Public reviews and brand reputation

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Your online presence, and what people say about you online, can make or break your brand!

One can’t blame Aristotle for advising a low profile in order to avoid criticism. The Ancient Greek philosopher, renown for his wisdom, could not have envisioned the Internet and the importance of branding, online reviews and customer service has on one’s personal or business reputation.


Today, an angry customer, or a handful of disenchanted patrons can wreak havoc on your business with a few taps on a keyboard. According to Pew Research Center 82% of American consumers will at sometime consult an online review, and 42% regularly do so before buying a product or contracting a service. Moreover, other research data suggests that of the online reviews read or consulted, close to 90% believe what they read.

A snapshot of Pew Research Center's research on social media behavior

A snapshot of Pew Research Center’s research on social media behavior

Any business, with or without an online presence, needs to pay attention. Doing nothing may result in declining sales, influence and irreparable harm to your reputation. Some businesses are so concerned with bad reviews, they include a charge to the customer for writing a bad notice, as one British hotelier infamously did. A Yelp poster claims to being sued by a business over her posted opinion. The paranoid idea to censor and control reviews via a monetary penalty is not a well-thought-out policy and one which can easily result in disastrous, notorious, not to mention viral results against one’s business brand.

As a consumer, I too look at reviews and consider the totality of all the opinions. I’ve also resorted to social media when I have experienced genuine issues, such as the time one national hotel chain charged me for removing pillows I did not take. After several attempts to resolve the issue via phone calls, I went online to achieve resolution. Read that story here.

The simple fact is your business will never please everyone. There is always going to be that one who wants to kick up a fuss, find fault, try to wrangle a refund or a discount. There are no absolutes. Things happen, pieces break off, crack. A server or service clerk might experience a bad day, etc.  A squeaky wheel however, can do damage.  If the situation ever gets out of hand and you need to do damage control, there are reputation management services that can help.

Here are some suggestions to managing your brands reputation:

  1.  Create a Google Alert for the name of your business or organization.  For a fictional landscape company, “Acme Landscaping” would be a term, “Acme Landscaping Delaware” and “Acme Landscaping Lewes, Delaware” might be another. Anytime the terms in quotes gets a mention online, such as a Yelp review, the owner or manager would receive a notification in their email. Google Alerts is almost as good as having a paid social media manager on board.
  2. Hire a social media manager. Full or part-time, if you can afford to do so – a work-at-home employee who can keep tabs on Google Alerts, online reviews and comments. In 2015, one of the nation’s largest retailers, Target, fell asleep at the social media wheel. During a controversy about combining boys and girls toys into one gender-neutral toy section, customers misunderstood the announcement and the reaction was politicized.Confused customers registered their concern on social media, primarily on Target’s Facebook page. Some clever (and I must admit hilariously feisty person) created a new Facebook profile called “Target Customer Service”  and another  “Ask for Help” and evidently snitched the red and white circle logo and uploaded it as a profile picture, and went about replying to each and every customer comment in an irreverent manner (see an example below). This person went on and on — for days!  To summarize in polite terms, the troll told Target customers (in various iterations) to take a hike! The Internet had a field day enjoying his antics. The troll’s response did not have the verified blue check mark, but customers didn’t notice that small detail and voiced outrage at the customer response they received. Target’s customer phone lines started ringing off the hook, thus alerting them to the problem, which had become viral.

    A fake Target troll caused the retailer havoc in 2015. Image: AdWeek.com/

    Target troll dolls

    Target’s response to the situation was spot on with a dose of good, self-effacing humor. Crisis averted! Source: AdWeek.com

  3. Was there anything wrong?  Ask your customers if they are unhappy with anything. Head the complaints off at the pass by asking your customer – in person – at the point of service. Don’t just take their money and send them off. Sincerely, convey to your customers that their opinion matters, and do it sooner than later. You can’t really do that effectively with a table tent card on the night stand or by asking them to fill out an online survey. Those are fine to do, but make a connection, if at all possible, at check out — as they hand you their money — and exploit the possibility to cool off a percolating issue. Show them you really care. As a result, they won’t stew over it on the ride home and blast you over the issue with pent-up anger.
  4. Celebrate positive remarks and reviews. Send a thank you. Share it on social media. Consider a feature area in your brick and mortar business where you print out and display positive feedback. Have a testimonial page on your website.
  5. Do not ignore an online review or comment. This means you must monitor the locations where these disgruntled feelings are often expressed. Facebook, Yelp, Google Reviews, Trip Advisor, etc. As soon as you learn about the complaint, respond immediately and personalize the response.  Customer: “Your spaghetti was lousy! I will never eat here again!” You: “Dear [customer name], We are so sorry you had that experience! We have served this dish for many years and have enjoyed great reviews! Please contact us (or name) at email address or phone number so we can get more details from you.”
  6. Take the conversation offline. In the above example, the best response is to offer a direct way to communicate with the customer and resolve the issue the best way you can. If the issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, ASK, don’t INSIST, that they follow up their comment or edit their original review accordingly. Don’t ask them to delete the comment. It’s been seen. The public will think you took it down. People will be watching how you respond. Be a class act.
  7. Do not delete comments, exceptions are expletive language or non-sequitur comments about politics or religion or get-rich-at-home schemes that are not germane to your business.
  8. Create a “what-if” script for every imaginable scenario. Use it as a guideline and train your employees who deal with the public on how issues ought to be  addressed. The script provides a guide from which you customize and personalize a response. Don’t write the same response verbatim and repeat it over and over. You want  to deliver an authentic, not canned response, and if possible, a personalized one.
  9. Create a social media policy for staff. As with the above example, make your employee’s code of conduct crystal clear regarding your brand and social media presence. Have a lawyer review. What can they say about your brand or business on their own social media accounts? If you have a website, post your mission statement and your business philosophy. Assure that your employees understand this mission and speaks to the public in the voice and tone you have established for your organization. We’ve all seen the horrible receipts created by vendors or waitstaff, as well as customers who write awful comments instead of tips. You can’t control what a customer will say, but you must make your policies loud and clear to your staff on what is or is not acceptable. Review and train, learn from mistakes, discuss them, train some more. Seriously consider a crisis plan for your organization or business.
  10. Own and control social media access. Open social media accounts with an email you control. Assure that there are multiple administrators should an employee leave for any reason.You don’t want them to have the only access. Control multiple platforms with a management software such as Hootsuite or TweetDeck which allow employees to post and monitor without knowing the account password. Speak with a consistent voice. First person? Serious, funny, quirky, off-centered? Thorough staff training is essential.
  11. Admit the mistake. Commit to improvement. A humble, “Oops, we goofed!” or “Looks like we dropped the ball on that one!” is an authentic and honest response that people will respect. Don’t advertise publicly what you did to make it good. If you decided not to charge, or gave a substantial discount, you might attract imitators. Encourage that customer to publicly  voice the resolution. In most cases, a sincere apology and a dose of self-effacing humor goes a long way to restoring customer faith and respect.
  12. Respond in kind. Someone posts a hidden video at your place of business? Respond with a short video showing your side of the discussion and your values. Use the same headline the detractor used, so when it is searched online, your video will appear alongside it. For example, if someone posts a picture of an employee being cruel to an animal, and that video is going viral, immediately get the owner or a spokesperson up on a video, responding with a heart-felt apology. State the action you took, and the measures you are putting in place to prevent it from happening again.  If the content or practice was terrible, acknowledge it. Say you agree and it is unacceptable. Show positive images of and reiterate what your values are for you as an individual and as a company.

Business owners, management, customer service reps, consumers – we are all human and we make mistakes. Sometimes we miss our mark, on either side of the customer counter. We do well to realize this and consider the person we are talking to, chatting with online or interacting with on social media is an individual, who might be dealing with a personal crisis, struggle or heartache. Equipment can break down, letters and numbers are mis-read, weather complicates delivery, a lapse in quality or judgment can occur. Sometimes we hire the wrong person. As a famous bumper sticker once alluded, unpleasant situations happen. Sometimes it is in our control, other times outside of our ability to reign in and correct. Most reasonable people know this, but still, we rush and react, often not realizing the consequences

Technology and social media have exponentially and rapidly allowed us to spread these messages — the good, the bad, and the in between bulletins to an expanding, possibly gullible audience. Brands, and the livelihoods attached to them, are at stake. Those businesses, organizations and Institutions, whether they like it or not, must accept this reality and adapt accordingly by retaining a watchful, vigilant eye at the intersection of customer service and social media where an authentic brand that people will trust and respect can begin and end in a fortnight. You and your brand will most certainly be judged by how well you respond and react in this ever-evolving social media landscape.

My “do not follow” list for Twitter

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Twitter followersHere’s a checklist for deciding whether to follow someone or not. I will ignore an account if they have:

  • No profile photo
  • No header image
  • No profile statement
  • No location
  • A profile that mentions increasing Twitter followers or buying Twitter followers
  • Content that retweets or posts content from one site only, e.g., azviral, onviral, or other click bait site
  • No original content
  • Weird fonts, almost Cyrillic quality to the font. These always seem to get suspended by Twitter
  • Don’t engage (have conversations) with their followers
  • A hard sell message – no story telling ability
  • Sexual or explicit content

This screenshot of an account, (name and handle erased) made several mistakes:No picture, no profile, no location. Big tip off, they only tweet from azviral.info.  Many “bot” accounts now create profiles, pictures, etc., but only push out content to promote a website. Look at what the account is doing on Twitter before you follow them.They aren’t interested in engagement.

Screenshot of a suspect Twitter account

This account follows me. I didn’t follow back!

I don't follow accounts with content like this!

I don’t follow accounts with content like this!

Other things to consider:

  • Followers/Following ratio. Not a hard and fast rule. Examine their content. Celebrities and national brands & services rarely follow back. New accounts on Twitter will typically follow many more people than they have following. It is a newbie mistake, but not a deal breaker. Everyone has to start someplace. Again, look at their content and if there is a mix of original, RT, shared content, etc., give them a shot.
  • Be wary of people who only follow you so you follow back. Once you do, they unfollow you. I use an app called “Find Unfollow” and it will let you know who has unfollowed you.

    Find Unfollow App

    Find Unfollow has a free and a $.99 version

  • Find followers on organized Twitter chats – on topics that mean something to you. You will find like-minded people who share a passion. There are Twitter chats on practically every topic. My favorites are #GardenChat (Monday nights) and #AgChat (Tuesday nights).

While I am not a big player on Twitter, I’ve been on the platform two and a half years and have slowly, steadily built an authentic following. I am fine with my progress. I don’t sell a product or service for profit or personal monetary gain. If I tweeted about one niche area or subject, my growth would have been faster. My profile provides a strong clue on what to expect (agriculture, art, socialmedia), and while diverse, it is an honest account of why I use the platform. My Klout score, if that matters, hovers around a respectable 63-65, and that is, in part, a reflection of being authentic and having an influencing value. My following/followers ratio is pretty even.

As a real person, I look to follow living humans or businesses who employ humans to use Twitter in real time and know how to engage on social media. Collecting followers and tweeting empty content will not increase your influencer rate or Klout score. It will grow followers, but will not grow your personal or professional brand. Furthermore, following real people has lead to personal meetings, new networks and friendships. There’s no Twitter stat for that!

Social Media Resolutions for 2017

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Dear Social Media, I promise…

The video below is making the rounds on Facebook.With good reason, it’s great!  As a baby boomer required to embrace social media for my job, and does so with a vengeance, crossing well over into personal use, I share this video, which serves as the inspiration for my social media resolutions for 2017. The only point I would add, is it is not just the “Millennial Generation” who abuse or over rely on social media, and while I don’t disagree with Simon Sinek’s assessment of instant gratification in younger generations,  I am not a millennial basher. I know many millennials who do know how to balance their social media use and understand the value in mid-century work ethic and culture. My own 33-year old daughter is raising my grandson with minimal exposure and reliance upon device screens. She doesn’t document her entire life through a device. The art of conversation (and it is an art) is valued and cultivated.

Here is my Top 8 Resolutions for Social Media behavior

1. Keep my phone off while dining. Home or restaurant, when your phone is out, you’re telling your companion(s) they are not that important. Otherwise you are sending a message that just in case something more exciting comes across the screen, you will be ready to disconnect from those at the table. Not a good impression to convey.

2. Reduce the food photos. Unless using it for a Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Google reviews, no one needs, or really cares to see a picture of my salad.

3. Rediscover small talk! No phones at business meetings unless it is a social media business meeting. The art of idle chit chat and curiosity about other people is a relationship building skillset. One of the most poignant passages of this video is at the 12:00 mark. If I can encourage you to listen to that one passage, fast forward if you have to, but listen to that segment. Sage advice!

