danniewriter

Tendons, social media engagement; it’s about bridging gaps

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For nearly nine weeks, one of my digits has been in a splint, which is why the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus. It’s a case of mallet finger, which isn’t terribly painful, but at my last checkup, the ruptured tendon in question still had some mending to do. I certainly hope the splint is effective, otherwise I’ll need surgery. Based on the one YouTube video I dared watch, the procedure may involve hammering a piece of what looks to be the world’s thinnest rebar through the top of my finger.

Now that I’ve given each of us the willies, I’ll let you know what mallet finger has to do with marketing.

The splint forces the ruptured ends of the tendon together and promotes healing. If the splint doesn’t keep the joint fixed in the extended position, in comes the rebar to bridge the gap.

Take heart, dear reader, let me assure you that bridging the gap between your business or non-profit and your audience is must less painful!

You’ve probably read, repeatedly, that social media is about relationships and “engaging” with your core audience of customers, donors and other “stakeholders.” Here’s a quick recap on the concept from Digital Marketing Strategies 101.

Just like bridging the gap between two pieces of torn tendon, dialogue is needed to connect you to your stakeholders. This is achieved by inviting feedback from your audience and then responding to what they share.

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking questions via your Facebook or Twitter feed. Remember, you’re looking for useful feedback that will help you better connect with your core audience. Phrase questions so you get more detail than a “yes” or “no” response. Questions that begin with the words “how” and “why” should stimulate conversation.

Ishita Ganguly penned a great post for Social Media Examiner that should give you several good ideas. Like so many efforts, follow through is key. Make sure your social media account is set up to notify you when someone has commented. You can have notifications pushed to your cell phone so you won’t miss an interaction. Thank the commenter and see if you can keep the conversation going. Chances are other followers will chime in.

If you’re nervous that your effort won’t yield results, enlist a few of your most faithful customers or donors and ask them to share their thoughts to get the thread moving. The more time and effort you put into your first interaction, the more steam you’ll have to develop an online environment that embraces dialogue and responds to stakeholders’ questions, concerns and opinions.

Need more assistance? Consider giving me a call. There’s no charge for an initial consultation.

 

 

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What to do when your message falls short

Dartboards with three darts missed off

Johnny Carson, longtime host of The Tonight Show, was the master of self deprecation. When a joke bombed, he didn’t steamroll on to another, he’d linger in the awkward silence, as if paying penance. (See 3:17-4:00 in this Christmas monologue.)

Audiences enjoyed his discomfort and loved him all the more for being humble and human.

No one enjoys feeling foolish, but acknowledging that a message has missed its mark is preferable to simply repeating it over and over with no changes.

Consider the case of presidential candidate Marco Rubio in this montage posted by Time following one of the debates last month. It’s possible Rubio’s initial message landed for some people, but I think the constant and unchanging repetition short circuited any benefit it may have had given the senator in his bid for the White House.

For those of us outside the national spotlight, it’s still possible to feel the heat:

  • Maybe that holiday tie-in wasn’t such a great idea for a newspaper ad or social media promotion. (Check out this great article from Sarah Burke on Spokal about newsjacking.)
  • Although accurate, the news story mentioning your business or non-profit fell short in some way.
  • The speech you gave to the civic organization yielded yawns instead of support. (It happens.)

How should you respond?

Own up to your errors. If you’ve lost your temper or simply said or published something thoughtless, own up to it. Although context is important, try to apologize without re-stating the offensive or erroneous information. Consider asking a professional for assistance. Don’t compound the error or controversy with a sloppy response.

Hold others accountable for their mistakes. If the news story contained errors, contact the reporter and ask for a retraction/clarification. Keep in mind that it will be more difficult to convince them that they have left out important information, but depending on the circumstances, it could be worth your time to meet with the editor. Letters to the Editor and polite, concise posts on the newspaper/station social media accounts can be effective to tell the rest of the story. If the issue is too complex to be brief, write a blog post and link to it from a comment on the media outlet’s social networks. A scripted and well delivered video on YouTube could be very effective, too. Again, get professional assistance if this is a controversial issue. Don’t play the victim or get defensive, just share the facts you know are needed to give the public a clear picture of the situation in question.

