Social Media

Watch brands and bloggers, a few tips to make this relationship work

I wanted to name this post “Luxury brands and bloggers, a few tips to make this relationship work”, because what I’m going to cover here should work for any luxury brand, but since I have more experience with dealing with watch brands, I opted for this title.

It’s been already four years that I’ve started WatchPaper, a blog about watches. I have to admit, there was a few years that I haven’t touched it as I was too busy with other projects, but now I’m back in action with big plans for this website.

Since 2009, I noticed many changes in the luxury industry: if in those days you wouldn’t see too many brands having a Twitter account, not to say a Facebook page, now, watch brands  realized the importance of social media and most of them are using it (with a few exceptions, either because they live under a rock or don’t care because their business is booming anyways). The really smart ones are on YouTube, Tumbler and Pinterest too. Yes, Pinterest! It’s the perfect social media platform for luxury.

With a good chunk of their sales being made in China, you might even find a few brands using Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Hěn hǎo!

Just a couple of years ago, most of the watch brand websites were running on Flash, somehow they thought that we’re still in 2001 and people have patience to wait for a splash screen to load and we’re curious to find out more about the music the CMO likes. Luckily for us and for them too, most of the websites today use modern technologies and those that are really on the cutting edge made their website play nicely with mobile devices too. We can still see, here and there Flash websites, but they are the exception and not the norm.

Just as with social media, brands realized that blogging is a great tool to reach out to potential customers, nurture a brand image and create new relationships. There are a few blogs out there that are run by the brands themselves and the number of blogs written by hobbyists and collectors has significantly increased too.

If you’re the CMO or any other person in charge with PR, here are a few things I would like you to keep in mind:

Respect my time

You are in the business of measuring time, you know better than anyone else the value of time.

I’m not a journalist payed by a big publication, I have a full time job and other obligations that keep me busy. If I decide for whatever reason to write about you on my blog, please don’t make y life more difficult. I don’t have the time and patience, there are 600 other brands I can write about.

Access to news and media

When I say make my life difficult, I mean give me access to your materials in a streamlined fashion, so that by the time I gather all the stuff I need for a post, I won’t feel like Asterix who entered “The Place”.

I’m fine with registering for newsletters and accessing press rooms, because I want to be up to date with your latest novelties, but once you have my information and especially once you see where I’m coming from don’t ask me to contact your PR representative directly to get the images I need.

That’s a big NO!

Your PR officer has two options: to send me all the images, which is a huge file and too much hassle to download and unzip, or she will send me a few images that she considers relevant, but that are not exactly what I was looking for and again very much time consuming.

Your PR officer has other more important roles and duties than sending me images from your media library. They should be there as point of reliable information, answering specific questions that are not covered by a press release.

If you want to alienate bloggers, be frank about it and tell me to buzz off, like the brand we all know is doing it. I’m fine with it, it’s their choice to be reclusive and MAYBE I will try other channels to write about them.

Media libraries I like

There are a few brands that do it in a really great way and it’s a pleasure to brows their press corner. News are in chronological order, the images have thumbnails with captions and they are also optimized for the Web.

A small parentheses: I’m a blogger with a very short attention span, if your media library consist of only high resolution CMYK TIFFs, 50 MB each, I won’t be happy.

It is also really nice when I can download images one by one, or select several and download as a single file, it gives me more control over my bandwidth and my time.

Start using metadata

Here is a tip that is worth sending me a limited edition watch. It’s unbelievable how metadata is so underestimated by companies! Luxury watch brands are not the only ones to ignore this gem of technology, but it’s time for you to start using metadata.

When you’re adding images to your media library, you can include a wealth of information with the JPG files, such as the name of the watch, the reference number, the name of the photographer, who is the copyright holder, etc. It would make it so much more easy to build really smart websites that would read this information and link them together in a meaningful way.

I’m not talking here about corporate open data and linked open data. That’s for another post, maybe in a few years when the industry will be ready to talk about these things.

Keep an archive

I would love to see brands taking over the control of their history. It’s not normal that in a business where heritage and history is so important, that when it comes to the Internet, it is presented with only a couple of paragraphs and a few black and white pictures.

