Facebook’s new algorithm: what’s next for PR

Another Facebook update is here. And the PR game is changing…yet again.

With frustrations high, let’s hash this out and see how to still come out on top with strong PR game.

What’s going on
Mark Zuckerberg announced in January a new algorithm where Facebook users will start seeing more posts from friends and family and fewer posts from companies and brands.

According to Facebook, the update is supposed to encourage more engagement on Facebook because we’ll be seeing more posts and content from the ones you love.

“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a post on Thursday. It’s true.

My Facebook feed is full of video after video. It’s to the point I don’t even want to get on Facebook anymore. However, Facebook is a primary outlet for businesses trying to reach their consumers and clients.

“I want to be clear; by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” Zuckerberg said. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

Businesses depend on Facebook as a social media outlet to share their brand, motives and goals. With the algorithm changing, PR professionals working in social media will need to find alternatives to the algorithm change.

What’s next
Adam Durfee is an SEO and public relations guru and said, “Facebook has made it very clear that what matters most for businesses is brands and pages starting conversations. Facebook will be giving edge-rank boost to those starting conversation among followers.”

“Your job as a PR professional running business pages now is to start conversations among followers. If you can’t, your reach will disappear. If you can, you’ll have better reach than ever before. Don’t just tell stories, get people to engage in them,” Durfee concluded.

There is a way to rise on top. We just have to know what we’re dealing with and then act. We have the chance to have a larger reach than ever before if we adapt to the new system.

Advice moving forward 
If you’re sitting at your desk thinking, “great, time to make an entire new strategy,” I’m happy because it means you get it.

But, think of it like this: Instead of writing stories and experiences to tell to your audience, you can start writing posts to talk with your audience. Start your new strategy now. Find creative ways to engage.

I think one of the most engaging tactics in social media right now is Instagram Story polls. How can we incorporate these on Facebook?

How can we start conversations that people actually want to respond to? As PR professionals, these are the kinds of questions we need to start asking. When you and your team begin crafting your new strategy and launch your first posts with conversations, your reach will be like Durfee said, greater than ever before.

We came into the PR industry knowing that it is ever changing. We have to be flexible. Creative. Adaptable. Innovative.

If we embody these traits, there is no social media update that will get us down.

Don’t try to fight Facebook, beat ‘em.

Written by Genny Hickman

Newsjacking: The what, why, and how

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I think we can all agree that we get asked about the news more often than not. Current events are one of the most talked about topics in our day to day lives because people naturally want to know what’s going on in the world around them.

As communicators, our job is to help our company be noticed and heard. We want to write stories that make our company seem appealing and exciting. But how do we do that when there is not constant breaking news every day at work? The answer is newsjacking.

Newsjacking (v): The process of inserting your brand into current events to create media attention.

The news is even more instant with the constant movement of technology. The news can be accessed in many different ways and that is why newsjacking can be so beneficial. Whether that be opinions of industry leaders, a funny meme, or lending public support to a crisis happening around, there is always a way to place your brand’s name in a place where it can be seen.

How can it help my company?
Newsjacking can help any company at any time. It doesn’t matter how big or small a company is, there is always an opportunity for it because of the technological world we live in. Technology allows instant communication at the touch of a button. Newsjacking will allow content to be produced, websites and social media to drive more traffic, and can give people something to talk about. There doesn’t need to be a large budget, just a team of individuals who can be quick on their feet and more creative and strategic than competitors.

The most exciting part about this is that you can write about something that is unrelated to your company but because it is relevant to the news it will benefit you. It shows consumers that your company is up to date and has an idea of what’s happening in the world.

Remember the Super Bowl of 2013? Yes, the one where Beyoncé performed at halftime and the Ravens and the 49ers had to wait over half of an hour before the power turned back on. Well, turns out that the majority of people didn’t remember those things too much but they did remember Oreo. During the power outage, Oreo’s team thought fast. They produced some of the most influential newsjacking examples we have today.

