iPhone 3GS and online video

Shortly after the iPhone was released a couple of years ago, in very short order it became the number one camera that people were using to upload photos to Flickr. What Apple figured out a long time ago is how to make the overall user experience a simple, intuitive and fun one.

The new iPhone 3GS now shoots and uploads video with just a couple of clicks. The result? YouTube reported that in the six days after the 3GS release, video uploads to the site increased by 400%.  But think about the potential if the phone had been widely available in Iran? What about for retailers who want to post quick updates about new shipments into their stores?

Video is still the most effective way to tell your story and the usage numbers continue to grow. We recently began the deployment of a series of videos for one of our clients and decided to use their facebook fan page as well as 6 or 7 different video sites including YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Metacafe, Yahoo and Blip. The lesson being you never know where people might be searching for information about your product or service, but you need to research the different methods of reaching them. YouTube is clearly the 800-pound gorilla, but it is important to reach people wherever they might be.

Technology continues to make this easier and easier.

Social Media is STILL Stupid

About one year ago, I wrote a tongue in cheek post entitled Social Media is Stupid. (Click the link to refresh your memory. Go ahead, I’ll wait…it was a short post.)

The inspiration for the post was from the inimitable Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb back in May 2008 where she outlined how social media could be used to support social causes such as the victims of the Chinese earthquake, tornado victims in Corvida, charities, social causes, news gathering and social good.

Well, the stupidity of social media is rearing its head once again, this time in Iran. Iranians inside the country, and millions around the world who support those who challenge the recent elections, are blogging, posting to facebook and using twitter to coordinate their protests.  By using the hashtag #iranelection, all tweets on this topic can be organized and searched on a moment’s notice. (Go to search.twitter.com and enter #iranelection to see how it works.) Even though the government has attempted to shut down texting and internet access, enterprising citizens have figured out a way around the roadblocks.

The next time you hear someone who has never used twitter, or any other new media tool for that matter, but who has a fully formed opinion peppered with such enlightened observations like, “Why do I care what you had for lunch today?”, fill them in on what I’ve written about here.

We are in the middle of a worldwide communications revolution, folks. facebook and twitter may not be the standard bearers on into the future, but how much more proof do you need that things have changed forever?

Social networking and automation- Not a great idea

I am going to get up on my soapbox for a second.

At the risk of railing on a topic that potentially no one cares about, here goes..

It is becoming common practice for people to tie their facebook and twitter accounts together so that one update will hit both services simultaneously. I think this is a bad strategy for a few reasons.

1- Not everyone on facebook uses, or understands, twitter. The constant flow of updates makes facebook feel very spammy and creates confusion for those who do not use twitter. They are two VERY different ecosystems that even use their own language. facebook updates and posts have no limit to their length or what media you can use, whereas twitter updates are confined to 140 characters and use a language for communicating that employs all kinds of abbreviations, codes and shorthand. facebook updates tend to be much less frequent, and can be richer in nature with the ability to add multiple photos, video, links, etc.

2- In my case, and I am quite sure I am not alone in this, the people in my twitterverse are not the same as those in facebookland. For that reason alone, it is disrespectful to treat them both the same. Additionally, there are probably things you might tweet about that you might not want, or your friends might not want, on facebook.

3- Social media/social networking adoption is growing at a breakneck pace. Yet one of the core values that define them are transparency and authenticity. The minute you start automating processes, you are a robot who is sending out spam and not honestly participating in a conversation. Scalability and time management are all valid rationalizations for automation. But they are also the fast lane to irrelevance for you and your message. Ari Adler had a terrific post about this very topic recently. This quote stuck out for me: “The
idea of automating to save time and update all your status boxes at
once may seem appealing, but it’s really akin to just walking into
every meeting and social gathering with a bullhorn, shouting out
whatever is on your mind and not caring if the people in the room will
get it or even care.”

Take this example offline for a second into the “real” world. You and I are talking about the chances for success of a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East, and out of left field you start telling me about this awesome blog post you just read about the new Star Trek movie. It’s supposed to be a conversation- are you even LISTENING to me?

Online communications, done right, serve to facilitate offline ones. You are putting yourself out there with EVERY POST YOU MAKE NO MATTER WHERE YOU MAKE IT. People make all kinds of decisions, assumptions and judgements about you, consciously or unconsciously. Make sure that they’re thinking that:

A- This person/company/entity adds value to the conversation.

B- This person/company/entity respects what I think and does not treat me like a number.

C- This person/company/entity cares about my needs and can help solve my problems, whether that problem is finding a good place to eat, choosing a PR firm or getting a good deal on a flight to the Middle East.

There is a perception that social media is easy, free and does not require much thought. My goal is to disabuse you, dear reader, of all three of those assumptions.

I will get down off my soapbox now, but I want to know if you agree or disagree. Please leave a comment.

AT&T uses twitter for customer service. Do you?

When larger companies contemplate a social media strategy, there are tons of challenges. Social media, by definition, implies a conversation and it’s easier to maintain a conversation with a few hundred or maybe even a thousand engaged partners. When you start to get up into the millions, the challenges multiply.

All of us have felt angry and powerless against a faceless cable company, appliance manufacturer, phone company or computer company. Customer service is the difference maker in closing the sale and maintaining relationships, but so many companies fall down in that area, too. We have all found ourselves speaking to a drone who was reading a script and offering vague promises that you both knew were not going to be met.

As I consult with small and medium sized companies and help them plan their social media strategy, one of the things I like to remind them is that they better hope that people are talking about them. They might be saying nice things or bad things, but you hope they’re talking. So many fear that people will say bad things about them. Here’s the reality: when people are not talking about you AT ALL, THAT’S when you have a real problem. But I digress…

The power of free social media tools like facebook and twitter or paid monitoring services like Radian6 or DNA13 is that now you have the opportunity to hear and participate in those conversations and engage and connect. You can make an enthusiast into a brand ambassador or maybe even assuage an unhappy customer. Sometimes you will lose a customer, despite your best efforts. But isn’t it better to have had the chance to at least HEAR what that unhappy customer had to say and take a shot at bringing them back to the fold?

I had a huge problem this week with AT&T and I got, frankly, what I would call despicable customer service from them. It didn’t seem to bother them that my home phone was ringing in someone else’s house and his in mine.(I wonder if he took any messages?)  No one considered the privacy implications, at least they didn’t do so overtly, and they didn’t seem too put out when they told me that 4 or 5 days might go by until they fixed it. Now, I have heard all the twitter stories about “influentials” with 10 or 20,000 followers who make a big stink online and get their way. My number of followers does not stack up, but I decided to take my case to twitter court and see if justice would be served. Within 10 minutes of my first “AT&T sucks” tweet around 4pm, I got a follow from a local AT&T media relations person. That led to two phone calls from AT&T repair folks and finally two more calls from the repair tech himself down the street from my house. By 7pm, my phone was back working again. The experience reminded me of an incident that happened very early on in my professional life that made a huge impression on me.  I started out at the (once) venerable William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and I recall  an agent sending out a company-wide e-mail asking for help getting something (I don’t recall what it was now) for an “important client.” Within minutes, the CEO of the company did a “reply all” saying, “All our clients are important clients.”

If a huge company like AT&T can get it together to reach out to a disgruntled customer, why can’t your company?

A few thoughts on the future of facebook

I probably spend more time thinking about facebook than actually using it. My thoughts usually examine the business and professional applications of this now ubiquitous service. It has seen phenomenal growth with over 250MM users worldwide, 70% of them outside of US.While it makes sense for certain kinds of businesses to have a presence there, the most important consideration with facebook, as with any other tool, has to be WHAT are you trying to accomplish and WHO are you trying to reach? Frankly, when we’re talking about 250 million active users of virtually every demographic group known to mankind, you need to make a pretty compelling case why you would NOT want to be on facebook. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Mostly, though, I wonder about its future. Will there still be a facebook in 3, 5 or 10 years? Will it merge with another service or fall out of favor and cease to exist altogether? If it is still around a few years from now, will its identity be the same as it is today, or will it start to show its age and therefore be deemed not as cool? And if it loses its cool factor, how will that affect its long term viability?

Will the youth continue to be its driving force? Will generation after generation continue to populate it and keep it growing? Now I can’t prove this, but I’ve heard kids tend to be a little fickle, and the next shiny technology object attracts all the attention…for awhile.

As a broader concept, there is an entire generation of people who are growing up living their lives online. It’s completely normal for them and they don’t call it “social media.” They call it “life.” Nevertheless, i suspect that in fairly short order, we may see a drop in usage of some of the more life revealing tools such as facebook for one reason: people need some time alone.

At some point in every person’s life, you need some time to be by yourself to collect your thoughts, think about who or what you want to be and just generally disconnect for awhile. When I was in college, they called it “semester abroad.” I’m only half kidding here. I think high levels of scrutiny, whether they are self-inflicted or not, retard personal growth. We are already seeing a decline in usage among the 55+ demographic, when less than 3 months ago, they were the fastest growing group. There may be different factors playing into this trend, but I have the feeling that we may see something of a fall off in usage among the 21-29 year old age group pretty soon. If anyone reading this blog is over 30, think back to those years of your life and they can probably be characterized as a period of discovery: a couple of different jobs, a few moves, a couple of girlfriends/boyfriends. In other words, a period of normal human growth and self-discovery.

Having said all that, I would come back to this one point. Let’s assume that in 2015, facebook and twitter, currently the two most talked about if not most used social media tools out there, cease to exist. Perhaps they merge or fold or turn into something else, but they’re no longer around the way we know them today. It won’t matter. And here’s why: the game has changed forever. Our expectations in terms of how we communicate, how we share knowledge, information, our global positions and our photos has changed forever. facebook and twitter (along with a raft of other tools too numerous to mention here) have enabled that shift and now the horses are out of the barn. We cannot go back to the old way.

Don’t understand the difference between writing on someone’s wall and “liking” something? Can’t figure out an @ reply versus a DM? It doesn’t matter. It’ll take you 20 minutes to learn just enough to be dangerous on either service. But, more importantly, you will understand that the nature of privacy has changed, that Google never forgets and that there is a hell of a lot of good that can come from two-way or even multi-party communication.

Could it be that the “party line” telephone of the 1930s and 40s was the crowning achievement of communications technology? Everything that’s old is new again.

Blogmonday

OK, so it’s Tuesday, but yesterday was a holiday. This is the fifth Blogmonday, the brainchild of Mark Story. The idea is to try and mention a couple of blogs that we we consider hidden gems, spread some link love, and help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

So today, I only have a couple of blogs with the caveat being that one of them provides constant food for very deep thought, so it counts as one-and-a-half blogs.

Conversation Agent is authored by the incredibly prolific and impossibly intelligent Valeria Maltoni. I cannot understand how some people can consistently generate such thought provoking, well-reasoned content on a daily basis. She never mails it in and it is a true must read. The focus tends to be on how customers and communities have changed marketing, communications and PR, but there is a lot more there, too. She’s just smart. And it’s fun to read what smart people write. Period.

My other pick is Inside Facebook. As I, and other marketers, turn to facebook more and more as a tactic in an overall social media strategy, this blog keeps you up to date on what’s happening at everyone’s favorite online hangout.

Check the mothership for more #blogmonday recommendations. That’s all from this county for now…

What do women want?

I don’t know. This is not that kind of a blog.

But I CAN tell you what women are doing online: the same thing as everyone else.

According to a study released recently from BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners, women are turning to blogs and social networks in ever increasing numbers as their primary source of information, community interaction and entertainment.

This shift is taking time away from reading newspapers and magazines, watching TV and  talking on the phone. Of the women surveyed who participated in some kind of social media activity, over half either read or wrote blogs, 75% were on Facebook or some other community-based site and 20% were using Twitter. Not surprisingly, women bloggers were at the leading edge of social media participation.

The thing is, I read studies like this and I kind of scratch my head a little bit. First of all, it’s not immediately clear if this news represents a shift in behavior among women, or if internet uptake has been the same among the sexes. It seems to me that the Internet is there for all of us and we all pretty much use it the same way: educate ourselves about the things we are interested in, interact with friends or network for business, and research reviews and opinions before we make purchases.

Findings like these ought to be titled “Women Are People, Too.” Make of them what you will. (This just in: Women use computers. Film at 11.)

Social Media, the State Department…and you

One of the goals I have always tried to pursue with this blog is showing how new media and/or social media are making inroads in places where you might not expect. I also endeavor to give you a reason to care. It’s great that everyone is on Twitter, but so what? Facebook is growing faster than the population. And?

So with that in mind, and marrying technology with my other great interest-politics, I bring you today’s item of interest.

Obama gets all the credit for making this the most technologically savvy campaign and Administration ever, right? But there have been things going on at the State Department for awhile now that are worth noting. The Office of eDiplomacy is been around since 2003 with a mandate to improve communication inside and oustide the State Department. They have been blogging since 2007, at the unfortunately named Dipnote, and are active on Twitter. (As a nice feature, they show who is manning the Twitter feed at any given time. When I checked in at around 9:30pm, Daniel was holding down the Twit fort.)

So, is anyone paying attention? Apparently so. Blog visits are up 100% from 10,000 to 20,000 per day, Twitter followers have tripled since Inauguration Day, and they have 2 1/2 times the number of Facebook friends. So I guess I am not the only techno-politico geek out there.

OK- so what? The last election and the massive mobilization of voters directly because of their ability to get, share and create infomation online was the beginning of a significant shift in the relationship that we all could (and many of us do) have with the government. The traditional focus, especially at the State Department, has been from government to government. But what if that focus shifted to government to people, people to government and people to people? There is too much going on on the international stage and the stakes are too high. Many people are not content to be spectators anymore. Previously disenfranchised people or those of us who felt helpless to effect change now have a way of networking with one another as well as back to Foggy Bottom. As Secretary Clinton recently pointed out, “…[this] is the heart of smart power. This changing landscape requires us to expand our concept of diplomacy.” She went on to cite the example of the Columbia grads who used the Million Strong Against the FARC Facebook group “to organize 14 million people in the largest anti terrorism demonstrations in the world. In a few short weeks, their actions did as much damage to the terrorist networks as years of military action.”

Pretty strong stuff. The power of social media helped get at least one guy elected, a lesson probably not lost on Mrs. Clinton.

More information from TechPresident.

What’s the deal with podcasting in 2009?

I was in San Francisco last week for two conferences (this one and this one). At one of the evening get togethers, the conversation turned briefly (and I do mean briefly) to podcasting. It went a little like this:

“So, how come no one talks about podcasting anymore?”

“Because it’s not new anymore. Everyone’s doing it. It’s totally mainstream.”

I guess I agree and disagree. A couple of years ago when I launched the company, I anticipated that podcast production would be a big part of the business model. With my years of experience as a video producer and director, it seemed like the next logical step in the evolution of online media creation. I was, and continue to be, a HUGE consumer of podcasts, many of them courtesy of NPR. But I was wrong about the production part being a big segment of my business. Aside from my own, we only produced a couple of others.

But back to the topic of podcasting and NPR…Tom Webster from Edison Research had some interesting stats that he presented at IMS. 43% of Americans are aware of this thing called podcasting, up from 22% just three years ago. And about 27 million Americans listened to a podcast in the last month. Chances are, a lot of them were from NPR.

While stories about the contraction of mainstream media outlets abound, an underreported story is how much NPR has grown, thanks largely to their bear hug embrace of new media. They consistently have several programs in the iTunes top 10 and traffic on NPR.org grew 78% from 2007 to 2008. There has been some internal conflict from member stations that they are essentially cannibalizing themselves. NPR member stations have to pay the mother ship for programming, but if all that programming is available online on matter which affiliate you listen to, you might be less inclined to give during pledge drive time.

Or maybe not. According to a recent article in Fast Company, the NPR audience “is perhaps more ready than most for the radical concept of paying for the content they consume… When we had to announce layoffs and cuts in December, there were comments on some of our stories: ‘How can we help? Where’s the give button?’ There’s a sense that the organization is leaving money on the table. People would like to contribute more to this service that they adore and depend on.”

Compared to traditional media, podcast audience numbers are still small. Yet, as we say over and over, it’s not about the quantity of your audience, it’s about the quality. 50,000 highly motivated listeners (or viewers) is preferable to 1 million indifferent ones.

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Second Blog Monday

Mark Story, the author of a great blog about using social media for PR functions, had an inspired idea a couple of weeks back called Blog Monday. Picking up on the Twitter convention called Follow Friday where people recommend other Twitter users that you might want to follow, Mark thought it would be a good idea to give exposure to some of the internet’s “hidden gems.” (You can see his first post here.)

I was proud to be included on the inaugural roll call of must follow blogs and, in keeping with the tradition that Mark is trying to establish, I wanted to recommend a few blogs that I really get some value out of in the hopes that you might, too.

I think this is a better idea than Follow Friday for one reason: on Twitter, people will just cram as many people as they can into a tweet as suggestions of who to follow. Like most things on Twitter, that technique lacks all context. It would be much more beneficial if you told me WHY I ought to be following @mcdopeincredible and @djfresh. Posting BlogMonday recommendations allows us to tell you WHY we think you might like the content, something Twitter does not really allow for. OK, digression over. Here’s my list:

Podcasting News– Something of a misnomer since it does not just cover news about podcasting. Rather, it does a better job of what I try and do on my blog and that is, offer up news, data and trends about social media adoption but with a healthy dollop of analysis as to WHY you should care that podcast use is up 22% this year.

Media Emerging by Scott Hepburn- Scott also blogs about marketing, PR and advertising with an interesting take. You might not always agree with him, and that’s fine with him, but he will always give you something to think about or tell you something you probably didn’t know.

The Brand Box– Amber Naslund’s essential blog that does one thing REALLY WELL: she constantly presents real life examples, tips and guides to making social media work. She recently became community manager for Radian6, but that has not diminished her drive or output in any way as it pertains to consistently offering up A-1 content on her blog.

The Fail Blog– A lot of you probably know this one, but if you don’t, go ahead and subscribe. A hilarious break in the day with funny pictures videos that depict, well…examples of fail.

I realize my recs are a little social media heavy but, hey, that’s what I am about. Thanks to Mark for starting this and I hope it continues to grow. Finding good content online can be hard so if someone can do the heavy lifting for you, you would do well to take advantage.

Oh, and I made it through this entire blog post without cracking back on Mark for being a Red Sox fan. He is a good guy, but nobody’s perfect.

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