Custom Digital Marketing, Social & Interactive Media Consulting

Social Media RE: Boston Marathon Bombings

It was merely a month ago that tragedy struck the city of Boston when two explosive devices detonated among the crowd gathered at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, injuring hundreds and killing three - with a fourth life taken during the ensuing manhunt for the two suspects.

One thing of note is the consistent presence of social media during and after the bombings. Whether it was the media digging into the online profiles of the suspects (Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) or ordinary citizens turned photojournalists, documenting and sharing what they saw, what they heard, what they experienced.

Below is a collection of links addressing the presence of social media in terms of the Boston bombings, providing some analysis - some good, some bad and some ugly:


A pair from the UK:


and one last one:



What's your take? Do you agree with those in the 'Reddit spiraled out of control' camp? What about the positives, like Google's People Finder and the Boston PD Twitter feed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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106 & hack'd

Back in mid-February 2013 (i know, try to remember back that far), on the heels of the (very public) hackings of the Burger King and Jeep Twitter feeds, Viacom siblings MTV and BET appeared to be the next corporate Twitter profile victims.
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To recap:

Burger King's Twitter feed touted the sale of the fast food chain to rival McDonald's, complete with a McDonald's avatar and header image. While under the control of the hackers, BK's feed included obscenities, racial epithets and drug-use references.

Similarly, Jeep's Twitter feed touted the sale of the Chrysler division to Cadillac. Much like the BK/McD fiasco, Jeep's feed included vulgar tweets and references to drug use while under the hacker's control.
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However, all was not lost for Burger King - their Twitter account gained over 30,000 followers while being run by the hackers.

It's likely that stat, combined with the publicity generated by such public hacks, that prompted MTV and BET to give it a whirl.

They decided to fake-hack each other.

They gave it all the appearances of the previous hacks, switching avatar images, changing names and bios to reflect being "hacked" while peppering the Twitter feeds with unusual/out of character tweets (often promoting something from the "hacking" network).

MTV and BET mocked those who "fell for it" by retweeting them.

But something didn't smell right to members of the Twittersphere.

The "hacker" tweets were merely friendly digs at the "hackee" … and both MTV and BET are members of the Viacom family.

Turns out, it was all a joke (using quite a broad definition of the word "joke"). It was a PR stunt cooked up by the social media teams of MTV and BET.

Folks were not amused.

For example:

Screen-Shot-2013-02-19-at-2.29.02-PM

Others joined in, ripping MTV and BET for such a "lame" stunt, for a weak attempt to "stay relevant" and essentially asking to be hacked (for real) by using a fake hack as a publicity stunt.

Never one to let a comedic opportunity pass him by, Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, threw his hat in the ring, running a story about the BK hack (that it gained followers) and the MTV/BET PR stunt. To skewer the practice, in turn mocking his own parent company (Comedy Central is also a member of the Viacom family), Colbert faked his Twitter feed (@StephenatHome) being hacked by fellow Viacom property VH1 Classic.

ColbertVH1




The entire bit served to highlight the absurdity of the stunt, and how ridiculous MTV and BET looked for doing it.

The take-away lesson here - Be Authentic.

Trying to 'pull a fast one' or 'get one over' on people is frowned upon in Internetland. Usually that is reserved just for those that vigorously try to hide the fact that something is fake. BET and MTV fessed up to the stunt after just a couple of hours, and they were still taken to task for faking their hack. In trying to be 'cool and edgy' by manufacturing their relevance with a Twitter hack, MTV and BET only showed how out of touch they are, how much they don't 'get it.'




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E-mail Marketing 101 with Jon Stewart

*embedded clips are from cable, viewer discretion is advised*

You can always learn a thing or two, even in the most unexpected places. This time it comes from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In the clip below, he discusses President Barack Obama’s use of social media and e-mail marketing --



The take-away from this? Communicate truly.

Sure, when you are dealing with blogs, tweets, status updates or e-mails, you want the message to fit general expectations for the platform (140 characters or less, etc.); however, if you try to ‘fit in’ and twist your message into something that doesn’t coincide with who you are, it will present as ‘fake’ or ‘spin’ or ‘PR speak’ and you will lose credibility in the new media space. Understand the platform and the space in which you are operating, but don’t stray from who you are or try to pretend to be something you are not.
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The Hunger Games - Social Media Odds Ever in Their Favor

Chances are, especially if you are or have a child from ... let’s see ... 8-18, you’ve heard of The Hunger Games, the popular young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins as well as the first movie based on the books released on March 23, 2012.

