Now that we're cleaning up from the holidays and the recent "snowmageddon", it's time for all good social change agents to get back to work and reengage their constituents. However, One Cause At A Time would like to help you with two lessons in handling social media - specifically, Twitter - by providing two great lessons from pop culture on avoiding getting seriously slizzered. (Yes, this week's post features celebrity cameos, for your entertainment and learning pleasure!)
Early in December, Neil Patrick Harris, known for his diverse range of roles (but we'll forever call him "Doogie") tweeted that he had received a new maxivan from Honda as an early Christmas gift. Smart move on Honda's part: recruit a well-known celebrity, give him a sample product, and allow him to make testimonials about the product to his followers. Sounds ideal, right?
Well, if you catch the responses while scrolling down, you'll find that there is some outrage - after all, families are struggling in this economy, and they might be better candidates to receive complimentary transportation than Dr. Horrible. (Personally, I would nominate the co-hosts of this comics and pop culture podcast, but I would stand to gain personally....and there are even worthier candidates for free cars). Although many celebrities have large followers, Twitter is best used for conversation - not pushing an ideal message. So one lesson is to think through the potential consequences of a tweet - even non-profits pushing their mission can risk a backlash. (Although the best example of a non-profit handling a bad tweet well remains the ever popular phrase "getting slizzered".)
But more appropriately, part of the concern is a lack of disclosure. According to the FTC's Disclosure Guidelines, anyone who blogs/posts/tweets about receiving complimentary products needs to disclose that fact. (It's really simple to do - just check out any of the book reviews on this blog). All it would have taken for Mr. Harris to disclose are five simple characters: #spon. (Or if he was pressed for space, three characters: #ad.) Companies like CMP.LY provide guidance and tools for both companies and users to follow the rules, but disclosing when you receive free things isn't just a good idea for transparency....it's the law.
(For non-profits, social enterprises, and other mission-driven organizations, you definitely want to look at other potential rules and regulations about disclosure. Some consultants might tell you that this is not important, and that driving "awareness" is the primary goal of social media, but trust me - it will help you avoid problems in the future. Especially around "getting slizzered".)
But on a related note, let's talk about hashtag use - you know, when you use the "pound sign" to highlight key words. In Twitter, this can be a great way to find key conversations. (For example, enter #cnblog into Twitter search to find more great posts from my fellow Chicago Now bloggers. However, many Twitter users - in order to gain attention - tend to overdo it. So you'll frequently see tweets that look like this:
#cnnow #bloggers #weareawesome #noketchuponhotdogs #bringonthesnowmageddon #writing #chicago #slizzercity
The result is something that looks cluttered and sounds ridiculous. Or, as Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, long-time readers of One Cause At A Time, demonstrate the destructiveness of hashtag overuse via this YouTube educational video.
(Note: To the best of my knowledge, neither Mr. Timberlake nor Mr. Fallon read this blog. But I would like to thank Steve Heye for the link to the video)
Here's something to remember: one #hashtag is a clever attention getter, two #hashtags can be a smart way to gain attention, but three or more #hashtags is the equivalent of TYPING IN ALL CAPS, or shouting in the public library. It's obnoxious, discourteous, and quite frankly avoids conversation....which is the primary goal of social media.
Although there's a lot of great information about engaging with Twitter and other social media channels, many people find it confusing or misleading. Thankfully, One Cause At A Time is not only here to help educate, but thanks to special celebrity cameos, I think we've worked to help make Twitter a little easier. In 2014, part of what we'll be working towards is helping non-profits, social ventures, and other mission-driven organizations avoid getting slizzered on social media.
Speaking of social media, my twitter handle is @gordondym, and you can follow blog updates on our Facebook page. You are always welcome to leave follow up questions and comments below, and you can reach me privately via Linked In or private e-mail. (All contact information can be found via the About page). Thanks for reading, and remember - don't get slizzered by social media.