Monday, December 28, 2009

Harvard Pitch for Change Contest

The upcoming Social Enterprise Conference organized at Harvard University on February 27th and 28th, 2010 has an interesting opportunity for young social enterpreneurs. In addition to promising a solid program full of innovative and socially-driven speakers, the conference organizers are launching an elevator-pitch competition called, "Pitch for Change."

Pitch for Change is open to individuals and teams with an idea for a new social enterprise venture. The criteria for submissions help teams write down their ideas following a short and sweet business plan model. At least one team member has to be a graduate student.

If you have an idea that can create change --local or global-- write up 500 words about it and submit it here. You may end up being a semi-finalist and get the opportunity to present it at the conference.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Creative Online Fundraising

I was chatting with a friend of mine about the role of social responsibility in fueling consumer spending. She heads up strategy and research in the leading ad agency in Turkey. No wonder she is in charge of research; the next day she sent me a link saying 'This is the model you were talking about.'

Her link lead me to, a Turkish portal that offers customized gifts to your loved ones, signed by the celebrities joining the portal's cause to raise funds for charities. Money raised by these purchases go towards non-profits that help the sick and the poor. All listed non-profits are highly credible and carefully vetted.

As a user, all you have to do is choose your celebrity, pick a gift (this can be a poster or a t-shirt from the celebrity) and write a short message you'd like the celebrity to say in a video. Once you pay for the gift, the proceeds go towards your choice of non-profit, the gift goes to your friend and you and your friend get a unique video message from the celebrity, saying what you wanted him/her to say. You can then forward the celebrity's message, post it on Facebook or YouTube. So, the celebrities also increase their popularity and get media attention.

All involved parties win. The celebrity gains new fans, the consumer gets a unique gift, the non-profits and the portal get their share. Nice formula!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Istanbul Votes for Crafts Online

Istanbul is the culture capital of Europe in 2010. The agency in charge of this initiative and Pera Fine Arts gallery coordinated a competition among Turkish designers and craftsmen to create portable gifts with Istanbul theme. The finalists were selected by a group of art professionals and the winners were determined by online Istanbulis who voted for their choices at Pera Sanat. Here are a few items that I loved. I wish there was no weight limit on luggages...

The one in the center is a replica of the Maiden Tower. The story goes that a psychic tells a Byzantine king that his beautiful daughter is to die at a young age. Fearful of such horrific fate, he orders his daughter to seclusion at the Maiden Tower, which is on a tiny island off the coast of Istanbul. Little does he know that the young princess has an admirer who misses her very much. He sends her flowers to the tower to declare his love. Unfortunately, a snake hides among the flowers and as she leans to smell the bouquet, the snake stings her. Beautiful girl meets her fate at the Maiden Tower...

And that is an absolute Istanbul story: melodramatic!

I leave you with an alternative look at the Istanbul skyline, served on a silver spoon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

MARKA (Brand) Conference Wraps Up in Istanbul

İstanbul frequently hosts international conferences. The city offers its mesmerizing beauty, bumper to bumper traffic, genuine hospitality, good food, thousands of years of history to visitors. Speakers find intelligent, creative and entrepreneurial audiences who have to overcome national political and economic crises to create brands.

This year's MARKA conference (Marka means brand in Turkish) just wrapped up today. Here's a link to its English Web site. It was at the Çırağan Kempinsky Palace Hotel...where the Sultans used to live (not your run of the mill hotel ballroom, baby).

Among speakers were the following:

- Jerry Hall !!! Well, models are brands and her brand is several decades old. Respect!)

- Christian Louboutin...He makes lovely stilettos with red soles. Hats off to anyone who can sell a product where buyers pay thousands to pound on the differentiatıng trait

- Ze Frank - viral marketer, musician, designer. Frank is involved in a very interesting and worthwhile campaign in partnership with Samsung. Participants create art with their phones and raise funds to help Architecture for Humanity or the Nature Conservancy. You take your photo wearing something colorful or standing in front of a colored background. You add color to it...guess what, using Samsung's Corby. Final step: Uplod your photo for voting. To participate, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What to do in 2010: Better target, distribute and measure

2009 went by fast, crazy, busy... All of my colleagues were powerpoint heroes and road warriors. With the economic downturn, budgets are spent more carefully. Smart marketers ask to see where their money is going and which ideas will bring them return. Apps, Facebook, Twitter, house parties, the tactic or channel you want, but you need to match it with a plan to target, distribute and measure.

We were brainstorming in the office the other day and a dear colleague who works on traditional media asked me a broad question: "What works in social media nowadays? And what doesn't?" There is so much excitement around fan pages and Twitter handles that it is easy to forget that you need to devise a plan around these initiatives. Otherwise, you're relying on luck for audiences to understand, embrace and pass along your message.

What happened in 2009? It was the year of the clutter. Touch-screen technology and apps became mainstream. Developers started forming small companies that focused on applications, which work across multiple platforms. Newspapers took ads about apps. Amazon announced that it was selling short stories and planned to be the iTunes of publishing. Here's the take away: Content is king, but it's smaller than ever. It's parsed into byte size bits. So, you need a truly creative strategy and smart distribution plan to break through the clutter.

What doesn't work in social media anymore? A Facebook fan page, a widget, an app.... that you just develop and post out there.

What works in social media? A Facebook fan page that with sustained activity, that goes beyond pushing updated news to audiences. A widget or app that is tied into a wide distribution network, targeted to the right audience. More importantly, apps that deliver value and utility.

