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Social Media: being a user doesn’t mean you are a good practitioner

Two case studies outline the difference between a seasoned practitioner and a digital manager who fumbled a crisis, and these situations point out that social media is far more complex than tweeting, and hiring for a social media position is even more complicated.

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Businesses getting in on the trend

Even in a down economy, there are still growth areas in the job market. Some are obvious (unfortunately, like repo guys), but others may not seem so obvious, like those in the social media sector.

Our economy transitioned to a service-based market some time ago, but what some people may not realize is that the explosion of social media properties as communications platforms has “jumped the shark” from individuals to businesses. Business usually follows individuals in the use of social media, but they are catching up. Increasingly, business people are saying “I want some of that.” And by “that,” they meant traffic, awareness and exposure for their company, services or products.

Social Media Help Wanted

Your potential employers are creating jobs for you to fill. Seventy one percent of companies use Facebook, 59 percent use Twitter, 50 percent use blogs, 33 percent use YouTube, 33 percent use message boards and six percent use MySpace (which has fallen off the social media radar). Plus, an anticipated 43 percent of companies will employ a corporate blog in 2012.

Employers who are adopting these tools will need people not only to help them manage these efforts properly, but to use them to achieve communications or marketing objectives. They need seasoned advice from people who understand how social media impacts communications.

Calling All Grown Ups

Along with the desire of businesses to use social media for public relations, public affairs or most likely, marketing, it has created a parallel need for grown-ups: people who not only are familiar with the platforms, but also know enough about them to offer expert counsel to internal (within companies) or external clients (in an agency). In short, it’s one thing to know how to use Facebook, but how do you give advice on how a major brand can carry out B2B (business to business) communication?  It’s not just about status updates and Farmville. If you want to have a successful career as a social media consultant, you need to first be a solid communicator and second, know enough to understand how Facebook would be a good addition to an existing marketing plan or communications mix – including crisis communications.

The Good and the Bad

When people say to me “I have good news, and I have bad news,” I always ask for the bad news first.  I have two examples of how the use of social media both and hurt and helped major corporations. Let’s look at the bad example first.

The bad: Nestle

In March of 2012, Greenpeace turned up the social media heat on Nestle, a global candy manufacturer. It was a campaign against Nestle regarding the company’s use of palm oil in their products (background here in a CNET article). In a concerted effort, thousands of Greenpeace supporters began posting on the company’s Facebook page – over a weekend, when it was likely that an adult was not in charge. Greenpeace urged their supporters to change their profile pictures to something anti-Nestle and top it off with an anti-Nestle comment, posted to the Nestle Facebook wall. Whomever was in charge of the page that weekend did about the worst thing that you can do in that situation. He or she began deleting negative comments and engaged in back-and-forth snark that was, predictably, captured in screen shots by Nestle supporters who then accused the company of censorship. Sample responses from a Nestle rep included responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.

The end result? By putting someone in charge of the Nestle Facebook page over a weekend who didn’t have a clue about crisis communications, they brought a whole lot of publicity a) to Greenpeace’s campaign, and b) unwanted attention to their own company.

The good: JetBlue

In 2011, because of a snowstorm, a JetBlue plane was diverted from Newark to Hartford, Connecticut and sat on the tarmac for over seven hours as the pilots begged airport officials to find a way to get the plane towed to a gate so the passengers could get off. Seven hours. Following the precedent set in 2007 by the JetBlue Chief operating officer founder and CEO David Neeleman when he publicly apologized for another mishap via YouTube, company Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster apologized via YouTube to the carrier’s customers after hundreds of passengers were stranded on six planes for several hours during a another weekend snowstorm.

Whomever was providing social media advice to JetBlue senior management “got it.”  It’s one thing to offer an apology is a press release, but by offering a senior executive – his face, his voice and his words via YouTube – both crises died down fairly quickly. JetBlue provides good examples of how using social media quickly and effectively can help diffuse a crisis.

The bottom line

The bottom line? The explosion of social media as a business tool is creating job opportunities for seasoned professionals. But being an avid user does not mean that you are ready to start giving online communications advice on a very big stage.

Mark Story is the Director of New Media for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC. He has worked in the social media space for more than 15 years for global public relations firms, most recently, Fleishman-Hillard. Mark has also served as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. Mark is currently writing a book, "Starting a Career in Social Media" due to be published in 2012.

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50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Steve Veltkamp

    March 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

    The two incidents are not relevant to each other. In one case there was a dedicated and coordinated campaign against a company who did nothing wrong. In the other was a clear reason for a CEO to apologize to a small group of people who were inconvenienced. It would be more helpful to discuss what a company should do when under large attack by social media special interest group.

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Social Media

Facebook wants your nudes now to protect you from revenge porn later

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook, attempting to get in front of revenge porn, is requesting that users send in all of their nudes.

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In a heroic and totally innovative attempt to combat revenge porn, Facebook has come up with the following solution: “PM US UR NUDEZ.”

No seriously. They want your nudes.

But don’t worry, they’re only going to be viewed by a small group of people for manual confirmation of said nudes, and then stored temporarily… for reasons.

That part gets a little fuzzy. Some sources report that Facebook isn’t actually storing the images, just the links. This is meant to convert the image to a digital footprint, known as a hash, which is supposed to prevent the content from being upload to Facebook again.

