Tag Archives: twitter

Measuring social media success? You’re probably doing it wrong.

logoA nonprofit buys billboard space on a major highway. Thousands of people drive by the billboard every day. After a week, the marketing director declares the billboard a huge success because of the number of people that are driving by the billboard. However, there is no significant gain in donations, volunteers or clients by the organization.

Does this sound like a ridiculous way to measure the success of a marketing activity? It is. Yet, that’s how I regularly hear people measure the success of social media use by a nonprofit, government agency or other mission-based initiative.

If your nonprofit is an animal shelter, or a farmer’s cooperative, or a community theater, or a health clinic, or any other nonprofit that serves a geographically-specific clientele, having thousands of Twitter followers is not an indication that you are having social media success. So what? That’s the same as the billboard out on the highway. It’s just a number, and if it’s not translating into something tangible, it’s a waste of money and effort.

For online activities to translate into something tangible, online action must create and support offline action or behavior. What could this look like?

  • An increase in the number of volunteers providing service to your organization
  • An increase in the number of volunteers who stay with your organization over a longer term
  • A greater diversity of volunteers providing service, with greater representation from under-represented groups
  • Greater numbers of donors
  • More repeat donors
  • New donors
  • Greater attendance to conferences, workshops, etc.
  • Greater attendance to events with an entrance fee, which creates greater revenues
  • Greater numbers of downloads or purchases of a publication or other product
  • Greater numbers of clients or people served
  • More repeat clients
  • A greater diversity of clients receiving services from your organization
  • Larger numbers of people writing government officials, corporate representatives or the media regarding the cause your organization promotes
  • Larger numbers of people filling out surveys that you will use in creating proposals, reports and publications regarding your organization’s work
  • More feedback from volunteers, donors, clients and the general public regarding your work
  • Volunteers and clients reporting a perception of greater support from your organization
  • Volunteers and clients reporting a new / changed perception that relates to your mission (for instance, those you engage with online reporting that they are no longer prejudiced against a particular group or community) or a change in behavior or practice that relates to your organization’s mission (for instance, if you were an organization that promotes recycling, and those you engage with online telling you they are recycling more)
  • Volunteers, clients, staff, the general public and/or the press reporting a perception of greater support from your organization, an improved perception of the organization’s impact, an increased awareness about the cause an organization promotes, etc.

A few hundred Twitter or Instagram followers may not sound impressive, but if most of those followers are in your geographic area, if there are lots of public officials and other nonprofit representatives and local people served by your organization among those followers, you’re doing well. If you are a nonprofit serving teens, and most of those followers are teens, you are doing VERY well. It’s not about the how many, it’s about the who.

How can you measure social media success ? I talk about that on my web page Evaluating Online Activities: Online Action Should Create & Support Offline Action & Results. For most nonprofits, measuring is not a matter of a software choice; it’s going to take a more person-to-person approach, involving surveys and interviews. In other words, engagement.

Quit celebrating how many people have “liked” your organization’s Facebook page. Are discussions happening on that Facebook page? Are people asking questions? Are individual status updates being liked and shared? Celebrate engagement.

Also see:

Folklore, Rumors & Misinformation Campaigns Interfering with Humanitarian Efforts & Government Initiatives

gossipUPDATED:

Preventing Folklore, Rumors, Urban Myths & Organized Misinformation Campaigns From Interfering with Development & Aid/Relief Efforts & Government Initiatives

Folklore, rumors and contemporary myths / legends often interfere with development aid activities and government initiatives, including public health programs – even bringing such to a grinding halt. They create ongoing misunderstandings and mistrust, prevent people from seeking help, encourage people to engage in unhealthy and even dangerous practices, and have even lead to mobs of people attacking someone or others because of something they heard from a friend of a friend of a friend. With social media like Twitter and Facebook, as well as simple text messaging among cell phones, spreading misinformation is easier than ever.

