Social media becoming integral part of weather reporting

6 Dec

If you’re not in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, you don’t know that we’re currently under a Winter Storm Warning. We don’t get snow or ice very often in this part of Texas, but when we do, everything shuts down—government offices, transportation, schools, businesses. Everyone holes up until the weather passes.

When I was a college freshman in 2002, it meant no classes. It meant that I got to use my laundry hamper as a sled and spent the afternoon sliding down the frozen hillsides with my friends.

In 2010, it meant that I was cooped up in my one-bedroom apartment for four days by myself, while the business I worked for was closed. It meant that I watched as much “Gilmore Girls” as I could stomach and finally unpacked the last few boxes from my recent move.

Today as I look out at my snow-covered bushes, it means that I work from home. My home office is not closed for business. I’m still working. I still need to know what’s going on.

Thankfully, there are a lot of options, social media being one of the most abundant.

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“Weather has always been one of the most social of topics. Everyone has their own way for predicting the weather, and of course, an opinion about what lies ahead. However, our ideal source of information is no longer limited to traditional news channels. People are curious, and want to know what the rest of the world is thinking…and especially during weather-related events. Everyone is equally keen to learn from local accounts and individual experiences,” said Deanna Lawrence of Social Media Today.

Colleges like the University of North Texas are sending out notices not to come to class or work during inclement weather. You don’t need to sit around the TV waiting for their school to come up on the alphabetized list, and if all Dallas/Ft. Worth schools, universities, businesses and churches are being included on the list, you could be waiting around a while.

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There are even awards now for “The Best Weather in Social Media.” Texas Storm Chasers is 7th on the list.

One of the most recent examples of social media usage during a weather disaster was when Hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and other East Coast states last year.

“While Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc along the East Coast late in October 2012, the power of sending real-time weather information and photos on social media was apparent. The sharing of information and pictures during hurricanes and other disasters helps to inform the public faster than ever before that there may be a weather danger,” said meteorologist Meghan Evans of

Don’t trust every Tweet or Facebook and Instagram photo, though.

Source: The Washington Post

Source: The Washington Post

“Social media users are transforming the information world, especially the growing legions armed with photo and video capabilities on their smartphones.

But inauthentic and/or manipulated images have emerged as a real problem.  Fortunately, new tools are available to spot these fakes, and squash their propagation before they take on a life of their own,” said Ian Livingston of The Washington Post.


“Throwback Thursday”—a good tool to engage your audience

1 Dec


The “$5 Scarves” sign got me. As I was perusing the shelves of Forever 21 at the mall this week, I noticed that I was suddenly surrounded by a horde of teenagers. I was a little embarrassed at first because I hadn’t been in that store in several years, and I was a fashion generation removed from most of the shoppers trying to get Black Friday deals.

The deeper into the racks I delved, the more and more I saw outfits that could have come straight out of a “Saved by the Bell” rerun—thick, bulky, ill-fitting sweaters with smiley faces on the front; skirts and shirts made out of a black-and white-checkered pattern that matched the coat my mom bought in 1990, and those thick, square colored sunglasses I saw so much of this summer.

It made me realize these “throwback” looks these teenagers were reveling in were from my own fashion past, minus the aqua fanny pack. I am now in the “throwback” generation.

It finally happened.

I don’t begrudge them their retro wear anymore than I would try to talk the teenage version of myself out of replicating the cover of The Bangles greatest hits album in the late 1900s. It’s a right of passage in a way. That’s probably why “Throwback Thursday” is so popular. If I can’t laugh at me giving my best Jennifer Beals impression, what was it all about, then?

According to, “‘Throwback Thursday’ is an Internet theme day observed on every Thursday during which people share an old photograph of themselves via social networking sites and image-sharing communities, most notably through photo-sharing mobile app Instagram.”

You’ve probably seen the hashtag #throwbackthursday or #tbt or participated through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

“It rose to such infamy that along came #flashbackfriday so people would have an excuse to post old pictures two days a week instead of one. It’s so popular that there are over 40 million pictures  tagged with #tbt on Instagram, another nearly 23 million with #throwbackthursday and there are even over 135,000 hilariously tagged with #throwbackthursdayy,”  said Kate Knibbs of Digital Trends.

It’s more than just to pay homage to major fashion missteps or “the good old days.”

