Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The non-secret to social media [Duh]

originally published on the Beacon Blog

A crazy thing happened last week. A friend of mine, chief executive of Nurses for Newborns Foundation, posted a Facebook status noting that their diaper reserves had been reduced to zero.

Early intervention, specifically programs that help babies, being a pet cause of mine, I put out the call to my network. A few people immediately responded that they would be dropping off diapers. It seems like a small thing, but a newborn can go through 75 diapers in a week and many of the families NFNF serves have to decide between diapers and food, diapers and bus fare to get to work, etc. A crying baby is something that can cause a level of stress and strain only understood if you've experienced it. Among its many services, NFNF provides diapers to families to help with that most basic need - to keep a baby clean and comfortable.

I felt that if I explained the above, I could get some of my friends to help out who wouldn't otherwise think about how far something so simple can go. So I took about five minutes and set up a Facebook event for a "Virtual Diaper Drive," and invited all my friends from the region to take part. Soon a few of them messaged or posted to say they were setting up drives of their own and a few reposted to their group of friends. NFNF posted the event to its Facebook page, and people who were connected to them started to repost.

By the end of the first day (Tuesday, Aug. 31) Hartford Coffee Co. stepped up as a drop off point (with a $1 off incentive even!) and shared the drive with its network. After only 24 hours, NFNF counted 5,000 diapers through their office doors. Thursday afternoon the count hit 10,000. By Friday afternoon, 15,300. KMOX 1120 aired a story Sunday morning, and Sunday night, Fox 2 and KPLR 11 aired a story on every news broadcast. Final count as of last night 22,734 diapers.

When people start talking social media strategy, I am quick to remind that social networking did not start with the advent of MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A chain letter is social media. Quilt circles. Amish friendship bread. It all comes down to very basic offline behavior: We choose our network, we listen to our network, we rely on our network, we trust our network - and even then, if the message isn't relevant, useful or impactful in some way (even if it's a good laugh or the gnashing of teeth) it's not going to resonate with the network, no matter how strong the ties.

Last week happened partially because of a perfect storm (I saw my colleagues post, I had time to post an event, the right number of people saw it and shared it, it was a slow news weekend, all of the people and organizations involved have established networks, etc.), but mostly because I knew someone I trusted, that person had a selfless and important need, the need was digestible and tangible and we communicated it well, and it resonated with enough people in all our networks to catch fire.

Everyone's clamoring to use social media because it's cheap, fast and easy. But when you really look at what you're trying to accomplish, you may find that it's none of the above. You may find that it's completely inappropriate for your message; but if you look harder, you may see that it can support your message in other ways.

So the secret to social media, in my opinion, is to go back to basics. Forget all the technical bells and whistles and apps and ask the basic questions: Does this matter? To whom does it matter and why? What is the best way to get the information to the people who want/need it?

Because, really.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Data data everywhere and not a drop to drink [You have got to be kidding me]

originally published on the Beacon Blog

As some of you in St. Louis likely encountered, last weekend construction wreaked havoc on Interstate 55/70 between Missouri and Illinois. Though I did my best to listen closely on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning as KMOX gave us repeated fair warning, all I retained was a 90 percent certainty that it was going to be a mess, and it was going to start at 8 p.m. on Friday.

I met friends after work on Friday and it was 9 p.m. before we parted ways to head home. One of my friends was also from the Illinois side and, despite the fact that we are both heavy consumers of media, neither of us was 100 percent certain that the construction had started.

Our shared 90 percent certainty was enough to send us off in the direction of the McKinley Bridge, but that 10 percent had me determined to confirm that the more direct and familiar path of 55/70 was indeed unavailable.

So I pulled out my smartphone and started to search.

First stoplight: Radio websites. Nothing.

Next stoplight: TV websites. Nothing.

Next stoplight: Newspaper websites: Nothing.

And so on -- MODOT, IDOT -- I even tried searching Twitter -- NOTHING.

With all of the information available on all the different platforms, I couldn't get what I needed when I needed it how I needed it. So, where's the real failing here? Is it mine? For being so spoiled and demanding as to expect to get what I needed literally at my fingertips? Is it the information providers for not anticipating my need and my access point (smartphone, in the car, on the move)?

The general idea is that the internet has brought on information overload, but I'm of the opinion that what we're being offered is a good deal of noise. As we move into the next phase of the Beacon, it's one of the challenges I most look forward to: stepping back to see where we can really be of service, to whom and on what platform.

But I'm pretty sure it won't be real-time traffic information delivered on my mobile device. So, folks, who do that: How about a link on your mobile site to at least the MODOT and IDOT published announcements? It can replace the ad you put front and center on your site.

Because, really.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In hopes that I was more more articulate this time [Things I can't let lie]

A week later, I take another and more public stab at attempting to articulate why the Slate article rubbed the wrong way. Enjoy >

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oh, come on now, CBS [Someone's paying good money for this]

Tonight on Facebook from CBS:

then -

then -

Seriously? Don't try to be all "I'm your friend, it's social media!" with me by using "cut and paste insert show here."

