Friday, May 28, 2010

Yes, comment? Online, it's becoming a habit


You were thinking/hoping/praying that stupid/off-topic/random comments on your Facebook/blog/Twitter posts would just go away? Think again, especially if you're publishing news online (in my view, that goes for organizations making announcements as well as media coverage).  MIN Online shares data here from a recent Gawker.com survey of 1450 people 1450 people surveyed, and notes:
Commenting on news stories has become an engrained habit. Eighty-two percent of adults have interacted with a news story on a site, and about the same number (83%) say they are comfortable commenting publicly on news sites.
NPR recently covered the struggle some web managers are facing with comments, which may not only focus on your organization's posts, but heap scorn on your contributors.  As the story notes, some sites are screening comments, going back to the process from letter-to-the-editor days when only a few comments were published after screening. (And in the related post linked below, some news sites are banishing the anonymous comment and giving higher placement to trusted commenters.) Others are taking a deep breath and learning from the feedback.

On YouTube, Download Squad notes that the online video service's new moderator service may "fix the problem of stupid YouTube comments," as it offers.  Here's the key:
Moderator gives you control over the topic, length of submissions, and the type of submissions you want (Questions? Votes? Something else?), and then gives you the ability to remove submissions as they come in. Your audience can vote the submissions up or down, and then you can respond to the top-voted submissions. It's the same system YouTube used when users interviewed President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Moderating comments is always a good idea, if only to avoid spam.  But when you moderate, how heavy a hand are you using?  If you publish no other social media policy, your policy on comments should be clear to your readers and viewers--and you should stick with it.  Keep in mind that most U.S. federal agencies only lightly moderate comments (check out the TSA blog to see some vitriol if you like).  In general, I'd advise that it's better to know what's being said, good or bad, than to scrub it--and your company and organization will look more approachable if you can be seen to withstand public criticism.

Related posts:  The devil's in the comments: Is anonymous dead?

Check out don't get caught on Facebook, where I'm floating ideas and discussing them before they appear on the blog.  It's shaping up as a great networking community for communicators.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catch up with the top 10 tips & issues from May

I'll slow down enough so you can catch these tips.  May's top posts are an eclectic bunch from a busy month.  This month, I launched don't get caught on Facebook, and I hope you'll join that community as well as read the blog--it's where I'm floating ideas and looking for your early input before I post here.  And a reminder: If you want to subscribe in an RSS reader, the feed's changed as of April 2010.  Now, on to the best of May, as determined by readers' choices:
  1. What to do about Facebook community pages?  While everyone else was scratching their heads on this new feature, guest poster Joe Bonner of Rockefeller University shared useful insights. Universities: Use Facebook community pages to monitor your institution comes up with a reason to welcome community pages. That fresh angle is this month's most popular post.
  2. The fangirl speaks: Lots of friends and readers wonder why I'd want to talk to total strangers on Twitter, so I compiled a list of some of the utter strangers, now muses of mine, that I met on Twitter. I think they speak for themselves--they're part of Twitter's secret sauce for me.  Also a well-read post. I hope you're following these smart folks.
  3. Wonder where the reporters went? They may be grounded, as this post notes. Lower news budgets are even changing how and whether White House correspondents travel with the President. (So yes, they'll have trouble traveling to your event, too.)
  4. Learn how news gets broken on social media:  This popular post shares five step-by-step guides, plus one, that you can use, whether you're making the announcement or covering it. Useful in planning your media relations for its rebooted stage.
  5. Minority audiences are on social media--more than you may realize. I say they're hiding in plain sight, and have good recent data to make you rethink your strategy for reaching them.
  6. When it comes to sharing online, are you good at it? Maybe your organization or company needs to say, "Embrace it: My sweet embeddable you," and learn to create content that's easy for others to pass along. Check out these starter ideas.
  7. Looking for quotes? Or just want to collect them for future reference? This weekly writing coach post on Qwotebook, a new social media site, is for you.  You can grab quotes from Twitter and elsewhere, check for others' quotes or search by topic, as well as populate your own "book" of quotes.
  8. What to watch next:  This post on how mobile and tablet engagement will change your audience and your content offers a start on thinking through how your strategy will shift again...soon.  Devices continue to shape the possible, so get ready.
  9. Is fresh video better? Not necessarily. A YouTube executive revealed that older videos do as well at driving traffic as new ones.  Read his advice on how to play it.
  10. Have you found your unexpected audience? It's all over social networking sites and online.  Check out this thought piece on why and how to do it, with some intriguing case studies.
If you like the advice you see here, find out more about the help I offer clients with communications and social media strategiestraining and content development.   I'm soon launching small-group speaker training sessions that will help you focus on message and delivery with no more than 6 participants; if you're interested, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.  We'll start in Washington, but I'm happy to bring the training to your city if enough people register.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Punctuate with sentences

Too often, writers get into a single cadence, a pattern or habit that leads to longer compound sentences that run in packs. If taken out of the paragraph and laid side-by-side, the sentences would wind up at about the same length and rhythm. Fortunately, the antidote that works best is punctuation, but not the punctuation you may be thinking of.  Instead of question marks and periods, consider structuring your sentences within a paragraph so they serve as the punctuation.  If you focus during the editing phase, you can correct run-on and similar-length sentences and insert shorter or medium-length options.

Gosh, that was painful.  But that paragraph was written to demonstrate what I don't want you to do.  Here's how those sentences look side-by-side, by the way:

Too often, writers get into a single cadence, a pattern or habit that leads to longer compound sentences that run in packs.

If taken out of the paragraph and laid side-by-side, the sentences would wind up at about the same length and rhythm.

Fortunately, the antidote that works best is punctuation, but not the punctuation you may be thinking of.

Instead of question marks and periods, consider structuring your sentences within a paragraph so they serve as the punctuation.

If you focus during the editing phase, you can correct run-on and similar-length sentences and insert shorter or medium-length options.

Amazing: Each sentence is 19-24 words long, and that was without trying, which means you can make this mistake in your sleep.  Let's try a rewrite that varies sentence length and uses that tactic to punctuate the paragraph -- and drive the reader at the pace you really want:

Too often, writers get into a rut. A single cadence. A pattern. A habit.  The result: longer compound sentences that run in packs. You're likely not aware of it. Take the sentences out of the paragraph and lay them side-by-side. Do they wind up at about the same length? Read them aloud to compare rhythm.  Then structure your sentences so they serve as the punctuation in each paragraph.  You can correct run-on and similar-length sentences while you edit; just insert shorter or medium-length options to break the paragraph up.

