Friday, September 29, 2017

Oh the Irony

Do you ever feel like two obscure things come together at highly ironic times? That’s how I feel about the assigned topic for this week and the top sports headlines in the media right now.

This week’s topic is brand reputation…the good, the bad and the ugly.

I attended a tourism conference last year and the keynote speaker was CBS travel correspondent Peter Greenberg. During his address, he took a clever jab at the domestic airline industry quipping that the collective slogan of the industry should be “Airlines, where we’re not happy until you’re not happy!” I thought this was brilliant at the time, given the dismal service that has come to be expected by many of the top domestic carriers. And that was before the video went viral showing a United passenger being drug off a plane.
Peter Greenberg. Photo Credit CBS News

Building – and even more importantly, maintaining – a strong brand reputation is not an overnight objective. It takes years to cultivate the image and requires continued, diligent effort on the part of a person or organization (Conner, 2014).

As Rosendale (2015) pointed out, effective branding can build transparency, stakeholder interaction and involvement, speed/cost/credibility and market expansion. These are the positive outcomes of branding. According to Rosendale (2015), branding is about selling the organization, not the organization’s products. I tend to agree.


As an organization behaves consistently, so is it perceived. This goes for personal brands too, in which an intentional image is built around an individual. The trick is that, whether a personal or organizational brand, these are fluid in nature. In essence, perception of brand is in the eye of the beholder (Sutherland, 2009). The goal is to build credibility, and keep consumers coming back (Rosendale, 2015).

Brand reputation has never been more valuable than now, in the era of the digital revolution.
Now, marketers and strategic communicators have the ability to listen and watch the conversations taking place about their organization, engage with consumers like never before, and ideally, be proactive in portraying a brand.

64% of our time online is spent on social media (Fulgoni & Lipsman, 2014). Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about the average of five hours per day spent on social media? What’s almost comical is in the same article from 2014, Fulgoni and Lipsman noted how video was lagging behind…I highly doubt they’d report the same findings today, a mere three years later.

Digital branding efforts ensure that dollars are being spent on direct efforts to reach precise audiences (Fulgoni & Lipsman, 2014). Social media comes with the potential to engage a massive audience with minimal cost (Rosendale, 2015). Possibly the biggest cost is not utilizing these tools. Check out a great video by Erik Qualman about use of social media for organizations:



We have a small-scale example of this here in Grand Junction for our Rim Rock Marathon. We spend a minimal amount marketing the event, but we have such specific data about our participants, that we know exactly who to target in our promotion. We do just that and we’ve seen incredible success with it.

Photo from the 2015 Rim Rock Marathon

Imagine big corporations. With access to big data, multiple platforms and exorbitant resources. Is it possible marketers know more about us, and likely our spending patterns, than we know about ourselves?

“With an integrated view of campaigns and the appropriate multi-platform data, however, media planners can use osmosis between channels to ensure that dollars are being optimally allocated” (Fulgoni & Lipsman, 2014, p. 15). Say WHAT?

Data-driven marketing and branding are here to stay.

So what about the flip side? We’ve only looked at the good (depending on who you ask) side of brand reputation, but what happens when it hits the fan, so to speak?

Sports is seeing this right now, regularly. Especially *sigh* my alma mater, University of Louisville. And, the NFL.


Apparently, after the headlines in the sports world the last few weeks, I would have been wise to save my plug for Dr. Daniel Diermeier’s book Reputation Rules for this week. But I’ll bring it back up again now.
Read this book!

Every organization should be aware of potential communications crises. Take Louisville again. I’m thinking right about now they are retaining a high-dollar crisis communications expert. Probably way too late, as they’ve been plagued by bad press in recent months. (On a side note, Louisville is still a great school, with wonderful academic programs and I loved my time there, so it is truly unfortunate to see what is happening.)

The thing is, with the plethora of information available and the warp-speed at which it can travel, no person or organization is immune from a communications crisis. Remember up above I said building brand reputation requires behavioral consistency to change perception. Louisville has a long road ahead to restore its reputation. While immediate intervention is an absolute must, brick by brick the institution must rebuild its reputation over the long haul.
Rick Pitino

Another unfortunate aspect of a brand reputation crisis is the domino affect it has on innocent bystanders. In the case of Louisville, the current – albeit not the only recent – controversy primarily centers on the athletic program. Due to the high profile stature of the program, I would venture to guess the institution might see decline in total admissions as an additional fallout of this federal probe.

If this happens, the impact can trickle to student fees, development dollars, and the like. The scope of scandal may be far broader than just the men’s basketball program.

Jumping back to the personal brand side of things. There is no doubt the personal brand of soon-to-be-former coach Rick Pitino has and will suffer greatly. If there is any silver lining to this entire saga – which  I believe is just the tip of the iceberg – it is the chance for a valuable learning lesson.

There has been no more respected coach in men’s college basketball than the late John Wooden. One of my favorite quotes from Wooden goes like this, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

And we are back to an interesting irony, just the way we started this blog. Two of the most successful basketball coaches of all time...one focused on character and departs as a legend, the other focused on reputation and departs as a fraud. If only the later would have heeded the advice of the former.

