Digital culture – Social media business strategies blog Fri, 29 Dec 2017 08:16:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 We live in the age of the ‘Next Big Thing’ Wed, 30 Nov 2016 16:34:17 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Old School is New School by Nate Paul

Post by Nate Paul

The latest and greatest smartphones are released every twelve months, rendering the last model about as useful as a paperweight (if you believe the marketing hype).  An entire industry has been built around Silicon Valley’s cult of disruption, a belief that we should always be replacing our old way of thinking and doing with new and exciting ideas.

It seems like nothing is safe from our love affair with newness.  In the coming years, cars will relieve us of the burden of sitting behind the wheel and smart refrigerators will relieve us of the worry of remembering to pick up milk.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. In fact, one of the most gratifying parts of my job is working with software and technology companies and the growth of their businesses. It’s hard not to be excited by the endless ways that innovation will change our lives for the better in the years to come.

But while many of my friends and colleagues spend their free time reading about the future of robotics and artificial intelligence and thinking about how the Internet of Things will change our daily lives, I far more often find myself thumbing through decades-old issues of Forbes, Businessweek or Fortune, soaking up as much insight as I can from great dealmakers now relegated to the history books.

One mainstay on my nightstand is a battered old copy of Business Adventures by John Brooks that I bought from an actual bookstore (not online!) when I was in high school.  The book was originally published in 1969, but the insights remain astonishingly relevant today.  The passage I probably re-read the most is about the Ford Edsel fiasco, which is the ultimate cautionary tale about the importance of paying close attention to your market and being ready to respond when your customers’ preferences and demands change. It’s no surprise to many that the business leaders I admire, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are fans of Brooks and his timeless wisdom.

One of the core lessons the greatest investors and business leaders share is an obsession with the fundamentals. In hot markets like today, in which unicorns and pre-revenue billion dollar valuations grab all the headlines, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics.

But sizzling markets and the lure of quick profits is nothing new. When I started investing in real estate in 2007 while still a college student, the market was saturated with speculators.  The previous few years had seen unprecedented capital growth in the residential and commercial markets, and suddenly everyone was a developer or a flipper.  Finding properties that were undervalued and had strong fundamentals was extremely difficult at the time, because the competition was snapping up everything they could find and counting on never-ending price appreciation.

Going against the grain, I began building my company by obsessing over the fundamentals – intrinsic value, recurring cash flow, and a long-term investment horizon. When the real estate market collapsed in 2008, I managed not to panic or flee, and once again went against the grain, becoming one of the most active buyers of real estate in Austin…then Texas…and eventually, the nation. Following Buffett’s advice, I was fearful when others were greedy – and then positioned to be greedy when others were fearful.

This old school approach doesn’t just apply to investing, it applies to almost every aspect of building and running a company. In business and investing, cautionary tales are everywhere – from the one-hit wonder Wall Street fund manager who delivers one knockout year and then flames out, to the Silicon Valley rising star who builds a killer app and is never heard from again.  Those of us who have achieved success at a young age should be terrified by these examples.  I’m driven every morning to build a company that creates jobs, wealth and economic opportunity not just for years, but for generations.  I can’t imagine how to do that except for being a student of history.

I’ve never liked the old saying that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.  To me, history is a goldmine of proven ideas just waiting to be uncovered.  It may just be that the “Next Big Thing” happened long ago.

Nate Paul is President, CEO & founder of World Class Capital Group, a leading national commercial real estate investment group. This article recently appeared in The Huffington Post and is republished with permission.
Five modern technologies that bring a new twist on Mad Men’s nostalgic favorites Wed, 26 Jun 2013 16:48:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> TechCrunch-Disrupt

Technological advances increase efficiency in the workplace

Ayelet NoffBusiness hasn’t changed much in the 40 some-odd years separating us and the “Mad Men” timeline. What has changed are the tools in which business is conducted. After Mad Men’s final episode, I floated into a nostalgic dream that looked back on how times have changed, but also how they stayed the same.

The office atmosphere in Mad Men captures the audience and draws them in as though they were standing right next to Peggy’s desk themselves. The constant phone ringing, secretaries bustling from office to office distributing handouts and forms, clients coming in and out for short meetings – as much as it may seem nostalgic and reminiscent of the past, are these memories so different than the world we live in today?

In fact, the nature of our workplace hasn’t changed all that much from the Mad Men era. We still continue to do many of the same things that were done in the past- and it looks like we may be continuing to do them in the future. But what has changed from the era of cigarettes and whiskey at work? How has technology changed and developed how we function in the work-place and how has it made things run more smoothly?

Conference meetings {Conference calls & Hangouts}

Google hangouts

1As people who run most of our days between meetings and more meetings, one thing that catches our attention when watching Don and his company at work:  the quick meetings that take longer to get to than they actually last. Today, when we want to catch up with our client or run an idea by him all we need to do is have a quick video chat or better yet, arrange a whole 12 participant hangout. Google Hangouts make this incredibly convenient.

Presentations {Projector/slideshow}


2Remember how every presentation Don Draper had to present to a client involved actual posters, coal sketches and an extra set of hands to hold the poster for him. In 2013, you don’t have to carry slides, get your hands dirty or even waste one of your worker’s time on carrying a projector to the meeting. You simply have all you need in your mobile device. Slideshare makes sharing presentations extra simple.


3Sometimes there is an older technology that you absolutely have to use. If you are developing apps for the insurance, banking, travel, or healthcare industries, there is a good chance that you will have to integrate faxing or e-faxing services into your application.  InterFAX, has built a robust API that allows for its efaxing services to be quickly and easily deployed in a range of applications.

