Police officer’s racist rant leads to his resignation

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Until recently, Adam Harper was a police officer in Warrington, Georgia.  That changed after this racist rant:

Adam Harper Racist Facebook Post

Not that the above statement would be acceptable under any circumstances, but the fact that Warrington is roughly 70% African American certainly didn’t help.

Naturally, citizens of Warrington took exception to the remarks.  According to published stories, residents of Warrington were upset and accused Harper of “provoking [a] situation,” with others fearing that Harper could become a police officer elsewhere if the incident was not on his record. Some residents said that they felt threatened by Harper, with one African-American saying that he received eight tickets from him.

After the initial comments, Warrington police began an investgiation into Harper’s post, as well as comments made by a second officer.  It was in the middle of that investigation that Harper made the decision to resign.  In a written statement, Harper said: “My original point was to share my opinion on the Michael Brown shooting and to let fellow law enforcement officers know that it is okay to defend yourself if forced to do so.”

He then apologized for two specific items:

The first is my use of profane language on a social media outlet. The second thing I would like to apologize for is offending some people with my opinion.

Of course, what is missing is an apology for being blatantly racist, but that’s another issue all together.

Normally, I deal specifically with government officials and elected office holders.  You could, however, make the argument that the consequences for a racist Facebook post by a police officer is even more serious than one by an elected official.  Police officers are public employees, and as such, their comments on social media, like the rest of their behavior, are held to a higher standard.  This is even more true in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, and it is very easy to see why any community would be extra sensitive to racist remarks made by a police officer.

If there is any law enforcement officer reading this now, here’s the lesson: social media comments can cost you your career. You must exhibit extreme caution with what you say and how you say it.

Four ways social media can make people believe in government again

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Let me make an honest statement about politicians and government: almost no one likes us.  Approval ratings of the President, Congress and government in general are at all-time lows.

Another honest statement: I think social media can combat this disapproval – if used right.

Let me qualify that statement. I don’t mean to say that social media, in and of itself, can turn around the negative views that so many Americans have about their government and the people who represent them.  What I do mean is that social media, if used properly, can strengthen the connection between between constituents and their elected officials?  How?  Well, read on:

1) Sound like a human: Please, please, sound like who you are, not just a government robot.  Use your real voice when speaking on social media.  To do otherwise sounds disingenuous.

2) The personal touch: Related to the point above – use social media to show people who you are.  I know this might be a surprising statement to some, but here goes: Really, I swear, those of us who hold elected office are just like you.  We love our families.  We pay our bills.  We worry about our finances, paying off debt and sending our kids to a decent college.  We shop at Target and Walmart.  We’re no different, not really, than the average person.  To that end, I advise all elected officials to use social media in a personal way.  Show pictures of your house – messy floor and all.  Show those cute pictures of your kids.  It reminds everyone that we are regular people, not the caricature of government that so many make us out to be.

3) Say something unpopular or controversial: Politicians have a bad tendency of sounding too polished.  We speak in carefully measured soundbites and only say things that we know the vast majority of people will agree with.  So, say something unpopular.  Say something controversial.  Heck, just say what you are thinking!

4) Respond to comments – even the nasty ones: No one likes nasty, insulting comments.  That being said, if you respond to your comments – even the ones that are nasty or disagreeable – you will get credit from your readers, and even your opponents, for trying to be honest.  Don’t get into a non-stop argument, and don’t be afraid of letting the last word go, but at the same time, do not be afraid to respond…even to people who disagree with you.

Anything else to add?  Any better ideas to share? Let me know what you are thinking in the comments!

GOP candidate withdraws from race after homophobic, racial slurs

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For today’s entry, we have the latest entrant into the “Really?  REALLY?” club.  Meet Jacob Dorsey, who was, until very recently, the Republican candidate for State Representative in Wisconsin’s 44th Legislative District.  Dorsey was seeking to unseat Representative Deb Kolste.

