Facebook Changes and How They Affect Your Brand

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

Facebook released a set of changes to several of its features this week. One of these includes a change in the news feed algorithm that could help posts that were missed by a user get a second chance at engagement. Additionally, Facebook has begun to experiment with the idea of “trending topics” much like the similarly named Twitter feature.

The third and final change is the official roll out of the much talked about Graph Search feature, which allows users to search for more specific things inside Facebook, such as “Friends who Attended X College” or “People who work for X Company” or even “Friends who like X brand and live in X city”

The below graphic, shown at a special event hosted by Facebook this week, shows the network’s new focus on three of its services.


News Feed Updates

Facebook will add the news feed update to its current EdgeRank algorithm, but the most distinctive difference is that previously, each time a user refreshed their feed, new stories would automatically populate the top of the feed – even if they had a lower EdgeRank score than the stories previously displayed. The change in the ranking process now allows older stories that may have been posted earlier in the day but the user has not seen – to join the “new” stories at the top of their feed.

For example, if your brand posted something early in the morning that got a good amount of engagement, it has a chance to reappear on your fans’ news feeds later in the day, and get another boost from that second appearance.

This just reiterates that the focus of any good social media strategy needs to be based in good content that tells a story. The better the content, the more engagement the post will receive the first time around, and the more engagement it receives, the higher the chance of it reappearing at the top of a user’s feed.

Trending Topics

Facebook’s decision to utilize its new hashtag feature and experiment with Trending Topics opens a gateway for brands to join conversations and customize their content to suit what people on Facebook are talking about.

One of the biggest complaints people have about branded content on Facebook is that it is not relevant or it is not content the user is interested in. The new trending topic feature is a way to see what kind of content the majority of Facebook users want to see, because they are already talking about it.

Before, brands would simply use educated guesses about popular holidays, tv shows and news items to customize their content and hope that those topics were of interest to their fans. Now they will be able to tell what users on Facebook are talking about at that very moment, and will be able to use that information to ensure that they put out relevant content.


Click the image to enlarge.

Graph Search

While Graph Search has been available to some users on Facebook for some time now, Facebook has begun what they refer to as the official roll out of the feature to U.S. accounts. This new search function effectively allows a user to search for any single thing on the site – at least the things they would normally have access to anyway. Users can search for anything within the Facebook network and receive personalized results based on their friends.

While this does not directly impact your brand, it is a feature to keep an eye on, as it opens the door for new sponsored opportunities within Facebook. Not only that, but Graph Search makes pages more discoverable. A user can search for a “consulting firm in X city” and find new pages and companies that way.

Additionally, for brands, Graph Search puts even more emphasis on images. Graph Search can reveal photos and images in albums from pages and user photos where the brand is tagged – putting focus on photo albums (not wall photos) and user-generated content.

So What Can You Do?

It is important to know about these changes while writing your social media strategy. Knowing about these changes before and during their initial roll out will allow your brand to be ahead of the curve in adapting to the new way Facebook is operating. It allows you to have precious time to discuss a strategy and create content optimized to take advantage of these new marketing tools.


Creating Killer Visual Content for B2B Brands

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By Julia Prior, Account Coordinator

The verdict is in – compelling content in the digital age comes in the form of images. And it makes sense because images are an eye-catching way to convey information, feelings and news in an easy to digest and relatable manner.

But how does all this work for B2B companies?

Often a major strategy in a B2B plan is to position the employees and executives as thought leaders and trusted experts on the company’s particular topic. Images are a creative way to disseminate this kind of information to the general public.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership in order to promote its programs that help professionals grow in leadership and management roles.

Southern Methodist University Cox Executive Education (client) uses images like this one to share thought leadership.

By sharing a quote or industry insight on its own, you may gain a few customers that read it and think about it. But people are more likely to read and engage with the content if it is presented not only in short and sweet “snackable” sizes, but in a graphically creative way.

Instead of just sharing a headline or quote from an article, try pulling a sound bite sized learning out and creating an image out of it. You can then use the image to post to social media, or even use as an embedded picture with the article in a publication or on your website or blog.

The key here is to make the content interesting. Support your executives’ brilliant articles and thought leadership pieces with compelling images that help tell the story.

The easiest way to do this is to simply impose a quote or learning from the article into an image, as shown here. This gives readers a quality look at topics and draws them into the article. Make them want to read more.

High resolution images of your company’s product can also be used to this effect. If you work in technology, use the images to back up any claims you’re making.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Paradigm, Ltd (client) uses product images to demonstrate the capabilities of its software for geological exploration and reservoir characterization of oilfields.

