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Today’s “Not-So-Social” Networks


At the heart of every technological innovation is the desire to strengthen relationships between people and the hope that we can improve quality of life. However, lately I feel we have created “not-so-social” networks. The mechanics of connecting with others has changed dramatically over time, primarily due to visionary inventors, accomplished technologists, and the growing pressure to continuously do more in less time. (more…)

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A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep: How to Re-Vamp Your Social Media Habits for 15 Minutes a Day

January1I’ve tried making resolutions every January 1st and found that making small changes in my daily routine is what works best. For instance, instead of trying to lose 15 pounds, I’ve tried to work out every morning before heading into the office. The same goes for my social media habits. Sometimes I spend way too much time reading my Twitter feed; other days, I’ve noticed I have completely neglected my LinkedIn account and forgotten to reply to comments and messages on Facebook.

Devoting just 15 minutes per day, on the other hand, keeps social media management quick and consistent.

You may be thinking, “Only 15 minutes?” But, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in that timeframe! Let me break it down for you. 



Your Personal Data – As Transparent as a Cloud

It seems like everywhere we turn, someone, somewhere, is getting hacked. Never mind the entire LinkedIn password debacle that occurred long enough ago that it’s fallen off the world’s collective e-memory, usurped by the latest and hottest hacking. Yahoo, eHarmony, Billabong, FormSpring… the list goes on and on. Just today, the game developer Activision Blizzard – the developer of the oh-so-popular World of Warcraft –  announced that someone managed to hack into its systems and steal contact and password information from many of the game’s players.

Every minute, we’re changing passwords, entering illegible CAPTCHAs, coming up with random security questions, all in the hopes that these steps will secure our online worlds of bank accounts, credit card numbers, and personal Amazon choices that unwittingly get shared on Google+ accounts (which is okay, since no one ever uses Google+ anyway).

All these cloud-based services, from iCloud to Gmail to Amazon and beyond, have become household names for anyone who uses a computer nowadays.  Is it ironic – or maybe a tad bit scary – that what has been designed to make life more efficient is actually putting us at higher risk?

Wired author Mat Honan’s article “How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking,” details how his “entire digital life was destroyed” because hackers accessed his Apple ID account, which allowed them to access and delete his Google account, compromise his Twitter account and remotely erase all of the data from his iPhone, iPad and MacBook. His article has led to security-policy rethinking in Apple and Amazon, and has brought cloud-security issues to the forefront of conversation. In response to his hacking, Apple put a 24-hour suspension on over-the-phone password resets while the company scrambled to identify new security policies, and Amazon restricted people’s ability to call in and change account settings. Unfortunately these changes came after Honan lost more than a year’s worth of photographs of his daughter and documents and emails he hadn’t stored in other locations than his computer.

So what can one do to avoid a future debacle? As Honan says, cloud-based systems need security measures above and beyond the old password-based ones, which can be relatively easily compromised. But until Apple and Amazon and the like get going on patching up these security holes, there are some steps that you, as a consumer of cloud services, can take to lessen the chances of being hacked:

  • Back-up your data. This is the best way to ensure there is an easy way of ensuring you have it if your hard drive crashes, your computer is stolen or there’s an unexpected system failure. Right now, there may not be much faith in general-purpose cloud services offered by Google, Amazon, Apple, etc. But if you do need to store your data via the cloud, the best way to store your data is on different services. And with the security breaches that seem to be sweeping the cloud services, there will most likely be a resurgence of interest in offline backup, such as USB hard drives.
  • Use secure passwords. A no-brainer, of course, but for your 80-year-old grandmother, “password123” is not a secure one. Use different passwords for different accounts.
  • Be careful with what accounts you link together. Honan daisy-chained two of his main accounts – his Google and his iCloud accounts – which allowed the hackers even more access to more of his data.
  • Create an email address for password recovery that is used for that sole purpose – and nothing else. Make sure that it’s not used for any other services, like banking or correspondence.
  • When services offer extra security measures – USE THEM. Don’t put them off; take the time to go through the steps you need to in order to activate them. It might take some time and it might be a pain, but you’ll be glad when the world around you falls prey to hackers. Google, for instance, has offered a two-step verification process that reduces the chance of hackers accessing your Google account.
  • Basic awareness in your Internet habits is key. Be aware of what computers you log in to, how secure your connection is, and whether a browser is storing your passwords. Be careful of who you give personal information to – if you’re shopping with a new online retailer, make sure they are legitimate.

