Important Facebook Changes And Why You Should Care

In an effort to become the center of the social hub and violate your privacy (which, incidentally, Facebook doesn’t believe in anyway), Facebook made some interesting changes recently to…well, nearly everything. As a marketer and, more importantly, your friend, I just want to point a few things out that may be of interest to you.

Privacy
Facebook changed its privacy policy AGAIN. You may want to check to see how much of your information is shared on Facebook to people who aren’t your friends. And I mean friends in the Facebookian sense, not, you know, real friends. Visit your profile while you are NOT logged in and see how much of your information you can see. My guess is, you’ll see a whole lot more than you thought. You can change this in the privacy settings. You should all do this. Facebook makes it a point not to widely announce these changes to the average user, so people who want to protect their info should regularly check to see what the privacy settings are. When the Internet nerd herd raises alarm bells about this, I’ll try to keep you in the loop.

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Reforestation, Great Social Media Work, Hear Me Roar

Update: An update on the Converseon blog site has some interesting lessons learned about this project. As we pave the way in the new media landscape, we should pay very close attention to the successes and mistakes of others. One thing they don’t mention is that there were two Members Project reforestation initiatives and this one didn’t make the cut. The other one did – with surprising results after little marketing. People need very specific directions and no matter how much planning you do, one single distraction (such as registering) will derail the train.

Paull Young‘s agency, Converseon in NY is doing some great social media work. Here’s something that’s a great cause that really shows their mad skilz. Yes, I just wrote mad skilz. His project is one of the 50 remaining American Express Members Project (you’ve seen the tv commercials) projects. If you hold an American Express card, you have to vote by July 15th in order for this project to go on to the next round. It’s (as far as I know) the only Second Life project in the remaining 50. It’s a virtual reforestation project that also plants real trees in rain forest areas. If this wins, 1 million trees could be planted. Pretty cool. Vote here.

As an added bonus, you get to hear the melodious crackling tones of my voice through a junky mic on the embedded video (rss readers, click Second Chance Trees). I was honored to do it, I just wish Paull had given me a bit more warning so I could have had better equipment more readily available.

Anyway, read Paull’s post about the project that has some excellent lessons on dealing in the social media space. Not only is the project cool, Paull’s really educating us about the process. Kudos. Well, good luck, remember, voting ends this Sunday, July 15th!

New Sheriff In Town: Social Media

badge.jpgPhoto by Bill Davenport

I love this. Police departments across the country are turning to social media sites and tools like YouTube to fight crime. AP writer Eric Tucker wrote this article about just that. While the police are hesitant to give too much credit to the application of these tools to catch criminals, they are still embracing this new media. This isn’t a new idea, just a fresh approach.

As I’m fond of saying, these tools are tactics, not strategies and – while some PR people and companies can’t often figure this out – these police departments have. From Tucker’s story:

“This is just something else – an extra added feature that we can now use to get our message out there on a countrywide or worldwide basis,” [Sgt. Michael Bentolila] said.

“I kind of applaud the fact that police are using the latest tools,” said Michael Brady, a retired police chief in Charlestown, R.I. who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. “We tend to get stuck in technology deficits. We tend to want to stick with the old tried-and-true.”

And like I mentioned above, it’s no replacement for doing a traditional job well done. Whether you’re talking about good media relations, strategy planning, communication channel building with an influential public or keeping the peace, knowing which tactic best suits the task at hand is crucial.

“Technology,” [Patrolman Brian] Johnson said, “will never replace the feet-on-the-street.”

Agreed. For PR, technology will never replace good relationships. But it can make them easier to create…

The Google Aquires JotSpot

logos.jpg So, Google picked up JotSpot. I found out about this when JotSpot emailed me to assure me of my uninterrupted service.

JotSpot is a wiki service that I have used in the past. I like it’s functions, but have always found the interface to be slightly clunky. I haven’t used it in the last few weeks, but have wanted to implement some joint wiki projects at work. Maybe now I can consider it.

The email reads:

Why is Google acquiring JotSpot?

Google shares JotSpot’s vision for helping people collaborate, share and work together online. JotSpot’s team and technology are a strong fit with existing Google products like Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Google Groups.

What does this mean for JotSpot customers?

We believe that joining Google will accelerate our team’s vision of offering users the best collaboration platform on the web. Google shares that vision and presents us with the world’s best environment for delivering on it. We’ll be taking advantage of Google’s world-class systems infrastructure and operations expertise to ensure that access to your JotSpot is fast and reliable. We can’t share any of our plans publicly just yet, but we can tell you that we’re incredibly excited about the possibilities. We can’t think of a better company to have been acquired by.

Should be interesting. I’m very excited for what this will do to wiki services. I truly believe that as the world gets smaller and geography becomes less of an issue for collaborations, we will need tools fine-tuned to facilitate these projects. In fact, I could be wrong, but I believe FIR guys (Shel, Neville) are writing their podcasting book using JotSpot. So there’s a real life example for you. This is one to watch.

Update: Here‘s an NY Times article about the acquisition.

Second Life: It doesn’t matter if you like it

I’ve been trying to avoid Second Life as much as possible, both in writing about it and getting involved in it. Mostly because of the contention between some of the folks in the PR blogosphere. I have my own thoughts on Second Life and they’re not much to write home about. I haven’t tried it, I’m not planning to for a while, and I’m not sure what the draw is. However, one thing I am doing is paying attention to it. And I’m doubly glad there are communicators out there who are paying attention to it and reporting it so I don’t have to. The fellas at For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report are doing just that.

And they’re getting bashed for it by some folks who I believe have little right to criticize. Students and young PR professionals, still wet behind the ears, are giving these two highly seasoned verterans a hard time? Ridiculous. I see where they’re coming from, but to voice one’s opinion with such arrogance to people who were practicing communication professionals before some of them were born is distasteful. What really kicks me in the pants is FIR is Shel and Neville‘s podcast, they could talk exclusively about edible underwear if they wanted to, it’s their show. Don’t like it, don’t listen. They welcome comments, so make your point and leave it. Don’t harangue them, am I right here?

But like I said, I’m not a huge fan of Second Life, because I personally think it’s pretty stupid. That really doesn’t matter, does it? I think eating fruits and vegetables is stupid, too, but the truth is you can’t avoid it. If you don’t like SL and think it’s a waste of time, that’s okay, so do I. But to blindly ignore or refuse to talk about anything that affects the communication field – that’s a mistake.

I think Second Life is an odd time drain, but there are many, many people who don’t. And that’s what matters. How many people thought the owning a car was stupid? How many people thought reading was stupid? How many people thought the Internet was stupid? FIR Show 170, Shel Holtz says it very well.

For more information, read about Kami’s PR meetup in SL and Lee Hopkins’ rather humorous take on it. Also, Shel points to Text 100’s YouTube Video explaining the connection between SL and PR. The video is a must watch for beginners. It doesn’t make me want to sign up, yet, but at least I have a few answers if a client asks me about it…

Subject: You’re fired

In an display of excellent (read: unconscionable) communication skills, RadioShack recently followed through with its plans to dismiss 400 people at their Fort Worth headquarters WITH AN EMAIL.

ABC News (link) writes “Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters received an e-mail Tuesday morning telling them they were being dismissed immediately.”

No doubt internal communicator pundits (Shel, Ron, others) are having a stroke about this, and well they should be. HR people, PR people, and any other people with souls should be shaking their heads at this. I’m not sure what to say about this, but…wow.

There must be a logical reason why calling those employees (albeit, not a fun job) into a meeting (one-on-one, 100 at a time, all at once) and have the decency to tell them to their faces that they were being let go was considered an unreasonable concept.

Maybe the company, feeling the rocky road of low margins, decided it was too time consuming and would have adversely affected the bottom line. Sadly, it must have worked, ABC reports “Shares of RadioShack rose 29 cents, or 1.6 percent, to close at $18.21 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.”

I knew there was a reason besides crappy products, deplorable service, and hapless employees that I didn’t like RadioShack.

Dramamercials?

I am really looking forward to this. Live-action commercials on stage before shows? The USA Today article goes into detail:

"I don't know why nobody has thought of it before, to have a live ad on stage for theater," said McLynn, who will perform before a production of "Saturday Night Fever" at the Gaiety.

"It will be a real thrill for the people who are here, as 1,500 people are going to have been at a world first, they will be able to go home and say not only did I see a great show last night, but I saw the first-ever live ad."

