Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Who owns the hashtag?

So I had a very interesting chat on Twitter yesterday about the subject of hashtags. Tracy Viselli put forward the position that a brand could possibly sue someone over the use of a hashtag if it damages their reputation enough.

I disagreed with that comment. In my opinion, the hashtag does not exist as an entity in itself. It is part of a comment, statement, position, point of view etc. Therefore, no one can "own" a hashtag in as much as they can "own" a Tweet. It's all part and parcel of the same comment.

For example: Say I tweeted (disclaimer: I like Pepsi!) "Pepsi sucks. It tastes horrible and I hate it. #pepsisucks."

Are the brand protection people at Pepsi going to exclaim, "WTF?! Look at that hashtag. Get our lawyer on the phone now!"

I think not. I believe they will look at the statement in general, gauge and monitor reaction to it, press fallout, social mentions ... and then decide whether to act or not.

I see a lot of hashtags used all the time. One popular one is #LoveThisTeam used in relation to the Toronto Blue Jays. I could tweet, "Tottenham Hotspur. Massive fan. #lovethisteam."

Am I going to get sued? No, because no one owns that hashtag. It's just a phrase that's being used. I could use that hashtag for anything if I wanted to.

This is an interesting article on the subject too. #readit

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Love You Social Media! I Hate You Social Media!

I was kinda thinking that social media hasn't advanced that far since it became the staple in a communicator's toolbox all those years ago ... 2005. That's my personal date when I think it began, and others will concur or differ on that timeline, I'm sure.

I abhor those "20 ways your brand should be getting a million followers by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow" automated tweets. So lazy, no respect to the recipient, it may have worked for you but might not for me etc. I hate you social media!

Connecting with strangers at random, finding out you have something in common and inviting them to chat more over -- gasp! -- a face-to-face coffee IN REAL LIFE next time they're in town. I love you social media!

I just got off the phone with an organization in the education space needing a little guidance with their social media. Very professional company, good ethics and transparency, just working out their next steps in connecting a little more via online channels.

It struck me that there's still an element of nervousness about being "out there" in the space. Understood. Slow and steady is the way, get comfortable, know what you want to achieve, remember that social media is all about human beings and not the tool you decide to use ... and success (depending on your wish list) will follow.

In general, I am 87.6% on the positive side when it comes to social media as a tool to do good things. There's obviously the trolls, spambots, fake followers bought from some shady company, paid-for blog posts that don't state that disclaimer, LinkedIn contacts that see fit to spam with their not-relevant messages and so on.

It's all part and parcel of the game though. You have to keep focused and let that stuff wash off you before it clogs your thinking.

So, when will social media grow up? I think it's past its teen years and is now starting the early '20s of deciding what direction in life it wants to go. Still a bit unsure and willing to bend a little with circumstances, but finally striking out on a path of discovery.

The love/hate relationship is what keeps it interesting.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I, Spambot

So, I blogged the other day about automated tweets = not a fan. But the aspect of Twitter that REALLY gets me riled up is spambots. What purpose can they serve? Seriously?

That's great, spambot. Thanks! I owe ya one

For one thing, I have no idea who that "person" is. So, why would a complete "stranger" be doing me a favour by direct messaging me a link to something I have no idea what it is, with no subject, context or reason?

There's NO WAY I'm clicking that link. The end result will probably be me having a hacked Twitter account (or worse, computer) and then all my contacts get a nice DM from "me" encouraging them to click on something half-disguised as useful.

Where do spambots hang out? Do they message each other, thus creating an infinite loop of DMs, swirling into a Twitter wormhole of egg-shaped avatars, bad grammar and loads of SMILEY FACES :-)

Now, I've been around the block. Before e-mail came along I travelled a great deal and -- because my parents were separated -- wrote exactly the same postcard to them both and sent them one each so the other wouldn't feel left out. Early spam?

Hotmail got swamped. Gmail is getting swamped ... but their spam filter seems to cope pretty well. (Side note: I wrote a post once for the company blog when I worked at GCI Canada hinting that, sometimes, when you send an e-mail using Gmail, a spam comes in immediately. The conspiracy theorist in me senses that ... maybe ... the spam comes from Gmail itself to justify the filter and demonstrate its success. Nah! Couldn't be! Right?)

