How much is a tweet worth to me? In 2014, I’ll find out

It’s hard to believe that 2013 has come and gone already. It seems like it was just yesterday I was writing a post like this one for 2013. But alas, another year has come and gone, so it’s time to set my sights on the future and decide on what I should better myself with.

First though, here’s a look at how I did in what I set out to do in 2013.

Get out of debt
OK, that one didn’t go quite as I hoped (getting married will do that to ya!), but my husband and I are on a good place to do that this year (and a little more if I stick to one of my 2014 resolutions below!).

Run 750K this year
OK, that didn’t happen either. BUT I did start cycling to and from work this summer, and cycled a total of 1522 kilometers in three months and a bit. Running-wise, I clocked in at 129.44 kilometres, and ran my first 10K. A personal achievement. So I say check here.

Read 100 books
OK, I know, it was ambitious. But that included Baby-Sitters Club books, so I had to have a high number. I actually read 64, and think I would have hit 100 if I had the energy (and time!) to keep up with my BSC Bloggin’ project (which I plan on getting back into, honest!).

So on to 2014! Here’s what I hope to accomplish this year

Spend less time online frivolously. That’s it.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I tweet an awful lot (and if you don’t follow me on Twitter, what are you waiting for?). I didn’t realize how much I tweeted until last week, when my husband asked if I noticed I had recently surpassed 48,000 tweets.

I did some math, and in the six years I’ve been on Twitter, that works out to an average of 600 tweets a month. Which a Twitter follower of mine worked out to mean I tweet one and a quarter tweets every waking hour. That’s a lotta tweets.

So on our way to the U.S. for New Year’s my husband wondered what a tweet was worth to me. How much would I be willing to pay to tweet?

I had already decided that one of my goals for 2014 was going to be to save money, so why not save money AND tweet a tad less.

I was still working out the “rules” for my resolution, when I came across an article in the New York Times entitled For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More. Since I’m always challenging myself to read a certain amount of books per year, this article interested me. But this interested me even more so:

It feels at times as if contemplation has given way to expectoration, with speed overtaking sense and nuance exiting the equation. And I’m talking about more than the rising count of reputations forfeited and careers dashed in 140 characters or fewer, of crackups like that of a prominent New York publicist who recently tweeted what she apparently meant to be a joke about not having to worry about AIDS in Africa because she’s white.

Bruni goes on to say that people who read more fiction tend to be more empathetic than their peers, and goes on to hypothesize it also likely contributes to a “coolheadedness, maybe even open-mindedness, definitely deliberation.

“It doesn’t just yank you outside of yourself, making you consider other viewpoints without allowing for the incessant interjection and exaltation of your own. It slackens the pace. Forces a pause.”

Sold.

So here is my big 2014 resolution: I will tweet less, and read more. I will put my money where my thumbs are. Each month, I will get an allowance of 140 tweets. Those are freebies. Anything over that, and a quarter goes into a jar.

As for reading? I vow to read 75 books this year. I will take at least an hour at the end of each day where it’s just for me. I won’t be online, or watching TV. I’ll be reading a book, or writing, or just sitting by myself with my own company.

As of the publication of this post, I’ve tweeted 46 tweets this month (and it’s only the fourth!), which means I have just under 100 more to go.

I’ll keep you all posted on how this “project” of mine goes. Each month, I’ll post how much money I put aside because I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself, and tweeted. I’ll also be chronicling the books I read over on my Goodreads page, if you’re interested in trading recommendations.

What are your resolutions for 2014?

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Is the social media editor dead?

That’s the question that made the rounds last week through the Twittersphere and Blogosphere.

On one side, we had Rob Fishman of Buzzfeed who declared the death of the social media editor. He wrote:

At many news organizations, “social media” has become something of a catch-all, a not especially descriptive term for highly differentiated functions. Editors think about social sharing as they’re assigning stories; writers use social channels to find sources and confirm leads; designers incorporate social media buttons and widgets into site redesigns; tech teams optimize pages for social discovery; and salespeople increasingly sell brands on their sizable social audiences. Each of these might require its own hire or department.

On the other, Mathew Ingram who wrote an insightful piece over at GigaOM:

So is the notion of a single person who spends their entire day on Twitter creating hashtags and calling themselves the social-media editor dead? Yes — or at least I hope so. The idea that being social or engaging with readers in new ways belongs to a specific subset of journalists reminds me of the bad old days when newspapers had a single “internet editor” or “web editor.”

The Huffington Post even had social media editors debate the case on Huffington Post Live last week.

Twitter-MosaikMy take? Definitely closer to Ingram’s post than Fishman.

A quick disclosure: I can only speak about the Canadian media to which I’ve been out of for almost a year now. Things may have changed slightly.

