Bring Social Media Tourism 2013 to Indianapolis (#SoMeT13US)

This is a little embarrassing. Indianapolis is currently ranked 8th in the Elite Eight in the Social Media Tourism 2013 conference competition.

SoMeT is a creation of Think! Social Media, a digital agency in the tourism marketing world. This is the fourth year of SoMeT, and they are selecting the host city based on a March Madness style bracket system. And Indianapolis has a real chance of winning this, but not if we keep playing the way we did!

To get into the Elite Eight, we barely squeaked into the competition, finishing in 8th with 657 votes. Seventh place Grand Rapids, MI had 735 votes.

Seriously? Grand Rapids?! I don’t even think there are 735 people in Grand Rapids, are there?

Okay, a quick check on Google shows there are roughly 190,000 people in Grand Rapids. But that’s less than one-fourth the size of Indianapolis, and we got out muscled. That’s like IU getting beat by Davidson College at, well, anything.

Here’s how the final votes went down:
1. Huntsville, AL – 2,361
2. Missoula, MT – 1,606
3. Milwaukee, WI – 1,328
4. Cleveland, OH – 1,231
5. St. Pete/Clearwater, FL – 882
6. Branson, MO – 799
7. Grand Rapids, MI – 735
8. Indianapolis, IN – 657

Social Media Tourism Bracket

Seriously? We got 8th?! I swear, if I had a folding chair, I’d hurl it.

Because of our 8th place finish, we face off against #1 seed, Huntsville, AL (183,00 people?! COME ON!) on Thursday, March 21 from 10 am to 10 pm. Whichever city gets the most votes within that 12 hour period goes on to the Final Four. The winners of that bracket face off against each other, and the final winner will play host to SoMeT13 in November.

As the biggest city in the competition, we should not be in last place with the voting. We should be hammering the competition by sheer size alone. We need our people to carry the city. We need you to step up, make the plays, and get the job done.

On Thursday, March 21, please pay attention to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. And when you get the call to vote, we need you to click the link, click the photo, and help bring this country’s tourism professionals home to Indianapolis.

We’re Indianapolis, dammit! Let’s show them how this game is played.

The Elite Eight Tournament Times are as follows:

  • Monday, March 18 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #3 Milwaukee, WI v #6 Branson, MO
  • Tuesday, March 19 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #4 Cleveland, OH v #5 St. Pete/Clearwater, FL
  • Wednesday, March 20 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #2 Missoula, MT v #7 Grand Rapids, MI
  • Thursday, March 21 – 10:00am to 10:00pm Eastern Time – #1 Huntsville, AL #8 Indianapolis, IN

CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR INDIANAPOLIS!

Five Social Media Jokes That Make Me Want to Poke You In The Eye

Please stop making these social media jokes

Some days, I believe anyone can make up their own clever jokes and make the world laugh.

Other days, I weep for humanity.

Humor is a dangerous thing in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing. And apparently, that’s a lot of people, especially when it comes to making jokes about current events.

They deliver the line — which, believe me, I’ve heard hundreds of times before — with an expectant grin like they’ve said something hysterical, and they’re waiting for me to laugh.

(Pro tip: If you tell a joke, never use the “TA DA!” face, like you’re pleased with yourself, or are in a recorded-in-front-of-a-live-studio-audience sitcom. Act like what you said was not a joke, so that when it bombs, you can continue on like nothing awkward just happened.)

So if you’re making these social media jokes, stop it. Just stop it.

