Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Social Media: Conversation for the greater good

A friend of mine used to work for the Los Angeles County Department of Health and would often tell me about their proposed initiatives and how they were working on new ways to spread the message about health issues using social media.

Like many companies, they followed the typical route:  creating a MySpace page and/or a YouTube channel, and would regularly publish content. However, unlike most companies, any Health company or Department has the added luxury of having to sell a “product” that is often incredibly “unsexy,” which often results in lower CTRs and a harder sell. They also bear the burden of marketing a product that people are often unable to interact with or, in some cases, are ashamed to interact with.

Think back. How often do you scan the internet, looking for the latest public service announcements? Probably never. And, if you’re like most people, if you do see one on TV, online, or anywhere else, you probably don’t talk about it with your friends or family because it just doesn’t have the same “appeal” as talking about the latest movie trailer or tv show you watched, right? For the few of you who said that you DO actually talk about the PSAs you see on TV with someone you know, 9/10 chance that the PSA you watched had to do with drugs or alcohol. And the person you talked to? Your child/parent/dependent, right?

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Fortune Encourages You To Tell Your Recession Story

Fortune, like many publications recently published an article highlighting ten unemployed Americans, and their search for a new job “Fortune: The New Jobless“. (Disclaimer: I was one of the 10 featured in the article) Like most articles, Fortune included a link that enables readers an opportunity to “discuss” what they’ve read.

However, instead of discussing the stories that are contained within the article, Fortune opted to encourage readers to engage with the article, and publication in a different way: by sharing their own story.

To me, this creative use of social media enables users to engage with the content in a much more intimate way; and, in turn, creates much more genuine commentary.

After the jump? Snippets from Fortune’s “Talkback: Tell Your Recession Story”

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Forbes Publishes Top Twitter Celebs: Omits Women

forbes-logo-largeToday, Forbes published an article on the “Top Twitter Celebrities”– featuring the names of both online and offline stars. The lists, which are broken down into two categories: Celebrities (10 on this list) and the Most Influential Twitterers (10 on this list).  The two lists feature a total of two women: Britney Spears and Tina Fey– both in the celebrity category. The parent Twitter article also features a link to The Web Celeb 25, a list which features only one woman– Heather Armstrong.

Let’s take a quick look at Forbes’ selections for females: in one corner, we have a pop-princess (who doesn’t actually tweet herself– her “people” do it for her– we know because they sign the tweets) and a comedian, who tweets sporadic, but funny messages. As a whole, these women neither define the product nor the “active”demographic that Forbes was going for.

According to a Time article, back in August 2008, Twitter’s userbase was rougly 63% male, and 25.9% of the site’s users are between the age of 35-44. (Be sure to read Time’s article for great demographic information on the types of people who use Twitter– it’s not who you’d think).

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It’s all about the STRATEGY

True “experts” like Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan have argued that the term “social media expert” is, for most people, a moot title– a point I agree with. In an industry that’s constantly changing, it’s impossible to be an expert in a field that has no predefined boundaries. (Perhaps the only exceptions are Scoble and Brogan, who have proven themselves champions in multiple battles, though the war has hardly been fought). 

With that being said, it comes as no surprise that an article published on cnet today discusses just that: the title, and role, of the social media “expert.” The article, which covers the high ticket price many social media-ites demand(ed) points out many of the flaws many companies are seeing in their current social media “strategy.”

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Review: Ogilvy’s “The Daily Influence”

Move over, Radian6, there’s a new Social Media tracking tool on the block, and it’s from Ogilvy Public Relations.

TDIAnnounced today, “The Daily Influence” (TDI) has a similar look and feel to Radian6’s tool, but has one major difference: for the moment, it’s free. Yep, you read that right. Though Radian6 still scours more of the internet to find all of your brand’s mentions, and provides actual metrics, the Oglivy tool is a great resource for smaller companies looking to consolidate their efforts.

