Twitter And The Marketing Of Your Government

(originally posted on Thursday, June 24, 2010)

Yesterday at precisely 12:25 PM was a moment in time when you could actually say the world changed forever. Across the Twittersphere came what would ordinarily be somebody’s very first sub-140 character form of communications. But this was no ordinary Tweet:

“Hello everyone! I’m on Twitter, and this is my first Tweet.”

And it came from the verified account of @KremlinRussia_E. Yes, the President of Russia, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, is now on Twitter just like you and me.

While President Medvedev is certainly not the first world leader or politician to get a Twitter account (@KremlinRussia_E is the English version, @KremlinRussia is the version using the Cyrillic alphabet), this adds another dimension to the rise of Twitter as a tool for governments to reach their citizens and market their policies.

Sure, President Obama and a vast majority of Congressmen and Congresswomen use Twitter in order to engage the American public, flex their PR muscle, squelch rumors, and “sell” their policies. It’s more of a natural growth in the kind of open society our country is based upon, rather than a revolutionary idea.

FDR’s Fireside Chat radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 1940s weren’t just his way of letting Americans know what was going on, they were a highly stylized and (at the time) brilliant new use of media to market his Presidency. His image: strong, compassionate, and in control. His message: I want you to know what my administration is doing for you. The response: Americans felt calmer and more unified during an economic crisis and a war, and he was elected more times than any other President in US history.

Of course TV changed the face of government by giving it an actual face (Harry Truman’s first televised Presidential speech on October 5, 1947), and we all know about the marketing case study of how President Obama used the internet and social media to help get elected. Now virtually every major US politician makes their thoughts known to their constituents and supporters through Twitter. Governmental agencies, press secretaries, and political consultants do too. It’s faster, cheaper, more trackable, and often more engaging than many other forms of media.

But Russia? Here’s a sampling from President Medvedev’s first 24 hours on Twitter, while visiting America:

“Silicon Valley’s greatest asset is communication. People discuss their work not trifles. Russia would benefit from this kind of environment.”

“Skolkovo should absorb good ideas and talented people like a sponge. But this cannot be achieved by fiat.”

“Russia and the US are working to improve global security, but the goal of this visit is to improve our economic relations."

And from just 24 minutes ago (at the time of this writing), “The decision of major American companies to come to Russia and invest shows that we can agree on more than just missiles.”

By simply Tweeting, the President of Russia has changed his country’s image, given the global community access to the mind behind the man, and is bound to provoke a response from around the world that is positive towards his country.

President Medvedev currently has over 20,000 followers (he only follows @BarackObama, @10DowningStreet, @TheWhitehouse, and @KremlinRussia), and is on almost 900 Twitter lists.

His first Tweets are an important development in not only the political marketing of his own administration, but in the global rise and acceptance of social media marketing as well.


Privacy vs. Social Media

(originally posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2010)

Social Media, Facebook in particular, is one big global cocktail party, minus the cocktails. It’s where we show up to be seen and heard, and a place to cultivate our own individual presence. It is the great equalizer of society in that everyone can broadcast or publish themselves, stand on their own soapbox, and communicate with their friends/followers/fans, or whatever version of “network” your favorite platform chooses to call it.

But it has also become the latest battlefield over the issue of privacy. When Zuckerberg uttered the above quote, he no doubt fanned the flames of the privacy debate. There is a misconception by Facebook’s users that they are entitled to completely protect their privacy when using Facebook. That notion is somewhat at odds with the whole concept of social media.

Facebook’s only true asset is data from the 450,000,000 users who have made this company the most dominant force in communications today. But the value of that data is only worth what these users make of it. There is no requirement by Facebook that you completely fill up your profile with personal information, but people do it anyway. And that’s because sharing personal information is at the heart of why social media is so popular. It’s the “look at me” factor that human beings naturally thrive on.

So why then are Facebook’s users so up in arms over privacy? Our theory is that it comes down to control. Facebook users seem to forget that they are USING someone else’s product for their own benefit (entertainment, networking, commerce, etc.) FOR FREE. Access to your personal information by Facebook, and its ancillary platforms, apps, polls, and games, is the currency used to pay the price of entry. But most people forget that they can indeed set their own “price” by limiting the amount of information they put into their profile.

Will that make the Facebook experience less enjoyable? That’s doubtful, because the sweet-spot on Facebook is the interaction between people in your network. It’s not people seeing your favorite Tolstoy quote, or learning that you’re interested in rock climbing, or that your favorite TV show is “Lost”. Those are the details that people can connect over, and those are the nuggets of data that marketers are looking for, but that’s not what makes Facebook so appealing to people. It’s the simple ability to communicate with anyone at anytime about anything that makes social media a phenomenon.

We the people do NOT own Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg does. And he has the right to make the rules. If we don’t like the rules we can go somewhere else like Twitter, or Foursquare, or we can invent our own platform. We can even stop using social media altogether, but that is unlikely because it is now fully integrated into our way of life.

Or we can protect our own privacy the old fashioned way: by limiting the amount of information we put into our profiles, the kinds of apps we use, and the groups we join. That’s where the user still has total control.

