Social Media Top 5: I Get Positive About Brands Online

Image Credit: Anne Worner on Flickr

As the New Social Media Top 5 gathers momentum, this week I noticed a number of stories about brands online and how they handled a situation well or did something I liked. That’s right, I’m toning down the snark (sort of) to show what a nice guy I can be. Many of these stories are well-picked-over like a yard sale at noon, but I’ll try to find one question or nugget in each that has been less-discussed:

Image Credit: Anne Worner on Flickr

Image Credit: Anne Worner on Flickr


  • What we all know – When a brand makes a controversial decision, the tendency is to stand behind the decision without spending time (and reputation capital) feeding the trolls who disagree with it online. Target recently decided to stop separating toy aisles into “girls” and “boys,” and predictably the mouth-breathing keyboard-peckers decided that was un-American or something and took to the Internet with their fair and balanced opinions. A prankster by the name of Even Melgaard took Target’s decision to ignore the haters out of their hands by setting up a fake account and textually abusing them, using Target’s logo to give the appearance of an “official” customer care channel. Most brands’ first reaction would be to go after the imposter with a cease-and-desist order to protect their trademark; however, the most talked-about reaction was Target’s humorous posting of a sale on troll dolls. Well played, we all applauded.
  • What most of us didn’t talk about – Target’s lawyers are most definitely involved as far as this being a likely trademark violation. As funny as this guy is, I’d be shocked if they don’t ask (if they haven’t already) for Melgaard to stop using the logo. One of the US Patent and Trademark Office’s favorite sports is to force applicants to fiercely protect marks if they want to keep it, much the way the Caesars forced gladiators to fight to the death in Roman times. Expect “Ask ForHelp” to stop using the logo at some point once Target’s lawyers get back from the Hamptons.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

  • What we all know – Kentucky Fried Chicken recently revived the “beloved” Colonel Sanders character. Darrell Hammond, well known as a mimic from “Saturday Night Live,” stepped right in and did a swell job. Apparently some people thought it was creepy (and others thought maybe bringing back a Southern white gentleman dressed like a plantation owner as a spokesperson was a little odd in the same year South Carolina finally decided to remove the Confederate Battle Flag) but to see what KFC did next, I guess the reasons were not that it was like bringing a dead guy back to life on TV like some kind of ad-zombie (who can forget Orville Reddenbocker’s chilling return from the dead?). Instead, they introduced ads featuring fellow SNL alumnus Norm MacDonald, best known for doing cannily inaccurate impressions of Burt Reynolds and making OJ Simpson jokes, to take over the impression. Did KFC listen to its customers and give them what they wanted? Well, they’re definitely listening.
  • What I think – We are all being trolled, and I hope I’m right in thinking that. Norm MacDonald comes off as Norm MacDonald in a Colonel Sanders suit, and if they did that on purpose they are brilliant. Perhaps they will follow with other SNL alums taking their turns doing a poor impression. I’d watch that, if only to see if they’d cast Garrett Morris.


  • What we know – Probably not much: “Cooties” is a flick coming out in September about kids who turn into zombie-like beasts, and we know it will be good not only because Elijah Wood is in it (some of his role choices make me think of Wood as a Crispin Glover, except if people liked him), but because the film is a blender creation from people behind the “Saw” movies and “Glee” (which could have used a few more gory deaths in my opinion).
  • What you don’t care about but I do – On seeing the trailer online, I blew it up on the TV screen for my family and promptly announced that seeing this movie once it comes out will be a family outing- something I posted on Twitter as well:

  • That the writer (and one of the stars) of the movie as well as the director favorited, Retweeted me and followed me tickled me in a way Twitter used to in the old days. This is less the case of a big brand deigning to favor its Twitter followers with responses, but I felt it more a fan acknowledgment by some folks who are working hard to get this movie noticed. I hope Cooties gets some screens in Boston. Who wants to go?

Three is enough; this is getting long



Social Media Top 5: The Triumphant Revival


I’ve laid off the blog so long – not to mention the “Social Media Top 5” semi-feature – that one might think it was “dead.” I dislike when people in marketing declare things dead just to get attention (almost as much as when marketers declare the latest unproven, not-widely-available tool “the next big thing”), so time for a revival and five things that, like this blog, are most definitely not “dead.”


