Look Before You Tweet!

5 02 2009

slocricchio1“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Didn’t we learn this social etiquette way back in pre-school, or through our grandparents or somewhere along the line? Like everyone in our trade, I’m immersing myself further in the social media world. Just as I thought I mastered all that Facebook has to offer, along came Twitter to make me feel like a newbie. The one thing I’ve noticed about social media is that a lot of those who indulge in the various forms of online interaction seem to forget that it’s SOCIAL.

Like a childhood game of telephone magnified 100 fold, what you post can spread through the office or around the country in mere minutes.

For example, there’s been quite a bit of chatter about a recent misstep by a Ketchum PR guy. Upon deplaning in Memphis, for a FedEx client meeting, he tweeted a negative comment about the city to his Twitter account. A few hours and now weeks later, PR people all over the country are nervously laughing at that guy’s folly and secretly thinking, “Thank Heavens that wasn’t me.” (PS: We’re also all thinking, “I wonder if FedEx is shopping for a new agency?”)


We should be our authentic selves when posting a Tweet or making comments on Facebook, and we’re all certainly entitled to our opinions, but would you verbally say to someone what you would write about them? Would that PR guy have said to his client, I would die if I had to live here? From email to Twitter, non-verbal communication seems to makes it permissible to forego social norms and fire off messages that may be perceived as rude, inappropriate or just plain foolish.


I’m certainly not saying we should hide our personalities online or reject our right to free speech. I often exchange very silly and bizarre comments with friends and post obscure videos and links. I just believe everyone needs to be conscious of the fact that what you post can and will travel far, and if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all (or at least don’t say anything stupid that could come back to haunt you).


I just read a great book on blogging called “Naked Conversations” that gives some great insight into this topic. For a humorous take on what the Facebook experience would feel like in the real world, check out this video and reply to this post about your thoughts about where virtual reality and true reality split online and what our social networking P’s and Q’s should be.



Tweeting About the Super Bowl

30 01 2009

mb-headshot31While we’re all bummed that the Pats didn’t make it, the Cardinals won’t be the only birds in the game on Super Bowl Sunday. The Twitter universe will be tweeting about the advertisements in real time and all of the play-by-play commentary will be compiled at “Trash Talk from Section Twitter.”


To participate, get a Twitter account and type #sb43ads in your tweet plus your canny commentary.

As the Boston Globe just reported, Mullen, as well as “a group of ad agencies and Boston University students are looking to get a real-time Twitter debate going on the merits of Sunday’s Super Bowl ads.”

According to the Globe, “the ad agency group is looking to harness the social networking technology of Twitter.com as a way to get folks to post instant and pithy critiques of ads they loved or loathed – even as they are watching the game.”

Edward Boches, Mullen’s chief creative officer, said of the upcoming Twitter experiment on Super Bowl ads, “We’re looking to use a new medium to comment on an old medium. The idea is to get the whole community more familiar and comfortable with the concept of social networking as another option in the marketer’s tool bag. And if we’re lucky the comments will be funnier than the ads themselves.”

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Twitter Jitters

16 01 2009


Love it or hate it, twitter is getting more attention and the days of the service being “for early adopters only” are (like the Bush administration) coming to a close. David Pogue’s recent post in New York Times Circuits, “Twittering Tips for Beginners” outlines what is both beneficial and frustrating for those who use twitter in its current form.

But Pogue has really only scratched the surface of what twitter can do for monitoring brands, customer service,  and media relations (the work of PR professionals like yours truly). Well, here are some things that his eminence of technology missed:

Companies like Comcast, Zappos, JetBlue, Starbucks, GM, Best Buy, Kodak, H&R Block, and other Fortune 500 bands are on twitter, and they’re using it as a customer service tool to help resolve issues (Hey, my DVR records every episode of the Daily Show, what gives?) and to answer questions (Ground or whole bean?).

Instead of simply engaging with consumers directly on their twitter pages, these companies can also monitor what’s being said about them by setting up RSS links to searches of every mention of their brand (visit search.twitter.com, type in the terms you care about, click on the RSS feed to receive real-time feeds to anyone posting anything about the brand).

Those twitterers out there trashing or praising your products and services can then be followed by your PR agency or others, and the adequate response can be taken (provide a coupon online for half off the Ethiopian roast, or a discount on shoes ordered online).

