Walmart Halloween: All Tricks, No Treats

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This October, Walmart reached out to the plus size community in the absolute most wrong way. They had a plus size section called “Fat Girl Costumes.” The section offered costumes that were also offered in Walmart’s Women’s Plus Size Adult section, suggesting that someone created this offensive section as some kind of cruel joke and forgot to change it (Merlan 2014). Others believe it could have been some third-party metadata issue that was automatically generating groupings since this category was related to “Plus Size” and “Adult Plus” (Griner 2014).

By 11:15am, costumes were removed from the “Fat Girl Costumes” section, however the title of the section still showed up on the website. By 1:30pm, the category finally disappeared and Walmart started to auto reply to angry customers on Twitter (Merlan 2014).

It was noted on AdWeek, that alongside the article was a “related link” to the category on walmart.com (Griner 2014). A woman named Krystyn Washburn was one of the first people to tweet at Walmart after she saw the category on October 21. (Prisco 2014). Walmart’s semi-apolopy was “Your comments and suggestions are important to us and help make Wal-Mart even better. Thank you,” which angered customers because it sounded the least sympathetic. A company spokesperson said to People Magazine’s website that “this never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable and we apologize,” while ensuring it would never happen again (Shandrow 2014). Buzzfeed reported that a reader pointed out that around 4:10pm, even though Walmart updated their webpage, an offensive banner ad appeared at the top of the page for “Women’s Plus Size Halloween Costumes” saying, “make it a monstrously big Halloween for less” (Zarrell and Maheshwari 2014).

halloween blog

Made on Pic Collage App

Walmart had not even apologized before large news sources began to publish the story on the Times, People, CNN, and more. Customers began to notice the insensitive category around 10:30am and then nothing was even done about it until 45 minutes later, and not even fully removed until 3 hours later (“Walmart in hot water over ‘fat girl’ Halloween costume section” 2014). Apparently the category reappeared on the site 6 days later also for a short period of time (Prisco 2014).

It’s not even the first time the store has has offensive products. Also available were racist American Indian parody outfits, gypsy costumes, “Fat Tinkerbell” costume for men, and a Marie Antoinette costume with a description with bizarre symbols as apostrophes and beheading jokes (Merlan 2014).

Walmart is a prime example of the statistic that 50% of communications professionals think that organizations are not adequately prepared to handle crisis situations. Crisis management is so important because “the reputation of a brand can easily be tarnished in mere moments because an active public now has the ability to take a stance, make a statement, and judge that brand based on how the company chooses to address (or not address) the crisis at hand” (Luttrell 2014). In order for Walmart to have successfully handled this Halloween costume crisis, they should have a crisis management team and website to go live when there is an emergency in which they can sincerely apology, take full responsibility, have a plan of how they are dealing with the situation, and be able to answer all questions the customers may have. Walmart should have posted an apology on all social media and their main website. They also should have responded quicker and taken the offensive category down right away. The company waited too long for that, and waited too long for a spokesperson to address the public. If Walmart wanted to provide good customer service, they would have responded to each and every complaint or response from the public and had been sympathetic, apologetic, and comforting, instead of sounding like an automatic machine.

Questions:

1. What suggestions would you have for Walmart in this situation?

2. Are there any other examples you have found the similar situation occurred, but handled better than this?

Works Cited

Griner, David. “Whoa, Walmart.com. Why Do You Have a Section Called ‘Fat Girl Costumes’? Not a Good Look for the Retailer.” AdWeek. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adweek.com%2Fadfreak%2Fwhoa-walmartcom-why-do-you-have-section-called-fat-girl-costumes-161025>.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 9: Crisis Management on the Social Sphere.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Merlan, Anna. “Walmart’s Website Features a Section of ‘Fat Girl Costumes'” Jezebel. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://jezebel.com/walmarts-website-features-a-section-of-fat-girl-costum-1651125569&gt;.

