Social Media Top 5: DM Spam, Infographic Pain, & Naughty Words

Blogworld: Spam is Spam No Matter Who Sends It

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Blogworld Expo in New York City this week, moderating a panel on social media in the financial services industry. I also attended the opening keynote, featuring author and winer Gary Vaynerchuk, former Kodak CMO and current, um, marketing e-book something or other Jeffrey Hayzlett, and author H.P. Mallory. One moment that stood out for me was when the subject of promoting products via unsolicited direct message on Twitter came up. Hayzlett defended, somewhat, his experiment with doing that to promote his e-book. I received one of those DM’s a few months back and was pretty shocked to get such a piece of spam from someone so well-known in the marketing industry. When Hayzlett’s defense was that he received only 18 negative comments about the spam, Vaynerchuk, to his credit, said “That you know of.”

Applause moment.

And yeah, I mentioned Gary Vee 2 weeks in a row. Complain in the comments. To make up for it, I’ll add that I refuse to stand in line for book autographs; that’s a big “whatever” for me. So I took Gary Vee’s book, which was given to all attendees, and had Wendy Piersall, author of the upcoming “Mom Blogging for Dummies,” sign it instead. She’ll need the practice as I’m sure the book will do well.



Infographics Are Way The Heck Out of Control

Similar to my recent rant about overused stock images and their inability to make me respect your writing, I would also argue that making infographics that try to cram too much into a small space– or even worse, take up too much space- disrespects the reader. I think infographics should be simple, to the point, and easy to digest. To extract more detail, write more in the blog post or a white paper.

Geoff Livingston goes on about this at length. Bravo. My only beef is that I wouldn’t describe overwrought infographics as porn, as I don’t think porn is designed to make people angry, give them seizures or destroy their eyesight.

s.i.t.e  (stick in the eye)

Flickr photo by guydonges

The Twitterverse 2.0

The true universe is unknowable.

Yeah, I can easily talk about the Twitterverse, but there are several other examples, sadly too easy to find. Danny Brown pointed me to a blog post discussing the role of swearing in professional blogs, but I couldn’t scroll past the darn infographic to read it for fear of developing tendonitis in my trackpad fingers. Good heavens, what a clusterfudge of info-filth.

About the Swearing

Speaking of Danny Brown’s dilemma; people who know me know I know all the words, and use them (knowingly). I tend not to use them here or on my public Twitter and Facebook feeds (except in rare instances and occasionally by accident), but that’s a choice. Am I offended if people use language in a professionally-focused post? Not really. The words are now in the boardrooms, conference calls and certainly at the water coolers. Use your judgment and be prepared for people to be offended, but it’s out there.

Consarn it.

Twitter Buys Tweetdeck; So What?

Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research says Twitter will favor its own apps. Will other developers cry foul if that happens? Maybe, but so what? An “open API” is as open as its owner makes it, and no more so (accounting for the possibility of legal contracts and such between owners and developers, I suppose). So will we get a better experience on Tweetdeck? A more consistent one as Josh says, sure. For advertisers and marketers, consistent experience across multiple platforms makes Twitter more attractive, not only for marketing but for plain old business use.

Does it mean other worthy tools like CoTweet, HootSuite and Seesmic get short shrift? Not if they continue to differentiate or simply add their own value. I don;t pretend to know if that is about to get more difficult.

Also interesting, is Josh’s mention of the “Splinternet,” meaning that the so-called open world of apps is turning into one of consolidation by companies. Natural progression, isn’t it?

Me? I’m still waiting for the day when Tweetdeck loads on my Macbook in a timely fashion…

…still waiting. Maybe that will change.

Did The Onion Take Over All Things D?

With a headline like “Apple Store Customers Satisfied Even if They Didn’t Buy Anything,” one has to wonder.

Kenneth Haslam: 1934-2011

Last Saturday (May 21), we said goodbye to my father, Kenneth Haslam, who passed away May 14 after fighting cancer for a year. My brothers and I eulogized him, as did several people in the congregation who spoke extemporaneously. A great tribute to a man I already miss. I would like to share my part of the eulogy here:

Before I add my own words about Dad, I wanted to acknowledge one of the new ways many of us communicate – Facebook – and just a few of the things our extended friends and family shared with us there

“It may sound cliche but your dad had a wonderful life. Thoughts and prayers for you and your family.”

“Your father obviously was a wonderful man to have raised you and getting all these awesome legacy posts.”

“May you find some laughter in the memories, amid the tears. Both are the measure of a good life and a loved man.”

“The testiment of ones life is measured by many deeds – but none more so than the love, support, confidence, sense of imagination, adventure, spirit, work ethic, respect, compassion & drive one instills in his family & friends around him. Having never met your father, but knowing you – I can say he was a great man.”