Added to the mix: fake news sites set up specifically to mislead people, as well as crowdsourced efforts by professional online provocateurs and automated troll bots pumping out thousands of comments, countering misinformation efforts has to be a priority for aid and development organizations, as well as government agencies.

Since 2004, I have been gathering and sharing both examples of this phenomena, and recommendations on preventing folklore, rumors and urban myths from interfering with development and aid/relief efforts and government initiatives. I’ve recently updated this information with new information regarding countering organized misinformation campaigns.

Anyone working in development or relief efforts, or working in government organizations, needs to be aware of the power of rumor and myth-sharing, and be prepared to prevent and to counter such. This page is an effort to help those workers:

  • cultivate trust in the community through communications, thereby creating an environment less susceptible to rumor-baiting
  • quickly identify rumors and misinformation campaigns that have the potential to derail humanitarian aid and development efforts
  • quickly respond to rumors and misinformation campaigns that could derail or are interfering with humanitarian aid and development efforts

And, FYI: I do this entirely on my own, as a volunteer, with no funding from anyone. I update the information as my free time allows.

Also see:

The importance of Twitter lists

Twitter_logo_blueAs I said in a recent blog, called the awesome power of Tweet tags, I am still a huge fan of Twitter. As I said in that blog, I still get so much more out of Twitter than Facebook, professionally:

  • I get a great sense of what folks are doing in the areas of expertise and work I care about most
  • I can easily find and connect with amazing experts in areas of expertise and work in which I’m intensely interested
  • I can find what I’m looking for and easily screen out what I don’t care about
  • When I tweet, I get replies and retweets and even requests for more info – real engagement – as well as traffic to my blog and web site

Of course you should follow me on Twitter: @jcravens42

But you should also be aware of another way to leverage Twitter for your nonprofit, government or other mission-based organization or program: creating and sharing Twitter lists, where you curate accounts based on some aspect of your program’s mission or location. For instance:

  • an animal shelter should have a public Twitter list of other shelters and animal rescue groups in the area, and another list of accounts tweeting credible information regarding animal care and training
  • a small college or university should have a Twitter list of its own departments, faculty and students using Twitter to talk about their university work
  • a police department should have a Twitter list of other law enforcement agencies in the area and nearby, and another list of accounts by nonprofits addressing issues that contribute to crime prevention (homeless shelters, drug treatment centers, programs to help teens, etc.)
  • a city office should have a Twitter list of other city offices
  • a public school should have a Twitter list of registered nonprofits in the area focused on youth
  • a water and sanitation program in a developing country should have a Twitter list of similar programs in other countries, so staff can look for ideas they can use in their own area, and have a list of programs and organizations in-country that have funded or might fund the WATSAN program
  • an association of managers of volunteers should have a list of all of the nonprofits in the area with Twitter accounts, another list of all student groups at local colleges and universities in the area that regularly engage in public service, and another list of all civic groups in the area using Twitter.

Creating Twitter lists and sharing them with the public affirms an organization’s mission, establishes a program as a leader regarding that mission, creates valuable resources for people you are trying to serve, and creates another way for you to attract Twitter followers. It also makes it much easier for you to be able to check in with what’s happening with specific audiences – instead of following them all on Twitter, you put accounts on lists, and then read those lists when it’s time to catch up on a particular area of interest to you.

Here’s a good example: Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association (NOVAA) has several Twitter lists. One is made up of nonprofits in the greater Portland, Oregon area that tweet, a list of people tweeting about the management of volunteers, and a list of people and organizations that tweet about volunteerism and volunteer recruitment. By having such lists and sharing them with the public, NOVAA is helping promote its brand as an organization that can help organizations in the area, including nonprofits, schools and government agencies, regarding effective volunteer engagement. What would be great is if they also had a list of all public officials in the area, or that represent the area, that are on Twitter, so that they could easily follow what those people might be saying regarding volunteers and NOVAA members could more easily contact those representatives regarding volunteerism.

