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.


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.

British Airways, learn from KLM and have a 24/7 social media hub

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Desperate times call for desperate measures and apparently, that’s how Hasan Syed felt after British Airways lost he and his father’s luggage.

He bought a series of sponsored tweets in September 2013 (not really THAT long ago) so everyone could see his frustration with the airline:

Sponsored, for lots to see on Twitter.

Sponsored, for lots to see on Twitter.

In lecture this week, Justin asked us, ethically, what is the right thing for British Airways to do in response to this situation? I would venture to say that their customer service department shouldn’t have let the situation percolate to the point that Syed felt compelled to blast out a complaint Tweet.

But it happened, there’s no taking it back, or BA’s super-delayed response, which the company said was because the BA Twitter account is only manned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. GMT. (BA, maybe you should invest in a social media hub like KLM!) Their next step was the right move (reaching out to Syed to solve the issue privately, off of social media). However, BA showed its continued social media ineptitude in the process. Check out this exchange between Syed and BA:

british airways syed

Ouch! Does BA know how to check if someone is following them?

Justin also asked us how British Airways should pacify Syed: complain to Twitter (no), grovel (no) or offer him compensation? You would think this last one would be the way to go, but Syed Tweeted just a day after his promoted tweets that he was “not interested in compensation.” I think that’s about right; I think that a man who spends $1,000 on promoting Tweets doesn’t really want money; he just wants his luggage back. And if he can’t get that, at least some competence on the part of the company in trying to locate the luggage.

If British Airways complained about the situation on Twitter, it would just make them look bad to Syed and all their other customers. And groveling to Syed would just make the airline look even more pathetic to Syed and all their other customers.

Turning the question on its head, was Syed ethical in his decision to put BA on blast like that? Granted, BA was probably not too pleased with the way it made them look, but Syed did what he felt he had to do. It all comes down to that age-old saying “the customer is always right.”

However, it would be interesting to know the ins and outs of Syed’s customer service situation with BA. Syed says he didn’t invent #complaintvertising, yet he puts other companies, like Square, on blast on Twitter. So why didn’t he take out ads against them. Like I said, it would be interesting to see/hear the private exchanges between Syed and BA to see if his actions were legit, or if he’s just a chronic complainer. What do you think?

KLM: Taking it to the social media house

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I don’t think I’ve seen a company put its money where its mouth is and actually deliver on social until this week’s lecture about KLM (a.k.a. Royal Dutch Airlines) and its Twitter account.

On the KLM Twitter cover photo, the company offers a pretty big and bold promise:

klm twitter promise

Wow, that’s a pretty quick response! Wish all vendors were that quick (or responded at all) on social media.

My first thought was, “how can they do that?” but I’m pretty sure I know the answer: They put resources into it. Resources in this case equal people because I don’t think we’ve created robots or software that are THAT good at social listening — yet. One of our reading assignments this week is to read about KLM’s social media strategy, so I’ll be excited to dive into that and learn more of the intricacies of how they actually are able to be on social for their customers 24/7/365.

This week’s lesson, “Relationships and the Human Voice,” puts a lot of emphasis on treating our customers like human beings, in essence, treating social relationships like real-life relationships. Isn’t part of being in a relationship being there for the other person pretty much any time they need you? In lecture, Justin used the example of starting a conversation with someone and then just walking away — you wouldn’t do that in real life, would you? I’ll take that one step further: If a customer was standing at your counter with a question, concern, complaint, or wanting to buy something, would you ignore them or take care of them? You would take care of them because your livelihood depends on it. So why are so many businesses leaving potential customers unattended at the social media counter?

I realize not every company can afford to allocate resources into having a social media army ready to respond to anyone within 18 minutes. But guess what? They should still respond as soon as possible. Don’t leave a customer hanging out to dry if they really need help or have a question, or even worse, if they are pissed off. Social media responding and listening needs to be a lot more important to a lot more companies than it currently is.

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.

A matter of trust: How to establish it (or break it) on social media

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Ouch, this is very true.

