I'll share the highlights of New Comm Forum

I’ll be spending today and tomorrow at New Comm Forum in Santa Clara. Every year, the Society for New Communications Research brings together some of the leading thinkers and practitioners of social media to talk about the latest developments and to try to decipher the coming challenges.

This year’s roster of speakers includes Joseph Jaffe , Katie Paine , John Cass , Shel Holtz , Richard Binhammer , Todd Defren , Maggie Fox , Albert Maruggi , Susan Getgood , Mike Manuel , Darren Barefoot , Brian Solis , Kami Huyse , Geoff Livingston , Joseph Carrabis , Jim Long , Tom Foremski , Shel Israel , Steve Lubetkin , and Giovanni Rodriguez . That’s not even half of the speakers.

I’ll record video of as many sessions as I can attend and I hope to share the highlights over the coming weeks. (Yes, weeks. Video is a real chore to review and edit and my video posts take a lot longer than you might think to get done. So, I tend to do them only when I have a large stretch of uninterrupted time to review the recording, pull out the best parts, write the blog post and then update the edited version to youTube.)

Stay tuned.

Have you used Infegy's Social Radar?

I trying to assess a social media monitoring service called Social Radar . If you’ve used this service, please leave a comment and tell me what you think of the Social Radar service, its strengths and the things that could be improved upon.

If you’re new to this area and you want to know more about what’s out there by way of social media monitoring and measurement services, read Jeremiah Owyang’s post on Companies that measure social media, influence and brand .

Freshbooks at Third Tuesday Toronto video series

Freshbooks is an online invoicing and time-tracking service that is making book-keeping and invoice preparation a lot easier for small businesses.

Freshbooks Founder Michael McDerment and Saul Colt , Head of Magic (yep, that’s what his business card says) recently gave the Third Tuesday Toronto participants an insiders’ view of how they have built this Web 2.0 startup.

In the next series of posts, I’m going to publish video excerpts from their presentation, each of which has been edited to capture a single topic or theme. I think you’ll find Michael and Saul’s clips chock full of good ideas and tips for setting up a successful small business and harnessing social media to promote it and connect with users.

Fairmont Hotels wins my loyalty through great customer service

I travel more than I’d like to and I stay too way too many nights at hotels. Like every other frequent traveller, I know what it’s like to be stared through, made to feel like an anonymous widget being throughput at the security line, in the airport, on the plane.

But Fairmont Hotels delighted me tonight when, out of the blue, they upgraded me to a suite. Not just any suite, but the Prime Minister’s Suite. Now they’ve got a customer for life.

I stay at Fairmont Hotels because they were once a Canadian chain that traced its lineage back to CP Hotels. And they have some of the most unique properties in North America. All of the great old railroad hotels in Canada. The Chateau Frontenac . Banff Springs . Lake Louise . A few years ago, CP Hotels merged with Fairmont and picked up properties like the Copley Plaza in Boston and the Fairmont San Francisco . Yes, they aren’t the trendy properties that people flock to for something new. But they have something special. Every one of these hotels has character.

And Fairmont has worked hard to achieve a level of customer service that matches the architecture of their hotels. For the past two days, I was at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. And from the time I checked in through every meal to check out, I had the feeling that people actually cared about whether I was happy at their hotel. The Waterfront’s employees make it a special place by acting special. They really seem to like working at the Fairmont and they project a sense of pride in the hotel and the job they do there. Yes, it’s intangible. But I truly feel it.

So, that brings me to tonight. I flew from Vancouver to Toronto. And because I had a morning meeting, I could only take a mid day flight. All the direct flights were full. So, I had to route through Calgary. That means 8 hours with a connection. A long day after a meeting and an arrival after 10PM in Toronto.

(The fact that the first news I heard when I stepped into a taxi was that my hometown Ottawa Senators had just completed one of the greatest NHL chokes of all time by being eliminated in four straight games from the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by Pittsburgh only added to my sense that this was one of those days…)

But when I pulled myself out of the taxi and went to the registration desk of the Fairmont Royal York my day changed completely.

First of all, Fabio Gamberdella, who frequently checks me in when I arrive at the hotel (Fairmont, you’ve got a great employee in Fabio) told me that my room has been upgraded from the standard room I’d reserved. That’s nice. (And it’s even nicer that Fabio addresses me by name and actually remembers me.)

But when I arrived at my room, I discover that I haven’t just been upgraded to a nicer room. I’ve been upgraded to the Prime Minister Suite. Let me say that again. The Prime Minister Suite. Nice. More than nice. Spectacular.

Fairmont didn’t need to do this. I was staying in one of the lowest priced rooms in the hotel on my corporate rate. So, I’m not exactly a high roller.

Fairmont could have simply left the room empty tonight and put me in the type of room I’d reserved. But they didn’t. And that was very, very smart of them.

Many other businesses would simply decide that because the higher value unit had not rented, they would simply leave it empty and deliver to the customer exactly what he had paid for.

But Fairmont has a database. And they know that I stay with them over 90 nights a year. And tonight Fairmont made me feel special. And that’s worth a lot. It’s definitely earned my loyalty for some time to come.