2010 will be the year of truly creative work in social media. We will need to grab audiences attention and rise above the crowd. And only those programs built on solid foundations of targeting, distribution and measurement will break through the clutter and make their marks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Full disclosure: I work on this campaign. I sincerely believe in participating in this cause and helping Kids In Need. All you have to do is to take the pledge on Your pledge (with just one click) will trigger a donation of Wet Ones to a child in need.

Take the Pledge to Help Stop the Spread of Germs: "Pledge today at to help keep your family and community healthy this cold and flu season. You'll get a valuable coupon and we'll provide a donation to The Kids In Need Foundation for the first 100,000 pledges submitted!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Peace - It Can Happen on Facebook!

Coming from a multi-cultural family and having studied cross-cultural communications, I always thought if people got close enough they would appreciate their differences. Friends and then relatives from different countries can really move us closer to a much higher level of acceptance.

Finally, here's living proof from Facebook. The "peace page" tracks friendships among people from nations who have been in historical conflict. You can watch it in real time, as people connect on Facebook.

Then, there is the survey across nations. Question is whether you believe world peace is achievable. Americans are most pessimistic. Columbians are most optimistic. I guess being exposed to war news is depressing, and making strides against FARC boosts morale!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can Zappos Service Get Any Better?

Speaking of delivering without asking, check out this email I just got:

"Although you originally ordered Standard (4 to 5 business days) shipping and handling, we have given your order special priority processing in our warehouse and are upgrading the shipping and delivery time frame for your order.Your order will ship out today and be given a special priority shipping status so that you can receive your order even faster than we originally promised!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thoughts After Moving An Apartment: Kindle vs. Sony eReader

I just moved. And as a self-diagnosed bookworm who has been buying and KEEPING books since age 5, I am not feeling my back. My books are everywhere in the 100 unit apartment building. In the apartment, in the basement shelves, in the building's storage... Sitting among piles and boxes, I entertained the notion of purchasing a Kindle. "Imagine, no more mess. Less Advil. Less dust," I thought. Then I brushed the thought away as I really like the idea of holding a physical book, marking it up if I want to, sharing it with someone...

Fast forward to the phone call when I rang up my Sony credit card service to change my address. The customer service rep was very friendly. She knew her job. She was not reading off of a sheet to ask me how I was doing. Right before I hung up, she asked me if I were thinking of buying an eReader for the holidays. (My credit card offers points for Sony purchases.) I said yeah, maybe, no. She went on with a direct price comparison of Kindle vs the Sony product.

I must admit I was a bit surprised:

A) I didn't expect a phone customer service rep to be so eloquent
B) I didn't think anything Sony produced could cost less than a competitor's

But apparently it is: eReader is coming under $200 this season. Something to consider while I continue to unpack...Kudos to Sony for having such a smooth operator!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NYC: We Want Your App!

The City of New York is holding a competition for a smart app related to NY life in a competition coined as NYC Big Apps. Developers who submit their entries here will have the chance to get a cash prize of $20,000 and attend dinner with Mayor Bloomberg (nice!) The judges include who's who of NY tech scene, and that should encourage any entrepreneur or independent developer who is looking for an opportunity to pitch their best work.

Submissions will come through December 8th. Then the public will vote from December 15th through January 7th. What a great way to support the vibrant tech sector in NY and support local talent.

The competition is looking for entries that will help make NY more accessible and an easier place to live. If I could develop my own app, I would figure out a way to find available cabs on a rainy day!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kanye Creeps Up on Healthcare Reform - on Twitter!

I could not resist sharing this image when I saw the little red dot in the Twitter word cloud. Our friends at Motivequest have been closely tracking the healthcare reform debate buzz online. The image below shows the various topics and key words mentioned on Twitter, related to this issue. "Obama" and "reform" are obviously in the lead. But what's that red dot? Kanye is still in the mix! He's slowly edging towards the center. Obama, watch out! He's going to steal the stage!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Social Media Engagement Works

The greatest benefit of building your brand's presence in social media is earning share of voice and establishing long-term relations. It's not just about the number of fans or the number of followers. There are many residual benefits, such as brand affinity and advocacy. Consumers who are engaged with your brand in social media are more likely to search for the brand's products, more likely to buy from that brand and more likely to click through links they see about the brand.

Here is further evidence from a recent study by GroupM Search and comScore:

- Consumers using social media are 1.7 times more likely to search with the intension of making a list of brands or products to consider purchasing compared with the average internet user.

- Consumers exposed to influenced social and paid search exhibit 223% heavier search behavior than consumers exposed to paid alone.

- 50% of social-media exposed searchers search daily for product terms, compared with 33% of non-exposed searchers.

- In organic search, consumers searching on brand product terms who have been exposed to a brand’s social marketing campaign are 2.4 times more likely to click on organic links leading to the advertiser’s site than the average user seeing a brand’s paid search ad alone.

More details on the study results are here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Join WOMMA's Webinar on New FTC Regulations

Yesterday, FTC announced new regulations that will impact the way companies have been communicating with bloggers. According to the new regulations (which we had been expecting for a while), bloggers are asked to disclose any material connections they may have with a company, if they are writing on the products and services they received from that organization. Fair? Absolutely. Tricky? Yes.

I don't think anyone in their right mind would argue against the importance of having honest conversations with bloggers and other consumers online. I would like to think that we are past the point of considering fake blogs, paid and undisclosed posts as smart marketing initiatives. Consumers will figure it out. You will lose their trust. Most importantly, you will lose their business.

