Friday, September 25, 2009

Is ‘Brands in Public’ a Social Media crisis?

Is Seth Godin playing ‘dirty pool’ with public sentiment around brands and businesses?

UPDATE (Sept. 25) at the end of this post

Did you feel the Social Media world shake, just a little, this week? You should have.

The announcement that Seth Godin’s Squidoo was launching Brands in Public is a blatant money grab, an unfair attack on brands or just dirty pool. Maybe it’s all of them.

As spelled out on Seth Godin’s blog – Brands in Public creates pages for individual brands that collect “tweets, blog posts, news stories, images, videos and comments about a brand. All of these feeds are algorithmic... the good and the bad show up, all collated and easy to find.”

For just $400 a month a brand can “moderate” what’s on the page. Or, as Godin says: ”You can't control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech.”

As I struggle to make sense of this I’m reminded of an analogy about Social Media. It states that Social media is much like a village square where you can wander around, discover the good stuff and meet new people who might also direct you to the best sources of stuff. People there might also warn you away from some other ‘bad’ stuff.

Godin’s Brands in Public has just added a giant billboard for every brand on the village square. Oh sure it’s convenient – all the hubbub around a brand, the good and the bad, in one place. But its potential for abuse by mischief makers is HUGE! And the only recourse for a brand? Pay Godin his $400 pound of flesh per month.

Yes, this stuff has always been out there. If someone wanted to speak ill of a brand they could and would. But outside of paid Social Media monitoring tools the average person had to believe strongly enough in the criticism or the person saying it to pass it along. Only when a LOT of people spoke up or passed along a criticism did the general masses become aware of it.

Enter Brands in Public. Now all the bad stuff is (true or not) is posted on that giant virtual billboard for free and the brand must pay the owner of the billboard to have some control over how it’s displayed.

This feels so … slimy. I’m sorry, but this just seems like a money grab, an unfair attack on brands or dirty pool.

My only hope is that enough of the Social media community sees this for what it is and doesn’t join the game. Social Media may never be the same.

It seems not all reaction to the concept of Brands in Public was positive. Today (Sept. 25) Seth Godin announced on his blog that the service would take down the sample pages.

Upon reading the new post it seems that only brands who are willing participants will be the subject of pages in Brands in Public. Although the wording leaves this not particularly clear if that is the case kudos to Godin for making a major change on the fly.

Related link:
10 Commandments for Social Media

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Social Media is the answer … partially

A letter to a future client

Dear Prospective Client,

I’m looking forward to our upcoming meeting and excited to hear about your business and its goals. I’m glad to hear that you are anxious to get into Social Media and that you are willing to try a new approaches.

However, before we meet I would like to be sure we’re all on the same page and not going into this meeting with unlikely, implausible or even impossible expectations. I’d like to talk to you about …

5 Things Social Media Can’t Be

1. A magic bullet. While there are many wonderful tools in Social Media that will help you understand and reach out to customers, employees and/or the community none of them individually or collectively will solve ALL of your business problems.

2. A one- or two-string violin. No matter how many Social Media platforms we agree will help you they will still only be a part of your plans moving forward. We will be looking at integrating tactics in Social Media with some of your existing and traditional customer- and employee-relation, sales and marketing methods. Be assured though, this “multi-string” approach WILL make beautiful music.

3. Left to an intern. To get the best results from Social Media someone in your organization (and depending on its size it may be two or more someones) will need to dedicate time to managing Social Media. While a young intern may understand the tools they likely will need a lot of GUIDANCE on their correct use and the strategy you will be using in Social Media.

4. Cheap. It is true that Social Media tools are usually very cheap or free. However to use them effectively will require a commitment of your organization’s TIME (and other resources) … and well know: Time = Money.

5. Rushed. Setting up shop in Social Media is just the beginning. It should take quite some time for you to work through the steps of Listening, Engaging and then, and only then, Contributing. A small dose of PATIENCE early on can pay big dividends.

Thank you for your interest and I very much look forward to our future successful collaboration.

-- Mike Johansson at Fixitology

Related posts:
10 Commandments for Social Media
10 Things To Watch Out For In Social Media
10 Social Media No-Nos

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Social Media Release

Best Practices and Some Examples

The Social Media Release – also called the Social Media Press Release and Social Media News Release – has rapidly become the way for anyone trying to “get the word out” to provide all the resources necessary for anyone from citizen-customer to journalist to find the information they want (in the format they like it).

So, what is a Social Media Release? In a nutshell it is a page, usually a Web page, that collects words, images, audio, video, links, social bookmarks and more around the topic you care about. And by “you” we mean both the person spreading the word and the person looking for information.

Background: In a 2006 post titled
Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die! blogger Tom Foremski tapped into a broad media sentiment that the days of the standard old-school press release needed to end. His main points: Cut out the spin and provide information in many different formats

It was then that Todd Defren of Boston’s
Shift Communications suggested a better way: the Social Media Press Release – a more conversational and useful collection of information and supporting materials. He offered up a Social Media Press Release template

This was followed on the blog
Conversation Marketing by Ian Lurie wondering about the lack of an HTML version and so he made one. You can preview Lurie’s Social Media Release or download the HTML as a Zip file.

10 Must-Haves in a Social Media Release

Contacts: Information – front and center – on how to reach the author of the release, the key person quoted in the release and the online newsroom of the releasing organization.

Words: A brief description of the point you are trying to make (with no spin) and why any reader might care to check out all of your wonderful, related content. Aim for 250 to 750 words – no more. Be sure to optimize for the search engines by including one or more of your keyword phrases.

Images:That are linked to from
Flickr or some other online resource where the entire album is available.

Audio: Saved as a podcast on
iTunes or saved on your server/Web site as a common-format audio file that is linked to from the release.

Video: Which is hosted at
YouTube allowing consumers to watch it directly and journalists to grab the embed code for possible inclusion on their own web sites.

Print It/Email It buttons: These are no longer “nice touches,” but are absolutely expected.

”Share This Page” buttons: These invite visitors to share your content with others through social bookmarking and social media sites … and makes it very easy to do. For example clicking on the Twitter button opens a Twitter window asking the user to sign in to their account and pre-fills the Status Box with a short message about your content and shortened URL leading right to it. Other buttons should cover the major Social Media information sharing sites likely to be used by your target audiences.

Links: Be sure to include links everywhere. The more links you have to targeted and relevant information, the company’s principals and the company home page the more interaction you encourage. This also doesn’t hurt your Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, efforts either.

Comments box: Make it easy for anyone to talk back to you. No-registration-needed comments fields are best as even a simple registration process will deter many from taking the time to leave a comment. And you do want to hear from everybody and anybody. A name and an email address is all you need ask for.

Invitation to sign up for notifications: Invite anyone to share their email to be alerted to future Social Media Releases.

Some examples of good Social Media Releases (SMR):

- Ford’s
2008 Ford Focus release

- Coca-Cola’s
Virtual Thirst competition for Second Life release

- Cincom’s announcement that its Smalltalk software programming language had
won the Dynamic Language Shootout competition

Related Content:
Social Media and Public Relations