Blog all about it

Media critic and professor Dan Kennedy has written a spirited blog (or article) on the value of blogging, which strangely has become “old” media. (Compared to Twitter and Facebook, I guess.)  Here are some of his points, but I urge you to read the entire article here. 

  • The best way to become a good writer is to read as much good writing as you can. The best way to become a good blogger is to study blogs by people who know what they’re doing.
  • … you shouldn’t ascribe motives unless you’re willing to pick up the phone and do the reporting.
  • Remember the Dan Gillmor adage that your readers know more than you do — which is not to say that collectively they know more than you, but that someone in your audience might.

Kennedy also cites the work of Adam Gaffin, who is on the board of advisers for the MAPW program, and Marjorie Arons-Barron, who has consulted with Regis College. He also give a shout out to Mark Garfinkel, a former Boston Herald colleague and awesome photographer.


Ripped from the headlines

That could be the subhead for the second part of the EN 504 Midterm, which is posted below. One of the questions posed to students was how to deal with negative comments about a business posted in social media. It may seem like a no-brainer to not, as one student put it, “fight fire with fire. You’d think that folks understand that social media is a two-way street. You’d think that business owners, restaurant managers, civic officials and artists now realize that engaging in flame wars generally is not a good thing to do.

Think again.

Brad Moore found this side-splitting example of an epic social media flame war that got so out of hand that it attracted viewers, much like a street brawl draws a ring of cheering onlookers. See this link.Lyon-Griswold

He also alerted me to another example of Social Media Gone Bad, as in the case of the NYPD which tried to get citizens to post photos (selfies?) on Twitter with smiling, helpful police officers.  Polish the badge, so to speak. Boy, did this backfire.

Moore also cited something that has come to be called the “Streisand Effect;” that is, by complaining about something online you might be generating more bad publicity than if you just simply ignored it.

From Moore: Explanation with examples. A more professional explanation.

I knew about the general concept but was not familiar with the term, “Streisand Effect.” Now it goes into my toolbox of helpful terms. Even an old teacher can learn new tricks.

Hot and Cold Midterm

Students in EN504 did a good job on the recent midterm, an exercise in critical thinking in which they had to response to two scenarios. They did so well I will share some of their answers here. (WARNING: This is a long post but I think it’s worth posting the results.)

m211909006Here’s the first scenario, created out of the instructor’s imagination and some very real examples. Follow the links for those examples:

Midterm Question One: How to create social media for a client.
You have been hired part time as a social media manager for Polar Vortex Frozen Treats, a small retail operation in Weston. The owner wants you to help him “tell the story” about Polar Vortex via social media. What do you suggest?Here is the background:

In late 2013, David Dagnet took a long-closed roadside short-order 200px-Jan52014_polar_vortex_geopotentialheight_mean_Largestand in Weston and opened Polar Vortex Frozen Treats. Forty-year-old Dagnet, a lean man with a bushy beard, is a native of Weston who left town to open a successful office supply company. However, he always wanted to be a chef. He sold his company for a huge profit and returned to Weston to open Polar Vortex Frozen Treats, based on recipes handed down from his grandmother.  The ice cream stand has flavors like Arctic Circle Crunch, Zero C Chocolate, Halle Very Berry Cream and Icicle Swirl. There’s also Blizzard of ’78 sundae.  The stand also caters to pets: Dagnet remembers coming to the spot as a kid and being told to leave after his dog gulped down the cone of a little kid. So he has created special Doggone Good Cold Cream  (liver-flavored) that comes with a dog biscuit. He is hoping to expand his business, possibly opening a restaurant, and he’s thinking about creating a product line. He has a rudimentary Web site but really want to increase his social media presence.

Dagnet, who is married with five children and two dogs, has limited resources and wants you to make some suggestions about social media. You realize that Dagnet has a good story to tell so you start planning out your strategy, knowing you can’t do everything.  There one more complication: Dagnet has a partner who wants to “get on ALL the social media.” So you have to suggest a few social media options and explain why these would be the best.

What do you suggest?

Here are answers from students:


Photo credit George Thomas (Creative Commons)

USE TWITTER: For example, if a Weston high school team is having a game that day,
you want to post about coming to the store after the game.
SET UP A BLOG: The more content you create, the better your search rankings in
popular search engines like Google. You only need to blog about once a week and it can
be as simple as a few words and an image.
WHY NOT ADVERTISE: I would suggest paying for advertising on Facebook and
create a Facebook page that users can be a part of.
 Sometimes a status update isn’t enough to draw people in – they want to see
exactly what’s going on, and Instagram does that.
 A website post about a delicious “Blizzard of ‘78” sundae is nice, but a photo of
one will make mouths water!
twitter Photographs of a perfectly swirled ice cream or families and their dogs having a
blast while licking a cold treat are perfect ways to attract customers.
 Instagram: Picture of the Blizzard of ’78 Sundae* Cool off with your own
Blizzard today!
 …a Facebook page with large background picture of a group of kids, on a
beautiful, sunny day, with the Polar Vortex sign as the background. The kids
will all have different flavors of freshly scooped ice cream.
 Man discovered ice cream and all was right with the world. Join us at Polar
Vortex Frozen Treats in Weston to celebrate your humanity. (Include a picture of
some of your best sundaes).
 Are you sweating as much as we are? Well, come on down to grab a quick frozen
treat for you and your best friend! (whether it be dog or human!)

