Thursday, September 27, 2007

Super Cool: "Citizen Marketers" co-author Jackie Huba talks to our class

Today in class we were lucky enough to have Jackie Huba, co-author of "Citizen Marketers: When People Are The Message," visit our class to talk to us about using social media in PR, marketing and in the corporate world. She showed us clips and examples from points brought up in the book then generously took several questions from us students.

We discussed the ethics of companies and bloggers working together, such as when companies send free gadgets to bloggers asking them to write about them - do they keep the gadget? Can the bloggers give an honest review? Will the blogger need to add a disclaimer to the post?
When asked about reasons why a company may be hesitant to have a public blog, she said the concerns she heard most frequently were that they were concerned about consumers using the blog as a soundboard to vent all of their grievances on, or that having a blog would take up to much human power to monitor it. Ms. Huba suggested that while it is true that readers may leave many negative comments on the blog, at least these issues are being told to the company's face. Consumers are already voicing their issues and concerns about products and services anyway, so you as the company might as well hear it straight from them so that you can decide what to do with all of the instant feedback you'll receive, for better or worse.

The hour with Ms. Huba passed quickly - she was engaging and had intelligent, insightful comments and answers for us. I really appreciated her coming to talk to us, as well as for signing a copy of my book. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Logging": Using the Interwebs to keep you organized

Juggling classes, a job, an internship and a life can get a little chaotic, right? Inspired by a Web Worker Daily blog post called "How to Develop the Logging Habit With Some Online Tools," I decided to give one of his recommended tools, Backpack, a try.

I think the best way I found to explain what Backpack is to think of it as a virtual "notebook," akin the the physical one that keeps all of your to-do lists, grocery lists, business cards, ideas, etc. in. When you register, you get your own URL and then you can change and add pages - it's a wiki - but with some some organizational tools, like making lists with check boxes that you can check when you're done. Fair warning: a free account will only let you make 5 pages and will not let you store any files.

Considering I spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of a computer (for personal use, school and at work), I think this is could be very handy. You can leave it open, then add and change it easily. It's also much more easy to organize and move bits of info around than it is in a bound notebook or planner.

Backpack's website also has many examples of what it can be used for, which might help you get some ideas of your own. For a personal example, check out a simple to-do list I made. It isn't as flashy as Backpack's examples, but as long as it keeps me organized then it works for me. The test is: will I keep up with it? Will I check it often enough? Give me a few months and I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tech News: Businesses get to "downgrade" to XP, but not individual consumers

The XP/Vista debate is a constant issue I have to deal with at work, especially over this past summer. When a new OS comes out, businesses usually wait a year or so before adopting the new one. According to the article "The XP alternative for Vista PCs," businesses who purchased PCs with Vista on them can now "downgrade" back to XP, but this offer only applies to Windows Vista Business and Ultimate versions. This is being offered via the computers manufacturers, who will ship the computers with Vista installed but include the XP installation CDs.

But there is demand for XP among businesses and consumers, due to "Vista's hefty graphics and memory needs," not to mention having to re-orient yourself to getting used to Vista (Why was it necessary to rename everything in the Control Panel? Why does it ask me if I'm sure I want to run an application every time?).

As far as the general public, there's no word about such an option and there probably won't be. But if you think you can buy a Vista PC and just install XP on it yourself, be warned: I mentioned the idea to an Office Max employee who told me doing so would void your manufacturer's warranty. I haven't check the validity of this, but it does seem likely. But for all you Vista users out there, a bit of relief may be on the distant horizon when Microsoft gets ready to launch Vista Service Pack 1 eventually.

Microsoft admitting that not all small-medium businesses are ready for Vista is good to hear:

  • Vista does demand higher RAM to run properly, which means more money to purchase better computers.
  • Some employees will need some help becoming comfortable enough with Vista to before fully upgrading.
  • This will also allow time for more software programs to become Vista-compatible, which has been an issue here at school (we were scrambling this past spring to find Vista-compatible equivalents to the software we usually distribute).
Microsoft's decision this past summer to make it easier for businesses to downgrade is a wise decision. This way, businesses can still get better computers without having to worry about supporting a new OS, at least for now. Look for more businesses to support Vista in mid-2008.

In the meantime, why haven't you upgraded yet? :P

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MUDs/Second Life + Web 2.0 + 3D = Metaplace

Just when you thought you've seen everything the Web 2.0 and social media has to offer, Metaplace scribbles all over that and writes their name over the sad remains, making MySpace look childish and old-fashioned.

What is Metaplace? I first heard about it when my boyfriend mentioned it from an interview he read. Let's see how well I can explain it.

If MySpace and Second Life had a lovechild, the next generation would be named Metaplace.
Take the personal website profile aspect of MySpace, but add the graphics and navigation of a videogame or MMO a-la-Second Life and you would have a 3D virtual world of your own creation that exists on your own personal Metaplace website.