  • Twitterererer: Said with a confused look on the person’s face, like they don’t quite get it or aren’t really sure what to call people who use Twitter. They act like they’re so unfamiliar with the word — even after three solid years of it being a pop culture mainstay even the Amish are aware of — they’re not sure how many “er” syllables there actually are. They’ll go on for five minutes if you let them. Because nothing is funnier than feigned confusion and stupidity.
  • Calling Twitter Users “Twits”: “But people who use social media aren’t actually called. . . oooh, I get it. Ha ha ha, that’s so FUNNY! ‘Twit’ is a name for a stupid person, and you’re saying people who use Twitter are stupid.” Whatever. People who say this think “working hard or hardly working?” is also funny.
  • Saying “Hashtag-__________” in regular conversation: As in hashtag-that’s-funny or hashtag-hilarious. Seriously, hashtag-shut-the-hell-up. I hate it when people use text speak in real life (although I really do like The Instagram Song, below), and I say “O! M! G!” only when I want to make fun of someone for doing it.
  • “Smart phone? No, I just have a regular old dumb phone.”: When people say this, I want to say something I learned in my years of woodworking: “There are no bad tools, only bad carpenters.”
  • “I don’t want to know when people are going to the bathroom:” I don’t know what kind of people you hang out with, but no one I know ever discusses their bathroom habits in polite conversation, let alone broadcasts it to the entire Internet. Maybe you need to hang out with a better class of people. Also, I don’t think anyone anywhere has ever said this ever. But if you think they have, by all means, show me. Dive into the social media deep end, find a tweet where someone said they just went poo, print it out, and show it to me.

 

App.net Could Be a Twitter Killer

It could be the Twitter killer.

App.net, the open-source Twitter competitor, could be the thing that defeats and replaces Twitter, at least for those people who are starting to look at Twitter the same way a married couple begins to realize that the honeymoon ended 10 years ago.

We all assumed — at least those of us who have been on Twitter for a few years — that Twitter had the same do-no-evil attitude that Google did. That they were going to be cool.

But over the last 12 months, the sheen has come off and what were once cute little quirks have become full-blown annoyances.App.net screenshot

  • Twitter bought Posterous for an talent acquisition, not a technology one. Expect your Posterous blog to go away one day.
  • They bought TweetDeck, and we all feared they were going to kill it, but instead, they made it suck.
  • Twitter has been shutting out third-party app and api developers, presumably to bring things in better alignment with their brand.
  • Twitter had a great relationship with Google where you could search for real-time tweets. That relationship was not renewed when it ended. Sort of like an actor whose contract isn’t renewed for the upcoming season.
  • They blocked off Instagram access, meaning you can’t find your Twitter friends on the photo sharing too.
  • Most recently, Twitter shut down the account of a British journalist who was critical of NBC’s crappy Olympic coverage. It was only after a huge outcry that they turned it back on.

Twitter keeps turning more and more into Facebook every day. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell, a rock star prodigy among the A-list tech entrepreneurs, told ReadWriteWeb that these are the “classic symptoms of an online media company failing to fly. ‘Media companies are starving,’ Caldwell says, ‘and that’s why they do crazy things.'”

So I was very excited to hear about App.net (app dot net) as a possible new Twitter alternative.

The best part? It costs 50 bucks a year to use.

50 bucks?! But Twitter is free!

Yes, Twitter is free. Yes, Twitter has more than 500 million accounts on it, and is the most widely accepted microblog on the planet.

But here’s what App.net has that Twitter does not.

  • It’s decentralized. That means no one person can control it or make unilateral decisions that piss everyone off. It’s like WordPress or Firefox.
  • It’s open-source, which means developers can make their own apps work with it any way they want.
  • It’s ad free. So no sponsored tweets. (I don’t find it to be such a big deal on Twitter, but I’m also willing to pay for ad-free.)
  • 50 bucks will keep the spammers away.
  • There will only be serious users of the tool. Imagine, no spam, no porn, no MLMers showing you how to make money in your spare time.

The problem is, these guys need $500,000 in order to launch. You pledge your $50 (or $100 for developers or $1,000, if you’re so inclined), and Caldwell will launch the app. But there are 4 days left — you have until next Monday — and App.net is at $295,500 as of this moment.

If you’re tired of Twitter and wish there was an alternative, check out App.net. If you like what you see, pledge your $50, send Dalton (@DaltonC) a tweet (yes, I’m aware of the irony of that), and once you’re in, start communicating. I’ll be at the Blog Indiana conference for the next two days, sharing what I learn on Twitter, but also on App.net.

Hope to see you there.

