Category Archives: Social Media

Learning from the mistakes of Facebook

If you search any search engine –Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc– for Plano Facebook, you’ll get various random pages for the city of Plano Texas and a news story that broke nationally today:

A Texas man stabbed his girlfriend to death and posted photos of her nude, dead, bloody body on his Facebook page. Her mother saw the pictures and called 911. Other relatives contacted Facebook and asked the social media giant to remove the pictures. Facebook left the pictures up for roughly 36 hours before finally removing them.

Let me repeat that.

A woman’s daughter was brutally murdered and Facebook couldn’t be bothered to take the pictures of the body down for 36 hours.

Let me repeat that.

Facebook left pictures of a young woman’s naked murdered bloody body up for the mother, the family and the world to see for 36 hours AFTER they found out.


I have a daughter entering High School. I can’t imagine getting calls and emails and txts for 36 hours along the lines of “uhm… I don’t know how to put this but uhm… do you daughter is dead and there are pictures of her uhm… body uhm… like uhm… without clothes uhm..” for 36 hours. See your pictures of your child’s dead bloody naked body is bad enough.


Facebook’s official response is that they didn’t realize, at first, that the pictures were a violation of their Terms of Service.

Excuse me? How does anyone with a bit of empathy not know the right thing to do in a case as clear-cut as this. No one should have to dig through Terms of Service or Corporate Policy books to navigate a situation like this. This is not a Terms of Service issue. It’s an issue of basic humanity.

If I had been the person at Facebook who got this request, I would’ve told them how sorry I was for what happened. I would’ve told them how sorry I was those pictures were there for their family and the entire world to see. I would’ve made sure she understood that I, personally, wasn’t going to stop until the pictures were removed.  I would’ve made sure she had my personal cellphone number.

And I would’ve gotten out of my chair, gone to my supervisor and stood there until my supervisor removed all of them. If my supervisor didn’t have the authority, I would’ve gone to the next person up the chain. And I would’ve kept going up the chain until the pictures were down. If mysteriously, I had gotten all the way to the Zuckerberg and he tried to have me thrown out of the building with orders to shoot my butt if I tried to re-enter the building, I would’ve walked right back in and dared them to shoot me.


I’ve seen companies who don’t know how to admit they blew it and they let people twist in the wind. Weirdly, even when I’ve tried to explain to them how to handle these situations in the future, all I hear is excuses. There’s no sense of “oh… we did blow that… how did you say we could do better?” I’m pretty clear about what a company or organization needs to do in the middle of a Crisis. It’s knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis simply by having a Father who spent his entire working life in Public Relations, handling Crisis Communication and saving Generals from committing professional harikiri when things blew up at places like the US Air Force Academy, NORAD Cheyenne Mountain (yes the War Games General was based on the jerk who ran the Mountain at the time) and SAC Omaha. He literally, wrote the book on ethics for the Public Relations Society of America.

When I called him and told him what Facebook had done and his reaction was “Oh my god”.


In 1982, a twelve year-old child died of cyanide poisoning after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules. Cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules killed six more people in quick succession.

Johnson & Johnson took responsibility and focused on doing the right thing. They sent warnings to hospitals and distributors, halted both production and advertising and, within a week, recalled all 31 million bottles worth (worth a third of a billion dollars at today’s prices), ran an ad campaign to warn the public and offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules that people had purchased.

And they figured out how it happened. Someone had simply bought bottles of Tylenol, opened the tops to poison them and then returned to put the tainted bottles back on store shelves. And they made sure it would never happened again by making changes in manufacturing and so on. But, the most important change they made was one that meant people didn’t have to take their word on it: every bottle of the re-introduced product had the then revolutionary tamper-proof seal. How do you know someone hasn’t tampered with a bottle of Tylenol: the seal isn’t broken.


In the world of public relations, he Tylenol case is, literally, the text book example of how to handle a crisis, including how to do Crisis Communications right. So far, Zuckerberg and Facebook’s handling of their crisis fails at every point. And, out here, people can close their accounts and walk away. Getting people in the door original is expensive (ask anyone who knows retail customer development) but getting them back after they walk away is brutal. And investors know ads don’t sell if no one is there to see them.


My first job (at a swim meet)

Paper Boy

I’m at a swim meet with my 12 year old daughter waiting for her first heat. In Twitter:

@Kelsye: In SIX WORDS, write a story about your first job #6words

I write

throw papers
creepy old man

I was a little younger than my daughter when I worked that job. The past shouldn’t echo but it does.

gazaWe’re still waiting so I listen to BBC news. The reporter is at a hospital in Gaza. An old lady moves slowly down the street …with her husband… holds a white flag as far over her head as she can maybe they …miles away they… won’t fire on her? Beyond the reporter …end of the block… artillery? mortars? explosions. The reporter …war reporter… keeps going through a voice that wavers her past experience not enough?  around the edges and shakes.