Perhaps this week’s concept should not be called “brand reputation” at all. Perhaps, we should take the lead from the good coach and call it “brand character” instead. Modern sports could use more good guys like Coach Wooden.

This has been another edition of Stoll on Sports. Thanks again for riding along!


References

Conner, C. (March 2014). Top online reputation management tips for brand marketers. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2014/03/04/top-online-reputation-management-tips-for-brand-marketers/#1140a96c13e3

Fulgoni, G. & Lipsman, A. (2014). Digital game changers: How social media will help usher in the era of mobile and multi-platform campaign-effectiveness measurement. Journal of Advertising Research, 54(1), 11-16. Doi: 10.2501/jar-54-1-011-016

Rosen, N. (January 2013). Fundamentals of personal branding. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/fundamentals-of-personal-branding-2012-10

Rosendale, J. A. (2015). New communication technologies in organization communications and branding: The integral role social media now play. The Florida Communication Journal, 43(2), 49-59.

Sutherland, R. (July 2009). Life lessons from an ad man. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/rory_sutherland_life_lessons_from_an_ad_man




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Time to Celebrate Our Community



I had the honor of serving as a guest blogger for Healthy Mesa County this week, in conjunction with a fun event that organization, and my organization (the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission) are hosting tomorrow, Sept. 27. It is the inaugural Healthy Mesa County Corporate Scurry, geared toward celebrating our community, quality of life, and workforce.

Time to Celebrate our Community - By Jennifer Stoll


Although this isn't for my class assignment, I thought I'd share here on Stoll on Sports as well so you can begin to get a feel for my role, and our organization's role in the community. I hope you enjoy the quick read and brief hiatus from all things communications related!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Crowdsourcing: My Suspicions Are Raised

You’ve heard the phrase “two heads are better than one”…The idea that collaboration and multiple individuals participating in a process can lead to greater results. The essence of collective intelligence as described by Aitamurto, Leiponen, and Tee (2011). This is the foundation of the crowdsourcing revolution. Crowdsourcing sure sounds fancy, doesn’t it?
Sesame Street's Two Headed Monstrer

However, in reality, all you need is two elements 1) an open call and 2) a crowd (Aitamurto et al., 2011).

Some would argue crowdsourcing is a “hype term associated with unrealistic expectations for innovation and unclear of its requirements and challenges” (Aitamurto et al., 2011). Nonetheless, the practice has grown significantly over recent years in a variety of industries, including sports.

Examples of crowdsourcing include Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop and InnoCentive where everyday people can use their skills to solve real problems for industries and earn money doing so (Howe, 2016).

In my mind, the line between crowdsourcing and user generated content is quite blurry. Crowdsourcing seems to be more task-focused, whereas user generated content can be relatively open in use. EBay (apparently it does still exist) and Wikipedia were listed as examples of user generated content in the readings this week (Howe, 2016).

An article we read this week talked about the t-shirt company Threadless, putting shirt designs out to followers for vote on what was graphic was selected for production. While this might have helped the company boost sales, did it really solve a problem? User voting doesn’t seem to be a novel concept to me. It’s how Major League Baseball has chosen All Stars since the 2002 season.

It makes me wonder if this type of voting system should really be considered crowd sourcing.

Perhaps that is too narrow of a viewpoint. Perhaps, voting and user generated content are approaches existing under the umbrella of crowdsourcing. If this were the case, I’d contend that crowdsourcing is nothing new. Didn’t all of this use to be called customer engagement?

Again, that is probably too na├»ve of a rationale. It’s clear no matter what you call it, the present applications of crowdsourcing are innovating the existing concept.

When it comes to applications in news media, even faster evolution is occurring with mass-producer opportunities, and citizen journalism. In Paul Lewis’ (2011) TED Talk about how mobile phones helped solve two murders, the presenter noted crowd sourcing in the news can hold organizations accountable and also fill a void about the scope of what journalists can possibly know and cover (Lewis, 2011). And that was 6 years ago.

Ultimately, Lewis (2011) exemplified how crowdsourcing can help resource journalists, while highlighting the laborious task of validating and corroborating information coming in. This evolution of technology use will continue to dominate the future. We have seen it already in numerous viral videos that appear each week, thus prompting journalistic stories. Did anyone see the nurse who was arrested in the hospital a few weeks ago? Case in point.

My contention that just maybe crowd sourcing is a pseudonym for customer engagement parallels something I’ve learned about in sport.

NFL Play 60 Initiative
In sport literature, there is growing scholarly work about corporate social responsibilities (CSR), which I discussed in Stoll on Sports a few weeks back. A mentor of mine, and perhaps one of the most notable sport management scholars, Dr. Chelladurai (2016), wrote an excellent article detailing that many times CSR initiatives are actually, what he labeled discretionary social initiatives (DSIs). Basically, his point was that DSIs should be called as such, not guised as solely as sports teams/organizations doing something good for the community.

