The Impact of Social Media Networks on Society

Social media can be very influential on society in both positive and negative ways. It gives people a way to stay in touch with people who live far away. It lets people share fun, interesting and informative content. It gives businesses a way to engage with customers.

One of the problems, however, is that anybody can share anything, including material that may not be accurate. In some cases, real harm is done when people spread inflammatory, unverified or outright false information. This can harm private individuals, as when someone is bullied online. It can also have a harmful impact on society as a whole. The 2016 presidential election, however, gave us many examples of this problem.

The Rise of Fake News Sites

Social media has made it very easy to spread information quickly. Because Facebook and Twitter timelines move so quickly, viewers don’t often verify what they’ve seen. A great deal of content is also spread through images and memes, which may or may not be based on valid information. Of course, many memes are created to be funny, cute or outrageous. Others, however, are intended to influence our thinking. Even links to real articles can be misleading. It’s safe to say that most people who see a headline and link never read the whole article.

Huffington Post recently published an interesting experiment that highlights this problem. In the article Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump With Little-Known Loophole, Matt Masur illustrated the problem of people sharing content that they didn’t bother to verify or, in many cases, even read. In the second paragraph, Masur reveals that the claim of the headline is false. Thousands of people, however, shared the article on social media without reading that far.

Of course, most fake news stories don’t tell you that they’re fake. There are now several categories of what might be called fake news sites. There are satirical sites that publish parodies of news stories. The best known of these is The Onion. However, in the last few years many other sites have appeared. Many don’t make it clear that they are satire sites, leading to confusion on the part of readers. As more and more satirical news sites crop up, it can be hard to tell whether a story is real or fake. Of course, when you actually read an article you can usually tell. The problem, however, is that on social media many people just glance at headlines and share links.

Many websites publish fake news simply as clickbait. They want people to click on shocking headlines in order to get clicks so they can sell more advertising. There are also sites with a strong ideological slant. These may be extreme right wing, left wing or conspiracy sites. Many of these sites aren’t very discerning about publishing “news” stories that back their point of view.

A professor named Melissa Zimdars recently published a controversial list of fake news sites. This list mentions several categories of fake news sites that are often linked to on Facebook. Of course, any such list is bound to be incomplete, as new sites are constantly appearing. In some cases, there’s also a question of who is qualified to determine what is real and what is fake. Zimdar’s list has already come under criticism for being biased against conservatives. The fact remains, however, that there are now at least hundreds of fake news sites circulating false information over the internet.

The Harmful Impact of Fake News

In some cases, false information can have a strong impact on society. During the previous election, for example, many questionable or fake news stories circulated. One example of this occurred close to the election, when a story that tied Hillary Clinton to a pedophilia and human trafficking ring was widely shared on Facebook. It turned out that this originated with a single unsubstantiated post on a conspiracy forum and was then reposted on thousands of other websites.

Social media stories, whether true or not, often go viral. The more outrageous and newsworthy something is, the more likely that many people will share it. During a highly-polarized election, people are motivated to share anything that supports their candidate or, more likely, attacks the opposing candidate. This can result in false stories widely circulating. Even if false stories are discredited and recanted, the damage is already done. By the time a retraction is published, millions of people may have already seen the story.

It’s even possible that the outcome of the election was swayed by fake news stories. The Washington Post recently published an interview with Paul Horner, someone who admits to writing many fake news stories about the election that were widely circulated by Trump supporters.

How to Guard Against Social Media Misinformation

It’s really the widespread sharing of fake stories that causes harm on social media. If you’re a person or business that shares lots of content, perhaps with the aid of social media software, you should be extra careful. It only takes a minute or two to verify something you see on social media. Consider the source of the story. If you’ve never heard of it, Google it and see if it’s reputable. If you don’t have that much time, it’s best to ignore it, especially if it has the appearance of something that could be satire, clickbait or propaganda. By not sharing questionable material you can help to cut down on the proliferation of misinformation and fake news.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to crack down on fake news. Google has expressed similar intentions. It remains to be seen how effective such efforts will be. Given the scale of social media today, it’s probably not possible to completely eradicate false information. It’s ultimately up to social media users to be more discerning about what they read, believe and share.