When I was social media editor at a major metropolitan daily, my job pretty much boiled down to posting things on Twitter and Facebook. I was, as Mandy Jenkins would say, a Twitter monkey. I wanted to be a community editor, rather than a social media editor, but that was met with wariness.

When I moved on to a small news startup, I had bigger ideas of what my role could be. I even asked that instead of being referred to as the site’s “Social Media Editor,” I could be “social media and community editor.”

I saw building and maintaining an active community central to being a social media editor. As far as I could see, there was an enormous opportunity for media brands to create community among their readers and commenters. Heck, I was even idealistic enough to think that by building the right kind of community, the level of discourse among a site’s commenters would rise to meet the community’s standards. Surely not overnight, but I believed it could happen.

Sure, Fishman is right. Anyone can post stuff on Twitter and Facebook. And more reporters are tweeting nowadays than they were even one year ago. But that doesn’t mean reporters know much more about how to use social mediums to curate information. I haven’t seen too many more Andy Carvin’s popping up lately.

I think we’re also at a point where media brands are realizing it’s less about broadcasting their information, and building community around their readers.

Perhaps being a social media editor is simply like being an editor for any other section. Sure, anyone can do it. But those who do it well should rise above the rest.

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Can you plagiarize a tweet?

Saturday night after the L.A. Kings won Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, this tweet was sent from their account:

It was retweeted it 50+ times and favourited 50+ times as well.

Then at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, this was tweeted by the Huffington Post Canada:

Coincidence? Or something else? I’m hesitant to call the second tweet plagiarism, though I don’t understand why it pretty much mimics the Kings’ tweet from six hours earlier — even if unintentional.

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A tale of two complaints: BMO vs. UPS

Social media has opened up a new way for consumers to complain about products, services and companies like nothing before it.

Some may think it’s passive agressive to simply send a tweet complaining about an issue, but I beg to differ. I think social media offers a great way for a customer to interact directly with a company when they have an issue with their product(s). It’s also a great way for customers to complain in a way that doesn’t waste their time (i.e. you’re not sitting on hold for hours waiting for someone in a call centre somewhere nowhere near the company you’re actually complaining about).

However, there are limits to this mode. Many companies don’t have too much of a social media presence. If they do it’s either: a) limitedly staffed (meaning turnaround time for your tweet could be hours or days); or b) just a broadcasting mechanism where no one actually listens to what people are saying to it. Another problem is the allusion (or perhaps the reality) that if you complain on social media, you get better treatment than someone who called or wrote a letter because they are not on social media or whatever.

However, there are times it works. In the last few weeks, I have tweeted negatively about two companies. One ended decently, the other not so. Here’s what occurred.

Bank of Montreal

I am a BMO customer. A few weeks ago when I was depositing my pay cheque, I needed to see a personal banker to make a transfer into my Tax-Free Savings Account (customer service representatives — CSRs or tellers — cannot perform this transaction). The CSR who was serving me found a personal banker who was free. He told me she would see me, and we continued to finish up depositing my cheque.

I overheard the customer next to me ask his CSR to see the same personal banker I was to see. When he was asked if he had an appointment, he admitted he was just a personal friend and wanted to say hi. The CSR brought him to the personal banker. When I arrived to her office to do my banking transactions, the CSR and I waited outside her office for five minutes before she came out and said she couldn’t see me after all — she had forgotten about the appointment she had with the gentleman sitting inside her office.

Liar! I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. She asked if I was willing to wait until someone else could see me (all the other personal bankers were with other actual customers), I said no. I had to get back to work.

As I walked out of the bank, my thumbs were already furiously typing away on my phone:

I explained in about 12 DMs what had occurred. The person on the other end of the BMO account apologized and said someone would be in touch. Later that afternoon, I got a call from corporate apologizing and offering to do my banking transaction for me.

Not really what I was expecting, but whatever.

The following week, I got a thank you card in the mail from the CSR who served me. I got mad all over again and decided to call the branch manager — which is something I realize I should have done sooner.

I left a voicemail and the assistant branch manager actually called me back. She was very apologetic and said she, and the branch manager knew about the incident already. She wanted to know what she could do for me to make things right. Her phone call was enough.

Because of her great response, I also tweeted a follow up to my followers to let them know things had been righted:

UPS

I was expecting a couple of packages — containing goods worth over $500 — to be delivered to my home. As of yesterday at 2 p.m., UPS’s website said it was set to be delivered by end of day Thursday. Accordingly, I made plans to work from home in order to receive the boxes.

So colour me surprised when my boyfriend and I arrived home from work to find two large boxes right in the middle of our front lawn in plain site, with the logo from the company I had ordered from plastered all over the boxes.

Maybe, colour me angry is a better phrase. We lugged the packages in the house and wondered what would have happened if someone had walked away with them. So again, I took to Twitter.

This morning, UPS responded to my tweet, promising a follow up.

