Just in time for the presidential election, Twitter has recently launched a new service called Twitter Political Index or Twindex. Unlike information provided by traditional polling companies, Twindex harnesses the power of Twitter’s massive user date to monitor and report on users’ moods to provide real-time presidential candidate trends. Using an established baseline, Twitter’s data partner Topsy, analyzes tweets from users on our presidential candidates, monitors sentiment, compares the two candidates and assigns a point value to each.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, Twitter user data does actually reflect the public/voter trends –  proven during this past year’s primaries. Twitter saw trends in user activity supporting Mitt Romney, while Rick Santorum’s declined – and look who’s representing the GOP now.

So what does this mean? Are we headed into an age where technology will impede further into the traditional election process? Will electoral votes need to be gathered if we can process data aggregately? That’s probably unlikely, but technology really is proving to show a new era of data collection and endless uses for it. With more and more users of social media expressing opinions and providing feedback, the ability for organizations – political, commercial, nonprofit, etc. – to use this data and learn from it, such as adjusting key messages, branding and public perception, is amazing.

Nonetheless, whether you’re blue or red, donkey or elephant, this year’s election will prove to be an exciting one and you have an even greater ability to be part of the process!

Check it out! CNN.com: How do you feel about Romney and Obama? Ask the ‘Twindex’ http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/02/tech/social-media/twitter-new-political-index/index.html?hpt=te_r1

The discussion recently at a four-year old birthday party took a different turn when someone blurted out, “So I’m never eating at Chick-fil-A again.” Several guests joined in, either whole heartedly agreeing or some fervently opposing the view – and voices started to climb the decibel scale. Thank goodness it was time to blow out the candles.

In case you missed the recent coverage, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, whose father founded the business, recently reiterated the company’s belief in “the biblical definition of the family unit.” This led to an outcry from same-sex marriage advocates and the social media sphere blew up with boycott demands. Suddenly neighbors found themselves either pro-delicious chicken sandwich or opting to go to its competitors to satisfy their fast food craving.

When companies and organizations go off the key message cue card and make social or political statements, do consumers suffer? No matter your stance – does consuming a large waffle fry mean you’re expressing to the world your social and political views?

CNN asks this same question in the article “When a sandwich becomes a social statement.” Instead of communicating its appreciation for its consumer base, Chick-fil-A’s PR team has been working double time steer the discussion away from the political game.

Sadly, USA Today announced late week that Chick-fil-A’s chief spokesman for company “died early today amid the furor sparked by his boss’ biblical opposition to same-sex marriage.”  The article noted he had just recently issued a statement “expressing the company’s desire to ‘not proactively being engaged in the dialogue on gay marriage. ‘Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,’ his statement said.”

When an organization goes off-message – it’s important to get back to basics. Revisit your core business and communication goals for your target audience and move forward. Although Chick-fil-A is known for its religious ethos tied into its operations, surely its core goal is to make and serve quality food. As Alan Pearcy noted in PR Daily “Maybe the company—particularly its president—should let the chicken do the talking from now on.”

Communication – Then and Now

abimaster | July 16, 2012
President Roosevelt in one of his famous “Fireside Chats”

Let’s take a trip back to 1933. President Franklin D. Roosevelt began making informal radio addresses to the American public during the Great Depression. Never before had a U.S. President conducted regular and informal communications to the American public. The President used this format to address the public multiple times per year, and these communications were considered enormously successful, attracting more listeners than the most popular radio shows.

Now, move forward to our current President Barack Obama, who provides his addresses in both audio and video forms, and both are available online via whitehouse.gov and YouTube. The first Presidential candidate to jump into social media with both feet, President Obama connected with the American public on a new level and on a level that today many Americans prefer.

Both Presidents used the communication mediums of the time in new ways to reach the target audience. But who is the pioneer? The communicator or the technology it’s now carried on? We’ve created so many different communication methods over time – from hieroglyphics in 3000BC, to messengers on horseback, to the first electric telegraph in 1831 – the delivery method evolves while the purpose of communication remains the same.

Yet, in considering the true definition of communication – the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs – only certain mediums allow for response to the message and closing the loop on communication. The true pioneering may be in harnessing the technology to make communication more effective by breaking down mass media with individualized delivery and mechanisms for feedback.

Want to go back in time? Here President Roosevelt outlines steps the government is taking to speed economic recovery – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXY7TkrPPzI

AutoCorrect – not always correct.

The AutoCorrect feature, originally developed by Microsoft, gained additional popularity when introduced by Apple for the iPhone in 2007. It’s designed to automatically detect and correct typos, misspelled words and incorrect capitalization. Considered a feature of smartphones now, the AutoCorrect function has been known to produce strange (and sometimes inappropriate) results leaving it to users to “correct the auto-correct” changes made.

With the intention of making our lives easier and communicating faster, faster communications are not necessarily better, especially when a machine is doing the interpreting. In an article on CNN.com, AutoCorrect was the source of panic when a retired couple decided to go on a month-long trek through Nepal, keeping their daughter and son-in-law up to date by checking in at local Internet cafés. The first message their daughter received read: “Help. Visa bad. Can you send money to water? Autopsy not working.”

Needless to say their daughter panicked and a 16-hour effort ensued to clarify the situation. What the couple meant was that they couldn’t use their VISA credit card to pay the water bill and AutoCorrect had changed the intended word “auto pay” to “autopsy.”

With more and more communications being conducted via text-based sources, technology has offered tools to make these interactions happen better, faster and more accurate – but nothing’s perfect. According to CNN, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union cited that approximately 200,000 text messages were sent every second in 2010, and more than 107 trillion emails are sent every year, which no doubt produced countless instances of miscommunication – many of which were human error, but also a good many prompted by technology.