Athletes Who Got in Trouble with Social Media

Social media now plays a huge role in our public as well as private lives. For most people, this doesn’t pose a problem. For those who are very well known, however, it can lead to embarrassing and even catastrophic circumstances. We’ve seen this happen numerous times with athletes. An offensive tweet has gotten quite a few athletes in trouble. Let’s look at a few such cases, as well as some ideas on how such problems can be avoided.

College Athletes

In some ways, college athletes need to be even more careful than professionals in their online as well as offline behavior. They are in danger of sabotaging their potential careers, which have not even officially started. Many college athletes, however, have been rather careless in this regard. Here are a few examples.

  • Thomas de Thaey. De Thaey, who is originally from Belgium, was a forward for the basketball team at North Carolina State University. An unfortunate tweet got him a great deal of unwanted publicity. Frustrated with his lack of playing time, He tweeted about his head coach: “That’s what happens when you’re a great recruiter, but a terrible coach!” De Thaey eventually left the team, apparently to take care of his ailing father.
  • Jamal Shuman. Shuman, a football player at Elon College, was also angry about not getting enough playing time. He launched a series of obscene tweets that resulted in him being indefinitely suspended. Shuman later claimed that he didn’t realize that the tweets could be publicly read.
  • Bradley Patterson. A football player at the University of Alabama, Patterson got into trouble by tweeting insulting comments about President Obama. He was kicked off the team, proving that it’s not a good idea for athletes to publicly insult political leaders.

Professional Athletes

Professionals, who should know better, are hardly immune from making serious social media mistakes. Here are just a few recent examples.

  • Dave Bess. This football player, who had already been in trouble in the past for using drugs, made the blunder of taking a photo of marijuana in his home and posting it to Twitter. Although he deleted the tweet soon after, the damage was already done.
  • Lance Armstrong. The famous cyclist, who is best known for doping scandals, once accidentally tweeted his private cell phone number. He had thought that he was sending a direct message rather than a public tweet. As a result, he had to change his number.
  • Ray Rice. This running back for the Baltimore Ravens once tweeted “Just got pulled over for my tints Smh but gave the officer a autograph for his son and he let me go.” In other words, he publicly admitted to having bribed a police officer. There were no serious repercussions for this, but it certainly showed poor judgment.

Olympic Athletes

Olympic athletes have their share of social media controversies as well. Olympics rules regarding social media are quite strict. For example, athletes are not allowed to endorse products that are not official Olympics sponsors.

  • Michel Mortadella. This soccer player from Switzerland was expelled from the London Olympics for posting a racist tweet about South Korean players. He made this comment shortly after his team lost to the South Koreans.
  • Stephanie Rice. The Australian swimming star lost a lucrative sponsorship deal from Jaguar due to a homophobic tweet. She also had to give up a luxury car that Jaguar had been letting her use.
  • Paraskevi Papachristou. This Greek pole jumper made a racist tweet during the 2012 Summer Olympics about Africans in Greece. Although she claimed it was just a joke, she was barred from competing after making this tweet.

Not Knowing the Rules of Social Media

The above are just a few examples of social media mistakes made by athletes. There are several lessons to be learned from these incidents. One of the most elementary of these lessons is that people, particularly those who are in the public eye, should educate themselves about how social media works.

When it comes to Twitter, it’s fairly common for people to mistakenly post public tweets when they intended to send a direct message. In many instances, athletes quickly deleted the objectionable tweet. This, of course, doesn’t help much when you have a huge following. Someone will have surely retweeted it by the time you delete it, even if it’s only a matter of seconds. This is another example of athletes needing to understand how social media operates for the famous.

The Need for Caution

In many cases, disastrous social media gaffes are the result of mere carelessness or tweeting after having a few drinks. This brings us to the next issue, which is the need for athletes to exercise caution when using social media. Many athletes are young and not accustomed to fame. Of course, social media gaffes are also made by seasoned veterans as well. Either way, coaches, managers and team owners should make sure that athletes understand the potential dangers of social media. Perhaps they need a special seminar on the topic.

