223 Friends. 349 Connections. What would I tell them ALL?

I have 223 Friends. Sometimes, they’re all in my family room at the same time. That’s not even a lot. Some of my friends have 500 or more friends. And they can fit these friends in their bedroom! That could be awkward.

Then, when I go to work, I’ll have 349 Connections in my office with me. Often, I’ll add a couple hundred more Followers in the room – it can be very difficult to get work done, but sometimes they help me, too. I just have to be careful what I do with them all in there.

And I’m not making this stuff up. Sure, it’s a little bit of make-believe. But this line of thinking helps me keep my online privacy in order.

With my Facebook Friends, my LinkedIn Connections, Twitter Followers and others, I am often communicating with potentially large groups of people, all at once. Some I know better than others. With some I care to share more personal or private stuff – but not with all. So when I’m on these sites, if I’m not willing to share information with all these people, I don’t share it with any. That’s a simple rule.

I suggest you enact the same rule. If you’re not willing to share something with everyone you know – and potentially everyone they know – then keep it off Facebook.

Privacy is Yours If You Really Want It

According to QuitFacebookDay.com, 32,567 current Facebook’ers plan to quit any day now. What’s that? Maybe one percent of one percent of the reported 400 Million people who have a Facebook account? QuitFacebookDay.com was created for a potential mass exodus of Facebook users on May 31, 2010 over concerns the site owners are being dishonest when it comes to user privacy. The mass exodus did not happen.

According to web-tracking site Alexa.com, Facebook’s “reach” is up nearly 3% and the site is still ranked #2 overall in the U.S. and about 25 other countries. And if you compare using Compete.com, Facebook counts more than 3 Billion visits in the month of April, beating the otherwise top-ranking Google.

Still, all the talk about privacy on Facebook makes me believe people do really care about the issue. Adults like to remind high school seniors that college recruiters can look at Facebook. They like to remind friends not to complain about their bosses on Facebook. They encourage pre-teens to be wary of friend requests from strangers.

They just don’t care enough about privacy to do much about it themselves. Or they just care more about posting photos announcing they are on vacation in Hawaii (would they post the same on the front door of their home?).

Besides Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I’m active with Foursquare, Flickr, and YouTube. And I have accounts set up on many more that I just haven’t done much with yet. Plus, I read and comment on lots of blogs. All these social networks are unique in what they do for me; I use them differently and for different reasons. They do, however, have one thing in common that I love: they help me build relationships much more easily than I could have a few years ago.

Still, few of these relationships are the kind where I really want to share a lot of information. Yes, it’s great fun to post photos and to espouse political opinions and to cheer for my favorite sports team. I would do any of those things with my 200+ friends in my living room, or 300+ colleagues in my office. If you wouldn’t, then don’t. And don’t do it on Facebook or LinkedIn or any online social network.

For some of you, my overly simple rule may seem silly. And you want more data so you can have better control of your information. For you, plenty of resources exist to help you learn more.

Most of these sites have a blog where developers and even guests share more detailed information about best ways to use these sites. For example, blog.facebook.com has articles about the new privacy practices. At blog.linkedin.com, you can learn about best ways to use the site, including security and privacy. If you have serious concerns about privacy on any of these sites, check the “Privacy Policy” – it should be easy to find on any social or commerce-driven website today.

Privacy on Twitter? That may not be a big issue on the site that doesn’t ask you to build a profile or share much of anything. Photo-sharing site Flickr, however, will demand much more vigilant care of information sharing.

But that’s the problem – potentially. All these sites are about information sharing. So it can be difficult to complain about privacy issues in a world built on sharing. Way back when, part of your commitment to participating fairly in kindergarten was that promise you made to share. Okay, you didn’t make that promise willingly; your parents made it for you. You did, however need to learn to share judiciously – at some times and with certain things – way back in kindergarten.

Online, it’s the same thing. You really do have complete control over the information you choose to share. And you can choose with whom you share. Or, if you just want to keep the good crayons to yourself, you can do that, too.


June 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

Your Grandma Created Social Media

Defining Social Media

You never define a term by saying what it’s not. You never define a phrase by stating how difficult it is to define.

And you never say never.

Everyone has an opinion on What Is Social Media? It may be limited by their limited use – that means Facebook or quick glances at YouTube shared via e-mail. Business professionals may include some Blogging experience, or a once-used Twitter account. Social Media is difficult to define, no doubt.

We didn't create Social or Media. We just do it differently

Too often, this craze is defined by the technology that dominates the news. But by focusing on the ever-changing technology trends, we miss the applications and benefits afforded by participating in Social Media. There it is, the definition.

