Social Concepts

Archive for March 2011

There’s only one way to approach social media if you intend on using it for measurable means. From a business perspective, it’s important to regulate policies and strategize appropriately before dabbling with Twitter and Facebook. It’s important to protect your brand.

This week, I interviewed someone who works on social media compliance for small businesses and large industries, and she explained to me how these industries can appropriately go about utilizing social media without hurting their brands. The Q&A was originally published for Smart Blogs, one of the finance blogs under my internship’s (SmartBrief) umbrella. She gave me so much good information that I figured I’d share it with you all today! Read it after the jump.

As more financial firms use social media, the risk of tainting their image or coming across unethically increases. Companies like Actiance, who focus on social media compliance, can alleviate the strain. SmartBrief’s Linsey Isaacs asked Sarah Carter, vice president of marketing at Actiance, about the many ways financial companies can appropriately manage their social media efforts internally and avoid public conflict. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

What costs are associated with doing social media compliance well? How can small businesses do social media compliance in an affordable way?

The first cost associated with social media compliance is the creation of a policy. This can easily be completed internally — after all, we all have experience with a communications policy. If you’re not able to do this internally, then consider outsourcing it. There are a host of social media policiesfreely available that are a good place to start. Ensure that you piece together an audit plan that goes with your social media policy, there’s little point having a policy, unless you’re able to audit it.

The next cost associated is education — and this is a key element, again this can be undertaken internally, but a regular education program is key to the understanding of your policy. Finally, consider the enforcement of policy with technology solutions. A key element of social media compliance is that of record retention, as well as the control of what individuals, and especially regulated users, can do.

Should companies outsource the handling of their social media, or is it smarter to train someone within the company?

That’s a question that is unique to each company — depending on the expertise and bandwidth available in-house. Many companies with the bandwidth to run their social media channels (post updates, add content, manage Facebook Fans) are taking these operations on in-house, and the practice has benefited them. Selecting an intuitive, easy-to-use solution to manage and report on social media that allows the organization to set policies and also review content is key.

Keeping pace with updates and changes to social media and Web 2.0 tools is challenge most enterprise IT teams are not equipped to tackle. For example, there were 231 individual changes made to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter in one week alone. Ensuring these changes don’t impact an enterprise’s social media channels means constant monitoring and feature control implementation.

What are the biggest risks that come with not managing your social media properly? How can this be prevented?

For many heavily regulated industries such as finance, insurance and health care, the biggest risks of not properly managing and securing social media channels are related to compliance and security. Regulatory bodies, such as FINRA, have already levied hefty fines on firms that have failed to retain records of their social media use and ensure that only pre-approved content is shared (we’ve even now seen the regulatory body in India issuing specific guidelines about the use of social media, so expect even more change in this space).

What many small business owners don’t realize is that most, if not all of their Web 2.0 communication is subject to e-discovery regulations, as its “reasonably discoverable,” and may at some point be required to be produced by law. There are also issues with employees disclosing information via social media that may be proprietary, and in some cases even potentially damaging — in these cases, educating employees about appropriate social media use, then putting technology in place to help monitor that use, is integral to ensuring social media is safely enabled.

The use of third-party content on sites like Facebook and Twitter seems to be a growing issue for many companies. Why is it such a delicate issue and how can it be handled appropriately? Are there any other general mistakes companies are making online?

One of the hardest lessons to learn is how perception of endorsement can impact a business. As an individual, no one thinks twice about re-tweeting an interesting article, or “liking” something on Facebook. But for an organization, this activity can be misconstrued as endorsement. Depending on the type of content that is posted, it can be taken out of context or can be contrary to the organization’s values. Another similar mistake that is often made is when individuals who manage corporate accounts mistakenly post personal content on the corporate account.

The best way to prevent these issues from occurring is to first educate employees on what is appropriate and what is inappropriate to post when acting as a representative of the company. Next, a policy should be developed and implemented to reinforce that message. Finally, technology should be put in place to act as a final checkpoint to prevent questionable information from becoming public information.

How soon should companies draft up a social media policy, and what’s the easiest way for them to do it? What should these policies include?

