Got the SCAD Virus?

Uomo d'affari in crisiIt’s every community manager’s nightmare: their well-deserved weekend offline turns into a full crisis come Monday morning when they realize unhappy customers have been lambasting the brand unheeded on social channels.  Recently, we’ve been helping out with this epidemic that we’ve taken to calling SCAD—social crisis attention disorder.  When you least expect it, a frustrated consumer takes out their hostility for the entire community to see—and unfortunately the one not seeing it is the poor community manager.   We’ve even seen a case where the disgruntled customer wrote a post on his own Facebook wall (not the brand’s) and then ran his own sponsored post campaign around it so the entire world would see.  That’s like the modern day equivalent of taking out a newspaper ad about the crappy service!

I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Metaverse can help clean up a nasty case of SCAD, but first some thoughts from the frontline from someone who’s managed both on and offline crises—as always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

Be prepared: make sure that your brand crisis plan clearly outlines who the decision makers are and how to contact them—the more time spent trying to figure that out, the faster a crisis brews and escalates.  Even more important, make sure those stakeholders understand the difference between reacting to an offline crisis and an online/social media crisis.  The old way of issuing a statement and walking away doesn’t cut it in social media—and believe me, many of the corporate decision makers probably need some education on that point before a case of the SCAD attacks.

Be honest: social media is all about building community—and the community can “smell a rat.”  If a company is hedging or not telling the truth or whole truth for whatever reason, the community will seize on that and end up making matters worse.  This is why it’s so important that corporate decision makers understand the unique nature of social media forums.

Be engaging: if under attack by advocates, bring them into the solution and ask for their help.  Also engage and be real with fans on the page—doing so encourages your advocates to come to your “rescue” by weighing in with comments like “they’re doing everything they can – give the poor social media guy a break.”

Of course, the best way to avoid a bad case of SCAD is to catch it early.  What’s a poor community manager to do—check the page every 15 minutes and get no sleep?  Of course not, let the team at Metaverse not get any sleep.  That’s what we’re here for!  Our moderation team works 24/7 and can watch the page, escalate situations as required, all so you can rest better knowing we’ll alert if the problem gets worse.  And we do it all on a flexible schedule—some brands have us monitor every evening and weekend, others have called us in a pinch Friday afternoon asking for help by 6pm that evening.  Whenever you sense a case of the SCAD coming on, don’t delay, give us a shout!

JP Buchmeyer, VP Digital Engagement
Jp {at} metaversemodsquad.com

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Lessons Learned

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By now, most if not all of us has read about Karen Klein, the bus monitor bullied by a group of middle school students. Perhaps you’ve seen the video. I, myself, watched about four minutes before I had to stop out of sheer disgust. Not only was I mortified and saddened by the behavior of those kids, but also because not a single one of them defended the woman. The kids either participated, or sat quietly and let it happen, which in my opinion is no different.

When things like this happen, it causes a widespread reaction. Over half of a million dollars has been raised for her. But that’s just one reaction. What it also does, is cause us to look at ourselves, our children and our society. We have questions; we seek answers and hope for solutions.

I too wonder how in the world this could happen. It isn’t simple, and it’s like putting together a gigantic puzzle to figure it all out…and I don’t know if we even have all the pieces. I have some thoughts, and observations I’ve made that have helped me make some sense of all this.

First off, I wonder about what kids are exposed to. Many of us work in virtual worlds involving kids. We see bullying, name calling, insults, etc. Things like this are common online because users have no fear of consequence (beyond being banned from a website). We do try to moderate them as best we can, but we can only do so much. It is simply much easier to hurl insults with a keyboard than it is verbally. Kids and adults are guilty of this. Perhaps some are getting too comfortable in how they speak to others online and it spills over into real life situations. I don’t know but I suppose it is possible. We hear often about cyber bullying in chat rooms and via social media.  Sadly, we also often hear about kids committing suicide or turning to other destructive behaviors as a result of persistent bullying. It saddens us, but what are we doing to prevent it?

I’m sure there are other factors: Parental influence (or lack of), television, movies, video games, peers, music, etc. Many of the jokes directed at this woman were essentially fat jokes. Our society and the media make fat jokes funny and acceptable, so it is understandable why kids don’t see the cruelty behind them. It is true, kids today know a LOT more than many us probably did growing up. I’m sure those of us who deal with children online can share stories of kids using words or describing things that shock us. We deal with it, but it’s still very disturbing at times.