Clock in and out

Pay Record

4Punch cards are so outdated. The old fashioned machines took more than just paper and ink, they took time. Today we let our mobile devices do all the work for us. Why have it take more time than it needs to?

Deliveries {Fedex Mobile}

Fedex Mobile

5When Joanne had to make purchases for the office, deliveries could take a lifetime. It involved calling, waiting for a delivery guy, shipping and waiting for confirmation that the delivery has been completed. Today, with mobile apps like FedEx Mobile, we just hop online and with a tap of a button and 24 hours later the delivery will be sitting at your door.

I am sure that while reading this post, many other legacy technologies which survived the test of time came to your mind. Please share them with me in the comments.

Which technological advances have made you more efficient in the workplace?

Marketers still need to learn some basic HTML Wed, 20 Feb 2013 13:33:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> html

Image courtesy of Brian J. Bruemmer via Creative Commons

Improve your readers’ experience with some basic HTML knowledge

Chris AbrahamI have recently been blogging for the Huffington Post and they use Six Apart‘s Movable Type blogging platform. Movable Type was my second blogging platform after converting from Noah Grey’s Greymatter that I started using back in 2000. Even in 2013, the Huffington Post’s blogger interface doesn’t offer a Rich Text Editor so writing in familiar WYSIWYG isn’t possible there.

So what I do is compose over here on WordPress, on its Visual Editor, and then click the Text tab and copy and paste over to Movable Type. Then the work begins. I upload all of my media, photos, graphics, and whatnot to my server at and then align them correctly before I copy the raw HTML over — which should work perfectly, right? No!

While WordPress uses modern CSS, styles, and DIVs, the install at the Huffington Post doesn’t, so I had to take code that looked like this:

<img style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" alt="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" src="" width="300" height="199" />

And needed to add some original, old-school, HTML IMG tags, such as ALIGN=”RIGHT” and HSPACE=”5″ as a way of making sure that Huffington Post can render the my code the way I want it to look on their install:

<img align="right" hspace="5" title="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" alt="19-year-old Chris Abraham rowing in 1989 for GWU" src="" width="300" height="199" />

However, if I didn’t know a little bit of HTML — I know quite a lot; I started my professional life off as a web developer and programmer — I probably wouldn’t be able to even know how to add images. I wouldn’t know how best to link to third-party content as easily and effortlessly as I would have liked. I wouldn’t know how to fix rendering and formatting issues and problems, and I would need to rely too heavily on my editors, assuming they’re proficient enough or have enough time to fix both my copy mistake as well as my graphical or HTML gaffes.

So, spend some time right now going through an HTML primer or two so that you can better control the visual experience that you offer your readers as well as the platforms that try to render your content on other platforms such as Flipboard and mobile devices.

Knowing some HTML, especially how best to use tags associated with linking and images (TITLE and ALT, for example), can really beef up your online SEO optimization, because we all know — or should know — that Google only knows what you’re on about if you’re completely explicit.

I am lucky that I am fully able to render what I want to say exactly how I want it to display, but it isn’t hard. Knowing just a little bit of HTML very well can result in a much better reading experience for both your human and robot readers.

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Don’t mess with Texas (or reddit) Tue, 31 Jul 2012 12:00:08 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This is the second of two parts. Also see:
reddit is the elephant in the room of social media marketing AbrahamMy recommendation for you individuals who are interested in just growing your experience, mastery, equity, and inclusion as deeply as you can in as many relevant and germane communities as possible, you will never be rewarded unless and until you really commit to reddit. I have been with reddit way over 5 years and I have yet to get any traction there. Like I said last week in Reddit is the 800-pound Gorilla in the room, commit to reddit completely. Eschew Facebook and Twitter for a little while and replace Flipboard on your iPad with reddit. Commit making reddit your morning news and the novel you read before you go to sleep. This week, I want to add a few more specific tips.

Of course register, but register as yourself and not as your brand, your company, or you business, though naming yourself after your hobbies or passions or best feature, your sport, your team, your OS, or your geolocation seem to be popular ones. Many people use the same handle on reddit as they do on YouTube, message boards, and on Twitter, which is smart if you want to be transparent and let people on reddit who casually Fisk you know that you have nothing to hide and have an online historical context (but stupid if you want to elude detection or don’t want me – or someone like me – to find you, actually).

Just in case this isn’t obvious to you, part of listening includes reading threads and not just clicking through to the links. You need to read through all the comments, all the nested comments, all the internal dialogues and the OT (off topic) conversation. Most of the best intel that I have collected in the crisis work I neither confirm nor deny is deep in the conversation after a reddit submission has fermented for a while.

Once a comment thread really build some steam and folks pile in, people lose themselves and you can see people doing research, Fisking, checking facts, and lowering their guards. People really reveal themselves deep in the comments and you can really get to know, especially after the submission is stale enough to turn into a de facto place to chat, to compare notes and to do a little fencing for status, dueling for geek cred. It is here where you can learn more about community pecking order, status, intelligence, competence, context, what people do behind their anonymity, how old they are, where they’re from. This is where the community coalesces and builds, in the secondary and tertiary conversations – the chats you’ve ignored because they’re no longer really about the new Microsoft Surface – except they are. It is in these deep contests where young bucks can – and do – challenge the alphas for dominance. It is also where folks can work on their post count – places they can just chew the fat while positively effecting their reddit karma and reputation.

