The Boston Bombings: Social Media Ethics

Social media has changed the way we communicate, especially during breaking news situations. Information not only travels fast, but also far and wide. This was definitely the case during the 2013 bombings in Boston. Social media became a place many of us could gather to learn information, communicate with loved ones, or follow the developing situation. Unfortunately, a lot of mis-information was disseminated. Whenever a situation is developing this is bound to happen – even to mainstream, credible journalists (as was the case with CNN) – but social media can amplify it ten fold.

Besides following the situation on social media, many of us turn to it to help those suffering. In this article, Augie Ray, a social media expert, weighs in on the ethical implications of becoming involved in the conversation.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 5.50.26 PMOne example, an NBC station posted a picture of a bombing victim being visited by First Lady Michelle Obama in the hospital. The post asked people to “like” it in support of the boy. Obviously, it generated a lot of engagement. But was it ethical? Ray says “no” and I agree. How tacky?!

No matter what connection this station had with this victim, if any connection at all, what was their intention? If it was to boost their social media engagement for that day, or month, or in general get more exposure — shame on them! If it really was to show support for this victim, they could have definitely worded the post differently. If there was a personal connection with the boy they should have said it. I’m sure, in general, this post would have received a lot of engagement, considering it’s timeliness to the tragedy and the subject matter, despite their poor call-to-action.

I always think when it comes to honoring victims of a tragedy, less is more. This is especially true when it comes to companies weighing in on social media. At it’s core, social media is still about those personal connections, not marketing.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 5.56.54 PMA perfect example of another company who did not take the “less is more” theory into consideration: Ford. The American automaker decided to weigh in by thanking first responders. Sounds nice enough, right? WRONG! Check out the screenshot (right) of the image Ford posted on social media. My thoughts are: great messaging, horrible imagery.

Why be promotional during a tragedy? A simple “thank you” would have gone a long way with fans. If Ford wanted to use imagery they could have used something related to Boston or the tragedy itself (nothing graphic of course, I’m thinking more of a ribbon), not showcase their own models. Again, how tacky!?

Social media is a great way to communicate with fans on any topic, but when it comes to weighing in on national tragedies (or even local ones) businesses must show restraint. Think before you post. If you want to thank first responders, do it! But in a way that doesn’t have a marketing message. It’s not necessary. It’s also important to show restraint and not post unrelated content during these types of situations. That content could also be deemed insensitive. Having a social media manager monitoring trending topics and content development can help your brand stay current and provide appropriate content at any given time.




The Value of Social Media


Despite the popularity of social media worldwide, many businesses still wonder about its value from a brand standpoint.

Why should my company invest in social media? What’s the return on investment (ROI) for social media?

As a social media marketer, these are question I face all the time. The truth is like any form of advertising, social media is a unique platform. But that doesn’t mean you can’t measure successes and failures (but let’s focus on the positives here!).

One-Size-Does-NOT-Fit-AllIt’s Not One Size Fits All

Understanding the value of social media is a challenge. It’s not one size fits all for businesses and marketing strategies. Especially if your company only focuses on the financial aspects of investment and return. What companies need to focus on is the non-monetary economic value. This doesn’t mean finances shouldn’t be a factor, it just means it shouldn’t be the focus. By non-monetary economic value, I’m referring to value that can travel throughout the social media world. Companies aren’t just having conversations with one customer, on social media they are having conversations with that customer and everyone connected to their social networks, as well.

Before launching a social media marketing initiative your business should have a specific goal. By “specific” I mean not just a generic business goal, something that is unique to your brand. Once you’ve developed that goal, social media can help:

  • Increase brand exposure
  • Increase traffic to your website or a physical location
  • Develop brand advocates (I’ll talk more about these a little later)
  • Improve organic search traffic
  • Create new business partnerships
  • Reduce marketing expenses (What employer doesn’t love this!)
  • Increase sales

Relationships Build ROI

It’s important to remember, in today’s “social” world, your business should be forming  “R.E.A.L.” relationships: Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-Lasting. Brands should realize experiences over social media aren’t happening with the network, but with the public at large. This can create both positive and negative conversations, but hopefully will lead to countless purchasing decisions in the future (Remember, we’re focusing on the positive here!). It also gives you the platform to right those negative conversations. Your goal on social media should always include “doing right by the consumer.”

When building relationships it’s important to start with your loyal customers. These advocates or influencers can help broaden your marketing reach. This group of customers probably won’t have a problem getting the word out about an initiative and new customers may respond to “people like them” passing along a message, rather than a business. With 52% of U.S. consumers using the Internet as their primary purchasing tool, it’s an area brands can’t afford to ignore.  By actively engaging with consumers via social media, you will keep your brand relevant.