Get creative with your visuals. Showing your product on its own is nice, but to really add weight and credibility to the image, try using a picture of someone using your product. Pair this with a quote from your executives or customers about the product or technology, and you’ve got a compelling image to use practically anywhere.

In addition to small, snackable sized images, give some thought to using the research your company has no doubt done to create your own infographic. By teaching the reader something unique about your industry, and supporting your claims and products with data and facts, you earn the readers trust and become an expert in their mind. Infographics are also a great way to show how your customers are benefiting directly by using your product or service.

Lastly, don’t forget the fun side. Take pictures at conferences and events, even around the office. Office birthdays and special events provide a chance to show your customers and the world what kind of personality your brand has. Give a peek behind the curtain every once in a while and allow your Facebook fans or Twitter followers a glimpse at what your company does at conferences or events.

Images are a great way to tell your brand story not only through social media, but to make your website, blog posts and contributed articles more interesting. As long as they are high resolution, professional in appearance and relevant to your overall messaging goals, images can be a great way to draw more attention to quality content, which will in turn draw attention to your brand’s product or services.

What kind of visual elements do you use to tell your brand’s story?

The Top 4 Social Media Penalties

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By Julia Prior

With the Super Bowl this afternoon, don’t find yourself committing a social media penalty. Here are the top four.

Illegal Formation: A tweet that has more than 140 characters, more than 3 hashtags or is too vague for the average person to comprehend.

Messaging is key on social media platform, but so is execution. It takes skill and strategy to communicate and contextualize your message in a quick, engaging and thoughtful manner.

Offsides: Retweeting a story you haven’t fully read. Always do your research and get the back story, and don’t just share things because the people you follow are sharing it.

What if there’s a point in the story that your company doesn’t fundamentally agree with? Read, research and strategize before sharing or posting anything. I cannot stress this enough.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Also known as trolling. Purposely commenting, posting or tweeting in a way to elicit a negative reaction from others and either de-rail a current discussion topic or to bring attention to your own brand by hijacking your competitor’s community. This can also be exhibited by brands who use hashtags and topics in their tweets to show up in trending searches.

Just don’t. It’s poor form, and frankly it’s very rude. You wouldn’t drop into a conversation in real life and immediately change the subject to yourself, so don’t do it online.

Helmet – to – Helmet Collision: Attempting to address and resolve a customer complaint directly in a public forum. If a customer takes to social media with a complaint, offer to contact them privately to discuss, either through a Twitter direct message, email, or even better, a phone call. Always offer your information first. Example:


Morton’s addresses the customer directly, in a timely manner (this replay was time stamped only 3 hours after the original comment was made) and offered another medium to hear additional grievances, with the promise to look into the issue.



Power Outage: Going dark and not posting for an extended period of time.

Social media is a relationship tool. You wouldn’t neglect any of your other relationships for an extended period of time, would you?


What do you think the biggest social media penalties are?

7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on Social Media

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By Julia Prior

There is no denying that social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. It has opened up so many ways for us to keep in touch with our friends, family and, more significantly, our customers.

But there are right and wrong ways to do everything and the same holds true in social media.

1.       Not linking your posts to other pages.

When you mention another page, person or entity in your social media posts, make sure to link back to their page. On Facebook, make sure to put @ before their name, and select them from the drop down menu that will appear. On Twitter, make sure to research the correct handle and use that in your post. A lot of times it will save characters, and all the time it will help your brand reach to other users. It also helps you develop a relationship with the brand. And isn’t that what social media is all about?

2.       Linking your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Yes, it is very easy, and efficient to link Facebook and Twitter and only have to post once. But Facebook and Twitter are completely different networks with completely different audiences and different engagement metrics. A few words and a shortened link work well on Twitter, but falls flat on Facebook. Take the time to rework your message, add in a couple details and tailor the link for the network.

Also, on Facebook, make sure to delete the link out of your post after the preview pops up. You wouldn’t say “Visit this Link. Visit this Link” so why are you putting more than one link in your post?

3.       Blatantly asking for people to “LIKE this if you agree” or “COMMENT with your favorite story”.

I read a fantastic post over on PR Breakfast Club about this. It’s pretty simple. If you create great content, you won’t need to ask for engagement.  True, it’s an easy way to get interaction and feedback from your audience. And yes, it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal, but don’t make it the backbone of your social media strategy.

4.       Not having a strategy.

We are communicators. Every word we write has layers of strategy behind it. So why don’t your social media posts have that same background? Every post should get you closer to your goals and you should know how it is going to do that.