4. Stop recording every single event, especially concerts. Louis C.K has a great bit on this. We don’t watch meaningful events anymore with our eyes. We’re doing it everywhere — at our children or grandchildren’s recitals, sporting events, and concerts to name a few. We hold up a device and watch the event through the device. We want to prove and post we were someplace special. I am guilty of this. Absorb and appreciate the event naturally. Record it with your eyes, ears and brain. Create a normal memory of your experience. And while on this topic…

5. Enjoy a wedding the old fashioned way. Unless they specifically ask, stop taking cell phone shots of brides walking down the aisle. Let the pros do the job and the bride and groom share the photos they want. I’ve seen so many professional videos and photos ruined because everyone in the background has their smart phones out to document the moment. It looks ridiculous too! View article that went with this photo:

5. When I do use social media, I’ll endeavor to spend 50 percent of my time making someone else look good, engage with others, share their content, not mine and try promote positive content as standard practice.

6. Do my due diligence and check sensational “facts” before sharing pseudo-science or fake news not marked as satire.

7. Share nothing unless it’s read first.

8. Next? Not! Social media is all about sharing, but I won’t work that hard to share your trendy, terrific Top 10 list. If you make me hunt and peck for the randomly moving “NEXT” button for every item on that list, meanwhile enduring the 30 or 40 flashing, income-generating, click-bait headlines surrounding your profound list and force me to tolerate the “OMG you wont believe what this celebrity looks like now” baity nonsense, then your content is not moving forward. Not with me. If I can’t scroll the list, or glide back and forward with an arrow embedded in the slide show, your content dies with me. Done. Fin!

Happy New Year!

My iPhone headphone jack lament

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“Aw, stop your whining already!”

“Wireless is the future!”

“Buy an Android”

I hear you. My first smart phone was an Android. I am not an Android basher, but I had reasons to make the switch to Apple years ago upon the release of the iPhone 5. It integrated better with one of my desktop lcomputers, which was an iMac.

When work provided a iPad, continuing to stick with Apple and upgrade to iPhones 6, and later the 6s+ was a no-brainer, and with photography and social media a large part of my personal and professional life, I was extremely happy with my choice. My updates were based on memory and physical size increases.  When the iPhone 7 promised a much improved camera, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to upgrade. That is, until I saw the iPhone 7 was not equipped with a headphone jack.


Removing the headphone jack, Apple tells us, is courageous innovation, a nod to the desire to cut cords, make the iPhone a few millimeters thinner, and move the device forward in the direction of a waterproof model.  I along with legions of iPhone enthusiasts, are not happy and did not purchase the shiny new iPhone 7.

Would you look at that adorable, useful headphone jack!

Here’s why:

  • The iPhone 6 was thin enough.
  • I love my current (and expensive) headphones.
  • Dongles and adapters are expensive. Third party dongles and cords are a complete waste of money. I have been burned so many times by off-brand gizmos and gadgets. If you must by an adapter, it needs to come from (the more expensive) Apple.
  • Dongles are easy to lose. For me, very easy.
  • I travel a lot. I like to charge my phone while I listen to music on my headphones.
  • Wireless puts an extra drain on a battery that is already challenged for longevity.
  • I live stream a good deal, which drastically drains battery life. I often plug in a portable battery via lightning port. Battery power declines rapidly as it is. I often disable wireless and Bluetooth to preserve power.
  • I use an auxillary microphone to reduce wind shear noise. This plugs into the iPhone jack. This nifty iphone mic add-on overrides Apple’s built in microphone. With it, I can record high quality videos and live stream without that awful blustering wind noise. It’s been a lifesaver. I can’t use this on the current iPhone 7.

This headphone jack plug-in device has been a godsend for videotaping and live streaming outside! I don’t want to give it up!

I am all for innovation. I know the future means changes. When I whine online, commentators tell me to shut up and accept the inevitable. I dream of the days when my screen won’t scratch, when my battery will last a day, and god forbid if my phone slid out of my pocket and splashed into my backyard pond, I could retrieve a functioning device. True innovation means Apple engineers could do this with a headphone jack.

Apple gives us choices of color and memory options. For those of us who’ve invested in headphone jack-dependent equipment, give us the choice of keeping this beloved and useful feature. My wish for 2017 – the  iPhone 8-hj.

Record great interviews with your smart phone

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Essentials for interviewing people on smart phone video

I’ve heard it said that the best camera to have is the one on you, and it’s true. While I love my Nikon D7100 DSLR, I rarely have it with me 24/7. My smart phone however, is attached to my hip.

The same holds true for videotaping. My go-to video camera for planned recordings, interviews and work assignments is a Canon Vixia HF G30, but for light travel and those spontaneous opportunities, I am left with my smart phone, an iPhone 6sPlus, to do the job.

Smart phones shoot terrific video. Both my iPhone and Cannon shoot 1080 HD. Where the pavement hits the road often is expressed in sound quality. One of the worst ingredients for video is wind shear.

Example. Recently, I was researching Hawaii agriculture and came across this video of a doctor talking about Hawaii’s local farmers market. The scenery is breathtaking. The video quality captured it all. The script and topic was interesting and informative.The videographer blocked the scene and subject well, using the rule of thirds.

But slide to the 1:00 minute mark and listen.

What you are hearing is a mild version of wind shear. I’ve heard a lot worse. This is a soundtrack you do not want on your video. Even without the wind shear, the narration is a bit tinny. With a small investment, you can produce terrific sound and eliminate the annoying wind shear.

Essential equipment for smart phone recording:

For support: Any lightweight tripod or monopod (or stabilizer grip if someone is else is recording the subject) plus…

Smart phone spring loaded tripod mount ($5 to $15)  needed to secure the cell phone to the tripod or monopod. I have several. Here is one option.

Microphones:

Option 1:

ampridge

Image: Amazon

Ampridge Mighty Mic Bluetooth iPhone Microphone $79 (Yes, iPhone only) and works in conjunction with…

Movie Pro app $5.99. Works with Ampridge Blue Tooth. All video recording is done via Movie Pro and not iPhone’s native video recorder.

Ampridge’s Bluetooth microphone is small and slender and easily clips on a shirt or lapel. A full charge lasts 5 hours. Turn the mic on and select the Ampridge as your BT option. Open up the app and start recording. The app will tell you it is recording via BT.

The sound is crystal clear. Here you can hear our Extension agent Kathleen Splane wearing the microphone while being interviewed by the News Journal’s James Fisher (video follows immediately after a sponsored ad).

Option 2:

rode-mic

Image: Amazon

Rode video mic. $59. Comes with wind screen (aka dead cat).

This microphone plugs into the headphone jack of your smart phone. Sorry iPhone 7 users! It overrides Apple’s internal native (and wider range) microphone, which normally does a great job, and switches to this more directional microphone that points to the person talking. No worries with batteries or charging with this version, this mic is powered from the phone, however Rode does provide even more advanced models which require a power supply. The microphone comes with the furry cover known in the industry as a “dead cat” and is superior to foam wind screens.  The Rode microphone is ideal for outside recording where wind is an unavoidable ingredient.  Amazon will suggest an additional wind screen, but it is not necessary, as the $59 price includes everything you need. Can be kept in a glove compartment or purse or gear pack, snap it into your phone and record.

This microphone set up is ideal for live streaming with Facebook or Periscope!

Interviewing/Recording Techniques:

  1. Have your subject introduce themselves, their title, and spell out their name.  I typically don’t include introductions or self introductions such as, “Hi, I am Jane Smith, Extension Agent …” but get that information and put it in a title caption, you or your editor will appreciate having that information. Everyone has different preferences – just be consistent with what you do.
  2. When I ask questions, I typically cut my voice out in post production. Therefore it’s important to ask your subject to work in the question with their answer so the context is clear and their response makes sense to the audience.
  3. Tell your subject to wait five seconds before answering so you have some buffer or fade-in time to lead into their appearance. Many people are nervous when being filmed and they may make nervous gestures or facial expressions when they are done, such as sighing with relief, asking if they were okay, grimacing or rolling their eyes. They don’t realize they are doing it. But it is a reality that will make your editing job much more difficult. Before you record, tell them upfront this is something most people do and ask them once they are finished speaking to continue to look into the camera with a passive expression or slight smile for at least 3 -4 seconds. This allows you to have a gentle fade-out in post editing.  A calm fade out prevents the sharp, clipped ending amateurs get because their subject was nervous and uttered something or made a funny face.
  4. Be prepared for several takes. Pauses in between paragraphs are natural editing spots and allow you to take the best sections of the script and splice them together. Ask your subject to pause slightly between paragraphs or subject changes. If pauses are too long, you can always trim.
  5. Avoid stripes, particularly pin-stripes or candy-stripes in shirts and ties. Watch television interviews and see what happens to blue and white striped shirts! Solid colors work best.
  6. Pay attention to branding. Do you want it, does it matter? Avoid branded apparel unless it is part of the job. Extension professionals should wear their institution’s branded material.
  7. Stage, or be mindful of your background. What message are you trying to convey? We all remember the video of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin being interviewed in Alaska, being filmed on a turkey farm while a turkey was being inserted into a grinder in the background. Tidy up where you can.
  8. Frame the subject by using rule of thirds. My preference is to have the subject slightly to the left or right, but rarely dead center.
  9. Block the shot. Wide, meaning most of the body of the subject is filmed. Medium is waist or belt buckle and above, and tight is shoulders and head.  Give your subject a heads up how you will be filming them. They may wish to adjust their personal appearance accordingly.
  10. Avoid noon or overhead light. Pay attention to where the sun is. You don’t want your subject squinting.
  11. Work with an assistant if at all possible. This person can hold up cue cards, hold a white reflector off to the side to soften harsh shadows. A white poster board that children use for school products works well if you don’t have a reflector. Assistant stands right out of camera view.
  12. Bring a towel or roll of paper towels for hot days, to wipe brow, sweat on lips, shine, etc.
  13. Bring a bottle of water for each subject being interviewed.
  14. Ask subject to bring their script or talking points (bullet points) in large enough font to be readable 20 ft away. Hold script (cues) as close to the camera lens as possible. An easel or flip chart is helpful.

In the summer of 2015, my Extension Scholar (intern) provided a tutorial to share and encourage our Extension staff to create video content. There are great suggestions that you can incorporate into your video project. Note the placement of an easel and cue/flip charts to help person being filmed to stay on track.

To the Facebook gullible

Dear Facebook user,

Please stop being so gullible. Please check what you read on social media before sharing on social media. In fact, please read beyond the headline before sharing.

According to Pew Internet Research, 62 percent of American adults get their news from their social media news feeds. It looks like 62 percent of them believe everything they see. Note I did not say read. In a rush to post the OMG headline to family and friends, we expose our vulnerability. We don’t look informed. We expose our laziness through our lack of exercising due diligence.

Here are some for instances:

  1.  Obama didn’t ban the Pledge of Allegiance from U.S.public schools or anywhere else for that matter.
  2. You can’t find out who searched for you on Facebook. Facebook is not and will never be LinkedIn.
  3. You never have to share and cite a bogus legal statute so that your content on Facebook remains private.
  4. Facebook will never charge you for signing up or using their platform.
  5. George Carlin probably didn’t say it. It’s doubtful that Albert Einstein,  John Lennon or Robin Williams said it either.
  6. If you are asked to type in something and watch what happens, nothing does. Ever. Comments don’t work that way except to collect and expose the names of gullible people.
  7. The Onion and many other websites are satire.
  8. Honeybees are not on the extinct list.
  9. Snopes does a good job with debunking rumors. Unless they debunk a rumor about a politician you dislike. Then Snopes can’t be trusted. So by all means, charge your phone in the microwave and clean your DSLR lenses in soapy water. Snopes says these are false, but what does Snopes know? They debunked that whole Obama bans the Pledge of Allegiance rumor thingy.
  10. Still hate Snopes? Fine. Google it. Google everything.
  11. People believe their peers over science. This is disturbing.
  12. ABCnews.com.co is not ABC News.
  13. If a celebrity death appears on Facebook,verify before sharing. Morgan Freeman and Willie Nelson have died many times on Facebook.
  14. Unless the page has a blue check indicating a verified page, no one is giving away Range Rovers, RVs, Disney goodie boxes or vacations getaways. There are some legitimate contests on Facebook, but this rule generally applies: No blue checkie no truthie.
  15. Most of the games and giggle tests on Facebook, such as “Find out the initials of your Guardian Angel” ( a new one I’ve seen), are examples of fun to share ditties that require an app, and which lets the developers of that app see all your personal and private data. Be very careful what apps you download from Facebook.
  16. Many weather-related photos are Photoshopped, particularly tornadoes.

If “OMG” or “You won’t believe…” appears in the headline, it is a BIG clue what follows is total B.S.

Cultivating one’s personal brand now includes what a person posts and shares on social media. Your brand is directly linked to your content delivered under your name or handle. Respectability, trust and integrity come with posting materials and content that is verified and vetted. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. Look before you leap on social media and take a few seconds of due diligence before hitting that share button.

 


 

Doing our “due diligence” on social media

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Below are two terrific articles by Michael Thomas who writes for Expose the Truth.  He explains the phenomenon of pseudoscience and how social media, now a mainstream media platform, facilitates commenting and sharing articles and so-called-truths  by sharing without reading. Viral without values.

I’ve seen this happen personally. I see it when a blog post I share on Twitter is shared numerous times, but my WordPress stats remain silent. How often do we share things we don’t read, or comment on articles on Facebook after only reading a suggestive headline or teaser photo?

Comment reading is one of my favorite pastimes and many comments, particularly on Facebook, YouTube, and news sites are very illuminating and downright hysterical. Let’s just say, if comments were an indication of our intelligence and ability to read and comprehend, then we are in a lot of trouble.  I fear we have become reactors and not readers. We run the risk of accepting truths before doing some basic fact checking.

Anyway, if you are in the mood to read, I highly recommend these two Michael Thomas articles:

Bad Sources Spread Pseudoscience 

11 Things Learned Working In Social Media

 You can’t love the truth but hate the facts! ~Unknown

Do you know PowerPoint?

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Getting endorsements on LinkedIn

Like many individuals, I have a profile on LinkedIn, the professional social media platform, bereft of grumpy cats and laughing babies. LinkedIn’s tone is professional and serious, valued for purposeful exchanges of ideas, networking and effective channels for employment recruitment.

Those with an account know, we are often prompted to endorse the skills of our connections. In addition to a text-based description of who we are and what we do, a separate section is available where the account holder can enumerate skill-set keywords. Here, “strategic planning,” “technical proofreading,” and other specific, impressive expertise and experience can be chronicled in one’s profile. It is these keywords we enter which trigger the endorsement requests our connections receive.

Source: melissallerana.com

I appreciate the endorsements I receive and I often return the favor.  But recently, I’ve been prompted to endorse a colleague with masters and Ph.D degrees for skills such as “PowerPoint,” “Excel,” or “Microsoft Office.” Really. It feels mundane and weird. Doesn’t everyone know how to use these programs?

Maybe not, but unless you are an entry-level Administrative Assistant, or have a certification from Microsoft, these skill sets ought not to need verification from our colleagues and distract from the focus on our professional profiles. It should be enough to list competencies in the summary or job description sections. It is unnecessary to reaffirm and request someone to stand up and applaud us, in a virtual way, for our ability to mail merge or hide a slide on a presentation.

Take the ambiguous term “research.” Do I know about that? Well, I’ve researched art history, and I know how to write a research paper, but am I sitting in a lab, with scientific controls conducting grant-funded research? No! Do I want LinkedIn to ask my colleagues if I know “research?” The whole endorse me please thing is becoming cringe-worthy if you ask me. Yes, I know there is a strategic advantage to endorsements, but it should be very specific and relative to one’s current profession. For those in the job market, personal recommendations are far more valuable.

I’m taking a closer look at all those tempting keyword boxes and plan to X out most of them. Everything I need to say has already been said in more descriptive sections. “Does Michele know Word?” Do you really care that I do? I betting it makes no difference at all.

Social media aids a family history detective

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Thanks to social media tools, I am the proud owner of two works of art painted by my aunt in the mid-century. What’s the big deal about that?

Well, I live in Delaware. My aunt was a teaching nun who lived and taught and painted, and sometimes exhibited, between 1950 and 1980, in Iowa, Chicago and later in her career, in the San Francisco Bay area. My access to her while she lived was loving, but limited, and after her death in 1980, our worlds remained geographically distant, seemingly for an eternity.

I began to learn more about her as a part of a family geneaology project. I wanted to research her life as an artist.

To complicate my search, as a nun, most of her work is owned by her convent and or the college in which she came of age as an artist-student and then later as an artist-professor.  But in dialogue with them, I learned she exhibited many of her modern art paintings and sold many to private individuals. Her convent generously shared photographs of their inventory and gave me a few leads and archived documents that might help me to track down what I estimate to be at least 50 other works out there.  My goal was to catalog them in a virtual gallery –  in a website I created in 2010, called simply enough, nunartist.com.

From the photos sent to me, I began to analyze some the paintings from the shared photographs and gathered as much detail as I could about her life, her artistic methodology and inspiration and imagined what the missing paintings and sketches, now hanging in private homes or galleries, might look like. My hope was to photograph them all and feature them on my WordPress website.

I began to share my blog posts on social media. I posted my links to art galleries on Facebook and Twitter. I posted to alumni who listed the schools she attended or taught. I also posted on Twitter using hashtags like #art #modernart #Iowa #Chicago #SanFrancisco and on and on. If a social media site had “art” in the name, I followed them! My website was visited. People retweeted. Individuals started going up to their Picasso-like and Matisse-inspired paintings to see if the signatures were by my aunt. I got some hits!

One strange turn of events was particularly fruitful and it’s an amazing Twitter success story, inexplicably involving Justin Bieber and Groupon! It earned me a new painting of my aunt’s that I can call my own, and a new friendship!

Thanks to Twitter this went from eBay to myhome!

Thanks to Twitter this painting by my aunt went from eBay to my dining room!

Emboldened by this success, I created a Facebook page and a Twitter account featuring my aunt and my quest. I must confess that other obligations sidetracked me and I haven’t kept up with either, but for a year after their conception, both presences on social media brought me significant leads.

People visited the website (about 10,000 hits to date) and I get contacted periodically by those who have been made aware of my mission and are kind enough to share a photo they have.

It was never my goal to own her work, though I had always desired one. A woman who visited an auction house in Chicago spotted an abstract oil for sale and before buying it, researched the artist’s signature on Google. She came across my keyword-laden WordPress site and contacted me and said she thought this might be by my aunt. She gave me the gallery/auction website and let me have first dibs in buying it. So kind!

The gallery owner too, was taken by my personal story, and the emotion I conveyed in my essays compelled her to offer it to me at a substantially lower price than what she was asking. The painting, it turns out, was done before my aunt took her final vows and “nun name” of Sister Mary James Ann. The painting was part of a large estate sale in Chicago, my mother and my aunt’s hometown. It was signed “Sister Seraphia” her given name and I presume how she was known as a novitiate until she completed her vows. And here I am with it:

My aunt and I reuinted thanks to modern communication technology

My aunt and I reuinted thanks to modern communication technology

Without social media and the array of tools available to me, I would never have had this unique and intimate connection to my aunt. I can see her brush strokes. I feel her near me when I look at them. Social media allowed me to stretch across the continent and make these contacts in a broad way. I am still hearing from people thanks to the technological transport of my inquiries. Had it been 1990 or even 2000, there’d be no story to share. No reunion to a unique part of my past and a special family connection. Social media has enormous power. My hopes and desires trekked across Twitter and fanned out across Facebook. I received in kind, a personal, emotional experience, exemplified in the kindness and curiosity of others! Social media has been criticized as being distant and impersonal. I found it to be the exact opposite – a bridge to real human beings across great distances where common interests unite and generous spirits share.

Takeaways from Delaware’s Social Media Conference

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Follow all the events with #dtccsmc2016

Yesterday I attended my first Delaware Social Media Conference, now in its fourth year and hosted by Delaware Tech Community College in Georgetown. I missed the first three, but I plan not to miss any more! Congratulations to everyone who planned, spoke and presented at this terrific day of professional development and networking!

 Great information! Here’s some of the take-aways from the conference:

  • Make your employees central to your content, both as subjects and as inspiration for ideas (Scott Kammerer, SoDelConcepts, panel).
  • Keep your ear attuned to customer’s everyday questions as a source for content. My favorite question of the day came from someone who had a propane business and wondered how to promote on social media. Conceding it was not a glamorous topic,  it can be presented in an interesting way! How are propane tanks made? Why does propane gas smell?  Do people decorate their tanks with art? Show it. Have fun with the story.
  • Customers and employees can be wonderful Brand Ambassadors. Cultivate, then curate their enthusiasm, ideas and passion!
  • Leverage Google’s suite of programs (Google+, Gmail, Google Places) to increase your SEO for your website. Google+ might not be the “hot” social media program, but if you are promoting website content on Facebook, copy and post it also to Google+. Add a website link to your Gmail signature. Register your business (free) with Google Places (GainWebsite.com).
  • Treat each platform you use DIFFERENTLY. Automatic posts (the exact same content & wording duplicated across multiple platforms) is not cool.
  • Strong visual content on websites is the trend, but for Google SEO, text is king. The more text the better. Readable. Every page should have 750 words (source: GainWebsite.com) and Google loves bulleted content. (Lesson learned). I got so much out of the Google/SEO session I am filled to the brim!
  • Every 350 words or so should have an image (Ken Grant).
  • Facebook business pages are pay to play. Getting the organic reach we used to is long gone.
  • Lay off the hard sell. You want more followers, sales, attention? Then use social media to have conversations. Share other people’s content. Be a part of your on-the-ground community as well as the virtual one.
  • Be authentic, real, natural. Not canned. Not automatic. Not a robo-poster.
  • Careful with scheduled posts. Not cool to pitch a product or service when a national or global tragedy is unfolding. Evaluate all scheduled posts during breaking news and be prepared to remove them. (Mariah Calagione, DogfishHead beer).
  • The social media landscape changes and evolves continually. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be ready to adapt, change, and keep your ear tuned in to new trends. Asia is ahead of us on trends. Pay attention (Ken Grant). That’s why I’ll attend this conference every year!

The conference included a terrific panel discussion featuring local businesses and entrepreneurs sharing their social media experiences

Save the date for 2017! Thursday,  February 16 at Delaware Tech Owens Campus in Georgetown

It’s not just the duck face, darlin’

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bling-duck

Image source: Flickr user Veronica Belmont, Creative Commons

 

I recently came across a 2013 Huffington Post article written by social media and brand strategist Kim Garst. Garst recently re-shared her article, Social Media: A Serious Threat to Your Child’s Professional Future in her Twitter feed. It’s worth repeating Kim, thanks!

I’ve written about my own journey to develop my personal/professional brand. Getting on board to brand myself on social media wasn’t difficult. Several decades of life experiences and a healthy dose of common sense along with some expert social media training, I found that shaping my “brand” such as it is, wasn’t a terribly hard task.

For teenagers, it’s more challenging. I was lucky. I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s. When I came of age, I experimented, tested, pushed limits and boundaries, a time  that is happily (for me) scantily documented in a few, color-faded family photos (without the aid of an Instagram filter) depicting a girl in some very questionable platform shoes and boldly-printed polyester bell-bottom pants.  My thoughts and opinions at the time do not accompany these few retro images staring back at me.

As a teenager, I formed and abandonned opinions impulsively. I communicated unsophisticatedly, passing folded paper notes to a classmate. My tears and giggles confessed to my best friend during sleepovers, are mine and mine alone, some filed away in my memory, some occasionally recalled, but most are long forgotten.

These experiences, rites of passage, successes and mistakes, played a role in who I am today, but they have not followed me lock, stock and barrel into the present. I cant tell you how happy I am about this.

Social media is changing all of that. Today, as in the past, adolescents, teenagers and young adults, continue to express themselves and experiment. But now, they do so with the eyes of the world upon every move they make. They will not know the privilege of anonymity and privacy that I enjoy then and now. It is a different world for emerging generations. Today, even content posted to a trusted friend, with privacy assumed, can instantly and easily be shared, sometimes with devastating results.  And once it’s there, it’s there forever. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is a cunard — a dangerous fantasy!

Forever! Translation: It doesn’t go away.

Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine and whatever else comes down the social media pike, young people are sharing their lives  — seemingly every aspect of their lives — on social media.

Annoying duck faces and narcissistic bathroom poses only scratch the surface of the problem. It’s the F-bombs, the political opinions, the fury, the angst, the political incorrectness, insults, barbs and expressions of sexuality, that are aggregated and curated, and paint a portrait of real people with names and lives — portraits which cannot be unseen. It is the judgment pieces (or lack thereof) which linger, ready to haunt youth as they begin to apply for internships, jobs, scholarships and other opportunities.

We silly adults. We worry too much. Youth are both blessed and cursed with a confidence of immortality and invulnerability. Admirably, the bravery helps them try new things and take risks. But they are not immune to risk’s high toll, just ask any insurance agent.

I’ve embraced social media. I get it. These platforms are here to stay and everyone is using them. I want teens to use it smarter.

The fact is, some day, these rising adults will grow older and look back at their virtual profile and say, “Oh god, I can’t believe I … [fill in the blanks].”  Fortunately for me, my cringe-worthy moments are tucked away in a few yearbook and family photos. This generation’s words, images and six-second videos are not. They are chronicled and splattered all over the Internet, easily called up, in seconds, by a future relationship, scholarship grantor, college application panel, business associate or future employer. Teens will be defined by others based on their searchable profile —their online brand. But will it be the brand they want?

