If You Tweet It, They Will Come

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I’ll readily admit that when I started taking a class in Social Media Marketing, I was not a huge fan of Twitter.  I understand why people use Facebook. I even get Instagram. But I wasn’t quite convinced about the redeeming qualities of Twitter.  I mean, why follow someone 140 characters at a time?  Can there really be any substance in the clipped and transient messages this platform affords?

Tasked with writing about the most influential people in Puerto Rico on Twitter, I reluctantly set out to see who these people were, what they had to say and why they were being followed.

According to the Buena Vibra Group‘s research on the top Puerto Rican Twitter influencers in 2013, the most influential of all is Residente C13 — one half of the Puerto Rican band Calle 13.  They have won 2 Grammys, 19 Latin Grammy Awards and are currently nominated for another 9 Latin Grammy Awards. Residente C13 has 5.2 million followers on Twitter.  Conversely, the other half of the group — Visitante — has only 420,000 followers (to be fair, Residente’s Twitter feed is designated as the “official” one for the group).

Residente

So why are they so influential on social media?  As pointed out in an NPR article, they are one of the “most beloved and hated bands in the Spanish-speaking world”.  They are politically outspoken — they were banned from performing in San Juan for 3 years after insulting the governor of Puerto Rico during a live awards show.  They have been reviled by some for their deeply raunchy and explicit lyrics.

However, they have also been highly successful in transcending musical genres and social norms. The title track of their newest  album, Multi_Viral, is a denunciation of corporate, media and government propaganda. Julian Assange, the infamous Wikileaks founder and international fugitive, makes a spoken word appearance (they traveled to London, with help from the President of Ecuador, to record his part at the Ecuadorean Embassy there). The video for another song from this album, “Adentro”, has the likes of baseball great Willie Mays handing one of his signed bats over to Residente, which he then uses to smash a Maserati filled with guns and gold jewelry.  This album also includes performances by Native American singer Vernon Foster, Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, and renowned Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano.

The second and third most influential personalities on Twitter, respectively, are Molusco and Angelique Burgos (La Burbu). They are also each one-half of the radio team “El Goldo y la Pelúa“, the number one rated weekday radio program. Roughly translated, “El Goldo” is The Fat One (Molusco) and “la Pelúa” is The Hairy One (La Burbu). Their radio program discusses the concerns of daily life in Puerto Rico, both social and political, with a tone which is both irreverent and humorous.

El Goldo y la Pelúa

When asked recently why he is so influential on social networks, Molusco gave the following response:  “I humanize the social networks, because I manage my own accounts and I try to respond to my fans. On my feeds, there is always something happening and they follow me to keep laughing, because the country is fed up with so much bad news and people are looking for a way to distract themselves from it”.

What they have in common is easy — Residente, Molusco and La Burbu all touch on the political and social issues that affect Puerto Rican society. While they differ in style, their intent is similar.

Residente takes no prisoners.  He is a maverick, like many of the people who collaborate with him on his albums. He is honest, and through his music, he fights unapologetically for what he thinks is right. People follow him on social networks because he speaks out over social injustices here in Puerto Rico and around the world.

Molusco and La Burbu talk about the many of the same issues as Residente, but they do it in a less judgmental, more entertaining way. They win our heart with their jokes, making light of our shared struggles.  It’s topical, yet light-hearted.

Residente’s is somewhat dark and existential, Molusco and La Burbu are light and pragmatic. But, like any leader trying to start a revolution, they are the same in that they keep their followers directly engaged — in short but frequent messages — by giving a voice to their common emotions, be it anger, unease or plain old boredom.

So did this assignment turn me into a Twitter convert? Well, let’s just say I’m still don’t have the Twitter app on my smartphone. But I have a newfound understanding of both it’s charm and it’s importance in how leaders will be able to shape their influence in the future.

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I Would Tell You, But Then I Would Have to Un-Friend You

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A friend of mine was just diagnosed with a serious, but thankfully, non-life-threatening illness. There will be a surgery, and then, hopefully, it will all be in the past. She has all of the obvious worries of her impending major surgery: her health, insurance coverage, recuperation time, leave from work, telling her children. And also, a not-so-obvious one. When asked, “What can we do to help?” Her answer: “Please don’t post anything about this on Facebook.”

It seemed sad that at a time when my friend needs to be taking care of herself, she has the added concern of controlling her privacy on social media. The HIPAA regulations were created in 1996 to protect a patient’s privacy regarding their heath information. The laws specifically allow a patient to request that their information not be shared with “certain groups, people or companies”. We can’t stand too close to someone who is filling a prescription in the pharmacy, lest we have an encyclopedic knowledge of the PDR. We can’t even hold their hand with them in their doctor’s office without their expressed written consent. But there aren’t any regulations stopping us from outing their health issues on social media sites.

My friend’s privacy concern comes on the heels of reports this week that Facebook in considering expanding into the healthcare field by creating “online support communities. The concept is that Facebook would connect users suffering from various illnesses.  Their objective: healthcare communities could increase engagement on Facebook.

Now the last time I checked, it seemed that most people were already pretty engaged on Facebook. Sometimes, they seem over engaged. Facebook itself estimates that the average American spends 40 minutes per day checking a Facebook feed. That’s more than we spend each day on taking care of our pets, exercising or doing volunteer work.  And Facebook is by far and away winning the social media war — they have roughly seven times the engagement of Twitter, their closest competitor. I’m pretty sure we don’t need to be spending even more time on Facebook.

Creating on-line support healthcare communities sounds like a nice thing to do. It certainly helps to humanize the company. But call it a hunch, methinks that Mr. Zuckerberg and the folks at Facebook aren’t just concerned with helping their customers cope with health issues.

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The privacy issues this venture brings up are mind-boggling. And the burning question:  Can users trust their personal medical information to Facebook?  After all, they have had numerous privacy breaches in the past and they are still making amends for their “experiment” involving users news feeds.  And this time, the privacy stakes will be higher than ever before.

In the New York Times article Disruptions:  Seeking Privacy in a Networked Age (Oct. 2012), Dennis Crowley, chief executive of FourSquare, ponders the idea of a service that would allow users to cloak themselves — kind of like Harry Potter’s Invisibility cloak — for a particular time period. “You can imagine a service that says ‘I don’t want my name to show up on any social services for the next three hours’ and then integrates with other social services,” Mr. Crowley said.

So until Facebook can enlist J.K.Rowling to help develop said Invisibility Cloak for their user’s private medical information, I would hold back on joining one of their on-line health communities. Because when all is said and done, J.K. Rowling did a better job protecting her darling than Mark Zuckerberg has done protecting his.

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