Tag Archives: social media

11 Free Ways To Get Publicity For Your Small Business

Image: Blackenterprise.com


Getting your name out and in front of your target market is the best way to generate business. Getting a customer’s attention often comes at a hefty price, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Learn about different publicity tactics that won’t put a dent in your budget.


“The tactic is simple: you randomly search questions related to your niche and try to find the results in which one of the posts on Quora is ranking in the top five. Open that and try to give a very detailed and helpful answer with stats and your personal experiences about the question asked. The better your answer, the better is your chance to reach the top of Quora answers.

This works really well and, as I write this today, I already have two answers to questions on Quora that are bringing us around 25-30 visitors every single day. You may think it’s too low but considering that the average ticket size of projects we do is $500, that easily converts to a few new leads every week without spending a dime.
-Ram Shengale, Fantastech

Generate Intriguing Data

People love facts and figures, and creating new ones is a great way to draw attention to your business with a little effort rather than a financial outlay. It is surprisingly easy to do, and it’s worked for me on several occasions. All you need is a poll or survey with a reasonable number of responses. As long as you have an established group of people to reach out to–like a social media group, an email list or a customer database–that’s simple to achieve. Ask the right questions, share the data you create, and you can generate anything from social media mentions to press coverage.
-Ben Taylor, HomeWorkingClub

Combine Offers and Audiences

Collaborating with other companies in your area or online is a great way to broaden your audience and potentially gain new customers. Teaming up with a fellow business to give away free products or services is a fantastic way to get your name out there and gain some more publicity. Use your social media platforms to announce the collaboration and have users either follow you or tag your company to enter. You will get exposure to a whole new set of clients and gain new followers all while giving away products you already have.
-Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

Team Up for Tabling Events

Collaborating with other small businesses for tabling events is a fantastic way to get your name out there without having to spend extra money. Using social media to announce the event will drive traffic to your page and direct people to your website to learn more. This is a great way for people to also engage with your organization and follow your organization’s journey via social media. This is a win-win because you and another company are combining your audience to bring awareness and give information to a whole new set of potential clients.
-Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center

Stay on Top of Trends

One thing that has worked really well for us is creating content around trending topics, and riding the organic search traffic that results in visits, comments, links, and mentions across the web. Specifically, we have found a lot of success in aggregating statistics into a big list. For example, when the coronavirus pandemic started heating up and many people started switching to work-from-home, we published a few blog posts with statistics on working from home.
-Jayson DeMers, EmailAnalytics

Whatever You Do, Watch Your Spelling

I use HARO to get free press for my small business. In 2019, I sent around 40 pitches and received over 20 mentions, including major publications like Business Insider and Forbes. My top HARO tip is to proofread your pitches (or have someone else proofread them for you). No matter how good your pitch is, reputable editors won’t publish it if it contains spelling and grammatical errors, so it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure your submission is polished.
-Chloe Brittain, Opal Transcription Services

Newspapers Are Not Gone Yet

You would be surprised how many small businesses are no longer sending out press releases. Newspapers in your state are looking to cover local businesses, so write a press release about something in your organization and email or fax it over to the newspaper. If you do this once per month, you would be motivated by how many times it will get picked up. Sometimes, a feature article will come out of it. In addition, Google search engines really value newspaper links to your website, and it will help with search engine marketing.
-Stephen Halasnik, Financing Solutions

Instagram Stories Are Tools

Getting free publicity for your business is easy with Instagram Stories. With a Swipe-Up link, you can take people where you want them to go. People love the countdown sticker. Promote your new product launch or discount with the countdown sticker. Even if people don’t buy, you can DM them the information. People also love polls. Ask if they have already purchased and offer two choices: Yes and Send Me the Link. Many people choose option two.
-Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Whether you are a startup looking for R&D funding to take your product to the next level or simply wanting to organize a charity event, crowdfunding is a powerful publicity tool. For starters, you get to promote your company and what it does with the vision behind what you do. Second, people love crowdfunding and a well-thought-out campaign can get shared on social networks, multiplying its views and overall PR effect. I would recommend crowdfunding on platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo to get some publicity for free.
-Aleksandra Arsic, CapitalCounselor

Join Organizations + Attend Meetups

The best way to get publicity for your small business is to join organizations or attend meetups within your community. These are great ways to network with other business owners who may be able to offer strategic partnerships or collaboration opportunities. Within my community, there are tons of organizations for female entrepreneurs, marketing enthusiasts, and everything in between. Always remember that every stranger in that room is an opportunity for your business, so put yourself out there and get to know everyone.
-Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors

Optimize Google My Business Profile

Local SEO can help small businesses generate impressions and awareness for their services. One of the best ways for small businesses to appear on search result pages is to optimize a Google My Business listing.  By optimizing your listing with relevant information, your business may be shown in the top three results for local searches. Google My Business is free to use and highly effective for helping businesses get their name out there to prospective customers.”


