Monday, July 13, 2009

To Think Outside the Box,
Get Outside of the Box

A couple months ago, ran an article discussing the development of what was being named (in a particularly unpleasant neologism) "weisure time."

Simply put, a weisure lifestyle was one in which your leisure time was routinely invaded by your work time or both were so intermixed that there was no clear dividing line between the two. New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, the originator of the phrase, predicts that the line separating our work from our leisure will continue to blur until we find ourselves at the beck and call of our work 24/7.

To try and sweeten what can only sound like a bad deal for employees (though perhaps not seen as so bad for employers), Conley points to social networking and how your online friends are often frequently your work friends as well. "Increasingly, it's not clear what constitutes work and what constitutes fun," Conley claims in this article "in an office or at home or out in the street."

People are more willing to let work invade their leisure time because, for a lot of Americans, working has become more fun, Conley says. He refers to this group of professionals who tend to get more enjoyment out of work as "the creative class," borrowing a term coined by author Richard Florida.

Their work involves ideas -- perhaps helping create a new software product, ad campaign or creative financial derivative.

"This makes their work a source of meaning and fun to them, and thus the work-all-the-time mentality is partly driven by choice and desire," Conley said.

At the other end of the street, author William Leith, writing for The Guardian discovers that it is just this kind of lifestyle, the constant barrage of duties, even on supposed downtime, that leads to health problems, most prominently chronic fatigue. He quotes Dr. Frank Lipman, author of Spent, who writes that our go-go capitalist lifestyle is unsustainable for individuals:

We get spent because our modern lifestyle has removed us from nature and we have become divorced from its rhythms and cycles. We are slaves to the corporate model. I think it is going to get worse and worse - and I don't see any improvement in the near future until we reach some kind of tipping point and wake up.

Partly this strikes right to the heart of what Conley is suggesting. The idea that you can simultaneously be a part of the creative class, on-call 24/7 and have the time to rest, recharge your creative juices by not thinking about work, and reach those Eureka moments, strikes me as not only deeply problematic, but also a product of thinking that is divorced from the actual creative class.

This is not to say that creative inspiration doesn't happen in off-the-clock hours or that collaboration with your coworkers in these off-site brainstormings doesn't happen either. But the idea that our smartphones and our computers have, in effect, become leashes tying us to our work with ever tighter bonds is deeply troubling.

Much in the way the goal of education was once "the well-rounded individual" who could hold his or her own in a conversation about topics in science as well as in art and literature, employers should prize employees who can walk away from the job, who can disconnect and find outside interests. We have all of us, every one, met the one subject, single-minded bore. The creative output from such types not only frequently suffers from its limited focus, but also from its lack of applicability to the greater world outside the narrow confines of sub-sub-sub speciality.

Employees are often challenged to think outside the box, but to do such thinking, you have to actually get out of the box once in a while. The simplest way to do this is to set clear boundaries of what is work time and what is play time. Employers need to be willing to let their employees have the time away from the job, and employees need to step away from the computer, to let the voice mail do its job.

Absent small shifts in attitudes like this, employers are likely to see the backlash in employee loyalty, morale, and creativity. Better solutions don't always mean longer hours.

What do you think?

[+/-]

Friday, July 10, 2009

Whither Posting?

Wow, haven't done much in this space in a while.

All the new changes and developments and so forth at The David Group have kept me pretty busy and sadly away from one of my great loves, blogging.

Well, I promise a new update coming next week some time, so please be patient and excuse our dust (as they say).

[+/-]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Social Media Becomes Vital

The news has been transformative lately. Or maybe I should say transformed.

On June 12th, Iranian elections were held. Reports are conflicting as to what happened next, but a variety of sources allege vote tampering and outright fraud. The hardline incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared winner by the Islamic Republic News Agency while a spokesman for opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former Prime Minister, claims election officials had contacted the Mousavi camp to inform him of his win.

A former interior minister for Iran, now an election monitor for the Mousavi camp claims votes were cast in at least 70 municipalites that exceeded the number of eligible voters. Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in the home region of Mousavi (imagine John Kerry winning Texas in 2004 for a hint of the likeliness of this) as well as in metropolitan areas like Tehran (now swap George W. Bush winning in Manhattan for a similar level of unlikeliness).

From these questionable results, Iranian supporters of Mousavi took to the streets. And as is to be expected in a repressive regime, the government clamped down with a vengeance, not only on protestors but on media sources as well. Visas for foreign journalists were denied and suspended. An Italian translator for Italian public television was beaten and his tapes confiscated. The BBC Persian Television signal was jammed. The offices of NBC, ABC and German television offices in Tehran were raided and materials taken. Popular websites like Facebook were filtered, cell phone services were shut down.

News of events in Iran were sparse. CNN's website barely had any mention of the election results and aftermath. On cable, the story popped up on the hour in brief updates. Newswires ran a few items noting election irregularities, but the story remained lukewarm in the mainstream media.

Enter Twitter.

In what can only be described as Twitter's most salient moment, even more so than the Hudson River landing and the assault in Mumbai, Iranian Twitterers began sending out messages from the streets. In real-time, first person accounts, news began to appear. Twitter users in the United States pressed news organizations to devote more time to the story, especially CNN by adopting the hashtag #CNNFail and the news org stepped up their coverage. Avid Twitter user, CNN host Rick Sanchez was less than thrilled with the social media revolt, but the media has begun paying attention.

Users like @persiankiwi and @change_for_iran and more kept up a steady stream of updates from Tehran University and elsewhere. If you go to Twitter search for #Iranelection the updates continue to come in fast and furious. Leave the page open for five minutes and hundreds of new posts arrive. And those posts contain links to videos like this one on YouTube of Iranian militia firing at protestors and hitting at least one and of wounded protestors receiving medical treatment in a garage (warning these are quite disturbing). It includes links to photos of protests, what some claim are ballots found in the trash, and Tehran University the morning after pro-goverment militia attacked it. Secondary sites have been popping up such as Iran Unrest funneling Twitter messages, videos, news articles, and pictures from the revolution.

When Twitter scheduled a downtime for maintenance, users protested, noting that the downtime would be the middle of the day in Tehran, when the news coming out through Twitter was most important. Twitter resisted user pressure, but found themselves caving at last when the State Department made a similar request. Behind this request was a twenty-seven year old Rhodes Scholar at State, Jared Cohen, whose job it has been at the department to work "with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other services to harness their reach for diplomatic initiatives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere."

Iranian officials began to play catch up, though. There were reports that government censors were blocking cell transmissions, that they were signing up for Twitter accounts and posting misinformation, and that they were scouring Twitter profiles based on location. In response, Iranians on the ground moved locations, hacked government websites, and repeatedly switched phones. A complex and deadly game of whack-a-mole developed where outside sources set up proxy servers for Iranians Twitterers and the government shut them down as quickly as they found them. Users abroad retweeted the message of the government profile searches and virally spread the news for users to change their profiles to +3:30 GMT, Tehran time to flood the zone and throw off Iranian censors.

The Twittersphere was striking back. In a small way, yes. But striking back through the power of the group against top-down controls. It is everything Twitter marketers claim for the power of social media in the consumer realm, only in a much more important and serious fashion.

