Friday, October 14, 2016

Tracking the presidential election with social media

With just weeks until the 2016 Elections in the U.S. it is clear that this cycle has become the social media-driven elections.

No matter who you support, who you despise or who you wish would just "be quiet" there is an endless supply of Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram images and YouTube videos to variously inform, annoy or enrage. How to make sense of it all? 

First, decide if social media can help you stay informed. If the answer is "no" you can just stop here. But if the answer is "yes" then here are a few suggestions: 

Follow a popular hashtag or hashtags: Some popular hashtags this election season include #election2016, #debates, #debates2016, #trump, #clinton, #donaldtrump, #hillary, #vote, #nevertrump, #hillaryemails
Explore some new hashtags: There’s an exhaustive list of hashtags (Warning: some are NSFW) on the website.
Create a Twitter list: This is simply a way organizing the Twitter "firehose" so that it is more manageable. In other words by viewing a list you are only seeing the tweets of the people you place on that list and not all of the people you follow on Twitter. (For more how to create a list see Using Twitter lists from Twitter). Who should be on your list? A good place to start is adding the Twitter accounts of the candidates, their proxies and their official campaigns. After that add people you think are informative and helpful.

Like the pages of all the major candidates: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson
Like the pages of the political parties: Green, Libertarian, Independents, Democrat and Republican. • Use the filtering functions of Socialfixer to exclude certain kinds of posts. Although this article from ZDNet talks about using Socialfixer eliminating all political debate from your Facebook feed, the same principles can be applied to cut down on certain types of content in your feed. See How to filter politically sanctimonious Facebook posts from your news feed
• Use the USA Today/Facebook Barometer to gauge which candidates are doing better or worse based on Facebook activity (likes, shares, mentions).

• Follow the Instagram accounts of … Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein
• Subscribe to the YouTube accounts of … Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump 

I hope this is an useful primer. Please feel free to post other social media tips around the elections in the comments.

Related posts:
Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Updated: Fact-checking the presidential election - from social media claims to debate points

Updated to include Google's addition of a "Fact Check" category in Google News search results. See "Update" at the end of this post.

This 2016 election season in the United States has been like no other for a couple of reasons. 

It has two leading presidential candidates comfortable using social media with hordes of rabid followers tearing up the social media channels with claims real and, well, a lot less so.
Fact or Not? Fact-checking and social media
The live candidate debates have frequently degenerated into name calling and claims that are hard to believe.

What is an interested citizen to do?

Thankfully the other trend this season has been the wide range of sites offering fact-checking on what is being said by all sides. 

Here is a starter list (it could never be truly comprehensive). The links lead to a site's political coverage where many, if no most, offer live fact-checking during major debates:

Big name media outlets on the right:
Wall Street Journal

Big name media outlets on the left:
New York Daily News
The Huffington Post

Mainstream media outlets:
USA Today
ABC News
CBS News
NBC News
PBS Newshour
The New York Times
The Washington Post 
The Los Angeles Times

Fact-checking organizations:

Foreign news media:

Hip media outlets:  

Partisan advocacy organizations:
ThinkProgress  (Liberal-leaning)
NewsBusters  (Conservative-leaning)
Breitbart (Conservative-leaning)

So, whether you're fact-checking a candidate debate or another's social media post, know that you have almost no end of sources tom verify what is being said.

Google has added Fact Check as a tag to search results involving major news stories. It says it is doing this to help searchers on the web identify stories that have a fact-checking in them. Google in a web post said:"We’re excited to see the growth of the Fact Check community and to shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin."

Related posts:
Tracking the presidential election with social media
Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Social Media and Politics Makes for Odd Bedfellows

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump - 2016 presidential candidates
If you believe, as the saying goes, that "politics makes strange bedfellows," then politics and social media make for some truly odd "bedfellows."

In the current hyper-charged electoral season in the United States it seems social media streams are overflowing with political points of view ranging from bemused commentary to out-and-out hate speech for one presidential candidate or the other.