Declare Social Media ‘Critical Infrastructure’

Image: “istock


“In the last five years alone, foreign disinformation campaigns targeted public health, electoral security and trust in government. 

Defining social media as critical infrastructure and providing the resources and regulatory authority that accompany that designation would provide an effective way to win key battles in the “gray zone” likely to define competition between the United States and potential adversaries in the near term.


“Twenty-eight percent of adults in the United States believe Bill Gates wants to use COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips into people to track them, according to a Yahoo/YouGov poll released in late May.

Russian-state media outlets RT and Sputnik promoted false information on social media platforms stating handwashing is ineffective against stopping the spread of the virus.

This misinformation and confusion regarding the virus could result in thousands more deaths from a virus having already killed more than 120,000 Americans.

These harmful and conspiratorial beliefs are spread via the proliferation of disinformation on social media by adversarial foreign actors seeking to harm U.S. national security. To fight this, policymakers and defense leaders should declare social media critical infrastructure to allow them wider latitude when stopping the spread of disinformation.

Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig at the National Endowment for Democracy recently coined the term “sharp power” to describe the use of false information and propaganda by adversarial states to penetrate the political and information environments of targeted countries. Their overarching goal is to destabilize governments and civil society organizations by influencing the countries’ citizens.

Adversaries such as Russia, China and Iran spread incorrect and misleading statements over social media using armies of fake bot accounts and troll farms. Social media platforms use recommendation algorithms that then amplify this malicious content to users, until eventually the disinformation permeates public consciousness.

While COVID-19 is the proximate threat the nation faces, foreign disinformation campaigns have targeted countless other aspects of American life. Intelligence officials have concluded Russia conducted a widespread disinformation campaign to spread radicalizing information and sow mistrust in U.S. institutions prior to the 2016 election.

Iran and China have also started using these tactics, and the 2020 election will likely see millions of posts from bot accounts operated by adversaries seeking to sow discord.

The threat is not just limited to domestic security. On June 11, Twitter removed thousands of China-backed fake accounts that were spreading false information related to the Hong Kong protests and China’s coronavirus response in order to promote sympathy with the Chinese Communist Party and antipathy toward the West. Though a majority of Americans get some of their news off of social media, efforts to combat disinformation on these platforms have run into resistance as many of them view efforts to remove disinformation as an attempt to stymie free speech.

To counter threats to public health and national security, American social media networks should be designated as critical infrastructure as the United States seeks to thwart the pandemic and protect its electoral security. The Department of Homeland Security defines critical infrastructure sectors as those whose “assets, systems and networks … are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety.”

Social media’s manipulation by malicious actors for the purposes of spreading disinformation poses a threat to all these security areas. Declaring social media critical infrastructure will emphasize the threat disinformation poses, motivating social media giants into taking meaningful steps to mitigate the spread of disinformation.

Our allies are already taking steps to combat the negative impact online disinformation has on their public consciousness. The European Commission recently took on the task of finding a way to combat disinformation related to the pandemic. On June 10, the EU outlined steps needed to successfully counter it. The plan calls for increased cooperation amongst EU member states, international partners and civil society to promote objective facts about the pandemic while dispelling false narratives promulgated by hostile foreign powers. Treating social media here as critical infrastructure could have the same effect making it an issue priority.

Treating online platforms as critical infrastructure in the fight against disinformation could also emphasize the need for public and private entities to put resources into research and development to stop disinformation, as well as allow for increased cooperation between private tech entities and the government.

For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on the Semantic Forensics project, an attempt to develop algorithms that can successfully identify disinformation, as well as where it came from and whether or not it was an intentional malicious attempt to spread false information.

The increased focus that comes from being treated as critical infrastructure will push national security leaders to increase both R&D efforts to fight disinformation and collaboration between policymakers and industry on how to develop solutions to the threat disinformation poses. Viewing social media as critical infrastructure will also allow policymakers appropriate regulatory authorities toward social media platforms as they combat disinformation.

