Editor’s note: The following is a guest blog post by attorney, friend (and former colleague from my law firm marketing days) Laura Steel Woods. She wrote this article in response to several well publicized social media identity theft cases.

Anyone remember prank phone calls?

Remember these?

Many years ago, before phones were used to update your Facebook status and check-in on Foursquare, they were used to call people. Sometimes, those calls included prank calls, which were intended to be a joke, for the most part. The thought that it might be “stealing” someone’s identity probably never crossed a prank caller’s mind. Now, with ready-made access to accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, or creation of a Facebook fan page, the implications of what used to amount to prank calling have ramped up significantly.

Think about it—most phone calls are directed to one person/location, where you consciously select a contact from your electronic phone book or pull the number from your head and individually enter the digits. Deliberate. Calculated. Intentional. Controlled.

Social media is different. The reach is intended to be broad. Control is relinquished, while not always thoughtful at least knowingly, once you post your status update. As with so many other parts of our lives, social media has certainly changed the landscape, or at least raised the stakes, of identity theft. Consider the mass in which we communicate. The “victims” in the SM setting, just like a prank call, go beyond the person whose identity was compromised and can include those who relied upon the prank information. The breadth of victims in the SM setting is vastly different. Whose identity is stolen does, in part, determine whether there are legal consequences, just like IRL (example: impersonating a police officer versus impersonating me. One will get you jail time, the other will get you a lot of student loan debt.).

The legal system faces a huge challenge as it attempts to keep up with a medium that can’t even keep up with itself. How do you handcuff wireless communications, the internet, the Web or avatars? The remarkable resiliency of the justice system will probably find a solution, just like it has in all other advances along the timeline of history. Another interesting watch will be how much push-back the legal system receives given how protective the public is over the “right” to do anything and everything it wants with social media.

What I’m pretty confident won’t change is the need for us to be ever-conscious of our social media presence. It may seem like a small inconvenience or, at worst, momentary embarrassment if your identity is pranked on social media. The speed at which information travels, though, can cause the fallout to balloon beyond your world before you know it.

Laura Steel Woods

Laura Steel Woods


Laura Woods is Vice President of Legal Affairs for a local consulting company. In a previous life, she was a labor/employment partner with a regional law firm where she started the firm’s social media program with a Twitter account and a blog. You can find her on Twitter as @LauraSWoods.

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Image by Mario Sundar

Editor’s note: The following is a guest blog written by Jon Moss. Jon and I first connected on twitter and then “IRL” while having coffee at Social Slam 2011. We re-connected after his excellent LinkedIn presentation at Social Slam 2012.

“Are you IN?” That was the question I asked attendees at Social Slam 2012. While a lot of people who embrace social media as a means of marketing may be on LinkedIn – meaning they have a profile – the percentage of those who actually dive in and use the myriad of features it offers is far less.

One of the misconceptions about LinkedIn is it’s for finding a job, or posting a resume or profile. While it does offer robust features to accomplish all that, it is so much more. Let’s take a look at some of what it can do for you.

1. SEO-ize Yourself
Back when I was learning of the importance of ranking high in Google searches I realized I had a problem. When searching my name pictures of Boy George always came up on page one. Turned out we had something in common. The drummer for Culture Club (Boy George’s boyfriend at the time), and I shared the same name.

One had to go several pages deep into Google before anything related to me came up. Not good. What was good for me was that LinkedIn profiles rank very high in search. Thank you LinkedIn for putting me back on page one of Google! To borrow from a Culture Club song, “I’ll tumble for ya, LinkedIn”

2. See Who’s Checking You Out
LinkedIn has a cool feature that allows you to see who’s recently looked at your profile. Sure it may seem creepy, but it’s so cool when thinking about what you can do with that information. Imagine you’ve been trying to get in the door with a certain company only to find out they’re checking you out. How about you sent your resume off to a recruiter and now they’re reviewing your profile. A well thought out email or phone call while you’re fresh in their mind could do the trick.

Just keep in mind this works in reverse too. People can see when you’ve been looking at their profiles so be careful when stalking your competition! There are ways to go around this though. You can disable the feature in settings, but you lose the ability to see who’s looking at you. For now, when you browse people from the smartphone app, LinkedIn does not register that you’ve looked at their profile.

3. Signal & LinkedIn Today
Get news on your sector aggregated by your industry connections. It’s like an online industry publication crowd sourced by your peers. Keep tabs on people in your network. Reach out to them when appropriate. If information is power, then this is your source.

4. Groups
Places for like minded professionals to hang out. Most flock to groups geared towards their industry, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Go deeper by diving into groups where your customers hang out. If you sell insurance to doctors how many leads do you think are waiting for you in the “Underwriters of America” group? Got the point? Now get yourself into the groups where they hang, but don’t jump in and start selling. Restrain yourself young salesbuck. Get a feel for the group. Respond to questions by others when you have something of value to add.

Groups can be industry specific, geographic in nature, or centered around activities. Whether avocation or hobby, find the ones where the people you want to meet are in. If you can’t find a group that tailors to a specific group, go ahead and create it yourself. As a group administrator you’ll be in a better position to connect with members.

5. Company Profile
You have a profile on LinkedIn, and your company can have one too. Like Facebook Pages, an LI company profile lets you post products and services, have customers provide reviews/ratings and make recommendations. It’s a great space to claim. People are researching companies just like they are people on LinkedIn nowadays.

6. Pimp Your Blog
Want more exposure for your blog? Pin it on your LinkedIn profile. Imagine all that good stuff you’re writing being seen by everyone checking you out LinkedIn. A prospect quickly comes to realize you’re the expert they’ve been looking for. Your future employer see you’ve got a knack for writing. A competitor realizes they can no longer compete with you and throws in the towel. You are still blogging, right?

7. Add Video
If only you could add video to your LinkedIn profile, then you could show everyone how awesome you really are. Wait, you can. The technology is available. Queue theme from The Six Million Dollar Man. It just takes adding the Slideshare application and embedding a YouTube video. You do have a YouTube channel, no?

8. Answers
This could very well be the most overlooked feature on LinkedIn. Imagine a place where you can have your questions answered by professionals anxious to display their depth of knowledge. Why pay $300 an hour for legal advice when you can get it for free on LinkedIn?

We’re not talking random generic answers, rather insightful thought out responses to your questions. LinkedIn Answers ingeniously allows professionals to ask and answer questions on a wide variety of topics. I know what you’re thinking. Why would someone bend over backwards to give “free” advice to someone they’ve never met before?

When you provide an answer, the “asker” of the question gets to pick who they felt gave the best answer. LinkedIn, in return, awards a “star” to the “askee” for providing the best answer. Earn enough stars and you show up as an expert in that particular topic.

I can personally attest to the power of having lots of stars having picked up new clients by demonstrating expertise, having my competition actually recommending me, and receiving phone calls from national publications wanting to interview me all because of the answers I gave to questions on LinkedIn.

9. Don’t Cross The Streams
On the surface it seemed like a good idea. Connect your Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn, post to one and you’re done. Right? Wrong!  Don’t do it. LinkedIn is the only platform that’s strictly business. Leave the puppies, the Instagrams of your lunch and everything else you wouldn’t share in person with your employer, client or prospect at the door. Muddy your LI status with hashtags and Foursquare checkins and risk losing relevance. If you don’t believe me, listen to these experts.

10. Go Mobile
LinkedIn’s iOS apps are amazing. With calendar integration the iPad app could become the killer app from which to run one’s schedule. If you’re in sales or run a business, chances are you’re not chained to desk. Packed full of features, the LI mobile apps let you carry your network on the go. Lose the Rolodex, and get down to business with real information at your fingertips. Anywhere. Anytime.

Final Thoughts
It’s amazing when I think back years ago when my company paid thousands of dollars to Dun & Bradstreet and Hoovers for access to business information and personnel. A lot of it is now available for free thanks to LinkedIn. Gold awaits those who seek it. Are you ready to go mining?

So there you have it. Some features of LinkedIn you may have missed. It’s not just the oldest social networking platform, it’s the most powerful in terms of business and professional networking — for those wanting to get down to business.

Here’s video of the presentation and slideshow I did at Social Slam – http://mmlabs.biz/2012/05/talking-linkedin-at-social-slam-2012/

Jon Moss


When he’s not infusing new media with marketing ideas at Moss Media Labs, Jon Moss can be found fiddling with the latest gadgets and mobile apps. Available by email at  or via Twitter @jonfmoss

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Photo: BryceCanyon.com

Sunday our minister referenced that breathtaking financial company ad where the woman climbs a summit and a gigantic panorama unfolds in front of her. His sermon analogy was that the year 2012 lies before each of us as a panaroma right now.

With that in mind, this is the year to create or work on your personal brand. Tom Peters pioneered the concept with “The Brand Called You”. The points he makes in the article still ring some 15 years later (only the brand names have changed!)  As we move into another New Year let’s each take a quick assessment of our own personal brand and what we can do to better ourselves in 2012. Here are some tips I’ve provided to my clients in customized one-on-one sessions and am glad to share here with you.

  1. Google yourself– What do you find? Is it fresh? Is it negative? Does it need a PR boost?
  2. Does your image/Web site transfer to mobile? The growth of smart phones and other mobile devices will continue to explode in 2012.
  3. Who is your target audience? What communications channels are they using? Be sure you are present on them. Example: My clients are business professionals. Most all of them are on LinkedIn and there is an excellent LinkedIn Personal Branding group.
  4. Do you have an elevator speech? The next time you bump into Future Big Client X do you have a quick description ready for the business you have and the products and services your provide?
  5. How do you plan to promote your brand in 2012? How are you using your social media channels? Do they show you constantly complaining about life’s mundane things? Remember, it’s your image that’s coming through (as if you were broadcasting!) Do you have guest media appearances and public speaking engagements planned? Do you have a blog? (It’s one of the best ways to kick start your web site’s SEO!) How about podcasts? Your e-mail signature? Videos?
  6. Do you have an editorial calendar planned for 2012? Remember, you are a publisher. Now is the time to think seasonal and timely in your future writing and publishing.
  7. Are you building your brand on twitter? I’ve formed so many great relationships thanks to the magic of twitter. It’s hard for me to believe that some people still think twitter is just about celebrities and what you had for lunch. If you haven’t done so already, try a twitter chat (look for the hashtags) for a field of your interest. Neal Schaeffer provides this excellent tutorial on twitter chats. Your positive contributions on tweetchats will help build your brand in your industry group or field of interest.
  8. Dive in! Experiment with some new social media channel and meet some new friends along the way! In 2011 it was Google+ and Pinterest for me. What were some of your favorite new social media channels?

With an 8.6 percent nationwide unemployment rate more people than ever need to be sure they are building their personal brand both at in-person networking events and online.  The business atmosphere is in a state of constant change (just look at what’s happened to some of the stalwart brands.) These tips will help you be in control of the message broadcast by your personal brand, no matter what hand economic conditions may deal to you. All the best of luck to you in 2012 and remember, your personal brand is always with you!



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Friends Hands by Fabulous Shannen

Friends Hands by Fabulous Shannen

The following is a guest post by SoloPR weekly twitter chat colleague, Judy Gombita. A Canadian Public Relations professional, she is also this blog’s first international guest blogger.

Many people had primary or secondary school teachers who left an indelible mark and provided unique life lessons; I was blessed to have several such guiding lights as I evolved into adulthood.

One was a wonderfully inspiring and creative, enthusiastic and somewhat eccentric English teacher named Mrs. Rusty Ross (no, she didn’t have red hair). Ostensibly, her incredibly popular class was on Shakespeare. But amongst our (often self-absorbed) teenaged selves, we referred to it as The Class on Life. Definitely we studied Shakespeare—with a rigour and comprehension that proved excellent preparation for my first-year university course a few years later. But the real contribution Mrs. Ross gave us was illustrating how Will’s own understanding of the world, in particular people and their ambitions and motivations regarding relationships, really weren’t very different from current times.

And just like William Shakespeare created new words and understanding of human nature, so did Mrs. Ross gift us. For example, how relationships with people scale, from early acquaintances to friendships.

Evermore inserted into my lexicon was her novel word and intermediary concept: “friendlies.”

According to Mrs. Ross, your friendlies are more than acquaintances, but haven’t reached the status of fully bloomed, time-tested lasting friends. You know, the “for life” kind of friend.

Channelling Mrs. Ross when it comes to online relationships

I’m a huge proponent of the power and possibilities of social media, particularly for info sharing, networking and cultivating relationships. But I also characterize myself as a social media pragmatist. Recently, I contributed Teasing out the potential of Twitter chats, Part I and Part II to commpro.biz. In fact, it was through #solopr (one of my “featured” chats) that I met Marvellous Mel, proprietress of this captivating blog.

I respect and very much like everything I know about Mel—her smarts, integrity, sector expertise, warmth, people skills and sense of humor. Yet in my mind at this stage I still classify Mel as a “friendlie” rather than a friend.


Simply because we haven’t known each other long enough to test the long-term strength of our online alliance. Yes, we’ve moved large amounts of our conversations offline, sharing more personal information and comparing thoughts, joined networks on LinkedIn, Circled one another on Google+, etc. Despite geographical challenges, we hope to meet face to face at some stage. Not once has a touch point with Mel given me pause.

But it’s still early days.

My analogy

An analogy I often use (I believe I’m the originator, but if I unconsciously co-opted it from someone else, it’s unintentional) is that relationships are like slowly peeling an onion. Most of the time an onion’s layers are fresh, firm and sweet smelling. But every now and then you peel an onion where you hit a brown and soggy layer—maybe even a bit musty and slimy. The question is whether the onion is mainly good (after a bit of judicious editing, talks or negotiations) or if it should be unceremoniously tossed away as largely unusable, i.e., not worthy of the work or consumption experience.

If you travel or live with people you quickly learn how their onion peels out. But online relationships are different. It’s a lot trickier finding out how authentic people are regarding their online personas: how much of what they share can be trusted, ego, their core values, how they treat people (online and off) and so on.

And of course, this works both ways.

Peeling into my thesis a bit more

Recently I’ve been openly critical about how fast people are to append the “friend” and “trust” tags in the online sphere. I believe we need to slow down online friendships and trust and stop devaluing these time-taking concepts.

A notable example: automatically curating blog posts of “tribe” mates into Twitter (even if oh-so-virtuously manually clicking the send button). Forgive me if I think it’s a bit musty and slimy when robo-curation perpetrators suggest we “trust” that their “friends” of three or so months produced posts warranting our valuable reading time. Why should I have faith in their curation decisions in regards to me, when the majority of people observed I’d classify as online acquaintances, not even friendlies?

When this objectionable practice of automating trust first impinged on our collective consciousness, Mel independently voiced the exact reaction as me (as did #solopr’s founder, Kellye Crane).

The fact that our tingly onion sense was the same moved Mel another step up the ladder from friendlie to friend, because critical thinking and articulating objections against perceived dodgy behaviour are things I value.

Offering up my onion for perusal

When Mel lobbied me to write a guest post on her blog, I was touched.

As thanks for trusting I’d contribute something of value, I decided to gift Mel’s space with some personal evolutionary history and a unique word and analogy—concepts I hadn’t fully gelled together or introduced in any other blog post: Mrs. Ross’ definition of friendlies, how relationships are like peeling an onion, plus a need to slow down online friendships and trust.

My hope is that these reflections help move me another step up her friendship ladder.

Some final appeels (sic)

Whether in your professional or personal life, lasting relationships take time; people who work in public relations certainly are cognizant of this fact.

By all means, explore possibilities in the online realm and make lots of new acquaintances. And if all the bytes are feeling right, proactively move into the friendlies phase. But take time to build alliances; maybe even pause to compare and contrast them with your offline friendships.

And never take time away from nurturing relationships that were earlier peeled and stood the onion sniff test of time.

Judy Gombita

Judy Gombita


Judy Gombita is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. Find her on Twitter.



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Small Business Advertising TipsMy friend Sandy Ratliff understands small business. Sandy’s a star marketer at the Virginia Department of Business Assistance and travels all around her state sharing her wealth of knowledge with small business owners. Here’s how she describes what she does. “I primarily focus on helping individuals launch and expand business within my 25 county service area of Southwest Virginia.   I do about 40+ workshops a year and over 200 counseling sessions with new and existing business.”

Sandy and I originally met on twitter and our friendship has blossomed to occasional lunches and regular contact through our social networks.
Recently she reached out to me to ask for my input on tips to provide small businesses who want to advertise.

It was an interesting question since the whole field of advertising has been turned on its head over the past few years with the advent of social networking for business. Clients now obtain information when, where, why and how they want it. (For more information be sure to check out David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR)

Here is the list we discussed and that Sandy presented to her clients:

  1. Look at the demographics of the media source: Does it reach your target audience? Example: I used to be the executive editor of a high end regional lifestyles publication. One of our advertisers, the owner of a classy gentlemen’s clothing store, swore by his success with our publication and said the price was worth it.
  2. In what markets will it run? Example: If you are a small neighborhood based gym do you really want to run a radio ad that will reach thousands? We’re moving to an era of geo and micro-marketing.
  3. Be educated: Know the media source coming to meet you in advance. Know your target audience and how best to reach them.
  4. How does your target audience like to hear from advertisers? Coupons? Facebook? Twitter? Daily deals? Ask them!
  5. Can you do it yourself? Google and Facebook have brought advertising opportunities direct to the small business masses. Experiment with some online D.I.Y.
  6. Cause marketing: Recently MarketingMel had the opportunity to sponsor a portion of the PTA night at the Johnson City Cardinals baseball game along with one of my client’s, CapTeeVation. Together we paid for the hot dog supper provided to the first 250 through the gates. What a great opportunity to support something very positive in our community; education. Look for things that your company believes in and then get behind them. You’ll reap multiple rewards!

What are some tips that you’ve used effectively in small business advertising? Please feel free to share here. I’ll be glad to add them to the list.

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Google + makes circles fun again!

Google + makes circles fun again!

When my first invitation arrived for Google+ I was deliberately unplugging and connecting with family over the 4th of July weekend. That delayed me a few days in starting until the second invitation arrived. After just a couple of play dates (yes, that’s what it feels like)  in the Google+ sandbox here are a few quick observations.

Circles are fun, remember? Yes, just like in pre-school, you get to play in different circles. Best part, you get to choose who you want to play with. That’s right, you make and label your circles of friends and they won’t even know what you’ve called them. And it’s so much easier to segment friends than it is on Facebook (or on the playground). From a public relations perspective, just imagine the implications of having all of your favorite journalist peeps or key bloggers in their own circles.

No games! (So far anyways.) You may love seeing what your friends are planting in Farmville but I use social media as an extension of me/my personal brand and I like to keep it on a professional level. (Yes, I’m the person who X’s out those Mafia Wars Facebook posts!)

Everyone wants to play: Unlike the networking invitation requests I get for numerous other sites this one caught my attention and seemed well worth spending time on. What caused me to notice was the buzz I was hearing from other enthusiastic thought leaders like Chris Brogan.

Strictly business (for now): Because Google+ is supposedly only issuing invitations sparingly I’m generally connecting with influencers and thought leaders that I already know from twitter. That’s quite different from the way I started on Facebook; first with family and friends then as an evolving business tool.

Let’s hang out: I wanted to hang out today (i.e. video chat with some of my friends) but darned if they weren’t all away! I’ll catch them next time and look forward to the Skype-like feature! Interestingly, right after Google+ came out with this, Facebook quickly followed suit by teaming with Skype for a video chat feature. Let’s face it, video connections are the way to go!

Where did that elephant in the room come from? OK, deep breath here…..Facebook appears to have a social networking competitor on its hands. Granted, Facebook has a significant head start of just over 750 million users, but things do change rapidly (Anyone remember bag phones?) What’s interesting is that these two behemoths will have tabs on just about everything anyone could want to know about us; and we’ll have freely given the information to them! Stay tuned and watch where this one is going. (I love this infographic comparing the two social networking sites from Guy Kawasaki.)

What are your impressions of the new social networking site? I would love to hear your comments on Google +. And hey, feel free to come find me in a circle near you.

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"Super Heroes know their personal brand"

What's your personal brand?

Recently I had the opportunity to conduct video “man-on-the-street” interviews asking people about their New Year’s resolutions. This was a project to help one of our church ministers with his upcoming sermon. I learned several things:

1- Generally people do not like to talk about resolutions. Most likely it’s because they remind them of broken promises.

2- Unless they think they look good they don’t want to talk on camera. People obsess about their clothes, hair, make-up, etc. (This goes for men as well as women although the men I met weren’t worried about make-up.)

Ultimately resolutions reflect on our personal brand. As we move into the New Year let’s each take a quick assessment of our own personal brand and what we can do to better ourselves in 2011. Here are some tips I recently provided to two of my clients in customized one-on-one sessions and am glad to share here with you.

  1. Google yourself– What do you find? Is it fresh? Is it negative? Does it need a PR boost?
  2. Does your image transfer to mobile? People will be on their phones more than ever in 2011.
  3. Who is your target audience? What communications channels are they using? Do you have your elevator speech planned for the next time you bump into Future Big Client X?
  4. How do you plan to promote your brand in 2011? Through guest media appearances? Your blog? Podcasts? Social media? Your e-mail signature? Video?
  5. Do you have an editorial calendar planned for 2011? Remember, you are a publisher. Now is the time to think seasonal and timely in your future writing and publishing.

All the best of luck to you in 2011 and remember, your personal brand is always with you!

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