Archives for posts with tag: PR

If you have been reading our blog these past few months, you have probably noticed that we spend a lot of time talking about digital mission control centers. Given that our product generally ends up being used in a digital mission control center setting and that most of our clients are engaged in some phase of either developing or expanding a digital mission control center, we are in a unique position to observe, discuss and provide insights on the inevitable adoption of digital mission control center by every agency and brand in the world inside of the next three years. This trend may have been accelerated by a single event which took place during the 2013 Superbowl.

A quick recap: Superbowl Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens are leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6 with only 13:22 left in the third quarter. Suddenly,the NOLA Superdome experiences a power outage. Moments later, Oreo tweets this ad with the caption “Power out? No problem.”

Clever, right? Yeah, we thought so too.

The result:

Oreo tweets

The biggest boost in mentions and follows for any brand at the Superbowl. Compare that to any other Superbowl advertiser.

The same image received over 20,000 likes on Facebook, and the marketing, digital and advertising worlds were abuzz with Oreo and 360i’s marketing clever little guerrilla coup during the Superbowl.

Why is Twitter relevant to this conversation? Well… Judging by our own monitoring of the Superbowl, the lion’s share of brand mentions and real-time conversations about the Superbowl happened on Twitter:

Tickr Superbowl 2

This isn’t to say that Twitter is more valuable than Facebook or that social networks are more valuable to advertisers than traditional media channels like TV and radio. This isn’t that kind of post. What we are observing is that every channel has its own unique value, and when it comes to amplifying the impact of a particular event to promote a product or brand, Twitter tends to be a high volume, high reach, high velocity channel.

Look at it another way: what Oreo managed to do in under five minutes with a few computers and an agile social content team was both more effective and considerably cheaper than most multi-million advertising spots broadcast during the game (including its own). There were virtually no production costs involved. There was no media buy involved either. (Note: the average Superbowl ad was reported to have cost around $4M this year.)

Will this ultimately turn into more sales for Oreo and Kraft? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell. You could ask the same question of any of Superbowl Sunday’s ads and the answer right now would be the same: we don’t know yet. All we know is that the impact of this one little piece of real-time marketing was a measurable win in terms of reach, in terms of social sharing, in terms of generating positive product and brand sentiment, in terms of positive brand engagement, and, last but not least, in terms of its overall cost. If anything, that’s a very good start.

So how did Oreo and 360i pull this off? Well, Buzzfeed’s Rachel Sanders has a quick recap of how this little win came to be:

“We had a mission control set up at our office with the brand and 360i, and when the blackout happened, the team looked at it as an opportunity,” agency president Sarah Hofstetter told BuzzFeed. “Because the brand team was there, it was easy to get approvals and get it up in minutes.”

Wait… 360i had a what where? A “mission control center?” Set up at the office? You don’t say.

This is the part where we sit back in our awesome 100% recyclable ergonomic chairs, cross our spectacularly muscular arms, and smirk at you without actually saying “we told you so.”

Bonus: digital mission control centers don’t have to cost anywhere near $4M either.

To be fair, there is a lot more that went into this win than a mission control center: a leadership team brave enough to give its digital, brand and agency teams the go-ahead to build a clever social engagement campaign (remember Oreo’s “Daily Twist”), the right digital team to execute on that plan, the right collaboration processes, the right resources, the right tools, and the right environment. You need it all. But it is no accident that the first thing that came up in the Buzzfeed interview was the mission control piece of the puzzle. Having one has become a tactical imperative. It’s as simple as that.

Our guess is that every brand and agency who had a “we wish we had thought of that” moment on Monday morning is now looking into finally building something similar to what 360i and other forward-thinking agencies already had in place for the big game. This is how digital marketing is done now.

Every evolutionary leap needs a catalyst. We all just witnessed one. Cool, huh?

Other screen shots from our Command Center‘s Superbowl monitoring adventures:

Tickr Superbowl 4

Tickr Superbowl 7

If you are new to this topic, we invite you to do a quick search for some of the articles we have already posted here on the topic of digital mission control centers (how they work, why they matter, how to integrate them into your business, how to use them to track campaigns and/or PR crises, etc.) and of course find out why most of them already incorporate Tickr. You’ll want to use other tools as well, by the way. We’re only one small piece of the puzzle.

(If you aren’t familiar with our new Command Center edition, here is a 1 minute video that touches on the basics.)

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Also, be sure to enter our Command Center beta/contest:

The categories: non-profit, journalism, and for-profit.

The way it works is simple: 1) Sign up. 2) Enjoy free access to Command Center. 3) Submit a case study (or summary) of how Command Center helped you with a project. That’s it. We even have prizes and everything! The sooner you register, the better. (Sign up here.)

Cheers,

The Tickr Team

Tickr screenshot004

Over the last year, you told us what kinds of features you wanted us to add to Tickr and we listened. The result is Tickr Command Center, our most complete monitoring solution to date. It’s already being well received, but we want to shake things up a little. Instead of just inviting you to kick the tires in a standard beta-test, we want you to take Tickr Command Center around the track and drive it as hard as you want for a few weeks. What better way to do that that than to launch a little contest?

The rules are simple: You sign up, we grant you access to Command Center for a little while, and you submit a cool little case study or a summary of how you used it before March 15, 2013. Whoever comes up with the most original or interesting use of Command Center will win a year’s free access to Command Center.

The three categories of entries are:

    • For-profit
    • Non-profit
    • Journalism

Some examples:

For-profit:

- If you are a brand: How you integrated Command Center into your digital monitoring practice. How Command Center helped you improve customer service/tech support. How Command Center helped you generate more qualified leads. How Command Center helped you identify areas where your brand was receiving negative reviews, areas where your brand was receiving positive reviews, and how you solved the problem. How Command Center helped you with market research or business development. If you can throw in an ROI piece with real numbers, great. If you can’t, that’s okay too.

- If you are an agency: How Command Center helped you monitor a product launch or campaign. How Command Center helped you monitor reactions to an ad or event.

- If you are a PR firm: How Command Center helped you avoid or manage a potential PR crisis.

Non-profit: How Command Center helped you do research on a topic that is relevant to your cause/project. How Command Center helped you monitor conversations about key topics, then engage people directly about them. How Command Center helped you track and map the effectiveness of a campaign, message or hashtag across multiple channels.

Journalism: How Command Center helped you with research on a story or topic. How Command Center helped you monitor, track and map certain types of events or topics (natural disasters, elections, crime, acts of terrorism, political news, etc.).  How Command Center worked as a research tool AND and alert tool alongside Google, the AP wire, and whatever other tools and platforms you use.

You can copy those or come up with your own. It’s totally up to you. It doesn’t matter if you are a journalism student or a senior editor at a major publication, if your non-profit is a local after school program or a global charity, if your company is a small specialty retailer or a century-old brand. Agencies and PR firms of all sizes are welcome as well. The more the merrier, and the more diverse the entries the better. Let’s make this interesting.

Who can participate?

Anyone 18 or older (except where prohibited). See rules for details.

When does the contest start and end?

