My Top 5: Article Payola, Dilly or No Dilly, #metoo Salute

I have long neglected this space, what so many more fascinating things to read and worry about in the world over the last several months. I figured it was time to clear out a few cobwebs.

Not coincidentally, I discuss some of these topics with Shel Holtz and Ike Pigott on the most recent episode of the For Immediate Release podcast:

Image Credit: Mario Klingemann on Flickr

“Expose” on Paid Placement in Contributed Articles

Jon Christian of The Outline has written what I’ll call an “expose” of paid placements in contributor networks, such as the popular Forbes and Huffington Post. I put the word in quotes because I can’t imagine many people familiar with the networks and contributed content in general are surprised (I suppose I am dad-joke obligated to say “Shocked, shocked!”) that there is pay-for-play going on, but it is illuminating to see some concrete examples. In short, some writers are offering to mention brands in their articles for a price- or are asking journalists to mention them in articles for payment.

My observations:

  • We often complain about the decline of ethics in journalism, but some journalists mentioned in the piece have their ethics firmly intact, at least when it comes to payola.
  • There has been a lot of complaining over the years about sites like HuffPo not paying their writers, but many writers actually do it for the exposure, for themselves or for their companies- and of course there is a valid SEO component, in which Google sees high-quality (not promotional) articles on relevant subjects as signals that the author (or more specifically their company) is an expert and should rank higher for the relevant terms. My point in bringing this up is that the “free content” economy is not about finding ways to get paid, but about raising the profile to get in front of those who will pay. That leave “pay for play” tactics to the unscrupulous weasels.
  • Companies running “pay for play” schemes are not new. I don’t personally see the “pay to get mentioned” schemed myself, but many times over the years I have come into contact with companies that have networks of bloggers, writing for pay. There is a line between paying someone to write for you and enabling a network to churn out content, at which point you lose control over where you place it and how high the quality will be. And firms offering these blogger networks (like Blogdash, mentioned in the article, can find themselves in hot water with Google if they lean too hard on quasi- or un-ethical tactics.

Dilly Dilly Trademark Owners do not Dilly Dally – nor are they Dully-Dully – in delivering Cease and Desist

How often have you seen Big Bad Corporation come down on Small, Bootstrapping Startup over trademark protection with legal cease and desist letters and more? I always recall such a “Cease and Destroy” campaign from Apple on companies such as one-time client Podcast Ready as typical, where a company is overzealous protecting intellectual properties in ways that are pretty much proscribed by the USPTO.

That was my initial reaction when I heard about Anheuser Busch protecting it’s Bud Light”Dilly Dilly” ad campaign trademark against a small brewery in Minnesota, Modist, which launched a limited release Dilly Dilly IPA. However, it turns out the response by the corporate giant was a little more creative than that:

That moment when Bud Light sends you a cease and desist for your #dillydilly release… via a scroll… written in olde english… read by an actual medieval person.. and then sends you to the Minnesota Super Bowl 2018.

Posted by Modist Brewing Company on Friday, December 1, 2017


That was fun; and when you consider Modist was clearly infringing on the trademark and knew it, all parties took an expected, boring, sometimes nasty exchange into something fun. As Ike Pigott pointed out on FIR, there seemed to be a hint of collusion – that the whole thing was a setup, not just two brands taking advantage of this collision – but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’m just going to enjoy it.


#metoo Moment Hits the Community

One of the many stories that has taken my attention from writing for myself has been the outing of so many popular and powerful figures as having committed various forms of sexual harassment and assault. I don’t have much to add to the conversation, except to applaud those who have come out, enabling others who felt shamed or coerced into silence, or simply feared speaking out, to now do so.

I do, however, feel compelled to point out and applaud my good friend Laura Fitton; she saw five anonymous accusers point to someone who had harassed her- and decided to step forth and tell her story to bolster those who were afraid or unable to name themselves. It’s a brave thing to do and the type of thing that, more importantly, will encourage others to come forward and (we can only hope) stop this behavior.

We are going to see more and more of these stories come out, as decades of incidents are being unpacked at once. I call it the Great Cleansing. It’s what we do after this settles down is what will count for us. I won’t ask you “what are you doing about it” because you don’t owe that answer to anyone (nor do I owe it, and I will not presume to tell anyone else how to approach this), but I know we are all thinking about how this can – and should- make things better (and how we can) when the dust clears.

Three stories is enough; I’m out of shape.

My Top 5: Zillow Goes to Hell, Meek(er) Rebuttal, Influencer Self-Policing, Kill Uber?