Teens are going to do dumb stuff. Teens can do dumb stuff smarter.

Here are some suggestions for teens and parents to consider as they come of age in our social media environment. Kids will be kids. Bottom line: experiment and make mistakes under a moniker or handle that does not expose your real name.

  1. Your name and image are a brand. Treat it as such. Protect it. Manage it. At 13 (the earliest age at which most social media platforms legally allow a person to participate) you are beginning the journey to write a book about who you are. It is a book you must assume EVERYONE can read. Personal information and experienced shared under your real name should be inoffensive, truthful and not controversial.
  2. Use a pseudonym for the silly and controversial stuff. If I wanted to talk politics, pop-culture, or my private life, I wouldn’t do it under my personal or professional brand. I’d have another account to express those opinions and share those details. Talk about your private love life with a secondary account. Use choice language here. Be outrageous here. Work out your growing pains with some level of anonymity. Your future boss might hold completely opposite political beliefs. Do you really want to go there and call his or her hero a jerk, or something far worse?
  3. Multiple accounts for multiple purposes. Accounts using your real name should contain content that your parents, grandparents, teachers and future influencers to whom you might apply (higher ed, jobs) could look to and say, “My, what a fine young person this is! How thoughtful!”  It’s not being phony, it’s being smart.
  4. You have no right to privacy. Sorry, you don’t. You put something out there, it is up for grabs. Once posted, your content is at the mercy of your social media relationships. If you are a “friend collector” rest assured that the majority of the 500, 1,000 or 5,000 people who like or follow you are not true friends.
  5. Use consistent images under your own name. We’re going for wholesome here. Do you look employable or do you look like you are going to seduce someone’s spouse? Geesh, if you have to post suggestive poses, hand gestures, do it on another account.
  6. Bury the bad. Is there content on the web you wish wasn’t there? Bury it. Most people search the first few pages of a search engine. As you add new content, the the old content becomes harder to find.
  7. Google yourself. Put your name in quotes, followed by your state, school or other identifier. What comes up under the web, image or video results?
  8. Start a blog. A blog is your personal/professional platform and a superb way to shape a lasting profile and brand. Write about school subjects, causes you believe in, community service you have provided, trips you have taken and other positive experiences. Use your real name. Post frequently. Blog posts often float to the top of search engines. I know one young man who got nabbed by the police for under-aged drinking and a little bit of high-school mischief that led to an arrest record, mug-shot, and a permanent record on the Internet. He grew out of all that nonsense and has shaped himself into a fine young man, but sure enough, a father of a girl this nice man was texting and hoping to date, got Googled. Guess what popped up? Yep, the mug shot. The relationships never got off the ground. A blog and saturation of positive content associated with his name might be his answer to No.7.
  9. Create a LinkedIn profile. Okay, you might not have a work history yet, but you can share topics about the career you do want. You can demonstrate your thoughtfulness and curating ability. You can post original blog content and network with future employers, schools and other influencers.
  10. Don’t avoid social media. It’s here, it’s real and it is a social networking tool that businesses, especially, pay attention to. A social media presence is an indicator of how well you network, and a useful mechanism for doing business.

Truth, honesty and authenticity is always the ideal on social media, but to use a sports analogy, you are the star athlete AND the agent that represents the athlete and the PR machine all in one. Every post may become the next line in your autobiography. The minute you enter the online world, at age 10, 13 or 22 or 32, be mindful about positioning who you are and take an active role in shaping how others will see your persona and form an opinion about your reputation, today in years to come. Control is all at your social media fingertips.

Crafting your online identity is a must for developing a positive online brand. In the social media era, it is a process that needs to begin on the first day we open our first social media account.

Red/white graphic: walfred

12 tips to grow your Twitter influence

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imageNew to Twitter? Created an account a while ago, but don’t know where to begin?

Here are 12 easy steps to build your Twitter following.

  1. Get a profile and header photo. The egg won’t do. A grey header shows potential followers you don’t care.
  2. Fill out the profile. Be authentic. Be witty. But put something truthful down. Before following you back, people will check you out and your profile plays a role in whether or not they follow you. Your profile should provide a hint of the topics you tweet about.
  3. Don’t follow a lot of accounts at first, hoping they will follow back. Following 300 accounts, but having only 10 followers doesn’t look good. Keep the ratio as close as possible. Unfollow some people if it’s lopsided, try them again later.
  4. Engage with people or accounts that you hope to connect with. Comment on their photos, ask a thoughtful question. Be authentic with your compliments.
  5. Use hashtags. No one will find you if you don’t.
  6. Post pictures through Twitter. Don’t use a third party scheduler otherwise there’s a link instead of a photo.
  7. Participate in organized chats or Twitter town halls. These use a particular hashtag and lead discussions on a unique theme or topic. What are you passionate about? Chances are there is a hashtag for it and regularly scheduled meet ups that you can join.
  8. Other people’s content: comment, share and retweet it. Set a goal for 40 to 50% of your content so that it features other people’s content or external links to articles or videos on topic of interest.
  9. Repeat important information, breaking news and date-sensitive information several times a week, at different times. Stagger it between other content.
  10. Lose the hard sell. People pay attention to you when you are thoughtful, authentic and relative.
  11. Unrestrict your tweets.Protected tweets can’t be retweeted. Protected tweets defeat the purpose of Twitter in the first place.
  12. Do not auto-post or auto-connect your Facebook account to Twitter. Read more about auto-connect here.

Avoid following accounts that only want to sell you something, or promise more followers for a fee. Be patient, the followers will come, especially if the audience feels a real person is behin the Twitter account.

12 Tips logo via http://www.shiftlearning.com

Stop auto-posting on social media!

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Please!

Most of us are busy people. Time management is an issue. And here you are with this great photo and accompanying news to go with it. A big event! Something on sale! Good news! Let’s get it out wide across social media. Good idea! Hey! Why not simply type it once and send forth to all your social media platforms? Why not?

Because it’s lazy and unprofessional, that’s why! Not all audiences on social media are the same. They’re quite different in fact. You have just advertised that you aren’t aware of social media best practices.

no-auto-postI know a guy, I’ll call him Joe, and Joe has a really cool produce stand. I follow Joe on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I also read his blog.

Sweet corn has just come in and Joe posts a picture of gorgeous ears of sweetcorn on Instagram. His accompanying text reads: “Sweet corn is here. Friday only one dozen for $2. #corn #Delagram.” Good job, Joe!

But then I see the same exact post on Facebook. I see the exact post on Twitter also. His beautiful picture does not show up on Twitter’s preview.  Only the link, clouded with #Delagram which isn’t  a hashtag used anywhere else but Instagram.  In Delaware the Twitter practice is to use #NetDE.

So, is there any reason at all to follow Joe on all three platforms? No. I don’t need to see the exact thing three times, I got the message the first time, thank you very much. So I unfollow him on two platforms. Bye Bye Joe!

Twitter is unique unto itself. This is the platform to connect with similar fruit & veggie stands, let local reporters know summer has arrived, moms planning their dinner menu etc.  Use Twitter to inform your local audience by using the right hashtags and targeting specific people or accounts by tagging their handle.  If you want your photo to show up on Twitter, and you do, because people are thumbing and whizzing through their news feed, a link to your photo won’t stop them in their tracks, but a gorgeous picture of your corn might. Post a different image (than Instagram’s), a landscape-oriented photo of your yummy corn, and Joe, while your at it, give us a link to directions to your business.

Facebook is everyone. Grandparents, parents, boomers and millennials. Facebook doesn’t rely on hashtags. Seeing your sweet corn photo and super price relies on other people liking, commenting and sharing your post. If they’ve already seen it on Instagram and Twitter, they’re going to pass it right by on Facebook. Facebook requires a personal touch. On Facebook, along with his photo, Joe should be asking,”Are you serving corn on the cob this weekend? Have you tried ours? Share your favorite way to prepare corn on the cob!” etc.

Instagram is primarily a younger and more diverse demographic. Post the corn photo and after your message, follow it with hashtags, because hashtags are how people find you, if they don’t follow you already. People search for nouns, like colors, and follow them. It’s how it’s done. So that original beautiful ear of corn, a dozen for $2, add in: #Delagram #igdelaware #vegetables #corn #cornonthecob #yellow #summer #food #local #farm #sweet #townnameDE #kernals #maise, etc. If your produce is organic, throw that hashtag in also. #organic #fresh.

Once in a while, like once a month, you can auto-post from Instagram to Twitter or Facebook, strategically, in order to let your followers on those platforms know you have an Instagram account – an account where VOILA! there is unique content and your audience is surprised! But use auto-sharing or auto connecting strategically and sparingly!

If your potential customers and followers see you have identical content on Twitter as you do Instagram and Facebook, they have no reason at all to follow you on the other platforms. A cookie-cutter marketing strategy simply won’t cut it.

Even WordPress has a feature that will let users auto publish to LinkedIn, Redit, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, and Tumbler. It would be so easy to line those all up. Create once, publish everywhere. I don’t do it. WordPress’s feature, using Twitter as an example, doesn’t insert hashtags, which is the principal way new audience members find you. It’s not a time saver. It is a complete waste of time.

To social media pros, auto-posting is the biggest shout out that let’s everyone know you don’t know what you are doing. “Look at me, I’m a social media marketing amateur!”

They’re looking alright. Once. And they’re bored to death. Stop it! Stop it now!

 

 

 

 

Facebook resolutions for 2016

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Despite what anyone says to the contrary, Facebook remains “the” social media platform and is used widely among all age groups as a primary tool to communicate with family and friends and for receiving news.

If it is on Facebook it must be true! False! Because of Facebook’s enduring and growing popularity, it is rife for rumors and scams. As we look to the new year, consider making these resolutions and take a big step to stop looking like an idiot.

  1. Google, Bing or otherwise search any celebrity quote before sharing. Chances are George Carlin, Pope Francis, Robin Williams, Albert Einstein or other influential/admirable/famous person never said that profound quote you are reading.
  2. Cease “liking” or “sharing” if you agree to whatever statement/post/image is guilting you to prove you have a conscience and moral compass. Pass these by. Liking these prompts, sharing the content or typing “Amen” does nothing for the cause. We all hate cancer and sick children, okay? The purveyors of these posts are mining likes and boosting their page insights. Why? The page that hosts the “viral” post can be renamed and sold with built-in metrics to make it look more attractive or influential.
  3. Typing something in the comments never changes the picture. Nothing amazing will happen!! Ever. Stop it, just stop it.
  4. What Disney princess are you? Okay, these are good for a giggle. I admit to succumbing to curiosity
    and finally learning what decade I should return to, or what my favorite Beatle song says about me. There’s room for a little silliness in our lives. But, beware of quizzes that require an app to connect to your profile. Most of these apps are data miners. In your privacy settings, take a look at the apps you’ve authorized and delete, delete, delete those you don’t recognize.

    img_3694

  5.  Famous people and large companies rarely, if ever, give anything away. Go to the official page, you know, the one with a blue check mark. Any official sweepstakes or contests will get a mention. Better yet, confirm on their official website. Betcha you don’t see anything about free money, cars, or trips. Local businesses do have promotions. Is it reasonable or too good to be true? A gift basket maybe, a Lamborgini, not likely.  See #2.   img_3693
  6. Death. Poor Morgan Freeman and Willy Nelson! They’ve died countless times on Facebook. Facebook pranksters are counting on our “OMG” reaction and desire to broadcast BREAKING NEWS. Evidence on Facebook demonstrates that we will share before verifying. If the bulletin is not originating from an official news site (with a blue check mark) search it before sharing.
  7. Ignore “OMG,” “Must See” prompts, especially when it requires you to download an app to view a video. You are downloading MALWARE and you will start sending all your friends ridiculous posts and emails that they will open and download because they come from a trusted, but stupid, friend.
  8. As seen on TV. Verified by a local police station. Snopes says so. Saying so doesn’t make it so. This happened to my friend…(um, no it didn’t). In fact, these proclamations of veracity are often a signal the news is bogus. So, as with all Facebook scams and hoaxes, the rule of thumb for practically everything you see on Facebook is…
  9. Search before sharing. Pretty much everything! Copy the headline and paste into your favorite search engine. A few seconds will save you from looking like a buffoon in front of your friends and family.

I’ve been caught a few notable and embarrassing times and vow to never let it happen again! Not to worry, you can still have fun on Facebook. Most laughing baby and funny cat videos are safe and full of guilt-free giggles. Quizzes on Buzz Feed might be utter nonsense, but so far, they’re harmless fun.

Master Gardeners ask: What is the best social media platform to use?