In the customizable “Listening Post,” users can edit fields to represent their product, brand, or service and TDI provides an aggregated look at all mentions of that product, service, or feature on the internet. I updated my view (in the screenshot below) to reflect a common search I used to make: Yahoo messenger. The site quickly pulled up combined mentions of Yahoo messenger. Currently, the tool utilizes Twitter searches, image searches (Flickr, Google, Pixsy, Zoomr), video searches (YouTube, Metacafe, MySpace, Blip.tv), Delicious, blog searches (Technorati, Google, Blogged, Sphere), and more. Continue reading

33 accounts hacked on Twitter

After a weekend filled with phishing direct messages Twitter users might want to seriously consider changing their passwords (if they haven’t done so already) after hearing about the latest escapade. 33 high profile Twitter accounts were hacked and random (albeit somewhat funny) tweets were sent out from the accounts.

Among the targeted were President elect Barack Obama, Rick Sanchez, Facebook, and Britney Spears. (For screenshots of some of the hacked messages/accounts, visit TechCrunch)

sancheztwitterFor most users, the security breach brought forth more suspicion about Twitter’s privacy and security policy, and sigh of relief as only the “media elite” seemed to be targeted. (However, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch was not targeted and feels “kind of left out”).

Arrington commentThe recent hack, which seems to be the efforts of a prankster, illuminates Twitter’s need for increased security for its users. As Twitter’s population continues to grow, their safety and security efforts should be scalable.

On a brighter note, amidst all of the “panic” Twitter announced in their post today (aptly named “Monday Morning Madness”) that they  “plan to release a closed beta of the open authentication protocol, OAuth this month” which is good news for developers and users alike. Though Twitter is quick to note that OAuth wouldn’t have saved their hides in a phishing scam or hacking attempt, it “is something we can provide so that folks who use third party applications built on the Twitter API can access to their data while protecting their account credentials.”

Obama: change online

Back in November I posted about the Obama campaign hiring a Community Manager to drive their online strategy post-presidential campaign. Since then, the Obama team has launched Change.gov, which the Washington Post describes as:

a transition Web site launched two days after Obama won, a constant stream of information is doled out. You can watch YouTube videos of transition staffers. You can track meetings between the transition team and outside groups, which provide searchable documents online (and allow visitors to leave comments for the team). You can post questions in the “Open for Questions” feature, where submitted questions are voted to the top by other users. In its first week, the feature got 978,868 votes on 10,302 questions from 20,468 people.

The site does a great job of tapping into the hype and political interest surrounding Obama, and makes it easy for users to get information. Americans can sign up for targeted email updates by entering their email address and zip code, can submit questions, search for information, and of course, share their own personal testimonial.

obamaquestionsHowever, the site runs into a potential problem when it comes to tone: unlike the Obama campaign itself, the Change.gov site remains incredibly formal in its tone. The Washington Post notes that one of the responses found on the site, written by Obama’s team is stiff: “President-elect Obama is a strong supporter of Federal funding for responsible stem cell research and he has pledged to reverse President Bush’s restrictions.”

The site also lacks the ability for users to connect directly to one another– a grassroots initiative that could prove to be incredibly lucrative for both the economy and for the Obama camp. Developing meaningful bonds through shared interests enables people to connect on a different level, and also provides a stronger, deeper connection with the connectee– in this case, the Obama camp.

All in all, I’m so pleased to see that Obama has taken his online popularity seriously, and is finding new and unique ways of embracing policy and politics. I only hope that as the year progresses we’ll see even more ways of communicating with the new President (his Twitter stream has been quiet since his victory) and new ways of shaping policy.

Alexander Hamilton once said “the masses are asses”– and for a long time, I agreed. But right now, I’m optimistic that with the right tools, we can all learn and create a brighter future and prove one of our founding father’s wrong.

Beware: Twitter and Facebook Phishing scam

The internet is all a twitter with talks about the latest phishing scam to hit popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Twitter’s Get Satisfaction forum (their help pages) are quickly being filled with users pleading for help, saying they were recently phished. 

GetsatisfactionTwitter has quickly jumped on the alert bandwagon, posting a message above Twitter feeds on the actual site Twitter.com reading:

TwitterwarningHowever, their main blog, as of 5:50pm  PT on January 3rd remained free of any additional information, but their status blog did have a brief update. In addition to this, users who don’t access Twitter through Twitter.com and instead use popular third party sites like tweetdeck or through their iphone might not see the message and instead, must rely on their friends to retweet the warning.

