CNN hosts #AskACop…guess how well this went?

I’ve repeatedly written about how subjects with signifigant negative sentiment should avoid using branded hashtags, because the viral and open nature of these hashtags will often lead to serious negative feedback.

This past Tuesday, CNN ran a segment with a panel of police officers.  The show, which aired at 10pm, encouraged users to submit questions to police officers via Twitter:

Guess how this went:

These responses are brutal.

As noted by the Mashable article, many of the tweets did ask legitimate questions, and many were supportive as well.  However, the negative response to the hashtag did show a sad truth: an incredible amount of distrust and negative feels exist towards the men and women in blue.

From CNN’s perspective, however, the show was a hit: #AskACop was the top trending topic in the United States.

Clearly, while this may have been a sad day for police officers, it was not for CNN: they clearly got what they wanted.

So, was this a fail?  As always, the answer is nuanced.  There was a ton of negative feedback generated against police officers in general, and given the times we live in, this is sadly unsurprising.  This is clearly a national problem, and one that is, without a doubt, making it more difficult for police to take care of their community.  How can it be addressed, at least on social media?

Via things like #askacop.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but police departments should use more hashtags like these, at least on a local level.  If they are truly dedicated towards rebuilding and restoring trust, as well as addressing their community, they should hold events like these and answer questions.  Of course, this comes with a few caviets:

  • This should be done on a local level, not a national one, if the goal is constructive dialogue. This way, when posed with questions about police brutality in other departments, local departments can respond honestly: they have not done things like that.
  • They should acknowledge that negative feedback will occur; in fact, they should encourage it, so it can be addressed.  Remember, people are using social media to talk about you regardless of whether or not you are actually using social media, and encouraging people to direct negative feedback to you gives you a chance to address it.

What do you think: Do I have this right? Let me know in the comments.



No, that’s not a hashtag I just made up–It’s a real one, courtesy of South Dakota.

Here’s the deal: “jerking” while driving is when drivers hit icy roads and then jerk the wheel in an attempt to right their car. However, the overcompensation then causes an accident.  Jerking, of course, has an entirely different meaning, and officials in South Dakota admitted that the innuendo was intentional.

This has been turned into an entire media campaign, complete with pictures, ads, and, of course, the Twitter hashtag.  Naturally, Twitter is having a field day with this one:

As you can imagine, some legislators were upset with the ad.  South Dakota State Representative Mike Verchio was going to hold a Transportation Committee hearing on the issue, saying that the entire campaign was “a terrible error in judgment.”  However, the campaign was then cancelled.  Said Trevor Jones, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety:

“I decided to pull the ad. This is an important safety message and I don’t want this innuendo to distract from our goal to save lives on the road.”

However, as I write this entry, the website remains live.

The lesson? Uhh…don’t make driver safety campaigns that intentionally allude to masturbation.  Seriously, this is just ridiculous. How could an entire group of people think that this was a good idea? I get what they are going for, and hey, they probably really increased the awareness of “jerking” while driving, but this kind of juvenile humor absolutely needs to be avoided by the government. This was inappropriate, as far as I am concerned.

Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

Santa Fe, New Mexico launches #HowToSantaFe to overwhelming success

I literally haven’t written a story about someone using social media right in weeks, so its long overdue! Here’s a really good one: Check out this fantastic story from AllFacebook, which discusses how the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico launched a Twitter hashtag to overwhelming success.

The marketing campaign, #HowToSantaFe, encouraged users to upload photographs about the city to Instagram, using the above hashtag. It included a public awareness campaign, in-kind donations from businesses and seminars that taught people how to best use Instagram. The city, aware of its own limitations, partnered with an outside firm in order to properly execute the campaign.

It was apparently an overwhelming success:

  • 4.9 million people reached.
  • 52.3 million impressions.
  • $261,000 value in marketing return on investment for the city of Santa Fe.
  • $55,000 in-kind donations from local businesses.
  • $50,000 new paid work opportunities over one year.
  • 10,719 posts to #HowToSantaFe on Instagram alone.
  • 10 local businesses have launched Instagram campaigns.

A very quick review of the hashtag on Twitter reviews some fantastic entries:

If you want to launch a similar campaign, some thoughts:

  • Prearrange the first entries. As we’ve reviewed before, a hashtag campaign can backfire, very easily and very catastrophically.  Negative images and spam are guaranteed with campaigns like this, so make sure you have some positive images set to go in order to start the campaign rolling right.
  • Get the help of an expert. A campaign like this is complicated and requires professional guidance to do it right.  More often than not, this is beyond the capacities of a governmental agency, so it pays to bring in someone who knows what they are doing.
  • Advertise appropriately.  Something this big can only work if you get many partners, have deep community outreach and a set marketing plan in order to make it work.
  • Augment with real dollars.  I’m not sure if this campaign spent any real money in order to advertise the hashtag or its results, but I do know that backing such an effort with real money would have been a positive. Like it or not, more and more social networks are requiring dollars in order to make a real impact.

