I recently started writing for my agency's blog, RaceTalk. Following my first post not too long ago, I eagerly sent my mother a link to show her that yes, my college degree wasn't going to waste. She Emailed me a short while later to say that she learned a lot from my post, and oh, by the way, she found a typo.
I haven't been discouraged from contributing to RaceTalk, though. Rather, I figured I'd just work around my flawed typographical skills, and switch to a new media platform: video. Onto the meat of this post.
Many of you who read my blog are active on Twitter, or are at least familiar with it. Either way, there's a good chance you've heard of Tom O'Keefe, or more likely his Twitter persona, @BostonTweet.
BostonTweet was created [...] as a way to create awareness for local business in a down economy. Tom developed BostonTweet in November 2008 when the financial markets were at a precipitous decline and his two former startups had become worthless after the crash. Fearing that Boston would become a 1929 ghost town, O'Keefe created BostonTweet to make sure everyone knew that our favorite restaurants and bars were still open and needed our business for survival. Needing a very economical platform to promote local business, Twitter was hands down the best application to talk about everything Boston.
-- Gotta love "About" pages, right?
Anyhoo, over the last couple of years, @BostonTweet has developed into somewhat of a hyper-local Twitterlebrity, with almost 30,000 folks following him on Twitter for updates on Boston goings-on, including special events, Boston city-living, food and drink deals, burritos, and his whereabouts. While we have oodles of social media gurus telling us how businesses can benefit from social media, we've got a guy in Boston who is demonstrating it before our very eyes.
Now, if you're at all like me, you may have a couple of questions for this guy: how was the idea of @BostonTweet conceived (why not Facebook, or a blog or forum), and what made it take off the way it did? Can a man truly live on burritos and beer alone? What's next for social media-fueled citizen journalism? And seriously, what's with the burritos?
I have wonderful news for you: the man, myth and legend behind BostonTweet has agreed to a video interview (see, there was a point to the beginning of this post) on Thursday evening, April 7. Between now and then, tweet your questions for BostonTweet using the hashtag #AskBostonTweet. We'll pick out a few gems to answer on Thursday evening, then post his answers to your questions - and a couple of mine - on Friday, April 8. Start tweeting!
Good news: Facebook Breakup Notifier has been shut down! Bad news: a creepier one has taken its place.
WaitingRoom is even more straightforward than the Breakup Notifier: select your crush who is, again, sadly spoken for. WaitingRoom sends that person a note saying he or she has an admirer . . . you know, in case that person was having second thoughts about the current relationship and just needed encouragement. In the event that said crush ends things, 48 hours later, he or she will find out the identity of the admirer(s). Oh, and the crush doesn't need the app to receive the notifications.
Again: gross! As one of my friends had responded to Breakup Notifier, "If you want to creep, you have to work at it." This is subtle home-wrecking, and generally unsettling. Even if you were into this, suppose you get your WaitingRoom note that someone thinks you're awesome. You go ahead and cut the cord, expecting it to be that smoking hot guy/gal you met at your friend's party, only to find that it's that creepy individual who always manages to find you at networking events. Serves you right . . . ?
Yup. Those of you with crushes coupled with stalker-like tendencies can rejoice: you can now be notified via Email as soon as someone's relationship status changes on Facebook. Aptly named Facebook Breakup Notifier, the app is pretty straightforward: log-in, select your friend(s) who are tragically spoken for, and wait for that glorious little notification Email that gives you the go-ahead to move in for the kill.
Yikes. This is one of many reasons why I'm glad I don't share my relationship status on Facebook. I don't even know where to begin on this one. It's an unsettling reminder that thanks to social media, information barriers are gradually melting away. As a result, in my humble opinion, so are human courtesies. We spend so much time tethered to our screens that we often forget to socialise in real life. You know, with the people sitting next to you at the bar. Communication has largely slipped into an "at my convenience" mentality. We send a text message rather than making a phone call. We check a Twitter or Facebook feed to see what a friend has been up to, rather than asking. And now we can even monitor relationship statuses of people who we might want to target for the next romantic venture.
If you care that much about someone, wouldn't you find out soon enough if he or she is available because you talk to them, oh, I don't know, regularly? I would imagine that a breakup would surface in conversation fairly quickly. Oh wait, you don't talk to this person regularly? How do you know you're interested in the first place? The extent to which technology manages to delude us continues to baffle me.
