Understand the strengths and challenges of your social media toolkit

Understand the strengths and challenges of your social media toolkit

I wrote last week about the Canadian Journalism Federation’s How Social Media is Changing Politics and Reporting political panel. In an effort to keep my post brief, I shared only some high-level, pithy points made by each of the three panelists.

You may have noticed the laser focus on Twitter and Facebook as platforms of choice for each of the panelists: NDP MP Megan Leslie, Liberal MP Marc Garneau and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. And, at the same time, each lamented the challenges of the platforms. Specifically, each pointed out tweets often lack context and the character limit makes it ineffective for nuanced conversation. They noted that Facebook accomodates more substance yet is less public and demands more time doing housekeeping.

With the exception of Mayor Watson’s monthly online chat and his recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything real-time chat), the main social media of choice by the panelists are the platforms which are arguably the most popular — not the most effective.

This is an issue affecting many (most?) communicators — public relations, public affairs, marketing — not just politicians.

Just as you wouldn’t saw a two-by-four with a screw driver, you wouldn’t communicate substance over Twitter or try to spread an urgent message exclusively on Facebook. To communicate (and engage) effectively with constituents, stakeholder groups, observers, analysts and enthusiasts, you need to consider a variety of tools by their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t punish yourself and your goals by limiting the number of tools you are willing to use — and use effectively.

The following table identifies just a small number of popular tools and some key strengths and challenges of each. Feel free to offer your thoughts/suggestions in the comments section of this post.

Tool/outpost Strengths Challenges
Blog No hard restrictions on length
Helps SEO
Can be time consuming
Requires commitment
Demands effective writing skills
Language/tone must be relatable
Podcast Extremely portable
Adds expression to content
No defined limitations
Easier to consume than reading
Requires some technical skill
Requires commitment
Engaging content and delivery
Not as popular
Photos (Flickr) Shows rather than tells
Very “share-able”/embeddable
Allows control over licensing
Lesser-known photo service
Demands some degree of talent
Photos should be properly curated
Photos (Instagram) Extremely popular
Easy to publish/share
Picture quality
Noisy channel
Photos (Pinterest) Increasingly popular
More focused demographic
More focused demographic
Video (YouTube) Most popular video service
Easy to use
2nd largest search engine
Transcription service
Requires some technical skill
Quality image/sound
Engaging content and delivery
“Viral mindset”
Video (Vimeo) Higher quality video service
Easy to use
Requires some technical skill
Quality image/sound
Engaging content and delivery
Facebook Most poplar social network
Popular for photo-sharing
Generally easy to use
Can be time consuming
Publishing regular content
LinkedIn Higher quality content
More focused demographic
More focused demographic
Twitter Very easy to use
Not a walled-garden
Fastest amplifier
Extremely noisy channel
Spam and trolls
Culture rewards zingers
Reddit Increasingly popular
Very focused demographic
Highly interactive community
Very focused demographic
Crappy interface
We The People: democratic engagement and digital credibility

We The People: democratic engagement and digital credibility

WeThePeople-petitionsWe The People is an official petitioning site established by the United States government in September 2011. The intent is to make it easy for US citizens to create actionable petitions. According to the site, every petition reaching 25,000 signatures will be reviewed by an evaluation team and, where practical, by policy specialists.

I’m fairly certain not every petition which makes the cut will make the cut. One recent petition calls for a recount of the election. Another petitions to Peacefully grant the state of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government. Gabrielle Levy of UPI.com recently reported on a petition to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

But the site is about more than reducing the friction on democratic participation and criticism about what the government will and will not do. There’s a back-story about the culture in which the site was created. The software code used to build the site has been shared with the public as ‘open-source’ on a geeky site called GitHub. This shows some pretty slick digital savvy on the part of the government.

There’s more. The site also says a lot about how data can be collected, evaluated and used productively by governments within its own parameters, rather than relying on general service petition sites which could be gamed.

