Social Media Top Five: SXSW Edition (or Not), and Happy Birthday Internet!

sxsw2009It’s South by Southwest Interactive this weekend, since everybody’s attention span is shortened by imbibing in too much, um, Internet knowledge, I will keep things short this week.

First, a SXSW Twitter Break (all Twitter breaks are actual Tweets), to give you a taste of the great thoughts being flung across the Internet from the SXSW crowd in Austin, Texas:

“Overheard at #sxsw Emo’s event: Q – “are you into social media?” A – “oh no, we’re here for the Lone Star””

The Web is 20 years old?
All that means to me is it still needs a fake ID, but at least it’s old enough to vote. Maybe the Internet did elect Obama after all.

*SXSW Twitter Break*
“At the Pasties and Pastries Party (that’s cupcakes and burlesque) at Emo’s. #sxsw”

For Social Web, is it “Federate” or “Aggregate?” While Om Malik has the details down, I see the choice between federation (essentially, having portable social media ideas) and aggregation (pulling your social media content into one place– or maybe it’s pushing it out from one place- I forget) thus; geeks will love Federation because it’s a Star Trek word; slackers will love aggregation because it’s less work. I bet a bag of Doritos that aggregation wins.

*SXSW Twitter Break*
“I once beat six ninjas for a hot Asian women in beer pong #SXSW”

Is Twitter’s “Suggesting” Celebrities for New Users to Follow Alienating Long-Time Users?
Dave Winer thinks so. Me? It took Winer’s article for me to notice Twitter was even doing that. So, new users get recommended certain “celebrities” to follow. That’s a standard pre-package feature. They could charge for it, as Jason Calacanis suggests. It has nothing to do with conversations and relationship building, so I will go back to not noticing.

*SXSW Twitter Break*
“Ted just gave a nickel to a black man wearing a confederate flag. I guess this Texas #sxsw”

fanpageGeoff Livingston’s “Anti-Fan” Movement, or “I Won’t Not Join a Club That Would Not Have Me as an Anti-Member”: Aside from my tortured misquote of Groucho Marx, this has grown out of frustration with the charlatans, idiots, and “gurus” (please kill that word and embarrass anyone who uses it– thanks) who either game social media systems to amass large “follower” numbers quickly or simply pay too much attention to numbers of followers over quality of network and/or conversation.

Great idea, but as of this writing the Facebook Group only has 81 fans. Kinda lame. Let me know when you have 1,000, Geoff, then I’ll pay attention.

*SXSW Twitter Break*
“#sxsw Tomorrow I have to choose between BJ Novak and Lawrence Lessig. DAMN YOU, SXSW!!!”

Social Networks Now More Popular than Email
Oh, you mean in numbers, traffic. Effectiveness of marketing newsletters aside, Email’s popularity has been pretty low with me for about five or six years- at least. I’d love email to die and say it would be gone in five years, but you know how ridiculous those kinds of predictions sound.

While I’m riffing, here’s my prediction; in five years, all blogs will be consumed in pill form. Or maybe it’s all bloggers will be real pills. Whatever sounds better to you.

Thank you, I’m here all week. Wherever here is, perhaps you think I’m in Austin?

*Final SXSW Twitter Break*
“Homeless guy with no pants on is A-OK in my book. #sxsw”

Social Media Top 5; Rocky Mountain Low, Loic’s Nuclear Option, and What Beats Who

A Newspaper Goes Dark, with Dignity (?): The Rocky Mountain News produced its last edition Friday, after the sudden announcement that it would do so after the Scripps company was unable to find a buyer. Is this the beginning of the real end for print newspapers? I’ll defer to true experts in the field, but it feels like we’ll see more recognizable papers go the way of the Dodo before the stronger brands and businesses figure out the new reality for the new media.

I should mention I am a bit of a partisan, as I and my agency (SHIFT Communications) represent The Christian Science Monitor in communicating its transition from a daily print to a Web-first news publication with a new significant weekly print edition (coming in April, stay tuned). The Monitor is uniquely positioned to try something new like this where other organizations may be afraid or unable to make a similar leap, and it will be interesting to see how it is received once it actually happens and we see the weekly print rolling out.

Back to the “Rocky;” see the photo slide show at the Rocky home page; it is heartbreaking yet fascinating. Also, this 20-minute documentary is a remarkable look into the announcement and the surrounding events and feelings (hat-tip to ReadWriteWeb, where I saw it).

