A Year of Twitter

October 8, 2009

It occured to me the other day that October 1, 2009 marked a year since I began using Twitter.  I went back to my very first tweet, which was of course hopeful and abstract.  A lot has changed since that first tweet, both my perception on the concept of social media and its value and my preconceived notion that 140 characters was simply a useless amount of information.

I remember the first staff meeting when I brought up the idea of making our blog more dynamic, switching platforms (we were using a terrible self-hosted platform through our web server company) and setting up some additional accounts on social media networks….like, you know, Twitter or something.

The reaction, needless to say, was less than enthusiastic.  My boss seemed somewhat convinced but a week later after she began tweeting, she came back to the table uncertain of its value.

I didn’t know much, I will admit, about social media at that point.  But I had a gut feeling it was going to be important, more important than we were treating it at that time.  I knew it was foolish of us as an agency to present ourselves as cutting edge if we didn’t understand the current influencers in the new media space.  There was still a good 3-4 months of complaining and general cynicism around the table and I say this not to pat myself on the back for being right (though, I was…ahem) but more to point out that there are still people who don’t believe in the value or power of Twitter and social media in general.

Going through my Twitter feed last night, I was able to view my life, mostly professional but some personal milestones, connections I made and general growth I experienced.

For me, Twitter has:

  • Greatly expanded my contacts in the green and sustainable industry
  • Connected me to some influential editors, writers and analysts in my clients’ markets
  • Showed me some really fantastic stories I might have otherwise overlooked
  • Taught me brevity can be powerful and at times completely enough
  • Given me an outlet
  • Helped to gain expanded readership on both our blogs (here and Green Life Smart Life)

The list could go on and on.  I can look back on Twitter and see the first time I successfully pitched an NBC producer, the connection I made with a green editor at the New York Times, my acceptance to a PhD program, my first solo press event at Microsoft, the 3 (or 4) trade shows I attended in the past year, my triumphs and failures, the points where I had to make a big decision (and subsequently drink a lot of wine) – it’s all there.  140 characters or less, my work and life laid out in a nice little timeline.  1,590 tweets and 831 followers later – it turns out it’s not the numbers necessarily or the popularity.

Social media creates real connections.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

first tweet

Posted by: Ashley – who can be found on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ashleydano

FTC Guidelines: How They Relate To Your Blog

October 7, 2009

Earlier today, I was asked a question that threw me off guard a bit, vaguely formulated as follows:  “what do you know about social media as it relates to PR?”  I muttered a joke about seeing people create PR nightmares for themselves via Twitter and Facebook and then got down to business, stating that “it’s a cheap and effective way to get your message out to tons of people” – pretty standard, ay?  

I decided to do some digging and find out what the industry pros have to say about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media/networking sites that exist around the web and instead found an interesting article (10 Simple Things to Know About the FTC’s Rules for Blogs and Brands, by Augie Ray) about a document released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today outlining guidelines for advertising and branding via social media.  These guidelines are not laws, but rather suggestions for companies as to how to best situate themselves so that they are abiding by the existing laws in place regarding advertising.

 For the most part, these guidelines address whether or not it should be considered advertising if a blogger writes a positive review of a product.  It seems that the general idea of the guidelines is as follows:  if you are a blogger on the receiving end of a benefit from a company for favorably reviewing or using their product, then you are – in fact – an advertisement.  If I were to run out to the corner store and buy myself a pack of gum that I truly enjoyed, and I came home to blog about it – that would not be considered advertising.  However, if the gum company were sending me free packs of gum on a regular basis – or any other product that their company manufactures – and I took to my blog to spout the wonders of this product, then that would in fact be considered a sponsored endorsement, since I am regularly receiving treats. 

Most relevant to the PR world is the fact that many workplaces are now looking into adopting Social Media policies, and if they are not – according to the FTC and Augie Ray – they should be.  It is important that in a time where it seems everyone has a Twitter account, which could lead to easy and free advertising for your company for 140 characters or less, you are monitoring and managing these networks.  If an employee of a company logs into their personal Facebook account and reveals to the public their employer’s product is their all-time favorite, without disclosing that they are an employee of that company, they are opening the company up to legal ramifications and they may not even realize it.

Courtney Danielson (candidate for a Caster job)

I’m So Blogging This

January 7, 2009

We all  know the drill – every year, someone declares blogging is dead and suddenly everyone in the blogosphere throws a hissy fit, waving their collective arms and screaming – nu uh!  (Def: nu-uh: The sound made when one is trying to decline the truth or existence of an action or statement.  Usually utilized by children.)   Want to see some irony?  Google (or Live Search…ahem…) “blogging is dead.”  What do you see?  Do you see the article in the November issue of Wired telling us to delete our blogs, they don’t matter aymore?  No.  You see blog entries, all responding to the claim.  Ah yes, surely a sign of the terminal illness blogging is so aptly diagnosed with, year after year. 

Snarkiness aside, I think most of us agree blogging is anything but dead.  Sure you have to wade through so much more to get to the good stuff, but there is still good stuff.   For some it may be quantity over quality but I read plenty of blogs that are chock full of informative and interesting content on a pretty regular basis. 

This leads me to my question of the day – why do people blog?  What makes someone sign onto WordPress or Blogger, create a name and start typing away?  And what does it take to have a successful blog?  And what does it having a successful blog mean anyway? 

I’ve got some theories but I don’t think it’s a one size fits all scenario.  Caster, for example, started this blog as a way to exercise our creative writing skills and give our clients and industry friends a taste of our personalities in one daily dose.  Green Life Smart Life started its blog as a resource for all things green and as a way to provide updates on the project and construction of their home.  Some blogs serve as news sources, some as gossip sites, some to connect a community based around common interests, some just simply to journal.

I used to have a public personal blog.  And I suspect I will again soon though it will serve a bit of a different purpose.  I still have a personal blog, but it is anonymous and I’m not even sure where the web traffic comes from.  It’s a different type of outlet for me, a way to journal without the paper and pencil or worrying about my hard drive crashing. 

So tell me, do you blog?  If so, why?  And more importantly, why do you read this blog? 

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter