[00:00:06] Alex thanks for being with us.
[00:00:07] I'm excited to be here.
[00:00:09] We're thrilled you made some time for us. Can you tell us a little bit about you? I mean you're an expert in social media. You're working all over the country, helping organizations understand the power of the medium and how it's used. Can you tell us all about how you got into it a little bit about the work?
[00:00:24] So right now I'm a social media strategist at the UVM Medical Center and at the Health Network and as you mentioned I have toward the country talking about social media and how can be used by companies and then specifically within the health realm.
[00:00:39] How I got into it. You know my job didn't exist when I was in college.
[00:00:42] So it's kind of interesting to think back to early 2000s when I was in college I actually studied government and public affairs and I was always really interested in communication and the tools politicians leaders other others use to affect change and at policies how conversations with constituents. So that was really my area of interest. At the same time that that was happening you know things were happening politically in terms of the Internet.
[00:01:09] Howard Dean you know worked with move on dot org and I was one of the first campaigns that kind of dealt with the Internet as a tool to galvanize, and you know get people talking. And then of course when Barack Obama ran for president, and I think social media was a huge part of that.
[00:01:25] So I think early on in my life I was just really interested in that. And when while I was in college that's when social media was really taking off. 2004 is when Facebook launched, and I was a junior you know you can. During I remember it was during. I think either midterms or finals week Facebook came like was launched at our college and everyone instead of studying was carrying my profile and like Oh are you friends with me like I had people in the dorm COME BY TO SAY OLD FRIEND ME FRIEND ME SO THAT WAS REALLY its infancy and at that point it was just used by colleges and universities.
[00:01:57] But I was really interested in is a tool and I think as I develop my career after college Twitter launched soon after I started blogging Actually I ran like my own little art blog for a while. So it's really interesting using the new tools, and then you know at a certain point I decided to work in an agency. They were really looking for somebody who specialized in new media is what they call us at the time, and they wanted somebody who knew how to blog and knew how to talk to bloggers. So I thought wow you know I do this I'm interested in it. And I ended up working at a local firm in Burlington Vermont that specializes in marketing communications and built their social media practice. And that was really exciting because we were just figuring out how to use these tools like how do you use Facebook for a company how do you use Twitter to talk to customers and engage in customer service. You know we're going to do a blog as a brand. What does that look like? Who writes it. So there are always interesting questions to ask and more so all these interesting people to connect with because as social media became more pervasive as a tool that people use everyday people everywhere. So many more people to connect with who were specialist influencers. And then I think at the end of the day customers and audience members like what an awesome way to actually on one on one conversation with a customer instead of you know through an ad traditional ad or a TV spot or stuff like that. So over my five years, there was really an interesting opportunity to kind of figure out how do we use these tools.
[00:03:27] You were really Brand's pioneer in many ways; I mean I like that word I'll use that.
[00:03:32] I'll tell you what I mean if I listen to you.
[00:03:34] It strikes me that you took something that didn't exist before. I mean this was brand new, and you were one of the first people out there saying wait a minute I think there's a way to be able to use this for many different reasons in many different ways, and I think that that's kind of cool, so you know what. What is social media? I mean you know I hear blogs I hear social media I hear websites you know and I you know I look at all of those things and they kind of interact with each other but yet we think of them differently. I mean, how do you what is social media sure.
[00:04:05] I think social media at its most basic is a piece of content that people are able to interact with and people have done this throughout history. But the way that we think about social media today is Internet-bound.
[00:04:19] And you know on the web, and at somebody post, a photo a blog article a video and then people are immediately able to participate and to share either like Comments Share it interact with it in some way. So that's media that we socialize with. So had social media.
[00:04:36] So what's different than like you know a Web site. So if a school has a Web site which is maybe one directional they put information out in an hour or so social media is all different than that. You know you can interact with a Web site but maybe not comment on although now you can post something on a website. There's often a common tool, so it feels like some of that stuff as well some of those are social media elements.
[00:05:01] I think what you said you made good points in one way when you mentioned the Web site thing and social media is really a two way conversation stream and that's what it should be at the end of the day I think sometimes you see a company decide oh let's use social media and just put information out not realizing the incredible potential to get information back from the people they're serving and I think you know you see sites like Facebook Twitter blogs etcetera, but you're also seeing social tools being integrated into like what you mentioned with a Web site where you can comment, and you can maybe interact with something. So I think I would consider that social media too because it allows an opportunity to have conversation and allows an opportunity Creek community. And that's another important part about social media is that it gives the ability to create community. So for a school for example I could imagine teachers using social media to create some kind of community among them some community of practice I could imagine.
[00:05:57] Parents of course it's a huge audience and them using social to interact with the school create some kind of community around that. So I think that's an important piece of the puzzle too.
[00:06:07] So there's been this evolution.
[00:06:10] I mean you know the impact came along, and then we had these Web sites and remember Web sites back in the 90s I do I remember writing my first I wrote my first web site back then I was working at the police academy, and I got the Web site you were a pioneer. I was wild about that. No, no one would ever look at that Web site and find your name. So you know I understood that part of it.
[00:06:34] I mean I've watched this evolution, so how has it evolved. I mean, I think I hear you talk about how it's a volunteer to use, but social media seems like I remember Facebook used to be just text based. You know it was almost like a Web site you could interact with. Then the way you put it out where it was. But now it's text it's videos photos it's like how is the medium evolved even in the time since you were a person or can we.
[00:07:01] Yeah. I think the medium has evolved in kind of two ways the first one being the technical abilities and the aesthetic abilities. So now we have the opportunity to very easily create video content means photo content. These tools have all become a little more I think democratized in terms of like who's able to use them before. He didn't have the knowledge technical knowledge to build a Web site like he mentioned or to build an app or a tool. You really couldn't do it. But now these companies have made this very simple to do it. I think cause they want people to use force but also let's just say that technology has come far enough that it's very easy to figure out like how to shoot a small short video or how do you know create a graphic or get for a kitchen forget. Now we could talk about later, but that's a question to get into.
