Facebook makes some people nervous because some of us share too much. We’re too honest, too candid in a space that blurs the distinction between public and private.
People make plenty of mistakes on Facebook:
- Ask Bobby Bland and his former co-workers, who were all fired from the Hampton, VA Sheriff’s Office for liking the opponent’s campaign page. U.S. District Court has ruled that Facebook likes are not protected speech, but law experts interpret “likes” as speech and the defendants plan an appeal.
- Ask Kimberly Hester, whose off-color, after-hours picture on Facebook led a parent to report Hester to school officials and to Hester’s suspension from her job as a teacher’s aide.
We make mistakes on Facebook just like we make mistakes in every other place in our lives. So when I read about employers dismissing employees for liking their campaign opponent or posting a photo that offends an unintended audience, I sigh, shake my head, and start a blog post. Judges, lawyers, legislators, and even Facebook itself may have to clarify the boundaries of public and private, legal and illegal for our communication via Facebook and Twitter. Congress has already tried to outlaw Facebook login requests by employers. Until we have rules, let’s do this instead:
- Be kind on Facebook. We are all learning how to communicate on Facebook together. The site is eight years old. How well did we communicate at eight years old?
- If an employer is so ham-fisted about Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn that they want our passwords to view our account and activity, let’s ask ourselves this: “Do I want to work for this employer, a company that does not trust me to act appropriately outside of work?”
- If it’s digitized, it can end up online. Just ask Brett Farve, Patrick Kane, or ESPN talent, staff, and executives. Let’s ask ourselves, “What do I value more: my right to self-expression or my job?”
What do you think about Facebook and your employer? Where do you draw the line on what you “like” and what you share? Share your answers in the comments. It’s okay if you make a mistake.
NASCAR ran the 54th Annual Daytona 500 on Monday, February 27. On lap 160 of 200, this happened:
Wrecks happen in auto racing, and you may be watching for the wrecks. But these accidents usually occur between race cars and walls, not safety vehicles. And while they create viral video fodder for YouTube and local television newscasts, they do not usually create social media sensations. Until Brad Keselowski stowed his phone in his car. Six minutes into the red flag, @keselowski tweeted:
Fire!My view twitter.com/keselowski/sta…
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 28, 2012
What can we learn about Twitter from all of this?
1. When the unexpected happens, it’s human nature to talk about it.
You know, eight-foot-high walls of flame don’t happen at every NASCAR race. But they COULD. And that’s why we watch.
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 28, 2012
Conversation about the Daytona 500 dominated Twitter as the cars sat on the track, not racing. Race leader Dave Blaney and accident victim Juan Pablo Montoya trended top 10 worldwide on Twitter during the red flag delay and #Daytona500 trended top three worldwide as the race ended around 1 a.m. EST. 2. Be there and say something interesting. If you were stopped from your 500-mile, 190 m.p.h. commute in a two-hour traffic jam, what would you do? Fellow NASCAR drivers flocked to Brad Keselowski, huddling around his Twitter-feeding phone. The New York Times reported that during the delay he gained over 120,000 followers, going from 71,174 to 192,729, responding to tweets like this:
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 28, 2012
3. Seize your opportunities.
Brad did, but some other players did not. Tide came to the rescue. Safety workers sprinkled the detergent on the jet-fuel soaked pavement, scrubbing the accident site clean. Even for a sponsor-laden event, what a product placement. “Tide gets jet fuel out of your way.” Who knew?
Looks like @Tide has gone home for the day, shame, they are missing great opp to promote their ‘appearance’ at the Daytona 500.
— Mack Collier (@MackCollier) February 28, 2012
“Nothing strange can happen on television without our first thought being ‘I wonder what Twitter’s saying about this,'” said Barry Petchesky of Deadspin. The Great Dryer Fire of 2012 reminds us that even when it seems banal, Twitter has value. It gives us a platform to share what is happening right now with a BCC to the world. Sometimes the world is listening.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 28, 2012
Last November, The White House Office of Public Engagement and mtvU announced the first ever Campus Champions of Change Challenge, part of President Barack Obama’s goal of “helping America win the future.” “All Across America, college and university students are helping our country out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” President Obama said. “I hope this challenge shines a light on their efforts, and inspires Americans of all ages to get involved in their communities.” The Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell, a student-led microfinance organization based in Grinnell, Iowa, was one of 15 finalists. SEG provides local and international loans and has loaned over $37,000 to nearly 200 individuals in 44 countries. You can learn more about SEG on their website, http://www.segrinnell.org/, or listen to an interview with founding members Mark Root-Wiley and Jeff Raderstrong by Voices of America.
