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Sandsculpting Your Social Strategy

August 28th, 2011 1 comment
Archisand sculpts the Intel logo at BlogHer '11

Archisand sculpts the Intel logo at BlogHer '11

Its been a long hot (hottest on record in Austin) summer and its nowhere close to over.

But it has been rich in experiences and inspiration.  The launch of Google+?  The fundamental change in the way we experience earthquakes and hurricanes due to social media?  Interesting enough to get me to follow @irene, but definitely not over the inspiration bar.

This summer, I have had a number of seemingly chance encounters with what I have come to know as “sandsculpting”.  It began when my best friend took her sand work on our annual beach trip just a bit more seriously this year – constructing the “Sand Turtle” still discussed by my 4 year old.  But I don’t think I consciously knew that sandsculpting a professional pursuit until it was out in force at BlogHer’11 (see above).

But it was not the beauty of the creations, but the reasons for pursuing sandsculpting that inspired me to find a renewed love of my own work.  In addition to doing their thing at BlogHer, Archisand had recently built a huge display of scenes from Sydney Harbor at the US Open of Surfing earlier in the week (Video Here).  A colleague who had spoken to them there told me their unofficial story. They were a group of talented architects who got burnt out on what they were using their talents on at work and started making extreme sand castles to blow off steam and flex their creativity.  Eventually some of them were able to turn it into a fiscally responsible pursuit.

This got me thinking about the limiting mindset that much of solid social strategy is “block and tackle”.  The relentless pursuit of relationship and connection can be tedious and exhausting – if we let it.  But good strategy doesn’t have to be “eating your wheaties” alone.  While the basics must be done, it is doing them beautifully that will inspire yourself and those around you.  I have found new inspiration in big, creative sandcastles of ideas (built on the firm base of solid strategy) and insodoing have reawakened my love of my own profession.

If your social strategy has been in motion for a year or more without a second opinion or a new shot of creativity, use your knowledge the weekend eyes of an architect to sandsculpt it into something new that re-inspires you and will be more likely to inspire your customers.

The WOM It Is

August 10th, 2009 No comments

bruceonpiano3I like to think of myself as Bruce Hornsby Superfan #1, but I know it to not be true (that would be Si Twining of Bruuuce.com).  That being said, you can comfortably place me in the next tier of fandom down the line.  Through the years I have seen Bruce in many different type of configurations – solo, with an orchestra, with the Range, etc, but there is no party like seeing him with the Noisemakers.  This is why I happily schlepped to Red Bank, New Jersey to see the full band at the Count Basie Theater (site of my first live Steve Winwood at the tender age of 20) last week.  What struck me about the show was not just how musically remarkable it was, but how many best practices of word of mouth marketing the Noisemakers experience exemplifies.  Its part of the magic that makes folks like me come back show after show, year after year.  Here they are:

Co-Creation – 5 minutes after the theater doors opened, the stage was covered with cards, letters and notes with heartfelt requests of favorites, standards and covers for Bruce & the band.  He read some of the notes on stage and, while he jokingly responded to someone yelling an arcane request “we’ll play what we like”, he definitely made a point of letting the audience shape the show.  The fact that every show is different drives nerds like me to research setlists and hit multiple tourstops.

Transparency – There is no rockstar or even jazz virtuoso posturing.  Bruce chose to play the highly-requested Harbor Lights solo and explained that it was because the band hadn’t played it fully orchestrated in so long that they would be rusty.  He also apologized in advance for 1 tune that wasn’t good in sound check, but they needed to get used to playing it live (still sounded great).  And for the first time I’ve ever heard, he ended the show saying “I know times are tight and I really appreciate you all coming out”.

Surprises, Mashups, Inside Jokes – Bruce performed a live debut, played the dulcimer (which I had never seen him do), and pulled off a couple of song mashups that were headscratchers even for me.  The encore was technically 1 song – Mandolin Rain – but jammed through pieces of the lesser known Shadow Hand, Halcyon Days and the Dead song Black Muddy River for those hardcore fans hanging on every note.  Another little fun shoutout was a Sopranos nod with “Got Yourself a Gun” during an earlier tune.  Newcomers may not even notice, but there is an element of discovery makes repeat customers feel lke insiders.

Remember Your Roots – 10 – 15 years ago, Bruce regularly also had a live feature where he invited women on stage to dance to Rainbow’s Cadillac.  I even found a video of this happening at his show on millenium eve – memorable because the weight of the women broke the revolving stage (and yes, I was there).  Listen for the chorus of “Women are Smarter” in the song.   I hadn’t seen him do it in a while, and as the picture at the head of this post shows, he brought it back because “they finally got the stank back on it”.  That’s Bruce on top of the piano playing the accordian.   Another example of honoring roots is Bruce always playing The Way It Is, End of The Innocence, and Mandolin Rain.  This is that moment of recall for those who may be less familiar with his work and a chance for him to really push the envelope on how he twists and turns 20+ year old tunes.

Give it Away Now – If you love something set it free.  Bruce’s new record company has just put up a complete livestream of his new album – 5 weeks before release.  Will it stop me from buying the real thing?  Far from it.  It gets me excited now and has me making more concert plans.

All of the above principles give me a real, multidimensional story to tell about Bruce.  Are you feeding your customers’ hunger for conversational capital?

Social Media & Swine Flu

April 29th, 2009 No comments

I had never heard the phrase “pandemic flu” before my arrival at Ogilvy 18 months ago.  Having never worked in public health or (thankfully) lived through a scare, it wasn’t anything that crossed my consciousness.  Upon coming here, however, and learning about the great work this team did with the US Department of Health and Human Services Pandemic Flu Leadership blog, I started to learn about the role that personal preparedness will play in preventing a Pandemic and the power of social media in spreading that message.  It was also an example of the potent combination of a credible author (then Secretary of HHS Michael Leavitt) with a controversial topic and a social media platform for discussion.

In the last 48 hours, there have been some mainstream media articles pointing fingers at Twitter, where #swineflu has been the #1 or #1 trend for the last 3 days, as the culprit of spreading hysteria and bad information.  While I’m not particularly interested in long tail analysis on swine flu OR in taking medical advice from my Tweeps, social media can be a quick and powerful way to amplify some very credible sources of health information.  Looking at Twitter as a detriment is pointless when it can have power to spread correct information.  The CDC has embraced the tool and the 3 month old @cdcemergency handle is up to almost 40k followers who want to get their health information from the horse’s mouth, but on a platform that they already embrace.

Ogilvy in Asia has additionally put together a very helpful aggregation of up-to-the-minute credible sources of health information on the Swine Flu.  If you are wondering about something you have seen on facebook, the news, heard from a friend, etc, this is a great resource to check that information against the CDC and WHO.

Another source for interesting analysis from the science side can be found over at ScienceBlogs.com which has put together a great collection of perspectives on the issue from a peer-reviewed, science-based, hysteria-free perspective.  And with that, I’m off to wash my hands for the 5th time today.

Lessons from Jeffrey Eugenides

March 19th, 2009 No comments

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Jeffrey Eugenides speak about the writing of his Pulitzer winning novel Middlesex.

As Prof. Eugenides was talking about the NINE YEAR experience of researching, writing and rewriting, it struck me that his craft is in some ways the ultimate MACROmedia – the antithesis of trying to distill your thoughts into 140 characters and belching them out in real time.  There were, however, a number of nuggets of wisdom that he shared as a novelist to which a social media content creator can relate:

1) Eugenides shared that the most hated comment he receives after introducing himself is “I always wanted to be a novelist – I just never had the time” – implying that pretty much anyone could write a Pulitzer Prize winning novel given enough “time off”.  On the social media front, we often hear “How do you find time for that crazy stuff?  I’m too busy!”  Social media can indeed save you time used correctly and allows you to maintain more and different types of relationships at once.  It does not replace the in person networking that most businesspeople consider to be part of their careers, but it can greatly enhance it.  In short, you make time for the things you deem important and once you do, you’ll be surprised how efficient you get.  (Check out Ian Sohn’s great piece on making time for social media here).

2) “You can’t do too much research, but you can put too much in your book.” This is a helpful guiding principle to anyone who gives presentations on a regular basis.  The point of a presentation is never to download the complete exhaustive sum total of your knowledge on a subject – it is to include only what is relevant to your audience in a way that is compelling and will make an impression on them.

3) Individual identity trumps gender.  “I” is more important than “he” or “she”. This is a takeaway specifically from Eugenides’ struggle with the challenge of writing from the perspective of an intersex narrator, but I found it to be an applicable concept to my life.  Social media and the ways it allows us to express ourselves – in words, images, avatars, and connections enables self definition and expression that breaks the old business rules.  Social media can help us defy the paths that used to be set by education, company, old boy networks, etc.  Social media + the economic flat spin should make this even more true – the time is now to craft your own social media “I”.

Authority vs. Influence

January 9th, 2009 4 comments

Spurred on by a post from Mack Collier, Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell posted an interesting vlog post yesterday on the idea of authority.  I believe this concept of obsessively counting Twitter followers is the idea that touches off this debate.  For example, if you have 25.000, does that mean you are an authority?  I think Mack, Jackie, Ben and many other are all agreed that the answer is no.  Alone, Twitter followers doesn’t even necessarily mean you have great influence, it is only a  base brute measure of “reach” (you could also add in reach of the RTs for total reach) in the same way that media has measured reach for years.

There are some other interesting nuggets in the Ben/Jackie interplay in that video that piqued my interest.

Does a book indicate authority?: When Perez Hilton comes up, they reconsider whether or not he may be an “Authority” when the fact that he has a new book up gets mentioned.  Initially I chuckled at the idea of having a book giving you street cred in the church’s eyes, but then I reconsidered.  Writing a book usually indicates that the author has done a huge amount of research into a particular topic and (often) has some personal experience or connection to the topic that gives them further credibility.

Are authority and influence the same thing?: Jackie asks this as “Are the things that you say retweeted?” Ben by positing that “You are an authority if you have people who take your word and take action”.  I think both of these are less about authority and more about influence.   From the wikipedia entry on this authority: “What distinguishes authority, from coercion, force and power on the one hand and leadership, persuasion and influence on the other hand, is legitimacy.”  I do think that its possible for an authority to not have a large group of people listening to them.  Similarly many people can take action on what Britney Spears telegraphs, but I’m not sure this makes her an authority at anything other than influence.

Have online celebrities convinced themselves they are real celebrities? Ben and Jackie included some fun Twitterati mentions of folks that I really enjoy who really are caught up in their follower count.  Stay tuned for G4’s “Twitterati: Where are they now” series in 2014.

Thanks to Ben & Jackie for the inspiration this morning!