Your history is more than that. Just as museums around the world, you should start looking at your archives and start digitizing everything: sketches, photos, patents, diplomas, etc. This digital archive should be available online for us bloggers, journalists, writers.

Symbiosis

This list could go longer, but there is one thing I would like to emphasize here: you, the brand and me, the blogger, we’re in symbiosis. I need you to feed me with brute materials for my stories and you need me, because blogs are the cornerstone of social media.

I want you, the watch industry, to be known, to be respected and prosper! The craft of watch making is part of our human cultural heritage and in a world of smart watches and other digital gizmos, it’s important to keep this tradition alive. Please help me help you!

L’importance d’être sur les réseaux sociaux

La fausse page Facebook du maire de La Tuque

La fausse page Facebook du maire de La Tuque

Vendredi passé, la Ville de La Tuque a publié un communiqué de presse sur le vol d’identité du maire Beaudoin sur Facebook.

Voici les mots du maire cités dans ce communiqué :

Nous avons ici la preuve qu’il faut être prudent avec les médias sociaux. Je ne suis pas sur Facebook, alors quelqu’un a profité du fait que je n’avais pas de page personnelle pour se faire passer pour moi. Je tiens à dénoncer publiquement cette situation, pour éviter que les gens pensent que c’est moi, parce que je ne sais pas combien de temps ça va prendre avant de réussir à faire fermer cette fausse page. Je ne sais pas qui est derrière cela, mais je demande à cette personne de fermer ce compte. Ce n’est vraiment pas agréable de constater que quelqu’un utilise ta photo, ton nom et ton statut pour dire des choses sur toi qui sont complètement fausses

Le faux Normand Beaudoin a 121 amis Facebook et la page a été créée en 2011.

Le cybersquattage est un phénomène assez répandu sur les réseaux sociaux, même mon employeur a été victime il y a quelques mois, mais dans notre cas la situation a été détectée tôt et le dommage a été minimal.

Notre situation a été mitigée par le fait que la Ville de Châteauguay a une page Facebook officielle depuis mars 2011 et aujourd’hui elle compte plus de 1000 fans. Mais pour M. Beaudoin, je trouve qu’il devrait reconsidérer son absence sur Facebook. La grande dame des communications 2.0, Michelle Blanc, dans son livre, Les Médias sociaux 101, nous conseille :

Ne prenez donc pas les risques et sécurisez vos noms de marque sur tous les médias sociaux (même si vous ne vous servez pas de ces comptes pour l’instant). Commencez aussi à faire une veille efficace de vos marques et de votre nom, afin de vérifier ce qui se dit sur vous et de vous assurer qu’il n’y a pas de médisance à votre propos. Si vous laissez le champ libre, n’importe qui pourrait prendre votre place, et il y a de fortes chances que cela arrivera. Dites-vous qu’il est toujours plus facile d’agir que de réagir.

Would you tell everything?

Last week I attended a conference/camp about social media and PR for municipal employees. The day past fast, there were quite a few interesting workshops, but what really puzzled me was a workshop about PR during an emergency situation.

The presenter is consultant for municipalities in what to do and how to do things during an emergency. He asked us a question, what would we do if we would know that something bad will happen in the next hour, would we tell everything or would we withhold the information from the public?

He asked us to raise our hand if we would tell everything. There was no one in the room who would raise their hand, so I went ahead and raised it. There were others who joined me, but still we were a minority, the trouble makers…

He than gave us an example from his personal experience: during the infamous ice storm of 1998, he was in the emergency management team of a city hall, when they got the news that the city has water for one more hour. What to do? If they tell the public, the water would be finished in five minutes and they feared that chaos will erupt. Finally they have decided not to tell the population, but instead warn different official institutions about the imminent water shortage.

Well, his example was an elegant way of telling us, that we were wrong; here it is a good example when withholding an information can result in certain advantages.

Somehow I’m still not convinced by his argument. Is it easier to handle a crisis when just a few people know about an imminent situation? For sure it is! Is it the best thing to do? I’m not that sure.

I don’t have to go far back in time,let’s just take the example of Fukushima, where authorities have downplayed the danger of the radiation even as the whole World was following it closely. For sure they achieved what they wanted the World is now starting to forget even as radiation is worst than ever. Or we can think of Chernobyl, where the Soviets didn’t tell anyone about the accident. Back to Japan, there was the  Toyota, for sure it was way less catastrophic situation, still the management of Toyota preferred to hide under the carpet, or if you prefer, under the floor mat, their problem.

