Category Archives: Social Media

10 Risks for Corporate Social Media Early Adopters

In my last post, I discussed 10 rewards for companies that are early adopters of social media. There’s another side to this that I want to address separately: the biggest risks companies face when jumping into an unknown community.

Of course this is the big one, but it’s easily avoided. Failure means that the brand comes in and behaves like it does on other platforms instead of understanding what the community wants. Don’t regurgitate. Innovate.

Or better put, not learning from mistakes. Your brand will make mistakes. But the inability to learn and adapt is where the risk is.

Many social networks are communities of friends, whether they know each other in real life or just virtually. To have these trust networks overwhelmed by brands trying to market or sell them products often feels like an invasion of privacy.

Platform Never Gains Popularity
One of the biggest risks in a young social network is that it might not take off in the way you expect. It’s not as much of an issue for individuals. But for companies, there’s a lot of time and effort invested in building a new presence (and integrating that presence across multiple places).

Audience Not Ready
Or rather, your audience isn’t. Maybe the people you care about communicating with aren’t part of this group yet. It’s likely that the demographic makeup of the new platform is not in sync with your brand’s audience.

No strategy
In the rush to be “first,” did you forget to determine your objective for being there in the first place? This happened time and again with Second Life, Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages, which now lay dormant.

Small Audience
A nascent social network consists of people that like to be the first to try something, people that sign in once and then don’t come back, and friends of founders. If you get in too early, you risk spending too much time building relationships with too few people. That time might be better spent on a larger, more established platform.

Measuring ROI
You can’t at first. What you can do, however, is determine what is important to your organization and begin by measuring that. You can help co-create tools that others can use to evaluate what success might look like, as Hubspot has done for Twitter.

Losing Your Star Employee(s)
This is one of those inevitable risks that I think is worth it. We’ve watched some of the brightest early adopters move on from the companies they once championed to other ventures. Giving employees the opportunity to experiment, grow and share your brand socially has the added effect of creating valuable employees that are sought after by your competitors. And sometimes, they will move on.

No Precedent
What are the rules governing your employees’ use of new platforms? Some companies, so eager to be first, forget to set rules for use that their employees can follow, and as a result, end up with more trouble than they anticipated.

What do you think? Are the rewards worth the risks? More important, what are some other big risks companies need to consider?

10 Rewards for Corporate Social Media Early Adopters

One of the best parts about going to social media conferences is seeing which case studies the “experts” draw from. In the beginning, many pulled from the same four or five case studies (Dell, Starbucks, Blendtec, Comcast…).

Now, the gates have opened up and it’s more interesting, in many cases, to look at the companies who AREN’T using social media. But here’s a short list I put together of the 10 biggest rewards for getting involved with social media early:

Mainstream Media Attention
If your brand is among the first to establish a presence on a new media platform, you can be sure it’s going to generate a bit of mainstream press. Of course this is beneficial, but it can also work against a brand when this is its sole purpose.

Community Goodwill
On most platforms, community members are happy to see the brands they interact with on a daily basis join their community. I have had many positive experiences interacting with @JetBlue on Twitter, so much so that I will look for customer service there before I try a phone call or airport desk.

Early adopters earn a reputation as forward thinkers. I haven’t read much about Starbucks actually employing any of the recommendations from MyStarbucksIdea, but their reputation among marketers and PR people is strong based on the establishment of this feedback platform.

One brand has to make the first foray, and in doing so, it will probably make some mistakes. Those that aren’t yet participants will seize the opportunity to lambast the brand for its mistake but community members are much more forgiving for those who at least try.

New Communications Channel
In this era of evolving social networks, first mover advantage allows those that jump in to capture the interest and attention of its customers and partners before the competition.

Determining ROI is a challenge regardless of when one enters a new arena where measurement is still untested. I would argue that the first brands in can help set establish these standards and many others will join.

Thought Leadership
New social media platforms offer a new theme for executives, a new audience for presentations and a new opportunity to communicate directly with stakeholders.

Popularity Within Company
Social media provides those employees who spearhead related programs a more visible role within the company. I’ve seen this take shape in many ways: more face time with the CEO, a more prominent role at events and a seat at the table on initiatives spanning many departments (HR, Legal, Communications, etc.)

