Live and Learn…Social Media Style

Ever since the early days of the internet, you know back when we were all innocent, happily posting away, giddily anticipating as the square with the lightening (complete with sound effects) gave way to the one with the triangle…(or am I the only one who remembers the early days of dial up AOL?) There have also been warnings, few and quiet at first, becoming stronger and more dire as the years flew by…protect yourself and more importantly, your INFORMATION! Hackers are EVERYWHERE and they are looking for YOU!
As a college student I took the warnings with a grain of salt, taking the usual precautions: anti-virus software, awesome (I thought) passwords. Later as I became wiser and more involved with social media; I became a blogger, then later a public affairs officer and then a social media consultant; I became even more savvy to the evils of phishing, trojans, keystoke viruses and web/spider trawlers A.K.A. Hacker scum with nothing better to do than ruin your day, week, life…

However, as aforesaid social media consultant I had grown comfortable with my knowledge…a dangerous thing. I assumed I was safe..it would never happen to me…until it did.

Sometime yesterday my GMail account was viciously hacked. 623 emails (EVERYONE in my address book) was sent an untitled email with a link that appeared to be from Google but was actually a virus. Not only was this bad for my social life, but the emails that went out also went out to people I had sent resumes to, people that trusted me in my network (including government, politics, the military, social media and the entertainment industry) now all exposed for the world to see. The link was also conveniently posted to my Facebook, Posterous, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIN and FriendFeed pages just in case you somehow missed the email! I was not only angry I was mortified!
To top it off when I decided to be proactive and change all my passwords I discovered my Google account had been disabled for a violation of TOS (since my ADsense address is also in my address book, Google was also sent the virus!) And I guess they don’t appreciate that sort of thing.
Well I immediately contacted them, Facebook, Twitter and most of my other services to let them know what was going on. Thankfully Google did not take the most extreme measure which would be to ban me forever from all Google services, but I did get a really stern email about taking preventitive measures in the future which made me feel about two inches tall. And I of course had to send out about a million emails, tweets and posts to apologize for the hacking, which more than a few did not take lightly.
Well, what’s done is done. Did I learn anything? Hell yes. Am I a little humbled by my experience? Absolutely. Am I getting new virus software, changing passwords and encrypting the hell out of everything? Duh.

Live and Learn.

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Facebook Isn’t Going Anywhere…

There are approximately 6.9 billion people on Earth and some 2 billion of them are online. Currently Facebook has 550 million users, expanding by 700,00 new users every day. Facebook will likely reach all 2 billion internet users within the next five years.

I read the above in an article by TIME Magazine – their 2010 People of The Year piece on Mark Zuckerberg. (I realize I am probably a little late reading the magazine but it was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law who I’m convinced gives me all her People and TIME magazines because she is convinced I would have no clue about pop culture or current events otherwise. As I have no television, she may be right.)

Despite my lateness I was both fascinated and more than a little creeped out to read about Facebook’s meteoric rise and how it will likely continue to grow…like the weed that you think you can just yank out of the ground and then you discover it has feeder roots spreading out in every direction 20, 30 and 40 feet from the original plant. Facebook is everywhere, those little blue and white boxes urging you, luring you, silently coercing you to LIKE them no matter where you are on the web. Thanks to Facebook Connect two million websites are already affiliated with Facebook and 10,000 new web sites integrate with Facebook every. single. day. And we are not talking web sites with only a few readers here. Facebook counts The New York Times, Amazon, YouTube and even social networking rival MySpace among the sites that allow you to not only log in using your Facebook Login, but also to comment publicly on the site using your Facebook Public Profile as an Avatar.

The logic behind this is that as you use Facebook and surf the web every person’s profile becomes customized to their individual preferences, and there is no guessing involved. The scary part is that the customization is eerily accurate because it is based on actual choices, clicks, LIKES. If you get an ad on your page for REI Outdoor Adventure Apparel – it is because you somehow indicated that as an interest. Therefore your page won’t look like your neighbor’s page or even your best friends. Your preferences will not only show up as ads on your sidebar but as items in your News feed on your wall. Even better for advertisers is that it also appears on your friends News feed – as a personal endorsement from you. As TIME puts it, the holy grail of marketing and advertising – you do the work for them.

