Category Archives: New Media Masters.

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Mario Sundar, LinkedIn”

It’s Thursday afternoon, do you know where your Marketing Director is? Probably watching today’s “3Q’s in 3 Min.

Every Thursday, socialTNT channels the spirit of citizen journalism by putting bloggers, reporters, PR pro’s or anyone with something to say about social media in front of the camera for a short, three minute interview. The videos are meant to encourage dialog between reporters, PR/communications practitioners and marketers on the future of media.

This Thursday, socialTNT meets with Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s Community Evangelist. For PR Peeps with clients on the fence about social media or those companies not quite sure about starting a blog, Mario’s interview might paint a better picture of the thinking behind entering the new frontier that is social media relations.

In the following video, Mario defines what a Community Manager (evangelist) does, discusses the current and future tools LinkedIn utilizes, and (my favorite) discusses how LinkedIn translates its brand across these various social media outlets.

The new era of branding leverages transparency to showcase corporate culture; if the culture aligns with the target audience (in this case, members) then they will want to be a part of the brand. Their participation is now their vote. In LinkedIn’s case, it presents a very professional, kinda business casual feel. Compare this to MySpace’s party-teeny vibe or Facebook dorm-room ambiance (don’t get me wrong, I love FB!). As a professional trying to network, which site appeals to you?

LinkedIn’s outreach influences maintains current members, harvests future members, and recruits future employees. Check out their blog, flickr feed, and YouTube channel. Keep an eye out for their Twitter feed!

Not included in the interview, but relevant: “The greatest benefit of a blog is the back and forth with the reader/user.” I couldn’t agree more, Mario.

So what do you guys think? Should companies hire Community Managers? Has anyone tried any community outreach that backfired? What about positive experiences? I’d love to hear your input.

More about Social media marketing or Enterprise PR? Check out good ideas from Dell and bad ideas from Whole Foods Market. You can also learn how social media can increase external and internal PR .

Once again, thanks Mario for a great interview. Also: Mad props for the Guy Kawasaki/Fake Steve Jobs event this week! (I got to meet iJustine!)

[DISCLOSURE: At a previous firm, I worked on the LinkedIn team. That firm (and LinkedIn) no longer has any financial pull on me.]

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Community Relations, Enterprise Public Relations, Internal Public Relations, Marketing, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0, Video Interview

“Whole Foods: Fresh Fruit. Rotten PR?”

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Whole Foods’ board has prohibited top company executive from online forums. Check it out:

The new code bars top executives and directors from posting messages about Whole Foods, its competitors or vendors on Internet forums that aren’t sponsored by the natural-foods chain.

Apparently, this is a response to all the messes (read un-ethical practices) that got Whole Foods in to trouble this summer. (Check out Paull Young’s Twitter “Fake John Mackey” profile)

The move comes amid an informal Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into anonymous postings by Chief Executive John Mackey on Yahoo Finance stock-market forums from 1999 through 2006. Mr. Mackey touted Whole Foods shares, blasted rivals and sparred with other users in more than 1,000 messages.

To me, Whole Foods could have taken different steps to ensure the board, share-holders and consumers that they were changing their image and increasing transparency. They already have a few corporate blogs, a podcast, and video–it doesn’t seem like social media is new to them.

First off, have Mr Mackey write a personal apology on the corporate blog in a post that outlines Whole Foods commitment to ethics. He already has a blog. The last post is from July 18 saying that, due to investigation, the blog is on hold. That’s what people see when they explore the Whole Foods’ blog–not pretty. The post before that is an apology statement from July 17th in quotes with PR contact info and in traditional apology statement form. Once again, not a good thing for consumers to see. Wouldn’t it be great to hear something real? That’s what the blog is there for!

A blog shouldn’t be a feeder for corporate messaging, but HEY, if you can incorporate some messages appropriately, then do it. Some core values from Whole Foods’ site: Extraordinary Customer Service; Education; Self-Responsibility; and Open and Timely Information. All of these can be crafted in to a pro-active post on WF’s new, transparent ethics practices. This can also lead to an announcement of a community launch.

Yes, community launch. The social media features currently on the site are informative and pretty cool, but ultimately they seem one sided. As a consumer, I’m not engaged in an open exchange of ideas, I’m getting marketed to. WF should take a page from Dell and really get the consumer discussing things Whole Foods thinks is important.

