Are Flash Mobs the Bad Guys on the Streets of Social Media?

March 20, 2012 by  
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Charleston social mediaFlash mobs first came onto the scene in the early 2000s as a means to draw attention to a certain brand or charitable organization. Using social media, large groups of people were able to connect, organize themselves, and choreograph these public performances that, for the most part, brought joy and inspiration to the unsuspecting crowds. However, flash mobs in the hands of unscrupulous people were eventually organized for destructive reasons, and it wasn’t long before the whole phenomenon got a bad rap.

Sometimes a little “flash” is a good thing

Many flash mobs have been organized in an effort to “do good,” like the ones orchestrated in response to the disasters in Haiti and Japan. These mobs were used to raise awareness as well as money. Other flash mobs have been able to draw attention to local charitable organizations. One such organization was started by 13-year-old Claire Wineland, who was born with cystic fibrosis. In May, her charity “Claire’s Place Foundation” organized a flash mob in Santa Monica, and they danced to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The flash mob got the attention of major celebrities who joined the cause and pledged to help find a cure for this disease. All over the country other flash mobs have been able to draw attention to worthwhile charities and causes. Check out this full list of noteworthy organizations “doing good” via flash mob media.

Pay It Forward

It wasn’t long until marketers realized that flash mobs were an incredibly effective way to drive targeted engagement and encourage viral marketing. In traditional marketing campaigns, commercials and print ads didn’t allow for brand enthusiast participation. With flash mobs, a brand can invite an enthusiast in to be part of the interactive message. These brand events not only engage current enthusiasts, they also have the ability to reach fragmented audiences, cultivate peer endorsements and influence behavior change. Utilizing flash mobs to promote a positive message can actually make a difference and have a “pay it forward” effect. The students who combined their efforts to create this anti-bullying video may not have single-handedly ended bullying, but they certainly took a stand against violence as a group.

Beware the Dark Side

Social media can be a powerful tool for communication and positive change. Unfortunately, in recent years we have seen more frequent examples of mistreatment. In the case of flash mobs, there have been those whose purpose held a darker intent. These flash mobs are orchestrated to bring a massive group of people together for destructive reasons, such as looting and robbing. In an effort to­ protect its citizens from these nefarious mobs, some cities have instituted curfews, especially for teens that tend to be involved.

A little Game of Cops and Mobbers

There’s a new sheriff in town and this one’s beat is on the digital street.  Authorities have begun to monitor social media sites in an effort to snuff out bad flash mobs before they have a chance to form. The challenge for these law enforcement officers is being able to accurately weed out the “bad seeds” from the “good ones”. Additionally, the question of how much policing of the internet should really be allowed has made its way into the mainstream awareness, due to the recent debates over SOPA and PIPA. Authorities may find it exceedingly difficult to monitor social media in the future, and it is something that we will all be affected by in one way or another.

Don’t Bash the Flash

Whether used with positive or negative intentions, flash mobs truly emphasize the power of social media and the ability we now have to connect on a grand scale. It will be interesting to see how social media plays a part in our offline world in the future. It’s unfortunate that criminals and hooligans have ruined the image of flash mobs because it is amazing what an impact can be made with a group of people, a video camer and one unified vision, such is the example with this final touching video – biggest flash mob ever.


This article was submitted by Kaity Nakagoshi, on behalf of the University of Notre Dame’s online program.  They offer a variety of executive certificates and online business courses. Kaity also works with the University of San Francisco’s online program, which offers a master certificate in internet marketing and a specialized certificate in advanced social media. Twitter: @Kaity_FL

Social Media for Hotels: Reaching More Customers With Twitter

August 24, 2011 by  
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Think back a decade ago, how did you find the right hotel for your vacation? Probably either using a travel agent, seeing an advertisement in a magazine or word of mouth. Well, flash forward to 2011 and that’s all been turned on its head.

Yes, those previous forms of communication still affect the hotel/resort industry, but word of mouth no longer means the same thing as it did 10 years ago. Now, people talk about the resorts they enjoy using social media, making word of mouth so much more powerful and effective, and one of the most powerful ways for guests to get their messages out is with Twitter.