Background reading on App.net

One More Reminder Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Eggs in Facebook’s Basket

Michael Koploy, an ERP analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com, wrote an interesting article — Adding a Pinterest-Twist to Fix Facebook Commerce — about why companies shouldn’t put a lot of effort into their Facebook pages, like setting up an ecommerce site (or as Koploy calls it, an F-commerce site — ‘F’ for Facebook).Abandoned storefront in Coles County, Illinois

Many experts have weighed-in on why Facebook storefronts are often unsuccessful. A large part of it simply boils down to the fact that Facebook isn’t an e-commerce site. This results in a contextual disconnect.

“Most people don’t go to Facebook wanting to purchase something,” says Josh Davis, social media strategist at ITFO Communications and blogger at LL Social. Davis believes that retailers were initially excited by the advertising potential, but are now realizing shopping-intent isn’t there.

In short, the context for F-commerce is wrong. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru accurately likened F-commerce to “trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

Facebook’s core focus is clearly stated on its login page: “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Facebook is not about shopping. And it’s not about retailers. But Facebook is good for connecting people to each other.

Last week, we discussed why it’s a bad idea for companies to quit blogging to go with Facebook: Facebook owns the channel, you don’t. When they change their rules and their interface, you’re screwed. When you change your blog, you can decide what, where, when, and how.

But companies like Gamestop, J.C. Penny, and Nordstrom all pulled their F-commerce efforts after failing to receive any kind of pay off. And that’s just a year after investors swore up and down that F-commerce was going to put the hurt on online retail giant Amazon.com.

I hate predicting failure of new ventures, and pointing my finger and going “neener neener” at people who tried something and failed (unless they’re complete a-holes; then they deserve it). But I’m not surprised, and am rather pleased, that these companies got smart and cut their F-commerce efforts before they lost their shirts.

The big surprise they would have had — and it’s the same damn surprise that businesses who put a lot of money and effort into Facebook always get — is that one day, Facebook will decide, “we don’t want you to have X on your page any more, so we’re going to ‘improve’ the network.”

They did it with FBML in 2010 (Facebook Markup Language, which companies spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on to design these gorgeous sites). They did it with Groups, after begging organizations, companies, and loose collectives to spend all their time and effort to get people to join. And they did it with the non-Timeline iFrame pages, after people spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to recover from the whole FBML fracas.

Orangutan feet

Orangutan feet. I don't know what orangutans read for inspiration.

Mark my words, it will happen again within the next 12 – 18 months. Someone’s going to spend thousands of dollars, get their page looking all pretty and just the way they want it, and WHAM! Facebook will change it yet again.

Facebook, like Koploy reminded us, is a place to connect. It’s a place where friends gather. We don’t hang out with our friends at the bar to buy stuff. Companies that are doing F-commerce need to pull out before they get the big F-U.

Put your money into improving the SEO of your ecommerce site, doing more social media marketing, and using Facebook for what it’s intended for: posting Instagram pictures of your feet and gag-inducing GIFs of your favorite inspirational sayings typically found inside the doors of high school lockers.

Photo credit: Abandoned storefrontColes County Tales (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Orangutan feet Macinate (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Bad Idea: Companies Quit Blogging to Go With Facebook

The number of companies that maintain blogs dropped by nearly 25% from 2010 to 2011.

That’s not a very smart move.

But it’s a growing trend. According to an article in USA Today, more companies quit blogging, go with Facebook instead, the percentage of companies on Inc. magazine’s fastest growing 500 dropped from 50% in 2010 to 37% in 2011. And only 23% of Fortune 500 companies had a blog in 2011.

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, the UMass Dartmouth professor who wrote the report, and world-class social media academic, told USA Today that blogging may not be the panacea that businesses thought it would be.

“Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation,” she said.

The problem is, the companies are taking their energy and efforts to Facebook instead. That’s not a dumb strategy. After all, at 800 million+ users, you have to fish where the fish are. And there’s a whole lot of fish on Facebook. [Read more…]

Employers Should NEVER Be Allowed to Ask for Facebook Passwords

This whole “employers asking for job candidate Facebook passwords” thing is complete bullshit.