Photo Credit: Daniel Lobo on Flickr

McMansion Hell, Zillow and Intellectual Property

This past week, I have seen passionate posts online about the issue of the (very funny) McMansion Hell  site being served with a Cease & Desist (and threatened lawsuit) by Zillow over using images without permission. First things, first-  Zillow dropped the threats in exchange for MMH’s agreement to…well, Cease & Desist using Zillow’s photos in future posts.

The reasons I didn’t get worked up into a “Big Bad Company Threatens Little Blogger” lather over this were many:

  • The threats seemed severe, but it is not the first time I have seen a company reacting severely to protect intellectual property. As we saw by the outcome, the C&D was the ask- I can’t imagine the appetite for anyone to go to court over this.
  • Was MMH’s use of the photos fair use? Hard to say (and I’m not a lawyer. If you are, comment below). Parody tends to be protected speech, but does that mean you can take anyone’s photos for any parodic intent (meaning: MMH wasn’t making fun of Zillow here. But he, there’s an idea…)
  • I am not 100% clear on Zillow’s ownership of the images in the first place. Bad would be if they steal the photos in the first place, but that’s unlikely. More likely is that they use photos from other sources through licensing and partnership agreements- that may limit re-use.
  • My recent interactions with a Hollywood production company has given me a renewed respect for the lengths most media properties go to to make sure they have the rights to materials before using them.

I should repeat that what I read in the update is that Zillow got MMH to agree to stop using the photos. Sounds to me like Zillow was in the right here. Still, McMansion Hell is damn funny. You should go there for a laugh when they put the site back up.

*doublechecks Creative Commons licensing for images used in this post*

I Always Knew What Bugged Me About the New Cult of Mary Meeker- Now You Can, Too

For the last several years, Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers has presented an Internet Trends report that is as exhaustive and well-sourced as it is eye-gougingly ugly (it remains my greatest argument against subjecting people to PowerPoint if there is a better option). Witness this year’s:

I tend not to join the salivating packs of tech-savvy marketers in sharing this for several reasons:

  • It’s what I do, which is not sharing things that everybody else is already sharing
  • I ain’t got time for that
  • I have a long memory of the Internet bubble bursting and those who suffered relatively little for it (more in a second)

That all said, “exhaustive” is not merely “exhausting,” but also well-sourced and full of useful information. However, going back to that last bullet, I remember Mary Meeker being one of the folks caught up in pumping Internet stocks that later cratered. OK, most of the stocks did, but people seem to have short memories; I still, when I hear her name, think first not of the trends report, but of the reviled Internet bubble cheerleader.

Leave it to my detail-oriented friend, Tom Webster, to find something in the Internet Trends Report that links the Mary Meeker I remember to the one who has been reborn from the ashes of many destroyed stock portfolios as a visionary. Tom noticed that many of the attributed sources, at least this year, are for Kleiner clients or other, to use a harsh term, compromised points of view. That’s not to say the information is bad, or that disclosure doesn’t exist somewhere in the 355(!!!) slides, but it does behoove us all, as the responsible audience, to  consider the source of what you are reading, and adjust your outlook for potential bias.

Is Mary Meeker’s much-praised report a mere cover for client cheerleading? That would be hard to say. Alway be aware is all I am saying (or let Tom do the digging for us- thanks, Tom)

Photo Credit: Adam Purves on Flickr

Influencer Marketing Council

Speaking of disclosures: hey, there’s an Influencer Marketing Council! It’s got big brands in it and it is no doubt spurned by a recent, more visible(ish) enforcement of online disclosure by the FTC. Will be interested to see where this goes.

Meanwhile, Instagram Ads Still Not Disclosed

I suspect “ignoring” disclosure rules will become a little less common, if only because we are noticing (and noting) the ignorance more. Is that a sound theory? I think so. I write too much about disclosure for my own taste, so that’s enough for now.

Image Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Delete Uber? Shut it Down? It’s Complicated

I have tended to stay away from the “#DeleteUber” activism merely because if I refused to do business with any company run by jerks, I would probably have to live in a cave (plus, I may not have had some of the jobs on my resume – heyooooo! #justkidding, former bosses). Also, I wouldn’t watch sports events put on by the NCAA, the NFL or FIFA, just to name a few other organizations with troubling background. That’s not enough not to have concern about any of those organizations, but we all decide where to draw the line for ourselves.

While the failings of Uber’s leadership are well-documented- from the abuses of privacy (or threatened abuses), to using technology to bamboozle regulators, to the seeming opportunism during the travel ban cab strike to the more disconcerting unearthing of the sexist “bro culture” torn open by a former female employee’s write- there are plenty of places to stop, say “enough!” and move on.  I didn’t even get to the point that the no-benefits “gig economy” that has Uber playing poster-child, as well as concerns about driver background checks and the like. In fact, looking at that list, I feel a little shallow at not having joined the #deleteuber movement. Should I? Still, I stop short of boycott for reasons above, right or wrong.

A somewhat baffling call to Uber to “delete your company” is this article from the Harvard Business Review blog (side note: bonus points for this article being an actual HBR post from an actual HBR person, rather than one of the “HBR Yourself” articles where you have to fend for yourself in determining quality). Short version of the article: Uber’s business model (as well as Lyft’s) is based on an illegal premise. Point taken that regulation of cars and drivers is a huge point of concern, and that a lack of quality control can result in some dire consequences. That’s the point of regulatory fights in cities like Austin, and we’ll probably see more compromise from ride-sharing companies in these cases, not less.

The reason I shrug my shoulders at the “shut them down” solution while acknowledging the validity of many of the reason is the reason Uber and Lyft exist in the first place: the taxi system in most cities is broken. The expansiveness of medallions creates an indentured servant (or part-time, dare I say “gig” economy) throughout, and some companies are simply corrupt (is this Boston scenario played out in other cities? Your mileage may vary). This brings me back to the “is the alternative better? Maybe we insist on improvements in the already-better option” argument.

Judging a company. especially when placing its business and services against a larger industry backdrop, is complicated. That’s why I don’t #deleteuber.


My Top 5: Disclosure Moves Forward, Thanks to Instagram and More…

Instagram Wants You to Label Your Garbage (well, Your Sponsored Posts)

Image Credit: Jason Tester Guerilla Future on Flickr

What would it take for me to dust off my blog after some well earned rest (aka “neglect”)? Some good news from the world of social media disclosure, of course! Instagram is introducing “sponsored post” labels. To someone who has often harped on the lack of disclosure in social media, even by those of us who ought to know better, this is welcome news. My thoughts on this:

  • I never thought of the idea that the social platform itself could put in an easy disclosure device. Not sure why; I never heard anyone else say it out loud either, though I assume some people have.
  • Instagram is as good a platform as any to try this out, as they have rampant undisclosed sponsored posts as much as – perhaps more than – anyone else.
  • I wonder if Instagram parent Facebook would implement such a thing. They should, but I suspect they would rather put energy into getting brands to pay Facebook for ads rather than accommodate someone else’s commercial transaction. I suspect a helpful push from the FTC would help some of these other platforms implement something similar, should it prove to be successful.
  • Read the post; there is disagreement over whether this is adequate or not. Maybe the geotag real estate isn’t the best part; maybe it’s great. I think it’s worth trying as it is better than the big fat nothing that a lot of brands and influencers do.
  • Bottom line: the easier it is to include the disclosure, the more people will do it.

FTC More Active on Disclosure Than I Thought

The previously-linked post about disclosure is old news, but in digging it up for reference here, I also found something interesting relating to the particular example in the post. It turns out that while I and others assumed the FTC would not have the agency bandwidth to pursue every questionable campaign, they were looking at things like the Team Lumia events in Boston in 2014. This letter shows that there were extenuating circumstances that prevented enforcement, but it does validate the concerns that I felt at the time, and brought up despite my hesitance to shine a light on a campaign in which a number of the participants were friends.

..and it does suggest that the FTC has been paying more attention for longer than I ever assumed.

While I’m At It, Some #$%& From the Archives

A couple of months ago, I saw this post titles “Why We Love Marketers Who Curse.” Speak for yourself. Cursing, especially in a professional marketing environment, is more often than not a lazy (and in my opinion failed) attempt to appear hip. Stop it. And stop glorifying it, jackasses (sorry).

One exception is Josh Bernoff’s excellent blog and book Writing Without Bullshit. I had my reservations about the title, but the content is excellent and backs up the branding. So there.

Bad Advice For Careers as Well

OK, this article actually has good advice. However, I am not buying into the idea that cover letters are dead. As with anything being declared “dead,” that’s just a lame attention-getter that predisposes me to hate the article rather than appreciate the decent advice. Read the tips on personalizing your CV and decide for yourself.

Ageism is Getting Old and Should Hit the Road

Finally, kudos to my friend Mark Story for his part in the growing chorus decrying ageism in hiring practices in tech, marketing and other industries. His latest post underlines points by another champion of the cause, Dan Lyons. It’s worth a read and worth paying attention to.


My Top 5: All The Stupid Things Must Die

A note to start: I am no longer calling this “Social Media Top 5.” I stopped doing social media exclusively a couple of years ago, and not sure I ever used social as a strict guideline for choosing topics. Plus, it’s all about me, so now it’s “My Top 5.” Other than that, this post is the same old crap.

Image Credit: Steve Johnson on Flickr

Die, Content Marketing! Die! Die! Die!

