Friday, October 30, 2015

Personal Branding With Social Media: 4 Links

I’m honored to be part the very first Upstate Social Sessions conference Oct. 31 in Rochester, N.Y.

The panel I’m on – Brand Yourself: Advancing Your Career Through Social Media – looks to be a lot of fun. My co-panelists are Alex Fitzpatrick, a Deputy Tech Editor at Time magazine, and Rachel Barnhart, a news anchor and reporter at WROC-TV in Rochester.

Since I’m assuming the focus will mostly be on more advanced techniques for using social media for personal branding I thought it might be helpful to offer a collection of blog posts on some of the basics of personal branding. Here goes:

Quality SM connections for personal branding Making connections is what social media is all about. When it comes to personal branding however, the quality of those connections is important. For example, imagine a recruiter looking through your Twitter Followers and finding a spammy “Buy 5,000 Twitter followers” account or, worse, a porn account. What does that say about you that you didn't block such accounts? Read more … 

Blogging for personal branding Building or improving your personal brand can seem like facing a massive mountain. But some strategic use of social media can help anyone improve their personal brand – or the collective impression online search results speak about who you are. One of the best places to start? A blog. To read more … 

Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance Like it or not a personal brand is something that follows you wherever you go from your personal life to the work world and beyond. It’s the combined information (Internet postings, social media updates etc.) about you that shows up when someone searches online. Don't leave it to chance. To read more …

6 Overlooked SM Personal Branding Must-Dos Personal branding – it’s all the rage. Working hard to make sure that everything that shows up online – social media and everything else – reflects well on you and paints an accurate picture of who you are. But there a few things that often get overlooked when considering working on a personal brand. To read more …

6 Overlooked SM Personal Branding Must-Dos

Personal branding – it’s all the rage. Working hard to make sure that everything that shows up online – social media and everything else – reflects well on you and paints an accurate picture of who you are.

But there a few things that often go overlooked when considering working on a personal brand.

6 Personal Branding Must-Dos

1. Updating: Stay on top of your various online presences and what they say about you. If you have a job title change, be sure to update it in all of your bios. If that profile photo more than 10 years old its time to update it – everywhere.

2. Social media and SM connections: Reevaluate all of you social media presences. Do they all still make sense to tell your story? Are there others you should be on? Evaluate your connections for quality. Be sure that anyone looking at who you’re connected to is not going to be less than impressed.

To read more on this topic, see Quality SM connections for personal branding 

3. Blogging: Writing and regularly posting to a blog is viewed by some as a bit of a vanity pastime. They could not be more wrong. To claim extra internet real estate, show off some expertise or to simply get found in Google search results – it’s hard to beat the power of a blog. 

To read more on this topic, see Blogging for personal branding 

4. Your focus: Yes, you’re focused on things you can do to your personal brand stand out, but ultimately your success in social media is mostly about how social you are and how others perceive you. To that end make your time on social mostly about others. Be helpful: help others connect, help others learn and most of all notice, and comment on, the hard work of others. It’s the No. 1 commandment here: 10 Commandments for Social Media 

5. Get uncomfortable: It’s easy to stick to connecting to people we know; to interact with people like us. But the real secret sauce of social media is the opportunity to meet people all over the world who have interesting stories to share.

Make a point of connecting to at least one intriguing Twitter or other social network account per week and look for ways to interact with the account-holder. 

You’ll be surprised where this might lead in terms of connections down the road. 

6. Get real: Finally, but most importantly you need to turn all this online activity in something in the real world or IRL as the kids say). Massive effort on social media is not worth a hill of beans if you don’t make new connections in the real world.

How to do this? Look for opportunities to attend meetups. Suggest your own meetup. If you’re visiting a different city or even a different country let your connections know and offer to buy coffee so you can meet. It truly is a very gratifying and fun experience to meet someone you’ve been connected to on social media for years to finally meet them in real life…. 

There you have it: Six often overlooked keys to stronger personal branding wit social media and other online presences. Do you have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance

Like it or not a personal brand is something that follows you wherever you go from your personal life to the work world and beyond.
It’s the combined information (Internet postings, social media updates etc.) about you that shows up when someone searches online. So it probably makes sense to figure out how to make your brand the best it can be.