That's my quick edit. What would you do to punctuate that graph with varied sentence lengths?

Related posts:  Weekly writing coach: Length variations

A sense of where you are: Making the most of place

Just as a sense of place matters when you're on the basketball court, it matters to online users.  We all want eyes in the back of our heads, a bird's-eye view of the action and innate navigational powers, right? That's why the local and mobile options in social media and online apps continue as a strong trend.  Following are six categories of apps and sites that will give you (or your audience) a better sense of where you are.  These go way beyond directions, if you use them strategically:
  1. Travel and events: TripJournal app turns your smartphone into a scrapbook -- and makes it easy to post from your phone, but share the same journal, complete with old-timey graphics, on Facebook and YouTube, among other social sites. (If your users travel--think college students and study abroad-- you can take advantage of this app.) Diditz lets Facebook users turn their photo albums into web pages that share their travels, causes and other activities; Facebook page managers can use the app to engage users. Not just for travel, you can "call a diditz" for anything you've accomplished (get it? did its?) that's been on your list.
  2. Map-mucking: Google Maps' public transit options -- in lieu of driving directions -- are increasing to include biking directions and even next arrival times for public transit. The new feature's a boon for groups that wish to promote greener travel options. If you're trying to reach audiences with sustainability messages, you should have these options on your directions page, at a minimum. And you can style your Google Map now, with tools that let you choose colors as well as which map features are included. If you want to make a much more simplified map with less text, it's a great service; just be sure you're not omitting a key directional point. Use UMapper to create your own embeddable maps or geo-games, perhaps to guide users around your location.
  3. Augmented reality: When you overlay computer-generated imaging on a real-time or indirect view of the world, you've got augmented reality, a new but growing trend in place-based social media. Check an historic view via Street Museum, the Museum of London's iPhone app that overlays images of 19th century London on current street views, serving as a walking-tour resource. You also can get 3D images when you stop in front of one of the locations on the app's tour, and even create your own tour.  And you can help test an emerging augmented reality service, Wikitude Drive, which shows you a GPS turn-by-turn route right over images of the roads you're driving on, in real time.
  4. Campuses: 7 examples of what colleges and universities are doing on the mobile web--from apps to sites--are compiled in this meaty post that also includes tips on what to consider when creating a mobile site, as well as case studies.
  5. Meetings:  Start thinking of meetings as a location-based activity. BoothTag gets social at conferences, helping attendees to interact with exhibitors with scavenger hunts and more. They call this micro-local, a term that might make you think through opportunities you have to create a site-within-a-site experience. Chris Brogan's post explains more. 
  6. Ads:  PlaceLocal creates online ads for local small businesses and entrepreneurs by gathering what's already on the web, from reviews to graphics, and can even place the ad for you with its partners.  It's an easy, turnkey service that takes the mystery out of designing and placing simple local ads (and news organizations are partnering with it to reap the ad revenue benefits).
  7. Blogs:  Placeblogger helps you find blogs based on location, share where you are or where you're visiting, and lets users gather feeds from particular locations in one place.  Use it to gather intelligence about local bloggers, promote your blog, or track what users in your area are looking for.
Got a place-based app or site you're using and like? Share it in the comments. Are you taking full advantage of place in your social media strategy?

Monday, May 24, 2010

New report outlines how social media, traditional media cover news


The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has issued a report that tracks and compares how social media and traditional media cover the news (go here for the full report). Based on a year of data collecting, the insights are a must-read for communicators who manage media relations and those who handle releases of news through social media. You'll want to adjust your assumptions and your communications planning as a result of these findings:
  • The news cycle gets short, and quantified.  Social media's very short turnaround of news mirrors what consumers of news want on the web. From the report: "On blogs, 53% of the lead stories in a given week stay on the list no more than three days. On Twitter that is true of 72% of lead stories, and more than half (52%) are on the list for just 24 hours."
  • Mainstream news isn't picking up on news generated online, yet.  In the year studied, just the disclosure of "climate-gate" emails from climate change scientists got traction in mainstream news media after its disclosure and buzz in the blogosphere.
  • Social media news isn't trying to mirror mainstream news, either.  The report notes, "Blogs overlap more than Twitter, but even there only about a quarter of the top stories in any given week were the same as in the 'MSM'."
  • News on social networks varies depending on the social network.  So, while all social media news coverage takes a different tack from mainstream media coverage, each channel--YouTube, Twitter, etc.--has its own brand of coverage in terms of topics, duration and even how it's consumed and shared.  It pays to get to know each channel just as you'd once have studied each network.  For example, the most popular YouTube news videos have a decided international flavor: More than one-quarter of the top-watched news videos there were of non-U.S. events.
Share your insights about the report in the comments.

UPDATE:  Amy Gahran adds excellent perspective on this study, noting--correctly--that there are many blogs which offer real news reporting, but aren't categorized as "news sites." I agree.  Take the time to read her analysis of the shortcomings of the Pew study and its data collection, and keep those factors in mind when making your decisions on what comes next for your organization.

News organization cutbacks changing coverage at the top

Time for the life vests? While the rest of you have already seen the effects of smaller reporter teams covering your issue, the White House has seemed impervious to news cutbacks.  Not anymore. Now budget-cutting at major news organization means that the White House press corps is traveling with the President less and less, as this New York Times article explains.  ABC, CBS, and USA Today are among those curtailing reporter participation in the charter travel that the pool of news organizations buys together--and the more dropouts, the higher the costs go for the rest, encouraging other options that now including staying at home base or spending extra time catching retail flights.  Want to see how those new local and regional online news projects are handling budgets?  The Times also profiles MinnPost, which combines foundation funding with subscriptions, but hopes to be self-sufficient by next year.  Also not a glamous picture...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Infographics: The good, the bad, and what's next

Not quite charts on sterioids, not quite the full story, Infographics have gone from a novel USA Today front page box to essential viewing online, and not just for news sites. Causes, companies and more are finding that infographics allow a faster grasp of information and if you offer embedding codes, your infographics can go viral as well as a video can.  It's another key component in the essentially visual nature of a rebooted communications effort. Here are insights--good, sublime, ridiculous, ancient and futuristic--to keep in mind when building up your infographic communications:

The good:  GOOD has a rich section of topical infographics that's well worth a look when you need inspiration--and from time to time, runs infographic contests to find the best options for depicting data on current events, a great opportunity for your organization and designers to shine.

