Celebrity Influencers Under Fyre?

By: Donald Smith

Last week I spoke a little on how influencers and people’s trust in them on social media. Well, after the Fyre Festival debacle that trust may have taken a hit.

 

blog 7
“Fyre Music Festival” By Fyre Festival

 

First, let’s see what the Fyre Festival was supposed to be. Most of you probably had not heard about it before because it was an inaugural event. The music festival was supposed to be a “once-in-a-lifetime musical experience” on a private island previously owned by Pablo Escobar. It boasted a packed line-up of A-list artists such as Migos, Disclosure, Major Lazer, blink-182 and many more. Along with music, there was supposed to be “a uniquely authentic island cuisine experience” and “luxurious accommodations.” Ticket Packages for the festival started at $1,200 and some came with six-figure price tags. The festival was also endorsed by multiple celebrities via their social media channels such as Ja Rule, who was also a founder, Kendall Jenner, people might want to stop using her, Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid.

Now, come the day of the festival and all of the luxuriousness and music that was promised was nowhere to be found on the island. Instead, attendees were met with disaster relief tents and sandwiches, not submarine sandwiches. It was not until most of the guest had already arrived on the island before the festival founders released statements saying the festival was canceled. However, none of the other celebrity influencers, except Ja Rule, posted any apology for their promotion of the event. Actually, they did the opposite, they deleted any social media content on their accounts that included mention of the Fyre Festival. But, even when looking at Ja Rule’s “apology” it does not seem sincere. Only Billy McFarland showed any real acceptance of responsibility for the festival’s demise.

With the silence of the celebrities who promoted the event, is it possible to say that trust of other celebrity influencers will be lost? Personally, I am going to have to say no. Only those who have been caught up in situations such as this one will lose trust from their followers. It would not be rational to say that because Kendall Jenner and Ja Rule got caught up with this festival that Beyoncé’s or Drake’s followers will lose trust in them. Therefore, it is still okay to use celebrity influencers, as long as they have not been in the news in connection to controversies because they have been successful in driving reach and sales. Lastly, here is an article from Vogue that all influencers should take a look at before accepting someone’s offer to promote a product or event, due diligence is key.

Advertisements

Influencer or Journalist?

By: Donald Smith

As technology has expanded the range of professions such as marketing, advertising and public relations so has their definitions been blurred. Not many can really tell the difference between each profession anymore because they all do similar functions with the expanded technology. This is mostly seen when it comes to the use of social media.

Social-Media-Tree
[Social Media Tree] By Cision
However, the professions we’re looking at today are digital influencers and journalists. If you are part of one of these professions, you may be scratching your head in wonderment of how these two could be blurred. Well, you are not the only ones. Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, wrote in an opinion piece for The Drum how social media influencers would not be able to replace journalists. He says this because influencers release content that is more involved with brands, such as beauty products, rather than breaking news stories similar to government ordinances and Spotlight.

Although Waddington was right in that scenario, influencers have been becoming more prevalent than reporters in other “beats” of reporting. The increase in prevalence has been most noticeable in the reporting for beauty products. It was also noticed by Rachel Strugatz, Market Editor at WWD, in this article for the Los Angeles Times. She writes about her observation on the power of a certain influencer, Arielle Charnas of Something Navy. Charnas did a review on her Snapchat about a gel mask, which was responsible for many sales. Charnas’ ability to be a figure with enough clout to move sales put her close to, if not on, the same level of beauty magazine editors and writers. After further investigation, Strugatz found that these “digital influencers” were overtaking those who had been in power for decades as consumers trust influencers more than magazines.

So the question now is, can influencers start becoming journalists, or by chance, remove journalists from the equation? This particular battle is going to be over who can truly “control” social media. The reason for control over social media is because that is where both parties are most active on nowadays. They are most active on social media for different reasons. Influencers became a force through social media, while journalist had to adapt to social media to stay true to their principle of timeliness. A journalist also uses social media for information gathering and interacting with the audience as told by Cision in their blog post. I did not include traditional media because it is not as powerful as social media is today for a large number of people as can be seen in Rooster PR’s blog post. Here are statistics from Cision on how social media has impacted the profession of journalism.

Even with everything, both influencers and journalists need to exist because they serve different functions. We may see some industries switch between the two as it is happening with beauty products. Perhaps there could possibly be a merger between the two as Mark Schaefer said in his blog, “A brand journalist.”

Soci”Ad” Media

By: Donald Smith

Is social media really “free” advertising like so many have thought? Well, it used to be, but now it is only a strategy in an advertising plan. It is now all about who will pay the most such as advertisement used to be when negotiating who will shell out the most money for the prime time spot. Mike Proulx said it best in his AdAge article, “Let’s call it what it is: Social media marketing is now advertising. It’s largely a media planning and buying exercise.”

blog 5
“Social Media Ad”, By Purrsonality Designs

Now, I know many people will still claim social media is a form of two-way communication and is mostly unpaid for, which both of those points are true. However, social media is on its way to becoming a one-way form of communication and mostly paid. If it seems skeptical, take a look at the numerous statistics on social media advertising collected by Hootsuite. A couple of statistics that stood out were social media ad spending is predicted to exceed $35 billion and increase 26.3 percent globally in 2017.  Since we are in this era of social advertising it would be a great time to find out how best to target these ads.

