What Are Students Learning About Communicating With Social Media?


Image credit: ehow.com

Technology has changed so many aspects of life that we humans can hardly keep up. It has undoubtedly changed how young people view and interact with the wider world. This kind of global access to information and to each other was unthinkable 30 years ago, emerging 20 years ago, in it’s infancy 10 years ago. So where does that put us today?

It may be a stretch to say that social media is a mature phenomenon at this point, but is fair to say that it has had a dramatic effect on how we communicate. I’m fond of saying that being forced to ‘speak’ in 140 character bursts has made me a better communicator! I’m not sure that’s a commonly shared perspective, but I like to think it’s true.


Image credit: deplicque.net

And how and what we consume and share on social media says more about us than I think we care to admit. So we might wonder, what effect is social media having on how students in college and universities (heck, even High School) view the world, interact with others, and learn? Additionally what, if anything, are we doing as stewards, to influence learning and experience in the realm of social media?

This is our discussion at #SMXChat this week. Our guest is Kenna Griffin. Kenna teaches mass communications (multimedia journalism, public relations and media law and ethics) at Oklahoma City University. You can find Kenna on Twitter @profkrg.

Q1) @profkrg We think the practice of social media may be contrary to principles of communication and journalism. What do you think? #SMXChat

Q2) @profkrg Has social media changed academic curricula? How? #SMXChat

Follow up to Q2: Is ‘social media’ a valid career path? Or is it converging with traditional disciplines as a tool? #SMXChat

Q3) @profkrg What are students learning about social media in academic classes? #SMXChat

Q4)@profkrg Do students take social media seriously as an academic pursuit? Or is it just for ‘friends’? #SMXChat

Follow up to Q4: Is social media a bonafide disruptor in communication? Or will it converge with traditional media and be diluted? #SMXChat

Q5) @profkrg What should we be modeling and teaching students about their social and digital footprint and influence? #SMXChat

In Memory of Shannon Nicole Osborne December 17, 1981 – October 12, 2016


Shannon in 2014 or so.

This is my niece Shannon. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, she suffered a brain aneurysm. And on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 she passed away.

Like many families these days, I was never very close geographically to where my sister, Lori, and Shannon lived in Virginia. So I can’t say I really knew Shannon. But I can say that I know a lot about her.

Shannon and I shared a milestone date that I will always remember and that has bound us together in a funny way. She was born on the day I took my last exam at VA Tech, the last day of my undergraduate college career. THAT was quite a day!


Lori and Shannon, 1983 or so.

While Shannon was growing up, I was moving around the country. First living in Colorado, then Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Michigan again. Though I was far away, it wasn’t so far that I couldn’t keep up. She was, after all, my sister’s daughter. And my Mom’s treasured Grandbaby. So while I was not close, I was always in touch. We’d see each other once in a while, too, especially when I could travel quite easily from Pennsylvania for visits during that period.


Mark And Shannon around 1988 at Kill Devil Hills NC

Mark and Shannon around 1989 at Kill Devil Hills NC

I’ve never been much for formalities, so when Shannon called me ‘Uncle Mark’, I would reply, ‘Yes, Niece Shanny?’ It was a little game we played that gave us one special thing between us, I think. I last saw Shannon and Lori at Thanksgiving around 2007 or 2008. They came up to my friends’ house in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the day. It was special because both of my boys were there, too. Cousins! Of course at this time Shannon was quite a bit older than Mitchell and Bret. But it fulfilled a dream that I had always held close. That we could be together as a big happy family.

Shannon was one who, like many of us, chose to be an organ donor. My family’s loss and grief is tempered by the knowledge that many other families know joy and hope that is given them by Shannon’s thoughtful designation. Lori was given the burden of letting her baby go so that others may live. I am so proud of both of them for the courage they’ve shown us.

I write this tribute for myself mostly, I think. I won’t say I wish I had done things differently. We all live our lives the best way we know how. It reminds me, though, that life is precious and fleeting. We are here one moment and gone the next. So I am reminded that we must cherish those that we love. And tell them so.

