Tagged: social media

Situation Normal, All Trucked Up

Remember the golden days of social media, when you could call a tweetup for no good reason at all and the best and brightest would just show up and hang out?  Well, they’re back. It’s lunchtime in America and the economy’s turning a corner.  People with jobs are willing to take a long lunch on a Spring day to visit food trucks. I think @StevenL57 started it, I coined the hashtag #TruckUp, and @JeffCutler called in the elite twitterati. We met up at Mei Mei Street Kitchen in Copley Square by the BPL.

Huge line at Mei Mei Group Shot at the BPL

Thanks to JeffCutler for the pics above. Estimable guests included @wdipilato, @hybernaut, @HenryDuLaurence, @khopper, @marrsipan, @iamreff, @linji, @BostonFoodFan, and probably others I missed.  Notable noshows included @tangyslice.  Enough celebrity spotting, let’s talk about the host of honor: the Mei Mei Street Kitchen.  Run by three siblings, Mei Mei serves “creative Chinese-American cuisine made from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients.” [side note and shameless plug: local and sustainable food is what Sprout Lenders are all about, and they just opened their summer round of loan applications]

Most Truckers ate from the top half of the menu, the scallion pancake sandwich melts.  Using a scallion pancake like a tortilla or roti is a serious bit of genius in my book.  I had the Porko Rosso at least in part because that’s also (almost) the title of a Miyazaki film.  The sandwich is pulled pork, brie from vermont, and cranberry sauce.  Sounds pretty local, and it’s also pretty delicious. The pork was savory and super tender, the cranberry sauce sweet but not too much so, the brie held it all togehter.  My only nit would be that there was some runoff from the sauce that made the whole thing a little hard to eat by hand.  You also get a side of siracha ketchup.

On the side, I got a deep fried braised beef and rice ball, sort of like an arancini.  Super crispy on the outside with lots of salt, and almost melting inside.  I also heard good things about the double awesome sandwich, the black and blue, and the sichuan spring asparagus.  My tab came to a reasonable for a Boston food truck $10 with a bottle of water. The #TruckUp rolled on to other Copley trucks but I had to get back to the office. Check the other guests’ streams for more truckery.

Mei Mei also wins at operations.  I was a little worried when I saw five people in the truck, but they worked together admirably and processed orders efficiently and apparently were really enjoying themselves doing it. Lots of food trucks are on twitter but I’ve never seen one use the medium like Mei Mei.  They picked up on the #TruckUp during the planning last week and tweeted their excitement about it.  They replied and retweeted, and thanked us all for coming to the #TruckUp.  But the icing on the social cake is this: they put the tag – and many of our handles – on their board on the truck. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but that seems like a serious real-time marketing win.

It was an honor but also sort of uncanny to see my twitter handle in print – or at least in chalk – in the real world.  When I placed my order I gave my name as limeduck and got a hearty greeting and somebody said, “that’s a good name for a sandwich!” Stay tuned.

Fair use of photos: a no-pin situation?

It’s the eve of the Facebook IPO, a few weeks after the Instagram sale, and I’m still trying to figure out Pinterest.  Is it three syllables or two?  But seriously, what does a wildly-popular site built on appropriating other peoples’ images mean for content creators?

I don’t often google myself but in the wake of the not so great blogger scone photo brouhahah, I’ve been in the habit of checking TinEye Reverse Image Search once in a while.  I tried searching Pinterest, and sure enough, found a handful of pins from this very blog.

It seemed unfair that folks were pinning my work when I didn’t even have a login to the site to join the conversation.  Shortly after I whined about it on Twitter, my invite came through.  (The screenshot here is from after I joined; the first image is my own pin, but the others were there before.)

One thing that’s interesting here is that of the photos pinned from limeduck.com, two are not my own work – the shoes and the pillow.  I think I did a good job, at least with the pillow, of giving attribution and linkage, but once the photo gets pinned, the credit, such as it is, goes only to me.  I’m a little disappointed that most of the pins are just stuck in collections without any comments – more acquiring and collecting than really discussing – but it’s early yet.  Maybe the channel will become more social over time.