A good argument can be made that people today are too sensitive and that political correctness has gotten out of control. It’s also arguable that athletes and other celebrities are held to unrealistic standards. After all, who doesn’t occasionally say something stupid, whether on or offline? This is, however, besides the point. Athletes need to understand that, whether it’s fair or not, they are held to a higher standard than the average person. The same is true for anyone who is very well-known, whether they be actors, politicians or CEOs. When you are seen as a role model, people are less forgiving if you make even the slightest mistake. In addition, controversies always make great headlines.

For these reasons, athletes and those who work on their behalf must be extra careful about how they use Twitter and other social media sites. It’s not worth ruining a lucrative career, or even a sponsorship deal, for a few words carelessly typed on a keyboard.

3 Inspiring B2B Social Media Campaigns

B2B companies often feel handicapped in their efforts to market on social media. Typically, they believe B2C companies have the upper hand because these companies have a greater opportunity to create visually interesting, compelling and sharable posts, graphics and campaigns. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many B2B organizations are launching successful social media campaigns and generating significant results.

Among them are Juniper Networks, NorthShore University HealthSystem, and Maersk Line. See how these three B2B companies in technology, healthcare and manufacturing launched inspiring social media campaigns to engage their key audiences, expand their community presence and become industry thought leaders.

Juniper Networks Launches Playful Lego Contest on Facebook

To gear up for a new product launch, Juniper Networks brainstormed ideas to gain the attention of both its existing data center community and new audiences. But initiating conversations with busy, marketing-adverse data center engineers wasn’t going to be easy.

Juniper knew that engineers in its social communities value hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, they like to celebrate their interests and share visuals of what they have created with others. This is particularly true with individuals who are known to have authority within the industry.

Then Juniper hit on an idea—a Lego contest! After all, what tech engineer as a child didn’t love building things, breaking them down and building new things with the building blocks? And what could be more visually interesting?

The company invited 10 key influencers to participate in a challenge to build the best data center design out of Legos and to feature the designs on their blogs. The first-, second- and third-place winners would be rewarded with a donation to the charity of their choice. To begin, each influencer was mailed a starter kit of Lego pieces and told they were licensed to incorporate any other Lego pieces and materials to create their ultimate design.

The company launched the competition on three social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Each influencer brought their designs to life in ways that demonstrated their interests, opinions and values. The designs ranged from a Star Wars data center to a “Back to the Future” data center to an eco-friendly data center.

Knowing this lighthearted content directly represents the interests of the community, the brand established a Facebook takeover the month of the product announcement. The company created a cover photo collage from the top images from each submission. It also rotated its Facebook profile photo showcasing the participating contestants.

Juniper leveraged Facebook’s photo-sharing capabilities to highlight the fun and engaging data center designs the influencers created. The company further leveraged the opportunities on Facebook to showcase the design images from all submissions. As it announced winners, the company compiled images from each submission, including descriptions and links to contestants’ blog posts.

The contest was a hit. It successfully initiated a data center conversation among the brand’s influencers and community members. Engagements with Juniper’s unique content increased 75.27 percent during the month of the contest. The increase was achieved through a social media snowball effect, including a combination of announcing contest winners on Twitter, influencer-shared news and amplification by the community through congratulations and retweeting the winners’ victories.


NorthShore University HealthSystem Chats with Patients on Twitter

Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem launched a social media campaign with a clear goal: To maximize exposure and pique interest among patients and potential patients in the community. It also wanted to build trust for its four award-winning hospitals and its medical professionals by allowing its current and future patients to interact directly with physicians.

To that end, NorthShore began looking for the best ways to share quality content with its target market in an informative and easily digestible way. The hospital began its social media program by first conducting a competitive analysis of other area hospitals’ social marketing efforts. It identified two gaps: hosting live Twitter chats and promoting infographics.

NorthShore launched a series of themed Twitter chats with its physicians using the hashtag #NSChats. Discussions addressed a variety of healthcare-related topics relevant to the public, ranging from breast and prostate cancer to brain tumors to back pain. The organization worked to increase engagement and raise awareness by identifying and targeting influencers to participate, and by conducting targeted outreach to capture audiences—no matter where they were in their patient journey. Many thought leaders in various fields found NorthShore’s chats valuable and offered support by engaging in chat participation and content sharing.

