Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


2 Comments

Facebook says you want to play you gotta pay, so what’s a brand to do?

dollar sign on money bagMy last post was about managing social media for my employer for five years. Every day brings something new — maybe just a change to what we’re used to in existing networks, or maybe even the next big thing in the tech world.

Unfortunately, the next big thing in the world of Facebook is if you don’t pay, you probably can’t play. Yes, sadly, the quest for the almighty dollar is invading the social sphere too. In case you missed it, here’s an article from Time on the changes in reach: “The Free Marketing Gravy Train is Over on Facebook.” So if you’re not seeing a drop in your brand’s reach, you probably will, and maybe as low as a dismal one or two percent. Yes, you read that right –and  it doesn’t get much lower than that, does it.

For companies using Facebook brand pages, if the advertising budget doesn’t include some Facebook advertising, then it seems to me that you have to consider whether the time you spend on this major social network is even worth it. If  this is all true, then without spending money brands will not get a worthwhile return on their investment (time & personnel resources) in Facebook.

This makes me wonder if brands will also begin migrating away from Facebook to other networks liked LinkedIn and Google+, where sharing content is still free, at least for now. We know that Google+ posts help with the ever-important  SEO. While researching this post, I came across some interesting stats on Google+ showing that it’s the second ranked network just below Facebook in terms of active users (I still think these “active user numbers are over inflated, but anyway…), and itt also shows LinkedIn in the top five networks as well.

Personally, I’ve always viewed LinkedIn as a professional networking site, however, recently, there was a story on publishing on LinkedIn from Social Mouths. Over the next few months, any user on LinkedIn will be able to post long form content. That certainly could cause brands to rethink their content marketing plan. There are also some marketing pros, like this one, who believe that brands must be in both of these networks.

I would tend to disagree, and suggest that brands only spend their time and energy developing communities on the networks where their audience already exists. There is no need to be on every network if your audience isn’t there – and with limited resources, it’s important to spend your time where you will get the most bang for your buck. Now apparently, brands who aren’t spending the bucks probably aren’t going to get that desired bang from Facebook, so perhaps it’s time to start investigating and checking in with your audience to see where they are, and if they’ll engage with you on other networks.

There’s also another camp that is making more and more sense to me. Gini Dietrich (a social media, marketing and PR wiz) and others strongly believe that you need to “always build your community on something you own.” Then you encourage people to engage with you there, by promoting it through the existing social networks.  This post is brilliant and the practice is sure to gather momentum as Facebook (and soon others) hop on the pay to play bandwagon.  It’s certainly more reason for brands to devote time and effort to developing its own blog or enhancing its existing blog and website. Also, when you think about the ebb and flow (think MySpace) of social networks, isn’t it better to build something that you own and control and not rely on the whims of others when your community is at stake? I say yes, without a doubt.

Now I can’t say that this is the direction my employer will be heading in, but I think it’s something that every brand must consider given the ever-changing landscape that is social media.  So, dear readers, do you think brands will begin shifting away from a social network that demands you pay to play? What will you do?


2 Comments

A milestone – celebrating five years in two different ways

The americanThis week my hubby and I celebrated our 5th anniversary. A milestone, some might say, especially those who knew us in our more, shall we say, “tumultuous” years. But things change, time passes and suddenly it’s five years later. Because we’re in the middle of trying to sell our home and buy a new one, our plans for a lovely tropical vacation to mark the occasion were out the window. So instead, we went out for a nice lunch, and I enjoyed the feeling of being quite decadent sipping cocktails in the middle of the day. (And if you’re looking for a great restaurant in Providence, RI, try The American. Highly recommend it! My grilled shrimp on fresh baked multigrain with a lemon caper spread was quite scrumptious, as was my cosmo!)

Anyway, enough about that. This year also marks another milestone for me — it’s been five years since I launched social media for my employer. It’s been an amazing, never dull, always something new, dip your toes in and try the water, learn from your mistakes and find the next big thing kind of five years! I’ve learned many lessons along the way, and I’ve met some amazing people.

There are so many people you meet in social networks, especially like Twitter and LinkedIn, who are always willing to help, or to listen, or to read a blog post and to share it or to laugh with you or offer their sympathy. Then there are also people who never cease to amaze me, and usually not in a good way. Below is a list of some of the more remarkable things from my five years in social media that will forever be embedded in my memory. All of these are real, but I won’t use names or exact quotes, to protect the not-so-innocent.