The contest opens January 22, 2013 at 9:00:00 a.m. US Eastern Standard Time (EST) and ends March 15, 2013 at 11:59:59 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST)..  How long and thorough you make your summary or case study is entirely up to you. Make videos, take pictures, create presentations, or just fill in the blanks in the form we’ll send you. You’re totally in charge of this thing.

What can I win?

Winners will enjoy one full year’s free use of Tickr Command Centerserious bragging rights, and maybe a few extra goodies. (More on that later.)

How does this contest work?

The short version:

  1. Sign up.
  2. Receive free access to Tickr’s brand new Command Center monitoring suite. (We’ll also send you the rules, some tips, and a registration form.)
  3. Use Command Center.
  4. Submit a summary or case study before March 16, 2013.

Go here and sign up. It only takes a few seconds.

You can also address questions to us via our Facebook account or our Twitter account, and if you have no idea what Tickr or Command Center are, you might want to watch this quick one-minute demo.

We can’t wait to see how you will use Command Center to make your world work better!

Feel free to share this with all your friends.

Cheers,

The Tickr Team

 Tickrnew001

Tickrnew001

At long last, we can finally unveil our new baby: Command Center. We’re super excited to finally be able to share this with you.

What can you expect? More power, more data and more screens, for starters. More search and monitoring customization too. Command Center basically takes Tickr and gives it… well, superpowers.

You know what though? We’ll get down into details of how to use it next week (we’ll also be launching a contest that will let you use Command Center to help you tell your story to the world). Right now, check out our revamped website and this quick one-minute demo of Command center‘s key features, how it works, and what it can do for you. (Click here or on the image below.)

Tickrnew004

See? Digital monitoring and social business intelligence just got 100x simpler, slicker, and more powerful. (You’re welcome.)

Cheers,

The Tickr team

Also feel free to join our growing digital community on Facebook and on Twitter and tell us what you think. (We won’t spam you. We promise.)

How Organizations Structure Social Media Teams

Infographic by- GO-Gulf.com

Last week, we came across Go-Gulf’s social media team infographic (above) and found some of the numbers on it pretty interesting. (The infographic was based on a 2012 survey of more than 2,700 social media professionals conducted by Ragan/NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions.) Here is what jumped out at us:

1. 27% of companies surveyed still have dedicated social media teams, vs. 65% of companies having evolved towards functional social media integration.

2. In spite of the fact that 65% of companies surveyed assign social media responsibilities to employees with other duties, a whopping 82% of these companies report that less than only 1-3 people in their organization are involved with social media.

3. Only 22% of the companies surveyed are planning on hiring for social media related roles in 2013, and 25% are relying in some part on interns to manage some aspect of their social media programs.

4. Only 3% of the companies surveyed answered that a business background was a most sought-after quality in their social media hires.

5. 47% of companies consider that 1-3 years of social media experience is all their hires need.

6. The top three types of degrees most valued for social media roles were communications, PR and marketing.

7. Not surprisingly, the departments most likely to be involved with social media are Marketing, PR and corporate communications.

8. How is success measured? 86% of these organizations use likes and followers as their principal success metrics, followed by web traffic (74%) and deltas in reputation/brand sentiment (58%). Only 40% mentioned lead generation and 31% sales.

9. When asked what social media campaigns should be driving, the responses overwhelmingly pointed to increasing brand awareness (87%), followed by increasing web traffic (62%) and improving reputation (61%). Increasing sales and generating leads hovered between 40 and 45%. Improving customer service was in 6th place at 38%.

10. Almost half of the companies involved in the survey post content on social channels less than once per day.

11. When asked about major roadblocks in social media campaign measurement, 65% pointed to lack of time, 63% on inadequate manpower, 41% on lack of funding, and 39% admitted that it was not a priority. 39% also admitted that they were unsure of what tools they should use, and 23% thought that the task was “overwhelming.”

12. Only 5% of companies surveyed are highly satisfied with their social media programs. Almost 70% of companies were either somewhat satisfied or dissatisfied with their programs.

What does this tell us?

1. The goals are still wrong.

For starters, brand awareness should probably not be the primary objective of a social media campaign or program. Second, increasing sales should not occupy the 5th place. If half of companies still are not connecting the dots between social media activity and sales, there is a fundamental problem with how social media is being used by the average business. Speaking of that, if only 38% of companies are using social media to improve customer service, we still have a long road ahead. Note that market research and consumer insights did not even come up as an answer.

Tip: Focusing on the wrong goals leads to generating the wrong results.

2. There is a disconnect between what companies claim to be focusing on and what they are actually measuring.

87% of companies surveyed state that their focus is brand awareness, but the principal units of measure for it, according to this survey, are likes and followers. (Note: net changes in mentions might be a better indicator of brand awareness.) So basically, they are measuring the wrong things. That’s not good.

While 61% of companies claim to be focused on improving reputation, only 58% of them actually measure it. A similar gap exists between the 40% of companies listing increasing sales as an objective versus only 31% measuring social media’s impact on sales. This is puzzling. Why are so many companies not measuring key performance indicators?

The survey aims to answer that question, but here we run into a strange set of answers:

Not enough time: 65%

Not enough people: 63%

Not enough money: 41%

Not a priority: 39%

Unsure of what tools to use: 39%

Too hard: 23%

Let’s address those excuses one at a time:

Not enough time/not enough people comes from the fact that 82% of companies only have 1-3 employees touching social media campaigns. Only 9% have 6+ employees involved with their social media programs. (Note that 78% of these companies have no plans to hire more social media staff in 2013.) Solution: either start deploying more social media responsibilities across the rest of your organization or get help. Either hire someone or partner with an agency to fill the gaps as needed.

Not enough money should have nothing to do with an organization’s ability to measure basic KPIs. That 41% of companies checked that box is pretty puzzling.

Not a priority came in at 39%. That’s just shameful. Measuring KPIs is part of the job. It should be a priority for 100% of social media professionals.

To understand the unsure of what tools to use/too hard excuse, we have to look at the background and experience of the average social media professional touched by this survey. First, the majority of these companies preferred social media professionals with only 1-3 years of experience to those with 3-5 or more. Inexplicably, only 3% of respondents identified a business background as a sought-after quality in a social media professional’s background.

Tip: if 97% of your social media professionals don’t have business backgrounds, how do you expect them to understand business measurement?

Not to sound harsh, but when 39% of social media “professionals” either don’t see KPI measurement as a priority or don’t know what tools to use to measure the success of their campaigns, then 39% of social media professionals don’t have the basic qualifications to even be social media professionals. Either train them or replace them.

3. Only 5% of businesses are happy with their social media programs. Let’s fix that.

No kidding. Let’s consider why:

- Let’s start with 39% of social media professionals not really knowing how to show the value of their own social media programs and campaigns to their bosses (or not thinking of it as a priority). Fix: hire competent professionals.

- Speaking of hiring competent people, if your team consists only of communications, marketing and PR professionals, it is incomplete. Your social media team (dedicated or not) must also include customer service professionals, product managers, business analysts, and salespeople. Tip: the reason you aren’t selling anything is probably because no one from sales is even looking at your social media program. Fix: Change that.

