Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thats All Folks! Day Twenty-Eight

This is quite literally The Last Post; cue funereal bugle music... So what did we learn en route?

#1 GUARD YOUR PERSONAL DATA. We all know the maxim about the proverbial free lunch - so why were we surprised that Facebook was selling on our personal data? We think twice about giving out personal information to the cashier in a shop, yet we vomit out information online. Not any more.
#2 IT'S THE WILD WEST OUT THERE. Three interviewees reported how this is all uncharted territory; no-one knows for sure what they are doing. It's a case of throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall to see how it sticks (or - more likely - falls).
#3 THE COROLLARY OF #2; THERE IS A WONDERFUL SPIRIT OF SHARING. It's a good time to join in the fun. The situation was aptly described as Frontier Land. Thankfully, there's stacks of info online. Don't suffer in silence. If you hit a technical snafu, then google it and join an online forum.
#4 DO ONE THING WELL. You have to spend a fair amount of time nursing the baby. You have to love what you're writing about day in day out (our 28-day blog started out as daily posts -- but slowed down when we hit the high teens...) As one marketeer advises, pick a single social media platform and devote yourself to doing that well.
#5 MAPPING A BRAND'S 'NOISE' IS THE FUTURE. Far and away, the most interesting activity we encountered was the concept of brand mapping. By identifying influencers who blog or tweet and mapping their connections/followers/discussion topics, companies can see what is being said about their brand or company in cyberspace. B2C companies are even exploring how to direct this chatter. An example of this is Gatorade's control center. For the full scoop, see Mashable.com's story. It's all highly reminiscent of William Gibson's visionary SF novel "Pattern Recognition," where a commercial 'cool-hunter' identifies the interstices in the global matrix of information to tip off companies about what will be the next big thing.
# 6 READ MORE SCI FI LITERATURE - someone somewhere has already anticipated our future.
# 7 YOU CAN DO A LOT WITH FREEWARE.
# 8 CAN WE FIX IT...YES WE CAN. Remember that catchphrase?






We started off believing we were to blame if things go wrong. 28 days later, having endured multiple Twitter outages and danced around online forums and FAQs, we'll now assume it's a glitch in the product or service. How liberating.
#9 DON'T REINVENT THE WHEEL. It's like publishing an academic paper. Don't open your mouth until you've listened to the general conversation. Join related interest groups online and find out what's being said before sounding off yourself. This may enable you to capture an existing audience as opposed to building yours follower by follower.
#10 BLOGGING IS CATHARTIC. It's like publishing an interior monologue. Anyone seen Peep Show on BBC America? Remove the obscenities and that's what blogging resembles...but STEP BACK AND LET IT BREATHE FOR 24 HRS. Oxidization improves what you've written...

Now what? Well, we certainly achieved our goal in terms of gaining competence and confidence in social networking. We even felt sufficiently skilled to volunteer for a committee to promote a benefit for Reading Terminal Market using--guess what-- social networking techniques. (Seeing as we're doyennes now.)

We kind of like this immersion thing and are starting to mull over a few ideas for future 28 day blog research topics:

1. Gelato flavors
2. Spa treatments
3. The best sushi in town
4. Most luxurious hotel
5. Wine tasting
7. Cooking the perfect steak

Suggestions welcome......






Posted by: Claire and Keri

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dark Side of Social Media: Day Twenty-Seven




In general, we have focused on the positive potential of social media. As a business tool it offers tremendous opportunity if used creatively and correctly; see Day Four; Day Eighteen; and Day Twenty-Four. But are there other consequences to the proliferation of social media in our society? Research and observation say yes.

According to Susan Greenfield, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University, Social Networking is changing children's brains. This is not a change for the better. Her research shows that children who are active in social media risk shorter attention spans, a need for immediate gratification, lack of empathy and loss of personal identity.

From our own personal observations, we are seeing self-promotion becoming paramount to substance. Consider Tyra Banks on The Tyra Show. We squirm at the flagrant exhibitionism but she's certainly got an audience. We see kids like our daughters taking endless pictures of themselves and each other, recording their adventures, mundane though they be, for later enjoyment. There's a profound metaphysical shift in the way we interact and experience the world--a fragmentation of personality--Greenfield confirms this in the article cited above. We seem to have taken the position of an outsider looking in (spectator ab extra) who distances herself from the action and yet comments readily on it. Social media encourages this, but it's mastubatory. In addition to projecting a persona, real or idealized, we are also, in a sense, consuming ourselves.

