I’m as mystified as I was the day of the announcement. Google is removing restrictions on Google+ user names. They announced it with, what else, a Google+ post.
“When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.
“Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”
When I first saw it, this move left me asking, “Why? And why now?.”
I think that those potential users who objected to having to use real names on Google+ long ago stopped caring about Google+. And the folks who are using it now are probably quite happy with the rules as they are. And they use it and like it.
I worry that the most immediate impact of lifting restrictions on names will be to welcome the trolls onto Google+. In fact, Gini DietrichtellsMartin Waxman and me that shortly after the announcement, she received a marriage proposal from one of the newly-minted anonymous users. A fun move? Or just plain creepy? Whichever, hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.
If Google+ is hoping to attract hordes of new users to mainstream itself as one of the larger social networking platforms, they’d better have some new magic up their sleeves. There is no reason for people who’ve decided that Facebook or Twitter meets their needs to abandon those services for Google+.
In fact, I think that Google+ has built a happy and enthusiastic group of users around features like Hangouts and Google+ Communities. I’m thinking about the FIR Podcast Community that generates a constant flow of conversation. Yes, it’s only 500 people strong. But it is a community that has a specialized interest and actively uses Google+ to converge around that interest.
So, Google+ is a success for those who use it. Why would the people who cared about anonymity in the first place ever come back to Google+?
In the past two weeks, requests by European citizens have flooded Google with requests to delete information about them from the search engine’s results. Gini points out that the European Court’s decision requiring that Google takedown information upon request does not sit well with Americans, who see this as undermining the right to free expression. Nevertheless, she advises clients with operations in Europe and elsewhere to take note of this move. It points to the need for companies operating globally to be sensitive to different values in different places. Martin is uncomfortable with the potential that this ruling holds to rewrite and obfuscate history. Where do we draw the line between someone wanting to remove a hurtful or hateful opinion and someone who wants to remove or obscure facts? The true impact of this ruling will only be known over time.
And kudos to Scott Monty for the classy way that Scott announced on his blog that he had left his role as social media head at Ford. Scott praised his team, praised the company and praised the work that they did together. Others who are announcing a move would be well recommended to look at Scott’s departure announcement as a template for the right way to handle yourself when announcing a career change.
Finally, Interesting factoid or fiction? Martin says that Canada is the only country in the world that still celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday as a national holiday. With fireworks no less. Is that true? Are we truly unique in the world?
This is a slightly modified version of a post that I wrote on the Inside PR podcast blog. I’ve adapted it for ProPR so that it’s in my archive of posts.
This post was originally published on the Inside PR blog. I’m posting it here so that readers of this blog will see it. If you like it, please consider subscribing to the Inside PR podcast.
Gini Dietrich and I do a two-hander in this episode as Martin is on a train with only spotty online access.
This week we talk about MasterCard’s aggressive PR tactics around the Brit Awards, more evidence that we’re all going mobile and the New Klout.
MasterCard ties one on
Gini pointed to MasterCard’s efforts to tie coverage of MasterCard to access to the Brit Awards. Dominic Ponsford detailed exactly what happened, from the PR company’s suggestion that access would be tied to agreement to mention MasterCard through the reactions to the Twitter backlash.
Ponsford published the text of an email to a reporter in which MasterCard’s PR company asked reporters to agree to tweet MasterCard messages in their feeds. The PR company went so far as to suggest content for tweets before, during and after the event:
Pre event – e.g. Really excited to be heading down to @BRITAwards tonight with @MasterCardUK #PricelessSurprises
Event night – live tweeting from the event including @MasterCardUK handle and #PricelessSurprises and to retweet @MasterCardUK tweets throughout the night where appropriate
Post event – tweet directing followers to @MasterCardUK BRITs YouTube videos
Needless to say, this prompted a backlash, with Twitter comments like this:
Good press coverage is hard to bribe. For everything else there’s Mastercard. #PricelessSurprises
The managing director of the PR agency didn’t back down, arguing that:
“The role of the PR agency is to pursue all coverage opportunities on behalf of its clients. This includes providing accurate brand references from the outset, for use across all platforms. It is a two-way conversation between the journalist and the PR in order to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Editorial control always remains with the journalist.”
Gini and I discuss our views about this type of tactic. Gini sees this as an illustration of the fine line between legitimately promoting an event and the questionable offering of a benefit for coverage.
I see it as a clear example of tied coverage. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You give me reference to my client and I will give you access to the awards.” Yes we have seen this before. Think of auto journalists flown to exotic locations to review new cars. But in recent years, the trend has been against these kinds of junkets, with many news organizations telling their staff to refuse the benefits. “You can’t blame a guy for trying. But you can blame the other guy for playing along.”
What do you think of MasterCard’s media relations approach? Too cheeky? Or taking fair advantage of the an opportunity. Or somewhere in between.
Canadians go mobile with Facebook
The world truly is going mobile. New stats out of Facebook Canada indicate that Facebook Canada is making more money on mobile devices than on PCs and stationary devices. Of Facebook’s nineteen million Canadian users, ten million check their Facebook account once a day via mobile versus only four million who check it daily from non-mobile devices like desktops.
To me, this just underscores the importance of think mobile first. If you are thinking about communicating with people primarily in front of PCs or laptops, you’re failing to follow the audience where they’ve actually gone. They are looking at the mobile devices in their hand.
Gini cautions against following an overall trend without looking at your specific circumstance. In her experience, many sectors are lagging behind in the move to mobile, with many of her clients’ sites continuing to receive the majority of their traffic from desktop applications. It’s important that you know where your traffic is coming from. So check your analytics.
A New (Improved?) Klout
And finally, we discuss the new Klout. Gini finds it useful, because it surfaces content from people with whom she already engages. Gini also finds the measurement tab to be useful in that it’s suggests which individual pieces of content have generated the greatest engagement. For my part, I find the metrics to be even more dumbed down than they used to be and of the dubious value. It appears to me that Klout is positioning itself as a tool to assist content creators in competition with established players like HootSuite or Buffer.
What do you think? Is the new Klout a step forward or moved to irrelevance?
SXSW is the little conference that grew and grew to be a giant festival of all that is geeky good. Why has it grown far beyond other conferences of its sort?
One explanation may be found in the sense of community that has propelled SXSW Interactive from its earliest days. In my view, SXSWi is a conference of, by, and for the attendees.
Hugh Forrest, the Director of SXSW Interactive, can be seen as the embodiment of this ethos. In fact, he actively eschews his actual title of Director, saying that he prefers to think of himself as SXSWi’s Community Manager. In a recent interview for the Inside PR podcast, Forrest told Martin Waxman, “Community Manager is what most of my work is, managing this community, or trying to understand this community, trying to communicate with this community, trying to absorb all they great ideas they have. That community manager concept applies to so much I do.”
And Forrest gives full credit for the success of SXSWi to the community of participants. “I have been completely amazed at how much Interactive has grown in the past ten years and, particularly, in the past five years. When we first started this thing, it was a struggle to get people in the door. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing and what our market was and I could never imagine that it would grow as much as it has grown. … I would love to say that it was my vision that propelled that growth. But, it’s really this community that’s pulled us forward as opposed to us trying to push them in one direction. The better we’ve become at listening to this community, engaging with this community, understanding what this community wants, polling the best ideas of the community, the more the event has grown. The more we have been able to let them pull us forward, the better this event has become.”
Forrest has a well thought-through approach to the SXSWi community, to which he attaches the PEACE acronym:
P: “Patience over profits.” Things take a while. Be prepared for it.
E: “Early buzz is good buzz.” The panel picker and community voting on presentations in July and August build anticipation of the event nine months ahead of the actual March festival dates.
A: “Acknowledge your mistakes and failures.” If you are doing something innovative, you will make mistakes. When you acknowledge mistakes, the community can be very forgiving.
