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Pinterest for Business Development

9 Feb

When I joined Pinterest awhile back I never knew I’d be reading it’s name in headlines every other day. It seems that it’s the “popular” thing to be talking about.

I use my Pinterest account to stalk my love of fashion and photography. But as I’ve discovered recently the business world is jumping on and engaging too.

Every blog seems to be chatting about how Pinterest is becoming the next big thing in social media for business. PR professionals are discussing Pinterest as a trend and how it can be helpful in promoting your business. Everyone is talking about it — even those who think it’s a waste of time.

Personally I feel that it is somewhat of a genius idea. Most people are drawn to visual pleasing things — so why not make a site that allows you to bookmark webpages in the most visually appealing way. As a long time user of Delicious I can tell you right now that I’d rather click on a link with a gorgeous description then a few words jumbled together. Of course it can’t be used to bookmark all webpages — I mean I guess it could — but it can mostly be used to trace back to a product or idea you like, or want to use in the future. It’s like a giant creative brainstorming device.

I’ve decided with all this chat about how awesome Pinterest is for businesses that I’m going to test it out for a client of mine — free of charge. The business is a retail surf and skate shop, and I thought it would be the perfect client to try it out with. The business is more small scale but I figure there will be no harm in testing out some of the business development strategies. Stay tuned for how it turns out.

With that I leave you with some of my favorite Pinterest business strategy ideas.

Share Your Products

  • It makes sense, and it is the most obvious strategy. What a great way to share your products with users? Group your pins in product categories. You can create a virtual product catalog of interest for consumers.

Drive Web Traffic

  • It’s driving buyers to websites. According to Entrepreneur, “In the last six months, the retail deal site has seen a 446 percent increase in web traffic from Pinterest and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold.

Better Understand the Larger Retail Landscape

  • Pay attention to who is pinning what, and from who. What products of yours are being re-pinned, and what isn’t.

Engage With Users

  • As any social network does it gives you the opportunity to engage with other users to get more ideas, and helpful feedback on how to improve and give consumers what they want. Share other companies products, or comment on other users posts you feel signify what your business is about. Encourage customer interaction, and try following users back.

Community in Career Focused Online Communities

9 Jan

A short essay on media & society

The concept of community, before the emergence of telecommunications technology, was defined by close-knit groups in a single location (Maloney-Krichmar and Peerce 1). Factors such as birth and physical location determined how people belonged to a community. Interactions within community predominantly took place face-to-face creating social relationships that took place in a stable and limited set of individuals (Maloney-Krichmar and Peerce 1). As the evolution of telecommunications and transportation took off, the cost of communicating across distances was reduced and personal mobility become easier. A new way to define community began to emerge. Researchers began to consider the strength and nature of relationships between individuals to be a more useful basis for defining community than physical location. “Online communities” became a term used more commonly to indicate “the intense feelings of camaraderie, empathy and support that they observed among people in the online spaces” according to Maloney-Krichmar and Peerce (1). Some have called online communities a concept with fuzzy boundaries that is more defined by its membership; other researchers focus on the people who have come together for a particular purpose, and who are guided by policies (Maloney-Krichmar and Peerce 1). Either way it is accepted that online communities rarely exist only online, and “that they start as face-to-face communities and then part, or all of the community migrates on to digital media, or conversely, members of an online community seek to meet face-to-face” (Maloney-Krichmar and Peerce 1). People today are using the Internet in ways that are driving change in communities — as mentioned before, where and how they are established and composed. These changes create transformative effects on how we define, attach to, and retain communal identity across online and offline venues (Haythornthwaite and Kendall 1083). A common form of online communities today are social networks, and I’ll be looking at one in particular — The Sevans Network.

