College Admissions, Employers differ on social media background checks

The biggest fear of most parents is that their kid will put something on a social media profile and this will completely scotch the kid’s future college acceptance.  Turns out that college admissions officers are far more lenient on young people than

I knew I shouldn't have drunkbooked last night....
I knew I shouldn’t have drunkbooked last night….

potential employers.   According to Kaplan Test Prep’s survey of 422 college admissions officers,  more than two-thirds (69%) of college admissions officers never bother to check an applicant’s social profiles.

This doesn’t mean that they won’t do a Google Search on the applicant.  About one-third, or 29 percent, will perform a Google Search–which nowadays is kind of like a general background check.  So, if a kid’s name’s appeared in the local paper, or even a school paper (if digitized) the chances are that this information will show up in search.  Whether or not the same folks who do a Google search are the same who check social media profiles of applicants, or if they are different groups, is unknown.

However, when it comes to employers, both kids and adults still have to be careful what they post on social media profiles.  Inappropriate comments, pictures of drinking or drug use, criticizing an employer, or derogatory comments about someone’s race, gender, or religion can be cause for an employer to eliminate someone applying for a job.  Employers cannot ask direct questions about someone’s personal life, but they are often keen to know details.   Hence their desire to find and root around in one’s social media profiles.   With young people ages 16-24, the chances of being eliminated are pretty high–around one in ten–according to a survey from On Device Research.   The Career Builder survey from April of 2012 found that a whopping 40 percent of hiring managers root around in social media looking for something to reject a candidate, and a third of this group rejected a candidate because of what they found.

No information was given as to whether or not social media profiles were scrutinized more by large corporations or by small companies.   Nor is it law or policy that companies must disclose their probing of social media profiles.

It appears that it is still prudent to advise pretty much everybody to be careful what they post on social media profiles.  Even if schools aren’t checking out your social media profiles, there’s a good chance that any potential employer could be–and since they do not have to disclose this kind of search (as they might with a legal background check) each of us might be better off handling our social media in a judicious and prudent manner.

H/T to Media Post on the matter

Facebook “likes” are now protected free speech, but Caution is still the watchword on “likes”

Free speech doesn't mean careless talk^ - NARA...
Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk^ – NARA – 535383 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA reversed a lower court decision on whether or not clicking the “Like” button on Facebook was a protected form of free speech–when it comes to endorsing a candidate for public office. The first ruling, made on April 2012 by the U.S. District Court in Norfolk stated that clicking the “like” button wasn’t the same as actually writing out one’s opinion/endorsement and thus wasn’t sufficient to warrant protection. But this is a sticky, thorny issue, and the details of who clicked what, and where, and why this particular form of free speech could be, and is now, protected, is vitally important to understanding the limits of the ruling.

The original free speech suit was filed on behalf of the six employees from the office of Hampton, Va Sheriff B.J. Roberts. The employees claimed that they were fired because they “liked” the Facebook page of an opposition candidate for sheriff.   Roberts office claims the employees were fired for other, unrelated reasons–but it was found that one employee did indeed “like” another candidate.

The court first had to determine what form of speech is a “Like.”  And it determined that a “Like” is similar in speech to a political campaign  sign on one’s lawn.

This is an important aspect of the law to note:  that they type of speech considered in this free speech judgement is speech associated with a political campaign.  So, a “Like” is as if you are raising your hand to endorse a candidate at a political meeting or rally, or like putting a sign in your window or on your lawn.  The other important aspect is that this court’s decision strikes down the lower court’s decision that, in effect, considered online speech different from offline speech.  The new ruling correlates online speech with offline speech–that the two in the case of political speech are not different.

However:  this ruling does NOT mean that everyone’s online speech is protected as First Amendment free speech.  The ruling applies only to political endorsements of candidates and that one can’t be fired because of it, even if your boss knows about it.  This ruling doesn’t tacitly condone libelous speech made about a candidate on a Facebook page or on a website,  nor does it endorse talking trash about your boss (whether or not he/she is an elected official or not.)  Nor does it endorse any of the other kinds of “free speech” that some people believe they are entitled to have in online environments.

So, just be glad that you can endorse, with a “Like,”  whatever candidate you choose and you can’t lose your job for it.   You will still have to watch your “likes,” and your trash-talking, carefully.


