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Humanizing the Science: Trust-Building through Social Media

February 20, 2017 - Posted by

Social media has opened up a new world to the National Weather Service (NWS), a government organization that until recently kept most of its communication limited to a small group of core partners such as county officials and the  media. As an organization that was used to speaking to a small set of users in scientific terms and government-speak, social media provided the NWS a unique opportunity to interact with a whole new group of users on a completely different level.

This new exposure to a large section of the public introduced new needs and challenges for the NWS to communicate vital information to those who may have very little understanding of weather yet can be profoundly affected by it.

The March 3 breakfast Humanizing the Science: Trust-Building through Social Media will showcase ways in which the NWS in Kansas City has used social media to communicate complicated weather information to a variety of users, as well as to build trust among those who rely on the NWS for important and potentially life-saving information. Specifically, you'll learn:

  1. How to break down complicated scientific processes to a basic level of understanding
  2. Maximizing the effectiveness of critical information by establishing a foundation of trust
  3. How to build trust by showing the human behind your service and connecting to users on a personal level

This will include using humor, creativity, civic pride and most importantly showcasing the human that is behind the forecast message.

To get tickets for this event, visit our eventbrite page

 

About the speaker
Dan Hawblitzel is a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Kansas City. He is in charge of the social media program at the office which has become one of the most recognized NWS social media programs in the nation. His work to improve the communication of forecast and weather hazards is now in use at multiple NWS offices across the country.

Snap goes public: But what about profits?

February 13, 2017 - Posted by

Snap Inc., maker of SnapChat and Spectacles, and the general new hotness in social media these days, filed for an IPO on Thursday.  The catch? The paperwork shows that for all its hype, Snap has never made a profit. That’s in spite of the $404 million in revenue it generated in 2016.

That hasn’t stopped The Wall Street Journal from calling it “the largest…debut since Alibaba” right above a helpful video that explains filters to us oldz. That didn’t stop them from pointing out that a certain tech behemoth (cough Facebook) has been copying most of its moves lately.

One thing Facebook hasn’t copied yet is Snap’s tough stance on trolls, thirst traps*, and other shady online behavior. Combined with its 158 million daily active users, that might make it pretty appealing to publications and advertisers.

So maybe there’s only one thing to say….and we’ll let Tom Cruise handle that.

 

Old school social still makes news
Reddit made news this week when it officially banned some prominent subreddits. Reddit has never had a reputation for being the kindest corner of the Internet (just ask Ellen Pao), and some of the subreddits toe the line between free and hate speech. And by “toe the line,” I mean just typing the names of them would probably trip the software filters at most of the places I’ve worked.

It took a blatant breaking of the terms of service to bring on the ban. In this case, it was tied to doxxing. It’s worth pointing out that Reddit is still a privately held company, and the clear violation of the terms of service makes it harder for the banned groups to say that they were wronged.

 

And Facebook is adding more ads
Sometimes, it feels like it wouldn’t be a round up of social media news if I didn’t mention Facebook finding even more ways to make money. This week’s installment comes from reports that they’re testing ads in Messenger.

This is in addition to the sponsored messages that a brand can send you if you’ve already messaged. Screenshots show newsfeed style ads in the Messenger app. It feels…icky… but Facebook has been promoting chatbots and messenging as a bigger part of its future for some time now.

But man, I’m having a hard time getting excited about the possibility, and that’s saying a lot for someone who has written ads for a living.

*Thirst trap- posts from someone desperate for attention. You can find more on urban dictionary, but it’s not recommended for work.

The Transfer or Twitter Power

January 22, 2017 - Posted by

There’s been a lot of talk about Twitter’s troubles over the past year, what with the trolls, the declining users and the questions about a viable business model. Still, they have their fans….like a certain enthusiastic user who just moved in to the Oval Office. Along with his new job, Donald J. Trump can now use the verified @POTUS handle.

There was a hand-off plan in place even before the election. Former President Barack Obama’s tweets would be moved @POTUS44 and archived digitally, and the incoming Trump administration would take over all official social media accounts.

Sounds simple, right?  It should have been.  Then the scripts went wrong.

Users found themselves following the incoming @POTUS, @FLOTUS and @VP accounts, even if they had deliberately unfollowed them in the days before. Since it was social media, users immediately started sharing their unhappiness. Since it’s politics, the commentary got heated. Wired went so far as to call “a bug pregnant with political meaning.

The official explanation is much less dramatic: that scripts still take time to run, even in our fast-paced world. Twitter cloned the @POTUS account before it moved

Barack Obama’s tweets to @POTUS44, and then it created a fresh, clean @POTUS handle using the cloned info for President Trump. A script then reconciled any follower changes that happened between the time when the clone was made the current moment, which takes time to execute.

