Friday, May 30, 2014

Something Borrowed, Blue and Hashtagged Too

By: Maggie Quinn

I went to a wedding this past April, and if you’re my friend on Facebook or follow me on Instagram, you already know that.

Andrea, one of my best friends and college roommate, married her husband a month ago. Instead of waiting weeks for the photographer’s photos to appear online, I watched as guests populated social media feeds in real-time, sent Snapchat videos to our friends who could not make it, and recorded our own clips of the reception.

It’s how Millennials are doing weddings.

The first of my friends to tie the knot, Andrea integrated social media into her big day along with events preceding the wedding.

Shortly after Andrea called me to announce her engagement, the news “officially” appeared on Facebook along with a picture.

Flooded with comments of well-wishes and “likes,” the buzz on social media continued leading up to April. I watched excitedly as teasers of hairstyles, table numbers and reception decorations peppered her Pinterest board. The bridal party and I even took an idea from one of her pins for a bachelorette party gift.

Upon arriving at the hotel, guests were instructed to use the hashtag #clariziowedding to share any and all photos on Instagram.

At the reception, Andrea's DIY details, some foreshadowed by her Pinterest boards, personalized the venue.

Even the maid of honor speech had a digital touch with notes drafted on an iPhone. 

Andrea is not alone in using social media to plan her wedding. Nowadays, a wedding day narrative is told not just through photographers and videographers, but instantly through the phone camera lenses of family and friends. The bride and groom can see the wedding develop through the eyes of their guests. 

In fact, according to an article on Business Wire the average wedding guest shared 22 wedding-related photos on social media, and 4 in 10 recent wedding guests reported that use of a specific hashtag was encouraged.

For better or for worse, we continue to move into an age of increased digital sharing. Millennials are especially guilty of constant participation in social media platforms. While I feel that hiring a social media wedding concierge is extreme (no, my friend did not have one), I loved being able to take part in and contribute to my friend's wedding story.

Admittedly, I was sad not to see any new posts during the last two weeks. It's been fun reliving details of that perfect weekend. Then again, I am still waiting anxiously to have a girls night and watch the wedding video - let's hope they didn't catch too many of my dance moves!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lessons From Shutterfly's Pregnancy Email Campaign Gone Awry

By Sarah Larson

Shutterfly thinks I just had a baby.

Shutterfly probably thinks you just had a baby, too, which might come as a surprise to you - especially if you’re male.

The online photo developer sent out an email marketing campaign on Thursday, May 14, that went a bit awry.

“Congratulations,” it read. “There’s nothing more amazing than bringing a new life into the world. As a new parent, you’re going to find more to love, more to give and more to share - we’re here to help you every step of the way.”

I was a little puzzled when I read my email. My first baby just turned 13, and my youngest baby is 7.

Intended to go to Shutterfly account users who recently purchased baby-related items, the email went instead to what a company spokesperson told The Huffington Post was “a larger distribution.” Judging by the number of my friends and acquaintances and perfect strangers around the ‘net who received the email, that number was pretty large.

Because it lets no opportunity for humiliation to pass by unnoticed, the Internet had a field day with the error, especially the platform of all that is snarky, Twitter.

From all appearances, the email was an honest mistake. If it were about a generic subject, it might not have elicited the reaction it did. For couples struggling with infertility, however, the email was a knife to the heart. "After 3 miscarriages and no babies, this email ripped me apart." wrote one woman on Twitter.

In response, Shutterfly sent another email later in the day apologizing to those who received the first message in error.

The Shutterfly incident offers a few takeaways on how to handle marketing and public relations fails.

  1. Pay attention to the reaction to the error so you can respond swiftly.
  2. Apologize when necessary, from the highest management level responsible.
  3. Distribute contact information (phone number, email address, etc.) so upset customers have a way to provide feedback.

