NC Goes Social

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, who has 3,985 Facebook supporters,  announced the state’s first social media policy today.

“State government must stay current if we are to be fully transparent and accountable to the public,” she said. “I encourage all state agencies to take advantage of social media to increase communication and interaction with the citizens of North Carolina.”

The stated goals of the policy are to make sure social media are implemented appropriately, that security concerns are addressed and that records are maintained in accordance with state law.

Social media will give the government more control over its key messages. Instead of relying on traditional media to take messages from the government and deliver them to the people, the government will have more direct contact with those who follow state agencies through social media.


How many people can we expect to follow, say, the North Carolina Department of Revenue on Twitter? The state’s use of social media will give citizens a forum for discussion about state policies — on Facebook pages, for example, but I wouldn’t expect a rush by the people of North Carolina to start becoming fans of state agencies in droves.

The state made a tutorial for employees to learn about the policy, but it’s so dull I only made it to slide 27 out of 46. Mostly, it covers aforementioned public record considerations (everything posted on those sites becomes public record) and privacy stuff. All agency pages and accounts have to be set to public and comments and contents can’t be deleted except for obscenity concerns.

The policy does not regulate the personal use of social media by state employees. Personal use is addressed, but only to say that it is allowed, even during business hours, but that users should maintain the professional standards of the state.

It will be interesting to see how, if at all, this new policy affects the political system in the state and how long it takes for anything to change.

Mac, meet Meatloaf…

So I’m home at my parents’ house for the holidays. Of course that means I get to fix all the technological problems that have come up since my last visit and I get to integrate all the new technology my parents (read: my mother) have decided to expose themselves (read: herself) to. I guess it’s my payment for occupying the guest room this week.

This visit, I’m helping my mother with the big switch: she bought an iMac. She’s keeping her old Dell desktop too, so I set up a wireless network for her and I’m helping her move all of her files over to the new Mac. It’s not a tough mission, but in the two-computer environment, the PC is downstairs at the desk and the iMac is on… the kitchen table.

This isn’t even just a temporary spot. It’s not that my mom walked in the door with the big Mac box and put it down on the table out of convenience while she took her shoes off. This is the new home of the Mac – right next to where we’ll eat meatloaf tonight. I mean, I know the iMac is very sleek and the lack of all those wires makes it a more unconventional machine, but am I the only person who finds it weird to have a non-laptop on a kitchen table? Someone help me out here…

Using the Web for Issues Management

Issues management is a crucial step in crisis prevention for public relations professionals. Responsible organizations have crisis communication plans in place to make sure they are prepared to communicate during a difficult, potentially hazardous situation. One way for an organization to prevent an emergency from becoming a crisis is to practice effective issues management. This requires an awareness of issues relevant to the organization’s interests and the ability to react to those issues.

The Internet is a great tool to help organizations keep up with issues relevant to their interests. Here are three basic ways to use social media and simple web tools for issues management:

1) Tweetdeck - Tweetdeck is an API for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Basically, it’s software designed to help you organize your social media life. It also has a great feature for conducting a never-ending search for constant search terms. You can create a column on Tweetdeck that gives you real time updates when people post something that matches your pre-set search terms. For instance, I have a column set to search tweets for #socialmedia and #PR. This way, every time someone tweets something that has to do with public relations AND social media, I get an instant notification and an archive of every post with those hashtags.

Organizations can use Tweetdeck’s search feature to monitor issues related to their interests. You can have any number of entries in your search criteria. So, an environmental NGO could have a search for copenhagen and #enviro and #sustainable to find relevant tweets. You want to be pretty specific or you’ll wind up getting a whole lot of messages. A whole lot. End game in this example is that you get an insight on what environmentally concerned citizens are sharing on Twitter and you get it immediately.

2) Google Alerts - Anyone with a Google account can set up alerts to be notified when anything matching certain criteria shows up anywhere on the Internet (you can also set up restrictions to search only within a specific site). Now that Google is searching Twitter updates in real time, you could forego the Tweetdeck and just use Google Alerts, but I like that Tweetdeck’s on-screen notifications pop up on my screen immediately.

You’ll want to be extremely specific on your alerts so as to avoid receiving about six million notifications. You have the option of receiving alerts once a day or as they appear online. Bottom line, using Google Alerts gives you notice if anyone anywhere on the Internet is discussing an issue that matters to you or your organization.

