Nobody puts social media in a corner … except these two

First, a little background …

deadline.com
abcnews.go.com

And now the commentary …
 
The Colbert Report — Morning News for Millennials
 
It’s the absurdity of it all, the appearance of having it just for the sake of having it, without it adding value — that is where the problem lies.

One more video, pay attention to (0:27 – 0:50) in particular:

As comedian Pete Holmes pointed out about the phone book, you don’t want to give the public something they already have or can get in a better way than what you are offering. And as Colbert pointed out, nearly everyone already has on their phone the features of the Orange Room and Social Square.

Things like the Today Orange Room and Good Morning America Social Square are often empty news calories, putting a social shine on what is essentially nothing of any significant value, nothing worthy of news time.

*There is one caveat though – posts and social sharing from people on the scene of a news event. These posts offer priceless details and insight that only they can provide.

Organizations are still viewing social and the interactive media realm as a frivolous novelty (though the number of organizations who do is dwindling). Those looking to earn credibility with and a following from millennials often turn to social as a quick-and-easy way to earn it instantly. Unfortunately, some fail to realize you have to participate and engage in the social/interactive space – it isn’t enough to just show up to the party, you have to have a plan.

Don’t get me wrong, even though The Hunger Games and their meticulous planning earned the honor of being named an iMedia HoFMVP, your plan does not have to be as intricate and exhaustive; however, it should be comprehensive. You need to find your ‘Hunger Games point’ where you have thought through everything and at the very least have an idea, a timeline and some basic structure to what you want to do.

Things to consider:
– Audience/target — Who are you looking to reach?
– Marketing message/goals — What are you looking to achieve?
– Time frame — How much time do you have?
– Budget — How much do you have available to spend?
– What platforms — Where will this content reside?
– What form — contest, poll, exclusive content, etc.

By no means is this list exhaustive, it’s just a place to start.

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#PointlessTweeting

Once upon a time – ok, actually just last year on October 30, 2013 – Stephen Colbert opened in part his show The Colbert Report by asking the question “How is technology changing TV news? Tweet me your thoughts with hashtag pointless tweeting” (click here to view the show opening)

Part of the challenge of implementing social/digital marketing is breaking free of the impression, dare I say the stigma, of being pointless and a waste of valuable time and resources.

The thing is, Colbert is right – it can be pointless.

Without a plan, without a purpose, efforts in the digital space will be pointless.  Just like any other form of marketing and promotion, there needs to be some level of planning, some degree of forethought.  It doesn’t have to be to the level of The Hunger Games, but there needs to be something.

A primary reason behind needing some level of planning, aside from getting the most out of your digital activities, is to avoid the cardinal sin of the digital space — being fake.

If you are on social media, if you are in the digital space just to be there, to increase your digital “street cred” by appearing “hip” or “relevant” because you have an online presence, the online citizens will see right through your efforts and you’ll end up doing yourself more harm than good.

There is a saying that goes something like “fail to plan, plan to fail” and that statement could not be any more relevant for marketing and promotion, especially when you are talking about marketing efforts in the digital social space.

Redefining the phrase “a little birdie told me”

The Steubenville rape trial (described by some as the “Instagram, YouTube-Fueled high school rape trial”) has reached an end, likely not “the” end, but an end nonetheless.  The defendants – Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty (actually delinquent, the juvenile equivalent of guilty) on all three counts as charged, charges stemming from the assault of a 16-year-old West Virginia girl the night of August 11, 2012.

The case and the events surrounding it got my attention, for two reasons in particular.  One, I can see the town I grew up in reflected in Steubenville – blue collar (switch farms for the mill), rural, live and die by the local high school football team.  Second, the role digital and social media evidence played in the run-up to the trial (arrests, charges), in the trial itself and (as it turns out) after the trial.

That’s what we’re going to explore a bit more.