However, I do think we will all need to be extra careful to make sure consumers know about the conversations between brand representatives and bloggers. We are always open and transparent about who we represent when we speak with bloggers. We always ask that their readers know how they are able to try products and where they get their information. But we obviously do not control what they write. Nor would we ever tell them how to write a post. (Would you tell Mossberg how to write his column??)

The FTC guideline is pretty clear on this: do not post without full disclosure. But, is it enough for a brand to ask bloggers that they disclose the source of their trial product? Will we need more structured and possibly legal communications with bloggers when we invite them to join programs? Does a coupon or a discount offer constitute material connection?

There will be much discussion on these types of questions in the coming days. I have a feeling we'll learn on a case by case basis, as blogger networks evolve and offer new business models. For now, the best thing to do is to over-communicate about blogger relations and brand connections... and to join WOMMA's upcoming Webinar with the organization's general counsel Tony DiResta on October 8th. Info on how to attend here at

Twitter's Real Value

Recently I was speaking with a Columbia MBA student who wanted to know what I thought of the "zillion dollar Twitter deal." I think we are all excited about the idea of seeing glorious Internet deals coming back. Remember, when you asked for VC money for hypothetical business plans and inflated numbers and you got a few more millions to just go and try things? While I am not sure if Twitter is worth a "zillion" dollars, I do think it deserves significant investment.

Twitter is more than a 140-character message update service where people rant about their latest activities. It is a very adept tool at collecting consumer data and mapping networks. As social media tools such as Twitter become mainstream, we'll see more talk about personal CPM. Today we go through many calculations and estimations to figure out how influential an Internet user is, how far they can drive a conversation, how many people follow their word and take their advice. Twitter is revealing plans to track retweets. That's very much like seeing the list of people who quote from articles and reference other people's work when advocating new ideas. It's a simple way of gauging authority. Retweets show how an idea is embraced and spread by Internet users. As simple as it may sound, I think that's a significant development in cataloging Twitter-based information.

I see Twitter as a powerful tool that will be able to show us how authoritative and powerful a given blogger/Twitter user is. Its advanced features will add a new dimension to online research about brand-related dialogues.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Outlook from World Future Society

Predicting the future is a fascination for many - some may want to be assured of their personal accomplishments, but businesses also want to be prepared for what's ahead. Working with futurists can bring companies significant competitive edge, allowing them to organize, hire, produce for consumer wants and needs in the next decade.

Looking over the World Future Society's latest outlook report, I would like to call out a few predictions that might affect the tech and communication industries:

1- Computers will store memory using light, rather than electrons. This will increase their storage capacity by 1,000%. (Think, we'll be able to process information faster, save and transfer more electronically. More entertainment will shift online, we'll store less paper.)

2- Health-related gaming will be used to train caregivers and health workers. Some patients will even be able to treat themselves. (Check out great work already done by Games for Health and Health Games Research.)

3-Identity theft and other online crimes will increase.

4-Social roles will continue to transfer online, unchanged. More girls will become victims of cyberbullying.

5- The Internet will become more factually reliable and more transparent. (There is actually research on how crowd-sourcing on wikis during disasters or catastrophic events yields accurate information.)

So, it looks like we'll get more and better information at a faster rate, but the fallacies of human nature will remain.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Augmented Reality Videos

Yet another birthday I learned (sorry, remembered!) through I love the site - it has come a long way since its inception when users sent images around. Now, almost every creation is animated. But it's time to take it to the next level with augmented reality. I came across this post in Oddcast's latest e-newsletter. The company, known for its talking heads and avatars, is demoing augmented reality. They are meshing live video with animated characters. You can try it for yourself: Go here to see an example. If you have a Webcam ready, you can interact with the animated guitar player at All you have to do is to turn on your camera, print a badge from here, hold it up to your Webcam and magically, a cartoonish guitar player pops up on your face. The badge becomes his stage. You can move your hands towards him to see if he'll fall off the stage. He'll jump and keep on rocking.

Now, wouldn't it be fun to record a personal video message for a friend and plug in a three-dimensional, animated character to jazz it up. Your friend could then interact with the animated character while he/she listened to your message.

Imagine what this could do for brands and fans. You could finally dance on the same stage with Michael Jackson, have cans of Coke and wear your favorite designer's clothes from the comfort of your desk. Brands could provide the tools on a micro-site to fans and let them create their own clips, mixing video with animation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SEO tips for Facebook and Twitter -

"Great practical tips for those building fan pages and social profiles for companies/organizations. "
Your social media presence means nothing without traffic, and search engines are one of the best ways to get it. Follow these tips when building your social media pages for the best SEO results.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Twitter Opera

This is not a joke. The prestigious Royal Opera House, in partnership with Deloitte, used Twitter to get audiences to write the plot line for an opera. Check them out @youropera. The crowdsourced opera will be performed as part of the Deloitte Ignite Festival in the next few days. You can follow the journey of the Twitter Opera on the ROH's blog. A snapshot of the plotline, which I am copying from their blog, is as follows:

"At the end of Act One, Scene One, William is languishing in a tower, having been kidnapped by a group of birds who are anxious for revenge after he has killed one of their number. Hans has promised to rescue him. The Woman With No Name is off to her biochemistry laboratory to make a potion to let people speak to the birds."

