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Women Snubbed in Top Ten Speakers List, Industry in General

In a blog post listing the top ten social media speakers, The Speakers Group (TSG) listed voices for your consideration. Not one of the speakers was a woman, highlighting a much larger social media services industry problem where women are often overlooked for top speaking gigs, and don’t rank as well as men.

Ironically, this topic first came to mind last week when Allyson Kapina.k.a. @womenwhotech led a spirited DC Media Makers session (pictured below) on the same topic. So when I saw the TSG post, I felt compelled to write. I come to this discussion as someone who organizes BlogPotomac, a successful, regional social media conference that intentionally highlights female speakers; as a blogger who has discussed the social media and PR industrys glass ceiling both in the office and in the blogosphere; and, yes, as a man who speaks frequently on social media.

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There are three problems in the TSG post: 1) A lack of transparency and professional responsibility in the blog post itself; 2) the complete snubbing of women in a highly questionable top ten list, and 3) the larger industry issue that conference organizers apparently want male speakers more than women. For those of you who are used to short posts, I apologize in advance. I am going to handle each of these three issues independently.

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire

Stephanie Massler examines how brand enthusiasm impacts media buying on Doe Anderson. Stephanie provides two thoughtful examples and offers five guidelines for an advanced media purchasing framework. These include focusing not on how many people you reach, but in how you are able to connect with your audience. She also suggests focusing on your cost per engagement. Visit Stephanie’s post for her full details and share your thoughts.

Is “trading off people’s feelings for page views and Twitter followers” worth it? Jason Calacanis’ email – posted on Calacanis.com – is a power reminder of the importance of remaining human online. Jason shares his firsthand account of Josh Harris’ story, and he pulls from his own experiences to make a statement that there needs to be more online empathy. Read Jason’s powerful email and remember his words as you contribute online.

Are you looking for additional opinion on the brand winners and losers from the Super Bowl? Rohit Bhargava’s says, “Some of the best campaigns of the Super Bowl season were efforts launched online or that had a significant online component, but the fact remains that many Super Bowl ads simply didnt work this year.” Rohit offers valuable lessons for why the losers failed, and substantiates on why others were successful. Read Rohit’s analysis, and share your own thoughts on Influential Marketing Blog.

Pop quiz: What was the brand or branded product most often mentioned in social media at the end of last year?” asks Abbey Klaassen of AdAge.com. Abbey shares with her readers those brands which led the internet with the most social media mentions. Abbey’s data was provided by Virtue, and it examined approximately 2,000 brands. It is no surprise that the iPhone topped the list, but see what other brands rounded out the top 50.

(Disclosure: Network Solutions is a client of Livingston Communications) On KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog, Katie looks at how social media, especially Twitter, can be used quickly to take advantage of a marketing opportunity. Katie offers four lessons from Network Solutions Twitter coupon campaign, which ran in response to GoDaddy’s Super Bowl advertisements. Katie says, “Social media offers an incredible opportunity to organizations that listen carefully and can move quickly in response to a Twitstorm.”

On PR Squared Todd Defren asks buyers of PR services to take a different approach when they are not satisfied with their current results. Todd suggests, “If your problems are related to the performance/creativity of your team but not to the agency’s training and capabilities, consider asking for a brand new team, instead of firing your agency outright.” Todd’s point is that part of a successful working relationship is developing chemistry, and a different team within a larger agency may be able to offer a better chemistry.

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire!

Want a recap of the internet marketing and social media news from 2008? Tamar Weinberg put together an impressive list of select posts from 2008 on Techipedia. The list covers a number of topics including SEO, Facebook, strategy, Flickr and more. Tamar worked over a month compiling this list, and the end result is a gift to the community that should not be missed.

Duncan Riley says, “Hyperlocal websites, both existing and those to launch will thrive as they become the only place to find community news; in 2009 community newspapers will fold in record numbers.” Duncan argues that this is because advertisers are now using eBay, Amazon.com to sell their products rather than advertising on community newspapers. Also, larger newspapers are also struggling and therefore are cutting their rates – making it more affordable for local advertisers to reach a larger market. Visit Duncan’s fascinating post on The Inquisitr, and see how blogs and hyperlocal online media is not only filling in the gaps, but actually improving on traditional community news.

