Disclosure: A Question of Ethics

I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m on deadline for a forthcoming book on strategic social media and, as it turns out, books are hard to write! holy moly. I thought I’d give you a little sneak peak at the ethics chapter. Would love your feedback, of course.

The demand from the public that organizations behave ethically is high. These demands are often articulated as a call for transparency. Organizational transparency is largely misunderstood, however, even by the people who are charged with delivering it.

Many communicators find that the dilemmas faced in social media tend to fall under the topic of disclosure. What and how much do you disclose?

Under the umbrella of disclosure, you’ll find a bevy of dilemmas with choices that don’t sit on either side of the bright line between right or wrong (note: there is no such line). Through the stories and cases of organizations that get caught in snarled situations, we can learn valuable lessons.

Internal dilemmas related to disclosure primarily often revolve around identification of the “who” behind the voice of the social media accounts. Whose byline is on the company blog? Who is answering questions on Twitter?

The answers to questions around internal disclosure aren’t always comfortable. Communication professionals have long penned everything from guest editorials to speeches to contributed articles (and everything in between) for executives. Why, some ask, would social media be any different?

But social media is different.

Let’s look specifically at one of the hottest disclosure topics – whether ghostblogging is appropriate . Ghostblogging is when the byline on a blog reads one name and the content is written by someone else. And that someone else is anonymous to the reader. A common example of this is that the blog is ostensibly written by the CEO, but in actually written by someone in marketing or public relations.

A CEO’s opinion about his or her company, industry trends and related issues are valuable. People like to hear from CEOs. But CEOs are busy running companies, aren’t usually “writers,” and don’t always have the nuanced understanding of the online community to whom he or she is speaking.

In a 2009 post, Dave Fleet, a public relations practitioner in Toronto, Ontario, offers that ghostblogging without disclosure is a “very, very bad idea.” We would call it a ethics violation. Fleet offers some alternate ideas for maintaining a blog when the CEO can’t be the primary blogger:

  • Have a multi-author blog: reduce the workload on the executive by creating a team a bloggers cover issues across the organization.
  • Maybe it’s not the executive, but someone else who has a unique view of the organization that should be the blogger (under his or her own name). A nice example of this is Coca-Cola’s blog written by the company historian .
  • Disclose how the posts are developed. If the executive has help, reveal that. Language like, “I don’t write these posts, but I do read them and stand behind them” or “Written with Kelli Matthews.”
  • Maybe a blog isn’t the answer. An executive may be more comfortable with video or microblogging. Remember that blogs are just one tool in the toolbox. Find the digital medium that fits the “author’s” style .

Disregarding the call for transparency, organizations that behave opaquely are the ones we tend to hear about. In fact, disclosure and transparency often go hand in hand – through disclosure, an organization can achieve transparency.

Three Levels of Listening: What To Listen For

This post can also be found at the Lunar Logic blog. Lunar Logic is a web development firm in Eugene, Oregon. I’m working on a series of posts for my friends there and this it the first.

***

If you’ve been pondering a social media strategy, it’s likely you’ve heard the advice to “listen first.”

Lots of super smart people have talked about how to listen and monitor with blog post upon post that provides reviews of tools and links to resources.

In fact, I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

What you don’t find written about much is what you should be listening for. Maybe it’s intuitive to some, but in my experience, once you set up Google Alerts for your name and your business name, the “what else?” question looms large.

It’s not complicated, but you need to step outside your “insider” role and think about your organization from your customer/donor/volunteer/key audience’s perspective.

As part of my Social Media Boot Camp curriculum, I developed this graphic for listening & monitoring.

I’ll take an aside here to say that listening and monitoring are not the same thing – or at least they don’t have the same purpose. Listening helps you understand your audience, your community, your market better… almost like eavesdropping. Is a passive activity and you is vital to understanding how your audience/community/market behaves and your organization’s role in it.

Monitoring is more directed. You’re monitoring for the purpose of participating and responding. It’s active and action-oriented. They can be done simultaneously, so you’ll often see them together.

