Message to Nestlé – stay corporate on SM

Greenpeace has forced a tantrum out of Nestlé. Under pressure Nestlé broke the golden rule corporates must obey on social media platforms – never get personal.

From the Catholic Church to Nestlé, famously troubled for years over its alternatives to mother’s milk. Synchronicity, man (new readers go here).

This time, the firm has tangled with the Rainbow Warriors rather than feminists.

The story started when Greenpeace posted a video on YouTube (view it here) that attacked Nestlé’s use of supposedly unsustainably sourced Indonesian palm oil in its products. The video showed a man unwrapping an orang-utans’s finger from his Kit Kat snack. As he eats it he gets blood all over his face and desk.

Nestlé had YouTube take down the video because it breached copyright (perhaps also because they didn’t like the message). Greenpeace then alerted the media about the ban. That provoked a mob to descend on Nestlé’s Facebook homepage.  Some of the comments they left there were offensive:

“If you or I were to kill a person we’d be put in jail. Nestle has killed tens of thousands of people and it’s just considered a part and parcel of the job. Nestle has killed more people then most terriorists! But that’s okay, people need Nestle products.”

I imagine the blogger was harking back to the baby milk saga.

In response to such tosh, somebody at Nestlé lost their cool, started pointing out spelling mistakes and became sarcastic:

“So, let’s see, we have to be well-mannered all the time but it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to us as everything from idiots right the way down to sons of Satan?”

The answer to Nestlé’s question is yes, you’ve got to take it. If Nestlé wants a presence on SM it must rise above the crowd. Having entered the lion’s den and opened up its Facebook page to all comers, Nestlé has to behave in a restrained and corporate-like fashion if it wants to hang on to its reputation (see some of the damage here here here).

Here’s the thing: Social Media (SM) maybe sado-masochism for the individuals who trade prejudices and insults on the web. It’s mostly masochism for corporates.

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Why not go all the way and call the company ‘Gestapo’?

March 22 I’ll be the first to admit I’d been blissfully unaware of kgb.com’s existence until this year’s March Madness. That changed when, while watching Cornell dismantle Temple I experienced my very first kgb TV spot. I couldn’t figure out what they did, but that was beside the point. What got my immediate attention was the organization’s name: kgb.

I visited the company’s web site in hopes of determining who had founded the company and why, in god’s name, she or he had chosen the same three initials as the murderous Soviet secret police force. Alas, while I did learn that kgb was a leading text information source, I was unable to determine why someone would purposely chose a name associated with torture, assassination and any number of other heinous crimes.

It’s obvious that, despite the horrific name, the company has done well enough to afford a national TV campaign. But, at what cost? Would you want to run home and proudly announce, ‘Hey honey. Guess what? I’ve just landed a job with the KGB!’

And what about the business itself? Does it walk the walk in terms of living up to the original KGB brand promise? To wit,

- Are employees known as kgb agents?
- Are they message-trained to say, ‘We have ways of making you speak’?
- Do they round up competitors and ship them off to some far-away Gulag?
- Do poor performing kgb agents simply ‘disappear’?
- Does employee training include torture techniques?
- Has Joseph Stalin been named an honorary chairman in perpetuity?

Attracting and winning new customers is tough enough nowadays. Could you imagine having to explain why you represent a company whose name perpetuates one of the worst examples of totalitarian dictatorship in human history? Maybe it’s just me, but if I were going down the worst possible names road, I’d go for the jugular. Why settle for kgb when Gestapo.com is unclaimed? I checked. It’s available.

In fact, maybe one of kgb’s lesser-known competitors should rename itself Gestapo and wage a war to the death with kgb. They can even copy Nazi Germany’s blueprint and codename their campaign ‘Operation: Barbarosa’ just like Hitler did for his invasion of Soviet Russia in 1941.

As Lewis Carroll wrote, ‘It gets curioser and curioser.’

The Week’s Best, 22 March 2010

Do you have a suggestion for The Week's Best? Submit it to weeksbest at gmail dot com

Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web

In 2007 Charlene Li, then at Forrester Research, now running the Altimeter Group, along with Forrester ’s Josh Bernoff, Remy Fiorentino, and Sarah Glass released a report that introduced us to Social Technographics.  Forrester’s research segmented participation behavior on the social web into six categories, visualized through a ladder metaphor with the rungs at the high end of the ladder indicating a greater level of participation.

Social Technographics were designed to help businesses engage in social media with a more human approach, catering to individuals where, when, and how they are participating and contributing to the social Web. According to Forrester research…

Many companies approach social computing as a list of technologies to be deployed as needed – a blog here, a podcast there – to achieve a marketing goal.  But a more coherent approach is to start with your target audience and determine what kind of relationship you want to build with them, based on what they are ready for. Forrester categorizes social computing behaviors into a ladder with six levels of participation; we use the term “Social Technographics” to describe analyzing a population according to its participation in these levels. Brands, Web sites, and any other company pursuing social technologies should analyze their customers’ Social Technographics first, and then create a social strategy based on that profile.

The hierarchy was presented as follows:

Creators, those who publish web pages, blogs and other social objects – 13%

Critics, individuals who comment on blogs or post ratings and reviews – 19%

Collectors, those who use RSS and/or tag Web pages – 15%

Joiners, people who are active in social networks – 19%

Spectators, content consumers who read blogs, watch user-generated videos, and listen to podcasts – 33%

Inactives – 52%

2007

Over the years, the Social Technographics ladder evolved, with the numbers growing and shifting as social media grew in prominence among mainstream users. In January 2010, Forrester’s Josh Bernoff released an update to the popular Social Technographics ladder to visualize and categorize the current state of how consumers participate in the social Web. As you can see, behavior shifted upward in droves, in some cases doubling the level of engagement within roles that define social experiences. The definitions have also evolved to better reflect the online activity of today’s socialites.