5 steps to take this weekend to boost your personal brand:

1. Define your tactics:
Ask yourself: What do you want people to find when they search for you online? Someone they’d like to …
  • Hire: Then focus on optimizing your Linkedin profile (and not just to get it to Linkedin’s 100 percent complete status, but adding images, videos, examples of your work etc.) Consider using other channels too: A blog to demonstrate your knowledge, Pinterest boards to demonstrate any visual work and interests, and Twitter to share your work and to network without the barriers of Linkedin.
  • Get to know: Start by picking three platforms to focus on that will allow you to tell your story. For example, if your interests are sports, travel and reading consider creating boards on Pinterest for each of you specific interests.
2. Define yourself:
Develop a short description of who you are, what you believe in and what you do best. In other words: How would you tell your online audience why you’re the right person to work with or connect with? 

This two- or three-sentence statement is for you, but should guide how you describe yourself - everywhere. Be sure to describe what makes you different from other people with the same or similar expertise. 

If you’re not sure what that is, do some research on well-known people in your field. Observe what they do and adapt it to your own way of doing things.

3. Define your expertise:
What particular skills and knowledge do you want to be known for? Who do you hope to connect with?

Determining what makes you unique helps you understand what sets you apart from crowd on the Internet. 

Your areas of expertise define who you are and what you do. They should be included in your social media profile descriptions and should include your main keywords.

4. Define your approach:
How will you use various social media platforms to advance your brand? For example, will ...
  • You only use Linkedin to post things relevant to your career or will you also post a few things that show some of your personality?
  • Facebook be strictly for people you’ve met in real life or consider personal friends?
  • Twitter be a place to share industry news and find new connections?
  • You use a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts to maintain a regular social presence or will you post organically as you find interesting material?
  • You use tools such as Empire Avenue, Kred and Klout to monitor your efforts and guide your progress?

5. Define your success:
What will success look like to you?
  • Making lots of online connections that become in real life (IRL) connections?
  • Enhancing your current job/career?
  • Getting a better job?
Whatever you settle on set some future calendar reminders to look back at what you’ve done. Then decide which efforts are worth continuing and which should be dropped.

Remember your personal brand is an evolving, living thing. The only thing you can do "wrong" is to ignore it and let it change, or worse: stagnate, while you remain blissfully unaware…

Does this help? Will you use social media and a plan to boost your personal brand? I’d love to hear back from you.

Related posts:
Quality SM connections for personal branding
Blogging for personal branding

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Quality SM connections for personal branding

Making connections is what social media is all about. When it comes to personal branding however, the quality of those connections is important.

For example, imagine a recruiter looking through your Twitter Followers and finding a spammy “Buy 5,000 Twitter followers” account or, worse, a porn account. What does that say about you that didn't block such accounts?
Quality among your social media connections matters
And, if you’re still using the number of followers to measure your social media success, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Do an audit of your audience and determine which users are the right ones, and cull your lists accordingly.

Once you’ve completed the audit what can you do in the future to ensure you have quality connections that will enhance your online personal brand?

Start by having a thoughtful approach to who you’ll follow.

How to decide who to follow on social media for personal branding success

When someone asks to connect with you, ask yourself:
  • Are they in your industry or a related industry? (Related question: Are they in any Linkedin groups you belong to?)
  • Are they active on Linkedin and other social media?
  • What do they talk about and what do they share on SM?

If you are seeking new connections, first ask yourself:
  • Who do you want to connect to? Why?
  • How will you find these people? Using advanced search in Twitter and Linkedin, and Facebook’s graph search are good places to start – search for people mentioning the terms relevant to your interests.
  • Are they active on Linkedin and other social media?
  • What do they talk about and what do they share on SM?
In some respects Twitter is a better starting place to find industry-relevant people. It is a place where you can connect with anyone (unlike Linkedin where you need to be connected or pay a premium to contact people you aren’t connected to).

Basic tips to assess whether to follow someone on Twitter include:
  • Does their bio indicate relevance to your purposes on social media?
  • What kind of content have they shared in the past few days?
  • Is their Following-Follower ratio in balance – in other words are there either more Followers or are they about the same. If there is a much higher Following number they are either new to Twitter or desperate for followers.
Still in doubt? Use one of the free tools that assesses Twitter accounts:
  • Twitteraudit: It seeks to answer the question: "How many of your followers are real?" But it also evaluates the Twitter accounts of others. Anything higher than 10 percent fake followers indicates someone who indiscriminately connects or does not block spammy followers… i.e. they’re not very careful on Twitter.
  • Status People: It sorts any Twitter accounts followers into Fake, Inactive and Good. A high number in Fake (more than 10 percent) or Inactive (more than 20 percent) should also be a warning sign.

First, decide if Facebook is a place you want to open up to people beyond friends and family. Some people draw that line at Facebook.

But if you are OK with connecting professionally on Facebook you can use FB’s own search engine to find people who may be worth connecting to.

Start by using search terms such as keywords related to your industry and move on to search on relevant hashtags. And, although its focus is marketing the tips here can be applied to personal connections too: How to Use Facebook Graph Search to Improve Your Marketing

Any discussion on personal branding has to include Google+. Whether you’re a fan or not is somewhat irrelevant – it’s a Google product so you better believe being there helps in Google search results.

Using the Google+ search or a regular Google search use keywords and the usual Google search operators.

For more on doing better Google searches see How to Use Google Search More Effectively.

Was this helpful? Wil you invest some time in social media and ensuring your connections are worthwhile? It is the only way social media can help with personal branding.

Related link:
Blogging for personal branding
Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blogging for personal branding

Building or improving your personal brand can seem like facing a massive mountain. But some strategic use of social media can help anyone improve their personal brand – or the collective impression online search results speak about who you are. 

One of the best places to start? A blog
Now a blog doesn’t need to be a massive undertaking. Think of it as a one-step-at-a-time approach to making a name for yourself or being an expert about something.

There are all kinds of theories about how to decide what your blog should be about and how to make it successful for personal branding. Here are some of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen:

15 Tips for a Successful Personal Branding Blog

1. Pick a blogging platform or a free website tool that is easy to work with. For a starter list of platforms see 5 Free Blogging Platforms to Start a New Blog in 2015.

2. Make it about something you care about so you’re more likely to keep it going. 

3. Write about an aspect of your industry OR make it about something you can have a lot to say about. Which means as long as you write an informative and enthusiastic blog it will get a following and get you some attention. 

4. Keep blog posts in the 250-500 word range. Shorter than that and it may not get indexed. Longer than that and it may not get read. 

5. Stick with it. In other words post regularly (something I’m guilty of not doing this year) – perhaps once a week or twice a month at a minimum. 

6. Plan how you will share your blog – this could mean via social media accounts and/or via email. And make sure social sharing buttons are always on your blog posts so others can share a post. 

7. Join a blogging network – a place where members share each other’s posts- or find another place that welcomes blog sharers. See 15 Places You Should Be Sharing Your Blog Posts

8. Discover sources of illustrative artwork for your blog. A blog post with at least one image is twice as likely to get attention and be shared by others. For a list of 20 sites and some good how-to-use-art tips see 20 Free Blog Graphics Sites and How To Customize Images For Your Blog

9. Write out in a single sentence what the blog is about. Then a list of topics it will cover. Refer back to this list regularly 

10. Develop a posting calendar. It can be flexible, but it takes a lot of pressure away to know what your next five to 10 posts will be about. 

11. Be patient. All blogs take a little time to get established and win an audience. 

12. Include two or more internal links to exterior, deeper content

13. Be sure to include links to your previous posts – two or three per post once you have a catalog of posts. 

14. Check to see how the blog displays in various browsers. 

15. Interact with those who comment on your blog and, if necessary, delete spam comments. 

So, do you have a blog? Will you start a blog? Will it be something you’ll add to your social media activities on a regular basis? 

Related post:
Quality SM connections for personal branding
Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance
The Importance of Personal Branding for College Students #infographic

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Social Media #EmployeeEmpowerment – Why it’s a MUST for Business

Social media employee empowerment has become a business imperative – but why? 

Allowing employees to nurture social media for the brand can pay off
Because (as we have seen from previous posts – see below) brands do not have the social reach of all their employees combined and, more importantly, they do not have the trust and level of engagement employees can achieve. 

A recent story in Fortune magazine, Brands are using social media more than ever, and users are ignoring them more than ever, highlights the challenges of social media for brands. 

It points out that at a time when brands are using more social media than ever the percentage of posts that lead to user interactions keeps falling. 

The rates at which users interact with branded social media posts has always been low, but a 2014 study and a follow up study in 2015 by Forrester indicate the numbers are falling, the Fortune piece says. 

"Last year, Instagram posts from brands created interactions with 4.2 percent of a brand’s followers. This year, that number fell to 2.2percent," it says. 

"On Pinterest, interactions fell from 0.1 percent to 0.04 percent." 

