Ello, the anti-Facebook

Over the past year, or so, there has been a lot of buzz, then lull, the buzz again about the social network, Ello.  If you know much about it, you are familiar with their manifesto:

ello manifesto

This is the crux of social media right now, in order to participate on most platforms — there seems to be an extra bit of animosity towards Facebook for this — you are giving up your privacy rights and at the mercy of data collection.  Not so with Ello.  They have even bound themselves legally to never make money from selling either ads or user data.

The real question for Ello, though, isn’t necessarily their reasoning, although there are some who question why they’ve taking funding from corporate donors.  The real question is whether users will go there and stay there and be social there.  After all, without an audience, a social network is doomed to fail.  Let’s all take a moment of silence for Google+.

Just a few weeks ago Ello’s founder, Paul Budnitz, didn’t show up to SXSW.  You’d think there would’ve been more of a concern about this, but according to International Business Times, some folks responded with praise for Ello’s concept of ad-free, data mining-free social space saying things like, “I think there’s a slow realization that if you don’t pay for the product then you are the product — understandably, because people have to monetize.” And, “I hate Zuckerberg and all his minions. I use Ello.” 

So, while it’s clear that Ello definitely has an audience, what are they going to do with it?  Well, just a few days ago, they secured another $5 Million in additional funding.  Which means that they most certainly do not intend to go gently into that good night.

If Ello were to catch on on a wider scale, their sort of mentality could change the face of social media, and indeed the internet altogether.  Think about it: what would we do, as digital marketers, if a majority of users suddenly became self-aware of all the data that is being collected about them, and they weren’t happy about it?  Now, I don’t see this happening any time soon, but Ello does stand poised to take away some of Facebook’s audience.  Will they?  Only time will tell.

A year from now we’ll either all be on Ello, or starting conversations with, “Remember Ello?”

What do you think?  Will Ello rise up and be a big player in social media, or remain a niche network?  Please share your experiences with Ello in the comments.

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Ethics Involved in Publishing Graphic Images

In a day and age where terrorists are decapitating people and posting the videos of it on the internet, the question of what is ethical to publish on social media is a very important and timely one.  There can be no doubt, access to these kinds graphic images are readily available to those who want to see them.  However, is it ethical to publish graphic images on social media not knowing who may, unsuspectingly, come across them in their news feed?  Is it ethical to publish them at all?

As a mom, my mind immediately went to the images of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.  There were many graphic images of pain and chaos of children posted during and after the tragic event.

While the ones shown here are not of the carnage and death we have become so used to associating with these sorts of acts of violence, those images can easily be found by Googling for them.  The images here are still graphic, in their depiction of the fear and pain from that frightful day.

In the aftermath of the event, there was much debate over the release of the crime scene photos with people like filmmaker Michael Moore insisting the photos needed to be released to turn people against the National Rifle Association (NRA).  He said in a blog post, “And when the American people see what bullets from an assault rifle fired at close range do to a little child’s body, that’s the day the jig will be up for the NRA.”

The parents of the victims, however, petitioned to block the graphic crime scene photos’ release.  Nicole Hockley, a parent of one of the victims, said, “We worry about copycat killers and the traumatic effect the material could have on people. Veteran first responders who saw what happened were completely traumatized.”

When the Connecticut lawmakers put together a compromise to, initially, ban the photos, the reaction was mixed.  Many proponents of the first amendment, including attorney Daniel J. Klau, were not in favor of the ban, despite the graphic nature of the photos of the murdered children.  He said, “It was definitely a step backwards for a state that was historically a leader to suddenly judge itself as among the most restrictive states.”

In the end, the report was released.  The information was available to those who wanted to see it.  So was this a victory for the First Amendment, or a blatant disregard for the victims’ families wishes?  Perhaps it was both.

I think the feelings and wishes of the victims’ families of tragic events need to be honored, when possible.  However, if these images are available, the press does have a right to request them, and they should be available.  It’s then up to the press to decide whether they should broadcast these images, or not, and this is the point where the victims’ families feelings should be taken into consideration.

I also think this horrific incident underscores that we can’t control how others use images once they are made public.  Michael Moore is inferring that he would use them for a kind of anti-gun propaganda.  Is that honoring to the victims?

There will always be ethical issues to wrestle with when deciding to publish graphic images.  There will always be shades of gray when making those decisions.  The best course of action really is to weigh the need to share the images against the effect they will have both on the victims’ families and the public when sharing them.

What do you think?  What do you think the litmus test should be regarding when to share graphic images?

