Archive | marketing RSS feed for this section

Look, Marie Claire is Writing About Bloggers. Exciting, no?

4 Oct

Not so much actually, no. Sorry.

This month’s issue of Marie Claire has an article by Katie Drummond called The Hunger Diaries, about how health bloggers could be ‘putting their readers at risk’.  Ms. Drummond interviewed six of the more popular bloggers and met some of them in person at a blogger event they put on earlier this year, The Healthy Living Summit.

According to one of the bloggers, the piece Drummond contacted her about was going to look into “blog-world culture, particularly how a woman can take a personal blog and turn it into a profitable venture”. Sounds pretty interesting, no? Unfortunately the piece that ended up in the magazine very different indeed. In it she indirectly implies that the six girls could have eating disorders, and she quite directly implies that they could be causing others to have them.

Interesting to note at this point that this issue of Marie Claire features an emaciated Katie Holmes on the cover (EDIT @ 11.37pm: looks like the Holmes edition was last month’s. I was going by what Marie Claire had on their Facebook page, silly me! EDIT#2: it’s actually Victoria Beckham. Oh dear. Oh dear.).  When we’re at it, here’s a couple of other highlights from their web site:

That last one is my personal favorite: you upload a picture of yourself, and it modifies the picture to show you what you’d look like if you lost a few pounds. Or shock horror, if you put a few on. It’s pretty awesome, and I’m sure it’s a very important tool to help women lose weight safely. Right ladies?

So anyhow, Drummond interviews the girls, goes to their event, then writes this pretty savage piece taking a bunch of stuff out of context, fully going to town on them. If you weren’t familiar with their blogs the article would leave you thinking that the bloggers were irresponsible at best.

I personally have no idea whether any of the six have or have ever had an eating disorder.  What I do know is that for an article that was supposedly so rigorously researched (multiple email conversations, some phone conversations and in-person meetings at the summit), there are worryingly few direct quotes from any of the six bloggers in the piece. A total of two, in fact. Instead we get Drummond’s interpretation of selected blog posts and quotes from experts. She could have written that piece without ever talking to any of the six, and there was certainly no need to trash them the way she did.

Unsurprisingly, the story has triggered something of a firestorm. Marie Claire’s Facebook wall has had a constant stream of angry voices on it throughout the day (average of a couple of posts a minute), and Twitter has been no different. The vast majority of the what’s being said has been negative: the community has near unanimously come to the bloggers’ defense.

Bizarrely, both Hearst (the company that publishes Marie Claire) and Drummond have been almost entirely silent. the @MarieClaire handle tweeted what some might consider to be an antagonistic comment this morning, and Drummond has retweeted a single message of support.  Nothing else. Really very bizarre, and something I’m going to address in a separate post.

Drummond herself has said that she used to have an eating disorder, so this is obviously a subject that’s very close to her heart (I do hope she’s made a full recovery). Given the sensitive nature of this story, however, I’m somewhat surprised that she wrote about it without disclosing such an important piece of information. I would imagine it would be pretty hard to be impartial when one has such a personal connection to a subject matter, no?

The saddest part of the whole thing is that Drummond has a perfectly valid point:  there are important issues here that deserve to be discussed (I personally would start with magazines like Marie Clare actually, but that’s another post), but doing it like this is just shitty, period.

Have you read the article? Do you agree with Drummond that bloggers like these are putting women in danger, or is this a simple case of old media attacking new?

EDIT: 11.43pm – two quick disclosures I should have mentioned. 1) Last year I worked with and met Kath,Tina & Meghann at at Blogger event. I don’t know them and we’re not friends. My POV on the issue would be no different if we’d never met. 2) I emailed two people at Hearst to offer my counsel (for free) earlier today. I felt they owe the women and community a response. Still do.


The Real Problem With Facebook: CRM

14 May

Lots of chatter this week about Facebook’s complex privacy settings.  Plenty of people making valid points (lots of echo chamber bleating too, of course), but for me the real issue is a CRM one.

For individual users, the reality is that Facebook offers an extraordinary level of control over what information you share.  I’ll concede that they’re a little shady in places (e.g. there’s no ‘hide everything from everyone I don’t know’ button), but the fact is they give you the ability to hide any information from anyone if you so choose. As the end user you have a responsibility to take a little ownership: if you don’t like their terms, don’t use the service.

The bigger issue, as far as I’m concerned, is the huge amount of customer and constituent data Facebook has control over.  Say you have a fan page that 140,000 people like, as we do at Autism Speaks. Facebook OWNS that data, 100%. Yes, we get extraordinary interaction on the content we publish, and are lucky enough to have an incredibly engaged and active community, but ultimately we’re at Facebook’s mercy when it comes to those users.

We can’t export our data, we can’t message our supporters directly  and we can’t properly integrate our facebook base into our overall CRM strategy. Our Facebook community essentially exists in near complete isolation. If Facebook turns around and pulls a Ning by charging (entirely within the realms of possibility at some point), lots of organizations, non-profit and otherwise, will have a very tough decision to make.

Does this mean that Facebook isn’t important?  Of course not… 400 million + users is an incredibly compelling proposition: it’s a cornerstone of many people’s online lives, and there’s a huge opportunity there.  It does mean though that brands (and in particular non-profits, who tend to have less resources), need to go in to it with their eyes open.

The speed of Facebook’s growth is absolutely staggering. It should absolutely factor into your overall digital strategy, but don’t make the mistake of putting all your eggs in once basket, especially if you don’t have CPG sized budgets to play with if you need to dig yourself out of a hole further down the road.

The personal privacy complaints leave me cold, and in all honesty ring a little hollow: if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

I’m much more concerned about the CRM issue.

26 Apr

Check this out if you haven’t already:

It aggregates your Facebook network’s activity on one page. The custom search piece is particularly cool: scroll to the bottom, type in the URL of a site you’re interested in (your org’s, for example), and it will tell show you activity related to it on Facebook.

Here’s Autism Speaks’: [edited 4/28/10 ‘cos the link stopped working]

Very, very cool.

Spam, Spam, Spam

9 Mar

Not too long ago, spam was mostly email: viagra, pr0n, get rich quick schemes.  Nowadays tho, it’s all over: blog comment spam, twitter spam, facebook spam. Irritating, annoying, but effective: the spammers only need a fraction of a percentage of people to convert (i.e. click a link, make a transaction, get duped by a phishing scam etc) to make it worth their while. So they carry on.

There’s another type of spam though, and it’s a  particular pet peeve of mine: when an otherwise decent product or application uses deceptive or shady tactics to get me to promote that product. It’s happened to me a couple of times lately, and it drives me up the wall. Most often the promotion is in the form of a tweet that gets fired out to your network (“I just did xxx, followed by link”).  The really shady ones don’t tell you they’re going to do it, but there are plenty of others that don’t  make it super obvious that a tweet is going to go out, or are not fully transparent about what the content of that tweet is going to be.

So to app developers, I say this: if you make a good app or product, give me the tools to promote it, make it easy for me to do so, and I will. But trick me into doing it, and I’ll think negatively of you and most likely won’t use your app again.

If what if have is worthwhile, you shouldn’t need to resort to black or grey hat tactics to promote it, so don’t. Of course I get that a small business needs to promote their product, but do it legitimately, don’t trick me. The burden rests with you to be fully transparent, not on the end user to work out whether something is going to happen or not.  If there is ANY doubt in your mind as to whether it’s 100% clear as to what’s going to happen when your end user takes the desired action, you should reconsider. Please don’t be that guy (or gal).

I’m Leaving Ogilvy!

8 Mar

As most of you know, I’ve been part of the 360 Digital Influence practice at Ogilvy (the Word-of-Mouth/Social Media team), here in New York. I’ve been lucky enough to work with an incredible team, on some of the highest profile and best clients you could possibly wish for, on some really amazing programs. But it’s time for me to move on.

