Presentation to the Women's Bar

I did a presentation to the Women's Bar Association of Greater Boston over lunch today where I met a lot of interesting people who are practicing law in a number of different areas. Below is the "Social Media for Lawyers 101" presentation that I created for the event.

For the women who may be coming here for the links, there were two I mentioned.

First was the list of law blogs from Ernie the Attorney. The other is the list of lawyers on Twitter. Keep in mind that both of these are starting points so it would be wonderful if you can share other people you may find interesting here in the comments.


Facebook at Work? Of Course!

The Boston Herald today kickstarted a local discussion about social networking at work. In usual tabloid fashion the Herald created a sensational story about the fact that some city employees, like Amy Derjue are updating their Facebook status from city-owned computers, some even going so far as *gasp* playing "Mafia Wars."

I had the chance to talk about this today on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney (video below).

It's easy to find people who will be outraged by this, saying "my gosh, how can people do that?!?" But honestly, if you think about it, the time it takes to update a status is little more than a few second out of every day.

From the macro-level, the idea of using employer resources (computers, internet access, etc.) for personal use is nothing new. But a spate of studies out recently try to make the point that social networking use at work reduces productivity, causing many to completely ban social networking.

The studies, such as the one from Nucleus Research making the argument that a few minutes a day on Facebook amounts to lost productivity, are based on the idea that if the people weren't on a social site then they would, by default, be productive. Anyone who has ever worked in an office can tell you that's simply not true. Also, it assumes that because of social sites that work isn't getting done.

Many of these companies also hand their employees Blackberries and laptops so they can work from home, on time that used to be called "personal time." The line between personal and work time are certainly blurred, so giving up a few minutes during the work day to Tweet or update Facebook certainly seems to be a fair trade-off.

This is, however, a management issue. If, as a manager you see that an employee isn't doing work, then it's your job to figure out why that work isn't getting done. If an employee spends an hour on the phone with their girlfriend everyday, do we take away their phone? Of course not, because it's a useful business tool. The same goes for social networking sites, they can offer a lot of value to organizations if used properly.

The answer is to work out a policy that clearly states what's accepted and what is not and also to have a little trust in the employees.

Today I heard about a running store called Greater Boston Running in which the owner, Steve Meinelt, has encouraged the employees to get on Twitter and Facebook. The employees, also runners, were given direction about how to search for the right discussions and interact with others, then told by the owner to "be smart" and not use this opportunity to fool around, but help the store.

Inside a Greater Boston Running Company store

Inside a Greater Boston Running Company store

In this instance social media is as much a part of their job as folding the shirts or stocking the shoes. Employees know not to get caught up on Facebook when they should be helping customers, they've learned a balance. The result is a few sales that have come through Twitter and even an increase in community. For example, if employees are going out for a run they'll tweet about it and some customers may come by to join them.

They managed to take the expertise of their workers and turn it into a marketing asset that extends well beyond the confines of the store.

Yes, there will be companies that work in fear and shut down access for a variety of reasons, including legal issues. That doesn't mean they'll cut off access, as many employees will simply pick up their mobile phones to do the same tasks.

However, I believe the CEOs at these same companies are turning to their communications teams and saying "how do we better utilize social media for marketing purposes?"

Truth is, they're probably shutting down the answer.


Ad Age: PR is About More Than Pitching

If you're still hiring a PR firm to do little more than pitch the media, Ad Age has a wakeup call for you: it's not working.

Today the name of the game is to create compelling content that gets  your community (customers, partners, investors, etc.) interested and invested in your brand.

What's interesting about the campaigns profiled in the piece is that social media does not play a supporting role, it is the main focus. Most PR agencies are still media relations agencies that are tacking on social media programs to simply support what they're already doing.

These programs took a different tact from day one, though for large brands. That's similar to the work we at Fresh Ground are trying to bring to the SMB audience. Of course, this doesn't mean throwing out traditional influencer relations completely:

And while they haven't completely abandoned traditional media outlets, big-name marketers such as Procter & Gamble, Best Buy, MasterCard and Coldwell Banker are among those who have taken matters into their own hands by creating content and bringing it straight to consumers.

The great part about social media is that size doesn't matter. Even a small real estate agency can create localized content that would put them on the map, it doesn't have to be Caldwell Banker. The goal isn't always to reach the largest audience, just the right audience for you.

Case in point is, which utilized a content strategy to increase its traffic and rent more apartments. Author Eric Brown, who wrote an article on called "Social Media Myth: It isn't about conversation, it's about sale" goes a little far when he says that sales matter more than conversation. It happens that were part of the conversation and that, in turn, created more opportunity.