Prisco, Joanna. “Are ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ on Walmart Site a Halloween Trick?” ABC News. ABC News Network, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/fat-girl-costumes-walmart-site-halloween-trick/story?id=26485549&gt;.

Shandrow, Kim Lachance. “Wal-Mart Eats Humble Pie After Publishing ‘Fat Girl’ Halloween Costumes.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239084&gt;.

“Walmart in Hot Water over ‘fat Girl’ Halloween Costume Section.” RT USA. N.p., 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://rt.com/usa/200239-warlmart-fat-girl-costume/&gt;.

Zarrell, Rachel, and Sapna Maheshwari. “Walmart Apologizes For “Fat Girl Costumes” Section on Website.” BuzzFeed. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/walmart-is-offering-a-selection-of-fat-girl-costumes-on-thei&gt;.

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The Brain of the Company: Press Centers

Online media centers, press centers, or newsrooms are webpages on a company website that attracts  journalists because it holds all of the company’s media coverage. It is the job of a PR specialist to make a journalist’s job easier by making it easier, more efficient, easier to share, and quicker to find key information to create a story (Luttrell 185). New releases on social media receive three times the coverage that traditional news releases receive (Luttrell 197). Content is king – don’t use flashy images. Include content such as executive bios, social media generated press releases, white papers, essential photographs, and company logos. Make sure the online media center can be found using web searches and has the ability to subscribe and receive emails (RSS feeds). Also make sure to feature the online media center on the company homepage with easy URL links (Luttrell 186). Press releases must be shareable (Luttrell 197).

Components:

1. Press Releases –

  • Contact Info – Only list where you intend to respond (email, office/mobile phone numbers, social media platforms) *always list on top
  • Headline –Grab attention! Should be 60 to 120 characters and be bold, capitalizing every word except prepositions and words 3 letters or less.
  • Intro Paragraph – Inverted pyramid of who, what, when, why, and where, 1 to 4 sentences, and title case
  • Supporting Paragraph/Details – tells the story; should avoid advertising or marketing speech, 300 to 800 words, and title case
  • Anchor Text Links – “keyword-rich phrases linked to a relevant page on the Internet.” Ex: facts and stats, multimedia (mobile friendly audio, video, infographics, social bookmarking, sharing tools, social commenting, and creative commons license)

2. Company background/statements – History of the company including milestones, how it started, mission, visions, and goals.

3. Leadership team – Short biographies of company owners, founders, and top leadership team: includes picture of individual, names, and professional title.

4. Multimedia – Photographs of events, products, logos, personnel, videos, reports, presentations, b-roll, and infographics.

5. Products – List products or services with a brief description and significance.

6. FAQs/fact sheets – List of FAQs from media representatives.

7. Speakers or interview topics – Topics that company spokespeople can speak about that incorporates members from different departments and areas of expertise (Luttrell 187-196).

Organizing your online media center –

blog post

(prinyourpajamas.com 2011)

Use tools such as Google Trends, Bing’s Xrank, and Trellian’s keyworddiscovery.com to determine keywords to optimize SEO (prnewswire.com).

*Remember, a good online media center can rescue a good story, but a bad online media center can kill a story!

*Newsrooms are always GREAT for a PR crisis! You can add updates to the news site in real time to keep your audience informed (prnewswire.com).

An example of an online media center is the following for Google:

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.03 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.28 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.48.17 PM

How would you change this online media center?

I think that the links are all great and easy to find things. There are some great photographs and links to their webcasts. What I would change is the home page. I would make the tabs at the bottom (company, news, careers, investor relations, and contact us) more visible and more accessible at the top of the page in tabs or on the left hand side in tabs, so people do not have to scroll all the way to the bottom. The bottom is not where everyone would check.

