How Well Are Social Networks Respecting Our Data & Our Privacy?

journalist-press-newspaper-journalism-magazine-2Social networks are a remarkable cultural phenomenon that has blossomed in the era of Web 2.0, enabling us to connect with others and share information on a global scale. Much of that information we share willingly – it’s a human trait of gregariousness. Additionally, though, we reveal lots of personal information over social networking services, sometimes without realising the privacy and security risks arising from such actions. The European Commission data protection legislation is a means for protecting social network users against the unlawful processing of their personal information, although a number of problems arise regarding its applicability.

Social networking websites used at global level represent the place where people interact online, discuss, exchange photos or music or share their experiences. The fast development of this type of communication gave rise to certain concerns towards the safety of using the Internet for the disclosure of personal data.

Due to the fact that the information posted on the social networking websites becomes accessible to the public, we have to pay extra care to the information that we disclose about us. Simply by becoming known to a large number of people is a risk to our privacy or even physical safety.

online-privacy.jpgGeorgeta Basarabescu (president of the national supervisory authority) stresses that social networks should collect and process sensitive data (concerning the racial or ethnic origin, political, religious, philosophical beliefs, trade-union allegiance, or personal data regarding state of health or sex life). This is the area in which Ehsan Khodarahmi has an extensive experience, and never talks without hard fact. Here’s the proof for the above statement.

Data protection is mostly a legal (liability) issue to internet and social media providers. However it is important to describe applicable law. Most of the popular social media networks are US-based, and adhere to their own domestic legal requirements. So the question arises: which legal standards should European companies follow when using social media networks? For example, Facebook uses the State of California’s laws as their applicable law in their general terms and conditions and aggregates huge amounts of data about it’s users from both inside the Facebook network (which we assume is shared willingly) and from external sources (which we probably have agreed to by accepting the Terms of Service.) Check out this Gizmodo article by Michael Nunez, it’s maybe a little shocking?

While we enjoy the aspects that allow us to share (often personal) content on social networks, we must be diligent about how (and with whom) our data is shared without our knowledge. For example, after you’ve read an article online, you often have the option to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc., etc. Websites that embed social plug-ins have a 3rd party connection to the social network offering the plug-ins. Facebook “Like” buttons integrated as a graphic on these sites download data from the website’s server every time that site is visited. Facebook then has the ability to collect IP addresses (and our personal data) from websites with Facebook plug-ins.

European Data Protection Commissioners are asking for better information about how users’ data is used in third party apps, improved transparency concerning data for advertising purposes, and increased control for users over their personal data. Information is considered to be personal data if it can be connected and linked to a certain and specifically identifiable person.

citizen Journalist.gifSo what of the ‘protections’ that we hear about regarding our personal data? It seems that the providers’ Terms of Service is mainly concerned with their rights to have access to and share our data for the purposes of enhancing their value. While businesses are required to provide us with privacy statements, do they actually protect our privacy? Do we pay enough attention to such statements to make and keep businesses accountable? What is the role of Citizen Journalists as Ehsan Khodarahmi would argue, as he has been since 2008? Here’s an article from 2014 about the social newsrooms and the role of Citizen Journalist, and another one about how traditional journalists source their stories. Aren’t these connected to changes to our attitude and the way our data and privacy perceived by the legislators as well as businesses?

Q1: Is current legislative/regulatory policy sufficient to protect personal data?

Q2: Does current technology to keep our data secure enough?

Q3: What kind of tech might improve our online security/privacy?

Q4: ‘Terms of Service’ is how tech keeps authority over data. Is that fair to users?

Q5: Do you think social networks should be able to collect and aggregate external data about us? Why/not?

Q6: Why are Europeans more concerned with personal data protection and privacy than, say, Americans?

Is Your Business a Media House?

We make a lot of the potential for technology, especially digital marketing (primarily search marketing) and social media marketing, to change how we do business. But you know what? It seems that all technology has done so far is give us new channels for the same old thing.

Perhaps we need to think a little more outside traditional marketing paradigms to make the best of the potential that all this digital age mumbo jumbo represents.

And it’s really quite simple: It comes down to people. As Ehsan puts it:

Don’t try to inspire; create [a] meaningful experience!

