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.

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.

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?

For touch points, creativity is the most important factor

As originally seen on http://www.weidert.com

I recently attended the Public Relations Student Society of America’s National Conference in Orlando, Fla. where I had the opportunity to hear from Geno Church, word-of-mouth expert and author of the new book Brains on FireI was lucky enough to be able to hear him speak again at the Northeast Wisconsin PRSA’s annual meeting last Tuesday. During his presentation on social media strategy, he briefly talked about ‘touch points’.

It seems that touch points have been a popular topic on marketing strategy blogs lately. In a world that is becoming more and more automated everyday, companies who get personal with their customers stand out in the crowd. Tangibles like business cards, newsletters, packaging and personalized emails are all considered to be touch points, and if they are executed strategically, their simplicity will enhance and strengthen your brand.

On the book’s blogBrains on Fire colleague Amy Taylor wrote about a recent experience she had with the company MOO. Not to steal her example, but I also had a similar experience with the company that I’d like to share with you. I came across MOO a few months ago when I was looking to make new and creative business cards. A quick Google search brought me to their website where I found several creative options to add to my personal brand. I chose a design, placed my order and waited for my cards to arrive.

Normally, I receive a basic email after an online purchase saying that my order has been processed and I am provided with a tracking number. Boring, plain, nothing special. Much to my surprise, MOO was different. Shortly after ordering, I received an email from “Little MOO”, the company’s automated email service. Not only did Little MOO give me a tracking number, but he also assured me that he would be there to answer any questions I had along the way. Below is the opening paragraph from the email:

Hi Jessica,

I’m Little MOO – the bit of software that will be managing your order with moo.com. It will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will print it for you in the next few days. I’ll let you know when it’s done and on its way to you.

Letter from Little MOO

Not only did the company keep me updated on the order process, they also built anticipation for the arrival of my business cards. Most importantly, though, they made me remember them. By adding a little bit of creativity to their automated emails, I was entertained and left anxiously awaiting the next email from Little MOO. Geno also makes the point in his blog that not all touch points have to be extravagant or even expensive. The simple wording of this email is what put their name in my head.

But not all touch points have to be digital. I recently booked a weekend at the Sand Bay Beach Resort in Door County in hopes of catching the last of the fall colors. In addition to sending me a pamphlet about their hotel, I also received several pamphlets about attractions in Door County, as well as the featured events that were happening when I would be there. The hotel also contacted me to see if they could help me book any scenic tours or wine tastings. Although this is something that they probably do for all of their customers, it was personalized for the time that I would be there and it made me feel like they valued my business. Again, this was something simple and inexpensive, but it went a long way in making an impression on me.

Now, more than ever, it is important to stand out from the crowd. Are your automated messages blending in? Be creative, think differently and make those personal connections. Not only will you stick in your customers’ minds, but you will build your company’s brand loyalty.

Read Amy Taylor’s blog posting about touch points for more insight.

UWO PRSSA grips success at 2011 National Conference

On Tuesday, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) returned home from the society’s national conference that was held in Orlando, Fla. I am the president of the organization and attended the conference along with eight other students.

We started off our week in Orlando by giving a Chapter Development Session to about 400 PRSSA students from across the country. We were selected as one of only eight chapters in the nation to do so at the 2011 conference. Our challenge was to select a topic that we were considered “experts” on and to create a presentation on the topic that would inspire conversation among session attendees.

As a group, we decided to create a presentation based on the success that our chapter has had in the past with PRSSA’s various national competitions. For the past 17 years, UW Oshkosh PRSSA has either received a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place or honorable mention in the National Organ Donor Awareness Campaign (NODAC) competition and had consistently received top titles over the years in the National Bateman Case Study Completion. We wanted our presentation to help other small chapters who are currently competing in these competitions. A video of our presentation will soon be available online. Keep checking our blog for a link!

Traditionally, the last night of conference is the Awards Dinner. This is something that we always look forward to. We were up for several awards this year, including the Tehan award for best developing chapter as well as our placing in last year’s NODAC competition. For NODAC 2011, UWO PRSSA chose to plan an event based on the hit TV show “Minute to Win It”. The campaign was called “Minute to Give It” and was designed to encourage people to tell their families about their decision to be an organ donor. The tagline “Minute to Give It: It only takes a minute to tell your family your wishes” was used throughout the campaign. We also hosted a nightlong event on campus that resembled the NBC game show. During the awards dinner, we were awarded 2nd place in the nation for our campaign, keeping our winning streak for the past 17 years alive.

This year, UWO PRSSA plans to compete in the Bateman competition as well as the NODAC competition. We are currently in the research stages for both campaigns and plan to start the implementation process during the spring semester.

140-Character Tributes to Steve Jobs

Without a doubt, Steve Jobs was one of the most inspirational people that I was able to watch from afar. I have always dreamed of doing something big in this world, and Steve Jobs did something that changed everything. He changed the way that we communicate and connect with each other. Obviously, I realize that Apple is the work of hundreds of thousands of people, but Steve Jobs undoubtedly was the glue that kept the organization together and the passionate force that made the rest of the world fall in love with it. Being on Twitter tonight is definitely not easy if you were a fan of Steve or just Apple in general.

I thought it would be an appropriate tribute to the Steve Jobs legacy to gather the thoughts (in 140 characters or less) of the fans who loved him. Below are some of the tweets that moved me:

@WritingSpirit: “Wow. Steve Jobs’ death hit me hard. Sweet dreams, Steve. Thank you for the passion, creativity & technology that so enriched our lives.”

@KevinSmith_: “Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

@UWOrat: “RIP Steve Jobs. Your drive & passion was an inspiration to us all. You were an absolute visionary prodigy that changed the world forever.”

@mtvnews: “Obama: “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that … the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

@CNBC: “Warren Buffett on passing of Steve Jobs: “He was one of the most remarkable business managers and innovators in american business history.”

@JessDennis: “I am in shock & deeply saddened by the death of Steve Jobs. He will forever be missed, remembered & appreciated#wewillmissyou #ripstevejobs

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

@DianeSawyer: “Some of the fire in the universe dimmed tonight. Steve Jobs, thank you for reminding us all what ambition+imagination can do#ThankYouSteve

@aplusk: “I never thought I could be so busted up about the loss of someone I never met.#stevejobs

@denisefulton: “J school prof said in 1984, “this new computer, the Macintosh, is going to change our whole profession.”#stevejobslegacy

@RamKasi: “#stevejobs is the Edison of this century”

I’m sure there are many more, but this was just my quick selection. Post your remarks in the comment box below.