The Sevans Network was launched in 2010 by Sarah Evans, founder of Sevans Strategy, a public relations and new media consultancy (Garcia). Evans developed an expertise in social media, and created the first weekly live chat using twitter for public relation professionals, journalists, and bloggers. With Evans’ growing popularity in the world of public relations and new media she was receiving many inquiries a week asking professional questions, and wanting tips and resources. Evans looked to her online communities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to provide her with a better understanding of what resources would be helpful, and what the best way to make them available would be. Feedback consisted of wanting a common place where all questions were housed, ways to connect with employers, links to internships and jobs, and ways people could connect with their peers — or also known as a social network (Garcia). The Sevans Network was then born as an invitation-only network of college students and young public relations professionals, with a goal of helping communications students grow into a professional role and find employment, and to help those already in the work force a way to grow their skill set. Ultimately Evans built the network for it to continue to be a resource to link generations in the communications industry (Garcia). The web of people provides a place for members to ask questions, share information, and work with experienced professionals, much like an offline community does.

When exploring the design of The Sevans Network you come across numerous features that allow for easy navigation and support member participation. Online community design is believed to be central to members’ participation (Khalifa and Ning Shen 723). According to Khalifa and Ning Shen’s research aspects of design that build a successful community include navigation architecture, site features, interactions, and content structures and policies of the community (723). The Sevans Network offers all of those, and more. The network includes: a forum to offer discussions, a chat system that allows members to speak with others while online, a blog directory of members and resourceful professionals, videos, photos, a feature to discuss projects being worked on, events board, groups to join on more specific categories (e.g., Non-Profit PR Pros), and it offers you a page (much like a Facebook page) to share your own information to further connect and communicate. All these design elements of the network construct a social presence that is needed for community to exist. These features are simply a different way to communicate within a community of people who share the same passions, interests, and similar goals. It allows individuals to join regardless of location, which is an extremely important factor for many members. The constraints of everyday life (e.g., work, family, economic status) all have an impact on whether an individual can join a community or not. Someone may live in a small town that doesn’t have a chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), but a community such as The Sevans Network can allow that person the ability to reach out to PRSA members, who normally wouldn’t be as easily accessible without the internet or that community. The interactions of members within the network eventually affect their offline communities. Work life is specifically affected from interactions within this online community.

For one example, members can discuss their work projects with one another online in the privacy of their community. They can take in feedback from people who are knowledgeable in their line of work, and get a different perspective that could become beneficial to the success of the final product. The interactions in their online community concerning the project would thus further benefit their work community offline. The Sevans Network provides tools and a social presence to ultimately benefit members in their offline communities. For students who have joined the network they are most likely seeking advice and support for their new found career path. Possible concerns they could have are what their career options are, or how to go about finding a job. Through the network the student could build a relationship with another member of the community who perhaps is already working in public relations. From that relationship the student can gain valuable advice for finding work benefiting their life outside the online community, while strengthening their one online. An individual they build a relationship with could also direct them to a job opening, possibly providing a recommendation for them.

As the internet and mobile devices are enabling strong community ties, it’s also allowing people to find others with whom they share important associations from beliefs to lifestyle choices, like individuals who join The Sevans Network to communicate and grow in the area of public relations. Community fosters development and growth, and allows individuals to feel of a sense of belonging, whether it’s in a digitalized atmosphere or during offline hours. What Sarah Evans has provided students, and young public relations professionals, is an online community built on a new media platform, that is populated with members who hold true the same ideals and goals to benefit their career success.


Garcia, Tonya. “New Network Launches for Young PR Pros.” PRNewser., 14 Oct. 2010.

Haythornthwaite, Caroline, and Lori Kendall. “Internet and Community.” American Behavioral Scientist 53.8 (2010): 1083-1094.

Khalifa, Mohamed, and Kathy Ning Shen. “Exploring Multidimensional Conceptualization of Social Presence in the Context of Online Communities.” International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 24.7 (2008): 722-748. EbscoHost.

Maloney-Krichmar, Diane, and Jenny Preece. “Online Communities: Design, Theory, and Practice.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10.4 (2005): 0-3.

