Social Media Lessons From Every Holiday TV Special Ever Made

I love holidays, I love TV, and I definitely love “Social Media Lessons” posts. So here are my totally classy social media lessons from these TV gems.

Happy Holidays everyone.

The Internet Cat Meme Fad is Fraudulent: Do you remember a Garfield Christmas special? Thought not. Dogs, reindeer, Yetis, all should claim their rightful place. Stop with the cats, they are obviously not working.


Stop Motion is Better Than Traditional Animation for Corporate Videos: And no, it’s not “Claymation,” dammit

Every Company Has a Little Drummer Boy: You know, someone who wasn’t really at the company founding (your “manger,” so to speak) but a subsequent song and legend make up a ridiculous story placing him or her there. Find your company’s Little Drummer Boy. And blog about it. Then write a sequel.


Fred Astaire is Cooler than Jimmy Durante: But just barely. If you can only book Jimmy Durante for a guest blog post, go for it.


Not Every Content Idea Needs to Be Good: Just Get it Out There. 


You’re welcome.

Instagram Licensing Your Photos? Here are Some They Can Use Now

Instagram, the popular app for making your crappy mobile photos look like, well, slightly less crappy photos, has the Internet up in arms with its recent announced change to its Terms of Service. In January, Instagram will begin reserving the right to license and profit from any of the photos you upload to Instagram and make money selling them for ads. No royalties for you, no permission asked, not even an opt-in.

Amateur crap-tographers are understandably upset. While Instagram has always been suspiciously bereft of any form of rights licensing to uploaded works – unlike, say, Flickr – this has seemed to make social media savants so angry that their iPhone shots are blurrier than usual as their hands shake from anger.

I, however, embrace this. What right have I to expect that things I upload should be treated with respect by the service? After all, it’s free and I don’t own the platform. My precious images, and any content I publish elsewhere, should be free for plunder and profit to all but me.

In that spirit, I thought I would pick a few images from my own Instagram account and suggest brands that could use them in some super ads:

Instagram Photo

This is an extreme close-up of my hand. If any soap company (Dove? Irish Spring?) would like to use this, I’ll be happy to pretend I use it to keep them looking like this.

Instagram Photo

That’s a sausage. Jimmy Dean, all yours.

Instagram Photo

Old El Paso? Tostitos? Ortega? Salsa brands, it’s first come first serve for this muy caliente photo.

Instagram Photo

Jeep or Honda? Based on the parking skills on display, I’d say Honda.

Instagram Photo

Toastmasters – recruiting? Here you go.

Instagram Photo

And of course, sports physical therapists from all over the country will want to grab this one. I’m assuming the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association have also relinquished their rights.

The Internet of Flings: Taking Care With Buzzwords

Buzz in BallstonHaving been in PR and social media for many years now, I have witnessed up close the love/hate relationship my profession has with buzzwords. I define “love” in this instance as “laziness,” of course. In my tech PR days, among the most reviled buzzwords were “solution,” “scalable” and “robust.”

Here’s the thing about buzzwords: They originally had meaning. If used properly and sparingly, they can retain their meaning.

Most recently, the phrase that has struggled with “buzzword” status is “social business.” The first problem with the use of this phrase, which a number of people (most notably IBM and The Community Roundtable) use to mean businesses adopting social media as part of their organizational DNA (my version of the definition), is that “social business” has long been used to mean something entirely different. Originally the phrase was associated with businesses aligning themselves for social good. It was fairly popular  enough to warrant its own brief Wikipedia entry. The second is that as the new definition gained traction, largely due to IBM’s credibility, it got repeated to the point that it has been threatened with meaninglessness. I have said elsewhere that I don’t think that battle has been completely lost, but I am wary whenever my fellow social media professionals fall too much in love with a term (rather than, say, accomplishments or case studies). Further, I find it harder to tell who is using the term with true intellect and thought, and who is full of it. To their credit, my friends at The Community Roundtable have acknowledged the uncertainty of using the term.

The next term undergoing this trial by buzz-fire is “The Internet of Things.” For over a decade associated with the RFID technology leaders at MIT’s Auto-ID Center, the Internet of Things recently popped up as a potential buzzword victim at the Le Web conference. Will the original meaning be distorted, or simply ignored as it falls through to less sure hands? As with social business, I don’t know. But I am afraid. Already, the focus of the Internet of Things seems to be on wearable devices; I’m not sure that was the original intent at all. Perhaps it is an evolution of the concept. Perhaps it is a platform from which some marketers launch snake oil and bad books.

We shall see. All I can hope for is that at least the debate will be interesting.

