Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plea for Social Privacy Falls on Deaf Ears

It would be understandable for the executive team at social network has-been MySpace to wonder what they did to garner such bad karma.

For starters, their strategy to position the community as a "social entertainment" site (rather than squaring off with Facebook) has been greeted by stagnant membership and declining site traffic.  Then earlier this month, the News Corporation property slashed nearly half of its workforce by shedding 500 employees.

And now comes the lawsuit.  No...not disgruntled former workers or spurned business partners.  This legal action was brought by a convicted sex offender challenging MySpace for their adherence to a warrant signed by the magistrate in Cherokee County, Georgia.

I encourage you to read this article in AdWeek for the specifics of the complaint.  My reaction is to encourage Cory Hubbard, the 34-year-old plaintiff, to focus his time in prison on how to eliminate his desire to prey upon underage girls. 

Image courtesy of Media Bistro
However, Hubbard's contention that MySpace violated federal Internet privacy and wiretapping laws raises an important question -- what expectation of privacy should we have as users when participating in social networks and online communities?

I believe the answer is none.  First off, I agree 100 percent with the Cherokee County District Attorney who compared user content uploaded to a social network to a diary author who willingly hands over their writings to a third-party, who then gives it to law enforcement.  There is no Fourth Amendment violation.

Moreover, it should be well understood by users that social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. are commercial ventures with business models focused on generating advertising revenue. 

As such, they track user activity, behavior and preferences to serve the needs of their customers -- the organizations that view online communities as a targeted promotional vehicle.

I recognize this big brother-ish monitoring may be unacceptable to some.  There's a simple solution.  Sign off Facebook and connect with your friends in an old-fashioned way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Capital One M&A Exec Bangs the Brand Drum

The Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) National Capital Chapter's event speakers typically fit the deal maker mold:  a highly placed corporate executive or major player in the world of private equity.

As a result, presentations at ACG events are often peppered with statistical analysis, market assessments and business model evaluations.  It can be interesting, yet (admittedly) for a marketing, social media and public relations practitioner like myself the depth of the discussion can extend beyond my comprehension.

When Murray Abrams, executive vice president and head of corporate development at Capital One Financial Corporation, took the stage last Friday I assumed I'd be in for more of the same.  And while his presentation did include a financially-oriented recap of their recent acquisition of Chevy Chase Bank, Murray strolled outside this normal fare to talk about the positive impact Capital One's brand has had on the continued growth and success of their business.

Here are comments from Murray that resonated with me:

--Capital One has a long-standing commitment to building a strong and iconic brand.  They invest considerable resources each year to define perceptions of the company among key audiences, including customers, shareholders and employees.

--Last month, Advertising Age magazine included the company in its list of most influential advertising icons of the past decade.

--Over the long haul, brand reputation is a powerful differentiator in the financial services market.  This has allowed the company to more quickly grow the business organically, as well as through acquisitions.

--Capital One will continue to promote its evolution from a credit card company to a diversified provider of financial services to consumers and businesses.  They are one of the top 10 banks in the United States with a strategy of establishing a dominant presence in select geographies.

Capital One's advertising features an interesting cast of vikings.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Spiraling Up Delivers on Its Mission

My calendar of weekly reading is full. 

It starts with the myriad of e-newsletters that populate my Email inbox -- Computerworld, Infoworld, Informationweek, TechCrunch, GigaOm, Washington Technology, Potomac Techwire, TechBisnow, Fast Company, among others.  Each delivers timely news, as well as a unique perspective on the trends shaping the technology, telecom and security markets.

My night table at home is stacked with issues of the Washington Post, New York Times, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes.  Again, each provides a meaningful and differentiated take on the news.

And finally, my Google Reader brings to me blog posts from public relations firms, social media marketing consultancies, ad agencies, analysts and other pundits.  I subscribe to more than 50 of these musings because they often provide an unfiltered take on what's happening in the industry.

Earlier this month I agreed to review a book about growth strategies for professional services firms because I respected how the PR practitioner pitched me.  Admittedly, I kind of hoped Sean wouldn't follow through and send me a copy of the book.  He did...and I'm now quite happy about it.

That's because Spiraling Up turned out to be an engaging and informative read.  Written by a couple of the top executives at creative and branding firm Hinge, the text steers clear of the heavy brow, academic ramblings that often define business strategy books.

Rather, Spiraling Up gets right to the heart of its mission -- ideas to help leaders of professional services firms more quickly scale their organization.  The writing is in straight-forward English with recommendations supported by extensive research and interviews, rather than experience-based hunches.

Take a stroll over to the publication's promotional Web site and download a copy for free.  It only takes a few hours to read and even the busiest of executives will find it time well spent.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gun Maker Glock Needs to Edit Its Social Presence

Here are two truisms that until today were in no way connected:

1) Corporate social media engagement is more credible and carries greater impact when the organization adheres to the highest levels of transparency; and

2) The right to bear arms is guaranteed to Americans in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

After reading this article on Brand Channel I took a stroll over to gun maker Glock's Facebook fan page.  I found many of the user submitted photos to be disturbing and, in light of the shootings this month in Tucson, in poor taste.

I don't own a gun, yet certainly respect those who elect to do so responsibly.  I also agree that companies should refrain from censoring the comments and contributions of their customers.

Yet, in this case I think Glock needs to take action and remove certain photos from its fan page.  They create a harmful impression of the company and its more mature customers.


Update:  I shared my post with Strategic Communications Group's (Strategic) senior team and my colleague and partner Shany Seawright provided a well articulated and insightful response.  Wanted to share it.

