Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 21

Will Automation Steal The Soul From Social?

There have been several interesting side discussions sparked by my Bob Fass post about his largely unrecognized precursor contributions to social media. Some of them are still simmering, with the most common thread related to where marketing and public relations intend to take social.

Right. If you work in the field, they are talking about you.

And what they have to say might not be taken kindly. There are a growing number of people who are weary of social networks not because they don't like to connect but because conversations are being recorded, even jacked. Some marketers feel they must. Numbers are the measure counted.

"Why spend time counting tweets and retweets when I could actually, you know, connect with other people?" asked David Flores, reflecting on the internal struggle he and other marketers and communicators feel.

Why count indeed? For all the talk about social freeing people from the trappings of unearned authority, some of the liberators have worked diligently to erect new ones. Never mind that the scoring is stacked.

As the New York Times recently cited, some researchers think that only 35 percent of Twitter followers are real people. The balance is made up of bots and semi-automated accounts. That means an account boasting 10,000 might only reach 3,500. But if you ask me, I think it is generous in some cases. Bots attract bots, giving accounts the aura of popularity while never reaching a real human being.

Geoff Livingston recently touched on this too, writing Pop Created The Twitter Link Farm. He focused in on the increasing number of links, with one of the most interesting comments chalking it up to a platform shift. While that might make sense because Twitter never considered itself a social network, the platform shift from conversation to broadcast is a symptom of what marketers measure.

They measure actions (tweets, retweets, link clicks), which discourages dialogue. It discourages it because conversations are not valued on the action scale. It discourages it because the more organic conversations take place, the more marketers have to drown them out with frequency. And it discourages it because scalable actions require automation, which means the marketer isn't participating.

The crux of it reminds me of an Internet infancy story. 

Once upon a time there was a company called America Online (now Aol). No, it wasn't the oddly popular but not so relevant multinational mass media giant we know today. It was a pay-based online service that was the precursor to some of the services people rave about today.

It was also, for many people, the only real option to access the Internet. Sure, there were other choices like the defunct Prodigy or eWorld but not really. Much like they do now, people (and companies) tended to gravitate to where the most people were and that was America Online.

In more ways than one, Twitter is almost akin to the America Online chat room, except it hosts unlimited people as opposed to 23 people at a time. And, in more ways than one, Facebook is akin to America Online communities (with the advent of streaming over threading), right down to its aspiration to be your total and complete online experience. Sure, other networks have borrowed ideas too. Most aren't so new.

For the era, this service worked remarkably well. Most people couldn't even conceive of an Internet without it. It felt like America Online was relatively immortal. And perhaps that is why in addition to charging people $2.95 per hour for usage, the company decided to allow marketers to post links and program bots to run some conversations.

That generated some extra revenue for the company until something unexpected happened. Since marketers knew that the only way to increase their exposure was to increase their frequency, they literally drowned out all human conversations until no one was left except chat rooms of bots, churning away at their pre-programmed content.

How long before marketers reach critical mass again? It's anybody's guess. 

There are only two outcomes for abused message delivery systems. En masse, marketers will either push messages to the point where they become irrelevant (direct mail and pitch lists) or the platform will eventually elevate the rates until it is inaccessible (television) to anyone except those with deep pockets (television and radio). When that happens, people will migrate away to other networks instead.

From my perspective, longevity will favor those marketers that avoid the temptation of the short-term gain because people drive networks, not numbers. After all, as soon as you start thinking about people in terms of numbers, whether how many followers they have or some secret sauce social score, there is a good chance you have already lost them (unless you gamed social to get them in the first place).

At least, that is what I think. What does Brian Solis or Guy Kawasaki or Scott Stratten think? What do you think? Will automation steal the soul from social? Is there something on the horizon that might replace it? Or maybe you would like to strike up some other conversation? The choice belongs to you. The comments are yours. I'll read them too.

Monday, July 2

Getting Twitter: Now What?

There are hundreds of articles that describe how to use Twitter right and thousands that tell people how to do it wrong. One of the newest ways from Buddy Media, statistically, is both right and wrong.

It's right if your company fits the paradigm. It's wrong if your company doesn't. Most companies don't.

That doesn't mean that new study, which tracked 320 top Twitter handles for two months, isn't worthwhile. It can be, but not in the way most people think. It can help you ask better questions.

Reading the takeaways from the Buddy Media study.

• Tweet on the days heaviest for your industry.
• Use Twitter between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., Facebook between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.
• Tweet four times per day or less; traction tends to drop off with more tweets.
• Type less than 100 character per Tweet, making it more likely to be shared.
• Links and photos tend to receive more Tweets than straight connect.
• Include hashtags, but never more than two hashtags at a time.
• Use "Retweet" or "RT" as a prompt for retweets. Spell out retweet for increased retweets. 

Asking the right takeaways from the Buddy Media study. 

• Do you know when your followers are online? 
• Do you know what social networks they use?
• What is the optimal number of tweets for you? What are the exceptions (e.g., chat sessions)?
• Are you leaving enough room for people to share your tweets with a comment?
• Are your links to high value content or are they all promotional in nature? What about pictures?
• Are your hashtags well thought out? Did you remember to drop them during one-on-one chats?
• Have you prioritized comments you hope are retweeted? Each degree means something different.

There are hundreds more questions to consider, one in particular. 

What are you trying to do on Twitter? Most small business people usually have one or two answers. They want followers (but don't know why). They want more "awareness" about their brand (but don't know who). 

Most of the time, they want these things because it looks good to gather followers, retweets, etc. But that isn't enough, not really. Every aspect of social media is an opportunity to forward your company's mission or another objective revolving around the mission of your company.

More than anything else, that is what the best brands do online. Southwest Airlines tries to be friendly. Nike tries to tie everything outdoors to your feet. Coca-Cola tries to spread connectivity and happiness. Wal-Mart likes to talk about sales. Ford likes to promote automative technology as an industry leader.

As long as your brand is working toward its mission on social networks, with a healthy respect about adding value, the rest will almost take care of itself. But once you start seeing some traction with your campaign, you can start to refine it — picking the time of day or days when it seems to work its best.

Eventually, unless your mission is out of whack with your message, people will follow, share, engage, and (yes) possibly buy things from you too. Just don't put those things first. People can see through it.

Wednesday, July 20

Making G+uru: Get Certified Now!

Google+ CertificationYou know it and so do I. Google+ represents a windfall for social media unlike any other social network before it. But even better than a windfall for social media, it could be a windfall for you too, my dear friend, because it's all happening right now!

Facebook? Forgetaboutit. Twitter? Grounded. MySpace? Neverheardofit. Quora? Flashinthepan. Google+ represents the promised land whereas all other social networks before it were merely practice lands.