But, all these years later, spam still exists. Nigerian princes have tons of cash to give you; really good penny stocks that are cheap now but will only go up in value can be bought; medicines to cure what ails you are on offer aplenty.

Sign me up!

Someone must be making money somewhere. I don't believe people send these for a joke. Waste of time. There must be an ROI (Return On Idiots) otherwise why waste their time?

It's more of an annoyance than anything. Clutters up the really good content from smart people with utter crap and drivel. Wonder how long spambots will continue to thrive?

Not too many years I hope. Otherwise we could be in trouble!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This Is Definitely The Best Way To Get Clicks On Your Content

See, it worked. Thanks for clicking.

I forgot to mention there's no actual content of value. Feel a little cheated? Sorry -- the title explained the whole post ... and that was my point.

The aim is to get clicks to the content. Whether people actually read it is another matter entirely. I could list tomorrow's lottery numbers here and if you don't get that far, well, your loss.

Sounds like I'm being an arse. That's not my intention. I'm trying to highlight the disconnect of those link-bait headlines that flood Twitter all day, but have no real value. Like this.

I see so many similar links scrolling down my TweetDeck stream all day. Those in the early hours (I'm a night owl) are the worst as you just know they're automated = lazy.

If I was to respond to one of those links with a question, there's probably no one actually there to answer me. Very disrespectful. Don't treat me like an idiot or a stat to add to your ROI ("Look! We had 259 clicks on this link at 2:00 a.m.! My invoice is in the mail.")

/Rant. Normal service resumed soon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Twitter Is NOT A Cocktail Party

I meant to write this post as a follow-up to a thread Danny Brown (Scottish, but he's OK) wrote on Facebook about the whole "social media, join the conversation etc." angle. He's been around the block and I have to agree, social media -- and Twitter in particular -- is NOT (shout that) like a cocktail party.

Granted, I don't go to many cocktail parties. Not my scene or crowd. But the ones I have attended have been ultra-polite. Guests hover around in their little groups, murmuring over a carefully-crafted beverage, chatting about this and that, sprinkled with occasional bursts of laughter. All fine and dandy.

If I equated Twitter to a cocktail party, all I would have to do is wait for one guest to start chatting to another guest ... and then barge in, unannounced, and start talking to them. No introduction, No, "May I?"

I would certainly never do that. Too polite, old chap.

But I do on Twitter. I see strangers chatting to each other and just jump straight in. I don't waste my allotted, precious 140 on introducing myself or saying what I do for a living. My bio handles that for me.

Rude? My conscience says no. It's just the way Twitter works, which is why I love it and can't understand the "cocktail party" comparison.

So, jump straight into my conversations. It's your round anyway.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Life Is Like A Train Journey

Life is like a train journey. Hopefully it will be a long and eventful one, but after a while, you can’t recall where you boarded. Certain people will begin that journey with you, but not last the distance. Others will accompany you for the whole trip, and you may even travel further than them.

Yet more passengers will get on at various stages and others may realize that they have reached their stop, and depart. Quite often the train will run into the sidings or hit trouble -- then you should put your faith in the driver to see you through.

But don’t ever jump off a moving train, no matter how long the tunnel seems to last. There is always light at the end of it. The scenery that you pass through should remain in your memory forever, even when it’s something that you would rather not witness.

If you have bought the right ticket, then the journey should pass happily and with success. Above all, you should bear in mind the destination that you hope to eventually reach.

More intense thoughts in Beer and Bagels for Breakfast.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Do We Still Need Community Managers? I'm 50/50 On That One

So Susan Murphy was kind enough to answer my Question of the Week on her Jester Creative blog. She can also be found at SuzeMuse and on Twitter.

I asked if there's still a role these days for social media community managers? As more brands and users become proficient in these tools, I wondered if they could collaborate together and take on the task, or whether it still needed an individual to "manage" (not keen on that word in regards to overseeing a community) that online gathering.