Ehsan recently wrote about the concept of the business as a Media House. And it is really interesting how a few simple, (not revolutionary) basic aspects of marketing, sociology and human behaviour might turn the idea of ‘marketing’ businesses in a new direction.

A key aspect of the tension between Marketing and Leadership is this: Many CEOs don’t trust marketers. Why? Because marketers revel in the mystique of marketing existing in some kind of black box reality that only ‘they’ can de-code. This is rubbish! Yet marketers haven’t created the black box on their own. Leaders can take some account: as many C-level executives dismiss things like socialization and human behaviour as ‘soft disciplines’ they push marketers to fabricate ‘science’ that legitimizes the numbers and measures aspect of results. Not everything that is good can be measured. And not everything that is measured is good!

Far too many marketers think they need to invest in tools and technology to monitor who says what online.

And further, too many businesses and brands pursue social media marketing as a broadcast activity. How many ways can we say this – nobody likes to be talked at, or sold to, or treated like a ‘market.’ A possible prescription for treatment of this malady is to “…to put [your] house in order and create meaningful and purposeful communities.”

No ‘influencer’ is going to create credibility for your business. To paraphrase Ehsan, ‘brand personality’ is the collective attitude and cultural values of a business’ people. Building meaningful communities is putting trust and empowerment in people – like  associates, colleagues,  and customers.

When you create purposeful communities, you make everyone feel included and valued…

Then, you’ll start creating value for your business, because you’re serving your customers effectively and efficiently. This is exactly what CEOs want to see.

How do these purposeful communities emerge and thrive? Your marketing team encourages Citizen Journalists to participate by creating and sharing their own content. And your Brand Journalists (associates, leaders, even executives) do likewise, creating communities aligned by values and the philosophy that when we each do well we all do well. Ehsan calls this your business DNA. It is challenging obsolete assumptions about how and what businesses communicate. And opening doors to transparent communication with, among and about all stakeholders in the brand, so you gain understanding about how language, attitude, personality and technology form behaviour in the era of multichannel, citizen-led communication.

Forget about the numbers; just try to produce meaningful and relevant content, then you’ll see your number of audience goes through the roof.


Build a brand ecosystem in which stakeholders:

  • Share insights
  • Learn from each other
  • Recommend your business
  • Connect with you on every touch point, and
  • Engage with you on and offline

Now question time!:)

Q1: Why do you think CEOs distrust their marketing teams?

Q2: How can marketing teams gain trust with executive leaders?

Q3: There are significant differences between marketing and sales. What are the nuances of these differences?

Q4: How does ‘customer experience’ relate to marketing your business?

Q5: We think ‘community’ is an over-used term in social media and a misunderstood term. What do you think?

Q6: Can businesses be successful entrusting content creation to stakeholders like customer and employee advocates? How?

The Social Media Olympics

Olympic Rings

Image credit.:

The 31st Olympiad taking pace in Rio de Janiero, Brazil has just begun, and the Olympic ideal of cooperation through competition is happening right before our eyes. It reminds us of the @eksays ideal of the future of business in social media – that collaboration eventually surpasses competition. Not necessarily in a purely literal sense, as businesses will continue to compete to differentiate themselves, but in the sense that when we look at the big picture we are all better off when we all benefit.

It’s not a new concept. Yeah, the Olympic ideal comes from ancient Greece! and the modern Olympics date to the 19th century. Remember corporate ‘strategic partnerships’ from the 80s? Maybe you don’t.:) Suffice to say that the spirit of collaboration and cooperation is not foreign to humans. In fact, at times it’s been essential to our survival. Now the Olympics are not life-and-death, and neither is survival of business. It sure makes sense, though, to take an easier, cooperative, collaborative approach as opposed to hyper-competitively going it alone. As I write this, I am watching three woman cyclists in the Olympic Women’s Roadrace collaborating to catch the race leader. Their collaboration has an edge, because one of the four women in the final sprint ends up in fourth place. No medal, no reward.