Let me explain in a way you’ll understand: you know how much you talk about frequent flier miles with your friends and how much of a pissing content you’re in with you workmates over what level you are with your respective airlines and hotels? Well, consider reddit Karma and message board post counts to be analogous to flier or hotel miles. And even though you spend most of your time drooling on yourself, looking like an idiot in your inflatable neck pillow, you fancy yourself a road warrior just because every mile you travel in the air at 600-miles-an-hour gets you closer to the hallowed “million mile club.” (Man, yuppies are lame!) Same thing with reddit (and most of the other contribution-based communities and platforms, including many of the top file-sharing sites).

Don’t worry, gaming post count is a open secret and people are pretty up-front about it. It is essential because when you play silly post count games such as “word association” you really really get to know how game folks are, how willing to be silly they can be, how tolerant people really are, and how well they play with others.

Here’s a new flash: company happy hours, lunches, dinners, and team-building exercises are not optional, they’re analogous to games meant to jack your post count. they’re stress-tests that your employers and those sneaky HR managers use to see if you belong – if you’ll ever make it to VP or partner, and if they actually like you. You can’t just blow them off because you really should be back with your toddlers and your loving wife and ailing mother. Those yearly trips to Vegas are as important as your yearly performance review – and your success and popularity – and discretion – at these (mostly) harmless events very much color your yearly reviews by either enhancing or diminishing them and what management is willing to turn a blind eye to or really obsess about. Remember that when you decide to take a winter holiday instead of attending your company’s Christmas party!

Well, the same is true for reddit and communities like it, both online, virtual, communities as well as in real life. When you’re wading in to the shallow end of the reddit pool, people are going to be judging you based on your swimwear, your fitness, your abs and how cute your butt is, like it or not. they’re going to haze you if you get a little deeper; and they’re going to be suspicious of you as you swim deeper, and they’ll jealous of you if you become more popular or prove yourself more useful or interesting.

Come on, if you’re over 30 you already know all of this stuff. Why don’t you think it maps exactly and perfectly the same way online. We in word-of-mouth constantly de-humanize the natural humanness of online communities, assuming that simple tricks of seduction and incentive – what’s in it for them – can trick thousands of people who are in a very real, albeit virtual, family. I made the same mistake when I dismissed the entirety of Second Life with a turn of my quill without thinking that maybe the heart of Second Life has nothing to do with their exceedingly heavy and mobile unfriendly-app and more to do with the beautiful universe of furries for whom Second Life is their real home. My bad. Never again.

Once you’ve checked your ego at the door – who you were in high school, what college you attended, how much you make, how hot your spouse is, and how good you look in skinny jeans – dive in. Just remember that nobody knows you in this, your new school. They don’t know how hot or successful, they’ll just know you don’t know the difference between they’re, there, and their, and they’ll crucify you for it.

I do recommend you don’t do three things:

  1. Don’t comment right away as this community has a lot of history and people all sort of know each other and until you get a little context, reserve your judgement to an up or down arrow for now).
  2. Avoid being sarcastic, snarky, or a troll until you have enough history and reputation – acceptance – that folks know you’re not a dick but just dry-witted or dickish-but-with-a-heart-of-gold
  3. Don’t start a fight you know you can’t win, meaning, no matter how good a case you have and no matter how correct you think you are, reddit is not rule of law it is mob rule – reddit is not (yet) your home so the locals are under no obligation to support you just because you have the evidence when their allegiance and loyalty is to their friends and family.

Oh, and final rule: prepare your armor and take nothing too seriously because any community that does not enforce real names, like Facebook does, tends to be pretty brutal since everyone has a veil of anonymity. You might very well be bullied mercilessly by the very 98-pound weakling you terrorized in high school. Just desserts is what I call it, but be forewarned and don’t forget to gird your loins before participating.

That said, what I recommend to everyone is spending more money on brand representatives and social media community managers than you do on technological solutions. Learn from the CIA, the FBI, the NRO, the DIA, and the NSA: no matter how awesome your spy tech, you live or die on how many and how good are your analysts. The top online analysts are worth their weight in gold – don’t I know – and even the top big-data-munching-and-interpreting “carnivore” platforms need online analysts online to check for false-negatives, false-positive, and blindspots.

And, unlike monitoring and responding platforms, the longer you have worked with an online analyst, the better he or she is – be it in experience, corporate knowledge, or just because the best employees should be inexorably linked to your brand and surgically removing them can be the gut wound that never heals or it can result in a dangerous shift if (when) your (former) employee takes up with your competition, lending all of his or her equity – that was portable, after all – directly to your competitor. Whatever you believe, company-who-thinks-their-social-media-community-managers-are-fungible-assets, when you let a social media asset leave, get poached, or go, that person is leaving with 80% of the equity they developed while working with you. Are you ready to be 80% poorer as a result?

As an aside, deep infiltration is still going on, I am sure. In full disclosure, I participated in deep infiltration on behalf of many very high-profile clients from until I started my own company back in 2006. While there are many disclosure laws on the books and “everyone” has reformed, I can’t imagine that any of it had gone away. I am sure it has either submarined, distanced itself from the operators, or just expatriated itself to nations where this isn’t a thing.

The only reason why my past company, Abraham Harrison, or my new company, Social Ally, don’t do this sort of black ops thing is because we don’t need to because you really don’t need to be sneaky on social media – you don’t need to master NLP or have a nom de guerre or even wear a trench coat and disguise your voice with a synthesizer – you can just waltz right in, say hello to the owner or high priests, and tell them what you want and what’s in it for them.

