My (Podcast) Roundtable Rants, Part Deux

Man yelling

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of doing yet another fun and sometimes cantankerous Media Bullseye Roundtable podcast with my good friend, Chip Griffin, CEO and founder of the Custom Scoop media empire.

Among the topical issues that we covered were:

Crazy, right?

Have a listen here, or:


Image: DieselDemon, via Flickr Commons


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The Damage Done to the Ferguson Debate by Slactivism

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Social media can do a lot of good.  It can connect people, spawn romance, spread news before even major outlets have it, or contribute to the overthrow of dictators.  And depending upon your point of view, have a serious financial impact for non-profit fundraising  (see Ice Bucket Challenge, although while sometimes annoying, has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27).

But I have become increasingly dismayed by what I view to be the damage that irresponsible use of social media has caused over the last couple of weeks, principally the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  In my mind, people have increasingly made their social media properties billboards for the latest poorly-Photoshopped picture of a candle that make you feel like you’re a total jerk if you don’t JOIN the cause and pass on the aforementioned picture of the candle.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “slactivism” is a combination of the words “slacker” and “activist.”  Wikipedia defines slactivism as:

The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.

So picture someone sitting on their couch, perusing Facebook or Twitter, Liking, Sharing a picture of a sick child on Facebook, or re-tweeting something just because, for example, it has a hashtag that describes a situation that they feel passionate about – like #Ferguson.  And doing nothing else, but reveling in that self-congratulatory glow that can come only from having make yourself feel good about being an activist without even leaving your couch.  Oh – and pass the Fritos, please.

The slactivists have taken over the interwebs over the last several weeks.  And it’s not helping.


Over the last few weeks, #Ferguson has been a trending topic on Twitter and Facebook and has dominated the national news.  It’s a terrible situation and one that has yet to play out fully.

Why is slactivism a problem regarding Ferguson?

In order to make the situation better,  what we need is information, not uninformed opinion.  #Ferguson became a political statement.  “Hey, I hate the police/don’t hate the police, so I’m going to use #Ferguson in my tweet.”

Resolution in Ferguson will come from research, understanding, compassion and grasping the other person’s point of view, and right now, that ain’t happening.  Why?

Tony Haile is CEO of Chartbeat, a company that “…measure[s] what matters so you can take action when it matters.”  They gather data.  So I take Tony at his word on this.

In case you don’t want to investigate, trust me that most people don’t actually READ the articles or blog posts contained in the links that they share.  They read the headline, and whammo bammo, re-tweet done.   Slactivist pat on the back administered.  Back to the Fritos.  People are fanning the flames and passing along information based upon a hashtag or a few words in a tweet, and not on the more detailed information that often accompanies the link.

And in the process, this sort of slactivism can create a a trending topic on Twitter – making it possible for others to see the link and do the same.  And the situation becomes self-perpetuating.

Passing on #Ferguson without reading – and thinking about – the corresponding information is the offline equivalent of recommending a chiropractor to a friend based upon the name of the practice, without ever actually having visited the chiropractor.  But with much more serious consequences.

When people see a popular (or incendiary) hashtag, read a few words of a description in Twitter and then endorse the underlying content by re-tweeting it – this is slactivism accomplished.  And yes, “endorse.”  That’s why so many people like me are required by our employers to state that re-tweets do not equal endorsement.  Because that’s what people perceive.

Has there been some very good, compassionate discourse surrounding the situation in Ferguson?  Absolutely.  And I have read quite a bit of it.  And I have also been flamed on my Facebook page for expressing my views.  But where social media harms us is that it makes it so easy – SO TEMPTING –  to hit that “re-tweet,” Like or Share without even taking the time to even know the point of view or judging the credibility of the information that they are passing on.

At some point in this social media chain, people will read the information passed on via social media.  What  will this be?  What point of view will it present?  How will it help make things better (real activism), than clicking on something then moving on to see what’s new on Netflix (slactivism)?

The answer is that I sure don’t know.  But what I do know is that the noise to signal ratio around a topic like Ferguson can helped by people providing real-time, on the ground information using social media, but this can barely be one percent of instances.  The other 99% of the people are NOT there, and information that is being endorsed, shared and spread is not likely even be read by the person who is sharing it.

That’s sad.  That’s harmful.  And that is how social media is hurting – not helping – the situation in Ferguson.

Wanna feel good about yourself?  Be an activist.  Start a petition drive. Volunteer in a homeless shelter.  Want to be a couch potato, endorse  information that you haven’t even read, let alone considered?

Welcome to the wonderful world of slactivism.

Image: Peters Gadgets


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Cross Post: If you love your social media message, set it free – case study

I have been doing some freelance work for AgentGenius/AGBeat run my my friend, Lani Rosales, and last week wrote and article about how NOT to do social media on Facebook.

According to Scott Monty of Ford, National Car Rental was deleting negative posts about their brand from their Facebook page.Screen Shot 2011-10-25 at 9.08.45 AM

Bad, bad, bad.  Whole article is here.

Happy reading.


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Twitter, Moods and a Screaming Grasp of the Obvious

In this morning’s Washington Post there is an article entitled “Tweets tweet our emotional status.”  This article is both mundane and presents and screamingly firm grasp of the obvious.

The premise of the article is as our moods change, so do the tone of our tweets.  Well, duh.  An excerpt:

Optimism is reborn with each new day and slowly erodes as we work, study and go about our quotidian affairs. Our mood lifts as we head home to friends, family, entertainment and beer. Our outlook tends to be sunnier on weekends. And speaking of sun, when it starts to pile up in the spring or disappear in the fall, that affects our mood, too.

Well, there’s some groundbreaking news.  We hate work, errands, and love to party.  I know very few people who, on their deathbeds would say “Gosh, I wish I had done just one more day at work…[cue EKG sound of flat-lining].