Embracing social media before it was “cool.”

29 Mar Online community drives company

It’s hard to imagine that a company who has been around for ten years has centered everything around their growing online community, but that’s exactly what Threadless has done and continues to do. Threadless is a prime example of a company who has embraced social media as a business platform. Great part about this — they did it before social media was even “cool.”

The site started off offering anyone a chance to submit artwork, then having community members rate the designs. The best ones were printed on T-shirts. It’s all very similar to what the company does now. The online apparel store has built a loyal open-sourced community that actively submits new t-shirt designs for the chance to win cash prizes, votes on favorite designs, and purchases limited edition shirts (Stein,). Basically, they print awesome designs on T-shirts created and chosen by you. It’s a multimillion dollar empire and the biggest community centered T-shirt store on the web (Lindberg).

“Instead of just dictating what should happen, I have a really open philosophy when it comes to both managing and working with our customers. I mean, that’s the whole point of the company: we trust them to tell us what is right and we agree with the general consensus of the community and adapt to it,” Jack Nickell, Threadless founder, answered this when asked,”What’s his philosophy? (Lindberg). His idea of business is what makes social media so poplar today. Social media gives the customer a voice. It’s ran by communities, and revolves around social interaction, discussion, and content created by users who engage. Nickell’s company survives because of social media.

It’s no surprise that they don’t like advertising or pushing their brand on people who wouldn’t want to hear about it. Without intending to, the founders have successfully tapped into word of mouth marketing on the Internet aka social media (Quinton). Cam Blazer vice president of marketing says that traditionally the company has done no advertising (Quinton). People can’t help talking about the awesome T-shirt they see someone wearing. His mission? To amplify that buzz. That success has continued, with the Threadless community growing from 10,000 members in 2002 to 70,000 in 2004. Today the community stands at 1 million members and counting (Quinton).

The company has a Facebook page that currently has almost 254,000 fans, and a Twitter account that has nearly 1.6 million followers. To compare, Starbucks — who is commonly known to have great social media campaigns — has roughly 1.3 million Twitter followers. That gives you a perspective of how large their loyal online community is.

Not only is the company continuously holding regular design contests, but now they are holding challenges with a specific theme that are judged by a panel from Threadless, and a sponsor. One example is the recent challenge sponsored by Thermos. Challengers were asked to create a T-shirt and a Thermos bottle. The winning design receives $2,000 in cash, $500 Threadless gift certificate, iPad 64 GB with Wi-Fi, $200 in Thermos merchandise, and their design on a Threadless tee plus a Thermos bottle. By offering their community a hard to beat deal such as this one, more, and more, people start participating.

Another way Threadless is becoming socially popular is jumping on board to support causes. The most recent challenge got people involved in designing an inspirational tee around the theme of “Sunrise,” to help those affected by the Japanese tsunami and earthquake that hit last week. Net proceeds from the sale of each tee will be donated to The American Red Cross’s Japan relief fund. March 11th, the day the earthquake hit, Threadless posted this challenge. Within seven days over 640 people had tweeted about the challenge and over 1,000 liked it on Facebook. This is saying that from each individual who reposted that post there are another hundred or so pair of eyes seeing their name, their product, and learning about their company. In a Forbes article about the “Best Social Media Campaigns” the writer says that, “the bottom line is a successful social media campaign requires creativity, a clear message and needs to make a splash at the right time,” and that is exactly what Threadless has been doing for years.

In a 2009 interview with Nickell he mentioned that Threadless had been around so long that he felt that the company was hitting a point where they weren’t keeping up with what newer Web 2.0 companies were doing (Lindberg). Since this interview the site has grown, and done a very good job of adding more community and socially driven concepts. A great example would be the Threadless Meetups — similar to Tweetups. “Threadfans” get together to collaborate on ideas, trade tees and get to know their online pal in real life. You can earn points towards your Threadless purchases, watch Threadless Tee-V, or hear from designers just like yourself. They’ve continued to evolve their company over the years and change with consumer wants and needs. Their online store is a great example of how social communities can be built and integrated into a company’s business model to powerfully drive awareness, encourage company evolution and impact a company’s bottom line (Stein).

