How to Use Social Media to Find Customers (Infographic)


Gaining popularity on social media is only half the battle. How do you convert those “Likes” into paying customers?

According to data compiled by Wishpond, a maker of social-media marketing applications, 77 percent of business-to consumer (B2C) marketers have acquired customers through Facebook, while business-to-business (B2B) marketers have found more success on LinkedIn — finding it a whopping 277% more effective than Facebook or Twitter.

Related: How You Can Get More Retweets on Twitter (Infographic)

For more on how social-media marketing helps generate business leads and ideas to stand out to potential customers, take a look at the infographic below.

Click to Enlarge+

How to Use Social Media to Find Customers (Infographic)

 


YoungEntrepreneur.com
Kathleen Davis

Is Your Small Business Cashing In On Social Media Addiction?

The best way to earn fans’ time and attention is to leverage your branded content across select social media channels. And by leverage, I mean push it!
YFS Magazine - Startups, Small Business News and Entrepreneurial Culture
David Murdico

Meet North Korea’s Bizarre English-Language Social Media Strike Force

The North Korea YouTube account is the country’s officially recognised, premier means of reaching Western audiences. It’s also utterly insane. But it starts to make a little more sense once you meet the people behind it. More »

 

Gizmodo Australia
Ashley Feinberg

Welcome to the Real World, Now What?

Congratulations, you’ve graduated. Now forget everything you learned.

Unlike in the college-learning environment where lessons are meted out in a deliberate calibrated way, the pace of technological and other changes in the startup world can be whiplash inducing. And what can wind up happening more often than not is you’ll find the things you learned in classes that may have been cutting-edge when you took them, are already a little outdated by the time you hit the workforce.

So before you sign the lease on that co-working space, here are a four startup world truisms to keep in mind:

1. Every job is tech focused. If you didn’t study or learn technology in college, now’s the time. We can’t all be electrical engineering majors, but regardless of what your idea for a startup is, it has to have a tech component. Consumers and end-users are looking to be engaged on their computer screens and smartphones. Maybe your passion is architecture, perhaps it’s botany, but the key these days is how you incorporate current technology to enhance your idea. 

Related: How to Test Whether You’re Ready to Dive into Your Startup, Full Time 

2. Working “9 to 5” is a myth. Any entrepreneur or startup employee will tell you that there is no typical workday or workweek. For that matter, it’s likely that even your parents no longer adhere to the concept of the forty-hour week. Successful entrepreneurs are constantly wearing many different hats, and are always working because they cannot afford to stop thinking about their product or business and how to make it better. When you aren’t pouring your energy into your product or developing your next app, you’re networking.

The startup world doesn’t have a work schedule, as inspiration strikes at all hours. Let go of the idea of structured days, and leaving the office by five or six. There will be twelve hour days, and there will be summer Fridays with office-beer regattas.

3. Find your own work-life balance. Given the blurred lines of the workday, the professional world has reached a point where you have to decide for yourself when work ends and your social life begins. This has been going on for decades, but now email and work documents are available in the cloud. Plus, mobile culture is embraced to the degree that you can never truly be disconnected from work. The temptation to do work and “be in the loop” will be with you everywhere you go (even on dates) unless you draw some serious lines in the sand.

If you’ve chosen to keep the different parts of your life separate so far, this will cause difficulties in your personal life. Many of your friends with more structured schedules will likely think you have time when you “get off of work.” The trick is to think about how to weave work into your life and vice versa. After all, the startup world has no syllabus except for the one you make for yourself.

Related: Tune in, Turn on and Drop out: A Look at the Popular Thiel Fellowship 

4. Social Media isn’t just a place to connect with friends. In the past few years, LinkedIn has become a massive force in the professional world. Sites like LinkedIn have the ability to connect you with your next investor or your next hire, while sites like Twitter and Facebook have gained professional value. Twitter has now become the chosen medium of many industry professionals to provide succinct commentary on industry trends as well as a tool for sales teams to engage their potential customers. At the same time, large companies are ditching their websites and establishing their primary online presence on Facebook.

Social media isn’t just a fun way to connect with your friends anymore. It’s an actionable sales, advertising and recruitment channel where your online identity is how the professional world will judge you. Curate your online personality, and use it to display your value.