Once you start focusing less on marketing and more on customer service, you will see an immediate change in engagement. Expect a positive change in online sentiment inside of a week as well. You will also see a boost in mentions and recommendations. (Measure all of that.)

Also, once you start monitoring keywords and mentions (your brand, your products, product categories, mentions of behaviors associated with purchases of your products, campaign hashtag mentions, etc.) social media channels will become three things for you: a) lead generation engines, b) customer retention engines, and c) market research engines. So take the time to test monitoring tools. Use them side by side. (Build mini digital monitoring centers). Listen with purpose and we promise that the the value of your social media program will no longer be a question mark for the people you answer to.

- Now let’s talk about goals. Does anyone really think that brand awareness is more important to a business than sales? Of course not. If you don’t agree, here’s something to chew on: what does brand awareness ultimately drive? (Answer: sales.)

Fix: forget what social media gurus have been selling you in their e-books. Social media campaigns’ goals should be aligned with your organization’s goals. What this means: If your company’s goal for 2013 is to increase sales by 11% YoY, then the primary goal of your social media program/campaign should be to help drive that 11% increase. That will be its macro objective for the year. Now let’s look at the series of micro objectives that feed into that:

    1. Net new customer acquisition
    2. Increasing customer loyalty/retention
    3. Focus on customer development
      • increase buy rate / frequency of transactions
      • increase yield (average value of transactions)

Everything that your social media team does should focus on these three areas. The awareness, word-of-mouth, engagement, likes, followers, mentions and visits are among the many vehicles your organization should use to drive these specific outcomes. Think about how to build new value for your customers. Think about how to create better customer experiences. Think about how social media channels, activity and tools will help you become a smarter business, a better business, a more useful business, a more pleasant business.

Tip: Pair a customer service representative with a digital marketing person and let them work side-by side with a handful of monitoring tools for two weeks. Do the same thing with a salesperson and your PR/crisis management person. Then bring both 2-person teams together and turn it into a 4-person team. (They don’t have to be literally side-by-side, but it helps if you can work it that way.) The value of that type of cross-functional collaboration will become evident when your social media activity begins to drive the above objectives.

 Okay, that’s it for today. We hope what we covered here will help many of you improve your social media program’s results. (Let’s get that highly satisfied stat up from that lousy 5% by January 2014, okay?) We’ll keep bringing you tips and insights, so check back with us often. (We’re also on Twitter and on Facebook, so subscribe to our no-spam feeds there.) And if you haven’t added Tickr to your digital monitoring toolkit yet, just click here and kick the tires a bit. We’re pretty sure you’ll like it.

Cheers,

The Tickr team.

Don’t get any ideas. We don’t actually have a crystal ball in the office. Well… there’s the magic eight-ball and it’s never been wrong, but a crystal ball, no. Not yet at least. But as we have begun to find out, combining a few pairs of eyes, a little curiosity and some solid monitoring software is kind of the next best thing. Over the last few months, we have been looking at technology, culture and business trends to see what business wanted, what consumers wanted, where technology was and who was working on what, and we have come up with a few predictions for where things seem to be headed in the world of digital over the course of the next twelve months. Here are five that we feel pretty strongly about:

1. Mobile gets even bigger.

The trend has been pointing to an increasing shift from desktop internet access to mobile internet access for years now. This will not change in 2013. A few bits of relevant data:

A year ago, ebay bet big on mobile. The result: Roughly $10B in mobile revenue in 2012 (more than double what it was in 2011). That’s a purchase every 2 seconds. The company plans to continue to create mobile-specific transaction vehicles and content to make it even easier for sellers and buyers to use mobile devices. Mobile now also drives 22% of QVC’s digital sales. If you are not continuously working on making it easier for your customers to transact with you (or each other) via mobile devices, you need to. (Even if you are a small brick & mortar retailer, take a serious look at the possibility of enabling mobile checkouts.)

Of all searches on the web, roughly 30% now come from mobile devices. According to a BIA/Kelsey report, mobile searches will continue to catch up to desktop searches, generating 27.8 billion more queries by 2016. Even now (still at about 30%), this trend is especially important for brick & mortar businesses as the majority of mobile searches are local. Restaurants, bakeries, hardware stores, florists and other specialty retailers, take note.

Mobile paths to purchase are hot. A 2012 study by Telmetrics and mobile ad network xAd suggests that roughly 50% of mobile search queries in travel, restaurants and automotive verticals result in some kind of transaction. The number is highest for restaurants (85%), followed by automotive (51%), with travel lagging in third but at a no less impressive 46%. As stated earlier, the study also notes that local searches tend to have higher conversion rates.

If your digital strategy is not yet focused on mobile, time to change that.

Bonus: you can find pretty much every relevant 2012 mobile statistic here.

2. Apps take a bite out of the “old” web.

As tablets and other mobile devices are increasingly becoming our web interfaces of choice, apps are redefining how we think of digital access and web experiences. The “web” is quickly moving away from websites and turning to apps. While this does not signal the death of websites, businesses will have to think very seriously about how consumers are now accessing digital content, and what their expectations are in terms of digital experiences.

Some stats: There were 45.6 billion mobile app downloads made this year, nearly double the 25 billion downloads in 2011. Over six years, the progression looks like this:

2011: 24.9 billion

2012: 45.6 billion

2013: 81.4 billion

2014: 131.7 billion

2015: 205.3 billion

2016: 309.6 billion

Just as companies found themselves adding Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Youtube channels to their digital footprints four years ago, apps are cementing themselves as the new digital interaction frontier. Successful brands will continue to create a variety of digital experiences based on the types of interfaces their customers (and potential customers) use, and apps will become the increasingly crucial gateways between them and their markets.

3. Social media continues to be a mess of confusion for businesses, but… insights.

Confusion about how to properly use social channels to grow consumer communities, increase meaningful engagement, drive new business and increase brand loyalty will still plague organizations focused more on traffic and likes than on actually changing consumer attitudes and behaviors. Social platforms like Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Twitter will continue to struggle with their revenue models and long term value to users. Measuring success (including but not limited to ROI) will continue to mix sensible, business-focused data points and social media guru-driven nonsensical value equivalency equations and ROI calculators.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel: digital intelligence tool will make it easier to dig through social channels for consumer insights and paths of opportunity. By combining digital monitoring tools and a new generation of social channel-facing CRM solutions, brands with the will to derive more pertinent insights from specific consumers and their target markets at large will be able to do so faster and cheaper than ever before. Data analysts and consumer insights specialists will increasingly see their disciplines merge as their tools become more powerful.

4. Digital mission control centers to the rescue!

With an ever increasing need for real time market data and insights from Customer Support, Marketing, PR, Business Development, Sales, and other business functions, expect to see greater investments in digital infrastructure. Major brands and the agencies that serve them have already begun to build digital mission control centers that allow them to keep tabs on a variety of channels (many of them social) and track mentions of their brands and products, monitor shifts in perception (positive or negative), track the success of specific marketing and advertising campaigns, monitor consumers’ reactions to a product launch and correlate that data to sales numbers in real time, prevent (or manage) PR crises, conduct market research, and so on.

