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.



Gary Koelling Gets Personal With Radio

I’ve written before about my involvement with the Conclave , an organization that seeks to educate radio broadcasters. This year I had the pleasure of heading up the planning of the Tech/Interactive Track at this year’s Learning Conference (#clave09), underway right now in Minneapolis. I’m thrilled that I have been able to include many of Minnesota’s tech, interactive and social media “stars” as part of the agenda.

One of those “stars” is Gary Koelling, Best Buy’s Social Media guru and founder of Blueshirt Nation, Giftag and IdeaX. I asked Gary to talk with my broadcast brethren about increasing radio’s ‘signal strength’, a phrase Gary coined during a conversation we had some time back that refers to reaching customers through social media.

I met with Gary about an hour before his presentation because he wanted to show me what he came up with. I trust Gary implicitly to put together a great presentation on this topic…and he did. No surprise! I had expected to politely preview his slides, say “Cool!” and move on.

What I experienced, and what the attendees saw was a deeply personal story reflecting Gary’s passion for this medium and what it has meant to him over the years. He told me that every time he sat down to build his presentation he found himself “yelling” at radio for what it has become. He told me, “That’s not helpful to anyone.” So what he did was take everyone through the emotional relationship he has, and I bet all of have had, with radio.

“Other stations can steal your listeners, they can’t steal your friends.”

What Gary did at the Conclave Learning Conference was remind broadcasters about the personal connection that they must maintain with their listener’s to survive. A connection, or as Gary noted, a “friendship” that has become less important in a world where making their quarterly numbers.

Gary, thank you for taking an hour of your day to empower broadcasters by sharing your knowledge in such a personal and emotional way. They’re still talking about it…the next steps is to act.

Here is Gary’s opening “story”. See the slide deck (though I think the picture you see in your mind will be better) on Gary’s blog.

I remember as a kid growing up in the 70’s in the middle of a corn field in Iowa feeling radio was the one thing that reliably connected me to the broader world. Locally as in the world ‘in town’ but also the world beyond. Listening during the long summer breaks to KWAY and the daily “Swap and Shop” and lives coming together, lives falling apart. Revealed to me in the items that people needed or needed to get rid of. The stories of lives beginning and lives ending and unexpected twists and detours in otherwise normal, boring lives were told in elaborate and veiled detail from eleven to one every day.

Later, as a car-less young teenager, I got around on tractors and bicycles and dirt bikes up and down gravel roads and through the fields of corn and corn and soybeans listening to radios, discovering popular music, music that was not my parents’ and feeling connected to that agitated, rebellious, horny angst of 38 Special, and Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers and Steve Miller. Then feeling so desperate to be part of it and for it to be part of what I was trying to be. I called the KFMW request line – long distance. A human answered the phone. Older. Male. Deep and busy sounding. I stepped up and said could you play ‘Refugee’ for Christie. What song you want played? Uh, Refugee by Tom Petty and the – . Refugee. Alright I’ll get it right on kid. Click. And my chest felt full of hot blood and breath and my face was hot red and I got on my ten speed and pedaled hard up the road with a radio hanging over the ram horn handle bar of my bike. I prayed I could get to Christie before the DJ played the song.

I wanted to see her face. Take credit. Get laid. But Christie wasn’t home. I hung out under the tree across from her driveway, heart beating frantically, hoping that the song wouldn’t come on. Then her mom’s car crawled up the road and slowed as it passed me and pulled into the driveway. I played it cool as her mom squinted over the wheel at me, the radio playing as it hung from my handle bars. I practiced in my mind how I would tell her that I requested the song for her. Her favorite. That I thought I was falling in love with her. And we’d kiss. That afternoon we talked for hours and hours feeling half drunk from the smell of sun and pool water and sweat and faint cigarette smoke that only a fifteen year old girl can twirl together into the sweetest perfume a fifteen year old boy would ever smell.

Then as the fireflies came out and the sun got low she had to go in for dinner. I rode home slow. And the song came on. And that heavy, hot blood and breath came back into my chest. And then I was a teenager. A teenager as free and angry and in deep and desperate as any had ever been and protected only by a transistor FM radio.

Changing the World: Behind Obama’s Ineractive Design

I had the chance to take in this presentation by Scott Taylor (SimpleScott) last week compliments of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA). Scott’s storytelling and insight were fascinating and shed a great deal of light on the thinking that went into one of the world’s first…and most successful…use of interactive media in a political campaign.