Related: 013 Commencement Speeches (Slideshow) 

 What’s your best advice for making it in the real world? Let us know with a comment.


YoungEntrepreneur.com
Blaine Vess

The Best and Worst Times to Post to Social Media (Infographic)

It’s the million-dollar question for social media managers everywhere: What is the best time to post to social media?

While the optimal time to update your Facebook page or Pinterest boards may vary depending on your audience, Social Caffeine created an infographic that lists, in general, the best and worst times to post to the major social networks.

Here’s a look at three of them:

Facebook: Traffic is highest between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET.

Best time: Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET

Worst time: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. ET

Pinterest: Saturday morning is the best time to post.

Best time: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET or 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET

Worst time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET

LinkedIn: Post before or after business hours.

Best time: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET or 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET

Worst time: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET

Check out the full graphic for more:


YoungEntrepreneur.com
Kristin Piombino

Three Girls Media, a PR and Social Media Management Agency

Erika Taylor Montgomery, founder & CEO of Three Girls Media, Inc, a public relations and social media management agency with teams in the heart of California's Silicon Valley as well as the greater Seattle area joins Enterprise Radio.


Entrepreneur Podcast Network
EricDye@EPodcastNetwork.com (EPN)

3 Ways to Turn a Summer Gig Into Long-Term Work

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Summer is a great time for budding entrepreneurs to pull in a little extra cash while developing their business skills in real-world settings. But you don’t have to give up this income stream just because you’re

heading off to college. In fact, there are plenty of different ways aspiring entrepreneurs can turn a summer job into a full-fledged small business. The following are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Website Design

Plenty of high schools across the country teach website design to students these days. But even if you aren’t lucky enough to receive this in-class training, it’s easy to teach yourself the basic Web de

sign skills that can provide plenty of extra income throughout college and beyond.

To get started quickly, learn basic HTML. Then, to focus your website design training, plan on learning established CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Once you learn how to create templates (or “skins”) for these systems using any of the template design tools on the market today, you’ll be able to set up professional-looking websites quickly and easily.

As soon as you’re confident in your Web design skills, you’ll want to start finding clients. One great opportunity for young people to target is small business owners — including your boss. These companies may not have the budget to work with the established marketing firms in your area, but they still need websites designed. As an added bonus, you may find it easier to secure these jobs as a college student, since many small business owners like to feel as if they’re giving back to the community.

Freelance Writing

If you feel more confident in your writing skills than your visual design acuity, be aware that there are plenty of freelance writing opportunities available – whether you’re looking to take on a few jobs during the summer or to turn your talents into a full-on small business.

First, forget about the standard line of thinking that freelance writers only work for newspapers, magazines and other print publications. Today, the world of online content creation is booming – which means that there’s an incredible amount of demand for freelance writers who can work effectively with website owners.

To find these jobs, check out GuruElanceFreelancer.comProblogger Job BoardBloggingPro Jobs Board and FreelanceWritingGigs.com, where you can bid on jobs that business owners have posted.

Alternatively, if you have specialized industry knowledge, you may be able to find sites that will pay you a set rate for each accepted blog post you submit. For a good list of these opportunities, check out YoungPrePro’s article on “30 Websites That Pay You to Contribute an Article, Instantly.”

Social Media Marketing

Another option to consider when it comes to tech-oriented jobs that make great small businesses is social media marketing. Although interacting on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter may seem second nature to you, plenty of companies need help using these platforms effectively in order to connect with customers.

Finding work as a social media manager can be accomplished using many of the techniques described above. Using freelancer portal sites like Guru or Elance (or even traditional job search websites like Monster or Simply Hired) may uncover a number of consulting opportunities, while contacting small businesses may have the same effect.

