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Tweetapalooza: a case study in creating social media buzz

Community-generated Lolla reviews help continue to build a newspaper brand with personality

Lollapalooza came to downtown Chicago this weekend, bringing with it thousands of music lovers to rock the lakeshore. Journalists and bloggers from around the world joined in the festivities to review and report. Some of the most interesting coverage, however, stemmed from the RedEye blog and consisted of tweets sent from RedEye readers to the hashtag #recl (RedEyeChicago Lolla). (RedEye is a commuter daily newspaper in Chicago put out by the Tribune Company.)  So how did RedEye create this tweet storm?

@redeyechicago followers live tweet a Lollapalooza event

@redeyechicago followers live tweet a Lollapalooza event

I had the pleasure of interviewing RedEye’s Social Mediologist and Buzzmaster Scott Kleinberg today about how the RedEye Lolla-buzz started – and how we, as communicators, can take RedEye’s Lolla experiment as a case study for creating social media buzz for our own brand.

Heidi: So what exactly does a “Social Mediaologist and Buzzmaster” do?

Scott: It’s my job to find the buzz that everyone is talking about and capitalize on that by finding new and unique ways to push that buzz forward. Or, find new buzz. For example, International Bacon Day is Sept. 5. Did you know that? I’m going to figure out some way to make sure everyone does because everyone loves bacon! (Heidi’s note: As a blogger for Cision, formerly Bacon’s Information, I have now added International Bacon Day to my calendar.) 

Heidi: What were your goals with the #recl tag? (Drive traffic to RedEye’s site? Brand recognition? Consumer journalism?)

Scott: While I’m always thinking about driving traffic to our Web site, it’s more brand recognition and that sense of community. I look at the @redeyechicago Twitter feed as a community that anyone can join. It’s a fun place to hang out and I figure – with so many music lovers out there headed to Lolla anyway, why not have the community share with everyone? And besides – folks LOVE to see their names (even if it’s just their Twitter names) in the paper. I can’t get over how much they appreciate that, sending printouts to relatives, even.

Heidi: Some experts cite the growth of social media as one of the catalysts for the newspaper industry’s decline. Do you agree?

Scott: Oh my, no. In fact, I think it’s exactly what the newspaper industry needs. Think about how newspapers have always been perceived. Reporters that you’ve never seen sit in a building and write stories. There’s no personality per se other than what’s in print. You read what you read and while you may like what that person writes about, you didn’t really know the person. Now you can – the person is there for you to interact with and talk with. To me, social media is what makes newspapers come alive. It adds a touch of TV and radio – not only does it give newspapers the ability to cover live news and not be outdated when it comes out the next day, it gives it a touch of personality.

Heidi: Along those same lines, how can social media be used to help the newspaper industry?

Scott: There’s so much you can do with social media, whether it’s through cool experiments like the Lollapalooza example or from a customer service standpoint. When someone writes me and tells me that their local RedEye box is always sold out, I can help. I can contact the correct departments here with the correct information, and, in many cases, have a fix in place within a few hours. You can’t do that through traditional means. Of course, that requires inter-departmental cooperation that you don’t always get everywhere, but if your organization is set up in such a way where such customer service is stressed as a must, you can do incredible things. In addition to helping people get more RedEyes every day, I’ve also helped two lost dogs find their owners (or, better stated, two lost owners find their dogs) and one person find lost keys in a cab.

Heidi: How did you organize #recl?

Scott: Everything you see in this post  – that’s all user generated. We asked followers if they wanted to help out and got a bunch of people first. And then we posted it publicly for anyone to participate. We had posts the entire weekend. We didn’t post it all. We couldn’t. There was just too much. When @redeyechicago or @scottkleinberg posts a social media experiment, it’s like the entire city bursts into action. Very flattering.

Heidi: Is there any advice you can offer PR professionals and communicators who want to create buzz about their brand in social media?

Scott: Definitely … Don’t be afraid to show people who you are by always showing your human side. The goal is to put yourself in the place of the customer – what kind of business/brand would you want to interact with if someone asked you that question? Also, be creative and have fun. Right off the top of my head, if you’re talking about a new frozen yogurt or ice cream shop, get the people involved. Start a contest for most creative flavor – then, make that flavor and give that person credit by naming the flavor after them. Let folks see that you are serious about community and interacting with the people that will ultimately be responsible for making your brand a success.

Be as different as you can be when it comes to social media. And be everywhere – be on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn … Don’t make social media an afterthought – make it the first thing you think about. If you build a large following online, those followers can actually be your best resource – they can become your word of mouth. I can send out a call for Lolla reviews and have that tweet retweeted by hundreds if not thousands of people. All it takes it to get someone with a super high profile to retweet you and your message can be seen by larger audiences than you ever thought possible. Think about how important good customer service is to you when you use a product or service … That’s the kind of experience you want to create all the time, every time using the power of social media.

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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