Friday, December 11, 2009

My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess SOCIAL MEDIA is pretty serious.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it"
-- Ferris Bueller

Technology (specifically, the technologies that propel social media's progress) moves pretty fast, too. Some would argue, that if you do stop and look around, you will definitely miss it. Thing is, you don't want to miss the point of slowing down to look around.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there are NO experts in social media. Pipe down. Yes, there are wise ones who have grown with the mediums and certainly know more than most how to find method within the madness (Do I need to mention Chris Brogan in another post? I didn't think so). However, I would argue that precisely because there are new technologies within new social platforms across the social 'verse announced daily it seems, that there might be passionate hunter-gatherers out there who love to be first to try the new app or whatever so they can conquer and share the social (r)evolution, but that doesn't make them an expert. It makes them an explorer -- the ones who bravely go where others fear to least first.

The good news to my claim is that this means that anyone can become an expert. Participate. Explore this new frontier with us. Discover something we haven't, or find ways to use the tools in a different way to suit your needs. In the words of Timothy Leary "Tune in. Turn on." And to avoid the urge to "Drop out," slow down, and enjoy this new social world around you. Take the time to dig in. Or, to use yet another analogy, avoid the shallow end.

When you're out there trying new things, be authentic. Admit that you don't know it all, and start conversations with others to find answers. Share knowledge. And finally, make it part of your daily routine. You need to exercise your social muscles so they don't atrophy...and so you'll be ready when that next new thing comes along and you have to incorporate that into your world of social tools.

Sooo, anyone have anything to say about this? Anyone? Bueller?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Will they stay or will they go?

Have I ever said how much I love analytics? Well, if I haven't said it enough, I love analytics. I enjoy looking at hard data and analyzing it. One of my favorite temp jobs I ever had was actually with a market research firm in Dallas where we took thousands of data points and drilled them down into their essence. It was a lot more than just saying X # of people enjoyed Y product or whatever. There's a lot of interpretation in that data.

Take for example a heated debate I got into with one of my colleagues about Social Media and the Holiday Season*. We agreed that the subscriber numbers would go up.

Where we disagreed was how those subscribers will react to the various product pages, etc. My guess is that while we will see actual subscriber numbers increase, interactions will decrease since users will be using their networks to reconnect with old friends, communicate with family members, coordinate events, etc. She thinks those interactions will increase on our corporate pages.

We recently started actively monitoring our social media networks and don't have any data prior to May 2009, so I have no evidence that I am right or wrong.

Do you have any idea which the outcome will be? Will our subscribers even increase during the Holiday Season?

*Holiday Season refers to the time period from Thanksgiving-New Year's

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What To Do Before You Hop on the Social Web Wagon

I am at a writing retreat this weekend at the beautiful and spiritual Scarritt-Bennett Center in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. As the brochure says, this small campus was designed in "Collegiate Gothic" style back in 1963. It immediately scratched my nostalgia itch because it reminds me of 1991 when I enrolled for a summer session at University College in Oxford, England. Add a river, Rob Lowe and a bad soundtrack and you've got "Oxford Blues."Yes, I wrote that to have an excuse to embed this:

As mentioned, I'm on a retreat attempting to feed my other passion, writing. There's a small group of us here, and we have become a close-knit group fast. During one of our conversations the first day, the topic of understanding the social web came up, which can be a completely overwhelming subject for an individual or very small business who simply want to get the message out about their book, product or service. I began to give tips and make suggestions here and there. Before long, I was asked to give a casual presentation the next day at lunch.

As I scratched my notes on my yellow legal pad, I realized that before I tell these people to have multiple profiles on this or that site, or who to follow and why, that there are some important first steps these new friends of mine should make.They need to know who they are and what they want to present to the people of the interwebs. I forget sometimes that not everyone is as ravenous about keeping up with social media as Taylor and I are. Though, if there's anyone out there aside from Chris Brogan who can really keep up, please give me two of whatever it is you're taking.

Here are the basic of the Basics you need to know before hopping on the Social Web wagon:

Know Your Brand
1. Who are you?
Are you the brand? Are you the owner? Are you going to be the friend, the sales guy, the expert, or all of these people? Know your limits, know your potential. This is an evolutionary image, so don't think it isn't malleable once you learn the ropes. But FYI -- you are the brand whether you want to be or not. You represent the cause, the product, the service. You're not just the gatekeeper. You will be people's first impression of your company.

2. What is your service or product that you want to share or sell?
-- Are you trying to sell just this one book, or are you trying to build an audience who trusts you, so that you can sell many books?

