When was the Last Time You Checked Your Privacy Settings?

Lock Icon: FacebookIf your answer was more than a year ago, you may want to log onto your social networks and take a gander at what people can really see when you publish content. Or if you’ve never checked your settings (especially on Facebook), learn how… now. But don’t feel like you are the only one dropping the ball on your own privacy, according to Consumer Reports 13 million people have never looked at their privacy settings. Wow.

Personally, I check my settings every couple of months or as often as I hear Facebook, specifically, is making changes. I always want to be sure I know what can be seen by my friends and by strangers. For me, I want strangers seeing as little as possible, and depending on how you use social media you may feel the same way.

Even though, Facebook has received much deserved criticism over its privacy settings, I think much of the accountability actually falls on the user. We choose to sign up for a social network. We are not forced. Therefore, we should be aware of where our information is going and who is seeing it. Facebook and other social networks have made it easier to learn about privacy settings, either by looking under your account settings or searching on the site for them. I’ve noticed Facebook has announced when major changes are happening. This extra help can serve as a reminder for users who aren’t as in tune with their privacy settings.

Crossing the Line

Facebook Privacy SettingsIs it ethical for reporters to use social media to contact people in sensitive news situations? I think if the reporter doesn’t identify themselves in as a professional, then “yes” it is unethical. As journalists, we should always identify ourselves as such when we are working. A reporter wouldn’t go to a person’s door and not introduce themselves, same goes for a phone interview. If they fail to do this, they really aren’t a true journalist in my opinion.

People keep their profiles “private” for a reason: they don’t want people they don’t know seeing their content. There is nothing wrong with this. Reporters should respect this. If a news situation calls for contacting someone on Facebook (or any social network) the reporter should always identify themselves in a professional manner. And they should certainly never publish information from a private profile without consent.

Now if the profile is public, then I say it’s fair game for capturing screenshots for stories. We see this done all of the time. But journalists have to be careful. If you republish something because it’s public, that doesn’t mean you don’t confirm the source or validate the content. Just because it’s public doesn’t mean the information is accurate. As for contacting someone with a public profile, I think journalists should still always identify themselves.

So, if you still need convincing on checking your Facebook privacy settings (and getting in a regular habit of doing so) this NBC News video, sums it up in 30 seconds.


Social Media Accuracy

There is a lot of noise on social media and it can be hard for users to differentiate between fact and fiction. It can be equally as hard for organizations, more specifically news organizations, to navigate in the ever-changing and fast-paced world of social media.

I worked in a newsroom between 2006 and 2011, when social media was at first seen as the “enemy” and then slowly transformed into a “resource.” It used to be that news organizations wanted to be “first” on the air or in print. That could have taken a number of hours. Now it’s a number of minutes or even seconds. So, how can organizations still be “first” while aiming for accuracy? Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution.

Verify_Social_Media_Profiles_TwitterBadgeOrganizations still need to verify information and “think” before they post or tweet information. Just as with traditional media, organizations need to look at the source of the information. Many social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, have “verified” accounts, indicated with blue check marks. This can help organizations vet the source, depending on the type of information. But as we’ve seen in the past, a random person can break a news story.

Does the Osama Bin Laden raid ring a bell? That first broke on social media from a man inadvertently tweeting from a home nearby. We didn’t learn about it from a “verified source” until hours later. I think it’s important for news organizations to chime in on situations like this, but not post unconfirmed information. Maybe tweeting something like: “We are working to confirm this…” or “We don’t have all the facts yet, but are expecting an official statement on (insert topic) in the next few hours.”

I remember during the aftermath of the Newtown School Shooting Tragedy, a lot of false information was being spread on social media. Many news organizations reported the wrong name, on social media and in traditional media (on air). When releasing names during such a serious situation, news organizations need to use the traditional forms of confirmation, because the damage can be done so quickly on social media.

When information is published incorrectly, I think organizations need to acknowledge it, but then remove it. Some people may think this is unethical, but I see it as trying not to spread even more false information. This way, if the organization acknowledges it (on the specific post), those who have liked it, commented on it, or followed it can be made aware, and then it can be removed so no one else reads it as the truth.