How To Become A Social Network Expert, Overnight.

Just imagine if you could lock in all the juicy blog headlines about Google+ before Brian Clark. Or maybe host the first, er, second online training session before Chris Brogan. Or maybe you could find the holy grail of marketing (a true influence measure) before Brian Solis. Or maybe that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Somebody is going to become an expert. And the only question you need to be asking right now is ... is it going to be you? Can you write the most SEO threaded posts about G+? Can you deliver more technobabble about your feelings regarding the G+ network? Can you draw beautiful graphics that convince people you've learned to read minds using G+? What about a book? A specialized G+ blog? A dedicated presence on a different social network that only talks about G+?

The ideas we will give you are limitless. All you need to do is strike fast, strike first, and strike fancy. Did you get that? Those are three very powerful words.

Fast. First. Fancy.

Write them down. I'll wait while you do and then you can read why our Google+ program will change your life.

How Google+ Could Change Your Life, Forever.

Imagine what would have happened if you purchased land when the New World was discovered. You would own Manhattan — all of it! Imagine what might have happened if you were smart enough to stop in Nevada on your way to California in the 1800s. You would have discovered the Comstock Lode — all of it! Imagine if you were on the ground floor of development with Steve Jobs. You would be Bill Gates — all of it, er, him! Or just imagine what would have happened if you started a blog three months earlier than anyone else. You would be a social media guru!

It's true. Google+ represents the biggest, baddest, and most significant discovery since ... forever. And right now, every social media pro on the planet is jockeying for the lead position. Whomever gets there first — first workshops, first classes, first books, first anything — wins!

They know it. I know it. And now you know it too.

G+uruBut what they don't know is that we've developed an entire program that will be the biggest spoiler in social media history. Sure, with their imported networks, weak links, and seemingly endless amounts of time, they have the upper hand. But it's all for naught.

They might be very good at what they do, but one thing they don't have — and will never have — is an authentic Google+ certification. That's right. You can earn a Google+ certification in a few short days or perhaps hours if you are an overachiever.

Why is that important? Because all the other other guys that top lists and get the good rankings might be able to claim that they are social media gurus, but this certification will make you a social media G+uru. See the difference? It sends chills down my spine.

We're Absolutely Crazy To Offer You A G+uru Certification, Nuts.

This is your one and only chance to lay the groundwork to become a world-class resource to your customers, colleagues, and company. And, you really, really, really have to do it right now. Our program will catapult you ahead of the curve to be the expert that you deserve to be.

• Learn everything there is to know about Google+.
• Listen to oodles of speculation about what's next.
• Get the skinny on influence algorithms with G+.
• Understand the difference between circles and huddles.
• Frame your certificate to show your ultimate achievement.
• And much, much, much, much more.

In fact, there is so much more — some of it propriety intellectual property (patent pending) — that you will learn 2,397.5 things about Google+ in less than a week ... maybe a few days ... just a couple hours if you are a real go-getter.

That's 2,397.5 things about Google+ that we have learned in the first 250 hours of its launch, along with 158 bonus things that haven't even been introduced yet (but they will, probably, sooner or later). Tempted to enroll? Good! Because my HP Photosmart 8750 is already bustling with activity as we print 10,000 G+uru certificates and the only thing missing is YOUR NAME!

How Much Does It Cost? Much Less Than Its Value, Absolutely.

We are so convinced that the G+uru certification will be so invaluable that we won't even post the price for fear of breaking the Internet as this news gets out. I'm serious. This offer isn't going to go viral — it's going pandemic!

So how much do you think it would be worth if you were on the ground floor as a senior certified G+uru instructor now? Exactly. It's absolutely priceless.

G+uruIt's so priceless that in lieu of a certification enrollment fee, we're going to offer the first 500 people the opportunity of a lifetime. We will waive the enrollment fee in exchange for just two or three percent of your lifetime income after you become a G+uru.

Right. This program is so hot that we're willing to gamble on you. Do any of the other guys do that? No. Do they put their money where their mouths are? No. Do they throw in a free T-shirt? Only sometimes.

That's right. It's always the same song and dance with them. Pay once, pay first, and regret it all later. This dance is better. Pay later, pay forever, and never look back.

So what say you? Are you in to take over the Web? Good, because before I even published this post, three people signed up. It's not a revolution, it's an insurg+ence.

This post is satire, with nothing ill-tempered meant to any good sports mentioned. However, I do hope this rings as a true cautionary tale for some. Google+ is a tool. It seems like a very good tool too, just don't forget to use the one you were born with before reaching for your wallet.

Friday, July 8

Entertaining People: Where Apple Might Be Right

iTunes FestivalApple isn't known for its social network prowess. Ping is marginal as a social network at best. It functions like a network, but doesn't feel like one.

But there is something that Apple is doing right, when compared to the rush of Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to generalize the point of being all things to all people.

And that is, for the most part, simplifying things to a singular or primary purpose. We see it in how it treats apps; and the same concept works for niche social networks.

iTunes Festival 2011 London solidifies broadcast-digital convergence.

Downloading the iTunes Festival 2011 London for review was almost a no-brainer. And if you ask me or the reviewer, it's not perfect but nonetheless brilliant.

It also has a primary purpose. You can watch a festival concert streamed live or (since most are in the afternoon) after work.

Applied to television networks, it could potentially give people the ability to watch a television program on the first run or automatically have it waiting for them. And depending on how networks want to play it, they could provide a permanent collection or limited-time viewing opportunities with the option to purchase an episode or series for download.

There may even be some potential non-intrusive revenue models beyond selling the program. For iTunes, the buy button only appears before and after the concert or anytime you pause it. It's clean. A television broadcaster might include related merchandise and/or sponsors just as easily, and (although it ought to be reflected in the price point) embedded commercials.

The real bonus in terms of the iTunes Festival 2011 London, of course, is that it truly makes the concept of any device, anywhere, anytime a reality. You can play it on your phone, on your tablet, or on your television. And, depending on how cloud services come along, you won't have to worry about storage or (hopefully) safety.

iTunes Festival AppOur reviewer also considered that a social networking function might be welcome too. It could be fun, he concluded, to chat with people who check-in with a live streaming performance. The function could be optional, of course. (Sometimes it's nice to skip the socialization of everything.) Or perhaps a network/app feature could open up afterwards, allowing viewers to chat about the show.

But what I especially like about the festival and apps in general is that they keep online experiences tied to how we perceive offline experiences. If you are in the iTunes Festival 2011 London app, you are at a concert. And any behavior, even if you are watching from home, is indicative of a concert hall.

