Tag Archives: facebook

Online Privacy is an Illusion

PrivacyYes … not that there ever really was an “age of privacy”. I’ve always thought that the concept of privacy online was really more of an illusion than reality. When you share private information on any online service, you are trusting that service to keep your information private. The catch is that these companies are run by people; people who make mistakes with your data or people who change their minds about how much of their service should be private or public. There are plenty of examples of online services that have been hacked or employees who carry your private data on unsecured devices where your private data has been compromised. The privacy changes at Facebook have certainly stirred up additional debate about the issue of online privacy, and Marshall’s recent ReadWriteWeb article on the topic is what prompted me to write this post. I’m not going to get into whether what Facebook is doing is right or wrong, since the bigger question about whether online privacy is an illusion is much more interesting to me.

We take risks whenever we put our private data in the hands of another person (online or offline). It’s important to understand those risks and make the decision about what you share and where you share it. I’m very active online, and I share quite a bit of information with people, but I think about what I want to share and what should remain private. I tend to be a fairly open person, so I keep very little information private, but anything that I want to remain private doesn’t get shared online. For example, I may let people know that I’m attending sxsw, but I probably won’t share the address of where I’m staying while I’m in Austin.

Using Marshall’s examples from his Closer Look at Facebook’s New Privacy Options:

“Chances are you wouldn’t tell grandma about the wild party you went to last Saturday night. Likewise, you might have spent Sunday evening at home knittin’ a mitten and only feel secure enough in your manhood to share pictures of your fiber craft with family.”

However, your cousin who is also your friend on Facebook might decide to share the details of your wild party with grandma or decide to share pictures of your lovely knitted mittens with everyone they know. Or at some point a bug in Facebook’s code could expose your secret knitting habit or wild party pictures with the world. Or the executives at Facebook could decide that their service should have more public information. The knitting and the wild party were never really private, and realistically neither one of these examples is probably a big deal in the long run. Your grandmother will forgive you (and she might even relate if she attended a wild party or two in her younger days), and eventually your friends will stop making fun of your knitting hobby.

The real problem is when people think their data is more private than it is. Even people operating under user names that aren’t personally identifiable can often be tracked down using IP address if someone really wanted to find out who they are. Those of us who work in technology and who understand the internals of how websites and the internet work have a much better understanding of how secure our information is and can better manage the risk. It’s up to us to help educate or less technologically-savvy friends and family about what privacy really means online. We each need to decide how much “private” information we share based on the risk of it becoming more public vs. the reward associated with sharing any particular type of information.

Photo by Flickr user rpongsaj used under Creative Commons.

Fall Sale: Companies and Communities Book Discount

In celebration of the beginning of fall, I wanted to offer you a discount on my book, Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy.

For the next week, you can get the paperback version of the book for $12.99, which is $3.00 off the regular price of $15.99 by using the discount code QYW8QS6W and purchasing it directly from the publisher. This deal will end on October 6, 2009.

As always, you can still get the PDF version of the book for only $9.99 if you prefer to have a searchable copy that you can carry around on your computer.

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This 85 page eBook or 130 page book contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites. You can download an excerpt of the book or learn more about it before you decide to buy a copy.

Transparency and Disclosure: Honda on Facebook

This week there was yet another example of someone within a company talking about his company’s products on Facebook while posing as a consumer instead of disclosing his relationship with the company. In summary, don’t do this. It’s slimy, people will find out, and it reflects poorly on both the person and the company.

Honda on Facebook

I’ve talked about transparency and disclosure before on this blog, so I won’t go into details. In short, if you have a business relationship with a company that you are mentioning on any social media site, disclose it.

Online Community Research and Social Media Planning

As I work with clients to build online communities, I find that external community sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an increasingly important part of the overall online community strategy. As a result, I was excited to read the results of Bill Johnston’s recent Online Community Research Network study on this topic. The study looked at how organizations are incorpating external communities and social media sites in their online strategies. Bill posted more information about the results in his post, but here are a few of the highlights.

