All posts in “Twitter”

PodCamp Reminds Us of Our Roots

This past weekend was PodCamp Toronto. PodCamp, for the uninitiated, is a user-generated conference (or unconference). It is open, and features sessions and content provided by participants. It is by the community and for the community.

I’m a member of the organizing team for PodCamp Toronto and have for the past four years. I work with a team of passionate and dedicated volunteers who keep true to the PodCamp spirit. The Toronto event is open to anyone, free to attend (sponsor-supported), and participants suggest and provide all the programming. In the same spirit, the Law of Two Feet applies.

If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing: Give greetings, use your two feet, and go do something useful. Responsibility resides with you.

Just imagine if the Law of Two Feet applied to all conferences (or business meetings, for that matter).

Overtime, as social media and digital has evolved, so, too, has PodCamp Toronto. Initially for a core group of early adopters, it has expanded over time to reach literally hundreds of participants and become Canada’s largest new media event.

What I find truly remarkable is to watch this community expand and morph over time while remaining committed to the core values of the unconference movement, which are pretty closely aligned to the old school social media values: add value, be respectful, take ownership and be your authentic self.

To give you a feel for how it all goes down, here’s a small sample of the hundreds of Tweets generated (and still being generated) by the participants at PodCamp Toronto 2012:

 

 

As social media has been adopted by big business, words like “authenticity” have taken on buzzword status and have been somewhat watered down. With that context, it is genuinely remarkable to take a step back at PodCamp and reconnect with a true-blue community of people who are create and share content about their passions and are not necessarily motivated by conversions, ROI and the bottom line.

If PodCamp or an unconference comes to your town I encourage you to check it out—leave your big business baggage at the door, come as a human being and make true meaningful connections with real people.

If you were at PodCamp Toronto over the weekend, or have attended unconferences in the past, what do you think business can learn from the unconference movement?

 

 

My Name is Karly, and I’m an Addict

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

ad·dic·tion/əˈdikSHən/
Noun: The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.

While standing in line to order the first coffee of the day, I check in on Foursquare then peruse my Twitter feed and Facebook notifications. The order is in and as I wait for my morning fuel to arrive I go back to Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to see what’s new. Seriously.

According to a recent study led by Wilhelm Hofmann of University of Chicago’s Booth Business School, Tweeting and checking emails is a much harder addiction to give up than cigarettes or alcohol. The study was looking to measure how well people could resist their desires and, as turns out, it’s a lot easier to pass up that second glass of red in order to keep your hands free to send a status update.

Social Media Addiction

Hofmann told the Guardian, “Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist.” Hofmann noted that alcohol and cigarettes are more costly and may not be as accessible as social media and email. “So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still ‘steal’ a lot of people’s time.”

Retrevo Stats

Sure, we’ve all checked our Facebook notifications or Twitter feeds at inopportune (or sometimes inappropriate) times, and answering a text over dinner is becoming less and less of a faux pas (debatable). Some people even have Foursquare venues set up for their beds—not surprising considering a 2010 study found 28% of respondents said they update Facebook/Twitter before they even get out of bed.

Marla Bartoi, Ph.D., is a professor who teaches clinical psychology at WSU; her research interests include cognitive behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders and depression and substance abuse treatment. She was recently asked to respond to a similar study on social media addiction and noted that MRI screenings have shown that some people are more prone to addictions depending on their brain chemistry. Other factors such as genetics can also factor into the likelihood of addiction, she said. According to Bartoi, addiction to social networking is possible, but it’s not something that she believes everybody is addicted to or will become addicted to.

So if brain chemistry and genetics play a role in this, maybe I’m safe. Then again, taking a quick look at my most recent apps: HootSuite, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Foursquare are my top hits. Brings to mind a certain Simpsons episode, no Twitter and no Facebook make Karly go something something?

So is social media really an addiction? Technically social networking isn’t a new phenomena, it’s just another form of communicating.  If you think about it as communication – would we go as far as saying someone is addicted to writing post-it notes or talking on the phone? If this is about consumption rather than communication, why are we worried about people being addicted to the internet/social media and not to newspapers or books? There could certainly be similar addictive behavior patterns. Maybe it’s neither, and it’s merely about instant gratification.