Gah, it's difficult to really picture it without seeing it. So watch this:

The idea is that like other social media in that you don't need to know any code to use it. Designer Raph Koster describes it like a 3D graphical blog or profile page that you can make in minutes then alter and add at will.

Metaplace gaining substantial buzz, especially among gamers. For them, this will mean this type of online gaming and social interaction will not depend on downloaded software but directly on a webpage that can be accessed anywhere.

Metaplace is currently in alpha, being offered for previewing to programmers and developers. The goal is to make the different "templates" (do you want a game? a 3D chatspace?) to be created by anyone to be shared with the community (for free or at a price - it's up to the creator). Like a videogame, Metaplace will have it's own currency so you can "buy" new things for your page.

Of interest to businesses and PR professionals: Areae, the company producing Metaplace, is already in talks with undisclosed corporations about creating "sponsored" pages that users will be able to visit and play in, like Second Life.

Not expected to reach open beta until next Spring, this will be MMO gaming and Second Life interaction for the page-surfing MySpacer. Welcome to the future.

"...we've created a virtual world platform. We're trying to be open, so that anyone can write clients. It's designed to allow anyone to have a virtual world on any kind of website that they want. You can have a standalone client too. Our goal is to have virtual worlds for everyone. We have this motto, "Build anything, play anything, from everywhere." Eventually. Of course, we're not done yet." - Raph Koster, in the 1-Up interview.
9/25 Update: I mentioned it in the comments for this post, but Kassie (thank you, Kassie!) found me a link about Google trying this for themselves.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Social Networking is Born-Again

With the insane general appeal of MySpace and Facebook, it seems that the new growth in social networking sites is going to come from niche markets, appealing to specific types of people. Today I highlight the surprisingly longer-than-I-thought list of social networking sites that are appealing to specific religions.

Christian Social Network Holypal ( - Calling themselves the "Christian MySpace Alternative," Holypal features all of the typical social media genres we've come to expect - a personalized profile and blog and the ability to upload video and pictures. They also offer a discussion forum and a Christian singles dating service. The homepage highlights the current forum discussions like "once saved always saved," "why do we go to church?" and "defending our faith".

Xianz ( - I always thought saying "Xians" was meant to be a little offensive, but this site has embraced it. calls itself "The MySpace alternative for Christians! It's the Faith Based MySpace" and features live webcam recording and contest where they give away Nintendo Wiis.

MyChurch ( - This site had gotten a bit of blogger buzz recently for crossing the 10,000 mark for how many churches it features. Churches can register a church profile (featuring blogging, photos, video, audio clips and event postings) and members of congregations can be added to their church and to fellow church-goers. The profile pages are aesthetically pleasing; the layout is similar to Facebook with clean blue and white boxes. Very nice.

If you Google "Christian social networking," you'll get 13,300,000 results. But Christians aren't the only ones jumping on the social networking bandwagon.

I think it's exciting to see people of various faiths using social networking for religious support and questioning. Whether you're looking to find fellow followers and groups in your area or just explore what hot topics members of your faith are discussing, check out these sites and use the power of social media for bettering yourself and your community.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ikea's "America at Home" experiment in social media

We are the edglings and we’re experimenting with new forms of media, not to gain fame or fortune, but to change marketing from a business of bullying, bullshit, and deception, to a genuine form of respectable and valued sense of service and personalization. - Brian Solis, PR 2.0

As Ikea begins their more heartstring-pulling, emotional new ad campaign "Home is the most important place in the world," they are also experimenting with social media with their "America at Home" project. This week-long (September 17-23 with an additional 2-day grace period until the 25th) contest asks anyone to submit their photos of their home life (there are different catagories such as "morning rush" and "bedtime rituals") in an attempt to be featured in an upcoming book. Ikea wants to inspire Americans to bust out their digital cameras and capture the essence of "home" and submit them to the site, creating a digital "time capsule" of home and family life.

I think this is a good example of integrated social media by a company for a few reasons:
  • it's easy - just snap photos of your home and family engaging in everyday family activities and upload them to the America at Home website. Fun + simple = more likely participation.
  • there's an element of being rewarded for your contribution. There's the excitement at the potential to have your photos chosen for the book, but it's rewarding enough to be able to add your pictures and see them amongst others around the nation. I think it would be easy to get caught up looking at everyone else's submissions, even if I chose not to submit my own.
  • you're associating your brand with positive ideas: family, patriotism, the sanctity of home life. The more people submit and browse photos out of their own interest, the longer they are exposed to your brand. If your company can use social media to encourage the customer to associate your brand with valuing their input while making it fun and rewarding, then congrats - you win the web 2.0.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Keeping out the Social Networking Peasantry

The New York Times' tech article "The Gated Social Network" discusses the trend that new social networking sites are designed to keep the layperson out, and only allow certain applicants access to their network. The article features a modeling social site that accepts you based on appearance and the "Diamond Lounge," that will only accept celebrities and other such A-Listers.

