Want PR? Been Penalized by Google? Then lead a campaign.

Campaigns are an often-overlooked weapon in the PR arsenal. And, when conducted properly, social media can really, really help – which is what I’m hoping will happen with the ‘Have I Been Penalized’ campaign.

I spent some of my most creative, exciting and formative years working with Dr. Marc Pinter-Krainer on the Sharepages.com website and then for its parent company, KTS. Marc went into boardrooms and blew people away with the tech (cloud computing to deliver financial information before ‘cloud computing’ had been invented), while I wrote and designed everything, online and offline, that people saw or read.

Since then, I’ve found my niche in online comms. Marc has forged a new business, One News Page, which aggregates news feeds in a cleverly direct, sophisticated and simple way. With one catch: for nine months, his site was penalized by Google, and his web traffic dropped off a cliff. I remember searching for it and not being able to find it at the time, and thinking that was, well, weird.

Now that One News Page is back on Google’s results, Marc is leading a campaign to raise awareness of the penalties, and consequences, for pretty much any business out there. Of course, it hurts more for a purely online enterprise such as One News Page, but it’s a fair bet that any company would suffer if its web traffic dropped significantly.

And Marc’s point is this: that, given the essence of running a business is balancing risk, and you’re not even aware that there’s a risk you will be penalized, then this becomes a major problem. Especially so when the channels for redress from Google are so limited, comprising just one query page that only ever seems to return an automated response.

So I’ve done a bit of Marc’s publicity for him here by writing this post. But what I really mean to say is that campaigns are such a good way to get good PR. If you’ve got the balls to do it, arm yourself with facts, figure out your campaign strategy, then stick your head over the parapet and let rip. Next thing you know you’re seen as a true leader, with a strong brand, and plenty of online copy (and, I expect in Marc’s case, offline too).

It’s the essence of PR. Don’t talk about yourself. People don’t necessarily want to hear you talk about how great your products and people and services are. But they do want to know how issues will affect them. If you can position yourself as a leader in these mission-critical areas, the doors to publicity open wide.

And social media? Well, never has the phrase ‘disintermediation of the web’ rung more true. Create a video, and a site, and maybe a Twitter account, and you can address your audience directly, in a compelling way, engaging in the debate and spreading the word. And campaigns are all about debate, right?

I’ll sign off with a bit more free publicity for Marc. Watch the ‘Have I Been Penalized?’ video to find out what the true risk of Google penalties means for you, visit the ‘Have I Been Penalized?’ website to sign up for the campaign email list, or follow the campaign’s progress to address Google penalties on Twitter. I’m watching it with interest, and it could pan out to be a fascinating case study.

Oh, and a final disclaimer: I’m not part of Marc’s campaign. Besides, he seems to be doing fine himself…

What do subscribe, like and follow have in common?

They’re all ways of linking, true.

They’re all different words for linking on blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Also true.

But they all mean the same thing. And that thing is?

“I find what you have to say interesting, and I’d like to know more.”

This probably strikes you as blindingly obvious, but it does make you realise: what’s the point of starting any social media programme unless you’ve got something to say? Why should people be interested if you don’t have anything unique or interesting to say? And why should they come back if you stop saying it?

And this cuts to the heart of communications in so many ways, whether offline or online.

Imagine you’re setting up a radio station. You’ve erected the mast, bought a cool studio, installed your microphone and unnecessarily huge mixing desk. You smoked 20 Woodbine a day for the past year to give your voice that gravelly texture. Everything’s in place. You flick the switch. You’re on air. Everyone’s waiting. But you suddenly realise you don’t have anything to say or play. It’s just a big empty speech bubble.

Would this ever happen? I’d like to think not. In so-called ‘traditional’ media you think about what content you’re going to produce, whether in print or broadcast, who it’s going to be for, what are their needs and wants, and so on. PR people do the same, just on the other side of the media mirror. And we do the same in ‘new’ media, if you can imagine such a thing as a three-way mirror.

