Tag Archives: transparency

“Blogboarding: A Blog is Not an Ad”

What do this

Truck Billboard

and this (click to enlarge) have in common?


They are both self-promotion tools advertising ways their businesses can help you “promote” your business. That is not a blog. That is a blogboard, the online equivalent of a billboard.

A Blog is NOT an Ad

I will not deny that a blog is a branding mechanism and promotional tool, but not in the sense of traditional self promotion. By participating in an online discussion and contributing to it, you build your brand’s (or your own) reputation. It’s also about sharing.

Sharing is Caring

Cats sharingAmong other things, social media empowers the little guy to have the strength of big business. There is something subversive when we blog about social media tactics. There is also something honest and liberating about sharing instead of hording.

Take a look at Todd‘s, Kami‘s, Brian‘s, Chris‘ or Shel‘s blogs. Their blogs all give the same insight, strategies and tactics that they charge their clients for. Does blogging decrease the inbound sales for clients? Perhaps, but not likely. What it does do is help a curious, prospective client get a feel for the philosophy of their company. It also helps current clients stay informed.

Blogging also helps increase transparency. When a client knows what I’m doing, they have more faith in me and are more engaged. Nothing makes me happier than when a client discusses something they read on my blog or any blog…if it’s not a blogboard!

Fight Blogboarding! Show us, don’t tell us.

Oh: and NEVER put contact information in the post. Save that for the “About” section.

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Filed under Best Practices, Future of Media, How To, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Rants, Sharing is Caring, Social Media

“Apple’s Social Media Efforts Need to Ripen”

During the last several years, Apple has undeniably been the innovator in hardware design, software and personal consumer tech. They’ve also been on the cutting edge of entertainment by effectively bringing the music industry into the digital age.

Last Friday and Saturday, Robert Scoble wrote two posts that remind me (and others) of Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell rants. When Scoble installed last weeks updates, his computer got stuck in reboot. Here’s what he has to say:

So I restart. And get the same message. I do it five times just to make sure.

And so, now I’m back on my Windows machine.

Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.

His second post discusses the brand promise that Apple makes through advertising and how he sees it flawed. You can read his full list of grievances in the post. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, I agree that Apple will need to change soon if it wants to keep up in the Post-Dell Hell era.

In its current state, Apple has a strong community of devoted users. Do an online search and you’ll find plenty of mac forums and mac blogs. There’s even a fake Steve Jobs blog. The company itself is surprisingly lacking in engagement with this community. In fact, it has actively sued bloggers in the past. In the last few weeks, Apple has even sent a cease and desist letter to a nine year old.

As Apple computers (not just iPods) are purchased by more mainstream consumers, Apple will find itself slowly being pushed into the conversation. Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim sees two situations that will force this change:

  1. It will reach customers that aren’t capable of tinkering and tweaking with their own stuff. Even Scoble didn’t know he could fix his computer by a “start in Safe Boot (press and hold the Shift key at the startup chime)? Starting in Safe Boot forces a directory check, so will verify if there is a problem with your startup disk.”
  2. The Apple evangelists–the ones that have always come to Apple’s defense–will be stretched too thin. They simply can’t jump in to every conversation and defend every forum comment and blog complaint.

So what can Apple do to increase it’s social media marketing and PR efforts:

  1. Create a Community Evangelist position to monitor the Apple dialog on Blogs for negative conversation threads and comment as a human. This helps consumers feel like they are being listened to, while simultaneously allowing Apple to more-or-less steer the conversation.
  2. Be honest. So I said they could steer the conversation…within reason. The users will be able to smell PR spin, so don’t try to incorporate too much messaging. If there is a problem, acknowledge it. Right now the Leopard install has caused crazy bugs that people are talking about in forums. Mac continues to deny it. I’m getting PO-d.
  3. Create a blog. Steve Rubel said it in 2004. Apple is the only large tech company to not have one. I understand corporate secrecy in product development, but come on. Dell’s is a great example. They talk about OpenWorld, Word of Mouth Marketing, Green issues, geeky consumer tech, servers, etc. They also have videos!
  4. Close the feedback loop. Wait, first create a feedback loop! Back to Dell: they have a created the IdeaStorm community to allow users to submit ideas and then other users vote on the ideas. The whole process is tracked with transparency and also shows results at the end. This is key: It lets consumers know they have a voice and that someone is not just listening but also acting as a result.
  5. Instead of suing bloggers for leaking things, show videos of products as they are being developed. Transparency and openness. Of course, you need to wait until you are close to release. If others are going to do it, owning it makes Apple cool again.

Oh, and putting out ads that show this:

When this is the reality:

Is really, really bad. It makes Apple look removed from reality, disengaged with the consumer and, frankly, a little arrogant.

What are your suggestions to Apple? Or are they doing ok? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any Mac Marketing or PR folks wanna speak to socialTNT’s readers? Tell us what’s up!

Before I get flamed: My whole house is full of Mac equipment from desktops, laptops, network gear, etc.

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Related Posts:

“PR to Enterprise: Beam Me Up”

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

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


Filed under Best Practices, Community Relations, It's A Conversation, Marketing, New Media, Public Relations 2.0, Sharing is Caring, Social Media, WTF?

“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

“Like, Gag Me With a Spoon!”

I’m in LA on a short holiday. Unlike a lot of San Franciscans, I love LA. It’s always nice to come down, visit my friends and remember what sunshine feels like.

If you couldn’t tell from my facebook pics, I’m a very sociable person, so when I’m in LA, I like to go out to party and rub elbows with actors, writers, producers. At some point in the conversation, someone always asks me what I do. It turns out, people in LA don’t really like PR people. They also don’t quite understand social media.

On Saturday, I was at a party and started talking to an actor who plays a widely recognized character on a TV comedy show. When my career path came up I explained that I did PR for the tech industry. As a writer, it helps keep my mind stimulated, etc. He responded, “PR is the perfect industry for a fiction writer; they do nothing but spout off lies.”

Yes, I was taken aback, but I’m a trained professional. I smiled and explained that I work for a firm that is trying to open up our clients and improve transparency in PR. He snidely replied, “Sounds like a publicity stunt to me.”

I guess it’s easy to be cynical about PR in LA. With starlets’ PR agents (read publicists) making up all sorts of excuses or denying what’s caught on film, who can blame them?

That was the worst encounter of the evening. The rest of the night was fun, and I used the opportunity to sniff out thoughts on social media.

Not surprisingly, almost everyone at the party had heard of MySpace and was on it. I was surprised that so many mid-20’s to mid-30’s hadn’t heard of Facebook or didn’t want to join another site. Of course, the younger folks at the party had Facebook. Sadly, among the Glitterati, I met no members of the Twitterati.

In LA, it seems most people associate blogs with gossip and are surprised that people actually read blogs on technology or PR. Other people still think blogs are fringe.

Are the results of this casual survey solely indicative of the entertainment industry? Or are we in the Tech industry just very insular?

It would be interesting to see how our Entertainment PR (not advertising or marketing) friends use social media campaigns. Does anyone have any case studies?

Finally, how does “reality” TV change people’s perception of transparency in the entertainment industry?

Seems like we still have a long way to go, my friends.

[SocialTNT returns from vacation tomorrow]

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Filed under Public Relations 2.0, Rants