A great way to build brand awareness and ultimately drive ROI is to get involved with fundraising. But remember…

“Social Media platforms aren’t necessarily fundraising engines, it’s the people using them that are.”

People love a good cause and they love hearing from individuals who benefit from a fundraiser. They do not want a brand pushing a cause on them. Social media allows your business to support a cause, but not necessarily push it on people.

When it comes to a fundraising effort, tell the story–either yourself or through someone else. This can be done with a video (we know people love visuals on social media) uploaded to YouTube or shorter platforms like Vine and Instagram. If people can see who or what their donation will be helping, they’ll probably be more inclined to give.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.56.01 PMAlways include a call to action, but be specific. It’s also important to use active language (Click, Share, Donate Now). People are more apt to take action right away, rather than come back and do it later. Along the same lines, make it easy for people to take action. No one wants to fill out a long form. Fortunately there are platforms, such as,, or can help your business’ fundraising efforts reach a higher level.

Once an initiative is underway, always make sure to thank donors, partners, and volunteers. This again goes back to showcasing real relationships. Publicly celebrate success, but remember to be authentic. Maybe you’re not the one thanking donors, but the child who received tuition to school or the disabled mom who received a new mini-van, etc, can post a video testimonial about how the donations helped them.

A personal example I can share right now is this month in support of Breast Cancer Awareness, my organization recently partnered with Member One Federal Credit Union to raise money for our Breast Care Center. Both businesses promoted the sale of “pink hoodies” on our social media sites multiple ways, including links to purchase the hoodies, pictures of employees wearing the hoodies, and promoting sales at community events. So far, it’s been a success and we hope to utilize more of these partnerships in the future to raise awareness for causes that support our mission: Inspiring better health in the communities we serve.

Bottom Line

Social media give companies opportunities for growth, if used for more than mass marketing agendas. By allowing brands to connect on more personal levels, businesses can begin measuring ROI in no time.


Have you ever been part of a social media fundraising effort? Share your experience and if it was a success.

What do you think is the most important aspect of social media value?

Who doesn’t love good engagement?

engagement-marketingOkay, as a single, 29-year-old you may assume I’m talking about a traditional engagement story–and while I’ve seen my fair share of engagement ring Facebook posts in the last few years, this blog has to do with a different type of engagement. In fact, it’s the more important “engagement” in my opinion–engagement for marketing purposes.

As a social media content strategist for my employer, I sometimes struggle with generating engagement. It’s important to realize from a business standpoint, engagement is not driven by the amount of content posted. Engagement is driven by good content. And engagement can be measured differently. Likes, shares, and comments  aren’t all equal, but all are important.

Facebook-EngagementSo, how can you improve engagement on your social media networks? Thanks to a thing called “EdgeRank” Facebook has created an algorithm to help businesses improve engagement on its social network. Here are some tips for navigating your brand’s ability to appear in users’ newsfeeds:

  • Keep posts short. Users don’t want to read a novel on Facebook. Posts between 100 and 250 characters get 60% more likes, comments, and shares than longer posts.
  • Be visual. Pictures always generate more engagement than strictly word posts.
  • Ask a question, have a call to action, or know what triggers your fans to respond. This can include simple questions, “fill-in-the-blank” posts, or “Like this post if you agree”-type posts.
  • Post daily, but remain relevant and timely. Don’t overload your fans’ newsfeeds, but make sure you consistently appear in it. Being relevant means staying true to your brand or mission, don’t venture off into other topics all together. And most Facebook users are active during 9-10 p.m., so make sure you’re interacting during the evening hours.
  • Be creative with promotions. Traditional push marketing messages don’t often work and can ultimately push more users away. Try having fun with your users and in turn this may keep them interested in your brand.

Has your brand had success with a creative, untraditional post in order to gain engagement? Share your experience.

Google+logoBut it’s not all about Facebook (despite what many businesses think). When it comes to engagement businesses need to embrace Google+, as well. A lot of people and businesses still don’t really understand Google+ as a social network and many don’t see its importance because it has less active users than more popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. But it is important. Bottom line. If you’re wondering what’s been going on with Google+, there have been some recent updates to the social network. And like Facebook, there is a method to the madness in trying to generate more engagement and, in turn, helping to grow your business.

