Why communicators need to be worried about fake Twitter accounts–ExxonMobil fake

I’ll be sharing with Crisisblogger readers (as well as readers of my new Emergency Management blog) results of the survey I am doing on Twitter in Government Communicators. But one thing I have found already is many are very worried about fake Twitter accounts. There is no way currently to stop someone from signing up a Twitter account that sounds just like you or your organization. It is keeping quite a few from taking Twitter seriously and for very good reason.

ExxonMobil is facing a pretty serious fight over a fake Twitter account. This account by blogger Jeremiah Owyang chronicles how a Twit (maybe Twitterer) called Janet has posed as an ExxonMobil employee and grabbed the ExxonMobilCorp twitter account.

Despite being advised by Jeremiah and I’m certain others that she is violating one essential creed of internet ethics and that is not to pretend to be somebody you are not, Janet has decided to ignore this advice and continues to pretend that she is somehow affiliated with the company.

As I mentioned in a previous post, everyone now needs to have in their communication plans and crisis communication plans a strategy for dealing with fake Twitter accounts. The damage they can do in short order is considerable. Twitter has promised to offer a premium Twitter account with verification that you are who you say you are and have authorization to represent an organization. So far this seems to be about their only thought on how to make money with the opportunity they created. But they seem remarkably slow in getting this going. I suspect it is because the use for official communication or emergency management where I am interested is a pimple on their backside compared to how most are using Twitter–telling others what kind of coffee drink they just ordered for example.

On a related note, Jeremiah’s blog has one of the best lists of companies and brands that have been “punk’d” by social media I’ve seen. I’ll keep following this one.

Reaching saturation? Social media worries, inanities and limitations

I was reminded by a conference organizer that I need to get my presentation in soon for a presentation in Houston in early October. My response was, but the whole world might change by then and it will be outdated.

That’s how fast things seem to be evolving in the world of public information. Social media, of course, is the driver. Here are a few tidbits to illustrate the struggle of trying to understand and manage what is going on.

Social media is turning into a great big headache for CEOs and executives. This study shows that the two main worries (understandable I might add) are cutting into employee productivity and reputation damage.

Everybody’s talking about Twitter, twittering, tweeting, wasting time, etc. As this YouTube video shows, those pundits and news commentators are struggling like many others with what to do with all this and how seriously to take it. Thanks Paul for the headsup on this clip.

But what is Twitter and other text-based messaging doing to our communication and language? Wall Street Journal has a humorous and somewhat frightening take on this. It shows what happens if you misunderstand LOL and think it means Lots of Love instead of Laughing Out Loud.

And then there’s the vulnerability of Twitter and their lack of reliability. My understanding is that Twitter was down 85 hours last year. And just in the last few days experienced a three hour outage due to denial of service attacks. This is a significant issue for those considering Twitter as a critical element of crisis or emergency communications.

And then there’s the growing backlash–particularly against Twitter it seems but social media in general. Perhaps it is too much to call it a backlash, but there certainly is recognition that social media remains largely a domain of the digital natives–the younger generation who seems to have the time for all the tweeting (a mystery to me) and more significantly, an interest in the inane particularities of their friends’ and associates’s lives. This survey shows that 87% of adults say they prefer to deal directly with people. Count me in with the majority.

Mainstream tells how to manage online reputations

This is great. New York Times, king of the mainstream, is providing advice for companies and organizations on how to deal with the new realities of the social media world. And they are right! Great article.

Summary (this is my take on it)

1. Listen, listen, listen

2. Act fast–that means doing your thinking and planning before things happen so you can act fast.

3. Don’t assume your enemies are necessarily your enemies.

4. To quote Proverbs: A soft answer turns away wrath.

5. ‘Fess up quick and apologize quick if you have screwed up–and for goodness sake, don’t let the attorneys get in your way

6. Talk to them like they talk to each other–use their channels and consistent with their style and values

Twitter in Government Communications–tell me what you know

I’ve been asked by Government Educator to do a webinar on Twitter in Government Communications. It is scheduled for Sept 1 and if you’d like more info or to register, here you go.

