Do We Agree Too Much Online? Yes We Do- I Mean, No We Don’t

I have been noticing lately some handwringing, public and private, over the fact that social media marketing and PR folks do nothing but agree with each other in blog posts comments, and on Twitter et al. Nothing could be closer to the truth.

This cohort is a friendly bunch, all  trying to promote social media as the communications wave of the future. I agree that healthy debate would be a lot more interesting, but I would stop short of disagreeing for disagreement’s sake. There are a few gainsayers out there, and snarky ripostes tend to degrade into name-calling and outright trolling. That’s not healthy debate.

The funny thing is, even when we take issue with one of the marketing leaders, such as in the recent Seth Godin Brands in Public controversy, the result was a chorus of people agreeing that Seth was all of a sudden a  bad guy (I abstained).

I asked on Twitter for impressions of this problem, and I got a general, um, agreement: agreetoomuch

So, what do I think? We sure do seem to agree a lot. We definitely could stimulate debate more. Take, for example, the recent Washington Post social media guidelines that people are railing against. My straight reading of them doesn’t reveal some sinister plot to stifle personal expression, but an attempt to dictate common sense to people who have essentially loaned their “personal brands” to the company (not that there isn’t potential for the fears to be borne out). Geez, I can’t even disagree without mitigating myself a little.

Well, enough of that- you can see how difficult it is to disagree. I do urge myself and others to take a few swings, and not be afraid to start a healthy debate- and in turn not to be bothered or offended by dissent.

However, here are a few parting shots in defense of agreement:

  • Why focus on the negative stuff? I’d rather highlight stuff I want people to see, wouldn’t you? when I worked for Christian Science Monitor Radio, it would occasionally bother me that we did mostly positive movie reviews- but we only did one a week, why bug people with the crap when you can drive them to the good stuff? Still, some bad movies were worth the debate…
  • We are a collegial group. It’s ok to reinforce each other and build each other up. I know, Kum-Bay-Yah, whatever…
  • As mentioned above, disagreeing for the sake of it borders on trolling; why bother?
  • Is it such a bad thing to agree?

That said, the responsibility is on us (us=anyone who reads, comments, and posts) to bring up issues and debate them intelligently. How about Geoff Livingston when he takes on the notion of “personal brand?” Is he just shooting for controversy, or starting an interesting debate (answer: both). How about some more stuff like that?

What do you think? Do you agree?

(That’s not a trick question– or maybe it is)

Social Media Top 5: Undead Embargoes, & Death by iPhone

Embargoes Are Dead (Again)- So Says TechCrunch

Michael Arrington has some points in that some big companies (like Google) have finally succumbed to no-embargo news, but to declare embargoes dead on TechCrunch is to declare them dead– well, on TechCrunch. They will live on in other places, PR folks.

Oh- and if you have to periodically keep declaring embargoes dead, maybe they’re really zombies. Hire Woody Harrelson to finish the job.

Pimping My Friends Dept: Launches

A heartfelt congratulations to Laura Fitton for launching, fittingly positioned as the app store for Twitter. It’s great to see friends do well, and I have been rooting for Laura forever (ok, about two years or so). Please consider my extreme bias when I tell you that is the best Web site. Ever. (end of review)

(EDIT: Of course, Laura has a whole team behind her now that deserves a ton of credit- bad of me not to mention that in first draft))

B.L. Ochman: Six Reasons Companies Are Still Afraid of Social Media

B.L. frequently comes out with great numbered lists (like “10 Reasons to Blog/Not to Blog”, etc.), and this is no exception. You must read the post to get all the reasoning, but here are the six reasons, with my comments:

  1. Employees will waste time with social media. Or, they’ll network and communicate, adding value. You’re a smart manager, you can separate the wheat from the chaff.
  2. Haters will damage our brand. Yes, they do it everywhere. The ones at social media are easier to find, confront and convert (where appropriate and possible).
  3. We’ll lose control of the brand. I differ from B.L.’s statement that message control is an illusion, but– you really lose control if you don’t participate.
  4. Social media requires a real budget! It’s not really cheap, or free. It’s pretty cheap to experiment. And anyway, why should you have a “social media” budget? Bake it into your departments, and costs are shared among marketing, sales, IT, etc- whoever touches it– which should be most of the company, like it or not.
  5. They’re scared they’ll be sued. If you’re stupid enough to get sued in social media, you’re stupid enough to get sued anyway. Social media isn’t the problem.
  6. They’re scared of giving away corporate secrets or that information on social networks will affect the stock price. See above about participating. Misinformation spreads more freely without you.