How is your personal digital footprint? Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation warns PR professionals to watch what they say online, and to remember Google’s long tail when messaging. He says to ask yourself, “Would you feel if – in the future – your children looked back on these conversations to see what their parent was really all about?” Mitch also suggests finishing your conversations, warning against posting a negative comment and not following up with solutions.

January is a new year and a new opportunity to market your brand. Rohit Bhargava provides the readers of his Influential Marketing blog with three ways to break stride from 2008 and help unleash their brands in 2009. Rohit suggests developing new clients by being aggressive and giving them a “reason to break their old (and therefore outdated) tradition and consider switching to you [from your competitors].” He also suggests breaking up your goals into smaller, more manageable goals. Finally, Rohit smartly encourages readers to create value for the community by using the power of social media tools to educate, not simply advertise.

With the President-Elect Obama’s Inauguration fast approaching, Katya Andresen reminds us of how Obama was able to captivate America. Katya says Obama was able to use two main factors, audience appeal and infrastructure. Other organizations such as Change.org and The Case Foundation are following the Obama Campaign’s example. Visit Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog for more information about these campaigns and also see her 2008 “horrific superlist of social media blunders”

One Dimensional Social Media Sucks

Ever since Forrester put out its report stating that consumers don’t trust 86 percent of corporate blogs, there have been a plethora of blog check up, and reasons why posts. Here are some of my favorites:

In the end, consumers don’t trust corporate blogs because they are one dimensional pieces of propaganda, and no one want to read corporate drivel (see Blog Council post on topic). It sucks!

Really, it’s that simple.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone: Social Media

One dimensional social media is about me, my personal brand (good Conversation Agent discussion here), my company, our products, buy, buy! Note the absence of real world matters, meaningful dialogues about better products or fixing broken ones, discussion of marketplace problems, meaningful macro trends, cross-links, comments or community issues. There is no substance in your average corporate blog, Twitter microblog ,influencer relations effort or Facebook engagement. Heck, for most corporate communicators engaging on that level is like visiting the Twilight Zone.

This is something that gets to the very heart of social media. People are not an audience, they are a community that wants to be engaged, not messaged at! Want to be safe? Publish a newsletter. Want to build relationships and have meaningful dialogue, then stop publishing content and participate!

Participation is marketing, not tossing a bunch of chic advertising agency designed contests at the blogosphere. Creating meaningful calls to actions that people care about, that’s social media engagement. Create environments for people to engage and get out of their way! Help others achieve their needs and wants. Resolve their problems! That’s what companies should do (case studies here and here).

It’s common sense, but it’s not safe. Because it involves risk, it involves putting the company out there, and taking feedback. It means talking about things other than you or your organizational endeavors. It even means being wrong sometimes.

86 percent stinks. I don’t anticipate that changing too much more towards the positive. Why? Because PR, marketing and corporate communications are incapable of performing on the front line. No matter how much smack they talk.

SMC-DC Recap

Thursday night at Viget Labs in Falls Church, Social Media Club DC met for a presentation by Jim Long (@newmediajim) of Verge New Media on Twitter. Jim is a well-known cameraman and journalist for NBC Universal, and is a great example of someone who uses Twitter the way it was designed to be used.

The presentation of best practices took some different twists and turns due to a very interactive audience (which was great), but the one section that I enjoyed was the idea of Twitter providing ambient intimacy between users. As said by Lisa Reichelt:

It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.

Jim had numerous examples of sentimental Twitter moments where he was happy to share in both exciting and sad news with his network. The feeling that people out there in Twitter-land cared about him and his well-being, and were able to share and relate to his successes and sadness (for example during the Virginia Tech shootings earlier this year), provide a medium for communication that is accessible, user-friendly, and best of all (according to Jim), mobile.

We also talked about the idea that Participation is Marketing, and that his experience with Twitter is that its his way of sharing things that excite him, encourage participation, ask for help, and overall give a talkback channel and human face back to NBC – also getting people to turn their TVs back on and watch the news.

Jims view on Twitter best practices include:

  • Get out and DO IT!
  • Listen
  • Engage
  • Celebrate others
  • Be relevant/add to conversation
  • Promote yourself!

A good time was had by all, and it was great to see some old and new faces at the event. Special thanks to Viget Labs for hosting us and to Rana Sobhany for streaming Jim live on ustream.