It all adds up to brands doing more and getting less from social media. 

Citing Sprout Social research a recent Social Media Today piece, 7 in 8 Social Messages to Brands Go Unanswered, notes that more and more consumers expect a response to a social media inquiry on a brand's official social presence. 

Sprout’s research found "7 in 8 social messages go unanswered by brands in the first 72 hours," which Sprout likened to not answering your phone at your place of business.

The author of the SMT piece, A. A. Currey (@AjaMaybe ion Twitter) is a content hacker at Social Media Today and says what makes a brand have a great response rate and a good rapport with the customer is having actual humans on the other end of social channels.

"The way to a satisfied customer base is, yes, a quick and regular response rate, but there’s no faster way to a consumer’s heart than an authentic reply.

“And that’s something only a brand who values human-to-human connection can provide," she says.

A recent post on the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) website further explains why engagement matters for brands: "With an engaged, loyal online group of followers, you’ll cultivate an audience that will want to buy from you," it says. 

"And, here’s an even bigger benefit—they’ll share information about your brand with their communities, too." 

The IABC then goes on to offer its 10 questions to jump-start social media engagement. Among them are sparking a reader’s curiosity with a question and offering a single-question survey.

So, if social media employee empowerment is important to the brand how can an organization encourage it?

An example of how a brand encourages employees to engage on social media is found in Coca-Cola’s Social Media Principles: The principles start with: "Countless conversations take place online about Coca-Cola every day, and we want our Company’s more than 150,000 associates in more than 200 countries to join those conversations, represent our Company, and share the optimistic and positive spirits of our brands."

They go on to discuss company commitments (five key principles including transparency and monitoring), personal use of social media (including the admonition: "We encourage you to get online and have fun, but use sound judgment and common sense") and company spokespeople expectations.

So, social media employee empowerment is clearly a business MUST in 2015 … will more companies get on board?

Previous posts about SM employee empowerment

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Social Media Employee Empowerment - What Works

Social media "employee empowerment" is catching on in a wide variety of companies.

It helps a brand leverage the social reach of its employees to talk to an audience that can be 10 times larger than the brand’s.

Russ Fradin of Dynamic Signal quote on employee advocacySocial media employee empowerment programs are proving highly successful at brands such as Lenovo, Oracle and Cisco where employees using their own social networks become brand ambassadors.

Increased reach and engagement are just two of the often-cited benefits for brands.

I recently became aware of just how widespread employee empowerment is thanks to Stephanie Dobyns who does marketing at Dynamic Signal in San Francisco and who, via a Twitter conversation, pointed out some great examples of employee empowerment going on in various companies.

Her own boss, Russ Fradin, CEO at Dynamic Signal, has predicted that in the next 12 months a majority of top companies will be use employee advocacy (see image).

So, how do companies implement a social media employee empowerment program?

Social media employee empowerment resources:

Inbound Marketing: What Comes After the Tipping Point? - (a Cisco blog post by Dr. Christine Bailey, Marketing Director, EMEA & Russia for Cisco) says five big changes are coming to marketing in the coming year and No. 5 is: "Employee advocacy will fuel marketing.”

From Oracle: 4 Steps To Create A Culture of Employee Advocacy - looks at four key areas that companies and their employees need to learn to trust each other.

Leveraging Employees through Social Media with Charlene Li (email address required to view) - In this 55-minute video of a Dynamic Signal webinar Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, reports on research showing that a vast majority of companies are going through digital marketing transformations and that employee advocacy through social media is a key part of that change.

Lenovo created an internal social network to improve employee engagement - talks about how the China-based computer manufacturer got a huge lift in its marketing efforts by encouraging a relatively small proportion of employees to first share information on an internal social network before sharing elsewhere. It also reports this interesting detail: "Studies have shown that employees who are encouraged to share stories about the company on social media tend to stay with the company longer and are more loyal."

Employee Advocacy vs Social Selling & How to Drive Revenue Using Both - looks at the similarities of employee advocacy and social selling. Author Anna Stevens, Digital Marketing Manager at Recall, says brands can create long-lasting circles of trust. "Here's how. Your employees trust you >> Their social networks trust them >> So, your company's message, products, and events authentically reach new people."

5 Common Problems with Employee Advocacy - is an Oracle blog post that identifies some typical objections/hurdles to employee advocacy programs and offers solutions.

So, is social media employee empowerment for you and your brand? I’d love to hear other examples.

