Ten things that will kick start your brain.

One of my favorite parts of my career is getting to stay on top of design, entertainment, sociology and communications developments that all come together to form marketing that moves people. As I scan as much content as I can I often come across things that get my synapses firing even if they are not directly related to marketing. As the mind is star player for any creative worker you need to keep it stimulated to break through to your own next big idea. Here is a list of ten things that have inspired and energized me.

1) Marcelle the Shell – It just shows you that whatever you do, do it well, even if it is making a video about a shell with one eye. This guy is so cute you can’t help but get cheered up.

2) – Who knew even chairs can be inspiring.

3) – truth well told wrapped up with a pretty bow. Data vizualization is coming to the masses and will hopefully save us from information overload.

4) Breakdance/ballet video – The range of human ability never ceases to amaze me. Seeing people doing what looks impossible makes you realize most of the barriers you face you create yourself.

5) Watch a magic show. When you see the “impossible” happen right before your eyes, it puts your brain in a sustained state of disonance. My experience is that this helps snap you out of thinking in the same patterns that you have habituated to. Seeing Travis Bernhardt perform at The Vancouver International Fringe Festival got my mind racing and I highly recomend you check him out if you can.

6) – you will see the work of some really talented people here and enjoy every minute of it. As an aside I love that you can’t jump forward in the videos so you put your trust in the curators and invest your 4 minutes to get the reward.

7) The blog Just try not to get too jealous of this guys life, get inspired and make it your own!

8) This promotional video for Boone Oakley. You have to do things differently to be noticed and these guys walk the walk.

9) – No secret here but I have always wanted to be the 100,000,000 th person to link to something.

10) This quote. Embrace failure. Fail forward. Fail quickly. So that you can start again.


New Rules or No Rules in Social Media Marketing?

Triggered by Forbes’ Magazine article listing the “20 best social media campaigns of all time” but ultimately motivated by his love of the film itself and a tinge of ghoulish excitement leading up to Halloween, Chad Freeman, social media specialist for MassMedia Corporate Communications examined “The Social Media Lessons from the Blair Witch Project“.

online social media buzz blair witchI dug this post but don’t agree with everything that was written. While trying to add potency to his theory that the technique and execution of the campaign were more important than the film itself, the author attempts to rebuke two commonly held assumptions about what products can be successfully marketed virally:

1) products that are of great quality and essentially sell themselves
2) products that are new and novel so people talk about them naturally.

I will agree with the author’s and Rotten Tomatoes’ assessment that the film was not great. However, I would challenge his second assessment however that faux documentary films had been done before. To me, other than hearing stories of the War of the Worlds radio hysteria, for most of the BWP’s target audience, university and college students, it would have been the first time such an eerie but plausible story was presented to them in a way that lead you to believe it was authentic. And also, the larger Blair Witch story (which was the true product of the campaign as identified by the author) that three students had disappeared under mysterious/supernatural circumstances and that their experience was documented would have been novel and remarkable at any time.


Social Media Testing – Hootsuite on Facebook

Vancouver based social media darling Hootsuite practice what they preach and use Twitter and Facebook to maintain relationships with their users. I would be interested to test how well Hootsuite is serving their community using their Facebook page Since Hootsuite is Facebook partner allowing scheduled puplishing to that network, they have a vested interest in using Facebook and using it properly. 

At first blush I would say Hootsuites’s current excecution on Facebook is actually decreasing goodwill and their positioning as social media experts with consumers. Many user questions are going unacknowledged for long periods of time. It would be valuable for Hootsuite to know if this is negatively effecting customer satisfaction and if so what changes could be made to remedy the problem.

The target population for the research would be users that are currently using Facebook to communicate with Hootsuite. This population is social media savvy and most likely to be active on Twitter and Facebook either personally or professionally so they can be effectively reached online and more specifically using Facebook itself. With over 100,000 fans a reasonable sample size could be drawn upon and specifically the smaller population of people asking questions through the Facebook “wall” would be very accesible.

This population would be important to research as they are likely the decision makers within organizations that may need Hootsuite products. If Hootsuite wants to continue to be seen as a leader in social media and migrate more current customers to a paid service it is important to determine if they are offering an adequate level of support and make improvements if necessary. By surveying this population Hootsuite could also identify what services/tools current users would be most willing to pay for in their paid “Pro” product.

It would be effective to set-up a web based survey and offer one month of Hootsuite Pro for free to people who respond. The incentive should encourage participation with a bias towards people that are emotionally invested in Hootsuite which in this case is appropriate as for this survey their opinions are more imprtant and informed than the general public that might be induced to respond if the reward was more general like an iPod giveaway. The survey would have the added benefit of driving product trial and creating a new population that could be surveyed to evaluate the perceived value of Hootsuite Pro after a one month evaluation.

The survey could be promoted directly on the Hootsuite wall, as an “event” invitation to all Hootsuite fans as well as using Twitter and the Hootsuite blog to attract participants. During the respondent recruiting phase, Hootsuite could also invite users to complete the survey in their responses to user questions on the “wall”.

Social Media

Pandas on a plane

My aim is that if this blog were a person, you would want to sit beside them on a long-distance flight because they’re friendly, funny, share the good section of the newspaper and know when to shut up. Life can be too serious. People are busy and if they are going to take the time to read, I need to at worst give them something to grin about and at best give them a new perspective, while grinning.

I write about communications, advertising, sports, food and media. So do a lot of other people. So, my words need to stand out from the herd like pink pandas. Friendly pink pandas you want to take home to be your pets. Communicating in a way that makes people take notice and then take action is my product and if I can’t do it for myself, how can I suggest I’ll do it for clients?