This, perhaps inevitably, has led to those posting or those seeing extreme posts to invite anyone who disagrees with them to "unfriend me now."

It’s such a phenomenon it’s become a national story with Politico, for example, reporting this week that Trump and Clinton wreck Facebook friendships.

But is "unfriending" – the Facebook term (or unfollowing or disconnecting on other platforms) – the only or even the best option?

Recently, I was asked to add some tips for a story in the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle: Tips to deal with political haters online.

That story featured my tips and those from Scott Talan, an American University communication teacher who studies social media and politics. His tips are all sound:
  • "Take a breath or two" and think it through before commenting on a friend's post or unfriending someone.
  • Instead of sharp opinion statements, pose questions such as "how can we trust her?" or "is he stable enough to be president?"
  • Remember that this will all be over in November, and your friendships could and should outlast the next presidential term.
  • And, in general, "try not to be like the candidates."
My additions were:
  • Simply ignore the people posting things that upset you. Facebook’s algorithm will eventually push anything they post further and further down your news feed since it gives priority to close family and friends and people you interact with regularly. You can also start interacting more with the people you enjoy — this will hasten the process of the others being pushed down.
  • If you must comment on posts, stick to facts and questions. It’s hard to argue with the former (especially if you drop in a citation and/or link). Or ask questions that might provoke new thinking.

But I got to thinking and there are other things you can do: 
  • Another way to quickly bury someone who is posting things you don’t want to see on Facebook is to use FB’s “Hide” feature (see pic). At the top right of any Friend’s post the drop-down menu will include Hide and Unfriend. The first means you’ll see a lot less from the person and (if you have a lot of friends) eventually nothing from that person unless they tag you in a post. Unfriending is the “nuclear option” and although the person you unfriend gets no notification of this they will soon figure it out if they try to message you or tag you on Facebook.
  • On Twitter a best practice is to start using the Lists feature to organize the people you follow into those who are friends and/or providing relevant posts. This cuts the “Twitter firehose” news feed down to size and can have the added benefit of ensuring you don’t see posts from people who annoy or upset you. 

And in all of this hyper-charged political season one piece of advice for anything on social media still holds true: “Would you be proud to show you grandmother whatever it is you are about to post?”

Good friends and smart people can agree to disagree on one thing and not lose a friendship over it. Social media doesn’t need to be a place where we only associate with people we agree with 100 percent of the time – that’s the kind of thinking that has turned Washington into a laughingstock…

What do you think?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Live video streaming on social media has ‘arrived’

In case you missed it this past week - live-streaming social media video has changed the world. 

While livestreamed events such as a watermelon being exploded with rubber bands or the "Chewbacca Mom" video have been Internet hits, it has been the graphic news of the past week that hints at the live-streaming’s powerful future potential.

The Facebook Live stream by Diamond Reynolds of the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Minnesota was only the latest (and possibly most graphic) example of a livestream capturing and recording news as it happened.

The sniper attack in Dallas the next day led to numerous live video streams on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope. News coverage on traditional media during the Dallas shootings and over the following hours consisted almost entirely of live-streamed social media video.

If live-streaming needed it’s "coming of age" moment this was likely it. What does it mean?

The live-streamed events of last week foreshadow "the biggest shift in media consumption we’ve seen since the introduction of television itself," writes Andrew Hutchinson, a writer and community manager at Social Media Today in a post called "The Evolution of Live-Streaming Could Change the Way You Consume Media - Here’s How"

"Just as online content democratized newspaper journalism, putting small time blogs on equal footing with centuries-old publications, live-streaming takes away one of traditional broadcasters’ most significant advantages, in the control of the broadcast of live events," he continues. 

"Really, social media is moving beyond its personal networking roots – there’ll come a time soon when ‘social’ media is simply considered part of the media more widely.”

But, the possibility of injury and death being live-streamed raises ethical issues.