While expressions of sympathy are welcome and appreciated, that is not why I am writing this. I want this few moments, as you read this, to allow you to reflect on who is important in your lives. And give you some time to think about how dear you hold them.

Racism pervades our culture, and social media is not immune.

All kinds of recent events remind us of the pervasiveness of bigotry, discrimination and racism that used to run just under the surface of ‘political correctness’ in our culture. And by our culture, I mean a majority of european and euro-centric societies that we collective call ‘the west.’ And this is not to say that racism don’t exist in the other hemisphere (we know that it does), it is only to frame our conversation here in the context with which we are familiar.

digital media

I had a phone conversation a few years ago with a friend in which he stated that ‘there is no such thing as institutional racism.’ It’s strange how that simple phrase has bothered me ever since. It is precisely this, a refusal to acknowledge what plainly exists, to deny it, that brings us to this week’s #SMXChat discussion.

I do not intend to indict social media as a purveyor of racism and discrimination. As a matter of fact, I cite this statement to you:

‘Don’t blame the technology.’ – @eksays

In fact many of us might be surprised to know what goes on in social media in the places where we fear to tread, or, like I, tread lightly. The political climate of the past year or so is a prime example of how it is suddenly okay to discredit common courtesy as political correctness. As if ‘telling it like it is’ is some profound truth that lay undiscovered until this U.S. Presidential election and the geo-political convulsions around the middle east and Africa.


So while we may see social media as a social and business opportunity, many others see it as a conduit for a ‘movement’ of people of a certain mind toward intolerance and hatred. Is that too strong a word?

Okay, it’s not Twitter or Facebook’s fault that people exercise their free speech right using these platforms. To suggest otherwise would be foolish. Social media, though, does offer us the quasi-anonymity that makes hostility toward each other easier. My anecdotal observation is that those of us who use our real selves to represent us on social media are less likely to display intolerant behavior. And likewise, I imagine, with social media platforms that strive to assure that accounts are true representations of people, not attempts to hide identity behind an avi for the purpose of saying their piece anonymously.

Perhaps the key to understanding how intolerant, bigoted or racist behavior has grown in social media is self-reflection. Understanding our conscious and unconscious biases and controlling their effect on our outward behavior rather than allowing them to control us. Because I suspect we all have biases, but not all of us act out based on their effect on our emotions.

Q1) What effect has ‘political correctness’ had on creating an environment where racism has emerged?

Q2) In reaching out to each other, we may discover we have more in common than what separates us. Agree or disagree?

Q3) What is it about social media that emboldens us to speak our minds on taboo topics such as racist speech?

Q4) How do social taboos like racism affect how biz and brands participate in social media?

Q5) How do inherent biases escalate to outward racism? Can we express our fears in productive ways?

Q6) How should we react to intolerant behaviour when we see it?

Q7) Where is the line between freedom of expression and social taboo, as in ‘hate speech’?

Q8) Does using ‘code words’ to communicate to like-thinking audiences make the racist speech acceptable?

Q9) Children see this behaviour. Is racism an endless perpetuating process?

Q10) What, if anything, can social platforms do to set limits on abusive behaviour?


Do businesses really care about customers?

Businesses are doing everything to make as much money as possible but, most of them aren’t doing enough to keep their customers happy. This is not what they promise in their marketing and PR messages, is it?!


Expectedly and rightly so, businesses focus on creating positive publicity; but what they have fundamentally got wrong is keeping the customer in mind. Although, every single business says that they put their customers at the heart of every decision they make. They don’t mean that, simply because they don’t care about people. The only thing that matters to them is money! Money buys them everything. At least, this is what they want to think. But they’re wrong; because their money can’t buy them credibility and authority. They might be running a big business and they might have a lot of money; but they don’t have personality and genuine intentions.


