Graphic Images in the News: The Boston Marathon Bombing Lesson

April 15, 2013 is a day many of us will never forget, the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings. While many were there to experience the terror most of us can only identify with this terror attack by the images and coverage on our news and social media outlets. I remember typing the hashtags #BostonStrong and #BostonMarathon into my Instagram account on the day of the Boston Marathon. Within an instant thousands of images flooded in. Some of these images were showing respect but some of the images were downright graphic. I am not one for blood and the amount of images showing injuries was disturbing. I guess I can only blame myself since I am the one who searched these hashtags on social media, but part of me believes there should be some sort of mediation when tragedies happen and people take to social media. Boston_Marathon_bombing_first_bomb_site_54_minute_before_explosion

People aren’t going to social media just to post content anymore; they’re online to gain visibility. Throughout the coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing news networks like CNN asked viewers to tweet/share images at the scene using a specific hashtag. I remember going to CNN.com and viewing these images, again more filled with serious injuries. I completely understand, this is a real world terror attack with serious implications but organizations must remember their audience and those involved when reporting on tragedies.  This is sensitive material that should be treated with care.

One graphic image that went viral showed a man being pushed on a wheelchair missing some of his leg. You can see the man’s face. You can almost feel his pain. You can sense the urgency and terror that occurred at the finishline on that day. You can understand the seriousness of the event. It gave me goose bumps the first time I saw the picture. This is perhaps the reason why many news organizations chose to use the picture during their coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing. While the image evokes so many emotions is it ethically right to broadcast it across major news networks?

When this question was posed to me I immediately thought “no.” There is doctor/patient confidentiality and while this happened in a public space this man’s health is private. There is no reason to show the state of his health on national television.

The second thought that popped into my head was “what about the audience.” Coverage of the tragedy wasn’t just occurring during the primetime hours when children are usually asleep, it was 24/7 and everyone was glued to the television. I’m sure minors saw images and heard things that were not appropriate during this coverage. News outlets must remember their ethics in these situations and report what is good for the general public, including minors.

There were many mistakes that occurred in the news world during the Boston Marathon coverage. From misinformation to graphic images, we can learn from. I truly believe images graphic in nature should not used in television. It is not just for the victim or the audience. I hope in the future the FCC will enforce guidelines that are stricter on graphic images and victim’s privacy.

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The Boston Marathon Bombing: What We Can Learn

I was part of the ¼ of people who learned about the Boston Bombing from social media. Until recently (I injured cartilage in my knee) I was a very avid runner. I follow Runner’s World on Facebook and Twitter and received a push notification from their posts about the bombing. I immediately felt a personal connection to this act of terror and became absorbed in its coverage. Throughout the coverage of the Boston Bombing there was much speculation and misinformation spread, the truth was somewhere in-between.images

I found it very interesting that CNN’s incorrect tweet about the arrest of the suspect was shared more than the correct post. I believe people thrive on the drama, especially in an instance such as the Boston Bombing. Spreading dramatizations is more “entertaining” than no new information. In the case of CNN I believe they should have promoted the correct information more. From an ethical standpoint I would love to see our social networks develop some sort of technology to retweet correct information whenever misinformation is put out first. With more and more people using social networks as a news source I believe this could be pivotal in both accuracy and ethics.

While the news only discussed the Boston Bombings for what seemed like months brands began to recognize opportunities for their businesses from all the coverage. I generally support Ford. I like their cars and many of my family members drive their cars. That being said I was not impressed with their “thank you” message after the bombing. In my opinion this was very distasteful. Many brands sponsored the Boston Marathon and I’m sure their logos were on people’s clothing or in some of the images yet we did not see them advertise a “Nike, official sponsor of first responders” ad. It just wasn’t appropriate in my opinion.

Thank-you-BostonOn Facebook I often see people post images of sick people undergoing treatments. Many of the captions on these images will ask people to like for support. I don’t see a problem with these posts. When the Boston Bombings occurred there were a few posts like this floating around on social media. My feelings on this content aren’t changed by the fact that there were victims from the bombing in these images, my issue is that a reporter posted the image. I don’t know the complete back story of this post. If the reporter got permission from the victim then I believe it is okay to share, if they did not receive consent then it is inappropriate.

When tragedies arise the desire for awareness does too. People become very involved in the story and developments. We can learn both journalism and ethical lessons from our past. The Boston Bombings can teach us how to respond properly during the incident and the weeks after.

