Me Me Me Me Me Me & Me – A small tip how not to use Twitter

I’m no Twitter expert. Not even close. The biggest problem (not the least of which is my lack of social media prowess) is that I’m not on it often enough. I sign in probably once a week, and generally only if I’ve consumed all of the content from my 5 ‘go to’ bookmarked sites. So if you’re reading this, take this post with a big grain of salt. I don’t know a heck of a lot about Twitter, but I do know what I find annoying.

What drives me crazy? It’s how often I see people just blasting out stuff. Sometimes they fill up a whole page of tweets. I’m not kidding – I’m sure that’s pretty hard to do. They use Twitter as a one-way conduit. “Here’s what I have to say!” Their tweets seem to have the resonance (and arrogance) of a royal decree.

Have you ever gone to a dinner or cocktail party where one person dominates the whole conversation? And in the car ride home all you and your date can talk about is that guy who didn’t let anyone get a word in edge-wise? That’s what these Twitter-blatherers are to me.

Some twitter-blatherers in my timeline

Now I’m not talking to you, J-Lo or any other celebrity out there. Lord knows you’re only replying to your agent or the good people from Furla about the new handbag they just sent you for free. We know our relationship to you is non-existent. I’m talking to the everyday, average guy with a Twitter account and apparently loads of self esteem.

So to you, Twitter-blatherer, I have a tip for you. Try and do some listening to some of your followers. Re-tweet some of their stuff, and if you’re feeling especially charitable, try even replying to someone once in a while. You’ll be surprised at how people stop un-following you, and even more astoundingly, how many more followers you’ll gain in the process.

Social Media = car. Brand = gas.

social-mediaOnline Spin just released an article about succeeding with Social Media and how the answer isn’t in advertising, Facebook pages or Twitter profiles. To this statement I only have one thing to say:

Duh.

Online Spin has it right. But is this such a revelation? Why is it that so many social media ‘experts’ out there don’t understand the fundamentals of brand engagement? When people talk about your brand, or friend/fan your brand, or tweet about your brand, it’s because they have bonded with your brand, not because you simply exist. The principles of brand strategy and engagement have never been more essential today, yet these social media tacticians have many clients believing that they’ll reap financial rewards if they just set up a fan page on MySpace.

The only companies that do well in social media without clear brand support are the ones who innovate in social media. Companies like Naked Pizza who put up a Twitter billboard out front of their location to give followers special deals. The desired brand effect was a pizza for early adopters (go figure, the pizza is 100% organic).

If you’re living up to your brand promises at every touch point and creating advocacy with your customers, then your elevated presence in social media is assured. Not only will people flock to your social media sites, but they may even create their own fan sites as well. I recently flew Virgin America and loved it so much, I devoted a whole article to it. And I don’t even know if Virgin has a Twitter profile.

My advice is this: get your brand in order and build some loyalty. Until you do, your social media presence won’t do much for you. Think of it this way. Social media is the car and your brand engagement is the gas. Without people who love you, your social media ain’t goin’ no where.

I’ll take Biz Stone for $1000

jeopardyThere’s no question that social media is here to stay. Technology has given us a voice, and all signs point to us wanting to be heard. Twitter, the poster child for social media, has recently been valuated at $1 Billion, but so far we haven’t seen much evidence of how Twitter will actually make money. I can’t help but think that the route to riches for Twitter, in some form, lies in traditional media, like television.

So here’s a thought for you, Mr. Stone:

Create a game show.

Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened already. Twitter and one of the TV networks should create a trivia-oriented game show where the contestants are all sitting at home on the couch. I mean, we’re all sitting there with our laptops anyway. We could answer questions by tweeting as quickly as possible.

Hey NBC, you sit in last in the ratings now. Why don’t you put the Seinfeld or Friends reunions on hold for a bit and concentrate on creating perhaps the world’s biggest and most prolific game show? I mean, if we’re willing to watch Howie Mandell counsel brave-hearted dimwits on opening briefcases, this ought to be a sight better.

And to you Twitter users out there. Would you be willing to log into your account at 8pm on Thursday nights if it meant you could win a few thousand/million dollars? And if you’re worried about compromising your social media integrity by participating, I’m sure you could still update your status during the commercial break:

Playing @twittertrivia right now – trying to win $ to invest in twitter stock

Stop asking for something ‘viral’

SprintThere seems to be a misnomer out there, shared in client circles (and exacerbated by the media), that they can ask their agencies to create viral campaigns for them. Mediapost has just written an article about Sprint’s new viral campaign, on the day it launched. They must know something I don’t because to me, viral is a result, not a tactic. Calling something viral before it has launched is like picking the Superbowl winner in March (congratulations Redskins).

If you’d like to see Sprint’s new campaign, click here – it’s geared towards mobile users who are frustrated with their cell phone carrier. You can get Sprint to change you to their network, and then send your mobile carrier a goodbye song. Not exactly a new idea (and not likely to go viral).

So clients: let’s agree on this distinction. Viral is something you see a campaign do, not something you can request, like out-of-home or radio commercials. And if you’d like to see something go viral, you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little and do something edgy or really innovative. A milquetoast campaign like Sprint’s isn’t going to cut it.

And by the way, I get the irony of distributing the link to a supposed viral campaign I am critical of.

Why it’s better to be with a virgin

virign logoFirst, my apologies to all you filthy-minded folks out there who are mistakingly reading this article.

My second apology is to Virgin America for not flying you sooner.

I rarely have good things to say about businesses from a service standpoint. Frankly, I think most companies are in business despite themselves, especially airlines. Which is why I had to write an article about my experience with Virgin America over Labor Day, and why, for the life of me, I can’t understand why other airlines simply don’t get it.

virgin check inRight from the moment we checked in with Virgin America we felt like we were in for an atypical experience. The check in counter was, for the most part, free from the clutter of bewildered humans wondering what to do next (automated check in, old school check in, etc.). In fact, it was relatively empty of customers altogether, which might say something about Virgin’s processing ability.

Anyhow, after a one-minute wait we were greeted at the counter by a smiling woman who welcomed us to Virgin and asked us about our destination. I have to admit we probably looked a little strange to her after staring, open-mouthed at her for about 10 seconds trying to process the fact that she was actually smiling. “Maybe she just got engaged,” whispered my girlfriend. When we got to our gate we realized that other Virgin employees had adopted this strange facial quirk as well.

virgin_planeOur experience into the atypical continued when we got on board. The interior of the cabin was bathed in a pink and purple glow, giving the entire aircraft the feel of a hip, boutique hotel. It’s a very cool effect if you’ve never been aboard before, and from the look of it, seems pretty easy to do. You replace white bulbs with pink and purple ones.

We were actually able to watch a bit of a movie on our personal screens before the plane took off, giving us something to occupy our time while waiting for the aircraft to board. And when we got airborne, we could resume watching our movie where we paused it.

And here’s the real kicker – it seems that Virgin is the first airline that isn’t just talking about WiFi, but actually offering it.

But here’s the real interesting thing about our experience with Virgin. We didn’t really know about Virgin through marketing or advertising before we booked our trip with them. Everything we knew about Virgin was through other people who have flown them before.

So it seems that instead of spending heaps of money on advertising, sponsorships and marketing, like their competitors do, Virgin America is spending money on making your travel experience better than the competition, and then letting you spread the good word to others.

Like I am doing.

And to me, this methodology emphasizes the Virgin brand, which is ‘forward thinking’. Don’t trust a commercial or ad to tell you about the benefits of an airline, trust your neighbor, or colleague, or friend, or social media site instead.

So to other airlines out there, stop talking to us about your differences (which are minimal, at best) and start doing something different to make us want to choose you above your competitors. Believe me, it’s not always about price when you can offer us a priceless experience.

Why is this the Golden Age of Twitter?

goldbirdFor those 50% of you who are “Just trying this Twitter thing out” (#1 most common tweet) before you abandon the tool forever, I just wanted to share with you why it’s the best time to keep at it with Twitter:

Because no one really knows what they’re doing, especially corporations.

Twitter is still a relatively new site, and hasn’t been properly monetized. So this is the best time to really enjoy it as a social media tool.

I thought I’d explain my rationale through an experience I had recently. I was thinking about taking my girlfriend to Portland, but didn’t know much about the city. So I went onto my Twitter account and tweeted: “Anyone know any good hotels in Portland?”

I didn’t get any immediate replies, but after a while a few people, as well as a few hotels, wrote me back and told me about some good places to stay in the area. Some of the hotels even offered me a Twitter discount. I tweeted back a few people and hotels to ask about restaurants/entertainment as well, and got some good responses from both. In fact I got good enough advice from these people on Twitter that I made a reservation.

Not bad, huh? Now here’s why that won’t exist a few months/years from now:

Soon, many companies will use automated software (like the impersonal automated direct reply messages you get when you start following some people), so that when you type in anything related to their business, like ‘Hotel’, ‘Car’, or even ‘Dog Food’, you ‘ll receive a slew of automated messages from them, begging you to frequent their business. Translation: TWITTER SPAM (or is it: TWAM?).

Today, when most businesses are reaching out to you through Twitter, it’s usually be a person who is genuinely trying to help you out. Sure, they still want your business, but they’re willing to put in the time and effort to cultivate you as a customer to make a sale, instead of letting the robotic software do all the talking/offering for them. Because the fact of the matter is that we (humans/consumers) are complex creatures and are generally motivated by things other than price. Sometimes we need to have our hands held during the wooing process.

And finally, because Twitter hasn’t been overrun by corporations just yet (you ain’t seen nothin’ yet), people still view it as a tool to communicate with one another. As soon as we’re all inundated with SPAM messages, we’ll turn off it and move on to the next thing.

And for those of you who disagree, just log into your old Second Life account and see how those cool company storefronts really ameliorated the social media experience, if you can still remember your password.

My computer told me to get married

hunchEver wanted to leave an informed decision up to someone or something else? Enter Hunch, the latest web sensation from Caterina Fake (from Flickr fame). Hunch is a web tool that learns about you and your preferences and then delivers you quasi-relevant advice in return. I thought it was just another flaky web initiative until it recommended to me that I drive the car I’m currently driving. Unfortunately, it then recommended that I sell it to buy a wedding ring for my long-term girlfriend.

In any event, it’s fun and ruthlessly easy to use. And while you may not follow its advice, it does pose questions that do make you think more abut who you are and what you do believe in before you make tough decisions. And it’s open to anyone who wants to contribute to it.

So give it a shot. I got a hunch you won’t be disappointed.