When I first read about Facebook Connect in May 2008 I was both impressed and freaked out. While I have strict privacy controls on my own Facebook account I will admit to being just like anyone else when it comes to sharing. At times you feel compelled – it is like writing a good review for good service and who wouldn’t want to do that? (I spent approximately 10 years in one aspect or another  of the service industry so  perhaps I am slightly biased…) It goes the other way to. If you receive bad service you want the world to know about it lest the same thing happen to anyone else. Facebook also allows you the platform to sympathize/rejoice/bitch with one another about anything under the sun.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Truth about Facebook and Shared Shopping Experiences…

Say you had a great cup of coffee from a small unknown retailer – talk about it on Facebook and next thing you know five of your friends have had a similar experience, the store starts to receive increased business, offers a Facebook discount which leads to another good Facebook post – the circle continues. This can be great for the small businessman. However say you bought a purse from well-known retailer but they forgot to remove the security tag. you call and speak to the manager who assures you that all you need to do is come in and bring your receipt. You explain that you will do that but want them to know that you are going out of your way to do this and that you bought the purse for a special function that evening and will not be able to use it since the store is closing in ten minutes and you can’t get back down there until the following afternoon. You head down to the store the next day and are stopped at the door when you set off the anti-theft alarm. Despite your attempts to explain you are escorted to the back room where you are interrogated by security. The manager you called is not on duty and didn’t leave any kind of note. You finally get it sorted out but by the time you leave you not only have missed an appointment but are also twenty minutes late for the next one. When you finally get there the first thing you do is flip open your Blackberry and tell the whole world via Facebook about your experience. By that evening twenty of your friends have commented on the situation and you have pretty much decided you will never shop there again. Your friends on campus commiserate with you and promise they will stop shopping there as well making a public pledge on Facebook. By the time 24 hours has gone by a fan page dedicated to receiving bad service at that particular retailer has been created and over 100 people have become a fan, leaving comments either supporting you or leaving their own bad experience. Facebook allowed you the platform to single-handedly make a dent in the local customer base of a large retailer. Thanks to the social aspect of everything we do, including how we shop, the store lost not one, but probably more than a dozen customers. Powerful stuff.

What’s next for Facebook?

So back to the article. Zuckerberg was asked what he thought the future of Facebook was. Would it go public? Would he ever sell? Would it eventually take over the world? He didn’t seem to think that Facebook would go public anytime soon (he doesn’t exactly need the money) but was more interested in how Facebook would expand. For someone who values his own privacy to the point that you can’t even become his friend on Facebook he seems to have an almost obsessive need to connect everyone else, whether they want to play or not. (One of the latest features of Facebook is that your friends can “check you in” to places if they see you out somewhere without your permission and without you knowing…unless you un-check a box in at least three different places. So much for keeping your recent visit to the Ob-Gyn private, somebody saw you!) More people are on Facebook than any other social network (550 million) with Facebook having the population of a small country (3rd largest) and claiming more than 700 billion online minutes a month. One out of every four American page views is for Facebook even though 70 percent of its user base is outside the United States. In seven years we have gone from having Facebook be a college co-ed’s distraction to an entity that outranks Google with the terms “Facebooking” and “Facebookization” being recognized and used just as Google became interchangeable with Search.

Final Thought…

For as many people who love Facebook you can find almost as many who despise it and the way it has changed the way the world works. However the one thing everyone can agree on is that it has changed things…and there is no going back.

What do you think about the way Facebook is changing the way we do things? Will Facebook become the new Google and will it eventually reach every internet user? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Blogger’s Little Helpers

I recently came across a little thing on Twitter that many may already be familiar with but which I had only seen occasionally and never really followed up on. A little thing called the Follow Friday helper.

Apparently there are several of these services in existence and they all work mostly the same way. They analyze your Twitter account and then give you suggestions for your #Follow Friday listings.

At first I thought, wow, what a neat idea. I registered and then pressed the magic button to see what suggestions it would give me. Now I am not knocking the followers it listed. They were all great and the good thing about the service is that is does give you justification for why it chose that person. Either they mentioned you, RT’d you, or somehow or another engaged in a lovely act of reciprocity that garnered them a nod from the algorithm used by the Follow Friday helper program.

What I noticed however is that the main people it suggested are the people I tend to talk a lot with on Twitter. Again, not that I wouldn’t recommend them…I usually do. But that isn’t what I generally use my #FF listings for. When the time rolls around for me to make suggestions I really try to make it personal.

Maybe I am still idealistic (or maybe I am just not huge and famous enough) but I still take the time to go back through my list of 500 or so followers and look for those that had something interesting to say over the past week. Something that caught my attention, or someone who needs a boost – maybe they are really awesome, have a ton of potential but just need a few people to help push them into the spotlight. I love it when I do that for somebody. Everybody needs a little good karma now and then.

So it seemed to me that by automating the process it was impersonalizing it as well and I am not into that. Maybe one day, when I have millions of followers…I would consider it but at the same time it seems like the same argument as the automated welcome message debate.  Those who are successful will tell you that having an automated welcome message is a big NO-NO. It turns people off. If someone decides to follow you, it is because they saw something they liked. If you can’t be bothered to welcome them, send a quick hello without a sales pitch, or an auto-DM, then maybe you really are not worth their time after all.