When all employees at a company are twittering, as is the case at Zappos, they have  direct channel into the thoughts and activities of their leaders, like Tony Hsieh. I’d bet that during the financial crisis, the employees at Lehman Brothers would have appreciated knowing what was going on with their leaders via twitter — if they would even share information. Is Bernie Madoff on twitter? Probably not. But, when an entire company is on twitter, the cross-pollination of ideas and esprit de corps is pretty amazing. It’s not for every corporate culture, though. Glasnost didn’t work out so well in the Soviet Union either.

This ability to track all brand mentions can lead to a “Big Brother is watching you” feeling. I tweeted about Zappos once and Wham! someone from their company was following my every tweet. I suppose I could have blocked him, but I was impressed by the company’s level of responsiveness to those who are thinking about Zappos.

I don’t really agree with Pogue when he writes about twitter that “No other communications channel can match its capacity for real-time, person-to-person broadcasting.” Actually, quick notes about what you’re doing is handled quite well by facebook, and facebook is great for posting video, links to other sites, detailed information about you, photos, etc.  None of those things are easily accomplished with twitter (Do you like having to shrink a URL to post it to twitter? I don’t. Do you want to create a hashtag for an event? I don’t.)

Other sites that help you find those who are most followed on twitter, are useful: twitterholic.com.

Pogue also neglected the ways in which PR professionals can engage with media contacts who tweet. By following journalists like Pogue (twitter.com/davidpogue) you can tap into what they’re thinking. Sometimes they’ll even give you insight on their upcoming articles and you can pitch them (But hey, have some class, send them an email and don’t tweet a pitch to them in twitter. It looks kind of desperate). If you follow MicroPR on twitter, you can see a ton of journalists looking for leads (think of ProfNet but for those who use twitter). Follow this link for a partial list of some journalists that use twitter.

But one thing that Pogue wrote is certainly true. Twitter is a big “time suck” along with facebook and MySpace. But when your job is communications, it’s not a time suck so much as it is your daily work. And companies that aren’t hearing from their agencies about twitter, and learning how to use the service to their own advantage, are missing a powerful tool. A new day is dawning on Capitol Hill, and we’re about to swear in a Twitterer-in-Chief. Time to get on the bandwagon!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine



The Tribe Has Spoken

4 12 2008

mb-headshot3I spent some time last month listening to a free audio book called Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. I knew that the book was available as a free download because I follow the Twitter tweets of Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com. If Tony, an innovator and business leader, recommended it to his followers, I knew that it would be well worth reading. He actually contributed to the audio book’s forward, and having listened to the book, I can see why the authors chose him.


The book revolves around the central concept of companies existing as bands of tribes (from as many as 20 people to 150 people per tribe). In effect, an organization is like a state with multiple small towns within it. These are not necessarily your department, but loose associations of thought leaders and colleagues. Tribal groups are formed by the replication of what the authors call “triads.” Triads are strong three-party relationships. This is important factor for organizations with a tribal culture, because the authors know that only a three-legged stool can stand, and that by sharing work among colleagues, there is a mutually-supportive structure, rather than a top-down, one-on-one, senior-to-junior dynamic at work.


If you look for it, you will see these triad relationships everywhere in successful companies. Think about LinkedIn, which relies on you working through your existing contacts to reach another contact in the system (a triad). The book also focuses on the fact that successful tribal company cultures are not about “me”, they are about “we.” While company cultures can focus on the superstars, they do so at their own peril. Real superstars are always forming triads and bringing out the best in their colleagues. They are using what helped the Celts win the championships – Ubuntu – and the knowledge that no one can make it alone.


The book provides case studies of the companies that are getting Tribal Leadership right, like Amgen. Companies, as well as individuals, can be found on a continuum from stage 1 (totally failing) to stage 5 (incredibly successful). About half of all companies in America are in stage 3 where self-accomplishment is the core value celebrated (it’s about my success). Companies at stage 5 are in a league of their own (they don’t see themselves as having competitors, just major problems to solve – cancer, bad customer service). Companies at stage 5 are also incredibly open and share information fluidly among the tribal members (and social networking is increasingly helping them create this openness and transparency).


There’s something extremely attractive about a stage 5 tribal culture, and a lot to admire in Tribal Leaders. While these leaders can exist at companies that have yet to make it to tribal excellence, the book suggests that through practicing the creation of triads, being group-oriented and checking their egos at the door, leaders can help to elevate their companies. Next time you’re in a meeting, count the number of times someone says “me” when they could be saying “we.” Now listen to yourself. And, definitely listen to this important book, for free.      img_book

If a blog post falls in the woods, will anyone hear it?

1 10 2008

There are too many blogs.