JC Penney’s social media strategy: the good and the meh

JCP's post-Ron Johnson logo.  Could use a refurb
JCP’s post-Ron Johnson logo. Could use a refurb

Had a chance to read the following post on Brainzooming about JC Penney’s social media strategy and I was struck at how simple it is to build a successful social media strategy for a big name brand known for giving people lots and lots of coupons, even when the brand is fighting for its financial life.  What got me the most about it was the total lack of imagination…..

Why does this sound like I’m going to be hyper critical about JCP’s strategy?  Well, because there are several key aspects to it that are really, when it comes down to it, aren’t the greatest way to handle social media.  Why they appear to have worked for JCP is the clout that JCP ha  with consumers well before the days of social media–and retains with them.  This is the same clout–the same group of loyal customers–that have buoyed the company through its truly terrible leadership and bad economic times.

So, let me tackle what I find least egregious about the strategy:

1.  Moving to a new fan page.  Ok, not the worst.  When your page is trolled to death, well, it’s like having your blog or your twitter stream trolled to death.  You may not be able to get out from under it unless, like Gizmodo, you do the  most crazy thing and shut down comments till the trolling stops.  Can’t effectively do that on Facebook.  So, yes, this is good.

2.  Producing weekly social media metrics  This is OK too, for a strategy.  Especially when VPs, Pres’ and C-levels love to  hear and see metrics vs. what they consider to be the “softer” skills–such as sales skills or writing skills.  So, give them whatever kinds of metrics will show them positive results–regardless of the positive results on the sales floor–and you got it made.  Give them trending topics and other such metrics and you will keep your job as a social media manager.

3.  Develop an editorial calendar  This one is not rocket science to anyone who has ever written a blog and knows how to capture traffic with content.  An editorial calendar will save your life when you can’t come up with ideas.

4.  “Reach into your organization” –as in talk to stakeholders–about your calendar  Another “Duh!” moment here.  You are in an organization.  There are other people who know the company’s cycles, etc.  Absolutely talk to them because they know more about the business than you do!    Oh, and if they’re good writers, you might want to have them write something too, if they’re not too busy.  Because they might be able to articulate information better than you can.  But don’t stress them out (that’s my advice anyway–because if you do, you have the potential to kill good relations between social media and the rest of the company.)

So, what do I find MOST egregious?  Here:

1.  Creating an audience persona”:  Ok, I’m not about personae, esp. one that appears to be concocted out of stereotypes.  Yes, there have been successful character social media personae  (“Col. Tribune” of the Chicago Tribune for one)–and there have been un-successful social media personae (the list is endless.)  IMO, the one that JCP came up with is really insulting.  Read the post, I won’t get into it here.  The key, though, is to aim  for an *authentic* voice.  Honestly, JCP’s social media doesn’t really have a “voice.”  There’s a lot of re-purposed marketing collateral with little statements or questions and links.  Is this “voice?”  Maybe.  But it’s passive, doesn’t have much character, and could be anyone.  see the photo below for an example.   When a company has a big following, with a lot of talkers, there’s not a lot of work involved in plopping in a photo with a tiny bit of text and letting the audience do their thing.  But that’s not always the case for companies….

2.  What kind of professional makes a “strong” social media person:  OK, this is also kind of, well, I don’t know….it sounds like JCP’s social media guy is touting his own creds to get people to approve of him.  His particular skills as a reporter–well, those are good skills and can get you far in the content building department.  Then there’s the “as a businessperson” skill.  Huh?  Actually, what that can be boiled down to–besides saying you have a background in marketing of some sort, or an MBA— is that you can put together some metrics that your superiors will like.  I won’t say this is easy because you must have some knowledge of business functions, but if you know social media metrics, you can show your C-levels something positive.  The truly strong social media people understand the language of the online audience, the customer base of a company, and can interpret metrics.  When you neglect the audience, and the language of the online audience, your social media is, at best, lukewarm.  Sure, you have good metrics, but are you really connecting?