Obviously, the time to develop social media policies and procedures is before you begin — but the changing nature of social media is such that many enterprises never got the chance to develop best practices before they began using social media. With that said, it’s never too late to educate employees about how to effectively and safely use social media and other Web 2.0 tools on the corporate network.

Many employees are unaware of the security issues social media poses: malware, viruses and malicious links can easily expose the corporate network to serious risks. The first step an employer needs to take is education. Once employees are educated about the risks associated with social media, a written policy must be put in place — it should clearly state what is and is not acceptable use of social media. Finally, once policies and education are under way, technology should be implemented to help enforce those policies and procedures.

Social networks are continuing to explode at phenomenal rates, and media has taken a new turn, as a result. But with this social realm comes a lack of standards to regulate social media in its entirety. The medium is too large with excess variables to accurately watch each Tweet, Facebook post, or forum comment. Among the lack of general standards to sharpen the spectrum is ethics – something that professionals are just merely figuring out in the process.

Industries have just recently started to implement their own set of ethical standards for professionals to abide by, but mistakes are still being made. Take for instance an extreme, blatant ethical dilemma sparked by a media specialist for a major grocery line in upstate New York. After a customer uploaded a picture of Price Chopper, with less than kind words about the service, the PR specialist, who seemed to have had enough of getting negative backlash for the company, went as far as to visit the user’s page to contact their employer and demand some sort of disciplinary action against them.

The actions of this individual crossed the line, and questioned her general morals as a PR professional from an ethical standpoint. But no matter how wrong her mistake was, there was no concrete set of ethical rules for the company in relation to their social media presence, and the specialist was retained against the public cries for her removal from the company.

Price Chopper speaks volumes to the rest of the industries who are slowly presenting their brands on Twitter and Facebook. They lack a set of rules or standards, and can essentially be represented however their employees see fit. The only unified industry standard we see right now that relates to ethics is the notion for professionals to be transparent online. But even that has its pitfalls when not handled correctly.

In 2009, a medical student in training at Syracuse University decided to upload a Facebook photo of a graphic brain surgery. Reports never specified where he got the photo, or how he took it (if he did), but the photo was available to his 260 friends and garnered a few comedic comments. This kind of alleged transparency crossed the line, and although the student did not indicate just who the patient was in the photo, it still was unnecessary exposure both on his behalf, and his university’s. The university investigated the incident, but no actions were taken. Instead, they planned to launch a new campaign to clarify the social policies for their students as they decide to partake in social media.

Other incidents that question just how transparent individuals should be online include potential NPD party candidates in Canada. In order for candidates to join the political party, they were not only required to pay a $15,000 fee but also required to hand over the passwords to their social networks. The party apparently wanted to penetrate through privacy standards on Facebook and Twitter to view the candidate’s profiles themselves. But one candidate refused to divulge the information, claiming that allowing the party to see his page not only violated his privacy rights, but that of his friends, as well.

Unfortunately, there are little to no standards for how professionals should behave on social networks, causing a bevy of issues that damage their brands. Once individual companies band together to create an industry standard for ethics, they can learn how to appropriately be transparent and strategic in their social efforts.

When I first saw this video, I had no words for it. Seriously, I nearly had tears in my eyes and felt sorry for the group of girls, their parents, and their entire family. More so, for all the kids in this generation.

It begs us to question what we’re doing wrong with our youth today, given their actions. Are parents not disciplining them enough? Are they too busy to pay them any attention in the first place?

In my opinion, it’s a little bit of both. These kids are being brought up in the 21st century, an age where technology has taken over our lives. We’ve succumb to this very open lifestyle where we have dozens of outlets to speak our piece and be heard across the nation, all thanks to channels like YouTube, and Vimeo. Just use your smartphone to shoot a quick video, and upload it without your parents’ supervision.

Though there should be more supervision, and more standards when it comes to uploading/downloading things on the web, young individuals are finding their ways around the online universe. What’s worse is that channels like YouTube aren’t necessarily taking these exploitive videos down. It’s a huge ethical question; how liable should online services be held for the actions of children on their sites?