Whatever the reason, let’s try not to fear new technologies. We have a long history of concern over technological advances, from the old days of fearing the printing press and the radio (yes, really) to today’s social media zombies. What do you think?  Is the worry about social media addiction really just a worry about new technologies?

 

Social Media and Politics – 49Pixels Recap

The following post was submitted by Patrick Gladney, Director of Research and Insights at SMG.

I enjoyed being a guest on the 49pixels podcast on on Wednesday night.   Together with National Post columnist and twitter king Jonathan Goldsbie, we rehashed the details of 2010’s Toronto Municipal Election, the composition of twitter and pondered the future of technology and politics.

If you are intersted in hearing the podcast, simply click here.

I believe there is still so much opportunity for politicians and political organizations to use social media effectively.  There are some new models being showcased today in the US, where the GOP is using social media in new and intersting ways, such as Newt Gingrich’s adaptation of phone banking which incents loyalists to contact others via skype to ask for their support.


This ain’t social media, but it speaks volumes

One of the questions that came up was the Obama adminstrations use of Instragram.  Goldsbie asked why instragram?  As my colleague Brandon Smith said the next morning, there are 12 million reasons why, and they are all on Instagram.  Also, it just so happened that Obama (the administration, not the man)  tweeted during the State of the Union Address, suggesting that those attending SOTU watching parties take photographs of the gatherings and post them online.  Kind of a cool way to build community, I’d say.

 

 

Social Media Roundup for January 27

Kirsten McNeill is a Co-ordinator on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group. Follow @kirstenmcne.

McDonald’s Social Media Disaster

Last week McDonald’s launched a Twitter campaign to increase awareness around their use of fresh produce in their food, using the unique hashtag #MeetTheFarmers, which they used in paid-for tweets which were inserted into the streams of Twitter users. This campaign appeared to have a positive start but things took a turn when McDonald’s decided to change the hashtag to #McDStories. This new hashtag was meant to be used to tweet about positive stories customers had with the fast food chain but it was quickly hijacked with tweets of the opposite – very negative and unpleasant tales!

Check out the video below to see some more of these negative tales:

The brave McDonald’s decided to give it another go with another new hashtag campaign on Wednesday, #LittleThings. This change was meant to be used to tweet the little things that bring joy. They kicked it off by tweeting, “No line at the bank, a large tax refund, & those extra fries at the bottom of the bag. What are some #LittleThings that bring you joy?” Even though this seems to be a very open-ended hashtag for the campaign, so far it hasn’t been used to bad-mouth the brand. Let’s hope they have this one under control.

Timothy’s Social Media Backlash

Here we have another social media fail. Timothy’s Coffees of the World ran a promotion on Facebook in December. Just for “Liking” their Facebook Page, the company promised to send fans four free 24-pack boxes of single-serve coffee. Because boxes of these retail for about $17.95, the deal ended up on contest-aggregating websites and an overwhelming number of customers jumped on the promotion. The company underestimated how many people would sign up and their stock was depleted within three days, but they had already sent an email to all of the entrants letting them know that the coffee was on its way. Once they realized that they couldn’t fulfill their promise, they fell silent.  At the beginning of January, Timothy’s tried to cover themselves by claiming that the promotion was “first come, first serve” and those that were unable to get samples would be sent a “great email offer.” Only now, a month later, has the company put out an apology video. This was one of their biggest mistakes because when it comes to social media, you need to respond as soon as possible; a month is far too long.

