Monday, August 31, 2009

Social Media as the Eye of Sauron

"The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable."- JRR Tolkien

I had an interesting real-time social media moment today that bears repeating as a warning for those who underestimate the immediate power of SM and the PR as well as promotional benefits of being able to listen to your consumer.

I have several Tweetdeck alerts for ongoing projects, brands, etc. One of these is The Comedy Store, my place of employment, which is an incredible, but badly damaged brand. It is a hard sell most of the time, and our product is still not in great shape after 20 something years of complete neglect and a pretty gnarly reputation for being unfriendly to outsiders.

My mantra since arriving here has been built around this Brand Heaven and Hell illustration that I found when I first started dawdling in marketing.

(If anyone can tell me who is responsible for it, I'd love to give him/her credit.)

Brand H&H

If you'll note, one of the most basic steps, the FIRST step, in fact, is "Positive interactions".

A customer had a negative interaction today with one of the guys who works our phones. He tweeted about it approximately five minutes after his interaction. Seconds after he tweeted, I received a notice, and read this tweet: "Just called "The Comedy Store" to find out about open mic and the guy was a dick... so nothing unusual."

With that comment, not only was the customer able to let me know that we had dropped the ball, but he also let his 198 followers know as much too. Not only did he tell them that our customer service was terrible, but he also told them we had a history of such things. BAD brand karma. I tried to recover from it, offering the usual free admissions and apologies, but the damage has been done. In real time, with a nearly immediate effect, I saw our brand depleted by one idiot employee's insensitivity and i saw that message delivered into 200 people's feeds, and I pray he's not linked his twitter ans Facebook accounts. This is the world of Social Media, where the negative can be spread as quickly if not more so than the information you export. For someone like me who spends most of his waking hours attempting to paint the kindest, most sincere and positive picture of this place, it is infuriating when that is derailed by an insensitive employee who frankly, is not doing his job. Like Sauron's evil eye, a Negative interaction will find you through social media and "pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable."


*** UPDATE!!
After my overtures the customer above decided to swing by on the day we were holding a special promotion for new comics. I was greeted by this tweet from his stream this morning which I promptly retweeted: "Had a great time at The Comedy Store... people were really nice and it was great fun watching new comics work."

What an amazing interaction.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gordon Brown: Wiring a web for global good

In my continued study on the incredible interconnectedness that is afforded us by Social Media, I've been wanting to share this TED talk for a while. To listen to a world leader discuss compassion in such personal terms is one of the most encouraging things I've seen in a long time.

Say what you will about Gordon Brown and his policies, he is a deeply sensitive and intelligent man

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kings and Queens Heroes and Heroines

“O Kate, nice customs curtsy to great kings. Dear
Kate, you and I cannot be confined within the weak
list of a country’s fashion: we are the makers of
manners, Kate; and the liberty that follows our
places stops the mouth of all find-faults; as I will
do yours, for upholding the nice fashion of your
country in denying me a kiss: therefore, patiently
and yielding. ”

Henry V Act 5, Scene 2

There are endless justifications in life. We justify happenings actions and attempt to reason away things that make us unhappy or make ourselves feel better about circumstances.I know that personally i justify a few whoppers a week, just to get by. And so do we all:

"Everything happens for a reason."
"It's just business"
"I can quit anytime"
"All's fair in love and war"
"It's God's will"
"But they really do love me"

All of these are classic examples of our attempts to make ourselves feel better about crummy decisions we make, and the general disasters that life presents us and the ones we hand each other.I blame no one for their desire to rationalize or justify but sometimes it does us well to confront that fact and be merciful to ourselves and others by being a little more plain-spoken and realistic. As I step back and momentarily become Emerson's "Transparent Eyeball" (A moment is really all I can afford of serious introspection right now), I find myself reverting to what i consider my moral center while i contemplate and justify decisions I have made in life, some not so wise, in pursuit of my own little holy grail of making this place better through my ability to engage people in a pleasant manner and bring to them entertainment and laughter that connects us all. If there is a life thesis for me at the moment, you've just read it.

So as i see my friends in their contented and married lives, many of them with children now, it gives me pause to see how much i've sacrificed in my attempts to maximize my ability to connect in a positive manner. My friend observed last night, that no one else possesses the life skills that I've had to develop for dealing with all the insanity that i bring on myself, and that which is heaped on me by the myriad of strange characters who have chosen similar journeys and are plodding along trying to make sense of it.

It is at times like this when the alienation from so very much seems to be tugging at me while I'm busy with social media, talent booking, joke telling, and the social and emotional slings and arrows of my life that I go to what I have always considered my grand justification. I am not alone.