Oreo’s tweet in the 2013 Super Bowl during the blackout. Photo courtesy of Oreo’s twitter.

For that Super Bowl most advertisers paid about $4 million dollars for a 30-second commercial spot.  During the blackout, Oreo tweeted one tweet (which obviously wasn’t planned) but they got more attention from that tweet than many other companies that spent $4 million dollars! 

“The only reason I remember the Super Bowl in 2013 was because of the power outage. It was unfortunate but I do remember seeing Oreo’s tweet and thinking how that was good,” says university student, Bailey Bunch.

Looking back, we can see that Oreo definitely made its mark.

How can I do it?
The idea sounds great right? But how do you go about Newsjacking? Below is a simple formula from Search Engine Watch that will change everything for you.

  1. Data: It is important to keep up to date with the news around you. It will allow you to be a step ahead of your competitors. Timeliness is the key to newsjacking. This diagram shows the phases that a news story goes through. It is essential to newsjack within the first 2-3 phases in order to capture the attention that is needed.

Newsjacking is more beneficial in the first 2-3 phases. Photo courtesy of newsjacking.com.

  1. Creative: Being creative and clever in this industry is always a must! But when a company can take everyday news and turn it into something special, now that’s what will be remembered. Just think, everyone will see this news story, but how will you make this one different?
  1. An Opinion: Putting in a short and simple quote that voices an opinion can always be enough to for someone to pay more attention to you. An opinion allows consumers to see where your company stands on certain issues as well.

By being aware of the news, creating content to stand out, and adding opinions, companies will be able to use newsjacking as a strong tool. Along with that, technology will continue to grow which will allow more opportunities for newsjacking in the day to day workplace.

Keep your eyes open!

Written by Oliva Oldroyd

How to Engage Millennials Through Cause Marketing

Connect your company with social issues and you can connect with even the most entitled audiences

Trying to engage with millennials can feel like trying to join a high school clique. The tight-knit group of slightly cynical young adults can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to convince. An AdWeek study reveals that millennials are more skeptical than their older peers about cause-related marketing, believing it is inauthentic. Don’t let this skepticism fool you: they care deeply about social topics and are loyal to the brands that drive social change.

What’s the answer? Cause marketing. Cause marketing is a mutually beneficial collaboration between a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization. By teaming up and communicating a mutual mission, for-profit corporations can improve their reputation and image with all stakeholders including customers, investors, and community members.

According to the same AdWeek study, millennials are more likely than other generations to seek out brands that align with causes they care about. It also shows that millennials and members of Gen Z are willing to spend time researching brands, pay more for products or sacrifice quality of products if the brand aligns with a social cause they care about. Experts at Cone Communications, the leading cause marketing communications firm in the US, found that nearly 90 percent of Americans will purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Cause marketing is more than a great tool for engaging with millennials, it is an opportunity to redefine your company. Carol Cone, the “Mother of Cause Marketing,” told PRSA members that companies who bring societal issues into the core of their mission and operations are seeing an average 10 percent growth in revenue. This growth happens to the degree that the company makes social values its “true north” in operations and marketing.

For example, Unilever has become famous for its cause marketing efforts including the Dove campaign for Real Beauty

The campaign focuses on helping all women feel beautiful and celebrating their differences in body type, skin color, etc. The national attention of this campaign has pushed Unilever toward the top of LinkedIn’s list of most attractive companies for which to work.

You can leverage the millennial interest in social issues and build social value in your company by following these steps to develop your own cause marketing campaign.

  1.  Be authentic by finding a cause you care about

The first step to building a cause marketing campaign for your company is to find a cause! Consider the industry you work in, the resources your company uses and the social issues related to those operations. For example, if you work in the technology industry, consider how your company’s expertise in programming, web development or technological engineering could be used to serve your community. Your employees could help teach after school coding programs at low-income schools or set up an educational program to help students in underprivileged areas learn skills to prepare them for work at your company.

