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The Importance of Community Involvement: Reflection on IMPACT Denver, 2012

IMPACT Denver is a six-month leadership and civic engagement program offered by the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. Several GFM colleagues have completed IMPACT Denver and/or Leadership Denver and raved about the experience, friendships made and community networks broadened.

When my IMPACT journey began in January 2012 our final class day in June seemed so far away. Instead, I blinked and the experience was over.

My biggest takeaway is this: the future of Denver is not as bright as many of us think. Our education system is broken and all Coloradans do not look like the runners, bikers and skiers portrayed in tourism brochures. From appalling literacy issues in schools to miles of food deserts, Denver is at a tipping point.

But there is a silver lining. If even a fraction of my IMPACT Denver classmates stand up and get involved, our community will thrive. I’ve been in public relations since the day I graduated from college but have not previously had the privilege of working and learning alongside professionals from such varied backgrounds of banking, nonprofit, construction, education and law. Even when my clients are from those industries, my contacts at those businesses tend to be in the marketing and PR fields, not the bankers and lawyers themselves.

During every class I was blown away by how differently everyone’s minds worked, yet collectively, our class asked questions and pushed boundaries on the various tough subjects that Denver is facing. We of course couldn’t solve the alarming achievement gap that exists in Colorado in a half-day session, but meaningful and through-provoking conversations took place, and a fire was lit to help drive change.

I’m still searching for the areas of civic engagement that inspire my heart and mind. I am now on the board of Colfax Community Network, a nonprofit that services the families and children who live in the motels along Colfax Ave., but I also have immense interest in health, food access and obesity-related issues. And one day when I have a family, I know improving our school system will become even more relevant and critical in my mind.

Not all businesses or organizations see the value in having employees go through programs like IMPACT. Once a month I was away from my desk and the experience was a financial investment in my professional development. That is why I am so grateful to GFM for knowing that six days out of the office is nothing compared to what I gained professionally – a network of peers that quadrupled in size and a sense of responsibility to improve our city, which is vital to ensuring small businesses like ours succeed. You really can’t put a price on being actively involved in your community.

Thank you, Laura and Ramonna – and my teams, for supporting me on this journey.

~Alexis Anderson is a Senior Communications Director and Social Media Strategist at GroundFloor Media. She loves to participate in GFM’s volunteer days and wishes she had more free afternoons to spend with the kids in the after school program at Colfax Community Network.

Social Media: The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Crisis Communications

We’ve all seen “social media gone wrong” scenarios. Actually, we can’t really avoid them since they pop up on a daily basis. Just this past week we can watch the Viacom/DirecTV debacle play out on social networks and laugh at the staged Nokia After Party tweets from the ESPY’s.
On the flip side, communicating through social platforms can be an extremely efficient and effective means for updating the public in a crisis. During the fast-breaking nature of the recent Waldo Canyon Fire here in Colorado the hashtag “#WaldoCanyonFire” drew 119,000 tweets in just 15 days, reaching more than 54.4 million people.
The beauty of social media is a direct  reflection of the risk of social media – the conversation is open, potentially endless, and you can’t control the spread of information (or misinformation). But there are some fairly simple things you can do to effectively prepare for the good, and the bad, of social conversations:
     1)   Know where the relevant conversations are happening today, not just when a crisis breaks
It’s a good idea to monitor the Internet for your brand and product names, but don’t stop there. Set up Google Alerts, Twitter searches and the like for terms related to your industry and terms that might come up in a potential crisis (e.g., “Colorado fire,” “network scam,” and “@DeseanJackson10” to use examples from above). Broadening your monitoring will help you catch an issues management scenario quickly and interact with a broader community to build your social presence (see #3 below).
     2)   Be flexible with the purpose of your social platforms
If you’ve mainly used Facebook as a means to promote your products and services and Twitter as a customer service tool, what happens when the crisis situation plays out on Facebook instead of Twitter? You need to be ready to respond on the same platforms where the crisis is taking place.
     3)   Build your audience accordingly
There’s no such thing as a “dark” Twitter account. If you don’t have followers, no one will hear what you have to say. Build your presence today, use smart hashtags, and promote your social platforms as a way for your customers to get up-to-date information. The old PR adage still holds true – you can’t buy home insurance when your house is burning.
     4)   Be proactive AND reactive
Social media is a conversation, not a broadcast booth. Post AND respond. No one likes the person who talks about him/herself all of the time.
     5)    Build a social media response plan – today
Every business or organization has a handful of scenarios they’re worried about – customer complaints, product failures, situations that put large groups of people at risk. Whatever those situations are, plan for them. Put a social media response plan in place that prioritizes various conversations, and includes an action and approval process for addressing each priority level.
Jim Licko is a Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy at GroundFloor Media. He helped develop GFM’s Onine War Room™, and frequently uses it to help his clients practice difficult social conversations and develop social media response plans.