In her answer, Susan writes: "The people I think are the best at managing communities are people who have much more broad ranging experience than just being proficient at tools like Facebook and Twitter. Because just being able to use the tools well doesn’t mean you can communicate effectively with them."

I agree. I believe it's unreasonable and risky to hand off the community manager role to someone who doesn't have a previous background of customer service, or dealing with large groups of people pre-social media.

As I mentioned before: "Whether you talk to them face-to-face or send them an e-mail or a Tweet, be polite, use manners, show courtesy. If a customer walks into an electronics store and wants to know more about your products, you're not going to stand there shouting [at them to] buy this. There's nothing worse than tweeting 'buy my products!' People switch off ... because it's like you're being shouted at with advertising." [Full article.]

Susan also writes: "Likewise, I don’t think that down the road, 'social media consultants' and 'community managers' will thrive if that’s the only thing they know how to do."

I disagree. I think -- in maybe three years tops -- there won't be the words "social media" included in these type of job titles. It will be a given that if you are in the marketing, PR, promotions, communications, online editorial and content management business, then you will use all the NECESSARY and RELEVANT tools available to you to get the best results for yourself/clients/brands/companies or whatever ROE (Return on Engagement) that you planned to achieve. [Full article with some more thoughts.]

So, as the blog post title says, I'm 50/50 on this question at this particular point in time. But thanks again to people like Susan that inspire me to write a few words down each day on subjects such as this!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quote: "IRL Is So 2013" Unquote

That quote is from Elena Yunusov who I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday over a lunchtime coffee (next one's on me!) and enjoying a very interesting conversation. Elena is the founder of Communicable, and co-organized fundraising events like HoHoTO and HaiHaiTO.

An invite came out of the blue from Elena via my LinkedIn account asking to meet for a coffee. That is a rare thing in this "Please RT me even thought we've never met!" social media society, so I accepted. (p.s. Anyone can invite me on LinkedIn -- I am an open networker and may be able to help you with something, a job lead or an introduction. It's my name at Gmail dot com, cheers.)

I feel more comfortable meeting new people one-on-one rather than in a big group. The amount of meetups and other techie gatherings I've been to where the person you're talking to is constantly looking over your shoulder at other people's name tags to chat to. Rude. (Or maybe I'm boring.)

Elena explained that I was part of a project. That intrigued me as I've never been someone's project before, but listened. She is embarking on the 50 Coffee Meetings challenge whereby, quite simply, she's inviting 50 people she's never met before out for coffee. (Elena -- correct me if I'm wrong in the comments!)

I thought that was a pretty bold idea. I get nervous at meeting new people, so respect the fact that she's trying to move (some of, not all) the conversation offline and actually shaking the hand of people that swirl around in Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profiles and other social media avenues.

I also learned about some cool stuff from her, including the Toronto Mini Maker Faire being held from September 21-22. I am away so can't attend, but promised to mention it ... so there you go!

Hopefully I was also able to offer some interesting stuff in return. It was great to do that kind of thing in person, and I hope to be able to meet some more people for coffee or lunch this year that I only see online, but feel like I kinda know.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My 10,000th Tweet!

I finally reached a personal milestone today of my 10,000th tweet, so wanted to make it memorable and mean something, rather than just post a food pic or something -- which I often do too, much to the chagrin of some.

Celebrations break out at the 10,000th tweet

Don't get me wrong; there are users out there with tenfold more tweets, very prolific people who seem to spend all day on Twitter and tweet their lives for posterity. Nothing wrong with that -- we all get something different from the service.

I joined Twitter on April 1, 2008 (no joke) and didn't understand it AT ALL. As a professional writer from a journalism background, I was used to telling stories, crafting prose, taking my time to create in-depth and well-researched articles and news items.

Suddenly, I only had 140 characters at my disposal ... including spaces, symbols and numbers! The humanity! How on earth would I be able to get anything meaningful in there?

So, I started off with the requisite "eating my lunch" and "drinking coffee" and "good morning" tweets (if I recall) until I got a little more adventurous, and started RTing people, following those who I thought I'd have no interest in (was I wrong!) and generally becoming more comfortable with the platform.