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The assignment, and yes, I chose to accept it, is to advise Master Gardener experts, volunteer employees who work for county and state Cooperative Extension offices and their supporting land grant universities, what the scope of social media choices are, and which one is best to use for their volunteer efforts.

The question is a loaded one. No two people’s skill sets are alike, and we must consider whether the Master Gardener is using his or her personal account, or wants to post from or create, a social media account that is branded as Cooperative Extension or the land grand institution. In those two latter cases, the answer has a great many variables, conditions, restrictions, etc.

So let’s back up first and look at the choices of social media in front of us. New platforms come and go and the latest craze to appear on devices might not have staying power. So let’s look at the big six, shown here with 2014 statistics:

There are others of course. Many others. To this list of formats or platforms I would consider, as useful to Master Gardeners, to be Vine (mini six-second videos taken from smart phones) and YouTube. Earlier this year I presented a webinar to the MidAtlantic Women in Ag partnership entitled, “What Social Media Platform is right for you?” It is free to view!

Thinking of myself, an avid (but not yet Master) gardener, my ranking of garden-friendly, garden-showcasing platforms are:

  1. Instagram. Square photos. Free. Easy to use. Perfect for flora and fauna. No character limit. Hashtag driven. Oh geesh, hashtags? What’s a hashtag?
  2. Pinterest. Photo driven – platform for sharing ideas. Friendly to gardens, flowers, ideas (bees and bird houses) food recipes, etc. Do not use hashtags.
  3. Twitter. Close tie for second spot. Short on words. Great for sharing links, photos, Vine and YouTube videos. Hashtag use a must. Terrific garden chats where gardeners all over the world talk gardens. Follow #gardenchat anytime, but the real conversation is every Monday, from 9-10 p.m. EST. Simply search the hashtag in the search bar, click “All Tweets” and follow along or join in. It’s the fastest hour on Twitter!
  4. Facebook. Two main types of accounts. A personal account with (friends), and a business page with (fans). You must have a personal account in order to manage or edit or contribute to a page, but the connection stops there. They are different and otherwise separate. See “permission” section below about working on Facebook pages. If you have no desire to unveil your life on Facebook, that’s okay, you don’t have to. Create an account. Put up a picture of a sunflower as your profile photo, forget about adding friends, don’t fill in where you work or went to school, and jump straight to the page you’ve been given permission to edit or manage. You do not have to have an vibrant personal Facebook account to manage a business or organization page!! A personal account, however, is the gateway to page administration and editing.
  5. Vine and YouTube. Think of Vine as a moving photo. You only have six seconds! But on Vine, flowers bend in the wind, insects flutter on and off, and its a great tool for those in your audience that have short attention spans. Vine is owned by Twitter. You can share a Vine video on Twitter seamlessly, but you don’t have to. YouTube? You know what that is. Get your video on and walk around the garden and talk about it. Upload it and share it out on any of the six platforms pictured.
    https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.jsHere’s an example of a Vine I did with a Master Gardener doing the narration!
  6. Google+. Lots of talk about Google+ and where it is going. If you are a serious photographer, take lots of good macro garden shots, Google + is a nice platform for showing off content. Hashtags are optional, but helpful.
  7.  LinkedIn. Not so much for the purposes of this question.

Permissions and curating earned and shared media.

Now we get to the nitty gritty. I will use myself as an example. While I am not a Master Gardener (yet) I do work for an ag experimental station, which includes a county Cooperative Extension office, and on our grounds is a beautiful Master Gardener demonstration (teaching) garden. I am also a volunteer 4-H Leader so I know all about the volunteer aspects of working with Extension. In our institution, the University of Delaware, volunteers are valued experts and we consider them as (unpaid) employees. The employee analogy is important. It means that while volunteering under the banner or brand of our institution, volunteers must adhere to certain guidelines set forth by our land grant institution and by Cooperative Extension. Every institution will vary. Master Gardeners get this. While you may have a recipe for success that you might use at home, you know when talking with the public as an Extension Master Gardener, that you must share only research-based information. You may prefer one brand of fertilizer at home, but you know you can’t endorse one product over another when acting as a Master Gardener with the public. What you do on your own is different. Volunteering at Extension is still work, and when volunteering, Master Gardeners and 4-H Leaders represent our respective universities and Extension programming, and we do so with certain responsibilities attached to that commitment of time. So, when in Rome…

If you are eager to explore social media on behalf of Extension, you should have a conversation with the lead Extension agent of your program, the county or state director, and perhaps someone in the institution’s media or communication teamPlease, do not assume it is okay to create a social media account that represents your volunteer activities on behalf of Extension or institution without checking with officials of that organization first! Don’t go rogue! Having an account in your own name is one thing. Representing a college or university is quite another. Every institution will have its own guidelines and branding or outreach criteria at one level or another. It is wonderful you are chocked-full of ideas, but have the conversation first before proceeding.

In my case, and in our small state, my land grant institution carefully manages its brand and message. It should! In the past, a county here, and a county there, created social media accounts as an affiliate of our university. If accounts are permitted to sprout up without training or management, you can easily see how “messaging” and “consistency” can get diluted. In the past, each social media presence used its own administrator or manager and therefore, projected its own unique voice—and that is not necessarily a good thing when we seek to deliver consistent and trusted messaging.

Every state does it differently. Due to Delaware’s smaller size, we consolidated many accounts that were floating around. For example, our three county 4-H Facebook pages present now as a single 4-H Facebook page. Some Master Gardener pages had sprouted up too, and a decision was made by the social media team to fold all of those under one Cooperative Extension account on Facebook, and the same strategy was employed on Twitter.  So in short, our single Extension accounts on Facebook and Twitter cover all major program areas: lawn & garden, agriculture and family consumer science. To a lesser extent we mention 4-H, because they have their own brand (the 4-H Emblem/clover) and therefore they maintain their own social media accounts. To unify and present as one, however, Extension and 4-H continually share each others content back and forth. Right now our official Extension accounts utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  We’re small. For us, this works!

If you skip over to Pennsylvania, they will approach social media entirely different. On Twitter they manage multiple accounts:  livestock, dairy, IPM or Master Gardener accounts. Last time I looked, Maine 4-H did not have a Twitter account, it all was handled by one primary Extension account. Some states have several Master Gardener accounts, by county. There are logistical and strategic reasons for all the various ways Cooperative Extension uses social media. No way is right or wrong. Each social media approach needs to fit the institution, the strategic plan, the overall marketing plan, the demographic and targeted audience, and take into account the pool of human talent that makes these accounts all run smoothly.

When I discovered Vine, a platform for recording and continuous looping of six-second video footage, I saw many possibilities for Extension, and in particular with the Master Gardener program. But I knew, at that moment, adding another social media account with our university brand was not in the immediate future. So, I created my own Vine account. I record all sorts of things: my cats, my trips, and my garden. If I record something work-related, such as Monarch butterflies feasting and fluttering in the demo garden, I will share that content out under my personal name, but I might also tag it with UD tags (hashtags), or since I can connect my Vine to Twitter, I might add in and directly tag (using the @ handle) @UDExtension (Delaware Cooperative Extension) in my description. Then I send it out. It is my Vine, under my name.

Curating

So what does that do? The social media manager of Extension Twitter account I tagged gets notified that someone mentioned them. In this case, it is my six-second Monarch masterpiece! If the Extension account manager likes the content, he or she may decide to share my Vine video out to their wider audience. It is completely up to that trained and expert social media pro to use his or her judgment on behalf of the institution. For UDExtension on Twitter, the Vine that “mwalfred” shared is considered “earned” media. They didn’t pay to have it taken, didn’t ask for it to be taken. But it could still be considered useful.

Businesses do this all the time, taking advantage of their customer’s good will and social media skills. They curate the “buzz” that is on the social media stage. In my referenced example, I took the video on my own. Me, and only me, decided to share and tag my institution. The tagged recipient, in turn, decides if they want to do something with this video gift. They “curate” the content. They decide to collect it, comment on it, and share it back out. Or not. They can choose to ignore it. It is all optional. If I add my university’s hashtag in the description, they too may wish to curate and share it.

In this way, any institution or business can benefit from all the great content coming and going on new and old platforms, and by following handles and hashtags, are able to sift through what they like out of the social media stream and ignore the rest. Private individuals can experiment with new platforms and diverse contact with little or no risk. Nobody breaks any rules. You get to show your adventurous and creative nature and possibly gain some feedback and attention as a result.

So what is a Master Gardener volunteer to do? You want to help. Social media is a tool that intrigues you. What’s the next step?

  • Study your institution. Where are the accounts and how are they using it? What platforms seem to be working? What is their voice and tone? Formal? Casual? How is humor used? Look at the patterns of links-photos-videos-infographics-and engagement. If it looks successful, stick with the winning formula.
  • Pick a platform you would be comfortable with and learn it. Watch how successful accounts post, use hashtags, etc. Don’t try to take on too much right away.
  • Speak to your lead Extension agent, or person with authority about your role with the social media accounts. This is a must!
  • Ask to find out if there is a strategic plan for social media communications. I bet there is!
  • Get the training. Get permission!
  • Understand how trends and strategies work. You’ve likely heard of “Throwback Thursday” or “Wordless Wednesdays?” These are trends and themes that have rendered good results in social media. How does your organization utilize those themes?
  • Learn to use a mobile device. Learn the functions of a smart phone camera and that built-in video recorder! Most smart phones are amazing photographic tools! I have a big fancy Nikon, but I increasingly turn to my smart phone as a convenient and more than competent go-to-camera! Social media accounts can be managed with a browser in a PC, Mac or laptop, but a smart phone makes it much easier!
  • Download the apps (applications) of the social media platforms you will be personally using or authorized to use for your institution.nine twitterI am an admin of several accounts on Twitter. I volunteer for other organizations and tweet on their behalf all the time. An application on a mobile device allows me to seamlessly toggle back and forth among the nine accounts for which  I have access  (see screenshot).
  • Ask your Extension office if there is a hashtag they are curating. Use that in your personal posts.
  • Review social media webinars that were recorded by myself and associates here at UD Extension as part of a partnership with MidAtlantic Women in Ag. Free hour-long webinars and how to’s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., are available for your viewing pleasure. We have two years worth of archives for you to look and examine! MidAtlantic Women in Ag Wednesday Webinars
  • Story tell with photographs. Good photos! Sometimes simplicity is more powerful. If you are not a writer, Instagram might be more up your alley than Facebook. But research tells us that all major platforms do very well with a compelling photo or short video as the main content. What was the most exciting thing to happen in your volunteer day? Capture it if you can and share it through an image.
  • Finally, share content. If your Extension office posts something on the Facebook page, the most effective action you can take is to share that post on your timeline, with your friends, or retweet a Twitter post to your followers. “Liking,” “hearting,” or “favoriting” Extension content is always appreciated. But the big bonanza comes when you share the content out. That gives Extension and Extension programming and volunteers maximum and exponential exposure. If you really want to help the team, share, share, share!

Learning to be an effective communicator on social media can be intimidating. New platforms are introduced at a record pace. Don’t be thwarted by someone telling you, “this platform is out, and this one is in” or “nobody is using that anymore!” The social media platforms listed in this post, may not always be in high fashion with a particular demographic, but they have long since stood the test of time and have millions, if not billions of participants. That makes social media platforms a powerful and an effective outreach tool to share with others about what Master Gardeners do for Cooperative Extension and how they serve their communities in valuable ways!

Troll-free Periscope broadcasts thanks to Katch.me

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Thanks to Katch.me!

Yahoo!

Troll. Image via Creative Commons Flickr User Jeff and Neda Fields

Bye-bye! Delete!

If you use live-streaming, live-broadcasting platforms like Meerkat or Periscope (which is my personal choice – and what I will refer to henceforth) you know all about attention-seeking trolls. They appear unannounced – delighted with their own power to disrupt or offend and throw a broadcaster a little (or a lot) off guard. Troll comments can ruin a broadcast with their impromptu, and often off-color, or downright inappropriate, utterances.

Watching people tune into your broadcast is a lot of fun! Reading and receiving comments is part of the appeal of live smart phone broadcasts. Social media is all about being social, and feedback from your viewers is an exciting part of the engagement process.

What if your broadcast was terrific? What if you want to keep a permanent archive of selected broadcasts?  Or create your very own Scopes on Demand?  Perhaps you have shared something rather informative or entertaining and want to hold on to it – email it out, embed in your website or share out on social media.  I’ve discovered that Katch.me is a great way to keep and share (optional) your archive permanently! It is free and easy to use and connect your Meerkat or Periscope broadcasts.

So, I created the free account, and now, by default, all my scopes, inferior as some of them are, go straight to Katch.me for safekeeping and for further scrutiny and review. Maybe I will keep some, delete others, or disect the video for a 6-second Vine, a 15-second Instagram, b-roll footage, or who knows what. With Katch.me I now have options!