Questions:

1. What might online media centers be good for in a company?

2. How would you use the online media centers during a PR crisis?

3. What would be the most important thing a journalist would look for on a company’s online media center?

Works Cited

Elena. “How to Create a Good Online Media Center.” PR In Your Pajamas. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://prinyourpajamas.com/online-media-center/&gt;.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 11: Online Media Centers in a Connected World.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

“Online Newsroom Best Practices.” PR Newswire: Press Release Distribution, Targeting, Monitoring and Marketing. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.prnewswire.com/knowledge-center/Online-Newsroom-Best-Practices.html&gt;.

A Blessing or a Curse?

In 2013, a survey reported that more than 28 percent of communication crises spread internationally just during an hour and two thirds of crises spread within twenty-four hours. Half of communication professionals think that organizations are not prepared to handle these crises. Social media has proven itself to be a useful and popular tool among businesses and organizations when dealing with spreading brand messages and reputation, however there are new problems that arise with this new media. “Social media is immediate, pervasive, and widely available, and it appeals to hundreds of millions of people” (Luttrell 159). Because of this there are entirely different strategies and tactics professionals must use in order to address responses to crises.

Stop the issue before it turns into a bigger crisis.

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According to Konrad Palubicki from Edelman Digital in Seattle, Washington, there are five stages professionals should go through when dealing with crisis communication. These include the following:

1. Prepare in advance – Come up with a plan. Develop key messages, objectives, procedures, guidelines and a crisis audit that can be used when a crisis occurs. This information can be released quickly if a crisis ever occurs. A website could even be created to launch specifically when a crisis occurs. Being prepared also means monitoring media coverage of a company or brand and tracking conversations to plan for a crisis.

2. Isolate the origin – Know the cause of the crisis, where it was initiated, and what media platforms conversations are taking place in order to know how to respond to it.

3. Evaluate the impact – Determine whether those directly affected by the crisis is impacted more or those whose attitudes would be influenced by the company or organization is, and then respond fast and impose tactics needed to address the specific situation.Just waiting a few hours to respond could be extremely detrimental to the company’s reputation (Luttrell 159-161).

They want to hear:

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(Neumann 2012)

4. Mitigate the crisis – Continue sending messages through all channels after initial response and provide real-time updates. Be honest and straightforward and establish an in-house crisis management center (Luttrell 162). Show transparency:

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(Neumann 2012)

5. Learn from the crisis – Hold a post-crisis meeting and analyze all messages through all channels that occurred in order to prevent the crisis from happening again in the future or coming up with a better way to manage the crisis or similar ones if were to occur again (Luttrell 162).

Things to keep track of:

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(Neumann 2012)

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JetBlue Airlines is experiencing the negative side of social media in crisis management as of late. A passenger named Lisa Carter-Knight was banned from the flight after she tweeted about an incident between the pilot and passengers. In response, a representative of the company said that if they feel a customer is not complying with safety regulations or causes some kind of conflict, boarding can be denied and the customer would get a refund and have to take another airline. However, Knight was not exhibiting unruly behavior. She tweeted about the pilot accusing passengers of accusing the pilot being intoxicated. More than 1,300 tweets were shared about the situation, which led to thousands of retweets, comments, shares, and more than 190 articles written by publishers like CNN and USA Today (Winchel 2014). Lesson learned: companies do not benefit from taking action against customers who complain about the company.

IMG_3734

The CDC on the Ebola outbreak situation, however, is a good example of the right way to handle crisis communication. They initiated a plan fast and held a press conference where the director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, addressed the case calmly and supportively. They have used social media like Twitter to answer questions and put out information to keep the public calm. Communication is monitored by using the hashtag #ebola every time. On their homepage, they have a huge banner that announces updates about ebola and the first diagnosis, and on their website they have a page that included lots of information about ebola. This is such a serious case in crisis communication and the CDC must meet the goals of keeping the public from fear and panic by educating them and constantly communicating, and by preventing the pandemic (Agnes 2014).

Questions to consider:

1. How could the JetBlue representative have handled the situation differently? Should a media expert have addressed the situation? Was it fair that the woman was banned from the flight just for sharing information on a social media site?