3. How do you want to present yourself?
-- An addendum to the first point -- will you be only business, or will you be less formal and casual in tone, pictures and personality? Knowing your brand image will help set this tone.

4. Know what social platforms are right for you before you sign up for all of them willy-nilly (that's a scientific term).
-- Look if you're not selling a music product Myspace may not be right for you. It's one of those look before you leap scenarios, which  you should be doing with all social networks. In as much as you can, know them before you join them. The best way is to join, but do the research.

5. Be aware that ALL your social profiles will define you whether you intend for them to or not.
-- If LinkedIn is your professional profile, and you think for one minute that potential customers or employers won't search your Facebook profile, you're wrong. In today's day and age, they all matter. They can either work together or work against you.

These tips are not the only place to start, but a good place to start. In my next post I'll touch on how to start sharing on the social web.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Work Hard, Play Hard...or As I Like To Call It "WorkHorsePlay"

Flavorpill's Daily Dose, which, truth be told, is where I get at least half of the cool shit I post to Twitter and Facebook, posted an article with photos of the office spaces of the two aforementioned, as well as of Google, Digg, YouTube and other favorite social media companies' HQs. They don't dissapoint. They are what you'd imagine and more -- slides, DJ booths, pools, puppies and Star Wars fill offices with imagination and fun.

This makes sense because what's the point in working in the social sphere if you can't surround yourself with opportunities to be social in the workplace? I'll take that one step further and suggest that all companies take their cues from these powerhouses of "doing something right" and realize that sometimes getting people to work hard, means allowing them to play hard, or as I call it, "workhorseplay."

One that I didn't see on the list, but had to include because I've seen pictures of it before is the Pixar campus.

I know not all of us, myself included, are lucky enough to be surrounded by a creative work environment like this, so it's important to make it part of your life, your daily routine, to find ways to feed your inner fire. Go to a museum, a park, a playground or go for a swim, play pool, go bowling, walk your dog. As much as we thrive or make our living from social media, it's vital that we get away from the computer to refuel the soul and stimulate that creativity.

Two things: Hey Flavorpill/Flavorwire, where are pix of your office?? and two, are any of these places hiring??

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What We Can Learn From Sesame Street Besides Everything

Sesame Street turns 40-years-old on November 10, 2009, and aside from looking for an excuse to write about one of my favorite shows, nay, one of the greatest shows to ever hit the airwaves, it struck me as a good opportunity to point out the obvious: Sesame Street, like cotton, has become part of the fabric of our lives. From young to old, from Black to White to Hispanic, there are reasons why we still try to get to Sesame Street.

1. A Good Idea that Fulfilled a Need
Joan Ganz Cooney recognized that the children's market, particularly children's education, had yet to be tapped. Her Children's Television Workshop, which included Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact and The Electric Company ("HEY YOU GUYS!") were the trail blazers that opened the door for today's uber successful Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Ask yourself if your brand or product fills a gap in consumer need. Be a pioneer.

2. Repetition
For children, repetition helps them to learn. For adults, repetition helps them to remember. For brands, repetition helps consumers learn more about the brand and remember it.

3. Originality
Find your muppet, make your music. Some jingles are catchy, sure, but so is the flu. It's about a song, not a jingle, and from the opening credits that lead us to the neighborhood where the air is sweet, Sesame Street is full of songs -- "It's Not Easy Being Green," "One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other," and so on -- that share a story and reveal character and identity.

And what is Sesame Street without Jim Henson's muppets? Joan Ganz Cooney believed so strongly in Jim Henson's genius and the impact she knew his muppets could make she went so far as to say there would be no puppets at all if she couldn't get him. So again I say, find your muppet and make your music.

4. Risk

Cooney knew that risk led to reward. Children's shows seem obvious to us today, but then it was unexplored territory. She did her research based on a leap of faith, and it paid off. A specific example of risk that comes to mind for me is how Mr. Hooper's death was handled on the show. Education isn't just spelling and math, it's understanding the human condition. Once a brand is sympathetic to that, I'm not sure there's anything a brand can't accomplish.

5. Perserverance 
Despite declining ratings during the 1990s and early 2000s due to the growing home video industry and other children's shows beginning to cram the cable space, Sesame Street, did the research, adapted, and persevered, and the show is the better for it (as are we).

6. Evolution
Don't misunderstand me when I use words like "repetition and perserverance." Brands must be able to adapt and evolve in order to sustain relevance (another word that should be on this list). If a brand is lucky and smart enough to stay relevant for forty years, my guess is because it knows the world changes, and it better keep up. Sesame Street, for better or worse depending on which parent you talk to, gave the world Elmo because research revealed a younger audience watching the show. JACKPOT!