However, before you toss your name into the ring, be aware that businesses may expect a different set of social media skills than the ones you’ve cultivated on your own time. For this reason, you’ll want to brush up on the following items before applying for social media consulting positions:

  • Increase your familiarity with social networking platforms you don’t personally use. For example, even if you aren’t on Google+ you’ll want to know how the site runs in case a future client uses it heavily.
  • Demonstrate your ability to connect with social media users. Businesses will look at your personal social networking usage to assess your skills, so don’t disappoint them with a Twitter following of only 20 users.
  • Learn how to measure social media success. Businesses that hire social media consultants want to see metrics that demonstrate they’re getting a good return on their investment, so take the time to learn how to quantify your social networking efforts in a way that business owners will understand.

Because the Internet has created so many new business opportunities that are accessible to everyone, it’s possible to turn just about any job experience into an online company. Even if you don’t have experience with the three options listed above, paying attention to how Internet companies are hiring should uncover a few chances for you to turn your past summer jobs into a solid business idea.

If you’ve turned a past summer job into a small business, I’d love to hear your story – as well as any recommendations you can offer other teens interested – in the comments section below!

AJ Kumar is the co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

 

Young Entrepreneur Council
AJ Kumar

CrunchGov Essential: How The Internet Helped Gay America Come Out Of The Closet

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CrunchGov Essential is a scannable roundup of technology’s influence on the day’s big issues. Below a feature post, we present the most thoughtful, outrageous, and inspiring stories told through the web’s best content. Sign up for the morning newsletter here.

How The Internet Helped Gay America Come Out Of The Closet

The U.S. has always included a sizable population of gay citizens. Without a way to coordinate their latent collective powers, discrimination and isolation forced them into the shadows. As the U.S.
slowly inched its way toward tolerance, the Internet, as a soapbox for young liberals, became a
powerful platform to expose otherwise oblivious Americans to their gay neighbors, backed by the full force of unrelenting digital activism.

As social media explodes in celebration over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, it’s important to look back at how the Internet built the momentum for this historic occasion: The liberal bias of the Internet helped dominate the discussion online and then transform previously conservative institutions with the power of their own gay members.

Opposition, Erased From The Online Conversation

The Internet has always been a haven for young activist liberals, especially it’s early ivory-tower adopters. Compared to the rest of the U.S., Twitter and Facebook are environments that welcome recently outed gay citizens and promote equality. To the extent that the Internet is becoming the epicenter of national dialogue, the overwhelming liberal bias tips public policy in favor of equality.

To get an idea of just how liberal the Internet is, Pew found that the average sentiment of Twitter updates was 25 percent more positive about Obama’s re-election than a national representative public opinion poll. On marriage equality, Twitter was decidedly more favorable (33 percent vs. 46 percent) and there was virtually zero negative sentiment (44 percent vs. 8 percent).

Twitter isn’t the only social-media friend of gay rights. A comparison of the Facebook fan counts between gay rights-related pages reveals a struggling religious right. A top Facebook page in favor of marriage equality, Gay Marriage USA, has more than three times the fans as The Family Research Council (300,000 vs. 100,000). A fan page to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has 30 times more fans than ones dedicated to keeping DOMA intact.

Engagement for Gay Marriage USA is overwhelming. A picture of a rainbow-painted house sitting conspicuously across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church has 100 times more shares than a top update from the Family Research Council, a prayer for the Supreme Court.

The religious right has struggled to spin its issues that users feel comfortable sharing. “Defense of marriage,” and “pro-life” are still stuck with hateful undertones. Straight marriage defenders don’t want to speak up, liberal voices take their place in the conversation vacuum and, as a result, the opposition to gay marriage is being erased from online discussions.

A Latent Power Inside The Boy Scouts

No one was more shocked by the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scouts in the late 90s than their own regional leaders. “It never dawned on me that we weren’t supportive of gay scouts,” says Mike Harrison, a former chairman of California’s Orange County Boy Scout Council. “We’re just busy serving kids and running a program.” Discrimination abruptly entered their world when the Scouts expelled decorated Eagle James Dale.

According to a few voting members of the Scout leadership that I spoke to, the initial ban on gay students was more a product of ignorance than discrimination. The obsessively representative executive board conducted a series of surveys to understand whether their intuitions were correct and, up until 2012, internal surveys showed that a slim majority did, indeed, support the ban.

So without much deliberation, the executive council maintained the position. Then, the backlash started: veteran leaders quit, corporate sponsors pulled out, and an army of activists continued to erode the once morally pristine student organization.