Twitter lets users reach a very large audience very quickly! Not only can users reach their followers, but each tweet is searchable on, indexed by Google (so anyone can come across it even if they are not on Twitter) and has the potential to be “retweeted” (shared with another Twitter user’s followers), which is how a single tweet can reach thousands of eyeballs in a flash.

So if you haven’t checked out what folks are saying about your hotel or resort on Twitter, make that a top priority TODAY and consider how you can  use that tool to capture new guests, solve customer service issues and influence what people think about your property.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Follow Your Competitors:

In any sound marketing strategy, you always look to see what the competition is doing. Follow your main competitors on Twitter and monitor search terms for them as well. We find using a program like Tweetdeck makes monitoring accounts and search terms in real time much more efficient. Monitoring your competitors will allow you to see what they are doing on Twitter and let you tweak your social media strategy accordingly. By monitoring your competitors, you’ll also be able to find users who are unhappy with your competitors, and then you can reach out to those users with open arms!

Keywords are Key:

To get the maximum benefit from Twitter, set up keyword searches. These searches will allow you to monitor all that is said about a certain topic or phrase. One or your keywords should be the name of your property, as well as phrases that indicate a user may be interested in your service. Try terms that include the name of your area or city and then the phrase “stay,” “visit” and “hotel”.

Using these searches will allow you to reach out to users currently staying at your property, those who are reviewing your property and potential customers who are planning to come to your area. This one-on-one interaction can help sway a potential customer. Just make sure you’re timely in your response, as many on Twitter expect responses, especially to customer service issues, within six hours or less. That means you need to be on Twitter not just Mon-Fri 9-5 but nights, weekends and holidays, too. After all, those are the times when most people are planning their vacations.

Interact and Offer Strategic Content:

Another key component for running a successful Twitter account is what you tweet out into the world. You want to make your account the go-to account for whatever geographic area you’re servicing. Research local events, post photos, inform users about the weather and just be an overall fountain of information for your city and property.

Now you can’t just tweet out content and not interact, that will make your account look too “salesy” and one-sided. It demonstrates that you don’t care about your followers. Ideally, you should be sending out three to four “planned” tweets a day in addition to interacting many times a day with your followers and potential followers. This mix of tweets will make your account look more personal and allow the account to take on its own personality.

Another mistake we see often among hotels is setting up Twitter and not following anyone. We’ll see accounts with a thousand followers who are following 26 people. Again, this demonstrates you’re not interested in what your followers have to say and that’s not appreciated in the world of Twitter.

Don’t Forget to Link:

Another common mistake is pumping out a lot of content without ever linking back to your website. Give your followers the chance to go to your site for more information – and to book a room! They can’t do it if you don’t provide them with a way to do so.

Now, set up your Twitter account, follow us :) and keep us updated on how you’re filling your rooms on Twitter.


Social Media for Hotels: Filling Rooms with Facebook

July 25, 2011 by  
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The hotel industry has changed dramatically over the past decade, first with the introduction of online booking sites such as, then with the increased popularity of review sites such as and now with social media.

Step Ahead Inc. demonstrated the power of social media for hotels with a group of Myrtle Beach area hotels, for whom we managed all Facebook pages and a single Twitter account for the group. The results we saw over time were astounding including dramatically increased web traffic, revenue in excess of $14K per month directly trackable to social media and an ability to handle some 15-20 major customer service issues per month.

We were able to increase Facebook friends from just a few hundred in 2009 to over 47,000 for all pages together by early 2011. We turned their pages into a source of helpful information about theMyrtle Beacharea, literally turning each Facebook page into a virtual “front desk” for the hotels. People loved it.

The Power of a Review

Facebook, it turns out, is a place where people feel very comfortable sharing positive and negative reviews. We saw lots of positive reviews on theMyrtle Beachpages and the occasional negative review, as well.

Some argue they don’t want a Facebook page, so as to avoid negative reviews, but people will share them whether you want them to or not. If they’re on your own page, at least you can monitor and respond to them. If they get posted somewhere else in Cyberspace, if you don’t have an active online monitoring service in place, you’re likely to miss it and it could easily spiral out of control.

