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Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Posts Tagged ‘facebook

Demanding Employee Social Media Logins May Create Big PR Problems

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Companies who force their current and potential employees to divulge their private social media logins and passwords may be setting themselves up for big public relations problems.

Several news stories in recent days and weeks have explored the increasing numbers of employees and job seekers reporting that their bosses are demanding access to their Facebook user names and passwords, so they can check up on what they are doing online.

Now HiringA story by MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan describes how applicants for jobs as corrections officers in Maryland were forced to log in to their Facebook accounts during the job interview, so that the employer could search the applicant’s photos for signs of gang affiliation.

The same story also described how the North Carolina state government asked applicants for clerical jobs to provide their Facebook usernames and passwords.

Now there seems to be some pushback against these kinds of demands. Mashable’s Sarah Kessler reports that Facebook may go so far as to initiate legal action against employers who demand their employees give up their login information to the social media site.

Meanwhile, politicians are getting involved as well. Politico’s Tony Romm reports that Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is writing legislation to prohibit the practice of demanding access to the social media sites of their current or potential employees.

I think employers certainly have a right to expect professional behavior from their workers. It’s also a prudent move for companies to check out a job seeker’s public Facebook page or Twitter feed. But the kind of heavy-handed intrusiveness discussed here, however, betrays a fundamental mistrust of their employees. And it brings them a whole lot of negative publicity that could have been avoided.

Companies who feel compelled to spy on the people they hire may find their best workers heading for the door. Once they’re gone, of course, the former employees are then free to use social media to cause all manner of public relations problems for their old companies.

If I were advising companies on their social media and hiring policies, I would strongly recommend they stay away from forcing people to open up their private lives. It’s much easier to leave the door shut than to open it and then regret the negative publicity that may result.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

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Written by Charles Primm

March 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Facebook Timeline Can Help PR Tell the Never-Ending Story

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Facebook logoOne of the theories of communication that has had a big impact on me in graduate school is “narrative theory.” The theory, described in the SAGE Reference service, states that humans are natural story tellers. Using narratives to make sense of the world is so basic to human experience that people can really be described as Homo narrans, or “story-telling human.”

I write this because I think the new Facebook Timeline is a surprisingly powerful way for Facebook to insert itself into the ongoing narratives of its users’ lives.

Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional trip down memory lane? I certainly do, and I must say that combing through my personal information and Wall posts in preparation for the switch to the Timeline resulted in a series of “blasts from the past,” looking at old photos and remembering friendships that have strengthened over tine and those that faded away over the years.

This powerful impact is not limited to individual users. Facebook recently opened up the Timeline format to brands, which makes perfect sense. Narrative flow has always been a powerful tool for advertisers looking to change or strengthen brand loyalty.

The Timeline format also holds promise for public relations practitioners, according to Tonya Garcia of PRNewser. Her article, “Four Reasons PR Pros Will Love Facebook Timeline for Brands,” highlights how public relations can work alongside marketing to help tell and shape the story of their organization. As a company reaches milestones in its growth and development, for example, its Timeline can help strengthen its relationships with stakeholders in a compelling way, establishing contexts and promoting the organization through its unique story.

If we humans are really Homo narrans, then the Facebook Timeline is just the sensible next step in our ongoing evolution, telling a story that never has to end.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Social Shaming in the Era of Social Media

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Morality is defined as the distinction between right and wrong, between good and bad behavior, and how these distinctions affect behavior.

Humans are moral beings, with highly-honed senses of right and wrong and an inclination to enforce good behavior while punishing bad behavior. A Slate article on a new book by Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” explores how a sense of morality is one of the ways to understand political behavior and how people choose their political party affiliation.

Haidt’s book proposes that both Republicans and Democrats are interested in equality. Republicans are more motivated by equality of opportunity, while Democrats are more motivated by equality of outcomes. And since all of us think of ourselves as moral, those in the other political party, by default, are “immoral,” thus much easier for us to demonize.

I was thinking about this sense of morality when I read a Lifehacker article by Adam Dachis on “How to Deal With People Who Cut In Line.” I suspect that, for most of us, witnessing someone cut in line is the kind of moral transgression we’re more likely to see over the course of a day.

Social Shaming, Social Media | Image via Slate.comAnd as more of us use our smartphones to “check in” on Foursquare while waiting in line for our morning latte, I have to wonder: are we more likely or less likely to notice line-cutters?

Even though our phones are a source of distraction as much as information, I suspect that the “fairness” switch in our heads stays on, and we would still be likely to catch on if someone cuts in front of us in line.

Which asks the question: if we witness someone cutting line, what are we going to do about it?

More of us, it seems, are taking the opportunity to enforce social norms with a bit of “social shaming.” Blogger Chirag Mehta shares the story of Joshua Kaufman, whose MacBook was stolen one day. The laptop already had tracking software installed, just in case it was stolen, so Kaufman was able to track the laptop’s location and use the software to take webcam pictures of the thief. He shared the story, along with the pictures, via his Twitter feed and Facebook page, and the thief was caught.

So the next time I’m standing line, smartphone at the hip, and someone cuts in line, should I quickdraw, Tweeting pics and text about the immoral line-cutter? Adam Dachis would say “not so fast.”

His advice for when this happens:

1) Analyze the line.

Maybe the line-cutter just got confused and thought it was a rugby scrum instead of a polite queue, or maybe the instructions are confusing. Maybe there is no line at all.

2) Resist the urge to get angry.

If you show off your bad manners and scream at them, it makes you look like a loser.