My original thought was that it seemed silly that Threadless had never advertised, and I felt that this definitely was a negative aspect of their company, but I changed my tune. Nickell explains, “We’ve experimented with advertising pretty recently and have had mostly negative reactions to it. It’s always been something that we’ve felt is not right for us. Me and Jeffrey (Kalmikoff, Threadless’ chief creative officer) used to work at four ad agencies, so we have a pretty strong understanding of what advertising means and how evil it is. With our company it’s all about trust and honesty and we just don’t like the idea of pushing our brand on people who otherwise wouldn’t hear about it (Lindberg).”

In a world where the consumers voice is hard to silence, Threadless prospers. By trusting their customers, online community, and word of mouth advertising Threadless has led the way in how social media has changed the way companies handle business.


Lindberg, Oliver. “In-depth Interviews: Jake Nickell.” Net Magazine. Issue 198. 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. <>

Taylor, Victoria. “The Best-Ever Social Media Campaigns.” 17 Aug. 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. <>

Stein, Daniel. “6 Ways Brands are Using Social Media For Real-World Action.” Mashable. 08 April 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2010. <>

Quinton, Brian. “Crowd Pleasers: gives buyers what they want — by asking them first.” Magazine. December/January 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2010. <>

The Fight Against Destructive Spin

17 Mar

This is a paper I wrote last term concerning the difficulty it is to decipher public relations and propaganda today for a Social Media course. The piece of news I used about Kenneth Cole was breaking the day I wrote this paper. Because information is hitting us at all different directions with the help of social media, I used a trending topic from that particular day to make a point of how one day news is relevant, and the next it’s not.


The Fight Against Destructive Spin

When speaking with most individuals I’ve gained an understanding that most people class public relations and propaganda in the same category, but is this really the case? In a way both have the same end goal to promote a certain idea or understanding, but one usually stands for truth and the other deception. In today’s world there is more information being thrown at you via social media than most would know what to do with; creating an abundance of knowledge from different views and angles. Unfortunately it makes it more difficult to determine what is false from what is real. By looking at the differences between public relations and propaganda today can you really tell the difference between them? If so, how?

Propaganda can be dated back to 1622 when the pope established a missionary organization called Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), which was also the source of the name (Encyclopedia-Britannica). According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary propaganda is “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.” The definition is simple and if read quickly enough you may think it sounds similar to what public relations stands for, which is “the business of inducing the public to have understanding for goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution (Merriam-Webster).”  Truthfully definitions of ideas such as these are vague and don’t fully represent what they stand for, but you have a sense.

Propaganda mostly is known to be used by government and political parties to distract the public from what is really behind the curtain, but today you see it being used on a daily basis; just sign onto Twitter and start reading. With the way social media spreads words like wildfire you are capable of spreading your propaganda, or spin, with a simple spark. Take for example a recent issue in the news today concerning designer Kenneth Cole, who owns three lines and a company that is reportedly worth over $1 billion (New York Magazine). Cole in an attempt to gain publicity for his new spring collection tweeted this, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at – KC.” There was, of course, a social media backlash and an estimated 1500 negative retweets were sent an hour, and a @KennethColePR twitter spoof account was made (Tsotsis). Cole, only hours after the original tweet was sent, deleted it, and made an apology. Already the publicity he has gained from remarking on such a serious situation in humor, or in light, has done what he set out to do, right? Cole was looking for people to take notice of his spring collection and that is exactly what he got. Now is it in a positive light? Most would say no.