  • A tweet that stated the user would send a “bag of feces” to our patient financial services department if someone did not call him. He didn’t realize we were on Twitter, and was happy to get a response from us. Needless to say we were both happy he got a phone call.
  • A Facebook user who demanded the hospital take down a post from its page because he didn’t agree with it and he didn’t think we were presenting it accurately… to the point of calling a member of the management team to demand it be taken down. It was a link to an actual news story I might add, not an OpEd.
  • A post from an employee of one of our hospitals posting a picture of said hospital’s emergency department and saying never go to the [expletive] hospital. Lovely.
  • The hospital staff member who had a blog and went into very specific details of his patients that day, including physical descriptions and what they were wearing and the health issue they were having. Did you really think that wasn’t a violation of federal HIPAA privacy laws or did you simply think those didn’t apply to social media.
  • The child who was furious that his parents took him to one of our hospitals and had to be banned from the Facebook page because of his rantings, only to create a new Facebook page to “hate” said hospital. Obviously the warnings to parents we share about monitoring their children’s use of social media were ignored!
  • The girl who took a picture of the “no pictures or videotaping without authorization sign” and then tweeted it and posted on Instagram for all to see. Nice.

Now I know I represent my employer in all things social and so I have to watch what I say. I’m actually very nice and don’t say what I’d really like to say to these people when I respond. Although I do love surprising them when they don’t know we are active in social networks. But even if I don’t say it, I’m sure as heck thinking it! You can feel free to fill in the blanks.

So now, dear readers, share some of the things that have surprised you the most in the social media world.


Leave a comment

Communicating with patients; stick with the tried and true

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Over the years, the way we communicate with patients has changed drastically. I remember the days when, working for a health plan, we would coordinate postal mailings. Then email came along and then text messaging. And of course, there’s always been traditional media outlets–television, newspaper and radio…

You can read the rest of my latest post for Hospital Impact here:


7 Comments

Being inspired by writing, and why readers are so important

dear readerI am an avid reader. For work and for keeping up with all things in the social media world, I subscribe to a number of blogs through Feedly. If you don’t know Feedly, I recommend you check it out. I came across it when Google announced they were doing away with Reader. I switched and never looked back. Bye-bye Google! (I love when I can say that, by the way.) It’s a great way to organize all the blogs you love and get a quick glance of what you’ve missed from the headlines. But I digress.

Now that I’m back into my normal routine (and yes, I always use that term loosely!) I try to spend at least some time during the business day to try to keep up with what’s going on. What has LinkedIn changed lately? (By the way, if you missed the news that we will soon be able to post long form content on that network, read this post from Social Mouths). What are the best tools in blogging? I love to hit up my friend in social networks, Lisa Buben (@lisapatb) and her Inspire To Thrive blog, because she always has some great tips and tricks for readers. So by day, I go through quite a few of my favorite bloggers, which usually leads to quite a few tweets too.

At night, I love to read novels. I always have a book going, and usually try to spend at least some time each night reading. I always thought I’d write a novel at some point in my life. Now that I’m approaching a milestone age, the chances of that actually happening are becoming slimmer by the year, but I have not given up just yet. I always have an idea brewing, and I feel like reading books in my favorite genres might help me become a better writer and inspire me to pursue that lofty (too lofty) goal of writing the next great American novel, or at least a suspense/mystery/thriller worthy of praise from Steven King or Dean Koontz or Gregg Hurwitz or John Grisham. (A girl can dream, right?)

What I really love about reading is that you get to transport yourself. You can be brought to other lands through a well-written book, or develop new skills or new ways of doing something from a blog post full of tips and tricks. The jackpot, to me, is when you are inspired by an author. When you are moved to do something, or pushed to an action because of something you’ve read. Like a piece of amazing sculpture or a fabulous painting that evokes an emotion or takes your breath away, beautiful writing can have the same effect. When you’re inspired, that’s a sign of a truly good writer.

Today I read a post by a gentleman named Danny Brown (@DannyBrown on Twitter). He is someone I’ve followed for years and with whom I’ve had a few interactions that are always appreciated. He has a wonderful way of writing, he has an incredible sense of humor, and he is also a truly giving person who strives to do for others. Today I read this post from Danny and I felt like he was speaking directly to me.