And the yawns? Invest time in practice and research. Speeches, purpose/position statements, interviews and Q&A sessions will go much more smoothly with preparation. Despite what we have seen on the campaign trail recently, this isn’t about stocking up on quips and insults to try to make your competition look bad, or to get payback for a wrong. Get facts from respected sources, including your own people, on why your business, non-profit or position on an issue is best.

For speeches, nail down a length from the venue organizer. In general, for Q&A sessions, set a goal for 15-second responses for most questions. Even shorter is better but avoid one-word answers by anticipating the follow-up question, “why.” Keep in mind that after a minute, eyes will begin to glaze over and ears will begin to tune out. Use a stopwatch as you practice. You’ll be surprised how much info you can share in just a few seconds.

Humor often works but avoid sarcasm, which can be misunderstood, and negativity. Often it is best to let your supporters come to your defense rather than attempt a biting comeback on the fly. Remember your goals for delivering the speech, granting the interview, publishing the post, running the ad. Here are some good, common sense tips from Mind Tools on “thinking on your feet,” that can help when you are feeling the pressure.

The Greek proverb, “know thyself,” is profound beyond an individual’s confidence in his or her identity. It is a great reminder in marketing and communications to stay focused on your stated mission. This goes beyond a slogan or even a mission statement. It requires as much thought, research and preparation as refining your product or service or expanding the reach of your non-profit’s good work.

Remember this exercise from Small Business Promotion, I posted a while back? If your message is missing its mark this is a great way to go back to the drawing board.

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Praying for the rise of the Common Sense Party

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Like religion, education, and vocation, my political views were shaped, markedly, by the influence of my parents and grandparents. My parents weren’t showy about their politics, but they were never shy about their respect for our country and its system of government.

Growing up, I queried them repeatedly about their voting choices and party affiliations. On one occasion, one of them had to stop and think about party affiliation, and if I recall correctly, the other parent was not only amused, but surprised by the eventual answer.

They died relatively young, so it’s up to my flawed memory and a fairly creative mind to recreate this scene. I imagine the slightly embarrassed smile from the one who had to think which party to name. I see a raised eyebrow of surprise and a teasing smile from the other that communicated: “Yes, we’ll be chatting about this later.”

Now, there was no more simpatico couple than my folks. Sure, they had differing opinions from time to time, but there was an overriding theme to their views: that of common sense. So profoundly were they attached to this principle, the question of political party was secondary.

Dear God (and I mean this as a prayer), I wish I lived in a country where the lines between political parties continued to be so innocuous. Were that the case, I’m convinced we would return, or possibly arrive, to the primacy of common sense.

Common sense means I can be concerned with national security, debt and deficit without being labeled a soulless, capitalistic pig.

Common sense means I can maintain that it is reasonable and necessary for the most wealthy nation on the planet to provide a short-term safety net for citizens in crisis without being shouted down as a bleeding heart socialist who only wants to take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.”

Common sense knows that “immigration reform” doesn’t automatically mean “amnesty” any more than objecting to an amendment outlawing abortion means that partial-birth abortion is moral.

Common sense tells me that it is confounding to a spiritually searching world for a church to defy one rule of manmade law while simultaneously demanding protection under another. (A blog post for another day: Does a firm stand of commitment mean anything if it comes without consequences or even objection?)

Common sense today will fight, even unto death, for the equality of opportunity for every American while refusing to be held captive, ashamed and forever apologetic for the sins of long-dead ancestors that can never be undone.

Instead of destroying statues to deeply flawed–sometimes to the point of atrocity–individuals of the past, common sense can relocate them to museums and private venues while raising monuments on public grounds to people who exemplify more closely “the better angels of our nature”* and our country. Common sense says a people who subtract history rather than expand it and give it context are human ostriches–heads in the sand with exposed backsides ready for the kicking, or worse.

