Module #11: Social Media Issue – James Franco

The social media issue that I chose to discuss in this blog post happened just a few days ago, on the night of April 1st.


The Issue


After meeting a 17 year old fan following an Of Mice and Men performance on Broadway, James Franco contacted her via Instagram and then later text, trying to persuade her to sleep with him. The teenager took screen shots of the conversations and then posted them on Imgur.


Though many people initially thought this was a hoax, Franco sent the underage girl multiple pictures of himself attempting to prove it was really him, and then apologized for his actions on Live with Kelly & Michael.


I think this is a particularly interesting example because the issue was created using social media (Instagram), then was posted on another social web platform (Imgur) and is now continue to generate controversy on several other social web platforms including Twitter and Tumblr.


Typically, issues such as this carry little weight especially when posted on the internet. However, due to the pictures sent by Franco, it is difficult to argue that the exchange didn’t take place.



What He Is Doing


James Franco addressed the incident on TV earlier today, focusing mostly on his embarrassment of the exchange being captured and posted online, not of his actions being inappropriate – It’s also important to note that while hitting on a 17 year old girl is sleazy (for lack of a better word),  17 is the age of consent in new york, so it is not illegal.



Since the incident, Franco has been using his social web platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, to maintain that he does not pursue young girls, and that he was mislead as to this girls age.  He added to his bio on Instagram “Please do not message me if you are under 18”, and has tweeted that he hopes parents keep their teenagers away from him. He seems to have forgotten that screenshots of the entire conversation have been posted, and that it is obvious he was actively pursuing her.


What He Should Be Doing


Franco responded to the issue quickly, which is essential, discussing it on television earlier this morning. However, I personally hadn’t heard of the issue until today, making me wonder how big this would have been if he didn’t draw  more attention to it.


Though Franco did take advantage of multiple social web platforms to get his messages across to as many people as possible, the message itself is problematic. I think his time on social media would be better spent establishing transparency as to what happened, and not trying to create a different side to the story, turning it into a “he said, she said,” issue. Be honest. Especially when the facts already appear to be documented. If the exchange happened differently than it appears to have went, then he needs to provide proof, not just denying it.


The tone of his messages also need to be addressed. It is ideal that the tone during an issue or crisis comes across as “confident humility” (Neil, 2014 – Course Notes). During the interview segment, Franco presented himself this way, however with his social media content, he is coming across much more pompous and unapologetic – This is never a good idea.


In order to salvage his reputation, James Franco should also use multiple media formats – post a video addressing the issue, use photo’s, etc., in addition to text.


Franco needs to apologize. Though he has addressed the issue, he does not appear to be ashamed of it in any way. In my opinion, whether illegal or not, aggressively pursuing a 17 year old girl on vacation with her mother is not appropriate behaviour. Now that it has become public, it’s time to apologize and acknowledge this is not appropriate behaviour for a 35 year old.


Additional Thoughts


Some people believe  this is a publicity stunt to gain attention for Franco’s new movie coming out, in which he plays a coach who begins a relationship with one of his underage athletes. If this turns out to be the case, I think it will be just as interesting to see how fans react to such a tasteless attempt at publicity, and if it turns into an even bigger social media issue than the original story.


Module 10: Social Media Measurement Tools

Last week we discussed how difficult it is to measure the ROI (return on investment) of social media, as it requires quantitative measures that don’t match up with qualitative benefits of social media. Though social media may not directly directly impact an organizations profit margins in a way that can be measured with certainty, it does offer the opportunity to engage with publics, and develop a brand, in addition to many other benefits. An in order to get senior management to buy into the importance of social media, PR practitioners need to prove how it achieves other objectives.

Unlike ROI, the effectiveness of social media in other ways CAN be measured, as almost every aspect of social media activity is measurable. However, the confusion arises in deciding which resources to use to measure social media activity. There is so much information to look at, and so many different ways to examine it. Hundreds of measurement tools are available to PR practitioners and they all have different pros and cons. Below are four measurement tools available, three are free and one is available for a monthly fee.

1. TweetReach:

Tweetreach is a measurement tool specifically for Twitter, that can tell you how much exposure your tweet received. Tweetreach can tell you how many people have seen and who is taking about the Tweet. Furthermore, PR practitioners can use Tweetreach to track tweets about your hashtags, accounts names and URL, as well as the impact of contests and games.

2. Bitly

Bitly is a website best known for allowing you to shorten links or URLs, in order to use them in posts. It is most commonly used for Tweets due to Twitters 160 character count limit. In addition to shortening URLs, Bitly also tracks how many times the link has been clicked or retweeted.

3. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is generally considered to be one of the best free social media measurement tools. Hootsuite can analyze activity on a variety of social media platforms, and can combine information from multiple platforms on one account. Hootsuite tracks everything from likes and followers to mentions and the tone of said mentions.

