Apr 25 2014

Shareable web content raises the profile of Oregon 4-H

Photo by Flickr:West Point - The U.S. Military Academy

Photo by Flickr:West Point – The U.S. Military Academy

Kids learning to dig the taste of vegetables. Youth powering up model rockets and engineering Lego robots. Children exploring their cultural heritage through dance.

These activities make 4-H, the Oregon State University Extension Service’s youth development programs, shine. The state fair and animals have always been vital to 4-H. But its nontraditional programming exposes kids to science in ways that could radically transform education.

That’s all powerful, important stuff. But not much of it is newsworthy — it stays the same year to year and it’s often not controversial. My task was to raise visibility for 4-H. This in turn would recruit new families and funds for the programs.

For some time, I wrote press releases about scholarships and awards. I broadcasted them to dozens of newspapers all over the state using a press release distribution service. These occasionally got attention in smaller-circulation hometown newspapers, if they had space that week.

So I got to thinking. Who’s my audience? 4-H families and future recruits, pretty much. What do they want to read about? What impacts them? They want to read about the cool ways their friends are making a difference in 4-H. They want to read personal, human stories. They want to read what sets 4-H apart from other after-school clubs and sports.

So I developed a series of web-only stories focusing on how 4-H served culturally diverse audiences with nontraditional programming. I explored programs that exposed kids to science, technology, engineering and math. To develop these stories, I made cold calls to regional 4-H leaders, checking in with what they were doing. I scoured websites and newsletters for ideas. I mined their social media pages. I deepened already good relationships.

As a result, I produced the stories below.

I distributed these stories via email to staff and administrators connected to the sources in the story. I encouraged them to repurpose the content in newsletters, websites and social media sites. I posted the content on Extension’s social media sites. I sent strategic news tips to local reporters. I got attention from the Molalla Pioneer, the Burns Times Herald, the Curry Coastal Pilot and KMUN local news radio in Astoria, who said they were interested in pursuing a story or running the story I wrote. A couple of these stories also appeared word-for-word in the Ag Weekly/Prairie Star online newspaper.

These stories take a little more legwork to report, as I always round up testimonials from people impacted by these programs and talk with multiple sources. But they are more effective than merely broadcasting. Newspapers want to get an exclusive, and it’s a good way to build a relationship and trust. Plus, the content can be repurposed in so many other ways as well. The ripple effects go far in these digital times, increasing the footprint of 4-H in the process.


Apr 19 2014

Denise’s Picks: Ten Riveting Reads This Week

Don’t believe them.

Journalism is not in its death throes.

Every week I scour the interwebs for the best journalism. I dig up interesting, thought-provoking long-form pieces, human-interest features, science and technology news and yes, even listicles that provide more depth than just linkbait. I don’t do cute cat memes, though I admit a soft spot for Grumpy Cat. My delightful distraction instead? Ancient cartography. And insects.

I’ve made it my mission to locate quirky, intriguing, well-told stories, both to stay informed and to improve my own writing. Expect this list every Saturday.

Without further ado, here are my picks this week.

1. Five Ways to Eat Seaweed | Smithsonian Magazine — In a fit of nostalgia for the year I lived in Japan, I’ve dabbled lately in Japanese cookery and discovered the joy of edible seaweed. This article inspires me to eat more seaweed.

2. The Case of the Closely Watched Courtesans | Slate Magazine — The best crime novel does not get better than this slice of real life history. It would seem the French police obsessively tracked the kept women of the 18th century. This is brilliant.

3. Can It Be? Parrots Name Their Children, and Those Names, Like Ours, Stick for Life | NPR — There are a couple of reasons why I enjoyed this story. I have a pet lovebird and I’m intrigued by brain science. More than those, the writing style captured my attention. The author introduced this piece with a first-person anecdote, throwing several idioms into the fray, and it just works. Besides, you can’t go wrong with an awfully cute video.

4. The Dark and Dangerous World of Extreme Cavers | The New Yorker — You will immediately find yourself riveted by this captivating tale of a world that few of us have experienced. Burkhard Bilger crafts his prose in an excellent build-up of drama and tension, sprinkling details in all the right places.