Goldman Worried About PR Ramifications of Bonuses

Why is the “bank’s HR department is scrambling to come up with a solution?” (according to the NY Post). Did they not plan for this? Did it all of a sudden dawn on the bank that that maybe big payouts will be a PR problem? Gah! Surely it’s not that simple.

A New Way to Die: Augmented Reality

I have been hearing lately about iPhone apps that, knowing where you are in a city, overlap the maps with pertinent information about what’s inside buildings, etc (hey, there’s a Starbucks in that mall! How would I ever have found it without my app? But I kid…). Is it too morbid to suggest a pool on the day the first person gets hits by a bus because their nose is buried in thee Augmented iPhone screen? Gosh, I sound like an old fart.

A Personal Appeal for Bone Marrow Donors

If you have been to this blog before, you probably know that I have worked hard to raise money for my participation in the Pan-Mass Challenge– to fight cancer. Both inspired and impressed, I have also been a fan of Drew Olanoff’s clever “BlameDrewsCancer” campaign, conceived in the face of his own cancer diagnosis.

In the course of my fundraising, I have declined to name any people or people close to me with cancer, though there have been (and continues to be) some. However, I did want to highlight the plight of a friend, and with that remind people of something else they can do- consider becoming a bone marrow donor.

Janelle James, niece of my oldest friend, Bruce James (literally my oldest, we lived across the street from each other from the day we were born), and daughter of his older brother David, is facing a fight with leukemia that requires a bone marrow transplant. If you happen to be in the Lawrence, Massachusetts or Derry, New Hampshire area, you can join the marrow registry during a drive on September 29 (see flyer below), and potentially help Janelle or someone like her.

If you are elsewhere, there is information at on joining the marrow registry, as well as information about what is involved. It’s a bit more of a commitment than writing a check, but to save a life…

Will you think about it?

By the way, the Derry, NH info is below, but Lawrence time and location for the 9/29  Marrow registry is:

Techprint Inc., 137 Marston Street, Lawrence, MA 01841
Time: 1:00PM – 2:30PM, Tuesday, September 29th


September is Hunger Action Month

While I tend to write about social media here, which is part of my work in public relations, regular visitors to this blog know that I get involved in causes as well, particularly the Pan-Mass Challenge. In fact, it’s fair to say I get you involved as well, based on the response to my annual call for pledges.

I’d like to be better about spotlighting other causes– especially those that use social media to spread the word. One such cause is Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month. Using Twitter, promoting the main site and partner sites through outlets like Facebook, and using a good old fashioned direct appeal campaign to bloggers, Hunger Action Month is spending September trying to raise awareness of child hunger in the United States, a worry increased by the recession, and perhaps one that shouldn’t be far from our minds in any economy.

Thanks to friend Sarah Wurrey (Feeding America is her client) for pointing me to the site. I had a poke ’round and found it was very easy to send an appeal to my members of Congress to do something about child hunger (yes, I read it before hitting “send”).

Have a look for yourself and report back what you think:

As for me, I’m particularly interested in how Feeding America does in terms of quantifiable results. I will be sure to shake Sarah down for some info.

*Not to be ignored; the acronym for “Hunger Action Month” is H.A.M. Clever.

