School District Administrator: Black men dating white women is “every father’s nightmare”

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A bizarre and offensive retweet has gotten a school district administrator in Norfolk, Virgini, into quite a bit of trouble.

Here’s what happened.  Last June, the Assistant Principal of Booker T. Washington High School, Amy Strickland, retweeted this picture:

Amy Strickland Twitter

If you can’t see the Twitter, it list “every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare” and features black men with white girls in prom gear.  The tweet is obviously offensive, and even more so for a community like Norfolk, which is almost 43% African-American.  Strickland is white. Unsurprisingly, her Twitter account has been deleted.

The tweet was sent almost six months ago but is only gaining national attention now.  Students in the district were obviously upset.  Said one, “I could have been any one of the boys in the picture…And I really don’t see myself, like I said earlier, as anyone’s worst nightmare.”  Many students protested the tweet by walking out of school.

The School District seemed unaware of the tweet when first contacted by reporters, but said they would look into the matter.  As I type this, no one from the school or from the district has made a statement, saying that they can’t do so because it is a personnel matter.

This was an absurdly stupid tweet under any circumstances, even forgetting for a moment that it was made in a heavily African-American community.  No one in any position of power (or anyone, really) should send out a tweet like that.  I have to think that major disciplinary actions are coming for Strickland, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear if she is no longer employed.  There’s just no explanation here.

Enjoy the blog?  Then make sure to buy the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake is now available for purchase on your Kindle!

P/C

CNN Report: Republicans & their allies use Twitter to skirt campaign finance laws

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Republicans Use Twitter to potentially Violate Election Law
A CNN report has highlighted an astounding, fascinating and depressing new use of Twitter: to skirt election law that prohibits campaigns from coordinating directly with outside groups.

Election law prohibits direct coordinating between outside spending groups and SuperPACs with campaigns.  Technically, however, there is nothing that stops information from being shared in public – like on Twitter.  And that appears to be exactly what happened: tweets with internal polling information were sent out.  They were
“hidden in plain sight,” as profile was public, but only a few people had access to the accounts, which no one could have found otherwise. Among those who had access: two outside groups (American Crossroads and American Action Network) and the National Republican Campaign Committee.  None of those groups would comment for the CNN story, and the Twitter accounts in question were deleted shortly after CNN first looked into them (that was absurdly stupid – it pretty much served as an admission of guilt, and whoever deleted the Twitter accounts had to know that the screen shots were out there).

The tweets appear to be in gibberish listing the state, poll results and Congressional district, but no matching data to show what questions the poll was answering.  This would imply that coordination was necessary in order to understand the data, and that, of course, would be a violation of campaign finance rules.  Still, the entire incident underscores the need for laws to be updated for social media.

I think the entire issue was best summed up in a tweet by the Vice Chair of the FEC, Ann Ravel:

As noted by the Christian Science Monitor, this isn’t the first time that issues like this have been raised this election cycle:

In April, Republicans accused Democrats of attempting to “subvert campaign finance laws” when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s official Twitter accounts posted messages that Democratic super PACs later incorporated into their ads, CNN reported.

As far as I am concerned, this is a clear violation of the spirit of the law: outside coordination is occurring. If coordination was required to understand the polling data, how could anyone not argue that campaign coordination occurred, thus violating the law?  This seems like a pretty clear violation to me.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this issue has occurred – and its won’t be the last.  Loopholes in the law will always exist, and Citizens United drove a truck through many of the meager separations that still exist.

And, don’t forget, you can now buy my book: Tweets & Consequences:60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake

Anatomy of a Fail: Dave & Busters and the no good, very bad tweet

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As you have probably noticed, this blog tends to go broader than just political screw ups when it comes to social media.  I’m gonna categorize those disasters from now on by providing an in-depth examination of what happened, called Anatomy of a Fail.  The fails will be examined in a similar structure to my book (did you know I wrote a book called Tweets and Consequences that you can by on Amazon…just in case you hadn’t heard……….).

So, here’s our first Anatomy of a Fail, courtesy of Dave & Busters.

The Fail:

This occurred at 1:01pm, EST on November 18, 2014.  The tweet in question had some very clear racial undertones:

Dave and Busters Racist Taco Tweet

The tweet was deleted 40 minutes later.

