Blog Archives

The Minnesota Opera and Social Media gone (way) wrong


If you're the MN Opera, shooting out a series of bizarre/insulting Tweets from your official Twitter handle during a live performance is not the best way to fill the seats!

In a story you have to read to believe, the Minnesota Opera tried – and failed, miserably – to be hip, cool and relevant using Twitter during a live performance of Madame Butterfly

Here’s a great analysis of how horribly wrong it all went. It’s shake your head, “What were they thinking!?” type stuff.

How to use real-time social media savvy to land your dream job in the NBA

Philadelphia 76ers fan Jerry Rizzo used Social Media to land a dream job in the NBA!

Mashable has an awesome story of how a 23-year-old fan named Jerry Rizzo of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers leveraged social media to essentially do the team’s job for it online, a move that caught the attention of the 76ers’ CEO and landed the 23-year-old Rizzo his “dream job” working for the team.

Memo to anyone wanting to land a new gig and stand out from the crowd: In 2011, you need to create a real-time resume that showcases your skills. That means your Blog, Twitter feed and everything else are in play when it comes to impressing potential employers.

Even though he was only doing it for fun and out of passion for the team he loved, Rizzo’s unsolicited and savvy use social media on behalf of the 76ers caught the eye of the team’s CEO, Adam Aron, who offered him a job with the team as a result. Said Aron:

“Jerry impressed us not just with his clever Twitter campaign, but he had also created a website that was just loaded with content that demonstrated his creativity and drive and that he is a good writer and knowledgeable about social media,” Aron said. “He did online what people have done in job-searching efforts for decades — put his best foot forward and demonstrated what he can bring to an employer.”

Gary Vaynerchuck said this a few years back, but it rings true in 2011 more than ever – now IS the time to cash in on your passion. And the best way to do that is to use real-time tools like your Blog to show potential employers/clients what you bring to the table, and how you can specifically help them reach their goals.

Congrats to Jerry Rizzo for doing exactly that. What a great story!

Can a major news organization seriously be this clueless when it comes to Social Media?

Breaking News: The Associated Press doesn't get Twitter!

I have great things to say about The Associated Press. I worked part-time and full-time early on in my career for the AP’s Minneapolis bureau, and the training/experience/chops I learned there continue to serve me well to this day. As an AP reporter you have to literally be an instant expert on something new every day, covering breaking news as it happens and sharing stories with a worldwide audience in near real-time.

But I am beyond stunned at how foolish the AP’s top brass is behaving when it comes to silencing its reporters’ and editors’ use of Twitter.

Not letting reporters share personal opinions is bad enough. Not even letting them RT someone else’s person opinion is even dumber.

More important, I can’t say enough how AP is missing a huge opportunity to increase its value/influence on Twitter by doing this. AP reporters are often viewed as experts and are universally beloved by brands/PR folks/etc. because of AP’s massive reach. As a result, being an AP reporter often opens doors that are otherwise closed to many other journalists. Why not leverage that access and authority for all its worth if you’re the AP?

Another point: AP’s reporters and editors are among the most overworked and under-appreciated journalists on the planet. So going all Big Brother on them is not going to boost office morale anytime soon. Punk management moves like this are only going to drive more talented and experienced people away from AP and over to other news organizations or even (gasp!) PR shops.

I should point out that AP’s supposed reasoning behind this move is to prevent reporters from showing any type of bias in their Tweets/etc.

Yet for years, AP reporters (and many other journalists) have proven time and again that just because a human being has an opinion/viewpoint on an issue doesn’t mean he or she can’t cover it in a fair and professional manner. In fact, when our union had a huge strike last summer, I was actually shocked later to learn so many of the reporters covering us were actually in unions and in fact very pro-union. You never would have known based on the way they covered the story – they were extremely balanced/etc.

The AP needs to treat its reporters and editors like adults. That’s what they are, after all. Also, the reason (up until now) that I follow the AP reporters/editors on Twitter that I do is because of their personality/candor/opinions. Who wants to follow a boring, robotic-type? What’s the point? Yet that’s what AP will turn its 3,700 journalists into with this knucklehead move.

Not only do I feel bad for my friends who are still working for AP, but I feel bad for all of the readers/followers on Twitter who will miss out on some great, entertaining and expert insights and opinions as a result. Too bad.

