My experience at the UN Population Fund and why US should not defund it

I am not a numbers person but someone who purely believes in an individual’s or an organisation’s good work. I stand by those who have come forward and done something right and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)  is one such organisation. Having been associated to the UNFPA in New York for a brief period, I can definitely say that I am extremely proud of the work that they do for the society.

I do not always rely on numbers but a recent decision by the US to cut about $32.5 million in funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is appalling. This decision is sure to effect millions of vulnerable people across the globe who purely survive on the goodwill of the United Nations. The UNFPA’s mission is – “To ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”. How can one not get behind this?

Copyright_UNFPA_l_Prashant_Gurjar_Invest_in_Girls (1)Photo courtesy – UNFPA India

Having had the privilege of working with UNFPA as an intern, I was associated with different teams within the Media and Communications Branch which opened my eyes to the various issues concerning young people, women and girls most in need. I had the opportunity to work with teams such as the Maternal Health and Youth and Population team. This experience not only gave me an understanding of the work that is carried out across the world by this wonderful agency but also a strong feeling of the sense of purpose that runs within every employee and volunteer who works with it as a force for good.

So what does the UNFPA do?  True to its mission, the UNFPA provides maternal care to vulnerable women who are victims of issues such as gender discrimination, war and poverty. It provides treatment to women who suffer stigma and social taboo for no fault of their own by providing treatment for obstetrics fistula. Furthermore, it helps spread awareness and educate local communities about how it can be prevented and helps with reintegration. Be it the refugee camps of Jordan and Syria or a remote village in Africa and other parts of the world, UNFPA volunteers and employees ensure safe childbirth. The UNFPA’s mandate reiterates that every young person’s potential is fulfilled. It provides a platform for youth across the world to share their voice and play a role in their future.
Zaatari-Baby_0Photo Courtesy – UNFPA

So why do I care? This decision to defund the UNFPA can have the effect of stopping a midwife in Africa from training, can shut the voice of a young adult who might be fighting to curb Female Genital Mutilation and it can have the effect of reducing the chances of safe childbirth in places like Syria and Iraq which are suffering from the pain of war and senseless destruction. The UN system may not be perfect, but without the UNFPA the world is a much bleaker place.

In light of the cut in funding by the US, I hope that other donor countries will hopefully come together and contribute more to sustain this important work. I am currently not associated with the UNFPA in any way but having witnessed their sincere and dedicated effort, I urge everyone to open their hearts and show support. Please spread this message, go online – http://www.unfpa.org/donate and donate to the organisation where ‘every life counts’.

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Social Media: Pitfalls to avoid

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As I was walking by the Indianapolis canal, I realised that there are some basic mistakes that even experienced users of social media make quite often while promoting a brand. We are equipped with social media marketing techniques that have pros and cons. Through social media, we try to create an identity of our own and of our brands. It can make or break the image for consumer and investment market. A clean and informative website has the ability to rope in more clients and bring in more business. For all of us involved in the business of social media, it is important to be aware of the common mistakes that should be avoided.

Redundancy : Avoid redundancy. As the statement mentions, every company would like to involve itself in promoting their brand. Get something new and creative which involves consumers attention and involvement. As mentioned in James. E. Grunig’s Two-Way symmetrical model “Use communication to negotiate with the public, resolve conflict and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its stakeholders”. Business grows when there is a proper communication channel.

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Brands to fans and fans to brands:  In one of my previous posts, I had mentioned that its easier to work with social networking sites which consist of crowds or potential consumers. As new social networking mediums mushroom with each passing day, it would get harder for companies to pull crowds where your brand is. Don’t be all over the place. It important to be consistent with the content and to be responsible with it as it makes an impression with the public. Advertising costs will get higher depending on the demand of the social networking firm.

Being inactive: Don’t go into extreme ends. It might get tricky when the social media venue is left inactive for long periods, especially when the brand is building an audience or attracting potential consumers. You might have a great looking profile picture and cover photo but go ahead and change it at regular intervals. Have fans and followers comment on the new picture. Have a ready reply after a few days so get them engaging. Brands don’t speak for themselves, the company gets the brands close to their audience.

Not having a ready plan: Social media has the ability to change the game plan. Its essential for companies to have a concrete plan in mind before working on a social media plan. Working on a timeline can get things moving actively. Making the social networking sites a job channel, interactive channel etc. can get traffic going.

