The Digital Vibes

Tips for Dealing with Online Negativity
September 26, 2008, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Online presence, Social Media | Tags: , ,

This was extracted from Paul Gillin’s Social Media Report newsletter and it’s timely advice, especially following a client meeting that I had when I suggested incorporating social media elements into a product launch, and the client expressed reservation about the potential of negative comments expressed online:

Anyone who embarks upon a social media campaign risks opening him- or herself to attack. Even the most noble causes can run afoul of extremists. In the vast majority of cases, these problems can be contained with sufficient planning. The trick is not to get caught flat-footed by criticism you didn’t expect. In fact, when managed professionally, negativity can actually enhance your image by demonstrating that you’ve thought through the issues in detail.

Negativity can usually be anticipated and blunted if you deploy a few basic tactics:

Anticipate. Before launching a blog or public forum, know what you’re getting into. If you have critics, they will use the opportunity to air their gripes. Even if you don’t think you have critics, you should be prepared for them to emerge from unexpected places. 

One client chose to blog about his adventures exploring new geographies. He was proud of his efforts and so was completely blindsided when environmentalists began attacking him. Had he thought through his topic more thoroughly, he might have anticipated such criticism. 

Most businesses are poorly prepared to anticipate criticism because they only see the good in what they do. Here’s where an outside perspective may help. Come up with all reasonable arguments against your story and prepare a defense for each. It may be worth hiring a domain expert or journalist to help poke holes in your case.

Keep calm. The knee-jerk reaction to criticism is usually “How dare they!”, but reacting defensively rarely works. Critics are inclined to be blunt when they think they’re shouting into an empty well, but they’re more civil when confronting a real person. Use their anger to reinforce your rationality. Count to 100 before responding, maybe take a walk around the block and then consider if there is any validity to the critic’s comments. Conceding that someone has a point — even if you don’t plan to do anything about it — is the fastest way to disarm him. Simply saying that you heard his comments will go miles toward soothing his anger.

If you really want to confound a critic, look up his phone number online (this usually isn’t difficult). Even if you end up leaving a voicemail, the mere act of personalizing an anonymous interaction often heads off a confrontation.

Don’t censor. One client got so flustered by unanticipated negativity that he began deleting critical comments. NEVER DO THIS. Censorship won’t silence your critics; it will only send them to other forums you don’t control. It’s okay to edit obscene or inappropriate remarks, but don’t delete them just because you don’t like what they say. Once you have created a public forum, you must live with the consequences. 

A little criticism actually isn’t a bad thing. It makes you look more credible. Respond to adversaries using the tactics outlined above, but don’t use your power to silence them. It will backfire on you.

Address issues, not people. Your most vociferous critics may stoop to character assassination to dramatize their case. Don’t go there. Address issues, but leave the name-calling to the amateurs.

You also don’t have to speak directly to your critics. If people are harping on one issue, post information that addresses several critics. DuPont did this a few years ago when rumors popped up that Teflon caused cancer. DuPont didn’t address its critics directly but instead set up a website to tell the truth about Teflon. By refuting the rumors with scientific evidence, the company quickly put the issue to bed. Bloggers helped out by linking to DuPont’s informational website. The company never got down in the muck with its detractors, but effectively dispatched the rumors with facts. 

If you employ these four tactics, you’ll be able to cope with nearly every challenge to your credibility, even the unanticipated ones.


Mashable’s useful list of online business tools
September 25, 2008, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Web apps | Tags:

Time again for Mashable’s list of online business tools. Too long a list to append here but check out the list over at

Measuring Social Media
September 24, 2008, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , ,

It’s been a long while since I’ve written… Started a new job that’s been keeping me very busy but it’s interesting to enter the realm of client servicing where I am no longer the gatekeeper and decision-maker for an organization’s PR campaign.

I had the chance to attend a breakfast briefing with Jim Macnamara as a speaker, and I found it very insightful. It was also a good starting point to think about social media monitoring. Here’s a post written by him on the Measurement Standard blog, enjoy the read!

The Not-So-New Social/Anti-Social Media

Jim Macnamara”s “Measuring Up”

Welcome to a new age where media are software and the audiences are the networks.

I don’t know about you but, as fascinated as I am with media developments, I am fed up with hearing the term “new media.” And I am not too enamored with “social media” either.

What’s So New About New Media?

Why? First, because many of the media that we are talking about are increasingly not new. OK, so Web 2.0 has upped the ante with interactivity and participation, but newsgroup chat rooms celebrate their 30th anniversary next year, having been conceived by Duke University graduate students Tom Trucott and Jim Ellis in 1979. The term “Weblog” was created in 1997 and bloggers have been blogging for a decade. Google is into its second decade, celebrating its 10th anniversary as a company in 2008, while MySpace will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Even YouTube and FaceBook are three and four years old respectively and, with hundreds of millions of users between them, are hardly new.