Positive reviews, on the other hand, are a great selling point for your hotel, and can help sway potential customers. We found that often when someone said something negative about the hotel, other people would come to the defense without us even asking. What a powerful testimonial!

Beyond 9-5

A big key to successfully managing social media for hotels is being present outside of office hours and that means more than scheduling posts outside those hours. You have to be on and engaging.

If someone posts a complaint or negative review, you need to respond within a couple of hours max. Twenty-four hours is a lifetime in the world that is social media.

Also, don’t forget that people are very active on Facebook over weekends and holidays, often more so than during the week. That’s the time when they tend to be planning trips, doing research and booking hotel rooms. If you’re not on, you’re missing a key chance to engage your prospects.

This constant monitoring may seem tedious, but when you make your Facebook friends feel special and important they become even more loyal brand ambassadors and return visitors.

Social Media as a Money Maker

Who says you can’t make money on social media? Hotels who offer online booking certainly can and we proved it!

In early 2011, Facebook was averaging $14,000 per month of bookings for this hotel group directly trackable to Facebook and Twitter. This more than covered their social media fees, making social media a very profitable endeavor for them indeed.

Keep in mind, this number only includes direct traffic to their website, not phone calls from Facebook or Twitter friends. They did not have a tracking system in place to track phone calls that may have been generated from a visit to their page and we can only imagine how many of those originated on Facebook.

Traffic, Traffic and More Traffic

On a monthly basis, the Myrtle Beach Facebook pages were sending more than 5,000 visits to the websites, making Facebook one of their top referring sites.

We also noticed that the quality of traffic sent to the sites was very high, with a lower than average bounce rate and people stayed on the sites longer than average.

An important thing to note here is that in order to get the traffic and get the booking, your Facebook page should be made up of friends who are the right target, not just anyone you can get to click “like”. We take a very targeted approach to building a friend base and we believe that’s critical to generating these dramatic, measurable results for our hotel clients.

Social media has become a must-do marketing strategy for hotels, enabling them to be more effective at customer service, generate more revenue by providing followers with information for booking online and a way to get more eyes on your hotels as people research where they want to stay. Take a dedicated, consistent, targeted approach to social media and see if you don’t see your results from social media take a sharp turn upward.


Continuous Learning

May 24, 2011 by  
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This week I filled out a member spotlight form for the Charleston chapter of the American Marketing Association. One of the questions was “What is the best advice you could give a younger marketer?” My response: Do your best to keep up with the constant changes in social media and how people consume information. Your clients depend on you to be the expert on these marketing topics.

Keeping up with the ever-changing world of social media and new methods of marketing and PR is practically a full-time job. I’m constantly bookmarking articles, websites and making notes of new tools I want to investigate.

It’s great to see colleges and universities helping students stay current with social media tools and how they work in the business world. A couple of months ago, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about students at Emerson College in Boston who work with large companies like Sprint, Levi Strauss and Mattel to conduct research and assist with online marketing efforts. They gain experience with “clients” and exposure to products like analytics program Radian6, which they’ll most likely be using as professional marketers.

Over the summer, many firms – including ours – will have interns and this is a great chance to continue that “real world” exposure. Engage those interns in more than busy work and filing so they can see how your business operates day to day and how you interact with clients.

As we all know, that kind of learning is infinitely more valuable than anything you can read in a textbook.

Social Media as a Sales Tool … Yes, It’s Possible!

March 31, 2011 by  
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As a partner in a business that manages social media accounts for companies across the country, I hear this phrase almost every single day from potential clients: “Yes, we like your approach, but it MUST produce a return on our investment.” And that’s understandable. As we all emerge from the recession, our dollars must be spent wisely and be tracked to sales. So we have fine-tuned our company’s approach to this ever-changing medium and would like to report that Yes, Virginia, you can make money via social media.

In its beginnings, social media was touted as a brand awareness tool and a “soft” way to reach your audience and it remains a valuable tool for that. With the right approach, however, you can take Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more beyond PR and marketing and into the realm of sales. Dell proved this when they announced that their Twitter accounts brought in some $6.5  million in sales. And so have we. In fact, we tracked more than $14,000 in direct bookings in January from Twitter and Facebook for a hotel group client. It can be done, folks, but how?