There are a couple of things that caught my eye in the article, which to be honest, is not really worth reading unless you have not make the connection that we tend to share our emotions with others – or are perhaps more likely to do so via social media.  But here’s something interesting:

A new study in the journal Science examined the contents of more than 500 million tweets sent in 84 countries over two years, looking for signs of good moods and bad. It found what a lot of us could tell by looking at our own lives.

Let me see if I get this straight:  it took people or Cornell University two years, 500 million tweets and 84 countries to prove that people have emotions that go up and down and are shared via Twitter?  Wow!  And if you are a Cornell alumni donor, I would think carefully about where your money is going before writing the next check.  Just another manic mondayI doubt that you are getting a new basketball arena any time soon.

But it was the last part of the article that caused me to spit out my (expensive) Starbucks coffee:

“This is a stone in the foundation of a new social science that is being built,” said Nicholas A. Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the research. “We’re in a similar place that we were in in the 17th century with the discovery of the telescope and microscope.

Telescope.  Microscope.  17th century?  I suppose that sending a man to the moon, working on discovering a cure for cancer or eradicating such diseases as polio are way down on the list.

I think what chafes my saddle sores is that first, this is viewed as serious research rather than a firm grasp of the obvious, or second, a formerly great newspaper like the Washington Post found it newsworthy – in the A section, no less.

What’s next?  “One billion dollar study from the University of Phoenix shows that giving someone the middle finger in traffic may be tied to annoyance?”

Yeah.  Annoyance like reading this steaming pile of  pseudo-journalism.


P.S. – I would normally state something here like “Image source:  Washington Post,”  but I am pretty sure they would kick my ass if they read this post.

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Natural and Personal Disasters – and a Path Forward

Disclosure:  the basis of this article is a philanthropic effort on the part of Custom Scoop.  I have been a paid contributor to their publication, Media Bullseye, as well as a guest host (unpaid) of their podcast.

I have been giving a whole lot of thought lately to disasters, both personal and those that mother nature conjures up.  I have also been thinking a lot about the tireless efforts that many of my friends have made  – more like personal crusades – to try to bring to an end many of the sad chapters that impact so many lives.

Examples include what I have written about before, such as Shonali Burke’s #Bluekey effort.  She has worked tirelessly of late, to:

…support the USA for UNHCR, which is a US-based 501c3 that supports UNHCR’s work.. [and to] to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.  People who are forced to flee their homes or face death is a human disaster.

Next, my friend Doug Haslam is doing his annual Pan-Mass Challenge bike ride, a grueling effort in which Doug rides through 46 (this is not a typo) towns through Massachusetts and solicits contributions that are donated directly to the Jimmy Fund. Not one cent of each dollar raised through riders’ sweat and determination was used for administrative and organizational expenses.  This year is different for Doug.  On May 14 of this year, Doug’s dad passed away from pancreatic cancer.  Losing a parent to cancer (I have as well) is a family tragedy and what many consider to be a personal disaster.

Finally, one of my new pals and someone whom I admire greatly is Jennifer Stauss Windrum whose mom has Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer.  And has never smoked a day in her life.  Rather than curl up in a ball and feel badly for herself, her family and her mom, Jennifer has taken on the establishment by putting together a movement called “WTF,” as in “Where’s the Funding?”  Jennifer has fought, lobbied and garnered quite a bit of media coverage to raise awareness of a funding to fight lung cancer. And as usual, Jennifer nails it with a simple statement on her Web site:

It’s time to bring attention to the THE #1 cancer killer in the U.S and the LEAST funded.

But I am burying the headline.  There are personal disasters and man made disasters.  It seems that Mother Nature has decided to mess with us of late with a spate of tornados, among the worst hitting Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  I am also privileged to know Ike Piggot.  After working 17 hours the day at his job at Alabama Power after the tornado hit, Ike found time to make a short YouTube video, holding up a simple piece of paper with a URL of how people can get involved.  He has also written about the topic that I will (finally) get around to.

My pals at Custom Scoop have not just stood on the sidelines, watching many of these man-made disasters.  They have decided to do something to help with their flagship product:

“…CustomScoop will provide free accounts for one year to the first 100 local chapters of the Red Cross or other bona fide relief organizations that qualify after filling out a short online form. We hope that these services, valued at approximately $600,000, will help these groups that face enormous financial challenges and find their human resources stretched thin.

Why is this important?  In ANY disaster, lives depend upon the speed with which first responders receive and react to information.  And when you think about disasters like the Tuscaloosa tornado, there was information pouring in from the media, bloggers, the Red Cross, the media, state, local and federal government agencies and others.  Somewhere in that fire hose of info are nuggets of information that the first responders need.  If bloggers are helping raise money, the Red Cross and others need to connect to know how to get the money there.  If there are offers of assistance from disaster relief organizations, they need to know what if being offered and how to accept it.  Same with efforts organized by well-known social media experts like Ike. Phones may or may not work after a tornado, but with a laptop, air card and someone who has access to a platform that can help like Custom Scoop this can, at the least, help the lines of communication, and at best, help save lives.

So think about this offer and if you know of someone who is in a position to be a first responder, please pass on this link:

I wish more than anything that I could have helped Doug and help Jennifer.  I have done a small part to help Shonali’s effort.  But in a time of nasty corporate scandals, it makes me proud to be associated with the Custom Scoop family – Chip, Jen and others who have been part of the company for many, many years.

And if you can, tweet this (icon up top) to let others know that when tragedy strikes, there is a company ready and able to help.  And just to pimp a little, you can:

It’s one thing to face tragedy and disaster, and another thing to do something about it. All of the above put the “social” in social media.


Mark Story

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