To maximize the Twitter chats’ impact, NorthShore created follow-up resources for participants. For example, they could view curated lists of questions and answers. Also, chat transcripts and tweets were shared on the hospital’s blog, giving patients another opportunity to interact.

Along with the chats, NorthShore also created an ongoing stream of infographics that aligned with national health-related observances and seasonal events, such as one to spread awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and a holiday-themed health and safety guide in December. Each infographic had its own unique targeting strategy to boost exposure, and increase relevance and the likelihood of engagement.

The Twitter chats and influencer-targeting program were extremely successful. They helped the organization build trust and grow affinity within the community. NorthShore’s metrics for success included overall engagement in the form of post likes, post comments and post shares, as well as clicks to its website. For example, the breast cancer awareness infographic was liked 1,641 times and shared 218 times—respectively, 1,782 percent and 249 percent more than an average NorthShore blog post. The overall reach of NorthShore’s social campaign included 1.6 million impressions and a 291 percent increase in followers.

NorthShore stated: “When patients need a healthcare provider, it is usually for a specific purpose, which makes it difficult to get individuals to casually interact with a healthcare provider on social media. Brands need to create smart and appealing content to engage with their audience, but also build trust and communication with future and existing patients.”


Maersk Line Links with Industry Insiders on LinkedIn

Maersk Line is the world’s largest container shipping company with routes stretching across 150 countries. Its social media program is equally vast, stretching across 10 channels, including LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr, and Vimeo—each platform providing a different purpose, such as intriguing photos on Instagram, time-lapsed videos on Vimeo, and user-generated content on Pinterest.

Before embarking on its voyage into B2B social media campaigns, Maersk spent a great deal of time listening to the social media scene, and researching and understanding the value, benefit and role of social media for a B2B company. The company doesn’t look at social media as a way to garner sales or generate leads, but as a way to reach out to its customers and employees. Its ultimate goal is to gain useful insight into the current market, get closer to its customers and boost employee satisfaction. By incorporating engaging content such as questions, photographs and links, it fosters conversations rather than advocating its products and services.

A great example is LinkedIn, where the company has 178,000 followers. After conducting a social media survey, Maersk found that its customers prefer to connect with them on LinkedIn more than any other network. The company uses the platform in a B2C manner to provide shipping industry news relevant to its followers.

In particular, it also has found that LinkedIn Groups offer a great opportunity to interact and engage with customers on a more personal level. The company regularly engages in high-end industry discussions in private groups it manages, including The Shipping Circle and The Reefer Circle. Users include shipping experts from around the world who debate industry challenges and opportunities with each other. Maersk has found these professional forums are a great opportunity to gain knowledge from experts who it might not otherwise meet.

Also, in a bid to introduce what it calls “social commerce,” the company uses LinkedIn’s Products & Services tab to describe some of its core products and ideas. Followers can then comment on them and provide peer-to-peer recommendations.

Maersk stated: “Social media is about communication, not marketing. It’s about engaging, not pushing. And social media is definitely not just about the media side. For a company like ours social media creates more value when it challenges the way we think and interact. In fact, social media is a mindset, a way of thinking and working together. It’s based on the fact that we are social animals, and that means we can only benefit from sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other.”


Engage Your Audience with Compelling B2B Social Media Campaigns

Juniper Networks, NorthShore University HealthSystem, and Maersk Line are just three examples of the many B2B companies forging solid marketing programs on social media platforms. How can your company learn from their examples to find the best social platforms and create most compelling campaigns to engage your target audience, expand your brand’s awareness and build your leadership position in your industry?

This article originally appeared in Brand & Capture.


This article was written by Karen Taylor from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Social Sidekick 1/15-1/22: Social Holidays, Themes, and Noteworthy Events

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the first long weekend of 2017. Honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., by reflecting on his lasting contribution to civil rights on your social channels. Learn how to appropriately incorporate social holidays into your social media calendar, and then sign up to receive Social Sidekick straight to your inbox each week so you never miss a Twitter-worthy occasion! 