When Todd and I set out to create a content strategy we first want to understand the corporate marketing goals. It's the only way we can measure what's working and what painpoints the content must answer. All these pieces are intertwined.

And for you, the right content strategy will help reach the right audience like nothing else.


Social Media Breakfast Club

In my very first post on this blog, I wrote that "social media is about change management. It's really about changing the way you do business." I went on to argue that "integrating social media across the many customer touchpoints (not just the website and phone system, but every single employee of your company) requires a new way of thinking about your business. In reality, it needs a few key characters. In that vein, and with all due respect for the Social Media Breakfast, the Social Media Club and John Hughes (and with all credit to Adam Zand, who first mashed up social media and high school and who lately specifically mentioned The Breakfast Club), I offer:

The Breakfast Club

The Social Media Breakfast Club

  1. "The Change Agent" When you first look at the change agent, he might seem like "The Criminal." He's not satisfied with the status quo and is willing to go to lengths to challenge the system, even if it causes a little trouble. But he's a necessary character in the Social Media Breakfast Club.
  2. "The Champion" Call him "The Jock" if you want to, but you're still going to need him, because he's the guy who can rally the troops and, if necessary, force some of the change that needs to happen down the team's collective throat.
  3. "The Creative" She might seem like "The Kook"or "The Basket Case" to some, but that doesn't mean you should lock her up and hide her from the world. Tap into her creativity to help lend some authenticity and originality to the content that you develop.
  4. "The Nerd" While social media is getting easier and easier, it doesn't mean that throwing a little technology savvy at it can't significantly improve the end product. Tap "The Brain" -- or find your inner nerd -- to work with The Creative to find some news ways to do old things, and maybe even some new brand new things!
  5. "The Collaborator" She may seem like "The Princess," but she's not as stuck up as she seems -- she's just intensely aware of what others think and feel. In reality, she's an incredible collaborator, and can be great at finding and working with others to achieve a common goal.

None of these characters can, by themselves, succeed at implementing social media across an organization. But together, they can find common ground and work to make a much better place for everyone.


Mary Meeker's Mobile Musings

I love the excitement just before a big change. It's like those butterflies you had as a kid before the first day of school, or the night before a big vacation. It's that feeling that says "something exciting and cool is about to happen."

I feel that now and it's all about mobile.

Mary Meeker's presentation at the Web 2.0 summit (below) has a lot of people making blanket statements about the mobile industry. Yes, the growth of mobile is huge and yes location based services are about to change everything. But what does that really mean?

For marketers it's a channel that's about to open. Today we all talk about social media and content, we develop strategies for using Facebook, Twitter, blogs, videos, podcasts and all sorts of desktop-based strategies.

But if you're in retail, how are you using tools like Foursquare? How will you deal with the location information that Twitter is about to unleash on your business? What will you do with that information? Should you develop a mobile application to deliver information to your users? What devices are used most by your audience?

I often I read the New York Times on my iPhone, changing the format changes how I interact with the information. I read stories in a different order and I'm not as driven by pictures. I'm also more likely to check the "popular" stories, as that is one of a few buttons I'm given on my application.

Changing the format impacts your customers too.

Mary Meeker's Internet Presentation 2009


Blogging About the Benjamins

Technroati's "State of the Blogosphere" report is rolling out this week. Today's release deals with bloggers who get "paid."

First, it's worth noting that the vast majority of bloggers they surveyed (72 percent) write for fun and do not earn any income from their work. Even of the 28 percent who derive some income from their blog a scant 17 percent of THOSE indicate that blogging is a primary source of their income.

From Technorati

From Technorati

So starting a blog about cute things falling asleep isn't going to make you rich with only ads. In fact, in situations where people are getting "paid" it's not about writing for money:

Most bloggers who are making money from their blogs are generally doing so as entrepreneurs by hosting advertising on their own sites and by using their blogs to drive speaking engagements and traditional media assignments. Some bloggers are even reporting profits that place them squarely in the middle class, so the rise of the professional blogger is clearly underway, but still evolving.

In other words, the "payment" isn't always direct.

So, wither corporate blogging? Well, Not that many of the respondents to this particular survey talked about corporate blogging. Excluding the 72 percent of hobbyist bloggers, only 14 percent of those remaining blog for a company. However, those who do see significant benefits, both for themselves and for the company:

71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business – their own or one they work for – report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs. 56% say that their blog has helped their company establish a positioning as a thought leader within the industry.