The point I’m making is that so much of what we do in social media relies on exactly the same processes traditional media would go through. We don’t wave a magic wand. It’s not weird science or a black art. Messaging, content, audiences, everything you’d think about in a ‘traditional’ comms programme, you need to think about with social media too. But most of all, it’s about content. Actually having something to say, and saying it in an engaging, interesting, relevant way.

It doesn’t matter what you call it. Subscribe, Like and follow all mean: we’re listening, so talk!

Pressed for time? Cute tools that give immediate results

Last time around, I posted about not having enough time to blog. I’m trying to fix this by basically making time – but it seems a good point at which to list some tools that help you get ‘cool’ results with as little input as possible.

By this, I mean tools that use your media to create interesting publications or multimedia. In other words, the exact opposite of blogging. In that, writing a good, well researched, informative blog post takes a while and looks frankly boring, whereas some of these tools basically make people go ‘wow’ with the minimum of effort required.

Paper.li – newspapers from people you follow

I’ve often thought of Twitter as the ‘compressed web’, that is, people tend to tweet with a link to a web page, so you go from 140 characters to a page via Twitter. Paper.li have very cleverly demonstrated this, by automatically publishing a nicely formatted newspaper from people you follow on Twitter.

The idea is that, if you follow these people, it’s because you find them interesting in some way. In turn, the people who follow you might find them interesting too. So, ‘expand’ from the links of people you follow, package them into something attractive, and you’re promoting them and yourself in the process. It’s sort of curation, and you can click here to see mine live.

As you can see, you can give it a name, and you can choose how often to publish (daily makes sense given Twitter’s timescales). You can also use it to create newsletters from Facebook although I tried that with mixed success. It seems to promote/publish the tweets that have been retweeted the most.

What I’ve found is that people tend to retweet if they’re on it but I don’t know how well it works otherwise. Still, given that it’s free, takes virtually no time to put together and looks nice, it’s certainly something you can add to your client’s online presence.

Imagine how effective this would be if you then, say, print these off, put them in envelopes and mail them to people. Oh, wait…

Pummelvision – movies from your pictures

Pummelvision is cute. Point it at your Flickr account (or, as of fairly recently, Facebook, Tumblr and some other platforms) and it creates a nice movie from your images, synchronised to some quite cool music.

Here’s a fairly random example pulled from YouTube:

I think  it’s quite impressive. Take a ton of interesting pics at your next event, point Pummelvision its way, and when it’s rendered after a few minutes, you’ve got a video for presenting as a follow-up.

It would be nice if there were more customisation features, such as different music or arranging images by colour, but perhaps, as with the increased platform count, they’re in the pipeline. Like paper.li it’s just so quick and easy to put together, and it might just impress a client or two.

Xtranormal – cartoons from scripts

This one might not work so well for B2B because, well, it’s cartoons, but you can make some strong points with heavy irony and this might suit some brands. See below:

Here, you type in your script, choose the cartoon figures you want to use, and you can even put in small actions such as double-takes, glances to camera and so on.

It works well with small scripts but be warned, the script editor isn’t the easiest to use (for example, you can’t import from a word processor, you have to type it all in manually), and it can take a while to render the movie. I once tried to get it to perform Monty Python’s entire Cheese Shop Sketch, and after quite some time typing it all, it was still rendering 24 hours later, so I guess it just wasn’t to be.

Presentations from PDFs

No, not the other way around (ie PDFs from presentations). By this, I mean, adding a bit of pazazz to a client’s PDF simply by presenting it in an interesting new way. I’ve been looking around and there are packages out there that seem to do this, but I honestly cannot vouch for them and haven’t used any of them yet. I’ll report back when I have because I think this could be a very nice way to add a bit of spit n’polish to an annual report or corporate brochure, for example.

And finally… someone should invent this: Kinetic Typography software

Kinetic Typography is a buzz word par excellence. It means ‘moving text’ but, of course, we all have to invent clever terms for simple things, don’t we?

