How to Avoid #Hashtag Hazards

The hashtag, when used correctly, can reach a broader group of people than those who follow you on Twitter or connect with you on LinkedIn. It facilitates branding and allows companies to create catchy slogans motivating audiences to remember and to respond.

However, the hashtag is more complicated than just throwing a few words together. Here are a few basic tips to consider when using the #.

At READY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA, we coach:

#KnowYourMarket

Charmin hashtag #TweetFromTheSeat

#TweetFromTheSeat, Charmin’s irreverent hashtag is often talked about in marketing circles for one very good reason. It successfully makes something as unglamorous as toilet paper fun, approachable, and appealing to young people. Not an easy feat.

Here’s how it works. The company’s official Twitter account posts funny quips with the hashtag, and encourages users to do the same. Research shows that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media in the bathroom, giving them a reason to engage with an otherwise strictly utilitarian product.

It’s working too – how else would you explain a toilet paper brand having over 68 thousand followers on Twitter?

#RememberThatCapitalizationMatters

A hash-tagged phrase that lacks capital letters allows the reader to misinterpret your meaning,

#Nowthatcherisdead was mistakenly interpreted by many who began to eulogize Cher.

#ImagineTheResponses

Social media, particularly Twitter, is a platform for users to speak their minds. Before you choose your hashtag, think about the positive and negative responses that will be sparked. If a hashtag is too broad or controversial, your message may be mocked.

#QantasLuxury. Not widely known for its great customer service or luxuriousness, Aussie airline Qantas’ social media team made a big mistake. They asked customers to enter a competition by sharing their experiences just one day after the airline grounded their fleet and locked out staff for 48 hours over a union dispute about pay. Disgruntled staff and customers took to Twitter in full irony mode!

#KeepItRelevant

Every brand, team, or company has a mission. Whether it is to sell products, win games, or recruit followers. It’s important to align the # with your product or service. Even though something may be a good cause, it may not directly apply to your purpose or product.

#RaceTogether. Starbucks launched this hashtag in an effort to raise awareness for the country’s racial divide. They printed the new hashtag on every cup of joe. Unfortunately, this # message did not apply to coffee. And while the brand’s intentions were clearly for justice, they missed the mark in getting involved.

Always remember to #Wisely.

Facebook’s Fireside Chat

It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility.

Returning from parental leave, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the 21st Century version of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chat.” Mr. Zuckerberg used his social media platform to announce that his company may have inadvertently participated in Russia’s tampering of the 2016 presidential election.

Photo Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica

After hiring numerous investigators, Facebook discovered approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June 2015 to May 2017 associated with some 3,000 smear ads believed to be related to Russian ads during the election period.

In response to the findings, CNBC reports Mr. Zuckerberg’s stance as “bringing Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency.” The social media site will no longer allow their users to be fooled by ad companies and those working with them.

By strategically using his social media empire, Mr. Zuckerberg was able to inform the public on the developments and how the Facebook plans to combat them.

Initially, Mr. Zuckerberg was blind sided as well, pushing back on claims that viral fake news stories could have any sway on the election, calling the idea “crazy” and saying that critics lacked “empathy” for President Donald Trump’s supporters.

But pressure on Facebook has grown over time.

Some congressional investigators saw Russian activity on Facebook as key to understanding the extent of Moscow’s influence on the election. Before Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook video, Federal Election Commission member Ellen Weintraub called for an overhaul of disclaimer rules around political advertisements on the internet.

Followup interviews with Elliot Schrage, VP of Policy and Communications revealed that the vast majority of Facebook’s over 5 million advertisers use self-service tools. “This allows individuals or businesses to create a Facebook Page, attach a credit card or some other payment method and run ads promoting their posts.”

“We are committed to rising to the occasion, Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference.

Now, that’s a great way to use great power, responsibly.

Three Strikes … You’re Out

In mid September, New York TIMES reporter Kenneth Vogel sat down at a Washington D.C. restaurant, BLT Steak, expecting a routine lunch meeting. However, a media mistake of not so rare proportions was about to fall in his lap.

