Generations and the netiquette/etiquette gap

The backstory to today's column: this topic came up last week at a Social Media Club South Florida's event that focused on education and social media.

I wasn't there - I was at another event - but heard that some interesting topics came up. I called some of the panelists to talk to them about what they were seeing with this generation - and it struck a chord because it was similar message that I hear from teachers these days:

We've created a generation that looks great on paper, but has some trouble when it comes to real life.

That was the main message that stuck in my mind last week when I spoke with Rosanna Fiske, who teaches at Florida International University's communications school.

Her students are early adapters, finding the latest technological innovation "none of us can,'' said Fiske, who teaches advertising and public relations students.

"They do so well because they're connected -- they've literally been connected their entire lives,'' she said. "But what that's also done is create a whole issue with their social skills and face-to-face interaction.''

In some cases, it gets even worse.

Johnson & Wales' Maureen Lloyd-James told me she has some students who include texting language like LOL (that's laughing out loud) in college essays.

"I think in this day and age we presume students have a lot of computing knowledge -- but it's only in a specific area,'' she said.

Fiske counteracts this at FIU by emphasizing hands-on work. Some students have a class that features in-person interactions, so they must meet clients in addition to create websites, do writing, research and preparation.

Both Fiske and Lloyd-James emphasized that these assignments are about creating a different mind-set for students who have never thought about these things.

For Betsy Soler, a senior at FIU who is already working full-time, it was also about learning how to act as a professional -- something every college student must learn, regardless of their generation.

In her case, that has meant getting more comfortable with using the phone for work conversations, said Soler, who still puts "text-friendly'' next to her business phone number.

Soler, 19, thinks part of the issue is that because younger people are viewed more as "experts,'' they're being thrust into the working world at a much younger age.

"Professionals are approaching us a lot quicker than before,'' said Soler, who started college when she was 16.

What netiquette challenges do you see when working between generations? Share your stories in the comments below.

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RootMusic gives bands an easy promotion solution for Facebook pages

Bands love MySpace because of how easy the format is to promote your gig and post samples of songs.

But the people you want to reach are on Facebook!

Solution: RootMusic. It's a free tool that uses Facebook Connect to add a well-designed tab to your band's Fan page (and it must be a Fan page and not a personal page) that lets you easily post songs and show dates. It will also showcase your most recent posts on Twitter.

You can have the songs be downloaded or streamed. Just do all the updating from RootMusic's site, and it'll show up on Facebook as a tab that says "BandPage." Rock on.

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LinkedIn and Facebook on Outlook -- Time saver or time waster?

If you use LinkedIn and Facebook as a main tool for managing your business contacts, you're going to love the news Microsoft came out with last week. But if social networks distract you at work and hurt your productivity, then let's hope your tech staff doesn't install updates to Outlook on your computer.

Microsoft is beta testing a new feature it calls the Outlook Social Connector. It'll eventually sync information from LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace into Outlook. Right now, it only works with LinkedIn.

It also keeps you up to speed on what your contacts are doing on those networks. For example, let's say you have to e-mail Judy. When you type Judy's e-mail address in the To field, a window below the e-mail shows everything Judy has been up to on the networks. If Judy changes her contact information on LinkedIn, your contact info for her in Outlook will automatically update -- helping to make sure you always have the most recent information. And imagine how much time is saved by adding LinkedIn contacts to your Outlook, letting you expand your network while never leaving your e-mail program.

But imagine how much time will be wasted.

Social networking is addictive -- especially Facebook. What starts out as a simple e-mail could mushroom into spending 10 minutes watching a Star Wars spoof video someone posted. E-mail is an efficient workplace productivity tool; adding goofy status messages could muck it up.

It'll be interesting to see how many workplaces add this upgrade. It's already hard enough to keep away from social networking during work hours. Yet so many of us use social networks to manage our professional contacts. Outlook's changes are just exacerbating our society's struggle with keeping our professional and personal lives separate online.

The upgrade also means we'll be need to be more careful than ever over what information we make public on these networks. Because now, people you e-mail -- like your company CEO -- could see your relationship status changed, or the results to the quiz you took during work hours.

There's no word yet on when it will release the version that lets you sync Facebook and MySpace. To give it a whirl, go to to download the beta of Outlook 2010. Then download the Outlook Social Connector (which also works on Outlook version 2007 or 2003). Finally, download LinkedIn for Outlook at

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Just for fun, for all you social media addicts

Passed on by an alert Poked reader, this is a commercial, I think, but it's funny. My favorite line: "Stop writing on the wall!"

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Looking for a social media hire?