I finally found something almost as obnoxious and useless as making up meaningless buzzwords for things that don’t need new names or don’t actually exist (*cough* content shock *cough*); saying buzzwords that have come into common usage  need to “die.” Saying such a thing is simply link-bait (oh wait is that a buzzword?) and a grab for attention. Saying that a phrase like “content marketing” needs to die makes no sense to me, outside of the aforementioned cry for attention. Still, I think this post is meant at least partly tongue-in-cheek and worth a read.

As much as I like to make fun of dumb buzzwords, if they mean something (or you can define what you mean by them), they are useful. Content marketing, like it or hate it, covers a broad swath of practices which can have meaning if you define your services. If you are just using the term to be trendy, anyone doing their homework will not hire you; if they do hire you, they get what they deserve (if not what they paid for).

Don’t fight buzzwords; fight empty meaning. It’s not always the same thing.

Twitter Still Not Dead Yet

I know that Twitter’s financials tend to the grim side, and that lazy online marketers find it easy to just say Twitter is dead and irrelevant, but I tend to be more of an optimist. If the 2016 election and current presidential administration have proved nothing else, it’s that for better or worse people pay attention to Twitter. Perhaps it’s not a true social network anymore, and relevance and abuse are problems that need to be addressed more forcefully (I was encouraged by this algorithm tweaking aimed at lessening the effect of bots on reply threads), but it is an easy way to post snippets of information and media- “Moments,” to borrow a phrase that is also a cool Twitter feature that the company would be smart to do more to force us to use.

If Twitter dies, it will not be because it is irrelevant; it’s still a great tool. It will be because the company fails to take advantage of what it does do well.

Meanwhile, legitimate or not I will continue to follow @RoguePOTUSStaff, as well as much of the of-the-moment news coverage from the (not fake) mainstream media.

Snapchat is Dead- Dead, I Say! You Don’t Say… (I Didn’t Say That)

Concerns about governance and business priority changes when a company goes public are legitimate. That does not mean we should assume a company is dead. There are so many questions about Snapchat before even getting to that one. For example, parents have not embraced Snapchat to the extent that their children have run screaming to a new network. Before that happens, I can’t even be certain Snapchat is even close to peaking.

Well, that analysis is as thorough as assuming death by IPO.

Why Snapchat is Dead

UnDead: They Miiiiigghhht be Baaaackk…

One of my early “social media” hobbies was participating in the “Television Without Pity” forums, discussing  and snarking on my favorite TV shows. after a sale to Bravo (and NBC Universal), the site eventially got watered down and later shuttered, as I lamented a few years ago:

Life Without Television Without Pity

Now comes word that the site (and Tubey) is coming back. In what form, and will I love it? I am eager to find out.

(HT to my friend Marti Lawrence)

I Would Be Ok With This Death

People creating images quoting themselves is something I find egotistical and abhorrent. I understand people are trying to sell “though leadership” and books and probably (ugh) speaking slots, but I go by the “nickname” rule: never do it for yourself, but be good enough that other people do it for you. I’m not going to link to examples because I don’t (usually) like to call people out.

Social Media Top 5: Politics on Facebook, LinkedIn Advertising & Cheap Tablets Are All Great

UPDATE: I had originally planned to write thoughts on how our new President’s use of Twitter as his outlet for kneejerk infantile rage showed both the possibilities and extreme downside to the platform (that I still use, by the way), but I’ll just let this story about some of the National Parks and NASA accounts doing their own rogue Tweeting stand on its own.

Politics on Facebook: Here to Stay

Throughout the presidential campaign, through the election, and into the transition and the (in my opinion) surreal if not unexpected start tot the new administration, there has been a constant buzz from some social media quarters (largely Facebook): a desire to get away from politics, for people being nice.


It’s not that we shouldn’t be nice to each other, or at least more tolerant of differences: however, we all have the power to shape what we see and engage in on social media.

I'm sick and tired of people being sick and tired of politics on Facebook.

Posted by Doug Haslam on Tuesday, January 17, 2017

More to the point: it’s clear that politics are here to stay: emotions are heightened, opinions are sharpened, and policies are at stake. Nothing is going away. Thinking as a marketer who works with brands on social media, the real issue is: is there a lower or higher bar for making political opinions known on Facebook when you may also be associated with a brand? Can we separate the association of personal brand from that of employers and clients? As someone who has commented on politics much more this year than in the past, I say we need to trust the ability of people to make those distinctions while still being more clear in drawing those lines. How we frame our commentary, and how we make use of social media (perhaps redrawing privacy garden walls, for instance), are things we have to consider if we want to say anything at all. I say it can be done. At times, issues are too important to be silent as an individual because we don’t want it to reflect on a larger brand.

Or, we can post goat videos. Goats are great.