Yep, I could go on.

But in our 140-character, bumper sticker, manifesto-on-a-business card, QR-coded society, there’s no room to maneuver. There’s no thoughtful, nuanced position.

That’s why, in this writer’s opinion, there never seems to be enough outrage when politicians, pundits and so-called celebrities say persons of a certain color, religion, tax bracket or sexual identification must affiliate with a certain party.

To that I concur with several of these sentiments from MASH’s Col. Sherman Potter.

It’s “us” against “them,” and “they” have the deck stacked–even though the definition of those pronouns might change hourly.

What once was praised as prudence, caution, and intelligence is now tossed aside as spinelessness and ambivalence. Make no mistake, there are times when lines must be drawn, and my folks knew and practiced this, but are we now a nation so eager to polarize we will be unable to unite when the time comes?

What then?

Will there ever be a Party of Common Sense?

Dear God (and I mean this as a prayer), I miss my parents.

daddynmama

*President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address March 4, 1861

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Carts and horses

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A friend of mine who is an online community manager recommended a great article recently. Like so many helpful observations, it seems obvious, but it wouldn’t be Tweeted, re-Tweeted, posted, blogged, etc., unless there were a slew of people out there falling into this particular hole.

Why You Need a Business Strategy, Not a Social Strategy was written by Jon Gatrell of Pragmatic Marketing. The piece is all about how easy it is to get carts in front of horses. Social media is free, and accounts can be set up, literally, in seconds. It’s no wonder businesses and organizations are stumbling over their wagons and horses.

In one of my first blog posts, I wrote: If your business, ministry or charity is plugging along on word of mouth and existing customers/supporters, it’s obvious you are doing something right! Congrats.

Growth is not always synonymous with success, especially if it comes at the high price of time away from family, health problems, etc. For the small percentage of business owners who are “doing very well, thank you,” the only “must” in online marketing would be a simple landing page on the internet with background, directions and contact info.

For the vast number of us in the “other” category, branching out in several marketing directions: print, direct mail, website, blog, social media, etc., is needed, but map out your business/organizational goals first.

Gatrell points out the folly of attempting to use every social media platform available. Not only can it become a huge time suck, depending on what you are selling/promoting, it could work against you. The wrong “fit” tells the world that you don’t really understand the different audiences of each platform, and it is also an indication that you might not know your own audience very well either.

“There’s a reason no one posts about holiday crafts on LinkedIn and why there aren’t many whitepapers showing up on Pinterest,” Gatrell writes.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Check out the post and use the suggested diagram to start mapping your business/organizational strategy; the marketing strategy will follow.

Need help? Call me!

 

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Good advice, warts and all

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It pains me to recommend an article that contains grammatical errors, however, the content is pretty good. Shame on the author and Forbes.com, though, for poor proofreading and using a negative headline.

Finger wagging is finished, for the moment.

Daniel Newman makes some great observations about how businesses often miss the benefit of using social media because they treat it as advertising instead of a venue for dialogue and authentic information sharing.

Yes, social media advertising exists, and there is a place for it, but putting “ad speak” (One Day Only! Prices Slashed! Too Much Inventory!) in Tweets and status updates essentially just creates background noise on those platforms that users will be in a hurry to tune out.

“Most people aren’t on social media to make a purchase,” Newman writes. “They’re there to interact with friends, and learn about the world around them.”

As I’ve noted myself in this space, think like a user, not as a business owner. Why do you use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Words such as “community,” “news,” and “ideas,” come to my mind. “Purchasing” happens on websites, through catalogs and at stores.

Depending on how comfortable you are with social media, this distinction may seem fuzzy. All the more reason to do some thinking, planning, and maybe consulting, before setting up that social media asset.

Here are some reminders on how to “engage naturally” as Newman puts it.

  • Share something of yourself. Post about things that matter to you and ask followers to respond in kind.
  • Share some of your expertise. Demonstrate knowledge of your business, the community, trends in your industry, etc.

