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No social in communities?

Tonight after a great class (I’m course assistant for Creativity, Madmen, Geniuses and Harvard Students at the Extension school), I learned about a professor who teaches a psych course–at a different Boston college–about communities and networks. He is apparently a total Luddite and wants nothing to do with social media and doesn’t consider it important in his classes.

I was shocked.

Now, I can understand that there is a particular psychology when it comes to how people interact and build communities in person. But, in my opinion, to ignore the impact that social media has on communities is pure folly in this day and age.

For example, I’m going to Social Media Breakfast Boston #24 tomorrow. While I haven’t been to these in recent months, I am confident that I’ll know who several of the individuals attending are before I get there simply because I follow them online. I may recognize their face from their profile photo or I may recognize the Twitter handle on their nametag. Regardless, it gives me an instant discussion opening to be able to say “I follow you” or to have someone say the same words back. Even better if I can talk about something that they have recently posted and have an opinion. In my mind it makes the interactions richer. Additionally, the touchpoint with the one I newly met will possibly go far beyond the initial in-person visit.

Quite simply, social media has changed the very nature of these in-person communities. The way you interact with people is different. Discussions begin beforehand and may continue afterward. The psychology of how people react to you is very different. People may have a preconceived idea of who you are before they ever talk to you and it may color the entire meeting.

Photo by Flickr user jbuhler

I felt sorry for the students who may have to take the man’s class. How frustrating it must be to not be able to explore the impact that social networks are changing in-person communities, or to be able to partake in research about how the psychology of interaction has changed. Or, to discover how cognitive thinking differs when working with people in person vs. collaborating online.

There are very few people in my life now that don’t partake in some online social community. For the most part, the only ones I can think of are my in-laws who don’t own a mobile phone or a computer. Their communities are the same as they have been for years. They meet up with their bocce and bowling teams every week with friends.  And yet…now their friends talk about photos their kids posted online or the last online Scrabble game they played with each other.

It’s all changed. Even those old-fashioned communities are colored by social media.

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The Power of Building Your Network – How I Lost My Job & Set Up 3 Interviews w/in 24 Hours

Image by Flickr user philcampbell

Five days ago, on Monday morning, I received an ominous invitation for a 4PM meeting that only stated, “Business Update.” My heart thudded to a stop. I’ve been laid off enough times in my past (an early legacy of working in startups) to know what that meeting was about. Especially since the departments at CA Technologies were changing around and we knew that 500 people were going to get the axe this quarter in order to boost the Q2 bottom line after several large cloud computing related purchases.

I was devastated. I put my heart and soul into my three and a half years of work there, building their entire social media program from scratch, fighting tooth and nail to create a cross-departmental group to execute programs and educate teams around the globe on why social media matters and how it can help build brand and grow their bottom line. And while I still don’t understand the company’s decision (and likely never will), I’m ok with that now.

Sometimes, on a personal level, I don’t practice what I preach in my social media classes (note the intermittent blog posts on this site). However, when it comes to my network I do everything I can to keep that in place.  You hear all the time how content is king, but I think that isn’t entirely true. Content becomes king when you have people who care enough to consume it. Which means you need to build your network.

But that’s not all. You also need to work your network and respond to it.

And I thank my lucky stars that I have done that over the last few years.

That night, still in a daze, I posted a note to my Facebook (494 friends, all of whom I mostly actually know or have a specific connection to) and to a small circle on Google+ (about 50 people). I didn’t feel up to letting the whole world know at that point, so I started with the people I knew.

I was overwhelmed by the response that I had from friends and my more remote connections. Some friends called every recruiter they knew to send them my way. Others started sending LinkedIn notes to their network and doing introductions to me. One great lead came from a high school friend who I haven’t seen in 20 years! By 4PM on Tuesday I had 6 recommends from colleagues on LinkedIn (up to 15 now!) for my work at CA. I also had at least 4-5 offers for small contract possibilities, people who wanted me to help them figure out social media. But best of all, I had over 4-5 possibilities lined up for full-time jobs including 3 calls that day, two of which led to scheduling in-person interviews.

All of this was BEFORE I had a chance to even touch my resume or search LinkedIn or Monster!

