Archive | April, 2010

Thoughts on the new Facebook

23 Apr

Mark Zuckerberg has done it again. He has made some serious threats to your privacy, if you are a Facebook user. Zuckerberg does not believe in privacy, he has said so in those very words, so it is not too surprising that he further damaged your privacy to enhance his bottom line.

There are tons of articles about the new issues with privacy that came out of the f8 conference. This one on GigaOm is a good one (and thank you to Downtown Women’s Club for posting it on Facebook…the irony).  Sadly, most Facebook users will never know about these changes, which directly affect them.

I have been a steady Facebook user for more than two years. I had rarely logged out and usually checked in several times a day to see what everyone is up to. I also recently launched a Facebook Fan Page, which is now called a like page. But today, I logged out. I will log out every single time I visit Facebook and furthermore, I will limit my visits to Facebook. I am just not comfortable with what they are doing over there. And more pernicious, is that other sites I visit, like CNN and Washington Post now have my information and friends. Unless I logout of Facebook, CNN knows who my friends are and what they are doing online. Talk about Big Brother!

I also hate the new “like” feature on Facebook. A Fan page is not a “like” page. They are inherently different. Like Kim Woodbridge from Anti Social Development said to me about the change:  “I like peas, but I am not a fan of peas.”

I am not sure that Facebook cares what people think.  It is feeling high because it has 400 million users worldwide, and that gives the company a lot of power, not to mention marketing might. For now, if you care about your privacy, protect yourself. Do not let Facebook use you for its gain. So logout, opt out, or do what you have to do.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Are you a fan of the Facebook?


The dark side of social media

22 Apr


Social media has definitely changed the Internet, marketing,  news gathering. Many people feel more in touch with long lost friends because of social networks. In short, there is lots to praise and like about social media. But, because it is social, and mostly free, social media has increased the reach of hate groups, racists and other people who previously relied on getting their message out only to a small circle of similar miscreants.

Take for example a group on Facebook that is dedicated to “praying” for President Obama’s death. I won’t link to it here but this hateful group has already amassed almost one million followers (or likers in the new Facebook parlance).  As you know, social media works as an amplifier.  So if someone sees one of their friends likes organic yogurt, then he or she can also like said product. Same thing happens with these hate groups. And then it becomes a numbers game. Sadly, many people join these groups because they think its “funny” or as a joke. But what they are doing is lending weight, via numbers, to a hateful cause.

Remember the Holocaust Museum shooter? Well he had several rantings on the Web. And the guy who killed a bunch of women at a gym in Pittsburgh, and then killed himself? He had an entire blog devoted to his hatred of women.  Social media is easy to access and has little or no cost. Anyone can set up a blog or a website, a Facebook page or a Twitter stream.

There is a lot of hate and plenty of malcontents out there. It’s unfortunate that social media, which generally serves to build community and share interesting ideas, can also be used to share the hate and spread the ignorance.  I am not sure what, if anything, we can do about this.


Tweeting and not failing (a top ten list)

21 Apr

I love Twitter.  I love reading articles others share, seeing what people are up to, and generally the no-boundaries community that exists on the micro-blogging site. I follow and am followed by people in other states, countries, continents.  In a sense, Twitter connects the world!

But there is a downside to Twitter: the people who don’t use Twitter wisely.  These people can ruin the experience, until you block them. These people are the reason for my top-ten  list of Twitter pet peeves:

  1. Following and unfollowing and following again. This tactic is meant to getting followers but if I didn’t follow you the first time, or the second, chances are I AM NOT INTERESTED.
  2. Excessive self-promotion. Tweets that always start with I or include the word me.  Being on Twitter exclusively to promote self and not offering any value.
  3. Lurking. People who follow you and never engage or retweet.  They are just watching you. Why?
  4. Not giving credit. If I tweeted something that you think is so worthwhile that you re-tweeted it, just credit me, please?
  5. Follow Friday. I hate this. It makes Twitter into a popularity contest, and makes you ripe for spamming. Thanks for the shout-out but don’t add me to your list.
  6. Being super selective. You have thousands of followers, yet you start your mornings saying hi to five of your favorite friends. I remind you: Twitter is not high school and all of us can see you didn’t single us out. If you want to say hi to just a few people, might I recommend DM or (gasp) EMAIL?
  7. Spammers. People who send you @messages that have nothing to do with anything except what they are trying to get you to buy. There is a special place in hell for you.
  8. Incomplete profiles. If you don’t have a bio, or a website, or preferably both, on what should I base my decision to follow you? Your inability to fill out your profile? This also goes for not posting a picture.
  9. Cursing. I curse all the time in real life, but I don’t want to read obscenities on my Twitter stream. It generally is not necessary to put that out to the world.
  10. Never acknowledging retweets or @messages. Sure I understand that reporters or celebrities with tens of thousands of followers can’t possibly respond to all these messages, but if you have under 500 followers, most likely you can spend a couple minutes each day responding. Remember you are on Twitter to create community!!!

Of course, these are MY pet Twitter peeves. You may not agree. Which is why you can feel free to leave your top Twitter peeves on the comments! (Or hey, write your own blog!)


Identity crisis

19 Apr

Who are you? Why are you here?

Lots of people ask themselves these questions, especially around milestone birthdays and during the “mid-life crisis.”  For individuals, there is no one right answer. Some people spend their whole lives seeking for the answers and some people just go for “one day at a time” philosophy.