While the relatively nascent and online nature of social media may make a critical infrastructure designation seem gratuitous, foreign disinformation campaigns have the potential to disrupt multiple aspects of homeland security. “


Navy Warns Marines And Sailors Of “Card Cracking” Scam

(tuan_azizi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is seeing an uptick in reports from sailors and Marines who have been duped in a card-cracking scam on social media — in some cases after being promised money as a gesture of gratitude for their military service.


“The scammers are reaching out to service members through several different ways, NCIS warned.

In some cases, service members are receiving friend requests on Facebook from someone with mutual friends. The scammer then tells the service members they would like to offer them grant money to thank them for their service, or offer them money for their “debt relief.”

Another trend NCIS has witnessed is scammers connecting with service members on social media through either posts or messages, all under the guise of being a debt consolidator or business owner.

Regardless of initial contact, scammers then ask service members to share their bank login information, along with some of the security question prompts that appear on their online bank account.

“Victims have reported that after the money is deposited directly into their accounts, the scammer then asks the victim to send a portion of the money via wire or cash to a third party,” NCIS said in a recent news release.

“Victims then discover that loans have been opened in their name with the same financial institution. Any attempts to further contact the scammer are unsuccessful, leaving the victim to pay off the loan.”

These scams have resulted in “severe financial losses” for service members, NCIS said.

NCIS provided a series of recommendations to sailors, such as halting continued contact with the scammer, alerting their banks or financial institutions to lock accounts, and looking into a credit lock through credit bureaus like Equifax.

Likewise, NCIS recommended sailors inform their commands, the NCIS office, and also law enforcement authorities, and advised against sharing bank login details with anyone.

Although NCIS warned sailors last month to be aware of COVID-19-related schemes, the agency initially said it did not believe these card-cracking scams are connected to the pandemic because there had already been a rise in scams over the past year.

However, NCIS told Military Times it received an image Thursday afternoon of a scam circulating via email targeting Navy Federal Credit Union members that offered to assist them with $800 for COVID-19 relief. The email requested members to validate their Navy Federal customer data in order for the funds to clear.

“We urge the Department of the Navy family to remain vigilant of scams offering promises getting out of debt and making extra money, especially during this challenging time for our nation,” NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston said in an email to Military Times.

Service members have frequently fallen prey to scammers and lost millions of dollars as a result.

According to a December report analyzing data from the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau, active duty personnel and veterans from the Navy have been tied up in 143,718 scams totaling $62,542,897 since 2012. Those from the Marine Corps have also been involved in 57,204 scams totaling $24,976,528.”


Understanding The Challenge Of Short Attention Spans

Image – “Linked In” – Bristin Appukuttan


Next time you have something to share, people are likely to remember that you make your point quickly, and they may be more likely to give you another look. Violate that by boring them with verbosity or rehashed ideas and you are toast.


“From 1989 to 1995, HBO presciently produced a comedy that predicted a phenomenon beyond our control, the ever-decreasing attention span. The show, Short Attention Span Theatre, soon become known as SAST (representing yet another growing phenomena- the acronymization of our language…talk about a short attention span).

As one might surmise from the name, SAST was a series of short skits and interviews, many of which were LOL (sic) hilarious. Among the hosts was a rising comedic star, Jon Stewart. This was eminently watchable TV for the simple reason that things happened quickly, and if you only had a few minutes to spare, you could watch, laugh, and move on without fear of missing a plot twist. Look it up on YouTube- it stands the test of time

I did a little research on attention spans recently and found that some people’s attention spans were now under ten seconds. TEN seconds.

Our attention spans are getting shorter. I won’t speculate as to why except to say that with the various technologies available the craving for instant gratification continues to outdistance our desire for deeper understanding. I’d blame Gordon Moore (see below), but he was simply pointing out the obvious.

Not only are attention spans getting shorter, but the majority of people are multi-tasking, especially the younger ones, which further reduces the attention given to each task.

So now we get to the crux of this matter: in marketing “content is king.” Companies seeking to grow marketshare have an ever-increasing need to put content into the hands of people who make buying decisions. Unfortunately, it’s likely that their audience lacks the time to consume the tons of daily content that’s coming at them from multiple directions.

And, like most, they probably have a shrinking attention span.

So, we have the collision of short attention spans with the desire to get the attention of decision makers, an audience that may or may not pay attention to your content even if it crosses their screen or even lands in their inbox.