The Reaction:

Unsurprisingly, the tweet was not well received:

A quick news search reveals dozens of stories, including on some national outlets like CNBC.

The Apology:

This came at 2:15, almost an hour and a half after the initial fail, while others let it go.

The reaction to the apology:  Many took shots at D&B for their inability to use proper grammar:

The stock market reaction:

Check out this chart of Dave & Buster’s stock today:

Dave & Busters Stock

See that dip? It occured a little before 2:00pm – just after the screw-up first went public.  I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I’d bet that the errand tweet is what caused D&B’s stock price to drop.  It was off 2.7% today, while the NASDAQ was up .67%.

Enjoy the blog?  Then make sure to buy the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake is now available for purchase on your Kindle!

Social media demographics: Who uses what in 2014

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I was just working on a report for a client and came up with some information that I thought was worth sharing.  Everyone who deals with social media, of course, has a limited budget in terms of money and time.  If you are going to use social media, you need to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck and not using networks that aren’t going to serve your purposes.  To that end, here’s a quick snapshot at some of the demographic information for social media networks.  I hope this information is useful to you!

  • Facebook
    • 900,000,000 unique monthly visitors, with about 150,000 million American accounts (that’s 40% of America).
    • Skews female.  Penetration among age groups declines as users get older, but 60% of 50-64 year olds who are online have a Facebook account, as do 45% of online Americans who are +65.
    • Engagement is declining among younger Americans, but given raw numbers, this is still a huge presence on Facebook.
  • YouTube
    • One billion people watch videos on YouTube every day.
    • Most popular age demographic is 18-29.  No gender difference.
    • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 40% of the use on this network comes from a mobile device.
  • Twitter
    • Roughly 40 million Americans use Twitter.
    • Majority of users are 49 or younger, but the fastest growing Demographic is 55-64.
    • Has higher penetration among African-Americans than whites.
    • More males use Twitter than females.
  • Tumblr
    • Over 200,000,000 Tumblr blogs exist, and there are more than 110 million daily posts.
    • 66% of users are under 35, and 39% of users are under 25.
    • Only 35% of Tumblr users make more than $50,000.
    • High minority penetration rate; Hispanics and African-Americans make up 29% of Tumblr blogs.
  • Instagram
    • Roughly 35 million Americans have Instagram accounts.
    • 28% of users are 18-24.
    • More urban users are on Instagram than people who live in rural or suburban locations.
  • Vine
    • 11% of all millennials have vine on their smartphones, and 9% of Americans have accessed Vine.
    • Over 1 billion loops are watched every day.
    • 5 vines are tweeted every second.

Enjoy the blog?  Then make sure to buy the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake is now available for purchase on your Kindle!

Texas teacher resigns after racist Ferguson tweet

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venita hegwoodGiven the multitude of stories over public employees getting into trouble for tweets and other social media comments related to the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, you would really think that people would have learned to not say racist things about the situation.  However, the stories continue, as a teacher in Texas is was forced to resign due to a racist tweet she made about the situation.

This story features Vinita Hegwood, an English teacher near Dallas.  Last week, Hegwood sent out this tweet:  “Who the [expletive] made you dumb duck [expletive] crackers think I give a squat [expletive] about your opinions about my opinions RE: Ferguson? Kill yourselves.”

So…about that English….

Unsurprisingly, Lari Barager, a spokeswoman for the Duncanville Independent School District condemned the tweet:

I can’t say it emphatically enough. The nature of the comments are reprehensible.  Those comments having been made in such a public way left the district no other option.

That no other option was to suspend Hegwood, without pay, pending a firing, which Barager called “pretty much a certain outcome.”  According to other accounts, Hegwood wasn’t shy about using offensive terms in her Twitter feed, repeatedly using the n-word and “retard” in her tweets.

Hegwood has since deleted the Twitter account.  In a brief interview at their home, Hegwood’s husband said that there was “more to the story,” but did not explain further.

