Social media for researchers and academics

April 21, 2012

Here’s my presentation for the AERA 2012 communication workshop i cohosted with friend and colleague Ron Dietel of UCLA CRESST. I suggest things to consider when planning to use social media to share research findings with non-specialist audiences and the media.


People first, business later

August 28, 2009

trust agents

Book Review
Trust Agents. Using the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust.
By Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2009. 271 p.

Because I read Trust Agents from the perspective of a public relations practitioner I especially appreciate its challenge to reconsider the meaning of the term ‘public relations.’ Chris Brogan and Julien Smith emphasize that PR means listening.

PR people, successful ones at least, learn to become part of a dialogue with a number of  communities, online and off. They volunteer to help whenever possible, and keep adding to the karma bank.

Chris Brogan is an author, a cofounder of PodCamp, and an unusually influential blogger on trends in social media. I have followed him for some  time. Julien Smith is an author, trend analyst, and consultant.

They address Trust Agents to marketers in particular.  As marketing professionals themselves, they critique many common practices of the profession and propose enlightened alternatives. They offer the book as a marketer’s guide to establishing credibility, and they take cues from How to Win Friends and Influence People, the Boy Scout Manual, a Guy’s Guide to Dating.

Like a single guy scanning attractive prospects at the local pub, a Trust Agent sees sales opportunities. But rather than incessantly promoting himself (or product) he takes his time and nurtures relationships. He patiently plants seeds. Through blog posts and comments, interactions online and face-to-face, and by going the extra mile for customers, the Trust Agent eventually reaps rewards as the seeds bloom.

Trust Agents embody six qualities, and each receives its own chapter:
They make their own game (enjoy experimentation, learn from trial and error)
Are ‘one of us’ (spend time with us, are genuine)
Use the Archimedes effect (leverage one success to create another)
Act as Agent Zero (bring networks together and build relationships long before business needs transacting)
Are human artists (good at ‘people skills,’ empower others)
Build an army (work with their networks to achieve monumental tasks)

Clever Trust Agents ‘make their own game’ by sizing up the system, the status quo. They identify its underlying assumptions and then decide which rules can be broken. They jump the gate; they hack the system;  they do something unique. At the same time, and this is crucial, Trust Agents do not take advantage of people. People are real, they have feelings, and deserve respect. Trust Agents watch their own ego. They promote others more often than they promote themselves.

While they’re eager to participate in networks and groups, Trust Agents are not phony. They don’t join a community they don’t care about. There is no worse crime than being fake.

You may find yourself skimming over some of the content. Several of the observations and recommendations are so obvious and so universally accepted that one wonders why they’re repeated here:  how to conduct oneself in social settings, how to use social networking sites to build social networks.

But for this reader there are some big takeaways: Keep experimenting. Keep trying new things. If you stumble, learn from the experience. It’s part of creating your own game.

Leveraging social media in politics

June 24, 2009

yes we did

Book Review
Yes We Did
An inside look at how social media built the Obama brand
By Rahaf Harfoush
New Riders/Voices that Matter. 2009. 199 p.

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The White House provided a live stream on Tuesday of President Barack Obama’s press conference on Facebook allowing users to give instant feedback on his remarks about Iran, health care other topics.

Hundreds of Facebook members from around the world posted their comments on a message board next to a video of the news conference while it was being shown live by the White House at

This happened yesterday. And it’s nothing new.

Among the things helped Obama win the national election last fall were the campaign’s savvy use of social media.

Author Rahaf Harfoush disclaims any intent to provide a how-to manual, but you can bet that many of Obama’s online communication strategies will be common in all political campaigns from this point forward.

Harfoush says the campaign’s success resulted from refinement—not invention. The team improved on social media tools to build a scalable organization with national reach. That allowed Democrats to compete in areas they had been unable to penetrate before.

This book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 presidential election and was written by an enthusiastic Democratic activist. So you may (or may not) need to set your politics aside.

The hub of the campaign’s communications was the web site, Early supporters adopted the platform to continue and extend the organizing they had already been doing. They connected with Obama supporters outside their personal networks and amplified their organizational efforts.

“Nothing is more convincing or more powerful than hearing a story from someone just like you,”  Harfoush says. “Keep it real and keep it local.” The MyBO web site allowed users to create events, exchange information, raise funds, and connect with voters nearby.  More than 3 million people created an account on MyBO. They uploaded contacts from their Outlook and Gmail address books and invited their extended social network to joining MyBO. They created special interest groups like Electricians for Obama,  Texas for Obama, and Women for Obama.  They used the site to organize more than 200,000 offline events.

