Moving Past Twitters’ Gate-Keepers


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More and more it seems that Twitter is becoming an integral part of/player in the news of the world. Whether it be breaking the news, for example, the 2009 US Airways flight ditching in the Hudson river, or actually being the news, as it has been most recently concerning the role it played in the Egyptian revolution, “Twitter” and “News” are becoming synonymous.

A recent article on Paul Sutton’s blog The Social Web, and the report by HP found below, got me thinking about the topic of media gatekeepers, Twitter, news and how digital marketers can engage with Twitter to make it (news) and get results.

First, Paul’s piece asks some great questions concerning PR and the fact that Twitter now is the news and breaks it many times even before the mainstream media sites do. He writes,

“As for PR, our job used to be to provide newspapers, magazines and broadcast media with stories; facts and comments about client projects that managed or created reputation and demand. But is our job now to feed Twitter? Do we try to create news ‘breaks’ through seeding news to Twitter sources and journalists?”

This study by HP, which collected its data through Twitter’s own search API over 40 days in the fall of 2010, states that mainstream media brands such as CNN and the NY Times drive a “disproportionate” number of Twitter trending topics – by being the source of most RT’s while a topic is trending. Therefore, taking this into consideration and attempting to answer Paul’s question, I would offer that first I am a bit disappointed that this may illustrate, quite predictably, the saliency of traditional gate-keepers like the MSM on social channels. Although, the study also reports that

“Even though mainstream media sources tend to be extremely well-represented within social media discussions, a significant percentage of trending topics do stem from non-mainstream sources.”

So, in regard to the question of should we as PR professionals and digital marketers seed news to mainstream Twitter sources and their journos, I would posit that yes we should. Going by this report, this is “one” way to create and sustain buzz. But as a guy inspired by citizen journalism and emerging media I am more hopeful that we can find equally-powerful and mutually beneficial ways of creating and sustaining “buzz” on Twitter and other channels, in effect bypassing these conventional sources.

I would love to hear your ideas! Please share below.

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Photo credit: Joshin Yamada

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#Brandbowl 2011: A Focus Group

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The Social Construction of Ads

The real-time web offers some very cool and very tangible advantages for smart marketers today. As I was watching the Superbowl ads this past Sunday I was simultaneously tweeting and reading others’ tweets, all organized around the hashtag #brandbowl. Folks who had spent the millions of dollars for a 30 second-spot could gauge reactions to their ads immediately. Even those who just enjoy being a part of the special night and watching what creative minds have to offer could derive some value from following the hashtag. I personally enjoy taking in the different opinions – and the wide range of them – that people have when it comes to advertisements, even though we all watch the same spots.

A Quick Collection of Twitter Reactions

Unfortunately, I decided to put together this deck of people’s Twitter reactions a day later, and trying to wade through 30+ pages to get to the real-time reactions was a feat I was not prepared for. This quick collection of reactions still provide a good glimpse into people’s opinions and hopefully next year I’ll smarten up and put together something in “real-time!”

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Photo credit: Trenton Schulz

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Kenneth Cole and Crisis Communications 101

By now I imagine you have heard of the insensitive tweet Kenneth Cole himself graced us with yesterday. This “attempt at humor” as Cole later classified it, certainly got the twittersphere and blogosphere’s attention. After reading and commenting on this blog post by Heather Whaling concerning 2 PR lessons learned from the gaffe, I decided to cover what I believe are the salient lessons in PR/Crisis Communications and even social media best practices that can be gleaned from this strange attempt to piggy-back off of the events occurring in the Middle East.

First, I would offer that Kenneth Cole’s gaffe is a pretty big deal; mainly because of the context in which it was made. No matter your political leanings or how you look at the unrest in Egypt and the Middle East, the fact is people are dying (and therefore not the wisest source of comedic material.) With regard to long-term effects of his original tweet (pictured above), I’ve heard the phrase boy-cott mentioned a few times already, but I would offer that the damage will more likely come from Cole’s resources now being differed from ‘business as usual’ to damage control and especially from his weak apology offered on two social channels (Twitter & Facebook).

The larger lesson (and Crisis Communications 101) to be learned from this situation in my opinion has to do with this so-called apology, “We weren’t intending to…” First, sincerity is key and it doesn’t seem sincere. Cole’s tweet doesn’t come across as someone who understands the offenses’ impact and there is no mention of any corrective action (I do understand this may be difficult to communicate in 140 characters but his Facebook message doesn’t offer it either.) Second, I would argue the second tweet wasn’t voluntary. It wasn’t until after the S**# storm started that he tweeted it. Taken together, this presents a major flaw in the apology and hints that this won’t be forgiven/forgotten anytime soon.

To couch this in social media, and with regard to Cole’s responses, I do appreciate his posting of an apology on Facebook on his discussion board, and obviously responding on Twitter (where the gaffe originated) was appropriate. But the best lesson in terms of social media and best practices comes from blogger Mack Collier when he wrote in his post yesterday that brands shouldn’t attempt to leverage conversations happening in social media that they haven’t participated in. This goes back to listening first and then participating only where you or your brand can provide some value – End of story.