Creators
2007 – 13%
2010 – 24%

Critics
2007 – 19%
2010 – 37%

Collectors
2007 – 15%
2010 – 20%

Joiners
2007 – 19%
2010 – 59%

Spectators
2007 – 33%
2010 – 70%

Inactives
2007 – 52%
2010 – 17%

2010

This year, Forrester observed notable activity that warranted the creation of a new rung on the Technographics ladder, one that earned a top position just below Creators. According to Forrester, America is increasingly becoming a nation of social chatterboxes. A recent Forrester survey that polled more then 10,000 consumers shows that one in every three online Americans is a “conversationalist” – someone who updates their status in the statusphere (any social network with an update window) at least once per week. Conversationalists represent 33% of today’s online social behavior.

The survey identified the people behind the category, with 56% of conversationalists representing the highest concentration of women in any social group. And, 70% of this group were 30 years or older.

Again, the goal of Social Technographics was not only to classify individual participation in social media, but also to encourage the design and segmentation of focused marketing, branding, and engagement programs that appeal to these respective groups.

Socialgraphics

The Altimeter Group believes that in order to effectively form ties that bind with social customers, businesses must genuinely understand the social behaviors of consumers. In January 2010, Charlene Li and company introduced us to Socialgraphics to serve the intelligence necessary to develop a social strategy based on a consumer-defined Engagement Pyramid. By personalizing the messages and the digital conduits between brands and markets, businesses evolve from a carpet bombing campaign that essentially marketed at faceless consumers using mediums that appealed to targeted demographics (characterized by age, income, gender, education, etc.) instead of psychographics (grouped by interest).

According to Altimeter, Socialgraphics asks several key questions that allow brands to focus and tailor resources on the very people that comprise each answer.

1. Where are your customers online?

2. What are your customers’ social behaviors online?

3. What social information or people do your customers rely on?

4. What is your customers’ social influence? Who trusts them?

5. How do your customers use social technologies in the context of your products?

In order to truly and effectively engage, we need to understand the behavior and categorization of our customer base. As such, Altimeter’s Engagement Pyramid focuses and ranks social behavior…

Curating – Heavily involved in online communities such as discussion boards, fan pages, and wikipedia through moderation, contribution, editing, etc. These curators contribute their time, energy, and perspective to improve the foundation for available information on a given subject.

Producing - Creates and publishes original content and social objects as a way of expressing expertise, positions, as well as contributing to the ecosystem of information those in the other categories seek to share thoughts and also make decisions.

Commenting - Responds to the content created by Producers. Even though they do not actively create and distribute original social objects, their activity is still influential to those around them.

Sharing – Individuals who actively update their status on social sites and upload/forward photos, videos, articles, etc. This behavior earns relevance and also demonstrates knowledge and awareness.

Watching - Content consumers who are seeking information in order to make decisions or learn from peers, or purely seeking entertainment.

Altimeter also maps the Engagement Pyramid to Twitter, as online behavior is unique to the culture and communication that define the Twitterverse.

Curating – #hashtag

Sharing/Producing – Tweet

Sharing – Re-tweet (RT)

Commenting – @reply

Watching – Read Tweets

Behaviorgraphics

Technographics and Socialgraphics humanize our markets, allowing us to better understand the activities and behaviors that will allow us to make informed decisions about how and where we communicate and to what extent. This is about engendering responses that are governed by unique touchpoints based on the placement of our customers within the respective pecking order of social participation.

Genuine engagement is inspired by the research and data we accumulate as we analyze the social web and the specific activity and people who define our markets and audiences. We are now required to tailor our stories and distribute them specifically in the channels that cater to the technographics and socialgraphics of our customers. In order to truly earn relevance and prominence within our communities, we also need to connect information and objects dictated by the personality traits of those influencers who in turn activate and move markets.

If Technographics and Socialgraphics represent the lines of communication from brand to market, Behaviorgraphics serve as the last mile between the medium and the specific person we’re hoping to reach.

Social beacons are the influential voices within social networks who act as the information catalysts to those around them. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith refer to this group as Trust Agents others refer to these individuals as tastemakers, influencers, trendsetters, and change agents. In the era of socialized media, we are now able to pinpoint these individuals and also learn, in real-time, what they’re seeking and to whom they’re connected. This is why Digital Anthropology and Sociology play such a pivotal role in the creation of engagement strategies and the content, objects, and channels we use to establish and cultivate relationships within social networks.

I spent the last several years observing the cultures, laws, behavior, hierarchy, and communication bridges in many social networks and one thing that I observed, is that influence is not universally bestowed upon or earned by any one type of person. Influence is distributed across segmented personality traits and categorized by the prominence within specific nicheworks linked by interests. Activating social networks and the people within them is an act of communication to form an association. Therefore, we must understand much more than how content attracts varying levels of behavior, but also surface the personality characteristics of the people we’re hoping to establish connections and relationships.

In many ways, we become social psychologists and linguists who can speak to individuals in manners that appeal to their demeanor. And, since each of us are also consumers, we find ourselves not in any one group, but at any point in time, we can identify with several traits based on our engagement in varying circumstances.

Introducing Behaviorgraphics…

Behaviorgraphics examines the “me” in Social Media. While it’s avatars that capture our attention, it’s personality that captures our heart and mind.

Social media tests the filter that divides inner monologue from disclosure. As our thoughts become words online, they color our avatars and profiles with a glimpse of our personality – who we are online and in the real world. Over time, it is how we put our words into action that establishes our character. And, it is our character, through the marriage of our words and actions that paves the way for relationships and opportunities.