Related posts
Employee empowerment drives massive social media results for brand
2015: The Year of SM #EmployeeEmpowerment and How to Create a Successful Program

2015: The Year of SM #EmployeeEmpowerment and How to Create a Successful Program

2015 - the year of social media employee empowerment
As 2015 is shaping up to be the "Year of Employee Empowerment" in social media more and more companies are wondering how they might benefit. 

Social media employee empowerment programs are proving highly successful at brands such as Lenovo, Oracle and Cisco where employees using their own social networks effectively become brand ambassadors.

Increased reach and engagement are just two of the often-cited benefits for brands. But how do you set up an effective employee empowerment program? 

During a recent Brandwatch webinar called Social Monitoring & Gamification: Creating Employee Advocates at Cisco (the slides from the webinar are here) Brandwatch’s product manager Caroline Goodwin outlined one possible approach: 

Raise awareness of the value of social. She said organizations can do this by:
  • Putting social up on screens in the workplace where everyone can see social activity around the brand and its products and services.
  • Using reports to regularly show employees at various levels what is happening with social efforts and how they help the brand.
  • Integrating social facts and figures for the brand with other numbers employees are more comfortable and used to seeing such as sales figures or call numbers. 
Enable your employees by:
  • Training them and providing tips and guidelines about what kinds of information can and can’t be shared about and around the brand. Also share how social media efforts are measured.
  • Promoting the type of content you’re hoping employees will share, the hashtags your brand prefers and any tips on the ways to share content from the company website.
  • Collating all of your employee’s social handles so you can accurately track their efforts. Goodwin says the surprisingly easy way to do this is to "just ask" for each participating employee's social handles.
Encourage healthy competition by:
  • Creating a table showing who has the greatest impact (either by using an existing commercially available tool or creating your own measurement) that looks at frequency of sharing, numbers reached, and numbers of responses and re-shares. 
Harness the power of your advocates by:
  • Planning ahead, for example, by giving your employees a heads up on an upcoming marketing campaign and share the relevant hashtags and links to the content that will be going out in the near future.
  • Monitoring results by tracking specific links and hashtags and who is sharing them and how far they are going. Brands can also keep the momentum going by providing very regular updates to employees during the campaign so everyone feels involved.
  • Recognizing all participants once the campaign is over and sharing its success with all. But then also recognize the most successful social media advocates.
So that’s one approach to employee empowerment in social media, what about others? My next post will look at that and provide links to some great thinking around the whole topic.

Related posts
Employee empowerment drives massive social media results for brand 
Social Media Employee Empowerment - What Works

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Employee empowerment drives massive social media results for brand

Increasing social media reach by 1,000 percent might seem like an unattainable goal for any business.

Well, that’s exactly what Cisco’s Marketing Manager Alex Montuschi reports as a chief advantage of his company’s empowering employees to use social media to talk about Cisco.
Statistics re Cisco employees' reach on social media
He was speaking during a recent Brandwatch webinar called Social Monitoring & Gamification: Creating Employee Advocates at Cisco. (Also, the slides from the webinar are here.) 

The webinar was looking at what is turning out to be one of the hottest trends in social media in 2015: Employee empowerment.

In a nutshell employee empowerment (as it relates to social media) is a conscious move by a brand to empower/encourage employees to support the goals of a brand using content and social channels owned by the employees. 

Why do companies use employee empowerment?Among the reasons cited by Montuschi:
  • Cisco employees have 10X the followers than the brand
  • 90 percent of employees’ audience is new to Cisco
  • An employee advocate is likely to score 2X on any measure of trust than the CEO
  • Content shared by employees receives 8X more engagement that content shared by brand channels 
 According to Montuschi, whose particular piece of the Cisco pie is the area known as Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR), one of the most-effective tactics his company employed was creating a social leaderboard table that recognized the most-influential employees on social. 

These were not always those with the most followers or the most posts on channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

In addition to the massive increase in reach for Cisco message son social in the EMEAER region, Montuschi listed other benefits:
  • Cisco employees’ social activities increased by over 140 percent in 6 months.
  • Average number of tweets posted by employees increase by 5 percent.
  • Some 232 employees are using the social leaderboard tables to measure their social impact.
Cisco also used the introduction of the leaderboards as an opportunity to offer 120 hours of social media training to 200 employees. The result of this, said Montuschi, was that those employees became better users of social media and more aware of their social impact.

So how do Cisco and others set up its employee empowerment program for social media? More on that in my next post.

