26
Nov 14

The Social Media Expert’s Guide to Using Twitter During Civil Unrest

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I don’t know about you all, but when ABC News broke into Dancing With The Stars on Monday night to share the verdict from the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., the first thing I thought was “Gosh, I hope Sears isn’t going to tweet an ad for 50 percent off pants on Black Friday. What a tragedy that would be.”

Thankfully for us plebs, hundreds of social media experts took to Twitter to remind our beloved brands to turn off auto-tweets and, in the process, earn some well-deserved Twitter karma.

Because when we are watching riot police lob canisters of tear gas into crowds of protestors and CNN reporters interviewing each other, the last thing we should have to concern ourselves with is whether or not ads for Kate Upton’s new video game are going to interrupt our stream and cause us to chuck our iPads against the wall in disgust.

It really puts things in perspective when you are watching riots unfold on television and are forced to endure and avoid 140 characters about a special at Amazon.com.

How do we do it?

So let’s give those gurus of social media a round of applause. Their selflessness saved brands from humiliation and they should be commended and re-tweeted from here to eternity.

After all, nobody likes it when a brand tries to use a national tragedy for their own personal gain.


04
Nov 14

When Will It End?

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At a time when 70 percent of Americans hate their jobs, we are putting in more hours than ever before.

When Mother Nature blows her brutal winter winds across the Midwest, it’s not uncommon to leave for work and return from work in the dark, only seeing the sun’s light (when it shines) through the windows of the skyscrapers that house our bland home away from home: the office cubicle.

But our complaints are invalid if we don’t do anything to right them. As a people, it appears we are content to lament to friends and family (and surveys) how much we hate going to our jobs every day.

Yet, as a country of workers, we left $52 billion on the table in unused vacation benefits in 2013, which comes out to 169 millions days of paid time off.

Once you pass the point where it becomes impossible to use up your remaining vacation days, you’re working for free.

So I ask again the question that headlines this post: When will it end?

I can’t predict a time when the working population will be able to work less. That just seems like an impossible possibility.

We have more demands than ever on our time at the office. Clients want more hours spent on projects.

In my industry, over-servicing is the norm.

Public relations is a results oriented and competitive industry. There is always someone willing to work insane hours to get ahead. Relax for one minute and you risk being pushed aside.

Look –  we know that stress related to working too many hours can be, and in some cases is, deadly. While that is probably taking overwork to the extreme, it’s a sign that there should be cause for some concern.

But we avoid it.

Instead, we put in more hours at the expense of seeing our family and our lives become dictated by our work.

Confucious once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

That’s a nice sentiment, isn’t it?

I fear, though, that for most of us, it’s a pipe dream.


15
Oct 14

Seven Podcasts That Will Make Your Commute Bearable

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Ever since my family moved earlier this year (a move that added 30 minutes to my commute) I have come to appreciate the value of a great podcast.

Not only does a great podcast make you think about things differently, but it can also soothe even the most savage beast when traffic starts to build up, helping your brain retreat to a faraway place where road rage isn’t a thing.

With winter approaching, we in Michigan are going to need something to take our minds off the fact that the commutes from hell are coming.

What better way to do that than by giving you some brain candy to make that commute just a little sweeter?

Here are seven podcasts that will make your commute bearable.

Serial – This is my favorite podcast at the moment. Created by the team behind This American Life, reporter Sarah Koenig is re-investigating the murder of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student whose body was found in a park in 1999. The ex-boyfriend has been serving a life sentence ever since, but some people believe he was wrong accused. Each week is another chapter in this story, and Koenig has many assets at her disposal to tell a compelling story: court testimonies, case files, and even telephone conversations with the accused. Needless to say, Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.

The Episode You Need to Hear: All of them. Only three have been released, so go ahead and binge.

Radiolab – This podcast takes stories and science and sound and puts them all together into one cohesive storytelling platform that is music to my ears. They do full episodes and shorts, but it really doesn’t matter what they release, as long as they release something. I have yet to download a podcast that doesn’t leave me wishing for more. I promise you’ll be hooked if you give it a chance.