Trust is key, not just on social media but also in several other facets of life. Overall, I agree with Steve Rayson’s formula for social media trust presented in lecture:

Trust = Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy x Reliability/Self-Promotion

But rather than talk about the factors I agree with, I would like to talk about two large pieces that need to be added to the equation.

Time. A source/brand/individual needs to become an established part of the conversation before I can trust them. I’m not going to automatically trust Joe Blow who just joined Twitter yesterday and has no profile picture. But if Joe Blow keeps putting out quality content day after day, year after year, he’s going to gain a following. And that takes time.

Accuracy (and a dash of honesty). Some may argue that this goes along with reliability; however, a source could be reliably inaccurate. Whether you’re talking about a news organization or a company, putting accurate information on social media is very important. When inaccurate information makes its way on to a source’s social media page, the information needs to be corrected as soon as possible (this is where the honesty comes in – own up to the fact you made a mistake). It is probably best to follow the advice put forth in Twitter’s Terms and Conditions: “think before you tweet.” Consistently putting out inaccurate information will definitely lead to a loss of trust.

With these two factors in mind, here is what my revamped formula social media trust would look like:

Trust = (Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy x Reliability) x (Time2 x Accuracy2) – Self-Promotionx

Here’s my reasoning behind the formula: I think time put into social media and accuracy when using social media are extra-important factors, so I weighted them more heavily (by making them squared) in the formula.

Also, instead of dividing the amount of self-promotion an entity does, I subtracted it from trust. Let’s be honest: Our organization can have the best of intentions, but one of the main reasons we are all on social media is to promote ourselves on some level. Yet there are ways to promote oneself without being overt, so that is why I made it possible to multiply self-promotion to the x power.

I’m no math whiz, but without trust, love cannot blossom, many say. And don’t you want people to love your personal/professional brand? So don’t give people a reason not to trust you!

LinkedIn User Agreement: Encourages user accuracy, but does not guarantee it


Like the Terms and Conditions for its social networking brethren, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn’s User Agreement is long and chocked full of legalese.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn makes the severity of its User Agreement much more obvious to the user. It says “Note: You are entering into a legally binding agreement” (click screen grab below to see larger):


There’s no mystery with LinkedIn’s terms: You’d better be ready for a “legally binding agreement.”

The agreement goes on to emphasize accuracy and truth when creating a profile, both of which are commendable ethical standards to hold users to:

 … you promise that your LinkedIn profile will be truthful. … It is your responsibility to keep your LinkedIn profile information accurate and updated.”

LinkedIn also builds in the caveat that its services are only meant for users who are the “Minimum Age” or older, which differs from country to country; in China, the minimum age is 18 while it is 14 for the United States.

Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn warns users that the information they share on the web is never fully private, and to keep this in mind when it comes to business dealings:

Therefore, if you have an idea or information that you would like to keep confidential or don’t want others to use, or that is subject to third party rights that may be infringed by your sharing it, do not post it to any LinkedIn Group, into your Network Updates, or elsewhere on LinkedIn. LINKEDIN IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANOTHER’S MISUSE OR MISAPPROPRIATION OF ANY CONTENT OR INFORMATION YOU POST ON LINKEDIN.”

I am all for LinkedIn wanting to hold people to a high ethical standard by keeping their profiles up to date, and for keeping young children off of a service meant for adults. But there is no way they can enforce these standards all of the time. (Technically, even I’ve been in violation of the LinkedIn User Agreement. On some occasions, I’ve gone a few months without updating my LinkedIn profile after switching jobs.) The World Wide Web is too vast and wide to catch everything. So how can the company protect itself from potential unscrupulous characters?

By adding a statement like this in its disclaimer:


Yet the whole agreement itself still has the potential to be ignored. When one goes to sign up for an account, they are told that “By clicking Join LinkedIn, you agree to LinkedIn’s User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.” Many folks who are ready to sign up and connect with professional connections will probably just click the “Join” button and not think twice.

As a whole, social networks almost really need to hit users over the head with their terms and conditions, making it something people actually need to read carefully instead of being able to just check a box and move on.

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