Also consider what social issues you are personally interested in and what kinds of projects you’d be thrilled to work on. Chat with other employees to learn what issues are important to them personally. Passion is important when connecting your company with a cause. Your employees’ genuine interest in the cause will shine through when it comes time to share your story.

  1. Connect with an organization doing good

When you’ve found a cause to support, look for other organizations working on that cause. Likely, these established organizations will already be working on community projects or activism projects that you can donate to or support with man power. Look for an organization that is making a significant and sustainable difference in the issue area it is dealing with. Look beyond simple opportunities for donation. You can search local non-profit directories or search through Skoll Foundation and Ashoka websites to find vetted organizations that are having real impact on social issues. If you don’t find an organization or foundation that fits with your business, consider starting your own.

  1. Craft your story

­After you’ve found and connected with the right cause and are rolling out programs to support the cause, you’re ready to start a campaign. Write your story based on why your company decided to connect with this cause specifically and what you’re doing to help. Tell the story from the perspective of an employee, a person who has been helped by your efforts or the company at large. Traditional public relations tactics come into play in this step. Tell your company’s social impact story in creative ways through different channels. Not only will your company benefit through increased online engagement and revenue, but you will also feel good about building social value in your company.

For example, tell the story of a kid at the after-school program who found a real passion for programming and how your employee became her professional mentor. Or, find an employee whose productivity dramatically improved since spending time after work mentoring kids at a local high school. Stories will practically write themselves when your company and employees start engaging in social programs.

While you may be looking primarily to increase online engagement with millennials, your efforts to build a cause marketing campaign will transform your company from the inside out. Help your company build a cause marketing project and campaign. You’ll finally learn to take mom’s advice from high school: Just be the best “you” you can be and people will love you.

Written by Lauren Thomas

How to Use the Instagram Hashtag #Update to Your Advantage

Guy in a boat with a travel bag

Instagram now allows users to follow hashtags, and brands are delivering trendy hashtags directly to their follower’s feeds. Are you going to join the movement?

Before this month, there were two ways to use hashtags on Instagram. The first was to search for a specific tag on Instagram (#anthropologie, #BYU, etc) and see what people were saying about those topics. The second was to click a hashtag used on someone’s post and other posts with the same tag. Hashtags weren’t being properly utilized for the uniting force they could be, and so, Instagram made a change.

Thanks to the new update, users can now choose to see pictures with the hashtags they’re interested in directly on their feed. It’s like following a specific account dedicated to your favorite things.

For example, if you’re a big foodie, following the hashtag #onthetable could give you some great dinner inspiration. Or, if you’re all about basketball, following the hashtag for your favorite NBA team could brighten up your feed. People are also using hashtags to spread awareness (1.6 million pictures using #womensmarch), get a glimpse at some of their favorite places (13 million pictures using #manhattan), or just make a trendy hashtag for their group of friends.

But, as a PR professional, I’m sure you’re asking, “How can I use this for my brand?” Fortunately, the answer is “Any way you want!” But we’ll give you a few examples of how businesses are using it now.

SuperMoon Bakehouse in New York City isn’t known for its pastries, though we’ve heard those are tasty. The shop itself is a treat, attracting locals, tourists, bloggers, and families alike with its glass symmetry, colorful desserts, and tightly packed rows of iridescent boxes that create the perfect photo backdrop. Their fancy boxes with rainbow sheen read, “#ChewYorkCity” and“#BiteMeNYC” on the sides, giving their consumers a clear call to action: post a picture and use our hashtags. 

Herschel Supply Co., a brand dedicated to backpacks and travel totes, began using #welltraveled as part of a campaign they ran. They updated their Instagram weekly with photos of their duffels in action all over the world using their signature tag. The people of Instagram loved it, and everyone started using their hashtag, and there are now more than 1.5 million photos with #welltraveled as a descriptor. Talk about some amazing social media marketing!