The sublime:  Here's a great post on 7 and 1/2 steps to successful infographics from Sarah Slobin, who's worked graphical magic at the New York Times (where there's a 30-person infographics team), Fortune and the Wall Street Journal.  Share this with your media relations team so they better understand how data get turned into graphics at news organizations, but keep a copy for yourself.  From getting an idea to scrubbing your data, this is a lengthy and smart backgrounder on what makes a good infographic tick--and how it affects workflow. Consider this snippet:
When I was at the NYT, there was this reporter who drove a thousand miles across country chasing this thesis that population growth was sparked near off-ramps on the interstate. It was a lovely road-trip story; he gathered amazing anecdotes and the editors loved it. Except that when we mapped the census data it didn't support the thesis. Imagine how much gas he could have saved had he started by looking at the data.
The ridiculous:  Then there's the opposite, the bad infographic. And it abounds in the land. Fortunately, Imagine a Pie Chart Stomping on an Infographic Forever includes a gallery of bad infographics to show you what to avoid, along with well-thought-out advice.  Even if you don't pass the first item around the office, do share this one. Readers will thank you.

After here be dragons:  For a reminder that we've been struggling with infographics for centuries, check out this article about a recent Library of Congress conference on portolan charts, medieval maps that still mystify researchers, who can't find the sources of much of the (accurate) data they contained in their beautiful pages. Take some inspiration, and a history lesson while you're at it.

Where we might want to be headed next:  Finally, check out this video of New York Times reporter and blogger Andrew Revkin, sharing a visualization by Adam Nieman, who looks for new ways to show the complex issues facing the environment--in this case, making all the world's oceans look like a bead of water, but one that's an accurate depiction of oceans' mass in relation to the Earth.  (The link goes to Neiman's very good blog; he's already thinking about visualizations of the BP oil disaster.)



You can also get inspired with this mashup of Google Earth and a template of the oil spill.  Paul Rademacher, who started the Google Earth Browser Plugin and currently is engineering manager for the Google Maps frontend, created the How big is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? site to let you compare its spread with better-known points on the map, so you can overlay the spill on maps of San Francisco, Manhattan and more. The idea here: It's tough to "see" the spill, much of which is on the ocean floor, so this infographic puts it on dry land (infographically speaking) to help it make more sense. This interactive experience is one you might consider for bumping your infographics up to the next level; the program's created with Google Earth API.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Consumers want--but aren't getting--more engagement

Heads-up, companies (and other organizations):  Despite all the talk about crowdsourcing and conversations, three-quarters of consumers give companies a C, D, or F grade on how they're engaging consumers around critical business issues.  Yet more than 80 percent of consumers "believe their ideas can help companies create products and services that are a win for consumers, business and society."

The data come from the 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study (see the annnouncement or sign up to receive a free copy here--a nice touch is that one sign up lets you see all their reports).

Where do consumers think they can contribute?  From the report summary: 
A majority of consumers want to be engaged on four key responsible business pillars, including how a company conducts its business (85%), its products and packaging (83%), its support of social and environmental issues (81%) and its marketing and advertising (74%).
And here's how they're willing to act:
Consumers are prepared to dedicate time and money to help influence corporate social/environmental practices through surveys and research (70%), buying or boycotting a company's products (44%) or through email, phone or employee communications (32%), among other activities.
Those are specific, concrete actions and wishes.  In contrast, 87% of consumers see corporate communications as one-sided, and 67% just think the messages are confusing.

Because the report includes lots of questions to tease out consumer feelings about sustainability, environmental and other social issues, there are lots of data points here that will be of interest to education and nonprofit communicators--especially those that partner with corporations on those issues.  And the data point up a gap that doesn't seem to be closing yet, between consumers' belief that they can offer good ideas and corporations' hewing to the traditional top-down model of communication.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

9 lessons I've learned from my trainees

It might be a media training with a client who keeps revealing more than he intends...a group session in which a participant tugs my sleeve and asks the question about public speaking she's had for 20 years...the look on the face of someone who realizes we've figured out how to tackle that thorny social media question.  But every time, I get a takeaway lesson, a reminder of something long known but now assumed, a prompt that tells me others need to know this, too. Here are some of the lessons I've taken from my trainees:
  1. The sooner you start, the more you'll learn. That's true about younger audiences, as they have fewer bad habits to unlearn--and a major reason your company or organization should start offering presentation skills to junior executives or team members.  But it's also true for leaders:  The longer they're in their current role, the less open they may be to changing their presentation or interview style.  Getting training scheduled early in a leader's tenure lets her ask questions and correct assumptions that may get cemented after just a few months.  And it's also true for time of day: The earlier we start, the better the energy levels of the trainees and the more they'll absorb.
  2. But it's never too late to try training.  A more seasoned trainee knows all too well the paved road of regrets and mistakes, and may be wide open to learning, so don't count them out. Whether it's social-media skills or public speaking, it's never too late to learn--and the trainee may be more motivated and focused. 
  3. Introverts can be the most motivated learners of communications skills. I've heard other trainers dismiss the idea of training introverts, with a "why bother?" attitude. But I'd guess the majority of my trainees are introverts, and often, they're the most motivated. I'm always struck when a group of introverts winds up fighting over who'll be on video by the end of a session, but that only happens when the group feels comfortable with its inevitable mistakes (see point 6 below).  Introverts may need to learn different preparation and coping skills, but they can shine along with the extroverts when it comes to public speaking and presentations.
  4. People don't always know what help they can get from their communications pros:  Even if they know the company or institution has a communications shop, there's low awareness that your help is available.  A crisis? No. But consider the trainee--a well-known expert in her field--who told me she just crumpled up messages asking her to do interviews with major media outlets, because she didn't realize she could talk to the press officer and get help getting comfortable with an interview. A cryin' shame.  I always reinforce the on-site help that's available when I train a group, and your trainer should, too.
  5. It's always easier for the outsider to tackle the persistent issues--otherwise known as the things you've said one million times.  Outside trainers can tell your boss to take his hands out of his pockets when he speaks (I have a foolproof fact that does the trick), let the elaborate chart-hugger know that his picture ain't worth a thousand words, and coax the shy but talented person into believing your really mean it when you ask her to speak to public audiences.  You can also blame things on me, of course. But many clients lean on the outside perspective and remind their folks, "What did Denise tell you?"  I'm always happy to be your backup and to reinforce your guidelines.
  6. People need a safe place to screw up, or they'll never try.  It's why people seek out one-on-one coaching and training, but also true for groups. I've got a no-embarrassment rule for my behavior (and that of others) in my workshops, and encourage participants to ask all the questions they want, no matter how basic. "I'd rather have you mess up in here, among friends, than on your own out there," is the general tone--and that's welcomed again and again. 
  7. If you're going to push trainees out of their box, say so.  A group that you know is likely to be uncomfortable might like a little warning. I get thanked for doing this--the pushing and the warning--in feedback forms, so I know that it's good to let folks know what to expect.
  8. The larger the group, the less they can learn together.  All sorts of organizations want to book trainings for large groups, thinking they'll get more bang for the buck--but in fact, we can cover less ground and there's less time for individual questions and help.  I always try to plan small-group activity in a large-group training, but it's a challenge. Participants find the very largest groups frustrating, and say so in their feedback forms.
  9. If you'll agree to training and to practice, you can improve.  You don't need to be a "natural-born speaker" or a social media whiz from birth. The only people I've trained who haven't improved are those who spent the training time explaining why they didn't need help, and those who didn't practice. If those aren't your problems, we can do great things.
Find out more here about my training services and what trainees say about my trainings.  I'm launching very small-group speaker training workshops this summer--no more than 6 people at a time. If you want to get on the waiting list for more information, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Blumenthal and getting caught by your own quotes

There's a reason my company's called don't get caught, and it has more to do with what happened to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal than, say, bank robbers or unfaithful spouses.

Blumenthal's ever-expanding statements about his military service during the Vietnam War era took him from talking about serving behind a desk (true) to stating that he served "in the war" (not), and that arc was revealed yesterday in this article in the New York Times.  The headline, "Candidate's Words on Vietnam Service Differ From History," should be a case study in Coverage You Really Don't Want, But May Well Deserve.

What's more unusual, cringe-worthy and worth keeping on file is today's article, in which Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut colleague of Blumenthal's, describes watching him descend this slippery slope, step by mushy step.  It's an excellent cautionary tale, and I wouldn't hesitate to use this with an overstepping client.

Working as I do in Washington, and having worked at the highest levels of government, I get asked all the time whether high-flying politicians and other leaders just need better staffing or a good speechwriter.  The truth is, all the advisement in the universe won't help a leader who just can't help what comes out of his mouth.

But you, now, you can keep some warning signs in mind if you're advising a leader on how to put their money where their mouth is:
  1. Know your limits.  In her very good book, Am I Making Myself Clear?: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public, Times reporter Cornelia Dean puts it straight: "Don't let your mouth write checks that your ass can't cash."  That "I misspoke" response covers less of what you've exposed than you think it does.
  2. The bigger your issue or your identifiers, the more scrutiny you can expect. In this case, Blumenthal almost seems in hindsight to have begged for someone to poke at his dedication to veterans, given how extensive and public it was. There's a lot a psychologist could tell you about that compulsion, but here's my advice:  If you are going to wrap yourself in the mantle of truth, justice, motherhood, family values or any other noble-sounding cause, get ready to be an open book on the topic and prepare accordingly. Otherwise, the best anyone can say of you is that you must have seen that train wreck a-comin'.
  3. Don't overlook credible options.  What might his statements (and the coverage) have been like if Blumenthal used, ahem, the plain truth or just some more precision?  "I sat out the war, and in hindsight, I've realized that I've been given an opportunity in my career to serve our veterans--so they are now my top priority," perhaps, or "There's a role for those who serve at the desk, but I want to honor today those who served at the front lines. They made my career possible."   Brainstorming what else you can say is often overlooked in the joyous embrace of what you want to say.  Someone on the smart leader or CEO's team should always be asking, "Can we say that with a straight face? Why?"  Put another way, asking, "What would the headline say?" is often a useful tool to bring overstatements crashing back down to earth.  In this case, asking that question would have led right to the headline in yesterday's paper--but years before, and without the coverage.
For communications directors: A lot of what goes into making this work is choosing a good leader to serve in the first place.  But you might use this episode as a reminder to build strategic preparation into your routines and culture--or to step up what you're already doing.  Making sure your team knows it's okay and even preferable to question, test assumptions, and look for credible alternatives is the best way to head off similar problems.

Thanks for letting me preach to the choir this morning...

Monday, May 17, 2010

YouTube hits 2 billion views a day at five years, offers biz cards



YouTube's celebrating its fifth anniversary by noting that the site now gets 2 billion views a day (it passed the one billion mark just a few months ago), "nearly double the prime-time audience of all three major U.S. television networks combined."  It's also the third-most-visited website, period.

That might just be enough to get you/your boss/your company or organization convinced that it's time to get your own YouTube channel, and if you do, don't miss this marketing option introduced late last month:  Special designs for YouTube business cards from MOO.com:



MOO's made a range of clever options for these cards, so you can feature a different image from your videos on each card, or include a QR code, or images from YouTube's Creators Corner.  If you order by May 21, 2010, a pack of 50 cards is free, plus $6 for shipping and handling.

Minority social media audiences: Hiding in plain sight?

If you're interested in targeting African-American and Hispanic audiences on social media networks and wondering where to find them, the answer may be in the same places you frequent, or even more places than you're using. New data are revealing that minority audiences make as much or more use of social media as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.  Here's a roundup of the latest insights about three places you'll find them: 
  • On government websites:  Blacks, Hispanics and whites are equally likely to use digital technologies to find government information, including blogs, social networks and online video, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project.  And minority attitudes about the government's presence online are positive. From the report: "Minority Americans are significantly more likely than whites to agree strongly with the statement that government outreach using tools such as blogs, social networking sites or text messaging 'helps people be more informed about what the government is doing' and 'makes government agencies and officials more accessible'."
  • On Twitter:  Black people make up 25 percent of Twitter users, according to new data from Edison Research, "roughly twice their share of the population in general."  You can request a copy of the report here, or watch the results in the webinar video below.