So what can be done? I have a young son, so it is something I think about. We live in such a fast paced, technology driven society that maybe it’s causing us to lose track of the important things and the simple things involving our children.  We live in a small town, but it’s quite diverse. I’ve talked to him about how people are different, whether it’s skin color, religion, sexuality, fat/thin/short/tall, rich or poor. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an issue and I don’t know if it will as he gets older. I want him to learn now that everybody has value in this world regardless of who they are and how they look. Also, it is vitally important children learn to respect authority. Additionally, I hope he is willing to stick up for those who are bullied. It’s not easy, but I can hope and try. All parents should use this as catalyst to discuss with their kids about respect, humanity, and empathy. If there is a silver lining in all this madness, it’s that it causes us to do a lot of soul searching about ourselves and our children.

-Laura Sperber
Posted in child safety, Parents, Youths | Leave a comment

Offline Advice: Tips for Sports Parents

ImageYes, we’re all techno-geeks.  We can’t get enough of our electronic gadgets.  But eventually, we all have to pull away from our computers long enough to do something else.  Well, most of us do.  Okay, some of us.  If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you get pulled away fairly often.  Kids have a funny way of expecting to eat a few times a day. And if you’re a parent whose children are involved in sports, there’s even a regular schedule you’re supposed to follow.
 
As a sports mom, I’ve got some street cred. Four athletic kids (one’s an All-American!), plus a coach for a husband – that all counts. And while volleyball is my family’s “thing,” we sure aren’t a one-sport bunch.  Oh no. Football, basketball, track, cross country, wrestling, soccer, bowling (yep, that’s a “sport”), baseball, softball… and that doesn’t even include their “fine arts” endeavors.  Oh yes, I’ve put in my time in the bleachers.
 
So, here is some offline advice for sports parents.  You’re welcome.
 
First tip:  Go. Your kid wants you there, even if he feigns disinterest in your presence, or acts like you are an embarrassment. (Bonus tip: If you’re sporting a jersey with his picture on it or waving a big foam finger – any finger — you ARE an embarrassment.) Learn the appropriate things to call out. If you don’t know the rules and intricacies of the game, keep your mouth shut until you do, except to be encouraging. Take your cues from the more seasoned parents, but remember…
 
Second tip:  Most parents are idiots when their kids are playing sports.  Don’t let them drag you into their lunacy.  If it’s more fun to sit somewhere else, then sit somewhere else.  But don’t sit with the other team’s parents, because they’re even bigger idiots.
 
Third tip:  Be kind to the refs.  They really don’t hate your kids.  They’re probably calling the game the way they actually see it.  Sometimes they get it wrong, but games are almost never lost because of bad calls, even if it seems that way.  Even if a “bad call” happens at the end of the game, there were still plenty of missed opportunities, turnovers, or incidents of poor execution that might have changed the outcome.
 
Here’s a bonus tip about basketball, when your team is playing:  If your team is on defense, and one kid bumps another, you’ll see it as an offensive foul.  If your team is on offense, you’ll see it as a defensive foul.  You just can’t help it… you see it as the other team’s fault.  Keep that in mind before you stand up and scream about the inequity of it all. And remember: It’s a lot more fun to quietly mock the parents from the other team who are standing and screaming about the inequity of it all if you haven’t already engaged in that behavior.
 
Tips for immediately after the game:  Ask your child what she felt she did well, and what she thinks she can improve on. Find a skills-related thing to compliment your kid about, and a character-related thing to compliment her about.  Save your skills critique for later, and save your character critique for later.  BUT! Be sure to see my next two paragraphs regarding the critiques.
 
About the skills critique: Think it over before you choose to discuss skills and technique.  Talk to the coach if you’re not sure about something — they might be teaching a method that you don’t know. It is okay to show your child another way, but do your best to not undermine the coaches, or sabotage their system.
 
And about saving the character critique for later: Get to it, but not immediately after the game, when emotions may be running high. But don’t make the mistake of never addressing issues you see in their character.  If you’re lucky, the coach might help in that area, but ultimately, it’s your problem.  If you disagree with the coach, talk to him — don’t tell your kid to do something different than the coach tells him to do. (Example:  we taught our kids to put out a hand and help up an opposing player if someone got knocked down — one coach didn’t allow that, because he thought it could start a fight, or put the kids in danger of being punched.) Whatever you’re noticing — back-talking the coach, rolling eyes at the ref, laughing at the other team, not being encouraging to teammates – address it with your child, and work with them to overcome these things.
 
