Info-Images + One Cartoon 2010

29 December 2010

The images and infographics below struck a cord with me for a variety of reasons throughout the year. And be patient with the scrolling. There are six images in all . .  . and the best one is the last.

Where dweeb, nerd and geek meet. (I sure hope I fit the geek category and not the others.)

The death this year (one hopes) of the self-described social media guru. (And not a moment too soon.)

Facebook rules

Paul Butler, an engineering intern at Facebook, made this image from a sample of 10 million Facebook friendship pairs. The map was created organically from the pairs, and the lines represent human relationships.

Okay, maybe mobile browsers rule (Although personally I find my mobile brower frustrating to use, slow and with insufficient screen clarity. But I guess that’s just me.)

Facebook Places versus Foursquare (Some research on what people think about whether Facebook Places will overtake Foursquare, and some who don’t care. And apologies to the creator of this graph and academics who have to identify sources in their papers — I can’t find the source for this anymore. If someone would like to point me to the owner, I would be more than happy to give approprate attribution.)

The social demographics of Facebook and Twitter. (Too bad the creators couldn’t measure login by the hour: I wonder what the stats would look like then.)

Blogging is Dead: Long Live Blogging

23 December 2010

I was going to post my own comments on the false notion that blogging is dead based on this piece from a week or so ago at Mashable, as have dozens of others.

But Kimberly Turner writing at The Regator Blog (that’s not her in the pic) has taken up the cause with more effect than I could. Here is the Coles Notes version of her well-argued comeback(my emphasis):

“The Mashable article’s (current) headline states: “Everyone Uses E-mail, But Blogging Is On the Decline.” According the study Schroeder based the post on, this is false. As the handy-dandy chart below (from the same Pew study) shows, blogging is on the decline in Millennials (18-33) and G.I. Generation (74+) but on the increase in all other age groups with an overall increase from 11 percent of internet users in December 2008 to 14 percent in May 2010.”

“The Mashable post turns its nose up at blogging but makes no mention of stats from the same report indicating that even after blogging’s decline with teens, there are still more teen bloggers than tweeters.

“The blogosphere has become the realm for things that cannot be expressed in 140 characters, a place where significant conversations, debates, and information exchange can occur. This shift means the blogging is maturing and evolving—not dying.”

“The evolution of blogs has made the very definition of a blog ambiguous. Millions access blogs such as Mashable, The Huffington Post, TMZ, Gawker, and Boing Boing every month. Because the line between blogs and other websites has blurred with blogs’ maturation, visitors may or may not consider themselves to be blog readers…even when they are.”

I guess I’ll keep at it.

Blocking Social Networks at Work – A Dying Practice?

16 November 2010


(Once again I’ve enriched a post with a Rob Cottingham cartoon since no one captures the social web zeitgeist better. I don’t think he’ll mind.)

I hope the title of this post is true. But based on my experience with some organizations over the past six months there are fewer offering this “benefit” than I thought would be the case given where we are in the social web’s six or seven year history.

The resistance is still coming from senior management teams and human resource departments (a) concerned about the impact on productivity (b) afraid that organizational intellectual property will be compromised.

Others can desconstruct the problems with these quarrels. Instead, let me suggest five arguments in favour of making Rob’s cartoon redundant:

  1. The signal sent by blocking Facebook, other social networks and micro-blogging platforms like Twitter is that you think your employees are children . . . if not idiots. That feeling is likely to be a greater draw down on productivity than a few minutes checking a social network feed.
  2. With smart phones and mobile apps employees can simply duck their hands below their desks and check Facebook and Twitter anyway.
  3. As Rob says in a post accompanying the cartoon above blocking these platforms may mean missing an opportunity for “companies and organizations (to create platforms – my addition) for productive, collaborative work.”
  4. The social web isn’t going away. Many businesses are trying to find a way to make it relevant for them. By shutting off desktop access to the social web you are slamming the door on creative business scenarios or better customer service strategies.
  5. You will delay learning what kind of specialized content might make users of the social web pay attention to your products and services, because your employees won’t help you find out.

Senior managers can be stubborn, especially when backed by IT departments mumbling about non-business driven server overload. So don’t bet these ideas will tip the scales among the hold outs . . . though it’s worth a try.

Twitter Helping Politicians Use Itself

07 November 2010

According to ClickZ (via KStreet Café) Twitter has hired Adam Sharp to provide advice to DC politicians and bureaucrats on how to use the micro-blogging platform for the pubic good. Why?

