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Category Archives: Social Media

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Jessi writes about the business of technology at Wired.

Jessi Hempel of Wired on Covering the Business of Technology

Less than a year ago – after a seven-year stint at Fortune Magazine – Jessi Hempel joined Wired as a senior writer covering the business of technology. I first met Jessi when we were fellow journalists, she at BusinessWeek and I at the Boston Business Journal and I’ve known her for more than a decade at this point. She recently agreed to answer a few questions about covering technology and what it’s like to be a journalist today.

Q. You cover the business of technology – that’s a huge beat. What types of stories do you focus on?
A. The business beat sounds broad … but it’s actually more focused. I basically have two responsibilities – the first is that I write longer form business features. The second is that I write regularly for once a week or so. Those stories are either analysis of breaking news or exclusives about companies our readers recognize. On we cover consumer and enterprise facing companies but we always lean toward consumer-facing companies.

I like two types of stories for breaking news and I like analysis. Wired doesn’t cover funding round stories and we will rarely break news about an executive joining a company. Everyone from the New York Times to Re/code covers funding announcements and we don’t think it adds a lot. The types of exclusive stories we like to do are behind the scenes looks on a launch or product news. Not every company I write about is Facebook or Google. I’m very interested in startups, but the startups I’m interested in are ones that have something significant that makes them stand out. I spent a good deal of time – several hours of reporting – with a company called Hello in the spring. At the helm was a young man who was making a sleep monitor. The significance for me was the story behind the device … the young fellow was a great character. He was 22 years old and he had investors with very big names.

Q. What are the challenges of being a journalist today?
The biggest challenge is standing out – we have so much ‘me too’ journalism and most reporters have so little time for actual reporting that you get aggregated content. I think that’s that biggest challenge for journalists: finding a way to do original reporting.

Q. How many pitches do you get a day?
I get maybe 50 from people that I don’t know at all and then maybe five from people with whom I have a relationship. I probably write from three PR pitches in a year.

Q. How important are page views and does it affect which stories you cover?
The web is a volume business – it succeeds when we get traffic. Wired is extremely focused on the credibility of the story and discourages writers from looking at page views. We look at the value of the story. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a crack team of editors who are optimizing for traffic – we do. We would not be competitive if we didn’t. But, when I’m thinking about doing a story, I don’t think ‘will this get traffic?’ And I think that makes Wired different.

Q. How do you find stories? Do you ever use social media?
It’s a lot of having been in this business for 15 years and knowing a lot of people. And having people who I know and trust to say, “look at this, pay attention to this, and we want to give you the early look.” And for Wired we like to be on the news, so our team of business reporters in particular at our security desk, wake up every morning and see where we can break news and bring exclusives.

Q. How does print reporting differ from writing for
A. With the magazine, we do almost exclusively consumer-facing technology companies. Wired gives me the luxury of being able to take a long time to report and write stories. Wired is very committed to long form business stories and editors really like features that have strong narratives and strong characters. We have a pitch meeting every few weeks. At the meeting we as a team of mostly editors and staff writers will look at and consider about a dozen or so ideas. You have to find a writer or editor who falls in love with the story. Wired is the longest lead time magazine I’ve ever worked on. Right now we’re assigning stories for the November issue.

Q. What’s one of your favorite stories from the past year?
A. Here’s an example of a story I liked a lot that ran online: Instagram is Getting So Good at News, It Should Scare Twitter.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool

How millennials are revolutionizing media consumption: Q&A with the founders of Briefing

How do you get your daily dose of news? Twitter, Snapchat, push notifications from mobile news apps, email newsletters, television or even print? Maybe even a mix of all of the above?

News organizations are increasingly changing the way they deliver content to cater to millennials, who currently represent a third of the population. According to Pew Research Center, millennials are now the largest portion of America’s workforce – 53.5 million and growing. (As an aside, if you’re interested in Pew Research’s recent reports on media, definitely read Beth’s post on the PR Impact of the Pew State of the News Media Report).

Media outlets are also rapidly changing their platforms to be more mobile-friendly because, as comScore recently shared in its 2015 U.S. Digital Future in Focus Report, smartphones and tablets account for the majority of growth in digital media consumption (up 394 percent and 1,721 percent respectively) over the past four years alone.

