Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Trap of Reciprocal Following on Twitter: How following your followers can hurt your message

Let me begin by saying that my choice to not have our brand follow all our followers has assuredly cost me numbers. It's been a long struggle and something I've questioned about our social media strategy from the very start as well as something I've had to defend from peers, casual critics, and social media pros alike.

The first of the two main arguments for reciprocal following is that it makes your followers feel like you are interested in them as well, and willing to be part of their conversation.

We all know the fallacy of that argument. We do not, in fact, give a rat's ass about what our followers had for dinner, nor do they EXPECT us to give a rat's ass. They care that we interact and opine on things they choose to interact with us about, but it would be weird and almost intrusive for The Comedy Store to comment on all our follower's tweets. Even if a random interaction is healthy and fun (Which they are.) they can be achieved without reciprocal following.

The second argument is a bit more undeniable. Choosing not to follow back affects the numbers of people who remain your followers. To that, I say "good riddance". Social media needs to cure itself of the "Thanks for the add" and number collecting mentality that helped drive Myspace into the ground. Reciprocal following only encourages number collecting in others and spammers who depend on that mentality to inflict their awfulness on the general population. Your content should be reason enough for your numbers. Your retweets and your interaction should be driving your numbers, not some sort of false feeling of inclusion and certainly not something sketchy like an algorithm.

Keeping the accounts you follow low and relevant allow you to further expand on what your brand stands for and what is important to you and your followers. The Comedy Store follows Scientists, Art Museums, Writers, Politicians, Local Businesses, as well as The Comedians who perform here and Comedians we WISH would perform here. Retweeting those people, and interacting with them is just as important for your brand management especially if you plan on expanding your sphere of influence to include content curation, a lifestyle blog and eventually the Holy Grail of online marketing, which is quality original content.

At the end of the day, the question for your brand must be whether its a simple numbers game or if you are preparing your followers for the expansion of your brand and cultivating a sense of ownership in something greater than just a company or a twitter account.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Citysearch at Rorke's Drift

Its an amazing thing to watch a company shoot itself in the foot. You'd think that there would be some sense of perspective inside a company that gathers opinions like Citysearch does, but when the promises of social media don't save your ass entirely, you feel like placing the blame somewhere and the hippies writing tweets and creating "community" seem like the perfect place to clean house. It seems to be a trend for companies to cut out their heart in an effort to save the body. The highest profile example of this was MySpace as they tried to be more like facebook and twitter, they slashed their music and comedy staff, the ONLY parts of MySpace that were actually working for them. Comix, the comedy club in NY, is in a similar boat having rid itself of the innovative Ochi's Lounge and holding "Club Nights" in the space in order to make ends meet. Who knows if that will work? My guess is that half a nightclub and half a comedy club make for a whole mess. Pabst Blue Ribbon after being bought by Los Angeles businessmen, is going through a similar rehashing where their Social Media reps are being slashed and community outreach is being curtailed in lieu of more traditional advertising. Ballsy, considering that PBR's success has been largely in part to its grass roots, divey, image. Now, Citysearch is getting rid of its editorial staff. Facebook pages, twitter accounts, and outreach are at a standstill.

The thing that all of these companies have in common, aside from their clumsy willingness to do away with the things that define them as unique, is the ominous and crushing competitor that looms over their very existence. MySpace had facebook biting at its heels, Comix has 3 more established Comedy Clubs in NY hoping for its demise, PBR has actual beer to compete with, and Citysearch has the behemoth known as Yelp.

All of this reminds me of on of my favorite movies- ZULU!

When faced with overwhelming odds (Ten thousand Zulu Warriors Vs. your 150) , you button up the top button your tunic, straighten up your pith helmet, and do what you do best. You are, after all, you. No one is a better "You" than you are, so you become the best "you" that you can be.

So who is Citysearch if not their content? They are no Yelp. Yelp's user generated content is a fearful and vengeful beast compared to the insightful tips generated by Citysearch's staff. Yelp is so big, that an attempt to compete rather than finding your niche and growing there, could result in the utter ruin of your brand by playing catch up where there is no need in a playground that's too big. This of course is assuming that competition with Yelp is behind the seemingly suicidal moves at Citysearch. Even if there is a just a tech readjustment, the personality crisis will probably be too much. Who wants to reimagine Citysearch as Citygrid when you can just "Yelp it"? All of this smacks of the manic "Changes" at Myspace before it settled into its current and smaller role. Unfortunately with the loss of E-Vite (Yes guys, e-vite is done, just admit it.) can "Citygrid" get any smaller before disappearing? Again, this is just assuming that it might be some sort of misguided rebranding. It could be, most horribly, a vicious cost cutting of full time professionals for cheaper part time labor which is illegal in places like France.

Whatever the case, I'm sure that this decision was not come to suddenly, and I'm sure the powers that be are well aware that they are risking a lot by switching gears rather than by reinforcing the strong points.