Have I made mistakes with my blog? Absolutely. Will I make more? Most likely, but that’s OK. I realized that my goal is not to build lots of readers, but to build a group of readers who are going to interact with me. Who will comment on my writing, whether it be the message in any given post, or whether it is my style of writing and what might make us all better writers and bloggers. Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t usually take criticism well, but constructive criticism is something that can make us all better, and strive to be better!

When you are kind enough to take the time to read my blog, I’d so appreciate a comment. I’d love to get conversations going. I know I’m not writing a thesis here that is meant to change the world, but I believe that we can all learn from each other, because we all have different experiences, tastes and points of view. And that is what makes the world of writing a beautiful place to be.

So with that, I throw it over to you, dear readers, to answer these questions… why do you read blogs, and what do you hope to do with your writing?


Leave a comment

Social Media — forget technology: it’s all about the human connections

communicaitonsI’ve always said that my favorite part of social media is to be able to talk to people one on one. It’s a nice change. After years of issuing press releases, and coordinating interviews, and writing speeches and newsletters to SEND a message out, I was never able to get to know people in the audience, or receive

With the dawn of social media came a huge change. People are connecting with each other and those people may never have known each other if it weren’t for the networks and the changes and capabilities technology  has given us

Today, I read this article in the Huffington Post about why brands need to become more human in social media, and it’s a trend that’s needed because of the way technology is changing. There are many salient points in the article, and you certainly won’t hear any argument from me when it comes to technology changing. It’s a constant, ever-evolving  thing, and it can be hard to keep your finger on all those changes

Respectfully, though, I need to argue with the author about the reason brands need to be more human. It’s not because of technology changing, but it’s because the technology is now there that allows brands to BE human. The past decade has drastically changed how individuals can connect with others and how brands can reach their audience. I propose that the reason brands should even enter the world of social media is to strip away all the corporate speak and just talk to other people.

The days of one-way messaging are long gone. The days of a brand spitting out its mission and vision and a few ads are over. If brands are NOT putting a human voice behind their social media and interacting with their audiences, fans and communities as people, then it’s all pointless.

I’ve often said that my favorite part of my job is the chance to get to know people in our brands’ communities as individuals. These one-on-one relationships are important, not only for the brand’s reputation, but because it is done with sincerity… and that’s something that must be part of all of your communications. If it’s not, social media users today are savvy enough to know when it’s just corporate speak. And then it’s time to rethink your plan, because it’s just not working.


Leave a comment

What job candidates can teach health care communicators

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes we do a job for so long that we lose perspective. We think “been there, done that.” But it’s never a bad idea to take a fresh look.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a candidate to fill an open position on our media relations team to replace a colleague who recently left. I developed four questions I thought would give me a good sense of her work style and skills and where her passion lies. Getting a better feel for that would help me determine if she was a good fit for our team.

The interview went really well, and the questions did exactly what I hoped. They led us to a much deeper discussion of how things have changed in the world of public relations, marketing, and inevitably, social media.

As I spoke with her, though, I realized our discussion was actually making me reexamine how we do things. As a result, I came up with some essential actions hospitals should consider when launching their own marketing plans and social media efforts.

Blogging – Don’t have a blog? That’s understandable. While incredibly valuable from a content marketing standpoint, they are time and resource intensive. So why not counter that by looking for guest blog opportunities for your experts. They could be either one-time posts on a breaking news item or a regular column on timely topics. Either way, by selecting well-respected and well-read sites (think KevinMDWomen’s Health or Psychology Today), you’re positioning your expert among a whole new segment in the population. Be sure to include links to your social sites so these new readers, in turn, can connect with you there.

What’s on your calendar – Hopefully you’ve got a calendar for social media, similar to an editorial calendar that will guide your content through the year, at least on a general basis. But is that working for you? How are you developing that calendar–are you building it in a silo, or as part of a team looking at the larger objectives and mission within the organization? Does the calendar include posts that will build engagement and trust for your brand, or is it only a placeholder to support tactics in the marketing plan? It’s a new year, and it’s time to evaluate your calendar and its content.