In addition to those of us who were able to actually attend the event, the Twitter world was following along, including Connie Reece (@conniereece) and Cathryn Hrudicka (@CreativeSage). It was pretty cool that people were able to participate in any way possible.

For those of you who were unable to attend, here are some links highlighting the event.

Shashi Bellamkonda from My Digital Thoughts highlights some of the attendees and topics of conversation.

Brian Williams of Viget posts his thoughts on Twitter and how it created a conversation about an issue with Mixx.

Nick ONeill of the Social Times was a step ahead of us.

Live stream of the presentation can be found here:

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire!

Todays PR professional must evolve, says John Bell of Digital Influence Mapping Project. The new public relations professional must have a broad range of skills, being adept at everything from community management to the best practices of research to a basic understanding of psychology. Communications professional, John says, must master knowledge in a number of areas and a new set of skills inclusive of new personal behaviors. Take a look at his thought provoking list of necessary knowledge and skills, and offer your thoughts on how to round it out.

The blogosphere is alive with posts about the importance of social media. Public Relations Matters Barbara Nixon posts a fantastic slideshow presentation by Marta Z. Kagan. The slideshow explains, with impressive stats, what all the fuss is about. See why Barbara says, This presentation is clear, fresh and fun! And why shell be sharing it with her public relations and Public Speaking classes. Its a treat.

On the brandbox blog Amber Naslund recaps a Plurkshop she participated in, and tackles the issue of social media measurement. Find out why social media is justifiable, why measurement is so important, and why its so difficult to conduct. This outstanding recap answers the question, What are you missing if you’re unplugged from the Groundswell? and makes a tremendous case for social media. Amber also offers David Alstons list of things in social media that can be measured.

Techipedia’s Tamar Weinberg poses the question “what [are the] essential skills and characteristics of the most efficient and results-driven social media consultants?” to 35 top social media and marketing voices. Tamar concludes that “social media marketers’ contributions to the community should be selfless and should be thought to benefit those who engage within the community.” See what the other 35 social media users have to say, and then offer your own opinion.

Hip slick and useless

The crush is on. Almost every company, client and person I talk to in corporate marketing wants to create a social media program. But theres a lot of execution without thinking.

Its hip, slick and social to have a blog and a Facebook profile, but really, so what? If companies dont think about their efforts in the larger marketing context as well as the unique needs of social communities, then their efforts will be useless.

The end result? Were going to be treated to a deluge of bad social media from companies. And in six months we will be hearing cries about how it didnt work. But the fault does not lie in the medium, rather its in the strategy and approach.

The 2008 social media boom is very reminiscent of the mid 90s when everyone needed a web site, but didnt think about outcomes. Lots of bad sites and mistakes were made. Really, web 2.0 came along as web 1.0 was finally maturing.

Six Common Mistakes

Companies would be well advised to take the time to engage in social media intentionally, with their marketing goals and the long-haul in mind. Here are six common mistakes that should be avoided:

  1. Launching a social media effort without determining outcomes, calls to action, and measurement. Examine the motives behind launching that blog, filming a “viral YouTube video,” or starting that Facebook Group. If companies dont have a strategy behind their effort, they will lose time, money and opportunity.
  2. Talking about your company instead of their communities interests. Its about them, not you. Talking about yourself is antisocial and very web 1.0. No one wants a daily updated brochure from company X. See seven principles of community engagement.
  3. Creating corporate social media without a program to get it socialized. Theres way too many corporate social media efforts now for your effort to just stand out because its been started. Wheres the so what? How will your company grab the attention of its stakeholders?
  4. Blogging because every one else is. Blogs are great, but they require a lot of maintenance and time. This may not be the best engagement strategy for your firm if the company.. Blogs are great for education, position as a market leader, call to action for larger social media initiatives, or for establishing brand reputation. A strong blogger relations and social network program can be more effective for earned media opportunities. Example: Nikon camera program executed by Tom Biro and co.
  5. Letting IT departments determine the best blog platform, usually the one that comes with their server packs. Bad idea. IT doesnt understand social media marketing and the benefits of WordPress, or lesser platforms like TypePad.
  6. Thinking mass instead of micro. Facebooks a great contact manager, but is it the right place? Are your actual stakeholders out there? Does your community use another, more granular social network as a back channel? Are you and/or your agency constantly monitoring your communitys evolution and consumption needs?

