Category Archives: Social Media

Bloggers, not mainstream media, broke the news on Parker’s mayoral campaign

Targeting undecided voters through social media and blogs was a key to Houston mayor Annise Parker’s successful political campaign last year, said campaign manager Adam Harris, who claimed that the mainstream news media didn’t cover the issues as much as he expected.

For instance, Harris organized a press conference to announce Parker’s Hire Houston First proposal, an economic plan to ensure that jobs funded by local tax dollars go to Houstonians first. Harris said that only KIAH-TV Channel 39 attended.

“The (Houston) Chronicle would not write about it so we went to the blogs,” he remarked. Key blogs covering the campaign were Off the Kuff, Muse Musings, Greg’s Opinion, Dos Centavos and Bay Area Houston.

Harris explained that mainstream media outlets with reduced staffs are relying on blogs to pick up breaking news. The targeted blogs posted news and commentary on the Hire Houston First initiative and influenced the way mainstream media covered that issue. Harris said that research showed that any one of the blog sites received 200 hits a day from Parker’s target audience.

Last July, every campaign released fund raising totals showcasing how much their candidates raised, spent and had in reserves. Before going to traditional media outlets, Harris invited bloggers to a luncheon to announce campaign finances, provide talking points and answer questions. The David Ortez blog and others posted news on Parker’s “impressive” fundraising totals. Traditional media followed.

Harris said that campaign staffers figured that Parker’s Web site would pull in 300 to 400 hits a day in traffic but did not advertise the site. Instead, they concentrated on pushing out the message through Facebook and Twitter. In May, Parker posted a link on Facebook to a short video on YouTube explaining her Hire Houston First policy.

Harris said that traditional media sources, such as TV and radio, don’t offer fine segmentation of audiences now but “cable (broadcasting) is coming where you will be able to target three of five houses in a block.”

The Parker grassroots campaign also contacted undecided voters and veins of Democrats in Republican areas through a door-knocking campaign. Database research where consumer information is merged with voter files guided campaign staffers in identifying key neighborhoods and households for door knocking and phone calling.

Harris said that he used a phone bank system developed by telemarketers in 2007 where live calls go through a computer. The system notifies available volunteers with beeps to pick up the phone lines and talk to live voters. That eliminates time spent dialing or listening to phone rings or recorded messages while maximizing talking time.

“In the old days, I hated phone calling, but now it’s a new world,” said Harris.

He made his remarks at the PRSA Houston luncheon on Feb. 3. The next luncheon is Wednesday, March 3. For more information, go to

— Mike Wysatta, PRSA Houston board member



Filed under Houston Chronicle, Media, Social Media

Squatters grab advantage in Twitter ID battle

A possible battle is looming over Twitter squatting.  Cyber squatters have registered the names of companies on Twitter, and the law to prevent that practice is unclear. 

“Legitimate holders of brands can sue for them, and Twitter can just turn them over if asked.  But, because the investment and risk for the squatter are zero, you are going to see the rapid evaporation of available Twitter IDs,” said research analyst Richard Stiennon, as early as last year, in PC magazine.  “My guess is that Twitter squatters have grabbed all of these (names) in the hopes that they will be worth selling in the not too distant future.”  

Trademark owners have the right to sue cyber squatters, but the law, as it applies to disputed Twitter registrations, has not been tested in court.  Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has said that companies can contact Twitter with cases of impersonation and those accounts will be reviewed. 

Fake profiles of celebrities have surfaced on Twitter, so to thwart that, the microblogging service is beta testing an authentication routine with a small group.  However, Twitter has no plans to verify accounts for businesses because of the costs.

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense, as companies register and protect their names and brands against speculators.  The primary Twitter ID naming convention for a business is @companyname which is displayed on the Web as

The biggest Fortune 500 companies, those that market to consumers, have not fared especially well in protecting their brands in the Twittershphere.  No. 1 Wal-Mart Stores doesn’t own the walmart Twitter ID.  The mega retailer only has walmartdeals.  The 1,000 followers of walmart don’t tweet about Wal-Mart but do post about good and bad hair days.

Twitter indicates that the ExxonMobil ID is owned by Jayme Sanchez, who is or was with the public affairs office of Exxon Mobil Corp., the No. 2 company.  The Twitter site of Sanchez has one follower.

 “Janet,” the owner of the ID ExxonMobilCorp, has several followers, though, and she sure has a lot of positive remarks about the company.  The problem is that hers are not the official comments of Exxon Mobil.  The company recently told the Houston Chronicle that Janet isn’t part of Exxon’s public relations machinery.

No. 3 Chevron Corp. has no alternative but to use an ID other than its name Chevron.  That ID is owned by a tweeter with “protected” tweets and no followers or postings.  The company uses Chevron_JustinH for its official Twitter site.  Not very inspired or catchy is it?

 Canadian Marketing Association blogger Bill Sweetman  predicts that over the next few years, millions of dollars will be spent by companies buying, selling and fighting over Twitter IDs.  Attorneys want a brawl, I’m sure. 

They’d better hope that Twitter becomes a mainstream medium for a wider range of companies willing to vigorously defend their IDs.  So far, tweeting has worked for early adopters Jet Blue Airways, Dell Inc., Starbucks Coffee Co. and assorted celebrities, politicians and news media.

If the early and late majorities and laggards adopt Twitter, then let’s get ready to rumble.

Contributed by Mike Wysatta, business development manager at Ryder Scott.


Filed under Social Media, Twitter

PR Gone Bad: How NOT to Deal with Twitter

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. They must have coined this one in the olden days, before Twitter.  Because these days there is such a thing as bad publicity, and a Chicago company named Horizon Realty is getting it in spades.

One of Horizon’s former tenants, Amanda Bonnen, allegedly posted a not-so-favorable Tweet about her Chicago apartment, and the 22 people who followed her on Twitter saw it. That was grounds enough for a $50,000 libel lawsuit, according to Horizon Realty.

In fact, one of the company’s owners, Jeffrey Michael, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We’re a ‘sue first, ask questions later’ kind of organization.”

As you can imagine, this quote has gone viral. The lawsuit and the response are all over the Twittersphere, with the Twitterati daring Horizon to sue them as well. Their 140 characters include the hash tag “#SueMeHorizonRealty.”

I’m assuming that being a company with a lot of properties to rent, Horizon Realty probably spends a fair amount of money on advertising to potential tenants. You know: young up-and-comers who probably use twitter. I would guess that its advertising budget is far more than $50,000. So how much money will the company have to spend now to erase “SueMeHorizonRealty”?

On top of that, the little tweet that only 22 people originally saw is now “a shot heard ’round the world.” Bonnen allegedly wrote, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.” So now add moldy to their brand perception.

Chalk this up as a lesson in Social Media 101: what NOT to do.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, Chair, PRSA Houston Web Committee

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Filed under Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

Writing for Twitter and Facebook

There’s a great line in a USA Today article (“What Would Shakespeare Tweet?”) on the art of writing a status update, whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter: “… Next year, only the best tweeters will survive.”

Not only did this set off tunes in my head (remember Gloria Gaynor’s hit song “I will survive”?), but the article also made me pause and consider whether my own personal tweets are interesting or read more like a personal diary. Am I communicating well, no matter the audience, when I use these tools?

There are no clear rules yet on the use of these tools. Many people use twitter for information that is more work- or professional development-related, whereas Facebook largely tends to targeted to friends and family. Are we setting the right tone with this approach?

There is a definite art to tweeting and posting status updates. However, some general rules (and common sense) apply just as they would to more traditional communication methods:

First, don’t bad mouth your boss, a client, a project, your brother, your boyfriend/girlfriend – it’s just bad form and will always come back to bite you.

Second, remember that these are communication tools that can disseminate information very quickly to an unknown number of people (think of all the people in your network… and the number of people in each of their networks, etc.). There’s a line in When Harry Met Sally, when “Sally” (Meg Ryan) and “Harry” (Billy Crystal) are talking outside the diner (yes, THAT diner with THAT scene), and Sally says “You can’t take it back – it’s already out there.” Do you get it? The same theory holds true with social media – once it’s out there, it’s out there… you can’t take it back.

Third, if you’re going to provide information that is intended to be useful or thought provoking, provide more than a and headline and a link. Tell me (within the 140 character limit of Twitter) why I should care – why is that tidbit of information valuable to me?

I’m sure I’m missing some key rules, but these are the ones that came to mind as I read this article. I’d love to hear from you about other rules, pet peeves related to social media, and more.

Contributed by Terri Larson, 2009 President – PRSA Houston

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Filed under Facebook, Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

Social Media: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for PR Pros?

Plenty of social media seminars can help you learn if using social media can help boost your company’s profile, and presumably, its bottom line.

Here’s my question for you as a PR professional: Can Twitter and Facebook boost your creativity?

I’m asking this because it gets to the heart of what we do: We’re paid to be creative on demand. That’s why we were hired.

In fact, you may be the only right-brained person in your entire company.  You alone may be the whole creative department. So protect your creativity. It’s your greatest asset.

If you’re not careful, Facebook and Twitter can zap your creativity because they are such time suckers. They’re like friends who party all the time — fun, seductive, but sort of shallow and not the best thing for your overall well-being.

On the flip side, there’s absolutely nothing that can drain your creative juices faster than the dullness of spending the whole day at your desk. When you’re called upon to whip out sparkling copy in a hurry, it can be really tough to pull your head out of the fog and be dazzling.

So here’s a tip for protecting your creativity: Devote some time to creative pursuits. To keep your writing skills sharp, write every day. It can be in a journal, it can be a blog – tweets don’t count. Keep it fun, do little writing exercises, whatever it takes. Your writing brain is a muscle and you have to keep it limber.

For a really excellent course in creativity, check out “The Artist’s Way,” a book by Julia Cameron. She suggests writing three pages long-hand every morning. They’re called “morning pages,” and they are extremely helpful especially if you’re experiencing writer’s block.

PR pros, let’s recognize Twitter and Facebook for what they are: communication tools. Just as the Internet, print, radio and TV are communication tools. And while our tools are constantly changing, there is one thing that remains constant: The idea is what counts. The rest is execution.

Contributed by Christi Dunn, PR Manager, Dynegy

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Filed under Creativity, Social Media