[00:07:47] But I never know what to call it.
[00:07:50] And then I also think the user the user experience has changed a lot. So this used to be something that was used you know with Facebook it was primarily college students with Twitter that I think that launched it South by Southwest. So I was abused by an older audience. Now we've seen audiences build on that.
[00:08:06] We have swamped. Yeah, I know I know because right now no one under the age of 30 I think are under the age of 20 and wants to be on Facebook. You know my daughter when I asked her how come she's on a Facebook account she said That's for old people dad. So. But there are a lot of old people using Facebook. So it's a very powerful.
[00:08:22] I said there I thought it was a great tool for the family to be connected right. I mean in terms of that. So. So it's evolved I mean evolved so well believe from like computers used to be Facebook a future application but now I often wonder like computer versus handheld phone or so many more people are using it on mobile.
[00:08:42] And that's like across the board in terms of demographics it's not just like 15-year-olds it's 55-year-olds. So and some of the device have just become like another appendage. I think we're human beings cell I think. And the other thing is that these come these social media platforms have become businesses. You know this is something that may have started off as a college project for a founder but has very quickly become an actual business. When you become a business as you know you know a big business you know you're accountable to shareholders boards of directors you're accountable in terms of making money that's why advertising is such a huge part of social media now. So they've really become much more sophisticated.
[00:09:25] And I would also say the evolution has also expanded into different options for users so whereas you may have had a Facebook or Twitter just you know 10 years ago. Now you know Instagram you have Tumblr you have Snapchat you have all these different messaging. Tourists go yeah. So there's slash there's except there's such a wealth of tools out there that allows the user to really choose well what's right for me what serves my needs and also for a company whereas my audience what are they using. How can I use what my audience is using? So there is a lot more opportunity, and there is niche social networks like there's ELO, which is the one for designers. There are all these different things that have cropped up. So there's a lot more off there aren't there.
[00:10:10] So you talk about the sophistication that you know in the beginning it was very much you know the tools were simpler and then there was an evolution of the ability to have a camera and audio and video, and you know it became more I like the way you put that in more democratized right it was the masses were able to use this and then these services became businesses. Well, I heard you say to me you know and they generate big dollars. I mean Facebook and Twitter, and some of these companies are a billion billion billion dollar company serving millions of people worldwide. All right. And so there's so their businesses their community makers so. How do you make sense of what you do with social media? Like if I'm a school superintendent and I'm a university president or a vice president of student affairs or whomever whatever demographic in a school. How do I even know what to choose? You know I mean I I have Facebook I use Twitter use Instagram I could use. Them. How do you know? How do you make those decisions? It seems overwhelming to me. You know like what advice would you have for folks trying to figure out what do I use and for what purpose.
[00:11:19] I think the first question to ask well two questions that I think are really primary to ask whenever you're developing a plan or social media strategy, and that first is what is your goal. What are you trying to do? And if you look at your communications goals as a school. You might see there might be some upward to be there to expand communications to reach certain stakeholders to reach certain communities that might be underserved so there might be various I would say look at your communications goals first as an organization and then look at your audience and say OK if my target audience is teachers if it's community stakeholders if it's parents if it's students what are they using and how are they using it. And I think Pew research they do a lot of research around Internet usage mobile usage and social media as such they have some really great reports on how people use social media because you know I think at this point I want to say it's like in the high 70 percent maybe in the 80s the number of Americans who are using social media. So it's really pervasive but where it's different is how people are using it. So again like how a 14 year old is a social media is a lot different than how you and I use it. So I think really analyzing your audience and how they use a tool would be really worth what they're using as well because you could say oh let's use Facebook let's communicate with people on Facebook then you find out your audience is even there.
[00:12:45] So the tool isn't the platform social media platform. Isn't the goal this crap. I need to have I need to be on social media, so I'm going to just put something on. That's not the way to approach that's what I hear you saying is no what you need to communicate how and when you need to communicate and then figure out what's the best tool in which. Yes exactly.
[00:13:07] Like really think about because I think it's easy to be enamored by social media tools and say well we get an Instagram page or we had a Facebook group for this and it's really easy to go to the tactic first without really being thoughtful about you know what's going to serve the audience best what do they need. What do they want to know and I think that research is really important when I was working at the marketing agency that I was at. Work with a public utility company, and they provided like electricity and natural gas services to customers in a certain part of the U.S., and they wanted to be on social media. But they didn't know like where should we be. What should we do?
[00:13:44] So instead, they needed to be on the radio more than that. Exactly.
[00:13:48] They don't know much more than that and they you know they knew other people were using it. So there's a little bit of like well somebody else is using it. I need to get on their side those that fear anxiety. So we actually pull back, and we did a research project, and we said let's see what people are saying let's do a social media conversation report let's understand what the online conversation is and also something that Social Sentinel looks at a lot as monitoring of conversation. And that's what we decided to decide to monitor what was the conversation now. There were people saying where were they saying. What were the topics? Who What Where When Why. So that we could actually determine OK if we're going to launch and we decide to launch Twitter first because we found out that a lot of their customers were actually using Twitter for customer service conversations as well as other hyperlocal community leaders.
[00:14:33] Do you have a bad experience on a plane flight you tweet about it just like that. No one loves their public utility companies so. Right. I love my public utility company, as well. All right.
[00:14:47] So yeah we decided let's start there and let's start answering. And we decided customer service was an important issue beyond just marketing and communications around you know some of the key initiatives and some of the more, the bigger advertising campaigns that were going on we want to actually answer those questions, and that actually ended up being really helpful being on Twitter because I want to say a few months after we launched this was back in 2011 when Tropical Storm Irene head.