And therein lies the biggest benefit of a content program for any small or medium sized business. It allows you to set the tone in your industry and own a conversation. That sort of thought leadership is exactly what many PR programs are designed to do, so if you sync up your content strategy with your influencer outreach strategy, you can increase the overall benefit.


The Evolution (and Dissolution) of PR

As we've discussed recently on this blog, PR remains in the hot seat. The latest example of the evils of PR (or at least, the press release) comes from the fake press release issued about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's supposed reversal on climate change.

Instead of coming to the defense of PR, many practitioners are deliberately distancing them from it. Take this example:

I'm a big fan of with Leo Laporte, and episode 217 featured David Spark as a guest. David runs Spark Media Solutions, which builds "corporate identities through storytelling." The conversation on the podcast turned to media bias, the new disclosure rules, and whether it's possible to be truly unbiased. Unintentionally, Leo and John set up David to talk about his business model (italics are mine):

Leo Laporte Trade media is the most important one.

Jim Louderback Exactly because you are closest to the subject that you cover.

Leo Laporte Right, it’s the beltway problem. If you cover the Washington political scene, and Baratunde, you weigh in on this one…

John C. Dvorak I would rather [read] someone who knows something about Intel who’s an engineer and even a guy who works at Intel [rather than] some neutral observer who doesn’t actually know anything, but they can maybe ask the right questions if they are lucky. The fact of the matter is in the 21st century [reporters] don’t know what questions to ask and they never will.

Leo Laporte Well, you are right.

David Spark By the way this is the model for my business, John. Thank you for setting me up. I appreciate it.

Baratunde Thurston Just $19.95 a month…

David Spark I help companies tell their own story because the companies need to tell their own story. If you ... go through a PR agent, you tell a journalist, then they sell it – you are like selling cocaine cut three times.

Leo Laporte No it’s true.

David Spark You should sell uncut cocaine.

Leo Laporte We all know that anytime you read a ... general press report about a subject you know about, whether it’s poker or Pokemon, you know they get it wrong. They never get it right. If it’s a deep subject they never get it right. So that’s a good point, but I am with you Jim, somebody has to stand above the fray and be editorially pure. Not everybody…

On at least a couple occasions during the podcast, David denied being a PR person -- mostly because Leo refuses to invite PR people onto the show (almost, but not quite, as ridiculous as not allowing PR people to update Wikipedia -- but don't get me started on that), but also because he's trying to distance himself from an industry that can't seem to get things right.

So let's take a look at what David does: according to his own site, he "helps companies build industry voice through social media and storytelling."

Maybe he doesn't issue press releases and call reporters directly, but what he does sure sounds like PR to me. And guess what, it's a damn good model for where PR needs to evolve to.

Chuck and I still talk a lot about PR, but what we're doing for companies is a lot like what David's doing. And it's a lot like what other good PR and communications firms are doing for their clients.

Is PR dying? No, but it's evolving, and you'd better keep up with the evolution.


Making Money in Mobile

Last night's Mobile Monday event seemed to have it all: a downtown location (The Place); free food and alcohol (one drink per person) a great topic (Making the Mobile Money Flow) and a great group of panelists.

But something about it didn't completely work. The Place, while a great bar, did not lend itself to good networking. The 300 or so attendees packed in, shoulder to shoulder, with little ability to move through the room. Unlike other Mobile Monday venues, which tend to be in ballrooms, this one fell short.

The packed bar at Mobile Monday

The packed bar at Mobile Monday

The panel also showed a lot of promise. It included Moderator Todd Hixon, founder and managing partner at New Atlantic Ventures and panelists Doug Hurd of uLocate Communications (creators of the WHERE app, one of my personal favorites); Steve Krom, VP & GM of AT&T Mobility, New England Region; Mike Kirkup, of RIM; and Eric Weinberg of DeviceAnywhere. But over the hour of discussion I felt little new was offered to the target audience: developers who know that monetization strategies are few and far between.

Granted, the topic of how to make money in the new mobile application environment is a tough nut to crack in just one hour, but the group did their best. One of the best pieces of advice came from Hurd, who noted that creating a mobile company takes time, don't expect to create a viable company overnight or based just on one application.

Related to that was the advice to the developers in the room to decide if they wanted to be an application or a mobile company. Mobile companies, it was noted, have multiple revenue sources, while and application has a single revenue  source.

Much was made of the recent announcement that Apple will allow in-app purchases, leading the panelists to point out that developers will need to find ways to up-sell consumers through items like additional content or personalization features within free applications. Of course, for many this will create a "try before you buy" system.