CNET reports that the phishing scam mimics the recent Facebook Koobface virus:

 Direct messages (DMs) are showing up in Twitter accounts with appealing come-ons to visit a site on blogspot.com. The text is, “hey! check out this funny blog about you…” The URL in the message then redirects to a page that looks like the Twitter login page, but is actually not on Twitter–it’s a site, twitter.access-logins.com, that masquerades as Twitter to steal your login credentials instead.

Recent reports also note that Facebook is also being spoofed in a similar login manner, so user’s best bet is to check their URL for authenticity before clicking on any links in DMs. If it isn’t a pure Twitter.com URL, don’t provide your login credentials.

As far as the “Tweet alert system” goes, I’d say this would make a great case for Twitter to strong-arm their users and pull a MySpace– compelling users to receive messages or Tweets from “Tom” — aka Evan Williams in Twitter’s case, anytime there’s a potential security threat. This would surely assuage many users who are “frantic” with the sheer thought of identity theft.

Social networking and the hunt for a new job

With 533,000 jobs lost in November alone– the largest monthly decline since the 70s, it comes as no surprise that more and more articles are popping up about how to network, find a better career, or prove your value. 

The Wall Street Journal has begun following “eight out-of-work M.B.A.s as they search for jobs in a post-meltdown world,” in an effort to empathize with the downward marketplace, and to provide a positive resource for some of the many Americans who are professionally displaced. 

None of this comes as a big surprise: as the economy changes, the media reacts, so many of the articles have been somewhat lackluster. Most recommend brushing up on new technology so that those who were laid off remain desirable and competitive; others suggest reducing your financial overhead and planning for a layoff, even if you haven’t already been laid off. And nearly every article I’ve come across in the past few months has also recommended networking with your peers. 

For those of us in the social media space, this seems incredibly natural, and almost pointless to mention. Personally, as soon as Yahoo! announced the layoffs, I started checking out the marketplace– seeing what types of jobs were available, and made sure my resume was up to date. Then, when December 10th came around, I was ready to go. 

But a quote in an article in MSNBC caught me by surprise today that seems to somewhat discredit the validity of finding a job on social networking sites. Eve Tahmincioglu, the article’s author, interviewed  Michael Stefano, assistant professor of communications at University of Buffalo for insight on social networking sites and the job hunt. 

Stefano recently conducted an experiment where he had 50 college students select 12 of their Facebook friends and ask them to help with a school project by taking a 10-minute survey. Of the 600 total asked, only one out of seven responded on average, he says. The majority did not even click on the URL to look at the survey.

Helping someone find a job will take a lot more time and energy than that, Stefano points out. While he admits there are anecdotal stories about people finding jobs via these sites, he’s “doubtful” they are statistically significant.

The article goes on to say, “there are no hard numbers that show networking portals are any more effective than picking up a phone and asking friends if they know of any work. And these sites are not far-reaching, having long been focused on professional office dwellers, not blue-collar or service-sector workers.” Granted this may be true (I couldn’t find a relevant ComScore study or Nielsen study that would say otherwise, or even tested the idea in a scientific manner) but Stefano and Tahmincioglu are completely missing the point in these initial quotes: Facebook and LinkedIn are only as reliable of a resource as the people you “friend” or “connect with” on the sites.

Layoff tips

Tips from MSNBC

Stefano argues that he had 50 students ask their Facebook friends to complete a survey and the results were dismal. Perhaps the surveyor should look at their friends, instead of the resource and compare that information. Stefano’s data is completely irrelevant unless he had a control in the study: his students should have asked the same set of 50 friends to fill out the same exact survey through a different medium– either in person, phone, IM, or email, to truly test whether or not it’s the resource or the contact that’s unreliable. 