What was the thing that they all lost? Credibility!

By hiding the truth, you might gain something on short term, like you have water for 45 minutes instead of five, but on the long term you lose credibility.

Well, this is my two cents… How about you? What would you do? Would you tell everything?

Why social media is important for the Green Party of Canada

I won’t write a blog post listing “Top 10 …” whatever reasons and advises, let me just focus on a single event that happened today. It was in the news since this morning, that the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May is not invited to participate in the TV debate of the leaders.

While at first this seems to be a fatal blow to a political campaign, not all is lost. We’re in 2011 and social media can still save the day, especially if it’s used in wisely. Let’s see how the Green Party is doing on the different social media platforms.

Blog

Although the press likes to talk more about Facebook and Twitter followers, at the end of the day it’s still the blog that is the corner stone of any social media campaign. On the Green Party website there is a section used for the blog, so there they have plus one (+1) from me. It’s not given though enough emphasis on the website. A website that is heavy on text and tight on images, let’s take for example the page presenting the message of the leader: at 579 words, it’s quite a long text. Would there have been a video with the same message, it would have been more digestible by people who are lazy to, or can’t read. (-1)

The blog gives me the feeling that I truly read her personal opinion, which is great (+1), but she could have taken this further with spicing up the posts with photos and videos (-1). Commenting on the posts is a complete failure. Anyone wanting to comment has to first register, accept a lengthy terms and condition text, go trough a Captcha (which is not accessible for visually impaired) and only than the comment can be posted. (-5)  The result is that there are really few comments on the posts. Would they have used a more open concept, without putting up all these barriers, commenting would have been much more fun. If they are afraid of trolls, well, there are other methods to fight them, they could have been using the Facebook username and password for comments, or less intrusive tools, such as Akismet.

Facebook

I had to search a bit around to find the right page. First I was looking for the Green Party of Canada, page that exist, but seems to be neglected; all it has it’s some text copy-pasted from Wikipedia. Then I was looking for Elizabeth May, here I finally found a page that has more up to date stuff (+1), with more than 8000 fans (+1). Here is another tip I would give to the person in charge of this page: Facebook pages that have more than 25 fans can have a clean URL, meaning that instead of http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elizabeth-May/20647428344 they could have changed the URL to http://www.facebook.com/Elizabeth-May. Again it’s a small detail, but it can make a big difference, when it comes to printing the address on promotional materials. Until this is fixed, I have to give a minus one (-1). What is interesting to notice, the Facebook page, unlike the blog, is open and it’s thriving (+5).

Twitter

She’s using two Twitter accounts, @ElizabethMay for her English tweets (812 Tweets | 4,232 Following | 15,332 Followers | 1,129 Listed) and @MayElizabeth for the French tweets (166 Tweets | 268 Following | 322 Followers | 41 Listed). While on the English account there is a lot of interaction and dialog going on (+1), the French account is purely a broadcasting tool (-1), I’m not sure about its value as a separate account.

YouTube

Quite surprising, they actually have a YouTube channel (+1)! After visiting their website, I have a hard time believing there is a Green Party YouTube channel, but I could not find one video on their website (-1). Comments are open, but not too many views, no surprise if they keep this channel secret. Why there is no video section on the Facebook page (-1)?

Conclusion

I don’t want to comment if the Broadcast Consortium did the right thing, or they just shot themselves in their foot. It remains to see how the Green Party will be able to capitalize on all the buzz created by this news.

As the other Canadian political parties, they have a social media presence too, with some of their platforms more active than the others. What is missing, is a bit more creativity in using all these channels together. Mashups are not just fun ways of spicing up websites, but they are also important in sending out a strong message. Now it might be too late, the campaign has already started and social media is a long term investment.

Is the new Facebook comment plugin a game changer?

Facebook comment plugin

Facebook has created some waves this week when they announced their new plugin that enables users to leave comments on websites using their Facebook profile. TechCrunch not only jumped on the story, but they have also decided to give this new plugin a spin. The comments they got on their article are just as mixed, as my feelings about this new tool.

