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The Boy Scouts of America: Social Media Policy

The Boy Scouts of America can teach you what to do when a bear attacks, when you’re alone in the woods, when someone needs help, and when you’re on social media.

The Boy Scouts in America are one of a growing number of organizations that now post their social media policy online and available to the public. Anyone can view it. Even you, right now.

And the policy covers it all. Starting with an explanation of how the BSA are using social media to connect with others, this policy is easily readable and offers Scouts guidelines to navigate social media. They suggest abiding by the guidelines offered by each individual platform. Furthermore, they remind Scouts that the guidelines offered by the Scout Oath and Law and other Scout commitments must still be adhered to while participating in social networking. They go on to outline some of these commitments. The policy itself starts with a general set of internet safety guidelines, such as “if somebody tells you to keep what’s going on between the two of you secret, tell a parent or guardian”. This is followed by a section entitled “General Considerations for Social Media Use”. This offers suggestions of how to increase engagement and best utilize social media in a safe way. As the policy digs in further, key social media channels and considerations for use are outlined. These include descriptions of specific platforms and how to approach them. Platforms addressed include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. A final thoughts section re-emphasizes one of the points that has been carried through the entire policy: that social media is designed to be public, should remain that way, and should be understood as such. Other final thoughts emphasize general points to remember, such as the eternal lifespan of information placed on the internet.

The BSA social media policy is an in-depth but readable document that was thoughtfully crafted. The policy offers a unique double function as a document that parents may use to talk to their kids about social media by encompassing many different elements of social media rather than just what is relevant to BSA. This is a smart move by BSA, as it is a youth serving organization that aims to keep youth safe. The document offers many practical suggestions and often relates these suggestions or explanations back to Scouting related events that those in the BSA would be familiar with. This is a smart tactic that increases the likelihood of the audience understanding the messages the BSA intends to send with this policy. Through its readability and thoroughness, the BSA has crafted a social media policy that is incredibly informative and useful for their audience. Although somewhat on the lengthy side, the document is useful for all people involved in BSA, and would be for many who are not as well.

Although the policy is extremely well done, the BSA may want to consider more specifics to social media in relation to the Boy Scouts of America. Are there specific things that should or should not be addressed on social media? Do they have any specifications about how people should present themselves in terms of their affiliation with BSA? Do they have rules in place for people who abuse social media while identifying as an affiliate of BSA? And what actions would be considered abuse of social media for BSA? And what would be the consequences? These are all questions the BSA may consider including answers for in their social media policy.

Unfortunately, the BSA is in the minority as an organization that publicly shares their social media policy. With the rising integration of social media into all organizations, it would be advisable for each organization to make their social media policy visible. In the case of a visible violation of policy, the company is then in a better position to illustrate to those involved in the organization that, although this person is affiliated with the organization, the organization does not condone their online behavior. Furthermore, the companies that don’t have a social media policy should consider putting some thought and effort into creating one. When a person is listed as an influencer in your brand or product, they are given the ability to benefit or harm your organization. By creating a social media policy, the brand regains some control over this sector and is given grounds to react. Finally, this policy should be readable and accessible to all involved. All employees should be aware of it and it should be frequently reviewed, revisited, and talked about to keep up with social media’s ever changing landscape.

Coca-Cola on Spotify

Coca-Cola has built its incredible success on the platform of being a modern, if not nostalgic, company. Associated with cars when cars first became accessible, this hip company was not going to be one to miss out on the social media trend. From the early days of social media, Coca-Cola has been an early adaptor and admired users of social media platforms.

Soft drink manufacturer, Coca-Cola, has long been a household name in much of the world. With a mission to “refresh the world, inspire moments of optimism and happiness, create value and make a difference,” Coca-Cola has built an image of hot summer days and good memories. Their website illustrates the pure reach and success that this brand has, as illustrated in the screen shot below.

With the way that Coca-Cola has already embedded themselves into the mind of people around the world, they are now given a unique opportunity in social media. Coca-Cola has already built a brand that invokes overwhelmingly positive sentiment and is trusted by many. This gives Coca-Cola the opportunity to focus their energy on some of the fringe social media platforms. As a well-respected brand with the manpower and money to devote to social media, Coca-Cola is able to promote social media platforms that align with their goals. This can be seen in their new relationship with Spotify.

Spotify, a music-streaming service that brings free music to the masses, announced earlier this month at an Ad Age Digital conference that they will be partnering with brands, such as Coca-Cola. As part of each partnership, Spotify will build branded apps for each company within their music platform. To read more about this partnership, check out this article.

