What if we’d had Twitter on 9/11?

If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.

One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.

Amy Toyen [via]
There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.

It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.

I was walking my neighborhood at 4 a.m. one night last month – a night that ended with The Associated Press confirming the death of a sprint car driver after our normal closing hours. We found out minutes before The AP moved a story thanks to a Tweet from a local reporter.

We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.

Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).

Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.

The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.

Despite the initial reports being highly speculative and wildly inaccurate, we did not yet have the dreaded Internet rumor mill — you know, the one that kills celebrities and retires basketball players.

Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.

Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?

10 Septembers, 20 Septembers
Memorialize 9/11 by being more awesome

3 Social Media Books You Don’t Need to Read but Your Clients Do

If you're reading this blog, you probably fall into one of four categories:

  1. You're into social media in some way
  2. You're a Central New Yorker wondering when I'm going to start writing about Central New York again
  3. I've bought you coffee/a beer/lunch and you feel obligated
  4. We're related

If it's the first or the third, this post is for you. If not, you can wait until next week, when I'm doing a whole week of childhood cancer, because you don't feel bad enough about the world these days.

If you're in category number one, you might remember back in August when Mitch Joel reminded me he wasn't writing for me, but rather for people who weren't already sold on the power of the Internet for marketing.

Here, I'm going to give you three must-reads for people who are slow to get into social media, but that you, the person who is already doing social media well, probably don't need to read.

In fact, if you're doing the consulting thing, every time you enter a contract, buy these books for your client and include them in your price. Also, insist that they read them in this order.

1. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith. The first thing I like about these two gentlemen is that they walk their talk. This book will explain to your clients why they need to give away knowledge, if not product, for free, and why they need to build relationships, even with non-customers, even outside of working hours. If they're not sold on social media after this book, tell them what Brogan charges after a couple of years in social media ($10,000 for a speaking engagement, $22,000 for a day-long consult). If they're still not sold, exercise your out clause.

2. The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Kabani. My favorite part of this book is that it provides how-tos. Most other social media books talk about how to best utilize the platforms (this one does as well), but this book actually walks you through setting up Facebook pages and the like. And because social media is always changing, Kabani and her staff keep the book updated online.

3. UnMarketing by Scott Stratten. Stratten even tells you in the introduction to this book that if you're already using and succeeding with social media to not read his book. Use this book to reinforce what Brogan and Smith write about. There are more old-media comparisons in this book, which might help the stodgier of your clients think about their practices and the way they behave themselves as consumers. If you have initial resistance, start with this book and have them read Trust Agents third.

I hope that saved you some time.

Where will you find your community manager?

You recognize that you need to be on social media. Your neighbor business to your left is bringing in new business after spending a year meeting locals on Twitter, then in real life, and the referrals just keep rolling in. The neighbor to your right is killing it with coupons they upload to their Facebook page and ask customers to print out. The folks across the street have had these Foursquare stickers in their windows for weeks and you see everyone who walks through their door whip out a mobile phone.

You haven't lost when it comes to social media, you're just not winning. You're behind, and you don't have the time, the inclination, or the knowledge (or some combination of those) to get going now. You'd like to bring someone in-house to be your community manager, but how do you find these people?

On the one hand, that person might already work for you. If you listen to your employees' conversations and you've heard words like "Twitter" and "location-based" sprinkled between the words you understand, you might have yourself a community manager.

On the other hand, talk to your customers. If you have customers who have been coming through your door for four or five years, you recognize them, you might make small talk, you might even know a lot about them. The one thing you can be sure of, though, is that these customers are loyal to your brand. They like you, your products, and/or your prices. Something about your business keeps those customers coming back. One of them might be the perfect brand ambassador for you.

I've recently taken a job as a community manager at the Gold's Gym franchise in Dewitt, New York. I've been a member there for five years; I really believe in what they do. I like the way they operate. I like the people. I'd already known many of the staff members and already recognized a lot of the gym members when I joined the staff. With the exception of the details (logging such-and-such in this book, using UPC A in Case 1 and UPC B in Case 2), I already had a good idea of how the gym operated.

In this case, I approached the gym; if someone who fit that description approached you, knowing you needed the social side and willing to do other things you needed, you'd likely have a hard time saying no. On the other hand, could you just reach out and ask someone? Try it. It might get you far.

New Twitter: Sexy? Sure. Useful? Well…

We all use social media differently. Personally, I rarely use Twitter.com to read Twitter, unless I'm using search. I'm a HootSuite or sometimes TweetDeck kind of guy.

I got to see the new Twitter in action yesterday. It's shiny and new, and admittedly kind of sexy. If there's a photo or video in a link, it will load in the right sidebar. Same with threaded conversations (though, oddly, not hashtags or trends).

That's awesome.

Will I use it? Probably not.