There are certain parallels between Olympic ideals and social media ideation. Although Olympians are the best of the best, elite athletes far above mortal humans, at the Olympic Games they are back to an even playing field, because they are meeting the finest competitors from around the world. The best of human spirit is demonstrated in acceptance of all in Olympic competition, even athletes with no nation-home to call their own. Anything can happen – this is the truth of sports and competition. It’s similar to the mass of humanity we find on social media, in a way. It’s a fairly level field of play and we jockey for position in visibility and influence. It’s true for our personal brands and for businesses too. Is social media the Olympic Village of the world? That place where we all meet, as friends and competitors. As foils and collaborators.

Now it’s time for the #SMXChat Parade of Nations! Carry your flag tall and proud.

P.S. The three cyclists together caught up with and passed the leader with about 100 meters to go. Their collaboration paid off for each of them, medalists all!

Q1) Do you think Olympic ideals are paralleled in social media? Why/Why not? #SMXChat

Q2) Olympic athletes demonstrate uncanny humility. Do you think their example applicable in social media? #SMXChat

Follow up: Does Olympic athletes’ humility seem genuine and sincere? How do they do that?

Q3) Has social media around Olympic events caught your attention? To what effect?  #SMXChat

Q4) Is a sporting attitude of value in a social media context? In what way? #SMXChat

Follow up: What Olympic event/athlete matches you/your social style?

Q5) Imagine being broadcast around the globe. Do you behave differently than usual? Do you think Olympic athletes do? #SMXChat






Does Snapchat bring millennial cool to brand marketing?

Snapchat is reminiscent of a handful of fairly recent social media ‘flashes’ that, on further consideration, seem to have real vision behind them. Certainly, the mobile aspect of Snapchat is aligned with our vision of social media in the years to come: we’re taking it with us and it must enrich our experiences as we go.

The basic building block of Snapchat is the ‘snap’: a short-lived photo or video that can be edited to include filters, effects, text and even drawings. In the Wikipedia article on Snapchat, founder Evan Spiegel notes that the app is intentionally designed to free users from the urge to create and maintain an ‘idealised online identity’ which takes ‘all the fun out of communicating.’ So yeah, sometimes ‘communicating’ can be a little too fun?

But credit Snapchat with grabbing the attention of millennials – who, by the way, at something like 80 million people in the US – make up the largest generational cohort ever.

What began as a private messaging and image app for teens may be growing into a promotional/marketing tour de force, as Snapchat has completed deals with media giants like the NFL and NBCUniversal. These partnerships are reliant upon recent product features like ‘Stories’, ‘Geofilters’, and ‘Discover’ that  hold great promise for brand promotion via User-Generated Content (UGC), but have yet to capture the imagination of users who, for the most part, prefer Snapchat’s basic features that allow them to choose how they share messages with friends.

A Snapchat ‘Story’ is a chronological compilation of snaps. ‘Live Stories’ is a feature that allows users to add snaps to a curated story (sometimes surrounding events like concerts and sporting events) that is made available to all users. ‘Official Stories’ are created similarly to Twitter verified accounts, where notable figures and celebrities (and brands?) share their content exclusively. Interestingly, Snapchat’s primary user base (Gen Y and Gen Z) virtually ignore these features that are brands’ key to reaching these audiences. (See the entire Dashburst article and infographic here.)

Here are a few more interesting observations from Newscred about Snapchat user behaviors (from a survey of 100 Snapchat users):

  • 54% use Snapchat daily, 32% use it 2-5 times per week.
  • A majority of users ‘rarely or never’ use branded features like ‘Stories’ and ‘Discover.’
  • 64% of Snapchat users do not follow celebrities on the app. Take that, Kardashians! Strike one for influencer marketing to millennials.

So, will acceptance as a mainstream marketing/promotional channel ruin the appeal of Snapchat to its primary user base? Like it has for other (not to be named) social media marketing channels? Let’s take the question to the #SMXChat community:

Q1: Users say they like Snapchat because it’s fun. Do you think keeping it fun & making money are mutually exclusive?

Q2: How can Snapchat bridge the gap between users’ needs & advertisers’ wants?

Q3: The millennial cohort is a key market, yet it’s so averse to marketing. Can this paradox be resolved? How?

Q4:  Is success with users embracing, generating & sharing branded content critical to Snapchat’s success?

Q5: Does acceptance of Snapchat as a brand marketing channel ruin its appeal to its primary users? What then?

