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A Twitter-Told Tale
posted by KatFrench in August 13th, 2008
in Humor, Sharing, Social Media

Thanks to Twitter, I will no longer have to suffer the indignity of cutting tomatoes with a dull knife.

As you’ve no doubt surmised, (not to be confused with “summize“) there’s a story behind that statement.

Last week, I noticed that I had reached 400 followers on Twitter, the microblogging tool. While it’s still a small number compared to Jason’s account, it was a milestone for me–so I tweeted about it.

A couple of folks picked up on my tongue-in-cheek plea for swag:

So I went off on a nice little humorous riff:

Well, I’ve now officially learned to be careful what you wish for. Especially on Twitter. Guess what I got in the mail this week, courtesy the extremely kind @jonathaneunice of Illuminata?


My very own set of Ginsu knives.

That, my friends, is the power of social media. If you’re even marginally entertaining, people will send you precision cutlery.

So because I’m a woman of my word, I finally got the webcam working. The video quality is not exactly hi-def, but here, in all it’s cheesy glory, is my homage to Ron Popeil:

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Tags: ginsu, Humor, Twitter





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The Media & Social Media Series: The Cincinnati Enquirer
posted by Jason Falls in August 11th, 2008
in Journalism, Social Media
Table of contents for The Media & Social Media

1. The Media & Social Media Series: The Cincinnati Enquirer

Today begins journey through a topic of interest for me I think will prove extremely valuable to you as well. In September, I will lead a session at Blog World & New Media Expo on the topic of traditional media and how they can use social media to combat disappearing audiences, staff cutbacks and plummeting profits. My friends at the Social Media Club Louisville August gathering will get a sneak peek at the presentation one week from today as well.

As I prepare, however, I will be documenting case studies, interviewing media members and conducting research that we should all find valuable. This series, “The Media & Social Media,” will not only illustrate how traditional media outlets are using social media strategies and tools to maintain relevance in the marketplace, but also provide you the opportunity to see strategies and tools in action that may have some relevance to your organizations or clients.

And what kind of social media blogger would I be without some crowdsourcing? If you know of other examples, case studies or have suggestions for the series, please jump in the comments and let me know.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

I’ve blogged before about the Gannett organization’s company-wide website overhauls, but did so by pointing out flaws in the strategy and execution of adding social media tools to the Louisville Courier-Journal’s new site. Many may think since the Cincinnati Enquirer is also a Gannett property their execution would be similar. However, much of the inspiration for Gannett’s switch to community tool provision stems from the innovative approach undertaken over the last several years by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Since as early as 2006, visitors to could utilize the paper’s “Get Published” tool which allowed readers to upload their own stories, photos and more and choose which community pages the content belonged on. According to staff member Mandy Jenkins, who I met a few months ago at Social Media Breakfast Cincinnati, the tool became the Enquirer’s, “engine for super-local content. It allowed us to push information from press releases and similar sources much faster.”

In the beginning, what the newsroom saw from it’s citizen journalists was opinion-based, column-type material. But with strategic planning and intentional outreach to the community, the Enquirer began to see a groundswell. The newspaper sent a reporter to talk with community councils, special interest groups, schools, churches and more. The purpose was to teach members of the community how and – more importantly – what they could submit as content to

From storm photos to community event reports, the content slowly started to build. Nothing goes live on the site without appropriate newsroom review and anything submitted is accompanied by the byline, “User Submitted,” but take a quick browse of some community pages there and you’ll see story after story after story from Cincinnati’s citizen journalists. Sometimes, the content is strong enough to be elevated to the site’s general news pages.

The best content even gets printed in the Your Hometown Enquirer community and neighborhood insert sections that go out each week.

“The people just love it,” Jenkins said. “They can put pictures of their kid’s youth sports events. A lot of it really does get printed. The people in the community have been doing it a while and have gotten good at it.”

Jenkins credited Enquirer V.P. James Jackson with leading the innovation there. That innovation has evolved to a point where the main paper, the outlying community non-daily papers the company owns and the user-generated content is all brought together in one, seamless community news and event resource.

