Tag Archives: Social Media

Look how time flies…

It’s been two months since my last post here, but I’ve been busy dropping content in other places across the web.

The first two weeks in March were consumed by planning, promoting and executing Providence Twestival with Jane Couto. It was Providence’s first Twestival and with the help of our attendees and sponsors we raised $400 for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. I’ve been really intrigued by the concept of social good for about a year now, closely following the Pepsi Refresh and Chase Community Giving campaigns. It was great to take a concept that has rejuvenated US communities, fed disaster victims across the word and raised our collective conscience and boil it down to a hyper-local level. In a few words… it was a great success!

I’ve also been working with Social Media Club Providence to plan our May event, Egypt’s Social Media Revolution with Dr. Richard Lobban. Dr. Lobban was on the ground in Egypt during the revolution and leveraged social media to document his experience there. Should be a fantastic event and I hope you can join us in person or by following the hashtag (#smcpvd). You can learn more about what the club has been up to on our Social Media Club blog (props to the Social Media Club team for the site redesign!).

And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been sharing some thoughts on social media on the (add)ventures blog. I’ve written about the importance of engaging CEO’s in brand social media strategies and how innovative brands are leveraging photo sharing applications like Instagram and Hipstamatic. Check out my posts there and read some thoughts from other talented (add)venturists on branding, marketing, design and video production.

In the coming weeks I will be taking some time to do some house cleaning here and post some new content for you to read, share and comment on.

What has kept you busy over the last two months?

Eating Social: The Intimate Relationship Between Food and Our Social Networks

Eating is probably one of the most social things we do in our day. Regardless of how “plugged-in” we are, most of us can pry the iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android from our hands for long enough to enjoy a meal with our friends. But not before we source a restaurant from Urban Spoon, Yelp, or our trusty Twitter and Facebook communities. And then there’s the obligatory check-in on our location-based poison of choice when we arrive at the restaurant, followed by a quick scan of available tips to help us determine “what’s good here.”  We usually relinquish our online social selves once we take our seats, at least momentarily, until the food arrives and we snap a quick picture of what we’re chowing down on and share the snapshot on Twitter, Facebook, our blogs, or wherever else we share content.

According to a recent Foursquare blog post, Foursquare check-ins categorized in the “Food” category far outranked check-ins at any other type of venue.

Foodspotting, an application dedicated to visually sharing the most scrumptious food we come across to our followers so they can “Nom,” “Want,” and eventually claim it for themselves, reached over 450,000 users last year. BlogWorld Expo, a conference known for having its finger on the pulse of blogging trends, offered a food blogging track for the first time in 2010. There’s also a ton of other conferences dedicated solely to the art of food blogging (check out this great post from NamelyMarley for a list of the 2011 events).

You could say 2010 was a big year for food and how we consume it. It crossed over from being an old-time staple in our offline social lives, to the shiny, new main event in our online social communities. Our eating experiences are no longer confined to the restaurant table. Instead, they’re immortalized online in photos, tips, reviews, and blogs to be viewed, shared, and admired by the social web. Eating social is my favorite example of how our online behaviors and connections fuel our offline actions which, in turn, influence the content we create and share with our social networks.

So, with all this eating we did in 2010, do you think our offline attempts to burn the calories will creep into the content we share online? My friend Mike LaMonica noticed the social fitness trend starting among South Florida Tweeters in 2010, but I haven’t seen the same prevalence in my new Providence ‘hood. Yet. Great apps like RunKeeper and Nike’s fitness application make me think this year will be the year we feel the burn, even in the midst of the Northeast’s bitter cold.

Facebook Press Conference: Announcement of Features or Brand Positioning?

By now most of us have either watched the live stream of the Facebook press conference yesterday or sifted through the recap blog posts today (Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and All Facebook have some nice recaps and follow up interviews). While the revamped “Groups” are pretty exciting for focusing and improving conversations on Facebook’s social graph and the “Download Your Information” and “Applications You Use” are solid steps forward for users who want easier access to their information, it was Mark Zuckerberg’s soliloquies (minus the “and, ums”) about “what Facebook is” that were most interesting to me

Watching Mark speak reminded me of sitting in the classroom furiously scribbling down notes while the enlightened PhD opened my mind to new ways of reading Faulkner or Shakespeare. He truly has vision when it comes to the social web and for the first time in awhile he closely aligned that vision with the Facebook brand, using just a few words: Facebook solves social problems. That’s what Facebook does. The Facebook team sits in Silicon Valley, engineering algorithms and building the platform and applications that connect us, finding ways to break down the barriers that divide us. When we run into frustrations on the social web Facebook will be there to ease our annoyances.

Seems like a pretty drastic departure from the big bad privacy violator Facebook was just a couple of months ago. Or the egocentric, pet project, of a shady Harvard kid that Facebook was, well, just a week ago. And the best part? The presses largely agree. Tons of fawning posts steadily streamed out over the past 24 hours and none of my emails subscriptions featured links to pesky movie reviews.

Props to the Facebook PR team for crafting some targeted messages that allowed Mark to steer the conversation away from the controversy and back to the revolutionary ideas and social products his team is cranking out.

The At-Home Fashion Show Goes Social

We all learn at a young age what “hauling” is, typically around the hectic “Back to School” time of year. Our parents loaded us up, took us to the mall, and piled clothes, school supplies, and other must-haves into the shopping cart(s). Mom swiped the credit card, Dad cringed at the price tag, and we got to show off our new outfits and gear in the all-important at-home fashion show.

Some of us grow out of our “hauling” habits as we get older, but most of us maintain them, whether it’s a Friday shopping spree at Macy’s or a snack food overload at CVS. I’ve often felt guilty about my own hauls at Forever 21 as I pile the extra large shopping bags into my little Honda.

But today I found out I’m not alone. An army of 14-18 year old girls are taking their hauls and their at-home fashion shows online in impressive numbers, creating 5-8 minute vlogs documenting their purchases. And they not only have viewers (one of the more popular videos has almost 800,000 views) they have fans who tweet in with questions and requests.

NPR claims that several thousand “hauling” vlogs are uploaded every month in an excessive flood of “Materialistic PG Porn” for young girls. Glamour takes a different angle, suggesting that is oddly rewarding to get an inside peek into a stranger’s closet, as well as getting some insider info on sales and best buys at our favorite stores.

Whatever your opinion, savvy retailers are noticing and partnering with some of their more influential “hauling” vloggers. JC Penney will partner with a group of vloggers to promote Back to School sales and build relationships with the young female demographic.

Facebook’s Arrogance

I spent the morning reading up on the details of the new features Facebook announced at their annual F8 developers’ conference. The new features include: Social Plugins, which allow websites to add Facebook-style social interaction; the Open Graph Protocol, a way to let Facebook users add external Web pages to their profiles and to provide developers with access to Facebook analytics data; and the Graph API, a rewrite of Facebook’s core developer code to allow easier development on the Facebook platform. Information Week gives a great business and web impact breakdown here.

This announcement has huge ramifications for users’ privacy, marketers ability to achieve social interaction on the web, and of course the part Facebook wants you to focus on the most, the user experience.

Once again Facebook has thrown concerns for their users’ privacy out the window. In a move that makes the epic “Beacon” roll out look like child’s play, Facebook is opening your and your friends data up to the entire web. Anyone who can figure out how to insert an I Frame into their website and entice you to like what they’re selling or showcasing has a foot firmly in your social network. When I visited CNN and Pandora this morning the “Big Brother” feeling was palpable as I browsed through what my friends had been reading on CNN and saw what great (and sometimes embarrassing) tunes they were listening to. Since this feature is opt-out, not opt-in, my guess is that my friends were largely unaware that I was accessing this information. Now to lend some perspective, getting a peek into my friends’ radio stations is something I could just as easily do by sitting in the car with them, but there is something unsettling about being allowed to access this information when they aren’t looking.

These new features are exciting for marketers who want to build websites and online presences for clients that are more than just one-way communication, but two-way social interactions that enrich content and give it legs and presence in the once elusive social networks of their target audiences. Hubspot gives a good summary of these implications here. Facebook’s social plug-ins will allow developers to easily add this layer of sociability and ride on the coat tails of the 400 million user base Facebook has cultivated. There is merit to the argument that this social layer will give credibility to websites and blogs you visit because you will be able to see the footprints your friends have left behind. It will also instantly allow one-dimensional websites to become familiar to users and have interactivity capabilities that would have otherwise taken years to custom build, launch, and debug. The downside of course is that the interactions won’t be unique, they will be the same as your interactions on Facebook. The NHL is using the “like” plugin which will allow you to select the players you like and post the story to your Facebook page. A custom plug in and dedication to building their own online community could have allowed the NHL to let that button link you to the player’s discussion group within their own website so you could instantly connect with others outside of your own network who shared your same passion. Instead, as I discussed in an earlier post, users will be confined to their own past-oriented and often backwards-looking Facebook network when they share these stories, making them less socially useful.

Oh the Facebook user experience. Fodder for fan pages and groups alike who protest the roll out of new features, usually unsuccessfully, and frustrating for a maturing user base that is tired of the Mafia Wars notifications and the “please write on someone’s wall today” notifications. Facebook’s social plugins will allow it to bring in new and unique information into the network that will hopefully solve the users frustration of stale content and Facebook’s frustration with an increasingly apathetic audience that makes data gathering difficult when users aren’t sharing. I think this move will give Facebook another 5 years of relevancy as users are able to connect and interact with their friends based on their web presence rather than their cookie cutter Facebook profile page. The day will come, however, when users will flock to niche networks that are more relevant and useful to them.

Facebook is taking risks with this move, both with their users’ privacy and with the assumption that users like the Facebook model of interaction so much that they will embrace it across the web. I predict that they will be successful with these moves and largely unopposed for their privacy transgressions, but these moves won’t fix the limited nature of your social network with Facebook, the new features will just make it more interesting for the next few years.

Job Hunting Tips for the Recent (And Not so Recent) College-Grad

Since I am about to pass from the “college student” phase into the “recent college graduate” stage I have been thinking about some of the rules of the job hunting road I have followed and broken in my own job searches in the last few years. My successes and failures have allowed me to land 6 different jobs in 4 years which ranged from over the phone sales, to management, to my passion: social media and branding. As I look forward to landing my first post-degree job I figured I would share some tips with you on how I’m navigating the changing market. Keep in mind that most of these tips will be for jobs in the communications industry, but you can tweak them to apply to almost any industry.

1. Leverage your online and offline networks.

Hopefully you have spent time developing relationships with former bosses, colleagues, professors, and people in your local community (or worldwide community if we are talking about online networks) before you start the job search. It is much easier to reach out to those people to identify “hot” leads, rather than wasting valuable time on Career Builder or random Google searches. Don’t be afraid to ask your connections if they know about any openings. Everyone has had to go through the job search process and if your connections are strong, or at least genuine, people will be more than willing to help you out. What you should NOT do is follow people at a company you would like to work for on Twitter and lead by asking for a job. Just like all social media interaction you need to take time to build trust by focusing on providing value first before you start asking for things. Also, keep an eye on your followers lists on networks like Twitter and LinkedIn, you might be surprised to see who is receiving your updates in their social streams. Make a conscious effort to answer those people when they post questions and forward along articles that might interest them.

Join local meet up groups that are relevant to your industry or volunteer for organizations that tend to attract volunteers from companies you want to work for and make friends with the regulars. School groups and clubs are important, but more than likely the people you meet there are just starting out too and may not be able to introduce you to the decision maker that can give you a job. Contribute your time and skills to the meet up groups and volunteer organizations whether it is through committees, event organizing, or volunteering to speak. Again, the more you give, the more you will get back.

2. Update your resume often and focus more on what you’re doing now, rather than what you did a few years ago.

Even if you aren’t currently on the job market make sure you are continuously updating your resume. There are a few practical reasons such as you might accomplish something major in your current position and forget about it a few months down the road when you are starting to look for new work. Also, your dream job could go on the market at any time and you don’t want to be agonizing over perfecting your resume instead of quickly sending out your resume. If nothing else, when you are asked to speak on panels or at events, the organizer will often ask for your resume so they know how to introduce you to your soon to be adoring fans.

Industries change quickly and the experience you gained at your first internship two or three years ago might not be relevant to the job openings you are applying for today. Employers want to know what you have been doing in the last few months, rather than what you did your freshman year of college. They will assume you nailed down the fundamentals in the classroom and in your first or second internship, just like the other 100 people who are applying for the same job did. What will set you apart is what you’re doing now that falls into that 1-3 years of experience category. You don’t need to drop these past positions from your resume if they are applicable to the job opening, just don’t list them first.

3. Keywords and metrics are important.

Your resume should be rich with metrics. In other words, don’t just provide a general description of what your day to day work at a job included. Instead, include the results you were able to produce whether that was in the form of new business, an increase in sales (meaningful numbers are always impressive), or a satisfied client. Your bullet points shouldn’t just show how the job helped you grow, but how your work impacted others.

None of this will matter, however, if you don’t have the appropriate keywords in your resume to make sure it’s found. Keywords can seem a little daunting, or even infuriating if your passionate about words, but the reality is most resumes are scanned by a computer or search engine before a real person ever reads them. You need to get through that first filter. An easy way to do this is to mirror the language used in the job description in the body of your resume. In other words, if the job requires you to manage a blog, you should include somewhere that you are actively managing a blog. You can also include keywords in the “Skills” section of your resume. I actually list all of the social media platforms I am familiar with and actively use in that section which has helped me get through that first filter when applying for social media positions.

4. Be picky.

You will probably get a lot of advice from people who tell you that any job is great for your first job out of college. I disagree. Companies are inundated with applications for the positions they post. They are going to be picky during the hiring process and it will be easy for them to tell if you aren’t really interested or qualified for that position. Instead of blasting your resume out to any company that will take it, take the time to identify what you really want from a job and what companies are a good fit for your personality. I’ve had friends who were hired for positions they weren’t qualified for based on their enthusiasm and overall fit with the company culture. Most skills are teachable, but passion and positive attitude are hard to come by. If you’re strategic in the positions you apply for you will spend less time in the application process and more time in the interviewing/landing the job you really want phase.

5. Your cover letter should be more like a creative writing piece, than a summary of your resume.

Especially if you are applying for a job that requires you to ooze creativity on a daily basis you want to make sure that the first thing your potential employer reads from you grabs their attention, gives them a snapshot of who you are, and ideally makes them smile. Recruiters spend countless hours sifting through cover letters that are little more than summaries of resumes. If you can find a way to show you’ve done your homework about the company and prove to them that you will be a great fit with their team, you might have done more for yourself in that first intro paragraph than your whole resume would have done. One time I included my guilty pleasure music choice because I heard the staff has 80s tunes on blast during the work day.

Those are my top tips for all you job hunters out there. Please leave your feedback and additional ideas in the comments section!

A Social Web that is Age Blind

Usually every couple of weeks you will see articles cycling through Twitter with leads like “Gen Y flocks to Twitter as Facebook Ages” or some impressive stat about just how “old” social media users really are. It is interesting that the dominant age group on the social web is 35-44 year olds and not teens or the 20-30 year old crowd. Social network use is moving beyond connecting with long lost friends from elementary school and we are starting to hear more and more success stories about people leveraging their networks to land jobs, make powerful connections with industry leaders, or maybe even celebrities.

While these statistics and user case studies are important for understanding who is using social networks and how, I’m not sure they help us to truly understand why users are drawn to the social web in the first place. When we connect online we may have specific objectives in mind, but more than likely we are looking to extend our real-world realities to the online realm in a way that has little to do with age or even work. Instead, the focus shifts to interests, common experiences, and the search for useful information that will educate us in our offline lives.

I had the amazing opportunity to see Paul McCartney live at SunLife Stadium on Saturday, April 3 and not only was I amazed by his out this world performance, I was amazed at the mish-mash of people there for the show. As I entered the stadium I was sure I would be the youngest person in the crowd, but I was wrong. Middle school aged kids were buzzing with just as much excitement as I was as they rushed into the stadium with their friends, or even their parents. Throughout the show I was amazed by the interactions taking place in the crowd. Children were dancing with grandparents, young 20-something couples were singing along to every song, and no one seemed to think this was unusual. Why? Well, because it’s not. Our offline lives bring us in contact with people from all over the world and all along the age spectrum. We relate to each other based on common interests, whether that is a love for Paul McCartney’s artistic abilities or an appreciation for technology.

Social network users care less about the age of the people they are interacting with and more about what they have in common with them. College-aged users don’t flock from Facebook because they’re annoyed by a friend request from their mom, but because Facebook, and many brands who try to leverage the space, have done a poor job connecting people who have real things in common outside of their age, location, and past. Most Fan Pages are little more than a stream for a brand’s website and PR content. There is no way to easily search through the other fans of that product, place, or person to see who you might be able to connect with in a real way outside the random comments or clicks of the “like” button.

As social networks mature, niche networks become more popular, and social media users become more vocal about what they want from these platforms, profiles will be less about where you have been (age and school) and more about who you are now and what experiences you are searching for (books you’re reading now, places you want to travel to).

A great example of this is Get Glue, a social networking site that rewards you for “liking” movies, books, artists, restaurants, wines and more. The idea is that the website can recommend products for you based on what you have experienced in the past so that you can have new experiences. The best part is you can see what the people in your network like and what they have consumed, giving you a more intimate look into who that person is beyond their 140 character bio on Twitter or Facebook profile that probably hasn’t been updated in the last year. This sneak peak could lead to the meaningful online and offline connections that users are searching for.

When social networks really make the jump to creating rich online experiences that are inspired by your offline life, statistics will be less about age groups and more about cultural movements, online connections that led to offline interactions, and the creation of innovative user content that bridges age and location.

The New Media Relations

When you pull up your media list to do story pitching for a client what information are you looking at? A phone number? An email address? Maybe even the occasional fax number? What about links to their professional (and not so professional blogs)? Are you friends on Facebook? Have you been chatting on Twitter?

My guess is it depends on the client and whether you’ve made that leap yet. (If you’re vying for JetBlue as a client you definitely are because they don’t even want to hear your agency pitch if you can’t find their VP on Twitter.) As clients both big and small start to appreciate the value in a blog post that makes its way steadily through the Twittersphere as much as the 200 word write up on the launch of their new service we will have to rethink what it means to communicate with journalists and which ones we really want to reach in the first place. Is it the guy at the local news desk or the popular local blogger that finds her way to the hippest events in town and brings the crowd with her?

Some big companies are starting to bet on the bloggers. The obvious, and much talked about example, is Chevy’s unabashed attempt to take social media by storm with a South by Southwest invasion that included road trips to Austin in Chevy vehicles by well-connected social media users who shared their experiences via Twitter, blog posts, Flickr, and YouTube, as well as a flood of Chevy vehicles offering free rides to conference goers. Chevy even invited some geek superstars like Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki to an exclusive test-drive of their teched-out Chevy Volt and probably got the best SXSW endorsement of the year, Scoble saying “The geeks will love it.” The idea? Provide an influential, prone to sharing group with the Chevy experience, hope they love it, and hope they get a couple thousand of their closest digital friends to check it out.

By most accounts Chevy has been lauded for their effective influencer marketing strategy and ability to leverage others’ social networks to change perceptions and build awareness of the new line of Chevy’s, rather than going the traditional trade publication and auto show route (which I am sure they will still do, but it’s significant that the launch focused on social media). I agree that it was fantastic digital media relations outreach that showed the multi-platform, far-reaching impact of stories shared on social media outlets. Chevy also gets props for doing their homework and understanding their audience. No hard sells here, no press releases, and no “you can share this, but you can’t share that” legal documents were handed out to the participants. Instead, Chevy accepted the loss of control for the big payoff of being readily accepted by a group of users that tend to be pitch and brand skeptical.

What I feel uneasy about is Chevy’s vitural non-existence on these platforms before they dished out big bucks for an SXSW sponsorship, hauling a fleet of cars to Austin, and organizing interactions with top influencers who did the engaging for them. I get that they’re playing catch up here, trying to insert themselves into this space in time for the launch of their first line of cars that make sense for the typical social media users. It would have taken time to build an authentic, loyal community and the influencers already have that (Chevy has 3000 followers on Twitter, Guy Kawasaki has over 200,000).

But this is a bad lesson for your average brand that doesn’t have the resources to buy their way into the space. The same rules of listening and actively engaging your customers have to be followed, even by the big guys. Hopefully in the next couple of months Chevy will start participating in the conversation in a more active way, capitalizing on the jump-start they got from a digital media relations blitz at South by Southwest.

Hi, I’ve got a problem…

No one ever calls a customer service line to talk about how thrilled they are with a product or how fantastic their experience with the company has been. No, usually those phone calls involve a slightly frazzled to full blown furious customer who is having a less than stellar experience with your company. So the person who picks up the phone in the call center matters. They shouldn’t just be clicking through modules, giving prepackaged answers, processing a customer who not only wants a resolution to their current problem, but wants to be truly heard and reassured that your company will be there for them in the future.

Sounds a lot like relationship building, right? Then why do so many companies take a quantitative approach that focuses on call time rather than recruiting a brand advocate? Why are call center departments so rigid and problem focused, rather than collaborative and brand opportunity focused? How can this model work in the age of social media that boasts the most empowered generation of customers to challenge the corporate world?

Well it really can’t and industry leaders are noticing. Comcast has been successfully using Twitter to help customers on a platform that requires authentic relationship building. Their profile isn’t splashed in red and black with a huge Comcast logo; instead, the profile picture is of the guy (Frank Eliason) who is actually helping you and an unimposing, slightly optimistic (if you’re fuming over cable problems) cloud image. Rather than letting customers broadcast their problems to the Twitterverse unanswered, Comcast employees tackle them head on and lend their side of the story to the interaction. At SXSW Frank said the personal, instantaneous interactions that the team has online has affected the entire service culture at Comcast, improving their focus on quality interaction in the call center environment.

Then there are the companies who breathe their culture into all of their service platforms like Zappos. They have been a Twitter staple for quite some time, interacting with customers who both praise and criticize them in a brand voice that is fun and helpful. Zappos employees are empowered to use social media to talk about the company, interact with customers, connect with other distant employees, and let their own individual personalities shine. So what happens next when customers can’t quite get the answer they need in 140 characters or less? The customer connects with a compassionate, dedicated customer service representative who ditches the typical script and engages the customer in a real way. In a sea of online retailers Zappos has stood out with their ability to “deliver happiness” that extends past the shoe box and through the entire customer experience. The value proposition is so strong that Zappos is going the Google route and using “old fashioned” TV spots to recreate the customer-employee interaction in living rooms across the country.

As customer service continues to become more social, consumers will have more personalized, streamlined, and useful interactions with companies and companies will be able to better assess what we need from them and how they can better deliver it to us.

Privacy Through Obscurity

There were lots of smart people wandering around during SXSW, but probably few as smart as Danah Boyd, Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who blew minds with her opening keynote. The title of her presentation, “Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity,” seemed pretty straightforward, but she took several recent examples to expose the tricky and shifting nature of what those concepts mean on the web, and in particular, the social web.

Boyd defined privacy as “one’s control over how information flows.” Even though someone may choose to share personal information through specific online channels, therefore making it public, people still expect an element of privacy through the sheer obscurity of that information when compared to the social web as a whole. Their sense of privacy is rooted in their ability to control what information lives where and who is allowed to easily access it.

Social network users are alarmed when platforms attempt to aggregate additional data (such as Google Buzz) or break down barriers to that data (such as Facebook’s ever increasing attempts to persuade users out of their preferred privacy settings). It is not just the technicalities that upset users, but “non-technical mistakes that disrupt societal expectations,” according to Boyd. For example, the very fact that Google chose to place Buzz, a very public, social interaction tool, within email, a very private, personal platform, shattered users expectations of what Google was providing them. According to Boyd, she encountered several users who believed that because they had signed up, often unintentionally, for the service that their email was now exposed to anyone on their followers list. The mash-up of public and private had immediate ramifications for Google and changed the way their customers viewed them.

A second component to this delicate balancing act of private and public on the web is what is at stake for privileged vs. unprivileged users. While celebrities, or even higher level management, may feel comfortable exposing themselves on the web, it is often because they have less to lose. Their reputations are more easily managed and less affected by the minor social web scuffs that leave the unprivileged in the unemployment line. Unprivileged users must often deter their participation in the social web, or at least alter their web persona, to keep their jobs or even maintain their chances of getting into that top notch university.

Boyd has a fantastic talent for taking the straightforward, adding a layer of complexity, and then making it digestible for the average digital citizen. I hope I was able to convey a portion of her mind-blowing smarts in this “better late than never” debrief. A full transcript of her talk can be found here.