The lesson from this, I suppose, is yet to be seen. Rather than buckling down and relying on what works for them, like the men at Rorke's drift, Citysearch has doubled down that reinforcements and a new strategy will win the day, much like another heroic stand at a mission.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Streamy Awards: Accelerated Growth

Imagine going from a toddler to a teen in all its ghastly awkward horror, in one year. Forget the buildup of hair growth and hormones, voice changes and acne. Imagine you go from playing in a sandbox to a full-on first semester of college. I mean you wouldn't have the accumulated experience of dealing with idiots in Middle School, or disappointment in PE class, or even your victories at speech and debate in High School or the bizarre sexual tensions of glee club and marching band. Hell, those who lack the maturity for college even after HS, end up dropping out after their first semester, with syphilis, a terrible tattoo and trying to figure out who will take half a semester's worth of failing credits for their abortive Philosophy degree. The Streamy awards flung themselves into that very situation last night as they experienced for the first time what precisely it is to hold a major event where people have expectations of you.

Let me just say, that this is not a Streamy bashing post. It's not. Anyone expecting me to make comparisons of last night's show to the Polish President's airplane will be disappointed.

All of us who love Teh Webz, have a vested interest in seeing the Streamy awards succeed. In fact, many of us were there not because we were entirely familiar with the content or the talent, but rather because we are part of the online community to who it is beneficial to be elevated by the prestige that comes with a well publicized and industry-wide awards show. The value of the Streamy awards is undeniable. However, the lack of self worth was evident in the production last night. What is a Streamy? Who is "The Academy"? Why did the kid from Wizards of Waverly Place present an award, and how is it that I know what Wizards of Waverly Place is?

The very first Academy Awards were a small dinner. The winners were announced a month before so they would show up, and they later agreed to not divulge the winners to the press until 11 PM the day of. From such humble beginnings came the lunatic 4 hour telecast we see today. The prestige and time commitment was earned from the 15 minute radio announcement that covered it early on ,to the 2 hour shows of the forties, and to the 4 hour monsters we have today

To say that the Streamy awards grew quickly is an understatement. 3.5 hours is difficult to fill, and as someone who works with Venues, I also know how trying it can be on audiences to sit still. Oscar night overnight, is not easy to do, and next year's Streamy awards need to fulfill the high expectations, quickly.

We all want the Streamy awards to succeed, we want the online community to have their awards show, but we are running against the clock and its only a matter of time before The Emmy Awards decide to add online categories thereby making the Streamys irrelevant. If we want to keep this as part of our community, and we should, then it is up to everyone who can to help The Streamy awards grow, and for the producers to call on the multidisciplinary talents of the web to produce a show worthy of the web.

And to find a liquor sponsor so there's an open bar at the after party. I wouldn't have ordered an "Atomizer" if i didn't think it was free.

If you want a review of the show itself, THIS ONE about sums it up.

Friday, February 26, 2010


This is why I avoid "Mixers" and "Networking Events".

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bad Habits

"I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to...Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation."- from a recent Douglas Coupland interview

Yesterday morning, Google released the "buzz". Its latest attempt at digging into the social media phenom, and forcing its way into your life even more-so than knowing everything you do.

Google wants to know who you do with it too, and with all signs pointing to social searches and curating as the next big step in online social media evolution, it would make sense that our favorite search engine would, in their attempts to keep it all so very real and do no harm, want to dip into the nourishing, feel-good pond of social media.

So, WTF?

Why is it, in less than 24hrs, being considered the "Meh" heard around the world when earlier posts were referring to it as "Facebook Killer" and "the next step"? Suddenly the web is largely in agreement that "Buzz" is a stillborn endeavor. Bloggers who were screaming and shouting in excitement at the launch are now ashamedly admitting that there's not that much to Buzz about. The excitement from the announcement is now turned to red faced embarrassment.


Social media is young. Very young. The power is not fully tapped,and many if not most people are not fully connected. In fact, the major players in SM are still learning the basics. Is anything more painful than watching Facebook's growing pains?

Those of us who have found a niche in the world of SM can be swept away by the amazing connections we can make with each other, the elegant beauty of finding our brothers and sisters can be mesmerizing. Yet, to our horror, we can find horribly tacky or worse, easily manipulated trending topics on Twitter. I'm still repulsed by every "For every person that posts this on their profile, so and so will donate whatnot to blah blah." that i see posted on a FB status. The much loathed "Post this to receive a free Mac (It really works, really!)" still makes an appearance, and I can only assume that Nigerians are still at the scheming because it still works from time to time, and so we must look at ourselves as the first generation of Social and Online Media Pros and accept our limits.

Yes, this is no longer the community that ruined MySpace by friending every bot and spammer out there, yes we are a wiser more careful audience with potential. However, the biggest obstacle to Social Media is not so much unlocking its potential which continues to astound and evolve almost daily, but rather the breaking of bad habits.

