Misdirected Red Cross Tweet Turns into Social Media Lesson

Red Cross Twitter ResponsesThis weekend at Podcamp Toronto, I had several conversations about being authentic and using your natural voice to engage with your friends or customers on social media platforms. I know that’s not exactly earth-shattering news or a new conversation, but a few people had not been following the example that I cited from the American Red Cross. Here’s a brief summary of the events.

On February 15, at 11:24pm, Gloria Huang, Social Media specialist for the American Red Cross thought she was tweeting to her personal Twitter account. Instead the message “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” was tweeted out to all the Red Cross’ 200,000 plus Twitter followers. Anyone who uses a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite (like Gloria was) to manage their personal and corporate social media accounts knows how easily this could happen simply by selecting the wrong account icon.

Within an hour the offending tweet had been deleted and Wendy Harman, Social Media Director for the Red Cross provided a this response on Twitter.

“We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”

Harmon expanded her response on the Red Cross Blog

“In the meantime we found so many of you to be sympathetic and understanding.  While we’re a 130 year old humanitarian organization, we’re also made of up human beings. Thanks for not only getting that but for turning our faux pas into something good.”

“You immediately embraced this mix-up and many of you have pledged donations to the Red Cross”

While there may have been a few nasty replies to the error, the majority of responses were positive and supporting of Huang and the organization. Yes, she kept her job. By being open, human and consistently providing value through their social media outlets, the American Red Cross had built up considerable social capital with their followers.

That support quickly carried over to real life blood donations and support from both Hootsuite and Dogfish Beer and their fans.

PodCamp Toronto 2011: Tips and Recommendations

A scene from Podcamp 2010, photo by EvaBlue

A scene from Podcamp 2010, photo by EvaBlue

With over 1400 digital media professionals and enthusiasts registered for PodCamp Toronto 2011, things are going to be busy at the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson this weekend (that’s at the north-east corner of Gould & Church Streets for the non-downtown folk).

Weather and Traffic, Oh My!

According to the weather forecast we’re going to get a few centimeters of accumulation throughout the day. That means that the going may be slow on the highway coming in, so leave some extra time if you’re coming in from out of town.

If you were coming downtown (or up) on the Yonge-University TTC line, note that the subway is conveniently closed between Bloor and Union on both Saturday and Sunday. They will have shuttle buses running, but those will be slow and crowded. Make alternate plans and give yourself extra time.

My Podcamp TO Tips

  • Arrive early and get registered, the tables open at 8:30
  • Plan your day in advance using the session schedule posted at the PodCamp Toronto site.
  • Know the official hashtag, it’s #pcto2011 .
  • Why not leave the laptop at home? Unless you’re presenting, or you really do have to catch up on work during breaks it’s going to be a pain and I really don’t need to see you playing Solitaire during a session.
  • Don’t be offended if your Twitter of Facebook friends don’t recognize you right away. Your postage stamp sized profile picture may not do you justice at all.
  • Do write your twitter name in large letters on your badge. Add flare or glitter is you have it.
  • Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to your Twitter and Facebook friends in person. Capture the moment with an awkward photo.
  • Make your lunch plans in advance – nothing sucks more than spending two thirds of your lunch break standing in line. Also, friends don’t let friends eat alone.
  • Don’t talk through the sessions. If you are not getting something out of the session you are in, use the ‘Law of Two Feet’, leave and find something else that interests you.
  • Don’t complain that there are no sessions suited to your interests. Create a session, find some folks and start a discussion.
  • Make sure you thank your hard-working Podcamp Toronto organizers in person, this is what they look like.

What are your tips for a fun, stress-free Podcamp?

Sessions I Will Try to Attend

These are the sessions throughout Saturday that interest me the most.

First choice: Agency Panel: How the rise of social media changed their disciplines
Second choice: Empowering Social Support Communities

First choice: “I’m Famous on the Internet” : How to Turn a Stupid Idea Into 15 Minutes of Fame
Second choice: Crowdsourcing Tech for Social Good & Crisis Response

First choice: The Importance of Core Messaging
Second choice: The Internet is Not Made of Hugs

First choice: Psychology of Websites and Social Media Campaigns
Second Choice: Community Management or Complaints Department

First choice: Copyright, Trademarks & Social Media
Second Choice: Design for Evil

First choice: Redefining our Relationship with Government: Are Gov 2.0 & Open Data Stalling
Second Choice: What Price Integrity?

First choice: Social Media Trends for Business in 2011

What sessions are you looking forward to?

Photo by EvaBlue

Instagram’s Success Lures Brands into the Picture

Instagram: NPR, Starbucks, Levi's BraziliPhone app Instagram is one of the hottest tech properties out there right now despite its lack of a traditional web presence. It does display a page images shared by its users on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr. Virtually all the interaction takes place in the iOS-only app, where users stylize their own photos and follow the stream of others.

The application was launched in the early fall of 2010 by Kevin Systrom of Burbn, Inc. and became an instant hit gaining over 100,000 users in just it’s first week. In late December that user number grew to 1 million, and by last week (Feb 14) that figure has doubled to 2 million users.

Instagram is a simple application, you take a picture using the camera phone or select an existing one from your library. Next, you select one of its 12 retro-look  filters, then share it to your Instagram followers as well as to Twitter or Facebook if you choose. You can follow the shared images of other Instragram users, adding likes and comments as you go.

Here are examples of how brands and news services have started to explore ways to use Instagram to enhance their own photo sharing, or to solicit photos from users for contests.

  • Levi’s Brasil are sharing imagery of their new products line.
  • NH Hotels are hosting a contest asking consumers to share Instragram images on Twitter with the hashtag #WakeUpPics.
  • CNN iReport and NPR are supplementing their existing news with Instagram and are getting comments and dozens and ‘likes’ on each photo they share.
  • Starbucks is sharing images of products and asking followers opinions of new store signage ideas.
  • Brisk is crowdsourcing an Instagram photo shared with the hashtag #briskpics to appear on a new can to be introduced at SXSW.

So,what are these brands and organizations hoping to achieve by using Instagram? In most cases they are simply dipping their toes and testing the waters by sharing a few photos here and there. However, NPR and CNN have built up large followings of 13,000 and 8000 respectively, and images frequently receive dozens of comments and likes. UPDATE: On February 24, Instagram announced a new real-time API that would allow developers to create new web applications and services from its user’s uploaded content.

It will interesting where Instagram goes from here. Similar apps like PicPlz and Hipstamatic are providing some competition plus a rumour is making the rounds that Facebook may add their own ‘retro-look’  filters to user’s photo albums. With big brands experimenting and a user base of 2 million and growing, the only way is forward. One hopes that Instragram will be able to maintain its simplicity as it grows.

As our digital cameras get more sophisticated, the more popular it becomes to make them look like they were taken in another era.

Checking In On Foursquare

FoursquareFoursquare is coming up on its second birthday March 11. I’m not sure what that equals out to in human years but in social networking platform years it means its high-time for this location-based company to grow up and make something useful out of itself. And while I’m at it, “hey, you kids stop ‘checking-in’ on my lawn”. Or, are we expecting too much from Foursquare, after all, have their social-media siblings YouTube, Facebook or Twitter truly figured it out yet?

Foursquare may actually be on the verge of ‘growing-up’, the big question is “What does it want to be?” In a recent interview with CNBC, CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley shared that the company has 6.5 million users (an increase from 100,000 a year ago) and 2 million check-ins each day, He said that they would be expanding  into 5 languages including Japanese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but with any metrics the big question is how many of those people are active users.

Foursquare: a platform for experimentation

If nothing else, Foursquare has become a platform for brands and their agencies to learn, explore and experiment with the concept of location-based marketing. Foursquare’s check-in leaderboards, mayorships and badges seem like gimmicks now more than ever. Marketers are looking for more mature and sustainable methods to attract customers through their doors and to maintain those relationships through loyalty programs which they can control. Foursquare will be challenged to find that ‘special something’ that provides a true value that its users can’t live without.

Will Foursquare check-ins ever become part of people’s behaviour as they move through their daily lives, or will businesses and their customers evolve to emerging technologies such as Near-Field Communications and Geofencing to provide location-based services such as autocheck-ins and mobile offers. I am checking-in to locations much more sporadically now.

Only 4% of online adults use location-based services

In a widely distributed report released in Nov, 2010 the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life project found that only 4% of online adults use location-based services and only 1% use these services to share their location with friends. The survey was completed before the release of Facebook Places so it will be interesting to see an update of these numbers later this year.

However, despite those low numbers there is no turning back now. Location will definitely be part of the mobile marketing mix moving forward. How will we be using location in 5 years?

It’s Complicated. Reuniting Ken & Barbie on Social Media

Ken and Barbie on Social MediaHonestly I had no idea that these two icons had even broken up. It turns out however, that Ken Carson and Barbie Roberts (yes, they did have last names) have been an on-and-off thing one since they first met in 1961. Things were not well at the Barbie dream house apparently. In fact, in 2004 Mattel issued a press release stating that they were going to spend some time apart, and as we all know it’s not true until the press release has been issued. According to the barbieandken.com website Barbie had actually started dating an Aussie surfer named Blaine.

Welcome Back

Now in 2011, on the 50th anniversary of the debut on the Ken doll, and after a triumphant return in Toy Story 3 he’s back and he’s looking to win Barbie’s heart again, and he’s looking to do it just in time Valentine’s Day.

Mattel has created a website at barbieandken.com where visitors are asked “Should Barbie take Ken back?”. Ken hopes that enough people say ‘Yes’ and that the Love-o-meter goes all the way to the ‘Soulmate’ status. Mattel has also created new profiles for Ken on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and are the inspiration behind a new reality series Genuine Ken, a Search for the Great American Boyfriend. Oh, by the way there is a new Sweet Talking Ken doll available in stores, with the striking look and physique which makes Justin Bieber look like the Incredible Hulk. (sorry Biebs)

The streams on the various platforms are a combination of promotion and cute interaction between the two characters. Ken leaves a tip on Foursquare as he reminisces about better times, “Barbie was a little afraid of heights, but I held her hand the entire time during our ferris wheel ride. A little kiss always helps calm the nerves.” Or we see Barbie tweet, “No better distraction for me during this whole @OfficialKen business than #NYFW. See you at the shows!”

Finding Barbie on Match.com


While the campaign is very clever there is one thing that pops out at me. First of all, who is this campaign aimed at? It certainly isn’t the young girls who would be playing with them. It seems to me that this is targeted at adult users of these social media platforms, which begins to make sense as these are the people that will be buying the dolls for their daughters, nieces or younger family members.

It turns out the dolls were already appearing in stores a week before Valentine’s Day in boxes emblazoned with the message ‘She Said Yes!’. It would have been fun to see coordinated events happening in stores on the Saturday morning prior to Valentine’s Day, providing discounts on the dolls to people who check in on Foursquare of Facebook Places. Encourage tweeting and Facebook status updates, as well as uploading and tagging photos from the events to their profiles on Facebook.

Seems, you can’t keep anything secret these days. Good luck Ken on sorting out the ‘It’s Complicated’ relationship status.

Update: It’s Valentine’s Day and Barbie did say Yes! To celebrate Ken and his Kentourage appeared at Toronto’s Union Station handing out pink roses in celebration of his new relationship status. The current campaign will run until March and there  is a plan for two more phases yet to go in 2011.

LinkedIn Debuts New Company Insider Widget on ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ List

LinkedIn Company InsiderLast fall LinkedIn announced its new Javascript platform that would allow LinkedIn content to be shared across the web in a similar manner as Facebook or Twitter.  This week saw the public debut of LinkedIn‘s new Company Insider widget on the CNNMoney website.  It’s being used to give readers of Fortune’s annual list of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For‘ a live look into the employees of each these companies.

A reader can instantly see how many members of a company have profiles on LinkedIn, as well as if they have direct or other level connections at the company already within their network. In addition a reader can view additional content such as new hires, promotions and changes at the company.  A reader interested in a company can click the follow button and not leave the site to subscribe to updates.

In addition the profile pages for each company in Fortune’s list also features a Facebook Social Plugin featuring the question “Is _______ a great company to work for, or what?”. Readers who are logged into Facebook can ‘Like’ the post as well as comment using their Facebook profile. The comment can then be shared back onto their profile.

Do you feel that including widgets as shown in this example helps to connect the social web together?

Are these good substitutes for regular company profiles and traditional commenting features?