As with just about anything marketed today, especially something where the initial audience is Generation Digital -- those young teens who live and breathe on social media and online communities, who have known only a world of sharing on Twitter, Facebook and tumblr -- there must be appropriate planning and consideration given to a social media marketing campaign. The Hunger Games formulated a comprehensive social media playbook and successfully implemented that plan to maximize the technologies available, utilize the built-in fan base from the books and fully leverage the power of interactive media effectively.

A collection of commentary about the successful use of social media by The Hunger Games movie:

The Hunger Games’ Social Media Campaign: A Case Study in Content Marketing

4 Social Media Secrets From The Hunger Games

How The Hunger Games Scored Big Through Social Media

Hunger Games' Social Media Lesson? The Need for Real-Time (Data) and Longer Lead Time

The Hunger Games: Using Social Media Marketing to Bring Fiction to Life

Not how–but why–”The Hunger Games” rocked the social media world

'The Hunger Games' plays social media

Lionsgate and the team behind the marketing of The Hunger Games did their prep work, they had a plan in place and executed that plan to record-setting perfection.
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#epicfail: LFL Fumbles Toronto Turmoil

Pre-game: For a little background, check out this article from The Toronto Star.

First, I want to being by stating I am not here to argue the merits of each sides’ claims, assign blame or take sides. I am strictly looking at this from an iMedia perspective, analyzing how the sides made use of the tools and whether or not, in my opinion, they used them correctly – a little ‘Saturday Morning Quarterbacking’ so-to-speak.

Timing – using the immediacy of interactive media tools effectively –
Advantage Triumph20

Overall, the players came out in a no-huddle offense, firing off status updates and tweets, responding to fan questions and concerns, getting out their side of the story the same day news of the departures leaked out. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5)

The league, on the other hand, gets a delay of game penalty, letting seven days pass before issuing any kind of statement. (Screenshots 1 2, Link to Statement)

When it comes to the new media, social media space, it is key not just to be first, but be credible. The players nailed both.

Message – conveying your point within the confines of the platforms –
Toss-up (with a penalty on the LFL)

As for the message, social and interactive media provide a difficult challenge, getting your point across in the narrow space constraints of a tweet, status update or blog post.

The player’s messages definitely adhered to three C’s – consistent, clear and constructed. Despite coming out of the gate quickly, their comments were consistent and clear across the various players and platforms. Their comments were thoughtfully constructed, stating their side in a calm, professional manner; the same way someone would issue a statement at a press conference. (Screenshots 1 2 3, Link to News Video, Link to News Video #2)

The league took far too long to issue a statement. In the absence of answers, rumor and speculation filled the void and fan sentiment turned against the league. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9, Blog 1 2) By the time the statement was issued, the damage was already done – Pandora’s box had opened. Yes, the statement was constructed, true; and yes, it did address some of the issues raised buy the players and questions posed by the fans; however, there was a thematic shift to personal attacks that did the league a disservice, muddying the waters, rendering their message unclear and not very concise. (Screenshot 1, Link to Statement)

The players used the tools more effectively, remaining engaged with fans, stating their side of the story, answering questions quickly. They did not hide, they did not wait – the faced the controversy and addressed it promptly.

Management – observation and participation in the conversation –
Flag – Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Toronto Triumph & the LFL

Multiple fans reported having their comments deleted from team and league Facebook pages, even being banned from commenting at all. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5 6)

Talk about a penalty -- the league broke one of the cardinal rules of the new media space – Thou Shalt Not Censor the Conversation.

Look, I understand organizations and brands wanted to protect their interests – and negative reviews and comments don’t really help advance that goal. However, deleting comments just because they are negative, or they disagree with you or you just don’t like what they said is not how the new media game is played.

The advantage of the platforms, like Facebook, is the interactivity, the two-way conversation. The point is not to just silence your critics via deletion, but to engage and learn from them, converting critics into fans if possible.

Censoring the conversation causes your organization or brand to lose credibility in the new media world, something that is nearly impossible to get back.

Instead of deleting negative comments and banning their authors, a simple reply of “The LFL and Toronto Triumph will be issuing a statement in the near future regarding the claims made by former Triumph players.” A response like that, heck, ANY response is a better practice in the new media space rather than what the LFL and the Triumph did – deafening silence coupled with censorship and manipulation of the conversation.