Here’s what you need to have in place to make social media profitable for your business:

1) A way to purchase your product or service online.

Sure, people can call to buy your product or come to your store, but social media is not going to be very successful at driving these types of sales. It means people have to go get their phone (assuming they’re not surfing the web on their smartphone) or remember to visit your store. Any extra work required by the user greatly diminishes the chances they’ll complete the transaction. We have learned people online are lazy. You want them to be able to click directly from the social media outlet to your site where the transaction occurs.

2) A way to track their path from social media through your website.

You need to have trackable URLs set up (we use Google’s URL Builder tool) and a good Analytics system, like the free Google Analytics, that will allow you to see how many people come from Facebook or Twitter to your website and how much they spend, what pages they visit, how long they stay, etc.

3) A consistent, conversational approach to social media.

This can be one of the toughest parts to master, and it requires being on social media every day, multiple times a day and understanding the right mix of conversation, information, entertainment and sales. You simply cannot come across as too sales driven on social media or you’ll lose your audience. Instead, focus 80% of your content on helpful, funny, engaging posts, while working in information about your products, services, packages, etc. in a very conversational manner. This requires studying which posts, at what times and on what days, result in the most interaction, views and sales and replicating that over time.

We’ve mastered the art of making money on social media for our clients, and with dedication and the right information, you can too.

Lyn Mettler is the founder and co-owner of Step Ahead, Inc., a company specializing in social media management, Internet marketing and public relations with offices in both Indianapolis and Charleston, S.C. She has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur magazine, and for her advice on using social media successfully for business.

Social Media Synergy

March 30, 2011 by  
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The list of social media tools available to small businesses these days is overwhelming and growing everyday, but that’s not an excuse to ignore all the social media opportunities out there.

Many businesses are on Facebook now and may even be dabbling in Twitter, but if you’re not exploring all the different ways social media can build your business, then you’re just plain missing out. I recently met a small local business owner who was smiling ear to ear as he told me about the success he had with group buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. After hearing about all his new customers, I asked how he intended to spend the rest of his budget. The answer shook me to my core. He said YellowPages! That was it!

Okay, so after regrouping and pulling my jaw up from the floor, I tried to explain that he should try to retain contact with the new customers he gained from group buying with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, geo-location tools and blogs. He thought that since he had so much success with one tool, there was no point in pursuing others. What??

So why does it really matter if you use just one or several of these social media tools? Well, being on one is a great step for any small business, but as you continue to add different tools, your reach grows exponentially. You’re able to cross promote with different tools and reach more of your target market. Some folks out there will be active on Twitter, but not Facebook, and vice versa. Once you’re active on Twitter and Facebook, you can talk about the interesting posts on your blog, thus driving traffic to your blog and website. It’s a never ending circle of cross promoting and driving that always-important traffic.

That said, there will be certain social media tools that fit your business and others that don’t. Not sure what they are? Just ask us!

Social Networks and Search – Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

December 14, 2010 by  
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As we come to the very cold end of another year, it seems like 2010 could be remembered as the year that the social web and search began to properly work together.
Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land has a great post with authorative answers from both Bing and Google about how they are integrating social signals from Twitter and Facebook in to their search engine ranking factors.
While you really should read the whole thing, highlights inlcude:
  • Both Bing & Google do use retweets and Facebook posts as a ranking factor
  • They both calculate the authority of the tweeter/poster, and give more/less weight depending
  • Publicly available links on Facebook are tracked by both search engines
This is great stuff, and something we have been anticpating/suspecting for a while now, but it does raise some interesting questions.
For instance, how do they calculate ‘authority’? It’s not likely that it’s simply the sheer number of followers/friends, or the system would be overrun with spammers in no time. More likely it will be a more complex algorithm which takes in to account the ratio of followers to following, the number of times you are mentioned, how active you are, length of time on the network, and so on.
We also don’t know to what extent these social signals affect the rankings. Google has over 200 criteria which go in to ranking a site (PageRank, title tags, alt tags, etc), and these social signals are just one of these many, many different aspects. Don’t expect your site to suddenly jump to #1 because you’ve been retweeted a couple of times.
That said, it is good to have official confirmation of what we have thought for a while, that the social web isn’t in competition with the search side of things, but in fact both should all be considered part of your whole online strategy.