5. Your Road Trip, Reimagined as a Glorious 16th Century Map | The Atlantic Cities — For some people, cat videos are the epitome of the Internet. The more power to them. My version of cat videos? I love maps. Ancient maps? Even better. The ironic part is, I’m famous for my stubborn lack of a sense of direction. I love maps because they change throughout history while revealing the art of place. Artist Connie Brown has created a truly wonderful project.

6. General Mills Legal Policy Change Spooks Fans | Mashable — As an online community manager, this news immediately sparked my interest. It’s more than a PR disaster; talk about inspiring total shutdown of participation in online communities. The lesson I took away from this? It’s difficult to quantify policies that encourage freedom of speech and transparency, but they are absolutely imperative. This is not the earned media you want.

7. Kombucha and the Booze-Free Kegger | Outside Magazine — Fermentation is extremely trendy, and as a reluctantly described foodie I follow food crazes like this with interest. I’m definitely a kombucha virgin, but this article makes me want to check out these parties.

8. Welcome to Ground Zero — Literally — for Sea Level Rise in North America | TakePart — I am immediately drawn into the breathtaking, intimate urgency of this piece, which does an incredible job of bringing climate change stats and harrowing predictions into the realm of the personal. The opening scene takes you to the alligator sauce piquante and proud provincialism of the Bayou. It’s a portrait of the Wild Game Supper and how climate change has impacted the people who participate in this cultural tradition.

9. How Capital Letters Became Internet Code for Yelling | The New Republic — A short piece, but timely and culturally interesting. ALSO, BE NICE.

10. Station to Station: The Past, Present, and Future of Streaming Music | Pitchfork — Because, Record Store Day. And it uses multimedia in cool ways.


Apr 16 2014

Time for a new adventure.

DSC_0362I have some sad news to share and it’s not the news I wanted to blog about. My contract with Oregon State University’s Extension and Experiment Station Communications Department, which was funded on soft money, is ending in July. So I am looking for new career opportunities.

What am I thinking next for those opportunities? I’d like to stay at OSU or Corvallis, but I am also interested in Eugene and Portland, and out of state for the right path. I’m seeking a career that would fit my skill set in social media strategy and training, online media, marketing, multimedia and photography, media relations, building strong relationships with sources and journalistic writing.

I’m also seeing this as an opportunity to branch out into a new career to which my skills can translate, such as administrative support or grant writing. I’m interested in the public sector, nonprofits, government or education, but also private companies, B2B and software firms. If you hear of anything, please let me know.

I have really enjoyed my time at OSU and will miss the department. I really believe in the mission of the Extension Service. It was truly rewarding to advance agriculture, community, human health and well-being by extending practical information to people. I made it my mission to promote the brand profile of Extension.

One aspect of that mission that has made an impact on me was Extension’s gardening information. There’s nothing more powerful than teaching someone to garden. I know from personal experience that it is empowering to feel the dirt between your fingernails, to know the joy and exhaustion after a hard day of weeding, and to understand that your food does not come from a store. Gardening ties people closer to their communities and improves their health. And social media reaches that information to people where they are in the modern world.

It was rewarding to promote that information to people not only through social media, but also traditional media outreach. Read my gardening press releases here. They were picked up verbatim as a regular column in dozens of media outlets throughout the state, including the Oregonian and KATU’s AM Northwest. Expect more pieces from me through July.

I achieved media outreach success because I have first-hand experience of what reporters want. I come with seven years’ experience as a journalist as well, working for community newspapers in Florence and Stayton. In Stayton, I ran a bureau office for four years by myself, responding to complex inquiries in a town of 7,000, and writing news on daily deadlines for the Statesman Journal. I have a keen nose for newsworthy stories and a dogged ability to dig up information. I also pride myself on my ability to build a network of sources who trust me for my integrity, reliability and fair, accurate writing style.

So, unfortunately I am closing the page on one chapter in my life, but I can’t wait to see what adventure comes next.


Mar 4 2014

Target your marketing copy for different social networks

You may fall for the tempting trap of convenience to use a third-party service to post the same status update to all your social networks at once. But honestly, you’re driving away business by not targeting your writing to the different audiences who use each platform.

