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Follow up: The art of human hacking

April 17, 2017 - Posted by

Thank you to everyone who came out to today's May breakfast event Social Engineering and Phishing: How to avoid taking the bait. 

  • First, here is a great video recap from our Facebook page that our Communications Co-Chair Elliot Johnson created with three quick tips to help keep you from falling victim to online social engineering and phishing scams.
  • Here are some links you'll want to take a look at that I included in the presentation:
    • Norse Attack Map - See cyber threats in real time across the world
    • Take this lollipop - Log in using your Facebook credentials to see what information you're posting that could be used by a social engineer (or worse).
    • Mobile antivirus - We spend more time on our phones and tables.... are yours protected with a paid version of antivirus?
    • Race to stay safe - Can you tell the difference between a real site and a fake one? See how quickly you can using this online Symantec tool.

Here's the original post:

Despite the negative headlines we occasionally hear coming on the topic of social media, I believe the one thing it has done an amazing job of is helping us feel more connected. Sure, we have fans, connections and friends via these pages we may never meet in person, but to me, it doesn’t make the connection any less real.

Social media has also changed the way we see things, and because we feel safe behind the glass of our laptop, tablet and mobile phone screens, we tend to feel more free in our sharing. I’m as guilty of this as anyone especially when I’m on vacation or at a family gathering.

  • How many times have you shared a photo you took with your phone just a few seconds after you’ve taken it? Did you tag others and your location with that photo?
  • What about your personal and professional social media profiles? Who can see your information including what you share in the form of posts and updates?

Are you aware of who you’re connected to, who they’re connected to and what could potentially happen to your information housed in your social media spaces if it fell into the wrong hands? If you haven’t, I encourage you to start by taking this lollipop (you will need to login using your Facebook credentials to get the full affect). Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Sadly, it’s not just social media we need to be cyber aware of. Emails from the Nigerian Prince wanting to give you sums of money are dying out but giving rise to alternative versions like romance scams, tech support scams and even email or instant messages from what seems like contacts you know. Lost USBs you find and try to use and even phone calls from seemingly reputable entities are looking to gain your trust and take away your finances, personal information and identity.

Join me on Friday, May 5, where Michael Rattenne’ and I will dive into social engineering and take you from paranoia to well-equipped:

  • What is social engineering and phishing, and how does it happen?
  • In what forms does it manifest itself?
  • Hear real stories and see firsthand how it happens
  • Learn what you can do that day to help defend yourself, your company and your family

Remember, it’s not if you will get phished or social engineered – it’s when. But if you know the signs beforehand, you’re in a better position to avoid taking the bait.


About the author:
Marc Vasquez, APR, is the Security Awareness Program Manager for UMB Financial Corporation. He possesses nearly 20 years of both agency and corporate public relations and social media experience. Marc is also the technology chair for the Social Media Club of Kansas City, a member of the Social Media Club global board and the International Association of Security Awareness Professionals board secretary. He holds the Accreditation in Public Relations credential which has been established as a way to recognize public relations practitioners. By night he is the gaming sidekick to his 9-year-old son @StuffJakobSays. You can generally find Marc via @vasquez007 or on LinkedIn.

Stories Spread and Twitter Ends the Egg

April 3, 2017 - Posted by

First it was Snapchat. Then it was Instagram. Then they infiltrated Messenger and WhatsApp. And now, inevitably, stories have made it to Facebook, whether we want them or not.

Just like in other apps, Facebook stories only stick around for 24 hours, and you can decorate them with an assortment of stickers and sketches and filters. The Verge has a thorough write-up of all the features, including a pretty convincing argument that for now, stories will bring back that friend-to-friend connection that made Facebook so appealing to begin with.

In a fun bit of irony, while Facebook is shamelessly copying Snapchat  adding new consumer-centric features, Digiday complains that Snapchat is getting too much like Facebook. Their charge is that Snapchat Discover has gone from unique curated content to the same old clickbait on celebs we’re trying to avoid everywhere. And Snap did throw some shade back with a fake Instagram filter for April Fools’ Day.

In much smaller news, Facebook added a handy-dandy GIF button to replies on posts. It works just like the GIF feature on Twitter does, adding to my sense of social media déjà vu.

Speaking of Twitter, here’s a change that shakes things up: Twitter has killed the egg. That iconic avatar that indicated new accounts will now be replaced with a generic humanoid figure that looks pretty similar to what I see on Skype.

That Fast Co.Design link has an interesting read on the design language and logic that went into it. Mostly, it has been met with a great rolling of eyes. After all, if your entire reason to use Twitter is to troll, is the changing icon really going to slow you down….especially if you’re not even human?

Apps & Taps: Amping Event-based Brand Engagement

March 28, 2017 - Posted by

Festivals and events have become a boon for brands. Yet activation and fostering meaningful advertiser/attendee engagement remains a challenge. While Nielsen reports that 76 percent of festival goers feel more favorable towards brands that sponsor a tour or concert, on-the-ground experience has shown that integration into the very fabric of the event itself is key.

Join John Kreicbergs, the marketing co-chair for Kansas City’s annual Boulevardia festival, app development general manager for Propaganda3 and one of the co-founders of the event-based technology platform AppTapp, as he highlights the hows and whats/dos and don’ts of digital brand engagement for festivals. Learn about the key components of event-based digital marketing, how principles of game design and player engagement can be applied to attendee activation, and how sponsors and events can mutually benefit.

Here are 3 key takeaways you'll be able to put to use after the presentation:

  1. The dos and don’ts of digital brand engagement for festivals, from social to email, apps to experiential digital activities and more.
  2. How principles of gamification and game design can be applied to festivals.
  3. How sponsor/brand involvement and activation at festivals is quickly evolving…and booming!


March 14, 2017 - Posted by

You know those changes that companies try to make sound like a Really Big Deal while users generally just shrug? Add the new slideshows on Instagram to the list. The coverage is pretty enthusiastic. Wired calls it another reason to never leave the ‘gram, and Refinery 29 went so far as to say it’s the “biggest and most controversial change yet.

It’s just that doesn’t exactly feel new. After all, brands have been able to post carousel for about a year.  I did see some dang delightful pictures of armadillos in my feed because of it, though.

Now on to Snapchat, since it seems like we can’t mention Instagram without it these days (although it does still seem ok to talk about Snapchat without bringing up Insta… you can see why Zuckerberg keeps their logo on his dartboard.) Contently has a good round up on the nuances of stories on each platform to help you tell the difference.

As you know, the Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, went public recently. CNN Money is reporting that it’s already trading below the IPO. It seems like investors are losing patience for cool platforms without a solid business plan behind them….and operating at a $515 million loss for the year doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

And finally, because a blog post on social media trends wouldn’t be complete without a mention of SXSW, I must confess that I fell for this Onion article when it came up in my feed this morning. In retrospect, I’m not sure how. 650,000 mentions of the word “innovate” seems way too low. I haven’t heard any good tech buzz this year, though. Have you?

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.