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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Navigating Children through Social Networking

In Facebook, Parenting, Social Media, Twitter on June 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I get a lot of questions from parents about whether it’s wise to allow children to have a social networking account.  I completely understand their concern.  We constantly see stories in the news about bullying, privacy flaws, pedophiles, and stalkers associated with social media.  However, social networking is here to stay. It’s an inherent part of the millennial generation’s culture and communication. According to Pew Research, 73% of American teens now use social networking sites (up from 55% in 2006).

We teach children from a very young age social etiquette: say “please”, “thank you”; as well as societal safety: “don’t talk to strangers”, “look both ways before crossing the street.”  For the same reason, we also need to teach children how to use social media responsibly and safely.  However, parents shouldn’t just have a brief discussion with children about the dangers in social networking, let them set up an account, and walk away.  I liken it to teaching a child how to drive a car.  You wouldn’t let your child drive your car on the highway without supervision after a short talk about driving.   There’s a reason young drivers need permits and a probationary period of supervision behind the wheel before they get the freedom of a driver’s license.  There are many times while driving that the student needs to use judgment to figure out how to avoid danger, and it isn’t always black and white.

The same can be said of social networking. Many parents believe viewing a child’s social media account as a violation of privacy.  In a previous post, Social Media Privacy is an Oxymoron, I discussed the fact that any information posted online has the potential to become public.   The “information superhighway” is fast, filled with potholes, and can be dangerous if used negligently.   We need to teach children how to use social networking responsibly.  Consider it Driver’s Ed for Social Media.  Here are three steps to teaching your child how to navigate social networking.

Instruction. The first thing to teach a child about social media is that anything posted online may become public. Talk to your children about the dangers of sharing too much information and to use discretion when posting pictures or writing anything.  Discuss “Personal Brand” (an often used term in social media referring to how someone is perceived by others).  Parents, college admissions directors, human resource managers, school administrators, and police all monitor social networking accounts.  Let children know that anything they write, whether a “private message”, inbox, chat or direct message, can be printed or copied, pasted and shared with others. If they wouldn’t say it in front of an auditorium full of their classmates, teachers or parents, they shouldn’t write it.  Decide which type of social network would be best for your child.  This largely depends upon what is popular among their personal social circle and the child’s age.

The Learner’s Permit: Create your child’s account with him.  Together, walk through the privacy policy and settings.  The best way to supervise and teach your child how to appropriately use social networking will largely depend upon the child’s age and maturity.  Obviously, younger users will need more guidance and supervision.  Depending on you and your child’s comfort level, there are two effective ways to monitor social networking use during this period.  The first is to explain to him that for a while, you need to always have the password, and may log on at any time to check his page.  The second is to agree to let the child set his own password, but he will need to open  and show it to you at any time.  Most children will be so happy to have an account, they will readily agree to your terms.  If they balk at this, explain that if they are posting anything you shouldn’t see, then it shouldn’t be shared on an online social networking site.  (A third alternative many parents use is to connect with or “friend” the child’s account through their own social account.  In my opinion, this is the least effective for new users as privacy settings can allow information to be filtered, which defeats the purpose as a learning tool).

Children and teens will make mistakes. They will post something you would consider inappropriate.  They will “friend” someone they don’t know.  They will share “TMI” (“too much information” for you SMS acronym-challenged folks).  This is all part of the learning process and has less potential to escalate into something embarrassing or dangerous if first experienced under a parent’s guidance.  Over time, you will notice your child using more discretion and will feel comfortable with less monitoring.  At that point, let your child change the password and/or lessen the frequency of periodic checks.

One warning:  As parents, it is often easy to get too involved out of concern.  Parents need to respect a child’s relationships. We have all seen “helicopter parents”: the parents who hover and direct their child’s social circle, interfere with athletics, academics, etc.  Don’t abuse this opportunity. Never post on your child’s site and, unless a dangerous situation arises, don’t get involved with your child’s friends’ accounts.  Use information you may see about friends as learning tools for discussion with your child.    This shouldn’t be used as a way to “spy” on your child and his/her friends, but to teach your child how to make good choices and use social media responsibly. If you see something inappropriate, use it as an opportunity to discuss it with your child.  Very often children will take it upon themselves to talk to a friend about private issues of concern.