2. How should companies treat customer service differently with the use of social media?

3. How else can the CDC keep the public calm besides the initiatives they have already taken?

4. Is social media more useful for companies and businesses or is it more harmful when dealing with crisis communication?

Works Cited

Agnes, Melissa. “Analyzing the CDC’s Crisis Communication In U.S. Ebola Outbreak.” Agnes + Day. Agnes + Day Inc, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. <http%3A%2F%2Fagnesday.com%2Fanalyzing-cdc-crisis-communication-us-ebola-outbreak%2F>.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 9: Crisis Management on the Social Sphere.”Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Neumann, Amy. “5 Steps for Crisis Management Using Social Media.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-neumann/5-steps-for-crisis-manage_b_1791673.html&gt;.

Winchel, Beki. “JetBlue and Comcast Show the Downside of Quashing Customer Complaints.” Ragan.com. Ragan Communications, 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/48860.aspx?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Savicom&utm_campaign=JetBlue%27s%20bad%20publicity;%20New%20app%20for%20writers;%20Adored%20co-workers;%206%20books%20for%20speakers;%20and%20much%20more&utm_term=http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/48860.aspx&utm_content=jmorales@cmasolutions.com&gt;.

Facebook Is Dead?

Goodbye my Facebook page?

Goodbye my Facebook page?

One word: Ello.

:The topic currently on social media enthusiasts minds’. Is this going to be the new Facebook? It could be.

Ello is a new social media site that is ad-free and does not sell users’ data to third parties like Facebook does. As of now, the site is invite-only and users must request an invite first. If you go to the website home page, it just tells you about the site and their manifesto. What is interesting is that you can click a button to either agree or disagree with their terms and if you disagree with their mission statement, they redirect you to Facebook’s privacy page (ello.co).

Where did this new social media platform come from?

Technically the site had been around for about a year, but only had about 100 friend users. It went semi-public on August 7, 2014 in which it was invite only, and now it is adding 50,000 new people an hour.

Ello looks like a very basic Facebook and apparently you cannot “like” posts and to even find the button to post is very difficult (Strachan 2014).

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Ello does still collect some data like the basic anonymous data, but made IP addresses anonymous, making even Google very difficult to even track a user. Ello collects data such as language, location, referring web site, and time spent visiting their site. They also provide an opt out feature so users do not even have to share anonymous information. One can do this by going to the Ello settings page and turning Google Analytics off or by having Do Not Track (DNT) in the browser, wit h the exception of Chrome web browser, Android smartphones, or used services like Google search or YouTube because data might be sent back to Google that Ello does not know about (ello.co).

If the site is ad free, how do they make money? They say the company is planning to offer special features that a user can pay a small amount of money in order to use the feature on their profile (DeMurs 2014).

Ello creators claim they are not trying to replace Facebook because Facebook is seen as an advertising platform, whereas Ello is seen as a social network. Critics do not think that Ello will replace other social network sites, but think it will be an addition (Falls 2014).

People are unhappy with Facebook because their new real name rule has outed users of the LGBTQ community (Vaughn-Nichols 2014) and Facebook users being forced to use the Facebook messenger app has questioned security since people were concerned with the camera going off while using it or not using the app and telephone numbers being displayed. There was also the question of the app being packed with spyware (Depra 2014).

Ello

Ello

In my opinion, I do not know how Ello is going to survive off of just special features and no advertising because how many people are actually going to want to pay for these features when they could just use another social media platform? The only people that would be real Ello users are those that are super concerned with privacy issues and data sharing among third parties. However, most social media users are not even that aware of this issue because many do not even read the  terms and conditions, and Facebook and these other sites are already so established and popular among how many users they have, so I do not see the sites disappearing. I think that Ello has such high hopes, but I think that they need to work out some kinks and make the website more visually appealing and easier to use first. I know that Facebook replaced Myspace and I think it was hard for people to believe that would happen when Myspace was popular, so I guess anything can happen with Ello, but then again, Myspace and Facebook both made revenue from advertising and third parties, so Ello may not follow in the same way. I guess we need to see what happens as it comes out of beta. I may request an invite, just to see what the social media site is all about, but I am not sure if I will be using it or if I would use it instead of Facebook or in addition to. I know I will not be deactivating my Facebook account any time soon.

