The new workplace ethics: Employees now have computers in their pockets!

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social media at work

Working, yet thinking of social media.

Whether employers like it or not, they will have to address social media use in the workplace (thanks smartphones!). In fact, for some jobs, social media use is required because it’s part of an employee’s job function. Yet some employees simply use social media to vent (check out this collection of tweets from the @PaneraProblems_ Twitter account).

Like Justin mentioned in our lecture, a lot of companies are now drafting a social media use policy and this is a good thing for every company to have, even if the majority of employees are not using social media as part of their job.

Companies like Best Buy address this issue in their social media policy:

Remember, your responsibility to Best Buy doesn’t end when you are off the clock. For that reason, this policy applies to both company sponsored social media and personal use as it relates to Best Buy.

This Best Buy policy pretty much solves the quandary of “should you leave your workplace out of your social biographies?” I don’t think it matters if you do or not. Chances are, through the people you talk to and the things you talk about, observant people will probably figure out where you work anyway. You can’t really hide from it, so you might as well be mindful of it when posting content.

I would think it would behoove employees to read their company’s social media policy regardless, but some companies do try to make it fun and worth the time. One of my former workplaces added a gamification element, quizzing us on the company’s intranet about the policy and offering chances to win prizes like an iPad.

Overall, it makes good business sense for a company to have a social media policy in place so employees know where they stand. While some may not agree, it is completely OK for a company to track your computer use while at work. After all, you’re using company resources, most likely on company time. For example, if a supervisor sees that productivity has taken a nose dive while Facebook usage on the computers has increased, the boss may decide to block Facebook. It may seem harsh to those who are not abusing the privilege, but at the end of the day, the decision is based on what’s best for business.


PRIvacy or PriVACY? Either way, we must look out for ourselves

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Funny, yet true, cartoon (From

Funny, yet true, cartoon (From

Privacy: It’s something many of us worry about giving up too much of, especially in the social media age where we share the play-by-play of our vacation as it’s happening, give our location coordinates in our Twitter bio and share photos of our children even before they’re born.

I’ve recently checked my privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter, but I couldn’t tell you when it was (at least in the last six months). If they are set the way you want them, I wouldn’t really think you would need to check them more than quarterly (unless the social network you use had a privacy breach or something of that nature).

How do you check your privacy settings? I’m not here to tell you that. That’s why we have Google searches.

However, I will offer some suggestions that social networks can use to make it easier for their users to maintain their privacy, kind of similar to some suggestions I gave for easier-to-understand terms and conditions.

-Make it simpler. These settings shouldn’t be hidden from people. They should be easy to find. Like it or not, you are making a site that your grandmother will use (i.e.: Facebook) and she should be able to find how to tweak her privacy settings with no problem. In addition to making them easy to find, they should also be easy to read and understand (not a page with thousands of words on it).

-Remind people to check them. If you don’t remind or prompt a person to do something, chances are, they won’t do it (especially if it’s something as non-sexy as checking privacy settings).

-Give people the most private settings to start. People can always make their profiles more open if they want, but give them the most secure settings as a default.

Speaking of privacy, what if you want to reach out to someone you don’t know? What if that person doesn’t want to be found by people they don’t know. These are some issues that journalists can come across in the information-gathering process.

Justin went over this in lecture this week, revisiting a discussion we had several weeks ago about contacting a friend of a crime suspect via social media. I would say that it is OK to contact this person via social media, as long as you identify who you are upfront. If possible, it may be even better to call this person or physically go to their home. Contacting a person on Facebook is akin to knocking on their door, a tough job, but one a journalist still must do.

Now, if that person does grant you access behind the curtain and accepts your Facebook friend request after you’ve identified yourself as a journalist, the question is it ethical to republish material from a private social media space?

I think while you do technically have access to the material, asking permission will probably give an added level of protection as well as continue to build trust with that source. After all, trust is an important aspect when it comes to letting down that privacy wall.

Corporations, agencies know me better than I know myself

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facebook privacy

Not necessarily trying to pick on Facebook here, but I just thought this grammar/privacy pun was too funny not to share.

Like any idea that’s good initially, data mining can turn into a slippery slope.

A business gets your information to stay in touch with you and anticipate your potential needs — and then they sell your information to make a quick buck.

The government is concerned about additional terrorist attacks in a post-9-11 world, so, nearly 13 years later, they’re looking at your cellphone data — who you’re calling and who you’re texting and where you’re doing it from. I realize the National Security Agency (NSA) is trying to protect everyone, but like the photo to the left says, there is a fine line.

A recent article in the Washington Post reports that not only can the NSA collect your communications, but also communications about you:

Still, some lawmakers are concerned that the potential for intrusions on Americans’ privacy has grown under the 2008 law because the government is intercepting not just communications of its targets but communications about its targets as well. The expansiveness of the foreign-powers certification increases that concern.