Clearly, parents should be doing more to monitor their children online. But the media and parents should, at least in my opinion, work in tandem with each other. If I were working at YouTube, just as quickly as I would take a video down that evoked racial opposition and a slew of emotions, I’d act quickly to take down a video of underage kids using foul language and acting a fool. A few weeks ago, even, there was a video of a middle-school girl having sex with two classmates. The video circulated on Facebook for about a week, and is now finally taken down. But it should have been taken down as soon as it was uploaded.

These companies should pay much more attention to the content they’re hosting on their sites, especially when it comes to underage children.

It’s hard enough as it is being in an extreme social/technological world with little to no ethical standards, as it is.

(Update) As you can see, it is now April and this video is STILL up. smh.

Just because you have 2 million followers, doesn’t mean you necessarily have 2 million fans. Just ask Soulja Boy!

With 2.7 million followers on Twitter, many who claim to actually like his style of rap, others who mock him; Soulja Boy has gotten the motivation to continue in the rap game, revealing his newest album last year: The Deandre Way. Guess how much it sold?

Like, 13,000 copies first week. Talk about an epic fail.

But this post isn’t to bash the rapper (or whatever you consider him to be).

It’s just to bring light to what many newcomers to social media fail to see: a high number of followers does not necessarily equate to a high number of fans or sales. Sometimes, it’s the quality that matters.

I mean, nowadays you can buy your fans.

I can’t help but laugh. But it’s hilarious. I mean, for just $100, I can get 50,000 new Facebook fans on my fan page. And the site claims that the fans are real people, but that’s always debatable since no one has proved either side yet.

But I can’t convince you all that quantity doesn’t matter as much as quality does. Especially since overseas, banks are competing for followers and fans in the social media world. As if popularity is a metric for social media success. Clearly, it’s not.

Everyone wants to make money, and now that people are starting to see the success of social media influence, they assume that it will automatically bring in the big bucks. But it takes time. It takes an engaging company with an interesting audience. Don’t fall victim to your popularity on these sites; it’s only one metric in determining your value and your influence.

 

I’m not too fond of this Charlie Sheen guy. I never watched Two & a Half Men before; and now that FX is playing it daily to generate more money on the repeats, I decided to give it a shot.

It’s not funny. At least, not as funny as the extremely loud laugh track mistakes it to be. And Charlie Sheen has the same smug look on his face in a number of episodes. It gets kind of old.

But outside of his poor acting capabilities, Sheen sure knows how to stir up some controversy. And I don’t know how de did it, but when he finally decided to take the reins of social media (my guess being that his publicist resigned when he went off the deep end), he took the world by storm.

This guy got 50,000 followers in one day. And I’m not sure if he’s composing ALL of his tweets, but they’re actually good tweets.

I mean…he’s borderline funny.

So what the heck is it that he’s doing right? Besides his famous name, why can’t I even get 1,000 followers just after hitting “join”?

Picking apart his timeline, I found that his forthright, brutal honesty laced with some jokes is a recipe for an interesting form of entertainment. So I suppose that he deserves the attention, at least the superficial type online, that he’s getting.

I mean, he’s branded the whole #winning hashtag, and uses trending topics with ease. He uploads photos that represent his boundary-pushing lifestyle. He’s like a parody account, seriously. Here, you won’t find any tweets about him going to the store. Or going to sleep. Or some other mundane task that needs no tweet.

The best part is that he’s looking for a social media intern. (Let’s all take a pause and laugh).

Ok, I’ve composed myself. Charlie Sheen is looking for an intern who possesses ALL the tiger blood in the world. But in reality, that’s not a bad look. If this potential intern can turn his social media world into a small empire, and recreate his image, just imagine where they’ll go from their brief stint working with him. That’s a MAJOR resume booster. And it’ll be a good learning environment, allowing this individual to take over Charlie Sheen’s presence on social media. It’ll allow them to evaluate how he’s doing right now, and then set his own benchmarks to take Sheen to the next level. This intern will be doing it all.

So we can hate on Charlie Sheen all we want. And we can laugh at the future intern he hires. But if they are able to recreate this guy’s image while simultaneously creating a sound presence for him on the web, then they’re in great shape.



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