Plus, like attracts like and I want to work with fun companies, companies that are serious about not taking themselves too seriously. Companies like

Threadless’ fun loving and informal culture comes through in their social media campaigns. They even almost make myspace seem cool

Threadless is brief in their social media communications. They talk about the important things, like cool t-shirts and food. For a week all they really used Twitter for was to get street food trucks to set-up in front of their office so they could dine.

Crouching Tiger Stolen Panda.

Even when they are mad, Threadless is friendly. And smart about spreading the brand love. When one of their contributor’s designs was “appropriated” by a visual artist for a gallery show, they took effective action and blended it with a good dose of humour. Via a flash-mob they staged a silent protest. Most wore t-shirts featuring the stolen design, bar one who wore a full-size panda costume. They snapped some great pics and made sure to get them up in their flickr account. Of course the activation got mentioned in many other blogs because people don’t like cheaters and they love pandas.

Hopefully Threadless doesn’t forget their persona and their community as they continue to grow. Of late on Facebook they seem less neighbourly. Listening less and taking a longer time to respond to customer comments on the wall, sometimes not at all. They are becoming somewhat one-sided in the conversation, pushing recent promotions and products is becoming a bigger portion of their Twitter pie (where once meat-pies served from trucks were the order of the day). Their community is following suit, most posts are just plugs for individual designs trying to score enough votes to get printed. And last time I checked that type of banter is rarely grin inducing.


On Truth and Transparency

Former BP CEO Tony Hayward's low point in transparency that contributed to his removal from the position and drew the ire and fire of the public via social media.

Subtitled: Why being transparent is important in Social Media (but not without being honest.)

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, was a book written in 1999 by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. It identified the internet’s role in creating new customer to company conversations and employee to employee conversations via 95 theses.

The book stated stated that ‘markets are conversations” (Twitter initially considered but ultimately rejected the slogan “Join the markets” : ) and at first blush appears to be extremely prescient on the issues facing social media marketers in 2010. (In the interest of transparency I have to admit I have only read the elevator pitch and about 50 words of the book.)

Point 62 of the manifesto states: Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

In Andrew Cherwenka’s blog revisiting the Cluetrain Manifesto on the occasion of its tenth anniversary his take is that a decade after the book’s publishing “we have come a long way to the illusion of transparency and effective participation but not much closer to achieving it.”

One of his points is that while executives are more visible than ever, capitalizing on the reach and instant access of YouTube and Twitter their messages are often nothing more than messages crafted by their agencies or “flacks”. This is an effort to appear transparent but in an affront to the spirit of transparency that they claim to embrace, I would add that executives and politicians frequently don’t disclose that others are speaking on their behalf in these channels.

If corporations chose to have agencies or ghostwriters post opinions of behalf of executives they at very least need to come clean and clarify in account details that others are posting through their persona.

What has proven even worse than the company-line being pushed out by undisclosed third parties through an executive’s “personal” social media channels,  is when the public is given access to an executive and their honest opinion is out of sync with the corporate message. It has been said that “information wants to be free” and I would argue that “the truth wants to be known”. It has the uncanny ability to come to the surface at the worst possible time for those who hope to hold it back. Especially when armies of every-men are looking for it and are in a great position to tell their friends when they find it. If an executive does not truly embody or believe in the company messaging of the day, now more than ever, chances of “catastrophic truth” coming out are considerable.

And when it does the days of being able to control your message are gone. For as much as a social network of engaged customers can spread a positive message, bad news travels far and it travels fast on the lips of the very people organizations are trying to build a relationship with via social media. And these people do not appreciate being treated like dupes.

Is there a better example of how transparency without truth can backfire than when BP executive Tony Hayward expressed deep regret for the impact of the gulf oil spill and then in the next breath says he “Wants his life back.”?  The media and consumers immediately picked up on the contradiction between his crafted message and candid comments and the discussion boards flew into overdrive. And not in a good way for BP.

In his 2007 Book “Meatball Sundae” Seth Godin brought to light the risks companies run by not adapting their business practices to the new media reality. Simply using new media techniques without changing your practices is like putting whip-cream and a cherry on a meatball. They key is synchronization. As elaborated on earlier it is crucial in social media that transparency is synchronized with a truthful message.

In a time where it is harder and harder to keep the truth from surfacing, organizations are advised to expect the truth to come out and modify their business practices so that they have as little as possible to be embarrassed of. While this is much more difficult than dressing up your corporate image and message to match the values of your consumers it is becoming the only viable option.

If an organization is not in a position to be legitimately transparent and their actions or the opinions of their leaders do not match the brand message, it is reasonable to limit these leaders’ social media access. Being found out to being deceitful is a bigger risk than not attermpting to appear transparent.

Social Media

Stories and ideas still make the world go round.

30,000 years ago man painted his story on his cave wall, now he posts it to his Facebook wall.

While technology has changed the human drive is the same. People are still engaged by telling their own story and learning other’s stories.

I have made a career of telling stories and getting people’s stories heard. As a journalists, film festival founder and event marketer I have been creating ways for compeling stories to be told. Now my focus is on helping organizations like BCIT, Canada Place and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games be heard and hear in the age of the “social web”.

Just because you have a social media hammer it does not mean every problem is a social media nail. You need to have a complete tool box to find the right tool for the communications job. Live events, phone calls or even after all this time, writting on a wall can still be the best ways to get your story heard.

To learn more about me visit my LinkedIn Profile.