Tag Archives: Social Media

What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age

It’s been said that Public Relations has a “PR problem”; while the majority of people aren’t sure exactly what a PR does, almost all of them seem to have a negative impression of my profession. So when people ask about my career and I tell them I work in communications and marketing, their natural follow-up is usually “what does that mean?” Contrary to one popular misconception working in PR is not synonymous with the “Press Release”, which is just one tactic in the arsenal of a Public Relations professional. In fact working in PR has so many connotations that the PRSA led a rebranding effort in attempt to help redefine our work, or at least clarify what we do in the most transparent way.

Working at my desk with my tabletop robot

Most would call my work in Public Relations, although depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer; in grad school we called it Public Communications, which helps distinguish our responsibilities are not limited to working with the press. If only my colleagues knew that calling myself a PR rep was the best shorthand for all the work our profession does: everything from researching public opinion, to crafting marketing strategy and crisis communications plans, to writing press releases and blog posts, to media relations and publicity which our profession is best known for. Continue reading What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age

Good news: I’m engaged to be married!

Matt Hurst and Lauren Reid engaged in Grand Central station

Last week I asked the love of my life, Miss Lauren Reid, to marry me and she said “Yes!” Normally I wouldn’t share much from my personal life on my professional blog, but this is too big a part of my life not to mention the good news. We’ve both been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and well-wishes from friends and family, and we share their excitement as we start to plan our wedding and to begin married life together. After sharing the big news with family over the phone and with friends through social media, we started to set up a wedding website which is already up and running (like our wedding plans, it’s a work in progress).

Since you’re visiting my website, there’s a good chance you already know a little about me. So I wanted to take a moment to introduce my fiancée Lauren Reid, whom I’ve been dating for more than 6 years. For anyone who hasn’t met Lauren in person: she’s super smart and has a witty sense of humor (but is never afraid to laugh at herself). I think she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met (and have over 1000 photos on Flickr tagged with her name), but she’s also sweet, loyal, and caring; all great qualities for my best friend and now fiancée.

Lauren is also quite active online and in social media, which helped us stay close even when we were far apart; although we grew up only a few miles from each other in St. Louis we met each other later in life, and for the first 3 years we were dating long-distance. On our fifth anniversary in 2011, I compiled some of my favorite moments we shared over social media as a timeline story of our courtship, which I’d like to share as an introduction to us as a couple: Continue reading Good news: I’m engaged to be married!

TV by the Numbers: How I cut-the-cord and share my viewing online

Remote Controller 2
As television networks kick off the upfronts introducing new programs and picking up where existing series left off, there is increasing conversation about using social media to connect fans and viewers with their favorite shows, as well as how many may be cutting-the-cord altogether. Full disclosure: I’m an employee at Nielsen, who have a great perspective of cross-platform insights into what consumers watch, but the measurements shared in this post are my own and are not necessarily shared by my employer.

First, here’s a funny and surprisingly accurate primer on how TV viewing is measured in the US (from Jess3 and ESPN):

Appointment Viewing

For the last two years I’ve been using social media tools like Get Glue, Miso, and IntoNow to track my viewing and to share my favorite TV shows with friends. These social networks use websites and smartphone apps to encourage more social viewing, opening up the sometimes isolated TV watching experience by connecting viewers who check-in to the same program and generating conversations among fans of the shows. For example, here are some of the shows I’ve checked-in to most recently: Continue reading TV by the Numbers: How I cut-the-cord and share my viewing online

My Top 11 Memes and more from 2011

Matt Hurst's "Deal With It!" avatar
Looking back on 2011, I wanted to recap my favorite internet memes, music, trends, and more during the year which saw many changes in communications and technology. Until recently I’ve posted a monthly list of my favorite ideas on this blog, and though I’ve lapsed these updates I still share my favorite media on my Tumblr blog. Every day on Tumblr I share the best memes, infographics, viral media, and ironic links, many of which contributed to this list of Top 11 memes.

After the jump, check out my favorite memes from 2011! Continue reading My Top 11 Memes and more from 2011

Nielsen’s Social Media Report

Data visualization of demographics on social media sites from Nielsen's Social Media Report
Last month Nielsen (my employer) released a new State of the Media report focused on social media use in the US and around the world. This report offers a unique snapshot overview of the social media landscape, using measurements of consumers’ behavior in their browsers rather than survey data. It reveals not only the significant growth among the population visiting social networks and blogs, but also who makes up the audience on these sites and how they use social media.  Here’s a few highlights of its key findings and takeaways:

  • More than 4 in 5 American who are active online visited Social Media websites within the last month
  • About a quarter of all time spent online is using Social Networks & Blog sites, more than twice as much as the next nearest category of websites.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social networking website globally, and in the U.S. Tumblr is among the fastest growing
  • Growth in social media users comes from people of all ages and increasingly among those aged 55+, making social media more representative of the online population overall

As a member of Nielsen’s global communications team (full disclosure), I helped research and write this report, working together with our thoughts leaders/experts and designers to create compelling data visualizations that help convey Nielsen’s insights into consumer behavior.  The response to the report has been overwhelmingly positive, with coverage by key news media and thousands of links shared across social networks. Of course all ideas/opinions expressed on this site and in social media are my own (and are not necessarily shared by my employer), so hopefully you find the analysis and insight in this report as helpful as I do.