 

Twitter Usage in America 2010 from Tom Webster on Vimeo.
  • On mobile devices:  Pew also established that African-Americans are the most active and fastest-growing audience using mobile devices to access the Internet--so much so that the "digital divide" between whites and blacks disappears when mobile Internet use is accounted for. And both blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to have ever gone online with a mobile device, or to have done so on a typical day; both groups were more likely than whites to own a cell phone. If this is your audience, optimizing your sites for mobile access should be a priority. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Utter strangers, now muses, I met on Twitter: A #followfriday list

I was sitting at a cafe table in a conference center, skipping sessions so I could have a leisurely breakfast and catch up on blogging. He rushed past, stopped, backed up, looked at me and asked, "Are you @dontgetcaught?"  I said yes, but wondered how he knew? He pointed to my screen, where my handle on my Blogger interface was loud and clear, but he really knew me from somewhere else: Twitter.

That's how I met fellow Tweeter and nutrition science writer David DespainDavid Krumlauf, chief technologist for a private foundation in Chicago, and I met similarly:  We were at the same conference, both live-tweeting, and a few rows ahead of me, I saw my website come up on his laptop--so I tweeted about it, and he identified himself in a return tweet.  (We both still tell that story, too.)  They've both become regular sources for me.

Don't get me wrong: I have wonderful friends who've made the transition to Twitter with me, and on it, we're deepening those relationships just fine. But skeptics wonder at arm's length about sharing your insights on Twitter with "just anybody" and that no real connection gets made between strangers.  I say that some of my most fruitful contributors, clients and collaborators have started out as strangers I met on Twitter. So, in addition to the two Davids, here are a few of my recommended follows, all people I might not otherwise have met but for Twitter. Many of us have sought one another out in person (and I'd love to meet the rest). Herewith, a small sampler for #followfriday, the day on which we on Twitter recommend others to follow:
  1. Emily Culbertson:  Emily and I have plenty in common--we're both alumni of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, albeit a decade or so apart, but I met her on Twitter. I value what she shares from a web planner's perspective, and I love the questions she asks me about public speaking issues. When Emily asks, I usually wind up blogging, which means she's a great thinker about content.  And then there's the recipe-sharing. We've met in real life, and it's as if we're just continuing a great conversation.
  2. Joe Bonner:  A university communications director, Joe's a client who engaged me from our connection on Twitter; we didn't meet till I showed up to work.  He's one of the best curators on the topics that matter most to me--communications and social media, plus music and food--and one who takes in 100 times more information than he's sharing. We discovered that we've attended the same conference for years, but didn't meet until Twitter. I can only imagine what I was missing.
  3. Tim Windsor: A smart digital strategist at Johns Hopkins University, Tim won me over utterly and completely when he appended "Beavis wept" and re-tweeted this from @BreakingNews: "US def. sec. calls Guantanamo "taint" on US reputation."  He crafts a good, laugh-out-loud tweet, and takes particular care with them.  Do put your coffee down before reading, just in case.
  4. Concrete ThinkerJust the handle alone stands out. This is Patricia Flesher, who tweets for the Portland Cement Association deftly, focusing on sustainability and consumer information, but with enough reality that you can tell there's a real person doing it. She's a great example for associations, industries and other organizations that need an "official" presence on Twitter, and I use her as such with my clients and in my presentations.
  5. Sarah MilsteinEsteemed company here: She's an early user of Twitter; co-author of The Twitter Book; and co-chair of the Web 2.0 Expo.  More important to me: Sarah is another one whose out-loud queries on Twitter wind up feeding content for The Eloquent Woman blog, in particular.  Sarah confronts tough questions--she's an astonishing thinker--and when I write about the topics she suggests, the posts attract a wide audience.  We've also met in person, and one of these days, I expect, we will compare shoe collections.
  6. StephanieMcAuliffe:  Stephanie directs program effectiveness for the Packard Foundation, and proffers a stream that's useful, cheerful, and thoughtful.  A great networker and thinker who takes a lot in.  We haven't met, but I'd love to give her lunch and hear more in person; you will feel the same way about her Twitter stream. She possesses a strong vision for what foundations can do to be more effective, and is sharing that online.
  7. Bill Romanos:  I've spent a career communicating science, but you just can't beat Bill, a corporate attorney and super-Tweeter with broad interests that happen to include most of science (and much more).  While many are wringing their hands about how to engage public audiences about science, Bill--not a scientist, just a fan--quietly built a following in the tens of thousands by sharing good information that comes across his path.  A Renaissance tweeter I read every day.
  8. Olivia Mitchell:  A fellow speaker and presentation coach, Olivia lives half a world away in New Zealand.  I found her first-rate blog first and her Twitter account shortly thereafter, and she is a smart observer of the ways in which it's changing public speaking. I had the pleasure of hosting Olivia and her partner on their swing through Washington this spring, and liked her just as I thought I would. Speakers, she's a worthy follow with information you can trust.
  9. Katie Parla:   Katie's a food blogger who spends most of her time in Rome, but has chronicled good eating in London (used it on my most recent trip), Turkey, New York and more.  No one can make me hungry like Katie Parla, and I'd hire her to take me around Rome anytime.  She's a great read and generous tweeter, but do watch out: Her own tastes are adventuresome. You'll learn a lot, you'll salivate, then you'll go off and cook something. I nearly always do.
All of these people have a few things in common:  They write and share great content, so I'm more likely to stop and read what put forward, knowing it's worth my time. If I miss their tweets in real-time, they're saved in my reader so I can stay up to speed. They work hard but have great senses of humor and aren't afraid to share something of themselves aside from their work.  And--my greatest compliment--they prompt new thinking in me that generally leads to my most creative work, a priceless quality.  Here's hoping you find your own set like this one.

I have a new page on Facebook for don't get caught--and will be starting discussions and floating ideas there before they appear on this blog.  Check it out and join the community!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Older video just as good as new when it comes to driving traffic

Someone told me the other day that her team's mantra for social media postings is "frequent and fresh."  She wanted to remind them that they needed to be posting new content, to combat short attention spans and competition from other organizations.  Turns out she may be right only half the time--and that "new" may just mean "new to you."   Video is still the king of web content, attracting more viewers than any other options--and it turns out that older video is just as effective at driving traffic as new video. 

