Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Social Media Self-Defense: Not just a war-time activity

The U.S. Government throughout World War II used a variety of methods to persuade its citizens to rally behind the war effort (Olson, 1998).  One of the most popular catch phrases of that era still applies in today's landscape of social media and networking:

Essarge loose lips poster

The great many benefits reaped through the advent of new technologies that are bringing our world closer and closer together by the minute come with inherent risks.  Without care and attention, every user of social media puts at risk information that can be used and abused by others.  For that reason, social media security and social media policies must be vital elements of every effort to engage online, whether personal, professional or as an organization.

What do I mean by "Social Media Security" and "Social Media Policies"?

Let me give you my simple definitions of each of these:

  • Social media security is the state you achieve through the creation of habits that govern -- strictly in many cases -- what, when and how you engage with social media, what information you willingly provide and what other information you seek to protect.   Oh yes, you should also know that you never fully reach the "state" of security because the social media landscape is constantly changing and dangers, new and old, continue to surface and resurface.  But be vigilant, and as safe as possible.
  •  Social media policies are the doctrines, or codes, established by employers and other organizations that serve as guidelines for how those associated with the organization engage in social media engagement as that engagement relates to the practice of their professional responsibilities.

How can I keep my ship Afloat?

There are many, many ideas and tips available to help you surf social media with greater security.  Rather than write about some of the most often shared tips, I'd ask that you take a look at this fun little video from Toshiba.

Now that you have those basics in mind, let's get a little more granular:
  • We are what we Tweet...for all posterity:   Are you aware that the Library of Congress is archiving every Tweet emanating from a U.S.-based Twitter account?  In short, if you post it, consider it permanent.  
  • Secure your computer:  I'll also mention where the video above left off.  Make sure the machines you use have the latest and greatest software to protect you.  The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse gives some great information on firewalls, antivirus software and more.  
  • Use Bookmarks...or URL be sorry:  Don't go to your preferred social media services through email links or another website.  You could be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen. These types of phishing scams are everywhere.  Only use hyperlinks from sources you trust.  I hope you are growing more trustful of Liebling Realized, so I'll offer this hyperlink Information Security Buzz where you can read more about avoiding phishing scams.  
  • Take the time to add contacts:  Services like Facebook, Google+ and Klout are really persistent in asking you to link accounts so you can easily share contacts between services.  DON'T DO IT!  Once the sites have the information of your friends and peers, it falls under their terms of use, which could open up that network of contacts you've work so hard to develop to unsolicited marketing and promotions.  
  • Be mindful of location preferences:  GoogleMaps, OpenTable, FourSquare and other social
    media sites and applications can make use of the GPS location settings on your smartphone if you let them.  So, don't let them  (Thanks to John W. Tomac for the illustration below, which ties up my post pretty well).  You'll have to lose some of the conveniences these services provide for the sake of security, but it might be beneficial in the long run. 

Parting Shot

Are the benefits of social media and social networking vast for us personally and professionally?  Undoubtedly.  At the same time, an almost as vast set of risks can come into play.  Mitrano (2006) phrased this situation well, for me anyway: "New technologies alarm us for very real reasons but can and must be addressed in ways that do not crush innovation and fun" (p. 22). 

Hear, hear!  

Mitrano, T. (Nov/Dec 2006). A wider world: Youth, privacy, and social networking technologies. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(6), pp. 18-28. Louisville, KY: EDUCAUSE.

Olson, T. (Feb 23 1998). Loose lips sink ships. Scholastic Update, 130(10), pp. 15-17. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A local , digital, successful news enterprise? Maybe, someday...

NOTE: A departure from blogging about my IMC graduate school topics to offer a test post of what I hope the future of Liebling Realized might be...a place to talk about the future of journalism and the field's successes and failures as it evolves across our ever-changing digital landscape.

The old axiom "all news is local" has always held meaning for me.  The news people tend to focus on is that which connects most closely with their lives. 

That's why I was excited when AOL in 2009 acquired and began pushing for widespread growth of, a network of "hyperlocal" news websites with locally based editors generating local news content.  This seemed to me to be both a local and national response to the increasingly digital way we get our news.

Unfortunately, Patch hasn't taken root as had been hoped, as two Long Island journalists and former Patch editors I know, David Reich-Hale (@drhliand Jason Molinet (@jmolinetcan attest.  In the interview below, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes the case that the company's commitment hasn't dampened in Patch, even with news of the divestiture by AOL of a majority of its stake in the venture. 

Unfortunately, the massive layoffs and site closings of the past year or so have dramatically dampened the spirit of those of us who welcomed Patch's introduction.

Can local news be successful in a digital world? 

The folks at Digital First Media seem to think that the way to combat this changing nature is to "unbolt" the digital news function from the traditional operation of a newspaper.  "Project Unbolt" as it has been dubbed, will attempt to reconfigure the way Digital First newsrooms, news decisions, news gathering efforts and more operate to ensure that digital distribution and collection is the foremost priority -- above print.

I learned about Project Unbolt by reading The Buttry Diary, a blog by the Steve Buttry (Twitter: @stevebuttry) , the company's digital transformation editor.  In a January 30 post, he describes what they expect the characteristics of a successful "unbolted" newsroom will be.  It's a worthwhile effort that I hope bears fruit.

And the fruit better be tasty...