Not being result oriented: Measure your traffic.  Have projection to bring in results. A haphazard presence on social media can get things haywire. There are many ways of measuring results of the work done online.

These are some of my thoughts on the common mistakes to avoid on social media. Pulling a great plan together, having good content, two flow interaction will gets working and intact.

Being social or giving social?

What makes you or your firm different from the others? Does the world know that you exist? Who are your major influencers in the market and what does your existing audience think of you? You make a mark only when you create a platform for yourself and your firm. From time immemorial, communication has grown in leaps and bounds and so have the companies in the market. The two main motives of starting a firm are to increase service and have a consistent income or in laymen terms, have profits. Initially, the ideas were to get what we have invested and the second to gain profits on what we have invested.  My article this time is about return on investment in social media.

ROI-of-Social-Media

 

I found this interesting picture online. Return on investments, as investopedia defines is ,” a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.”

The return on investments formula: The return on investment’s formula: 

Return On Investment (ROI)

 

Applicable to all investments, ROI is mandatory for every business. Social media is good form of measuring the investment. Through sites like facebook, twitter, pinterest and other progressive sites under the domain of social media, experts can calculate the interest rates of audience. Every likes, comment, share, pin, retweet etc counts. The number of likes helps understand the research of the product, share helps us with the spread of the idea, comment with analyzing the thought and retweet with the element of interest. The better the news, the more likely it is to be shared. Pictures make good impact with respect to generating interest. It is ideal to use tools of this sort to measure success. Visual approach can help bring more awareness amongst the audience. Coca Cola for instance has been in the market for over a century. It has brought about change in the way its consumer thinks. Every season they have a background and come out with so classic tagline to hold on to the trust. Their reign over the market continues as they have complete control over their audience. In my opinion, a good business can be built on the bases of trust and good will. Instead of pulling audience to their side, Coca Cola came to the source where their audience is present. Little did they know, that they would join the league of companies that are most watched on the internet. Other companies include starbucks, zappos, hp, ford etc.

Giving discounts, coupons and other promotional material have paved way for new generational ideas. Gone are the days when consumers scanned to the newspaper to get discounted and subsidized goods. In a country like India, the future of social media has a long way to go. Even governmental schemes are put up on their websites for promotions. The target audience is reduced to illiterate and unaware population. A huge chunk of the populations depends on television as a source of building awareness.

Expanding audience base on web has undergone substantial change over the years. From the traditional email to pining your interest, it is evident that the gap is equivalent to a generational. Today, not many read their emails unless necessary. Where as many make it a point to check their social media accounts atleast once in a day. Almost all known companies in the market have created accounts on social media sites to get closer to audience.

The article Social Media ROI – How to Achieve: User Engagement With Your Brand (http://www.business2community.com/social-media/social-media-roi-how-to-achieve-user-engagement-with-your-brand-0422877#y21V0vwXsg58pwPv.99) emphasizes on the many mediums that a firm could use to increase their audience base. Are you creator or a experiencer? It is essential for a firm to get into the shoes of an audience at times to experience what they are. The article also talks about how social media has become an instrument that cannot be avoided while promoting. Another factor mentioned in the article is generate interest through posing questions, expressing concerns, asking for feedback, encouraging to share, visual portrayal etc.

On the contrary, I couldn’t agree more with the article written by Spencer Richardson in his article, “How valuable is social media audience, really?”, which raises a debate as to whether audience on social media are really influenced or no. (http://mashable.com/2012/12/01/maximize-audience-value/ ). For many this might be just another way of communicating and promotion. The author observes, ” A major challenge facing marketers is working with environments where they don’t actually own their audience; rather they are merely renting those relationships. This difficulty is not by accident. It’s a manufactured problem stemming from the competing interests of the social media platforms on which audiences are being built”. The conventional form of communicating over the internet through email still remains the primary access point for many consumers. Majority of consumer thought is based on what they watch the most which in turn goes around in their mind. Innovation on web is the primary source of increasing audience.

