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.



Audience vs. Community: Which Way Are Your Chairs Pointing?

One of Social Media’s most prolific writers, Chris Brogan, posted a very interesting article today on Audience vs. Community. The distinction of the two continues to confound many. From PR firms,to agencies, to businesses to your Mom and Dad, are still trying to figure out the difference. And though Chris speaks from the standpoint of social media, that difference has been with us for years! He sums it up quite eloquently with this sentence:

The only difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing.

No longer are the chairs all neatly arranged in a row all facing a stage, on which stands a speaker. Nope, this new form of media has allowed those “butts in seats” to stand up and rearrange those chairs and talk with each other…while the speaker continues to talk from the stage. And that’s the issue we have faced for years as we address our audience or customer.Are we talking at them or with them?

This is not a new concept by any means. Humans would rather be social. Which would you rather do, play solitaire or poker? Go to a party or sit at home and drink? (If it’s the later, you may need to make a call or two.) Dine alone or have a barbecue? You get the idea. It’s the advent of better social communication, especially through internet technology and our always connected culture, that has brought it to the forefront for businesses, brands and people.

As Brogan points out, the importance of community to a successful music career has always been paramount. The fan is the thing! His analogy, “Think Britney Spears vs the Grateful Dead.” Fans, talking to other fans and together converting new fans, kept an entire legion of music consumers on the road for years…some even after the band stopped touring. Harley-Davidson has done the same, so much so that they were able to keep their community together through a period when the product turned to crap. Their “community” helped them survive, demanded a better product, and because HD listened, grew even bigger.

So which way are your chairs facing? Are you still standing on he stage talking at the audience or are you walking around the community and participating in the conversation…which is mostly about you? you? Most importantly are you listening to what they say to each other as well as what they say to you.

Amber Naslund points out in her comment to Brogan’s piece, “…you cannot *create* a community. It creates itself.” It should also be noted that community can fold up it’s chairs (destroy itself), or worse, throw the chairs at you (turn against you).

Hear It From a Judge

Best Buy CMO, Barry Judge shares his thoughts on the importance of listening in this video. Pay special attention to his comments on how marketing through this medium is different from the more “simple” traditional media. “You don’t get to tell customers what they get to think anymore.”

Taking on the Difficult Subjects

My friend Mykl Roventine passed on a link to author Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project site and her “11 tips for broaching difficult subjects” post. Ya know there’s nothing like a list to provide fodder for discussion…and this one has a few interesting points.

Most on the list are great tips, but there are some that I would, let’s say, modify. So here is the abbreviated list (in bold) with those modifications where needed:

  1. Don’t stall. Oh yeah, get it taken care of quick, but…
  2. Don’t start off angry. Sometimes tough, but can be easier with #3, #4, and #5.
  3. Pick your moment. Think of how the timing will impact you and the one you are talking to.
  4. Think about why the subject is important to you. Helps determine #5.
  5. Are you certain you need to discuss the difficult subject? This is probably the best one.
  6. Don’t ruminate about worse-case scenarios. A friend of mine calls this “writing the script”, avoid it.
  7. What’s the worse that can happen? Okay, now wait a minute, I thought we weren’t suppose to do this (as Rubin points out.)? A combination of #5 and #6 is really what she’s going after here. So let’s make this “10 tips…”

[Read more…]

Social Media: Get it or Don’t Get In
Part 3-Sweet Success

I want to wrap up this series of posts on social media with a word about successes found in the social media space…and there are many. It’s important to note that though success might imply completion, in social media there is no completion. Like any relationship, this process is ongoing and while it may have struck a chord with part of the intended audience, there is plenty of audience still getting settled in…still waiting to let these marketers into their confidence. I guess it would be better to say I want to highlight some that are successfully on their way.

I made mention of Zappos and what they are doing with Twitter in my first post. There has been much written about the success they are having with social media. I’m guessing if you were to ask CEO Tony Hsieh if he felt that he was happy with the progress, especially internally with his employees, he’d give you a resounding yes! He is successfully mobilizing his employees as Zappos own army of fans and probably gleaning plenty of ideas and insight that will help him grow his company in the future.

I’d also like to point to Threadless. Highlighted in Inc magazine, this company was doing social before anybody really knew what it was. In short, artists and designers become members of the Threadless network and submit designs to be voted on by fellow members. The winners receive a cash award, now around $2500 plus reprint fees, and the top picks are printed on a limited number of t-shirts and then sold, usually selling out rather quickly.

Launched in 2000, t-shirt sales surpassed $100,000 by 2002. The user base has grown from around 70,000 in 2004 to well over 700,000 today. In 2006 sales clocked in at $18 million with profits of $6 million. 2007 show growth of 200 percent with similar margins. Only one word describes that kind of success, niiiiiiiice!

[Read more…]

Chris Anderson on Charlie Rose…More please.

I caught a great interview with Wired editor in chief and author of The Long Tail as well as the eventually to be published Free, Chris Anderson on Charlie Rose. You can take a peek at it below.

Chris has some great observations regarding the business of Free, the Long Tail, open source, some insights on the Microsoft/Yahoo deal, and (listen up my radio buddies) he gave props to broadcast media, referring to the internet and “the triumph of the media model”. I also was intrigued with his take on the difference between Google and Yahoo! He did mention a bit about production quality not being as important to a hyper-targeted group…something I take a bit of issue with.

All in all…good stuff. What would have made it great? Simple, more time. If the last topic got off the ground. Check the last two minutes…Rose: “Are we going to continue to lead in the internet age?” Anderson: “Everything I believe is written on the back of the iPhone. ‘Designed in California. Made in China.” His contention that the USA’s place in the world is that we design it and they make it.

Now right or wrong (which Rose thought he was), agree or disagree (and Rose did) this is where the interview could have really taken off. Conflict baby, that is what makes the conversation really interesting. I personally couldn’t think of better people to watch disagree than these two. Unlike the shoutfests I see, and did see this very day on CNN about the Spitzer case, I’m quite confident that it would have been a great debate (and probably was once the cameras were off).

Why is this? Why did something that had such great potential for making this encounter reach beyond a good interview into the realm of great…stop? Beats me. I don’t think there is anything afoot here, no issues, no conspiracy. It just did.

My point is that a friendly lively discussion is just fine but what creates emotion, creates entertainment, creates something memorable that we’ll all talk about tomorrow is usually a bit of conflict. Ain’t nothing wrong with it.What makes it even better is when those embroiled in the conflict can shake hands and part as friends without raising voices or leaping from their seats once the discussion is done.

Did I Put the Twit In Twitter?

Monday evening I had the chance to attend an event at the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio focusing on New Media, New Standards. It featured Dan Gilmore and was moderated by MPR’s Bob Collins. (It’s been a slammed kinda week so I hadn’t had a chance to post until now.) There were some great points made on the topics of ethics, standards, and credibility. Gilmore made some great observations and you can get a good feel of how the night went here.

What I found particularly fascinating was what was going on in the audience on all of the laptops that were open. Twitter was running rampant. Here I am with my handy notebook out ready to jot down a few notes and I think, “Hey, why not jump on the train to Twitterville and see what’s going on.” So, out comes the Macbook and I’m off and running courtesy of the fine folks at MPR and their foresight to have wireless access for guests.

As I said to some other folks, I’m still not sure what role I want Twitter to play in my life. Time is one thing I never have enough of and I have found that Twitter can be a big time sucker. Plus, I’m already pretty outspoken with a healthy supply of sarcasm and to have yet another channel for me to blab, especially in short bursts…well…perhaps I should step away from the keyboard.