I'm not an ideas person. At my seventh grade Invention Convention, I barely passed muster with my ExoFeed (patent-pending): the food bowl that makes your cat or dog work for its meal. I think the next idea after that was starting a blog. You can see how well that took off. My next idea needs to be something genius, because my track record is pretty unimpressive thus far. Clearly I should develop "FarmVille 2: Farmier and Generally Awesomer Than FarmVille."
One billion this year? People will be spending one billion on virtual blueberries this year!? According to eMarketer, "Approximately 62 million U.S. Internet users — that’s 27% of the total Internet-using population in the U.S. — will play at least one game on a social network on a monthly basis this year, a 15% increase from 2010, the research firm claims" (lovingly stolen from Mashable). And of those social gamers, only 6% spend enough while playing these games to lead to a forecast of $1 billion in revenue for the industry this year.
God, why did you have to make me a charming little blonde? Why couldn't you make me a socially inept marketing genius? Then I could really be happy.
Ranting aside, though, seeing this statistic reminds me of some reading I recall from Gary Vaynerchuk's (@garyvee) book Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion (an excellent read if you don't think you could ever make money doing what you love). Gary suggests that if there is something you truly love doing, then you'll love talking about it - intelligently (because if you love it, of course you want to be an expert on it). Eventually you will find your niche audience who will love whatever it is you're talking about as much as you do... and that's where the advertisers come in.
Six percent may not seem like a big slice of the pie, but it sure is a devoted slice of the pie. You don't need hundreds of millions of customers. You just need a loyal core who will count on you for their fix of whatever it is you're offering - and purchase often. While a really big part of me loathes FarmVille (and other social games), a smaller, more reasonable part of me recognises and appreciates its value as a case study in the ever-expanding world of social media.
"Money," Pink Floyd
"Money Honey," Lady Gaga
Yesterday, Mashable shared via Twitter's CEO that 40% of all tweets come from mobile devices. While it's nice to have a referenceable percentage for those thrilling conversations at cocktail parties, this doesn't really come as a surprise. Upsurge in smartphone-adoption aside, we're on our mobile phones more than ever - and tweeting all the way (for those of you who ridicule me for not having a smartphone ::coughs::, you can in fact tweet and check in via text). Sure, official Android and iPhone apps make it easier to tweet, but what really makes the difference is that we're finding more and more information that's worth sharing: news articles, YouTube videos, Angry Birds board games, what I ate for breakfast, and so on. Rather than deciding to wait until we get to our computers to post from there (and most likely forget about it by then), we tweet on the go. The only part I actually found surprising was that the percentage wasn't higher, but given that last year only about 20-25% of tweets were shared via mobile, it's still some serious headway.
This morning, TechCrunch posted an article about Twitter's decision to prohibit all third parties from advertising within the tweet-stream. My response?
One of the aspects of Twitter that I really appreciate is the lack of adverts that I can't control interrupting my feed. If I decide to follow someone who turns out to tweet only in spam or product promos, that's my own fault and it's my job to either live with it or un-follow the account. I could grow used to banner and sidebar adverts (because let's face it, if you want to use the free version of anything, chances are you have to see an advertisement somewhere on the site): eventually I just learn how to ignore them. However, if one shows up in the middle of a game, page-load or - gasp - tweet stream, it becomes a lot tougher to overlook.
TechCrunch linked to the Twitter blog as well as highlighted a key passage outlining the reasons for the decision (emphasis added by yours, truly):
First, third party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created. They may optimize for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform. For example, a third party ad network may seek to maximize ad impressions and click through rates even if it leads to a net decrease in Twitter use due to user dissatisfaction.
Secondly, the basis for building a lasting advertising network that benefits users should be innovation, not near-term monetization. Twitter is uniquely dependent on and responsible for the long-term health and value of the platform. Accordingly, a necessary focus of Promoted Tweets is to explore ways to create value for our users. Third party ad networks may be optimized for near-term monetization at the expense of innovating or creating the best user experience. We believe it is our responsibility to encourage creative product development and to curb practices that compromise innovation.
It is important to keep in mind that Twitter bears all the costs of maintaining the network, protecting the Tweet stream against spam, supporting user requests, and scaling the service. Indeed, Twitter will bear many of the support costs associated with any third-party paid Tweets, as Twitter receives support emails related to anything a user sees in a tweet stream. The third-party bears few of these costs by comparison.