Dorsey, 19, was caught using a series of extremely offensive words in tweets and YouTube comments by NOManiacs, a blog which seeks to “expose NOM [National Organization of Marriage] and its supporters.

It started when the tweet below was discovered. In response to a news story about a U.S. Circuit Court rejecting Utah’s request to stop same-sex marriages, Dorsey tweeted, “fags need 2 leave my favorite state alone”:

Jack Dorsey homophobic tweet

Dorsey apologized for the comments, saying:

I regret using unacceptable and hurtful language on social media last year and sincerely apologize for doing so. I recognized the inappropriateness of the tweet shortly after sending it and promptly deleted it. I am a staunch supporter of traditional marriage, but the language I used is not in keeping with my character, family values and Christian upbringing, and I fully acknowledge that.

But that wasn’t all. As captured by NOManiacs, Dorsey made these two comments in YouTube videos:

  • “Niggers trash cars, I’m not selling my town car to one…….”
  • “I hate Obama and the national urban bastards”

Jack Dorsey Offensive Tweets comments blacks

As you can imagine, the backlash was swift.  The local Republican Party condemned the remarks and requested that Dorsey return a donation that they made to him.  Dorsey wound up withdrawing from the race, though his name will remain on the ballot, saying:

I have decided to withdraw from the race due to insensitive remarks that have surfaced from years past…This race has been extremely hard on my family and myself.

Point for Mr. Dorsey: One way to make elections easier on yourself, and your family, is to not use language that is nearly universally despised.  I’ll also add that this is a bit of a new one: I’ve never seen YouTube comments used against a candidate or elected official, but these comments were pretty clearly offensive and a major social media goof.

Digital is forever.  Mr. Dorsey found that one out the hard way.

Five ways you can overcome social media writers block

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If you have ever worked in social media, you’ve had this moment: You sit down at Facebook, Twitter or your blog, stare at your screen and…nothing.  You have no idea what to talk about that day.
Coming up with interesting and engaging content, every day, can really be a challenge.  This can be particularly true for elected officials – after all, the nitty-gritty of what we do can get straight up boring to most people.  How, then, do you generate new ideas for content?  Here are some thoughts:
1) Look at your colleagues pages: There is no shame in copying ideas from the pages of other elected officials (provided, of course, that you aren’t blatantly plagiarizing).  Look at the pages of other government officials and see what they are talking about.  Is there anything interesting in there that you can post about?  Any inspiration that you can draw?
2) Local media:  Post a local story and offer your thoughts.  Unless it’s an incredibly slow news day, there will be something in the paper that you can discuss.
 
3) Buzzsumo:  As I wrote about last week, Buzzsumo can be an outstanding tool to determine what kind of content people are interested in learning about on social media.  Use local keywords (like the name of your municipality or region) to see what content is useful, and make a determination about how you can contribute to that conversation.
4) What’s stumping you?  Before making a post, ask yourself this question: What’s stumping you?  What is on your mind?  Is there anything you have been thinking about that you need an answer to?  Use that question as an inspiration for a post – more often then not, someone will have an answer or want to discuss the issue further.
5) Open Thread: If all else fails, post an open thread in which you mention a couple of topics (Education, the new park opening, whatever) and ask for people’s feedback.  Be warned, when you do something like this, you have to actively monitor the comments to respond to questions or concerns, and you must make sure that any debate which erupts doesn’t get too out of hand.
Any other suggestions to add?  Let me know in the comments!

Your intern should not be managing your social media

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internsOne of the funnier social media disasters I’ve written about happened a few weeks ago, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies used it’s Twitter account to tell Amnesty International to “suck it.”  CSIS apologized profusely and the whole thing blew over. Ultimately, CSIS blamed the entire disaster on an intern who confused their personal and CSIS accounts.

This is a common mistake, and certainly not one limited to interns, but it did elucidate a point: Interns should not be given the keys.  They should not be the ones responsible for managing your social media, sending out tweets or interacting directly with your customers.