These mission control centers will vary in size and complexity, but the trend towards creating multi-screen environments for project management teams is accelerating and for good reason: the complexity of digital channels demands new solutions and a new approach to real-time information management. Don’t worry though. This new complexity is balanced by a new generation of digital monitoring, management and visualization tools that make it easier than ever for companies to manage campaigns and workflows and organize themselves around data.

(Speaking of that, we will be releasing a pretty hot new product very soon, so stay tuned. We’re pretty sure that you’re going to like it!)

5. Big brother gets pushed out by big mother.

We’ve all heard about big brother. Looking at the amount of information collected on us each day by search engines, social media platforms and even our mobile devices, it’s easy to start feeling as if our privacy is being incessantly invaded. Many consumers have already begun to push back against digital intrusion, or at the very least, distrust it. Well, the flip side of the privacy coin may just be the concept of big mother.

Unlike big brother, big mother is not interested in exploiting your data. Big Mother has your best interest in mind. Her main concern is to analyze your tastes and habits so she can better understand and predict your needs. If you are familiar with Apple’s digital assistant, think of a more focused and insights-driven Siri. So how does big mother look on the consumer side of the digital divide? For starters, she shields you from ads you don’t want to see and instead makes ads that are both time and topic-relevant visible to you. She allows you to control the degree to which you want your digital experiences to be interrupted by commercial messages. (For instance, you may want to turn off targeted ads and special offers while you are at work, but turn them on while you are out shopping.) She also allows you to be more or less open to local ads and offers where and when you want to be. Big mother is essentially an intelligent filter whose degree of initiative you can control. “It’s almost lunch time and I want to eat someplace new today” becomes a prompt for action driven by big mother’s insights about your tastes, the time of day, your spending habits and your surroundings.

On the business side of big mother, what you have is data. If you are a pizza restaurant, big mother can let you know that right this minute, 130 people who like to eat pizza twice per week are within five blocks of your location, and that 25 of them have their local notifications turned on. For a small fee, you can choose to push an ad or an offer their way through a social channel or SMS. This push notification will not come across as spam since those 25 individuals have made themselves open to them. If, like mobile search, 85% of passive prompts from a big mother-enabled device result in a transaction, an investment of a few dollars could result in significant net new revenue and potentially a whole new set of new customers.

This organic approach to real-time, predictive marketing works because consumers are in control of it. Remember “permission marketing?” This uses mobile devices to make it a reality. It also eliminates spam and scattershot targeting (which is no kind of targeting at all), cuts down on ad spend waste, increases conversions, and does it all without betraying consumer trust. Side benefits: increased potential for social discovery, more opportunities for word-of-mouth recommendations (digital and otherwise), facilitates (and relies on) mobile payments, and above all, saves consumers time. Done well, the experience itself will be fun and cool.

The idea behind big mother is to create value for both consumers and businesses. It’s to give everyone more of what they want and less of what they don’t. By combining consumer data, social data and mobile functionality, big mother is will begin to become a reality in 2013. The first company to successfully create a slick, user-friendly interface, the connective tissue that makes it work across an ecosystem of digital channels and the marketplace that makes it all possible will literally revolutionize digital marketing and mobile commerce. It may be premature to expect something like before December 31, 2013, but as the conditions are right (the technology is available and there is a real revenue model attached to it), we could very well see the first versions of a big mother app turn up sometime in 2013. We’re crossing our fingers.

There’s a lot more exciting stuff on the calendar for 2013, but we’ll leave it at that for now. Happy 2013, everyone!

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We’ve already talked about the many commercial uses for digital monitoring tools, how they are becoming increasingly valuable to public relations firms, marketing groups, customer service departments, product and brand management teams, CEOs, even investors. And we’ve only scratched the surface there, you we will have plenty of opportunities to dive a little deeper into those areas on this blog. The basic premise of every one of these discussions is that digital channels are simply sources of information. The more connected people are via these channels, and the more people publish information on these channels, the more we know what is going on in the world.

By “information,” we don’t mean people publishing photos of their sandwiches or their new shoes on Instagram. We aren’t talking about the infectious posting of political memes on Facebook, or pictures of super cars and outfit ideas on Pinterest, or sharing their current TV programming choice on GetGlue. All of those categories of publishing are great, they come in scales of value which we could discuss until we’re blue in the face, but what we mean by “information” is stuff that will become news within an hour, once news networks have looked into it and confirmed it.

One of the many game-changing aspects of digital media, especially social media, is that it has changed the way we find out about things. Being plugged into the digital hive puts us within earshot of a global grapevine. The result is that we can learn about events taking place in the world in real time, and in many cases faster than news networks themselves. If a 7.2 earthquake shakes a city in Turkey, we’ll know about it long before CNN reports it. If a SEAL team raids a terrorist compound close enough to a neighborhood in Pakistan, someone will tweet about hearing helicopters and explosions before the story ever breaks on TV. If a tornado touches down five miles from where a Texas resident lives, chances are that they will find out about it on Twitter before the emergency sirens ever go off. Whether you are a brand manager monitoring digital channels for signs of an impending PR crisis or a citizen monitoring digital channels for the latest piece of relevant news, having the power to control how and when information comes to you is becoming an expectation, a commodity, even. We all want and need fast, real-time notifications and information relating to pretty much anything that matters to us, professional and otherwise.

To get an idea of how social media – and Twitter in particular – have changed the information landscape in the last few years, let’s look at before and after snapshots of information velocity in regards to news creation and circulation:

 When we developed Tickr, our idea was to provide decision-makers and brand managers a tool that simplified monitoring and filled very specific functionality gaps in the monitoring solutions market. Whether an organization was still thinking about digital monitoring in terms of having a social media manager working with a couple of screens in a cubicle somewhere, or developing a state of the art dedicated mission control center with 10-15 giant screens and rows of workstations, we wanted Tickr to be the overwatch app, the one eyes fell on first. The one that would, in the blink of an eye, give you the most complete snapshot of what was going on in your world, good, bad and otherwise. We made it clear, we made it simple, we made it portable. What we hadn’t expected though is that people would start using Tickr for a lot of other types of monitoring, and not just to do brand management and business intelligence work.

We’ve seen everything from Amber Alert and Hurricane Alert Tickr pages to Zombie Apocalypse watch pages pop up in the last few months. We have also seen an increase in pages focused on keywords like terrorism, scandal, election, explosion, storm, even the word “breaking,” which is pretty clever. Someone shared an Iran Crisis Tickr page with us this week, even though there is no Iran crisis yet (and hopefully won’t be). When we asked the creator of that page why he built it, he told us that a lot of the Tickr pages he saves into his library are what he calls “what if” pages. He’s an online reputation management professional (which is to say he works in corporate crisis management), so that kind of forward thinking goes with the territory. He explained that he is also a news junkie, so his digital monitoring savvy bleeds into that part of his life as well.  Put Google alerts and Tickr side by side, and you have yourself a simple but very effective early warning system for just about anything you want. PR crisis, natural catastrophe, even missiles heading towards your house. And here, we come to the catalyst for this post: how Israel’s live-blogging of their missile strikes on Gaza might be a bit of a game-changer when it comes to the role social and digital media now plays in warfare, and how that affects both the role and importance of digital monitoring in 2013 and beyond.