Image credit: CAPTION6 on Flickr

LinkedIn Advertising

Every time news leaks that a social media is selling data to advertisers, people freak out. So it was last week when LinkedIn said it would be doing so. Freak out if you want, but I am more sanguine; LinkedIn is selling anonymous data, and if it’s done right we get better ads or more targeted services. If they do it wrong we get annoyed a little. If there is a data rupture of personal info getting out, that’s a different story, but it’s also not the design. So chill folks, if this helps Linkedin be more profitable then that’s probably a good thing.

Side note: I saw a friend, I forget who, wonder if anyone actually uses LinkedIn. My answer, and that of several others, was that it has become the default currency in careers these days. It hasn’t replaced the traditional resume but it is the substitute more and more often. It remains valuable, and LinkedIn will do well to keep it that way (I should add that I am a paid premium member).

Also of note: for this marketing data initiative, LinkedIn is using DataSift, which was last brought to my mind when Twitter cut them off in 2015:

Twitter Cuts Off DataSift To Step Up Its Own Big Data Business

Speaking of Ads…

I don’t blog about gadgets much, but I came to a decision point recently; my trusty but aging Google Nexus 7 tablet would need replacing at some point, and an accidental (I swear) toss down the stairs hastened my need. The problem is that the tablet market has been moribund: I have no interest in iPads, and only a few decent current models exist now. None of them are cheap, and I question how much I need them over the features of my very good phone.

I settled for a Kindle Fire HD 8. Why? Because the main thing I needed it for was the slightly larger screen to read (via Kindle App as well as the publication apps that were also available on this Android-based but Kindle-app environment) and to watch videos. There are times when good enough works in the gadget world, especially when taking tablets off my data plan means the device pays for itself. Plus, there are still some things that I don’t need a full-powered laptop to do.

If the tablet manufacturers can’t or don’t want to up their game, then “good enough”will reign and we will distribute our computing use in other ways- which is OK, I guess. It also means the early “tablets will replace our laptops completely” crowd was dead wrong, and I am not at all surprised.

Do you use tablets? What kind? Is it something that for you is fading away or do you want something new and exciting to use?

Social Media Top 5: Funny Brands, Old News IN COLOR!, SEO Humor & The Year of Mobile

I have taken my sweet time since my last post. Yeah, Happy Holidays to you, too. However, this post is brought to you IN LIVING COLOR:

To Feed or Not to Feed the Trolls

This one is from today (as I write this), but don’t get too excited:

My friend Scott Monty brought my attention to Wendy’s recent Twitter responses to a troll questioning their claims of never using frozen meat. I’m as eager as anyone to applaud a brand having fun on Twitter (or Facebook, or wherever- but we all know Twitter is where it’s at), but how and when is it worth spending the time and energy? Follow the thread at the AdWeek link, but here is the “awesome” tweet (#sickburn):

Setting aside whether or not snark is appropriate at all for a brand, I particularly love it when brands tweak each other (more please, and professional sports teams seem to lead the way there), but when advising clients on social media, “Don’t Feed the Trolls” is one of our wisest and favorite pieces of advice. Even with no apparent harm done here, is it good practice? I snark, you decide.

However, I will concede AdWeek’s claim of “2017’s Best Tweet So Far,” since it’s January 3.

Old News, Part 1: Why Your New Platform is Not the Next Big Thing

Sometime in December, I heard some of my smarter social media guru-esque friends discover House Party, a group video chat app. Cool idea, I’ll admit; though the concept is not new, the application for social media has not really gotten any glue. Of course, seemingly the instant many guru thumbs pressed “Enter” on their “Next Big Thing” post, Facebook came out with their own version of the feature, right there where everybody already is.

Houseparty, you got Periscoped! Maybe. Points for launching on Android as well as iPhone.

Old News, Part II: Facebook Gets Ugly Color
Let us all celebrate simple things, devoid of meaning but for their basic pleasing qualities. This, Facebook’s feature letting you add a color background to a short post, is so silly, and so cool, I can’t even make fun of it (or can I?).

I can!

I finally tried it. Maddeningly, I could only do it on mobile. But that’s fine. I guess. I couldn’t bring myself to use an actual colorful color in my sample.

Here is my color background. On mobile. Meh.

Posted by Doug Haslam on Tuesday, January 3, 2017

As for the feature itself? It’s…fine. Do you like it? I probably won’t use it, unlike the


feature, which is forced on us, in ways I don’t actually mind. So Facebook, force me too use the colors and I will neutrally embrace them.

Old News, Part III: Search Fail

Maybe this post I saw in December could rank for “lazy sports column” if I get enough links to it here:

Insta-Graham: If you don’t read this Bills-Browns recap, then you will regret it forever

Have a look: I’m pretty sure that’s not how search works, but maybe sports fans will enjoy your SEO humor, Mr. Sports Columnist (spoiler alert: very unlikely).

