may link to.

Your turn

So there it is. Three things that I would tell a PR practitioner about how to succeed in social media.

Do these make sense to you? Are there other things that you would put ahead of any of my points? Or do you think I’m just plain wrong? Let me know in a comment below this post. I’m always interested in learning from those who are prepared to consider and challenge my ideas. (Maybe that should be a separate piece of advice: Always keep an open mind.)

Social Mediators 9: Promoting a book with social media

Recently, Terry Fallis found both of his novels – the Leacock Award winning The Best Laid Plans and the soon to be published The High Road – in the top five of the iTunes Literature podcasts. In this week’s episode of Social Mediators, Dave Fleet and I talk with Terry about how he and his publisher, McClelland & Stewart, are using social media to find and cultivate a fan base for Terry’s novels.

Also up for discussion this week: Social media adoption still isn’t universal among communicators.

Do you think social media is just a niche expertise or should it be a core skill set for all professional communicators?

The Social Media Content Creation Gap. Does it matter to you?

Is our view of the world distorted by the uneven distribution of content creators? And for those countries and groups who lag in creating content, do they risk invisibility and marginalization?

Social media has enabled anyone with access to the Internet to create and share content. And this makes it possible for us to see the world as we have never seen it before. Not through the eyes of elites, but through the eyes of ordinary people like you and me.

But there’s a problem. Some parts of the world are more visible than others. And some areas risk being marginalized.

There are significant variations in the rate at which people from different countries participate in the act of content creation. And the countries with the highest levels of participation may not be the ones you expect.

The Forrester Social Technographics country profiles vividly illustrate this issue. Forrester’s Social Technographics profiles demonstrate that people participate in social media in a range of ways and with varying degrees of engagement, from simply consuming through to actively creating content.

When you compare Technographics profiles on a national basis, a “content creation gap” can be seen between the most prolific content creators and the laggards. Most important is the proportion of the online population who self identify as Content Creators, the top rung of the Technographics ladder.

There’s a huge gap between the leaders and the laggards – ranging from over one third of people online creating content in South Korea, Metro China, Japan to less than one in five people creating content in countries like Canada, the UK, Spain and Sweden.  And barely one in ten people who use social media in France and Germany create content.

Add to this the impact of search engine algorithms. Search engines return results that reflect content that is most popular, most linked to, and most read.  That favours the most popular creators.  It also favours those countries and regions that are most populous, most connected, and most prolific.

What happens to those creators who come from smaller countries and who reflect a more distinct perspective?  Will they be found or will they be relegated to page 200 of the search results?  A place that guarantees invisibility.

Should countries like Canada or the UK be concerned that the number of active content creators isn’t higher?  Especially given that the means of content creation are accessible for free to anyone with a broadband connection?

Do we accept that 20% of people will create 80% of the content and that’s just the way things are?

Or by doing nothing, do we run the risk of losing sight of ourselves as other more prolific content creating countries generate ever more content?

Government of Canada's Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the next Third Tuesday Ottawa

Third Tuesday OttawaIn the autumn, the Government of Canada announced a new initiative to integrate social media into its operations: GCPedia, a government-wide Wiki.

GCPedia has been up and running for several months. However, because it lives behind the Government of Canada’s firewall, you and I can’t see it or track how the experiment is proceeding.

The curtain will be drawn back briefly for attendees at the February 2 Third Tuesday Ottawa. Jeff Braybrook, the Government of Canada’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, will talk about GCPedia and some of the more promising social media for government pilot projects.

I believe that social media holds tremendous potential to bring government closer to citizens. And I’m looking forward to the discussion with Jeff.

If you’re in Ottawa on February 2, you can register online to attend Third Tuesday.

And thanks to our national sponsors, CNW Group, Third Tuesday continues to be a free event.

I hope to see you there.

ProPR turns 3 – Should I stay or should I go?

ProPR quietly turned 3 years old in mid November. As I do every year at this time, I look back at my first post to ask myself whether my stated purpose is still valid.