Once you’ve impressed your client with your ability to use seven syllables rather than three, you can start showing examples of what this means. Here are some:



Now, I’m sure this could be automated somehow, so you can just input text and get kinetic treatment out. I’ve looked and there’s a free package called Jahshaka that seems a bit unstable and could do with some interface refinement, and I’m not sure it does what I want it to. [post-edit: seems Cinefx have taken over development so perhaps I’ll give that a go sometime soon]

But I’m absolutely certain that someone with some nous would be able to develop software that lets you type in a script and use effects from a menu, very like xtranormal, with no need to understand graphics packages such as After Effects or programming. Perhaps you could coordinate it with music, a-la-Pummelvision, or create kinetic typography on the fly from Twitter input, like paper.li (kinetic microblogging typography anyone?).

Surely someone could do this. For free. Now. It’s so stunningly useful someone should invent it.

Aggregated predictions: what really will happen with social media in 2011

Around Christmas-time I was foolish enough to list my social media predictions. They were a combination of ‘more of this, less of that, same of the other’, and you can still read it if you’re foolish enough to base an entire year that hasn’t happened on the ramblings of one poor gangrel creature.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one. There are plenty of other gangrel creatures out there, with their own predictions, so I thought it would be interesting to see what other people have said, aggregate them all, and see if we have any agreements. While there are plenty of one-offs (for example I think I’m the only person who predicts the rise and rise of digital agencies at the cost of PR agencies) there are, amazingly, congruencies between people.

Here’s what I’ve found below, but you can see the Google doc I used to compile this, together with the links to the bloggers I read. I got as far as halfway through page 4 of the Google results before I started to lose the will to live, and I might even pick this one up again, but for now, this is where we’re at.

Mobile

There were various takes on this, ranging from the increased importance of check-in sites such as Foursquare, through to the influence of technologies such as the iPad. I bunched them all under mobile, and this is the most important popular prediction, with 11 mentions from Socialnomics, ReadWriteWeb, Fred Meek, 4TM Guide, Lockergnome, Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Trevanian Legg, Ron Medlin, Social Media B2B, and Concepts Marketing.

Alignment with business goals

The gurus are being expunged, dormanted, deleted. Next most popular was the prediction that 2011 will see people really tying social media to business results, with 8 mentions from Conversational Currency, Socialnomics, OneForty, ReadWriteWeb, KnowledgeBlog, Social Media Examiner, Infusionblog, Trevanian Legg, and me. I went on to say that these would yield disappointing results, and I’m happy (or sad, or despondent, or maybe a little morose) to say that KnowledgeBlog and Social Media B2B think so too.

The rise of Facebook

I said that I don’t see Facebook declining any time soon – unlike, say, Google, and who’d have thought that eh? – and I’ve been joined by Fred Meek, Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Hausman Marketing Research Letter, Ron Medlin, Likeable Media and Contently Managed – that is, 7 other thinkers who also think Facebook will continue to dominate, whether through expansion, flotation, collaboration, monetisation, or something else ending in ion.

Amusingly enough, 4 commentators think Facebook will decline in influence, mainly through the rise of niche networks. They are Forrester, ReadWriteWeb, Trevanian Legg and MSL Group. They are, of course, wrong.

More group buying, particularly Groupon

In total 5 commentators think that social or group buying, particularly that exemplified by Groupon (or, in fact, actually Groupon since its valuation last year north of one billion dollars) will be significant over the coming year. They are Socialnomics, KnowledgeBlog, The Next Web, Social Media B2B, and MSL Group.

More content-driven programmes

All social media should be driven by content, but Social Media Examiner, The Next Web, Infusionblog, Social Media B2B and Contently Managed think this will happen more in 2011, with tools to help marketeers do this, or to enable their audiences to do it for them.

More consolidation among the large networks

This is something I didn’t mention but I do agree with. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn are irresistible and I don’t think the likes of Diaspora (the open-source so-called Facebook killer) et al are going to make a single dent. So I agree with Socialnomics, KnowledgeBlog, 4TM Guide, Social Media Examiner and Contently Managed on this one.

Again however, there are dissenters. Social Media B2B and GigaOm think there will be a rise of importance from niche sites at the ‘big’ systems’ expense. Silly sausages.

Anonymity and vetting

This is something I really hadn’t considered but does make sense. One of the primary concerns I noted while training at the Social Media Academy last year was that of privacy, that is, how much should I let people know, and how can I tell if people are genuine online? Four commentators mention privacy/vetting issues, and they are Conversational Currency, Socialnomics, ReadWriteWeb and GigaOm.

Video

This one surprises me, I have to say. ReadWriteWeb, Tim Ferriss, Concepts Marketing and Contently Managed all mention the ascendancy of video to some degree. I guess this ties in with the ascendancy of mobile in that we’ll all be glued to our displays watching video while we accidentally fall into water features.

That’ll do pig

I don’t want to give the impression I’m being a bit hasty here but I really need to crack on. Take a look at the Google Docs spreadsheet for the full picture. I might add to it as I go along, but really, go and take a look to see what else people comment on. Of the remaining topics that are mentioned by at least three sources we have metrics (which I guess ties into business goals), advertising, more social search (and less social search!), more workplace acceptance, continued importance placed on social media, the culling of so-called social media gurus (using a blunt instrument I presume), the intriguing and some would say tautological concept of Social Google, more Quora (of quorse – sorry), and more Twitter - again, counterbalanced by some who say less Twitter. Nothing more thrilling than when people disagree.

Tippex and bears. Who’d have thought, eh?

The Tippex Bear YouTube channel is brilliant.

I can’t remember how I came across it yesterday. I did notice something ‘strange’ about the YouTube page but thought it was just because it would be a custom-built page. When the guy reached out of the video, I nearly freaked. And then, the pièce de résistance, the ability to type in your own choices and see the video response. Amazing.

I really like this for several reasons:

  • It’s utterly viral. That is, it’s video – which often works because it’s a rich experience that people can easily share through just one link – it’s funny, it’s clever, and it’s pretty cool. I’ve written about viral before - what makes a good viral, and what is not viral. However, it also enables you to participate, which makes it almost totally viral in that you can change it, play with it, then pass it on. The closest I’ve seen to this is the Obama ‘What happens if you don’t vote’ video which I still love, but I wonder whether the Tippex viral tops it?
  • It’s joined-up. I guess the insight behind it is that you can make small changes that have a big impact. This is good, much better than ‘You can erase things and change them with Tippex.’ And so they go from the insight to the execution. I mean, who’d have thought about bears? Creativity abounds.
  • It has long legs. There’s huge scope for this to go on and on. Personally I’d like to see them invite people to create their own small videos for the terms that aren’t there. For example, I notice they don’t include ‘Tweets a bear’ which is probably quite a big miss. So, invite people to submit their own, and you get the audiences not just engaged, but activated.

I just wish I could have worked on this one. It must have been so exciting to come up with an idea you knew would work, then make it happen, and to take the client along with you. Whoever is behind this must be feeling pretty good about themselves today.

And I’ve noticed that it’s slow to load now. This is because it’s everywhere. How much more viral can you get? Let’s see how it pans out shall we? The chart below shows trends data for searches on the term ‘Tippex’. Let’s see if it starts to go up on the back of this.

Anyway, as the guy keeps saying to me: “Come on! Write something up there!” Top tip: give ‘tickles’ a go. It’s cute.

It’s never been easier to engage, so if people don’t…

A hand cart, yesterday. Click image for source.

A hand cart, yesterday. Click image for source.

… then we’re all going to hell in a hand cart. Probably. A bit.

Sounds a bit alarmist I know, but here’s my take on this.

In the past, I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about politics. I thought I had left-wing leanings when I was younger but then who doesn’t/didn’t? At least I wasn’t a hippy like my father and I don’t think I’ll end up a neo-Nazi like my late Nan. Praise the Lord for small mercies.

However, this year, things are different. I can feel it. I’m not saying I’m running down the high street with a sandwich board haranguing passers-by and stuffing bits of paper into their pockets. Not yet anyhow. But I am thinking that there’s a lot at stake this year and that we have the first opportunity to track all of this. I should probably be more excited about the former but being a fairly shallow and narrow-minded chap, I’m actually more interested in the latter.