I suppose that everyone likes belonging to an exclusive club, so it makes sense that you should be able to gloat about such a thing online. I guess that's how you know you're "in" with the cool kids, and it's a sign of the times to see such invites being extended to hard-working bloggers.

If anyone has any further examples, I would love to hear about them. We always talk about social media and web 2.0 as an open door for the average joe to start up and make a difference. But what if we're not invited?

9/20: Update:
Sign up on to get sent invitations to betas and invite-only sites! I received an invitation in a few hours to join the beta invite-only Yahoo! Mash, so look me up if you get an invite too. Fight the Power!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

University of Florida / John Kerry Incident: Is Seeing Believing?

Today's classic example of social media's rapid influence of public opinion:

I'm sure you all know the story already about the University of Florida senior student Andrew Meyer and what happened during a Q&A session with John Kerry at the school.

But whether or not you believe the police officers' reactions was warranted or not, what's interesting from a social media perspective is how fast this story has blazed across the interwebs via the YouTube video that shows what went down (there's many videos posted from different angles, check them out).

When you watch the video, his screams of pain and cries for help makes you immediately think "omg police brutality!!," but really - do these videos tell the whole story of what transpired before the tapes started rolling?? Apparently many students on the Facebook page calling for a protest believe that despite the sympathy the video creates, Mr. Mayer had broken the rules established about going over time and using profanity.

"What these videos leave out is that Meyer was going to be arrested BEFORE he even asked the question, it had nothing to do with freedom of speech. I was at the forum, and when he was informed that the time allotted for Senator Kerry to answer questions was over, he refused to leave the microphone and the UPD began to attempt to escort him out. He began screaming at Senator Kerry, who, trying to avoid a scene, said he would answer Meyer's question. Even if Meyer had behaved like a perfect gentleman when he asked his question, and not used profanity and raved like a lunatic, he STILL would have been arrested for his prior actions, which were not caught on tape.
Meyer's arrest was completely justified, as can be noted from the applause when he was being escorted out." -Kenny Maskell (UF), on the Facebook event protest page
On Andrew Meyer's personal website, his friends posted all the links to the media stories as well as link to the Facebook event to protest against police brutality.

So whether or not you think the actions taken by the police were justified, this is a strong reminder of the power of social media and the Internet to influence public opinion and spread stories and events in a matter of hours.

9/19: Update: Thank goodness the blogosphere is picking up on this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

PR 2.0: don't ignore bloggers, or they'll end you.

Perhaps it just seems so obvious.

After reading the first chapter of Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message, I couldn't believe that there are still some companies are ignoring bloggers. How can businesses not respond to the influential blogs that revolve around their products? For example:

"Coca-Cola does not engage in conversation with its fans or citizen tends to ignore or dismiss the work of everyday people." - page 13, Citizen Marketers
This just seems crazy.
Engaging with bloggers seems a critical part of PR today. Ignoring your bloggers can only hurt you; sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "LA LA LA" is not going to make the criticisms go away. Rather, not addressing a significant issue voiced by bloggers is only going to make it worse. I like the approach that the authors describe on pages 17-19, where HBO and BMW took the bloggers and bulletin-board posters into account (begrudgingly by HBO and pro-actively by BMW) and came out the better for it with increased revenues and customer satisfaction.

On a personal note, my career interests lie in bringing my internet and technology interests into my PR work, so this is right up my alley. Monitoring and interacting with today's social media movers-n-shakers would not only be fun but also rewarding for my clients.

"What does this means for crisis prevention and positive reputation management? It means that companies ignore blogs and other online commentary at their own peril." - Michael Sydner, "Ignoring Blogs: A Recipe For Reputation Disaster"

9/18 - Update: And speaking of Coca-Cola....
Today, PR Squared posted the blog entry "Red Tape Won't Stop Social Media From Changing Your Website (Eventually)," about companies (including Coca-Cola) that are continuing to resist getting social media involved on their websites.
"To ignore an opportunity to create a convenient spot for users to collaborate & discuss the brand is going to be akin to a criminal offense among tomorrow's web strategists." -Todd Defren, PR Squared
That's really all there is to it. Like his blog entry says, there's still time to be pro-active about integrating social media into their PR strategies. Companies here in the 21st century need to engage in a two-way discourse with consumers because the consumers are already talking.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Web comics affect ideas and purchases of their readership

Though not as easily created by the average internet user as blogs are, web comics are becoming more prevalent on the internet – with just as dedicated readerships. For the web comics whose subject matter deals with the realm of videogames and the latest techno-gadgets, featuring a daily or weekly comic strip on their site is only one of the services they provide.

