Tag Archives: blogging

Helped by the internet, “the times, they are a-changin” in Egypt

I got home yesterday morning from a three-day trip to Hurghada, Egypt.  Hurghada is a sprawling resort town on the Red Sea frequented by scuba divers.  I was there to complete my PADI Open Water Diving certification.  As it happened, I had the April 5th issue of The New Yorker magazine with me, which featured an article by Joshua Hammer on the upcoming Presidential elections in Egypt.

The current Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, became President in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat.  He has since been “re-elected” every six years by national referendum with no opposition candidates, except in 2005 when the Bush administration pressured him to allow multiparty Presidential elections.  The fairness of those elections has been challenged, with human rights watchers reporting massive suppression of the opposition in the weeks leading up to the voting and on election day.

Election year 2011 looks to be different, with several factors potentially ushering in real change.

One is that Mubarak is now 81.  While he once told the Egyptian parliament that he would stay in office until his last, dying breath, he has recently been grooming  possible successors, including his son Gamal.

Another catalyst of change is Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who recently returned to his hometown of Cairo for the first time since retiring as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  ElBaradei was the man who questioned the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion and urged that inspections continue.  He has now heeded the call from different constituencies in Egypt and is assessing a possible run for the Presidency.

And finally, there’s the internet.  According to the New Yorker article, 16 million Egyptians are now online, most of them under the age of 35.  That’s relatively low for a population of about 80 million.  Nevertheless, Gamal Mubarak, who is trying to position himself as the leader of Egypt’s youth hosted a recent webcast with college students, and more are planned.  (One could also imagine him launching the Arab equivalent of The Great Schlep, the online campaign that mobilized young Jewish voters in the U.S. to get their non-internet affine grandparents living in Florida to vote for Obama.)  ElBaradei has created the National Front for Change, which includes a web site that is collecting signatures for adjustments in the law to make the election fairer.  And unknown to him, supporters also created a Facebook fan page.  Joshua Hammer reported that there were 76,000 fans at the time he wrote the article.  I just looked and there are now over 91,000.

Bloggers are also active in Egypt, although those critical of governmental policies have been called in for questioning and in some cases jailed.  Referring to these incidences, Mohamed Gamal, a leader in Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, said, “There might be some individual cases, but no government can crack down on the internet.”  One wonders if that statement is just a propaganda ploy to play down the ruling party’s efforts to suppress criticism online, or a sincere acknowledgment that in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin in Egypt.  One hopes it’s the latter.

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Twitter for Madmen

I may be the last person who knows about this, but as I’m a fan of Madmen, I just had to share this in case it went by any other Madmen fans who read this blog.

Betty Draper is on Twitter.  (Latest Tweet: “Staring at myself in the toaster.”) So is Roger Sterling, Joan Harris and others.

Since the series started, fans of the show have created fictional Twitter accounts for there favorite Madmen characters.  In fact there are as many as 90, according to Brand Fiction Factory, a company that develops online content for brands and companies engaging with consumers through social media.  Indeed Brand Fiction Factory writers are the real world minds behind 16 of these accounts and they were recently named as a SAMMY Awards finalist in the category Best Twitter Branding Campaign for their Madmen endeavours. If I understand correctly, these writers weren’t paid, but created the content out of their love for the show, so this may be the first time we’ve seen a fan-based campaign recognized in this way.  That is if you can really call it a campaign.

Hat’s off to AMC, the company that produces Madmen, for recognizing the power behind this fan-based enthusiasm to intensify involvement and commitment to the series.  It’s amazing when you think about it.  The fans are extending the fictional narrative beyond television, and AMC has relinquished control and let them go with it.

I imagine Twitter could be used in a similar way for certain iconic brands to fuel the myth and stories that surround them and strengthen the emotional connection with their users.  What would The Marlboro Man tweet about, I wonder?  “Just back from the rodeo, my ass feels like silly putty and I need a bourbon and smoke.” He isn’t on Twitter.  (Although there is a real life cowboy from Nebraska who tweets under the name of marlboroman.) How does Betty Crocker manage to get through her day?  There is a Betty Crocker Twitter feed, but it’s hosted by the brand, not Betty herself.  Any thoughts on other brands that might do this?

By the way, you can also find Betty Draper on Linkedin, and she writes a blog.

Are we all going mad, men and women?