Why did this happen? I think for a few reasons:

  1. Hopefully much of it is because I’m good at my work and my reputation precedes me.
  2. Social media is a hot place to be right now and for that I feel fortunate. I know that others are in industries that are stagnant. I know how that feels…I have been laid off more times than I want to count in industries that weren’t hiring. Working as a temp really sucks when you are in between jobs. That said, while it gives me some leg up, what I’m talking about in this post has nothing to do with the type of industry you are in but the way you build your network.
  3. I keep my LinkedIn profile updated all the time. This enabled me to respond fast when I really needed to. I followed up with my updated resume later.
  4. I have a vast network of people that I have built up over the years. For me I have focused on quality not just quantity. The people I am interested in and the people I know. 494 people in Facebook. 639 in LinkedIn. With Twitter (4,567) and Google+ I expand that quite a bit to people I don’t know but am interested in.  Why don’t I care quite as much about the high numbers? Because this makes it easier for me to do number five…
  5. I interact with my network. I take time to respond to things people say, not just my close friends but those that are also far flung. That’s the beauty of social media. You can have hundreds of little touchpoints all over the place. Taking two minutes to say something on someone’s posts gives you a lot of karma (and I’m not talking Reddit karma!) with that person. I spoke with Pluser David Graziano about this today, about how it’s not enough to just have a network. You need to respond to people (he called me immediately after I left my # in a note) and create specific connections in order to be memorable.
  6.  This also means that I try and help people.
    1. When a recruiter calls me or writes me and I’m not interested, I help them by forwarding their information to my network. It helps the recruiter, it helps my friends and in the long run it has helped me 10x over.
    2. When a friend has a question, I try and respond. I also ask questions. For example today I posted to my Facebook and G+ (thank you Publish Sync!) about recommends on a Netbook and dozens have responded. I’ll remember those kindnesses and try to be helpful back some other time.
    3. I participate in conversations related to my field and my interests. Again, I answer questions, or post my own questions. I try to make myself memorable to the people that may be able to help me later.

Over and over the number one question I get from people when I’m teaching how to use social media is, “how can I have the time to do all this?”  And then I say, “Make time.” Give up an hour of junk TV and commit yourself. It doesn’t even need to be a lot of time.  20 minutes 2-3x a week to focus on responding to say, LinkedIn groups, your Twitter followers or touching base with your Facebook friends. It will serve you well in the long run (for jobs, for sales, for a million things), just as it is serving me well now. Build it up over time, a little here and a little there.

It’s been five days since I lost my job. Now I’m finally starting to branch out and actually look at job posts vs. responding to incoming inquiries. My network is really coming through for me (and I can’t even begin to thank all of the incredible people that have helped me out this week!) because I nurtured it. If you aren’t working the social media channels to build your own network I highly recommend you start. You never know when you may need to rely on the kindness of friends, family and strangers.

And if you are looking for someone to run your digital strategy, let me know!

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Missed Muppet Opportunity

Today I discovered that you can make your own Muppet! Really. You just head on over to FAO Schwartz and put one together at the Muppet WhatNot Workshop. Each customizable Muppet costs $129.00 which seems hefty, but it’s a real Muppet!  How cool is that? The ones you see on the page are a couple that I designed.

What I found most frustrating about the process when I was at the website was not how to put the Muppet together, or the price, or anything having to do with the product itself. Rather, I was frustrated that there was no easy way to tell my friends!

This is a huge missed opportunity for FAO Schwartz, IMHO. That one click button to share on Facebook or Tweet to friends could mean thousands more people aware of these amazing toys that head right to the heart of nostaglia for millions.

I know, I know, it’s easy enough to post the link in Facebook, which I did, but when I did so you didn’t get to see a photo of how cool they look, just the FAO logo. And with Twitter, it’s a multiple step process to log in, shrink the link and write the tweet. Not that these steps are hard by any means, it’s just that they are extra steps. People are lazy. And they have grown accustomed to seeing those share buttons on websites.

Although most might argue that those share buttons tend to be on news sites, not retail shops. It would be cumbersome (and perhaps ugly) to implement them for retail in all the products in a shop, I imagine. Ok, that’s fine. But this is clearly a top billed product, one that is destined for huge sales for both FAO Schwartz and the Muppets (who are doing GREAT things with social media these days). That little extra couple of buttons could mean thousands more in sales.

Worth the hassle, FAO Schwartz.

To help you start your weekend, I’ll leave you with a Muppet social media win:


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They just keep coming: Japan tsunami social media blunders

To follow up on my post of a couple of days ago, here’s a short update on two more media blunders this week in relation to the tsunami in Japan.

By now, unless you’ve had little connection to social media at all, you’ve heard about Gilbert Gottfried’s recent firing as the voice of the Aflac duck. According to the NYT:

“The Aflac incident began on Saturday, when Gilbert Gottfried, the comedian who supplies the voice for the squawking duck character in most Aflac commercials, started to post at least 10 jokes to his personal Twitter feed (@RealGilbert) about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — a market that accounts for 75 percent of Aflac’s revenue.”