Grinnell College is the smallest school represented in the Challenge with 1,600 students, yet ranks second with 21,413 votes. UMass-Amherst (27,000 students) leads the competition with 27,158 votes. SEG has sustained momentum in the competition with simple, frequent calls to action: vote + tell your friends to do the same. It has created a sense of inevitability that they will win by tapping the fervent zeal of Grinnellians (students and alumni), overcoming long odds as the Cinderella of this (almost) March Madness. You can vote in the competition at http://bit.ly/vote4seg. Voting ends Saturday, March 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Mark Root-Wiley, founding member of SEG, reached out to me last week about leveraging social media to encourage people – especially the diaspora of Grinnell alumni – to vote. I spoke to a Grinnell alumna the following Monday and she had heard about voting for SEG several times. “Oh, it’s your fault,” She told me. I spoke with Mark about how he and SEG have used social media to spread the word about the competition. Full disclosure: Mark and I have done business together. He built the website for United Way of Grinnell (grinnellunitedway.org) and Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell has received funds from United Way of Grinnell and I serve on the United Way board.
Dan: Why did you start SEG?
Mark: I was one of a group of six or eight people who came together in 2007 to start lending money to entrepreneurs across the globe through the website Kiva.org. We were excited about the possibility of making sustainable economic change through microfinance, and Kiva made the barriers of entry to doing that unbelievably low.
At Grinnell College, where we started, there’s a tradition of people going door-to-door in the dorms to collect money for the weekend’s parties. So because it wasn’t odd for someone to showup at your room asking for money, we decided to take the idea of dorm-collection and use the funds for social good. The first time we did it, we collected something like $600 and got an incredibly positive response. For the first year or so of the group, the only social networking we did was person-to-person and door-to-door.
SEG is on Facebook and just relaunched their website, but I think those in-person connections laid the groundwork for SEG’s success, and they still go through the dorms once a semester as well as regularly “tabling” outside of the campus’s only dining hall.
Dan: How did SEG enter the White House Competition? How did you learn you were a finalist?
Mark: I wasn’t directly involved, but I think it was a relatively straight-forward process. The White House has run some vote-driven competitions for “What Questions Should Barack Obama Be Asked on YouTube” and other stuff like that. I’m pretty sure they’re using the same system for this. I think there’s a danger that these can turn into beauty contests or popularity contests, but a Grinnell alumnus, Seth Gitter, had some good thoughts about this critique on his blog post encouraging people to vote for SEG.
Dan: How did you initially get the word out about voting?
Mark: The group is trying to leave no rock unturned. There’s been a heavy push on Facebook including the creation of a “Send SEG to the White House” event (362 attending at this moment). We’ve also overhauled the website.
Since those initial pushes, we’ve helped get the College behind the group by reaching out to personal connections in the Alumni and Communication offices.
Individually, everyone in the group is emailing or Facebook messaging (or both) their friends, family, and coworkers asking them not only to vote for SEG but to share it with others. In one case, I asked my father who asked a group of friends and one of those friends even emailed 10 people he thought might be interested. It’s amazing to see how far we can reach out of our networks. Hopefully we’ll get Kevin Bacon to vote for SEG by week’s end.
Dan: Why do you think the Grinnell College community is so engaged and passionate?
Mark: I think SEG is the little engine that could! We looked up the numbers and Grinnell College’s student population is about 3% of the biggest competitor, the University of Minnesota. However their project isn’t even doing that well. I think the project is a good example of concentrated interest. It’s a small group and so anyone with a personal connection feels very invested. At this point, with the number of votes we have, it’s as if every Grinnell student gave us 10 votes, and there’s still 3 days left in the competition!
I think the College in general is a tight-knit community. I won’t go as far as saying that we have an inferiority complex, but I think the Grinnell alumni community gets really excited anytime a fellow group, alumnus, or student receives positive media attention, whether that’s SEG or a comedian [Kumail Nanjiani ’01].
Dan: How did social media amplify your efforts?
Mark: I think I mostly take Malcolm Gladwell’s view of social media. Facebook and Twitter are amazing tools for making connections we otherwise might not make, but the mechanics of making those connections has remained mostly unchanged. It’s about finding the common threads that link us to each other, whether that’s through friendship, family, or shared interests.
Facebook and Twitter—and I should also include email here too—have made getting the word out FAST! I think the “Share,” “Like,” and “Retweet” buttons have all made it incredibly easy to share and reshare our message. That ease of use has certainly helped us get people to participate who wouldn’t have otherwise. But with that said, I think we get more meaningful connections through emails, and the most meaningful of those are highly personalized.
Making sure to have a clear message is important, but having personality and acknowledging peoples’ individuality seems equally important in this effort.
I wouldn’t consider myself a social media expert by any means, and I’ve learned a huge amount through this campaign.
Dan: What are your recommendations for others in using social media to promote microfinance and social justice efforts?
Mark: Ask and be direct. I was nervous at the start of the campaign about being spammy and overexposing people to the campaign, but I haven’t received a single complaint so far, and I haven’t heard of any from other group members either.
When I started, I was timidly asking people to vote. They might vote, but that was it. Then the message evolved into a request to vote and reshare with their extended networks, and I’ve been amazed at how effective it’s been. The reshare rate probably isn’t even at 20% but it’s meaningful enough to make this work warranted.
If there’s a caveat, this wasn’t just an ordinary, everyday ask. This was for a national competition sponsored by the White House. Most people I’ve contacted probably have never received an email like this from me (asking for votes, signatures, likes, etc.) before and a majority of them won’t ever again. This meant that we could keep our messages fairly short but still have them communicate the significance of the competition and their need to vote.
In the end, I think there are lessons to be learned here for everyday social media outreach, but I don’t think campaigns of this magnitude and intensity are completely applicable to organizations with multiple annual campaigns and asks.
But with SEG’s success so far, hopefully that’ll translate into the need to run some more big campaigns in the future!
Early Saturday morning, a local family lost their home to fire. The city of Grinnell is using social media to help the family:
- Two local residents set up a Facebook page to share updates about the family (a mother and baby were injured) and how people can help. Twelve hours after the fire, the page was up. The page has 304 attendees (actually going to the event; the page was set up as an event). Since I started writing this, seven more people joined the page. Kudos to Felica Bridges and Tj Milner for their initiative.
- Yumi’s Bakery has also stepped up to share updates and collect donations of money and clothing.
This sort of outpouring of support is just what social media does best. An event tugs on the loose ties we have made known through social media, bringing us closer to serve a greater good. Its ironic, isn’t it: people knock Facebook for being narcissistic, yet it helps connect us in unexpected, magnanimous ways. Thanks, Mark. How do you use Facebook to serve the greater good?
Knowing what to say and who to say it to is not enough, says Jeff Atwood:
Understand the strengths and weaknesses of the particular communication medium youve chosen. Dont doggedly pursue the same method of communication when youve clearly outgrown it. They do not stretch to fit.
Know when to escalate from IM to email, from email to phone, and when to drop the ultimate communication A-bomb: a face-to-face meeting. Sometimes people are hesitant to escalate communications even when its painfully obvious that they should. Resist the urge to reply in kind, however tempting it may be. You’ll both have a more productive conversation when one of you finds the wherewithal to escalate to “lets take this to email”, “let me call you”, or even “lets meet for coffee”.
I might use the term transition instead of escalate, but the meaning is the same. Just because a conversation begins in email doesn’t mean it has to stay there. As Merlin Mann says, “What’s the action here?” Probably not a 30-message-long string of correspondence.
- Failure is ok. I tried. I learned something new in the process.
- Go direct for the decision makers so you don’t waste any time.
- Use your brain. I had to come up with an idea to make me stand out. Maybe it didn’t work this time but if I try 30 times in a row, something will stand out.
- Use your brain, part II. The idea muscle is like any other muscle. It needs exercise or it atrophies. Take out a waiter pad and a pen, go to your closest cafe, and come up with ten ideas that will make the world better one year from now. Even better: ten ideas you can do. Even better: ten ideas you can do with the tools available to you today, at your business, on your computer, whatever.
- Use your brain, part III. Like any exercise, you don’t get the “burn” unless you sweat. Sweat a little. You just made the list above. Now what are the ten next steps. List them.
- Now do it. Make sure you can execute on your ideas. Else they are bad ideas. Then do them TODAY. Then tomorrow, repeat. I’m onto my next thing. No harm. No foul.
- It didn’t take that much time. It forced me to exercise my brain in unusual ways. It forced me to exercise my networking muscle. And if my devious, world-dominating plan had worked, it would have had great results. For me. if not for the Wikimedia Foundation. If not the entire planet! Why do I want to promote myself? For no reason at all. Just for fun. But who can argue with that?
- Repurpose your efforts. I made a blog article out of it. BAM!
Good reminders here: failure is learning. Ideas are quick and easy, but not enough. Think about execution.
Earlier today I received a communique from Butter Cow, the only bovine running for president. She had remained silent since the Iowa straw poll last August, but with the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses less than five weeks away, her campaign is gearing up once more. Here’s what she had to say:
“My fellow Iowans, it is time to quit chewing the cud and start talking about my campaign. I’ve had the opportunity to see many of these candidates up close as they tip-toed through the manure this past August. In my opinion here is how they stack up:
On Cain….not a chance, this 9 9 9 is like too much “stuff” from the field. It’s an idea that needs to go back to the pasture.
On Bachmann….no way, one female in the race is enough and that’s me!
On Gingrich….I like Newt but he looks like my brother and he uses big words that are udderly impossible for most of us to understand.
On Huntsman….He’s probably OK but he’s from Utah and they ski and they have lots of salt water. Not sure we can digest that.
On Perry….Well, one minute he’s going to cut agencies and the next he can’t remember which one, he might cut. And he’s got this voting age all mixed up. He get’s one “cow pie” for being forgetful.
On Romney… No Cowabunga, just doesn’t get it.
On….Ron Paul….Bovines have a certain life expectancy, I think mine may be longer than his.
I love this campaign, but note that Butter Cow has no Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Butter Cow, if you’re listening, may I be your social media director?
P.S.: If you want to support Butter Cow’s campaign, buy a Butter Cow T-shirt.