That's true on YouTube, where an executive this week shared that fully half of its more than one billion daily views come from six-month-old or older videos.  When you're plotting a YouTube strategy, he recommends coming up with an "anchor video" that can get you past 5,000 views, which will help you land in its search index and listed near related videos.  And don't forget the value of drawing attention to your video archive gems when you're posting on Facebook, Twitter and other update sites. 

No one does it better than TED.com, which regularly releases archived video--like this one on why math class needs a makeover--with the note, "Watch Dan Meyer's talk on TED.com, where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 600+ TEDTalks."  The subtle tagline suggests "there's more where this came from," suggests how you can participate, and leaves the door to the archive open with a link.

The beauty of archival video--just as with any other archived content--is that it's ready-made, and in a time when you can't seem to create enough content, it's a true goldmine.  You'll need to curate it to add perspective, but don't neglect older offerings in your hunt for "frequent and fresh" things to post.  Sure, post the older footage when an anniversary or special occasion rolls around, but count on our perennial yen for nostalgia, our hunt for detail, and the fact that we might have missed it the first time around.'

If you've got good examples to share of how you've used archival video, on YouTube or elsewhere, share it in the comments or on the don't get caught page on Facebook.

Related posts:  Museums move ahead with social-media engagement

Archives as part of a reboot: Making the most of online newspaper archives

A parade of new online photo sources

New media adapters: From archive to blog

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Flex your creative brain

Can you track how your mind creates new ideas when you write?  Can you exercise that "muscle?"  This New York Times article looks at how scientists are attempting to track creativity in the brain, and this ProBlogger post on how to make sure you're functioning at your creative best looks at the research from a slightly different view, examining the deliberative and spontaneous routes to creative ideas.

The Times article describes some of the tests scientists use to prompt the brain into creative thinking.  Why not try some of these to exercise your creative mind this week?


  1. Choose one common object--a brick, a sheet of paper, a pencil--and come up with a list of as many "new and useful" functions as you can. (This tests divergent thinking.)  How many creative uses can you think of?  Make this more challenging and limit your time: 2 minutes? 3 minutes?  Then, try it over a longer period.  How many uses for a brick can you come up with in a week, if you leave it in the background of your mind?

  2. Draw the taste of chocolate, or write a caption for a cartoon (as you can in The New Yorker's weekly contest).

  3. Get way out of the box and "imagine people could instantly change their sex, or imagine clouds had strings; what would be the implications?"  Other tests ask you to rethink historic events--as in,what if Hitler had won World War II.
Any of those exercises would be great to try with your fellow writers in the office, or online, as well as by yourself. 

It's useful to note the observations of Rex Jung, a researcher at Alburquerque's Mind Research Network. From the article:
“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
That's a great analogy, and a reminder that creative thinking may take some time.  Now, take the time to try at least one of the exercises above, and keep yours in trim.

NOTE to readers:  I've had to turn off the commenting option for this post, which appears to be a spam magnet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Breaking news on social media: 5 step-by-step guides, plus one

As the news media and the organizations they cover gain experience with social media, a body of knowledge is coming together on how news should be released and covered in real-time, using tools like Twitter, Facebook and other networks.  With the help of clients and colleagues, I've been collecting these early efforts to codify how news gets broken on social networks.  Here are five sets of real-life experience you can draw on to revamp and revise your own approach, whether you're covering breaking news or issuing it:
  1. Making a major announcement only on Twitter:  Virgin America chose to focus announcing a North American expansion only on Twitter, including special discounts for the first travelers to book flights on the new routes.  It's a case of tight audience targeting, as the airline is the only major one based in Silicon Valley--a community that's well-established on Twitter.
  2. Using social media to broadcast critical information in an emergency requires advance planning.  Know the Network walks you through three important preparations:  creating the expectation with your audience that you'll be using social media channels during emergencies; establishing a chain-of-command for social media updates during an emergency; and doing advance training and tech support so you can move faster when a problem hits.  Because this isn't written from a solely PR perspective, this plan works for all sorts of organizations, including news organizations.
  3. Use a checklist for online breaking news:  Chris Snider of the Des Moines Register offers this checklist that the Register uses--not exhaustively, but as a reminder--to do everything from promote the breaking news online to capturing its progression in screen grabs.  At the end of the post, you can download the list in PDF form to post around your newsroom.  Some items on the list were included to "enhance the reader experience" when news is breaking, another reminder to keep that audience firmly in mind.
  4. Using Twitter to cover breaking news:  The Austin Statesman has been tweeting as @statesman, and has broken down the step-by-step process, after the fact of a real breaking story, complete with sample tweets and discussion of why decisions were made and steps taken.  Here's the original post, which also was highlighted as a case study on Twitter's own media blog.  A thorough way to learn by example.
  5. Using Twitter to correct errors in breaking news:  Regular readers will have seen this previous post on correcting a moving record, based on the experience of MSNBC on Twitter when erroneous information was shared as part of coverage of a breaking story.  To illustrate the power of mistakes in social-media coverage, check this article about coverage of the New York Times Square would-be bomber--which included someone else's Facebook profile.
The plus?  This recent Mashable article on how journalists are using social media for real results. Not all involve breaking news, but some do--and you'll get a richer picture of how reporters are finding sources, doing research and reporting with a variety of social media tools.

This post first appeared in my free monthly newsletter, For Communications Directors.  Subscribe here to see content before it appears on the blog, and other resources.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Communicators as the shoemaker's children

Communicators, particularly those working within the organization or company they serve, have a tendency to wind up like the shoemaker's children: barefoot and without the benefit of promotion and training, two of the things they sell to others.

It's not like you haven't thought of it.  But when it comes to promoting your own work, many communicators respond defensively:  Doesn't everyone know what we do? Don't you think we have enough to do? Isn't that shameless self-promotion?

Of course, the answer to those questions often is "no."  Everyone doesn't know what you do, or has the wrong idea about it. They may be new or only remember what your predecessor didn't do for them 10 years ago.  Why drop the ball on the activity most likely to ensure your operation's future success?  Nor is it shameless. Think of it as B-to-B marketing if you like. Just don't forget that your customers, internal though they may be, need to understand what it is you do and why that adds value to their piece of the operation.  I'm not talking, by the way, about entering awards programs and promoting the prizes you've won.  The feedback loop needs to be built within your organization, not come from outside it.