That brings me to another topic I didn’t discuss with the candidate, but something that needs to be addressed on a regular basis:

Analytics – That dreaded word. But the fact is, if you’re not looking at how your social media efforts are working, then they are probably not worth doing. We all know resources are short, especially financial ones, but the back-end analytics on many of the more popular social media sites like Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all free. (As a side note, if you set up a Twitter advertising account, you will then have access to the analytics for your account. On Pinterest, as long as you verify your website, you also will have access to the analytics.) These give you a snapshot of what is and isn’t working in your social media plan.

You also can dig as deeply as you’d like in many of them. I’ve found Tweet Reach for Twitter accounts, campaigns and hashtags. For Pinterest, you can check out one of my favorites, Tailwind (formerly PinReach). If you do have a budget for it, then you’ve got even more choices. The fact is, though you can still analyze what you’re doing at a basic level for free, you want to be sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting your time in the social world.

Those are three things we should all be looking at, but there are plenty more. What are you reevaluating or working on in terms of your social media plan?

A version of this post was originally written for and appeared on http://www.hospitalimpact.org. One thing to note, we ultimately hired that fantastic candidate (hi Elena!). 


4 Comments

Getting the message out — keys to effective communication in the digital age

communicationsFor my entire adult career, my jobs have always been in the communications departments of large companies. In the many roles I’ve had over the years, I was usually involved with communications to a variety of audiences — employees, physicians, customers/consumers, media, board members, general public, etc. The rules of thumb of communications have remained consistent through the years, in that communications should be strategic, timely and appropriately tailored to each audience.  That’s all well and good.

The problem today, with digital tools like social networks, is the timeliness factor. We no longer have all the time in the world. The longer you wait to post an important message on your brand’s Facebook page or tweet it out or post it to your online newsroom can make or break a brand. If there is an important customer/consumer/patient piece of information to get out there, your brand can certainly take a lot of heat for not being timely and getting the necessary information out to the public as quickly as it should have. And if you don’t, what’s your defense? We couldn’t get our act together?

Working as a communication pro in the digital age means we no longer have the luxury of “working within a news cycle” to craft a message as perfectly as possible. We no longer have hours to deliberate as a group over one draft after another. Today, it’s much more important to get the key points of the overall message out as quickly as possible. And it must be honest, forthright and timely.

Personally, I think one of the worst impacts to a brand’s image is when a major piece of information about your product or service gets to the general public by any means other than YOU. You should be the one taking charge of the messaging and leading that effort by being the first one out there and using every avenue at your disposal to do so — traditional media, social media, websites, online newsrooms, blogs, etc. as well as internal communications so your staff is aware of what is happening too.

Once it’s out there, you can’t control what is said, and you can actively talk WITH your audience, not just send the message out there. That’s the beautiful of communication in the digital age. If negative comments or inaccurate information is out, you can respond to the criticism and provide the right information. You can be on top of the messaging, if you get out in front of it, and your brand will be all the better for it; even if it is delivering bad news, it’s all about being honest and forthright and timely. People will appreciate that and your brand will benefit from it.

Is your brand working with the new rules of the digital age in terms of timely communications?


2 Comments

Schedules or Spontaneity – what makes you the best you can be?

photoPlans and lists and schedules, oh my! For some people, that’s their worst nightmare. For me, well, I need structure. I need those plans, and lists to check off and schedules to follow. Even if I try to be spontaneous, it backfires on me and gets me agitated and anxious and worried. Whether it be my work or my personal life, when my routine and my schedule are thrown off, I’m in for a bad day, and probably a sleepless night.

My husband, on the other hand, hates making plans, never uses a list unless he’s grocery shopping (yes, he does that and I’m SOOO grateful!), and never feels the need to check anything off. If something gets done, it gets done, if not, well, it will get done another time. I can feel myself gasping for air at the thought of that. Opposites attract, so they say!

It took me a long time to realize that this was just who I am. It’s not a character flaw, or a personality deficiency, it’s just the way I function at my best. When I was doing media relations as my job, it’s no wonder I was a walking breakdown ready to happen. The fact that any one phone call from a reporter doing a story can throw a wrench into the works of your day is too much for my need for organization and structure to bear.