Add to this the fact that content is being produced and shared at a breakneck pace. Think of this as Moore’s Law(1) where computing speed is replaced by the amount of content being generated, and instead of doubling every two years (Moore’s original concept), now it takes maybe a couple of months to double the amount of content being generated. As Moore implied, this is not a reversible condition.

With this addition to our “content is king” premise, how do we get the attention of the audience we seek?

Many marketers understand that being concise is key. I call it the word-per-idea ratio (2) where you strive to keep the ratio as tight as possible while retaining the ability to convey a concept. This is why many business videos, podcasts and blog posts are short. It is why I try to keep most of my articles and blog posts to under 500 words. Make one good point and make it fast. Next time you have something to share, people are likely to remember that you make your point quickly, and they may be more likely to give you another look.

Violate that by boring them with verbosity or rehashed ideas and you are toast.

The biggest problem is getting your content in the queue of the decision makers, and this is never a given. Even if it gets in the queue, a variation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle(3) occurs: the timing– will it be found and read or will it miss being seen because it was not delivered in the venue (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) when your prospect was present?

Short attention spans + so much content + timing issues = black hole absorbing unseen content.

There is no simple solution to this puzzle. However there are ways to increase the odds in your favor, including

  • Try to produce good content that is germane to your audience
  • Only one main idea per piece of content
  • Use a compelling headline or title that highlights the topic you will discuss
  • In written pieces, use graphics
  • Cite original sources as necessary and when you can link to those original sources
  • Hashtag people and companies mentioned
  • Re-purpose the content into multiple formats
  • Place the content in venues where it will most likely find the right audience
  • Place it in those venues more than once (retweeting is great, posting on LinkedIn in different places should work)
  • Send it directly to those you really need to reach IF you have a relationship with them
  • Generate content on a regular basis, not on rare occasion
  • Make certain the content is edited for clarity and grammar
  • Ask viewers and readers to share (“If you liked this, please share it with those who might find it useful.”)
  • Care and feeding of regular viewers/commenters – comment back on comments and remember to say thank you
  • All of your content (or links to it) should be in one location on your web site

Is this too much to keep in mind when producing content? Initially, yes, but most of it becomes muscle memory with practice.

If and when I come up with a more practical solution, I’ll call it Amtower’s Content Marketing Law.

AND, if you like this article, please share it….

This article is an expanded update of: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sast-meets-content-marketing-when-heisenberg-collides-mark-amtower/

(1) Moore’s law: IT executive Gordon Moore wrote in 1965 that the speed of computing would double every two years predicated on the number of transistors a microchip can hold.

(2) I first heard the phrase “word per idea ratio” from Chris Trelease, then with telemarketing firm Sturner and Klein. I worked there while in graduate school and a short time beyond that, and I met and worked with some great people.

(3) Uncertainty principle, also called Heisenberg uncertainty principle or indeterminacy principle, statement, articulated (1927) by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg, that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory.”



Mark Amtower
Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Why Social Selling Matters In Government Contracting

Image: Super Office.com https://www.superoffice.com/blog/social-selling-statistics/


“Social selling occurs online in social networks, especially LinkedIn. It is not a “close the deal” scenario. Social selling is an adjunct process that helps open doors and keep them open. “


“One of the more recurrent complaints when a company is making the “go/no go” decision on a bid is “we’ll lose because the client does not know us.”

I heard Bob Davis say this the first time I saw him speak in the early 1990s and I’ve heard it hundreds of times since, especially when I speak at the APMP-NCA fall conference. If this is a common refrain for proposal professionals, it’s got to be an issue across the board.

Enter LinkedIn and social selling.

Social what? Social selling is the process of getting on the radar of specific niches within the market you serve and staying there in a non-intrusive way, adding value by sharing content, making intelligent comments on group posts, viewing profiles of influencers, reaching out to your first degree connections occasionally, and reaching out to connect with new people when the time is right.What social selling is not is traditional selling.

What social selling is not is traditional selling.

Demonstrating thought leadership and subject matter expertise requires a LinkedIn profile that shows that expertise. LinkedIn also provides a content sharing platform to demonstrate thought leadership.

You can identify most of your government customers on LinkedIn, and while you may not be able to manage them, you can keep them informed on what your company is doing.

LinkedIn provides a platform to demonstrate your points of differentiation. Indeed, those points of differentiation often substantiate your thought leadership position.

Capturing and managing customer data is also a function of LinkedIn. You can see where your prospect/customer has worked previously, how long they’ve been in their current position, and more. This should be helpful when prepping for a sales call.

