Archive for “April, 2008”

Succeeding in Social Media – Submit Your Questions!

Tomorrow at 1 pm EDT I will be doing a web Q&A about social media for The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers. Here’s the official blurb,

In July, [SMG] became a major player in the fledgling social media industry after it was awarded a global contract from Ford Motor Co. to handle its online image and outreach. Her firm followed that up by landing German software giant SAP as a client.

On Friday, April 11, Ms. Fox will be here to discuss social media strategies, and what businesses need to do today to succeed in the world of Web 2.0.

If you are wondering whether your business should be using social media, what steps you need to take to use it effectively or what you need to watch out for, you can submit your questions here right now, and my answers will be posted here at 1 pm EDT Friday.

C’mon, join the conversation!

What is RSS?

Everyone is yammering about RSS, or Really Simple Syndication – is your website RSS-enabled? Do you subscribe to RSS feeds? Have you tried to get someone to explain RSS, and been totally baffled by the answer? (Which reminds me of a story I once heard Shel Holtz tell. Someone he knew was speaking at a conference and used the term RSS. He saw that about half the audience was confused, so started to explain what it was. After he was done, about eighty percent of the audience looked confused).

If you’re not entirely sure what RSS is and want to know why it’s so incredibly important and useful – check out this fine video from CommoncraftRSS, In Plain English:

Think Locally, Act Globally

Think Locally, act globally

[cross-posted from]

Raising funds for this year’s Terry Fox run or Pink Ribbon campaign is no longer limited to your door knocking abilities. From Facebook apps asking you to “chip in” to crowd-sourcing real-world solutions, the ability to tap the wealth and knowledge of your social network may just be the solution you’re looking for. Social media inverts the “old” mantra “think globally, act locally” and elevates it to a new world of potential. Think locally, act globally.

Welcome to the world of social responsibility, brought to you by the makers of results. You.

Here are a few examples of what can happen when social media meets philanthropy:

Idealist is a project from Action Without Borders, a non-profit organization founded in 1995. It’s a social network of individuals and organizations who exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.

Quick Stats: Population: 264 676, Nonprofit Jobs 8100, Volunteer opportunities 12 540, Organizations 74 219, Idealist Groups 656, Consultants 1008, Internships 1765, Programs 1709, People 140 029, Volunteers 75 436, Materials 7222, Speakers 3557, Events 684, Campaigns 589.


JustGiving provides fun and easy-to-use online fund raising tools to help ordinary people raise extraordinary amounts of money for causes they care about.

Quick Stats: 4 828 705 people have helped raise £252 669 650 for 4690 charities using JustGiving

chip in

Tell them what you’re collecting money for, how much you want to raise and when you need it by; embed the ChipIn Widget on your favorite web site or create your own ChipIn page at; let your social network (via Facebook, MySpace, Typepad, Netvibes, Blogger,, Tagworld, WordPress, Google, etc) contribute via ChipIn’s secure service; and lastly collect your donations via PayPal, direct deposit or cheque.

Quick Growth Stats (per month, average): $300K raised, 2000 events, 7500 contributors, 1700 new users.
Greedy or Needy
Greedy or Needy

Each week, this site’s parent company, Cambrian House, provides a $100 prize for the top ranked Greedy wish, and a $100 prize for the top ranked Needy wish.

Take heed of their warnings:

DO NOT USE the word DESERVE. It will turn your voters off faster than a naked man in an ice bath.”

Feeling empowered? Act.

Newtonian Physics Trump Online Campaigns

[cross-posted from]
the physics of social media

Hyperlinks may subvert hierarchies, information may flow freely and the tyranny of geography may be toppled by the Internet, but despite the marvels and wonders this communications tool affords us, it’s important to remember simple Newtonian physics are at play.

Newton’s First Law.
An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

This is doubly so when that object is someone’s behind, firmly at rest in a chair facing the computer.

The rate and ease at which ideas pass along the net give it the appearance of a frictionless medium. Bookmark, email, blog and tweet this idea and it will smoothly spread across the globe.

But transforming an idea to action, aye there’s the rub. That’s where the true mettle of an idea is tested. Few ideas have the momentum necessary to propagate onward, let alone push an individual out of their chair. Getting them out the door and into the streets? Best of luck to you.

Unless your idea attains significant velocity, or is of such weight and importance, do not expect the object at rest to do anything other than remain at rest.

Y’canna break the laws o’physics, Cap’n. Plan your approach knowing that you’re not getting that rump out of the comfy chair without a good push.

Can your goals be achieved through the propagation of an idea?

Every Creative Commons licensed work is an invitation to share that work. By passing along the work, you also spread the idea that the sharing of intellectual property can have value. You bring awareness of the Creative Commons and, along with it, the larger ideological issues that surround intellectual property and copyright.

Seth Godin talks a good deal about this in his book, The Idea Virus. Don’t worry about having to get up out of your chair. Seth has made a copy available for download, free of charge. In making his book free and available, he makes it all the more likely that you’ll divert your time and attention towards his ideas. The greater his ideas take root within the business culture, the greater the demand will be for his thoughts and opinions in future. Future book sales and consulting gigs made possible by the spread of an idea.

Can you defer, delegate or eliminate the need to physically move?

