The Price of Social Media Incivility


Internet Incivility
The cruelty of the Internet can be shocking.

We are reminded of this every time we read about a teenager who slips through the cracks of society, bullied into a psychological corner by anonymous and hurtful comments on social media. In the worst cases, we discover their torment too late to help.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see Jimmy Kimmel’s skit from the Oscar Red Carpet on Sunday – well before the celebrity selfie and the John Travolta mouth mush meltdown during the broadcast – where he climbed through the TV screen and into a fictitious couple’s living room, comically scolding them for their nasty celebrity-targeted tweets and warning them to be on their best behavior during the telecast. What a great moment, I thought, for someone like Jimmy to champion social media civility in front of a TV audience of millions, worldwide.

The feeling didn’t last long.

The very next day, a post popped up in one of my social media feeds about “The Most Beautiful People at the Oscars with the Ugliest Spouses.” The barbaric writeup (no, I’m not going to link to it; I’m not giving them any more clicks) scolded the chosen celebs on the list for marrying spouses deemed far beneath their own physical beauty, and chided them for not doing better, questioning both their judgement and their eyesight. It was a cheap stunt meant to generate web traffic from gawkers who like to spend their days scrolling through celebrity pictures and from internet trolls who are all too eager to lend to the acerbic stream of comments from the anonymous safety of their computer screens.

Worse, it occurred to me, is that some of the victims targeted for these caustic comments in the article aren’t celebrities themselves: they are regular people with regular jobs, regular co-workers and bosses, who buy their own regular groceries and drive themselves to work in regular cars through regular traffic. And while they probably are used to the nastier side of their better half’s business, I am also betting they didn’t sign up to be targeted in such a personal and mean-spirited way. It must have hurt them greatly, even if just for a moment. And it must have made their Monday unnecessarily sad.

Back in December, I wrote about my “Three Words for 2014” and chose “Community & Kindness” as my first and most important for the next 12 months (alright, they’re two words, but I copped to that in the post).

As PR people, we coach people on how to make positive statements and to approach things from a “half full” perspective. We urge clients to seek deserved publicity for when they do good, and apologize for failure when they do bad. We guide them on decisions, and try to help them forecast the consequences of bad ideas before they become bad actions. As private people, shouldn’t we all walk that same walk? Shouldn’t we all be the Jimmy Kimmels of our social (and social media) circles, and refuse to fan the flames of self-righteous and nasty words and actions? Shouldn’t we even chime in to take people down a peg when they are unfair? Wouldn’t that create a better and more productive community for all of us? Most importantly, wouldn’t that set a great example for our kids, and for young people who see and read what we post? If they are to imitate our behavior, isn’t that what we want them to learn and repeat?

For my part, I’m going to spend some time scrolling through my feeds and delete any comments that fit this definition. I will suspend that rule about “owning everything you put on the internet” in favor of the “Community & Kindness” that I think 2014 needs so desperately.

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Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Find Me On.. Where?!?!


Social Networks

Maybe we have too many social networks.

I mean, think about it. Facebook and twitter. Instagram and Vine. Quora and Google+. Yelp and Foodspotting. And on and on and on.

You need a scorecard just to keep up, and an entire afternoon just to be remotely relevant on any more than one on two.

I’ve read more than one article this week about younger people rejecting Facebook.

And Peter Shankman this week opened up a storm of controversy when he predicted Yelp! would be out of business in two years.*

I think it’s just a matter of time before more people are migrating to something else. Who knows what that is. But if I’m feeling that way, I can promise you, it’s already happening.

I must have more than 100 apps on my iPhone. Truth is, I don’t think I use half of them. And I have no plans to.

So I’m opening this up for discussion, because I am really interested in what you think: which social networks/apps are becoming less relevant? Which should I close out or delete, and which should I keep? Which do you use on a regular basis and why?

I don’t want to hear any brand-bashing. This is not meant to take jabs at anyone. I’m just really interested in what others are thinking.

Leave a comment below!

*This post has been amended to accurately reflect Shankman’s prediction on Yelp. Thanks Peter!

“So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star…”


SEO

I find myself engaged in a lot of SEO work recently, and it’s pretty interesting.

Watching how what you do online changes how search engines find you is fascinating to me. And I think it’s legitimate for us PR folks – along with marketers, managers and personal assistants – to want to engage in a sincere degree of positive online postings and placements to help boost someone’s reputation, including online. After all, we are paid to promote people.

Of course, there’s a dark side to this, as there can be to just about anything in life. And I’m not endorsing anything that’s disingenuous or an outright lie. But honest, positive promotion is what any of us who live in the public sphere (and who work with others who want the same) are after.

So it’s serendipitous that I ran across this from our friends at Social Media Examiner, about “Three Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry” and thought it would be perfect for this Friday ShareDay.

Happy Weekend!

Action Begets Action


ACT

I recently conducted a media training session with a client.

After taking her through the one hour tutorial, we branched out into other topics, and landed on her question to me about how often her group should send out news releases. They’re a grassroots organization dealing with a current political issue and looking for lots of attention to drive their agenda. We’ve already helped them be successful, and they are looking to build on it.

We had a spirited conversation, and it led me to codify a few key ideas:

1. Make your communications actionable. Everything you send should say “here’s our thing, and here’s what you can do with it.” Whether a news release, a pitch letter or an e-blast to your subscribers, always have an actionable embedded in the communication. Otherwise it’s destined for the trash.

2. Don’t do quotas. While you want to make your communications frequent enough to keep you and your group in the front of people’s minds, don’t set up an artificial threshold that compels you to send useless information. It will dilute your message and your credibility.

3. Drive the cattle back to the ranch. Whenver you communicate, include links to information and other sites that are helpful and that expand on your message. Sending people to your Facebook page will get them to your community where they can interact and share. Linking to your YouTube channel will get them clicking on your video content where they will learn more about you. Send people to places they will get fast, useful and (here’s the trick) entertaining information that they will want to consume.

4. Act, yourself! Don’t be shy about following up with people if you’ve asked them for a response and they havent given you one. And when people respond on your blog or Facebook, acknowledge them somehow, even if it’s with a “Yes! Thanks for commenting!” or favoriting their tweet. Engage with them and retain their interest and spur future activity.

5. Build your tribe. This is the whole point of communication. Collect email addresses, Facebook likes and twitter followers. Get people to carry your water (ie, your message), and contribute to what you are doing. Expanding your footprint will also make you more credible with media when you go to interact with them.

What are your thoughts for how and how often to communicate?

Xbox One Isn’t the Only One


XboxOne

The unveiling of the Xbox One has got my inner geek pretty stoked.

Tear it apart any which way you want, but this new console it represents a terrific leap forward in the way we experience and share media in our homes: music, movies, games and TV. The new functions look very cool, especially the improvements in Kinect. I will be getting my hands one as soon as possible.

It’s probably not the elusive “all in one” box that Microsoft claims it is, but I frankly don’t think we will ever get there, because we really don’t want to. As consumers, (especially us geeks, who thrive on variety and shiny new things that replace and outdo the old ones) we don’t like limiting ourselves to just one platform or one way of doing things. We like to integrate our systems together and make them do unique things that serve our purposes.

The Xbox One is also a good example of how we – as communications professionals and PR people – need to constantly keep up with evolving technology that affects our business.

I was a semi-early adopter of social media, and saw its potential for one-to-one, human connectivity right away. And while I’m better at it than most, I’m far from an uber-user or an expert by my definition of the word.

Part of the reason we fall behind is because things evolve so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. And yet, that’s also part of our business: recognizing the changes afoot and evolving our tactics with them. We need to take time out – hard as it can be – to experiment with these technologies and make them work for us.

Take time to turn off all your inputs and just experiment, at least once a week. Part of keeping up is making sure you do it with the frequency to make it effective.

Surprises


Cameron Russell Headshot

Last week, I wrote a post about an underwear model.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I wrote a post about a TEDTalk – a really interesting one, too – given by professional model Cameron Russell, who talked about perception and the inequities of what people look like versus who they are. (Here’s my original post, with a link to Cameron’s talk.)

As a bit of a social experiment, I used a thumbnail of Cameron that I thought would catch people’s attention (yes, mostly men) to promote the post. You see where this is going.

So I was surprised to see that, in the first 24 hours the post was live, there was no discernible spike in traffic to my blog. In fact, the day’s clicks rated lower than the week before, when I posted “Friends” with a classic promotional (and equally titillating) still from the show.

What that tells me is that you, my fellow reader, are not beguiled by cheap thrills. In fact, the data leads me to believe that, in a world we are told is ruled by Kardashian scandals and stories of faux sex tapes, you are coming to this space to read and learn. And that makes me happy.

So thanks to you all for checking in on a regular basis. I really appreciate all the facebook likes, retweets and shares on LinkedIn. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

PS: Thanks Cameron for not only giving a really cool talk, but for RT’ing the tweet to my original post. Shows you really believe in what you said on stage.

PPS: I wrote this post over the weekend, before the Boston Marathon Bombing. I didn’t personally know anyone involved who was injured or killed and am grateful for that. I also chose to post this, as scheduled – even as we seem to be in another cycle of terroristic attacks (just like we were in September 2001) – because that’s what we do as Americans. We don’t twist in the wind because some coward takes a cheap shot at us. We rally, we help the injured, we get up, and then we do the ass-kicking that needs to get done. America is with you Boston.

Overexposed


Overexposed

There’s such a thing as doing too much. And we know it when we see it.

We live in a hectic world, always running somewhere: running to catch a flight, running home to have dinner, running to meet a client or a deadline.

So much of our life can be spent running. Chasing something. Sometimes we don’t even know after what.

We need to slow down.

Not “take a vacation” slow down (although right now on this flight home from San Antonio, a vacation sounds awfully good), I mean slow down in our every day lives.

Moving too fast is an invitation for stupid mistakes. It drains the meaningful out of what we do, and inflates the trivial. It makes mediocrity feel like a win.

We’re not supposed to spend our lives putting out fires and fixing mistakes. We’re supposed to avoid the matches in the first place so we never even have to call the fire department.

Some people, some organizations – especially in the public relations world – seem like they are always out there, all the time, hogging the spotlight and yelling above the din. Lesser people would be tempted to match their frequency in a quest for our own feeling of connection and satisfaction. To do as much as they are. We would be wrong.

Fewer, smarter, better campaigns are always preferable to the run-and-gun school of public relations. The news cycle is what it is. And there’s always another one coming.

You’ll get your turn at bat. Make sure you can see the pitch when it comes.

It All Looks So Peaceful from 23,000 Feet


ItAllLooksSoPeacefulFrom23000Feet

I’ve come to expect wifi on airplanes.

It’s really ridiculous. I take for granted that we – as a technologically advanced society – should be able to seamlessly layer one magical concept (wifi) on top of another (flight).

Stop to think about it. It’s (as my 4-year-old would tell me) RI-DONK-U-LOUS!!!

I mean, really. Full internet, almost-streaming capability bandwidth, from inside a metal can, strapped to a pair (or two) of jet engines traveling at 700 miles an hour, just miles beneath the edge of space. Really???

My son is right.

And so since I don’t have wifi connectivity as I type this, I have the liberty – the luxury – of being completely disconnected. I can look out the window, quiet my brain, and pause. Think. Imagine. And yes, sleep a little. (Remember, I have kids. I need sleep whenever and wherever I can get it.)

We need these times. They can help us find our center, our equilibrium. We can choose to stretch, or relax, our brains. We can let our imaginations dance off the cloud tops, and indulge our spirits in, well, spirits. (read: Bombay Sapphire. Now you know.)

Connectivity is great. It helps us be productive.

Dis-connectivity is equally great. Unplug.

Use the Force on Friday ShareDay!


Obi Wan Kenobi

What a week!

After a two-day road trip to Texas, I am back in NYC and very glad it’s almost the weekend. Good Friday? YES. IT. IS.

A quick shout out and a thank you to all of you who read, like, comment and subscribe here. I can never get enough of hearing your feedback and what you think: whether you agree, disagree, or want to offer your own take on any of the topics we discuss in this space. I’m doing this strictly for the feedback I get from you all. And just like the great Chris Brogan, I’m not ashamed to beg for your input either, so please keep the interaction coming!

And let’s cut to the chase this Friday ShareDay with a great post I picked up off of LinkedIn this morning. (BTW, if your LinkedIn profile is any less than 100% complete, and polished to a nice shiny glow, you’re doing yourself a disservice).

Combining my two geek loves (innovation and Star Wars), here’s “How to Innovate Like a Jedi Knight” from Diego Rodriguez. Thanks Diego!

Happy Weekend!