December Social Media Star: Chuck Gose

December 13, 2010 by  
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Many business professionals are connected to their contacts via social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other of the many social media tools, but what about good old fashioned face-to-face contact?

Chuck Gose, co-founder of Indy Social Media and director of business development for MediaTile, has effortlessly merged his online social media contacts and real world contacts. Back in August 2009, Chuck Gose and John Palmer started Indy Social Media. The organization gives social media experts and newbies alike a place to come together to meet, share and learn. The organization is so successful that its social media breakfast series usually sells out!

Read more from Chuck and find out his take on corporate blogs and why he loves LinkedIn.

What is your job/company/profession/title?

I am the director of business development for MediaTile and am the co-founder of Indy Social Media, a non-profit dedicated to educating the local business community while raising money for local college scholarships.

What was the first social media technology you used?

The first social media site I uses was LinkedIn.

What is your favorite social media tool?

I’m a huge LinkedIn junkie and think it’s an underrated, underappreciated and underused tool.

How have you used social media for your business/company and how has it benefited?

I created MediaTile’s social strategy, starting out with blogging. It’s a great way for a business to differentiate itself in the marketplace. And with respect to the Facebook and Twitter fans, a corporate blog is the one platform a business has control over.

How much time would you say you spend a day engaging social media?

That’s a tough one. I’d say I’m in and out of it all day long. I try to respond quickly to any messages I receive on the platforms.

How do you incorporate it into your day so it’s not a time waster?

For me, it’s never a time waster because I use it. Even during times when people might think that it’s goofing off, it helps get the creative juices flowing.

We know the Indy Social Media Breakfast series usually sells out. What tools do you use to spread the word about the event?

We just recently launched Before that, we relied entirely on Twitter and Facebook and used Eventbrite for registrations.

Is there a social media tool/technique that you think is underutilized that you would like people to know about?

I’ll get back on my LinkedIn soapbox here. People think it’s just a site for older professionals and the unemployed. In fact, it’s one of the single greatest databases out there. If you’re in any sort of business development role (and everybody is), LinkedIn’s data is priceless.

Where can people find you online and via social media?
Facebook: Chuck Gose
LinkedIn: Chuck Gose
Twitter: @chuckgose
Google: Chuck Gose

Facebook by the Numbers

November 30, 2010 by  
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Ok, so you have a Facebook page, you update it regularly and you interact daily. You’re doing everything right so far, but there’s one aspect of managing a Facebook page that you may have overlooked: Insights. Facebook Insights is a tool available to page administrators that gives you tons of information about your friends and their activity on your page.

Getting Started

When on your business page, you can look on the left hand column and see a quick overview of four insights, including monthly active users, daily new likes, daily post views and daily post feedback.

Facebook just started posting Insight numbers underneath each post, as well. After a post has been up long enough for Facebook to collect data (no longer than a few hours), you’ll be able to see how many people actually SAW your page and what percentage of them interacted with it (by clicking “like”, commenting, etc).

This can help you figure out what types of posts get the most views and interaction so you can tailor the content of future posts, as well as what times your friends are most active.

For the More Advanced

If you’d like even more information about your page and friends, simply click on the “see all” link in the Insights box. Here you’ll see all the pages you have admin access to on the left.

Under each page, there are two sets of Insights: one focused on user statistics, and the other on interaction statistics. The user statistics show you information on new likes or unlikes and friend demographics, including age, gender and location. The interactions page breaks down all your recent posts and compiles the impression (views) and feedback (number of interactions) information in one table. You can also view daily mentions, reviews and posts.

If you’ve been using Facebook Insights for sometime, then you may also be familiar with, and even prefer, the old Insights page. Both sets are available, and when we put together reports for our clients, we use graphs and statistics from both versions. You can access the old Insights page from a link at the top of the new page that says “View Old Page Insights”.

