My CluetrainPlus10 post: Thesis #3

cluetrain2

This post is my contribution to the ClutrainPlus10 project, in which 95 bloggers are commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto by reflecting on the 95 theses of this seminal social media marketing work.

Thesis #3: Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

A lot has changed in my life over the past two years.

In April of 2007, I was still working as a business reporter at the Globe and Mail where my job was to try to turn corporate gobbledygook into Stylebook-approved English.  Learning corporate speak is critical to success in business reporting. There’s a certain pride in knowing you can follow the conversation when analysts ask coded questions in a conference call and a certain arrogance in knowing you’re better than all that. Reporters tend to look down on the way that corporate types speak with all their “leverage this to operationalize that” mumbo jumbo.

A couple months later, I left the Globe and went darkside, joining a PR agency in downtown Toronto. My job was to build and launch com.motion, the social media marketing division of Veritas Communications. I built a “Social Media 101” presentation to teach our clients what all this was about. On more than one occasion, the clients seemed lost until I got to the slide about the Cluetrain Manifesto. I learned that these simple theses were still relevant and powerful 10 years later.

Then a few months ago, I switched jobs again, joining Rogers Communications where I’m building a team to speak to customers and critics. In English. In conversations that sound human. It’s a work in progress. Shortly after joining Rogers, I jumped on Twitter to respond to our customers. One of my followers shot back:

you gotta loosen up a bit there, Keith — that was kind of a de facto PR blurb

That came from my friend and former Globe colleague Mathew Ingram (see earlier paragraph about cynical reporters). Speaking in a human voice should be easy but language is complex. We speak in different ways to our friends, our parents, our kids, our co-workers, our customers. Words mean different things in different contexts and conversations.

But social media can be an antidote. For the first time, corporate spokespeople now have the freedom to be human. This freedom allows us to connect with our customers like never before. And that would be a terrible thing to waste.

CluetrainPlus10 is here!

Used under Creative Commons license.

Used under Creative Commons license.

It’s  April 28 in Europe and the first blog post just went live in the #cluetrainplus10 project.

It seems like forever ago (I was in a different job at the time) that I came up with a simple idea of celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Cluetrain Manefesto. 95 bloggers writing 95 posts on the 95 theses in one day in April.

Dozens of you have signed up to participate. At the time of this writing there are still a few theses left – I’m hoping these will fill up tomorrow as people begin to write their posts.  Visit the cluetrainplus10 wiki to claim any vacant thesis.

To answer a couple questions I’ve received over the past 24 hours:

  • Post should be on your own blog, not the wiki
  • You don’t need to let me know when you post – just send out an alert via Twitter. You can also embed the link to your finished post at the wiki.

My post on thesis #3 will be up tomorrow. Looking forward to writing, posting and reading all the great content.

Cluetrain Plus 10 Project Needs You!

cluetrain-7784761The date is set. On Tuesday, April 28, 95 bloggers from around the world will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Cluetrain author Christopher Locke has signed up for the project, as have several high profile bloggers including Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Shel Holtz.

But there’s room for more. To sign up to participate in the project, visit the Cluetrain Plus 10 wiki and sign up for the thesis you’d like to write about or leave a comment here and I’ll add you to the list. More details on what’s involved can also be found at the wiki.

cluetrain plus 10: 95 bloggers. 95 theses. one day in april.

One day in April. 95 posts on 95 blogs on the 95 theses in the cluetrain manifesto.

A few weeks ago I wrote about plans to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the cluetrain manifesto with a series of posts on my blog. But the interest from that post led to a better idea. Let’s get a bunch of bloggers together to write about the manifesto in one day in April.

I’ve already heard back from several prominent bloggers who are going to take part including Chris Brogan, Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Andy Beal and Mitch Joel.

The goal is to commemorate the tenth anniversary of cluetrain, but the posts need not be fawning praise. Let’s explore each of the theses and debate how relevant they remain 10 years later. (In fact, I’ve invited John C. Dvorak to take part, who has been quite critical of what he calls the cluetrain cult.)

I don’t have a final answer yet on how many of the cluetrain authors will participate, but author Chris Locke tells me there is also a tenth anniversary edition of the book coming out in July.

Stay tuned for more information on the cluetrain plus 10 project.

Lifecasting vs. Mindcasting on Twitter

comic1I don’t know how many times of I’ve had this conversation:

ME: Are you on Twitter?

THEM: No. I’m just n0t really interested that some guy I follow is having a tuna sandwich for lunch.

I’ve heard similar comments on podcasts like TWiT and Gillmor Gang from people who are widely viewed as celebrities in the incredibly insular fishbowl that is the social media crowd. (Many of these early deniers have since embraced Twitter and have follower counts that make mine look like a square root).

The usual response – let’s call it Twitter Key Message No. 1 – goes something like this: “Yes, but if you’re talking about what you’re having for lunch, you’re using Twitter in the wrong way. A lot of people use Twitter to just to yak about their tuna sandwich, and that’s okay I guess. But I use Twitter to talk about what I’m thinking or to share interesting blog posts or links.”

The somewhat elitist assumption in Twitter Key Message No. 1  (which I’ve been guilty of spewing from time to time) is that mindcasting is superior to lifecasting. But I no longer agree. Mindcasting is great. Mindcasting is philosophy. Mindcasting will help us resolve the pressing issues of our time like whether Twitter is the new Facebook or Facebook the new Twitter. But lifecasting is our social history. If we could access Tweets from 1,000 years ago, I would be far more interested in learning about how people spent their day (tuna sandwich) than to read endless blather about the latest parchment post.

Even today, the best Twitter posts are often the ones about people’s lives. If you haven’t been there yet, check out favrd, which ranks posts based on how many times they’ve been favourited, after filtering out all inside-the-fishbowl mindcasting (what creator Dean Allencalls the “web-strategy, social-media, online-marketing webcocks – unaware as they are of how toxic their presence is in the arenas they cannot shut up about”).

Here’s a recent example of a Tweet that got high rankings on favrd. This comes from @crispycracka of Atlanta:

Analytics project: It is possible I just messaged my professor & asked if he “wanted my Anal. now or tonight?” Did not think this through.

You don’t get gems like that in mindcasting.

Help me get the terrible Songsmith jingle out of my head

I still can’t believe this is real.

But apparently this is an actual promotional video created by Microsoft’s research team to promote its Songsmith tool – a piece of software that creates accompaniment while you sing along. It’s so bad it’s good and I can’t get the terrible jingle out of my head.

According to the This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast, Microsoft’s Research labs developed the Songsmith program, then created their own video to promote it. You can download the software for free trial. And many people have. Here are a couple of videos they’ve created by running actual vocals from big name artists through Songsmith. The first, for Oasis’ Wonderwall, isn’t bad. The second, for The Police’s Roxanne, is terrible.


My new gig

rogers_logoI’ve got news.

Next week will be my last at Veritas. On February 2, I’m embarking on a new adventure as senior director of social media and digital communications at Rogers Communications. I’ll be building a new team that will develop a social media strategy for the cable, wireless and media company. It’s far too early to get into specifics, but suffice to say that I’m very excited about the challenge ahead.

At the same time, I can’t help but feeling sad about leaving Veritas. This is a tremendous organization with a terrific group of public relations and social media experts. And com.motion (the social media division I helped build and launch 14 months ago) is really starting to take off, as witnessed by our recent expansion into the United States. There are a ton of cool social media campaigns in com.motion’s pipeline and I look forward to seeing them break over the next few months.

So a fond farewell to my friends at Veritas/com.motion and an enthusiastic hello to my new colleagues at Rogers.