Tips for Managing Social Media During Disasters


Social media during times of disaster can be both a very good thing, as well as its own disaster waiting to happen. Stuck at home when Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday (but very luckily with electricity), I spent the day parked in front of my computer paying lots of attention to Twitter and Facebook. Using social media as an instant news source, I got to hear how people all over the country were faring, seeing real-time images and even videos. But I also saw many social media faux paus that made me cringe. Of course, there isn’t a social media rule book that tells us how to act during tough times and we mainly have to learn as we go. But there are a few basic guidelines we can follow to minimize our chances of becoming a social media case-study.

Whether you’re running the social media accounts for a business or you’re just a building your own personal brand on social media, it’s important to act appropriately when disaster hits. Hint: Don’t take Lindsay Lohan’s lead.

Be careful of insensitive posts:

This guideline is meant to remind you that no matter what you’re experiencing during a disaster, someone else is likely experiencing worse fallout. Instead of continuing on with your regularly scheduled posts for the day, it’s a good idea to recognize what’s happening and to express your sympathy and concern. If you schedule social media posts ahead of time, it’s imperative that you immediately log into your platform and cancel or postpone the posts. Continuing to post your normal messaging while everyone else is talking about the disaster will make you look extremely insensitive. If you can’t post something sensitive about the tragedy, it’s best to simply stay quiet.

The same is true for running your personal social media accounts. Try to refrain from making snarky jokes about the hurricane. I get that the lady doing sign language next to Mayor Bloomberg was making funny faces, but she’s also doing a huge service during a serious time. Now is just not the time to be joking on her. One of my Facebook friends posted about how the hurricane was “boring” and immediately got a whole lot of blacklash from friends telling her to speak for herself. She quickly removed the post (I would have liked to see a follow-up apology post, too, but oh well).

Don’t use the tragedy to make a sale: 

If you’re posting to social media platforms as a brand, it probably comes naturally to you to attempt to tie everything back to your brand; even the most tangential of topics. So, when Hurricane Sandy hit, lots of brands attempted to relate the disaster back to their brand. Take American Apparel, for example. They sent out an email alerting subscribers to a sale they were holding “in case you’re bored during the storm…” and assigned the coupon code “SandySale” for the discount. I get that American Apparel was simply trying to give something back to their customers, but doing it in such a tasteless way didn’t win them any points.

Gap got a lot of flack for a similar move, tweeting, “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of shopping today. How about you?” They also checked in to “Frankenstorm Apocalypse  on Foursquare.  In Gap’s defense, they likely didn’t realize the seriousness of the storm at this point and because they weren’t personally affected, they didn’t take into consideration that it could be worse elsewhere. But as a national brand, they should have been.

Postpone social media events and parties:

Trust me, I love a good Twitter party on a Monday evening. And I totally get the idea that we can’t let the storm “win” and we must press on with what makes us happy. But when we’re smack dab in the middle of a huge storm that has people struggling hard, it’s a good idea to cancel Twitter parties and chats.

I actually watched a Twitter Party begin on Monday evening. The chat was on the topic of gardening and I was astounded that they were actually going through with it. Part of the country is drowning right now and you’re tweeting about garden watering habits? After a few questions, the chat ended up being postponed until the next evening, though it’s unclear if it’s because they experienced backlash or they simply had a low turnout.

Verify information and photos before re-posting:

Ugh. This one absolutely killed me during Hurricane Sandy. I felt like I was back in high school watching the anatomy of a rumor. Except when I was in high school, Photoshop wasn’t nearly as advanced. The sheer amount of people posting fake photos and distributing false information was ridiculous. While social media is a great place to get the truth about what’s going on, it’s also the ideal platform for quickly and easily spreading lies. During the hurricane, we saw photos that were obviously fake (even taken straight from movies!) that people were posting as if they were legit. One “breaking news” tweet even fooled CNN and the National Weather Service. When a man tweeted, “BREAKING: Confirmed flooding on NYSE. The trading floor is flooded under more than 3 feet of water.” it got more than 600 re-tweets even after confirmation it was not true.

With these lessons learned, we can hope that everyone can show a little more compassion and a little less insensitivity during our nation’s next disaster.

