Sunday, June 01, 2008

corporate honesty in social media



Blogging and social media usage has a netiquette and a clear, if not always publicized, set of ethics and morals, a consensus list of rules for conduct. Not to limit creativity or innovation, but to use the new tools most effectively. This means deviating from old school corporate fluff, we-orientation, and MSM hype.

What are some of these new values that are reigning in the new media?


Authenticity. Passion. Transparency.


Three of the values that some old fashioned organizations consistently violate, thinking they can get away with it.
Incentivized opinions are not wanted, nor respected, in the social media realm.

It’s like your husband being secretly paid by a university, in an ethnomethodology experiment, to say romantic things to you, at $10 per statement. Once you found out he was being paid to seduce you, you’d surely be quite disgusted and upset, never trusting his advances ever again.

It’s PayPerPost and other compensated, coached, inauthentic recommendations, or slurs and reproaches, that will poison, pollute, and make worthless the peer-to-peer recommendation system of the social media sphere.

Corporate use of social media cannot be a crass, greedy gaming and exploitation of the online community members. Such BS will backfire. It's marketing suicide, and will be very time-consuming and expensive to correct.

Target has been caught in such deceptive antics. See: "off target".


[QUOTE]

newsletter (issue #107) from Target Rounders saying:

Your mission: try not to let on in the Facebook group that you are a Rounder. We love your enthusiasm for the Rounders, and I know it can be hard not to want to sing it from the mountaintops (and the shower, and on the bus…).

However, we want to get other members of the Facebook group excited about Target, too! And we don’t want the Rounders program to steal the show from the real star here: Target and Target’s rockin’ Facebook group! So keep it like a secret!

[END QUOTE]


Lying is, unfortunately, a prevalent advertising, and PR practice, that is rejected in the social media realm.

Bloggers are feared, because they'll bash, flame, and destroy any company caught in such immoral and counter-productive behaviors.

Social media communities tend to keep things ethical, creative, and of great practical value. You can insert your messages into the blogosphere, but try to make the core of that message e around this implied attitude:

"Your problems are understood by us. Here's how our products can solve them efficiently, economically, and reliably."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

enforcing Terms of Service violations





If you provide Terms of Service (TOS), are you ethically or legally obligated to enforce them? Let's look at the Twitter TOS controversy, from a simple, common sense point of view.

Ariel Waldman is a Twitter user. She complained to Twitter about another user who was harassing her on Twitter. This was beyond mere disagreement or a casual "you're nuts" type comment. The harassment involved filthy language.

Twitter, not known for being open to user requests and suggestions, not only did not enforce their own Terms of Service. They also shamed the victim, whined about their small staff, and declared they were "offended" at the victim accusing them of not caring about users.

This is not the proper way for a company to respond.


Some relevant items from Twitter's Terms of Service (due to change soon):


[QUOTE]

4. You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.

...

Violation of any of these agreements will result in the termination of your Twitter.com account.

While Twitter.com prohibits such conduct and content on its site, you understand and agree that Twitter cannot be responsible for the Content posted on its web site and you nonetheless may be exposed to such materials and that you use the Twitter.com service at your own risk.

...
    We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason at any time.

    We may, but have no obligation to, remove Content and accounts containing Content that we determine in our sole discretion are unlawful, offensive, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene or otherwise objectionable or violates any party's intellectual property or these Terms of Use.


    [END QUOTE]



    Did Twitter stand true to their TOS, and account removal policy, in Ariel's case, or were they negligent?

    Here's the TOS / Ariel Waldman debate on the Twitter blog.

    http://blog.twitter.com/2008/05/
    twitter-enforces-tos-cares-about-users.html

    More here: Summize archive re: Ariel.

    And here: Twitter refuses to uphold Terms of Service.

    It's not "mediating disputes between people" that's the issue here. It's enforcing your TOS.

    You decide if you like Twitter's tone and handling of this situation. Personally, I do not.

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    blogs are the NASCAR of the internet




    Corporations can learn a lot from NASCAR.

    People are losing faith in corporations, for many reasons. People are sick of the aloof, pompous, unapproachable nature of many CEOs and companies. Customer service is often reluctant, insincere, and even outsourced to individuals who don't speak good English.

    Blogs can repair much of the damage to public perception of corporations.

    If the CEO, or some passionate and informed company spokesperson, has a blog, then trust can be built. Customers and prospects can post comments, which may be questions, suggestions, or criticisms. A smart business values all input, both positive and negative.

    Increasingly, in the new digital world we live in, if you don't have a blog, you don't exist.

    If you don't have a blog, you send this message:

    "I don't care about starting conversations with anybody. Why form relationships? Why be transparent? Why value customer input? I value only customer dollars. Buy my product now."

    Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in his book Driver #8 (page 5-6), said:

    "Being a Winston Cup driver means being accessible to the fans. This accessibility is the basis of NASCAR's popularity...

    The drivers have known for years they weren't anything without the fans. So they signed autographs, did interviews, and they let the fans get close and see them. The fans felt like they knew the drivers personally, and the result was fan loyalty.

    This continues today. When a lot of other sports see declining loyalty among fans and players, NASCAR fans remain faithful."

    Blogs enable your customers to get close to you.

    Implemented correctly, a CEO blog can be far more effective than any sporadic damage control PR. To ignore the blogosphere is to remain stuck in Business As Usual, which leads to Business As Over.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    12 tips on live streaming video




    Today I received an email newsletter from UstreamTV, regarding best practices for live streaming video shows.


    [QUOTE]

    “What are the keys to a good stream?”

    The basics are pretty simple:

    * Make sure you have good lighting - This is super important.

    * Make sure you have a good internet connection - this prevents frame loss and choppy video.

    * Make sure you close programs on your computer that you aren't using - computers bogged down by other programs can cause your stream to be lower quality.

    Lastly...have good content!

    [END QUOTE]




    To expand a bit on that message, here's my list of some additional best practices. These tips will help your live streaming video show be more interesting, enjoyable, and successful.




    (1) Purpose

    What's the goal of your show? To ramble on about anything that pops into your head may work for some, especially pretty females, but generally, it's a formula for failure.

    Share your expertise, passion, skill, or hobby, in a way that will benefit or entertain others. Make them smarter or make them laugh. If you can do both simultaneously, you're a genius.

    Have a unique comedy show. Play music. Present tutorials. Do something that people will want to view live or in the archives, something of value, something that lends itself to visual display, like art or poetry readings or technical how-to instructions.

    I recall how on Justin.TV, there was a woman who, with a swimsuit on, read her poetry while sitting in a bathtub. That was weird, funny, and unique!



    (2) Audio Quality

    Bad sound, or volume levels that are too high or low, can ruin a show and make people decide to never return. Music bands often encounter this problem, but few have the expertise to solve it.




    (3) Appropriate Environment/Decor

    Barren rooms are bleak and not interesting.

    Why not have a sign in the background that identifies you, by name, or by the title of your show? All music bands should have the name of their band displayed on the drums, on tee shirts, or on a big sign, during live shows in both real world venues and live streaming video.

    Have a nice, or bizarre, or ritzy setting for your show, whatever style is appropriate.

    Vary the decor or even the location, as much as you can. Go to thrift stores to find inexpensive, but eye-catching props, which could be toys, paintings, backdrops, or mannequins.

    Have the URL for your blog or website on a sign behind you. Display your email address if you want people to contact you. Don't just hold up a sign for a few seconds. Keep the sign visible all through your show, for latecomers.



    (4) Appropriate Length

    If your shows are too short, it will look like nothing could possibly be going on. If your shows are too long, people will get bored part-way through, and probably never return.

    Remember, your show is actually two separate events: the live performance and the archived performance.

    Viewers may tolerate a long show while it's happening live, but people who check out your archives may be turned off by anything that's longer than 30 or 60 minutes, depending on who you are and what your show is about.



    (5) Planned Content

    While some web-casters can get away with being spontaneous, as a general rule, improvised shows are vulnerable. You may suddenly not know how to continue, things could fall apart, and you'll look too amateurish, too disorganized. Viewers will get impatient watching you fumble around and grope for some way to fill the time.

    At least have a basic outline of what you want to cover. Don't count on viewers providing great questions or comments via the chat panel. When a web-caster relies on audience participation to provide direction for your show, you will probably flounder around and look ridiculous.

    If you do react to live chat input, do more than just answer a question with a few sentences. Use the question or comment as a springboard to move to a discussion, but don't ramble on too long.

    Have a back up plan if a scheduled guest doesn't show up, or some other aspect fails to come off right. Try to have more options than you think you'll need, just in case.



    (6) Varied Content

    Treat your fans to unexpected experiences. Have a guest speaker, a live debate or panel discussion, or let some other band perform. Play some public domain or non-copyrighted material in the background or incorporate it in your show.

    Dress in unusual outfits or wear a uniform that you wear at your job. Put on a wig or a pair of really far-out sunglasses.

    Avoid doing the same things over and over again.

    If you're in a band, don't play the same songs every time. And never assume that "band practice" is of any interest to anybody. Live streaming video shows should not be "practice" or "rehearsal", but should be polished performances, unless your band is so famous, people will watch anything.



    (7) Delete and Re-do


    After a show is presented, saved, and archived, view it immediately. If there are major mistakes, like horrible sound or visuals, delete it and re-do it, even if all your live viewers have left.