You’d like to think these scenarios are pretty far-fetched, but if you’ve been paying attention to news coverage on this issue, you know they’re not. I may sound like a paranoid fool (or right on the money) to some of you, but I’m worried this constant collection of data is going to bring us into an era where we’re on 24-7 surveillance. Almost every electronic device we have now has a front-facing camera (smartphones, Xbox Kinect and tablets/laptops), so how far out there is this idea really?

I’ve never been in charge of any large scale data collection at any of my workplaces, but here are a couple basic guidelines that I think entities should follow: Don’t sell someone’s data, don’t use someone’s data for something other than what is supposed to be used for and don’t be a creeper.

How about this: Collect the data, but keep that data disconnected from the individual to whom it belongs. I’m sure programs out there exist and they are probably already in use, but it would be great if companies and agencies could actually do this. The aforementioned article from the Washington Post echoes this idea:

In general, if Americans’ identities are not central to the import of a communication, they must be masked before being shared with another agency.

Really, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. So if we don’t want any data collection done at all, we’ll have to disappear into that rabbit hole that Dr. Selepak was talking about last semester.

In the social media age, being right is more important than being first

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accuracy speed bulls eye

Speed is important, but it is most important to hit the bulls eye on accuracy.

Thanks to social media, information travels faster than ever. I know this, because it’s my job to chase down that information nearly every day. While social media is another great way to garner news tips from the public and reputable sources, like any other piece of information, it needs to be verified.

Why is this? Sometimes the tips turn out to be correct, sometimes they do not. A member of the public may post on our Facebook page that police are responding in their neighborhood, but it may just be a routine traffic stop. Unofficial sources with the fire department may tweet us about a structure fire, but we need to verify that information with dispatch and the public information officer.

Like Justin said in lecture, social media doesn’t take away the need for journalist to fact-check, it heightens it. How often have we seen a celebrity death hoax make the rounds on Twitter only to have the person be alive and well (like Jon Bon Jovi in 2011)? People can make things up, doctor photos and rewrite articles all the time, which is why it is more important to be right than be first.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s GREAT to be the first with a breaking news story. But if the story turns out to be wrong, your news organization has lost the trust of your readers/viewers. Justin asked in lecture if the public is more understanding of news organizations putting incorrect information out due to the fast speed with which it moves. I would have to say no, not really, at least in my experience. People still expect accurate information with proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Otherwise, they’re going to go somewhere else.

But what happens if you did get verified information from police and that information later turns out to be wrong, like when several media organizations identified the wrong Lanza brother as the Sandy Hook shooting suspect in December 2012? When something like this happens, you have to make it right as soon as possible. Huffington Post reported that BuzzFeed took down their article identifying the wrong person. Every decision must be made on a case-by-case basis, but ethically, I think this is OK because they probably didn’t want other people who came across their initial article to make the same mistake.

At news organizations I’ve worked at, we would try to avoid deleting a story, as this creates a dead link if someone tries to view the story later. If the correction was relatively minor, we would make it and save the story. If the correction was major, we would put a text correction in the story. Only in extreme circumstances would we delete a story, and this decision had to be blessed by a manager.

Bottom line: It is a journalist’s job to do everything we can to make sure we’re right AND first, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of losing our viewers’ trust.

Moderating negative comments takes a one-on-one approach


negative comments

There’s no science in responding (or not responding) to negative comments. Each one should be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Most social media community managers have dealt with this at one time or another: not-so-flattering comments about your organization or brand (I know I have).

This week, Justin has given us sample negative comments to respond to and explain how we would moderate them and why. In my responses, I will demonstrate the approaches I have used on-the-job at one time or another.

To a fast food chain:

“I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response/action: “Hello, I apologize that you found that location of our store in such a state. I can assure you that what you described is not in line with our standards of cleanliness. Could you please email me at so that I may collect more details about your visit to that location? Thank you!”

The rationale behind my response: Luckily when I worked in fast food, I didn’t have to worry about social media! All we had to deal with were telephone complaints! I want this customer (and others) to know we are listening and we do not shy away from criticism. However, I didn’t want to fully blame the store location for a dirty store without gathering more information from the manager of this location (the store may not have been dirty and the customer could just be making it all up). Bottom line, we need more information to fix a potential problem, which is why I wanted to get the customer off social media and get them talking to me one-on-one.

To a mainstream news network (let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides):

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

My response/action: “Thank you for your feedback. We will pass this along to our news managers. If you have any further questions/comments, feel free to email us at” (Assuming this comment appeared on the news network’s Facebook wall, I would hide the comment after I responded to it, as I do not want to leave a comment containing profanity to remain on the news organization’s wall.)

The rationale behind my response: Since we are assuming for this exercise’s sake that the reporting is balanced, this is obviously the opinion of someone who doesn’t see it that way and probably has a personal stake in the conflict. I don’t want this person to think I am just hiding his or her comment, so that is why I would want to respond first and then tell them to send further comment to our general email address. If this person chose to email us, our management team could deal with this person and talk to them one-on-one about their concerns.