Granted, as a non-advertiser, my opinion isn't exactly unbiased, but as a recreational user, I'm pretty happy about the announcement. Good for you, Twitter.
"Quiet Times," Dido
"Mediocre Bad Guys," Jack Johnson
"December Baby," Ingrid Michaelson
I realised that not only did I have to run out last night to #SoxUp, but my post was also getting a little long, so I figured I'd break the PubClub event into two posts. Feel free to read up on the first half before checking out this post.
After Mr. Goodman's case for Comcast, it was David Woodrow's turn to step up to the plate. He possibly had one of the best points of the evening: negative feedback is the best opportunity a brand has to step up. In the real world (or on social media sites focusing on consumer products such as Gather, Inc.), everyone is not going to love you, your product or your brand. People say not-so-nice things. If the product is of any worth, chances are other consumers will fight down a bad review or two. Alternatively, occasionally a brand does screw up and get called out on it. The best course of action? Not hiding behind wussy excuses, that's certain. Apologise sincerely, vow to make it up to the consumer and then deliver beyond expectations, perhaps? Sounds like a good way to build stronger brand loyalty to me!
Meagan Ellis was the one panelist who was narrating from an agency perspective. "Us agency folks have all had them," she began, "the client that is so uninteresting or small-scale that creating a Facebook fan page accomplishes nothing." Kel & Partners had a start-up that was, to put it politely, pretty boring. Traditional media wasn't interested in the product, and the Facebook fan page had maybe 50-some-odd members. Because the following for such a product didn't exist, Kel & Partners had to create one. Through Twitter, the PR team was able to find people who would be open to such a product, follow them, engage them in conversations, and finally draw them to the brand's own page. After attracting enough attention via new media, Kel & Partners were able to use those hits to turn heads within traditional media, and today, the product receives countless hits.
For Kaspersky Lab, jumping on the social media bandwagon involved a bit more hesitation: as an international company, staying consistent with community engagement across different cultures and timezones would require the efforts of more than one company representative. Jennifer Jewett pointed out that these people couldn't just be PR pros. They had to be social media-savvy. And eager. In fact, the latter two qualities far outweighed the first. Social media is a full-time gig when you're doing it for a company, so you'd better know what you're doing and have fun with it in the process. Rather than dragging the corporate communications team into the Twitter ranks, the company stumbled across some employees from a diverse assortment of departments who were already tweeting across the Interwebs about goings-on with the business. They realised that social media is restricted to no one. Through using Twitter, one formerly unknown Kaspersky employee was suddenly being quoted in major publications because he was able to respond to public queries instantly. And he enjoyed it. Why torture one employee with new responsibilities when another one has already taken them on voluntarily?
Most of what I heard at the event was material I had learned in school. However, it not only helps to be reminded every now and then, but it also strengthens the credibility of strategic social media usage when you see folks discussing the benefits in the real world. PubClub, thanks again.
The Fame, Lady Gaga
LP, Landon Pigg
Garden State, Various Artists
On Tuesday, the PubClub hosted yet another marvelous event: Social Media Case Studies. Of course, yours truly took one look at event title and signed up immediately. Once again, the panelists were all not only knowledgeable practitioners of social media, but delightful individuals. Below are the participants.
David Woodrow, Gather, Inc.
Jennifer Jewett, Kaspersky Lab Americas
Stacey Howe, New Balance
Meagan J. Ellis, Kel & Partners
Marc Goodman, Comcast
Dan Abdinoor, HubSpot (moderator)
While my last PubClub event keyed in on the benefits of LinkedIn as a networking tool, this one focused a bit more on Facebook and Twitter as complements to a marketing strategy. Our lovely moderator Dan Abdinoor of HubSpot, an inbound marketing agency, opened with a Seth Godin quote:
Conversations among members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not. Good marketing encourages the right sort of conversations.
While nothing new for me (or other social media enthusiasts in the audience), the quote is still one of the best to summarise why marketers and PR practitioners should give a hoot about social media as a necessary accessory in our professional repertoires. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head demanding that they create a Twitter account . . . but if they do, reaching out to their target audiences will be a heck of a lot easier. The better you know your targets, the more likely it will be to get them to listen to you.
More specific to Twitter, Dan offered a few pointers on maintaining a complete profile before turning the mic over to the panelists.