Most of the others are food pics, pretty disposable in my view, but one, the ferris wheel, is something I’d venture to say almost approaches art.  It’s a film photo that I scanned, and it’s also one that’s gotten around on the internets a bit and even been the basis for some derivative work at Deviant Art.

Although I’m irritable about sloppy photo borrowing, I’m also a fan of fair use.  I found out that you can ban pinning of images from your site with a simple bit of code,

<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin" />

but I’m not going to do it, at least not yet.  I’m not a professional photographer and this blog is pretty much here for my own entertainment, so the stakes are low for me.  People who make pictures for a living are surely more concerned about this.  If museum curators behaved like online content “curators” it would be a curious world, wouldn’t it?

Compare Flickr.  For all the almost-greatness and killed-by-yahoo hoohah, Flickr is a site for photographers to share their work – on their terms.  Flickr has done a good job of giving users choices about copyright and creative commons licenses, and also offering levels of privacy for photos and groups of photos.  In the last couple of months, Flickr has moved from site-wide nopin to a pin button available at the option of the Flickr user.

Like Flickr, Pinterest actually hosts the photos.  Unlike Flickr, Pinterest holds the photos in the account of the person that pinned them, not the person that created them.  I could delete this blog tomorrow and those pins would still be there. It’s also interesting that (so far as I can tell) Pinterest images do not show up in image search via google or TinEye.

Flickr has the power to get pinning done right, and I hope that it carries over to individual content sites like this one.   Flickr pins  go to the image in the photostream in question, but some of the pins from limeduck go to the image instead of the post.  That’s probably a result of image search, but it would be nice if Pinterest could work on that.  Even if they don’t do it for artists, they’ll eventually have to do it for commercial partners.

Will Pinterest ever mean much to social marketers? I’m doubtful of that, but I think it already means something to visual artists, but I’m not yet sure if that something is good or bad.

Social media mystery: the case of the 5000 follower intern

So we were hiring an intern.  Hiring might be a strong word since we’re not planning to pay this intern, but I digress.  So I’m reviewing resumes and sometimes if somebody looks promising, I check out his or her Twitter account.  It is at least in part a social media internship, after all.  So one candidate comes to the top of the pile and she has over 5,000 followers on Twitter, no small feat.  Or so I thought.

5,000 followers is neither here nor there by itself, but this person was following only 30 people and had under 100 tweets in just a few months on Twitter.  Reading the tweets, I was not super impressed: almost all were links to various marketing and social media articles, no added commentary, no @ replies, no real value add from information or entertainment.  How do you get 5,000 followers with 100 mediocre tweets in a few months?  I was pretty sure there was only one possible answer: cheating.

A phone screen confirmed, the intern candidate had paid some shadowy service to deliver followers.  It was, she said, an experiment to see if having more followers would make it any easier to get noticed or get her message out on Twitter. Purists – and even semi-purists – can be horrified all they like, but here’s the thing: it works.  5,000 followers and 100 tweets over a few months gives you a higher Twitter Grader score than mine with about 1,000 followers and 5,000 tweets over more than four years. Maybe that says more about Tweet Grader than it does about buying followers.

So if you’re still in the habit of judging people by the quantity of their following, or using follower quantity as the raw materials of social media scientific inquiry, or to create dubious metrics like TweetGrades, beware, not everything is as it seems.

And the intern?  No decision yet, but I give her points for scientific method.  If she’d done a double-blind study, I’d be willing to double her salary.

Three questions and the fourth dimension of LBS at SMB

I was chatting with Boston fixture Joselin Mane and LBS Elder Eric Leist at Social Media Breakfast (organized by the estimable Bob Collins) this morning while pondering the use of altitude information by Foursquare, we stumbled on an interesting question: Location Based Services know where you are (duh) but do they know what time it is when you’re there? The answer is obviously yes, but the real question is are LBS using that information in any useful way?

Businesses want you to check in at their location to do all that brand and community stuff, but mainly they want to you buy things. Therefore, we reason, just like LBS would prefer not to let you check in if you’re not really there, they should also not let you check in if the business is not open at that particular time*.

Eric mentioned some Foursquare promotions around sporting events and television shows that were only available for checkins during the time of the event or show, so the infrastructure probably exists.  The tough part is building the huge database of opening hours, holidays, emergency exceptions, private parties, etc.  On a side note, it’s odd and frustrating that opening hours are so often hard or impossible to find on business websites.  What’s up with that?

I’m sure there are better summaries of the event itself – notably the tweetstream – but I’ll mention a couple of things here:

Bob introduced Ginger Lennon of SMB sponsor Racepoint Group and she made it known that they are hiring.  I initially misheard her name as Ginger Lemon.  I bet that happens to her a lot, but it’s nice to know that companies are (a) hiring and (b) sponsoring Social Media Breakfast.

The impressive panel consisted of Sarah Armitay of MobextJohn Dobrowolski, VP of Fancy-Ass Titles at SCVNGR, and Nataly Kogan, VP of Consumer Experience at Where.com.  There were three questions that were not asked of every presenter, but perhaps should have been, in addition to the always-appropriate, “how the heck are you going to make money??”

First, asked by Adam Zand, what are you doing or what could you be doing for Movember?

I’ll take the liberty of generalizing to “how can LBS help with charity events that have no fixed place?”  I for one would be tempted to create a location called “my upper lip” for the purposes of Movember checkins, but I can see that being misunderstood.   I don’t think any of the panelists quite got this one, maybe they didn’t know enough about Movember or just didn’t want to cop to having no idea.  No shame in saying “I don’t know” if you ask me.

Next, asked by somebody whose name I neglected to note (please speak up if you read this), how does this play out for financial services companies?

Interesting in comparison to the first question.  How can LBS help businesses that are highly regulated, very concerned (I hope) with customer privacy, and sometimes not even doing business in physical space?  I’m not sure that I’d like to tweet “I just became the mayor of this ATM and now have lots of cash”   I think one answer here would have to be a tie-in to home mortgages, generally the largest financial transaction in your life.  But I also wonder if financial services are inherently anti-social or maybe just anti-location.  Not every fun and interesting social game concept is for every industry.

And thirdly, by No One You Know (on behalf of himself and several others), how are we supposed to let our tweenaged childen use this stuff?

The consensus was something like “you can’t use our service unless you’re 13” accompanied by some hand-waving about digital natives and parenting.  I’m not qualified to speak on behalf of tweens or their parents, but it sounds to me like this hasn’t been quite figured out yet.  I’m confident that the nut will be cracked, not because anybody is worried about kid safety or privacy, but because tweens have disposable income and they’re mobile.  The gravitational pull of that money is very, very powerful.

* Checking in at a business while it’s closed in order to swipe the mayorship is a maneuver known as an Orli Perez. Especially if the business is a bakery. #justsayin

Social Media Plagues Six through Eight

I started the passover season with the first five plagues of social media, and despite a considerable transportation delay incurred by of all things a flood, I’m back with a few more plagues this Sunny Easter morning.  To refresh your memory:

  1. Spam
  2. Corporate Blogs
  3. Self-Appointed Experts
  4. Accumulationism
  5. Constant Partial Attention
  6. The Echo Chamber. Dance all you want on the grave of print, but at least when you went to the newsstand to buy your favorite rag, you had at least passing exposure to the headlines on the covers of opposing rags.  Creating personalized newsfeeds and groups of friends and followers lets us indulge our weaker impulse to attend only to those with whom we already agree.
  7. Social Media Exceptionalism. Exceptionalism as you may recall from the last couple hundred years of United States politics, is the belief that your thing is, well, exceptional, and therefore “does not need to conform to normal rules or general principles” [wikipedia] – this is more or less a continuation of PR Exceptionalism and Brand Exceptionalism, two great “we can’t/shouldn’t measure this program” belief systems.  I’ll grant that social media is by nature more measurable and that many practitioners are making good efforts to measure it, but exceptionalism still kicks in when the measurements don’t live up to what we hoped and we decide we must have underinvested or decide to call the program experimental. No more excuses, no more faith-based marketing, I say.
  8. Social Media Purism.  Or maybe I should call it Puritanism.  The idea that Social Media is All You Need and the related idea that It Cannot Be Mixed or Diluted with Other Modes and Methods have the ugly tang of fanaticism about them.  The flavor of the month is tasty, no doubt, but it’s not the only one.

Just two more plagues to go.  Stay tuned and stay ducky.

The ten plagues of social media and marketing, part I

Tonight is the start of Passover, a holiday celebrating the struggle for liberation with foods designed to remind you of suffering and enslavement.  At one point in the traditional Seder, participants recite the ten plagues visited on Egypt , spilling out a bit of wine for each one in token commiseration for the suffering the plagues brought.

The canonical plagues are:

  1. Blood (water turning into blood)
  2. Frogs (lots of frogs, everywhere)
  3. Lice
  4. Beasts (like wild and marauding ones)
  5. Livestock disease
  6. Boils
  7. Hail (sometimes described as mixed with fire – eek!)
  8. Locusts
  9. Darkness (all day)
  10. Death of all first-born children

Perhaps tonight social media peeps will hold back a tweet or ten in recognition for the suffering visited upon us by social media, social marketing, and all the attendant hoohah these past few years.  Here are five, and I’ll serve up five more within a week.  I have the full list pretty well figured out, but I’ll happily take nominations.

  1. Spam.  OK, social media didn’t cause spam,but it didn’t stop it or even reduce it.  We have to contend with actual malicious content as well as content that’s merely obnoxious, such as oversharing or overtweeting.
  2. Corporate Blogs.  Companies trying to cash in on the authenticity and openness of social media have created some of the least authentic blogs in the universe.  I know, I’ve written some of them. Sure, you can use a blog for PR and for link building and for SEO, but hey, guess, what?  You can also use it to share what’s really going on in your company.
  3. Self-Appointed Experts.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and people seem to want experts to explain to them how to use democratic, user-generated media.  Seems to me they miss the point, but I hereby appoint the self-appointed social media experts a plague.
  4. Accumulationism.  OK, I probably just made that word up, and if I didn’t, I probably misused it.  Anyway, the mis-measurement of social media success or influence by the number of followers, the number of links, the number of friends, the number of posts, and so forth is pernicious and misleading.  Feh.
  5. Constant Partial Attention.  Mobile devices are as much to blame as social media proper, and this was a problem with email before, but it’s gotten so much worse.  The need to even try to consume the torrent of microdrivel prevents people from focusing for even a minute on any one thing of import.

Well, that should keep you all busy as you attempt to discreetly update your facebook status while digesting the meginah.  Stay tuned for five more plagues over the rest of the holiday.


I’ve done it over 2,000 times., and I don’t think that’s immoderate for a man of my age.  I’ve done it on a boat but I’ve never done it with a goat. Sure, when you’ve done it as many times as I have, it may seem almost routine, but I’ve noticed that some people are having some anxiety about their First Time, so here’s my advice for  your first twitter experience:

Relax. Just do it.

Seriously.  If you’re sitting on the twitter sidelines trying to figure out what it’s about or how your company can use it, you’re missing the point.  Just get on there and say something.  It’s social media, after all. Follow some people, @ them a bit, get your feet wet.  No ideas but in things! I promise you’ll be able to figure it out after a while.  (Here’s a hint: ask for help on Twitter, tweeple love to help)

Some people say that Twitter is the most important thing since sliced bread. I doubt it. But if they’re right, why are you wasting time worrying about it when you could be living it?  And if it’s not so important, what have you got to lose?

So if you’re still fretting (yes, I’m still talking to you, G*****, and you too, L*****), here’s a handy tip: you can erase your embarrassing tweets. Permanently and forever. Just click the trashcan next to the goof – see it on the right?

The first time doesn't have to hurt

The last thing people need these days is something else to worry about.  I suppose that might be an argument for ignoring twitter entirely, but if you can’t do that, I urge you to just jump in.  There will be plenty of time down the road to laugh at ourselves for being so foolish or faddish.

Puma, Thoreau, Twitter, Earthwatch and more at Social Media Breakfast

It’s not every day you go to a social media event in a cargo container sponsored by a shoe company and hear somebody invoke Thoreau when talking about Twitter. Today was just such a day.

Earthwatch CEO Ed dddddd speaks; ICA in the backgroundBut first, I’ll back up to last night, when J (have I mentioned lately that she has an excellent food blog?) joined me at an Earthwatch.org‘s shidig at Puma City. (Puma City is a batch of cargo containers assembled into a retail and party space in a temporary “village” set up in South Boston to celebrate the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race and it lacks indoor plumbing) We sipped melon puree and watched the sunset while listening to Earthwatch CEO Ed Wilson talk about the state of the world’s oceans. The event was well-attended and raised money and awareness for Earthwatch’s programs. Also, they served tasty but lukewarm mini open-faced cuban sandwiches and raffled off some cool prizes. Having already won a gift card at Four Burgers that day, I couldn’t be too upset at missing out.

Barely 12 hours later, I returned to Puma City for Social Media Breakfast 13, Rocking the Boat. Founded by Bryan Person and recently organized by the estimable Bob Collins, SMB has reliably been one of the better live events for those who live online.

The first presenter was Dan Schwabel, a young man who has the admirably meta occupation of promoting his personal brand as “the guy with a personal brand.” He observed at one point that he chose marketing because he was “creative and not that great at math,” which I think sort of sums up much of what’s wrong with marketing these days. I bet Dan isn’t really that bad at math, but I also think that people like FM Days are trying to rescue marketing from the folks who are afriad of or (perhaps willfully) ignorant of the numbers.

Next up, George Grattan, Marketing Strategist at Earthwatch took the stage. I use the term, “stage” loosely, as the sight lines inside a space made of cargo containers are a little rough. Anyway, George talked about Earthwatch’s social media strategy, which includes a lot of Facebook and Eons (because their target is a little older) and no Twitter yet. Grattan quoted Thoreau on the subject of the transatlatic telegraph wire to explain this choice:

We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.

The idea being, until Earthwatch has something to say on Twitter, they will remain quiet. I just hope George has grabbed the username. As I’ve discussed and as I’m sure Dan would agree, you have to register your brand on every network you can, even if you’re not going to use them, just as a protective measure.

I’m skeptical that Earthwatch really has nothing to say to the people of Twitter. After all, they are actually somewhat older that the Facebook generation and probably closer to Earthwatch’s demographic. But more to the point, how different is what Earthwatch has to say on Twitter from what they have to say on Facebook or on their blogs? (They do have blogs, don’t they? George, call me!) With tools like Ping.fm, Friendfeed, and Twitterfeed, you can syndicate content you already have into all kinds of channels at minimal extra cost or effort. Sure, that’s not the level of engagement that your customers really want and deserve, but isn’t it better than nothing? You can start building your Twitter following by pushing your Facebook status and blog updates there, so when you are ready for full-on Twitter engagement, you’re partway there. To use an ironic metaphor, Earthwatch should fish where the fish are.

The last two presenters, Roger Wu and C C Chapman deserve blog posts of their own, and I’m sure many others will provide. In short, Roger’s company Klickable.TV is doing some cool stuff with videos that you can click on and the data that those generate. (Roger, does Rachel Ray know you’re clicking on her like that?) CC is a social media fixture for good reason. Check out his site, blogs, podcasts and so forth whenever you can.

Boston social media peeps emerging from the winter into the sunlight. I hope they were packing high SPF

Boston Media Makers #bmm

First Sunday each month
Boston Media Makers
at Doyle’s in JP.

This April only
It was the second Sunday
to keep us alert.

I brought my netbook,
hipster PDA and cards.
What’s with the mermaid?


Lots of great people,
some serious geeking out.
Here are some highlights:

Rachel Levy was
laid off but is too busy
working to find work.

Quiver and Quill hosts
Rubber Chicken Social Club
I approve, of course.

Boston Tweetup is
a list of Boston Tweetups
in handy G-cal!

David Tames’ site
kino-eye.com has lots
of cinema links.

Ben Atlas has deep
thoughts on networking and wants
more wider hallways.

Reiko’s Geek Girl Camp
sounds like fun, also good for
non-techy women.

Robin Maxfield has
a video show that is
sort of, um, edgy.

Thanks to Steve Garfield
for organizing again.
Matzo balls should sink.

Are avatars authentic or effective?

I was engaging in some micronarcissism (that means looking at my Twitter page) the other day when I chanced to notice that most of the icons – or avatars if you prefer – were faces, most of those photographic.

The old New Yorker cartoon said, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (the cartoon showed an actual canine using a computer) yet here are some people using (I assume) their real faces for their online presence.

Before pondering the implications of that, a brief geektour of the numbers:

I classified twitter pictures into four types:

  1. Faces (photographic) – to the best of my ability to tell, photographs of one person’s face
  2. Faces (illustration) – faces but not photographic, includes illustration and overtly manipulated photos such as “obamifications” (which should be called “Faireifications” or perhaps “Obamanations”)
  3. Corporate or personal logos
  4. Other (body parts other than faces, bucolic scenes, pictures of animals, etc.)

Some Twitter avatarsOf the 36 icons pictured in my little “Following” bloc,

Faces/photo: 28 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 1 (3%)
Logo: 4 (11%)
Other: 3 (8%)

Of the top 50 Twitter Elite in the USA (via Grader)

Faces/photo: 39 (78%)
Faces/illustration: 4 (8%)
Logo: 4 (8%)
Other: 3 (6%)

The results are pretty consistent these samples.  Faces are in. Photorealistic ones, especially. I’m not sure if that has changed over time or if it’s always been the case.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why?  I’m thinking that there’s a general movement in social media for authenticity and transparency, that you should say who you are and be real.  There’s a lot of software in our brains devoted to recognizing and understanding faces, and we seem to like to use it.  Faces humanize online experiences.

But let me take the contrary position for a moment.  Shouldn’t your online avatar or chat icon stand for you in a communication and marketing sense?  Isn’t it a small ad banner that you can use creatively?  And shouldn’t you at least attempt to stand out in the crowd or cloud?

On the one hand, if I don’t already know who you are, seeing that you’re a middle-aged white guy with unfortunate facial hair doesn’t add much to my online consumption of your updates.  On the other hand, once I start reading those things, seeing that photo might add depth or credibility to your online presence, and then I even stand a chance of recognizing you in person.

Here’s a post (that I found via a tweet from a logo avatar) about adding your photo to LinkedIn, which seems a lot more straightforward.  On LinkedIn, like Facebook, you’re definitely supposed to be you.  On Twitter or blogs, you could be a character, a brand, a team, all sorts of things.

What the duck?As a guy who uses a duck (you can sometimes still find my old icon, a rasterbated photo) for online imagery, I guess I could be accused of hiding.  But that icon serves pretty well:  it’s easy to recognize,  related to my online brand, consistent across social media sites, seldom changed so consistent across time, and pretty good at standing out in the crowd.