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With 200,000,000 registered twitter accounts and almost 450,000 new accounts being created daily, some of you are bound to run into a sociopath, a bully a troll, even a complete cyberstalking psychopath on Twitter sooner or later.  Having just had to deal with my own little unpleasant experience with a small group of possibly psychotic individuals targeting friends on the twitternets, I thought I should share with you a little video that my friends at Tweetreports (@tweetreports on Twitter) cooked up for us just for this post.

For tips on how to deal with or report harassment or cyberstalking on Twitter, check out Twitter’s Abusive Users page (click here). The page is filled with information, tips, links and resources that should help you no matter what your situation may be, so no need to republish it here.

The video I have for you today shows you step-by-step how to capture incidences of online harassment, bullying and cyber-stalking for later use – as evidence in a court case, for example. Though Tweetreports is typically used for brand and keyword monitoring, SEO research, tagged bookmarking and other business-focused activities on Twitter, it lends itself quite well to this use as well. Here’s how it works:

If the above video doesn’t play for you, go watch it here.

If you know someone who is dealing with cyberstalkers, online bullying, digital harassment or any other type of abuse being channeled through Twitter, please share this post with them. And if you aren’t dealing with anything like that right now, bookmark this for future use. You never can tell when it might suddenly come in handy for you or someone you know.

Other handy resources just in case:

NCSL’s 2011 overview of state statutes regarding cyberstalking, cyberharassment and cyberbullying.

NCSL’s online child protection page.

IJCC’s Analysis of Online Harassment and Intimidation report.

The National Center for Victims of Crime website.

If you don’t live in the United States, a quick search should identify similar resources for the country in which you live.

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Speaking of kids… Cyberbullying infographic (below) courtesy of ZoneAlarm.com.

Also follow this story on how cyber-bullying may have led to 14 year old Jamey Rodenmeyer’s suicide. Let’s make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.

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Bonus Twitter stats infographic (below) courtesy of the Touch Agency. Follow them on Twitter: @touchagency.

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If you haven’t done so already, check out a free chapter of Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization on the smroi.net website. The book, which outlines for businesses and organizations how to design, implement, manage and measure social media programs that are inherently connected to relevant business objectives, is available at booksellers everywhere.

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Please start the national panic now

Please start the national panic now

Raise your hand if the national epidemic of complete and utter stupidity around the “threat” of swine flu is making you shake your head. Yeah, me too.

Is “swine flu” real? Yes.

Do I want to get it? No.

Will I take precautions to try and steer clear of the virus as much as possible? Of course.

But will I hide in a basement for the next three months? No.

Why? Because with all the talk and hype of pandemics, “swine flu” is still just… well, the flu.

That’s it, people: The flu.

It isn’t the zombie flu, okay? I know watching “Twelve Monkeys” sends a chill down a lot of people’s spines, and we’ve all had nightmares about the zombie virus from “28 Days Later” or Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of The Dead” taking us down… But this is just THE FLU. That’s it.

Yet here we are, in a state of complete and utter panic, shutting down entire school systems, buying surgical face masks by the box-loads, walking around with boxes of sterile wipes, and avoiding handshakes and people altogether. Last week, China considered a ban on all pork imports from Mexico. In Egypt, pigs are being slaughtered en masse… even though this strain of “swine flu” is a human-to-human virus. (You cannot get this strain of swine flu from eating pork.)

This kind of mass hysteria is embarrassing for the human race. Seriously. Stop it.

Everyone settle down for a second, take a step back, and take a deep breath: Every year in the united States, over 35,000 people die of the flu. Really. 35,000+. That is A LOT of people. Way too many, in my book. That number is tragic. And most of the victims of the flu tend to be small children and the elderly.

Yet, as tragic as this may be, no one freaks out. No one panics. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News don’t report on every single new death. The CDC doesn’t hold press conferences to keep people abreast of the spread of the flu. People don’t walk around wearing face masks and carrying sterile wipes everywhere they go. Countries don’t impose travel bans or mass livestock slaughter. School systems don’t shut down and send every kid home for weeks just as a “precaution”.

From November to March, when “flu season” is in full swing in the US, are we supposed to shut everything down and hide in our basements now?

Now that we’ve gotten a bit of perspective on the flu, doesn’t the panic over swine flu seem a little ridiculous? Worse than our overreaction to previous “threats” like African killer bees, West Nile mosquitoes, Avian flu andthe anthrax mailer?

As it turns out, the current strain of “swine flu” doesn’t seem to be all that virulent or particularly easy to pass on. It is no more contagious than any other flu strain, and doesn’t seem to be as potent as other strains that you or I have had the displeasure to run into at some point in our lives.