So if the clone was made at 9 a.m. on Friday, but a user didn’t unfollow the account until 11 a.m., the script would have removed them again eventually. Users were looking while before it happened, though.

President Trump is still tweeting from his @RealDonaldTrump. The @POTUS handle is being managed by his Director of Social Media, @DanScavino, who mostly seems to be automatically posting tweeting things from Facebook. Barack Obama has moved back to his original @BarackObama handle, and Michelle Obama is now using @MichelleObama.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Twitter drops the ban hammer, and Facebook ‘fesses up

November 27, 2016 - Posted by

A crisis of conscience seems to be sweeping through Silicon Valley since the Presidential Election this month. Its reaction that can best be described as “Wait? Our actions may have real world consequences? And what people read on our sites will impact their opinions? WHouston we have a problemho knew?”*

San Francisco, we’ve got a problem
Twitter’s big move was mass suspension of accounts related to the alt-right. Think a group saying things very similar to the stuff that got Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned this summer. A key distinction here is that while Milo was suspended for violating the terms of service, not everyone on this list was violating them.

For Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was forced to admit that yes, Facebook does have a fake news problem. In fact, fake news is actually outperforming real news in many cases.  He laid out a plan of action for combating it that includes “disrupting the fake news economics,” improving their algorithm and working more closely with third parties for verification.

Even though it never quite managed to position itself as a social media company, Google is getting in on the action too. It will be removing fake news from search results and remove ads from known fake news sites.

So why am I still crabby?
Considering how many posts I’ve written this summer about fake news and trolls, you’d think I’d be thrilled with the news. Instead, I’m underwhelmed for a couple reasons:

  • Twitter is banning a topic, not a behavior: Trolls come in all shapes and sizes these days, but Twitter isn’t protecting all its users. For example, I have a friend who has been on the receiving end of hate mail and hacking because she blogs about life on a diary farm. Women get threats for writing feminist articles. Scientists get attacked for their views on GMOs. Twitter’s ban doesn’t help any of them better protect themselves online.
  • Facebook is crowd-sourcing responsibility: Along the same lines, one of Facebook’s steps to prevent fake news is to make reporting easier. That just makes it easier for trolls to report anything they don’t like, regardless of its veracity. Plus, people aren’t great at determining what is fake and what is real. In fact, a recent survey showed teens can’t tell the difference.

Some good news
There are some signs of hope, though. For one thing, Twitter has a new “mute” feature that makes means users can avoid certain topics or phrases, no matter who is posting it. Previously, users had to block each individual harasser.

On the fake news front, a group of college students created an extension called FiB to flag unverified news (although it doesn’t currently look like it’s live). Urban legend-debunker Snopes has also branched out into fact-checking everything we’re sharing online.

And if you’re worrying about news that isn’t fake, just potentially biased, check out AllSides. This site shows stories from left, centrist and right-leaning sources for easy comparison.

 

*Ok, fine. That’s a bit snide. Call it a case of “I told you so!” from a career spent in advertising and mass communications.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

November 14, 2016 - Posted by

Death becomes him?

And apologies to Mark Twain for the misquote.

This week, Facebook users were finding themselves memorialized, which is what the site does after someone dies. In this case, the users were very much still alive. A Facebook spokesperson said it was a just an unfortunate bug.

Speaking of not believing everything you read on Facebook…. Things are pretty ugly online right now. All that stuff we’ve been saying about fake stories and abusive users isn’t going away just because we held the election.

Be a little kinder than you need to, don’t believe everything that you read, and stay safe out there!

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

End of the line for Vine

October 30, 2016 - Posted by

Say goodbye to Vine. This week, the company announced that it would be looping no more. While the main website Death of Vinewill still be available for users to download their content, the mobile app will soon be discontinued.

It makes sense- when you can include quick video snips and hilarious gifs in every platform, there’s no need for a separate app. And Vine was at it’s best when the clips were a little goofy. (The Ringer has a thorough, although NSFW roundup to fuel your nostalgia.)

The Hits Keep Coming
The bad news about Vine was just one of many negative headlines for Twitter, who owns it. There was the one about the share price lawsuit. And the one about job cuts. Even the news about the positive quarterly earnings seemed to get less coverage than speculation about its 4 am start time of the call.

On the same call, Twitter announced that new safety features will be releasing new safety features some time in November. Considering that abuse was seen as one of the reasons no one wanted to buy Twitter this fall, it’s well past time they get it under control.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Using social media to help save lives

October 30, 2016 - Posted by

Cyber bullying. Fear of missing out. Social media addiction. Envy of perfectly curated feeds. There’s plenty of hand-wringing over the potential negative impacts that social media can have on mental health. So it’s great to share a story about using the power of social media for good.instagram mental health

Last week, Instagram announced a new feature that allows you to send an anonymous message if you see someone hinting at self-harm, suicide, or an eating disorder. The user will get a message with links to mental health resources based on their location. The same support message will occur if a user searches for certain hashtags.