Dr. Chelladurai: Well-deserving of a blog pic
I believe the same holds true for crowdsourcing. There are times it truly does drive creative and innovating concepts, solve problems, and help an organization. In which times, call it “revolutionary” if you want. Nevertheless, there are other times where it is merely a mechanism for customer engagement.

We learned about this last week when we looked at the Cleveland Indians’ Social Suite where they invite fans and bloggers to positively influence the discourse about the team during games. Is that solving a significant problem for the Indians’ organization? Maybe, but I’d lean toward just a unique fan engagement initiative.

There is also a developmental professional soccer team in the UK who dabbled with allowing fans to vote for the starting lineup. This came up when I performed a Google search on “crowdsourcing in sports”. Truly crowdsourcing? I’ll let you be the judge. What about when the novelty wears off?

Compare this to using crowdsourcing to develop a solution to a problem resulting in a new product, or an industry revolution. Hmmmm…hopefully you see what I’m getting at here.

Let’s look at another sports example. Many of them seem to revolve around voting, as was done by the Toronto Raptors to name their new expansion franchise back in 1995. The Dallas Mavericks turned to their fans to choose a court design for their home games.

I’m not saying that any of these creative approaches are wrong. Rather, I’m asking if they are truly crowdsourcing.
Okay, MAYBE we could have made one better play call!

These concepts are even more interesting in sport due to the extremely high levels of fan engagement. Everyone loves to “Monday morning quarterback”. 

Answer me this, what other industry does the Average Joe feel like he could make better play calls than a head coach? Or even better, can you name another industry where getting cut from your junior varsity team qualifies you to explain to a room full of friends precisely why your team is 1-3 as you chug your fourth Coors Light? I doubt it.

That would be like me telling my husband, a forensic structural engineer, why a building collapsed. It makes no sense! (For the record, I have no clue why buildings collapse, but I’d guess it would have something to do with the words “expansive”, “tension”, or “deterioration”. To me, these just add up to a big “Oh crap!” on someone’s part!).

The point is, these things aren’t bad, let’s just call them what they are.

As we learned this week, many sports organizations even put policies in place to limit the power of social media (Holton & Coddington, 2012).

The last point I want to make here is that crowdsourcing does not ALWAYS yield positive results for an organization. Recently, REI, a huge player in the outdoor apparel and gear industry, launched an ad campaign geared toward acknowledging outdoor enthusiasts and athletes come in all body types. It was an anti-body shaming ad. 
I'm not sure who Seth is, but the quote is on point. Image Courtesy LikeSuccess

Only problem? Their stores are notorious for neglecting to carry plus sizes. Objective: engage consumers to embrace body type. Problem: We don’t offer goods for the body types we are trying to embrace. Result: SOCIALMEDIA FIRESTORM! Major backfire. See the video and read some related comments on the REI Facebook page...bad language warning! (Thanks Mom, for showing me that story!)

Boaty McBoatface...isn't she a BEAUT!
The lesson here? Make sure when you aim to engage the masses, you have dotted your “I’s” and crossed your “T’s”! Need we revisit the state-of-the-art, $287m polar research vessel launching in 2019? The vessel, whose naming put to internet users, is Boaty McBoatface (Rogers, 2016). So, there’s that.

Crowdsourcing, and/or customer engagement are nonetheless wonderful tools to advance a brand, solve problems, and boost sales…let us use this power wisely, however!

Remember, bad decisions make great stories. Here are some epic mascot fails. See ya for next week’s Stoll on Sports!



References

Aitamurto, T., Leiponen, A., & Tee, R. (June 2011). The promise of idea crowdsourcing – Benefits, contexts, limitations. Whitepaper, 1-30.

Bold Worldwide (October 2016). Why crowdsourcing is important for your sports brand. Retrieved from http://www.boldworldwide.com/bold-marketing-blog/how-one-soccer-club-takes-crowdsourcing-to-the-next-level

Chelladurai, P. (2016). Corporate social responsibility and discretionary social initiatives in sport: a position paper.  Journal of Global Sport Management, 1, 1-15.

Holton, A. & Coddington, M. (2012). Recasting social media users as brand ambassadors: Opening the door to the first “Social Suite”. Case Studies in Strategic Communications, 1(2). Retrieved from http://cssc.uscannenberg.org/cases/v1/v1art2/

Howe, J. (June 2016). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2006/06/crowds/

Lewis, P. (2011). How mobile phones helped solve two murders. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_lewis_crowdsourcing_the_news


Rogers, K. (March 2016). Boaty McBoatface: What you get when you let the internet decide. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/22/world/europe/boaty-mcboatface-what-you-get-when-you-let-the-internet-decide.html

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Say "Blog" 10 Times Over and Tell Me It's Not a Funny Word

Don't worry, I did it too. And I think you'll agree, it is a funny word indeed.

I'm probably showing evidence of living under a rock, but I didn't even realize "blog" was short for "web log" until the readings this week (thank you Jackson, Waine, & Hutchinson, 2015).