Getting A License: You can’t and shouldn’t monitor a child’s social networking site forever.  When this freedom should come is different for everyone.  At some point you will feel comfortable that your child understands and is using social networking safely and responsibly.  I have seen many instances when the child voluntarily starts connecting with parents and other relatives within the social network. Many young adults have said that they use social networks to stay in touch with family while at college.  And many teens find it a great way to “self-monitor” (no one wants Grandma to read something embarrassing!).

This is a technology-driven generation and social media is a critical part of our personal and business culture.  Eventually, your child will engage in it with or without your guidance and/or permission.   Teaching children how to use it effectively and responsibly early on is essential.

Are You A Social Media Snake Oil Salesman?

In Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, Twitter on May 3, 2010 at 3:44 am

As a child I used to watch old Western movies on TV with my dad.  I didn’t particularly like movies about cowboys and gunfights, but I enjoyed spending time with my dad, so I watched a lot of them.  In many of the Westerns, there would be a slick traveling salesman, peddling a fake elixir (snake oil) purported to cure all ailments.  The exaggerated character of the “snake oil salesman” was marked by boisterous, obnoxious marketing hype, typically bogus.

Now, as an adult, whenever I see a smooth-talking, insincere person trying to sell something, the image of a snake oil salesman pops into my head.  I see it every day: on infomercials, in business, at the mall, and in social media.  Sometimes the product is great, but the salesperson is too pushy or just comes across as disingenuous.  And therein lies the pitfall for many people and businesses using social media.   Whether you’re a large corporation, small business, or individual trying to drive traffic to a blog, how others perceive you can make or break your brand’s success.  Are you coming across as a social media “snake oil salesman”?  Here are 5 warning signs you may be harming your brand:

1.   You send out a DM to every new follower with a link to your site. Chances are most people will ignore your DM, and you run the risk of being blocked and reported as spam. Would you ask someone you just met face-to-face to do you a favor?  The approach appears pushy and your motives seem insincere.  Instead, start communicating with your followers and build a relationship of mutual respect and trust.  I have many friends in social media who know that I will always RT a new blog post or support them in any way I can.  I welcome their requests, but this came over time, after we had connected and gotten to know each other.

2.   All of your posts are links to your site. This comes across as desperate and, again, spammy.  Social media is not traditional advertising.  If you only want to talk about yourself, buy an ad.  The “social” in social media implies engagement.  Share insightful content with your followers, comment on or retweet their posts, and ask questions.  As people get to know you, they will be more apt to go to your blog or website.

3.  You post random shout outs in stream asking people to follow you, check out a site or RT a post. I see this a lot with newbies on Twitter who think it’s a fast way to drive traffic to a website or accumulate followers.  It’s highly ineffective and most people will ignore you.  It’s the equivalent of the peddler on the street corner shouting at passerbys.  Social media marketing takes time, and you need to put in the effort to establish a social network and loyal following.  If you aren’t willing to do that or don’t have the time, maybe you should reconsider whether social media is the best marketing medium for you.

4.   You use exaggerated claims. These are all over social media and they give the appearance of lack of confidence in the true merits of the products.  “Become the next Donald Trump”; “Earn $3,000 in one week”; “Get 1,000 followers a day”.  This is one of the quickest ways to destroy your reputation/ brand and become labeled a “snake-oil salesman”.   If you want to build trust, be honest.  Tip: If you only have 500 followers on Twitter, don’t post  “I got 2,000 followers in one week using *XYZ* site.”  Just sayin’.

5.   You ignore complaints. By ignoring negative comments on your blog or about your product, you fuel negativity rather than mitigate it.  In the Westerns, whenever someone shouted out “Charlatan!”, the snake oil salesman’s accomplice would come along and knock them out with the butt of his gun (all in front of a miraculously oblivious crowd), while the salesman continued to shout the merits of his product as though nothing happened.  In social media, no one is there to stifle your critics (and your audience will not be as oblivious to your lack of response).  Only you can quell negativity, by addressing complaints and detractors with professionalism and sincerity.  This exhibits confidence in your product and respect for your customers/followers.

Whether you are new to social media or wondering why you haven’t been able to drive traffic to your site, take a moment to reflect on your approach and how you may be perceived.  You can have the best product or the most insightful blog, but if you appear too slick or insincere, you will alienate followers.

Picture courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/ccohen/4064733771

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