Questions:

1. Will you try Ello? Why or why not?

2. Do you think Ello will be used in addition to Facebook or will people switch over to Ello because of the lack in use of advertising?

3. How else could Ello make enough money to maintain the website as a competitor of Facebook and other equivalent platforms?

4. Do you care so much about privacy that you would stop using Facebook and switch to Ello?

Works Cited

DeMers, Jayson. “Ello: What Is It And Why Does Everyone Want An Invite?”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 3 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/10/03/ello-what-is-it-and-why-does-everyone-want-an-invite/&gt;.

Depra, Dianne. “Report Claims Facebook Messenger App Packed with Spyware.” Tech Times RSS. N.p., 21 Sept. 2014. Web. <http://www.techtimes.com/articles/15981/20140921/report-claims-facebook-messenger-app-packed-with-spyware.htm&gt;.

“Ello Is Coming.” Ello. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <https://ello.co/beta-public-profiles&gt;.

Falls, Jason. “The Hard Truths About the Fast Rise of Ello.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 1 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237972&gt;.

Strachan, Maxwell. “What Is This ‘Ello’ Everyone’s Posting About On Facebook?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/01/ello-facebook_n_5914762.html&gt;.why-does-everyone-want-an-invite/>.

Vaughn-Nichols, Steven J. “Ello: Be Ready to Say Goodbye.” ZDNet. N.p., 3 Oct. 2014. Web. <http://www.zdnet.com/ello-be-ready-to-say-goodbye-7000034333/&gt;.

Define Your Content 101: Social Media Marketing Tips

My work office as an advertiser/marketer for my internship, summer 2014!

My work office as an advertiser/marketer for my internship, summer 2014!

Become an expertise!

Content is everywhere…especially social media. It is no wonder that corporations are using social media to create their own content. They do this in order to keep its audience’s attention. These strategies are key because “they provide channels that connect audiences with similar interests, thus enabling dialogue where meaningful relationships can be forged” (Luttrell 83). Well, what does this content do exactly?

1. It builds long-lasting relationships

2. It increases a company’s social influences

3.  It improves search engine optimization

This can be done through blogs, podcasting, Internet radio, and Wikis.

According to Adriana Lopez at Forbes, businesses are missing out on blogging, the most valuable social media platform, because it has previously been known for its personal use with online diaries. Only 16% of consumers actually trust corporate blogs (Luttrell 85). One company in particular has been the leader in corporate blogging. Bond Public Relations & Brand Strategy is in New Orleans and have only recently added social media as a service, which has acquired them new clientele and business inquiries. The social media blogger, Suzette Lake, offers the following tips.

1. Know the benefits of social media

  • Free advertising if a post goes viral
  • Virtual sample of services offered
  • Create familiarity with brand

2. Commit to up keeping of blog

  • Remember it is time consuming and expensive. Hire a social media manager to maintain the blog

3. Schedule posts

  • Posts must be consistent and posted often to engage readers and drive in new visitors

4. Promote your blog!

  • Personal accounts and company Facebook and Twitter accounts will do

5. Update posts!

  • Three words: relevant, interesting, fun (Lopez 2014)

Always know your platform (every platform you need to know as a marketer)!