A flood of Change.org petitions continued to get headlines, as heartwrenching stories of banned gay Scouts amassed millions of supporters. One petition alone, to reinstate banned lesbian den mother, Jennifer Tyrrell, swelled to over 300,000 signatures.

“The reason online petitions made such a big impact — Change.org in this instance — was that it gave petition starters a platform to tell very effective stories,” said gay rights activist Zach Wahls. Instead of faceless rumors of expelled Scouts, petitions highlighted real people in their own voices.

Indeed, Wahls himself became a civil rights icon after testimony he gave about his lesbian mothers in front of the Iowa legislature went viral on YouTube (currently over 17 million views on the main video).

Despite the internal surveys, the overwhelming online pressure forced the scout leaders to hold a more deliberative conversation before the eventual vote that overturned the ban in May.

Behind the closed-door discussions, the Internet played a hand, as well.

Northeast executive board member Jay Lenrow recalls one voting member quoting a study from the anti-gay American College of Pediatrics, which ominously predicted that allowing “gays in would lead to boy-on-boy sex and bullying by older gay scouts, of young scouts trying to force them into a gay lifestyle”.

Immediately, Harris’s friend, a board certified orthopedic surgeon, “stood up with his iPhone,” and began to school the crowd about the difference between a faux group and a recognized medical institution, the American Academy of Pediatrics. He proceeded to dispel the gay agenda rumors, reading directly from the research that AAP produced.

Dispelling myths blunted the spread of doubt. Ultimately, however, academic research doesn’t change minds — but having a gay family member or friend does. National support for marriage equality has steadily climbed from 33 percent to a slight plurality (49 percent) a decade later. Of those who changed their minds, one-third (32) “say it is because they know someone – a friend, family member or other acquaintance – who is homosexual,” according to a Pew poll.

“What the power of the Internet does is allows people to connect with each other,” says Wahls. “For many young gay kids, growing up 20 or 30 years ago, they thought they were the only ones. But today, in 2013, you can discover very, very quickly that that isn’t the case.” Online support has fueled a cycle of coming out and acceptance, exposing more and more Americans to their gay neighbors, friends and family members.

Fascinating enough, the demographic that has made the greatest percentage gains in support of marriage equality is the “silent generation,” those born before WWII ended (1925-1945). True to course, the deluge of Scouts coming out of the closet made its way to one of the organizations oldest and respected members, Jack Coughlin. A Scout of 77 years, Coughlin had one of his four sons come out to him shortly after the James Dale decision. After educating himself about homosexuality, he came to understand it as biological fact of life — a perspective he shared with his skeptical colleagues during crucial regional meetings leading up to the May vote.

Coughlin argues that widespread associations with gay friends and family members were “a major factor” in the decision to eventually overturn the ban. After Coughlin’s regional meeting, his colleagues approached him saying, “I’m going to vote for change, because I have a gay daughter.”

Three months later, the Boy Scouts would accept gay Scouts and one month after that, the Supreme Court would make equality the law of the land.

Essentials: 5 Items

1. Viral Texas Filibuster Defeats Anti-Abortion Bill [Wonkblog]

  • Texas State Senator Wendy Davis went on an 11-hour marathon filibuster to block a Texas law to close abortion clinics.
  • #StandWithWendy quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, including a retweet from President Obama.
  • Late last night, more than 180,000 people were reportedly watching the YouTube live stream.

2. Putin Protecting Snowden [CBS]

  • Russian King/democratically elected President Vladimir Putin indicates he will not extradite NSA whitsleblower Edward Snowden.
  • Snowden is currently holed up in a Moscow airport and is reportedly en route to Ecuador for asylum.

3. Social Media Boosted Organ Donation Registration 2,000 percent [thegovlab]

  • The American Journal of Transplantation found that allowing Facebook users to broadcast their organ donation statuses vastly increased donation registration.
  • “Facebook push produced a rather mind-boggling 21-fold increase in organ-donor registrations on the first day of the campaign, with 13,012 people signing up to become organ donors, compared to the usual daily average of 616.”