This campaign should be lauded as a best practice for governments using social media.  However, I have one qualm with it, as the ROI metrics tracked are missing something key: How much money and how many tourists the campaign actually drove to the city.  One of the biggest problems I have seen with some social media campaigns is that they track ROI within the social media vacuum and fail to connect social media statistics to the real world, somehow automatically assuming that the social media hits will translate to real world success. It reminds me of that classic South Park episode involving the underpants gnomes:

Underpants profit

Phase 2 aboe is the missing ROI component here: How did #HowToSantaFe turn into real money?

What do you think? Any other thoughts to add about how this could have worked better? Let us know in the comments!

Marykate Nyman Blankenburgjpg

Pennsylvania guidance counselor threatens to shoot protestors

In the aftermath of the Ferguson shootings, protestors across the country have been holding “die-ins,” in which they lie “dead” (usually for 4.5 minutes, to signify the 4.5 hours that Michael Brown’s body lay on the streets in Ferguson) in a public place.  One such die-in was held after last Sunday’s Eagle game, and that brings us to today’s fail:
Marykate Nyman Blankenburgjpg

The above Facebook post was apparently posted by Marykate Blankenburg. It’s an offensive enough post, but it’s Blankenburg’s occupation that creates the real problem here: She’s a guidance counselor at Central Bucks West High School in the Central Bucks School District. Unsurprisingly, Blankenburg has been put on paid leave and the county District Attorney’s office has been contacted.

The School District is now in the fact-finding portion of its investigation. According to the school’s superintendent, Dr. David Weitzel:

“Responding with urgency and concern, we immediately began an investigation, including verification of the source of the post, and we will take appropriate action once we learn all of the facts.”

Meanwhile, the Facebook account in question has since been deleted. When initially contacted about the post, Blankenburg said that “my child might have gotten hold of my iPad.”

The lessons here:

  • If Blankenburg made the post, she should be fired for poor judgement. No one who speaks like this should be in a position of authority or working with kids.
  • If it was her kids, two things:
    • Everyone needs to give their kids, of any age, proper digital education (“Don’t touch this, don’t type that, don’t use these words, etc). I’m a parent too, and I can certainly imagine that, perhaps, Blankenburg did teach her kids what to say and what not to say, and they simply ignored her.  That being said, a good rule of thumb is this: If they are old enough to use a device, they are old enough to know what they should and should not do.
    • If you are worried about your kids using digital devices without your consent, add a password.

Either way, hopefully, the investigation will get to the bottom of whatever really happened.  That being said, this is a national news story. Blankenburg’s career, fair or unfair, is in big trouble.

Do social media snafus result in lost elections?

I think this is an interesting – and important question.  After all, half of what I talk about in this blog is the importance of properly using social media for elected officials, and I frequently blog about what happens when social media is used improperly by government leaders.  As such, the question becomes this: What happens to electeds who use social media poorly?  Do they lose reelection?

Believe it or not, by and large, I’m guessing not.  It’s very hard for an incumbent to lose, despite a social media mistake – or any other, for that matter.

So, to check the answer to this question, I went back to Tweets and Consequences reviewed the elected officials who I covered in the book.  Here are the results:

  • Joe Miller: 2010 Republican nominee for Alaska Senate who tweeted about how he couldn’t wait to take office – even though he hadn’t won yet.  He lost in a major upset.
  • Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN): Sent bizarre tweets to model Victoria Brink, and later claimed that she was his daughter, only to retract that claim when a paternity test proved otherwise.  Won reelection in 2014.
  • Colleen Lachowicz: 2012 Maine State Senate candidate who had her World of Warcraft character, and comments she made in online forums, used against her.  Won election.
  • Dr. Milton Wolf: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, who uploaded pictures of x-rays and made ghoulish and tasteless comments with the x-rays.  Lost primary challenge to Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS).
  • Congressman David Cassidy (R-LA): While running against Senator Mary Landreau, staff tweeted a photoshopped a picture of the Senator on Benito Mussolini’s body.  Cassidy handily beat Landrieu in a runoff election.
  • State Senator Robert Rucho (R-SC): Tweeted that Justice Roberts did more damage to the US than “the swords of the Nazis, Soviets terrorists combined.”  Won his primary in a close election, but was unchallenged in the general election.
  • State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-WA): Tweeted that Arizona was a “desert racist wasteland.”  Fitzgibbon won reelection.
  • Stewart Mills (R-MN): Ran for Congress against first termer Rick Nolan (D), and had photos appear of him on Facebook that were less than flattering.  Nolan defeated Mills.
  • State Representative Kyle Tasker: New Hampshire State Representative (R) who, while discussing domestic violence on a Facebook thread, posted a picture of two stick figures having oral sex with the caption, “50,000 battered women and I still eat mine plain.” Tasker was reelected.
  • Joshua Black: Candidate for Florida State House of Representatives (R) who called for the hanging of President Obama.  Lost the Republican primary.
  • State Representative Pat Garofalo: Minnesota State Representative (R) who tweeted that the NBA was filled with criminals.  Won reelection.
  • Congressman John Flemming (R-LA): Conservative Congressman who posted an article from The Onion on abortions, failing to realize that the article was satire.  Won reelection.