Old News Part IV: Evernote and Privacy

Yeah, we’ve all moved on from this one. I have nothing new to add. So…

2017 Predictions (Hint: It Will be the Year of Mobile- Again!)

It’s always the Year of Mobile! Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

Pan-Mass Challenge: 2016 Fundraising Recap

As 2016 ends, I would like to make my annual review of my Pan-Mass Challenge fundraising efforts. Every summer – the first full weekend of August – I join 6,200 other cyclists in this annual 2-day cancer fundraiser. This past summer, the PMC raised $47 million for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston – rather than make me feel like my contribution is a small drop in the bucket, I feel that, with 100% of rider-raised funds passing through, that this effort is making a difference in finding cures and treatments for cancer.

This being my 9th ride, my fundraising graphs are starting to get a little crowded. It also means that with next year being my 10th, I have some extra motivation to change these charts a bit next year. Among my major observations this year:

  • I raised my second-highest amount this year, which was amazing and humbling. Raising the overall goal to $8,500 from $7,500 was probably the single biggest factor in raising more money this year. People react to a goal and are very focused on helping you get there. Once you pass a set number, the urgency drops pretty quickly.

  • The average donation amount went up measurably this year, as well. I didn’t specifically target larger donations, as amounts – even from the same people –  can vary from year to year, but it is also no coincidence the closest year to 2016 was 2010, the year I raised the most money.

  • Total donors raised slightly, while the percentage of returning donors (vs new) remained steady, at around 85%. If I am to raise more next year, I will probably have to figure out some clever ways to attract new people to the cause.

  • These graphs are new this year; while they carry no surprises, they show that, with few exceptions, the most donations come in June to August (usually ending the first week of August but including donations as late as October 1). The difference has become more pronounced the last few years as I recognized this and focused my fundraising requests largely on those last two months leading up to the event, with no negative effect on my fundraising.

  • Again, next year is my 10th ride, and 10th consecutive ride. To mark this achievement, I will set a goal of $10,000 next summer. That would be more than I have ever managed to raise by myself in one year; it would also put me over $77,000 raised in the ten years- not a round number or anything, but something that makes me thankful for all the friends and strangers who contribute over the years. I shall have to think of some special ways to make sure I meet this new goal, but I have time.

As ever, a huge thank you to everyone who helps me along the way, from donations to help training to simple good wishes. Here’s to another successful event in 2017!

Social Media Top 5: Craptivism Won’t Kill You and Fake News is Alright (Not Really)

Image credit: Smallbrainfield

Image credit: Smallbrainfield

Craptivism Won’t Kill You

I have long been reluctant to festoon my social media profiles with the trappings of social activism (remember “Twibbons?”), because I don’t really think I am doing anything concrete for a cause if I’m doing so- especially if that’s all I’m doing. The latest, in the aftermath of the presidential election, is the “safety pin.” From what I have read, the safety pin as a sign of solidarity popped up after the Brexit vote in the UK, and now has been adopted by many in the US to show solidarity with women, people of color, Muslims, and other folks who fear being marginalized.

I’m still not doing it. My Facebook and Twitter profiles are mine alone, and it’s just not me to do it. If you asked me if you should do it, I would say don’t bother- find more meaningful ways to show support or foment change. Donate, volunteer, demonstrate, whatever. That is, however, not the same as saying you’re a dummy if you do it. Awareness is a fine thing, and just as my social media profiles are mine, yours are yours just the same. While my cranky disposition might lead me to agree with this HuffPo article decrying the safety pins as useless, I don’t; I think the author went too far.

What I did not expect was several friends to agree with the premise of the article. I found that interesting, and it made me aware (as if I weren’t already) how on edge people are as they don’t know what the new administration will mean for tolerance for gender, sexual preference, race and religion (so far, I agree we have reason to be all het up). There is a very good discussion of this issue on my friend Amy Vernon’s Facebook wall (where, yes, I used the term “craptivism,” of which I am proud despite my nuanced view, though I am sad I can’t cliam coinage).

Still, if a safety pin on your Facebook page makes you feel better, do it. Just because it doesn’t do anything- and good intentions aren’t enough- doesn’t mean it’s doing any harm.

STOP THE PRE...toolate

STOP THE PRE…toolate

The Rise and Fall of Fake (False?) News Sites, and Responsible Reading

For years I have advocated the “responsibility of the reader,” meaning rather than hoping for the impossible – that content will improve and be authoritative and unbiased- one should simply consider the source when reading and adjust for biases and context.

The election, of course, has turned the concept of “fake news” on its ear. But please- incendiary biased (if not outright “fake” – you be the judge) sites like on the right and DailyKos on the left (I might betray my own bias to say that, despite the fact I can’t stand reading it, I think DailyKos is far less problematic as a”journalism” outfit).