In a moment such as this, Twitter plays an unprecedented role on the international stage. Thanks to the power of social media, most specifically Twitter, the world is now watching. As long as access to the streaming messaging service continues unchecked, government censors and security forces will be unable to entirely clamp down on the resistance. And once an authoritarian regime loses its ability to monologue to their citizens and the world, it is a genie that can not be put back into the bottle.

[+/-]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Success Without Postage

Saints Medical Center

In February, our client Saints Medical Center had stellar success with their Nursing, Pharmacy & Allied Health open house initiative. Saints approached The David Group Boston a little more than a week before the event to develop a budget friendly strategy to market their event. Our challenge was to build a comprehensive media approach with elements that could be executed within a matter of days. Our solution: a dynamic multimedia plan that included traditional print ads in local newspapers, a variety of targeted online media, and for the first time, no print direct mail.

Online media included:

  • Google keywords
  • homepage highlight, event listing, and the big banner ad
  • Targeted email blast to 5,606 Nursing & Allied Health recipients

Most websites require a minimum run schedule of two weeks for banner ads.

Because of the unique time frame presented, we were able to negotiate with special one week flights to meet Saints' needs.

Internet advertising allows us to provide detailed metrics, and in turn, measure ROI. For example:

  • In just one week, the Google Keyword campaign received well over 102,000 impressions (or views) and 326 clicks. This represents a .32% click-through rate (industry average is .04%!).
  • homepage highlight received over 1.6 million impressions and yielded 599 clicks.

With these two Internet products alone, Saints reached 925 interested professionals.

Online media is affordable and can fit into any budget. Keep in mind, replacing print direct mail with HTML email blasts can significantly reduce your costs (no postage or printing fees) while hitting the same audience in a timelier manner.

Let the final numbers speak for themselves: Saints had 122 attendees with 18 potential hires.

Congratulations, Saints!

[+/-]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Inaugural Video

Just a short video I made on the fly about getting started on Twitter. So many business out there are still not even taking that first step of getting started. More videos to follow especially once I finish reading the manual on the much better camera.

[+/-]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Charities Online

If you have some time and you fancy yourself quite a trivia buff, go and visit, the well-established charity challenge. Originally just a vocab exercise paired with donations of rice to third world nations, has branched out into other subjects to test, such as math and history, has lured more users and has become a model of online giving.

Founded in 2007 by John Breen and donated to the UN World Food Program in March 2009, Free Rice peaked in its viral visitors in the first year, getting some 500,000 visitors daily. While those numbers have dropped with time, the site still does a brisk business in unique daily visitors and in food donations.

Using sponsor banners that appear on the site with each correct answer, players build up a store of rice, 10 grains at a time, which is then purchased by the banner ad sponsors and donated to the UN for distribution to countries with famine epidemics. Over the last 18 months, Free Rice users and sponsors have donated over 60 Billion grains of rice.

And that's part of the appeal of online charities. I myself was a regular at for several days when I first discovered the site. It didn't take long to build up a significant amount of rice, and with a minimal effort you could do some good. Online charities are growing into the social media and internet sphere just like every other organization. Part of what makes these charties so effective is the rapididty with which you can join in as well as their viral nature.

Simply put, the Web is just too big for any one person to know of or even be aware of everything that is out there. Viral campaigns are aptly named because they flare up, sweeping through the internet, only to die down for a while before being fanned alive once more. Every so often, a new batch of people will discover the site and email invites will begin to appear in my inbox, and I return to to play some more. And invite others to play who might not have heard of or who, like me, have forgotten about it.

With the expansion and participation of social media, this can be a match made in heaven. Fans of various game applications spend more than enough time playing Scrabble or Mafia Wars that harnessing something they like to do with something that benefits others is a shrewd move. Into the fray we have movers and shakers like these 26 Twitter Charities, or you could consider this list of 50 Social Media charities from sites around the 'net or if Facebook is your primary place there are these great apps. You could even consider looking into experiments such as Twestivals and Twollars.

Part of what makes social media and social networking an interesting, fun and helpful place to be is that people engage there just as they would in their away from the keyboard lives. Being involved in making the world a better place is something intrinsic in most people and most of us have some kind of shortlist of charities or causes we believe in and want to help. Social media is a great place to harness that power and to connect with others who have the same interests and concerns. What social media can do for the business side of things can find its altruistic side as well.

If your organization is involved in traditional giving, but you've been considering a social network push for some time, why not combine these efforts? Consider becoming a sponsor to one or more online efforts or even starting your own socially charitable hub. Give your users a small game or application that lets them interact with you and your charity and you may have a recipe for success. Plus, it's a great way to boost your name recognition while reallocating your charitable donation dollars, giving you a double bang for the buck.

[+/-]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Media Security

Have you ever signed up for a service like online banking or bill paying or created an account and there was a selection of "security" questions in case you lost or forgot your password?

Have you ever filled out a questionnaire on Facebook like 44 Things About Me?

Is your family tree online somewhere like or

The ongoing and increasing trend of sharing information online whether through quizzes or just the generalized oversharing that can happen on Twitter is leading toward a security perfect storm. Data mining from various public personae and profiles and too common questions online means you don't even need a password cracker to hack into someone's account. Just patience and savvy.

A perfect example of this came during the 2008 Presidential election when Veep candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo! email account was hacked after a resourceful search online:

The individual, known on the blog post as Rubico, said that he was able to determine that Palin met her husband Todd in high school, along with her date of birth and zip code from Internet searches on Wikipedia and Google. Altogether, the hacker said that the process took no more than 45 minutes by experimenting with different word combinations until deriving at the correct word order.

Now think carefully over the various places you've set up accounts. Do any of them have a password reset feature that allows you to select from a list of four or five security questions? Have you ever filled out an online family tree that includes your mother's maiden name? If you've answered any number of fun online questionnaires from your friends, have you compromised your security? Plus, the average password is so average that lists circulate online. Add that to social media sharing, and if you haven't been hacked, maybe it's only a matter of time.

Phishing scams, too, are starting to become more and more prevalent on social networking sites because of their growing popularity. Phishing involves sending what appear to be legitimate emails from trusted organizations such as banks or eBay or requesting passwords or stating that passwords or other sensitive information needs to be "verified" or "confirmed."

Compromising your security can be as easy as finding a profile on Facebook, scrolling through the list of friends, then creating a fake profile with the same name as one of the friends. A "friend request" from this fake profile that includes a message like "Hey, Facebook suspended my other account, so now I have to make a new one," will be accepted at face value by most users. Once you've friended these scammers, everything you do and say can be parsed for information.

Still feel like announcing to the world your upcoming vacation plans?

And individuals aren't the only ones susceptible to getting hacked in easy ways like this. Go to a person's info page on Facebook, write down their email and you have one half of the info needed to log in as that person. Enough good guesses at their password and any pages they administer for businesses are compromised as well.

So not only users, but businesses need to consider what kind of social media security they want to have in place. Admins and superusers need to take more stringent security measures than average ones, but every member of a businesses social media team (and all employees of a business on/in social media) need to be careful not to compromise security.