And my top tip: Remember why you’re doing this. It’s not about building an athlete; it’s about building your child’s character. Except for a few very rare exceptions, our kids are never going to “go pro.” But they are going to have to function in the real world, where there are wins and losses, fairness and inequity, good skills and poor skills. What they learn about managing those things will be far more important than anything they can learn about a sport.
 
— Susie South | Chief Moderator | Metaverse Mod Squad, Inc.
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

E-Sports, Junior Varsity

E-sports have arrived. The scene of professional gaming has experienced such explosive growth over the past 18 months or so, it’s undeniable that gamers are ready and anxious for this new industry to flourish. While the concept of playing video games for a living is nothing new, the increasing opportunities to participate and compete for ever-increasing stakes are attracting more and more players to the tournament scene, which subsequently receiving larger and larger audiences.

Why the seemingly overnight explosion of interest? Since the first competitive video games in arcades, video games have been a natural fit for tournament style spectating and commentary. The trouble was most events have to be local, either organized within arcades or as auxiliary features to bigger events. Players and spectators all had to be in the same physical location. With the advent of the internet and quick adoption of online gaming, these conditions changed, enabling more tournaments to happen more often.

As the amount of online gamers began to increase, so did their bandwidth speeds. Traditionally limited to the programming offered by your cable/satellite provider, consumers now have an ever-increasing amount of alternative media options available online. Many tournament game matches (or “casts”, as they are often called by commentators) are available on video sharing sites such as YouTube. However, as with most any other sport, viewers tend to want their action live. Live steams of e-sports tournaments have been available more and more frequently over the past 12 months, and are quickly becoming standard fare for the industry. Social networking has enabled the posting a single link to reach thousands of people in seconds, allowing them to “tune-in” to the action as it happens.

Publishers have taken notice of the increasing demands for e-sports and pro gaming. Games are beginning to include “spectator” modes and other tools that aid in the analysis/commentating of matches in progress, as well as for recording matches to review later.

It is for these reasons I think that e-sports has achieved a new level of maturity, and I expect it to only continue to grow in popularity. If the past year is any indication of what is to come for the pro gaming scene, the next few years hold immense opportunity for both players and companies alike.”

By Robbie Wanamaker | Project Manager | Metaverse Mod Squad, Inc.
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5 Bizarre Conference Rules

I’ve recently seen an influx of articles on the need for schmoozing and revisiting social skills. Two of the best so far are this article from Peter Bregman about his SXSW conference going experience  and “Has Screen Time Killed Your Schmoozing Skills” by  Jessica Stillmen and it reminded me of a few things.  First, the Digital Kids Conference is coming up on April 25th and 26th and second, most people do not enjoy going to conferences because of the large crowds of unknown people.  So on the latter, I thought I would share a few of my hard-learned lessons in hope that those of you who are still molding and shaping your conference-going persona, can really take advantage of all the Digital Kids Conference has to offer.

Rule 1: Get over yourself.

Nobody is paying attention to you – so get over yourself.  What’s that, you say? You may think that’s harsh. It’s not.  Just like you’re sitting there feeling awkward or uncomfortable or wondering if your tuna sandwich made your breath stinky; others are wondering if you noticed their baby’s spittle on their shirt, their onion breath, or whether or not they put deodarant on that morning. Trust me; no one has time to think about you – unless you make them.

Rule 2:  Make them think about you: Shock and Awe.

Now that you’ve realized that the person next to you is really not thinking about you AND had tuna fish with onions for lunch, please turn to them and ask, “Did you have tuna fish for lunch?”

Whoa?! What do you want me to do?

Shock and then awe them.  It doesn’t give them the opportunity to put up any defenses. Disarm them and then introduce yourself.  My other favorite is getting a glimpse of someone’s name tag and then walking up to them as if we’ve been friends for decades. It sometimes backfires when people are wearing someone else’s badge, but it’s still a fun conversation starter and they spend those first few moments trying to remember how they know you instead of thinking about all the ways they could be self-conscious and then they feel the sweet relief when I let them off the hook by saying we have never met.

Rule 3:  If at first you don’t succeed…

Forget ‘em. There are hundreds or thousands of other more interesting people to meet and talk to! But…

Rule 3.5: If you do succeed… Be Authentic!

Hey, you may be at a Gaming Conference and that hardcore gamer may want to talk about his My Little Pony collection. Let him! He’s passionate and talking. If you have no idea what they are talking about – that’s cool, ask them.   Asking questions increases your knowledge! And knowledge makes you more interesting.  No matter how absurd… be authentic!  Everybody has something about them that they are passionate about – be interested in what they are saying and if you’re not, steer the conversation towards something relevant – such as the sessions at the conference.  Or find someone who might be interested in their conversation and be a connector!