Final Score
Triumph20 FTW

The players leveraged the new media and social media tools effectively, much to their benefit.

  • They got out first
  • Their message was consistent, clear and constructed
  • The did not manipulate nor censor the conversation, they welcomed it

The league committed costly penalties

  • Delay of game – too long to respond, creating a deafening silence
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct – censoring/manipulating the conversation
  • Illegal shift & Personal foul – the eventual statement did address questions and concerns raised by the departed players and fans, but the theme shifted to include personal attacks
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FSU ‘axes’ social media – right play or wrong call?

Came across this the other day on TheLedger.com while cruising the interwebs –

Florida State Players Vote to Nix Social Media

From the headline alone, as an interactive media professional, my first thought is – “Not a smart move.” As a general rule, you never want to cut off your interactive communication channels, your social media. Whether the feedback and comments are positive or negative, the interactive nature of social media is a powerful tool when used properly; a tool you do not want to be without nor give up.

Reading further explained why the decision was made to cease social media.

A small group of FSU players — including quarterback EJ Manuel, wide receiver Kenny Shaw and defensive back Greg Reid — said on their Twitter feeds Saturday night that fans were hitting them with negative commentary after the Seminoles lost their third straight game. ...

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said he did not ban the use of Twitter and Facebook, surmising that the players voted on the ban during a players' only meeting Sunday night.



It seems that it was a decision made by the players and the players alone in response to the negative feedback some fans were shooting their way during the Seminoles three-game skid this season.

However, as the article theorizes, Head Coach Jimbo Fisher’s previous warnings about social media likely influenced his team at least to some degree –

But Fisher has preached the pitfalls of reading and responding to comments from fans. … "I don't think it's smart … There's no benefit. Tell me a benefit for getting on it? Because the only thing that comes back is negative. They read all the stuff that people say. I've told them, ‘Be careful. Don't listen to it and don't reply back.'" ...

"Coach Fisher has always warned us about the social networks because a lot of it is just people having a chance to voice their opinions, directly to us," Manuel said. ...

"Obviously right now it's kind of negative. ... It was a joint effort. Everybody understands that we need to focus in and not be up at night worrying about Twitter or be up at night worrying about Facebook. Focus on what we have to do. Twitter and Facebook is just extra stuff that we don't need right now."



Now, you can argue the merits of the reasoning behind the decision to ban social media, from the “focus in” and ‘eliminate the distractions’ standpoint, from the fostering a healthy environment for young players and men to develop … but that is for another time and place.

Here, what we are concerned with is looking at the decision to ban from the standpoint of interactive and social media strategy and best practices.

Simply put, as a general rule, cutting off social media and interactive feedback channels in the face of criticism is the wrong play call. You lose credibility in and trust from the new media space when you shut down your social and interactive media channels when confronted with negative feedback.

Instead, organizations need to use the opportunity to engage in conversation those lobbing criticism their way, learn from them to make your organization better. Being honest and open, not running from criticism but facing it head on and working collaboratively with your fans on making things better is where the true power of interactive media is leveraged.

*I do want to note that there are exceptions to every rule. Careful, deliberate examination of your unique situation and circumstances by a trained, experienced interactive and social media professional will help ensure that your organization makes the winning call when it comes to leveraging interactive and social media.
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“Trouble! The #79 car, sideways …”/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly



Bristol Motor Speedway, aka ‘Thunder Valley,’ is always a source of action and drama when the NASCAR circus rolls into town. And, for the Nationwide Series, the fireworks began prior to the start of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 one week ago today.

From NASCAR.com -
“Jennifer Jo Cobb climbed out of the No. 79 Ford of 2nd Chance Motorsports prior to the start of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway after a conflict with team owner Rick Russell.

Cobb failed to take the green flag after leaving the car shortly before the race's warm-up laps began. The conflict came about when Russell decided to start and park his car at Bristol in order to save it for the race next week at Fontana.”



Almost immediately after news of Cobb’s self-described ‘Jerry Maguire moment’ broke, sides were chosen (read more here and here). Fans and onlookers were determining who was right and who was wrong in those critical moments immediately after word got out of what happened.

As the week passed, the situation literally boiled down to ‘he said, she said.’ And the only people who know exactly what happened are those involved – Jennifer Jo Cobb and Rick Russell, owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports.

