Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monitoring Social Media

In an earlier post, "What We've Got Here Is Failure to Communicate," I cited the following social media statistics: there are 200 million blogs; 73% of active online users have read a blog; 44% of those online get news at least a few times a week through posts from social networking sites, automatic updates, and emails; and 26% of Twitter users get their news from tweets. Since social media has overtaken pornography as the number one activity on the internet, these statistics represent just the tip of the social media iceberg.

Also consider the following:
  • One out of eight couples married in the United States in 2009 met via social media
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world
  • More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last two months of 2009 than if ABC, NBC, and CBS had been airing content 24/7/365 since 1948, the first year ABC broadcast television
  • Seventy percent of eighteen to thirty-four year olds have watched television on the web
  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the United States
  • With 500 million users, if Facebook were a country, it would be the world's largest after China and India, numbers one and two, respectively
  • 60 million status updates happen on Facebook daily
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook daily
  • Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the combined populations of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, and Panama
  • Eighty percent of Twitter usage is on mobile devices
  • Fifty-four percent of bloggers post content or tweet daily
  • Thirty-four percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
Given this sheer volume of internet traffic, tracking social media for what is being said about you, your client, or your company is a daunting prospect. Nevertheless, a number of companies are trying to track social media, and one of the more ambitious tracking operations is being conducted by Gatorade.

In April, the company established the Gatorade Mission Control Center in its Chicago headquarters, a war room for monitoring the Gatorade brand in real-time across social media. Using software from IBM and Radian6, four staffers monitor social media posts 24 hours a day for mentions of Gatorade. The monitoring is not passive; the four staffers often jump into conversations occurring on Facebook or Twitter. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:
Gatorade staffers monitor social-media posts 24 hours a day in the glitzy hub, hoping what they see and learn will help the company more effectively promote its new G-series of drinks, which launched last spring. Whenever someone uses Twitter to say they're drinking a Gatorade or mentions the brand on Facebook or in other social media, it pops up on a screen in Mission Control. On Saturday, the staff jumped into a Facebook conversation to correct a poster who said Gatorade has high-fructose corn syrup. "It's like we're a person in their social circle now," says Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Robb O'Hagan . . .
The ability to track social media conversations in real time may not sell more Gatorade, but it has tremendous potential for use in crisis communications:
[F]ew [companies] have staff monitoring blog and other posts alongside those tracking online-ad traffic, producing a consolidated picture of the brand's Internet image. Gatorade hopes such coordination will help head off potential crises like a brouhaha last year over PepsiCo's slow response to consumer complaints that an Apple iPhone application for its Amp energy drink was sexist.
You can see pictures of Mission Control in action here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gagging the Lawyers

Defense Lawyers in Wone Case Want Gag Order

Lawyers for three defendants in a wrongful death suit stemming from the murder of Washington attorney Robert Wone have asked a judge to ban the attorneys in the case from speaking publicly about the litigation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Publicity Agents" Gagged In Stanford Criminal Case

In August I blogged about the gag order issued by Judge Reggie Walton in the Roger Clemens perjury case. Grounded Rocket. In a subsequent post, I discussed that Judge Walton relied upon Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966) as authority for issuing the order. Pre-Trial Publicity, the First Amendment, and "The Fugitive" - Part One, Gagging the Parties and Controlling the Media. Now, in another high profile matter, participants in the case of Sir Robert Allen Stanford, the billionaire financier who is scheduled to stand trial early next year on fraud charges related to an alleged $7 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, also have been gagged.

On September 30, 2010, Senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner, acting sua sponte, issued a gag order prohibiting public comment from Stanford and his co-defendants, their attorneys, their "publicity agents," and all others associated with the case. In his six-page order, Judge Hittner took judicial notice of the extensive media coverage concerning Stanford's indictment and trial, and that some of the trial participants "have demonstrated a willingness to 'try this case in the press.'" Judge Hittner determined that it was necessary to issue the gag order because "there is a substantial likelihood that extrajudicial commentary by trial participants might taint the jury pool and undermine a fair trial," and that he had "an affirmative duty," under Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966), "to take preventative measures in order to avert prejudicial pretrial publicity." Therefore, Judge Hittner ordered that the prosecutors and their staff; the alleged victims and all other designated or potential witness; the defendants and their attorneys and staff; and the defendants' agents, "including publicity agents, shall not give, authorize, or permit any extrajudicial statement to any person associated with any public communications media relating to the trial, the parties, the witnesses, or the issues in this case" that is not already of public record and that could potentially interfere with a fair trial.

Since Judge Hittner's order was issued sua sponte, it is a fair assumption that he read or saw something in the media coverage about the case that he did not like. Not only did he specifically include the defendants' "publicity agents" in his order, he also defined prejudicial information to include "information and statements intended to influence public opinion regarding the merits of this case."

Monday, October 4, 2010

90th Anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union

ACLU 90th Anniversary Video - Part One

ACLU 90th Anniversary Video - Part Two

Saturday, September 25, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois held its annual Bill of Rights Celebration, commemorating the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This year is also the 90th anniversary of the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. I was honored to narrate a five minute video on the history of the ACLU that was presented at the Celebration.