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Shared Media v. Social Media: A variety of viewpoints

In Ideas, Insight on June 3, 2009 at 8:43 am

Regular Eyecube readers (both of you) will remember my post from last week asking if the term Shared Media wasn’t more accurate than Social Media. It generated some good conversation here and on Twitter, so I felt it was worth exploring further. I reached out to several people I highly respect and asked for their thoughts on the matter. The results were as insightful as they were varied. I wanted to collect them here and share them with you in hopes that we can continue the discussion.

First, DJ Francis from the OnlineMarketerBlog lays out a really well-reasoned argument before ultimately disagreeing with me, stating “All social media is shared, but not all shared media is social.” Bonus points to DJ for this passage:

In a past life, I was an apostle of structuralist literary theorist Roland Barthes and his Death of the Author essay. I concur with Barthes that “[t]o give a text [or content] an Author” and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it “is to impose a limit on that text.”

Um, yeah, I was just discussing Barthes the other night while watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Right then, moving on…

Matt Hames, who writes a blog called People Like to Share will surely be on my side, right? Well, not exactly. He likes the term participation:

So instead of social media, or earned media, or interactive, or whatever title you want to put on this new world where people can share stuff, I say call it what it is: participation.

These day, things are obviously different, and we’re all working on a definition for that difference. But I think it’s simple: consumers can participate in an unprecedented way. They can review, comment, share, disparage, or celebrate a brand.

So marketers need to craft communications that encourage the participation that will work best. And here’s the best part: the place that has the least amount of silos has a head-start.

Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs (one of my new favorites) had some great thoughts on the subject:

I think Social Media is fundamentally about people. Social media doesn’t necessarily require content in any traditional sense, it requires a purpose for individuals to congregate around. That might be a piece of content to share but it’s just as likely to be a cause, a utility, a value exchange or a collaboration.

“Social media” is undoubtedly a seriously overused phrase right now-and when it’s used to describe any and all kinds of user generated content, it probably doesn’t fit any more. Is a blog really “social media” if it doesn’t empower the community to come together, act together and be more powerful and useful together than they are individually? My real bugbear though is that because its strongest association at the moment is with social networking, it’s hard for some businesses to understand the profundity of what’s really happening with things like social lending, social product development and do on.

I’m not a huge fan of semantic debate for the sake of it, but I do think there are some genuine nuances here that are worth exploring not purely for the intellectual satisfaction but because they come back to the fundamental question for all marketeers; what are we trying to achieve? What is the commercial imperative facing this brand, what is the role of digital in helping us solve it and what, therefore, do I need consumers to do differently? When we address those questions some of these distinctions do become important in practice not just in theory. So in some cases I may want to make my consumers my media channel and bring down the cost of paid for channels (earned media), in others I may want to build a utility my consumers return to again and again, driving frequency of interaction with the brand, in which case I may be in the business of social media. Nuance may actually become quite important in giving social or indeed shared media (which I do believe are different) a clear and demonstrable commercial effect. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Viral? Social? How about Shared?

In Ideas, Innovation on May 28, 2009 at 8:53 am

UPDATE: Some fantastic comments on this below, make sure you read those. Also, a related post today from Patricia McDonald of BBH Labs here.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked by Adam Broitman of A Media to participate in an article he wrote for iMedia Connection – Social Media: Whose job is it anyway? In addition to myself, industry heavyweights David Berkowitz, Shiv Singh, Michael Lazerow, Christine Perkett and Shel Holtz all contributed their thoughts on several thought provoking questions. It’s a way worthy read you should definitely check out.

After reading it, I got to thinking about one of the specific questions:

“In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?”

My hunch is that the answer is “yes, it will,” but that doesn’t mean I think it is the most appropriate term. In fact, I think “Social” along with our dear friend “viral” both need to be rethought and/or scrapped.

Did you say Viral? Cough, cough, I’m feeling ill

Remember back in the day, you know, last year, when everybody wanted “Viral Videos” that would magically spread across the land, showering your with traffic, sales, etc.? Yeah, well then smart people like Mike Arauz, Faris Yakob and others shed the light on this concept and I’m not seeing the term “viral” used as much, at least not by Social Media marketing practitioners.  While I understand the original analogy, let’s be honest, who wants to engage in conversation or interact with a virus? Aren’t viruses things to be avoided? Come to think of it, that’s how I think of a lot of the “viral videos” out there now. Quite frankly, I don’t want to see another video of people dancing in a subway station; or kids lifting their eyebrows to the beat (see, I’m not even going to link to them, you know which ones I mean though).  I think the term “viral” has seen it’s time come and go.

