Becoming your own social media nightmare

I have been distracted from blogging  for several months, but now I’m back with a haunting realization: today I became my own social media nightmare: I am that repeat commenter who does not like your product, yet continues to frequent your Facebook page.

 As someone who has run multiple social media accounts for multiple businesses for multiple years, I’ve seen plenty of these people: They clearly don’t like your page or what your organization stands for, yet they seem to interact with your site all. the. time.

 Here’s the story: I recently got engaged, and started following some of the bigger wedding planning sites on Facebook to get ideas. There’s a problem with that: I am a cranky, frustratingly logical person, and the way wedding sites condescend to their audiences drives me up a wall.

 I am not meant for the circles that discuss the burdens of plus ones and how to keep your seventeen bridesmaids from killing each other.

 Instead of moving on and recognizing that there are resources that might serve me better, I have turned to irate comments. It’s only happened twice, but it’s twice too many. I know better.

 So, in the spirit of getting myself back on track, here are my five tips for dealing with people like me:

  • Decide if the comment needs a response. Are they blowing off steam, or is there a valid complaint?
  • Acknowledge legitimate queries. Everyone likes to feel listened to. While it’s best to let the cranks go away on their own, if there’s even a kernel of truth in what they’ve said, respond—and respond with kindness and humility.
  • Go off-the-wall. Let your complainer know you care, but don’t hash out the details on your Facebook wall. Take it to a direct message, email, or even a phone call.
  • Make sure it doesn’t happen again.—if you can. If your grammar was poor, you can fix that. If your business is battling bad publicity, you may have to soldier on.
  • Ban with care. There is a time to banish unpleasantness from your accounts. If the discussion gets abusive or language gets foul, it is absolutely appropriate to quietly delete the post and ban the user.

As with all things, preparation is key. Have discussion guidelines written in advance and post them—few will complain about the rules if they know what they are in advance.

That’s it for now—happy mediating!

Three Reasons Not to Auto-Tweet from Facebook

You’re a busy person. You’ve found time to add social media to your day, but just barely. You want to automate and you’ve seen how easy it is to set you Twitter account up to share your Facebook posts. 

Resist the urge.

Twitter and Facebook are not chocolate and peanut butter. They are not two parts of the same whole, meant to be mixed in any quantity. Below, three reasons to reconsider automating your Twitter account.

Your Message Will Be Cut Short
As you’re well aware, Twitter only allows 140 characters. The current Facebook status update limit is 63,206 characters.  Most Facebook posts are significantly shorter, but many go beyond Twitter’s 140. If you connect the two, the result will be a shortened version of your post with a link back to Facebook. 

Like a lot of Twitter users, I spend most of my Twitter time on my phone. Hitting that link to Facebook takes me to a page that takes longer to load than I care to wait. Any initial interest I had in your post is likely gone…or, at least, my patience has been exhausted.

I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****
I posted a new photo to Facebook ******
I posted a new photo to Facebook *****

Annoying, right? Aside from the links to nowhere, Posting a group of photos only adds text to the initial photo (unless you make a point to caption each image). You’ve just posted a list of links with no context, making the average person wary of clicking. Facebook may be safer than the random, but almost any image could be on the other side of that link.

It Makes You Look Less Engaged with Twitter
…And you are. Which is fine, except you’re posting there trying to engage their audience. Channeling everything back to Facebook implies you’re not willing to engage on Twitter. Are you? If someone responds to you on Twitter about your Facebook post, will you be in tune enough to realize it? 

So what do you do? Well, if you must automate, automate with care. Try using a service like HootSuite to schedule your posts, and make sure you check your mentions often to say connected. 

Three Excellent Uses for Google Voice

imagesIn light of news that Google Voice is not long for this world, it might seem strange that I’m choosing to sing its praises this week. Though the sky may not exactly be falling (most functionality will still exist, rolled into a Hangouts app), I’ll be sad if this faux death knell begs people off one of my favorite Google products. So, for now, and hopefully for the future, here are my favorite Google Voice uses:

  1. Crisis Communications…or any organized communications effort, really. Do you have a team of spokespeople in the field that need to be available to the press or stakeholders in a timely manner? Don’t hand out a list of seven different cell phone numbers or rely on a receptionist to play middleman. Use one Google Voice number to immediately connect callers to the first person available.
  2. Craigslist Postings Craigslist is invaluable for many reasons, not least of which is as an online marketplace. But let’s face it: some of the people you come in contact with are downright sketchy. Or maybe you want to list something, but don’t want your phone ringing off the hook with potential buyers while you’re busy working. Use a Google Voice number and set it to do not disturb. You’ll be able to sort out the calls on your own terms, and no one will have your “real” number, either.
  3. Good Old Free Texting Ditch your paid talk and text plans and use Google Voice instead. Never used Google Voice before or just want some tips? Lifehacker has pretty much every tutorial you’ll ever need.