I think they can really get away with this. It's truly surprising that noone has made this popular before. Perhaps it was too sacred a place, but I think they can make a go of it if it's done properly. By "properly" I mean, of course, cleverly with humor and panache – and with the right product. Mr. Clean products? I don't think so. Trips to London? Could work…I'm hoping YouTube gets ahold of one of these as I'm keen to see what they look like.

My guess is that the novelty of them will make them permissable for a while, and by the time people get tired of them, they'll be commonplace.

Hat tip to Population Statistic, thanks, Costa.

This is acceptable, in stark contrast to this article from The NY Times about people who buy movie tickets online getting text requests on their phones to review movies they've seen. Now that's intrusive and people won't stand for it for very long. That's one to watch, too.

PRSA Akron Steppin’ Up

I'm pleased to announce that the Akron Chapter of PRSA joined the blogosphere in March. Even Constantin made note of it. Sponsored by Akhia Public Relations (and hosted by Six Apart's Typepad) the blog is titled, "A side of Blog."

First of all, I'm thrilled to see that NE Ohio has entered the "conversation", as it were. When I read the email my friend sent to me about the blog, I nearly fell off of my chair. I was so excited. I have, for eight to ten months now, been very disappointed not to see more PR firms or professionals in this area engaged in the blogosphere. Not to say that these people aren't doing great PR work, it's just that I felt like our area was lacking an online presence. I must not have been paying close enough attention, as I note that Chris Thompson of Edward Howard has a blog, too. I'm interested in other NE Ohio new media communication efforts. Anyone? I applaud Ben at Akhia for stepping up to the plate to spearhead the Akron PRSA Chapter project and I applaud the professionals that are taking an interest. 

The news and announcements for this on the PRSA Akron Website reads:

Blog! Get Your Blog Here! Hot off the press!
Posted: 3/13/2006
Ok… hot off the keyboard may be more like it. Akron PRSA has started our very own blog! We are proud to announce the addition of one of the latest movements in information sharing to our bank of communication methods. So stop by, check it out. Read as our chapter members discuss everything from movies and sports to PR ethics and government.

I'm a little concerned about the topics listed here. Not to say we don't need a little levity, humor, and water cooler talk in the PR world from time to time (because we do), but – well, the idea of discussing government frightens me a little. Does that mean politics? I was happy to see an email sent out to PR pros that clarifies it a little and asks for contributions. It reads:

Visit http://prsaaa.typepad.com/akron/ and check out the…posting, "A Day in the Life of an Intern." Add it to your favorites and check back often for updates and new postings. It's a great forum for you to submit feedback about your PRSA experiences, offer reviews of local vendors, exchange information with other PRSA Akron members, and more.

Since its inception on March 6, Chapter President Carrie Kandes posted, Ben from Akhia posted three times, the Akhia Intern has posted twice, the Chapter VP sent a thank you to professionals who helped with our PRSSA Student Development program, and I sent in a post. Lots of hits to the site, the email had said, but I think more content and more focus is required. Judging from the blockquote above with a list of topics. I'm wondering if a discussion board or Yahoo! Group wouldn't be more applicable for creating an online community for PRSA Akron members. This goes back to the question of "when is a blog a blog?" Just because it uses blogging tools? I don't think so, and many in the blogosphere would agree. This shows us that new tools can be used to fulfill important functions, but should not be used just because they're cool. PR bloggers have been telling their clients that for months. "Do we want to blog?" is not the right question, the proper one is "why should we be blogging?"

So, my observations:

  • What's the purpose? Answering this question will determine the blog's direction.
  • Who can write? I believe that everyone has the right to contribute in some way.
  • Who can post? Ben is clearly the moderator for this. And he already told me he's not going to censor things, which is great. But this adds another step to the process. Like all PR pros, Ben already has a full plate, why make it more difficult for him?
  • There aren't many links.

In sum, what I'm seeing is that A Side Of Blog is currently like a meeting with no agenda and no scheduled speakers. Conversly, a blog is more of a virtual conference with one or more presenters who take requests and suggestions from the audience to start a discussion. It is not an open forum. That's what Listservs and Usenet groups are for. Not surprisingly, I have a few suggestions:

  • Find the purpose. This will give direction and life to the blog.
  • Post more often and give it one voice. The benefit of a blog is that it's a way to conversationally share information that invites discussion. If everyone can post, there's no discussion, just random thoughts. What would readers gain from it?
  • If you don't want one voice, maybe give a handful of select people rights to post. Sharing the responsibility among a few will push them to write. Friends and colleagues of these few will visit and participate in the conversation. Soon, word will spread and a community will form. Develop a page of contributors that list each person, her job, and her background. Have the authors write about industry trends, interesting asides, lessons learned, and chapter information.
  • Have one person do the posting, Ben is the logical choice. The Forward Blog, for instance, works because Erin Caldwell has assembled a crack team of pros and student authors. But only one person posts to the blog, which ensures proper timing and minimizes overlap of topics. It works, it works really well. There is no shortage of posts and the content is excellent. In the spirit of disclosure, I'm one of the contributors to the Forward Blog.
  • Link, Link, Link!
  • Have fun.

So those are my thoughts. Don't let me fool you, I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to joining the Akron PRSA chapter in the future. But I have some concerns about the blog. A great idea that needs a little molding and Ben is already leaning that way. His most recent post brings me hope, except that he doesn't link to the blog where he got his info. A blogosphere faux pas. This initiative is new and I'm hopeful. I'm on board. I'm ready and eager to listen and contribute.

New BlogoSPHERE search

For those of you who haven't heard, a new blog search engine came out rather recently. I read about it first at TechCrunch on Monday. It's called Sphere and it's worth a look. I played around with it for a little bit yesterday and today. I wanted to see what was different about it. Good user interface and it seems really quick. It appears to really focus on the most recently updated blogs, although you can choose either relevance or recency in your blog search.

I found this bit from the "about" page interesting:

Who needs Sphere?

Everybody, of course! In one of three flavors…

1 People interested in timely topics, who aren't quite sure about this whole blogging hoo-ha.

2 Readers who already use blog search engines, and are sick of disappointing results and spam. Those who secretly crave a faster, more intuitive, and feature-rich experience.

3 Publishers who might like to include some really good blog content in their websites, but only if it's really, truly good.

I would posit that anyone who wants to keep up with what consumers, lovers, and haters are saying about your organization, as well. It's hard to put that nicely…that's the PR version of it, I guess. I like how they try to play all the angles here. They mention, first, the uninitiated; the blog-leary, if you will. Then they mention the experienced; those searching for proper content. And lastly they mention the bloggers; those searching for substance in the crazy place we call the blogosphere. I like their approach.

The "About" page goes on to talk about why this search engine is better. Only time will tell, if you ask me, but I'm willing to try contrasting and comparing it to other search engines. I'm also quite thrilled to see that it allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds of your searches. There's a really nice interface that's so easy a…less-technological person could do it. It's a snap, just click on the RSS icon after you search. This will pop up a selection of aggregators, you choose your reader of choice, and you're in. It all worked very well. The real trick with any search engine is results, though, wouldn't you agree? So we'll wait and see. I've subscribed to a similar search feed in several search engines. We'll see what happens.

The "tips" page gives suggestions and tips for getting the most out of your Sphere experience – from the simple to the advanced. Quite interesting. I'd like to spend some more time noodling around with it. One thing I've learned from it, my name brings up some strange results.

To keep abreast of the latest news and goings-on with the folks at Sphere, feel free to read more about them at the Sphere Blog.

Update: This isn't really an update. I forgot to mention when I wrote this that I had already seen one referrer to this blog from a Sphere search result before I penned the post. So, people are using it to find blog info.

Woof! Woof!

Speaking of social media and your daily dose of vitamins. Welcome Dogster and Catster. It’s like Myspace for dogs and cats. The site is equiped with a blog, daily diaries, forums and a lot of other community development tools. They not only have a Dog Lovers Blog titled For the Love of Dog Blog, but also a company blog aptly named Company Blogster. Dogster actually won the 2005 Webby for best community site. The Adopt Me and We Miss You pages are heart-warming and sometimes sad. I tend to get lost in the adoption site wanting to bring home a friend for Bailey, but he would be jealous. Bailey

Talk about the changing sphere of the Internet and social media. Dogster and Catster have taken community and social interaction elements of the Internet and ran with them in a positive way. The site is witty and creatively raises awareness to homeless pets and animal welfare. Also, this is a perfect site for so many dog and cat owners who make up an enormous demographic. What a way to harness the communication power of pet owners worldwide.

Check it out! Give a dog bone!

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