She won’t can’t? describe the body in front of her. Into my head pops Monty Python explosion… Time Bandits midget gone. She doesn’t say if the old lady makes it. More explosions disappear Python.

I think the reporter will make it. For me, BBC News has this weird quality that won’t countenance otherwise. It just wouldn’t be proper. What I don’t know is whether she’ll survive.

And I’m not sure which she I really mean.


Beyond Social Journalism

I’ve been joking that Saturday Night Live is going to do a fake Colorado Ad Campaign: “Wildfires, Six Foot Lizards and Batman Villains Live: Come Live the Adventure”.

The reason that hoke’s even worth trying is that every one of those items had the reach they did because of Social Media. That there is “Social Media” isn’t news. What is news is that networks built on Social Networks are literally overthrowing old school governments, companies and ways of solving problems.

Waldo Canyon Fire burned an area larger than Manhattan. Before it was out, it was already the most expensive natural disaster in Colorado history. It’s out, but unless the tourists return, the long term damage is going to be far higher. Someone’s six foot tropical lizard chewed through it’s leash and escape. It’s where abouts are still unknown. And, now, up the road in a Denver suburb, a man who described himself as “The Joker”, now charged with 142 different counts, showed up a movie premier, leaving 12 dead.

Two of the three events were national and international news. That’s nothing new. What’s new is that many people found about them via social media before they hit traditional news services. The hashtag #WaldoCanyonFire on Twitter was the center of the action around the Waldo Canyon Fire. For the self-described Joker’s #AuroraShooting, it was Reddit.

With our dozens, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousand followers, friends and readers, everyone is a journalist. We can instantly break into our follower’s (and some friend’s) lives, their regular programming, for instant updates. And, sometimes, the best reporting doesn’t even come from the same time zone. During Waldo canyon, in some cases, I received breaking news tweeted by someone in Massachusetts that originated from a Denver TV station. In other cases, I alternated between pictures my wife tweeted from within the evacuation area and TV station’s live streams from cameras just outside it.

GigaOm and others have called it crowdsourcing the news. For some people, the first time they saw this phenomenon, was with the Arab Springs. Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and other social media are being used to report and respond to news immediately.

We seem to have mastered the immediate part. If you can get the need out in 140 characters, people respond. Massive rallies appear in Tahrir square, sleeping bags materialize at an evacuation center before the evacuees arrive, donations pour in for shooting victims.

A lot could be said about how, since everyone is a journalist, there’s a massive need to learn to be journalists: to question things before retweeting, to have ethics about how they shoot their mouths off on Facebook, etc.

And, I think the more interesting story is what happens after the immediate, after the wildfire is extinguished, after the Egyptian government collapses, after the horror at the latest mass shooting fades. We don’t seem to have a mechanism to continue to harness the energy of Twitter.

In the case of Egypt, it wasn’t the twiteratti that won the election. It was an old school political organization: the Muslim Brotherhood (official site, wikipedia). Here, Waldo Canyon Fire is over but the effort to organize an grass roots effort to help local businesses has gotten very little traction.

But, the most incisive summary was probably “Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly How Colorado Shooting’s Aftermath Will Play Out” in, of all places, The Onion:

According to the nation’s citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time, and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they felt “absolutely horrible” to be aware of.

I don’t think that state of affairs will continue. It’s not a question of “if” the internet and social media will be used to supplant old school political organizations (like the Egyptian Brotherhood) by organizing the power of the massive numbers of engaged Twitter, Reddit and Facebook users. It’s a question of when.

Last December, a piece called the (B)end of History in Foreign Policy argued that we’ve entered a new age. At the level of governments, the piece argues, like we once shifted from empires to modern nation-states, we’re now shifting from nation-states to a world of networks. International news —for example Al Queda and the Arab Spring— has been driven by loose networks for at least a decade.

Bringing that back around to life here in Colorado —and yours— the Social Networking challenge in our business and, more importantly, in the lives we work to live, is to master social media to build comparable networks. While old school hierarchies still lumber on, that’s not where the action is and that’s certainly not how we’re building the future.

A start, perhaps, is to not stop discussing this issues when the horror fades. In that vein, I plan to write several follow-on blog entries in the near future. If you have ideas and thoughts, comment here or contact me via Twitter (@Coyote4til7).

Note: I originally published this piece on It’s cross-posted here to allow comments.