Social media and newsletters have proved incredibly popular for ever mobile-engaged users, especially channels such as Snapchat (read Danielle’s post on Discover here) and Facebook or email news digests such as Next Draft and The Skimm, which targets millennial women and has grown its readership to a whopping 1.5 million active users per month.

As a millennial myself, I’ve watched with avid interest as publications have drastically adapted the way they relay content to their readers. This shift in the way publications deliver news has also transformed who is reporting the news and how it’s being reported. Here at InkHouse, we interact daily with reporters whose editors judge the merit of their articles by their content, of course, but also by web traffic statistics and social media engagement.

Two millennials offering a way for their peers to read the day’s top stories in under three minutes are Joe McKnight and William Nutt, co-founders of Briefing. I asked Joe and William to share their thoughts on the changes they’re seeing in today’s media landscape.

InkHouse: First of all, what is Briefing?

Briefing: Launched in November 2014, Briefing is a daily email newsletter enjoyed by a broad range of Internet users who are too busy or too overwhelmed to make sense of the increasingly complex news media landscape. While other popular new summaries and aggregators satisfy narrower niches, such as The Skimm (“delivering the day’s news in a breezy conversational way” to young women) and Quartz (to “smart, worldly people“), Briefing’s simple design and neutral tone resonates with a much more diverse audience. With that said, our audience tests have revealed a particular popularity among millennial males.

InkHouse: How do you think the increase in mobile users has affected the way people in the U.S. consume media?

Briefing: We’ve seen –  and continue to see – a monumental boost in the share of mobile users as a result of improving mobile technologies and the alternative preferences of Generation Y. That paradigm shift is as influential as the preliminary shift from traditional to digital media, with an array of profound implications.

Here are just three examples:

  • As mobile users consume their news on-the-go, they don’t have the patience for long, in-depth coverage. They want stories to be bite size and to-the-point.
  • They want rich media, particularly short videos. Publishers, platforms and marketers are bracing for a massive increase in mobile video over the next few years.
  • Perhaps most notably, users are increasingly looking to social networks for their news. All major platforms – including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Snapchat – have recently poached top talent from mainstream news publications to build out their news features, develop partnerships and, some analysts speculate, publish original content. Snapchat’s Discover feature has proven wildly promising, and Facebook’s recently introduced Instant Articles further underscores this trend, which is once again disrupting publishers’ business models. The shift has many traditionalists concerned about the influence of social channels on journalists, citing a threat to their editorial independence and thus the existential purpose of their work.

InkHouse: What types of content do you find your millennial readers responding to the most?

Briefing: Our readers are keenly interested in the day’s most pressing international and political news, but nothing drives engagement like the issue that directly impacts their lives. We’re careful to note new studies and reports on almost every conceivable topic like public health, military spending, or media consumption habits. A study about, say, how electronic blue light can negatively affect one’s eyesight will always beat out a study on global literacy rates.

InkHouse: Thanks so much William and Joe!


Read more from Caty Dickensheets

What We Can Learn From How the New York Times is Using Reddit to Increase Engagement

What is engagement? How can you measure it? What are the most important metrics? These are questions that matter a great deal, especially in public relations. But good news, PR is measurable. The same applies to the ever-changing and challenged media landscape. As James G. Robinson, director of analytics innovation at the New York Times said, “attempting to measure engagement is one of the great neurosis of the modern media industry.”

At the World News Media Congress, Robinson discussed how the New York Times is taking an interesting approach to gain insight into its audience. In fact, they are using Reddit to try to “bring the audience into the newsroom,” to see which stories are creating conversations.

Robinson describes Reddit as “a rich source of connecting our editors to our audiences.” In the NYT subreddit, editors are able to see which specific stories are resonating most with readers, whether it’s a breaking news story, or an article posted 20 years ago.

How is the NYT doing this? Cleverly, that’s how. It’s deployed a bot to scan Reddit and send an email alert to journalists and editors every time a NYT story is mentioned on the site by a user. Further, NYT journalists are using Reddit as a news source, helping them to identify stories that are bubbling as well as potential sources.

What’s most interesting here is that, unlike many publishing houses who are defining and measuring success based on traffic and subscriptions, the NYT is using Reddit to better understand and then engage with an audience.

I was thinking about what lessons communicators can apply from the NYT’s approach to our world. These three came to mind:

1) Understanding your audience – and where they get their information – is key: This requires fervent research, understanding the readership and reach of every media outlet or social channel to ensure your message is targeted to the best possible audience.