Twitter and Facebook are the highest priority external community sites for most organizations followed by LinkedIn. This is consistent with what I have been hearing from clients. My clients also tend to ask about YouTube and occasionally MySpace.
Each organization’s business goals for using external community sites are slightly different, but some of the most important goals included:

  • Educate and inform
  • Peer-to-peer evangelism
  • Retain customers / loyalty

The most surprising part of this research is the number of people who don’t think they need a plan for these efforts. I disagree.


It’s important to approach your external community efforts (including social media) with clear goals and some thought (i.e. plans) for how you want to approach each site and how everything fits together. The plan should include objectives along with roles and responsibilities that clearly outline who will update each site, how often, and with what content. Without good planning, your corporate presence is likely to look either disorganized and scattered or abandoned and barren.

I think this helps highlight the difference between knowing how to use communities and social media for personal pursuits and knowing how to engage in them to meet the specific objectives of an organization. I don’t have a plan for how I use social media in my personal life, but I do work with clients to help them put together strategies, plans and content roadmaps for using external online community sites. If you don’t already have a plan for your external online community engagement, you should find someone (internal or external) who has experience building corporate online community strategies and plans to help you get organized. You don’t need to spend months on the plan, and it doesn’t need to be a 100 page document, but you should have some kind of written plan.

Does your organization have a plan for your external community efforts?

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

I was in Eugene today to talk to the Willamette Valley AMA about social media. The presentation was similar to the one that I gave earlier this year at WebVisions, but with a few more details on how to use some of the various tools. Here are the topics that I covered and a copy of my slides.

  • Guiding Principles & Strategy for Participation
  • Social Media Activities / Tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • FriendFeed
    • Blogging
  • Monitoring
    • RSS
    • Monitoring Twitter
    • Yahoo Pipes
  • Managing your social media efforts

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

Transparency and Disclosure

I wanted to remind everyone about transparency and disclosure when posting online. If you work for a company, you should disclose your affiliation when posting about the company online. The people participating on social media sites are smart people. If you don’t disclose your affiliations, people will find out, and it won’t reflect favorably on your company if people feel like they have been misled.

Kohl’s V.P. of Digital Marketing, Ed Gawronski, is the most recent example of this faux pas (described by Augie Ray):

Based on his activities in Kohl’s Facebook community, Ed Gawronski seems to be a big fan of Kohl’s. Two weeks ago he noted, “Less then 4 hours to get a great deal at Kohls.com. I just hit the jackpot and saved 30% on some ASICS sneaks. Cost me almost nothing.” And a couple days later he had another scoop for Kohl’s Facebook Fans: “make sure to give your email to kohls.com. I think they give you $5 when you give it in. The deals get even better too. I’ve seen special online promotions every week.”

You might think Ed is just a helpful guy and a big supporter of Kohl’s, except a visitor to the Facebook page outed Gawronski as a Kohl’s marketing executive. In a reply to one of Ed’s posts, the anonymous visitor notes, “Interesting. Ed Gawronski is the VP of marketing for Kohl’s. http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ed-gawronski/8/b1b/875 Masquerade much?”

Quoted from Transparency (or Lack Thereof) on Kohl’s Facebook Fan Page in Experience: The Blog

Keep in mind that open, honest and transparent conversations are the norm for most social media sites. Spend some time thinking about your social media / digital strategy, and think about how your actions reflect on your company. When you are thinking about doing something questionable, ask yourself 2 questions:

  • Would I want my mother to know that I did this?
  • Would I be embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

If your answers to either of these questions is anything other than yes, you should find another course of action.

Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:

“Would you let a company intern:

  • Man your customer service line?
  • Be your receptionist?
  • Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
  • Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?

If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”

Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog

This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.

These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.

I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.

I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).

Getting Started with Facebook for Companies and Organizations

An earlier Fast Wonder blog post with an introduction to Facebook for companies and organizations has been getting quite a bit of traffic lately, so I wanted to do a follow-up post with a few more details and updated information about Facebook. One of the reasons that I find Facebook so interesting is because it has a variety of features that are focused on community building and sharing information with friends and contacts. It is especially useful for smaller, lightweight community efforts.

While we tend to think of Facebook as something for college students, recent college graduates, and technology early adopters, the reality is that Facebook users in the 35 and older category are growing at a very fast rate. According to Inside Facebook, as of the end of March, 30% of Facebook users are over 35.