In Live Broadcast of Deaths Raised Ethical Questions on the Voice of American Blog ‘As It Is’ Robert Thompson, Director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, says the rise in live streaming will have good consequences (holding people accountable) and bad (groups such as ISIS staging killings just for the purpose of recording them). 

"A lot of these bad things are done for the sake of the recording they are going to get," Thompson says. "You could make the argument, pretty soundly, that September 11 was planned as a television production." 

This will raise a wide range of ethical issues with live-streaming technology, but it will be nearly impossible to stop it: "Technology is relatively neutral," he says. "How do you only take the good from this and not the bad?"

And with all of this potentially graphic live content comes responsibility. 

To deal with the likelihood that more and more graphic live material will be streamed Facebook will increasingly play a policies-and-standards role in the news social media users will see live-streamed. 

The Minnesota video was off Facebook for about an hour last week - apparently while the network decided if it was too graphic and might violate Facebook's Community Standards. 

Writing for Tech Talk Quinten Plummer notes that "to determine which graphic and violent images are permitted, Facebook relies on context." 

In an article called "Facebook Live-Stream Video Gives Marginalized A Voice, But Here's Where It Draws The Line" Plummer reports: "Facebook has clarified its stance on gory and violent content. Just as is the case with video on demand, a member of Facebook's review team can interrupt a live video at any time. And a team member is on call around the clock, each day of the week." 

And, in what seems to be Mark Zuckerberg’s wish for the future of live-streaming, the Facebook CEO says: "While I hope we never have to see another video like Diamond's, it reminds us why coming together to build a more open and connected world is so important - and how far we still have to go."

Zuckerberg's wish is one many share, but the reality is this: The media landscape changed last week and the ramifications of that will be felt far and wide….

3 Things to Consider (Well) Before You Live Stream on Social Media

3 Things to Consider (Well) Before You Live Stream on Social Media

Live-streaming a news event on social media is about to be something more and more of us will consider doing. 

But what should we be thinking about before whipping out the smartphone and “going live” on Facebook Live, Twitter’s Periscope or some other live-stream video service?

1. Safety
Watching the world through a small smartphone screen as you live-stream is inherently dangerous.

You cannot see everything going on around you and if you’re moving you may not fully see where you are walking or what you are walking into. This is especially true at night.

Or, as in the tragic case in Chicago in June, you may become a crime victim while live-streaming (see Man shot and killed while live streaming on Facebook).  

The best idea? Have a "buddy" with you while live-streaming – someone who can look around and "have your back." 

2. Consequences
What are the possible outcomes of whatever you are live-streaming? And, if the worst-case scenario happens can you live with sharing that live?

Thinking about this ahead of time will likely help you, in the heat of the moment, make a decision you can live with.

A best practice? Ask yourself if (worst-case scenario) happens is this something where the benefits outweigh any possible harm?

3. Motivations
Why do you want to broadcast this event/news/happening to the world?

This will necessarily get into ethical considerations. So, again, thinking about which circumstances you will or will not stream ahead of time can help in the heat of the moment when decision-making may not be so clear-minded.

A useful resource for anyone considering live-streaming might be this article from the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank: 10 questions journalists should ask themselves before going live on Facebook

Getting started
And if you’re new to live-streaming where to begin?

The Chicago Tribune offers some good advice in 5 top tips for live streaming video on social media

Do you have experience live-steaming? What other considerations are important?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Social media listening – it’s time to commit to it

What is social listening (and why commit to it)?
In a nutshell it is paying attention to what is being said on social media, but obviously it’s more than that. 

It starts with social monitoring – or collecting every social mention and action relevant to your organization, brand, purpose etc.

Social listening is important in social mediaAfter monitoring comes social listening – this requires analysis and reflection on what has been gathered. It also means watching for patterns, tracking sentiment and drawing conclusions based on where and when conversations happen.