Unfortunately, the cozy sense of security doesn’t come without some effort. As my colleague, Dave and I struggled to make sense of Gmail’s new two-step verification process, we realized that maybe our accounts were safe because, after all, if we couldn’t figure out how to sign into our own accounts, then maybe hackers would be just as befuddled, too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go pour myself a strong drink while I change my myriad passwords, unlink some of my accounts, and dream of the days when clouds referred to “visible [masses] of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere.” This definition of “cloud,” by the way, has come up second in my Google search. Can you guess the first?

Jennifer Kincaid can be reached at jkincaid@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennlkincaid

Image from FastCompany.com


Holbrook, Kawika - Featured Photos

11 Tips to Bore People Stupid Using Social Media

Thrilled Beyond All Scientific Methods of MeasurementI think we’re well past the point of convincing companies they should maintain a presence on popular social media sites. There’s even consensus that companies should attempt to be strategic about their efforts by mapping their tactics to corporate goals. However, there still seems to be debate on whether it’s OK for companies to have a personality.

Frankly, the duller other companies look, the brighter Sterling and our clients can shine. So, with that in mind, here are 11 tips to help waste your time and your company’s resources in social media:

  1. KILL (Keep it long, lazy). People are busy. Don’t have empathy for their situation. Instead, use a dozen paragraphs to say as little as possible. Additionally, bury your lede and make people hunt for links to sources you cite.
  2. Bore people. People are distracted easily. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and other universities found tweets that are informative or funny — or, ideally, informative and funny — evoked the best emotional responses among 43,000 people who participated in the survey. So, whatever you do, don’t share items that help inform or entertain people you want to influence.
  3. Stay petty. Whining and small-mindedness is a big turnoff. Complain about the service at lunch or long lines at the DMV to drive people away. Just don’t be humorous about it.
  4. Try monologuing. It’s a heavy commitment to engage people on Twitter. Chatting back and forth with reporters, analysts, bloggers, superusers, angry customers, and so on requires listening and thoughtful (if rapid) responses. Don’t bother making those connections. Instead, just tweet the headlines to your press releases or share links to your next webinar and leave it there. That way you’ll just be talking to yourself.
  5. Ditto yourself. Whatever you blog, share the same thing in the same way on Twitter. Whatever you tweet, share on Facebook. Whatever you post, copy on LinkedIn. Don’t use each social networking site in the way it was intended. Rather, pretend you’re going to a house party where you tell everyone to go to a cocktail lounge. Then, at the cocktail lounge, ask everyone to chat with you at a club. At the club, talk to the waitress because no one else will want to hang out with you.
  6. Blog erratically. Better than not having a blog at all is starting one and then struggling to keep it up. Let weeks or months go by without posting, and ignore advice that illustrates how fresh, quality content are valued not just by readers but by search engines as well.
  7. Stay home. By that I mean, don’t reach out to other blogs for guest posting. Don’t comment on popular articles. Shy away from inviting influential people to interview you. And ignore basic public relations efforts. Instead, assume people will find you and come read everything on social media sites controlled by your company.
  8. Copy that. You probably don’t have much insight into your business or industries that surround it. You’re experience is short, your good fortune is from chance, and you’ve learned nothing from challenges along the way. Good. Because you certainly don’t want to share that with people looking to learn more about your company or work. Instead, just retweet and re-post what others have to say as much as possible.
  9. Deflavorize everything. First, be safe. If there’s controversy, avoid it. Second, ensure every message is reviewed by several mid-level managers. Third, have legal take a look at it. Fourth, make sure not to offend anyone.
  10. Sell, sell, sell. You have numbers to hit. There’s no time to waste. Don’t bother cultivating a following or finding out what other people might be interested in or taking time to listen to people in the industry. Instead, pitch the hell out of your business as much as possible.
  11. Leave it to an intern. Better still, choose a night janitor to “manage” your social media. Because, really, why would you want your brand to represent the best of your work and the brightest of your future? Instead, assume anyone can do it, give them little direction, and don’t strive to integrate their work with your campaigns in marketing, website SEO, or lead generation.