Well, after the election (in other words, too late for the election), Facebook says it will filter out fake sites. Where’s the line? Have the obvious leanings of the editorial pages of The Washington Post (particularly this election season), The Wall Street Journal and The Hill gone to the point where they might qualify. Some folks might say yes. I doubt they are targets. Will we be deprived of The Onion and The Borowitz Report because people are too stupid to know they are satire? I hope not.

Can I report a news source I disagree with as fake? That would be silly.

There  are some sites (such as the teenage Macedonian clickbait) that are obvious targets for this cleanup, but is the line that clear otherwise? This might be fun to watch, just as Twitter’s sudden conversion to banning alt-right (sometimes known as racist, misogynist spew) Twitter accounts, as they try again to get acquired, is entertaining.

That’s two. Not five. It’s enough. We’re all exhausted. use the extra time to read something better.

Social Media Top 5: Pipeline Protests, Ballot Selfies, the Electoral Map & More


This morning (October 31) I started noticing friends checking in to Standing Rock, ND, the location of protests by Native Americans (the Standing Rock Sioux) against the Dakota Access Pipeline. My first reaction was to assume the unlikely: some friends were traveling to join the protests. Wow, right? No, it turned out some Facebook users were encouraging others to check in at that location to confuse law enforcement, which was supposedly tracking protesters via Facebook. Still noble if it works, but I tend to sit back in such situations and see if there really is something to it rather than leaping in with my precious social media account without looking.

Turns out there is some doubt about whether this is effective or necessary. A Snopes article attempting to sort it out, most interestingly, quotes members of the protesting camp saying it would be better to donate to their cause than to check in via Facebook. You decide: I’ll continue to hesitate before doing things like this (after all, I am generally loathe to even change my profile pics for causes, so there).

As usual, I cannot help myself.

Ballot Selfies

Filed under: See, I’m Not Always a Hater:

While we are on the subject of activism, voting is the thing that most all of us can do to affect an outcome. Also, I like ballot selfies; I think they’re a great, fun way to celebrate participatory democracy. Unfortunately, the practice is illegal in some states, via laws that are often naively triggered by fears of voter fraud (“take your picture to prove you voted for who we told you” – like I said, silly). I suspect such laws will be gone, one at a time, and in fact some are already going away.

Here is a guide to where ballot selfies are allowed and where they are not (note: Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin has all but admitted the law in Massachusetts isn’t being enforced- just in case, I’m not telling if I am going to take one).

Image Credit: Mick O on Flickr

Image Credit: Mick O on Flickr

The tricky world of listing clients on your web site

Agencies love to brag about their high-profile clients, but anyone who has been at an (ethical) agency knows it’s a great idea to get permission to display client names and logos in promotional materials. There are a number of legitimate reasons a company may not want to be listed (or maybe they’re just being petty jerks, but it’s their prerogative).

This concept came to mind when a friend passed around this story of liquor maker Patron suing a former digital marketing agency for still listing them as a customer. While in this case the agency in question, according to the story, is out of business despite the left-behind Web site, it did get me to thinking about what consultants and agencies need to think about when publicizing their client relationships:

  • Are you doing something you can even disclose?
  • Is it ok to talk about former clients? (Is labeling them as past clients enough?)
  • What is your relationship? Do you have the relationship capital with the client to make this ask?
  • What does it do for you to parade the relationship? It most likely is good for you to have prospects know about your awesome clients, but is there a reason it’s wiser to hold back?

Don’t Tell Me When to Tweet 

Another study telling you when to Tweet. Worth noting, worth ignoring if your data says otherwise. Always trust your own data and your own circumstances. As my good buddy Chris Thilk notes:

Fun with Data, Electoral Map Series

Leading up to this fall’s election, I have seen a lot of people share “This is what the Electoral Map would look like if only men/women/Millennials/whatever voted” graphics. The “women” one, of course prompted knuckle-draggers to call for the repeal of the 19th amendment to keep those pesky creatures from putting one of their own in office.


For myself, I find these graphics absurd; I understand that they point out the preferences for certain segments of the electorate, but no vote occurs in a vacuum, no demographic votes in a vacuum, and votes are not counted this way. Thus, I found that the following graphics represent Electoral Maps that are just as realistic as any of these others.

Happy Election Day everyone.

