Why Disclosure Matters

The issue of users of social media disclosing their connections to the content they are sharing has been around a long time. In fact, it pre-dates social media and actually goes back to journalism (both print and broadcasting). But, with the rise of citizen journalists and easy to use blogging software, the issue needs to be addressed repeatedly so that the folks who don’t have a J-School background understand.

I first realized what a major problem this was back in 2009 when I attended BlogHer in Chicago. It was a rude awakening in many ways, but one thing that really stuck me was how demanding (and clueless) some of my fellow bloggers were. At the trade show, a representative from a major camera company shared a story of a blogger insisted that they “had” to send her two cameras (one to giveaway and one for her). Why? Because she blogged.

At a panel later in the conference on the topic of disclosure, the discussion among the members of the panel and the audience got a bit heated. Finally, one of the bloggers shouted, “But journalists get things sent to them all the time!” I couldn’t take it any more and yelled back, “But they send them back!”

A recent post on the Six Pixels of Separation blog raised the issue again. As Mitch Joel points out, with the FTC now monitoring blogs and now holding publishers responsible for “misleading consumers with native advertising”, disclosure is even more important now. Even Facebook or Instagram likes can be taken as a sign of you and/or your blog endorsing a product. Same can go for retweets on Twitter and so on.

Lack of disclosure also does something else. It makes your personal brand less authentic. And when it’s less authentic, it’s less valuable to your readers and to you.

On both RadioCarla.com and Hoperatives, I’ve tried to be totally open about when I’ve received a review unit or been invited to a soft open to try out a new better beer location as their guest. But, I’m planning to go back through all of my posts to make sure I was as authentic as possible.

I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a long time blogger and friend recently about this issue. She mentioned that she had started waiting to review Disney events/attractions later rather than sooner. She was skipping the private events and going when the general public could also go. She mentioned that it was “funny when you want to post a disclaimer that you did NOT get anything for free.” I replied that I had seen (and done) that on occasion and think it adds authenticity to the review or post.

It’s true. Unfortunately, because of lack of disclosure too often in social media/blogging, I’ve come to assume that when certain users use social media to talk about being at a play or new restaurant opening, I immediately think they must have gotten comp tickets or a free meal. At that point, nothing they say about the event or location is valid for me.

I’ve written before about how you need to be careful what you blog. It’s even more important now with the FTC watching. Now, please be careful how you share on social media too. If you are live tweeting an event for any kind of compensation, be sure to make an early tweet about whether you are being compensated or if you have a connection with the event or product.

And those of you who are trying to get your clients and their products placement in blogs and other social media? Please stop rewarding the ones that violate disclosure rules all the time. How valuable is that placement if the person giving you coverage isn’t authentic?

Arts Angle: ArtsWave’s Amazing Arts Race Returns April 12

I’m putting on my ArtsWave WeDidIt Ambassador hat again to let you know about a very unique event that ArtsWave is hosting again. If you are a fan of the CBS show The Amazing Race and a fan of the arts, you will love the second annual Amazing Arts Race.

The Amazing Arts Race is a creative scavenger hunt for young professionals in Downtown Cincinnati. It will be held Saturday, April 12 beginning at 1:00 p.m. and registration is now open at https://amazingartsrace.eventbrite.com.

Amazing Arts Race

For this event, teams race to complete a series of arts challenges like finding works of art and architecture, answering arts trivia, and making art themselves. The challenges can also include origami, charades and dance breaks. The teams use their social media skills on Twitter to get clues and to actually complete some of the required tasks. Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place teams in addition to random prize drawings.

Maddie Grant, Manager of Residential and Affinity Group Giving for ArtsWave, says, “Last year’s race attracted more than 100 participants from all over the region. Our ArtsWave Young Professionals group and the Taft Museum of Art have teamed up again to make this year’s race even more exciting.”

ArtsWave partner companies are encouraged to form teams of 2 to 4 people, but the event is open to all young professionals. All participants must be 21 years of age. Individuals interested in being paired with a team can contact Ms. Grant directly at maddie.grant@theartswave.org.

Registration is $15 per person and can be completed online at https://amazingartsrace.eventbrite.com. Deadline to register is April 7. Teams will be notified by email and Twitter of the race details after registration closes.

According to their press release, “Teams will move around downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods by foot and/or by car to different arts organizations and works of public art. Running gear is not required, as creativity will be as important as speed.”

The Amazing Arts Race is generously sponsored by the Taft Museum of Art with support of The Thomas J. Emery Memorial and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. This event supports ArtsWave’s annual community campaign for the arts which runs through April 22.

Target Does Email and Twitter Wrong

I love Target. Really, I do. I just placed an online order with them yesterday. My financial planner even recommends doing the bulk of our grocery shopping at Target so we can save 5% with our Red Cards. Yep, my husband and I both have Target Red Cards. But, sometimes Target does both email and Twitter wrong.

But one thing has been bugging me for a while. While most of the email newsletter (okay, ads) that I would get from Target would fine (maybe even informative), I started getting their weekly baby ads. That seemed odd since I don’t have kids and, at 51, never plan to have any. But then I remembered that a year ago I ordered a baby gift from a Target gift registry. And that’s when the baby emails started. I looked on the email to see how to opt out of the baby emails. Nope, it was either all or none. I checked the Target web site. Same thing – either all of the email ad they wanted to send me or none.

