When YouTube Just Isn’t Enough

The past weekend was chocked full of a media coverage of America’s “Balloon Boy”. The past four days saw a story turn from a two hour chase of a runaway balloon and the finding of a six year old safe at home to a hoax hatched to land a family on a TV reality show. Whatever the story, it does beg the question, “When is YouTube not enough?”

It’s obvious that the free and easy access to user generated content, whether that be blogs, photos, audio or video, serves the narcissism in all of us. But for some who want to be “on TV” the small screen of on line video just isn’t enough to satisfy the need to be in the spotlight. It also should say a lot to those in television that they are the still the big leagues, or bigger screen, of public display. Good news for a medium that worries about it’s future.

Take the case of Richard Heene (and I’m just supposin’ here since as of this writing there are officially no charges filed against the Heene family. Though the odd history of Mr. Heene’s media exploits does make it quite easy to assume his guilt…I know I have.) Here is a guy who has posted plenty of YouTube videos. Everything from “science programs” to rants about Hilary Clinton or Britney to his kids rap video.

That exposure on line doesn’t appear to have been enough. No, he wanted to be on the “bigger screen”. He managed to get himself and his wife on Wife Swap, a show that really is YouTube on TV.

That appears to have only whet his appetite for video infamy. One episode of public embarrassment is nothing compared to continuous coverage by every cable or news network with easy access to a feed from a helicopter. The key to secure such video creamy goodness? A child. And Mr. Heene had three. We’re all aware of the success of that strategy. It was success after all, with entire chunks of TV programming still being devoted to the Heenes.

In reality we are all responsible for this rather pitiful display, but don’t beat yourself up. We have the perfect structure for enabling the video narcissist in all of us. A media landscape that includes multiple 24 hour cable outlets and networks that struggle to draw viewers from a myriad of new outlets that are hungry for content that can help them do that. In fact, many of these outlets are more often looking to YouTube for content. Rarely does the the Today show let a day go by without featuring some sort of on line viral phenomenon, the Wedding Dance and Lion Reunion are just a sample, and we eat it up.

We watch it so much that we guarantee that there will be plenty more to come. Add to that all those companies that are asking, “How can we make a viral video?” and there’s a good chance it will be well staged, manufactured, and distributed while making money for somebody.

Speaking of money, it seems that the reason behind the “Balloon Boy” incident was to secure a reality show deal for the Heene family, something one would assume carried a chance to earn Jon and Kate type money. To bad Mr. Heene didn’t think this through a bit more. A well-placed logo on his balloon would have netted him tidy bit of dough.

Then again, I don’t think that’s what he’s in it for. Do you?


Social Media: Keepin’ it Real

Every once in awhile it’s good to be reminded that our busy lives are influenced by…what’s the word I’m looking for…buzz, spin, hype, BS? It’s no different for those of us who work in media and marketing. Even I, who considers himself ‘a voice of reason’, get intrigued by the latest new and shiny theory, service, or technology that comes down the pike…and believe me there is a heap of ‘new’ that takes up every lane of that pike on a daily basis.

At a recent Social Media Breakfast there was great discussion highlighting many theories on managing and marketing within social media, both business to business and business to consumer. The room was filled with comments and thoughts about what this new medium is all about, how companies felt about it, the tools that we can use to participate in and monitor it, and more.

Don’t get me wrong, we need do explore “what could be”. We need to talk in big picture terms, we must look forward. We also need to get giddy about new toys that, from a perch at a coffee shop with free wifi, allow us to reach our audience. (We all have audiences whether they be customers, followers, viewers, etc.)

What this conversation sparked in me was a need to remind myself, and perhaps others that work in marketing and PR, that our job is not necessarily to set the trends, make things popular, make the service a priority…that’s what our audience does. Our job is to follow their lead, not the other way around. If we are truly marketing to, building relationships with, or communicating in general with our audience we must do it on their terms.

With that said, marketers, I thought I’d list some of what I think are  realities. Here goes…

Social Media is two different things.

Social=relations, interactions, and communication between people.
Media=the channel to carry a message…nothing more. (By the way, that’s true of all media. It’s a pipe.)

People don’t like advertising.

Hard to believe I know, but people are not attracted to media because it offers businesses the opportunity to sell something to them. People know that being exposed to an ad is the price of admission for free media. Yes, they expect advertising, they tolerate it, but they would rather live without it and will avoid it. Witness the rise of Tivo and DVR.

Social Media is not “Advertising” Media.

The rise of Facebook, Youtube, even text messaging was precipitated by people wanting to communicate with other people. Not because they needed one more place to be sold something. If we as marketers treat this medium as just another way to shill, we’re going to screw it up and drive the audience farther away. Don’t try to advertise here…be social!

You audience has precious little spare time.

How dare we think that all our audience has to do is sit around and
type, search, click, and download only to be “sold to”. Answer the
question, “What’s in it for me.”

Only Facebook and text messaging matter…right now.

It’s that “They set the trend and decide what’s popular.” thing. Yep, Twitter is growing, YouTube is huge, blogging is great, but right now, the crowd is on Facebook to socialize electronically and are more than satisfied with text messaging as a way to stay in touch. These two are the lake…hunt where the ducks are!

Portable is vital!

Notice I didn’t say mobile. That would imply, it needs to be a
phone. I don’t think it does, though if you’re looking to deliver a
message to somebody, it makes a whole lot of sense to deliver it to them via something
that already have. But, if they can wear it, carry it easily, put it in their pocket…take it with them…you’ll get
their interest.

They can talk back!

If you can’t spend time listening and responding, stay the hell away from social media. This medium is about engaging in a conversation and a relationship. Make sure you’re ready to commit to that. No one likes to be invited to a party at your house to be ignored.

Some companies/brands/people don’t want to participate.

Conversation can lead to a greater depth of knowledge about all the participants. Some companies love the thought of learning more about their customers but have absolutely no interest in letting them know more about them. In fact, some people see absolutely no reason to share their “status” or share a video clip. That’s just fine. Please do your best to help them learn about this medium. But remember, the ones that “get it” can always better at it.

There are no rules.

Perhaps the reason many mediums are struggling is because someone at some point decided that “This is how you do it!” They made the rules, decided the proper etiquette, wrote the book and became the expert. Playing it safe and playing by the rules became the strategy of choice. I love the guys that say, this is what you can and can’t do with Twitter or should or shouldn’t post on Facebook. It’s a brand new medium, let’s wait awhile before we try to make it predictable. Find what works but also spend time finding out “what else” works.

So there are some realities that I see. There are plenty more. Aren’t there? What can you offer that will help all of us “keep it real?”


Did You Know…

…that 40 million people have been rick-rolled? Or that ABC, NBC and CBS combined (businesses that collectively have been
around for 200 years) receive 10 million viewers per month while Myspace,
Facebook and YouTube (none of which were around six years ago) reach 250 million monthly unique vistors?

No really, it’s true…as noted in the latest “Did you know?” video. This one was developed for the Economist and their upcoming Media Convergence Conference. (The original “Shift Happens” video, also developed by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod, went viral back in 2007. There have been few iterations since then.)

Reviving the Emmys

Neil Patrick Harris made some great strides in reviving the annual Primetime Emmy Awards. I personally walked away from the evening event (which only ran two minutes long without feeling at all rushed) impressed and, most importantly, entertained. He did it with some proven programming techniuqes and a large amount of irreverence. (Update: According to the Rash Report, The Emmys had 11% more viewers than last year in the ad-centric adult
18-49 demographic, as preliminary prime-time ratings indicate a 4.2/11
rating and share.)
Here are some of the basic, and not so basic, tactics he employed, TV and Radio programmers take note!

Most noticeable was the segmenting of the categories, good old fashioned block programing. He and his production team decided that jumping from genre to genre, TV’s way of providing variety in this show, would result in the show’s usual dismal rating performance. They realized, like so many do these days of unlimited choices, that trying to offer multiple types of content of interest to an audience with different areas of interest, trying to appeal to everybody, results in nobody being satisfied. This equals tune-out.