Getting folks to dedicate an afternoon towards making pies for bake sales in support of the local hospital is far more difficult than wresting a cheque out of their hand. Far easier, still, is allowing folks to make a one-click donation. Take Child’s Play, for example. Each December, the gaming community rallies to raise toys and cash for children’s hospitals around the world. The idea is quickly spread throughout the community by way of links, banners and badges. But the giving of toys is made easier still by way of wishlists on and cash donations via PayPal. Last year, they raised over $1.3 million.

And speaking of Amazon, has buying ever been easier? I log in and immediately find what I’m looking for. If I’m ready to buy, one-click and it’s on it’s way to me. If I’m not sure, reviews from other consumers help firm my decision or push me towards an even better purchase. I don’t have to wander aisles, hunt down sales clerks or wait in lines. In but a few days, the products will arrive on the doorstep. Their new gadget, the Kindle, even saves you the trip to the doorstep and satisfies that desire for instant gratification by downloading the book directly into the machine, any time, any place.

If you can’t, realize that you will need to build your idea into something of significant substance or to such a velocity that there is no choice but to take action.

The SMG business model: Marketing or PR? Both – and more.

We’ve been lucky enough to be getting a lot of ink lately, both in The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers, as well as Report on Small Business magazine, which ran a profile in the Spring issue. This has of course been great – it’s really nice to be recognized for your work, and I know the whole SMG team feels that way (as they should – they consistently pull together truly amazing stuff for our clients, and I am very, very proud of them and their work).

But something very interesting has emerged from all this press – no one seems to know quite what to call us. We’re referred to variously as a marketing or an online PR agency, neither of which is a particularly accurate or complete description. The truth is that SMG, and we believe, social media agencies in general (or at least the good ones), are an entirely new breed altogether, blending the best of business consulting and the traditional agency model, but leaving all the “bad” stuff behind.

Together, we’re defining an industry.

The Business Consulting Model
This is basically bringing in subject matter experts to help you solve a business problem. The consultants come in, they research, investigate and explore to determine what your needs and realities are, and make recommendations based on their expertise that will allow you to meet your objectives.


    * Consultants have an amazing opportunity to get to know your business from the inside out – recommendations are based on hours of research and exploration inside/outside the company, and should ideally be completely aligned to your business objectives.


    * Solutions can sometimes be unrealistic (there’s no obligation to make them work – implementation is someone elses’ problem)
    * All the money is made in the consulting phase – the longer it is, the more money the business consulting firm makes

The Agency Model
Creative agencies pitch clients on ideas, and if the clients like them, they buy them (the initial idea is often created before a business relationship has been established). The agency then produces the idea (web, print or broadcast). Interestingly, agencies do not make most of their money on production, but rather on purchasing the media, or placement, for things they make, i.e. television commercials, newspaper ads, etc.


    * Creative ideas generated by creative people in a creative environment, with (ideally) limited constraints
    * Full-service implementation – they’re not going to suggest anything unless they know they can deliver it


    * Initial solutions and ideas are generated often without an official business relationship. In other words, the tactic comes before the strategy and sometimes without the context of the clients’ overall business objectives
    * Large profits generated from media buys means agencies are reliant on them, whether they reflect the new reality of media disruption or not. This creates an actual disincentive to explore non-traditional methods of communication, like social media (which has no media buy and often limited production costs)

So where does the SMG model lie in all of this? Squarely in the middle, both by design and experience.

The SMG Model
All engagements begin with a strategic consulting phase – we get inside your company and interview key stakeholders to determine business objectives/strengths/opportunities/weaknesses/threats. We look at important areas outside your walls (you don’t do business in a vacuum) and ensure that our recommendations are also well integrated with what your other agencies are doing (both from a branding, timing and objective standpoint). Then we tell you what we think you should do with social media, based on your reality.

    Instead of walking in the door with the “big idea”, we take the time to develop the “right idea”.

Then we implement. SMG is full-service, but we don’t do anything but social media generated projects – no banner ads, no website redesigns (except as they relate to your social media programme), no print or TV ads. Just social media.

    Because we’re responsible for implementation, we’re both realistic and honest – we have to live with what we propose. We don’t make any money from media buying (there is none), so what we recommend is what
    you need, not what we need.

We take the best of both worlds – the thorough, process-oriented practice of business consulting, used to uncover real needs and business objectives, combined with the creative, exuberant energy of a top-flight creative design shop (many of us are refugees from that world), with the added bonus of being solution agnostic – we don’t have an old-media business model to prop up. We’re going to tell you what we think is the best way to meet your marketing or communications objectives. Period.

This has both ethical and practical roots – we do it this way because it’s right and it makes sense. I’d like to borrow a few value statements from a colleague named Susan Goodman (who runs an amazing Marketing consulting firm in New York) because they perfectly encapsulate how we do business and the value that we bring to our client relationships. We strive to always:

    * Champion innovation over complacency
    * Serve as an objective third party
    * Speak plainly and courageously

We do it this way because it’s right and it makes sense. It’s who we are as a company (as all of our clients will attest) and, I hope, as an industry. It is a very exciting time to be us!

How do Wikis work?

The folks at Commoncraft have an amazing way of explaining things in the most simple terms. If you’ve heard a lot about wikis, but never used one, or are having a hard time wrapping your head around why they are apparently so useful for collaboration, check out this video – Wikis, in Plain English.