Blogging is the topic du jour for the week, which is ironic, since I'm writing one and you may be actually reading it (statistics say you're really skimming it, but I'll count that as a win). None the less, it seems like every week the topics related to communication are massive. Blogging is no exception. In all honesty, I for one, was skeptical about whether blogs carry any credibility, are worth the time and effort, and had any impact on the greater good.

Courtesy Shoeboxblog.com
After reading up on the subject of blogging this week, I've come to the conclusion, as with most things, it depends. You may be thinking that's an easy out not to take a side one way or the other, and you're partially right, but I truly believe like beauty, a blog's relevance is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, I put forth a blog's relevance is determined by 1) the writer's goal for writing, and 2) the reader's goal for seeking the information.

Let's start with some scope on the blogosphere.

A quick Google search revealed no set answer on the approximate number of blogs that exist in the world. Understandable as they often come and go. One site estimated 152 million blogs in 2013. I have no way to substantiate that number, so let's just agree that it's a heck of a lot.

So how important is blogging to business? Here are some interesting statistics I came across this week:
Look how cute!

  • Companies with blogs receive 97% more inbound links to their website
  • Blogs with graphics get 94% more views (see cute goat photo...just trying to increase my views!)
  • Websites that blog average 434% more indexed pages (Sukhraj, 2017)
And yet there is more...
  • Bloggers who post daily receive 5x more traffic than those who don't
  • Google loves blog content for website ratings
  • Blogs generate B2B leads (McCoy, 2017)
You may be thinking, "Stoll, you're crazy! Don't you realize the useless junk that's out there in the blogosphere?!" Yes, yes I do. In a platform where anyone can contribute content, how do we sift through the clutter? I mean, there is a blog for ugly Renaissance babies, one for cats with their faces in pieces of bread, one for awkward iStock photos, and another for moustair (trust me, I CANNOT make this up. Check out 10 Weird Blogs on Tumblr).

Case in point: Breadedcats.com. What??

Even more ironic here is that 81% of consumers say blogs are a trusted sources, in fact, the 5th most trusted source for accurate information (McCoy, 2017). SAY WHAT? The absurdity!

This is a good sag-way into my two points above about the relevance of blogs.

You see, the great thing about blogging is anyone can do it. A double-edged sword no doubt. But each blogger's purpose for writing is different. The blogosphere creates room for the whims of anyone (insert goats in PJs). I'm likely not looking for a blog related to photos of individual Cheetos on the ground around the world (reference #9 in the link 10 Weird Blogs link above), but someone may. The intent of that blogger may be to provide levity to readers. In which case, if you are a reader looking for humor, maybe you found it with the secret life of the abandoned Cheetos. 

Many people blog to share *relevant* information. The relevancy is in the eye of the reader. If purpose for writing and purpose for reading align, then a synergy is met. The goal for bloggers is to cater their message accordingly for their audience, or vice versa, find an audience that wants to hear their message. It reminds me of the old eBay commercials about finding whatever "It" is to you. (By the way, does eBay still exist?)



When synergies exist among blogging content and consumption desires, the results can lead to increased credibility, business and status as an influencer (McCoy, 2017). We spent a lot of time discussing the role of influencers in last week's Stoll on Sports related to social media, and how they can filter our consumption. Same principle here.

One author from this week's readings noted that blogs are like the original newspapers, upon their emergence, people were uncertain of their trustworthiness. No different than pamphlets that were produced 250 years ago during the height of the American Revolution (King, 2016). 

When we look at conveying news information through blogs, we have to mention the rise of citizen journalism. Basically, citizen journalism is where Joe Public contributes to news. Traditionalist journalist recognize the evident lack in journalistic rigor in this content, and argue it's diluting true, accurate journalism with biased, inaccurate, low-quality content (Wall, 2102). My untrained eye, however, does not always catch the nuances. 

I'm not doubting this assertion of quality sacrifice is likely true, but as a non-School of Journalism major, I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers here when I say "so what?" 

See that in the rear view? It's the tipping point for citizen journalism.
To me, citizen journalism is past the point of no return. Does it have inaccuracies, potentially low-quality, and a bias? You bet. How is that different from much of our content from traditional outlets today? I'm not always sure. Do citizen journalists lack the formal training and academic prowess of traditional journalists? Likely. But is there a filter on who can push out content and when? That's a hard no.

I once heard a media person criticize an agency representative for breaking their own news. It blew my mind as the agency can put forth information that is 100% accurate, vetted, timely and first-hand. And remind me, who doesn't want that? While it might be a major inconvenience for media outlets, it is the way of the world today, and as blunt as it is, shaking a fist at bloggers or content developers is not going to change anything.

In week one, we learned about the difficulty traditional media is having staying ahead of the curve (see my first blog post on the topic). The fact is, citizen journalism is on the rise, and if there is an audience for it, then it's going to continue to increase. And some of its content, just might be better than regular journalism.