This from All Things D‘s Mike Isaac:

The Israeli Defense Force, the official military arm of the state of Israel, has launched a full-scale combat campaign against Hamas, the Islamist party that governs the Gaza Strip area of the Middle East. But instead of holding an official press conference, as is protocol for events as major as these, the IDF took a different tack. It announced its campaign via Twitter.

[...]

It’s a fascinating case study into the realm of social media, and the ever-evolving role of the social channels in the political arena. Recently, Web-savvy political organizations wielded Facebook and Twitter as major strategic tools in the U.S. general-election campaigns. And during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in 2010, Twitter was methodically used to facilitate and organize demonstrations of civil resistance, ultimately playing a part in the toppling of multiple despotic regimes in the Arab region.

It seems, however, that the IDF is using social in a different way entirely. It is a veritable “Shock and Awe” online assault, with Israel live-relaying updates on the combat situation. Among the tweets are updates on the successful interception of enemy fire against Israeli troops, citations of Hamas-backed violence against Israel and briefs on sites inside the Gaza Strip which Israeli forces have attacked. Perhaps the most jarring of the IDF tweets came stapled to a single photo of a top Hamas leader; The IDF broadcasted the confirmed assassination of Ahmed Jabari (seen above), complete with Jabari’s headshot and a list of his alleged offenses.

If you are old enough to remember CNN’s live coverage from the first Gulf War in 1991, then you are old enough to remember that the world of news changed that day forever. In one night, CNN changed the news game forever. A decade from now, when we look back on this week’s live-blogging of Israel’s strikes on Gaza, we might think of it in a similar way. Whether it becomes a lesson about the wonders of real-time information or dangers of real-time digital propaganda remains to be seen, but the world is a little different today because of how the IDF used social platforms this week.

The lesson here is that media is evolving, and with it the velocity of information sharing. A hundred years ago, information came in the form of a newspaper or a magazine. Media was print. It took time. There were delays. Even with the telegraph and the development of the telephone, news traveled slowly. Seventy years ago, radio started to edge out newspapers in terms of the velocity of news. Then came television news, then 24-hour news channels, and the internet, then social, then mobile. Today, our portable devices ping us whenever we get an email or a text or a tweet or a breaking news item we care about. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing. If we want to, we can be notified of any kind of development anywhere in the world on our phone or tablet. All we need is the right technology and a little foresight to set up our very own customized alert protocols. To put this evolution in perspective, take a look at the next timeline/graph (see below).

In 2010 66% of media consumption was digital. By 2020, that number will jump up to 80%. Look at the acceleration in media consumption in the last hundred years. Look at the shifts in channels and technologies.

If you know what you’re doing, and you want to keep a competitive edge, however you were collecting information, data and intelligence a year ago won’t be the way you will be collecting it a year from now.

But with all of this, a word of caution, again from Mike Isaac:

 The IDF’s updates are coming fast and furious, but the information isn’t necessarily being verified in real time. It is possible that the IDF could be spreading misinformation strategically.

 There is a difference between a vetted journalism entity like CNN, the Associated Press or the BBC covering a news event in real time, and a non-neutral entity publishing its own information in real time.

This may be a good time to remind everyone that there is a very big difference between monitoring and analysis. Monitoring alone isn’t enough. Whether you are focusing on a PR crisis for a brand or following a developing news story, be aware that as social media becomes increasingly integrated into corporate, special interest and government communications programs, propaganda and misinformation will invariably become more prevalent there. So far, most efforts to publish disingenuous information in black hat campaigns on social platforms have been foiled. Fake bloggers posting fake updates are increasingly easy to spot. But through trial and error, social misinformation campaigns will become more sophisticated, and there isn’t a tool out there that can automate the process of determining real from fake information. You will still need to vet your sources, confirm statements, do your research. Organizations and individuals with the right tools for the job and the right best practices in place will have an advantage over everyone else, but it takes forethought, it takes diligence, and it takes a thorough understanding of what tools are needed for the job.

If an hour is an eternity in the digital age, even two minutes could make an enormous difference in the life of your organization or in your own. That’s the new reality of the digital age we live in. The advantage increasingly goes to those of us – corporate and not – with the fastest and most reliable monitoring and analysis practices.

Food for thought.

 Follow our feeds on Facebook and Twitter for a lot more updates and information about social business, digital media, monitoring and market intelligence. (We promise we won’t spam you.)

And if you haven’t yet, start building Tickr pages right now. It’s simple and quick, and you can take them with you everywhere you go.

In Part 1, we talked a little bit about the complexity of big data, digital/social monitoring, and the inevitable rise of mission control centers. Today, let’s talk about how to stay on track and avoid shiny object syndrome.

Why the most important question is always why?

First, let’s acknowledge that discussions between revenue generation-focused executives and budget-spending focused executives about how to measure ROI can be difficult and sometimes problematic. Command centers, in order to be worthwhile, have to demonstrate value beyond “wow, that looks cool.” Here, we run into the same types of discussions about value (and more specifically ROI) that we were having three years ago in regards to social media:

1. What is the value of having a digital mission control center? What will be the benefit(s)?

2. What will this help us do that we can’t do without it?

3. What will this help us do better?

4. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

A quick word about value:

Next step: Defining value for the entire organization. At its most basic level, the value of building a command center is twofold:

1. Built properly, it serves a real-time funnel for market data and consumer insights.

Examples: campaign management, product launches, competitive analysis, brand sentiment, message virality,  complaints, technical questions, lead evaluation, etc.

2. Managed properly, it becomes a catalyst for operational efficiency. (Though mostly, it adds velocity to consumer-facing response functions.)

Examples: customer service, PR, reputation management, crisis management, technical support, sales, etc.

Don’t just guess at the potential value of a DMCC. Sit down with every team and/or group in your organization and ask them how a digital command center could help them do their jobs better. Start with customer service, product management, marketing, PR and sales/biz-dev. They won’t just help you map out the operational value of building a DMCC, they will also tell you exactly how it should be managed, and by whom. (This will be the topic of Part 3.)

A quick word about command centers and the marketing function:

The primary function of any marketing-related endeavor is to help grow your customer community. That translates into three areas: customer acquisition, customer development, and customer retention. One way to address this particular focus is to link a portion of the activities enabled or supported by a command center to effecting changes in customer behavior. (Hint: When customer service monitors social channels, it begins to own a big piece of the customer development and customer retention parts of the community management equation. Add word-of-mouth to the customer development and retention mechanisms, and now customer service becomes a source of lead generation.)  Having a well thought out DMCC structure and building processes around it, a company can leverage real-time monitoring and turn data into insights, insights into opportunities, then seize upon those opportunities in real time.