Thoughts?

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Channeling Inspiration From Small Moments in the Past


As people traverse the uncertain times in their lives (e.g. graduating from school & hunting for new opportunities), and understandably get knocked back as they go, inspiration is certainly important for many reasons. No doubt you have heard the old adage, ‘Don’t live in the past,’ but I would offer that visiting the past now and again can be a great inspiration and a motivator.

An Image in Time

Take the picture above for example. It was taken this past December while I was still in school and working in a position that I loved – Social Media Manager in my university’s Office of University Communications. I was hired as a full-time student and after graduating the position was to be filled by a grad fellow. Not important to my point though. This was a time in my life that was imbued with excitement, daily challenges and achievement and leaving work one day on my way to class I quickly, and without much thought, snapped this picture. This image that captures a time in one person’s life can be looked at as just a small moment, a pebble really in a long and tortuous driveway, but I choose to channel it for inspiration and drive.

Job Search Inspiration

I look at this image on my desktop everyday before writing the many cover letters and networking on LinkedIn that goes with a 21st century job search, and I remember the trials and challenges that go with attending graduate school, working and raising a little boy. But most importantly, it also reminds me that I can and have rocked these myriad milestones. This small and quite moment serves a larger purpose.

So, do you have any small moments in your past that you use for inspiration today?  I would love to hear about them!

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Blogging While Living (B.W.L.)


I know, I know.. I beat myself up daily that its been a month or so since I last posted. Every part of my being knows that what makes a blog successful is fresh, compelling and useful content – and posting once a month is not fresh, compelling or useful. I won’t get into the “reasons” why there has been a lack of posts, one, because if you look at such prolific bloggers like Seth Godin and Brian Solis, there really are no good excuses, and two, it sounds self-serving – and self-serving blabbering does not make compelling or useful content in my humble opinion.

Posting Fresh Content

Therefore, lets turn this ugly faux pas of mine into a helpful discussion on the best practices of blogging. But wait, isn’t there already a plethora of info in the blogosphere on this very topic and freshness is key, right? So, to make this dialogue more interesting, (dare I say compelling?) and useful for young communicators, lets discuss best practices of blogging, keeping in mind one specific element that no doubt relates and applies to everyone today in our hectic, 24/7 always-on world – how do we keep up with posting solid and fresh content while working, going to school, reading, researching and spending time with our family and friends?

Some questions to help guide the comments.

1) When stretched for time is it better to post nothing at all or rushed, mediocre content? Why?

2) Where do you get your inspiration/ideas from and how do you translate them onto the page?

3.) What are acceptable intervals for posting (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly)?

4.) How important is time management here? Strategies?

Thanks and please join in with your comments, suggestions and questions.

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How to Grow a Strong Twitter Network Through Great Content, Human Voice & Blocking the Bums


It’s been a little while since I wrote an explicit “Resources for Young Communicators” type post, and since this space is designed to help guide us young students, graduates and professionals as we journey through and excel in the communications field, I decided to embark on a quick “How to.” Put it into practice, add some patience and empathy and your efforts will blossom into your very own, strong social community.

In terms of social networks today, Twitter is by far my favorite and one that definitely lives, breathes and flourishes through an open culture kept alive by personal interests, universal sharing and even altruism. I am growing a solid community of folks and haven’t ever resorted to tricks or automatic baloney to do it. I don’t have thousands of followers, but the ones I do have are mostly thought leaders in their own right, as they understand the power of social media and the human need for autonomy, membership and community.

Some choose to ignore the mores that go along with this open culture. I choose not to. For illustration of how to go and stunt your network, think about this: an account that doesn’t have a dedicated, curious and community-minded person behind it ( & instead is wild-eyed with profit) will not receive any “sincere” followers in return, consequently won’t engage in beneficial sharing and will ultimately be relegated to shouting unintelligibly and alone in the wind.

But if you want to foster a community of creative and kind people who you can share with, and can both give and receive value from, keep reading my friend.

Building a community takes time and effort

Twitter, like any other social network, has intrinsic rules and a culture that can only be discerned through observing first and then genuinely participating in that culture. No matter what you do, if you don’t observe the rules of the road your efforts on the service will be for naught – and more importantly, you will not discover the bounties and advantages that will eventually come your way if you do.

Below are some quick (but vital) tips and actions that I personally utilize everyday on Twitter that will show you how to go about growing an authentic, strong and fertile network, which can then help you to find and score jobs; introduce you to esoteric and important ideas, topical information and events, offer a springboard into notoriety as a reliable and compelling pro, and feed your inherent human desire for connection and knowledge.

Some steps to follow

1.) First, find and listen in on the people in your field that you find interesting and that have been on Twitter for a while. Use services such as ListoriousTwitter search and Twellow. You will know when to move on to step 2.