Visualized once again, with the help of JESS3

At the center is Benevolence – The unselfish and kindhearted behavior that engenders and promotes recognition and reciprocity, and in doing so, earns the goodwill of those around them. This is the hub of social networking with a purpose, mission, and a genuine intent to grow communities based on trust, vision, and collaboration.

Problem Solvers – One of the most common sources of conversations and updates in social media are questions…people seeking information in the hopes that commenters will respond with resolution or direction.

Commenters – Providing thoughts, opinions, observations, experiences, and sometimes, unfiltered reactions to the information shared online. They are less likely to produce original content, but are compelled to share their views based on the introduction of content by others in and around their social graph.

Researchers – Peer to peer influence is prominent in social networks and researchers rely on their social graphs for information and direction to make qualified decisions. They are also active in championing polls and surveys to truly learn about the thoughts and opinions of those connected to them.

Conversationalists – Participation in conversations through proactive updates seeking responses or direct responses to other content, conversationalists fuel threads within and across networks.

Curators – In the context of behaviorgraphics, curators carry a different role. This group works diligently to find and only share what captivates them as filtered by what they believe will interest their followers.

Producers – Among the more elite group of online participants, their stature is earned by the amount of content they generate within multiple networks.

Broadcasters – Social media is proving to be both an effective broadcast and conversational platform. Broadcasters are mostly one-way communicators who either intentionally or unintentionally push information to followers without injecting conversational aspects into the mix.

Marketers – Profiles dedicated to marketing ideas, products, or services and may or may not include content outside of their portfolio, unless the account is focused on funneling beneficial and value-added solutions to specific audiences regardless of origin.

Socialites – Individuals who have earned varying levels of weblebrity, these new internet famous personae earn recognition and attention in online networks which is increasingly spilling over in real world fame.

Self-promoters – Unlike broadcasters and marketers, self-promoters are unconcealed in their intentions through constant updating of activities, events, and accomplishments.

Egocasters – Contribute to the “ego” in the egosystem and represent the evolution of self-promoters. Through constant promotion and the activities and responses that ensue, promoters graduate to a position of perceived prominence and collective unawareness.  What they think and say is what they believe to be the reality for one and for all. They lose touch with perspective as listening gives way to telling…

Observers – Often referred to as inactives, lurkers, or simply consumers, Observers represent the majority of the social Web today, defined by those who read and also share information in the backchannel, including email, and also in the real world.

Social Climbers – Social capital is not only something that is earned in social networking, it is something that is proactively pursued by those whose sole mission is to rise to the top. These individuals intentionally climb ladders on the avatars, profiles, and social capital of others most often misrepresenting their purpose and stature to earn an audience based on disingenuous intentions.

TMI – The things some share in social media continue to blur the line between what’s relegated to inner monologue versus that for sharing with others in public. The state of sharing “Too much information” is dictated by those on the receiving end of the update, not those who publish it.

Spammers – Those accounts and profiles that are created to push messages blindly and without regard for those with whom they come into contact. Often times they’re tied to current events (using trending keywords or hashtags) or targeting influential voices to lure them into clicking through to their desired goal.

Leachers -Not included in the graph, but an important category to recognize as leachers take the good work of others and channel it into their own accounts almost exclusively for the sake of promoting their cause.

Complainers – When we love something, we tell a few people; when something bothers us, we tell everyone.  Complainers are often sharing their discontent as a primary ingredient in their social stream. And, as customer service takes to the social web, these complainers are only encouraged to share their experiences to achieve satisfaction and earn recognition for their role as the new social customer.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!


Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:



Image Credit: Shutterstock

Lobbygate: new calls to regulate

There's nothing new in calls to regulate lobbyists. Except that right now, with an election looming, there appears to be growing cross-party consensus on the issue (given impetus by the Stephen Byers sting).

Chancellor Alistair Darling has said how, in a democracy, everyone should be free to approach their elected representatives. Yet this view that there is no need for a specialist public affairs business is contradicted by the call to name and regulate practitioners. How many citizens, small businesses or charities would take this step of becoming registered? How many know where to turn amidst the complex layers of local, regional, national and European government? What is a matter for an MP (MEP, MSP or AM), a minister or a Whitehall civil servant?

The answer clearly lies in greater transparency. Representation ('lobbying') should be permitted, but disclosure of special interests should be a requirement. This has been resisted up to now by some firms working for clients who seek to keep their interests private.

Who to Call in A Crisis?

I came across an article on the growing importance of PR in time of crisis. It was in the London Evening Standard. No surprise why I read it. The title was “Who does a CEO call first in crisis? PR Men.” It first caught my eye because it has to do with CEOs and the rising importance of PR counsel. The reason I took a second look was the headline about CEOs calling PR Men. Please! There must be some women to call. It is 2010 after all. Let’s move on.

The author describes how CEOs used to call their financial advisor or legal counsel when crisis first struck. Now they call their PR head. Research that we at Weber Shandwick have done with Spencer Stuart over the past two years among global Fortune 500 corporate communications officers (The Rising CCO) found an increase in the importance of crisis experience on the job. Additionally, more CCOs now report to the CEO (58% last year), reflecting the rising importance of that position.

“PR has certainly moved up the food chain in the last five years,” says UK PRWeek’s Danny Rogers.  “Reputation is your biggest asset in the modern world. Media and public scrutiny of corporations, brands and individuals has increased. Your reputation can be destroyed so quickly now because it is so global.”

PR should have a seat at the table in good times and bad times.  How a company or organization communicates its vision and values matters 24/7 in this transparent and see-thru world. Reputations can be toppled overnight and sometimes due to rumor and innuendo. Companies must be vigilant in monitoring and defending their reputations. PR deserves to be valued finally.