5.       Liking your own Facebook posts.

Why would you skew your metrics and numbers by liking your own post? To get true engagement metrics, you need to know how many of your fans are interacting with your content, not how many of your employees are doing so.

6.       Automating all of your posts.

Scheduling posts has its time and place. It makes it easy to post on evenings and weekends when engagement is higher, and it streamlines the whole process. But again, don’t let it be your go to move. Social media is meant to be spontaneous and organic. Your audience wants to know they are interacting with a real person, not a machine.

And if you do schedule posts, please keep an eye on what’s trending and what’s going on in the news. You don’t want to be that brand putting out a promotional message amongst a stream of posts about Hurricane Sandy. Not only does it make you look uninformed, but it makes you look insensitive as well.

7.       Only sharing your own content.

It’s important to share your own content, yes. But it should not be in every post you make. Be sure to interact with customers and partners online as well. We always tell clients for every one post about yourself, you should have three others promoting someone else or building a relationship with someone else.

What else do brands do wrong on social media?

Five Reasons Why PR Should Lead Social Media Efforts

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By Robyn Brown

Who owns the social media function within an organization? Lately, social media seems to be shared among marketers, advertising, PR, IT, HR, customer service and even sales. A recent Social Media Club of Dallas gathering I attended confirmed this diversity. Clearly, everyone within the company wants a slice of the social media pie.

Here’s why I think PR pros should take the lead:

  1. Social media is a form of communication – a function managed by PR. It expands our option for sharing news, thought leadership and an organization’s story.  In addition to writing a news release, we submit a tweet, publish a video with a spokesperson or customer and write a blog article about the news. Jason Falls stated in Social Media Explorer, “Social media is public relations in the online world.”
  2. It’s a medium for social interaction. It satisfies the human desire for conversation. Once businesses realize this, they can open vibrant conversations with their customers and clients. In the current issue of Public Relations Tactics, Steve Cody of Peppercom, Inc. described the role of PR as the following: “We own the conversations. We understand better than any other marketing discipline how to engage in conversations and, critically, how to create compelling messages that will be passed along because they’re relevant and informative.”
  3. PR controls the corporate message and the story it shares to the public. We’re also best prepared to handle communications with the public during a crisis.
  4. Social media demands open and honest conversation. The minute you use corporate speak and sales language with online audiences, you lose credibility fast and people tune you out. PR is already comfortable conversing with different audiences and speaking their language. According to The Spiritual Art of Dialogue, “the key to successful conversation is being open and honest in expressing opinions, feelings, and theories, and having a willingness to share views even when the ideas are controversial and unpopular.”
  5. Journalists are now on Twitter – many looking for new story ideas. Media relations is still a PR function.

Whether you are dealing with negative feedback, communicating with the media, or engaging in conversation that represents your brand and image, a communications professional needs to be involved.

Epic PR Group offers this great analogy:

“Liken it to a cocktail party. Technology, legal, marketing, interns, etc. are all invited. But PR should be the host: introducing people, keeping the drinks filled, mingling and stimulating conversation, vacuuming beforehand to make a good impression, and handling ‘that guy’ who has had a bit too much to drink. The best parties are the ones that people keep talking about.”

Want Your Words to Stand Out Amidst the Clutter? Provide Value

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By Robyn Brown

I read once that there is more information in the Sunday issue of The New York Times than one person in 1850 would learn in a lifetime.

There’s a similar story online. In 2009, 90 trillion emails were sent over the Internet. Of the 234 million web sites that make up the Internet – 47 million were added last year. Twitter is now handling 600 tweets per second. Thirty billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every year. New content is being pushed to the average person at an alarmingly fast rate.

Communications professionals need to consider how to make their words rise above a mountain of information. How do we capture attention and keep it? How do we compete with… well, everything else?

There are millions of words out there. The best way to get yours read is to write things that people will value. Your content – tweets, blogs, article, news, videos – should help your audience. It should be thought-provoking and relevant. If it helps people improve knowledge, skills or their ability to complete a task, it has value.

Alex Bragg, founder of A Bajillion Hits, takes it a step further in a recent Fast Company interview: “You have to have killer content. You can’t just put any kind of garbage out there and expect the Internet to engage with it.”

Also, our attention spans are getting shorter. So, get to your point faster. Cut down on the number of words in your news release. Add bullets. I guarantee writing news in 140-character tweets is good practice.