Social media gurus observe that scheduling your content before hand which is inline with the popular talk can gauge audience interest. Building an effective return on investment in social media plan is like designing a speakers bureau plan. Both need training and strategizing. Nichole Kelley, author of “How to measure social media ” expresses her views by saying that over the year marketers have defined social media in different ways. In an interview with socialmediaexaminer.com, ” Nichole believes one of the reasons social ROI is a challenge is because marketers have redefined the metrics used to measure social media. Words such as mentions and retweets are similar to what was measured before. But now people have decided that social media is special, and therefore needs to be measured in a special way”. I agree with her on this point. For any measurement, it is important for the company to focus on the doable as well as the risk that can been foreseen.

Keeping all of the above in mind, even though return on investment is an essential factor for firms that use social media, it is not a necessary factor to invest only in social media. Applications like google analytic wildfire, Interactive, buddymedia etc. can help with measuring. In the ocean called business, social media is an island. Innovation is the key to creating ideas and awareness among audience.

Applicable to all investments, ROI is mandatory for every business. Social media is good form of measuring the investment. Through sites like facebook, twitter, pinterest and other progressive sites under the domain of social media, experts can calculate the interest rates of audience. Every likes, comment, share, pin, retweet etc counts. The number of likes helps understand the research of the product, share helps us with the spread of the idea, comment with analyzing the thought and retweet with the element of interest. The better the news, the more likely it is to be shared. Pictures make good impact with respect to generating interest. It is ideal to use tools of this sort to measure success. Visual approach can help bring more awareness amongst the audience. Coca Cola for instance has been in the market for over a century. It has brought about change in the way its consumer thinks. Every season they have a background and come out with so classic tagline to hold on to the trust. Their reign over the market continues as they have complete control over their audience. In my opinion, a good business can be built on the bases of trust and good will. Instead of pulling audience to their side, Coca Cola came to the source where their audience is present. Little did they know, that they would join the league of companies that are most watched on the internet. Other companies include starbucks, zappos, hp, ford etc.

Giving discounts, coupons and other promotional material have paved way for new generational ideas. Gone are the days when consumers scanned to the newspaper to get discounted and subsidized goods. In a country like India, the future of social media has a long way to go. Even governmental schemes are put up on their websites for promotions. The target audience is reduced to illiterate and unaware population. A huge chunk of the populations depends on television as a source of building awareness.

Expanding audience base on web has undergone substantial change over the years. From the traditional email to pining your interest, it is evident that the gap is equivalent to a generational. Today, not many read their emails unless necessary. Where as many make it a point to check their social media accounts at least once in a day. Almost all known companies in the market have created accounts on social media sites to get closer to audience.

The article Social Media ROI – How to Achieve: User Engagement With Your Brand (http://www.business2community.com/social-media/social-media-roi-how-to-achieve-user-engagement-with-your-brand-0422877#y21V0vwXsg58pwPv.99) emphasizes on the many mediums that a firm could use to increase their audience base. Are you creator or a experiencer? It is essential for a firm to get into the shoes of an audience at times to experience what they are. The article also talks about how social media has become an instrument that cannot be avoided while promoting. Another factor mentioned in the article is generate interest through posing questions, expressing concerns, asking for feedback, encouraging to share, visual portrayal etc.

On the contrary, I couldn’t agree more with the article written by Spencer Richardson in his article, “How valuable is social media audience, really?”, which raises a debate as to whether audience on social media are really influenced or no. (http://mashable.com/2012/12/01/maximize-audience-value/ ). For many this might be just another way of communicating and promotion. The author observes, ” A major challenge facing marketers is working with environments where they don’t actually own their audience; rather they are merely renting those relationships. This difficulty is not by accident. It’s a manufactured problem stemming from the competing interests of the social media platforms on which audiences are being built”. The conventional form of communicating over the internet through email still remains the primary access point for many consumers. Majority of consumer thought is based on what they watch the most which in turn goes around in their mind. Innovation on web is the primary source of increasing audience.

Social media gurus observe that scheduling your content before hand which is inline with the popular talk can gauge audience interest. Building an effective return on investment in social media plan is like designing a speakers bureau plan. Both need training and strategizing. Nichole Kelley, author of “How to measure social media ” expresses her views by saying that over the year marketers have defined social media in different ways. In an interview with socialmediaexaminer.com, ” Nichole believes one of the reasons social ROI is a challenge is because marketers have redefined the metrics used to measure social media. Words such as mentions and retweets are similar to what was measured before. But now people have decided that social media is special, and therefore needs to be measured in a special way”. I agree with her on this point. For any measurement, it is important for the company to focus on the doable as well as the risk that can been foreseen.