» Kyle Lacy: Twitter is Changing and Exploding Myths
» Chris Brogan: Why I Am Still Not Ready for New Twitter

I keep my following list very low, in the 200 people range. But that's still too many people to entirely keep up with. And that's why I prefer to use an application that allows me to set up lists in columns across the page; I can see my mentions and tweets from people in three lists that are important to me spread across my window, which allows me to concentrate on those people.

There are others I follow whose tweets I don't necessarily want in my timeline during my work day. They're not people who I'm likely to go to lunch with today, or who are sharing information I find crucial to my job. They're people I like (or I wouldn't be following them), but viewing them in my stream would destroy the productivity of Twitter for me.

And that's why the new Twitter, while sexy, isn't enough for me. I can't put those people on hold for part of the time and catch up with them later.

What do you think?

The social media bill of rights

The good people at the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference this year put together something of a "Bill of Rights" for users of social networking sites. I'm going to go ahead and call it a cute idea, because mostly the "rights" assume that the point of putting together a social networking site is to let users do whatever they want.

In case you've been living in a socialist economy since the advent of the Internet, the truth is that social networking sites exist to sell highly targeted advertising and provide companies with very specific information about users.

No, really – that's the truth.

I can get on board with some of the 14 ideas the conference put forth, but not all of them. Not even most of them. Here we go:

1. Honesty: Honor your privacy policy and terms of service.

This, for me, is a no-brainer. The only agreement you (as the owner of a social networking site) and I make when I sign up for your service is that I accept your privacy policy and terms of service. If you don't stick to it, you've broken our agreement.

2. Clarity: Make sure that policies, terms of service, and settings are easy to find and understand.

When I first got started on Twitter, the Terms of Service was short and easy to understand. And it probably wouldn't have done them a lick of good if they had wound up in court for any reason. It's not like we're a litigious society or anything.

So now it looks like this. At least they have tips in there so you can understand it, unlike Facebook's (scroll to the bottom of that and look at how long the list of associated documents is!).

I have to be on the side of social media companies on this, though. If you don't like the terms, don't sign up. If you can't understand them, don't sign up. When you check that box, you're agreeing to those terms. If you don't understand your mortgage and you sign it anyway, you're still responsible for everything in it. Which is why you hire a real estate lawyer. If you really want to be part of Facebook's community but you don't understand the contract you're signing, hire a lawyer to explain it to you. Seriously.

3. Freedom of speech: Do not delete or modify my data without a clear policy and justification.

Let's be clear on this: The U.S. Constitution gives us freedom of speech. That means we can say whatever we want (with a few exceptions). As someone who used to deal with feedback from a large website with a social media component, your right to say whatever you want does not mean someone has to publish it. When the terms of service say, "We have a right to remove whatever we want, with or without cause or explanation," that's what it means. The network can just take something down because it wants to. Deal. You signed the contract, remember?

4. Empowerment: Support assistive technologies and universal accessibility.

This is just a smart move for networks. If you can make your network easy for people to use, they'll use it. That means that if someone with a disability can't use your site, she's not going to use it. If you want everybody to use your site, make it so everybody can use it.

That's not a users' rights thing, that's a smart business decision. If you run a dry cleaner and you have three steps leading up to your door and the dry cleaner next door has a ramp, who's going to get the business from anybody who can't walk steps?

5. Self-protection: Support privacy-enhancing technologies.

This runs entirely counter to why social networks exist. If you as a user need privacy, stay off of social networks.

6. Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.

Again, this is not why social networks exist. If you don't want to share information, don't share it. If you want to share it with some people but not others, don't accept those others' friend requests. It's not brain surgery.

7. Control: Let me control my data, and don't facilitate sharing it unless I agree first.

I'm in conditional support of this one. If the terms of service or privacy policy tells me what I can control and what is automatically shared, it's up to me to decide whether I'm comfortable enough to join your network. If you change the rules of the game in the middle, though, I take big issue with it – this is what Facebook did, and it's why my profile is nearly empty and you can't write on my wall.

8. Predictability: Obtain my prior consent before significantly changing who can see my data.

This is essentially what I said above in #7. If you're going to change the rules significantly, give me an opportunity to decide whether I want to play by them before you force me into it.

9. Data portability: Make it easy for me to obtain a copy of my data.

Let's get this straight: Social networks are not your personal thumb drive. No joke. If you want a copy of your information, make a copy. If Flickr went away tomorrow, would you lose all your family photos? If the answer is yes, back them up yourself. Flickr should not have to play nice with your hard drive, or with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other business it isn't partnered with. Otherwise, what's the point of competition?

10. Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised.

Emm, no. If you don't want to share something, don't share it. It's easy not to join a network: just don't sign up. See how easy that was?

11. Right to know: Show me how you are using my data and allow me to see who and what has access to it.

Every social networking site already does this. If you read the user agreement, privacy policy, and terms of service, you should know this information. If you didn't, you shouldn't have agreed to them when you signed up for the site.