Episode You Need to Hear: Patient Zero. Among other things, the hosts trace the AIDS virus all the way back to the point in time when it jumped from monkey to human. Fascinating.

Nerdist – Hosted by Chris Hardwick, this podcast is a collection of free flowing conversations with a number of individuals who make up the actors, authors, comedians, TV show hosts (and even wrestlers) we know and love. I’m convinced Hardwick wants to interview every person who has ever graced our pop culture, eh, culture.

Episode You Need to Hear: Ben Folds.

Love + Radio – This was a tough one to include because it updates so infrequently. But kind of like RadioLab, they find the extraordinary in our ordinary lives. I mean, you think everyone is like you and I, but there are people out there with crazy stories to tell. Someone had to find them. That’s where this podcast comes in.

Episode You Need to Hear: Choir Boy. The story of the cyclist who became a bank robber.

The Ross Report – I’m not ashamed to say I’m a pretty big wrestling fan. Jim Ross, former wrestling announcer for World Wrestling Entertainment, interviews a wide range of individuals in the wrestling business who share the stories behind the big events in wrestling history. As a wrestling fan who really got into it in the mid-90’s, these are compelling stories, and sometimes I wish I could keep driving.

Episode You Need to Hear: The interview with Eric Bischoff gives the avid wrestling fan some great behind-the-scenes stories about the rise of professional wrestling in the 90’s and the Monday Night Wars between WCW & WWE.

On the Page – I’m not a screenwriter, nor to I aspire to be one. But this podcast on helping writers bust out of their rut provides a lot of sound advice on writing, which is something every communicator could stand to hear from time to time. I don’t listen to all of the episodes, but I’m drawn to certain ones that focus on getting over rejection, how to move past mistakes, and anything that answers questions from writers.

Episode You Need to Hear: There are 370 to choose from, but listen to the one from Josh Stolberg on how he scored some big hits in Hollywood. Pay special attention to his work ethic. *hint hint*

Welcome to Night Vale – I’ve spoken highly of this podcast before, but that doesn’t mean I have to exclude it from the list. If anything, I want to be sure I remind you all to download the series. Night Vale is a show emanating from the studio of a public radio station in a mysterious town that bears the name of the series. Regularly occurring characters and plots throughout the series give the listener a sense of familiarity with the story, no matter how strange that story really is. I can’t really explain more, or else the Sheriff’s Secret Police will get me. (Oh, and the music adds to the story.)

Episode You Need to Hear: There’s no better place to start than at the beginning. If it hits you right, you’ll walk away thinking “WTF?” Then you’ll immediately download episode #2.

Now it’s your turn: Which podcasts should we be listening to?


19
Sep 14

Why I Deleted My Facebook

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The first rule of deleting your Facebook account is that you don’t talk about deleting your Facebook account.

But I can’t help myself.

I figured that when I finally deleted Facebook (trust me when I say it was only a matter of time) it would give me some decent fodder for a blog post.

(And since this is my blog, I can write about whatever I want, right?)

***

Deleting Facebook was not something that came to me one morning when I awoke.

No, I’ve been noodling on it for a long time. And there are quite a few reasons.

When I was stuck in traffic (which is, like, all of the time) I would bring it up on my phone and thumb my way through recent updates.

While sitting on my couch watching a baseball game, I would open the app on my phone and absentmindedly scroll through the recent updates.

Before I turned off the light at night I would check Facebook again, just in case something important was shared that I just had to know about. (Spoiler: That’s never the case.)

No, the idea to do so has been festering in my mind, showing up at regular intervals, suggesting that today would be a good day to cut that cord that once brought me so much voyeuristic joy.

Facebook had become something that felt necessary, rather than something that felt organic and enjoyable. And why use something if you get no joy out of it?

***

But if I’m honest, the real reason I deleted it was because it was turning me into someone I didn’t like.

Like most everyone on Facebook, I hid people; people I know in real life.

We all know those people. They over-share. Or they use the social network to put up a shiny and perfect persona. Or they share viewpoints you disagree with.