I work with and talk with a lot of government communicators including those who use Twitter and those who say, Twitter, what’s that? But I’d like to get a more complete picture so I put a quick little survey together to help gather a more complete picture. If you are government communicator I’d love you hear from you–either by this survey— or by commenting here or emailing me directly at gbaron@piersystems.com. And yes, I will share the results with any who participate and who request a copy. If you are not a gov communicator, chances are you know one, or a dozen. Send them this link and ask them to participate. Much appreciated.

By the way, yes I did see the reports yesterday about the Marines banning Twitter and the Dept of Defense considering banning all social media.

I blogged on that on my new blog for Emergency Management magazine called Crisis Comm. It can be found at www.emergencymgmt.com–still working out some posting bugs so if you don’t see it immediately, check back.

The new crisis management emerging–and it works

This post from Bulldog Reporter is one of the most encouraging I’ve read in a long time. It demonstrates the dramatic change that has occurred in organizations in building fast response methods to averting potential crises.

I just finished reading another WWII history book–this one called “Scramble” by Norman Gelb about the Battle of Britain. For those not up on this history, this was the battle between the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the RAF or Royal Air Force of Britain. Though outnumbered 3 -1, the heroic and hurriedly trained RAF pilots took such a toll on the German fighters and bombers that Hitler had to cancel his plans for an invasion of England. Truer words were never spoken when Churchill said “never in the history of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few.” Or something like that.

But, the secret to their success was really in their intelligence gathering and their superb organization. Radar was a new invention but they deployed it effectively along with ground observers. They also decoded the German’s military radio signals in a very secret operation called ULTRA. They used these various early warning signals to identify the size, direction and altitude of the incoming raids. Based on this, using their great operational control method devised by Air Marshall Dowding, they directed their overstretched fighter resources to where they could do the most good. Although knocked to their knees, the Germans could never land the knockout punch and Hitler in frustration turned his focus to attacking the Soviet Union.

The new crisis management depends on using today’s radar–social media. Monitoring it closely, and then with organization aimed at near immediate response, moving exceptionally quickly to assess the problem and respond. As the post demonstrates admirably, it works. Many crises can be averted if the problem is dealt with soon enough. The Institute for Crisis Management has reported consistently that 75% of all business crises are “smoldering” in the sense that an issue exists that could erupt into a crisis and if it does, it is usually because the issue is not dealt with soon enough.

It is very encouraging to see major corporations adopting the “Distant Early Warning” and fast response methods that have proven so effective in the past. I just blogged about the increase in trust in business. Hmmm, maybe there’s a connection.

Some good news–trust in business is improving

Who knows, maybe Edelman’s trust barometer will prove to be an effective leading indicator of world economic conditions. Earlier they reported a dramatic drop in trust in business as well as government. Now they are reporting some significant improvements. The BBC has a summary on this showing the vast difference in trust between influencers in the US and those in India and China.

What are we to make of this improvement and this difference? First, on the difference it is hard for me to not draw a somewhat political conclusion. In both India and China the state has dominated the economy and people’s lives–China more so of course with a fully socialist system. Both of those nations have loosened the fetters on private enterprise and it is not surprising that this fact, combined with other important factors, has resulted in these two economies being the fastest growing and most dynamic on earth in the last while. Even now, China is surprising the world with a remarkable recovery from the global recession and posting significant GDP gains while most are still going backwards. The US on the other hand, is heading in the opposite direction. From a firm commitment to free enterprise and open markets, it is reacting to the collapse of the financial system and the credit markets by adopting government strictures and controls to a degree that seemed impossible to fathom even a year or two ago. Who would have thought that our president and Congress would be determing the CEOs of our largest corporations, thinking about passing laws that would determine executive pay, deciding which models of cars our factories would build and deciding on political bases of course which factories to keep open and which to close. It is unimaginable.

People have to put their trust in something, in someone. When strong controlling governments haven’t delivered the prosperity and hope that people in India and China long for, they have put more trust in business. When our trust in business was dashed by the greed, dishonesty and rapacious behavior not just of the Bernie Madoffs but in the heads of respected banks, insurance companies and manufacturers, we have tended to put our hope in government. But that hope and trust is being tested as well–and as confidence in governments ability to provide for all our hopes and needs without bankrupting us all and especially our children wanes, then perhaps some hope and trust in business will return.

I don’t know–what do you think is going on?