Keeping all of the above in mind, even though return on investment is an essential factor for firms that use social media, it is not a necessary factor to invest only in social media. Applications like google analytic wildfire, Interactive, buddymedia etc. can help with measuring. In the ocean called business, social media is an island. Innovation is the key to creating ideas and awareness among audience.

Advantages of social media in business

For some it means spreading the word through technology for others it means hype, while some feel there is financial multiplication in companies accounts, others think its consumption of productive time. There have been several arguments over the use of social media in business. A little after Mark Zuckerberg launched his dream project named “Facebook”, the thought of online business and promotion emerged. Have you noticed the shift in tradition that emerged? Technological devices have become more and more interesting, thanks to the evolution of social media which did not exist a decade ago. As we transcend into the new future of business, here are a few observations on social media in this day and age and the impact.

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Social media in the growing business:

The reliability factor on social media has grown leaps and bounds over the years. Both socially and economically, the trust factor has taken an upper hand when it comes to social media. The more accessible to target audience, the more demand for social media managers. While the impact of social media might differ from one industry to another, it has always brought about new perspective and usage of the product. Many companies credit the accessibility of sources and the outreach for the growth of the firm. My article on social media return on investment, “giving social or being social”  throws light on achieving the profitability of an organisation through spreading public online awareness. A recent example is of McKinsey& company believes that a tremendous amount of knowledge is untapped and can be made available to people through social media. The website quotes,” The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, explores their potential economic impact by examining their current usage and evolving application in four commercial sectors: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services. These technologies, which create value by improving productivity across the value chain, could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four sectors”.

Social Networking:

Social media is a big domain consisting of gamut of social networking sites like facebook, twitter, pinterest, reddit, stumbleupon, google+ etc. Function for each of these sites differ from one another but play around with the central theme of meeting and making new friends  and connecting with old ones. Social networking is a platform that allows, in simple terms producers with its consumers. It is a form of mass communication that is targeted toward general audience. Anyone and everyone can get a feel of the product through social media sites. My article, “Public Relations Vs/+ social media” emphasized on the new media techniques to conquer business. Some of the companies that have not only made their mark on global market but have also put a foot forward and succeeded in social media marketing are Coca Cola, ford, HP, Starbucks etc. Coca Cola for example has seen tremendous sales through social media promotion than through traditional approach of marketing. Wendy Clark, the senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities, of Coca Cola opines,” Reach, engagement, love and value are the markers of success we use for our campaigns. We measure these in a variety of ways, often with our media partners. In beta testing with facebook, we’ve been able to track closed-loop sales from site exposure to in-store purchase with very promising initial results that are above norms for what we see with other media”.

Personal Branding:-

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Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” – Warren Buffett, Investor and philanthropist

What benefits does an individual have with social media? I found this interesting article on Forbes which talks about personal branding ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/04/03/how-to-showcase-your-personal-brand-in-a-job-interview/)

Social media gives you an opportunity to build your virtual profile. Every activity online is taken into consideration while recruiting a potential profile. For instance, employers are highly focusing on going through a potential candidate’s personal social media profiles before calling for an interview. Social networking site like linkedin, which is specifically to connect and interact with professional brings in an avenue to put forward the candidate’s talent. The portfolio is a longer version of the resume with a picture attached. Its a platform that promotes an institution called YOU! Business and personal contacts can be easily built through these social networking sites. Employers look for candidate’s recommendations and work profile through job description mentioned.

I would like to end this topic with a small discussion by Forbes about Social media and consumers- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU9UTyNW_no

Social Media vs/+ Public Relations?

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Organizations, corporations and individuals use communication to express themselves in a variety of manners. A typical organization has a number of divisions which work towards enhancing its reputation among its publics. These divisions , such as public relations and sales, were considered to be two entirely independent branches with very little in common. Such an approach towards communication management was commonly adopted because historically these disciplines emerged independently of one another and dealt with disparate subject matters. However, over the years the scope of these disciplines expanded to the extent where some of their defining principles overlapped with each other and caused considerable confusion within an organization. Eventually, it is because clear that such a rigid communications strategy resulted in less than optimal utilization of resources and causes a lot of management overhead. The emergence of Integrated Communications was encouraged by the growing need for more holistic and flexible approaches towards communications management. The goal of Integrated Communications is to take into account the overall strategy of a company and combine traditionally disparate communication agencies of marketing, public relations, sales, advertising etc, and devise a coherent strategy that drives all these efforts towards the common goal of enhancing the reputation of the organization.

