The Politics of Social Media

by Shannon Rasp October 23, 2012 12:27 PM

Two weeks from today, there will be a presidential election in the United States. Last night was the final debate between the two candidates, who appear to be nearly even in the polls. While the candidates are done talking to each other, for what seems like the vast majority of people on social media the debate continues.



With the advent of social media – specifically Facebook and Twitter – it’s now possible to broadcast all of your opinions, for better or worse. And people are taking advantage of that. According to a Forbes study, nearly 40% of all Americans are using social media for political or civic purposes. Newsfeeds from friends and colleagues are filled with political opinions. Twitter wars are erupting between friends from opposite sides of the political spectrum. People who have known each other for decades are “unfriending” each other because of their support for different candidates. It’s a political free-for-all out there, and the media has taken note.


Many of the major news organizations are now tracking Twitter trends during debates to see which candidate’s talking points win the “Twitter war.”USA Today ran an article about how longtime friendships are ending because of political disagreements. As the writer, Laura Petrecca, pointed out, in 2008, 100 million people used Facebook. Today, it’s 10 times that number. That’s a lot of people, and many of them are talking about politics.


All of this has led to a backlash about political posts online. Many Facebook users are taking advantage of the option to temporarily block the updates from friends who are all politics, all the time. A new Internet browser extension, No Politics Please, blocks politically-oriented posts. Other people have just declared a self-imposed moratorium on social media until the election is over.


It makes me wonder, does social media actually matter in politics? Does it really influence people or change people’s minds? Personally, I’ve never read a post that made me change my opinion of something. But maybe I’m just too stubborn. What about you? Has social media actually influenced any of your beliefs? Do you think it’s a valid measurement of the political mindset of a country? Let me know in the comments!


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Social Media Lessons from Yogi Berra

by Shannon Rasp May 2, 2012 01:47 PM

I love baseball. I love the history, the traditions, the characters, the over-the-top devotion to every ridiculous statistic, everything about it. So when I saw an article titled, “Yogi Berra: 13 Social Media Lessons from the Mound,” I knew I had to read it (even though Berrawas a catcher, not a pitcher, so he didn’t deliver anything from the mound).  

The author, Heidi Cohen, used some of Berra’s famous garbled phrases to highlight important social media lessons. “If the fans don’t come out to the ballpark, you can’t stop them” means that you can’t force people to engage on social media; social media is just that – social. Businesses have a tough row to hoe when it comes to competing with “fun” stuff online.

“You can observe a lot just by watching” tells us that it’s important to listen and understand before diving in to social media. If what you are offering isn’t of interest, it won’t be successful.

Berra’s arguably most famous quote, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” stresses the importance of committing to social media in the long term. Having a successful social media presence requires diligence, planning, time, and dedication.


There are many other lessons from Yogi in Cohen’s article. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!


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Stop and Think Before You Tweet

by Shannon Rasp March 30, 2012 03:02 PM

One of the pitfalls in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media options is the tendency to overshare. For some reason, people become convinced that all of their friends are really interested in the tiniest details of their lives. I’m guilty of it myself – my Facebook friends were recently treated to a rant on how I hate it when the people on House Hunters Internationaldon’t pick the house I would have.


But when the over-sharers are celebrities, the stakes are considerably higher. In the United States, one of the top stories in the news is the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Florida by a Hispanic neighborhood watch member named George Zimmerman. For some reason, director Spike Lee thought it would be a great idea to tweet Zimmerman’s home address to his 250,000 followers, resulting in reporters besieging the house and hate mail flooding the mailbox. The problem is, George Zimmerman doesn’t live there. The house belongs to David and Elaine McClain, an elderly couple with no link to Zimmerman. When Lee learned of his mistake, he tweeted an apology to the McClain family and asked people to leave them in peace. He also paid the hotel bill for the McClains, who had to flee their house for their own safety.


Another online celebrity faux pas this week belongs to Alicia Silverstone, actress and committed vegan activist. Silverstone maintains a lifestyle website devoted to veganism and family life. She posted a video her husband took of her feeding their toddler, Bear. Not a big deal, right? Well, Silverstone employs a, shall we say, unusual method of feeding her child. She chews up some food, and then transfers it directly from her mouth to her child’s, like a bird (has this woman never heard of a food processer?). The video went viral, and people all over the world had a lot to say about this. Doctors weighed in about the dangers of transferring bacteria from one mouth to the other. Social scientists claimed that “pre-mastication” was actually quite common (personally, I don’t think that’s what grosses out so many people – I think it’s the transferring food directly mouth-to-mouth that causes so much consternation). It’s safe to say that people have been talking about Alicia Silverstone more this week than they have for years. But I doubt it’s the kind of attention she welcomes.


Once it’s online, it’s out there forever. People need to keep in mind that the Internet never forgets. It is way too easy today to instantly post every thought and feeling you have, without considering the consequences and repercussions. So before you post anything online, ask yourself: is this really information I want to be linked with me forever?   



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The Top Five Tips for Non-Sexy Social Media Success

by Rick Austin January 30, 2012 01:46 PM

Last Thursday, I sat in on an interesting, one-hour Chronicle of Philanthropy webinar, Social-Media Success for Non-Sexy Causes. Their promotional line, “Ways a small staff can create a big presence on social networks,” drew me in, because we’re a small staff here at Research Into Action, and we could certainly use some help in figuring out how to create a bigger social media presence.


Here are the top five points I took away from the webinar:


1. Set clear, specific goals – If you don’t know which point in the compass you’re sailing for, you’ll just end up going in circles.


2. Think strategically – If you’re small, you simply can’t do everything. Be efficient and support the goals you’ve created with the strategies you select.


3. Social media is about creating interesting conversations – don’t just push out information.


4. Listen!!! Get to know the people in your network. Collaborate!!!


5. Find and use the deep resources on the Internet.


Simple stuff? Sure, but if you’re chasing chickens, herding cats, and sailing in circles, it’s a good reminder about what to focus on. Tell me how you’re maintaining your social media focus in the comments.

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50 Quick and Dirty Social Media Tips

by Shannon Rasp November 10, 2011 10:53 AM

There's a great article by Vicki Flaugher posted on sharing 50 easy (and mostly free) social media tips that anyone with a Web presence should read.

Sure, some of them are pretty elementary -- use SEO words in your bio, create a Facebook page, etc., -- but there may be others you might not have thought of before, such as using Comment Kahuna to find industry-relevent blogs to comment on, blog about your real life outside of work, and create a QR code for your business or organization.

Several of the ideas, such as using informal photos for your blog, inviting and becoming guest bloggers, and updating your blog frequently, are things we already do here at But there are other great ideas that we want to incorporate as soon as possible.

How about you? Any tips to elevate a social media presence? Leave a comment with your words of wisdom!

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