Why apps and niche social networks will have a longer lasting life.

You won't find that on increasingly bloated social networks. You might want to share an article, but your friend wants you to join a video chat. You might want to post a picture, but then get caught up in a barrage of instant messages. You might want to share something funny, but then an associate will send you Farmville requests. And brands, well, they're even worse.

This is quickly becoming one of the problems with bloated social networks. As much as you can dictate your own experience, your friends (and any brands you follow) are being given more and more power to dictate what you will do. (Heck, they are even spilling into search relevance, no thanks to +1.)

iTunesBut all this stands to reason. Big big open generalized networks are like giant rooms with everything going on at the same time and no walls to distinguish anything. The stereo is playing, the television is on, and ten people are trying to perform.

The result is chaos, something I'm always prepared for when I sign on to any of them. One person is talking politics. Another is telling jokes. Some are watching television. Others are playing games. And half of them are screaming "look at me" or "look at my wall."

An app or well-defined niche network, in contrast, is exactly the opposite. If you sign in, you have a reason to be there and everybody else who might be signed on is there for mostly the same purpose too. It feels more than right. It feels like life.

Wednesday, July 6

Developing Networks: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Mordor, Etc.

NetworkWith everyone else reviewing social networks — spurred on by the introduction of Google+ — I'll pass on any specifics. Suffice to say that Google+ is a crisper version of Facebook with some added features like video chat.

The added features aren't likely to remain exclusive for long. Facebook might already be working on a solution to add it. (Hat tip: Jamie Sanford by way of Ike Pigott). It won't be long before Twitter starts barking up the same tree. And that's what inspired this post, along with a conversation fragment with Geoff Livingston, Dane Morgan, and Tony Berkman.

How Many General Social Networks Can One Endure?

My guess, ultimately, is one to none. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are moving in a peculiar direction. Specifically, it looks like they are moving forward but they are really moving backward. People don't want one social network to do everything. Do they?

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them...

One RingRings and circles. I can't really trust them, even if I like them. They might be easier than Facebook groups (and less annoying). They might attract much less spam than Twitter, even if that will change as the population explodes. But at the end of the day, Google, Facebook, Twitter and a half a dozen others are looking for the One Ring. And if anyone gets it again, it will end badly.

Again? Yes, again. The original welder was America Online. We just didn't think to call it that at the time, but it was a social network that for several years meant all things to all people (still does, for some, if you can imagine).

Ironically, it was Google, Yahoo, and other search engines that cut the One Ring from the finger of those service providers after Apple relinquished eWorld and the online experience descended into the darkness of Sauron Case. The world was a better place without it, much more colorful and diverse. So why on earth would anyone want a repeat?

As humans, we can't really help it. All of nature is predisposed toward order. We thrive on it, making bigger and bigger systems until the weight of it becomes unsustainable. History is littered with the rise and demise of such empires. And, we often forget, Internet is too.

MyBlogLog and Technorati come to mind. One collapsed and another was greatly diminished as each of them began the quest to operate beyond their spheres. In part, it's because as prone as humans are to order, they are equally prone to seek freedom and the wonderful chaos that accompanies it.

Niche Networks Tend To Better Define Environments.

Much like the historical and fantastical empires, it seems to me that generalized networks become unsustainable. People like to confine their activities to the definitions of their environments: they act one way at work and another way at a concert; this way at a church and that way at a bar; this way on one social network and that way on another.

Follow the same group of people from the bachelor party to the ceremony to the reception to the after-reception party to the gift opening, and the social norms will change. Same people; different behaviors.

Major networks, on the other hand, provide the same environment and then ask you to behave differently based on the people in the room. It's backwards, mostly because any social behavior is established by the first person who blinks but only because we're all grasping at straws.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone ...

Maybe it's because human sociology and adaptability isn't attached to groups of people as much as the environment. We almost can't help it.

This might also explain the primary reasons Facebook (originally a college network) was fast and loose on the front end and slowly became more formal as family members and future employers asked to connect. It's the likely reason quick exchange conversations have taken a back seat to link sharing on Twitter. And it's probably the reason Google Buzz crashed when it failed to establish a culture of what to do there. It wasn't just a matter of who was there, but the purpose of the space.

One of several projects my team is working on right now is a social network of sorts (social network is the closest definition without giving up details). For the last three months, I've been working as one of the principal developers while the board seeks out about $3.5 million in initial funding. (Once we have funding, I'll be allowed to share some alpha invites for a few people.)

RivendellWhat we are doing differently is focusing considerable attention on the environment. And, given it will have a much narrower purpose (with no incentive to pine away your hours looking for conversations to establish presence, eyeballs, or gratuitous activity), it won't compete with any existing network. Instead, it will feel more personal, important, and purposeful — someplace you go for special occasions as opposed to the daily grind.

In some ways, it is what the big networks ought to have been thinking about. Google had some semblance of authority, Facebook had some semblance of social casual, and Twitter eventually became (and then abandoned) a modern version of an AOL chat room.

So does anybody else have it right? There are a few developers who seem like they are on the right track. Of the biggest, it seems to me Apple is one of them. If you want to know why, drop by on Friday when I intend to flesh out why the iTunes Festival 2011 London App represents the future of entertainment.

Friday, March 11

Commenting On Chrysler: Farcical From The Start

ChryslerIt's almost impossible to classify the recent communication focus surrounding Chrysler. Crisis Communication? Overreaction? PR lesson? Damage control? Best practice? PR disaster? Obscene tweet? Social media failure?

Are you kidding me? It's farcical.

All of it. It's especially farcical that less than 140 characters can create a global reaction. But to really appreciate how farcical it is, you need a broader context. The post (that some people have called a best practice) from Chrysler CEO Ed Garsten nails it. (His words in italics).

The hurtful tweet that sparked a firestorm. Oh my.

When a reporter called yesterday snarkily asking, “seen any good tweets lately,” I knew exactly what was coming next -- a firestorm across the web regarding an errant tweet by a now-former employee of Chrysler’s social media agency.

The tweet denigrated drivers in Detroit and used the fully spelled-out F-word. It was obviously meant to be posted on the person’s personal twitter account, and not the Chrysler Brand account where it appeared.

The tweet, reportedly written by Scott Bartosiewicz, account supervisor at New Media Strategies, on Chryslar's Twitter stream, read "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive."

tweetHe worked for the agency for eight months. He's a long-time Michigan resident, maybe a native. He made a mistake. It wasn't even a big mistake.

A big mistake might be having to recall 248,000 crossover wagons and minivans or 20,459 Jeep Wranglers. A tiny mistake is saying the wrong thing to 7,000 people who happened to follow Chrysler at the time ... minus spam accounts, minus people who weren't on Twitter, minus people who don't pay attention but follow the brand anyway.