Ty Cobb. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Post

Over a salad of tuna nicoise and iced tea, he overheard a public conversation between Ty Cobb, who is overseeing the White House response to the Russian probe and John Dowd, President Trump’s lead personal lawyer for the Russian investigation.

They thought their conversation was private because they were focused on each other, not the crowded restaurant around them. Mr. Cobb further forgot that his distinctive appearance shouted to everyone who he is, which of course is his purpose, but not this time. He and Mr. Dowd proceeded to discuss highly sensitive subjects regarding the investigation. In addition, the two blatantly expressed tensions within the legal team and production of documents. According to Reporter Vogel, they also discussed presidential privilege and their colleagues. Mr. Cobb suggested that White House counsel Don McGahn “has a couple documents locked in a safe” and one colleague who is not on the president’s good side. But, he added, “I’m trying to get the president not pick a fight with her.”

Their actions raise the question: how can these esteemed men who have become known in the realm of politics display such hubris and lack such basic common sense?

Interestingly, this is not the first media mistake for Mr. Cobb. As the Washington Post presents it, Mr. Cobb’s errors rival those of his distant relative, “the original Ty Cobb,” former major league baseball player who still has the title for the highest career batting average. But less well known, he also holds the record for most career errors by an American League outfielder.

Apparently, errors are common for the Cobbs. Luckily for America, the errors made on the baseball field don’t pose threats to national security.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

For generations, parents have warned their children not to play with matches.

Now, 20-year-old YouTube rapper and social media mega “star” Jake Paul and his band of boys demonstrate life-threatening, dangerous pyrotechnic stunts daily to their 10.5 million followers.

“He’s establishing himself in the eyes of grown-up America as an embodiment of everything that is wonderful and horrible about Generation Z,” wrote the New York Times.

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

Vlogger (video blogger) Jake Paul epitomizes his market of Gen Z-ers, those born in the Bush and Obama years. They are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Many don’t remember a time before social media.

A high school dropout, Mr. Paul leveraged his millions of social media followers, along with a well-honed skills for rubber-faced comedy and ambulance-worthy stunts. “We were working with brands and advertisers. I was, like, 17 years old, making more money than my parents!”

STYLE

These tweens and teens of today are primed to become the dominant style influencers of tomorrow. Flush with billions in spending power, they promise untold riches to marketers who can find the master key to their psyche. Because, of course, they grew up shopping online.

“No wonder the race to define, and market to, this demographic juggernaut is on. They are the next big retail disrupter,” explained Women’s Wear Daily. And besides wealth, Generation Z also commands attention through its sheer size.

Young people today feel much more emboldened to express their own sense of style compared to previous generations. But there is also a robust global industry of youth-oriented apparel brands, along with fashion magazines and style blogs dedicated to influencing fashion. The time-honored premise that cooler-than-thou clothes and shoes are, as always, up there with food, water or oxygen as staples for many teenagers.

REACH

To reach Gen Z, it is recommended that you 1) Depict them as diverse (ethnically, sexually, fashionably) 2) Task in images: emojis, symbols, pictures and video 3) Communicate more frequently in shorter bursts of “snackable” content 4) Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. 5) Collaborate with them … and help them collaborate with others.

“Generation Z tends to be the product of Generation X, a relatively small, jaded generation. They came of age in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam funk of the 1970s, when horizons seemed limited. Those former latchkey kids, who grew up on Nirvana records and slasher movies, have tried to give their children the safe, secure childhood that they never had.

“You see the mommy blogs by Generation X-ers, and safety is a huge concern: the stainless-steel sippy cups that are BPA-free, the side-impact baby carriages, the home preparation of baby food,” continued Mr. Howe, who runs Saeculum Research, a Virginia-based social trends consultancy.

Part of that obsession with safety is likely due to the hard times that both Generation Z and their parents experienced growing up. Their parents may have been safety-firsts, but the Z generation is predisposed to making vlogs of themselves doing cartwheels over their cats and fire-swallowing.

BORN ENTREPRENEURS

The New York ad agency, Sparks & Honey observed also that “entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Generation Z.”