Social Media? When was the last time you had a cup of coffee with a blog post?

Let me go back to the original article, in which Adam asked: What if the term “social media” is wrought with flaws from the onset?

 “In two years, will the term ‘social media’ still be relevant?” The alternative being that all media will inherently be social, and ultimately treated as such. The multiple choices were:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes, but I am not happy about it!
  3. No
  4. I sure hope not!

I was shocked by the response. All but one of the respondents answered “yes.” The outlier answered, “I sure hope not.”

It is my belief that the term “social media” will still be around in two years, but I hope the industry matures to a point where we realize that all media is inherently social, and that what was once deemed “social media” is now part of a larger trend in media — participation.

Let me reiterate: All media is social!

I’m not sure I agree with this, and here’s where I’m going to put forth my alternative term.

All media isn’t social, all media is shareable

I don’t think we can attribute a quality like ‘social’ to an inanimate object. To me, people are social (or not); videos, posts, photos, podcasts, etc. are simply content. Now, that content can generate social interactions between people – generate conversations, drive debate, challenge preconcieved notions – but the content itself is just that, content. If I write a blog post but never publish it, is it still ‘Social Media’?

I think the term Social Media still has relevance, when you add the word Platform at the end. A Social Media Platform (or Network) such as Twitter, Facebook or Flickr provides an opportunity for people to be social.

Shared Media – Now we’re talking

So what is good content? It’s shareable. In the PR industry they talk of earned media, as opposed to the paid media of the advertising industry (aside: Check out Greg Verdino’s take on earned media v. earned attention as well as Matt Hames’ piece on earned v. social). I think Shared Media fits nicely between earned and paid. Yes, your paid media can be shareable, but you have to earn the share by having quality content and by sharing it with the right people in the right way.

I think the term Shared Media also speaks more accurately to what is actually happening. When you pass along that great content you are sharing it. The content isn’t doing it (like in ‘Social Media’), the person is. It’s not inherent in the content (like the notion of ‘Viral Videos’), it’s based on how the content is utilized.

Let’s hear from Adam again from his Imedia article:

The word “media” itself involves two parties — a sender and a receiver. The word “social” is based on theories that involve the co-existence of people. If two people co-exist in an ecosystem and one does not respond to a message, there is still information that is sent back to the point of origin (the information being, “for one reason or another, I am not interested in your message”). Given the advanced nature of our information technology, the excuse, “I had no way of responding” does not hold water, leaving us in a state where the lack of a response is, in effect, a response.

Yes, but a lack of a response does take the ‘Social’ out of ‘Social Media.’ Shared Media allows for the possibility of one-way as well as two-way engagement.

I’d love to hear from the folks who participated in Adam’s article, as well as Adam himself, Mike and Faris too. And please share your thoughts here as well.

Terminator, Star Trek, The Watchmen: Can Free Will OR Fate exist in a Time Travel Universe?

In Ideas, Innovation on May 26, 2009 at 8:45 am
I totally knew that was going to happen

I totally knew that was going to happen

This has already been a good year for Science Fiction fans at the movies as The Watchmen hit the big screen, Star Trek got a reboot and The Terminator made its return, this time with Christian Bale. While they may not be Academy Award-winners, they were all fun enough. But in one manner or another, all three touched upon some deeper issues.

ALERT 1: This isn’t a normal Eyecube marketing post, so if that’s what you’re looking for, take a look around the archives. Today I’m unleashing my inner-nerd, but in a thought-provoking way (at least I hope).

ALERT 2: There will be what could be considered spoilers, so if you are planning on seeing these movies, be careful reading this post. Consider yourself warned.

Let’s talk about time travel. But not the way it’s usually debated. People smarter than me can explain black holes and worm holes, string theory, etc. Go read Godel, Escher, Bach if you want to try to figure out the ‘how’ of time travel. And for some mind-bending fun on multiple dimensions, watch this video:

Let’s, for the sake of argument, agree that time travel is possible. You have to if you are planning on seeing movies like The Terminator as the whole mythology of the story revolves around time travel. All these movies ask us to willingly suspend our disbelief and I’m going to as well. So, yes, time travel is possible. But I think that if we are playing along,  there are bigger ramifications here than just the ability to go back in time and put $10,000 on Google’s IPO. I think believing in time travel means the whole argument of fate (or determinism) v. free will is rendered moot.

First, you have to accept a different notion of time, and of how it is experienced. We tend to think of time as a singular point along a line that we experience as the ‘now.’ But with time travel you have to take a much broader view. Rather than looking at a timeline through a key hole, imagine being able to see all time – past, present and future – simultaneously. That’s what time travel would allow, for if future already exists, then the past must all be currently happening. But beyond that even, you would also have to accept that there are an infinite number of ‘nows’ and ‘future’ and ‘pasts.’  Not only is any event possible with time travel, every event is possible. Actually, it is bey0nd possible, even beyond probable, everything is actual.

Free Will

Let’s use the example of The Terminator movies as they provide the best platform from which to discuss this. The general premise is that killer robots from the future are sent back in time (to roughly our present) to kill someone who in the future who will defeat these evil robots. That’s not a bad plan if you are the robots – the ultimate pre-emptive strike if you will. But let’s look a little more closely: If you know robots from the future are sent to kill you, so you don’t kill them when you grow up, then you must be alive in the future and therefore are not in mortal danger right now.

After all, if the robots did kill you in your present, the future (their present) would potentially be so radically different that they (the robots) probably wouldn’t exist at all. And that takes us to our theory of time with an infinite number of timelines. 

In Terminator 4 the pretzel logic is taken to an even greater extreme. The hero, John Connor, is in his mid/late-30s. A subplot involves his desperate attemp to save Kyle Reese (who appears to be in his late-teens, early 20s). Those of us familiar with The Terminator movies know that Kyle Reese is later (in the Terminator timeline) sent back to the past (Terminator 1) to save John Connor’s mother. Reese goes on to become the father of John Connor.  If Connor doesn’t save his future father, does he (John Connor) just go “poof” in a puff of white smoke and disappear? Again, I’d argue that forces beyond his control govern his actions and the actions of those he engages with.

SIDEBAR: I know I said I wouldn’t get in to the weeds on time travel, but it’s funny when John Connor in T4 is freaked out by advancements in Terminator technology that are small potatoes when compared to the Terminators he saw in T2 and T3.


If John Connor actions didn’t really matter, then it must be fate? Not so fast. Once you have the ability to time travel you really start going down a slippery slope. If your plan to change the present by altering the past doesn’t work today, you can just time travel again tomorrow, and just go back an extra day (or week, or year) earlier. Now, again, we have to deal with the notion of infinite realities.  And in one (some? many?) of those realities the robots do kill John Connor. Can fate exist in multiple options? Sometimes it’s fate that he lives, and sometimes it’s fate that he doesn’t? That seems to go against the very notion of fate. If it is beyond our control, why would both options still be possible? For what ‘greater purpose?’

The “Poof” Corollary of Multiple Realities

So, you say, there aren’t multiple possibilities, just one possible timeline. Well, here’s another reason there must be multiple, infinite actually, realities. I’m going to call it The “Poof” Corollary of Multiple Realities. If there was just one possible timeline along which the universe flows, and if going back in time to change the future (or present, depending on your perspective) were possible, then there would be a lot of “poofing” going on. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say 20 years from now time travel is possible. My future self then goes back in time to 1989, the year I met my wife. But, future Rick monkees with something in 1989 and I don’t meet my wife. Now, jump back to 2009 and my five-year old son enters the room. But wait, I never met his mother: “Poof,” he disappears. Think of all the “poofs” there would be if time travel were possible (and we operated in a single timeline). So, if you are buying in to the concept of time travel, I think you have to acknowledge the existence of infinite realities. Either that or accept that your existence would consist of – and be subject to – a lot of potential ‘poofing’

Spock, you’re in violation of the Prime Directive!

Spock - Pleased to meet me

Spock - Pleased to meet me

Let’s jump over for a moment to our friends at Star Fleet. In this summer’s Star Trek, Spock, that Vulcan logician, appears twice: As a youngster, the chronological equivalent of his peers in the film; and as an older Spock – the one we know from the original TV series, movies, etc. (In fact, the older Spock is played by Leonard Nimoy, so we know it’s really the original Sp0ck).  Now here J.J. Abrams, producer of the film, really plays (I would say messes with) two really important issues: First, on the meta level, he allows the two Spocks to interact with each other. Maybe there are other examples, but that sort of thing seems to me to be a pretty big no-no in the world of Sci Fi. Coming in contact with your future self would so dramatically change the course of events, you’d pretty much rip apart the time/space continuum. And in the movie, as I recall, they even kind of ‘wink, wink’ this issue in the dialogue.

Now, from a Star Trek perspective, I have an even larger issue with Spock encountering himself (as well as a younger Captain Kirk). What about the Prime Directive? And I quote (from Wikipedia):

In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive, Starfleet‘s General Order #1, is the most prominent guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets. The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal affairs of other civilizations, consistent with the historical real world concept of Westphalian sovereignty.

Now of course you can argue that even being an observer can change reality (see: Observer effect from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle), but we’ll take the Prime Directive to cover intervention (direct or otherwise), not observation.

And yet there’s (old) Spock, dramatically – if indirectly – affecting the outcome of events for young Spock and Kirk. But wait, it gets worse. There is in fact a portion of the Prime Directive specifically about time travel:

The Temporal Prime Directive is intended to prevent a time traveler from interfering in the natural development of a timeline. The TPD was formally created by the 29th Century, and was enforced through an agency of Starfleet called the Temporal Integrity Commission, which monitored and restricted deviations from the natural flow of history.[8]

As 31st Century time traveler Daniels revealed to Captain Jonathan Archer in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Cold Front“, as time travel technology became practical, the Temporal Accords were established sometime significantly prior to the 31st Century, in order to allow the use of time travel for the purposes of studying history, while prohibiting the use of it to alter history. Some factions rejected the Accords, leading to the Temporal Cold War that served as a recurring storyline during the first three seasons of that series.

For the nitpickers out there, my hunch is you can say that the Star Trek time frame would put the creation of the Temporal Prime Directive after the events of this movie. Now we can get into an argument over what constitutes canon in the Star Trek Universe, but let’s not go there.

Paging Dr. Manhattan

If I hurry, I can catch the 7:30 train... Oh, nevermind

If I hurry, I can catch the 7:30 train... Oh, nevermind

Now, a quik side trip to The Watchmen. Not surprisingly, Alan Moore, creator of one of Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 novels captures it beautifully. The most controversial character is probably Dr. Manhattan. It’s interesting to note (again from Wikipedia):

Moore sought to delve into nuclear physics and quantum physics in constructing the character of Dr. Manhattan. The writer believed that a character living in a quantum universe would not perceive time with a linear perspective, which would influence the character’s perception of human affairs.

One of the things that most clearly separates Dr. Manhattan from the other characters is his perspective on time:

After his transformation, Jon begins to experience time in a non-linear, “quantum” fashion. His already weak will becomes sublimated further during this time. It is implied that he does not so much perceive the past or future as directly experience them. He increasingly has difficulty acting in what those around him consider the present moment. This leads to many accusations and even the public perception that he is emotionless. However, during the course of Watchmen he displays powerful emotion several times. His apparent lack of sentiment is more a

Alan Moore - What time is it?

Alan Moore - What time is it?

matter of radically altered priorities.

Now see how this perspective of time alters his perception of all matters:

His precognition does not allow him to change events. He believes he has no choices for the large part of Watchmen. His total determinism of action and the implied amorality of such a position is strongly contrasted with his ability to do almost anything. In some sense, unlimited power has come at the cost of the total absence of responsibility. During the period where he fights crime, because his government told him to, he states that the morality of the activities escapes him. From his radically altered perspective, almost all human concerns appear pointless to him. This growing sense of disconnection is marked by his use of clothing which over the years gradually shrinks until he is naked by the 1980s.

His ability to see time from a larger perspective in part disconnects him from the free will v. determinism argument!

Unified Theory of Sci-Fi Time Travel

Back to The Terminator, John Connor dying as a teenager (in T2) would prohibit his older self from sending his father back in time to save his mother (inT1), rendering him ‘unborn.’ To me, that eliminates true choice (free will) from his actions. No matter what John did or what happened to him in T2, he was going to live. Otherwise there is no T2. Therefore he simply couldn’t have been in mortal danger. With iminent death bearing down on him, he could have calmly grabbed a cheeseburger. Someone or something was going to intervene on his behalf.

