Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All is fair in love and social

Under normal circumstances, I would not site Perez Hilton as a newsworthy source. 

But, nothing about social media is normal. Except people, that is. 

So for today's post, I wanted to concentrate on a dangerous trend that is, well, trending. 

Lately, it's pretty easy to find news stories written about not so much how many people are using social media as their preferred public channel choice to communicate in general, but a channel that is being used as something much more intimate and intimidating. Which makes me want to ask the question, "Are we ready for everything in social to be fair game?"

Take @jennyjohnsonhi5 and @chrisbrown. Jenny Johnson is a comedian and writer. Chris Brown is a woman-abuser and a singer. How are they related? I don't know, but it goes like this: Chris says something dumb in Twitter and Jenny retweets & responds, much to the delight of her 349.9k followers. They appear to feed off each other, but we all know Chris can only handle so much domestic felicity before he loses it in a big way. In the latest battle, which Perez covered nicely on his blog as did HuffPost and most notably, Billboard showcased the spiral out of control from offensive banter between two celebrities to a serious offense that may be examined from a legal perspective. The result? Chris Brown deleted his account again. Wah. Questions still remain if he can be held accountable for the content of the tweets, or worse, that his threats and the threats of his fans can be considered harassment enough that if she wanted, Jenny Johnson could press charges. Will she? Probably not. But the question remains. How far is too far? Or rather, how will precedent be set in the ever-evolving field of social media. Because some of these tweets are downright death threats. 

Speaking of warnings, death threats and ongoing battles via public channels of communication, the battle between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas' have taken texting to a whole new level. Not a good one, either. Digital Trends recently published an article outlining the trial and error that is being played out in Twitter right now. One official account threatens another and Twitter is being called on to stop the madness. Is it really Twitter's responsibility to police their channels for abusive and illegal communications or should another party be held responsible? Remember, all social channels are governed by their Terms of Service; something a user must agree to in order to set up an account. And when that user does not comply it's nothing until someone gets hurt, right?  It's a question of balance of power vs personal freedom. 

It's an old question. New technology. Old issue. It's the First Amendment again, folks.  Freedom of speech. Freedom of press, belief and assembly. Freedom of expression without government interference. The very elements that makes social communication so compelling. However different we are, some basic civil liberties are guaranteed to all in the U.S. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same, indeed. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On The Fringe & Other F Words Business' Avoid

You know what happens out at the fringe? Innovation, that's what.

If you don't believe me, it's because you can't. You are probably too close to the center, or the flame, so to speak. Maybe you have different marching orders or you simply march to a different beat. Maybe your vision is myopic. Maybe you are just too darn tired. Either way, it's not your fault.

Or is it? 

Who decides where the fringe is or what people get to experience it?

Amazon seized the fringe back in 2002, then again in 2008 and again in 2010 and according to some, keep grabbing at wispy tails of innovation as part of their overall business model to transform the way people shop.

Google constantly gets media attention for their fringe-investigation and goodness knows everyone wants to know details about what they are doing next. (Google Sandbox is my favorite playground.)

Target has been cited for leading innovation for the conventional retail sector from the fringe and beyond as well, by really integrating technology into their enterprise leadership.

Much has been written about Facebook and it's wild west business strategy, but no one can argue with 1 billion registered users as a true indication of global domination.

Some organizations decide that only certain people get access to the fringe while other organizations thrive on pushing people into the fringe as part of their overall strategy. It's okay either way, if it's okay with the employee base. There is a secret sauce to what I am talking about. And it's based on opportunity, corporate culture and a few other F words that business' typically avoid.

The biggest opportunity for the fringe is in the social and digital sector, where the unraveling of conventional business seems to be the rule instead of the exception. It's not a straight up abandonment of traditional business practices. It's more like a propensity to challenge the norm, embrace all sorts of behavior changes (and lead in some really cool cases) and finally, my personal favorite...really connecting with the little people. When smarty-pants editors and researchers at places like Harvard Business Review write up articles about "Disruptive Innovation," they are really telling people that social media will lead this evolution because its the one part of business that normal "little people" can relate to. They use it every day. But let me be clear about that before I go on...connecting with the little people is built on the foundation of ONE REALLY BIG THING. That all people are created equal. Not all Christmas gifts are created equal, for God's sakes. But all people. Should be. At some basic level. Like the internet.

The internet. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Etc. all are platforms that break down traditional and conventional business endeavors and at the very basic level give access to everyone. Everyone with a computer. And access to wi-fi. And time. And willingness to learn new skills. And when appropriate, become thought leaders or advocates for changing things for the better. So, yeah, in that sense, there are limits and requirements like any good ole conventional business process. And there should be in order to increase the stickiness of the next new advancement, in addition to the overall sustainability of the business motive. But the one wild card characteristic that we can't forget is that social should be FUN.

On the fringe AND fun? We all know what that means. It means we are not serious business professionals. It probably means we are just playing around and don't really care about success. It means we are only having fun and wasting time, right? Not at all. It means that we are changing the way we do business and changing the way people do business with us.

We want doctors to be serious assholes. We need lawyers to give us guardrails. But we spend time and money with brands and Friends we love. (That's the last F word I'm using today.)

What's your favorite F word? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Running on fumes, running for the white house: all in a day's work

This last past weekend, I ran the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k. It was tough. I'm glad I did it, but not entirely convinced I need to do it again.

The race started at 7 a.m., but I could not sleep the night before, so I was up at like 4 a.m. trying to decide just how many layers were going to be necessary to keep the cold away and keep me dry & safe. 

The conundrum about it all is that this race was my choice. I knew it ran us near the Lake so I knew it was going to be brutally cold. I knew not many people would venture out to withstand the elements only to cheer us on. I knew that my body was not up to peak performance for a PR of any type. I even knew that I had terrific date night plans the night before and I would be fighting the urge to drink a cocktail the whole evening. But I fought through it all and I made it to the finish line. I didn't drink a cocktail the night before, but I did overdress and nearly melted at mile 7. I didn't enjoy the two hour wait line at the expo to pick up my packet, but the hot chocolate at the end of the race was alright. I complained a little in Twitter and I posted more than one Instagram documenting my experiences, but I certainly didn't go overboard in sharing too much on my social channels because I did it for me, after all, and I didn't have to do it in the first place. 

Which is really how I feel about the elections and social media. I wish people would use their voice to do good and make great things happen instead of using their social channels as a way to make other people feel like crap. I fear it sounds trite, but I think as a country, what we need is irrational optimism more than anything else. It's a trait shared by all the great entrepreneurs, but also great world leaders. At the end of the day, people will be people and they will finish their own races as they should. These elective offices will continue to be filled with people who will act as pace setters, but we all know the truth; beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no one but yourself can cross your finish line. During these past few months worth of sometimes heated, sometimes tepid presidential debates, I have unfriended more than one friend on Facebook and unfollowed more than one person in Twitter for content that I found to be offensive in regard to the election. And I'm hard to offend, I pretend. I'm all for sharing information and sharing for the sake of connecting more intimately with people, leaders, organizations and brands that you care about, but using social media channels to spread hatred and squash hope is not the answer. If you need to offend in order to get your point across, perhaps a public channel is not the right place for you to be making a claim? 

All I can say is that I don't care who you vote for. I just want you to campaign for something that makes tomorrow more beautiful than today. Also, please vote for Dove over VS.