Ability to Experiment
With the right attitude, every new social media platform allows companies to experiment with new ways to engage key audiences. Some will work and some won’t, but trying something new before a competitor offers many brand managers to push the envelope.

Fun Party Trick
While this may sound tongue in cheek, do not underestimate the value of being able to say, “You’re not on Foursquare?” or “We used QR Codes in our latest campaign” before the journalists, marketers or competitors know what that actually means.

What would you add/subtract from this list?

Stay tuned for my next post on the 10 Risks for Social Media Early Adopters.

When Good Consultants Go Bad


As a communicator, you’ve probably learned a lot about the power of social media over the last 12 months. What would happen if you used that power to try and hurt a company rather than help it?

My Problem

I recently purchased a piece of furniture from a company in New York. It wasn’t anything special, just an ergonomic desk and monitor arm to improve my home work station. When I ordered it, the salesperson told me it would arrive in three separate shipments (from two carriers) and that it would take four weeks to ship.

I’ve ordered enough products online that I am accustomed to waiting for a week or so, but four weeks seemed like an eternity. Although I understood that it would take some time to arrive, I was not prepared for the lack of communication along the way. At the very least, I expected an email informing me when it shipped.

For one month, I heard nothing. Not a peep.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say I received zero communication from the company. No tracking numbers. No ship dates. No estimated arrivals. Not one call or email to let me know they hadn’t forgotten about me. My first communication was from UPS informing me I had missed their delivery.

Finally, two weeks after I received both pieces of the desk (sans assembly instructions), I started emailing (passive) and calling (aggressive) to get updates abut the remaining shipment from a customer service rep who was less than enthused to help.

Seven weeks later, I am sitting at the desk still waiting for the monitor arm that the factory shipped to an address in Pennsylvania that no one seemed to catch until I started calling again. I’m frustrated that they company isn’t working to help me fix their error. I’m angry that they are shifting blame to the factory even though I ordered it from them. And most of all, I’m tired of wasting time tracking down this shipment.

Dave Dougherty and Ajay Murthy write in the Harvard Business Review that:

More than half of the customers we surveyed across industries say they’ve had a bad service experience, and nearly the same fraction think many of the companies they interact with don’t understand or care about them. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company.

What would you do? As someone who has some experience using social media and who is familiar with the case studies about companies that ignored their customers at their own peril, how might you react?

My Solution

My first thought was to begin posting negative tweets to a couple of thousand Twitter followers and to write similar updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I could spread the bad word about this company to thousands of people in less than a minute. That would feel good. It’s also what most people do: they vent their frustration to anyone that will listen.

I realized, however, that most of my friends and Twitter associates are either not looking to buy a desk nor are they necessarily going to remember my updates when its time to do so. It was the right platform, but not necessarily the right audience. Also, I wasn’t looking to create a United Airlines type of situation (although I felt much the same way) for the company. I just wanted to share my own frustrations with other people considering buying their products.

I wanted something more enduring. Something that might show up in search engine results. My next thought was to write a nasty post here naming the company and hoping it would come up along with their name during a Google search. But one lone voice of dissent does not a purchase change. I started thinking about how I make a purchasing decision, and it turns out (obviously) I am very interested in what other communities of experts have to say.

If it’s electronics, I typically check CNET and PCWorld reviews (both the article and the user comments). If it’s books, my first stop is Amazon and if it’s a restaurant, I’ll see what people wrote on Menupages, New York Magazine or Yelp before making my reservation.

And that’s what I did. I added a customer review to some of the sites where I had done my original research. It might have taken a bit more time and ultimately, fewer people may read them. But I feel better. I shared my experience with the people that affect the company’s bottom line. Even if customer service doesn’t matter to this company, hopefully it will make a difference to their potential customers.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Social Media Resources for Educators

There are many ways that social media can be used in education, and I’ve found myself fielding more and more questions about this particular space. As a result, I decided to write this post assembling some of the best resources for learning more (and participating!) in social media for academia:

Education Blogs

Henry Jenkins is one of the leading thinkers on digital education, and his vast network provides a constant stream of interesting insights, new discoveries and thoughtful commentary on the many ways social media is changing education and learning.

Howard Rheingold is an educator who claims credit for coining the phrase “virtual community.” He not only updates his content frequently, but will show you all of the different ways you can use a blog to communicate with your community effectively using video, audio, images and text.

Ethan Zuckerman is associated with the Berkman Center at Harvard, but it’s worth reading his blog to get a more global perspective on a wide range of topics, including digital natives and empowering people from around the world to connect using social media. He is the founder of Global Voices and one of the most engaging speakers I have ever heard.

Finally, I recommend reading the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Learning blog for news and updates on the impact of digital media on learning.*

Social Networks for Educators

This social networks in education wiki has an exhaustive list of resources around education and social media. This wiki offers a great overview as well as some explanations of the different ways social networks are used.

You can also start with the social media in I recommend PBS Teachers Connect as a good place to start. It breaks down conversations between teachers working with children at different age levels. TeachAde is another social network geared towards teachers that is sponsored by the NEA.

If you decide to build your own social network for educations, this Ning group is a great place to start. Ning is a social networking platform that allows you to build your own social network from the ground up using their tools and platform. As you can see, there are already a large number of Ning social networks around education in which you might be interested.

Technology Teacher has a great post listing ways that educators can use Twitter in the classroom. Here’s a post with 100 Twitter tools for teachers.

SlideShare Presentations on Social Media and Education

Here’s a great overview of social media in education from Paul Ayres in the UK. Paul provides an overview of some of the most common social media tools and couches them in terms of education. He explores blogs, social bookmarking sites, podcasts, YouTube and more:

And here’s one from Dean Groom who works at Macquarie University in Australia. Dean gives a fantastic overview of Web 2.0 as it relates to education and discusses how educators can build a strategy around social media :

Finally, I really like this one from Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins that she presented at Educause08. The slides have enough text to narrate you through, but Sarah is a pioneer is the use of virtual worlds and other new media platforms. In this deck, she discusses how higher education is changing and some of the tools available to help navigate that change:


Remember that the appropriate type of engagement depends upon a number of factors:

What is your objective? Consider WHY you want to use social media. If your answer is because “everyone else is telling me to,” then perhaps it doesn’t make much sense yet. Spend some time reviewing the above articles and resources and make sure that your engagement platform is best suited for your objective.

Who is your audience? Depending on whether you are trying to facilitate communications between your students or to connect with other educators in your space, you will find different social networks already exist for these communities. It makes sense to conduct some research into how these audiences are already communicating before you embark upon setting up your own project.

*Disclosure: MacArthur Foundation is a former client | Photo credit: NMC SecondLife

Michael Jackson and the Formation of Online Communities

Like most of you, I was saddened by the news of Michael Jackson’s death yesterday. I was in the West Village and had trouble getting reception on my iPhone (as usual) when a guy walked passed talking on his phone. He said to the person on the other end,  ”Michael Jackson died today. How did you not hear? Aren’t you on Twitter?”

Walking home, I was more attuned than usual to the conversations taking place around me. I heard people sharing the news with friends on their phones, playing his music in their cars and congregating in Washington Square Park to mourn together.

This same process of information gathering and ultimately mourning took place online as well. It was amazing to watch how quickly the community organized itself to share updates as they became available and used their respective social networks to publicly participate in the unfolding drama.

Some interesting statistics:

As we continue to learn details about his untimely death, it really is amazing to watch how various online communities publicly mourn and pay tribute. These communities organized themselves within hours and will likely disband as time passes. But the ability for a group of people to find each other when they want to, exchange information and bond over a common theme is really something.

He will be missed.

Photo credit: lukas lehmann, Flickr

How Dell Generated $3 million in Sales Using Twitter

Dell Outlet on TwitterThere was an exciting announcement recently from the folks at Dell that the company has surpassed $3 million in sales as a result of promotions offered via the @DellOutlet Twitter account. While many will likely tout this as proof of “social media ROI,” there’s a lot more to the story.