Celebration of Life Month, Get Organized Month

Soup Month, Tea Month, Oatmeal Month, National Candy Month, National Meat Month, Egg Month

Brainteaser Month, Creativity Month

Sunday, January 15

Hat Day, Strawberry Ice Cream Day, Cable Car Day, Kids Inventor Day, Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day

#SundayFunday, #SelfieSunday, #Sinday

Martin Luther King Jr., Pitbull, Drew Brees, Regina King, Rachel Roy

Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures (Nat Geo, 8 PM), First Family of Hip Hop (Bravo, 9 PM), Victoria (PBS, 9 PM), Homeland (Showtime, 9 PM), Obama: The Price of Hope (Nat Geo, 9 PM), Top Secret Beaches (Travel, 10 PM); The Young Pope (HBO)

Monday, January 16

Religious Freedom Day, International Hot and Spicy Food Day, Nothing Day, Appreciate a Dragon Day, Fig Newton Day

#ManCrushMonday or #MCM, #MondayBlues, #MotivationMonday, #MarketingMonday, #MeatlessMonday

Aaliyah, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kate Moss, Sade, Debbie Allen, John Carpenter

Howie Mandel All-Star Comedy Gala(CW, 8 PM), Rock’N’Roll Inventions (Smithsonian, 8 PM), Fast N’ Loud (Discovery, 9 PM), The Story of God with Morgan Freeman (Nat Geo, 9 PM), Diesel Brothers (Discovery, 10 PM), Summer House (Bravo, 10 PM)

Tuesday, January 17

Kids Investors Day, Cable Car Day, Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day, Hot Buttered Rum Day

#TransformationTuesday or #TT, #TravelTuesday, #TongueOutTuesday, #Tunesday

Michelle Obama, Jim Carrey, Calvin Harris, Mohammed Ali, Betty White, Dwayne Wade, Steve Harvey, Ray J, Zooey Deschanel, Benjamin Franklin, Tiesto, Kid Rock, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt

Frontline: Divided States of America (PBS, 9 PM), Neal Brennan: 3 Mics (Netflix)

Wednesday, January 18

Martin Luther King Day, World Religion Day, Thesaurus Day, Winnie the Pooh Day, Peking Duck Day

#WomanCrushWednesday or #WCW, #WayBackWednesday or #WBW, #WineWednesday, #WellnessWednesday, #HumpDay, #WisdomWednesday

Jason Segel, Kevin Costner, Oliver Hardy, AA Milne, Kelly Rohrbach

Bering Sea Gold (Discovery, 10 PM), Six (History, 10 PM)

People’s Choice Awards 2017 (CBS, 9 PM)

Thursday, January 19

Tin Can Day, Popcorn Day, Women’s Healthy Weight Day 

#TBT or #ThrowbackThursday, #Thursdate, #ThoughtfulThursday, #ThirstyThursday, #ThankfulThursday

Dolly Parton, Edgar Allen Poe, Janis Joplin, Shawn Johnson, Robert E Lee

Grey’s Anatomy, (ABC 8 PM), Scandal (ABC, 9 PM), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, 10  PM), Baskets (FX, 10 PM)

Friday, January 20

Day of Acceptance, Cheese Lovers Day, Camcorder Day, Penguin Awareness Day, DJ Day, Buttercrunch Day, National Coffee Break Day

#FollowFriday or #FF, #FlashbackFriday or #FBF, #FridayFeeling, #FriYay, #FridayReads

David Lynch, Buzz Aldrin, Rainn Wilson, Bill Maher, Skeet Ulrich, Evan Peters

Frontier (Netflix), Take the 10 (Netflix), Voltron Legendary Defender (Netflix), Great Performances: Alicia Keys – Landmarks Live in Concert (PBS, 9 PM)

Split, xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage, The Founder

AFI, “AFI (The Blood Album)”; Austra, “Future Politics”; Foxygen, “Hang”; Joan of Arc, “He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands”; Kid Koala, “Music To Draw To: Satellite”; Mick Harvey, “Intoxicated Women” [Serge Gainsbourg covers]; Shintaro Sakamoto, “Love If Possible”; The Proper Ornaments, “Foxhole”; Tim Cohen, “Luck Man”; Tycho, “Epoch”; William Basinski, “A Shadow In Time”