2) Amplify the content: Paid tools can ensure that your earned content reaches a larger, even more relevant audience.

3) Sometimes, a click is not enough: While optimizing impressions is often a top KPI, all this means is that your message is being spread. But are people engaging with your message? Consider tracking other important metrics, including: social media engagement and shares, referral traffic and comments.

After all, as Robinson said, “engagement is much more than a click on a link. It’s an emotion.” We agree.

Read more from Danielle Laurion
Elections Ahead

Snapchat gets serious – starting with the 2016 election and a CNN heavyweight

Snapchat, the same app that is popular with young adults for sending disappearing selfies and videos, is growing up. Following in the footsteps of BuzzFeed, which wants to pivot from a publisher of listicles to a serious news publisher, Snapchat too is going after news and media legitimacy, and it’s not messing around. Recently, it hired Peter Hamby, national political reporter from CNN, to lead its editorial content.

A few days later, the New York Times dove into what we all were thinking: Snapchat is taking on news in a big way starting with the 2016 presidential election. Snapchat hasn’t confirmed this in so many words but we should have seen this coming, really. In January, Snapchat introduced its “Discover” section (read Danielle’s blog about Discover here), an area inside the app that showcases original content from about a dozen established publishers including ESPN, National Geographic and CNN.

Why the election? Well, whenever an election comes around, the topic of how to attract and appeal to young people comes into play. Politico targeted young voters in 2008, BuzzFeed in 2012, and now Snapchat slated for 2016. When you think about it, it really is the perfect match. The company told Bloomberg Business more than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are active on the service and together view more than 2 billion videos a day. That’s already about half the number of videos people watch on Facebook, which is seven years older and has 10 times as many members.

Why Peter Hamby? Besides being a national political reporter, Hamby has been a huge supporter of pushing CNN ahead in the digital era, encouraging his colleagues to share their work via social media. In fact in 2013, he wrote a 95-page report for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center that criticized how campaigns were covered in the digital era.

It has also been reported that Snapchat will be creating its own original content as opposed what they’ve been doing with the “Live” feature. Essentially users within the boundary of an event – such as the Kentucky Derby or the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight – could upload their personal snaps to the story and it would play for anyone clicking on that live event. Creating their own content is a big investment for Snapchat, something that most social platforms have stayed away from, because it’s very expensive. But don’t worry, Snapchat can afford it. The app is currently valued at $15 billion.

Like the way this is shaping up? That’s exactly what the man at the helm of Snapchat’s ship, Evan Spiegel, is working towards. There are growing signs Snapchat is evolving into a media firm, one that given its appeal to young and diverse audiences could be a formidable competitor to both traditional media companies and other social media outlets.

I’m interested to see how they tell the election story from the social media platform and if they really can influence that key young voter demographic. I guess only time will tell if whether it will pay off at the polls.

Read more from Kristen Zemeitus

Dennis Keohane of PandoDaily Talks Tech Journalism and His Favorite Stories

Dennis Keohane

Dennis Keohane joined Silicon Valley’s PandoDaily in April to cover startups and venture capital nationally. Keohane joined from BetaBoston, where he was part of the original team of writers who launched the Boston Globe’s tech blog last year. Dennis recently discussed with InkHouse his move to Pando and what types of stories he’s most interested in covering, among other thing 

Q. You cover startups and venture capital for Pando – that’s a huge beat! How do you manage such a large coverage area?

A. It is massive and doing it in Boston was one challenge – but now it’s massive on a national scale. The hardest part is trying to figure what is a Pando story – what fits into the structure of our mission.

Q. What is Pando’s mission?

A. Our mission is covering power players and keeping them in check – and making sure they’re not using their power in the wrong way. And promoting the little guys, who no one’s heard of.

Q. What are your favorite types of stories to do?

A. I like telling the story of the company that nobody knows, the founder who has struggled. Personally, I like the human side of the story. The best stories I’ve done are when people have let down their guard. Those are my favorites and I think people like reading those stories.

Q. How do you find your stories?

A. I try to build as many solid connections as I can, usually by in person meetings. I understand that the way the tech industry works, every meeting needs to have some value-add, but that’s not the case with good writers. You might meet with someone for 45 minutes and get nothing out of them that is worthy of a story. However, if you’ve started to foster a relationship with them, you might connect with them somewhere in Boston for 10 minutes and then they may tell you something newsworthy.

