Be careful about whom you (don’t) follow!

Lame move on my part!

I admit I don’t follow everyone who follows me on Twitter, because it’s just not possible to pay attention to so much chatter.

But today, I realized I had been following the wrong tweet on my mobile. In a real-world event this could have had major repercussions, especially if that person or group was part of a coordinated team.

The event I am talking about was a terrorist attack on a football stadium. OK, it was a mock  terrorist attack! The event was an emergency planning exercise at Arizona State University.

I was tweeting, taking photos, and recording audio for a podcast while my communication colleagues were tweeting. But ASU has so many people on Twitter now, it’s possible to not follow the right person! I feel more stupid since it was only last week that two others and I presented to a group about the value of Twitter, where I specifically mentioned how easy it was to send an on or off command via your mobile device to follow or turn off someone!

So the lessons learned:

  • Be careful whom you don’t follow – deliberately or accidentally
  • Think of Twitter as two parts listening post, one part micro-blog
  • Keep a short list of those you really need to follow –in a notebook!
  • Regularly check your account settings –esp ‘Device Updates’

Then: Echo Chamber. Now: Think Tank

What’s the value of Twitter? I’m sure you get asked this question a lot. I’ve been barely active for the past six months, and find myself pointing people to resources such as this ebook (by GreekPreneur) and Chris Penn’s great Power Guide to Twitter.

I found the head-scratching by David Pogue (he, a tech columnist @ The New York Times) very enlightening. Even Pogue is figuring it out as he goes, so I don’t feel too bad.

Anyway, all this preamble is to make the point that Twitter to me is proving to be a customizable focus group that never sleeps; one I could configure with a  few clicks, so that it’s pretty well targeted.

twitter_pollI found a quick poll being taken at The Strategy Web, (try it!) and the instant result confirmed what I thought: More people have found it valuable as a think tank, than a reputation enhancer. The number of people it reflects is very small, so this is not exactly representative of the Twitterverse, but it vindicates my time spent.

Quotes for the week ending 24 January, 2009

“Citizen participation will be a priority…”

Macon Philips, White House’s director of new media, in a blog post a few seconds after Barack Obama took oath as the nation’s 44th president on Tuesday.

“Communication. Transparency. Participation”

The first message on the web site that switched over on Tuesday at noon., spelling out the details why ‘change has come to’

“an excellent example of witness media and pro media cooperation. It’s not about the ‘versus.'”

Steve Safran, quoted in an article about the evolution of ‘eyewittness journalism’

“Inaugural speeches serve two purposes. They are designed to heal whatever rough roads people had to go down to get elected. The other purpose is to lay out the agenda and the key metaphors for what’s to come-and hopefully to induce people to cooperate.”

John Adams, Colgate Speaking Union @Colgate University, quoted in

“You must find ways to spread – in a new manner – voices and pictures of hope, through the internet, which wraps all of our planet in an increasingly close-knitted way.”

Pope Benedict XVI, on the Vatican’s launch of a channel on YouTube.

“Obama gets a thumbs-up for his Blackberry.”

Headline of a series of articles that celebrated the fact that the ‘tech president’ gets his way in being able to step out of the communications bubble. Only a few people will have his email address, the White House says.

“Twitter IS a massive time drain. It IS yet another way to procrastinate … But it’s also a brilliant channel for breaking news, asking questions, and attaining one step of separation from public figures you admire.”

New York Times Tech columnist, David Pogue about how he’s learning to use Twitter

Quotes for the week ending 13 Sept, 2008

“Google is the oxygen in this ecosystem”

John Battelle, journalist and author, commenting on the company called Google that started out in this garage on 7 September, 2008.

“I had thought 51 years of rough-and-tumble journalism in Washington made me more enemies than friends, but my recent experience suggests the opposite may be the case.”

Robert Novak, longtime journalist, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times who was disgnosed with brain cancer.

“In an age when politics is choreographed, voters watch out for the moments when the public-relations facade breaks down and venom pours through the cracks.”

Nick Cohen, The observer, UK

“Colgate University Has an Official Twitterer. World Yawns.”

Headline for article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, about how the university is using micro-blogging.

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Steve Jobs, using the Mark Twain line to open his address at a Mac event.

“It works like predictive texting. You start to type in a word…it suggests what you might mean to say. Like….you start to type in “stre”, and it might suggest “street view” or “utter lack of privacy” or “you only need to sign off 3,793 papers to get your face off our program”

Jodie Andrefsky, with a cynical take on Google’s claim to ‘anonymize’ people’s searches on the new web browser, Chrome.

“Houston, we have a PR problem! I’d offer the McCain campaign some PR advice, but I can’t seem to stop laughing…”

Len Gutman, at ValleyPRBlog, a on Saragh Palin’s PR nightmares.