The Importance of Accuracy

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I can defiantly see how journalists can feel threatened by social media. When you think about it, anyone can be a journalist these days. Social media allows anyone to break news but is their news factual? Journalists need to employ tools to combat all of the noise on social media and hold the journalism “pledge”: report the facts.

I had never heard of geocodes before this week’s lecture and I have to say, they are so cool! Think of how many more sources journalists could if they used this tool. Better yet, think of how many sources they could check! With limited Twitter users enabling geocodes in their tweets I realize the limitations this tool presents. Hopefully more emphasis is placed on geocodes and it is utilized more in the future!

Another new concept presented in this week’s lecture: reverse search. The giant squid example proves just how important it is to check the validity of imagery on social media. I was unaware this was even possible. During the Boston Marathon bombing I saw so many images with extreme captions on social media. Seeing as this situation was a very extreme one the captions on these images seemed feasible. As more information came out the more I learned some of the images were just not true. When situations like these happen news outlets should take the time to investigate images so false reporting does not occur.

To answer the question posed in the lecture accuracy should be the most important priority for journalists. When news is breaking and journalists want to use social media to report it I think the best practices to still ensure accuracy are to use verified accounts and geocodes. Bottom line: if you can’t confirm a story don’t post about it. As our “Verifying Tweets When News Breaks” article states, it’s more important to get it right than to post it first. Trust is such a hard thing to gain with news viewers, why risk breaking it with a story that can’t be verified?

Sometimes mistakes happen…if a news organization accidently reports something that is not accurate I believe it is extremely important to address it, not delete it. Every once in a while when watching the news I will hear reporters correct themselves if they reported something that later proved to be incorrect. The same should be practiced on social media. Journalists should say sorry, report the correct facts, and post a link with a source verifying this information.

Bottom line: always verify and always be accurate.

British Airways Big Mistake…

If there is anything I learned from this week’s lecture it’s that problems don’t go away on social media. You can’t sweep things under the rug because you never know what will go viral. I’m sure the tweet example in our lecture wasn’t the first angry post towards British Airways on Twitter but it only took one person to really get mad to make the airline rethink their whole social strategy.download

As the saying goes “hindsight is 20/20.” I’m sure if British Airways could go back in time they would do everything differently. To answer the questions posed in our lecture, if I was in British Airways shoes I would have addressed this issue as soon as possible. A simple tweet like “We’re sorry to hear about this. Please private message us so we can take care of your problem” could have pacified this angry customer. As many of us outlined in last week’s assignment, numerous companies are practicing this and it’s getting positive attention from consumers.

It all comes back to simple customer service practices. If this man had complained in person I’m sure BA would have gone out of their way to accommodate him. It should be no different on social media. Clearly this gentleman was very upset and BA lost their opportunity to handle the situation appropriately. Complaining to Twitter is no use since this is a public network and anyone can pay to promote a tweet. Groveling at his feet would be no better. In my opinion the only option BA had was to ask the man directly how they could make it up to him (outside of compensation). I know from my personal experience just a simple I’m sorry and how can I make it better really change my attitude.

I really liked the points of saying “thank you” and following up outlined in our lecture. This is a huge miss many companies don’t take advantage of. If I was in BA’s position I would follow up with the disgruntled customer today and say “We are thinking of you and we hope you’ve had a better experience with British Airlines since we last spoke.” Little nuances like this add up.

Bottom line: many companies forget how to practice great customer service on social media since these interactions are not face-to-face. You can’t forget about your customers just because you can’t see them. More companies should remember the basics of customer service and do their very best to make every customer feel heard and valued.

If I Could Turn Back Time…The Importance of Reputation Management on Social Media

Have you ever had a really BAD experience with a company and took to a social network to post your rant? Have you gone as far as Dave Carroll and create a viral YouTube video?

It’s easy to forget the power of social media until instances like this occur. Dave’s video got him more than 200 interviews on talk shows and inspired other customers to create sequels (United Breaks Guitars 2 & 3) that garnered more than a million likes as well. Taylor Guitars also created a YouTube video explaining their repair services in response to Dave’s video. They even gave Dave a new guitar. It seems everyone but United acknowledged Dave…

From a social media perspective if I were an Online Reputation Manager and saw this video I would have gone into immediate damage control. I would have responded to Dave and asked him to write me a message explaining his situation, what damages he is seeking, and thank him for his time and for choosing United. I would have then addressed this with my human resources department and done everything I could to find out where the disconnect was and how the issue escalated to this.