According to a social strategist at Mashable.com, these kinds of mistakes are a natural part of learning a new communication technology. When you think about it, it’s true. We still encounter people not understanding the appropriate use of “Reply All” in email, which was highlighted in this 2011 Bridgestone Super Bowl commercial, and when Facebook first launched there were plenty of misdirected posts on users walls that were intended for a private message string. Now we are on to the horror stories of bad texts and emails due to AutoCorrect.

Reply All advertisement for Superbowl XLV

Because we reach more and more people via text-based communications and because they’re permanent (in writing) there’s more reason to ensure our language, words and phrases are accurate when communicating.

AutoCorrect has been the topic of several humor websites that allow users to upload images of funny text messages based on the inaccuracies of the spell check and AutoCorrect on the iPhone, iPod Touch, via email, Android and other smartphones. Taking a peek as some of these interactions may give you a chuckle, but it should also remind you to slow down the pace for a minute – or be ready, and hope the recipient of your message has a good sense of humor.

http://damnyouautocorrect.com/

http://www.autocorrectfail.org/

http://www.didijustsendthat.com/

The satisfied customer is a marketing strategy

abimaster | November 12, 2010
Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist, A. Bright Idea

Think about a good customer experience you’ve had: how elated you were and happy to share the news with your peers! In a world where we’re surrounded by negative-toned news, we often feel overjoyed when someone does something nice for us.

I recently had a nice experience with the online discounter, Groupon. I purchased a Groupon offer as a gift for my sister-in-law but later found out the retailer was not meeting Groupon’s criteria (obviously Groupon received complaints from people attempting to use their coupon for services and were not getting what they were promised) and as a result, Groupon provided a refund to everyone who purchased the coupon and they stopped offering the deal. I was so impressed with the fact that Groupon took care of me, when I called my sister-in-law to tell her that her gift no longer worked I explained how great Groupon had been – and how awful the retailer must have been to have Groupon nix the deal for everyone. Customer service in this case elevated my perception and loyalty to Groupon, but it also made me an advocate of how providing bad customer service can bite you.

When you have bad experiences (and those seem to stick out more than the good ones) they leave a taste in our mouths that you’re only too happy to share with your friends and neighbors. Add social media to the mix and now your interactions with bad customer service are known to millions of people.

An article in the recent issue of Marketing News cited that people generate nearly 500 billion online impressions on each other in regards to products and services each year. It went on to say Nielsen Online estimates the total number of online advertising impressions comes in around just under two trillion. Put that together and you could say people are generating around one-fourth as many impressions on each other as the entire marketing industry is generating. Now, taking that into consideration, who are you most likely to believe – a user of a product or service, or the company that provides it?

While testimonials are nothing new as a method of marketing for businesses, they become increasingly effective in the online age – prone to stimulate greater impressions among viewers – when they are honest responses from an end user and customer. When your business considers its marketing and advertising plans for the coming year, it’s important to check up on your operational touchpoints to ensure your customer experience lives up to your brand promise.

Ensure you have the resources and training to provide good customer service. Laying the groundwork will support the marketing messages communicated to your intended audiences, thereby increasing the brand loyalty and continued growth via word of mouth and blog to blog.

My love and hate of modern technology

abimaster | October 18, 2010
David Wells, Junior Marketing Specialist

I recently returned from a 10 day whirlwind trip to Europe with visits to Dublin, London, Paris and Rome. Although I could write about a million different topics or events, including the crazy drivers and insane amount of mopeds, people knowing how to speak more languages than I could wish for, how everything is just plain older, how Europeans travel way more than Americans, how Europeans work way less than Americans, or how I probably looked like an idiot sprinting through Kings Cross Station in London to catch my train to Paris. Instead, I really want to write about my love and hate of modern technology.

I am a photographer by nature. I love taking pictures, and I take pictures of anything and everything. I started taking pictures many years ago using film cameras, and have used all kinds of cameras since then. I’m pretty savvy when it comes to technology, especially cameras, so figuring out how to use each one is never a hard task. I’m the person my friends come to when they are having trouble with their camera or want to know how to shoot a picture on a certain setting, or which setting would work best. In the days of film and disposable cameras, you thought about each and every shot you took and spaced out your clicks because you had a definite limitation to the number of pictures you could take. I didn’t really have such a limitation on my 10-day trip, but probably could have used one.

Ten days. How many pictures do you think I took? If you guessed in your head, you’re probably wrong, and you probably underestimated.

I took more than 2,600 pictures on my Canon SLR. That does not include the pictures and videos on my Kodak waterproof camera or the images I deleted on the fly if I knew I didn’t like the shot. This amount of pictures used over nine gigabytes of memory. I know… I have a problem.

I encountered lots of interesting things to take pictures of in these incredible cities, but, it was still too many pictures.

Modern technology is great because you can sort of take an unlimited amount of pictures and don’t need to worry how many pictures of the same thing you take (ahem, Eiffel tower), because you can just choose your favorite one later and delete the rest.

Thankfully, with all the advancements in computers, cameras and the internet, I can take this amount of pictures, not worry about the cost of prints, and share over the internet via multiple social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs like this and more.

While I still appreciate an actual printed photograph, accessing all of your old pictures is becoming a lot easier with a few clicks of a mouse without digging through boxes, piles or albums of photographs.

Now we get to why I hate modern technology. It takes an incredible amount of time to download, sort and edit all of these photos! And, who wants to look at that many pictures anyway? Even I got sick of going through them and I was the one on the trip! I’m still working on narrowing this number down to a manageable amount so I can share with my family and friends, and by that time, no one will care about my trip anymore.