Complete your profile. No one cares what your name is. Okay, that's totally not true, but if you're trying to build a Twitter following, you better have more than just your name. Where are you located? What do you do? Do you have a life outside of what people pay you to do? Sure, you only have 160 characters to sum yourself up, but once you get the hang of tweeting, it's easy. For instance, here's what I have to say about myself on Twitter:
Public Relations BU Grad. Little and blonde. Occasionally witty. Enjoy beer, wine, food, music and dance. Available for hire.
Gets the point across, right? Give the Twittersphere a glimpse of what to expect upon following you.
Find people in your area of interest. If you're in public relations, chances are conversations with biochemists will be infinitely less interesting than with other PR practitioners. There are countless Twitter applications that allow you to search for people in your area, industry, and so-on and so-forth.
Say interesting and/or useful things. Unless you are a part of an exhibitionist muffin fetishist community, chances are few people will care about what kind of muffin you had for breakfast. Talking about the news in your industry, or about what your clients are doing, on the other hand, may resonate a bit more with audiences.
Don't auto-follow people back on Twitter. They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. Do you have any idea how many spam-bots are on Twitter? Make sure that folks who follow you are relevant to you before clicking that "Follow" button.
Each of the panelists shared his or her case of how social media was used to increase a brand's online presence. To discuss the cases themselves would turn this blog post into a novella, but I'll share the significant points from everyone, starting with Stacey Howe.
People have been talking for centuries; they're just doing it faster now. With the rise of social media, consumers have gained a direct line to the ears of businesses, something previously all but impossible. Through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, consumers can converse with one another about their experiences with a product or brand, what their thoughts were on said product or brand, and if they'd recommend it. If a business (like, say, New Balance) is smart, it will not only harvest this feedback and incorporate it into its marketing strategy, but it will also engage its audience through social media to better connect. As a consumer, wouldn't you be more encouraged to share your honest thoughts about a brand if you knew the people behind that brand were listening?
Marc Goodman piggy-backed off Stacey to talk about the benefits of real-time feedback in customer service. Comcast customers, are you familiar with @comcastcares? Imagine: you have a problem with your service, and you tweet about it to @comcastcares . . . and a real person gets back to you. Instantly. Wow, suddenly you don't find yourself cursing the existence of your cable provider! Seriously, though. It happens. Social media turns companies (especially customer service reps) into real people.
I'm off to #SoxUp, but I'll wrap up David, Meagan and Jennifer's points soon!
"Broadway," The Goo Goo Dolls
"Everything You Want," Vertical Horizon
"Hey Jealousy," Gin Blossoms
"December (1995)," Collective Soul
"Ants Marching," Dave Matthews Band
It was about 9.30 A.M. on a Tuesday morning, and I was on my way in to work, courtesy of our fabulous MBTA. Given the three espresso shots I had all but taken intravenously, it was hard not to glance at everyone within my line of sight, what with my caffeine-induced nervous twitch and all. What was also hard not to miss was that two thirds of the train would not have noticed if I had decided to shout obscenities: that majority was equipped with headphones, listening to podcasts, tunes and television episodes, totally lost to the world that was trying to stare them in the face.
Then I got to thinking about how much of life those people may have been missing because they were too busy listening to Lady Gaga. Okay, that wasn't my immediate next thought, but I eventually got there. Allow me to elaborate.
Sitting on my right was an attractive gentleman. He was attractive enough that the romantic in me kept hoping, "Oh, wouldn't it just be so lovely if he had some reason to strike up a conversation with me?" The romantic in me would then be beaten into a depressed submission by the realist in me who would point out that strangers just don't talk to each other any more, not when they have the luxury of staying in touch with their friends via their smart phones.
Then I got to thinking about how much of life those people may have been missing because they were too busy listening to Lady Gaga.
We live in an age of "iWant it now and therefore iHave it now." Social media is truly an awesome thing, allowing us to access anything we want, whenever we want, but at what price? We are sacrificing a kind of uncontrollable spontaneity that we experience from interacting with the unknown outside of our iComfortZones. We don't much talk to the person sitting next to us on the train any more, or at the bar, or waiting for the bus, or in line at the grocery store. Instead, we are texting our friends, telling them how bored we are in said train, bar, bus station or grocery store.
The pretty man sitting next to me was one of the few passengers who was not wearing headphones that morning, and as a result, both he and I bore witness to the T driver's eloquence. We had been standing by for 15 minutes or so, and finally were graced with this gem over the train's intercom:
"Once again passengers, there is a disabled train in front of us. We're just waiting for it to move ahead of the platform so we can uh . . ."