Q. What does Boston bring to the innovation/startup world?

A. Boston VCs get less credit than West coast VCs. West Coast VC’s get the glory round. Also, there is so much innovation around MIT and Harvard and the other schools that no one else can compare. The difficult thing is keeping [the talent] here. There are companies that are doing well but they’re not Facebook. Wayfair, TripAdvisor, and HubSpot are all doing well.  Drizly, Jana Mobile and DraftKings are some of the hottest startups in Boston right now.

Q. In terms of tech publications, which are Pando’s biggest competitors? Who’s doing a good job?

A. Re/code is a major competitor.  We’ve grown up together. I think Re/code more than anything has similar numbers to us in terms of page views. [Pando Founder] Sarah Lacy’s thing is that the people who read us are the influencers. … It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to Re/code, post-acquisition.

Q. What prompted your move from BetaBoston to Pando?

A. Before the Pando thing came to fruition I was looking at a few different options, including going inside a company, but I wasn’t really excited about it. I reached out to Sarah… and she said ‘we have a job opening.’ For me I love to meet new people and learn new things – so at Pando I get a better understanding of what’s happening on a national tech level and learn about the world of VC. That was really appealing about the job.

Q. What’s your biggest challenge as a journalist today?

A. Figuring out what to write every day. There are so many good companies. I have to ask: is it worthy of the coverage and what we’re trying to build with Pando? We’re evolving … so, it’s going to be more like we’re going to cover a few small stories really well … and really get away from the TechCrunch press release model. On a day-to-day basis it’s hard to figure out how to do that. I look at, what’s the angle, what’s the issue? The challenge is taking business stories and making them interesting and sexy.

Q. How much are you actually thinking about clicks and SEO when you’re crafting stories?

A. Very little. At Pando it’s more about what’s the impact of the story? I’ve been able to see what goes on at BetaBoston, but Sarah holds the controls  and so I have no idea how any of my stories do. I think that’s a good thing.

Q. How do you measure impact at Pando? Social media traction?

A. Definitely measure social media, at least I watch how many clicks something gets on Twitter or Facebook.

Q. Biggest PR pet peeves?

A. I don’t even acknowledge [embargoes]. If I’m going to write the best story about this, the time shouldn’t matter …  let’s do this the right way. I love exclusives if I can get them but it’s not necessary. I just want to have a good story that has something that people will generally care about on a large scale.

Read more from Lisa van der Pool
Police siren

Jump on It: Responding to Breaking News

When all news seems to be “breaking news,” rapid response is a critical tactic for PR and marketing pros. Our expert rapid responder, Lisa Mokaba, recently explained that the best way to handle rapid response is to channel the Fresh Prince and “jump on it.”

If you don’t act immediately, you’ve already missed the opportunity to insert your voice into a short conversation.

News audiences tune in for breaking news updates more frequently and from more devices than ever before. The American Press Institute found 33 percent of Americans read their news throughout the day, and 78 percent use their smartphone to get news.

Further, social media is climbing its way into the top spot as a news source thanks to millennials, as our Beth Monaghan noted in a recent post. Millennials are nearly evenly split between TV (28 percent) and social media (26 percent) as their primary source for news. But the trend is moving away from TV and toward social media. Facebook just announced it will begin directly hosting articles from leading news organizations, including NBC News and The New York Times.

Given this context for how readers are consuming news, we understand that edging into the news cycle requires rapid response. Strategically responding to breaking news, however, demands a balance of thoughtful foresight and planning and immediate action.

You never want to regret hitting send on an email to a reporter containing poorly crafted commentary so it’s important to develop a strong foundation for how your brand and its leadership fit into the ebb and flow of news in the industry.

Take the time to develop a unique perspective about what’s happening within your industry today and where it’s headed. Once the message is well-defined and understood by everyone at the company, your thought leaders can respond to breaking news with timely commentary that adds value to the developing story and reinforces your position in the market.

