Archive for “October, 2009”

Managing Social Media Conference 2009

Yesterday Leona Hobbs, our Director of Communications, and I both presented at the Managing Social Media Conference put on by the Canadian Institute in Toronto. We were in some great company, among the “who’s who” of Canadian social media practitioners, including Joseph Thornley of Thornley Fallis, Collin Douma, VP of Social Media for Proximity Canada (and SMG alum), Jen Evans, Founder and Chief Strategist at Sequentia, and David Jones, VP, Digital Communications at Hill & Knowlton.

Leona presented a very well-received presentation on digital crisis communications which was described as “a smart, practical presentation on social media crisis management” by tweeters in the audience, and included the following:

  • Managing a social media crisis: when and how do you respond?
  • Deciding on a proactive or reactive approach
  • Effective correction of mis- and disinformation
  • Working with communities to effectively manage potentially damaging issues

I closed the day with the presentation of a case study originally delivered for the first time at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco with client Scott Monty, looking at how setting content free has delivered real and measurable results for Ford.

Overall, anecdotal feedback we got following the sessions was that Day One of the conference was of exceptional quality, and I have no doubt of that. The folks on the slate were some of the best of the best – I only wish I’d had more time to attend and absorb more sessions! For those, like me, who could not attend, don’t forget you can view the Tweetstream from the event!

Did We Go Too Far with our Kick Off to Save the 'Bou?

The verdict in the court of public opinion appears to be a resounding YES. And while we may feel otherwise, we hear you, and that’s what this post is about.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Save the’Bou campaign: yesterday we launched, on behalf of four environmental groups (and in a pro bono capacity) an initiative to raise awareness about legislation passed by the Provincial Government but not enacted. Legislation that would protect important parts of Ontario’s Great Boreal forest (one of the largest intact forests on the planet) and home to the woodland caribou, which also happens to be the animal on the Canadian quarter. Without this important protection, the woodland caribou is in very real danger of vanishing forever. Best guesses give it no more than a handful of years without habitat protection.

This is an issue that the groups running this campaign (The David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, Forest Ethics and Canopy) have been trying to raise public awareness around for years with limited success. In part because there are a million “Save the XXX” campaigns and therefore we all ignore most of them.

Enter our approach. Let me first off state that we carefully weighed the risks/benefits, deciding that it would be worth it for SMG to expend some valuable social capital on behalf of such an important cause. We deliberately crafted an edgy, provocative campaign that we hoped would get people talking and thinking about exactly what they care about and what spurs them to action (since, clearly, “Save the XXX” campaigns with very limited budget have trouble cutting through the noise). We set up a Facebook page and Twitter account that stated that the woodland caribou was in danger of being removed from the Canadian quarter. Then members of our team tweeted and re-tweeted, urging people to our Facebook page where the messages were repeated with additional information about the animals endangered status.

Within three hours, once we had a reasonable amount of attention, we switched our platforms to reveal our core message: that it’s not the caribou on the quarter that could disappear, but the animal itself (we should also point out that we fully disclosed the nature of the campaign to each and every person that questioned it directly). At that time (and only then) we also made available links to the online petition and to the groups supporting the campaign. Finally, we asked people to think – if we had simply launched a “Save the XXX” campaign, would anyone have noticed? Would there have been any conversation at all? Why is it a symbol on a coin garners so much attention – from both media and the public – when the fact that the animal itself is in danger of extinction has caused barely a ripple for years?

Thing was, you didn’t like that we told you something that wasn’t true. We got a lot of flak on the backchannel for the approach, and some pretty negative comments on our blog post revealing the campaign. Admittedly this was from a small number of people, but I think for me the deafening silence from almost everyone else in our networks made the biggest impression.

So I’d like to apologize. I’m sorry if you feel we abused your trust and crossed what seems to be a pretty deep line in the social media sand. While this format of campaign is not uncommon in mass marketing, it clearly is not something that is currently acceptable (no matter how supportive of a good cause or not-for-profit) on the social web.

Finally, rather than leaving the post mortem to a vocal few, we’d like to hear YOUR thoughts on this. Tell us what you think we did right/wrong and whether or not the reaction to this campaign is purist dogma or reality knocking. We’d love to hear your feedback. However, before you go, here is a video of our coverage on this issue you may find very interesting. I strongly encourage you to watch it now.

Social Media Group and Save The 'Bou

A number of folks picked up on our kick off to the “Save The ‘Bou” campaign this morning. I’d like to thank everyone who helped us get our message off the ground. And I’d also like to offer some insight to our approach.

Our objective with the initial stage of this campaign was to force people to examine their own reactions, to think what was important to them and what kinds of situations would move them to take action. We developed a provocative teaser campaign based on the very real possibility that the Woodland Caribou may become extinct.

Our teaser message about the campaign ran for a few hours on Twitter this morning. When anyone expressed interest, we provided them with all the details of the Save the ‘Bou campaign.

The campaign is now completely live. We’d like to invite you to visit and add your voice to the petition to ask the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, to enact the legislation already passed to protect the Woodland Caribou in Ontario’s Boreal Forest.

The campaign engaged a lot of you, both initially and after we explained our desire to provoke and get people talking. That was our objective, and we’d like to continue to discussion.

What do you think is the most effective way to cut through the clutter and get people talking early on in the process? Did you have issues with our approach? Did it work for you? What would you have done differently, and do you think you would have had the same result?

Welcome to the new SMG website!

Welcome to the new SMG website. You’ll notice it’s bigger, featuring expanded content and a lot more emphasis on our products and services, clients, work experience and amazing case studies. SMG marked our three year anniversary just a few weeks ago, and this website is intended to both showcase the cutting-edge work our team has been executing for our clients since 2006 and how we’ve grown from a little shop to one of the world’s biggest independent social media agencies. Happy birthday to us!

The social media landscape has changed dramatically over the last three years; when SMG was first established, I can remember being able to read and keep up with everything that happened in social media in a week – and (this is the kicker) have time to post about it all! Those days are over, of course – and there is a lot going on in this space. Luckily, we seem to be able to continuously cut through it; in the last 12 months the SMG team has received significant acknowledgment from our peers, including being named one of the Top 100 Marketers by Marketing Magazine, 20 Leading Women in Social Media and Top 15 Global Social Media Firms. It is an honor to be included on all of those listings; we are truly in humbling company, and among the best of the best in the industry!

Of course, even more exciting for us is seeing our clients get widespread recognition for their great strides in social media. Particularly outstanding is long-time partner Ford Motor Company. When we began work as their social media agency in 2007, Ford had a shadow YouTube channel with a few videos. As of this writing, just over two years later, they have been named to numerous respected “Top 10 Brands in Social Media” lists. That makes us feel very proud, indeed!

(Of course none of these things would be possible without incredible teamwork. As far as I’m concerned, SMG has the greatest concentration of social media brilliance on the planet. If that sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, we’re actively recruiting for a number of roles – please drop us a line and tell us more about yourself!)

So, where to next for SMG? 2009 was a big year, both for us professionally and for the industry. There are more players than ever on the scene, and we’re starting to see amalgamation and concentration of expertise. This is good – it means that the market for social media as a communications, marketing and collaboration tool is maturing. As for us, our plans are simple. We have built a great company that does incredibly innovative and creative work (I’m not going to be shy about that, the SMG team is amazing. We know this because our clients tell us so, over and over again!) , we have a unique consulting/full-service model that is an important differentiator, a hard-earned reputation for excellence in all we do, and loyal client partners whose success is priority one.

What’s next for SMG? We’re going to keep on keeping on. Please have a look around and let us know how you like the new site!