Here’s what I think Dell did to generate that type of revenue. If your company can mimic this model, you’ll probably be able to make your first million using Twitter as well:

Years before any other company had to consider the implications of ignoring customers online, Jeff Jarvis and an army of unsatisfied Dell users coined the term, “Dell Hell,” forcing the company to listen, even if they weren’t ready.

When Dell finally launched its first blog in July 2006, which was titled One2One, the company immediately changed its name to Direct2Dell due to the existence of a certain pornography site bearing the same name. A minor embarrassment, but one that was easily overlooked. Dell was at last talking with its customers.

When the Consumerist published a post from a former Dell sales associate, the company responded with a cease and desist letter from its legal department. This generated even more negative attention for their social media efforts. Only days later did the company respond by using its blog.

Remember Second Life? It was the Twitter of 2007. Dell launched an island and tried selling PCs via the virtual world interface. While the island had some exciting features, it was often vacant and likely never became the revenue source some expected. However, the Island still exists and the Dell team (led by the amazing Laura Thomas) continues to actively participate in the community by hosting a variety of events for Second Life residents and Dell customers. The company learned how the Second Life community wanted to Dell to participate and the company adapted better than most.

I’m being dramatic by using the word ‘failure’ to describe some of its early forays into social media. Dell tried a lot of different tactics to find which ones resonated with their audience. Sometimes the results of the experiments with community building might not have yielded the expected results. But these lessons were valuable learning opportunities for the company (as well as for the rest of us) to better understand the model for two way conversations between companies and its constituencies.

From these lessons, Dell was able to better prepare for the social media engagement their customers demanded. Let’s look at some of the things they’ve done very well:

Richard Binhammer, Lionel Menchaca and (formerly) Bob Pearson are probably the most public facing of Dell’s social media team, but the company has more than 30 employees dedicated to its online community customer service team. And it’s not just any people, it’s the right people. People empowered to respond on behalf of the company, people authorized to help.

Dell was the first large company to implement the SalesForce IdeaStorm offering that allowed customers to propose new ideas to the company that were then voted on by visitors to the site. The best ideas rose to the top and were shared with management. Starbucks followed suit with My Starbucks Idea and the two companies are often cited in social media circles for their willingness to open up direct lines of communications with their customers.

Gamers, women, small business owners. Dell listened to the conversations happening online and created customer experiences to meet their needs. Great examples of this include the Green community and the Gaming community.

There are 33 corporate Twitter accounts (not to mention countless awesome employee accounts), three Flickr photostreams, 433 YouTube videos, 22 Facebook Groups, 12 Blogs, eight Forums, 18 public wikis, and of course, IdeaStorm. They have a community landing page featured prominently on the Dell site and accounts that are moderated by Dell employees on multiple social media platforms as well.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from Dell’s efforts is that revenue is the old model for a campaign’s success, and it really doesn’t translate well online. People don’t want to be sold to when they’re in a social environment. The best campaigns seem to support customer service, relationship building (between customers, not just between the customer and the brand) and knowledge exchange. Make sure that you’re looking at the appropriate metrics, especially when you’re starting out. These will change over time as you see what works.

The $3 million in Twitter revenue was not achieved just by setting up an account and “following” potential customers. It was part of a strategy rolled out over several years that continues to evolve with the tools and the needs of the company’s community. Relationships take time to build. Your brand will make mistakes. What’s important is that you keep trying to find the right fit, that you listen to your customers, and that you give your customers the experience and attention they deserve. In the end, it literally pays off.

Have you learned any lessons from Dell’s experiences? What’s an example of a change you made based on your participation in an online social community?

10 Social Media Tasks for Summer Interns

internIt’s that time of year when companies are looking to hire interns to do the menial tasks typically relegated to its entry level employees. When I visit many companies, the interns do little more than flip through magazines (“coverage searches”), cold call media (“pitching”) or conduct multiple Google searches for their clients (“research”).

But what if a communications team actually used its interns to learn more about this social media thing everyone’s talking about? Here are ten ways I might consider putting summer interns to work:

1. Social Media Overviews: Instruct each intern to create a 30 minute presentation on the social media platform of his/her choice that includes an overview, how its used and how your business might participate. There’s a good example here.