This isn’t the first time Cole has pulled off a stunt like this. Once he compared a woman’s choice in handbags to a woman’s right to choose an abortion (Tsotsis). His company survived and it continues to thrive. Who is to say that the tweet Cole made himself wasn’t propaganda to get attention to his new line. I would argue that he knew very well that the public would lash out at him for making such a crude comment regarding the recent events in Egypt. Should we consider this issue propaganda, or just bad PR?

As one blogger stated about the Kenneth Cole stunt, “anytime you have to issue an apology and interrupt your work of growing your business, that is bad PR. No matter how many people are talking about you (Dietrich).” Does propaganda then stand for bad PR? In my opinion yes. The blogger continues to point out reasons why, “people have a horrible perception of the PR industry,” and in her words it’s, “because of crap like this (Dietrich).” “Maybe it won’t hurt sales. Maybe some people will be grateful to be reminded of how much they love his shoes and clothes. Maybe it won’t bother people outside the social media bubble one bit. But maybe it will create boycotts. And maybe it will decrease sales. And that, folks, is bad PR (Dietrich).”

Similar propaganda ploys are being sent out on a daily basis with the help of social media, so it’s safe to say it has become difficult to determine the difference between good public relations and propaganda. But as shown in cases such as the famous Balloon boy incident people are willing to do a little investigating and dig down to reach the truth, and when the truth does come out everyone, and I mean everyone, will hear about it thanks to social media.

Not only are journalists helping to find answers to these questions but PR gurus are making a positive name for themselves by incorporating the concepts of engagement and relationship building to bring to light the truth. The PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) defines PR today as: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other (PRSA).” This definition sounds a bit different from what you may find in your dictionary, and that is because to weed out the propaganda and bad PR you must redefine PR, evolving the definition alongside public relations’ changing roles.


Dietrich, Gini. “Kenneth Cole Demonstrates How Not to Use Twitter | Spin Sucks.” Spin Sucks – Social Media Strategy and Social Media Consulting for Marketing and PR. 04 Feb. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2011. <>.

Tsotsis, Alexia. “@KennethCole Sets New Bar For Social Media Stupidity [Update: And Removes Tweet].” TechCrunch. 03 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <>.

“Kenneth Cole – Designer Fashion Label.” New York Magazine — NYC Guide to Restaurants, Fashion, Nightlife, Shopping, Politics, Movies. New York Media LCC, 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <>.

“Propaganda — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.” Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <>.

“Propaganda – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <>.

“Public Relations Definition: PRSA Official Statement.” Public Relations Resources & Tools for Communications Professionals: PRSA. PRSA, 2010. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <>.

“Public Relations – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.”Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. < relations?show=0&t=1296780196>.

Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom

4 Mar

As a new media student I’m constantly interested in learning the new ways professors are trying to integrate social media into the classrooms. I believe that if you’re teaching students how to understand social media what better way then to make them use it.

In this MediaShift article “How to Integrate Social Tools into the Journalism Classroom,” there is a handful of great ideas of how to get students hands on experience with online tools in the changing face of modern communication. Here are a few examples of tools they are using:

Blogs are a great way to expose students to web publishing basics and online writing. With a group collaborative blog professors – and students – can post material for everyone to see and comment on.

I’ve been in a previous course where all students had to make a wordpress blog individually to capture the progress and work from our team projects. This helped to get students online and comfortable with a blogging platform (in my opinion it’s a necessary skill in communications today). But some problems may arise from this method. Examples:

  • It’s hard to track and make sure each student is doing their part on the blogs. Possible ways of keeping up with the class is to put each blog into a reader or RSS feed (eg. Google Reader).
  • If a class is assigned a team project and each student has individual blogs it can put some distance on what the team goal and message is.

Mashable community manager and social strategist Vadim Lavrusik uses a blog to teach Social Media Skills for Journalists at Columbia University. He uses Tumblr as the primary vehicle. This is a great example of how to integrate a social tool into education. Each student has his or her own account and can contribute to a collaborative Tumblr that combines everyone’s work. The site provides a place to submit assignments, give  feedback, and of course experiment with Tumblr. This kind of online atmosphere allows for online engagement, idea sharing, and a safe place for students to gain knowledge of social media.

