Faster than Fast Company

For both readers of my blog, I thought it would be interesting to post a link to the Fast Company online story, “Facebook Brand Timelines Tell Better Stories, But Who’s Listening?”  My post last week on Facebook and timeline hit some of the points that mine hit.  Of course the Fast Company story is more complete, comprehensive and thoughtful, but hey that’s what these guys get paid for.


Facebook Timeline and Stories

I was in another meeting today where someone was complaining about how badly they hate Facebook’s Timeline which all the fan pages will be automatically going to on March 30.  It reminds me of two lessons.  One is that a certain subset of people will always hate change, and secondly that it’s hard to get a good theory into a good concept.

I’m guessing at the theory here, but I’m guessing that instinctively someone looked at Facebook profiles and said, wouldn’t this be more interesting if it told a story?   This is true in most areas of life.  There may be some interest in my grocery list, but it is far more interesting if you know the context of who is coming to dinner, when, what I’ll be cooking and most importantly why I’m nervous.  The grocery list is a data set that we have to make our own conclusions about.  My story of the dinner is a complete story, and like the meal I’m about to cook it is supposed to be more satisfying.

Chronological order is a great way to put together a story.  In fact, most of great stories follow that form.  I think it was that instinct to tell the story that led to the change.  It was great in theory, but hard in practice.  Great social media storytellers have been finding ways to tell their organization in creative ways whatever changes have been made to Facebook.   This change makes it easier in some ways, but not everybody is going to appreciate that.

The ability to make mistakes

This weekend Lebron James said he’d participate in the dunk contest for a million bucks.  That seems about right to me.  Since he has essentially been a paid player since he was in his early teens it is about right that as a man in his twenties he would expect a million bucks for about sixty minutes of work playing a kids game.

It’s also what keeps me up at night about what he have done to kids sports.  I think about this a lot recently as I go to practice with my fifth grade daughter.  In fifth grade they have been taught an offense, lots of technical skills, and have been told over and over again what it takes to win.  What I’m pretty sure nobody has ever done is roll the ball out on the floor and say “have fun.”  They never get a chance to try things in a gym that’s not packed with parents and coaches.  They never get to screw up or screw around.  Don’t get me wrong, all these people care about them a lot, but condering that of the eleven girls currently at best only three will ever start a varsity basketball game, and the odds are clearly that none will every play in college maybe even those of us that really care (and know better) aren’t focused on the right things.

Which brings me to the problem with social media – you can’t practice anymore because somebody is always watching.  I was reminded of this the other day when a classmate put a video of my playing basketball in high school on the web.  It’s horrible.  I was skinny, the shorts were too short, and I’m about half the player I thought I was.  Sure it was fun, but nobody needs to see that again.   That’s a pretty isolated incident for me, but I’m reminded almost daily with my kids that they will never live in an age when someone can’t Google them and come up with an embarrasing picture, blog post, or birthday message from a deranged Aunt.   They can’t just practice the awkwardness of relationships, or becoming a professional, or learning how to think critically because when they post that on the web that is out there forever.

As I advocate for the use of social media I want to also make sure that I’m advocate for forgiveness.  Because even though my shorts were too short in 1991, doesn’t mean I haven’t learned something since then.  I hope social media doesn’t freeze some of brightest young minds in a time they would just as soon forget.

American Airlines parody: A pr pros nightmare

Most companies take themselves too seriously, and that is likely an extension of the fact that most of us take ourselves too seriously.  This news story from MSNBC: American Airlines Video however is either funny or disturbing, depending on your PR perspective.

For a long time, I have taken the position that most companies should let employees run wild with social media and hope for the best.  Stories like this are very, very rare.  However, this is the type of story that is likely to further derail what was a tough customer service relationship and a tough relationship between executives and flight attendants.  In the end, fairly or not, I watch the video and think I’m witnessing a look inside American Airlines.   This one employee may just be disgruntled and this may not be a fair characterization, but that is not what the average person is going to see.

The one thing I really like about the American Airlines response from a PR professionals perspective is that they correctly point out that the employee making the video is making fun of  or harming another employee with the parody.  I don’t know enough about the situation, but the more like an actual employee the character in the video is I think the better case they have.  For all of us, I think it’s a reminder that the golden rule applies in social media.  I’m pretty sure this employee wouldn’t think it was funny if the executives did a parody video of flight attendants.

I’m not totally taking American’s side here.  It sounds like they have deep problems, and if this guy is willing to lose his job over it then maybe this is the last form of revolt he feels he has left.  Either way, it’s ugly – or funny depending one what side of the desk you are sitting on.

A post worth repeating

I have often thought that one of the elements that is too often missing professionally is courage.  This post from Andrew Eklund is worth repeating, retweeting, or however you will get it because it reminds us that good communication, in this case advertising, often requires some form of risk.  Communication that isn’t inherently risky probably isn’t authentic which he makes a good case for here it a Twin Cities Business blog post.

Old country music is the key to social media

Today I was listening to a new Pandora station I put together called, “John Prine Radio.”  The artists that show up tend to be Willie Nelson, George Jones, and as I write this Conway Twitty is using some not so subtle innuendo to praise the object of his affection. 

It’s in listening to this station today that I found the connection between the two things that have captured my attention lately.  One is social media.  I continue to think that it’s impact is only starting to be felt.  The second is the importance of story.   The reason I love old country music is because every song is a great short story.  Sure, they are corny and predicatable, but they are stories I know and love.

I think one of the mistakes we make in thinking about social media is that we forget that stories matter.  Characters, conflict, and resolution make a difference.   Thinking in this way will radically alter our social media strategy.

Hank’s playing “Country Boy Can Survive” right now.  Good stuff.  Hank could have used a little social media and PR advice lately, but I guess the song says it all.   Also makes me think that every thing in live relates to a good country song.  The key message of “Country Boy Can Survive” is that you gotta figure out how the world works and rely on yourself.  Sounds to me like good advice for the small organization riding into the wild west of social media.

Shamed by the youths

Every once in awhile I come across something that shows me that despite my attempts to stay current – I’m not.   My son recently “liked” this story on Facebook written by a college student from our hometown.  It’s a great story and highlights the true power in Social Media and should be in the playbook for anybody out there wondering why they would take the time to blog, Twitter, etc.  Garrett not only got a really impressive writing credit, but the Fox website posted a link to his blog.  I’m guessing his blog traffic took a pretty good spike, and I’m guessing some of those spikes came from people who will someday be hiring.  In the article, Garrett establishes himself as a thoughtful generational voice and by having a nice clean blog with a wealth of content he comes across as a Social Media guy – a skill lots of people will be looking for.

Great job Garrett, this is an example I’m going to use in a class tonight.