Archive for “September, 2009”

Ethics Of Blogging Webinar Audio Replay Available Now

I’m Lindsey McInerney and I’m the intern here at SMG.

If you missed the Social Media Today webinar last Thursday, you can check out thearchive of the audio.

Maggie moderated a great discussion with Augie Ray (@augieray), Managing Director of Experiential Marketing at Fullhouse, Daniel Tunkelang (@dtunkelang), Chief Scientist and co-founder of Endeca and John Jantsch (@ducttape), marketing and digital technology coach and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide.  The webinar covered issues surrounding transparency, pay-for-play, online privacy, Astroturfing, compliance and legal for social media users.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The FTC hasn’t updated their advertising rules in 29 years. Due to the evolving nature of the online community, they are expected to do an overhaul shortly that mirrors some sample guidelines they put out late last year. What are the expectations going to be of brands engaging with bloggers online? How much does a blogger have to disclose? What is the risk for brands engaging in this space? Do we need policing? If you truly love a product, is it ok to get paid to write about it? As a reader, do you care? Hear what the Social Media Today gang thinks.
  • As it turns out, bloggers can’t live off of cases of shampoo. They need to make money. The group navigates what compensation from brands is fair and when bloggers need to disclose. Additionally, they talk about brands taking responsibility of blogger disclosure and how to pick a blogger with care.
  • If bloggers are forced to disclose every time they receive compensation for talking about a product, will audiences ever believe they can be impartial? Perhaps paying them directly isn’t the answer. Maggie stick handles the discussion through blogger compensation. Hear the conversation about what is acceptable, when to disclose and how bloggers can financially benefit creating a win-win situation for both brand and blogger.
  • If talking about products on blogs is questionable, how much different is it than product placement in movies? Ultimately, it seems readers and brands should know the writer. If you don’t like where the writer is going with their posts, you always have the option to un-follow or unsubscribe. Perhaps this is the best policing out there.

Are you a brand? A blogger? A passionate reader? We’d love to hear what you think. So listen to the audio archive, and let us know where you stand!

Girl Geek Dinners – a remarkable movement

I’m getting my notes together for my MC duties for tonight’s Toronto Girl Geek Dinner. We’re expecting 50 or so women (and men) from the Toronto technology community to come out to reconnect with friends, meet new people, and be inspired by the ideas and perspective of our featured speaker, Sarah Prevette, founder and CEO of Sprouter.

When Maggie and Jenny started Toronto Girl Geek Dinners in 2007, I believe we were the first location outside of the UK. Now, there are Girl Geek Dinner communities in over 40 places worldwide. That’s pretty phenomenal, don’t you think?

Tonight is our 15th event. Looking back, we’ve welcomed an incredible list of speakers including:

Sandy Kemsley
Leila Boujnane
Leigh Himel
Kate Trgovac
Malgosia Green
Ali de Bold
Jayne Hoogenberk
Sandi Jones
Amber MacArthur
Connie Crosby
Candice Faktor
Michal Berman
Sarah Prevette

We’re always on the lookout for speakers and ideas for themes and topics. If you’re in Toronto, please check out our blogwiki, Facebook and group. If you’re elsewhere and want to get involved, please visit Girl Geek Dinnersfor a list of global groups.

Have you been out to a Girl Geek Dinner? What do you value most from participating in these kinds of events?

cross posted to Toronto Girl Geek Dinners

Free Ethics of Blogging Webinar Sept 24th


With the Federal Telecommunications Commission about to weigh in on disclosure expectations for bloggersdebates about what’s acceptable in the realm of “sponsored conversations” and heated discussions about whether “pay per post” isethical or even worthwhile, if you’re a business trying to navigate all of this safely, it can be incredibly confusing and worrisome.

Luckily, we’re here to help! Social Media Group and Social Media Today are pleased to offer you an opportunity to register for a free webinar on the Ethics of Blogging. I’ll be moderating the panel, covering all aspects of social media, and will be joined by some of the brightest minds in the business:

  • Augie Ray, Managing Director of Experiential Marketing at Fullhouse, an interactive and social media agency
  • Daniel Tunkelang, Chief Scientist and co-founder of Endeca and a leading industry advocate on interactive and exploratory approaches to supporting information seeking
  • John Jantsch, a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing

I hope you can join us for this FREE webinar Thursday September 24th at 1pm EDT, and please be sure to ask lots of questions!

SMG Among Top Global Social Media Agencies

Photos courtesy of Leo Reynolds

We’re in great company.