Photo Credit: Maureen Barlin on Flickr

1. “LOL” – According to Facebook, people are not using “LOL” as much to express laughter. Apparently, “haha” is more popular. I understand the emergence of emoji’s as more and more of these nasty critters are a click or so away from making you look hip in front of your friends. I have a hard time understanding why four characters trumps three in this age of brevity and autocorrect; why not the simple “heh?” – perhaps too understated. Also, the Facebook was based on a week’s worth of posts, so simmer down, people. 

2. “Real-Time Marketing” – This one’s not dead because the “real-time marketing” ghost that people have been chasing ever since Oreo’s heavily-planned moment of serendipity happened was never really alive. You either have a marketing or PR team in place that can act quickly to news events, or you don’t. That notion didn’t suddenly become evident at the 2013 Super Bowl (unless you were an attention-seeking social media blogger, then it was the Greatest Thing Ever That Never Happened Before). If you want to give up on “newsjacking” because it’s too hard because you can’t keep up with millions of Tweets, you’re thinking about it incorrectly anyway- find your niche and show up to your audience- not the world. Take advantage of news or don’t, no in-between. Nothing died, nothing to see here. Meanwhile, I will continue to walk out of any conference speech or panel that lazily brings up “Oreo at the Superbowl.”

3. Google Plus – This one is harder for me, as I have long been a skeptic of those who would put Google Plus  alongside Facebook as a viable competitor in social networking. I was never a G+ hater so much as an eyebrow-wagger at those who declared it the Greatest Thing Ever, even touting tutorials on G+ business pages before such things actually existed. So long as Facebook had everyone on the planet, that was never a worthy or realistic goal, or a realistic way to consider it. Google’s habit of pulling the plug on services that a small number of fierce fans love, in the interest of re-allocating resources and focus, has also been a factor in the frustrations many have over G+. Anger over the recent a changes to Google Plus was fed by those recollections, I suspect. But saying Google Plus is dead because they are re-focusing the product (I tend to agree with my colleague Mark Traphagen’s assessment) is not close to true. You may not use G+, you may not like what it was or what it might be, but it is still here and it is what it is.

Bonus plug: my employer, Stone Temple Consulting, recently released a study on what gets engagement on Google Plus– I’m biased, but I think it is good fodder for those who don’t mind the fact that G+ is “dead.”)


Image Credit: Tom Simpson on Flickr

4, Music – Well, maybe music is actually dead. Sinead O’Connor said so. Perhaps she’s upset she never managed to kill it herself, though I suspect music will live past a mass-media entity like Rolling Stone featuring the not-as-dumb-as-we-want-her-to-be Kim Kardashian on the cover.

5. One More – If you want to declare something dead,  I recommend a safer, unassailable bet. Of course, saying that nearly guarantees that Columbia House will return in some form.

Final Word: On the futility of anger: A self-proclaimed optimist says that the next time he sees one of those pessimists, he’s going to take his half-full glass and pour it over his head. His friend replies, “But then your glass would be empty.”  My glass is empty, and the fridge is full of beer. Drink up, folks.

Bonus: I’m not using an image from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail “Not Dead Yet” sketch to illustrate this post. You’re welcome.

Social Media Top 5: The Problem with Absolutes

20100212 - Batman & Robin on absolute truths - generatorFor this Social Media Top 5 (now an occasional feature of this blog, apparently), I noticed some articles (the first three on this last) that seemingly posed some absolutes. Of course, once you read any blog post in the marketing workd, extremism is rarely the truth, and that goes here.

Curation vs Original Content: Not Black & White

David Meerman Scott blogged about how curation is far less valuable to a brand than original content. Many bloggers (corporate bloggers in this context) aggregate “links of the week” or similar features to fill out their content calendars. That is true, but only to a point. original content represents original thought, and thus one would think readers (customers) would reward that more handsomely with their hard-earned cash and hard-won patronage.

However, let’s not rule out curation, done correctly. In early social media days, I noticed many folks I know putting up blog posts (automated by as it turned out) that simply put up links– that was it. I found that useless and a troubling trend, and in fact this “Social Media Top 5 was originally a satirical response to those posts.