Right. About seven people saw the tweet, including a "snarky reporter" as characterized by Garsten. Hopefully, the reporter is less sensitive than Detroit drivers are toward being "unfairly criticized."

The mean agency fired the guy before they were fired. Oh my.

First, Chrysler did not fire this person since this wasn’t one of our employees. The agency did. It was their decision. We didn’t demand it.

No, Chrysler did not fire the employee. They fired the entire agency. However, some have suggested the change was already top of mind. The errant tweet was just the final straw.

Let's be honest. Had the employee not been fired, he would have been after Chrysler pulled the account.

The sheer horror and anguish of being powerless to stop it. Oh my.

Second, as the day and night wore on, comments on various social media sites increasingly expressed either dismay that someone would lose their job over an online oops and that Chrysler was acting, as one poster put it, “in a stiff, corporate way.” Some posters even asked why we didn’t make light of an accidental “f-bomb."

Exactly right. The mistake didn't cause any sensationalism. It was the initial lie — our account was compromised — that sparked conversation.

You can even see it in the screen shots. The initial tweet wasn't retweeted even after being up for more than three hours. The correction, however, drew immediate attention.

And then, after the firing, the audience for the "incident" swelled from seven people to seven million. And on. And on.

The insensitivity of people for not recognizing all the hard work. Oh my.

So why were we so sensitive? That commercial featuring the Chrysler 200, Eminem and the City of Detroit wasn’t just an act of salesmanship. This company is committed to promoting Detroit and its hard-working people. The reaction to that commercial, the catchphrase “imported from Detroit,” and the overall positive messages it sent has been volcanic.”

chryslerVolcanic? Chrysler is doing better, but it still has a long, long way to go. U.S. sales might have risen 13 percent, but Chrysler Group sales were already up 17 percent in 2010 compared with 2009.

But even those numbers don't tell the whole story. You have to appreciate how far sales had to drop before the company could have a gain.

The entire future of the town rests right here. Oh my.

Indeed, as an automaker that went through the roughest of times just two years ago, we appreciate the challenges Detroit faces in reclaiming its place as a vibrant, world-class city. Inside Detroit, citizens are becoming even more proud of their town, and outside the region, perception of Detroit is rapidly improving.

With so much goodwill built up over a very short time, we can’t afford to backslide now and jeopardize this progress.

We need to keep the momentum going -- rebuilding a region and an industry, and not let anything slow us down. It’s what we do.

Is he really saying that 140 characters could somehow undermine the entire economic future of the region and erode all the pride that Detroit citizens have in their town? That's crazy talk. If Detroit is a tough town, one accidental tweet would not undermine their spirit. Heck, even if they did care, hurling a few F-words back at Bartosiewicz would have sufficed.

Suck it up. Unless a crisis is catastrophic (e.g., oil spills and product recalls), the organization establishes the severity of the so-called crisis. This wasn't a crisis. It has, however, become a publicity circus. And honestly, it's not even a very good circus.

The farcical commentaries that suggest tweet "recovery" strategies.

SquirrelWhen you consider what constitutes news, the entire incident can be likened to the :15 second clip of a squirrel on water skiis. It's an oddity that we all might chuckle about it instead of trying to frame it within the context of tragedy.

And yet, hundreds of communicators have treated the entire affair like a serious crisis communication case study. The worst of it includes offering up of social media safeguards and running down communication response punch lists. They might as well write a contingency plan for an employee with a hangover. The seriousness of it all just can't be taken seriously.

No one needs a communication strategy for one errant tweet. All anyone needs is common sense. Use common sense and lighten up.

Tuesday, November 2

Tweeting Not tweeting: New Rules For Anything Goes

Twitter 2010
When Andy Warhol painted Campbell's soup cans, Brillo boxes, and Coca-Cola bottles, it was a well-known fact he consulted the style guides of the various brands he turned into subjects. Seriously? No, not seriously. I just made that up.

What I am not making up is Twitter would like to ask as much of you. Twitter has a new look. And with the new look comes revised rules for what once a clearinghouse of free expression. But as you know, with freedom comes responsibility, namely your responsibility and Twitter's freedom to protect its brand that you helped make popular.

Audrey Watters wrote about how what might seem harmless to some might have significant meaning to developers. And Brian Solis spelled out some of it in painstakingly detailed rules that everyone is asked to abide by. You can read about it straight from the source too.

"This document is designed to help you use our marks without having to worry about negotiating an agreement with us or talking to our lawyers. If you’d like to make any use of our marks that is not covered by this document, you must contact us at trademarks at

They're not new rules as much as they are revised old rules.

Before I go further, I might add most people don't have to be overly concerned today. The original guidelines were posted almost one year ago, including the aforementioned paragraph. Mostly, people ignored them, except developers.

In limited cases, graphic standards can be great things. They can be especially helpful for designers, partners, developers, and other vested parties. Attempting to herd the greater bulk of users, on the other hand, always ends badly.

It's something to keep in check. Twitter is aging quickly as a company, has new people in charge, and is feeling a little less vulnerable. You might too with so many users. Just look at what happened when MySpace felt safe.

All right, MySpace may not be the best example. But it does offer a reality check. One day, Twitter might insist that everyone capitalize the T in tweet (unless speaking about a bird, which I am). One day, the ability to leave the new and less aesthetically functional dashboard might end. And one day, it might insist every screen shot you ever took of a Twitter conversation might be struck.

While that might seem impossible, do keep in mind the new logo isn't as friendly as the original. That makes sense to me. Twitter doesn't define itself as a message service anymore. Nowadays, it is an information network.

By the way, did you know traffic has almost caught traffic without any overt platform changes? And did you know is in decline (assuming you heard of it)? Did you know the Internet changes players on a regular basis?

Wednesday, September 15

Counting Impressions: Twitter Follower Nonsense

"What’s the value of a tweet sent by a person with a million followers? What’s the cost per tweet impression?" — Tom Webster

Marketers keep asking the question. And some, like Webster, appreciate that one million followers doesn't have so much meaning.

Counting impressions like traditional media, especially on platforms like Twitter, is junk math. There are too many variables outside traditional impressions because the reason people follow someone or something is not as finite as listening to a radio show or watching a television program.

We watch and listen to programs because we have a vested interest. Twitter is different. The reasons people follow are more akin to the reason for having a full cable package. We have many cable networks not because we watch them, but because they are there. And unlike cable networks, two-way communication means there is a potential for reciprocal broadcasting. Ergo, if you watch my network, I'll watch your network. But unlike Twitter, nobody counts viewers when their televisions are turned off.