Social Media Top 5: No Experts Need Apply, Facebook Owns YOU, and PR Running the Show

Don’t Call Me an Expert (or I’ll Tell Geoff Livingston)

I can always count on Geoff to call BS on people in the social media space getting high on our own fumes (just ask him about your Personal Brand. I dare ya). in his latest, he takes on the idea of calling someone (especially him) a “Social Media Expert.” That’s not a new argument, though conventional wisdom(?) says it’s ok for someone else to call you an expert (or guru). Geoff doesn’t want to be associated with the term, as it denotes the thousands of people dubbing themselves “experts” include a multitude of “snake oil salesmen” (no reflection on certain friends who show up on that search page, but you get the idea). I’m down with that sentiment. Not that anyone calls me an expert, but I’m not comfortable with the burdens of expert-dom myself.

Geoff also objects to being called a PR professional. I can see in that his job is probably not strictly PR the way he positions himself (I of course position myself squarely in that camp as an employee of the PR agency SHIFT Communications). He also objects on the grounds that he might get lumped in with the legions of bad, spammy PR professionals. I don’t think that attitude solves any problems– for me, anyway. I’m happy to stay behind and help clean up the reputational mess left behind by our less admirable colleagues. It’s our burden…

In Soviet Russia Facebook Owns YOU!

OK, that was a tortured piece of text to get in a Yakov Smirnoff reference, but Boss Todd Defren (speaking of working for SHIFT) made a nice point about marketing on Facebook (or any other not-your site); you are on Facebook’s domain, and are limited in what you can do and take out of it. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective marketer on Facebook, but it’s great to keep in mind that you don’t really own your environment when you work on Facebook.

This thinking is a nice companion to the recent reminders (or warnings) that your stuff is on the cloud, and could go away without warning.

Does PR Have the Proverbial Seat at the Table?

If this AdAge article has it right, then- increasingly- yes. Bonus: social media is the reason. I would be curious to know if any of you have seen this in action– is PR getting an increased role in corporate marketing?

Updating the Presidential Records Act for Social Media

Reading this blog post, it seems that social media (including email, so maybe that’s not the right term) is covered under the 1978 law (I believe many cities have similar laws, Mr. Mayor). Nevertheless, they are trying to make their archiving systems more explicitly compatible for the new forms of communication.

Will laws being written today regarding particular technologies still be relevant in 30 years? I wonder.

Also interesting:

The White House is not archiving all content or activity across social networks where we have a page – nor do we want to.  The only content archived is what is voluntarily published on the White House’s official pages on these sites or what is voluntarily sent to a White House account.

Referring back to the Facebook item above, that seems fair, but will people cry foul if White House communications on outside channels are not preserved? Will Congress even know the difference?

Twitteleh (Twitter For Your Jewish Mother)

I don’t care how many people have posted this Twitter parody. I don’t care that Rosh Hashanah has ended and I’m late publishing this post. It’s still funny and I’m putting it here.

A belated L’shanah tovah, y’all. (HT: Mashable):

The Message Control Myth


I was listening to the Quick-n-Dirty podcast (, hosted by friends Jennifer Leggio and Aaron Strout (also a client), when their guest, Michael Brito of Intel, said something I completely agree with.

"You don’t lose control of your message if you participate (in social media)."

I have long regarded the idea of "no message control" in social media as a myth. Michael’s point was that you lose control if you don’t step in and take part. I go further, saying you only really lose control if your message is bad and people reject it.

Where do you stand on message control?

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Trust Agents- Works for Me

I have been shy about reviewing many social media books because I know many of the authors (I’m biased) and often find the books are full of things I am already doing (e.g. My head is too far up my own social networking portal). Danny Brown has a nice post with similar sentiments:

Trust Agents is different- in that I felt I got something out of it despite its meeting both above criteria. I know Chris Brogan quite well and co-author Julien Smith a little, and the book is nice for those figuring out how to use social media for personal and business advantage.

Me? I took what I knew of Chris from the past few years, as well as my own experiences, and read the book thinking of ways I can improve how I conduct myself online- to show more value to others. I guess the key is the absence of tools discussions and the more personal examples they use.

Trust Agents, to my surprise, works on multiple levels; I wonder if other social media “veterans” feel the same way.