So why should you commit to social listening? Among the things it can do:
• Improve customer care
• Learn about opportunities – business and otherwise
• Get feedback on products and services
• Identify your influencers and advocates
• Discover where your community hangs out

How to do it:
Monitoring – what people are actually doing, not just what they say they are doing, on social platforms and the web in general
Listening – separating signal from noise; determining importance and relevance
Interpreting – what does it mean to us now? In the future? Do we see a problem we can solve for a customer?
Taking action – turning data into insights; acting on those insights

Manual steps (free):
If paying for monitoring tools that simplify social listening is not in your budget there are free things you can do:
Plan to listen: Set aside time (daily is best) to search on keywords and/or hashtags that relate to your business, its name, its products and services and the industry you’re in.
Plan to respond: Have a document that spells out how you will respond on social to both the good and the bad comments etc. about your organization. This should include how you can redirect people to helpful online resources or be helpful in other ways. Also, have conversation starters ready to use with influencers and others who are interested in your industry.
Plan to follow up: When you have jumped into a conversation be sure to follow it to a natural conclusion … and be timely (in other words don’t allow more than a day to elapse between responses – much less time if you’re dealing with any kind of crisis communication).
Plan to document: Keep track of who you have interacted with and when. Complete a monthly summary of this activity and its benefits to your organization so you can send it to your boss so a higher-up will understand the value of spending time on this.

Paid tools:
There are a lot (see "Resources" below). Here’s what’s important in whatever tools you use:
Learning curve: How hard is it to get up and running on the app/software?
Data collection: What kinds of data can be collected and how customizable is this?
Reporting: How is the data reported and can it be manipulated by the end-user for inclusion in reports?
Historical reporting: In addition to the regular reports how does it aggregate data and report it over extended timeframes?
Planning: Does it allow any kind of “what if” scenarios that show how changing one action might affect results?

So, there you have it, social listening is clearly important for anyone on social media. The question is to what extent your organization should commit to it…. I’ll address that in a future post.

Do you have thoughts on things I may have missed? I’d welcome your feedback.

6 Social Media Monitoring Tools to Track Your Brand
Top 8 Social Listening Tools That Do Way More Than Listen
A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Social Media Safety Tips for Teens and Parents

Source: Woman Online Magazine
Once in a while I get asked to talk to a mixed group of high school students and their parents about social media and the possible consequences when it is misused. So given the broad use of social media by teens (see graphic) it seems like a good excuse to encapsulate some of the things I say. 

For Students: 
• Anything posted on social media can (and will) be shared by others regardless of your privacy settings. There really is no such thing as "private" in social media so if you don’t want others to see it DON’T POST IT. 
• Social media can be a good thing, but if you (teens) ever feel uncomfortable by something you see or read on social, trust those feelings and talk to someone you trust – a parent, a teacher, some other adult you trust. Bullying, threats and cruelty on social media are all signs that the person doing those things needs help. 
• For high school juniors and seniors: Clean up your social media. If you don’t think those colleges you’d like to attend aren’t looking at what you post, think again. If social media is the place you must vent go analog … write your "vent" on paper chew it and swallow it … it’s the only 100 percent way you can be sure no one else will ever see it….. 
• Understand that collectively what you post online adds up to your personal brand. What people find out about you in a Google search is what they believe to be a picture of you. Make sure that is a flattering picture. If you need help managing your online reputation use tools such as and 
• And last, but no least: Have fun on social media (but never at someone else’s expense) because if you’re not enjoying it why are you using it? 

For Parents: 
• You cannot control social media – accept that fact and work on developing your students’ life skills: self-esteem, good judgment and knowing where to turn when things get uncomfortable unkind and, yes, unthinkable…. 
• Have such a good relationship with your teen that they are OK with you being their "friend" on social networks. I know, much easier said than done – but well, well worth the effort. 
• Always be open to your teen’s concerns. Even the most innocuous question from a teen can sometimes be rooted in something they’ve been exposed to on social media. 
• Ensure that any teen under 18 using a smartphone has to get your permission to download an app (this is a setting on most smartphones) and do your research before agreeing to the download. 
• Parents hosting drinking parties think they’re being smart by taking cellphones from kids at the party, but those neighborhood kids who weren’t invited or adults who don’t appreciate what’s going on? They’ll share their photos and thoughts on social media and you can’t control that…. 