Lead generation can start with looking up the client organization as a company on LinkedIn and using the appropriate search filters to find key people. All Federal agencies and operating divisions have company pages.

Business development and sales staff should be doing all of the above to enhance their other BD and sales activities.

Moving leads and prospects through the sales funnel starts with the above activity, and then you connect with key influencers and add them to your network.

A few other things social selling can help you with include

  • Account/agency based marketing efforts
  • Establishing and reinforcing your brand
  • Building those oh-so-important relationships

Done well, social selling strengthens the relationship between sales and marketing and makes each more effective.

Social selling may not be traditional selling, but in GovCon, it can take you a long way toward your goals.

Engage with social selling and you can kiss the “the client does not know us” syndrome goodbye.”


Mark Amtower

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower. 

“Like” War – The Weaponization of Social Media


Social media icons internet mobile phone application

Art:  istock


“A comparatively tiny physical conflict, fought in an area the size of Portland, Oregon, became a global engagement, prompting the exchange of more than 10 million heated messages on Twitter alone.

The lesson was clear: Not only did modern war require a well-planned military campaign. It required a viral marketing campaign as well… “

“The following is an excerpt from the new book LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media and reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

To many Palestinians who live in Gaza City, Ahmed al-Jabari was a hero: the commander of Hamas, the militant wing of resistance to the Israeli occupation. To Israelis, he was a villain: a terrorist who exploded bombs on packed school buses and rained mortar shells down on cities. But most of all, Jabari was a survivor. He’d lived through five assassination attempts and boasted that he no longer feared bullets or bombs.

His reckoning came on November 14, 2012, as Jabari and his bodyguard were driving down a residential street in Gaza City. High above them, an Israeli Heron drone loitered. Its high-powered camera zoomed in as Jabari’s car sped past a packed minibus and onto a stretch of open road. Then the drone fired a missile.

Jabari never saw the explosion that ended his life, but millions of other people did. Even as his body smoldered, the IDF’s official Twitter account spun into action. “The IDF has begun a widespreadcampaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip,” declared @IDFSpokesperson. Then came an infographic that listed Jabari’s crimes in bullet points, with a big red box reading “ELIMINATED” slapped across his glowering face. After that came the YouTube clip. “In case you missed it—VIDEO—IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari, Head of #Hamas Military Wing.” You could watch Jabari’s car trundling down the street before it exploded in a ball of fire. You could watch him die as many times as you wanted (the video has since been viewed nearly 5 million times) and share it with all your friends.

Within a few hours, IDF aircraft had destroyed dozens of missile caches hidden across Gaza City. “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” @IDFSpokesperson taunted. The challenge didn’t go unanswered. “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are,” a Hamas spokesperson, @AlqassamBrigade, fired back. “(You Opened Hell Gates On Yourselves.)”

The Israelis called it Operation Pillar of Defense. IDF air strikes perforated the buildings in which suspected Hamas fighters gathered, killing militants and innocent families alike. Hamas fighters responded with hundreds of unguided rockets, eager to kill any Israeli they could. Few reached their targets. Israel had a new, U.S.-provided trump card, the Iron Dome, a missile shield that could intercept the projectiles in midair. The result was an eight-day, one-sided campaign. The IDF hit every intended target; Hamas, almost none. Two IDF soldiers and four Israeli civilians were killed, and another 20 Israelis were wounded. On the Palestinian side, roughly 100 militants and 105 civilians were killed, and another thousand were wounded.

But this wasn’t the only fight that counted. There were now three fronts at work in the conflict, Israel’s chief information officer explained. Two were predictable: the “physical” fight, which Israel easily dominated, and the “cyber” fight, in which the IDF just as easily beat back the efforts of Palestinian hackers. But there was a third front, he said, “the world of social networks.” This front would prove more troublesome, and impossible to contain, soon seeping into every corner of the internet.

The IDF deployed a Twitter account, Facebook pages in multiple languages, Tumblr blog pages, and even a Pinterest page. There were slick infographics and a stream of videos and statistics.

Maximizing follower engagement, the official IDF blog offered small digital rewards for repeat users. Visiting the blog ten times got you a “Consistent” badge; searching the website got you recognized as a “Research Officer.” Memes were fired off in volleys and tested for engagement, the best ones deployed extensively. The IDF’s most widely shared image showed Hamas rockets bearing down on cartoon versions of Sydney, New York, London, and Paris. “What Would You Do?” the caption asked in bold red letters.