As an avid consumer of news, and believer in the positive power of professional journalists and journalism, I hope Digital First finds success.  And I hope that success is replicable because Gen Xers are tuning out.  The Poynter Institute has shared data that young people spend roughly 40 percent less time consuming news than Baby Boomers do, showing "a willingness to bump into the news as they go about their way on social media" rather than actively seeking it out.

With local, digital, successful news enterprises, we might be able to turn that tide.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's a Whole New 'World of Mouth'

The Kinane Homestead
This June we will celebrate 20 years as the quasi-owners of the home in which we live.  I say quasi-owners because there remain a few years on our mortgage. 

Over the past two decades, I've come to know the men, women and families that live around us.  Some of them have become "go-to" friends when we need help, information or advice.  Chris is the consummate neighborhood consigliere.  Need an electrician, plumber, painter?  He can make a call and get you to the right contractor.  Janet always has good ideas for something to do or buy when we feel like splurging on ourselves.  Her husband, Jeff, is the ultimate car guy, and we've sent friends to him for advice on what to buy and, more importantly, what not to buy.  What I've described here are just some of the men and women we rely on for recommendations and advice.  We've come to trust them, through trial and error, good times and bad.

Easier to Connect = Easier to Share

It's the importance of relationships like these, and the ease with which we can ask for and share information via social media, that Erik Qualman says in Chapter 5 of his Socialnomics has helped move us "from word-of-mouth to World-of-Mouth" marketing (2013, pg. 80).  The concept Qualman promotes it that, where much of the information we get today comes to us via the power of Internet search giants like Google, the information, advice and recommendations we get via our social networks will one today usurp search in informing us as we make decisions about purchases and other of life's decisions (2013, pg 75).  Just as social media and networking has made it easier for us to connect more regularly with a wider network of people than we might otherwise, so too does it mean that we can exercise that network to help us get valuable information when we need it. 

The Power of Peer Recommendations

The impact of this changing nature can be critical for marketers, as research has found that peer recommendations increase the preference for an option, even when the recommender is recognized as not being an "expert" on the matter being reviewed (D. Smith, S. Menon & K. Sivakumar, 2005, pg 26).  This also dovetails with other research that validates the idea that consumers today find more credible the information produced by fellow consumers than that produced by the brand-owner (Mir & Zaheer, 2012).

In addition to personal social networks, Qualman drives home the point that sites like TripAdvisor and Angie's List that aggregate opinion, ideas and ratings are finding new ways to bring value to consumers.   What these companies realize, according to Qualman, is that they no longer own relationships with consumers and that, instead, the consumers themselves are the owners and willingly share that power among themselves (pg. 83).

Hitting Home 

So, when just this evening my wife declined to buy a rug online because it "only had 3 1/2 stars," Socialnomics again hit home.  I wonder what my neighbors would think?


Mir, I. & Zaheer, A. (2012). Verification of social impact theory claims in social media content. Journal of Internet Banking and Commerce,17(1), 1-15. Ottowa, CA: Array Development.

Smith, D., Menon, S. & Sivakumar, K. (2005).  Online peer and editorial recommendations, trust, and choice in virtual markets.  Journal of Interactive Marketing, 19(3), 15-37.  Wiley InterScience. doi: 10.1002dir.20041

Qualman, E. (2013). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Ties that Bind: From My Wife to a Beat-boxing Santa Claus

As humans, we seek to employ strategic, coordinated communications everyday.  As a father, it's rarely productive to give an instruction or comment to one of my sons that is out of alignment with one given by my wife.  As a manager, I seek to ensure I am comfortable with how those who work with me represent the work we are doing to others, both inside and outside our organization.

These realizations put me squarely in the camp of those who agree with the research of Argenti, Howell and Beck, who promote through their research the idea that communications must always be aligned with an organization's strategy and focused on enhancing the organization's strategic position (p. 83).

The challenge, then, lies in our ability to align ourselves across the media we use to communicate.  Much like I have to be sure the message I leave for my teenage son aligns with the instructions Mom gave this morning, we in our professional lives have to ensure we use the same voice and personality whether we are employing advertising, social media or website content.

A company that I find does this very well is Virgin Atlantic Airline.  The company takes it cues from its founder, Richard Branson, who advocates that companies "dream big and start an adventure" (Branson, 2013).  The company's IMC efforts take on that mission as well. Watch this video to see what I mean.

The company extends its "adventuresome" attitude into social media as well, with the company and its employees using the hashtag FITFOO (flying the the face of the ordinary) to denote its outsider status .  Even their in-flight promotions are more edgy, and cool than their traditional counterparts -- including employing a beat-boxing Santa Claus on flights during the holiday season.

They've been able to strike a unique, authentic tone, and carry it through across the platforms they utilize. In this way, they give their customers a sense of being a part of the Virgin experience, and make that experience fun.


Argenti, P., Howell, R. & Beck, K. (2005). The strategic communication imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review, 46(3), pp. 83-89. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Branson, R. (Feb 2013). Leader success. Leadership Excellence, 30(2), pp. 18-19. Provo, UT: Executive Excellence Publishing. Retrieved from, J. (Apr 12 2013). How Virgin Atlantic's marketing nails it.  Inc. Retrieved from

Virgin Atlantic Airlines. (Dec 14 2013). Little Red brings a beat-boxing santa to passengers travelling for a festive treat at 30,000 feet. Retrieved from