By dividing the awards and the show into Comedy, Reality, Variety, and Drama the production team allowed viewers that ability to surf away from the show when they weren’t interested in the genre. In short, they decided not to try and please all of the people all of the time, and instead please some of the people some of the time. For me, I enjoyed the awards in which I was interested and watch some football when I wasn’t.

Harris also decided that the host should, well, host! He got rid of the voice-over announcer introductions and did it himself. Wow, what a concept; a host that hosts!

His use of John Hodgman as the guy who shared little known and some made-up facts about winners was a nice touch, though the volume could have louder so they could be enjoyed.

Some of the hold over “audience participation” pieces should not have been held over. “Vote for the Emmy Breakthrough Performance” fell flat. Are there really any breakthrough performances that anyone really cares about? Perhaps they needed something for the spokeswoman with the British accent to do since Harris took on the intro duties this “voice” usually does. Hey a contract is a contract, right?

The running gag with the “Best Seat In the Housewinner was funny and accomplished enough audience participation for me.

Finally, the production team took the “imminent demise of broadcast TV” talk head-on. As you know, I come from radio so I’ve dealt with the “death of a medium” for years and I tried to never avoid taking on the conversation. That’s what the Emmy team did this year with their “Dr. Horrible” video that interrupted (Kanye not included) the Ernst and Young voting explanation. Dr. Horrible (played by Harris himself) pointed out the benefits of screen size, so small it doesn’t show blemishes, and uninterrupted content, highlighted by a buffering prompt. Sweet! The appearance of Captain Hammer made for some great sight gags and sound effects. Well done!

TV, just like any other traditional medium, has challenges ahead. They won’t be challenges from technology so much as choice, a topic not addressed in the video. That said, entertainment like Dr. Horrible and it’s YouTube style production probably wouldn’t have been seen on TV just a few years ago. (Watch for a pilot coming to ________ television network soon.)

I’m not sure that the Emmys Can be Nominated for an Emmy, but it should. That is if they allow anything other than Mad Men and 30 Rock to be nominated…but that’s another topic…for the love of Pete.

The Rise of Interruption. Marketing?

It’s been quite a week for those that seek to get attention by interrupting hasn’t it?

Of course, last week it was the clear break with decorum and most likely Congressional rules when Representative Joe Wilson (no relation…phew!) saw fit to interrupt the President during a speech to Congress. His “You lie!” is still echoing in Washington and across all types of media.

More recently, a well marinated Kanye West decided that Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s was a good time to profess his love for Beyonce’s latest video and proceeded to take the stage and the mic. This alone tested Twitter’s limits.

Both participants in these rude interruptions have addressed their behavior in varying ways. Wilson apologized to the President, but as of this writing, not to Congress. He has used it as a rallying cry for his stand on health care and seems to be quite comfortable being interviewed about it, though he admits that it was not the right way to act.

Kanye on the other hand, after being escorted from the MTV awards show, first posted a rambling and confusing blog post of an apology. He then took the opportunity to be even more apologetic and sincere during The Jay Leno Show premiere. (Jay stepped up with a great question about how Kanye’s late mother would have felt about it. Let’s talk dramatic pause.)

The reaction of the masses has varied for each incident. Joe Wilson, as well as his 2010 political opponent have seen huge increases in fund-raising. On the other hand Kanye has seen a huge backlash from fans and non-fans alike and I’m sure recognizes the potential harm to his career and sales.

But is this indicative of what it takes to cut through the clutter of so many messages and the 24/7, always on, always connected environment we find ourselves in? For better or worse, this exemplifies the phrase “Any publicity is good publicity.” So, if we are constantly being exposed to “messages” then perhaps we will see a rise in thought out tactical use of the “interruption” and a redefinition of interruption marketing. This form of marketing that really is an interruption unlike say, commercials that are now expected and pop-ups that are commonplace. If so, then beware the backlash.

What about the buzz? Yes, we are talking about these interruptions so they are creating buzz. But at the same time, in varying degrees, they are taking a toll. That toll is being exacted in many ways. Beyond the concept of “That’s not the way we do things in a civil society.”, which does have incredible validity, marketers run the risk of biting the hand that feeds them should interruption be the marketing of tactic of the day.