“Good journalism is essential to democracy. With good journalism, you have good government.”

Calvin Trillin, hournalist, poet and author (A Heckuva Job: More of the Bush Administration in Rhyme), who will speak at ASU on 30 September, 2008

“We become the proverbial, ‘just stopping in for a cup of coffee don’t have time to chat social network user’.”

Mark Meyer, Director of e-commerce and interactive marketing for Emerson Direct, a fellow blogger at

..and Sarah gets a fake blog

You’re not someone until you get a fake blog. Sarah Palin has joined the ranks of CEO’s who’ve had the dubious honor of having fake blogs after them.

Palin has not just one parody site,, but two: Palindrome.

And what’s a fake blog without a fake Twitter account? There’s the Fake SarahPalinTwitter, and the other Twitter account on her behalf by an ardent fan.

With so much social media around McCain’s VP, who needs the facts?

Analog to digital highlighted at Olympics opening ceremony

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors communicated across vast distances by beating out messages on drums. Today we relay messages across the world on Twitter, using our thumbs.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics combines both these communication impulses in a country that is seeing this dramatic shift from the analog and digital. The balance and alternation of signals is a powerful metaphor for much of what we do, no matter where we live.

The visually lavish opening ceremony with its human tableau set on a digitally created scroll was just the start. Bamboo scrolls gave way to print; and in a striking opposite effect, 2008 drummers played out a digital spectacle with their choreographed beats made to look like a LED screen which spelled out the count down. That too in Roman and Chinese numerals. How much richer could we get?

One Daily Mail journalist summed it up this way: “This was a feast for the eyes cooked not from the books of ancient culture so much as the latest Microsoft manuals.” I don’t think this is accurate. It was a feast for all our senses, cooked from a user manual that’s a mashup of the Little Red Book and Microsoft manual.

A few millenia after the drum and the torch, here’s how we send and receive information:

  • There’s a Twitter tag 080808 set up by three Chinese to connect everyone’s tweets.
  • Watch cell-phones streaming live video on Qik, a service also used by the Sacramento Bee to cover the torch protests.
  • Newspaper and TV journalists are blogging to give us expanded, less time-delayed coverage.
  • Text alerts (and video) on your phone is available at NBC at
  • Several Facebook groups in support of, and as a protest to the Olympics.
  • NBC has a widget you could add to your blog or social network.
  • The Voices of the Olympic Games, courtesy Lenovo provides great back stories from the athletes themselves.

Bloggers and journalists embrace professional motion blur

Another major blur is taking place, as we hear more and more about bloggers and journalists walking in each others’ shoes. We are all passing through what I could best describe as a constant Professional Motion Blur: Marketing and Communication, PR and Advertising, Blogging and Media Relations, Digital Printing and Direct Marketing, Search and Marketing, Journalism and Blogging.

This story and this captures what’s happening as bloggers get to learn the rules of journalism, while ironically journalists are learning to play by the ‘rules’ of the blogosphere, and even learn to use Twitter. The Society of Professional Journalists is conducting a series of seminars in Chicago, Greensboro, and Los Angeles.

Are we muddying the professions? Some will say it’s the death of expertise. I just think we cannot afford to operate in our silos anymore. Faced with our multi-media, highly connected, multi-cultural audiences, we have no other option but to embrace the blur.

10 things we obsessed about in 2007

Here’s what I will remember about 2007 from the perspective of marketing, social media and communications. We obsessed about these stories in PR, marketing and social media.

1. Facebook made us rethink what social networking could do for one-to-one communications.

2. Network neutrality became a debate that not just the geeks and telcos were interested in.

3. Short codes gained popularity as the new URLs, as text messaging took off. Sadly, it took the shootings at Virginia tech for universities to realize the value of this kind of messaging.

4. Mashups became more entertaining than the original. Think: the “1984″ spoof ‘commercial‘ about Hillary Clinton, viewed over 3 million times.

5. It was the year micro-blogging (with Twitter and Jaiku) got taken seriously,

6. This was the year email spam (in the form of “co-worker spam” and “PR spam”) hit a tipping point, forcing communicators to take a good hard look at databases, and how to try to target better. Not convinced? See the rumpus Wired editor, Chris Anderson’s “sorry people you’re blocked” post did.

7. A new, intriguing search engine called Mahalo (made possible by humans, not just algorithms!), the future of Wikipedia, and whether “amateurish” knowledge is helping or hurting us.

8. The toy for grown ups: the iPhone, what else?

9. Beacon, Facebook’s daring experiment with something called “social ads.”

10. Obama-mania, both here and abroad.

(cross posted from ValleyPRblog)