Not only is it an infringement of personal privacy, it’s unconscionable that they would make a person’s private life part of that hiring decision.

In some cases, employers are even asking current employees for their Facebook passwords as a condition of their continued employment. It was bad enough when they required employees to friend someone from the company, now they’re demanding total access to the things you wanted to keep hidden from everyone but close family.Doorway to the International Spy Museum, Washington DC

That’s not to say that a person who is wildly inappropriate or shows poor decision making skills should still be hired — if you’re stupid enough to post your half-nude keg stand photos for the entire world to see, maybe you don’t deserve that job as a kindergarten teacher — but if you’re smart enough to keep it private, or better yet, not to put yourself in that situation in the first place, then employers shouldn’t be snooping around.

Employers are free to Google a potential candidate to see what they can find, for the same reason. If you put your stuff online online, you should be willing to stand behind it. And if you wish you had never put it out there, there are ways to hide it. Or at least make sure it’s not seen by people who think a YouTube video montage of you yelling at children and puppies makes you a horrible person.

But as far as I’m concerned, Facebook is like your house with a giant picture window. You would never parade naked in front of the open window, but you have some things that you do that you would prefer to keep private and personal. Those are the things you keep in your desk, in a closet, or under the bed.

Yet, employers asking for Facebook passwords are basically asking for the key to your house so they can root through your drawers, read your diary, flip through family photo albums, look at your bank and credit card statements. They want to see what they can find, to determine whether they should hire you in the first place, or let you keep your job. They don’t have any reason for this search. They don’t think there’s anything incriminating to find, or have any evidence that you’ve done anything wrong. They just want to see if there is.

You would never let the police put a speed tracking device on your car to tell them when you speed. You wouldn’t let them come into your house uninvited for a quick peek. Why would you give employers the open opportunity to waltz in whenever they’d like, to see if there’s anything they maybe ought to be concerned about?

Don’t give me this “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you should have nothing to fear” bullshit either. I haven’t done anything wrong, and yet I’m not going to let anyone into my life, house, or Facebook account to snoop around in the hopes they can find something incriminating.

I’ll admit that there may be some sensitive jobs that require a background check. But the thoroughness of this type of probing make Facebook snooping look like a quick drive-by glance through your front window at 30 miles an hour.

I have not met a single individual who supports this. At least no one who is facing the fear and desperation of unemployment, or the desire to keep their job. Nor anyone whose job it is to professionally argue that Facebook snooping should be allowed. If anyone thinks it’s okay to give your employer unfettered access into your personal life in order to get/keep your job, let me know.

But if you, as an employer, are going to snoop around my personal Facebook account, then by all means, let me snoop around yours. Give me your password, and I’ll poke and prod at my leisure. Maybe I won’t find anything salacious, but do you really want someone poking around to see all your private messages and the photos that you marked “friends only?”

We still have a relatively fragile economy, and people have been unemployed for months, or face a devastating financial loss because of new unemployment. For employers to dangle the golden carrot of survival in front of a candidate in exchange for the ability to snoop into a person’s private life are slimy, underhanded, and extremely unethical. There is no earthly reason, short of working for a federal agency where you’re allowed to carry a gun or know state secrets, that employers should be allowed to become electronic voyeurs into someone’s non-work life.

Companies that do so face the threat of lawsuits from disqualified job candidates, loss of corporate Facebook accounts, and possible legal action as Congress and several states seek to make this against the law.

Photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography (Flickr)

How a Radio Theater Troupe Uses Social Media to Gain a Worldwide Audience

Social media has played a big part in the success of Decoder Ring Theatre, a Canadian radio theater troupe that produces audio plays reminiscent of old-time radio. Their two mainstay characters, Red Panda and Black Jack Justice live in Toronto (Red Panda during WWII, and Black Jack a few years after). Decoder Ring Theatre also produced six of my radio plays last summer.