In defence of the Catholic Church’s reputation

The Holy See has apologised, rightly, for the Catholic’s Church’s cover up of the abuse of children in their care. But there are aspects of this case which should make us hesitate to single out the Catholic Church’s reputation for special attention.

Most of the accusations of sexual abuse go back to the 1970s. That was a period during which such practices were commonplace, if not common. It was only in the 1990s that the extent of the problem became a major concern for society.

What was uncovered was that in state-run care homes, Scout troops, St John’s Ambulance Brigade, public schools and religious bodies of different denominations across Europe there were similar scandals lurking under the surface. So the Pope in his letter of apology was right to say that:

“It is true, as many in your country [Ireland] have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church.”

There are some other punches we should pull. I, too, am enticed by the argument that enforced celibacy among Catholic priests encourages such appalling conduct. But then again, how do we explain the behaviour of married women and men who behave the same way? Are young boys more at risk from gay men than from those who say they’re straight? No. We all know it is not that simple.

The goings-on in the British state’s care homes were probably far worse than what went on in the Catholic Church’s domain. The scale of abuse in British public schools between older and younger boys and teachers and all their boys was rampant. Yet that is often the subject of giggles on TV chats shows among celebs who attended them. It seems that some forms of sexual abuse are more lightly thought of than others.

The Catholic Church, like many other religious bodies, does good work. Some of the most formidable minds I’ve ever encountered were the product of Catholic Schools. There is still much to be said in favour of the Church. Besides, for those who share its faith, its mission and purpose are way beyond the terrestrial. It would be a shame if its great (and perhaps inestimable) value was obscured by the real fact of the damage some of its people did and whose harm its culture was not well-adapted to deal with.

But we’re gathered here as PRs, whether in the sight of the Lord or not. Have the RCs handled this well? On recent evidence, I’d say they have. They’ve apologised and shown a determination to change the bits of their world which were wrong. They’ve also come out fighting: they’ve noted that their sins were the sins of the age. Actually, for the RC hierarchy, that takes a bit of courage, since their usual USP and pitch is to declare themselves timelessly aloof from the crisis of the times. But it’s also rather Vatican II: that is, it is in line with a determination to remind itself and the sceptical world that it is a human institution with a divine aspiration to be of use to real people, now.

I’d say the Church is on the way to fixing this crisis. It then faces the long haul of surviving in a secular, populist, demotic world in which almost all its messages – even compared with those of other churches – look very hard to sell. But, hell, the RCs never did have an easy pitch, and they’ve survived – and sometimes outlived – plenty of critics before now.

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Manifesting the Sabbath

Those of you to whom I talk on Twitter, Facebook, email, etc., know that I’ve been keeping crazy hours lately. There’s just a lot going on and sometimes I need to catch up on work (that isn’t affected by when I do it) after hours.

The things I could tell you about the “6 week body” and isn’t Kevin Trudeau tired of being on TV only at 2 a.m.?

Not my preferred mode of work, believe me – I enjoy sleeping far too much, plus I think it’s an extremely bad practice to get into, especially in terms of setting others’ expectations of you.

Crisis communication may demand it, but if you’re in crisis mode every day… well, something needs to change.

At any rate

I was working on my deck yesterday (one of the perks of being my own boss), trying to move my Hopkins course along (my second year of teaching there! w00t!). During one of my self-imposed breaks, I found out that today is apparently the “national day of unplugging” from the Get Rich Slowly blog (love it, you should read it, because who doesn’t want to?), thanks to something called the “Sabbath Manifesto.”

Here’s what GRS says:

Yesterday on Twitter (ironic I know), I stumbled upon the Sabbath Manifesto. From the website, the Sabbath Manifesto is “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.” Perfect!

The Sabbath Manifesto encourages people to set aside one day a week to take a timeout from life. On this one day, you’re urged to:

  1. Avoid technology.
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside. (Image: Michele Molinari, Creative Commons)
  5. Avoid commerce.
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.

The Sabbath Manifest is co-ordinating a National Day of Unplugging. From sundown on March 19th to sundown on March 20th, we’re being called to turn off and unplug our gadgets to whatever degree we feel comfortable. This has the potential to benefit our selves, our relationships, our environment — and our pocketbooks.

Check out this video too.

Sometimes things just fall into place.

The day before yesterday, Sean Williams (whom I’m looking forward to meeting for the first time at IABC/Cleveland next week, are you coming? At least to the #shonalitweetup happy hour?) and I were bitching talking about being time management, etc., the way consultants do.

Yesterday my eyes felt like sandpaper, thanks to consecutive nights of 3-5 hours’ sleep.

Then I come across this post, as well as my friend (and client) Shashi Bellamkonda’s musings on whether the wi-fi on Amtrak’s Acela Express is going to be a good thing or bad thing (and let me tell you, when I used to do the weekly run up and down from NYC at my last job, the “quiet car” was a godsend).

So that’s it. I’m unplugging today (and you’re reading this post because I scheduled it, ha) barring any paperwork I have to take care of thanks to some really unethical person intercepting, stealing AND CASHING a client payment.

Other than that – no Tweeting, no Facebooking, no nothing. There might be wine, though I don’t know about the bread. Definitely candles.

There shall be space. And peace. And on Sunday, hopefully I will be refreshed enough to plow through another round of deadlines, and there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

You should do the same.

Happy unplugging!

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Be Careful How you Judge

Thanks to a former colleague - Sharon Fernandes - for directing me to this YouTube video. Warning, though, you need to watch it all the way to the end to understand exactly what is going on. It's less than three minutes long.

While the video is about book publishing, there are important lessons in it for anyone in an organization responsible for its interaction with customers, the public or communities . . . be careful how you judge what they value.