A Week in the Life: Ramonna Robinson’s Week in Photos

Ramonna (yep, with two Ns) Robinson, vice president and managing partner at GFM.

My faithful companion, Ri (short for Henry).
I love to hike – and to take photos. This one was taken in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I’m a hippie at heart! I learned to slackline at the Wanderlust Yoga festival at Copper Mountain.
Friends. Wine. Yoga festival. What more do you need?
Bouldering is great exercise – for both the body and mind!
Live music is another favorite pastime. This is MC Yogi at Wanderlust. I’m excited to see JJ Grey & Mofro, Brandi Carlile, Zac Brown Band, Jack White, Dierks Bentley and Mumford & Sons this summer – and to attend Austin City Limits this fall!

~ Ramonna

Let It Be The Day To Celebrate The Beatles

In celebration of Beatles Day today (which marks the band’s triumphant return exactly 48 years ago from their US tour to Liverpool and is regarded as the day that began their rise to fame), we’ve rounded up some of our team’s favorite Beatles songs:

“Tomorrow Never Knows” — It was drum & bass music before drum & bass existed. 

“I’ve Just Seen a Face” — It was almost our first dance at our wedding, but it was way too fast for my husband and I to dance to!

“Let It Be” — Anytime I hear that song during a busy day, it always puts things in perspective.

“Yellow Submarine” — Because it makes me happy. ; )

“Two of Us” — It was the recessional at our wedding!

“All You Need Is Love” – It’s uplifting and a song of hope.

“Blackbird”– I sing it to my children.

“Let It Be”– The song is written incredibly well and signals the end of a Beatles era.

Looking for more? Here’s 100 of the greatest Beatles songs according to Rolling Stone that will keep you groovin’ until next year’s Beatles Day.

If you had to name just one, what would be YOUR favorite Beatles tune?

What We’re Reading – week of June 25, 2012

Last week’s What We’re Reading focused on engagement, and this week we’ve got the research to back it up. From which words garner the most fan conversation and action on Facebook (hint – avoid “like” or “click”, but “chocolate” will get you everywhere!), to whose recommendation has the most influence on purchase decisions, there are a lot of good stats in the articles below that will help you shape your social media programs.
In one piece of “news you can use,” you might want to check your Facebook profile to see whether your preferred contact email has been replaced with an @facebook.com address. More details below. Have a great weekend!
CNNMoney: Facebook Changed Default Emails to @facebook.com
If you’re missing an email from someone who got your address from your Facebook profile, chances are they sent it to your new @facebook.com address. Didn’t know you had one? Neither did a lot of users. Read this article to learn about the new rollout from Facebook and how to switch back if you prefer.
Ragan.com: Words Including “Look” and “Watch” Don’t Engage Facebook Fans
Do your Facebook updates include words such as “like” or “click?” Turns out using these driving words repeatedly isn’t what gets fans to click through to your content. Words like chocolate, shop and wardrobe inspire click-throughs, and the research cited in this article proves posting photos is key to engagement success. 
OPENForum: How to Improve Your Twitter Engagement Rate
Is your brand is one of the 77 percent that considers Twitter a priority social platform? Then you should know that tweeting while people are busy (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) garners 30 percent more engagement, and any more than two hashtags and you’ve gone too far. Read this article for more insights!
OPENForum: Whose Recommendation Has the Most Influence on Customers?
A new survey shows that 81 percent of women “trust” Pinterest and blogs equally, but 61 percent say they actually purchased an item after it received a positive blog review (versus 47 percent who made a purchase based on a pin.) Read this post to learn more about the power of bloggers!
Social Campaigns
VentureBeat: This is Why You Never, Ever Start Campaigns on Friday
Most social marketing campaigns kick off on Fridays, but campaigns launched on Tuesdays get the most engagement, according to a new study. Read this article for smart campaign insights including what you can learn from colleagues, what works on YouTube, and best times to engage on various social platforms.
Mashable: 5 Ways Small Businesses Get Social Media Wrong
Social media is everywhere, and most businesses – regardless of size – are getting on board. This article outlines five common errors among small businesses trying to master social media. One of our favorites? You don’t have to keep up with the big brands. Read this article for more!