Since the 19th century, Coca-Cola has involved itself in the music industry. They have been active in taking on music stars in their commercials (ie Ray Charles, who wrote a radio spot for Coca-Cola in 1955, which can be seen here) and partnering with various companies to promote independent musicians and bands. Coca-Cola representatives say that being involved in music, especially through social media, is an attempt to “stay relevant to young consumers and their changing music tastes,” as well as an opportunity to exist customers to Spotify to leverage the business. As stated by Emmanuel Seuge, the head of global sports and entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola, “Spotify is becoming our global music partner, from the Olympics to other campaigns. What’s important now is not just building awareness but being a part of the conversation.”

With Coca-Cola’s approach to social media, maybe it’s time we all start keeping an eye on where they are going. History has shown us that where Coca-Cola goes, others may want to follow.

Case Study: Zappos.com on Twitter

Zappos.com is an online shoe and apperal shop known for it’s quirky attitude and fun style. Consistantly ranked as one of the best companies to work for, Zappos puts a large emphasis on the company’s culture and values in all it does. Recently, this has spilled over onto Zappos’ presence on social media, specifically Twitter. In 2009, Zappos was awarded the “best use of social media” title by Abrams Research (see here).

CEO Tony Hsieh strongly encourages all of his employees to make use of social media tools, as it aligns with one of their top ten core values as a company, which states “Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication”. Active on YouTube, Facebook, and Corporate Blogs, Zappos is consistantly seen as one of the most successful companies on Twitter (see more here). Recent counts show more than 430 Zappos employees on Twitter and Zappos is consistantly one of the most active companies to recruit via Twitter.

CEO Tony Hsieh leads the company by example, recently ranked the 185th most followed person on Twitter with over 2 million followers, Hsieh has taken the @zappos Twitter account on himself. Typically, this account and the account of other Zappos employees do not focus on products Zappos sells, but rather on sharing their unique culture and listening to customer feedback.  They are known for their laid back and accessable voice on Twitter that makes the brand more of a friend than a company. Consider, for example, the recent pictures posted by Tony Hsieh.

To many, these may look more like the recent pictures a friend may have Tweeted than a company trying to sell you shoes. This is in line with the culture of the organization and the voice they show in all they do.

According to recent articles, there are various core things that lend most prominantly to Twitter’s success. First, the Twitter voice previously mentioned, which makes the company approachable and friendly. Second, Zappos’ transparent brand tracking, which consists primarly of a page that shows all public mentions of Zappos on Twitter. This is also in line with Zappos’ company goals and a bold move possible for only a company with overwhelmingly positive mentions. Finally, Zappos regularly celebrates “super fans”, which inspires users to become one of these people. Fans are even posted on a fancy Zappos TweetWall, linked to Zappos.com. Read more about each of these here.

Zappos is a unique company with a unique culture. Now, people everywhere can learn about the fun that the employees are having at Zappos through their Twitter page. If you want to engage with some of the most energetic and crazy shoe salespeople around (these people, right here, featured in their own music video!), Zappos has opened the door to allow you to do this. This unique approach of using a unique culture to carry over into Twitter has proved immensely successful.

The Mom Rule and Other Tools

As our professor, Dennis Jenders, has invited various guest speakers into our #ADPR4300 class, there are some questions we keep asking and some answers we keep hearing. As we hear of all the different social media tools out there, one question we keep asking is how we know what social media tools have a good chance at being successful. Both Dennis and James Davidson (@jdavidson) from 7 Summits have had the same response for us; we should think of whether or not our mom’s would use the tool. By looking the generation above us, we are able to see some insight into whether or not these tools will catch on.

In communication studies, various theories have emerged to answer these same questions. Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) developed a theory based on social presence. Social presence is defined as “the degree to which a medium supports the psychological presence of users during an interaction” (Baker, 2002, p.80). This includes factors such as sociability, warmth, personalness, and sensitivity. In this theory, face-to-face communication is seen as the highest level of social presence. However, the theory also states that the more channels available within a communication medium, the more attention users will pay to that medium. It is important to remember that the level of social presence necessary for success as a medium is also related to the goal of the communication that will be taking place in this platform. Therefore, by considering the amount of social presence a new social medium has in comparison with its goals, we may reach a further understanding into whether or not a new social medium will be successful.

Another theoretical viewpoint regarding media acceptance is the media richness model. Developed by Daft and Lengel (1986), this theory is one of the most frequently cited when considering collaborative technologies. The media richness theory suggests that richness is an intrinsic property of each media and that “individuals’ decision to use different media can be explained by the fit between the requirements of the task and the intrinsic properties of that task” (Baker, 2002, p. 81). Within this theory, it is crucial to understand the requirements of the task the medium is created to perform and the intrinsic properties of that task to determine whether or not that medium is going to be effective in that task.

