Facebook password: can an employer ask for yours?

How far would you go to secure your dream job? Or in this economy, any job? What if your potential employer asked for your Facebook password in order for you to advance in the interview process? It seems ridiculous, but unfortunately an alarming number of cases like this are surfacing.

Facebook seems to have finally caught wind of the situation, and has threatened to sue employers who ask job applicants for passwords to their accounts. On Friday, March 23, Facebook’s chief privacy officer released a statement saying, “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action. Sharing a Facebook password or asking for someone else’s password violates Facebook’s user agreement. An employer who requests such information may face unanticipated legal liability.”

Facebook warned that if personal information gathered from a Facebook page negatively affects an employer’s decision, the company might be liable for discrimination. Facebook didn’t, however, state any specific legal actions it would take.

And that’s probably because asking for a job applicant’s Facebook password is not actually illegal. Typically, interviewers are only prohibited from asking questions that are discriminatory in nature.

So what can and can’t employers ask in interviews? And what are you supposed to do if you are caught being pressured to answer an illegal question? Weidert’s PR team did its own investigation into Wisconsin’s Fair Hiring laws—for all of you who are just entering or re-entering the job market.

Arrest Records

It is illegal for an employer in Wisconsin to inquire about past arrest records, but it allows for consideration of a current arrest. This basically means that employers can ask about any arrest that is unresolved, but if it is in the past, they should leave it there.

Children

It is unlawful for an employer to ask about the number of children you have, their ages, your childcare situation or your pregnancy status. These questions are considered to be discriminatory against women and are usually only asked to gauge potential tardiness and absenteeism.

Credit Records

It is illegal for an employer to seek credit reports or a history of credit. Inquiries of this nature are irrelevant to job performance and are considered to be discriminatory to minorities.

Family Members at the Company

It is illegal for an employer to ask if you have friends or family working for their company. Although they may have policies against it that are legal, they can not make these inquiries during the interview, as they usually have a negative impact on women more than men.

Honesty Tests

It is never legal to require an applicant to take a polygraph test as a condition of employment. Any test taken must be voluntary and have no impact on the hiring decision.

Salary

While it’s lawful to ask a person what their lowest acceptable salary is, it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man performing the same job functions.

So, although it may be legal as of right now for an employer to ask for your Facebook password, remember that they can’t base their decision on what they see. Either way, remember that you have the right to say no.

Social media is changing the way journalists work

According to Managing Media Work by Mark Deuze, social media is changing the way that reporters do their work. In chapter 22, “Life is a pitch”, the author makes it evident that journalists must do everything in their power to stay ahead of the competition. Nick Penzenstadler of the Appleton Post Crescent agrees, and he leverages all types of social media–and the web– to uncover stories that no one else is covering. In his session, Get the Dirt: Harnessing Search Functions in the Web to Get the Story, at UW Oshkosh’s NEWSPA conference, Penzenstadler showed students how to get information from sites that they may have never heard of.

Although one of the key features of new media lives, according to the chapter mentioned above is “long hours”, Penznstadler showed the audience how he can answer 20 in depth, personal questions about basically anybody in under 30 minutes– just by using what’s readily available on he Internet. I’m not going to lie, the amount of information that he discovered about Dr. Ann Schultz, Oshkosh West principal, was slightly creepy.

Mashable recently wrote about the trend of journalists using social media during their average work days. The article revealed that the top three reasons why they do this is to find leads, notice trends and find sources. Penzenstadler said that he mainly uses social media to find sources. He said that Facebook is one of his greatest tools when doing this, since most people list their family members right on their profile, and many list their phone numbers.

Another interesting thing that social media does for journalists is that it helps them bypass government regulations when writing an article. Penzenstadler talked about this when he wrote an article about deer hunting and he needed sources who had gotten injured while hunting. He said that the DNR told him about a minor who had shot himself in the leg while hunting, but they would not give him his name or contact information because he was under 18 years old. Penzenstadler showed that he simply used sites like Facebook and Twitter to quickly find the teen’s contact information and address.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way that things work. Penzenstadler reminded everyone at the session to monitor what they put online, as everything can be accessible with the right tools.