I do think audiences are more forgiving in the social media world, mainly because of the fast pace. What appears in someone’s newsfeed one minute, is gone the next. In a breaking news situation, it is important to keep people aware of what is fact and what may have been a mistake. Owning up to a mistake will go a long way with users, but I think preventing those mistakes to begin with will go even further.


Social Media Behavior

SocialMediaBehaviorSocial media is integrated into most of our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that it not only impacts how we behave in person, but also online. We are products of our environments, right? So, if a social network is one of our primary environments, we’re destined to be influenced by it. Each social network has developed its own culture, with loyal users who interact and behave certain ways. It’s hard to say there are “normal” behaviors on social networks, but there are certainly trends brands need to be aware of and moderate.

For instance, on Facebook many users are looking to strengthen pre-existing relationships that were established outside of the social network. Of course, this isn’t 100% true, but when even looking at my own personal Facebook connections, I already know all of my “friends.” I’m not friends with any strangers. The same is true of brands. Brand pages that I “like” are brands that I am familiar with–that I have a pre-existing relationship with.

I cannot say the same for Twitter and I don’t think I’m alone. Twitter lends itself to much more broad reaching relationships. Yes, we can follow people we have pre-existing relationships with, but we can also follow celebrities, industry influencers, or complete strangers easily. I think a lot of this has to do with the use of hashtags. While Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Google+ utilize hashtags, Twitter rules supreme. If a live event utilizes a hashtag in real time, Twitter users may grow their followers depending on what they tweet and if it attracts a broader audience. This is not as easily accomplished on other social networks.

I think user behavior on social media also has a lot to do with the primary focus on the platform. For instance, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are visually based. These may be more appealing to those of us who enjoy creating and sharing visuals. While Twitter and Facebook may be more for real-time updates and news events. Also, LinkedIn is a great example of where our professional and “social” worlds collide. I’m sure most users who create content on LinkedIn, tend to have different behaviors on other social platforms. Using myself as an example again, many of my LinkedIn updatCubes - 379 - INFLUENCEes have to do with work projects or industry news. I very rarely post this same content on Facebook. It’s just not the same audience, and not the same connections for me. Now, if I have a business page on Facebook I would post that same content, because I would assume anyone who “liked” my page cared about healthcare marketing or social media.

Just like in the real world, behaviors on social media change from platform to platform or situation to situation. After establishing connections (either pre-existing or new), users are influenced by those around them. I think most of us have a larger impact on our social connections than we think. We are all influencers in one form or fashion, and we need to behave accordingly.



Starbucks Brews Strong Relationships on Social Media

StarbucksSignStarbucks is a brand many have admired for years, both in traditional advertising and online. As one of the early adopters of social media, Starbucks continues to push the envelope on cultivating and managing relationships in social settings. The coffee giant has always been able to translate its offline brand strategies online. In a sense, its created a network of “online baristas” to serve customers online instead of necessarily in one of its locations.

Starbucks mission is ” to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” The personal and “local” feel of a company that is so large translates well on social media. People look at their local Starbucks franchise as a local coffee shop, and that’s mainly due to the brand’s voice in advertising, as well as, on social media. Beyond its mission, Starbucks boosts several values: honesty, sincerity, and connecting with customers on a human level. All of these values obviously translate well in a social online setting where people are looking to not only trust brands, but also connect with them.

With over 36 million “likes” on its Facebook page, Starbucks has cultivated a strong online community. It actually doesn’t take the “traditional” business social media strategy of posting several times a day, rather lets fans drive the page’s content. That being said, when the brand does create content, it is very casual and similar to what their fans post, i.e. images of drinks, inspirational quotes, charitable causes, etc.