Remember this post from last year that highlighted the transformation of River Pools? If you have yet to check out the video, I encourage you to watch it now. I guarantee you’ll be inspired and I bet you will get some ideas on how to create and sustain engaging content for social media.

If you think I’m harping on social media, well, you’re right. Check out this infographic from Marketing Profs and Morrison Foerster released Jan. 4 and you will see why.

 

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Don’t let your message be lost

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I love Westerns. Yes, that’s a photo of a bottle on a beach up there, but bear with me. In the early 1990s, a television miniseries based on a novel by Louis L’Amour debuted on Turner Network Television. It starred real-life married folk Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross.

Ross’ character is left alone to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage when the man rides off one day on business and never rides back. She and her stepchildren make do by opening their home as a stagecoach stop, but Evie’s is a lonely life until the lanky Conagher lopes in on his horse and quietly changes everything.

But Evie and Conn Conagher actually meet long before he ever shows up at her door. In her determination to care for her stepchildren and put on a brave face, Evie doesn’t show them her own loneliness and anxiety for their future. (The stage line is changing the route and won’t need their home as a stop anymore.) She takes her tears to the desert, writing poems on scraps of paper and tying them around the thick stems of tumbleweeds and releasing them to the wind. Conagher finds one of them, reads the poem, and then looks for more every chance he gets. When they first meet, he has no idea Evie is his tumbleweed poet.

Evie also had no idea that her messages would get through to anyone, and of course, finding a reader wasn’t as important to her as getting her sadness and fear down on paper, but there’s a practical, non-romantic side to this illustration.

Do you know for sure if the message of your business, service or non-profit is finding its audience? Has relying on word of mouth, direct mail and newspaper advertising maintained sales and donors, or are you struggling?

Is your message lost on the beach … or in the desert?

Don’t do the same old thing in 2016 and expect better than last year. It just won’t happen. Here are some ideas:

If you haven’t dipped a toe into social media yet, pull off those socks. Create a Facebook page for your business/non-profit. Invite your personal Facebook friends to like your page and ask them to share the page on their newsfeeds. Don’t be too wordy. Start with brief posts about who you are personally. What is your product, service or mission? How long have you been doing this? Where are you located? Who do you serve? Invite questions, and if you don’t get takers, post common questions you receive from customers/donors and answer them yourself. Visit the page three or four times daily to respond to questions/comments. Post SOMETHING at least daily.

If you already have an active presence on social media, congratulations. How active are you with other merchants in your community? Do you participate in Small Business Week in May or Small Business Saturday in November?

If you are a non-profit, when was the last time you contacted the local radio station to ask them to produce a public service announcement about your issue? Are you sending press releases to the local paper on a regular basis? Are you posting your releases on free news websites? Has your executive director started a blog yet? What about letters to the editor on the issue important to your organization?

Doing something new is often nerve-wracking. And sometimes it’s even hard to come up with ideas on something new to do. That’s when a set of fresh eyes can be useful. Give me a call. I’d love to help and the initial consultation is free of charge.

Happy New Year!

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Content Marketing: Everyone is a teacher

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I’ve written previously that professionals often make things sound more complicated than they really are. One way is by peppering conversations and writing with their insiders’ alphabet soup. Remember this great scene from Good Morning Vietnam ?

For small businesses and non-profits, the term “content marketing” may seem like a new and complex concept that would require an advanced degree to understand. Not so. It does require, however, a change of perspective.

To develop and maintain an effective content marketing strategy with free social media as the workhorse, stop thinking of yourself as a business owner or a non-profit manager. Think of yourself as a customer or donor.

When you start thinking from your audience’s perspective, you will begin to develop content (articles, blog posts, photos, graphics, links to other articles) that really captures interest.

As an example, consider the Virginia-based company, River Pools. Co-owner Marcus Sheridan reports in this video from the Content Marketing Institute that River Pools was nearly washed up when the economy tanked in 2008. But they didn’t, and Sheridan credits content marketing, along with a big buy-in from employees, with the turn around.