Is that curation, though? I don’t think so. Good curation provides context to the links- so not only should a blogger be pointing to other sources of content that readers might find valuable, but also providing opinions, additional facts, and value that makes the curation a post in itself (I hope that’s what I’m doing here). David agrees, which is of no surprise to me.

Scale vs Creating Value

Rachel Happe of the Community Roundtable chastises the popular social media platforms for focusing on scale rather than value creation. My response? I thinks scale is necessary to larger organizations online. They must find a way to speak to and reach larger numbers of people- it’s an occupational hazard- while still creating that value. Sure, there are tradeoffs, and perhaps value comes first, I understand that. Also, is it the fault of the platforms to encourage massive numbers and scale? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the rest want to make money somehow, and one way is to sell access to as large (and valuable, sure) a group of people as possible. It’s not the responsibility of the platform then, so it must  be that of the content creator. Some of these platforms will be rigged to serve scale better, but valuable content will drive quality and results– but again, for most, not without scale.

Email vs Social Content Stop Sharing Your Email Newsletter in Social?

Another smart local marketer, Christopher Penn, wrote about how sharing email newsletter content vial social devalues the content. Chris writes from the perspective of a professional email marketer, so it’s understandable. One of the advantages of email is that you control the platform better than, say, Facebook. You can track opens, and encourage other actions that are also trackable. The problem with looking at his as an absolute is that this way of thinking depends on your purpose for the email. You may be better off getting better reach through freeing the content over social channels and getting more inbound hits (which may be harder to track). You also might score points by breaking the email newsletter into pieces and doling those out as shorter posts on public channels that tease the complete content on your proprietary channel. That method Chris endorses, if I understand him correctly

Source: Hot Butter Studio

I have posted here frequently on what I think of as the scourge of bad infographics: tiny text, images that don’t fit on a screen, and other tactics that render infographics useless in the name either of being clever or of cramming all the information into one place (stop that!).  I was relieved to see Beth Kanter’s primer on infographics, which featured examples that are much clearer, to the point, and digestible- what infographics should be. I’m not going to like anything 100%, but this post seems to promote more common sense than we normally see out there, so listen to Beth.

Grey Poupon- Is This Campaign Good Enough?

Just a thought on a Facebook campaign that people were raving bout this past week. Grey Poupon set its Facebook page up as if “Liking” it gave you admission to an exclusive club. What drives me nuts is people praising the creative, which of course was good, but it was not clear what the end goal was. As with the Old Spice video campaign of a year or two back, let’s wait and see if there were some results from this– and what are the goals of this program, exactly? I’m not saying there isn’t- I just don’t know, and want to reserve judgment either way.

By the way- I have not bought any mustard as a result, but who knows, maybe I was exposed to enough warm fuzzies to predispose me to the brand in the future. Curiously, my 14 year-old son prefers Old Spice these days; though he hasn’t reference their campaigns, it seems their overall integrated campaign to appeal to youth has succeeded- in my house, at least.

Social Media Top 5: Guy Loves Google+, Scouts Can Gays, and Naming Apps

Google Plus splatThe Case for Google Plus Still Missing the Most Important Thing (People)

Well-known tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki recently published an article in MarketingProfs called “Why I Love Google+” (interesting that the URL generated by the post title cannot include the “+” – I wonder if that affects the article’s SEO? I know, that’s more amusing than important). He makes his usual compelling case for how Google+ works – for him. There are great points about Google+’s superior functionality and how Google owns a lot of the important spaces in the Internet to help it succeed (namely search). He also concludes that Google+ is the place  to share passions with others. In the same breath, he sort-of dismisses Facebook (via a republished cartoon) as being merely about “people.” But if there are no people to care about your passion… well, you can guess what I think the problem is.

I don’t necessarily think “Passion” as the defining feature of a social network will get me to use it. It’s too vague, therefore meaningless. Also, it makes me think it’s populated with zealots. I just want to share stuff. With people. I use Google+ (and like it) but only to talk to the small percentage of people I know who are there. My marketing colleagues (many  but not all, I should add) are there, not all using it regularly. Where are the people from the rest of my life? So far, I count one family friend as a regular user,. That is it.