Increase Click-Through Rates for your Tweets

Dan Zarella, HubSpot’s social media scientist, has put together a really insightful infographic on how to get the highest number of click-throughs for you tweets. Some of the more obvious findings were that tweets between 120 and 130 characters get retweeted more than those that are longer or shorter than that. He also found that tweets on the weekend and later in the day have a higher click-through rate than those on weekdays and in the morning. But an interesting finding is that the phrase “daily is out,” indicating that the tweet is using online newspaper tool paper.li, had the greatest positive effect on click-through rates. Take a look at the rest of his findings:

 

Facebook Introduces Clicks to Action

We have already started seeing some of the new applications that Facebook’s Open Graph platform enables, such as seeing what your friends are reading or listening to. Coming soon, Facebook will be increasing these apps and going live with over 60 Timeline App partners. These apps will combine in-network sharing with your interaction on outside sites so that Facebook users can not only see what their friends are “Liking” on Facebook but also what actions they are taking on other sites. In order to share these external actions, a range of new buttons will be showing up on the partnered external sites. Recipe Box, one of Facebook’s partnering sites, will have “Cooked” and “Want” action buttons so that when you see a recipe that you have cooked or want to try, you can click the appropriate button, which then distributes that action to your Timeline, News Feed and Ticker.

 

The idea is to increase sharing, strengthen relationships through interests and foster conversations. What do you think? Will you be sharing some of your actions from outside sites onto your Timeline?

Google Services Unified

Google will be rolling out a major change on March 1 – unifying their privacy policies and creating a set of integrated products. The change will work towards integrating all of your Google uses and account such as search, Gmail, YouTube, social (Google+) and work so that users can have one continuous Google experience. In order to allow for this unified experience, Google is overhauling of all of its privacy policies into one aims to be a lot shorter and easier to read. The new policy will allow Google to gather information from one of their services and deliver it to you via another. This will make your experience more customized because Google will have more of your personal information – it can know your location, what’s on your calendar for the day, spelling suggestions based on words you’ve used before or names from your address book, etc. This additional information will also make it easier for marketers to reach their target market and provide personalized messaging.

Check out Google’s video explaining this change:

What do you think of this upcoming change? Do you think that this will be helpful or do you feel that Google is invading your privacy?

Twitter is Just One Piece of the Influencer Puzzle

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

social media group

If you’re a regular SNL watcher you would have seen this past weekend’s ‘You Can Do Anything’ skit, poking fun at “the incredibly high self esteem of the YouTube Generation.” They featured bloggers, an independent filmmaker, a popular tweeter and a YouTube personality in the skit. You can watch the entire skit below. (Our Canadian readers may not be able to view the video, I’m sure they’re savvy enough to find a screener online though :))

This quote says it all:

Roger Knight (Independent Film-maker): Tell us about yourself
Taylor Dawn (Popular Twitter Personality): Well, I’m what you would call Twitter Famous
Roger Knight: Which means?
Taylor Dawn: Not famous.

Admittedly I did get a few chuckles out of it, but it made me think about how online influence is perceived not only to us in ‘the biz’ but to the general public, and how brands and agencies alike need to ensure they’re aligning with the right influencer partners when executing earned media campaigns.

Mark Schaefer wrote a post in March of last year about how important Twitter influence is (as it pertains to Klout score) and he basically told us there is little true influence on Twitter.

But wait, don’t freak out! That 2012 influencer campaign your client just approved isn’t about to fall apart. Twitter is just one (albeit integral) piece of the entire digital influence puzzle. Marketers should be looking at the whole picture when identifying influencers for campaign partnerships. What does that mean? It means Twitter, Facebook and most importantly – blogs.

A successful digital influencer campaign starts with top-notch high quality earned content—content that lives on the blog. Facebook and Twitter are both extremely important to amplifying that content and driving awareness, but it starts with the blog.

BlogHer’s April 2011 Social Media Matters report found that both blog readership and social media use are on the rise in the United States. BlogHer reported 40 percent of online Americans surveys said they read blogs (up from 37 percent in 2010).

BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters

 

In May 2011, eMarketer estimated the number of blog readers in the US would reach 122.6 million in 2011, representing 53.5% of internet users. Furthermore, they expect that number to reach 150.4 million by 2014, representing a whopping 60% of internet users.

social media group

 

Okay, okay, blogs are important. We get it, right? So how do we identify the right bloggers/influencers who will provide high quality content and increased reach through their social properties? Do your research.

