The Pen versus The Keyboard

a notebook with a pen in the top right corner, while a laptop rests open. A cup of coffee rests next to the laptop

While it is sometimes hard to believe, it wasn’t so long ago that the source of people’s opinions on things was drafted in physical letters where they put pen to paper, then mailed to the editor of a publication. You had to feel very strongly about the situation to sit down and spend the time writing out a letter, digging for the address on where to send it, find a stamp and an envelope, and mail the thing out. Then, if your letter was chosen for publication, you might see it in print.

Today, all of that has been replaced with a computer keyboard and smartphones, the onslaught of social media, and the Internet. Now, if you have any grievances or opinions, all you have to do is scroll to the “contact” page of a site, grab the email address, and instantaneously send them hate mail; complaining about how much you loathe what they are doing for whatever reason you have. Or better yet, you just go and comment on their Facebook page, tag them in a tweet, or roast them in a video shared on Instagram or TikTok. This way, they have it instantly, and they can get back with you the very same day if necessary.

Of course, that is if said company or agency has the coverage to do such a thing or cares to respond at all.

It’s common knowledge that most brands and businesses only have 1-3 people working on their social media at a given time, whereas most only have one person in charge of monitoring and managing social media. (I have an amazing story to tell you about that point being made by a friend of mine on a page I used to work for and how it ended up hurting me in the long run … but that’s a story for another time.)

When you compare 1-3 people per business working on social and the projected 4.55 BILLION people on social media commenting (KEPIOS), it’s easy to see how the average user can overwhelm the typical social media manager. This simply proves we are now in a time when the keyboard is mightier than the pen.

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How Do I Communicate When it’s Dark?

If there is anything we can learn from the Facebook outage, it’s we can’t rely on only one (or in this case, three) forms of communication. Social Media is more than just Facebook and Instagram.

When Facebook (and its partners Instagram and WhatsApp) on Monday, October 4, social media managers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief for a break in the chaos of their day. However, when that first hour turned into two, and then four, panic started to creep into their minds.

According to Pew Research’s Social Media Use in 2021 published in April of this year, 69% of U. S. adults use Facebook, and 70% of those adults visit the site at least once daily, debunking the idea that the popular social networking site is dead or dying.

For many of us, Facebook is where most of our audience is, and the study is proof of that. If it’s down – or dare I say, gone – how exactly are we supposed to get information out to our stakeholders? Having a strategic communications plan in place that has a broad range of platforms included can help you not only stay connected to every member of your audience, but also make sure you are doing it according to the American Disabilities Act as well.

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Trolls Need Kind Words The Most

Technology sometimes has a way of failing and leaving you at work with nothing to do. Case in point, I’m sitting here at my desk, and our servers are down. I can’t access anything. The connection to our printers is down. The connection to our email is down. The connection to everything is down. So on a whim, I opened up Firefox to do some browsing to pass the time along until I could maybe see something open and get some work done.

As I opened the browser, the “recommended by Pocket” section had a selection of articles listed. One, in particular, caught my eye. The headline read: “Trolls need kind words the most.” It’s been almost seven months since I was with social media professionally (which is soon to change, more on that later) but, it was the kind of headline that made me want to know more. So, I clicked on it.

The article was not about social at all, but about a video game called Kind Words. It was released on Steam in 2019, and the gist of the game is you write short letters, and people, strangers really, can read them and respond to them.  You either put your letter out there for someone to respond to or respond to someone else. That’s it.

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It’s No Joke: Brands Beware the April Fools Trickery

A few years ago, I got this wild idea of creating a funny post on my work Facebook page. At the time, I was still doing social media for the Sheriff’s Office and we were trying to find ways to make sure people were being smart during the holidays and staying safe. I had just seen a few agencies in Florida post about arresting The Grinch and things like that, but I wanted to go bigger.

That’s when I thought of this:

I showed it to my then PIO and Supervisor, and he had some reservations so I added the fine print at the bottom. I kept the hokey “hee hee, this isn’t real, don’t kill us” kind of vibe, and he agreed with the idea and we posted it.

It became a huge hit.

People were making all kinds of puns related to Home Alone, saying thanks to our deputies for nabbing the Wet Bandits, the whole nine yards. It was great for a bunch of reasons, but the main ones were we got to laugh, we reminded people to lock their doors and keep their homes safe during the holidays, and everyone was able to participate.

But on the chance of sounding old-fashioned, those days are long gone and today we are living in a world where the insane headlines are actually true and there is no joke wild enough that could be “obviously” kidding.