Once I had all of the facts I would release a statement apologizing and explaining what we are doing to make it right for Dave. I would go on a press tour and explain to the media that we understand Dave’s frustration and are doing our best to make sure this instance never happens again. I would also take to social media and express our gratitude for their loyalty and explain how we are ensuring we are making the effort to handle every item in on our airplanes with care. Of course there will be negative comments surrounding our efforts. It is important to not make the same mistake twice and listen and respond to these comments appropriately.

While United Airlines may not have done it right in this situation I am happy that they used Dave’s video as a learning tool. If I were an Online Reputation Manager I would add the following practices to our social media practices:

  • Post our “hours of operation” in our “About Me” sections.
  • Make responding to customer comments within 24 hours a standard.
  • Make our responses personal by saying “thank you” at the beginning of every post and signing each post with out name at the end of each post.
  •  Most importantly if a situation seems very tense to make a supervisor aware. If a situation like Dave’s arises we would discuss on a more micro level and ensure all parties involved are happy with the resolution.
  • Keep “follow up” files for followers we should check in on.

While all of this seems so easy social media is fast and immediate. Most posts don’t show up on other’s social media feeds for very long, but people don’t forget. Taking the time to go the extra mile on social media can save you time, money, and most importantly the trust of your customers.

Social Media Wrap Up

This semester we have talked about what seems like every aspect of social media. From social media networks to SEO and edgeranking, we’ve performed and analyzed the majority of the social media practices on the Internet. As this semester comes to a close there are still some questions that linger…

How does social media impact journalism? What is social media’s relation with public relations? Is it public relations? How much of an impact does social media have on your job? I’ve thought about these questions throughout the semester and luckily this week’s readings provided some insight.

In my opinion social media and journalism now go hand-in-hand. Print is merely extinct and the majority of journalism can be found on the Internet. News companies have leveraged Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other mediums to post their stories and interact with the public. Perhaps the greatest way social media impacts the news is by giving journalists leads.journalism on social media

As an undergraduate I studied journalism. I remember going into the newsroom and pitching stories to my news director. The majority of my story ideas came from the Internet and my news director would always ask me how I could make my pitch a more personal story for viewers. Social media allows this to happen. Journalists can see what’s trending, ask the public if they’ve been affected by something, and find sources.

What about credibility? News means nothing if it is not reliable. Reuter’s is a great example of a news source having a guide in place for their reporters. In it they stress having a checks and balance system (make sure sources are credible) and encourage journalists to rely on their supervisors and peers to help maintain credibility. I encourage all news companies to set the same standard when it comes to social media and reporting.

On to social media and PR…

Social media is a catalyst for public relations. Social media was created with the intent of sharing content and connecting with people…the primus of public relations. I would encourage PR teams to utilize social media because “by sharing information, both PR and social are able to grow their networks and surpass client expectations.” Social media gives people a platform of millions and millions of people, and in my opinion gives people visibility that surpasses what print and feature article can provide. While most PR teams know this and utilize social media today, it is never a bad for them to get a reminder how important these platforms are for their clients success.

prWhile social media can help accomplish your job more effectively I can’t stress how important it is to be mindful of what is said on these outlets. People watch each other on social media and if they don’t like what they see it can negatively impact your career. My advice: be smart and don’t share anything on social media you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. Practice proper edict and your job and reputation won’t be in jeopardy.

In summation, everything public relies on social media to help tell a story, let the right people know the information, and get the job done. Like other aspects of life it is important to set goals that help you define success. Knowing expectations will help you utilize social media appropriately and keep you on the right track.

What are some insights you have in regards to what was discussed above? Do you think every company should be utilizing social media in some fashion? I would love to hear your thoughts.

How to Increase Your SEO: Simple Practices that Make the Difference

Increase SEOOptimal search engine optimization (SEO) relys on key factors, many of which we have studied this semester. Of course it is important to post quality content that includes keywords and to utilize analytics tracking sites…most people know this. What else can we be doing to increase SEO? The difference is often found in the details.

For instance, I feel I have been doing an adequate job of incorporating key words into my blog posts but haven’t in other components of my posts. Having searchable keywords in the beginning of my posts title and attached to my images will have a significant impact on the SEO of my blog. Now that I am aware of these tips you will start to see them incorporated more. By having these words easily accessible the easier it is for my posts to be visible in a Google search.

Another aspect I have neglected to incorporate into my blog post is internal linking. Why I haven’t been doing this is a mystery to me. As with this week’s SEO topic, many of our subjects relate back to previous topics I have written about. Hyperlinking these posts in future blog entries will increase traffic. It’s such an easy fix!

