Boldly going where few have gone before…

That’s part of my refreshed presentation on social media, which I’m delivering this morning for the Missouri Hospital Association.

My North Carolina and Iowa friends, to whom I presented last week, also will find this helpful for review.

Twitter 135: 10 Reasons to NOT Protect Your Tweets

Note: This is part of the Twitter curriculum on SMUG.

In the last week or so I’ve had some great interactions with Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom on Twitter.) She gave me the heads up about Marc Slavin, the hospital PR guy who ignored a reporter’s repeated requests to “stop touching me!” as described in my recent Manual Spam post.

In our back and forth discussion I realized that Lisa had “protected” her tweets, and I asked her why. Her response:

Protect Tweets: Open to coaching. Have gotten requests from “less than splendid” Didn’t want to be associated. Will take your advice.

So I asked Lisa for her email address to send her some reasons why she should change her tweets to “unprotected.” What you see below is what I sent her, and I’m happy to report that as of right now you can follow Lisa without having to ask permission.

I did, however, ask Lisa’s permission to share this story, as well as the reasons I had outlined for her, to help others who may have similar questions or concerns. She agreed.

Here’s what I told Lisa:

It’s understandable why you might instinctively choose to “protect” your tweets. Especially with the controversy over Facebook and its privacy settings, it may feel like protecting your tweets is safer, and would better safeguard your privacy.

That’s true, to a point. And depending on how you want to use Twitter, it COULD be a valid choice.

I think that’s highly unlikely, though, particularly in your circumstance. For almost anyone (I would say more than 95 percent of Twitter users), protecting tweets is counterproductive.

Here are 10 reasons why you should NOT protect your Tweets:

  1. Twitter isn’t Facebook. Facebook is for your friends. Twitter is for the friends you don’t know yet. Here is an example of how I got to meet someone through Twitter who has become a good friend.
  2. Following isn’t Friending. This is related to the first point. On Facebook you can require that only your friends can view your profile. People have to ask permission to see more details. That’s entirely appropriate, because you probably have personal information there, such as your birthday, phone number, family members and other details that you likely want to keep private. On Twitter, your entire bio is 160 characters. You may also have a link to your Web site or blog, but that’s the extent of the really personal information.
  3. What if everyone did it? If everyone protected their updates Twitter would be much less useful as a networking platform. You would connect with people you already know, as on Facebook, but wouldn’t meet people with common interests who are tweeting about topics of interest to you.
  4. Protecting your Tweets is a barrier to connections. Given your business, I don’t think you can afford that. Ideally, you want people to find out about you and connect with you, which will lead to more speaking engagements and training opportunities. More business. If your tweets are protected, it will keep others from finding out about you, because they won’t discover your tweets.
  5. You can block the bad actors. In one of your messages to me you said “Have gotten requests from ‘less than splendid’ Didn’t want to be associated.” If an unsavory character starts following you on Twitter, and it really creeps you out, you can block him. (Most of the creepy ones would probably be “hims,” wouldn’t they?) But they won’t be around for long anyway. Spammers get identified and blocked by others, and if enough people block them the accounts are suspended.
  6. The solution to some unwanted followers is to get a LOT of followers. As my friend Andy Sernovitz says, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” Then if you have some “less than splendid” followers it won’t be a big deal.
  7. Why would you want all the burden of networking to fall on your shoulders? Why not make it a mutual thing? If your tweets are protected the only way you’re likely to make new connections is by initiating “follows.” But by practicing unprotected tweeting you will find that people who are interested in what you are saying will want to follow you. Many of these will likely be interesting people for you to follow. You may find this post interesting, because it has some data about protected tweeters, and particularly that they have fewer followers. That makes sense, that if people have to ask permission to follow you, fewer will.
  8. The Cocktail Party Analogy – This is a metaphor many have used to describe the right way to behave in social media. If you wouldn’t do it in person at a party, don’t act that way in social networking platforms. In these illustrations, most often the undesirable example is Ed the Egomaniac. He comes in and just talks incessantly about himself. But there is another type that’s just as likely to kill the conversation. Eva the Eavesdropper. She doesn’t talk at all. She just listens in on others’ conversations without contributing (and often without their knowledge.) It’s unwelcome behavior in real life, so don’t do it in Twitter.
  9. You’re in a tiny minority. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, of course. But the default for Twitter is to not protect, and if everyone else is interacting freely you are not going to be as fully connected, which will put you at a disadvantage.
  10. Be smart. For your own safety, you might not want to tweet a message like, “Home all alone. Locks on my front door don’t work. Sure hope that $25K in cash under mattress is safe until I can call the locksmith Monday.” But if you’re just tweeting conversationally and sharing links to interesting reading, you won’t have much cause for concern about personal safety or privacy violations.