Related posts
2015: The Year of SM #EmployeeEmpowerment and How to Create a Successful Program
Social Media Employee Empowerment - What Works

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Importance of Personal Branding for College Students #infographic

Ahhhh … the start of a new college school year and the excitement of heading off to or back to college…. 

One thing many college students won’t be thinking about at this time of year, but they absolutely should be, is their personal brand.

By the time they’re preparing to graduate – hopefully at the latest they’re thinking about this in Year 3 – they should have a strong personal brand that is obvious to anyone who finds them on the web. 

A solid personal brand means that a future employer, landlord or even significant other finds a well-rounded and positive (or at least 99 percent positive) image of you when they Google your name.

So how do you get a great personal brand? You build it over time and you do it methodically.

This means students entering college now have the greatest opportunity to build up that personal brand. And yet … 

Many won’t think about this until it is too late – Year 4 – or not at all.

The time is now in terms of building that brand.

This infographic might help. It spells it out in basic terms anyone can follow. It seems particularly relevant to college students:

Infographic source: Original in Italian by Enrico Bisetto and the English version by Jorgen Sundberg

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Internet Shaming in the Social Media Age: Is it Right?

Is Internet Shaming Always OK?
Publicly shaming bad behavior is as old as mankind, but in the Social Media Age it seems to happen more frequently and it certainly happens a lot faster.

Various cases in the past year or so have highlighted the rapidity and breadth of consequences for people perceived to have wronged others. Just a few examples:
  • Justine Sacco, communications director for the New York-based internet empire InterActive Corp, tweeted before she boarded a flight in December 2013: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" By the time she landed in South Africa the Internet outrage was about to lead to her firing.
  • Author Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), presenting at the National Book Awards in November, told an insensitive anecdote about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon. When Internet outrage ensued he promised a $10,000 donation to and to match up to another $100,000 in gifts to We Need Diverse Books.
    Curt Schilling
    Curt Schilling
  • Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling congratulated his daughter, Gabby, on Twitter Feb. 25, 2015 for her acceptance into Salve Regina University. Two Twitter users used this as an opportunity to make lurid comments about his daughter. He responded by outing Adam Negal and Sean MacDonald in a blog post called "Is it Twitters fault?" As a result the two young men were blasted on Twitter. They shut down their accounts and Negal was subsequently suspended from his community college in New Jersey.
Some clearly think this online Internet shaming is OK, even laudable.

Alex Reimer writing for the online news site BostInno in Boston says the Schilling online shaming is an example of "how the Internet can be used for the greater good."

In a piece called Curt Schilling Publicly Shamed 2 Cyber Bullies, & It Was Awesome he says: "If the humiliation Nagel and MacDonald have suffered stops even one cyber bully from hurling personal insults behind the comfort of his keyboard, then this may be one of Schilling's greatest accomplishments."
Alyssa Rosenberg
Alyssa Rosenberg

But Alyssa Rosenberg, who blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section, has a different point of view. In a piece called Why I stopped shaming online harassers she asks, among other questions: "What kind of speech should trigger consequences?" and "Who gets to pass judgement?"

In a thoughtful summation of several instances of people who have been punished online, some for things they did and one because an ex-boyfriend impersonated an innocent woman, Rosenberg concludes: "Until we get a better handle on these precedents, I’ll be sticking to my Mute button rather than reaching for Retweet to expose angry people to a wider audience which might feel moved to chastise them."

"Knowing that the people who want to say ugly things about me online are shouting into the void feels like punishment enough."

Laura Hudson, a writer at Wired magazine offered a cautionary tale in her July, 2013 piece Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on the Social Media. In the piece she recounts an incident at a tech conference called PyCon where two males' talk - using sexually suggestive double entendre - within earshot of a female attendee led the latter to tweet out a picture of the two and comment on their inappropriate behavior. She had a large Twitter following and the online reaction was swift and loud. One of the young men's employers recognized his employee and fired him. When there was an equal backlash to the firing the young woman lost her job too.

Hudson says it’s as if online shaming "has become a core competency of the Internet, and it’s one that can destroy both lives and livelihoods."

"Increasingly, our failure to grasp our online power has become a liability — personally, professionally, and morally. We need to think twice before we unleash it," she writes.
Monica Lewinsky at her TED Talk
Monica Lewinsky at her TED Talk

Another, perhaps unlikely, voice against Internet shaming is that of Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who was involved with President Clinton. In a March 2015 TED Talk called The Price of Shame she calls for a revolution away from the culture of humiliation towards an "internet community of empathy and compassion." While admitting she made mistakes as a 22-year-old the now 42-year-old says she knows better than most how painful and long-lasting Internet shaming can be.