Back to the “what else?” question. I break it down like this:

Level One

  • Business name
  • Product names
  • Key leadership & executives
  • Key competitors

Level Two

  • Key industry terms & phrases (news, information, trends)
  • “Point of need” questions (what do people ask that your business/product/service can “answer”)
  • Influencers

Level Three

  • Related topics, terms, trends to your organization’s core products services. Think about the lifestyle of your audiences. (ex: what else are yoga enthusiasts interested in? how about small business owners?)

The specifics will depend on your organization and your goals, but in general, you need to be listening and monitoring in all three levels. This schema is also useful for expanding your listening and monitoring as you learn more about your community (“That’s a level 3.”).

If you’re creating content (blogging, tweeting or managing a Facebook page for example), you’ll find listening and monitoring across all three levels gives you lots of great input to produce great output. Bonus!

What would you add? Anything that you’ve found works really well for listening & monitoring?

Brand-Tweeting-New: Tips for Twitter Newbies

We’re kicking off another year at the University of Oregon. I’m not teaching social media-focused classes this term, but I always encourage my students to tweet and use a hashtag for the course. This term you’ll likely see #J350 and #J453 tags from students. Because the classes aren’t social media oriented (although certainly infused), I don’t take time to “teach” Twitter. But I’m not under the illusion that it’s intuitive and doesn’t need to be demonstrated. It’s been awhile since a did a post with resources and tips for those new to the microblogging platform, so here you go!

Some of my favorite resources on Twitter basics

  • Twitter 101 for Business: Written by the folks at Twitter, this guide is a terrific how to on using Twitter professionally. For journalism students, you really do have to think about all social media in that way. You’re a professional communicator and all your communication should reflect that.
  • Twitter’s Twitter Basics: A helpful guide from Twitter that covers a wide variety of topics.
  • College Students Guide to Twitter: This has long been one of my favorite resources for Twitter. I’ve shared it many, many times.
  • 10 Ways Twitter is Use for PR Practitioners: An overview on the top 10 reasons PR pros can find Twitter useful.

Who to Follow

  • Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students – a list created by another professor of her recommended people to follow. You can follow everyone at once.
  • 100 PR People to Follow – another list based on a blog post that identified the top 100 people in PR to follow. The two lists will have some overlap.
  • WeFollow.com – A handy directory of Twitter uses categorized by tag.

More Tips

  • Give Twitter at least 30 days & aim to follow and be followed by at least 100 people. Thirty days because Twitter is not intuitive – it takes time to figure it out. And the 100 following/follower level forces you to think outside your physical/offline networks and connect with new people.
  • Participate in chats: There are a few Twitter chats either specifically geared toward students or are particularly useful. Top 10 chats for PR & Marketing professionals. That list doesn’t include two that are specifically targeted at student and young professionals, so check out #PRStudChat and more about #u30PR0.

What are some of your favorite Twitter basics tips or resources?

Seven Ways Student Journalists Can Use Social Media

digital media

I had the opportunity to chat with the staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald about how they can use social media for themselves and the publication.I borrowed liberally from a recent Mashable article, adjusted, modified and expanded it to provide a handful of tips for student journalists.

I would preface all of these with the recommendation to sit down and spend a little time setting some personal and professional goals for yourself. Think about what you want to be known for and what you want people to remember about you. Knowing your goals will help you make intentional decisions about where to spend your time and energy when it comes to social media activities. Consider it a personal mission statement.