Finally, a hat tip to Steph Baker for inspiring me to dig deeper into Google Voice.

Facebook Scheduler Fails to Impress

After years of resisting and publicly negging the act, I’ve started to automate. I have enough different accounts now that I’ve finally given in to schedulers. And, despite the fact that EdgeRank is  officially gone, I still harbor suspicions that Facebook prefers content to originate inside its walled garden.

So, instead of using trustworthy HootSuite, I’ve been trying the Facebook Scheduler. At first, everything went smoothly. Now, in the past 3 days, I’ve had four failed posts. When time of day can be crucial to a post being seen, nothing is more teeth-gnashingly, head-against the wall irritating than a failed post with no notification.

Is there a solution? Well, I’ll probably have to end my superstitious avoidance of HootSuite for Facebook, but for the rest of this week, I’ll be setting alarms on my cell phone to check the remainder of this week’s posts.

Social Media: The Benefit of Quality Followers

People standing in line

Are your followers just numbers?

When envisioning what a successful social media account looks like, it’s natural to assume that a massive follower count is a positive sign. It’s true, to some extent: big numbers equal big page views–and, more importantly, a quantifiable result you can show your skeptical boss. I know that in my last job before I started consulting, my boss tolerated my “screwing around on Facebook”…until my first account hit 10,000 followers.

To be sure, there’s something to be said for quantity. But online numbers don’t mean a thing if those users don’t interact with you offline, too. So what makes a quality, rather than quantity, follower?

They Remain Engaged
Have you ever liked a page or followed someone, then realized the content didn’t interest you? There’s a good chance that instead of unliking or unfollowing, you just hid their updates…or scrolled past, meaning to get rid of it later? It’s your job to consistently post engaging content, but pay attention to those that are interacting with you and what they’re saying. They are your core.

Dart board

Aim for those most likely to stay engaged.

They Share With Their Friends
A follower you can really count on takes your content beyond their feed. They clue in their social circle to the awesome stuff you’re posting. No algorithm can replace the success of a word-of-mouth recommendation.

They Walk the Walk
Most importantly, they get out from behind the keyboard and give you their business.  People bemoan the toll social media has taken on human interaction, but if you’re cultivating quality relationships, these online interactions encourage rather than replace offline connection.

So, don’t take slow growth as an immediate sign of failure. Look deeper and use quality as your guide. Quantity is likely to follow.

This year’s most popular posts

I started this blog six months ago as a combination writing-exercise and as a way to share the useful bits of information that I’d learned as a result of my time mashing keys. Though it’s still quite modest, I’ve been surprised to see how a few of those posts have gotten more traction than I’d expected (there are so many blogs out there, I didn’t expect any traction at all).  In the new year, I may expand my focus to ensure I’ll have enough to write about, but for now, here are the four most popular posts I wrote in 2013:Sparkler (fireworks)

Five Quick Tips for Cleaning out your Inbox
The privacy problem with posting photos in social media
Social Media when you don’t have the time
Flexing your muscle when everyone’s an “expert”



Online reviews in the age of Glut

This week’s On the Media had a feature on the vast number of fake reviews. As it happens, a recent study showed that while many are paid, the majority of fake reviews are unpaid—and are often written by people who have never used the product. As unlikely as that sounds, this study found that one in 15 reviews are fake reviews written by these non-consumers of whatever they’re reviewing…and they tend to be negative.

I thought about my own habits when reading reviews. I tend to research a product (or location—I use online reviews most when traveling) by scanning reviews for these negatives, in part because I’ve been wary of fake positive reviews. If there are as many or more negative fakes as positives, my assumption hasn’t gained me any research ground.

Couple that with the ubiquity of review and recommendation mechanisms on the web these days—sites like TripAdvisor, Amazon Reviews, Yelp, and the development of social search on Google and Bing—and it seems fruitless to consult reviews at all. Is it better to pinch your nose and dive in?Woman snorkeling

Two of my perennial favorite reads are Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages by Alex Wright and Everything is Miscellaneous: the Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger. Both explore the drift away from experts’ hierarchical organization to what Weinberger refers to as putting one leaf on as many branches as possible (in other words, the evolution of metadata and tagging). With so much information able to be combined into different reports, it should be easier to find the answers you’re looking for among these reviews…shouldn’t it?

What does one do with a glut of information and a knowledge that false information appears in both positive and negative reactions? My suggestions are just as good as anyone’s on this topic, but here are a few things to keep in mind to keep from feeling swallowed:

  • Keep the date in mind. Businesses go through changes in management, and products through new models. If all of the good or bad reviews are a few years ago, take note. The situation may have changed.
  • Strangers may not value what you do. Some people will leave a one-star review for a bad wine list, while I’m usually more concerned with the availability of vegetarian foods. Read the exceptionally good and exceptionally bad to see if it’s something you care about.
  • Compare networks. If Yelp steers you wrong but TripAdvisor is spot-on, try cross-referencing sites.