"Uh . . ."
We continued to wait.
"Uh . . . yeah . . ."
He and I laughed. We were the only ones on the train snickering like the schoolchildren in the back of the class. And then something crazy happened: we exchanged words. It wasn't anything life-altering - just something like "Oh my God, that was brilliant!" - but it was enough to remind me of the fact that yes, there is life outside of the iWorld.
"Have You Made Up Your Mind," Paul Weller
"Here With Me," Dido
"Toxic," Yael Naïm
"The Sweetest Love," Robin Thicke
"Symbol In My Driveway," Jack Johnson
"Holiday Inn," Elton John
"Roll If Ya Fall," Barefoot Truth
"Don't Look Away," Joshua Radin
"Joan," Timmy Curran
"Hide and Seek," Imogen Heap
"Vanilla Twilight," Owl City
For those of you who aren't familiar, Twitter is "a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices" (twitter.com). As one Tweeter put it (whom I can't remember, so unfortunately I can't credit him or her), "If blogs, Facebook statuses and chat rooms were to have an orgy, Twitter would be the love child." I couldn't agree more. Below is a screenshot of my Twitter Feed:
I love Twitter - as you may notice from that little section on the right - and find it useful for getting PR news, Boston news, friend news, promoting my blog and friends' events, and chatting with my friends. However, occasionally all the Tweets I receive can be a bit overwhelming (as one Twitter glossary phrases it, "Twitterhea"), so I'll use TweetDeck to filter mass Tweets relevantly. I was not thrilled when the new Facebook homepage took on a similar look:
I have decided that there's too much going on with Facebook for this layout to be a good idea. For starters, I don't care about all of my friends on Facebook enough to know about each of their updates (and considering some of the mundane things I post on Facebook, I'm pretty sure many of my Facebook friends could say the same of me). For the entree, Facebook has so many more features than Twitter. I can't even remember what the old Facebook looked like before the News-Feed debuted, but I do recall that few users considered it an improvement. However, at least the News Feed offered updates that may have been more interesting than "Chris is buying socks... finally." I could see what events my friends were attending, who had added a new mutual friend, and other stalkeresque such-like. I doubt Facebook will revert back to the News Feed, but perhaps it would consider an option to filter updates, because, really, who cares about that guy who sat in the second row in freshman year biology that no one ever actually spoke to? For Pete's sake, he claims to have lost a contact lens!
Today, I decided to toodle through TechCrunch and discovered that yet another social networking site had fallen in-line with the Twitter doctrine: FriendFeed. I don't use FriendFeed, so I can't comment extensively, but it looks like it could be TwitterExtra:
Come on! It doesn't even limit you to strict, 140-character copy! And what's worse, according to TechCrunch, the page updates constantly. Again, it looks like FriendFeed offers too much to benefit from the Twitter layout, but not having an account, I can't comment with confidence. TechCrunch posted a video of the "short version" of the demo they saw, but when I saw that it was 17 minutes, I decided that I had better things to do. However, I will post it below for those of you who have the time and interest.
In the meantime, I have to say that Twitter, although subject to the sarcastic criticism of folks like John Stewart (unfortunately I can't remember the episode where he poked fun so I can't link to it), is on the rise. Less and less frequently do I receive the response "What the [expletive] is a Twitter?" when I mention it, and more and more often do I see and hear it referenced on the rare occasions when I'm near a television set. And now, it's even leaking into other social networking sites. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the up and coming social networking deity:
"The Melee," Beastie Boys
"Drink Whiskey and Shut Up," Brian Setzer
"Falling In Love At a Coffee Shop," Landon Pigg
"In the Light," Led Zeppelin
"The Boy's Doin' It (Carl Craig Remix)," Carl Craig & Hugh Masekela
"Standin' Round Crying," Eric Clapton
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," The Rolling Stones
"Zoot Suit Riot," Cherry Poppin' Daddies
"Plastic Stars," Freezepop
"Closer," Joshua Radin
"The Ballad of John and Yoko," The Beatles
Fun fact: I didn't realise that linking back to TechCrunch's post would earn me a spot on the site (if perhaps only briefly). Check it out!
Don't worry: I promise I won't let it get to my head (I know it was automatically generated). This time.
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