4. Immigration Vote Set For Wednesday (Politico)

  • A crucial Senate vote on border security within the comprehensive immigration reform bill is slated for Wednesday.
  • The so-called “border surge” amendment would vastly expand border security in an attempt to bring security hawks on board with the struggling immigration-reform bill.

5. Internet Loves Love

The Internet is going crazy over the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA and uphold a lower court ruling to overturn California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. Here are the funniest and most inspiring and thoughtful updates:


TechCrunch
Gregory Ferenstein

Over A Year After New Content Policies, “Self-Harm Social Media” Still Thrives

stumblr2

About a year and a half ago, just in time for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Tumblr took a hard stance against blogs on its network that encouraged “self harm.” This includes those that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, the company said, as well as those focused on self-mutilation and suicide. The company also said it would revise its Content Policy, and start showing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) when users search for certain keywords on the site, like “thinspo” or “proana,” for example. Other services like Pinterest and Instagram soon followed suit.

Here’s how well that’s working today.

The Challenge

Tumblr, which thrives on the emotional, sometimes diary-like output from a younger demographic who’s shying away from Facebook and the prying eyes of moms, dads, co-workers and bosses, serves as a pseudo-anonymous enclave where people can post, share, opine, vent and dwell on their interests — even when those interests are unhealthy ones.

The company is already well-known for having a “porn problem” — that is, it toes a fine line between permitting adult content but not wanting to host it directly. That’s a whole ‘nother ballgame, as they say, but while viewing pornography can be addictive, it’s not potentially lethal to the viewer.

The same cannot really be said for Tumblr users who are seeking out self-harm content, however.

In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental condition, as the sufferer is literally starving him or herself to death.

In addition to eating disorders, according to Your Voice, the offshoot nonprofit associated with rising mobile network for shared secrets Whisper, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, but 75 percent of that demographic doesn’t seek help for mental health problems.

In other words, the chances for outreach and connection with sufferers are few and far between.

The problem with eating disorders, as well as other mental troubles involving “self-harm,” is that continually being exposed to content that portrays some sort of glorification of the practice involved — whether a rail-thin model or a photo of an arm marked up with cut marks — is extremely toxic to those who are susceptible to the disease or condition.

“We do know that exposure to the kind of content that glorifies dangerous behaviors that are characteristic of those that struggle with eating disorders which can be life-threatening is a real problem — particularly for people who have a genetic predisposition to being vulnerable to eating disorders,” explains Susie Roman, National Eating Disorders Association‘s (NEDA) Director of Programs. She says that social media sites can further entrench the disorder with those who are viewing the images and messages, and it can also delay or prevent them from seeking help or entering into recovery programs.

Tumblr, unfortunately, is the worst offender.

“We hear that Tumblr is where people are constantly seeing content that is very triggering and very harmful, in terms of pro-ana and thinspo images and content. We don’t actually get a lot of complaints about Facebook…we just hear a lot more about Tumblr,” Roman says.

Ashley Womble, Director of Communications for the subsidiary of Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC), which handles the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, also agrees that by its very nature, Tumblr is home to more self-harm content than others.

“If you type in ‘kill myself’ or ‘suicide’ on Tumblr, you’re going to find some really dark stuff,” she says. “You’re going to find that a lot of people are writing about the suicide ideation online; they’re posting pictures of self harm to what I consider to be a disturbing level. If you type in that same search term on Pinterest, you would not find that. In fact, you might not find anything.”

Her organization, which also works with Facebook, Google and Pinterest, sees more referrals from Tumblr than any other social media site.

Depression, stress and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon among Tumblr’s top demographic, either. “Half of all college students have said that in the last year, they’re either so stressed or so anxious, they’re unable to function,” explains Whisper co-founder Michael Heyward. Most at risk are those who are likely turning to a site like Tumblr in the first place — the bullied, or those who feel outcast or different. LGBT kids are four times more likely to commit suicide, for example. “The numbers are staggering,” Heyward adds.