[00:15:13] And we had a huge Nash natural disaster on our hands, and we had I want to say one million people lost power. And for those people, social media is what they turn to for help. So we immediately use social media for crisis communications and to help people find resources in their community. So these people lost power for 10 plus days I couldn't take a shower they couldn't do that.
[00:15:34] So really our goal very quickly adding that content looking for signals from you exactly. Exactly. Look, I really do. Yeah, I'd love to hear more about that.
[00:15:44] You know let's. We were looking at signals of need of help where people needed help were, and some people actually reported like there's a tree down here or there's something here. So we actually were able to gather some really good information to help people, and after that, we were able to launch a text messaging program as we found out. So people like Wanda because they were on their mobile device we were able to develop a set of people can report incidences and issues, so the social media help was really great in terms of. Proving that the tool was a good one to use but also helped us develop a lot of other ideas. So that's what's so similar.
[00:16:18] You said yes. So tell me about what you end up. So the way you've experienced social media is that the interactive nature around the topic of a community lets say, or whatever that community is whether you use we like to sing a capella group whether you like to ride motorcycles whatever it is. This is an evolution of that too we're now organizations you know are using it to get feedback direct feedback and understand what's happening and in the moment. So how. Look. How is social media changed the way we communicate. I mean I think about you know we used to write letters to each other. You know when the time when technology was such a and then make phone calls, you know. I remember at night you know when I was growing up it was you'd be on the phone with your friends at night. And I don't think my kids know we have a phone in the house.
[00:17:07] You know I think they let you see that video. There was a video of them around social media about some like teenagers who they just gave them an old school phone, and they thought was just deal with its part of the federal right.
[00:17:18] No. Maybe so, but.
[00:17:22] How has social media changed the way we're we're communicating. What have you seen around that? You know is just being used as a tool.
[00:17:29] I think the biggest way social media has changed the way we communicate is immediacy. Because you mentioned letters, you mentioned phone calls. Those are all e-mails at one point used in e-mails to each other as you as you go through that evolution of letter phone call email like you see like that the time in between message from the other person has become nothing. Right.
[00:17:50] So on social media I can for good or bad and we can dig into that but for good or bad I can immediately share what's on my mind what's happening in my community how I feel about the news how I feel about this how I feel about that how I feel about something that's happened to me I can instantly put it online and I can instantly get feedback on it because we live with the consequences if there's something that we seek out which is which is the trouble with it sometimes as you know sometimes you know human beings can be impulsive right at any age. And I can impulsively feel a certain way of post something, and you know you have to deal with the ramifications of that either way. So I think I think that's the biggest way I think the other piece is that it's made everyone kind of a reporter of their lives or the life that's happening around them. So it's radically changed the way we consume news information and content. Again for good and bad because I think.
[00:18:45] I think some of the information this is what I deal with at the medical center there's a lot of misinformation posted online. And it's because there are so many voices who are some sharing great content great information and some sharing content that hasn't been verified or we don't know if it's real or true or so there's.
[00:19:01] So that's a second issue with how social media change the way we communicate or connect to each other one is immediacy and the pros and cons of that. And the other is maybe veracity like that the accuracy of information and the sources it comes from. And so so how does that impact the work you do with organizations that you serve. You know in both the immediacy I which I think is probably pervasive to our culture, but that accuracy information is important when you get something on the community happening, and people talking about it and get their facts wrong.
[00:19:38] It creates all kinds of other challenges increase on many channels and that's why it's so important to the first step I think for any social media project is to monitor the conversation and to be watching the conversation because you want to know immediately when something goes on Twitter Facebook Instagram can I verify that. How do it how should I respond to that as a brand? How do we need to chime in here what do we need to say you know and help in the health world and I imagine the education space as well?
[00:20:05] You know there could be some significant challenges if an accident happens or I remember a few years ago when the latest Ebola outbreak happened, and we had a person who thought they had it here in Vermont and there was a lot of conversation on social media about that because this person posted about it on social media about it first that he was in a part of the world where he could've contracted this and that created a lot of anxiety and like we as a medical center and as a medical of health authority it was important for us to get in on that conversation as soon as possible to help people understand what was going on how they could protect themselves et cetera so that we didn't have a kind of a crisis like crisis communication is different now. I mean, you know I'm a former police chief, and I remember as a university police chief, you know.
[00:20:49] An unfortunate tragic or other read what happened and then we would have 35 40 50 60 minutes to get together and make decisions about communication. By the time I retired from the university, there was none of that.
[00:21:02] It was you were always behind the eight ball on the communication it was always out because of social media before you got it until it's radically changed the jobs of people who work in communications, but I would say really at this point because social media is a tool used by so many people.
[00:21:18] It's kind of changed all our lives in that respect. As professionals we got to be super nimble in terms of responding and then the other piece of that is doing so much planning to kind of figure out well what if something like this happens and that's work that can be a little bit more long term, but it's a lot of preplanning to prepare for something that could happen.
[00:21:40] So I'm getting your messages right ahead of time. Knowing what you're going to put anticipating. So if you have a crisis, communicate what kind of raises another I guess question about that. So you know you have to communicate to the world through your community about something that's going on, and now you're trying to figure out you know how you put it in email is different than how you text it is different than how you posted to Facebook or Twitter. So there's that planning of multiple strategies of communication that you can't ignore. Exactly. People are getting that information in many ways.
[00:22:11] Yeah. And how did those all interact together? In many instances, you'll have different people working on different parts of that. So there's a team and people process you know that's kind of part of that as well. How do you make sure everyone's on the same page internally. That's why I think when you have a social media program. It's really important to identify who speaks for the organization on social media and then how does that person bring that information to the rest of the team internally. So people know what's being said and how they can. Like how would the media relations team use it? How would a CEO use that information? So making sure that there's that full circle of feedback. I like what you say about.