“It gets a lot more stories out there than we would ever be able to do on our own,” Jenkins said. “It’s very local, community-level stuff we would probably not know about otherwise.”

The community approach has helped the Enquirer not only strengthen and grow its connection with the community, but the effort ladders up to its overall mission to cover news and events in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. By utilizing self-publishing tools and asking and empowering its readers to contribute to the news gathering process, the publication is bucking the trend of downward spiral.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, for the six months ending March 31, 2008, the Enquirer’s weekday circulation is up 2.9 percent. The national average for the same time period was a 3.6 percent decline.

Jenkins says the outlet is in the planning stages of a new outreach effort to bring more people into the fold of using the tools. Adding sharing elements and educating the users on social networking and bookmarking elements are in the offing, as are group tools that will allow users to connect with one another more readily.

And get this – reporters and editors at the paper are part of the activation plan to grow the community efforts. Part of their charge will be spearheading community and staff collaborative blogs on particular topics. A beta test centered around transportation is already underway and the users are providing as much, if not more, content than the paid staff.

The paper recently launched a collaborative blog chronicling the Summer Olympics. Reporters Dustin Dow and Jeff Swinger provide updates, but the Enquirer also found Peter Wade, a Cincinnati-area man attending the games as a fan, who blogs from that perspective as well. The blog provides perhaps the first 360-degree view of the Olympic experience, all from one source.

As you can tell, it’s easy to get excited about what the Enquirer is doing. They aren’t just churning out social media tools and claiming to be on the cutting edge. They’re engaging and empowering their readers, embracing citizen journalism and, as a result, they are accomplishing something most traditional media outlets are losing: Relevance with their audience.

For more, explore the Enquirer at

IMAGE: “Newspaper and tea” by Matt Callow on Flickr.
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Tags: Cincinnati Enquirer, Gannett Company, Journalism, Louisville Courier-Journal, media, Social Media, strategy





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MetroMojo Unveils New Features, White Label Solutions
posted by Jason Falls in August 8th, 2008
in Social Networking, Tools

I spent the morning recently with Keith Ringer and Chuck Burke of The parent company of, one of the first, and to my knowledge most successful, local social networks, MetroMojo has repositioned itself as a white label social networking solution. The biggest difference between MetroMojo and others? Proven scale and long-term experience.

With hitting 50 million pageviews per month and serving as a sandbox-type test platform for the feature set, clients of MetroMojo’s platform can rest assured features will scale and servers will be able to handle the load. Because of the diversity in feature offerings, an established advertising platform and Mojo’s approach as content enablers, not primary content providers, the solution is custom made for media properties (television and radio stations or newspapers) trying to leap the Web 2.0 hurdle.

While we were there, Keith and Chuck sat down for an episode of Social Media Explorer TV. is the place to go for more information. You can also check out to see the local social network in action. The new feature set will appear over the next few weeks in the form of content placement and promotion.
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Tags: Chuck Burke, Keith Ringer, Louisville, LouisvilleMojo, media, MetroMojo, Social Networking, Tools





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Ad:Tech Chicago: Can We Please Stop Preaching to the Choir?
posted by KatFrench in August 7th, 2008
in Advertising & Marketing, Sharing, Social Media

Remember the Deanna Carter song from a few years back, “Did I Shave My Legs for This?”

There were a few points during this week’s ad:tech Chicago conference when I was thinking “Did I brave air travel for this?”

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed with ad:tech Chicago, billed as “The Event for Digital Marketing!” (Be sure to remember that exclamation point, guys! Good copy needs more exclamation points!)

To be fair, thanks to issues with the afforementioned air travel, I missed most of the first day, arriving just in time to catch Clay Shirky’s keynote “Here Comes Every Customer: The Former Audience is Talking Around You.“ Which was, for me, pretty much the highlight of the conference. I’ve been a fan of Shirky’s since I caught his Web2.0 speech, which I wrote about in a post here considering whether or not social media is a waste of time. You won’t be shocked to hear that I think it’s not–but if you’re currently doing social media marketing work, then ad:tech may be.