According to the research team at SimiliarWeb, which studied a sample of 1.6 million Tumblr blogs, only 0.17 percent contained one of the more obvious self-harm tags (e.g. Cutting, Suicide, Self harm, Suicide note, Suicide notes, Suicidal, Suicidal thoughts, Committing suicide, Thinspo, Thins, Anorexia, Anorexic, Thinspiration, Bulimic, Bulimics, Eating disorders, Bulimia, Purge, etc.). If that figure was extrapolated to Tumblr’s overall user base, there would be nearly 200,000 blogs about these subjects. If it included the “alternate” words — the misspellings (“thynspo”) and less obvious terms — that number may be even higher. (Note that SimilarWeb’s study can’t discern the positive self-help blogs from the negative).

Social Media PSAs And Policies

While one could argue that a social media service has no business or responsibility to police the images or posts that appear on its platform, it’s worth noting that when it comes to “self harm” content, all the major sites have taken action.

Pinterest

Last year, Pinterest also came under attack for its growing number of thinspo images around the same time  Tumblr took its big stand. And in the month following Tumblr’s announcement regarding its revised content policy, its plans to suspend non-compliant blogs and run PSAs, Pinterest soon after did the same.

According to Roman, NEDA technically reached out to Pinterest first but the company was already in the process of reaching out to them, as it turned out. She describes Pinterest as having an interest in being proactive, and a “receptive” and “eager” partner.

Like Tumblr, Pinterest posted a revised Acceptable Use Policy where it explicitly spells out what sort of content is prohibited (that which “creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional, distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”) However, it did stop short of banning topics altogether because someone searching for “warning signs,” “help,” “support groups,” or “recovery stories” may include those banned terms in searches, a company representative explains.

That being said, Pinterest partners with NEDA and SuicidePreventionLifeline.com to help provide the site with PSAs that run against searches for terms like “proana” or “suicide,” for example (the latter is more dominated by the “Suicide Girls” pinups, we should note).

Instagram

Meanwhile, Instagram, though never having weathered quite as broad a media attack on the matter as Pinterest once did, quickly followed the others’ leads. In April 2012, it also updated its content policy to ban accounts, images or hashtags that glorify, promote or encourage self-harm. And it went a step further, making hashtags like ”thinspiration,” “probulimia” and “proanorexia” no longer searchable. This remains the case today. Plus, a year after the policy was enacted, the site also banned the new hashtags its community had turned to in order to avoid censorship (e.g. misspellings like “thynspo”).

Instagram also partners with NEDA to run PSAs related to eating disorders; for searches related to things like “cutting” or “suicide,” Instagram points users to BeFrienders.org instead. Unlike Pinterest, which more unobtrusively displays its PSAs at the top of its website or in the app’s search-results pages, Instagram actually requires users to click  ”Show Photos” or “Cancel” after reading a pop-up PSA message.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, is a bit different. Though the site is not running PSAs against self-harm searches on its newly launched “Graph Search” service, nor on individual communities, it’s highly involved in monitoring content. Simply put, the company attempts to make the most serious self-harm content unfindable by the general public. (A search for “suicide,” for example, sends you to page after page of organizations involved in prevention.)

Its content policy prohibits self-harm like the others, and Facebook offers tools to allow users to report suicidal content, it provides suicide hotline info worldwide, and works with partner organizations to help inform its policies. Though a number of potentially “triggering” groups remain, Facebook has huge teams of moderators to police content related to self harm, hate speech and more, in addition to its automated systems. So while there are pages of “thinspiration,” for instance, there aren’t massive sub-sites (Facebook Pages or communities) with millions of members supporting each other’s decision to starve or kill themselves.

Tumblr Runs Its Own PSAs

When asked for an update on Tumblr’s earlier plans for PSAs, a company representative provided only a brief comment via email: ”We have been and continue to suspend blogs based on reports we receive from our users and partner organizations.” The company never responded to subsequent requests to discuss the matter further by phone, or follow-up questions. The rep added, however, that “there is no plan to run PSAs or any other content on individual user accounts, nor are there planned changes to Tumblr’s content policies.”

Roman corroborated Tumblr’s claim that the site has worked with NEDA in the past, and even provided the organization with a dedicated email address that would allow the group to contact Tumblr of reports coming from its Media Watchdog program. She also says that some of those blogs did get pulled down. However, when pressed to ballpark how many requests were handled in this manner, Roman said there were “dozens.”

That’s not a lot.