So why does all of this matter? If I’m doing a good job of creating content and getting adequate traffic that should be enough right? No! The whole goal of this class is to test theories and implement practices that will help us reach new heights, which includes an increase in SEO. Articles featured on the first page of Google’s search generate 91.5% more traffic! Implementing these practices, along with posting my blog entries on Google+ are simple fixes to improving my SEO.

Have you been focused on SEO when posting our blog assignments?

What are some practices you plan to incorporate into your posts to increase SEO?

How Many Views are Your Posts Really Getting?

It is important to have goals when it comes to social media. Defining your message, adding value to your viewers lives, and creating engagement are key elements to success on any social network, but how do we measure this success? Is it by comments, shares, or likes? What about those who view your material but choose not to respond to it? In my opinion, defining success on social media is more in-depth than visible engagement.

imagesCAM2D3MAFor one of our social media assignments last week we were asked to post material using concepts associated with viral content. I chose to post links by using bit.ly. One link I posted on Google+ only received one +1 but received the most clicks/views out of any of my other posts. In my assignment I classified this as the most successful piece of material for the week; however, I would not have known this if I was not able to monitor engagement through bit.ly. Seeing these results showed me how beneficial analytics sites can be when determining success and planning my next social media post.

This revelation made me think more about the material I post. What is it that made this link very “clickable” but didn’t correlate into shares or likes? This is where listening, learning, and revising my strategy begins.

Listening to what people discuss in relation to material I post should be the heart of my content strategy. I love the Gatorade example provided in “Beyond Social Media Analytics.” When Gatorade listened to their consumers and found out coaches did not know the product hydrated better than water they changed their message to convey this. Instead of continually pushing a message across to my audience listening and understanding what they don’t know and addressing it could potentially lead to improved engagement.

bitly-analyticsLearning and identifying trends and understanding how my audience uses different social media outlets are aspects I plan on incorporating into my posting routine. I had never really thought about how important these concepts are until I was involved in a conversation with a coworker who asked me how I identify trends on social media. Wake up call: I haven’t really been identifying trends! I have been so consumed with posting material and creating interactions that I haven’t examined trends with the material I post. I’ve been thinking humorous content get’s my viewer’s attention, but my link about Google+ somehow received more clicks? It’s time to reevaluate my strategy.

In social media numbers don’t lie, they just need to be examined closely to get the truth. Identifying what your goals are and choosing the appropriate analytics site that helps you track social media goals will help you measure your success and improve your plan. This may seem overwhelming but it is necessary to be the best we can be on social media!

Your Turn

Have you been using analytics sites this semester to track your audience engagement? If so, what conclusions have you determined through the results?

How do you plan to use these services to improve your posts and gain success on social media?

Viral Content…What Is It?

What is viral content? How do you create it? How does a regular Joe like me create something that generates 10 million likes and shares? Until this week’s readings the thought of creating viral content seemed very overwhelming and scary but as the saying goes “the truth will set you free.”

In reality creating viral content is like creating good content, just at a higher level. There are methods to the madness that provide some insight for us: be consistent, be relevant, and play on emotions. These are essential elements to making highly shareable content so obviously it translates into viral content. Ok great, so now that we know the science behind “viral” content how to we get millions of likes and shares in a matter of days?

1a-grumpy-cat-art-gu8kjvrb-1good-morning-catI love that Dori Clark sheds light on what viral content really is. It’s not the angry cat, the infamous “Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wife” Antoine Dodson video, or anything along those lines…it’s getting 10-20% of your audience to tell one additional friend about you. That really is amazing when you think of it. This whole time I’ve been sitting here thinking about how crazy it would be to have viral content when in all actuality I probably have had some “viral” blog posts in this class this semester.

If viral is just “word of mouth” on steroids then we’ve all probably experienced it. I’ve posted pictures on Facebook that have gotten over 50 likes, based on Clark’s notion I would say that is viral content. It’s a lot more people than usual that liked my posts. I’ve had friends at work read my blog and then ask me about it the next day at lunch…is this viral content? I would say yes.

When the goal is just to have a high level of visibility with the content you post then you are creating viral content. I think this is really the goal of everyone on every social network. We want likes, shares, and retweets. It’s not so daunting when I put it in perspective. I want people to like what I post. This whole semester I’ve been keeping tabs on what my audience likes. I’ve been publishing posts that create the most engagement, allow me to have a higher SEO, give them something to think about, and keep them coming back for more. I have created “viral” content.

What do you consider to be viral content? Do you think have in some aspect you have created viral content this semester?