Facebook Likes, Twitter followers and a high Klout score does not guarantee quality content or awesome ROI. It merely provides a benchmark for potential impressions and if the content isn’t good, the impressions won’t help. Influencers need to be able to offer companies and brands something of value in return for what they’re getting. For starters, they need to have awesome social media marketing skills, and know the rules of professional blogging inside and out.

Here are a few other rules of thumb:

  1. What does their blog look like? Is it aesthetically pleasing to the eye? Does it look professional?
  2. How active is the person? Do they blog daily? Weekly? Monthly? (Hopefully not annually!)
  3. How engaged is their audience? Do you see the potential influencer engaging in conversation on their blog comments and/or Facebook and Twitter? Do they provide additional value to their readers through these conversations?
  4. How relevant to their market is their content? Is your tech blogger writing about the new oatmeal recipe he’s trying?
  5. Have they worked with competitors in the past? This is a big one. Be sure to inquire about potential conflict of interest, even if it was years ago – you need to be made aware.

You should have an evaluation system in place when it comes to identifying the perfect influencer(s) for your campaign. We use SMG Rank™ (SMG’s proprietary influencer identification and ranking methodology) when determining appropriate influencers for our client campaigns. It’s a pretty awesome secret sauce of metrics…not to toot our own horn 😉

So would Taylor Dawn, the SNL Twitter personality, make a good influencer? Not if his only claim to fame is a large Twitter following and his budding songwriting career.  Remember, when it comes to choosing influencers for your earned campaigns, look past the Klout score, Facebook Likes and follower count to see what they’re really made of before you pitch.

Best Thinkers Webinar Series – Defining and Measuring Influence

Join Maggie Fox next Tuesday January 24th at 12pm EST / 9am PST, as she hosts another exclusive, live webinar from Social Media Today on Defining and Measuring Influence.

We are all subject to being influenced by people, events and experiences in our lives. This is just as true in our online behaviors as it is in the rest of our lives. With the growth of the social component on the Internet, we are exposed to many stimuli aimed at grabbing our attention and affecting what we do next – where we click, what we “Like,” who we trust and what we buy. This webinar digs deeper into how influence works and does not work on the Internet.

Maggie and her panelists Pam Moore of Zoomfactor and Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks will be examining:

  • Is influence such a personal thing that it can’t be generalized?
  • Can a person be defined as “influential” simply by having more followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook?
  • How can you tell is someone has been influenced?
  • What kinds of influence should be recognized and leveraged through market research?
  • Is building influence different in B2B vs B2C?

Don’t miss it! Register now, click HERE!

Social Media Roundup for January 13

 

Kirsten McNeill is a Co-ordinator, Content and Community at Social Media Group.
Follow @kirstenmcne

Social Media Comments in Your Search Results

This week Google implemented “Search plus Your World,” a bit of a controversial change to its searches – it integrates Google+ comments into standard searches. Google+ members or those just signed into Google will be able do a regular search of the web as well as their own Google+ network – circles, photos, posts and more. Jack Menzel, product management director of search at Google explained this as, “search across information that is private and only shared to you, not just the public web.” For example if you searched “Nars,” you will be given their company website, product offering, company history, etc. and if anyone in your Google+ network had any thoughts on the brand, maybe loved their Winter palette, that post will also appear. In addition to these results, public profiles of those that aren’t in your circles will be recommended for you to follow that may be experts in the topic you are searching and you will conveniently be able to follow them right from the search results. But if you’re not into this, you can switch it off by selecting the world icon in the top right, as opposed to the person icon.

 

Among competitors, Twitter has been most verbal about their thoughts of this announcement, saying that further integrating Google+ into regular search results is “bad for people.” But Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt addressed this in an interview with reporter Danny Sullivan that it was Twitter’s choice to not continue integrating its data in Google searches by not renewing their agreement that gave the search engine access to public tweets. Check out the rest of the interview below:

What are your thoughts on having Google+, Twitter or any social media data showing up in your searches? Would their inclusion make your results better or would they just be unnecessary noise?