A not so quick word about data, market intelligence and insights:

Hundreds of millions of people talking about stuff on the internet all day isn’t just data. It’s market intelligence. Throw in some simple programming that captures certain combinations of letters and numbers, and what you have now is the ability to track and capture mentions and keywords across dozens – no, hundreds - of channels. If someone mentions the word coffee in the interwebs anywhere in the world that isn’t behind a firewall, you can capture that. You can capture how many people are talking about coffee right now versus five minutes ago or an hour ago or a month ago. You can also look into how they are using the word coffee. Are they craving it right now? Are they asking for recommendations after a bad experience turned them off a particular brand? Are they simply comparing coffee to their personal preference? (Tea, for instance.)

You can even disambiguate: maybe they were talking about a color or a candy flavor. Maybe they were referring  to a commodities report or citing economic data from Colombia. You can see where in the world they are, you can look into their wants and likes and habits, you can see what they take pictures of, what TV shows they tune into, even track their movements by observing their check-ins. You can even divine some measure of their digital influence by using tools like Klout and Kred – however controversial they may be. If you sell coffee, that sort of thing might be pretty important.

Ten years ago, companies had to pay market research firms big bucks to be able to do that, and even the most sophisticated among them couldn’t provide this degree of specificity, this breadth of data, and certainly not in real time. Today, companies can bypass market research firms altogether and create their very own in-house market intelligence operations (at least when it comes to digital). In most cases, they will spend less and get more. But even if some feel like spending exactly the same amount of money they used to, they will still capture considerably more data and insights today than they could have ever dreamed of just a short decade ago. So it’s no surprise that digital monitoring has become a thriving industry. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a software vendor that sells some sort of digital monitoring, tracking management or measurement solution. And it’s been a while since I’ve run into a PR firm or ad agency that doesn’t offer some sort of social/digital (digisocial?) intelligence, expertise or service.

This brings us back to the new wave of digital command centers being erected at pretty much every digital agency and brand headquarters in the US today.  Some are still pretty rudimentary (one or two computers with a few screens running a handful of digital monitoring and management tools), while other setups rival mission control rooms like the ones you might expect from NASA and CIA. Even though it’s still early in the game and we all understand the capabilities open to us with these new technologies, the cost efficiencies brought to market research and business intelligence, and the quantum leap in effectiveness of this type of data and insight collection, it already seems that building digital mission control centers is becoming… a fad, something new and cool to do, the next play in digital services. We haven’t even gotten into this yet, and we’ve already forgotten why we were here in the first place. That’s the danger I want to address today.

Shiny New Object Syndrome – When style erodes function:

Pre-fad, the thinking around social media was this: “This could really help us fill marketing and marketing research gaps. Let’s figure out exactly how.”

Then, when ‘Social’ became a fad, the thinking switched to this: “We need a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Oh, and a content strategy.”

See the difference?

Pre-fad, businesses looked at investments in social media and social activity in terms of opportunities and outcomes: “How do we acquire new customers? Can being here help us figure out what they like and don’t like about us and our competitors? Can we use this to improve customer service  experiences? How can this take cost out of my model? Etc.” Once ‘social’ became a fad, the questions shifted to “how many new fans, likes and followers did we get this week? What’s our Klout score? How do we get more comments on the blog? How many visitors came from Twitter last month?”

What seems more valuable and business-focused: Pre-fad or fad?

We are now confronted with a similar problem with mission control centers – at least potentially: Pre-fad, a company considering an investment in its own digital command center would look at it in terms of concrete value. The evaluation might initially be driven by a question like “how does this help us do X?” (Campaign management, reputation management, customer service, consumer targeting, market research, sentiment tracking, ROI tracking, crisis management, community management, product marketing, lead generation, etc. Good stuff that will keep your hands full all day and then some.) But when the development of digital mission control centers becomes a fad though, what we shift to is this: “Can you build us the same kind of command center company XYZ has? How many screens can we fit on this wall? Should we paint the walls black?” (I’m not joking.)

“Cool” starts to trump function. Having a DMCC becomes a badge of honor, a status symbol, a digital marketing pastiche meant to impress visitors, clients, executives, investors and even potential hires more than serve a purpose. And you know what? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If the purpose of a DMCC is mostly to look cool, impress clients and make everyone at corporate feel pretty good about their investment in digital and IT, that’s fine. Aesthetics matter. If anything, it’ll boost morale across the company to have a state of the art digital Batcave. In a way, it’s no different than having an impressive lobby and gorgeous receptionists. BUT, wouldn’t it make more sense to also use that investment to drive more business? To increase customer loyalty? To know exactly what product gaps to fill in the market? To spot PR crises early, before they spin out of control? Doesn’t it make more sense, then, to focus on function before style? You know the answer to that question.

I am sharing these observations with you for a few simple reasons:

  1. To warn you of a common pitfall that comes with every adoption phase: Cool new toys can and will distract you from what really matters if you let them. As my friend Tyler would say, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” My hope is that if you understand how you might screw up, (and know the signs) you will hopefully know how to stay focused.
  2. To let you know that you can have a super cool DMCC that would make the producers of Jason Bourne movies and TV shows like Strike Back and not have anything concrete to show for it.
  3. To remind you that function defines design. Build a DMCC, but never lose sight of why. The why drives the how.

Stay vigilant and keep your eye on the ball. It’s easy to get distracted.

In Part 3, we will talk in more detail about operationalizing all of this and turning your DMCC into your organization’s secret weapon of awesome. (Yep, it’s a technical term.)

*           *           *

In case you haven’t added Tickr to your list of digital mission control center apps yet, give it a test drive.

You can also follow us on Twitter and hang out with us on Facebook (we’ll be your friend, even on the weekends if you want).

Digital Crisis management is hard work. It’s complicated work. But it’s also not rocket science once you understand the mechanics of the process. Today, let’s break down crisis management into five simple components (or phases) and briefly explore the structure of each one. Understanding how to break down a digital crisis management model that way, looking at what types of tools to use and how,  and going through a few general observations in regards to best practices will hopefully arm you with helpful guidelines should your organization ever find itself having to deal with… an unfortunate circumstance involving a lot of very angry people.

To illustrate how this works, we will look at screen shots of what @KitchenAid’s recent PR crisis looked like on our own dashboard. If you aren’t familiar with what happened and what the crisis was about, you can catch up here (just remember to come back).

Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Discovery

What the start of a PR crisis looks like.

One of the purposes of digital monitoring is to serve as an early warning system for PR crises. Every company should monitor social channels and news media for signs of a possible attack on their brand. The earlier a potential problem is detected, the faster it can be dealt with. It’s that simple. The question you want to ask yourself here is this: Do I want to be able to start working on fixing a PR crisis while it is still young, small, and easy to manage, or do I want to start working on it tomorrow, when it has already snowballed into a news story already being covered by CNN and the New York Times?