The extra information these sites provide can be valuable, if you can find a way to slog through them. If you have any tips, please leave a comment!

Bullying and legislation

There’s an excellent article on Gizmodo today by Ashley Feinberg titled “Why California’s New Web-Wide Delete Button For Teens Won’t Work. In short, it gives two good reasons why a mandatory Internet-wide “erase” button for the internet as a mechanism to keep minors protected from bullying and other ills can’t be successful.

First, as Feinberg points out, not all sites are California’s to regulate, making compliance essentially impossible to demand. Second, and most important to the everyday user with connection to minors’ concerns, this same “protective” measure can also allow minors using bullying or abusive language to cover their tracks.  Bullying without leaving a paper trail, as it were.

There is no perfect system for regulating the behavior of others, underage or not. There are, however, some steps you can take to keep your minor safer:

  • Most social media sites limit profile creation to those above age 13 to avoid having to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Stand by that limitation and do not allow or assist your pre-teen in creating a social media profile. It will give you and her time to create household social media ground rules.
  • The FTC has a great publication called Talking with your kids about being online. Get it here. It deals more with predators than bullies, but I highly recommend checking it out before allowing your son or daughter online unattended.
  • Create her first profile page together. It doesn’t mean she won’t change it later, but it means you and she will both know the potential for what can be there–and that can help guide the discussions you may need to have later.
  • Make keeping you on her friends list until a certain age a prerequisite of starting a profile. That way you can monitor new friendships and relationships, sensitive photos and the like. It has the potential to feel and be intrusive, so make sure you’re only stepping in when something genuinely concerning occurs–and make sure to handle it offline. No need to embarrass your kids unnecessarily.
  • If you do find someone is imitating your child online, or is imitating someone else to deceive your child, handle it through the social media service.  DO NOT “give them a taste of their own medicine” or the like.  Many schools now have staff monitoring for social-media based problems, so you may have recourse there, as well.

Finally, remember that the benefits of having a digital-savvy kid far outweigh the possible negatives. Work with your child to help them understand those negative possibilities and what they can do to lessen their impact, rather than cutting your child off from the Internet completely.

Twitter Lists: Useless Extra or Nerdy Delight?

My feelings about Twitter lists are as changeable as this Sacramento’s fall weather. While the librarian in me loves being able to categorize and add resources into topic-specific lists, neither the the phone nor the desktop Twitter interface highlights lists enough to incorporate them into regular use. (Hint: if you’re surprised to hear that Twitter even offered a list function, check a Twitter super-user’s profile page to find some they’ve already compiled).

If Twitter users were vigilant with their hashtag use (and even a Twitter lover like me isn’t), lists might be completely superfluous. Might. Regular hashtag use would allow better searching throughout twitter, and the need to find users who consistently tweeted on-topic about a certain subject would be less of an imperative (again, for those who knew where to find the function at all)–especially since it’s human to discuss more than one topic, making list useful for organizations, but maybe less so for individuals.

I create Twitter lists of partners for projects. Sometimes I make them public, and other times I keep them private–just as reference, so I’m not sharing exactly the same information, or so I can see how often they tend to tweet. From a personal standpoint, Twitter lists are completely valuable, and I totally recommend creating them to keep track of public efforts when there are many cooks in the kitchen.

What about you? Please leave a comment; I’d love to know if others find Twitter lists (public or private) helpful.

The privacy problem with posting photos in social media

Instagram logo

Instagram logo

I’ve been playing around more with Instagram lately. As usual, I’m intentionally late to the party, because I tend to be cautious and like to read up on things and wait for bugs and flaws to be uncovered first.  It’s been more than long enough now, so I’m finally diving in.

With anything involving photography, I rarely take pictures at home. The geolocational information in the metadata worries me, and I don’t trust myself to remember to strip it or turn of the settings before shooting…as I did the other night when my dog did something cute and I decided to use Instagram and post it on the spot. Luckily, I noticed a minute later when looking at a map of recent posts and fixed it.

Santa Please Stop Here sign

Santa Please Stop Here sign

The problem isn’t metadata; it’s us. We are either too lazy or too concerned with connecting to take steps like turning off location information for one picture.  While the safety hazards of saving that information can be slim–and in many cases help more than they harm– strangers can piece together maps of our common stomping grounds and when we’re likely to be there (or not be there) based on that information, which can be turned off in one click or removed after the fact if you forget.

Don’t live your life in fear of these what-ifs, but don’t chance it, either. Know where your location settings are in-app AND on your phone or tablet and use them.