Google+ is a very good product. The user interface is easy and intuitive, the features are many yet not overwhelming. Great. Guy reminds us of that, but we don’t need reminding. I can also say the same thing about the Zune; what happened to that? I can also say the same thing about Windows Phone, which I have just had the opportunity to fool around with, but have no intention to use regularly except when forced to (my loaner global phone for an imminent Paris vacation uses the Windows OS).

Yes, I know about Google owning search and being on Plus for the SEO benefits. There may be some longer term benefit to that, but only if the product thrives through usage; otherwise it just lives in the background like many other Google products.

It will take more than the continued pleadings of evangelists like Guy Kawasaki to put Google Plus over the top. It will take the presence of my high school classmates, just as it did with Facebook. Where will you get those, Google? How will you convince them to go over there? Is that what you want or are we all chasing the wrong end game?

Boy Scouts Can Gay Response

I have posted in the past about my  issues with the Boy Scouts of America’s narrow moral view of the world, and how I have to reconcile the great things I have learned and taught as an Eagle Scout with the unacceptable (to me) world view of the national US organization.

The BSA’s firm ban of homosexuals came up again when a group (centered on a gay Eagle Scout) presented a resolution to the BSA national organization asking them to rescind the ban. News organizations jumped on the story saying the BSA was actually considering changing the policy. The BSA quickly and firmly corrected this by Tweeting to every major news organization, linking to a statement explaining they were only accepting the resolution as a matter of course, but in no way seriously considering addressing, let alone changing, the policy.

Personally, I find that repugnant, but only because I hate the policy. As a PR move, you can admire them for staying on message, but I wouldn’t exactly call their use of social media “social.” The organization came off as a gate-keeping robot rather than one willing to discuss its stance. Opportunity lost –  but it also brings up the idea that even organizations with views I oppose can create dialogue online that can help people understand what and why they do,. In this case, I would argue that it’s important. Instead, it was a channel for broadcasting a rigid statement. Maybe next time.

Naming Apps – Little Things Count

I fly Delta enough to finally decide to download their mobile app. For the simple functionality I want from it (checking itinerary, making changes, booking flights) it seems to work well so far. What did bother me was a small yet important thing: they named their app “Fly Delta.”

Why is this important? When I tried to find the app, I couldn’t find it under “D” for “Delta.” It was under “F” for “Fly.” A small thing, but even the smallest annoyances that greet new users may be enough to turn them off. There is no good reason to introduce such minor irritants into the process. In the end, a good useful app will win people over, but why risk annoying them at the outset?

A friend pointed out a similar issue with Amazon Kindle. I’m not sure it’s a problem for me. Would you look for that app under “A” or “K?” It’s about branding – and what your customers see as your branding.

Photo Credit: Google Plus Splat by Leon Nicholls on Flickr

Social Media Top 5: PR Egos, Brand-Blogger Relationships & Die! Animated GIFs

JerkPR People –  YOU Are Not the Story

I already pushed this link by Danny Brown out on my various social networks, but it is a topic that hits home for any PR practitioner. While I’m sure Danny is thinking in part about PR folks who get big britches from blogging and Tweeting and suddenly have a public voice, this is a more basic message. If you are a PR person, especially on the agency side, your job is to make your clients famous. If you are interjecting, putting your name in quotes and press releases, or generally putting yourself out there rather than clients, you are not serving your clients. I understand if you work in-house you may be the spokesperson, but if you are not, then the same applies.

When I got into PR, the idea – so I thought – was to be behind the scenes and make other people famous. I actually got – still get – a kick out of that. The principle is the same with social media – the client owns the content, it’s their voice, their names, their faces – not mine, not yours. I guess Danny thought it had to be said (I wonder what happened – heh).

I mentioned blogging– yes, many of us have public voices now thanks to social media, but creating a personal (or agency) body of work, promoting our services and good thinking is different than doing so on the client’s dime. Do PR (and social media) people really have a problem subverting their ego to boost the client’s profile? I guess some do.

I Love This Infographic Even More, For All The Right Reasons

My recent post praising an infographic that was actually pretty wrong-headed (but would have made a great parody) has a sequel. Rather than try to prove how complicated social media is by jamming as many logos for social media services into a slide that one can, the folks at Awareness Networks put the same concept to work – tossing out this graphic for making a salad. If you know what you want, it’s easier to avoid getting distracted by tools (or overdress the salad – don’t do that).