But no, folks are still spending too much time listening to Bernays and Freud, assuming that American consumers are ever vigilant and informed and in order to sell them anything you need to come in nap of the earth, under radar, by the inky cover of the night in order to drop your paratrooper and payload. Advertising and PR has earned its reputation by constantly buying into better and better anti-radar and radio-jamming technology and not enough on proper diplomacy and diplomatic channels, that’s for sure. More money on our special forces than on our diplomatic corps.

Reddit’s a little bit like a unicorn: you’ll only see a unicorn – and make it to the front page of reddit — if you’re pure of heart. You can start by faking it ‘til you make it, but at the end of the day, most of the folks on reddit are smarter than you so being yourself is really the only way that this is ever going to work out for you if you ever want to become an influencer on reddit, so give it a go and let me know what happens.

Good luck, soldier!

How Flipboard is changing everything Tue, 17 Jul 2012 15:00:21 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Chris AbrahamI first told you that Pinterest redefined social media from being mostly text to being mostly photos, illustrations, graphics, and infographics.

Now, illustrating your content is not just preferable, it’s mandatory. Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have become much better at following links and automagically populating your shares with photos, videos, titles, and teasers (instead of just making your links hot); aggregator sites such as The Huffington Post and link-share and social bookmarking sites also spider the link, proffering a selection of images to choose from to be associated with each submission.

If your goal is to be shared or read and you’re participating in social media in order to further your personal or corporate brand, then blog, tweet, Facebook, Tumbl, and Posterous without illustrating that content with a photo, chart, illustration, pull-quote, logo, portrait, or infographic at your own peril.

I have sort of known this for years, especially since I share like crazy. I knew that digg and reddit always looked for an illustrative graphics file every time I would submit a link and I knew that Facebook and Twitter would even give me the option of choosing which photo would best define my thousand words — I knew that.

But it wasn’t until I heard that Flipboard had really grown up and matured to include Google+ and Instagram — as well as rich-content like in-line podcasts and videos — that I took another look and my hat blew off! And I bloody love it (and I get why you all have loved it forever, but I was very old school and did my reading via Google Reader on the web and Reeder on my iPhone).

Flipboard is an app for smart phones and tablets. Until recently, it only offered apps for iOS devices but it’s now Android-friendly. It takes all your own personal social media walls and streams and mashes them together with breaking news, sponsored content, topical content (you can choose from a dozen topics, including Fashion, Style, Design, Technology, Entertainment, etc), and my very mature and awesome collection of RSS news feeds via my Google Reader and reformats and displays them to look very much like an eBook or digital version of the New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, or whatnot — rife with illustrations, cover stories, pull quotes, and panoramic photos.

It is really mesmerizing. Now my Klout score is going through the roof because reading content from the 12k folks I follow on Twitter and the 4,800 I follow on Facebook and on Google+, and the thousands of feeds I have imported to Google Reeder is a morning breeze! I love it. I am engaging more, I am listening better, I am missing less, and I am generally entertained. I am finally doing what I said that you should do: listen 80% and talk 20% (who has the time, right?)

I have been paying attention to my reading habits, too. And I am drawn to pretty things: embedded video content, audio content, infographics, photos of pretty girls, photos in general, scenics — actually, I am almost only drawn to content that has an associated visual element.

It’s impossible not to be drawn to these rich-content posts because Flipboard always gives them at least a quarter of the page but often gives closer to 1/3 to half the page — even for content that is brief. A good, high-quality, high-resolution image always gets you better visibility as simple tweets or Facebook posts without a visual component always just gets pulled together into a list to the side, crushed together with all the other text-only tweets.

Links to other articles with visual content also works because Flipboard populates your Twitter RTs with the destination’s graphic elements as well as makes it simple to read that target content inline with the Flipbook app — very seamless and also very easy to share, retweet (so, in many way, the very best solution is to Facebook, tweet, and G+ longer-form content that, itself, is well-illustrated with photos, videos, infographics, or attractive people.

One piece of advice for all the jerks who only share content teasers on their magazines or blogs, requiring me to leave Google Reader or whatever reader I am using and head off to your site, you had better put that illustration at the top because if it is below the “more” link, it won’t be of much benefit to sites like Flipboard and the other aggregators — though I hate that tactic, I understand that you have an ad revenue model and that you really would love to control the conversation a little bit more and maybe get some new readers and maybe a few comments — I get it, I get it. That said, heed my words and make sure there’s at least one photo of Lindsay Lohan before the “click to read more” link — otherwise, you’ll not only lose me but quite a few others — who can resist good dirt on Miss Lindsay?

Since I am trying to relate to my friends on Flipboard, I try to slow down and read the naked tweets and Facebook posts that are just lonely, lonely, 140-character blobs — but if I were less in love with my friends, I would really just blow all of those off and, instead, just dance around the colorful expanse of the nicer, kinder, prettier world of the illustrated web.

Mind you, that’s just me — but I tend to do all of my best cultural extrapolation with just the one data point: me. Even so, if you really want to draw the attention (and clicks through, reads, Likes, stars, favorites, retweets and shares) from your readers, use a picture.

Your social media plan needs to shut up and start listening Thu, 28 Jun 2012 12:00:15 +0000 Continue reading ]]> AbrahamI know you. You’re spending all of your social media marketing budget on promoting your brand, products, and services; that’s fine except you’ve either forgotten — or never knew — that social media is a two-way street. It is.

And, something you also didn’t know: social media is two-thirds defense and monitoring — listening — and only one-third promotion and publicity — speaking. Most marketing folks not only don’t get PR but they revile it; sadly, this is what social media is, no matter what you call it: public relations, all aspects of it: publicity, of course, but also crisis management!