A few ground rules are helpful:

  • Differing sites need differing passwords. And update passwords regularly, avoiding obvious choices.
  • Never follow an email link to a service you normally use and provide passwords (go to the main site and navigate to what's needed from there).
  • Never tweet, post or otherwise write about sensitive company information online.
  • And consider carefully when you're posting information that might overlap somewhere else.

The important thing to always remember online is that pretty much once it's out there, it's out there forever. Think before you type, think after you type and think again before you hit enter.

Now go have fun.

[+/-]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Social Web Futures

The internet and social media have been abuzz for some time now after Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research and all around social media darling, released his analysis of where he believes social media will be going in the next five years. While predictions of the future are generally hard to pin down (something Owyang makes crystal clear), the good folks at Destination CRM encapsulate his five overlapping stages as such:

  1. The era of social relationships: [M]id-1990s, people signed up for online profiles and connected with their friends to share information.
  2. The era of social functionality: As it exists today, social networking ... can support a broader array of what Owyang calls "social interactive applications." However, identities are essentially disconnected silos within individual sites.
  3. The era of social colonization: By late 2009 ... OpenID and Facebook Connect will ... allow individuals to integrate their social connections ... blurring the lines between networks and traditional sites.
  4. The era of social context: In 2010, sites will begin to recognize personal identities and social relationships to deliver customized online experiences. Social networks will become the "base of operation for everyone's online experiences."
  5. The era of social commerce: Brands will serve community interests and grow based on community advocacy as users continue to drive innovation in this direction.

A handy chart has also been making the rounds:

Let us consider some of this for a while.

And while we do, let me share with you an anecdote. At my house, we don't watch a lot of television. Busy lives, a very entertaining child, a preference for reading books and magazines and a healthy dose of online media consumption all equal a thin diet of TV programming. For this reason, we don't have cable. Instead, for years we got by with rabbit ear antennas. The switch to digital meant we needed an analog to digital converter box (yes, our TV is that old), but it also meant we needed an upgrade on our antenna.

To Best Buy I went. First, I purchased the smallest antenna I could find, reasoning that digital signals would be stronger than analog. Not so very much. Our eight strong analog signals covering the networks, PBS, some locals and Univision (best fútbol coverage, bar none) were reduced to four stations. Back to the store, a return, a stronger, pricier antenna. Home again, we're up to six stations, but still not NBC or the local PBS.

At this point, I changed tactics. Hopping online, I went to Best Buy's website and began searching antennas. Finding them, I began reading customer reviews. Gleaning tips from these, I Googled the antenna most users seemed to rate highly and I read more reviews.

Armed with information, I returned to the store, bought a roof mounted antenna plus everything I needed to secure it and run a coax line down to the house. In a little over an hour, I installed the much pricier, best antenna the store sold.

Twenty five channels.

What's important, though, is the process. See how many steps I could have cut from this process, how many trips to the store and experiments with the merchandise?

The solution was found through a very rudimentary kind of social web activity. Burned by claims on the antenna's boxes, I trusted perfect strangers' advice over the manufacturer and marketer promises. Now imagine that instead of going online and Googling or going to Best Buy's website, imagine a fully integrated social media experience.

Let's pretend Facebook is still the dominant player five years down the road. You want to buy a new antenna, a lawnmower, a car -- anything. You log in to your account that is a hybridized browser (think Flock at this early stage) and social media portal. Instead of typing what you're doing now, you type, I plan on buying a new television. Anyone have any advice?

The social media platform you're on scours not only the standard destinations like Best Buy for specs and purchasing options, it also scrolls through your online friends' internet accounts searching for what they've ever said about televisions. Have they rated a TV at This futurized Facebook will pull that up. Expand that search out a little. LinkedIn can show you the friends of friends through a web of connections. In the future, your frame of reference can expand outward through friends of friends for anything. Have any of your friends' friends ever rated televisions?

With users opting for one consistent online ID or user persona, all of this data can be collated and delivered. Now instead of relying on dubious advertising claims or the words of strangers, how about the advice of friends, acquaintances and relatives? Who are you more likely to listen to?

Things like this are already taking shape. The iPhone app SnapTell lets you take a picture of the cover of books, CDs, DVDs and tons of other products from anywhere, then searches the web and brings back reviews from Amazon, Goodreads, Wikipedia, Google shopping and so on. Find a book in the store, but thirty bucks seems too steep a price? Pull out your phone, and what do you know? Barnes & Noble has it for $19.95 with five dollar shipping and handling.

In the future, you'll take a picture of something and your contacts will chime in as well. Anyone you know a fan of the author of that thick historical novel? Facebook friends who belong to the fan group will let you know. Does this Xbox game live up to the hype? Your brother-in-law on Twitter doesn't think so. Should I apply for this position? A friend of a friend works there and loves it. Where should you go to dinner? Your niece in chef school has been tearing up the reviews on and she knows the real best sushi place in town.

Again, of course, you have to remember that social media is nothing more than a cataloged, accessible document of word of mouth. You could ask around to find out which game you should buy, which diner you should patronize, which author seems to have lost the knack for solid story telling. But in the future, social media will do the asking around for you. When you want to learn about something, it'll be your friends and followers who will advise you first.

[+/-]

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Future's Going Mobile

It took me quite some time to make the plunge, but I finally bought an iPhone.

There was the price tag that kept me from doing so, there was the current phone service I already had, there were my worries about becoming addicted to such a device and then losing it, breaking it, or having it stolen.

On the other side of the ledger was the coolness factor, the portable computer factor, and the increasingly interconnectedness of business and general life. Finally, after my own phone broke and an online purchase turned out to be less than stellar goods (my suspicion leans toward counterfeit), my wife's phone broke in exactly the same fashion. A teacher in the process of getting an Educational Technology master's degree, she too had begun seeing the utility of an iPhone (or at least hyping the utility because she'd been bitten by the coolness bug too.)

Other friends had been sporting their Blackberries for some time, Google Android operating system based phones were making the news, but there is no tech love quite like those of dedicated Apple fans.

And so we took the plunge, justifying it to ourselves that we were just going to end up with smartphones of some kind down the road anyway, why waste money on phones that didn't have this capability and ones we'd be replacing soon anyway.

News stories about the iPhone lately swirl around rumors of a third generation of hardware coming out around the same time as the third generation of software (actually firmware) and the smashing success of the App Store. Tiny programs that are designed specifically for your mobile phone, Apps automate any number of procedures, allow you to play games or find information quickly at the touch of a button, allow you to chat in real time with others and provide direct connection to communication portals like Facebook and Twitter.

This last place is where smarthphones begin to make sense for a business branching out into social media. The development of both quick apps that allow you to interact with these services is one thing. Your social networking sites should be as responsive as any customer service offering and most likely even more so. Apps like Tweetie or Twitterfon let you update your Twitter feed quickly and easily. The recent intersection of government response and the swine flu can be best learned about through @CDCemergency, the Center for Disease Control's ongoing response to the pandemic.

While your businesses concerns and reactions might not fall into the same category of national urgency, the responsiveness of their online programs have been a calming source of information amidst a frenzied chorus of media hyperventilation. Likewise, @fdarecalls, where updates on salmonella infected peanuts and pistachios kept pace with the story's unpleasant spread and demonstrated that where Twitter excels is in its rapidity of response. Mobile media will fuel that growth and in turn, social media will fuel mobile media.