C: “Customer service leads to customer advocates.” Word of mouth endorsements are still the best kind of publicity there is. The line between love and hate is a thin one. Acknowledge, respond to and help the critics. They may change their minds and become supporters.
E: “Encourage massive creativity.” Forrester does not see SXSWi as a technology event. “We are an event about creativity.” And he tries to be open to the ideas of the community that push the programming forward.
Listen to Hugh Forrest explain his perspective on the success of SXSWi using the player below. And stick around for the second half of the podcast to hear Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich’s and my take on Forrest’s approach and building community.
June was a month of wall to wall conferences. And those conferences brought Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and me together in two cities – Austin and Ottawa – and pulled us to opposite ends of the continent.
So, you spend all that money and time to attend a conference. And now you’re sitting in a presentation and you’re deciding whether you made the right decision. What makes it worthwhile?
Gini applies the Chile Con Queso Test. She loves chile con quesos. And she judges a restaurant by their quality. If they’re great, she’ll keep going back for more. Gini’s Chile Con Queso Test for conference presentations? Does the presenter provide her with at least one idea for a blog post? “If I can go into your session and come away with a blog post idea, I’m going to think you’re the best speaker on earth,” says Gini. On the other hand, “If I can’t get at least one idea to create content around, I’m not going to think you’re a great speaker.”
If you’re a speaker, how can you deliver the goods for your audience? I saw Lee LeFever talk about this at the recent Fireworks Factory organized by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo. Lee, who is best known for the explainer videos he has produced through his company, Common Craft, says that you must start from a position of empathy for the audience. Focus on what we care about, not what you want to present. Frame your topic in terms to which we relate. Suggest a commonly experienced problem to which we all relate. You’ll know you’ve done this is you see our heads nodding. Once you’ve established the shared space, focus on “why.” Why does this matter? Why will you approach it in this way. And then, and only then, move on to the “how.” How do I do this. Think about the presentations you’ve seen recently. How many of them failed because the presenter plunged directly into the “how” section, providing minute detail of what they did, while you were still stuck at, “Why do I care about this?”
Martin calls this the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotional senses. He points out that this often can be achieved through story telling, in which a motive is established and listeners are drawn into identifying with the subjects and storyline. Gini agrees with the power of this approach, pointing to a 52N (five minutes to engage, a variant on Ignite) presentation delivered by Abbie Fink at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy Conference in Austin. Abbie’s presentation consisted of reading a letter to her recently deceased family dog. At the end, she left many in the room in tears and everyone considering the nature of relationships. A story that appealed to our emotions. That appealed to the pet lover in all of us. That didn’t explain the why, but relied throughout on it. (Pity the poor presenter who followed Abbie – Martin Waxman!)
I attended a presentation recently by a speaker who gave me not just one good takeaway, but nine. Nine takeaways in an hour long presentation. And that speaker was … Gini Dietrich! Perhaps because Gini listened for takeaways in other speakers, she deliberately packages takeaways in her presentations. “When I write presentations, I write them long form. But as I do it, I write sound bites that I know people can tweet. You have to think about the key takeaways. Is someone going to get enough to pass the Chile Con Queso Test? And are they going to be able to tweet about it?” If you achieve these three objectives, people will come away with something to think about over the long term as well as content that will prompt immediate tweets and conversation.
Finally, there’s one huge no-no for conference presenters. What makes the audience groan and flee the room in droves? Martin calls it the “You can’t judge a presentation by its cover” problem.” You decide to attend a presentation on the basis of the description in the program only to hear the speaker lead off with the statement, “I’m going to talk about something different from the advertised topic…” Sadly, that’s not uncommon at conferences. Not just the small regional conferences, but even larger conferences. The kindest interpretation I can put on this it that because of the long lead time between the time that the conference topics were set and the actual presentation, the speaker decided that the topic was outdated and decided to offer more up to date thinking. The unkind interpretation is that the speaker just said yes to the organizers’ invitation and then realized that he didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Either way, it can be a real let down if you showed up keen to learn and discuss the advertised topic.