10 Reasons Why Twitter Impressions Never Add Up.

• Not every follower is online at any given time. One million can quickly become a few thousand or a few hundred.
• Not every tweet is read. And, increasing the number of tweets can diminish the impact of each tweet.
• Not every follower is interested in what you have to say. Some follow you because you follow them.
• Not every follower likes your topic du jour. Conversations aren't as consistent as programing.
• Not every follower is a follower. Some follow you because they think you're interested in them.
• Not every follower likes you or your organization. Sometimes they follow you to complain or make fun of you.
• Not every follower has any interest in taking action. You can put up links all day and they'll never click them.
• Not every follower can take action. Sometimes proximity or discretionary income can be issue.
• Not every follower is part of your tribe. Sometimes they follow you (or retweet you) because a friend did.
• Not every follower is even a real person. Autobots, auto follows, and auto responders have thousands of followers.

This quick list of ten is only for starters. It hints at the truth. There is no such thing as a Twitter strategy. Individuals have intent and organizations have tactics, and the uses are as varied as the people who make up the greater Twitter space.

Does that mean I'm down on Twitter as a communication tool? Nope. Personally, I have a very narrow intent. I use Twitter to keep up with colleagues, students, and a few friends. That's about it. I listen more than I talk (when I have time to be there).

Other people use it as a broadcast platform (which is what the owners of Twitter say it is). And others use it as a messaging service among friends (which was its original purpose). And others use it to engage customers. And others use it to get book deals based on the delusion that one million followers means something. And some use it to inflate their ego. Good for them.

The reality is that very few people use it to listen (even those who claim to). And even fewer use it to have dialogue. Don't get me wrong. Some do. Not always, but often, those are the people I follow. More importantly, as much as I like them, they cannot sell me a watch. I own two watches. I like them.

In closing, I might add that a friend of mine recently messaged 380,000 people asking for donations for a good cause. His solicitation earned $75. Had his request had been on Twitter, that means his tweet would have had a value of $75. Two years ago, I messaged about 1,200 people about a different cause. I raised more then $5,000.

Outcomes count, even though the real reward in supporting that cause had nothing to do with the money raised or any numbers. It was about people, pure and simple. As soon as they become numbers, they don't count so much. Keep it real.

Wednesday, March 31

Traveling With Colleagues: How Twitter Works

There is not much to be seen near Valley Wells Station along I-15 in California. The closest exit is an unincorporated community called Cima, but so few people live there that has been classified as a ghost town.

It was also along this unpopulated stretch of desert highway where we experienced a blowout. The initial impact was jarring, as the back mud flap scraped along the highway at slightly more than 70 miles per hour, enough to wake me up from a light nap. I immediately hit the hazard lights and helped guide Kim from the fast lane over to the shoulder.

Once we made it, I wasn't too worried. Even after surveying the damage and discovering I couldn't do the job alone (the tread had lodged itself between the tire and back bumper and the spare was too low on air to use safely), I was confident enough. Having recently renewed our AAA membership, the best would be a short wait with two travel-weary children (unless the car was deemed inoperable).

The unintended benefits of Twitter.

Before deciding on the best way to divert their attention, I mentioned our situation on Twitter (and Facebook via Twitter). "Whoa, we just had blow out on I-15 headed home," I wrote. And then, something unexpected happened.

One of our clients, Jay Shubel, CEO of a credit card processing company, gave me a call. He offered more than words of concern. He asked if we needed a rescue, saying they were more than willing to drive two hours or so to pick us up. (His executive vice president added on Twitter that I was too valuable to leave stranded in the Mojave Desert.)

While this wasn't the first time Twitter has proven itself useful during a personal crisis, the gesture touched us. It didn't matter that AAA delivered on its promise when the mechanic from Baker arrived well under the 45-minute expectation set by the dispatcher. It was still nice to know that people do more than listen on Twitter. They're willing to be proactive in offering help.

Crisis communication plays out in personal life too.

Naturally, we could have called other family or friends if we needed a rescue too. But Twitter also proves to be a useful tool, allowing you to travel with a unique connection to colleagues. In this case, it was especially nice to know that if we had any additional problems during the remaining 90 miles, everything I say about Twitter would be proven true. You get out of it exactly what you put into it.

There was another lesson to be learned too. Technology aside, crisis communication doesn't have to exist exclusively in corporate settings. Communication plays out daily. Here's how we managed ours:

1. Assess the situation. Emotional reactions are useless and detrimental. Stick to situation analysis, with an emphasis on gathering facts. You need to know where you are in order to plan a course of action.

2. Determine the impacts. In this situation, the best case scenario was having a mechanic assist and then slowly returning home on the spare. However, alternative plans could have included another night away or asking friends for help. While we had to wait for all the facts, we had already narrowed our options.

3. Synchronize messages for the audience. Make no mistake that almost every situation has an audience. And for my wife and me, our audience was our children. If we couldn't agree on a course of action and communicate to them based on their needs, even 15 minutes could be a disaster. They needed assurance that the situation was under control and there were multiple solutions.

4. Designate spokespeople. Sometimes the messenger is the message. While my wife is a seasoned communicator, the kids tend to turn to me when there is uncertainty and her when they are injured. So, instead of allowing them to become impatient, I set their focus on the raw video footage of their vacation while we waited. It didn't matter that I shot more stills than footage. I had just enough to make the wait a positive experience.

5. Collect feedback and adjust. Since the kids were satisfied watching the footage, there wasn't any need to adjust. But there could have been. I had alternative ideas in the works (just in case) to keep them engaged.

Crisis communication doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. In most cases, it amounts to a series of steps and situational decisions, with enough flexibility to allow for those moments when things do not go as planned. Even better, relying on these five simple steps helps to ensure that life doesn't happen to you. You're an active participant who makes reasoned choices.

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Monday, March 8

Looking Forward: Social Migrates To Mobile

Need another reason to keep your eyes on the mobile market? A new study from comScore, Inc. found that 30.8 percent of smart phone users accessed social networking sites via their mobile browsers in January.

The number is not static. It's up 8.3 points from 22.5 percent one year ago. And some networks are experiencing even more growth with mobile. Mobile access to Facebook grew 112 percent; Twitter access jumped 347 percent.

"Social media is a natural sweet spot for mobile since mobile devices are at the center of how people communicate with their circle of friends, whether by phone, text, email, or, increasingly, accessing social networking sites via a mobile browser," said Mark Donovan, senior vice president of mobile for comScore.

More than 25.1 million agree. That is the number of people who accessed Facebook from their phone, which means Facebook mobile users surpass MySpace users. Twitter attracted 4.7 million mobile users in January. These numbers do not include mobile consumers who access social network sites through a mobile application.