And then there's this: The Gawker writer who first outed Justine Sacco’s seeming racially insensitive tweet about AIDS and Africa, Sam Biddle, wrote a follow-up piece in March, 2015 called Justine Sacco Is Good at Her Job, and How I Came To Peace With Her.

In it he writes about a dinner meeting with Sacco during which he realized that her original tweet had been a poor attempt at irony, that his quick retweet had ruined her life and that he needed to say sorry.

So, what do you think? In the social media age should shaming be an acceptable response to perceived online wrongs or inappropriate behavior (online or otherwise)? And, if so, should it be within some kind of personal guidelines and only under certain circumstances? Or should it be something we avoid altogether?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Twitter threat? Clones seem to be multiplying

Could Twitter clones take over the social network?
Social media is based on basic social niceties - greetings, thank yous and even compliments.

So it’s disturbing to see a proliferation of what appear to be fake Twitter accounts that seem to have no purpose but to make conversation or flatter other legitimate Twitter users and then to send commercial tweets. 

The accounts look so similar and act in such a similar way they can only be "Twitter clones." 
Examples of the Twitter clones or fake accounts
Four of the Twitter clone accounts
In the past week, for example, I have been followed by nearly 30 of these accounts - all seemingly run by women and all seemingly wanting to engage in conversation or at the very least get my attention. 

The accounts follow me and then tweet messages at me such as: "you're the best," "hehehe!!," "totally just followed you," "the best tweet" and "best follow I ever did," among others.

The accounts have no bio information, mostly feature face shots of young women and have names such as Enedina Biler, Aurelia Lieser, Loreen Greenfield, Shana Rancatti and Anastacia Breighner.

Occasionally these accounts reply to a tweet of mine with "easily the best tweet so far today" or "you're the best." When you examine the accounts they have a mix of these messages and others that seem commercial (including some in Japanese).

The accounts are so similar-looking and essentially tweeting the exact same material that I have to believe they are the work of bots … but to what purpose?

A Google search on fake Twitter followers and fake Twitter posts doesn’t reveal any insights.

A good guess might be that these are accounts set up to attract legitimate followers who in turn will start receiving offers via direct message and commercial-type tweets.

If you have any insights into what and/or who is behind these proliferating accounts please post them in the Comments section here.

Some examples of these clone Twitter accounts
(WARNING: Some sites have NSFW images):
Have you noticed any of these accounts? Social media relies on social niceties, so please report these accounts as you see them.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SXSW-Interactive: The Big Takeaways

Live video streaming, alternate human-ness, a robot zoo and people dressed as giant squirrels pitching a new social app … yup, must be that annual nerd fest known as SXSW-Interactive in Austin, Texas. My highlights:

Video streaming: So Meerkat was the talk on the streets both because it was new and seemingly everywhere you went someone with an iPhone (it is iOS only at this stage) was live-streaming a speaker or a party. It was also a popular topic after it was announced Twitter had purchased Periscope – a rival still in beta - and would be limiting how much access Meerkat users would have to such things as Twitter followers.

Wearable tech: It was unusual to see someone not wearing a fitness tracker, but SXSWi went far beyond that with 3D-printed fashion, "smart" textiles and discussions of the impacts of the "quantified self." It seems certain that wearable tech will be a major trend in 2015. For example, unveiled at the conference was the world's first "smart band-aid," aimed at helping in the fight against Ebola. Speaking of fitness trackers I should make special mention of the Misfit Shine – a next-generation fitness tracker that looks like jewelry and tracks a wider range of biometrics than its predecessors including how many flights of stairs you walk, the difference between deep and light sleep and the caloric values of foods you are eating. (I should also be transparent and say that courtesy of a Rochester Institute of Technology grad I was given a Shine at SXSW).

The 'Short Circuit' lookalike was part
of the Robot Petting Zoo
Robots: The Robot Petting Zoo was a personal favorite featuring tech from drones that could repair bridges to robots who would allow teachers to teach a class from across the world to small autonomous robots capable of helping in a natural disaster. The range of ground and aerial robots was impressive. The "zoo" even featured a modular robotic cabin that can be stacked up like coffee cups to provide emergency housing after a disaster. On a sidenote: There was even human-based anti-robot protest that briefly caught the media’s attention.