One final theoretical approach to media acceptance is called Media Synchronicity Theory (MST) (Dennnis, Valacich, Speier, and Morris, 1998). This theory proposes that “communication effectiveness results from matching the communication capabilities of concurrence and feedback to the communication processes of conveyance (the exchange of information) and convergence (the development of a shared meaning about information)” (Baker, 2002, p. 81). In other words, does the technology allow for concurrence (allowing users to communicate real time) and feedback? Do the capabilities of each of these match the information that must be exchanged and the ability for users to develop shared meaning?

These are some additional tools we can use to determine whether emerging social media platforms are going to be successful. In the end, it’s not an exact science, but theories which have been tested time and time again are a good place to start. Or, considering your mom (who has also been tested time and time again).

Resources:

Baker, G. (2002). The effects of synchronous collaborative technologies on decision making: A study of virtual teams. Information Resources Management Journal, 15(4). 79-93.

Daft, R. & Lengel, R. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness, and structure design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571.

Dennis, A. R., Valacich, J. S., Speier, C., & Morris, M. G. (1998). Beyond media righness: An empirical test of media sychronicity theory. Proceedings of 1998 Annual Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science, (pp. 48-57). Maui.

Short, J. E., Williams, E., and Christie, B. (1976). The Social Psychology of Communications. London: John Wiley.

Case Study: Chobani on Pinterest

You may not get excited about a visit to the grocery store, but people are getting excited about this grocery item on Pinterest. With over 4,000 followers and growing, Chobani has figured out how to use Pinterest to their advantage and it’s not all about just posting recipes (though there are some great recipes!). Let’s take a look at how Chobani has used Pinterest to become one of the most popular visual brands on the newest social media fad.

Chobani’s quick success on Pinterest hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recently seen speaking at a Social Media event at High Road’s Toronto office, featured on Ragan’s PR Daily, Beneath the Brand (a branding site), AdWeek, and Fast Company, Chobani’s use of Pinterest is wowing people in PR, branding, digital, advertising, and marketing. So, what makes Chobani’s use of Pinterest so wildly successful?

First, let’s take a look at what Chobani’s Pinterest page looks like. Chobani’s Pinterest page features 20 different Pinboards that include anything from quotes to workout inspiration to recipes and Instagram photos.

Among their 20 pages, Chobani features 868 pins at the time of this post and 13 likes. Although it’s not possible to see total number of re-pins from our perspective (which is a flaw with Pinterest, in my mind), the top righthand side of the screen shows a running commentary on the most recent people to re-pin Chobani’s images.

Chobani’s Pinterest page is managed by digital communications manager, Emily Schildt. She states that Chobani has seven things they keep in mind while managing their social media, including Pinterest. These includes posting things that allow people to discover new things, showing off all the core values of Chobani, micro-targetting their customer, making sure that you don’t go overboard with creating Pinboards, sharing openly, being responsive, and pinning hopes, dreams, and goals that align with Chobani. These are discussed more in the previously mentioned post on Fast Company (here).

What impresses me most about Chobani’s use of Pinterest is how well they know their customer. They are one of the very few brands I follow on Pinterest and their pins often grab my attention more than even my close friends. They have tuned into their customers so much that even the home and kitchen decor they post, which seems far from the actual product of Chobani, catches my eye. I am also impressed with how valuable following Chobani has been for me. I have learned many uses of yogurt in cooking and baking that I never knew existed…and oftentimes it is the healthy alternative!

Through mouthwatering pictures and branching out from their product, Chobani has used Pinterest to become more than just a brand. They have become a friend to their customer, sharing the same hopes, goals, desires, dreams, and tastes.

Being Human at Work

As social media has become integrated into all aspects of society today, businesses who have truly embraced social media for all it is worth have become known as social businesses. A business becomes a social business when it successfully integrates social media into all aspects of their organization as a business tool like any other business tool. A social business uses social media programs to allow employees to communicate internally with one another in a way that does not limit and silo interactions the way traditional e-mail and other forms of communication have. A social business also uses social media tools to engage in a dialogue with their customers online in efforts to humanize the brand and serve customers’ needs. As a social business, the organization must recognize the value in embracing expanded networks of people that social media programs give us access to. These networks should be considered a valuable tool that can be used to create new value in current business ventures and new business opportunities. In order to do this, the business must focus on the people that are core to the organization and embrace the cultures of the people they are interacting with both internally and externally.