7. Fairness, Justice and Equality
Brands can't be everything to everybody right? Well, no, men don't need sanitary pads, Infants don't need denture cream. However, some Blacks, Whites, Gays, Asians, Jews and Catholics, women and men may need those things. Bert & Ernie are gay. Shocker. Eh, not really. Handled well by not being soap boxey or "Hey look how hip we are," Sesame Street stayed true to the very root of their mission -- to educate and foster understanding in our children. Hey brands out there -- we don't live in a bubble. Deal with it.

8. Fun
Sesame Street makes learning fun. Volkswagen is attempting to make social and global responsibility fun with The Fun Theory, which I have talked about previously. How can you make your brand,  your product, your service fun?

9. Loyalty and Respect
I can't remember a time when Maria (Sonia Manzano) wasn't on the show, can you? "Be careful who you step on on the way up, you may need to lean on them on the way down," or "Leave with the one who brung ya." These are two other ways to say that the team that takes a risk on your nugget of an idea while you're working out of your garage -- they matter. The customers who have a complaint, suggestion or issue, whether young or old, new or returning -- they matter.

10. Heart
Be authentic. Be transparent. Brands can't hide behind the curtain anymore, and they shouldn't want to. If you screw up, apologize and make it right.  Say thank you. Often. Love what you do. Passion can not be separated from the heart. Believe in what you do and what you have to offer, and people will ask how to get to your street, too.

This post has been brought to you today by the letter "S," and by the number 10.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Why Was It Called Minority Report When What This Can Do Is So Major?

Here's a clear example of why I love TED -- because it truly is about Ideas Worth Spreading.

Introducing Sixth Sense...

Do you know what this could mean for the future of the future? No really, I'm asking you? The possibilities seem endless, so let's here some of them. It's time to start the conversation...or should I say debate?

(I told you not all my posts would be long)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Doing Good the New Black?

Trend watching has been a part of good business for awhile now, but leveraging trends to inspire a brand's mission and communications initiatives in the age of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among other rising stars in the social media sphere, is in its infancy.

I've been thinking about that since my Fun Theory post. Right here, right now, more than ever, doing good has never been more popular or easier to do because of the mass adoption of social media platforms by people of all ages, and yet, I have to wonder, from where all this good is coming, and where it's going. Is doing good the new black, like skinny jeans in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or is this the time to find where you or your brand can make the biggest impact not just on popular culture, but the world?

There are hundreds, even thousands, of causes to support -- Free Tibet, Darfur, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the (Red) initiatives, Live Strong...I dare not try and list them all for fear of leaving any out, but you get the idea. We are all called upon to act, to shout for those who can not, to give some part of ourselves, be it our time, our money, our vote, to effect change in positive and meaningful ways every day. Unless you or a family member have been personally affected by a certain issue, it's hard sometimes to know behind which ones to throw your support. Facebook even has "Causes" apps that make it so easy to say you support a cause, one could argue that it's become little more than profile filler. Though, it leads to my point: the causes -- even something as seemingly simple as doing good -- that you or companies choose to support say A LOT more about you and them than simply jumping on the cause bandwagon.

I don't think deciding what causes to support is going to get any easier either. Since the rise of Twitter's popularity, I have never seen news spread so fast. From the moment I saw profile icons turn green in solidarity with Iranian people, mine included, I knew that the good news was that good news (and bad) would now spread faster than it ever had in history.

The cream that has risen to the top of the Twitterverse so far include @DrewFromTV, Drew Carey's effort to go down in the record books in his attempt to rid the world of cancer, @AlexsLemonade, aided (no pun intended) by Twilight/New Moon cast member and Twitter veteran @PeterFacinelli, and @charitywater, the Twitter profile for the Born in September campaign, a charity that I myself joined to try and raise money to build wells that will bring fresh water to people in developing nations. I'm keeping an eye (and a heart) on these and others as they maneuver the Twitter frontier to expand their message.

In the world of television advertising, I've already mentioned Volkswagen's Fun Theory. However, Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project is also an effort that definitely deserves more than a passing glance. If any of you have seen the "pay it forward" commercials they have been running since 2006, then you know that no company continues to run the same campaign for three years unless that campaign is showing a return on investment. And after I saw that NBC partnered with Liberty Mutual by having a handful of their hottest stars write and direct commercials based on the "do the right thing" aesthetic, I had to investigate.