Now that social media is prevalent and the ability to share your feelings, especially negative ones, is so easy, the window of mea culpa is incredibly small. Time does not allow for the repair of a bad tactic. In the past the practice of airing too many commercials may have caused some problems for listeners but the ability to complain to friends about it was much more contained. Now, one ‘tweet’ will reach thousands…if not hundreds of thousands in mere seconds.

Interruption can get people talking about you…but it can also get them talking badly about you.


This moving photo is courtesy of i’mjustsayin via flickr

Radio: Welcome Back Your New Audience

Attention radio: Today Steve Jobs is offering up a whole new audience to you. OK, it’s not a new audience, it’s an audience that has been lost to downloadable music…the parade of internet sites, streams and mp3 players. The leader of which is the iPod. Since it came out so many millions of units sold ago (100 million Nanos alone.), Apple has steadfastly refused to include an FM radio with it…until today.

During the Apple “It’s Only Rock and Roll” event a healthy and reinvigorated Steve Jobs made the announcement along with others including the release of iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1.

The new generation of iPod Nano now comes with an FM radio and a video camera. Radio Rejoice! I’ll let others spend time on why they think Jobs has changed course.

Most importantly, radio, here is your challenge…welcome these disenfranchised listeners back with content that they will love and spend time with. Think about it! The single most popular device that has kept listener’s ears away from your radio station now includes your station as a choice. Now those iPod users that are tired of listening to their library, are tired of hitting the skip button, and don’t have time to download anything new can listen to your content…without removing their ever-present ear-buds.

I believe the course is clear! Make sure your content is something they can love.

Expectations: DENIED!

My 11 year-old daughter asked me to “hurry up a little” as we drove home from her 3 on 3 basketball game where, I might add, she totally rocked on defense! But I digress… The reason she wanted to get home was to watch a new show she likes on the ABC Family network. If you have a tween or pre-tween you may know of the show of which I speak…Ruby and the Rockits. Yes it’s another ‘ordinary girl with incredible vocal talent living life where madcap situations arise each day with plenty of chances to sing a song’ premise.  Anyway my daughter liked it and wanted to see it.

I‘ve seen the show once or twice. Hey, who of my generation isn’t curious what David Cassidy is up to these days. In fact, Ruby and the Rockits gives you an update on all the “Cassidy boys” with brother Shaun producing and half-brother Patirck co-starring. (In the ‘old’ days, that would have been a lot of hair and hip-huggers…now, not so much.) Together with my expectations of a network with the name ABC ‘Family’, my impressions of the one episode I had seen, and the fact that the show rating was well within the parameters to avoid being block by the parental controls, I figured it a go for 11 year-old viewing. Um, yeah.

As I sat working on my laptop I was startled to hear a scene in which one of the younger characters voiced the line “ass-kisser” disguised in a sneeze. Huh? Not five minutes later another young character looked at the sneezing character and promptly shot a “bitch” across his bow. What the…? Hey this wasn’t what I had signed on for. Expectation: DENIED!

We’ve all come across these contradictions in brand on plenty of occasions. Remember the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”. That brief bit of exposed portion of breast was extremely tame by today’s television standards. That it happened in the middle of a sporting event..the most watched sporting event…was what caused such a fuss. Expectation: DENIED!

Right now, in my town, an FM Talk Station that has positioned itself as the conservative talker, with a line up that includes Rush Limbaugh, has decided that it will not be a talk station on the weekends. Instead they will play classic rock instead. Again I say, what the…? If I were a conservative looking for a little solace while perhaps I’m out burying ammo on the weekend and I tuned to my stations and heard the rock band Rush instead of the right-wing Rush, I would be scratching my head and wondering what happened. And no letter from the Program Director posted on the website would make it clear to me. Expectation: DENIED!

These lapses in delivering on expectations by these media brands are sometimes mistakes but sometimes are purely driven by the hope of short term gain. ABC Family to appear to be hip and KTLK to maybe steal a rating point or two from the other rock stations…if only for the weekend.