The power of social media is inexpressible these days. It has the ability to either elevate or depress a company. Social media sites like facebook and twitter have become a criteria to check before analyzing a candidate. Employees search for a potential employee’s facebook accounts and twitter handles before calling them for an interview. But has social media become a synonym for public relations? Or has social media become a completely different entity? Do we need have a future with these sites and what is the future of public relations?. Networking plays a vital role is improving business and clients. I have analysed two articles that talk about the impact of social media on public relations and analyzing the impact of social media: from facebook and twitter..An era when every company is expected to have a social media account, especially facebook and twitter, the competition in the market has increased. A lot of times, promotion on social media is more effective that the traditional approach.

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The article “the impact of social media”  (http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/03/21/impact-social-media-public-relations) portrays social media as an entity that has brought companies close to people. The goal has shifted from pulling crowd to going to the place where crowd is present. Molding audience to your thought was the classical approach whereas taking feedback and implementing their ideas is the new way. Nigel Ferrier, director, Optimise PR and executive chairman, FPCG says, “It used to be B2B and B2C but now it’s B2P, with P being people. Social media cuts across channels and is all about engaging with individuals, holding conversations not relying on press releases and launches”.  The author also emphasizes on the need of accurate privacy setting that does not create controversies. Every coin has two sides, in the same way, while on one hand, social media enhances the business opportunities of firms, it is evident that this also has ill effects if not handled properly. Instagram’s private policies lost out on a few million users.

Have social media and Public relations become synonyms?

The answer is no. I think that social media is one of the tools of public relations that bridges the gap between the company and the audience. It puts forward the mirror image of the companies thoughts. Every social media site has a saturation point, when one dies, the other rises. Orkut was kicked out of the market after the emergence of facebook. And facebook has one of the largest number of accounts on social media.Pete Goold, Managing director, Punch Communications observes, “The ideal is to have the appropriate areas working harmoniously and irrespective of which one leads the activity; ensuring that there is openness across the team is likely to create the best outcome”.  In my opinion, PR’s traditional toolbox lend the profession to leading the way in social media.  The article points out that PR pro must build on their technical and quantitative skill. Adam Lewis, managing partner, immediate future emphasizes that “Column inches, circulation and the dodgy old advertising equivalent value have been the mainstay of PR measurement for far too long. In contrast social media provides hundreds of potential KPIs, covering not just reach, but engagement, sentiment and loyalty. Understanding the value of social media means having a more analytical mind that can decipher the relationship between things like retweets, comments and authority. Most PRs are not naturally technically minded.- they are creative, people. But they need to know the difference between an API, BIT.LY, App, CSS and CMS for example.”

“Analyzing the Impact of Social Media:From Twitter to Facebook”  (http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/03/21/impact-social-media-public-relations) is a white paper written by Vocus. It is an interesting article as it highlights the nuances of the usage of social media and its impact. While online marketing has a upper hand on social media, carefully understanding the function is important.  The author quotes the example of Dominos, whereas the prank played by two employees of Domino’s pizzas created rage on social media. It not only costed them their jobs and a case against them but also brought bad reputation to the company.  Similarly, Mcdonalds idea to promote their brand through #meethefarmers and #mcdstories ended up being disaster. Users started posting their bad experiences on social networking sites. Its important for one to research before giving power to post in public and accordingly evaluate the work done. The author explains in detail the indicators of impact. Sharing is one of the common ways of measuring the impact of a story. The more the shares, the more people have gone through and have addressed it. A few methods measuring the impact  are by generating sales leads,  the word passes across various channels . As the market is growing , it is vital to coordinate with the marketing and sales department. Customer satisfaction and feedback is necessary in every industry. People, follow or like you only if the product has reached their level of satisfaction. This is a good way of understanding the fans or followers level. If the measure is good, let the world know about it.