Visit the Nielsen’s website to read the Social Media Report and download a copy of your own.

Relationship status: How social media is changing weddings

Mark Welsh and Kristin Arena update their status from "in a relationship" to Married at their wedding

As social media becomes increasingly intertwined with daily lives, it seems inevitable that romantic relationships make greater use of social media. It wasn’t long after online networks were created that web users found the Internet to be a ideal medium not just for academics communicating over long distances but for developing friendships and romantic relationships as well. Perhaps the first social networks formed around dating sites during the web’s early years, and once these social networks began to take part in our online routines, the relationship status became a key part of profiles. Today many consider updating your relationship status from single to “in a relationship” a legitimate means to acknowledge their entry into a committed relationship, and sharing the news of an engagement is only a mouse click away for Facebook users.

Couples use social media to tell their story and about preparations for the wedding, and to exchange photos and share memories with wedding guests (and maybe those who couldn’t make it) after the big day. One popular trend for newly engaged couples is to make a wedding website on which couples can share the story behind their relationship and to share wedding day plans in advance with guests, not to mention making it a breeze to link to their wedding gift registry. Some even use social media to propose to their spouse, creating a unique proposal but also making it easy to share their special story. Here’s a few of the unique ways couples are using social media to share their proposals and weddings:

Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Heatmap of MattHurst's checkins on Foursquare Since Foursquare was created in March 2009 its social network which connects people and places into an addictive public game has motivated millions to continue checking-in. Whether your friends use the social network to unlock badges for brands and special events, compete on the leaderboard, and of course become “the mayor” of their favorite venues. Location-based social networks like Foursquare have created new opportunities for friends to connect IRL (or allegedly to stalk each other), while opening individuals to new connections more like they do online.

Of course Foursquare was hardly the first location-based social media; by the time I signed-up in March 2009 I had already been checking-in for nearly a year, using networks like Brightkite and Loopt. Indeed the founders of Foursquare were well ahead of the competition, having set up the SMS-based location network Dodgeball years earlier which had been bought by Google, only to revisit their idea with smartphone technology. By mixing game elements and unlockable rewards, not to mention the right timing to take advantage of the burgeoning social media scene, Foursquare has created a unique application that has proved popular by 2010 and beyond.

In the process of the gameplay and deals that attract users and brands to use the service, one of the byproduct of using Foursquare is the data that’s created about individuals who use the service. Here’s some perspective on how I’ve used Foursquare over the past 2 years:

Thumbnail of Foursquare infographic - click to enlarge
click image to enlarge the Foursquare Infographic
  • I was the 3,820th user to register on Foursquare, making me an early adopter of the location-based network that now tops 8 million members.
  • My first check-in was on March 17, 2009 at Breadsoda in Washington D.C., and have checked-in another 669 days since
  • In my first two years I’ve checked-in over 3000 times (3241 as of April 15, 2011) at 723 different venues.
  • I’m currently mayor of 7 venues, and have earned as many as 13 mayorship at any one time, earning me the Supermayor badge
  • So far I’ve unlocked 61 badges so far: 38 official Foursquare badges, and 23 more branded by their promoted partners

Of course Foursquare is much more than a means to broadcast your location, although the network has that reputation since many early adopters (myself included) had their service configured to tweet their check-ins automatically. However I’ve found Foursquare is best experienced not just as social media, but as a tool to connect people with places. Their service aids the discovery of new places to visit by using the suggestions and tips of friends, and on several occasions has helped result in the social media serendipity that has connected me with new friends and enabled impromptu rendezvous with friends who check-in right around the corner.

Continue reading Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Social Media 101: Why Brands shouldn’t let Interns Manage Social Media

Perhaps no one better embodies the pitfalls of taking your brand into social media without a strategy better than Charlie Sheen. Last week the celebrity made headlines by joining Twitter and broadcasting his own professional (and personal) meltdown in this public forum, much to the delight of internet denizens and entertainment media. After attracting this considerable attention, Mr. Sheen must have realized he might need more resources and time to create a sustainable Twitter presence, so he did what many brands before him have tried: he asked for an intern to help out with social media.