When I found out Shirky was keynoting, and that the second day had several social media sessions, I was pretty excited about going. Being relatively new to agency life (I spent most of my earlier career working in marketing on the client side, as the in-house marketing person), I was stoked about going to my first ever Big Event.

And to be sure, there were some great things about the conference. I’d never been to Chicago, much less Navy Pier where the event was held, and I found both to be quite awesome.

I met some folks who were every bit as excited about marketing on the web as I am, and that’s was great. I discovered that apparently, all geeks, whether ad geeks or social media geeks, love playing plastic guitars on video games.

Someone from Tribal Fusion connected me with a company in the exhibitor hall called House Party, and they’re doing some very cool things with brand evangelism.

The panelists in the sessions I attended (Power Panel: Widgets and Applications - The New Media Network, The Consumer Experience in a Multi-Platform World, Part II, The Long Tail of Social Media: Analyzing the Value Proposition for Publishers and Advertisers, and Viral Branding: Creating Brand Ambassadors) did have some interesting case studies with some impressive numbers. And if you were a marketing director looking for some ammunition to convince your stakeholders to embrace social media, it probably would have been valuable information.

But if you are currently working in social media, following the blogs and microblogs of the thought leadership in the field, and were looking for something groundbreaking or new, you were probably sorely disappointed.

The irony of ad:tech is that almost all the sessions on social proved that actual participation in social media is a far better way to learn about it than attending a conference or event. I think that may have been the crux of the problem. They were talking to an audience that effectively doesn’t exist: marketers who want to understand and “leverage” social media but don’t want to use it themselves.

Or maybe that audience exists, but since they’re not participating in the social web, their quiet appreciation of the material covered was effectively invisible to those actually using it. Come to think of it, that seems far more likely.

As I said to some colleagues at the end of the conference, it’s as if there are two groups in digital advertising: the traditional advertising folks who have finally moved through all five stages of grief and accepted that the internet isn’t going away, but still want to do things as if they’re in a static, one-way medium; and the people who embraced the interactive aspect of interactive marketing immediately and are now saying “Guys, can we please move on?”

In his keynote, Shirky said that in regards to the social web, it’s no longer a matter of who gets it and who doesn’t get it, but rather what elements of social media are a fit for which companies, communications purposes, and contexts. I would respectfully disagree. I think there are still an awful lot of holdouts, particularly in the advertising industry, who don’t get social media. Because I don’t think it’s possible to get it if you don’t participate in it yourself. It’s an intrinsically personal medium, and I don’t think you can understand it sans personal experience. Shirky was speaking at the institutional level, and I’m speaking at the level of individuals who are working in marketing and advertising, but ultimately action is taken or not taken at the individual level.

In the session on Widgets and Applications, towards the beginning one of the panelists said “if by the end of this session you know what a widget is, what an application is, and what the difference is between them, you know more than the majority of people.”

The unspoken follow up to that statement is, if you walked in here knowing that already, don’t expect to get much out of this session. And if you didn’t know it when you walked in, it’s pretty likely you’re still going to walk away still not actually understanding what the appeal of widgets and applications are.

At one point during the “Long Tail of Social Media” panel, someone leaned over to me and said “is it just me, or are they not talking at all about the long tail? They keep talking around the subject.”

I could basically sum up that whole session in one sentence. “Don’t just focus on blogs with massive traffic, find the ones that have a highly engaged, if smaller, audience that has high relevance and contextual fit for your brand and message.” If I can sum up an hour long panel in one sentence, I have to ask myself how valuable that hour was.