1. Facebook

  • Audience – everyone
  • Share – all types of content, ads, events
  • Post Frequency – 1-2 daily

2. Twitter

  • Audience – everyone
  • Share – interact with brands and customers
  • Post Frequency – many times a day

3. Instagram

  • Audience – brands (luxury, food, fashion, etc)
  • Share – visual content, videos
  • Post Frequency – once a day

4. LinkedIn

  • Audience – businesses
  • Share – company research, job listings
  • Post Frequency – 2-4/week

5. Google+

  • Audience – brands, businesses, bloggers
  • Share – use hashtags
  • Post Frequency – 1-2/day

6. Youtube

  • Audience – brands, advertisers, anyone with video content
  • Share – < 1 minute video
  • Post Frequency – 1-2/week

7. Pinterest

  • Audience – DIY, fashion, food, design, travel, females
  • Share – visual content
  • Post Frequency – many times a day

8. Foursquare

  • Audience – businesses, reviewers, bloggers,
  • Share – location-cased search/reviews
  • Post Frequency – before business opens, when info changes, weekly

If the purpose of blogging is to start a conversation and have two-way interaction between customers and companies, why don’t more companies use them? You can add pictures, videos, links, surveys and more. I think that how Starbucks made their blog into a place where people can share ideas and come up with new drinks for the menu is a good way to get people talking and to show that the company takes an interest in what its customers actually have to say. Blogs are an easy way to self promote and increase customer base if a company just keeps up with posting and makes sure it is engaged with the customer. Remember: even negative posts are helpful! Show off your customer service skills! (Luttrell 86).

I used to maintain a blog on Tumblr, but it never really had any focus. I would just reblog things that I liked or quotes/pictures that appealed to me. I really never gained any followers because it was difficult to keep up with posting often. I also found this to be an issue when I created an Instagram account for my dog over the summer. My friend at work and I, and then later, my boyfriend, had a contest as to who could get the most followers. To first create a fanbase, I liked other dog accounts and liked their pictures. Most would follow me back. I started posting about 3 to 4 pictures a day, just to establish myself and get likes. I noticed not many people would follow me if I looked like a new account with just a few pictures. The more I established myself, the more trustworthy I guess I seemed, so the more users followed me on their own without me having to follow their account. I now have over 850 followers, and every day I gain new followers even if I do not post. I have gotten pretty bad with updating it now that the school year started and got busier. I think to enhance the account and maintain followers, I need to not only post daily again, but also up my game with not just pictures, but videos too. Hashtags and creative captions I found are necessities if you want to engage followers and start a conversation. I’ll even promote here on this blog, since blogging is for that exact purpose!! Follow golden_thechester and aussie_nero_ for adorable pictures of golden retrievers and mini Australian shepherds!!

My personal dog account "blog" for my dog, Chester.

My personal dog account “blog” for my dog, Chester.

My boyfriend's personal dog "blog" account

My boyfriend’s personal dog “blog” account

As for Internet radio, Wikis, and podcasts, I think that these are great alternatives to blogging, but that blogging is still better with accomplishing engagement and traffic. Internet radio is free, which is a plus! However, I think customers would want a faster way of obtaining information than calling in to these talk shows and getting advice or questions answered. That brings me to Wikis, which are awesome to search for and find out information about a company, brand, product, etc rather quickly. I find myself looking at Wikis all of the time and the great thing about this is…it’s uncensored so you will find real customer reviews and experiences, which are more helpful to the consumer when researching products to buy. I believe that podcasts are not quite as popular because I think people tend to like visuals with audio more because it is more in capturing and holds attention better. I was shocked to read the statistics that 1 in 6 Americans listen to podcasts regularly. Podcasts take the place of radio ads, but I still think that it is better to relay a brand or product message using a visual with audio, so this might not be the best route to take (Luttrell 91-95).

Questions:

1. Why do you think so many consumers do not really trust corporate blogs?

2. As a consumer, how would you most often like to get information: Wikis, podcasts, or Internet radio?

3. Visuals or audio, or both? Why?

Chitwood, Luke. “The Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business.”TNW Network All Stories RSS. The Next Web Inc, 5 Mar. 2014. Web.Lopez, Adriana. “Businesses Are Missing Out On One Valuable Social Media Platform.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 July 2014. Web.