*For more on what happened in the Nationwide Series garage at Bristol, check out these articles:
Jennifer Jo Cobb Stands For What She Believes; Walks Away Before Start Of Bristol Event
Jennifer Jo Cobb quits team after dispute over start-and-park
Why Jennifer Jo Cobb decided to opt out of Saturday's Nationwide race
Jennifer Jo Cobb Seeking New Deal
Driver refuses to start Nationwide race after she says that owner ordered her to start and park

I bring up what went down between Cobb and 2nd Chance Motorsports, now that the dust has settled (sort of), because it provides an interesting case study (so-to-speak) illustrating what to do - and what not to do - when it comes to interactive social media and crisis response management.


First, the good – Jennifer Jo Cobb

From a December 2010 article on The Daly Planet
“There is perhaps no better example in NASCAR of someone who has used social media, amateur NASCAR blogs and the Internet to develop effective sponsor exposure and a strong fan base. All of this is necessary due to one well-known fact.

"No one covers trucks, they just don't," said a popular NASCAR journalist to me in November. The drivers who get the most attention on TV in the truck races are the cross-overs from the Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are big draws when they race a truck. For a single truck team owner/driver like Cobb, there is simply little help with exposure from the NASCAR media. Cobb's answer was to make it personal. She has a thriving community on Facebook of pages for both her race team and for herself as a driver. On Twitter, Cobb speaks easily with fans and has created lasting bonds with many. The Internet is full of NASCAR blogs with stories and features on Cobb. “


Jennifer Jo Cobb is making the most of the communication avenues available to build up her brand, connect with her fans and market herself to those with the deep pockets in order to make her dream of racing a reality. Being a woman trying to make it in big-time stock car racing, Cobb knew she had to do something unique, something to bring attention to her and her race team. Essentially, it was take to social media and reach out to her fans or pose scantily-clad in a ‘lad mag’ to garner some coverage. Cobb chose the former.

Jennifer Jo Cobb built her support from the ground up, in true grass-roots style - much like her race team and business interests.

So, when it all went down before the green flag flew, Cobb already had established relationships with her fans and the avenues to communicate with them. In turn, her fans had come to expect an open honesty in her communications, trusting what she had to say.

Most important of all, Cobb kept those avenues open.

Fans could visit her Facebook and Twitter pages and be kept in the loop as to what was going on in the Bristol garage. Fans could also have a say – two-way, interactive media – but we’ll get to that later.


The Bad – 2nd Chance Motorsports

Coming at this after the fact, I cannot speak to the quality, history or effectiveness of the Facebook and Twitter pages for 2nd Chance Motorsports – I only know they existed prior to this past weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

What I can gather from various reports on the fall-out after Cobb walked away, the folks at 2nd Chance Motorsports should be wishing for a second chance to deal with the fan and media reaction better than they did.

From speedwaymedia.com:
Before sunset on Saturday they had to take down their Facebook account because of all the messages they were receiving. Since then their Twitter page has also been taken down.

Social networking at its best, it’s great when it’s there and provides and inside look for fans of the sport as well as a great communication tool for teams and drivers. Yet, when something goes wrong it helps deliver blows.

After the incident on Saturday the voice behind the Twitter page for 2nd Chance [Motorsports] did their best to explain the situation to fans. But every one of their messages came off in a negative way and weren’t well received. In a way, they just added fuel to the fire.

Messages like: “For anyone that disagrees with any decisions we make, no one is making you ‘follow’ us.” Or, “It is not my place to give the details.  All I will say is wait for the official word if you want to know the true story.”

There was also, “Owner unable to hear reporter track-side due to hearing loss from fighting in Vietnam.  Want to blame him for that too?”


Wow. If ever there was a textbook example of what not to do, that’s it.

Another strike against 2nd Chance Motorsports – they took down/suspended their Twitter and Facebook accounts following a barrage of negative comments after Cobb told her side of what happened, live on ESPN.

At the exact moment when they needed an avenue to get their side of the story out, to diffuse any rumors or lies about what was going on in the Nationwide garage at Bristol, 2nd Chance Motorsports did the one thing they absolutely shouldn’t have done – they cut themselves off. (as of this posting, the pages are still not up/available)

I would also venture a guess that there was not a long-standing fan/race team relationship over interactive social media – unlike Jennifer Jo Cobb, who started building such a relationship from lap one.

(It also would have helped to have a calmer, cooler head manning the social media avenues to respond to the criticism.)


