Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guilt by Association? Nope, Just Clueless

Many of us created the little minute and a half life montage on Facebook a couple of months ago.

You might remember those, and the first thing it showed was "You Joined in...."

I joined in 2007, much to the disdain of my daughter who thought I was dabbling in a young person's world.

Like Twitter later, I remember initially thinking how worthless this platform was but soon realizing its value.

Facebook really is the phone book of our times.

(Odd isn't it, that people paid money to not be listed in the phone book but have so much of their lives public now on Facebook?).

One benefit of Facebook, in this job, is liking various organizations that might have posts of interest impacting election administration.

Usually, posts may be more about elections than administration, but it's good to know, for instance, if advance ballot applications are being distributed or if any voters are expressing any issues voting (as in, not getting their advance or mail ballots).

But by 2009, though, as more and more adults were on Facebook, I realized that I needed a friending policy, a code, a compass, or at least some sort of guideline when I would accept friend requests or like pages. 

Simply, I don't want to friend a candidate and have it even remotely appear that I have a vested interest in that candidate winning or losing.  In fact, a friend of mine once was a candidate at the time of a milestone birthday and I snubbed his party because I didn't want my mere attendance to suggest I had any interest in the outcome of his election.

Such an approach has gotten harder. 

Usually, in what probably looks like some cold follow-up, I'll start accumulating friend requests about this time of year, in even years, and act on them after the November election.

Problem is, if the person wins and later becomes a candidate, well, we're already virtual friends.  I didn't see any way around that and even, further, I modified my inner code to accept a friend request who is a candidate when the candidate is facing an incumbent who I'd previously friended. 

Otherwise, it might now appear I had a vested interest in the incumbent winning again.

More frequently and recently, though, pages I've liked (and often long ago remember liking them) might run advertisements. 

I check Facebook just once or twice a day so I usually don't see any linked to me, but apparently some are.  I've seen others--Friend ABC likes Razor of the Month Club, followed by a sponsored add by the Razor of the Month Club (which I joined just because of the video, I'm embarrassed to say).

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend I greatly respect sent me a message asking why I supported a candidate.

I had no idea where she was coming from, and after trading some messages at least figured out the offending page.  Basically, it was similar to the Razor ad with a different cut, "Brian D. Newby  likes Site ABC," followed by a post that would lead people to think I supported the content of the post.

I unliked that page, but I've never seen the offending ad.

Politically, though, as ailing Miley Cyrus would tweet, #feelingnobueno.

Last week, my wife asked me about something similar and that evening we went through her news feed and couldn't find the feed, so the perp remains at large.

This is becoming a big issue and an emerging one for election administrators.

Since that 2007 sign-up time, social media has been a great tool in election administration.  It's valuable in tracking sentiment and our dramatic snowstorm in February 2013, it was vital in getting the word out regarding polling place changes.

This very blog has been a social media tool to provide insight into the issues facing election administrators.

I think one way to bypass this is to turn my page into a page people like, not having "friends."  That sounds like a lot of work, but something now on my to-do list.

Second, one purpose of this post is to alert new candidates that I'm not being heartless if we know each other but I've ignored your friend request.  I'll respond in November.

Third, to those who know me, if you seen one of these sponsored ads featuring me, please let me know.  I can't have this. 

And, of course, I've only discussed Facebook here.  LinkedIn is a whole 'other country.  Twitter is moving to more advertising so there could be some curveballs ahead there.

If anything, I think all of this highlights what a "social media policy" really is.

In most organizations, social media policies are just acceptable-use policies, basically telling employees when they are allowed to check their accounts.

A true social media policy touches on the need to be market sensing and communicative through different vehicles, speaks to each channel, and is just one component of an overall outreach strategy.

I've never seen a social media policy that provides guidelines to avoid being part of sponsored ads, although I think the ability to have a page that people like, rather than friend, is the way to go.

Still, social media evolves and the need to track threats (the advertisements are a minor threat to election administrators, but they are a threat) is increasing.

New technology, BLE (low-energy Bluetooth), is enabling a whole new way for devices to connect and messages to be delivered.  In fact, I see that capability as an emerging threat to my Bring Your Own Voting Machine concept. 

That's a separate post soon where I will explain why.  For now, I have some friend requests to consciously review and ignore.