“While baby pictures are cute and can get you a lot of likes, there is much more to Throwback Thursday than just photos from way back. If you participate in the trend correctly you can brand your business and earn a lot of respect and social credibility. It also gives you great content to share on a variety of different platforms,” said Stephanie Frasco of Social Media Today.

Splash Media, a social media solutions group, posted a video with the headline—“Throwback Thursday: Rewind back to our 1st social media marketing SplashCast.”

Disney Social Media Magic posted this photo on Facebook with the caption—“It’s Throwback Thorsday!”—to promote the new Thor movie.



Snowbird ski resort in Utah uses the opportunity to post past pictures from the resort.



You can have some fun with this if you put in a little effort.

Tech before people? Think again.

22 Nov


With all the social media tools out there, it’s easy to go by the seat of your pants on putting something out just for the sake of feeling like you did something today. How effective is that? What did you really accomplish long-term? Having a good social media campaign before you set off is crucial to successfully attaining your organizational goals.

At the heart of that is understanding your audience.

“In the age of social media, most businesses have become decidedly antisocial,” said Rob Asghar in a 2013 Forbes article. “Your call to the customer-service center is shuffled off to a faceless script-reader in Manila. Or many times you don’t even get that:  You get a machine that keeps asking you, with an edge in its voice, to take another crack at clearly stating the nature of your problem.

And pressing ‘0’ only gets you another computer voice, mocking you and reawakening the spectacular sense impotence that your family instilled in you at the dinner table. The truth is that the company that you called doesn’t want to hear from you. Ever. You only wanted to discuss a minor billing question, but now you need to return to therapy.

Hopefully, therapy is the not in the cards for you and your audience. You do have to take an honest look at what your base is and who you are to them.



“Every company has not only a different client base, but also a different target social media audience. Understanding who you want to target is vital in social media. If your business is using social media to grow, then you need to focus your message and content toward that goal,” said Patrick Rodgers of

Pam Moore, CEO and founder of Marketing Nutz, gives some good tips to make sure your efforts are audience-driven and that you understand what you’re taking on.

“Relationships take time and are not going to be nurtured overnight,” Moore said.

1. Know who you are.

2. Know who they are.

3. Know what they want.

4. What can you offer them?

5. What format do the good come in?

6. How much will it cost them?

7. Do you make it easy for them to get what they want and need from you?

Michael Stelzner, of Social Media, suggests reconsidering the relationship between you and your audience now that social media has come into the mix.

“Originally marketers delivered the promise via email, but now you have to take that style of thinking into the social and mobile channels. Proprietary audiences will only be there if you build them. If not, you’ll have to pay in the form of advertising.

Before the Internet, creative thinkers only had to worry about great creative. They didn’t have to assemble an audience because mass media did that for them,” Stelzner said.

“The difference today is not only coming up with the creative, but also thinking about distribution and building an audience that belongs to you—one that nobody else has access to. So when you have that great piece of content, you are able to push the button and reach your audience.”

Did you hear the one about…?

14 Nov

I’d like to think that I have the capability to be a funny person, sometimes. But would I be willing to risk combining my particular brand of humor with a public relations move? It depends how courageous I was feeling.

“Humor and business writing:  At first blush it may seem like a strange marriage — Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn-level strange,” said PRSA’s Ken Scudder in a 2013 article. “Humor is about taking chances, pushing envelopes, finding weaknesses and contradictions and pointing them out in ways ranging from lightly disparaging to downright cruel.

Business writing is about selling an idea, playing it safe (for the most part), giving the facts and explaining what they mean.  These appear to be contradictory methods and goals.

Despite this, humor can be an effective part of a business writer’s arsenal. When you correctly execute it, humor will increase comprehension and help you win over your audience.”

You don’t always think humor when you think of JPMorgan, but the financial institution showed a little humble wit when its #AskJPM didn’t go as planned.

The audience was asked to send in questions related to the topic of “leadership and life” for one of its executives to answer during a Twitter chat this week. This is how that went.



“Probably wisely, JPMorgan decided to cancel the Twitter chat,” said Walter Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times. “At least the company kept its sense of humor.

Asked for a comment on the PR mishap, this is spokesman Joseph Evangelist’s response via email: ‘#Bad idea! Back to the drawing board.’”

Humor can be proactive or in response to something. JPMorgan’s example was responsive, but it still worked to save some face.