Brand and Blogger Relationships

The question rises once again: do brands want relationships with bloggers? Or are they after quick campaign hits? It’s an interesting question in PR and marketing, with a lot of different facets. My high-level thinking on program or long-term thinking vs campaigns (short-term) is that program must always form the bedrock under which campaigns can fly, but always anchored to a larger goal.

That’s way too high level. There was a good discussion over on Facebook that reflects my fractured thinking on the topic here.

Also, being the wag that I am, my first thought was to ask “Why on earth would a blogger want to have a relationship with a brand? Do you need to be exclusive? Sign a contract? Restrict what you say? Hmm. Of course, I wasn’t the first to think of that question, as Dennis Van Staalduinen was happy to point out. Thanks Dennis.

Things That Must Die: Animated GIF Tumblr Blogs.

People in my industry who should know better are chuckling over ugly, migraine-inducing sites like featuring animated gifs, the evil hell-spawn of the dancing hamster. If animated GIF avatars are terrible (they are), why heap praise on this dreck? It’s not even funny, even if you think they are PR “truths.” You want The Truth? Watch the Celtics.

Okay, that’s four, not five. Sue me. 

*Photo credit: gr8matt on Flickr

Pinterest and Instagram; The Scales Fall From My Eyes (Somewhat)

in my cynical, skeptical way, I have spent the last several months heaping doubt and scorn on Pinterest and Instagram, mainly as a hedge against the people who seem too excited about either of these being the “next big thing.” I have, some of you will like to hear, since started truly enjoying these services. But I did have real doubts. Both are based on images, and don’t allow more complex expressions of text, video and audio. Neither is focused on housing things on your own site- they are really spokes in the hub-and-spoke world of social media content, aren’t they?

Instagram, in particular, seemed limited to me. Not only was it only available to iPhone and iPad users until the beginning of April, severely limiting the availability and alienating Android users (again, they solved that), but the content was limited as well. It’s basically a preset group of filters meant to shock and abuse your photos’ color and lighting to hide the limitations of smartphone camera. Yes, it was fancypants doo-dahs masquerading as art.

As I has recently been involved in a family photo scanning project, I liked to joke about the limited appeal of making fresh photos look like they were shot in 1962. Quick, which of these is from Instagram?

john rob doughaslam bill halloween

Instagram Photo

I should note I thought about this post before Facebook announced they were buying Instagram for $1 billion. Um, wow.

Pinterest? Again, the content is limited to images. It’s not a be-all social network. It would be nice to embed these pinboards into your own sites (something I expect will become a real feature at some point); then, it would be a nice complement to your own content on your own domain (yes, your blogs. Blogs are awesome).

For my snark, I started boards dedicated to my personal bete-noire, infographics. Items from my board on “Infographic Crimes Against Humanity” (yes, I blogged about this recently, sue me) have been repinned without regard for context to “Sexy Infographics” and “Great Infographics” boards, sometimes with my withering remarks intact. Suit yourself, I guess. I should also mention the seeming lopsided appeal of Pinterest to women and the more obvious utility to retailers of “stuff” over people trying to convey “ideas.”


However, in actually using these, I found one thing to be true that shook my skepticism, almost wiping the sneer off my face. When I posted content? People shared it. Almost instantly. While I still chafe at the limited type of content, that very simplicity along with the attractiveness of the visuals creates an instant, addictive, appeal (even with the rather ridiculous lack of context in some of the repins as mentioned above).  That makes using these tools more fun than research, and backs up the contention- to a point- that these are the “next social networks.”

That’s great- but how can I apply this to the primary content hubs yeah, those blogs that are supposed to be dead), to spice up the activity, make them less stale, and re-energize our whole streams of content? That, I suppose, is the next step.

Social Media Top 5: Pinfographics, Homeless Hotspots at SXSW, and Legally Social

1) Don’t Kill All the Lawyers

I enjoyed this short piece on managers and lawyers by Ted Weisman of Lois Paul and Partners. The truth is, between bigger brand with their own established standards and practices getting better at social media, and regulations piling up, having to deal with lawyers – not stonewalling, avoiding or scrunching your eyes in the hopes they will go away – is the norm. I deal with clients’ legal departments (directly or indirectly) regularly, and the positive far outweighs the negative.