“Everyone in this company is a teacher,” Sheridan explains. Instead of focusing on selling their product, River Pools staff began selling themselves as fiberglass pool experts. They launched “The Most Educational Swimming Pool Blog in the Country” and began by answering common questions about in-ground swimming pools–everything from manufacturing to installation to maintenance.

I encourage you to take a moment to look at your Facebook page, Pinterest board or Twitter feed. Are you only posting info about sales, store hours, products/services, etc., or do your posts offer more. Here are some examples:

  • An antique store owner writes or shares an article about what’s hot on the auction circuit these days. He or she might also pen a blog post on how to check a piece of furniture to determine if it is a valuable antique or a reproduction.
  • As a way to encourage parents with biological children at home, the director of a foster care ministry shares articles on nutrition, discipline, kids crafts, etc. Those same people might be interested in contributing to the work or (even better) in foster parenting when their nest is empty. If you provide a steady stream of content that is well sourced, interesting and fun, they will remember you.
  • I have a friend with a pet-sitting business. She shares articles on pet care, adoption and debunks articles she believes are misleading.
  • The manager of a local food pantry offers up-to-date statistics on hunger in the community, state and country. Instead of only posting the needs of the pantry, he or she includes a thank-you note from a family impacted by the generosity of others. Posts about nutrition, vegetable gardening and smart grocery shopping would also be helpful to this audience.
  • A plumber, landscaper, mason or other specialized professional could readily expand his/her customer base by blogging. A common challenge among homeowners is discerning when a problem is a do-it-yourself project or should be handed over to a pro. Imagine the goodwill generated by helping customers do small repairs/maintenance at home. Chances are very good that a homeowner will call a pro who has been willing to “give away” a little bit of that expertise via social media.

Content marketing is a concept that is more subtle than shouting about specific products, prices and “deals, deals, deals!” When you hear the term “creating community” via social media, this is what the pundits mean.

As one expert in the video notes: “Nobody cares about your product. They are trying to solve a problem.”

If your sales are sluggish and it feels like your customer/donor base is shrinking, I suggest you pour an extra cup of coffee and watch this video. It is filled with real-life case studies, a look back at vintage marketing campaigns that worked, and funny observations.

If, after viewing, you want to try something new in promoting your business/cause, drop me a line at danniewriter@gmail.com or call (502) 432-8725.

 

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Light bulbs

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Marketing Monday came and went without a post yesterday because I’ve been impressed recently by several articles on this mammoth subject and its infinite number of ancillary topics. In short: I couldn’t decide what to write about yesterday.

So I gave it some more thought and decided to share the best of the brightest I’d run across the past few days.

There’s a lot of pontificating (often I refer to this as “balloon juice”) out there intended to make authors/presenters look really smart. Inevitably they end up complicating, and then renaming, things that are essentially fairly simple to understand. One of my favorite examples is the term “signage,” which is now firmly embedded in our lexicon, but let’s face it, folks, “signs,” works just fine too.

But I digress.

In addition to the balloon juice is a great deal of informative, illustrative and no-nonsense articles and observations about marketing, public relations, social media, etc.

Here’s some info and links on the ones that really caught my eye. I ran across the first two on LinkedIn.

Last week I blogged about print not being dead. This week I ran across a post from Yvonne Parkinson that references data to back that up. Yes, as director of a printing firm she has a big dog in the fight, but the figures come from Direct Marketing Association in the UK so I think the figures are pretty solid no matter which side of the pond you are on.

Some might consider the next one as approaching clickbait status (more on that below), but after reading it, I disagree. Yes, it was the mention of the movie, The Breakfast Club (one of my all-time faves), that caught my eye, but this brief observation from Rex Weaver, a mover and shaker in the automotive industry, provides insight on how you can approach your audience with a fresh perspective. He defines three terms of customer “segmentation” that are not in the least snooty-sounding: User Based, Benefit Based and Occasion Based.

The last two come from HootSuite, the platform that enables users to post to multiple social media accounts simultaneously. They offer other stuff too.