If i were Christian, I would say Christ is with me. And he is, most certainly. He too sought more from life than a carpenter's spot in the firm of Moses, Abraham and Sons and in turn, his premature death at age 33 (An age I am a week from) resounds even to a hardened atheist like myself.

The sacrifice of comfort, both bodily and mental, the pain and suffering of the individual seeking a greater truth or a metaphorical grail is a story retold over and over in the human experience and our most revered heroes are those who gave of themselves for a larger cause succeeded and redeemed themselves and the world through their sacrifice. That story holds a sacred place in our psyche, and I posit that it is for moments like these where times try men's souls that our ancestors recorded the heroic tales, so as to inspire us mid journey, look at how far we've all come and beckon us to the universality of the journeys of our predecesors who dared step out of the comfort zone.

If we have taken a risk, we have thrown away comfort, and we have taken a step into the brave new world that propels humanity forward. The more steps you take, the greater your discomfort, and when I feel I may break and settle into a quieter version of my charmed life I look to the heroes that continued despite enormous prices exacted on themselves and those who dared support them. I stand on those shoulders and find strength in the heroes around me valiantly beautifying the world and making our communal experience a touch more special for our brief time here.

When I look around me and think what have i accomplished? What is my goal and purpose? I find the greatest justification in our shared journeys and experiences, and I am thankful for those who have kept it together for me. Those who I lean on, and those who like me, continue to charge into the fray on a daily basis at the expense of their physical and mental well-being in hopes that the next day will be brighter for all of us.

That is the mother of all justifications. It justifies why I sometimes feel exempt from certain norms, why i feel entitled to bang my head more often and why sometimes it requires a little more understanding from society and my peers. I do not ask for sympathy. I'm having a great time in my journey and when and if I arrive I'll have done it to the sincere best of my abilities. No shortcuts, no easy answers. For all you great Kings and Queens out there, for all you heroes, take heart in Henry V's words from the Shakespearean play. Be able to look at your world with an open and sincere heart and say "Your rules do not apply to me, I will lead my life as I see fit." and then act out of love.

This is what I tell myself.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Put Pocketing (The product finds you?)

The most difficult thing in Social Media Marketing is the true life application of your message and product. As we all know, a huge list and following needn't necessarily translate into bums in seats or cash in hand. Walking down the street with an iPhone glued to your hand is hardly a way to live (Ahem). Even then, there must be a merging point between guerrilla marketing and online marketing. A place where your online sense of community can be verified and validated by a very applicable moment in your life. Most marketing folk cede this responsibility to the product which they believe to be the ultimate personal interaction between consumer and brand. While technically true, non traditional brand interaction has been around for a while and a staple in urban settings. In a world like social media, where so much isn't tangible the options for extending your message outside of the realm of intangibles becomes more difficult.

MySpace continues to be the largest Social network that continually throws and promotes events independent of users. In other words MySpace has Myspace events while Twitter, Facebook etc. have only user generated events. Though I firmly believe that FB and Twitter would benefit from expanding into events and producing or at least sponsoring, they are in no danger of being overtaken by MySpace's events division which had enormous cuts inflicted on it despite being the only original and working apparatus in that horribly collapsing structure.

What about your company though? What sort of things can you do to bring that close knit online community together? Tweetups, Tweetcrawls, Facebook Invites are all in the arsenal of Social Media events but to really capture the imagination of potential consumers it takes some innovation at a basic and personal level. The UK based Phone and Broadband Company Talk Talk has taken the notion of goodwill towards consumers and bringing the message home, to a new level. A seamless application of guerilla marketing that does not involve hundreds of dancers and a train station. They have paid former pickpockets to "PUT POCKET" money wrapped with their logo and message into the consumer's pockets and bags. Risky and bold to be sure. But imagine if the evil and draconian AT&T put money into your bag with a nice note and best wishes. Not only would you tell your friends, but you'd certainly feel better about having your pocketbook raped at the end of the month.

The future of advertising will be in the bringing of goodwill and loyalty created by brands in the way that online communities and social networks create the same. By affecting people's lives, emotions,and brand interactions in a positive and relevant manner, rather than by forcing an unwarranted message on the unsuspecting. If you happen to film it, upload it, and distribute it online, then the rewards of that goodwill can be maximized.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fosse Walk it Out

Some deeply artistic mind decided to perfectly sync footage of Gwen Verdon performing a Bob Fosse routine to the Hip Hop Hit, Walk it Out. The result is what makes the internet so great.

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