The Facebook Password Conundrum, or Why I Shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout

There's No Place To Go But Up! - Boy Scout LawI have been reading lately about employers asking for job prospects’ (or even employees’) Facebook passwords as a part of the interview process. I’m not going to try to judge the legalities or ethical implications of all this, but I will put myself into the position of someone being asked to do so. What would I do? I want this job, I want to work for this employer, and I get asked this. Would I do it?

Turns out this whole thing reminds me of something that happened when I was 17 and 18 years old. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout, but the way things went down, I am.

When an older friend in my Scout Troop went for his Eagle Scout Board of Review (the Troop and local Council representatives interview the prospective Eagle Scout upon completion of merit badges and other requirements), he reported back that they asked him the following question: “since part of the “Scout Law” is “A Scout is Reverent,” should a Scout who doesn’t believe in God- an atheist- be allowed to be an Eagle Scout? His natural answer was to say “of course,” but a well-placed kick under the table from a well-meaning parent got him to change his answer to the BSA-accepted “no.”

I couldn’t believe this. I determined “reverent” to mean not only “respectful of your own beliefs” but also respectful of others.” Apparently some folks thought the Powers that Be in the Boy Scouts of America begged to differ. I swore that if I were asked the same question at my Board of Review, I would answer it my way, even if it meant giving up the Eagle award. I could live with that.

I steeled myself for my review a year or so later, and… they never asked the question. Or any other question I was uncomfortable with. Damn you, Boy Scouts, for robbing me of the chance to take a moral stand. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout- by the standard set forth in that question- but I am. Just as well, I would make more nuanced decisions as an adult, weighing my disgust of the BSA’s ban on homosexuals with setting a more practical example for local youth. Everything’s a choice.

But back to the point- what would you do if an employer demanded access to your social networking passwords?

Photo Credit: StarrGazr (thanks Tracy!)

Social Media Top 5: Pinfographics, Homeless Hotspots at SXSW, and Legally Social

1) Don’t Kill All the Lawyers

I enjoyed this short piece on managers and lawyers by Ted Weisman of Lois Paul and Partners. The truth is, between bigger brand with their own established standards and practices getting better at social media, and regulations piling up, having to deal with lawyers – not stonewalling, avoiding or scrunching your eyes in the hopes they will go away – is the norm. I deal with clients’ legal departments (directly or indirectly) regularly, and the positive far outweighs the negative.

Homeless in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan2)  Homeless Hotspots: Two Sides of the Story

I was happy to be following South by Southwest Interactive from afar this year. One of the most talked about stunts was the marketing firm BBH’s Homeless Hotspot campaign, in which homeless eople in Austin were equipped with portable wi-fi for SXSW attendees, who would make suggested donations. It was easy to mock the campaign’s apparent dehumanization of the homeless (a Hotspot? How about human patio furniture or piggyback cab rides? You bet I had fun with it).

But yet, was it a laudable attempt to get people to talk about the homeless problem, including and talk to homeless people? There were reasonable arguments on both sides. Kneejerk reactions from people like me (whether you were there are not) often oversimplify the story.


3) My Version of Diving Into the Pinterest is Craze (such as it is)

I like Pinterest. I really do. I do counsel caution to companies wanting to jump in (why are you doing it?) and am cynical about breathless quoting of growth statistics, but understand the addictive nature of visually sharing things we like.

I jumped in, but on my terms. I have spent the last year or so commenting on the sometimes horrifying trend towards producing “infographics” for any possible,sometimes grotesque, application.

To be fair, I have spent time trying to find infographics that work and I like as well as those I hyperbolically deem “Crimes Against Humanity.”

4) Bloggers: Stop Trying So Hard

After scrolling through post after post in my RSS feeds, one thing is clear: bloggers are trying too hard. I’m a big fan of writing to publish on personal blogs rather than fussing too much about perfection and format. However, does that mean everything is a top ten list? That we can find social media lessons in everything from the latest unrelated news event to (to pull an email ample from a friend) pole dancing?

Sometimes I think we try to hard. Not everything fits neatly into a Top 5 list, not even this weekly blog post series (which you might notice is far from weekly).

There is no 5).


Photo Credit: Robert Thomson on Flickr

Social Media Top 5: Humanize Your Infographics with Analytics

Yeah, nobody’s reading this fresh because everybody’s at SXSW Interactive, right? Except those that aren’t.

“Humanize” – Rush to Publish Causes Confusion

The fact that publishing tools are plentiful and easy to use does not excuse mistakes made in the rush to publish- though it does cause them. On the other hand, the self-correcting nature of social media is another, more positive side effect- if people are willing to communicate. An example of this came this week when social media monitoring /analytics company Radian 6 published the eBook “Building Stronger Customer Relationships: How to Humanize Your Company with Social Media.”

The problem? A book with similar themes was published only a few months back. “Humanize,” by Maddie Grant (a friend) and Jamie Notter, is a good read, a worthy book, by the way- recommended.

Was there a trademark issue? I actually don’t know for sure. But with the book being current, confusion between the two publications was a real possibility. rather than public passive-aggressive putdowns (though some folks, including myself, did make references on Twitter), mutual acquaintances alerted Radian 6 to the issue, and within minutes (seemingly, it was probably an hour or two)- the title of the ebook was changed to “Building Stronger Customer Relationships: Making Your Brand More Personal with Social Media.” Crisis averted- or at least minimized- by simply talking to folks.

Humanize, indeed.

