politics Archives - Harris Social Media

Could social media monitoring have predicted and helped avert Egypt’s crisis?

on Jan 29 in blogging, facebook, monitoring, News, politics, social media, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Egyptian protester (Reuters)Much of the press coverage of Egypt’s present meltdown has concerned the influence of social media. Organizers used Twitter, Facebook and other channels to get out their message and instigate a popular uprising.

Egyptian authorities belatedly recognized the power of social media on Wednesday last week. They cut off access to Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the UK Guardian news site.

Evidently social media has been an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their efforts. Egypt had already cracked down on bloggers, and according to the Guardian piece, “in 2009 the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as one of the 10 worst countries for bloggers because of the tendency to arrest [government] critics.”

Such a heavy-handed dictatorial approach betrays a profound lack of understanding about social media’s power to communicate ideas.

Is it possible, with better understanding of social media, that this crisis could have been averted?

Sophisticated social media monitoring tools could easily have picked up “buzz” weeks or even months before protesters took to the streets. Social media monitoring would have given the Egyptian government the chance to evaluate the response to its proactive measures and to adjust its policies accordingly.

A proactive approach might have afforded the Egyptian government time to react with conciliatory measures. Monitoring could have identified thought leaders and influencers, to whom the government could have reached out with an olive branch. Would they have avoided the type of instinctive crackdown that contributed to the present crisis? Maybe not. But in any case, social media monitoring would have helped the government judge the zeitgeist and to take appropriate pre-emptive action. Instead, they are now on the defensive, and if history is any lesson, have already lost.

The Mubarak government missed the opportunity to manage change gradually. For such lack of leadership, perhaps they deserve what’s coming.

Could social media monitoring have prevented Arizona shooting tragedy?

on Jan 12 in monitoring, politics, psychology, social media, statistics, tools posted by

We’re all saddened by the tragic events in Arizona last weekened. Of course, media pundits have been busy assigning blame. And politicos have been equally busy fending off any patina of guilt. 

And of course, social commentators, psychologists and criminologists are pondering how to detect and prevent such heinous crimes. Gun control, screening mental patients, etc. are among the proposed suggestions.

But one stone unturned at this the point is the possibility of using social media monitoring to detect potential threats. Once detected, the threat can be further analyzed using the powerful statistical capabilities of these monitoring tools.

While it’s unlikely such events can ever be prevented with 100% certainty, here’s how social media monitoring (Radian, Alterian, etc.) could help identify and minimize threats.

1. These individuals want to be seen and heard. Jared Loughner, the alleged perpetrator of the Arizona shooting had created disturbing YouTube videos. He also had a MySpace page. Social media provides an outlet for the lonely, disenfranchised, attention-craving individual who might tend toward antisocial or criminal acts. Social media monitoring could profile such individuals and at least place them on a watch list.

2. Use of social media location-based apps could help track movements of such individuals. For example, if someone on the watch list posted a Facebook update that they were going to kill such-and-such and then Foursquare showed they have checked-in at a gun store, that would certainly be a red flag.

3. The monitoring could be provided by the social media monitoring companies as a service to society, rather than just getting us to buy more widgets or to cover corporate asses. Or government could invest in such a service.

It’s about time to use the technology we have and the typical behaviors of such individuals to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy.

Is John McCain’s daughter a slut?

on Oct 17 in celebrities, politics, trends, Twitter posted by

The LA Times reported yesterday that John McCain’s daughter is causing a “media firestorm” after posting a picture of questionable taste to her Twitter profile.

Apparently, the picture in question was a close-up of her (fully-clothed) breasts. For someone less in the public eye (or whose father was less so) this would be a meaningless gesture that might get her followed by a few more horny guys, but not much else.

But did Ms. McCain miscalculate (unintended alliteration alert!)? Or was her exposure, intended to, well, expose her?