This is what those that come up with these ideas like to position as “out of the box” thinking. This is more like short-term thinking.

Real brand pros look well past the next week, or the next quarter, or even the next year and remember that without the brand they have nothing that can sustain them for long periods of time. A brand will continue to pay dividends well beyond a tactic or a stunt. So every tactic or stunt must reflect the brand not contradict it.

What’s your brand? What are the expectations of your customer? Are you fulfilling them every single time your customer comes in contact with your brand? They should!

Incommunicado vs Communicado(?)

My week is offering me two extremes in communication. Monday I spent the day with my family at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine here in the Twin Cities. Today I’m at Blogwell, a social media gathering at General Mills, on behalf of Minnov8. The difference? I was “kicking it old school” on Monday with no electronics (except my camera) allowed on the course. Today, I’m live blogging, uploading video and taking photos for the entire event….Laptop, phone, Flip camera all in tow.

Monday would have been a great opportunity to go nuts with photos, video, and tweets galore (Yes, I’m one of those guys.) But sorry, “no cellphones please”. I’m sure this is to cut down on the talking and cellphone alerts that would inevitably interrupt play. Remember, this is a place where you don’t even clap out loud. 

I have to tell you it was a bit refreshing to not worry about ‘sharing’ my experiences with my followers and friends. I felt absolutely zero ‘social media’ guilt. That is until I saw some guy in the bathroom (a rather elegant outhouse I must admit) texting on his contraband phone. For a brief moment I thought I was letting my peeps down by not smuggling in my phone. Then I thought, “Hey wait a second. Get with the program guy.” Follow the rules! Golf is all about rules. Imagine if Davis Love stepped in Tiger’s line because he didn’t feel like following the rules. Anarchy!

Today on the other hand, is another story. The folks at GasPedal have invited Minnov8 to cover the Blogwell event at General Mills this afternoon. As I mentioned above, we’ll be bringing all of our social media geekery to bear…and we’ll be doing it live via a rather cool service called ScribbleLive. It’s a great service where we can set up an event via our Twitter login info. Not only can we enter comments in real time, we can format the look and feel, upload video (though I found embedding via YouTube was faster and more reliable at this point), add photos, post to Twitter, and more. We can also embed the whole shootin’ match on a page at Minnov8. Check it out.

What a week of exploring both ends of the always on, always connected world. You still can choose not to be. BTW, I did choose to upload some photos from the PGA to my photostream on Flickr. (Yeah, I know, I’m what people outside of the social media biz…the real world…call “one of those.”)


Social Media Takes a Little Break

This morning both Twitter and Facebook experienced some trouble. Let’s just say, in layman’s terms, they were all hosed up. (I’d be even more “layman”, but this is a family friendly blog…kinda.) The problems were somewhat complex, and possibly not coincidental. Clearly the Twitter “crash” was much more substantive keeping the service down for some two hours.

While it was going on, I could imagine all of those Twitter and Facebook junkies wanting to tell somebody that Facebook and Twitter are down…but couldn’t…because Twitter and Facebook were down. You get the idea. I also started thinking, maybe this is chance for some extreme social media users to actually go outside and add some color to their pasty white complexion. (I know, a bit of a stereotype…but do use the SPF 35.)

I decided since there was a bit of a social media black out I’d actually call and talk with some of those that I follow on Twitter and ask “What are you doing?” Needless to say I caught a few folks by surprise and I couldn’t reach some. Which hopefully means they were busy doing other things and not curled up in a the fetal position babbling in short 140 character phrases.

Those I did talk with?

Steve Borsch (@sborsch)-Steve was actually hard at work tinkering away on WordPress and overseeing the plumber who was part of the crew finishing his basement. He did comment that he had received an email from a colleague that “Twitter is down!” At least email is somewhat handy as a Twitter substitute. Imagine if the US Postal Service was the only fallback. Two days later: Dear Steve, Twitter is down.


Tom Webster (@webby2001)-Tom did a vocal double take when I was just calling to ask what he was up to. After shouting to the room something like, “Twitter is down and Phil Wilson is calling instead.” he informed me that he was writing and listening to a bass/drum thing from a UK record label that he found help him to write.