Homeless in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan2)  Homeless Hotspots: Two Sides of the Story

I was happy to be following South by Southwest Interactive from afar this year. One of the most talked about stunts was the marketing firm BBH’s Homeless Hotspot campaign, in which homeless eople in Austin were equipped with portable wi-fi for SXSW attendees, who would make suggested donations. It was easy to mock the campaign’s apparent dehumanization of the homeless (a Hotspot? How about human patio furniture or piggyback cab rides? You bet I had fun with it).

But yet, was it a laudable attempt to get people to talk about the homeless problem, including and talk to homeless people? There were reasonable arguments on both sides. Kneejerk reactions from people like me (whether you were there are not) often oversimplify the story.


3) My Version of Diving Into the Pinterest is Craze (such as it is)

I like Pinterest. I really do. I do counsel caution to companies wanting to jump in (why are you doing it?) and am cynical about breathless quoting of growth statistics, but understand the addictive nature of visually sharing things we like.

I jumped in, but on my terms. I have spent the last year or so commenting on the sometimes horrifying trend towards producing “infographics” for any possible,sometimes grotesque, application.

To be fair, I have spent time trying to find infographics that work and I like as well as those I hyperbolically deem “Crimes Against Humanity.”

4) Bloggers: Stop Trying So Hard

After scrolling through post after post in my RSS feeds, one thing is clear: bloggers are trying too hard. I’m a big fan of writing to publish on personal blogs rather than fussing too much about perfection and format. However, does that mean everything is a top ten list? That we can find social media lessons in everything from the latest unrelated news event to (to pull an email ample from a friend) pole dancing?

Sometimes I think we try to hard. Not everything fits neatly into a Top 5 list, not even this weekly blog post series (which you might notice is far from weekly).

There is no 5).


Photo Credit: Robert Thomson on Flickr

Social Media Top 5: Humanize Your Infographics with Analytics

Yeah, nobody’s reading this fresh because everybody’s at SXSW Interactive, right? Except those that aren’t.

“Humanize” – Rush to Publish Causes Confusion

The fact that publishing tools are plentiful and easy to use does not excuse mistakes made in the rush to publish- though it does cause them. On the other hand, the self-correcting nature of social media is another, more positive side effect- if people are willing to communicate. An example of this came this week when social media monitoring /analytics company Radian 6 published the eBook “Building Stronger Customer Relationships: How to Humanize Your Company with Social Media.”

The problem? A book with similar themes was published only a few months back. “Humanize,” by Maddie Grant (a friend) and Jamie Notter, is a good read, a worthy book, by the way- recommended.

Was there a trademark issue? I actually don’t know for sure. But with the book being current, confusion between the two publications was a real possibility. rather than public passive-aggressive putdowns (though some folks, including myself, did make references on Twitter), mutual acquaintances alerted Radian 6 to the issue, and within minutes (seemingly, it was probably an hour or two)- the title of the ebook was changed to “Building Stronger Customer Relationships: Making Your Brand More Personal with Social Media.” Crisis averted- or at least minimized- by simply talking to folks.

Humanize, indeed.

Is the Marketing World (Too) Facebook Centric?

Just a simple question that came to mind after being invited to a Facebook discussion group on social marketing. An overwhelming amount of the threads were about Facebook. There are several reasons this could be true:

  • It is a Facebook group, so natural to discuss Facebook there (that could be true)
  • Facebook IS dominant , silly, so that’s what we need to be talking about (I’m not so sure, but can agree to an extent)
  • The group is filled with Facebook experts (true), who seem to be among the more active members
  • We are being shortsighted by isolating ourselves to the current hottest platform
To be fair, the group’s content isn’t all Facebook, and as I imply above, the focus is warranted, at least in part. But as social media marketers, are we too focused on Facebook? Are we ready if Facebook goes the way of Friendster or MySpace? I wonder.

Community Manager vs Community Analyst?

Chuck Hemann (another friend) wrote an interesting article in the Spredfast blog: “Ditch the Community Manager, Hire the Community Analyst.” First off, after reading the article, I’ll add “Ditch the Headline Writer” too, as that is misleading. Chuck is not saying the Community Manager function should go away, but that the need for people who know data and analytics is more urgent than ever in social media marketing. As someone who crunches numbers and analyzes trends for clients, I would say the same thing. Whether or not that person is also the community manager is something to be answered by availability of people and the resources to hire them, but the pendulum of need, I agree, swings in that direction. I would caution against letting it swing too far, to the point that we don’t have community managers- or quality content producers- to fill that end of the social media process. Chuck is an analytics guy so take that into account, but I agree with the need.

An Infographic to Like – For Once 

I often complain about bad infographics in this blog, but with good reason. The idea that infographics should be pleasing to consume and convey actual information has been lost. I often tout the Boston Bruins’ Foxwoods bar tab as an example of a good infographic, but thanks to friends (thank you Amy Vernon) I have found a new one. It conveys info without making me scroll, there’s not too much into it so I can grasp it in one look, but yet it is still useful. An excellent example. I wish more people would do it this way, instead of the tiresome, unreadable graphics we are being subjected to.


Rain at SXSW

My word (phrase, rather) of the week is “Schadenfreudian slip,” as when I accidentally make references to the apocalyptic rain storms greeting SXSW Interactive arrivals this weekend. Someone should be able to get some good publicity handing out ponchos. Wonder if that happened?

Social Media Top 5; Pinterest Copyright, PR Defined, More Infographic Atrocity

babauPinterest and the Copyright Bogeyman

Pinterest has captured the hearts and minds of social media shiny-object navel-gazers. It’s great, it’s simple, it’s visual.. but back in January, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were copyright issues. Boy howdy were there. While I now wonder if the current hysteria over copyright protection on Pinterest is a bit overblown, it is worth considering for both individual and corporate users.

Individuals now worry about being sued, and even being responsible for legal fees incurred by Pinterest (according to their Terms of Service). Companies need to worry not only about inappropriate use of their trademarks in sharing images, but in being liable themselves (and being bigger targets for suits) even if they merely “repin” something a fan put on the site.

A bigger issue- will companies see Pinterest “pinning” as flattery, fans liking their things and even linking back to their sites and shops, or as a violation of their marks? There will be cases for both all over. The question for Pinterest is, will this scare off users? Not sure about that.

For now, the real force behind copyright issues seems to be photographers, who are historically aggressive over their online intellectual property rights- hence Flickr introducing Pinterest-disabling code. It will be interesting to see if this gets hotter or melts away.

Defining PR- Pinch Me, Am I Dreaming?

I have had a complicated relationship over my career with industry associations. Hence my ambivalence towards the entire process of trying to define public relations. The attempt to “crowdsource”  a new definition for the industry skirted the fine line between listening and letting the inmates run the asylum. Further, it’s not really clear it was an open process more than it was a “mad-libs” exercise, as some friends have described it. Whatever the faults or favors, here is the new, unveiled definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I am…whelmed. It’s vague, pretty, and hopeful. Everything a guy could want in a sweetheart. To be honest, I’m not sure PR needs a definition. We need to do better work to prevent being defined by our worst actors: the apologists for ethical villains, the liars and loudmouths. I’m not going to knock this definition, but I’m not celebrating in the streets either. Back to work, people.

Zynga Tries to Show it Can Breathe without Facebook Life Support 

I hate Farmville, and all Zynga games are prohibited from loitering on my Facebook lawn (dagnabit), but I thought it was refreshing to see Zynga launch its own independent platform. The doubters that didn’t see a long-term value in a Facebook-bound platform (or any company dependent on a third party platform for sustenance) are right. And investors should be happy that Zynga has been smart enough to realize it. I’m assuming this has been in their thinking for a long time. So, here’s to long-term thinking.

Infographic Naughtiness: I Think You Meant “Exhausting”

With all due respect to my friends at Hubspot, who do a lot of great things, this infographic made me cry. Forget whether or not this is truly an “exhaustive history of marketing,” I’m not going to get into factual accuracy or point of view. As a visual, is this comprehensible? Do you get the entire thesis at a glance? Are the minute details optional, or better yet, elsewhere? This is the sort of indigestible infographic that makes it rain dead kittens even on a sunny day. I sized it to fit on this page, just to the right. Tell me what you think:


Grammar Nit of the Week

Saw someone use the phrase “good common sense.” I could only think, “what’s bad common sense?” What would that look lke? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.