Feeling the pressure

We recently worked with Microsoft’s Worldwide Oil & Gas team to share findings from its information and computing trends study. One survey finding in particular caught my attention. Over 44% of respondents said the information explosion in the upstream oil and gas industry has had a negative effect on their job performance.

Respondents complained about:

  • Difficult and time-consuming search of diverse systems to find information (44 percent)
  • Data appearing in unstructured forms not easily captured or archived (44 percent)
  • Too much redundant and/or unnecessary data available (35 percent)

I don’t think this trend is limited to just one industry. Most of us are overburdened with information.

Commit to rise above the clutter and respect your readers’ time limitations. As Information Age professionals, communicators should strive for content with value, brevity and relevance.

How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy Steps

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By Robyn Brown

Internships give a developing PR professional an education that a college course just cannot fully provide. After all, it’s one thing to learn about a successful PR campaign; it’s quite another to be a member of the team that organized and ran that campaign. Additionally, students benefit from being immersed in a professional work environment, interacting with AEs and directors and learning the silent mores of office culture.

The internship has an equal benefit for the agency. Often the research and support functions that an intern provides are crucial to the pitch, event or PR campaign. This includes media list development, research on trends and reporters, and tracking coverage so we can demonstrate results with our clients. Truly, interns can be key members of any PR team.

At Brooks & Associates, we have been fortunate to work with a number of bright and hard-working upperclassmen, who were eager to learn and help our team. Over the years, we started to document the good qualities that we have come to admire in our interns. On day one, we hand each intern the list as a guide for a successful PR internship.

So, here is our guidance on How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy Steps. Melissa Smith, our latest intern and now research assistant, contributed the first three.  Several others are borrowed from design firm Number 17, who knew what they were talking about.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share what you know. Trends in PR change so frequently and you as a student may have the best insight into what is going on NOW.
  2. Carve out a niche for yourself in the agency. Take on responsibilities and make them see that they just can’t live without you. You want them to miss you when you’re gone.
  3. Do your part in the office, but also try as hard as you can to tag along to client meetings. Not only will you figure out how these things work, but you will have made a new contact.
  4. Take your internship very seriously. (Seriously).
  5. Get in on time (without complaining about how early it is or how late you were up the night before).
  6. Listen very carefully and always take notes (just when people are giving you assignments, not during social situations). Keep a pencil and notepad with you at all times.
  7. Don’t feel entitled. (Your boss should not have to bend over backwards to accommodate your every need. She worked hard to earn the respect she receives and so should you).
  8. Find a mentor. (You are a fool if you miss the opportunity to soak up as much experience and knowledge from the people around you. Believe me: they will be excited to share with you… when they have time).
  9. Do more than is expected on every single assignment (unless more costs more).
  10. There is (almost) always something you can do (so let your bosses know when you are available; don’t just wait until someone notices you are free).
  11. Show up. People are relying on you. (A school assignment is NOT a reason to ‘call in sick.’)
  12. Understand that you don’t know it all (even though you feel like you do).
  13. Turn off your cell phone (even if your ringtone is really cute).
  14. Do not unnecessarily distract others who are busy working (even though Big Brother was particularly great last night).
  15. Bring snacks (sometimes sweet, sometimes salty).
  16. Be proactive. If there is nothing official for you to do, figure something out on your own. (Like get to know the magazine or periodical collection so when someone is looking for something you can be helpful. Or go through the case studies so you can really study the company’s work).
  17. Look out for opportunities to demonstrate what you do know and how you can contribute (but don’t push it – nobody likes a show off).
  18. There are (almost) no stupid questions. (Ignorance is not bliss, just ignorant and it can be a major waste of time).
  19. *Don’t just follow directions. Think about what you are doing while you are doing it. (So when the account executive says, “but that’s full of typos” you won’t have to say “I know!”).
  20. Be eager to learn and people will be more likely to teach you.
  21. Don’t take it personally. The road to success is a bumpy one and you won’t grow unless you make mistakes.
  22. Never stop learning. From day one to day 1,351 – you will never run out of new things to learn.
  23. Don’t be afraid to show the rest of your team that you are overwhelmed or stressed out. This is not a sign of failure. Most likely, they have been there too and can probably help you out.
  24. Find opportunities to apply what you just learned in class to a client activity. Perhaps your professors will allow class credit for a project you took on at the agency.
  25. Be social media savvy. Account teams look to the younger generation for insight on social media apps and how to use them for PR projects. (This does not mean you are allowed to play on Facebook all day).
  26. 26. Understand that the success of the internship is (almost) entirely up to you.

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