The inspirational quote I would have shared

I messed up.

Each Friday, we finish up our weekly staff meetings with an inspirational quote. For the first time it was my turn. And I completely forgot.

I was going to use a quote from Bill Bernbach — the “B” in ad agency DDB. I like the guy. I refer to him and his legacy when I’m trying to help clients and prospective clients understand and appreciate the way social media is redefining the entire marketing communications landscape. Bernbach is given credit for helping to launch a creative revolution in advertising around 1960, one that would forever alter the way in which marketers speak to consumers. The impact of social marketing is just as profound. I describe it as the second major revolution in marketing, with Bernbach’s being the first.

Bernbach was also a quote machine. Here are some of his gems:

“A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

“Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”

“In communications, familiarity breeds apathy.”

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”

“Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise… not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.”


Today the quotes are a little dated. They came from an era when the best way to sell stuff was through TV ads. There were only three or three television stations in most markets and people watched shows in groups at predetermined times. The Internet wouldn’t come to people’s homes for another 35 years and digital video recorders were still 45 years away.

But replace the words “advertising” with “social media” in his quotes and they are just as relevant as they were in 1960.

How to get Social Media Smart

I just made a presentation to business and marketing students from across Ontario at the Queen’s Marketing Association Conference.

My topic: How to get Social Media Smart. My thesis was simple: You’re into marketing. You want to work in marketing. Social Media Marketing is huge and growing and if you’re not already active in this space you’d better get there fast.

Before I get to my seven tips on How to Get Social Media Smart, a few quick observations…

  • While these university students get social media, their experience is largely limited to Facebook, YouTube and reading blogs. Only a couple wrote their own blogs. Most didn’t know much about Twitter or LinkedIn; few used social bookmarking tools or feed readers.
  • The exception was one guy who put up his hand for everything — he blogs, he Twitters and Jaikus, he uses feed readers and social bookmarking. If I were hiring for a marketing job, he’s he guy I would want.
  • They also told me that Facebook is still gaining in popularity on campus. It’s easy to get stuck in our tech geek bubble where Facebook is, like, so 2007, but it’s worth remembering that Facebook is still, by far, the No. 1 social network in Canada. Marketers who don’t have a Facebook strategy are behind the 8-ball.

That said, I offered them seven tips on How to Get Social Media Smart. Here they are:

  1. Join another social network. Facebook isn’t enough. Try LinkedIn or Twitter, or another social network.
  2. Read blogs, lots of blogs.
  3. Listen to podcasts. My favourites include Marketing over Coffee, For Immediate Release and Six Pixels of Separation. (Come to think of it, I’m probably somewhat indebted to Mitch Joel of Six Pixels for this list; he did a similar list in his New Year’s Show).
  4. Join the conversation. Don’t just lurk. Blog, microblog, post comments on blogs, leave comments on podcasts.
  5. Use a feed reader. (I use Google Reader.)
  6. Use a social bookmarking tool. (I use del.icio.us.)
  7. Manage your own online brand. Google yourself. Try to develop a consistent online persona. And remember that everything you post online (even in a closed community like Facebook) can live on forever.

The "New Marketing"

“I’m arguing that something just shifted — that the New Marketing isn’t just about technology, is not just an online phenomenon, and isn’t wacky. Not anymore.”

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Twittersquatting targets General Motors

General Motors unveiled a major, global social media campaign last week to mark the company’s 100th birthday. The platform, called GMnext, includes a commitment to allow/encourage its employees to participate in discussions about the company though blogs, wikis and discussion forums.

In a blog post about GMnext, Shel Holtz refers to the recent discussion about whether brands or organizations can actually participate in social networks — or only people representing those brands or organizations. GM, he notes, won’t try to participate as a brand, but will let its own flesh and blood employees represent the company. That obviously comes with risks, but it shows that General Motors understands that the communications landscape has changed radically over the past 18 months or so.

It’s particularly interesting to me that — for such an important anniversary — General Motors has decided to write its history through social media instead of commissioning an official biography. GM has set up an internal wiki through which employees and retirees will collaborate on an online company history.

This is all great.

But Dutch blogger Marco Derksen noticed that the company had failed to stake out its ground on various prominent social networks. So he went and secured GMnext branding on networks including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, del.icio.us and Flickr.

He’s done it to prove a point and says he’ll gladly surrender the identities in exchange for a cup of coffee with GM execs in New York. The point is this: Just like it’s best practice to guard against cybersquatters by securing domain names similar to your own, it’s also a good idea to protect against twittersquatters (or MySpacesquatters or Facebooksquatters) by securing user IDs in those space.

I don’t disagree, but I think this raises an interesting issue. Most companies — even big ones like GM — don’t have the resources to participate in every social network. Best practice would say you pick the big ones (like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) and join the conversations.

But, what if you don’t have the resources (or the commitment) to truly be part of that conversation? Yes, you could set up Twitter so it would update with blog posts, but what if there’s nobody available to really participate and discuss in this forum? Is it better to secure the Twitter ID so nobody else can use it, even if you aren’t really participating? Or is a disengaged presence even worse than no presence at all?

8 things you didn’t know about me

David Jones from Hill & Knowlton has tagged me in the “8 things you didn’t know about me” meme.

Here I go:

  • My 2004 book, Air Monopoly, is on sale at a deep (34%) discount at Chapters.
  • At Jarvis Collegiate Institute, I acted in an improv comedy group called “the Scary, Scary Monkey Improv Society.” Actress Mia Kirshner was also in the group. She was ranked No. 43 on the Maxim Hot Women list of 2002.
  • In my reporter days, I interviewed Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin but never Stephen Harper.
  • Last summer I played in a fantasy baseball league for the first time. I can’t wait for the 2008 season.
  • I got my first computer, a Vic 20, when I was eight. If memory serves correct, it sold for $399 (Canadian) and had 5 kilobytes of ram.
  • At Queen’s University, I was president of the Alma Mater Society, the central student government. My proudest moment was persuading the university’s board to remove the clause in the university’s constitution which referred to Queen’s as a “Christian” institution. We did this in the name of inclusiveness.
  • While I pretend to be exotic in my travel tastes, I really, really enjoy the artificiality of places like cruise ships, Vegas and Disney World. Especially Disney World.
  • I met my wife Laura doing Model Parliament in Ottawa. We went back a couple years later and I proposed to her at the eternal flame. We’re celebrating 10 years next September.

So who to tag next: Mathew Ingram, Nick O’Neill, Richard Bloom, Joe Thornley, David Alston, Chris Marritt, Rachel Clarke and Jason Theodor.

Sorry Scoble: You don’t own your friends

Who owns your friends: You or Facebook?

Robert Scoble, the big time Web celeb and co-author of Naked Conversations, has been kicked off Facebook for violating the site’s terms of service.

In a post about the move today, Scoble admits he was running scripts on the site (apparently in violation of Facebook’s terms of service) but says he should be allowed to take his friends with him and move to another social network. He’s thrown his support behind dataportability.org.

The argument in favour of friend portability is summed up well by a comment on Scoble’s blog from Chris Hambly, who writes:

Yes this is one of the reasons FB annoys me, it is MY social graph, my time and energy, I want to export it.


Yes, it’s your time and energy, but is it really your social graph? Sorry Scoble, I disagree.

As a private company, Facebook has no obligation to let you have a last meal and say your bye byes when you violate its terms of service. Scoble paints himself as some sort of dark knight vigilante, testing Facebook’s terms of service to protect us all. And maybe he is. But he broke the rules, he got caught and now he has to pay the price.

Many will argue that it’s good business for Facebook to allow data portability. They say that the network that has the least onerous terms of service will prevail. And to a point I agree, but not when it comes to data portability. That’s kind of like saying that whatever restaurant lets people eat for free will get the most visitors. Social networks will make money on the strength of their members’ social graphs.

Facebook gets this and won‘t let you take yours away without a fight. At Facebook Camp Toronto in October, Facebook’s Ami Vora boasted about the nework’s social graph and how it made Facebook so important and powerful for developers.

Besides, it doesn’t look like Facebook has banned Scoble permanently, just “disabled” his account. It looks like he’s getting a chance to promise he won’t break the rules again. I think the chances of him agreeing to that are about as likely as the chances that Facebook will let him teleport his social graph to another network.

(Thanks to Tyler Reed for this image of Scoble on Facebook).

Does the world need any more predictions?

I decided to start 2008 off right. The first thing I did on arrival in the office (after checking my Twitter feed as per New Year’s Resolutions post) was to read through the various 2008 predictions for technology and social media.

You can find them tagged as “2008predictions” on my del.icio.us page.

So clearly, there’s no shortage of predictions out there, but just for fun, here’s four of my own:

1) Social media will continue to move from computer to mobile devices. This is pretty obvious, except for the fact that most North American marketers haven’t thought much about it yet. The migration will take some time, especially in Canada, which lags most of the developed world in mobile marketing, but 2008 will see some major moves forward.

2) Social networks will understand that not all friends are created equal. Friends, colleagues, family, prospective employers — all are different types of friends with whom I should be able to share different bits of information. Google showed they don’t understand this when they began sharing Google Reader bookmarks with Google Talk contacts. Watch for increased ability to tag friends based on relationships and set privacy settings accordingly.

3) The slowdown will help the entrenched. The U.S. economy is expected to cool in 2008. I don’t think we’ll see the bubble burst the way it did a few years back for dot coms. In fact, I think entrenched players like Facebook and Twitter will continue to see valuations rise. But the slowdown may mean less venture capital for challenger social networks. So I don’t think we’ll see a “new Facebook” in 2008, the way we saw Facebook become the “new MySpace” in 2007. (The caveat here is Google, which has the resources to make itself into the dominant player in any Web sector, either through development or acquisition.)

4) 2008 will see the rise of a better Second Life. Google is already rumoured to be building one. Facebook should too. The fact that these companies are custodians of the so-called social graphs make them well suited to transition into a virtual reality space that could get mass traction.