Today SMG was listed among one of the Top 14 Global Social Media Agencies. The post, compiled after much Twitter and personal polling by the uber-connected Jason Keath, was published today. I really like the rationale that Jason used,

There are several types of social media companies out there. Some are research focused, or software heavy, or app developers, or monitoring services. Some are purely extending the PR battle plan to a new medium.

The social media agency is one that can grasp all these segments and help companies extend their brand and marketing through training, long term strategy, and execution. For the purpose of this list, I have focused on companies who mostly do social media.

There are many companies making social media a piece of what they offer. These companies are the top ones focusing on social media.

We’ve always argued that a pure-play social media agency (rather than a bolt-on to an existing advertising or PR model) is vastly superior, and the reason is twofold: we’re not trying to cram an old model into a new space (our approach is therefore entirely focused on results, not propping up something that’s no longer relevant) and it allows us a laser focus – we bring best-in-breed, cutting edge and tested social media expertise to the table, where we work hand-in-hand with other agency partners who offer top-notch traditional PR, advertising or marketing skills. It’s a powerful combination – the best of the best (just ask our clients).

It’s also particularly gratifying to be recognized in this way since one of our long-term clients, Ford Motor Company, has been getting a tremendous amount ofpositive attention for their social efforts in the last few months. When we began working with Ford just over two years ago, their social media efforts consisted of a deep understanding that social media was the way of the future and a shadowYouTube channel. We are honored to have been able to help them get to the point where they are routinely recognized as one of the world’s most social brands (including this great case study Scott Monty and I presented this year at Web 2.0 Expo). Of course there is much more work to be done!

So thanks for recognizing us, Jason – our team has been working long and hard to make our clients look great, and it’s nice to be able to share the limelight a little ;-)

If you’d like to learn more about Social Media Group, please contact us!

Your Good Name: Protecting Trademark Without Being A Bully

Trademarks are an early form of reputation management. Time was, you couldn’t hop onto Yelp, look up a person’s eBay score or glance over their review history on Amazon. When you were handed a sword to defend hearth and home, you’d know from the mark of the smith if it were a solid and sturdy weapon or a heap of junk. The reputation of the smithy would follow the weapon.

The purpose of the trademark is to clearly identify the source of an item. It’s a way of solidifying a reputation behind a single name, logo or design. When you see the word Ford at the front of car with the iconic blue oval (disclosure, we have been Ford Motor Company’s social media agency since 2007), you know that carries with it more than 100 years of reputation that Ford has earned. When you fire up a laptop and the Apple logo lights up, you know that this isn’t a machine hacked together in a garage from discount parts but a specific vision of Steve Jobs and his company. When you crack open a bottle with the distinctive shape and words Coca-Cola emblazoned on the side, you know just what taste to expect.

The trademark is a protection for the company, but it’s also a protection for the consumer. If I’m picking up a tub of ice cream from the dairy case, I don’t have to worry that they’ve slapped a Ben & Jerry’s logo onto a tub of cheap stuff full of artificial flavors and unpronounceable ingredients. I’m freed from having to distinguish if this ice cream is actually Ben & Jerry’s based out of Vermont or if it’s Benn & Jerries based out of the back alley, because trademark law prevents the grocery from doing this without serious consequences.

We believe Social Media Group stands for something: the collective knowledge, wisdom and experience our team brings to the table, the quality of work we deliver and the results we bring to our clients. We think that’s a reputation worth protecting, which is why very early on we filed for protection of the name under trademark laws. When you hear the name Social Media Group, you will know that none other than us did the work.

So we all know the story. Imagine, a group of faithful enthusiasts fall in love withSuper-Duper Brand (for the purposes of this illustration I’m using a fictitious name). They start a forum at, the maintenance of which they cover by selling superduperrocks t-shirts and other merchandise. A lawyer for Super Duper stumbles upon the site and fires off a standard cease and desist letter to attend to the trademark infringement.

The community freaks out, both in terror of what a visit to court may cost and in anger of being turned on by the brand they adored and revered. The pundits point a spotlight on the issue and chuckle over what a stumble, what a gaffe, “who could possibly be foolish enough to attack your greatest evangelists?” Those who rail against the new media tools will waggle their fingers and declare, “These interwebs will doom us all.” Those who rail against intellectual property will hold it up as a case study of why the protections are outmoded and should be abolished and information set free. If they’re at the wheel, the company’s communications team is going into overdrive and doing their best to undo the damage and resolve things without sending legal into fanatics. So, it’s a general mess all around.