Regardless of the neurological and sociological consequences, however, social media are here to stay.


Rather than becoming a Luddite, or worse, making it the forbidden fruit that your children will pursue in secret with possibly disastrous consequences, employ safe, family friendly strategies to introduce your kids into this world. Sites like Togetherville and Club Penguin are good entry level social networks that are geared to the younger set.


Speaking of forbidden fruit, marriage counselors report that Facebook is a factor in 20% of the divorce petitions filed in 2009. Relationship advice is not something we are here to dispense but clearly the ease of interacting on Facebook makes infidelity, at least in the emotional sense, a little too convenient, seeing as shaved legs, lipstick, the buying of drinks and opening of doors are not required. If you find yourself spending more time in cyber flirtation than with your significant other, please take a long hard look at both. Signing off now to go say hello to my hubby.

Posted by: Keri and Claire

Friday, June 25, 2010

Social Media Revolution, Some Flabbergasting Facts: Day Twenty-Six

When we started this blog, we aimed at achieving a semblance of competence with social networking and determining whether it had applications beyond keeping in touch with friends and family. If I am to be totally candid, we also viewed the concept with some skepticism: lonely housewives facebooking about their grocery lists and harmlessly or not so harmlessly flirting with old flames; stargazing wannabes monitoring how many crunches Ashton Kutcher does at the gym today; maybe a few uber techie businesses utilizing it for online sales.



Whether we achieved a level of competence depends on how you define competence, but we are certainly more comfortable and confident than we were on Day One. As far as the applications of social media beyond showcasing vacation photos, well, the sky's really the limit. Without overstating it, we are in the midst of a revolution.

Consider:

--1/8 of couples that married in the US in 2008 met via social networking.

--There are over currently 200,000,000 blogs on the web (with all those choices, thank you for reading ours!). 54% of bloggers post and/or tweet daily.

--YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and has surpassed online porn as the most popular web activity. (That's good news, right?)

--With an estimated 400,000,000 users, if Facebook were a country it would be the 4th largest in the world.

--96% of Generation Y is currently engaged in social networking activity.

--80% of companies now use LinkedIn as their primary source of prospective employees.

--35% of Amazon.com's sales are now for Kindle products.

--1/6 of higher education classes are currently taken online.

Thank you socialnomics.net for those staggering stats.

And here's another one:


--24 hours worth of video is uploaded every hour onto YouTube. But who is watching all of that stuff? Apparently we are. In 2009, online video viewing increased a shocking 53%! Don't throw your plasma screen out to salvage yet, but as Hulu and YouTube soar in popularity, there may come a day when television is obsolete.
Thank you mashable.com.




Posted by: Keri

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Facebook for Grown Ups (actually it's called Ning): Day Twenty-Five



  • Got a website? Check box.

  • Are you represented on LinkedIn? (The online white pages of Business today.) Check.

  • Are you posting stuff on your Facebook page? Check

Ahhhh, but do you have a custom professional network -- a hub that's exclusive to your own members..? Thought not; few companies do. The global association of 100 Women in Hedge Funds Foundation, however, does, and it's called Connect, http://connect.100whf.org/

Why did they head along this route? Why add yet another networking tool to the ever lengthening laundry list of one's professional and Social Media responsibilities?

"We looked at both Facebook and LinkedIn. But Facebook seemed too social - best used for connecting with family and friends - and LinkedIn seemed flat," remarked Mindy Posoff of the influential professional body for women in hedge funds a.k.a 100 Women in Hedge Funds (actually make that 10,000 women worldwide).


Rapid global expansion drove this association to ponder how best to formalize and nurture the relationships between their members and create a professional networking forum representative of their diverse activities.


In a typical week, these activities might range from:



  • hosting a financial affairs summit in Toronto,

  • to distributing a webcast interview with a hedge fund superstar,

  • or encouraging participation in one of the Foundations many philanthropic activities.

As Posoff explained, they wanted a Facebook-like experience whereby they could keep members informed, involved and share their professional know-how.