What? Where? By my definition, Social Media is news, opinion and communication publicly created for active sharing and open dissemination. This doesn’t say electronic file sharing, mobile apps, and digital technology. So by my definition, our grandparents created social media, or maybe their grandparents. We’ve just gone crazy with it and made it fit our high-tech lifestyle.

Social Media is not new. Its evolution, however, has exploded thanks to the increased use of tools like smart phones and laptops. Yes, it’s the increased use of these tools, not the tools themselves, that makes Social Media so powerful today. Technological tools will come and go.

Don’t focus on the tools or the technology, but what they can help you do. Our desire to share stories, pictures, videos and music was strong years ago, and will outlast today’s and tomorrow’s tools.

Using this definition of Social Media removes the doubt, the apprehension and the unknown. Now it’s simply a matter of trying. You’ve already started, by finding this fresh news-sharing platform. And you learned how to share in kindergarten. Text your friends and tell them to read this. Leave a comment and we’ll continue the conversation.

Let’s see how you can embrace Social Media if you simply focus on the sharing of content and don’t worry about the tools.

May 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

Technology Envy (or Fear?)

Social Media and Technology : Eating and Cooking.

The two go together, of course, but in no way are they exclusive pairs. I mean, you can thoroughly enjoy the first without skills in the second. So don’t let Techno-Fear keep you from fully enjoying social media.

That small percentage of passionate people can keep all our Techno Hunger fully satisfied.

First of all, there is no scientific backing to this whatsoever. But that never stopped anyone else from making up numbers, so it won’t stop me.

I spend a good deal of time on Twitter and in other social media zones, but I place myself fully in the green “Techno-Envy” zone of that pie chart. I’m trying not to let it get the better of me. And it doesn’t. Sure, I still long for an iPhone and to become “Mayor” of somewhere. But I am completely happy with what I can do in and around social media.

I interact with far too many people, however, who are in the Fear zone, afraid to explore even Facebook for fear their entire personal life will instantly be broadcast to the world. I also come across a number of business leaders who simply refuse to explore even the simplest possibilities of a LinkedIn “company profile,” or the depth of Twitter search for brand sentiment analysis.

Here’s my hope as a self-proclaimed “social media advocate.” I hope that people who have a fear will simply embrace one technology tool for its most simple rewards. Try the above-mentioned Twitter search (search.twitter.com). You don’t even need a Twitter account. Or go to Flickr.com with a few digital photos, create an account (you may already have one through Yahoo!), then post and share a few images. I did this again recently with some shots of roses in my backyard, and I made a new “friend” – in Italy, I believe – who likes rose photos.

And if, like me, you’re Green with Envy, just relax and let the amazing tech geeks create all the beautiful tools for us to enjoy.

Will you try this, today?

May 18, 2010 at 9:00 am 2 comments


EAAU? Yes, that’s Eliminate All Acronym Use. As soon as possible.

I have spent the last year getting to know a few industries new to me. As a communicator, I spend a lot of time asking what the initials mean. Many of the people I work with in these varied enterprises like to think theirs has the market cornered on acronyms. It simply arms me and my ARP – that’s Acronym Reduction Project!

The Death of Communication
The May issue of Inc. Magazine has an excellent article on the failures of business communication. Phrases like “full-service solutions provider” have certainly given marketing a bad name. But worse, I say, is the proliferation of acronyms only understood in narrow business segments, and even there more often misunderstood.

I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago where the presenter used so many acronyms even she – when questioned – couldn’t define them all. At that point, she should have simply left the room, not to return until she knew what she was saying. She continued, however, proving she was simply wasting our time and hers by “communicating” incoherently.

I can understand the use of acronyms in Twitter where a character limit demands brevity. But in a Powerpoint presentation? In a corporate newsletter? In regular e-mail communication? How much time or ink or pixels are you really saving? And at what cost?

Journalists know to spell out the words upon first reference, even if the reader might understand the acronym. When I’m writing for business, I make sure an acronym never sits on a page or screen without being defined at least once.

My Acronym Reduction Project will continue until I bring them near extinction. Then I will change the name to Acronym Elimination Project. I wasted a few minutes just now trying to come up with a better name where I could use a funny acronym … oh no, what am I doing?

Have you encountered mysterious and overused acronyms in business communication? Will you join me to stop their use?

May 4, 2010 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

What Happened?

“What happened?”

That’s what I’m asking when I glance at headlines on the morning newspaper, and when I scan through Google Reader, trying to decide into which story I want to dive more deeply.

What happened on the oil rig off the Louisiana coast? What is happening in Congress as our elected officials attempt to prevent further fiscal fallout? What are my Minnesota Timberwolves going to do in the off-season to improve for next year?