As technology increases, the avenues for other fields also increases. Innovation and creativity are built on the bases of understanding concepts. Evaluation is the key to measuring the success or failure. As social media and Public relations go hand in hand, it is certain that there would be tremendous change in the way a product markets and brands itself.

Social Media- A step forward

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Social media powered by social networking platforms such as facebook, twitter, instagram, tumbler and pintrest has become an extremely successful and powerful paradigm to bring people closer. We routinely encounter many facebook tales where a mother met a son after several years, people taking to twitter to revolt against their governments in countries like Egypt and Syria or a celebrity announcing the release of a new album or a song on Youtube before its announced in traditional broadcast or print media. Social media can no longer be ignored and has to be taken into consideration to engage people who are becoming more involved and active by the day. Over the years social media has been seen in different forms and has different applications.

In his article Social media as the next Web (http://www.briansolis.com/2012/12/social-media-as-the-next-web-2/), Brian Solis makes a convincing argument that social media is evolving the traditional definition and understanding of the web to include “a system of people in addition to HTML formatted documents”. He emphasis on the fact that social media is the future of communication. He contends that the personal nature of social media and the amount of time spent by an average person consuming and participating in social networks on the Internet creating an “EGOsystem” centered around the individual. Mr. Solis supports his assertions with data compiled by Neilsen and NM Incite which indicate an explosive growth of interest in social media by the average internet user. 

While Facebook is the dominant center of the social media and networking universe on the Internet, other social networking sites such as Twitter, Pintrest, Google+ and LinkedIn saw very high rates of growth during 2011 and 2012. The evidence points to the fact that online user behavior converges to forming communities that share similar interests. Brian uses the data to show that the future of social media consumption is headed towards mobile phones and apps. It started with PC and then shifted to laptops and then to mobiles and tablets. Between the years 2011 and 2012, the number of users visiting a mature social networking site like Facebook dropped by 4% on PCs while increased by over 80% on both mobile apps and Mobile web. Similar trends can be spotted on all the other major social networking sites including Twitter, Pintrest. To quote from the article, “consumers access social media from PCs mostly at 94% (down from 97% in 2011), mobile phones at 46% (up from 37%) and tablets at 16% (up from 3%). “
All this while the amount of time spent on social media sites actually increasing 24% which implies that uses are more engaged on social media sites than ever before. 

The advent of social media and the influence of the regular internet user was recognized and explained in a powerful article written by Jay Rosen, a professor of Journalism at NYU in the blog PressThink all the way back in 2006 (http://archive.pressthink.org/2006/06/27/ppl_frmr.html). The author links a number of articles found on the web to support his claims and makes a strong case for internet users of social media. Mr. Rosen, takes on the “Big Media” ( a reference to traditional print and broadcast media outlets ) and explains how the rise of social media has given power to the hands of the “The people formerly known as the audience” ( a reference to traditional audiences of Big Media ). The author mentions that the audience who were once on the receiving end have put their step forward and are experiencing the change. He argues that the advent of blogs has ensured that publishing is no longer in control of those who own printing presses and that podcasting now allows any person to setup a radio station and reach out to the world. He also notes that even video is now shot, edited or distributed by anyone with a video camera and an internet connection and audiences are being built by those who were formerly considered audiences themselves. News, the author observes, is no longer what is told to us, but what we choose to see or read and from our own choice of sources. The flow of information is now horizontal, peer to peer instead of a top down structure advocated by media agencies for decades before social media. 

Linking to a number of influential figures online and from traditional media agencies, the author attempted to describe this generation of enlightened internet users. Considering himself to be a part of this audience, Mr. Rosen quotes Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, to describe this group as “The Active Audience (“who doesn’t want to just sit there but to take part, debate, create, communicate, share.”)” He says that the new generation of social media users are “more real, less fictional, more able, less predictable” and this these users have evolved to not just want the media when they are ready, but also demand media that is of better quality, without advertisements, and if necessary produce media when necessary or just to have fun. He asserts that the big media agencies no longer own audience’s “eyeballs” and that there is a ” new balance of power between you (Big Media) and us (Active Audience).”