First, let’s look at where our audiences reside. I’m going to be giving snippets, but if you would like all of the data here is the research conducted by Pew Research Center. So, as usual, Facebook is still the powerhouse with having over 70 percent for all age groups, besides 65+, but they are on a steady increase and sit at 62 percent right now. Meaning social media ads on Facebook are going to hit the largest audience possible, but bigger is not always better. Moving on, Instagram has a way smaller audience size than Facebook, but so do all other social media platforms. The largest audience on Instagram is 18 to 29-year-olds with 59 percent of the 32 percent of users (Pew Research Center, 2016). So, millennials are going to be the best audience to target with advertisements on Instagram. Next, we have Twitter with 24 percent of online adult users. When targeting an audience on Twitter you will want to target 18 – 49-year-olds or those who make a salary of $50,000+. This combined audience makes a little of 50 percent of Twitter’s audience (Pew Research Center, 2016). Then there is Pinterest with 31 percent of online adult users. On Pinterest, women (47 percent) are by far the largest target audience, even tripling the size of the male audience (17 percent) (Pew Center Research, 2016). Lastly, we have LinkedIn with 29 percent of online adult users. LinkedIn is a strange platform because the audience size within the demographics are all similar in size. Therefore, it is up to you to decide on who you want to target. Another good resource to see who and how people use social media is an infographic published on PR Week.

Finally, some ways to help you make the most out of your social media ads. A great way to start it off would be to use the Facebook Open Graph to make sure your content is optimally packaged so you get the most bang for your buck. Another application that could help would be Google AdWords. This application helps make your content easily found on Google, and with it being the number one search engine that is not bad. Also, keep in mind to help people as much as possible as you develop your content. Last, but not least, make sure to put your content on the social media platform that your target audience resides.

Does Lightning Strike Twice in Social Media?

By: Donald Smith

So, Facebook has begun to update its mobile application in several countries with a new feature called, Facebook Stories. This new feature allows users to post photos and videos that can be viewed up to two times by an individual user and will disappear 24 hours after being posted. Facebook has been testing this feature for some time. Back in July, Facebook tested a feature similar to Stories called Quick Updates.  However, the Stories feature sounds fairly similar to another app’s feature… oh yeah, Instagram Stories.

[Facebook Stories Status Bar] By: Business Insider
Instagram’s Stories feature allows its users to post photos and videos that can be view until a 24-hour time period has passed. The app originated in 2010 as a social media network that specialized in the sharing of photos. It then added the Stories feature in August 2016. Unfortunately, this sounds familiar to another app’s feature as well, Snapchat. Snapchat is recognized as the originator of the feature known as Stories. This particular feature, having user-generated disappear after 24 hours, is the entire premise of Snapchat.

Fascinatingly, Instagram has had substantial success since the integration of the Stories feature. The views and posts to Stories on Snapchat dropped by 15 percent, and sometimes up to 40 percent, while views and posts to Instagram Stories grew at alarming rates. Another shocking discovery is the number of downloads for Snapchat’s app plummeted on the launch date for Instagram’s Stories, which dropped into 11th place. Although Snapchat is still popular, by being in the top 25, it has taken a hit.

Now, it is not unknown for social media platforms to adopt features from one another. Interestingly enough, Instagram has done this before. It did this by implementing a 15-second video recording/editing feature. This feature was added to oppose, the video leader at the time, Vine. If you did not know, Facebook owns Instagram. Although Instagram found success from appropriating other apps’ features does not mean Facebook will have the same success.

Facebook is missing a large point, Uses and Gratifications Theory. The theory states users are active participants in the communication process by actively selecting specific media content to consume according to their needs. This means that individuals choose to use certain apps for certain purposes. Facebook’s demographic is moving toward an older audience who are sentimental and believe in the long-term. Therefore, they are not going to find much use out of an app that is the “now” or here today and gone tomorrow. It is Millennials, or 17 to 26-year-olds, who live within the fleeting moment. So, I do not see a reason for Facebook implementing this new feature if their user demographic does not use the app for the gratification of living in the moment. There is no such thing as a one-stop hub for social media.

Vans Rebrands Through Social Vans

After 51 years, Vans, the worldly renowned footwear brand, realized that it is no longer only a skateboard brand, but a brand associated with its only culture (i.e. Nike, Starbucks, Patagonia). Therefore, It has decided to do expand its target audience by implementing a new social media campaign named, “This is Off the Wall.” The campaign’s purpose is to encourage customer acquisition, which means to increase the number of customers your company has. Van’s strategy in this campaign is a series of videos containing content directed toward the new direction the company is going with its key message “Off the Wall.” The tactic used was 12 videos, each containing a “brand ambassador” to attract new audiences.