Sharing

When you leave a comment on a website using this new plugin, you can decide to also post your comment on your wall, this way sharing the story and the comment with your friends. This is amazing news for smaller blogs that badly need more visibility, because just a single comment could potentially bring hundreds of clicks and the whole thing could go viral. I can see many websites jumping on this, especially once there will be an easy WordPress solution developed to just plug it in.

Promoting your blog will be harder

It is a basic rule of thumb for every blogger, that apart from writing their own blog to go and comment on other blogs. Some specialists even come up with magic formulas, about what the proportion should be between commenting and writing blog posts. The idea behind this was that if you would leave a smart comment on another blog, preferably in your own niche, than you could raise the interest of others to come and visit your blog, by clicking your name. Now, with this new plugin, your name is actually linking to your Facebook profile and not your blog.

The work around this would be to have a Facebook page created for your website and use that to leave comments. Suddenly my AdamSofineti.com Facebook page starts to make a lot more sense.

SEO

Often comments add a lot of value to a post, they bring a new perspective, add more pertinent information, while adding a bunch of yummy key-words for Google to chew on.

The impact this new plugin will have on SEO, is hard to predict, but clearly it is a risk that if I would be a huge website, I’m not sure I would take.

Civilizing effect

A friend of mine (website in Romanian), who is a popular blogger in Romania wrote a post about censoring comments. His blog was blessed with a troll, who was leaving really nasty comments, some of them being plain swearing, addressed at the members of his family. Of course he would delete the offensive messages, after all it’s his blog and he can decide about where is the limit that a commenter can’t pass.

I wonder, if would have he had access to use the Facebook commenting plugin, if that would had avoided the problem he run into?

Trolls are everywhere and behave the same way, no matter the language, they hide behind an anonymous username, with a picture that has nothing to do with them and spill their poison, because they have no better way of dealing with their person issues.

With this plugin it’s harder to have anonymity; commenters have to use their real name or information that could easily be traced back to them. Spamming and trolling blogs that use this plugin will be a lot harder.

It’s far from being a finished product

I left a couple of comments on the TechCrunch story, but they are buried somewhere among the more than 1300 comments. There is no way find them and see reactions to my comment.

It’s also missing the functionality to subscribe to the answers by email or RSS.

You like or you hate Facebook, you have to deal with the idea that they are big, very big and if you want to tap into the advantages their 600+ million users can bring to you, than you have to learn to compromise, in this case by giving up the ownership of your comments.

I tried to present here some of the advantages and disadvantages this commenting plugin would bring. Is it really a game changer or not, well, you tell me. Will you use it on your blog/website? Will you leave comments on websites that use it?

Social Media 101 for freelancers

The Montreal branch of PWAC, that stand for Professional Writers Association of Canada, have organized a panel yesterday about social media. It was mainly intended to explain basic concept about how social media can help a freelance writer in growing his business.

There were four presenters, some of who I follow since quite some time on Twitter and I knew it will be an interesting discussion. Since the audience was composed of just a handful of people, it was a very intimate and relaxed atmosphere. Ideas were bouncing back and forth, let me paraphrase a few:

1. Online presence gives credibility

These days people look for information online. Small businesses, that are often one man shows neglect this aspect of their presence and are loosing big time because of this. For a potential customer that is looking for freelance writer, the writer with a website showcasing writing samples, case studies, etc., will have more credibility than another one, who is nowhere to be found.

2. Build up an interested audience

Social media is free as it doesn’t cost you money, it is trans-global and it travels trough time, but it requires a certain level of dedication to build up an audience.

Let’s say you struck a gold mine, a genius idea, something you want the whole World to know. Well, you can post it on you blog, share the link to your blog post on Twitter and Facebook and maybe people will listen.

For this scenario, you need to have ready an interested audience, ready to take on and spread your message. If you just go and tell your 20 or 30 friends about your idea, there are good chances it will be a still born baby.

3. Bringing traffic to your blog

It’s hard to get people to subscribe to your RSS feed, but once you get them you know they are really interested in what you have to say. These are your most valuable and most intimate followers.

It’s a lot easier to have followers on Twitter, so you have to work on funneling your followers from Twitter towards your blog.