Rule 4: Don’t monopolize your new friend’s time.

There are hundreds to thousands of people to meet.  See Rule 3.  Make your conversations impressionable and short.  Get their name right (Don’t call me Regina for instance – that’s not my name.  By a show of hands, who has the Ting Ting’s song in their head now?) Find out what they are working on, think about how you can help them out, and make the conversation memorable.  Give them your business card (poor Seth Macfarlane – but that’s a longer story for another day) or take their card with the expectation that you guys will connect after the conference or at a later date.   Don’t be offended at the short conversation!  It’s cool, it’s actually a sign of respect!

Rule 5: Go to the right conference.

So, you’re now at the conference, less self-conscious, chatting people up and feeling the groove, but you’re finding that you’re not necessarily meeting the people who want to have the conversations that you do… Well, I suggest planning on going to the sessions that you enjoy.  Remember:  Birds of a feather (typically) flock together.  You want to talk tech, attend tech sessions.  You want to talk community, hit up those sessions.  If you want to talk Digital Kids and attend a Salesforce conference where Metallica is headlining, we think you may have gone to the wrong conference and suggest attending Digital Kids.   But most of all, remember you are there to enjoy the conference and learn something new.

On that note, I will sign off and say that I try to meet 10 new people every day.  I will be at the Digital Kids Conference and would love to meet some new faces and say hello to a few I’ve met before.  Please don’t be shy, come up and say hello – as if we are old friends and I promise to eat something stinky for lunch!

-Reg Weiner | VP Professional Services | Metaverse Mod Squad, Inc.

Posted in Conferences | 2 Comments

2013: The Year of the Tablet

As we ponder the future of computing, we ought to first take a review of the past.  In the late 1940s and 1950s, the concept of the mainframe computer was pioneered.  In the 1960s, the mainframe became prevalent.  In the 1970s, the mainframe matured, but the advent of the integrated circuit hinted at something new to come, and by the middle of that decade, the personal computer was available to a few early adopters.  The 1980s were heady days indeed, with computers getting more powerful, and even portable.  There were a plethora of operating systems and models (I owned an Osborne 64 and an Apple IIe, dabbling with a TRS-80).  The 1990s saw the falling-away of most of these, with Microsoft Windows-based machines coming to dominate.

That decade also saw the hint of something new: truly mobile shirt-pocket devices combining telephony and (rudimentary at first) data processing.  Apple made a first foray into mobile computing, failing to conquer that territory (though they came back with a vengeance a decade and some change later, this time to stay).  In the 2000s, mobile devices swarmed across the digital landscape, much as PCs did in the 1980s.  Clearly, computing is in the midst of another sea change, like decades ago when the mainframe came to be largely replaced by the PC.  Now the PC is being supplanted by tablets and mobile phones.

As with any technological change, there will be winners and losers as the PC fades away and retreats to niche use over the next 3 to 5 years.  I think the clear loser will be Microsoft: the company the profited the most handsomely from the ascent of the PC stands to hurt the most by its fall.  Microsoft, that 400-pound gorilla that came to dominate an entire industry, but which could not pivot in time to adapt to the new mobile landscape.

Or can it?

Just when some in the tech industry were beginning to write Microsoft’s obituary, along comes Windows 8.  I must admit, even I was surprised to read some of the reviews, which are mixed but leaning toward the positive, of Windows 8.  Slim, efficient, eye-catching.  Not the usual adjectives applied to Microsoft operating systems.  Windows 8 is designed to run on both PCs and tablets, with an interface that puts what matters to users right in front of their noses, on the home screen.  Microsoft clearly “gets it.”  The PC is not the future of computing.  It remains a sizeable market and is not going away tomorrow or next year, but is has peaked and is now in terminal decline.

Of course, coming up with a “concept OS” and coming out with a viable product able to run on the variety of devices extant on the market (and new ones yet to come) are two different things.  However, I think Microsoft will pull it off.  They have the resources, the expertise, and (importantly) the commitment to cause.  Windows 8 is an existential issue to Microsoft.  It is not like WebOS was to HP: a diversion and pet project whose success or failure mattered little to the organization.  OSes are Microsoft’s bread and butter.  If Windows 8 fails to grab a foothold in the mobile market, Microsoft is looking at a long, inglorious retreat to game consoles and other niches.

Microsoft is not going to “go quietly into that good night.”  They have the cash and the credit and the resources to put up an epic fight for the mobile market.  And they will.  Whether they will win or not…I think at this point in time it’s even money.  I could be persuaded either way.   But they will fight.  Which brings me to the point of this post.