Teach this! Here’s a video trailer for an upcoming U of M class I’m teaching on Labor Unions and Social Media

If you work in PR or Communications for a Labor Union here in the Twin Cities, I’d love to see you at a new class I’ll be teaching on October 25, 2011 through the University of Minnesota’s Labor Education Service! Here are the details: “Successful Social Media Strategies for Labor Unions” with John Nemo, Dir of PR and Social Media for the Minnesota Nurses Association. $25, Tues, October 25, 6-9 p.m. Contact John See at 612-624-6039. Registration info available at the LES website.

Here’s a video trailer I made promoting the class:

Ben Rector: A Case Study in Brilliant use of Social Media

I originally found independent singer/songwriter Ben Rector via NoiseTrade, where musicians give away songs for free – no strings attached – in hopes of building a following. Not only have I enjoyed Ben’s music and proven the NoiseTrade business model true by going out and paying for more of his music on my own, but I’ve also become a huge fan of how brilliantly Ben uses Social Media. His YouTube channel is hilarious, and his latest effort to engage and reward fans surrounding his new album’s release is classic Thank You Economy.

Below is Ben’s video asking fans to help spread the word about the new album, and what they’ll get from him in return. The effort apparently paid off. In less than a week, his album went to #4 overall on iTunes and #1 on the singer/songwriter list. All this without a major record label or promotional effort behind it!

As a bonus here’s one of my favorite Ben Rector songs. If nothing else, follow this guy for his Social Media savvy, because he’s doing a brilliant job!

Strike! How to successfully utilize Facebook and Twitter during a Live Event

Make sure your voice is heard - loud and clear - during a Live event!

(Note: If you prefer, I also have this entire post available as a downloadable PDF over my my SlideShare page.)

Background: On June 10, 2010, more than 12,000 Minnesota RNs conducted the largest nursing strike in U.S. history. Below are the strategies we used and (more important) the lessons we learned using Social Media during an emotional, action-packed 24 hours:

  • Dedicate someone full-time the day of the event to monitor, curate and edit content being shared on your Facebook Fan Page. This person should be engaging, responding, commenting and helping users on the page. That means being parked in front of your screen ALL DAY, constantly refreshing the page, sharing new content and updates, answering questions, solving problems, etc.
  • Make sure your Facebook Fan Page settings are such that anyone can easily upload and share their photos/videos without needing approval first. (This is obviously why you also need someone monitoring the page in real-time on your end as well.)
  • Put out encouraging posts throughout the day asking people to take photos and videos on their phones and upload to the Fan page. Make specific asks.
  • Ask your online supporters (in our case, it was other unions, other association members around the state, political allies, etc.) to help Retweet your most compelling content on Twitter, and to do the same on their individual FB pages. You also want to ask these online supporters to point their unique audience(s) to your Facebook fan page and the Twitter feed.
  • On Twitter, create a hash tag that’s easy to remember (in our case, #RNStrike would work fine) and encourage everyone to use it online so you can curate and collect relevant Tweets.
  • Have people in the field (i.e. your staff) who are responsible for feeding you photos/videos/updates in real-time. That means shooting stuff on their mobile phones/iPads/etc. and then e-mailing or texting you the content back at the office so you can compile it and upload it as it comes in. Better yet, if you trust their judgment enough, have them just directly upload and share photos/videos/updates to the FB fan page.
  • Alert the mainstream media ahead of time via press releases/e-mails/etc. that you will be carrying real-time, live updates from people on the front lines via your Facebook page. As a result, the media may end up featuring or even quoting what shows up on your Facebook page (good, bad or ugly). Be ready for that. You can’t control every negative post, and some of them might just show up on the evening news. Journalists are always going to look to balance the story with the opposing viewpoint, especially if it comes from within your own camp. Accept this and move on.
  • Whatever you do, do NOT delete critical posts that show up on your page. Instead respond right away to critics in a calm, reasonable and professional tone. This lends major credibility to your page and lets the online “peanut gallery” watching know that you’re open to constructive dialogue and can agree to disagree in a professional and respectful manner. Remember, not every single one of your members/fans will share the company line as things unfold. Let those people (especially if they are a member of your organization!) have their say, and engage with them. Try to win them over. Try and turn those critics into supporters. Use respect, charm and intelligent dialogue. Don’t browbeat or condemn them. And if all else fails, politely agree to disagree and move on. Nothing backfires on you more quickly than trying to censor or silence critics (especially if they belong to your organization) online.
  • Use Google News and other tools to search for real-time Blog posts and mainstream media coverage the day of the event. Grab those links and share them on your Facebook page. Include some color and context with each posting. For example, you can do a status update like this: “Here’s the latest L.A. Times story posted online regarding today’s strike. Nurses, you are making history!”
  • Install the Facebook UStream App on the left side of your Facebook Fan Page (if you haven’t already) so that people can easily click over and watch live streaming from the picket lines or the event itself. Make sure you put on your UStream channel page a schedule of when/where the live streaming is going to happen so people know when to tune in. (The “upcoming events” you enter on your UStream channel page will automatically show up in the UStream App on your Facebook Fan Page.)
  • Use a tool like HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule some Tweets in advance that share the URL for the Live Stream or other key events that are happening during the day that you want to point people to online.
  • Buy some Facebook ads in advance of the event. Target the specific communities (you can even do this by zip code!) you’ll be holding the event in. In our case, we’d want to have the ad point to our Facebook Fan Page. We’d also be asking the people in those communities to support their local nurses on the day of the strike.
  • If things are slow, throw out a post now and then asking for people on the picket lines or at the event to share their observations, comments, photos and videos. What’s the mood like on the ground? Has the public been supportive? What type of shoes did you wear today? Any funny stories or conversations you overheard? Any celebrities show up? Media coverage? What’s it like? How are you feeling?
  • Rather than just barfing up content onto your page as fast as you can, try to add some color/perspective/explanation to posts going up. If content is posted from an outside source without any explanation, be the first one to comment on the story. Use that space to add explanation/context/color as needed.
  • Try and build momentum with each post. In our case, we’d want to tell our nurses they are making history and that the whole world is literally watching and wanting to hear their story from the front lines. Then encourage them to share, share, share! We want to build a sense of drama, a sense of urgency, and create what becomes a tidal wave of posts and Tweets about the event/strike. In Social Media, nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd!
  • With Twitter, use HootSuite, TweetDeck or another monitoring tool to track the stream of Tweets connected to your event. Set up a few different ongoing searches using keywords from your event (in our case it would be terms like “Nurses,” “Strike,” etc.) along with the official hash tag (#RNStrike) and variations you think others might use (#NursesStrike, #RNProtest, #MNNurses, etc.)
  • Engage and respond right away on Twitter. When you see cranky Tweets from neighbors complaining about disruption in the area or rude behavior by your people on the ground, apologize on behalf of those people and give an explanation if you can. Include helpful links aimed at solving the problem if it’s applicable. (Maybe alternate traffic maps/routes for that day, for instance.) Don’t ignore critics. Instead, engage them. Try to win them over. And if that doesn’t work, be polite and move on. Remember, the peanut gallery is always watching to see how you handle yourself and represent your organization online!
  • Make sure you RT the best Tweets as things unfold. Especially if those Tweets are coming from a journalist, politician, celebrity or other key influencer. Doing this shows your followers (including those on the ground looking at their cell phones as they participate) just how big of a deal this is.
  • Send the people participating in the upcoming live event an e-mail ahead of time. Include your Facebook URL and a brief pep talk about why it’s so important for them to snap photos and videos and share their thoughts on your page. Also include the Twitter hash tag (like #RNStrike) to include, and make sure you’ve already begun populating that hash tag with some Tweets about the upcoming live event so people get the idea of what it will look like.
  • As you go along, make sure your “Favorite” the best Tweets and keep screen shots of the best Facebook posts from the day. Do the same with videos and photos, because chances are you’re going to want to do an event wrap up/review at some point later on.

For more tips/lessons learned, I’ve also created these resources:

The time in 2006 when I thought Derek Webb had gone insane, got thrown in jail or both

When I saw this, I thought Derek Webb had gone bonkers!

I’ll never forget when I first heard of the URL I thought my favorite controversial Christian musician had finally pushed the Modern Day Pharisees (MDP) too far and gotten himself locked up. I imagined the MDPs could take it no more thanks to songs like this, and had managed to throw Derek into some sort of prison where Christian dissidents like Don Miller and John Eldredge would also be held. As such, I figured the “Free Derek Webb” URL was designed to call attention to his plight.