 The chef is cooking up some serious ice cream today @PolarVortexTreats
 Beat the summer heat and enjoy some ice cream @PolarVortexTreats
 Doggone delicious! This dog is in heaven @PolarVortexTreats in Weston.
 #Icecream eating contest at Polar Vortex Frozen Treats! Bring the kids! Bring
the pups! Fun for the whole family! As always, smiles are free! #PVFT
 “What is your favorite summer time treat from Polar Vortex Frozen Treats?
Tweet us back and let us know!”
Retweet if you find something that generates interest in your business and/or is about
your business at least twice a week. PROMOTIONS AND CONTESTS
 “When we reach 1,000 followers, customers gets 10% off one ice cream that
day. When we reach 2,500 followers, customers get 25% off that day and
when we get 5,000 followers, customers get 30% off that day.
 For example, you could post on Facebook that those who bring their ticket from
the Weston annual summer festival, could get half off their ice cream.
 Join us at Polar Vortex Frozen Treats today as we unveil our latest new
flavor. First 10 customers enjoy a free ice cream any size. Hours are 3 p.m. to
11 p.m.
ARF ARF: I Youtubehave an idea for a YouTube video where we start filming your shop and you
are speaking off camera about the incident with your dog eating the ice cream cone. You
can inform customers that they can bring their own pets for the special flavor of ice
cream for dogs, and you also have flavors for their human compatriots as well.
Do not allow accounts to sit idle – Idle accounts give a perception of a failed business at
worst, or a disinterested one at best. It is better not to have an account on a particular
platform, than to let it languish.

OK, that’s great. But wait, there’s more:

Midterm Question Two:  What to do when it backfires.

You’ve launched a social media campaign for Polar Vortex and all is going well.  Dagnet’s partner insists on writing the Polar Vortex Blog.  However, Polar Vortex starts to get some negative comments on Yelp and other social media sites complaining about the high prices. Then someone posts a comment on the Polar Vortex blog, saying Halle Very Berry Cream tastes terrible and the company is unfairly using the star’s name. The partner immediately posts a response calling the poster a dumb ass. He tells you he knows that the poster really is someone working for a competing ice cream chain and he know that this chain uses expired milk products for its ice cream. He wants to blog about it, or possible post on the competitor’s Facebook page under a pseudonym.  Dagnet is also worried and wants to block all negative comments posted in social media. They ask you for advice.

What do you tell them?

Here’s what the students said:

 Some consumers actually like seeing some negative comments on (business)
websites because it proves that real people are posting reviews and that you are
not simply writing a bunch of fake positive reviews.
 One bad social media interaction is not enough to turn away from social media
altogether. This is still a great way to increase your customer base and tell the
positive parts of your story.
 There are residents of the town who love the Halle Very Berry flavor ice cream
and will stick up for it and your company, so don’t you worry.
 First of all, all businesses will get negative reviews at some point. The best
approach is to exhibit excellent customer service. Instead of negatively
responding to bad reviews, I would suggest you reach out to the person who gave
the review and thank them for their insight and then ask them what you, as a
business, can do to make things better.
how_to_make_ice_cream_in_almost_any_flavorWHAT TO DO NOW:
 Let me set your mind at ease by saying that this is nothing new, nothing that you
can’t recover from, and something that you can take steps to prevent in the future.
Let’s dissect the situation step by step.
 I suggest recognizing the comment and making a formal apology via Facebook
and Twitter, as well as a longer post on the company blog. This will truly help the
company gain its respect back from the Weston residents.
 The best way to deal with the comments about your prices being too high, or
about the Halle Very Berry Cream name is through a blog post, but the right kind
of blog post. A blog post about why your prices may be higher than your
competitors is a good place to start – you can talk about your all natural
ingredients, your higher than average wages, and the costs of doing business in
Weston. When people feel properly informed, they will take your facts into
consideration in making their purchases…
 In order to recover from this you will need to delete your partner’s comment but
not the customer review. You don’t want customers to think that you are
censoring bad reviews because it will make the good reviews seem less genuine. BLOCK THAT PARTNER
 Do not allow him to take the kind of devious steps he is wishing to pursue or you
may find yourself in court without substantiated proof, and even if such proof
exists, it should go to the proper authorities for such matters (health department,
licensing board, etc.
 As for your partner, he should not reply to this situation with more negative
feedback, even under a pseudonym. Doing so is misrepresentation, and if
discovered will only further harm your business.
 Ask your partner not to post for the foreseeable future and disable his social
media accounts if necessary. Only you, and one other person on your staff or in
your family, should manage content on your website, Facebook and Twitter. This
will give your partner time reflect on the hastiness of his comments and stop the
situation from escalating further.
 Our customers are our number one priority at Polar Vortex Frozen Treats. We
recognize our business would be nowhere without our many customers. Recently,
a member of the Polar Vortex Family, unfortunately, offended one of our
customers on social media. Everyone at Polar Vortex regrets this event and we
are taking steps to ensure it does not happen again. Sincerely, Polar Vortex
Frozen Treats.
 Polar Vortex Frozen Treats would like to apologize for the negative comments
on the company’s blog. What was said does not reflect the beliefs of Polar
Vortex Frozen Treats.ViewMedia
 We apologize for the comments that were said over the past few days. We have
taken action to prevent this from happening again. The comments in no way
reflect the beliefs of the company.
 Contact your attorney and review fair use of Halle Berry’s name as part of an ice
cream flavor. Based on my limited research online, celebrity’s names cannot be
used to endorse a product without their consent. Given the publicity you are
receiving, you want to be prepared to discontinue using her name should her
representatives contact you.
 Make a post on the various forms of social media about renaming the ice cream.
But you won’t rename it, the customers will.

What do you think?