Image credit: “babau” by skesis on Flickr


Social Media Top 5: Wah-Po, Kuitters, and My Stuff Talks Back to Me

Pet Peeves: Washington Post Facebook App

Recently I noticed in my Facebook timeline (yeah, i look at that) a lot of links to interesting stories with the “Washington Post” logo on them. Trusted news source, so why not click? Being greeted with a pop-up asking me to grant a Facebook app permission just so I can read articles I always used to read anyway. Kudos to getting more people to post your articles, WaPo, but making people give access to an app just to view them is really creepy. To be fair, if you deny the app you are taken directly to the article (not so, it seems, with other similar publisher apps) but it’s still creepy to me. Blech. It’s important to consider the user experience when taking advantage of a popular platform. There’s a give and take. Does WaPo cross a line there? It does for me.


Liz Strauss and Quitting Klout

There has been a lot written lately about problems with Klout (the social media influence scorekeeper) and why it makes some people uneasy (score is too simple a metric to be useful, “algorithm” is unexplained, potentially horrific privacy stories). Liz Strauss recently wrote a more detailed and heartfelt post about why she opted out of Klout (now that, thanks to Danny Brown and others, one can actually do that). Am I moved to quit Klout? No, my curiosity remains, and the potential use as a (very) minor tool in finding out the right people for the right conversations and messages remains. I’ll support people wanting to leave for these legitimate reasons, but I’ll remain patient.

Whither Gowalla (Owning Your Stuff Part 9,000,000)

For those who like Location-based social media services: a few months ago, Gowalla changed how it works, focusing on users telling “stories” rather than merely checking in to a location and posting said checkins to Twitter and Facebook. As a way to differentiate from Foursquare, it made sense. But I found the idea to be more work than I wanted to devote, so I used the service less.Now that Gowalla has been purchased by Facebook and is essentially being dismantled, I am reminded of the “owning your stuff: mantra that I like to mumble on occasion. Gowalla users don’t have a lot of content stored that they are going to miss; not like if a service like Tumblr or Posterous went away. But it is a reminder that if you rely on an outside service for anything, you run the risk of that service going away and having to change course. I have worked with clients who ran campaigns with Gowalla. A tighter integration would be more troublesome, but it is also hard in this social media environment to run up some sort of consistency if services keep rising and falling. Part of the environment, I’m afraid

Apple’s Social Media Policy Leaked

So, an Apple store employee is fired because her rants about apple online to friends saw the light of day. So, Apple’s restrictive social media policy was leaked. As a PR person, I have always had problems with Apple’s closed culture. Maybe friends would expect me to rail against Apple’s fascist-state communications regime. Not at all. I think that while restrictive, the Apple ethos is quite clear, and seemingly within their rights (I’m not a lawyer. Whoopee). Don;t talk smack about your employer- or anyone/thing- anywhere unless you’re ok with it coming back to you. Period.

Losing My Stuff

I have been travelling again lately, and have begun to realize that the things I have lost or left behind on trips might be able to tell their stories.

“Remember me? I’m your Ray-Ban sunglasses you left in that Nissan Cube you rented in San Francisco in 2010. Oh fine, you thought you would wait until your next trip rather than spending the small pile of cash to have me shipped back. How can you be surprised that I had disappeared from the lost & found when you finally came back to claim me? I’m an attractive pair of sunglasses- you lose, and I’m seeing the world through different eyes now.”

Ray-Ban Wayfarer

“Well weren’t you clever? Throwing me in the front seat of the rental car in Orlando because I wasn’t worthy to take the holiday party snaps- a “snap” decision you made after parking. Oh sure, you were going to toss me back in your bag the next morning on the way to the airport. Seems I’m still here, big-shot, stuck between the seat and the gear-shift, waiting for the next renter to liberate me. I’ll bet you’re glad you already uploaded your last crappy photos to Flickr. Enjoy your next camera, bought in a rush to replace me, on the cheap no doubt. Feh.”

“I seem to have found my way to the Land of Doug’s Lost Pan-Mass Challenge Baseball Caps. Remarkable, considering you only misplaced two (or was it three?) of us in your house, the rest being spread around in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Maine. Enjoy that new light blue cap. It sets off your eyes (not). Putz.”