Archive for Liz Caradonna

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In Defense of Ghost-Tweeting… with Caveats

Friday’s PR Week features an op-ed by Amy Dean titled “Five reasons why ghost Tweeting will come back to haunt you” [subscription required]. Dean makes a reasonable case against letting someone else use Twitter to speak for you and your brand: it’s misleading to customers, it destroys credibility with reporters, and it can cause you to lose followers in an instant.

But the heart of the issue is here:

Twitter is a new opportunity to have an engaging, ongoing dialogue with customers that breeds collaboration that leads to enhanced customer satisfaction. But that can only happen if there is an honest exchange.

There are lots of reasons it makes sense to put someone else in charge of maintaining your presence online – a ghost-tweeter may have more social media expertise than you do, an especially engaging writing style, or the superb organizational skills it takes to maintain a dialogue with your followers. This is certainly not a case for lying – if you’re going to have someone else tweet on your behalf, you’d better be ready to be completely transparent about that (see @RyanSeacrest for a great demonstration of transparency).

But the biggest drawback of bringing on a ghost-tweeter is that you’re depriving yourself of the benefits of one-on-one interaction with your audience, especially the opportunities you can discover and the business insight you can glean from those conversations. One of the most exciting aspects of social media is that it allows brands to remove a layer of mediation and affect consumers more personally. The more you’re able to participate personally, the more you’ll get out of it.

Besides, it can be quite a kick just to be yourself on Twitter. Who could have adequately imitated Shaq‘s reaction to experiencing a hailstorm for the first time?


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Social Media Doesn’t Influence My Buying Decisions. I Swear.

Over the weekend, from InformationWeek:

Practical Analysis: Social Networks Get Low Marks As Sources Of IT Info

Art Wittman cheerfully reports:

In a series of questions, we asked where you get your information and what you think of those sources, including vendor Web sites, IT trade magazines, business magazines and newspapers, E-mail newsletters, broad business tech sites (such as Information, focused tech sites (such as, analyst sites, virtual trade shows and Webinars, social networks (such as LinkedIn and Facebook), tech bloggers, and Twitter.

We used a five-point scale to gauge your opinion of relevance, reliability, timeliness, and bias for each as they relate to your work. Top responses varied a bit from question to question, but typically your top sources of information include broad IT Web sites, IT trade magazines, business news sites, and analyst sites. The bottom three responses were much more consistent: tech bloggers, social networks, and Twitter, with Twitter ranking by far the lowest in a number of categories.

As most scholars know, it’s never quite as precise to rely on people to report on their own behavior as it is to actually observe their actions. Asking people to report on the causes of their own behavior seems like an even less useful research method. Humans are motivated by a collection of often impractical and sometimes downright ridiculous set of factors… and few people have the self-insight – not to mention the humility – to accurately explain why they do the things they do. When presented with a respectable, logical, serious-looking set of alternative options (“IT trade magazines!” or “Business news sites!”), what kind of IT executive would claim that they are more influenced by their online friends and acquaintances, or by the frequency of a brand name on social networks? It sounds so irrational. And yet… most serious research on buying decisions reveals that what drives them is irrational. Purchases are made with emotion, and justified with logic.

To really start to study the influence of social media on IT buying decisions, you need to compare IT pros’ exposure to social media mentions of a company with their eventual purchases. The correlation may be small, or it may be large; but it will certainly be more informative than collecting buyers’ own self-psychoanalyses and reporting them as fact.

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RIP, Geocities

My second thought upon reading the news that Geocities will be shut down later this year was: that’s kind of bittersweet. My first thought, of course, was: wait… Geocities is still around?!

Apparently, it is. For now, at least. Geocities was purchased by Yahoo! in 1999 for 5 billion dollars. Kara Swisher has a fab retrospective (along with her original article about the purchase) at All Things Digital. While most of the discussion of Geocities’ death this week has revolved around its implications for VCs and the current crop of Web 2.0 investments, the thing that struck me more immediately was the contrast between the hyper-literal Geocities Internet of 1999, and the “everything ends in R” Internet of 2009. Indulge my memory for just a moment…

Geocities began as a personal website hosting service in 1994, in a period of time when most people’s understanding of the Internet relied very very heavily on literal interpretations of analogies. Consider: “world wide web,” “information superhighway,” “bulletin board systems (BBS)”… (this was before the “series of tubes” framework had gained widespread acceptance, by the way).

Accordingly, Geocities took a highly literal approach to peddling web sites – sorry, home pages – by offering users addresses modeled on actual neighborhoods, streets, and house numbers, grouping pages on similar topics in the same neighborhood. I know of no technological justification for this, but I do know that in 1994 it was totally normal to be the only one among your friends and family who had a website, and to explain, “It’s www dot geocities dot com, slash SouthBeach, slash Sands, slash 8990. You can see all my favorite quotes from Friends there and listen to MIDIs of Hootie & The Blowfish songs.”