 

The Future of Broadcast Media is Social

Six years ago I had the opportunity to work on an ambitious social project that set out to socialize the living room. Keep in mind, this was before the popularization of social networking as it exists today. In almost every way, this system predicted what would ultimately transform your experience on PCs as well as everything else. It was rooted in the realization that the Web was an isolated and lonely experience and that in order for online and terrestrial content to connect with audiences in the future, a new hybrid was required – one that fused social, consumption, and participation in the overall experience.

For many of those who’ve flown Virgin America and experienced Red, their inflight entertainment system, you can get a feel for what lies ahead. The relevance of Red is less about the on-demand aspects of content consumption and more about the ability to view content with others in flight and socialize on screen during the program.

We become part of the experience and as such, we define the experience for ourselves and everyone else who is viewing and contributing to the conversation.

Many technologists, media industrialists, and marketers refer to the current landscape of content consumption as “The Three Screens,” representing mobile, PC, and also televisions. The three screens are the windows of the world, your world, as you are increasingly empowered to take control of the experiences in which you wish to immerse.

The three screens are powered by an underlying technology platform that fuses the social, mobile, and real-time Web into a Golden Triangle and connected by the devices that deliver an immersive and participatory experience, on-demand, regardless of location.

The Golden Triangle will one day soon engender a shared experience across the three screens, but for the meantime, a resurgence of crowd-powered demand for relevance and personalization is leading a groundswell of change and evolution within each medium.

Today, when you view the trending topics on Twitter, we can see the clustering of conversations around particular programs and events as participants gather around a virtual water cooler to share their reactions and essentially socialize around a focal point. The coalescence of this activity is visible and as it increases in volume, the reach and effects resonate across social graphs attracting outsiders and converting them into real-time participants – motivated by a common sentiment of not wanting to miss out in something that potentially carries cultural significance, albeit finite.

The New York Times refers to this online social phenomena as the Water Cooler Effect. In fact, this social effect is credited with breathing new life into the dwindling audiences for television overall.

According to the New York Times article…

This year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched program in United States history, beating out the final episode of “M*A*S*H” in 1983. Awards shows like the Grammys are attracting their biggest audiences in years. Blogs and social Web sites like Facebook and Twitter enable an online water-cooler conversation, encouraging people to split their time between the computer screen and the big-screen TV.

The Web is becoming part of us and we’re bringing it to everything we experience in the real world and now, also on TV.

Nielsen observed that one in seven people who were watching the Super Bowl and the Olympics opening ceremony was online at the same time. And, that number will only continue to escalate. As such, networks are seeking to capitalize on the social effect. Jon Gibs, a vice president at Nielsen, told the NY Times that he is encouraged by recent Olympic data that shows simultaneous TV-and-Web viewing signaled the growing importance of interactivity to the television experience, “Increased usage of social media is definitely driving the ratings

NBC aired The Golden Globes live on both coasts for the first time this year, and because of the tremendous social boosts it experienced, the network is now planning to recreate the experience for the Emmy Awards this fall. Accordingly networks will also further experiment with methods to trigger viewing and online engagement simultaneously.

A connected and shared experience is defining a new and attractive digital lifestyle.

But as this water-cooler effect gains in influence, its true opportunity lies in its holistic integration in each of the three screens – especially as tablets earn a new role in the consumption and engagement behavior of the digerati.

Today, TVs offer networking capabilities, quite literally. For example, my Samsung TV is connected to my Apple network hub in the living room, which allows it to connect to several social networks including Twitter. While viewing a program, I can view my Twitter stream on screen and also tweet directly from the TV (wish it had a keyboard however.)

Imagine the possibilities if each program was socialized within the screen of my choice. Suddenly my viewing and associated online engagement is liberated from the living room and now enabled from the place and device of my choosing. In the meantime however, the mediums are forcing creativity and as a result traditional perspectives are now complemented with multiple sides in a peer-to-peer format.

For example, online networks are proving to be effective channels for content experimentation, often extending the audience of a traditional program. The 51st Grammy Awards created additional live programming and partnered with uStream, the leading live online video network, and Facebook to broadcast complementary coverage of the event as an exclusive for the social Web. As a result, the video hosted as many as 200,000 simultaneous online viewers and the ensuing conversations that spilled over into concentric social graphs and networks helped increase the overall TV audience by 35%.

The result of the social effect and the integrated social hooks inherent in today’s online networks will only inspire a genre of connectivity and interaction as programming will eventually feature creative triggers that engender desired responses and action. The same is true for any event, whether it’s on air, live, or on the big screen.

Chloe Sladden is Twitter’s director of media partnerships and her words perfectly capture the sociological impact of social media, “Twitter [and other networks] lets people feel plugged in to a real-time conversation. In the future, I can’t imagine a major event where the audience doesn’t become part of the story itself.”

The water cooler or social effect is only one part of defining a more meaningful experience over time. It is culturally significant as it connects people around common interests in real-time all over the web using events as our participation hub and as our magnet for convergence. The social effect, as a united audience, will also force broadcasters and media to produce more meaningful and engaging programming, content and ultimately experiences, as we are leading the democratization of all media and attention.

Our actions speak louder than our words and as such the change we wish to instill lies beyond taking part in online conversations. We seek a more participatory experience where viewers can also dictate outcomes. Our role will mature from viewer to contributor and this shift will ensure the relevance and livelihood of media while connecting us, as individuals and online denizens, to a more personal and fulfilling engagement and the community that it fundamentally cultivates.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!


Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:



Image Credit: Shutterstock

Guilt-free Shepherd’s Pie

I know what you’re thinking: since when was Shepherd’s Pie a guilty pleasure?

The guilt is more a personal thing; looking through this blog, I realized I hadn’t posted a recipe in a couple of months.

Ouch.