When combined with another study released by Euro RSCG Worldwide PR today, it underpins the next migration of social nomads. The study might be specific to a small group of teenage girls (ages 13-18), but the numbers are compelling.

• Seventy-eight percent of teenage girls use social media to keep in touch with friends, while three-quarters report being in "constant contact" with friends through texting, Facebook, iChat, AIM or other social media services.

• They show a clear preference for approaching a brand to find out about sales and promotions rather than having the brand approach them. But when they do approach a brand, 40 percent sign up for e-mails.

• Sixty-five percent say when their favorite brand or store has a sale, they want to share the information with friends and family with a preference toward one-on-one communication (texting) over social networks (Facebook and Twitter).

The original release can be found here. Only 100 girls were included.

The trending toward mobile suggests that most social media programs will have to be revamped within two years to include for a greater emphasis in reaching increasingly mobile consumers. Jokes about the product aside, the release of the iPad will likely stimulate an increased emphasis on mobility over sociability as technology gives consumers more flexibility in communicating publicly (one to many) or privately (one one one). Stay tuned.

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Thursday, December 31

Recognizing Reader Picks: Top Posts Of 2009

With the new year upon us tomorrow, we would like to say goodbye to 2009 with a recap of this blog's five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of reader views after posting.

"What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?"

It is probably no surprise that our call for business leaders and government officials to change their communication struck a chord with consumers and communicators. After all, if we were to pick one word to summarize a common theme in 2009, it would be fear.

The message behind the post, which was part of a three-post series, was simple: if you want real change, you need hope over helplessness. And since most "leaders" seemed to struggle with the concept, we advised our friends and readers to ignore them and set out to find their own cheese. We're glad some people did because our government continues to push fear.

Related Labels: Psychology, Economy, Leadership

The Candy Gamble That Didn't Pay Off

For all the buzz-up Skittles earned in early March, nobody is really talking about the rainbow colored candies anymore. After the initial drunken rush of excitement generated by a Skittles experiment that turned its Web site into a collection of social media streams written by consumers, most people woke up with a hangover.

Within 48 hours, 44 percent of the public was left with a negative impression of the candy for trying too hard to be "cool" and eventually demonstrating it and the agency behind it were really clueless about social media. Effective branding, marketing, and social media require much more work than simply "turning over" a brand to consumers.

Related Labels: Skittles, Social Media

Communication Measurement For A Return On Investment

With so many conversations revolving around about how to measure a return on investment for social media and communication in general, we decided to share a formula that we've put into practice in order to measure a return on communication.

[(B • I) (m+s • r)/d] / [O/(b + t + e)] = ROC

Since January, more than 10,000 people downloaded the abstract from our Web site. And, after the initial post, the ROC series that followed remains one of the most popular published here.

Related Labels: ROC, Strategic Communication

Peanut Corporation of America Poisons Public Relations

The Peanut Corporation of America's handling of public relations after causing a salmonella outbreak will forever be remembered as one of the worst crisis communication scenarios in history. For almost three months, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) tried to spin its way out of any responsibility for contaminating as many as 2,100 peanut butter products.

The crisis eventually ended with the company filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after the FDA and several investigations finally concluded that the PCA acted with gross negligence and was responsible for sickening over 600 people in 44 states and Canada. The contaminants were also linked to nine deaths.

Related Labels: PCA, Crisis Communication

How Publicity, Public Relations, Social Media, Marketing, And Advertising View Publics

Published in two parts, we presented a model of how publicity, public relations, and social media and then marketing and advertising tend to view their publics. Both posts seemed to hit a home run in pinpointing why there are varied views on how to approach social media.

We remain vigilant in our belief that social media is best viewed as a new environment that deserves an integrated methodology incorporating all means of communication. From our viewpoint, integrated communication seems to be the best source to develop effective methodologies.

Related Labels: Social Media, Public Relations, Advertising

Five additional topics that came close in 2009

Where Edleman PR sometimes misses on the finer points.
• How spontaneous online debates can sometimes trip up experts.
• A satirical view covering everything silly in social media.
The ugly truth about some online consumer reviews.
How to demonstrate authenticity without actually saying it.

When I first started this blog in 2005, I used to lament that the biggest mistakes always seemed to overshadow the best practices. That seemed to change in 2008 as we accomplished a healthy mix of both. This year, communication models and theories have helped provide a better blend of communication-related topics. It makes 2010 seem even more promising.

In closing out 2009, I would like to extend a very special thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on this blog or across any number of social networks where the discussion tends to take place more frequently than in the comment section.

If you are one of the 3,500 subscribers or someone who visits on an occasional basis, I cannot thank you enough for making 2009 one of the best yet. It makes a difference to me, it's appreciated, and I'm grateful for having crossed paths with so many people online and in person.

Monday, November 9

Reaching Mainstream: Social Media And Social Networking

Palo Alto Networks released a new study that pinpoints just how much social media, social networking, and collaborative Internet applications for business has increased in the last six months. What makes the study unique is that it considers organizational usage as a significant measure in determining adoption.

Highlights From The Palo Alto Networks Study

• Twitter session usage grew more than 250 percent since April 2009.
• Facebook usage increased by 192 percent, surpassing Yahoo! IM and AIM.
• SharePoint collaboration increased bandwidth usage 17-fold since April.
• Blogs and wiki posting increased by a factor of 39, with bandwidth increasing by 48.

The study also shows that there is an substantial increase in adoption all applications that are collaborative in nature (social media and social networks) for personal and business use. While employees are likely to use these tools for personal reasons, they also use them to increase business productively. The continued crossover suggests companies increase employee eduction on the subject of balancing authenticity and transparency.

Key Applications To Watch In 2010

• SharePoint grew by 48 percent in usage, compared to Oracle Collaboration Suite and IBM Lotus Notes, which only increased 11 and 12 percent respectively.
• Twitter, despite being limited to 140 characters, experienced a 775 percent increase in bandwidth usage, accounting for more than 184 MB of information per organization.
• LinkedIn was adopted by 89 percent of the organizations surveyed, but bandwidth and usage per organization has declined 42 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
• Facebook Chat, while released in April 2008, has become more widely used than Yahoo! IM and AIM (within the survey sample).
• Blogging by organizations has increased in usage from 22 percent to 51 percent in since April 2009.

The study cites The McKinsey Report on Web 2.0, which reveals that 69 percent of companies have gained measurable benefits in innovation, effective marketing, and better access to information. All of these benefits have lead to lower costs and higher revenues.

It also cites a report from AIIM, which also concluded that the top three business benefits cited by organizations include: knowledge sharing, information gathering, and the increased speed of communication delivery.

You can find the full report, which also addresses security issues, here. Palo Alto Networks specializes in next-generation firewalls.

Based on the Revised Technology Adoption Life Cycle, social media and social networking seems to be well over the mainstream curve with the late majority struggling to catch up. Anymore, organizations without any online presence will likely be left behind.

Thursday, October 8

Changing Environments: 2010 Ford Taurus Outdoor

Digital billboards are hardly new, but there seems to be some potential in the way Western New York Ford dealers will use them. When it starts to rain, the message changes. When there is a full moon, the message changes. When any number of 50 situations occur, the message changes to pinpoint the situation and deliver a situational message.

"The boards allow us to talk to people about relevant local events, news and weather, while having some fun introducing the vehicle's features," said Chuck Basil, representative of the Ford Dealers of Western New York. "The new Ford Taurus is a very unexpected vehicle so we wanted our advertising to follow suit."

That is what the campaign is about: It will introduce people to the new 2010 Ford Taurus, with western New York Ford dealers hoping to drive home the message that the car, along with the billboard messages, are "unexpected." While the creative thread is thin, the application has potential for both Ford and the future of advertising.

"Advertisers are now able to change their messages as often as they want, set up their ads to run up-to-the-minute weather forecasts or even link to a Twitter or Facebook account updating the board's message almost instantly," says Todd Schaefer of Lamar Advertising. "The creative options are endless."

Why Situational Communication Will Work In The Future

While marketers are borrowing from their public relations, advertising, and corporate communication budgets to cobble together social media funding, social media is not replacing them. Situational communication is replacing it.

We already know that the course of most communication is to steadily increase the impact of proximity (location) and demographics (population characteristics) thereby increasing the connection with the consumer. But what hasn't been fully explored, since the individual targeting featured in the film Minority Report changed too frequently to be scalable, is how technology could put us on the right path.

Could you, perhaps, read this post on the bus stop shelter poster or duratran signage at the airport? And if not this post, then why not The New York Times, with a certain percentage of space saved for the content sponsor? And while e-reader technology is still not cheap enough to mass distribute devices today, we might ask why print publications haven't been exploring such options to deliver the distribution devices for pennies on the dollar and thereby eliminate distribution and printing costs.

Right. For all the buzz from some publishers about consumers paying for subscriptions, most of them have forgotten that consumers never really paid for the paper. Advertisers did. Subscription prices barely covered the price for home delivery.

So how does the 2010 Ford Taurus campaign fit into the picture? Digital publications could deliver digital advertising as situational as Lamar Advertising's outdoor concept, e.g., allowing an investment firm to deliver messages based upon the fluctuations of the stock market but only for those readers that meet a certain demographic profile.

All it requires is for modern advertising creatives to stop writing for each other and return to their golden era roots, where copywriters once wrote as if they were writing to a single consumer (much like some social media pros do today). In fact, in our playbook, digital distribution would not only make this possible, but it would also make it a necessity. Leap forward already.

Monday, September 28

Searching Over Socializing: People Online

Chitika, an online ad network, broke down more than 123 million impressions across a 60,000+ publisher network to determine that search engines remain the primary method for people to find information online. The study is signifiant given predictions that social networks — driven by friend referrals — would eventually replace search engines.

Search engines currently provide 97.82 percent of all referrals while social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Digg accounted for only .55 percent of all referrals. Of those, StumbleUpon (and not the more commonly talked about sites) captured more than half of those referrals.

Top Search Engine Referrals

Google — 76.13 percent
Yahoo — 7.34 percent
Bing — 5.2 percent
AOL — 1.24 percent
Ask — .84 percent

Top Social Network Referrals

StumbleUpon — (#6) .27 percent
Facebook — (#17) .06 percent
Digg — (#27) .04 percent
Bukisa — (#31) .04 percent
LuyenChong — (#39) .03 percent
Twitter — (#44) .02 percent

What It Means For Communication

Currently, most new entrants, especially public relations professionals, tend to favor recommending social networks for their clients' entrance into social media. Many of them do so because it is relatively easy to build a network of hundreds or thousands on these networks (assuming they know what they are doing).

Unfortunately, for many companies (not all companies), relying on social networks does not help the company increase its reach. Instead, social networks tend to build groups with varied degrees of engagement — weak when managed by anyone and stronger when managed by professionals or personalities that have an affinity for real time communication.

As it turns out, the expense is often at the consideration of a blog, which is much better suited for developing subject matter expertise and search engine dominance (especially over Web sites). Or, as often is the case, public relations professionals may be recommending the wrong social networks, making decisions based on media popularity as opposed to actual customer presence.

Social Media Development Consideration

Companies that are deciding how to develop social media programs are always better advised to be conducting research (quantified and qualified over Google alerts alone), determining what potential communication assets they may have, and setting clearly defined and measurable objectives. Not considering these steps could potentially derail a program or cause a company to invest resources in the wrong areas first.

For example, I have to give the Frontier Girl Scouts in-house marketing team props for discovering their scouts were much more inclined to engage on MySpace before launching any program. Facebook, where many would assume the girls participated, was much more used by volunteer leaders and funders. (Many experts I know would have assumed Facebook and Twitter were the best networks to engage.)

While the organization doesn't benefit from a blog (to capture secondary search terms and establish a better Web presence) that could help increase member recruitment, the objective is confined to sharing news for funders and leadership skills for volunteers. It's a better than average start.

Social Media Program Conclusion

While all social media programs are situational with no single solution being a catch all for all organizations, the Chitika study goes a long way in demonstrating why social media programs can benefit from blogs, which are best suited for search engines.

Social networks, on the other hand, cannot be dismissed. They tend to be best suited for community development driven by willing advocates (assuming the professionals handling the accounts aren't out friending everyone), unless there is another objective all together.

For example, my own purpose for Twitter is simply to stay connected with and communicate with colleagues within the communication field. Facebook is mostly personal. Linkedin is mostly professional. And so on. How about you?

Monday, June 29

Uniting For Iran: Bloggers Unite

News organizations may be restricted inside Iran but various reports still manage to make headlines, ranging from militiamen "carrying out brutal nighttime raids, destroying property in private homes and beating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants" to several British Embassy employees being targeted and detained.

The turmoil began as a national disturbance shortly after the polls closed on June 12. It continues to escalate as protesters reject reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who assumed office in 2005, earned more than 60 percent of the votes cast. The election was rigged, they say. More than 2,000 Iranians have been arrested and hundreds more have disappeared since.