(There are great videos of Mr Mackey speaking about World Farming, but what about forums? Anyway, I digress, I have tons of other ideas to help Whole Foods spruce up their site, but they are not “Crisis Management” related.)

For me, transparency is important with food. I want to know how my food gets to my table. I think Whole Foods would agree in the importance of that. Banning your top execs from online sites is a bold step–but a step towards silence and stifling. Take a big leap and open up your corporate side. It will increase trust in the whole business.

What do you guys think? Could WF have handled things differently? Am I completely off target?

(Hat tip to Mike Keliher for his Tweet linking to the original article.)

[I am emailing Whole Foods’ spokesperson for comment. Stay tuned!]

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Filed under It's A Conversation, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0, Rants, WTF?

“The Social Graph is PEEEEOPLE!”

As the dust settles on last week’s latest installment of the social network showdown between MSFT/Facebook and GOOG/Everyone Else, the idea of a universal social graph looks a little clearer. But what is it and how does it affect PR and Marketing folks?

Supposedly computer science peeps have been talking about the social graph as a concept for a while. To be honest, I hadn’t heard anything about it until May when Mark Zuckerberg enlisted application developers to tap into the social graph. Then, in August, LiveJournal creator Brad Fitzpatrick wrote a well formulated, high level discussion of the social graph. It, to me, really addressed several problems and concerns that would lead to the development of–or maybe it was already in the works–Google’s OpenSocial platform, announced last week.

I almost wrote about all things that graph social after attending Dave McClure’s “Graphing Social Patterns” conference, and then again after the Web 2.0 Summit. Both times, I felt like the idea of the social graph was not quite there.

So, before I discuss what it is, I have to disclose that I am neither a computer scientist nor am I a mathematician. I am, however, a PR/Marketing/Tech geek with a Bachelor’s in Social Anthropology. Therefore, this type of stuff gets me pretty excited.

A social graph is loosely defined, according to Brad Fitzpatrick, as “the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related.” You may ask, “Isn’t that the definition of a social network?” My answer: Close, but not entirely.

For me (and Robert Scoble), a social network is a collection or a list of all my “friends” without the context. A social graph, on the other hand, explains why these people are relevant to you. On it’s lowest level, a social graph can be represented like an org-chart or a family tree.

When you add someone as a friend, Facebook asks the question: “How do you know this person?” This helps an outsider see that Audrey is a co-worker at SHIFT; Natalie is my cousin; Bekah is my housemate; Kathryn and I met through a friend while living in Berlin; etc. It’s almost like tagging, but, instead of a webpage or a bookmark, you are tagging people. This relationship information explains the social value that each person has.

Very quickly, social value is an important aspect of our lives. It let’s me know that I need to tuck in my shirt around the CEO, stopping looking at porn when my supervisor walks near my cubicle (JK!), and to respect cops. (Check out this essay on social value from 1908 by economist Joseph Schumpeter or look at Wikipedia.) For a marketer, being able to map that information is priceless.

But wait, there’s more…

When you fill out your profile, you enter in your interests. If you look at my profile, you can see that I like music, travel and photography. In terms of the social graph, I’m tagged (or plotted on the social graph) as someone who has an interest in boxing and chocolate. Paired with my demographics, Facebook now can show me as a married male in San Francisco in the (oh-so-old) 25+ demographic who likes camping. Great info for market research…or targeted ads.

On top of all that you also get… THIS INCREDIBLE JUICER!!!

Just kidding…kind of. The graph can get a little deeper than that. Take Amazon, for example. It’s constantly recommending items to me. I can evaluate these items on a scale of 1-5 or tell it “not interested.” After a while, it starts to know my behavior. All of these are tiny little tags graphing the bigger story: I like electronic music but am totally not interested in trance. You can also see that I’ve sent my grandmother a book on prayer for her birthday. Once again, more tags; more plots on the social graph.

What about digg or del.icio.us and the type of articles I like? How bout when I answer those surveys to get more points to buy caviar on the Facebook App FoodFight? Think about all that information you could mash-up to create highly-targeted marketing strategies or community outreach plans (eg hitting all the female members that live in Chicago and liked Spiderman).

Google and Facebook in the ring?

Once upon a time, the web was a mess. You sat at your computer and clicked around endlessly. One day, a beautiful search engine appeared to index everything on the web. Now users could find content quickly and easily, while advertisers could target people searching for a particular term. Then one day, social networks started appearing and the magic search engine could no longer get that information; all their users were in a wall…

Ok, I’ll spare the fairy tale and get to the point: Facebook keeps Google from accessing that information contained in the social graph.