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

One other thing to add. Aside from being a publicist now, I was a producer for The Monitor’s “Monitor Radio” operation from 1994 until it was shut down in 1997. The Rocky’s shutdown brought back a lot of memories of our last days at Monitor Radio – though it was a far less bitter ending, we did have a similar sense of family and pride in our work as the last days, and our last programs, approached. I hesitate to bring this up as I do not want to get my experiences caught up in negative associations, but I do have a real sense of empathy with the Rocky’s staff. While I’m at it, here’s a picture of the final day at Monitor Radio in 1997, courtesy of colleague and Facebook buddy Mike Wilkins:


Re-Thinking “Followers on Social Networks: Loic Lemeur, the entrepreneur behind Seesmic and Twhirl, generated a lot of discussion when he decided that following thousands on Twitter was “fake following,” and nuked his whole following on the message/social network service, building up a more intimate followers list from scratch. This is in opposition to Robert Scoble, who has no problem following back tens of thousands of people who friend him on Twitter. Is that “fake following?” I agree with Scoble and others that following everyone back is a courtesy, and that it entails no obligation to intimately know someone within the network. It’s impossible, and we (and a growing number of tools) have ways to group and track the small number of folks we actually do want to know more closely. Loc, how about this? Build some really cool grouping functions into your Twhirl tool. I’m not nuking the people I follow just prove a point.

Twitter “mainstream?”
No, still not yet, but as I have called Facebook mainstream and Twitter not in recent posts, it’s worth calling out an entertaining piece on ABC’s Nightline (no embed code– cowards), not to mention their use of Twitter during President Obama’s first address to Congress, and a much more staid piece from The Financial Times as proof that Twitter is becoming closer to being a household word. When Twitter is mentioned at all parties the way Facebook is, then it’s mainstream. Soon, I am sure.

Senator Roland Burris’ PR Guy Deflects Blame: Every family tree has a crazy branch and in public relations we have our friends the political flacks. I clip stories like these to call up whenever I think I might be tempted to do PR for politicians.

Is It What You Know or Who You Know?
What! What! What! I am firmly aginst the notion of “Rolodex PR,” though I suppose it works in some strains of the profession. As kevin Dugan quoted it in his post:

“A personal relationship will not get you coverage of a bad pitch. A good pitch will get you coverage even with a bad relationship.”

Give me a good storyteller over a backslapping jackass any day- though it’s ok to be both.

Social Media Top Five: Journalist POV, Incivility, and PR Agencies Really Doing Social Media?

Press Releases From a Journalist’s POV
Daryl James, a former newspaper professional, lays out some very simple tips on what should go into a news release to get an editor’s or reporter’s attention. Some of them are beyond common sense, but always worth repeating. Setting aside the fact that the fixation on the news release itself is problematic, there are some great tips. I summarize below, with my own notes in parentheses:

  1. Just the facts. (Daryl brings up the idea of putting the important information in bullets rather than writing a narrative release; something I have been in favor of for a decade, and one of the important features of the Social Media Press Release template put together by my boss at SHIFT Communications, Todd Defren)
  2. It’s not about you. (In other words, don’t pitch the news, pitch the story that will actually get written.)
  3. Don’t make me work. (No attachments, hard-to-find resources, etc)
  4. Don’t lie. (You will be found out. Period.)
  5. Know your audience. (A basic for anyone involved in any form of communications)

Sick of incivility? TechCrunch, which has an obvious bias in this story, takes potshots at the DEMO conference and departing organizer Chris Shipley. TechCrunch, of course, organizes the fiercely competitive- and opposed- TechCrunch 50, which isn’t mentioned in the piece. Well, if you follow both you know what’s going on, and it has been clear for a long time that it pays to pay attention when it comes to TechCrunch, or it’s easy to get lost when trying to sort out the behind-the-scenes editorial process (and drama). Over at Media Bullseye (for which I write a monthly column), Chip Griffin opens fire on the whole “uncivil” war, which begs the question; should we just stop trying to expect old-fashioned journalistic standards from the more formidable “blogs” and just learn to expect yellow journalism, back-biting, and omissions of convenience? Chip won’t stand for it; I say, I think we’re already at where these publications are headed. Of course, I’m in the position of not needing to take a side here.