It’s as simple as that “Social Media Explained with Bacon” graphic that’s circulated around the Internet, but it’s so much juicier than bacon.

First get to know the audiences who use each platform. For the purposes of this blog post, I will discuss Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Don’t get lost in the weeds of all the masses of new social networks that spring into being each year. Figure out the audience that uses each platform, the culture and types of content that are shared the easiest on each platform and adjust your strategy accordingly. Only choose to expend your resources on a social network if it meets your business goals. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.

Facebook remains the most popular social network; 71 percent of online adults use it, compared to 21 percent of online adults who use Pinterest and 18 percent of online adults who use Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center.

Here are some more demographics data from Pew:

Facebook

  • Facebook users are very engaged with the site. Sixty-three percent of Facebook users visit the site at least once a day.
  • 73 percent of Hispanics online use Facebook.
  • 84 percent of online adults who use Facebook are between the ages of 18-29.
  • 60 percent are between the ages of 50-64, the network’s fastest-growing age group.
  • Sixty-eight percent have a college degree.

Twitter

  • Some 46 percent of Twitter users are daily visitors.
  • Twitter is particularly appealing to younger adults, urban dwellers and non-whites.
  • Twenty-nine percent of online adults who use Twitter are black.
  • 16 percent are white.
  • Thirty-one percent of online adults who use Twitter are between the ages of 18-29.
  • Eighteen percent have a college degree and 19 percent make a salary of more than 75,000 per year.

Pinterest

  • Women are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users.
  • 25 percent have a college degree.
  • 27 percent earn $75,000 or more a year.

Finally, understand that each network has a different culture, a different news feed format that follows different algorithms and different rules of etiquette.

Facebook

  • Based on personal connections, friends and family.
  • Writing tends to be casual, emotional. Users tend to censor themselves to accommodate many different social circles, from parents to coworkers to former high school classmates.
  • Users tend to curate big past events in their lives. They post vacation photos and document their children growing up.
  • Users are grazers, checking their feed while multi-tasking. They don’t respond well to anything too deep, serious or complicated and intellectual.
  •  Interactions are built on the fact that you can “like” posts. Status updates tend to be written in a way that would elicit encouragement, moral support and cheerleading. Users want to know they’ve got each other’s backs.
  • Strong visual element. Pretty pictures or pictures that show people having fun or doing good.
  • Stay positive. It’s OK to post controversial or negative things, but frame your writing in a way that would give people a reason to click “like” or comment. For example, it’s eliciting support or discussion.
  • Facebook’s algorithm discourages links and “memes” and encourages original user-generated content such as photographs and status updates.

Twitter

  • Based on professional connections, or you might find a user writes interesting posts.
  • The tone tends to be more humorous, laid back and less formal than Facebook.
  • Strong element of hashtags, though it is bad form to use more than three in one post. Hashtags are searchable keywords that curate the discussion related to that topic.
  • Twitter offers real-time updates and the feed is presented in chronological order, unlike Facebook which curates posts based on popularity. News, headlines and articles dominate the feed.
  • Pictures are starting to gain more traction.
  • The shorter the update, the better retweeted.
  • Interactions are based on the “retweet,” when people like your post enough that they want to amplify it to all their followers. But note that retweets are generally not endorsements.
  • Good for live-tweeting of conferences and breaking news so that people who aren’t there physically can still find out what’s going on up to the minute.
  • Strong tie to mobile devices and text messaging.
  • Updates are limited to 140 characters, which forces you to write concisely and get to the point in an appealing, creative or funny enough way that people will want to retweet you or click on the link you post.

Pinterest

  • Pictures tell a thousand words. “Food porn” in particular.
  • Users search for keywords to find pictures. It follows that the more keywords you can insert in a description of a picture, the better, as long as it reads seamlessly.
  • Blatant self-promotion is frowned upon. If you just post your original content and nothing else, you will not fit in with the culture and people won’t repin your stuff as much. You get what you give.
  • Repin as much as you post original content. Repin with the idea that you are showing your brand personality through visuals. Are you a luxury brand? Have boards for world-class vacations, watches, famous golf courses and the like. Use Pinterest for branding and to portray the kind of lifestyle you project for your ideal customer.