“Kids are witnessing start-up companies make it big instantly via social media,” said Andrew Schoonover, a 15-year-old in Olathe, Kansas. “We do not want to work at a local fast-food joint for a summer job. We want to make our own business because we see the lucky few who made it big.”

Which leads to a final point about this new generation’s similarities to the Silent or Greatest Generation (who also grew up with an economic catastrophe and foreign aggression on American soil) As Mr. Howe points out,” it was not just the most career-focused generation in history. It was also …  the richest.”

“My personal goal,” Jake Paul offers, “is to be a billionaire.”

The New York Times posed these questions about Jake Paul. Is he genius or a jerk? A punk or a prophet? In a media landscape where clicks are money, does it even matter?

 

In the Public Eye

It’s often said, the camera doesn’t lie. Nor or does it blink. The same can be said of social media.

Recently Mrs. Louise Linton Mnuchin, the new since-June wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin documented her posh summer lifestyle in Italy and France publicly on Instagram, complete with a parade of designer tags…”#TomFord,” “#Valenrinorockstudheels,” and #HermesScarf.” However, a brand spokesperson said these were not free products or compensation, The New York Times reported, for her “label-loving shoutout.”

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

But the public arrogance begged for a defacing of her Wikipedia page, which can be edited by anyone. Following this criticism, Mrs. Mnuchin’s Instagram post featured herself as she and her husband and Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell disembarked from a government jet.

Commenting on the public posting, a 45-year-old mother of 3 from Oregon criticized her photo op, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Grammatical error

Mrs. Mnuchin fired back defensively without the benefit of a grammar check….

“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” she wrote.

“I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.”

And finally, “You’re adorably out of touch.”

Touché.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Commanded former 4-star Marine Corps general and new White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly in the immediate firing of Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. With brash, trash-talking vulgarities in a phone interview with The New Yorker Magazine, the Mooch, as Mr. Scaramucci likes to call himself, accused the White House staff of leaks to the press and threatened to fire the entire communications staff.

Photo Courtesy of www.CNN.com

While Mr. Kelly’s concerns were reportedly the decisive factors in Mr. Scaramucci’s departure, it was reported by Mike Allen, the co-founder of the Web site Axios that, “initially, we’re told, the President loved the Mooch quotes.” But Mr. Trump’s family helped him quickly sour on his newly-appointed bombastic, Long Island-bred former hedge fund manager.

Recruited as Mr. Trump’s tough-talking alter ego to ferociously fight for the President in a way others had not, Mr. Scaramucci went too far even in the eyes of a President who delights in pushing the boundaries of political and social decorum, the New York Times noted.

Sporting a blinding ambition that triggered his current divorce proceedings, the 52-year-old Wall Street financier had been “hell-bent” on claiming his position at the White House after he was originally pegged for a senior role and, in preparation, sold his Sky Bridge Capital investment firm.

Blocked by Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s then Chief of Staff whom Mr. Scaramucci characterized in the tirade as a #$%$)*&6 “paranoid schizophrenic,” and Stephen K. Bannon, the Chief White House Strategist before an aggressive campaign, Mr. Scaramucci was made the Director of Communications in mid July, triggering then Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s resignation.

The New Yorker weighed in with: “Originally endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Mr. Scaramucci seems to have been installed to carry out Donald Trump’s management style in his personal language of obscenity and contempt to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests.”

In addition, Mr. Scaramucci seemed to be, at least for the moment, overshadowing the President — a fact that Breitbart News, which Mr. Bannon once directed, pointed out in a headline describing Mr. Trump as second fiddle to his Communications Director.

The moral:

Mr. Scaramucci has not learned from his idol and role model, President Trump, that to threaten the media, in this case to reveal a source, and abuse his power, only heightens the scrutiny and enhances the focus of intrepid journalists.

The morning after his midnight confession, Mr. Scaramucci tweeted: “I made a mistake in ‘trusting’ a reporter. It won’t happen again.” General Kelly made certain that it won’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Love All

No love was lost between John McEnroe and Serena Williams in their recent point, set, match over who is the greatest tennis player in the world today.

Advantage Williams.

Mr. McEnroe committed the most obvious of line faults. Not being Ready with an answer to an admittedly, backhanded question was an unforced error. An interview is not a conversation, but a chance to make points!

