By Truett Reed

Social Media Week has come and gone in D.C., but we had a great opportunity to keep the spirit alive last week when SDI hosted an encore webinar version of our panel discussion originally held on February 20, 2013. Our discussion centered on a recent study conducted by the Capitol Communicator and WB&A Market Research on how both communications professionals and consumers are using smartphones, tablets and social media in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore market areas.

I had the privilege of joining Steve Stern from WB&A, who presented their survey findings, moderator Debbie Friez, Tech. Editor for Capitol Communicator and fellow panelist Jonathan Rick of the Jonathan Rick Group in a fantastic discussion about our thoughts on the survey findings and our own experience in the field.

A few highlights included:

Purchases made through smartphones and tablets are still fairly low

I didn’t find this terribly surprising, but it was interesting to have my suspicion confirmed. Certainly, privacy may be an issue if you are on the go and don’t want to be flashing around your credit card in public. Our consensus was that online businesses face the challenge of conditioning customers to make purchases through mobile devices by streamlining the process as much as possible. Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering process that uses stored credit card information was hailed as the gold standard for purchasing through not only mobile, but all platforms.

There could also be an ergonomic issue at play here – it simply isn’t very easy to hold a credit card and enter information through a touchscreen – once again pointing to Amazon’s solution as a model for other online retailers to follow.

Online reviews are continuing to impact more purchasing decisions year over year

Online reviews are becoming more and more influential, and as communications professionals we have a duty to counsel our clients on how to monitor and manage them as effectively as possible. There are multiple approaches that can be taken in this process, some better than others:

Good: If you have a brick-and-mortar location, why not put up signs asking for reviews? “Happy with your experience? Please find us on Yelp”. Your email list and social media audiences can also be great sources to solicit (mostly) positive reviews.

Bad: Giving in to the temptation to seed your own positive reviews. False reviews are often pretty obvious and the FTC is beginning to bring “review fraud” cases as deceptive advertising.

Good: Responding to reviews as they come in, saying thank you for positive reviews and addressing the concerns of upset customers.

Bad: Firing back at negative reviewers calling them liars and attacking their credibility. I’ve seen this happen and it is not pretty. You certainly have the right to defend yourself against false information, but take the high road and be polite. This is public information after all. Otherwise, you may find yourself in need of crisis management support.

It is interesting to note that some organizations are now implementing “non-disparagement” clauses in contracts that allow them to pull down negative reviews. Is this something you would consider?

Even communications professionals aren’t clicking many QR codes

I’ll admit it, I was one of the PR types who initially was enamored with the QR code. I marveled at the brave new world of “clicking” real world objects and thought the general public was going to follow suit as they learned about them. It turns out that learning about them was the problem.

Manufacturers’ not building in scanning apps has been a big barrier to the widespread usage of QR codes. Not only are there multiple steps required to even be able to scan QR codes with a mobile device (searching for and choosing an app) but many people found themselves going through this effort only to end up on an organization’s home page.

I don’t believe that the QR code is dead, I just think that it has to be used more judiciously and with a very clear call to action. The last QR code I scanned was at the Wendy’s drive-thru window, when my box of fries gave me the chance to win $100,000. I was quick to forget how disenchanted I am with QR codes for about 30 seconds until I realized that I didn’t win.

For anyone who missed it last year, this Tumblr account of People Scanning QR Codes pretty concisely sums up the state of this technology with consumers. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

More communicators in D.C. and Baltimore are using LinkedIn than Twitter

Is everyone pounding the pavement for a job? I actually think that LinkedIn has really stepped in up in the “personal brand” department. My LinkedIn profile has been at the top of Google searches for my name for years, and while I still don’t make the most of the features they offer to beautify your profile and showcase your work, it makes it easy for business contacts I meet to track me down.

I also find lots of helpful articles both from people I know and that LinkedIn actively emails to me every day. Like on Facebook, I think the news feed is a bit easier to follow than Twitter. Plus, not everything is completely public so you can have more of an authentic professional relationship – which is really what LinkedIn is good for. LinkedIn is my travelling rolodex that lets me email friends and former coworkers even if they have changed jobs several times or have finally decided to give up on that old AOL email address.

Communicators are spending an average of 13 hours per week on social media

Given that using and monitoring social media is an integral part of most of our jobs, I would have suspected that this number would have been higher for communications professionals. The average time spent on social media for Americans is 3.2 hours per day or 22.4 hours per week. The 22.4 hours assumes a 7-day week, and perhaps the survey respondents dial it back a bit over the weekends, but I suspect that this number varies widely depending on respondents’ professional roles when it comes to social media. It may be that communications professionals have also gotten more efficient at monitoring, measuring and using social media since it is typically only a part of their daily jobs.

Posting and responding to comments on social media is often the easy part. Creating content takes time and, depending on the tools you have at your disposal, measurement and reporting can become huge (although necessary when you’ve established your business objectives) time sinks.

Take a look at the very nicely done presentation from our panel for many more interesting stats. Do you see anything that surprises you?