Crisis Response and Social Media Strategy

t-rex in the rearview mirror

Ready for a crisis when it appears?

Often when we think of a social media strategy, we think of marketing. Create a plan, make a content calendar, and build campaigns.  But organizations also need a strategy to respond to a crisis using social media (SM) and ones that emerge in SM.

Many organizations and boards use an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach for dealing with a crisis. But that ERM was probably overseen by an audit committee or some group other than a social media team. In fact, the SM team might not even be in-house. The traditional ERM might have originally considered things like disaster recovery (fire, flood, hurricanes) and had its purview expanded to oversee things like cyber readiness. A well prepared organization’s risk mitigation should also have pre-reviewed  SM responses ready.

Betsy Atkins, writing in Forbes, suggests that you prepare for your ten most likely risks. Having prepared such strategies and taught students to do so, I know that though there may be some industry typical risks that are obvious, you really need a list customized to your organization.

For example, Atkins suggests that for a restaurant, those risks might include a wide range from food poisoning, to a #metoo issue, or a breach of customer info, to an armed attack/active shooter.

She notes that the difference between Starbucks’ speedy response on an alleged racial bias issue contrasts poorly with the poor responses by United Airlines concerning passenger abuse removal scandal followed by a puppy suffocation death.

In a time when customers are more likely to tweet their anger with your organization or post a bad review, you need to respond very quickly and as proactively as possible. I was a MoviePass customer and I saw many complaints on social media about service and all received the same boilerplate “contact us privately” kind of response. I knew they were in trouble. Beyond the person who posted their complaint, there were many more readers of it who had the same issue or would have in the future and they saw that the company was avoiding any public response.

Is there any crossover between the marketing side of SM and the risk management side? There should be. Since I work frequently in higher education, I was interested in an article about how George Washington University is using campus influencers  to market for them. Using students, alums, campus leaders is not unique, though much of what you see online is probably accidental rather than intentional marketing. These participants received a package of GW “swag” and were asked to post about GW at least three times a month using the hashtag #GWAmbassador and attend at least two events at GW (tickets provided) each semester if they live in the D.C. area.

The article was vague on details but said that “officials” would provide these ambassadors with “expectations” about how to promote the given material. I hope those expectations are carefully worded and thorough in their coverage since you have designated these people as ad-hoc members of the marketing team. Are they disclosing that they were given the ticket to the event they are posting about?  If they wear their GW hat and sweatshirt at a gun control rally and post a photo without the official hashtag are they still representing the university at some level?

The campaign sounds okay, and the few examples I saw in Twitter seemed innocent enough. Are they ready to respond to a crisis emerging from it?

 

Set the Timer

Being a virtual worker has its obvious advantages, such as no commuting, variable work hours and days, and working in your pajamas from the couch. It also has its disadvantages, such as allowing you to do nothing and lose track of time.

Because much of my work these days are billable hours rather than a salary, it is important that I keep track of how long I work on a project. I need those stats both to invoice clients and to give estimates to new clients.

This was a skill I needed to develop when I shifted my working days to virtual ones. One technique that I started using turns out to have a formal name. More on that in a bit…

This time management and productivity technique is very simple. When you start a task (not a project, but a piece of it), set a timer and work on that task for 25 minutes. Then, take a short break (3-5 minutes). Start working on the task again for 25 minutes and repeat until it’s completed.

I just started doing this on my own and it was only later that I discovered that I was using the Pomodoro Technique.

Il pomodoro.jpg
Pomodoro tomato timer
from Erato at Italian Wikinews. – Transferred from it.wikinews to Commons by Fale using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. His technique was to use a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Originally, he broke it down into six steps. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

The technique has been popularized more recently via a bunch of apps and websites that provide timers and instructions.  I just use a cheap digital timer that can count down. I tried using my phone timer but for some reason it was less effective. Perhaps because the screen would go to sleep, so those numbers weren’t always staring at me.

One of the app options is Focus Booster which will automatically record your timesheets  for each project or task and lets you export it for easier invoicing.

This technique is closely related to several other productivity techniques, such as timeboxing, and iterative and incremental development.

Timeboxing allocates a fixed time period, called a time box, to each planned activity. Several project management approaches use timeboxing. It is also used for individual use to address personal tasks in a smaller time frame. It often involves having deliverables and deadlines, which will improve the productivity of the user.