The old Insights page offers similar information, but it’s shown in different graphs. One of my favorite graphs is the “interactions over time” graph, which is very helpful when showing a new client the increase in interactions since we took over managing the page.

Spreadsheets and More!

Now, if that’s still not enough data for you, you go a step further and export more stats into an Excel spreadsheet. Just click on the “export data” link at the top of the page. I usually download the friend and interaction data, as that has most of the information needed to keep clients up to date and to keep your social media approach fresh.

The Excel data gives you information about the Facebook page all the way back to its creation, allowing you to easily compare months and years. To me, the most interesting numbers are the page views. Many clients are surprised to see how many page views their Facebook page is receiving.

Following Facebook by the numbers will help you do a better job managing your page, ultimately helping increase your page’s friends and thus improving the brand’s presence and success on Facebook.

Do you use Facebook Insights? What’s your favorite stat?

Translating Social Media Jargon

October 26, 2010 by  
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Social media is a relatively new addition to the marketing world, so it’s no surprise that some marketing managers have a hard time explaining the benefits to their superiors or other departments. It may seem like second nature to those of us who use social media daily, but some folks actually don’t know what a retweet is, or even what Twitter is, for that matter. I heard someone refer to it as the tweeter application yesterday, and it took all my strength to not jump up and scream! :)

To try and make your life easier, here’s a cheat sheet you can slip your boss:

What is a retweet?
When someone retweets you on Twitter, it’s most likely a compliment. In the real world, it’s analogous to having someone pass your magazine advertisement along to all their friends (we stole this great analogy from one of our brilliant clients :)), or having someone forward an email advertisement to their mailing list. Any way you put it, it’s getting your name out there to lots of people!

What is a mention?
On Twitter, when someone mentions you, they are calling you out directly in a public way. This allows you to have direct contact with your customers or potential customers, and publicly show that you are responsive. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by! Reply to them quickly, and show just how customer service-oriented your company is!

What are Twitter followers?
When someone follows your Twitter account, they “sign up” to get all your tweets. You could say followers are similar to email subscribers, but you’re able to interact more frequently with them.

What are Twitter lists?
Twitter lists allow you to organize followers and group together Twitter accounts that are similar. In the past, if you wanted to find out what restaurants your friends liked, you’d have to ask them all, but now, if they have them, you can just check out their restaurant Twitter lists.

What does it mean when someone “Likes” my page on Facebook?
Having friends on Facebook is very powerful. When someone “Likes” your Facebook business page, that news item is shared with all their friends in the news feed. It’s as if they went around and told all friends that they like your business. It’s one of the best types of word of mouth advertising out there!

What are comments on Facebook?
Comments on Facebook are another great way to publicly interact with your customers or potential customers directly. Make sure to respond quickly to show that customer service is a high priority in your company. Lots of comments on a page also lead to a better post quality rating, which tells Facebook how popular your page has become. This will help with future Facebook page recommendations and placement in news feeds.

What are “Likes” on Facebook page posts?
“Likes” on Facebook page posts are different from liking a Facebook page. These interactions show that a friend, who has already “Liked” the page, is happy or excited about the post. This will show up in their friend’s news feeds, as well. This would be like a customer who’s having a chat with you saying, “Wow, I agree! You are so right!” with their circle of friends within earshot. Remember how hard positive word of mouth advertising used to be? Well, if done right, it’s much easier with social media! It makes word of mouth much more efficient and quicker to spread.

What is a checkin on Foursquare?
Foursquare is a geo-location tool that allows people to check into different locations. When someone checks into your business, it’s one of the highest forms of endorsement you can get! They are not only telling their friends that they like your business, but they are showing them, by actually being at your business, and presumably purchasing your products or services. If a friend tells you a restaurant is great, you may think about trying it, but if someone calls you from the restaurant to tell you how great it is, you’re probably a bit more interested. They walked the walk, so you know it must be good.

The whole point of this post is to let you know how important social media is to businesses. Sometimes it’s hard to see the benefits for all the social media jargon. So now you can explain a retweet and a check in to your boss or your client in layman’s terms!

Do you have any other social media jargon translations? I’d love to hear them!

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