Since my Kintera days (Kintera is a set of online tools for non-profits, subsequently acquired by Black Baud), I’ve wanted to work more with non-profits. After Kintera I had the good fortune to work with the awesome folks at Invisible Children, and that experience only reinforced my desire to do more in the non-profit space. Now I have that opportunity: as of late March I’ll be  at Autism Speaks, here in the city. It’s an incredible opportunity: we’ve really only scratched the surface in the non-profit space… the possibilities therein are endless, and I’m incredibly excited to get going.

That said, I’m also sad to be leaving one of the smartest group of folks I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. The Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence folks do word-of-mouth and social media right, and more than that they’re damn good people. I feel privileged to have worked alongside them.

If you’re their client, you’re damn lucky to have them: you won’t find better counsel, a sharper approach to word-of-mouth marketing, or smarter folks anywhere in the space, no question.

So see ya later Team Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence, and thanks for everything. Hit me up if you feel like donating some money to autism at any point this year, or even if you’re in New York and you just fancy a beer. A proper one tho @iansohn, none of that American rubbish.



Jack Dorsey’s @square is going to change the world. Here’s why.

1 Mar

On saturday I went to a #tweetup in New York organized by the New York Knicks.  One of the panelists was Jack Dorsey, of Twitter fame, and after the event I got the chance to test drive his new venture: @square.  Square is a mobile payment system that allows anyone with an account and an iPhone to take credit card payments . I tried it by donating to the Red Cross, and its elegance and ease of use is absolutely mind blowing. Jack plugged the little dongle in to his iPhone, opened the app and processed my payment in seconds.  I signed with my finger to confirm my donation and it was done: email receipt in my inbox, my (rather miserly, sorry) donation winging its way to the Red Cross.

My @Square donation

My @square donation

Think about that for a second…when this thing launches anyone with an iPhone will be able to take credit card payments. Anyone. Your buddy that owes you money but claims he doesn’t have any cash can @square it to you.  Your daughter’s lemonade stand will be able to take credit card payments.  Every pop-warner football game in the country, every club, every single business that was predominantly cash or cheque based will be able to do the same.  How big do you think that market is or could be? Big? More like scary big.

And what sort of impact could it have on the non-profit world?  Well, ignoring the (not insignificant) fact that square will be donating 1c from every transaction to the non profit of your choice, suddenly every fundraiser of any kind that takes place offline will be able to take card payments.  Breast cancer walks, bake sales, the fundraiser at your kid’s school, political fundraisers… it’s huge, and the revenue it could generate for good causes and @square alike is mind boggling.

Me donating to the Red Cross using @square

Me using @jack's @square

It won’t be without issues, of course. Payment and card transactions are complicated, but if they handle those pieces (particularly the security side of things), they’ll have an absolutely amazing product on their hands.  The version I used didn’t have the picture verification system they talk about on their site (let the images on the homepage scroll to see), but I can’t imagine that they’ll launch without some sort of added security layer. In any case, many of  the transactions they’ll be processing will be less prone to credit card fraud as they’ll be taking place between people who have some sort of existing relationship. Either way, as long as the vendor takes the necessary steps to verify that their customer is legit, @square will be just as secure as a regular credit card payment in a store. The bigger danger for them will be the other way round: dodgy vendors trying to rack up fraudulent charges on stolen cards. To that end, I’m sure you’ll have to jump through hoops to get an account, just as you do with paypal, to which it has often been compared.

@kaimac ()Kai MacMahon) using @jack's (Jack Dorsey) @square system

Donating money to the red cross using @square

After seeing it in action, I’m even more convinced than I was before that @square will be bigger than Twitter. It’s super quick and so simple and elegant that my mom could use it (no disrespect intended, mom! xoxo). The potential market is enormous, and it solves a very real problem.  I love that people are doing stuff like this. Brilliant.