Here’s another good example: United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, also in Portland, Oregon. One of its Twitter lists is of its partner organizations on Twitter. Another list is of organizations focused on helping people and families work towards financial stability. Like NOVAA, they also have compiled a list of nonprofits in the greater Portland, Oregon area that tweet. So UW is using its Twitter lists to both promote nonprofits in the area and help people in the area find the services at nonprofits they need – in short, they are using Twitter lists as a part of their mission to “improve lives, strengthen communities and advance equity by mobilizing the caring power of people across our metro area.”

Here’s how it works for me: I maintain several public Twitter lists – lists of people and organizations that regularly tweet about subjects of interest to me. These lists affirm my areas of expertise and my interests as a professional, help establish me as a leader regarding some of these areas, and create valuable resources for people and organizations with whom I want to connect in some way. It also cuts down on how many people I have to follow on Twitter;  instead, I can put people and organizations on various lists, by subject matter, geography, whatever, and then check in with those lists as I like. I pick one or two of my lists a day, and then spend a few minutes going through the tweets of that list.

For instance, there’s my Tech4Good ICT4D, a list of people and organizations that regularly tweet regarding computers and the Internet used to help people, communities and the environment. Or my ework evolunteer list, which tracks people and programs tweeting about telework, telecommuting, remote work, virtual teams, distributed teams, virtual volunteering, etc. Or my CSR  list, which is made up of corporations that tweet about their philanthropic and social responsibility activities, and people and organizations that tweet regarding corporate social responsibility. My several public Twitter lists become both ways to brand my interests and expertise as well as a way to offer resources that others might find useful.

Take Twitter to the next level: make it not only an outreach and engagement tool, make it something that promotes your program through the lists you curate!

Also see:

The awesome power of tweet tags

Twitter_logo_blueI still love Twitter. I know, I know – all the hip tech folks say it’s passé. Nonsense. I still get so much more out of Twitter than Facebook, professionally:

  • I get a great sense of what folks are doing in the areas of expertise and work I care about most – new resources, new ideas, new trends I need to know about
  • I can easily find and connect with amazing experts in areas of expertise and work in which I’m intensely interested
  • I can find what I’m looking for and easily screen out what I don’t care about (unlike with Facebook)
  • When I tweet, I get replies and retweets and even requests for more info – real engagement – as well as traffic to my blog and web site

In fact, I’ve gotten a couple of paid jobs because of what I do on Twitter. 20 minutes on Twitter a few times a week is well worth my time! I’m @jcravens42 on Twitter, btw…

One of my favorite things about Twitter is tweet tags – keywords or phrases with a hash mark (#) in front of them. They are my favorite way to find great information on a specific subject, and for me to reach people that aren’t following me on Twitter but are following the tweet tag (by “following”, I mean that they look for tweets with that tag, specifically).

Here are my favorite tweet tags as of today. If you don’t know what one means, and I haven’t said so below, just click on it and have a look at some tweets that use the tag:

#volunteer (usually used regarding people giving back to causes or communities, but there is a USA university that uses it for their sports team references too)
#volunteers
#voluntario
#voluntarios
#nonprofit
#ngos (non-governmental organizations)
#vvbook (for mentions or links to The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook)
#ework
#ttvolmgrs (Thoughtful Thursday discussions for managers of volunteers)
#tech4good
#apps4good
#Civictech
#ict4d
Community, environmental & human development-related tags (caution: some software developers sometimes use some of these tags for their work, which can be confusing, and “development”, and therefore “dev”, can also mean fundraising in the USA)
#humanitarian
#comm4dev
#research4dev
#ideas4dev
#capacity4dev
#globaldev
#sdgs (sustainable development goals)
#undp
#unitednations
#usaid
#defyhatenow
#Afghanistan
#Ukraine

#Kentucky (usually in combination with another tag, like #volunteer or #nonprofit)

#pdx (Portland, Oregon-area – usually in combination with #volunteer)

#fogro (Forest Grove, Oregon)

How do I find tags to follow? Either via other Twitter accounts I follow, or I think of them and wonder if any is using them and so I look for them. I also look at what’s trending on the left side of my Twitter screen on my laptop, and sometimes those trending tags inspire me to share something using such myself.

