Archive for February, 2011

What is Foursquare?

What is Foursquare? It’s a way to explore the world around you, to find interesting places in your town or anywhere you go, like restaurants, bars, shops, and more. I myself don’t use it, and have just recently learned of it, but it is definitely something I am looking in to .

To begin, a user simply downloads the Foursquare app to his or her mobile phone, so they will have easy access to the local businesses on the go. For companies  this is an opportunity to attract customers. Brands or businesses sign up for Foursquare and get to follow their customers’ visits.

The benefit is undeniable . People share their thoughts about the places and business they visit through social media, so what a better way is there than to do this on the go? Customers who like a place are likely to visit it again and recommend it to their friends. Getting badges and other virtual rewards for visits  provide an incentive for customers to continue doing so while also getting meaningful discounts and an opportunity to be engaged in the community. This is highly profitable and convenient for both customers and brands.

On the other hand, since Foursquare is an application that requires users to give their exact location and personal information, it could potentiality bring about dangers to its users. Although the service is something the user “checks -in” free- willingly, it is an invasion to one’s privacy. Companies can know who their followers are, but anyone else can too. Also, a person’s consuming habits are made very public. Locating that person can become an easy task. Information on a person’s whereabouts could harm a person’s freedom to an extent; blackmailing and threats could follow.

I think Foursquare has attributes that can establish brand loyalty, and can offer an amusing way to be active in the community, but like everything else, we must use it wisely while being aware of potential dangers.


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Friend or Foe?

This week I listened to the podcast “Social Media : Friend or Foe?”  It was an interesting discussion about harnessing social media to the benefit of a corporation. The panel discussion was led by Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications.

 Ragan asked the panel questions about how to communicate better with customers, with the help of social media. At first, he sounded hesitant about the idea of using the same channels as his children use. His panel of experts advised him to start a blog for his company, which will be written by employees. The blog will give the employees  an opportunity to share problems they have with projects. The CEO will talk about the company as a whole. The panel explained that customers are out there talking about the company in several ways, so why not join the conversation? This is a great way to tap into what customers are saying. It is a way to build a relationship with customers, a way to make the relationship more personal. In times of crisis, the company will have their own way to react to the situation and say in their own words “this is what went wrong.”

 I was surprised to learn about the succesful integration of personal life with work life. During work, people are spending time online in what seems to be a “wasteful” manner. However, they are communicating in other ways  than they did before with colleagues around the world, working together to solve problems. At home, after work hours, they continue to communicate and work, reading emails on their Blackberries. So according to the panel,  employees’ work gets done and  it is quality work. I thought that combining the two will harm the quality of their work.

I was also surprised to learn that Marriott hotels increased room reservations by providing a link from their blog  to their reservation website. I know a blog is a good way to communicate with customers, so Marriott must have done a good job with their blog,  making customers satisfied with their service, and interested in staying in their hotels.

I would like to learn a few things; which social media site is the best one for a company to use? Is there such a thing as too much conversation with customers?

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“You’re Invited”

The Oscars are coming up on Feb. 27, and along with the glamorous ceremony, comes the buzz about the red carpet fashion, the hosts, and for the first time… the tagline.

”You’re Invited” is the Oscars’ first-ever tagline. For the 83rd ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science ,the creative agency it hired a couple of years ago,  and the show’s producers, decided to include a tagline. This is part of an effort to attract more viewers  by inviting them in a more personable way to watch the ceremony.

 The ceremony will implement other possible changes, including a performance of the nominees for the Best Original Song . Co- hosting the show, actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway are strategically expected to attract a younger audience.



Another strategy that will be used this year to invite more viewers is the new version of the iPhone app. Viewers will also be able to stream live images from the red carpet, the green room, and the press room at Oscar.com. Will the tagline work?  Show producers believe it will, as the idea is to bring the ceremony to the audience in different and interactive ways.

In any case, it will be worth watching the Oscars to find out which movie will win the Best Picture category..

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A Different Kind of PR

The other day I mentioned my favorite Super Bowl commercial, but this time I wanted to address the commercials that probably got the most negative attention. These were the Groupon commercials.  At first, the ads started out different than the regular Super Bowl ads. They got my attention right away because of that, but within seconds the ads turned out to be something completely different.

I honestly think there are some issues that are no laughing matter. In fact, portraying human suffering and dwindling natural resources as a light matter is something that’s never going to work in the advertisement world. The way the commercials handled the important issues they illustrated reminded me almost of the Kenneth Cole incident of last week, when a tactless comment on twitter about the happenings in Egypt outraged millions.

The Groupon commercials elicited a discussion on social media sites, and many customers said they will cancel their subscription to Groupon, as result.

