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Two Weeks of Social Media Hell

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La Porte de l'Enfer - Gates of Hell - Auguste Rodin

A lot can happen in two weeks.

I didn’t post last week. It happens. “Don’t cry for me ArgentGenius” (ok, not so funny Evita reference, but it was stuck in my head and I had to use it). I’m back with twice the thought of one of my normal posts. Are you ready?

In the last two weeks, two events occurred back to back that made me question social media, especially Twitter, a lot. Not to question it in the sense of “I’m going to give it up,” but more in the sense of “where are we heading with it.” What is social media’s purpose and how can we define that purpose without trying to gum up the works with a set of “rules” that are counterintuitive to the theories behind social media itself? We’ve had the ROI discussion ad naseum and I don’t wish to rehash that…I’m looking for a personal answer to my own belief systems.

Week One: Repetitive Uselessness

The first week seemed simple enough, SXSWi was the event and a technological geek wonderland had descended on Austin. I follow a lot of über-nerds and real estate tech folks. I enjoy hearing technology discussions, even when they’re over my head. I thrill in hearing about a new product or service that might somehow apply to me. If I can’t apply it to real estate, I still retain some interest. I love technology, it’s an interest of mine.

I watched the Twitter stream with avid interest in learning, experiencing (even though I wasn’t there), and gleaning a few nuggets here and there. Considering the fact that many of the social media mavens of our time would be in one place, I expected to see great things. I felt like I had been let down.

Considering all the social media brainpower gathered in one place, I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking. Instead, I found myself reading about a lot of lunches, a ton of photo-ops, and a party-hopping list detailed enough to make even a rockstar jealous. I received less value and more fluff than ever before while following a conference. I had to ask myself – where is the substance?

Following conferences via social media has become a great way to experience things without having to be there. Sure, you’ll never get the full effect, but if you’re not able to make it, it’s the next best thing. If the conference is so intertwined with social media, I would expect much more actionable knowledge to come from it, but I just didn’t see enough of it coming out of SXSWi. Several attendees seemed to take offense to such armchair quarterback commentary, but I ask them – where was the open sharing of knowledge that social media seeks to achieve?

Week Two: Fire and Brimstone

Ahh, the second week. How to discuss this without dragging AgentGenius down into the hell that is the health care debate? I don’t wish to talk about right or wrong, costs or savings, Republican or Democrat. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and tell you how you should feel, much less have you get on the pulpit and preach your opinion about it. There are plenty of places to discuss the bill and the hows and whys. Please check your opinions at the door. Our demon coat check will make sure your opinions are returned to you upon leaving this post.

So yes, I’m about to talk about something so heavily wrapped in politics that I’m going to try and avoid politics. This should be fun.

My worry is this. Social media is descending into an AOL chat room like firestorm of hatred and accusatory speech. The worst in human behavior is being let loose. Opinions are a great thing. Opinions filled with venomous rancor are not. I saw words like dumb masses, stupid people, uneducated slobs, and even God hating slung around as if we were fighting each other and not talking about the health care bill. In a sense, I can understand the anger and fervor with which people took their stances, but to call the other side stupid? Have we not let go of the days on the merry-go-round yet?

The childish name calling and flame-war-inducing baiting that is going on sickens me. We are better than this, are we not? When it comes to real estate agents, I would hope for even more (I believe in our industry…blah, blah, blah), yet time and time again, I saw agents from around the country turn into vehement mouthpieces for their respective side. Again I stress; opinions – yes, venomous rancor – no. There is a marked difference in the two.

You should have beliefs and you should truly have a passion for them. You’ll get no argument from me there, but to broad brushstroke the opposing beliefs with commentary of a baseless nature and fling personal attacks and insults of one’s intelligence or religious belief? Seriously?

“But, I never said…”

Of course most will read this and comment how they did tweet useful things from SXSWi or would never say those things during the health care debate. For many of you, I know this to be true. This isn’t a one-on-one attack against the readers and writers at AgentGenius, but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking. Social media can bring out the worst in people, much like Myspace, AOK chat rooms, and IRC have in the past. Is this where we want it to go? Or do we believe that there is more to life than brand-sponsored parties and political-bashing? Social media is what you make it…what you put out there today, becomes your path for tomorrow – what will it be for you?

photo of Auguste Rodin’s La Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) courtesy of Screwtape

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Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. nanette labastida

    March 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    i can imagine from the outside it would be hard to filter any actual info from sxswi – the social stuff was actually very fun & kinda useful from here, the social world expanded when you couldn’t be at every event, or to find out the event you wanted to get to asap, where the good networking friend making was happing .
    there were a lot of tweets from the talks and panels, was helpful knowing the individual hashtag.
    SXSWi is such a frenzy of fast paced activity, i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.
    or it was just a big party
    but connections were made and that counts.

    • Justin Boland

      March 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      “i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.”

      Amen.

      Synthesis takes a little time. The immediacy of “remote viewing” an event like SXSW is more of a novelty than it is useful. This week there’s already been a few excellent reads from post-SXSW bloggers — I especially dug Umair Haque’s latest.

      The SXSW chatter is mostly just noise, though. TED is exactly the same way. Seeing people’s 140 character impressions is barely interesting, but once the videos of the actual talks go up, that’s a much more meaningful kind of “Access.”

  2. Joe Loomer

    March 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    “I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking…”

    Did I misunderstand, Matt, or where you seriously hoping to get deep insight into what where most likely in-depth subjects via a 140 character twitter micro-blog? I think Nanette hit this on the head – if the blogging stream is not refreshed and vibrant post-convention with the relevant knowledge revealed in a more comprehensive way, then it apparently was a party break and not worth the attendance fee.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Melanie Wyne

    March 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Matt,

    Great post. IMHO social media is a lot like politics. If its done right, it is a democracy. You have the option to choose who you follow/friend/link and who you don’t. People are who they are in life and in social media. There is plenty of good stuff out there and interesting people producing useful/thoughtful content. And if interesting content is not your thing…you can find out what someone had for breakfast. You choose. If you don’t want to read their stuff unfollow/unfriend/de-link. (You can even mute someone for a period of time. That’s what I did during SXSW.) The best part is you can do it instantly.You don’t have to wait around for the next election.

  4. Duke Long

    March 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Matt,
    Copy of a (ironic) tweet of mine from this week.
    I think twitter has peaked…going back to the street!!! #CRE
    9:43 PM Mar 20th via TweetDeck

  5. Michael Bertoldi

    March 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I guess I can see your concern, but I agree with you when you say social media is what you make it. A lot of my own social media practice has come from a brand standpoint, but from a personal perspective, I don’t follow that many people. I especially don’t bother with those who bash someone else’s personal beliefs or political party. If that comes on my radar, and again, and again, I unfollow.

    My twitter use is mostly for business and professional growth. I follow people like you and other real estate agents or I follow a circle of social media and marketing experts because that’s my field. I don’t use it for chit chat very much and to me, if you’re bashing a political stance, it’s chit chat. I tend to use facebook more for friends I actually know or have met.

    I recently went to Social Fresh, a social media conference with some pretty big names in the social media realm. I found it pretty interesting, learned a little, and was motivated a lot. Sometimes you may not learn all that much, but it’s somewhat of a refresher and motivates you to go back home and put what you learned – or were reminded that you know – into practice.

    From a stream point of view, I try to tweet “nuggets” from the speakers. If I think something was a good point, I’ll tweet it. Hopefully you’ll read it and say “good point.” Then, it might stick with you. Kind of like a good quote. All you’ve got to do is figure out how to use it.

    Just my two cents…

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 24, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re better than this…

    When Twitter was new there was a sense of civility for most. The groups were small and you were trying to voice an opinion while being sensitive your your small following. Now that it’s larger, any opinion will find a backer. Once most people feel they have support from at least one person – than they feel they are justified and the comments and feedback escalates.

    I think this applies to comment streams too. We’ve all become a bit too familiar with each other.

  7. Gregg Collum

    March 24, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I understand your comments on the social media side of things.I have started to utilize and come into some understanding about the importance of SM. I also agree about not personally attacking someones personal beliefs or affiliations.

    But what I have discovered in my years of travel and my tenure as a military man, is that there are way too many people out there trying to be politically correct. There are way too many “wandering generalities instead of meaningful specifics”. If someone CHOOSES to express themselves in a way that may be offensive to someone else, so be it. I may not agree with the way it was written BUT I applaud them for their guts to express themselves in what is still a free speech country. I fought for that persons right to be a jerk or offensive.

    I have Russian friends who were jailed for 10 years in the former Soviet Union for writing about democracy, free speech etc.

    The words you saw/read maybe from people that are so angered about what is happening to his/her country that they don’t know a more eloquent way of expressing themselves. I too am mad as hell about what is happening to MY COUNTRY.

    Your final comment in quotations –“but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking.” — They are not destroying SM ideology (if one exists) but simply expressing themselves. Those people right or wrong in their writings still have the right to rant as they see fit.

    FREE SPEECH IS STILL FREE SPEECH. If I don’t like what I read or subscribe to– I move on.

  8. Jason Keath

    March 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

    SXSWi is the super barcamp of social media conferences. Meaning there is little currating of content quality, nor guidance of topics. It is best served for the quality niche topics covered and the networking. Want the hard details of the business? Go to a smaller more focused conference.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

      Uh, no it isn’t. It’s a technology conference/music/film conference with sm is ONE of hundreds of topics being discussed at the same time. As someone that lives in Austin and is in Tech, and has attended numerous SXSW conferences, I would leave Austin and never return if it ever became a giant barcamp for social media egos.

  9. Dan Connolly

    March 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I agree that free speech is incredibly important and I think that we forget about the unfollow option. If you don’t like the tone of the comments, unfollow! When I find a poster who likes to resort to name calling etc to make a point, I just don’t read their posts or engage in the conversation.

    It’s like the woman’s bumper sticker that says: “Life is too short to dance with ugly men”

  10. Benn Rosales

    March 24, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Here’s the thing about SXSW Matt:

    Folks in my stream all realized even we were being flooded with goings on during SXSW – so I like most stopped tweeting unless we were focused locally.

    If you haven’t attended SXSWi it’s really really large, but the sessions are incredibly intimate, seating is mostly 75 to 120 unless it’s a keynote.

    The greenroom for SXSW only holds 40 people, and that would include panels as well, but that’s about how many sessions are occuring at any given time – I did not enjoy the greenroom, no food.

    There are breakfasts, brunches, lunches, and evening parties all day long, every day- this is where most of the online chatter is coming from.

    In the sessions, because some of what you’re hearing is dry out of context if you’re not a software engineer, or a mega company getting a lecture on the virtues of privacy, a tweet contextually may fly over your head because it’s not digested and articulated with all aspects supporting it.

    The sessions I attended were high level, not much of the same ol mumbo jumbo you hear from so called gurus, but numbers and stats that dont make much of a tweet.

    Unfortunately, for those that tried to tweet sessions probably missed a good portion of the real content because they felt they knew everything already and could tweet it without really pondering the ramifications of the data being presented- this is the saddest part of the conf.

    If I had my way, the entire conf center would be blacked out from tweeting all together and really force so-called thought leaders to go home an really digest and vet the information they’re hearing, otherwise, they’re just publishing hearsay with stolen context and facts.

    I didn’t attend sxsw to be seen or heard, I went to learn, and discern. sorry, that’s what the parties are for, but even then, I really just went for the free beer.

  11. Real Estate SEO Tim O'

    March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Disappointing? Have you read any of the social media books? Pretty light weight I must say.
    So to see these leaders in a room and get anything else is not a surprise to me.
    But I am a Social Media heretic. It has its place, not just as big as everyone is making it.
    To expect people to behave any differently than anywhere else on passionate issues is silly. As mentioned before you have a just a few words you are allowed to say so how intelligent can they be? Whether discussing politics or the media itself.

  12. Missy

    March 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Matthew, my favorite place to be on any debate night or election night is Twitter. Why? I love the fast pace of the comments, from both sides. Yes, some folks get vile, but that is America.

    If I am on a trending topic than most are not my followers or I them. So I just watch, and RT when someone has a cool tweet.

  13. Helen Young

    February 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I have to agree with Missy! Twitter all the way. 🙂

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Social Media

Should social media continue to self-regulate, or should Uncle Sam step in?

(MEDIA) Should social media platforms be allowed to continue to regulate themselves or should governments continue to step in? Is it an urgency, or a slippery slope?

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Last week, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook suffered a massive outage around the world that lasted for most of the day. In typical Internet fashion, frustrated users took to Twitter to vent their feelings. A common thread throughout all of the dumpster fire gifs was the implication that these social media platforms were a necessary outlet for connecting people with information—as well as being an emotional outlet for whatever they felt like they needed to share.

It’s this dual nature of social media, both as a vessel for content that people consume, as well as a product that they share personal data with (for followers, but also knowing that the data is collected and analyzed by the companies) that confuses people as to what these things actually are. Is social media a form of innovative technology, or is it more about the content, is it media? Is it both?

Well, the answer depends on how you want to approach it.

Although users may say that content is what keeps them using the apps, the companies themselves purport that the apps are technology. We’ve discussed this distinction before, and how it means that the social media giants get to skirt around having more stringent regulation. 

But, as many point out, if the technology is dependent on content for its purpose (and the companies’ profit): where does the line between personal information and corporate data mining lie?

Should social media outlets known for their platform being used to perpetuate “fake news” and disinformation be held to higher standards in ensuring that the information they spread is accurate and non-threatening?

As it currently stands, social media companies don’t have any legislative oversight—they operate almost exclusively in a state of self-regulation.  This is because they are classified as technology companies rather than media outlets.

This past summer, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia suggested that social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, needed regulation in a widely circulated white paper. Highlighting the scandal by Cambridge Analytica which rocked the polls and has underscored the potential of social media to sway real-life policy by way of propaganda,

Warner suggested that lawmakers target three areas for regulation: fighting politically oriented misinformation, protecting user privacy, and promoting competition among Internet markets that will make long-term use of the data collected from users.

Warner isn’t the only person who thinks that social media’s current state of self-regulation unmoored existence is a bit of a problem, but the problem only comes from what would be considered a user-error: The people using social media have forgotten that they are the product, not the apps.

Technically, many users of social media have signed their privacy away by clicking “accept” on terms and conditions they haven’t fully read.* The issues of being able to determine whether or not a meme is Russian propaganda isn’t a glitch in code, it’s a way to exploit media illiteracy and confirmation bias.

So, how can you regulate human behavior? Is it on the tech companies to try and be better than the tendencies of the people who use them? Ideally they wouldn’t have to be told not to take advantage of people, but when people are willingly signing up to be taken advantage of, who do you target?

It’s a murky question, and it’s only going to get trickier to solve the more social media embeds itself into our culture.

*Yes, I’m on social media and I blindly clicked it too! He who is without sin, etc.

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Deepfakes can destroy any reputation, company, or country

(MEDIA) Deepfakes have been around for a few years now, but they’re being crafted for nefarious purposes beyond the original porn and humor uses.

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Deepfakes — a technology originally used by Reddit perverts who wanted to superimpose their favorite actresses’ faces onto the bodies of porn stars – have come a long way since the original Reddit group was banned.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence (AI) to create bogus videos by analyzing facial expressions to replace one person’s face and/or voice with another’s.

Using computer technology to synthesize videos isn’t exactly new.

Remember in Forrest Gump, how Tom Hanks kept popping up in the background of footage of important historical events, and got a laugh from President Kennedy? It wasn’t created using AI, but the end result is the same. In other cases, such technology has been used to complete a film when an actor dies during production.

The difference between these examples and that latest deepfake technology is a question of ease and access.

Historically, these altered videos have required a lot of money, patience, and skill. But as computer intelligence has advanced, so too has deepfake technology.

Now the computer does the work instead of the human, making it relatively fast and easy to create a deepfake video. In fact, Stanford created a technology using a standard PC and web cam, as I reported in 2016.

Nowadays, your average Joe can access open source deepfake apps for free. All you need is some images or video of your victim.

While the technology has mostly been used for fun – such as superimposing Nicolas Cage into classic films – deepfakes could and have been used for nefarious purposes.

There is growing concern that deepfakes could be used for political disruption, for example, to smear a politician’s reputation or influence elections.

Legislators in the House and Senate have requested that intelligence agencies report on the issue. The Department of Defense has already commissioned researchers to teach computers to detect deepfakes.

