Social Media 101: Stay in the Conversation or Leave the Table

The terrible anguish of Sandy Hook Elementary parents and families is something I feel at a visceral level. I am not alone. The social webs are trying to make sense of a senseless massacre evidenced by email blasts to sign petitions to improve school safety, countless Facebook postings of prayer, and an endless stream of #SandyHook and #Newtown comments and retweets on Twitter. Social media plays a cathartic role for a nation in grief, shock, and pain.

I am not going to judge the 2004 decision to lift the ban on the sale of assault weapons. It is not my intent to create any kind of rhetoric about 2nd Amendment rights. My purpose is to point out a fact and the repercussions. The fact is that the National Rifle Association shut down its Facebook page and silenced three Twitter accounts on Friday, December 14, 2012. The ramification of this action by the NRA is that they have made themselves irrelevant by exiting the public conversation.

The clear and present threat of easy access to assault weapons is being considered by legislators once cozy with the powerful NRA lobby. Senator Joe Manchin (WV-D) said this morning that “everything should be on the table.” Former Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough announced his change in position after the tragedy at Sandy Hook with this:

I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything. Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.

Josh Constine of TechCrunch makes the point that quitting social media was a wise move for the NRA. He points out that it prevents social media fans from posting offensive content under the NRA logo, that it keeps the NRA brand safe from being perceived as an extremist organization, and that other brands and organizations might try the same tactic in crisis. I question this choice on professional and ethical grounds.

Marketing students, like me, are taught many rules for using social media. The number one thing we should never do is end contact with our constituencies in times of crisis. The support the NRA has given to promote legal sales of assault weapons should be answered in the public forum. The NRA has weakened their formidable lobbying power by hiding when they should be present and shutting down communications when they should be listening. Social media plays a cathartic role for a nation in grief, shock, and pain. The NRA has lost all credibility by ignoring the suffering and misery that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. A simple Tweet, like “It was never the intention of our support to lift the ban on assault weapons that such a tragedy should befall our children. The NRA will support local law enforcement and families of Newtown with a donation, etc.” might have prevented the PR crisis the organization faces. There would certainly be detractors, but at least the organization would have tried something.

When you leave the table of social media you are no longer in the conversation. Do you trust an organization or a brand that tunes you out when you have an opinion? How do you feel about the NRA’s choice?


Guest Blog on Now You Know

Read my guest blog on Now You Know. If you love interactive video, the storytelling marketers do, and cool applications of innovative technology, go check it out. Please stick around to read and comment on the awesome content of my IMC 619 colleague, Beth Rutherford.

Citizens of Facebook Nation: Time to Exercise Your Right to Vote

Facebook_Site_Governance_on_Facebook_610x434This blog post is authored by guest blogger Beth Rutherford of Now You Know.

Facebook has decided to allow users to vote on privacy policy changes until Dec. 10 – or has it? Slash Gear’s Chris Burns reports that Facebook plans to allow users to vote on proposed changes until Dec. 10: “This vote is being relegated by an independent auditor and may – or may not – actually have an effect on the way those inside Facebook make their decisions regarding said privacy policies – sound like a square deal to you?”

Up for vote are a number of policy changes that would eliminate the social network’s practice of allowing users to vote on proposed changes. Facebook believes its size and new-found, publicly traded status support the need for these changes. CNet’s Paul Sloan puts Facebook’s suggested changes and position into perspective:

That’s right. Facebook wants to do away with your right to vote — a right most members clearly don’t realize they have. In April 2009, Facebook “instituted its own democracy of sorts through a vote that was put before but largely ignored by Facebook’s 200 million users at the time (665,654 votes were cast). But the company now argues that the system no longer makes sense because Facebook has become so large and is a publicly traded company.

Sloan explains that voting by Facebook users has been lackluster in the past. For example, less than 343,000 of the platform’s 900 million users weighed in on the last round of suggested changes that took place in June.

Facebook announced its plan to open proposed changes to a public vote in a blog post earlier today. Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications, public policy and marketing for Facebook explains: “We encourage you to participate in the vote on our new revised documents by using this link – ( Voting will end on December 10 at 12:00PM (PST) / December 10 at 8:00PM (GMT). “

Schrage notes that Facebook is requiring that at least 30 percent of users cast their ballots; otherwise, the vote is considered “advisory” and the site will do as it pleases. So pay attention citizens of the Facebook nation, it’s time to exercise your right to vote – or you may lose that right, forever.

Here, now: The concept of Digital Qi

Perhaps you’ve wondered why I selected an ancient Chinese concept to apply to this blog. Qi (pronounced Chee) is, in the words of a western practitioner, the form of energy at the point of materialization and immateriality. It imbues everything. And it is ours for free, we are born with it, it flows through us, and we direct it without end; aware or not. Such is the cycle of all things. Tai Chi is a martial art and meditation practice that incorporates the natural flow of Qi.

There are no excuses, circumstances, or regrets. There is only now and what we do with it. This concept became attached to my expectations of the coursework when I created this blog for the months ahead.

Then I fell ill with bronchitis; luckily, pneumonia was prevented through antibiotics. Then my Grandmother died. And then new professional opportunities required my attention. These things do not matter because they are excuses, circumstances, realities beyond my control. Life is challenging. I practice a Yang style of  Tai Chi that originated with Daniel Kane Pai, attempting to bring harmony out of such challenges. Here’s what it looks like and is about:

My instructor, Steve Carrier, is one of a few to continue the traditions of the Pai Lum White Dragon. I’ve learned that life’s challenges are our greatest teachers. Our actions and attitudes impact our ability to learn because learning only happens when we are open to the lesson.

Overcoming adversity by applying wisdom about the nature of things and what our actions impart helps us to achieve harmony or balance. And that was the concept I intended for this blog to explore.

This viewpoint can be applied to integrated marketing communications. Does each element of the communications process act in balance with the others? Which tactics are most harmonious with the perception of a brand?  How do the efforts of our work impact our life and that of others?

I’m not suggesting that we are all destined to become monks like Alex Bogusky (who is awesome and not really a monk). Only that we recognize that the value of advertising is getting people to trust and desire your service, product , or idea. Treat them well.

State of Chaos

State of Chaos

Is this a game?! I like the term immersive story.

Thanksgiving Cake, 2012

Thanksgiving Cake, 2012

I made this Thanksgiving Turkey Cake in 2010 and would do it again. It’s good! Have a happy holiday, whatever you’re eating.
Click for the recipe!

Motion Pictures: Netflix Goes Mobile

Netflix has run the gamut from being an innovator and a retail/entertainment disruptor to being a disenfranchising force against customers.

Infographic credit

Can their steady adoption of mobile apps that work across a wide range of devices, from smartphones to tablets, help to capture the burgeoning mobile market?

Entertainment counts for as much as 42% of what folks are using their mobile device’s computing power to access. This market is extremely important to Netflix if they are to maintain the consistent subscription increases the company has enjoyed for over a decade.

There is the shiny new Windows 8 Netflix app, compatible with both tablets and PCs. It looks great in the video.

The Netflix app from the Google Play Store is free, but the comments have been less than stellar about the app ever since around October 25, 2012. That was the day the Windows 8 launched. Netflix has a lot riding on the Windows 8 app, especially since it will come pre-installed on most devices. It seems like a lot of customers with older operating systems and devices were left behind after some updates. Netflix may have been so hyped about the Windows 8 app that they forgot their valuable mobile customer base were still using other devices.

The strengths that a company offers in service and product has to be balanced with the needs of its  customers to sustain growth. Has Netflix disenfranchised another round of subscribers by apparently focusing on their interface to new mobile devices and ignoring performance on others?



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