3.  JCP’s new page is mostly visual and upbeat.  It doesn’t give a lot of written content,.  It asks a lot of questions with pictures, and waits for others to do the talking.  Here’s an example:

JCP Facebook Post

This is a super simple strategy for a very big company with a huge following (100K or more Likes) that will give immediate and positive measurable results.  This is a strategy that every social media person should know and can easily, and readily reproduce, if one has an already established page with a big following–but it is no guarantee of any results other than more traffic and engagement numbers.  It does not suggest nor guarantee conversion because the strategy has not tapped into what it takes to make a potential customer convert to a sale.  So of course there are metrics successes!  BUT how those metrics successes convert into in-store successes often remains unproven.  When you can demonstrate a link between your social media and your in-store conversion, you’ve done something big.   And that should be your ultimate goal.

So, you can be a genius in numbers and a zero in money-earning.  Yes, social media takes time to build audience and then to build responsiveness in that audience.  But don’t you think that conversion should be your main goal?  And what are you, as the social media person, going to do to facilitate conversion to sales??

Reddit Spanks Warner Bros. for “Gaming” Its Community

When I first started working in social media marketing–back in ’07–one of the things that potential clients often asked about was some way to game the system. Lots and lots of potential clients wanted to take advantage of the fact that the Internet space was unregulated, and that it appeared that a lot of people were kind of gullible and would fall for a deftly worded pitchno spam that sounded sincere. In the world of small consultancies, the one who could promise the most social media bang for small bucks got the job–and a lot of that quick noise came from gaming the social media system and online communities. Needless to say, I lost a lot of jobs by not wanting to game these systems, and not wanting to risk my reputation. However, there’s always someone….even nowadays when so many of us would think marketers know better.

Needless to say I wasn’t surprised to hear a big company like Warner Bros. got busted by the Reddit community for “gaming” the community. What happened was that Warner Bros. marketing geniuses–whether in-house or contracted–did the exact kinds of stuff that will get a company busted every time: faux conversations about their new movie “Getaway,” planting posts and links trying to make it look like they were from contributors mostly.

This is old, old stuff. Stuff that smaller marketers have been busted for time and time again–but usually with little consequence because the products they were shilling were either new or so small that the resulting negatives didn’t really matter. Oh, and then there were–and still are–the fools that will say ‘well, even if it’s negative, it drove some traffic. and traffic is good.”

OMG! Every time I’ve ever heard that bit about “even bad press is good press” kind of thing, I’d have to smack myself in the head. The person or persons who would say something like that were obviously working from an old media model and really didn’t understand that, if not total transparency, then total sincerity would be needed to make a dent with your marketing in the social space.

As with Warner, I’m sure they got some hotshot who’d gamed a system before for another client and didn’t get caught. But if you game the system, eventually there will be someone in that system who knows the score and will out you every single time.

If I sound like I’m glad, I am. Ethics in New Media/Social Media Marketing are as important as giving your client what he/she/they want.  Knowing communities, informing clients of sever consequences, etc, are the responsibility of the social media marketer, not just big promises.  If the client is in a rush to meet traffic numbers, or any other numbers, and doesn’t have sufficient money, or has sufficient money but wants something that you know, deep down, is not attainable, don’t risk your reputation. In Warner’s case, they more than likely wanted the impossible, got some hotshot who figured using bots was better than, say, folks in the Ukraine, and they got popped for it by a savvy moderator at Reddit.

So, don’t use bots, people in other countries, or anything that even smells of spammy-ness because, while you may get away with it a couple of times, you WILL eventually get busted.

That’s just the nature of social media.  It’s full of people.  Smart ones, too.

AND ANOTHER THING:  If you think fake reviews (another gaming tactic) is the way to go, well, you’ll get popped for that, too.  Check out how Humankind got busted by Edmunds, and what you can do to guard against fake reviews.  BTW, it will take looking at the things.  You can’t automate any of this, folks.  If you’re going to be in social, you will have to have people on the ground, doing the work.

Miley Cyrus, the VMAs, and what it all means (socio-culturally speaking…)

Well, I was real busy last night writing up some research I’ve been doing related to Vaudeville and entertainment in the early 20th Century, so I missed the premiere of Miley Cyrus’s blood-curdling, can’t-unsee-once-you’ve-seen-it, performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards.  But I got to watch it today, and all I could do is quote Dorothy Parker: “oh, what fresh hell is this?”