Two Good Resources: 
• The American Academy of Pediatrics says: "While today’s tweens and teens may be more digitally savvy than their parents, their lack of maturity and life experience can quickly get them into trouble with these new social venues." It offers a series of practical tips in Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting 
WebMD says: "It's a parent's responsibility to parent around the technology" before offering guidance in such areas as Getting Started, Setting Guidelines and Checking In in the article Social Media: What Parents Must Know 

Related Post: Talking to Kids About Social Media and Other Online Activities

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Power of 'Thank You' in Social Media

Recently I was reminded of the power of the words "thank you" on social media.

One of my favorite apps – Buffer – publicly thanked me for tweeting about them with a GIF.

It was a fun and surprising day brightener. And it got me to thinking: What has happened to the thank yous that used to be all over social media?

I think there was a big push a couple of years ago to cut down on the endless stream of "thank you for sharing" and "thank you for retweeting" etc. messages on social media. But that was never supposed to mean you never say thank you.

Part of the "social" in social media is being courteous and thankful. The real question is how to say "thank you" in a different and meaningful way – just as Buffer did.

3 Sources for Ways to Say "Thank You" on Social Media

The post Creative Ways to Say 'Thank You' on Social Media by Brittany Berger (@bberg1010 on Twitter) suggests a thank you on social media is seen by many so it must be "unique and genuine." Berger, before offering great tips also offers that writing distinct 'thank yous' can save your sanity. "Typing the same thing over and over gets boring." 

I love the Six Ways to Say Thank You on Social Media post in The Alley Blog from design company Vital. It offers basic, but sound advice that some of us may forget from time to time.

And in what only seems like a contrarian point of view Stop Saying “Thank You!” on Social Media ... And Start the Conversation! by Jennifer Gardella (@DrJennyLynn on Twitter) the author argues that she is "sick and tired of watching so many small business owners, authors and personalities just say thank you when I share something on social media." 

She says a thank you is an opportunity to "let their network know a bit more about you!" And adds that "As you and your social partners get in the groove of sharing and commenting it will become second-hand and your social footprint will grow exponentially."

Will you start saying thank you a little more now? Was this a useful guide to social media and social niceties?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to spot a social media scam - and 5 tips to avoid them

Social media scams have always been around, but it seems that each year they get a little more sophisticated and a bit more targeted. 

This week on Facebook a lot of folks in Rochester, N.Y. (where I’m based) opened Facebook and there in their news feed was a post seemingly offering a "free $200 grocery coupon" (see image) to Wegmans supermarkets – the biggest and by-far-the-most-popular chain in the area. The posts were accompanied by poster’s comments such as “Wow” and “Can you believe this?”
The widely shared scam post

Well … no. There were a couple of clues right in the post that it was a scam.
  • The URL (web address) at the bottom of the public post does not look like it belongs to Wegmans’s official page
  • The English is fractured – typical in scams since they are often posted overseas by non-native English speakers 
Then, if an offer seems too good to be true, well it likely is. So don’t ever click on the headline or any link before going to Wegmans (or any supposed posting company’s) official social media page.

In this case a quick visit to Wegmans’ official Facebook page shows that this "offer" is not posted there and instead there’s a warning about the scam.
The warning on the Wegmans Facebook page

If you do click through to the offer (not recommended as this can be the way the scammers download malicious software onto your computer) there will be abundant evidence that this is a scam. For example: In the case of the Wegmans "offer" it was a digital counter counting down how many coupons supposedly remained. Every time the page refreshed it went back to 360 and started counting down again… 

And, if you are a business that has been spoofed and your organization’s name associated with a scam you should quickly do two things:

  • Post something on your own social accounts warning about the scam so people will find the information there.
  • Contact the affected social networks and ask for the malicious scam material to be taken down and the poster banned.