Photo Courtesy of: Saeed Khan/AFP and Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

For him to attempt a drop shot with less than a Ready answer was surprising. When there is no one officiating a match of wits, celebrity players must coach themselves with likely questions and practice Ready answers ahead of the interview.

Millions of fans are entertained watching both men’s and women’s tours which are nonetheless distinct and not meant to be pitted against each other. Parity in pay, but different leagues, a different game, different bodies.

Not squelching the controversy either, Ms. Williams could only defend herself via Twitter because she was posing naked and very pregnant for another of photographer Annie Liebovitz’s cover shots on Vanity Fair, which underscored gender differences in the most profound way.

Even for a player who’s been given great latitude over the years for his ready-fire-aim approach, tennis pro–turned broadcaster, John McEnroe should by now know the power of words; and the problems that arise when they are used in error and without strategy.

In the follow-up question, Mr. McEnroe was asked what he wanted next. His response: “I need to find that inner peace, but that’s difficult for me.”

“No bullshit,” to quote the phrase strung across the back cover of his memoir sequel, But Seriously which he is currently promoting.

Ms. Williams is a winner of 23 grand slam singles tournaments, plus 14 doubles titles with her sister Venus and has won an estimated $84 million on the court.

Two months pregnant, Ms Williams won the Australian Open and did not lose a set.

 

Now or Forever

“Speak now, or forever hold your peace,” ministers have cautioned wedding guests, since forever. But, according to BRIDES Magazine, there was no peace for the one in five new husbands whose brides were mortified by the toasts their Best Men gave.

In her latest nonfiction, Off the Cuff/ What to Say at a Moment’s Notice, communication skills coach, Anne Ready admonishes,“when in doubt, leave it out.” And, be sure to:

  • Personalize your toast, appropriately.
  • Be humorous, yet respectful.
  • Begin by outlining the key points you want to express, then expand but…
  • Follow the KISS principle “Keep It Short, Sweetheart.”
  • And finally, ask yourself what unique perspective you bring to the reception like these:

possible one-liners for toasting:

If it wasn’t for marriage, men would spend our whole lives thinking we had no faults at all.

-Married best man

I share Goethe’s wisdom with you, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

-Grandmother of the groom

If you steal, may you steal one another’s hearts. If you fight, may you fight for one another.

-Maid of Honor

All woman should know how to take care of children. Most of them will have a husband someday.

   -Divorced aunt

The entire sum of existence is the magic of being needed by just one other person.

-Single best man

May you never forget what is worth remembering and never remember what is best forgotten.

-Mother of the bride

Now will you all drink a toast with me…that their love guides them through life and echoes in eternity.

-Father of the bride

 

 

 

 

Pomp and Circumstance

Trending now is Graduation Speech Bingo for about-to-be graduates to play during the long, hot hours sitting in commencement caps and gowns with giddy parents watching their every move. The game is to see how many trite phrases are used: find your passion, it starts with us, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Here are some examples and exceptions:

 

Photo Courtesy of: Entrepreneur.com

Will Ferrell, University of Southern California  2017

Comedian Will Ferrell humorously recounted his early failures in a light-hearted commencement speech at University of Southern California. Providing graduates with a sense of comfort and reassurance, he ended with a butchered imitation of the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love you.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: AJC.com

Hillary Clinton, Wellesly College 2017

Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton explained that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that’s not a valid reason to give up on your dreams. Secretary Clinton was on the same stage 48 years earlier as a student speaker conveying the same message; to stand up and fight for what you believe.

 

Photo Courtesy of: CNBC.com

Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard University 2017

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and Harvard University dropout, poked fun at himself with…“If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: GettyImages.com

President Donald Trump, Liberty University 2017

President Donald Trump lashed out at the media during the US Coast Guard Academy commencement with “no politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly.” And again at Liberty Christian University, he reflected on his own persistence with “never ever give up”…without crediting Winston Churchill’s six words of success “never never never never give up.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: Notey.com

Dame Helen Mirren, Tulane University 2017

Dame Helen Mirren related to her college audience with “like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever.”

 

 

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.