“A Twitter spokesperson told ClickZ in June: ‘We are seeing strong growth of government, policy, and political usage of Twitter, and we want to help officials get the most out of our service to better communicate with constituents.’ “

(Given Facebook’s capacity and usage as a hub for political campaigns, maybe it should be thinking of doing something similar, if it hasn’t already.)

Not a bad idea at all . . . social web platforms providing strategies to specific target user groups for getting the most out of them. It should make government relations consultants a bit nervous that platforms are  stepping into their advisory role.

Cooks Source firestorm: Hell hath no fury like a blogger (and her community) scorned.

05 November 2010

Twitter and Facebook are ablaze. A wronged blogger has mobilized her online community (and their online community. And so on. And so on. Like a Faberge organic shampoo commercial). Her grievances have gone viral and her supporters are attacking the brand at the source of her frustration. As a PR practitioner guiding my clients into the world of social media, I see this as an opportunity for brands to (once again) learn from the very very big mistakes of others. In the age of social media, bad policy and bad customer service can bring unparalleled damage to the brand whose image you work so hard to protect. There is no escaping scrutiny and the wrath of angry consumers when a complaint captures the attention of the online community.

In case you’ve missed the drama, here’s a recap:

Monica Gaudio found out through a friend that one of her blog posts had been reprinted without her permission by foodie magazine Cooks Source (the Internet is also ablaze about the lack of an apostrophe, but that’s another story). As she explains in her blog post, she contacted the editor of Cooks Source in an attempt to understand how her article had ended up in print. Upon realizing it had been plagarized, she asked for a public apology on Facebook and in the magazine as well as monetary compensation in the form of a symbolic donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

Editor Judith Griggs responded by email as follows:

« Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was « my bad » indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered « public domain » and you should be happy we just didn’t « lift » your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free! »

Dismissive. Arrogant. Condescending. Factually wrong (content published online is NOT public domain and copyright free). Just bad from start to finish. From a PR –  not to mention customer service — point of view, this reply is riddled with strategic landmines. We can only hope Ms Griggs’ eyes and mind were tired when she wrote it …

So where do things stand a little over 24 hours after Monica Gaudio posted her story?

  • Her blog post has 17 pages of comments (and counting)
  • The Cooks Source Facebook page has gone from about 130 « fans » to 2988 « fans » … although judging from the slew of negative comments on the page’s wall, Facebook needs to come up with an option other than « like » for pages. It is painfully obvious that these are not fans.
  • Guy Fawkes is currently Twitter’s trending topic … but Cooks Source and the newly developed  hashtags #cooksource #crookssource and #crooksource are getting their share of Twitter’s attention. The brand is being coopted by others (@crookssource) and fake Twitter accounts are being set up : @cooksource and @cookssource (at least I _hope_ that last one is fake).

Lessons to be learned:

1. Your staff are your ambassadors. They become very visible ambassadors when what they say (or write) is published online. Educate them about new realities. It’s possible that like Ms Griggs, they’ve been doing things ‘that way’ for 30 years. Times have changed and it’s high time everyone knows it.

2. Understand that what happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. Your customer service emails can be published online in a blink of an eye. So can your customer service calls, for that matter. And talk to Comcast about the power of video. Make sure the quality of your customer service is always something of which you can be proud.

3. Even if you’re not ready to enter into the social media space, it’s wise to stake your claim on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t, someone else will. And you might not like what they decide to do with it.

4. Learn from the successes of others. Companies like Best Buy, Dell and Comcast have managed to turn disgruntled bloggers into brand ambassadors simply by acknowledging mistakes and by starting to work towards rebuilding bridges. They’ve entered into the conversation in a real way and it’s paid off.

5. Apologize. Sincerely. Then try to move on. There are good stories to share, so share them. And let your natural ambassadors .. your employees, your fans … share them too.

6. A fundamental shift in communication has happened in the last few years. Free yourself from the illusion of control. Invest in authentic conversations with your clients.

A message to Cooks Source Magazine and its editor: It’s time to face the music. Trust me. You don’t want to end up like Nestle, who temporarily abandoned the Facebook ship after a Greenpeace led campaign mobilized the online community and bogged down their page.  Hundreds of negative comments on your Facebook wall can seem overwhelming, but it’s feedback worth listening to. Embrace the opportunity.

I write this blog post in the middle of the night, having been violently awakened by the realization that my siamese cat had gone hunting in my country home and brought a half-dead mouse back into my bed. I see parallels, don’t you? Your brand deserves a better fate than the gift my warrior-feline presented to me tonight. Don’t let social media keep you up at night. Make sure you and all your employees manage your brand’s image online as well as off by respecting your clients, by apologizing to them when required and by demonstrating that you’re attentive to their concerns.

