Monthly Archives: December 2012

Social Media Morality Tale: Truth, Authenticity, Revenge

It starts with this news item on the Chronicle of Higher Education. I agree with the post. It is ironic:

… social-media director quit her post on Monday after it was alleged that she had lied about graduating from college on her résumé—an assertion that, ironically, first bubbled up on social media.

The chronicle piece includes images from the person’s (I’m skilling her name) resume and output from National Student Clearing house proving she didn’t have the degree she claimed.  The news coverage included her name. And her apology.

resume-oops

So there’s transparency and authenticity in the new post-social-media landscape. We talk about it. We write about it. Lying is more likely than ever to come out.

And in this case, it came out via an anonymous post on the college Reddit (social media) community:

According to The Michigan Daily, a recent thread in the university’s Reddit community alleged that [she] had not graduated from Chicago’s Columbia College despite claiming a degree on her résumé and job application. The user making the allegations, who signed the message as a “Concerned Taxpayer,” posted [three] images as evidence, asserting that they had been obtained through public-records requests.

“Concerned taxpayer” indeed. This isn’t just about social media. This is also about people, revenge, and karma. The real story hidden here is the what-did-who-do-to-whom story behind the scenes. Clearly “concerned taxpayer” spent time and money on a quest. Why? Jealousy? Getting even for something? Relationships gone bad. There’s a story there. Right? What motivates a person to go exploring in the resume and job situation of another?

Live by authenticity, die (or lose a job) by authenticity. No way out. But damn! That’s a nasty piece of social media behavior. Was it justified? All for good? We’ll probably never know.

Old Chinese proverb: “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”

Can Research Make You Dumber?

Can research make you dumber? It can if you believe it. 

I just read Can Facebook Make You Fat and Poor? on Mashable. It’s a post by David Mielach, of BusinessNewsDaily. 

In particular, the researchers found that social media users were more likely to binge eat and have a higher body-mass index. Frequent Facebook users also were more likely to have certain financial problems, including a lower credit score and higher levels of debt.

But wait. It says the research was based on the responses of 541 Facebook users in the United States. So what does that really mean? What does this research really mean? And to be fair, I haven’t gone into the actual research. I’m just commenting on the coverage. Maybe they did everything right and avoided the problems I see. And maybe not. 

First, who’s in the sample? Is it Facebook users, really, or Facebook users who answer surveys? Those are different sets of people. Is it balanced for age, demographic, technology, geography?

Maybe people who answer surveys have less self control, which is part of the reason they answer surveys. And maybe people who answer surveys have less money, caused perhaps by the behavior that finds time to answer surveys. Maybe they are just younger, on average, and that causes the money difference.

Research depends on the sample. So that’s a good reason to be skeptical.

So maybe what it really shows isn’t about Facebook users but rather about people who answer surveys. Maybe they — survey answerers have less self control so they couldn’t resist taking the survey really know is that people who answer surveys on Facebook have less self control — that’s why they took their time to answer the survey. And maybe people who answer surveys have less money — because they waste their time answering surveys. 

And there is that whole issue of causation and correlation: Could we just as easily say living in a large house makes you rich, or attending college makes you young? That’s as logical as saying Facebook users have less self control and less money. Right? 

Here’s a direct quote from the research: 

These results are concerning given the increased time people spend using social networks, as well as the worldwide proliferation of access to social networks anywhere, anytime via smartphones and other gadgets. Given that self-control is important for maintaining social order and personal well-being, this subtle effect could have widespread impact.

So now it’s widespread impact. The emphasis above is mine. Wow: Is this looking for a news lead, or rather reaching out, stretching to the ultimate, to look for a news lead? Or what? 

I’m not saying that information is bad. Misinformation is. 

I’m not saying that research is bad. Believing it is. Question the research, question the assumptions, look through it, and then take what’s valuable in it. Never just believe it. 

Q&A: Who Do I Follow For Business Twitter

Here’s another good question I received from my Ask-me form on my Timberry.com website: 

If I’m trying to build my Twitter presence to support my [omitted] business, who should I follow? How do I find them? How to decide? 

I’m happy to answer that one because I think it could be useful to a lot of people starting to look at real-world business use of Twitter. Following in Twitter is important for several reasons:

  1. Who you follow determines what you see. Your Twitter stream is the collection of tweets from the accounts you follow. 
  2. Who you follow is who you are. Other people can see how you follow. That means they see what you like, believe in, care about, listen to, and so forth. c
  3. Who you follow is who’s likely to follow you back. For most businesses, following is the best way to be followed. About a third of your follows will follow you back — more if your tweets are interesting, less if they aren’t.   

So, with that as background, here’s who I think you should follow for your business twitter account, in order of strategy value:

  1. Leaders. The influencers you respect, want, and need. The people, businesses, and organizations you’d like to have knowing and liking and trusting you. It’s hard to generalize so think strategically for your specific business. For example, a restaurant would want local media, local organizations, hotels, food blogs, night out blogs, restaurant guides, travel guides, reviewers, and local people who comment on restaurants and have followings. The chamber of commerce, restaurant association, chefs’ schools, local university groups might be good targets too.
  2. Media, writers, bloggers, and experts in your field. Authors whose work you like and respect. People who you’d like to see writing about you. Our sample restaurant would look for food, dining, restaurant, travel media. 
  3. Social media stars who turn up in keyword searches. Search the web, search Twitter, using important keywords. The restaurant example might search for #dining, #gourmet, #organic, #vegetarian, #chefs, #fastfood, #slowfood, #meals, for example. And if it is located in Eugene, OR then it would search for #eugene and #oregon too. See who tweets with those hashtags. See what content they tweet. Decide whether you are compatible with them. 
  4. Local organizations, groups, and institutions. The schools, universities, community colleges, public theater, development groups. 
  5. Some general news and bloggers and information sources on idea, places, topics, and people that interest you. This is just because you want to see what they’re offering. They’re not strategic. 
  6. Friends, family, and compatible business associates. 

Here’s Some Good Advice About Cool Startups

Nice piece in Forbes from last week, called Your “Cool” Startup Sucks, by Brent Beshore. Great put-down for cool startups: 

Newsflash: your cool startup sucks. Cool doesn’t address a market need. Cool doesn’t solve a problem. Cool doesn’t generate revenue. Cool doesn’t allow you to see your deficiencies. Cool isn’t valuable. Cool is just, well, cool.

I really like his advice on this: 

 If you aim to move beyond cool, focus on what matters. Find a niche that is ripe for disruption. Seek transparent feedback from potential customers, not friends or family. Determine the key elements that must be accomplished to drive revenue and repeat customers. Focus on testing your hypothesis and tweaking your approach. Do those things and forget trying to be cool.

Well said. And especially his final put-down:

P.S. If you’d like to see the downfall of “coolness,” check out Bravo’s new show “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley.” It’s packed with cool.

Ouch.