I would just add to this, that you should avoid using Twitter as a platform to only post links to your blog. You should interact with people and the links to your blog should be just a fraction of that interaction.

4. Tools you use does matter

Some of the presenters were saying that it doesn’t matter what platform you use to write your blog, be that Tumblr, or WordPress.com, or a self hosted blog. The important thing is to have an online presence.

Here I have to disagree, especially from a business perspective where you have to think long term. If you build up a certain reputation using Tumblr, but you business takes you to a different level where you outgrow what Tumblr can offer, you are either accepting the limitations or you move. Both of this will have a negative impact on your growth.

For a small business, I think it’s not a big investment, to buy a domain name and go with a shared hosting to host their website/blog. Some people might find it intimidating this, but it’s not rocket science and there are plenty of hosting companies that are happy to help with setting up a first blog.

Would that website become insanely popular? It will be a lot more easier to upgrade the server or the platform, than moving the website to a different domain name.

5. My message to writers

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter are all communication mediums that are heavy on text. You are writers, you live and breathe text, it’s the thing you’re the best at! What an amazing position to be!

You see it everywhere, the majority of people don’t know how to spell, they don’t know how to tell a story… For you it should be so easy to stand out and create signal versus noise, people are hungry for good quality information and you are in an excellent position to deliver it.

The presenters

Would you like to learn more about social media, why not go to the source:

Why an AdamSofineti.com Facebook page?

AdamSofineti.com on Facebook

I usually see people creating official Facebook pages, when they reach the limit of friends they can have (5000 on a personal account). It makes sense, the average FB user will never get to that number and I’m not expecting in the near future neither to reach that limit. Why have than a separate Facebook page for this website?

The main reason I did it, is the widget you can see in the left hand, under the Categories section. On my personal account the privacy settings are set in a way to let only my friends have access to my info. This is because I want to keep my Facebook account open only to my friends, in most of the cases people I know personally and in some cases people I would love to meet in person. Adding a “Like” widget would have meant that I have to change my privacy settings and go public, something I refuse to do.

The other option was to create an AdamSofineti.com Facebook page that is public. I changed the syndication settings in my NetworkedBlogs account to feed my blog post from now on to the AdamSofineti.com FB page, so that I won’t spam anyone with my posts showing up twice on their wall.

My first impressions about Quora

Quora screen capture
Here is Quora, a new kid on the block, whose name keeps popping up in quite prestigious blogs (see a few recommended articles bellow), so I’ve decided to give it a try.

What is Quora

Quora is another Q&A website, a bit like Yahoo Answers, but what I found unique about it, was the quality of the people active on it. Basically there are a bunch of topics and you can ask a question, other users will give answers and again others will vote on those answers. The answers can grow into discussions, giving you access to unexpected insights.

First impressions

The community has that early Twitter feeling to it, bunch of tech pioneers and many of the big gorillas of the tech world are quite active on it.

Unlike Twitter it is very fast, at least for me. I was so impressed that I’ve even found a question on this topic with some interesting details in the answer, but quite frankly by not being a developer some stuff are beyond my understanding.

The design is friendly and while it’s limited in features, what’s there works like a charm, overall I had that feeling that this website will be a place I will come back more than once.

Asking questions

My enthusiasm was watered down quite early, when I tried to ask a question about the way seniors are using Facebook. I kept getting a pop-up with this message:

Learn About Quora Questions Before Adding Yours
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
Quality is important on Quora. Each question should be a complete sentence, with correct spelling, grammar and formatting. It should begin with a capital letter and end with a question mark. Don’t capitalize arbitrary words. If you want to emphasize a particular word or phrase use italics, not ALLCAPS. Avoid profanity.

Pick the question that meets Quora guidelines:
How to make a cheese omelette?
What’s the Best Way to make a Cheese Omelette?
How can I make a good cheese omelette?
for breakfast, how can i make a kickass cheese omelette

This pop-up would keep coming back and I could not post my question, no matter how I would rewrite it. Here is my question rewrote in four different ways:

I would like to know more about the way people aged 65 and up are using Facebook?
What are the most popular features of Facebook with people aged 65 and up?
Are you 65 and up? What do you like about Facebook?
What are the most popular features among seniors using Facebook?