3) Server analytics - With Awstats, I can see how people find my web site on the Internet. I can see what web site they were visiting before coming to mine. I can learn about who is linking to my site, what browser they use, where they live, etc. It’s interesting info for me, indispensable info for an organization. Just last month, I learned that people were finding my blog by searching “Chris Higginbotham throwing a cat in Iran,” (different Chris Higginbotham). I’ve never thrown a cat and I’ve never been to Iran, so I’m a little bummed by that. It’s a bigger deal for a large organization. If an organization finds that people are getting to its page by searching terms that could launch a rumor, they can recognize the trend and act quickly to stem it by using analytics. That’s effective issue and reputation management.

Google Analytics also produces some good stats. Awstats comes with my server space, so I’ve stuck with it. Google Analytics works by signing up for an account and inserting a section of code into your page’s design.

These are just three of the countless ways you can use the Internet as part of issues management. I like these methods because they require little action once you set them up.

What’s with this social media thing?

Bob Crambitt is a public relations professional based out of Cary. He writes a lot for a LinkedIn group I follow and he’s made a few great points in the past. His blog post from yesterday was an especially good read for people caught up in the social media buzz.

I think it’s essential for anyone attempting to work in communication to understand social media (assuming it’s something that can be truly understood). I was wondering about the goals of using social media the other day when I signed up for Klout, which is a Twitter application that measures your Twitter influence. I’m a pretty recreational Twitter-er, so I just did this for fun. Klout told me I have little Twitter influence and that I’m likely new to social media. I found that a little offensive.

Is the only reason for using social media now to exploit it? Is it now more a marketing tool than a social tool? Has social media turned into noise?

The people and organizations who effectively use social media to create influence or advance business interests remember to keep the “social” in social media. It’s two-way communication and it augments (rather than mimicking or replacing) other forms of communication. Researchers refer to horizontal communication, which allows users to communicate with each other, not just with an organization’s Web site or customer relations department. This is the best way to use social media.

My study on Barack Obama’s campaign communication focused on how the campaign used horizontal communication to create a community, something Bob mentioned in his blog post. Obama’s Web site provided tools for supporters to meet, host gatherings and find out how to become more involved with the campaign. This gave everyone the opportunity to become a part of the team. By creating a community around an idea, a product or a common interest, you make people feel more a part of something than just a believer in it or consumer of it. When people feel they are a part of your organization, they become an advocate for it and your organization becomes that much more powerful.


My last post got a little fun controversy going on the blog and among the graduate program here at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s a fun topic – inasmuch as grammar and pronunciation can be fun – but it brings up a good point about clarity in communication.

I mentioned earlier that I tore my Achilles tendon at the beginning of October. I’m fine now; my cast is off and I’m limping around in a funny shoe. Interesting fact about a torn Achilles: an MRI isn’t necessary for diagnosis. X-rays are useless too. All that’s needed is the Thompson Test. Lie on your stomach, reach around to the back of your leg and squeeze your calf muscle. If your Achilles is intact, your toe should point away from your body. If your toe doesn’t point, it means you tested positive on the Thompson Test.

Or does it…

My doctor alerted me to what I am sure is the most heated debate in orthopedics. If you test positive on the Thompson Test, does it mean you have tested positive for an Achilles tear, or does it mean you have a positive result to the test – that your Achilles is intact? Conversely, is a negative result negative for a tear or negative in that you have a tear?

In a similar debate, what would you do if I asked you to turn up the air conditioning? In my mind, turning up the AC means turning the machine up, thereby turning the temperature down. Some disagree, saying that turning the AC up means turning the temperature up. Seems incorrect to me, but who am I?

Anyway, my point is that when you are communicating a message, you need to avoid ambiguity. Unless you’re talking to a bunch of orthopedists, your audience probably doesn’t care if you know what the Thompson Test is. There’s no need to prove your intelligence to an audience; the need is for you to deliver your message simply and concisely. Avoid the big words, avoid the acronyms, avoid unclear statements and, above all, avoid the phrase “short-lived.” There seems to be debate about its pronunciation…

Short-lived… or is it?

OK, folks. Question of pronunciation.

When I say something is short-lived, I say it as if it had a short life. So when I pronounce it, I say a long vowel sound in “lived.” The ‘i’ sounds like “eye.”

I just brought this topic up among a few of my colleagues at school and I’m encountering resistance, but I’m sticking to my guns here. If someone has long hair, he/she is long-haired. If a guy has big ears, he is big-eared. The connection is that these are all nouns. You are joining an adjective and a noun into a compound modifier (big-eared guy, long-haired girl). You would not, however, combine an adjective and a verb to create a compound modifier because you don’t live something shortly.

Now, I am not a grammarian or an expert on the English language (I just figured out the difference between who and whom a year ago), so I’m not prepared to argue to the death here. Anyone else have an opinion?