Reading the writing on the wall, Hegwood resigned.  In a statement released through her union, Hegwood said that the tweet came as a response to a series of threats based on previous tweets about Ferguson.  She said:

My reaction in no way reflects the standards to which I have held myself and my students for the last 20 years of teaching. I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I regret the embarrassment that it has caused the school district.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: public officials are, and should be, held to a higher standard, and that standard probably grows even higher with teachers.  I’m not quite sure what Hegwood was thinking, but based on the information available to me, Duncanville is clearly justified in firing Ms. Hegwood.  This is racism, vulgarity and poor judgement, and someone who sends out a tweet like this should not be in a classroom.

What are your thoughts?  Is Duncanville justified?  Let me know in the comments!

And, don’t forget, you can now buy my book: Tweets & Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake

Like the blog? Download the book, Tweets and Consequences!

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Tweets and Consequences CoverIf you’ve read this blog, you know that I have a passion for social media and politics.  That passion turned into a blog, which then turned into a social media consulting business.  Now, at long last, the book is out.  Tweets and Consequences, 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistakeis now available for download at Amazon!    If some of these stories look familiar, you’re right – I expanded on many of these blog entries and turned them into chapters in the book.

A sincere thank you to all of you who read the blog - over the past few weeks in particular, the views here have really climbed, and I’m hoping that continues.  As always, it’s a pleasure writing for you.  Now go download the book!

Facebook changes the newsfeed to give users more control: Here’s what you need to know

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FB Logo

FB Logo

As noted by Mashable, Facebook recently unveiled a series of changes to its newsfeed.  These changes could have some important impacts on how users get updates from friends and brands that they follow, including politicians.

Currently, you are able to alter your newsfeed settings so you can completely unfollow annoying friends.  This makes it so that you do not have to see content posted by people, but can still be friends with them.

The new component is that Facebook will be creating a News Feed settings page.  From that page, you can see which of your friends you have unfollowed and who you interact with most frequently.  You will be able alter your feed to allow you to have better control over what stories you see more and less often.

This is a good change, and it’s to Facebook’s credit.  I’m not yet sure how it will work with pages or brands, and my guess is that brands will not be in this new customization, as it could hurt Facebook by reducing the need of brands to pay for ads.  However, this could have an impact on the personal pages of elected officials, which are frequently important hubs for distribution of political and policy information.

Based on that, a few thoughts:

  • Tell people about the news feed changes – and show them how to customize it so that they see your information: Calls to action are of vital importance in the digital world, and it’s worth telling people about these changes and showing them how to make sure they are seeing your posts.
  • You may be followed “less”:  The changes also allow users to show your posts “less often” – in other words, they’ll still see you, but less.  Keep in mind that, as en elected official who talks policy and politics, this is going to happen to you, no matter what your content is.  Make sure that, periodically, you gear content to those people.  How do you do this?  My guess – add keywords to the important posts – “IMPORTANT” is a good one.  Ask people to share, comment and like on important posts as well.
  • Make your content count:  This is probably obvious, but as Facebook gives users more control over the content they see, you better think very hard about what you post!  It will soon be much, much easier for users to tune you out.

Any others thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments!

Bill Cosby proves, again, that using a hashtag can be bad for you

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First, the background.  Comedian Hannibal Buress was performing a set in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, and during the set, he reminded his audience that Bill Cosby has had multiple women launch rape accusations against him.  Buress was correct: 13 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault.

Fast forward to Monday.  Bill Cosby, who has a Twitter account, came up with this terrible idea:

Bill Cosby Meme

Clearly, Cosby (or whoever runs his Twitter account) isn’t a reader of this blog, because if he was, he would have known that this was a very bad idea.  Controversial elected officials, as well as numerous major businesses, have had tremendously negative experiences with crowdsourced hashtags like this, and given the recent resurfacing of the rape allegations against Cosby, he NEVER should have sent out this tweet.

But he did.  And then this happened:

Looking at #CosbyMeme reveals plenty more tweets like this.  Of course the story has gone viral and is now making international news.  By the way, the original tweet has been deleted.

The lesson for elected officials – or anyone who does social media, really – is that, if you have a signifigant negative sentiment and try to hold a hashtag event, it’s going to be a disaster.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t have an open hashtag event, but it does mean you have to be prepared for it (something Cosby wasn’t, since he deleted the tweet).  By be prepared, I mean a few things:

  • Have responses ready to go when the tweets turn negative on you.
  • Alert your friends and supporters so that they can tweet positive things about you or your brand.
  • Acknowledge that the attacks will come and be prepared to deal with them.

