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#TwitterIsDead – or is it?

Twitter is dead

 

Since launching in 2006, Twitter has gone through several identity crises. Starting as an SMS-type messaging system, the platform has grown to be an emergency messaging tool, an engagement platform for live events, and apparently, the platform of choice for announcing domestic and foreign policies by the current President of the United States. With the platform’s growth has come challenges; beyond the struggles of stock prices and pleasing investors, Twitter has dealt with censorship and terrorism issues. After 11 years, are these challenges proving to be too much? Is Twitter “over?”

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Twitter’s Rise

Though Facebook was already staking a claim as THE social network, Twitter succeed in its early years by offering a different social experience and not competing with Facebook directly. It quickly became popular with conference and event goers, and saw more than 60,000 related tweets per day during the 2007 South by Southwest event. Within the last few years, brands have discovered the power of Twitter as a customer service tool, and the platform has responded by creating more robust tools for this purpose. Things continued to go so well that the company became public in 2013 with its IPO.

Twitter’s impact hasn’t been limited to events and branding. In 2011, Twitter played a major role in the Arab Spring; people used the platform to connect, mobilize, and influence change. During natural disasters and other major events, users are able to receive Twitter Alerts to get up to the minute instructions and information. The world can use Twitter to connect and organize on important events and issues. Unfortunately, this means the world can use Twitter as a force for the other side of the coin too.

Twitter’s Fall

Twitter takes a strong stance for net neutrality and anti-censorship. In an effort to protect average citizens’ voices and ability to speak their minds freely, “undesirables” get to have their say, too. Terrorists and groups like Hezbollah are active on Twitter, and frequently use the platform to organize their supporters and promote their viewpoints – one Hezbollah related account has nearly half a million followers. In the United States, the “alt-right” movement has a large presence on Twitter, and frequently makes use of popular hashtags to get their Tweets a wider reach. It’s unfortunately difficult to find worthwhile #MondayMotivation and #WednesdayWisdom tweets among the political debates commandeering the hashtags. While some accounts have been suspended for violating Twitter’s terms of service, the bans are frequently temporary.

These struggles harm Twitter’s own brand image, and their stock has suffered along with it. Since launching their IPO, the company saw an all-time high of $69 per share in 2014, and has trended down ever since; the current price sits around $16. To help boost their numbers and attempt to draw advertisers back in, Twitter recently began testing a $99 a month subscription service for advertisers. The service automatically promotes tweets and profiles without needing to create dedicated ads (which can be off-putting to users). Time will tell if the platforms’ power users and brands will buy in.

 

Twitter will continue to struggle to find a balance between their investors, the brands that advertise on the platform, freedom of speech, and avoiding the promotion of hate and terrorism. It isn’t the only social media platform struggling with these challenges, and the next few years will see more shifts and new definitions for the role of social in our lives. Still, not all is lost, especially for those of us the public relations and media world. Twitter is still a great place for PR pros and journalists to connect, and it still has major value as a customer service tool for brands. While it may not be the first option to dump all your ad budget into, their $99 subscription service shows forward thinking that can help brands connect with consumers more authentically. Twitter has definite challenges, but it’s not on its last legs yet.

#ThisHappened – 2016 in Twitter & YouTube

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Major social media platforms are truly a global community. If the Twitter Year in Review and YouTube’s 2016 Rewind video are any indication, this community connects on big issues like social change, elections, and human rights – but also undeniably fun carpool karaoke videos. 2016 has also shown just how powerful brands can be on social media, and that there’s right and wrong ways to create or jump on digital trends.

Twitter’s top hashtag this year was #Rio2016. Even in digital form, humans enjoy coming together for a common cause, and the friendly, global competition is always a time for us to consider how much we have in common with our neighbors around the world. #BlackLivesMatter was also among the top ten hashtags this year, along with #Election2016 and #Brexit. While all of these hashtags certainly had positive and negative tweets, their popularity shows that Twitter isn’t just a time-waster. The third most re-tweeted post this year came from Hilary Clinton’s account during her election concession speech. Social media channels continue to be a place where important discussions happen, and information on major events is distributed.

The top hashtags highlight other topics social users like to connect on, including a big focus on entertainment. Number ten was #GameofThrones, where multitudes of the show’s avid fans theorized and commiserated together (often accompanied with #HoldtheDoor and a crying emoji). #RIP was a trending hashtag several times this year as the world mourned the loss of several beloved celebrities including Prince, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali. The #Oscars was a popular event on social, and an example of brands falling over themselves to jump on a trending hashtag to boost impressions without putting enough thought into their content. Total Beauty, a fashion site, was one of the worst offenders when they misidentified Whoopi Goldberg as Oprah in a tweet during the red carpet pre-show.

Despite slip ups, brands in 2016 saw the value of reaching out to the social media community and connecting with them where they “live.” Brands are the most dominant “community” on YouTube according to The Verge, and produced most of the platform’s top videos this year. Some of the most viewed videos mirror the Twitter trends – there’s Donald Trump’s interview on John Oliver tonight and a pre-Olympics video by Nike featuring some of soccer’s biggest stars. But the entertainment category wins out on YouTube, with Adele’s carpool karaoke version of “Hello” racking up an amazing 135 million views. The YouTube Rewind video references many of the similarly goofy viral videos that were popular this year.

So, what can brands learn from this? First and foremost, companies need to be very careful about using trending hashtags. Plenty of brands could have a good tie in to #Rio2016, but few if any would have an even remotely appropriate reason to use the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. Social media is often a place for silliness, but serious conversations are happening on these platforms that most brands should shy away from.