April Fool’s Day is usually a time where people and brands alike try to out-wit each other with jokes and gimmicks to buy into a fad that died decades ago. If you are thinking about participating in this fossilized idea, I beg you to reconsider. You could do serious damage to your brand’s reputation and risk the chance of being considered tone-deaf in the middle of the pandemic.

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Is Free Speech Really Free?

On March 5, Senate Bill 211 (SB211)  advanced out of a Kentucky Legislature Senate Committee which would make it illegal to insult or taunt a Kentucky law enforcement officer to the point where it could provoke a violent response. The bill, sponsored by retired police officer Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton (Ky.), is in response to the violence and vandalism that occurred both in Louisville last summer and at the Capitol Building in January. 

According to Carroll, the bill’s goal is to protect first responders, the public, and both public and private property. 

The bill passed 7 to 4 on Thursday, March 11, 2021, but not without opposition from Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville (Ky). He told committee members the words in the bill are “dangerous” and would send the wrong message to the public. And in my opinion, he’s right. 

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Size Matters! Image Sizes for 2021

In the social media world, image size matters.

If anything is going to catch a user’s eye while they are doom scrolling, it’s going to be a snappy image. Who wouldn’t want to stop and look at that photo of the adorable puppy, smiling and playing in the kiddie pool? And as a content creator, you want that image to look it’s best: no only with the best lighting and the best colors, but the right dimensions for the platform you just posted it on.

That’s why it’s so important to on point with the latest updates each platform releases when it comes to image sizes and dimensions. It seems like they are changing all the time nowadays, and what works for one platform is not going to work for all of them.

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Social Media in the Time of COVID

A woman with dark hair and glasses looking at a laptop, the words "Social Media in the Time of COVID" written across the graphics

When the pandemic took the United States by storm and started shutting down what we traditionally knew, social media and virtual hang outs became the new normal. People flocked to sites like Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and YouTube in an effort to remain connected to their family and friends while remaining quarantined in their own homes.

Advertisements flooded the airwaves to remind people that they could remain connected while all alone and people fell back on what social media was all about when it first started: connecting with people you couldn’t see on a regular basis.

“Social media has been helping people maintain a sense of community when real life contact is lacking,” said Mobbie Nazir, Chief Strategy Officer of We Are Social, a global social media company. Content flooded timelines and streams with realistic images and stories of life: homemade meals and dinner tables filled with families and kitchen tables made into classrooms interspersed with a play by play of the battle someone had with the virus itself. There were also videos flooding the social media sites: parodies of pop songs talking about how much people hated the quarantine and COVID, how making Sourdough Bread was the next challenge, showcasing how a neighborhood joined in on a happy hour from their own driveways, even pretending to give their pets voices and complaining about how the humans have taken over their homes.

The increase on usage was global: Every age group, every nation, and every demographic increased their social media usage thanks to COVID-19. The increase didn’t stop with just the connection with loved ones and friends.

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What’s In My Media ‘Go’ Bag

I was preparing for Hurricane Irma and taking into consideration the things I learned from Hurricane Matthew, I made sure that I had a laptop from the agency so I could have access to SJSO materials freely. I was also handed a MiFi internet box as well. I put it in my media bag along with the other things I knew I’d need for the time I’d be at the EOC. After work that night, I ran to Target to grab a wireless mouse and a mousepad.

I never really thought about what other people didn’t know until it happened. We had left the EOC to take photos of the damage and destruction of the county, and I had grabbed my media bag to go with me. Sarah, a friend of mine, commented that her phone was running low on battery and without thinking about it, I handed over an external battery and an extra charging cable for an iPhone. There were jokes about how I was prepared and how I should be on their team (they worked for the county, and I work for law enforcement) but that’s when it hit me.

Everyone who is in public information should have a media go bag; a media bag with tools of the trade on the off chance that you find yourself in a position that is outside of a building with electricity. A kit that has essential tools that would allow you to do your job no matter what the circumstances are, one that you can grab at a moments notice and just go when called upon.

I’ve been building my kit since I started here at the Sheriff’s Office, and here is what I have in mine:

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Social Media and Common Sense

I don’t know when common sense became not so common. Perhaps it was lost when people starting using the whole “first amendment rights” to validate the really hurtful and negative things they say. Maybe it happened when we started teaching an entire generation that they don’t need to take responsibility for themselves and that they are entitled to whatever it is they want. Maybe it was lost long before all of that and is something only a select few people really have the grasp of.

Either way, it’s something I have to deal with when I get online and look at the posts people make on social media platforms. It always boggled my mind how people felt so brave behind a keyboard, spouting out their words of hate and cruelty shrouded in the disguise of “it’s just my opinion, lol.” People have this undeniable belief that what they post online is completely safe from repercussions. But the truth is it’s not, and using freedom of speech as your defense is not going to help you.

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