This, by definition will lead to the development of mobile versions of websites. If you're considering a website redesign now would be the time to consider including a mobile subdomain. A pared down version of your main site, a mobile page has the benefit of loading quicker on the slower wireless and cellular networks while at the same time delivering essential functionality. Consider Google Classic and Google Mobile. A small amount of coding and a relatively simple redesign of your site, hosted alongside your regular page, can lead candidates to your job opportunities the moment the notion strikes them. Meanwhile, a slow loading page bogs down mobile browsing and can put off tech savvy candidates.

As greater and greater numbers of people move various business elements of their recruitment, marketing and advertising strategies online, forward-thinking organizations are already considering the next big platform development. It doesn't take a significant investment to get yourself ready, all it takes is foresight.

[+/-]

Monday, April 20, 2009

If You Don't
Someone Else Will

The examples are everywhere you look. Almost every day an example appears of one of a few things.

1.) A corporation suffers some snafu or gaffe and instead of addressing it head-on or proactively, they either ignore it, attack the critics or ham-handedly attempt to address it. In almost all three instances, they make the matter worse.

2.) A company slow to get involved with online media and social networking finds themselves playing catch up, and while everyone else has gotten sophisticated in how they approach the new online mindset, these companies arrive on the scene like complete n00bs, failing and failing hard.

3.) Letting their customers and users take complete reins of the online process, they fail to foresee that vandals will trash the joint.

In the last two weeks, we've seen and Domino's Pizza hit the number one example. When thousands of gay and lesbian titles disappeared from their rankings, Amazon hunkered down and Twitter was afire with speculation. And when YouTube videos appeared of workers spitting into pizzas (and worse), Domino's tried to play it cool and only reply in a few small ways. Neither reaction went over well and both brands suffered.

Skittles, when they launched their new online portal that allowed people to update their posting Twitter search wall, apparently didn't have anything in place to keep people from bashing the brand, leading to a not altogether too terrible but easily foreseen fail. Rude comments proliferated, but luckily the brand avoided a swarm that could have tanked the experiment.

Number two is where things will really start to get sticky. I won't go so far as to call out brands by name for this particular embarrassment any more than I'd not laugh at someone telling a bad old joke. The public shame is too much. Think of how you cringe now when someone new to the online world forwards you the ancient "Bill Gates and Intel will pay you to forward emails" chain letter.

The longer companies and organizations stay on the sideline, the more uncomfortable their transitions are going to be. Caught behind the times, their learning curve will have to be much steeper than those who jumped in on things while there was still time. New apps, new third party software, the general etiquette of online behavior, how to speak with your customers/audience instead of at them, all of this will not only be a foreign language by the time these late starters get on board, but their late-to-the-party game of catch-up might just be a case of too little, too late.

Worse still, in an organization's absence in the online sphere, others will filled the gap, and not necessarily with the kind of thing HQ would like to see. The ability to influence this online reputation will start from a weak posture and take additional time to counterbalance.

All in all, with a modest investment in time, research, and in delegating responsibility, brands, organizations, companies and others can mark out their territory online, can become participants in the word of mouth world we call social networking. It's a small price to pay for being ready when a storm arrives.

Just ask Dominos.

[+/-]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Googling Twitter, or,
Twittering Google

In yet another in an ongoing series of pet peeves of mine is the constant discussion about Google and Twitter. Which is the better search engine? Who will businesses pay more attention to to find out just what the customers are saying? Can Google compete with the awesomeness of Twitter's real-time search results?

These questions, quite frankly, are ridiculous. They almost read as though they were written by someone who didn't understand what Google or Twitter is/does. Try Googling any particular phrase from your Twitter feed. What's the result? You get your main profile page, if that. My second Twitter message ever doesn't turn up in the search.

The sheer volume of people out there using Twitter, the constant updating and flow of information across Twitter will overwhelm any search engine not dedicated solely to Twitter itself and nothing else. Perhaps you may have noticed an increase in Twitter down time. Perhaps you may feel that you are on more intimate terms with the Fail Whale than some of your coworkers. That's a result of extreme growth coupled with Twitter's slowness in getting additional servers up and running and their tinkering under the hood to provide additional services.

The point is, however, that Twitter is an awesome and amazing data stream, but it will never, ever, ever replace Google as a search engine, for very obvious reasons.

First off, there is no real upside for Google to begin collating every single blip, bleep, and squeak of every single Twitter user. None at all. Are there really that many users out there who want to know what someone's tweeting about fig newtons? I doubt it. The volume of Twitter data would overwhelm even Google, especially as they've tasked themselves with documenting every other corner of the web they can reach, not to mention all the books, blogs, maps, medical records, patents and every other nook and digital cranny they have their fingers into.

Twitter has their own search engine, thank you very much, and it does what it was designed to do very well. Do you really want to find out what people are saying about fig newtons? Here you go. If marketers and businesses and organizations and data junkies want to know what's going on through Twitter they can check the search, they can check hashtags, they can check Nearby Tweets or Yahoo! Sideline or Tweefind or any one of a hundred thousand million new sites that seem to pop up every single day.

But the number one single reason that Twitter will never replace Google for getting at what people are saying is so obvious that I'm astonished I have to say it at all.

Twitter searches only find out what people are saying on Twitter. It doesn't matter if Twitter has just over one million active users or 12 million current accounts. It doesn't matter if Twitter has over 25 million users. In the United States alone there are over 306 million people, almost three quarter of which are adults. If you shoot for 12 million users of Twitter, your demographic sampling is about half a percent. Plug those figures into worldwide population and you can see why Google's going to dwarf Twitter every time. Everyone is online somewhere. Google can find them. Twitter, not so much.

With smart use of filtering and various boolean operators, data junkies can get a much broader picture of what's being said about their brand by sticking to Google. If they want to know what Twitter users are saying about their brand, that's a whole different proposition. But the idea that somehow Twitter's going to take over from Google as the search gold standard is so ludicrous I can't understand why otherwise intelligent people write about it as though it were a going proposition.

[+/-]

Monday, March 30, 2009

School for Scandal

There has been a lot of digital ink spilled over Birmingham City University's new degree program in Social Media, some of it positive, some of it negative.

Why is such a program necessary? some complain. In the course of an entire year, you won't learn as much as a teenager who just jumps in with both feet.

Bandwagoning, others say. The university is merely capitalizing on the latest trend to charge people a full year's tuition for sitting around talking about the new pet rock.

Worthless, yet still others have decided. A junk class like programs that look for semiotic messages in music videos or trashy novels.

Finally, some say, the web changes so fast that by the time you've learned the ins and outs of Twitter, social media will have moved on to something else, some other shiny bauble.

Let's unpack some of the thinking about this program to see if any of these criticisms have any merit.

Firstly, BCU describes the program thusly:

This MA programme will explore the techniques of social media, consider the development and direction of social media as a creative industry, and will contribute new research and knowledge to the field.

So the idea behind the degree isn't that you're going to sit a bunch of forty-to-fifty-somethings in front of a computer and sign them up for Twitter and Facebook accounts, but rather that you're going to dissect the various ways that social media is being used, look at the history and trajectory of social media platforms from a creative perspective, and you're going to be possibly adding new knowledge to the field.