  1. Promote your content
    Use your social media network to promote your content. Post your articles/blogs on twitter, your links to YouTube videos on your Facebook page. As long as you’re using social media for more than just promoting your work, then sharing what you’re doing will be welcome by your network.
  2. Newsgathering and research
    This is probably the most obvious. Using  social media to learn more about the issue of the day, your sources, etc. can all be done with social media. I use social media for this purpose everyday and I even have a client who “facebook stalks” her clients to learn more about them (in a good way, I promise).
  3. Crowdsourcing and building source list
    You’ll meet lots of interesting people hanging out on social media, but even cooler? All those people know more people. Use your network to ask questions, find sources and generally do your job better.
  4. Publish more content
    If you’re a student journalist and you don’t have your own blog, your own YouTube channel and your own Flickr profile, you’re missing out on an opportunity to share more of your work than will ever fit in the print edition of your publication.
  5. Integrate blogs & other social content
    Look for ways to integrate your blogs and other social content on your organization’s home page. Different people connect in different ways, let them know where you hang out.
  6. Build a community & share rich content
    Join online groups and networks that make sense for your personal goals and while you’re there, ensure you’re providing rich content. For example, “I’m eating a sandwich” via Twitter is lame. But “Wow! This BLT from Marche Cafe has the most amazing locally-gown heirloom tomatoes” is interesting. This tweet shows you understand your local community and local business (which may be important for your network). But really, the specifics aren’t the point, the point is to think about providing content that says something, not total fluff. Although some fluff is ok sometimes, too.
  7. Personal branding
    Social media can really help you develop a personal brand. Find your niche and show what you know and who you are. Just remember your personal mission statement and goals. What do you want to be known for. And really a solid personal brand comes from having the work to back it up, not just a shiny image. There’s lots to say about this, and I won’t go into too much depth, but you can check out some posts I’ve tagged on the subject or just google it. It’s a hot topic these days.

Some bonus tips:

  • Always be mindful that you represent more than yourself. As a journalist, the stakes are higher.
  • Always be aware of what you put online – it will go further than you think.
  • Experiment!! Try stuff out!

image by the tartanpodcast

What a Dilemma! Ethics in the Modern Age

50s style, modern tools

I’d argue that we all face ethical dilemmas every day, particularly in and with social media channels. They may be small (should I say this or that on Facebook) or they might be bigger (no, I can’t pepper the web with positive reviews of that client’s product or service).

As you probably know, I’m working on a book with my friend and colleague, Michelle Honald. We’re focusing on the ethics of social media in one of the chapters. I’d love to hear your stories and examples of ethical dilemmas that you’ve faced working in public relations (or any type of communications).

You can leave actual or hypothetical examples in the comments or email me.

I’m not (necessarily) looking for case studies, I just want to make sure I cover the reality of ethical decision making for those of you working in social media.

photo by yewenyi

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #5 Try Stuff!

Over the last month or so, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite short cuts for managing social media and online life in general. These are shortcuts that work for me.

But know that you’ll likely create your own shortcuts that work for you and make no sense to anyone else. Don’t be afraid to try stuff out and seek out new tools. The more you explore and learn the ins and out, ups and downs of social media and web 2.0, the better you’ll be about deciding what makes sense for you.

Trying stuff is the best part about social media. Sometimes I cringe when there’s a new tool on everyone’s lips, wondering how I’m going to find the time to manage one. more. thing.

But that’s my job! To try it out and figure it out and decide if it’s worth integrating into my work (and my classes) or not. Ultimately, it’s not a chore, but a new challenge.

For example, Foursquare might drive you  bonkers. Just writing it off as “stupid” or  a “waste of time” sounds an awful lot like laggard-speak. And you don’t want to be a laggard! More importantly, though, you’re not doing your job as a communications professional if you don’t check it out and make an informed decision. I happen to think Foursquare is pretty fun. And it turns out, it has been valuable for clients, too. But my initial reaction was, “ugh…”

My favorite Web 2.0 exploring site is Go2Web20.net. It’s a directory of Web 2.0 applications that, I swear, I could spend hours perusing. Some apps are weird. Others are entertaining and some are downright useful.

The bottom line, however, is to explore! Have fun! Now get out of here. I’d love to hear what you find.

image by kevindooley

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #4 Use a Smartphone

This is a quick tip, but an important one. See tip 1 on feedreaders, 2 on creating a process and 3 on using twitter, too!

If you’re in communications – get a smart phone. For real. It doesn’t have to be an iPhone. Just get a smart phone.

A quick scan of Twitter or Facebook, a timely update to your Tumblr or blog, even being able to handle an urgent situation are all possible from the palm of your hand. Knowing I can “hear” if someone is talking to me (or a client) saves me a ton of time.