Gini sums it up: “We’re all busy. We all want to find value in the things that we are attending. We’re spending money to attend these things. And if we can’t get something out of it to bring back to our careers or organizations, then it’s not worth the time.”
Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I had a rare opportunity this week. We were able to record the Inside PR podcast with all of us sitting face to face in one place in real life. We were in Ottawa to attend the Social Capital Conference. And the best thing for me was that it felt like I was getting together with two of my closest friends for a chat about our shared experiences. Even after all these years, I’m still in awe of the power of social media to enable us to create deep and meaningful relationships over distance. So, even though Martin, Gini and I are together in the same real life space at most four times a year, we have developed a much deeper relationship.
Gini delivered the conference opening keynote explaining how she has built a large and active community around her Spin Sucks blog. The starting point, says Gini, is recognizing that “The one word we all like to hear is our name.” Her approach to community is grounded in this recognition. It has driven her to focus on the people who come to the Spin Sucks blog. She acknowledges them personally, responding to virtually every comment left on the Spin Sucks blog or the Spins Sucks Facebook page. But she goes beyond this. She reaches out to the members of the Spin Sucks community and participates in the discussion in their home spaces. Community is a two way interaction, not just one way.
Another factor to consider in building communities – it takes time. And this is at odds with the short-term, campaign-based approach taken by many marketers. As Gini points out, she has been blogging for seven years, and it took more than one try to find the right combination of factors that led to the current success of Spin Sucks. This same point was made by Sherrilynne Starkie, who presented a real world case study of an international union building community. In Sherrilynne’s words, its success was only possible because the union leadership were prepared to “stay the course” and persevere through early stages of thin participation until members caught on that this was a real and ongoing exercise. Momentum built slowly. The community could not have emerged in a short-term campaign.
Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have demonstrated bot of these fundamentals in building a successful community around the For Immediate Release podcast. They have been persistent and consistent creators of content. They routinely acknowledge their listeners and feature their contributions in the podcast. And they’ve set up a Google+ community to provide listeners with an opportunity to offer their own thoughts and engage in conversation with other members of the community.
This is something we’re trying to do with the Inside PR podcast as well. If you’re a regular listener, please consider joining the Inside PR Google+ community or the Inside PR Facebook group and participating actively. We’d love to involve you in the podcast.
And if you’re still with me, you can listen to the podcast by clicking on the player below.
In this week’s episode of the Inside PR podcast, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and I talk about the challenge of determining what news coverage we can trust when traditional media outlets vie with social media to be first with the news.
For me, this is like moving around in a darkened room. We know we’ve had contact with something, but we can’t really see what it is. Judgment and speculation become overly close neighbors at times like these.
How do you decide where to place your trust when news is breaking online?
It’s the end, at least for this year. The final episode of Inside PR for 2012 has been posted.
In today’s episode, Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman, I look back at the trends in 2012 that stood out for us. Things like the continuing evolution of social media to photos and video; the convergence of advertising, PR, digital agencies to compete directly against one another; the evolution of search to incorporate personal profiles and social interaction. And above all, for me, the stripping away of my idealism about the blogosphere that came when I read Ryan Holiday‘s “Trust Me, I’m Lying.”
Will the Inside PR Google+ community get as many members as the Inside PR Facebook group? Will there be better discussion on Google+? (I’m betting the conversation on Google+ will be much better, if not more voluminous.)
Twitter upgrades(?) with Filters on Photos
Is this a step forward? Or a defensive move in response to Instagram pulling its integration with Twitter? I’m not sure about the companies’ moves. I bet our listeners have more insight into this than I do.
Facebook drops its commitment to user democracy
Does anybody care? Was this ever a real thing or did Facebook’s thresholds so high that it simply fed a feeling of powerlessness from the outset?