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    Online observations of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media; the occasional frivolity; and The Rundown show notes. Jump in, the water's fine.

    Please Note: Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its constituents.

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Inside Pandora’s Box: A Twitter Story

Sure, I twitter. I am also a huge fan of Pandora.

If you don’t know what Twitter is, it’s a service people use to constantly complain about Twitter. It’s also this. Pandora is an online music site that helps you fine other music you’ll love:

With Pandora you can explore this vast trove of music to your heart’s content. Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings – new and old, well known and completely obscure – to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.

I’ve found – and purchased – a lot of new music because of Pandora. I’m a fan.

And I’m happy to report that some businesses have also figured out that with so many people on Twitter, they (the businesses) might as well see if they (the people) need anything else.

Enter customer service at the place where the customers are already talking about the brand. Some outstanding examples of excellent Twitter engagement have been detailed on many other outstanding blogs. It works.

Here’s my story. I follow the Pandora_Radio twitter feed ’cause they engage and occasionally provide interesting tidbits about what’s going on at Pandora HQ. It’s voiced by Lucia, Pandora’s Community Manager. Some select examples:

I saw a tweet go by my stream the other day and I responded with an unsolicited suggestion that Pandora not automatically play the last station you were listening to when you visit the site. I merely suggested a “which station would you like to play?” query during the load. Minutes later I got a direct message from Lucia saying she would present that suggestion to the team.

Now whether they do or not is only half the issue (well, maybe 65%). The main point is that they heard me and took the time to respond and acknowledge my suggestion. That makes a big impact on a user who – without question – has a lot of on and offline music options. Pandora’s advertisers should be pleased. And you should be looking into ways to engage with your customers. What ways are you providing for them to touch base with you?

Also, they should totally implement my suggestion.

(post updated to remove some annoying spelling errors)

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…

Newspapers – nothing new here

This post originally appeared on the Forward blog

Newspapers. We’ve been hearing about their demise for years now. But, seriously, is that ever going to happen? Let’s see, the only medium I can think of that really went offline was the telegraph. And that was a rare case.

As Shel Holtz is fond of saying: “new media don’t kill old media, they just force them to adapt” and I believe it. Radio changed the world, and forced newspapers to change. Television changed the world again, but radio and newspapers adapted. Now we have the Web, which is forcing everything to evolve again. The demise of newspapers? I don’t think so.

Readership may be declining, but enrollment in journalism schools is on the rise. This article from Seelye in The New York Times is outstanding. Witness:

“Students are also driven by the very changes that are upending the old media. For one thing, many do not read the print version of newspapers. As Dustin Hodges, 22, who is graduating from Missouri in August, put it, ‘I don’t pick up a newspaper unless it’s in front of me and it’s free.’ For the latest news, he hops online, where he spends three or four hours a day anyway.

Today’s students have grown up immersed in the Internet and with the ability to adapt rapidly to new technologies, giving them a comfort level with things that newspapers are just discovering, like blogs, podcasts and video clips.”

You bet they are. And they’ll be blowing in on the winds of change when they come. The Boston area is working on a new program. And Philadelphia is working on something as well, figuring out how to tap into the online readership revenue. If this article from the USAToday is right, Philadelphia might be on to something. I think they are.

And it’s when old media don’t adapt that they run into problems. When certain news organizations figure out that when they are reporting is no longer news they will be fine. News is called news ‘cause it’s new. Today’s newspapers are reporting yesterday’s news. That’s not news, it’s…a story, a fact, a bit of trivia, human interest, local information, or in-depth coverage; but not news.

Of course, I’m reminded that there is a growing divide in our culture. We have folks without Internet access being left behind in the digital divide. We have people who choose to use the Internet for e-mail – and that’s it. We have people who could have Internet access and choose not to.

So as PR professionals we have the added challenge that the newspaper industry is facing: how do we get our messages to our target audiences? Newspapers are using the Web to do this in conjunction with hard copy. PR people are using media relations to secure hits in trade magazines, word-of-mouth campaigns, conversational blogs, and advertorials. When you need to reach a target audience, you need to use the channel in which they are accustomed to getting messages. For teens it could be MySpace or TXT. For college grads, blogs, podcasts, and the web.

And I’ll stop there because in my mind it’s not about age. I know grandmothers using Flickr and I know teens who are unable to recognize anything Web 2.0. It has nothing to do with which generation; it just happens to fall that way many times. PR has to adapt and evolve as well. Many Forward readers are aware of this, but there are many, many more PR pros out there that choose to ignore the reality of the changing landscape. If only just to offer clients a new channel to reach target audiences, it’s important. At the lowest level, monitoring the ‘net for mention of your clients’ brands is a must. But some remain blissfully ignorant.

So how do you keep abreast? Pardon the pun, but you have to stay relevant and current. And if that doesn’t work, you could always do this to get some press.

The Gap, A Digital One

Yes, the elusive and sometimes controversial topic of digital divide. It’s a hot issue especially, since Web 2.0 is bursting-at-its seams. Yvonne DiVita’s interview with AT&T’s Spokesperson Claudia Jones over at the Lip-stiking blog strikes a match to the conversation. They discuss AT&T’s Project Lightspeed, which connects rural communities to the Internet at a faster pace. Diva Marketing‘s post “Bridging the Gap” furthers the conversation on digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have a lot of access to the Internet and those who have little to no access. Typically, the discussion revolves around the ‘haves and have nots’ or ‘wealthy vs. poor.’ Toby’s post on Diva Marketing points to relevant articles and projects working to eliminate the digital divide. I suggest parousing through them, they are very enlightening. I was intrigued with Washington State University’s Digital Divide Project, which works with and provides resources for teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

A similar project is The George Lucas Educational Foundation (edutopia) whose mission is to “celebrate and encourage innovation in schools.” They support several programs that are working to close the divide. Community technology centers provide access to multimedia tools, like video cameras, editing equipment, computers, and the Internet to students in inner-city neighborhoods. In my past life I was an inner-city public school teacher and part of me is still really passionate about urban education. My students had access to computers and the Internet at school, but may not of had access at home. My class spent time doing assignments on the Internet and I believe it enriched their experience while learning about the infamous Shakespeare. I think that projects like Street-Level Youth Soar, a Chicago nonprofit, make a tremendous and positive impact on student’s lives. What is imporant is that through education and projects focused on inner-city youth the digital divide can be bridged.

I really like what David Warlick of the blog 2 Cents Worth has to say. It is totally on point.

“There are lots of digital divides, each with its own seeds for danger. What I was thinking about was the digital divide between tech-savvy students and students with little or no access to networked digital information outside the classroom — and to some extent, the digital divide between tech-savvy students and less-savvy teachers. …

Today, the divide has multiplied, because people with contemporary (digital/21st century) literacy skills not only consume content, but they are the content. Being literate means being part of the network. The difference is not merely the individual who can read and individual who can not. It’s the difference between networked communities of power, and individuals who are cut off. This is a distinction too broad to ignore or postpone.”

A new form of literacy has emerged, as David points out and how we go about breaking this alternate form of illiteracy will change all of our lives.

For further reading check out:

Blog Search Update

I had been planning to do a review of blog search engines since I posted about Sphere the other day. Well, now I don’t have to. Tom Raftery beat me to it. His review is brief, but thorough.

First off, let me mention that both he and I were testing subscribed searches, mostly. That’s when you go to a blog search engine and tell it look for a search term like “weasel bucket,” and sign up to receive emails or RSS feeds when that search engine finds your term. For PR, that would be a great way to keep track of what people are saying about your clients or brands.

Tom and I agree on a number of things. My conclusion is that, therefore, we must be right. While he tried to search for things important to him, I did the same. I pretty much came up with the same results, using several different search terms. Here are my thoughts:

  • Sphere is good, very good for being so new. If it continues to improve, it will be contender.
  • Technorati still reigns in this area, in my humble opinion. The most thorough results regardless of what I was looking for. I did miss a few, though, and those were usually picked up by Sphere.
  • I haven’t personally tried IceRocket, yet, but will have to add it to my collection. Tom indicates that it produces the most results, but that the results are filled with spam. Like we need any more spam, right?
  • PubSub. I had high hopes with PubSub, but it appears to be falling off the radar. Tom agrees. Ironically, I became aware of all the services PubSub had to offer during a podcast interview between Tom and Salim Ismail, [then] PubSub CEO.
  • Google Blog Search. Tom didn’t review this, either because he finds no value in it or just didn’t think of it. I’ll have to post a comment and ask him. Another person did comment on Tom’s post about GBS, but Tom hasn’t responded. GBS is what my WordPress uses to tell me when people are talking about GOPR, but it misses a lot. Way more than I find acceptable.

So, in conclusion, do what Tom suggests. Use a combination. For subscribed searches – or for any search – a combination approach is best. If you tinker with them enough, you’ll find each has its own strengths and weaknesses when you’re using a real-time search. I haven’t made time for that, but I’m sure others have and I’d be interested in their thoughts. I’ll have to keep track of my searches in the future.

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!

Social Media: Vitamins of the Web

Like getting enough vitamins or fiber in your daily diet, social media might actually be good for you. Things like blogging and podcasting, you say? Indeed. Let me show you some examples.

This report from The Boston Globe entitled "Blogs 'essential' to a good career" pretty much says it all. But, in typical Luke fashion, please allow me expound upon the self-evident. The articles lists several excellent reasons to blog, one of which is to help you launch your career by demonstrating your work-ethic and mental processes. If you don't believe me, check this out.

And, as you know, corporations can reap the benefits as well. Sure, we've been talking about this for a while, but here's a study that actually gives some empirical data. This study, pointed out to me by David Phillips on FIR (thank you), indicates that blogs have "relational strategies," such as conversational human voice and commitment. These strategies were found to correlate significantly with relational outcomes such as "trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, [and] commitment." Blogging can make your organization seem like Soylent Green, you know, made of people. It has worked wonders for Microsoft…

Podcasting, how does this fit in? Easy, for many of the same reasons as The Boston Globe article about blogging. Plus, listening to podcasts in their entirety could get you a two-minute self promotion spot on a major mash-up edition of influential industry-related podcasts. Chris, I listened to the FIR#131 and ATS #29 mash-up. Your promo was great, good luck.

And some new information about the web in general is always good. For instance, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a study (abstract w/link to pdf) last week showed a gigantic increase in the influence the Internet has on our lives (hat tip). You don't have to tell me! Nearly half of my graduate education came from the Internet – by my own choice, of course. Some stats:

  • 50% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers.
  • 43% in the number who said the internet played a major role when they looked for a new place to live.
  • 14% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they switched jobs.

In sum: Social media is good for you. The Internet continues to grow in popularity and usefulness. Eat your fruits and veggies. Any questions?