Both of which Wegmans did very quickly after the coupon scam surfaced …. 

So, in general what are the best ways anyone can avoid falling for a scam?

Top 5 Tips to Avoid a Social Media Scam

1. Does this news/post sound too good to be true? If it does it likely is. Headlines screaming unbelievably exciting or tragic news. Or offers of cash or goods that seem like they would make your life a lot better. Or words such as “Unbelievable,” “Shocking” and “Disturbing.” All are often related to an attempt to get your attention and get you to click.

As mentioned above, the first thing to do is seek verification by going to an official social network site to see if the post exists there. Or go to and enter a few key words from the item – Snopes is the best online debunker of fake news/information (and, in fact, had an item posted about the Wegmans coupon scam within a few hours). Even a general Google search might turn up warnings that something is a scam.

2. Think before acting: Typically scammers want to make you feel you have to act quickly. Nothing on social media is a matter of life or death. For example, those urgent appeals from a friend who lost their wallet overseas? Think about it: Why are they using Facebook or Twitter to reach out to all their friends?

3. Ask yourself: Is this a chain letter? The old chain letter used to ask people to forward a letter to a number of friends to bring good luck or cash. Today, by way of examples, the chain letter takes the form of "Tweet this image and Bill Gates will donate $100 to help premature babies" or "Share this post with your Facebook friends and Mark Zuckerberg will randomly pick 1,000 people to each receive $1 million in Facebook stock." These appeals almost always tap into a grain of truth, but would these very rich men really do what is proposed?

4. Watch for phishing attacks: You innocently click on a link you find on a Facebook or Twitter post and you are asked to log in using your Facebook or Twitter credentials – don’t. Yes there may be a legitimate reason some sites want you to do this, but before you do check out the URL of the page you are now on. Is it still a Facebook page or some other legitimate site? If not this site is wanting you to sign in so it can grab your credentials and hijack your account.

5. Be cautious of shortened URLs: Don’t blindly click on shortened URLs. You'll see them everywhere on Twitter, for example. But because they are shortened and consist of a garbled collection of characters you can’t tell where the link will take you. The best practice is only click on shortened links from social media posters you highly trust. This is not foolproof, but offers a degree of protection.

Hopefully these tips will spare some of you the grief of having been fooled by a scam or, worse, having your social media accounts compromised.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Collected knowledge: 5 Useful Posts About Snapchat for Business

Snapchat is apparently the social media platform to pay attention to in 2016 – for users and for business. 
Snapchat for business

According to an article in Business Insider Why Snapchat is 'the one to watch in 2016' - has offered many new features for users and has made it a more advertising-friendly place for business.

With 86 percent of Snapchat’s 100 million active daily users falling into the 13-37 age range it’s clearly a place to reach a younger audience.

If you’re still not understanding Snapchat or how to get into it for the sake of your business here are a few resources that may help.

5 Useful Posts About Snapchat for Business

But first, if you literally know little to nothing about Snapchat you might start with the basics at Snapchat Support 

Small businesses may find the list of tips from Brian Solomon (@Brian_Solomon) at Forbes useful: How To Use Snapchat: A Small Business Guide.

Kristi Hines (@kikolani) writing for Social Media Examiner offers a comprehensive guide to Snapchat for marketing purposes in Snapchat for Business: A Guide for Marketers

An AdWeek article by Lauren Johnson (@LaurenJohnson) has tips for all businesses using Snapchat with examples of brands who are already doing it very well. Read 5 Ways Brands Are Standing Out and Building Audiences on Snapchat

And for an update on features added recently see Snapchat Adds New Features, Allows Users to Re-View Snaps (for a Price) by Andrew Hutchinson (@adhutchinson) writing for Social Media Today.

And last, but not least, for a look at how Snapchat will become even more advertiser-friendly in 2016 see Snapchat is building an ad technology platform by Garett Sloane (@GarettSloane) of DigiDay.

So, if you haven’t explored Snapchat for business will you? In 2016 it seems like it will be the social media platform to work with.