We've written extensively about crisis communications in prior posts, including Crisis Averted - Advice From the Pros and Crisis Communications for Nonprofits. Do you have any helpful tips for communicating during a crisis? Please share them in the comments.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Power of Social Media Complaints on Brands

By Rose Strong

Do you like Old El Paso products on Facebook? Have you sent in for a rebate to Betty Crocker or save Box Tops for Education? If so, under the now-retracted General Mills website privacy policy and legal terms, you could have been giving up your rights to sue the company. According to a New York Times article, the terms stated that people who joined the cereal maker’s online communities and downloaded items of value, such as coupons, agreed to General Mills’ arbitration clause for the settlement of legal disputes.

In April, social media sites were all over General Mills and its now-retracted website privacy policy and legal terms . It was interpreted as saying that if you liked the company or any of its individual brands such as Cheerios, Pillsbury, Green Giant, and a plethora of other familiar food labels on social media or its websites, used coupons or applied for rebates, you had no right to sue the company.

A Forbes article subsequently clarified the misconception of the masses, explaining that “The fight here isn’t over individual lawsuits; it’s over class actions, those cases that reward lawyers with millions of dollars in cash fees and give their clients little to nothing.”

The Forbes article does an excellent job at explaining what the legal issues are all about, so I’m not going to discuss them further here. What is interesting to me is the fact that a corporation as large as General Mills actually paid attention to the masses on social media, the court of public opinion as you will, and changed their policy back to their old legal terms.

Regardless of how you feel about General Mills doing an about face only 48 hours later, it’s a sign that smart brands listen to what consumers say on social media. Commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name only a few, give consumers a voice that big business is really starting to hear.

Molly Katchpole had a beef with Bank of America and Verizon over charges she felt were unfair to customers. She set up petitions on This millennial was able to bring attention to the issues and caused the companies to drop their stances on certain fees they had applied to their bills.

Big business is doing more than just setting up social media sites for promotions. They are listening to the conversations online and are taking action. A recent Social Media Marketing University (SMMU) study indicates that 70 percent of brands respond to customer complaints on social media within 24 hours while just 45 percent of brands have a policy to deal with customer complaints on social media. While brands are starting to get on board with today’s reality, and some have set the bar very high, others have a long way to go.

Just recently, one of my colleagues had an issue with USAirways. She posted something on Twitter on a Friday. USAirways responded the following Monday (after several Twitter influencers reached out on my colleague’s behalf) saying that they were sorry they hadn’t responded sooner but that the social media manager had been off for the weekend. At the same time, American Airlines responded with a suggestion as to how to get the matter solved. Good thing the two companies have merged – maybe American will help USAirways handle their online discourse better.

Here are a few tips from the Furia Rubel team about how to handle complaints about your brand on social media:
  • Implement a social media response policy, educate everyone in your company about the policy, and then stick to it. 
  • Monitor social media for brand discourse.
  • Appoint a team of social media ambassadors to correspond on your company’s behalf.
  • When you see something negative, review all social media sites for posts from the same individual to see if he/she is a serial complainer (no pun intended). If so, most of his/her comments will likely fall on deaf ears. Don’t do anything.
  • If the person appears legitimate, respond within 24 hours (keeping in mind that some responses may require the approval of a higher up and possibly even your legal department).
  • Provide viable solutions when possible and respond with integrity.
  • Accept that you don’t always need to have the last word and you cannot make 100 percent of the people happy 100 percent of the time.
And remember, customer service is still as important today as it ever was and every situation is different. So while it is imperative that you monitor and respond to social media attacks (when appropriate), there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Have you ever posted something on a company Facebook or other social media page and received a response? Share your stories in the comments; I’ll read them over a bowl of Cheerios!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Privacy and Sharing Photos on Facebook

By: Kim Tarasiewicz

I had a very exciting weekend! My eldest son went to his first prom, so of course, being the dutiful mom, I wanted to share those photos with the world – well, at least my social media world. But as I was downloading and getting ready to post the photos, I realized that many of them included my son’s friends. Of course, I hadn’t taken the time to ask each one if I could add pictures of them to my Facebook page. I’m certain the kids were tweeting them all over, but what was my responsibility and how did it affect my urge to share my excitement?