So full disclosure: I started thinking about today's column because two of my colleagues from the newsroom: Lori Todd and Mallory Colliflower - have found jobs with other companies in social media. While they're certainly not the first to transition from journalism into social media full-time - they're just the most recent - it made me realize how many companies are hiring in this area - so I thought I would call up some local companies who were hiring to talk to them about how they did it. 

Final Cartoon Mostly, I was curious because it seems like many companies who are hiring in this area might be doing so because they don't have any background in it all - so how do they know how to hire, especially given the fact that so many people are touting themselves as social media experts? I decided to speak with AutoNation and the Knight Foundation,where Mallory and Lori have ended up. Despite the organizational differences of a large, public company versus a nonprofit, three main themes emerged: Personalities matter. So do results. But having a evangelist spirit about social media is just as important.

AutoNation's social media strategy is simple, said spokesman Marc Cannon: "We want people to be informed customers.''

The Fort Lauderdale company has just hired a social media coordinator, one of five such positions that have been created over the past year. Cannon said the company looked mostly at personality.

"There's a sense of energy you need with these folks,'' said Cannon. "They have to be good conversationalists, and hone things down into short message points.''

But results matter, too.

"Everybody blogs and everybody tweets,'' said the Knight Foundation's Marc Fest, who is looking to fill an online community coordinator position. "Let's say you have a blog and you routinely get people to comment, and you have 5,000 followers on Twitter. That shows you know how to engage people.''

Both want to infuse a sense of social media not just in that hire but throughout the organization, so having an evangelist nature about spreading social media to other employees is just as important.

Companies shouldn't be intimidated by hiring for social media, said Jackie Stone, a New York-based vice president with Digitas, an interactive marketing agency, who suggested businesses remember their long histories of hiring in communications.

Whether it's a big brand, a nonprofit or a small business, the most important thing is to have a sound strategy, a constant voice and to be authentic, she said.

"It's really important to have somebody who can listen and respond properly -- not just respond,'' she said.

Jessica Randazza was just hired by Digitas in January, to work in part on social media strategy. She echoed one thought that both AutoNation and the Knight Foundation also told me: you should hire someone who is passionate about your brand or product, because if they're not, that will show, too.

Those are some starting points for what you might look for in a social media hire, but I'm curious if folks want to weigh in on other qualities they have, or have found important in the hiring process.

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CrisisCamp comes to Miami

"I just want to help".

That's pretty much what every one of the more than one hundred people said this afternoon as they went around one of the largest conference rooms we have here at The Miami Herald, which helped host  CrisisCamp Miami, one of now 12 such gatherings that is focusing on technology relief efforts for Haiti. The room was full - of web developers, programmers, software engineers, people who focus on bringing Internet and VOIP services to developing countries - and others who just wanted to help.

CrisisCamproomWeb CrisisCamp started in DC last week, days after the earthquake hit Haiti. It's basically a grassroots effort that brings together the tech community in a series of collaborations, all designed to help Haitians and Haiti recover.

"I saw the DC one, and when I heard there was one coming to Miami, I said "Yes!"," Haitian-American web developer Harry Casimir told me. Casimir, a native of Port-de-Paix, now lives in West Palm Beach, and came down with his cousin, Jean Petit-Bois, and another friend, David Anderson, for the day, hoping to lend a hand with both their technological and language skills.

Casimir and Petit-Bois have family all over Haiti, and told me how frustrated they've been with how bad communication has been.

That's the idea behind CrisisCommons projects like Open Solace Haiti, which is trying to set up ways for Haitians in and outside of Haiti to communicate.

The goal for the day is for everyone to meet, brainstorm and begin collaborating. Organizer Alex de Carvalho told me he was excited about the turnout, and thankful that people had responded with such goodwill.

"I'm hoping some of these people will plug into these projects," he said, adding that he's hoping to further develop an infrastructure here not just to help Haiti, but that could even be used the next time South Florida gets hit with a hurricane or other natural disaster.

For more information on CrisisCamp, you can visit its wiki page, or, to keep up with them on Facebook, you can fan their page.

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For those in Haiti, Facebook's a lifeline

I suspect you always feel disconnected when tragedy strikes and you're far from home. Last Tuesday, I was working in Los Angeles for the week when I found out about the earthquake in Haiti -- via a text message.

My first phone call was to my dad in Miami. My entire life, my father has run a small nonprofit organization that partners with Haitians on education, nutrition and employment projects in several villages. I first visited the country when I was 12. Between college and graduate school, I taught at one of two American schools in Port-au-Prince.

