September 2008

I received a “friend” request on Facebook from an old friend from high school the other day. He’s a fun person to hang out with, but is still a little wild and his Facebook page seems to showcase his love of tequila shots. Not necessarily something I want business associates to see when they hit my Facebook profile. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy – he’s responsible, doesn’t drink and drive, he’s married with kids and loves to travel. Hanging out and having a few drinks is just a part of his life. His request got me to thinking about worlds colliding on Facebook.

To add business associates or not to add business associates to your Facebook page, that is the question…Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…or make people upset with you because you don’t “friend” them.

With all your Facebook friends (and what’s a “friend” in Facebook really? More often than not it’s an acquaintance, someone you could have just as easily ignored when they wanted to be your friend but you didn’t want to hurt their feelings) writing whatever they want on your wall and taking all kinds of outrageous pictures and posting them with no regard for anything. Do you really want to mix your business colleagues with these people?

As the world gets smaller and smaller, in large part thanks to social media, I am becoming more and more careful about what I post online. When it comes to Facebook, I have my own page and we have an AHA page and we are about to launch our B2W page. I am conscious of keeping work and my personal life separate.

Does this stop business associates or clients checking my personal Facebook page? Maybe…maybe not. But I am also very aware when I am tagged in a photo. If I wouldn’t want it on the front cover of the Vancouver Sun or a client’s newsletter, I remove the tag of myself. This helps keep my reputation nice and clean, but I am sure if someone wanted to look deep enough, they could find a photo of me in a pub somewhere on Facebook.

If there was a photo I found offensive, upsetting or embarrassing, I would politely ask my friend to remove it from their Facebook page. (Although I am old enough to know better than to put myself in a situation that I don’t want to see on the Internet!)

If anyone out there has their personal friends, business associates and clients on the same Facebook page and it’s working out, please let me know. I’d love to know how you are managing the different aspects of your life.

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There has been a great deal of mudslinging in the political arena recently. The upcoming election has everyone involved out there looking for skeletons – or nakedness or pot smoking – in the closet. Today marks the last day to nominate candidates for the federal election, so we may see it quiet down for at least a little bit.

There was also, of course, the comments of Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Food where he made what some are calling dark humour jokes about the tragic listeriosis outbreak.

People do things that they wouldn’t necessarily want to have put under a spotlight. If you are on Facebook, check out some of the things your friends have posted – things that might come back and haunt the very people that put them up. Gerry Ritz thought he was on the phone with “friends” when he made the “death from a thousand cold cuts” remark – well, someone was taking good notes and released what he said.

The world really has changed. We keep saying it, but judging by the photos and videos I see online, not everyone understands that yet. We are a wired world. Many cell phones now have the capability to tape you and upload the clip to YouTube within minutes. I’ve tried it – I can tape someone and have it showing on YouTube in less than three minutes. Think about what that means for those funny, dark humoured quips you put out there – meant only for the person beside you. What if they made it online – what would that mean for you or your organization?

Does this concern you? Have you had something go public that you didn’t want out there? How do you handle living with the potential of having the spotlight hit you – 24/7? It would be interesting to hear what you think about this.

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There was a time, not so long ago, when almost everyone shook their heads and looked away when we brought up online or social media. Now, it is everywhere and people are engaged in discovering what it can do for their organization.

Locally, here in British Columbia, the Saanich Police Department has done something innovative and a little different. They have set up an ongoing series of podcasts (online audio) and vodcasts (online video) — and are the first police department in Canada to do this.

The City of Calgary is also using social media, and has been for over a year.

I was at a social media conference earlier this year in Las Vegas (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to go to these things!) and I sat beside a communicator who worked with the U.S. Army, specializing in social media. His role is to work with the troops to make sure that information being uploaded by the men and women in uniform on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube doesn’t inadvertently share key points that might put campaigns or people in jeopardy. He worked on policy and procedure, but also was insightful enough to understand the human element of connection for the troops. He was at the conference looking for ways to better understand how social media could be used and, in his case, effectively managed.

Interestingly enough, one of the speakers at the conference was the head of communications for the U.S. government. The Pentagon is using social media, the White House is in the pool and even Homeland Security sees the value in it. There is an interesting blog post on what some of the government is using by Daya Baran that is worth a read.

These are all organizations that you wouldn’t expect to be using social media and giving up control of the message. However, they see the value in it. None of them took a leap off a cliff, they did their research, developed a strategy and they built out – and are still building out the social media component of their communications plan to support their overall strategy. They were smart about it. Taking that first step online doesn’t have to be a flying leap into the middle of the ocean, get your feet wet first. Develop a plan and then take small steps as you get used to the water.

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It’s always interesting to see what catches the interest of people. There is an article in today’s Vancouver Sun about the launch of Google Chrome, which is a new browser set to take on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

This follows the announcement earlier this year that Google had launched a suite of online office applications – which are free – and set to compete against Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

For those who are just getting a handle on the new names and definitions, check out Wikipedia’s definition of a browser.

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