I also leverage Twitter tags associated with United Nations Days that are somehow associated with my work or interests. For instance, August 19 is World Humanitarian Day, a day meant to honor those who have been killed whilst doing international aid work and to recognize the work being done by humanitarians worldwide – local as well as international humanitarians. The tag the organizers use ever year is #WorldHumanitarianDay. Some years, they have a second tag for a specific theme; in 2016, that tag was #ShareHumanity. So I used HootSuite to program tweets in advance that would be posted a week before the day, the day before, and then lots the day of, and that were tagged with #WorldHumanitarianDay and/or #ShareHumanity. The result was that many people following those tags ended up retweeting my tweets, and I got a few new followers as a result (and some great people and organizations to add to my Twitter lists).

Tweet tags to use and follow will differ from person to person, and organization to organization. For instance, when I was in Ukraine, working for the UN, I recommended that @UNDPUkraine use these tags regularly, both on their own tweets and to follow:

#Ukraine
#UNDP
#uatech4good
#mdgs
#innovation
#comm4dev
#urbanplanning
#poverty
#humanitarian
#health

For a government program regarding water and sanitation in Afghanistan, I recommended:

#Afghanistan
#UNICEF
#water
#watsan
#sanitation
#wateris
#food
#health
#toilets
#equality
#industry
#energy
#poverty
#humanitarian

Give it a try yourself! Searches can be saved, for easy daily or weekly references. I don’t check all the tags every day – usually just a few times a month. And this is anonymous – people can’t see which tags you are looking for and following yourself.

Should you create your own tweet tag for a conference, a program, your region, a cause, etc.? Only if you believe you can get lots of other people to use it, and you understand you will not own the tag, that absolutely anyone on Twitter can use it. How to get lots of people to use a tag you have created? That’s the subject of a future blog…

Relationships take time, even via social media

Stop looking for the magic social media management tool, the one that allows you to send one message to “all” the social media platforms and magically get lots of likes and followers. The one that keeps you from ever having to actually log in to Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, etc.

Stop it NOW.

That approach to social media is like walking into a room full of people, making an announcement, even a powerpoint presentation, never taking questions or looking to see if anyone is listening, walking out when you’re done, and then wondering why no one gave your nonprofit money, came to your next event, provided input on your programs, joined as a volunteer, etc. – and using that same experience to say, “Well, I guess everyone likes us or they don’t care, because no one said anything to me!”

Timo Lüge blogs at Social Media for Good and in a recent blog: says this:

“Social media is about building and sustaining relationships. It is not a one-time interaction. In other words: you need to stop thinking about how you can get people to ‘like’ a post and instead develop a long-term strategy for how you want to interact with the community. You and your management need to accept that that will take time. Focus on the quality of the interactions instead of the quantity.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a social media management tool to schedule tweets or Facebook status updates or anything else in advance, or to create analytics – I use Hootsuite to schedule my daily tweets in the morning and afternoons, as well as bi-weekly posts to Googleplus and, sometimes, to Facebook. But I still take the time log into each of those platforms, individually, and to read messages by people and organizations I follow, like those messages, comment on them, share posts by others, reply to comments that have been made to me, etc. I also make sure I tag people and organizations related to what I’m posting on social media, so they know they are being talked about, and might be encouraged to reply. In other words, I spend time with the audience, just like I would in a room full of people, to hear their feedback, to hear what they are doing and thinking, to acknowledge their points of view and to get a sense as to whether or not I’m really connecting with people. That’s what building and sustaining relationships look like, online or off. And that’s what it takes to make social media worthwhile for any nonprofit (or for-profit, for that matter).

vvbooklittleFor more about building relationships online, see The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by Susan J. Ellis and myself. The community engagement principles offered here work with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference. Tools come and go – but certain community engagement fundamentals never change.