Moderating Social Media Comments

Comment keyboard key. Finger

Moderating comments is thought of as a bit of an art form in the social media world.  How to best communicate with the irate customer or dissatisfied user?  I would encourage you to look back at my blog on reputation management for a list of key components to a social media crisis plan because many of those points are also relevant when moderating comments, and I’m not just talking about the negative ones.

I think the best way to understand how to moderate comments, is to look at what other brands are doing.  Just go on Twitter and Facebook and read through a company’s few posts.  You’ll, inevitably find some negative comments and their responses.  Some good industries to look at for this are airlines; two of my favorite are KLM and JetBlue.  Hotel chains and restaurants are good companies to look at, too.  It’s like many thing in social media: learn from what your competition is doing and try to do it better.

One thing to think about when moderating comments:  What you say and do online when addressing a user’s comments is as much for those folks reading it as it is for the person who wrote it.  Other customers will see how you respond to others, and this will have an effect on how they view your brand.  So, even if you are in a bad situation with no hope of helping or bringing understanding to the complainer, you can still help your brand by providing clear, calm words that instill confidence in the service you’re providing, as an arm of the customer service, for the brand.

So, now let’s take a look at a couple of practical examples of moderating comments.  How should we moderate the following audience/customer comments if left on your organization’s Facebook page?

To a hotel:
“I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

Here is one way to respond:
“Hi, <insert first name here>.  Thanks so much for reaching out to us and letting us know about this situation.  What you’ve described is not up to our standards, and I’ve contacted the manager at that location to make sure he looks into it right away.  If there’s anything else you’d like to share with us about your dining experience, please follow this link to a private chat: <insert link to customer feedback chat here>.  We appreciate your feedback and look forward to having another opportunity to raise our level of service with you. Thank you. <am>”

What did here with my response:

  • I let her know I heard her.
  • I used a conversational and calm voice.
  • I did not apologize, because I don’t know all of the facts, but…
  • I let her know it is being looked into.
  • I took the conversation out of the public view.  This is especially important if there are more bad details for her to share.  We would want to know about them, so they can be addressed, but not have them posted on Facebook.
  • I reassured her that we would do better next time.
  • I signed the post with my initials, letting her know she’s dealing with a real, trackable person.  This can help establish or build some trust with the complaining customer.

Now, a negative comment doesn’t mean that a customer won’t come back.  In fact, if that comment is handled well and the customer feels heard, you may end up with an even stronger brand loyalty from that customer.  However, sometimes, there is nothing you can say or do that will take away a customer’s negative opinion.  In those cases, it is even more important that you remain calm and take take the conversation off of social media, into a private conversation elsewhere.

Now, let’s look at an example of a comment made to a mainstream news network: 

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

(We will assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

Here is one way to respond:

“Hi, <insert first name here>.  Covering the Middle East is a challenging thing, with all of the heightened emotions connected with this subject, but we at <insert channel ID here> always strive for excellence in our coverage with unbiased reporting.  Looking back last night’s report, the coverage did give equal time to both sides.  However, we will continue to listen to the feedback of our viewers to help us improve.  We appreciate you taking the time to share your views with us.<am>”

Why I responded the way I did:

  • You’ll notice I did not delete the comment due to the profanity.  I’ll talk more about that in a moment.
  • I recognized the emotion involved in his response due to the sensitive subject matter.
  • I corrected, gently, his misstatement about biased, unequal coverage.  If there are fact involved that are misstated, it is (usually) right and important to correct them.
  • I let him know we are open to all feedback — even criticism — which helps the brand look more human.
  • I thanked him.  Remember, social media is made for conversations.  Being able to respond to negative comments without loosing your head, shows brand strength.

Why didn’t I delete the comment due to the profanity, even though it was, essentially bleeped-out?  Personally, I hate any use of all profanity, but in this case, the comment is made on Facebook.  I think responding on Facebook is actually different than doing something like moderating a comment on your own discussion board or blog, and it’s important to try to not be too heavy-handed in such a public setting.  Also, the profanity needs to be looked at in context, believe it or not.  Is it threatening?  No.  Is it attacking?  No.  The user is just REALLY frustrated.  He is creating his own brand for himself for other users to see in using the profanity.  When you, as the moderator, respond with understanding and kindness — especially in the face of a comment that contains profanity — you create an opportunity to elevate your brand to the other readers.

What do you think?  Would you have left the profanity, or deleted it?  Do you consider Facebook and other social media sites to be different than your own personal blog or website discussion boards?  Should there be different standards when moderating?

Reputation Management

Reputation management is a tricky thing in today’s social media landscape.  While the days of rogue tweets being sent out by an employee seem to be much fewer than in previous years, the power of social media when it comes to a brand’s reputation is huge.