Then after a few weeks of that, something clicked in my head and I actually began to crave the challenge of still trying to tell the same stories, but being ultra-conservative on wasted words. It was great.

And then when people were actually kind enough to start following me, I upped my game to try and include some interesting content they'd find useful. (I get a lot of hip hop users following me, no idea why!)

Since those heady, early days, Twitter has become one of my daily routines, whether connecting, tweeting jobs (which I enjoy), learning interesting stuff ... and posting about FOOD! (That won't change.)

Onwards to my 100,000th tweet ...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Log Off, Shutdown And Store The Computer In The Attic

Ads. Cookies. Spyware. Malware. Phishing. Hacking. Analytics.

Take a look at the above list and you'll see that we're being tracked online all the time, have been for years. And now suddenly, everyone is up in arms about the recent "revelation" that international security services using PRISM have been accessing data from around nine (probably more) Internet-based companies, including Facebook and Google.

Canadian users aren't exempt either, it seems.

I find it seriously hard to believe that no one in this technological day and age doesn't understand that what they do online is recorded on a server somewhere, and people other than them know what they've been doing. There's obviously tech involved that is far more wide-reaching than most were aware of, but it's now coming to light due to intelligence community insiders like Edward Snowden.

[From the article: His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents. -- There's another whole issue there of how these security companies vet their employees, but that's another story.]

As is now par for the course when something big like this breaks, social media explodes, people go crazy RTing each other, venting against governments, authority in general, offering their own insights, rebuttals, cross-checking, arguments, praise etc. I think that's when social media really comes into its own: you dip in, monitor the conversation for a while, form an opinion and don't take anything for granted.

Pros: there are no rules in social media. Cons: there are no rules in social media. Use it as you will and how it suits you to jump in and participate in the news of the day.

All those tweets are being stored and monitored somewhere, probably this blog post and millions of others too. It's just the way it seems to be these days. Google knows what e-mails I send; Facebook knows what restaurants I like; LinkedIn knows what industries I'm interested in.

There really is no online privacy anymore, and if you think there is, log off, shutdown and store the computer in the attic.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We Don't Need No Social Media Education, We Don't Need No Thought Control

I had a brief little Twitter interaction with Ryan Deschamps the other day about teaching people how to use social media. He was running a course for a small fee and I was curious exactly what was being taught. Social media is such a vast spectrum, how can you choose what to hone in on?

IMHO, we all have to start somewhere. I remember the day when the lightbulb went off for me. It was back in May 2008 and I'd just heard Marcel LeBrun (then CEO of Radian6) talk at a Third Tuesday Toronto event about monitoring brands in social media.

I rushed home and put Marcel to the test. He came through. That was extremely exciting to me (yeah, I know how geeky that sounds) that whenever you mention someone or a brand on the Internet, it was possible to track it, read it and reply to it -- almost in real time. I was hooked.

From then on I dived headfirst into social media. I joined (and subsequently left) any new social media tool or platform that came along. Plurk, anyone? I tested them, played with them, loved them, hated them ... and so on.

In short, I educated myself. I like to think that today I have a good handle on what to expect, how to use social media for various gains, and how to spot cowboys.

As a disagreement with Ryan, I don't believe you can "teach" social media as much as "introduce" social media. Let the student play around with it and see what happens.

One of the great things is to show someone Twitter or get them blogging, and see where they take it. The jaded, old social media hands among us can learn from that too and see the platforms through a fresh set of eyes again.

Remember how good that felt?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Each Day I Long So Much To See

Each day I long so much to see
By John Carson

Each day I long so much to see
Doctors say beer is good for me
Endless plates of spicy curry
England enjoy a World Cup victory
I’m a Brit, see?

Each day I long so much to see
Society start to respect the tree
Countries begin to clean the sea
Animals protected like they should be
I’m a hippie, see?

Each day I long so much to see
Children learn their A-B-C
An end to global poverty
Wars to become history
I’m an optimist, see?

Each day I long so much to see
That change can be very easy
People to say, “It’s not just about me”
We’re all human
Aren’t we?