"We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights." — Felix Frankfurter, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1939-1962

Not everyone. People from around the world are uniting for free elections in Iran. Some are sharing their thoughts on blogs and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Many of them are asking their readers, followers, and friends to visit Amnesty International or other human rights groups to take action.

But even those who do not take direct action can have an impact as elected officials and government leaders around the world look toward social media to gauge public sentiment. Members of the media do too. Since June 12, social media has hastened the shift of some administrations from painfully dismissive to cautiously concerned.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Sure, Matt Sussman was only penning satire, but not all detractors do.

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." — James Madison, Virginia Convention, 1788

Madison might have been talking about the United States in the late 1700s, but the sentiment can easily be transplanted to today. Sometimes, I think people forget what it was like five or ten years ago when the most action any member of the public took over political unrest was grumbling at a television set.

Does it matter? Of course it matters. It matters just as much as the groundwork laid by Gandhi through the Satyagraha in India. While the exact reasons for the British departure is more likely related to the creation of the Indian National Army and the revolt of the Royal Indian Navy, the foundation for such events and the global perception of British occupation was set much earlier.

Does it matter? The Guardian reports, maybe so. We tend to agree. Silent acceptance and excuse against any action are most often the preferred means of oppressive governance. It's so much easier to rule when the people do nothing, believing themselves unfit.

"Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water til he had learned to swim." — Lord Thomas Macaulay, politician, essayist, poet and popular historian, 1800-1859

Friday, June 26

Selling You On Twitter: uSocial

“We just signed a contract with a large Fortune 500 company who have invested around $22,000 with us to conduct a continuing Twitter marketing campaign. The package includes some custom-designed tactics for them, as well as some services of ours which are publicly available like our Twitter follower packages." — Leon Hill, CEO of

So what is uSocial’s Twitter follower packages? According to the OfficialWire, its suite of Twitter marketing services includes allowing their clients to buy Twitter followers.

Buy Followers?

Right. uSocial claims for an investment of only $87, "we'll bring you 1,000 brand new Twitter followers to your existing account, or we'll set up a new account for yourself or your business at no charge in order to deliver the followers." If you think that is a bargain, 100,000 Twitter followers is $3,479 (normally charged at $4,970), which makes us all cheap. Cheep.

“Our client has requested anonymity, however I can tell you they’re an organization in the health sector,” Hill told OfficialWire. “I wish I could say more, though I have to respect the wishes of my paying customers.”

We're not surprised. Any decision maker willing to purchase Twitter followers is unlikely to be authentic, externally or internally.

Thursday, May 14

Managing Messages: Seven Fs

One of the best contributions Joanna Blockey, ABC, a communication specialist for Southwest Gas Corporation, lends to my class every year is the seven Fs of employee communication. I found myself thinking about them yesterday as they related to the Twitter misfire and other communication failures in social media.

While some people might wonder what social networks could possibly learn from employee relations, it seems clear enough to me. Participants engaged in a social network develop a sense of community. And, like any community, they aren't just users, customers, consumers, or participants (even if we use those words as descriptors). They are stakeholders. They are much more closely aligned to employees or residents or investors than loosely connected customers casually using a service. (Even if they use it for free.)

Social network members shape the communities in which they participate.

They invite people to join. They promote the network. They keep people engaged. They drive the conversations. They report the violations. They develop unique ways to expand the intended services. They make investments. And, they deserve the same seven Fs that Blockey prescribes for internal communication.

1. First. Be the source of information for your community. Report any news first.

2. Fast. Respond to feedback quickly, effectively, and in a timely manner. Share information fast.

3. Fair. Not all news is good news, but even bad news can be fair. Empathy remains one of most often missed ingredients in communication.

4. Focused. Attempting to sidestep pressing issues in favor of the frivolous is not much different than AstroTurf. Communication deserves to be prioritized.

5. Friendly. Sarcasm is sometimes warranted, but mean-spirited personal attacks never resonate. It doesn't resonate with those attacked nor anyone watching.

6. Factual. Make sure the information is factual. Sure, sometimes things change, but they tend to change less when facts are reported in the first place.

7. Follow Up. Communication is warranted until the stakeholders are satisfied. If they have more questions, answer them and offer time lines for updates.

This might seem overly simple to some, but the fundamentals are sound. After all, whether you call them tribes or communities or online customers, they don't follow as much as they develop relationships that some even define "like a family."

Wednesday, May 13

Twittering Choices: Social Truths

"We're hearing your feedback and reading through it all. One of the strongest signals is that folks were using this setting to discover and follow new and interesting accounts—this is something we absolutely want to support." — Twitter

That is how it happens with online services. After Twitter went out on a limb and made a fundamental change to its service, specifically the option to receive public messages from people they are not following, the entire community pushed back, many of them rightly calling it a disaster. Some are saying that this might be the change that lifts friendfeed to the forefront or even cause Twitter to fail outright. That leaves only a few who, well, disagree.

After receiving the feedback, Twitter did what it ought to have done in the first place — communicate with its community. However, as Mashable points out, addressing the feedback and returning the function that many participants enjoy are two very different things. Now, Twitter, a service that participants made the poster child for authenticity, looks like it whitewashed the real reason behind the change.

You can track the customer comments right here: #fixreplies. It's a rough critique of a service change and testament to why communication continues to remain a struggle for social networks.

Choice has always been a fundamental part of the online social equation.

What does the change really mean? If you are not familiar with Twitter, you might not understand the service change. Simply put, someone could write to you (probably because you were talking about a subject that interested them) by including the "@" in front of your account name. That message, or tweet, would appear in your thread, making it easy to see and respond to.

Without that service, you may never know someone sent that message to you, unless you followed him or her from the start. Not everybody used the service. People had a choice. For people with thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers, they could choose to see only those messages from those they followed. For anyone looking to meet new people, not so much.

Personally, I've grown to like Twitter. I like it enough that I speak about it from time to time. I especially like it because they've always given their participants choices. And, I hope those feelings don't change since they say they "learned a lot."

But there is something else to learn: Never become too attached to a tool.

Online tools change all the time. And very often, the change is not for the better. Technorati, once the premier place for bloggers to connect, seems to be struggling. MyBlogLog has become fairly flat. Entrecard spiked on the promise of cash, but now that's eroding. Hey! Nielsen is in redesign. And Utterli, after rebranding, just isn't the same. There are hundreds more. Some of them long closed.

All of them have one thing in common. At some point, usually when unduly scared or overly secure, they start making big and rapid changes without communication beyond their inner circles. Jumping on the advice of high profile "experts" instead of regular members, they might even feel smug to make them. But then, after awhile, they notice that the inner circle is all they have left.

Choice has always been a fundamental part of the online social equation. And ultimately, members may choose to go somewhere else.

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