Obama, Social Media and Top Down Change

In both the press and on blogs, much was made during the last election cycle about the mobilization of the grass roots to push Obama over the top. Even more was made of his campaign's savvy use of new media to motivate and engage voters to act.

A parallel meme has been floating out there among social media consultants and PR people about the ROI of social media implementation for companies and organizations. The uphill battle to convince the more set-in-their-ways decision makers can make SM adoption a frustrating sell, one that suffers from unfair and misguided comparisons to the old ways of doing things, such as direct mail, print advertising and other forms of top down communications. Spend a little time perusing the terrific blogs of good writers like Jason Falls, Amber Naslund and Mark Story and you will see what I mean. (And you'll also learn a lot.)

What do these two things have to do with one another, you're probably asking.

Despite what a lot of us would like to think, what happens in the Oval Office in particular and in Washington in general DOES have direct consequences on our day to day lives. I am not talking about waging wars or raising or lowering taxes or passing bills to make mountain lion hunting legal only on third Wednesdays of months that begin with the letter "A." (Hey, there MIGHT be a law like that for all you know.)

Presidents set the tone on many issues that influence our business lives and interactions and it seems to me that the incoming Administration has the potential to be a real boon to those of us in social media who have been beating our heads against the wall in trying to get others to see the light as it pertains to the adoption of new media into PR and marketing plans.

The story of Obama's usage of these tools during the campaign has been well told. What remains to be seen is how his Administration will keep the new media home fires burning. There have been a lot of pie-in-the-sky predictions, but as Mark Story points out, there ain't gonna be no Wiki White House. But that's OK. In the embedded video from Mr. Obama's most recent fireside chat, he outlines 5 things that need to happen right away:

  1. Make Federal builidings more energy efficient. (Something that will likely trickle down to the building industry at large.)
  2. Upgrade roads and bridges.
  3. Upgrade our schools, both in terms of their physical plants as well as technologically.
  4. Broadband. "It is unacceptable that the US ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the internet, every child should have the chance to get online, and they’ll get that chance when I’m President – because that’s how we’ll strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world.”
  5. Connecting hospitals and medical records via the internet to cut red tape and cut down on medical mistakes.

Note that points 3, 4 and 5 all involve technology, internet and broadband and this message was delivered via the good old fashioned radio, but also YouTube and iTunes.

It is my contention that these tough economic times as well as this kind of leadership from the White House bode well for the implementation of social media strategies for all kinds of businesses, organizations and brands. But don't try this at home, folks. Make sure to consult your social media doctor before taking any prescriptions. The harmful side effects brought on by unsupervised new media dabbling can be painful.

Just ask Motrin.

The Dos and Don’ts of Corporate Blogging

People love lists. Top 10 lists are typically among the most read blog posts out there. Heck, David Letterman developed a thriving industry based on lists.

So, as a follow up to our last post about whether or not corporations should blog, consider this: Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage had been on the receiving end of several e-mails over a period of months from a passionate   Browns fan. After the Browns eked out a 29-27 win over the Buffalo Bills this past Monday night, Savage responded to this fan, who had written a frustrated e-mail DURING the game when he feared his beloved Browns might lose another one, by dropping an f-bomb on him and suggesting he go and root for the Bills. And this is while the Browns were WINNING! (The full e-mail back and forth can be seen here. Hilarious that the FAN who was told where to go is the one who is contrite after the fact. If you have a few minutes, you really should read it.)

Naturally, the one who gets his name in the paper is the Browns GM for responding this way to a fan. Let me repeat this: a fan questions the sanity of the coach and management of his favorite NFL team and that team’s GM responds by telling him to perform a physically impossible act.

Are you seeing my top 10 list take shape yet?

If you’re going to be in the social media space, and yes, this means e-mail, too, here are your top ten things you need to do:

1 through 10- USE COMMON SENSE!

Tips 11-20 to be featured in an upcoming blog post. Have a good weekend, everyone. And Go, Browns!


A case study for the acceptance of social media

It can be difficult to convince non-users of the social web about its real world benefits. One method that can be effective is to take a brand that virtually everyone has used or is aware of and point to their success. Exhibit A:
NPR has been one of the more aggressive and forward thinking of all media outlets in their adoption of social media. The end of virtually every single show on their air is tagged with a call to action to go to their website and download a podcast. They have essentially perfected the Tivo for radio concept that I have been longing for forever. The music player (which we have written about in the past) is great and they allow you to  create your own programming day and listen to it in the order you want, whenever you want. I have found this especially useful for shows that I like but are not available on my local NPR affiliate, or might come on at an inconvenient time.

Well, now they are adding more social media functionality to their site. You will now be able to create Facebook-like profiles and list your favorite books, movies, NPR shows, friend up NPR hosts etc. The station is also expanding its API library so local radio stations, and ordinary people, can incorporate its content into their own applications. One tool plots the subjects of NPR stories on a world map. Another lets people listen to stories on their iPhone.

NPR also plans to increase the flexibility of its podcast downloads, which have tripled in use over the past two years.

“The initiatives will both further its goal of spreading information worldwide, and draw in younger audiences — which represent the future for fundraising at NPR’s member stations,” says the AP.

So what have been the results year over year? We already mentioned that podcast downloads have tripled, but unique site visits have gone up 78% since last year. What about money? Well, wouldn’t you know that fund raising is up, too.

All of these changes did not happen without a fight. In fact, former CEO Ken Stern left last March over his hesitancy to adopt some of these changes, but NPR is moving down the right path and prospering as it does.

An ear-opening case from a recognized brand.