The lawyer wasn’t wrong in identifying a threat. The fans were infringing upon theSuper-Duper Brand trademark. They were not harming the company, quite the opposite, but still they were creating a legal risk. When the day comes that a cheap knock-off operating under the name Sooper-Dooper Brand arises, these new competitors will rightfully be able to point to the lack of action with all the other infringements as proof the name was not of value.

So the trademark is important and must be defended. And obviously, brand enthusiasts are important and shouldn’t feel attacked.

As with many things in social media, Communication is the answer:

  • Have you considered your enthusiast groups and set out clear guidelines of where the line gets drawn in terms of trademark usage?
  • Have you been monitoring your brand – a service which, I would be remiss for not mentioning, we offer to our clients – and are you ready to step in with a gentle warning when a usage crosses from enthusiasm to infringement?
  • Are you providing your gentle warning on day one of their new community or are you stepping in at the final hour of a giant project with a big ‘No can do‘?
  • Have your company’s communications and legal teams sat together to work out where these notices best originate and what’s required by law without sounding like the recipient is about to be dragged to court and their first born seized?

There will, however, be those who seek to line their own pockets on the strength of the reputation you’ve built. This includes the miscreants that intend to confuse customers into thinking their wares are from a more reliable source and the leeches who hope to ride on the goodwill another company or group has worked so very hard to build. Most often these folks scurry for cover when attention is swung their way, but it’s not uncommon for one or two to kick up a fuss and cry the role of victim, beset upon by the savage faceless corporation.

Communication, again, is your best defense:

  • Do you have social channels available to communicate your position?
  • Have you established a record of being communicative and fair dealing?
  • Have your company’s communications and legal teams come up with a better response than the standard ‘no  comment’‘?

If you are open and communicative to your customers and partners, the audience will seek your response before judging and your brand advocates will step forth to your defence. Few will bemoan the fate of someone who is a cheat or a second-hander and your hand may be as heavy as it needs to be.

Slamming down an infringer who is trying to trade off of your good name is an easy decision. Less easy is the infringer who does so out of ignorance. Someone may either think their name was different enough that it would not be an issue or they may not even realize that you exist. As small and medium sized businesses extend their reach beyond their local geographies through the net, this is bound to happen more frequently. And while you have to give a tip of the cap to the other party for having the same good taste that you had in choosing a name, you have to deduct points for not having the sense to run a simple Google search to ensure no one else had the idea first.

Informing someone who has invested time and energy into developing a fledgling brand that they have made a horrible misstep in their naming – it’s hard not to seem the bully in this case. But if you are the one holding the trademark then youmust enforce or abandon it.

  • Always begin with the assumption that no malice was intended – let their reactions to reasonable demands guide how heavy handed you go.
  • Be as flexible as you can, but firm in asserting your rights. When O’Reilly asserted their trademark for Web2.0 in relation to conferences and seminars, they didn’t insist on a sudden name change, but simply insisted on a written agreement that the following year’s event would fall under a different name.
  • If possible, communicate directly. The letterhead from a lawyer and the tone of a standard cease and desist puts most people immediately into a fight or flight response. This is where the ‘human tone of voice‘ that is greatly vaunted in social media can serve you well.

And of course the most important step to avoid the perception of being a bully is toNOT be one.

  • Don’t go on a campaign to assume complete ownership of a word from the dictionary.
  • Don’t be unreasonable and inflexible in your demands.
  • Use the law as a shield not as a club.

in future articles I'll explain why swhirlies and atomic wedgies are not the best response to copyright infringement
Note IANAL: I am not a lawyer and this post should not be considered a replacement for proper legal advice. I don’t suppose there are any members of the legal community who would care to step forth and critique the above or offer further illumination into dealing with matters of trademarks?

The varying degrees of grey in blog ethics

I’m Sharon, I’m new to SMG’s Influencer Outreach Practice. Now that we have that out of the way, a few words about ethics and transparency…

When it comes to conversations about ethics, it’s always interesting to me how grey areas can often be positioned as black and white. There are varying degrees of ethical behavior and so many factors that determine how an individual or company views a potentially ethically questionable situation. Perception and context being at the top of what sways someone in one direction or another.  What might beethically irresponsible to some consumers, might be completely harmless to others. What might have been seen as ethically appalling two years ago, might be absolutely kosher these days.