In this case I thought it would be interesting to see the “tweets” fly in a room with a bunch of “new media” types gathered to discuss standards and credibility of citizen journalism. Here’s what I learned:

  1. I find it difficult to listen to a discussion and write a comment at the same time. How the hell do kids text so much without missing a step? I was in no position to be a participant in the discussion in the room.
  2. There are many brilliant thoughts being exchanged by people who seem to be more prone to write about them than verbally express them.
  3. Sarcasm is really easy on Twitter.
  4. Twittering away while a discussion is going on is like talking when someone else is…It’s kinda rude.
  5. Twittering is like talking only it’s written down…forever…to be repeated… and reprinted.

In fact, in the day following the forum #5 overshadowed the topic of the event itself…and also bit me in the butt a might. As it turns out many in the crowd were less than satisfied with the energy level of the discussion or the interaction between audience and presenters and it was Twittered about. So what happened was rather than people talking on the way out about their dissatisfaction or commenting politely, “That wasn’t what I expected.” and then moving on, the tweets were right there for the entire world to see…warts and all, myself included, as noted in Bob’s blog.

As with so much these days, only negative stuff was reflected upon. There actually where some great points made in the tweetstream by many of those in the audience not “speaking up.” As I pointed out to Bob in my comment to his post, indicating I didn’t like the event was far from the truth. My “live” Twitter participation was worth the evening itself. The topic and some of the discussion throughout the forum was icing on the cake.

In the end, the evening and its’ two conversations, online and in the room, was best summed up by one of the bloggers in attendance (and I apologize, I can’t locate who it was that said it) as the difference in two generations, further emphasizing the difference in the two mediums.

For me, there was another two lessons learned…

  1. Remember, to those that don’t know you, what you write could define you. Needless to say, to some I, as Ricky Ricardo would say, “have got some ‘splaining’ to do”
    to avoid being pigeon-holed.
  2. Finally, Twitter is more about quotable salvos lobbed into the ether. It’s not a replacement for a conversation. I believe I’ll keep my notebook closed when a conversation is happening in actual life. If nothing else, it’s
    more polite.

So, did I put the twit in Twitter. I don’t think so. This is what Twitter does, and it turns out it does it very well.

Sunday Morning with Skype

After quite some time, a recent business venture led me to dust off my Skype account. I actually got the account a long time back but really had little cause to use it. That and the built-in mic I use sounded like poop. In reality, I was intrigued by the whole VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) thing when I started down the “new media”. (If the yellow brick road had the munchkins, imagine what this road has. Yikes) 

Anyway, I have the need to speak with my partner on this venture regularly so we decided to use Skype for our regular chats and it was interesting to get up and running on this rather social media offering. So I’m thinking, “Phil, you’re sooo cutting edge.”

Then the family and I are at church when in the middle of the weekly announcements, our Pastor introduces one of the other Pastors “live” from India via Skype. We’ve all become accustom to those video phone interviews on CNN. Seeing an embedded reporter’s jerky and sometime out of sync updates is a fairly normal occurrence these days, but having your worship leader give you the scoop on a mission trip at three in the morning where he was took me by surprise. (OK, we went to church on Saturday night. The title just didn’t seem as snappy.) There it was…all main-stream and stuff.

I started thinking about all the uses for Skype beyond me talking to a colleague and getting reports from India. There are many: Have you got a conference with the suits coming up and you want to include others around the company? Skype it. Interview for your podcast or website? Skype it. Talking with Uncle Chutney in London and the phone card is tapped? You get the idea.

The Skype site can give you the complete skinny on the service. My point is that it’s one of the tools that can help you in your efforts to communicate. Remember, that to really get the most out of it, you and the person you’re talking with will need a high speed internet connection. Also, don’t skimp on a microphone or headset. We found that a Bluetooth headset and a wireless network is quite dicey…at best.

If you’re going to use Skype for a professional reason and the technical things aren’t in place. Don’t do it. Remember, know the audience and the level of technology they have access to.

Time to call Uncle Chutney….