12. Right to self-define: Let me create more than one identity and use pseudonyms. Do not link them without my permission.

I disagree here, for the protection of the social networks, who are held responsible if they allow, say, a sex offender to contact a minor. The terms of service of most sites basically say, "You agree that the information you provide is truthful." If it's not, they have a good reason to refuse service to you as a customer.

13. Right to appeal: Allow me to appeal punitive actions.

This would be reasonable business sense, and many sites do allow users to appeal punitive actions. Twitter and LinkedIn do, for sure.

14. Right to withdraw: Allow me to delete my account, and remove my data.

You shouldn't join any social network that doesn't allow you to remove your data. Before iMeem was picked up by MySpace, it didn't let you delete your account, and they made that very clear in the terms of service and also on the help page, in case you didn't read the terms of service before you agreed to them. But they did let you delete the data. Same with Blue Goose News – while I couldn't delete my account there, I was able to delete my blog posts, my name, my email address and anything else that identified me. That was in their terms and I knew it when I signed up.

It all comes down to smart consumerism. If you don't like the way a business operates, don't patronize it.

Why social media isn’t working for your business

I've been told several times over the last month, "Social media doesn't work for businesses." Really? In that case, one of two things is going on:

  1. Your expectations are in the wrong place.
  2. You're doing it wrong.

Actually, I bet it's some combination of the two.

Setting Expectations

Approach social media like you would an in-person networking event. You don't walk in the door and expect people to write you checks because you're standing there. You meet people. You tell them what you do. You hand out business cards. You learn who others are, what they do. You take their business card. You have conversations. You build relationships. You nurture relationships. Maybe if you're lucky you get a sale out of the event, but more than likely you're going to have to do some follow-up work to get that sale. Or maybe you just nurture those relationships, exchanging emails or having coffee here and there, keeping yourself at the forefront of people's minds so that when they need your product, they come to you first.

It's the same thing with social media. Sure, if you put a link to your website on Twitter, you might get a sale or two. But if you converse with people, build relationships, nurture relationships, congratulate them on their victories and pass on their successes, they will think of you first when they need your product. If you're there when they don't need you, you'll be there when they do.

Your expectation shouldn't be, "I just tweeted a link to my website and signed up for Facebook. Why isn't anyone buying?" It should be, "I'm so glad I was able to build these relationships with people all over the world."

A successful social media campaign starts with meeting new people and building relationships with them, and having them eventually turn into customers. You don't start converting people at "Click here!"

Doing it right

I'm going to keep this brief, because frankly, there are hundreds of people who write about doing social media the right way, and we're all saying the same thing. Work on relationships. Be involved. Have conversations. Connect with people. Work your networks without being pushy. I want to recommend you read these blogs for some ideas. There are plenty more out there, too; these are just some of my favorites.

Chris Brogan
eNetworking101 (disclosure: I've done work for this site)
Outspoken Media

Social Media Newbie Night and Conference

Here's an interesting event in Syracuse (press release). It's aimed at small business owners trying to find their way into social media (if you're well-established, this probably isn't for you).

Have you attended the one and two hour social media sessions and find yourself wanting more? Have you been tweeting but not getting followers? Have you been maintaining your fan page but it’s still just your friends who are fans? Syracuse BizBuzz won’t leave you wanting more. Read On.

This conference features keynote addresses, case studies, workshops and discussions that provide strategic knowledge, insights and real world examples on how to successfully plan, implement and manage your social media efforts to achieve your business goals.

Social media platforms are fundamentally changing the sales, marketing and operations process.

It is redefining the way businesses:

* acquire customers:
* generate leads and customer response;
* create competitive differentiation and brand awareness;
* and manage crisis.

Register today at SyracuseBizBuzz.com

Follow the conversation at #syracusebizbuzz

The Syracuse BizBuzz Social Media Conference is a gathering of newbies, dabblers, users, and power users who are interested in what’s possible, what’s working, what’s now and what’s next in the business use of social media.

This full day conference (8:00 am to 5:00 pm), explores the impact social media has on marketing, advertising, and the tools used today to engage the public. Social media is dramatically changing how traditional marketing media is used for brand development and sales. Syracuse BizBuzz will explore how social media is successful today through case studies from local companies, but will also delve deeply into the practical methodologies of each tool.

SyracuseBizBuzz is a production of The Events Company, Site-Seeker Inc., and Digital Vertical with partners Syracuse University's iSchool, Falcone Center, Center for Career Services, Newhouse School of Public Communication, Syracuse.com, CNY Business Journal, Visual Technologies, Plus Sign and Graphic, and Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.

A Newbie Night, presented by Syracuse University'si ISchool, will be held on May 26, 2010, will provide business professionals the opportunity to learn the basics and to network.