Whether placed below the strip-of-the-day or elsewhere on the site, many of these gaming-themed web comics feature frequent commentary by the authors and artists. Often they’ll discuss the daily strip, but what is most important as a PR professional to be aware of is that these popular web cartoonists also love to rant or rave about the newest video game releases and the latest news of interest to gamers. These blog postings that are coupled with the newest strip (that most likely is a critique of a game or a company itself) ensures that daily readers will be exposed to the passionate opinions of the authors.

"Play it, and you'll know what I mean." - Tycho, of Penny Arcade

Videogame Web Comics of Interest (comic strips and gamer blogs):

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Five Commandments of Blogging

According to Paul Gillin's 2007 book The New Influencers: A Marketer's Guide to the New Social Media, he describes the "emerging standards" of blog maintenance that are a "kind of a Five Commandments of social media". Let's discuss:

1. "Thou shalt link" - couldn't agree more. Nothing gets my goat like reading an interesting blog entry that is sadly without any links. The importance of links are two-fold: (1) it hearkens back to "citing your source," and not linking to where you pulled your quotes or what other blogs you mention is unprofessional and could be considered stealing! and (2) links direct your reader to where they can learn more about the topic of your post that would be of interest while giving yourself some credibility.

2. "Thou shalt not diss" - disagreeing is expected, but disrespect is uncalled for and in the end will only hurt yourself. Be civil in your disagreement will lead to a much more productive debate on your part - set an example!

3. "Thou shalt be transparent" - this kind of honesty is what makes blogs so interesting to read. Posting with integrity and fairness will come through in your writing. Sure, bloggers are leaving themselves open to attack, but comments and emails about your post and addressing them will show that you value the feedback you receive.

4. "Thou shalt comment" - what's the point of the interactivity of blogs if no one comments? Join the conversation and give your opinion or offer further information about the topic. This is what creates a lively discussion and a more engaging blog to read!

5. "Thou shalt not blather" - like I'm doing right now. My high school English teacher had a saying that he would always say when a student asked how long a paper should be:
"Your paper should be like a woman's skirt: short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject." Now that is a good simile.

In order to be taken seriously, I think you as the blogger must take your work seriously. These are some good guidelines for conducting yourself on the internet, which is relevant to this class since most students are new to blogging and don't know where to start or what's expected of a good blog post.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Press Release 2.0: The "Social Media Press Release"

And just when everyone was worried about the immanent death of the press release, it has instead been re-innovated to have a place in our 2.0 world as of May 23, 2006. The brainchild of Shift Communications, they have provided a downloadable PDF template for public use for writing a digital press release full of social media bells and whistles. Though it may not be aesthetically pleasing, it is a great way to tell PR professionals what features need to be included.
Read Shift Communication's press release about the template while also seeing it in action here.

As PR Squared puts it nice and concise: "Love it or hate it, what is important is that the banal, unhelpful, cookie-cutter press releases of yore have outlived their pre-Internet usefulness."

Personally, I am excited to see the revitalization of the press release that does its job while being technologically relevant. Since it's been over a year since Shift Communications' original release, it seems that creating such releases should be expected of PR professionals along with the good-ol' paper version. This actually makes me excited to do a press release. Can ya digg it?

Learn More:

Here's a news release about Edelman's new template software for making social media releases. Looks nice enough, but read the critiques in the comments for different views.

Google Book Search allows users to share their bookshelves

Google Book Search offers users to catalog the books they have in their personal collections and organize them by category (which is a great way to keep track of what you’ve read and own!). Users can then share their collection pages with each other to see what their friends are reading.

According to Google’s Book Search page: You can now create personalized libraries on Google Book Search where you can label, review, rate, and of course, full-text search, a customized selection of books.

Google Book Search is also actively promoting its benefits for book publishers:

By matching the content in your books with user searches, Google Book Search connects your books with the users who are most interested in buying them.

Links to bookstores, online retailers, and your website make it easy for users to go from browsing to buying -- with new ways to buy and access your books coming soon.

A book link will also be featured that tells the reader where they can purchase the book online, which provides more traffic to online booksellers inspired by user-driven lists that can be searched and saved using RSS Feeds to your favorite list-makers.

Using Google Book Search can benefit PR professionals in the publishing industry by promoting its use to readers. Encouraging this book networking can lead readers to discover new books via lists made by friends, celebrities and featured users. Most importantly, it's already working to help authors and publishers based on their success stories.

MySpace also features a user-driven book search engine, but based off the top-rated books, it also seems to be more teen-centered - which would be significant to publishers in this market.

Learn more about Google Book Search here, and check out their blog to make your own book library to share with others.