At Work? Watch What you Tweet

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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.

Q. I’m 64. Can I slide by without learning this social media stuff?

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A.  I answered this question from a local businessman who called yesterday with another question: how long do you plan to work? Since he replied, “Until they carry me out feet first,” I knew I didn’t have an almost-retiree on my hands.

The call was prompted by a colleague of his who suggested that his business could grow if only he would invest some time in social networking.

My advice is this: focus on social networking as a start. Begin with LinkedIn because, let’s face it, everyone has at least signed up for LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is at 100 percent complete and load all of your contacts. This is not difficult stuff to learn, it’s just moving your Rolodex online and connecting it to everyone else’s.

Depending on your type of business and the customer you’re hoping to attract, Facebook will probably be valuable – in this man’s case, and the kind of business he’s in, it would be.

For those who have not expanded beyond e-mail and visits to a small handful of Web sites, social networking is a manageable bite to chew, and one that the user can feel successful in using and if effort is put in to expanding, updating and interacting within social networks, business growth is bound to occur.

The caller said that all his business comes from word-of-mouth. As a solo practitioner he needs to use social networking tools to take word-of-mouth online and extend his reach far beyond what he can accomplish in person and on the phone.

How do you counsel members at the upper end of the Baby Boomer generation in taking the first steps into using social media for business?

Arrogance and the Social Media “Expert”

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I eschew the term expert when talking about social media – preferring the term “specialist.” I don’t think anyone can be an expert in social media – with a field so new and ever growing and changing there are only specialists – people like me who devote lots of time and energy to staying on top of the game. I think there are people who are passionate about social media and the power it holds, but to call oneself an expert smacks of an undeserved arrogance.

A word about arrogance, though, as I acknowledge that those of us in this field have a certain amount of it. I argue that it has been necessary and it is an attribute that has grown out of a need to be absolutely convinced and convincing when sharing the benefits of engaging in social media for business. We are the self-taught forerunners of this field who have spent, in most cases, the better part of the last seven years defending the internet. We’ve had to stare down corporate leaders afraid to dip their toes into online waters and demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

When most of us started in this area the word blogger was said in the same tone as cancer; bloggers rose from the pasty-faced basement dwellers to a chosen few who make millions and others who just make a difference. By definition, a blogger almost has to have some level of conceit to trust that their thoughts and online ponderings would be of interest to anyone at all.

I’ve been part of an audience of those learning at the feet of those who have taught social media in the PR industry, this guy, this guy, this guy and this guy in particular. They all have one mannerism in common – a dismissive shaking of the head when a member of the community begins down the road of denial (it won’t work! we don’t have time! we can’t allow our people to self-publish! we need control!). I’ve noted this move and truly don’t find it arrogant (although corporate leaders, uncomfortable still with this deep end of the pool into which they’ve been thrown most likely do). I find it admirable – and it’s that confidence, that absolute gut-deep knowledge that you’re right and you know what you’re talking about and can prove it that I believe I’ve realized for myself. Does that make me an expert? No, but I’m practicing that head shake for the next time a doubter is in the room.

Answering your questions about PR and social media

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I get a lot of questions about how to use social media and sometimes more specifically, social networking for business. The PR industry and traditional news organizations have been grappling with how to integrate social media as well; how to do it, and how to do it well. From years of study and continued immersion in social media and PR — I get this — and I’m here to answer your questions.