Apart from being increasingly inaccurate, the term “new media” leads us to an inevitable terminology trap when the next wave of media developments arrive. Web 3.0 is already under construction and new hybrid forms of media are evolving – what Roger Fidler calls “mediamorphosis.” Rather than a choice between “old” or “traditional” and “new” media, which suggests a simple two-horse race, we are living through a period of ongoing media and communications change.

What’s So Social About Social Media?

“Social media” is also a problematic term. As much as social networking has wide interpretations and social network mapping is all the rage, “social media” suggests to most that these media are primarily used for chat and gossip, friendship, dating, etcetera. It is this confusion that is causing many businesses to ignore these media or underestimate them. In reality, so-called social networking utilities and social media are making and breaking brands and products every day, building and destroying political careers, and shaping corporate reputations. They are used for civic and political engagement, research, job searching, marketing, shopping, knowledge sharing, and a host of other purposes.

While the U.S. progresses through its primaries in preparation for the November 2008 Presidential election, Australian had a national election in late 2007 which was widely dubbed “the YouTube election,” and resulted in a new government. The new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his party were elected in a landmark campaign spearheaded by Kevin07, a Web-based strategy which extensively used MySpace, blogs, YouTube and other so-called social media. Even though many conservative politicians clung to traditional media advertising — particularly those who lost the election — Web 2.0 type media were used for political communication and civic engagement by a large number of both politicians and interest groups.

The U.S. Presidential race is also seeing Web 2.0 media used at an unprecedented level — even more than in the 2004 election which was described as a critical turning point in media use for political electioneering. (See, for instance, this article, previously in The Measurement Standard.)The term “social media” fails to reflect the serious and substantial communication that is flowing through these channels.

To take the point further, a few hours of research will show that many of the so-called social media are also downright anti-social. Political spoofs and parodies that ridicule, mash-ups of children’s nursery rhymes with lyrics replaced by obscenities, and various types of pornography, racism, and other abuses are features and challenges of the Internet and the new forms and genre of media that it facilitates.

What’s In a Name?

So what do we call emerging media forms and genre? And is it important what we call them? I suggest it is because our way of describing things frames our understanding. Language limits or delimits the concepts we deal with. It seems clear that we need a review of terminology in relation to media as convergence escalates. In preparing a public lecture which I am due to deliver in June, I compiled a list of 32 different terms used for media today. Many of these are based on delivery systems that are increasingly redundant — such as film, video tape, broadcast, and so on. Even traditional terms such as “newspapers,” “press,” “broadcast,” “radio” and “television” no longer adequately describe our media, as newspapers are less and less provided on paper, radio programs are increasingly distributed as podcasts rather than broadcasts, and television content is being “transmitted” via the Internet and watched on computers and even hand phones. And “phones” are not phones any more.

The benefit of a review of terminology is that we would find we can dispense with more than half the terms in use and simplify discussion considerably. What does it matter that content is distributed on paper, plastic, magnetic tape or disk, celluloid, cable, broadcast waves, or in jello? Only two things seem to matter: content and users — whether they are producers or consumers, or a combination of both, as reflected in the terms “prosumers” or “produsers.”

This raises three points that I will throw out there for comment. The first observation is that media are becoming immaterial. By that I do not mean that media don’t matter per se; I mean the materiality of media is becoming unimportant. With convergence, content pays no mind to the medium on which it is distributed — nor do most users. In the digital art world, Lev Manovich talks about “post-media” referring to the same notion, so I am not alone in this thinking.

In the same way, hardware technology such as computers and telecommunications networks are disappearing and becoming invisible. The invisible computer was first forecast in 1998 by Donald Norman and research continues through the Disappearing Computer Initiative in the U.S. Similarly, cables and wires are disappearing as we move to wireless. And “logging on,” which was an often troublesome ritual that regularly reminded us that we were entering a complex world of machines, is increasingly being replaced with “always on.” But it is not only the increasing physical invisibility of hardware that is significant; what is most significant is the growing psychological invisibility of hardware. Today, what Marc Prensky calls “digital natives” and assimilated “digital immigrants” move seamlessly and effortlessly between sources of content without a moment’s thought to the hardware infrastructure that delivers them.

Today media are software — intellectual property in the form of both applications and content. And audiences are the network, actively connecting, linking, redirecting, forwarding, and injecting local comment and static into communications.

Welcome to a new age in which media are software and audiences are the networks.

Dr Jim Macnamara MA, PhD, FPRIA, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC became Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology Sydney in late 2007. His 30-year career in journalism, public relations and media research culminated in the 2006 sale of CARMA Asia Pacific, which he founded, to Media Monitors. He worked as Group Research Director with Media Monitors – CARMA Asia Pacific following the sale and continues as a Consultant with the Group.

Geek chic
September 1, 2008, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Random | Tags:

Beautiful PCs on my wishlist

HP’s TouchSmart IQ 506, all-in-one desktop that comes with a touch-enabled, 22-in. LCD, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, TV tuners, a DVD burner and more.

The Ego Orphine  for the woman who has everything including a Birken bag. This AMD Turion 64-bit laptop  has a bass reflex stereo system, and is well-disguised as a Swarovski studded leather purse.