This is not the bubonic plague, people. It is just the friggin’ flu.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with bacon either, so stop freaking out about the pigs. Maybe we should have called this “CNN flu” instead of “swine flu”. I think that we would all be much better off. Surely, pig farmers and the grain producers who depend on their success to stay afloat would have had a much better week.

So in protest of this complete and utter nonsensical panic over the flu (as if we didn’t have better things to worry about, like… the pirate problem and injuries on “Dancing With The Stars”), some of us have decided to start a little protest of stupidity movement on Twitter. And just to be on the safe side (in case Swine Flu goes viral on the web) we have added face masks to our avatars, effectively turning them into “maskvatars” or “maskatars” (depending on whom you ask) – a term which I think was coined by Columbia, SC’s Mandi Engram – @mandiengram on Twitter (below, bottom right).

Note: As far as I can tell, either @ManFmNantucket (below, bottom center) or @SWoodruff (below, bottom left) were the first Twitterati to done maskvatars. Ther rest of us are just proud copycats.

A few #swinefluwknd participants

A few #swinefluwknd participants

Fellow blogger Kristi Colvin (@kriscolvin on Twitter, top right, above) gave our little movement its own clever little hashtag/thread: #swinefluwknd on Twitter. (Implying that the maskvatars will disappear on Monday… though they may not. We’ll see.) If you are on Twitter, please consider joining us. 🙂 (And yes, we will be playing with this until the swine flu terror goes away.)

As for the term “Hamthrax“, I am not sure who came up with it first, but I have Kristi Colvin and Mandi Engram to thank for introducing me to it. It gave me a good laugh last night. Thanks to them, I will no longer be referring to Swine Flu as “swine flu” starting today. Hamthrax seems a whole lot more appropriate.

Oh, and if you need me for anything, I’ll be hiding out in my underground African killer-bee and zombie-proof  fallout shelter until CNN tells me it’s safe to go outside again.

(Oh and yes, there will be a part 2 to this post.)

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According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the US in March was 8.5% (up from 8.1% in February). Not counting farm workers, the US lost 663,000 jobs last month alone.

Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs increased by 547,000 to 8.2 million in March. This group has nearly doubled in size over the past 12 months. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose to 3.2 million over the month and has increased by about 1.9 million since the start of the recession in December 2007.

In other words, not good.

That being said, I have noticed a sudden little increase in positive churn: People landing jobs, positions coming open, requests for resumes and talent – all on Twitter. And today, two of my Twitter friends started new jobs with pretty solid companies. So you know what? Why not start up a new hashtag on Twitter with a greater purpose: Talking about people GETTING new jobs instead of losing them.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Twitter, perhaps you can get behind that kind of little movement.

Hat tip to @triumphCIO for coining the hashtag 12 days before I thought of it.

How to use #hired:

1. Log in to your Twitter account.

2. Post an update/tweet when you or someone you know has been hired or is starting a new job. (Make sure that information is cleared for public release before posting) 😉

3. End your update/tweet with these characters:   #hired

4. Press SEND.

It’s that simple. Besides, spreading a little cheer by talking about new jobs for a change might help us turn this economic downturn around that much faster.

Thanks, everyone. 🙂

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Happy Twitterversary!

Hi everyone! Today is my first Twitterversary: I have been using Twitter for exactly 1 year.  And although I had no idea then how big this thing would get, I still made a point to mark the event with this blog post:

I finally started using twitter today, and I am pretty psyched about it.

If you’re one of the 6% of adult internet users currently microblogging (using twitter) to keep tabs on your friends and colleagues, put your seemingly time-wasting hobby to good use – or at least come up with a better justification for your twitter habit at work:

You – “Twitter? Yeah! I use it all the time! It’s a great research tool!”
Your boss – “Really? A research tool?”
You – “Suuuuuure! One could find out all sorts of things thanks to twitter, if they were so inclined.”

Enter tweetscan.com (the twitter ap that turns your geeky and questionable tweeter addiction into a pretty kickass “out of the box” initiative that will make you the envy of your cubiclemates).

If you want to find out what people are saying about ANYTHING, hit tweetscan and enter your keyword in the search box. Try it. Throw your name in there. Throw your company’s name in there too. Find out what people are saying about anything at all. Your new product. The airline you want to book a flight with. Your kids’ top 3 college picks. A restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. A new movie. Your latest customer program.

It’s very cool, pretty effective, and best of all, it’s free.

And fresh.

And they didn’t call it twitscan… which is a very good thing.

Via Church of the Customer.

That’s what I loved about Twitter from the very beginning: The vast potential of the platform and the ocean of applications, from online reputation management to customer engagement and live peer-to-peer collaboration. Endless possibilities. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out, even back then.