I interviewed Decoder Ring founder and leader Gregg Taylor, and asked him about how social media has played a success in what they’ve done, and what their strategy has been over the years. These are his answers.

Decoder Ring Theatre cast

Cast of Decoder Ring Theatre, an audio theatre company in Toronto.

1) How much of your success do you attribute to your own social media networks vs. sheer doggedness and word of mouth?

I kind of lump our social media presence under the broad heading of “sheer doggedness and word of mouth”, so it’s hard for me to seperate the two! Really, Facebook and Twitter have evolved into ways for us to be a part of the daily lives of those listeners who want that kind of relationship.

I started both pages at the specific requests of listeners, and I do try and keep the content on each a little different, for the benefit of those who follow both pages and also our fan boards at audiodramatalk.com.

Yes, I certainly do let our corner of Facebook and Twitter know when a new episode goes up, or a new book comes out, because let’s be honest, everyone loses track of these things sometimes, even when you’re as predictable as we are (new episodes on the 1st & 15th of every month, year-round!).

But I do want our social media presence to be just that… social. Facebook offers those listeners a chance to react not just with me, but with each other, to discuss what they like and what they don’t (and of course, in the process, have us appear in the timelines of their friends)… Twitter started out as a little more “behind the scenes/this is what I’m working on right this second”, and still is that kind of sneak-peek for those interested, though by extension it also has become a “welcome to my brain”… again, it’s like the DVD extras for the really big fans. I think we pick up some new listeners that way, but for me, it’s about the enhanced experience, being a part of the extended Decoder Ring family.

2) Are you seeing a lot of traffic coming in from outside referrals (i.e. Twitter, Facebook), as opposed to repeat listeners? Where do they come from?

Listenership has been solid and steady. It’s often hard to tell where it comes from, in a way… when you’re just starting out and you get an extra 80 downloads it’s like “Holy Hanna, look at that spike!”. It has to be a pretty big event for it to really register as an abberation in our patterns these days. Well, big by our standards anyway. I think we’re getting to be big enough now to really properly understand just how tiny we are… we’re comparing ourselves to outfits with gobs of money and wondering just what we’d have to do to make an impact. There have been some serious spikes.

Roger Ebert gave us a shout-out a year or two ago, and that was nice. He tweets a LOT though. I’ve followed him on and off, and there’s no way you can check out everything he mentions unless you have a powerful amount of time on your hands. Still, I have a lot of respect for him and for him to think we were worthy of a mention was exciting.

I guess the biggest single event in terms on new listenership was when we unexpectedly got profiled by the BBC’s technology program last year… just a little piece, but it played all weekend on BBC and around the world on the world service. That was large. Our UK numbers passed Canada immediately and never looked back, which is pretty surprising, considering that the Red Panda Adventures is pretty much the only pulp hero universe in which you’ll hear about the Dieppe Raid, or have a cameo by WLM King, our wartime PM.

I guess what’s great about our listenership is that once we have someone hooked, they tend to stay with us forever, and they get that wonderful evangelical zeal that folks on the internet so often have when promoting things that they love to everyone they know. That’s what really makes us go.

3) What’s your biggest source of listeners?

America. I know that’s not exactly what you’re asking, but I think I ran on a bit in the last question. We have listeners all over the US, but seem to have some super-concentrated pockets in Washington State, in Southern California, in Texas and New York and in Iowa. Lots of Iowans. Don’t seem to have a lot in the Boston area, though. I keep shouting-out to my beloved Patriots and I rarely get a holler back. It is just possible that the crossover audience between NFL football and on-line old-time-radio-style mystery and superhero adventure programs isn’t as great as I imagine it must be. Still, never hurts. Go Pats.

4) You were recently in a radio theatre voting contest. When I last looked a few weeks ago, you were 3 – 4 TIMES ahead of the entire pack, if you had combined all their scores. How did you spread the word about that?