The best thing a brand can do to be prepared for times of crisis is to have a solid plan in place.  Having strategies in hand whether you’re dealing with a disgruntled customer or employee, or are on the wrong side of a trending hashtag, are crucial if you want to make the best of of a bad situation.

Key components to a social media crisis plan are:

  • Reply swiftly.
    • People don’t just want a quick reply, they expect one.  Not replying quickly is equated to not caring.
  • Acknowledge you are listening.
    • Even if you’re in a holding position, let them know they’ve been heard.
  • Be honest about your mistakes.
    • Did you make a mistake?  If so, apologize.
  • Be human.
  • Write like you would talk to them if they were in the same room with you.
    • “I’m sorry… “ “I know how you must feel..” “We will work to make sure this will never happen again…”
  • Explain why it happened, and explain your course of action.
    • What will you do, and what have you already put in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Follow up afterwards
    • This isn’t always done, but following up after the crisis has ended is an added layer of customer care.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks had such an occasion to test out their social media crisis plan on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  After their incredible comeback win against the Green Bay Packers in overtime of the NFC championship game, the Seattle Seahawks posted a photo of their inspirational quarterback, Russell Wilson, as an MLK Day tribute on Twitter.

Here is a copy of the tweet:

They later deleted the tweet.

Many folks responded very negatively on social media, expressing negative comments that the Seahawks would compare winning a football game to the fight for civil rights.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 15.07.35

This was just one of many, many tweets admonishing the Seattle Seahawks for what many believed was a poor choice of a MLK Day tie-in.

The Seahawks then issued this apology:

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 15.05.24

After which there were more mixed comments.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 15.05.11

So, let’s evaluate their response, based on the key components listed above.

  • Reply swiftly.
    • The Seahawks posted the initial tweet at 2:45 and by 4:28 had issued their apology.
  • Acknowledge you are listening.
    • Deleting the tweet and issuing the apology also does this.
  • Be honest about your mistakes.
    • They even used the words “We apologize.”
  • Be human.
    • The Seahawks were clear that they did not intend to make the comparison to civil rights.
  • Write like you would talk to them if they were in the same room with you.
    • They didn’t sound detached; they used a tone that was sincere. (and I’m a Packers fan!)
  • Explain why it happened, and explain your course of action.
    • Again, they said they didn’t intend to make the comparison of a football game to civil rights.
  • Follow up afterwards
    • I didn’t find any follow up.  I don’t think it was necessary in this case because the offended party wasn’t just one person.  To have followed up after their apology may have reminded folks of their mistake after the crisis had dies down.

Based on their reaction, the Seahawks clearly had a plan in place to deal with a social media crisis, or, at the very least, had a team in place to deal with the crisis when it happened.

What do you think?  Did the Seahawks do the right thing?  Would you have responded differently?

I Trust Mike Rowe

Questions about the Trust

What is trust, exactly? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as, “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.” It then goes on further to say trust is “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something one in which confidence is placed; dependence on something future or contingent.” I think this is why the notion of trust on social media is such a hard thing to define.  In terms of trusting an individual online, it’s hard to feel those feelings for people you haven’t spent time with.  So how do we determine whom to trust online?

Steve Rayson, in an article on Social Media Today takes a look at the equation authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith argue for in their book “Trust Agents.” They say the formula for trust is:

Influence + Reputation = Trust

Rayson gives his reasons for a new formula:

social media trust formula-white-160

(Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy) / Self-Promotion = Trust

I didn’t feel like their formulas represented why I trust people and companies on social media, so I tried to rewrite the formula myself.  Not liking the inclusion of self-promotion, I scrapped it.  Some of my favorite personalities online self-promote, and unless it’s the only thing a person does, it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, if it weren’t for their self-promotion I’d probably never have heard about them in the first place!  Then I replaced Authority with Credibility, Helpfulness with being Interesting, and Intimacy with Honesty.  This is what I came up with:

Credibility + Interesting + Honesty = Trust

Now, I wasn’t really good at math in high school, so I tend to feel like formulas like these are pretty good guides, but they can’t always explain why we trust who we do online.  I started to ponder, who do I trust on social media, and why?

I remembered a post I had read on Facebook from television personality, Mike Rowe.  It was about a liquor store owner who posted photos of shoplifters he’d caught on camera in his store as a deterrent to others.  Here’s the post.

Photo from Mike Rowe’s Facebook page

Now, I don’t agree with everything he says, I really don’t like any use of profanity, and I don’t follow him on social media, but whenever I’ve seen his statuses shared on Facebook or read an article about something he’d written there, I’ve always appreciated his voice.  I like that he’s real.  Can there be a formula for that?

