Friday, May 29, 2009

Twitter - Cut the Courtesy

There was an interesting online debate yesterday about whether or not to use autofollow. For those who don't know what it is, autofollow is a tool offered by services like TweetLater that automatically follow back people who follow you. The debate centered around whether or not using this tool is a social courtesy.

It seems to me that at its core, Twitter is entirely based on gain. And I don’t like to fool myself and pretend that it exists under a social umbrella of sincerity. The gain benefits everyday people, personal brands, business brands, government, public services, etc. And it's defined by increasing friendships, establishing thought leadership, cultivating brand ambassadors, increasing revenue, tapping information (education and news outlets), etc.

Please understand that I'm not using the word "gain" in a negative sense. I'm using it as Descartes or Kant would have in that we are all first and foremost ego-driven. We may talk about Twitter as "joining the conversation" (or other touchy-feely social phrases), but the reality is that we all have something to gain from it. AND THAT'S FINE.

Personally, I feel autofollowing is less a courtesy and more about racking-up numbers. Increasing the people you follow is one of ways to build followers because it more deeply embeds you into the Twitter community. Some people believe that you should have close to the same number of followers as people you're following. It's spoken about as some arbitrary Twitter cred.
Who cares? Why worry about other people's motivations or numbers? I digress.

"Courtesy" to me is participation - responding to your blog's comments, answering peoples' questions on Twitter and sharing your bookmarks (knowledge), for example. Helping one another. But by banking thousands of people in your Twitter account, your availability for intimacy is obviously diluted.

For the record, I used autofollow as I was learning about Twitter – and I paid for it in tons of spammy tweets. Thank goodness for Seesmic and Tweetdeck that allow us to filter out the noise we created and bring us back to the core value of the service...however you define it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Build a Social Story

I was reading a great piece this morning by Dave Armano entitled “Kill Your Website.” He writes about how his blog has become a much more valuable (and cheaper) tool in connecting with his audience. So, he shut his website down.

It’s important to keep in mind that Dave is a well-respected leader in the design world, and his audience is highly interactive. So, a blog is the perfect platform for his communication channel. But it's obviously not necessarily right for every brand.

It made me think of how many of the small to midsized businesses that we work with don’t have the same audience engagement level as a personal brand like Dave or a passion-crazed company like Apple. But that’s okay. The important thing is that we evaluate our brand’s aptitude and commitment level to the “conversation,” as well as their customers’ social behavior. That way, we can make grounded recommendations. Too often I’ve seen agencies suggest building social communities or high commitment platforms without any research or foresight. Sure, gut instincts are still important. But with all the research that’s easily available, it’s not solely the responsible approach.

As a strategically-grounded shop, we try to educate our clients on focusing on plans not platforms or tools. Engagement not websites. Interaction not blogs. Communication not Twitter. Community not Facebook. We try to steer them away from getting caught-up in all of “the latest and greatest” social media whiz-bang and focus on their Social Story as a whole. It starts by defining goals and then figuring out the best way to facilitate the relationship with their customers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Like-minded Animals

As I sat in a coffee shop this morning exchanging emails with Porky Hefer, owner of Animal Farm, I was uncomfortably caffeinated but mighty inspired. Like Release The Hounds, they are setting out to create client relationships and brand experiences that are creatively uncommon.

On their website, he explains:

"Creativity has always had huge value. You can't buy it by the yard. Or make it fill in timesheets. But if you use it wisely, it can change the world."

Located in Cape Town, South Africa, Animal Farm is built on a collaborative foundation. After reading his site's "Farm Freedoms" and "Philosophy" pages, I wanted to slap on some overalls, strap on my shit-kickers and join him down on the Farm. [I tried a Bo and Luke Duke analogy here but it felt a little weird.]

Animal Farm is also focusing on product development. Check out some of their unbelievably cool stuff here.

We look forward to hearing more from Porky and his team in the near future. That's all now, ya hear?

(Learned about Animal Farm via Cherryflava)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What is Your Team's Body/Mind Ratio?

I'm a reflector.