The trick for many of you may be to come up with what a former staffer of mine called "gentle self-promotion," an on-target description because you don't want to tip the balance too far.  What are deft ways you can share information about those for-the-win moments?  It might be as simple as an email or phone call to the department vice-president whose product or employee or research discovery got some coverage, so she can share it with her team.  This is a great topic for your communications team to brainstorm from time to time, and then carry out as the final step in any effort.

It's much the same with training and professional development. With all the changes going on in communications and social media, this is a time to be shaking and re-making your training agenda.  That goes for everyone from the director on down the line, and even for topics you think you know well, from updated media interview skills to public speaking.  There's not a team among my clients that isn't trying to do more with less right now--but those that are succeeding have been able to stretch their creativity and output thanks to strategic training, sometimes for the entire team at once.

I spent my career as a top communicator within organizations, and I know that emphasizing client feedback and training for communications staff helped me stay effective--and those are the same skills I use in my own consultancy today, to make sure I stay fresh, flexible and focused on client needs.  Think a little like an entrepreneur today.  How can you get some shoes on the feet of your shoemaker's children?  What are the barriers you're facing?  What skills and gentle self-promotion have you built--or want to try?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

weekly writing coach: the grandness of simple words

I've started my summer reading with Philip Pullman's contrariwise novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a retelling of the Bible that is getting noticed as much for its plain language as for the conceit of the novel (that there were two brothers, one named Jesus and one named Christ).  One reviewer said the tone was as if someone were conversationally telling you a story.  The language is spare, especially for Pullman, and compared to many versions of the Bible.

It reminds me of a book I first picked up in college, John Steinbeck's retelling of the Winchester manuscripts of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.  A true work of scholarship and a story well told in clear, modern English, this Arthur lost none of the excitement and gained loads of clarity.  (Dramatically, it ends abruptly in the middle of Guinevere and Lancelot's betrayal of Arthur, at the point where Steinbeck died before completing the manuscript.)  Steinbeck writes in the foreword of how much he loved the old language in this book, turning each word over on his tongue, and yet he carved from it a thoroughly modern voice.

Since I spend a lot of time helping scientists and science communicators unravel technical language in a long search for clarity, it occurs to me that these two books offer a different version of that exercise. They're all about the word choices.  You might turn to either of these this summer as examples of how to write simply and well.  And humor me while I show you a sample of what Steinbeck did with his dedication to his sister, which he first wrote in Malory's language, and then in ours:

Whan of IX wyntre age
I toke siege wyth King Arthurs felyship emonge knyghtes
most orgulus and worshyppful as ony on lyve
In thos dayes grate lack was of sqyres of hardynesse and noble
herte to bere shylde and glayve to bockle harnyss and succoure
woundid knyghtes
Than yit chaunced that squyre lyke dutyes fell to my systir of
vi wyntre age that for jantyl prouesse had no felawe lyvynge
Yt haps somtymes in saddnesse and pytie that who faythful servys
ys not faythful sene so my fayre and sikker systir squyre dures
yet undubbed
Wherefore thys daye I mak amendys to my power and rayse
hir knyghte and gyff her loudis
And fro thys hower she shall be hyght Syr Mayrie Stynebec
of the Vayle Salynis
God gyvve hir worshypp saunz jaupardye

Jehan Stynebec de Montray
Miles

The translation:

When I was nine, I took siege with King Arthur's fellowship of knights most proud and worshipful as any alive.
In those days there was a great lack of hardy and noble-hearted squires to bear shield and sword, to buckle harness, and to succor wounded knights.
Then it chanced that squire-like duties fell to my sister of six years, who for gentle prowess had no peer living.
It sometimes happens in sadness and pity that faithful service is not appreciated, so my fair and loyal sister remained unrecognized as squire.
Wherefore this day I make amends within my power and raise her to knighthood and give her praise.
And from this hour she shall be called Sir Marie Steinbeck of Salinas Valley.
God give her worship without peril.

John Steinbeck of Monterey
Knight

For Communications Directors: This morning

My free monthly newsletter, For Communications Directors, is coming out this morning, with fresh content not yet on this blog. This month, I've collected 5 step-by-step guides to how breaking news is released, covered and even corrected on online social networks.  You'll also find more about Facebook community pages and how I've been using Twitter, and a heads-up about new speaker workshops I'm launching later this year. Go here to subscribe to For Communications Directors now.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How mobile & tablet engagement will change your content--and your audience

For some time now, it's been useful to consider whether your audience sits leaning forward or back--the former, when using the web, the latter when watching television or radio.  Jeremy Rue has a new post with a good review of the two types of audiences: the leaning-forward online crowd is scanning, with a shorter attention span, while the sit-back group's more passive and presumably attentive. But he thinks that mobile devices and tablets like the iPad actually are "lean-back" devices.  He notes:
The iPad is a particularly interesting device, because it aims to bring the Web into the living room where it could become a lean-back media device. I think this is why so many magazines are excited about delivering their content to the iPad. With tablets, people might actually spend time consuming media rather than frantically searching.
We don't know how this will play out, but it's a good reminder to keep an eye on tablet trends while you decide whether you can include longer-format content for mobile devices.

Embrace it: My sweet embeddable you


One of the great gifts of widgetsYouTube and TED.com are those embeddable bits of content--the gifts that let you include independently produced content on your websites and blogs to build interest and excitement.  Embeddable elements are expanding as developers embrace the opportunity to let you share and spread content.  When your turn comes to share content, will you make it embeddable? Here are four recent examples to try--and to emulate:
  • Embeddable graphics like this infographic of the "Top 29 Cities for Men," a joint effort of Mint.com and AskMen.com to assess a variety of data points to come up with this list.  Mint's offering the graphic embed code directly with the post linked above (and does so for most of its graphics).  If you've been offering charts and infographics on your websites, making them embeddable should be next on your list.
  • Embeddable tweets are now possible due to "Blackbird Pie," an embed-code-generator launched this week by Twitter.  Using screen grabs of tweets, though labor-intensive, has become popular, and this service makes it easy to enter the URL for a particular tweet and generate the code.  As it's just launched, expect some site overload as the masses try it out.  Here's an example:

The Eloquent Woman very much likes this list! RT @unmarketing: 30 Quick Tips For Speakers http://bit.ly/averHa learned over 15 yearsless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Embedded tweets are a great way to capture and show praise, commentary and other feedback your online efforts are receiving, and to reflect your community in your website or blog.
  • If you've experimented with Google Wave, you can now embed a wave on any website.  And while you still need to be signed in to contribute, anyone can sign in anonymously and observe the discussion.  Wondering whether a wave is in your future? Here's one post that wonders aloud whether Google Wave will be the new Facebook.  Embedding a discussion-in-progress opens up new opportunities for collaboration, transparency and real-time excitement.
  • Do the reverse: Embed sites into a Google wave, using this gadget.  That might be a group calendar, a presentation, or just a website you're discussing.  Embedding sites into a wave may be new to you, but opens up a world of collaborative opportunity--remember, waves can be public or private.
Got an embeddable bit of content to share? Let us know about it in the comments. And while you're at it, grab the widgets for the don't get caught blog or The Eloquent Woman blog for your website, wave or blog.

UPDATE:  To get us started, Joe Bonner shared on FriendFeed: "And don't forget the embed option in the FriendFeed Share link, as demonstrated by Kol Tregaskes." 

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Finding your unexpected audience

When I first started working with clients on using social media as a communications tool, one woman listened to me talk about the benefits of blogging. I mentioned the ease with which you could expand your audience worldwide, and she stopped me. "No," she said. "I need to be able to turn that part off." Part? Off?  "The part where people all over can read this. I don't want someone in Sweden or Thailand randomly reading what I publish."

While that strong reaction's exceptional, I still see companies, small businesses and organizations ignoring or eyeing askance the unexpected audiences their social networking yields.  They're not your target audience, sometimes by a long shot. But might they offer  value and opportunity?

This New York Times article about online higher education courses offers one high-profile example:

M.I.T. officials like to tell about an unsolicited comment they received one day about the online course “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry.” “I learned a LOT from these lectures and the other course material,” the comment said. “Thank you for having it online.” The officials did a double take. It was from Bill Gates. (Really.)....Mr. Gates, the former Microsoft chairman, is not exactly M.I.T.’s target audience. Part of its original intent was to provide teachers with the raw materials to lead a course, especially in the outer reaches of the globe.
Turns out, however, that this unexpected audience--independent learners like Gates--makes up 43 percent of MIT's online course users, while just 9 percent are educators.  I'd argue that it would be hard to find a better-placed advocate who can help share that resource with teachers "in the outer reaches of the globe" than Bill Gates, whose interest can provide more than just a good story. 

To my mind, it all depends on what you do with that unexpected audience member who stumbles onto your online network or tweets or blog.  Are they just objects of curiosity? Footnotes? Believe-it-or-not stories?  Or are you listening to what they're telling you and using them to accomplish a goal--your original goal or a new one presented to you by your audience?  Every fan note or piece of feedback--whether it's from Gates or someone less well-known--gives you the chance to build that relationship, develop content and widen your circles strategically.  What if MIT asked the 43 percent of independent learners who like its online courses to help it boost its reach to teachers in far-flung locations?  They're already on board, and they may, given their interest, be able to expand that network. Worth exploring, certainly.
I've long been charmed with one science journalist's approach to the stumbled-over audience.  Carl Zimmer, author of The Loom blog, has a tangential audience that's grown like tumbleweed: People with science tattoos.  Zimmer looks at all things evolutionary, but even though they have science content, tattoos are a bit of a stretch in his topic area.  What started as a topic of mild curiosity for him has become very popular with scientists, tattoo parlors and tattoo aficionados of all kinds--and given Zimmer a big boost in traffic, a wider audience that includes people interested in science, and content for his blog as well as future products. Zimmer described the phenomenon and how it grew in a 2008 interview on this blog, and you can view the ever-changing Science Tattoo Emporium here.

But here's what's critical:  Where most people would have said, "Tattoos? I don't want traffic from people with tattoos--that's not my focus!", he saw opportunity, fun and recurring content with a built-in audience.  Just remember that the next time someone pops up with the audience equivalent of tattoos in your topic area.

In my own experience, a willingness to stay open to all comers and to explore connections has paid off in new clients and revenue, ideas and guest content for my blogs, and a database full of contacts and experts willing to help me publicize my services.    What will you find when you stumble over your unexpected audience? I'd love to collect your experiences in the comments--please share your insights.

Universities: Use Facebook community pages to monitor your institution

(Editor's note: Here's a guest post from Joe Bonner, director of communications and public affairs at Rockefeller University in New York City, that offers a new take on Facebook's recently introduced beta of "community pages."  Bonner's one of my go-to sources on social media, and this post will show you why. He's curated links for this post from a variety of perspectives, each one its own good read, and plucked from the noise about community pages a signal to which you should be paying attention: How to use community pages to your organization's or company's advantage.  This will be of particular interest to higher education and nonprofit communicators, but companies will find it useful as well. I'm just delighted to welcome Bonner's posts in this space--don't get caught without these excellent insights.)

If you're looking for your favorite university or college on Facebook, you may be in for a surprise. A search for Stanford University, for example, returns five pages, only one of which is the official university Facebook Page. The rest are Community Pages, Facebook's answer to the unofficial pages that invariably are created by employees, alumni or general fans of your institution.

You'll see these Community Pages in your profile, too. Facebook recently started linking your interests and hobbies to Community Pages. So, if you've listed your alma mater or your employer in the information section of your Facebook profile, you'll see a link to a page that corresponds to that institution. The problem is, that page is often not the official page that the institution has carefully designed and curated to be the official outpost on Facebook. And that's creating a lot fear, uncertainty and doubt among my colleagues in higher education and nonprofits.

And with good reason. Institutions have devoted countless hours and other resources to cultivating their brands on Facebook, and now Facebook is automatically creating pages from Wikipedia entries and status updates.

I believe, however, there's a silver lining here. Because status updates that mention your institution are aggregated on Community Pages, you now have a new way to monitor your institution on Facebook.

@robinteractive has a thoughtful, comprehensive post on how colleges can turn this lemon that Facebook handed us into lemonade.

Community Pages are very new, and it's crucial for institutions to pay close attention to their development.