The Monetization of Social Media: Four Recent Plans from Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare

It has a billion person user-base and it’s still struggling to make a dime. OK, so maybe it has a few dimes, but with falling share prices, Facebook is looking for new ways to monetize the giant social network. In just a few weeks, they’ve come up with a couple new plans for monetization. And they’re not the only ones. Twitter and Foursquare are working to being home the bacon, too.

Facebook’s Promoted Posts for Individuals:

Facebook’s latest news is the launch of promoted posts for individuals. If you run any business pages on Facebook, you’ve seen the sharp decline in how many of your pages’ followers are actually getting your updates. Maybe you’ve even promoted some of your pages’ posts to reach a wider audience and get your message out there. If so, it was probably done a bit begrudgingly as you don’t understand why you have to pay for your fans to see the content you’re posting. But now things are getting a little bit weirder. Facebook wants individuals to pay to promote their posts to their friends.

By now, we all know that all of our friends aren’t seeing our Facebook updates in their newsfeed. But for a fee, Facebook is willing to show our updates to more of our friends. Currently in testing, select users can pay $7 to promote a post to their friends. Just a test, it’s not yet certain if this service will become commonplace and if it does, what it will cost.

We are skeptical of the new promoted posts for individuals and have doubts that people will take advantage of them. Sure, $7 is cheap enough, but do I really need my “friends” to see my wedding photos? And if I do, can’t I just message it to them or share it with those who are particularly important. Furthermore, if they care about me, can’t they simply click on my profile to see my updates?

However, we can see certain individuals loving this. Have a band and want to get the word out about your next show to all your Facebook friends (people who many not necessarily be “fans” if you have a page)? Promote your post. Launching a new business and want all your friends to hear the news? Promote your post. So, the service could have some value, but for the general Facebook population? Chances are they won’t even notice it.

Facebook’s (Real) Gifts:

Another of Facebook’s recent monetization strategies is gifts. Of course, you probably remember virtual gifts from back in the day. You could send virtual gifts to your friends’ walls, until you reached a certain number and had to pay for them. Well, you can only spend so much of your paycheck on a cheesy image of a gift before you realize you need to rethink your priorities. So, in a move to start making money off gifts again, Facebook came up with a new plan. Buy and send your friends real gifts through Facebook.

You can send anything from Starbucks cards to flowers to teddy bears to balloons to Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. So, why would you purchase your friend a gift on Facebook over say ordering straight from the gift brand’s website? Well, for one, when you send a gift, you can post it to your friend’s wall and notify everyone of your good hearted act (or you can keep it private if you so choose). And also, your friend will automatically get a notification that you are sending them a gift and they will get to choose where to have the gift shipped. You don’t even need to know your friends address to send them a gift.

Will it take off? Well, maybe. There are plenty of people who like to do everything within the Facebook platform. And if you happen to forget a friend’s birthday, you can easily click “Send a gift” and they’ll immediately get a notification that a gift is on the way from you. For most of us, though, a simple “Happy birthday!” wall post will do, perhaps along with an in-person dinner or nice card in the mail.

Twitter’s Brand Surveys:

Twitter’s act of monetization is more geared toward businesses than it is toward the individual user, but we’ll all be affected by it simply by glancing at our feeds. Twitter has been making money of their promoted tweets for some time and now they’re trying to offer a little more value to their advertisers. They’ve partnered with Nielsen to launch brand surveys referred to as brand impact measure for Twitter.

Brand surveys will appear to Twitter users just like promoted tweets do. A tweet coming from @TwitterSurveys will invite users to fill out a quick survey right within the Twitter platform. They believe the tool will be useful for determining “purchase intent, overall awareness, and other advertising metrics and analytics that can lead to greater engagement.”

Twitter is working with a small group of advertise to test the new tool now and say it should be available to more in early 2013. We can definitely see brands using these new Twitter Neilsen surveys to learn more about their followers and fans. A promoted tweet is nice, but when you can get a little information with the money you’re spending on advertising, even better.

Foursquare’s Promoted Updates:

Of course, brands can join and utilize tools within Foursquare for free by setting up a simple business account. But as we mentioned a few weeks ago, Foursquare is now looking for more ways to monetize their product and offer a little more value to businesses with their new promoted updates.

First Foursquare announced local updates, which let you see updates from the places you frequent in your friend and explore tabs. Now they’re offering a piece of that pie to advertisers by allowing businesses to pay to have their updates show up in your explore tab with promoted updates. According to Foursquare, brands can utilize the service to post a variety of updates like “a money-saving special, an update on a new fashion line, or a photo of their latest dish.” They also mention that it works similar to Google ads, where the ads you see are based on the search terms you’re using.

