Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why This Internet Thing Is Never Gonna Last

It was first published in Newsweek via BoingBoing in 1995, but it’s all over the interweb today: “The Internet? Bah!” — author Clifford Stoll’s funny, grumpy essay on “this most trendy and oversold community.”

Here are some excerpts:

• “We're told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. … Bah. These expensive toys are difficult to use in classrooms and require extensive teacher training.”

• “How about electronic publishing? … Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”

• “Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. … Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet — which there isn't — the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.”

• “What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.”

Social media are all about forging connections. In fact, for many of us, it’s human contact that keeps drawing us back to the internet today. Yet back in 1995, few of us recognized the potential of social media and social networking.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making a Natural Connection with the Social Media

Last month, Estée Lauder launched a clever promotion in New York City and other key markets. The beauty leader offered visitors to its retail counters free “social media makeovers,” including product samples and a professionally shot and retouched photo that they could use on their blogs.

The program has a two-fold strategy, according to spokesperson Tara Eisenberg: helping to contemporize the 63-year-old brand for younger women, while acknowledging the fact that the older women who are have traditionally been Estée Lauder’s target consumer are rapidly embracing the social media.

“The gift that the brand hopes will keep on giving is that the [bloggers’] profile photos include the Estee Lauder logo in the background, which, assuming they aren't Photoshopped into oblivion, could give the brand lasting presence on Facebook beyond its own 27,000-member plus fan page,” reports Jack Neff in Ad Age. Public relations, of course, is also being used to spread the word about the campaign in the mainstream media.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“State of Play”

I just saw an interesting, suspenseful movie for grown-ups. (It doesn’t involve comics, superpowers, or computer-generated special effects.)

State of Play” is a thoughtful thriller that pairs a scruffy reporter from the mainstream media (Russell Crowe) and a hip young blogger (Rachel McAdams) working for the same newspaper, the “Washington Globe.” Together, they ferret out the nefarious secrets behind the apparent suicide of a young congressman’s researcher/girlfriend. The congressman (Ben Affleck) is heading a committee investigating the doings of an enormous, sinister private military contractor.

What’s great about the movie: its affectionate and detailed depiction of the great tradition of investigative journalism and its acknowledgment that, in many case, the same impulses drive serious bloggers. What disturbed me? The hilarious — and awful — character of Dominic Foy (Jason Bateman), the epitome of a sleazy public relations consultant. (I seem to recall that, at one point in the movie, Foy bellows something along the lines of, “I don’t know anything. I’m in PR!”)

Notwithstanding the oily PR guy, if you’re looking for an intelligent, adult movie, you might want to consider "State of Play." I like its position that the social media aren’t intrinsically better or worse than the mainstream media. As critic Stephanie Zacharek writes, “While ‘State of Play’ is, in some ways, an elegy for the printed newspaper, it's really more of a rallying cry for newspapers to rethink and retool everything, fast. The new house has to be built and ready before the old one crashes to the ground.”

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Bank of America Tweets Its Customers Well

Our New York City-based public relations firm is a strong advocate for using the new consumer-generated, or social, media to build connections, rapport and trust. In fact, our specialized Online Fluency practice, headed by EVP + Partner Robbin Goodman, is devoted entirely to the art and science of social networking with stakeholders. So I was intrigued to read an interesting piece on one of my favorite blogs, The Consumerist, about how Bank of America is using Twitter to resolve customers’ problems.

The bank has appointed an official BofA Twitter rep, David Knapp (screen name BofA_help) to “help, listen and learn from our customers.” Knapp handles inbound requests and scans Twitter for people talking about their problems with the financial services giant and reaches out to them.

One customer reported trying to contact Bank of America “a dozen different times and three different ways,” but one tweet to BofA_help put him in directly touch with executive customer service.

Another shared his story about how Bank of America helped fix his problem: “I got the fee I was disputing canceled, and they promised to send me a gift certificate. We'll see,” he said. “… if they keep up this level of customer service I might not switch banks when I move this spring.”

It’s early days yet, but the initial response to this social media experiment is very positive. The Consumerist reports: “If you're listening to the elevator music on the phone with Bank of America, why not shoot a tweet over to Maybe he'll solve your problem before you get off hold. It'll only cost you a few seconds and 140, or less, characters.”

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

High Tech: Reporting on the Crisis in Mumbai

First, speaking for everyone at Makovsky + Company, let me say that our hearts break for India and the people of Mumbai, both residents and visitors. Like New York, Mumbai is the financial capital of the nation. Like Mumbai, we in New York are unfortunately all-too-familiar with the consequences of terrorism.

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time channel surfing the news networks on cable TV, trying to get a coherent perspective on the deadly terror attacks, with little luck. Coverage was brief, often contradictory and peppered with commercials. Finally, I turned to the social media, which were rich with raw, up-to-the-minute information and images.

For example, as the mainstream media struggled to catch up with fast-breaking news, the technology-empowered social media, including users of Twitter, were posting real-time accounts of the crisis to their friends and family worldwide. (Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ brief text-based updates — or “tweets.”)

While it’s true that there were lots of rumors and false reports on Twitter, bloggers like Amy Gahran, a self-employed media consultant, worked hard to separate the facts from the hokum by checking out rumors.

We’re all citizen journalists today. I just wish we didn’t have to be combat journalists.

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