By contrast, the propaganda efforts of Hamas’s militants were less structured. Most of its social media response came from millions of unaffiliated observers around the world, who watched the plight of Palestinian civilians with horror and joined the fray. The Twitter hashtag #GazaUnderFire became an unending stream of images of atrocities: bombed-out buildings, dead children, crying fathers.

The scourge of war left nothing untouched —including video games and fast-food chains. The IDF hijacked the hashtags for the World Cup, a new James Bond movie, and even the same Call of Duty franchise that Junaid Hussain would weave into his own recruiting (“Playing war games on Call of Duty last night? Over a million Israelis are still under REAL fire#BlackOps2”). Meanwhile, pro-Hamas hackers took over the Israeli Facebook page of Domino’s Pizza, using the opportunity to threaten a merciless reprisal of “more than 2000 rockets” against Israeli cities. When Domino’s regained control of the account, it had a message of its own: “You cannot defeat . . . the Israeli hunger for pizza!”

Even as the missiles flew, the IDF and Hamas continued to narrate the conflict, each posting nearly 300 messages: alerts, updates, and a steady string of taunts. “Warning to reporters in Gaza,” wrote @IDFSpokesperson. “Stay away from Hamas operatives and facilities. Hamas, a terrorist group, will use you as human shields.” @AlqassamBrigade couldn’t let this stand. “Stay away from Israeli IDF,” the Hamas spokesperson mimicked. “We are just targeting Israeli soldiers, fighter jets, tanks and bases.” It was a remarkably juvenile exchange. But these taunts couldn’t be dismissed as easily as the ones you might hear in a kindergarten classroom. After all, they were salvos lobbed by two combatants in a real, shooting war.

There was a temptation, after the sides had settled into an uneasy cease-fire, to dismiss this weird internet flame war as a bunch of digital noise. After all, the angriest tweets were still just tweets — literally, “short bursts of inconsequential information.” But that would have been a mistake. Years after Operation Pillar of Defense had slipped from the public mind, American University professor Thomas Zeitzoff conducted a painstaking study of hundreds of thousands of tweets, which he then mapped across each hour of the physical side of the eight-day conflict.

What he found was shocking. In the case of Israel, a sudden spike in online sympathy for Hamas more than halved the pace of Israeli air strikes and a similarly sized leap in Israel’s own propaganda efforts. If you charted the sentiment (pro-Israel or pro-Palestine) of these tweets on a timeline, not only could you infer what was happening on the ground, but you also could predict what Israel would do next. IDF commanders hadn’t just been poring over battlefield maps. They’d also been keeping an eye on their Twitter feeds — the battlefield of the social network war.

Taking place in 2012, Operation Pillar of Defense offered a glimpse of an emerging way of warfare. It was a conflict in which each side had organized to taunt and troll each other online, even as they engaged in a life-and-death struggle in the real world. Their battles drew in millions more international fighters. Some were passionate supporters of one side; others had just stumbled upon the war while looking for video game news or pizza. They shaped the fight all the same, strengthening the voice of one faction or another — and, by tiny degrees, altering the course of events on the ground.”




Pentagon Needs Help to Combat Social Media Threats




Getty may17-GD-socialmedia

Image:  Getty 


“The Defense Department must work with Silicon Valley on ways to deter the growing weaponization of social media by state and non-state actors.

Tech companies in Silicon Valley should work with the Defense Department on these challenges by helping to identify, detect and disseminate information being spread over social media.

The United States has been slow to invest in areas such as data processing and analysis tools that could help war fighters counteract online recruitment to violent extremist groups and state efforts to spread disinformation and propaganda online, said Adam Sharp, former head of news for government elections at Twitter, during a recent conference hosted by New America, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

President Donald Trump’s recently announced “skinny” budget significantly increases funding for the military, but is “disproportionately focused on more traditional war-fighting, and not on … figuring out how to maintain the U.S.’ edge in these information processes,” he said.

Social networks and internet applications including Facebook and Twitter have become woven into battlefield operations and are “a driving force” in national elections, including the United States’ 2016 presidential election, said Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America.

The first battle to reclaim the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State, or ISIS, was kicked off with a Twitter hashtag, #AllEyesOnISIS, “like a new movie or a video game,” he noted.

The Defense Department needs to update its training environments to face the challenges that accompany the increasing pace and volume of information that is spread online, he said.

