To blog or not to blog – that is the question

Prior to taking Social Media Objectives at NYU, I had never written a blog. As a novice blogger, I was initially overwhelmed by the thought of crafting a 300-plus blog each week that industry partners would find interesting and informative.

While I will not say that this semester has made me a blogging expert, I have learned a lot and have become more comfortable as the semester has progressed.

The most important lessons I have learned this semester include:

-Use hashtags – Hashtags allow bloggers to connect with influencers and make their blogs easier for others to find.

-Tell a story – Blogs should be interesting and informative. A good tip to an effective blog is to tell a story. Blogs that keep readers interested often begin with a story that draws readers in and lets them relate to the blog topic.

-Utilize lists and bullet points. Breaking up information into lists and bullet points make your text more readable and interesting. If text paragraphs are too lengthy, readers will lose interest and leave your blog.

-Update your blog consistently – In order to keep their reader-base, bloggers must post blogs on a regular basis. While bloggers don’t need to post every day, every week is a good goal. This will keep your readers coming back and also allow you to effectively optimize your search engine ranking.

The need to update blogs routinely is why I will probably not be blogging in the near future. Between my job and graduate school, I am currently stretched for time. I won’t keep blogging in the near future because I don’t have the time to contribute to it. However, I will continue to follow and enjoy the blogs I follow at #nyutalk308.

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From McDonald’s to Al-Qaeda, hashtag hijackers spare no one

What do McDonald’s and Al-Qaeda have in common?

You might think nothing, but there is one thing. Hashtag hijackers ironically mocking their organizations have bashed both.

Hashtag hijackers take an organization’s hashtag and use it sarcastically. If the hijacked hashtag goes viral, the organization can begin trending on twitter with some less than desirable attention.

Hashtags are common practice to public relations professionals. They allow P.R. specialists to more easily disseminate information and connect with influencers.

However, the hashtag #myNYPD used by the NYPD in a recent social media campaign demonstrates that P.R. specialists must be careful about hashtag use. If you work for a controversial company, it might be wise to avoid them.

Here are a few companies that have got stung by hashtag hijackers.

#McDStories – McDonalds was one of the first well-known companies to be hashtag hijacked. In 2012, it began a social media campaign with the hashtag #McDStories. This hashtag was meant to be used as a medium to share positive experiences about the organization and its employees. Unfortunately for McDonalds, the hashtag was hijacked and used as a way to spread tweets about unsanitary working conditions and fattening food.

#IfIWasWhite – Allegedly this hashtag began as a way to mock/sympathize with Olympian Shaun White, who was expected to win gold at the Sochi Olympics, but received fourth place instead. Instead, the hashtag turned into a tool to mock racism.

#AmazingUSPS – It’s not enough that USPS workers get barked at by dogs during deliveries. They recently got mocked by hashtag hijackers for their hashtag, #AmazingUSPS. The hashtag was meant as a Spiderman-themed social media campaign. However, after a video of a USPS worker carelessly tossing a package against a garage door surfaced, the hashtag was hijacked and used to portray the postal workers as inept.

#اقتراحك_لتطوير_اﻹعلام_الجهادي, – Even terrorist organizations are not immune to hashtag hijacking. In 2013, Al-Qaeda took to twitter to solicit advice on how to spread their extremist messaging. Their twitter feed was soon filled by ironic and stinging advice from non-extremists who intended to try and shame them into reason. For instance, one individual suggested they focus on the “lighter side of murdering children.”

Quick, inspring non-profit social media campaigns

Raising funds for non-profit causes has always been a daunting task. It’s difficult to bring your organization’s attention to the masses, and even more difficult to inspire them to donate money. Luckily, social media has opened up new venues for non-profit fundraisers to utilize.

Successful social media non-profit campaigns don’t have to be lengthy or difficult. They just need to be creative and bold.

–          Epic Change – During Thanksgiving, Epic Change raises money for a non-profit through a two day Tweetsgiving social media campaign. The organization asks people to use social media to discuss the thing they are most grateful for and to include the hashtag #tweetsgiving and a link to the organization’s website. The participants are then encouraged to donate money via paypal.

–          Charity: Water – This non-profit hosted a one day social media campaign in 2013 via google hangouts that raised more than $10,000. Industry thought leaders served as panelists on the hang out, and donors were allowed to purchase entrance to the hangout to listen and ask questions.

–          Colgate University – An anonymous donor pledged $1 million to Colgate University if the school could elicit 1,300 other donors to give money too. The school’s radio station, which is streamlined on the internet, scheduled a day of programming to solicit donors for this campaign. The radio featured interviews with celebrity alumni, like Red Sox players. The campaign resulted in $5.1 million raised from 5,683 donors.

–          Arizona State University – ASU began a “Mark it Day” social media campaign to raise scholarship money for their school. For the campaign, people donate to the school, via their computers. Once they donate, a ‘mark’ is placed on a map detailing the city where the donor lives. The campaign is heavily advertised through the university’s Facebook and Twitter sites, and is intended to raise funds and foster a sense of school community. Last year, the campaign raised more than $2 million.

How social media can keep you safer or leave you exposed

Social media has found its niche helping people connect, build relationships and socialize. While most of us use social media to reach out to old friends and relatives we haven’t seen in years, organizations and agencies use social media to reach their communication goals. An interesting facet of this that I’ve been reading about recently is how social media is assisting organizations who police our safety. From locating criminals to finding missing children, social media recently has taken on a larger role in protection.

MISSING CHILDREN”

Milk Carton 2.0 is a Canadian alert system that uses social network sites to post notifications of missing children. Participants can visit the website and provide their Facebook address and Twitter handle. When a child is reported as missing, Milk Carton 2.0 will send up update that populates their newsfeed and Twitter account with the missing child notification.

CRIMINALS:

Police and detectives are increasingly using social media sites to catch criminals. Although most police departments don’t have dedicated social media units, said Southern University Online Criminal Justice and Legal Studies professor Michael Whalen, they are beginning to scour sites, like YouTube, for video of people committing crimes.

Citizens can also reach out to police via Facebook pages and other social media sites to report suspicious behavior, provide tips and register to receive police updates.

YOUR SAFETY:

While social media can help keep the world safer, it’s important that individuals safeguard their own privacy for safety’s sake.

-Know your privacy settings. Many social media sites default profiles to the least restrictive privacy settings. Social media users should frequently check their privacy setting to ensure that the setting are desired.

-Don’t post your whereabouts. It’s not a good idea to post when you are on vacation or out of your house. Robbers could see you are not at home and decide the time is opportune to break into your house.

-Turn off goetagging ability. When this setting is on, other people can find you. Possibly unsavory folks.

-Be careful what pictures you post and what comments you make. Remember that once something is posted to the internet, it can be forwarded and seen by people you may not have intended to show.

Crisis Communications Lessons Learned from MH370

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) is a crisis of unprecedented proportions. If someone had told me that in 2014 a commercial airliner could be “lost” I wouldn’t have believed it. But that is the situation that has continued for the past three weeks, since flight MH370 fell off air traffic controller radar on March 8.

Even the most skilled crisis management team would not be able to make this situation “good.” Two hundred and thirty-nine passengers entrusted into Malaysia Airlines care are missing. There are currently no answers for the family members left devastated, unknowing the fate of their loved ones.

However, during crisis situations, there are methods a P.R. team can use to help communicate information to stakeholders, and the general public, in a timely, accurate and effective manner. While this cannot solve the problem the disappearance of the flight, it could help the passenger’s families find what little comfort is available and help the airline begin to recover from this disaster.

A few crisis communication lessons learned from MH 370 to consider are below:

Contract help. If your office is not staffed to handle crisis communications in-house, consider contracting outside assistance. Malaysia Airlines reached out to Ketchum for crisis communications advisement a few days after MH370 disappeared. Unfortunately, the time to ask for communication counsel isn’t in the middle of a crisis. They should have been contracted with the p.r. gurus on retainer so that Ketchum was involved from the beginning.

Be accurate. In crisis situations, initial confusion reigns as senior leaders struggle to process information and determine the facts. While it may be tempting to publically announce details that you assume are correct… DON’T. The only details released to the public should be those you know to be the absolute truth. If you have to back-track or correct statements you previously made, you will lose credibility. The Malaysian prime minister announced that officials could only surmise the plane was lost in the ocean and there was no hope that any passengers survived… only to retract this statement a few days later and state that the airline was continuing to search for possible survivors. Contradictory statements lead to lack of trust.

-Have a plan to update your website and social media. Malaysia Airlines has dedicated its entire homepage to information about MH370, which is appropriate. This allows the company to provide information to the public/families, rather than relying on media. The site contains videos from the assistance teams, links to the latest updates and an interview with their VP of customer care.

Companies often use social media to update the public during a crisis. Malaysia Airlines’ Twitter account has gone “black” meaning that the photos have been stripped from the profile to convey the seriousness of the event. The airline has also done a good job using Twitter for updates, as well as posting condolences and hotlines for the families. However, they should have immediately set up a #hashtag for people to easily follow news about this development.

Always convey the utmost respect and sympathy for family members of the affected. If a crisis has reached the ultimate tragedy – fatalities – it’s important that companies put themselves in the shoes of the affected families. This includes understanding how families will want to be kept informed of developments. When Malaysia Airlines determined that the flight had crashed into the ocean and there were most likely no survivors, families received a text message stating this. While I applaud the airlines for wanting to inform all the family members to this situation prior to the rest of the world, sending a text message about such a devastating and important piece of information seems cold. I think the airlines should have scrapped the text and found a more personal way to convey the information to all the families, such as through their assigned family caregivers.

The new year has heralded many changes at Facebook

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While New Years is a traditional time for innovation and starting anew, Facebook has beaten the majority of us with its transformations since January 1. Though we are only a few months into the new year, 2014 has been a busy for the world’s most prevalent social networking site. Here are some of the recent changes you might have missed:

Facebook purchased WhatsApp. The social networking company purchased WhatsApp, a swiftly growing messaging service, for $16 billion earlier this year. While some brokerages have said Facebook overpaid, according to Evercore, the acquisition could net Facebook $10 billion in revenues from the service by 2016.

-But the WhatsApp acquisition is not complete. The deal is far from finished and some privacy groups are asking regulatory agencies to block the pending deal. WhatsApp currently does not sell ads, and the privacy groups are concerned that Facebook, which generates most of its revenue with targeted ads, will corrupt the fledgling messaging service and degrade privacy.

-There are rumors Facebook also plans to purchase Titan Aerospace. Titan Aerospace is an unmanned aircraft startup that builds drones. Allegedly, Facebook wants to purchase the company for $60 million in order to acquire their Solara 60 aircraft. This aircraft is rumored that it will assist with Zuckerberg’s goal of providing affordable internet access to everyone in the world.

Facebook’s stock has recently skyrocketed. Initially offering stock at $38 a share, the value soon plummeted because investors did not trust Facebook would devise a viable mobile strategy. However, Zuckerberg’s company has bounced back recently with a closing price of $70.10 yesterday and analysts raising their price targets.

Facebook ad prices continue to increase. Facebook’s ad prices increased 92 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. This increase is due to ad formats Facebook has incorporated, such as app-install ads and other native advertising forms. This ad price increase contrasts Twitter and Google, both of which saw decreases in ad prices.

Libel: A new social media frontier

Following the Boston Bombing at the Boston Marathon, the press and American citizens used both traditional and new media to try to help authorities find the culprits. While this may have helped police locate the suspects, it also created certain privacy problems.

The New York Post ran a front page photo potentially giving the appearance that the two gentlemen featured in the photo were involved in the bombings. The problem was that the men in the photo were not involved in the massacre, and they later sued the New York Post for libel.

These types of lawsuits are not only common in traditional media. As social media use increases, so too will lawsuits involving the social media sphere.

In the world of social media, nothing is private and PR practitioners need to be careful of every tweet, blog or facebook post they make.

Courtney Love, wife of the late Kurt Cobain, recently won a libel lawsuit spurred by a tweet she made claiming her former lawyer, Rhonda J Holmes, had been “bought off” and that was the reason Holmes chose to not continue to represent Love.

Holmes firm sued Love for libel. However, jurors recently decided she did not libel because, though the tweet was untrue, Love did not know that. Even though Love won her lawsuit, others should recognize the dangers of false tweets and take caution.

WHAT IS LIBEL?

Libel is a published false statement that damages someone’s reputation.

While the above cases involved high profile celebrities or organizations, the truth is that anyone could be sued for libel.

When posting on social media, Cyber Investigative Services states that jurors typically consider the below questions when decided a libel case. They consider whether the false statement,

* Was a communication that imputes a serious crime involving moral turpitude or a felony

* Was a communication that exposes a plaintiff to hatred

* Was a communication that reflects negatively on the plaintiff’s character, morality, or integrity

* Was a communication that impairs the plaintiff’s financial well-being

* Was a communication that suggests that the plaintiff suffers from a physical or mental defect that would cause others to
refrain from associating with the plaintiff

PR practitioners need to remember that the best way to avoid a libel case is to ensure that everything posted to social media is accurate.

Image

Boston, MA, April 15, 2013: Two explosions went off in Copley Square, directly after the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Boston police commissoner Ed Davis. Photo by: Michael Cummohttp://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelcummo/8656042112/