The jokes he posted are no longer there, but can be easily found with a search. They’re not funny (IMHO) and in light of all the lives lost and devastation they are callous and cruel.

Rapper 50 cent also had a lapse in judgment (assuming there was some there in the first place), posting on Twitter:

“Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoe’s from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol.”

And while not on social media, the Malaysian paper Berita Minggu apologized for posting a tasteless cartoon about a Japanese superhero running away from the tsunami.

The latter two examples are probably inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the newspaper lost an advertiser or two but likely it will not affect them too much. 50 cent? Sadly, that sort of behavior is expected of him. People will criticize him and forget it…unless someone manages to make a meme out of it. But Gottfried is facing the biggest backlash. He said stupid things and lost his job…and it will be hard to build that reputation back up.

Someone once told me when I was in college that for every bad thing that is said about a person it takes 10 more good things to be said before the bad thing is forgotten…or something to that effect. I think it’s more than that in the world of social media, possibly 10x more. So much has proliferated now about Gottfried’s screw up that it will take a LOT for people to forget about his lack of respect for human life in the face of the worst disaster we’ve seen in our current history. And ironically, even the “promoted” MySpace link for him that I’m seeing showing up in Zymanta for me to link to in this blog isn’t going to do it for him. I am so disgusted by his actions that as a consumer I’m not going to go out of my way and click on anything that might help him. He dug his own grave with his insensitivity. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Essentially what it all boils down it is the same thing I tell my classes all the time. Social media mostly requires that you just:


This also means if you are an employee of a company you need to think about how you are representing the company, even on your personal time. Gottfried wasn’t talking about Aflac or tweeting on their feed. It was on his own feed. But as someone that represented Aflac, they’re just not going to take it kindly when their spokesperson (duck voice?) says stupid things.

Erik Sherman over at bnet, in a great article on this problem, shares some other examples of companies using the tsunami in a way that’s questionable:

Sherman points out something else that is crucial to the whole problem of using something like a natural disaster:

A study last year by PR giant Edelman found that 86 percent of consumers worldwide expect companies to give equal weight to society’s interests as to their own business interests. Furthermore, they can become critical when the activities seem to benefit the corporate brand more than society.

I also think that consumers, more and more, make judgments about how they will interact with a brand based upon how they feel they are acting or not acting. For example, Aflac realized immediately that if people were disgusted by Gottfried’s actions and don’t want to act in a way that will benefit him, that by his very association with the company, that could extend to Aflac–they could lose customers or could lose prospects they didn’t even know they had. Therefore, they cut him loose to protect their brand.

When employees at a company say stupid things on their own personal accounts, it’s very possible that there will be consequences. I’m reminded of a Ketchum PR VP who tweeted something stupid on his personal account a few years ago. As he was flying in to Memphis to give a meeting to FedEx about social media, he tweeted how much he would die if he had to live there. FedEx was upset and the Twittersphere blew up and two years later, I’m still writing about it. The Internet does not forget…and may not be forgiving.

You have to be careful, extra careful with your words when publishing them for the world to see. Think beyond the moment and consider your sphere of influence. And if you have any question about what you are saying, then really, just don’t say it.

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Using Disasters as a Marketing/PR Tool = Bad Idea

The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City Read more:

In the last few days at least three different companies attempted to use social media as a way to capitalize on the most talked about story on the Internet–the earthquake and tsunami tragedy that hit Japan on March 11. Tens of thousands of people are probably dead and it will likely be weeks before they have a true idea of the impact. And now, several regions are dealing with massive challenges regarding the safety of its nuclear plants. It’s a disaster on a scale that we have not seen in our lifetimes.

As a result, many are baffled by companies who choose to use this tragedy as a way to gain attention to itself.  Both Microsoft Bing and drink manufacturer VitaCoco took the opportunity to tweet they are donating money to help Japan if people retweet. But it’s confusing…if they want to help, why ask people to retweet their news? Simply make a statement that you are giving a donation–don’t make it conditional. Don’t use it as a marketing opportunity. It’s just incredibly poor taste.

Microsoft apologized. VitaCoco took the tweet down and seems to be laying low (are you donating or not?). But the Internet is unforgiving. What goes onto the Net, stays on the Net. Deleting isn’t much of an option if dozens are actually doing what you asked and retweeting. Or, like me, talk about the mishap.

Even worse, Singapore TV company MediaCorp took the opportunity to directly sell advertisements ($5k a pop), with the hook that advertisers can be part of “breaking news coverage.” They apologized.