Tweeters re: Cuba development & ICT4D

A follow-up to my post yesterday, about my visit to Cuba last month and a review of Internet access / digital literacy in Havana. I’m compiling a list of Twitter accounts relating to Cuba, particularly regarding human, community and environmental development issues and ICT4D. So far:

  • @ONU_Cuba – Sistema de Naciones Unidas en Cuba (various United Nations agencies in Cuba)
  • @FAOCuba – Noticias e información sobre alimentación, agricultura y lucha contra el hambre compartidas por la Representación de la FAO en Cuba
  • @cubaperiodistas – La Unión de Periodistas de Cuba agrupa a los profesionales de la información y se creó el 15 de julio de 1963.
  • @AcnuUnacuba – ONG cubana sin fines de lucro. Defendemos y divulgamos principios y la Carta ONU. Tenemos Status consultivo ante ECOSOC.
  • @ETECSA_Cuba – Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. Fundada en 1994. Operador de servicios de telefonía Fija, Móvil y Datos.
  • @MINCOMCuba – Las Comunicaciones al servicio de la sociedad
  • @CubarteNews – Music, dance, painting, theater, the extraordinary, dynamic, intense Cuban cultural setting.
  • @CubanSP – Cuban Partnerships, Hosting #BroadcastCuba2015 in Havana for #broadcast #telecom #radio #TV professionals.
  • @economistacuba – El Economista de Cuba
  • @fossworkshopCub – Foss Workshop Cuba (hasn’t been updated since 2015)
  • @tinamodotti71 – Cubana, periodista y editora del portal www.cubasi.cu
  • @cimarron61 – Rafel Campoamor, ciberactivista por el empoderamiento ciudadano a través de las TICs en Cuba y el Tercer Mundo. Bridging the digital divide. Empowerrment through ICT.
  • @InformaticaHab – Evento internacional del sector TIC con mas de 20 ediciones celebradas, tiene lugar en La Habana, Cuba cada dos años. Also @InformaticaHav.
  • @ffxmania – Firefoxmanía, comunidad de Mozilla de Cuba
  • @BloghumanOS – humanOS surgió para contribuir al fomento del uso del software libre en Cuba.

Feel free to add to this list! You can add such in the comments, or tweet me at @jcravens42

How Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) uses Twitter – update on resources

logoI’ve been updating a blog I wrote earlier in December about communications activities not just to create awareness, but to persuade, to change minds, and to create advocates. There’s a new resource there regarding how Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) uses Twitter to create trending hashtags, and new info about an Islamic-based effort to counter Daesh’s messages. Check it out!

Internet tools needing improvement

There are a lot of software applications – apps – I use regularly – and some that I’m using less-regularly, because of “improvements” by developers. So many apps are becoming so poorly-designed that they are becoming unusable, yet I read about many of these companies whining about how many users they’ve been losing.

So let me do you a favor, designers: here’s more than a dozen ways that the apps I use regularly – and millions of others use regularly – really, truly could be improved:

  • Flickr – Bring back the narrative slide show view. Yes, most people just look at photos, and look at them on their smart phones. But there are a lot of us who want to see the narrative too – not every photo is self-explanatory.
  • Facebook – So many changes needed:
    • Make adding and removing people from lists as easy as adding and removing people from circles on GooglePlus. Right now, it is SO hard to do. And there’s no “at a glance” way to see who is one which list. I would use Facebook oh-so-much more if the lists were easier to use.
    • Make it possible to put Facebook pages into lists. I would love to be able to put causes I really love, and want to follow, on a list, so I could look just at that list sometimes.
    • Make it possible to delete smart lists from a person’s view of lists – I have a company listed on my account that I have NEVER worked for. I have no idea how it got there, but there’s no way for me to remove it! It looks like I worked there – but I never did.
    • Create a blog space for users the way MySpace used to have. I could create a blog that someone could view WITHOUT being a member of MySpace – but the only way for someone to comment it on it unless they were signed in. You would end up taking market share from Tumblr and Medium and so many blog spaces if you did that.
  • Twitter:
    • Make it possible to view lists I create, as well as the list of accounts I follow and the list of those that follow me, viewable however I want (alphabetical, oldest to newest, etc.)
    • Keep it simple! That’s the beauty of Twitter! Please stop trying to be like Facebook. I connect with people and organizations I really need to know, even get job leads, from Twitter – that NEVER happens on Facebook. You are going to ruin Twitter if you keep “adding” Facebook features.
  • YahooGroups, formerly my favorite app:
    • Please, please, please go back to non-threaded discussions. You’re threaded way of doing things have killed discussions on most of the groups I’m on.
    • Create a fee-based service for users who don’t want ads on their groups, including no ads in emails generated by messages on the group. I will HAPPILY pay that fee! So would many, many thousands of other users!
  • Google
    • regarding GoogleGroups: go look at YahooGroups from 2002 or so – if your interface looked more like that, you’d still massive numbers of users from not only Yahoo, but from various online collaboration web sites as well.
    • GoogleCalendar: Please reconsider your decision to stop sending calendar updates via SMS! I don’t always have great Internet access. And there are LOTS of people that still use feature phones that don’t have apps. We need our SMS reminders!
  • iTunes – STOP BEING STUPID. Instead, start beta-testing your interface with non-software developers, as well as people over 25. I am not a stupid person, and yet, it takes me way too long to figure out how to add a song to a playlist, how to remove one, how to play just one album, and on and on.

Those are my ideas. Get right on that, ‘kay?

Taking a stand when you are supposed to be neutral/not controversial

handstopSo many people responsible for communications at nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government programs and international development agencies like the United Nations do their work from a place of fear: fear of negative publicity, fear of reprimand from supervisors or partner organizations, fear of controversy, etc. One of the consequences of this fear-based work style is that these communications professionals overly-censor themselves on social media, avoiding messages that relate directly to their program’s mission, simply because they don’t want to make anyone angry.

It’s impossible to work in communications and not make anyone angry. Impossible. While I think it is very important to be culturally-sensitive/appropriate in communications, the reality is that the work of most mission-based organizations is meant to grow understanding and change minds – and that means, at least sometimes, being challenging, even provocative. I long ago accepted that not everyone is going to like the messages of whatever program I’m representing, even messages that seem quite benign and non-controversial to me. As long as I make all messages reflective of the mission of the program, and ensure all messages come from a place of sincerity and honesty, I make no apologies.

If you want to post a message to social media that promotes something that relates to your program’s mission, but you want to keep negative responses to a minimum – or have a solid response to anyone who complains about such a message, including a board member or donor, here’s what you do: find the message you want to say on your headquarter’s Facebook or Twitter account, or a partner organization’s account, and share it or retweet it.

Here’s an example: I’ve had colleagues at the UN say, “We cannot talk about rights for gay people. It will make too many people angry.” Yet, the UN has a human rights MANDATE that includes rights for gay people. So, what could an office in such a position do in order to promote that human rights message and have a firm defense for doing so in the face of criticism? Follow the United Nations Free & Equal initiative on Twitter (@free_equal) and on Facebook. This is an initiative of the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights (follow that initiative on Twitter and Facebook as well). Share and retweet the messages that initiative says that you feel you cannot say yourself, such as this video from the UN Secretary General in support of the Free & Equal initiative. No one can argue that you shouldn’t share it – unless they can point to a specific, verifiable threat as a result of such a message that could endanger staff.