8 Reasons Why Sheryl Sandberg is Awesome

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg (she’s even listed on our company’s Pinterest board among other influencers and PR crushes we all hold close to our heart).

For those of you who don’t know, this is a woman to watch and it’s not just because Mark Zuckerberg reportedly once declared, “Everyone should have a crush on Sheryl” after he hired her from Google as his COO at Facebook.
If you need more convincing, here are 8 reasons why Sheryl Sandberg is one cool lady:

  • Today, it was announced that she will become the first female executive to join Facebook’s board of directors — a big step considering only 16% of directorships are held by women at Fortune 500 companies. 
  • She typically leaves work at 5:30 p.m. How many of us can claim that for ourselves?
  • While at Harvard, she donned legwarmers and led the Harvard Aerobics club. Now that’s cool.
  • The woman knows how to network. In fact, she met Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party. And the rest? It’s history.
  • She’s only 42 and has already been ranked #5 on “the world’s 100 most powerful women” by Forbes.
  • She can give a TED talk like nobody’s business, especially on why we have too few women leaders.
  • She’s admitted that she’s cried at work before. C’mon, you know you have too.
  • During her commencement address at Barnard last year, she told the young women in the crowd, “I know I need to believe in myself and raise my hand, because I’m sitting next to some guy and he thinks he’s awesome. So, to all of you, if you remember nothing else today, remember this: You are awesome.”

Right back at ya, Sheryl. 

~ Lauren Cook is a Senior Director of Social Media & Digital Strategy at GroundFloor Media and is on a quest to meet Sheryl Sandberg in person.

A Week in the Life: KP’s Week in Photos

Kristina Reilly (aka “KP”), director of business operations at GFM, wife, mother, daughter, friend (in no particular order).

I was pretty excited when I was asked to be the first team member at GFM to kick off our “A Week in the Life Of” blog series since I was in the middle of taking an online iPhoneography class. That said, I should probably rename this post KP’s Week in iPhotos.
What is the odd substance on my sunroof. We haven’t seen much of it,
but I was able to capture the rain through my sunroof. Did a little photo enhancement to capture the blue sky too.
As part of my never-ending quest to shed the “baby weight” and to stay healthy, I completed my second week of foundations work at CrossFit Verve. Take that, baby weight.
Denver offers amazing photo opportunities around the city. I love the pink of the sunset reflection off of the smoke stacks at the Dry Ice Factory.
K, Kristina with a K. Photo of my keyboard while practicing with the
zoom feature on my phone.
The big 6. A whole year in the making, my son FINALLY turned 6. I guess I would be pretty darn excited if I was turning 6 too.

My final photo is not going to win any photo competitions for sure. We have been doing our best to do one family hike per weekend. This week’s hike took us to Ceran St. Vrain trail in Jamestown. This is a picture of my busted up knee. I turned my ankle while carrying my three year old the last 100 yards to the car. My valiant attempt to save her from injury resulted in two bloodied knees.

Well, that’s my week in iPhotos. If you have an iPhone, take some time to play around with the camera. It does some pretty amazing things. And keep tuning in to learn more about our team through our new “A Week in the Life of” blog series.