I was skeptical. I don't have anything against NBC, or even businesses leveraging celebrities to help raise a cause's, or a brand's, profile. It's how a brand does it that defines whether it's a cheap tactic or makes an authentic connection. However, the commercials are actually quite good, and stay on message. In fact, Liberty Mutual has even taken the Responsibility Project even further online by having one area of the web site, "Stories" dedicated to thoughtful discussion on everything from real people sharing how someone made a difference in their life, and another area, "Point of View" that opens the floodgates on topics from Texting While Walking, Compassionate Release of Prisoners, to Grunting during a Tennis Match, and let's visitors use it as a forum for debate.

"When people do the right thing they call it being responsible. When a company does it, they call it Liberty Mutual."

These are extremely bold moves and claims, made even bolder when you consider that they come from an insurance company.

Finally (but not finite-ly) I present to you The GOOD 100. If you're not familiar with GOOD, it "is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and non-profits pushing the world forward." The GOOD 100 is a list of game changers -- big ideas, some presented in radical ways, that could change the way we live. Flavorwire has pulled some great selections from the list here.

So, is doing the right thing more than a fad? What are the opportunities that await in the social and traditional media spheres for those who dare to change the world or even their corner of it? What does it say about you if you show that you care. What does it say about you or your brand if you decide not to show it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Your Social Network Says About You

NPR's Laura Sydell had an incredibly interesting report this morning on social networks and the demographic segmentation that is happening naturally. Just as in real life, communities online are dividing up along cultural lines. I gravitate to where my friends are and pay less attention to communities I don't feel connected to.

Social media marketers can use this information to their advantage, and should! According to research done by Misiek Piskorski, MySpace is still the 11th most visited site on the Internet, and 60-70M users from the USA visit each month. But the real interesting numbers lie in the demographics.

The Top 4 cities in the US that have the highest percentage of their population logging in to MySpace are Atlanta, Louisville, Tampa and Dayton. If you compare the per capita income of those Top 4 cities vs. the Bottom 4 cities, we should find some interesting data.

Per capita income*
Top 4 Cities
Atlanta: $36,038
Louisville: $21,340
Tampa: $28,694
Dayton: $17,437

Bottom 4 Cities
Chicago: $26,229
New York: $29,523
Washington, D.C.: $40,379
San Francisco: $45,410
*Source: from 2007

As you can see, the average per capita income for the top 4 cities is signficantly lower than the bottom 4. So where are the communities from the bottom 4 MySpace-using cities hanging out? You guessed it: Facebook.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Virtually Confused

When Janet approached me with this blog idea, I honestly thought "damn. Another blog to keep up with." But then I realized that I maintain a company's online presence, a couple of different band's presences, but NOT MY OWN? What the heck happened? When did I become so benevolent? Answer: never.

So a bit of background on me and then we'll get on to the good stuff. I'm a 24 year old woman from Texas who loves good food, good wine and interesting people. I've been to 3 of the 7 continents and still think Colorado is where I'll eventually retire (if I don't go to Oregon to start a vineyard/B&B in my "retirement"). I also love a man in uniform! I know just enough to get me into trouble, but not enough to cure mankind of hunger, poverty or loneliness.

Now on to the good stuff.

A question that pops up alot is "How do I decide which social network to join?" There are literally thousands of social networks out there and new ones start up every day! The great news is that you can find virtually any group you want to connect with out there on the web. Alternatively, you can even start your own network and I guarantee you someone else out there will be interested in it. Take a look at your ideal consumer. What is he or she into? What do they care about and why? Where are they hanging out online?

If you're pitching a cupcake company, you'd probably have a pretty good idea of your perfect customer: moderate disposable income, sweet-tooth, has love of food. Actively seek out those types of foodies and try to connect with them on any of the platforms out there from the major social networks to blogs to even interactive recipe websites. See what they're talking about and why! If you check out and don't find anything, you probably don't need to be there. Alternatively, if you find out there are already built in audiences on Facebook, make sure you're active and offering helpful advice to other group members!

Don't feel like you have to be on every major social network. In fact, being on every network and having a weak presence on each could be more of a detriment to yourself or your company than having one where you are a powerhouse. Unless you're prepared to staff an entire department of Gen-Y kids dedicated to updating everything, being on every network is a waste of your time. You should focus on your key networks and leave the rest up to your superfans or tribe members. Let your fans evangelize for you! That's the beautiful thing about social media and the viral nature of it all. You don't have to be in control! Simply guide the creation of your message and the rest naturally falls into place.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Fun Theory Made Me Do It

I've been wrestling for weeks now about what my first blog should be about here on Social Deviants. However, before I dive into the post, let me tell you why it's taken me, a writer and a marketing, advertising and brand strategist, who's neck-deep in social media, ecommerce and the entertainment industry with over a decade of experience, this long to start a blog that is an extension of who I am and what I do.