Are my questions really that bad? Is Quora stricter than that English teacher in your worst nightmare? In my opinion the question I tried to ask met their guidelines, it was also a question for what I have a hard time finding answers on Google. I’ve tried contacting Quora trough several channels to ask them for help, but so far I did no get an answer for them. Maybe you can tell me what I did wrong.

Conclusion

I hope with their new found popularity, they will get more feedbacks and they’ll improve the things that need more work. I also hope they will have an iPhone app out soon, because their mobile website is not that great. It’s a website and a community worth checking out!

Recommended articles about Quora

How Quora could get interesting by Chris Brogan
Frequently Asked Questions About Quora on TechCrunch
The Question Of Quora by Mitch Joel

The noxiousness of technology

I stumbled upon an interview with Douglas Rushkoff, a media thinker, who also writes about contemporary Judaism. Here is an excerpt that I find interesting:

Is increased reliance on new technology coming at the cost of spirituality?

Well, the rabbis promoting the oral tradition asked this about the written law, right? New mediating technologies always cost us our intimacy and direct social contact. The less Judaism is about being in a room or under a tent together, the less real it becomes. It’s not that technology costs us spirituality. It’s that the misuse of technology compromises the spiritual components of real life.

This question pops-up everyday and there is always someone to forecast the end of civilization because of the new technologies. Nothing new under the Sun, as Rushkoff points it out, writing has diminished the importance of oral tradition. Since the early forms of writing, someone could sit down and read on his own, get informed, without the need of another human presence. Information could be transfered more easily and more accurately. With the appearance of the printing press, information became cheaper and more accessible. Renaissance and Reformation are all direct results of this technological invention.

Later comes the telegraph, the telephone, Radio, TV, etc. and now we get to use the Internet under its many forms. Social media is among the preferred targets of the naysayers, this week it was the turn of Montreal journalist Pierre Foglia with Expliquez-moi ce rien to express his dislike of Twitter. He complains about the low value of messages that float around the twittersphere, naming the tweets of a humorist, an MP and francophone singer. I won’t try to reply to him here, it was already very well done by the grand dame of Quebec social media, Michelle Blanc on her blog.

My first reaction was, why on Earth someone thinks it’s cool not to get what social media is all about. Than on a second thought, especially after reading some of the comments on Michelle Blanc response, I came to the conclusion that it’s maybe a question of generations. Maybe older people miss those social interactions that were the norm at the time when they were young and now maybe because of the technology, or maybe because of their age, they become more isolated. This gave me the idea of thinking of tools specially built for seniors to initiate them in the usage of social media. There are many seniors who are already present and active on Facebook or Twitter, but for the rest a properly built tutorial would be helpful.

How should this tutorial be built? Should it be a PowerPoit, a PDF or a YouTube video?

What I hope 2011 would bring in Social Media

Facebook and Twitter search sucks
I find it really unfortunate that Google missed out on Buzz, although this time it’s less of a failure that Wave was at the time. Buzz is not working, because the social aspect is not evident, you won’t find your friends on it, unless they are geeks and connecting with strangers is not as straight forward as with Twitter. Undoubtedly Google’s strong point is search, no other company is as accurate and as fast in running queries as Google. While Facebook and Twitter are flourishing and don’t seem to slow down in their expansion, they just don’t seem to know how to fix their search.

I really hope 2011 will be the year when all these companies will finally recognize that they are good at some things and for some other things they better let the other do it. There were already some steps taken by Facebook in this direction, when they teamed up with Bing, but there is plenty of work to be sorted out.

Here is my list of search related features I hope they would have:

  • Twitter – first task, sort out that search for once! What do you mean, I can’t search tweets from last week?
  • Twitter – once the simple things are working, let’s start having some fun features, such as searching someone else’s timeline, or searching by date.
  • Facebook – it would be nice to finally have a News Feed search. Sometimes I know of a link or a video I saw someone posted about a month ago, well, finding that is not an easy task for me and I’m not that popular. If I would have thousands of friends, it would be an unimaginable task to perform.

Being able to search our archive of posts on these websites, would make the whole social network experience more meaningful. We’re just shouting, but when we need a relevant information, we need to turn to good “old” Google.

What do you hope 2011 will bring in Social Media?

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