Here’s why:

  • They probably don’t have the experience: Think about it this way: would you let an intern conduct a sales meeting on their own, particularly if they had no training or experience in the field?  Or write up and send out a press release, without at least having it proofed by you first? Of course not.  Most interns are in high school or college and still untrained.  Social media must be treated as a vital communications medium for any elected official, government office or business.  As such, interns should not be given unfettered access to social media tools – at least not without direct supervision.
  • They aren’t as accountable as staffers: Simply put, most interns don’t have the same level of investment and attachment as a paid staffer.  If an unpaid intern is fired, at worst, they’ll lose credit for a class.  The same cannot be said for a professional staffer, who will lose their livelihood and maybe their career.  To that end, staffers have more invested in an organization, and are thus more accountable.
  • Interns leave: Most internships expire after a set period of time. If an intern is the only one running your social media, and they leave at the end of the semester, odds are pretty good that you will have a dead social media account that no one has the ability or time to manage.

This being said, there absolutely is a role for interns and social media.  After all, interns are a tremendous source of creative labor and can be a huge asset to any organization.

Here are some ways you can utilize an intern when it comes to your company’s social media:

  • Competitive analysis: Have an intern check out how competitors, or what other government officials, are using social media.  From there, have them write a report that details what content you can use and how you can improve your social media presence.  This will give you ideas and help give your interns a broader idea of how social media works in the business or government world.
  • Idea generation: Have an intern research how others within and outside of your industry use social media.  From there, have them generate a list of content that you can create or share for your own social media pages.
  • Platform review: Social media is constantly changing, with new platforms emerging on a regular basis.  Have an intern monitor overall trends for social media and make suggestions for new platforms for you to examine – and potentially invest in.
  • Monitoring and suggestions: Just because an intern shouldn’t be the person responding to and directly using social media doesn’t mean that they cannot keep an eye on your presence and make recommended responses.  This is a great way to get interns trained in how to use social media, without actually putting you in a position where you may be liable for their errors.

What do you think – am I being oversensitive, or do you agree that interns should be kept away from front line social media management? Let us know in the comments!

10 content ideas for elected officials using social media

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  1. Ten content ideas for elected officials using social mediaThe quick video: A one minute video that details your latest policy initiative, local project or whatever is on your mind at a given moment.  Upload it to YouTube, then cross link it to all of your social media and your website.
  2. The REALLY quick video: Same thing, but in six seconds – in other words, a Vine.
  3. Show your votes: In session or fresh off a meeting?  Discuss your votes – tell people what you voted on and how you voted.
  4. Policy post a day: In the mood to stir up some debate and fire up your fans?  Spend a week posting your thoughts on a different policy issue, every day, and watch people support and defend your position.
  5. Fact a day: Post a quick policy fact on an issue you care about. This will help inform your social media fans and position you as a knowledgeable expert in a certain field.
  6. Local organization highlight: Use your social media to showcase a local organization by discussing their mission and ways that your fans can get involved.  Be warned, there may be some ethical issues here, as you always have to make sure that you aren’t using government resources to inappropriately assist a non-profit.
  7. Show your schedule: Every elected official that I know has a busy schedule – show it off.  Take a picture of where you are during the day and upload those pictures at the end of the day, along with a description of the events you attended and your participation.
  8. Thank your staff: Take a moment to use social media to celebrate your staff.  Thank them for their incredible work and acknowledge their successes on behalf of the people you represent.
  9. Traffic: No one likes getting stuck in traffic.  If you find out about a traffic jam, share the information on your social media.  This can be even more useful if you can find out about road closures and detours in advance – contact your local Department of Transportation to see if they have a distribution list to which they can add you.
  10. Local history: Have pictures of your community from the past?  Use social media to post that information!

And other quick content ideas?  Let me know in the comments!