Seriously, people! Did the geniuses who put this act together truly understand the cultural references they were dishing out, or was it just “hey! this’ll be cool!  Miley’s breaking from her Dad!  yeah, it’ll be all about sex and hanging out with black folks and people will think it gets her white trash Dad mad!”

If that was it, the answer is “Um, no.”  Billy Ray Cyrus may be a washed up white trash troubadour, but he’s not about to get mad at anything his lil’ girl does, when he’s the one who got her into show biz in the first place.  So this gives us the first offensive sociocultural paradigm: White Trash Dad pimps out barely legal Daughter.

Even to assume that much is to assume that the Cyrus family is somehow like us. That is a conceit of celebrity popularity that isn’t always true. We assume we know where Billy Ray came from, but his daughter doesn’t come from the same place. She comes from a privileged background. Does that make her a privileged white kid? Well, she’s a privileged show biz kid, which *could* be construed with privileged white, but that’s not really an accurate assumption these days. The two have diverged a bit since the 1930’s.  And show biz isn’t all that segregated–certainly not as segregated as it was 50-plus years ago. What we can assume is that those white choppers of her cost a lot in dental work….

If this is her social-entertainment “Introduction” (if you could call it that. Brooke Shield’s character in “Pretty Baby” got a better Introduction) it’s in a number that looks like a very bad low burlesque bit from the early 20th century–before strippers.  Kind of like this:

Maybe Miley’s handlers (and I’m sure she has them) did see this, or know of it, and that’s what they were aiming for: in the past it was a “Glorifying the American Girl” with butterflies and other white folks. Now it’s….well…stepping out of a teddy bear and twerkin’ with a bunch of black chicks.

As for the “love” interest–which I guess was supposed to be Robin Thicke in the suit Michael Keaton wore in Betelgeuse–he seemed really un-affected (or is that dis-affected?) She may have been “twerkin” (if that’s what that was supposed to be) in front of him, but he appeared to not want anything to do with any of it.

Speaking of that twerkin’ with black chicks: what the heck was that but some kind of creepy minstrel show. I’m serious! A little white chick, of show biz privilege, surrounds herself with a bunch of black people. And for what reason? “I’m rebellious! I’m going to be sexual and have sex and hang out with black people! What do you think of that, white trash Daddy!”

If that’s what it might have been about, I’m not buying it for a minute. I’m not buying either that she might be acknowledging the debit of white performers to black performers, or any of that other stuff that’s often discussed. Maybe I’m too cynical, and maybe I know too much about entertainment, but I’d bet this number wasn’t that kind of tongue in cheeky smart.

Then there’s that line about “we can love whomever we want.” Oh, is that a venture into Lady Gaga territory? Or just asserting her sexual reality–that she has SEX! OMG! Rebellious White Girl has SEX! Um, not buying that one either. Miley’s generation is one that probably has more sexual freedom than any generation in modern memory. Read some of the parent advice columns in magazines or metro area newspapers and you’ll read parents kvetching about their teens hanging out in each other’s bedrooms with the doors closed and parents not knowing what to do about it. Um, here’s a bit of advice: do what our  parents did and knock on the door and open it and break up the party! Is it that difficult?? Give your kid something to rebel against fer crissakes!   A 20 year old telling the world she’s having sex isn’t that big a deal any more.  Really.

So, yeah, I’m not buying Miley’s rebellion any more than I’m buying her routine was perhaps a tribute to the unacknowledged legacy of black performers to rock and roll. I am buying that Miley dancing around with a bunch of black chicks is a really insulting minstrel show. She’s not Robin Thicke, she doesn’t have any R and B cred, and therefore can’t say a thing about blurring color lines either. So, that part of the show is definitely insulting and just more faux rebellion.

If having sex and hanging out with black people is rebellion–wow, then we really haven’t come that far as a society. But, honestly, I think we have. Again, if we haven’t, then we need help.

