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Five Ways to Avoid a Social Media Spanking

By Social Media

Let’s face it; if you screw up, the people of the Internet can be pretty ruthless. It’s like the old Wild West online, with bloggers and other Web users taking matters into their own hands. Chris Sacca has vowed to take down Blue Shield and it’s entirely possible he’ll be successful in forcing change.

Chris Sacca Blue ShieldThere are numerous examples of organic crusades across the online space to alert others of terrible customer service, often resulting in change. This online activity can be devastating for a brand or a company.  Surely you’re among the millions that have seen the YouTube video about United Airlines breaking a guitar.

Make no mistake, though – it can happen to individuals, too.  Probably the swiftest revenge enacted on an individual I’ve ever witnessed in real time was the Internet hazing of Kurt Greenbaum. It’s the kind of event that can be devastating to one’s career and reputation.

It’s not entirely impossible to avoid a misstep that results in this action. In fact, there are now so many people engaging in social media on behalf of their companies who aren’t aware of the rules of engagement it’s almost likely to happen to a large number of them.

I want to help people sidestep this horrifying scenario, as much as I’m able so I give you:

Five Ways to Avoid A Social Media Spanking

1. Don’t be a schmuck. The Internet loves to punish the self-righteous, the significant asshole and the overtly obnoxious. If you’re going to play that role be ready for consequences.

2. Don’t be a dumbass. There are millions of resources to help you learn how to behave online. Read books. I recommend The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott and Naked Conversations by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble. If you’re still unsure, ask someone. Ask a seasoned blogger – no doubt you know one personally. Post your question on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Get answers before you stick your foot into a big pile you can’t get out of.

3. Be brave. I started to use the word “transparent” here but I’m not sure see-through gets my point across. If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you fail to deliver on the promises you’ve made to your customers, own it, and vow to do better. If you screw up, make it right – quickly. The bravest words you can utter online, at times, are “I’m sorry.”

4. Be aware. There’s no excuse for not knowing what’s being said about your company, your product, your industry or, if you’re the representative or the person with the online presence – yourself. There are tools for listening and you should be monitoring these (or outsourcing it to a trusted partner) daily. Know what’s being said on Twitter and Facebook and in the blogosphere in general.

5. Be the better person. OK, I’ll admit there are some awful bullies out there but the beauty of the online community is that if you’re being harassed by a bully or a whole contingent of bullies, do not get sucked into name calling and other schoolyard ridiculousness. Let your community know that this is happening to you. One of the coolest parts of the online community is that those with whom you have a good relationship will come to your defense. They will step in and argue with those who are trying to call you out and ruin your reputation. If you deserve the beating, you’ll have to take it, but rise above it, come back and be better than you were before. But don’t run away – bullies love it when you run.

Time vs. Newsweek and the Demise of the English Language

By Media

I’m a fan of Newsweek. I have been a subscriber and avid, cover-to-cover reader of the magazine for about 20 years. In high school, my family subscribed to Time and given my choice of magazines in a doctor’s waiting room, I’ll choose the Time over Southern Living or People every time.

In 2009 Newsweek underwent a total redesign. It was jarring. The font is different. The editorial content is sometimes indistinguishable from the advertising. Some of my favorite features were dropped. The content seemed less newsy and more, well, editorial. We discussed the change at the dinner table. My husband, irritated by the changes, was tempted to drop the subscription. I’ve wavered. I’m a very loyal consumer and still enjoy the work of the staff and admire and respect Editor-in-Chief Jon Meacham.

It was with all of these thoughts in mind as I selected an issue of Time magazine from the airport newsstand last night as I awaited my departure. * (A Kindle user, and full-flight reader, I require non-electronic reading material for takeoff and landing). I made my way through the issue well beyond the pilot allowing passengers to use electronic devices. Having finished the same week’s issue of Newsweek recently, it was a good real-time comparison of content. Haiti was the cover story of each and similar news coverage throughout. I found myself enjoying Time, and starting to wonder if we could switch. Could we be Time subscribers and drop Newsweek?

And then I saw it.

On the second to last page, in an article about the Sundance Film Festival, there was the following phrase: “sneak peak.”


Peek. Peek. Peek.

Peek – a quick look. Peak – the top, as in, of a mountain. Pique – to increase, or spike, as in interest.