My Social Media New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year. Here are my five Social Media New Year’s Resolutions for 2008:

1) Master Twitter. I tried Twitter several months ago, but didn’t get much out of it. But everybody is still talking about it (everybody, at least, in the social media marketing bubble). Maybe I wasn’t using it right. Used properly, they say, it’s more than a “What am I doing tool” and more of a “What am I thinking” tool with great potential for business networking and personal branding. Jaiku is said to be the better microblogging tool, but Twitter is where the people are, and in this world, the size of the social graph is most of what counts.

2) Live a Second Life. With a new job, a social media practice to build and two small kids, I haven’t found the time needed to invest in Second Life. But I know I need to spend some time there. Second Life is no longer quite as “hot” as it was a year or so ago. (More than one person has quipped that the fact that Canada Post is now there means the Second Life phenomenon is over). But virtual worlds are here to stay, and hugely relevant for marketers. If Second Life isn’t the killer world, somebody will come along and invent a better one.

3) Communitize. I know that’s not a word. But in addition to writing my own blog, I will be more active in commenting on other blogs and podcasts.

4) Get Veritas more plugged in. Most of my Veritas colleagues are on Facebook. A few are regulars at Third Tuesday gatherings. Most of them read blogs and some of them even write them. But I’d like to help my colleagues get more tapped into the social media tools that have made me smarter and more productive in this new world. Tools like Google Reader and Del.icio.us. And if I master Twitter, maybe they will too.

5) Get myself less plugged in. The future of social networking isn’t on computers, but on wireless devices. I need to use these tools less often on my laptop and more often on my Blackberry.

So those are mine. What am I missing? And more importantly, what are your Social Media resolutions?

Another take on the Social Media Release

We had the pleasure this week of launching another Social Media Release (SMR), this time to mark NutriSystem’s arrival in the Canadian market.

Meanwhile, Craig McGill, a British journalist and author, challenged some of the assumptions about SMRs, based on the one we created for com.motion’s launch. He had some very kind words to say about what Veritas/com.motion is doing over here on this side of the pond, but also raised some questions about the medium.

Here’s my thoughts on the issues he raises. Craig writes:

1) Most journalists don’t have time to sit and sift through all of that detail. There’s three videos there, survey results, highlights and a traditional press release. If the journalist is interested, what they want is the story quickly so they’ll rip the traditional release, play about with it a little, give it a new intro and move on. The journalist expects all the main points to be in that press release, making the rest a little
superfluous.


My experience as a journalist was little different. Yes, journalists need to be able to access the key facts fast. But I always appreciated it when I had an array of background materials to help me in putting my story together. Even if 99 per cent of it was irrelevant, the other 1 per cent could save me time and make my story stronger. Not only that, but I think the bullet-point facts in an SMR allow journalists to access the key facts even faster than a traditional press release written in paragraph form.

2) If this is sent as a URL link in an email, 9/10 (at least)
journalists won’t even click on it, based on my experience.

This remains to be seen. While I think Craig’s 90-per-cent estimate of non-link-clickers is too high, it’s reasonable to assume that there are dinosaurs in every newsroom who won’t open links. Some may still prefer to get press releases by fax. That’s why, when pitching journalists we don’t know, we tend to cut and paste the traditional press release into the body of the e-mail in addition to providing them with the SMR link. It’s a different issue with blogger relations. They tend to favour links and to shun cut-and-paste jobs.

3) How long is a press release like that going to take to get pulled together? Unless you have a large team ready to do each release – writing, editing, production – with fairly decent kit it’s going to take a considerable amount of time, which is time not spent on other clients.

SMRs take time. So do traditional press releases. But if they add value for our clients, then it’s time well spent.

4) What’s the approval process going to be like? It can take days for clients to approve a couple of pars and it can take weeks for a final release to be approved. What will they be like with video? Will there be notes saying ‘take out 2:28 until 2:56 but definitely keep in 3:45-4:01′?

Not every SMR needs to have an interview. Sometimes video can be incorporated in other ways, such as a television commercial or a product demo. And in my experience the length of the approvals process depends more on the client — and whether there are lawyers involved — than on the medium of the release.

5) If you want the audio to be useful to TV crews make it available in a decent format for download, not YouTube Flash.

Agreed. This video is not suitable for TV, but designed for bloggers. By hosting videos on YouTube it is easy for bloggers to embed, as David Jones did here with one of the videos we produced for com.motion’s launch.

6) On that note, where’s the audio for the radio stations and podcasts? I know I go on and on about this, but you have to think standalone audio as well as video.

Point taken. An MP3 file for podcasts would have been a good idea, particularly for the launch of a social media division.

David concludes by writing that what he likes most about SMRs is that they show that public relations is PR not MR (media relations):

For a journalist what is on the site is probably too much, but for someone looking into the topic it’s fantastic if they have the time to sit and read/watch it all.

Agreed. SMRs have three targets: journalists, bloggers and customers/consumers. The best SMRs are the ones that balance these interests and prioritize them according to each communications initiative.