Not your grandparent’s government: how social media changed everything


What emerging media means for government public relations

Before the Web 2.0 era, citizens could reach out to government officials/agencies through traditional routes of phone or mail. Today, all it takes is an Internet connection. Through social media, citizens are engaging in an open environment where the government can not only share important information, but facilitate transparent, two-way conversation.

Research indicates that Americans are looking for this type of interaction as 14% use social media to find information about a federal agency, while 30% use social media to ask the government a direct question or to resolve an offline issue.


Tools used by the public sector may include social media platforms such as Facebook, the biggest social media network on the Internet. Through Facebook, governments can engage citizens, post events and news and share photos and short videos in real-time.

One example of the federal government working to communicate with constituents is The White House Facebook page. Through this medium, The White House provides live feed to events, creating a deeper connection between this high office and the people of America.



Twitter – a microblogging platform – is also important to sharing information with the public. For example, people who follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can find updates on the Zika virus, and can take part in conversations on public health concerns by using the hashtag #PublicHealthChat.


In addition, Twitter can be useful in communicating information during an emergency. One article notes a 2011 example in which Twitter helped notify residents of an earthquake before it hit. This allowed people to prepare for the shockwaves as the traditional alert system would take minutes (versus seconds).


According to YouTube, a government entity can use this platform to “strengthen [its] online presence, control [its] story and engage [its] audience wherever they are.” Like Facebook and Twitter, this tool can be beneficial as government agencies work to connect with audiences and bridge the gap with the “more than 1 billion unique users [who] visit YouTube each month.”

One state agency using this forum is the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Through its YouTube channel, the Department works to highlight important services such as Help4WV, a 24-hour behavioral health hotline. It also posts each segment of its television show, “The State of Health.”


The agency also used emerging media tools to spread relevant information to residents impacted by the June 23 flooding. While internally DHHR shared information with workers in county offices via email and phone calls, the Department wanted to ensure that the those affected by the disaster were aware of resources that could help them. The Commissioner for the Bureau for Children and Families quickly recorded a special message which was posted to the Department’s social media accounts to spread awareness on a special program available to qualifying victims to help them replace food lost in the flood.

Implications of government social media

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are just a few emerging media tools utilized by government agencies. These innovative platforms can be powerful in improving transparency and overall relations with the public. What do you think? Should all government agencies utilize these forums? Are there risks in using/not using them?



Social media births a hashtag generation

In the world of emerging media, the most successful brands “are those that are able to tell their stories in the most interesting ways.” Social media has provided a new way to do just that, while also allowing people to have a conversation through the hashtag trend.

A hashtag is a way to organize content on social forums, allowing users take part in a social dialogue while also promoting the brand.


Unique branded hashtag

Companies can create hashtags specific to their brands as a way to promote member-only promotions such as #StarbucksForLife. Such campaign-specific hashtags allow not only the brand to communicate with the consumer community, but for members of the consumer community to share with each other during the duration of the special promotion.



Brands can also use hashtags to increase social media engagement with events, such as this Shabby Apple contest requiring contestants to “post a sketch, computer drawing or photograph of your design on to your instagram with  #shabbyapple #daretodesign.”


Contest participants can encourage others to visit the brand page to vote, which in turn increases traffic of current and potential customers.

Leverage trending topic

Brands can also leverage trending topics such as today’s #TalkLikeAPirateDay. Brands like Macy’s found a way to make the topic relevant to their brand. This works to the company’s benefit as users will see Macy’s when they click this trending topic.

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Call to action 

Brands and organizations can also attach value to their hashtags with a call to action. With an objective, such as this CDC Flu campaign, users are prompted to do more than just read or share the content, they are asked to be a part of the solution as well as a larger conversation.


What do you think of this trend? Do you use hashtags?


Enchanted objects bring fairy tales to life

When I first heard the term “enchanted objects” I was taken back to my childhood watching Disney movies filled with “humanized” inanimate things. However, Lumiere and Cogsworth and Alice’s looking glass pale in comparison to today’s enchanted objects, which provide not friendship (yet), but invaluable data and consumer convenience.