2.) Post current, meaningful content, with links, that will be of value for people in your field and your soon-to-be budding network. Find different sources everyday, so for example don’t always post updates linking to the New York Times or Mashable etc. Post at least 5 a day but do not go crazy.

3.) Follow stimulating people, and keep following even if they don’t follow you back.

4.) @ mention people that you find compelling and engage in conversations about their content. Don’t be shy!

5.) Always send either a DM or a simple @ mention if your stuff is retweeted – this shows your on top of your game and that you are a caring and appreciative person (all great qualities for communicators). Also make an effort to retweet others.

6.) I like to tweet updates w/out a link that shows a real, human voice. Do this fairly often.

7.) Tweet positive. Being negative on Twitter doesn’t fly too well and will scare people away. Also related to this is to practice being altruistic. A great example of this unselfish care for others are the moderators & founders of chats such as #Commschat#PRStudChat who take the time to inform others and help students find jobs and network.

8.) This is a rather controversial step but one that I find pretty important: block the bums. This means actually clicking the link that blocks an account such as the robots; pushy marketers who post 10 misspelled posts a minute; the people with very large discrepancies between followers & follows and possibly people without links in their bios (or bios at all for that matter).

I feel that by blocking the undesirables you actually cleanse your network and put into action the proverbial belief that it’s not about numbers on Twitter (quantity), but the quality of your network. I also know myself that if I see someone with a ton of obvious bots following them, I probably won’t follow them myself (something to do with the old “company you keep” adage.

That’s it. Please join in and comment in the comment section and let us know what you do to cultivate a strong Twitter network and how you feel about blocking folks.

Photo credit: Joshua Davis

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Information as Universal Currency, and its Ambiguous Value


With the inspiring and massive changes occurring today in the areas of communications and specifically media,many novel questions related to its form and its value – both societal and personal – are being asked and any concrete, right-or-wrong answers are conspicuously, but advantageously unknown.

I say this ambiguity is beneficial because the actual process of asking these questions and then fleshing out their possible answers will usually lead to healthy and democratic dialogues, debate, experimentation and finally, new opportunities for human connection, knowledge and value for both participants and society –  especially if the media and its culture is intrinsically dedicated toward creating this public or civic worth.

Once online, it’s there forever.

One such powerful debate that has continuously peaked my interest and will not have a definitive answer anytime soon is the question of the true consequences of putting vast amounts (or even little amounts) of data, personal & otherwise, out on the web for all to see, use, share and unfortunately, to sometimes manipulate for nefarious purposes. Is there a trade-off between total transparency and safety online? Also, what kind of value is created by this online sharing of information?

This topic and the related questions are filled with examples of innovation, as well as fertile ideas and opinions related to social media and networks, privacy, societal norms and of course, the value derived for the person sharing the information and for the people receiving it. For an example of the awesome utility that can be placed (right or wrong) on sharing information online, ZDNet blogger Zack Wittaker writes “the one universal currency that we use in this post-modern world is information.”

Facebook Places hits the streets

One aspect of this debate has recently gained more steam as social networking giant Facebook has released “FaceBook Places,” which aims to connect its users where ever they go (Here is an article on the topic from the Nation, which also includes the FB Places release video.) In general, one side of the debate here argues that the ultimate tradeoff is between connecting with your friends and sharing info about different locations, businesses etc. and a person’s privacy being violated.

For example, “creepy” stalkers down the street can see that you are at the laundromat with your delicates without you really knowing it. Also, with Places your exact location can be broadcast by your friends (via tagging) even if you are not taking part in the program yourself. Another more basic argument against its use is that if we really wanted to connect with our pals out in the world there are already a million other ways to accomplish it (e.g. Facebook email, status updates, DM’s, instant messages etc.).

Not taking into account the obvious advantages for marketers and PR folks of “connecting with customers, clients and partners,” the other side of the location-based services debate has postulated that its use can engender “serendipitous” meetings and can foster the strengthening of personal relationships and make our lives just that much more connected and interesting. Ok.

No more resumes, just check out my digital content please.

So, using this debate of total transparency and value as a jumping off-point, and concentrating on personal value instead of societal, what about young pro’s who are looking for jobs in the communications industry and put all their content online for hiring managers to peruse and to ultimately contact them if they think they might be a good fit? For some examples of the type of content we publish everyday online think about resumes on Slideshare and LinkedIn (with cell #’s and addresses attached), past work & education experience on LinkedIn, articles written for college newspapers & websites, email addresses, non-private Facebook pages (to aid in find-ability) and blogs and About pages to name a few.

The personal value of sharing info such as a resume, for all the world to find through SERP’s for instance, could be that a graduate gets found by a recruiter on LinkedIn and lands a job when he/she would otherwise remain a shadow. But it’s surely a thin line between creating value or trouble for a person.

Should we continue to share our personal info online in the hopes of receiving benefit from it? Does the positives outweigh the negatives? And does your answer change when we consider creating value for others, instead of ourselves, through our content and collaborations? In this instance I would say yes, definitely. How about you?

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