If you’re interested I posted a more complete recap of the event at Minnov8. It was also reposted at MinnPost. It doesn’t matter what you plan on doing with Social and Interactive Marketing…there are valuable lessons to learn from Scott.

Vanity Inaction

So, I woke up all stressed this morning…I had fallen asleep and not been at the computer at 11:01pm (CDT) to get secure my name as my URL on Facebook. Wow, talk about Social Media guilt. As involved as I am in Social Media this is a big deal…or is it?

Since my PhilWilson and Phil.Wilson were already gone, I set about finding the next best thing…next best being the problem. No matter which one I checked on I was not satisfied. PhilBWilson? Nope, I never use the initial. Nah, sounds too URLy. meet.PhilWilson? Not bad but maybe a bit too George Jetson. Most of them just didn’t sit with me and many were just way to cutesy. Logically, I knew that the full name was key. Creatively, I knew I wanted to stand out.

About three hours into the search it hit me. What an incredible waste of time. I had locked on to something that in the long run was so incredibly trivial. You see, my Facebook page is the way I keep in touch with friends. It’s not really how I try to “further my brand” on line. Facebook is more personal.

Search wise, since I’m known as Phil Wilson on Facebook, I’m going to show up that way in search. If someone wants to find me on Facebook via my consulting, RemainComm, I show up on FB search that way and at the top of the page in Google search. Localtone Radio, a startup I’m part of? I show up third in FB search…behind our Facebook page and it’s creator and my partner Justin Grammens. That’s cool by me.

Any way the point is this. There are a bunch of Phil Wilsons in the world…many of them on Facebook. My vanity URL will not change that. My best bet is to try and use a word or words that might possibly help someone find me on Facebook. Something that will further my connectivity on the Social Web.

So what did I end up with? Well, a friend of mine, Meg Canada, upon meeting my family for the first time once said to my daughter, “We know your Dad as Philson.” @philson is my Twitter name and I use it for alot of account names accross the web. Why not use this Facebook thing as a way to tie Phil Wilson to that web persona Philson? Of course nothing is easy, and since “philson” was already taken (Yeah, there’s alot of philsons out there too.), I added a little “aka”. So the Facebook URL is

Is it the perfect “brand extension”? Maybe not, but it does accomplish something. And, more importantly, it gets the whole anguish of choosing a name behind me.

Now is there any way to get that three hours back?

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.”

A Gadget Guy’s Broken Heart

A few days ago I shared that I had decided to give it up for a Palm Pre on June 6th when it rolled out. As noted in my comments on that post and through my tweets on the same subject, I’ve spent a great deal of time on the phone with Sprint talking price plans. As of today, it looks like my first ever attempt at being “one of the first” to get a new smart-phone has been thwarted…and it’s breaking my gadget guy heart… But it’s also provided me with a decent customer service experience and a chance to  learn a few things.

Here’s the scoop, I walked into my local Sprint store and was told that I would need to upgrade all of the phones on my current account to handle the data plan that the Pre will require to operate in full bells and whistles mode. The only data plan currently available for the Pre. At first, I thought, “There’s probably a better price that ‘Mr. Personality’ at this particular Sprint outlet doesn’t know about.” So, off to Sprint Customer Service I went.

After many emails I found out that ‘Mr. Personality’ appeared to be right. This upgrade in plan is necessary for a Pre and represents about a $600 annual increase in my phone expense. Okay look, two of the phones on my plan only require voice and text, so
I don’t need the internet, video or the ability to stream TV on those
phones as it appears that is what the Pre needs…though I doubt it. In
addition, the monthly voice minutes would either far exceed anything I would ever need or go down across the
three phones. Now I realize that the additional expense is not all that
much (by early adopter standards) but I have a real hard time paying
something that I don’t need or won’t use. And within the current economic landscape,
paying for it is really foolish.

Not content with this email exchange I took Sprint up on an offer, made in one of the emails, to call them. Robert was incredibly helpful as he methodically dissected my plan and looked for the best possible way to get me as close to my current expenditure without services I didn’t need. Well, as hard as he tried, it couldn’t be done. Sprint is just plain set on pushing the increase in fees to all existing customers, no matter how long they’ve been with them or how many phones they have.

I applaud Robert for working so hard at this. The fact is that customer challenges will arise and how the company’s people handle it is the true judge of customer service. But, no matter how pleasant and helpful Robert was, a satisfactory rate was not to be had. Too bad.

Here’s some of what I learned from the experience, other than I’ll likely be holding off on the Palm Pre purchase:

  • Sprint customer service was generally positive. Robert even suggested that I wait and see what happens after the roll-out. Plans change once the bloom is off the rose. This, of course I know. But I had real gadget envy going.
  • There sure is a hell of alot of chatter about the Pre in the social media space.Though in all my tweeting about this on @plam_pre_for_me and my posts here, I received zero contact from Sprint or Plam, so they are either not monitoring the social stream or they have chosen not to reach out via that channel.
  • With this delay in purchasing the Pre, I can actually wait and see what the iPhone upgrades and rumored new AT&T plans could offer me. I may be able to move to the super-model sexy standard in smart-phones for less than I think.
  • My insistence on being logical does not allow me to be a “stand in line for the first one” kind of guy.

Oh well, my heart will heal. I’ll just have to continue saving myself for that perfect phone.

Road trip! From MXMW to SXSW

I’ll be taking a break from the sunny climes of Minnesota (-4 as of this writing…sheesh!) to head to South By Southwest Interactive.

Through my involvement in radio I’ve known about the SXSW Music Festival for years, but never had the chance to “make the scene.” (Yep, channeling Linc form Mod Squad again.) Before the birth of RemainComm and the founding of Localtone Systems, I had never known there was an interactive festival as well. So the lure of interactive, a huge music scene, and some warmer weather, has inspired me to load up the laptop and head south.

Look for posts, pictures and video from the event throughout the coming week, both here and at Minnov8. I’l pass along some of the highlights and share what I find during my first full on trip into one of the epic events in geekdom (I say that lovingly.) and perhaps some fun along the way!

If you’re headed to SXSW yourself, let me know with a tweet to @philson.

One Answer To “Radio, What Do We Do Now?”

(This post is a response to a call from Mark Ramsey of Hear 2.0 and Radio & Records magazine for ideas that can help secure radio’s future. See a pdf here. Note: RemainComm is referenced as “a Social Media consultancy.” Though Social Media represents one of our core competencies, RemainComm encompasses many media strategies, both interactive and traditional.)

As I pointed out in my Social Hour webinar of the same name, it is vital for radio to Join the Conversation online through a well thought out and executed social media strategy and the appointment of someone to oversee it.

For the sake of this discussion, compliments of Wikipedia, “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings and most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”

In radio, too many times our presence on the internet is merely a stake in the ground, allowing us to proudly proclaim, “Yes, I am online!” Radio’s presence in the online space needs to be more than signing up for a MySpace page or Twitter account. It must be about using those tools to reach and build stronger relationships with your audience…to engage them in conversation. The use of social media will allow you to take this one way medium, radio, and turn it into a two-way conversation.

[Read more…]

Signal Strength and Culture Change

Over the past week I’ve had the chance to have a few conversation with Gary Koelling of Best Buy and founder of, on the subject of business and social media (he also likes the term social technology). In fact you can hear one of those conversations as part of our weekly Minnov8 Gang Podcast. I speak with Gary about alot of things, but I was particularly struck by his thoughts on two subjects.

First, was that of “signal strength”.
(Ok, now you’re talkin’ a radio guy’s language.) As Gary was
whiteboarding away on the topic of reaching customers and fans he noted
how easy social media makes it to leap over so many steps and
interactions to speak directly with the customer. His comment, “Your
signal strength is much higher.”

That of course had me visualizing the good ol’ communication model that
was drilled into me for years. Any time you can eliminate static
between the sender and the real receiver (in that “medium”) the better. both are winners
when you can increase your signal strength.

Of course getting a business to remove the static that impacts signal strength is a discussion of business culture and it’s impact on the acceptance of social media. I’ve mentioned more than a few times here that there needs to be a shift in the business models of many companies, including as it pertains to the long tail, broadcast, and big brands.

In conversations Gary has shared with me many of the accomplishments and a few frustrations he has experienced over the years as he as tried to overcome established business cultures. In a nutshell he emphasized the need to be patient. Business has a long history of not really allowing the customer to directly influence how they do things. It will take time and many attempts at getting business to both accept new ideas and avoid falling back on “the way we have always done things.”

Patience is the key to social media in so many ways, including the patience a company need to have when building relationships. That doesn’t happen quick enough to impact your financials by the end of this quarter, or next. That’s a big change for companies, especially those in crisis, as so many are right now.

Gary pointed to this video as what Best Buy is thinking in this regard.

Clearly, Best Buy is making a move toward changing it’s culture and increasing it’s signal strength. It’s very encouraging and should be inspiring to other companies and business categories. (I’m thinking media…especially radio, where it’s all about signal strength.)