The use of hashtags promoted a feeling of community around a brand and its products. But the brand had to do the work first. How will you help your consumers use and follow your hashtag? Will you print it on a box like SuperMoon Bakery, or use it regularly on your feed like Herschel, or make t-shirts with it, or post a picture of a giant cake with your hashtag written on it in neon frosting? No matter what you do, make a big, bold statement with it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your consumers to follow your hashtag.

According to Matthew Ogle, the creative brain behind this change on Instagram, “Hashtags are our atomic unit for interest on Instagram.” Ogle used to work for Spotify, where he curated the Discovery Weekly playlist. He introduced an algorithm on Spotify that put personalized music for each individual listener (which there are over 140 million of) in a playlist for them each week. Ogle has taken that innovative energy and brought it into this new Instagram update.

So, go brainstorm a creative way to use the atomic unit for interest on the ‘gram! There’s no time like the present to create your brand’s key hashtag and start promoting it. Your followers are waiting for the community you’re about to build for them, thanks to Instagram’s new follow feature for the hashtag.

Written by Regan Crandall

Engage Your Clients in Real-Time

Y Digital Lab
Y Digital Lab

Imagine all of your clients gathered in one place at an event. What if you could engage with everyone there? I don’t mean going around the room talking to hundreds of people, but instead, engaging them in real-time through social media.

HYP3R, according to its website, is a geoscocial platform that puts coordinates on an area and allows you to engage and interact with all the social media accounts within the area. Learn more details about the company here.

Let me break it down simply for you.

I worked on a project for a Fortune 500 company and for the event it was sponsoring. The company wanted to interact with its fans at the event. Since being at the event in person talking to everyone is virtually impossible, I was a part of a hired team responsible for interacting with attendees via social media.

We used HYP3R to set the geofencing around the event, which gathered all of the social accounts posting within the area. All of the posts on Instagram were pulled into the HYP3R site, where we could access them and engage in real time.

Throughout the entire event, we engaged fans on their pictures by commenting and liking. We also gave away prizes through social media.

The entire project improved the company’s engagement by 200 percent, according to statistics from Y Digital Agency, a student-run PR agency at Brigham Young University.

Fans at the event loved it.

They were noticed.

They were heard.

They were loved.

The experience brought one of their favorite brands to life. Because that brand was interacting with THEM.

Three Simple Steps to Start Using HYP3R

I’m going to break it down into three simple steps to get started with HYP3R and real-time engagement.

Select the event
Identifying which event you want to engage with people is important. The event you choose needs to be an event where a lot of people will be in attendance and who will be posting pictures frequently.

Examples can be professional sporting events, concerts, races or galas.

All of these events will have thousands of people keeping their Instagrams updated.

Select a team
Make sure you are well-staffed to engage in real time. A lot of diligent work is required because the posts will start flooding in at the event.

You’ll want to be responding frequently and attentively to ensure you’re interacting with as many accounts as possible.

Begin HYP3R use
You will need to open an account with HYP3R, but once you do, the opportunities are endless. Not only can you geofence an event to pull all of the posts in that area, but the posts will be pulled to one place on your HYP3R account. You can scroll through them and not have to scramble around to find the posts.

Analytics are also a genius part of HYP3R. You’ll be able to see the stats of engagement rates, top responses, etc. The numbers don’t lie. Your engagements rates will go through the roof.

First-hand experience with HYP3R

Stephanie Smith, a public relations student at Brigham Young University, has worked on many projects for clients using HYP3R and states:

“It is an innovative and effective way to engage with people,” Stephanie said. “It allows a brand to come to life. Instead of drinking a Coke at a basketball game, what if Coca Cola commented on your Instagram post at that game. And even better, what if Coca Cola commented telling you to go to the nearest concession stand and get a free Coke on them? That is how we use HYP3R. We bring brands to life, which ultimately brings loyalty from customers to the brands.”

Engaging in real time is the latest way to build a brand. Forget publishing a news release in the newspaper. If you want your client to get noticed, interact with its customers and fans on social media.

People can have so much more than simply drinking a Coke.

Written by Genny Hickman