Be Intelligently Social To Gather Social Intelligence

journalism-information-news-newspaperWe’re moving on this week with a more traditional topic for the #SMXChat community: Data! You know why? Because data and information are the core of business decision-making. And we know that there is a trove of data out there in social networks. So how do organisations use it to their advantage?

It’s the topic of a four-year old  McKinsey Report article we found in our search about topics involving analysis of social data for business. Yes, four years old! And still not only applicable, but quite relevant to the topic and building this discussion for the #SMXChat community. This is a common theme for  our community, and as we researched and discussed it, we’ve found that it uncovers threads that run through many previous discussions we’ve had in #SMXChat – like creating a social business, engaging and utilising the C-Level in our social media efforts, and identifying/connecting with thought leaders and influencers.

Intelligently social is a blend of thought leadership, social media influence, subject matter expertise and data curation that uncovers real-time, actionable information that creates a competitive advantage.

Social intelligence is the action of utilising data gathered from social networks in detailed competitive analysis.

Together, the two create a unique opportunity. And to pull it off requires radically divergent thinking about how we source, accumulate, analyse and report intelligence. Are you beginning to think of some of the applications of these concepts in organizations?

The authors of the McKinsey Report article suggest a progressive approach of deploying social intelligence analysts across disciplines that might not traditionally be considered for such activity. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

“Curating a variety of perspectives from multiple social-media sources should help internal checks and balances play out more freely and, in some cases, lead to necessary whistle-blowing.”

And in most cases, break down information ‘silos’ in the organization that artificially narrow the breadth of sources for competitive information.Think of a network of analysts using a network of experts to glean real-time insights from your market.

“Companies will need to invest in the tools, such as network-mapping and influence-rating metrics, that analysts need to manage these new networks—for example, by helping to assess the expertise and relevance of community members.”

You may be wondering (because we are too) where do these tools and experts that provide these come from? What skills do they need? What skills do we have in our own teams that helps us to get there?

“Almost any user within a company can therefore create a personalized information dashboard, which “democratizes” intelligence and embeds relevant data deep within the organization.”

Well, there you go. Fairly simple and commercially available products (the authors suggested and flipboard) can become powerful curation tools that quickly and easily gather and disseminate information., making anyone from the C-level to the marketing intern a conduit of potentially valuable insights. ‘Socially astute analysts’, to use the authors’ words, reach out and connect into online communities to gather information that is neither discussed or published elsewhere. This social engagement is crucial to gaining access to experts’ and thought leaders’ timely impressions.

“Visual-mapping techniques also let analysts chart these new information flows, which may appear as nodes and connectors across a company’s geography. Such information maps highlight particularly strong knowledge relationships within companies and may provide clues for new organizational designs that optimize intelligence.”

Bam! Think about this. An important aspect of this principle is a diversity of sources other than the ‘usual suspects of Twitter and Facebook’  Organising the team on boundaries like products, markets. emerging technology, emerging markets that matter to the industry, vertical, community, or any other aspect that keeps your organisation competitively relevant.

Now over to you folks!


Q1: What kinds of ‘social data’ comes to mind for competitive analysis in an organization?

Q2: What do you see as the role of social engagement in hunting down data to gain insights into your market/competition?

Q3: What social or other platforms come to mind for analysing social data for business intelligence?

Q4: What kinds of social ‘cues’ are useful in gaining social insights about your business/market?

Q5: In what areas/’silos’ of an organization might social intelligence be useful?

Q6: Do you think distributing social intelligence among all areas and all ‘levels’ of the organization is useful? Why?


Harrysson, Martyn;  Metayer Estelle; and  Sarrazi, Hugo. How ‘social intelligence’ can guide decisions. McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012

The Anxiety Of Living In A Connected World.


We are here. Together. Credit:

I admit it. I have reached saturation on world events. Especially those involving heinous acts that harm innocent people. I’m de-sensitized. I’ve shut down because the endless cycle is exhausting.

Please don’t interpret this as not caring. I care as for other human beings everywhere as much as the next person. We all feel anger, resentment, and shame at the seemingly ever-escalating violence that humans are capable of. In the name of… what?

We talk a lot about community. I submit that we all have associations with insular communities in social media. We gather with those that we feel kinship with, right? And we talk about things that are important. To us.

