“Cannonball comin’…”

A couple of college friends spotted my blog recently and asked why.  Some colleagues at work joined Twitter recently and found that I am already on it (in fact, I’m linking to this as my 1000th post), and asked why.  In the last three months both friends and family have seen me spend quality time on Facebook and asked why.  I gave it some thought.  To understand these tools, you have to immerse yourself in it – by diving right in.

As I learn more about interactive marketing – frankly, I know I have a lot to learn – social media is changing our industry.  Old approaches to connect with customers and communities are becoming less effective and less relevant.  What better way to understand how it is changing than to jump right in, drink from the fire hose and be baptized by fire all at once? 

After a few months, I have learned a lot and had fun doing it through Twitter, Facebook, this blog, and other tools:

  • I have met a diverse group of passionate social media enthusiasts who have been welcoming to a new participant, including the Social Media Club in Boston.
  • I found a group of strangers who love dunkin donuts coffee like it’s crack, just like I do. 
  • I have direct access to some of the folks in PR, venture capital and social media around the country that are defining how the industry will change, and there are amazing conversations taking place that I can participate in. 
  • I have reconnected with former clients and colleagues who are marching down the same learning path that I am.
  • I have caught up with old friends from elementary school, high school, college and work.  Not to mention summer camp (former campers who were 12 last time I saw them are now out of college!?).
  • I found a die-hard group of Red Sox fans to share a live game experience as if we were all in the same room.
  • I watched a campaign to raise money for Cancer research unfold due to the openness and honesty of a few core bloggers.
  • I watched a couple of social media companies leverage tools like Twitter to do their own PR about their new firm.
  • I have watched companies and individuals experiment, connect, ask questions and contribute thoughts and opinions.
  • I have found new ways to leverage being online and being connected every day.

Most importantly, I’ve experienced first hand how connecting to communities can add value to the experience – in this case my own – and am grateful for the connections.  I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Eating One’s Own Dog Food: Why I Like Tweetscan

Tweetscan4I’ve been a fan and user of Twitter for a few months now, and as adoption grows, I’m finding more uses.  There are a plethora of tools out there to search, measure and capture streams of conversations in Twitter.  I had been using a tool to capture twitter replies via email, but was frustrated with that tool’s latency.  After asking for a recommendation, I created an account with Tweetscan.

I didn’t see any summary emails coming through from Tweetscan for a few days, and when Scott Monty mentioned having a problem, I piped in on Twitter with a "Yeah, me too"-like response.  Within minutes I had a reply from @Tweetscan with a recommendation, and a couple of DMs later I was back in business.  I’m sure @Tweetscan is using it’s own product to search for users having issues (and praise too) – the prompt response and reply solved the problem for me…and confirmed another fan of the site.

Top Retailers and Social Media – Designing our next study

RetailThe top internet retailers are savvy companies who are mastering the art of user experience, search marketing, email marketing and many other tools to maintain a steadily growing industry.  Have they mastered, or even embraced, social media yet?  Geoff Livingston, in his book Now Is Gone, suggests companies need to "engage or die."  Which online retailers have started to engage, and how? 

I am sponsoring another Brulant survey of 100 of the top retailers – similar to Brulant’s Alternate Payment Methods study conducted in February – to see which companies are using social media tools to enhance their online presence and engage their communities. 

Here’s where I could use your help – What to measure

To keep it simple, we are going to go do our own research on a series of "yes" or "no" questions.  What questions do you think would help the casual observer determine "adoption" of social media?  Here is what we have so far.

Take 100 of the top internet retailers and measure the following – Does the company have:

  • an official Facebook Fan Page or Sponsored Group
  • an official Myspace page (after looking around this may be hard to figure out, but I’m clearly no myspace expert)
  • 1 or more official corporate blogs on their websites (interesting list at: http://www.socialtext.net/bizblogs/index.cgi)
  • RSS feeds off their websites
  • user reviews of products available on their websites
  • any YouTube “official” videos
  • any YouTube “Unofficial” videos
  • any Flickr results for brand

Realizing some of these may be both hard to quantify and that there are more likely to be individuals doing these activities on behalf of the companies, we’d want the measurements to be easy to capture and refresh at a later date to see trends.  What do you think?

Digital Footprints – I’m no longer size 10 1/2

Adamdf_2 At Len Devanna’s blog, he announces a very cool gadget from EMC on their recently revamped emc.com – a downloadable application to calculate your complete digital footprint based on how much you email, send text messages, take digital pictures or videos, etc.  (There is both a mac and PC version).  Len’s was 11.7MB, and being the Director of eBusiness for a data storage company like EMC, I figured that’s some heavy bandwidth.  I don’t consider myself an online junkie, yet I scored 19.1MB!  The app then starts a running ticker showing bytes of data I have created.

First, this gives a great appreciation for how much data is created out there.  Some of the well known bloggers, podcasters and others out there will have much larger footprints, but think of how this ties to corporations, small and large.

Second, this is a terrific marketing tool.  Not only is it interactive, it has a direct correlation to EMC’s business.  I’d love to see a similar one created by Earth911.org or the EPA that shows how much trash we generate or each person’s personal impact on global warming.  Or instead of Alicia Silverstone naked, PETA could create an application that calculates your "animal cruelty" footprint.  The campaign for Florida orange juice could calculate your annual carbonated soda footprint.  A hybrid automaker could calculate how much gas is guzzled by driver behavior.  There are lots of applications.  Hmm – maybe I need someone to calculate how many times I’ve watched that PETA ad.  Nah, I only looked at it once, I swear.

Work Hard, Play Hard – with Social Media

Practicewars_2 I work for a small interactive marketing and consulting firm called Brulant.  95% of the close to 400 employees are based in Cleveland, OH.  Every year, we have a traditional event called the Practice Wars, teeing up team members in the Java and Microsoft practices against each other, along with folks aligned to industry verticals.  The competition ranges from foosball and ping pong to Rubik’s cube and an engineering egg drop.  Other competitions include football, softball and other sports.  Everyone is encouraged to compete in at least one event, and the winning group maintains both a trophy and bragging rights for next year.

This year, we have infused social media into the fun, but as a communication vehicle and a way to educate the company on the tools and communities that are out there. 

  • We’ve launched a Brulant Practice Wars blog (internal only)
  • We’ve started a twitter feed @practicewars http://twitter.com/practicewars for all to follow, with live updates and scores during events
  • The folks followed by @practicewars show up in a real time feed on the blog
  • The blog has a RSS feed, comments, photos, a mashup of maps for the event locations

We used to just send out a big powerpoint of pictures and results – this time we can update everyone real time, solicit ideas, and even let folks talk smack.  This is a great way and idea to leverage social media internally and in the meantime we are teaching everyone the value of a tool like twitter.   Score: New Brulant Community 1, Old school lack of engagement, 0.