How Twitter and Social Networks Can Make History

ideaEvery once in awhile a video comes along that inspires thought and challenges assumptions.  This video of internet guru Clay Shirky speaking as part of the TED series is no exception.  From the advent of the printing press to modern community platforms, Shirky uses stories from China, Iran, the Obama campaign, and other political uprisings to demonstrate the power of Facebook, text messaging and Twitter to make a real impact.  This is worth the watch.

(Thanks to David Armano for sharing this on Twitter.  Feed subscribers please click through to see the video).

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A Quick Snapshot of Old vs. New Media

In late October, I got a first hand glimpse into how the web is taking on traditional newspapers.  While in Dallas for Forrester’s Consumer Forum, I was grateful to be invited to drop in at the offices of the Dallas Morning News to talk about how retailers are using Facebook.

A Somber Scene

At first glance, the floor where most of the reporters sit is very much like the stereotypical movie sets.  I expected Perry White (Jackie Cooper, in my head, anyways) to come screaming out of his office at any moment.  The major differences:  PCs everywhere instead of typewriters, and most of the desks were empty.  I visited them on a Monday – the prior Friday they had been through a series of layoffs, and the mood was somber.  As the paper takes on challenges brought on by Web 2.0 and the shift of advertising online, ironically a blog solely for former employeers of the paper cropped up and has some very passionate people engaged. 

Challenges for Traditional Newspapers

Three major challenges for the paper are apparent.  First, the cost of advertising.  Simply put, ads cost a lot less and are far more measurable online.  This directly competes with ad revenue for the paper, and was a deciding factor in the recent Chapter 11 filing at the holding company that owns the Chicago Tribune and LA Times.

The second challenge is the proliferation of other media sources.  I heard the phrases “reading blogs” and “did you see the blog post” several times.  The lines between traditional media and new media are blurring and anyone who can publish a story could conceivably trump a reporter at a paper.  Clearly reporters are paying attention.  The lines are blurring between official reporters and passionate folks who like to write.

A third challenge for newspapers is really understanding the digital channel.  I’ve seen recent discussion on Twitter with Bryan Person and Aaron Strout around how newspapers don’t understand search engine optimization (SEO).  Both have pointed out examples of articles in Boston papers where the authors failed to include links in the online version of the story to either personal blogs or corporate web sites.  “Sharing the link love” is a key piece of making the digital channel successful and accessible through search. 

Understanding a Slice of New Media

The main purpose of my visit was to discuss my agency’s recent study on retailers using Facebook.  Several big name retailers, including J.C. Penney, are in the Dallas area, and the retail reporter for DMN was trying to get a better understanding of Facebook and other tools.  I spent a couple of hours with her explaining how Facebook works and gave her a demo of Twitter (thanks to many connections there for helping out).  It was clearly an eye opening experience for her, and we reviewed what several local-based retailers were doing with Facebook fan pages.  The net result, including much of her hard work looking at viral marketing, interviewing a variety of sources and adding insight to what the companies are doing, is this well-written piece published Tuesday called, “Retailers find Facebook friends in hopes of finding sales.”  No doubt the folks who are reporters are talented in their research and writing – she did an excellent job tying in the recent viral successes of J.C. Penney and Victoria Secret’s Pink brand to our discussion on retailers using Facebook pages.

Clearly the Dallas Morning News is getting the digital channel – the page where my article lives had (as of my last view) advertisements for Ford, and Netflix.  The article also had the ability to share via social bookmarking sites and allowed comments.  Unfortunately the article had no link here or to our agency’s site,  But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad right?

In the end this was a real world microcosm example of how the old media industry needs to adapt in order to thrive.  Thanks again DMN for including me in the article and I hope we both continue to learn from the experience.

Photo via

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What Does Your Blog Say About You?

There are lots of posts out there about personal branding and the significance in one’s career – plenty of great advice to be found.  While having an account on Facebook, Twitter and other networks and platforms is important for building a social media presence, a blog is one element of a personal brand – an outpost of sorts – that is completely personal in its representation.  Even a business focused blog is defined by the content (and to some extent the layout and look/feel). 