Mashable is running a Poll:

MySpace Making a Comeback?

comScore‘s latest social media report reveals some interesting data – MySpace is bigger than Tumblr and Google+! People are even spending more time on MySpace than they are on Google+.

 

Justin Timberlake, who partnered with Specific Media in June to purchase MySpace from News Corp, said “We’re ready to take television and entertainment to the next step by upgrading it to the social networking experience.” Is JT bringing MySpace back?

Sponsored Stories in the News Feed

Facebook launched Sponsored Stories in the News Feed this week but there are a number of controls around them to ensure that the user experience is respected. As promised, the ads are marked as “Featured” and they will only be showing up in the Ticker or Feed of user’s that have already liked the page. But these Sponsored Stories will also find a way to promote growth for a Page by highlighting fan activity, such as a Page Like or a Post Like. These ads will be shown to the friends of the person who did the action. ‘Page Like Story’ – ad will show to friends of people who liked your page, and ‘Page Post Like Story’ ad will show up when people like a specific Page post.

Facebook is slowly rolling these out to avoid user backlash and disrupting the user experience, so you will likely only see one Sponsored Story per day and they will not yet be appearing on mobile devices.

If you are a fan of Ben & Jerry’s Page, you likely saw this:

Listen to Music with your Friends – Even if you’re not with them!

Also announced this week from Facebook is a new feature called, ‘Listen With,’ enabling you to share the songs you are streaming via Spotify and Rdio. Users were already able to see what their friends were listening to but now they can listen together in a virtual environment and even sing along together. In the next few weeks you should start to see a music note in your chat sidebar and this will indicate who is listening to music. If you hover over their name you can hit “Listen with x,” which will play the song via the service your friend is using. When your friend changes the song, yours will change accordingly and more than one friend can listen in on the music so the entire group can chat about it together.

Facebook’s $100 Billion IPO

Facebook’s rumored April – June IPO is drawing nearer and its looking like it will be the biggest of any technology company in history (six times that of Google’s!) – its expected to be a $100 billion IPO! Accounting Degree Online has put together an Infographic breaking it down for us.

 

5 Ways to Mobilize Communities for Social Good

Michelle McCudden is a Manager of Client Strategy & Innovation at Social Media Group. Follow@mmccudden1

Actor Joshua Malina made a request on Monday via Facebook Causes for a birthday donation on his behalf to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. His goal was for his followers and friends to donate $10, or whatever they could afford. As of writing, he has over $2,000, far exceeding the $250 he set as an initial target. Seeing this act of kindness made me think about other well-known online personalities who are using social media to spread a little social good.

Jenny Lawson, known to her readers as The Bloggess has spearheaded several fundraising efforts via social media. She raised $42,000 for needy families last Christmas, and this year spurred her readers to donate 750 care packages with security blankets, books and stuffed animals for homeless children (some Bloggess posts include NSFW language). Right now, she’s connecting people around a movement she calls the Traveling Red Dress (details here) in which readers are sending one another items, including red dresses, that symbolize something that they really want, but wouldn’t allow themselves to have. According to Forbes, offers to share dresses had surpassed the hundreds by Monday.

Sarah D. Bunting, best known as the co-founder of TelevisionWithoutPity, runs the blog Tomato Nation and has been hosting a contest to raise money through DonorsChoose.org since 2004.  To date, her readers have raised almost $700,000, benefiting teacher-submitted projects at public schools across the U.S.

If you’re thinking about running a campaign for social good, for yourself or for a client, what can we take away from these successes?

Choose causes that resonate with your audiences. Sarah Bunting at Tomato Nation started working with DonorsChoose, a group that works to fund projects for public schools, after readers expressed that they “felt discouraged by Bush’s re-election and what that would mean for progressive causes.”

Offer an incentive. It doesn’t have to be a monetary prize or particularly large, but an incentive shows that you’re invested and appreciative. For example, Malina is rewarding donors with a personal “thank you” and a Follow on Twitter. Each year, Sarah Bunting chooses a task that she’ll accomplish if the community reaches certain goals, including shaving her head in 2006.