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But what do you do if your business has an identity crisis? First,  determine if your business does have an identity crisis. Here are some signs:

  • You offer many types of services or products that can’t easily be grouped together
  • Your company name and tagline do not readily communicate what you do/everything you do
  • You have several different logos/different taglines
  • You don’t have clear-cut branding (no signature color, font, tagline, key messages)
  • If someone asks you what you do, it takes several sentences to explain (you just can summarize it in one phrase)

If you answered yes to even one of these descriptors, you probably are suffering from an identity crisis. You brand is not  strong and your business mission is not clear.

Having a business identity crisis can result in your business going under. Just down the street from where I live was a “wellness center.”  It was a retail outlet that sold vitamins and baby clothes made from organic cotton. They offered massages and facials. They held yoga and qi gong classes.  They probably would have described themselves as a lifestyle store, which is  generic. They weren’t known for any of these offerings. And they closed.  To me, this was a classic example of an identity crisis.  Too many products and service offerings. No clear differentiation. And a vague description that can mean different things to different people.

In a crowded marketplace, differentiation can make the difference (I am so punny). You won’t be able to differentiate if you have an identity crisis.

Does your business suffer from an identity crisis?  Time to ask yourself some hard, existential questions.


Looking for the magic bullet…

16 Apr

Are you looking for the magic bullet? The one solution to your marketing problems? Well, I can’t help you. That’s right–I can’t help you find the magic bullet because there is no  magic bullet!

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A while back I had a client who was trying to re-grow his dwindling business. So he launched a social responsibility program. And when that failed to work as planned, he tried a new product and used postcards to sell it. And then that didn’t work, so he tried doing do-good projects and used press releases to promote them. And then that didn’t quite work either. You know why? Because all of these are tactics and there was no overall strategy or vision. One tactic, whatever it may be, will not result in sustained and increased sales.

When I was in grad school, we learned all about a new concept at the time: Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). The concept was that your marketing efforts should integrate various tools, such as advertising, public relations, sponsorships, other one umbrella. I have always believed in this view.

Today, people seem to believe that the magic bullet is social media. Build a Facebook Fan Page and you will get clients! Be on Twitter and you will get clients! Write a blog and you will get clients! No, no, no!!! You certainly should consider social media, but one or all of these tools will not guarantee marketing success, especially if you are pursuing each of them haphazardly without an overarching strategy.

There really is no magic bullet. Marketing communications is about strategy and also about trial and error. Some things will work better than others. Something close to a magic bullet may be measurement. If you measure success, you will find out what works best for you. If you don’t measure, how will you know your impact?

Have you been looking for a magic bullet? What have you found?


What was he thinking?

8 Apr

You’ve probably heard about the flap involving Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s new Republican governor. McDonnell issued a proclamation calling April Confederate History Month in his state. But he had omitted a key belief of the Confederacy–its support of slavery. Naturally, there was outrage from civil rights leaders, African-Americans and the media.  And guess what, McDonnell had to amend his statement to include language about slavery.

Now, I think McDonnell was speaking his mind the first time. I also think Virginia has a large racist population who would be happy to be Confederate once again. And clearly, I think the whole Confederate declaration is a ridiculous, shameful attempt to pander to the more right-wing, racist elements in Virginia. But, from a public relations perspective, I want to know what was McDonnell thinking? Indeed, was he thinking?

McDonnell either is unaware that large segments of the population consider slavery an outrage or he has really bad advisors or simply is ignorant of how the media works. Anybody could have told him that many people would be offended by this offensive proclamation. And furthermore, that the media would pick it up and tear it apart. Sure, he reacted within a day and issued a
“fix” and an apology, but why on earth was the governor not aware of the furor his decision would cause?

On the one hand, I think that McDonnell probably does not realize that being associated with confederacy equals racism because he does not see that as racist. He buys the whole Confederate argument that the Civil War was a fight about states’ rights. On the other hand, I also think McDonnell does not understand public perception or perhaps he lacks in the public relations advice department.

Whether on purpose, or unwittingly, McDonnell has contributed further to the perception that he is a good ol’ boy, happy to maintain Virginia’s commitment to Confederate ideals where African-Americans are second class citizens, if citizens at all.  McDonnell did not even consider that African-Americans live in his state and that they may not share his rosy view of the importance of celebrating Confederate history.

So, what was he thinking? He was not thinking nor was he receiving any type of credible public relations advice when he issued the proclamation. Obviously, once the criticism started, his PR folks woke up or showed up to the office.

The moral of this story is that perception matters, and that if you do or say something offensive, and you are in public office, you will have to face the music.

UPDATE: Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney makes very good points in his column today.


Grammar rules again

6 Apr

I think I hit a nerve yesterday with my post Grammar rules. I got the second highest number of visitors in one day to my blog in its two plus years of existence. And, several of you commented.  First, let me say thanks for checking it out, and second, let me issue a plea to everyone who works with words, spoken or written, pay attention! Make grammar, spelling and proper usage a priority in your communications.

The response made it clear that many people are irritated by the lack of care we are seeing in English usage. Please take a look at the comments to the post to see what different people are experiencing.

What is not so clear is the reason behind the lapse in grammar. Is it laziness? Is it improper/insufficient instruction? Is is sheer ignorance? What do you think?

How do we change this? Mignon Fogarty, “Grammar Girl,” gives seminars on grammar across the country. She has also written a couple of books on the subject. But how do we get people to a) realize they need to improve their grammar and b) learn what they are doing wrong?

Please let me know your ideas. I am so frustrated when I see my colleagues and otherwise educated folk use English so poorly.