“If you use humor incorrectly, however, then it will trash your argument, alienate your audience and force you to look for work in a country with limited-to-no-Internet access,” said Scudder.

Ohio State University might have taken a few moments before attempting to put a humorous spin on the evacuation of a dorm, due to a busted water main, by combining it with rape education.



“Conveying humor through social media is a challenge. When it’s done well, it can be really effective. However, if it’s misinterpreted or your intent is unclear, you leave yourself open for criticism,” said Heather Whaling, of, about the incident.

If you hone it well enough, it can turn into more than just passing engagement. Clorox earned the 2012 award of “Best Social Media Campaign” from PR Daily with its campaign, “The Clorox Lounge,” which lead users to the site with “potty humor” but kept them there with relevant videos, a prize giveaway and forum discussion.

“Humor isn’t the whole meal, but it makes a great appetizer,” said Kathy Klotz-Guest in a 2005 article.

As Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing and “named one of the top 5 social media influencers in the world on,” shows, even PR pros need some humor thrown their way from time to time to get important best practice points across.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite YouTube videos from him based on his book, QR Codes Kill Kittens.

Twitter chat – Resources to help you out

8 Nov

PR and social media Twitter chats have been around almost as long as Twitter and are one of the most useful tools for keeping up with best practices that I’ve come across this year.



Where to Find Them

There’s a Twitter chat wiki that makes it easy to find PR and social media chats by day and category. Some of them are crossed off because they no longer meet, but there are others that are thriving.

Be sure to make sure you look at what time zone they’re posting the chat from, so that you can make sure you’re there at the right time. It would be a shame to get dressed for the party just to see that you’re an hour early or an hour late.

Ragan gives you “Top 16 Twitter chats for social media and PR pros.” Try these at your own risk. You might have to try to make sure they’re still active because the article was written last year.  No. 8 on the list, #socialchat, is active. I know because I’ve chatted on there twice with good results.

How to Participate

In “How to be a Twitter Champion,” Heidi Cohen gives 12 tips on how to maximize your Twitter chat time.

“Contribute to the conversation. Understand that the conversation can be very fast paced, so don’t get upset if someone’s doesn’t respond to your comment immediately, especially since everyone’s using different platforms and devices. Just jump in, the conversations are generally warm and inviting. Ask yourself if you’re adding to the conversation and the collective knowledge,” Cohen says.

Etiquette is just as important as strategy.

“Show your appreciation to the moderator and others. Acknowledge the work that the moderator has put in to help guide the conversation. Also, thank those with whom you connected. It’s good manners,” Cohen says. and offer their own tips, too.

Even if you don’t have much to say at first, you’ll probably still meet at least a couple of people who you might want to follow or research to chat with next time.

“If nothing else, twitter chats are a killer way of meeting fantastic new people. Fantastic new people who share similar interests to yourself,” said Kevin Fawley of Social Media Today.



How to Run Your Own Twitter Chat Campaign

Once you’re comfortable in a chat, you might want to consider going the next step and hosting your own Twitter chat for your product.

“A great way to springboard your personal brand and begin establishing yourself as a leader in your industry is by participating in twitter chats. Sharing all of your industry expertise during these chats builds brand equity and credibility,” Fawley said.

Make sure you can see the big picture before you begin, though.

“Differentiate yourself from everyone else,” said Cathy Larkin, a PR professional.

“Do research so you’re not competing with another popular chat that’s already established,” she says, adding that it’s good idea to get familiar with Twitter chats before hosting your own.

Caysey Welton of PR News, Lee Odden of Top Rank, and also offer tips on launching or managing your own campaign.

Are you a laggard?

1 Nov

Do you feel like you’re falling behind others who are moving along the technological highway faster than you? Maybe you’re not even on the highway. Maybe you’re still on the frontage road.

If this sounds familiar, you might be a laggard.

One dictionary defines a laggard as “one that lags; a straggler” or “hanging back or falling behind.”



To companies trying to get your business, you are the 16 percent of the market share who care “for the ‘old ways,’ are critical towards new ideas and will only accept it if the new idea has become mainstream or even traditional.”

Before doing some research, I thought I was a laggard, but in fact, I am more likely part of the 34 percent of the audience who are in the late majority category. We are “skeptic people” who “will use the new ideas or products only when the majority is using it.” We’re cousins of the laggards, and companies are trying to figure out what to do with us.