It took me more thinking than it should have to come up with my own words for Dad. I should bring up specific memories of father-son moments, a catch in the park, or some other bonding, but I’m going to leave that to my brothers John and Rob, who are much older than I am (tell me more about the 60s, brothers). What I keep coming back to instead are the things that live on in our Dad. The things he instilled in us, and we now carry with us. I can sum that up in three words:

Family, Quiet and Funny.


It’s not just that he was father to five sons and very involved in our lives, or that he remained close to extended family like Aunt Cathy and Uncle Dave, Aunt Maggie, Vicky, and even across the pond with David and Lynn Cruickshank and the rest. It’s that he always had a keen sense of where he came from- which we also consider to be where we came from. The son of an Englishman and a Scotswoman (which in a past age would be considered a mixed-race family), we were always keenly aware of our Scottish roots in particular. There is no childhood memory of Dad without picturing him in the Clan MacPherson pipe band uniform, marching in some parade or at the Hopkinton fair–a constant visual and at times painfully loud musical reminder of our own Scottish heritage.

It’s no coincidence that Rob has long taken an interest in genealogy, that John, Rob and Bill all followed Dad into the pipe band (they had no sheet music for trombone so I stayed out of it). Nor did I give even a second thought to choosing Scotland as part of my first-ever overseas trip, being sure to visit family landmarks such as Stirling and Aberdeen while I was there, thanks to Lynn. I still want to get to Bolton, England where I expect the name “Haslam” to be greeted with round after round of free drinks, though it may just as likely be met with a shrug by the many other Haslams who I assume still live there. And that would be ok by me.


Dad was nothing if not quiet. If he got loud it was unusual, and we paid attention, but it would take a lot to get him riled up at home, which with 5 boys was a strange place to expect any quiet (I do distinctly remember a shoe flying by at one point, no doubt directed at one of my noisier brothers ;)). I want to distinguish, however, between quiet and shyness, something that took me much of my early life to figure out, but that I try to live by now. Dad was not solitary, a shrinking violet or agoraphobe. He was just quiet, he didn’t talk a lot or loudly. From him I learned the value of listening and observing, and eventually learned that not being loud was a virtue, and did not preclude being recognized as a valuable and active part of the community, in the neighborhood, in the church, in the band and elsewhere.

To some extent I think the five of us inherited that trait, though we all express (or don’t express it) in different ways. I’m glad I learned to accept being quiet as an attribute.


I saved my favorite for last– Dad’s sense of humor. We all inherited his warped sense of comedy, much to the annoyance of our spouses (well, I can speak for myself). But pair an ability to find things around him funny with Dad’s quiet nature and you get small outbursts of what I think is the most brilliant comedy there is. Where did it come from? It might be 6:15 am on a school day and Dad simply standing in our door way saying “Get out of bed!” in his trademark drone. Was it his preference for British comedies? It was Dad, after all, who turned us on to the likes of Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and the Goodies– intelligent yet obscure and silly humor that makes me see what made Dad tick.

Dad’s sense of humor was offbeat, and I loved it.

Perhaps the essence of Dad’s humor was the ability to burst any balloon by seeing the absurdity of any situation and either meeting it with a deadpan comment or shutting it down with blunt common sense. He has the ability to deconstruct any situation without offending anyone. Even near the end, our dear friend Emily Leavitt, who helped Dad and Mom so much when he needed in-home care, did not escape. She sent us a transcript of their exchange, but I can’t do it justice. Suffice to say that Dad’s ever-evolving requests for coffee resulted in more laughter than sadness for us.

Is dad gone? No. He passed his best traits down to his imperfect copies. We’re here.


It has been a tremendously tough year for our families, with my wife and now me losing our fathers to cancer. This has made this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge ride all the more meaningful. I look forward to riding in August, and am still accepting sponsorship donations in any amount at 100% of all donations go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Thanks to all of you who have and continue to support me!

Social Media Top 5: Trust the Clowns & More Blather

Trust for Trust’s Sake? I Don’t Trust That Notion

There has been a lot of talk about Trust in social media circles over the last few years. I agree that trust is important in business (not just social media- let’s stop isolating broad concepts, shall we?), but does a company try to engender trust simply for trust’s sake? I don’t think so, and don’t think they should either.