 

vans
[Tony Alva, Skateboarding Legend] By: VANS
However, this could become a problem because if a company engages in customer acquisition, then it is going to slack a little in customer retention, which means to increase the number of returning customers your company has. So, the new question is how Vans can use its new social media campaign to balance both customer acquisition and retention.

 

The weird thing about Vans’ campaign is that it encourages both retention and acquisition. The campaign did retention perfectly by including several of the brand ambassadors to be skateboarders. Doing this allowed the older customers to still feel as though they are connected to the brand. Thus, they are retained. The campaign successfully implemented acquisition through the use of other brand ambassadors that dealt with topics such as fashion, surfing and music.

Now, the next step Van’s needs to take is allowing user-created content. The best channels to do this would be to set up a separate Snapchat account named “ThisIsOffTheWalls” or some variation of it and have customers submit snaps, mostly videos, to showcase their meaning of “This is Off the Wall.” Next, utilize YouTube, this can be where longer videos from customers can be submitted. Also, make sure to retweet and share Twitter and Facebook posts with the hashtag #ThisIsOffTheWalls. Lastly, set up a separate Instagram account named the same as Snapchat’s. The reason for Instagram is to use its video capability as well because there are people who are solely on Instagram and not on Snapchat. A great example of a campaign similar to this would be what GoPro did to include user-generated content.

Public Becomes Artificial Relations?

Two weeks ago while browsing Twitter I saw several public relations agencies share content discussing chatbots and artificial intelligence, or AI, impact on PR. A chatbot is a conversational interface, usually seen as a messaging application, which is developed through artificial intelligence. They are developed to carry out mundane tasks such as customer inquiry or personal assistant actions on a smartphone (i.e. Siri, Cortana or Alexa).

chat-bot.jpg

 

Now, this impacts PR because publics have been trending toward messenger apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. As PR practitioners it is our job to communicate with our publics and keeping their attention with engaging content. Therefore, we have to go where they go. However, it is messaging bots, not humans, who excel in this new electronic terrain.

Lucy Allen, head of Bay Area Edelman, goes on to list multiple areas where the bots will excel such as becoming the dominant news source, automating social media tasks and simplify data insights. But it is her last point that is the most prevalent, “experienced media.”

“In my mind, experienced media is any media that offers real-time interactivity that is experienced in a highly personal way,” said Allen. “[Experienced media] deliver[s] a true experience to its audience [where] the audience actively participates in emotionally, physically and intellectually.”

That is the final goal of a PR plan. To create an experience and memories that are memorable and draws the target public closer to the brand or organization.

However, there is a considerable risk that goes with this tactic. It involves the fact that a chatbot is mostly autonomous and drives itself based on AI. It is imperative that it does not go rogue. Microsoft’s Tay is a case where an AI chatbot went “rogue” by tweeting racist and other harmful statements. This happened because AI learns from those it interacts with. Thus, it is up to the PR and Tech departments to monitor and maintain the chatbot so it learns the right information.

It may be a bit too soon to add chatbots to a communication plan, but it is a worthwhile investment to keep tinkering with.

PR Transitions with White House

PR Transitions with White House

By: Donald Smith

On January 20, the inauguration for Donald Trump to assume his presidency was held. However, a controversy followed shortly after the event. The topic of the controversy was the size of attendance at President Trump’s inauguration being substantially smaller than Barack Obama’s from 2009. The comparison was characterized by this photo tweeted out by the National Park Services.

[A composite image showing the presidential inauguration comparison for Obama (left) and Trump (right)] By, Barnes
This comparison created a negative outlook on President Trump’s administration. In order to curb this reaction press secretary Sean Spicer held a non-conventional press conference the following day. In the press conference Spicer scolded the media for purposely engaging in false reporting. Later, during the conference Spicer referenced several statistics that were reported as false afterwards.

Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to Trump, then proceeded to back up Spicer’s claims in a separate broadcast interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” In this interview she stated that Spicer was not using false information, but “alternative facts.” This statement has created a hashtag on Twitter called #alternativefacts where people post comedic material satirizing the political situation.

Now, both Spicer and Conway are seen as public relations professionals. Therefore, by them making false claims on the inauguration attendance size, they have created a distrust between the public and the profession, as if the public did not trust us already. In an attempt to try and conduct some PR for the profession, Public Relations Society of America has stepped into the fray and made a statement rejecting the new White House staff for breaking the code of ethics held up by those in the organization and profession with the “alternative facts.”

Not only have these events caused distrust, but due to Trump consistently discrediting national mainstream media outlets (i.e. CNN) and criticizing large name corporations (i.e. Boeing) professionals will have to differ in tactics in how they go about interacting with the media. So, they will have to be on their toes for the next several years as trust level and relationships among the White House and the media determine effective ways to reach publics.