This is a smart move on Foursquare’s part as their user-base is certainly an influential and active one, which will be highly appealing to advertisers. But this is simply the beginning of the world of advertising for Foursquare and we think they can go a whole lot further. Check out some of our advice for Foursquare here. And knowing how much it costs to get a custom-created badge on Foursquare, we’re interested to see what the ad model looks like for promoted updates.


Of course, we’re on all these social media platforms for free, so we’re not complaining too much about their monetization plans. We get that companies need to make a living and need to get creative in finding ways to do so. And is it really so bad if we start to see a surplus of engagement, wedding, and baby announcements on Facebook? I, for one, can’t wait to see how many people promote their ultrasound photos!

What do you think of the various methods social networks are using to monetize their platforms? Are you OK with some of them, but not others?


How to Experience New York Fashion Week with Social Media

Of course, there’s nothing better than actually being in New York for Fashion Week, but for most of us, that’s not possible. So, think of it this way: Instead, you can be at home snuggled under a blanket on your couch in a pair of ratty sweatpants with an extra-large bowl of ice cream. No one to judge the designers you are or aren’t wearing and no pain from too-high heels and massive amounts of walking. This is Fashion Week in 2012 and we can all participate in the events online and with social media. Life is good.

Cities across the country have begun holding their own versions of Fashion Week, but nothing compares to the one and only New York Fashion Week. Instead of being forced to wait for your favorite fashion publications to update their websites (though, to be honest, those guys can be pretty speedy!), you can actually watch 30 of the fashion shows live as they stream on Twitter. Not to mention, you can follow along with the brands and their show attendees on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and more. Consider this your guide to feeling like you’re at New York Fashion Week without actually having to leave your couch. Who’s popping the popcorn?

Twitter: Of course, the most important thing to know is to always be following hashtag #NYFW, but if you find that to be completely overwhelming (really, I was beyond overwhelmed with it before Fashion Week even started), you might want to put together a list of your favorite designers and follow their updates on Twitter. Here’s a great resource of the Fashion Week designers on Twitter.  Or you can follow #MBFW (slightly less overwhelming, but still non-stop). And for the record, @MBFashionWeek does a much better job posting relevant updates than @NYFW.


Even the Wall Street Journal is getting in on the action.  If you don’t care too much what the models are wearing at Fashion Week, perhaps you want to see what NYFW attendees are sporting? People will be using (at least the WSJ hopes so) the hashtag #myoutfitWSJ to show off what they’re wearing as they hit up the shows or the fabulous looks they see on others. Follow along

Facebook: You’ll definitely want to “like” Mercedes Benz Fashion Week ASAP and keep your eye on your Facebook news feed. But be sure to “like” all your favorite designers, too. And any fashion publications whose content you respect. The days of waiting for your favorite pubs to land in your mailbox are long gone as you can see their photos on Facebook first. BCBG already had their show yesterday and updated their Facebook page with lots of fun photos. Bonus points for using Instagram for so many of their photos! I’m hoping they’re setting an example for other designers in the days to come.

YouTube: 30+ fashion shows will be live streaming from YouTube’s Live From the Runway channel. Now you can pretend you’re actually sitting in the crowd. You’ll just miss out on that nifty swag bag.

Google+: Obviously Google will be getting Google+ into the action. Not only will there be hangouts on Google+ (Today with +TeenVogue editor +EvaChen212), but +LuckyMagazine will be posting exclusive behind-the-scenes photos all week long.

Tumblr: I’ll include blogs in here, too. I still prefer the speediness and laziness of Twitter, but if you’re getting your daily NYFW updates in small doses throughout the day, I highly recommend following New York Fashion Week’s feed of all Tumblr posts But Women’s Wear Daily does a fabulous job updating their Tumblr with NYFW posts and Kate Spade always stays on top of their Tumblr.

Pinterest: This is really the first New York Fashion Week where Pinterest has been a huge part of most of our lives. So, we can’t wait to see what designers do with their boards. Be sure to follow all your favorites now, so their pins show up in your stream. And though it doesn’t look like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is doing too much on their Pinterest page, I’d follow them anyway.