That’s why doing social media is such a good fit for me. I can plan my day around a set schedule, and do it quite easily. For a while, I was filling in as a media relations officer for one of the hospitals while we recruited a replacement for the role. So I was juggling my normal, set schedule, with a bit of the more haphazard, constantly fluctuating world that is PR and media relations. Looking back on this period, it’s no wonder I was a bit loony!

Now I’m feeling more like myself, back into a set schedule and being more productive, and much happier. Social media lends itself to this type of personality. You can stick to a schedule, like responding to tweets and Facebook comments, set time aside to build content, and even identify a block of time when you can read blogs and articles to keep up with what’s going on in the constantly changing industry. Yes, it can be a 24/7 world, but it can also be one set by a calendar and a to-do list too. Ahhhhh, I feel better already. And wow am I productive when my days are carefully planned!

What about you – are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy/gal, or do you need that written-in-ink kind of day to be your most productive self and feel your best?


2 Comments

Sometimes the water doesn’t slide off a duck’s back

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard (neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard
(neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

There are some days when you can just let things slide, like water off a duck’s back as the saying goes. There are other days, well, not so much.

It’s on those days when my mind wanders and I start the “what if” game. What if this, then that. Like, “what if I didn’t need the money…then would I still be doing what I do?”

I’ve often said that I love my job and I do. I love being able to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. I love the trust that I’m given to represent a large organization that’s critical to the community. I love being able to feel like I’m doing something good by sharing helpful information that could improve the health of the community (like our mission says). I also love learning something new every day.

But I am enough of a realist to know that sometimes loving what you do just isn’t enough. Sometimes the aggravation and the things that are out of your control that impact your day-to-day work just become too much to overlook.  That, combined with the recent resignations of two colleagues with whom I really enjoyed working has gotten me thinking. A lot.

So what do you do when you get to that point? Very good question and one I need to ponder. I’m not naive (at least I try not to be!). I am well aware that the grass isn’t always greener, so jumping ship to go to a perceived greener grassland isn’t always the best option. So that means you have to evaluate your options closely and figure out what can make things better.

Clearly the answers to this conundrum will not be clear overnight. But it’s something to think about and to work on. Life is too short, right? We are the only ones who will make ourselves happy.

So now I pose the question to my readers: have you ever felt like this? What did you do?


2 Comments

Does your company have a strategy or are you a fish out of water?

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

I think it’s often easier to find the things that are wrong in your company rather than appreciating the good things. Recently two things opened my eyes to just how lucky I am to work for the company I do.

The reason for this post, though, is not to shower accolades on my employer, but rather to point out some important things that could impact the marketing and social media efforts of companies.

Last weekend I was at a wedding, and one of my former colleagues was there. I was thrilled to see her because I adore Caitlin. She is a smart young woman, a beautiful and talented writer and a genuinely nice person.

She is now working for a biomedical company. She made a point of telling me how behind the times the company is. There is no overall marketing strategy, there is no coordinated communications efforts or advertising efforts, and social media is a completely mystery to them. In fact, the vice president asked her, “So, that Skype. Is that Facebooking?” Wow. It seems almost impossible in this day and age, right? Surely that company is an anomaly, yes?

Apparently not. Yesterday, I read a post shared by Mark Ragan called “Lessons from a social media disaster.” The post describes a company that appears to be in total chaos: no strategy, no leadership, no IT support, no content creators. Another wow.

So I guess that company that was NOT an exception to the rule. I guess I am lucky in that I work for a company with a clear mission, vision and goals. On top of that we have strategies and clear tactics for all of our marketing and advertising efforts. What we do always supports the overall mission, whether it be marketing, social media, advertising, or caring for our community. We also have policies and procedures so everyone can understand what is expected of them.

Having worked in this environment for all of my career, I think I would be completely lost in a company that didn’t function this way. It’s hard to imagine trying to do anything today when you don’t have a coordinated effort among all the parties responsible for your company’s success. In fact, it sounds like a perfect prescription for failure, right?

Or maybe I’m just partial to doing things that make sense. Personally, I think it’s that strategy that holds the key to success in everything you do. Without a plan, you’re kind of like a fish out of water, especially when it comes to social media.

Do you have a plan when it comes to your marketing and social media efforts? Are there things that you would change about your organization’s environment or culture that you think would help its success? What would it be?