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Social Media Top 5: Blame-A-Thon, Facebook vs. TechCrunch (Please Let There be More) & Good PR Stuff

blame_drews_cancerI #blamedrewscancer for missing most of the “Blame-A-Thon”

Not long ago, Drew Olanoff, a familiar and active member of the online community, confronted his newly-diagnosed cancer with the humor- and bravery- that i can only hope I would have. He decided to turn blaming his cancer- for everything- into a meme, resulting in a Web-site: Moreover, he recieved the support of the Livestrong foundation (Lance Armstrong’s charity), and eventually put on a 24-hour “Blame-A-Thon” on September 9th. It’s been tough sledding as of this writing to find out how much money the event raised to fight cancer, but it was definitely in the many  thousands of dollars– for a one-day event. Fantastic.

Facebook PR Tweaks TechCrunch

As a PR person, I often watch in amusement the games TechCrunch plays with the journalistic process– the breaking of embargoes (and flat-out saying they will break them, promises or no) being one of the latest. Facebook decided to have some fun with them, planting a fake story about a useless new application (the ability to fax photos), which TechCrunch ran with. Of course, Facebook finally let them in on the joke. I’m looking forward to the revenge- it should get creative- both sides should have more fun with this.

But This Innocuous (?) Facebook Feature Seems to Be the Real Thing.

So, now you can “@” reply people on Facebook and the recipient will see the mentions? Good idea. The biggest hurdle is one I’m not sure they can overcome. That is, many people post Twitter messages to Facebook. Many people also have Twitter handles that are separate from their First_space_Last name format (probably just about everyone). So, a Twitter “@” reply or mention that is posted to Facebook won’t alert you in Facebook because it is referring to your Twitter handle and NOT Facebook. Get it? Maybe there will be a workaround, if there is any demand.

Dan York Explains How to Roll Out an Announcement

Why do the best posts about PR read like simple common sense the third or fourth time through? Dan lays out simply the way to put out news in this social media world. Yes, a press release is still part of the package. Other elements are old hat, but we must now remember there are new easy chanenels with which to share them.

Most important is that there are so many different channels– the press release being one of them– to share your news. PR folks should pilfer some version of this post for a blueprint for training.

Panel Weighs in on the Future of News (Cincinnati Enquirer)

This is a remarkably short article, that doesn’t have much in the way of discussing solutions to the newspaper business woes. But it does have an interesting quote from a blogger named Jason McGlone:

“Charge money to me to set up my own newspaper.”

What I like about this quote? It gets to something that might be worthwhile– a custom news source. My thought was that a worthwhile predict would draw from multitudes of sources– hand-picked by the reader, and perhaps changing the aggregation and syndication model and employment patterns of journalists over time. I don’t know, but it was an interesting thought.

Lifestreams? Feh. Life Branches? Better


Alternate title: Why I Really Hate Lifestreaming.

I have written recently about my skepticism towards the term "lifestreaming." My main beef? I think the trend of everything for everybody in one stream of info is going exactly in the opposite direction that it should.

I allow for variations in "lifestreaming’s" definition, but that is what it conveys to me.

The trend? A crude example: I used to put my entire Twitter stream through Facebook. That, to me, is a lifestream, but some Facebook friends objected. They don’t want everything. So, I found tools that worked to separate the messages I send to the two different networks. There are even tools to divide groups within those networks, though todate I have been too lazy to use them. Someday…

So what we need are not lifestreams but life branches; different channels with content for each segment of our audiences. Would that be so hard? I hope not.

What do you think?

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The One Reason to Focus on Tools


Often, social media experts say "don’t talk about the tools; it’s not about the tools." Of course, it’s true; to understand social media, one needs to understand communications, which transcends the ever-changing sets of tools.

So why do a bunch of us still obsess about tools, breathlessly jumping on the latest Twidget or Facebooger and declaiming its virtues (led by our sometimes silent cries of "first!")?

That’s easy. It’s because we’re communications professionals. Even when it’s not our job, it’s in our nature to geek out about new ways to communicate.

So go ahead and talk about tools. Just remember their place, their context in the worlds of your clients.

Also, I promise not to be too snarky about those who obsess about tools. Maybe.

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