There are two points here:

  • First, we hold our politicians (and their families) to a higher standard than others, and rightly so. So Ms. McCain’s behavior is certainly ill-judged, as she tried to deflect the idea that she would be seen as a “slut.”
  • Second, it is easy for the barely known (sorry about the ghastly pun) to get to semi-celebrity status overnight by doing something a bit controversial or out of the norm. That’s the power of social media in the world today. We’d better get used to it.

Twitter catching on among public officials

on May 18 in links, politics, social media, trends, Twitter posted by

Maybe it was Obama’s victory. Maybe it was Oprah. In any case, public officials are seeing the benefits of social media: better connectivity with their audience, faster responses to problem issues and lower per unit cost of communications.

Benefits to business apply to government as well. I’ve seen an uptick in the past few weeks on reports and articles about public officials using social media, and Twitter in particular.

Check out the selection of headlines from recent days. Officials in public education, legislatures and city managment are looking to Twitter to connect with stakeholders. The widely publicized Tweets sent by a NASA astronaut from the space shuttle show there are many ways publicly-funded agencies can provide added value to tax-payers.

For those of us who “get it,” signing on to social media is a no-brainer. Instinctively cautious public officials are to be commended for braving the new world.

Boulder officials drawing followers on Twitter
Twitter takes flight with lawmakers
School districts turning to Twitter to speed up communications

War 2.0: social media is changing the face of conflict

on Jan 23 in politics, social media, Twitter posted by

Thought of the Day, Jan 23, 2009

Social media is a reflection of the human condition, inasmuch as it represents those who can afford the time and money to spend online. Nevertheless, perhaps it is inevitable, then, that we see social media reflecting conflict as well. Twitter was among the first Web sites on which reports about the Mumbai bombings began to appear. Now it seems, the battle in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is being fought as much in Web 2.0 as it is on the ground.

As Yigal Schleifer, correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, points out, the online community can now influence the news, and hence public opinion, a trend he calls “worrisome.”

Both sides used Twitter. Al Jazeera, an Arab-supported news network, sent out reports from Gaza via Twitter. The Israeli government held the “first ‘governmental’ press conference using Twitter at the conflict’s outset.”

But War 2.0 is only one aspect of a future with social media as part of our daily lives. As a reflection of humanity, social media will keep its role as the “cafe of the world” while offering any interest group the opportunity to stand on a soapbox.

“Rather than becoming the cafe of the world, where we interact on common ground, the Net has become a very effective place to rally people to your own cause and try to coordinate their actions.”

— Ethan Zuckerman, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University

In Blogs, YouTube: the new battleground of Gaza conflict by Yigal Schleifer

5 Worst Twitter Disasters of 2008 (Twisasters)

on Dec 16 in branding, business, marketing, politics, products, social media, strategy, Twitter posted by

2008. What a year for social media. The Obama campaign’s consummate use of social channels and subsequent success highlighted social media’s power to engage and motivate practically anyone. But the year was also marked by severe drubbings received by corporations trying to capitalize on social media or not understanding the space. Jeremiah Owyang offers a list of brands “punk’d” by social media during 2008. Here I focus on the worst Twitter disasters (Twisasters) of the year.

1. Motrin Moms
Top of the list and best known is the debacle suffered by Johnson and Johnson, parent company for the brand painkiller Motrin. A too-clever video targeted at moms who carry their baby in a sling offended a number of Twitter moms. The moms felt the vid implied that their use of baby slings was merely a fashion statement rather than a practical alternative to a push-chair. The word got out on Twitter, spread to the blogosphere and in a matter of a few hours the company was backpedaling and eventually chose to pull the campaign entirely.

2. Exxon brandjacking
Anyone can set up an account on Twitter, and use any pen-name (pseudonym, avatar). Exxon Mobil was caught with their pants down when someone registered an account, claiming to be a representative of the company and tweeting very candidly (perhaps more candidly than one might expect from a giant oil company). Once the ruse was discovered, the account was quickly shut down. It seems that Exxon is still failing to manage its Twitter presence (see @exxon). Rodney Rumford lists 33 brands that have flubbed their use of Twitter, including notable brandjackings: Disney, Marlboro, McDonalds, Sprint

3. John McCain
Constantly playing catch up, it’s not surprising that @JohnMcCain failed to make the most of Twitter. After a mere 25 updates, the Republican candidate for president stopped updating his Twitter feed. Perhaps it was just too much effort, or perhaps he had nothing worth saying in 140 characters, or maybe the 72 year-old did just not “get” the power of social media.