Well, blame #snowmageddon. How on earth am I supposed to keep up the cooking/blogging end of things when 3+ feet of snow has only just disappeared?

At any rate, here we go again. This is my version of a classic comfort dish, using cauliflower instead of potatoes to cut down on the “bad” carbs. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients

1 lb low-fat ground turkey and/or 1 packet flavored sausage (I like Aidells); 1 white onion; 1 cup celery; 1 cup carrots; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1 large cauliflower; 1/2 cup low-fat cheese, grated; 1 tbsp Smart Balance spread; 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley; salt & pepper to taste.

Recipe

Preheat oven to 425. In a large skillet, heat oil and add onions, chopped fairly fine. Saute over medium-high heat until translucent, then add the carrots and celery, also chopped fine. Saute for a few minutes more, then add the ground turkey and sausage, removed from its casing and crumbled into the pan. Mix well. When the turkey is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste, and chopped parsley.

While you’re cooking the filling, boil water in a pot and drop in the chopped cauliflower. When it’s cooked through, drain the water using a colander, and then mash in a large bowl with the Smart Balance spread, cheese, and salt/pepper to taste.

In a lightly-greased oven proof dish, spoon in the turkey/vegetable mixture. Top this with the mashed cauliflower, using a fork to draw ridges into the topping.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned. Serve hot and enjoy!

Variations: The last time I made this, I added some enchilada sauce while cooking the turkey, and it turned out great. Just make sure the mixture is fairly dry before you put it in the baking dish. Also, I imagine adding garlic to the mashed cauliflower would be quite yummy, though I haven’t tried it.

By the way: remember I mentioned #cookchat the other day? I hear it’s due to premiere on Sunday, April 11, at 8 p.m. CDT, so tune in for what I hope will become one of the most fun Twitter chats ever!

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Joslyn James: 9.0 Magnitude














March 18, 2010

Mr. Ari Fleischer
President
Ari Fleischer Sports Communications
(and George W. Bush Apologist)
767 Fifth Avenue
44th Floor
New York, NY 10153

Dear Ari,

Your website boasts of your ability to "help [athletes and sports executives] handle the bad news and take advantage of the good." So how do you handle this latest piece of bad news?

You took full credit for Mark McGwire's success in dodging the bullet following his come-to-Jesus moment on a cable network affiliated with the firm that bankrolled you.

You must be a PR genius, or could that little 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti the next day have played a role in saving Mr. McGwire's hide?

Whatever. It's the end result, not the facts that matter.. Gee, not unlike your (still-unrepented) promotion of the war in Iraq. But that's history. You're a sports guy now. Few untimely deaths in your new profession.

Still, I can't help but wonder how that natural disaster proved so fortuitous for your steroid-abusing home run king*, while helping you land your current high profile client. Sure, Tiger's with that same firm that put you in business, but McGwire no doubt sealed the deal for you to orchestrate the beleaguered golfer's public re-emergence at The Masters.

So far so good. Everything is proceeding without a hitch. CBS's stock price is up. Photos of Tiger and Ellin at their home popped on the cover of yesterday's New York Post. And Tiger's fans anxiously await to forgive and forget.

Until today...when porn star Joslyn James decided to up her celebrity quotient by releasing some sexts written by her most famous patron, your new client.

Let's just say they provide a little too much information that may complicate your PR strategy. Here's a sampling:
Tiger: Sent: 03:32 PM 08/29/2009:
I have no idea. I would love to have the ability to make you sore

Tiger: Sent: 03:36 PM 08/29/2009:
After i cum you better start sucking my cock to get it hard

Tiger: Sent: 03:37 PM 08/29/2009:
Do you ever hook up with other guys or girls

Tiger: Sent: 03:41 PM 08/29/2009:
You didnt answer the question

Tiger: Sent: 03:43 PM 08/29/2009:
Ok. I would like to have a threesome with you and another girl you trust

Tiger: Sent: 03:48 PM 08/29/2009:
Does that excite you at all or no

Tiger: Sent: 03:52 PM 08/29/2009:
God girl. You better want to take care of me

Tiger: Sent: 04:07 PM 08/29/2009:
You are my fucking whore

...and (too) much more.
I look forward to seeing you work your magic here. Too bad the healthcare reform vote is still a week or more away. Now wouldn't that be ironic? Ari Fleischer pushes for quick (like today) passage of health care reform legislation.

Lots of luck,

Peter Himler

Engage is Now Available at a Bookstore Near You

Following a special and unforgettable debut at SXSW Interactive, I’m excited and thankful to announce that Engage! is available at bookstores near you.

When you invest so much into something that you believe will change the way people think, you can’t wait to tell the world.

This book is written for you…

It helps champions, decision makers, and executives understand the impact and potential of new media and how, when, where to integrate it into mix. It also helps you measure the effect of social media and how to earn support as your experience grows. Engage answers your questions today and serves as your companion and guide every day.

Please help me share the good news!

Get Engage at a bookstore near you or online (click on your favorite outlet):

For those using a Kindle or Nook, click the image below to start reading it now…

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Photo Credit: Wei Yang

Ben Stiller’s nothing more than an American version of Hugh Grant

March 18 Have you seen all the hype surrounding Ben Stiller's latest movie, 'Greenberg'?  Mixed in with the usual 'mesmerizing' and 'stunning' accolades is this one: 'Ben Stiller like you've never seen him!'

As Catharine 'Goose' Cody likes to say, 'Puh-lese.'

Ben Stiller is a lightweight. He makes funny, mindless movies and, like his British doppelganger, Hugh Grant, acts exactly the same way in each and every role. If you've seen one Stiller flick, you've seen them all. To suggest otherwise is not only disingenuous, it's off-putting since it doesn't ring true.