Fortunately for me – and the good people of Buckinghamshire who probably don’t want to be attacked by sandwich-board-clad fanatics – I can address both of these issues by setting up a dashboard.

So that’s what I’ve done. It started as a genuine attempt to find out what was going on for myself. It was just one tab and threw everything together in something that put the ‘mash’ into ‘mash-up’. Then I realised it might be of interest to other people too, so it’s expanded, been knocked through, had some new carpeting put in, been given a lick of paint and some safety rails and now it’s the UK Election Social Media Dashboard, covering what people are saying about Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and everything in between.

It’s worked. For me, at any rate. I actually found myself watching Nick Clegg be interviewed by Jeremy Paxman. I actually had a sort of background in what Nick Clegg was representing. And I actually read the election coverage in the papers. Imagine!

But one thing I keep finding: apathy. Today I heard on the radio the traditional moaning from the traditional moan-mongers: “Politicians all say one thing and then do the something else”; “I don’t know one from the other”; “I don’t see the point in voting”.

I don’t blame them. I’ve been thinking much the same thing for the past ten years or so – however long it’s been in fact since I found out the crowds welcoming Tony Blair to Number Ten weren’t just spontaneously enraptured constituents, but carefully chosen, arranged, and strikingly telegenic activists.

But that’s because all I’ve been able to see of politicians has been on TV (“In that case it’ll be Enigma Variations, minister”), or hear on the radio, or read about in the papers. Today politics is EVERYWHERE. It’s on YouTube and Facebook. It’s being tweeted on Twitter and downloaded from websites. It’s EVERYWHERE, being expressed in each, any and every channel in every possible way.

So, if people really do still feel apathetic – if they have access to this information in easily digested chunks of 140 characters, fed to them by their family, friends and colleagues, or as a great big ScrumdiddlyUmptious Wonka-bar of a manifesto download to secret themselves in a corner and inwardly digest, or as magic lantern images projected to the back of their retinas as they sit drooling in front of YouTube at 3am each morning, or on their smartphones as they absent-mindedly forget to Mind the Gap and step onto the live rails – then we’re probably in trouble.

OK, so this is our first ‘social media election’, and maybe it’ll be better next time around. But politics is happening, here, now, and it’s everywhere. So if people still don’t see it – or watch it, or hear it, or discuss it, or share it, or bookmark it or tag it – then it’s because they don’t want to. And that means we’ll probably have to think of something better to replace politics. Benign dictatorship, anyone?

Should the BBC link more, or think more?

source »

So the BBC has quoted me. If you think I’m blowing my own trumpet here, you’re right.

The BBC is a big target for PR. If you get a client mention on the BBC, it’s a high point. I worked with the people behind The Box, and while I wasn’t present at the sell-in, it must have been an incredibly exciting time. So I’m slightly excited now. Bear with me, please. I’m just a bit excitable generally.

I didn’t realise the BBC had quoted me until a day later, and in fact I only found out when, on looking for the link address to my post about their viral video, I just typed it quickly into Google instead of browsing to my own blog.

Normally if someone mentions me, I know about it, because it appears on the Feedback section to the left of this page, or I’ll get a notification through the WordPress dashboard. Or, if it’s from a big site, I’ll get a spike in my viewings. If I’d been receiving traffic from the BBC I would expect my page views to go through the roof.

But none of this had happened, which is why it almost passed me by. This puzzled me. Until I realised: whereas they’d quoted me, they hadn’t linked to me.

This is notionally bad netiquette. You really should pass traffic on to people you quote. I try to do that whenever I can. It’s just way you do things. I don’t think this is written down anywhere, but it’s just what you… do.

Was this down to the BBC’s link policy, I wondered? Well I’ve done some searching and it looks like there is a lot of debate over how the BBC uses external links. I guess this is because a link is an endorsement, and the corporation needs to retain its impartiality. Editorial integrity is paramount at the Beeb, to the extent that it refused to show the  recent Gaza appeal, even before Sky News made the same decision.

So while, on the one hand, netiquette kind of sort of maybe implies they should link, on the other, by protecting its independence, the BBC protects its integrity and therefore, value as a media organisation. So it’s an interesting situation: while I would dearly love them to have linked to me, in so doing they may lessen the value of having quoted me.

There is, however, one aspect of all this that I do believe it has overlooked: consistency. If a link is endorsement, so is a quote, and I’m not sure the BBC has been consistent in this. At the top of the article there is mention of David Naylor of Search Marketing – that is, blogger name and company name. Further down the page it quotes Ciaran Norris, of Altogether Digital and below that, mentions Emily Bell, director of digital content for the Guardian. A fellow blogger, Rob Brown, contributor to PR Media Blog, is not referred to as ‘of Staniforth‘, for example.

Is this fair? Why should some companies benefit from the exposure, if not the links, while others do not? Link policy good, editorial policy, slightly shaky maybe?

The Greatest Viral Ever – and other assorted examples

What makes a great viral?

Firstly, let’s be clear: viral is an effect. I’ve been asked to ‘do something viral’ in the past, and in explaining this I’ve had to say that really, anything and everything we do should be viral. That is, it should be a powerful enough message that impels sufficient people to spread it.

Problem is, you’re at the mercy of opposing dynamics: on the one hand people will only forward something that is important enough to them or their immediate contacts to do so; while on the other you need to hit enough buttons for the thing to pick up critical mass. In other words, you need to satisfy most of the people most of the time.

However, it is possible to identify certain characteristics of material that tends to ‘go viral’. It’s usually short enough for people to enjoy without getting bored. It’s usually video. It’s usually something they can build on then pass along (making it truly viral in that it changes). But these are all ‘usually’, and there are exceptions.

In the past I’ve said that viral is (usually) interactive, funny, useful, controversial, clever or cool. I would love to be able to turn this into a snappy acronym but all I get is ifuccc which is simple to remember but I would never say in front of clients.

Of course, all of these categories are subjective – as I said earlier, that’s the problem with viral. What is controversial for me might not be for you. What makes you laugh might pass me by. I would also say that often viral is only effective when it isn’t harnessed to some big brand. People like to be ‘in on the secret’ and a secret is rarely web-wide.

I’m fairly confident that most of you will agree that the Obama CNNBC video is the greatest viral ever. It ticks all the boxes I’m about to list, and then some. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we look back after the event and class this as a viral that actually helped Obama to win.

(I can’t actually embed this video on my WordPress.com-hosted blog – which is perhaps its only viral failing – so just click below to see it. And if you think I’m being a bit narcissistic showcasing the version with my own name in it, then, when you’ve watched it, simply edit it to put yours in. It’s so cool.):

The Greatest Viral Of All Time, Ever

The Greatest Viral Of All Time, Ever (click to see it)

Way to go Obama.

Here are some more examples that I think fit these categories. Some might span multiple categories, and others, I fully accept, aren’t really designed to push a message at all, they’re just things that have gone viral – but that still means we can learn something off them, right?

Interactive. Games are interactive, and games across social networks are particularly so. Scrabulous is (or was) probably your object lesson in an interactive viral that simply spread across Facebook like wildfire. It’s also a case study in how not to handle intellectual copyright infringement. Mattel and Hasbro threatened the makers of Scrabulous with Chinese burns and deadlegs if they failed to cease and desist – that is, to extinguish a MASSIVE userbase that it could quite easily have worked with instead – and released its own version that by some accounts was, well, crap. Meanwhile the makers of Scrabulous have simply released a version that is different enough from Scrabble to remain legal, and which is doing very nicely thank you.

Funny. I still think Beardyman is one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. If only someone could harness that talent and use it to help a brand.

The closest you could probably come to this is ‘Will it blend?‘, the series put together for Blendtec. Wikipedia tells the Blendtec story well. Suffice to say, the company never looked back and continues to blend. ‘Will It Blend?’ is all over YouTube but here is my favourite – with the iPod.

