Tag Archives: twitter

Social networks and fundraising, Part 1

Shortly before Thanksgiving, a post on Twitter asked me and others on this friend’s network of “tweets” to consider helping in the building of a classroom in an African village. The link that was embedded in the tweet provided the details necessary to authenticate the appeal, and five minutes and one Paypal transaction later, I was back to work.

I was not alone.

The graphic below shows the pace of giving for this campaign, which successfully raised more than $10,000.

tweetsgiving_donations_by_day

More information on the campaign can be found at the Tweetsgiving web site, and in this post about the project, written as it was underway.

tweetsgiving_postscript

The success of this project should not be misinterpreted, however.

It would be easy to conclude that this illustrates the marketing reach and power of a new medium. Yes, it’s true that this “medium” is powerful. But as others have pointed out, it would be like saying the telephone is a powerful medium, because so much business is transacted over it.

Instead, we have to look at social networking as a new way of communication. Period.

And as long as the means of communication is handled well and for a compelling reason, exciting things can be built — a brand, a reputation … and even a classroom inTanzania.

The new power to get in: Twitter

A decade ago Michael A. Boylan wrote a book on business to business (b-to-b) selling called The Power to Get In. It was publicized as “a step-by-step system to get in anyone’s door.” To reiterate the book’s promise of granting access, Boylan begins Chapter 1 with this pronouncement: “You’ve been frozen out.”

It’s a terrible feeling, and familiar to many who have something valuable to sell but cannot seem to get an audience with the proper buyers.

A case for Twitter for business

I’m not a sales coach, but I have personally seen that when you apply the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) to Twitter, it can help you succeed. It may even help you regain that Power to Get In.

Here’s why people get “frozen out”: In the business world, we’re all overloaded with too many people who want a piece of us. This has a key driver behind the drop in responsiveness of these tried-and-tested lead-generation techniques:

  • Email open rates and click-throughs are falling
  • Direct mail is becoming more expensive and less effective
  • Phone calls, with their deadly voice mail phone screeners, aren’t being returned

Viewed 20 years ago, the solution would have been to learn to play golf. And that method is still viable today, for reasons I’ll get into in a moment.

But in the meantime, social media are providing quasi-business environments, most notably Facebook and Twitter. In both cases, these systems use a social phenomenon that’s come to be known as ambient awareness (here’s an excellent article on ambient awareness by Clive Thompson of The New York Times).

The growth of these seeming “distractions” (okay, real distractions), is two-fold.

1. Drinking from a fire hose

First, we are all overwhelmed. To use the famous metaphor, we are trying our best to drink from a fire hose of information. This was described wonderfully in the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. For those who are inclined to try it, Twitter (and Facebook “mini-feeds”) can be a way to control this information flow. It’s like creating our own private channel of friends and business associates, available in real-time whenever we’re ready to check it out.

2. Special access to a private gathering

These micro-blogs allow us to grant special access. Remember when only a handful of your best friends and business colleagues would get your email address? Well, now your many email addresses are teeming with responsibilities and requests. Even our most private email accounts can become another obligation to maintain.

Relative silence, plenty of fresh air, and interesting challenges

Most humans who have been working at their computers much of the time yearn to be surrounded by friends and interesting colleagues, with few distractions. At one time, it was joining a country club that scratched that itch. Twitter is starting to do the same.

And because it is attracting some significant decision-makers, it is taking on some of the same appeals, in terms of lead generation, that golf does.

Ostensibly, golf is a game. But playing with potential business partners offers surprising access, and an informal context for the discussion of mutually beneficial opportunities. So golf is no mere game. The ambient awareness mechanism of Twitter offers the same lead-generation potential — if it is used properly.

The three rules to using Twitter for business

Follow these three rules and you cannot go wrong:

  1. Like other networking, think about helping others before yourself. Look for chances to respond to other people’s queries or interests
  2. Find chances to meet face-to-face. Here’s the story of my awakening to the potential in a “Tweet-up.”
  3. Never or rarely directly promote what you’re selling

Sign up for a free account on Twitter. Follow me if you’d like; I’m at @TheLarch. And then begin exploring a surprisingly productive business time-waster. Perhaps even as productive a time-waster as golf!

CNN’s Rick Sanchez on a social media adventure? For real.

Last night I was at a business event. During my mingling, I found myself attempting to convince the PR director of a major not-for-profit organization why she should care about social media. I thought I gave good and relavant arguments, but realized I’d only been partially successful.

She agreed that she’d have her organization join our local interactive marketing association, but said she would delegate attending the meetings: “I’ll send our web guy to them. He’ll understand all that stuff.” The problem is, if you don’t take the calculated plunge into social media, you cannot possibly grasp why it is such a game changer — for both the discipline of PR, and for marketing in general.

I wanted to tell her, “Considering your leadership position, delegating an education in online marketing to someone else is not a wise move, for either the organization or your own career.”

Just ask Rick Sanchez, co-anchor of CNN Newsroom. His newscast has lately included a real-time Twitter display, and tie-ins with Facebook and MySpace. I guarantee you that regardless of how carefully he and his producers planned this adventure in social media, they could not have planned for what would be thrown at them, and how they might respond.

Still thinking about my conversation with that PR director, I came home to read this update on a criticism that social media and marketing strategist David Berkowitz had posted about Rick’s show. David noted that Rick Sanchez had responded quickly and thoughtfully to his disappointments with the way social media were handled:

Rick managed to change my opinion of him the hard way – by taking the time to listen and respond to my comments, and to go above and beyond. He was authentic, personal, and immediately responsive, all important characteristics for any person or marketer determining how to respond to customer feedback.

This authenticity cannot be faked, and cannot be experienced at arm’s length.

I wish I could have pointed to this sequence of events — David’s post, Rick’s response, and the resulting good will and positive buzz — as a perfect example of good PR in a Web 2.0 world.

Regardless, she and others will be seeing other adventures in social media by broadcast journalists yet to come.

None of us have to climb up and try to surf a given wave that’s passing by. But as for this wave, if we’re in the communication industry, we will all most certainly be getting very wet, very soon.

Social media powers fundraising for an African classroom

This morning I contributed to TweetsGiving, and I urge you to as well. It’s an excellent cause, and it can give you a first-hand experience in the power of social media. As the name implies, what is propeling this two-day fundraising effort is the micro-blogging platform Twitter.

As of this post, the total raised is $5,182. Here is what the TweetsGiving web site has to say about the effort:

Tweetsgiving is a project of Epic Change that seeks to demonstrate the power of twitter and the social web by spreading gratitude and raising $10,000 in 48 hours to build a classroom at the school in Tanzania. The project was inspired by the TrickorTweet campaign organized around Halloween by @TheGrok and @ChrisBrogan and by this “thank you” post.

Giving Thanks

Follow @TweetsGiving on Twitter. Then, as the site suggests, you can “Tweet thanks. Share something you’re thankful for with all your twitter followers. Your tweets can be touching or silly, poignant or fun. Just tweet from the heart and be sure to include the #TweetsGiving tag and a link to http://tinyurl.com/4thanks.”

And of course, be sure to give!

Is academia failing us by not teaching Web 2.0 skills?

Your help is needed. I just received this email from a colleague:

Jeff,

Are there curricula available from schools, online, etc. where one can learn about and improve your interactive skills? All facets of the interactive world. I’m at the University of Nebraska Journalism School and they don’t currently offer too much education in this area and the students and even faculty are asking “Where to you go to learn and study more about a career in this rapidly growing field and learn the necessary skills?”

Thanks,
Dan

 

I’ve already been made painfully aware of the vacuum in academia, as far as educating students on the skills needed in a Web 2.0 world.

One example: Last month an intern with a marketing firm I know told her boss she didn’t have a Facebook account because, “That online social network stuff is a waste of time.”

Yes, I know Facebook can become a monumental way to screw off instead of work, but in a world where we are only as useful to our employers as the information we can access –and the network of talent that will help us gain this access — this is dangerous ignorance. Facebook has a place because it helps us maintain and expand our network of trusted sources.

So, okay. I’m off my soapbox.

Now I’m appealing to my network: Where are the best educational programs for tomorrow’s knowledge workers? And are there ways that students in far-flung places — such as Nebraska — can convince their teachers to add these curricula to their own?

Comment here, or through my Twitter or Friendfeed accounts and I’ll be sure to consolidate what I’ve learned here.

WOM marketing, TwappyHour and Web414 meeting all help to explode myth of online social networks replacing “meatspace”

Mingling at a Business Marketing Association luncheon yesterday, outside the conference room with my fellow “Hello, my name is” attendees, I said something quite naive. I was chatting with a couple of our interns. Referring to the topic of the presentation, word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, I said, “What we’re going to hear today will be far more relevant for you both than for people of my generation.”

My assumption was that the speaker would talk almost exclusively about using online social networks to generate WOM buzz. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The key case discussed by Spike Jones‘s excellent presentation was how his agency, promoting Fiscar scissors, identified those passionate about scrapbooking and fascilitated meet-ups.

True, there was a large social network component, complete with forums and blog posts. But once web-based connections were made, Spike’s agency created opportunities for scrapbooking enthusiasts to meet face-to-face. They met for weekends of shoptalk and bonding.

Social network tools simply acted as catalysts. They were, in essence, meatspace delivery systems.

Wikipedia defines meatspace as “referring to real life or the physical world … the opposite of cyberspace or virtual reality.”

 

Yes, We’re Digital Eggs — But We’re Also Flesh-and-Blood Chickens

Richard Dawkins, in his controversial articles, books and speeches, reminds us that all life beyond the simplest single-celled entities is digital. He put it like this: “You contain a trillion copies of a large, textual document written in a highly accurate, digital code, each copy as voluminous as a substantial book. I’m talking, of course, of the DNA in your cells.”

This genetic information reproduces itself more along the lines of a computer file making a copy of itself, rather than the way a photocopier reproduces off of itself. When you make a photocopy of a photocopy, very quickly things get grey and murky. With computer files, as with DNA, there is theoretically no information lost. Things replicate exactly (hard drive flaws and genetic mutuations notwithstanding).

In his book River Out of Eden, Dawkins helps to clear up that old chicken-and-egg conundrum. Sort of. He says we’re all fundamentally eggs (DNA), programmed to keep our species alive via reproduction. But here’s the rub: Eggs can’t reproduce unassisted. They need to grow into chickens. In this way, Dawkins contends that chickens are the eggs’ strategy for producing more eggs.

Thinking of our own flesh and blood as essentially a means to replicating our species’ string of digital information is something peolpe take several ways. They consider the paradigm either humbling, inspiring or alarming, depending on their theological perspective.

For some, in this networked age, Dawkin’s universe of pure information can be seductive. We can sometimes forget that in this digital banquet of the computer-mediated communication, first and foremost, we’re mammals.

And we’re particularly pack-oriented mammals at that.

Online Social Networks Abet Meet-ups

If Spike’s presentation didn’t remind me of the importance of face-to-face meetings (and it was, after all, held at a physical banquet room), my evening certainly did. I left work for two more meet-ups — both made possible through online social networks.

First, I met a group of new and long-standing friends facilitated by Twitter. Appropriately, it was called a TwappyHour, a term coined by organizer Augie Ray. It was a great way for me to put faces to Twitter “handles” I’d been communicating with for months. As Sam Dodge put it, “Meeting people this way after knowing them for so long online is pretty cool, but also kind of creepy.”

True enough. One thing that took away some of the oddness of it all was the atmosphere of our “Tweet-up.” It was The Iron Horse Hotel, a new boutique hotel at the foot of the 6th Street Bridge in Milwaukee, within wheelie distance of the new Harley Davidson Museum. Owner Tim Dixon gave this group of 20 or so Twitter-ers a tour of his amazing hotel.

The Iron Horse Hotel

I was particularly fascinated by Tim’s account of the rigorous market research he did as he planned his hotel, which is targeted to the surprisingly intersecting groups of motorcyclists and business people.

I’m looking forward to more of these TwappyHour sessions. Thank you again, Augie (and his lovely and charming wife Geri, owner of Metropawlis, for the discerning pet!) for making this amazing event possible.

After that, I headed to my first meeting of Web414, which was another demonstration of how computer-mediated communication still hasn’t replaced sitting together around a bowl of snacks. The topic was how to make the next BarCamp Milwaukee better. It was a fun introduction to both the group, and to the “meatspace”: Bucketworks. I’ll be returning to both often.

If I sound like a gushing gossip columnist as I recount my night, I can be excused. It’s all because I left both events exhilarated by the new friends I’d made, and with deepened connections to some existing ones. I’m forever grateful for the work I do, not because of the cool computing (although I would lie if I said that didn’t matter somewhat), but for the quality of the friendships and associations I’ve made through them.

To everyone with whom I shared this memorable night: I’ll see you online — and at future meet-ups.

Summize helps marketers peer into the attitudes of a million+ Twitter fans

How is this for stating the obvious? Data mining is helping marketers better understand and cater to consumer behavior. Examples abound — even here, in Digital Solid. But this fact is worth repeating considering this latest example.

As reported and discussed in this GigaOm post, Twitter is likely to purchase Summize, which is a popular third-party application that searches and reports on keywords embedded in these 140-character packets of text. Om Malik of GigaOm conjectures that the reason for the purchase is less about search, which can be interesting, but about understanding consumer behavior, which can be useful to marketers.

This is an understatement.

The biggest question surrounding Twitter has been, How can this seeming toy ever break through and become a profitable business? This week’s news suggests a research product that, in its beta phase, is already quite good. Go to its Sentiment Analyzer and type in a phrase. Malik typed in keywords related to the acquisition of Summize by Twitter. Here was his result:

Analyzing what Twitter fans think of the Summize purchase

Sentiment is “Bad.” Obviously the majority of people Tweeting about the buy-out aren’t Summize’s soon-to-be-wealthier founders! If you want to see really bad, however, type in “Gas Prices,” as I did here:

Twitter Sentiment surrounding \'gas prices\'

It’s a fun toy. But the real time market research implications are huge.

Add your own Twitter tactics and resources to this valuable list

Marketing Sherpa ran an interesting piece on Friday on all things Twitter (thanks for the head’s up, Kevin). Its headline, Get Famous Using Twitter to Market Your Company & Yourself, is a tad grandiose, but the content is some of the densest I’ve read in terms of valuable ideas per word. Especially for marketers new to the medium, it’s an excellent overview and how-to.

What the post left unsaid is the bad news: It’s still difficult-to-impossible to measure real ROI for a Twitter effort. That said, from an SEO and customer service perspective, Twitter is a great tool.

Primarily, Twitter is a terrific way to measure the pulse of consumer sentiment — both cheaply and in real time.

One tool mentioned that was news to me was this one: Twitter Volume, a way to “compare how often different brands/companies/words/phrases are mentioned on Twitter.”

Conversely, a tool I love that wasn’t mentioned is this high-quality search of Tweets: Summize.com. The volume of Tweets returned is among the highest I’ve seen and the recency of the Tweets is also excellent.

Any favorite Twitter-related tactics or tools that weren’t mentioned here, or in the Sherpa piece? Let me know.

Two new uses of Twitter — one smart marketing, one pure fun

After Comcast’s recent embarrassment of a hilarious YouTube video documenting a cable installation worker sleeping on the job, they’ve realized that good social media management equals good reputation management. That’s my take on why they’ve hired a customer service person to monitor Twitter for consumer complaints.

It almost convinces you that Twitter is more than just a toy.

Naaaah.

Check out Twistori, a brilliant Twitter-fueled demonstration of current social zeitgeist. Perhaps this Comcast customer service person should just troll the site’s I Hate feed for mentions of his employer.

Of social media, exploding churches and imploding airlines

In Hawaii, Aloha can mean both hello and good bye, but for Aloha Airlines recently, it meant only bankruptcy. Likewise for ATA, Skybus, Skyway, and most recently Frontier. For those holding useless tickets, the news spelled delays, hassles and lost money. Naturally, the public outcry was covered by television news and various bloggers. But for my news, I didn’t have to go farther than Twitter. Using keyword search, I could tune into the griping and gnashing of teeth in real time. Twitter gave me “News I can use,” and I didn’t even have to look at a newscaster haircut.

Twitter also reported something that local news simply cannot: Are any of my friends directly affected? The answer was No, to the airline implosions, but two Twittering friends were delayed by the American Airlines wiring harness problems.

Map showing church

Another colleague inadvertently acted as Breaking News reporter, when he reassured his Twitter audience that his office is a safe distance from the “exploded church.” Here is what raster reported on the day that a hundred-year-old church in his city blew up due to a leaking gas line:

don’t worry about us, we are not that close to the church that exploded: map

As you can see from the map he supplied, raster did a great job of showing why he was unharmed, but also, what had just happened. That night, when I watched the local news, I was already well aware of what happened.

What Twitter will evolve into is anyone’s guess. But where it is right now is a place I could never have imagined: Squarely between me and local journalism.

Your web site’s messages should show a little humanity

It’s simple. The reason for Apple’s spectacular success is that, although the human mind is capable of impressive calculation, what makes it uniquely human is its ability to dream.

When they aren’t trying to parrot what Windows-based machines do, most Apple products promise a more fertile ground for right-brained thinking. Mostly these products succeed. And they do because they touch us in the heart at least as much as in the mind.

Now think about your web site. Is it still behaving as if its users are more robot than human? Watch out, because your competitor’s sites might not. They may realize that the most buttoned-down web users haven’t forgotten to smile.

Author and public speaker Daniel Pink made this point, but on a more global scale. His book from two years ago, A Whole New Mind contended that as workers in a new, Conceptual Age, we need to sharpen these six skills: design, storytelling, creative collaboration, empathy, play and rendering meaning — although he labeled them far more colorfully than I just did, which is why he is the famous business author and not me.

Lately he’s been talking about using empathy in public messages. Once again, he was speaking more globally than messaging on web sites. But just review some of these examples and see if you aren’t inspired to breathe some warmth into your site’s content:

Restaurant Sign:
Don’t worry, this line moves really quickly.
Movie Theater Electric Hand Dryers:
We don’t like them either, but they are the most energy efficient and environmentally-friendly choice.
Hong Kong Airport:
Relax. Train comes every two minutes.

These three have one thing in common. They respectfully ask us to take a breath and side with the human being who is delivering the bad news.

How can this relate to your site? One of the most lighthearted set of web error messages come from the disruption-prone Twitter site. Although the originals were LOLcats, the latest batch — such as this one — take a more conventionally cutesy tack:

A typical (and all too frequent!) Twitter error message

Is this frivolous — therefore below consideration for your site?

That depends. If your current error messages are pushing people over the brink, you’re losing business. There is nothing warm or cute about that business reality.