Here are three additional tips for rapid response:

  • Obvious, but critical – speed: Reporters don’t have time to wait, so neither do you. As soon as a new story breaks and you have insight to add that helps relay this news to readers, get it out there. Reporters will appreciate thoughtful commentary that arrives before they finish filing their pieces.
  • Short soundbites that matter: When you have something unique to say that aligns with the established company principles, frame your thoughts as short soundbites. Whether over the phone or in an email, reporters need quick insights that strengthen their stories, not long-winded paragraphs. Given the time crunch, short and valuable contributions matter most.
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader: If you continue to provide valuable insights about breaking news, you’ll fortify your position as a thought leader in the media. Reporters will come to rely on your expertise, and you’ll reach a wider industry audience through continued dialogue about breaking news events.

Rapid response is a powerful tool to reach the media, but it requires planning to nail the choreography and win the audience.

Read more from Rachael Tucker
Teenagers taking a selfie

Marketers Need to Create Ephemeral Content Right Now

It was five years ago when I started my career in social media marketing, and the marvel of posting witty, geeky content to show my love of all things Internet-y has come back to haunt me on the occasion, thanks to the Timehop app (not to mention every #tbt that will surface again and again for the rest of my life). Post-Millennials (Generation Z) are savvier than I, however, growing up with technology in the palm of their hands. They don’t want to follow in my footsteps and archive their every move; instead they put their best selves in the public eye and let the mediocre moments they share disappear. “They don’t want open social networks, they want intimacy. They don’t believe every action has to be meaningful and permanent. They imagine the web as deletable.” TechCrunch has put it best – this is the rise of the Ephemeralnet.

Aside from traditional social media players that have been in the space for some years now, the birth of newer platforms include a visual feature as their primary communicator, and many are shifting their focus to ephemeral content – as in content that has an expiration date, and then self-destructs. This is due to a new perspective on what the Internet means to blossoming generations. Those generations, especially Gen Zers, are important to content creators and advertisers as they grow into the next sought-after market. But they expect content to work on their terms, in their language and offer more value than just a “you should like us because” message that many of us have become too comfortable with in our communications. So what can we do to become better content creators for the next generations and how can we adapt to the platforms where they choose to communicate with us?


Look to the leader
Ephemeral content is still a fairly new concept that marketers and platforms are working to adopt, but we can take a cue from the platform that birthed this new, temporary way to communicate – Snapchat. Since 2011, Snapchat has been rolling out innovative ways to share content that is succinct, and short-lived. We can send private snaps to our friends and share multiple photos or video clips in “Our Story” to our public network. More recently, brands have been able to capitalize on this content by contributing to sponsored stories in the newly branded “Live” area of the app. Snapchat features live events happening around the world. Indian culture in the “Mumbai” feed, fashion highlights from the “Dior Cruise” and sweet moments between Snapchatters and their Moms for Mother’s Day are just a few of the Live stories I have seen this week. Brands can now intertwine their sponsored content with user-generated content during these valuable live events, most notably Samsung sponsoring the American Music Award’s red carpet updates on the app.

Another major feature Snapchat rolled out in the recent months is Discover, their content hub containing twelve major publications issuing daily content, ranging from Cosmopolitan to Yahoo!. Discover has generated a lot of chatter and has marketers looking to the future of quickly digestible news, but Snapchat’s core users are not all convinced it is working. One surveyed Millennial sums it up well, “It would never occur to me to get all my news from Snapchat. I think Snapchat as a media platform is interesting. It makes sense in the way that it’s all self-destructing so it gets replaced every 24 hours with new news, but I don’t see society gravitating to Snapchat to get their news.” Content creators have some work to do, it appears, but we may be headed in the right direction.

It’s important for marketers to remember that Snapchat, unlike older platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, is being conscious of who they let into their exclusive ring of advertisers. Snapchat emphasizes their decision to offer only native advertising, as in advertising that doesn’t interfere with the user experience and is voluntarily viewed by Snapchatters when utilizing the app. Snapchat is also mindful of their demographics, primarily made up of Gen Zers and Millennials, so sponsored content must be relevant to the lifestyle these generations are passionate about, and inevitably what they want to see from brands.

phone pictures at a concert



Streaming now vs. hearing about it later
For these younger generations, it’s also not enough to hear a story about the latest festival, fashion collaboration or product launch a few hours after it’s happened. Millennials paved the way to wanting on-demand content, and now Gen Zers and younger expect the same content in real-time, but they don’t want to hear about it – they want to see it. As we look to our leader again, we can see why: Snapchat Stories have normalized real-time video storylines to share what’s going on around us. Cue Meerkat and Periscope, the latest live-streaming app offerings that have already made an impression in their first few months.