Brands such as Nieman Marcus are using this technology with an enchanted mirror that allows consumers to compare outfits side-by-side with a 360 degree view. The goal is to “make the store come to life in a different way,” according to John Koryl, Neiman Marcus Stores and Online President.

With password protection and email capability, the memory mirror allows individuals to virtually shop with friends and family. This enchanted object is expected to “change the future of retail…because you are so much more likely to buy with the support of your friends. And now you can consult your fashion-savvy friends if they don’t have the time to shop with you.”

Other brands could also benefit from this innovative tool. For example, online retailer eShakti allows shoppers to customize clothing based on their measurements and preference for sleeve style and other details. Currently, the website and app only display the original piece and cartoon-like graphics for each style option (see below). However, these graphics do not match the color or pattern of the selected piece – and the model does not mirror the size of most customers. With implementation of an enchanted mirror  connected to brands like eShakti, customers shop with greater confidence and certainty by allowing them to virtually “try on” clothing before those pieces are even made. In this sense, consumers have the ability to see the future.


When senses of machines and humans collide

Perhaps enchanted objects will become integral to the practice of sensory marketing, which focuses on reaching consumers through the five senses. This concept is based on research suggesting that our bodily sensations play a role in the decisions we make. Many brands and integrated marketing communications (IMC) specialists utilize sensory marketing in advertising and products to appeal to the sight, smell, sound, touch and taste senses of consumers in order to enhance brand or product experiences, which can lead to increased awareness and an improved relationship with the brand.

If the Internet of Things technology can provide data on the unconscious sensory reactions of consumers in specific situations, i.e., trying on clothes with the enchanted mirror, brands can create more meaningful experineces with consumers and can be an important element in the IMC mix.

Living enchanted

Enchanted objects such as the memory mirror are opening the door to a whole new world. With “things” and brands that understand what consumers want, the magic is at the door – or the mirror. How do you think this will change consumer behavior?

Pokemon GO: a mobile marketing game changer?

Mobile & Pokemon GO

As the power of mobile continues to expand, “the growth in the use of smartphone devices has had a transformative impact on the way people interact with brands.” This year, the marketing game was changed with Pokemon GO – a free app that uses your smartphone camera and GPS signal to locate Pokemon through an augmented reality platform.

Since its July debut, Pokemon GO has grown to be the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, with around 75 million and counting users. Research indicates Pokemon GO users spend more time on this app than other popular social media apps, including Facebook and Twitter.

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Leveraging the trend

For marketers, this heavily-used app is a “potential gold mine” as it provides the ability to drive users to specific, real-world places. This is key for many  businesses looking to draw foot traffic – and facilitate customer interaction both in stores and online with social media.


JCPenney is offering an additional 15 percent off to Pokemon GO users, and is promoting this through in-store signage and social media postings.


(JCPenney – Charleston Town Center Mall)

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(JCPenney Facebook)

According to a store manager in Florida, participation in the game is not only fun, but rewarding: “We’ve got increased traffic and we’ve definitely got increased sales, especially of the Pokemon merchandise but also with other things.”


Other companies like Boston-based Zipcar are helping their customers play the game with an innovative social media campaign offering free car rides to Pokemon GO fans if they tweet to @zipcar on Twitter, during a one-hour time slot.

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Click here for more examples of Pokemon GO marketing examples.

A cultural trend or a transformational wonder? 

Some suggest that this game is opening the doors for even more innovative marketing techniques in terms of advertising. As the cultural phenomenon continues to evolve, perhaps companies will be able to buy ads within the app or “create sponsored/branded Pokemon characters, or create other ways to cost-effectively engage with the audiences on the Pokemon Go platform.” With this expectation, it is likely that mobile games with location-based abilities will become a more popular channel for consumer engagement and communication.

Gotta catch ’em all?

While I am not a Pokemon GO player, it is evident that this technology is a game-changer and an indication that the line between the physical world and the digital world will become more and more blurred. So, even if the cultural phenomenon of mobile Pokemon is simply a trend, its technology will likely evolve and provide even more opportunities for brands and consumers to interact.