Useful. We all like to ‘discover’ tools, utilities and widgets. For some time I really liked the ‘How much is your blog worth’ page, and I’m sure the ‘blogworth’ page has done Dane Carlson absolutely no harm whatsoever in terms of his web visibility. It’s debateable how useful my PR Friendly Index is – I certainly haven’t had time to update it for a while anyway – but it has been by far my most successful post series, and I think this is perhaps because people find it useful to have this repository of PR blogs.

Clever. Was Cheddarvision clever? At first I wasn’t sure. It didn’t quite seem to make sense just to stream a video of cheese maturing online. But the more I thought about it, the cleverer I thought it was. Also, the more I thought about it, the higher the viewing numbers went. By late March 2007 Cheddarvision viewing figures were over half a million. It ended with over 1.5 million views. At the time I said, “It’s a brilliant, brilliant PR move. This isn’t just cheese, it is now Famous Cheese, and everyone will want a bite. They’ll do for West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers what Wallace and Gromit did for Wensleydale”, and it inspired me to dream up my own viral equivalent which, of course, never saw light of day. Cheddarvision eventually won that year’s PR Week award for best consumer marketing communications campaign. Here you can see a  time-lapse of it maturing over 12 months:

Controversial. I have to admit that, for this category, I did have to do some searching because I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head that I’d seen. The first hit for ‘controversial viral campaign’ is Virgin Media’s Mangina movie. Doesn’t look so controversial to me:

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that simply by labelling something ‘controversial’, you get attention. I also find it strange that it no longer appears on the originator’s site. Is this part of the controversy? Whatever, I know that controversial works because I tried it myself when I posted about ghost blogging. I also know that you need to be careful because it can damage your brand. In many ways, I wished I hadn’t written the ghostblogging post even though it did get a lot of attention. And I’m sure Quechup wished they hadn’t confused viral with spam.

Cool. The coolest thing I’ve seen for quite some time has been, and continues to be, Photosynth. I’m convinced this is an absolutely prime candidate for someone to use in a cool way to promote a product. The drawback is, I guess, that you need to download client software.

You certainly didn’t for the Experience Wii advert I saw on YouTube recently. It was a jaw-droppingly cool idea and one I definitely forwarded to a number of people. The idea was that the screen actually shook and disintegrated before your eyes, and slotted beautifully into the Wii ‘experience’ concept. So it’s incredibly frustrating to me that it no longer seems to be online. Why do people do this? Why do they remove things that could continue to get them great publicity simply by leaving them online? Why? The Experience Wii page did exist – really it did. I’m sure I didn’t dream it.

I also really like the Connected Ventures Flagpole Sitta video. It’s the greatest promotional video ever, and not just because amandalynferri is cute. The story goes that they just threw this together in an idle moment, it leaked onto the web, and now they have talent knocking at the door to be let in. I’m not so sure of the truth behind the provenance here, but I can certainly believe the result. When I saw the video, I wanted to work there. Come to think of it, I still do:

So, you want to get into social media?

I’ve been asked more than once recently “How did you get into social media – because I want to.”

A wallaby

A wallaby

If you’re a wannabe (see right), my topline answer would just be “Do it”. I mean, it’s all out there, most of it’s free, accessible and ubiquitous by definition. But that would be rude.

So, off the top of my head, my recent answers have included – in the order that I did them myself…

Write about social media: set up a blog about it

You don’t have to do this – and plenty of social media peeps don’t – but I’ve found it incredibly useful, not just to find out about this stuff but also as a repository of my previous thoughts/opinions/work. I often jump into the blog and fish something out to throw at people.

The blog gives you a place to think about stuff, crystallise your own opinions, get noticed, become part of the community.

But have a good old think about what you really want to write about though. It’s best to be associated with something specific, for example KD Paine is a measurement guru, Neville Hobson likes his tech, Steve Rubel annoys the heck out of everyone by being smart, etc

Personally, I recommend WordPress.com because it’s easy to use and secure, while Blogger seems quite spammy (and possibly dangerous), and I’ve found Typepad a bit fiddly.