For all social networks, it’s important to have a sense of humor and have a little fun with it. Strategize, but don’t overthink it. Impulse, after all, built the social media empire. Don’t post anything you would not want published above the fold on the front page of the newspaper that your mom reads every day. Be intentional about it. Be flexible, adaptive and responsive to customer questions, complaints and demands. Always end with a call to action — clink on a link, retweet this, comment here.

But mostly, just roll with it.

Denise Ruttan


Nov 24 2013

Why Chipotle’s ‘Scarecrow’ Ad Lost My Respect

A tasty burrito. (Photo by Flickr:theCSSdiv)

Storytelling is all the rage in content marketing these days. A good story told well is a powerful thing. We’re hardwired to respond to stories, after all.

But please, make sure your story represents your brand with honesty, accuracy and authenticity. Don’t waste your resources on content marketing if it makes you lose credibility with prospects.

Case in point: Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” ad. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE

It’s a compelling story told well. In many ways it is a model example of a good story. It features a hero and a villain. It appeals to our emotions with memorable characters. The plot follows the hero’s journey archetype. It moved me. It put me on the side of the protagonist, who is overwhelmed by an industrial, mass-produced nightmare otherworld. It reaches a folksy climax when the Scarecrow abandons his nightmare to start his own farm stand in the shadow of an ugly factory. A mournful Fiona Apple song swells. It even featured tortured cows.

In theory, I represent the market Chipotle is trying to reach. I support organic food and sustainable farming practices. I accept that people will buy fast food. But I don’t want our only choices to be McDonald’s and Taco Bell. I like the idea of healthy, fresh-when-possible convenience food. Chipotle made a groundbreaking commitment to phase out GMO products by 2014. Its tagline is “food with integrity.” It’s put a huge investment in marketing to push its sustainable production practices and transparency in its supply chains.

For whatever reasons, Chipotle has achieved a successful niche in a challenging business model. Chipotle made $826.9 million in profit in the third quarter of 2013 alone, according to a press release. They run more than 1,500 restaurants throughout the U.S. That’s not a folksy farm stand.

I respect big companies for making environmentally friendly choices. Their massive buying power influences market practices beyond mere greenwashing. Generally, though, I’m not a fan of multi-million dollar chains and prefer to pour my dollars into small, local businesses. But I don’t think any company is too big to do the right thing. Given a choice between Taco Bell and Chipotle, I’d choose Chipotle.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t know that the ad was selling Chipotle when I clicked on the link. (Maybe that was my mistake; maybe not.) On some level, I was charmed by its plot and kept wondering which nonprofit had the budget to put together something this slick. But then the ad reached the end credits and the well-hidden call to action for Chipotle.

It didn’t inspire me to support Chipotle — quite the opposite. I felt depressed about our food system and the challenges it faces. Perhaps Chipotle really does see itself as a small, local business fighting a cruel factory-farm world. But I see it as a fast food chain trying to do the right thing but not always succeeding. It made me angry. I felt manipulated and deceived. It was selling based on fear, misrepresentation and emotional manipulation.

I shopped at my local food coop for the first time after watching that ad. I have not set foot in a Chipotle since.

Ironically, before I saw the ad, I felt Chipotle’s transparency about their supply chains was more compelling than any slick marketing campaigns they’ve run. I am more impressed by accuracy, honesty and third-party certification of practices.

Stories are powerful things. But make sure you don’t see your brand as the local food coop when you’re not. Make sure your content accurately represents your brand. Know your audience. Granted, Chipotle got virility, engagement and media attention for the ad, so by those measures it was a success.

Maybe you were fooled by that Chipotle ad. I wasn’t. We must hold accountable the companies we respect. Companies must exercise transparency in marketing as well as supply chain practices. Chipotle, you can do better.