The benefits of successfully melding social media into the toolbox of an organization start internally and percolate to the outside.  It has been said that “an organization cannot have effective external conversations with the social customer unless they can have effective internal conversations with each other first” (“What’s Your Social Business Plan?” Edelman, 2011). By using social media as a platform on which to encourage open internal conversation, many benefits are realized. Among these benefits is the ability to allow emotional discussion to happen within the organization.

Within organizational communication studies, the role of emotion in the workplace has emerged as an interesting area of study. As Miller (2002) points out, employees are often asked to portray a specific emotion while working because management perceives that particular emotion as the appropriate one. However, research has suggested that by suppressing true emotions to express artificial emotions, negative consequences are often inevitable, including stress, burnout, and an estrangement from self (Miller, 2002; Wharton, 1999). Oftentimes, this is realized in the face of a tragedy, like the fatal Texas AMU bonfire collapse studied by Katharine Miller.

Miller (2002) explains that, following the accident, the employees and students of the university struggled to balance their professionalism in their role and the true emotions they harbored. She attributed this difficulty to a lack of socialization in dealing with emotions, especially those that are unexpected, at work. Some professors sought to conceal the emotions and continue with business as usual while others chose to abandon the previous class agenda for one that allowed for emotions to be shared.

Research would suggest that the latter of these two approaches is the healthier one for an organization. Miller (2002) suggests that “emotion is critical for forging a sense of community in the workplace” (p. 560). However, the typical structure of organizations often does not lend itself to a free expression of emotion. Through becoming a social business, however, an organization can become more prepared to allow emotions to be shared in the workplace, resulting in greater employee satisfaction, organizational identification, and an upholding of the ideology of the organization.

As a part of a social business, employees are socialized into an open communication system with co-workers, both at equal and unequal positions of the organizational chart. By encouraging employees to communicate and share ideas and giving them the means by which to do so, the employees become familiar with one another. As ideas are shared and opinions expressed, the workplace becomes less of a stranger to emotion. Furthermore, as situations emerge that draw out emotions that deviate from the norm, employees are comfortable sharing their emotions surrounding these situations as well. Social businesses give employees the freedom to communicate with less partitioned sectors of the organization, possibly giving the employees an ability to find others dealing with similar emotional struggles to identify with. They also give employees the necessary tools to express emotion in forms of media that go beyond words, possibly expressing the feelings better or giving the employees more confidence to share. Finally, by engaging routinely in continuous dialogue with colleagues, employees may come to identify more closely with the organization. Therefore, when a situation arises, the emotional reactions may fall on a smaller spectrum, making them easier to adjust to as an organization.

Humans are still humans while at work. That fact will never change, despite often attempts to leave one’s life at the door. Therefore, we must come to appreciate the value employees can bring to an organization as the emotional creatures that we are. Through becoming a social business, an organization can take the first step in encouraging emotion within the workplace through open dialogue. The benefits of this open dialogue are innumerable.

REFERENCES:

Brito, M. (July 1, 2011). What’s Your Social Business Plan? Edelman Digital. Retrieved from http://www.edelmandigital.com/2011/07/01/whats-your-social-business-plan/.

Miller, K. (2002). The experience of emotion in the workplace: Professing in the midst of tragedy. Management Communication Quarterly, 15, 571-600.

Wharton, A. S. (1999). The psychosocial consequences of emotional labor. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 27, 346-373.

Say Something

A local pastor recently said, concerning blogs, that there has never been a time in history where so many people have had so much to say about so little to so few. And the congregation erupted in laughter. And, although I appreciated the clever wording, I was a little concerned by the humor of the statement.

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Among the babbling going on all around us, how are public relations professionals suppose to be heard on blogs? By applying dating rules. That’s right, everything you need to know to be successful in blogging, you can learn from dating (unless you’re a hopeless case when it comes to dating. In that case, you have other problems.)

1) Include information that is useful: If you go on a date and just keep running your mouth without saying anything, you’re probably not going to get a second date. To get a second date, you must be interesting.

2) Frequently update the site and generate new content: Many relationships have fallen victim to routine and a lack of spontaneity. A predictable relationship does not generate excitement, so add some

3) Make sites easy to use and navigate: No one likes a relationship that feels like it is always a lot of work. Relationships involve a level of work, but the work should never outweigh the reward.

4) Strive to keep people on the site: Relationships building takes time, so dating is a process of spending time together to build a relationship. Spending time in dialogue allows for relationships to be fostered.

Consider these four simple points when writing your next blog post. Don’t become one who is saying nothing…say something…and say it well.