May sound a bit quirky, but it sure helped ROH find a new audience segment and draw younger people to their theatre. After all, the opera was originally intended as entertainment for the masses - no?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Medvedev on YouTube

Last October, I had the honor of speaking at the first digital marketing conference organized in Russia. Speaking with our colleagues in Moscow, I had became aware of the potential of "bringing the State to the Web." Well, it's been happening bit by bit. Here's the latest from President Medvedev on YouTube. Too bad I don't speak Russian, so I can't understand what he's saying. While the subtitles are in Cyrillic, the headlines are in English. So the page still gives me a sense of the various touch points President Medvedev's office is creating. Here's a look at some personal photos from the President's album. (Notice he's a Mac user :-)) And here's entertaining animation for children.

I had often wondered about the politics of speaking in your mother tongue when addressing people as the Head of State. Switching to another language can sometimes be a graceful gesture to that country's people. Sometimes it may mean straying away from your national identity. So, I don't think Medvedev's office would create an English version of the page to reach a broader audience. Kremlin speaks Russian. But it'll be interesting to see if a situation arises where Medvedev chooses to do a video in English, speaking to American audiences on matters concerning the two countries. Until then, we'll go brush up on our Russian.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social Capital Conference '09 Sold Out!

This gives me hope. The meeting of entrepreneurs, non-profits and for-profits feels utopian but it is real. Using money in meaningful ways is the tag line. Here's a look at what attendees will discuss in the next couple of days.

Nathaniel Whittemore of Social Entrepreneurship is blogging from the conference. Here are his observations on trends shaping the conference.

1- Measurement
2- Mobile technology
3- Online action platforms
4- The Office of Social Innovation - government's partnerships with social innovators

While the latter is specific to the social capital world, the first three is what we have been discussing in the for-profit world all year long. In fact, these topics are top of mind as my colleagues and I are working on the upcoming WOMMA conference agenda.

I wonder if those who are trying to move the masses to take civic or charitable actions are more successful in social media than those trying to convince the masses to shop and choose their brands. I can see people being equally passionate about a cause and a brand. But social media makes it so much easier to join and support a cause. Raising your hand or your voice online cost very little time or money.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Putting the Social in Social

Social Good, organized by Mashable, took place in New York this week. Beth Kanter, a social media guru who focuses on non-profits and civic action, was among the speakers. I'm sharing her presentation. (Or rather she's sharing and I'm passing it along in absolute WOM style.) Here's how to "Be A Generous Geek" I wasn't fortunate enough to listen to Beth's presentation, but two of her slides stood out to me: "modest amounts of money and small amounts of time add up" to create noteworthy change.

So, let's do our share to support the "Summer of Social Good" promoted by Mashable. You can donate, retweet, watch a video or take a survey and your actions will be matched in donations by corporate sponsors.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

charity:water Launches September Campaign

charity:water, one of my favorite organizations, is inviting all those born in September to consider making a donation to bring clean water to African populations in need. We get caught up in daily annoyances and don't always remember how lucky we are not to worry about the basics we need to survive. 1 in 6 people in the world do not have access to clean water. This is a multi-pronged problem. People cannot feed their families, children cannot reach their schools, they get sick, they put themselves in harm's way to get to clean water sources. So, instead of piling birthday gifts you may or may not get around to use, consider helping charity:water build wells in Africa. Ask your friends to donate here, whatever they can. (Maybe a dollar amount equal to your new age!)

charity:water has done an amazing job so far. It actively uses social media to bring awareness to the water issue, to rally the troops and to raise funds. Since its inception 2.5 years ago, the organization raised $8.5 million, and funded 1240 water projects in 14 countries. Those projects continue to serve more than 640,000 people with clean drinking water.

Your money will not go to waste. Guaranteed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do You Know Video?

Eyeview is a start-up based in Boston/Tel-Aviv. It provides end-to-end video solutions. The company's site is full of good information on what qualities in a video will convert viewers to buyers. I got a quiz from their VC this morning. You can check it out here and see how smart you are about understanding what works, what doesn't work for online videos.

I have a feeling that many of us would not score 8 out of 8 ;-)

I had fun and I learned a few things from the Eyeview quiz. My take aways were:

1- If you are creating visual content for a client, think from the user perspective. How are they able to see and understand?

2- Your message is important, but don't forget a call to action. Tell people what you want them to do. And better make that short and sweet.

3- Whatever is easy, whatever works. Don't make people click, scroll, take a left turn and click again. Give them a shortcut and break that shortcut into simple steps.

4- Put the viewer in the driver seat. Use smart design to get people to scroll and click, helping them discover content on their own.

For case studies from Eyeview, click here. eBay and Poker Professor are among clients!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WOMMA Updates Ethics Code

After much deliberation, WOMMA has updated a critical phrase in its ethics code as follows:

"We stand against marketing practices whereby the marketer or its representatives provide goods, services or compensation to the consumer to make recommendations, reviews or endorsements without full, meaningful, and prominent disclosure."

A final version of the Code can be found here.

WOMMA is also encouraging all of its members and the larger WOMM community to contribute to the ongoing discussion about ethics. If you like, you can join the conversation here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Traditional Media Faster Than Blogs?

A recent study by Cornell University studied the flow of news, particularly the process in which information transforms into news, draws audiences’ attention and disseminates. Using computer analysis, researchers reviewed repeated phrases and tracked mentions across 1.6 million mainstream media sites and blogs.

The study showed that most news flowed from traditional media to blogs. In addition, traditional news generation was faster. On average, blogs reported on news that appeared in traditional media 2.5 hours later. According to the study, only 3.5 percent of story lines that originated in blogs made their way to traditional media.

For further information on ‘Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle’ by Kleinberg, Leskovec, Backstrom, click here.