I’ve often had to have the Peek, Peak, Pique conversation with junior writers, college students and the like but come on, a Time reporter (Steven James Snyder, I am not so much looking at you as I am your editors)? Unacceptable.

Incredibly, looking for the article online I am shocked to find that the typo is there as well — in fact, here’s a screen shot as proof, in case the error is caught and really, I hope it is.

How to Couch-Surf the Sundance Film Festival

How to Couch-Surf the Sundance Film Festival

Trust  me; my own children have had this very lecture. They, from a very tender age, have known the difference.

All right; people make mistakes – fair enough. And I certainly don’t claim to be perfect. I understand typos. But this one stopped me so cold in my tracks it helped make the decision easily.

I’m sticking with Newsweek.

*see the second comment below from SJS. I couldn’t leave that crappy sentence the way it was after THAT.

How NOT to use LinkedIn: Three D’oh!s from a Real Life Example

By Communications

I got a bizarre e-mail today.

“J. is a friend of  D. and noticed your profile on LinkedIn,” the message began.

“J. thought you were the type of person who he would like to have as a client one day.  You may not be in the market for any [fill in the blank – not what it said, but not giving away too much here] services at this time, but J. would like to tell you about what he does in case you need something in the future.

J. asked me to contact you and schedule an appointment to introduce himself.  Do you have time for coffee next week?”

Let’s review all the ways in which this is wrong, shall we?

1. J. didn’t reach out to me himself, he had an assistant to it, which leaves me wondering if J. would be too busy to provide the actual services he offers himself, as well.

2. J. was savvy enough to use LinkedIn to prospect, but NOT savvy enough to ask for an introduction through the social network via our mutual connection, which would have validated the relationship.

3. The e-mail was to “undisclosed recipients” which was a tip off to me that the assistant did a massive SPAM e-mail to several second degree contacts of J.’s — or, should I say, only those who seemed like they were the kind of people J. would like as clients.


Naturally, I forwarded the e-mail to D. who responded with “you’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me!” Turns out I was the second person to contact him with it today.

Linkedin FAIL.

I get it; times are tough and we’re all looking for ways to grow our business, but there are rules of engagement and if you don’t know what they are, you had better ask, before sticking your foot in it like this guy has.

What do you think of this guy’s approach?

Twitter: Why We Care What you Had for Breakfast

By Communications

cerealI can’t tell you how many times this example has been thrown my way, as a challenge to the relevancy and purpose of Twitter.

“I don’t care what you had for breakfast!”

“Why would I care what someone had for breakfast!”

Why breakfast? I wonder.

Of course the people tossing out the Most Important Meal of the Day with the bathwater haven’t experienced Twitter and so, I struggle to find the most polite way to tell them they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Of course Twitter users are tweeting about more than their bagels and schmear or their $5 lattes. But let’s say, for fun, that for a day, everyone on Twitter tweeted their breakfast. Now that would be VERY interesting to those people over at Dunkin Donuts. And to the mom and pop coffee shops in your town. And to Eggo and to the billion dollar breakfast cereal industry. If all those breakfast-interested parties were also on Twitter they could ENGAGE with those Twitter users and ask them why they prefer, say, Bodo’s to Panera, or Mudhouse to Starbucks.

But you don’t really care about what your customers are thinking, saying and doing, huh?

On a personal connection level, say I’m tweeting my breakfast from a local coffee shop and learn that someone I know via Twitter only is there, or on her way there and at last! We will meet! And a friendship that had heretofore only been online, is now in real life and that is why we care what you’re having for breakfast.

At Work? Watch What you Tweet

By Uncategorized

A groundbreaking ruling will be handed down by the Supreme Court this summer, when a decision will be made regarding the privacy of text messages (and other, similar content such as Tweets) created on company-owned devices.

I’d be surprised if the final decision on this is anything other than the rule that’s existed with e-mail — that if it’s on a company computer, it’s not private and your company has the right to access the information. Even though we all “know” this by now, or should, it takes cases like these to remind us there is never any real anonymity or privacy in Web-based communication — and if you’re using a company-owned smart phone or computer to conduct illicit communications, well, you are doing so at your own peril.

It will be interesting to see how the official ruling turns out.