Second, “virality” isn’t a strategy. Some of this year’s trends make sense, and some don’t. There’s not one type of content that rules on YouTube. Although none of his videos were the top ten most viewed, PewDiePie was the highest paid YouTuber this year, bringing in $15 million from his video gameplay channel. His content wasn’t always the most viral, but it brings in money. Brands shooting to be a viral sensation will likely be disappointed.

Lastly, social media users love cat videos, but they also highly value authenticity. We’re facing what might be called a “post-truth” world, and the digital community wants to be engaged with in an authentic, personalized manner more than ever. Every trend isn’t right for every brand, but there are ways companies can join the conversations in a realistic an appropriate manner. It takes a bit of research and understanding that social media is a powerful tool, but the rewards can be much longer lasting than those from a one-time viral video.

3 Tools for Staying on Top of News & Trends

Working in public communications means you’ll likely spend a decent amount of time each week perusing news newspaperheadlines, industry publications, and social media hashtags. In order to best represent your clients and find prime opportunities for coverage, you need to be aware of the top trends and breaking news. This includes public relations news, industry talk pertaining to your clients, and worldwide stories. However, in a public relations specialist’s busy schedule, how can you get the most out of the time you have to browse media? I have three PR tools I check in with each day that help keep me informed without draining too much of my work time.

 

  • PR Daily & PR Week
    • It’s not all about the clients – PR pros have their own trends and news to watch, too. These two sites offer comprehensive daily coverage of what’s new and exciting in the world of public relations. From major agency announcements to news about updated social media analytics tools, anyone in PR can stay in the loop with a quick browse each day. Both sites also offer articles and webinars to improve your skills, and more humorous, fun articles – like this one about PR lessons from the Star Wars

 

  • Industry Specific News
    • Many of us work with clients in industries that we aren’t initially experts in. However, in order to pitch media successfully and write engaging content for these clients, we need to spend time increasing our knowledge. An easy way to do this is research the top publications in the client’s industry, and sign up for daily or weekly newsletters. Google alerts set for client-related phrases are also a great option, as is following industry thought leaders on Twitter. You can use Twitter lists to organize by client or field, and then browse your list each week to see what’s being discussed in that particular arena. You can also subscribe to top blogs related to your client, and set up an RSS feed.

 

  • The Skimm
    • the skimmThe Skimm is a free, curated morning email covering news in the USA and worldwide. It’s sent out in time for you to read with your morning coffee, and head into work more informed. Stories are shared in short blurbs, so you can get the most important information quickly. Most stories have hyperlinks for more information if you have some extra time. The overall tone is more lighthearted and fun, so it never
      reads like dull, typical morning headlines. Recently, The Skimm has featured quick interviews with current presidential candidates, to help readers get to know them prior to next year’s elections. The email also frequently features fun giveaways and trivia to add a little more for readers.

What Makes a Press Release Newsworthy?

Press releases are an effective way to garner publicity for your business. Although distributing a news release doesn’t guarantee coverage for your brand, by planting the seed with journalists and bloggers, it might very well lead into a future feature opportunity. Additionally, placing your press release on your website is an effective way to communicate with your existing and prospective customers.

So, what news is worthy of a press release?

Below are three questions to consider before crafting your next press release.

Is the news relevant to anyone outside your company?

Does the news impact your consumers, investors or the community? Is your story about something novel or accomplishing something first? The more people your news impacts, the more likely a journalist will be interested. A few examples of newsworthy happenings:

  • Introducing new products or services
  • Expanding into new locations
  • Industry firsts – new innovation, new technology, etc.

Is your news timely?

Your news should be timely and immediate. Consider the outlet for which you are pitching as publication cycles vary by medium. Additionally, if you are able to link your story to trending topics or current events, it will enhance your chances of coverage.

Does your news showcase a noteworthy brand initiative?

Are you sharing news about a recent significant development or charitable contribution to the community? Internal accomplishments can be newsworthy if they have a larger impact externally, such as:

  • Awards
  • Partnerships/Acquisitions
  • An executive appointment (i.e. CEO) or ownership changes
  • Involvement in charity work, making a charitable contribution

Selfie is Officially “Liked” by the OE

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It’s come to this. “Selfie”, the term for mobile phone self-portraits generally aligned with vain teenage girls, has now entered the lexicon and joins proper words like “forsooth”, “serendipity” and “horse” in the Oxford English Dictionary, otherwise known as the OED and grandfather master of all dictionaries. The inclusion reflects an acceptance of other tech-related words no one over the age of 20 thought were actually words, various fashion trends you’ll recognize from the past few years, and a wide and somewhat bewildering array of acronyms and abbreviations generated from text-speak. “Twerk” (the dance move most recently appropriated by Miley Cyrus) was included as well, along with “unlike” (in reference to withdrawing your social media approval), “fauxhawk” (it’s not like these are going away), and “srsly” (seriously?).

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The full list:

Here’s the full list of words most recently accepted:

Apls, A/W, babymoon, balayage, bitcoin, blondie, buzzworthy, BYOD, cake pop, chandelier earring, click and collect, dappy, derp, digital detox, double denim, emoji, fauxhawk, FIL, flatform, FOMO, food baby, geek chic, girl crush, grats, guac, hackerspace, Internet of things, jorts, LDR, me time, MOOC, omnishambles, pear cider, phablet, pixie cut, selfie, space tourism, squee, srsly, street food, TL;DR, twerk, and unlike.

What do you think about the addition of selfie? Only a matter of time? A helpful reference as millennials take over the world? Or is this the destruction of the English language as we know it?