On the other side, we’ve created the “poof theory” so there must be multiple realities. And if everything can, and does, happen fate is really out of the equation, merely sitting on the sidelines.

But these two theories don’t currently disprove each other. What we need here is a Unified Theory of Sci-Fi Time Travel vis a vis the Free Will v. Determinism argument.

Ok, here’s the best I can do:

In fictional universes in which time travel exists, neither free will nor fate rules that universe. Rather, all possibilities exist across infinite, non-parellel, non-mutually exclusive universes.

The key here is that these multiple universes are not discreet. They do at times, to borrow a phrase from Ghostbusters, cross streams. These universes actually cross over each other quite often. Some differ for an hour or a minute or a second, then overlap again. In one I go to Wendy’s for a frosty, in another I don’t. But a few minutes later they are back together. In a third I’m in a car crash on my way to Wendy’s and in a fourth I get a salad instead of the Frosty, and in a fifth…

So, yes, John Connor can makes choices, but it doesn’t matter, because in fact he has made both choices – or both choices have been made for him.

I’d love to hear from experts and Sci-Fi fans alike on this, please share your thoughts.

The Economics of Twitter

In Ideas, Innovation on May 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm
Tweets for sale, buy one get one free

Tweets for sale, buy one get one free

I’ve written about the economics of Twitter a couple of times in the past (here and here) looking at both sides of the issue. Recently, others have chimed in, including Seth Godin and Johnny Vulkan.

Usually, the ‘monetize’ Twitter conversations revolve around advertising, TechCrunch has written about this a couple of times. The idea of user contributions has also been raised (see Johnny Vulkan link above). I’d like to propose another option and then take a look at a different side of the Twitter economy.

What if every Twitter user was required to deposit a micropayment (1 or 2 cents maybe) for every follower. Think how that would effect the signal to noise ratio. Now, like Facebook, you would have to approve a potential follower. But that person would have to have clearly demonstrated the value a relationship with them would bring. And if you wanted to follow someone you better have a proven track record of contributing to the conversation.

It wouldn’t prevent people from having one or two thousand followers, but there would be no reason to allow just anyone to follow you. Now every relationship would more likely be meaningful. People would be valued not by how many followers they have – and we all know how people game that system – but rather by how many people you are following since you needed to get permission to be a follower.

That flips everything. Now, Ashton Kutcher isn’t the big cheese, it’s @BarackObama who has been accepted by 771,000+ friends. By comparison, Kutcher is following just 146 people.

Finally, here’s another interesting aspect of the Twitter economy, TweetValue. TweetValue assigns a dollar value to your Twitter account based on, well, they seem to be a bit secretive on that. But the idea of assigning a dollar value to Twitter profiles is interesting more in the practical aspects than the theoretical. What’s the value of Chris Brogan, iJustine or Oprah tweeting your link or product? It doesn’t take much imagination to see somebody getting 1 million followers and then saying: “$1000 for a tweet, $1,500 for a retweet” Would it be worth it? Only if they had credibility and the product/service was relevant. I’m not suggesting I’d like to see this happen, but it’s not inconceivable. By the way, my TweetValue is $1,115, what’s yours?

But hey, what do I know. Let’s call in the professionals. Warren Sukernek, aka TwitterMaven, what’s your take on the Twitter Economy?:

I think the options that you described are all relevant and potentially viable.  However, my perspective is around the importance of real time conversational search.  This type of search seems to have significant potential as in many cases, it will be much more relevant than highly ranked SEO links that may be much older. 

For example, a hotel review on Twitter from someone who just stayed at the property will be much more helpful than an old review from TripAdvisor that has high page rank. Thus  I think Twitter can monetize around search in two ways:

– Relevant topical advertiser links (a la google adwords) in the sidebar, perhaps on th search site (and website) where trends lies today.

– Enhanced analytics for advertisers to learn more about those tweeting about their keywords by including data like demographics, retweets, reach, share of conversation, related tweets,  as well as an ability to engage directly with the tweeter in a much more trackable manner.

Given the size of Twitter and their organization, I see the enhanced analytics as more viable to them as they don’t have the infrastructure to be able to sell advertising in the manner described.  Of corse, they could sell twitter as another Google search channel, but I don’t think that is the direction they want to head in.

Good stuff Warren, thanks. If you’re not following Warren on Twitter, you really should. What do you think? What other aspects of the Twitter economy are worth exploring, or creating? Please share your thoughts here.

Top Five Tips For Celebrities on Twitter

In Ideas, Insight on May 12, 2009 at 9:35 am
The high price of free Social Media

The high price of free Social Media

The beauty of Social Media is the cost – it’s free. But as more and more celebrities ‘get in the game,’ what soft costs to they begin to incur?  Let’s be honest, if I stopped tweeting tomorrow, I doubt I would receive Direct Messages or emails wondering what happened. I certainly wouldn’t get any angry messages from followers who felt I had betrayed them and I can’t imagine anyone writing a blog post telling everyone that they would never support anything I was involved with.  But, then again, I’m not MC Hammer.

As celebrites, and pseudo-celebrities use Twitter to further (or resurrect) their careers, you can see the potential problems:

  • Popularity, and therefore celebrity relevancy, is there for all to see via follower numbers. You’re now on a never-ending treadmill
  • To reply or not to reply, that is the question. By not replying, you risk setting off an angry fan with a voice and a channel
  • One-upsmanship. If celebrity A did x, then you’ve got to do x + y
  • What happens when you stop tweeting? Have you let down fans; fans that may now not go to your next movie/buy your next album?

These issues aren’t terribly different from ones brands face every day, and of course many celebrities have turned themselves into brands. But being a terrific singer or actress or athlete doesn’t mean you’re a great marketer or brand steward. Sure, Ashton Kutcher has the ears (or eyeballs) of a million+ people now. High reward, yes; but high risk now as well.

So, here are my Top Five Tips for celebrity Tweeters:

  1. Tweet early, tweet often: If you’ve made the commitment to jump in the pool, make sure you keep swimming
  2. Follow people: There are plenty of applications, like Tweetdeck, that will help you manage the signal-to-noise ratio. But not following people makes you look aloof. The whole point of being on Twitter was to not be aloof.
  3. Engage with consumers: Don’t just chat with your BFFs, your entourage or other celebs, throw shout outs to us regular folk occassionally as well
  4. Be really cool, host a Tweet-up: Let everybody know where you’re going to be and invite them to hang with you, even if it’s just for a 30 minutes.
  5. Don’t just talk, listen: Yes, you’re a celebrity and everything you say needs to be recorded for posterity, we know. But if you are following people (see #2) you’ll learn something new. Spend some time getting to know Twitter Search as well. (I’m talking to you, Oprah!)

Is Social Media working for you, or are you working for Social Media?

In Ideas on May 11, 2009 at 9:15 am

Last Friday I attended the Blowing Up the Brand event at the NYU Journalism Institute. The keynote speaker was Rob Walker and, among the many interesting things he said, was this little gem: “Is Social Media working for you, or are you working for Social Media?” [or at least something pretty close to that].  I think it’s an interesting question and one worth thinking about and discussing.

Does constantly updating your Twitter/Facebook/blog/Flickr stream seem like a lot of effort sometimes? Are you really benefitting from it, or are you just adding to Facebook’s growing database? This particular issue has become even more acute for bloggers like myself who are part of the Ad Age Power 150. The recent addition of PostRank as a metric source means that every blog post that is published needs to then be supported by Delicious, Digg, Reddit,, Twit Army, Twitter and a couple of other content aggregator/content curator sites. Keep pushing that rock up the hill!

Pretty soon the exercise isn’t about creating quality content that has value for your readers, it’s about cranking out content, any content, and pushing it out as far and wide as you can.  It means adding ‘please retweet’ to the end of your tweet on your latest blog entry.  So, where does that leave someone like me? Conflicted.

In a perfect world I would write really insightful stuff like Mike Arauz or Rohit Bhargava just about every time and the rest would take care of itself. But I’m still pretty new to this and I still need to do a certain degree of self-promotion. And you know what? I’m ok with that. I’m ok with it because I genuinely believe that I do try to provide content of value to the best of my ability the majority of the time. But have I become a slave to the game in the process? When does that act of self-promotion start to take precedence over the actual creation of the content? How far is too far, how much too much? If you follow me on Twitter, do I self-promote too much? 

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject. Is Social Media working for you, or are you working for it? Do I self-promote too much? Is there such a thing?

How Social Media Killed Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

In Ideas on May 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Remember that fun game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? You’d see how many actors it took to connect, say, Stockard Channing, to the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon.  But I don’t hear people talking about that game much. Maybe it’s because we’re all no more than a couple of connections away from Kevin Bacon ourselves.

Me and Kevin? Yeah, you could say we're close

Me and Kevin? Yeah, you could say we're close


Celebrities have seen tremendous financial gains in recent years – Celebrity Reality shows, selling baby pictures to tabloids, etc. – but they’ve also lost something powerful… mystique.

When everyone can be a star, or every star is just a tweet away, it’s hard to be transcendent.  It’s hard to imagine Bogie and Bacall updating their Facebook status. 

Magic and mystery should have their place still, especially in Hollywood. But really, any brand should consider how close it really wants to get to consumers. As consultants rush around telling brands to engage with consumers, perhaps we should consider some of the possible repercussions, especially the loss of magic.  While Scott Monty does a great job tweeting for Ford, would you really want to see @Ferrari or @RollsRoyce? 

By leaving some things to the consumer’s imagination you create the opportunity for developing a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU) where consumers can participate and bring something new to the brand.

So, farewell Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, you’ll be missed.

Understanding Your Audience: Late Night Comedy and Early Morning Shows

In Ideas on May 6, 2009 at 10:40 pm
And now for something completely different...

And now for something completely different...

Ike Pigott had an interesting post today about Network television and their seeming ‘out of touchness’ with their audience’s viewing habits. Like Ike, I’ve wondered why evey late night talk show since the dawn of time has had the same formula – white guy behind a desk, celebrity guests, a music act, you know the drill. That’s why I was so excited for the Demetri Martin show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, on Comedy Central. Still a white guy, but just about everything else is different. Even more encouraging was the early ratings. How can late night comedy more accurately reflect their audiences and their viewing habits?

1. Lose the desk

Who lives like that? Who can relate to that? How about conducting an interview while playing pool or Xbox, or drinking a beer?

2. Lose the monologue

By the time 11:30 rolls around, I’ve already heard the jokes, scenes the YouTube clips and read the Tweets about the ‘news of the day’

3. Lose the white guy

Network programmers, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends: Hispanics, Asians, Europeans, Southerners, women. Any chance one (or more) of them could be something other than a charicature on your show?

4. Lose the suits

Why is Jimmy Kimmel wearing a suit? How many of the viewers are wearing a suit while watching? Throw on your throwback Yaz Red Sox jersey, pull out the pizza box and flip through a pile of lad mags while interviewing some b-list celeb.

Ike also touches on the Network morning shows and their hoary formats. As Ike notes, how many people sit and watch the Today show, even for 10 minutes, without doing three or four other things simultaneously. During the time that the Today show is on the air, I’m: in bed, in the shower, in the kitchen, in the living room, in my car, walking, on a train and at my desk at work. Not many of those places give me access to a television, or even a computer.

So, here’s my suggestion for morning shows:

1. Utilize multiple distribution channels

  • Simulcast the first hour on radio
  • Have pre-produced video segments and interviews available via iTunes starting at 5am so I can download and take with me

They were four friends, living all together...

They were four friends, living all together...

2. Re-imagine your set


If people are watching at home, why not shoot from an actual house? The Today show is a cash cow, they can afford to buy a fancy Manhattan townhouse. Doing a cooking segment? Do it from a real kitchen. Talking finances? Have Jean Chatzky in the home office. Entertainment story? Do it from the living room. Make it a combination of The Real World and Big Brother. You can still do segments from the plaza, in fact, how great would it be if Ann Curry had to ‘leave the house’ to get to the plaza? You see her grabbing a quick english muffin and OJ from the Craft Services table on the way out the door.

Now, if you’re the Today show, and your are the industry leader you don’t have to make drastic changes like that. But what about the CBS Early Show? They have little to lose and could could position themselves as a truly different show that really connects with their audience. Could they even add a Columbia or NYU student to the cast? That would add an interesting and contemporary element.

This is a great time to experiment with new approaches. The last eight years seem distant and dated, a new, forward looking presence on television, both in late night and early morning, would be welcome.

Public Relations: Not just Trust & Measurement, but Art as well

In Ideas on May 6, 2009 at 10:54 am

It would be fair to define the goal of public relations as building an emotional connection between consumers and a brand. Certainly not the only definition, maybe not even the most accurate, but not off base either. 

If we are being honest, a lot of PR fails by this definition. You know the type of PR I’m talking about: the crass, the short-sighted, the inelegant and certainly the forgettable.  At the other end of the spectrum are the efforts that do create an emotional reaction: that of shock. For instance, think about a lot of what PETA does.

But I’m thinking of a different type of emotion. The type that is perhaps the most powerful, and possibly the least utilized by PR – the emotions generated by the beauty of art. Art, in all its forms and by the broadest of definitions, stirs the passions and elicits emotions like nothing else – with the possible exception of love, and that’s the subject of much of the best art.


Think of the powerful emotional connections people have to music. Now, this is subjective of course, but I’m not talking about Britney Spears or Wang Chung or throw-away ’60s pop or even Tin Pan Alley. Nothing wrong with that sort of thing, but I’m speaking of the soul-touching stuff: Gustav Mahler, John Coltrane or even The Smiths. Music that haunts you. Music that when you hear it 20 years later, you can remember exactly where you were the first time you heard it. Ad agencies have used music of course, be it the use of songs by popular artists like Moby, or jingles like this one:

Visual Arts 

Behold the power of awe-inspiring art

Behold the power of awe-inspiring art

The power of visual art is undeniable, yet it’s often manifested as “let’s get a famous contemporary artist to ‘re-imagine’ our product package.” I’m talking about the humility one feels when looking at the sheer brilliance of the Sistine Chapel, or the fierce emotion, bordering on madness, evident in the works of Goya.  Visual arts have been used for centuries to communicate and comment upon some of the most emotionally charged issues in the history of man. Yet, I don’t know that PR has figured out how to leverage that power and intensity. Art in PR is a logo.

Rather than mere product shots, what if instead PR worked with artists like Christo? Not in a The Gates, presented by Brand X sort of way, but rather what if a brand, and in this case ING would have made great sense, commissioned The Gates. Their gift to the city.

The Written Word

For hundreds of years writers have been able to move people to action – whether it be for political or social causes. Then there are books like The Catcher in the Rye that have so perfectly captured the emotions of a certain part of life that it remains relevant decades after it was published. Yet, the PR industry just keeps churning out press releases.  Consumers don’t want a itemized list of hyperbole and industry jargon, they want a story that captures their imagination

The Moving Image

I believe PR is capable of more than dancing eyebrows and digitally enhanced sheep herding. I think PR is capable of harnessing:


PR does cute well, sometimes even funny, but rarely does PR do heart-stopping.

A few weeks ago I wrote about content marketing and I think this sits on top of that notion. What sort of content are you marketing? Are you pushing paper as quickly as you can, generating content that won’t be remembered by the end of the week, or are you creating content that people will remember and share?

Take a look at this video by James Jarvis:

Creative, memorable and yes, beautiful.  It renews my faith in humanity, and with nary a Nike swoosh in site, it makes me feel really good about that brand. It means something to me that Nike is willing to support such artistic endeavors.

What was the most memorable image of 2008? It was a piece of art:


Maybe the PR industry just accepted that ‘creative’ of this level was the domain of the advertising industry. I don’t buy that. Public Relations is about making an emotional connection between brand and consumer – that’s exactly what that video did for me and what the Obama – Shepard Fairey poster did for millions.

What if, instead of hiring a celebrity spokesperson for one day of their time, you spent the same amount of money on commissioning a piece of music or art. Not paying for the rights to use a Rolling Stones tune, or having Paris Hilton ‘design’ a handbag, but real art, by real artists. What if, instead of another press release that nobody wants to read, you engaged a novelist to write a short story about your product? Forget about quality, the sheer novelty of that approach would be memorable enough.

We are currently at a moment in time when the PR industry has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine itself. Brian Solis has written about putting the “public” back in public relations (review coming soon) and he is absolutely write. But I think we can do more than simply have conversations with our consumers, I think we can inspire them.

I’d be interested in what you think. I don’t have the answers, I just hope you find my questions worth discussing. Please, by all means, leave comments here, but I hope you’ll keep this conversation going on your on sites as well.