And remember:  You don’t have to wait for a new feature to launch to reach out if you’re worried about a friend. And if you need to talk to someone, the National Suicide Prevention Line is there 24/7.

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Meerkat is no more, and Facebook goes to work

October 10, 2016 - Posted by

Anyone remember Meerkat, the livestreaming app? It was Periscope 1.0, feted at SXSW ,and now, officially dead. Recode has a thorough autopsy report, and Meerkat’s parent company, Life On Air, is still in business.

The most telling quote I read about it all came from co-founder Ben Rubin: “The category of broadcast (one-to-many) wasn’t breaking as a daily habit…it’s too far away from the everyday user.”

In other words, if people aren’t using it, it doesn’t matter how much love you get from the press.

Facebook goes to work…and the store…and to VRjan-brady-bunch
I have a confession to make here, everyone—I’m really not trying to flood this blog with posts about Facebook. It’s just hard to write about social media without talking about the 9,000-pound gorilla in the room.

And it’s been a busy gorilla lately.  So let’s hit the highlights:

  • Privacy? What privacy? The EU isn’t fooling around when it comes to privacy laws
  • Marketplace is open for business – I’ve had this in my app for months now, so I didn’t realize it was a new feature. Facebook launched The Marketplace, a classified session similar to Craigslist. Users promptly flooded it with drugs, guns and live animals. Pretty sure this is why we can’t have nice things.
  • Facebook for Work moves beyond a pilot – The logic seems to be “hey, everyone knows how to use Facebook already.” The release says they’ll offer the analytics to companies who pay for an internal network, but given Facebook’s data-hungry ways, I’m very curious to know what else they’ll do with it.
  • Moving to VR – One of the strengths of social media is that it helps people stay in touch despite distance. A demo at the recent Oculus conference made it pretty clear that Facebook considers Virtual Reality a way to bring people together.
  • Events will be a standalone app – It could just be my empty social calendar, but I don’t quite get this one.  Are they coming after Eventbrite?
  • Instagram turns six – And no, they won’t be going back to a chronological timeline.

Chatbots don’t judge you.

To close this out on a non-Facebook note, this is my favorite use of chatbots to date. DuoLingo will let users practice languages with chatbots, since many found the idea of practicing with a complete stranger intimidating. Plus, chatbots won’t make fun of your bad accent. ¡Excelente!

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.

Spectacles, Sales Talk, and Statistics

September 26, 2016 - Posted by

Snap, Inc.’s SpectaclesSnap Spectacles
It’s been a busy week in social media. For starters, Snapchat is launching a new wearable, a pair of connected glasses that “make memories from your perspective.” Can these glasses, called Spectacles, work where Google Glass didn’t?  Maybe. The $130 price tag is much more accessible than Google Glass, and they’re being positioned as something fun (and maybe even frivolous) instead of a smart device. They certainly draw from a different design aesthetic.

A new name also signals that the company wants to be serious business. The app itself is still Snapchat, but the company will henceforth be known as Snap, Inc. It’s also rolling out new targeting options for advertisers, although how that plays against its reputation for privacy has yet to be seen.

Twitter Sale Rumors
People have been speculating (often on Twitter) that Twitter is looking for a buyer. Right now, the two main contenders seem to be Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and customer relationship management giant Salesforce.  Verizon is mentioned from time to time as well.

Considering the PR beating Twitter took this summer, the fact that it’s finally dealing with harassment could be the company’s equivalent of investing in new paint to get a house ready to sell.

Statistics (Ok, Metrics)
Technically, this a metrics story, but I really enjoyed the alliterative headline. In either case, Facebook recently ‘fessed up that it had made a serious miscalculation in its metrics for video ads. For two years.

Predictably, Facebook is assuring everyone that it didn’t impact billing or other video metrics. TechCrunch found some companies willing to say that the whole thing is NBD, you guys, since we totally don’t use that metric anyway.

Once again, it shows how much power Facebook has with marketers. If marketers want to reach their audiences where they are, it means playing ball with Facebook and relying on Facebook’s data to understand what worked. That also means relying on the company to tell them if the data is incorrect.

Little scary, isn’t it?

 

About the author:
Tara Saylor Litzenberger is a communications manager by day, grad student by night and curious all the time. She is also a web nerd and recovering copywriter. Tara focuses on the channels that enable communication and using metrics to improve communication effectiveness. She tweets about communication and combines as @AnokheeTara.