That year, I lived with some close family friends -- the call to my dad was to find out if they were OK. He didn't know.

Els My next step was to check Facebook, where I saw friends in Haiti posting status messages. Inside my Facebook in-box, Els Vervloet, the alumni director for my old school, Quisqueya Christian, had sent our alumni/students/faculty group the first of what became a series of heart-wrenching messages that were, for the first 48 hours, my best source of information.

She described how teachers from my old school had run to the Caribbean Supermarket to start pulling people from the rubble. She talked about landmarks and neighborhoods that I knew and what she had seen and heard. And so many people started messaging her to help find friends and family that Facebook shut down her account because it suspected she was spamming people.

She posted a frantic message on her Facebook wall, where others also mentioned their accounts, or the ability to message people, had been temporarily disabled because of the high volume of activity. I contacted Facebook to find out what they were doing. (For the full post on that, click here.)

When I got in touch with them, a spokesman told me that in "rare cases,'' regular users can get caught in the site's automatic spam defense system. He suggested people in Haiti e-mail Facebook tech support and said they would screen messages to find people mentioning Haiti to expedite their cases. In the past, Bridget and I have described Facebook's user community evolving faster than the site -- this seems to be the most poignant example.

In the first few days, my feed was full of status updates like this one:


I spoke to one of the daughters of a family I know that lives in Haiti. She went to college in Indiana, got married and stayed in the United States. She's used to using social media to stay in touch with family in Haiti.

For her, and many others, Facebook was all she had. She, too, told me stories of how friends were rescued because of status updates that directed help their way.

I continue to see posts that are difficult and inspirational from friends in Haiti and colleagues reporting there for The Miami Herald.

Usually in this space, Bridget and I write about ways people use social media to connect, mostly for business. Last week, it was something so much more. Els, the alumni director, summed it up to me in a email she sent me this week: "Facebook Facebook has been my lifeline these past days!", she said, adding: "I never thought I would say this, but THANK GOD we have Facebook."

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Facebook users in Haiti say some access has been blocked

Everyone's been reporting about how social networking sites like Facebook have become the primary form of communication during the devastating earthquake in Haiti this week. Unfortunately, this morning I started hearing reports from several people in Haiti who are now being blocked because they've sent so many messages in the past two days.

Picture 1  Facebook has a fail safe to prevent spam from happening, so often times accounts that are really active will be limited from sending messages. I suspect that's what is going on here - unfortunately, in this case, it has caught people like Els Vervoloet, who is the alumni director for Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I lived in Haiti ten years ago and taught at this school - and all of Els's messages through Facebook have been the primary way I've known how people in the community are doing.

UPDATE: Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an email to me in "very rare cases" some Facebook users in Haiti are encountering the system's automatic response to prevent spam.

Picture 2 He said that users who were getting close to a limit on messages should have been warned by the system that they were getting close to sending too many.

If you're in Haiti and your entire profile has been blocked, contact Facebook here. That explains the warnings, and if you go directly to the "my account has been disabled section, that shows you how to email Facebook to get access back. (Note: this isn't something that can be done on a mobile phone, you have to do this on an actual computer.) Noyes also said the Facebook team will be looking through the system for the term "Haiti" and will expedite those requests.

Finally, Noyes said that Facebook was always looking at "adjusting and fine-tuning" their systems based on how people are using the site. "We're looking into the behavior we're seeing out of Haiti to analyze how our systems might be improved," he said.

Facebook said they're looking into it - I'll update when I hear back from them. If you're in Haiti and having a hard time, leave your name in the comments section below so we can see how widespread this problem is.

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Resolve to get your business in social media shape!

Last January, we'll bet you resolved quite firmly that 2009 would be the year to get your business involved with social media.

Well, it's January 2010, and somehow you've managed to avoid our polite nudges to dip a toe into the social media space all year.

Clearly, our friendly advice hasn't worked. So this year, we thought we would try tough love instead.

For most businesses, if you're not on social media, you're losing out on lots of potential growth. 2009 was the year that sites like Facebook and Twitter became mainstream -- and the growth of people depending on social networks increasingly for information.

We get that it can be intimidating to get started -- and you don't have the time to do it. So here are some tangible, practical resolutions that will help incorporate social media into your daily routine.

Make the time. Some people have a built-in social media reflex that's the same as e-mail: They're constantly checking their in-boxes throughout the day. We know that's not you. Start by booking five- to 10-minute chunks of time for social networks on your daily schedule. Make a resolution to do it three times a day: Check in with an account first thing in the day, right before you take a lunch break (or during your lunch break if you work through your lunch) and again sometime around 4:30 p.m. -- right before people leave for the day.