3) Ask someone else if they saw what you saw, and if they agree, that’s the moment to politely confront the cutter and motion them to the back of the line.

Social shaming can be a very big hammer, so try not to use it if you’re confronted with a very small nail. Once you tweet and post a rant, it cannot easily be taken back. Besides, like all good moral beings, your friends may be motivated to punish your bad behavior with a little social shaming of their own.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Is Facebook Gunning for Pinterest?

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Friendsheet, a Facebook app that was released in January, got a big publicity boost this week when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “liked” it on his Facebook Timeline.

Zuckerberg “likes” a lot of things, but with the eyes of the social media world constantly watching him, a stamp of approval such as this immediately gets noticed.

Mashable’s Brian Anthony Hernandez reported that one possible explanation of why this was noteworthy is that the app takes images from a person’s Facebook news feed and displays them in a way that is oddly reminiscent of Pinterest, the “it” social media network of 2012.

PinterestMy only thought upon reading this was “what took them so long?” As the hot new social media network, the leadership team at Pinterest has to know they have a lovely red capital-P-shaped bulls-eye painted on their backs. Pinterest’s user base growth is phenomenal, prompting not only envy among the other big social media sites, but perhaps some reverse engineering to try and steal a little of its magic.

It’s obviously too soon to tell if Friendsheet will lead to mass defections from Pinterest’s user base, but the upstart social site has to know that the clock is ticking if it wants to grow “too big to be bought.”

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm

A New Definition of Public Relations

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The Public Relations Society of America recently announced on its “PRSAY” blog that it had updated its official definition of “public relations.”

PRSA didn’t make this decision by executive fiat; it put the issue to a public vote. The top three definitions were posted to the PRSA website and votes were tallied over a two-week period.

The winning definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

As I have discussed before, there has been a struggle among PR professors as to what public relations is “really all about.” Some believe that the core of PR is rhetoric, the classical exchange of persuasive arguments, while others believe the fundamental organizing principle is the cultivation and management of relationships.

Each side of this argument can take heart from the newly-announced modern definition of PR. Rhetoricians can point to the phrase “strategic communication process” to make their case, since rhetoric is something that never stops. It’s an ongoing process of persuasion and counter-persuasion in the public square.

Meanwhile, relationship proponents can cheer because the word “relationships” is front and center in the new definition. And for those who know their PR scholarship, professor James Grunig of the University of Maryland has to be smiling at the inclusion of the words “mutually beneficial,” echoing his groundbreaking work on the two-way symmetrical model of PR.

Social media has a crucial role to play in the future development of both persuasive communication and the management of relationships. As Shel Holtz recently wrote in PR Daily, social media is changing the way that PR practitioners persuade their organization’s publics. For example, the tried-and-true news release is fading in importance, replaced by the well-timed Tweet or Facebook post. And social media itself is bringing together organizations and their publics in a human, one-on-one way as never before.

The old definition of PR had stood since 1982. With each year bringing new ways to connect and communicate, I suspect it won’t take thirty years to do this all over again. We will have no choice.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

The British are Tweeting! The British are Tweeting!

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For many years, America has been the dominant international source of media and entertainment for countries throughout the world.

Movies, television shows, magazines and newspapers created in the United States have certainly had a major impact, sharing the American point of view and this country’s way of life to people who might never otherwise meet an American.

But that dominance may be about to end, thanks to social media. And the big winner seems to be Britain.

A new infographic published by Mashable on the “most viral news sources in the world” indicates that British media outlets BBC and the Guardian are numbers 1 and 2 on the list of media sources whose stories are getting more than 100 mentions on Twitter. On Facebook, the BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Mail are numbers 2, 3 and 4 on the list of media outlets whose stories are getting more than 100 “shares,” with the US-based Huffington Post in first place.

Is this a new “British Invasion” in the making? It certainly seems so.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Facebook Timeline: Your ‘Long Tail’ is Longer Than You Think

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As Facebook converts more of its user accounts to the new “Timeline” format, we citizens of what the Atlantic magazine terms “Facebookistan” have had to make some hard choices.

The timeline format displays, in chronological order, almost everything a person has ever done on the site, including pictures, links to articles, comments on or “liking” of others’ pictures and articles, and which celebrities and consumer brands they follow.

Facebook gives each person a bit of a grace period—some time to review the information on their timeline before publishing it to the web. For many of us, that means we have had to browse through a great deal of content, perhaps more than we remembered creating.

Looking down my timeline, skimming past all the content I knew I was going to have to edit, I was reminded of “the long tail,” one of my favorite concepts from the realms of both business and communication.

Chris Anderson wrote about the long tail in a Wired magazine article, and described it as a special kind of demand curve.

The Long Tail (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)In this graph, the green-shaded area to the left represents things that are in high demand, and the yellow-shaded area to the right represents things that are in low demand. The volumes of the two areas are roughly equivalent. In a business context, the aggregate demand for the plentiful low-demand items is around the same as the aggregate demand for the scarce high-demand items.

In editing my Facebook past for public consumption, I discovered that the timeline was looking awfully like a “long tail” as well. There were lots of entries packed into a short time period for the last two years. Beyond that, each month had fewer and fewer items, but the timeline just seemed to stretch on and on and on. I had no idea I’d spent so much of my life in social media.

According to the long tail theory, if I had a dollar for every social media activity I ever engaged in since I signed up for Facebook, I’d be twice as wealthy as if I had just recently signed up. So I think I’ll keep looking in the mailbox for my check from Mark Zuckerberg. I bet it won’t take that long. Not long at all.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm