This is a piece I was commissioned to write for Ragan.com:
This is a piece I was commissioned to write for Ragan.com:
Here’s an article I wrote for Ragan.com regarding the International Association of Business Communicators’ Employee Engagement Survey:
Here’s a piece I wrote for Ragan.com about a blogger who won a free year of rent in exchange for blogging about her experience:
Here’s a piece I wrote for Ragan.com about the use of social media by my local zoo:
|Zoos are going wild for social media
By Ari B. Adler
|Facebook, Twitter and Flickr augment the live experience for animal enthusiasts
Zoos and aquariums across the country are joining the online jungle to attract visitors.
Of the 221 institutions that are members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, at least two-thirds are using social media of some kind, and the number is growing continually, says Linda Cendes, a member of AZA’s communications team.
“It has provided a great way for zoos and aquariums to interact with their communities on a whole new level,” she said. “It’s not only to promote events and other activities, but a way to provide real-time updates to visitors, whether to announce a keeper talk or a closure due to inclement weather.”
For Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich., outreach to visitors has been steadily increasing during the 17 months that Jake Pechtel has been on the job. Originally a producer and marketer of video games, Pechtel joined Potter Park Zoo when he got a job there updating its website.
“Potter Park had updated the zoo on the inside, then the project started to bring the website up to date,” said Pechtel, who has earned the designation “Swiss Army Knife” at the zoo. “Our thought behind social media is enhancing guests’ experience, something for them to take home and share with friends and make them want to be fans, too.”
The zoo started a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Flickr feed in September 2009, but the accounts sat dormant until early 2010. Pechtel said the zoo just recently started using YouTube, as well, having to opt for the channel name “PotterParkTV” because they hadn’t secured their full name earlier.
“There’s definitely a lesson to be learned there,” he said.
Even with all the activity around social media, Pechtel said organizations need to remember to stay focused. The zoo’s newly updated website is still the core component; it’s what Pechtel refers to as a “discovery tool.”
“It’s a landing site for every piece of social media. It beckons to the way social media works,” Pechtel said. “Someone might love to converse with you on Twitter one day, then suddenly might find Flickr and, when they do, you need to be there.”
Better than 1,000 words
Pechtel said their Flickr account is “very interesting” for the zoo.
“Photos can be more emotional than words, and we try very hard to make our experience an emotional one for visitors,” he said. “When the Flickr pool was started, we made an effort to go find people who were already using Flickr to share pictures of their trips to the zoo and invited those folks to join our group.”
Pechtel said he tries to stay active within the group, posting behind the scenes photos as much as possible, which has gotten the zoo invited to join other Flickr groups.
“Flickr, as it turns out, has been as much about participation as any of its social media cousins,” Pechtel said.
The zoo has used Flickr to engage with visitors and make them feel a part of the zoo, in some cases even offering memberships in exchange for great photos to be used on the zoo website.
“I’ve since met a number of the photographers, as they stop by my office when they come to the zoo,” Pechtel said. “It’s a nice translation from online acquaintance to someone you share a chat with.”
Cendes said social media is allowing people to experience their zoo or aquarium in a way that isn’t possible even when visiting in person.
“People can see pictures of newborns even before they are picked up by the media, videos showing behind-the-scenes animal care or updates about current research or rehabilitation of a rescued animal,” she said. “People look to their zoo and aquarium to be leaders in conservation and education and you will often see conversations between an engaged public and the institution.”
For folks like Robin Miner-Swartz of Lansing, Potter Park’s engagement via social media got her to think about the hometown zoo she hadn’t visited in a long time.
“I guess I had begun to think of the zoo as a family place or a kid place, and I was neither. But once Jake started Potter Park’s social media efforts, I began to see the zoo in a whole new light,” she said. “I love Jake’s enthusiasm for the zoo but also for the Lansing community in general.”
Pechtel gives people a view of what’s going on at the zoo with glimpses behind the scenes but he also shows them a lot of what they’re missing if they don’t visit.