Because of some social media restrictions at work, I didn’t get to truly start using Twitter until I left the world of cubicles and TPS reports last September. The stats since then (approx.):

Followers: 5,569

Following: 5,087

Updates: 11,366

My Twitter Grade: 100

My Twitter ranking: 263/1,766,380

More benefits:

About 200 new friends, colleagues and co-conspirators in the Greenville area alone.

A 20%+ increase in my blog’s readership every month.

24-hour access to the best articles and studies about marketing, design, business development on the planet.

Direct access to some of the industry’s best and brightest practitioners, from Ford’s Scott Monty to Alltop’s Guy Kawasaki.

Conversations, conversations, conversations: Twitter has taken the discussions started on this blog to a whole new level.

Knowing what everyone is doing, just in case I want to cyberstalk them.

A whole new category of services companies need help with.

Information: Faster, better and pre-filtered by people I trust.

Enhanced collaboration between fellow practitioners (using Twitter to plan book projects, lectures, seminars, etc.)

Contractor-sourcing (Oh yeah. Twitter is a great place to meet your next graphic or web designer.)

Tighter engagement with a few of my favorite (and least favorite) brands: Jet Blue, The Home Depot, Ikea, Whole Foods, Liquid Highway, Bi-Lo… It’s been pretty rewarding already. Can’t wait to see what 2010 will bring when Twitter becomes even more integrated.

The list goes on. Anyway, here’s to my first full year on Twitter. Thanks for having made it a good one. 🙂

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twitter-designs

Thanks to InstantShift.com for including @thebrandbuilder’s design in its Top 125 best Twitter themes! (Look for #104.) I am very flattered to be in such great company. For the full show, click here.

Some of my favorites…

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image by andrew testa

image by andrew testa

Welcome to episode #2 of our weekly series now, where I feature a handful of my favorite posts, articles, studies or websites discovered via Twitter. (Or as I like to call it: It’s Friday and I have too much work to do before the weekend to actually write a meaningful post.)

To start us off, via @armano (David Armano) is this incredible FEED piece by Razorfish’s Garrick Schmitt and Malia Supe on brands that are getting it right:

When we think back on the relationships we have with brands, it seems that the ones that run deep are the ones where we are emotionally or rationally invested in the brand. Whether it is a running shoe, a favorite beer or even a hotel chain, there are some brands that matter to us and that we choose time and time again. The reasons for our loyalty differ and in some cases the relationship is built over time through experience while in others it is love at first sight. But for today’s marketers creating loyalty or even preference with consumers is a difficult task – one that is increasingly challenging.

The sheer number of brands vying for attention is overwhelming.  Old brands, new brands, celebrity brands, corporate brands and even country brands are all hawking products that in many ways are very similar to products we have already seen and may already have. Marketers keep trying to drive differentiation for products (that are often at parity) with messages we have all heard before.

Digital has also made marketing more complex. For one, it has splintered broad, traditional and easy to navigate channels into micro channels or micro interactions that are built for people not advertisers and their ads. Digital has also fundamentally changed how we view media. It is no longer a channel but rather an entity in itself – something we don’t just watch or read but create, participate in, or share with others.

And lastly, influencers are everywhere – disrupting the most holy of conversations – the one between consumers and the brand. These influencers are impossible to control (much less influence) because they are everywhere and everything and they aren’t necessarily consumers – they are media, other brands, products, design, culture — all the fluid forces that surround the world in which the brand lives.

So what’s a brand to do? (read the entire post…)

That one’s going to be tough to beat, but let’s give it a shot. Let’s see…

Via @guykawasaki: Advertising Age’s “The difference between building a business and building a brand.” A pretty interesting take on brand valuation through market share:

What’s the most reliable measure of the power of a brand? It’s not making the Interbrand list. The most reliable measure is market share. Powerful brands dominate their markets.

In the U.S., Tabasco has 90% of the hot-pepper-sauce market. Campbell’s has 82% of the canned-soup market. TurboTax has 79% of the income-tax software market. Starbucks has 73% of the high-end coffeehouse market. The iPod has 70% of the MP3-player market. Taco Bell has 70% of the Mexican fast-food market. Google has 68% of the search market.

When your brand dominates a market, it is in an exceptionally strong position. In a mature market, a dominant brand is highly unlikely to ever lose its position. (Think Kleenex, Gatorade, McDonald’s, Budweiser and many other dominant brands.) […]

You can’t dominate a category if you expand your brand into many other categories. You can only dominate a category by keeping your brand focused. (Read the entire post…)

Via @conversationage (Valeria Maltoni), Hello Viking’s Tim Brunelle argues against growth:

I’m beginning to think we’ve reached a point where advertising as it is currently practiced has become an exercise in futility—not unlike some aspects of the current credit crisis and the bailouts. Is there an apt metaphor in the unraveling credit markets to describe what’s happening in advertising?