The Ray Rice tragedy and Twitter: What the Ravens did wrong and the lesson you can learn

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If you have been watching the news over the past week, you are likely familiar with the Ray Rice tragedy.  The background: Rice was suspended, for a mere two games, after knocking his then fiance (now wife) unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator.  Earlier this week, previously unreleased video emerged of the attack, which showed the sheer brutality of the assault.  In the video’s aftermath, Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

The entire situation is atragedy for everyone involved, and particularly for Janay Rice.  The NFL has screwed up the handling of this event from the start, and frankly, they should be ashamed of the way they handled this.  Heads will undoubtedly roll as the scandal continues to evolve, and similar things can likely be said about the Baltimore Ravens, who originally stood by Rice.

There is a bizarre social media angle to this story.  It started with this tweet, sent by the Ravens back in May, during a press conference in which Ray and Janay Rice spoke:

Ravens Deleted Tweet About Janay RiceThe implication of this tweet is obvious: Janay Rice was somehow responsible for being knocked unconscious by her husband.  It goes without saying that this tweet was abominably reprehensible.  No woman is ever responsible for being beaten by her husband.  I don’t know what the Ravens were trying to say here, and it’s completely irrelevant.  This tweet is one of the many actions taken during this incident that have led many, myself included, to believe that the NFL and the Ravens do not care about the welfare of women.

The tweet itself was bad enough.  But, after the release of the video, it got even worse, and the tweet began to be recirculated.  And then, the Ravens compounded the bad tweet by deleting it.

Deleting a tweet is, in certain circumstances, appropriate.  However, if you are going to delete a tweet, you must acknowledge the deletion and explain why.  Social media is all about transparency, and deleting a tweet without giving the reasons for the deletion reeks of a cover-up…which, you know, is exactly what this entire scandal looks like in the first place.  The Ravens should have deleted the tweet, but acknowledged it and said something like, “An earlier regrettable tweet regarding Janay Rice has been deleted.  We never meant to imply that Janary was responsible for the assault and regret that such an implication occurred.”

From a social media perspective, the lesson here is how to handle ill-advised updates.  If you screw-up (and everyone will at some point or another), deleting a tweet is okay – but, if you are going to do it, you must accompany the deletion with an acknowledgement of guilt and regret.

Of course, the Ravens have handled nothing about this case right.  Not sure why they would start now.

Georgia State Senator: Don’t expand voting near African American areas

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Georgia State Senator Fran Millar (R-40) has become the latest elected official to use social media to make questionable, racist comments.

Here’s the background: Georgia is a state with early voting.  Lee May, the interm CEO of DeKalb County (which is a heavily Democratic and heavily African-American area), announced that early voting would be expanded to Sunday, October 26, and that a voting station would be placed at a mall that is “dominated by African-American shoppers.” Naturally, this has led some to argue that the move is designed to enhance the chances of Democratic candidates running for office.

One of those individuals was Senator Millar, who went onto Facebook and launched into this rant:

Fran Millar Racist Facebook Post

 

As you can see, Senator Millar is pretty blatantly complaining about making is easier for African Americans to vote.  When questioned in the comments, Millar responded, “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”

Ooof.

The racial implications here are hard to miss, and Millar was attacked on those grounds.  DuPose Porter, Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said:

What have Georgia Republicans come to when they are outwardly admitting to suppressing the African-American vote? Further, his comments about ‘educated voters’ are reprehensible. I suppose Fran would prefer a return to literacy tests or the poll tax while he’s at it.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, added:

Georgians everywhere should be scratching their heads asking, why is State Senator Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, an elected official so angry and perturbed by the prospect of more American citizens participating in the electoral process? And why is he vowing to use the legislative power entrusted to him by the people to undermine the electoral power of the people by killing Sunday voting?

When a politician says something questionable on social media, they usually do one of two things: they immediately apologize, or they double-down and stand by their remarks (or, sometimes, they double down, then wind up apologizing anyway). Thus far, Senator Millar has chosen to double-down.  In response to the statement from Rev. Warnock, Millar said:

Reverend Warnock, this is about partisan politics. When you only have Sunday voting in select precincts with traditional one party strength, then there is a fairness issue. If it was only Perimeter Mall rather than South DeKalb Mall, then that would be wrong.