Microsoft is coming rather late to the mobile “party.”  They have very little market share, and are up against Apple, which has already carved out an empire formidable in both breadth and depth on the mobile landscape.  They are up against Android as well…an OS whose users adopted it in large part to escape from large, overbearing corporations leveraging their OS dominance to bend the market to their will.  How, then, can Microsoft pry itself into this market as a Johnny-come-lately?

The same way it beat Apple in the PC market back in the 1990s, of course.  Bankroll cheaper hardware running its OS.

I’m not going to predict whether Microsoft will succeed.  But what I will predict, confidently, is that the last quarter of this year and 2013 are going to see a barrage of cheap but capable devices, with telephony and without, with Microsoft Windows 8 installed.  Every indication is that Windows 8 is going to at least be a respectable OS.  It’s going to be a contender, and with Microsoft subsidizing Windows 8 devices, even Apple is going to have to bend on pricing (which it can afford to do) to compete.  We’ll see Microsoft tossing out subsidies (I would not be surprised to see devices ship with a code good for $20 of free apps at the Windows 8 app store) left and right.

The outcome is going to be tablets and mobile devices priced even more accessibly to everyone.  Between another iteration of Moore’s Law and Microsoft subsidies, tablets with the specs of a $499 tablet today will be going for $159 by later in 2013.  Today’s entry-level $299 tablets will be $89 then.  Smartphones that go for $249 now will be $49 or even less with two-year activation.  Even geeks who hate Windows with a passion will buy these cheap Win8 tablets—and root them and load Android.

2013 will be the inflection point that establishes tablets and smartphones as the future of computing.  And this rising tide will lift all boats, including those of software developers, who will have a larger userbase with higher specs to write games and other apps for.  We live in interesting times, and they’re only going to get more interesting as the price of mobile hardware able to do basic computing, graphics, Facebooking and Angry Birds falls well into the double-digits.  Personally, I don’t really care whether Microsoft pulls its come-from-behind victory here at the bottom of the ninth.  I’m just going to enjoy the cheap gear.

– Benjamin Stockton | Project Manager | Metaverse Mod Squad, Inc.

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PoLINtically Correct

Being a basketball fan and Asian American, I couldn’t help myself. I had caught the “Lin Fever.” You may have likely already read or heard about “LINsanity.” The term is being used to capture the insane development of Jeremy Lin’s status from being a benchwarmer to NBA’s latest phenom during the start of this basketball season. Lin had brought about a tremendous amount of buzz in the sports world and in outer circles as well.

Lin elevated the New York Knicks to a performance level that had brought back a new kind of hope and excitement for the organization and fans alike. The catalyst to all this hoopla was during a game that happened back on February 10 between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

As Jeremy Lin’s brand has gathered momentum toward the right direction, it hasn’t avoided some of the negative stereotypes and comment mishaps. Regarding social media, Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock posted on Twitter, “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.” In another incidence, though not specifically social media but involved a mobile headline, an ESPN employee has been dismissed and another suspended over a question phrased, “If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?” Just to keeps things light, this incidence has been parodied on Saturday Night Live. Even with a knee injury taking him out of the rest of the season, Lin will still have to be careful in how his brand is managed.

Unrelated to Jeremy Lin, but noteworthy on the topic of social media blunders, you may remember Ashton Kutcher’s mistake a while back regarding a tweet involving the situation over the firing of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno highlighted in an article on AllThingsD. Not knowing the facts about the incident, Kutcher tweeted, “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” Though all is not totally lost, this indeed has tarnished their brand and highlights the importance of being careful about what is communicated online. After the unfortunate incident, Kutcher eventually handed over his Twitter to a team to manage it professionally, which was a smart move.

This brings me to my main topic. As professionals and companies involved in social media, how do we balance being authentic with being able to communicate to our fans without upsetting and driving away those fans we worked so hard to gain? I think that it is best to error on the safer side but you can still be real about how you post on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media avenues. Start by connecting with your most loyal fans. Share your experiences and focus on what counts. Here are some thoughts about managing your social media brand:

  • Have a social media branding strategy.
  • Be sure to have a secure password for your social media accounts.
  • If more than one party and/or admins are posting, ensure that what is being posted is in sync with the voice of the brand.
  • Monitor what’s being said about your brand.
  • Hire a professional to manage your social media accounts. That’s what we are here for!

Remember that building your brand using social media is for the long haul and takes time. What you say today can greatly effect how others perceive your brand now and well into the future.

-Isaac Wong

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