Social media & website comments: Everything in moderation


comment moderation

Expletives: Something you probably want to keep from showing up on your social media pages or website.

Depending upon the venue, whether it’s a social media channel or a website, comment moderation can be quite a different animal.

On social media sites, an entity like a brand or a news organization is like a tenant renting an apartment — they can make the space their own, but they are just “renting it” from that social media entity and the users.

This is why Justin said in this week’s lecture that we should take “a light touch” to comment moderation on social sites such as Facebook and I would have to say I agree. However, some moderation has to be involved as people will still see your brand’s Facebook page belonging to your brand and not really see the distinction that your brand is simply using Facebook.

A great feature of Facebook’s that I have utilized in my professional career is the ability to “hide comments.” Facebook’s swear word filter usually does a great job of not allowing those profanity-laced comments to show up, but sometimes they do. If I see a comment containing profanity, racist or sexual language, I will hide the comment. It will no longer show up on our page, but the user whose comment was hidden doesn’t know their comment is hidden.

This is the BIG distinction between Facebook and Twitter: You can’t hide Tweets if they have inappropriate language. The only way Tweets can go bye-bye is if the user who created the Tweet deletes it. All you can do is respond to the Tweet and hope that person with the question or concern “retweets” or “favorites” your Tweet.

On your business’ website, however, it’s a different story. People have to play by your rules because to use your site, they probably had to agree to your business’ terms and conditions. So if someone posts something that your entity deems to be against its terms and conditions, you can remove it.

Whether on social media or your website, however, sometimes you’re going to run into a sticky ethical wicket where you’re not quite sure how to respond — perhaps the commenter says something libelous or asks a question that you’re not sure how to answer.

Like Justin said, this is when you should move it up the chain to your manager and ask them how to handle it and I totally agree with this point as well. Some comments have an easy, clear-cut response and some do not. Two heads are better than one and it is better when that other head is your manager. This way, everyone knows what is going on and can head off potential issues before they become larger issues.

Amazon Help, Brewers’ Caitlyn Moyer have my social media trust

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When I reach out to brands or well-known individuals on Twitter or other social media, I don’t usually expect a response. Partly because I know that the brand or individual is probably is getting inundated with tweets and wall posts and it is unlikely they will see mine, and partly because I don’t want to get my hopes up. So when I do get a response, I am pleasantly surprised.

Amazon Help
This past weekend, I got one such response from Amazon’s customer service account, @AmazonHelp. I didn’t even tweet that account; I tweeted the main @Amazon account. But Amazon was doing some social listening and responded to my fun tweet:

amazon responds to me on twitter louis c.k.

I wasn’t making a complaint, I was simply making a fun observation and Amazon was agile enough to be fun as well. The fact that they are initialing their tweets is pretty cool, showing that there is an actual person and not a “robot” on the other end. However, if I go to the account, I can’t figure out who “CW” is, so they may want to address that.

Amazon has not just gained my trust through social — they have done that by delivering the products I’ve ordered correctly and on time. However, they do promote goodwill about their product (in this case, Amazon Instant Video) by responding to my tweets in such a fun manner. So essentially, their social efforts supplement and support their positive brand image, which will keep me patronizing their business (as if I could resist Amazon!)

Caitlyn Moyer (Milwaukee Brewers)
Another source I greatly trust, Caitlyn Moyer (@cmoyer), follows Steve Rayson’s social media trust formula to a tee. In case you forgot/don’t know it, it’s Trust = Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy / Self-Promotion.

Me in my Brewers baby bib.

Me in my Brewers baby bib.

Moyer is the Milwaukee Brewers’ director of new media. The Brewers and I go way, way back (see photo to the left).

Since I am geographically far away from my team (as I moved from my home state of Wisconsin to Florida several years ago), I rely on social media to follow how my team is doing, what’s going on with the players and what’s new at Miller Park (the team’s stadium).

When I’ve tweeted the team account, @Brewers, with a question or comment, I would periodically get a response from Caitlyn’s account (Helpfulness). I not only trust her because of her role with the team (Authority), but because of the great content she and and John Steinmiller (@jstein1981) produce on their “John & Cait … Plus 9” blog (Intimacy). (Notice the lack of self-promotion?)

Caitlyn’s responses to my questions cement my relationship with the team so that I may continue on as a loyal brand evangelist.

Here’s an example of a recent exchange between me and Caitlyn. I included her in my comment because I thought if the Brewers’ account didn’t see my response, she probably would:

caitlyn moyer brewers

Caitlyn Moyer of the Brewers responds to my question — pretty darn quick too!

I am grateful for the sources I feel I can trust on social media. The world is so big and it’s great that social media bridges that gap. Not everyone out there is fake on social media and it is possible to develop a trusted relationship without meeting someone in person.

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