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Social media? Let Mikey do it? I don’t think so

Many voices in the blogosphere are saying that 2010 will be the year that social media will move from “nice to have” to “must have” for brands.  Maybe it’s true.  But a conversation I heard this week on episode 85 of The BeanCast makes me think that CEO’s still don’t get what is happening here.

The topic of the conversation was the newly emerged position of community manager, who many companies are now putting in place to “manage” their online relationships with consumers, bloggers, etc.  (There must be a better term than manager.  Managing sounds pretty close to commanding and controlling, which is precisely what social media is not about, but that’s a whole different blog post.) It seems that in many cases these jobs are being assigned to junior people, just out of school, for salaries in the $20K range.  What that says to me is that the CEO is thinking, “Okay — there’s this Facebook, Twitter, blogger thing happening on the internet, I don’t really get what it’s about, but hey, it’s another way to get our message to consumers so let’s put the new kid on it who knows how to use this stuff.”

Mikey, our new online community manager

You’ve got to be kidding me.  The new kid?  The one with this least experience and the least understanding of what the company and the brand is all about?

Social media isn’t some hip new communications channel.  It is a different animal — an amazing, completely new and ever changing way for brands to interact and collaborate with their consumers and stake holders and address their needs.  What happens in social media is exposed to the entire online world and all it takes is one well connected blogger, enraged or enthused, for a company’s words and actions to be seen, discussed, praised or picked apart by everyone.

This person needs to know how to deal with a disgruntled customer, build a constructive relationship with an influential blogger, understand the complexities of how to be transparent without revealing confidential company or client information, work within the organization with all departments to guide them in understanding their role in social media and its benefit to the company.  He or she needs to understand strategy, and think creatively about how to integrate social media strategically with marketing, communications, customer service, internal communications, R&D and sales to achieve business objectives.

Scott Monty of Ford and Richard Binhammer of Dell, two social media evangelists within major corporations whose efforts have become case studies for innovative and effective social media engagement, aren’t kids.  They are seasoned business people who have been around the block a few times.

If you’re a CEO who thinks this social media thing is simply another communications channel, best handled by one of the kids in the organization just because he’s had a Facebook page since high school, you really need to think again.  Put somebody in place who not only gets the space, but has a few years under his or her belt in communications, marketing, branding building, customer relations or sales.  And who has gained some wisdom and experience in dealing with people and building relationships.

By the way, I’m available.  But not for $20,000.

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Vote for this man and help Hugo Boss democratize the modelling world via social media!

My friend Andre Zaremba has entered the Hugo Boss Runway Model Contest on Facebook.  (Is he hot, or what?)  You can vote for him there.  Just find him via the search box and vote.  He has also created a Facebook fan page.

Hugo Boss will select one male and one female winner who will walk the catwalk at the Boss Black Fashion Show in Berlin on January 21, 2010.  The event will be live streamed on Facebook.

Andre asked me for ideas on how he might rack up the votes.  Here’s what I told him.  Perhaps there are some ideas for you to promote your own personal brand.

Happy holidays!

Hi Andre,

here are a couple of thoughts.  The cool thing is that your fans can vote for you once every 24 hours.  Since they’ve already done it, they’re likely to do it again.  So they’re the ones from whom you are most likely to source the votes you need. “Strategically” it makes sense to give them a little nudge each day but do it in a way that’s interesting/entertaining, not annoying.  You do that by creating some content, that’s fun or interesting to watch, look at and read, indeed so fun and interesting that it’s “spreadable”.  I.e. people will send it on.

You could set up a YouTube page, give it a theme title related to the Boss contest, shoot a short video each day (do you have a Flip camera?) and post it there.  For example, each daily video could be about a different reason “Why Andre will be the Boss model to die for.”

Video 1 “Andre has a great body” (Andre posing like a muscle man in a bathing suit)

Video 2 “Andre has class” (Andre reading the Royal Opera House bulletin)

Video 3 “Andre has great taste” (Andre eating pate)

Each day a new video.  And each day you send the link to your network, post on your Facebook page, etc.  Get the drift?

Add a “call to action” text with a link to the contest.  And a call to action to “Please send this video to your friends.”

You could easily do the same thing as still-photos that you send out in an email to your fan base every day, or as a message on Facebook.

Set up a Twitter account.  You could build on this theme there and send out tweets to your Twitter followers.  A Twitter post can contain links to your Facebook fan page, or to the photos.  But you’ll need to build a group of followers fast.  First, search all your friends to see if they are on Twitter.  Then there are all sorts of offerings that help people build their followers fast. I don’t remember off hand any specific ones, but if you search “Twitter follower” on Google you find one.