Unfortunately, in some competitive situations, its become apparent that agencies and consultants have greatly contributed to this mess. Agencies will tell you they know what they are doing, and learn on your dollar. The price: Lost opportunity, time and financial resources.

Companies need to take the time to find socially engaged companies. Dont hire people that without a track record. Make sure the actual team performing the work have successfully blogged (please, a bare minimum 20 authority on Technorati), are enjoying social network engagement effort, and have a track record of past successes. And if they dont advise you on the above six matters, know they are incompetent and continue with your selection process.

More information on social media consultant hiring processes is available from B.L. Ochman, Chris Brogan and Now Is Gone.

Social Media Release Criticism: Nine Points to Consider

The recent release of the Social Media Groups Digital Snippets social media release (SMR) template caused a wave of excitement and criticism, both on and off line. Just to recap some of the posts:

Shannon Whitley: “There seem to be more entries in the world of SMNR creation tools, which is great news because we can all benefit from this creativity. However, Id like to throw out a challenge to folks like Edelman, WebITPR, Social Media Group, et. al. Ive been working on hRelease for several months now. Its supposed to be a community effort that will help move the SMNR distribution process forward.”

Jason Falls: “The template basically says you can share information about this product or company (Digital Snippits was developed in Social Media Groups work with Ford Motor Company) but we dont really want to make it easy for you to see an independent third partys review of it. in my opinion, it isnt a step forward in the evolution of the social media release.”

Chris Heuer does a nice video recap on the history of SMRs and their purpose.

Off-line criticism that Ive been privy to:

  • Digital snippets is really just PR Newswires MultiVu socialized
  • Lack of comments on Digital Snippet SMRs
  • Ive also received a couple of remarks from folks who seem miffed that newbies and sophomores with at most two or three years of social media experience are disturbing the process. That not enough research has been done.

Thoughts Moving Forward

Before moving forward, I advocate for SMRs. Theyre in Now Is Gone and one of the most successful posts on this blog was an SMR case study.

Press releases are not exciting documents, often loaded with spin and jargon. While still a tool in the communications professionals arsenal, they do not comprise strategy, nor should they be relied upon as ground-breaking news mechanisms. Social media environments require a different way of disseminating news so that content creators, individual stakeholders reading social media, and possibly journalist can get this information. Enter the SMR.

But to date the SMR has not been widely adopted (though picking up momentum), and there is increasingly greater separation on SMR thought and purpose. The following candid points seek to address some of the criticism to date, and perhaps help SMR developers create widespread adoption:

  1. SMRs and press releases are tools, not strategies. If you dont have a great story to tell, they wont work. Many folks have said this, and this fact should always frame SMR discussion.
  2. We are inside the bubble, and much of the discussion to date revolves around technical merits (comments, MultiVu, YouTube or not) and means nothing to the average PR practitioner.
  3. The average PR practitioner wants a tool that serves a function: Communication with social media communities. Adoption of SMRs relies on intelligent discourse about what social media stakeholders want and need, not what we the PR 2.0 community thinks. Maggie Fox and SMG have done some research to this end, and it shows in her template. Thats why it is a step forward. Sharing this research would be helpful.
  4. Discourse needs to revolve around actual experiences on what has worked and what has not. Again, inside the bubble chatter means little, what does mean something is results. Enough SMRs have been published that we should be able to discern what works. That means people need to share their results.
  5. The ideal result from an SMR should be to engage social media communities, in turn causing community members to create their own discussions. Kami Huyse and I call this storyboarding.
  6. Whats becoming very apparent in my experience and from seeing other SMRs is they are not ideal vehicles for hosting conversation. The fundamentalist view that comments must be part of an SMR seems ridiculous to me. A nice value-added feature, but here are eight ways to have a better conversation: 1) Post SMR in blog and ask for comments, 2) better yet, write a post thats more conversation in tone 3) Use Facebook Ask Qs on the SMRs topic 4) YouTube/Seesmic 5) Utterz 6) Solicit feed back from bloggers before releasing 7) Twitter it with Qs. 8) Get a guest spot on an established BlogTalkRadio show. Etc., etc.
  7. Old-timers in the social media space need to remember theres a great influx of new readers and minds. They would be better served embracing these people, and making their past content easily available than kvetching about how no one researches.
  8. Old-timers in social media need to realize that innovation and adoption will occur with or without them. History means nothing when people with two years, two months or two days of social media experience are trying to create a solution that will work for their companies and paying clients.
  9. A reality check is in order, too. Dismissing people for lack of social media experience when theyve embraced it 1) pushes them away; 2) reduces the amount of valid real world marketing experience in the process. My blog is two years old. Yet one of my first article assignments professionally in 1994 was on this crazy technology called Mosaic. 15 years of technology PR and marketing experience later, I find this elitist point-of-view to be invalid and insecure.