But here is a closer look at the top-level data authors provide here Researchers list some leading blogs and Web sites on this page with their respective lag time. You can see the time it takes for what these outlets publish to hit their peak and become news. According to this list, political blogs such as Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post are pretty damn fast. Their stories publish hours before the same headlines reach their peak in the news cycle (23 hours before for Talking Points and 18 hours before for Huffington Post.)

My take away is that there are many other blogs that pull down the average in such a vast sample of media outlets. We can still expect the leading influential blogs to contribute and drive the public agenda.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Invest in Turkey

You may have wondered why there was a bit of a pause on this blog. Especially when written by someone who constantly tells others to keep writing and posting at least once a week. Well, I was on vacation! It was the longest vacation office workers in the glorious nation of United States had seen: 18 consecutive days! (Jealous?) My time was well spent. I visited my family in Turkey and practiced word of mouth chatting with them.

In case you were wondering about Turkey. No, it's not in the Caribbean. It's not like the Caribbean. It is spread over Europe and Asia. It has a variety of seasons, depending on the region. Population is more than 70 million. 61 percent is under the age of 34!! It's a peninsula, surrounded by beautiful coast lines on the Aegean, Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

And here are some notes I grabbed from the Invest in Turkey brochure on the plane:

- Turkey is the world's 15th largest economy and the 6th largest economy compared to the 27 EU economies
- Between 2003 and 2008, Turkey's GDP increased 143%, reaching $742 billion
- During the same time, exports increased 179%, reaching $132 billion, foreign trade increased by 186%, exports to neighboring countries rose 278%

Despite its political ups and downs and its fair share of economic crises, Turkey commands a strong position in the international business arena. Turkish people follow and respond to the media. Facebook's largest following in Europe, as I had written here before, is from Turkey. Participating in online chats, spending hours per day playing games are not uncommon experiences for the Turkish youth. The social media and WOM space there is bubbling with very creative, targeted campaigns.

I'd say, look for more waves coming from Turkey.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

WOMMA Releases Forecast Report

Hot off the press! WOMMA just released a new study in partnership with PQ Media. It's a forecast study that provides an in-depth perspective on the state of the industry, spending levels and key players. I am printing (all 100+ pages) as we speak. The take away is that the industry has been growing at incredible speed despite the recession. Many brands have shifted dollars from traditional marketing channels to word of mouth. CPG companies have the lead in spending, but automotive, financial and b-to-b players follow suit. The report includes 40+ case studies. Definitely worth reading.

Here is a link to the press release, which includes top level findings. To purchase a full copy of the report, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Iranian Protestors Are Showing Us

Twitter is hitting mainstream. I am saying this not because I am looking at some numbers, but because I am getting asked aboutit outside of work by people of different professional backgrounds - none of whom work at agencies. These folks first ask me what Twitter is and what it really does or mean. I say it's about networking and tapping into the power of loose connections and shared knowledge.

When it comes to twiter, don't just think marketing. Think politics, think rural vs urban, think cross-polinations across schools and schools of thought. The way protesters in Iran kept communicating through Twitter and got tips on where to be, which streets to avoid, how to act is a very vivid example of how powerful this simple tool can be. Is it because it's using the latest technology? No, not just that. Twitter's power lies in people and ideas they can share at the speed of a few clicks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sertab Erener: A Sincere Voice! in Social Media

Like many Turkish people, I am a fan of Sertab Erener - a pop singer with an amazing voice that transcends ... well, it just rises above all. Her fame spread to Europe when she brought the famed Eurovision song contest trophy home. Her talent is evident to all who hear her songs, whether they can understand the Turkish lyrics or not. So, you can imagine what I thought when I saw an email from Twitter saying that Sertab Erener was now following me. "Her handlers are hard at work, adding anyone with a Turkish name out there," I said to myself. Wrrronngg!

I clicked on the link to find Sertab's photo taken with a Web cam (she changed it since then) with updates that were obviously written by her, in first person. Then I started jumping up and down saying 'Ohmigawd, ohmigawd, Sertab Erener is now following me on Twitter.' I returned the favor immediately of course and told everyone in the office who would listen.

Sertab is also posting updates to her Facebook fan page and she sends her updates through Friendfeed.

Sertab's writing voice is as clear as her singing voice. Her genuine personality comes across as she uploads family photos, tells followers when she's feeling a bit under the weather and shares how she's preparing her upcoming album. It's called Painted on Water, due on June 9th.

I would have bought the album anyhow, since I am a fan of her music. But her spot-on approach to social media and one-to-one conversations with fans makes me want to buy a few as gifts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Facebook addiction in New York subway graffiti

I took this photo this morning at the Carroll Gardens subway station in Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Terminator Salvation - Building Buzz Online Before Launch

The sci-fi film, Terminator Salvation, is going to be released in the US on May 21st. But fans can already get into the action by playing a related game on Twitter. The main page for the game is here and you can check the Twitter account for updates every few hours, get a Resistance trivia assignment and reply to it.

My friends at The Game Agency (who may have had something with the creation of these games) pointed out that there was more to the game...on Facebook!

The application, titled Terminator Salvation: Join the Resistance, lets users create a squad, invite their friends to join to patrol a grid-like map, much like Battleship, with the rest of their squad looking for Terminators.

The gaming strategy seems to be a smart one as fans are counting back the days until they can watch the movie on the screen. In just three days, more than 2,600 follower on Twitter and close to 800 fans on Facebook are engaging with the film's content.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Online Graphic Novel via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook

I love reading graphic novels. You need to be a visual artist and a great story teller to master one. It gives me great joy to see increasingly broader sections of bookstores to be dedicated to this form. Yet, this link I came across through my LinkedIn Twitter group opened my eyes to wider possibilities. Blank, the graphic novel is available page by page at a Web site, on Twitter, Facebook and also on YouTube. While the Web page has about 100 subsribers, @BlankMustDie has more than 1,500 followers.

According to Blank's YouTube channel, this is a graphic novel 'in the tradition of Watchmen, with heroes, villains, victims and complex story threads, although the heroes in Blank are more anti-hero and noir.' The creators, Ian LeWinter (writer, creative strategist) and Don Richmond (illustrator, writer, creative strategist) say that Blank will be unveiled in real-time to its audience as the graphic novel is created. They will give their followers the chance to get involved in the story. The Facebook page's comments are a testament to this effort.

You can follow Blank Must Die here or through twitter. The creators are uploading a new page everyday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meet the brands that 'get' Twitter -

Whether your brand has an official Twitter account or not, users on the microblogging platform are talking about you. And if you're not tweeting back, you're losing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When? When? When will I see results?

I just received a link to a great post from Sean Moffit. His diagram on the time it takes for an online word of mouth initiative to take off and find footing is spot on. The essence of online word of mouth is online customer relationship management; which takes time and commitment. Viral messages, you guessed it, spread fast. But one needs patience and dedication for sustainable word of mouth. And I'd like to underscore dedication, as in continuous monitoring, dialogue with influencers, providing networks with valuable information and resources. That's what generates word of mouth and builds brands.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Word of Mouth Marketing University 2009 - Practical, Tactical, Inspirational

Chances are you know you need to dip into social media. You have your strategy down. You need to elevate your brand's profile using smart online tools, establish rapport with moms online, or simply: turn news into sales. There are a myriad of conferences out there, but let me recommend you one where you are guaranteed to hear about social media who have branded this space: YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, among others.

You are wondering when, how or if to use Twitter? Attend one of the workshop sessions and learn from 'practitioner professors' who carry brands online on a daily basis.

You would like to reach out to your online influencers. Where to begin? Get one-on-one advice from the Keller Fay Group. They track all of the conversations Americans have offline and online. They know who the catalysts are.

You wonder how Wal-Mart, Dell, Lenovo, Disney and Heinz fuel word of mouth? Hear it from the professionals behind the brands - not just their agencies.

Why am I so passionate about WOMM-U?

Because I think there is a void for practical, sound advice in this space.

Because I think we all know the importance of word of mouth and social media. It's a matter of how we do it and where we start.

Because we all need to create noteworthy campaigns and tell remarkable stories that will move the masses in this economy.

I always walked out of a WOMMA event, having learned from the best. I had read Emanuel Rosen's Anatomy of Buzz. But I had the pleasure of meeting him at a WOMMA conference. (And you should absolutely read his updated version, Anatomy of Buzz Revisited.) I met Affinitive at a WOMMA conference, a great partner firm that specializes in building social networks. I learned more about what MomCentral does, not because they were presenting but because their VP of research was sitting next to me at a session. I listened to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Comcast's Frank Eliason at the last conference. I follow them on Twitter--and as true WOM advocates, they follow me back.

I work with colleagues, and even competitors, on WOMMA's board - we all believe this is the most trusted, authentic and reliable medium in today's information landscape.

I hope you join us in Miami on May 13-14.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FDA Warning Letter: April Fool's?

The word on the street is that the letter Dose of Digital claims it got from the FDA is a....joke! Happy April 1st everyone.

Here is the full blog post from Dose of Digital, claiming that he got warned by the FDA for criticizing the organization so much in his posts.

And as a reality check, here's the latest article from MediaPost about FDA's advancements in guiding companies to step into Web 2.0. It's not the medium, it's the message they say.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Leonardo Baa-Vinci To Promote Samsung LED TV

Just got this video from a long lost friend. It has been viewed more than 3 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube 10 days ago. Some 2,000 viewers are arguing whether it's fake or real. Leonardo Baa-Vinci is a very well-crafted reproduction. The kind you wish you had...thought about!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Positive Deviance - A Perspective on Innovation

Recently I was theorizing for an anti-smoking campaign to change attitudes, increase intention, perceived risk, perceived benefit, behavior, etc. I wish I had thought about 'positive deviance' when thinking of ways to inform influencers and mobilize people to say no to smoking.

According to what I read in a recent announcement from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio, positive deviance suggests that 'in every organization or community, there are people who solve problems better than peers who have exactly the same resources.' The RWJF article quotes from a CDC announcement that explains how positive deviance was instrumental in reducing the number of infections in hospitals, as certain individuals figured out highly efficient ways to discard infected gloves and clothing.

This is the crux of innovation - when someone figures out a better way of doing things and paves the way for others. It could also be a new dimension in influencer research. When looking for those who are more outspoken and convincing than others, we could also study their approaches to problem solving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I met with some very nice folks from outbrain the other week and I just added their widget to my blog. To bloggers, outbrain is a great ratings system that also shows related articles about their post to their readers. Similar to the way Amazon recommends 'other products you might be interested to buy,' outbrain suggests 'other stories you might want to read.' It's a great way to offer value to your readers and to be part of a larger traffic chain.

To marketers, outbrain means visibility and getting more out of online PR hits. Imagine being mentioned in a post on Mashable or In addition to being viewed by readers who go to these outlets, your link can appear under many relevant blog posts that are part of the outbrain network.

