In days past, the best way to reach a large audience of people was to use a press release. You could spend hours to craft a message, create quotes, and prepare it for delivery. You’d then send, or even fax, the release to media outlets in the hope they’d pick it up and spread the news for you. For the big news, you’d pay a service to send out the release to hundreds or thousands of places.

Then came the Internet. Thanks to websites, and eventually blogs, companies, organizations, and even individuals could spread the word on their own terms, and at less cost.

Now, we are experience peak social media. There have never been more outlets for companies, businesses, and people to have direct access to customers, influencers, other brands and more.

I’ve enjoyed watching a new style of press release emerge in the last year. This type of press release is new and exciting – it’s a screenshot.

Yes, a screenshot. Usually of a notes app on someone’s phone, where they’ve typed or copy and pasted and then taken a screenshot. It’s a genius way to get around the character limits of a platform like Twitter. If you want to read the entire image, you just view the full-size image.

One audience I’ve seen using this new “press release” lately are college athletes who are announcing their departures from college to go pro. Here are two recent examples:

Screenshot as Press Release Example Screenshot as Press Release Example #2

The University of Missouri was one of the first schools I’ve seen use this when they used a screenshot to share a statement from campus leadership back in November of 2015.

Screenshot as Press release example #3

It’ll be interesting to see if larger and larger companies start to use this method for sharing news. In higher ed, I could see using it for weather closings, all-clears after emergencies, schedule changes, large announcements, and more.

Over the last couple of months, Twitter has rolled out their new polls functionality for users. It’s a great way to engage your audience with quick polls that last 24 hours. In a blog post announcing the launch in October, Twitter said this about polls:

If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter. For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.

We’re run a few polls at John Carroll, and they’ve done well in terms of engagement and interest. Todd Sherman at Twitter said this about polls:

From what I’ve seen, polls spur more conversations around the topic than asking the same question without a poll because people reflect on what others think.

Now that we’ve done a few, I have some quick thoughts on them.

There’s a character limit on poll items. I ran into that today with a poll we created. Luckily, my awesome team came up with a great idea – use emojis. I created this poll on Twitter’s browser version, and I was slightly nervous about entering an emoji in the browser and it working correctly in mobile, but it worked just fine. Here’s our poll:

Poll items with emoji

Creating polls is easy from Twitter’s web interface and from the latest versions of their mobile app. I use their desktop Mac OS official app while I’m at work, and I’m surprised you can’t both make them or vote on any polls from their official app. Maybe development has stopped on those apps.  Can other third-party apps vote and create polls? If you use Twitter’s Mac app, you get this, which seems like we just did something wrong:

Twitter poll on desktop app

If you’re logged into the account that created the poll, you can see a running tally of votes which is nice.

I’m not sure if this is a better measurement tool than the “RT and Favorite” type polls people have been doing for several years. Voting in polls may be more scientific, but I don’t know if it gets the same reach as the RT/Fav methodology. One area where polls may work better is that you can have up to 4 choices in a poll, not just two in the RT/fav model. In this model, voting is not made public, as a RT/fav is to all your followers.

Finally, this post from Buffer has an in-depth guide on how to create a poll on both desktop and mobile versions of Twitter.

Quick follow-up: So had a few questions about what “cura pedem” means. Both of the items in our poll are very Jesuit ideas. Saint Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, coined the saying “Go forth, and set the world on fire.” You’ll see many Jesuit schools say this to graduates as they leave their campuses.

Well, there’s a latin term, “Cura personalis,” which is a big part of the idealogoy of the Jesuits and their views when it comes to higher education. It means “care for the whole person.” We often make puns around some of these things, so we came up with “Cura pedem,” which means “Care for the feet.”

So, yeah.

I joined Twitter on March 15, 2007.

Sometime in 2013, a new me joined Twitter.

As I was going through my account last week, it was suggested that I may like a user named @mrichwalsky4. Interesting, I thought. Not counting my Dad, who doesn’t use Twitter, there are one or two other Mike Richwalskys in the world. Maybe one of them had joined Twitter. I thought I’d check out what they had to see.