Now, the cynic would say that Fairmont should do a lot more for a frequent traveller who spends more than one in four nights every year at their hotels. And they do. Of course, I’m a member of their President’s Club frequent frequent guest program. And I receive all the privileges and perks that their marketing material promises.

But what was so special about tonight was that the upgrade was unasked for. Unexpected. And announced to me by Fabio, an employee who treated me like someone he recognizes.

Why aren’t more businesses smart like this in the way they treat their best customers?

And so that you know what I’m talking about, here’s a video that conveys how I feel about Fairmont tonight.

FriendsRoll and TopLinks at DemoCamp Ottawa

We presented FriendsRoll and TopLinks at DemoCamp Ottawa8. This was our first public coming out of these apps and it was a real thrill to stand in front of our community and talk about our idea and how we’re brought it to life. On top of this, we got some great feedback from the DemoCamp attendees, including some suggestions for improvements that we’ll definitely incorporate in future releases.

For those new to the story, Friends Roll and Toplinks are free WordPress plugins that we hope will revitalize the blogroll. TopLinks uses your internal WordPress database to show the blogs and websites you link to most often in your posts. FriendsRoll lets your readers show that they are part of your community. Both plugins display this information in your blog sidebar. You can see my FriendsRoll and TopLinks in the sidebar of ProPR.

Steve Lounsbury, who was the principal developer of FriendsRoll, and Julie Haché, who played the same role for TopLinks, joined me in the DemoCamp presentation. I hope that this video of our presentation gives you a better sense of what we are trying to achieve and also a sense of the atmosphere of DemoCamp.

Thank you for Ian Graham , Peter Childs and the whole crew of volunteers who organize DemoCamp Ottawa . Your efforts have brought our community together in the best of ways.

More about DemoCamp Ottawa

Ottawa DemoCamp Roundup


Terry Fallis talks about The Best Laid Plans and the Leacock Medal shortlist

Terry Fallis, the Fallis in Thornley Fallis, isn’t content just to be a successful public relations executive. No, he feels the need to scratch his creative itch in others ways. Most notably, by writing, publishing and promoting The Best Laid Plans, a political novel set in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

And clearly he not only writes, but he writes well. The Best Laid Plans has been nominated for the Leacock Medal for humour.

Terry took some time to talk to me about the experience of writing The Best Laid Plans and using social media to promote it and what the Leacock nomination means to him. Some of the things we talked about:

  • How did he manage to write a novel and keep up his very demanding work commitments? Writing at night, Saturday mornings and on airplanes. (Boy, I wish I had his discipline.)
  • For those of us who know Terry, we shouldn’t be surprised to see elements of Terry in the two principal characters of the novel. He drew on his own experience and character traits to construct these two very believable, fully realized characters.
  • How does a first time novelist get his novel published and discovered by an audience? By self publishing and using social media to promote it. Terry podcast the novel – reading it one chapter at a time in 20 episodes. He hosted the podcast on terryfallis.com and discovered that readers talked to him about the novel. And in fact, some created promotional content, including pictures of themselves in front of state capitals in Melbourne, Boston, Austin, Ottawa and elsewhere.
  • What has the shortlist for the Leacock Medal done for him? Well, no movie offers yet. But, one of Canada’s more prominent literary agents, Beverley Slopen, has agreed to represent him. And it looks hopeful that the novel will be picked up by a mainline publishing house.

You can watch the interview with Terry below. It lasts about 10 minutes.

What is "social media?"

I frequently conduct workshops for organizations interested in understanding social media, how it will affect them and how they can embrace it.

One of the first questions people ask is, “What is social media?”

I used to refer to the social media article in Wikipedia. However, over time, this section has had a tortured history of revisions and struggles over its content. As I write this, the Wikipedia article on social media opens: “Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning, as people share their stories, and understandings.” Let me read that again: …”technology, social interaction, and the construction of words and pictures.” Huh?

I can’t use the Wikipedia definition and expect people to be any clearer on what social media is. So, I’ve developed my own plain language definition of social media:

Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding, to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests.

What do you think of this definition? Is it clear? Can it be improved upon?

Further reading:

Brian Solis, What’s Wrong with Social Media

Robert Scoble, What is Social Media?

David Meerman Scott, What the heck is Web 2.0 / social media/ social networking and how do these concepts relate to the new rules of marketing & pr?

Inside PR live at Third Tuesday Toronto

The next Inside PR podcast will have a distinctly different sound to it – the hum and crackle of a live audience.

Terry Fallis, David Jones and Inside PR panelists Martin Waxman, Julie Rusciolelli and Keith McArthur recorded Episode 106 at Third Tuesday Toronto. And the room was packed with members of the Toronto social media community who participated in the episode, asking questions, offering comments and generally cheering on the production.

Episode 106 will be posted next Tuesday. To whet your appetite for the complete show, here’s a video segment of the panelists setting up and opening the podcast. The lighting is poor and from the rear (audio producers don’t always set up the room with video in mind.) But one thing you can see is that the only apparent element of advance scripting is David Jones reading the opening sequence from notes in his Moleskin. They really do make this stuff up as they record it.