Instagram: I saved this one for last because it’s kind of a given. Many designers and attendees will be shooting all their photos (or at least a few of them) on Instagram. You’ll be seeing these show up on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. throughout the week. But you can also go to the Instagram app on your smartphone and follow your favorite designers. Kate Spade on Instagram? Love. The same can be said for Mr. Marc Jacobs.



The Social Media and Brand Experience at BlogHer 2012


I just got back from an extraordinary weekend attending BlogHer 2012 in New York City. For those of you who don’t know, BlogHer is an online community of women (OK, and some men) bloggers. Their annual conference is the world’s largest conference for women in social media and I’ve always wanted to see just what goes on at a BlogHer conference. Sure, I’ve read about a million blog posts from others on the educational sessions, sponsor expos, and wild all-night parties; but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself. I’m in the unique position of not only being a pretty active blogger of 5 years, but also working on the other side of things in social media strategy and PR. I knew that understanding things from the point of view of the blogger and the brand would make for a very interesting conference experience.


I had a feeling the educational social media sessions at BlogHer would be pretty basic, but I still wanted to check them out to see what the panelists were teaching. Of course, the panelists articulated the importance of being on Twitter and Facebook, but didn’t really offer much insight on how to take that 101 knowledge to another level. This year, we also heard a bit about Pinterest and Instagram (again, very beginner) and Google+ (a bit more valuable). It’s never easy to keep 5,000 bloggers, all at different levels in the blogging and social media game, happy; so I think BlogHer tends toward beginner to keep attendees from getting confused and in over their heads. Next year, I’m hoping they’ll branch out and get a little more advanced in their social media teachings. Bloggers are getting smarter, social media is getting more complex, and it would be nice to see BlogHer panelists recognizing that.


As far as the sponsor expo went, I was mostly interested in seeing how various brands were connecting with bloggers through their exhibits. I definitely saw a little bit of everything: brands that engaged with bloggers and asked questions; brands that were content just handing out food samples and not even communicating with bloggers; and brands that gave away valuable product in hopes that bloggers would run home to write about them. Most booths had something eye-catching about them to get bloggers to stop by and many gave at least a little carry-away to visitors.


Honestly, I have to give a great big shoutout to Jimmy Dean for their expo booth. Sure, they handed out their mediocre breakfast sandwiches. But they brought along the actor who plays the sun in their commercials, complete with sun costume. Bringing in the “Sun” was actually the smartest move I saw all week and the brand ended up getting an abundance of engagement across social media. I admit, I totally got sucked into their plan and immediately ran over to take a photo with the Jimmy Dean character. Under normal circumstance, I would never post about Jimmy Dean products; I don’t eat them and wouldn’t usually promote a product I’m not into. But when I saw the sun, I HAD to have a photo with him. And after I took the photo, I tweeted it and put it on Facebook right away. My followers immediately responded and I got way more “likes” and comments than I generally get on posts. My audience was engaging with the brand and getting excited about it. I wonder just how many people Jimmy Dean got to stop by their booth that they would have missed without the sun.


Of course, bringing along a celebrity (or a sun) will always get brands attention at BlogHer and attendees were non-stop tweeting out photos of the Pioneer Woman (with Land O Lakes) and Iron Chef’s Candice Kumai (with Eggland’s Best). But what’s the best bet for brands that can’t afford celebrity endorsement? Connecting with each and every blogger who stops by your booth, starting a genuine conversation, and sincerely caring about what they blog about will get you far when it comes to bloggers. There will always be some bloggers who only care about the free “swag” you’re handing out, but for the most part, bloggers want to connect with you. I didn’t see a whole lot of genuine connecting going on with brands and bloggers and, while I was occasionally asked what website I maintained, I was mostly treated like someone there to collect my free stuff and be on my way. This also serves as a lesson to bloggers: if you want to share your blog with brands, you have to be proactive. Be your own best publicist and talk about your blog before you’re asked about it. Blogging and social media conferences can be incredibly valuable for the connections you make and it’s important to really make the most of them. And that’s true for both bloggers and brands.

451 Heat 2

Guide to Social Media and the Olympic Games

While it’s debatable as to whether or not this year’s London Summer Games are truly the first “Social Media Olympics” (many of us were extremely active on social media two years ago during the Vancouver Winter Games), it’s a fact that the International Olympic Committee is putting a much greater focus on social media and that much of the world is excited to follow along with the Games on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and more. They’ve even developed a set of Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines for anyone affiliated with the Games to adhere to. And not only are many Olympic athletes on social media platforms, we’re also all downloading Olympic-themed apps to our phones to make it easier to get up-to-the-minute updates and get in on the fun ourselves.

