Intent to Intimidate – Why the World is Watching

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By writing this blog, I could be self-attaching a target on my back. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are under siege in America. Make no mistake. It is “fake news” if you believe otherwise. Paranoia, or déjà vu? Felt it during the Nixon regime. War of words with the press. And how much of a leap would Nixon’s old school “Enemies List” be from the Department of Homeland Security high-tech bid for a “Media Monitoring Services” to compile a database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” for the federal government?

According to an article in Bloomberg Law, DHS is “seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify ‘any and all’ coverage related to the agency or a particular event…” Very open-ended “or a particular event,” wouldn’t you say?

Yes. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman has since commented “this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media” — but for what purpose?

If it is just a listing, what is the significance of requiring “contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.” There it is again, “overview of the previous coverage,” another open-ended category.

And chillingly, there is no restriction that the database of hundreds of thousands of journalists, bloggers and “media influencers” must be Americans only.

Watchdog organization Freedom House said in its Press Freedom Report – 2017 that global media freedom had dropped to its lowest level in 13 years.

Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world. On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day “to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”  —Forbes.com

Intent to intimidate.

One more consideration, if Facebook, with its well-paid top tech geniuses, could not protect all the data they collected on users, how can we be confident that this mass database of info being authorized by the government to the lowest bidder, would be any more secure?

Let’s say this low bid “Media Monitoring Services,” agency exists. And for sake of argument, we call it, oh say… Big Brother. And, it scoops up this blog. And, you consider a response to my comments.

You could write in your blog or FB post or tweet, “Anthony, you are one strap short on a straitjacket.” Or you could write, “Anthony, there is merit in your postulation.” Either way, Big Brother would note not only that you commented, but also the intention of your comment.

What if you say nothing, because it is safer?

Intention to Intimidate.

You just gave up your Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press rights because you were afraid to express yourself as an American. Some might hear echoes of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. They laughed as well. Until it was too late.

{Call to Action: Contact your elected representatives in the House & Senate. Tell them you find this DHS action anti-American. Or, tell them you see nothing wrong. What??? That is how Freedom of Speech works. Everybody gets a say.}

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Showing Some Respect for Virtual Assistants

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Absence {distance} makes the heart grow fonder— except apparently in the case of Virtual Assistants from what I read in one social media group’s postings recently. Out of sight and out of mind. Check this out for yourself and tell me if Virtual Assistants in this thread are being treated less like fellow entrepreneurs and more like commodities (I deleted pictures and names of the commenters because I did not secure permission to quote them).

Doctor’s note? Time-waster? Corpo-rats? Common excuse? Needing to go to the hospital is cause for being fired? I found that very harsh. Especially considering some people who leave the corporate world to start their own biz do so because of unsympathetic, unfeeling treatment from that corporate world when they had a personal situation interfere with work.

The question then is: Social Media Managers, when you get busy, where do you turn for help? Virtual Assistants! But, do you hire the services of a Virtual Assistant as an employee, or as a contractor? Consider this additional question, are you an employee of your small business client, or are you contractor?

For answers, I sought out the comments of Social Media Managers within Liz Benny’s “Social Media Monkey” closed page group. Their responses:

“Corpo-rats LOL love it ha-ha. Yes, def too harsh, she is not an employee, but a VA. So yeah, would not get rid of her, I would wish her a good recovery and then make contact again to move on together. You’ve got to be there for your team if you want them to be there for you!” — Federica Marchesini of MJ Social Party Ltd., based in Perth, and serving all of Australia.

Interesting approach. The SMM/VA relationship being less owner/employee and more of a team effort.

“That is tough. Sometimes life happens. Business owners forget that a VA is a contracted business owner – they are not an employee. Many VA’s can do lots of different tasks but they aren’t mind readers – two-way communication is the key.” — Sharon Baillie, speaking from first-hand knowledge as she operates both a social media agency Basically Social in New South Wales, Australia and a VA business Baillie Admin Services.

A virtual assistant (VA) handles daily clerical, scheduling, and technical portions of a business that need to be kept operating smoothly. Virtual assistants work remotely from locations of their own choosing, anywhere in the world.

“I agree with the third commenter in the initial post. I would make note and maybe consider this a potential warning sign, but also just proceed with caution going forward. I agree that these people are being overly harsh. If not three strikes before they’re out, I would hope for two! Things happen!” — Jacquelyn Gutc, of Magpie Media, serving the Detroit area and beyond.

Things happen. You have hired a human VA over a bot VA because you desire the human interaction, you want to set personal parameters based on how you operate your business and the services you offer, not factory default programming.

“I think they are being too hard on them. They are VA’s, they are not employees. My process when I hire a VA is this: I am very specific in the title of what the position is for and how much per hour. That helps eliminate people that are too expensive for my position. I hire one VA for each duty, so I don’t expect a VA to do everything. I am very specific with the description of background/experience I’m looking for and very detailed about the work and number of hours. I ask them to type a word, any word, like “apple” in the subject line to make sure they are reading everything. This eliminates 30-40% of people that respond.

I will usually look at 2-3 people I would hire and give them a short test to do something in the job description and then I judge how well they followed instructions, the quality of the work etc. When hired, I create a SOP or Standard Operating Procedure of the step by step job process. I also establish number of hours and when they will work those hours. If you do all of this, it helps you get a good fit. Things happen, so I would reach out and ask if everything is okay. I wouldn’t be harsh, and I would never ask for a doctor’s note. Just the way I work with VA’s.” Diane Leone of Leone Social, serving St. Augustine Beach, FL and beyond

And for a final word, an actual VA…….

“As a VA myself – I’m a business owner NOT an employee; if I was asked for a doctor’s note, that would be MY red flag to cut ties with that client. Having said that, I would let the client know if I wasn’t able to get their work done on schedule, I would reach out to another VA to help in the meantime until I was back on my feet. I have found that VA’s are a supportive group of people. You NEED to have emergency plans in place when you’re a business owner – not just a VA but for any business.

The only thing this person should be asking is if they are ok, and how long do they think they might be off for. If it’s an extended period then fine, look for another VA so you can meet your deadlines, but this illness may just be a one-off occurrence that just happens. Thank God, this guy is not a client of mine. His attitude is, quite frankly, appalling. Would he ask his accountant or lawyer for a doctor’s note? I’m betting he wouldn’t have the nerve. Pleased to see Anthony that you think these guys were being ‘unjustly’ harsh.”  Carolyn White, of Office Advantage, also serving Australia from New South Wales.

To be, or not to be a Virtual Assistant–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (harsh clients) … or…

What do you think?

Social Media Gone Wrong Kills Small Business

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Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Case in point, the new found “voice” of the people, using the power of social media to make their disapproval as “customers” powerfully effective by destroying an innocent woman’s life. Over the Oct. 14-16 weekend a firestorm was ignited on Facebook when the daughter of coffee shop owner Kato Mele on HER PERSONAL page expressed HER PERSONAL opinion that the Lynn Ma business would never host a ‘‘Coffee with a Cop’’ event.

{Coffee With A Cop is a nationwide project seeking to build trust between police departments and citizens that they serve.}

Being that she was Manager, many people incorrectly assumed that this was an ownership decision and rapid-fire comments and criticism flew, ending with her saying stupid, hateful, vicious things like police were “bullies and racists.”

Upset responders, some quite possibly hiding under the smokescreen of internet anonymity (bots & fake names) shot back with death threats, sexual taunts and un-called for boycotts of the White Rose Coffeehouse.

Just as social media can be a highly positive force for social engagement with customers of a small business, it can also be bastardized into a destructive virus attacking indiscriminately.

The people with the pitchforks insured the coffee shop’s painful death by attacking the small business.

According to an article in the Boston Globe:

They got into the cafe’s Facebook page, leaving hundreds of bad reviews to drive its five-star rating down. Mele’s daughter received rape threats. On Monday, the cafe was slammed with abusive callers, saying horrific things: They hoped Mele and her daughter are ruined, that they never work again, that her daughter drowns. An especially charming bunch of them, parroting a line from the hateful website that played on “coffee with a cop,” said they wanted to have coffee with a c-word.

Regular customers stayed away, whether by fear of attacks on them or because they were misled into believing it was company policy. Their lack of strong support helped nail the doors shut. Nobody apparently bothered to check the facts. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Had the protestors followed rule of law, that someone is innocent until proven guilty, they would have seen that the owner:

  1. ordered her daughter to take down the page,
  2. sent the police a personal apology,
  3. tagged the remarks as ‘‘distasteful, biased and hateful,’’
  4. invited officers to the shop for coffee as a sign they were indeed welcome,
  5. And— fired her daughter.

What Should/Could Be Done?

If an employee of your business was rude & crude to a customer, who then complained on social media, an acceptable response from your business would be an apology, a come back to our biz and we will comp your meal, or outright termination of the employee. And most customers would be satisfied.

Not in this case. Customer flow has trickled down to nothing and as of press time the owner is reported to have decided to close down, packing up perishable inventory for donations to a food shelter. Her dream turned into a nightmare.

And customers have had “their” place taken away by “non-customers.”  The power of social media gone wrong.

What could you do to avoid the damage? Advise employees that although they are free to express their opinions on their social media outlets, do not mention your business or represent an opinion to be representative of the business.

What could you do to contain the damage? Short of having a public relations team or a competent social media manager, depend on the good will, and support of your customers.

Word to the wise, continually build strong customer engagement with your customer base. They are your last, best defense on the social media battlefield.

{Note: Although the offending Facebook comments have been deleted, the Daily Mail managed to dig some up if you want to read what started the fireworks.}

6 Social Media Customer Engagement Guidelines Small Biz Should Follow

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Remember in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie when they talked about the “Pirates Code” being more like guidelines than rules? We have something similar in the Social Media world. There are some things that through trial and error we’ve learned you shouldn’t do— unless you want to drive away customers, followers, readers, etc. Not rules, but pretty good guidelines.

Posting is a big one. Don’t over post. Don’t under post. Don’t post irrelevant content. Posting content is what I do for clients, so I do have accumulated experience in this area.

To arrive at the above-mentioned findings, Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users to determine what annoys them about brands on social and what drives them to unfollow.

Then the folks at CJG Digital Marketing sifted through the data to produce the following Infographic.

6 Social Media Behaviors to Avoid in 2017 (Infographic) - An Infographic from CJG Digital Marketing

(Embedded from CJG Digital Marketing )

Main thing to absorb is that 2.8 BILLION people use social media. If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur THOSE are a lot of customers to be ignoring if you aren’t on line— and a lot to be ignoring if you are on social.

To repeat, the six no-no’s that Sprout Social focused on are:

  1. Posting too many promotional messages.
  2. Sharing irrelevant information
  3. Tweeting too frequently.
  4. Using jargon or slang awkwardly
  5. Staying too quiet
  6. Not replying to messages

Think about it and it makes sense. You are on social media not to scream from the rooftops about how good your service or product are. You are here to directly engage with potential customers, not to waste their time.

If you need help with consistent posting of blogs, FB posts or Twitter, feel free to contact me.

Small Biz Growth– With a Little Help from Friends in the Marketplace

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Small businesses in small towns across America are fighting for survival.

But, getting to know the people and small businesses of Wabash Indiana, winner of the Small Business Revolution’s Main Street $500,000 Makeover has been a heartwarming journey, filled with hope and promise when all players in the marketplace come together.

wabashcityFor this makeover, Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe, along with Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec, employed their marketing and business expertise to help six small businesses learn more about what it takes to compete in their local and regional markets.

What is additionally important is that you look at the website that accompanies this series. There is a breakdown of each store’s problems and solutions, complete with actionable advice that could be applied to your business. In other words: Free social media marketing advice!!!

The full details of the project are in my previous blog. Here are the eight episodes so you can binge watch. Do you see any similarities to you, your business, your neighborhood, or town? Learn from the Wabash journey; take from it what you can. Then make your story something worth sharing with others.

(Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Finding Business Tips in the Movies

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If life imitates art, what can the small business entrepreneur learn from a Hollywood movie? Jacek Grebski, Co-founder and Partner of SWARM, Digital Agency selected 18 movies for an article in Entrepreneur on line that he thought had something to say to this issue.

18 MoviesNot all are what you would think of as “business” movies. Erin Brockovich (above), 12 Angry Men, Merchant of Venice, and Lord of War are far from that model. But Grebski cleverly pulls out of one movie or another aspects such as creative problem solving, crisis management, negotiation techniques, building customer loyalty, creativity and innovation, perseverance, and business vision.

Check out the article. Do you agree or not? Do you have any suggestions of your own for movies that gave you some guidance or direction as you set out as an entrepreneur?

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Why Use Video for a Small Business Account

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Social Media is a visual medium. Yes, we fill it with words. But pictures, graphics and videos can capture your customer’s attention and drive them to your words on Facebook and website.

Don’t believe me? This is data from “31 Must Know Video Marketing Stats” article that appeared in a recent Social Media Today posting.

Video statsI think the numbers speak for themselves. You can see the entire Infographic on the linked website page.

If you’re handling social media in-house for your small business, not only is quality writing a concern as I have stated in previous blogs, but equally of value is a serious concentration on visuals that connect with where your customer “is” or “will be” when you wish to reach out.

According to the stats, 22% of US Small Biz plan to post a video in the next 12 months. Will you be watching your competition?

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)