[00:22:47] Having a goal and understanding because as I'm listening I'm thinking you know a school may want to use to talk about a K through 12 school or a school district you know may want to use social media to communicate the daily you know take lunch in the cafeteria is this. Yeah, there's a PTO Parent Teacher Organization meeting, and they want to use it for that. But then something bad has happened, and there's a crisis communication that needs to go out. And so again the goal is to you know each of these needs for communication.
[00:23:21] The tool is social media and then how it's used depends on you know, and I'm guessing which social media platform also is you know depends on what you're trying to get out and where you're trying to say yeah.
[00:23:31] Yeah, completely. I think you got that completely right. And you know for a school I mean I've seen in recent years just as being a social media user isn't even in a professional sense I've seen that a lot of crises unfold at a school like you know university or catering.
[00:23:48] Yeah. Any kind of crisis health or criminal or otherwise. I see the conversation on the on social on Facebook first. You see parents like posting news stories or posting updates about who's safe and what's going on or what questions they have. So I think we need to acknowledge that whether you participate or not these conversations are happening, and the opportunity is to be able to participate in that conversation to provide some value to that conversation. You know not every social media conversation you have to be a part of. Certainly in my work at the medical center with other companies there are certain cases where I'm like You know what we don't need to participate in that let the users don't forget to talk, but in certain instances you have to Mr. S, and she had to control the message, but you also have to provide valuable information to help people out especially if you are a school or a higher education institution. To help people understand what's going on so that so many constituencies as I listen to I think to myself, you know if I'm a university or a leader at a university or. Excuse me a leader in a school district.
[00:24:54] I'm communicating and listening to the conversation with students with faculty with staff teachers parents neighbors along. It's it's overwhelming. You know what. I mean, what advice do you have. You know I'm. What did what would you tell me is it as a school administrator about how to get my head wrapped around this. It's just feels so daunting. I am. Yeah, I know whether I have a communications team at a university or whether it's you know myself and the assistant superintendent or the principal. What advice do you have for you know how I get my head around.
[00:25:29] You know I think it's taking a piece by piece you know you don't have to do everything at once you can you can determine like what is our path in terms of using social and digital tools to communicate, and you don't have to be on every single channel at the same time you can say OK a core audience is here. These people are excited about it. Let's go there first and see how it does of the cool and interesting thing about social media is I had such a great environment to test and learn and see what works what doesn't. How does the audience use it? Because sometimes you'll launch a social media presence and what you thought might happen might actually turn to something else that has some really interesting benefits. So I guess my advice is to really take it one piece at a time and start with one place that you can manage. And then at the same time that realize you know no man is an island as they say some or no woman. So see who could be on your team and I think that's actually a really interesting process because there are certain people who might be interested in being a community manager for instance of somebody who response to questions on social media who really enjoys a conversational community building peace there might be others who enjoy creating content writing articles taking photos shooting video, and there might be others who are more interested in analyzing like what. Where do we see most people interacting? What time of day do they interact? So there are all these different skills that are important in the social media in the profession and in a program that you might find at a school you might have different people in your organization who are interested in those you could develop a little bit of a social media team so to speak and that team can meet regularly to talk about their roles what they've done etc. so doesn't become something that's only owned by one person or even owned only by administration. It's something that the entire organization can become a part of which is exciting because people in most cases and I hope most people are happy or proud about some aspect of their job or the organization they work for. So the ability to share that in a social environment can be exciting for them, and they can feel good about being a part of it.
[00:27:36] Being an advocate for their organization on social media like I like the way you frame them I mean I know aside from you know that the football team has its Facebook page or whatever you know whatever platform you know the chess club has its Instagram page whatever that is. I can't help but think that many school leaders say you know when they hear social media might get stressed right. Oh gosh someone doesn't like something now. You know several hundred people are having the conversation. They deal with it. What I hear you saying is engage social media recognizing that it's a tool to get feedback you know good bad indifferent.
[00:28:14] But if you control if you set the right strategy, it's a way for you to promote the school promote what you're doing really share a lot of good stuff and it needs intention. You have to be intentional about how you have to use it. Yes. And so I like I like the way you've kind of laid out that level of focus. Like, do it look at it focus create you know make something positive.
[00:28:37] Yeah. And you know you mentioned negative conversation for me. And this might sound to antithetical to anything anybody else listening or watching might think. But I would rather know what the negative conversation is and yes I would rather we have the conversation on our Facebook page or in a group or on Twitter or anywhere else and have people dissenting viewpoints share. As long as it's in, you know a respectful way. Because you learn so much from that. And you know the fact of the matter is those conversations are happening, but if they're happening on our social platforms I can see them I can interact with them I can share them with leadership. Oh yeah. Better to know and then to really figure something out. I mean I know that I call it contain the hate. That's what I call it because I knew you know what the conversation is. You know what the trends are and you can respond to them and be more agile as an organization in terms your communications not everyone's going to love every single thing you do. And that's hard. What's hard for us all to swallow as human beings and as brands tale, many school leaders in hiring K12 have.
[00:29:41] Come to that hard lesson you know many times over. Although many things that you are well loved and respected but your the crisis always stirring in the senior officers.
[00:29:53] But sometimes it's good to get a little bit of that feedback and see maybe there's a trend in something that you didn't even know about. And then here you can address it. And to your point earlier like there's so much fun positive stuff to do on social media there's so many interesting ways to engage students around what they're learning and how that can be shared in a social realm. There's so much in terms of you I've seen teachers who have Pinterest boards with all kinds of different lesson ideas and learning ideas.
[00:30:20] So it's a great way to actually share some information with other teachers world with their students.