Similar to sponsored links on Google, brands can sponsor links on outbrain. These sponsored links are indicated by a small icon above the link headline. May take some time to educate consumers about who is pushing them content exactly. If used right, outbrain can be a great way to aggregate content. The widget delivers both relevance and reach, by matching related articles across numerous blogs.

I wonder what's next for the company. After all, they are gathering a huge community and they must be seeing an extensive media index develop based on reader ratings and click throughs....himmm....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Skittles Spills It Online

Skittles changes its site to give the floor to those who love the brand and want to talk about it. The homepage opens into the Skittles Wikipedia entry. Chatter tab leads viewers to the Twitter stream about Skittles. Media section does the job with various brand videos and pictures. Product links are there if you want to look through. The widget-like site navigator sends visitors to Facebook with the 'friends' tab. The design concept gives visitors the feeling that they are in absolute control of finding the information that matters and enables them to get in touch with others who share their passion for the product.

The other interesting thing to note here is that Skittles is not referring people to the brand's own Twitter account or a Wiki page mocked up by professionals. This is the stream of information one would find if they were to look up the brand on Twitter and on Wkipedia.

The concept is flexible enough to deliver brand messaging while embracing authentic online word of mouth and fans.

Skittles 'gets it.'

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Turkish Airlines' Online Crisis Response

I was deeply saddened to read today's news. A Turkish Airline flight crashed near the Amsterdam airport. Nine people, including the pilots, died and 50 people are wounded. The aircraft's photos show the vehicle literally divided into several pieces. It is amazing that anyone came out alive. Turkish Airlines brings me home to Istanbul twice a year. I witness first-hand what a top-notch crew it has. They are courteous, responsive and able. The seasoned pilots, like the one who was flying passengers to Amsterdam, usually have an army background. Not to make light of the topic, but I have been more shaken by NY cabs than by landings to the Istanbul Airport. They're that good.

Turkish Airlines' online response to this unfortunate event deserves a nod of approval. When I read the news this morning on one of the leading national papers Milliyet, the news report was followed by a candid blog entry by a pilot who is the head of the Aviation Association. He was urging readers who were commenting on the incident not to speculate and wait to hear the facts from the investigation.

I turned to the company's Web site and found that they had already pushed up their dark site in multiple languages. Here are clips from their homepage and crisis section. You'll see that the dark site is complemented by a hotline and has sections pertaining to the flight, the accident and passenger list. Information is up to date.

Turkish Airlines is not on Twitter, but its Facebook fans are doing the talking. The airline's employees have set up numerous fan pages and groups on the social networking site. You can recognize them from the icons they carry on their profiles: the airline logo with a black ribbon.

It is hard to talk about online reputation when people have lost their lives as a result of an accident. It will be interesting to watch the online crowds' reactions as we hear more details about what happened exactly.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cool Link of The Day

...comes from Dave Kerpen of Buzz Marketing Daily: 25 Innovative Ways Companies Are Using Twitter

Thanks to Dave's informative list, I can now check up on my doc, look at property in Australia and get a love note from Twitter :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

There Is More to FB Brouhaha Than Privacy

Frankly I am comfortable with the idea that a site might own the personal information I post on their area. When I update my Facebook account, I am aware that I am sending information to the 200+ friends I have listed. I realize they can write back, forward and copy and paste that information. This is the duality of social media: You're doing something private in a very public space. It's best to be aware of this and get used to it as the way things are and will be as the Web evolves. I don't think one would even need to wait for Facebook to aggregate data or cull through profile areas. Your friends could very well be spreading your information - online and offline. Post with 'this' in mind.

This is not Facebook's first attempt (or incident) trying to make use of the tremendous amount of user data that accumulates on the site. Facebook is looking for another way to make money from the site besides advertising. It's sitting on a gold mine. If users would understand the full set of ramifications of how their information would/could be used and opted-in to share or sell their information, then there would be new business models emerging from social networks.

Take a look at this interview between SAP's Steve Mann and Prof. Sinan Aral from MIT and NYU. Aral makes the very good point that understanding audience's demographic profiles is not enough. Companies can be a lot more effective in their communications if they understand their audiences' networks. In other words, who you know, where and how you know them gives marketers better information about you then just your age, gender and location.

There is an old saying in Turkish: 'Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are.' I guess it boils down to that.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Whaleman Foundation Raises Over $28K on SocialVibe

The Whaleman Foundation is an oceanic research, preservation and production non-profit that aims to protect whales and dolphins and their natural habitats. The organization is featured on the cause-related social networking site SocialVibe, where members match corporate sponsors with causes to raise funds. The organization just passed its $25,000 mark. I got an email from SocialVibe on Wednesday. The amount of money raised seems to have gone up even more since then. Whaleman is over $28,000 with more than 75,000 signatures for its petition. The goal is to reach 1,000,000 petitions in the next 115 days. Actress Pannettiere will deliver the online petition and signatures to the International Whaling Commission in June 2009.

The comments from members who are trying to raise money for the cause and signing the petition suggest that Whaleman might reach the tipping point in the next week or so. Seeing the campaign's success makes people want to join and help push the limits, reach goals. The combination of cause-related marketing and social media is a pretty powerful. The site organizes the information and coaches people through each step of the effort. Users don't have to pay a penny out of their pocket. They just need to bring their passion to the click.