One of my earlier scopes, about useful tools and tips to make your scoping experience easier, was going great, until 5 minutes in, when a troll visitor made inappropriate comments. I had my phone on a tripod, filming myself holding up gadgets and such, and did not see, and therefore did not block, the comments that came in from this nasty piece of work. There seems to be one in every crowd. I won’t elaborate, but it was disgusting. What a creep!

So for the 65 people or so who tuned in, they saw the comments live. In my oblivion, I thought I had recorded a winner. Alas, I had to I trash the educational scope and removed it from my Periscope archive – all because of that one nasty bit of chatter. Even if I had monitored the comments live, which is more typical, the comments would have appeared in Periscope’s archive for at least a second or two until I blocked the nasty bloke!

I connect my scopes to Twitter and to Katch automatically

I connect my scopes to Twitter and to Katch automatically

Since I had recently connected my Periscope account (already connected to Twitter) to Katch.me, I checked to see if I had any options on that platform to salvage my broadcast.

On the Periscope archive, the comments normally float up over the scene you are are recording. In the first incarnation of Katch.me, comments appeared off to the side as they did with my troll-tarnished scope. It’s a nice touch that the first version of Katch.me offset the comments for a clean view of the recording, yet visible in order to understand the context of broadcaster’s narrative as they respond to incoming feedback and questions.  However, the comments, good, bad and vulgar, were still present.

I wrote to the people at Katch.me and inquired if they could add a feature that would allow users to line-item remove undesired expletives. I explained what happened in my educational scope, and how it was ruined by a single troll. Katch.me quickly wrote back and shared it was something they were working on.  Not too long after, as the French might say, “Voila!”

comments

Yes! Line-item delete capability! Bye-bye trolls!

Katch.me improvement Version 2 showed comments off to the side, with a nice “X” by each commenting viewer account name. Simply delete the offending troll, and your broadcast is now suitable for the web!

Katch.me improvement Version 3 completely separates the comments from the broadcast with tabs. See above. When a scoper (is that a word now? I think so!) downloads the video broadcast, the comments will not follow along with the recording. This eliminates all worries about trolls, but it does take away the interactions and engagements and therefore what is said by the broadcaster might not make sense in a later replay without the comments there to provide context.

With this second update, Katch.me leaves the comments for viewers on a broadcaster’s Katch.me archive page to read. As a Katch.me account holder, broadcasters can choose to make their broadcasts public or private and have their portfolio at their disposal. Best of all, when a broadcaster receives an inappropriate or offensive comment, they can now line-item delete! That is a HUGE improvement!

While on live Periscope, I have options. I can block the offending troll, but seconds of the troll’s comment will appear before I deny the troll any further due. I can also choose to restrict comments to only those I follow. I’ve tried this safeguard technique after the first  zinger, but it left me with limited engagement and feedback. To my way of thinking, it defeats the purpose of Periscope. If I want to do straight videos, I have YouTube for that. Periscope is and should remain edgy, informal, spontaneous and unique!

Most broadcasters, whether using Meerkat or Periscope, know what the deal is with live-streaming broadcasts. There are risks involved. You are inviting the rest of the world to your momentary slice of the universe. Periscope (and Meerkat) is a spontaneous and live platform and that is exactly what I love about it. Scopes are in the moment. They are unpolished, somewhat flawed, and yet terribly authentic. These broadcasts, be they pro or amateur, convey real stories!

I can handle childish comments and overt self-promoters very well. When I am scoping personal content, like watching airplanes take off at an airport, or touring my garden, I am far more tolerant of trolls. I am not that easily offended. I am a grown up girl, I can handle it! And I can give as good as I get!

But, and it’s a big “but,” if I am using Periscope for work — to showcase impressive 4-H youth, or shine the spotlight on the good work of Cooperative Extension, or hope to offer content that I feel might be helpful in an educational or professional capacity, then I want a broadcast that is both respected and respectful.

Thanks to Katch.me, I now have full control of my content!

Troll. Image via Creative Commons Flickr User Jeff and Neda Fields

Periscope packs potential for Cooperative Extension

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Periscope, the live-streaming video platform owned by Twitter is packed with potential for Cooperative Extension.

As someone who lived on the dark side for 44 years, that is to say, never knew what Cooperative Extension was or did, I am keen to share my experiences ever since I stepped into the Land-Grant light 15 years ago. Allow me to digress.

Whenever I find myself in a social situation, a wedding, sitting next to someone on a plane or restaurant, I play a little game. I try to ascertain if the person knows what Cooperative Extension is.  You know how this goes. We Americans usually get to the, ‘So what do you do?” question rather early in our nacent conversations. I can answer that inevitable question, with three different, yet truthful responses to which I receive different reactions:

1. Me: “I work for the University of Delaware.” Reaction: “Oh, do you teach?”
2. Me: “I work with 4-H.”  Reaction: “Oh, do you live on a farm?” or “Are you involved with agriculture?”
3. Me: “I work for Cooperative Extension.” Reaction: Quizzical look. Furrowed brow. Head tilt. Long pause. “Hmmm, and that is…?”

This type of exchange happens, with some variation, all too frequently and particularly when I am out of my adopted agricultural county or professional agricultural milieu. In other words, when I am out and about in the business world, or among urban and suburban types of all demographics.  I will qualify that when I follow up Number 3 with “Master Gardeners” they usually nod with a relieved recognition.

i’ve made it my personal mission, in addition to my professional calling, to tell the world about Cooperative Extension.

Social media has a large role to play in this mission, especially in reaching out to a younger, urban, and technologically proficient demographic. We’ve done a good job reaching the rural, newspaper-reading, baby boomers and older citizenry. They’ve heard of us. Kind of. They come to our workshops, they phone us or walk into our Extension offices with a sick plant. Farmers know who we are. Cooperative Extension has gone out into their communities and built strong relationships. We have a right to be proud, but never complacent! There still remains a whole half of a world out there that doesn’t know who we are and what we do. Trust me with this. I was one of them!

Periscope presents new possibilities. Periscope will bring Cooperative Extension to new audiences!

Think of Periscope as Facetime or Skype combined with Twitter and Snapchat. Broadcasting over Periscope places viewers live, in the moment, as the action is happening, be it a concert, a workshop, or a tour of your surroundings. Your audience, which can be global, is transported into your world. Used properly it can be a fantastic teaching tool.

Audiences will find you in different ways. Via a map, accidentally, purposefully, out of curiosity or boredom, or because you expertly targeted them with a clever title or honed your brand. They will come to your Periscope from all different directions and for different reasons. It is an opportunity not to be wasted!

Broadcasts, known as “scopes” can be as long or as short as you want them to be. Note longer scopes will drain your battery and may test your audience’s attention span! Periscope started out and can remain a stand-alone platform, meaning you cultivate followers the same as any social media platform. But when Twitter purchased it, connectivity to Twitter transformed Periscope into a serious communication tool.

When you broadcast an event or segment on Periscope, Periscope users from all over the world have the potential to see your broadcast. How easy it is to find you depends on using clever titles, keywords and hashtags that are of interest to a broad audience.

How compelling your “scope” is depends on your location venue, your topic and how well you narrate the event. If people like your scope, they give you hearts. Kind of like Instagram, except that they can give you many of them. Hearts are highly sought after and desired.

The broadcasts are open to everyone. The default setting allows all viewers to chat, say hello, ask questions of the broadcaster, etc. While scoping you will see people join, but not leave. A running total of current viewers is displayed at bottom right.

Broadcaster Options

You have choices as a broadcaster. Be in the moment. Show what’s going on and let it fade away or save and share what you’ve broadcasted to a limited or permanent archive.

  • Broadcast to Periscope people only (Followers and people who find you from the map)
  • Broadcast to Periscope and to your Twitter account followers
  • Save your broadcast to the 24-hour archive, after which it disappears
  • Save your broadcast on Periscope past the 24-hour limit, e.g., permanant archive
  • Save your Periscope to your camera role. This archive can be repurposed, e.g., YouTube

Controlling Trolls in Educational Posts 

The default audience can make comments. Everyone sees these comments. Each individual viewer can hide the chat by swiping right on iOS and swiping up on Android. The open forum means trolls (aka jerks), users who seek attention by entering off-context or inappropriate comments and can, for a few seconds, show up on your broadcast. The broadcaster can block trolls or inappropriate comments, but it doesn’t erase what they already said. A few seconds of an expletive is an intolerable few seconds! If you are planning to archive, embed or share your broadcast after the fact, you don’t want that content in there for all to see! It can ruin the integrity of your broadcast. These comments can be edited out in post production if you are repurposing your archive for another purpose.

It’s a bit of a dilemma, because on the one hand, as a broadcaster, I want the interaction of a conversation. It adds an exciting element. I scoped a Master Gardener open house this past summer, and viewers asked gardening questions. It was great. i didn’t have an issue with trolls, and the scope, once saved, became a useful archive that could be shared after the fact.

But another scope I did, on how to use Periscope, was ruined by a troll. Despite a good performance and helpful content on my part, the language that popped up made my scope unusable. I redid the scope, this time restricting comments to only those I personally follow. That scope was archived.

Using Periscope is easy. Download the free app. In the interest of brevity, Here is a great article about how to get started on Periscope with good basic, intro advice.

Here are some useful and practical tips to push your scopes to the next level:

1. Invest in an inexpensive monopod, and a smart phone grip or clip with a tripod mount to lessen camera shake. If you are scoping scenery, this is particularly helpful. I prefer the monopod over a selfie stick because a monopod can be used with a DSLR.

2. Write your scope title in your memo app. Live streaming often suffers from connection issues. If you lose your connection, you will want to jump back in as quickly as possible. Best to copy and paste the same title and paste it back in as needed. Use handles & hashtags in titles when appropriate.

3. Keep the title short. Remember, if your scope is going out on Twitter, your title will be tweeted with the preface of “@handlename  Live on Periscope.” I have noticed that my longer titles did not get posted on Twitter.

4. Work with a partner or supporter to retweet your scope broadcast to his or her followers. Because the technology is so new, I broadcast over my own personal handle @mwalfred as I have not been authorized to scope out officially from a work account. But I have broadcasted Cooperative Extension events, so I let my assistant know ahead I am going to be scoping, and they in turn will share my tweet. For example, at a recent 4-H event at the Delaware State Fair I scoped under my own handle, shared it on Twitter and someone else retweeted me on the @Delaware4H account.

4. Learn how to say “hello” in other languages. You will get curious visitors from all over the world. It’s a nice touch to greet them in their own language!

5. Don’t pan the camera too fast. Early on I scoped gardens, with beautiful flowers, bees and butterflies, etc. and I went way too fast. When I watched the replay, I realized I missed a lot of the detail and beauty. Linger. Let your lens take it in. Your audience will appreciate it.

6. Optional: Save the scope to your camera library. If you select this option, your vertical broadcast, while not ideal for iMovie or YouTube, can be repurposed for a 15-second video for Instagram or six-second snippet for Vine.

7. Don’t ambush people. When promoting Cooperative Extension events on Periscope. ask before turning the camera on someone. Master Gardeners and 4-H’ers typically sign photo releases. But ask as a courtesy.  Most people do not know what Periscope is. Off screen, let them know it is LIVE, going out over Twitter, and ask if is it okay to put them on camera. In public areas, you can’t help from getting people on camera, but I do not focus on them. Respect their privacy. A passing sweep is one thing, but putting a close up of a person’s face or making them the subject of a Periscope is not ethical. Don’t do it.

8. The content becomes your brand. What goes on in the day-in-the-life-of-an-Extension-agent? This is what corn smut looks like. Weed ID, Plant ID, Fusarium wilt on a curcumbant. Check out this cool 4-H robot. Let’s drop in on this superb 4-H public speaker! Let’s take a close up look at sheep. Here’s how to make a healthy lunch. Meet Master Gardener Judy Collins, she is going to show you how to divide hostas, irises or how to prune a hydrangea or properly mulch a tree. See this insect? Don’t kill it, its beneficial! The possibilities are endless and very helpful to your audience.

9. Repeat information. People will be joining in at all times of your broadcast, so as a courtesy, review and repeat where you are and what people are viewing.

10. Invest in a portable battery. Periscope is a lot of fun, but it will suck the life out of your battery very quickly. When running Periscope, extend battery life by turning off all other applications. I have a Jackery portable battery and it performs superbly!

A little longer than a lipstick tube the Jackery is lightweight and can follow you everywhere offering 3200mAh of power.

A little longer than a lipstick tube the Jackery is lightweight and can follow you everywhere offering 3200mAh of power.