Facebook Demographics - Age

There are several primary ways to participate on Facebook: personal profiles (private), pages (public), groups, and applications. Each one of these is used differently, so I’ll cover each one of them individually. If you haven’t already read my guiding principles post, you might want to read it first, since it talks more about acceptable behavior in social media.

Personal Profiles (Private)

This is where you should start on Facebook, whether you are participating for fun or on behalf of a company. Facebook profiles are private by default – only the people that you add as contacts can view your personal profile, and they are designed to be used by individuals. You will use this as your account to log into Facebook, so you should work on building your personal profile before starting any other efforts on Facebook. This also gives you an opportunity to experiment with Facebook to learn what works for you and what doesn’t while participating as an individual, rather than jeopardizing your corporate brand image with costly mistakes and gaffes.

Here are a few things that you can do to get started:

  • Add a picture that helps people recognize you. There are many other people named Dawn Foster, so it is important for people to be able to tell for certain that they are looking at your account instead of a stranger with a similar name.
  • Spend a few minutes entering your information (personal info, education / work, etc.)
  • Post status updates and add a few extra pictures.
  • Add a few friends (personal, work, past lives)
  • Try to get a mix of personal and professional information to help people better understand the whole you with as much information as you feel comfortable sharing with people.
  • Go easy on your friends – save the poking, zombie requests, etc. for close personal friends.

Please do not create a personal profile for your company. These look weird and artificial, and they are designed to be private, which makes it difficult for people to interact with your company. We’ll talk about better ways to have a company presence on Facebook in the next section.

Pages (Public)

Facebook pages are publicly viewable, which makes them much better for a corporate presence, since anyone can become a fan of your company without any additional interaction or approvals. People are effectively using pages for companies, products, bands, shows, special interest groups, and much more. Facebook pages have many of the same features as profile pages, but with information that is geared toward companies rather than individuals. While profile pages have education / work information and interests, public pages have location, hours of operation, company overview, mission, date founded, and more. Some features include: wall with messages, events, video, pictures, notes, and more. Powell’s Books has a pretty good example of a company page.

Facebook also has a step-by-step guide and more information about creating a page for you company or product.


Groups are usually used to share information, collaborate or organize around a specific topic, and they can be public or private depending on what you want to achieve from the group. Groups can be a way to create a very simple, lightweight community around an effort, especially if most of your audience is already on Facebook. People can become members by joining the group, and then they can post information to the group. The features are similar to the profiles and pages described above with information, wall / discussions, events, photos, links, video and more. Corvallis Beer and Blog is an example of how you can use a Facebook group to organize a weekly event.


You might consider creating an application for your organization as a way for people to interact with your products. For example, companies like Nike and Intel have created Facebook applications.

Be cautious when using applications. Some applications have been linked to viruses and others spam all of your contacts in order to use the application. However, there are some great uses of applications. I use the Twitter application to feed my Twitter status to Facebook, and I use the Upcoming application to display a list of events that I’m attending. As I mentioned earlier, go easy on your friends – save the applications used for poking, zombie requests, etc. for close personal friends, not business acquaintences.

There are certainly other ways to use Facebook, but this covers the basic ways that most people use it. In general, remember to participate as a person first and a company second, and remember that the guiding principles that I have talked about so many times before on this blog still apply to using Facebook.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Social Media Training

I wanted to share a quick presentation that I used to train a client on general social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Monitoring / Yahoo Pipes, FriendFeed and more. I’ve embedded the presentation and included a set of links that were part of the demos provided throughout the presentation.


The demo links for this presentation can be found on Agglom.

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts:

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy (an eBook)

Many of you have heard me mention the elusive eBook that I’ve been working on for many, many months. Well, I finally kicked it into high gear this week to finish it!

Companies and CommunitiesCompanies and Communities is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This 80 page eBook contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites. It is available as a PDF download for $19.99.

The eBook includes:

  • Guiding Principles
  • Blogs and Blogging
  • Twitter
  • Social Networks (Facebook and MySpace)
  • Custom Corporate Communities
  • Community Management
  • and more

If you want a glimpse before you purchase, you can download an eighteen page excerpt, which contains the full table of contents and a few select sections from the 80 page eBook.