And it’s free.

Read about social media: become an RSS ninja

Subscribe to the RSS feed for any and all PR/social media related blogs you can find. If you don’t know what RSS is, then find out.

If I may be so bold, you could start with my own PR Friendly Index for PR sites, and I might put something together for social media at some point.

I use Google Reader for handling RSS subscriptions, it’s just so great not only for managing subscriptions but archival and analysis too.

And it’s free.

Listen about social media: subscribe to podcasts

Does that heading make sense?

Wwwhadevur, what I’m trying to say is, there are some great podcasts out there which you can subscribe to, using Google Reader or iTunes for example, and spend at least half an hour in the company of someone who knows tons about this stuff and who would normally charge you large amounts of money for their time.

The behemoth of social media/PR podcasts is For Immediate Release, the most recent (and worthy) addition is the Tiger Two Tiger podcast, but there are others. Hey, I just remembered, I have a Podcast feed – check it out.

And they’re free.

Read more about social media: buy books

They are ridiculously old-fashioned but are great for getting the quality, well-researched, strategic thinking about where we are and where we’re going to.

My personal library contains tomes such as Wikinomics, Small World, Naked Conversations, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tipping Point – that sort of thing. If you look them up on Amazon I’m sure you’ll get other great recommendations.

Books, alas, aren’t free (yet) but they’re worth it. Think of them as an investment. You can impress people with phrases such as ‘democratisation of the internet’ and ‘disintermediation of the web’ until each of the theories is blown out of the water (one – Tipping Point – by one – Long Tail) then you can buy a whole new load of books again.

Join the buzz about social media: start using Twitter

Follow people in the PR/social media world to see what they’re talking about.

Best way to do this is to follow someone in this field (not necessarily me, although I am on Twitter), then you’ll get to see who they follow and you can start following them too.

Don’t use Twitter’s site though, use a client instead. I like twhirl because it has a nice enough interface and handles other platforms such as Friendfeed and identi.ca.

Twitter’s free. It doesn’t work very well though, so keep one eye on alternatives such as Jaiku or identi.ca

Share in social media: start using Friendfeed

Again through twhirl. In this way you’ll get to see what loads of people are talking in all sorts of other social media too because Friendfeed grabs feeds from other places such as Facebook etc.

In the same way as Twitter, subscribe to someone you think may be a good starting point, then see who they subscribe to, and subscribe to those people too.

It is also free.

Play with social media: immerse yourself

Find out about social networks such as Facebook, social video sites such as YouTube, social photo sites such as Flickr, social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us.

There’s no harm in setting up accounts for everything and having a play around with them. Not only will you broaden your knowledge, you might actually have some fun along the way.

And most of them are free, too.

Is that it?

Pretty much.

In this way you get to contribute your joined-up, thought leadership ideas on your blog, read other people’s joined-up, thought leadership ideas through RSS, participate in mid-size conversations on Friendfeed, put out your sudden thoughts on Twitter, and likewise follow other people’s mid-size conversations and sudden thoughts.

After a while you’ll start to notice that people will comment on your blog (it’s very exciting when it happens), follow you on Twitter and Friendfeed and slowly, slowly, you’ll start to ‘know’ these people, even if virtually. More importantly, they’ll get to know you, and you start to gain credibility in the social mediasphere.

Meantime, you just learn a lot of fascinating stuff about communications of all kinds whether online or offline. For example, did you know that everyone is currently saying PR is crap, and/or that it’s not needed any more? No? Then get involved in the social mediasphere and find out. It’s been said before, it’ll be said again.

So it’s not something you can just jump into overnight. You need to take the time to cultivate relationships, get to know people in the industry or the particular part of it you want to be in, share, contribute, become involved.

All I would add is: always try and think about how this can all help you be a better PR practitioner. Put yourself in the position of the people you’re listening to and conversing with. Ask yourself: what do they need? What are their concerns? What are they trying to achieve and how can I help? If you start to think in this way, PR as a whole will be, well, less crap.

Basically you just need to do your own PR. Good luck Mr. Gorsky.