11. Is it okay to ask for hearts?  Personally, I think it is a little self-serving, but what you can do is ask the audience to heart your subject. I went into a butterfly exhibit, where you could walk in a large netted tent and experience Monarch butterflies up close. I got hearts without asking, but when I lingered on the shot, and said “Let’s hear it for the Monarchs!” the hearts came flooding in. So you can do it without being overt or obvious about it.

12. Be prepared for trolls. Periscope is not YouTube. It is in the moment and that is its charm. There is certain tolerance for whacko comments. It helps to have a sense of humor and not be too thin-skinned. Roll with it and have fun with it. On personal scopes, I ignore what I don’t want to bother with, but if someone is being a pest, or is introducing a tone into your broadcast, by all means block them. You can also tap an option to limit chats to only those you follow. It will reduce the spontaneity of live chat (which I feel is part of the Periscope charm) but if you are producing scopes that you hope to share or embed, you don’t want inappropriate comments emerging. Limiting the ability to chat to only people you follow is an option to consider.

13. Wear the brand or display the banner. Scope in front of your logo, your hashtag and your handle. Make them large and visible. Make posters of your hashtags and handles! If you are appearing on camera as a host think about and possibility stage your background. Wear your land grant logo. Repeat Cooperative Extension. Explain who we are and why we are universally trusted.

14. Scoping outdoors will make it difficult to read comments. Wear polarizing sunglasses, and if you are old like me, wear readers or sunglass readers. If you can’t read the comments, you can’t respond! This is social media. Be social!

15. Narrow your scope’s focus If you have a lot to say or share, that’s fine. Divide it up for more material for future scopes! As with YouTube, the ideal length of video attention-span is on average about 2-3 minutes. Keep it short, punchy, and topical. While I have scoped entire presentations, it was usually done as a convenience for someone who could not attend in person. Expect that a very small number will hang in there past 5 minutes. You are better off recording the workshop in a traditional way and playing back upon request.

16. To appear or not to appear on camera. Anything goes here. You can make the subject your focus, or you can be the host of your own Cooperative Extension channel. Do what you are comfortable with. A nice touch is to briefly appear on camera, say hello, introduce yourself and then point the camera to your scope topic. Anything goes, but consistency is the best way to develop your brand and build followers from an audience.

Periscope, and any live streaming service can pack a punch for Cooperative Extension, but it won’t be every agent, educator or specialists’ cup of Cooperative Extension tea. But we’ve been challenging ourselves to do things differently, haven’t we?  For video content delivery, quite frankly, You Tube is the safer choice. We write a script, we frame our shot. Periscope isn’t perfect and that is exactly its appeal. The real is the appeal.  Scoping is what you make of it. It adds a new flavor to the mix. It is not meant to replace traditional content, but complement the tried and true. With Periscope, choices and options are always on the menu. Periscope possesses a potential to cross over and capture people who aren’t necessarily seeking us out. Periscope preaches to the non-choir. 

Your content and style of broadcasting will be your brand. If a handful of people here and there learn what Cooperative Extension is, get a garden tip from Master Gardeners, or learns about 4-H, then the 2-3 minutes of spontaneity is worth the effort. As creators, we can let that moment disappear, or if it turns out terrific, save it and share it out. Give it a try. As 4-H motto goes, Learn by Doing! Download the app, sit in on a few scopes and watch people are doing. Then pop the bubble, raise up your Periscope and invite the world in!

Up Periscope

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In February 2015,  Twitter purchased the live streaming application known as Periscope. With that acquisition, Periscope may have indeed left its nearest competitor, Meerkat, in the dust.

What is Periscope? Think of it as Facetime or Skype combined with Twitter and Snapchat. Broadcasting over Periscope puts your viewers or followers in the moment, be it a concert, a workshop, or a tour of your surroundings. Your audience, which can be global, is transported into your world.  Used properly, it can be a fantastic teaching tool, bringing new audiences into your world or workplace.

Broadcasts, known as “scopes” can be as long or as short as you want them to be. Note longer scopes will drain your battery and may test your audience’s attention span!
With Periscope you may choose to:

  • Broadcast to Periscope people only (Followers and people who find you from the map)
  • Broadcast to Periscope and to your Twitter account followers
  • Save your broadcast to the 24-archive, after which it is gone forever
  • Liink your Periscope to a “Katch.me” account where your scopes will be aggreagated and archived permanently New updates about Katch.me (Sept-Oct 2015)
  • Not save it to archive to be watched later and let it disappear after broadcast
  • Save the broadcast as a video to your camera roll (note there is a short window to do this)

While broadcasting, you will see people join. You do not see if they leave, but you are always shown an audience total at the bottom right corner.

Your audience can make comments. Everyone sees these comments. Each individual viewer can hide the chat by swiping right on iOS and swiping up on Android. The broadcaster can block trolls or inappropriate comments.

How compelling your “scope” is depends on your location venue, your topic and how well you narrate the event. If people like your scope, they give you hearts. Kind of like Instagram, except that they can give you many of them. Hearts are highly sought after and desired.

Using Periscope is easy. Download the free app. In the interest of brevity, Here is a great article about how to get started on Periscope with good basic, intro advice.

Like Meerkat and Snapchat, Periscope favors the vertical or portrait orientation. You can turn your phone sideways if you want your audience to take in a wider panorama, but the chat does not auto rotate, so your audience will only tolerate short, selected changes in orientation. Unless it is really warranted, keep it vertical.

Here are some useful and practical tips to push your scopes to the next level:

1. Invest in an inexpensive monopod, and a smart phone grip or clip with a tripod mount to lessen camera shake. If you are scoping scenery, this is particularly helpful.

2. Write your scope title in your memo app.  Live streaming often has connection issues. If you lose your connection, you will want to jump back in as quickly as possible. Best to copy and paste the same title and paste it back in. I use handles & hashtags in titles when appropriate.

3. Keep the title short. Remember, if your scope is going out on Twitter, your title will be tweeted with the preface of “Your Handle Name Live on Periscope.” I have noticed that my longer titles did not get posted on Twitter.

4. Work with a partner or supporter to retweet your scope broadcast to his or her followers. Because the technology is so new, I broadcast over my own personal handle @mwalfred as I have not been authorized to scope out officially from a work account.  But I have broadcasted Cooperative Extension events, so I let my assistant know ahead I am going to be scoping, and they in turn will share my tweet. For example, at a recent 4-H event at the Delaware State Fair I scoped under my own handle, shared it on Twitter and someone else retweeted me on the Delaware 4-H account.

4. Learn how to say “hello” in other languages. You will get curious visitors from all over the world. It’s a nice touch to greet them in their own language.

5. Don’t pan the camera too fast. Early on I scoped gardens, with beautiful flowers, bees and butterflies, etc. and I went way too fast. When I watched the replay, I realized I missed a lot of the detail and beauty. Linger. Let your lens take it in. Your audience will appreciate it.

6. Optional: Save the scope to your camera library. If you select this option, your vertical broadcast, while not ideal for iMovie or YouTube, can be repurposed for a 15-second video for Instagram or six-second snipped for Vine.

7. Repeat successful scopes! As mentioned, archives, if you choose to offer them, only last 24 hours, after which they are listed but cannot be viewed (unless you use Katch.me)*.You will not have access to them unless you have saved the broadcast (sans the chat) to your camera roll or photo library. But your audience can view your profile and see the breadth of your Periscope content. The titles will give them a sense of your Periscope brand. *Katch.me is a free external aggregate service that saves your scopes, however, it will be up to you to let people know about that archive.

As an example, I follow a soccer sports agent in NYC who loves to scope the city’s landmarks and attractions. Ron Waxman @RonWaxman (on Twitter and Periscope) frequently scopes the city from the rooftop of his Upper East Side home. But he has done walking tours and driving tours.  Ron, who I affectionately call the “Pope of Scope” frequently repeats his venues, and occasionally throws in a concert or two or a surreptitious museum tour. His opening line, “Helloooo Peeepole” has become his brand. He’s a hoot! Definitely check him out, he has this down!

Top left, people are commenting and giving hearts, top right, you can see the broadcaster Ron Waxman blocked an account, bottom center,the scope can be swiped to hide the comments

Top left, screenshots of scopes by @RonWaxman.  People are commenting and giving hearts, top right, you can see the broadcaster Ron Waxman blocked an account, bottom center,the scope can be swiped to hide the comments

8. Don’t ambush people. I have scoped a few local events. I have promoted some Cooperative Extension Master Gardener events on Periscope. I ask before I turn the camera on someone. Most don’t know what Periscope is. I let them know it is LIVE, going out over Twitter, and ask if is it okay to put them on camera.  In public areas, you can’t help from getting people on camera, but I do not focus on them and I respect their privacy. A passing sweep is one thing, but putting a close up of a person’s face or making them the subject of a Periscope is not ethical. Don’t do it.

9. The content becomes your brand. I have experimented with this new technology.I scoped my Siamese cat (surprisingly popular) toured my backyard garden, scoped while I walked around NYC and Grant’s Tomb, and broadcasted live garden events where I work, and while I walked through the famous Longwood Gardens. Nothing terribly earthshaking, but interest in topics are varied. You never know what people want to see.  People scope famous landmarks, famous cities, concerts, lectures and workshops. Scope where it is legal to do so. Do not scope copyrighted material, such as those who scoped the season six series opener of Game of Thrones and caused HBO to have a fit.

10. Repeat information. People will be joining in at all times of your broadcast, so as a courtesy, review and repeat where you are and what people are viewing.

11. Invest in a portable battery. Periscope is a lot of fun, but it will suck the life out of your battery very quickly. When running Periscope, extend battery life by turning off all other applications. I have a Jackery portable battery and a Geocobi when I need serious, sustained power. In most cases the Jackery will do the job. The Geocobi is overkill and I have it mostly for the iPad.

The Geocobi is a portable powerhouse and can charge phones and tablets and offers 10.400mAh, but it's heavy!

The Geocobi is a portable powerhouse and can charge phones and tablets and offers 10.400mAh, but it’s heavy!

A little longer than a lipstick tube the Jackery is lightweight and can follow you everywhere offering 3200mAh of power.

A little longer than a lipstick tube the Jackery is lightweight and can follow you everywhere offering 3200mAh of power.

12. Is it okay to ask for hearts? Personally, I think it is a little self-serving, but what you can do is ask the audience to heart your subject. I went into a butterfly exhibit, where you could walk in a large netted tent and experience Monarch butterflies up close. I got hearts without asking, but when I went up and got a close up, and lingered on the shot, and said “Let’s hear it for the Monarchs!” the hearts came flooding in. So you can do it without being overt or obvious about it.

13. Be prepared for trolls, and for unusual comments, possibly due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. I simply ignore what I don’t want to bother with, but if someone is being a pest, or is introducing a tone into your broadcast, by all means block them. You can also tap an option to limit chats to only those you follow. It will reduce the spontaneity of live chat (which I feel is part of the Periscope charm) but if you are producing scopes that you hope to share or embed, you don’t want inappropriate comments emerging. Limiting the ability to chat to only people you follow is an option to consider. Click here for recent updates on how to control unwanted comments!

14. Promoting a product? Scope in front of your logo, your hashtag and your handle. Make them large and visible. Make posters of your hashtags and handles! Stage your background.

15. Scoping outdoors will make it difficult to read comments. Wear polarizing sunglasses, and if you are old like me, wear readers or sunglass readers. If you can’t read the comments, you can’t respond! This is social media. Be social! During the Master Gardener garden tour, I got great questions from the audience,which I relayed to the MG volunteers on the spot. This is great engagement! They were happy to answer questions!

16. Scoping tech topics and how to’s? Narrow your scope’s focus to one or two topics. If you have a lot to say or share, that’s fine. Divide it up for Mmore material for future scopes!

Periscope is what you make of it. Your content and your style of broadcasting will be your brand. I am plodding through in trial and error. Far more comfortable with the written word and being behind the scenes, I shy away from going on camera, but others do and I think it adds a great personal touch. Periscope has an enormous potential to reach new and younger audiences. If a handful here and there learn what Cooperative Extension is, get a garden tip from Master Gardeners, or learns about 4-H, I am happy with introducing people to where and with whom I work on that level. I am not looking for thousands of followers.  As I play around with the platform, I am getting better at it, and finding things to share. I’ve toured my back yard, shared the antics of my Siamese cats and even scoped a short helicopter ride (iphone in one hand scoping, a DSLR in the other hand) it was crazy, unscripted and I received my largest audience and hearts as a result. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As one of the 4-H mottos goes, Learn by Doing! Download the app, see what people are doing and raise up your Periscope and invite the world in!

Top 10 +1 musts for Extension Facebook pages

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Lately, I have seen television commercials where a web service will create a Facebook page for you for free! And for a monthly fee, even post content for you! Ah if it were only that simple.