Another example: while working in a country with a lot of armed conflict going on, our communications office decided that celebrating the UN’s international day of peace with our own messages could be seen as taking sides in the hostilities – saying “We hope for peace” could be interpreted as encouraging one side to “give in” to another. So we decided not to post our own messages – but to share and retweet official UN messages related to international peace day.

It’s a good idea to make a list of Twitter accounts and Facebook accounts that interns and/or volunteers could monitor and whose messages they could share or retweet without pre-approval from a supervisor. You might want to also make a list of accounts they should absolutely *not* retweet or share; for instance, at one work site, I would not allow articles from a certain media outlet to be shared or retweeted via our official account, because I felt the media outlet was profoundly biased against our work and because I felt their articles were often riddled with misinformation.

No matter what: keep communications mission-based. Think about the intent of your message: To educate regarding an issue related to your program’s mission? To encourage someone to do something related to your cause? To celebrate your program’s activities or accomplishments? To create goodwill with a certain community? Always be able to justify any message you want to send.

And did you see what I just did there?

Also see:

Why you should separate your personal life and private life online

 

 

How to Handle Online Criticism / Conflict

the scale of how we communicate online

From How to Fix Online Intimacy by Kyle Chayka for Pacific Standard Magazine:

Online exchanges that were once seen as too shallow to be authentic (we can’t have real relationships without face-to-face interaction, the critique goes) are now overwhelming in their volume and the degree to which they expose us to others… It’s not so much how we communicate online that has changed, but its scale.

Of course, I’ve never thought online interactions were shallow, and I’ve never thought you couldn’t have real relationships without face-to-face interaction. Maybe it’s because I’ve had long-distance friendships where old-fashioned postal letters and phone calls were how we communicated. Or maybe it’s because I just love the written word, and never think it’s somehow less intimate than having a live conversation (in fact, it can often be so much MORE intimate!). Still, I really liked this article because, for the most part, it reinforces my own feelings about online communications, which I’ve expressed on my blog, on my web site, and in workshops many times:

  1. online communications can be just as intense or personal as offline, face-to-face communications, and that’s both a blessing and curse,
  2. you need to think about your online activities in different personas, just as you do offline, and
  3. you DO have a lot of control your online interactions, how people perceive you online, and how you react to online perceptions.

Say you are a manager of volunteers. You don’t get to spend much time with individual volunteers, because you manage so many. But through social media, they learn you have a new dog, or that you ride a motorcycle on weekends, or that you weave – and perhaps that helps them relate to you more as a three-dimensional person, not just the person that schedules them to work and asks them to fill out program evaluations. That’s great! But then the downside: maybe a volunteer wants to go on a motorcycle ride together, or wants to meet up at the dog park – and you really don’t want to socialize with volunteers outside of work. Of course that’s a problem you can have even without social media, but the Internet makes such personal information MUCH easier to find and for communications outside of work to happen. That can be annoying at least and, at worst, creepy.

It’s not just comedians, movie stars and preachers that often have two different personas, one public for the audiences and the press, another for only very close family and friends. As I noted in my blog Why You SHOULD Separate Your Personal Life & Professional Life Online, you are already different people offline – what you say and how you act around your good friends in the evenings, away from families, is probably not exactly the same as what you say and how you act around your grandmother, or your employer. I remember dancing at a music festival… on stage… and being mortified when I realized a co-worker was in the audience. It’s why, on many social media platforms, I have two different accounts: one for the professional “me,” the one you are experiencing now, and one for the me I reserve for only my very closet friends or others that are really into Benedict Cumberbatch.

Chayka’s piece makes a great companion to these recent remarks by NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson on “CBS This Morning” regarding Facebook “privacy” and my blog Freaking out over Facebook privacy? Both of those blogs offer steps to keep your online activities fun, to maintain and grow both personal and private relationships, but also to keep better control of what you share online.