What Mr. Sheen hasn’t learned through his own use of social media is true for many other organizations who want to promote their brand and protect their reputation using social media: you’ve got to have a communications strategy.  And no, “going viral” is not a strategy, it’s only a goal (which can sometimes backfire).  To that end Charlie Sheen captured the attention of the online world, but without a strategic approach his haphazard embrace of social media seemingly hurt, rather than helped his reputation.  In contrast with individuals who have developed their personal brands, Sheen lacks personal experience to cultivate the tremendous interest in his brand in the best direction, which seems justify his search for a third-party who can give his Twitter account a positive spin.  Yet instead of looking for an intern, he should take a page from the many established brands who’ve successfully managed their social media presence, either though hiring online marketing and PR agencies or developing internal resources to plan their communications strategy.

Of course many brands didn’t always feel this way; when I started this blog in 2009 I wrote about my own experience using Twitter as a tool to find internship opportunities. At the same time agencies turned to my generation of recent grads and millennials to help them understand social media, so many were receptive to the idea of an interns helping out with a niche website like Twitter or Facebook. Especially because many businesses still considered social media a new fad (and not an important emerging platform) many were willing to let interns manage accounts for their brands; after all many simply assumed it was only kids using new media.

What seemed true in 2009 should not be assumed in 2011; social media have emerged as core platforms not only for promoting brands but for building businesses. With 600 million members on Facebook, and an established user base on Twitter that averages over 30 years in age, no brand would risk putting their reputation in the hands of an inexperienced graduate, much less an intern.  Instead organizations who want to build their brand through social media should hire professionals who’ve developed their strategic approach through experience, especially those who have tactical experience using blogs and social media to promote another organization.  Brands should look for professionals who’ve learned about social media through broad online experience, not necessarily specific skill-sets related to individual platforms like Twitter, because it demonstrates their ability to adapt and learn as new platforms emerge.

For prospective interns and job candidates, Twitter continues to stand out as a great tool to network and find job opportunities like my own Twitter internship. It’s also an excellent platform to share ideas and build your online reputation as a knowledgeable professional, particularly for social media marketers like myself, in a forum that’s highly visible in search results for those screening applicants. Likewise for job recruiters, social media offers a unique opportunity to screen potential employees and get a fuller picture of the people outside of their resume.

While it’s yet to be seen what the outcome of Mr. Sheen’s search for an intern may be, it seems likely that the same lack of direction that stifled his own social media efforts will sabotage any intern’s efforts.  At the end of the day a brand is only as strong as it’s own commitment to their unique offering, and that comes only through the knowledge and experience all members of an organization share.  To be sure, Charlie Sheen has earned America’s collective attention fixed on his social media presence, so what he is able to achieve depends not only on what he says but also who he chooses to manage his brand’s voice online.

Update: Continue reading Social Media 101: Why Brands shouldn’t let Interns Manage Social Media

Music by the numbers: Measuring my Listening Habits online

Music is a powerful means of self-expression and a deeply personal part of our lives, influencing individual attitudes and motivating our behavior on a daily basis. The pervasive influence of music in culture is well documented, and I’ve already written about it before on this blog. There are any number of ways we analyze the impact of these art forms, especially when media make their annual “Best of” and “top artist” lists each year. Since any kind of social change should be measured, I was curious: could I measure the impact of musical art on my own life much like I measure other influential media?

Fortunately I already have one data set to pull from: for the last 5 years I’ve been tracking my listening habits through Last.fm, a social network that tracks playback by music lovers so that we can compare music tastes. By keeping track of the songs I play through my computer (and more recently on my iPod), the network generates peer recommendations and Top 10 lists.

Last.fm graph visualizing music played by artists in 2010
Visualizing data my top artists in Last.fm during 2010

Over the last 5 years using Last.fm, here’s what I’ve learned through tracking my own listening habits: Continue reading Music by the numbers: Measuring my Listening Habits online

Introducing MattHurst.com

MattHurst.com websiteI’d like to introduce MattHurst.com, a social media hub to bring together my social media profiles.  Alongside a feed from this website’s blog, this micro-site features my Twitter feed, Flickr photos, LinkedIn Profile, and Tumblr blog.

In addition to MatthewHurst.com, this new site supports my original goal to build my professional reputation, beginning first by securing my personal brand.  Instead of replacing this site as my expertise in online marketing, public communication, and of course social media, MattHurst.com seeks to better connect me with my peers who might not want to connect professionally, while still introducing them to my personal interests using online communication.

So far I’ve successfully created MatthewHurst.com into a online resource highlighting my professional insights and knowledge, but to most of those I meet online and in person I’m simply Matt – that guy who is really excited about social media. With this new site I hope this will continue to build my personal brand, not to mention helping out with search queries for “Matt Hurst”.

What do you think of MattHurst.com?  Please leave a comment, and I’ll try to incorporate your feedback into future redesigns of this blog as well!

Update: Continue reading Introducing MattHurst.com