Iterative and incremental development which is often used in software design. The basic idea behind this method is to develop a system through repeated cycles (iterative) and in smaller portions at a time (incremental), allowing software developers to take advantage of what was learned during development of earlier parts or versions of the system.

Meme Feeds

Meme accounts (AKA meme feeds) have been appearing on social networks, especially Instagram.  Meme accounts are also becoming attractive for brands and publishers who are seeking a better ROI compared to “influencers” who aren’t getting the results they once did.

You know memes, right? They are things, often witty or humorous, like an image, video, small piece of text that is copied (often with slight variations) and spreads rapidly by social media users.

A brand is probably no better at creating a meme than any of us are at creating a viral video. It just happens.

But with a meme, the wit comes more naturally when crowdsourced. Meme accounts are people who aggregate a meme.

Of course, social media sites also aggregate memes. Twitter has trending hashtags, such as #BlackGirlsRock or a brand meme like Subway’s #SubTheBurger campaign.

And a meme account saves money.  “For 1 million followers, you could be paying $15,000 to a human influencer, and for 1 million followers on a meme account you’d be paying about $1,000,” said Tim Armoo, CEO of influencer platform Fanbytes.

Of course, what we still want is engagement. The engagement rate is calculated as LIKES + COMMENTS divided by the number of followers.   1000 likes + 100 comments divided by 250 followers would give you a nice engagement rate of 4.4%.

Some numbers found online say that the engagement rate is 3.5 percent for the cool meme accounts and that is equal to mainstream influencers doing the same kind of posting. Brand-sponsored meme posts only have an engagement rate of 1.7 percent.

MORE at digiday.com

Technical Writers

Technical Writers are often the link between engineers, marketing associates, developers and external users of a product or service.

When I have taught undergraduate classes in technical writing, something I have to address with students right away is their definition of technical writing. In many people’s minds, writing that is “technical” is complicated, full of jargon and difficult to read. But in fact, the goal of the technical writer is exactly the opposite. It is usually to make technical subject matter less complicated and easier to understand and use.

In my undergraduate technical writing classes (which are considered advanced writing courses) we combines current theory with actual practice to prepare students as technical writers. They analyze complex communication situations and then design appropriate responses through tasks that involve problem solving, rhetorical theory, document design, oral presentations, writing teams, audience awareness, ethical considerations and ethical issues.

When I teach at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), my students are engineers, computer scientists, architects and scientists who often dislike writing and are used to only academic writing. Unfortunately, much academic writing is students demonstrating their learning to a professor who already knows the subject. In most real technical communication, the writer is the expert and the readers are the learners. In professional life, you may be writing for supervisors, colleagues or customers. You might be explaining a problem, a product, an experiment, or a project, and the format may be a proposal, abstract, report, email or manual.

When I teach technical writing at a more comprehensive university, such as Montclair State University, the students are more comfortable with writing, but less comfortable with the technical part.  That is because they don’t think of technical writing as being a part of every field. For education, biology, art, music, and other science and liberal arts students, they need to rethink the technical aspects of their studies. For example, I have had art history majors who wrote technical documentation on art restoration.

My graduate students in professional technical communication are often dealing with social media, documentation, video presentations and a variety of real world tasks. NJIT offers a Technical Communications Certificate that attracts primarily professionals who intend to learn/expand their careers as technical writers, editors, trainers, website designers, and documentation specialists.

I don’t know that being a technical writer at Google is typical of that job, but this video gives you a little taste of technical writing and life at Google.

This post first appeared on Serendipity35

What’s Cool With Gen Z?

gen z
I looked at “It’s Lit: A Google Guide to What Teens (Gen Z) Think is Cool”

The social media global penetration will hit three billion people worldwide by 2021, and one of the fastest growing, quickest adopting generations on social media is Generation Z  These are the current teenagers and they make up about 26%, of the US population.

Where are they posting online? Snapchat, and Instagram are cool. Twitter and Facebook, not cool. Still, Facebook is still almost a daily habit for most teens for viewing/consuming content from friends and family, but they are not engaged there or posting.

Snapchat and Instagram don’t encourage sharing as much and are more about who you follow which makes them feel more private/closed allowing messaging and shares without it being public.

Apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and other chat services may play no roll in your clients’ or your personal social media landscape but are growing in popularity with Gen Z.

Pinterest is down with only a 26% reach with teens. In Google’s report, they don’t treat their own YouTube property as social media but as a streaming service. In that category, teens rank services in this order: YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu.

I was surprised at some of the brands they engage with most often: Oreo, Playstation, Doritos, Xbox, Apple, Nike, Amazon, Chik-Fil-A, and Go Pro. Low engagement goes to  Patagonia, Zara, Lululemon, Quicksilver, Oakley, Nordstrom and Sunglass Hut. If you are in that latter group, you would want to consider where these teens will be looking and buying in the next decade when Gen Z purchasing power increases significantly. Will you have lost them?

The Gig Economy

work at home pexels

Sometimes people chuckle or look confused when I say I work in the gig economy. They think I made it up. I didn’t.

A gig economy is usually defined as an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.

Twenty years ago, I would have associated “gigs” with musicians. You play a gig at a club tonight, next weekend you play one somewhere else. Maybe you luck into getting a regular gig (almost an oxymoron) playing every other Friday night at the same place for a few months.

It is not “part-time” work.

The trend toward a gig economy has been climbing and a study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors.

What is pushing this trend to short-term jobs? One thing is an increasingly mobile workforce that can increasingly work from anywhere. Job and location are not always linked these days. Freelancers can select  jobs and projects around the world, and employers have a much larger pool of candidates.

Employers often like this arrangement as it means no office space needed and, as with part-timers in general, probably no benefits. Not being responsible for employees’ taxes and benefits allows companies to operate with 20% to 30% less in labor costs than the traditional competition.

People tend to change jobs more often throughout their working lives than in prior generations and the gig economy can be seen as an evolution of that trend.

Employers can contract with experts for specific projects who might be too high-priced to maintain on staff.

My newest gig is doing instructional design of online courses for a college. It is a one-year gig, so it is actually pretty regular work. But it is all virtual work from home and the hours are set by me. I have milestones and deadlines to meet, but the schedule is mine.

For this gig, I am getting an hourly rate, but the college has set a cap on the number of hours I can bill per course (though we have already discussed the possibility that some courses may run over that amount, while others will be under). The Dean in charge of this project would prefer to have an instructional designer full time on staff, but the budget line for that position won’t appear until next fall when their “virtual college” actually launches with student.

Gig workers like the improved work-life balance offered over most traditional jobs. Ideally, the worker is able to select jobs that they’re interested in – though obviously if you’re in need of work, you may have to take a gig that isn’t your first choice.

Despite any benefits, the gig economy is part of  the sharing economy, the gift economy and the barter economy and there are downsides to all of these. You are like freelancers and self-employed workers of the past and have to deal with insurance and other benefits and issues.

Finding hard numbers on the size of this gig economy workforce seems rather inexact right now. Government data sources have difficulty counting how many gig workers there are, but it is being tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Gig workers are seen in some government stats as contingent workers, defined as “those who don’t have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment.” Alternative employment titles also include those who identify as independent contractors, freelancers or independent consultants, on-call workers, and workers provided by temporary help agencies or contract firms.

BLS data lumps gig workers in with all the other alternative workers. The Census includes them in nonemployer statistics data – a self-employed individual operating a very small, unincorporated business with no paid employees.

Fast Company magazine warns that lawsuits around the gig economy are an issue of concern. Uber, Lyft and other gig drivers have protested and “gone on strike” and other companies that have built their business model on gig employees have seen some employee resistance.

Homejoy, Handy (both cleaning services) and workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (an online platform that pays independent contractors cents per task) recently orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to Jeff Bezos asking for him “to see that Turkers are not only actual human beings, but people who deserve respect, fair treatment, and open communication.” Legally, Uber and Lyft are also facing charges of misclassifying workers. A case against an online work platform called Crowdflower was also opened.

What might bring down the gig economy? Besides some class-action lawsuits, there might be intervention by regulators (many cities are clamping down on Uber and Lyft at the behest of traditional taxi companies). If companies can ever hybridize traditional jobs and gig ones, you might end up with a new option that offers both the freedom and some of the benefits of traditional work.