One of Brad Fitzpatrick’s ideas was that there would be no one social graph, because every site kept the information to themselves. That was true until OpenSocial. Details on OpenSocial are still a little sketchy (to me at least), but it’s probably best described as an open API led by Google that allows cross-platform interoperability and integration (partners include Orkut, MySpace, Bebo, LiveJournal, Plaxo, and others). Basically: Where Google once created a table of content or index of everything on the web, OpenSocial will allow all of your interests, relationships, etc. to be indexed.

Of course, there are already talks of security concerns, but for a marketer (or anthropologist) there is a lot of really cool data out there that can now be harnessed.

What are your thoughts on the social graph? Is it useful or just another catch phrase?

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Filed under Future of Media, Marketing, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0, Social Graph, Social Networking

“The Scarlet Letter”

I’ve been out sick for the past few days. When I get back, all heck has broken loose on the Internets.

Within the last week, a few bloggers and reporters have gone on rampages against “bad PR.” Does the punishment fit the crime? Is this a wake-up call? I’m not looking to stir things up, I just want to analyze the situation and see what we can learn from it.

The Times They Are a Changin…

Have you ever read an email, gotten really angry, hammered out a reply and hit send? A day later (or maybe 3 seconds later) you may have felt remorseful, but it was too late. Or what about those break-up emails that get circulated around? Each time I read about Mr X and his demeaning affair with Ms Y, I learned to wait a little bit longer before sending an email. This was part of the process of socialization as we grew into the Internet Age.

W ell, the times they are a changing. Now it’s socialization round two, but this time it’s not just email. It’s learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the three social networks that have sprung up since I started typing this post. As in round one, there will be some blunders, some embarrassment, but when is it justified?

The Scarlet Letter

We’ve all done it: sent a reporter a bad pitch. Sometimes, not sure which particular reporter to pitch, we email an editor. Or maybe a boss made you use a pitch you weren’t happy with, but, HEY, it’s a job, right? Or sometimes you just miscalculate what a reporter will cover. It’s part of professional growth.

Well, some reporters are mad as heck, and they aren’t gonna take it anymore. Some get bad or poorly-focused pitches. In their blogs, reporters have posted full names and email addresses–or a name, Facebook address and picture. It suddenly feels like colonial times when criminals were forced to wear a letter or be shamed in a town square.

Ok, I’m not a super-star blogger, but I still get pitched. To those that are WAY off, I’ve emailed back “too commercial” or “not the focus of my blog.” It gets annoying, but I don’t want to humiliate anyone; they gave it a shot and they were wrong. In my mind, there are several unethical PR practices that deserve to be exposed and maybe shamed, but sending a bad pitch?

In my professional life, if I write a bad pitch, I hope the reporter lets me know. If I make a mistake, I’m sorry. We all have bad days.

As a blogger, I put myself out there to the world. People can email me, contact me through Facebook, repost my blog or talk about my bad grammar. By standing up to speak in a public forum, I expose myself. Even though this blog is a “hobby,” I put myself out into this forum and, to some extent, I become a public figure. I have given consent. Other PR professionals, however, are just doing their job.

The Internet has now become a record with pages being cached for years. It has also become a great place to stalk people. When you put someone else’s information online, it will be up there and available to anyone for a long time. Not everyone signs up for that.

Reporters and Bloggers: We value your feedback. We really do!! We listen and we adapt. I understand the impulse towards public outing may seem fulfilling, but just imagine if all your mistakes were broadcast to the world in perpetuity.

There are a few sites that expose bad pitches in a constructive manner without exposing personal information. They are quite effective. I read them weekly and have listed them in my blog roll. Your posts have just as much strength without calling specifics out.

In the words of Jerry Springer: “Be good to yourself…and each other!”

PS: Thanks to Marshall for apologizing and responding thoughtfully to comments and trackbacks. 🙂 Proof that people actually do engage in a conversation.

[UPDATE: Read my follow-up piece on blogger relations!]

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Filed under Blogger Relations, Citizen Reporter, It's A Conversation, New Media Masters., Rants

“3sday’s 3Q’s in 3 Min: Chef Liz Bills, California Table”

It’s that time again, folks! That’s right: “3Q’s in 3 Min!” Every Thursday, socialTNT turns citizen journalist by putting bloggers, reporters, PR pro’s or anyone with something to say about social media in front of the camera for a short, three minute interview. Lately we’ve had some high profile reporters/analysts. Today, I wanted to change it up a little.