    A music band that I help did a crap show last Saturday. They left the soundboard audio levels up high from a recording session, and forgot to turn them down for the live show. So the entire 60 minute episode was rotten, unlistenable, unbearably bad.

    I suggested they do a quick re-do. They took a break, then jumped back in and did a 17 minute show that was much better.

    Think in terms of archives. You don't want people to check out the archived shows and see a terrible show. A short good show is always better than a regular-length crap show.


    (8) Audience Interaction


    Be sure to interact, as much as possible, with viewers, via the chat panel. This will make your show more interesting, and you'll be considered more friendly and approachable. It's all about connecting with people and sharing your life with them.



    (9) Kick and Ban

    If your video stream site enables you to kick trolls and filth-talkers off your channel, and ban them from ever visiting again, do it. Don't be shy. Why let some jerk ruin it for everybody?

    Female web-casters especially need to exercise this kick and ban functionality.

    Some men will stalk these live streaming video channels to find women to prey upoon. They'll "innocently" say things like "I don't see a man around. Are you single? I saw your daughter. It must be tough to be single mom. Living alone can be a drag, huh?" and so on to get the woman to let her guard down and reveal things she should not reveal.



    (10) Missed Episode Notification


    If for some reason, you must skip a regularly scheduled episode of your show, at least put up a sign in your photo slide show that explains it. Or do a brief show prior to the regular one, in which you personally tell your fans why there's no show coming on the date and time they normally expect it.




    (11) Regular Schedule


    Commit to a definite time and day for your shows. For example, every Saturday at 5 PM CST. Do not deviate from this, and try not to miss any episodes.



    (12) Good Equipment


    Don't use the cheapest webcam you can find. I recommend the Logitech UltraVision for HD sound and image.

    Try some effects for a bit of fun. Have a friend who knows something about film-making or using a webcam do your video. Vary the angles. Use a bird's eye view by hoisting the webcam up high above the scenes. Put the webcam on the floor and point it up. Try a black and white episode.


    +

    As a final note, be sure to watch other live streaming video shows, and try to figure out why some shows are far more popular than others. Interact with other webcasters and contribute nice comments to their shows. This can drive traffic to your show, and you may make some good friends of other webcasters, too.


    +

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    hype vs marketing





    Is marketing just hype? Or is marketing, in the best sense, something other than bullying, exaggeration, and fluff?

    What is hype? What is marketing? What separates them as opposing concepts?

    Hype is any form of pushy sales, where the company wants to overpower, overwhelm, and overcome your resistance to purchasing their product right now.

    You, as a potential customer, are not important or interesting: it's your wallet they're after. They don't have time to understand your specific problems and needs, they just assume you could use their product, so they try to clobber you with thought clubs. Beat you into submission. Trick you, seduce you, lure you. Force you or dazzle you into buying their product.

    Hype, being product-centric, rather than user-centric, uses "we", "us", "our" instead of "you" and "your".

    Hype is akin to frenzy, hysteria. It's fluff in higher gear.

    Hype is arrogant, egotistical, neurotic. Hype is grasping, craving, obsessing over converting you into a paying customer, then moving on to the next "conquest". As in romance, the conquest is not treated kindly by the pursuer: customer loyalty and repeat purchases are lost by hype.

    Hype is hyperbolic, i.e., exaggeration, partial truth, pregnant with undisclosed downsides. It paints an over-excited picture of the miraculous product, and the extreme proclamations and claims are clownishly coy and patently absurd.

    Educated, sober, mature customers don't fall for it. Hype offends the right-thinking person. Hype only works like hucksterism, snake oil salesmen, and cult leaders: they prey on the weak and feeble minded, the young and the senile, the paranoid and approval addicts.

    Marketing is sober communication of how a product can solve a problem, or enhance the life, or meet some need, for a customer.

    Marketing helps the customer decide which model, color, size, style, etc. is right for him or her.

    Marketing helps the customer understand his or her own problem better, which is due to a truthful positioning of the company as a leading expert.

    No exaggeration. No inflated claims. No sex appeal. No reaching out to baser instincts. No bedazzling with showy gimmicks. No rush to make the sale and move on to the next victim.

    Car commercials are idiotic hype, for example, almost without a single exception. Driving at illegal speeds, with no other traffic, and no pedestrians, or cops, around for miles. Or balloons and hot dogs and popcorn, it's a circus, not a car dealership. You get the idea.

    Music band promotions are 98% hype. Exaggerated claims of virtuosos, new directions, unheard-of sounds, giant leaps in imagination, trend-setting stylistics, astonishing lyrical gifts, beautiful crooning...and it all sounds mediocre, exactly like, or less than, what came before.