Social media offers you an unprecedented opportunity to engage in conversation with existing and potential clients. Grab it.

MAJ: the Internet is having fun with Cooks Source by accusing them of any of a thousand different things. My personal favourites:

Cooksource was on the Grassy Knoll


Cooks Source’s keyboard has 3 buttons: C, V and Ctrl

Patients lose with lack of clarity around social media and pharma rules

04 November 2010

Pharmaceutical companies are getting caught in a regulatory quagmire when it comes to social media in Canada.

Outdated Health Canada regulations that only concern themselves with determining if an activity is considered “advertising” or “informational” leave a lot of blurred ilnes that don’t seem to be coming into focus any time soon.

Blogger and social media consultant Nat Bourre attended the inaugural eMarketing Canada conference in Toronto on November 1-2 and offered up a post that shows where PAAB’s (Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board) thinking is around the incorporation of social media within the regulatory framework as laid out by Health Canada:

Patrick Massad (Chief Review Officer at the PAAB, Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board) presented an algorithm to facilitate the regulatory thought process when planning a social media promotional activity.  Here is the suggested algorithm:

1) Is this advertising?

2) Who is the intended audience?

3) What restrictions should I consider for this audience with respect to disease and product schedules?

4) What mechanism will I use to limit access to that audience?

5) What is the sponsor’s tolerance for uncertainty & risk?

6) How will I align the site with this tolerance level?

7) What are the regulatory consequences of adding and/or linking other tools/content to my site?

There’s a problem with the starting point of this algorithm.  By its very nature social media will always be advertising according to the Health Canada definition. (It’s inexcusable that the current regulations were written in 1996, with an administrative update in 2005.)

Health Canada needs to look hard at social media as a new communications experience for consumers that can’t simply be defined as purely promotional or purely informational. Consumers don’t care about that. They care that they can find the right information at the right time in the right way. If they are informing themselves about their treatment options they want to look at manufacturers’ information, patient groups, news, journals in order to form an opinion.  Look at the stats:

  • 70 per cent of Canadian internet users look for health/medical information (Canadian Internet Project)
  • 70 per cent of global internet users trust branded websites and consumer opinions (Nielsen

It’s time Canadian regulators look at rules for social media so that it can serve the best interests of the consumer.  We’ve always had different rules from the US, so I sure hope they aren’t waiting for the US FDA to take the lead on this…though they are much further ahead in their deliberations.

(Disclosure:  H&K works with pharmaceutical companies on a daily basis.  I’ve had two social media sites pulled down by Health Canada due to lack of clarity on regulations.  These news sites only included compliant news releases and videos that are still available on the web in other places.)

A Random Social Web Walk . . . With Voting

07 October 2010

Some random social web information and ideas:

From Mashable, a tongue-firmly-in-cheek campaign from the marketing firm Proximity will see the person who checks in most frequently on Foursquare at the City of Chicago Mayoral HQ become the new ‘mayor’ of the city. The current front runner is Rob Mowry who looks strangely like Rob Ford a real candidate for mayor in Toronto. Just showing up, rather than making change, seems to work for mayors in Toronto so why not a Foursquare mayor?

My Vote . . .

The title of this article by Robyn Urback in Canada’s National Post newspaper says it all: ” Facebook’s ‘I like it’ campaign pointlessly sexualizing tragedy”. The idea is that for breast cancer awareness month, women are supposed to say where they like to leave their purse. (I know: I don’t understand the connection either.) The result is such comments as ‘I like it on the floor’. Get it? Unfortunately, the article doesn’t tell you who thought up this offensive campaign.

My Vote . . .

According to a study sponsored by StephensGouldPincus in the US, “the total percentage of work devoted by communications consulting firms to social media as opposed to traditional media is 30% overall. Next year, the percentage will increase to an average of 42%, with firms over $3 million in revenue increasing to 46%.”

My Vote . . .

In post about a Gallup poll which shows that distrust in the media continues to edge up, Valeria Maltoni says something that people like me who blog about current affairs should remember:

Especially if you are creating content, you should do your homework, look to diverse sources. A greater share of voice comes with greater accountability.

My Vote . . .

It’s a good day. I liked three out of the four things I read.

Gladwell on the Sidelines

28 September 2010

Malcolm Gladwell tends to write about what exists and why, not what is coming into existence and what it means or how to advance it.

In an article in the October 4th issue of The New Yorker called Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, he does it again with social media activism:

. . . it is a form of organizing which favors weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have an impact.

He is talking, of course, about ’slacktivism’ which is the pundit’s dismissive term for the way many people leave their militancy on the walls of Facebook pages:

Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make real sacrifice.