From a business/marketing standpoint, his Twitter profile seems to be purely re-posts of his Facebook content, which isn’t an effective use of that platform.  But from a trust standpoint, I don’t care.  When he posts something on Facebook that is newsworthy, I read it, and I appreciate it.  His down-to-earth “everyman” persona on Facebook has become a bit of an anomaly to me.  He’s controversial, but he’s not mean.  I like that he comments on hot-topics and points out things that rub him the wrong way in our politically-correct society.  I find it refreshing from a celebrity, and that has led to my trust.   He is honest and entertaining.   As a result, I find myself interested in his television projects and foundation more.  So, my re-written equation actually applies.

Credibility + Interesting + Honesty = Trust

But the real equation that matters is:

My Trust = My Support

If I trust you online, I’ll support you.  I’ll watch your movies or television shows or buy your book.  I may even give to your favorite cause, if it lines up with my values.  The point is, trust is a valuable thing to gain on social media.

I’d like to hear from you!  What do you think of my formula?  Have you ever trusted someone on social media that you find it hard to explain why?

Terms and Conditions Do Apply

Handwritten Underlined Terms and Conditions Texts

Have you read the writing on the wall?  How about the Terms and Conditions for your favorite social media sites?  Well, whether you’ve read them or not, if you’ve checked that “accept” button and are using the site, they apply to you.

I think most of us feel about website Terms and Conditions the way that comic, Eddie Izzard, describes in this video.

For the purpose of learning more about social media sites’ Ts & Cs, I read through Facebook’s and Twitter’s and some others, as well.  I’ll be taking a closer look at the User Agreement for LinkedIn.  I chose this document out of all of the ones I read through, because I felt it took the most balanced approach.

First of all, I really like the format. LinkedIn tries to communicate to the user in easy-to-digest bites of information and organizes it with a sidebar, whose only purpose is to help explain what they’ll be covering in each section.  If you took a look at Facebook’s  or Twitter’s Ts & Cs, you know that that is not always the case.

LinkedIn Terms and ConditionsI also like how LinkedIn seems to be trying to use real conversational language in their Ts & Cs whenever possible.  From an ethical perspective, this is important because I think it shows that the company is making its best effort to make sure their Ts & Cs are not just binding, but understood.  The inclusion of this video at the top of the page also helps communicate that to their users.

In terms of safeguards, LinkedIn is very clear that, “When you share information, others can see, copy and use that information.”  They also make it very clear in their Disclaimer and Limit of Liability that they are not liable for any damages, loss of services, opportunities, reputation, data, profits or revenues related to their services.  Here’s where is gets tricky.  After having read through so many of these Ts & Cs, I now look at them as the contracts that they are.  Companies, like LinkedIn, should be allowed to protect themselves by making statements like these in their Ts & Cs.  Otherwise, they’d never be able to operate.

Terms and Conditions wordle

It’s certainly a balancing act that sites like LinkedIn are doing in their Ts & Cs.  For the most part, I think LinkedIn is doing a great job of both protecting themselves while explaining to their users the best way to conduct their business on their site.

It’s true.  Their List of user “Do’s” is much shorter than the “Don’t,” but as I read through them, I felt that they are reasonable, which is more than I can say for many others!

So, read the Ts & Cs of the sites you are a part of.  Are there any that stick out to you as being outrageous?  Which social site do you think has the best Ts & Cs?

My Introduction to Social Media Ethics

holding hands

Greetings!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  My name is AnnMarie.   I’m a wife, mom, avid reader and sometimes writer, and I have a secret desire to someday be a polyglot.  When not online (and often in conjunction with being) you can find me cheering on my favorite sports teams.  Currently, I work directly with non-profit organizations, helping them tell their story in this digital world.   This blog is, primarily, a reflection of my curiosity about how to help brands and organizations form lasting relationships with customers, volunteers, and donors via social and digital media platforms.

While I was not an early adopter of the social media phenomenon like folks like Gary Vaynerchuk, once I joined the social media party, I became one of the most enthusiastic participants.  Now I’m the host!  As a professional, I think it’s always important to keep learning in this field.  The landscape is always changing, but many key concepts are lasting.  Recently, I’ve become more interested in the ethics involved in social media and digital publishing, so for the next several months that will also be one of the focuses of this blog.  What’s okay to publish, tweet, share, etc, and what’s not?   How do those choices effect people, brands, and the world around us?  I am fascinated by the the legal ramifications of ethical social media choices, but also how they effect things like brand loyalty.

Since I currently work with a viewer-supported television station and also a private school, things like privacy and copy write issues are usually my biggest ethical challenges.  What are the biggest social media ethical challenges with your clients?