4. Sysomos/Heartbeat

Heartbeat is a real-time social media measurement tool that monitors social media conversations, the tone/quality of these conversations, and the geography and demographics including profession and gender, of the people in these conversations. In addition, it is relatively easy to use and navigate. Heartbeat has a minimum cost of 500 dollars per month, however for organizations it can be well worth the money considering the information it provides.

Module 9: Social Media’s ROI and the Three A’s

Return on Investment (ROI) is a business measure of comparing the cost of an initiative or activity, and the gain from that activity (ROI = gain – cost / cost). While it is easy to measure the first part of this equation, as you can measure the salary of the employee assigned to social media, and the hours they put in, etc., measuring the gain from social media, through quantitative means, can be much more difficult.
The social web is a place where organizations can get closer to important customers and stakeholders. It provides the opportunity to connect, create dialogue and influence these key publics, while furthering the organization’s identity and brand development. It is hard to argue that these don’t positively impact an organization, but it is hard to quantitatively prove it. But to get senior management in any organization to buy into the value of social media, you need to prove there’s a good ROI. This can done by examining three things: attention, attitude, and action.
Attention refers to how the general volume of interest the organization receives from its social media presence. This includes followers for Twitter, likes for Facebook, and more accurate values such as mentions, retweets, etc. For websites and blogs, Google Analytics is an excellent way to measure attention.  It allows you to see the number of visitors, how long they stay on pages, and the bounce rate.
Attitude  this can be measured by the quality of comments on Facebook and blogs, or the content of tweets in which the organization in mentioned.  Attitude goes beyond merely the measuring the attention the organization receives, and looks at the quality of that attention. When an organization receives favourable attention, it can lead to the final ‘A’.
Action is the behaviour that results from the organization’s social media presence.  It is also in the actions that the ROI is measured. It’s important to remember that ROI is a business measure, not a social media measure. The return on investment is concerned with the company’s bottom line – how much money is brought in. Though social media has many benefits, including managing attention and attitude, the only financial benefit is through the actions it influences.  For example, if a small clothing store launches a social media campaign, offering discount codes through tweets, and there is an increase in sales by 20% from the use of the coupons, then the profits from those sales (minus the expenses to execute the campaign), would be the ROI.
One of the great things about social media is that the costs are typically low, while they offer a huge potential, whether directly or indirectly, for a big ROI.

Content Strategy and Inforgraphics

I was not surprised at all this week, when I read in the course notes that 44% of individuals are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures more than any other form of content.
When reading online, I want the information I’m looking for to be simple and to the point. There is nothing I hate more than wasting time reading through paragraphs of information I don’t need just to find the one sentence I’m looking for. And my favourite way to view this information, is through inforgraphics. Not only are they simple and clear, but they are also visually attractive. They also are able to present relationships between concepts in a unique way that is easy to understand.
This week we also discussed content strategies as a whole, and were encouraged to seek out images such as infograhics, that outline elements of a content strategy and discuss their strengths and weaknesses. Below are three of my favourites:
This particular inforgraphic appeals to me primarily because of the information it presents. I found the seven elements to be very interesting, and though simple, useful. But in addition to the appeal of the information provided, I find this infographic visually appealing as well. The colours are attractive and the page is streamlined, with no overcrowding of images.
Oddly enough, I found multiple infographics that used the hamburger as a metaphor for content. This is an example of how well inforgraphics can present the relationship between elements or concepts. By organizing the information this way, the reader can see what role each element plays, and how it influences the other elements.
The final infographic is an example of one that I’m not as crazy about. The information provided in it is extremely useful, however it is overshadowed by how crowded the image is as a whole, and how overwhelming the colour combinations are. It makes it difficult to scan for information.  If the design was simplified, I think this inforgraphic could be excellent

The Future of Google Glass and Other HUD Devices in Public Relations.

To be honest, prior to this week, I had never heard of Heads-Up Displays or Augmented Reality Glasses. But now that I have, I’m find them extremely interesting. It’s like we are standing in the far future worlds we see in sci-fi movies.

But before I get ahead of myself, for those like me who had never heard of Heads Up Displays, don’t feel bad – they’re still very new, and in most cases, still in production. One of the best examples is Google Glasses. Essentially, HUD’s are cameras, and additional technology, that can be worn on a persons head like glasses. It allows people to take pictures and videos of their environment and upload them online. Google Glasses plan to take it even further, with devices that are as interactive and dynamic as most smart phones, providing people with directions, text messaging abilities and notifying them when friends are nearby.

What I’m most interested to see is how HUD’s like Google Glass will influence the way people experience the real world. Extreme advances in technology often generate this kind of uneasiness, because of the significant impact on how people go about their day to day life.

What I find particularly exciting (and maybe, if I’m being honest, a little unnerving), is how seamlessly it could fit into every day life. I can see it becoming just as common place as cell phones. But unlike with some other forms of technology, it seems like HUD’s have the potential to enhance experiences rather than compete with them. For example, I know when I am using a camera to take photos of special moments, trips, etc., it feels like a compromise between documenting it, and experiencing it. Heads Up Displays like Google Glass seem like they could be different, enhancing experiences instead of distracting from them, all by presenting the information into the individuals pre-existing view point.

And like with any other improvement in technology, PR practitioners are going to have to adapt to this change too, and find ways to incorporate it into the growth of their company. There are many ways organizations can choose to use HUD’s, some of which may include:

1. Organizations can use it to connect with publics at the right time (and place) – by using this technology organizations can provide relevant information to individuals depending on their location. If someone walks into a store, they can receive a message instantly

2. By taking advantage of HUD’s, organizations will also be able to offer key publics an inside perspective on events and important moments, like seen in the fashion show video. Publics can gain a point of view they would otherwise never experience. Imagine Jose Bautista wearing Google Glass when he hits a home run during training.

3. It’s important to remember, however, that like with any other advancement in technology, Heads Up Displays will make our world smaller. They will impact how fast and far someone can voice their opinion about a company. This new device will have the opportunity to magnify customer complaints, questions, comments, etc. – because it is in real time, and comes with a camera that makes it extremely easy for any audience to imagine they are experiencing the scenario. Companies will need to be prepared for the customer service and communication skills that have to come along with this type of change.

Are Twitter Promotions Worth The Price?

One of the biggest appeals of social web platforms, such as Twitter, are that they’re free. Twitter offers exposure and direct, controlled communication to an organizations publics, for minimal, if any, cost. The creation of Twitter promotions has changed this. At least somewhat. 

Twitter now provides the opportunity for an organization to promote its tweets, trends and accounts, in order to maximize its presence with key publics. This is done by targeting specific genders, keywords, geographies, interests and devices. 

But it comes at a cost. 

Promoting a trend on Twitter usually comes with a flat rate fee of 10 000 dollars. Promoted tweets and accounts are a little bit different, but still expensive. Pricing for promoting tweets and accounts is determined by the success rate of the promotion. By this I mean, if you were to promote your account on twitter, you would be charged anywhere from 20 cents to five dollars (based on different factors) per follower you gain.  This is good because you only pay for how successful the promotion is. But you have to pay for how successful the promotion is.  Every time you gain a follower, you have to pay for it. Does this change the dynamic of how companies use twitter? Before the goal was to gain more followers, and have popular tweets. But now, more followers can be bought (hypothetically), and the new goal is making sure the money spent getting them was worth it. 


 So how do we decide if a follower is worth the money spent on them?  From a marketing perspective, it would be translating those followers into purchases of a product (or something similar). And if those followers are spending more money than it costs to get them following you, then yes, promoting your account may be worth it. But from a PR perspective, social media provides opportunities to have direct, authentic conversations with publics, and to relay controlled information in a way you would have to purchase from any other outlet. And this is still achievable without promoting tweets or accounts. The difference is the number of people you are having these conversations with. Sometimes the scenarios would involve reaching out to publics not seeking your information, while other times your publics are actively seeking you out to gain information.  


Unfortunately, as Twitter promotions continue to grow, Twitter accounts that are the most popular now, are going to have to pay to stay relevant in the future. People will have to search harder for accounts that aren’t promoted, meaning that a person just flipping through a feed because they have spare time, is much more likely to look at a promoted tweet or account, than one that isn’t. And when you are out of sight, you are out of mind. By introducing the concept of promoted tweets, they have created a situation where they will soon be necessary for companies to remain at the top on twitter. 


What it really comes down to is how much money a company has, and what it wants to get out of its twitter account. If the company already has a well established presence on Twitter, promotions may be in their best interest to be able to compete with other top accounts in the future.



Game Changer: How Social Media Has Changed Interactions Between Companies And Their Publics (Module 1)

The social web is unique in that it requires dialogue and interaction between a company and their publics on a level never experienced before. Traditional marketing methods that are authoritative and focus on pushing messages do not work on social media because everyone has a voice on the social web, not just companies. Because a company’s publics have voices of their own to use across platforms, they get to actively participate in the developing of a company’s reputation. This amount of power means that when interacting on the social web, a company must interact frequently and informally with their publics, and really find their niche.

One organization that has embraced social media and as a result has really grown its following, is the LA Kings. Particularly, with their use of Twitter. The LA Kings Twitter account uses a consistently sarcastic and informal tone that appeals to not only their fans but fans of other teams as well. This tone has been adopted by other National Hockey League teams, and is much more effective than organizations that maintain formal/stiff dialogue. You can find some examples herehere and here.

What I like most about the use of the social web, though, is that it brings a whole new level of authenticity to a company’s interaction with their publics, which is always a good thing.  It creates true dialogue and connections that don’t happen with more traditional communications strategies. Through the social web, the world is getting a lot smaller, and the walls between companies and its publics are being torn down.

Tagged ,