The newest formula of social media is who connects with whom, how,where and when. The sheer power of major social media networks lies in the fact that they are among the most heavily trafficked sites on the internet, so an issue to the network or the way it operates affects millions of people. Social networks being hotbeds for personalized experiences, allow advertising companies to display targeted advertisements to its users. However, from time to time it has been noted that privacy concerns and lack of proper information management schemes have left many users vulnerable to Identity Theft. Social media has been marketer’s favorite in the past decade and still is. 

The question that arises is, what makes social media vulnerable? In an era when the story of communication has grown leaps and bounds, the apprehension of privacy of information still persists. The easy access, attractiveness, the effects of the freedom of speech and other features make social networking addictive. One tends to express their interests, private details, pictures on what the ‘world market’. The thought of uploading all these pictures and videos with the assumption that they are private is a myth these days. Social media provides great tools but the privacy concerns are numerous. What comes with privacy is safety. With the increase in malpractices and identification frauds, its important for socal networks to provide disclosure options for these details. 
Privacy breaches, both intentional and unintentional have become common and what was considered a safe haven for online activity has now become a privacy nightmare. The latest issue that caused a stir was that of Instagram’s.

In the article, “Users flee Instagram after privacy outcry” (http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2012/12/28/users-flee-instagram-after-privacy-outcry/) , the effects of a gaffe by Instagram are detailed. The article talks about the reaction of the outbreak of the news. Instagram is a social networking site that has been extremely popular amongst amateur photographers who can easily apply interesting filters to their pictures and “photoshop” then without much effort. As one of the most popular sites on the Internet, Instagram was acquired by facebook in September 2012 and was working on facebook’s terms. Their proposal to publicize and sell the images of its members to the advertiser came as a shook to the instagram community. With its sudden shift in privacy policy, they had to forgo over 4 million users. At a time when instagram had 575 likes per second, people uploaded more than 3 images at a time and at a total of 5000 images per day, instagram thought of changing privacy policy resulted in major loss.
People took to other social networks such as Twitter and started spreading the message to their fellow Instagram users and to spread awareness using #boycottinstagram. To quell this mass exodus of users, Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram himelf had to assuage user concerns and revert the privacy policy. 

Not only did Instagram lose a number of users, even major celebrities like Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian showed their concern over these events and rallied up support from their followers. The power of social networking was in full display as a bunch of motivated users ensured that their public outcry and collective action ensured that the company listened to the needs of its users. I feel social media has put its foot forward in almost all walks of life if it still hasn’t touched an area, it sure will in the near future. What makes it unique that its connectivity. More and more people are joining popular sites every year. New innovations are taking place every now and then that interests and please audiences. It surely is the first step for promotional activities. As the three articles imply, as long as people ensure that proper measures are taken to protect their privacy, social media can be an extremely powerful and useful tool.

When all media is social

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As I was watching Downton Abbey in the comfort of my apartment the other day, I realized how far we have progressed in terms of methods of communication and the speed at which information is propagated and consumed. Having seen messages being sent over horse carriages, via telegraph and radio, broadcasted over television and the internet, exchanged over cellular phones and mobile technology, it seems natural that social media is the next step in the evolution of the technology of communication.

Stories have always been an evident part of our lives. We grew up listening to stories, we have stories to talk about and as we have advanced into the technological world, we have stories to share. Little did we know that they would get bigger and better with the proliferation of social media. Massive innovation is taking place and doors have opened for us to explore new vistas through “connections” that take us deep down into the world of social media. Social Networking is here to stay.

It is with these thoughts in my mind that I came across a talk by Richard Edelman, the CEO and President of Edelman Worldwide, the world’s largest Public Relations firm. The talk was titled “When All Media is Social: Navigating the Future of Communications” and throws light upon the prospects of social media for PR professionals. Drawing upon vast industry experience Richard Edelman observes, “The growth and evolution of the media landscape has significantly changed the public relations industry. With that comes a need for well-educated, top talent that will fuel the growth of the industry. This has challenged academic programs to rapidly embrace and understand the factors that are driving the development of traditional and social media, and to include it in their communications programs.”

Public relations is about building relations with an individual, an organization or community. Edelman quotes Nike as an example for an company which has elevated its Public Relations compaign to include a social and community aspect called Nike+. He mentioned that Nike is one of the companies that realised that building a community of people who use their products and get them to share and collaborate is the right way to handle Public Relations in the social age.