Similarly, there are lots of personality tests and web-based tools to help measure how effective writing can be.  I’m not sure many of them are too helpful yet, but two tools that have popped up recently in conversations are Gender Analyzer and Typealyzer.  Each can provide some insight as to writing style, although since they are automated I’ll take their feedback with a grain of salt.  Gender Analyzer says there is a 100% probability that my blog is authored by a male.  Well, they got it right.  But what does that mean?  Is my writing style alienating or offending half of my potential readership?  Not sure it would influence my writing style but I’d like to understand if gender of content is important to you.  What do you think?

Typealyzer has more insight to offer.  Rosetta colleague Paul Ferris wrote about Typealyzer recently, as did Doc Searls.  The warning at the top of Typealyzer’s page says, “writing style on a blog may have little or nothing to do with a person’s self-percieved personality.”  That’s true, but I found the site useful in understanding how I write.

My blog’s Typealyzer result:

INTJ – The Scientists
The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it – often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically [sic] hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use concrete examples. Since they are extremely good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

The site also provided a map of my brain activity while I write:

I think they hit a lot about me right on.  I don’t typically use my blog “spiritually” or wear much emotion on my sleeeves here.  I try to provide insight or share thoughts and learnings that don’t fit in 140 characters on Twitter, and tend to think a lot before I write or publish.  Maybe I think too much.

What does your blog say about you?  If you don’t have one, that says something too – why?

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New Blog Platform

Subscribe to Adam Cohen's FeedAfter some careful debate and a lot of thought, I’ve decided to move blog platforms. While I have enjoyed much that Typepad has to offer, I’ve found it limiting as a hosted solution in the ability to modify the look and feel, enhance for SEO purposes, and generally have the flexibility of a full scale platform. I’ve already launched the new site on WordPress and like the flexibility. The overall content, theme, and focus will remain the same.

Action Required

  • If you are already a subscriber, there should be no action required – this post was authored from the new site.  You may see some old posts show up again as new.  If you have any other problems please comment and let me know.
  • To be safe, please take a moment to make sure you are subscribed to the correct feed at (yes, the name looks wrong, but I am trying to make the switch while keeping the subscriptions intact with Feedburner). I’ll be leaving the typepad version up but will stop updating it.
  • If you aren’t yet a subscriber, I’d love to add you to the list, please consider subscribing.
  • If you subscribe already via email, no change is required.

Part of my blogging experience over the last several months has been learning the ins and outs of these tools first hand. Thanks for your patience while I develop a better experience. More to come soon and suggestions welcome.

Have you moved from Typepad to WordPress, or across blogging platforms and have an idea/tip to share? So far, this is the best link I’ve found with a lot of step by step tips and pitfalls, but I’d love to hear more.

Gearing up for Forrester Consumer Forum 2008

The last week of October will see some great content in the social media sphere around getting ahead of tomorrow’s customer.  In April of this year I attended Forrester’s Marketing Forum in LA, and enjoyed “live twitter” and blogging related to the event.  Knowing an onslaught of content is coming, I decided to reach out to Alexis Karlin, Forrester’s community manager for Forrester’s Consumer Forum in Dallas on October 28-29.  She was gracious enough to share some good info for “where the content will live” for the event.  Rosetta is a Forrester client and as a marketing agency we get a lot of relevant industry content out of these events – but lots more will be shared through social media.

Going to Dallas? Please reach out on twitter @adamcohen or contact Alexis @akarlin – there will be a gathering planned.  Whether you will be there or are just interested in the content, here are some other guidelines from Alexis:

I’m looking forward to some great content and expect to have follow-up posts in the next several weeks around some of the more provocative topics.  Take a look at the agenda if you have a few moments – what topics interest you?

Photo credit: bitmapr via Flickr

Top 5 Reasons Social Media Requires Commitment

Commitment Social Media is a commitment.  It's not something individuals or businesses can dabble in and expect to be successful.  Here are some top ways that I've found Social Media to require commitment.  Chalk this one up to both lessons learned personally and bordering on the obvious to folks who have been leveraging social media for awhile. 

1. Blog Frequency

Best practice often suggests that while maintaining a blog, the author(s) should post new content 2-3 times a week at a minimum.  This keeps readers engaged and setting a regular pattern will keep them coming back.  For anyone whose main responsibilities have nothing to do with blogging, it can really be a challenge to keep up.  There are lots of strategies, from keeping a queue of posts and topics drafted, to scheduling regular time to dedicate.  What helps most of all is having an author or authors who are passionate about the topic.  Those folks will find a way to make it work, but long term dedication is a major factor in a blog's success.