Stiller and Grant are pale imitations of such contemporaries as Johnny Depp, Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio. The latter can go deep and wide and, if necessary, excel in a lightweight role typically played by a Ben or Hugh.

All that said, I would have expressed the very same sentiments about Sandra Bullock prior to her Academy-award winning performance in 'The Blindside'. (And, aren't the tabloids just loving Ms. Bullock's being blindsided by her philandering hubby?).

But, back to the issue at hand. Shakespeare wrote, 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.' And a Stiller flick is a Stiller flick is a Stiller flick. If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. If I had the legal power, I'd issue a cease and desist to the 'Ben Stiller like you've never seen him' comments as well as any other wording that suggests this is anything but the same old, same old.

The Dante’s Inferno of holidays

March 17 I’ve heard New Year’s Eve referred to as ‘amateur hour’ since so many drink so much in so short a period of time. I agree. It’s an ideal night to hunker down and watch what’s left of Dick Clark countdown the final seconds of a dying year. The same can’t be said, though, for St. Patrick’s Day. It goes far beyond mere amateur hour status and deserves a much more exacting moniker. I suggest calling it the Dante’s Inferno of holidays.

What makes St. Patrick’s Day the Dante’s Inferno of holidays are the hooligan high school kids who hop onto various trains heading into the city and literally run amok. Already three sheets to the wind at 7:28am, the high schoolers careen up and down the narrow aisles, spill their bottles of Corona over otherwise placid commuters and engage in shoving and pushing matches that often escalate into replays of Ali-Frazier I.

Further exacerbating the horror show that is St. Patrick’s Day on NJT is the indifferent, standoffish attitudes of the train conductors. Rather than reign in the free-for-all, the conductors act as if it’s just another day. So, those of us who fork over $400 per month-plus for the rare privilege of riding the nation’s worst commuter railroad are like innocent bystanders watching a modern-day version of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

All of which just underscores NJT’s horrific image and reputation. In fact, based upon my recent St. Patrick’s Day experience riding the train from hell, I’d like to suggest yet another update to my tagline for the Garden State’s transit service. Instead of: ‘Expect less,’ I’d like to update it to the more accurate, ‘Expect the worst.’ When it comes to the worst possible customer service experience imaginable, nobody beats NJT. Nobody. Not no how. Not no way.

Using social media to find a job

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel featuring recent Grady grads Lizz Judd (Newell Rubbermaid), Beth Farrar (freelancer) and Davis Adams (Brandware Public Relations) at Grady College's career day yesterday. I probably looked a little strange standing there taking notes while they talked, but it was such good information that I couldn't stand to see it confined to the attendees in the room.

Here are some of their thoughts and advice to current students:

On specific ways to use social media in a job search

  • Building an online portfolio via LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social sites (Lizz)
  • Creating a blog that establishes you as an expert in something you're passionate about and builds a network of relationships with people who know your work (Davis)
  • Following job search specialists and recruiters, strategically targeting your social platform activities (Beth)

On building a social presence

  • Be everywhere (not literally, but on a lot of sites) and link them all together. "Presence is a must" (Beth)
  • Build a brand by showing your personality, but keeping it classy
  • "I frequently Google myself," because you need to see what other people are seeing (Lizz)
  • Assume that everything is public; don't put something up on any site that you don't want an employer to see

On benefits of social media participation

  • If you want a job in social media, you have to be using social media
  • People with social skills are valuable (as in compensated well)

On social media don'ts for students

  • "Don't be disingenuous"; if you aren't really passionate about something or don't really hold a particular opinion but try to pretend you are or do, it will show (Davis)
  • "Don't be private" -- that is, don't lock your tweets or hide your profiles; people will assume you have something to hide (Beth)
  • Don't hide your personality, employers want to see a real person
  • "Don't be comfortable where you are." Social media is always changing, so you can't just get on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and think you're finished; try the new stuff (Lizz)
  • "Don't be a lurker," participate in the conversation (Davis)
  • Don't be unethical; be transparent and be yourself

The Age of Social Networks

Social networks share a common ingredient in design and intent, the connection of people and the facilitation of conversations, sharing, and discovery. What they do not share however, are culture, behavior, and prevailing demographics. Each network is unique in its genetic and cultural composition and it is for that reason that we benefit by becoming digital anthropologists in addition to new media marketers.

Demographics are distributed within all social networks, but only concentrated within a select few. Where specific demographics materialize varies from network to network and as such, the more effective social strategies and tactics are designed to reach target audiences where, when and how they engage.

Over the years, I’ve relied on Google Ad Planner to surface the critical demographics in order to construct meaningful and targeted social programming. Pingdom recently examined the data and packaged the results in a visually rich presentation worthy of sharing.

The study included 19 social networks…
Bebo
Classmates.com
Delicious
Digg
Facebook
FriendFeed
Friendster
Hi5
Last.fm
LinkedIn
LiveJournal
MySpace
Ning
Reddit
Slashdot
StumbleUpon
Twitter
Tagged
Xanga

Age Distribution

The disposition of age groups within social networking as a whole is representative of the state of social media engagement, but this is fleeting. Age groups will only continue to meander as online networking becomes pervasive. At the moment, we can see that those 35-44 dominate the social web, representing 25% of total participation. For those who have actively monitored adoption of social networks, this next stat might not come as a surprise, but it’s worth highlighting nonetheless. Following at 19% isn’t a younger generation at all, in fact, those 45-54 are the second most active group within social networks, just ahead of the 25-34 segment at 18%.  Individuals under 17 rank fourth with 15%. I find it fascinating that the 45 to 65+ group, those who are usually considered laggards in the technology adoption cycle, symbolize almost one-third of total users of social networks. They’re equally connecting with not only each other but also the younger generations who are spending an increasing amount of time online as well.