The latest airing of that topic came on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation podcast interview with Don Peppers of the Peppers and Rogers Group. Peppers and Rogers popularized the notion of “One to One” marketing with their book “The 1:1 Future” more than 15 years ago, and is highly respected in the field; the book was an early influence on me.  When I heard Peppers talk on the podcast about companies’ need to build trust, however, I waited in vain for that other show to drop– that companies build trust in order to get more revenue from us. Just have my trust? Fine, but not if it doesn’t prompt me to buy. This kum-bay-yah unicorn stuff isn’t free. It’s ok to sell me stuff. If I trust you, I’ll buy more, and that’s why you should be looking for that trust


So, is personalization on the Internet limiting our world view by only showing us things with which we have affinity, or is it a better engine for serendipity and discovery? It’s remarkable to see people argue hard when both are right (are wrong). So the answer for personalization and the dangers of the limited worldview? It takes me back to the “responsibility of the audience,” meaning that some people will only take in one side no matter what, while others will always explore. Partisan, reality-challenged talk radio existed well before Facebook. Perhaps it’s not social media/personalization’s fault.


Chris Brogan clowning it up :)

Photo by Eric Skiff (Chris, I Kid!)

Gary Vee: Send in the Clowns and Let it Ride

Gary Vaynerchuk made a few waves when he said in a Techcrunch interview that “99.5% od social media experts are clowns.” Why would people get offended? Are they not used to Gary’s hyperactive hyperbole? I would only take issue with his use of the word “clown,” as his act can seem a bit clownish, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (exhausting, maybe). There are plenty of other words, but to the shock of some of my friends I won’t print them here. Gary felt he needed to explain the comment. I don;t think that was necessary. Let people be offended. The people with nothing to fear from such comments won’t mind.


Tooling on Social Media Experts

I enjoy Justin Kownacki’s rants against Social Media Expert laziness and complacency. I also love Christopher Penn bludgeoning common sense into our brains. Put the two together (in separate posts, don’t get too excited), and you have satire and sense about how to be a social media expert, with the bonus that one point makes each list (naturally, it’s the saw about using numbered lists, which I agree is both trite and useful– geez, look what I’m doing with these “Top 5” posts)

Another Victim of Multiple Twitter Accounts

I balance personal and client Twitter accounts, and keep a healthy fear of posting to the wrong account someday. So far, I have managed to avoid doing this. How hard can it be, really?

*For the record, I can’t deal with the blathering either, though it’s not limited to Fox

Social MEdia Top 5: Game Over, Evil PR, Scoville Burnout

Game Over

Flickr Photo by Rockman of Zymurgy

Gamification and Game Mechanics

I am getting a little tired– ok, I was instantly tired when the word surfaced– of the application of “gamification” to everything new in social media. In most cases, I see gaming as more of a gimmick. Did the idea of becoming “mayor” attract you to Foursquare? Probably. But why did you stay? Did you stay? At some point there needs to be more. The rush to “gamify” troubles me some because it’s an empty vessel if you base your product’s popularity on this element.

Unless you are selling a game.

Death of the checkin?

Gamification is linked with a lot of the location-based services, in fact the LBS’s are probably the source of this new trend. Which brings me to the concept of the checkin. some time ago, we were treated to a ReadWriteWeb article declaring 2011 to be “The Year the Checkin Died.”

Pause to remember that I consider declaring the death of anything in this space to be the height of idiocy.

But more to the point: the checkin is the most interesting part! It’s the mechanism that powers LBS, not the other way around. It’s location that doesn’t matter so much- you can check in to things that are not places. What about events? (LBS covers that in a way). What about actions? In fact, newer startups like are introducing the concept of checkins for things you do, rather than places you are.

From a broader perspective, isn’t a Tweet or Facebook status update actually a checkin?

I would argue that the checkin is not dead, it’s actually a fundamental part of the social web. Yeah, these underlying mechanisms get a bad rap, just as underlying technologies do (how’s RSS doing? Still alive? Yep.)

Secrets and Lies, PR Edition

By the time I get to writing about this, friends and industry colleagues have already spilled much e-ink over the smear campaign on Google that PR agency Buron-Marsteller tried to conduct on behalf of Facebook. My perspective as a longtime PR agency guy; I have been lucky enough to stay away from this shadier side of PR, though I know it exists (and I know some folks I know expressed dismay that others were shocked that this thing goes on). I  generally express discomfort at these types of campaigns, but good ones are conducted out in the open. Make yourself known to your target, and be unassailable in your argument (that, certainly, is the hard part, especially when it comes to Facebook and privacy issues, admittedly).

While I do not like the subterfuge, I can see the appeal in spearing a competitor, and have been in the position of testing a client’s willingness to challenge a competitor – but publicly, of course.

Quora Dances on the Line Between Content Credibility and :Promotional Spam

I’ll admit to eyeing Quora, the question and answers site, with bemused detachment. I just didn’t feel like playing the game (no, it’s not a game in the sense stated above). One feature I liked, even though it could be annoying to some posters, is the policing of content to ensure high-quality questions and answers and limiting the self-promotion and spam that plagues other groups and Question/Answer sites. You can argue whether or not it works, but it’s a noble idea.