The more vigilant you are, the easier it will be to avoid major PR disasters. It really isn’t complicated. And thanks to modern digital tools, all it takes to set up an early warning system for your company is the will to do so, and a little bit of forward thinking on the part of your brand or product management team. (If you don’t want to do it internally, you can easily work with your agency of record to set something up.)

In the case of KitchenAid, the crisis was identified early. This allowed management to start working on it in that first hour, which is critical given that Mashable first reported on the incident about an hour after it happened.) Speed matters.

2. Analysis

The topic of conversation begins to change.

What does a budding PR crisis look like? What should you look for? How do you spot an avalanche before it starts coming down the mountain? It’s all actually quite simple. And… don’t think of it as an avalanche. Avalanches strike too hard and too fast. PR crises, for the most part, are more like waves. In regards to digital reputation management and crisis monitoring, fancy yourself more a surfer than an alpinist: along a timeline, crises look like waves. They’re swells. Your job, as a digital/crisis monitoring professional, is to watch the horizon for the next set of waves. Some waves are great. Some waves are dangerous. The trick is to learn which is which. (The metaphor stops here.) Here are some things to look for:

    • A sudden increase in volume of mentions.
    • A sudden increase in the number of retweets (RT).
    • A sudden change in sentiment (especially is the shift moves towards the red/negative.)
    • If you are using word cloud analysis alongside brand or product mentions to create context, watch for the appearance (and growth) of particular topics.
    • If one or more of your monitoring tools allow it, dig into the mentions, especially those that are negative, and see what people are talking about. On Twitter, pay particular attention to retweets. In the early phases of a PR crisis, people will be more likely to share a screenshot, a hyperlink to a blog post or a video than at any other point during the crisis. Chances are that whatever they are sharing will take you to the root cause of the crisis itself.

Note that in the KitchenAid example (see image above), blogs and social media channels were on to the crisis a lot more quickly than news organizations. The content window showing a Facebook conversation (orange circle) clearly focuses on the Twitter snafu, while the stream showing news item (green circle) still hasn’t caught up with the developing story. Multi-channel monitoring is key to spotting problems early and being able to dig into what is being said and why.

3. Response

A crisis hitting its peak. (Respond long before this point.)

How a company first responds to a crisis will set the stage for everything that comes afterwards. There is no room whatsoever for a faux pas. Incidentally, waiting to respond or not doing anything is a faux pas. The good old days of releasing a press release or statement in a day or two are gone. You now have under an hour to start responding to a crisis. If you really want to be on top of a crisis, you want to begin responding in under ten minutes.

Here is a quick primer on how to respond to a crisis quickly and effectively:

  1. Introduce yourself. Use your name and your title.
  2. Frame the situation for the public. State the facts. What happened? When did it happen? What is your position? Apologize of you need to. Don’t spin. Don’t lie. Establish trust and leadership.
  3. Communicate to the public what comes next and what they should expect.
  4. Communicate to the press the response schedule and structure, and the means by which they should obtain information from you.
  5. Communicate developments and milestones with the public as they happen (the frequency will depend on the crisis). Err on the side of giving them too many updates. Make them feel that you are dedicated to fixing the problem in the most expedient and transparent way possible.

To KitchenAid’s credit, this process is precisely the one that was used by Cynthia Soledad and the company’s crisis team, and it worked.

4. Management

Watching the crisis begin to slow down and deflate.

This part involves most of the heavy lifting. The crisis will hit its peak in this phase, so the volume of mentions will be higher than it has been in any of the previous phases.

How a company manages a crisis depends on a number of things: the crisis itself (type, gravity, potential market impact, etc.), its degree of preparation for such a crisis, its internal capabilities (technical, manpower, training, fluency), and its culture.

I should point out that it isn’t enough to take the pressure out of the balloon, so to speak. It has to be done properly, and in a way that makes sense for the brand. A simple way of looking at this: Say that Nike and Starbucks were to find themselves with a very similar crisis. And say that for the sake of argument, each of these companies had precisely the same degree of preparation, the same general guidelines, internal capabilities, fluency with crisis management, etc. One might expect that even with all of these similarities, Nike and Starbucks would respond their crisis differently. Why? Because each company enjoys a unique culture, a unique style of public outreach. Each company’s relationship with the public (some of who are fans and customers, while others are neither) is uniquely its own.

In that light, what is most important during the management phase  isn’t necessarily to have a crisis management plan (though having one would certainly help), but rather to have a thorough understanding of how to defuse public outrage, anger, criticism, even hatred, do so in a way that makes sense for the brand, and get through that process without antagonizing anyone. Companies have to walk a very fine line between defending itself and being in any way antagonistic. This requires that everyone on the crisis management team keep a cool head. No one can ever lose their temper. No one can get sucked into a public argument.

A note on internet trolls: Pay them no mind. As much as they may amplify negative sentiment during a PR crisis, trolls can only affect public opinion if they are given the power to do so. That power knows only one fuel: attention. The less attention a company’s crisis management team gives a troll, the less impact he or she will have on the direction, volume and duration of the crisis. It isn’t to say that trolls don’t, on occasion, need to be confronted and dealt with, but the management phase of a PR crisis is not one of those times. During this phase, a troll is just a voice in the crowd, trying to shout louder than anyone else. Try as they may, trolls can’t make waves in the middle of a storm. Remember that.

Control the message. Control the situation. Don’t get sidetracked by anyone whose aim is to distract you from your job.

There are essentially to main pieces to the management phase. The first is a continuation of the “update the public” function that began in the response phase. This can involve the creation of a crisis page and a Twitter account alongside existing communications channels. (BP did this during the Deep Sea Horizon crisis.) The second is the direct interaction between the company and the public across social platforms. That is where community management, the creation of discussion groups and tabs, the publishing of fact sheets becomes very important. In some cases, (like the posting of an offensive tweet) a quick explanation of what happened and an apology will do the job. In other instances, the problem goes far deeper than that and will require more work.

Examples: An investigation by a major news organization just uncovered that your company employs child labor in a number of countries around the world. A report from a global ecological watchdog paints your company as being a major source of air or water pollution. Your CEO has just found himself connected to a damaging corruption scandal. The batteries in your latest device can explode and injure your customers. (Things that won’t go away with an apology.)

By engaging with the public and listening to their complaints, a company can identify key topics they need to focus on. These topics will frame the conversation that the public ultimately wants to have with the company. The more focus exchanges have, the more likely it is that they can be shifted from pointless noise to purposeful signal.

Once a company has identified topics and themes, it can dig deeper and identify specific complaints that relate to them. Once these complaints have been clarified, the discussion process can now be shifted from conflict to collaboration. Remember that every complaint simply identifies a problem. Once a problem is identified, all the company has to do is acknowledge it, drill down into the details of the complaints around it, and ask the public how it would solve it. In doing so, the company’s relationship with the public shifts from one of conflict to one of collaboration.

The next step is to come to an agreement with the public as to what should be done about the problem, and how to move towards some measure of resolution that makes sense for everyone. Rededicate your company to fixing the problem, even if the best you can realistically offer is an incremental process that could take years. Make this a new point of focus for your company – an initiative. Pledge to work on this, and make it happen. Recruit the help of the public. Partner with them. Make them part owners of the solution. reward them for their help.