Use the tools at your disposal. In all three of these examples, the organizer used multiple platforms to reach out to their communities: Twitter, Facebook, their blogs, Flickr. Remember that while some will follow you across platforms, some readers are only checking you out on Twitter or via your blog.

Make participation easy. Lower the barriers. To donate to Joshua Malina’s charity, users can login through Facebook Causes, an easy-to-use one-pager that lets users make a one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring payment. Readers interested in donating or receiving a Traveling Red Dress need look no further than the hashtag, #travelingreddress.

Don’t underestimate the social element. Donors Choose allows Tomato Nation readers to form groups around Giving Pages, where they can target particular types of projects or price points to tackle together. Facebook Causes lets donors leave messages, in the form of birthday cards or videos, to Joshua and the rest of the other donors. It feels great to donate to a worthy cause – for many it feels even better to do so as part of a like-minded community.

What’s your favorite example of an act of fundraising done via social media?

 

Questions to ask when choosing a social media monitoring vendor

Listening to the voice of your consumer in social media is fast becoming a strategic imperative.  According to a recent survey by Leger Marketing, the majority of companies have some kind of social media listening strategy in place.  For some, this means a simple and free solution like Google Alerts, while larger organizations, usually those with larger social media footprints turn to enterprise grade software as a service (SaaS) solutions.

Literally hundreds of software tools have emerged to meet the demand of this market, presenting companies with the challenge of deciding what the right tool is for their company.

Creative Commons. All rights reserved by Don Moyer

At Social Media Group, we’ve done the due diligence on a healthy contingent of the tools that are out there.   Our process entailed creating a scorecard based on an established set of criteria that aligned with our business needs.  While your company’s requirements will likely differ, here are some smart questions to ask prospective vendors:

1)      Do you have access to the Twitter fire hose? Twitter is a huge source of social media activity, with 250 million messages being produced each day.   It is not uncommon for brand mentions on Twitter to account for 75% of all social media messages.  At SMG, we refer to Twitter as the social web’s circulatory system – a network that people use to readily share information that inspires and interests them.  People also use Twitter to complain.  A lot.

Regardless of how Twitter is being used, you want to feel confident that you’re getting all of the relevant messages.  Yet, Twitter is increasingly selective about who gets their data.  Not all social media monitoring companies have access to the “fire hose,” (the full stream of Twitter data) so you best understand what your vendor is getting (or missing).

2)      What is the service level agreement? Service outages can be a major source of pain and frustration.  If the system goes down, you might be left with a team of analysts sitting around with nothing to do, and your company is exposed to risk because the social web never sleeps.   While some interruptions are inevitable, make sure you have sufficient recourse in place should the software you choose fail to operate as needed and expected.  Make sure you have a dedicated representative who will be responsible for working to resolve issues quickly and satisfactorily.

3)      Can you engage with consumers directly through the tool? If customer service is a priority for your company, then you’ll want the opportunity to address customer questions or confusion as soon as it’s discovered.  The ability to do this from within a listening platform is by far and away the most efficient way to manage this process.  Needless to say, if you are empowering your customer service team to manage online customer issues, then you’ll need to have the appropriate rapid response framework and escalation processes in place.

4)      What enhancements have been released in the past year?  What’s in the development pipeline? This social media listening market is moving quickly.  Companies are being acquired regularly and innovation is essential to break free of a commoditised market.  Sometimes when these companies are acquired, innovation is accelerate, while other times it stalls.  Getting a track record of what improvements have been made in the past year will help you understand if you can expect the tool to be continually upgraded.

5)      How much will this cost? Ahh, price. There are many different pricing models in this field, user seats, search profiles and pricing based on data volume being the most common. Whatever the pricing model, ensuring that the pricing is both reasonable and will remain consistent is what you should strive for.  The last thing that you want to worry about during a crisis (read increased data volume) is to lose control of the costs required until the matter has been diffused.

6)      Can the system integrate with other platforms? Surely, one of the most interesting developments in the social media monitoring market of late was Salesforce.com’s acquisition of Radian6.  For sales driven organizations, this move holds great promise, foreshadowing a future class of applications that’s capable of moving customers down from the upper reaches of the sales funnel into legitimate sales opportunities.   SMG will be keeping a close eye on this one.