It has been established in multiple accounts how the events of that August night played out over text messages, tweets, pictures and videos.  In fact, the victim really only learned what had happened to her because of the digital residue left by her assailants and those who witnessed the assault.

As someone who examines digital and interactive media for a living (hopefully soon a paid living), what intrigues me is how people continue to use – rather misuse – digital and social media this way.

The culture of allshare that’s how.

Millennials and those generations around them know nothing but a world with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.  For them, sharing nearly every aspect of their lives publicly online is something they do without a second thought.

Passages from the New York Times piece on the case hits on this point:

“… [Reno] Saccoccia [the head coach], a 63-year-old who brims with bravado, was the sole person in charge of determining whether any players would be punished.

Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.  …” (emphasis added mine)

That is a key piece of allshare right there – those involved in the sharing did not think they had done anything wrong.  Sharing nearly every aspect of their lives, even the questionable aspects, is second nature.

“The case is not the first time a high school football team has been entangled in accusations of sexual assault. But the situation in Steubenville has another layer to it that separates it from many others: It is a sexual assault accusation in the age of social media, when teenagers are capturing much of their lives on their camera phones — even repugnant, possibly criminal behavior, as they did in Steubenville in August — and then posting it on the Web, like a graphic, public diary.”

That last piece – “… in the age of social media, when teenagers are capturing much of their lives on their camera phones — even repugnant, possibly criminal behavior, as they did in Steubenville in August — and then posting it on the Web, like a graphic, public diary” – is as close to a dictionary definition of allshare as you’ll find.


We’re going to try to parse out a few points of question/discussion, relating events in Steubenville into a larger iMedia/social media context.

  • First up, the flash drive of evidence.  Again, from the NYT piece:

“The parents then notified the police and took their daughter to a hospital. At 1:38 a.m. on Aug. 14, the girl’s parents walked into the Steubenville police station with a flash drive with photographs from online, Twitter posts and the video on it. It was all the evidence the girl’s parents had, leaving the police with the task of filling in the details of what had happened that night. …”

Given the era of allshare that we are in, is this the start of a new requirement?  Will police have to patrol the side streets of the information superhighway, looking for evidence of criminal activity?  Will investigators, even victims, have to rummage though the trash bins for deleted evidence?

Or has this been something that has been a part of law enforcement all along, just in a different form?  Witnesses have always been sought in criminal investigations, preservation of physical evidence has been an integral part of cases long before Twitter and cell phones.  Do text messages and social media posts play the role of ‘digital witness,’ recording and preserving what has happened at the moment of an alleged crime?

Imagine this case without the social evidence.  With the lack of physical/forensic evidence (no CSI/DNA evidence), it devolves into a he said/she said battle — blame the victim vs. painting the accused — and no one wins.

So, we have to ask ourselves, can social evidence be the 3rd party witness, objectively observing and recording what happens without bias?  As continue to live in this era of allshare, will social evidence become more prevalent? Or does the anonymity and fluid nature of social evidence — and the uncertainty and mistrust some have of it — raise too much of a possibility of the waters being muddied enough for reasonable doubt.


  • Next, the statements made by police that they were unable to recover deleted videos/pictures.  Again, from the NYT piece:

“In several instances, the police seized cellphones so they could look for photographs or videos related to the case.

Eventually, 15 phones and 2 iPads were confiscated and analyzed by a cybercrime expert at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. That expert could not retrieve deleted photographs and videos on most of the phones.

In the end, the expert recovered two naked photographs of the girl. One photograph showed the girl face down on the floor at one party, naked with her arms tucked beneath her, according to testimony given at a hearing in October. The other photograph was not described. Both photographs were found on Mays’s iPhone. No photograph or video showed anyone involved in a sexual act with the girl.”

Really?  Sometimes I end up with three copies of the same picture on my phone – the one I took, the one I posted to Instagram and the one I put on foursquare.  And, anything I record or any picture I take is automatically uploaded and backed-up to my Google+ account.  The evidence in question was shared on social media platforms, shared with others.  My point is the files are somewhere – in a cache, on a server, somewhere in some form.  It is incredibly difficult to delete something completely and totally, leaving no ability to recover it, especially once it gets shared or posted.