Everyone knows these people. And, I would guess, a large percentage of these people can hide someone and forget about them.

But I couldn’t.

Rather than interact on Facebook with people I like, I found myself looking at status updates for the people whose online personas I didn’t like, just to confirm my belief that I hid them for a reason.

Isn’t that terrible?

I was spending the majority of my time hate-reading status updates.

For my own sanity, I had to stop.

I didn’t want to hang out with friends in real life and let their Facebook activity, of all things, color my impression of them. I just wanted to like them for who they were; not for how they portrayed themselves online.

So, a little over a week ago, I deleted my account.

It hasn’t been a life-changing experience. But nothing has felt different, either. If anything, I don’t automatically visit the site when I have a few minutes of downtime. I do something that’s a bit more productive instead, even if that’s just finishing an email for work or reading another chapter of a book.

And it’s not like I suddenly fell off the face of the earth. I’m still very active on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. There’s also this thing called e-mail that works wonders for communication with friends and family, even though my dad thinks it’s just for forwarding email.

Since cutting the cord, not one person has asked me why I unfriended them, either. But maybe that’s because Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t let you see what all of your friends are doing.

If anything, the lack of a response indicates nobody pays attention on Facebook.

***

I got on the Facebook bandwagon a few years after I graduated from college. So I didn’t get to use it when it was restricted to kids with university e-mail address.

If I had, maybe that would’ve changed my perception of the site.

But I didn’t, so I’m used to my feed clogged with ads, promoted posts, and the occasional interesting post.

The rest was just clutter.

And nobody wants more clutter in their life.


16
Aug 14

Is Social Media Guilting Us Into Activism?

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Two mornings ago, I awoke to find that my brother-in-law had tagged me on Facebook to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

For those who are somehow unaware of this social media activation, it’s exactly what it sounds like: you dump a bucket of ice water on your head to raise awareness for ALS.

Secretly I hoped nobody would tag me, because nobody wants to dump a bucket of ice water on their head, but I guess the odds weren’t in my favor. When a social cause has reached the point where celebrities like Bill Gates and Jimmy Fallon are doing it, it’s only a matter of time until us regular folk get involved.

To date, the challenge has raised more than $4 million for the cause. That’s more than double what they raised last year.

But like anything born on social media, there are dissenters.

The publication Quartz says that all of these donations to ALS are taking away from potentially donating to other charities.

The Huffington Post plays the “slacktivism” card to say all this challenge has done is get us talking about the disease, while conveniently ignoring the fact that it has raised millions of dollars.

I’ve even seen people flat-out not accept the challenge because they’d rather write a check. (Or, maybe they just don’t want to document being icy water poured on their head.)

I’m more interested in whether this is merely social media guilting us into doing something we’d rather not do.

When your friends are calling you out publicly to participate, you can’t exactly not do it, lest you want them to give you a hard time about it. So you do participate, then challenge three other friends to do the same because, well those are the rules.

By doing so, we are essentially clearing our conscience and putting the onus on somebody else to try and not break the chain.

This challenge brings together two polar opposites to accomplish the goal: calling out people on Facebook and Twitter to participate (which is the worst) and donating money to a good cause (which I endorse).

When the final numbers are tallied, we will undoubtedly see that it was a success. And, who knows, maybe that dollar you donated will lead to a cure for this terrible disease one day.

But peer pressure to participate in anything is the worst kind of pressure, and this is taking it to the max.

For the record, I shot a video and challenged three of my friends to do it, both because it’s a good cause and because I didn’t want to be the one to break the chain.

It’s a double-edged sword, this Ice Bucket Challenge. And with its success will bring many copycats looking to get in on this trend.

I’ve even heard that an organization is working on something to bring awareness to depression in light of Robin Williams’ death.

If that becomes a success, we will never stop this train.

We live in a world where, thanks to social media, you can communicate with practically anyone. It’s an amazing thing. But with that brings the ability to tap into our guilty consciences simply by tagging someone from the comfort of our living room.

I’ve yet to determine if that’s a good thing, and I’m not sure I ever will.