The panel did point out something that should be music to the ears of Localytics: developers need to pay more attention to what works (and what doesn't) within their applications. As someone pointed out, 90 percent of applications loaded are not used in the first 30 days. If the strategy is to make money within an application (as opposed to just at the pont of purchase), then understanding how and when people use it will be a necessary component.

The problem with all of this is that for application developers the talk isn't new. Talk to anyone developing iPhone applications (and most mobile developers create primarily for the iPhone, as it's the most vibrant application store) and they'll point out that selling an application nets almost no money. Even if someone manages to find your application amid the 85,000 or so in the app store, then decides to spend the 99¢ on it, Apple takes 30 percent. You have to sell a lot of one-off  applications at 70¢ per in order to make back your development costs.

One piece of advice that works for us here at Fresh Ground, however, is that developers need to do a better job of marketing their applications. Just creating one and getting approved by Apple isn't enough, you need to encourage reviews, create  online content, do a lot of search engine optimization and, in general, create buzz.

Other than that, the advice from the panelists seemed pretty generic. Steve Krom encouraged developers to look beyond the app store and develop for the carriers. Frankly, it seemed like an old message and one that few developers really want to hear. The recent trend is away from carriers, not toward them.

RIM also touted its own app store, which takes less of a cut than Apple, but with so many different devices I've heard developers say that creating for RIM (and Android) has expensive logistical problems. An application that runs on one device won't run on another, a problem they don't face when developing for the iPhone.

In short, I'll still be at the next Mobile Monday event, but I'm hoping we go back to a large conference room. Though, I still appreciate the free booze.


Social Media is Customer Service Too

I'm having an on-again off-again week when it comes to customer service. First, my card scanning software decides to just up and stop working for me -- the customer support from I.R.I.S. has been responsive, but they haven't solved my problem yet (it's been "escalated," and "maybe" I'll hear from them "this week or next"). Then my wife and I are walking near the Kirkland Convenience Store in Cambridge when she starts feeling a blister. A quick trip into the store yields no Band-Aids for sale, but the clerk pulls one out of his wallet and offers it to her.Now that my friends is excellent customer service.

My Weird-Sized Moo Cards

My Weird-Sized Moo Cards

Then I get the cards I ordered from MOO (our first official "Fresh Ground" cards mind you), and they turn out to be slightly larger than your average American business card, despite assurances all over their website that "MOO Business Cards are a standard size." It turns out they're roughly 1/5th of an inch taller than standard cards. That in and of itself is annoying, but not a deal killer, but add to that the fact the the text side of the card is not vertically centered and it simply looks like the card is miscut -- it looks wonky. Have a look for yourself (click on the image for a larger version).

Tell me I'm too picky (I am), or that I didn't read the fine print (they share the dimensions, but I didn't take my ruler out to compare the cards with others I have), but regardless, I was disappointed. So I look for a phone number to call, and it turns out that Moo doesn't list any phone numbers. I understand reserving phone support to paying customers, but once I've spent money with your site I damn well expect to be able to get you on the phone. BIG fail for Moo.

Now it turns out that their customer service, once you actually get them via email, is wonderfully helpful, and they fully refunded my order and I don't have to return the cards. The frosting on the cake? I tweeted about my frustration with Moo, mentioning I may go back to Vistaprint, and guess which company's Twitter account got back to me first? Yep, Vistaprint. (Moo's excuse for coming late to the party? They tweet mostly at night when we're sleeping.)

I'm very curious how quickly I see changes in the FAQ and other descriptive copy at Moo about the size of their business cards. (Has no other American complained about the odd size?) Great customer support and social media outreach don't mean much if the feedback doesn't get back to the product folks.


Mass Innovation Day

Kicking off the Panel

Kicking off the Panel

When it comes to attracting talent and publicity, sometimes we're our own worst enemy. Consider the field of PR, for instance, where we cannot publicize our way out of a paper bag when it comes to promoting the role of a PR professional. The same may be true of bringing entrepreneurial and technological talent to the state.

I attended my first Mass Innovation Night last month, a great event put on by Bobbie Carlton each month at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, and I was nothing but impressed. Today, I attended my first Mass Innovation Day at the State House, and while the panel was absolutely excellent, the whole point of the event -- to bring legislators, entrepreneurs and investors together in the same room -- was, to be blunt, a failure.

How does two out of three work for you? You could count the number of legislators and legislative staff -- at least the ones who volunteered to out themselves as such -- on one hand. So while the kick-ass panel was well received by the audience, the goal of the event was not met as far as I could tell. A shame, because Massachusetts needs all the help it can get promoting the great technology and entrepreneurial space that it is.

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