A few weeks ago Kenneth Cole also had a similar gaffe, and while it wasn’t about a disaster, it was about massive civil unrest, tweeting about how the uproar in Cairo was about how the masses heard the new KC spring collection was online. People were not amused and he too issued an apology.

It’s interesting to me that there is a general lack of common sense about this type of thing. Are marketers and communications people so desperate to cut through the noise that they will stoop to taking advantage of death and destruction? It seems it. But the PR backlash isn’t worth it, I promise you.  If you want to take advantage of death and destruction go sponsor a horror flick.

Just do good in the world. Come up with solutions (Google, you rock for this) vs. asking others to jump on your bandwagon.

For those of you who want to know how to donate, please go to the Red Cross and share what you can.

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Recommencing: The Importance of Having a Blog

I talk with a lot of people about social media, training them on a variety of things from the fine details and basics of Twitter to the broad topics like how to build your personal social media platform. One of the things that has been weighing on me lately as I have these types of conversations is that I’m not practicing what I preach.

Your Web site or for many, your blog, should be the centerpiece of the work you do. It’s the place where you can share all the details about your expertise, your know-how, thoughts and ideas. It helps build your personal brand and shape your reputation. I say this over and over and yet, here my blogs have been languishing without updates for months on end.

When I began blogging 11 years ago it was the center of my world of communication and it remained so until the advent of social media. The blog held on for awhile, in fits and starts, because, as I’ve said, I do believe it’s a powerful center of your personal platform. But eventually I succumbed to the power of Facebook and Twitter. For me they satisfied much of what used to be most important for me when I blogged–being able to keep up with family and friends (funny enough, there is a huge bunch of people in my personal world whom I originally met through my blog!). Twitter enabled me to stay in touch with marketers and writers that I cared about. I love that instant contact. Laziness set in.

I say laziness because a blog does take work. You have to think about what on earth you might write, and how much value it will have to the audience, blah blah. And that’s where I realized that I have lost a little focus in the sense of this is MY blog. What do I care about? What is the essence of me? When I write from that place, then suddenly blogging isn’t hard. I don’t feel lazy. I want to share. I had lost my passion.

From the awesome

Granted, I have such diverse interests that often my attention seems to wax and wane in various areas. I’m a PR person, a marketer, a novelist (oh this is where my heart lies!), a foodie, a baker, a bibliophile, Italophile, a reader, and general Renaissance woman. Reasons why I have three blogs (see nav above).

But I’ve been missing my blogs lately. I miss the longer ramblings that, as a writer, I tend to have. I miss the connections and opportunities. I’m also tired of saying, “do what I say, not what I do,” when I talk about the importance of a blog in social media. Because I DO believe it can propel your personal brand. Ask anyone who is a star blogger. They will tell you it changed and shaped their lives.

Plus, I have things to say and share! Interesting things and I need to get back to sharing them and engaging in broader conversation. So here I am, recommencing on the path I set myself upon 11 years ago, when I first learned of the power of blogging (I bought my domain name in 1995…crazy how time flies). So be on the lookout for a few tidbits from me here and there across my blogs (social media, writing and personal). I look forward to re-engaging with my larger audience!

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Brilliant even if misguided? Fast Company’s 2010 Most Influential Person Project

This morning I came across an interesting link to Fast Company‘s 2010 Most Influential Person Project. Essentially you click through to the link above, sign up and add some basic information about Facebook and Twitter and it will help you see what your initial influence is (while also raising mine a bit because I influenced you to click through that link). Much of it is based on how many friends/followers you have, but if you want to really see how much influence you have, you would blog, Twitter, social bookmark or Facebook your influencer link, which drives more click-throughs back in and raises your rank. In the November issue, your photo will appear, with top influencers having a bigger photo. So, essentially, reach is based upon how well you can get people to click through on your personal link. There are currently over 22,000 participants so I’ll find it interesting how Fast Company will do the photos…most likely as little pixels for people without much influence. In fact, their FAQ reads:

What if my picture winds up too small to see in the magazine? Your picture will be in there, but we’ll also have a digital copy online where you can magnify the images to confirm exactly where you are in the spread.”

I’m listed at 1, 761 out of 22,673 but pretty sure that my photo will be barely viewable even at that rank.

On the surface it seems like a fascinating contest to discover who on the Net has the most reach. It is a fairly ingenious way to drive traffic back to Fast Company and it’s also an incredible source of stories (are there surprise influencers? Who, why, how? Excellent story fodder there), and it also enables FC to have direct, influential engagement in the community.