Here’s a more honest version and it’s brilliant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYZgWYZlAZU

— Denise Ruttan


Oct 9 2013

Four Ways To Avoid A Reporter’s Blacklist

Newspapers (Flickr:NS Newsflash)

A stack of newspapers sits on a desk. (Photo by Flickr:NS Newsflash)

I’ve worked in communications for the OSU Extension Service for nearly a year. After submitting weekly “how-to” gardening stories to newspapers and various media outlets every week, I’ve landed spots in the following papers at one time or another:

The Oregonian
Statesman Journal
Polk County Itemizer-Observer
Corvallis Gazette-Times
Albany Democrat-Herald
Hillsboro Tribune
Lake Oswego Review
Medford Mail-Tribune
Ashland Daily Tidings
Bend Bulletin
McKenzie River Reflections
Canyon Weekly
The St. Helens Chronicle
The Roseburg News-Review
Portland Tribune
Eugene Register-Guard
Klamath Falls Herald and News
Newport News-Times

How did I do it? By following a few simple guidelines. Those guidelines come from first-hand knowledge of what reporters want. I worked as a reporter for seven years. After being on the receiving end of countless successful and failed sales pitches I learned all I needed to know about public relations from the people who didn’t do it right — and those who “got” it.

1.) For my gardening stories, I write a journalistic piece, a sort of “syndicated column,” containing accurate, credible information. I make sure my content is engaging, SEO-friendly, no more than three-quarters to one full page and easy to digest. It should feature catchy headlines, a clever lede and at least one colorful quote from the source I interviewed. I often rely on the popular “listicle” format (Six tools for the vegetable gardener…) but I am very against so-called “linkbait.” Above all, my content must offer practical, research-based advice. I try to include two high-resolution photos, one vertical and one horizontal. Think about page layout. Want a reporter to ignore you? Provide content after an event takes place (untimely), a notification of an event mere hours before it takes place, content that’s not helpful or useful, content that has no news value, or content that lacks universal appeal and relevance.

2.) I am reliable and consistent, sending out stories every Friday morning. I make myself available when reporters call, understand their deadlines and the pressures of breaking news cycles and try to help rather than get in the way. I send a follow-up email if I suspect my press release is going to a junk inbox, but I am wary of unsolicited contact, knowing how busy reporters are these days. I tend to email rather than call knowing how much time it saves. I let them call me. Too many phone calls to reporters and you’ll likely get landed in junk mail limbo – not accidentally.

3.) I do my research and pick the right editors and reporters who deal with home and garden beats. I constantly update my list as reporters leave or I find an editor who’s more interested in my content. I read and follow a lot of media outlets and become familiar with their markets.

4.) Above all else, never assume, and never expect a guarantee. Never ask, “When will this story run?” That is the best way to end up on a reporter’s black list. Often, reporters just don’t know, or the ultimate decision is outside of their control as pages are laid out by copy editors and news editors according to a pre-determined story “budget” only flexible for breaking news. Whether copy runs also depends on the news cycle and the news “hole” — that ever-shrinking ratio of advertising to editorial space for any given issue.

Journalism and public relations walk a fine line. Respect that line and respect the public service that journalists offer us. Their job is not to satisfy your clients; that’s your job. Make life easier for reporters, leave your attitude and expectations at the door and reporters will work with you for a good story idea if the timing is right. (Which brings me to another point – no story pitches on election nights or during big murder investigations.)

Provide a pitch that is newsworthy, compelling beyond your clients’ interests and packaged in the most convenient manner possible for the appropriate reporter or editor.

Then celebrate when a reporter calls, because quite frankly, you’ve won the lottery.


Oct 6 2013

Five fall gardening stories for OSU

Here’s a sampling of several of the gardening stories I wrote for the Oregon State University Extension Service this fall. These are press releases that are distributed weekly on a new gardening “how-to” topic. They’re all copyright Oregon State University.

1. Start an herb garden on your kitchen window this fall
It’s a good time of year from early August through mid-October to plant perennial herbs in containers, Miller said. Any type of well-drained container and regular potting soil will do.
Published: Corvallis Gazette Times

2. Six attractive plants to brighten winter days in western Oregon
Fall is a good time to plant shrubs and trees that will cheer up western Oregon’s often gloomy winter days.