Others say Facebook only stores the images for a short period of time and then deletes them.

What we do know, is this is a new program being tested in Australia where Facebook has partnered with a small government agency known as e-Safety and is requesting intimate or nude photos that could potentially be used for revenge porn in an effort to pre-emptively prevent such an incident.

Revenge porn is basically when someone uploads your personal and private photos online without your consent. Rather than address the issue of whether or not it’s such a good idea to take photos on a mobile, hackable device, it’s better to just send a large corporation all your nudes… through their Messenger app. /sarcasm

For your protection.

According to the commissioner of the e-Safety office, Julie Inman Grant, however, they’re using artificial intelligence and photo-matching technologies… and storing the links!

If this isn’t convincing enough, British law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP wrote in a statement to Newsweek, “We would expect that Facebook has absolutely watertight systems to guard the privacy of victims. It is quite counter-intuitive to send such intimate images to an unknown recipient.”

Oh, she wasn’t joking.

I’m not sure how many people still hold onto old intimate photos of themselves, but I am doubtful that it’s enough for this to really be effective as it only prevents intimate photos from being shared on Facebook. At least that’s the plan.

Reactions to this announcement have largely been met with amusement and criticism ranging from commentary on Mark Zuckerberg and Co. being total pervs, and theories of shared Facebook memories: “”Happy Memories: It’s been 1 Year since you uploaded 47 pictures of you in your birthday suit”!

Either way, I can only imagine someone’s inbox is flooded with crotch shots right now, and Zuckerberg has a potential new industry in the works.

Just sayin’.

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Social Media

Twitter might make a profit for the first time… ever

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter seems to be very popular but it may surprise you to know that this is the very first time they might make a profit.

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Twitter reports that after a year of slashing expenses and putting itself in a position to sell data to other companies, it’s expected to be profitable. What’s surprising (considering how #huge Twitter is) is that this the first time that it will be profitable based on “generally accepted accounting principles” – #GAAP!.

In the 11 years since Twitter took to the field, it has never once met this standard, operating at a loss of nearly 2.5 billion dollars since its inception.

Twitter has struggled of a number of reasons, but particularly after going public in 2013 it suffered declining user growth, the rise of the #twittertrolls (coincidentally, Troll’s are discussed in my favorite TIME piece about the internet – located here), and competition from Facebook for the tough realm of advertising.

Since 2013, shares fell steadily, but things have increased thanks to some optimistic changes – the promise to crack down on harassment and abuse, a feed arranged by algorithm instead of time, and Twitter’s most vocal fan of late, President Donald Trump.

For the numbers fans, Reuters provides some input: Twitter’s loss narrowed to about 21 million down from 103 million this year. They have worked to cut a great deal of expenses -16 percent across the board broadly impacting sales, marketing, and R&D.

This kind of focused core improvement (can) help tip the balance sheet on the expenses side – but generating revenues remains a challenge due to slow growth. Twitter hopes to relieve this by working out some deals to sell data – the currency of the 21st century.

Several months ago, TechCrunch made perhaps the most important observation – that despite the fact Twitter has changed the world, changed our marketing, and empowered us to connect with other people, it has remained unprofitable. Many small and large businesses profit from Twitter, but in these 11 years the company hasn’t #sharedinthewealth.

Twitter is touching every realm of business and for American’s, is touching every aspect of their lives given its new form as the preferred medium of the political sphere. Given that, they have much to do to change.

Facebook commands an audience five times the size of Twitter – and their ability to reach success for the future seems #questionable. And how Twitter’s success changes the scape of influence, outreach, and entrepreneurship is something else to be seen.

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Social Media

Is Facebook a potential Slack killer?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook’s steady ascent from social networking into the business world is giving Slack a run for their money.

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When it comes to the business realm, Facebook has steadily been increasing their reputation. Though Facebook is pinned as the social network, they are now proving to everyone that they can dominate in the professional sector as well.

Last year, Facebook launched an ad-free version of the site meant for the office called Workplace. Initially, 1,000 companies were signed on to try out this “Facebook for the office” in its starter phase.

As of last week, Facebook announced that 30,000 organizations currently use Workplace. These aren’t just small time companies. Some of Workplace’s users include Starbucks, Lyft, Spotify, Heineken, Delta and most recently Walmart.

It seems that overnight it grew from another side project to a valid rival for other professional communication tools like Slack.

Slack is the go-to site for business professionals. With over 6 million users and acquiring more every day, Slack is the place for teams to collaborate in real-time. It has virtually replaced email and external software when it comes to internal communication.

Slack has been successful at acquiring small corporations to use their service.

The problem is that Slack has yet to join forces with larger clients that have now turned to other applications. Just last year, Uber left Slack because they could not handle their large-scale communication needs.

In addition to being able to handle the needs of large companies, Facebook also offers cheaper services than Slack. A premium account with Workplace costs $3 per user each month while Slack charges double at $6.67 per user each month.

With the rapid growth and major reputation of Facebook behind it, many predict that Workplace will replace Slack, and other sites like it, in the not so distant future.

Recently, Facebook also launched the Workplace desktop app and plan to include group video chat. The biggest obstacle Workplace faces is the association with Facebook. It is ironic, since it is also their greatest strength.

The truth remains that many people think of Facebook solely as a social media network. Many companies forbid the use of it at work so the transition from the personal to the professional realm is still an uphill battle.

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