Will we see a growth in the area of computer forensics?  Will law enforcement agencies have to increasingly look toward tech professionals for their assistance in digital dumpster diving, looking for evidence criminals have chucked into the metaphorical river alongside the information superhighway.


“In this case, accusations spread as quickly as did the photos of the unconscious girl, thanks in large part to blogger Alexandria Goddard, who covered the story on Prinniefied.com. She was on the story months ago:

Before many of the partygoers could delete their posts, photographs or videos, she took screen shots of them, posting them on her site, Prinniefied.com. On Aug. 24, just after the arrests, she wrote on her site that it was “a slam dunk case” because, she said, Mays and Richmond videotaped and photographed their crime and then posted those images on the Web. Goddard pressed her case.

“What normal person would even consider that posting the brutal rape of a young girl is something that should be shared with their peers?” she wrote. “Do they think because they are Big Red players that the rules don’t apply to them?”

She cited by name several current and former Steubenville athletes, accusing them of having a criminal role in the suspected assault by failing to stop it and then disseminating photographs of it. According to court documents, Goddard responded to a comment that read, “Students by day …gang rape participants by night” by writing that the football coach should be ashamed of letting players linked to the incident remain on the field. In another post, she added, “Why aren’t more kids in jail. They all knew.”

Now, she’s being sued (along with people who commented on her blog) by a Steubenville football player and his parents for defamation. The Times said she exacerbated the hype surrounding the case by “injecting” herself in the story, “complicating it and igniting ire in the community.”

Would the Times have covered the story if she hadn’t? Probably not. …”

The $64,000 question – Where is the line between covering and simply reporting the story and injecting yourself into and becoming part of the story?  This is an important question, one that existed before the age of the journalist-blogger, but has increased in importance with the rise of citizen journalism.   Particularly in the Steubenville case, did Goddard and Prinniefied.com play the role of reckless vigilante or freedom fighter, standing up for what is right?  In the pursuit of the story, does it become more about the jouralist-blogger seeking their own publicity and driving up page views or rallying others to the victim’s cause by acting on behalf of the ignored, the taken advantage of, the down-trodden?  Are they victim advocate, acting as a check and balance against the establishment or have they appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner for the court of public opinion?


So where does that leave us?  Calling back to the title, in an effort to come full-circle on this and wrap it up, it’s the expression from when someone asks you “where did you hear that?” or “how do you know that?” and the reply is “a little birdie told me” — except now the bird is small, blue, sings only 140 characters at a time and lives in your hand, pocket and/or purse.

As for the social evidence legal discussion, are we reaching a point where this will be how Miranda Rights will have to be worded?
“You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say … tweet, post, retweet, text, photograph, record and/or update can and will be used against you in a court of law …”

No ‘love’ lost – or found – on social media

Recently I came across the story of Canadian tennis player Rebecca Marino and her recently announced retirement.  What caught my eye were headlines like this –

“Rebecca Marino quits tennis following cyberbullying incidents”

“Rebecca Marino quits tennis because of bullying on social media”

“Rebecca Marino Quits Tennis Following Attacks on Social Media”

As it turns out, one of the factors Marino cited in her decision to retire was the negative comments she received on social media platforms like Twitter.

[*Side note – An even larger part of her decision to retire was her continuing battle with depression and mental illness, something that pre-dates the cyberbullying.  Marino had previously taken a seven-month break from tennis starting February 2012 to receive treatment.  The barrage of negativity from her social media accounts exacerbated her depression.  Ultimately, she walked away saying she’s not “willing to sacrifice [her] happiness and other parts of [her] life to tennis.”]