Distribution of Age Within Social Networks

Reviewing the age groups broadly across social media serves only as a primer to the deeper level of analysis required to identify exactly where we need to connect with target demographics. As such, Pingdom performed the first level of segmentation to showcase how age groups are distributed within each specific social network.

Bebo - Over 40% are 17 and under followed by 35-44 and 55-64 at just under 15% each

Classmates.com - The 45-54 dominate at just over 30% followed by 20% at 55-64 and just under 10% at 65+ (Represents the highest concentration of the older demographics with 78% over 35)

Delicious - Over 25% of users are 35-44

Digg – 35-44 constitute over 25% of the total user base followed by just under 20% at 25-34 (80% of users are over 25)

Facebook - ~25% of users are 45-54 with the 35-44 group at just 20% (61% are 35 or older)

FriendFeed – Shy of 40%, 35-44 represent the majority of users

Friendster - Polar opposites with 25% under 17 and roughly 20% 45-54

Hi5 - 25-34 collectively represent close to 30% of all users

Last.fm – Almost 20% are under 17 with the 35-44 category also representing just under 20%

LinkedIn – Less than 30% are 35-44, 20% are 45-54 and more than 15% are 55-64

LiveJournal -25-34 and 35-44 are tied at 20+% percent each

MySpace - Over 30% of all users are under 17 and slightly less than 20% are 45-54

Ning – 25% of 35-44 and over 60% are 35 and older

Reddit - 30% are 35-44

Slashdot – More than 30% are 35-44

StumbleUpon – The 35-44 segment symbolize just under 30% of all users followed by 25-34 at just under 20%

Twitter – More than 25% of users are 35-44, trailed by the 45-54 group at less than 20% (65% of all users are over the age of 35 with less than 20% representing the 24 and under age groups)

Tagged - Almost 30% are 45-54 and slightly over 25% are under 17

Xanga – Over 20% are under 17

Governing Age Groups

If we further review the data, we can see which age groups are dominant across the social Web

17 and under: 21%

18-24: 0%

25-34: 5%

35-44: 58%

45-54: 16%

55-64: 0%

65 and over: 0%

Average User Age by Network

Cascading further down stream, the data when crunched, reveals the average age per network, which allows businesses to better understand the general user within each.

Bebo – 28.4
Classmates.com – 44.9
Delicious – 41.3
Digg – 38.5
Facebook - 38.4
FriendFeed - 38.4
Friendster – 33.4
Hi5 – 33.5
Last.fm – 35.8
LinkedIn – 44.3
LiveJournal – 35.2
MySpace – 31.8
Ning – 37.8
Reddit – 37.4
Slashdot – 40.4
StumbleUpon – 38.5
Twitter – 39.1
Tagged – 34.4
Xanga - 32.3

In social media, not only do women rule, but it seems that the middle-aged are Social Media’s largest share holders.  Again, the average number is just that, a generalization of users classified by age, not by usage, theme, or connectivity. As we identify whom it is we need to reach and why, analyzing data as it relates to age groups is just one side of a multi-faceted program. In order to possess and convey value and meaning, it is anthropology, sociology and the psychographic mapping of people to themes, interests, and aspirations that will prevail now and over time. It’s the difference between visibility and presence, and in social media, presence is felt.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!


Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:


Image Credit: Pingdom

Is Social Media Marketing Just Hype?

"Hype right now exceeds the reality" is the sub-head of a piece in today's Wall Street Journal whose headline "Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media" says it all.

But don't be fooled. Several of the entrepreneurs featured in the story actually gushed over how they converted leads to sales through active listening and consumer engagement via Twitter and elsewhere:
"'The people coming from social media have been buying,' says Stephen Bailey, who oversees social-media and other marketing initiatives for John Fluevog Boots & Shoes Ltd., a footwear and accessories retailer in Vancouver with about 100 employees.

As evidence, Mr. Bailey points to a 40% increase in online sales in 2009—the first full year the company engaged consistently in social-media marketing—compared with 2008 when it was just getting started. The second we started using social media, it became one of the biggest drivers of traffic outside of search engines.'"
The operative here: consistent engagement. Registering for Twitter and Facebook accounts without a dedicated (and engaging) professional to feed and nurture them will invariably lead to dashed expectations, as evidenced from a survey of 500 U.S. small-business owners, which found that:
"...just 22% made a profit last year from promoting their firms on social media, while 53% said they broke even. What's more, 19% said they actually lost money due to their social-media initiatives."
My guess is that many of these firms signed up for the ride, but didn't invest the time. Others may have been hoodwinked by one of the social media snake oil sales force that abounds on the inter-tubes. In fact, eMarketer today posted a study titled "Social Fans More Likely to Buy" from Chadwick Martin Baily/iModerate, which found that:
"social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of... More than one-half of Facebook fans said they are more likely to make a purchase for at least a few brands, and 67% of Twitter followers reported the same."

So while today's Wall Street Journal headline may be provocative, the case for, and growing number of business case studies about, social media as a measurable marketing discipline will soon silence most naysayers. As the Chadwick Martin Baily/iModerate study found:
"The power of earned media gives a further boost to brands: 60% of respondents claimed their Facebook fandom increased the chance they would recommend a brand to a friend. Among Twitter followers, that proportion rose to nearly eight in 10."
If you still have doubts, just talk to any of the ebullient attendees of this year's SxSWi.

PR Mini-Plan Project with Emerson

Spring Break is over and students are back in full force – let the homestretch begin! Emerson College professor, Julie Lellis, has an exciting project lined up for her public relations classes.  Students will have the opportunity to devise a mini-plan for a client, outlining potential PR strategies and tactics. March Communications has been selected as a [...]