The social media listening market presents a vast sea of options for companies today.  When choosing a tool, start with your listening objectives, define your selection criteria, then be prepared with questions and try before you buy!

 

Personal Information Online: How Much is Too Much?

 

Call Me, BroCreative Commons License

Charlie Sheen's Infamous Tweet

Have you ever posted something on Facebook or Twitter and felt immediate regret? Scrambling to delete something that truly cannot be undone? You’re not alone.

From Charlie Sheen tweeting his phone number, to Anthony Weiner tweeting a questionable private picture, down to the recent tweet from New York Times’ Brian Stelter leaking news of Christiane Amanpour departing as host of ABC’s “This Week.”

You know as well as I do that it’s not just the celebrities who have been getting themselves into social media hot water. I’ve seen people post the most ridiculous updates to their feeds, like the handful of Vancouver rioters posting Facebook updates bragging about the damage they’d done.  For a real head-shaker, type “I lost my phone” in your Facebook search bar and see how many people are publicly posting their contact details.

Facebook Privacy Fail

(No one was harmed during the faking of this FB status.)

Recently, a friend mistakenly tweeted his credit card number and expiry date. This happened because his tweets are delivered to his iPhone in the same format as text messages, so he thought he was sending an SMS. Interestingly, he noted a few new followers (within minutes), one of which was a self-proclaimed hacker according to his bio. Yikes!

I once saw someone post that social media was like a needy girlfriend: “Facebook asks me what I’m thinking, Twitter asks me what I’m doing and Foursquare asks me where I am.” It’s funny, but does sharing your likes, interests and whereabouts present you as an easy target to cyber criminals? A recent survey cited 15% of respondents admitting to posting their current location or travel plans, 34% their full birth date and 21% had posted their children’s names and one in five said they hadn’t used Facebook’s privacy controls.

Creative Commons License

SMG's Online Security Bad Habits

In 2010, Consumer Reports estimated that cybercrime cost American consumers $4.5 billion over two years. A few things to keep in mind when it comes to protecting yourself:

  • Don’t use your full birth date in your profile (Or, if you do – utilize privacy settings to make sure it’s only available to those you want to see it)
  • Utilize privacy controls (This applies to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, whatever network you’re using)
  • Post your child’s name in a caption
  • Don’t broadcast you’ll be out of town (Unless following it up with ‘And _______ is taking care of my place!’)
  • Leverage Facebook Lists to control who sees what and when. I like to use them for industry-specific posts to avoid my mom replying with “What’s a Foursquare?”
  • Do a good ol’ Facebook friend clean-up. With 23% of Facebook users admitting they didn’t know some of their “friends” well enough to feel completely comfortable about their own or their family’s security or safety and 6% admitting to having a friend who made them uneasy about those things, this is a commonsense way to protect yourself.
  • Use a strong password

Let’s talk about passwords for a minute. Is yours painfully obvious? Does it include the name of your partner, child or pet? If so, give yourself a shake! You likely don’t use your birth date as your banking PIN, so why do it online? According to Consumer Reports, 75% of Americans don’t use the strongest kind of passwords for their most sensitive accounts. Here’s some more food for thought: 32% of respondents used a personal reference in their passwords, 29% store passwords on a list they carry with them, near their computer, or in an insecure file on their tablet or mobile device and almost 20% used the same password for more than five accounts.

Password 101: Strong passwords should contain at least eight characters and have a combination of upper and lowercase letters, a numeral and a special character.

The inadvertent posting of non-sensitive personal information may seem innocent but there is a dark side to sharing your interests, location, and even favourite local pub. Studies have shown that we’re not choosing the best passwords, and the likes of Charlie Sheen, Anthony Weiner and New York Times’ Brian Stelter have proven anyone can make a bad social media move.

Millions of people worldwide are constantly sharing personal and private information with friends (and strangers) on social networks. Think before you tweet and be smart about what you’re sharing.