“In the age of Facebook, blogs and micro-blogging services like Twitter, these are forces that technology companies need to understand and address as they bet their fortunes on their ability to market a nearly continuous stream of new products and upgrades.

Experts say that late adopters, or technology laggards, are not necessarily Luddites and can play a pivotal role in keeping the beat of innovation.

‘Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change,’ said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. ‘Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo,’” Miguel Helft, of the New York Times, said in 2008.

Part of the issue for laggards is that they do what works until it stops working, even if it takes years.

I got my first computer in 2006, a year after I graduated from college. I still graduated magna cum laude from my university and was awarded “Outstanding Journalism Senior” of my graduating class – all without owning my own computer.

I don’t say that to brag. Just to show that, on a personal level, you don’t have to be an early adopter or innovator to do well in life in general.

However, if you’re working as a communications professional at a company, you need to be able to use and adapt to whatever the best strategy is for that organization. Right now, that means learning which social media platforms will work for you and which won’t. But you have to know how to use them.



“Companies today being led by social media Laggards do not have Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you want to make an inquiry about their products or services, you can’t reach them online. They do not know what your real interests are because they are not online to listen to you. Worse, they think of Vine as a place to grow grapes. These companies are not part of the rich conversations happening on social media. They’re not part of the r(e)volution,” Cindy Padilla, of, said in September  of 2013.

On a personal level, being a laggard is a choice of lifestyle. As an organization, though, you don’t want to be a technological laggard, especially when it comes to social media.

Hashtags—Think before you become the ‘bum’ of PR jokes

25 Oct

While I was Tweetchating Monday night during #socialchat’s weekly hour-long session, the topic of hashtag usage for events came up. I really hadn’t thought much about it.

You come up with a name, you put a # sign in front of it, and you release it into the Twitter wilderness, right?

Well, you can, but it might end up like British singer Susan Boyle’s well-meant attempt to promote her new album with #susanalbumparty, but instead users had a field day coming up with this:



In January 2012, McDonald’s had the unfortunate experience of having its #McDStories, which was supposed to bring up warm fuzzy sentiments of McDonald’s memories, ridiculed and hijacked by Twitter users who went with a different messaging direction.



The failed campaign was taken down after only two hours. Ouch.

“Creating hashtags is no easy feat and not something left to an intern to brainstorm for 30 minutes. They embody a part of your brand in as few characters as possible, but they still tell a story. Make sure it’s the right one,” said Jon Thomas of SocialMediaToday.

Who knew so few characters could do so much damage?

“If you associated a poorly-crafted hashtag with your brand, it could make or break your reputation online,” said Vanessa Doctor of

Thomas says that being honest about your brand is one of the first steps to ensure if your campaign with flop or be successful.

“McDonald’s, as well as a number of other half-health-conscious restaurants, has to get honest about its business. Domino’s is the poster child for owning up to a negative brand story and using that negativity to craft a new brand story. Domino’s used to be like most fast-food restaurants—making the food as quickly and at the lowest cost as possible in pursuit of high volume and profit margin. Unfortunately, the lack of pride in the product resulted in feedback claiming it was ‘mass-produced, boring, bland pizza.’

Instead of deflecting or ignoring the negativity, Domino’s embraced it, publicly admitting its faults and using them to fuel a marketing campaign called The Pizza Turnaround. It documented its reinvention, changing its recipe and tracking down the detractors in hopes that they’d try its #newpizza and reconsider,” Thomas said.

When in doubt, Domino’s Pizza went all out. Their hashtag was the cornerstone of a massive PR campaign that included a separate website specifically for all things “#newpizza,” positive TV coverage and a stint on Gayle King’s (Oprah Winfrey’s BFF) radio show.

San Francisco advertising firm RadiumOne released findings in March related to a mobile hashtag survey of 494 respondents asking about how they “perceive, value, and use hashtags.”

  • 58 percent of respondents utilize hashtags on a regular basis, and 71 percent of regular hashtag users do so from their mobile devices
  • 43 percent of respondents think hashtags are useful and 34 percent use them to search/follow categories and brands of personal interest
  • 51 percent of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product based hashtags
  • 41 percent of respondents use hashtags to communicate personal ideas and feelings

With these kinds of numbers, it’s worth it to put a little effort into creating a relevant and honest message with your hashtag. Being included in the “worst of” category is never pretty. Just ask Susan Boyle.

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