Check out Buzzom.  This is a service that let’s you find Twitter users who are more likely to follow you because you have a common interest.  (Click on the people search option and then on bio).  Important is that the little bio on your Twitter home page reflects that interest.  So your bio might include words like style, fashion, aspiring model.  Buzzom lets you find others with those words in their bio and enables you to follow them several hundred at a time, and a day or two later, delete those who didn’t follow you back.  You can then repeat the process, and there’s a tool that allows you not to repeat following the people you’ve already contacted.

I like the idea of creating a blog.  Again make it fun, and about your quest to win the contest.  Send the link to all your friends, and invite them to send it to others.  Post daily or more often – your posts could be blog-appropriate versions of the above, you could update your followers on the number of votes, talk about your latest idea to help win votes, you could even ask your blog readers for their ideas.  Makes sure to include invites in the side panel for you readers to receive automatic notifications of your posts via RSS feed or email.  I use WordPress and it’s pretty easy to set up.

You should register at StumbleUpon and Delicious.  StumbleUpon is a site where people find sites, web pages, blogs, etc. by entering key words relating to a topic.  Delicious is a public bookmarking site. When you’ve registered, you can pretty much post any content to them with tags relating to the content (so again in this case your tags might be fashion, style, Hugo Boss, Hugo Boss contest, and other related words).  People searching StumbleUpon and Delicious can discover your content in this way (e.g. your YouTube page) and may vote for you.  Especially if they encounter engaging content and a clear link to the voting page.

Consider if there is anything you can give your community of fans that they would spread to others.  So maybe you could leverage that great body of yours to make a calendar, or post card of some sort, that straight gals and gay guys would send to their social online networks.  Think in that direction. What else could you create online that’s fun, related to the contest, that people would like to spread to their networks.  Of course whatever it is, include a call to action to vote for you and a link to Boss page where they can vote.

So those are a few things off the top of my head.  Now I have to go and vote for you again.

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Pioneer Woman — how marrying a cowboy can turn you into an emerging web 2.0 superstar

The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummond, a former city girl who met a cowboy, married him and ended up “in the middle of nowhere” with four kids on a cattle ranch.  Her original blog, which she started writing in 2006, has grown into a significant online media property.

As beautiful and polished as it looks — the photography and overall layout of the site are fantastic — and that fact that Ree clearly has a good instinct when it comes to creating a personal brand and public identity, she still manages to maintain her honest, down-home, “I’m just a wife and mother out in the boonies like you” soul.  Perhaps this, as well as her many recipes presented with easy-to-follow photos, is what keeps her estimated 2 million monthly readers (according to the LA Times) coming back to the site.  The photo archives of Charlie, the basset hound who thinks he’s a cattle dog, is just my favorite among many examples of the content on Pioneer Woman that keep it intimate and personal, indeed sometimes just down right corny.  (You can’t say that about Martha Stewart!)  It also helps that Ree has a style and a way with words that I suspect connects perfectly with her audience — like the way she refers to her husband only as Marlboro Man.

Pioneer Woman shows how web 2.0 enables us all to share our personal passions, lifestyle, thoughts and ideas with anyone, anywhere, and that even a mother-of-four, thousands of miles away from a media metropolis, can transform those passions into a commercial media property, while staying true to herself at the same time.

Still, it can’t be easy.  Wife, mother, household, 2000 head of cattle.  How does she do it?  It’s a challenge for me to write this blog at least once a week.  And the only animal (or child) around here is a parrot.  (Uh oh.  I hear him in the bathroom throwing the shower stopper around.  That means he wants to take a bath.  Gotta go!)

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I love plaid. Plaid Nation that is

Picture 2

I fell in love with Plaid today.  Not the pattern, the Agency and its road show Plaid Nation.  Plaid is a small shop hailing from the mega-communications metropolis of Danbury, Connecticut.  They do some cool work creating online communities and social media programs for organizations and brands that include Boehringer Ingelheim, Iron Horse Bikes, Segway, Sony Music, Virgin Records and — how lovely — the Westport Country Playhouse.

I fell in love because everything about Plaid lives and breathes the best qualities of social media.  They’re open, real, honest, charming, relaxed, human.  And frankly I just like the design of their web site. It’s fun and funky.