A business is successful when it’s trustworthy and not when it shows a healthy P&L account. Successful businesses do business with a purpose beyond making profit; making an impact and creating value. Successful businesses care about the sustainability of their brand because they know, they can’t buy loyalty. Loyalty is not to be bought but to be earned; and this is what many many businesses have yet to learn.

Let’s get toether for 174th SMXChat, on Tuesday 4th Oct at 3pm ET, to discuss in more detail. Here are five questions as our guide:

1) What is your definition for success in business?

2) What do successful businesses have in common?

3) What is the role of customer service in building a sustainable brand?

4) How can brands avoid crises?

5) Do you know any good, or bad, example/s of crisis management? Please explain.

Let’s debate!


Is this goodbye to Twitter?

“Twitter struggles to grow users.”

“Twitter’s share price is one-third of it’s early post-IPO days.”

“Twitter suffers and from an identity problem.”

“Twitter under-performs in comparison to analyst expectations.”

So is it time to say ‘Goodbye Twitter’?


The news came out making it official – yet early in the process – that Twitter’s Board of Directors was entertaining talk about a takeover.

It’s interesting that the news and information platform that seems to be the purest attempt yet to enable global virtual communities is the one that struggles with so-called success. It seems that a public company worth $15.4bn is making enough money.

After several starts, Twitter’s “monetisation” efforts all falling short of Wall Street expectations. So now, though, Twitter does take on some attraction as an acquisition target, with the notable suitors being Google, Disney and Salesforce.

Google’s interest in Twitter is fairly obvious:

  • They have long-standing collaborative efforts in place.
  • Google’s own efforts in the social media arena have been, well, disappointing?

The mention of Salesforce in the acquisition talks takes some deeper consideration. Known for its enterprise CRM/business process software, Salesforce may simply be after Twitter’s deep well of personal data and contextualized current events:

Some companies use Twitter effectively as a customer service platform, too, as mentioned in the New York Times DealBook article of 23rd September 2106. Learning from those customer interactions could provide key data-points to Salesforce analytics regarding customer behavior.

We know now that Salesforce bid aggressively for LinkedIn earlier this year, only to be beat out by Microsoft. LinkedIn seems an obvious fit. Twitter, not so much…

Other potential ‘buyers’ are being speculated, and one wonders, what if? Twitter did a buy-back and went private? Nah. That would take financing and underwriters that, as we already know, have little faith in the social network’s ability to monetize.

So the question remains: Is this goodbye to Twitter? We’ll see.

Q1) Do you think Twitter will remain a relevant platform post-acquisition?

Q2) What are the attributes of Twitter that make business sense in acquiring it?

Q3) Is it a good idea for tech start-ups to remain private companies? Why/not?

Q4) What do you think is the attraction of Twitter to a company like Salesforce?

Q5) Endless comparisons to Facebook keep Twitter on its heels. How might Twitter best distinguish itself?

Q6) Do you think Google can revitalise Twitter’s monetisation efforts, while keeping it relevant?



Artificial Intelligence in Marketing: Beyond the Bot

Don’t worry, marketers. A machine is not going to take your job – any time soon. But Artificial Intelligence (AI) could very likely make your job a lot easier today buy giving you tool and insights that empower you to make decisions.


Artificial Intelligence is a very broad term that describes many aspects of the field of cognitive technology. Steve Ardire is an adviser to startups involved in developing Artificial Intelligence applications, and his definition of the term Machine Intelligence seems best for the purpose of this discussion:

“I define it as Machine Intelligence= AI + Machine Learning.– Steve Ardire

Mr. Ardire’s Huffington Post interview gives excellent insight into how AI is changing traditional backward-looking, static data analysis into forward-reaching, real-time dynamic data insights that give marketers what they need to make decisions.

We’ve done a previous #SMXChat about the value of data science. Data scientists “don’t scale” though, as pointed out by Huffington Post. The vast majority of businesses can’t employ data scientists, much less the development expertise required to collect the data necessary for them to anaylze.

Enter “cognitive technology.” What’s that? Well, think of Siri, or Amazon Echo, or Spotify, Pandora, and IBM Watson.

‘Cognitive technology is there to extend and amplify human expertise, not replace it’:, says Rob High CTO of IBM Watson.

AI is already a part of our everyday lives. And on 18th September, Salesforce released Einstein for Marketing and Analytics Clouds.

Now I’m as skeptical of AI as the next person. You won’t be seeing me in an Uber autonomous vehicle anytime soon. But the reality of deep learning in machines is exciting to me in the context of marketing. It’s not machines learning to make decisions for us, it’s machines dealing with the completely unmanageable volume of data and giving humans tools to test theories, develop hypotheses, and gain predictive insights in order to be better at what we do.


Actually the distopian image of AI seems unlikely. As Rob High puts it:

Cognitive systems have already proven to have a remarkable ability to read and analyse data in a way that conclusions become immediately obvious. Nonetheless, doing so employs relatively narrow forms of cognitive reasoning as compared to the general reasoning abilities of humans…

The wide and deep cognitive ability of the human brain will never exist in machines, including our traits of empathy, reason and soul. Those attributes make us, well, human.

Q1: How crucial is data to marketing?

Q2: Do marketers have enough or too much data?

Q3: The golden ticket to customer engagement and loyalty is data. Agree or disagree?

Q4: Focusing on data distracts us from humanising our marketing efforts. What do you think?

Q5: As a marketer, I’m interested in AI:


In six months or less

In more than six months



For more research and reading, there are embedded links to the articles sourced for this post, but here’s the list for greater ease:

Cognitive technology is there to extend and amplify human expertise, not replace it’  The Drum News,20th June 2016.

Cognitive Business: Inside the Mind of an AI Startup Advisor Huffington Post interview: Steve Ardire, 19th September 2016

Welcome to the World of Intelligent Marketing and Analytics with Salesforce Einstein Salesforce Blog, 18th September 2016

Thought Leadership And Your Social Persona

We say Thought Leadership is an important aspect of our social personas, but the label of Thought Leader is earned, not assumed. Expertise, and especially authority, in an academic or professional area is the result of a demonstrated path of research, writing, and, in the context of social networking, vigorous public discussion of your ideas.

One’s complete digital footprint, which includes both content and conversation, defines a commitment to investigation and expansion of knowledge in one’s chosen area of expertise. As this week’s guest Ken Gordon reminds us: “if you want people to accept your intellectual authority, you’d better have some kind of long-form writing to support your tweets.”

Traditionally, Thought Leadership meant publication in respected sources like professional journals. Today, it includes self-published content in personal and professional blogs. Our Ehsan Khodarahmi calls this the rise in importance of the Citizen Journalist. This is all well and good as long as our Citizen Journalists adhere to the journalistic guidelines that keep them honest. Or, make sure that the publication of their own opinions are labeled up front as commentary.

Social networking is an optimal forum for establishing and promoting your expertise and authority as it affords opportunities in both creating original content and curating content from others’ research. Critical thought and critique of others’ publications is a crucial aspect of Thought Leadership.

Innovative ideas are considered a cornerstone of thought leadership. The status quo is not the path to the cutting edge. Do thought leaders have an obligation to push boundaries? To question everything? To stir up debate? We think so. Let’s discuss.

Q1) How do you define Thought Leadership? How is thought leadership demonstrated, esp. in the social forum?

Q2) We build our reputations through our expertise. Is it appropriate to point out your own Thought Leadership? When/how?

Q3) What are the risks/benefits in citing your own authority?

Q4) Is it appropriate to challenge others’ claims of authority? When/how?

Q5) Social networks are noisy. How do authoritative figures know they’re being heard?


This week’s #SMXChat guest is Ken Gordon, who always seems to be jamming at the corner of innovation and humanism. Always at the keyboard. Ken’s work at Continuum, a global design consultancy, is described thus:

“Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary audiences. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely,” says his bio for Continuum. “A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for TheAtlantic.com, Fast Company, the New York Times, and many other pubs.”