Photo credit: Buzz in Ballston by alykat, on Flickr

Exerting Control and Limiting: One Way to Change User Behavior

ControlSome idle-ish thoughts on the fight to build social network platforms:

There is an interesting dynamic – a war, perhaps – going on in the word of social networks. Imbedded in this war is the problem, and fear, that many social platforms have: from the upstart side, the need is to get the users and active use necessary to be considered mainstream; from the “established” platform side, it’s preventing the former.

It is hard to get people to change behaviors quickly enough to satisfy business overlords (or investors). Witness Google Plus: it looks nice, works well, but has a long way to go to become the utility that Facebook has become. It’s hard to justify spending time there when the action is on Facebook or Twitter. And what about Socl? Is Pinterest a visual/shoppers only site? Is “niche” enough?

This is where the game of control comes in. Platform owners are starting to exert measures of control to influence user behavior. For example – slowly, people are remembering that Google controls search, and thinking that being on Google Plus helps search results. Slowly, it becomes evident that Google is favoring its own social network, while Facebook is largely invisible there. If the war is fought on organic search alone, Google will win; but that could take a long time, as if it were an Ice Age waiting for the glaciers to recede; and it’s not the only battlefield.

Another battle in this war is being fought over asset control. Twitter, for example, seems to think it can change behaviors of users of non-Twitter properties by controlling the “fire hose” of Twitter access. Most recently, Instagram photos stopped appearing properly in the Twitter streams. On the one hand, it could seem a ploy by Twitter to drive people to its own photo services; after all, the fights over access to that fire hose are getting ugly, and it’s clear Twitter wants control in many areas, favoring its own directly-owned apps and web site for people to access the service.

But in this case, Instagram shut off access. Instagram wants to drive people to its own site, so is that a ploy to build themselves up as a visual social network? Become popular, then cut people off from the service that helped spread their popularity? Instagram may think it’s time to stand on their own. I wonder if they are right.

There’s no doubt that short-term (will MySpace get a pop on its new launch?) and long-term (will Facebook someday go the way of Friendster?) changes in the social media platform landscape will change. Will exerting control ion these different manners influence the outcome? I have no idea, but it’s fun to watch.

(Did you notice I didn’t mention blogs? You control your blog- don’t you?)

 photo credit: runran on Flickr


Social Media, Marketing and Specialization

A Used Tire Specialist

The idea of specialization vs the idea of a more well-rounded approach is a long-running argument in PR and other communications disciplines. is it best to be an all-rounder or to specialize? The answer, most likely, is “Yes.”

One aspect of specialization is organizational, usually represented as silos. I recently got through reading “Marketing in the Round” by Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston. The primary importance of this book to me is that it reminds us that no communications function operates – or should operate – in a vacuum, independent of the rest of an organization’s efforts. Alas, most organizations tend to work inside the silos, meaning each specialty or department is often out of sync among the PR, marketing and advertising departments, either duplicating work or sending out mixed – or at least inconsistent – messages. It also means, to social media professionals,  that departments are fighting over who owns social, and not letting social media bleed into the overall communications plan, with each department contributing their own expertise.

Another aspect of specialization is the individual’s (and sometimes an organization’s) talent specialization; as much as specialization within social media has proved its importance, the specialization of the players sometimes translates too much into specialization of the game. What do I mean by that? I have observed that so many social media marketers seem to talk about platform over strategy, or over more fundamental skills. In particular, many marketers I come into contact with talk nonstop about Facebook: Facebook ad strategies; Facebook metrics; Facebook Edgerank; Facebook page design. It’s not just Facebook, but that seems to be the prevalent crutch at the moment. What’s troubling is I see whole conversations, agencies, consultancies, perhaps even industries spring up around single platforms. The core skills, I argue, are not “Facebook.” They are communications, writing, design, whatever your specialty is. You had better be able to transfer those skills, as even if Facebook doesn’t collapse at some near-future point as in the wild-eyed Cassandran prognostications, chances are you may be leaving money on the table if you aren’t ready to diversify should the opportunity arise. I suspect most “Facebook specialists have the tools to pivot when needed, but why not just do it – and if they are doing it, why not reflect that better in their own marketing of themselves?

I’m not arguing against specialization. One thing I learned joining Voce Communications (now part of Porter Novelli) nearly three years ago is that specialization is needed  to perform properly all the various parts of a larger communications program. And as in “Marketing in the Round,” even if you are responsible for one part – even if you claim that same role over and over – if you don’t have an eye on the bigger picture, including all of communications working together, then you may look up one day to see your specialty has set adrift.

Photo credit: kennyferguson on Flickr