To help the cause through SocialVibe, click here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Suing Over Customer Comments Doesn't Work

Customer reviews are the backbone of organic, online word of mouth. That's what many shoppers rely upon before making a purchasing decision. There are several case studies and research that show a solid connection between Web-based customer ratings tools and business growth.

Then there are those that post negative comments - based in truth or not. And those that sue them and the sites that host the comments, claiming the postings had a negative impact on their business. Recently, the social networking site Yelp, where users share local finds, was the subject of two lawsuits as such. A lawyer and a dentist attempted to sue people who wrote negative reviews about them on Yelp and the social networking site itself. The cases seem to have been settled. Yelp is not responsible for the negative posts, thanks to a safe harbor law.

These incidents draw more attention to the negative posts and create the opposite effect by generating more negative buzz than its worth. The negative news do not only affect the suing parties. They create a halo effect for those who want to raise their voices or provide balanced reviews to their online peers. If these types of lawsuits increase and get in the headlines, would consumers be as willing to post their honest opinions? Would they post at all?

Studies show that most online customer reviews are actually positive in nature. Those who post act out of concern for others. Businesses actually benefit from genuine comments on their products and services. The better way to respond to a negative comment online would be to juxtapose it with positive reviews and factual content. The better way to do business would be to do right by the customers and joining their conversations.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Get Al Gore To Do This Movie!

Action Against Hunger is hailing from Spain and asking us to help eradicate hunger -specifically hunger and malnutrition that affects so many children in impoverished areas of the world. To drive audience's attention to their cause in a time when the whole world was watching the US elections, Action Against Hunger chose to dive straight into politics. The 'No Hunger' campaign shows a provocative video and is asking people to petition to Al Gore to make a movie about this cause. Mr. Gore put the environment and global warming on the table - why not malnutrition and surrounding conditions?

The site, which is both in English and Spanish, calls visitors to action by making a donation, forwarding the emotional trailer video to a friend or by sending a letter to Al Gore (they conveniently provide the copy). The clip has made the news. Here's a clip from a TV show in Spain, supporting Action Against Hunger's initiative. The site has garnered support from over 30,700 people.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ROI Calculator for Social Network Campaigns

Just discovered this great tool while attending a Web meeting organized by Care2, the leading green online community. The ROI Calculator for Social Network Campaigns lists all steps you can imagine that marketers need to take when setting up an area in a social network. It adds in the dollar and time costs. Most importantly, it looks at conversion rates.

Gathering up 'x' number of people online is not enough. The important question we need to answer is how many people among those recruited actually donated, signed up, purchased or took some sort of action.

Two small additions I'd like to make to the calculator:

Member lifetime value - We also need to think about the lifetime value of those who take action now and those who are likely to remain engaged and take action in the future. ( I believe this is what the authors call 'investing in the future.')

Online real estate value - When an organization builds a social media hub and continuously works to keep it up to date, it rises in search engine rankings and reaches increasingly wider populations over time. The social media site becomes an evergreen investment.

Monday, January 19, 2009

RSS for MS

I heard about Caroline's quest to raise funds for the National MS Society through the WOMMA Daily Word newsletter. On January 12th, Caroline -- a member of the kBuzz team -- was asking those who visited the company's site to subscribe to their blog. Her incentive was one you could not refuse even if you were not the emotional type. For every person who subscribed to her RSS feed, Caroline was going to donate $0.5 to the National MS Society. Caroline's mom suffers from MS, so the issue is close to her heart. Caroline was also encouraging visitors to match her donation, if they could.

What do you think? Of course, I clicked immediately. So easy to do. So much more meaningful than checking personal email 20 times an hour.

Now that I re-read Caroline's entry, I can put on my marketing cap and see how she layered the opt-in for this simple act for a sensitive topic. At the end of the day, this initiative does bring traffic to the company blog. But she comes across as a sincere person who is being smart about leveraging all the tools she can to raise awareness about a cause. She's honest and up front about her mission. She puts herself out there and takes the first action by donating money herself. She tells visitors to sign up for the blog only if they really care about what she and her teammates write about. And she leaves the door open for those who want to be involved but do not want to sign up. She tells them how they can help by simply forwarding her link.

I think rallying troops around a cause online is as much a craft as it is a tactic. RSS4MS is a good example of authentic online communications.

Monday, January 12, 2009

US Congress Goes on YouTube

The Obama campaign has shown many the power of Internet in garnering public support. And just today, YouTube unveiled a partnership with the 111th Congress. Members of the House and the Senate will be able to have their dedicated channels on the video network. Visitors to the househub or the senatehub will be able to see how their representatives are working for them in DC. I like that idea of transparency and proximity!

Friday, January 9, 2009

My New Favorite Search Tool: WhosTalkin?

ReadWriteWeb posted this morning about a new social media search tool, WhosTalkin. I just checked it out and can confirm that it has a very simple and smooth interface. Works like a charm. All you have to do is to plug in your key words and see who's talking about the brand, product, service or issue on social media venues. The system even breaks it down by venue and organizes information into buckets such as Technorati, MySpace, Twitter mentions.

Neat tool for those on the run and need a quick read to see how they are faring in social media. Top uses for this product would be:

1- Ego searches
2- Top-level brand monitoring
3- Crisis management and monitoring
4- Key word generation (look to see how everyone else is talking about you)
5- Developing social media maps (look to see how far the word has gone)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No YouTube in China - at least for now...

Just heard overnight that in China access to YouTube has been temporarily blocked. Apparently, authorities are looking to clean up 'spicy' content that many site owners used to drive traffic and meet their site metric goals.