It’s also not all about social media specifically, but for generally being productive and saving myself time.

Applications I use to help:

  • Twitter for iPhone
  • Tweetdeck for iPhone (yes, I use 2, I monitor a bunch of accounts)
  • Facebook with all the Pages for which I’m an admin bookmarked.
  • Tumblr for posting photos (this is a personal outlet for me)
  • WordPress (although I rarely use it, I have it set up if I need to)
  • LinkedIn (again, not often used, but you never know!)

Other productivity apps I use:

  • Harvest (my time tracker. If it’s on my phone, I can track my time on the fly.)
  • TeuxDeux (my favorite list maker, to do list builder)
  • Huddle (my project management/coordination program)

Do you have any apps you use to help manage social media (or your life)? I’d love to hear about them!

photo by K!T

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #3 Use Twitter

Bloglines, my first feedreader, announced this week that it would shut down October 1. If one can feel nostalgic about something like that, I certainly did.

The spokesperson said that the “writing was on the wall,” that most people were getting their news from Twitter & Facebook. I’m not going to disagree that more people are indeed doing so, but I don’t think the feedreader is dead. At least not for people who work in communications. You can’t possibly get all your news from Twitter and Facebook.

However, you also can’t subscribe to every blog on your topics of interest. Using the two tools in a complementary way will help you stay in the know and also save you time.

Find the right people to follow

It’s important to find the opinion leaders and influencers for you on Twitter. There’s a lot of noise, so be smart about who you pay attention to. That doesn’t mean to be a follow-back snob (you can see my follow back tips here).

I wrote a post a while back on how to find people to follow, too.

Build lists

Before Twitter integrated its list function, folks (like me) were using Tweetdeck’s column feature to filter their Twitter stream. Lists can do that, but, because they are public, they can also help show your participation in a community and build connections across your network.

However, as a time saver, lists can serve a couple of purposes. The first is to organized the updates of people who you follow by category, industry, name, whatever you choose. Most third party applications (see the next tip) will let you sync your lists, too. The second is you can see other people’s lists, which can follow. No need to build that CNN Reporters list if one already exists, right?

Use a third party application like Tweetdeck

Twitter can be a giant time suck, I’m fully aware. Time suck? Sort of the opposite of short cut. However, Twitter is a necessary tool. I use Tweetdeck for my personal Twitter use. I leave it running most of the day and have the notifications set to only alert me when I’ve been mentioned, I have a direct message or one of my search terms has a new result. The visual and audible notification means that I don’t pay attention to Twitter unless there is something going on. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it does help a lot.

How about you? Any twitter-related shortcut tips to share?

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #2 Create a Process

mind map drawing

The cost of social media isn’t in the hard costs, it’s in the time costs. Creating a process for yourself will help save time and also make social media activities a part of your routine. If you missed Tip #1, check out my advice on setting up an RSS Feedreader here.

I find it challenging to share my personal process because I’ve developed it over more than four years. So take what you think will work and modify the rest to work for you. The point is to have a process, not replicate my process.

My process basically breaks down into three categories – making time to track, time to write and time to play.

Time to Track

You’re doing all this great monitoring with your feedreader, but you  have to give yourself time to track – time to read and browse your feeds, your Twitter stream, your Facebook news feed. Input is crucial for good output (see the next section).

Your process may mean scanning as you have time during the day or in the evenings or maybe between tasks. Or it may mean setting aside a specific block of time during the day. I do recommend finding time every day so you can create a habit of using social media to track news and trends. I tend to scan a little here and a little there, using Twitter as my most common “input.” Through Twitter lists and columns on Tweetdeck, I can filter out some of the noise.

Time to Write

Creating content means spending at least some time being thoughtful and some degree of focus. I find the best times to blog for me are either a) on Sundays or b) when the spirit moves me. Sundays have just turned into my “surf the Internet, mentally prepare for the week but don’t work too hard” days. Blog writing me fits into that bucket. I enjoy writing. I enjoy blogging.

But your time to write may be different. Figure it out for yourself – and it may take some stops and starts. You may have to try a few different things. That’s ok!