I was positively ID’d by a K9 unit sniffer dog

I was positively ID’d by a K9 unit sniffer dog

Would it surprise you to learn that I was positively sniffed out by a Border Services sniffer dog in Toronto’s Pearson Airport? It happened. And I shared the story on my blog. It was a good experience. In fact, I would suggest it was a great experience. It showed how K9 teams recognize the value of great public relations. They don’t waste any opportunity to make people feel comfortable and appreciate their hard work.

I bring this up because someone shared a similar story as a comment to that blog post yesterday. There’s a lot to learn from engagement, outreach, content creation, relationship building and shareable stories.

Here’s the comment left by Joe. You can read my story at this link.

I was returning for a two week vacation with my wife and 5 year old son. My son saw this dog running around the baggage claim at Pearson and went right up to him. I was stressed as I saw the officers coming towards us. When they arrived my son asked his name and if it was Ok to pet him. They then educated us on Cooper’s job with the airport. They even had the dog go around and planted a bag with us. They did it so my son could see what they do. Needless to say my son WANTED to take Cooper home. They also gave my son a trading card with one of the dogs on it with their stats on the back! It was a very good experience. They even said if you are interested in adopting a puppy think about one of these dogs when they retire or one of the dogs who don’t make the cut. I would love to adopt one. Great experience.

PAB2012, the last PAB, is one week from today

PAB2012, the last PAB, is one week from today

We’re just seven days away from the seventh and final edition of PAB, the conference formerly known as Podcasters Across Borders (imagine an audio recorder with a squiggle through it). Despite its strong roots in podcasting, the conference hasn’t been specifically about the audio arts since 2007. PAB has evolved into a conference about content creation, audience engagement and community building. Really, it’s a conference for creative people looking to share their passions online.

The program is rock solid. Don’t forget to REGISTER.

Friday, June 8
7:30pm Kick-off
7:45pm Keynote (Scott Florence)

Saturday, June 9
8:30am Registration
8:50am Day 2 opening remarks
9:00am Brainfueled: How the f*** I got creative (Sylvain Grand’maison)
9:40am Black and White. Well, not Exactly. (Robin Browne) — 5 min JOLT
10:00am Using the Tools of Journalism to Create Better Content (Bob Ledrew)
10:40am Out (Bill Deys) — 5 min JOLT
11:00am Maximizing Your Social Media ROI *no, not the douchebaggy kind (Rob Lee)
11:40am Who the Hell do You Think You’re Talking to? (Maureen Blaseckie) — 5 min JOLT
11:45am LUNCH
1:00pm Poetry: what exactly am I writing? (Brandon Wint)
1:40pm Making Things (Paul Lyzun) — 5 min JOLT
2:00pm Geek Girl Tells All: How I Ended Up Exactly Where I Was Meant to Be (Connie Crosby)
2:40pm Would You Fight a Lion?  (Neil Gorman) — 5 min JOLT
3:00pm Once a Mistake, Twice an Arrangement, Three Times is Jazz (Anthony Marco)
3:40pm It Ain’t the Stars that Shine so Bright (Scarborough Dude) — 5 min JOLT
3:45pm Day 2 wrap-up and group photo — Please be sure to attend!

Sunday, June 10
10:00am A PAB Retrospective: why it was relevant then, why it remains relevant (Bob Goyetche and Mark Blevis)
12:00pm Conference wrap-up

Please note that these speakers are scheduled to appear, the final presentations may change due to events beyond our control.

Conference Saturdays: The antidote to apathy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy opens with Arthur Dent’s home being mowed down to make way for a new bypass. Author Douglas Adams humourously details Mr. Dent’s frustrations trying to get more information to challenge the municipality’s decision. It turns out the plans, and their location, had been obfuscated to ensure the process was seen through to completion with the fewest hiccups along the way.

That’s intentional exclusion, an approach I was first introduced to in those words when watching a recently released TEDxToronto Talk by Dave Meslin. His brilliant presentation explores the distinction between reaching your audience and feeling you’ve covered your ass. He proves his point by comparing the  approaches of for-profit business trying to make a profit and government trying to engage the public.

Success… progress… solutions to problems within a specific discipline are usually found by examining the approach of organizations and individuals operating within other disciplines. This is entry level innovation.

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