We could write a whole book on this topic, so it’s probably best to stop here… or this could turn into a VERY long blog post.

5. Post-crisis monitoring & advocacy

The crisis looks over, but is it really? (Make sure.)

This part is simply the follow-through. Now that the crisis itself has ended, it’s time to button things up. What did you miss? What did you learn? What comes next?

Don’t let the deflation of the wave of mentions be your only guide. News cycles are short-lived nowadays. People will grow bored of a scandal or PR crisis after a few short days, no matter how effective a company was at addressing and managing it. Just because people have moved on to another topic doesn’t mean that your troubles are over. Don’t mistake changes in the volume of mentions for resolution.

If the root cause of the crisis was not resolved, it will stick. It will become part of the brand’s story. It may even become the defining feature of the brand for years to come – a stain on its reputation that won’t easily go away once it grows roots. You don’t want that. A crisis can’t just go away. It has to be resolved.

What things look like two weeks later.

Drill down into the conversations. What do you see?

The only way to find out if it has been resolved or if it has just gone away for a while is to monitor conversations about the brand once the crisis has subsided. There is a short term piece to this, and there is a long term piece as well. You want to gauge the impact of what you’ve done, and make adjustments along the way until you can be certain that the crisis, its cause, and the expectations of the public have been worked through. Once that has been done, look for people who are not aware that you have resolved the problem, and politely, kindly engage them. Show them the progress you’ve made. Link to what you have done and what you are doing. Inform, inform, inform. Whom you inform, when, how and why can’t happen in a vacuum. Monitoring for specific types of opinions and conversations can help you target the right people at the right time with the right information. This allows you to get your message across quickly and effectively without requiring major media buys and hit-or-miss campaigns. Think major cost-savings, sure, but think also of speed and effectiveness.

To close our example, a quick look at the @KitchenAid crisis Tickr page two weeks after the incident shows no significant activity that might suggest a resurgence of the crisis. Digging a little deeper, we see that conversations have shifted from the incident to more routine, benign topics about the brand and its products.

How is that for using Tickr as a PR crisis overwatch platform? Not everything about digital monitoring and crisis management has to be complicated. We like to make things easier for everyone. It’s what we do,

As always, we would love to hear your comments, especially if you have PR crisis stories to share with us. What happened? What did you do? What did you learn in the process? Do you have any questions? Can we shed some light on anything? (Process, technology, best practices?) The comments section is all yours.

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, so we can have that discussion there as well.

And if you aren’t using Tickr to monitor the web yet (social or not), you can start using the basic version for free in just a few minutes. (If you need more features or more horsepower, the Pro and Enterprise versions don’t take much longer to set up either .) Start here.

Let’s say that you are a brand manager, an agency working with a brand, a journalist following a brand (or just an ardent fan of a brand,) and you need to know what is being said about that brand, where it is being said, by whom, and when. Obviously, Tickr takes care of that for you, but let’s look at how easy it is to use.

Let’s start by building a simple brand page in the basic trial version. For the purposes of this post, let’s pick Nike (iconic brand, lots of content, and Nike was in the news this week because of rumors of its new shoe’s pricing and the Lance Armstrong decision).

By now, you’ve created an account, logged in, and you’ve built your page by just typing “Nike” in the box. If you haven’t done that yet, start here.

After a few seconds, here is what your basic Tickr page for Nike should basically look like:

First, let’s get situated. Top left of your screen is your page tab. (See below.) If you are using the free trial version, you only get one page at a time. If you have signed up for the pro version, you can have several tabs per page. So what you could do there is do comparative analysis of say Nike vs. Adidas, or deeper analysis of the Nike brand by refining your use of keywords. For instance: Nike, Nike Football, Nike Soccer, Nike Shoes, Nike retail, etc.

Next, look to the top right of your screen. (See below.) Though when your page launches, it will default to automatic scrolling, you can switch to manual scrolling, either by clicking on the up and down arrows or the on/off button. Your choice.

You can also easily share your page with friends and colleagues, edit your page, and there is also a help page that will help you navigate all of the elements of the page in case you have forgotten how to do something.

Now let’s look at the content being displayed on the page.

As you can see, each source of data is clearly displayed and color-coded so your eyes can easily discern between blogs, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Here is how each source timeline further breaks down: the boxes of text and the images you see at the top of each timeline are called content windows. They are there to give you a sense for what kind of content is being shared and create context.

The gray blocks below the content windows make up the activity graph. You can interact with all of these elements at any time just by clicking on them. (See below.)

So for instance, if you click on the blogs feed’s content window featuring the “Just Do It – Four Steps to Filmmaking,” you can pre-select it. In the top right of that window is a little symbol with a box and an arrow. Click on it and you will access the page that the original content came from. (See below.)

In that particular instance, the link took me to Garrett Robinson’s blog (hi Garrett), where I can read the full post.  (See below.)

Now, if I were a community manager for Nike, I might decide to do nothing with that information… or I might reach out to Garrett and thank him for the mention, or make Nike resources available to him, or decide to share his content on a community blog, Facebook page or via Twitter. The options will vary depending on your role, your objectives, the opportunities and risks presenting themselves, but the point is that this feature allows you to go beyond simple content discovery. It allows you to drill down into stories, mentions and content, explore them fully, and interact with them at will.

What about the activity graph? Same thing. Click on any bar you want, and you will be able to drill down into a summary of the activity for that time frame. (See below.)

Once the window for that time frame is open, you can scroll up and down (or move to the previous time frame or the next without having to close the window, which is kind of handy).

Top right of each item in the summary window is a hyperlink, allowing you to go straight to the source if you want to. Same as with the content window. The feature also works with the Flickr feed:

See? Super easy.

On the macro level, a Tickr page works as a visual ticker that aggregates then organizes data from a breadth of relevant sources. Dedicate a screen to it in your office, lobby or digital mission control center, and you will immediately get a sense for the volume of conversations and mentions going on about your brand, what category of channels these conversations and mentions are taking place on, and what the nature of these conversations and mentions is. The page’s design and automated updates can therefore alert you to shifts in attention, to the impact of breaking stories, the possibility of looming PR crises, the effectiveness of a campaign, the stickiness of a message, etc. (We’ll get into those and more in upcoming posts.)

On a micro level, the ability to drill down into the content summaries then track mentions directly back to their source 1. allows you to understand then analyze mentions and conversations, 2. choose who you want to interact with and where, and 3. gives you complete control over the degree of engagement you want to have with your audience and/or community.

Combining Tickr’s macro and micro capabilities makes for a pretty powerful social media monitoring and management tool.

We’ll focus on more advanced features in future posts, so stay tuned. (There’s a lot more to talk about.)

In the meantime, feel free to try Tickr’s free trial version, and if you haven’t yet, unlock some new features by creating an account (recommended).

And as always, don’t be shy: share your thoughts and feedback with us, either in the comment section below or by contacting us.

We hope this post was helpful to you.

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