My comment about educated voter was made in the context of for me being more important than just more people voting. Having people informed on issues such as transportation, education, taxation, etc would be a good thing versus voting based on sound bites.

The racial implications here are obvious.  If Senator Millar wanted to attack the process, fine, that seems like a perfectly valid complaint, but to go out of his way to mention race and education level is pretty stupid.  He shouldn’t be surprised that people are calling him racist, and he should have phrased his comments differently.  That’s the lesson here: Don’t leave yourself open to these kinds of attacks.

Any thoughts to add?  Let us know in the comments.

Want a Google for social media? You should check out social search with Buzzsumo

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BuzzsumoLooking for inspiration for your next blog idea? Doing research on yourself, or another local politician or a local topic, and looking to see what content is the most successful on social media?  Want to see which sections of a website, or your website, are being shared the most? Check out to Buzzsumo, which is pretty close to the Google of social search.

Like Google, Buzzsumo functions as a search engine that allows you to input queries.  What comes back, at least if you don’t pay for the service and use it for free, is a list of responses, sorted by how many times your query was shared via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.  The website specifically mentions four potential uses of the services:

  • Content Insight, which allows you to see what specific topics are the most social within a topic or a website.
  • Influencer Amplification, which allows you to find and understand key influencers within each topic.
  • Content Alerts, which are essentially Google Alerts for an article or social post.
  • Competitor Analysis, which allows you to see what information is being shared the most from an identified competitor, and what content works best for them.

I’m not gonna lie – I think this is fascinating.  And awesome.  If you are short on financial resources, there is a drawback here, as the website uses a Freemium model. Reduced and limited results are available for free, but you have to pay to use the full website, and their cheapest plan is $99/month.

That being said, if you can afford it and there’s a value here for you, go for it.  The uses of elected officials are endless:

  • Track your own mentions and see which of your content is being shared the most.
  • Track local content, using local keywords, or political issues that are useful to you.
  • Track the content being successfully shared that mentions other local electeds.

I can really see this being useful for not only individual elected officials, but larger communication shops, who can use the information to track the social success of various members and clients.

Do you have any experience with Buzzsumo, including tips on how to use it better?  Let us know in the comments!

NYPD sends cops to Twitter school, and your government should probably do the same

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NYPDI’ve written previously about the NYPD’s infamous Twitter Fail, when they tried to use the #myNYPD hashtag to generate positive images of people with NYPD officers, only to have the hashtag go viral when people used it to highlight examples of police brutality.  That disaster makes this story even more satisfying: the NYPD is sending its police officers to Twitter school.

According to the story, police officers are being asked to take the course in order to prevent tweeting inappropriate content, and instead use Twitter to share “information about wanted persons, street closures and crimes stats.” In other words, the class is teaching do’s and don’ts, which is a great model: it’s seeking to prevent disasters and promote good social media use.

We’ve reached the point where our government and law enforcement absolutely must use social media in order to effectively communicate.  To that end, training is necessary, and this is a model that all police departments should take a look at, regardless of that departments size.  Really, my own concern would be that the NYPD is only focusing on Twitter with this course: They should also check out training in other mediums, like Facebook and Instagram.

There is an additional issue here: NYPD officers should also know how to read other people’s networks.  There has been no shortage of instances in which criminals, very stupidly, found themselves under arrested after doing something absurdly stupid on social media that gave themselves away. It’s not always this obvious either: For example, a check-in at a location in which there was a crime may provide key evidence. To that end, investigators need to be trained in not only how to use social media themselves, but how to read other people’s networks and search for potentially incriminating content.  Courses like this would have to provide information in how to search social networks, how to capture information, how to read location tags and more.  Of course, law enforcement officials also have the ability to subpoena social networks for additional information, and all police investigators need to have access to information on how to do that as well.

Any other content that you think police officers should be taught when it comes to social media?  Let us know in the comments!

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