Many organizations, including Cooperative Extension, have invested a significant presence on social media, including Facebook pages, which are free and easy to set up. It used to be simple after that – tell your friends to like the page, post content and everyone who liked your page would see the updates. Those simple days are over, and like most things on social media, a well-planned strategy is the key for success. Cooperative Extension is recognized across the world as an organization that provides unbiased, research-based information that people can trust. We have good things to share. Naturally, we want to get the word out to as many people as possible. Facebook is one such tool for outreach. There are quite literally, hundreds of Facebook page management tips to share. Here are my top ten (plus one) tips for Cooperative Extension to have in place on their Facebook pages.

1. Make sure your page is classified as “education” instead of “nonprofit” or other designation. Facebook gives preference to content from education pages as opposed, to nonprofit, retail or a politician’s page.

2. When setting up page roles, always have a minimum of two full administrators on the account. In case of emergency, relying on one administrator can be a big mistake and grind page management to a halt.  Administrators can add adjunct roles like content editor to part-time contributors or interns. Administrators can remove roles or delete a page. Regardless of the role, everyone who posts content should be briefed with regard to voice and tone and your organization’s overall content plan (see #s 5 & 6).

3. Have an amazing timeline cover photo. This is part of your brand. You can change monthly or seasonally or create a mosaic. Photo dimensions are 851 x 351. Profile picture/avatar should be your logo and should be the same image as other social media avatars so that your brand is consistent across all social media platforms.

4. Mobile app and desktop versions of Facebook are signficantly different. With this difference comes limitations. Chief among these is the ability to use Facebook as a page and navigate around Facebook the way individuals can.  It is important to use Facebook as your page and engage across the Facebook platform. In desktop versions, or from a mobile browser (not the app) at top right, you can drop down an arrow and leave your personal identity and switch to your page name. Once you do this, your avatar will change. Your Extension page is now able to like other pages (and should), comment on other stories (and should), and tag other pages in your content (and should). Example: If the New York Times or your local news’ Facebook page does a story on an Extension topic, your page can like that story, comment on it and share it. And should! People read comments! In a browser-based Facebook, you also have the ability to change icon identity at each post location.

Administrators/editors will see the pages they manage iin a drop down arrow top right of a browser/desktop version of Facebook. Changing as your page allows you to navigate across Facebook as your page. This is important in involving Extension's presence within Facebook and it allows you to like other pages, engage with them and comment on stories!

Administrators/editors will see the pages they manage iin a drop down arrow top right of a browser/desktop version of Facebook. Changing as your page allows you to navigate across Facebook as your page. This is important in involving Extension’s presence within Facebook and it allows you to like other pages, engage with them and comment on stories!

5. Vary content. Facebook will penalize your organic reach if you continually post the same url source or post the same type of content. Mix it up. Content should be a.) internal website b.) other people’s website or other people’s content c.) original photo d.) video, etc. Never post the identical content on Twitter or other social media platforms or use an automated service that posts on one platform and repeats it on another. Twitter and Facebook have completely different audience bases and content should reflect those differences.

6. Consider a weekly theme plan. For example: Mondays recognizes a volunteer. Tuesdays can feature trees, technology, etc. Wednesday can focus on a program area, a ‘how to’ tip. Thursdays can look back, nostalgia, or focus on outreach, a particular animal, etc. Friday can be fun, futuristic, a photo caption day, fun food fact, or the day you post a comic. Let Saturday zero in on science, feature a cool microscopic photo, infographic, an interesting statistic and set Sundays for a thoughtful or inspirational quote, a look at the week ahead, a DIY tip, trivia for audience to guess what a photo might be, or fill in the blank challenge. While Facebook has never been a hashtag haven, they can be effective tools when used sparingly. Adopting a trending hashtag into your post now and then, such as #throwbackthursday is a good idea.

7. Keep posts short. Facebook is moving toward mobile. Despite some limitations with the app, growing numbers are checking in via smartphones. No one wants to see a long paragraph of text. A strong photo is more important. Conventional wisdom now says Facebook should be as short as Twitter, if not shorter. 140 characters or less. One expert said recently the ideal Facebook post is 70 characters! Eek!

8. Timing. How often should you post? Twice a day, once a day, two-three times a week? Day, night, evenings or weekends? Pay attention to your insights, particularly when reach and engagement peaks. Post when your audience is likely to be on Facebook. Studies indicate weekends are optimal times. The frequency of your content depends on the variety and quality of the information you have to share. One of our highest engagements came on a snow day when everyone was home and on social media talking about the weather! Bottom line, know your audience and study your Facebook insights for what works and what does not.

9. Support other Extension pages and content. Share and engage with them. There is strength in numbers. We are colleagues and part of a larger community of outreach. We need to support each others’ pages and tag each other in content. This is the ‘social’ in social media! If your Extension group has more than one page (4-H, county pages, livestock, ag, horticulture) please consider cross supporting each of those pages by sharing and tagging. All of these programs and departments ultimately fall under your Extension umbrella. In Delaware, we’ve consolidated our Facebook presence down to one Extension and one 4-H page and that makes sense for our smaller state. However your pages are organized, it is important to support and to study what other Extension offices are doing in social media. What posts are getting the most comments, shares and likes? If it is appropriate to share their content on your page, do it! The public might only know Extension through a specific program, for example, Master Gardeners. But there is nothing wrong with a livestock page shouting out to a 4-H page, or a 4-H page referring to a FCS or horticulture post. This helps the public understand the broad reach and brand of trust that is Extension.

10. Request Extension staff to comment and share your page’s content on their timeline. It is great when staff likes a post, but it doesn’t help much. The key to exponential growth and reaching new audiences is getting other people to share content on their timeline. Never ask anyone to share or like a post in the post itself, because Facebook will detect that text and actually penalize your post’s organic reach. But within your organization it is helpful if you can communicate to your staff how private account sharing can help. Most people don’t realize how this works and are glad to help. In terms of value, sharing is best, followed by commenting and then last –  liking. My family and friends on Facebook now know more about Extension than they ever did!  I don’t share everything, but I do share a good bit on my timeline and I have seen my friends respond to the content on their own. Most are glad to get the valuable information Extension provides.

11. You may have to boost a post now and then. Never assume the number of likes your page has, whether it is 200 or 2,000, is seeing your content. They are not. You are lucky if you are reaching 5%. Facebook is no longer serving your content to your entire page fan base.  Not for free. Reaching more of your audience, organically, depends on how original and clever (and shareable) your content is. If you want all your fans and their friends to see your content, you are going to have to pay. The good news, it is fairly inexpensive. A $20 investment can reach tens of thousands of people.

As social media platforms and options continue to evolve, social media managers are wise to expand beyond Facebook. Over-rely on Facebook at your own peril. When you’ve built up to 1,000 followers, but Facebook only delivers to 50, despite your best efforts, it is time to add other platforms to your strategy. Twitter is equally, if not more important. Instagram has great potential for story telling through images. Vine and Periscope are impressive short video and live feed coverage, respectively that can spice up Twitter content. Twitter owns both Vine and Periscope.

One other tip that I have not enumerated, but throw out for debate (because I have not yet seen a definitive answer) is the practice of removing a url address in the post once it populates in the preview. It has been my habit to erase the url once the preview appeared because it looked neater and cleaner. I recently read on LinkedIn a suggestion that it is beneficial for organic reach to leave the url in place, and many people chimed in on the comments that it is decidedly so.  I haven’t seen the evidence. Stay tuned. More on Facebook’s algorithms here.

 

I read the news today, oh boy

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…and you weren’t there!

Facebook and Twitter deliver their (your) news feed content to their respective audiences in completely different and challenging ways. Although technically similar, it is important to understand how these feeds work when employing a strategy to maximize your content and audience reach.

Facebook

Most of us know or have heard that following a page, or friending a person does not guarantee that we will see that specific post or status update in our news feed. Facebook uses highly sophisticated algorithms to determine what we see in our news feed. An individual’s engagement with a post (liking, commenting and sharing) is the largest determining factor whether or not that same individual will see more of the same from the page, friend or family member. In so many words, Facebook decides if we are bored or excited by our news feed based on our behavior. So, it’s very likely we are missing a lot! Updates we might actually be interested in. Check the timeline on the page or person you are fond of and you are likely to see they are sending out more than you are getting.

If you are on the sending end – hoping your information reaches all of your family and friends, or all the “fans” or the people behind those sought-after page “likes,” then, well… let’s just say you have some challenges ahead.

  1. Produce content that elicits a reaction. Will the reader say to themselves, “Oh wow, I have to share this!”? Does the content invite comments and conversation? Is it visually interesting? If your answer is no, it is time to step up your game.
  2. Page administrators: pay attention to your insights. When did content spike? Are you only reaching 79 of your 500 fans? Are your friends awfully quiet? Only receiving a handful of post likes? It is a sign you need to be less boring and also more engaging with the people whose attentions you seek.

Packing a punch on Facebook

  1. Avoid third party services whenever possible. A link you post directly into Facebook will get more traction than content delivered from using a third party service like Hootsuite, or TweetDeck. Yes they are convenient, but Facebook will penalize you in the news feed for using them. Sharing photos? Don’t rely entirely on external sites like Flickr. Great photos should be uploaded directly through Facebook and also as a link to a Flickr album. Mix it up.
  2. Avoid boring pictures. No one wants to see a photo of a person giving a PowerPoint presentation. Yes, we know you gave a fascinating talk. Instead, feature a photo from that talk and write about a key message.
  3. Keep posts short. Facebook does not have a character limit, but research shows shorter posts get longer attention. Get to you point fast. Let the picture or link do the talking. Many experts now say the ideal length for Facebook is 80 characters! And you thought Twitter’s 140 limit was too restrictive!
  4. Pay attention to timing. Did your post fall flat? Consider posting the same content again on a different day or time. Change it up just a tad, use a different picture, etc. Just don’t repeat consecutively!
  5. Don’t be a One Trick Pony! Mix up your content. Picture, website link, Facebook video, Vine, link to a PDF, YouTube, and sharing other Facebook page content (like a partner organization).
  6. Boost posts. On important content, experiment with spending $5 or $10 to boost a post. This will remind your page fans you are still alive and kicking. Once there, they might look around and see what you have been up to. Only boost sparingly and and when the content is helpful or spectacular (share worthy).

Twitter

Twitter does not filter out content from your “Home” news feed. If you search by hashtags, Twitter will offer “Top Tweets” or “All Tweets” as a choice to cut through the onslaught of information. But with Twitter, you see who you follow, and therein lies the problem. News on Twitter whizzes past your screen faster than you can say “Caitlyn Jenner.”

twitter search

If you post great content at 9 a.m., but your target audience member checks his/her feed at 11:30 a.m., guess what? Your information is pushed back in their news feed. Way back. They may visit your account to see what you’re up to. They may decide to swipe up 20 or 30 times to see what was missed. Chances are they’ll start from where they jumped on, so your news is long gone. The solution is easy. Repeat and repeat again.

A quick look at The Washington Post’s Twitter account shows they do exactly that. They typically post their top news items every two to three hours in a 24-hour news cycle. Feature stories, infographics (they’re huge with U.S.maps) can be shared twice a day or multiple times during the week.

Breaking through on Twitter

  • Pace your delivery. Don’t marathon tweet one after the other, seconds apart. That’s spam. Have dynamite photos? We don’t have to see all 20 at once. Pace and space please!
  • Repeat breaking or important news several times a day or within the week. Just not in a row! Space it out over time and among/within other content. Big event coming up? Don’t tweet it once and forget about it. Different audiences come on at different times. Be there!
  • Upload great photos!
  • Use the right hashtags. Part 1. If you run out of room, change or alternate the #hashtags in repeat tweets. Delaware example: First tweet of a photo of children learning safety at a day camp might use #safety #NetDE (our state aggregate). Later in the day we might use #summersafety #KidsDE and if we sent out a third Tweet we might add in #EduDE #bikes #camp. See Holy Hashtag!
  • Use the right hashtags. Part 2. Don’t make hashtags up if a good one is already in use. People search hashtags for content. Don’t make it hard for people to find you. Use the hashtags everyone is using, or, if it is a new event hashtag, talk to other tweeps and ask their help in promoting the hashtag use. Place the event hashtag on event materials so people will know to use it.
  • Repeat content. Yes, this bears repeating!
  • Vine & Periscope! Video and live streaming brings your content to life.
  • Stop connecting to Facebook! Really, do I have to jump in, sign in, or sign up for Facebook to see your content? Don’t make me do that! No more fb.me’s please!
  • Sparingly connect to Instagram! I do occasionally auto-connect to my Instagram. Operative word is “occasionally.” See above bullet. It’s a way to let people know you have an Instagram account, but don’t overdo it. Think about it. Would you rather deliver a picture this way? Twitter picture

or this way?

Instagram picture

It’s not easy to navigate through all these social media nuances. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I learn from them, share those lessons, and most importantly keep experimenting and innovating!