IMAGE SOURCE: maichimai2611.wordpress.com
That being said, it is the burden of the reader to become well-enough informed to substantiate content being consumed. The very nature of mass-producer content dictates so. Remember Shirkey's (2009) TED talk highlighting as such from last week? Media has flipped from single producer/mass-audience, to mass-producer/mass-audience. Although it is the burden of the reader, we should not confuse the fact many readers have no desire to critically analyze content. As we select what views we want to populate on our social feeds, the same can be said for blogs.

I do want to add one more point to this discussion. That is, as many ridiculous blogs as there are, and rightful head-shaking content, there are also many fantastic blogs containing a plethora of information, put forth by extremely knowledgeable people. These blogs can be hugely informative for any person or industry.

Some of my favorites are:
  1. Scott Stratten's UnMarketing
  2. Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership
  3. John Maxwell's leadership blog
  4. And my good friend, Jon Schmieder's Monday Morning Huddle Up blog on Sports Tourism
So you see, it's not all bleak, useless information put forth by people lacking credibility. If you take the time as a consumer to sift through and make your consumption choices wisely, you can find some really thought provoking, well-informed content floating in the blogosphere.

Just to touch on sports briefly, the same elements hold true. Content on sports is rampant, and as we know, content is king (McCoy, 2017). And like any other topic or industry, sports blogs can increase or decrease credibility. 

SportsGeek put out a list of the 30 sports blogs you should be reading. Truth is, I only read about one of them! The point is, that no matter the industry, blogging, content, citizen journalism, and deciphering accuracy are all tantamount objectives that must not be overlooked by those charged with strategic communication.

My mom has always told us - her three girls - never to confuse education with intelligence (thanks Mom!). I think this holds very true in the blogosphere today. While I'm not bashing education (after all, I'm writing this as a requirement for my doctorate), I am saying that many people have a wealth of knowledge stored up on an unbelievably diverse range of topics, and it is worth our while to let them share it so we can learn from it. But let's not be foolish...we must also do our homework to substantiate what we read. Who knows, maybe you'll discover who is actually dropping those Cheetos around the world! (My money is on the blogger!)

Another edition of Stoll on Sports in the books. As always, I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts on this subject, so feel free to humor me with comments.

References
Jackson, D., Waine, M. L., & Hutchinson, M. (2015). Blogs as a way to elicit feedback on research and engage stakeholders. Nurse Researcher, 22(3), 41-47.

King, R. S. (October 2016). Americans have been ‘blogging’ about politics for 250 years: What today’s Facebookers can learn from the pamphleteers. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/10/31/americans-have-been-blogging-about-politics-for-250-years/?utm_term=.1804880a8bf3

McCoy, J. (April 2017). 52 incredible blogging statistics to inspire you to blog. Retrieved from https://expresswriters.com/blogging-statistics/

Shirky, C. (June 2009). How social media can make history. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history

Sukhraj, R. (January 2017). 24 little-known blogging statistics to help you shape your strategy in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/25-little-known-blogging-statistics-to-boost-your-strategy-in-2016

Wall, M. (2012). Citizen Journalism: Valuable, Useless or Dangerous? New York: International Debate Education Association.  doi:10.1177/1077699013519908

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Dabbling in Social Media

Has another week passed already? My family is off at hunting camp while I'm grinding away on school work. There might be a slight flicker of light off at the end of the tunnel, but I'm pretty sure it's just the neighbors porch light about to go out. I'm learning doctoral studies are more a challenge of perseverance than that of academics.

I'm having a difficult time taking my mind off the state of our country right now with the devastation being caused by hurricanes in the south and wildfires in the west. Watching the intimate details of what friends are going through across the country, through social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, magnifies the reality.

But, on the other hand, without those outlets for disseminating information, we'd be reliant solely on media to convey the destruction and impact. This round-about thought process brings us to the week four topic for Stoll on Sports: the ever-expansive world of social media.

I must admit, I have internal struggles about social media in general. I wrote last week about the time-suck tendencies of mindless scrolling (guilty!), but in times like what we are seeing now, social media is vital to knowledge and understanding, empathy and compassion, and perhaps most importantly, prayer and giving.

All of this before our feet even hit the floor and we begin to peel back implications of social media at varying levels.

Refill your coffee and let's get started.

Speaking of starting down the road of social media, it's no simple effort just to try and put a scope around this week's topic. Social media has been so ingrained in our everyday life, segmenting it for discussion is like slicing water. But lets try.

I've previously cited statistics about average amount of time individuals spend on social media platforms. The gist is, it's a lot. This week's readings covered social media through a variety of lenses, some of which incited internal laughter just by how vastly information has changed since publication dates as recent as a few years ago.

According to an article by Mitchell, Gottfriend, and Matsa (2015), 61% of Millennials consume news through Facebook as compared to the 60% of Baby Boomers who get their news from the good ol' TV. The article classifies Millennials as those individuals born between 1981 and 1996. Now I'm on the older end of the Millennial classification, but geesh, it feels like there is a vast chasm between the older Millennials and the younger ones. To think someone who is barely 21 falls in the same life stage as me is scary, and kinda makes me feel good at the same time!