Tumblr has more than 116 million blogs, so clearly a “one-off” method like this was not intended to be a long-term solution. The solution is, of course, running those PSAs — the alternative being Facebook’s heavy involvement in content oversight, something that a startup like Tumblr could probably not afford…at least, pre-Yahoo. But it has also struggled to communicate with its non-profit partners about its plans.

NEDA helped Tumblr craft the language for the PSA which Tumblr posted on its staff blog, and provided the company with a list of search terms to run PSAs against, like the terms it has in the past given to Facebook. But a year later, NEDA’s own PSAs still don’t run, despite the company’s assurance to the organization earlier this year that a solution was in the works.

“Because of so many technological challenges, given the magnitude of the content of proana and thinspo content, they were experiencing a lot of problems with being able to address it [with PSAs] on a one-by-one flagged basis,” Roman says of Tumblr’s explanation. “We’re disappointed to see that, a year later, the PSA is not popping up.”

But oddly, Tumblr is running PSAs, NEDA was just not aware of this.

Either the startup had not let NEDA know that PSAs have been running against search terms (they weren’t using NEDA’s text, however) or Tumblr rolled these out very quietly or very recently — perhaps not making a big announcement about its troubled users in advance of the big sale to Yahoo. Today, messages on select Tumblr searches for general terms, like “ana,” “thinspo” or “suicide,” for example, read:

If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, self harm issues, or suicidal thoughts, please visit our Counseling & Prevention Resources page for a list of services that may be able to help.”

(Some searches also show no posts when Safe Search is switched on.)

Roman says that NEDA’s earlier contact at Tumblr didn’t answer the company’s questions about the missing PSAs as of just last week, and instead directed her to another Tumblr staffer who also never responded. The nonprofit did not advise on the “Counseling and Prevention Resources” web page or the current PSA, and — since it doesn’t do counseling, actually — would have provided different language about how it would like to be referenced.

However, Womble’s experience with Tumblr has been different. Her suicide prevention organization advised the service to put outreach information on its website and provided Tumblr with a list of terms that match those searching for info on suicide. She doesn’t know when Tumblr began showing the messaging next to searches, but is satisfied that it is doing so now.

Is There Another Way?

Though Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram’s content policies say all the right things, those vulnerable to eating disorders, depression and other mental illnesses have found thriving communities on the sites nonetheless. It’s difficult for sites to keep up as users change their preferred tags. Instagram may have revisited its policies this year to correct for the now-rampant misspellings that are used to bypass search filters, but across it and other sites, searches for misspelled words (“proanna” or “thyn”) or other non-obvious tags (“thigh gap”) will still take you directly to large communities that have seemingly continued on undisturbed.

Whisper, for what it’s worth, is the only service that’s really trying something different. Instead of policing someone’s (unhealthy) thoughts, which may glorify or promote self-harm and then trigger others, the small but growing startup allows the post to appear to go through. But the post doesn’t show up for other Whisper users to view.

“We’re not going to sweep things under the rug. But if you ever say something even remotely suggestive, we remove the posting and watermark it,” Heyward explains. Only the poster can see the watermarked version. The copy reads, “your Whisper has been heard” and directs users to Your Voice for help and offers a hotline number.

For those posts that are borderline – and many are – the service has created a supportive community where negative and trolling content disappears with less than half a minute. “We don’t mess around with banning,” says Heyward.

Today, he believes that other social media sites need to do more. “A lot of people are unwilling to make short-term sacrifices for long-term viability of the business,” he says, pointing out that Myspace also once had a lot of issues around cyber bullying and teen suicide. ”[These sites are] addicted to traffic…they’re not willing to do anything that even remotely alienates a small amount of the audience or that’s going to affect their daily numbers.”

Facebook, however, removes harmful posts all the time. So will Whisper. “It’s the right thing to do morally and ethically,” Heyward says, “and by happenstance, it’s the right thing to do for the business, as well.”

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 800-931-2237 for the referral helpline offered by NationalEatingDisorders.org. Not in the U.S.? Try Befrienders Worldwide or the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Image credits: top: Jenni Holma, Getty Images; sad boy: Shutterstock / sokolovsky


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