So- does the news that Quora will allow people to pimp their clients and other companies with which they have (disclosed) relationships mean that users are freer to discuss content they are familiar with due to those relationships, or does it open the floodgates to self-promotional spam. I begrudgingly bet on the latter, but hope for the former.

Scoville: Adoption to Burnout, Approximately 23 Minutes

Sure, we get bombarded with social network tools, sites and products. Sure, we check them all out. Sometimes, we opt out in the face of the tool’s popularity and perceived relevance (like me with Quora). Sometimes, the initial deluge from a tool overwhelms what value the tool might offer. My friend Adam Cohen felt that way about Scoville, a service built on top of Foursquare that is supposed to be geared to help you find one great place a week (but can’t seem to secure its own URL despite having a relatively obscure name- or is that name Robert Scoble link-bait?)

[blackbirdpie id=”68666033526943744″]

Social Media Top 5: The Return

Five Fingers?

Photo by Imageo on Flickr

My Social Media Top Five posts are back!

Did you miss them? I don’t care. As it turns out, I did.

I stopped doing the Social Media Top 5 for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t think the posts were meaty enough, at least not consistently
  • I had other things to do (like work for clients)
  • I was probably entertaining myself more than any readers I might get by chance (maybe I’m wrong there)
  • I wanted to write single-topic posts that had more to say (circle back to bullet #1)

The problem is that, while I did write some posts I was proud of– in fact every single one in the interim was pretty good by my own standards, and got good comments– i wrote a lot fewer than I really would like to publish.

Is it important for me to have a personal blog? It is in that I continue to want to understand blogging and other social media and continue to put that experience to use for clients and colleagues at Voce Communications. It’s more important that if I do want to have one, I publish more regularly. So here goes…

1) Owning your stuff… again

There have been a few stories lately that remind us how little we ultimately control social media channels, unless we host them ourselves. The recent Tumblr/Zephoria trademark flap is one example, with Tumblr removing a blog from its original Tumblr URL due to a complaint from a company using the same name. Forget the trademark issue- the fact that Tumblr could make that blog disappear with the flick of a switch should make you ask yourself: Can that happen to me? Do I own and control my content and how people access it? Do I care enough to make sure that doesn’t happen?

And yes, this applies to Facebook, Twitter and other content channels.

Other examples are out there every day: did you opt in to the new ownership of your Delicious bookmarks? ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick says you should (I did).

2) Stories and Questions Versus Bombardment

I saw a few smart or at least interesting posts about how to “engage” (Yeah, I’m sick of that word too) rather than bombard:

In one, Facebook Sponsored Stories apparently are more effective than plain old ads on Facebook. It makes sense that something that brings in the context of Facebook activity rather than just trying to force intrusive relevance would work. Does anyone have their own anecdotes in this regard?

Another, from Social Media Explorer, I will sum up by saying simply: “Ask questions, don’t just push content.” If you want responses (responses are answers, right?) you need to ask questions. Call for response. I have seen this work time and time again.

3) World Events and Social Media Lessons (Shut Up Already)

When Osama Bin Laden was killed, friends quickly laid bets as to when the first “Social Media Lessons” posts surrounding Bin Laden or his killing would pop up. Regrettably, it did not take long. Those of us in the bubble are too eager to drink the silly juice and jump on how you can take social media lessons from this or that world event. I’m not going to side with folks that turn a blind eye to the change social media is assisting, but really folks– sometimes the proper response is to shut yer hole.

I won’t link to the offending posts (some of them were even pulled after they got hounded by mobs wielding flaming torches fueled by common sense), but I will link to this funny reaction story on Technorati by my friend Marc Girolimetti, “What Osama Bin Laden Taught Me about Scrapbooking.”

4) The Future of Publishing? (Shut Up Already 2)

I have long ago grown weary of “future of publishing” pronouncements. That does not mean publishing is changing– of course it is, and the shifts are ongoing, and of a type and pace that renders most predictions meaningless. It’s an upheaval, and it’s fun to watch. One thought: if you are in the midst of publishing books and being known as a successful book author, saying “the book doesn’t matter” seems silly. If that’s how you feel, don’t write books.

By the way, I’m not a Seth Godin basher. I remember when Permission Marketing came out, and it was a game changer. Since then, he has been more of a Woody Allen of Marketing authors. There are too many books, and as with Woody’s films, I pay attention when more rabid fans call something to my attention. That works for me, and takes less time.

5) Copyright and Blogging Common Sense

Just one last note; a good common sense post at The Blog Herald about copyright. Many of us casual bloggers take the use of copyrighted material for granted, and could use a brief refresher to prevent takedown notices or worse.

As for me, I respect copyright by using Creative Commons licensed photos from Flickr, and rights-cleared music from Music Alley. Have you thought about the copyrights on material you use in your blog or podcast?