Okay, that’s the bad. But I’m nothing if not resourceful in trying to extract as much value as possible out of any experience. And there was some good stuff, mostly in the keynotes I attended. And since the breakout sessions were extremely repetitive, and mostly echoed the best stuff from the keynotes, it makes summing up the big takeaways of the conference fairly simple. So here goes. The top 5 takeaway messages, as I saw it:

1. Engaging the social web is no longer optional, because so far, the companies that have been most badly burned by have been the ones who tried to pretend they can ignore it. The Scrabulous debacle is the most well-known example, but there are several. It’s now just simply too easy for massive numbers of pissed off customers to organize and make themselves heard. Playing possum will cost you more than engaging them.

2. You have to keep up with the speed of the social web, and stop bullshitting that you don’t have the resources to do it. When it comes to dealing with problems, speed of response is critical in determining how big the issue gets. How much do you think “Dell Hell” cost the Dell brand? Compare that with the cost to have Direct2Dell on Twitter. Or ComcastCares. Can you keep up with every conversation? No. Does that mean you’re off the hook from participating in any of them, or at least finding one outlet that works and letting the word spread organically that this is your direct point of conversation? Hell no.

3. The emphasis in marketing on the web has shifted from trying to force everyone to come to your content, to deploying your content where the audience is. In the lunch forum presented by Avenue A | Razorfish on Social Influence Marketing, Shiv Singh said “The social web is becoming the mainstream web.” Users are going to the web to connect with people more than “to find cool stuff”–and increasingly, even those looking for “cool stuff” are depending on their online friends to find it for them.

4. Although we’ve reached the point where the cost of ignoring social is greater than the cost of engaging it, social isn’t going to replace other forms of marketing, any more than digital media replaced traditional. All three have an aggregate effect, enhancing the others to make them more effective. The net effect of consumers using the social web to get more organized and activated, as well as many brands taking the lead and pushing into the space, is that brands will have to have to invest in all three to remain competitive. To borrow a sports metaphor, if every team starts using performance enhancing drugs, natural performance is going to be unable to compete.

5. Marketing and PR cannot cover over quality issues, and listening is half of participating in the social web. Maybe the more important half, and definitely the starting place. Ultimately, if you have a product or service quality issue, social media has leveled the playing field enough that there isn’t a media buy big enough to drown out the voices of your unhappy consumers. And ultimately, that’s a good thing, because for the first time, companies can eavesdrop on the honest, unvarnished, sometimes unhappy, opinions of their brand and make the changes they need to make.

Okay, I think I can hear a big fat “Duh” from most of the folks reading this blog. And that’s my final, bonus #6 takeaway: if you really want to know what’s going on in social media marketing, truthfully, you can find it faster in your RSS reader. If you’re depending on an annual conference to get caught up to date on what’s going on in the space, don’t bother. If you’re not participating, you’re not going to get it by listening to those who are.

But on the other hand, RSS readers rarely offer an open bar or a red carpet.
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What Would You Name Wrigley Field?
posted by Jason Falls in August 5th, 2008
in Advertising & Marketing, Humor

Forgive the post about a project and client I’m close to, but this is worth sharing. The Jim Beam Team has dreamed up a Mad Libs-type story generator to help us attract names for our petition to have the Sam Zell and the Tribune Company not sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field. The gist is to come up with the most asinine, funniest or even dumbest corporate name that might grace Wrigley Field should Zell sell the rights. You generate a fake news story with your own comedy writing and send it to friends.

I sent all my Cubs fan friends a headline that said Wrigley would become Liquid Drano Field where playoff hopes get sucked down the drain.

The effort is chronicled at where you can also sign the petition, add the Facebook application to invite your friends to join the list and grab the widget for your blog or profile page of choice. The Wrigley naming petition is part of the Jim Beam, “Here’s To The Stuff Inside,” campaign with which I am involved.

Meanwhile, enjoy this little number.

And kudos to the Beam team, which includes a number of agency partners. The primary ideation and work on this particular component of what we’ve been up to is from the excellent folks at Padilla Speer and Beardsley and Zezza Network.
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Tags: Chicago Cubs, Jim Beam, Mad Libs, Sam Zell, The Stuff Inside, Tribune Company, Wrigley Field

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