Social Media Crisis Simulation: A personal favorite was the Polpeo/eModeration workshop called Rehearsing A Crisis Breaking on Social Media. Using Polpeo’s software and dividing the room up into teams the room was a hive of frenzied activity for 2½ hours. The scenario: A tech executive is out of control at SXSW and has been seen drunk and with what looks like white powder on his nose… hmm, wonder what inspired this scenario! In any case: a fun exercise and great learning experience.

Memorable presentations:

Martine Rothblatt and Bina 48
Dr. Martine Rothblatt: The founder of Sirius XM radio, the CEO of United Therapeutics and author of Virtually Human: The Promise – and Peril – of Digital Immortality sat down with Lisa Miller of New York magazine to discuss transhumanism, cyber consciousness, pharmaceutical development and robotics. In what was a truly mind-blowing discussion the transgender activist covered the idea of cyber clones or an alternate consciousness we may all have one day. This cyber clone would be able to go places we could not and would represent us or live on once our physical bodies die. She also discussed robot replacements for loved ones and has famously made a robot version of her wife Bina (a robot called Bina 48). One of her key takeaways: "I think everyone can question authority. I think the worst thing we can do is bow down to authority. I [also] think everyone can be curious and ask questions."

Daniel Pink: The author of Drive and To Sell is Human offered seven key tips for changing people’s behavior that seemed equally applicable to marketers and parents. Among those tips two stood out: "Use a Question to Change Behavior" because people come up with their own reasons to agree with you and "Make Time to Rhyme" because rhymes increase information processing fluency.

Eric Schmidt, Megan Smith, Walter Isaacson: Google chairman Schmidt and United States Chief Technology Officer Smith made up a panel moderated by Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators. In what was an interesting discussion about how innovation can and can’t be the future of the human race the most interesting moment came when an audience member pointed out that the two men on stage kept cutting off the one woman on the stage.… Smith responded to the comment by speaking about the challenges she’s faced as a woman in business and government. Yes, SXSW was also about women in tech, but it seems that even in 2015 some men can’t give them their due.

Interesting apps - beyond the ones already mentioned:

Peepsqueeze is an app for iOS (Apple) or Android that combines multiple video greetings from family and friends and turns them into one seamless, downloadable video keepsake to send to someone for a special occasion – birthdays, weddings … you get the idea. Users don’t need any editing experience just start a squeeze and let others add to it.

Hater is an iOS-only app that does what Facebook users have been asking for for a very long time: Allows users to give a big thumbs down to something they really, really don’t like. Who needs a big old Like button when you can lay some angst on something that bothers the you-know-what out of you?

xocial (Say it: soh-shuhl), offers a way for people to say thanks to anyone and by doing so publicly encouraging the good in all of us. The app offers a “hugs and kisses” score (Get it? X and O and is kisses and hugs?) and the more thanks you give and receive the higher your score.

And one that has not launched yet, but looks interesting: Squirl bills itself as "a brand new way to discover your next read." But it’s a lot more than that. This Foursquare-type app guides users to locations featured in books and alerts users when they are walking through a place featured in a book. It then connects you to that book for a short read or a chance to buy it.


One thing that was noticeable is that SXSW is no longer just for the humans. 

Internet star Grumpy Cat at SXSW
Grumpy Cat was in
da Bacon Haus
Internet-famous Grumpy Cat was causing huge lines outside the pop-up store called Bacon-Haus (a thinly disguised marketing attempt to promote a new bacon-infused line of Friskies cat food).

Mophie, the phone case and device-charger company, deployed a pack of St. Bernards. When someone tweeted Mophie that their device’s battery was nearly dead a St. Bernard would be dispatched with a charger in the small barrel attached to its neck. OK, as far as I know no lives were saved, but it was fun nonetheless.

Numerous celebs were seen toting various breeds of teacup-sized pooches in handbags. Nothing new about that, but at least to my mind the number of cafes catering to said pooches was interesting. From water bowls to snacks….

The Squirl squirrels at SXSW Interactive
The Squirl squirrels
And then there were the giant squirrels … OK, OK people in squirrel suits promoting the not-yet-launched Squirl app mentioned above. They were seemingly everywhere…

On that nutty note my work is done. Thanks SXSWi!

A special thanks to the RIT MAGIC Center and its MAGIC Spell Studios for getting me there and back.