Yesterday, Marc pointed to the Glock Facebook fan page and his post on the appropriateness of the photos that were uploaded by users. He asked our opinion on if Glock should remove photos that are inappropriate. 
Yet, what I think is inappropriate, a Glock fan would not. The fact is this is a fan page of guns
Personally, I felt that the photos that Glock uploaded were just as bad as the ones that users uploaded. But my personal opinion on guns aside, I would say that Glock is staying true to its industry and is not doing anything that another corporate fan page wouldn’t do.

They’ve provided guidelines for how users can engage!/note.php?note_id=448975327606 and have protected themselves legally from what users may say or do. They also reserve the right to remove and delete any content that doesn’t follow the guidelines that they have set forth.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Social's Standing on the Show Floor

From everything I have heard and read the world of social was spinning fast this week in Las Vegas and New York City.

Vegas hosts the wildly popular International CES which serves as the annual showcase for new consumer electronics products and technologies.  In an interview with Media Bistro, Laurie Ann Phillips, senior director of communications at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) (producers of the show), touted the vast and eclectic array of new offerings which made their debut at this year's event.

Equally impressive is how the CEA has baked social media into the show experience to enhance participation, collaboration and community among exhibitors and attendees.  Their Social Circle site is an example of conference-sponsored social media done well.

Nearly 2,300 miles across the country in New York City, the National Retail Federation (NRF) played host to their 100th annual conference simply referred to as "Retail's Big Show."  Although NRF's use of social media did not rise to CEA's high bar, they encouraged exhibitors and sponsors to use social as a channel to connect and share with attendees.

Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) worked with client Merchant Link to build a socially-enabled micro-site to publish and promote content specifically for prospects, partners, analysts and journalists attending the conference. 

This approach to social media allowed Merchant Link's sales team to engage these audiences with a highly targeted thought leadership vehicle, while building further interest in the company and its announcements at the event. 

I typically advise clients to refrain from viewing social media as effective only when implemented enterprise-wide.  Social can have impact when it's tactical....even on a show-by-show basis.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Making Sense of Quora

Has social question and answer site Quora begun a Twitter-esq run to relevance?

Online communities, social networks and Web 2.0 tools face that cliched "chicken or egg" conundrum.  During their start-up phase when time and resources are constrained, they must rapidly build their user base to a critical mass that delivers on the value proposition and leads to a sustainable economic model.

Facebook achieved this feat by opening their network to third-party application developers, thereby enhancing the stickiness of their community without a significant capital outlay.  Twitter did the same by creating buzz at geeky conferences like the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, as well as hyping participation by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher.

Quora's Charlie Cheever, Adam D'Angelo.  Source: WSJ
Now along comes Quora with a high level of entrepreneurial pedigree from its founders who were early employees at Facebook.  After an initial eight weeks of participation on the site I had six followers.  I've added 60 new ones in the past four days.

Plus, Quora has begun to score some national press attention, such as a recent profile in Fast Company magazine.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we've just initiated the process of evaluating how participation in Quora can support the success of our clients' social media marketing programs.  We have a couple of preliminary concepts we are thinking through:

1.  Quora as a source for industry research and intelligence gathering.  This seems to be a given as it's consistent with the mission of the site.

2.  Quora has a venue to demonstrate an executive's thought leadership and market expertise.

3.  Quora as a channel to appropriately connect with decision-makers and market influencers.  We're believers in participation in social media to achieve measurable sales benchmarks.  Can Quora help?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Blogger Relations Done Right

The increased profile and readership of this blog has raised my distaste for the lazy public relations hacks who pepper me with pitches for products and services that are in no way consistent with my editorial focus.

Here are a couple of off-target missives from December:

--A new flavor of chewing gum infused with vitamins
--Gambling trends among China's working class
--A Web enabled garage door system 
I'm a PR person by training, so I would like to think I am more tolerant than your typical journalist who has spent a career wading through this stuff.  Yet, even I am tempted to reply with a curt inquiry about whether the hack in question has actually read a post before sticking me on their list.

Today brought a bright light of encouragement that all is not lost in the world of blogger relations.  I've included below an exchange I had with Sean McVey of Hinge Marketing, whose thoughtful and targeted pitch will most likely lead me to invest time in writing a review of the book he's pushing.

The third-party credibility and awareness garnered from effective public relations remains incredibly valuable and contributes to the success of an organization.  Like all things worth having, it just takes an investment of time, thinking and consideration to get it right.

Good show, Sean!

Hi Marc,
I have been reading Strategic Guy since late summer and it has been a consistent source of information for me. Our company only dabbles in Social Media but we are learning.

I was wondering if you would be interested in reading a book our company recently wrote and launched. It is called Spiraling Up - How to Build a High Growth, High Value Professional Services Firm. Based on interviews of 300 CEO's, it documents what high growth companies have in common.

We are looking for feedback on the book from other marketing and PR companies and we'd love to know what you think about it. Let me know and I will send you a hard copy. Or, you can get the soft copy at




Hey Sean,
Thanks for the note and the offer to forward along a copy of the book.  I'd welcome the opportunity to review it and, if appropriate, write a post with my thoughts.
Here is my work address:
Marc Hausman
Strategic Communications Group, Inc.
1400 Spring Street
Suite 330
Silver Spring, MD  20910
I would also like to compliment you on the professionalism of your Email.  Unfortunately, most of the notes I receive are from public relations reps who refuse to take the time to actually read my blog, before sending me some off-target, rambling pitch.
I hope it's cool if I cite you as an example of blogger relations done well.  Enjoy your evening,