4. Barack Obama
What? you say, but @BarackObama used Twitter to such great effect. But note, Obama (or his campaign) has failed to Tweet a single 140 character message on Obama’s page since Nov 5th 2008 — that is, the day he won the election. His last word? “Thanks.” Where are you, Senator Obama? After setting such a great precedent, we have no idea why Obama has not continued to maintain his unique connection with the Twitter community. Now for an that’s a disaster.

5. IBM
I don’t want to pick on Big Blue (surely easy pickings!) but they really dropped the ball with Twitter. @ibm is a dead page. No brand icon, no posts, and only 12 followers. Representatives of the company explain in Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post that this was an executive decision, saying the company has “opted for a decentralized approach” and “realize this has some significant limitations.” Nevertheless, it still seems the company is missing an opportunity to connect with the techies and geeks who make up its community and many of whom are on Twitter. Other notable dead or inactive (parked) brands from Rodney Rumford’s post: Delta, Verizon, Nike, Budweiser

Links to referenced content
Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter
33 Brands That Suck on Twitter
Motrin commerical (YouTube)

The fragile foundation of America

on Nov 17 in politics, quote of the day posted by

Quote of the Day, Nov 17, 2008

I’m getting a bit off topic from my usual quotes to bring an interesting snippet from our local newspaper here in Raleigh, NC. This quote is excerpted from an article that discusses rediscovered patriotism on the part of Obama supporters who had eschewed overt displays before Obama’s recent election victory.

“Where most other nations are bound together by ethnic identity, America has been united by concepts such as equality and justice. This foundation is powerfully inclusive, enabling people to arrive here from far-flung corners of the globe and consider themselves Americans. … But it is also a fragile one. In a nation that has not always lived up to its soaring ideals, people have long debated the meaning of America and how to honor it.”

— J. Peder Zane and Kristin Collins

Winds of patriotism renewed

Who is Big Brother?

on Nov 11 in panconsciousness, politics, psychology, quote of the day, social media, technology posted by

Quote of the Day, Nov 11, 2008

It’s ironic that the power to tap into the collective conscious through social media also gives us the power to control and judge the individuals who make up that consciousness. For those unfamiliar with the concept of Big Brother, it derives from the book 1984 by George Orwell. The story depicts a dystopian society that controls its citizens by feeding them “truth” (comprising lies) and 24/7 surveillance under the constant watch of the benign authorities (actually quite evil dictatorship).

“Yes, we have met Big Brother, the one who is always watching. And Big Brother is us.”

— Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum

How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power

By David Carr, New York Times

For Obama, social media is not a fad

on Nov 05 in politics, quote of the day, social media, trends posted by

Quote of the Day, Nov 5, 2008

“It may be precisely that [erroneous] perspective [of others seeing social media as technobabble] that made Obama so successful. The idea that social media are a fad is a mistake far too many marketers continue to make, second only to the notion that social media are ‘a techie or a youth thing.’ Obama’s camp made neither of these mistakes. It understood that humans are — and have always been — social creatures, and that social media are nothing more than a powerful accelerant to human interaction.”

— David Krejci, Star Tribune

Obama fully grasped the potential of today’s new media to spread his word

Dreaming of change

on Nov 04 in politics, quote of the day, thought leaders, trends posted by

Quote of the Day, Nov 4, 2008

I have generally avoided political or inspirational quotes on this blog, in keeping with the blog’s purpose. On this historic day of the 2008 US presidential election, it seems fitting to consider the words of someone who had a vision of a better world.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wikipedia: Martin Luther King, Jr