So I tried Twitter. Here’s the conversation I had with someone at Target on Twitter (you can click on the image for a larger version of the screen shot):

Target Does Twitter Wrong

Frustrated, I did what they wanted and opted out of all email communication from Target. It was so disappointing. The next replies from the AskTarget Twitter were no more helpful.

Target Does Email and Twitter Wrong #2

I did sign up for the weekly ad reminders again, but I was very careful to uncheck the box that said “yes, please also email me additional offers, exclusives and promotions from Target.”

In a world where there is all kind of customization available, how hard is it to let consumers choose what information they want to get from a company? It’s not and Target needs to learn that lesson fast.

And, Target? My first name is Carla. Not whatever was in the “hello” box when I went to sign up for the weekly ad reminders.

Target Does Twitter Wrong 3

— Carla

More proof that most folks don’t get Twitter

More proof that most folks don't understand Twitter

via comics.com

Reality Check is another comic strip that went for the stereotype of what Twitter is. I guess it wouldn’t be funny to talk about how it can build community and how I’ve gained some wonderful friends through Twitter. Though, by continuing to give non-users the idea that this is what Twitter is about, maybe the comic strip artists are actually helping to keep the signal-to-noise ratio down. Even if they aren’t, the non-believers don’t realize the most powerful part of Twitter — the ability to stop following someone.

How Twitter Saved Our Vacation

How Twitter Saved Our Vacation

I’ve always been a sweepstakes person. When I was about twelve or so, I remember reading an article with sweepstakes winners detailing the tips and tricks of the trade. At that time, you had to cut out the entry blank or write your information on a 3×5″ index card. Each entry set you back the cost of the envelope and stamp, not to mention your time. Oh, how sweepstakes have changed! Fill out a web form, hit “Submit” and you’re done. Web sites like EZsweeps make it even easier by finding the sweepstakes for you and prefilling the form for you sometimes.

Over the years, I’ve won several small things. The best I ever won was $250.00 from Hormel. Until now…

I can vividly remember the day I got THE email message. The subject line was “Congratulations – You are a winner in the Dream Suite Sweepstakes”. My immediate thought was that it was either a scam or a phishing attempt. But something made me read closer. The email went on to say that I had won the Grand Prize in Sandals Resorts Dream Suite Sweepstakes. Then, it clicked. I remembered that I had entered that sweepstakes!

Being a academic, I immediately started doing research on the whole thing. The email was from a company called ePrize and a quick web search found a Wikipedia entry that said “ePrize is a Michigan based company that creates promotional campaigns ranging from online sweepstakes to points-based loyalty programs.” Okay… that’s a good sign. But, I needed more verification. There were attachments to the email that included an affidavit to be filled out and a set of the contest rules. In those, I found the name of another company – Unique Vacations, Inc. Another search revealed that Unique Vacations is the parent company of both Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Holy cow! This win may be real!!!

Tom and I filled out the forms and sent them back to ePrize (FedEx with confirmation, of course). Then, we waited for them to verify my eligibility (and waited and waited). I became very superstitious and didn’t want to tell anyone about my win until it was verified. Finally, in late July, I received my claim letter (their term) from Sandals and it was time to make my choices. I had won seven nights in a suite at any Sandals resort. Since airfare wasn’t included, I chose the one with the least expensive airfare from Cincinnati: Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau. I also had to pick my dates which were tricky with my school schedule. Once it was filled out, I scanned the claim form (just in case) and sent it back to Sandals (FedEx with confirmation once again). Then it was time for more waiting and waiting and waiting… The official word was that Sandals could wait until 30 days before the trip to notify us. Ugh!

This is where Twitter comes to the rescue. I started becoming addicted to using Twitter about a year before and since then, I’ve met some wonderful people thanks to it. Because my bio on Twitter states that I’m a travel agent, I get some interesting people and companies following me. On October 21st, I got notification that Sandals and Beaches Resorts were following me. I decided to send a direct message to the Sandals account and see if the person updating it was actually in the corporate office. Luckily, they were. A flurry of direct messages began. I explained that I was a winner in one of their recent sweepstakes and that I was anxious to hear if I had gotten the time period I requested since I didn’t have much flexibility there. Lydia, the delightful person I was Twitter-chatting with, started checking for me and told me that Pedro would be the person contacting me with that information. However, as she was checking into things, she discovered my claim letter was missing! They had record of the security guard signing for it, but no sign of it after that! ACK!!! Just as I was about to go into full panic mode, I remembered that I had scanned the filled out form and I asked if that would work if I emailed or faxed it to them. It would! Hallelujah! I sent it to both Lydia and Pedro as soon as I could. They said again that I wouldn’t know for sure until December. By then, I was so relieved I didn’t care so much. Vacation was saved and this was all taking place on Twitter!

Just nine days later, my phone at work rang and it was Pedro from Sandals. He asked if I wanted to hear about my vacation details and I just about jumped out of my skin. We got the resort we asked for in Nassau and my first choice for the dates too. I thanked Pedro profusely and hung up the phone. I sat there for a good long time so thankful that Sandals decided to follow me on Twitter and that I decided to send them a direct message. And that’s how Twitter saved our vacation!

You can win too! Sandals is running another round of their “Four Days in Paradise” Sweepstakes right now. You can enter at http://www.sandals.com/sweepstakes/

Good luck and happy Twittering!