This last aspect is potentially the most interesting, as designers could sign up for these classes to tap expertise and to find the appropriate tools to improve app developments. Adobe AIR works within a Flash environment to create the tools that are used for social media. Would anyone denigrate software development, no matter what its use, as unnecessary and worthless?

Likewise, as businesses shift to an increasing digital presence as a result (and partial cause?) of the cratering of dead-tree print venues, the intersection of social media and other interactive communication formats will begin to heat up. In other words, you haven't seen anything yet.

While Reuters closed their Second Life bureau after about a year, that online social space experiment failed in part because SL required an enormous amount of time to master even the basics and most users weren't equipped with hardware that could effectively operate at the levels necessary.

Twitter, on the other hand, only requires mastery of typing. You needn't even link to anything, though the service allows far more value once you add link shortening, picture hosting services, etc.

Whether or not you find the classes worthwhile depends mostly on your attitude toward social media to begin with. If you don't Twitter, if you're not on Facebook or MySpace or any of the myriad other online locales, then such an offering will seem as pointless as social media itself.

If you're a power user of any of the above, you may find the idea that some people need training in its use ridiculous. You may even believe that the rapidity of online advancements mean that the moment they hand you your diploma, everything you've learned is obsolete.

To those who find it pointless, time will tell. To those power users, I would merely suggest you reread the course description again. It's not about learning all the great features available through TweetDeck today, March 30th, 2009. While that may be something you learn, that almost assuredly will be part of the general learning process. What's far more interesting will be how students learn the general principles. They'll learn how to put together an eye-pleasing social media offering, they'll learn underlying strategies, they'll learn the philosophical underpinnings of social media.

The old methods of top-down business communication don't work nearly so well in the online social sphere as the give-and-take model, the conversation as opposed to the lecture model. People often create and participate for the fun of it, not for immediate and tangible rewards. People engage because the content is engaging them: talking with them instead of to them. The basics of your standard communication degrees will be part and parcel of this curriculum, except retooled for the internet world.

The bandwagoning charge I've saved for last because I don't really have any good argument against it. Yes, social media and social networking are hot topics right now. Yes, the timing of BCU's master's program does seem ideally suited to take a bite of that media dollar. But why should the university be held to some higher standard in this regard than any other entity? Apple gets into Facebook, there's nary a peep. Sears is even getting involved with is the outrage?

When looked at in this way, the question then becomes not why is this necessary or will this succeed. The question then becomes, is this the future?

And for a follow up question, will this degree give social media practitioners a leg up on selling themselves to prospective employers?

Think about it before you dismiss it so quickly.

And if you wish, listen to one of the university's spokespersons discuss the program.

Jon Hickman: MA in Social Media from Kasper Sorensen on Vimeo.

[+/-]

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yes, You Totally Should

No, not sink.

Yes, you should totally be getting into social media.

It's hard for me to believe this sometimes, but there are still businesses and organizations that don't want to get involved in social media and social networking. There are still people who think, oh, that's just fooling around and it's not real work.

Yesterday, a number of us here at David went to a presentation luncheon. There we met a guy who did some work for Company X. He said the owner/head honcho didn't see the value in Twitter. I didn't press him on the specifics of the dismissal nor whether said big boss also disparaged Facebook Pages or other social media engagement, but I would assume so since their only Facebook presence was a Fan Page.

The worst thing about this to me was that Company X is completely the kind of business that predominantly appeals to younger markets and is a totally social experience. It wasn't about buying a product or a widget or a B2B offering. It's 100% consumer driven, a fun place to go and have a good time. (No more hints.)

So I have to wonder about this mindset. When Microsoft, Yahoo!, Dell Computers, and so many other big name corporations can see the value in such services, why don't small and mid-size businesses? The initial costs are low and, while the work flow demands a near constant monitoring and presence, the returns can be far greater than traditional advertising outlays.

A perfect example is Dell. During a recession economy, when even retail stalwarts like Wal-Mart put up disappointing holiday sales numbers, Dell managed to turn a tidy $1 million profit. And they did it through "exclusive" deals announced only on Twitter.

Here's the set up. Dell hooks themselves up with a Twitter page. They post special deals there, sometimes limited time only coupon codes, once in a while print coupons on short-lived pages. You sign up for Twitter and begin following Dell (or just go to their profile page when you're in the market for a computer), and you can order online with 15% or 30% discounts. That simple. This doesn't really involve Dell creating a new business model. It's the same exact same message they have all the time anyway; they've just swapped megaphones.

This is something any organization could do, and for a smaller business with a lower price purchase item, like tickets, it could drive sales through the roof.

Or you set yourself up a Facebook page, and every so often you put up a coupon link on your wall, or you send out a message exclusively to those who've become fans of your business page. The feeling of getting special treatment -- even if anyone else can sign up and get it too -- is a big motivator for people and that motivator can drive conversions and conversions drive sales.

This is Business 101 and the fact that those in the corner offices don't get it says a lot about the digital disconnect.

Yes, tons of time wasting and inane chatter take place on Facebook and on Twitter, but the way word of mouth can be harnessed there, can be driven there, can be tracked there, is going to be an increasingly potent weapon in many an organization's online toolkit. That some executives still believe they don't need to engage or that it isn't for their organization is the mark of someone resistant to change.

Here's the short message these execs need to hear: Change is coming. If you don't get out in front or at least try to catch the wave as it's cresting, you won't be surfing for very long.

You'll be sinking.

[+/-]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Dad's Newspaper

Everyone’s been buzzing here in C-town about the Yahoo News article last week predicting the impending death of our local paper. According to the article, the Plain Dealer will be shut or go digital by the end of next year. When I think about the newspaper, my mind automatically wanders to thoughts about my father-in-law. I think about what the newspaper, the printing press and the printed word have meant to him throughout his lifetime.

My father-in-law, Dad to me, worked for many years as a stripper. My husband tells me that he used to get a kick out of telling the other kids at school that his Dad was a stripper. For those of you not familiar with the non-explicit meaning of that word, a stripper was part of the prepress process. In the most simple terms, a stripper’s job was to piece together and position negative or positive film on layout sheets to fit in designated areas of film flat. Stripping – at least by this definition – is nearly extinct. The world has gone digital and today, an entire newspaper page, complete with artwork and graphics, can be created using a computer – exactly as it will appear in print – no stripping required.

Dad’s still in the printing business, but in a completely different role. However, he and the paper have always been connected. Every morning, he gets up, goes to get the paper, has a cup of tea and reads it cover to cover. He spends his morning pulling out the sports section to share with his sons, rifling through the sale fliers, just in case there is something to share with his wife, cutting out interesting tidbits about current events or anything culinary-related for me. Every day, 365 days a year, this is an integral part of his morning routine.

He recently saved the front page of his beloved newspaper for my 10-year old daughter. It was the day President Obama was inaugurated. Dad made her promise to keep it in a safe place and told her he still had the front page from when President Kennedy was assassinated. He told her to treasure it because it would be a little piece of history someday. I don’t think he realized that statement would have a double meaning quite so soon.

I wonder what will happen to his morning routine without that paper. The paper and Dad have a history – a connection of sorts. It has been a part of his livelihood and a part of his every-day life for over 40 years. He’s recently taken to text messaging. I wonder if he’ll read his newspaper online. . .

[+/-]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Twitter Versus Facebook

Everyone's abuzz about the new changes to Facebook profiles and pages. What does it mean? How will it change things? Can it stop Twitter?

The questions are everywhere, on every blog and in the media.

But why should Facebook want to stop Twitter? Why should Twitter want to kill Facebook? Why are the two even remotely considered similar?

Too often, social media platforms and services are looked upon as if they were engaged in a zero sum game in which there can only be one winner. What gets lost in this brouhaha is the basic notion that often these sites serve very different functions and attract a very different clientele. Or that users like and want both services to coexist. Often I find myself twittering about something on Facebook, and our company page (The David Group) includes an RSS feed of our twittering and this very blog.

In something like a tongue-in-cheek manner, I've suggested that the difference between Facebook and Twitter is that the former is the longest-running high school/college/coworker reunion and the latter is like the world's largest, most sprawling cocktail party (in fact I said so on Twitter). In that regard, they have their similarities, but that only extends as far as the conversation.

You and your twitter followers and those you follow are like one corner or one room of this party. Maybe you follow celebrities like Shaq or Rick Sanchez and they pass through your gathering with their comments, but as a whole your conversation remains dominated by you and your Twitter friends. Jokes are made, pictures are passed around, links are exchanged, and everyone gabs away to their heart's content.

Facebook shares much of these qualities only in so much as it is a social organization where people can make jokes and pass around pictures and links and so forth. But Facebook has had the capacity for blogging (Facebook Notes) for some time and no one has suggested that Facebook would kill Blogger or WordPress or Xanga or any of the other various blogging portals. Likewise, Facebook shares a lot in common with its unrulier older sibling MySpace, yet no one suggests that the two are locked in a dance of death. Facebook has places to upload and save your photos and your videos, while Twitter is the barest of apps.

Twitter is considerably more limited than Facebook, partly because of its 140 character max, partly because you can only change your home page so much, partly because there is as yet no advertising on Twitter, and partly because there are so many associated apps and ways you can Twitter when you're not on the computer. People happen to like those aspects of Twitter, even people who also happen to be on Facebook. I myself have three different Twitter accounts and they each serve their own specific function. I have my cellphone updated so I can post different things to different Twitter feeds. (Note to Twitter, by the way, it'd be great if there were any easy way to set up multiple accounts to one mobile number even if you didn't have a smart phone.)

But Twitter is limited and people like its simplicity. Yes, you can share photos on twitter, but what you're sharing is a link to a photo hosted somewhere else. Twitter, by its very nature, is about being linked to the web itself. Twitter is a way through the internet; Facebook is its own destination.

So whither all this noise about Facebook's new real-time updates being a Twitter killer? Wasn't Facebook's attempt to buy Twitter proof positive that they see the service as a long-term player? They do, and you should too. You can have both; there's room enough online for even more than two dominant social media, social networking platforms. If you've only got one, you're only seeing half of the picture.

So get on Facebook, get on Twitter, get on some kind of blog. There's no reason to only try one approach to engaging with people online. Plus, sometimes one service may be down and you may have a message you simply have to get out to the world. Multiple bullhorns give you the ultimate message flexibility.

Then, like me and others, you can blog about your Twittering, Twitter about your blogging, and have it all show up on Facebook too.

[+/-]

Monday, February 23, 2009

The David Group Welcomes….

Ken Novak

Ken is the one on the left.

As part of a feature designed to highlight the great staff here at The David Group, we’re kicking off the first in a series of interviews where we get to know everyone a little bit better. Generally, we’ll work within a 20 Questions framework, and we’ll mix it up a bit as time goes on, try a few other things.

But without any further ado, let me introduce to everyone Ken Novak who joins us as in the all-purpose, mega-multitasking role of Director, Client Strategy. Take it away, Ken, we’re all staring at you now.

1.) How did you get started in advertising?

Well, like most everyone else, I became interested in advertising during the Super Bowl. I had always been intrigued by agency life and landed my first agency gig not long after college. It was a great opportunity and gave me lots of experience.

2.) Have you always been such a social person?

Yes, always. I often tell people I have a dual personality: “Business Ken” and “Bar Kenny.” Different social environments determine which one comes out. For instance, you currently only know Business Ken.

3.) What do you see as the next great challenge for recruiters and for the advertising industry?

It’s no secret, but the retiring Baby Boomers are going to leave a lot of companies hurting in the coming years. Other than that obvious challenge, integrating an effective interactive marketing plan to communicate with Gen Y’ers will be imperative because THEY will be the ones companies will look to fill the void. Gen Y is a fascinating generation and they have been multitasking since they were born. If you don’t have a plan of how to attract Gen Y now, you will really feel the pinch later. It could be a game changer for your competitors.

4.) Internet Explorer or Firefox (or a third choice) and why?

Firefox! Customizations and the hackers aren’t as concerned with taking down Mozilla like they are Billy Gates.

5.) We know you have a Facebook account. Did you ever have a MySpace account? What do you think of the two platforms?

Gotta love Facebook. I did create a MySpace account when it first launched, but I never got into it like I did Facebook. Unsurprisingly, MySpace skews to a younger demo and since I am so worldly and mature…FB obviously spoke to me more.

6.) What’s your favorite movie?

Do I have to pick just one? While I would normally make some arcane joke and say something like Tootsie or Turk 182!, I am going to say Godfather 2. I think it’s important to note I have very strong opinions on movie series. Godfather 3 was an abomination and as far as I am concerned, never existed. Same goes for anything that happened after Rocky IV. How on Earth they thought there could ever be a more perfect ending than Rocky being the American ambassador who single handedly ended the Cold War is ridiculous. You know what movie has made serious strides up my virtual chart? The Dark Knight. Is it a bad idea for me to admit that I wish I was Batman?

7.) Favorite song?

Big fan of my music, so picking one is impossible…but some of my all time favorites are “A Day in the Life,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “Ten years Gone,” “Sometimes Salvation” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Ask me the same question in 10 years and this list could very well change. Heck, ask me the same question in 10 days and it could be different.

8.) Favorite word? And why?

I don’t think that question is appropriate for this platform.

9.) Without necessarily naming names, what is the worst job you have ever had?

I don’t care about naming names, but I delivered the Sun Journal as a kid. Holy crap did that stink. I hated it. I had this crappy bike with broken handlebars. Eventually, the paper bag got so heavy it would twist the alignment of my front wheel so I always ended up in people’s front yards from being unable to accurately gauge the necessary amount of overcompensation on my turns.

10.) What’s the most memorable/embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you in a client situation?

Ugh, I had my car broken into the night before an amazingly large pitch. I was working very late in the office preparing the deck and materials, walked out to my car sometime after midnight and had to deal with the police until almost 5 a.m. Yeah…my pitch was at 8:30 that same morning.

11.) What accomplishment are you most proud of to date?

I procreated! Sorry world, but that officially means the apocalypse is near.

12.) Who or what inspires you?

See #11. Fear is the best motivator.

13.) What do you do to relieve stress? (Keep it clean… heh heh)

See #8. That is totally inappropriate and you should be ashamed of yourself for asking….sinner.

14.) What online gizmos, gadgets, and applications do you use most often?

I am a big fan of iGoogle and Google Labs.

15.) PC or Mac? And why?

I am ashamed to admit it, but I have only had PCs. I have made a pact with myself however to buy a MacBook by year’s end.

16.) Do you consider yourself more creative or more analytical?

Depends on which of my alter egos you are referring. My instances of “Bar Kenny” are definitely waning as I become an elder statesman, so I am more analytical the vast, vast majority of the time. I know… that’s boring.

17.) Do you have any pets? If so what kind and what are their names?

Have one dog named Moose. He is a rot/lab mix and also has 2 personalities. It’s very black and white with him. He is either a big lazy baby or a hyperactive rhino that needs tranquilizers.

18.) Do you spend more time emailing or text messaging or some other form electronic communication?

I definitely do more emailing, but texting has grown exponentially over the past couple years. Mobile is absolutely compelling to me. It’s amazing we are finally going to get to the point where we have one device to rule them all (kinda like that ring in Lord of the Rings. Yeah, I totally made a nerd reference to that movie. I don’t care how nerdy it makes me, I dig those movies. While I am in the mode of sharing personal thoughts, I also love Star Wars, Star Trek and most superhero flicks. Nothing gets the ladies more excited that a nerdy fella that experiences pure unadulterated joy from drawing obscure similarities between nerd movies and real life. My daughter is doomed with me as a father figure.)

19.) What was your favorite childhood toy?

That is EASY! I had an AWESOME Big Wheel. You should hear the story of how my brother borrowed it, believed he was Spider Man and tried to drive it up a tree.

20.) Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or Freddy Krueger, who was the baddest of all?

I gotta admit…I am not much of a slasher flick guy. Freddy always freaked me out as a kid and I never understood why the other two did not sue each other. Seriously, what is the difference between Jason and Mike? I guess I always thought Mike was just a bad Jason knock off, capitalizing on a hit. Kinda like how Webster was to Gary Coleman. Anyways, Batman could totally beat all of them (Webster and Gary Coleman included).

[+/-]

Managing a Twittering Flood

One of the trickiest things about choosing who to follow on Twitter is being sure you don't pick someone who floods the zone. Some choose to Twitter selectively, some post every single hour, and some people even set up bots to regularly chirp out messages on a pre-determined schedule.

Follow the wrong person and you can be swamped in a deluge of posts, missing someone else's valuable message in a glut. At the same time, some of these Twitter founts can be full of good solid information as well. The Twitterers over at SmartBlog on the Media, pointed us in the direction of this ReadWriteWeb post about pushes by federal government agencies to get in on using social media to keep people updated on health issues, such as the recent peanut-related salmonella outbreak.

FDArecalls, while important, puts out as many posts as they have recalls. With more and more peanut products being pulled from the shelf, I'd want to know before I bit into that snack crakcer where those nuts came from. At any rate, February 11th, for instance, saw sixteen individual entries. Follow FDArecalls and one other rapid fire Twitter source (telesaur, let's say for example) and your whole home page is dominated with messages from just two sources. Follow fifty different Twitterers and you'll have pages upon pages of links and messages to scroll through.

Luckily, there are options. For starters, you could simply bookmark Twitterers with valuable information by the gross ton and check in with them regularly. Or Firefox and Flock browsers let you easily organize your RSS feeds so you can keep up with heavy posters without locking yourself into having your Twitter home page dominated by their messages. And lastly, various third party applications such as TweetDeck can help organize all the Twitterers you follow making it simple to isolate the signal from the noise.

While not every Twitterer you find interesting is going to offer something you want to read every day (or every hour), before you've been Twittering for very long you're going to have to find ways to manage the flood. There's no time like when you first get started for setting up some organizing principle, though, because it won't take long before the waters start rising....

[+/-]

Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting the Personal in Social Media

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the online chatting service meebo. Just look to your left for confirmation of this.

What meebo does well is host other chat services within their own portal, so you can open one window or tab and run MSN, Yahoo, AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, even Facebook all in one place.

You don't need to download any software, you don't need a standalone chat service hogging up your RAM, you don't need to open a new tab for each of your chats. Plus, they also offer video chatting and meebo rooms so you can gather a group of friends together for a conversation instead of just a dialogue.

But one of the things I think meebo does particularly well is engage their audience. They could just provide the service, throw some ads on to the page, and be done with it. But instead, the company hosts little quizzes when you sign in (which you're free to ignore) and they also occasionally pop up little chat boxes that feature news about meebo or something cool online and sometimes they post things completely unrelated to their service.

This is exactly the strategy employed by companies that are successes in social networking and social media. Blogs, like Twittering or any other host of social media services, are about conversation, and nothing kills conversation and turns it dull quite like a 24/7 parade of shoptalk.

Social media, when it's at its most effective, is about having fun and being engaged. If you're talking to a person at a party and they make you laugh, they make you think, they take an interest in who you are and what you think, you'll want to talk to that person again and again. On the other hand, get cornered by a bore who drones on and on about his pet topic and you can't get away fast enough.

Having tooted that horn long enough, below is a huge excerpt from the meebo blog that popped up when I logged in this morning. It's a great story, part of the conversation, something that would amuse me to no end if I heard it at a party. What does it have to do with online chatting? Nothing.

And everything

My cat, Miles, was not what you would call "active." A very rotund fella, he peaked out around 25 pounds (before he went on a strict diet and exercise regimen), and his favorite activity was lying on his back doing nothing while people rubbed his belly. So I never thought he was particularly bright.


But when properly motivated, he turned into a problem-solver extraordinaire.

I typically fed Miles right after I woke up, so he developed quite an assortment of tricks to get me out of bed in the morning. I had countermeasures for pretty much all of them.


But one time, Miles did something I did not think a cat could have figured out.

One early morning I woke up because my phone was ringing, but when I picked up the cordless receiver next to my bed, there was nobody there. Mildly annoyed, but now awake, I started my morning routine.

Strangely, the next morning the same thing happened. Early morning prank calls were too juvenile, even for my friends, so I assumed someone was calling the wrong number and was too embarrassed to acknowledge it. Not being a morning person, I wasn't pleased.

When the same thing happened the following morning, I was so frustrated that I decided to walk over to the phone and unplug the darn thing. That's when I noticed Miles, standing on top of the base unit and, apparently, pressing the "page" button.

Coincidence, you say? He just happened to step on the phone and it woke me up, but it was an accident? I thought so too. So I tested it out.

I didn't unplug the phone, and the next morning I heard the ringing again. But this time I didn't move. I peeked out from under the covers silently observing as Miles patiently manned his post, perched on top of my phone, for no less than a full half hour. Exasperated and awed, I finally gave in and sat up in bed. Then, as nimbly and matter-of-factly as could be expected from a 20-something-pound cat, he hopped over to my bed and gave me a look that was part "feed me" and part "I gotcha!"

I promptly dug through my closet, found the extra hardware that came with the phone, and mounted it on my wall.

Do you have any pets who do crazy things? Feel free to share. I always like a good pet story.

And there you have it in its essence. A personal story, told well, almost universally relatable, and an invitation to join the conversation.

That, ladies and gentleman, is how it's done.