The way I got onto them, though, wasn’t through the web site or their work.  I’d been hearing for awhile  about something called Plaid Nation on different blogs and podcasts.  I knew it was some kind of road show or tour, with a team that went across country meeting with anyone doing interesting, innovative things — people, companies, NGO’s, even other creative agencies.  But I didn’t know much more than that. Today I finally got around to visiting the Plaid Nation 2009 web site and getting behind the story.

Picture 1

The first Plaid Nation tour happened in 2007.  It began as an idea for Plaid to generate awareness and PR.  A group of company staffers made over a van in plaid and drove across country to visit — unannounced — brands they liked or would like to get to know.  Since then the tour has become, according to Plaid’s Darryl Ohrt in Ad Age, “a produced ‘show’ that profiles some of the world’s greatest, most interesting and innovated business thinkers.”

Indeed it does.  Go over to Plaid Nation where you’ll find interviews featuring:

  • Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, talking about his recently completed tumultuous first year at the corporate giant.
  • Steve Pacheco,  Director of Advertising for Federal Express.  Federal Express’s late-delivery rate is tiny.  But when you consider that Fedex delivers millions of packages on any given day, even a fraction of a percentage of late arrivals can amount to a significant number of complaints on Twitter.  In contrast, no one on Twitter is going to post that his Fedex package arrived on time this morning.  That’s just one reason that Fedex has begun to engage in social media.
  • An inspiring visit to the Make it Right project, an organization started by Brad Pitt to help rebuild New Orleans’ post-Katrina neighborhoods with economically and environmentally sustainable housing.
  • A talk with the people running the The Q Hotel  – the first green hotel in Kansas City and one of only 11 hotels in North Amercia that has been certified green.

And that’s just a small selection.  All in all this year’s Plaid Nation July tour spent time with inspirational movers and shakers in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Branson Missouri, Jackson Mississippi and New Orleans.  And the tour members shared their experiences through a vibrant combination of videos, blogs, tweets and Facebook posts.

What strikes me most about the Plaid Nation tour is its generosity.  Of course Plaid launched the tour to promote their business.  But  they realize they have the most to gain by giving.  Everyone who visits Plaid Nation profits from the ideas and inspiration they discover there, while Plaid profits from the exposure, sharing the way think and work, and letting potential clients get to know the people who make Plaid what it is.  And of course the people and projects they visit gain through the exposure as well.

Apparently it works.  Plaid says the tour has been a major driver of new business since its inception.

So pay a visit to Plaid Nation.

And to Plaid Nation I’d just like to ask, can we hope to see you in Germany some day?

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The latest station in Charlene Li’s crusade to prove the business value of social media

Sometimes I get the feeling that Charlene Li is on a crusade — a crusade to prove with hard data that social media can have real value for business.  First there was Groundswell, co-authored with Josh Bernoff, which highlighted an array of companies leveraging social media successfully to achieve business objectives.  Now there’s a new study from Charlene’s company, Altimeter Group, and Wetpaint, that shows a correlation between social media engagement and financial performance.

Engagementdb

The ENGAGEMENTdb Report looks at the top 100 performing global brands according to the BusinessWeek/Interbrand “Best Global Brands 2008” ranking and measures and ranks their engagement in a range of social media channels for both depth and breadth.  The analysis shows a clear correlation between social media engagement and financial performance.

While correlation is not the same thing as cause and effect, the data is impressive.  And as Mark Pack points out in a blog post, if one assumes that the world’s top performing companies are run by the world’s most capable managers, it’s noteworthy that these business leaders appear to endorse a deep and committed engagement in social media.

The report concludes with a useful assessment of the best practices of four of the most socially engaged brands — Starbucks, Toyota, SAP and Dell.  It’s interesting that the way companies engage in the space can vary greatly.  For example, while Starbucks only permits a small group of designated employees to speak for the company in social channels, SAP has 1500 employee bloggers.

There are a few details missing from the report that I would like to have seen.  Each company was rated on 40 engagement attributes, but the report doesn’t provide the specific attributes.  What’s more, while it lists the specific social media channels analyzed, there is no analysis of which, or in what depth, each company engaged with the individual channels.  This might have helped to better understand while Apple, a company that doesn’t receive particularly high marks from me for online social engagement, made it to the top third of the ranking.

So, what will be the next station in Charlene Li’s crusade to prove the business value of social media?  I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already working on the next quantitative study, the one that show not only a correlation, but an actual cause-and-effect relationship between social media engagement and business results.

Some crusades are good.

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