PR Rep for Octuplets’ Mother Get Death Threats Just as there is no boundary, apparently, for who should hire PR representation, there is no reason at all to take on a client that would get you death threats. Right? I suppose there are exceptions but this is far from one of them.

Talking About Yourself Egomaniacs have no problem talking about themselves. Others, though we know it’s often necessary, have a problem with doing it. Chris Brogan lays it out nicely; in taking about yourself, make it about others. It’s just a social media take on getting by giving, but after a couple of reads I got what he was saying.

PR Agencies and Social Media– Eating the Dogfood? First off, I read Jennifer Leggio’s long-awaited ZDNet report on survey results on public relations agencies and social media. Yes, I was gratified that my employer was mentioned positively as an agency that understands social media- after all, that’s a big reason I work at SHIFT. But also, there are some great takeaways- best of all, pooh-poohing the notion that social media is a “premium” service that needs to be separated from the rest of PR, and several reminders that “traditional” PR competency is still important.

Next, there was a blog post by Cece Salomon-Lee attempting to chart 100 independent PR agencies by how they use social media. It was a great idea, hamstrung by her insistence on corporate presences at the exclusion of individuals doing social media on behalf of their agencies (in part, like me and many others, or in whole). The mix of personal and professional brands is very important to me, and while we don;t necessarily advise clients to do things the same way, it’s something I feel strongly about. I wasn’t the only one to mention this, or the first, and Cece replied in a very open way– creating a wiki for agencies to contribute and speak for themselves. Very cool.

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Social Media Top 5: Twestival, Can Twitter be Digg, and Pulver Pokes

Twestival: I had been hearing quite a bit about Charity:Water over the last few months, from a semi-mysterious mailed invitation to a New York fundraiser party in December (I got thrown off by the lack of social media context) to my good friend Laura Fitton’s fundraising via TipJoy and Twitter. OK, I get it- a comparatively small amount of money helps get clean water for villages in places where that is indeed a difficult thing. You can’t knock that for a good cause.

Well, Charity:Water and all of its various volunteer friends have really kicked it up a notch with the Twestival idea. Starting in London, but blooming to s global scale, with at least 175 cities participating- simultaneously, on February 12. I plan to attend the Boston event that evening; not just for the charity- it’s easy to give $25 if you have it- but for the meatspace socialization. what a fantastic idea; I am looking forward to the aftermath.

I’ll let social media video star iJustine explain Charity:Water because she’s prettier than I am

The Obama “Hope” Poster; Intellectual Property Theft? Super media-blogger Dan Kennedy brought to my attention lawsuit brought by the Associated Press against artist Shepard Fairey because he used an AP photo to produce the poster. Kennedy thinks the suit will not go anywhere because the poster should qualify as a “transformative” work (read the post for a better explanation). I would like to agree, but frankly I don’t know the law well enough. Regardless, I do see this as another lost opportunity, a la the FedEx box furniture and other “takedown notice” public relations gaffes. The AP could embrace this– even coopt it (“steal it back,” if you must) and share in some of the reflected good feelings behind the poster. Instead, they’re succumbing to
the typically aggressive intellectual property lawyers’ advice. Understandable, but still….

..maybe I can get sued for this:

The Twitter Effect: a New Digg? Stephen Shankland writes in CNET about the “Twitter Effect,” where “Re-Tweets” – repeated sharing of a single link – can bring lots of traffic to a blog post or Web site. When Twitter is truly mainstream, I see the possibility; I sure get most of my traffic from Twitter, and when someone like Chris Brogan Tweets a blog post (and he has), the traffic surge is noticeable. Of course, I write a lot about social media, and lots of like-minded people hang out on Twitter, so of course it works for me. We will have to see if the Twitter Effect goes mainstream.

One thing I do like in this over Digg, is the relevance- Twitter (and StumbleUpon, by the way) is much more social than Digg has become, meaning that links are more heartfelt recommendations, rather than a relatively small cabal voting things up an down. So, does relevant count in these games?

Facebook Pokes- Not Completely Evil, If Jeff Pulver Says So I really have no time or patience for Pokes and Super pokes on Facebook, or any of the other meaningless (but, ok, fun) applications on the social network, but Jeff Pulver reminds us that the plain old “poke” is a way to find presence– are you there? Jeff plays that game, maybe I will a little, now. No Zombie bites though.