Clearly, Cosby was ready for none of these things.  This was a disaster.  Cosby’s social media manager has a ton of egg – or pudding – on their face.

Don’t retweet pictures if you don’t know who they are of – it may be of Nazi’s or War Criminals

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California Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) was trolled pretty badly on Twitter last week.  He had been retweeting pictures of military veterans, as tweeted to him by followers, when his account retweeted of figures who had, shall we say, less than favorable views towards America and civilians.  Among the retweets he sent:

Darrell Issa Lee Harvey Oswald

“my uncle Lee” is Lee Harvey Oswald

Darrell Issa War Criminal

William Calley, a member of the US Military who murdered 22 Vietnamese citizens in 1968.

Darrell Issa Retweets Nazijpg

Nazi Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the “final solution.”

The retweets were deleted, and Issa’s team noted that the account was controlled by the Congressman’s staff, not the Congressman himself.

Considering that the entire purpose of the thread (#AmericasVets) was to honor veterans, this is a pretty serious trolling.

Congressman Issa isn’t the first person of prominence to be trolled like this on Twitter.  Donald Trump (who, as we have previously established, isn’t very good at Twitter) once sent out this tweet:

Donald Trump Retweet Serial Killer

Above: Not an inspiration to anyone except other serial killers

The above picture is actually of Fred and Rosemary West, who killed at least 11 women in England over a 30 year period.

The lesson of this bizarre incident is to be careful what you tweet – or retweet.  There’s no way to confirm that a picture isn’t of a Nazi or a War Criminal before retweeting it, and even if there was, that would be a clunky process.  If there is a statement you are retweeting, you should try to confirm its accuracy before sending the information from your own account.  Above all else, be careful with your content, and remember, when you crowd-source your Twitter feed, this is an inherent danger.

Failing for a year!

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Obviously, last week was a hectic one, but it was so it was only recently that I realized this: last week, November 3, was the one year anniversary of Political Fails; It was on that day that I wrote and published the first blog entry.  I can’t believe I’ve been at this for a year – it seems like it was only yesterday!

Since that first entry was published, there have been 253 posts about a whole variety of fails and social media tips.  I can’t believe that part in and of itself.  Some other interesting notes:

  • The most popular blog entries I’ve run often had little to do with the content and everything to do with a good link or search term.  Back in February, I did a story on a Russian member of parliament and former Olympiad who used Twitter to take racist shots at President Obama.  The entry performed about average at the time it was published – however, six months later, the popular sports website Bleacher Report did an article on social media fails – and linked to this blog entry.  Hundreds of people then visited Political Fails, and this became the most popular blog entry I’ve written so far.
  • The second and fourth most popular entries were a matter of good timing.  Last week, I did stories on what candidates were “winning” Facebook and Twitter.  On election day, people were Googling terms like “who is winning the 2014 elections” and they came to these entries.  That made the Twitter entry the second most popular entry of all time, and the Facebook one was #4.
  • The third and fifth most popular entries were two of the most massive fails I’ve discussed.  At #3 was Milton Wolf, a radiologist and candidate for Senate in Kansas, who posted pictures of x-rays of patients, complete with horrifically insensitive commentary.  At number five was Councilman Henry Davis Jr. of South Bend, Indiana, who used Facebook to post content that compared the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to bestiality - and posted explicit pictures of bestiality while doing so.
  • 10% of my traffic doesn’t come from the United States.  Unsurprisingly, the most popular foreign countries are English speaking: United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
  • The top three sources of traffic, for me, are Search Engines, Twitter and Facebook.  The Bleacher Report article was #4, and LinkedIn is #5.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I plan on continuing to blog for the foreseeable future.  What started out as a hobby has turned into a future book and a small business, and I’m really enjoying this.  More importantly, I hope you are enjoying reading.  The goal here has been to do more than entertain or laugh at the mistakes of others: it’s been to teach.  Teach you how to use social media appropriately, and teach the importance of social media from a governmental perspective.  If I’m doing that, this has been worth it.

Thanks for reading!

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