And there you have it. Eleven helpful hints to boring people stupid on social media. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if there’s a way companies not affiliated with Sterling can lower the bar and make us look better.

Kawika Holbrook is Sterling Communications’ creative director. You can email him or follow him on Twitter @kawika.

Photo credit: unknown.

Holbrook, Kawika - Featured Photos

Sound Off Podcast: Social Media Privacy in the Workplace

Sterling Communications Account Supervisor Scott Smith sits down for a chat with colleagues Tiffany Bryant, Jordan Hubert, and Lisette Rauwendaal, to discuss how many companies are increasingly evaluating potential job candidates, and current employees, by evaluating content on their Facebook, Twitter and other social network pages. In the wake of recent news focusing on companies that require login information, and access to personal pages as a screening method, the panel delves into whether this is a step too far, or if there is a need for such policies.



Pinterest: the Next Social Media Frontier

By now most brands have (or at least attempted) a presence on Facebook and Twitter. And many companies have added sites such as Delicious, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn to their social media repertoire. But what new social medium has risen so quickly that it’s seen site visits increase by 4,000 percent in just six months?

(Hint, it’s not Google+, which is even being outpaced by MySpace when it comes to user engagement).

The answer is Pinterest, an online pinboard for images, where you can link to websites, follow users with similar tastes and interests, and either “like,” comment on, or re-pin their images. Less than two years old, the site is driving more traffic to company websites than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined, according to a recent report from Shareaholic.

A natural fit for consumers pinning ideas for a home remodel, a wedding, DIY projects and crafts, Pinterest is so addictive it’s been called “digital crack for women.” But aside from a huge time-waster, Pinterest may be one of the best social media outlets to happen to marketing in quite a while. Why? Because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Pinterest presents a visual and easily shareable vehicle for showcasing your product or brand – or for simply sharing content or links that are interesting to your target market. It’s like Twitter for photos. Launching a cool new gadget? Pin a photo of it with a caption, and the photo automatically links back to the source (your website or blog).

We all know there are good ways and ineffective ways to use consumer social media channels for marketing. Here are some tips for brands looking to use Pinterest for marketing purposes:

  • Pin content that’s visually-appealing. Each image you pin should have some sort of “wow” factor that makes people want to click through and/or share with their own networks. Think: innovative, interesting, humorous, outrageous, beautiful.
  • Write interesting captions that recap, explain, or provide commentary on what you’re pinning. When appropriate, mention the name of the company and/or product in the caption. When people re-pin it, they have the option to create their own captions, but many people simply re-pin verbatim. Including the company or product name in the caption gives your brand more mileage than the pin/link alone.
  • Re-pin and comment on others’ photos. Similar to retweeting, it lets them know you’re engaged and that you find their content interesting. Remember, social media is about conversations, not simply broadcasting.
  • Give credit where credit is due. The beauty of Pinterest is that it automatically links back to the site where you found the image, which theoretically ensures proper credit is given. Unfortunately, this process fails when the site from which you’re pinning didn’t give credit to its source in the first place. While most reputable news sites and blogs include credits for photos used, smaller or more amateur blogs and websites may not. To avoid stepping into sticky copyright territory, make sure the source you’re pinning from gives credit – or just pin from the original source to be safe.

As with all social media sites, companies need to closely examine if Pinterest will reach their target audiences. It may not be worth the time for some companies, while for others, it should be a priority in terms of effort. It’s definitely a beneficial channel for companies selling to consumers or companies selling a tangible “thing” that can be pictured. Companies selling services that are not easily captured with an image, though, should think hard about their goals and whether Pinterest would be an effective tool for reaching their customers.

Any other tips you can think of for brands venturing into Pinterest? What brands do you think are doing it right?

Amanda Hoffman can be reached at ahoffman@sterlingpr.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoffmandy.

Follow Sterling Communications on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/sterlingpr.

Note: Sterling has no affiliation to Pinterest and we were not compensated in any way to write this.