Collectively we can do more than individually. Collaboration works better than ivory tower development.

My one major concern is that technical form must serve functional need. Great technical toys without purpose dont help us. Web 2.0 has been great, but we need to keep our eye on the prize, which is business function. The SMR has great potential for communications professionals, but its the entire online communications industrys responsibility to participate and help make something that will work.

To continue the discussion, Shannon Whitley has agreed to a Buzz Bin interview. In addition, after SHIFT releases its next version of the SMR template, there will be a roundtable on SMRs hosted on Now Is Gone. Todd Defren, Jason Falls, Maggie Fox, B.L. Ochman and Brian Solis have agreed to participate.

A New Take on the Social Media Release

The Social Media Release was a concept started two years ago by PR 2.0 mavens Todd Defren and Brian Solis. The form took on several iterations and has been experimented with by several marketers. It has been discussed quite frequently, has encouraged the wires to engage social media elements, yet has failed to really take off. But Ford Motor Company and its agency the Social Media Group (SMG) have taken the Social Media Release (SMR) to a new level for various products like the Ford Focus and F150.

Fords innovations in the SMR include a new storyboard approach, which focuses less on the possible conversation value of social media press release, and more on catalyzing content creators to take parts and develop their own content. It also assumes that some readers will want to engage in certain media forms, and not all of them. Further the revised SMR delivers digital snippets of information.

The resulting smorgasborg of social media creates easily digestible snacks that allow for readers choice. Rather than issuing the SMR with all of their media on the wires, Ford and SMG are leveraging existing social networks like Flickr and YouTube to ensure they provide easily access to content from a variety of ways. Fords social PR effort is truly liquid.

n681510503_7807I asked Social Media Group President Maggie Fox a couple of Qs on their Digital Snippet SMR. Heres what she had to say:

BB: Are all of elements essential? Can companies plug and play as they need to?

MF: All elements are not essential, but if the story is not something you expect to have evolve over time, and you havent got rich content like video or images, this platform really isnt a good fit. Id recommend a “regular” release.

BB: Will standards be developed, or a WP template for the SMR?

MF: Standards are in the works, and our backend development is wrapped up. Were pretty happy with the platform, but will continue to improve and customize it to accommodate the needs of different clients. A WP template? A possibility down the road.

Last week, Todd Defren indicated SHIFT is working on a new SMR template, too. Itll be interesting to see how the dialogue evolves. One issue that will likely be debated between the two camps is should the actual SMR be comment enabled, or just its elements. This is the storyboard versus conversation piece argument. All of this progress is good. I look forward to learning more from these great innovators.

Cloverfield Proves Universal Law

In David Ogilvys classic “Ogilvy on Advertising” the ad man says that good advertising does two things: Make good products sell faster, and bad products fail quicker. They should call this Ogilvys Law as it holds true regardless of marketing discipline or product/service. This weekends Cloverfield reviews provide a great example.

In fact, because so much of the strategy revolved around word of mouth and viral tactics, the law will provide an even quicker backfire. First, lets acknowledge that the marketing was brilliant. Geeks and bloggers lined up to see the movie on opening day.

But there was a problem. The hype was great, the product was not. As a result, expectations were not met causing a huge outcry across many of the viral tools that helped create the interest. Twitter, blogs, Seesmic, on and on, the outcries of disappointment could be heard.

The end result is in sight: Lost customers. Usually situations like this have a full weekend to iron themselves out. The following weekend sees a steep decline in revenue. In this case, because the target buyer was socially enabled online, people have already figured it out.

Though the movie had a great start, Cloverfield will likely see decreasing revenue by day throughout the weekend. Next weekend the movie will likely struggle to make 30% of this weekends box office gross.

The lesson learned is with word of mouth products, Ogilvys Law works at hyper-speed. So while social media and viral techniques may be attractive, marketers need a good product. Failure occurs faster out here.