As you can imagine in the beverage and food industry, the brand gets its fair share of comments, questions, and feedback on a daily basis. While it may not be posting its own content everyday, all day, it does respond to fans in a timely fashion. All of the posts I’ve seen have received responses within 24 hours. A reputation that probably sits well with fans and critics alike. Below are a few screenshots of how they’ve responded to both positive and negative feedback on Facebook. You’ll see their casual, yet personal responses to each fan.Starbucks_PositiveCommentStarbucks_NegativeComment


Starbucks acknowledges each comment/post, even if it’s just someone wanting to thank their husband for a coffee drink. The brand is clearly listening on social media and interacting with fans who just mention the brand. It’s a clear commitment to the social world we live in. When it comes to complaints and negative feedback, the brand directs everyone to its customer service email. It’s great that Starbucks has something like this set up (since the amount of issues they receive is enormous), but I will say it does get repetitive that they have almost the same canned response for each comment (also see Twitter screenshots below). I would suggest they create a variety of responses, that all lead back to the customer service email, but don’t all sound the same.

The one thing that really stood out to me with their brand voice, was the company’s ability to harness and encourage ideas from fans. Starbucks often directs people to its My Starbucks Ideas website to submit ideas for improving products, sharing customer experiences, and cultivating community involvement.


On Twitter, Starbucks maintains its brand voice when responding to followers. Its voice is fun and casual, while still being attentive and responsive. It’s clear the brand cares about it’s fans/customers and wants to react in a positive way to all interactions. Below are a few conversations between the brand and its Twitter followers.

Starbucks_AppProblemComment Starbucks_NegativeComment2 Starbucks_PositiveComment2

Any brand can learn about social media engagement from Starbucks. It’s not just pushing out promotional messaging or ignoring questions, compliments, and complaints. It’s addressing them all, while keeping that “human spirit” of the brand. A consistent brand voice is so important for social media, and cultivating that voice to be one your fans/followers can relate to is even more important.

I look forward to seeing what the “online baristas” serve up on social media in the future!


Building Social Media Relationships? Keep it Real.

brandvoiceHow do you build better social media relationships? Keep it real. Or in different terms, remember to always remain human. Create content in the way in which you would say it to a friend or colleague. Find a tone that fits your brand, but also fits your audience.

Many brands struggle with this because they don’t want to be seen as unprofessional, but being conversational doesn’t equate to unprofessional. Brands need to relate to their audience. So, the first step is knowing your audience. Are you listening to them? Do you know what content they are sharing? Do you know how to respond to their questions or concerns? You need to be able to say “yes” to these questions in order to create content followers will find valuable and engaging.

At my organization, Carilion Clinic, finding a brand voice on social media has been a journey. As a healthcare organization, like many in the U.S., our overall focus has shifted away from promoting clinical services and physicians to being seen as a resource for health and wellness information. Due to healthcare reform, we are in a place where we want to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, by helping them manage chronic health conditions. If these types of conditions (diabetes, heart failure, COPD) are not addressed early on, they will end up costing us more down the road and lessen a patient’s quality of life. Both of those things are not what we want. This shift to a health and wellness focus has actually helped us find a brand voice on social media.

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, social platforms like Pinterest have enabled us to better create content our audience (significantly female) will want to use and share. We’ve created boards for Healthy Foods, Child Safety, Adolescent & Student Health, among others. This type of content isn’t just about promoting our services or providers, although they are sometimes highlighted, it’s more about raising awareness of health conditions, consumer recalls, safety tips, easy recipes, etc. — all things a female audience may relate to.

On Facebook and Twitter, health and wellness tips (posts and videos), links, and infographics far outperform our posts highlighting new physicians or community events. Due to this, we have decreased those promotional posts and increased health information content. I think developing our brand voice over the last few months has been easier for our social media team because our organization’s overall brand voice is clearer.

Companies that have a clear vision/mission will make it easier for that voice to coincide with social media strategy, which ultimately builds relationships and trust amongst followers. If you “keep it real” on social media, followers will see your brand as a real person and want to connect with you. Keep it social. Keep it real.

Social Media: Trust No One or Everyone?

socialmediafriendsHow many Facebook friends do you have? How many Twitter followers do you have? When I think about my respective numbers: 804 and 334, do I trust each and every one of them? No. Do they all trust me? Probably, not. Social media makes it so easy for us to connect with people from all of the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are developing stronger relationships with these people.