Let's turn this into a teachable moment, shall we?

1. Um, you are a major network. Perhaps, just perhaps some people watch more than one of your shows and therefore have more than one in their newsfeed.

2. The whole social networking thing is about relationship marketing. This would indicate different and appropriate "personalities" for each property. Using the caption hook for all of them is fine, but the cut and paste "personality" on the front and back does the opposite of personalizing when seen in triplicate.

3. If you wanted to blatantly use the same hook for all your shows, you could just own it - "Sunday evening, weekend winding down and nothing to do? Over at CBS.com we're doing the TV show equivalent of getting out the scanner - help us out with some captions - at least this time you know you won't be surprised with a tag of you in your 3rd grade play..." The show brand is part of the post, so you don't need the awkward [insert character] references. Then, the third time I see it I'm maybe three times intrigued instead of three times annoyed.

4. Timing is everything. Because you should be thinking about the fact that people are likely to be fans of more than one show, pacing them out a bit wouldn't be a bad idea (see first half of last sentence of #3 above).

And the smiley face at the end really just adds insult to injury - "look how casual and familiar I'm being as I totally fake being casual and familiar!"

Because, really.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thank you Slate, the internets are hilarious today [When a tree falls in the forest]

Things that have come out of the Slate article, in a mere 24 hours:

- brown birds via @innyvinny
- tweegro twitter account
- #BrownTiwtterBird hashtag (or, I guess, blacktag)
- #HowBlackPeopleUseTwitter hashtag (or, I guess, blacktag)

Also? Study this: A growing group of employed, college educated, executive level black people are sucking away their entire workday around this article. WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!?!?

Also, bets on which main stream media covers it first? And where's Gawker? Is it because we're black????


When April Fools comes in August [You have got to be kidding me]

When I first saw that there was a Slate article on "How Blacks Use Twitter: The latest research on race and microblogging" the automatic response was to roll my eyes.

I discovered the link on Facebook, posted by one of the facilitators of the regional leadership program I recently completed. He happens to be black and specialize in diversity consulting and training. He posted it with the comment "Yet another attempt to analyze black behavior. Good luck with that." and the article showed the now internet-famous and already memed black twitter bird:

Now, I assumed that this image came from someones profile image the author had come across during his "research." I later discovered that no, Slate came up with this image just for this article. So there's that.

I clicked through and read the article, and honestly? I couldn't even begin to process it. I decided that I would just go to bed. But before I did, I tried to bait some of my favorite like-minded people who maybe, just maybe, might get as worked up as I was and break it all down for me while I slept. I also did some twitter searching to see if anyone else shared my reaction and found two things: white people (rather, people with white profile photos) retweeting the article as "very interesting!" and a handful of black people (or people with black profile photos and/or who had a number of tweets previously about black issues and/or specifically said that they are black) retweeting the article saying "are you kidding me?"

Because, really.

So, I sighed a few more times and went to bed.

[At this point, if you haven't already, you should read the whole article]

And when I woke up, it all seemed clear: This has to be satire. Right? Slate did this to cause a stir in the twitter- bloges- phere and they are planning to follow it up with a real discussion, right? Right?

Now, it hasn't even been 24 hours, so maybe that's still the case, but from the replies the author (Farhad Manjoo) has been writing on his twitter account in response to people questioning the article, I'm sadly going to have to go with no. This article is supposed to be for real.

Now, let me say for the record that I don't think that this article is overtly racist. I'm not crying racism. I suppose, since I'm forcing myself to synthesize these thoughts is that I'm crying incredulousness.

I guess it all comes down to the fact that the framing of this article - sorry, this "research" - feels so 1960 anti-deseg propaganda. See how interesting these people are? See how they are so funny and lively? See how they never use good english? See how idle they are with their time? The brown bird image even gives the whole thing a little Al Jolson feel.

Now, the last half of the article is spent very pointedly disputing the validity of the article's title - both through quotes and pointing out the problems in the some of the data used. But I feel like it's too late. It's like when the little girl in grade school asks if she can touch your hair and then doesn't understand why, when all she does is say it's "neat" - which, after all is a compliment, isn't it? - you still have your feelings hurt.

It's very possible (likely, maybe, in the world of thirst for clicks and pageviews) that Mr. Manjoo submitted a much more even handed article, that the editor slapped on the definitive title and subtitle and added the brown bird to create some buzz.

But it's equally as possible that, even though this is 2010, no one at Slate sees anything uncomfortable, slightly offensive and/or a little disconcerting about the framing of this piece.

Because, really, context is everything.

- Things that are not surprising: Black people use twitter

- "What were Black people talking about on twitter last night?"

- Pew Fall 2009 report on demographics of twitter use and status updating

Friday, April 30, 2010

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