I think Square is genius, and that it’s going to change the world. What do you think? Will you use it?

#kevinsmithgate update: What @southwestair did wrong

15 Feb

OK, so by now everybody knows the Kevin Smith/Southwest story that I covered in my previous post. I’ve read all the tweets + listened to his 70 minute Smodcast (podcast) on the matter and wanted to summarize the situation and clear up a couple of misconceptions, before highlighting a couple of areas I think Southwest have messed up pretty badly in:

1. Smith often travels on Southwest and generally buys more than one seat, he says for comfort.

2. He does not NEED to buy an extra seat because he’s fat, per their criteria: he can sit in the seat with the armrests down AND get his seatbelt on.

3. He was let on the earlier flight, then told to get off because he posed a risk, so he had to get his stuff and walk off the plane, as if he had done something wrong.

4. A big part of why Smith is so pissed is that on the second flight (the one he was originally booked on), the stewardess came and did the same thing to a girl sat in the same row as him. Well, not quite: she didn’t get thrown off the flight, but the stewardess told her that next time she should consider buying two seats. On a flight that wasn’t full. Smith also claims that the stwerdess told the girl she had to ask Smith (who owned the empty middle seat between them, remember) if he minded.  Minded what, exactly? Her being fat? If you listen to his podcast you can clearly hear the hurt in his voice as he talks about this part in particular. It does sound terribly humiliating.

Anyhow, net net: as we all know by now, Smith went ape, Southwest went kinda quiet.  They posted a weak apology on their blog, and haven’t done a whole lot since.  So where did they go wrong?

1. Too slow
It took them almost 24 hours to comment anywhere other than on Twitter, that’s WAY too long.

2. Too defensive
Their ‘apology’ basically just repeats their weight policy, instead of it being a mea culpa.  They either think they were right to throw him off (so no apology needed), or they made a mistake (and apology IS needed). but to apologize but then tell him he is too fat is just odd.

3. Not technically prepared
The blog went down under the traffic pretty much immediately they posted it. That’s just bad planning. If it was my blog that would be one thing, but Southwest are a big company. Even now, comments are down on the blog (conspiracy theorists are LOVING that, of course).

4. Radio Silence
Since their blog post went up they have said almost nothing. The Twitter handle has been completely silent for 14 hours, and they have only tweeted twice since their blog post went up, both times to let people know they were having technical issues. What use is being active in social media if you go quiet when it hits the fan?  I don’t get it.

5. No Engagement
Related to the radio silence, they’re simply not engaging: since they put their blog post up, the strategy appears to simply be to ignore the situation. Is that smart? I don’t think so.

Cliche alert: this whole episode has been a great example of the power of social media: Smith turned down a bunch of TV interviews (he even claimed that one of the networks sent somebody to his house!), and instead chose to, in his words, scorch the earth on Twitter and via his podcast. On Southwest’s side though, maybe they’re not the social media powerhouse we all thought they were? I personally am very disappointed in how they’ve handled things. Smith has controlled his message & engaged. Southwest have put their head in the sand.

I would be *very* surprised indeed if Southwest don’t announce this week that they are reviewing that particular policy, and in particular how it gets implemented. Should an overweight person have the right to encroach on my personal space on an plane? No, of course not, but should that paying customer be humiliated and put down in public by a representative of the very company they’re paying? Again, of course not.

Update @4.50, Monday: According to Smith, Linda from Southwest called him to apologize, and said that the captain DID NOT single him out for ejection. Took a while, but that’s progress from @southwestair, definitely.

update @7.45, Monday: Linda (of Southwest, though amusingly she doesn’t say what she does there) posted an hour or so ago on the Southwest blog. Again certainly progress, but still doesn’t feel quite right to me. It’s definitely much better than the previous post, and the apology is definitely much more sincere but it stops short of a full mea culpa.  The last line is exactly what they needed though:

“This has our attention, and we will be reviewing how and when this delicate policy is implemented.”

Full post is here:

What do you think?