Is a citizen journalist really a journalist?

There is no doubt that the field of journalism is evolving. Some are more reluctant to adapt to the change than others in the field, but the truth is that, soon, adapting will be necessary for survival.

In previous years, the word journalist was clearly defined. It was someone who worked for a news outlet, either a newspaper or broadcast station, and earned a salary for reporting news to the community. These people usually worked long hours and had a knack for developing concise and informative stories that were relevant for society. Their role in the community was vital, as they were responsible for keeping citizens informed.

Unfortunately, there were often stories that were missed because there were only so many reporters to go around. This was most noticed when breaking news would arise. Coverage of critical moments in history were missed when a reporter wasn’t present.

That is drastically different today. With the development of new technology such as advanced digital cameras, smart phones and social media networks, any person has the power to report news as they witness it. This is what is now called a “citizen journalist”, but there has been a lot of controversy lately about whether these people are considered real journalists or not.

An incident in 2010 with a Seattle teacher outlined the issue. Teacher Melissa Westbrook was a blogger about the Seattle School District for over a decade and had gained a strong readership in the community. So, when the school called a press conference, she wanted to be admitted. However, the school denied her access and said that it was open to “traditional media only”. Melissa argued that she was a citizen journalist. After a heavy argument, the school reversed their decision and started to admit bloggers.

This decision, of course, didn’t sit well with the traditional media. Whether the industry is ready for it or not, this is an issue that is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, most of the video/picture coverage that traditional media use now comes from citizen journalists who were at the scene when the incident occurred. Some media outlets today even have a section dedicated to coverage from citizen journalists. Many would argue that the added perspective makes the news better, but some say the opposite.

What do you think? Do you think that citizen journalists enhance or weaken our news coverage?

Pinterest: taking the first steps

To follow up on my recent blog posting about the marketing potentials of the new social networking site, Pinterest, I wanted to catch up with you all and discuss how your business can get started using the site as part of your social media strategy.

The first thing to recognize and understand is the demographic of Pinterest’s users. Currently, the majority of users are female between the ages of 18 and 40, and this is evident when looking at which pins are most popular. The most popular categories on Pinterest are weddings/special events, recipes, fashion, travel and photography.

However, Pinterest is growing at an extremely rapid rate. In October, the site generated 421 million pageviews in the U.S., which was up 2,000 percent from June’s estimated 20 million pageviews (via TechCrunch). The site is also still an invite-only beta and is expected to grow even more when the full site is launched and everyone has access to it.

Since each pin on the site provides a link back to the original source, it has a lot of potential for marketers of certain products. Right now, the site is most useful for those who work in the Business to Consumer (B2C) sectors. Although there is some potential for those in the Business to Business (B2B) sectors if you are creative enough to draw some attention. I’ll touch on that more at the end of this posting. For now, let’s look at what you can do to get started on Pinterest.

Do your research. After you’ve created your account, start looking at pins that interest you and that align with your business’ mission. In order to create a buzz on the site, it is important to connect with users who are very active and influential. Much like Twitter, those who are associated with high influencers get their message spread much quicker than those who are not. The stronger relationships that you have with users, the more people will see your pins and click through to your site.

Start your first pin board. This is where businesses can start to get creative. Pin boards are the site’s way of letting you organize things that you find interesting and display them for your followers to access. Michael’s craft store does a great job of this. The store has a total of 22 boards, all comprised of crafts and projects made using their products. The cool part is that each board has a unique theme so users can decide which boards to follow. A few of their boards are titled “Cards to Send”, “Party Ideas”, “Jewelry & Bling”, “Kids Project Ideas”, “Bake It”, “Recycle Me” and “Say I Do”.  Start to think about how posting photos could generate interest among your followers. What do you have to offer and how can you portray it in a visually appealing way.