As for the rest of the program….geeze, I’m kinda tired of hearing about guys wanting chicks with big butts and chicks with big butts twerkin’ their butts all over the place. Oh, I’m not offended by the lyrics. As I said to some friends on Facebook, when I was younger I could make a grown man cry, and there’s something fun/funny about teasing a guy and hearing him say “I want to give it to you” and all that nasty stuff. Adults sometimes get “nasty.” But I don’t like watching women flappin’ their butts around no matter what color their skin, any more than I like watching girl strippers (guy strippers on the other hand…well, let’s not go ther.)  It’s just and ugly, ugly move. It’s like when I see a guy walking down the street and his pants are down to the point of where his lil’ ole johnson’s gonna fall out any minute. I want to go up to him, pull his pants up and tell him to stop embarrassing his Mom. Or pulling them all the way down and laughing. I’m not sure which would be more embarrassing, but it would about the old crabby lady embarrassing the young punk she’s supposed to be afraid of. It would be about showing young male punks that their rebellion isn’t rebellion or frightening inasmuch as a bad fashion choice.

So, really, after seeing the whole thing, it was just really stupid. We probably didn’t expect her to show that chicken butt like that, but hey, we got it.  We can’t unsee it now.  And I’m sure a whole lot of us don’t like that she’s been a kid’s role model for years, and that kids sometimes don’t know a walking joke when they see it (or that privileged entertainers shouldn’t be role models.) I smell as much desperation in this performance as I did years ago with the whole Britney Spears-Madonna kiss thing.

In the end it was like eating one too many jalopeno poppers.  It gave us a case of indigetstion, but, just let it pass, and everyone will be fine.

Five reasons why the J. Crew Pinterest catalog is total social marketing genius

Exterior signage in front of J. Crew's Factory...

Almost fell off my chair when I read this item about J. Crew putting their entire catalogue on Pinterest--and then making staff available to take


pre-orders!  It’s total freakin’ social marketing genius and here’s why

1.  J. Crew knows that its shoppers are trend-watchers and fashionistas–and they hang out on Pinterest.  Therefore, J Crew can get more insight into this group of customers by increasing their presence on Pinterest–with the J.Crew Style Guide Sneak Peek.  To have figured this out was, I’m sure,  a simple matter of putting two and two together:   taking known customer data and putting it together with customer activity on Pinterest.

2.  We already know loads of fashion lovers, not just J. Crew customer-fashionistas, hang out on Pinterest.  Putting it on Pinterest gets it in front of new, fresh customer eyeballs.  A real “gimmie”  for the social marketing staff!  A quick perusal of Pinterest would tell ya that one.  Putting the catalog on Pinterest

3.  If you really want to “target the talkers” in fashion, and measure their influence, put your stuff on Pinterest.  Pinterest is all about sharing what you find, commenting on it, etc.  You can find out a lot from this group of prolific talkers.   So, for J. Crew, the data they gather on what’s shared (how many times it’s shared, what’s said, etc.), and the comments, good or bad, yields valuable customer insights.

4.  Showing up on Pinterest gives exclusivity to good customers without excluding new customers.  Since new pins always cycle through Pinterest’s main page, J. Crew is in a sense making their catalog exclusive to their customers who use Pinterest.  But they  also open their catalog to  new customers on Pinterst.

5.  A pre-order phone line and email addy also conveys exclusivity without being exclusive of new customers. And will yield some really good data. Another “gimmie” moment for the staff.  And it also keeps the main catalog lines open for regular customers.  Not to mention the data that can help the company plot trends and have enough stock on hand, thus avoiding pesky back-orders (something that can tarnish a good company’s reputation.)  A win-win-win for everyone involved.

Not to mention that it could end up saving in catalog publishing and pollution!

I’m so impressed with this campaign that I might even pin a few items on my Fall-Winter 20113 fashion Pinterest board, even though I usually don’t have the scratch necessary to buy from J. Crew.  I would, though, like to see more companies that I like do this sort of thing on Pinterest.  I’m sure it would be another win-win-win if administered properly and measured properly.  If J Crew can demonstrate significant growth and present some positive metrics (ah, metrics!) then we’ll more than likely see more cataloges on Pinterest.