Even if you’re not blogging, you’re still updating, tweeting (or whatever) and that means you’re creating content. Give yourself time to do it well.

Time to Play

If you’re not doing some fun stuff with social media, it’ll quickly become a chore. Fashion, gossip, design, sports… whatever you enjoy for fun, find a way to incorporate that into your social media “process.”

What’s worked for you? Do you have a process? Share it with us here.

mindmap photo by sirwiseowl

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #1 Use a Feedreader

I’m often asked about how to best handle social media maintenance and management tasks. Over four years or so I’ve developed a few shortcuts that work well for me. I’ll explain each in a separate post, but we’ll start with feedreaders!

Yay feedreaders!

Using a feedreader to track blogs I’m interested in along with keyword searches is my number one shortcut. It was thanks to Bloglines, my first feedreader that I really started to understand social media. I subscribed to PR, social media, marketing and advertising blogs left and right. By doing so, I learned best practices and social media etiquette through observation.

My use has changed a little bit, which I’ll explain. First, though, take a peek at this video from Common Craft, it’ll give you the basics (click on the image).

Common Craft recommends Google Reader, which is very popular. The aesthetics of Google Reader just don’t work for me – nothing personal, Google. I use Netvibes. I like the “dashboard” feel to it and I can separate different clients, interests, projects into their own tab.

You can see how this looks at the public Netvibes dashboard I set up. Feel free to use this as a start for your own. Once you create an account with Netvibes, any changes you make will be saved.

What’s in my feedreader:

  • Six or so tabs related to PR, social media, marketing, nonprofit work, advertising, etc. Each has its own tab and each tab has 10 – 20 different blog feeds. I’ve found the best blogs (for me) that I want to subscribe to.
  • A tab for each client for which I do listening and monitoring activities. For clients I subscribe to interesting blogs and also subscribe to search results. This is really how my use has changed. I use my feedreader more for managing and maintaining client social media than for my own purposes. (I’d say it’s a 60-40 split in terms of how much time I spend… 60% on client stuff and 40% on my own).

Subscribe to search results? Why yes! I do keyword searches with (at minimum): Google, SocialMention, IceRocket, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. When you do the search on any of those sites, you can subscribe to the results. Look for the RSS icon on the page or in your address bar on your browser.

It takes some time up front to set up a useful dashboard. Once it’s set up, not only do you know if you or your client is mentioned on a blog or a tweet, but you also have all kinds of “input” at your fingertips for creating great content. I rely on my feedreader for inspiration for tweets and for blog posts. By spending the time upfront to make a useful dashboard, the day-to-day or week-to-week maintenance is lessened.

You can do some pretty cool things with RSS (as a subscriber). Some tips:

  • You can subscribe to specific categories on most blogs. Maybe you’re not interested in everything everyone says on a frequently-updated site, but are interested in a specific topic or category. You can pull just those posts.
  • A site called PostRank will let you subscribe to just the most popular posts. I’ve done this with sites like Jezebel or Perez Hilton because there are just too many posts to keep up with everyday. Yes… I have subscribed to Perez Hilton. Don’t judge.
  • Tools like Yahoo! Pipes let you dump a bunch of sites in one end, along with some keywords and out the other end? A custom RSS feed. I think this could be a sweet tool for media monitoring (put in New York Times, USA Today, etc. etc…. filter for your company name and voila!), but I haven’t tried it out yet. Yahoo! Pipes is a bit “techy,” so beware.
  • Create an RSS feed where none exists. This is a little more complicated, but it’s possible! This post overviews a few of the tools that can help. The post is a tad dated, so I’m not sure all the tools listed still exist, but I’ve tried a few with varying degrees of success. This is also on the techy side.

Final tip: Making checking your feedreader part of your daily routine. Set the feedreader as your homepage, add it as a shortcut on your browser, or leave yourself a reminder (physical or electronic) to take a peek.

Any other tips? I’d love to hear how you’re using feedreaders. Which reader are you using and why?

[this post is cross-posted at Verve: In Bloom]

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