[…] We have reached a saturation point here in the U.S. where more messaging growth doesn’t mean anything more than more advertising. I sense the budget-holders might agree. Noreen O’Leary’s recent piece in Adweek, “Ad Industry Preps for Pain in ‘09,” notes, “Even the quadrennial stimulus of the Olympics and presidential election couldn’t boost spending this year in the world’s largest ad market.”

What’s needed are fewer ads, and greater “development,” which I define as relationships, community and consumer empowerment. As Daly points out, “If economists really believe that the consumer is sovereign then she should be obeyed rather than manipulated, cajoled, badgered, and lied to.” (Anyone hear echoes of Howard Gossage and David Ogilvy?) In other words, let’s cut the growth of blunt messaging and focus (i.e. limit) our persuasive efforts towards developing more robust conversations with our audiences. (Read the entire post…)

Via BryanPerson, by way of @Armano: IBM’s social computing guidelines. Great little document for any company to look at when considering developing Social Media guidelines for their own employees:

… We believe in transparency and honesty. If you are blogging about your work for IBM, we encourage you to use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work for IBM. Nothing gains you more notice in the online social media environment than honesty—or dishonesty. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be judicious in disclosing personal details. (Read the full document here…)

And finally @marenhogan’s (Maren Hogan) brilliant discovery of the latest technology in Social Media. This is going to be HUGE! Check it out.

Honorable mention:

Cory O’Brien’s Lifestream

Via @shannonpaul: Google Reader for Beginners

Via @nicheprof: Plurk vs. Twitter

Via @Armano: “What is Online Authority, really?

Via @karllong: “New rules for building brands…”

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Proof once again that I do get out from time to time, here are a few photos from last night’s “Drop-In” party at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, where I met many very smart, talented people – some of whom are already on Twitter, and others… well, soon will be. I should have taken more photos, but I was too busy yapping my mouth, as always.

First up (above, right to left): Liquid Highway‘s @BigJonEvans (John Evans), @benchmarkngbabe (Jessica Smith), and with the bottle of coke and the gray dinner jacket, Ken Flournoy (The picky people’s plumber).

Below (left to right this time): John (again) and G-Magazine‘s Jack Bacot? (Is that right? I met a dozen peeps from G and – maybe it’s the wine – but I am getting them all mixed up in my head. Sorry about that, but that’s what happens when you don’t wear a name tag.)

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And further below, some young handsome lad drinking blush wine out of a plastic cup while wearing diagonal stripes (two more reasons he may have gotten kicked out of France) and the ever present Jon Evans – whose quasi empty beer cup was in desperate need of a refill. (Someone please buy Jon a beer.)

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As a bonus, check out this photo of the Liquid Highway setup. I have absolutely no idea what was going on there. The best I can figure is something along the lines of coffee kung-fu. Oh, and yes, a team of pretty ladies to make sure no one got to jacked up on caffeine.

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Okay, that is all.

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Twitter’s growing pains.

I don’t want to jump on the “twitter keeps crashing” bandwaggon. It’s already pretty full. But man, it’s hard not to.

I just need to remind myself that twitter is free, so I probably need to check my expectations at the door and cut the twitter team some slack. Whatever they’re doing to the code or the servers or whatever, I’m sure it’ll be for the best in the end.  Growing pains are just part of the process. We’ve just become so used to things always working pretty well that as soon as something doesn’t, we scream foul. Maybe we just need to chill a little bit, and let nature take its course with twitter. I’ve tried the Plurk thing. Reluctantly. And yeah, I have a plurk account now… but I never use it. I prefer Twitter. Looks like we all do. There must be a reason.

I guess it’s a testament to how important twitter has become to some of us that when it does crash or get hickups, we all get pretty upset about it. It would be like our cell phones or email not working consistently… or our cable TV… or the subway or bus system deciding that on some mornings, people are just going to have to find another way to get to work. None of those things would be good. Except unlike all of the above examples, twitter is 100% free, so… I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, if at all.

Twitter IT guys, please try to fix your problems soon so we all find better things to complain about than “twitter is down again.” More importantly, the sooner you get your problems fixed, the sooner we can get back to our microblogging conversations.

I think it’s time for my Friday morning venti latte now.

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From Chris Brogan today:

“If projects have five major phases, I like the first two most. I’m just saying. My gratification delay mechanism stinks.”

That one made me laugh. Chris, I can relate.  ;D

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You can always count on Hugh to put it all in a nutshell.

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