Today in Social Monitoring

The Old Guard, the Army unit responsible for guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, provided a small example of the importance of social media monitoring today. As Sandy began her approach on the East Coast, the photo below started hitting the Twitterverse (I was one of many who tweeted it).

About three minutes after Samir Mezrahi (@samir) from BuzzFeed posted it on Twitter, The Old Guard (@The_Old_Guard) responded, saying the photo was actually from September and provided a couple of photos of the Soldier actually guarding the Tomb during the storm.

The unit has corrected a number of sources on this, including the Washington Post.

No, it wasn’t detrimental to The Old Guard’s image to have the incorrect photo circulating, but kudos to the unit’s public affairs team for using social monitoring to find the mistake and correct it. And — this probably goes without saying — props to the Soldiers who’ve guarded that Tomb every minute of every day since April 1948.

 

When Measurement isn’t Measurement

So today was the big physical fitness test for my Army Reserve unit. We all gathered for the semi-annual assessment of our fitness by doing push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. It’s always a nerve-racking event full of troops either trying to push for a good score so they can get promoted or just trying to pass so they can retire. Splendid fun.

We used a new course for our two-mile run this time, which is fine, but at this random point along the course one of the graders started calling out the time that had elapsed. “4:26, 4:27, 4:28…” he yelled out (yes, it’s common for graders to call out every passing second). So I asked him how far along on the course we were. He said he didn’t know.

Awesome.

And since I find myself so often trying to compare life experiences to my career, I started thinking about measurement in public relations and social media. I try to read up on what people are talking about as far as new methods to measure communication efforts (and there’s a lot to read) and one thing I haven’t seen much of is the importance of having something to measure against. It’s great to have a lot of followers or to have a lot of people visiting your site or to see a lot of comments on your blog. But if you haven’t set a goal for yourself or your organization, or if you aren’t benchmarking against competitors in your industry, what exactly are you measuring?

I did just fine on my PT test, but that dude calling out a random time at a random point along the run didn’t help. Had I known I was about a third of the way through the course, I could have stepped it up and really beaten my goal — just like how you can use your communication metrics at a given time to compare against your goals. That way, you can change course or step up your effort if you find yourself lagging. Without goals, you don’t know if what you’re doing is working or not.

The bottom line is that without having some sort of definition of success, measurement is just a waste of time.

Back to School

So, I’m about to head back to Chapel Hill to give a lecture at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I’m lecturing on my thesis, which was a case study on crisis communication in the Air Force.

I decided to use Storify to mix it up a bit. I think we’re all getting tired of PowerPoint for everything. So, my initial draft is below.

Now, this is meant to help the students prepare for the lecture, so I intentionally left some things out. I know they are supposed to read my whole thesis, but it’s almost 150 pages with appendices and I know the students just aren’t going to read that. So, below is the draft, with a few holes in it. I’m going to add in the rest tomorrow before the lecture. I thought it’d be fun to see how it changes after tomorrow.

For now, if you have an opinion on the presentation, let me know. Enjoy!

Lost Missiles and Lost Messages

Facebook Like it’s Your Birthday

In my Facebook career, I’ve always made it a point to respond to every birthday wish I receive on my wall. When I had my birthday not long ago, I was repeatedly chided by my girlfriend for ignoring her (in her mind) and the Miami sun to respond to my birthday wishes. Imagine my chagrin when, as @eliciaeler at RWW pointed out, the new Timeline made it so very difficult to respond to each post.

This feels like part of an existing trend to me – one in which we all are sacrificing relationship and uniqueness for efficiency. We see it in everything from mass-produced furniture to fast food to, now, our friendships.

I will point out that I beared the brunt of my chiding and still responded to each post, even though Facebook made it a pain. I hope that the 81 of 552 friends I have who chose Facebook as the way to wish me a happy birthday appreciated that.

To my grandmother, the only person who chose the ancient method of sending a card (she’s not on Facebook), your birthday wish is also on my wall – the one in my kitchen.

 

 

 

 

Today’s Virginia Tech shootings proved what we already knew

First, like everyone else, my heart goes out to everyone at Virginia Tech, especially the victims of the tragedy and their families.

I was kind of late picking up on the story, so most local websites covering the event had already crashed. I started following the Collegiate Times, Tech’s student newspaper, at around 2:30 pm EST, when people were tweeting that it was a good way to receive breaking news. Then, it had about 12,000 followers.

At 4:44 EST, it had 20,993 followers.

It’s a tragic way to gain that many followers, but congratulations to that group of students for excellent and responsible reporting throughout the situation. I believe it played a valuable role not only in informing the public about the event, but also informing students about what to do and where to go in order to stay safe.

This jump in followers again proves how important social media is to how we receive information nowadays. That reporting kept me glued to my phone during the office Christmas party.

I will be interested to see how many folks stay following the account now that the situation seems to be resolved.

Again, my hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy.

Hokies.

Personality in social media: The college basketball rivalry version

In honor of Saturday’s game between the noble Tar Heels and the evil Wildcats of Kentucky, I would like to comment on something at which the University of Kentucky is really schooling UNC.

A little more than a year ago I wrote a post about a journalist named Lucy Kellaway and her opinion that the somewhat recent trend of personalizing organizations was making it easier for stakeholders to hate corporations when they made mistakes. A really smart social media guy named Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) put up a post not long ago disagreeing, pointing to a study that says, “being human sets thought leaders apart.”

I’m with Mark.

Look, people don’t relate to lawn mowers and they don’t relate to news aggregators; they relate to people. As painful as it is to admit it, the University of Kentucky (@universityofky) has totally figured that out. UNC (@Carolina_News) has not.

Did you take a campus tour at UK? Wondering about the status of your admissions application? Thinking about becoming an organ donor? Tweet about it. UK responds to this kind of stuff every day. Even when I wrote a somewhat antagonizing post about UK last year, @universityofky responded (antagonizingly).

For the university community, in which institutions are competing for the love of 18-year-old applicants and 30-year-old alumni alike, the UK Twitter account is a cool, responsive friend (or rival) with lots of info behind it.

Now look at UNC’s Twitter. First off, good luck finding a link to it on the UNC homepage. The account is a great aggregator of news about the school, but there’s no personality. It’ll tell you UNC men’s soccer made the Elite 8 (congrats) or the results of a new campus study, but there aren’t RT’s from applicants or fans. There’s no playful banter about athletics or food. Even the name is a drawback; it’s not the university itself, it’s news about the university. If you toured the campus, would you feel comfortable tweeting “I toured @Carolina_News today!”? Of course not. It sounds dumb.

More proof? Look at the followers. The schools’ websites show UNC and UK have similar enrollment numbers (UNC-29,000; UK-28,000) but UK’s account has almost twice as many followers (12,235 to UNC’s 6,708 as of Dec. 1).

Perhaps the most damning proof: me (sorry). My UK alumni friends would be glad to tell you I’m one of the biggest haters out there. I’m not a UK fan, I’m not a Calipari fan, but I do follow @universityofky. It’s entertaining. Sure, you may argue that I’m following UK because I live near it, but I live closer to Eastern Kentucky University and Berea College and I’m not following them.

People appreciate the fun that comes with following an account like @universityofky and I think other schools, including UNC (of which I am an alumnus), could learn something from the way UK rolls on Twitter.

Now, let’s just hope UNC rolls over UK in basketball on Saturday. Go Heels!