A social media crisis almost always begins as a customer support call and generally escalates slowly and then exponentially, generally because a customer doesn’t feel heard, doesn’t feel responded to, doesn’t feel appreciate, or doesn’t feel respected. And the truth generally has nothing to do with any of those things (at first) though both sides can easily become very heated.

The truth most often has more to do with “not hearing the knock at the door,” “not hearing the phone ring,” — not noticing they’re there. And that Mr. Nobody, that real nowhere man, need not be a sniping, paranoid, lonely, nebbish, either. That person may very well be Chris-Frigging-Brogen himself!

Yesterday morning, Chris Brogan reported his terrible experience with NMTW Community Credit Union. Though now resolved, let me summarize: Chris lost track of an account at NMTW, one of his many bank accounts, which had drained and been empty or negative for only a couple weeks. NMTW automatically closes account after 15 days. Chris was a 20-year veteran of this bank and reached out via the info@ email and then took to Facebook.

You lost a 20-year member today. I emailed your info@ email address to forward the reason why to your president. Wishing you better in the future.

Long and short of it, he received a form mail:

NMTW takes pride in its member service and we strive to add value to everyone’s day. We regret that in your situation we were unable to assist you any further at the time of your branch visit. NMTW would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention and in doing so will prevent similar events in the future.

At first, Chris sent an email to the company using the only email he could find; then he reached out, gently, using the only other point of contact he had with his favorite community credit union, NMTW, because it mattered to him. Finally, a response! But not a response to his terse Facebook wall post, a copy-and-paste form response (rule one, never copy-and-paste responses, ever).

I didn’t ask Chris but I bet you he was pretty bemused by everything up to this point, though indignation has probably been building. What got him was the fact that the Facebook response was out of sync with what Chris wrote on Facebook — was completely deaf to his comment — but that he was shut down. That his comment reached a dead end.

What Chris expected — demanded — (and what I demand as well) is that Chris’ and my ping via email, form, Facebook, or Twitter actually goes somewhere. And, in this case, Chris was completely explicit as to where, “forward the reason why to your president.” He expected, rightly, that there was a direct path — a stovepipe — that runs from the social media dashboard that NMTW uses in their Social Media Command Center directly all the way up to El Presidente. Rightfully so.

Everyone who consumes social media expects that. We have been trained to. We don’t expect that when we call an 800 customer support line, but we do expect satisfaction when there — or can be — witnesses. On a phone, tarring-and-feathering and stocks in the village square aren’t even worth it, but on Facebook and Twitter, there’s nothing to lose. Every altercation can be a bona fide “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” moment!

So, if you’re going to dance with devil — with social media, naked and covered with tar and feather in stocks at the very center of the village square, you had better spend at least two-thirds of your time, resources, and respect making sure you’re not missing very important conversations — listening — while you’re spending way too much of your time pitching, selling, marketing, promoting, hawking — speaking — like some itinerant peddler.

You’re better than that. Right?

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Don’t roll your eyes at social media influencers Tue, 12 Jun 2012 13:00:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Why insincerity doesn’t work in PR, sales, marketing & online media

Chris AbrahamI experience a lot of contempt for bloggers and social media influencers. From agencies and marketing firms as well as from self-professed social media experts and social media gurus. Bloggers and other social media online influencers may not know who Edward Bernays is or have the lingua franca of a trained communications professional, but they sure can spot the eye roll of condescension and contempt from a mile away, even through the terse messaging of a single pitch.

While the biggest brands with the biggest gifts and social cachet can get away with being douche bags and intolerable asses because the level of peer and personal prestige and importance more than compensate for bad manners, rudeness, and a condescending manner — the proverbial upturned nose and eye roll — this sort of behavior isn’t acceptable from anyone but the crown king and queen of their particular demographic.

For example, if you’re offering cars, purses, trips to bloggers to review, you can act as you like; if you’re offering coupons, you had better really try to understand that it is relationships, kindness, attention, and connections that is selling your pitch — and the blogger’s valuable-to-her time — instead of your patently insulting suggestion that “you and your readers would really benefit from this dollar-off coupon.”

If you think that bloggers are actually failed journalists, you may have contempt for your audience; if you consider the time spent to become a blogger would be better spent “working,” you may have contempt for your audience. If you believe that what bloggers do is “just prattle on,” you may have contempt for your audience; and if you actively play favorites and only engage with the crème de la crème of bloggers, you may have contempt for your audience.

Why it’s important to be generous for its own sake

This contempt is made plain by two variations of a quote attributed to Henry Louis Mencken: “No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby” and “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

This blog post came to a head upon reading the time-honored and often-reviled book by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People. At first blush, it is a deeply troubling and kiddie-pool-shallow indictment of all that is superficial and manipulative about sales, marketing, PR, and social networking.

If you gird your loins, however, and push through, I kick myself for not having studied it further. I will admit that I always get to where it really sounds like Dale is suggesting that we superior elite who are reading his book need to learn to manifest the same sort of compassion, patience, and calm — grace — that we generally reserve for children and the infirm.

And then I realized that that is indeed what Dale Carnegie is saying! But that we should not just reserve compassion, empathy, gentleness, love, patience, attention, and kindness to just children, we should lavish anyone and everyone in our lives with adoration, no matter if that person is one’s child, one’s wife, one’s business associate, or one’s prospect.

What he seems to be suggesting — and this is really revolutionary to see laid out through endless illustration and scenarios taken from history’s greatest and most successful men and women — is that being nice, generous, and friendly should be something one aspires to generally and not just as a ploy to make friends and influence people.

While this book may well have been popularly reflected as insincere, insincerity is what doesn’t work in PR, sales, marketing, and especially in earned media online with bloggers and other online influencers.

Some good advice that Dale Carnegie offers is “bait your hook for the fish you want to catch rather than for yourself.” (OK, if you’re rolling your eyes now and thinking, “pearls to swine” right now, get out of the business immediately and get into a profession that better tolerates insufferable snobs and douche nozzles.)

I have been saying this forever based on what I read years ago in a very popular book of the day called Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray: “You need to give the gift your partner wants instead of the gift you want to give.” Great advice for us men who are constantly giving vacuum cleaners to our significant others for Valentine’s Day instead of a romantic weekend at a bed and breakfast or whatever may well indicate love and appreciation to her or him.

People will put up with assholes if the reward outweighs the shame

And on the topic of appreciation, Dale Carnegie addresses this, too. And you need to be obsessed with it. Too often in earned media engagement, agencies and firms keep up appearances until a media mention is acquired and then see ya! The fire-and-forget method of acquiring social media mentions works if the brand is high prestige but appreciation goes a long way toward making up for not offering the blogger an Audi A8 to test drive for a month instead of just providing a limited-time-offer coupon for sessions at a regional day spa.

Dale does address this, and I will paraphrase: People will put up with assholes if the reward outweighs the shame. Your boss can be an asshole because he can fire you; the king can be an asshole because he can make you a knight; the judge can be an asshole because he can incarcerate you and instantly turn you into a felon.

The limits to what signifies paid or sponsored media and content

Earned media marketers are pretty vulnerable in this regard! We’re not paying anyone anything. Sometimes we’ll offer a review copy or product, but we’re professionally limited in terms of what signifies paid or sponsored media and content. We have to rely on our wits and of our general, natural, and effortless love, appreciation, and respect for social media, social influence, citizen journalism, and the power of blogging.

And while I think you either have that respect, maybe because you are, yourself, a blogger or social media content producer, I do believe you can fake it ’til you make it. (I have been blogging since 1999 and have been in social media since they were called bulletin board systems and required 1200 baud modems.) But you need to make it, you can’t just grin and bear it because you’re not having fun. If you don’t love love love chatting and interacting with the unwashed masses, the hoi polloi, the vox populi of online influencers — no matter how little influence — then you’re screwed and this whole blogger outreach thing will end up blowing up in your face and you will hurt your reputation, your agency, and the reputation of your client.

Primum non nocere.

Do you have contempt for your audience?

Oh, actually, now that I think about it, if you think fancy bloggers are the unwashed masses, the hoi polloi, the vox populi, you may have contempt for your audience.

And don’t forget, you’re doing noble work. Most bloggers are writing their blogs without any feedback, appreciation, or love. Most bloggers are writing in a vacuum and are generally a couple posts away from hanging it all up, no matter how much work they have already put in. There’s a constant desperation as to why one spends all this time writing, writing, writing into the infinite blogosphere. Getting a pitch from anyone, to say nothing of Kimberly-Clark, Mizuno, US Olympic Committee, or Habitat for Humanity is huge! To be tapped from on-high and asked, authentically, to help and to share, can be the kind of affirmation that fuels that blogger to redouble his or her efforts.

Most bloggers have never been pitched, tapped, or kissed and are pretty lonely

In my experience, most bloggers have never been pitched, tapped, or kissed and are pretty lonely. To read what folks say inside our marketing bubble, bloggers are being pitched to the point of blindness and deafness. Why is this true? Well, because the top-100 blogs are, surely, but that’s 0.000002% of all bloggers. So, that’s like saying that all entertainers are being stalked by paparazzi just because 100 top celebrities are constantly being dogged by TMZ, Us Weekly, OK!, and Star. It’s ludicrous. The top-1,000 influencers of social media, be it blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, MySpace, Instagram, Google+, etc., is no indicator of the norm in social media.

Why do agencies only target the top 25 influencers appropriate to their clients in any particular campaign? Partially because these agents are over-worked and over-committed and there’s generally only enough time and budget to get a short way down their media contact lists. But really it’s because everyone has general contempt for anyone who isn’t already super-hot. While this is a no-brainer for Ford as it chooses folks to give Ford Fiestas to — cars surely get the attention of the hottest online celebs — it is a disastrous strategy for everyone else. Unless you’re Scott Monty, Ford’s awesome social media rock star (he is that good), you’ll generally get shot down if you ask the assumed prom queen — and only her — to the prom. You’ll generally get rejected if you’re not at least valedictorian of your class if you only apply to Yale and only Yale for college.

While Dale does talk a lot about how people aspire to be important — and that is indeed true because when a brand reaches down “from on high” and taps a blogger — especially newbie and baby bloggers — this is more often than not an essential sign of legitimacy and status rather than being a terrible inconvenience or SPAM. If you’re willing to ask someone out to prom who you really like, get on with, have chemistry with, you’re more likely to have an amazing prom with memories to last. And, if your date’s never been kissed before, you’ll forever be his or her first and never forgotten.

Every blogger and tweeter remembers their first time: when they were first contacted by a publicist who asked them for help, be it a good or bad experience. Every blogger with any level of success has loads of “dating” stories they can tell you about their good, bad, and ugly experiences with us PR and marketing executives.

Finally, to close, remember the words of Philo of Alexandria (or Plato) in the words that are chiseled in stone wherever I manage: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Be a persistent social media parent Mon, 11 Jun 2012 12:00:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sure and steady wins out over the long haul

Chris AbrahamThey always say that the parents who put in all the boring, taken-for-granted time are the very best. That it’s not even about quality time, it’s about persistent time, time spent.

I don’t want to compare parenting to social media community development and management, but I guess I just did. Folks tend to have the zeal of the newly converted when they first adopt social media into their communications, sales, and marketing plan. However, the truth of being a “parent” is that you’re responsible for the welfare of an entitled ingrate for not just the first 18-years but for life — and that can be dispiriting. Unless you love it; unless you’re passionate; unless you pace yourself; and unless you truly bond with your beloved. As I have said before, these are human relationships and as such, they require constant gardening. They say that true beauty exists in the flaws and not in the perfection and this is true as well when it comes to the consistency of your relationship with those with whom you’re connected online.

Back in the day, when the social mediasphere was smaller and more intimate — maybe just more new — bloggers would let folks know what was going on.

Bloggers would make sure their readership knew when they would be on vacation, why they took days off, and often would make sure guest bloggers would cover their time away with unique voices and interesting topics — in much the same way that TV and radio show hosts often find guest hosts when they’re on vacation.

Too many social media marketers don’t communicate with their readership in the sort of flawed, open, and honest voice that is more common in radio and on television.

We generally don’t have plan Bs, we generally assume that it really doesn’t matter if we’re there or not, and we often don’t recognize how startling and disorienting it is when your readers and followers and friends don’t really know what’s going on.

So, show your readers your beautiful flaws; let them know why you’re not going to be there next week; and especially let them know why you’ve been MIA for a bunch of weeks. I know it’s not ideal, but I have been really busy and distracted over the last few weeks so what I have decided to do on my blog, while I am not in my ideal blogging mode, is to temporarily convert my blog into a photo blog — a makeshift Tumblr.

While it isn’t ideal, surely, as I said, it is also much better than letting my 13-year-old blog go fallow, becoming yet another abandoned building in yet another social media ghost town. So, no matter what, be persistent — even if every day isn’t bubbling with The Best Day Ever, even if every post isn’t Pure Genius, and even if your blog spends some time being banal, obvious, derivative, and frankly dull. Because if you feel like every engagement online needs to be class A, four-star, Quality Time, then you’ll either burn yourself out and abandon all the work you’ve already done or you’ll end up freezing up with writer’s block and start hating social media, blogging, writing, and the whole ball of wax.

And since you’re now the parent of quite possibly a slew of babies — blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, et al. — then you had better prepare to be a good parent and put in the time for the long haul.

Why you, too, should be social media slutty Wed, 06 Jun 2012 13:01:11 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Are you plugged into new communities, interests and passions?

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn

Chris AbrahamIf you call yourself a social media marketer and you’re not completely promiscuous about it, you’re not serving yourself, your boss, or your clients. If you’re not constantly downloading new apps or registering for every single new social network, you’re slacking. If you don’t endlessly click YES when it asks you if you want to search for or invite your friends, you’re derelict in your duties. And if you aren’t hooked in to share everywhere whenever possible, you’re not going to understand how all of these connectors, sharing strategies, cross-posting techniques, check-in features, and general spaminess and shamelessness quotients work first hand.

How, then, would you be able to honestly either know about or recommend any of them? Unless you want to be a professional tweeter and Facebooker all your life, you had better know both what’s out there now as well as what’s coming down the pike.

This line of thinking has surfaced because I have gone crazy now that I have my iPhone. I have jumped in with both feet and have explored any and all passions and hobbies through apps and vertical communities. Since I am on a health kick, I have joined just about every social network that allows me to track my food intake, my activity, my workouts, my progress, my calorie burn, my running and biking routes, as well as my general movement and sleep patterns: fitbit, Runkeeper, LoseIt, MapMyRun, Strava, Endomondo, DailyMile, PolarPersonalTrainer, and Garmin Connect.

Each one tracks differently, each one enjoys a different segment of my followers as members, and each one touches me in ways that either pain or tickle me. And, for now, I am keeping them all fed and watered — a little easier because all but RunKeeper allow me to upload data directly from my Garmin Forerunner 305, so it’s not too hard.

And since I am the new owner of a motorcycle, I am the member of the Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum; and because I am a bouncing baby gun nut, I am a member of GlockTalk, Elsie Pea Forum, Rimfire Central, and the Virginia Gun Owners Forum. So, downloaded loads of forum-reader apps, saw how they share, saw how they allowed me to engaged, and decided upon Tapatalk.

That’s not all. After years and years, I have finally admitted to being a TV addict in addition to every other form of media, including books and movies, so I have joined GetGlue, Goodreads, TV Guide, yap.TV, and BuddyTV as a way of keeping track of shows and movies as well as being able to check in and comment and engage and track hashtags and mentions, and so forth.

Yes, in addition to checking in with Yelp and FourSquare in the physical world, I have even started checking in virtually when I am watching dumbass shit on TV such as 2 Broke Girls, Girls, Veep, Suburgatory, Grimm, et al.

And, whenever I have been given the opportunity to share to my Facebook or Twitter steam, I say YES. And whenever I am asked if I want to find friends who already on there or to even invite a massive amount of my friends via email, I surely do do that — to all of our chagrin. But I do it so I know and I do it so that I always know exactly what will happen if and when I recommend something like that to my clients.

Spend some time exploring new communities of action

What’s more, Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town. Nor are Google Plus and Pinterest. Or even Instagram. So, in order to make the best recommendation to your clients or to best access your target consumer and customer exactly where they live and spend their time, you need to be aware of all of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-tier communities in addition to the most obvious, most competitive, and most costly 1st tier platforms — both to participate in as well as to build partnerships, sponsorships, prizes, and other tie ins and opportunities. While you might be channeling IBM in that you’ll never get fired for choosing it, a Facebook Page-only campaign is pure laziness.

At a very elite conference years ago, I introduced myself as a syphilitic trucker on the social media highway. No, it’s not funny. Truckers are the No. 1 reason worldwide why heretofore isolated rural villages the globe over are getting sick with all kinds of sexually and socially transmitted diseases. Before, only single-tracks, rivers, and airfields — if anything — connected the most remote points on earth; now, a comprehensive spider web of roads and highways is allowing commerce to reach just about everywhere, both to bring in supplies but also to extract commodities and valuable natural resources.

While that sort of shameless behavior may well have made me quite a few enemies, I am generally patient zero when it comes to turning people on to new communities, new interests, new resources, and new passions. I can’t even tell you how many people are on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, and Twitter because of me; too many to count had been on MySpace and Friendster before that.

And I recommend you, too, really take the time and energy to get off of Tiny Wings for a little while and spend some time exploring these communities of action, circumstance, inquiry, interest, place, position, practice, and purpose yourself. You can’t be a competent advisor unless you’ve had first hand experience over time. So, go git ’em, Tiger!

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Your followers care about you, but do you care? Tue, 08 May 2012 15:00:55 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Chris AbrahamOver the course of a couple days last month, my Klout score went from 65 to 67 because my mother died. Not because I had some sort of amazing Klout-gaming strategy but because I have been honestly and openly sharing my grief at the sudden loss of my mother on Google+, Twitter, but mostly on Facebook. And the reason why my Klout spiked is because so many of my 47,000 followers on Twitter and my 4,800 friends on Facebook came to my emotional aid at my time of need.

And that’s because a good number of the people who I may oftentimes take for granted as being my follower count do, in fact, indeed, care about me, my life, and my happiness.

Not only that, but they’re watching and reading, and they’re paying attention — at least when it comes to things that are essential, important, and human.

And I am moved and amazed and feeling a little — a lot — unworthy of such an open and honest sharing of condolences. But, it is like a mirror, right? You received exactly what you put out there.

And even though I am “a bit of a douchebag” according to, I have never relegated social media‘s associated social networks to being simply a broadcasting channel. It has always been me, authentic as I can bear without invading others’ privacy.

Yes, my authenticity does include shameless self-promotion and client retweets and marketing and too much “me, me, me, me!” but that’s also very authentically me, too. Zits and all.

I guess that’s why I am only a bit of a douche.

So, for what it’s worth, while the vast majority of my social network empire on Facebook, Tumblr, my blogs, Posterous, Google+, and Twitter don’t pay any attention to my emotional pain or grief, a surprising number do; while a majority of my hordes and legions of followers and friends are just connecting with me in order to talk talk talk talk talk, enough read and watch and “listen” that if there is such a thing as Purgatory that my mum might have needed to get sprung from through prayer, I can guarantee that the amazingly generous outpouring of condolences, prayers, and love for both my mother and me during this time has more than prayed her out and into her Heaven with her Saints, her Lord, and her Lady (so, thanks for that, y’all).

Anyway, I just want to bring some humanity to all of this — but I guess it is all along the same lines of my last post, Don’t Roll Your Eyes at Social Media Influencers, which suggests that behind every “how to manipulate people into buying your stuff and loving you and following you” shortcut, there needs to be something honest and open — authentic — behind it.

It also means that when and if you join social media in a big way as a brand, as a company, as a person who is part of sales, promotion, marketing, or public relations, you need to figure out what your boundaries are and you need to break a bunch of them; you need to go as far as you can in terms of sharing of yourself — and not BS sharing like what you’re having for lunch or FourSquare check-ins at your gym — and then go a little further.

In social media, you will always be rewarded by giving ’til it hurts.

In DC, they like to say “the only things that are in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead aardvarks.” Being too politically neutral doesn’t allow people to like you, though it prevents people from hating you, too.

Too many of us in social media — and especially in digital PR and marketing — play it safe, following the “people in polite society did not talk about politics, religion, sex, or money in public.”

That leaves the weather and the holidays you’ve taken or plan to take and what you did over the weekend, maybe — and, of course, what you’re having for lunch. And social media is littered with that.

And, you can also hide behind retweets, allowing yourself the safety of being bold and brave behind a the plausible deniability of the words you retweet not being your own.

So, though I protected my mother’s privacy — her diagnosis, her sickness, her treatment, her hospital stay — to the end, when she passed, I made a decision to share my loss with everyone within the “sound of my voice” and influence.

I know, I am indeed an operator in many ways and have become maybe too careful and guarded since I do represent clients and so forth, I can tell that I have been trying to pass off easy, simple, superficial things as intimate. That I have been trying to push fast food as real nutrition.

I am grateful and amazed that I have not completely alienated all of my followers and friends in social media — that my voice has not been bozo-filtered, muted, unfollowed, blocked, and defriended by everyone.

But it also reminds me in a very powerful and mortal way that social media is not just strategy or tactic, that social media and all the social networks and platforms are the beautiful and meaningful culmination of men, women, and children — people — engaging with each other in often frivolous and superficial ways but sometimes in very human and powerful — loving — ways.

And I am desperately grateful to have experienced that first-hand.

Thank you.