Connect your other social media sites. The key to inbound marketing success is to make sure that all of your online presences lead back to one another. Since Pinterest is known to generate a lot of traffic to your website, it can do the same for your social media sites. Don’t forget this quick but important step.

Do more than self-promote. Pinterest users have a keen eye for companies who only use the site to promote themselves. Since the site is a hub for creativity and new ideas, it is important to always post quality and innovative ideas. The majority of your pins can be relating to your business, but it is important to also engage with other users and re-pin things that others have pinned.

So, how all of this can work for a B2B business? I started thinking about how Pinterest could work for a company like Weidert Group. Clearly, we are a B2B agency. We specialize in inbound marketing, public relations and design. We could create boards to some of our best advertisements or commercials to generate traffic. We could also show off our photography skills by pinning some of our recent photography projects.

Pinterest is new, so it may take a while for it to find its place in the social media universe. But as Pinterest grows, so does the potential for a wider array of businesses to use it to showcase their work.

Are you using Pinterest? Let us know how. Who knows, you could wind up the subject of a future blog.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

How Soon is Too Soon to Apply?

As first semester is winding down, all that seems to be on my mind lately is when to start applying for REAL jobs. The thought beginning the application process seems quite daunting.

We are all in the same boat. We all want to be ahead of the game and I’m sure we would all like to secure a job before graduation. So that got me thinking… When IS the right time to apply for jobs? Should you start a whole semester early, or wait until a month before your graduation date?

I’ve asked many professionals about this and the responses are always mixed. Some say that you should apply as soon as possible, while some say that you should begin to apply after you graduate. Through the foggy opinions, a few sound words of advice stuck out to me. I hope they help you if you are graduating soon!

If you are planning on graduating in May…

Make a target list of companies.  Look and see what jobs are open around you and start keeping your eye on those companies. If a job happens to be open now, apply for it! Sometimes the hiring process can takes months to complete and there’s no sense missing out on a dream opportunity.

Start attending networking events in your field. If you are a PR major, locate your closest Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter and get to know professionals. The more relationships you have, the better your chances will be of being referred to for a job. If you are in marketing, look for a Sales and Marketing Professionals (SMP) group in your area. For journalism, consider contacting someone at your nearest Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Define your dream job. If you have your heart set on a certain company and they don’t have any jobs open currently, start perusing them. They may have something open in time for when you graduate. The best thing to do first is to email someone from the department you are interested and introduce yourself. Always send a resume, too! Once they respond, see if you could set up a job shadow or an informational interview. This helps get your foot in the door, even if you aren’t interviewing for a job there. After the job shadow, they will have a more personal relationship with you and, chances are, you will be at the top of their list when a job opens up.

Consider your salary requirements. This is often something that companies want to know before they hire someone. Since you have a few months before you graduate, start researching average salaries in your area so that you know what you’re worth. Remember—it’s ok to negotiate! Just don’ t get too crazy.

In my opinion, it never hurts to apply for a job. Even if they decide that they don’t want to wait a few months for you, at least you made a new connection! To all of my readers, have you started applying for jobs yet?

Fun in Door County

I just returned from a magnificent weekend in Door County, Wis. with my wonderful boyfriend! Highlights of the weekend included several wine tastings, shopping in Fish Creek, lunch at the White Gull Inn and walking through White Fish Dunes and Cave Point state parks.

I was very lucky to come across a Groupon for the Sand Bay Beach Resort in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. For only $110.00, we got a two-night stay in a standard suite, complete with a king bed, whirlpool, mini kitchen, pull out couch and direct view of the beach. The hotel was very pretty and we were lucky to be there while there was still fall color around us.

Overall, we were happy for the short weekend getaway!

Cave point state park

At White Fish Dunes

A very windy visit to the coast guard station

Shopping in Fish Creek

The beach at our hotel

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