Honestly, I'm not sure I really have a good reason. I'll tell you that I really felt, and still do sometimes, that blogs are a dime a dozen...especially ones that talk ad nauseum about advertising, marketing and social media. I've read The Tipping Point, Bowling Alone, Blink, Anderson's Long Tail theory and a library full of other books with titles I've forgotten, though whose teachings I hope I have retained to some degree or another. I still stalk Faith Popcorn, and I read Seth Godin's blog and follow Chris Brogan on Twitter and am part of many related groups on LinkedIn where I throw in my two cents now and again. I subscribe to countless newsletters from Springwise, The Cool Hunter, Trendwatching, and so on, but you don't need me to "name drop" my daily to-do list, for lack of a better phrase.

I think, ultimately, why I never started my own blog dealing with many of the same topics you'll likely read elsewhere was that I never really felt like I fit into "that" world. The last thing the world needs is another talking head who claims they're an expert on one topic or another, whether giving their opinion on CNN or in the blogosphere.

So why did I change my mind? Bottom line -- I have something to say from time to time that won't fit on my blog about my son. I've got enough miles under my feet, and more than enough food for the thought, that if anything, I need a place to sort out my feelings about what's taking place in the modern world of marketing and branding. Maybe you'll agree from time to time. Maybe you won't. Maybe I'm just writing this for an audience of one. But, there are no maybes about my need to do this now.

Social Deviants isn't just me either (thus the 's' in Deviants). You'll see posts from my partner-in-crime and co-worker, Taylor Vick. While I'm the Gen X cynic, she's the Gen Y hope. She is the social media maven with a passion for personal connections, transparency and results. She'll be introducing herself soon.

Back to what finally drove me (no pun intended) to write this first blog: Have you seen the new Volkswagen The Fun Theory campaign? When I got chills and misty-eyed from watching the two ad spots, I knew I couldn't keep my enthusiasm and passion bottled up any longer.

While I'd been in music writing, marketing and promotions for years, my first job with an ad agency came in 2001 with Michaelides & Bednash, an award-winning ad agency based in London (though I worked at the new satellite New York offices at the time).

I had come to New York in 1999 with four job offers on the table. The Internet boom was still, well, booming (from my viewpoint anyway), and so I took the one offering the most money. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I was in New York, making more money than I ever had in my life, and was on top of the world. And then I wasn't. Like so many others, I found myself on the receiving end of a pink slip and some severance by the end of 2000.

I was perilously close to the end of the Unemployment train when I did what lots of people do -- I reached out to every friend and friends of friends in hopes one of them had a line on something that would prevent me from having to move back in with Mom. That's when I found Michaelides & Bednash (Thanks, Moh!).

M&B taught me to get to the heart of the good idea (or The Big Idea as Donny Deutsch would say) and figure out how and why an idea was a good one. It was about making an impact, not on pop culture, but within it. It was unbearably frustrating for the me, the newbie, to toss out what I thought were great ideas one after the other because they "meant nothing to the brand's ethos and strategy," and were nothing more than "here today, gone tomorrow" because they didn't "cut through the clutter" and "resonate" with pop culture, and were simply "irrelevant." Oh my god, I wanted to scream, and did...often.

At some point, somewhere down the line of reading all those books and sitting at that long table of creative equality, it finally clicked. I finally understood why campaigns like Avis "We Try Harder," Nike's "Just Do It" and Volkswagen's 1958 "Think Small" campaigns were different, better. The list of adjectives is long, but I choose three: They were authentic, relevant and brilliant. They were able to get to the root of what was currently driving pop culture at that time; they were able to look inward at what their company not only was, but was going to be; and they were able to find a way for those things to matter and speak to consumers in creative and often genius ways.

When I read about and watched Volkswagen's The Fun Theory this morning, I got that same itch -- that passion for ideas that transcend ads and traditional marketing, that pioneer thought and change behavior. I encourage you to take a look at what Volkswagen has done. Anyone can make a clever car ad that says "Hey, look how fuel efficient and eco-friendly we are as a company!" But few can get you to change your behavior toward your health, the environment and social responsibility without having the brand shoved down your throat, much less by making it FUN.

I had to write this post. And I look forward to scratching that itch here often - sharing what I've gleaned, igniting debate on this and that or just learning something new along the way. And I promise that not all my posts will be as long as the M&B table.