To my understanding, Groupon, which is an online resource for local discounts, is rooted in social activism. It started because of another cause-related website, and it continues to work with local causes and initiatives. What Groupon failed to say during the commercials was that people can donate money to the causes that were shown, and Groupon will then match that donation, up to $100,000. Groupon changed the endings of the talked-about commercials to clarify their intentions.

 Groupon clearly had good intentions, but had failed to communicate them ahead of time. On the other hand, Groupon has apparently added over 50,000 new subscribers in the past days.

 Maybe there is no bad publicity?  Maybe this example of a different approach to Public Relations will serve as the starting point of a whole different type of Public Relations. Either way, companies must be aware of social happenings, and never take advantage of sufferings.

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The Super Bowl is an important time for advertisers, as they pay millions of dollars for a few brief seconds, during which they try to convince the viewers to buy whatever it is their selling.

 I have to say, I was a little disappointed when I watched the commercials. I mean, yes some were funny, but for the most part, they were just ok.

I did like a few, though. The one I liked the most out of the bunch was Hyundai’s. The ad was for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and I think most viewers would agree that it was easy to relate to, as much as it was funny.

The ad made a clever use of a current discussion: the always-improving versions of products. We witness a newer, smarter, better, faster version of a product regularly. We have accepted this fact, and have even learned to expect it. That’s why I liked when the announcer asked “what if we always settled for the first thing that came along?” It makes viewers think , while the ad reminds them of those things.

 It was amusing to watch the way the ad incorporated different products that brought about change when they were new. The stereo turntable, the ridiculously large cellphone, and the not-so-digital camera, were a good contrast to the product the company was selling. It was fun to see that we’ve come a long way since those first versions of phones, TV’s, typewriters, and cars. The company is conveying in this ad that it acknowledges the need for improvements and never settling for the “first thing that came along”, as they say. With their innovative Sonata, Hyundai exemplifies the improvement of the first versions of Hybrids.

In their press release, Hyundai said the idea behind their commercial was to show that although the Sonata is not the first Hybrid, it is certainly a competitor in the market.

The ad’s target audience is current Hyundai owners who might think of upgrading to the Hybrid, or other car owners who would be persuaded into purchasing the Hyundai Hybrid, because of its features.

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Adam Vincenzini asked people to share their definitions in 140 characters or less of social media. Reading through the list, I noticed a few that I really liked. Most definitions talked about social media as a way to create connections, educate, share information, and more. As I read the list, realizing how many people answered Adam and shared their definitions with him, I saw another definition surfacing ;SM is the ability to ask questions and spark  discussions. All this is made possible by connecting  easily with others.

Some favorite definitions of mine included:

 @ChiaraCosenza: “SM is a set of online tools that allowed the democratization of communication worldwide through accessibility, simplicity, & entertainment.” I liked this because I believe social media has made communication easy and fun.

 Another one I liked was  by @joedyble :”For brands, it’s an opprtunity to be invited in, rather than knocking down the door.” I think this definition is true because today companies and brands are invited into the conversation that their customers are having about them and are provided with the tools and the opportunity to react, change, and satisfy their customers.

@Tyronevh: “It’s the integration of interaction with technology tools allowing one to interact, explore and most importantly, learn from one another.” This definition addresses an important subject: learning from one another through our communications.

I’d like to share my definition now, as it goes along with what I said : “social media is the building block that helps us construct friendships, create changes in the way we communicate, and offers an ability to listen to one another. It is a conversation  we choose to take part in, the discussions we start about interests, and the privilege to have our opinions heard. Social media creates awareness and shapes the way interaction is viewed.”

What is your definition of social media?

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Remember that Spiderman quote ” with great power comes great responsibility”? I believe it should be applied  when posting information on social media sites. Social media allows us to communicate online, post our thoughts, engage in conversations, as well as share personal information. It gives us the opportunity to choose what we want to be made known about us, or in other words, it is a power we have. In a way, we control the way we are portrayed online. Sometimes people might forget that any information they post online is there to stay forever.It is only fair that we remain responsible for our information. So, is it ethical for companies to monitor our personal Facebook pages in order to learn about potential employees? Should employers monitor the sites employees use during work hours?

Some will argue that this is unacceptable. We are entitled to our privacy, and  simply  by entering a password to a website, we define our  private virtual space. Well, in reality, everything you post online may show up again at some point in time. Google likes to keep it all. Also you should probably know that even when you use a password, private information could be used to help other sites learn more about you.

Companies believe that they are allowed to examine who they potentially want to hire. This makes sense; companies want to hire the best people they can possibly find for the job, so looking to see what online social media sites show  about them seems like a good idea. This way, they can see who the person is, beyond  his or her resumé. They also want to make sure their employees stay on track during their workday, and don’t just spend time online doing things that are not related to their work.

I think social media monitoring is ethical. You must be aware of what you post on the web, the pictures you have, and everything else that is associated with you. You should be held accountable for your information. 



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