Idiots Threaten Social Networks ZDNet Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan just blows off some steam at the the idiots that often crop up on the public Internet. My take? It’s not annoyance, it’s entertainment! Dumb moments on the social web are the “crotch shots” or pie in the face, and we hope we are never victims.

Social Media Top 5: It’s Not About You, Mr. Journalist, and Blogging is Not a Business Requirement

What Really Needs to Change? How about journalists making themselves the story (and for the purposes of this column, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is a journalist)? Dating back to my time in journalism, it has always irked me when journalists make themselves part of the story. I want a publication to report on whatever their special topic is, not themselves. Granted, Michael Arrington has always based TechCrunch on his personality, and noone should condone his being spat on or the death threats he writes about– but whether or not people like Arrington or not does not affect whether I read TechCrunch or not– and that goes for any media outlet. Maybe I’m an old crank, but I really don’t care.

Journchat is wicked cool: I have mentioned Journchat here, but thought it worth adding to a SM Top 5. Monday nights, a group of PR people and journalists on Twitter, led by Sarah Evans, get together to discuss a bunch of questions, and topics, loosely moderated. I strongly recommend it to any PR people or journalists. While I have missed a few weeks, I see people are still singing its praises, and my friend Christopher Penn in particular added his own unique thoughts to the latest edition in a blog post.

From Baltimores via Ragans PR Junkie blog

From Baltimore's via Ragan's "PR Junkie" blog

Mommy is not an exotic dancer. She just loves her job: I already got some mileage out of this post on Twitter, but it’s worth repeating. Apparently a young schoolgirl drew this picture of her mother at work, and the mother frantically had to explain that no, she’s not a pole-dancer, she’s a Home Depot worker who was helping customers get shovels during a snowstorm- and that’s why her daughter was so proud. I don’t even care if it’s real, it’s hilarious. Plus, it illustrates the need for context- something we need to remind ourselves constantly in social media and all communications- quite well.

Can We impeach PR Flacks Too? I don’t want to waste too much breath on Impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich, but Drew Kerr had an excellent post about some of our less reputable PR cousins (no, not political press secretaries). The specific point I am drawn to is the press release put out by Blago’s publicists, crediting themselves as a source. That would be hard for me to top:

“Gov. Rod Blagojevich will go to Springfield tomorrow to present his case to Illinois senators preparing to impeach him, according to The Publicity Agency, the outside PR/publicity firm hired by the governor.”

“Blogging is a Business Requirement:” No. it’s not. Really. I understand what Shel Holtz is getting at, but one of the smartest blog posts we should always remember is B.L. Ochman’s “10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog.” Some companies shouldn’t blog. Some will never need to. I can’t see that ever changing. Blogs are great, and I’ll often recommend them, but the first thing I will ask a client that isn’t sure is- well, “Are you sure?” A better question to answer before blogging is, “Why?” In fact, if I ever outright plagiarize a presentation idea, it’ll be Jeremy Pepper‘s presentation on social media in which he simply put up one slide with the word “Why?” on it. (Jeremy, I can’t find a link to your post about that– I’d love to link to it).

UPDATE: And here it is. thanks Jeremy!

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Social Media Top 5: Buffering Obama, Lazy Readers, & PR No-Brainers

Has Obama broken a social media promise? – I have been very skeptical of the idea that President Obama’s will be a “social media” administration. Federal government seems to me the last fortress against transparency and interactivity- at least where it comes to adopting new methods- not to mention there are a lot of things a president could not be transparent about in the name of national security. Putting the Saturday addresses on YouTube seems a no-brainer– podcasting them, making them downloadable, I can see that. The fact that there is a blog, and a Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, is pretty cool though. It’s more than I expected, but probably less than others had. Just don’t expect Obama to “@” you on Twitter.

(By the way: more thorough piece on the topic from Jen Zingsheim at Media Bullseye).


A Quick note About the Inauguration:
Relying on streaming video and the Web in general to capture major world events- the ones that millions of people drop everything to observe? My experience Tuesday leaves me thinking the Web is still not ready for true prime-time mass adoption. No stream worked in our office- we all retired to the building cafeteria to watch on CNN. When you have TV, use it. As intriguing as the Facebook application was, the Web’s performance in general just didn’t cut it. It was like trying to use Twitter during Steve Jobs’ iPhone unveiling.