(For the record, in case anyone needed further proof, as of this posting, this particular blog entry on meebo's blog had 535 comments.)

[+/-]

Thursday, February 5, 2009

That's Just What I Was Saying...

A writer for The Wall Street Journal, Julia Angwin, shares her experiences and some some thoughts on how you can improve and (hopefully) manage your turn out on Google SERP.

For those not in the know, SERP stands for search engine results page. It's the ten links that turn up on each successive page when you run a search in any of the major search engines. For individuals, it can be a hard route to improve what turns up, especially if you're not generating content. And if your top results are embarrassing? You'll want to move fast.

When Angwin approaches Google to see if they can help her remove her top link, an article with which she's not particularly pleased, they explain to her that the best way to get what she wants turn up in the results is to generate more content. She also learns that interlinking your various content platforms – that is, putting a link to your Facebook profile on your LinkedIn profile and mentioning both in your Twitter feed – can give a huge boost to your efforts. The more mentions you make of something in a site or forum or feed, the better that something's SERP will look to you.

While it is easy to start out pushing up your content, what remains key is that you yourself have to take responsibility for keeping your results the way you want them. Consider what happened shortly after Angwin began her project:

Still, visibility has a downside, which I unwittingly learned. The day that Apple Inc.'s Chief Executive Steve Jobs announced his "hormonal imbalance," I went on camera with a colleague at to talk about the possible impact on Apple's business.

Within hours, Apple enthusiasts at started trash-talking me and my colleague for allegedly casting aspersions on their leader. As a result, these posts, some of them quite vulgar and nasty, shot up near the top of my search-results page.

Just as you have to take ownership of your online presence, whether you're a company or an individual, you also have a responsibility once you're out there to monitor your internet reputation. As long as it takes to build a good one, it can be torn down within hours.

Luckily, Angwin's story has a happier ending:

Luckily, they sank back down to the fourth page of my results within two days.

The whole unpleasant experience was an object lesson in another aspect of SEO: It's never over. You can work to boost your results, and then lose control in an instant. Constant vigilance is required. That's why big companies hire experts to monitor their search results on a full-time basis.

If you're not out there making your best case for yourself, who's speaking for you? And what are they saying?

Shouldn't you find out?

And who can you turn to for help in keeping your good name good? The David Group can help.

[+/-]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"But Why?" and Other Questions

The number one question you will hear from clients about social networking and social media is "But why should we get involved in this? What's in it for us?"

Okay, so maybe that's two questions.

In fact, you'll probably get a lot of questions about why you should be involved in online social sites: What are the advantages? Can we make money off of doing this? What do we need to worry about? How do I use Twitter? What if someone starts following my updates but I'm not sure about that person's reputation?

There are any number of things to keep in mind with social sites and how an organization interacts with them. But the number one question of why you should be involved boils down to this: If you aren't out there making your organization's name shine on social media sites, maybe someone else is out there doing just the opposite.

Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are here to stay. Maybe not exactly those portals, but in some fashion, social networking online is here, it's staying here, and it's growing. The costs of getting involved now are minimal, while the drawbacks of not getting involved now are huge. Playing catch up when everyone else is already miles ahead is no fun. Playing catch up when everyone else is miles ahead and someone is out there talking trash about your organization is even less fun. A good reputation, once lost, can be a hard thing to regain.

Get started now while the game is still young. Get started now and see what social networking can do for you. The David Group can guide you through the ups, the downs, the pitfalls, and yes, the ways that social sites can be profitable for your company. We're there, we're engaged, we're socializing. Why not join us?

[+/-]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Testing New Social Media

One of the more important points businesses need to take away from any discussion of developing their social networks is that it is a lot of work and it is slow at first.

The payoffs can take time to build, the groups can be cumbersome in getting off the ground, and the media and sites need a dedicated person to experiment with and learn their capabilities. All of these things take time to master, build, and maintain. Anyone can put a Facebook page up or write a few paragraphs for a LinkedIn company profile. But after that's done, what next?

A constant influx of new content is a must. A page with no updates, a page with no new messaging, is a page with no repeat visitors. It's called social networking for a reason. Like they do with a television network, your audience will come to count on you for constant, new programming. Like mingling at a party, you have to keep moving and moving, shaking hands, slapping backs, telling jokes, learning people's names, and making the rounds.

But you can't just stop at your page. You have to get out there in the blogging, instant messaging, profiling world. Go read what other people are saying. Leave interesting comments that track back to your site. Engage in the social world and the social world will come knocking at your door.

So, fresh content is obviously important, but just as much is fearless experimentation. You try some new things and some of those things fail. But this is good. Failure is instructive, provided it's not a magnificently massive Epic Fail. You put up your Twitter feed and no one follows you. Weeks and weeks go by and nothing. Zilch. Why not? What are you doing wrong? What can you be doing better? Are you following anyone? Are you sending them messages?

Learning what works and what doesn't, you cull from your trials and you hone your messaging strategies down to what works for you, your organization, your industry. Even regular users of various social media platforms don't know and can't keep up with every little wrinkle.

Get out there and mix it up. Have some fun. Learn some new tricks. Meet some new people. Social media is the future. In an ever more and more plugged in world, you can't afford to be left out of the conversation. You can't afford to be left behind.

Just don't kid yourself that it's a part-time job.

Want to learn more about how social media and social networking can help out your business? Contact The David Group and we'll show you the ropes.

[+/-]

Friday, January 23, 2009

Interesting Development

Everyone knows you can get tons of free content online.

I'm not talking about the illegal downloading of stuff either, which is its own separate issue.

I'm talking popular shows streamed from major network sites like NBC hosting episodes of 30 Rock or CNN streaming the Inauguration in partnership with Facebook. Clips from popular shows like The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and others are available on, while nearly anything you are searching for can be found on YouTube or metacafe. Many companies fail to recognize how this sort of free advertising can lead to increased sales and greater name recognition, and some organizations have gone so far as to pull videos others have posted, rather than take advantage of the business opportunities presented to them.

In an interesting turn of events, the classic British comedy group Monty Python took matters into their own hands. First they set up their own channel, essentially a page maintained by YouTube but with content controls for the members of Monty Python. For every unauthorized posting of a snippet or sketch from their show that someone else had posted, they uploaded their own high-quality version. They added new content including familiar television personalities talking about when they first became fans of the group, members discussing writing or acting or anything really, and other items.

And then they linked to their material for sale on Amazon.

And you know what?

Despite having tons of free content available online, within days of setting up their own channel, the guys from Monty Python saw their DVD sales on Amazon rise to the number two spot with an amazing 23,000% increase in sales.

Now, how does this relate to advertising and specifically to recruitment advertising?


With a creative approach to marketing yourself and your organization and by taking advantage of the free distribution of content, you can set up your own YouTube channel and begin spreading the word. You can post videos of hiring event games or clips of employees telling the world what a fun place to work you are. You can show that your hospital is inviting and pleasant, cutting-edge and compassionate. You can illustrate the kind of high-tech manufacturing environment you're seeking to staff. You can highlight your latest retail location.

Too many companies are just names and addresses to potential job seekers. Why not put a face with that name and show the world you're an organization worth working for?

This panel of experts agrees.

[+/-]