You Speak. Who Hears? Who Listens?

As I spend more and more time peeling back the layers of communicating in the new millennium I’m always impressed at the amount of tools available to send a message or start a conversation. With so many gadgets and applications pouring out of the cloud it’s clear you need to investigate using some of them to reach your audience. Whoever that audience is, customers, friends, relatives, even pets can be reached in so many ways.

But, as exciting as it is to see all of these innovations develop, if you want to be truly effective in your communication, you can’t get swept up in the buzz of it all. Remember…remain calm.

The fact is that you need to have a clear understanding of who your audience is and what tools they use. If you try and reach them through a medium they don’t use…well…the point would be?

For example, my wife and I are spending more and more time texting each other throughout the day. It’s a great way for us to juggle the ever changing plans between our work, kids, and friends. It’s quick and unobtrusive. In fact, it has saved my butt more than a few times. See, I tend to space off phone messages and it’s easy for me to just text my bride as soon as I hang up the phone. The point is that we are starting to text so much I’ve thought about using Twitter or AIM or some other service. Then I realize my wife has no desire to use any of the tools. Because a) she doesn’t sit at a computer all day and b) her cell phone doesn’t have a data option. Yeah, I know all these services have a SMS option but the fact is…why bother if SMS works just fine?

And that’s the point; your audience has the same attitude. Unless it will profoundly improve their lives they’re just fine with where they are right now. Unless what you are trying to communicate is really revolutionary, you must reach them through the channels that exist and the ones they use. Don’t start the process of building a relationship with someone by introducing a new technology or changing their habits. They will better listen to your message in the environment they are comfortable in.

Your path of least resistance is to find out what they use. Who are you trying to reach? How old are they? How interested in your message and how do they hear about it? Believe it or not, adoption of new things is a relatively slow process. In most cases slow enough to date your message if you try using the “next big thing”.

That means…research…at what ever level you can. It’s better to spend the money and the time to get to look at the habits of your audience than spend the time and money whizzing in the wind.  Over the next weeks, as I continue to try and keep up, I’ll start tearing into many of these tools and we can find out some of the best and worst ways to reach your audience. Do remember, what may be ineffective today may be the “text messaging” for next week. Our goal is to use the right ones at the right time…now.

Sunday Morning Conversation

I woke to my family’s usual Sunday Morning routine. Being
the first to rise, I watch as the family staggers from their bedrooms with
sleep in their eyes. My son heads downstairs to work on his Guitar Hero chops,
my daughter climbs into our bed to watch the latest on the all important Disney
Channel, and my wife and I grab our coffee and settle in to watch CBS News
Sunday Morning

While not as good as it was when Charles Kuralt hosted, and
despite too many reruns from the archives, as well as Charles Osgood’s annoying
obsession with rhyming and insistence on referring to the year as
“twenty-oh-seven,” CBS still manages to present some great “articles” during
it’s Sunday morning magazine show.

This morning’s piece, ”Less Talk And A Little More Conversation, was right up the
RemainComm alley. As the use of other forms of communication proliferates, the
ability for people to converse is becoming more of a problem. Though the piece
quickly became too film oriented, the underlying importance of the give and
take of conversation, as well as the importance of listening remained front and

An aside; the topic of blogging came up briefly in comments
from writer Delia Ephron. She noted, “So, if you are blogging…you’re
e-mailing – you aren’t listening, right? You don’t have to listen. It’s really
just what’s in your own head.” Hold up there Ms. Ephron, blogging is more akin to writing than it is to conversation. Are we
comparing apples to apples here? If you’re blogging you are not e-mailing. Ephron
goes on to say, “I mean, conversation is about feelings and emotion,
that’s what it should really be about. If we’re not seeing it, that’s the
loss.” With this, I agree, though make no mistake blogging is also about sharing feelings
and emotion, conversation goes farther and includes seeing and hearing those feelings and emotions.

[Read more…]