The motives for spreading disinformation to benefit state actors and recruiting individuals to violent extremist groups are not new, but the appearance of digital armies who can help plant and spread information with specific narratives has become a global issue, said Yasmin Green, director of research and development at Jigsaw, a technology incubator created by Google.

“Information warfare has been around since the beginning of media. … [But] because of the challenge of attribution [online], there isn’t really a doctrine around a proportional response,” she said. “There’s no form of deterrence here.”




Social Media on the Front Lines of War


New Zealand IsiLTerrorist Accidentally Tweets Location from Syria

New Zealand IsiLTerrorist Accidentally Tweets Location from Syria


“Social media started out as a technological innovation but has become a social phenomenon.

Intelligence agencies appreciate the importance of social media and its role.

In a recent PBS Newshour interview, Nick Rasmussen, of the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) just outside Washington DC, explained how, in the context of searching for a terrorist threat, “increasingly what ‘connecting the dots’ means to me is dealing with the huge volume of publicly available information. The work we’re doing now often doesn’t involve really sensitive intelligence; it involves looking at Twitter, or some other social media platform, and trying to figure out who that individual is behind the screen name.”

Since the early 2000s Facebook has become indispensable for families and friends to stay in touch, and people and organizations with large numbers of Twitter followers are able to carve out virtual mini-media empires. Clicks and ‘follows’ are the new version of voting with your feet. The more readers or followers one has, goes the logic, the more influence one wields.

To turn it around, people who actively use social media for every day, non-political reasons are also subject to being targeted.

One of the vulnerabilities (or advantages, to a combatant wishing to recruit people) is that social media accounts usually expose users to invasive scrutiny. Facebook and LinkedIn profiles can carry enough information that, shared with the wrong person, can be used to compromise that person or uncover confidential information about his/her job. Many countries’ military members are now routinely required to not specify their location or activities.

As the years passed of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, jihadi groups increasingly began to recruit through social media. Stories now abound of young adults of Middle Eastern heritage and origin, living in western Europe and the US, who have been contacted by Islamic State through social media and convinced to move to Raqqa, the Islamic State’s purported capital. Some 60 young women from the UK, aged 20 and below, are thought in the past several years to have traveled to Raqqa.

The huge growth in cell phone cameras and the ease of posting pictures to social media has also played a role in tracking and finding various targets. Of recent note, investigative organizations were able to track operatives and military equipment in eastern Ukraine primarily through personal pictures posted to social media and publically available imaging, including open source tracking of the apparent missile launcher used to destroy Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in 2014. This has also been a method to discover the location of various actors in the labyrinthine war in Syria.

Per the previously mentioned PBS Newshour article, many Islamic State fighters simply do not disable the geo-location feature on their phones, which allows those with the right technology to track them.

Intelligence agencies of major world powers now seem to appreciate the importance of social media and its role in ‘information operations,’ a military term that infers the ability of messaging to affect the viewpoints of a target population. Just looking through listings for ‘intelligence analyst’ on several Washington DC—based job boards, foreign language specialists are widely sought for social media and social networking positions.

Of course, it is not only parties to the worlds’ trouble regions that are looking to abuse social media to their advantage. For even a longer time, social engineers and hackers have tried to gather personal information by establishing links online.

If you are uncertain about that LinkedIn invitation you just got, try to verify the person through a known contact. If you are doubtful, ‘ignore’ or ‘delete’ works just fine. If he or she happens to be a colleague whom you meet at the next social, you can safely add them, and actually have a face-to-face conversation, something social media, unfortunately, seems to increasingly discourage.”

Social Media Now on Conflicts’ Front Lines




What Small Businesses Must Know About Next-Generation Marketing



Image: teradata.com


“To compete successfully, small businesses need to achieve five marketing musts:

  • Build a website that works well on both desktops and mobile devices
  • Claim directory listings on sites like Google Maps and Yelp
  • Secure positive online reviews from customers
  • Establish a social media presence
  • Stay engaged with existing customers

Consider these startling statistics:

  • Half of small companies do not even have a website, according to a study we commissioned with Research Now.
  • Ninety percent of small businesses have not optimized their site for mobile, according to the same research.
  • While 78% of consumers’ purchases are influenced by online reviews per a survey by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, 87% of small business owners do not ask their customers for reviews, according to other research we commissioned.

The good news for small businesses is that next-generation marketing tools tailored for them have been evolving quickly to keep pace with changing consumer behavior. The best ones for businesses are not DIY (“do it yourself”) but instead have a blend of a DIFM (“do it for me”) and DIWM (“do it with me”) approach. This enables local businesses to have the starting point for an online presence set up for them – the basics like a website and directory listings – while getting support in higher investment activities like, for example, securing and syndicating online reviews.