The NFL is one of many recent adopters using livestreaming methods for communicating that otherwise would have come through TV or the Internet, then plastered across social media in the form of breaking updates. Fox Sports used Twitter’s Periscope to livestream the NFL draft, a favorable decision for many that will continue to put less reliance on living room viewing and allow for real-time updates across a number of devices.

Even bigger than the NFL draft was the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight that was bootlegged across many Periscope accounts two weeks ago to offset the steep $100 Pay-Per-View television premium fee and lack of an official online stream. Within an instant, thousands were tuning into these illegal streams to watch the fight of the century. If a stream dropped off from one person’s apartment in New York, another stream inevitably went live from someone’s house party in San Francisco. Even though the quality of these streams was worse than your 1992 tube television, the overwhelming viewership makes a bold statement: on-demand content at cheaper rates is expected and younger generations growing up with these ephemeral apps will do anything to get it. So why not share content the way people want to consume it?

It’s no surprise why marketers are salivating at the idea of bringing brands to livestreams and certainly aren’t hesitating to voice needed features to better leverage sponsored content. As we watch Meerkat and Periscope develop and react to these occurrences in the next few months, it will be important for marketers to brainstorm future events that can add value to live and on-demand content consumption.

Firstborn’s senior strategist Scott Fogel, however, makes an important point, “added features could threaten the allure of live-streaming—the idea that what you see isn’t overly orchestrated, or produced, and [remains] true to real life.” Now more than ever it’s essential to preserve brand authenticity as savvier generations grow into the market. They’ve grown up with the ability to judge advertising with a critical eye, and can easily detach from messages that do not resonate with them in today’s content clutter.


The verdict: ephemeral content is temporary, but here to stay
Given the wave of these new platforms in the last five years, we can be assured that although content is disappearing every second at the disposal of younger generations, ephemeral apps are making a permanent mark on content consumption. So how do we as marketers adapt to meet the needs of these savvy, mobile and critical generations when it comes to the messages we serve them?

Like Fogel mentioned, it’s important to remember that relevance is key. Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope are not going to induce on-the-spot conversions, so curb the sales-y talk and focus on brand awareness. With the ability to use photos, videos and emojis coupled with a live experience – your brand can shine on these ephemeral apps and keep users coming back for more updates. If your brand’s content reflects messaging that younger generations can adopt into their current chosen lifestyles, your brand has a better chance of growing with them through the years. As Alexandra Levit puts it, “Gen Zers are growing up in a healthier economy, and appear eager to be cut loose. They don’t wait for their parents to teach them things or tell them how to make decisions.”

As I reflect on myself as a middle-child of the Millennial generation, and how I have come adopt the Ephemeralnet into my daily communications, I offer my advice to those who begin to explore this content for themselves and their brands: keep it real. And keep it real short. That’s what keeps me coming back for more – even if it is to track a surprise comeback burrito from Taco Bell.

Read more from Jill Jankowski
Twitter Homepage

Why Twitter Changed its Homepage and What it Means for Brands

Believe it or not, 42% of B2B brands either have no account or are inactive on Twitter. Shocking, right? Especially considering that 83% of Fortune 500 companies have accounts and Twitter reported last week that it has more than 300 million active monthly users.

However, these B2B companies aren’t alone – only 19% of adults maintain an active Twitter account, which may seem high, until you find out that nearly 60% use Facebook on a regular basis. Additionally, Apple, arguably one of the most influential companies, has never tweeted, engaged with users or even uploaded a profile picture on their company profile on Twitter.

Ultimately, these companies are missing out. With so many users, Twitter successfully reaches most industry spheres. It’s no secret that Twitter has proven to be an effective, and free, way to engage with a targeted audience, obtain pertinent news (in real-time, no less) and convey your brand’s personality.

So how can Twitter convert these non-believers? They have decided to address this issue by getting fancy, starting with their homepage.

Up until a couple weeks ago, the Twitter homepage was quite barren, with a simple message prompting you to “Follow your interests,” by signing up for an account. Yet, it gave no glimpse into what was behind that login page, why the 300 million dedicated users continue to use Twitter on a regular basis.