Who better to bring these discussions to the forefront than the folks on the Social Media Today’s Ethics of Blogging webinar. Shameless plug coming…wait for it…SMG’s very own Maggie Fox will be one of the experts examining trust between bloggers and readers! (SMG’s also a sponsor) See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Among the topics to be discussed:

  • Transparency: How and when should a blogger reveal revenue sources?
  • Pay for play: Blog posts, tweets, and more as marketing tools
  • Online privacy
  • Astroturfing: Organizations creating artificial “grassroots” campaigns
  • Compliance and Legal: What should a corporate blog policy look like? What are a blogger’s legal obligations?

Join in the conversation and have your two cents heard by logging in to the webinar on Sept 24th at 1 pm ET (10 am PT) right here.

There is no 'I' in Team, but there's a 'So, see I…' and a 'Me' in Social Media

One of the first things you begin to realize, as you delve into social media, is that there is a lot of trumpeting of personal brand and boosting of egos. Whether it’s getting your article onto the front page of DIGG, seeing a couple hundred comments or trackbacks rolling into your blog or even just having that witty bon mot retweeted a dozen times over; the ego feedback loop is intrinsic and instantaneous.

Given all the tools, means and tactics for sharing your message via the social platforms you can almost forgive brands and their communications and marketing professionals who step into social media, for treating it as another broadcasting platform.

There is success to be had with those tactics. The cost of broadcasting your message online is nominal in comparison to traditional media, and arguably the measured results are more representative of interest in your message. No one chooses to see your poster on the subway, but anyone subscribed to your brand’s YouTube channel definitely cares what you have to say.

Locate the communities that matter to your brand and deliver your message directly. It’s efficient. It eliminates the many layers and filters of media that could potentially distort your message to meet their own editorial objectives. It works.

But missing from a strategy devoted to talking is that which offers the greatest potential of social media: listening.


Not just making the motions of listening where you occasionally nod your head whilst waiting for your next opportunity to speak. Not simply making note that tumpty-tump people talked about us today and we anticipate tumpty-tump plus one to talk about us tomorrow. I’m talking about listening and hearing what has been said.

When something is fait accomplis and dumped upon the masses, you can listen, but it’s too late to hear. All you’re going to discover from that point forward is how many accept or reject your choices, and, from there, how well your team is doing in swaying, selling and winning over the naysayers.

All that selling. All that swaying. All that effort to win public opinion. Unnecessary actions if you involved your customers and stakeholders early on. Your customers will always have more information about what they want, what they need and what they are willing to do, than you will ever have. Until you involve them, you will always be taking guesses. They may be educated and informed by experience, or they may be wild stabs at the dark, but until you begin to truly listen to your customers and stakeholders, guesses they remain.

You don’t have to bend to every whim, desire and kooky notion shouted out by the crowd, and nor should you. But the nuttier notions are still part of the public perception and will eventually need to be dealt with. Better to tackle them at the beginning of the process than at the end.

What are you doing in your company to better listen to your communities? What are you doing to ensure their voices are heard, and to effectively give them a seat at the table? Please post a comment or trackback. I’m listening.

Connect with SMG at Upcoming Events

Please join SMG at these upcoming events.

Canadian Women in Communications Webinar: Sept. 22

CWC-AFC is launching its new series of webinars for the 2009-2010 season, starting with Online Branding & Reputation…A Conversation with Leona Hobbs, Social Media Group on September 22 over the lunch hour.The webinar is free to CWC members and $15 for non-members. Learn more and register now.

Toronto Girl Geek Dinner: Sept. 29

Co-founded by our own Maggie Fox and Jenny Bullough, Toronto Girl Geek Dinners kicks off the fall season on September 29 with an event featuring Sarah Prevette, founder of Sprouter. These events are always an incredible networking opportunity for women in technology. If you’d like to join, please see more details on the Toronto Girl Geek Dinner blog.

Social Media for Government conference: Sept. 29 to Oct.2

From September 29 to October 2, 2009, Social Media Group will be attending and speaking at Social Media for Government in Ottawa. The conference is geared toward folks in the public sector who are looking to learn more about social media and how to incorporate it into their communications. We’re definitely looking forward to connecting with our friends and meeting new folks while we’re in town.

Leona is presenting a post-conference workshop on October 2: Bad News Travels Fast: How To Develop A Web 2.0 Crisis Communications Plan.

Learn more about this conference and sign up for Leona’s workshop.

Managing Social Media conference: Oct. 6 & 7

Maggie and Leona are both presenting at this Canadian Institute Conference. Maggie will talk about how Ford Motor Company created an open and effective social media content strategy. Leona will talk about crisis planning for digital and social media. Learn more.