Contrasted to this is “high-risk activism” which is at the core of disruptive social change like that which started the civil rights movement in the US in the late 50s and early 60s . . . “Activism that challenges the status quo – that attacks deeply rooted problems – is not for the faint of heart.” It requires, as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (rendered in the picture above) and Gladwell agree, strategy, discipline and hierarchy. (That’s why the Bolsheviks led a revolution and anarchists could not.)

No argument there. But to say this is not Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is short-sighted and something of a straw-man line of reasoning. Yes Facebook and Twitter are weak-tie networks and will never in themselves be platforms for sweeping systemic change. But they do a couple of things well: they create ties where there were none before; and they are a source of ideas. People making connections and debating ideas are fertile ground for social activism, just like the late night chats of the freshmen in Greensboro who courageously challenged racism at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, Gladwell’s apocryphal story (not in the facts, which are true, but in the significance Gladwell affords it) starting point for his article.

I wish Gladwell had spent his awesome intellectual gifts thinking about what use of the social web could move weak-tie connections to the strong-tie relationships that are midwives to strategic and disciplined social activism. He should take a close look at successful online political and community organizing (such as the Obama election campaign about which he says nothing) and see how it converts loose networks into a campaign force. Or he should imagine a Facebook campaign which, at its inception, builds in mechanisms for organizing action, for gathering and unleashing committed high-risk activists.

Instead, Gladwell plays to the myopic crowd who find it easier to talk about limits than about opportunties.

Howard Rheingold’s Social Media Literacies

25 September 2010

Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs among other writings on technology and culture, spoke (inspirationally) last Thursday at Toronto’s Ryerson University about the use of social media in education. That’s him below . . .

One of his themes is the need for educational institutions, instructional designers and teachers to recognize the new ‘literacies’ required of graduates, and the implications of them on how and what is taught.

The ‘literacies’ in Rheingold’s lexicon are attention, participation, collaboration and critical consumption, all of which make sense given the ubiquity of information, ease of search and value of networks in invention and ideation. Critical consumption – or crap detection – is especially important in a culture in which even barely educated Hollywood celebrities and 16-year-old pop singers have political and social opinions they think worthy of tweeting. And I would also add visual mindfulness to the list given the increasingly dominant place of images in online narratives.

I did wonder, though, about how much Rheingold values what he called ‘alphabetic’ literacy and the role it plays in his collaborative model of learning. As the final assignment in his course at Stanford, Rheingold asks his students, reluctantly I sense, to create (not ‘write’) an essay drawing together the words or concepts defined throughout the course. But the chronicle seems secondary to the process of connecting and interacting to develop the understanding, which now that I think of it is true . . . to a point.

My experience teaching at two urban Canadian universities and as a communications consultant in a large firm, makes me sensitive to any devaluation of the act of writing and what it requires in logical structuring and presentation of ideas. I see a lot of sloppy writing, from essays to news releases. And by sloppy I don’t mean the creative manipulation of language to make a point or give birth to a feeling, which can be artful.

Writing in Wired a few months ago, Clive Thomson reported that:

In interviews, they (students) defined good prose as something that had an effect on the world. For them, writing is about persuading and organizing and debating, even if it’s over something as quotidian as what movie to go see.
Nothing wrong with that. But persuading, organizing and debating, especially persuading and debating, without the rigor of expression is ineffective and usually boring. Not that I think Rheingold undervalues rhetoric. He is too much the master of language and reasoned argument himself. But I do think he and others should be careful not to turn a blind eye to how untutored many people are these days, and the fault is only ours when we don’t ask for high standards in expression even if people are attentive, participatory, and collaborative and exhibit effective bullshit detection.
Critic and scholar Jacques Barzun justifies why in the preface to his 1986 book A Word or Two Before You Go:

The fact is that great ideas and deep feelings cannot be fully known or enjoyed, rightly valued or reported, unless they are closely scanned in the only way open to us – matching the experience with the right words.

Augmented Reality News Release

04 June 2010

Forgive the fact that this is about an initiative of my employer, but it is too cool to ignore.

Yesterday, we launched what we are claiming to be the world’s first augmented reality news release to highlight our promotional activities around the Cannes Lions advertising festival.

As described by our CMO, Tony Burgess-Webb, “The concept is simple: recipients receive a document with a special marker printed on it, go to our website and hold up the document to their webcam. Our promotional video (featuring our esteemed CEO without trousers) then appears to play directly on the piece of paper.”

If you have a printer and a webcam, you can try it out here. Or if you just want to see it in action see the video at

Is there a future in augmented reality news releases? If fun is a criteria for news release success, then I think so.