Words Matter: Why Companies Need to Be Very Careful What They Say on Social Media

A few days ago, I discovered a security flaw at the company that hosts my website. I reported this to the company, NameCheap, and to a security researcher I know, Graham Cluley. Graham, in turn, shared this information on twitter, and on his podcast Smashing Security.

One thing that irked Graham – and me – was the way that NameCheap’s representative on Twitter used the term “teeny tiny” on Twitter to describe the extent of this vulnerability’s exploitation. And they also suggested, on Twitter, that it shouldn’t be discussed publicly:

Namecheap twitter

This is despite the fact that the information I published did not in any way explain how this vulnerability could be exploited, but merely described its result. (NameCheap later provided a detailed explanation.)

There’s been a bit of back and forth between Graham Cluley and NameCheap CEO Richard Kirkendall (see this Twitter thread), much of it about the terminology that was used. “Teeny tiny” is not a technical word, and, to my ears, sounds dismissive.

This is problematic. Twitter is used as the voice of companies. A tweet can be as important as a press release; heck, even the US president announces policy in 280 characters. Companies that don’t realize this run the risk of being misunderstood, especially when something as sensitive as a security breach occurs.

In my article about this issue, I congratulated NameCheap on their rapid resolution of the problem. But I have communicated to Mr Kirkendall about the fact that I have not received any formal notification from the company regarding this breach, even though NameCheap said that all those affected – apparently just 12 domains – would be contacted. He has apologized on Twitter. He also said a full audit of the incident would be made, which is, of course, normal when there is this type of security breach.

The fact remains that Twitter leads people to speak quickly and sometimes rashly. I have worked as a journalist for long enough to know how important a choice of words is. I’ve worked hours on press releases with clients to get just the right words. And a tweet, especially when it is seen as an official statement from a company, is not very different from a press release. The wrong words have consequences.

The Follower Factory – The New York Times

Everyone wants to be popular online.

Some even pay for it.

Inside social media’s black market.

It seems the New York Times has just discovered that you can buy followers on social media networks. This isn’t news; this has been the case for years. I get spam on Twitter offering followers all the time; almost every time I post a photo on Instagram, I get followed by an account whose profile offers to sell me followers.

Celebrities and brands have been doing this for years. Why did it take so long for the mainstream media to find out about this.

Here’s a 2014 Macworld article by Caitlin McGarry about Instagram’s “spam purge” of that period. There are dozens, hundreds of articles about this.

Source: The Follower Factory – The New York Times

How to Report Abuse and Harassment on Twitter

If you use Twitter, you know that abuse is rampant. Mindless trolls and bots reply to your tweets and insult you, even threaten you. Twitter has been very slow to come up with procedures for dealing with this, and lots of people just give up on Twitter because they have bad experiences.

Fortunately, the company has rolled out new ways to report tweets and direct messages, and presumably has a team that will examine these reports and suspend or remove accounts guilty of abuse or harassment. Here’s how you can let Twitter know when you or someone else has been a victim of abuse.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

Dear tech journalists, PRs are sick of your sh*t – The NextWeb

Tech reporters¬†aren’t particularly known for their athletic prowess, but I think that if we had a favorite sport, it’d be ragging on PRs. Follow some on Twitter, and your feed will be filled with the latest #PRFail.

But guess what, fellow hacks? We aren’t infallible.

Oh, my. Slow news day at The Next Web?

Sure, anyone can be a dick, but this article is full of complaints from an industry that constantly spams people. Then “circles back” to see if you’ve read their email.

I’m not on staff at any publication, but I get lots of emails. Some days I get none, some days – especially before Apple events, or other major tech reveals – I’ll get a half dozen. And I get people pitching me on Facebook and Twitter.

The thing is, hardly any of them have anything that matches my interests or what I cover. 99% of these emails are spam. When I get one, I politely reply “Please remove me from your list.” and, in most cases, I get a polite reply back. But many times this message is ignored, and there’s no way to unsubscribe from the PR hack’s email list.

So I can imagine that journalists on staff for publications or who actively solicit pitches can be overwhelmed. Some people I know get 100, even 200 emails a day.

I’ve worked on the other end, handling communication for a software company for many years. I wasn’t involved in sending out emails, but I handled the next step, information requests or interviews. I never once had a journalist complain, because the PR company used was ethical. But there aren’t that many of them.

It’s worth noting that when I get an appropriately targeted email, I pay attention to it. Recently, an app developer emailed me about his software, and I could tell it wasn’t a mass email. I responded, tried it out, and now I’m reviewing it for a publication. So if you do have something that interests me, I do care, because, as a freelancer, it can mean income. And there are PR people with whom I have a very good relationship; people who represent or work for companies that I know well, whose products I write about regularly. They are never invasive, they never spam.

But what’s just as bad is the PR companies or departments who don’t even bother replying when you have a question, or need resources, such as photos or other information. Companies who consider they are better than certain journalists, and filter who they reply to.

This article is a pot calling the kettle black. I know it’s easy to just buy a list and email people you know nothing about, but it’s spam, pure and simple.

PR people have no one to blame but themselves.

Source: Dear tech journalists, PRs are sick of your shit

Plague, the Infectious Social Network

We’re used to social networks where we follow people and view what they post: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others depend on each user connecting with others in order for content to be shared. Plague doesn’t work like that at all, but it can be addictive despite its limitations.

Plague is a new paradigm for sharing information. Through its free iOS and Android apps, users post cards, containing text (140 characters), photos, and/or videos, and “infect” other users who are nearby. These users, in turn, decide whether they want to spread the cards to other users near them: swiping up shares a card, and swiping down ignores it. Each user has an “infection index,” which increases as they participate, and which determines how many people their shares will infect.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

How to Protect Children’s Privacy on Social Media

If your kids use social media, as all kids do, you may be worried about protecting their privacy. Teenagers may be a bit unconcerned about such things, and not care who reads their Facebook posts, their Twitter feeds, or sees their photos on Instagram. As a parent, you know how important it is to keep your kids’ online life out of the public domain, as much as possible.

You can explain to your children why this is important, and help them choose the right settings to protect their privacy. They can always go back and change the settings, of course; you can’t lock their Facebook or SnapChat settings. But if you have a serious conversation about privacy, you can work together with your children to apply the appropriate settings.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Twitter Mistakes that Companies Make or How to Lose Twitter Followers

Twitter_logo_blue.pngI use Twitter regularly, for a number of reasons. It keeps me in touch with friends and colleagues; this is especially useful for me as a freelancer, since I don’t have a water-cooler (or, if I did, I’d have a lot of one-sided conversations with my cat). But I also use Twitter to share my work: I tweet new articles on my blog, articles I’ve written for Macworld and other publications, and new podcast episodes I’ve recorded.

Another reason to use Twitter is to follow the news, personalities, and companies. It pays to be judicious when choosing who to follow, because your Twitter stream can quickly become overwhelmed by serial tweeters.

I’ve been tempted to stop following a lot of companies lately because they have no idea how annoying their Twitter streams are. If you’re only following one company, then 50 tweets a day might not bother you, but when you have a broad range of interests as I do – from software to music, from theater to books – you’ll end up with way too many tweets to wade through.

What’s important about Twitter is that people read your tweets and, hopefully, “engage” with them, by visiting a website, watching a video, or buying your product. But if the signal to noise ratio is too high, people will ignore you, and unfollow you.

Here’s a list of things that many companies do wrong on Twitter. It’s not exhaustive, and I’ll certainly add more in the future. If you manage a Twitter account for a company, you should think carefully about these points.

If you do this, you’re doing it wrong:

  • Retweeting every mention: Too many companies retweet, perhaps not every mention, but dozens of them, where people say how great their product/CD/book/performance is. If someone is following your company, they probably already use your product, and these retweets will just be annoying. However, if someone shares a tip on using a product, that’s worth sharing.
  • Retweeting the same thing a dozen times a day: Some Twitter accounts seem to schedule the same tweets to be broadcast every couple of hours. I’m slightly guilty of this, as I often tweet new articles twice: once for European readers, and again, later in the day, for US readers. (I’m in the UK, so if I post an article in the morning, US readers will be asleep.) People probably don’t pay much attention to all the tweets in their timelines when they get up in the morning, so making a “time-zone retweet” is all right; but tweet too many times about the same thing and people will ignore you.
  • Constantly tweeting about a book or CD saying “new album” when it’s a year old: There’s one classical record label that tweets, once a week or so, about a certain artists’ “new album,” which was released in March, 2013. Seriously; we’re not stupid.
  • Constantly tweeting about the same “hot new artist”: Yea, you’ve got some new author or musician, and they’re selling units for you, so you want to milk them for all they’re worth. But for people who aren’t interested in that artist, it’s just an annoyance. Tone it down, unless you have something new to say about that person.
  • Tweeting 20 times about tonight’s performance: It’s nice to know some of the trivia about tonight’s performance, but 20 or 30 tweets during the day? That’s way too much information.
  • Doing Twitter interviews and not retweeting questions: Twitter interviews can be interesting. A performer or artist answers questions sent to a record label’s or publisher’s account. But too many of these accounts forget to retweet the questions, making it a surreal one-sided conversation.
  • Doing Twitter interviews without hashtags, so those not interested can ignore them: If I don’t care about the person being interviewed, I’d like to shut it off. My Twitter client lets me muffle hashtags. If you don’t use hashtags, I may see 100 tweets that I don’t care about. Unfollow.
  • Tweeting “I just posted this to Facebook” with nothing more than a Facebook URL: I see this a lot. I think it’s a problem with people who don’t understand how to work the apps they use to auto-tweet things. It looks stupid.
  • Tweeting things like “My best followers this week are…” Or “My week on Twitter,” and other app auto-tweets: Just like the above point, this stuff is stupid and a waste of time.
  • Not responding to questions, or answering a week later: The best companies know that answering customer queries, or complaints, on Twitter is essential. If your company plans to do this, you should make sure you offer timely responses. I’ve had very good customer service experiences through Twitter; and some very bad ones.
  • Tweeting contests that require users to like a Facebook page, retweet, turn around three times and spit: Companies like to have contests on Twitter, and on Facebook. But if you tweet a contest that requires me to like a Facebook page, accept a Facebook app, then retweet something, I’ll ignore you. It’s insulting that your contest is nothing more than a way to get people to spread your marketing in such a complicated way. Sure, the point of the contest is marketing, but don’t make it so difficult for people to play.
  • Tweeting things like, “Good morning, how is everyone today?”: I see this a lot too. You need to get a new intern.

Here’s what companies should do:

Announce new releases, new software versions, performances, signings, sales, promotions, contests, etc. Interact with customers by answering their questions. Highlight tips and trivia about your products. But don’t think you need to crush your followers. If they’re following you, there’s a reason; you’ve earned their trust. You’ll lose it if you act like idiots.