[00:30:25] Yeah which I think is really great because you know for teachers and for students like they're using these tools how about engaging them and using in an interesting way that interacts with what they might be learning in the classroom. Why not. You know if it's amazing little things that kids can do. I mean they're so adept at using these tools. So if they're great at you know doing an Instagram video or this on YouTube or that like that's going to engage them I would imagine, and it's going to help them see that there are other ways to use these tools beyond what. And that's a whole other issue getting into the teenage mind and the younger minds and social media. That's a different topic. But I would imagine I'll be an interesting tool to engage students around and to you know as a school you might be thinking only in terms of your you know your staff and your faculty but how about having students play a role in some of us as well.
[00:31:17] Well again as I as I think about what you said whether it's you know today's school lunches this or you know I'm a math teacher and I'm sharing my ideas for lesson plans with you know 40000 other math teachers on social media that there are many different goals.
[00:31:35] And it becomes a tool Well that is customized to each goal. So this idea that you know I have to be on social media sounds as I listen to you. To be a very. Kind of a blank statement as opposed to I have to achieve these specific communication goals or needs or lessons or educational processes. And here's one tool I can.
[00:31:54] Exactly. I like the way you put that because it's like here's my overall idea of what I want to do. This is what's high value. This is important to me and our organization. And oh, by the way, this is a tool. Let's see how we could use it, and in some cases, social media not may not be the right tool. And that's that's good conversation to have too. You might find out that hey you know face to face conversation house or circumstance. Yeah.
[00:32:16] You know and that's good too because I think again it's really easy to jump to a tactic versus thinking about that big picture goal that you have and then OK here are all the different ways we could do this. And here are some ways we don't want it. So you know.
[00:32:32] Thousands of school leaders a K12 and higher ed are going to be listening to this are watching this this podcast or this conversation. Anything that you want to say to them that you haven't as they try and understand the different levels of sophistication some have no expert social media some have very robust social media programs or communication plans that use social media anything you want them to think about or know that I haven't asked you or that that comes to mind for you. I guess I would say that.
[00:33:10] When it comes to social media, there are some great things you can do. There are certainly pros and cons to using it. And I think that can be hard and challenging especially when you're dealing with young people. That's not something to be taken lightly. I know at the Medical Center we serve pediatric patients as well. And it's always a big conversation and can be a tough conversation we figure out how do we use these tools in a way that's respectful and supportive of younger people. But I would say there's so much potential to do some amazing innovative fun cool things with social media and to create community in places where it may not have existed before.
[00:33:53] You afraid to use it. Don't be afraid.
[00:33:55] Don't fear it kind of figure out what like your locus of comfort is right enough. Don't feel like you have to do everything starting the channel that you feel comfortable in. Start with the goal you feel comfortable positive, but you know you need a platform.
[00:34:09] Whether it's Reddit or Facebook I don't know the world herself so don't overwhelm yourself to something that feels good that feels right that serves your goals and have fun with it like and the other thing is let it breathe like let it be organic. A lot of times of social media there are business schools, and of course, you can hit on. But the best part about social media is the ability to create relationships ongoing and see where those goals see how they change see our communities needs changes see how people want to interact with information differently ask questions you know this is a conversation medium so don't just see it as a way to put out information into the world see it as a way to ask questions and in the same way if you go to a social outing in real life you know you don't just show up and start talking to somebody about everything about yourself and not ask them any question whatsoever you engage in conversation with people and that's the real potential of this tool is to engage in conversation across different communities among different people. You know there's a scholar at University of Chicago Cass Sunstein, and he wrote a book called Republic 2. When it's all about social media and. The good the bad. And one thing that he points out is that sometimes social media becomes become an echo chamber because you might follow only the people that resonate with you and what you think. And I think a challenge for us to think about for educators specifically to think about us are trying to you know expand perspectives. Is to bridge that divide and to ask those questions and to engage in conversation with people across the divide to talk about big issues facing us. So I would say is it in that capacity to try to open doors and open minds.
[00:35:56] I like that idea of engagement. It's critical that education.
[00:36:01] The idea that we have to be a part of the conversation for learning to take place and to support our students and our teachers and our staff. And so I like the way you talk about social media as being an important tool for engagement and where that goes.
[00:36:16] Well I always talk about people talk about our ally what's your ally of US what's the aura high of the CEO of social media thing. And I always say we're turned on engagement. And that can't necessarily always be quantified but it can be qualified in certain ways if you're able to change somebody's perspective if you're able to connect people in a certain way if you're able to share a viewpoint that maybe you have to work for you what's happening you may not actually get the numbers that show that do but we might well you might not. It's also it's a long term investment in some cases because it can be hard to change perspectives. But is it worth it? Yeah right. At the end of the day if you can expand somebody's mind in certain ways or expose them to something they may have not been exposed to before. That's another neat part of social media. You know you can find out what somebody is halfway around the world is thinking or doing about something and how interesting is that you know in the past they may have had that potential or only certain people may have had that opportunity depending on where you were and where they came from.
[00:37:14] As you know think of as a superintendent or a university leader, you know to be able to broadcast a message to the 85 neighbors that border the school property. I needed to get the message out to as well.
[00:37:26] Yeah. There's a that's actually a great tool like I don't know.
[00:37:30] If you guys use Facebook Live, but that's a really fun tool to use to actually just live broadcast from where you are. To talk about in the neat thing about that is again live broadcast you can take questions, and people can participate. That just makes it another part of this is participation. And sometimes it can be hard for people you know we all have busy lives right. And it can be hard for people to know everything and participate in everything that might be happening around the school. So. Bring that opportunity to people instead of saying hey you have to come to this assembly, will you?
[00:38:00] Yeah we'll come to you in a few days. Yeah.
[00:38:04] Which is great. I know for us again at the medical center we're serving a very rural population and which most schools in the U.S. are the majority of the United States is rural.
[00:38:16] Yeah. Yeah. So most schools are in rural communities where the higher ed and K12 get access to access can be a huge issue.
[00:38:23] So I may not be willing to drive like an hour or two to go to a health class medical center, but I might be willing to from my phone or from my desktop computers to launch a Facebook Live or watching YouTube Live and be able to. So again it's about access to information which I think is really powerful and something that you know we might not always think about but how can our audience how is our audience informed and how can we help them be more informed.
[00:38:49] You know one of the things we talked about was this idea of you know all the good that social media does. And then also some of the challenges that may present you talked about containing the hate which I thought was a very interesting way to phrase that and superintendents and university administrators need to hear the conversation talk a bit more about what that means a kind of a line to some of what we do. But it's just curious.
[00:39:12] Yeah I think in my world I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say from your world is that you know in my world it's really important to hear a dissenting opinion right. Because that's like to me a good part about social media and we're able to hear so many different opinions on the other end of it it's you know sometimes more negative than that it could be a poor experience. It could be a poor interaction with an employee at the organization so always different ways, and negativity can manifest itself. It could be a misunderstanding about the organization and what it does. It could be to customers or clients or audience members who are disagreeing I think there's so many different ways negativity can manifest itself. But it's important for us to kind of see and each of those different categories what are people saying and then is there an opportunity to address that negativity in some way. Is there an opportunity to connect the person with somebody at the organization. Sometimes what like most recently done at the medical centers, we had a few people who you know didn't have a very positive opinion. And what we did was we asked some questions about that. And actually one person we invited in to meet with our chief medical officer and to answer some of the big questions that this person had. And did we change the person's mind? I think a little bit. I think they saw some questions, but the fact of the matter is that it was a respect thing. You know if somebody asks you a question or they have a different go again it's kind of a respectful way to interact with somebody I think social media can be challenging sometimes because the negativity can build to a point where nothing positive might come out of it or ends up being belittling. Our approach is always to respect the person in the conversation in their point of view to kind of figure out who they are. And I think more so in the health world are issues around misinformation, and people feel different ways around certain medical procedures and techniques et cetera. But curious what you see in your world.
[00:41:07] Yes. So you know when the conversation is is difficult or contain the hate or whatever in the healthiest ways it's a part of a positive experience. And what we've what we recognized was for you know maybe as long as people have been people. The thought of doing something bad or the intention to do something bad in terms of harm against another person mass violence targeted violence harming it's oneself. Is often been shared in indiscreet or not so discreet ways. You know historically you go back you know decades and decades and decades and when someone's done something bad they've often talked about it they've told their best friend they've journal that they've written a manifesto all of that such about 20 years ago. Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole who at the time, was an FBI researcher and FBI agent. Wrote about school violence this concept of leakage this idea that. Before someone you know before a violent act or acted on what they were going to do they leaked it in some way, and they communicated it to a friend or a teacher or you know it you know we saw in the tragedy with you know at Virginia Tech where song you know Cho and the shootings the you know the what was written in his English papers and all of this is is is fairly ubiquitous right. You know whether you're Ted Kaczynski in the manifesto for the Unabomber or you're thinking of taking your own life and even our journal about it. The challenge, though, has been as the conversation moved online, and we ended up in a digital space social media. That leakage moved on to social media. And before we came along, it was near impossible with any kind of consistency to pay attention to that conversation in a way that's respectful but looking for those signals of harm. So we've you know we work with universities and colleges and school districts across the country. And we identify in essence leakage, and it's not just about potential violent acts. It's our cries for help. You know it's people who are crying out for help and attention. And we want to be able to connect them because something again you said earlier was that it's about relationships and engagement right and knowing and we believe that. You know schools are the saviors they can be when every student has a responsible adult who cares about them. And so for our ability to identify that potential leak or that leakage and share it in a timely manner so that the school the university college kids of school can reach out to that person and say look we saw this we're aware of this. You OK. Can we talk company help you in some instances it ends up in potentially criminal activity you know depending on what they posted in many instances? I want to help you, and you know you're you seem to want some help. So can we talk?
And that's where we built you know our understanding of the need. So kind of taking your perspective of people are unhappy they're dissatisfied customer service and so forth. And then there might be a point in time where that kind of you know transitions over to ex and potential violence or such. We want to be able to help with that. And again it's because. To your point earlier, the conversation in society is going digital. We're all online. You know it used to be that as a. You know when when when my kids when I was in school you know when I was in grade school we had a teacher that you know went out with us at lunch at recess you know, and we didn't initially interact with him or her. They typically stood and watched, and maybe there were two teachers chiming in. But they were there to pay attention. They were listening to the conversations we were having on the swings at. Yeah. That conversation doesn't stop now when the school bell rings. It's moved online. It's 24/7 seven days a week, and it's difficult to be a part of that conversation as a school as a superintendent of school for example when your school population is generating four million social media it's a camp. So we see ourselves. As an important part of their ability to listen. Kind of goes back.
[00:45:31] Yeah. And I think you bring up a good point when you know I was talking earlier, and I was talking kind of about that contain the hate in terms of you know public relations crisis.
[00:45:41] So we have you bring up a really interesting point around scanning for you know cries for help. And I think you know I've seen my little band our world in terms of you know the mental health. Crisis of different mental health issues that are facing people and you know the importance of watching for those conversations to see when and if we need to intervene and to help people.
[00:46:05] And I like that word intervention. I know I had a whole career in law enforcement, and it's easy to think you know punitive you or somebody you get them in trouble you know they get themselves in trouble, and you bring them in. But in this case. Whether it's somebody, who is you know. Targeting violence against another person or school or somebody who is feeling depressed and anxious and they're having their own internal I see we see both of those as somebody crying out for help. You know the the the initial interaction might be a little different, or the follow up might be a little different. But at the end of the day, someone is thinking about targeted violence needs help much the way somebody's talking about harming themselves or such needs help. And so. We think that. Listening to that conversation in a very respectful way not following not monitoring us railing but really just listening to those signals of harm. It is the way to we've gone, and of course, we're proud to have helped thousands of schools across the country burning bridges.
[00:47:09] That's really neat. That's like the truth to me that's the true positive potential of social media is to figure out how can we use it to help people in real life. That's something I think about a lot in my work is how can what we do on social media in terms of the experience. How can that actually help somebody and their real actual life? You know I I have friends.
[00:47:32] Friends all over the world that I've never met people that I interact with insults me because we have similar interests. Right. I like to ride motorcycles I you know I'd like to do certain things, and I've got a community around that that I can tap in to and kind of what that looks like and I'm talking to people in Australia and people in Great Britain. And that's kind of exciting. We interested in what we pay close its attention to is not all of that. It's not you know the thirty-fifth thousandth pitch kitty cat you know posted on the first.
[00:48:07] Really now. No, I love cats. I love animals. It's not like I don't love animals. I do not feel that way. Well, we are looking for is that. You know that signal having been having studied how people talk which is something else you said you know how people write letters how they email how they text how they each.
[00:48:28] Whatever years you could have the same message but how it's conveyed in each of those mediums is different. And so we've had to spend a lot of time understanding that language of how we talk about things.
[00:48:39] I mean sometimes it's very subtle. I know there was some research that came out recently at the University of Vermont that looked at Instagram and how. People facing a mental health issue or who are depressed like there's a certain filter less certain malady.
[00:48:54] This group did Sienna really actually work.
[00:48:56] It's very interesting because some of the stuff is super subtle and it's not you know you say signal I think that's a really good phrase. Our term for it because you don't necessary is can be very it's not just like a word that would be very obvious to you, or a photo that would be very obvious to you can be very simple choices that the person might be conscious of. But as you're a watching and listening, you can pick up on these things and they might. Grow over time they might not it might be a low level but still the charge we run into in many cases you know our technology is sophisticated so we but still.
[00:49:34] The philosophical perspective is well what if we serve up information to a school superintendent let's say of something that they then act on and get someone in trouble to show them why you know that signal is misinterpreted or isn't. And so we've been very aware of that part of the conversation. I mean, I do national media interviews regularly, and I get asked in every one of them about privacy and just how what we do and how important to us your privacy is. And so trying to provide a value you save a life provide information which can get someone help walking the line between doing it for all the right reasons and not serving up so much information that you know it creates. Perspectives that may not be accurate and of course then relying on the schools to be smart enough to understand you know if you're a school principal or university vice president or such you know the assumption is you've been in the business long enough to be able to make good decisions with whatever information is coming at you is not necessarily making assumptions about you. And so those conversations are important because you know as I learned yesterday in one discussion I had. Someone and said well this interviewer had said we'll talk about the privacy. We talked about it on surveillance tool we don't do any of that. And I mean interesting point which I don't think I've made prior to that which is your cell phone your smart thermostat your. Amazon Alexa device or whatever you have knows more about you. Than we ever will. Because we don't gather information. So we're trying to do what we're doing, and there's a lot of well let's make sure you're not looking over our shoulders at the same time. I think this morning on the way in there was a need there are 14 billion IO T devices and Internet of Things devices in use right now in the world, and it's going to double or triple in the next 12 to 18 months or so that affect you know 28 30 billion the amount of data that companies know about us is significant. And so it's interesting to then walk that line of. We're here to help you say it helps save a life. And there's a privacy concern, but you're more at risk of having your privacy be breached with the phone in your pocket than you are. What we're doing and yet these are important conversations like you know we have to have them because of the ubiquitous use of social media.
[00:51:57] Well and that's I think you bring up a good point like that. I think one of the biggest questions of today's society is big data and how it's used. And there's so many great ways to use it. Like you just said, saving a life helping somebody helping people make a decision or do something. And then there are all these, of course, nefarious in the law way.
[00:52:16] I mean the company is, so they're worth all your souls are worth billions of dollars because they're monetizing marketing related data which is information from on all of us. Well, look at what does that tell you.
[00:52:30] Well there was a recent there was a trend on Facebook where it was like you 10 years ago versus you today, and people will post a photo of themselves 10 years ago on a photo of themselves today. And one media critic pointed out that is this is this Facebook trying to develop some kind of artificial intelligence or some kind of tool to understand how people change and what they look like.
[00:52:55] And because there's all this good question this interesting article in The New Yorker recently around visual technology and how videos and photos can be created that make it seem like a person is saying something or doing.
[00:53:08] Sure. Yeah like one horse can't play when there was the chemo always. Yeah. I was using force. Yeah. All these interesting ways that you know technology is advancing so much in the data that we have at our fingertips is.
[00:53:21] Growing and growing and ever-expanding every day. And how are we then using that? You know it's such a huge question that I don't have all the answers to, but I think it's an important conversation.
[00:53:31] I mean I know I spent my the majority my career having taken an oath to the Constitution and protecting the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment and specifically even as a university police chief the importance of creating an environment that was you know free for speech and assembly. And I. We built.
[00:53:50] The right tool to protect that. And I think there's the conversation needs to be had regularly. There needs to constantly work in our digital age a conversation about what are you willing to let that be known about you know whether it's anonymized or otherwise.
[00:54:04] We know we live in a time where a lot of people know a lot about us. And so it's interesting , and it's probably a little frightening at the same time.
[00:54:12] Yeah yeah it's just that that's incredible potential.
[00:54:17] And also there's this flip side a whole generation of people being raised and grown and and and and interacting with the world who don't know any different. I mean I didn't grow up cell phones weren't around I was you know in grade school and high in high school we don't have cell phones. Everybody you know 95 percent of school-age young adults and children you know have phones, or I think Pew came out with a stat right around. Yeah yeah. And so. They don't know any different. I remember having a conversation with students at the University where we're putting new cameras zooming at the time. Cameras were a lot dumber than they are now. Now security cameras have video with deregulation and movement trackers and all this other stuff. And you know one of the students pulled out a cell phone and said whether there's a camera on that wall or not. I got one in my pocket all the time, so I don't care. It was a change from earlier conversations around you've got to put cameras up you've been watching us all the time you get. And now if I go to a school as a school security expert and. There aren't cameras I'm asking them how could you not have cameras. They're so ubiquitous and inexpensive and useful on another planet. So. Sounds like social media we're in the same boat with that if you're a school university business. You almost have you have to have some kind of a presence; you just need a strategy to help.
[00:55:38] Yeah. And that's an interesting point you bring up about having the camera in the palm of your hand because that's another thing to think about too. You know. There used to be this world of internal communications and external communications. Right. And now everything internal is external to a certain point because anybody working anywhere can take video of a meeting can take video of something happening and post it online. You know in our. At the beginning of my career. When camera phones were becoming more ubiquitous. That was a big issue like you can't bring your phone into private, confidential meeting because if you take video of something and then post it online, there could be serious ramifications for that. So it's interesting you say as much as there's surveillance around us to watch us. We also have. Cameras in our hands that can.
[00:56:35] Expose through tons of information truths and other things so in conversations with our ah ah young adult and young people saying if you recorded and you posted it's there forever somewhere it exists. And that's a whole other conversation. You know what are you doing with the information you're generating. And so there's.
[00:56:55] There's a lot I think for school you know administrators and leaders to think about in terms of the impact of it. You know I met a superintendent not too long ago. You know she was an English teacher at the beginning of her career and now 30 or 40 years later here she is a superintendent and she said it was so much easier when you know superintendents just had to worry about lesson plans and making sure that the school teaching and at lunch was served that everyone was doing what they need to do. Now they're having to deal with digital citizenship and engagement and privacy technology, and you know it's just one thing after another.
[00:57:28] I would imagine it's been kind of an interesting transformation or somebody who's been in that world to transcend into this business world.
[00:57:36] You've been in the audience, and we've worked with I mean you again You pioneered this idea of being involved in social media. Its use in organizations because you know when you prior to you being in college, you didn't even exist.
[00:57:50] I mean I remember when I first got introduced to Facebook from someone I wanted to at the university, and I was like what's Facebook. And they were like well this is what and what goes on Facebook. Why would I ever want the Facebook and what's a blog in what is that thing. I mean, I remember those conversations because I was just so.
[00:58:10] Out of my element trying to figure out what I'm looking at.
[00:58:13] Yeah. But one thing I think hasn't changed, and that's strategy and understanding human behavior. Anything you talked about that a little bit earlier but really understanding what kinds of things as humans are driven to do and how does social media converge with that. You know when we think about immediacy or impulsivity, or you know how teenagers behave versus how adults behave and really looking at those core human behaviors and even what's happening in your brain you know your brain on social media there's been more work done on that. And then. Looking at how that converges with social media trying to figure out like what problems arise from that and how can we step in and help or aid or support whatever happens to be. It's just it's very interesting because in many ways like humans haven't changed that much. And you know over the course of history. But our environment has changed so much and how do are that. Yeah. How do our behaviors interact with that? Like what are the issues that come out of that and how do we help solve. So I think that's like a really interesting part of social media and digital media too. Seeing what that convergence looks like.
[00:59:25] I have a conversation recently with Dr. blaze, a gamer who's a Harvard psychiatrist. I'm. Clean hospital. In Boston. He's a adult adolescent expert in adolescent psychiatry mental health and such. He made a presentation that I heard that I just can't get out of my mind when I think about this stuff. And that is he talks about never in history have our youth been more connected and yet felt more alone than right now. And primarily, he points to the pervasiveness of this thing called social media and how it's being used and how it's impacting relationships and perceptions. And as such, I think if there's a lot of good social media does. You know I can look at my favorite picture of my my my kid cat you know or whatever I and look at him that I'm happy about. But then there's a dark side that I have to be aware of. And I think helping our youth navigate that and understand how to support them is going to be critical.
[01:00:30] I agree. You know.
[01:00:33] Teens teens and younger people in such a different mindset at that age. Like they're forming their identity. The peer relationships that are so important and. They have this tool that can be wonderful game on this day for seven it's 24 yes 24 7, but they're all these. Frankly awful things that can happen as well. I mean I know I got I remember you know. When I was. 13 14 years old I was. This tall as I am now and beanpole and I got bullied relentlessly, and I knew when I got off the school bus. I was safe like I could just go bus I go home, and I can go I'm looking came home.
[01:01:13] Today it doesn't stop because it's you know maybe a little bit face to face but it's on social media the minute you it's 24/7 can be less than an hour. It is relentless, and I think there's a lot of opportunity to develop resiliency and how we engage in that form and participate in this work. But. You know when I was. You know. Twelve 13 14 years old I was you know as tall as I am now and much of it being whole when I got bullied relentlessly. And you know I I remember I could get off the bus and I'd go home and I was safe. There was nobody. I mean following me I went into my home I was my the challenge we have today is that communication doesn't stop when I get off. You know when my kids get off the school bus, it's constant. It's, in fact, it kind of goes back to what I said earlier, which is I often joke with my kids as an example that they don't even know we have a house phone. I mean, I think they do. I think they know how to use it. I don't think I've ever seen them use it. And certainly when it rings they don't answer it which is because everything is on their phones and they're you know in their hand.
[01:02:17] So I think there's an opportunity to build resiliency around you know some healthy habits around social media with youth and to help develop community that isn't so dependent on a device and a social media account. But all important parts of the conversation for a healthy school environment and a healthy digital life. And just so grateful Alex that you made the time to be with us today. I think the work you're doing is critically important. I think you have a great and unique perspective given you know your pioneering in this space and watching it evolve and I'm just really glad that we had an opportunity connected.
[01:02:54] Let's say thanks for the conversation I really enjoyed it. Thanks.