One promising technology developed at the University of Albany analyzes blinking to detect deep fakes, as subjects in the faked videos usually do not blink as often as real humans do. Ironically, in order to teach computers how to detect them, researchers must first create many deepfake videos. It seems that deepfake creators and detectors are locked in a sort of technological arms race.

The falsified videos have the potential to exacerbate the information wars, either by producing false videos, or by calling into question real ones. People are already all too eager to believe conspiracy theories and fake news as it is, and the insurgence of these faked videos could be created to back up these bogus theories.

Others worry that the existence of deepfake videos could cast doubt on actual, factual videos. Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University says that deepfakes could lead to “deep denials” – in other words, “the ability to dispute previously uncontested evidence.”

While there have not yet been any publicly documented cases of attempts to influence politics with deepfake videos, people have already been harmed by the faked videos.

Women have been specifically targeted. Celebrities and civilians alike have reported that their likeness has been used to create fake sex videos.

Deepfakes prove that just because you can achieve an impressive technological feat doesn’t always mean you should.

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Red flags to look for when hiring a social media pro

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social Media is a growing field with everyone and their moms trying to become social media managers. Here are a few experts’ tips on seeing and avoiding the red flags of social media professionals.

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If you’re thinking about hiring a social media professional – or are one yourself – take some tips from the experts.

We asked a number of entrepreneurs specializing in marketing and social media how they separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to social media managers, and they gave us some hints about how to spot whose social media game is all bark and no bite.

According to our experts, the first thing you should do if you’re hiring a social media professional is to check out their personal and/or professional social media pages.

Candidates with underwhelming, non-existent, out-of-date, or just plain bad social media pages should obviously get the chop.

“If they have no professional social presence themselves, that’s a big red flag,” says Chelle Honiker, CEO at Athenia Creative.

Another entrepreneur, Paul O’Brien of Media Tech Ventures, explains that “the only way to excel is to practice…. If you excel, why would you not be doing so on behalf of your personal brand?”

In other words, if someone can’t make their own social media appealing, how can they be expected to do so for a client?

These pros especially hated seeing outdated icons, infrequent posts, and automatic posts. Worse than outdated social media pages were bad social media pages. Marc Nathan of Miller Egan Molter & Nelson provided a laundry list of negative characteristics that he uses to rule out candidates, including “snarky,” “complaining, unprofessional” “too personal” “inauthentic,” and “argumentative.”

Besides eliminating candidates with poor social media presence, several of these pros also really hated gimmicky job titles such as “guru,” “whiz,” “ninja,” “superhero,” or “magician.”

They were especially turned off by candidates who called themselves “experts” without any proof of their success.

Jeff Fryer of ARM dislikes pros who call themselves experts because, he says “The top leaders in this field will be the first to tell you that they’re always learning– I know I am!” Steer clear of candidates who talk themselves up with ridiculous titles and who can’t provide solid evidence of their expertise.

According to our experts, some of them don’t even try. To candidates who say “’Social media can’t be measured,’” Fryer answer “yes it can[. L]earn how to be a marketer.”

Beth Carpenter, CEO of Violet Hour Social Marketing, complains that many candidates “Can’t talk about ROI (return on investment),” arguing that a good social media pro should be able to show “how social contributes to overall business success.” Good social media pros should show their value in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

While our experts wanted to see numerical evidence of social media success, they were also unimpressed with “vanity metrics” such as numbers of followers.

Many poo-pooed the use of followers alone as an indicator of success, with Tinu Abayomi-Paul of Leveraged Promotion joking that “a trained monkey or spambot” can gather 1,000 followers.

Claims of expertise or success should also be backed up by references and experience in relevant fields.

Several entrepreneurs said that they had come across social media managers without “any experience in critical fields: marketing, advertising, strategic planning and/or writing,” to quote Nancy Schirm of Austin Visuals. She explains that it’s not enough to know how to “handle the technology.” Real social media experts must cultivate “instinct borne from actual experience in persuasive communication.”

So, if you’re an aspiring social media manager, go clean up those pages, get some references, and figure out solid metrics for demonstrating your success.

And if you’re hiring a social media manager, watch out for these red flags to cull your candidate pool.

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