In addition to this, to continue on saying “finding a job will take a lot more time an energy than that”– well, that doesn’t take a genius to figure out. The likelihood of someone seeing your plea for employment, knowing of a perfect opportunity, referring you, and you being hired is probably slim to none. But, the potential for one of your contacts to see your plea for employment and think of you and refer you to a friend is greatly increased by the exposure that you wouldn’t have gotten had you not posted your new unemployed status on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Tahmincioglu provides an example of this later in the article, and also suggests users create a “Web presence” by creating a social networking page and differentiating yourself by using your middle initial if there are duplicates of your name online. What Tahmincioglu fails to warn novices is that if you’re attempting to look like you “get” Web 2.0– be sure you actually do.

Make sure your online presence accurately reflects who you are in person as well. There’s nothing worse than interviewing a candidate that you Googled prior to the interview and sitting there knowing that she has a photo of herself and Ron Jeremy as her default image on Facebook (trust me, I’ve interviewed many candidates who satisfy this criteria) but sit in the interview and present themselves as incredibly professional and non de-script in person. Online and realistic parity is the best way to find success– both on and offline. 

Whatever you decide to do– whether it’s create a social networking page to make yourself more googleable, or, update your LinkedIn page to keep your professional skills up to date, be sure to reach out to the people you know first. You’d be surprised by how many referrals/connections you’ll end up with, and you’ll have the added bonus of getting past the “black box” of mindless online resume submissions by actually knowing someone at the company. Either way, good luck, and happy hunting!  

Facebook: you got served?

Lawyers in Australia have recently started using Facebook to serve legal papers, says Reuters. In the article, an Australian attorney says:

“We couldn’t find the defendants personally after many attempts so we thought we would try and find them on Facebook,” lawyer Mark McCormack said.

“We did a public search based on the email address we had and the defendants Facebook page appeared.”

He said that was enough to convince the court, which found Facebook was a sufficient way of communicating legal papers when it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to personally deliver documents.

This may seem like a giant win for the legal system, but seems like a potential loss for many citizens as the question of authenticity and validity comes to mind. The article fails to outline the steps that the Australian legal team took to verify that the Facebook account actually did belong to the correct plaintiff, but with so many duplicate names and spoofed pages on the internet, it makes you wonder if this is truly fair to the party at fault. 

Celebrities have long been victims of online spoofing– recently, the New York Times featured an article about Shaquille O’Neal claiming his namesake on Twitter because an impostor was using his name to send messages to Shaq fans– pretending he was the real deal. Kanye West is yet another celeb to fall prey to fans wishing to fool other fans.

Kanye

But celebrities are the extreme– it becomes difficult for everyday users to discern who is actually a celeb online (making sites like Twitter and MySpace the perfect place for posers to make their mark), but when it comes down to legal matters, it’s very easy for the judicial system to distinguish who actually is a celebrity and who isn’t– both on and offline. 

This isn’t the case with everyday users. For most people, a quick visit to a site like How Many of Me  will prove the fact that you’re not the only one with your name. When you take that information, add in the ambiguity of the internet, and the ability to spoof simple information like email addresses, home addresses, and even photographs, online verification becomes nothing more than a false sense of security and identity.

Who is to say that the Melissa they serve papers to on a Facebook account is really the Melissa they intended on talking to? Currently there are over 435 different Melissa’s in the US that have my same first and last name, according to US Census data.

Personally, I have somewhere between 5-10 social networking profiles online– if each of the other Melissa’s follow suit, that’s anywhere between 2,175- 4,350 profiles to sift through, including all of the abandoned and neglected profiles that none of us visit. This sets up users for a nasty surprise upon login, especially if a user isn’t a regular visitor of that particular social networking site that the legal team targeted. 

In addition to this, posting a message on someone’s Facebook wall also seems to open up Pandora’s box for spammers and additional legal action. As it stands, there are already enough ways for people to retrieve a person’s identity– allowing for legal action on Facebook seems like yet another way for people to maliciously attack users. 

All in all, posting a message on someone’s wall on Facebook shouldn’t suffice as legal notice until it’s been verified that that in fact, is the correct person and Facebook and the Government come up with a stable way of doing so. Until then, it will be hard to take it seriously.