Featured content on Facebook
For the zoo, Facebook is the biggest home base away from its website.
“It’s where we can post the most robust content beyond our website,” he said. “I look at the Facebook posts as tent poles. Twitter is used as a way to fill in the gaps between the tent poles.”
For example, when Pechtel was going to visit the bongo exhibit recently for a Facebook update, he used Twitter to alert folks that he was going to spend some time in the bongo yard and he’d have pictures on Facebook soon.
It’s with his Facebook posts that Pechtel tries to tie the zoo into things the page fans might already be talking about. For example, a recent wall post read, “Our Golden Lion Tamarins are sad after watching their home team Brazil get eliminated from the World Cup. Did you know these guys are on loan from the Brazilian government?”
The Facebook page has more than 3,800 friends. Even when coupled with the Twitter followers, it’s a smaller online fan base when compared with some zoos. But Pechtel said the level of interaction is great, even when compared with much larger facilities.
“A lot of zoos have a lot more fans and followers. They might have 10,000 followers and get 30 retweets. I get the same with 800 followers,” he said. “It’s about quality not quantity.”
Of course, the bottom line is still the bottom line, and any outreach efforts are eventually going to be measured against the number of visitors walking in the front gate. Pechtel said the zoo has seen a 15 percent increase in foot traffic this year, which he attributes a lot to social networking.
“It’s tough to measure that though,” Pechtel said. “The end result of social networking is awareness. If you have a good, succinct marketing campaign in conjunction with a good effort in social networking, then the awareness level goes up. And having a user-centric focus has really driven our success. No one becomes friends with a logo.”
Pechtel said the zoo’s Twitter account, @PotterParkZoo, has “a bit of an attitude,” which makes it more personable for its more than 800 followers. It’s an attitude he tries to carry on throughout all of the zoo’s social networking activities.
“Other zoo employees mention that their friends say they feel like they’re talking to a person on Facebook rather than the zoo—and that’s the point,” he said.
Plus, without social media, Miner-Swartz probably wouldn’t have gotten to know some of the animals on a first-name basis.
“They have a pig named Kevin Bacon. How hilarious is that?”
Here’s a piece I wrote for Ragan.com about the untapped potential of Foursquare:
Here’s a piece I wrote for Ragan.com about the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s use of social media during a flood crisis:
Lots of folks are familiar with the term “Web 2.0,” which refers to the interactive Internet so many of us have come to appreciate and rely upon. In the past couple of weeks I’ve had experiences leading me to the realization that as a former journalist, I’m envious of the reporters who now get to practice their trade in this era of what some are calling “Journalism 2.0.” (Mark Briggs even has a blog by that name that is a running conversation about journalism and technology.)
What got me started down this recent path was writing a piece for Dome magazine about changes occurring in the Lansing, Mich. radio market, including a new Internet-only radio station. That led to a guest appearance on a local radio talk show. During the interview, the host and I were chuckling about how we were discussing changes in radio based on an article I wrote for a magazine — but one that is only published online now. That was interesting experience number one.
The second came when I was contacted by a journalist who is working on a story for a local print magazine that features my wife Jessi. There’s a reference to me in the article, so the reporter contacted me to find out my title at the company I work for. What struck me about the outreach was that it was via Twitter, and the reporter saying, “I tweeted my question because I’m on deadline.”
Of course the reporter, Louise Knott Ahern, also found amusement in my reply, which is that I would probably end up blogging about her tweeting because she’s on deadline. She replied: “I like that your response is that you feel a blog post coming on. Times changing, indeed.” Louise should know. One of the daily papers she’s written for has been shedding reporting staff lately faster than one can say, “I already read this online.”
The third event that triggered this post was writing an article for Ragan.com about cross-posting on social media. The piece’s readership picked up steam when it was shared a lot on Twitter, but it truly came to life when people starting posting thoughtful and thought-provoking comments on it.