Then the world explodes with more news about hatred, bitterness, strife, even murder. As individuals, we are pulled out of our comfortable places to display our shock, dismay, fear, and compassion.

Where does it get us? Technology enables instantaneous mass communication. We react in turn. Can the cycle be broken? Must it be? Those that evoke our reactions are getting exactly what they want out of the transaction, no?

So we #PrayForParis, #PrayForDallas and #PrayForNice, (and Brussels, and San Bernardino, and Baton Rouge…) and then what? We move on. Our emotions and thoughts hijacked for the moment.

Well I submit that we each have a choice to make. We play into the hands of terror when we create the exact result they are expecting. That is at the core of terror – that it consumes our rational world, replacing it with fear, anger, hate and revenge. And sorrow. Often that.

With all this connected-ness, there is something more we can do. We can take back our emotions and dignity. Because all this cowering and fear is very undignified. At not like us, as humans, at all.

Q1: Do you think the heightened awareness that social media creates benefits society, on balance?

Q2: Does an outpouring of sympathy and support have real value for the victims and families affected by violence? What is it?

Q3: Given: Mass sympathy supports victims. What does it do for the perpetrators of the acts?

Q4: If global outrage is a solution, what can social media communities do, tangibly, to help thwart violence?

Q5: Communication enables understanding. How can social media communities promote understanding to quell violence?



Aren’t Social Media and the News Media At Odds?

FB Instant ArticleIt may seem that we sometimes pick on Facebook. Truth is, Facebook is a convenient metaphor for many of the societal issues that, in general, social media has conjured up. Being the largest social networking site has it’s disadvantages.

We’ve been thinking lately about how social media is changing many aspects of our lives, and we think that considering how social media influences how we consume news and information bears our consideration with a critical eye. Because, as we all know, social networking platforms use complex algorithms to make serious decisions about what we see. Having said that, although algorithms may come across as complex but, they are created by people.

FB Content. MarketingWhen it comes to news and information, our society is built upon a theoretical foundation of a free and objective press – and questions about journalistic integrity definitely pre-date social media. But in a healthy free society, shouldn’t we expect that historical norms are at least a consideration in the information we count on to make personal judgments?

As Farhad Manjoo points out in New York Time, social media in general, and Facebook specifically, have an outsize influence on users’ consumption of information – even without any sinister intent. But the absence of sinister intent is not necessarily the presence of good intent. And unconscious bias, both personal and institutional, puts the integrity of what we see in question. Complacency is as much the enemy of freedom as dictatorial influence.

The recent announcement about Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm changes has made some content producers (and marketers) wary, as usual. Good! Because if you’re relying on social media platforms to make it easy for you, then you have to learn a lot about communication and content production erc.

Here is the primary ‘bias’ of Facebook (and Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.): PROFIT! The missing link here, as Ehsan Khodarahmi has mentioned quite a lot of times is: PURPOSE. He says: do business with a purpose beyond profit.

Facebook LikeSo if we’re looking to these companies’ leaders, product managers and engineers to be thinking deeply about the ethics of disseminating objective information to their (by the way, subscribed) members, maybe we should think again. It seems that we, as individual consumers, and the collective ‘we’, as a society built on the expectation of an objective press, have grown lazy and are willing to turn over control of our access to information to seemingly unwilling stewards.

Does Facebook claim itself a news organization? Not really, according to their own statements. But it’s complicated. ‘Instant Articles’ feature content from major news sources like The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times. And according to another recent article by Mr. Manjoo, ‘The Pew Research Center found that for adults in their 20s and 30s, Facebook is far and away the most popular source of news about government and politics.’

Some of the worst atrocities in history were the result of societies giving over their sacred rights in the name of some greater powerful force. We should all be wary of how social media treats the news and information that we rely on to make our personal choices and judgments.

Now let’s stuck in folks of #SMXChat village:

Q1: What are the dangers/benefits of social media gaining power over news dissemination?

Q2: Why should/not a giant media source like Facebook be empowered as a public trust, like giving us news?

Q3: How might social media promulgate information without influencing editorial content?

Q4: Public companies are biased toward profit. What are social media platforms’ obligations to ‘journalistic integrity’?

Q5: Should social media be transparent about editorial decisions in distributing news? What ethics apply to their role?