Our bet is that the best solutions for small businesses will come from the providers that spot these gaps in the marketplace and address them. Small business owners need a solution that will use technology seamlessly to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time. That will make it a lot easier for small businesses to play in the big leagues, no matter what their budget.”


Facebook Won’t Stop Experimenting on You. It’s Just Too Lucrative


Image:  Linked In

This is where profit motives and government cross paths. I find this article a bit disturbing knowing the NSA has a direct feed from Facebook.


“If anything in recent memory comes close to validating off-repeated conspiracy theories about the motives of Facebook, it was the company’s now infamous “emotional contagion” study published over the summer. In the study, Facebook researchers tweaked the News Feeds of nearly 700,000 users—without their knowledge—to see if more positive or negative updates from friends induced the same emotions in the users themselves.

The outcry was swift and loud, and now, several months later, Facebook says it’s being more careful in how it conducts its research. But there’s no sign that it’s stopping.

The idea that Facebook isn’t a content-neutral communication medium like the phone or email seems to generate constant surprise and outrage.

In a blog post Thursday, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer acknowledged missteps in the emotional contagion study. “We were unprepared for the reaction the paper received when it was published and have taken to heart the comments and criticism,” he wrote. “It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently.”

Schroepfer said Facebook should have considered other ways to do the study, and that the research should have been vetted more carefully by more and higher-ranking people. Over the past three months, Facebook has put clearer research guidelines into place along with a more thorough review process and more training, Schroepfer said.

But nowhere did he say that Facebook plans to stop experimenting on users. On the contrary, by setting up a system to undertake research more carefully, Facebook is giving itself cover to conduct more such research. All of which should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

Not Evil, Just Business

That’s not because Facebook is somehow evil, but because Facebook is a business—albeit a business that is perpetually misunderstood. The idea that Facebook isn’t a content-neutral communication medium like the phone or email seems to generate constant surprise and outrage. To be fair to the outraged, Facebook doesn’t go out of its way to remind users that the News Feed is gamed, and it specifically does not reveal how it is gamed.

So we’ll spell it out: Facebook has every reason to manipulate the News Feed to optimize for whatever user engagement metrics correspond to the best returns for advertisers, which in turn correspond to the best returns for Facebook. And it has every reason to use other experiments in an effort to improve other parts of its operation. This is the way so many online companies work.

“Facebook does research in a variety of fields, from systems infrastructure to user experience to artificial intelligence to social science,” Schroepfer said. “We do this work to understand what we should build and how we should build it, with the goal of improving the products and services we make available each day.”

by setting up a system to undertake research more carefully, Facebook is giving itself cover to conduct more such research. All of which should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

These efforts are particularly valuable to Facebook because the reach of its service is so large. It has nearly as many test subjects as China has people—a competitive advantage it’s not about to sacrifice just because its manipulations make some users uncomfortable.

Most conspicuously absent from Schroepfer’s post is any suggestion that users can opt into or out of experiments like the emotional contagion study. The lack of transparency and consent is exactly what outraged users in the first place. But it’s understandable why Facebook likely wouldn’t see traditional informed consent as an option.

Facebook’s user base gives it access to one of the largest, most revealing random samples of human behavior ever assembled. Offering users the option not to participate would undermine the quality of Facebook’s results by compromising their randomness. The reactions and behaviors of a self-selecting group that knows it’s being watched pale in value compared to 1.3 billion people un-self-consciously going about the drama of their daily lives.

Little Incentive to Change

Monitoring, manipulating, and packaging users for advertisers are among the practices that are purportedly driving 50,000 would-be users per hour to jump on the wait list for Ello, the new ad-free social network. But even if that number were in the millions, Facebook would have little incentive to do things differently.

A few weeks after the emotional contagion scandal erupted in late June, Facebook reported record revenues and profits for its most recent quarter, and expectations are high that this quarter Facebook will once again top itself. One user behavior Facebook would no doubt have little trouble measuring is whether news of its maligned research project correlated with an uptick in defections from the service or a drop in logins. If it had, Facebook might be expected to do something more drastic to curb such projects in the future.

But however more careful Facebook promises to be, its experiments aren’t going away. “We believe in research, because it helps us build a better Facebook,” Schroepfer wrote. And judging by Facebook’s bottom line, that research seems to be working.”