Now, I know what you’re thinking – she’s an athlete in the public eye, taking criticism is part and parcel of being famous, haters gonna hate, etc.  But I submit that there is a difference between getting booed or being told ‘you suck’ by some voice in the stands and getting a message directly sent to you, saying you should ‘go die’ or ‘burn in hell’ (as Marino did).

Some reports do indicate that officials with Tennis Canada warned Marino about the potential dangers of Twitter prior to her opening the account.  I would be interested to know what was the content of that warning.  Also, was Marino specifically given this warning because of her ongoing battle with depression? Or was it a broader warning given to everyone with Tennis Canada?

As an interactive media professional, situations like this catch my attention.  Examining the impact interactive media has on our lives – our thoughts, our feelings, our actions (essentially how we function as people and a larger society) – is part of what I do.

The beauty of interactive media, social media in particular, is that interactive part.  Platforms like Twitter allow for the back-and-forth conversation that is at the core of all social and interactive media.  That immediacy, that real-time feedback is a blessing and a curse, a ‘sword of sugar’ if you will.  Factor in the proliferation of smartphones, and every message or tweet – whether it is praise or criticism – is a press of the touchscreen away.

This meant that often Marino found herself at the receiving end of vitriolic, profanity-laced messages mere moments after leaving the court.  Bettors who had lost money on the match she just finished would spew their ‘dissatisfaction’ with her efforts straight to essentially her (Twitter) face – each message a person-to-person personal attack, carefully targeted with @, directed right to her feed.

In days past, there was a means of escape – often going home meant you had a safe haven from ‘analog bullying’ suffered during the day at school or work.  Now, in our hyper-connected always-on everyday lives, there is no safe haven.  The inescapability and (often) anonymity of online harassment ramps up exponentially the effect on bullying victims.  Add into the mix a psychological problem like depression, and Marino decided enough was enough – choosing her overall happiness and wellbeing ahead of her profession.

Clearly there are larger issues at play here, in particular mental health and cyberbullying/online harassment.

Mental health – Marino’s depression pre-dates her cyberbullying incidents, and I think it is a reasonable conclusion that the stream of negative comments and attacks she received on social media were not beneficial to her treatment efforts. Studies have been looking into a phenomenon dubbed ‘Facebook envy,’ where you feel inadequate and less successful about your own life when gazing upon the idyllic lives displayed on the Timelines of your Facebook friends.

To ask the larger questions – Does special attention need to be paid to social media users who are dealing with psychological problems?  Should activity on social media be taken into account when doctors are mapping out the best course for treatment, perhaps even including as part of treatment suspension or cessation of such activities?
——
Cyberbullying – Facilitated by the anonymity of the Internet, and despite its epidemic level (actual, perceived or otherwise), some victims still feel that the only escape is to take their own life.  The practice of the community policing itself is of little help to an individual at the receiving end of private, direct cyberbullying attacks.  It will take a widespread cultural shift, with the majority buying into the concept of a basic social contract to treat their fellow humans with respect.

To ask the larger questions – How do we empower victims of cyberbullying and online harassment to speak out, in turn holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions?  How do we initiate and facilitate that cultural shift and get people to buy into a basic social contract of respect?  Should there be some mechanism in place on the platforms themselves that allows for victims to report abusive and bullying behavior, one that goes beyond ‘flagging’ something as inappropriate?  When does the legal system get involved, if at all?  How is that legal threshold determined?

I applaud Rebecca Marino for making the difficult choice of putting her health and wellbeing ahead of her profession.  I commend her for being honest and open about the reasons behind her leaving tennis, helping to cast a brighter light on cyberbullying and helping to break the stigma of mental illness.  Her decision to step away from tennis and the reasons behind it raise some important questions for a larger discussion on the present and future impact of interactive and social media.

Gone Catphishin’ – The New Cult of (Online) Personality

(Before I begin, a side note/suggestion: we start spelling it catphish and catphishing, inline with the existing ‘phishing’ — scams that use fake emails and websites to obtain your personal banking and password information)

Been hearing a lot about catphishing (catfishing) in the news lately, haven’t we?