The Ugly – The Aftermath

Just because the race is over and the Nationwide Series has moved on to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the ripples from the Cobb vs. 2nd Chance debacle are still radiating throughout the NASCAR community. Accusations are flying and the mud is being slung.

From NASCAR.com
Russell said Cobb put his phone number as well as his wife's on Facebook, and that he's had at least 25 harassing calls. He said the 2nd Chance Motorsports website had to be shut down. Cobb said the number was put up by somebody she didn't know and that she had it taken down.

From ESPN.com --
The owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports has filed a police report alleging larceny charges against Jennifer Jo Cobb, …
Rick Russell alleged that Cobb and crew chief Steve Kuykendall stole $16,000 worth of race car parts from his Mooresville, N.C. facility. Russell said police found about half of the missing parts on Sunday in a storage bin used by Cobb not far from the shop.


From examiner.com
According to Kuykendall via his Twitter account, Russell threatened him and Cobb's crew with violence while the situation was unfolding at the beginning of the race. "Car owner rick russel threatened myself and anyone associated with jennifer with a jack handle in the pits!" Kuykendall also said on Twitter that "Rick russell is making lots of untrue accusations about jennifer and I. The only thing we are guilty of is wanting to race!"

From ESPN.com
She plans no legal action against Russell as long as he returns a few items -- including the seat, dry brake system and shock -- that she owns.

Russell said the seat already has been removed from the car.

"I don't think it's worth it," Cobb said of legal action. "If I can get at least one or two of my things back, I'm satisfied to walk away."

Cobb said Russell tried to have Kuykendall arrested for trying to retrieve personal belongings of hers and guests in the hauler.

"I hosted female soldiers for my Drive2Honor program and he had a soldier in tears because he refused to let her have her purse," Cobb said. "After an hour and NASCAR intervening, she got it back."


It’s unfortunate that for-all-intents-and-purposes a contract matter between driver and team is being played out in front of everyone. Such is the media world in which we all operate, for better or worse – the 24/7 news cycle, instant and constant access via interactive social media. Even if Cobb didn’t walk away from the 79 car live on ESPN minutes before the start of the race, and instead did it late Friday night under cover of darkness, Baltimore Colts-to-Indianapolis style, news of her departure would have gotten out, eliciting a similar, if not the same reaction.


Duh, winning

It human nature to want to boil down a situation like this into who won and who lost – who came out AOK or better and who ended up worse for having gone through it.

Without question, Cobb came out of this on top -- at least so far. She has a ride for today’s Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway – the #41 Mustang with Rick Ware Racing. [Read more about it here, here and here]

From sportingnews.com --
"I've got a ride for California, my T-shirt sales have quadrupled this week, I've got fans who are sending in donations to make sure that I have the money to go racing with other teams, I've got people calling me to give speeches because I give speeches about perseverance and determination and reaching your goals," Cobb said. "I want to stick up for my integrity and reputation, (and) the best thing for me right now is just to focus on the business side of it."

Cobb said she is simply trying to focus on getting rides for the rest of the season, instead of trying to defend herself from Russell's various accusations.

"This is a business," Cobb said. "There's a Jen Cobb behind the scenes who sat with her mom and went and saw her dad and hung out with friends. Then there's Jennifer Jo Cobb the racecar driver who is in this for business. It's Jen's dream to go race, so Jennifer Jo Cobb has to work on making that happen.


Meanwhile, Rick Russell and 2nd Chance Motorsports are forging ahead, going to Auto Club Speedway with a different driver – and going after Cobb and her crew, accusing them of larceny. In the opinion of many fans - “so he doesn’t have enough money to run a full race, but he has funds to pursue legal action against Cobb and her team?”


This is not the place to pass judgement on who is in the wrong and who is in the right, to determine which party did the other the ‘wrongest’ -- as I mentioned before, the only people who really know the truth are those involved.

In terms of effective use of interactive social media, Jennifer Jo Cobb got it right. From lap one, she established a presence in the social media space, interacting with fans and marketing herself via new media channels. And when controversy struck, she kept those channels open, keeping her fans informed as to what was going on, in as level-headed a voice as possible.

2nd Chance Motorsports got it wrong. When the controversy hit, new media channels were closed off. What little information did get through did nothing to help tell the race team’s side of the story, it only served to pour gasoline on an already volatile, emotional situation.

The take-away from this? There are no second chances when it comes to making an interactive social media impression.
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