    This topic of Hype vs. Marketing was inspired by a Twitter message ("tweet") from @markdavidson:

    http://twitter.com/markdavidson/
    statuses/808184725


    [QUOTE]

    My own PR person just told me my passion might be coming across too much like an infomercial. (This is why I retain a PR professional.)

    [END QUOTE]


    An infomercial is advertising that pretends to be providing information about a skill, industry, need, or how-to topic, but is using the information to trick people into receiving product sales promotions.


    Here are my Twitter replies to him:



    hype vs. marketing 1

    http://twitter.com/vaspersthegrate/
    statuses/808185617


    @markdavison - Your PR person may be right. Try to be more enthusiastic about your niche or field, not about yourself or your products.





    hype vs. marketing 2

    http://twitter.com/vaspersthegrate/
    statuses/808185108


    @markdavidson - For me, it's all about being passionate about ideas, and not about my own products, music, or marketing expertise.



    Marketing begins with the customer's needs, problems, or desires. Not with the company, product, or sales pitch.

    You start with the actual situation and human reality of the customer. You build a gestalt, a complete vision of what the customer wants to accomplish, then present the product in terms of how it helps the customer in a reliable, economical, efficient, satisfying manner.

    Or, as in music and food especially, the instant consumables, you give free samples. Let the product sell itself to those with the required tastes, interests, and needs. Talking about music is boring. Let's hear it and have it. Let your fans hear and have your music, for free, abundantly, and they may do you the favor of distributing it to others, and causing a groundswell of craving for more, at any price. The collector mentality.

    If you want to annoy people, use idiotic, self-centered hype.

    If you want to help people, use smart, altruistic marketing.

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Twitter as social bookmarking


    Twitter is a popular micro-blogging, status update, link archiving, and asynchronous chat communication tool.

    It's also, like many Web 2.0 sites, a lively social community. Users share everything from what they had for lunch, or what airport they're stuck in...to profound declarations of revolutionary activism and links to emerging tech tools that are now open to beta testers.

    Unlike FarceBook, I mean Facebook, it's remained simple, streamlined, and sleek.

    Let's look briefly at using Twitter as a way to keep all your favorite or important links in one convenient location, while enabling others to visit those. Saving a URL to your Favorites or Bookmarks file is private bookmarking. Sharing links with others, in addition to archiving the links for personal use, is called "social bookmarking".

    del.icio.us is a popular social bookmarking site. Jason Calacanis once said, on Twitter, that he was going to "blog over at del.icio.us" for a while, exclusively, as an experiment. You can blog on del.icio.us because you can attach comments to the links you post.

    But if Twitter is your primary communication channel, why not use it as your social bookmarking application?

    You have a Twitter account.

    You tweet (send a Twitter message) to your Followers, and if they happen to be on Twitter's rushing river of brevities at that moment, they'll see it "live", in real time. If not, they won't ever read it, unless they consider your tweets so valuable, they click on your Profile and view your past messages.

    So, there you are, communicating in 140 character bursts to your Followers. Pithy writing, condensing a complex or frivolous thought to essential wording, this is a marketable skill. Business writing is not easy, and brevity, being concise and short in your communication, is a valuable art. So as you tweet, you're increasingly gain skill in fast, brief communication.

    But let's say you're not on Twitter, you're just surfing the web, researching a topic, or looking for something entertaining, a blog post or video or music. When you find something that is so cool or helpful, you wish others could know about it, Twitter the link.

    When you share the link with your Twitter community, you must turn a long web address into a short one. You can use TinyURL to accomplish this task. Use your cursor or keyboard command to highlight the URL, go to Edit in your browser chrome and click on Copy, or use Ctrl + C on your keyboard.

    http://tinyurl.com/

    You have now saved the URL to your browser memory, and can convert it to a shorter web address. Paste that long URL into the text entry box on the TinyURL interface. Once you've shortened the URL, it's ready for your tweet.

    To speed up the conversion process, install a TinyURL toolbar button on your browser, so every time you need to convert a URL to short form, you just click on the button. TinyURL then converts the URL of the web page to a shorter code.

    SAMPLE Twitter message, in social bookmarking mode:


    Free legal mp3s of A Silver Mt. Zion, avant-garde classical art music, at http://tinyurl.com/3t2ch9


    That's about 90 characters, well under the 140 limit. But it conveys what the link is, what kind of music, and name of band, with a URL that your Followers can click on to visit the site.

    Voila! You've just shared a link. You've also archived it, for your own future personal reference. You may want to print out your tweets, so you have an offline copy of your messages and shared links, for when Twitter is down, or if Twitter ever vanishes.

    SIDE NOTE: A blogger once said that TinyURL could be the next Digg or YouTube, perhaps even bigger. TinyURL database contains URLs of web pages that people have gone to the trouble of converting to shorter addresses, so these web pages must be significant. The data mining possibilities are clearly there.

    +!+