3. Pick a low-maintenance grass lawn this September
Lawn looking lackluster? Mid-August to early October is a sweet spot in the calendar year to sow fresh grass seed or replace an existing lawn throughout the state, according to Alec Kowalewski, turfgrass specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.
Published: Statesman Journal, Polk County Itemizer-Observer

4. These cold-hardy vegetables may stick it out through the winter
The fearless gardener still has a chance to plant some cold-hardy vegetables to harvest next spring, said Jim Myers, plant breeder and researcher at Oregon State University. But don’t dawdle.
Published: Polk County Itemizer-Observer

5. Make your garden less inviting to slugs
Stymied by slugs that can plod through your chard and cabbage, leaving a slimy trail of destruction?
Put away that salt shaker, advises Robin Rosetta, an entomologist for the Oregon State University Extension Service. Table salt can build up in the soil over time and damage plants.


Oct 6 2013

Water mold genome study press release garners international attention

A press release I wrote for Oregon State University, Aquaculture industry may benefit from water mold genome study, got picked up by U.K.-based magazine International Aquafeed Magazine.

Check out page 3 in the September-October 2013 issue.

The press release was distributed July 12, 2013 and copyright Oregon State University.


Jan 5 2013

Six easy tips to become a Twitter ninja

I can get pretty far in convincing people of the value of Twitter. I think of it like a social bookmarking site in which I find articles that are interesting to me based on recommendations from people who have similar passions. Sort of like subscribing to magazines. It’s also a good marketing tool. Even if people are still mistakenly convinced that Twitter isn’t good for anything but posting pictures of random lunches, I can sell it as an excellent media relations device, since most journalists are Twitter ninjas these days.

But the roadblock that many Twitter newbies can’t get past is how to cut through all the white noise to broadcast a useful signal.

You follow people based on interests, not personal connections, so you amass many more followers than Facebook. On Facebook, 150-250 “friends” is average. On Twitter, it is easy to collect 1,000 followers in a few months.

Each of those followers also post much more frequently than on Facebook, adding even more to the white noise.

The fact is that you’ll miss stuff on Twitter. It’s impossible to keep up with thousands of tweets from thousands of people even if you do nothing but maintain a Twitter account all day, constantly glued to your phone. You don’t even get everyone’s tweets since promoted posts get mixed in with the mass.

But there are steps you can take to make life easier on yourself.

I’ll start with how to hone in on the signals that are interesting to you among the noise.

1. Utilize lists.

Twitter has a feature where you can create lists of subject areas in which you can organize your followers. Use lists strategically. If you don’t want to miss tweets from a few friends, create a list for 10 friends. If you want to be sure to interact with particular journalists, create a list for “Local Journalists,” say, or “Science Journalists.”

2. Be selective about whom you follow back.

Don’t follow every Russian punk band and Miami pole dancer that follows you. The nature of Twitter is designed to encourage you to build more followers, at any cost, but you don’t have to follow everyone back and those followers can still see your tweets since everything is public. It just means you won’t see their tweets in your news feed, and you can filter it down to specific interests.

3. Don’t tweet about everything.

Become an expert in specific niche topics and tweet about those. For example, love college football? Tweet about nothing but college football. Maybe throw in college basketball or NFL tweets, too. Then you will build an audience of people who are interested in college football who are more likely to add you to their college football lists and thus see your tweets.

4. Use a third-party monitoring tool like Hootsuite.

Use such monitoring tools as Hootsuite, a browser-based tool that lets you organize specific hashtags or search keywords into lists to easier follow topics of interest. You can also group followers into lists. Twitter caps the number of people you can follow at 2,000 (though no limit on the people who can follow you), so Hootsuite lets you keep track of an unlimited number of Tweeters. Another advantage: Auto-schedule your tweets for certain dates and times using these tools, rather than having to be on Twitter at all times of the day. Others include Tweetdeck and Buffer – as well as a whole host of similar services, some free, some “freemium,” many paid.

