Thursday, July 31, 2014

time to unplug

Yes, that’s me in the raft on the left with the huge grin heading into “Troublemaker” rapids. We just got back from a two day trip rafting the American River and it was awesome.

What’s that got to do with social business? Not a lot really, just this one thing. Unplugging is good for our brains. I live in a world that is constantly buzzing with alerts, updates and stories I just HAVE to listen to. It’s my job for the most part and I love it, my phone is within 3 feet 24/7 and I look at it on average every 4 minutes (yes, somebody timed it). So two days on the river with zero access (Thank you ATT for wildly exaggerating your coverage.) meant that I had nothing to do but take photos, listen to the river and actually talk to people in our camping party.

Once I finally accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen  I relaxed and was old-school social. Stories were told. Laughter was heard. Introspection happened. For a couple of days I could hear the world without the buzz I’m used to, and it was good.

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Not-So-Secret guide to twitter listsWhat are Twitter lists anyway? A Twitter list is a curated group of users on Twitter. When the list is viewed, the posts of the people added to that list show up in the list’s stream. Basically it’s a way to group interesting people on specific subjects or other groups (clients, friends, competitors, movie stars) to more easily follow whatever topic brought them all together.

People can follow your lists and you can follow theirs’ so it’s a good way to curate information to share with friends and colleagues.
Why make lists?
You know how people complain about how noisy Twitter is? That’s because they follow everybody who follows them. Twitter lists help cut down the noise and make you more efficient. A quick look at your lists tells you what’s going on without having to filter through thousands of tweets cluttering up your Twitter stream. Make lists and scan them instead. Then share, share, share!

Another good reason is if you don’t have a lot of followers but there are a lot of people you want to talk to, listen to and learn from. Creating lists allows you to watch for their tweets without having to follow too many people at once. Many people look to see if you are following lots more people than are following you. If this happens you look either boring or like a spammer. Both are bad. Follow fewer people than follow you and you will avoid this. Make lists instead, then decide who really belongs in your Twitter stream.

Public lists or private lists?
The content stream of public lists are seen by anyone on Twitter. Private ones are seen only by you. People are notified when they are added to a public list and if you look at their profile on Twitter then click the “more” tab you can see what public lists a person has created or subscribed to and which ones they are a member of.

I have a lot of private lists. These may be potential customers or competitors I want to keep an eye on, or hashtags I want to follow but not make a big deal on my profile about. If I am wanting to watch a particular topic for an upcoming workshop or training session I may create a list to pay closer attention to that topic without following and later maybe unfollowing a bunch of users.

Below are some common types of Twitter lists.

Hashtag lists
When I go to a conference I use the hashtags relevant to that discussion. As I follow the tags it’s easy for me to add people who are interesting to a list related to that tag and follow up with them later. If there are particular hashtags or Twitter chats relevant to your industry you should be using them anyway, so it makes sense to create lists (public or private) of the other people using the same tags so you can start talking with them, right?

Client lists
Want to keep up with what your clients are doing online? Create a private list of your clients and you can keep an eye on what’s going on in their world.

Competitor lists
There’s no better way to see what the competition is up to than to create a list of competitors and monitor their tweets. Heck, you might learn something!

Journalists and news organizations
I like to keep all my news folks together so when I want to see what’s going on in the world I can find it in one click by going to my list.

Your Tribe lists
These are the people you talk to a lot. They may be co-workers, family or other professionals in your industry you talk to a lot. These conversationalists make Twitter more fun and you want to keep them in a list so you don’t lose track of them.

List strategies
All of the above are good types of lists and you need to decide which works for you or come up with your own. Remember unless the list is private people can see the name of the list you put them on. If it makes them feel good they feel that way towards you. If it makes them feel bad? Well, figure that out. I like to avoid creating names that will alienate. For example, finding yourself on “PeopleIHopeNevertoMeet” doesn’t sound as good as “SmartMarketers” does it?

Getting on Twitter lists
Being listed can be kind of fun. By golly people LIKE me! If you want to get your message out to more people, being on a list or 2 is a good way to increase your reach. In general it’s bad form to ask to be on a list unless it’s very specific to what you do. Instead, just stick to good Twitter etiquette, share great content and support others. You’ll have a better experience and people will add you to lists because you add value.





HashtagsIt can’t be over-stated how important it is to research a hashtag before you use it and to give a little thought to what people may do with it once you unleash it on the world. Sometimes the best intentions can go stunningly awry.

Some lovely examples for your amusement are below. I stuck to Twitter posts simply because they’re easier to embed, but most or all of these hashtags appear across social platforms.

Probably the most recent oops was #AskThicke which was intended to be a Twitter style Q&A but quickly became a platform to call him out about misogyny, divorce, his hair and his music among other things.


The Chester Literary Festival came up with #ClitFest and they even created a username @clitfest which was then suspended by Twitter…



Quantas thought they’d get a great deal of love from their happy passengers on the hashtag #Quantas Luxury. Which resulted in this gem on Youtube and countless tweets and Facebook posts.

And of course there was the infamous #MyNYPD designed to allow New Yorkers to share how beloved their police force is.

Hashtags have become so popular that according to Charles Seife on  NPR’s Science Friday show fake accounts can be flagged as bots because they frequently use the tag #Bacon in their bios.  

  It’s not all bad out there though, there are some really great uses of hashtags
Take Audi’s R8 campaign, #WantAnR8 which resulted in lots of drooling car buffs sharing their dream car as well as a lot of dealerships getting into the game and being retweeted.

Hashtags have saved lives too
A soldier just back from Afghanistan was ready to end it all when he received a Tweet from a random steanger through the hashtag #SOT (Support Our Troops) created by @ThankASoldier designed to thank soldiers for their service. The soldier responded and started a conversation with the woman who sent the tweet. Here’s the story.

In May the tag #SanDiegoOnFire helped people share photos, keep up to date on the danger zones, locate and warn friends in the area.


Causes we rally around are a great use of hashtags
 Look at the #BringBackOurGirls cause which rallied the world to discuss and act to stop the kidnapping of girls and women in Nigeria.


Thousands of people joined the #ForgivenessChallenge with Desmond and Mpho Tutu to learn the power of forgiveness in our lives to change us and society.


The government uses them too
During the Obama State of the Union Address people shared their feedback live on #SOTU and talked with others in a carefully monitored conversation. See the stats from SimplyMeasured in this Search Engine watch post, and Twitter’s own evaluation of the buzz below.

So what?
Well, I do try to end my posts with a little lesson. Go here to learn the basics about hashtags. Hashtags are great tools to find conversations, participate in Twitter chats and learn about all the amazing resources available through Twitter. They can be powerful communication tools.

Take the time to go do a search on Twitter for your hashtag or proposed hashtag and see what comes up. Who’s using it already? How could it be misconstrued? Ask friends and associates to look at it to see if it reflects what you think it does.

OWN your hashtags, Don’t leave them hanging out out there without a plan, give them love and rally your supporters to help. Explore common hashtags at to learn more.

(Disclosure, @TheDesmondTutuis a client)


should we get out the tin hats?First a little backstory on this in case you’ve had your head in the sand for a week or so.

A research paper released at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by Facebook’s data scientists tells us they have been manipulating user’s newsfeeds to see if negative or positive emotions are as contagious on social networks as they are in real life. Basically they targeted users and manipulated their Facebook newsfeed to show more of either positive or negative emotions to see if exposure to those emotions changed their own posting behaviors. Read the abstract of their testing here.

Their summary

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.

Now my first reaction is, well, bullshit. Posts were determined to be positive or negative based on the use of certain words signifying an emotion. This kind of “sentiment” analysis has never been terribly accurate. Take me for example. I am fairly sarcastic by nature on Facebook and am likely to say things like “I hate it when ___ happens” when I actually love it. Or “Oh, don’t you JUST LOVE missing your bus and having to walk 5 miles?” when actually I hate it.

Seth Grimes wrote a post about measuring sentiment here that explains this in detail. Of course we can expect Facebook’s team to have more advanced measurement and a whole lot more data than the average company, but it’s still an issue. (Don’t you hate it?)

Enough about the backstory

I could go on for days, but that’s not the point here. The point is that Facebook used us as test subjects without permission and this goes way beyond testing ad copy to see if it works. It’s more advanced and insidious than that. This is manipulating the emotions of people without controls. Were some of those people moved to do bad things? Were some more depressed? If one assumes that the emotions of Facebook are roughly equivalent to that of the United States, 1 in 17 have serious mental disorders according to this NIH post. Unless Facebook had algorithms to take that into account they could have caused harm here.

Did they consider the public reaction to this news? Nah, they were so proud of themselves they wrote and presented a paper on it. Adam Kramer, one of the authors defended it on Facebook saying: “the result was that people produced an average of one fewer emotional word, per thousand words, over the following week.”. Oh, well, OK then (I’m being sarcastic again.)

Marc AndreessonResponse to the news about this project has been varied. From Facebook board member Marc Andreessen simply suggesting we either : a) get over it or b) don’t use Facebook in a discussion about it on Twitter and suggested it was no different than A&B testing an ad, to Pando Daily saying the company is more powerful and un-ethical than we thought.

Even though the Wall St Journal posted a commentary on the awesome power of Facebook, it certainly didn’t hurt their stock prices.

I asked a few of my social media friends about it.

Facebook expert John Haydon said: “Despite the backlash regarding the ethics behind their “experiment”, users will not leave Facebook because that’s where all their friends are. Lawyers, internet activists and politicians will probably make a big hoo-ha about this, but most normals will soon forget that it even happened.

I have to agree that the majority of people will stay on and after the dust settles forget it ever happened. Is that OK?

Beth Kanter wasn’t too surprised either: “It feels creepy that Facebook is trying to manipulate our emotions and understand how to keep us addicted as users. But given Facebook’a track record, no surprise there. Should nonprofits leave? If this PR crisis is like the others, it will blow over and we’ll go back to using Facebook and the people that nonprofits want to reach will too. Maybe we will have a little bit more awareness about how FB is manipulating us. I keep wishing that the pr crisis will blow up and FB will start a nonprofit ad grant program to show its good side.

Yeah, Facebook, you’re gonna have to come up with something good this time. I’m already using Google+ more (no it’s NOT dead). That said, SocialBakers reports that brands are starting to see engagement on the rise on their Facebook pages. Should we wait around and see?

Oh, and in case you’re frantically going back through your posts to see if you were targeted, this study was done in 2012. We all slept right through it.



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