Don’t Panic! Here’s Why Teens are Leaving Facebook…

The world of social media marketing is today flapping around like Chicken Little because of a recent post on Mashable where 13 year-old Ruby Karp recounts a tale of why….as in why there are less teens on Facebook than there used to be.   It’s a nice little piece of personal essay from the viewpoint of a sophisticated New York based teen, and it does contain some homestyle anecdotal evidence couched in the right kind of marketing speak to get the puzzled grown-up marketers to understand what’s going on from her perspective.  But there’s more to it, and that more is rooted in teen-age trend-changing going back to the advent of our modern pop culture in the 1950’s….

As I wrote on colleague Jeremiah Owyang’s Facebook comment on this,  it has something to do with what I call “The Pattern of the New”(yes, it’s my term, no one else’s. please give credit if you use it.)   Here’s the post:

This is the “pattern of the new” since the advent of modern pop culture: A group of young people is identified with a movement(or whatever,) there is a crossover period where innovators are moving to something new, but it’s barely noticed, then the entire group of young people are into something new, and everyone notices. I can give you loads of pop cultural examples (my favorite being the movement of the hippies to the punks as I was part of that) and I predicted it would happen with MySpace when everyone was saying “the kids” would use it forever. Never, ever bank on “the kids” staying with one thing–whether it’s music or fashion or social networks–for anything more than a 10 year or less period of time. Every group of young people wants its own identifiers, and wants to stay out-of-the-way of older siblings, as well as out-of-the-way of parents, etc, that you noted, so of course they’re going to move on to different things. The only people who stay rooted are the “older” people–the ones who identified with the music or fashion or technology in the first place. Think about all the “old hippies” you might see now, who were more than likely young hippies years ago, or the people who still think Journey was the greatest band that ever lived. Think of “oldies” stations and revival concerts and who goes to see Duran Duran in Las Vegas. Facebook will have a critical mass of people for a long time because it has incorporated “old” people, but young people will continue to move on. And one day, they will be analog again.

Back in the analogue days, which is a time most of us will understand,  young people of the “new” generation separated themselves from  older sibs and parents through music and clothing.  It’s evident when we see photographic images spanning 3 decades of young people in the 20th Century:

Greasers in NYC, sometime in the mid 1950's
Greasers in NYC, sometime in the mid 1950’s


teens and 20-somethings in California 1968
teens and 20-somethings in California 1968
Punk Rock Girls in Houston, TX, 1980
Punk Rock Girls in Houston, TX, 1980

Each of these groups also had different variations on the technology they used.  The Greasers listened to radios with tubes.   The Hippies to small transistor radios.  Punk Rockers had the Walkman.

And while marketers–usually adults or at least not in their 20’s– didn’t necessarily scramble to market to the Greasers and Hippies and Punks when they first emerged (the Innovators and Early Adopters of new trends,) by the ends of these particular eras, everyone was in one form or another adopting their styles and listening to forms of their music.

So, now, with technology, which is to the 21st century what rock and roll was to the 20th, when the style of one technology becomes ubiquitous, “the kids” are moving on to something else.

It’s a cycle that repeats itself when there’s a change, when something innovative, occurs that young people can take and make their own.  I won’t go into a longer delineation of this, as I think a lot of us have experienced this in our analog lives.  If we think that, just because technology is where the innovation is these days, that kids aren’t going to pick up on the new and different thingie coming their way, then we really aren’t paying attention to the Pattern of the New and will miss the emerging Next Big Thing.

So, teens leaving Facebook?  Great!  It’s making people their older siblings’ ages and their parents ages completely freak out because they simply cannot predict what the kids will latch on to long enough for them to figure out the marketing angle.  If you happen to be savvy enough, or young-thinking, you will see what they are doing, you will try it, understand it, and have a notion of what kind of technology is going to stick around.  Whether or not you can “reach young people” (to use a bit of marketer lingo) might not be evident and might not even work in those new apps.  At that moment of innovation, in that moment of THE NEW, nobody knows.  But if you just love your Facebook to death, and have “mastered” how to market in that realm, please feel free to stay there.  That may be the place where *your* audience and your clients’ audiences are still hanging out.  Some clients just aren’t innovators or even early adopters….even if they are teens and young people.  After all, there are some who stick around with the old folks.

Keep in mind though that what you ignore, you ignore at your own risk of ossifying and eventually getting a bit, well, un-playable.  Just like those old Journey records….  😉