Supporters from across the country could log in and write a note of encouragement to precinct captains and volunteers. Through a unique fundraising campaign, previous donors were asked to match someone’s first-time donation.

Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was notable for its online fund raising success, yet was unable to convert online enthusiasm into actual votes, Harfoush says. When the Obama camp built their online grassroots movement, they ensured that online organizing translated into offline action.

PRs must reshape the profession

April 23, 2009

public relations

Book review
Putting the Public Back in Public Relations:
How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR
Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge
Pearson Education, 2009. 314 pp.

The Problem: PR has slipped into complacency. Many PR practitioners still blast news releases and spam everyone with pitches. The same old tired marketing ethics and tactics.

The Opportunity: Social Media allows PRs to overhear relevant conversations. They can adopt a less-is-more, focused, and human approach to share information.

We PR people can embrace Social Media (after we’ve participated as a person and not as a marketer).

Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge wrote Putting the Public Back in Public Relations “to show you how to take advantage of the socialization of media, whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in the communications industry for years.”

Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, a PR and New Media agency. Breakenridge is president and director of communications at PFS Marketwyse.

We now have an opportunity to reshape a worn and beaten profession and transform it into something much bigger and more meaningful, they say. PR 2.0 can thrive in today’s ever-evolving and highly competitive online social climate. Although the technology is new, the principles driving the New PR movement are not foreign; they’re rooted in customer service, the social sciences, and community participation.

These conversations that we can listen to, and eventually participate in, take the form of videos, podcasts, bookmarks, blog posts and comments, tweets, pictures, reviews, meetups and events, and news aggregation. PR needs to follow the authoritative dialogue, wherever it takes place.

One of the most important tips of their book: To be a true member of the online community, you must humanize your intent and story, and learn how, where, and why to participate. By doing so, you abandon top-down engagement and embrace one-on-one interaction.

The way to succeed with New PR is to become a reliable resource of information and knowledge for those who either directly or indirectly affect your brand’s success.

Technology is important, and there will always be new tools. But even though the tools continually change, PR professionals will always start the conversation, facilitate that conversation and then, of course, monitor the conversation.

Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking platforms encourage communicators to condense our stories into a focused package that is specific to each community. This, the authors say, is how we put the PUBLIC back in Public Relations. This is how we start to reshape a 100-year-old-history that has coasted along without resistance until now.

Other tips:

Rather than creating profiles on every popular social platform and befriending everyone across the networks, first identify meaningful conversations, comprehend them, then feed that collective insight back into the organization for positive change.

Measuring the frequency and tone of conversations is the new frontier for PR and marketing, with many solutions launching even now.

Who we are today is not who we will be tomorrow. Embrace the changes outlined in this book and remain open to future learning and growth. Transcend traditional roles and exemplify the new hybrid of Public Relations professionals.

Links for 9 April

April 9, 2009

Tweecious Converts Twitter Links to Delicious Bookmarks

Reach customers who are innovators & early adopters to spark enthusiasm and carry our story to the late majority

Ideas for educators to adapt: 17 Ways To Use Twitter: A Guide for Beginners, Marketers and Business Owners

For folks new to Twitter here is a good general overview

The Hierarchy of Tweets,, by Kevin McGuire, in The Innovation Diaries

Mobile Surveys at Different Colleges Produce Mixed Signals:

Check out how @iateflonline is live tweeting the International IATEFL Conference

Web 2.0 for Higher Education LinkedIn Group:

Academics criticised for offering a masters degree covering Twitter and social networking defend themselves

Links for 31 March

March 31, 2009

RT @rgbroitman : Great list of social media search tools:

Brian  Solis: PR 2.0 isn’t Social Media, and Social Media isn’t Web 2.0. These movements complement each other

RT @techpr: Most excellent! (Twitter) Media Database – 473 names –

Education Week’s Debra Viadero has a new blog about education research

“Social media isn’t a PR tool; it’s not a marketing tool;  it’s a communications tool and a media making/distribution tool set” @chrisbrogan

Preparing to live blog a conference? HT to @chrisbrogan

Links for 18 march

March 18, 2009

American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Association of Black Sociologists (ABS) offer workshop for advanced grad students: education research from sociological perspective.

George Washington U – Cision study of how editors/journalists use PR assistance, media databases, and online resources (PDF, 34 p)

My Delicious boookmarks tagged Socialmedia

Bookmarks tagged Publicrelations

Joined the highered Twitter group on @buzzable