Sure, enough I got a phone call from the local UPS outlet shortly after and if the BMO assistant manager illustrated what good customer service was, the person from UPS did not.

Basically, she told me it was the driver’s discretion to leave the packages. When I enquired if it was OK they were on my lawn for the entire neighbourhood to see (and possibly take), she again said it was “driver discretion.” When I asked what would have happened if someone had stolen the boxes from my land, she said I would have had to file a lost package claim and they’d “investigate it.” When I asked her why the packages arrived so soon when I was expecting, and making arrangements, for a Thursday delivery, she again told me the driver was within his right to leave them since I wasn’t home and that if I was so concerned “I should have required a signature.”

Well, when I ordered my items, I was never given that option from the shipper. Nor have I ever known a courier company to simply leave a package without express written consent to do so from me. Usually after a first attempt, you get a paper on the door where you can check a box telling them to leave it. None of this occurred.

I again tweeted my frustration and the wonderful woman behind the account apologized again and said she would again follow up with the local team.

Seems like UPS in Toronto could learn a little bit about customer service from their corporate Twitter account and the assistant bank manager at the Liberty Village Bank of Montreal.

What are your customer service horror stories? How were they solved? Have you blacklisted any companies?

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Five resolutions for journalists in 2012

At the start of last year, I wrote a piece for the Toronto Star’s intern blog with some resolutions for journalists.

The resolutions were:

  • Journalists should be wary of what they tweet;
  • One should always spell check before clicking “publish;”
  • One should not just social media source, but also talk to people in the “real” world;
  • One should have a life outside of work;
  • Journalists should join the conversation, not just observe.

I thought it would be fun to update the list with resolutions for 2012. I took to social media asking for suggestions, so here they are my five resolutions for journalists in 2012.

1. I will double check my facts before clicking publish

Hey, errors happen it’s a fact of life. Sometimes they’re funny, often times they’re not. As the media world evolves into a continuous deadline, it’s important now more than ever to make sure the information we are posting — in news stories, on Twitter or in live blogs — is as accurate as it can be. Take the time to fact check and due diligence. You owe it to yourself — and your readers.

2. I will embrace new technology

It would be great to say new technology is done, but that’s likely very far from the truth. New social media networks, like Path, continue to crop up while old social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, continue to make changes to stay current and maintain their users.

It’s important not to get too comfortable with the tools we use or to get too stuck in our ways. If the last 10 years has taught us anything it’s that new technologies and tools are always cropping up. If we get too stuck in our ways, then we’ll run the risk of going the way of newspapers or the music industry and dying a slow death.

3. I will not sit at my desk for my entire shift

This resolution comes from Kate Schwass-Bueckert, a wire editor with QMI Agency in Toronto. She writes:

This past year, I finally recognized my eyesight was not what it used to be. I had to get glasses. And I sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day — getting up and stretching while I’m heating up my lunch or just taking a quick walk to get a coffee is going to be new goals — it will hopefully keep me healthier and keep my butt from becoming too large and flat!

4. Putting more honesty into your work

Also the result of crowdsourcing, this resolution comes from Alex Fox, who is not a journalist, but works in the communications industry. She writes:

As I’m moving forward as a communications person in the international development industry, I’m much more conscious of the factors that influence the messages we see depicting poverty and injustice.

The most common image you’ll see of Africa and development is one of poverty and despair (think World Vision and Children’s Christian Fund), and in contrast to this, a lot of organizations are shifting to more positive imagery (Like EWB and Oxfam).

After spending a summer in Ghana, I’ve really learned that neither of these one-snapshot representations are truthful, as the reality is much more complex, lively and ever-changing.

I’m currently working on a campaign called ‘The Complexity Project” that promotes Africa and development in a way that embraces the complexity of the situation and problems in all its material — rather than focusing on one representation or scenario.

When working on all the branding, written content and material, I keep in check by asking myself “Is this truthful? Is this message guided by what the public wants to see, or will get them more engaged? Does this representation of (for example) my friend Emmanuel from Northern Ghana show him and his reality objectively and truthfully?”

I think this is transferrable to all communications and journalistic endeavours: Is the message or story that is being communicated show all sides and complexities of the situation? Is it geared toward a specific audience? Is it tilted a certain way for an influential audience (for example advertisers in a newspaper)? I truly appreciate news stories that show all perspectives and realities of situations and stories, and I am trying to do so in my work representing Africa, development and injustice in the world moving forward, in 2012 and longer.

5. Explore the open source world

Another resolution from Schwass-Bueckert:

 I know there’s a whole world of information out there, willingly being shared, and I am not as knowledgeable as I should be about it. I want to learn more about it, and how I can tap into it. I’m not even sure if calling it “open source websites” is the right name for it, but I definitely want to: a) figure out what to call it; and b) figure out how to use it in 2012.

What are your journalism resolutions for 2012? Please share them in the comments.

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