Of their 10k membership, 3000 have to date joined this social ampitheater. Joining has been deliberately layered; "we didn't want the website crashing before we'd tested it out, said Posoff. All roads lead to Connect though; look for 100 Women in Hedge Funds on Facebook, LinkedIn and you'll find big red arrows directing you to join their organization and the connect network -- that is, if you meet the professional criteria.


How well patronized is this networking hub?


"We know we have a lot of members who use the site for content and connections. But our membership is pretty cautious about expressing their opinions in online forums as this is a professional association. We know there's lots of activity though...One woman was attending a conference in another city and she wanted to organize an important meeting there. She didn't know the city that well and so she posted a query asking other members for advice. Several women jumped in and offered suggestions, based on their first-hand experience. We also use an analytics tool to find out what our members are most interested in. The content, the event and the jobs section are extremely active. We know as we continue to have ongoing unique visitors to those areas on the site.”

For more information on 100 Women in Hedge Funds go to http://www.100womeninhedgefunds.org/ To find out more about the Ning social networking platform, (catchy name, not...), hop over to http://www.ning.com/

Posted by Claire

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Food For Thought: Day Twenty-Four




We found a great example of a business using social media skills brilliantly, and it's in a field that is not typically known for networking of this flavor. Green Aisle Grocery, a small, organic gourmet food purveyor in a hipster up and coming neighborhood of South Philly, has developed a business model that rivals the proverbial sliced bread (which, in their case would be made from locally grown grains in small batches by artisan bakers). The part of the model that interests us (besides the amazing inventory that tempts these two foodies sorely) is the innovative approach to moving their merchandise, much of which has a very short shelf life. It seems so obvious now....immediacy is key, so Green Aisle Grocery Tweets. They have over 700 followers, and these followers are engaged, active participants in Green Aisle's operation.

Tweets keep customers apprised of the newest, the freshest, the most precious, the limited supplies and the promotions that are on offer all day every day. Recent tweets announced a special sale on milk, as well as a delivery of Berks County raspberries, first of the season, and what to look forward in the produce section on Friday (zucchini blossoms!). Frequently they get their hands on something really special from a local chef--Zahav's hummos anyone? They tweet it, and plugged-in foodies scramble to Passyunk Ave in the hopes of getting their hands on a gustatory gem.

In addition to the clever use of Twitter, Green Aisle's dynamic website showcases their inventory, keeps customers updated on supplies of specific items, features frequent plats du jour recipes that utlize the recently arrived merchandise--garlic ramps or merguez sausage, say. This creates desire and demand, and helps their followers discover new and delicious ways to consume their offerings.

I had dinner with two seasoned vets on Philly's food scene last night and described this place. They were both aghast and characterized Green Aisle's approach as "sheer genius."

Now I'm off to buy some of this chocolate cherry candied almond cookie dough before they run out. Bon Appetit!
Posted by: Keri

Friday, June 18, 2010

More on Blogging (or Moron Blogging): Day Twenty-Three

Having jumped into the pool, we continue to paddle our way around, occasionally sinking, but ever availing ourselves of the life rafts that surround us in the forms of online resources and local experts who are willing to be interviewed for the price of food and booze.



Recent searches have turned up some useful articles and suggestions:

Are You a Digital Slowpoke? 10 Ways to Catch Up. (Don't you love the title?)

Found lots of other interesting stuff on MarketingProfs.com

General consensus is that serious bloggers use Wordpress. While I may aspire to such heights eventually, I will think long and hard about abandoning blogger, where I have achieved a modicum of competence. Research indicates that Wordpress is less user friendly. Our experience supports this. We attempted a brief foray into Wordpress round about Day 13 thinking we might transfer this whole kit and kaboodle but were flummoxed at the starting block, so we pressed on with blogger. There are pros and cons to each platform, detailed here. Thank you hubpages.com.

Loved this list of "Awful Blogging Practices". (Gosh, I hope we've avoided them!) Here's the full article. Thank you 2createawebsite.com.

The Seven Deadly Sins.....



1. Lack of Focus--Think boutique, not Wal-Mart.

2. Impatience--Technorati says most top ranked blogs are at least three years old.

3. Social Bookmarking Overload--Don't crowd your template with these icons--most readers don't know what they are ignore them.

4. Overabundance of Ads--To generate income from a blog you must: 1) build useful content; 2) attract targeted traffic 3) monetize the traffic with ads and affiliate programs. Don't reverse the steps by posting ads first; Content is King and that's what will make your blog a success.

5. Ignoring Stats--To maximize traffic, you've got to crunch the numbers.




6. Ineffective Post Titles--Each post is a hook--you'll notice that we've nixed the practice of starting our post titles with "Day Twenty-Three"--because that tells you nothing and attracts no one.

7. Overly Formal Tone--Online writing is conversational, so adjust your style accordingly. Unless you are writing for the United Nations blog or some equally esteemed institution, lighten up, include your readers, encourage comments.

So comment, NOW, dammit!

Posted by: Keri

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shooting for the stars: Day Twenty-two



Fromdopestodoyennes.com - not exactly a giant leap for Mankind...But definitely some not so small steps for us.



It's difficult to apply the classic marketing rules of engagement to our own situation. We're publishing a not-for-profit, experimental blog; we're not selling anything to anyone. We're curious about Social Media and want to share our experience with others who are interested in taking small steps in the same direction. But what if we were earnestly promoting our blog..? What should we be doing to increase visibility?

The Universe of Metatags, Key Phrases and Search 'Bots'
We gamely interrogated another friend (seduced to offer information in exchange for Keri's coconut brownies). This chocolate lover was -- in a previous incarnation -- also a web designer who learned about Internet marketing by promoting his own bricks and mortar business. We asked him to explain the mysteries of Google rankings. (We're still puzzled about why certain older days of our blogs continue to rank higher than more recent postings -- when everyone tells us that the search 'bots' like fresh content best.)

According to our source, metatags (i.e. the information that attracts the attention of search engines) comprise three levels of information:


  1. Title of your blog/site
  2. Keywords
  3. Description

The title of your blog is the most important source of information for the search engines. It needs to be relevant and reflect the content of your blog. Keywords have become incredibly sophisticated, and to get this right requires an ongoing military campaign. Our expert suggests that keywords are insufficient these days. Instead, he favors key phrases; a minimum of 2-3 words in a single phrase.

The (Internet) Space Race

To identify useful phrases for your own blog/website, he recommends typing the key phrase you are thinking of using into Google and then look at, say, the top 10 pages of results to understand the sites associated with this phrase. Then look at the source code for several of the top ranking sites and work out which key search terms they are using. (Sounds like industrial espionage this, but apparently, it's fair play as people jostle for pre-eminence in Google's rankings!) Google analytics is another useful source for identifying trends, however, as our insider confirms, yet again, this is an inexact science, a case of ongoing trial and error: "If anyone could really tell how Google ranks sites, what algorithms its search engines use, they could make millions." Another word of advice, make sure that you repeat your keywords and phrases in the body content of your blog. Apparently one of the things that the search engine looks for is relative relationships, that is, whether the key phrases you have flagged is supported by the actual content of your site.


A short digression while we revisit the issue of the naming of our blog... "It's one of the silliest names I've ever come across," confirms our source. "When you pick a name, keep two rules in mind; can you say it over the radio without having to spell it out? Is it three syllables or less?"

With only six more posts to write, we'd like to end on a cultural note and cite words of encouragement from a Victorian poem Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning.


"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for?"

Exactly.


If we hadn't come up with a silly name and started writing this silly blog we'd never have found out about any of this silly stuff.

Posted by Claire

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blogging Pratfalls and Resurrections: Day Twenty-One























The formatting of one of our posts was misbehaving today. We kept repeating the same action until we realized that something must be awry with the HTML coding. Bravely, we ventured into the "edit HTML" box of blogger.com and started the detective work. It was not as daunting as you might imagine; If you can master Sudoku, you can check code... Look for the patterns. Using this approach we scanned all the HTML code and found two lines of code had run on to each other - and noticed that the string of code didn't mirror what was written at the beginning of the text para. One deletion of a pointy bracket later, problem was solved.


As Blogger.com opines: "CODE IS POETRY." And that was one helluva poetic moment.

We also learned that video clips should be under two minutes. Oops--we've had a fair few well above that. Ok, ok, the following clip exceeds the requisite by 23 seconds, but it was hilarious, so we posted it anyway.






Lists are another untapped blog tool that we have largely ignored. People love lists, according to our blogging expert Carrie Rickey, and we have deprived our reading public of this popular device. To make up for that glaring omission, we offer you a list of lists:

1. The 10 Most Hated Foods
2. The 1000 Best Movies Ever Made
3. Books Banned in the United States
4. World's Wealthiest People
5. Most Popular Ice Cream Flavors
6. 7 Words You Can't Say on TV or Radio
7. Top 10 Wierd Anomolies in Medicine
8. Best and Worst Fashion Trends of All Time
9. 100 Most Popular Cocktail Recipes
10. 100 One-Hit Wonders

Finally, after our proud moment of shooting and posting a video clip, we learned from a tech-savvy 14 year old (the offspring of one of us) that Iphoto is not the preferred method to perform this task. Actual quote, "Duuhh, Mom. Of course you can do it in Iphoto, but Imovie is much better because you can edit it. I used it for my final history project, remember? If you want I can give you a lesson." So, we look forward to our upcoming lesson, and you can look forward to a cinematic tour de force, coming soon to a screen (very) near you. Well, if not a tour de force, at least some edited clips.

Posted by: Claire and Keri

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstasy: Day Twenty



Blogging can be influential, interesting, funny, informative, controversial, provocative. (It can also be frivolous, trivial, inane and pointless, but those don't interest us at all.)

Forget the wave of the future, it is the wave of the present. Like any power tool, though, it must be used with care.

Elizabeth Collins, an English teacher at a private girls' high school, did not blog with caution and was fired over a post she wrote. Although she did not mention her school or student by name, Collins, known to be the blog's author, criticized a student's presentation which did not meet the assignment criteria. Unfortunately for Collins, the student happened to be the child of a major donor to the school. So Collins clearly f&%$#@ with the wrong marine even if the kid was off base. The end result is another cautionary tale demonstrating that professional decorum, or at least some common sense, must be part of your social networking plan no matter what you do for a living.

So that's the agony.

Onto the ecstasy.

An increasing number of bloggers have ended up with book contracts and movie deals. That's right--they blog, build up a following, get noticed, pitch a book or script, and their already established platform catapults them. This trend is further detailed here. Thank you, More Magazine. We also found some great strategies on how to accomplish this here. Thank you, baekdal.com.


Witness the following success stories:

Biking Blogger Bags Book Deal

The Happiness Project

Julie and Julia

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lachs


Dooce.com



As an aspiring writer with an agent who is flogging my book proposal far and wide, I have learned that simply writing a clever, humorous and useful volume only part of the necessary package these days. Hence, my experimentation and immersion here, where I am gathering the wisdom and skill to meet these requirements. Stay tuned for bedazzling future blog which will make me a household name in the future.



Posted by: Keri

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blogging Wizardry: Day Nineteen

Wagging The End of Your Tale







As this elderly gentleman -- a.k.a. the Storytelling Wizard -- says, you need to know your destination, or ending, before you can set off on your journey. We two were pretty clueless before we started this blog, but in the process of researching and interviewing people with direct experience of this medium we have learned much. Friends have been generous with their time and ideas for future blogs.

The following collection of short YouTube videos feature NPRs Ira Glass, who offers some hard-hitting words about how failure is tied into success in online broadcasting, he stresses "the importance of abandoning crap," which is easier said than done, advising that out of every 6 stories followed, perhaps 1 will live up to your standards. "About a half to a third of everything we research...we kill...By killing, you make something else, even better, live." (Thanks to Dana for forwarding us this clip)

Flickgrrl Carrie Rickey, who has authored her own widely followed movie blog for many years, offered her formula for success, suggesting: "With blogs, you've got to let people get in and out quickly. They want to leave with a tidbit." (in an interview June 7th) "You want to take them places and show them the value-added. And people like videos, as long as they are under 2 minutes long." (Y-E-S, got something right; our magical storyteller comes in under 2 minutes)

Cue hasty departure, but not before Keri shows off her latest technical wizardry. Tra-la. A video clip.

video

Footnote from Keri (our kitchen cinematographer): Here's how we shot and posted the video clip--easier than we would have thought--and we fully recognize that there may be another way to do this but this method worked for us. NB: this applies to macs only.

1. Open Photo Booth. See alarming closeup of your face.
2. Click on the icon that looks like a filmstrip (remember those?).
3. Click the red button in the center of your photo booth screen to begin recording.
4. Click the square in the lower center of your photo booth screen to stop recording.
5. Click the email icon in the upper left and email the movie to yourself.
6. Open the email and save the attachment to your desktop or iphoto files.
7. Open blogger and click "add video".
8. Click "browse" and open your iphoto, desktop or document file where the clip is stored. Click on your new movie file.
9. Click "upload file" then "save".
10. Take a deep bow.


Posted by: Claire and Keri

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Twitter Tips And More from Sky Blue Events Entrepreneur: Day Eighteen



"Colored Engagement Rings--Love it or leave it?"




Do you care even...? You might not, but plenty of people do says Jennifer Grove, owner of Sky Blue Events and social media marketing maven.

Sky Blue Events relies 100% on Twitter and Blog Conversations to Generate Business. That's right, their advertising budget is $0. And they can barely keep up with the traffic.

Says Grove: "I spend at least 2 hours a day blogging and tweeting. And that's not enough. That enables me to look after the business that comes into me, but doesn't give me the time to go out and generate new business. I also have a marketing assistant who works on maintaining our relationships. Between us, we probably spend around 20 hours a week on social media."


Sky Blue Events has capitalized on the potential of social media in ways that traditional wedding and party planners have not. Their clients range from non-profits and boutiques to weddings and pan-national launches. When Grove hires a new employee, twitter following and facebook friend lists are a prime consideration. Applicants with small numbers need not apply. The customer base grows via virtual word of mouth recommendation--or word of keypad, as it seems to be nowadays. This seems impersonal, but it's not. Grove relies on a tried and trusted network of friends in ever widening circles.

A recent success story: Grove tweeted about Sugarcoma, a tasting tour of bakeries in Washington DC. Within twelve hours the tickets were gone, and there were clamors for more. A similar event is being planned in Baltimore--followers are requesting tickets even before a date and location(s) have been announced.

Grove's business model draws from the best elements of her professional experience and with 7 years of e-Commerce under her very fashionable belt, she is way ahead of the pack.

Her biggest challenge is maintaining the relationships. In the immediacy of today's communication, clients expect a prompt response. Sky Blue Events is fanatical about this. The two hours each morning we mentioned above? Item one on the daily agenda. Responses come within twenty-four hours or less--and even that can be a struggle for the team.


Jennifer shared her Top Twitter Tips:
  1. Strike a balance between personal presence and professional presence.

  2. Stay active; people will drop off if you're not entertaining and engaging.

  3. Seed keywords in tweets, that's how people find you: " wedding planning" or "engagement ring".

  4. Put a URL in tweets so people circle back to you.

  5. Link a blog to your tweets; ask people to retweet.

  6. Solicit opinions; people love to share theirs.

  7. Jump in with both feet.






Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Flickgrrl Shares her Thoughts on Blogging: Day Seventeen



We were lucky enough to score a meeting with The Philadelphia Inquirer's film critic and blogger extraordinaire Carrie Rickey who generously shared her observations on social media strategies and spaghetti.

Q: In interviewing our coterie of Social Media 'experts' one theme keeps repeating itself. It's all trial and error. Val at Plannerzone , described the situation aptly as "throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks." Do you think this is a fair description?


A: "I think it's more a case of throw the Spaghetti at the wall...and see what people eat. Some people like the Department Store approach, the aggregators, like The Huffington Post, while others like the boutique experience within the Department store, like flickgrrl

"Social media is transformational. It's like when the first radio came out in the 1920s. No-one knew how to monetize this, but they liked it because it was new and hip."


Is it a TARDIS (DR Who's Time Traveling Machine)? Is it an early refrigerator? Nope, it's one of the earliest commercial radios.


Q: How much time do you spend on blog posts?

A: "It depends, some take longer than others. For example...Clint Eastwood's 80th Birthday took several hours and significant research but Talking Dogs could be zapped out in 15 minutes."

Q: Do you use Facebook and how many followers do you have?

"Facebook is hugely important as a way to broaden and maintain my audience. I post under my real name Carrie Rickey and I have about 1200 followers. But also some of these followers will forward my posts to their friends, so word spreads that way.

"I always post my flickgrrl blog on facebook and usually put a question in the caption to that post, so people will comment. People like to give their opinions."

Q: What happens when you get to 5000 - the Facebook maximum?

A: "I've got a long way to go...The way I decide on who to friend is I generally friend people who have at least 10 other friends in common."

Q: Do you Twitter?

A: "No, and I know I should. Roger Ebert said I just MUST get on Twitter and I will have to shortly. Roger is so good at the apercu. He'll be leaving a movie review and come up with that quick one liner which is just hilarious. "

Q: What are your favorite blogs?

A The Atlantic Monthly. A movie blog called the self styled siren and A List of Things Thrown 5 Minutes Ago.


Thanks to Carrie for taking the time to share her insights about blogging. Kind readers, vote now...what's YOUR favorite blog? (besides this one, of course.)

Posted by: Keri and Claire


Monday, June 7, 2010

Going Viral with Lane Bryant: Day Sixteen

Have we gone from spaghetti to cheesecake and back again?



The recent contretemps between Lane Bryant and Fox/ABC networks demonstrated the tremendous power of social media.

Lane Bryant, clothier of plus-sized women, created a suggestive commercial showcasing their new lingerie line.

Fox and ABC refused to air it, deeming it too racy. Lane Bryant posted the controversy on their blog, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bloggers far and wide voiced their outrage, decrying the networks' unwillingness to show a scantily clad curvaceous woman on TV while they routinely broadcast skinny gals romping in their skivvies on other commercials, not to mention the skin they bare on regular programming. The video of the forbidden commercial went viral and, according to Advertising Age, was the #1 viewed clip on YouTube last week with well over 3 million hits.

What we would like to learn and, despite many attempts cannot, is how this happened. Was it a true grass-roots, organically grown campaign that legitimately voiced real people's opinions--essentially the spaghetti that did stick to the wall--or was it a brilliantly crafted strategy by the Lane Bryant ad execs who know that along with skin, righteous indignation sells?



The end result, of course, was that the networks gave in. The commercial was aired during the last ten minutes of American Idol, which is a primo timeslot, thus demonstrating the power of social media as an agent for change. Ok, ok, it didn't end world hunger or stop gun violence, but it has been called a victory for curvy women everywhere, a boon to the First Amendment, and proof that if enough people speak out, they can make a difference.

Some claim the whole saga was merely a publicity stunt by Lane Bryant to get more bang for their advertising buck.

What do YOU think?

Posted by: Keri

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day Fifteen: Search Engine Optimization (Insider Tricks)





The Spider and the Fly

A Poem by Mary Howitt



Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."

Search Engine Optimization is yet another one of those insider buzzwords that gets thrown around with gusto (SEO for short, if you're in the biz, apparently).

The more we read up on the subject, however, the more it comes across as a dark art; practized by a near secret society of search engine optimization "engineers," "consultants," and cognescenti. From a superficial reading of on-line resources, we have gleaned the following insights:

1. Get inside your visitor's head

In order to get your website or blog noticed, you must think like your visitor; you need to try and work out how they found you or other similar sites. Which keywords are your friends / customers / followers typing into Google in order to track you down? This wonderful piece of wisdom is explored at length on HubSpot's website - HubSpot is one of the Social Media Marketing specialists in this area - and their website is worth trawling for all things related to SEO marketing and other such pearls of wisdom.

An excellent starting point, again from the generous folks at http://www.hubspot.com/ is "The Shortest Tutorial Ever on SEO." Go play.

2. Enticing your visitor into the Pantry....

Said the Spider to the Fly,"Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"

Accepted wisdom suggests that your website or blog needs to have a 'landing page.' This is that page which looks like an empty form with lots of boxes to be completed. The goal of your website/blog is to draw your visitor onto this page so that they voluntarily offer you information which then enables you then to profile who they are and interact appropriately.

You'll recognize when you're on this page on a website because it's the point where the site asks you for your personal information name, your telephone number and email address and there is normally an open ended question asking you to clarify what you are seeking. [In order to get you to surrender your personal details, you have probably been offered a related freebie -- a free e-book, webinar, information about an event, for example.]
We came across this excellent insider's guide to improving your use of Google. You may think you know this stuff already, but again if you want to hone your understanding of how keywords work, it's worthwhile improving your own search skills. Prepare to be surprised at some of the easy-peasy ways you can search more effectively. For example, "define easy peasy" takes you to a dictionary definition of the word. If you just type in "easy peasy" then you'll get adverts for a new Linux operating system called by the same name.

Tired of desk research, we're just nipping off for lunch with a well-known Philly blogger who regularly gets tens of thousands of hits a month on her flickgrrl blog

Our goal is to find out what it takes to write a commercially successful blog.

Guessed who it is yet?







Posted by: Claire

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day Fourteen: Social Activism & Social Media


Driving in the city last night, we were stopped in our tracks by a political protest of some 200 or so protestors. As the protestors waved their placards ferociously, the commuters sat watching wearily. The traffic lights changed several times as the protestors' police escort effectively grid-locked Center City.

That same day, we were accosted in the street by beaming students on two separate occassions; on Chestnut Street we were assailed by the charity Doctors Without Borders, on Walnut by an environmental group. Clearly, the nicer weather has flushed out all those clipboard-wielding volunteers and activists who like to burn off calories while championing a worthy cause.

While not wishing to demean the beliefs of any of these groups of campaigners, it becomes interesting to speculate how much more they might achieve using social media.

Compare this protest in Center City, to the Facebook (FB) community's campaign to overturn Facebook's loosey-goosey* attitude to the privacy of personal data. By coming together en masse and agitating for change, using Facebook itself to spread the word, the FB community overturned the status quo in a remarkably short period of time.

A recent article in USA Today, (25th May) explored the nature of this phenomenon:




Twitter is "brewing a social revolution," says Jeff Pulver, a tech entrepreneur and founder of #140conf, an annual conference on all things Twitter. "Now it's about me the people, not we. Individuals have a voice like never before, and it's a voice that's connected to the world...during Haiti's disaster, everyone was tuned to the same channel, and it was called Twitter," he says.

As airlifts sped to Port-au-Prince, Pulver read a tweet from NBC reporter Ann Curry about a Doctors Without Borders relief flight that was unable to get clearance to land. Pulver re-tweeted that to his followers and immediately got a response from the U.S. Air Force saying, "We're on it."

The plane soon was able to land.

That's Twitter as a rallying point for social good, something co-founder Stone hopes will blossom. "Twitter is people emoting, and we would love to extend that to empathy," he says.

Nice thought.

If you've read to the end of this blog, your reward is yet another fascinating factoid. Loosey Goosey apparently comes from the slang African-American term "Loose as a Goose", which according to the Urban American Dictionary has a rather naughty meaning: the term seems relevant to FB, given the company's recklessness with other people's personal data...

Posted by: Claire

Day Thirteen: A Cautionary Tale



Last week, I committed a Facebook faux pas. I received a friend request from a woman whom I did not recognize so I declined it. I’ll call her Virginia G. Castorini, though that is not her real name. Turns out, it was my cousin and she was extremely miffed. Problem is, I know my cousin as Ginny Greene (again, not her real name), and had forgotten her recently acquired married surname. I was also unaware that she was using the extended version of her Christian name. I learned all of this via back channels after the fact, of course. When I tried to go back in and send Ginny a message to undo the damage I'd done, I couldn’t find her on Facebook.

Knowing my relatives, this will go down in history as “The Facebook Incident” and could easily cause a family rift if swift and decisive action is not taken. Since I failed to locate Ginny on FB (or Virginia, as she is apparently now known) I sent a direct message to her husband explaining the gaffe and issuing abject apologies accompanied by reasonable explanations. That was 25 hours ago. Given the immediacy of Facebook, I do not find the delay encouraging, alas. If a response does not arrive soon I shall have to break down and call her. (Oddly, I don't have her email address.)

So, Facebook requires caution. In the same way that we take privacy measures to protect ourselves from unscrupulous people, we must also take measures to avoid hurting others. We Dopes deem it better to leave a request unanswered than to commit a FB snub. But we readily admit that this is not a perfect solution and as we move closer to Doyenne status it will not fly. Presently we can plead cluelessness. For the uber-active FBers (some might call you cyber-sluts), you can invoke the 5000 friend maximum rule. But that only works if you are nearing the magic number.

We are eager to hear your thoughts on addressing this thorny problem, particluarly for the vast majority of FB users who fall between the Dopes and the 5000 Club. Please share your suggestions under the comments section below.


For help with the more serious and potentially dangerous side of FB, we found some useful resources for parents and teachers:

Stop cyberbullying



Posted by: Keri