Let’s start with what is a catphish (catfish) or catphishing (catfishing)?

A catphish (catfish), as it is most commonly used, is an individual who engages someone in a fake online relationship.  The con, the act of carrying out the deception, is known as catphishing (catfishing).  The term ‘catfish’ comes from the 2010 documentary Catfish, documenting a young man building a romantic relationship with a young woman on Facebook, only to discover that essentially everything he knows about the young woman is false.

From the MTV reality show (spawned from/by the documentary) to the Manti Te’o fake dead girlfriend hoax to the recent report about the Washington Redskins, warning their players to steer clear of a person initiating online contact with players using a fake identity, many netizens are now carefully going over their Twitter followers and Facebook friends, reevaluating whether or not the person they know online is who they say they are, or if they even exist at all.

(For more an Manti Te’o, click here, here and here. For more on the Washington Redskins near catphishing, click here, here and here.) 

While this may seem like a new phenomenon, I say nay-nay (to borrow a line from comedian John Pinette).  We may not be talking about the ‘world’s oldest profession’ as the saying goes, but we are talking about arguably the Internet’s oldest profession – scams, hoaxes, tricking, stealing, conning, pranking, et al.  From the Nigerian prince to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the Internet has quite a rap sheet of-sorts when it comes to acts of fraud and deception.

At the heart of these cyber-crimes are two of the defining characteristics of the Internet – the ability to contact and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime and the ability to be whoever you wanted (including remaining anonymous).  The same technologies that allows people to cross time zones and borders to make friends, collaborate with colleagues, find love and connect with someone on the other side of the world is also the same technology that allows people to steal your passwords, create a false persona, phish for your bank information and cyberbully – anonymously or otherwise (see Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd, Phoebe Prince, Jessica Logan, Grace McComas, Sarah Lynn Butler, et al)

As the line from scripture (John 8:7) goes – Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  Who among us has not fallen for a deal that seemed too good to be true; received an email saying we’ve won a foreign lottery; received a message from a random person, talking as if you’ve met them; developed a relationship (however deep) with someone they only know online; been the victim of a con or believed a lie they’ve been told; been stabbed in the back by a friend or spurned by an ex-lover; been pranked on April Fool’s Day – shoot, you could arguably include played a casino or carnival/fair game to the list.

The point is – same basic game, just different arenas.

And now, with catphishing (catfishing), the arena has moved online, creating a phenomenon that I call The Cult of Online Personality(TM).

Per Wikipedia, “a cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and, at times god-like public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.”

I propose that a cult of online personality arises when an individual uses social media profiles and online activities and interactions to create an often idealized, possibly heroic, but ultimately false persona/person.

In our age of ‘allshare‘ (as I coined in the previous post), our online profiles and actions taken together, stand as representations of us – our likes/dislikes, our thoughts/opinions, our friends, places we’ve been, photos we’ve taken, etc.  So, when presented with the same body of online information about someone else, our inclination is to take it as a representation of an actual person.  Most of the time, this inclination is correct.

But sometimes it is not.  And scammers and those seeking to perpetrate a hoax exploit that natural inclination.

So where does that leave us?

Delete our Facebook and Twitter accounts? (No)

Stop using the Internet all together? (Not realistic)

Never trust anyone ever again? (Possible, but you would have a hard time living your daily life)

It’s just all about exercising a little common sense, doing a little due diligence, taking a majority of what you get online with a grain of salt and a dash of skepticism all the while taking solace in the fact that should you fall victim to an online hoax or scam, you are not alone.

CSI: Social Media

Crime fighting has gone social with a string of folks posting evidence of their (alleged) crimes on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

By no means is this post exhaustive, but I did want to touch on a couple that made the rounds in the 24-hour news cycle as of late.