I say this with neither good nor bad overtones. If you are interested in macramé, LOST, Borat, Chinese gymnasts, or any one of the presidential candidates, there is a blog for you. Certainly this citizen journalism poses a threat to mainstream media, and that’s why CNN is now Twittering and featuring iReports from Joey and Jane Sixpack.


And it stands to reason why there is a proliferation of blogs – we Americans are obsessed with ourselves. How else can we explain the impulse to put our most private thoughts, videos, up on the Internet for millions to see?  Twitter enables the truly self-obsessed to post about their lives – tweet – minute by minute.


Never mind if these tweets are actually factual. You can have a lot of fun at your friends’ expense by making up tweets: “Michael is now doing macramé with Borat, some Chinese acrobats and Sarah Palin in Honolulu.” 09:30 AM October 1, 2008 from web


That’s the fun of blogs. It’s mostly opinion and rarely fact (It’s what we want). What would happen if someone was writing fiction about you? Or writing fiction about your brand? Or, if not fiction, then something mean. Finding those tweets, videos, flickr images, and blog posts online, and sifting through them to find the really juicy ones, would be very time consuming.


I’ve recently started using Radian6, which provides me with an omniscient view on all of the chatter in the online world with a cool interface. I like Panera’s sandwiches and Chipotle’s burritos, so I decided to evaluate the level of online chatter about these brands. Panera had more than twice as many posts as Chipotle in the past 30 days, and I was able to see when there were spikes in posting activity that mentioned these brands (see the graphic below). I was able to drill down and read the posts that connect Panera with things that are part of the company’s DNA, like freshness. I was able to see what people who visit these chains actually think about the company.


While reading all of this content, I felt like I was listening to trees falling in the woods. These desperate souls, all intent on sharing their every thought with friends and random strangers, were being seen by me. If I felt like it, I could have made comments on their posts and tell them that I too like the Frontega Chicken hot panini. Like some sort of deity, I could answer their prayers to be heard, or I could just listen in and move on. If I worked for Panera, I could have given those who wrote favorable reviews a coupon to buy more sandwiches. Now, that would certainly be playing God.


I’d like to know if you think that there’s a value in hearing what the great unwashed masses think, or if the taste-makers in the mainstream media are the only ones that matter. And, given that a blog post’s value is mostly measurable by how frequently people comment on any given post, should we care about a blog post on which no one comments? And, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?

The Dawn of Mainstream Awareness

7 09 2008

I have been told by many PR professionals that if it a story makes the New York Times then it has reached critical mass.  With that said, today’s story is that of “The Age of Awareness.”

If you haven’t read it yet, the New York Times has it on their website (free registration required) or the author’s website has posted it as well.  Clive Thompson is a regular contributor to both the New York Times and Wired magazine and is well known within the technology and science sectors.

To summarize the article as briefly as possible: Social Networking makes us more peripherally aware of all our contacts (close or otherwise) without having to exert as much mental effort.  Mr. Thompson calls this “ambient awareness.”

As he notes in the article, when Facebook first came out, it still required users to visit each one of their friend’s pages individually until the Newsfeed came along and aggregated all the changes in their network on one page, thus reducing the effort to stay observationally connected to friends.  Twitter is no different, while each tweet may be meaningless, one person’s stream gives a peak into what is going on with them, what the pattern of their life is.

It is a great piece and I encourage the audience here to read it and if not participating on Facebook or Twitter, thinking about joining.  It’s always intimidating at first, but it gets better (and addictive).  And who knows, it may help you better pitch that writer you’ve been after for your client!

Twittering Summize or Summizing Twitter

16 07 2008

The big news the last couple of days for us Twitter users is that the popular microblogging platform acquired Summize.com for $15 million and Twitter stock. Summize is a Twitter search engine that is able to track topics through keywords. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Twitter was smart and bought the company that was already doing it the best. Summize has since been rebranded as search.twitter.com.

This acquisition will help the popular site establish a viable business model and certainly see an influx of marketers and researchers (social and marketing) joining the fold of users as the stream of consciousness can be more readily used to track what consumers are talking about. Until now, I believe only Radian6 had a tool capable of this sort of tracking. This move allows for ad placement on the search pages, eliminating what would be an outcry of users if Twitter placed ads in their stream or on their pages.

Big news that benefits marketers looking for a way to go where their customers are and more importantly, the users who were seeking the best experience possible. And as we know, Twitter has had its woes in the last year with platform failures made famous by the “Fail Whale”