In his talk, he mentions the various forms of social media in the market today and divides them into four varied categories : traditional mainstream players, digitally native ”hybrids” that blend community and journalism, social networks and corporate/brand-owned media. He notices that in an age where people believe less in institutions and more in peers, there is a need to move awat from rules based leaderships to principles based leadership. Transparency is the key to a successful business.

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Richard Edelman explains the future of technology in correlation to public relations:

1) New Social Giants Are Emerging – Despite the existence of major social media players like facebook, twitter and linkedin, there is always room for emerging players. While it appears that facebook dominates the “personal” social space, linkedin dominates the professional social space and twitter, the casual, there is always room for niche players. Edelman mentions examples like pintrest, tumblr and instagram that have made space for themselves.

2) Paid Media Now Amplifies Social: Paid advertising’s horizon has increased with the introduction of sponsored ads. There is a chance of better visibility for the brand depending on their social media presence. Companies are shifting their advertising strategy to engage the public in their social components instead of just products.

3) Search is Morphing with Social: Social media and digital media have become platforms for better branding and better buying. Today, there are software and applications that are inline with sites like google ads, facebook and twitter that sponsor goods of you choice. Life has become easier with the introduction of online shopping aided by peer reviews and recommendations.

4) Amplification Now Trumps Circulation: New media technologies relying on social media and online readership now reach more people and cater better to their tastes than the more traditional media forms like “The Washington Post” and “The Guardian” which rely on subscriptions.

5) Visual Storytelling is in Renaissance: Every video has a story to tell. The reemergence of visual communication in correlation with the development of technology has grown in leaps and bounds. TVs, tabloids, tablets and smartphones have made an irresistible place for themselves in the market. Edelman observes, “print media is making a big push into video. “The Wall Street Journal” runs a streaming network for tablets that airs live during the business day. Visual storytelling is no longer the domain of broadcasters”.

The world is a global village with social media playing an important part in its functioning. There are no borders when it comes to social media. Internet has brought us closer together. Facebook and twitter have brought friends and family together. The race of every growing technology brings about rise of every increasing social media sites. While blogs, pinterest, stumbleupon are sites that bring in all the interest groups together, Instagram, Picassa and Flickr bring out the photographers in us. Richard Edelman mentions that “At the center sit two prominent forces that circulate stories: search and visual content. Change in the media continues to accelerate at breakneck speed.”

In the Academic summit in 2012 at Stanford University, Richard Edelmen shared a few more views on PR as a growing profession and what the future employees of PR can look forward to.

1. Show and tell: As a discipline PR not only needs to be well written but the products should appeal to the public’s eyes a good in the form of visual, photographs, inforgraphs etc. These are more sharable. Visual and video presentations make an impact.

2. Be rational and emotional: It is important for every PR to design stories that are not only emotional but are also rational. It needs to be a sharable story. Knowing your audience can help better with story telling which is both emotional and rational.

3. Dig the data: One not only needs to be strong with analytics but also be strong in quants. Numbers are everywhere and one needs to gauge the experience of handling accounts and issues.

In the world of communication, social media plays a vital role. PR stratergies can be different depending on the culture, channels, language, trends and regionalism. The type of business prevalent in the market defines their attitude and trade. Edelman points out four communication factors which must be included in all PR strategies:

1) Social Engagement: Participation in the community relations and civic engagement is a must for all the PR professionals to get a feel for it.
2) Understanding data: Data analysis and implementation is a crucial part of public relations.
3) Emotional intelligence: The ability to control and asses ones emotions is an art in itself. One needs to consider these factors carefully.
4) Visual Story telling: Pictures and motion pictures convey a lot. As technology is enhancing, visual communication has upper hand.

The above tactics justify the title, “When all media is social”. We have progressed to a stage where ipads are replacing chalk boards, mobile phones and GPS devices are replacing traditional maps, communication has become either minimal or of no cost. I would agree with all the points shared by Richard Edelman in his speech. Some of the key factors that one must look out for are that social responsibility, the usage of google as a search engine, the rise of more and more social media websites, bridging the gap between worlds. People make travel choices via social media sources. People have become digital natives and a lot of this constant collaboration can be achieved by stories that please audiences with smart and social media aware Public Relations strategies.

I will leave you all with an interesting video I came across YouTube, that describes the rise of social media.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUCfFcchw1w