Here are some tips to using Google+ to your benefit:

  • Include at least one image. A good picture will stand out more on the newly re-designed network. But make sure it’s a good quality image, that displays correctly. A poor quality image will not be received well by users.
  • A Google+ post is treated by Google like every other page on the web. That means, a post can be ranked and indexed by the search engine and can be displayed with search results to users.
  • Validate your profile. This will enable your image to appear next to a post in search results, which can greater attract attention on search result pages.
  • Include links and hashtags. But use the “featured link” in a Google+ post to increase page rank.

Whether you “get” Google+ or not, it’s important to realize it does help with SEO and search results. As a marketer utilizing this social platform can help generate new business and ultimately more brand loyalty.

What kind of Google+ posts does your organization share? Do you think it’s helping consumers “find” you or learn more about your organization?

Social networks are always changing and as marketers, we need to be seen as recognizing these changes and embracing them, so that our consumers will follow our lead. Social signals are what drive engagement. So, the more people who connect with your brand on social networks will help generate more connections through their other networks. In this social world, we are all connected, so why not become engaged?

Other Resources:

So What The Heck Is The ‘Social Graph’ Facebook Keeps Talking About

The Importance of Facebook’s Graph Search

5 Facebook Posts That Spark Massive Engagement

Why Google+ is an Inevitable Park of Your Content Marketing Strategy

10 Ways Google+ Will Improve Your SEO

How Authorship (and Google+) Will Change Linkbuilding

Twitter: Dos and Don’ts


Despite Twitter’s popularity, I still have people tell me all the time, “I don’t get that Twitter thing” or “I don’t do Twitter” or ask me “What is Twittering?”. These statements or questions usually make me chuckle. Despite the millions of users who engage on Twitter each day and with phrases like “follow me” or “hashtag” becoming part of pop culture, many people and businesses still don’t get it. Here’s my take on some of the best “dos and don’t” when it comes to using Twitter. 

Define Your Goal:

Why is your brand/business on Twitter?

If you only want to push users to your website, you’re missing out. While users may still follow your brand, it’s likely they won’t engage. Users need to view your brand as hub for expert information related to a certain topic, not just a product or service. 

Create Relevant Content:

To become an “expert” in a certain field you need to create relevant content that resonates with the users who follow you. Convey industry messages, not messages that only support your business. An important part of creating relevant content, is nurturing your brand voice. Users should feel like they “know who you are” by tweets. Consistency and knowing your audience will help with this. And make sure those tweeting for your company are knowledgeable, good listeners, and trustworthy. When it comes to content, it’s also important to learn how to be concise. Research shows tweets under 100 characters generate more engagement than the max 140 characters. And remember, content should not be used as a “push” marketing tool. Content should be created to establish and develop relationships. 

Be Responsive:

Respond to everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you run a big business or a small one, every twitter user wants a response if they reach out to a business. Ignoring negative tweets or conversations about your brand or industry will only harm your reputation as an “expert.” 

Use Hashtags (but don’t go crazy):

Hashtags help users find tweets on topics they may be interested in. It’s important to use at least one hashtag per tweet. Research shows brands who use hashtags get more engagement from users. But limit yourself to two hashtags max per tweet. Using more than two, well, is just too much! Twitter also allows you to search for the most popular/relevant hashtags, so keep track of the trends. This can help keep your business in tune with what users are searching for when it comes to certain topics.

Call to Action:

By asking users to “retweet” a tweet, businesses can receive 12 times higher shares than those who don’t provide a call to action. And make sure to spell out “retweet” rather than just use “RT”, because that’s proven to be more useful. This will also help drive your tweets to be more concise. It’s a challenge, but will prove beneficial. 

Be Consistent:

Once your business has a Twitter account, it needs to be managed effectively. This means you’ll need to focus on tweeting interesting content, as well as retweeting relevant posts. And this needs to happen consistently. Your goal should be to be visible on the social network. If you’re not consistent, you’ll be invisible or irrelevant. You need to keep your followers engaged and wanting to come back for more. 

When it comes to using Twitter for your business there are a few things to always remember: don’t go overboard, listen and observe, be authentic, and execute. With any social network it’s not just about utilizing it, your business needs to have a strategy to be successful. 

Do you know which brands have the most engagement on social media? Here’s a link to the top 25. Which brands from the list are you most attracted to and why? 

How does your brand try to grow engagement?

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and the organization I work for Carilion Clinic

Additional Resources:

3 Twitter Engagement Tricks You Should Do Each Day

How to Use Twitter for Business

9 Twitter “Fails” to Avoid

10 Twitter Best Practices for Businesses