Meg Canada (@megcanada)– Meg was at work at the Hennipen County Library. She sarcastically noted that she was “a bit shaky” without Twitter. She was one her way to grab some coffee before attending a meeting with the Web Services staff. The reason for the meeting to establish the time line for a new website for the Library. There you go…a little sneak preview.


Graeme Thickins (@graemethickins)-Graeme, my fellow Minnov8’er, was knee deep in a post for Minnov8 about Fanchatter. If you know Graeme you know he is not a man of few words. In a very untwitter-like manner, I got to enjoy a lengthy conversation about all sorts of topics including Facebook’s Twitter-like struggles on this day.

Talking instead of tweeting with these folks was great. Though many were surprised by the question “What are you doing?”, the very same that Twitter was built on, they were more than happy to chat. I can guarantee you that it was much better than a 140 character tweet.

That being said, I also was reminded of why I like Twitter to connect with these friends and colleagues. I get to virtually pick their brains more than once a day and from more of them. I often talk about the time social media can take from you if you let it. Imagine trying benefit from the knowledge of even this small group via phone or in-person meeting everyday. You’d never get anything done.

Let me make this suggestion. A few times a week, call some of your Tweeps (people you follow on Twitter) and talk with them. It will lead you to some great conversations…maybe with people you’ve never talked to before. The result will be a larger appreciation of all that they share with you via Twitter…which is back up and running, by the way.

The Cluetrain…Express

The Cluetrain Manifesto serves as a must read for anyone who wants to best understand the connected world. It really serves as one of social media’s guide posts, emphasizing the human and conversation factors above the technology. It also has been key to the best practices of social media.

That said, there are still many who have not read it. Maybe you have used the excuse that you haven’t had time to read the book. (I know I have a shelf of books waiting for that mythical “What can I do now?” time period.) Maybe you have made other books a priority. Maybe you are waiting for the Cliff Notes version. You can’t say you don’t have the money…the text is free online.

Thanks to a heads up from
Paul Fabretti, you can view a slide presentation put together by tecorporation and SODB. I still recommend you read the whole Manifesto, but if you can’t do that right now, I’ll settle for the Cluetrain Theses if it helps anyone better understand the social media concept. Take a few minutes to scroll through this slide presentation via Slideshare and hop on the Cluetrain…express.



Is Keeping Up Holding You Back?

This morning…7am…me, at the computer. This
morning…11:30am…me, at the computer. Holy crap! I haven’t showered
yet much less seen my kids. I think my wife said goodbye before she
went to work? Did the dog get fed?

it! This has happened to you. Especially if you work anywhere in the
online, interactive, social media or IT space. You have to know what’s
going on, who’s doing what, and have “they” released the next big

I’ve talked about this all consuming online world into which we’ve
entered before. The “time suck” is incredible and no amount
of apps, systems, gadgets or gizmos will ever satisfy the need to know.
This morning was typical for me if I allow myself to paste my eyes on
my computer screen. I check my email, read my many newsletters, review
the feeds in my reader, I scroll through the latest posts on Mashable,
Engadget, LifeHacker, etc. I follow the links to the beta invites, try
out the new apps, build an icon with the latest…er…icon builder.

Every time I make a presentation, participate on a panel,
or talk to clients it’s the number one question: “Where do I find the
time to keep up?” As I’ve said before and as Harvard Ph. D Alexandra
noted in her post…You don’t. And that’s OK.

goes on to make a very important point. While I’m spending all this
time keeping up, I’m only furthering someone elses project, system, app
or gadget and not spending anytime on my own. The quote of my day was
from Samuel…

“The minute you stop trying to keep up, you open a far more exciting possibility: getting ahead with what matters to you, your team and your business.”

truer words were never uttered. The “time suck” will kill your plans
for your business, family, or global domination if you let it. Cut your
time “keeping up” in half. You’ll suddenly find more time
to spend furthering your own goals.

That next big thing?
Believe me, if it is “big” enough you won’t miss it. On the other hand,
you might even be responsible for it…if you make the time.