Lopez, Adriana. “Businesses Are Missing Out On One Valuable Social Media Platform.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 July 2014. Web.

Luttrell, Regina. “Chapter 5: Sharing Expertise.” Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. N. pag. Print.

Turner, Jaimie. “Top 52 Social Media Platforms Every Marketer Should Know.” AskJamieTurner RSS. DISQUS, 9 Apr. 2010. Web.

When It Goes Viral, Is Justice Really Served?

Facebook page serves justice for AvaLynn, a Mississippi child allegedly beaten by another student.

Facebook page serves justice for AvaLynn, a Mississippi child allegedly beaten by another student.

With the rise of social media, we see platforms like Facebook and Twitter being used to generate awareness of social issues. A popular cause most people have likely seen in the past few weeks is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which originated in the U.S. this June, after the challenge was televised on the Golf Channel before moving to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (Levin 2014).

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Mother daughter embrace ALS Ice Bucket Challenge together

However, a new cause will likely be trending soon…

Friday August 29, 2014, photos of a Mississippi girl named AvaLynn went viral on Facebook and Twitter after she was beaten by another student on her school playground, Arlington Elementary School in the Pascagoula school district. The mother, Lacey Harris, believes that her child was punched despite the school district saying saying she hurt herself falling on the playground.

A Facebook page “Justice for AvaLynn,” was created along with a GoFundMe page that already raised about $1,000 (Phillips 2014). The page features gruesome photos of her injuries including a swollen face, black eye, and damaged cheek and nose (The West Australian 2014). On Twitter, hashtags are being used to get the word out about the cause. These hashtags trending include: #Justice4AvaLynn and #JusticeForAvaLynn (Phillips 2014).

The goal of the page was stated by the administrator: “We’re trying to spread word far and wide about what has happened to AvaLynn, and to get the media involved as much as possible, in order to force the school district to take action for what has happened” (The West Australian 2014). Social media critics say that accounts on Instagram, Reddit, and Tumblr should be made. However, I checked these sites and the photos had moved viral there too, showing how fast social media passes information along.

Justice for AvaLynn on Reddit.

Justice for AvaLynn on Reddit.

Justice for AvaLynn on Tumblr.

Justice for AvaLynn on Tumblr.

With the increase in awareness, another hashtag went popular on Twitter: #AvaLynn and people seem to be constantly tweeting about this horrible event –

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These social media sites are valuable tools for creating awareness, but why?

Twitter hashtags “aggregate a conversation surround an event, topic, or theme,” which makes it searchable. It is a way of bonding with followers and other users. Luttrell (2014) states that Twitter is used to raise money for charities and benevolent causes…and has been a critical component to spread awareness about social issues especially because it has more than 500 million active viewers.

Facebook has more than one billion people using it and more than 665 million active daily users with the intention of promoting openness and connectivity throughout its users and the world while being able to share content and interact with the content. Facebook, like in this case, allows businesses, causes, artists, brands, and products to create a brand page where a culture can be established in order for people to interact and engage. The admins of the page can invite Facebook friends to like the page, and then those who like the page can also invite people and share the page, which spreads this buzz, making this tactic an easy, quick way to spread an idea, like with this case of AvaLynn.

Social media’s impact and value is described using different themes. Engagement and conversation and influence are those that show up in this situation. Engagement includes “likes, comments, shares, votes, +1s, links, retweets, video views, content embeds, etc.” Conversation measures blog posts, comments, tweets, Facebook posts/comments, video posts, replies, etc.” Justice for AvaLynn has already generated a lot of engagement and conversation as all of these social media sites listed above have shown. Influence is the “ability to cause or contribute to a change in opinion or behavior.” However, influence cannot be determined quite yet because there has not been an outcome like the cause’s goal is hoping for. It is too early to see if this cause and the buzz it has generated will get schools to increase their supervision and it still is not known the cause of AvaLynn’s injuries or if the school district has taken any action yet. This cause is calling for advocacy though, which is an “act of pleading or making the case for something” (Lutrell 2014). What might come out of this besides raising money for the child, is an increased awareness of school violence, possible petitions for more supervision, or some kind of protection policies within schools.

