FiftyOneZeroOne

Social media – Miami IPRRC headlines

Posted on: March 14, 2009

This blog started life after the 2007 International Public Relations Research Conference in Miami, so it’s about to celebrate its 2nd birthday. It’s a really enjoyable conference and this year, around 40% of presentations were from non-US academics and practitioners (but only two from the UK).

 

This year, there has been increasing emphasis on social media and its relationship with public relations and interpersonal communications. Tina McCorkindale reported on a survey of Facebook pages run by or linked to major US corporations.

 

Of 100 Fortune 100 companies, there were 55 Facebook sites, of which 52 could be regarded as ‘positive’ in their content (The ‘anti’ sites were for Wal-Mart, Verizon and ExxonMobil).

 

The ‘fan’ numbers for some sites were quite spectacular with the retail giant Target scoring 191,000 as No.1, followed by Verizon’s own site at 150,000 and Microsoft at 68,000.

 

Some sites were employee run, others by corporate communications staff. The retailer Lowes’s employees have an embarrassing ‘Lowes Hos’ area (with female and male staff identified). Ford and Microsoft look to be heavily managed. The carmaker was described by Tina as “positive heavy” while Microsoft has many deletions of postings on it, possibly taking out negative comments.

 

The Dell site, perhaps scarred by the “Dell Hell” controversy of several years ago, had rapid responses to questions with ‘Janet’ offering solutions to problems, including phone numbers to call.

 

Other phenomena observed included headhunters posting job information on corporate sites to attract staff from them; a low level of information on corporate social responsibility activity; and many sites without recent news on them.

 

Overall, Tina observed that there was “a lot of lack of engagement” which may indicate that corporate comms people see Facebook as another type of corporate website and not an opportunity to engage with customers, enquirers and staff.

 

Mihaela Vorvoreanu of Clemson University has also made an initial investigation into the inter-relationship between Facebook culture and PR efforts, and what is appropriate and inappropriate engagement between corporations and ‘Facebook natives’.

 

Using focus groups with PR students, she found:

 

§        Students didn’t like the loss of exclusivity when Facebook moved away from its original student base and allow access to everyone (including corporations).

 

§        The initial attraction of Facebook was to ‘digitally hang-out’ in which you can keep up with friends, but corporates “are just trying to sell and they have other motives”.

 

§        Facebook natives like to recognise things they like and become fans – “it can be a way to show off what you are”.

 

§        There was a strong belief that Facebook was ‘personal’ and that you should be able to post pictures without fear of potential employers using the site to vet applications. [It appears that many students tidy up sites before they enter the workforce, which they resent.]

 

§        Facebookers don’t mind supporting small businesses and hearing from them as “they have a face” but they don’t want to hear from Sony or “something big and obnoxious like Microsoft”.

 

Mihaela ended her presentation with the rhetorical question – Can relationships (between organisations and stakeholders) be protected by staying out of the conversation? That is, leave the Facebookers alone in their own space for fear of annoying them? It’s a relevant question and links with Tina’s view that the corporates’ own Facebook presences lacks engagement.

 

 

 

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