In a traditional way of thinking, trust is something that is earned over time and through multiple personal interactions. On social media, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A person can be following someone’s updates for awhile before ever actually engaging with that person. You could be earning someone’s trust and not even know it. For me, when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, I look to follow people who post valuable content in my opinion. That could mean a number of different things: something I find humorous, something I can relate to, something I can use on a school assignment, something I can share with a co-worker, etc. Nothing can earn trust more on social media than valuable content.

One of the great things about social media is you don’t actual have to know someone personally to gain their trust. In a 2012 study, 51% of Millennials (age 18-34) say they trust user-generated content and anonymous reviews over recommendations from friends or family. Word-of-mouth recommendations take on a whole new meaning on social media.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.49.20 PMSomeone specifically that I “trust” on social media is Kim Garst. Not only does Kim post interesting information concerning social media trends and platforms, she also posts motivational content and keeps her online presence very “human.” (see screenshots). While I’ve never met Kim in person (I hope I can someday), I trust her because I find her content helpful, valuable, motivational. If she endorsed a certain company, platform, or person I would trust her opinion because she has proven herself to me as a trustworthy resource on social media.

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Another thing to consider when discussing social media and trust is engagement. Social media is a two-way communication tool. If users engage with brands or individuals, we want a response — even if it’s just a “like” or a “retweet.” That small acknowledgement can go a long way with users.

I’m by no means a social media “guru” or “expert” but I feel like I’m laying the groundwork for when someday I could be a trusted resource for others. The benefit I think I bring from my trust is “retweets” and “shares” and mentions in my blog. While a whole lot of people may not be following me yet, I’m hoping to build on that credibility by mentioning other credible sources, and in turn their content is reaching a broader audience. Sharing each other’s content and engaging with one another is what social media is all about. The more we do those things the more trust we will be able to create.

How do you measure trust on social media? Is a “like” or a “retweet” enough for you or do you need a deeper level of engagement?

Has a brand or individual been able to regain your trust through social media after losing it?



Terms and Conditions: Do You Read the Fine Print?

terms_and_conditionsWhen it comes to “Terms and Conditions” let’s be honest, most of us don’t read the fine print. I know I usually don’t. In 2010, this Forbes article referenced a study that showed about one in 1,000 people actually clicked on terms and conditions on websites, and probably even fewer actually read the terms. While this example is a few years old, I can only assume that number has actually dropped because most of us have such a short attention span (myself included) when it comes to reading long documents online (or in general).

Now, I’ll be honest – when it comes to my money I tend to be a little more interested in the fine print, but I still don’t study the entire set of terms. On social networks and websites, well I guess I’m just hoping for the best. The main issue: they are not user-friendly. Who wants to sift through, or scroll through, pages of legal jargon or information that will probably not impact our day to day use of the social network? After reading the terms and conditions of Facebook and Twitter (yes, I just did this as part of my assignment – I didn’t take it upon myself to be an informed user), I remembered why I don’t usually spend time reading these documents. Snoozefest! Yes, I said it.

I think new ways social networks could help users better understand terms and conditions would be to create infographics or brief videos. Pull out the main highlights and help users understand those to start. Then, if someone wants to learn more or needs to for legal reasons they could click on a link to view the entire document. Google actually does a great job of this with its features. No shocker there. Google always seems to do things “right.” Google include videos, almost tours, of each of its features. Check out the Hangouts video or learn more about Google+ Circles as examples. In less than 2 minutes, it’s clear how the features work and the purpose. Something like this could be done for terms and conditions. I think it would be a lot more relatable to most of us who relate to visual, short content.

But I guess there does have to be some responsibility on us as users. While Facebook and Twitter both use “You” instead “We” a lot in their respective terms, they are technically putting it all out there for us to read and interpret on our own. If we don’t, that’s on us and as we’ve seen in the past with Instagram, that lack of knowledge can cause controversy, but also change. If you think about it, how can these social networks monitor everything, everyone posts? They can’t. So as users we must accept some responsibility.

The great thing about social media is if we do have a problem with a term or condition, we can voice it to a large audience. As Twitter’s Terms of Service states:

“What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!”

Happy posting, everyone!