2. Personal (or Professional) Brand Management

Once you have a blog, a twitter account, an account on Friendfeed, etc – you need to keep up with those who comment and respond.  It takes time to search twitter results for posts with your name buried in the middle, blog posts and other tools for people to keep up.  I sometimes stumble across a valuable response to a comment I made days earlier and regret not addressing it right away or capturing the RSS feed for that comment train.  A great aspect of these social media tools is that the information lives on, but much of the conversation takes place in a short time.  You can miss a window to participate with the primary group if you don't take time to keep up.

There are lots of free tools to leverage for this, including, Google alerts and Technorati among others.  Our agency recently partnered with Radian6, a social media monitoring package.  I'm still learning about it, but so far I would compare it to robust web analytics packages – with a major advantage that you can gain insight not just to your own brand, but competitors.

3. Ubiquitous Content

The beauty of RSS is the distribution of content.  Social networks are proliferating.  New blogs are cropping up, and new tools are adding to the way we can share information with each other.  Frankly, there is so much valuable information to digest it's hard to keep up with it all.  There also is plenty of less than valuable content to sort through.  I use Google Reader and at times feel like I have to declare "feed bankruptcy" and mark everything as read, and I'm sure I miss valuable content in there.  Imagine if everyone you know had a blog, was connected to you on Friendfeed and was on Facebook.  Even apply this just to your company, or your industry.  Would you be able to really keep up with all of the content?

4. Relationship Building

I mentioned before that I use LinkedIn and Facebook regularly and recommend scrutinizing your social media connections.  These are great tools to keep up with friends and colleagues, but also to build relationships with contacts from networking events, business meetings and other settings.  Setting up a profile is a one time event for the most part, but truly using these tools to build upon relationships takes effort and consistent usage over time. 

5. Participating

Regardless of whether you have a few dozen or a few hundred connections, tools like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others require dedication to participate in conversations, answer questions and 'consume' the media.  Uploading and tagging photos, booking trips on Dopplr, checking out events on Upcoming…  When you start to interact with other folks, there is almost an informal contract you sign jumping in to participate.  You license people to reach out to you and they expect a response back, otherwise they may move on.  It takes a long term commitment to get the most out of these tools.

When people ask me for advice about social media, I often start with, "It's a commitment – are you ready for it?"  What other ways do you see social media needing commitment?  A logical next question – what advice do you have for folks trying to balance the commitment with everything else they have to do?

Photo credit: eschipul via Flickr

Connections with a Purpose

Web 2.0 and social media are changing the way we interact online.  Can it change how we interact offline too?  You bet it can.  I'm participating in two events coming up that are purposefully out to show how social media can affect change. 


Sm4sc Are you in the Boston area, interested in social media, and interested in social change?  A group of social media enthusiasts in the area have started Social Media for Social Change.  The background of the cause:

Social media has broken down walls and created conversations. IBM does product testing in Second Life. Old college classmates reunite on Facebook. Zappos does intra-office communication via Twitter. All great, paradigm shifting events.

But what about change for the greater good?

You don't have to be in Boston to be interested, and I see this as a grass roots effort that can be spread to other cities as passionate people pick up the vibe.  Here are some social media footprints around this group already:

  • A fundraiser has been planned for Friday, October 10th, at the Harvard Club in Boston, with all proceeds going to Jane Doe Inc:

    Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence brings together organizations and people committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. We create social change by addressing the root causes of this violence, and promote justice, safety and healing for survivors.

  • sm4sc is on Twitter
  • Join the sm4sc group on Facebook
  • Check out the sm4sc group on Myspace
  • Vote for a panel on sm4sc at SXSW

More to come as the date approaches.  If you are interested in becoming a corporate or personal sponsor, drop an email to sponsors (at) sm4sc (dot) com.

Blog Action Day 2008

Blog Action Day is a consolidated blog outreach program asking bloggers of all genres to talk about what they do best, but relate a post on October 15, 2008, to the topic of Poverty.  Register your blog and be part of the awareness campaign.  It's easy – they even have ideas to help come up with a post.  This is an easy way to get involved in a good cause.  Check out this video, a well done production to give an overview of what Blog Action Day is about.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


Join in – the energy of the people behind these events is contagious.- for a good reason.