Saturday, January 21

Granola Bar Day, International Sweatpants Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, Hugging Day, New England Clam Chowda Day

#Caturday, #SexySaturday

Geena Davis, Emma Bunton, Rasputin, Jack Nicklaus

Beaches (Lifetime, 8 PM), Birthday Wish (Hallmark, 9 PM)

Social Media Recap: December 2016

Kicking things off for December, a Five by Five report via Business Insider shows that social media remains the best outlet for a US product launch through the end of 2016. For brands that are on the fence, this news should help you plan your budgets for the new year.

Social media is a great topic on which to seek advice and metrics from your PR firm as well. It’s tempting to double down on Facebook and forget every other platform, especially for smaller businesses, but getting a great audience analysis from your media intelligence platform or PR agency and understanding the social echo of the messages you are putting out will help determine the right social platforms for your launch. Getting an assessment will help you focus on the top 3 to 5 platforms for your products and services, instead of spreading yourself too thin trying to be everywhere.


Video, Video, Video

People can’t stop talking about video this month. Whether it’s Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter Livestreaming, or Snapchat’s (now Snap, Inc.) new killer Spectacles. The conversation is especially lively since Instagram now has Snapchat-like features, Periscope embeds in websites and tweets, and Vine may or may not have been shut down. That’s a lot of noise to filter to find the best video strategy for a brand’s service or product.

Some tips if you’re diving into the new video trends:

  1. If you’re posting a video directly to sites like Facebook and YouTube, include a transcript. You’d be surprised how many people are watching your video at work and have to keep your video on mute! Transcripts increase your video completion rates significantly. If you can, put them on screen.
  2. Want to start Snapping? First take a look at what other brands are doing. Several big names like Bravo have created channels you can follow to get an idea of what content is working for their audiences. Even if a channel isn’t in your budget, learning from the mistakes and successes of others will save you time and money. Remember: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  3. No one cares about your (poorly produced) Live video. It sounds harsh, but there is a vast array of grainy, low quality, hard to follow Live video out there right now. It’s new, so everyone is learning together. That’s great if you are Joe Schmo, not so great if you are a brand or small business. Remember that your content should always create value for your audience and not waste their time. Give yourself a content plan for live video, and have a loose mental script in your head before you start. Preliminary planning lets you know where you want to take your audience, so your video feels like it has a point. Pay attention to lighting as well! If viewers can’t see you because of glare, they won’t keep watching. If you are comfortable enough on camera to dialogue with your viewers, do so! It increases watch time. If you do, have a friend help you monitor comments off camera–the interaction becomes fast-moving on a live feed. 

Generational Marketing is Fading

As people tire of buzzword marketing and overuse of “millennials” and other generational terms, they are turning to companies and platforms that understand the concept of a perennial audience that crosses generations, sharing traits, and preferences rather than a loose age connection.

If you want to know who is doing this well, turn to Snap, Inc. for inspiration. They understand how much every generation longs for their internet “public record” to have an expiration date, and are creating new features accordingly. Take a look at some of their numbers that prove this point: 10 billion video views per day (yes, billion with a b), users spend 25–30 minutes on the app each day, and a significant influx of new users over 25 (50%). In fact, they launched their newest product, Spectacles with a very opaque marketing approach—mysterious vending machines that created demand, with bright, non-verbal signage—to great success.

Original Creative is Becoming the Norm

Facebook recently announced plans to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime in the original content arena. Self-producing content can be costly, but this is an area to pay attention to for brands. Think sponsored video, product placement, subtle ads, and other PR opportunities where you can tie into this new frontier.

Experience is King

Another emerging trend to watch is the power of experiences. One thing to take away from the rise of video, the rise of private communication and connection apps like Snapchat is the availability of excellent photography and videography in our phones and other mobile devices. Having access to technology like drones for the masses, means more people are desperate to experience new things, even if that means they’re doing it vicariously.

If PR pros can nail virtual shared experiences to bring people together from anywhere, their 2017 will be bright indeed.