Other sources (WJS, ND) have different breakdowns of generational categories, but none-the-less, the point here is the vastly shifting media consumption patterns between the groups, not that I'm in the same group of people who could just be purchasing their first *legal* beer. Simon Sinek (I know, I post his stuff often, but I'm a fan), has an excellent and thought provoking video about Millennials in the workplace, and I think the core concepts also tie back to the class discussion. You can check it out via the inset video.





The good news for me is that Sinek classifies Millennials as being born in 1984 or after, so I'm safely off the list, but in all seriousness, he talks about essentially pacifying Millennials, which I believe is seen in our social media use as well.

Stay with me here for a minute, but much of the reading this week focused on discourse through social media platforms. Yardi and Boyd (2010) described the word "homophily" in which individuals tend to associate with other groups of people who are most like themselves. In other words, we run in groups of people with which we are comfortable, because we may share the same hobbies, interests and world views. We all do it, we follow organizations or personalities we align with, thus ultimately filtering our consumption content.

Everything is peachy when the content we see is what we want to see, reinforces our beliefs, and makes us feel "in the right". But what about when it's not? Do you recall the 2016 election or did you, like me, try to block out of your short term memory not because of political views but because of the non-stop social media in-fighting and negativity?

While we do have the ability to filter our consumption content, when content that is not in agreement with our view appears, we can either ignore it, engage in constructive discourse, or respond with aggression. Duggan and Smith (2016) noted that 30% of highly politically engaged social media users reply to comments in which they disagree. The authors noted a phenomena in which "although social media can help facilitate connections to the causes people care about, it can also expose the same users to negative or aggressive speech and require them to more attentively curate their social feeds" (Duggan & Smith, 2016). Interesting. Dichotomy of the pros and the cons.

When I read comments that fit this bill, I often think of the writer and the individual commenting, sitting face to face at a Starbucks, and wonder if the same words would be wielded. I don't know about you, but I've actually had very constructive discourse about politics, religion and other sensitive topics where rather than falling on my sword, I gain an understanding. Doesn't mean I agree, but I do appreciate the diversity of perspective.
Perspectives, Courtesy University of Washington

And isn't that what social media is all about? Social media took the standard model of one producer broadcasting to a massive audience, and made the massive audience able to produce its own ever-flowing content (see Clay Shirky's TED Talk about How Social Media Can Make History). I'll spare you yet another diagram about social network theory.

My goal isn't to make this post all about what is wrong with social media, but rather explore the dynamic role of these outlets.

Corporations are constantly trying to leverage social media discourse to their advantage. Media are experimenting with social media response strategies (Stroud, Scacco, Muddiman, & Curry, 2015), trolls are on the rise hiding by the veil of antagonistic anonymity, and "influencers" are  shaping the way we make consumer decisions (Wilson, Guinan, Parise, & Weinberg, 2011) - consciously or subconsciously. I have seen this first hand in the athletic and general student recruitment processes.

Here's an example from which we can draw a parallel.

I once heard a consultant talk about recruiting for a top 5 NCAA Division I football program. He spoke about how during a site visit, to campus, the recruit brought his mom, dad, an uncle, grandmother, and his girlfriend. The recruiter had to acknowledge all of those individuals as influencers on the young man's decision, what factors were important to each, what priority order their influence had, and then try to win over each one. It was far more about the influencers, than it was the five-star athlete. The dad wanted his son to get playing time, the mom wanted him to keep his grades up, the uncle wanted perks, the grandma wanted him to get enough to eat and the girlfriend wanted...you guessed it, to make sure she was the only young lady for which he'd have time.

In the end, the recruiter identified the mother as the key driver, so he focused his pitch on the academic standards, tutoring available, graduation rates, etc. And thus, the top recruit committed to the institution.

This example relates to the flood of influence we face on social media on a daily basis. Companies and organizations strive to figure each one of us out, segment us in some fashion and identify what we like. Johanna Blakely's TED talk (Blakely, 2010) exemplified this desire. Notice the "people-who-bought-what-you're-about-to-buy-also-bought-these-items" feature on Amazon. Or the fact if you demonstrate moderate restraint and don't purchase the product right then, it will pop up in your ads for the next 12 months.

Returning to the sports domain, the concept of influencers has been used recently by teams hoping to steer the conversation about a franchise. The Cleveland Indians implemented this strategy in wildly successful fashion with their Social Suite, a suite to which they invite bloggers and key influencers to shape the discourse about the team during a game (Holton & Coddington, 2012). It has worked brilliantly, as these individuals are probably less likely to badmouth the organization when they are receiving such "suite" perks. See what I did there?

They are building brand ambassadors. Lightening the load of the organization and letting some of their die-hard fans take on the responsibility of brand perception. The New Jersey Devils have also implemented a similar strategy called "Mission Control" (Fisher, 2011).

So, when we talk about sports, is it all positive? Not necessarily. You see, any organization can have a crisis in which all bets are off. Think of the BP oil spill, or the plethora of automobile manufacturer recalls. Goldstein (2017) outlined an article about key elements necessary for an effective social media crisis communications plan (I'd also highly recommend the book Reputation Rules by Dr. Daniel Diermeier).

As long as companies operate, there will be risk of crises. But what traditional organizations strive for is consistency of product. Yes, some bad press will inevitably creep up, but in general, the product they are offering remains unchanged. This is why Starbucks baristas go through such extensive training. Consistency. As of 2013 there were nearly 11,500 Starbucks stores in the U.S. How do we ensure the latte I love to order in Grand Junction is going to taste just the same when I order it in Asheville, NC? Companies make painstaking efforts to ensure product consistency.

For sport, however, you've got to tap the breaks.

Sport, by it's very nature of competition among humans, exemplifies product inconsistency. A grad school professor once described it this way: When I open my can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup, I know EXACTLY how many noodles, how many carrots and how many pieces of "chicken" are in each can. When I go to a sport event, I have no clue who is going to win, what will be the final score, whether it will be a nail-bitter or a blow-out...That is product inconsistency. Sports is founded upon it. It is what creates the angst, the thrill, the passion. (Thank you Dr. Greenwell, for the analogy that stuck with me all these years!)

Bringing it back to social media, sometimes teams and athletes are at their peak, other times they are the Cleveland Browns. The social media efforts of organizations like the NJ Devils and Cleveland Indians, try to build brand ambassadors that have loyalty to ride out those product inconsistency waves, while capitalizing on fan engagement despite the quality of competition, or the outcome.

It is truly a fascinating time to watch how new media, particularly social media, is being creatively leveraged across the world, both internal and external to sport. What's even more exciting, is the opportunity that exists to truly globalize our content, help other areas of the world, and right here at home. Houston Texan linebacker JJ Watt has raised more than $27 million for hurricane Harvey relief, all through social media. His goal was $200,000.



Despite the trolls and the anonymity antagonists, good is out there and social media can exponentially grow it.

Remember, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Blogger, and Wordpress are all banned in China, a country of nearly 1.4billion people. Imagine another 1.4 billion people contributing to the social media dialogue.

It turns out, that little flicker of light may not actually be my neighbors porch light going out, or the glimmer of hope I'll make it through my doctorate with some semblance of sanity remaining, but rather it may be the growing torch of our ability to use these technologies in innovative, collaborative and positive ways throughout the world.

This is Stoll on Sports. Happy football season (Go Bucks!) and remember what Dave Willis said, "Don't use social media to impress people, use it to impact people."



References

Blakely, J. (2010). Social media and the end of gender. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/johanna_blakley_social_media_and_the_end_of_gender

Duggan, M. & Smith, A. (October 2016). Social media and political engagement. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/25/political-engagement-and-social-media/

Fisher, E. (August 2011). 20 great uses of social media in sports. Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2011/08/01/In-Depth/Social-media.aspx

Goldstien, S. (February 2017). A social media checklist for your crisis communications plan. PR News. Retrieved from http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/how-to-integrate-social-media-into-your-crisis-plan

Holton, A. & Coddington, M. (2012). Recasting social media users as brand ambassadors: Opening the doors to the first 'social suite'. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 1, 4-24.

Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., & Matsa, K. (June 2015). Millennials and political news. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2015/06/01/millennials-political-news/

Shirky, C. (June 2009). How social media can make history. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history

Stroud, N. J., Scacco, J. M., Muddiman, A. & Curry, A. L. (2015). Changing deliberative norms on news organizations' Facebook sites. Journal of Computer-Mediation Communication, 20, 188-203.

Wilson, H. J., Guinan, P. J., Parise, S., & Weinberg, B. D. (2011). What's your social media strategy? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/07/whats-your-social-media-strategy

WJS. (ND). Generations X, Y, Z and the others. Retrieved from http://socialmarketing.org/archives/generations-xy-z-and-the-others/







Saturday, September 2, 2017

Time is Tick, Tick, Ticking Away

I read an article that estimated adults spend as much as one third of their waking hours on their smartphones (Gregoire, 2015). Let’s do some basic math on that figure to wrap our brains around it. If the average person sleeps eight hours per night (I wish! Says the person sitting at Starbucks doing homework at 5am on a holiday weekend! But I digress.). So we take the remaining 16 hours per day, divide it by three and get 5.33 hours, or five hours and twenty minutes per day. I've also heard about apps that track your app usage, such as Break Free.

Now, I’m not saying that those 5+ hours a day on our phones are not all a waste of time, we do use our phones to make the occasional phone call, or snap a picture of our adorable kids (see picture of my own little minions). But, if you are like me, you could probably admit that not all of this time is used toward efforts of productivity.
Obligatory first day of school picture of my kids

And, swallowing my pride a bit here, I bet more people are just as guilty as me in constantly saying how their lives are getting busier and there is just simply not enough time to get accomplished everything glaring at us from our to-do lists. Am I preaching to you as I’m preaching to myself? My total usage might not be 5 hours and 20 minutes, but I’m certain it’s not as low as two hours either.

Let’s take the blinders off and look at the explosive mobile emergence in a broader context.

Darrell West, Vice President of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings reported that 4.2 billion people are outside the digital revolution. In a world that has 7.5 billion inhabitants, 4.2 is well more than half.


Another way to look at this, nearly 23 times the United States’ population of roughly 326,500,000 have spent a total of zero hours using a smartphone. A classic look at the “haves” and “have nots”.

What does this mean? At first blush we may superficially wonder how these people, most of which in India and China stay connected, check social media, read the latest entertainment and sports news. But, significantly more importantly than who J-Lo is dating this week, West (2015) also noted, that broader access to the digital revolution could yield amazing educational gains, health awareness, jobs development and an additive $9.2b in the world GDP.

Some mobile carriers are jumping on board to improve accessibility, particular in developing nations, but others are continuing to employ cost-prohibitive practices leaving more than half of the world falling further and further behind the warp-speed age of technological advancement. Companies are exploring technology to bring connectivity to remote areas of the world, such as using balloons (Google Loon Project), satellites and other means to broaden digital access.


Imagine, a woman living in a remote area of Africa using a digital data connection to learn important concepts about reproductive health and infant care, thus long term helping reduce the number of deaths during and immediately following childbirth. The application of worthwhile efforts in proliferating connectivity are endless.

Let’s bring it back home for a few minutes. 

Where have we come in the age of the digital revolution? I venture to guess a significant amount of that 5.33 hours per day mentioned above is used for social media. Mindless, numbing, scrolling, in my opinion…and I’m not judging, I’m red-handed, too!

Waaaaaay back in 2012, the well-known Kelley School of Business at Indiana University published an academic article about the emergence of mobile marketing and social media (Kaplan, 2012). Can you guess the social platform on which the article used as a shining star example that the future was here?

I’ll give you a few hints. It wasn’t Facebook. It definitely wasn’t Instagram or Snap Chat. For those who remember designing their own page, it wasn’t even Myspace.

It was Foursquare.

Do you remember the original “check-in” platform…earn badges, become a mayor? When was the last time you heard someone talk about something they heard about on Four Square? I never downloaded the app and think it was the 2012 version of the useless Facebook games like Candy Crush, or the ridiculous Farmville. To me, these applications provided a great way to do a little housekeeping of my friends, if you know what I mean!

It is worth noting, that Foursquare successfully pivoted their business strategy and is now a competitor of Yelp! and Tripadvisor. See their website for more information. In fact, The New Yorker recently featured Foursquare in an article analyzing this pivot and survival in the dog-eat-dog technology industry (Gell, 2017).

My point here is that Four Square was monumental for its time. Facebook is that now. Facebook has done more in recent years to dive into social development (look no further than the ability to align birthdays to charitable causes, and donate to victims of the catastrophe in Texas). 

You may be wondering, “Stoll, when are you going to talk about sports?” Well, the topic this week really brought to light for me the opportunities to use the digital revolution for good regardless of industry. I believe sport is a big part of this due to its universal nature and ability to serve as a bond for nations and the world. For example, although ridden with controversy in recent years (an entire other blog series), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) lists on its homepage under the “about” tab, nine initiatives to promote Olympism in Society, including: women in sport, education, sport for peace, sport and active society, sport for hope, United Nations cooperation and Olympic Day (IOC, 2017). See Promote Olympism for more info.
Kids playing cricket during International Day of Sport

Similar opportunities exist stateside with intercollegiate and professional sports. Many organizations have social development initiatives, but dedicating required resources (time and money) and properly employing and evaluating these programs is vital to their impact and success.

My hope is that these trends will continue to assist in resourcing the underprivileged in our neighborhoods, countries and world. We all have opportunities in our spheres of influence to make a difference. Maybe you think, “gosh, I can’t do anything to help that young mother in Uganda,” but I contend that if we open our eyes, and yes, put down our smartphones, we can recognize need right around us and do our part to help, irrespective if the means is via the mobile revolution. 

I work on a college campus and once saw a student walk squarely into the door frame of the University Center because she could not peel her eyes off her phone. 


via GIPHY

Don’t look now, but the seconds, minutes and hours are slipping away from our days. I don’t know about you, but for me, this information was a wake-up call. Are we using our time wisely? Are we helping others or just ourselves?

Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” This has been Stoll on Sports. Thanks for riding along. 
Charles Dickens Literary Legend


References

Gell, A. (March 2017). The not-so-surprising survival of Foursquare. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-not-so-surprising-survival-of-foursquare

Gregoire, C. (2015). You probably use your smartphone way more than you think. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/smartphone-usage-estimates_us_5637687de4b063179912dc96

Kaplan, A. M. (2012). If you love something, let it go mobile: Mobile marketing and mobile social media 4x4. Business Horizons, 55, 129-139. doi: 10.1016/j.bushor.2011.10.009
International Olympic Committee (2017). Promote Olympism. Retrieved from https://www.olympic.org/the-ioc/promote-olympism

West, D. M. (2015). Digital divide: Improving internet access in the developing world through affordable services and diverse content. Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/West_Internet-Access.pdf