One interesting idea that came out of this viral cause and an article about image sharing is that photos are a great tool for social media users, advertisers, and PR professionals because they allow a story to be told that might not have been able to be accomplished throughout other mediums. However this tool could also be used against its users.

Advertisers are able to use photos shared by social media users for its own gain through social media business models (were businesses pay social media sites to use their photos), which raises problems of privacy for the social media users. Users share more than 1.8 billion photos daily and this is so valuable to advertisers because it reveals how consumers act (Lee 2014).

Users are not always aware that the information they post can be used for companies generating revenue and a lot are not comfortable with that. Market researchers believe that “if you are a user of a free service, you have to understand how that service is generating revenue, and if you are not comfortable with that, then you should not be using the service” (Lee 2014).

While this is true, photos could also be used for the wrong purposes. For instance with Justice for AvaLynn, her gruesome photos were uploaded onto the Facebook cause page, and from there shared with millions of Internet uses throughout other social media platforms. Her photo’s purpose was to create awareness of school violence and negligence and to even raise money for her cause because photos evoke more emotion. But what if advertisers used her photo for the wrong reason?

In a recent case, a girl posted an Instagram picture of herself with a guy in a Jack Daniel’s shirt. A company called Ditto Labs scanned her photo for its use in sharing its information with the brand in order to collect information about its use: essentially a real-time focus group. It does not inform the social media users that it takes their photos, which upsets many users (Lee 2014).

Ditto Labs.

Ditto Labs.

In AvaLynn’s case, what if another advocacy group used her photo to promote their cause or business and generate money for child abuse or sexual assault — issues totally unrelated to her case? It could take away from generating awareness for her specific situation and generating money for her cause and giving it to another, and it could cause embarrassment or other negative feelings and reminders for the family and those affected. Would justice really be served for AvaLynn if her story was used to promote something else?

Questions for students:

1. How do you feel about your photos uploaded on social media being used without your knowledge for companies and brands’ own benefit?

2. If you knew that your information was being used this way, would that change your social media habits?

3. How do you feel about viral photos and causes like the ones discussed in this post? Do they make you want to contribute any more or less? Do you think they make a difference in the cause or have any benefits?

4. Was justice served with Justice for AvaLynn?

 

Lee, Wendy. “Advertisers Seize on Images Shared by Social Media

Users.”SFGate. Hearst Communications, 30 Aug. 2014. Web.

<http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Advertisers-seize-on-images-shared-

by-social-5724464.php>.

Levin, Josh. “Who Invented the Ice Bucket Challenge? A Slate

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<http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/08/who_inve

nted_the_ice_bucket_challenge_a_slate_investigation.html>.

Lutrell, Regina. Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. S.l.:

Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. Print.

Phillips, Jack. “AvaLynn Photos: ‘Justice for AvaLynn’ Pictures Go Viral; and

Mother Lacey Harris Seeking Answers Over Girl’s Alleged Beating.” The

            Epoch Times AvaLynn Photos Justice for AvaLynn Pictures Go Viral and

            Mother Lacey Harris Seeking Answers Over Girls Alleged Beating

Comments. Epoch Times, 29 Aug. 2014. Web.

<http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/923287-ava-lynn-justice-for-ava-

lynn-photos-go-viral-mother-lacey-harris-wants-answers-about-alleged-

beating/>.

Staff Reporter. “Mum Harnesses Social Media for Daughter.” Yahoo News The

            West Australian. Yahoo News, 1 Sept. 2014. Web.

<https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/24863711/mum-harnesses-social-media-for-daughter/.