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were an adorable beluga whale #politics

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were a crab in a tidal pool #celtics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were patriotic candy corn #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it were a cute bunny. #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if it dressed in the dark #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

What the electoral map would look like if it were a dogwood flower #politics #twitter

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

Here's what the electoral map would look like if it were two cute pandas #politics

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on

This is what the electoral map would look like if only dead people voted #chicago

A photo posted by Doug Haslam (@doughaslam) on


Social Media Top 5: Fixing Conferences, Taking Coffee, Poaching Buzzfeed, Celebrating Social Media Club

How About Addressing the Real Problems with Conferences?

name-tagMost of the tips for conferences in this post by Marcus Sheridan make sense; all are, at worst, arguable. They are also mostly small fixes aimed at making the speakers’ lives better. I guess that makes sense, as the writer is a professional speaker. As a sometime conference attendee, I care much less about any of these complaints, such as name badges being only one-sided, and conferences not using music between sessions (Music? Noise pollution! You kids and your rock and roll!).

How about conferences addressing what makes them dull, repetitive and/or a waste of time and money? Hiring the same damn speakers to say the same damn things at shows that are too damn similar is a constant damn problem. If you are putting on a show, be bold: forget the professional speakers unless you absolutely need that name to fill seats. Don’t fall into the trap that you have to have a celebrity that is totally unrelated to your show’s topic, unless it’s a reward and a “topic break” so attendees can relax (don’t lie by implying that Amy Schumer/Trevor Noah/Aziz Ansari/whoever is relevant to my 2017 marketing planning- but do tell me they might be fun to see).

Find people who are doing something: case studies are awesome. People who are working at companies and facing real problems often have something to say. And for most of those kinds of folks you don’t have to pay a speaking fee for some white dude who has been delivering the same speech for six years. I will admit that I may be an outlier as I spend most keynotes elsewhere getting work done rather than playing front-row fanboy, but this is something I advocated for in my time on the board of the Boston PRSA chapter, and was lucky that the people running our programs largely agreed.

Oh- also stay away from agency wankers and consultants unless they have something original to present. We are all narcissistic jerks.

That said, I look forward to my two-sided name badge at my next conference, even if one side will be obscured by lunch tickets. Rock on.

Don’t Turn Up Your Nose at Networking Because it’s not “Billable” (Chapter 435)

Image credit: julochka on Flickr

Image credit: julochka on Flickr

My old colleague Ed Harrison is the latest to weigh in on the value of taking those “brain-picking” coffee meetings. I know I have ranted on the topic before, but I sternly furrow my brow when consultants rail against people who want to have coffee (or whatever) with them for advice, accusing them of stealing free whatever it is they charge money for. Sure, there are limits; while there are leeches out there who don’t give back (or forward, as it were), those people should be easy to spot. There is never a good reason for turning down networking, even if you are dispensing advice to someone that can’t help you right now. How many people helped you in the past? How many coffees did you ask for? Did you pay them back with business? Of course you didn’t. Time to repay, time to mentor, and time to network, as you never know when and how it will come back to you. Plus, free coffee. There’s your revenue right there.

I’m glad to see more posts on this side of the issue and fewer whining about people asking for “Free advice.” Here’s my free advice: Google “pick your brain for free” and when you need to pick someone’s brain, avoid the type of people whose articles come up. Done.

Taking Buzzfeed Seriously

Image credit: Mike Licht on Flickr

Image credit: Mike Licht on Flickr

Patience, as this bit includes some semi-old news; last month, Buzzfeed announced it was separating into news and entertainment divisions. The article I found announcing the split focused on the business reasons for doing so- but as a consumer, I thought it was a great way to try to shake the image of Buzzfeed. The site’s name itself has become shorthand for listicles, cat videos and other stupid time-wasters (read: awesome content- come on, cats!). But for sometime Buzzfeed has been producing more serious-minded news content. Will this make people pay attention? Were they already paying attention and I am a shallow moron to miss it? CNN paid attention, paying the ultimate compliment by poaching four of their news staffers (there, a newer story to reference- and now we are current again). Heck, Esquire’s politics page is paying tribute to their keen reportage as well.

The next step in building credibility is for Buzzfeed to turn from poach-ee to poach-er. I will be sure to find out a month or more after it happens.

Social Media Club Turns 10

smcWhither Social Media Club? Ten years ago, the outfit was founded by Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, and it changed a lot of professional lives as it spread from San Francisco to many other cities (including Boston in 2007). I was happy and lucky to be involved in some capacity from the beginning (thanks to my then-colleague Todd Van Hoosear). SMC got a lot of people together, and while activities in different cities may have waned over time as people have moved on professionally and geographically, that does not lute its impact. Many of us have joined other established organizations (like the PRSA as mentioned above, or AMA), as the PR, marketing and other professions embraced social as part of their fabric rather than as a separate practice. Read Kristie’s ten-year post and remember that the SMC continues…

My Favorite Tweet by Me this Month

If you’re going to Tweet about narcissism, you should promote it on your blog too, I always say.