Four Steps for Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat

“Let’s host a Twitter chat!” A phrase uttered in hundreds of PR and marketing meetings daily across the country. But then you actually get the green light – now what?
There seems to be a Twitter chat for everything these days, and in my personal experience, if you’ve tried to participate in one but found it frustrating, it can be hard to go back. Yet when executed thoughtfully and transparently around a topic that really matters to your audiences – not your advertisers – a special thing can happen. A few dozen to a few hundred people are suddenly connected from all parts of the country (and potentially, globe), bonding with newfound comrades over shared tips, personal experiences, challenges, fears, and hopes.
GroundFloor Media was recently lucky enough to partner with Anne Marie Nichols of This Mama Cooks and Andrea Rouge from Cooking Matters Colorado to execute LiveWell Colorado’s (a GFM client) first-ever Twitter chat. LiveWell Colorado is a nonprofit dedicated to preventing obesity through healthy eating and active living, so there were naturally a wealth of chat topics we could pursue. But we finally narrowed it done to “eating healthy on a budget.”
The chat was held late in the evening to accommodate our primary audience of moms, who often hop online once the little ones are down in order to catch up on work, personal reading and social media interactions. We had a blast throughout the hour-long chat and are eager to share a few key tips for hosting a successful Twitter chat of your own!
·      Plan! And then plan some more. Twitter is a real-time platform, but it is very obvious if a chat host is not well prepped and organized before things begin. Know what questions you are going to ask, and in what cadence, and have plenty of thought starters and interesting facts at the ready to move the conversation if things slow down.
·      Pick your #hashtag wisely. It probably goes without saying these days, but make sure your hashtag isn’t so long that it compromises Twitter’s 140-character space limits. And don’t hijack a hashtag or use one that is so obscure that people who may have otherwise stumbled onto the chat by chance are confused by its meaning. (you can link to article on hashtags… for choosing or searching)
·      Partner with experts. For nearly every topic you can imagine, there are dozens of credible experts who posses a notable Twitter following and are open to conversations about partnering for a chat. Just like with traditional PR, having a third-party expert in a formal chat role helps endorse your brand, expand your outreach and can go a long way to building relevance with new customers and followers.
·      Have fun!The cost of most chats is very minimal and, in many cases, only equivalent to time involved. Therefore, unlike a major ad spend or blogger campaign, you can have fun and try some new things, test emerging messaging and let your true brand/organizational culture shine through.
Twitter chats are not the place for a hard sell, but rather a concentrated moment in time to interact person-to-person with your community. Thank them. Celebrate them. Reward them. If you build a community that is willing to sit down and take 30 – 60 minutes out of their hectic day to talk with you and your community, you’ve already won.
We’d love to hear from you about Twitter chats as well! Have you hosted or participated in one? What did you like or dislike, and do you see them as a viable tool within a strategic communications plan for brands and organizations?
~Alexis Anderson

One Last Push!

The Social Madness Competition is quickly coming to a close and we need your help! For every vote GFM receives, we will donate $1 to help provide food to kids in need through the Food Bank of the Rockies.

Currently, we’re in 16th place but need to place in the top 8 to stay in the game.
In just three clicks, you’ll make a huge difference – so if you haven’t already, PLEASE:
3) Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn
Thank you from the entire GFM family for your support!

What We’re Reading – Week of June 4, 2012

While last week’s What We’re Reading compilation was pretty focused and included a number of big announcements from the likes of Facebook and Google, this week’s roundup seems like more of a grab bag filled with “news you can use.”
From a tour of the newly redesigned Foursquare app to a reminder about the importance of regularly updating passwords (click here to see if your LinkedIn profile was hacked this week…), we hope you find our wrap-up to be useful. We’ve got tips to building your social media community, and some new research that shows QR codes may be on the rise. If you stop by LinkedIn to update your resume (see 9 hot skills below!), don’t forget to follow GFM while you’re there.
SmartBlog on Social Media: 7 Keys to Building Social Media Community
At GFM, we’re big advocates for bringing personality into your social media outlets, which makes us love this quote, “No one wants to hang out with a logo.” Read about this and other smart tips to apply to your social media channels in this helpful article.
SocialTimes: 9 Hot Skills That Are Trending on LinkedIn
Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re already a social media power user, but when is the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile to reflect your skills? This article reminds us of the value of LinkedIn and shares some key phrases social media junkies are using to advertise their skills.
QR Codes
Digiday: Are QR Codes Undervalued?
It seems the jury is still out on whether QR codes are an effective marketing tool. But, new research shows 86% of marketers plan to use QR codes in 2012 and one QR code company reports a 157% increase in scans from a year ago. Could Coke, Taco Bell and HP be on to something? Read this article for more.
New York Times: A Tour of Foursquare’s Redesigned App
In an effort to better compete with Yelp and other similar apps, Foursquare announced a redesign of its popular app that now allows users to easily look up menus, get directions, call to make a reservation, or “Explore” options nearby. This article provides a good overview of the new offering.
Ishmael’s Corner: Visual Storytelling Makes Sense of Complexity
Infographics are certainly enjoying a heyday and in certain cases they’re a great option to put a complex story into a format that is easy to digest. Done well, an infographic can draw audiences that might otherwise shun your story in to learn more. This blog post provides a great example of a compelling infographic.
Password Security
Forbes: With LinkedIn and eHarmony Passwords Exposed, Make Sure You’re Not Using Same Password Elsewhere
A recent study shows 40% of people use the same password for every website, putting them at risk when events like this week’s password security breach with LinkedIn and eHarmony happen. This article provides a good reminder of the importance of “keeping your digital homes locked down.”