Now things look a little different:

New Twitter Homepage

Instead of its formerly stagnant landing page (ironically on one of the most interactive sites that comes to mind), Twitter’s home page now features collections of topics that lead you to curated Twitter feeds for news ranging from celebrity chefs to technology to travel guides. Filled with newsworthy and visually appealing tweets from some of the top Twitter users, it is hard not to want to engage with and share what’s on these feeds.

However, you can only access this if you are not logged in to Twitter. These feeds are created to entice the non-user, to let them see what they are missing. As Twitter put it “… we’re making a big change for the many millions of people who visit every month who don’t log in but still want to know what’s happening.”

Twitter knows its strengths and is hoping that by giving non-users a little tease of what they could be a part of, their active user numbers will grow.

Time will tell whether or not this will effectively convince the account-less B2B brands to join the Twittersphere, but it serves as a reminder that valuable opportunities can be unlocked by signing up.

Read more from Linnea DiPillo

Up your pitching game with Twitter’s new DM feature

Last week, Twitter introduced a new feature that allows people to receive direct messages (DMs) from any user, whether they follow them or not.

Many people who appreciate the privacy features of Twitter are happy to hear that this is an opt-in feature. In other words, the setting to receive DMs from anyone will be turned off by default, so users won’t receive messages from strangers unless they decide to change their settings.

However, as cold calls become a thing of the past and journalist email inboxes continue to overflow with misdirected pitches, we have to imagine there are a good number of reporters who will open up their Twitter profiles to being contacted through DM.

We already know many reporters who prefer to be contacted via DM. For instance, Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times (@fmanjoo) says right in his Twitter bio: “I prefer DM PR pitches.” And Roberto Baldwin of Engadget (@strngwys) has said that “the people in PR that are doing a good job actually do pitch me via DM on Twitter now.”

So for those journalists who choose to open themselves up to receiving pitches from anyone and everyone, here are some best practices for getting their attention without stepping on any Twitter toes:

1. Build relationships first

If you don’t already have a relationship with a reporter, you are essentially cold calling with just 140 characters. Unless you catch them with the perfect topic at the perfect moment, this likely isn’t going to work.

Before you pitch a reporter via DM, work on building a relationship with them first. As my colleague Samantha McGarry points out, “Reporters are people too…So get in there with some chitchat about common interests, opinions, the weather, the Red Sox, whatever. Have a dialog. Relate to each other. Make a connection.”

A great way to start is by simply monitoring what they are tweeting about. What current events are they talking about, what are they retweeting, what personal anecdotes are they sharing? You can tweet at them with a link to an article they may be interested in, or tag them in a tweet so they see it. If you haven’t worked together before, this will put you on their radar and leave a lasting impression for when you do eventually reach out.

2. Use DM selectively, otherwise it’ll just be spam

While email is still the preferred method of communications by journalists, according to this survey, many have complained time and again that it is impossible for them to sort through the hundreds of email pitches they get every day, many of which are misdirected and completely unrelated to their beat.

Enter DM. For now, pitching via DM is still novel to reporters. They see PR representatives who pitch via DM to be tech-savvy and on top of their game. That is, until everyone catches on and Twitter becomes yet another vehicle for journalists to be bombarded with irrelevant information.

Let’s be smart PR folks and not let this happen. Use Twitter to gauge a reporter’s interest, monitor what they are covering, and what conferences they are attending. And when the time feels right, shoot them a DM with a story idea that is so up their alley, they’ll be begging you for more information.

3. Move the conversation off Twitter

Trying to tell your story idea within 140 characters seems nearly impossible. The good thing about this is that it forces you to be concise and share only the most important details. Once you share your brief pitch with a journalist, ask for permission for a longer exchange and move the conversation over to email. Not only will this result in he or she keeping an eye out for your message (especially if your subject line references your Twitter conversation), but will also make them much more likely to respond.

Keeping these strategies in mind as you take your pitching to Twitter will not only show your value as a PR representative in the mind of a journalist, but may just land your client a story.

Read more from Kristen Raymaakers

Does Twitter need a strategy refresh?

Last week, Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur and early Twitter investor, spoke at the Guardian Changing Media Summit in London and boldly stated that, “Twitter will die if it doesn’t fix its ‘noise’ problem.”

This noise is the stream of unsolicited information that is flooding users’ feeds with sponsored tweets from users that they do not already follow. So how can Twitter fix its noise problem and prevent itself from joining the ranks of social media “has beens” like Friendster and Myspace?