Why did I start blogging?

I wrote in my first post

Through this blog, I hope to have a voice in the discussion surrounding new developments in public relations, communications and marketing.

At my firm, we encourage people to develop to their maximum potential.

Thought leadership is an important goal for all professionals. With this blog, I hope to stimulate others to think about these issues and advance their own thinking.

Comments are an important means of contributing to the discussion. I encourage any who read this blog to offer their comments on my entries.

I don’t kid myself about being a thought leader. But I am happy to be able to contribute my perspective on issues. And I’m even happier that people have commented on the posts they have found interesting or thought provoking.

So, will I keep going?

Blogging has become part of my life. I cannot imagine ever going back to reading a book without being able to make a note in the margin, “Post about this on ProPR.” Or to reading an online article without being able to tag it to delicious with the intention of linking to it in a post. Blogging provides me with motivation and occasion to think twice about things and to find connections and patterns. It changes me from passive reader to active thinker.

So, let’s end the suspense. Will I keep going? You bet.

Thank you to my community!

Since I started, you have been my constant companion. I have posted 566 times. For every post, you have written on average three comments. So, in a very real way, this blog is a truly collaborative creation. And I thank you for this.

As I keep writing for ProPR, I hope that you will continue to find content here that entices you to read and, even better, comment.

Here’s looking forward to another year of posting on Pro PR and having great conversations with you, my community.

Social Tools that let us down

There’s been some smart and engaging conversation by other bloggers in response to my Technorati and Me post about the decline of a social media tool I had once relied upon.

Shel Israel points out that it is inevitable and healthy that different tools will rise and fall as the social Web evolves: “Tools get better and we abandon old ones. … Following the evolution of tools is a good way to track the evolution of people all the way back to the time we lived in caves.  Technorati made some mistakes as a company if you ask me, but what’s really relevant is that someone else came out with a better tool and people moved on.”

Neville Hobson, who started the discussion with Shel Holtz on the FIR podcast 373 offered, “So my perception of Technorati now as a blog search tool is that it isn’t reliable any longer (although to be fair, I did a search just now, which did work). I end up Googling which, let’s face it, always works. And so I don’t use Technorati any more as a primary place to search. I still refer to Technorati when researching influencers online although I sometimes wonder how reliable that core aspect of its service really is, things like authority and ranking.”

Ari Herzog posts about his experience with Technorati: “What does it mean when I search on Technorati for “Michael Phelps” and find 11,030 results; whereas Google Blog Search provides 279,743?” I think it confirms that Technorati has fallen hopelessly behind.

Colin McKay riffs on his inability to stay faithful to any social media app. “I’m just a gigolo, baby. I’m looking for the short term hit, the thrill ride. … When it comes to online social media apps, I’ll grab on to something that’s functional and serves my needs. Is your app weak in some respect? Giddyup, I’m doubling up!”

Finally, Bob LeDrew carried the conversation forward with his reflections on two social apps that had let him down – Picassa -”my utter failure to get this to work, or to understand the benefits of it for me, after about three attempts at different times and on different machines, remains an unhealed wound” – and Pandora – “which I fell in absolute love with, and then closed off access to subscribers out of the United States.”

Do you have a story of a social media tool that you used to rely on but which let you down?

UPDATE:

Shel Holtz adds his own assessment of the problem with Technorati.

Dave Fleet adds FeedBurner to the list of disappointing services.

AideRSS' Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank

AideRSSI visited the AideRSS team the week before the launch of PostRank.com. CEO Carol Leaman, co-founder and chief technologist Ilya Grigorik and Community Manager Melanie Baker took the time to sit down with me to chat.