So, of the 12, 8 won and 4 lost.  The conclusion?  It’s hard to draw.  In most cases, I’d say that the social media helped to formulate people’s opinions of a candidate that were being enforced anyway.  Only in the case of Dr. Wolf do I think the Facebook use, in and of itself, was particularly damaging.

What do you think?  Any other thoughts to add?  Let us know in the comments!


Sephora launches #CountdownToBeauty, misses critical “O”

Sephora is a makeup and beauty giant that has locations throughout the world. Last week, the company opened its first store in Sydney, Australia, which is now the largest Sephora in the Southern Hemisphere. In an effort to promote the new launch, the company launched the #CountdownToBeauty campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, someone forgot to proof the text first:


The post was deleted without comment, but naturally, a variety of responses quickly began to circulate using the vulgar hashtag:

Some, however, didn’t buy the “mistake”:

Interestingly enough, Sephora never commented on the story, which, in my mind, would lend credence to the argument that they did this on purpose: Commenting would just take ink away from the reason that the vulgar post was accidentally made in the first place, which was to announce the new opening of the Sydney store. After all, if it was a mere harmless typo, why not just have a spokesperson say, “Whoops, our bad,” and be done with it? And it is certainly safe to say that the mistake got Sephora – and its new Sydney location – a ton of free publicity across the world.

Me? Just an opinion: I think this was a clever marketing ploy. If you are going to make a social media mistake, a “typo” is the least offensive one you can make, as its easy enough for people to assume that it was just an innocent blunder.  Of course, that’s just a hunch – I have no proof of that and could very easily be wrong.

What do you think: Smart marketing or honest error? Let us know in the comments!


#WeCanBreathe is possibly the worst hashtag ever used by a police department

I look forward to the day where I can stop blogging about governments and police departments foolishly using social media when discussing the tragedy in Ferguson and New York.  Unfortunately, today is not that day.

The hashtag #ICantBreathe has become a popular one in light of the non-indictment of police officer Daniel Pantaleo after the death of Eric Garner.  Unless you have been under a rock, you have seen the nationwide protests as a result of the lack of indictment.

Some of those protests took place in Indianapolis, Indiana, where protesters were watched by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. During the protests, two were arrested at Monument Circle in the city. One Twitter user was upset about the arrests and tweeted at the IMPD:

The IMPD responded thusly:


The tweet was deleted later, but way too late, and the media quickly picked up on its snarky and disrespectful nature.

The police officer who sent it was office Kendale Adams. Adams, who is black, apologized for the tweet, saying he meant no disrespect:

“Our issue has nothing to do with Eric Garner. As an African-American officer, why would I touch that issue?”

Okay, fine.  Then he added:

“We don’t have a doctorate in Twitter,” Adams said. “We’re learning. That was a learning opportunity. We apologize.”

The department also deleted the tweet an used Twitter to apologize:

Naturally, the apology was not well taken by many:

It should go without saying that police departments – and governments in general – have an obligation to use social media appropriately and respectfully.  The tweet was fine until the completely unnecessary edition of the #WeCanBreathe hashtag, which clearly mocks the protestors, and could easily be interpreted as mocking the death of Garner himself. This was a foolish move and an unforced error, and then one that was compounded by the apology: “We don’t have a doctorate in Twitter.”


When you make a social media error, you don’t say, “Gee, sorry, I don’t have a doctorate in Twitter.”  You say sorry, pledge to learn from the experience, explain how it will never again, and move on.  I would also say that it would be wise if the Twitter account responded personally to some users, at least those who appeared local. They clearly offended many of the people they are supposed to protect, and at a time where relations between police departments and citizens are particularly strained. Attempting to interact on a personal level with critics would likely go a long way to restoring some of the broken trust.