I even added a comment to the article:
One of the things I value as an online journalist vs. when I was a print journalist is all the great discussions that can spring from the original article. This is another great example. Thanks for all the comments and allowing us all to learn from every one of you.
I come from an era of journalism that isn’t really that far removed from the present, at least in terms of years. It was the late 1980s and early 1990s when I was putting pen to paper, furiously jotting down notes, statistics and lively quotes to inform and entertain readers.
It’s amazing to think how much has changed in 20 years. I’m not just talking about the technology, although that certainly plays a pivotal role in what has happened. I’m referring to the engagement with the audience that journalists today both enjoy and, probably, revile.
News reports now have an opportunity to become living, breathing entities, fueled by the insightfulness and, unfortunately, the thoughtlessness, delivered by the readers and viewers. These “flame wars” are best illustrated by a comical piece on YouTube involving Beaker from the Muppets.
So, certainly, there is a negative side to allowing comments. And the strain of a constant deadline brought about by a Web-based beast that is perpetually hungry for information is a tough one for some journalists to stomach.
Still, there’s no question that Journalism 2.0 should be embraced and revered. I often long for my days as a full-time newspaper reporter. But, lately, I can’t help but feel sorry for that former journalist who never had a chance to practice his trade the way he could now.
I wonder if the journalism students of today appreciate what they have available to them in their future careers? And, as the name of this blog says, “Here comes later,” so I hope they’re ready for it. Are you?
Here’s an article I wrote that was published on Ragan.com:
Here’s an article I wrote recently for Ragan.com about linking your LinkedIn and Twitter status updates:
Here’s an opinion piece I wrote for Ragan.com regarding the mad dash for Facebook vanity URLs:
Posted On: 6/15/2009
Facebook vanity URL: Did you get yours?
By Ari Adler
The rush to choose a personalized Facebook address was anticlimactic for some and thrilling for others
I knew that as every second ticked away until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, my level of nerdiness was growing. But I did it. I went to www.facebook.com/username and I joined the line of lemmings headed over the Facebook vanity URL cliff. When the clock ticked down to zero, I pressed continue and shouted, “Here we go!”
I’m not sure where we were going. Were we going to a place that MySpace has been for a long time with the ability for users to have vanity urls? Were we going to a place Twitter has dominated lately with people being able to find me just by putting my name at the end of an online address? Were we headed to an apocalyptic crash of servers and the resulting torrent of hateful comments directed at a company that dares to provide us with subpar customer service for a free product?
In the end, it seemed to work just fine and “Your user name has been set” appeared on the screen. A number of my Facebook friends agreed with my subsequent status update that noted the whole thing seemed anticlimactic somehow. As one person replied, “From the way people were talking about it, weren’t you expecting a ball dropping and fireworks?”
So, now, I’m the Facebook user formerly known as profile.php?id=733701081. According to Facebook, in the first 15 minutes, more than half a million people joined me on my quest to become something besides a number.
The reaction to the new feature was interesting to watch. As Facebook status updates and Twitter posts came filing in after midnight there was the expected mix of reactions. People jumped for joy over having claimed their name and were astounded at how easy it was to get what they wanted. Others were frustrated over just having missed the one they needed, or perturbed that anyone should suggest change is a good thing and wished Facebook would stop messing with them. Facebook warned people that you only get one shot at naming yourself.
It makes me wonder how many vanity URLs were chosen based on the amount of alcohol consumed since this feature went live just a couple of hours after the Stanley Cup playoffs ended. That’s bound to be someone’s hangover story to be shared for years to come.
Facebook says they made the change to “make it easier for people to find and connect with you.” I guess typing my name into the search box on Facebook was a lot of work?
Ah, but that’s not the end of it. Facebook also reports, “We expect to offer even more ways to use your Facebook username in the future.”
I suspect there are several more ways already in the works and you can bet they aren’t all about making things easier just for users but for advertisers as well. After all, vanity always comes with a price.