Echo Chamber or Lazysphere? Peter Kim is doing a brave thing in exhorting people to break our social media discussions out of the echo chamber. Brave because it’s comfortable to talk amongst ourselves and continually prove how smart we are about social media, and easy to say “No!” if someone asks us to turn things outward. This is the big challenge for those of us using social media; using it “to transform the way we live and work.” What I really was interested in in the second post linked above, was Peter’s reference to the “Lazysphere” – people don;t read things through. On the one hand we could cater to that impulse and produce lazy content for mass consumption- or, we could call on what i like to call the “responsibility of the audience” to read critically (what I often harp on) and to read thoroughly (probably more of what Peter’s emphasis is here). Wouldn’t that create a niche of committed audiences rather than an echo-chamber-busting mass appeal? Maybe the key to getting out of the echo chamber is creating those niches – new niches. Of course, I merrily continue writing about social media– but it is part of my work.

The Best Thing About blogging? More PR People See Things from a Journalist’s Eyes. Rohit Bhargava has a nice post, “What All PR People Should Know About Journalists,” which brings perspective more PR people have that they didn’t 10 years ago; many of them are getting pitches from other PR people and can see some of the industry’s worst practices first-hand. I’m just glad I have avoided the “PR bloggers getting pitched” crowd to this point.

Also, Rohit followed up with a “What Journalists Should Know About PR People” post. Great info in both posts– I know PR people are reading, but not sure enough journalists will admit to reading this (I dare you to comment there if you are!) for me to hope for a serious rapprochement.

Isn’t it time to Retire the “It Needs to be in Print or It Isn’t Important” Crap? Ten years ago in public relations, clients would often dismiss online placements if they didn’t appear in print also- there just wasn’t much authority in bits compared to ink. When I returned to agency life four years ago, it seemed that prejudiced had all but disappeared. Was I wrong? This video (from RealWire via the Bad pitch blog) give a nice, informative look at the benefits of online media placements; searchability, etc. Can anyone tell me they still need to explain this stuff to clients? Seriously, let me know.

The Online Media from RealWire on Vimeo.

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Uttercast: Do Taglines Matter?


Do taglines matter? They’re supposed to convey the company or product meaning in a snappy few words. But do the audiences care?

Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang ( has done something fun on this topic: he set up a quiz (the quix has since been closed) inviting people to identify the companies in the social media community platforms market by their taglines.

Even though I am involved in this space and know a number of the players personally, I am embarrassed to say I only knew one tagline off the bat.

Why even admit that? Because I am beginning to wonder if taglines even matter. Perhaps Jeremiah is making the same point.

Do you think taglines are working? What makes an effective tagline? Have it your way- tell me what you think.

Note on the picture: Marvel Comics’ taglines for their titles tended to become the titles themselves: "Uncanny X-Men,"."Amazing Spiderman," etc. That’s why these taglines work.

Mobile post sent by DougH using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3

Update: Jeremiah has already called out my post. I guess I’ll find out how embarrassed I should be.

Blog readers: I am riding the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer, a 2-day bicycle trek across Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in support of cancer research. Will you join the generous folks who have sponsored my ride? Click any part of this message to go to my fundraising page– and thank you!

Uttercast: Relationship vs. Value in PR


Last night I took part in a chat among journalists, bloggers & PR flacks, called "journchat." For summaries of these Monday talks, use Twitter Search for"journchat" or go to There was too much to follow, but one discussion I took part in was one about PR relationships with journalists.

I have ranted about "rolodex PR" before so I’ll boil it down to 2 of my missives:

"Most PRs who sell themselves based on their relationships with journalists are lying." The lie to me is that they imply guaranteed coverage. Don’t fall for that when hiring a PR firm. I’ll take a good pitcher without relationships if I must choose.

"Want a relationship? I have info that’ll help you write a good story. There’s my &*%$# relationship." Do reporters really want to be our buddies? No, they want us to be good sources.

Am I out of line here? I don’t think so.

Mobile post sent by DougH using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3

Bonus: As part of the discussion, i linked to Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, noting that my knowing him doesn’t mean he’ll write about my client. I think I caught him by surprise (but yes, he did get the joke).

(btw: Marshall doesn’t drink coffee)