As marketers, The Weinstein Organization has a vested interest in the privacy debate as it pertains to social media. Without personal data, Facebook becomes less important and less useful to the marketing world. If consumers want to protect their privacy, that decision still belongs to them. However, “being private” is really the antithesis of “being social”. So is Zuckerberg correct about privacy no longer being a social norm? Or has he misjudged the true nature of social media’s appeal? Does social media belong to the people, or the platforms?


“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” But Saturdays are a different story.

(originally posted on Friday, April 2, 2010)

For some time now, the United States Postal Service has seen their revenues decline. With the rise of email, and internet downloads of documents, their simple business model of paid postal delivery is dwindling, and the idea of the relentless and determined mailman has been reduced to a quaint notion from another era.

Even social and mobile media has affected their business, by changing the way we correspond. Think about it: nobody has pen pals anymore, they have social networks. Nobody needs to mail family photos to Grandma; now they can just upload digital pics to her Facebook wall, or electronically send them straight to a digital frame display on her coffee table. And when was the last time you mailed a postcard from vacation? There’s an iPhone app for that too.

The USPS cannot continue to raise postage rates anymore to decrease their operating deficit, because that will only exacerbate the problem. Nobody spends more money on old technology if they have other options. You can pay your bills on line, and even receive a coupon directly from a retailer right on your mobile phone, so even the most routine utilities of postal delivery are becoming obsolete.

The only thing the USPS has deemed a viable option is to enact a 16% reduction in service by eliminating Saturdays.

So if the USPS ends their Saturday street delivery service in 2011 as they are attempting to do (pending approval by Congress), how will it affect you? How will it affect your business.


Google’s China Syndrome

(originally posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2010)

There’s been a little tug-of-war going on between Google.cn (Google in China) and the Peoples’ Republic of China. The world’s most powerful search engine has been battling the government of the world’s most populous country over their requirement that Google.cn must utilize content-censoring software that filters out any information the Chinese government finds objectionable.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the Chinese government has long practiced censorship, mainly to crack down on the spread of ideas relating to human rights. Google.cn had complied for a while with this requirement (as have Microsoft’s Bing, and Apple Computers who restricted Chinese access to any apps related to the Dalai Lama), but recently they took a principled stand.

They moved Google.cn to Hong Kong, just off the Chinese mainland but light years away in terms of freedom, in an attempt to conduct business openly. While they did in fact violate their agreement with the Chinese government, the move signals a core belief that information is out there, it is free, and it can’t be stopped.

Critics argue that Google.cn’s business is dwarfed by China’s own search engine, Baidu.com, and that revenue from Google.cn accounts for only 1% of Google’s global revenue, so it was easy for them to do this. Supporters of the move say that businesses with a conscience will win in the end.

So we want to know: should a company’s altruistic principles trump a country’s laws—even those that are condemned by the rest of the world? Did Google do the right thing, or are they merely thumbing their noses at the Chinese government?


Click Here For Your Nobel Peace Prize

(originally posted on Monday, March 15, 2010)

If you thought President Obama’s Nobel award was worthy of at least an eyebrow raise, then start paying attention to this year’s selection process right now. The Nobel Peace Prize committee in Norway is actually considering The Internet worthy of this prestigious and historic award.

Well, why not?

The Internet is known for many things. Some good: like e-commerce email, social media, and the expansion of human communications in general. Some bad: like hate groups, spam, cyber-stalking and other abuse.

But there is a case to be made that The Internet has made our lives better. Communications options between people are more abundant. The sharing of ideas between people is more efficient, and dynamic. And human expression has an entirely new portal of display, distribution, and data analytics.

People did not exist or live this way just 20 years ago. Even Hip Hop is older than The Internet in terms of its effect on human culture. But why the Nobel Peace Prize, as opposed to say, one of Dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel’s five other prizes?

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses.

The Internet is arguably all of these things. Social Media has no doubt increased fraternity, viral communications have exposed injustice and military corruption, and the plethora of information available throughout the web has provided the basis for healthy debate on how to bring nations and peoples together for peace. As The Internet expands its reach, it brings us all a little closer, and allows people to speak up more and be heard. Has it created world peace? No, but The Internet is responsible for mankind understanding itself better and what makes us all a little different from each other.

The Internet For Peace Group, the group that nominated The Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize, states that, “Contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and conflict. That's why the Internet is a tool for peace. That's why anyone who uses it can sow the seeds of non-violence. And that's why the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Net," the group wrote on its web site.

Sounds like a reasonable nomination. However, perhaps The Internet is more deserving of this recognition because of its ability to create peace on a smaller, more personal level. If you’ve ever had a maddening day and don’t know how to break the cycle of anger and frustration, just click this link and bookmark the “Instant Rimshot” to your browser: http://www.instantrimshot.com/. It instantly turns any peace disturbance into a stand-up comedy act, and is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and de-pressurize any situation before it turns into a global disturbance.

Instant Rimshot is just one of the many wonderful things you’ll find on the World Wide Web, and one reason why we back the bid to award The Nobel Peace Prize to The Internet.