I spend a lot of time analyzing past projects and what made them a success - or how they could have been improved. And it's becoming apparent that most projects I've worked on over the past 12 years had dismal Body/Mind Ratios.

Here's what I mean...In our industry, we throw teams together very quickly once a project is in motion. Everyone knows their role and how they fit into the team's dynamic. Typically, the strategist and account people whip up a brief, call the creatives into a room and hand it off, the creatives disappear for a while and then return (usually with not nearly enough time spent on it) with some ideas.

The problem with this process is that not nearly enough time is spent TOGETHER thinking. If you have 10 people on your team, that's 10 minds that need to be utilized in both strategic and creative capacities. More often than not, we use bodies to run the jobs, but don't respect the minds of all team members. It's not like the team's made up of people from different industries - we're all marketers. We live it and breathe it everyday. Not to mention we're all consumers who have a natural ability to judge brand experiences.

Some of the coolest ideas that I've been a part of have come from account people, production people and even interns. We need to get out of our silos and trust each other. For the good of our agencies and our clients.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Re-evaluating My Ratio

With so many new social platforms/tools released everyday, it’s becoming a full-time job to try to keep up with them. But, it's my job to maintain a keen eye on how the communication landscape is changing. Matt Williams, Group Planning Director at The Martin Agency, and I were having lunch a while back, and he had a great line: “My job is keeping me from doing my job”.

We do have an obligation to understand the shifts and growths in the media landscape, but at what sacrifice? It’s important to have discipline. I could literally spend all day, everyday reading about social media because there is so much chatter and coverage. But I don’t.

As a strategist, I can’t afford to sacrifice the “why” for the “how”. In other words, I have to find a balance between education and motivation in these explosive times.

I recently realized that I was feeling as if I had to read every blog post, tweet, Facebook update, etc. to “stay on top of it.” My head was about to explode. I was anxious. And, I was experiencing a certain information paralysis.

So, I've cranked up Seesmic for Twitter and Facebook, cut my Google Reader subscriptions to 20, started using IM more and encouraged people to call me to cut back on emails - and generally tried to cut back on my information in-take.

For someone who loves to read and discover all of these fascinating, new tools that are empowering people and brands to extend and focus at the same time, it's hard to step back a bit.

I'll let you know how this works out...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's Raining Nookas

Just got our mail and looky looky what arrived. Matthew graciously sent our whole design team nookas. Super cool. Thanks, Matthew.

Apologies for my poor photog skills.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Passion Pit - Refreshing on many levels

Passion Pit was one of my new, favorite bands before we asked them to let us use "Sleepyhead" for the nooka video. When they agreed, I loved them even more. For the record, their "people" were amazing to work with too. And as a guy who used to work in the music industry, that's saying a lot.

On May 19th, they drop their new record, Manners. You can pre-order it at Insound and check out their Myspace page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bold Moving Pictures

On the first Friday of the month, we have an art show block party called First Fridays. People swarm Broad Street and duck in and out of galleries to check out what’s new in the Richmond art scene. It’s really inspirational to see people of all ages and backgrounds coming together in the name of creative expression.

One of the recent highlights was an exhibition at Corporate and Museum Frame by photographer Shaun Irving. (In full disclosure, Shaun and I went to school together at Hampden-Sydney College.) What’s cool about his method is that he uses a truck as his camera.

This is a great example of disrupting convention. He didn’t just choose to be “different” or shocking in his subject matter. He chose to change the technique all together on a large scale. And, in doing so, he generates built-in intrigue about his work. The best part is that the giant photographs are beautiful.

His work is a great reminder that we should always look for the opportunity to change the game and, more importantly, have the guts to go for it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hounds Love Dust

We want to take the first post to say thanks again to Mark Graham, Jodie Silsby and Johnny Winslade at the brilliant design studio in England, I Love Dust for helping us conceptualize and design an identity that truly represents us.

Why wouldn't we design our own logo, you might ask?

Three reasons:

1. We love their work
2. When you trustingly hand over the reins, you can more quickly/clearly get to your essence.
3. It's good to be reminded of what it's like to be a client

Here's a pic of their mascot, Hesky, wearing a little "thank you" bling.