2. Competitive Analysis: Ask an intern to build a full social media profile analysis of a competitor or client. This might include what platforms they use, how they participate and some metrics do determine how they are successful. There’s a good example here.

3. Account creation/customization: If college students learn anything during their four to six years of higher learning, it’s how to create a social media profile that will attract attention. Allow them to create and populate some of your executive’s social media accounts. Then, set up some time for the intern to teach the executive about the platform. For example, if it’s a Twitter account, the intern could select a user name, fill in the bio, create a custom background and begin following relevant people in your company’s field. This post from TwitTip has some important considerations for building a business profile on Twitter.(NOTE: The intern should not participate on behalf of the executive, but set up the account and introduce the platform as appropriate).

4. (Social) Media Research: Which social media platforms are your main media contacts using? Are they blogging? Using Twitter? Do they want to be contacted through any of these by your company? This is a long term project, but might be really helpful to some of your colleagues who are apt to “pitch first and ask questions later.”

5. Template creation: If your intern knows Photoshop or another design program, it might be fun to have him/her create customized templates for your firm’s Twitter pages or a logo/avatar for your company’s employees. You can find Twitter background templates here and here are some awesome Twitter backgrounds for inspiration.

6. RSS building: I’ve said before that an RSS feed is one of the most important tools for any communications professional. If you’ve never taken the time to set up an RSS reader to monitor social media activity around your brand, your client or your industry, this is an awesome task for an intern. Once it’s set up, though, you have to use it! Here’s a good place to start.

7. Blog monitoring: There are hundreds of millions of blogs, and probably hundreds that reference your brand or industry. So how do you choose which ones to follow? I’ve written about this before, but perhaps your intern can conduct some research and report back about the most important blogs in your niche.

8. Blogging: As you may have heard, Pizza Hut is hiring a Vice President Twitter intern for the Summer. While I wouldn’t necessarily entrust an intern to develop my company’s social media strategy, I might like them to post about their experiences on my internal or external blog. Not only will it showcase another side to your company, namely that you’re empowering your interns, but it also provides your team with important feedback about the internship. It gives future interns insight into what they can expect as well, which could be good or bad depending on how you treat your interns!

9. Web Analysis: When it comes to e-commerce, usability and design, my guess is that most web savvy college age students have seen their fair share of websites. Invite your intern to provide an in-depth analysis of your corporate site. Is it easy to find your press room? Are their high resolution product shots easily available? How many clicks does it take to make a purchase? These are just some of the factors that consumers are interested in. A fresh set of eyes from your target demographic might be useful.

10. Video: The communications professional of the future will have a very different skill set than many of us have today. They will likely be well versed in most type of online media, have some ability to manipulate images in Photoshop or Illustrator and most likely know how to edit video. If these are skills your company values, then let them start by recording a couple of interviews with executives and editing them together. Even if they’re not perfect, the point of an internship is to learn, and these are already proven skills that will benefit both the intern and the company.

Finally, I’m going to add getting coffee to the list. Yeah, it kind of sucks. But if they’re already doing even one of the above tasks, is it really too much to ask for a good cup of coffee as well? It’s just part of paying your dues.

So what types of tasks do your summer interns perform? Would you trust them with your social media research or activity?

Photo credit: adpowers

The Three Phases of Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I’ve lately fallen out of love with Robert Scoble . If I were to meet him in person, I’d say, "It’s not me, it’s you." But since that opportunity is unlikely to present itself anytime soon, I’m going to share this post instead.


When Scoble started broadcasting from within the depths of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, he was a ray of light on an otherwise overcast Seattle day. He shared with the outside world that which Microsoft was unaware they possessed: a personality. We learned how companies could share their institutional knowledge and, as a result, gain the trust of their community and build new inroads to their brand. We connected with the employees in a way we never connected with the corporate entity.

Scoble showed companies that they should embrace their quirkiness, not hide it. And as a result, he rose to fame as the poster child for corporate transparency and gave rise to the notion of corporate social media. Many social media case studies used his career path as an example of how social media must grow from the inside out fueled by the passion of a company’s employees.


With the notoriety that Scoble’s efforts received inside Microsoft came many opportunities. Speaking gigs, a huge following on his blog and of course, other job offers. Scoble moved to PodTech , where he went from evangelizing one company to evangelizing EVERY company. He transitioned from an important corporate social media voice to a new breed of infomercial creator.

For a small fee (and often for free), (UPDATED: Scoble did not charge companies for the videos he produced at PodTech) Scoble would come to your corporate headquarters and produce a prosumer-like video podcast that he would then publish to the PodTech network. Because so many people followed him from Microsoft to PodTech, this remained a large and coveted corporate audience.

A Scoble mention inevitably resulted in a spike for web traffic and attention to the companies he covered. The problem was, there seemed to be little editorial oversight. As long as their was budget and/or access, Scoble was in. And as long as a video was produced, most corporate communications or marketing teams felt comfortable checking social media off their "to do" list.


As the funding dried up, Scoble took his show to Fast Company, thus completing his transition from corporate poster child to certified media representative. He’s everywhere these days, tweeting, posting video and updating his FriendFeed status from the littlest start-ups in Silicon Valley to hanging out with titans of industry in Davos, Switzerland.

The problem is, there’s no editor. There’s no one telling Robert what is valuable. I get what’s in it for Robert, but I’m not sure what’s in it for me or for the rest of his audience.

In my opinion, Scoble is no longer the signal, but the noise. And as I find more and more corporate entities trying to build online communities, the lessons they share are much more worthy of my attention than the boastings of an online celebrity.


What I used to love about Robert was his passion. Early adopters were quick to find new tools and technologies just by following his blog, which he updates much less regularly than before. Conversations would take place there that were unlike any other blog community in which I participated.

That passion has become to voluminous for me to endure, and I’ve found that there’s little professional value for me in keeping up with his whereabouts these days. He no longer serves as a role model for how companies should behave in social spaces (instead I look to people like Tyson Foods’ Ed Nicholson , Richard AT DELL ) and his travels/interviews are less relevant to my interests.

I’m slowly unsubscribing from the various networks on which we’re connected. Robert won’t notice. After all, he has thousands of friends.


Am I wrong on this? Are you watching his FastCompany videos and following his Twitter stream? Are you learning new things from keeping up with his globetrotting? If so, please share your thoughts. I’m curious what Scoble means to communicators today.

(This is a conversation. Please refrain from using any derogatory language in your response. I will not tolerate any personal attacks against Robert. The dialogue should remain around the topics discussed in this post. Thanks!)

CHALLENGE: 2009 Social Media Case Studies

dolphin and cow

If you attended any social media webinar, seminar, conference, panel or similar session in the last 12 months, the case studies referenced by the speakers to showcase the value of social media likely included Dell, Blend-Tec, Starbucks and/or Comcast.

And you probably heard them referenced multiple times by multiple people. The problem was that the social media professionals (call them consultants, gurus, experts, whatever) would take the microphone and share the same four or five stories to illustrate successful examples of  corporate social media work. It was the same redundant thing every time.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else. Those case studies were standards in my deck over the last year and honestly, they were fantastic for introducing the possibilities of social media to an audience largely unfamiliar with the platforms and skeptical of their relevance. I might still use them from time to time with people new to the subject. But really, it’s time to move on.

If you’re still unfamiliar with these case studies, there is ample reference material online that I’ll link to here:


It worked! The hundreds of hours spent evangelizing the benefits of social media combined with the crappiness of the current economy transformed words to action. Many brands have launched blogs, signed up for Twitter and established Facebook Fan pages. Often these case studies helped them to do it.


Many still don’t get it. It’s not enough to just set up a social media account and check it off the list. There’s still a lack of strategy behind many of these engagements, and part of the blame falls on how it’s presented (while the other part is management bureaucracy, budgets and a whole lot of other factors beyond our control). As trusted advisors, it’s important we illustrate the benefits of a solid social media strategy by using examples from a diverse set of industries.


If you are someone who is fortunate enough to have a speaking gig or two lined up in 2009 , I hope you’ll come armed with some new case studies. It would be very impressive if they were case studies from projects you actually worked on. At the very least, conduct a bit of original research so that your version of the case study has a nugget or two that we haven’t heard a thousand times before. We don’t want to hear only about companies that are doing a great job, but those that struggled out of the gate as well. We don’t want only big companies, but also small businesses and players in the B2B space.

You can start by checking out this wiki by Peter Kim that is updated with the latest and greatest examples of corporate social media.

Of course, I’m going to do the same. The gauntlet has been thrown. Bring it.

Photo credit: Tidewater_Muse

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Twitter Case Study: Motrin Moms

This weekend, there was a bit of excitement on Twitter as outraged moms around the world responded to this advertisement by Motrin:

The tone of the ad is conspiratorial. It’s supposed to be a mom talking directly to other moms who can identify with the the pain caused by carrying around her baby in various types of slings attached to her body.

I have not carried around a baby so I have no idea whether or not it hurts. But so far, I’m convinced by the ad. I mean, an extra 7-15 pounds (is that what babies weigh?) attached to my hips, my front, my back…I would imagine that would hurt after a while, no matter how ingenious the contraption.

Apparently, I’m wrong. And that, my friends, is where the value of market research comes in. And if you don’t do the research, that’s where the true value of social media comes in.

Apparently, there are many moms who have carried around multiple children on their back, their hips, their front. They were not in pain. In fact, quite the opposite. They are not happy with the Motrin ad campaign, and they want you to know about it.

Over the weekend moms on Twitter united in voicing their displeasure with the Motrin ad . They used "#motrinmoms" as the tag for the threaded conversation, making it easy for people to follow.

In less than 24 hours, this video was created as a response to the ad that intersperses the Twitter conversation with images of moms carrying their children in many of the states mentioned in the ad. It’s pretty powerful:

Also, you can see that the story was picked up by mainstream media as well and will likely appear in print tomorrow or the day after.

Motrin’s website was crashed by the traffic, and has yet to recover. Not good.

What’s surprising to most people is not that there was outrage over an ad that didn’t resonate with its target audience so much as the lack of response from Motrin (or its parent company — Johnson & Johnson). Either they are not monitoring some of the most important conversation channels for their target audience (mommy bloggers) like Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, or they have not empowered their advertising, public relations or communications teams to respond immediately.

This is far from played out. There are probably some who will argue this is being blown out of proportion. In some ways, I might agree. But let’s look at some initial lessons:

LISTEN : People are talking about companies and brands every day on a variety of platforms. It is the responsibility of the marketing and communications team to monitor these conversations, whether or not they choose to participate. While its not possible to follow everything, even the most simple tools (RSS, Google Alerts) will catch things like this.

BE TRANSPARENT : When you make a mistake, apologize to the community and learn from it. This is an opportunity for Motrin to better understand its audience and to begin a conversation that probably should have started long ago.

There are many more, and I’m sure we’ll all learn from how Motrin handles this in the coming days.

Further reading: Mommy Bloggers Assimilate Johnson & Johnson , Forbes , Pistachio

Umm…Craig Newmark and I traded Tweets!

Twitter Screenshot

Yesterday was One Web Day, a worldwide event to celebrate the Internet and examine some of the key issues that we must address together to sustain it as an open, democratic forum. Since I live near Washington Square Park, I decided to wander down and listen to the heavy lineup of speakers.

What a lineup! Participants included Stanford professor Larry LessigJonathan Zittrain from Harvard Law School’s Berman Center for Internet and Society, Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow and Pandora founder Tim Westergren.

I got there a little late. As I arrived, I saw Craigslist founder Craig Newmark walking the other direction with another gentleman. I didn’t have the nerve to ask for a picture with him, so I did the next best thing: I took out my phone and shared that I just saw him with my friends on Twitter. Apparently he saw it and replied!

My favorite part of the reply is that he says, “I’m no big deal,” under which there’s a picture of him with Barak Obama. Ha!

Twitter received a couple of shout outs during the event, including this quote from Jonathan Zittrain, who explained that, “Twitter is like blogs, but more inane.”

Anyway, I continued to share updates from the event via Twitter, and as a result, ended up posting a short blurb about it on Mashable

The power of Twitter to connect disparate people continues to amaze me!