1. Dismiss irrelevant content: Allow users to identify suggested content that they are uninterested in. The current “dismiss” feature just removes that particular tweet from the user’s timeline, however, there should be an option to never see any recommended content from a particular Twitter feed in the future unless you decide to follow that user.

2. Tighter monitoring: No one appreciates troll accounts following them, favoriting content, or direct messaging them. Even worse, there are troll accounts set up to mimic companies’ pages, with a letter or two off in the spelling so that some users may not even realize at first glance that it is not the real company. Twitter should purge spam accounts more frequently and more thoroughly in order to maintain credibility.

3. Add new features: Keep the site fresh by frequently adding new features, and phase out those features that don’t take off or deter users. This is tricky because while you cannot please everyone, you can work to make the most active users happy. One way would be to invite users into the innovation process. The company could create a poll for users to regularly weigh in on the features that would be most useful to them, perhaps on a quarterly basis. The key will be to communicate what the results were and to make a splash when the new features chosen by users are up-and-running. This will in turn create buzz and make users feel like they are part of a greater Twitter community.

Ultimately, I think that Twitter is here to stay. There is already a strong user base of 288 million users including media outlets, businesses and even celebrities, on top of the “average Joe” users like me who have come to rely on the valuable content that we find on there each day. The key is to engage with users and not be afraid to change up the strategy often in order to keep the site relevant.

Read more from Christine Comey Lewis
snapchat discover

Three things you need to know about Snapchat Discover

snapchat discover

Snapchat is no longer only for millennials and the ugly selfie you hope the receiver is too slow to screen capture before it “disappears” into cyberspace. While I admittedly get joy from watching my Snapchat score rise with each embarrassing Snap, the marketer in me always questioned when Snapchat would take it to the next level for branded, editorial content. Eventually, brands would move in to reach these consumers. How would brands use Snapchat to advertise? How would they reach the more than 200 million Snapchat users? What would be their goal or message?

Last month, Snapchat launched Snapchat Discover. In a blog post announcing arguably the biggest upgrade Snapchat has ever made, the Snapchat team said, “Snapchat Discover is a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams. It’s the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first. This is not social media.”

Here are three things you need to know about Snapchat Discover:

1)      It’s about storytelling: What struck me about Discover is Snapchat’s emphasis that “this is not social media.” The team says Discover is built for creatives and is dependent on editors and artists. There are currently 12 “editions” across various topics including: CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News and Warner Music Group. Snapchat announced in June 2014 that Stories – a compilation of Snaps that last only 24 hours – was its most popular feature. In fact, Stories drew more than 1 billion views daily. Therefore, what was the most obvious way to integrate brands onto the platform? Through the use of storytelling. I would argue that “storytelling” rather than plain old “content” now reigns as king. There needs to be a beginning, middle and end. What is your message and how can you connect to your audience? Discover is based on stories.

2)      It’s timely: Just like Stories, the content on each Discover edition is replaced daily – after 24 hours. News is now old after one day. And since these editions on Discover happen to be from media outlets, they want to share the most timely up to date content. Snapchat enlisted publishers in this ad supported revenue-sharing partnership to emphasize storytelling.

snapchat tip

3)      It’s not just for photos: Discover allows for customizable content. From photos, to videos, to articles and long form content, Discover is a collage of the publisher’s news for the day. Click on the icon to open the publisher’s stories of the day. Usually an image or video will play with an intriguing headline, guiding you to swipe up to read the full article or the helpful tip, watch the full video or learn the latest breaking news. When you want to go to the next story, swipe left. When you want to move onto the next publisher, swipe down to head back to the Discover home screen. Food Network has the “Tip of the Day.” Today happened to be, “Superfood Breakfast Toast.” With a single swipe up, I have instructions on how to make a coconut butter spread with cocoa powder, almonds and honey. ESPN had a series of videos titled, “NBA Top Players Who Beat Lebron for No. 1.” Must admit, that headline pulled me right in to see who could have possibly beaten “King James.”

While some report Discover looks like an online magazine, and others say it is a new medium parallel to Twitter and Facebook, there’s no denying this is big. We’ve come a long way from my embarrassing selfie of #iwokeuplikethis. Now, in PR, will we start pitching reporters articles for Snapchat? We just might.

Read more from Danielle Laurion