One one end, we see the astounding shortsightedness of Music Labels and their continuing and losing fight against file sharing / their illogical sense of ownership to their music, and on the other end of the spectrum we see the bizarre and dare I say, delusional, example of "Ronna and Beverly". I've never seen Ronna and Beverly, so I'll reserve judgment on the quality of the show itself, but rather heap thunderous, Olympian, judgment on the blogosphere and SM pros who got caught up in the excitement once more.

The story is a pretty common one in Hollywood. A pilot gets made, everyone involved loves it. For reasons unknown (Most likely it tested poorly with audiences), the network doesn't allow it to see the light of day or fills in some empty air time and that's the end of it. In certain situations, producers will shop the product elsewhere, and in more extreme situations there will be a public whine about the show. Long ago, an ad on Variety would do the trick. Now, social media is the stage. The writer of Weeds / Ronna and Beverly, along with some of the producers, decide to harness the power of Teh Webz. So, with the help of high profile Twitter users like The Office's Rainn Wilson they generated a mild buzz. Buzz enough to get the attention of blogs like the WSJ article linked above, and enough buzz to get a modest number of sycophants and hangers on to do their bidding, show unseen. The result? Well, what result? Showtime has been quiet on the subject, and the sudden flurry of attention about a grass roots online movement being able to change programming seems to have been like excitement over the iPad, and Google Buzz, premature. Showing the true Achilles heel of social media is its susceptibility to influence by MSM and corporations.

The majority of us, bloggers, SM pros, and users alike, are still very tapped in to the corporate mindset. For every Mac Air, there has been 2 amazing innovations, so its easy for us to hope and want to believe that Mac has some magical trinket that will transform our lives up its sleeve. Who isn't a fan of the Office? When Rainn Wilson tells me to support something, maybe he'll give me props. So goes the mindset of every generation, till now.

Those of us who grew up with the influence of corporate America in our after school and Saturday morning cartoons, in our toys and lunches, must be more vigilant than those kids who are now growing up with the added influence of the web, with the far more powerful influence of peers, family, and personalities.

The most powerful connections, the lifelong connections, for SM professionals and corporate accounts, are those made at a personal level with the consumer.

NBC may have made the decision to keep Jay Leno over Conan O Brien based on hard numbers, but they fail to consider the generation that will remember "I'm with Coco" over who was the successor to Carson. NBC is not investing in its future, rather it is allowing the conversation to be had without its active participation. It will take NBC years to recover from its decision to be so unfeeling towards the sincere expressions of love towards "Coco", as will it take Google some time to recover from the stupid "Buzz" release and even less time for Apple to recover from the iPad.

We must be weary of manufactured hype and emotions. They are the fossilized remains of insincere and manipulative marketing tactics that are slowly fading away to a true connection to the consumer. Tomorrow's consumer will be able to spot those a mile away, and they'll reward your help and sincerity tenfold. We best be getting used to it. In the meantime remember:


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Vice is all groweds up.

For all the pithy comments in Vice Mag about how people dress, cocaine fueled nights, and boobs, this report from Liberia is one of the most relevant and pieces of journalism I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Announcing The Cheese of the Year!

In observation of National Cheese Lover's Day I am happy to announce my choice cheese for the New Year.

2008 was the year of Manchego. The sharp and stout Spanish cheese was a great way to introduce everyone to the world of finer cheeses without insisting on the soft and aromatic goats and bries that everyone considers "Fancy". Manchego is what I describe as a "stealth sheep" so good, that the green can't fathom its complexity. We can also say that 2008 was the year of Humboldt Fog. A fine California cheese with layers of taste AND ash that made it a particularly exciting cheese when cut right.

2009 was completely owned by Roaring Forties Blue Cheese which is widely accepted as the most exciting Blue Cheese in years. To eat a sliver is to have a dance in your mouth of almost a minute as the complex veins and flavors dissolve on your tongue.
I'm salivating just thinking about it.

2010 is a challenge for all my From-Friends. It is a commitment to adventure, and a financial investment in a cheese that is a landslide of complexity. Mimolette the cheese made to order by Louis XIV, is my new love of the year. Albeit a touch pricey, Mimolette, like Manchego , has the rustic base that appeals widely, but a refinement that cheese lovers can really hang on to. The nuttiness makes it an ideal "Beer Cheese" but you can pair it with any strong wines.

Go get em.


Monday, January 11, 2010

My Grandpa

My Grandpa is 92 and still writes a daily trivia and advice column for the biggest Newspaper in Mexico.

He does this every day by hand and gives it to my grandma, who then types it up and E-mails it. Then, Grandpa gets fussy about e-mail until we receive the confirmation, at which time Grandpa starts research for the next day's column.

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