5. Follow hashtags.

A hashtag is not a person or a website. It’s a phrase or keyword that functions as a search term to find topics of interest. The number sign converts it into a hyperlink that you can click on to find more tweets from people who are talking about that topic area. Find a few hashtags that many people in your market are interacting with. For example, for gardening, the big one is #gardenchat. Then track discussions using such tools as Hootsuite. You can attract new followers based on your use of that hashtag, and make sure what you’re posting is still relevant to your audience.

6. Monitor your own use of social media.

Once you appreciate the value of such services as Twitter and get into it, it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the information it offers, to let it become a so-called “time sucking black hole” on your day.

Set up a schedule for your use of social media. Use autoschedulers to post on Facebook and Twitter. Manage your social media presence for an hour or two each morning when you check your email, or at the end of the day; whatever works best with your flow. Respond to client interactions in a timely manner and understand the peak hours for different social media services. But going back to my original point: Even if you do nothing but monitor Twitter 24 hours a day, you will miss out on tweets that might have interested you. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged by that.

Instead use that baseline as an opportunity to think strategically about your Twitter use.

Only then will you be on your way to becoming a true Twitter ninja.


Nov 24 2012

Make it best practice to review your Facebook privacy settings

Should you separate your personal and professional social media identities? Should you add coworkers, your boss, sources, business partners, vendors, to your social media lists? Should you need a safe space online where you can be free to express your beliefs without fear of offending business partners?

Whatever you decide, remember that nothing on the Internet is private, even if this sounds like an obvious sentiment. This is especially true for Facebook now that people can hit the “share” button on your images and links, regardless of whether you’ve posted it to a custom list. You should weigh the pros and cons carefully when deciding how much to open up your social media profiles, whether to create two different profiles, to craft a false identity for “private” social media use or whether to simply divide up friends into custom lists.

Regardless of what you decide, it’s best practice to regularly review your Facebook privacy settings on all your social media profiles. The guidelines change so often on Facebook that it’s important to make sure your data is still as private as you thought every three to six months.

1. Look for your audience settings on your individual inline posts.

You can select which audience sees your posts any time you type into the “What’s on your mind?” dialogue box.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the dialogue box, the audience that sees your post is defined by which icon shows up.

Click on the drop-down tab by “Friends” to change the audience.

Here’s another view, on your home page/news feed:

Note the pull-down tab at the bottom right-hand corner of the “What’s on your mind?” box for audience setting. You can change which audience sees your post by changing the icon.

2. Which audience?

You can change the audience to “Public,” “Friends,” “Friends of Friends,” or “Custom.” Each audience has its own icon. Public posts are viewed by anyone on the Internet, regardless of whether they are friends with you. If you select “Friends of Friends,” any mutual friends can see whatever you post. So if your coworker is following your boss, your boss could see everything you post to “friends of friends” even if you are not following your boss if your boss clicks on your profile.

Here’s what the icons look like:

3. Here’s where you check your default privacy settings, versus the privacy settings on each individual post.

Click on “Privacy settings.” Regularly review this default page, since guidelines change often and without notice on Facebook.

4. Create a custom list

You can create lists on Facebook to take another privacy measure. Custom lists are groups of friends that you select from all your friends. You could create a list that excludes coworkers, for example, without taking the coworker off your friends list.

Click on “More” near “Friends”:

Then click on the “create list” button and drag and drop the profile picture icons of friends in a new list.

5. Reviewing your friends’ privacy settings

On your news feed, posts from friends will appear like this:

Find the icon on the right-hand bottom corner that tells you which audience can see the post. This time, the setting for the Fine Cooking post is “public,” meaning anyone can see activity on that post – activity involves comments, likes, public shares.

Be aware that if you comment or like a post that is set to “public,” your friends could see your activity in their news feed. If your friends have a small friends list, they see more of your activity. They see less of your activity the larger their friends list. If you like or comment on a post marked “friends of friends,” it’s similar. Not quite completely public, but more people than you might expect can see your activity.

Keep in mind these tips when regularly reviewing your Facebook privacy settings. Also remember to check these steps when you’re posting from your mobile phone.

You can’t completely control your data on the Internet these days, but reviewing your privacy settings and deciding on best practices gives you another level of security.