I read the Facebook privacy policy many years ago when I set up my profile and I vaguely remember changing the settings at one point when I heard about people hacking into Facebook pages, but did I know the full extent of who could see my pages or my “cyberprint ”? Probably not.

I approached the sharing of my own photos on social media with the same caution that we advise businesses to exercise. Our clients often will hold fundraisers, events and meetings where photos or videos are taken. As a public relations and marketing agency, we encourage our clients to share as much as possible – when it makes sense. We encourage them to proactively share their stories online, which also boosts the search engine optimization (SEO) of their websites.

As is standard practice, our clients are always directed to obtain signed releases when producing professional videos or photographs. But what rules govern more informal situations, such as 300 people in a ballroom at a charity event?

Companies should keep in mind a few simple rules when posting photos on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram:

  • Photos taken at public events and in public places are usually okay to use but always ask yourself if people in the image have a reasonable expectation to privacy.
  • If you are not sure if someone would want their image posted online, ask them first when possible. It never hurts to provide such a courtesy. 
  • Assume that everything you share will not be kept private - if you post it online, it’s public.
  • Follow the rules of the individual social media site you are using.
  • Ask permission before reposting content you did not create.

There is a great article in USA Today by Kim Komando, “Think twice before taking pictures in public .” It’s worth reading and heeding her advice.

Companies use social media to send information out to the masses, but publishing the wrong information can interfere with daily business or personal issues. Monitor your company pages and think before you post.

And in the end, I did post a few pictures, taken from a distance, of the friends I knew best.

Friday, May 02, 2014

What will be your differentiator?

By: Sarah Larson

My 13-year-old son needed socks. So I found myself standing in front of row after row of packages of socks at the local get-everything-in-one-place big box store.

Some were crew socks. Some socks were cut to end at the top of the ankle. Some had reinforced toes.

Each style was made by at least two major brand manufacturers. The socks themselves looked much the same, and the packages all had the same number of pairs. The price was different by no more than about 50 cents.

In the end, I reached for the package of Hanes white crew socks.

Why? What made me choose Hanes instead of its competitor?

The Hanes package had a little pink logo at the top that read “Box Tops for Education.”

Like many other schools across the country, my daughter’s elementary school collects those ubiquitous pink labels. Students are encouraged to send in box tops and labels throughout the year. During special competition periods, the classroom that turns in the most labels wins some prize.

My daughter is in first grade. While she may get a kick out of opposing everything I say or do at home, her greatest wish in the world right now is to please her teacher and her school. As such, she took up the “Box Tops” challenge with the zeal of the newly converted.

That package of Hanes crew socks ended up in my cart because that choice accomplished two goals: meeting my son's need for warm feet while also helping my daughter fulfill a goal of collecting labels to help her school.

That little pink logo was a differentiator.

When a business – whether it’s a law firm or a clothing manufacturer – sets out to make itself different from its competitors, marketers call that brand differentiation. And with brand differentiation, there’s no such thing as a small decision.

“Every ‘small’ decision that positions a brand is critical,” explains Laura Powers, our Chief Marketing Officer.

As humans, we are emotionally influenced by many external factors, some subtle and some conspicuous, says Powers. A brand manager understands that all these factors help guide a buyer's purchasing decision. This is true whether a customer is choosing a divorce attorney, an accountant or a package of socks.

“Each choice in positioning the brand plays a part in influencing target audiences – the colors on a logomark, the font on a website, the company's tagline, the paper stock on a business card,” says Powers. “These choices include strategic partnerships with B2B affiliations such as a partnership with a niche publication to sponsor an event that attracts the target audience, and B2C affiliates such as Box Tops for Education.”

Next time you stop to think about your organization’s brand, spare a moment to define what it is that makes you different from your competitors. Whatever it is, it needs to be a vital part of all your strategic messaging.