In today’s interview, Ilya Grigorik explains PostRank and AideRSS’ approach to measuring engagement. Among the highlights:

  • Ilya defines engagement as “any interaction a user can have with a post or an article.” To measure engagement, AideRSS aggregates all the metadata it can find about each post: number of views, the number of times the page has been clicked, how many people have bookmarked the story, how many people people have blogged, twittered, shared it on Pownce or Ma.gnolia.
  • AideRSS uses the metadata it collects to compute an Engagement Score. In doing this, they assign different weights to different types of actions. Viewing a page would be considered a “lightweight” action. A click would be assigned greater weight. A comment requires a greater investment of time and thought. It would be assigned yet greater weight. AideRSS assigns less weight to a Twitter comment. An Engagement Score for a post is calculated using the weighted instances of all of the actions detected for that post. A higher Engagement Score signifies more attention from the community.
  • PostRank is an indicator of the relative Engagement Score of each post on a blog. Thematic PostRank is an indicator of the relative engagement score of a series of posts across a collection of content sources.
  • PostRank is dependent on context. Ranking articles against other articles in a specific blog will yield a different PostRank than ranking articles across a collection of blogs.
  • PostRank scores are computed based on a post’s performance compared to the previous performance of a blog. Thematic PostRank does the same thing for a collection of content from different sources.
  • AideRSS is continually tweaking its algorithms by adding sources like Twitter and Pownce and adjusting the weight assigned to various sources.

More on AideRSS:

AideRSS’ PostRank Measures Engagement

AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14

AideRSS' PostRank measures engagement

AideRSSAre you interested in a tool that will help you sort through the flood of new posts to find the most interesting and talked about content in your RSS subscriptions?

Are you a writer or content creator who wants to figure out which content others have become most engaged with?

Are you a corporate communicator or marketer who wants to understand which content and authors are having the greatest impact on issues and online conversations that matter to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on.

A Time Saver for Readers

Since AideRSS first launched just over a year ago, I’ve used it to identify online content that others have also found interesting and engaging. AideRSS provides a simple calculation of what they call PostRank which analyzes the frequency and type of interaction with online content and provides a relative score of how interesting and relevant people have found it to be. By sorting the posts by PostRank, I can easily spot those that seem to be generating the highest levels of engagement.

On days when I’ve let the posts in my FeedReader accumulate, I can spend more than an hour scanning them all (more time than I should invest), delete them all (What if I miss something that really matters to me?) or I can filter them with AideRSS so that I can review only those with the highest PostRank. I’ve installed AideRSS’ Firefox Extension for Google Reader to incorporate PostRank right into my RSS aggregator. A great time saver.

Measuring Engagement

From the outset, I was impressed by AideRSS’ approach to measuring what’s important in social media. It struck me that AideRSS-Co-founder Ilya Grigorik’s PostRank algorithm was a smart way to begin to measure engagement. When AideRSS launched, it wasn’t important whether Ilya had the definitive algorithm. What was important was that he was working toward a holistic calculation that incorporated both offsite and onsite interaction.

AideRSS’ CEO, Carol Leaman, participated in the Toronto Roundtable on Social Media Measurement this past spring.  During the day, she made some thoughtful contributions, both in the things she suggested and, equally importantly, the questions she asked. As I listened to her, it was clear that the folks at AideRSS were also thinking through their place in the social media metrics and measurement puzzle.

I didn’t have to wait very long to see what Carol, Ilya and the AideRSS team were working on.

PostRank: A New Standard?

A couple weeks ago, AideRSS launched PostRank on a its own site, PostRank.com. The site highlights PostRank’s utility for measuring online engagement. It also offers a set of APIs to encourage developers to incorporate PostRank in their own Web Apps. At the same time PostRank.com was launched, AideRSS also introduced Thematic PostRank to enable the PostRank calculation to be applied to any collection of content assembled from a variety of feeds and sources (not just blogs, but Twitter and others services.)

AideRSS is attempting to promote PostRank as a standard measurement of online engagement. And to date, the AideRSS approach to measuring engagement is the best I’ve found.

Have you used AideRSS or PostRank? What do you think of them?

More on AideRSS and PostRank

TechVibes: AideRSS -Now it Gets Interesting

Video of AideRSS co-founders Ilya Grigorik and Kevin Thomason demonstrating AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14.