Of course, that was not the case. But when I learned the true reason for the URL, I still thought Webb had gone crazy. I mean, this was 2006. Sites like NoiseTrade didn’t exist. Musicians didn’t just give away brand new studio albums for free.

But Derek Webb was doing exactly that! What a nut job.

As a huge fan of his, I was delighted to take advantage of Derek’s mental state and snag a free digital copy of his latest release. And of course (this is where Derek Webb proves he’s not insane) I ran out and became a brand evangelist, e-mailing (Facebook and Twitter weren’t mainstream then – remember, this was 2006!) all my friends and telling them about this amazing deal.

A few other people must have, too, because more than 80,000 people downloaded the free album.

I’m sure many were already fans like myself, but think of how many more thousands of people discovered Derek Webb’s music for the first time as a result.

Sure, he missed out on some easy/fast money by giving away 80,000 copies of “Mockingbird,” but he got great publicity/market exposure, and (more important) he did something Gary Vaynerchuk preaches all the time – Derek Webb began building lifetime customer value.

If you downloaded “Mockingbird” for free in 2006, and fell in love with this new musician Derek Webb, I’m betting you bought at least 1 or 2 of his other albums at some point in the future. Derek gave up a huge chunk of money in the short term, but over the long term he gained (potentially) tens of thousands of new fans, and (most important) made them fans for life.

UPDATE: Derek just posted a response on Twitter about this whole episode and its impact on his career:

And with Webb’s current fans like me, a free album download just endeared him all the more to us, and also jacked us up even more than usual to be his brand evangelists, telling everyone how great he was and why they should download his free album.

As great a musician as Derek Webb is, I think he’s an even better marketer. He proved all the way back in 2006 that he understood the power of Social Media and “Word of Mouse” before such a thing even existed. He does an amazing job in 2011 using sites like Twitter to connect with his fans in meaningful and lasting ways. And he constantly pushes the envelope for what’s coming next with sites like NoiseTrade, which people like me use all the time to download free music from new artists. And, funny, if I really like an artist I find for free on NoiseTrade, I always end up going back and buying more of his or her songs because I like the music so much.

Glad to know Derek Webb is not insane or in Christian jail. The music (and PR/Marketing) world would be  much less exciting without him.

Shock and Awe: Why this type of customer service is going to be the norm sooner rather than later

Gary Vaynerchuk nails it yet again by citing another recent example of The Thank You Economy in action. I love how he compares what we are seeing now in this example with Morton’s to the concept of Free Shipping in the late 1990s vs. 2011.

7 Twitter Tips to Live By

Right now I’m busy building my new employer’s Social Media presence from the ground up. I’m starting with Twitter. Here’s some off-the-cuff reminders I’m picking up while starting our Twitter account from scratch.

  1. Find your audience. I’m using search tools like Twellow and Twitter searches to find the people who are Tweeting about what we’re interested in. I’m also Googling (“Minnesota politicians using Twitter”) and finding somebody else has already done the work to compile these lists.
  2. Listen, listen, listen. I’m spending hours reading Tweets and seeing what people in our industry care about, what they are passionately discussing, and figuring out what types of Tweets I can share to engage them.
  3. Follow others’ follows. When I find someone with really good content, I take the time to sift through who they are following and then follow many of those folks as well. This is the beauty of Social Media.
  4. Customize. We’re working right now on creating a customized Twitter background. To me this is a HUGE deal – custom Twitter backgrounds are the new business cards. They are an introduction to your brand and an eye-catching way of getting people interested in who you are and what you have to say. Talk to this guy if you need help creating one.
  5. Tweet sparingly. I’m getting plenty of followers just by following others, so I don’t need to start barfing out a bunch of Tweets unless I have something helpful to say or share.
  6. Create lists. My next step is breaking down the folks I’m following into categories – Journalists, Politicians, Political organizations, etc. These Twitter lists reduce the insanity/clutter of trying to keep up with my main feed, and helps me focus on whatever segment of our industry I need to.
  7. Tag team effort. I’m quick to look up anyone/everyone who follows me back (particularly journalists since I’m a PR guy) on LinkedIn and send out invites if I think it would benefit me to do so.

FYI, Mashable has created a great and comprehensive guide to all things Twitter that is definitely worth your time whether you’re a brand new Tweep or a longtime veteran of the service.

How about you? What Twitter tips am I leaving out? Feel free to add yours in the comments!


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