With all these new teaching methods I feel that some educators are learning alongside the students and that is great – as long as everyone gains a better knowledge of how to work and benefit from these new tools.

For a better understanding of how each social tool can be used in the classroom read more at Mediashift.

Facebook Stalking Made Easy

22 May

If it were a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest, ahead of the United States and only behind China and India. It even tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. What is it? That’s right Facebook.

Given its popularity I can only guess that you, your mom, teacher, possibly grandmother, and 10-year-old niece all have Facebook accounts.

Since it first opened shop to college students in 2005, its privacy protection regulations have changed dramatically, or to put it another way shrank drastically. Personal information that you believe you’re sharing with only the closest of friends and colleagues is now being shared with the entire Internet. Dan Tynan of ITworld said Facebook pulled a privacy bait and switch. Tynan compared Facebook to a friend who lets you live in an apartment he owns for free as long as you don’t mind him dropping by now and again. But over time he keeps changing the lease to where it eventually allows him to come over to the apartment when he feels like to throw a large party.

You can take a look for yourself how the privacy settings have evolved over the years with this interactive infograph: The Evolution of privacy on Facebook. claims Facebook has gone rogue and people should start searching for an alternative social network. People aren’t likely to leave Facebook anytime soon, but everyone should be aware of what is going on with personal information.

So how do you keep your “private” Facebook details private? recently released a how-to-guide on putting your Facebook profile on a privacy lockdown. Follow their step-by-step visual guide to help you keep your personal information just between you and your friends.

As I logged on my Facebook profile today I caught this pop-up:

Worried about privacy? Your photos are safe. There have been misleading rumors recently about the use of your photos in ads. Don’t believe them. These rumors were related to third-party applications, and not ads shown by Facebook. Get the whole story at the Facebook Blog, or check out the Help Center.

Curious about what Facebook says about privacy? Read it here: Facebook’s guide to privacy. put it simply in Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Alternative, “if multiple blogs are writing posts explaining how to use your privacy system, you can take that as a sign you aren’t treating your users with respect, it means you are coercing them into choices they don’t want using design principles. That’s creepy.”

If you have a Facebook account, check your privacy settings now to make sure your information is as secure as it should be. BY-SA 2.0

* Post originally published at brass|MAGAZINE

Social Media Ruined The Bachelor

2 Mar

As my roommates and I sat down to watch the final episode of ABC’s The Bachelor (Pacific Time Zone) I already knew who was going to win his heart at the end of night, not because I could read minds but because Twitter and Facebook feeds told me so. Thus setting my roommates and I into a “just look it up on Google” fest for the remainder of the evening. This is just a small example of how fast information travels today with technology, social media and the way we use it. When the show was over and the ‘surprise’ ending confirmed, we talked about watching the “After Show” to see who was going to be the next Bachelorette, but we figured it was easiest to just Google it. I logged on to Twitter and as soon as I did a tweet ran through my feed saying Ali is the newest Bachelorette. Interestedly enough I also came across a post about how one man found out through Twitter that Canada beat the U.S.A. in the Olympic hockey game before the New York Times had served to inform him. Todd Bishop said Twitter beat the NYTimes by only a few minutes.

“Does a minute or three really matter? Not really. It just caught my attention because it was a perfect test of speed for the modern news media, in all their forms,” Bishop.

I just find it fascinating how quickly news and information travels today, and my experience with tonight’s Bachelor spoiler I am not sure if it’s always such a great thing! Maybe next time I just need to close myself off from all communication devices. This isn’t the only time I have been informed about breaking news or information via Twitter first, e.g. Haiti. Have you found out about a breaking news event through Twitter before you were informed by the news media? Or is social media how you now look for news instead of going to your media outlet? If so share your stories with me. I would love to hear about other experiences with new media and its ability to break track records.