HootSuite has just released its 2015 Social Media Glossary, enabling dabblers to figure out what those pretentious pundits are talking about, or perhaps empowering dabblers to sound like pretentious pundits themselves. Seriously, this is good info. Read this and you’ll understand why Rex Weaver’s Breakfast Club post is not in the least clickbait … among other helpful things.

This last one is so insightful for business owners who are on social media. It illustrates why it is impossible for shops large and small (and non-profits, too) to “do” social media halfway. If you have started a Facebook page, Twitter feed or Pinterest board and simply abandoned it, you may be leaving a billboard of customer/donor dissatisfaction on the InterWebz for all the world to see … forever. Don’t let this happen to you.

 

 

 

 

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Post now; Except when you don’t

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My eldest nephew and his wife have two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. I love hearing these young parents discuss the differences between the two kids relative to teething, talking, eating, scooting, sleeping, walking. My nephew recently linked to a funny blog post that caught fire a couple of years ago about the various, and often contradictory, advice out there for new parents trying to get their little ones to sleep.  Among author/mom Ava Neyer‘s compilation of “expert” opinions:

You shouldn’t sleep train at all, before a year, before 6 months, or before 4 months, but if you wait too late, your baby will never be able to sleep without you. College-aged children never need to be nursed, rocked, helped to sleep, so don’t worry about any bad habits. Nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, etc., to sleep are all bad habits and should be stopped immediately. White noise will help them fall asleep. White noise, heartbeat sounds, etc, don’t work. Naps should only be taken in the bed, never in a swing, carseat, stroller, or when worn. Letting them sleep in the carseat or swing will damage their skulls. If your baby has trouble falling asleep in the bed, put them in a swing, carseat, stroller, or wear them.

Opinions on when to post on social media are, at least, this consistent in their inconsistency.

Google “best times to post on social media” and you’ll see what I mean.

Rule of thumb: The briefer the article or infographic on the “best times” to post, the less useful it likely will be. It’s pretty easy to get continuity in data if the only thing the authors are tracking are high traffic times.

But consider: Do you want to post when everyone else is posting or do you want to post when your audience has time to read and respond to the information you share?

For many small businesses and non-profits, posting at high traffic times just means your message is more likely to get lost in the cacophony.

The best tips on when to post on social media begin with the words, “Know your audience.” From there, they will break down data based on which platform you are using (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), the day of the week, and traffic, yes, but also when do most people share and re-Tweet? When do most people comment on the blogs they read?

Those are the infographics that I geek out over.

But let’s go back to the magic words, “Know your audience.”

Get a compelling piece of data about your business or organization. Maybe it’s a new product. Maybe it’s a sale. Maybe it’s the release of your annual report or expansion into a new area of service. Be clear. Be excited. Be authentic. Post the news at various times during the week and weekend and on as many platforms as you currently use.

Then track comments, hits, click-throughs, pins, reTweets and shares.

Do this a few times and you will find your audience’s sweet spot. They will let you know when they are willing to give your shop, church or charity a few minutes of their valuable time.

No infographic required.

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To click or not to click?

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The New Year on Facebook is starting out with an old lie: Zuckerberg, et. al., has free use of our photos and comments to do with as they wish, unless we cut and paste a message into our newsfeed. Bogus. Here’s the low-down from Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/privacy.asp.

Of course, this is a hoax that doesn’t require a credit card number or access to bank accounts, so users may not see the big deal, but there is a price to be paid beyond the seconds it takes to cut and paste a block of text.

Muddying the waters with exaggeration, half-truths and downright fabrication is one of social media’s greatest accomplishments. Readers seem to vacillate from swallowing hook, line and sinker to building conspiracies so deep as to dispute Newton’s Third Law.

Where’s the balance? When do we post and when do we research? Blogger and social media strategist, Luvvie Ajayi, has a funny, clever but oh-so-useful response. Be educated and entertained: http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2014/06/5-things-fake-news-social-media.html.

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