Find your audience. If you're selling a product, you can use a Facebook Fan Page to interact with potential customers: The best way is to talk about sales, coupons or new products, or give shoutouts to die-hard fans. The more interaction, the better chance you have to show up on someone's news feed and catch more eyes.

For Twitter accounts, you need to start following accounts that may be good fits for the audience you're trying to reach. For example, if you're a restaurant in Miami, search for people with "Miami" or "South Florida" in their location. A site like will help you find the most active Twitter users who fit the keywords you are searching for.

Use tools: We'll bet the major reason you haven't dived in is because you find social networks to be a hassle. Using Twitter on the Web is messy. Familiarize yourself with tools that make using Twitter easier and help you manage your time better. Free programs like Twhirl or Tweetdeck provide notifications when you have a message so you can leave them on all day.

Tweetdeck also allows you to set up specific search columns and be notified anytime someone says the name of your company or mentions the service you provide, so you can be there to respond.

Finally, in everything that you do, remember to be genuine. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook or another social networking site, learn how to talk -- and listen. Remember that it's about making human connections. Communicate the same way you would with a friend, instead of using formal corporate speak. Listen to what your customers are saying and respond. In short, conduct yourself the same way you would if you were face to face with a customer or client, and you'll be fine.

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Top 5 social media screwups of 2009

Neverspeakof2009 As we make our resolutions for the new year, we often reflect on our regrets or mistakes made during the past year.

And boy, there sure were some major online etiquette train wrecks in 2009.

Here at Poked, we realize that every day we're all learning new things about netiquette and best practices. Social media is constantly evolving, and tools like Twitter were new for tons of people this year -- especially folks trying to jump on the trend and use it as a business and customer relations tool.

So today we count down the five worst (and most frequently committed) online faux pas that we witnessed in 2009. Hopefully, history won't repeat itself in 2010.

5. Following porn. Sometimes people have a bad habit of automatically following back everyone who follows them on Twitter -- and it's especially true for people who use Twitter for business. They think if they use a tool to automatically follow back everyone, then they will have a more popular account.

But it just makes you look like a social media loser when you don't pay attention to the names and bios of who you follow (like hotsuzy_camgirl), and you start following accounts created for porn or for spam.

4. Talking smack about your job online. If you wouldn't say it to the boss, don't say it on Facebook or Twitter. It's amazing how many folks complain about work -- during work hours -- on places like Twitter. Maybe they think their bosses aren't wise enough to see what they're writing. But nothing is truly private online, and someone you work with is likely to see it. Chances are your company doesn't appreciate you broadcasting negative views about the company, and you're left looking like an employee who isn't a team player. Not a good impression to give during tough economic times.

3. Sending private messages publicly. Twitter and Facebook are all about instant communication. But we get so used to responding quickly on the go, that maybe we're moving too fast and not thinking before we hit send. Every so often you'll see someone send a message on Twitter that probably wasn't designed for the world to see. Like: Hey, call my cell 305-555-555 to talk about that exclusive secret business deal.

You can rush to delete it, but nothing is ever erased on Twitter. It gets picked up by search engines, even if it only exists online for a few seconds. Trust us on this one: Bridget learned this the hard way. While using text messages to talk to Niala on Twitter, she intended to send her a direct message and called a certain social media consultant annoying. But it went public. She deleted it within seconds, but it only took a minute for the consultant to see it and comment. Fortunately, that consultant was gracious enough to accept her apology.

2. Responding to e-mail with Reply All. We've had e-mail for awhile now, but it's still a hot zone for netiquette disaster. Why do people hit ``Reply all'' in mass messages when it's not something everyone needs to read? It only adds to the in-box clutter and could make you look foolish.

Back in August, one public relations consultant accidentally put 350 e-mails in a CC field, instead of a BCC field (which privatizes the e-mail addresses). Within two hours, our mailboxes were filled with tons of unsubscribe requests from strangers who hit reply all. It made people annoyed at the PR consultant and everyone who hit reply all.

1. Unintentionally sending spam or malicious links. Please, think twice before you click a strange link. You can't be so trusting on social networks these days. Facebook and Twitter accounts are being infected by malicious links through private messages. Click a strange link (usually something like: Hey you're in this video lolz!!!), and you won't be aware that you sent spam or a virus to most of your connections. And if you are a business account, you just lost the trust and respect of many of your followers.

Did you learn a netiquette lesson the hard way this year? Did someone's social media screwup seriously annoy you? Post a comment below or e-mail us at

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