Is the Marketing World (Too) Facebook Centric?

Just a simple question that came to mind after being invited to a Facebook discussion group on social marketing. An overwhelming amount of the threads were about Facebook. There are several reasons this could be true:

  • It is a Facebook group, so natural to discuss Facebook there (that could be true)
  • Facebook IS dominant , silly, so that’s what we need to be talking about (I’m not so sure, but can agree to an extent)
  • The group is filled with Facebook experts (true), who seem to be among the more active members
  • We are being shortsighted by isolating ourselves to the current hottest platform
To be fair, the group’s content isn’t all Facebook, and as I imply above, the focus is warranted, at least in part. But as social media marketers, are we too focused on Facebook? Are we ready if Facebook goes the way of Friendster or MySpace? I wonder.

Community Manager vs Community Analyst?

Chuck Hemann (another friend) wrote an interesting article in the Spredfast blog: “Ditch the Community Manager, Hire the Community Analyst.” First off, after reading the article, I’ll add “Ditch the Headline Writer” too, as that is misleading. Chuck is not saying the Community Manager function should go away, but that the need for people who know data and analytics is more urgent than ever in social media marketing. As someone who crunches numbers and analyzes trends for clients, I would say the same thing. Whether or not that person is also the community manager is something to be answered by availability of people and the resources to hire them, but the pendulum of need, I agree, swings in that direction. I would caution against letting it swing too far, to the point that we don’t have community managers- or quality content producers- to fill that end of the social media process. Chuck is an analytics guy so take that into account, but I agree with the need.

An Infographic to Like – For Once 

I often complain about bad infographics in this blog, but with good reason. The idea that infographics should be pleasing to consume and convey actual information has been lost. I often tout the Boston Bruins’ Foxwoods bar tab as an example of a good infographic, but thanks to friends (thank you Amy Vernon) I have found a new one. It conveys info without making me scroll, there’s not too much into it so I can grasp it in one look, but yet it is still useful. An excellent example. I wish more people would do it this way, instead of the tiresome, unreadable graphics we are being subjected to.


Rain at SXSW

My word (phrase, rather) of the week is “Schadenfreudian slip,” as when I accidentally make references to the apocalyptic rain storms greeting SXSW Interactive arrivals this weekend. Someone should be able to get some good publicity handing out ponchos. Wonder if that happened?

Social Media Top 5; Pinterest Copyright, PR Defined, More Infographic Atrocity

babauPinterest and the Copyright Bogeyman

Pinterest has captured the hearts and minds of social media shiny-object navel-gazers. It’s great, it’s simple, it’s visual.. but back in January, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were copyright issues. Boy howdy were there. While I now wonder if the current hysteria over copyright protection on Pinterest is a bit overblown, it is worth considering for both individual and corporate users.

Individuals now worry about being sued, and even being responsible for legal fees incurred by Pinterest (according to their Terms of Service). Companies need to worry not only about inappropriate use of their trademarks in sharing images, but in being liable themselves (and being bigger targets for suits) even if they merely “repin” something a fan put on the site.

A bigger issue- will companies see Pinterest “pinning” as flattery, fans liking their things and even linking back to their sites and shops, or as a violation of their marks? There will be cases for both all over. The question for Pinterest is, will this scare off users? Not sure about that.

For now, the real force behind copyright issues seems to be photographers, who are historically aggressive over their online intellectual property rights- hence Flickr introducing Pinterest-disabling code. It will be interesting to see if this gets hotter or melts away.

Defining PR- Pinch Me, Am I Dreaming?

I have had a complicated relationship over my career with industry associations. Hence my ambivalence towards the entire process of trying to define public relations. The attempt to “crowdsource”  a new definition for the industry skirted the fine line between listening and letting the inmates run the asylum. Further, it’s not really clear it was an open process more than it was a “mad-libs” exercise, as some friends have described it. Whatever the faults or favors, here is the new, unveiled definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I am…whelmed. It’s vague, pretty, and hopeful. Everything a guy could want in a sweetheart. To be honest, I’m not sure PR needs a definition. We need to do better work to prevent being defined by our worst actors: the apologists for ethical villains, the liars and loudmouths. I’m not going to knock this definition, but I’m not celebrating in the streets either. Back to work, people.

Zynga Tries to Show it Can Breathe without Facebook Life Support 

I hate Farmville, and all Zynga games are prohibited from loitering on my Facebook lawn (dagnabit), but I thought it was refreshing to see Zynga launch its own independent platform. The doubters that didn’t see a long-term value in a Facebook-bound platform (or any company dependent on a third party platform for sustenance) are right. And investors should be happy that Zynga has been smart enough to realize it. I’m assuming this has been in their thinking for a long time. So, here’s to long-term thinking.

Infographic Naughtiness: I Think You Meant “Exhausting”

With all due respect to my friends at Hubspot, who do a lot of great things, this infographic made me cry. Forget whether or not this is truly an “exhaustive history of marketing,” I’m not going to get into factual accuracy or point of view. As a visual, is this comprehensible? Do you get the entire thesis at a glance? Are the minute details optional, or better yet, elsewhere? This is the sort of indigestible infographic that makes it rain dead kittens even on a sunny day. I sized it to fit on this page, just to the right. Tell me what you think:


Grammar Nit of the Week

Saw someone use the phrase “good common sense.” I could only think, “what’s bad common sense?” What would that look lke? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.


Image credit: “babau” by skesis on Flickr