To Yahoo!’s credit, they discontinued the neighborhood-based structure shortly after purchasing the site. A pretty bold move coming from a company whose original purpose was to create a static, manually-updated directory of all web sites. For nostalgia’s sake, though, here is a list of Geocities neighborhoods of yore. Farewell, Geocities. You were adorable while you lasted… and boy did you last.

Any other cute or hilarious memories of the 1999 Internet? Share in the comments. My own favorite Geocities eulogy so far is by a designer/writer/artist named Atherton Bartleby, and can be found here.

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Tool Academy

So you’ve got your head around an integrated social media strategy… now what?

As a necessary caveat – we don’t condone starting to ‘do’ social media based on which tools everyone’s talking about (also known as the “we’ve gotta get on that Twitter!” mentality). With that said, it can be daunting to approach the practical aspects, how-tos, dos and don’ts of using specific media.

Soon we’ll be launching an area on PR Nonsense that keeps track of these particulars of using and intelligently reaping the benefit of social media tools – the elements that come after social media strategy. Of course, this is a resource that can never be complete, so to speak. Considering the pace of growth and change in this area, both the best tools for your objectives and the best practices surrounding them are a constantly moving target. So we’ll be collecting and featuring, on an ongoing basis, the best resources and hands-on tool guides we can find.

As we begin to compile these resources, what are some you’d recommend? The more current and specific, the better. General websites and blogs about social media are great, but an article titled “16 Ways YouTube Won’t Help You Grow Your Business” is better.*

Here’s a good starting point for getting familiar with the tools we’re talking about: Brian Solis’ Conversation Prism (the latest version of the prism can be viewed here). This is a consistently updated graphical representation of social media tools by category, useful for comparing tools within each category, but brilliant for exploring the purpose of one type of tool versus another.

* This article has never been written, to our knowledge, but it certainly ought to be!

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Stop tagging me, Dad!

The statistics Nate reflected on earlier this week should come as no surprise to those of us in our mid-twenties who have found ourselves, of late, frantically untagging Facebook photos posted by our parents in which we look unspeakably hideous and embarrassing. Yes, it’s inescapable – “old people” are on Facebook now. Related discussion of the generation gap among Facebook users (and reactions from some “old people” themselves!) has been ongoing this week at The XX Factor.

My own Facebook nightmare arrived late in the game… it was barely two months ago that I suggested to my father, jokingly, that he should be on Facebook. My fiancĂ©’s parents are on Facebook, I explained, and it’s adorable! His immediate reaction was begrudging consideration. “I just don’t know what I would use it for.”

Within two hours my dad had posted his first Facebook photo album: Fish I Have Killed, the contents of which are exactly what you’re imagining. Within 24 hours my stepmom had a Facebook account, then my two aunts, then a variety of my parents’ friends and neighbors, all posting on each other’s walls with wild joy and abandon… and intense frequency.

Then came the mortification. Photo albums filled with family pictures of me at my most awkward, worst-dressed, and ill-maintained – all several years old and now at the top of Facebook’s “Photos of Me,” flouting proper chronology and pushing more current, flattering photos down the queue, provoking both my vanity and obsessive-compulsion in one fell swoop! Come ON, Dad!

In fact, the whole thing’s still kind of cute. But it does demonstrate a permeating fact of the social web age: it is becoming less and less realistic to break your public image into facets for each audience, and to hold back artifacts inconsistent with your desired branding. The answer, again, is to stop scrambling for control and start building. Identity is a constructive process, and the only way you can come close to controlling yours is to be the primary purveyor of content about you. Especially now that your Dad and all those fish are on Facebook.

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Googled yourself lately?

From Seth Godin this week: Personal Branding in the Age of Google.

It surprises me a bit to see Godin writing about such a well-trodden subject. Hasn’t it been the “age of Google” for almost a decade now? While his post is about all of the well-known ways Google search results can hurt you in the professional sphere, there’s been far less attention paid to how the relative permanence and authority ranking by Google can help your branding – as an organization or as an individual.

A quick Googling of my own name turned up about fourteen pages of results filled with (in order of appearance):

I’d say this is a pretty accurate and fair representation of who I am, what I’ve done, and where my professional and personal expertise lies. And for a person with a relatively uncommon last name, I have a fairly long Google record. This is unsurprising; I live a lot of my life on the Internet, and don’t expend too much effort trying to keep things from showing up in Google results… as Godin advises, “The best plan is to overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.”

I am predicting, however, that the matter of maintaining one’s own Google presence will become both more urgent and more complicated in the future. Employers, prospects, and customers will start being as concerned about what isn’t discoverable about you on Google as what is. Claim to be an expert on a subject, but Google can’t find any articles you’ve written on it? Advertise that your company has top tier customer service, but it has no presence on social networking sites, and no visible responses to conversations about your product? While there may have been perfectly valid excuses for these scenarios five years ago, this is not the case today.

It’s tough (and in some cases impossible) to erase the online record of things you wish you’d never done or said. But it’s never too late to start doing the opposite – leaving a long-term trail of realistic, flattering, and credible evidence to support the values of your brand.

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