First, here’s what my Twitter profile looks like.

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 8.18.55 PM

Here’s what the profile for @mrichwalsky4 looked like.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 2.49.44 PM

Ok, that’s more than a passing resemblance. That’s me. My profile pic. My bio. My URL.

So many questions starting going through my mind. Who did this? Why? It felt strange to have your online identity stolen and used without your permission. This wasn’t even a parody account, it was downright theft.

After checking with some friends and colleagues and them saying no, they hadn’t created it. I started to panic.

The tweets from this account were strange, as well. Here are a few gems from the account.

First off, I don’t have a brother. Second, my mom is the worst banana opener ever. Folks on Twitter helped me keep calm:

My next stop was the help section of Twitter.com. I found this information about reporting a false account or an account that impersonates a person or brand. Here’s what they had to say:

When reporting impersonation of an individual or brand on Twitter, you will need to provide the following:

  • A copy of your government-issued ID (individuals)
  • Your company website (brands)
  • Your email address (please provide your company email address if reporting brand impersonation)
  • If you are not the individual or brand owner, you will be required to provide documentary evidence that you have authority to act on the person or brand owner’s behalf (i.e., agent’s agreement, power of attorney, etc.) via fax

I needed to complete a help ticket, and send Twitter a copy of my ID to prove that I’m me, and the only me, on Twitter. So I started the process. On November 4, 2013, I completed the online form and officially reported the fake account to Twitter. A ticket was opened and a copy of my Ohio driver’s license was faxed to a random fax number in California.

I waited. And waited. The ticket said it was opened and awaiting review by Twitter. Honestly, I thought with their impending IPO, people would be a little distracted at Twitter. I’d certainly be.

Four days later, I got this response from Twitter, which didn’t exactly make me feel confident in the system:

Hello,

We apologize for the inconvenience, but we experienced technical difficulties with our ticketing system during the time in which you filed a request for assistance.

If you’re still experiencing an issue, please reply to this email with your original message, and we’ll do our best to help.

Again, we are very sorry for any trouble this may have caused.

Thank you,

Twitter Support

4926612_origWhat’s strange is that it was sent through the same system as the ticket, and was appended to the ticket. So someone at Twitter opened this ticket, didn’t read (lol) and asked me for my info.

I did what they should have done, and copied the information from the ticket and re-posted it to the same ticket.

After that, radio silence.

Until yesterday, on November 11, and, not ironically, 11:11 a.m. PST. I got this note from Twitter:

Hello,

Thank you for providing this information. We have removed the reported profile from the site due to violation of our Terms of Service.

Thanks,

*NAME REDACTED*
Twitter Trust & Safety

And just like that, the account was gone.

Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 9.00.21 PM

Over the last few days, as I waited for word from Twitter, I did some digging into the tweets this user was sending, to see if I could figure out who was doing this.

When I googled one of the tweets posted on the fake account, I found similar results and dozens of fake accounts, all registered with the same information, photos and bios, but with a character added to the username. Here are a few examples:

@SW_Women is an organization in the UK that offers encouragement, inspiration, support, friendship, alongside information from business speakers for women in regional enterprise. They are followed by 105 people and have tweeted 79 times.

@SW_Women_ has the same bio and avatar, but is not the same organization. It has 6 followers and follows 194 people. And there, just like on the fake account of mine, is the tweet “Ima become a professional bowler”

@CitizenPaper is the Twitter account for the Webster County-Citizen, a newspaper in Seymour, Missouri. They have 41 followers and haven’t tweeted since May 12, 2013.

@CitizenPaperU is another fake account with 9 followers and a bunch of retweets. If we look back a few weeks, we find the same tweet as one in my fake account, this time about mothers opening bananas.

I’m going to hazard a guess that this is a singular person who has found some popular accounts in the US and UK, created fakes to capitize on a mistype or Google result, and retweeted and tweeted mostly nonsense. I don’t know why this person would do it, but it seems I’m the only one who’s figured it out and had their fake account taken down.