BP Oil Spill: Hospital PR Case Study

I had a nice opportunity to talk this week with Taslin Alfonzo, who does media relations for a Louisiana hospital that has treated workers involved in the BP oil spill cleanup. She mentioned a story in which her hospital had made national network news, and that her SMUG training had played a role, so I asked if she would be willing to share. Here’s her recap of the story (and I’ve embedded the NBC Nightly News piece at the bottom of this post as well):

West Jefferson Medical Center (15min South of New Orleans) has treated a total of 11 oil spill workers who say they have been affected by the fumes from burning off the oil and from being sprayed with dispersant.

None of the workers wanted to talk to the media, but one of them was willing to talk to me. So, I pulled out my iPhone and asked if I could record an interview with him. I asked the gentleman about his symptoms, how he was transported to West Jeff, and what he thought about our medical service. After the 30 to 40 second interview, I asked him if it was okay if I posted his video on our website. He agreed, signed a consent and asked that it only be displayed on our website. He did not want me to distribute it to the media.

So, I did just that. When I edited the video, I made sure to put our website ( under the man’s face in the video so media couldn’t claim it as their own or not courtesy WJMC. Then, I sent out a press release to all media outlets (local & national) telling them I had exclusive video of an oil spill worker treated at our hospital. Some of them used the video and never mentioned us (but we had the bug…ha!), others properly credited us and some news outlets refused to use it because of the bug.

Needless to say it got national attention. Our website and doctors appeared on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, ABC News Tonight, and various local stations.

The best part was I got the whole idea from Lee Aase, the social media guru!

I’m glad for whatever inspiration I contributed, but of course the credit goes to Taslin for seeing an opportunity to apply the MacGyver mindset in her situation, and then acting on it. Here is the first part of the NBC piece, in which her hospital was featured:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A few quick lessons/observations:

  1. You don’t need a big staff to effectively use social media tools. West Jefferson has three people, I believe, for media relations, marketing and community relations. In fact, the tools like the iPhone and Flip video camera are even more valuable for the smaller shops.
  2. If the story is big, and if TV networks don’t have a way to get footage, they will use yours. Ideally, I’m sure, NBC would have preferred to interview the patient directly. The patient didn’t want that. Taslin’s video was the only video available.
  3. Video quality is less important than content. It didn’t matter that the video was taken with an iPhone, and that it was available only on the Web site. What mattered was what the patient had to say.
  4. The traditional press release still has a role. Having the video on the site wasn’t going to lead to coverage if Taslin didn’t send out the news release. She perhaps could have just sent emails with the link as a pitch, and that might have worked. But the news release spread the word quickly to media outlets. Timeliness is key; getting the word to media quickly made it more likely that they would use Taslin’s video instead of working for a day or two to find a patient on their own.

It’s great to see this example of a SMUGgle thinking creatively and using the tools at her disposal to tell the story.

How about you? What’s your best example of using social media tools for mainstream media relations?

Manual Spam

When I’m advising people in how to get started with social media, I frequently tell them to just act naturally, like they would in a face-to-face interaction. Others have said you should act like you’re at a social gathering. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a crowded room and start talking incessantly about yourself, don’t do that virtually in social networks. It’s just not polite.

This hospital PR guy is making me rethink that advice, because if he acts online as he does in this encounter with a TV reporter, he’s going to be in serious trouble.

You really do need to see it to believe it would even be possible.


Thanks to Lisa Fields for the nudge on this one. I had seen something online about a PR guy repeatedly patting a reporter, but hadn’t checked it out.

Reading the YouTube video background it seems the reporter had shown up unannounced at a hospital town meeting to ask questions related to an investigative story. The reporter had said his calls asking for comment hadn’t been returned, so he decided to try to get the questions answered at the public meeting.

If sending unwanted email messages to people you don’t know is called spam, this seems like an in-person, hands-on version. Manual spam.

Given the worldwide attention it’s receiving, it once again shows that badly handling an issue can multiply the negative effects. If they had answered the questions earlier, and if the story had come out that funds were being misused, I’m sure we never would have heard about it. Just a local TV story in San Francisco. But instead you can read more here. And here. And here. And here. And here.

On the bright side, if the PR gig doesn’t work out (and it doesn’t seem promising right now), Mr. Slavin could always seek employment in the TSA secondary screening line.

Social Media for Romulans

I had a fun opportunity today to speak with a group of HR staff from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. It was part of their annual HR summit, and was organized around a futuristic, Star Trek theme. It gave me a chance to refresh and revise my presentation:

This was the first presentation I’ve done using my iPad, which led to some interesting moments. More on those later. But for now, here are the slides.

Long-term SMUGgles will recognize most of them, but this version has some new points, and particularly some new supporting material.