First up on the docket:

People of the State of YouTube v. ‘Chick Bank Robber’ – 19-year-old Nebraska teen Hannah Sabata allegedly basked in the glory of a successful bank robbery with a celebratory video on YouTube, in which she shows the fruits of her escapades – over $6000 cash.  Sabata goes on to brag about how she stole a “shiny new” Pontiac Grand Am and held up the bank “with a gun, a pillow case and a note.”  Adding dumb to stupidity, reports indicate she appears to be wearing the same clothes from the bank heist in her video.

———-

The facts of the case aside, since this is a forum focusing on iMedia-related topics, I am focusing on the act of posting the video to YouTube (which led to her arrest).  As a reasonably well-education individual, I cannot seem to comprehend the thought process behind not just (allegedly … innocent until proven guilty after all) robbing a bank, but posting a video on YouTube bragging about it, with evidence of your (alleged) guilt in your hands.

———-

Next up:

People of the State of Facebook vs. Jacob Cox-Brown – 18-year-old Oregon teen Jacob Cox-Brown took to Facebook after ringing in 2013 to post the following status update:

Drivin drunk … classsic 😉 but to whoever’s vehicle I hit I am sorry. 😛

Two different individuals alerted police to Cox-Brown’s Facebook confession.  Police found damage to his car matching damage sustained by two cars around one o’clock in the morning New Year’s Day.  He was arrested and charged with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver (the status update was deemed insufficient evidence to charge Cox-Brown with drunk driving).

———-

Now, one could say the Oregon teen was perhaps still under the influence (PUI – posting under the influence?) when he logged on to Facebook to share the short story of his adventurous drive home.  Again, I cannot seem to wrap my head around the thought process behind not just driving under the influence (in and of itself an incredibly dangerous and illegal act), but then posting on Facebook that you just did it, hitting a car in the process (and it turned out to be two cars).

I know it seems like I am chastising these two teens for the poor choices – not only committing crimes (allegedly), but then publicizing that fact on social media.  And perhaps I am, to an extent anyway.  I am trying to use these examples as a jumping off point for a larger debate around the power of social media and how to leverage social media to your benefit, not your detriment.

In days gone by, ‘youthful indiscretions’ came and went, continuing to exist only as cautionary tales told to impress, dissuade, and/or reminisce.  Now, thanks in part to camera-packing smartphones, webcams, and an overall generational shift to a culture of ‘allshare’ (not just overshare anymore), they live on as tweets, Facebook posts and raw online videos.

Should the changing societal norms be taken into account and individuals be ‘cut a little slack’ with regard to their social media postings, or is it “anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of law or the court of public opinion?”  Is it conceivable that one could make the argument that a post to social media isn’t “public” (in the sense that everyone, everywhere can see it), if it is shared only with a user’s friends or followers; or does the simple act of posting, shared to whatever degree, make the post fair game?  Does there need to be more awareness and/or training on what may or may not be appropriate to share (and what may or may not get you into legal trouble) on social media?

Or is this just a sign of the times?  In the era of ‘allshare’ – with individuals socially documenting nearly every single aspect of their lives on sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. – will sharing even your criminal activities be acceptable, perhaps even expected?

Quick Hits – LinkedIn links

You never know what you’ll find wandering around LinkedIn.  Here’s a lucky 7 assortment:

http://www.socialh.com/social-media-wordpress-themes/

http://www.4bn.co.uk/community/articles/top-10-social-media-tips-for-brands-at-any-level

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/new-twitter-features-to-enhance-your-experience/

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/facebook-plugin-for-wordpress-guide/

http://www.imgrind.com/move-over-google-adsense-here-comes-the-facebook-content-ad-network-but-not-according-to-facebook/

http://www.appstechnews.com/news/2012/jun/26/its-yammer-time-microsoft-latest-buy/

http://blog.contentplus.co.uk/2012/06/how-smes-can-benefit-from-olympics.html