I know what you are thinking, if I sent a message every time I got a new follower I would be tweeting constantly. Well I don’t do that either. I keep track of my new followers using a column on my Tweetdeck. Then once a week or so I send out a welcome to my new followers, thanking them for following me. Takes maybe five minutes of my time.

Therefore, while some of these services might be neat, I think that I will stick with doing my #FF’s the old-fashioned way, and keep things personal. After all, just because you are online doesn’t mean you are not reaching out to people.

What do you think? Do you use any blogging/Twitter “helpers”? Where do you fall on the automation debate? Is there a point where using a service becomes necessary?

Use Social Media to Work Smarter Not Harder…

During tough times such as now doing more with less has become the norm’ rather than the exception. Therefore, why should your social media strategy be any different. Many organizations are hesitant to allow workers to have access to social media applications at their work-stations even now amidst all the positive and compelling  evidence of the amazing things being accomplished. This is due primarily to the fear that employees will become distracted by the inherent social factor, the farm town gifts, mafia wars, pokes, super pokes and redundant quizzes. However by cracking down it’s possible that they are missing prime opportunities to optimize their brand, content and social currency.

Employee Evolution claims that the best strategy is to make every employee a social media representative, a tool for furthering the needs of the organization rather than a weight around the neck used to slow momentum.

I tend to agree with this view point. By allowing employees to take part while on the clock, you are giving them ownership of the brand, creating a sense of pride and loyalty that will ultimately serve to benefit the organization. Want to convince your supervisor? Here are a few key points to remember when presenting the case for social media at work:

  1. Empower by encouragement-Give a person ownership and you will create a sense of pride, empowering them and also helping to ensure that they will be good public representatives of the organization. If you have ownership then you feel loyalty towards the organization that creates that feeling. Simple right?
  2. Make everyone an equal-This is a big one. Rather than getting caught up in silo-type thinking, allowing only either the top reps or the grunts to speak out, let everyone be on equal footing. This supports the first point about empowerment. Doing this helps to humanize an organization making them appear to be much friendlier and appealing to the public.
  3. Build creativity while cutting costs-Allowing everyone to participate means that an entire collection of creative minds with different skill sets will be utilized rather than a select few. Creativity tends to stagnate if not poked occasionally with the big fork of distinction. You also save money by taking advantage of existing resources, and who doesn’t want to save money?

Do you work for a progressive organization? Share your story about how you engage with the public via social media at work. Is it working for your company? Or do the employees take advantage? If you are banned from using social media while on the clock, why do you think that is?

 

 

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

Social Media gone Mobile


So recently I have been on the road a lot. Whether I am in the field or at my desk I am totally loving all of the options I have for taking my social media network with me wherever I go.
I know many people, including my hubby think I am a total social media addict, which I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that being in the business I am in (Public Affairs) I am required  to be “connected” pretty much 24/7. So here are a few of the most recent apps and programs I have discovered along my journey to being 100 percent mobile.

1. Facebook Mobile
2. Twitter – Twitterberry (for more twitter tools read this post)
3. Personal Assistant for Blackberry – blackberry app world for this one.
4. Viigo for Blackberry
5. Gmail for blackberry
6. Flickr for blackberry

I am sure there are others, probably a dozen (read gazillion) for iPhone but as I am a die-hard crackberry fan I won’t go into those here.

What I love about all of this is that I can respond instantly wherever I am. I gave a great social media presentation yesterday but on the way back to the office got a call that I had a potentially huge media situation that I needed to respond to ASAP. Because I had all my lovely blackberry mobile apps I was able to deal with the AJC, Fox 5 and others not only with my comments but with photos, additional contacts on the scene and a release. All from the road. Awesome.

Got some great suggestions for taking your network with you on the road? I’d love to hear them!

Social Media Experiment a Success


The power of what having a social media network can do for an organization has never been more clear than the following example.

A conservation organization, “Replanting the Rainforests” embarked on an experiment using only social media outlets. They contacted bloggers, Facebook users and people on Twitter and asked them to blog, post and tweet about their content for one month. Nothing extra really, just a mention of their mission while doing what they always do. The results are staggering.

“In our first 30 days there have been more than 12,000 visitors to the Replanting the Rainforests (stats) web site – and there have been more than 78,000 page views. Amazingly, 35,000 of those page views have come in the last 7 days.

Eco Preservation Society’s @EcoInteractive Twitter account has exploded. 22,000 followers have been added in less than 60 days, with an unbelievable 12,000 new followers in just the last 8 days, averaging 1500 new followers a day over that period.

In just 2 weeks, the Earth Day Birthday – Give a Gift to Our Planet FaceBook group has added 3,450 members.”

Remarkably all this was done with absolutely zero marketing budget, built entirely on human capital and using only social media.

Something to consider huh?

If, like me you work for an organization with precious little cash flow, all of the sudden this whole social media thing really begins to look attractive.