One of the purposes of this blog is to really make sense of all the social media technologies in an effort to understand their PR/Marketing applications. Admittedly, I’m so far out in my high-tech PR world, that I forget what it’s like on ground zero. With that in mind, today’s “3 Q’s in 3 Min” takes a step back to look at how people outside the tech bubble are using social media to promote their businesses.

Today, Chef Liz Bills from California Table tells us why she started blogging, the challenges she has encountered along the way, and the successes she has seen as a result of engaging in social media. Her experience resonates with anyone who has started or is looking to start a blog–from personal blogger to corporate blogger to small business owner–or anyone embarking on their journey learning social media.

Liz, a former Kitchen Manager at SF hot spot NOPA, recently started her own personal chef/cooking class business. A confessed technophobe and computer novice, Liz felt she had to get her story online in order to compete in the tech heavy San Francisco Bay Area.

Liz’s blog focuses on the importance of buying local and organic food. It also helps to brand Liz’s company by offering up cooking suggestions. As she explains in the video, it has proven to be an invaluable piece of PR and word-of-mouth marketing.

One of her biggest challenges was learning how to use blogging software. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, all the emerging technology can be pretty crazy for me and I deal with it every day. Liz’s advice: “You just have to force yourself to learn, especially if you want to stand out.” Hat’s off to you Liz for trying!

Take a look at what Liz has to say. (PS: There was apparently some audio glitch in my camera. She wants to let everyone know she does not have a lisp!)

How have other new bloggers solved the content problem? Has blogging helped your small business? I’d love to hear success or challenge stories!

Thanks, Liz, for sharing your experience with socialTNT. It’s great that you are so intent on trying new things.

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Filed under 3sdays 3qs In 3 Min, Citizen Reporter, Marketing, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0

“PR to Enterprise: Beam me Up!”

In PR, it’s often difficult to determine how to use social media tools for our Enterprise clients. Also difficult: how to use social media tools for internal PR.

Last night, at a Social Media Club event, the topic of the evening was “Enterprise: Moving Forward.” The panel for the evening was moderated by “Naked Conversations” writer Shel Isreal. Panelists included Dave McClure (500 Hats, Graphing Social Patterns), Jeremiah Owyang (Senior Analyst, Forrester Research), Jennifer Jones (host of “Marketing Voices” on PodTech Network), Eleanor Wynn (Enterprise Architect, Intel), and Bob Duffy (Community Manager of Intel’s community, Open Port).

I tried to Twitter-cast the event, but even on a T9 predictive text enabled phone, it was tedious. For those interested in watching the 119 minute discussion, Ustream.tv captured the whole evening here. Lots of great ideas presented. Here are a few things that I brought back that could apply to PR and Marketing professionals:

Internal Communications:

  • Blogs hosted on a company’s intranet can boost internal communications
    • Remember: Allow an open forum
    • Leave comments enabled and respond respectfully
  • Internal Wiki’s can increase team collaboration
  • For large, multi-national companies, an internal social network can really help bridge the distance and increase team rapport
    • Allow tagging of photos and interests
  • Close the feedback loop
    • Show employees what suggestions have been implemented
  • If you really want to shake it up:
    • Digg-like voting on suggestions
    • Video, video, video!

External Communications:

  • Look to existing conversations and communities before implementing your full-strategy
    • If your product is a finely-focused niche, there may not be a community. That’s your chance to facilitate the conversation with your brand as the moderator!
  • Company blog makes a HUGE impact in the enterprise space
    • Position spokespeople as thought leaders
    • In addition to your products, discuss current and future trends
  • Enlist community managers to comment on other blogs and address negative conversations threads in a thoughtful manner
  • Create communities where company reps ask questions about product development or allow users to suggest new products/changes
  • Go Geek!
    • Many companies (incl Intel) have gotten heavy traffic by using their sites/communities to publish White Papers, behind-the-scenes videos, production notes, demo videos, etc.
  • Once again, close the feedback loop:
    • Show customers that their thoughts count and have been implemented
    • This helps establish a realm of trust that opens dialog. Instead of pushing your message, you allow many voices into the discussion about your product/brand
  • Feeling bleeding edge: Customer/Company Wiki’s blur the line between intra- and inter- nets
  • Bottom Line: It’s all about a conversation with the customers
  • Check out Intel’s Open Port or Dell’s IdeaStorm [my earlier discussion of Dell’s social media tactics here]

Has your company used social media internally? Have you implemented social media tactics to help build a community around your Enterprise product? I’d love to hear about it.

Also, feel free to comment on any of these ideas.

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Filed under Enterprise Public Relations, Future of Media, Internal Public Relations, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0, Social Networking

“Dell Hell Freezes Over: A Great Example of Turning Lemons into Lemonade”

Last week, BuzzMachine‘s Jeff Jarvis wrote an article in BusinessWeek discussing Dell’s reversal from social media nightmare to social media maven. It’s been a pretty amazing adventure and, to me, it feels like the last chapter has finally been writtern. Let’s take a look at a few of the practices Dell has put into place to turn around its online image.

[For the full “Dell Hell” archives in reverse chronological order, click here.]

It all started on June 21st, 2005, when Jeff published a post entitled “Dell Lies. Dell Sucks.” To Jeff’s surprise, he amassed hundred of sympathetic comments and thousands(?) of trackbacks. Not necessarily a good form of publicity, but Dell’s “look, but don’t touch” policy didn’t respond to bloggers.

This interview with a Dell spokesperson from 2005 really represents the old notion of one-sided communication that still exists in most big companies today. Houston Chronicle Tech Blogger Dwight Silverman caught the contradiction:

“With our direct model, we feel like we already have a good, two-way communications channel with our customers,” Davis said.

Of course, it depends on what you do with the incoming communication. A two-way conversation only has value if you take action on the problems you’re hearing about.

Finally, Davis asked an interesting question: Did I know of any companies that do actively go out and respond to blog and forum postings?

In 2005, it was rare. Today, the idea of corporate blogs is not so innovative, but companies still have a hard time with blogger/community relations.

In April of 2006, Dell reached out to disgruntled bloggers in an effort to resolve their issues. In July 2006, Dell launched its Direct2Dell blog. These words from a post in November of 2006 on the Dell blog starkly contrast the above comments:

Every day, we receive reports from a search string in Technorati and other blog search engines, and we meticulously analyze the results. When we find someone who has an unresolved issue with their Dell computer or our services, we reach out to offer assistance.

Ok, great, a corporate blog and customer service people who listen. Where’s the innovation? Well, it gets better. Last April, Dell launched the IdeamStorm community.

IdeaStorm allows users to make suggestions and then vote (in a digg like manner) whether to “promote” or “delete” an idea. But this voting isn’t hollow. Dell then provides results, closing the loop with consumers by informing them what user-initiated ideas have been executed and what suggested items are forthcoming. One major result of the IdeaStorm community was the decision to package Linux on consumer desktops and laptops. I know of few companies that allow such active consumer input.

The biggest success, to me, was a change in corporate thinking. Look at these words from CEO Michael Dell:

“These conversations are going to occur whether you like it or not, O.K.? Well, do you want to be part of that or not? My argument is you absolutely do. You can learn from that. You can improve your reaction time. And you can be a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation.”

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. The conversation is going on without you. People are tired of not having a voice. Now that they have quick and easy tools through which they communicate, they are gonna make their own messages. Isn’t it better to be a part of that discussion and perhaps steer it, rather than let it explode into a “Dell Hell”-type wildfire?

Lessons learned:

  • Read and Respond
    • Know what is being said and thoughtfully reply in a timely manner, especially to complaints
  • Talk to your customers as a real person speaking to other real people
    • It might not hurt to have a full-time blogger-relations person
  • Create a forum through which customer’s can provide idea/feedback
    • They are gonna do it somewhere, why not on your site?
  • Allow customers to vote on feedback
    • Collaboration and democracy increase loyalty
  • Report on results that come from feedback
    • Show them their voice has been heard and that their input is utilized

In the future, Dell plans on creating wikis that users can edit together [not sure if these are more techinical, knowledge-base type wikis or more customer-comments style wikis, both will be interesting to watch]. I’d also love to see a page that aggregates everything that is being said about Dell in the blogosphere. Maybe it could be tagged and then quickly sorted so that customers could see the full-spectrum of the discussion.

What do you guys think? Did Dell pull it off? Do you know of any other companies that user similar collaborative techniques? What could Dell do now to improve/enhance its current social media campaign?

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Filed under Citizen Reporter, Marketing, New Media, New Media Masters., Public Relations 2.0