So, how can you best utilize social media to get a full Olympic Games experience? We’ve got your complete guide to where you should be searching, what you should be downloading, and who you should be paying attention to. Now, if you could only get your favorite Olympic athlete to respond to your “congratulations!” on Twitter.

Apps to Keep Track of the Olympic Games:

We’ve been keeping our eyes on the latest apps that will help us stay up to date with all things Olympics and we’re psyched to say there are some pretty fantastic ones out there.

We’ve been using the Team USA- Road to London app for the past couple weeks, as we’ve been following Team USA’s Olympic trials. The app is super handy for seeing who made the team and learning a little bit about them. The scheduling feature makes it easy to see when the trials are taking place and the news section is kept up-to-date with everything we need to know about Team USA.

The app we’re most excited for is the Official London 2012 Results App. This is the real deal and the app you’ll want to be following for all the latest updates once the games begin. For now, you can check out the countdown to the Opening Ceremonies and set your schedule so you can get push results as the games are happening. Of course, you might want to be careful since it’s likely that the games will air in the U.S. after the live event. So, you’ll have to decide if you want up-to-the-minute results or would rather wait and watch for yourself.

If you’re actually going to London for the games (lucky duck!), you’ll definitely want to have the Official London 2012 Join In App. This is the resource you need to figure out where everything is taking place, how to get there, and how to meet up with your friends. Even if you’re not at the games, you might want to follow along to see photos, news, intensive schedules, and more.

For a more informational, pretty app, check out Reuters Olympics London 2012. Their app features lots of imagery with facts about sporting events and athletes.

And for all you non-athletes, be sure to get your hands on Curly’s Pocket Guide to Sports. This app is a goldmine for learning about many of the Summer Game events and bills itself as the guide to, “guide to running, jumping, swimming, cycling, riding, kicking, lifting, poking, hitting, rowing, firing and throwing things…” It would behoove you to have this app open whenever you’re watching an event, either for self-education or just to prove your friends wrong.

Apps that Allow You to Be an Olympic Athlete:

If you’ve got major Olympic athlete envy, well, there are quite a few apps for that, too. So, maybe you didn’t qualify for any events this year, but there are for playing games as an Olympian (could playing them even count as training?). London 2012- Official Mobile Game is definitely your best bet. We can’t promise it will get you into Olympic athlete shape… But it will help you kill time while you’re waiting for your favorite athletes to earn their medals.

And if you’re a Samsung user, download Samsung: Take Part 2012 to compete with others in various Olympic events and even win medals for your country. Well, virtually, of course. Winning gold on the Take Part app doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as winning at the actual games.

How to Follow Olympic Athletes on Social Media:

You’re just sitting down to watch your favorite Olympic athletes compete and start to wonder exactly what’s going through their head as they dive into the pool for their first competition or cross the finish line on the track for their first gold medal. You head to Twitter and Facebook and begin searching for them to see if they’re sharing their deepest thoughts. But wait. Don’t waste time searching each social network separately. Head over to the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, your ones-stop Olympic athletes on social media stop.

What is the Olympic Athletes’ Hub all about? Well, it’s effectively a search engine for Olympic athletes on social media. Fans can simply type in the name of the athlete they want to follow on social media and the results will show a social media profile for the athlete they searched for. The profile displays all of the spots you can find the athlete on social media, making it easy for you to immediately follow on Twitter and “like” on Facebook. The athletes most recent tweets will show up in a Twitter feed and a list of scheduled events will also appear. If you don’t know where to start, the Hub’s homepage displays the top followed athletes as well as featured athletes.


Much like social media sites Foursquare and GetGlue, the Olympic Athletes’ Hub is also offering badges for following athletes and participating in the community. Allegedly, various prizes can be won, too, proving that the Olympic Committee truly wants to get fans involved in all things Olympic Games and social media.

To keep the website fresh, the Hub will feature live question and answer sessions with various athletes, Something tells us lots of fans will begin utilizing Twitter lists for the Olympic games, packing them full of their favorite Olympic athletes. We know we will.

On the Web

Facebook (Official & Unofficial)

Twitter (Official & Unofficial)





Olympians to Follow on Twitter: