The Fall of the Traditional Telephone

Phones, like any other medium we use to communicate, are a form of social media. In fact, any time we communicate to each other than face-to-face, that is… (say it with me)… social media.

Pen and paper, the public writing walls in Pompeii, the Gutenberg press, Elizabethan aristocratic poetry, Morse code and telegraphs, and even that pesky morning newspaper that once hit your front door but now lives in an app…. all forms of social media. I highly recommend Tom Standage’s book Writing on the Wall, available at your local, independent bookseller – it dives a bit deeper into the history of social media in very insightful ways.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Reading-the-Writing-on-Pompeiis-Walls.html

Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. From The Art Archive / Alamy, via an article by The Smithsonian’s writer Kristin Ohlsonon.

Modern telecommunication services like Skype, FaceTime, Google-Hangouts, and those cheap cable phones (VoIP) are the best examples of how much we have revolutionized our communications. We can type and speak to each other at the same time, and even see each other – or all three! Long-distance calls are cheap and three-way calling is a synch with VoIP phones. However, all of these sources rely on several vital resources: power lines, cable lines, and/or wireless routers and voice/data centers.

How??? What.

That’s right, your Grandma’s phone didn’t need a cable line, just a phone line. The mechanism powering her phone is simple, just a couple copper lines controlled by the phone company’s circuit board that connected her to who she called with a voice-to-electric-signal conversion technology created by Alexander Graham Bell. Our contemporary dependencies, fueled by the cable company (some of these companies were once just phone companies, remember?), make our life easier… but not if the power is out.

An analog phone.

An analog phone.

When the power does go out, like as a result of a major disaster, that old analog phone line still works (permitted the buried, copper cables didn’t break, an unlikely occurrence anway). You can still make calls!

But, with a VoIP connected phone, you have to depend on two things both working: power (to charge the phone) and the cable line (to supply the call service). These are two things that are unlikely to hold up during a major disaster.

And that iPhone? That will not last you more than the end of a day. The voice and data towers could be destroyed, too. Or your phone will just die.

But the FCC likes you.

They do. They want to make sure that by 2018, we are all connected to and reliant upon the VoIP network, a cable network that allows calls and other data across internet lines. The old telephone system will be completely removed, says the FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Wireless phones will still exist, and you should learn hoFCC Logow to tweet via SMS in order to broadcast your emergency request in times of limited data, or just learn what SMS is and how to use it. Understand, however, that wireless phones require batteries that must be charged, typically by an A/C outlet, and those will be scarce in a major disaster and/or loss of power. The towers may also be damaged, disallowing any connectivity.

What should I do?

Hang on to that old telephone company line if you still have it. Chances are you cannot get it as a new service – most companies do not offer it anymore. If you know of any, please respond in the comments below!

Here are some other tech-savvy ideas to keep you connected:

  1. Read my last post about using Twitter via SMS during an emergency, for starters, and heed the advice. Install other social media apps onto your wireless device if it allowed (Android and iPhone users can). Facebook is especially helpful because the people you will be broadcasting your message to are your friends and family, also known as people who probably actually care about your well-being.
  2. Consider a battery back-up option for your home phone. A recent call with Time Warner Cable said, however, that many of their telephone modems do not allow a battery back-up anymore. This is an important question to ask your cable company!
  3. Keep a pencil, pen, notepad, and tape in your home’s emergency kit. You may need to tape a note to your door letting people you are okay and to meet somewhere at a certain time, for example. You may also want to write down directions to the nearest shelter. The American Red Cross apps are fantastic at finding shelters and giving you information about what to do, either before, during, or after a disaster, by the way.
  4. Get a NOAA weather radio. Seriously though. It may be your only source of information during a major disaster.

There are many more concepts to explore. For further reading, consult the FCC website on “Emergency Communications.”  FEMA also has an excellent blog post about this too with far more detailed tips. I look forward to comments too, as always!

Resolutions 2013: Who are You Online?

We think of the New Year as a renewal of ourselves, a time to lose that “winter fluff”, make amends with a bitter aunt, or maybe start a meditative/yoga session at that studio next to the donut shop.

But now, in this millennium, we have a totally different concern: our digital profile. This is not just about your Facebook photo, or how to write that perfect tweet, but rather, this is about updating, editing, and improving your entire digital lifestyle.

Why? Because we’re moving fast and in all directions. Perplexed by your sprinkler system’s digital control panel? What is this “wave and pay” function in credit cards? What is a tablet?

You can do this! Here are some tips:

220px-Stick_Figure.svg

1) Gain more Twitter and Pinterest followers by:

  • Defining why you are on Twitter/Pinterest, develop a contextual reason
  • Tweeting/pinning content that fits this contextual reason
  • Showing that you are human, don’t be an autoscheduled platform
  • Read and reply to your friends’ tweets and pins! Show them you care.
  • Uploading a picture of YOU that is clean and clear

*You may start this away from the screen by writing down 5 things you like really talking about in real life, then going from there.

2) Clean up and Perfect your LinkedIn Profile/About Me Bios

  • We really do want to know what you do in your real life, as well as current and future employers.
  • Don’t forget to post updates that are professional, and join Linkedin Groups
  • Write a short biography, no more than 200 characters. Don’t wax on.

3) Facebook

  • Go through all those old albums. Really. You’ll find some to be… atrocious.
  • Change your privacy settings. People who are not your friends should really only be able to see your profile picture and maybe where you work or went to school.
  • Unfriend the people who you really aren’t friends with – hate breeds hate, and meaningless connections are meaningless.
  • Can you like Facebook pages you actually care about and unlike the unnecessary ones?

4) Sign up for Twitter via SMS

For emergencies or easier tweeting, do this. You can reach a broad audience if you need help by using just your phone’s text messaging and without having to open the Twitter app! Read more here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/14014-twitter-via-sms-faq#

5) Create a Spotify account

  • Find some new music and listen to artists you’ve never heard of
  • Connect with your friends/Facebook and see what everyone’s listening to
  • Sign-up for the premium service to avoid ads, just $10/mo

spotify-logo

I hope you take this into consideration. Your digital lifestyle will greatly improve, and you will find much more happiness online!

Disaster Preparedness: Why You Need Twitter (and lists)

All in one weekend, Sandy threatened the East Coast and a M 7.7 quake occurred right off the coast of British Columbia (add a 5.8 aftershock and tsunami advisories for the West Coast + Hawaii). Several minor quakes in southern California made the news as well, both M 3.9, and a M 4.2 shook up the central California wilderness.

Twitter is the voice of the people, and it is also becoming the voice of help and reason (if you follow the right people). Communication is difficult in times of a major disaster, and social media can sometimes be more effective means of person-to-person communication. For instance, one tweet saying “help I’m trapped in my house” can be seen by way more people than just one, increasing your chances of aid.

Who to Follow

FEMA has taken the responsibility of disaster preparedness and relief to social media, in addition to its other efforts, especially with Hurricane Sandy. Check out their Twitter updates and Facebook page – it is the information you might not know you even need, and that is the best kind. They also have regional Twitter handles (@femaregion9, for example) for more tailored information.

Image

Here are some other handles you might want to follow. I would advise building a “list” on Twitter just for these guys just so you do not have to sift through other, random tweets:

@RedCross (The American Red Cross, follow their regional handles too)

@NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

@USGS (United States Geological Survey)

@ShakeOut (Global Earthquake drill)

Again, let me please emphasize that many of these organizations have regional or divisional Twitter handles such as NOAA’s National Weather Service @usNWSgov. My list is certainly not comprehensive, but it is a good running start for you to later pick/decide/add any other organizations you feel are important.

Recommendations

1) Sign up for Twitter via SMS. This eliminates the need to use the Twitter app or mobile site, and gives you a greater chance in case of an emergency to communicate since SMS takes way less data than the Twitter app on a smart phone.

2) Organize people and agencies of importance into Twitter lists. You may also want add your favorite local news service into our lists, or creative a separate list for local issues. Building Twitter lists is truly a powerful way to manage what matters most to you. Organize your closest friends and family into a list.

3) Determine if an autoscheduling app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck could help you reach more people in case of an emergency. You could send one update that would reach multiple platforms and one person – with way less data required.

4) Document and take photos. This helps organizations like FEMA and the American Red Cross determine where help is needed. Tweet and post them if you can – this helps immensely.

Image

What else would you recommend for social media in times of a disaster? I would love to hear your comments!

Succumb to a Virus: Being Trendy

The trendiest thing to do these days is to trend (Mashable’s list is excellent). Being viral is all the rage, especially on Twitter where you can see under “tailored trends” what is trending your own city.

Trends guarantee that people are talking about your product, service, or organization, but are those conversations lasting? The same question goes for the disgruntled CEO who wants to see 5,000 more likes by 2 PM – are those likes going to increase your profits?

Before you decide that you want to aim for trending, ask yourself whether or not trending is going to enhance your brand. Chances are, your focus may be better suited for a promoted tweet, sending out a viral video to your coworkers to share, or launching a moderately aggressive Facebook ads campaign.

So let’s say your idea is worth trending. What should you do?

1. Leverage Connections

Any good PR person knows that blind, cold calls just make you look desperate. Do you know the media connection you’re contacting? Do you already know 10 industry peers who though might not be the chief editor for Vogue, but if banded together, could spread your content like wildfire?

You have to think, who do I know that will support me the most? What about LinkedIn? That dumb girl on Twitter?

2. Email

Have a big database? Or a bunch of awesome peers ready to jump in for you? Over-advertise that hashtag. Write a creative copy for the subject line.

Focus on that one thing you want to promote and provide a clear, centered idea of what you want the recipient to do (but in a sneaky way).

3. Paid Media

There is nothing wrong with promoted tweets/accounts and Facebook ads. Drive those clicks! Link to what you want them to read!!! Just make sure those share buttons are there.

Have you gone back to add new copy into your YouTube videos lately and enabled your account for ads?

4. Earned Media

Let people tweet a pre-written tweet or share a pre-written post when they push “like”. Give them the words, make their job easier. (… share buttons …)

5. Talk About it Yourself

That’s pretty straightforward. Use your personal accounts!

6. Throw an Event

Make it personal. Wait, scratch that. Give them a memory. Don’t have just an online presence, be the guy next to you at the bar. Show off that QR code tattoo. Have that hashtag on a billboard. Encourage social media participation at the event (tweet that you are at the event for a free drink, etc…)

I hope that some of these tips help. If you have any other ideas or questions, please let me know in the comments!

Image