I want the facts. I want the truth. And I expect to get that information up front without the personal analysis of the writer. Along the way, I might learn why the oil rig failed, and why our economy collapsed (though probably not), and why the T’Wolves bombed last season. But I read (or listen to, or watch) the news in a facts-first mission.

When I encounter “news” delivered with a “because” up front, I’m suspicious. With my examples of oil rig, economy, or Timberwolves, do you think there is any one reason (or even 2 or simply 3 reasons?) “why” the facts played out as they did?

I even watch my diverse Twitter feeds in a similar fact-finding mission. And I have to filter out a lot of opinion and promotion to get to facts via Twitter, but I know that and I’m okay with it.

But I was quite surprised recently when a particular journalism expert I follow tweeted the following: @10000Words: Now that I’m on the other side of the coin I realize journalists would yield better answers if they asked “Why?” instead of “What?”

I have followed @10000Words for months, and am generally impressed with the information and insight he provides. But this tweet just had me asking “Why?” Yes, journalists should ask Why as part of the 5 Ws and 1 H questioning (Who, What, Why, When, Where and How). But to ask Why instead of asking What is to destroy the foundation of journalism.

In fact, I might say that you could eliminate the Why from the 5 Ws and 1 H. It’s the single question that does not require a factual answer. The remaining 4 Ws and 1 H, all provide verifiable factual answers that could be tested by the likes of PolitiFact or other fact-checking organizations. “Why” most often leads to opinion, a one-sided spin. Yes, asking “Why” can also lead to valuable analysis. But it seldom delivers the facts.

Ask “Why.” But not at the expense of the facts.

April 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Do You Walk to School? Or Carry Your Lunch?

When I was young, myy Dad used to like asking my friends that question. And I admit, I’ve used it on my kids and their pals once or twice.

I’m proud to see this same communication style put to use by our elected officials, namely Congressman Gary Miller.  He represents my 42nd district in Southern California.

Perhaps this is the signpost that leads Congressman Miller to work.

“Much has changed in the way we communicate with each other,” says Congressman Gary Miller in a survey he sent out recently. The one thing that has changed, Mr. Miller, is that we used to communicate like this to be funny. You do it now to promote an agenda.

My post here is not about politics. It’s about communication. We communicate more frequently, with increasing volume and with broader reach. And by doing so, our communication can carry far more weight. The Congressman’s photo on this survey mailer shows him smiling; maybe he is trying to be funny.

Here are a few samples of the questions Mr. Miller asked his constituents in this survey. I’m going to try one or two of these on my kids and their friends.

#4. From what you know about the health care reform legislation pending before Congress, would you support or oppose this legislation? (my emphasis)

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

#9. Should Congress require individuals to purchase health care insurance or face a tax penalty?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

#20. Should captured suspected terrorists be treated as “common criminals” or as military combatants?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Mr. Miller, do you really want people to answer these questions? Or do you carry your lunch?

April 21, 2010 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

Like Talking To A Snake

You know a snake has ears, at least you think it does. I mean, why wouldn’t it? So, if you’re making eye contact with the snake, and seem to have its attention, it should listen to you, right?

Not necessarily. Communicating with snakes is a challenge, unless you’re Harry Potter. Similarly, communicating with journalists can be a challenge, too. (Full disclosure: I love snakes. So don’t read any negative “media members are snakes” references into this!)

Just because it's making eye contact, that doesn't mean it's listening.

For effective communication, you just have to know where the ears are. (Snakes, by the way, have no outer ear. They pick up sound waves through vibrations which are processed by the tiny snake brain.) Knowing that, you’ll communicate much more effectively with our ground-slithering friends.

So how about journalists? If you spend much time listening to “experts” on Twitter, you’d think journalists lived there and that you need to get media members to follow you for effective PR and marketing communication. I spend a good deal of time listening, searching and reading on Twitter, and am often lead to believe that e-mail is dead, as is the traditional press release. The only way to speak with journalists, then, is to somehow get them to follow you on Twitter, or to comment on their blogs until they notice you.

But I met some journalists recently who aren’t even on Twitter (yet). Or they set up an account and “really haven’t done much with it” (yet). These were journalists with credentials, real members of the media with bylines and everything. And they still use e-mail.

So know that I know where their ears are, I know how to communicate with them. I’ve reached out to other journalists who are completely into Facebook, or even LinkedIn.com. Still others might uses SMS. And one or two actually speak on the telephone to this day. It’s true.

I’m an e-mail guy myself, but am also using Twitter more and more. Most importantly, I realize that to most effectively talk to a snake, I have to know how they hear.

April 16, 2010 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

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