But there has been backlash about the way the project works. For example, I know that my reach and influence goes far beyond when a few people click on a link that I push out to them. Guilting people into clicking my influence link isn’t the same as how much influence I actually have. It’s more than me just being popular. You can know a lot of people but that doesn’t mean those people trust you or that you influence them in positive ways. They may think you are a douchebag. Damien Basilie talks on Brian Solis’ blog about this problem:

The problem with this type of influence is that it’s not influence at all. It’s a shallow and very specific ploy rooted in misdirection and vilified through the opaque pandering of votes. Asking your social networks to click on a link is measuring their ability to click on a link. Nothing more. It doesn’t measure the type of influence brands need to know about for their brand, product or industry vertical. A better way to do that would be to quantify who someone is connected to, how many people they are connected to and what happens to their message once it is shared exponentially. You could also figure this out by doing a test campaign to find out who YOUR influencers are. Who gets retweeted the most or has the most views and comments on their article about your brand becomes your influencer by default. You can look at who your competitors as well as other industry leaders are interacting with online.

Still,  I personally don’t think it’s worth as much sour grapes as Fast Company seems to be getting. I imagine that FC is reaping exactly what they expected. The project is a great way to market the publication during a time when it’s very hard for magazines to make inroads when there is so much online competition. It gets people talking, even if the talk is controversial–which the publication can then tackle head on, engaging in the discussion. It drives traffic back to the site and as I mentioned before, it’s an incredible way to mine for stories. From a marketing perspective, it’s a damn smart idea.  22,000+ users and growing. A major story planned for November that people will most likely be interested in reading even if you think the way that the project has been conducted isn’t quite up to snuff. Dozens of blogs and individuals talking about them and directing traffic back. Sounds like success to me.

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A Mood Ring for Twitter?

Do you know what this is?


It’s the mood of the nation as determined by Twitter updates. The Harvard University study mapped out the feelings of the North American Twitterverse and determined that the time of day and week has a significant impact on whether or not we’re happy or sad. So does where we live.

West coasters are a bit happier than East coasters but I would argue that the Twitter population is significantly higher on the East coast so perhaps the noise is louder. Regardless, it’s a fascinating look at how social media significantly ties the world together.

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What’s the story with Facebook Stories?

Facebook's homepage features a login form on t...
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This week the news came out that Facebook hit 500 million users and launched Facebook Stories, a site where Facebook users can share their stories about how Facebook has changed their lives.

You hardly need the 500 million mark news to realize how popular Facebook is. It’s increasingly rare that you find someone you know that isn’t using Facebook. Those that aren’t are either luddites, completely clueless about technology or have a reason not to (like one of my playboy friends who doesn’t want all the women in his life to stay connected or to connect with each other). Which is why the Facebook Stories site seems so odd to me. Shouldn’t this have launched ages ago when the site was really working to build users? Now it seems sort of passé. Uncovering cool Facebook stories isn’t difficult. They’re everywhere now–on the news, on other social media sites and on the lips of all our friends. So what was the thinking behind it?

I wonder what Facebook’s true intentions are for the site? It’s certainly not just the touchy-feely nature of people sharing their stories. Or perhaps that’s part of it–a place to mine those stories to polish up the Facebook image, a visage that is pockmarked with privacy issues, dismal customer satisfaction, protests and lawsuits. I would bet that the PR/corporate reputation team has had a hand in the launch of the site, as a way to show the positive impact Facebook has had on the lives of millions vs. their frustrations.

Think about it. People are intensely interested in other people, far more so than some billion dollar corporation. People want to feel good about all the things that make other people feel good, just as how misery loves company. People feed into each other’s emotions all the time and for Facebook is smart to do whatever they can to shift the image.

Facebook Stories offers the company the ability to:

  • Uncover unusual human interest stories to keep news desks all over the world happy. It’s an endless source of stories for use in the media.
  • Publicize stories during times of particular trauma to company reputation–pointing back to all the good things in the hopes to counteract the negative. The problem is for every negative you need 5 positives so to do so for Facebook can be difficult without the larger voice of the people. What better reason for Facebook stories?
  • Proactively build up Zuckerberg and Facebook’s image before this movie hits the theaters in October:


Methinks that’s really the gist of it.

The other question that I have is along the lines of longevity. Sure, people are adding in their Facebook stories now because it’s new, but will they care a year from now? I barely care now and pretty sure I won’t in the future. In my mind it’s a one-hit wonder–people may go there once, add a story and browser other stories, but will rarely go back. Which may be fine for short term PR and reputation needs, but in the long run will it end up being a barely used site?

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