Yeah, I try not to do that stuff too much. I did mobilize our social media folks/fanboards to push for the Podcast Award in 2010, mostly because I was sick and tired of not winning it. Then we won it and it really changed absolutely nothing. Nice to win, made no impact on our audience. In all fairness, I’m not sure “Cultural/Arts” is really a high impact category for a lot of people. I’m sure it carries more weight in other divisions. Actually, come to think of it they never even sent us an award, or certificate or anything. Still, like I say, it was exciting to win, and I bugged people quite a bit about that. But I don’t like to do it too often.

The New Radio Theater contest was different because rather than competing for a non-existent trophy, it’s a cash prize, and I’d love to be able to give a little scratch to some of the folks who have worked so hard on the shows over the years. Really, I think the contest was devised to get people excited about either writing a script for their broadcast radio program New Radio Theater or allowing them to play something already created. It doesn’t take a prize to get me up for that, I love a little radio play wherever I can get it (Can I give a little shout out to Midnight Audio Theatre on Central Ohio’s NPR station WCBE 90.5, now playing Black Jack Justice? – Oh-me-oh, oh-my-oh, Columbus, Ohio! Thank you)

5) Did you end up winning?

Well, it actually runs until January 31st, and I’m writing this on Jan 26th, so I don’t know. (After the 31st, Decoder Ring’s play “The Albatross” ran away with online voting at 1,013 votes.)

Voting is only one part of the process. There are 6 official judges, and the on-line voting counts as a 7th judge. Who can tell? Maybe winning the popular vote in a landslide will actually work against us.

There are also some folks in the audio theatre world that don’t like what we do because we’re old-school. We’re telling stories set in the era when radio was king, but we’re not doing that because it makes us more or less marketable, we’re doing it because these are the stories we want to tell. You have to love what you do, or you can’t expect anyone else to.

We focus on the story and the characters, rather than sound effects, because those are the stories I want to write and we want to create. And also to hear. I think that love comes through in the work, and I think it’s why we have the audience that we do. In any event, there are some great shows in the running, and the judges are some very, very qualified people, I’ll respect their decision whatever it is.

6) Did you feel even a little guilty for exercising your social networks for this contest, almost like you had a social media cheat code?

No way, baby. We have an audience. That’s what everyone putting themselves out there on the Internet hopes for first, and most never find. We’ve developed a group of people who are passionate about the work that we create, that want to be involved and to help where they can, and we’ve developed networks that allow us to reach out to some of those most passionate people directly.

We’d be fools not to use it. It would be like wanting to fail. We can’t influence how the judges will vote, but if you put something out there that’s in our power to effect, by golly we’re going to go out there with our small but hardy band of internet ruffians and get it done.

7) How have you gotten most of your social media connections?

 We promote them on the website, and periodically give them an audio plug in the programs themselves, for those 50% or so of our listeners who get the programs from a podcatcher like iTunes and probably never visit the site directly. It gives our champions one more way to try and convert their friends to our cause.

8) Are they listeners who found you on social media, or are they people who found you on social media and started listening?

 I think both. It’s a bit of a longer shot on Twitter… “Hmmm… this guy seems to share my love for the wisdom of @GoddamnBatman, maybe I’ll listen to his radio show…”, but it happens.

9) How would you incorporate your social networks into a Decoder Ring production or promotion?

We have done a number of “live tweet recording days” from the studio, with various members of our ensemble popping on with comments throughout the seasion. Those were pretty fun. A lot of tweets in a short time though, and I try not to take up too much real estate on anyone’s feed.

10) What advice would you give to radio theatre and live theatre troupes who want to start using social media for their own promotions?

 Do it, but be yourself. You can’t just be out trolling for listeners/customers. You have to be giving something of yourself in the process, and it can be hard to keep up. I still haven’t gone near Google+…. really, I just haven’t had the time. I need to see some evidence that it’s going to stick before I can carve off another piece of myself for that!

11) Have you ever thought about video taping a show and editing it together for a YouTube promotion? Sort of a behind the scenes look at a Decoder Ring show? Better yet, how about uStreaming a taping one night? (I’d watch that one in a heartbeat.)

Yep. We’ve thought about it. It hasn’t happened for a few reasons (a) We run about a year ahead of releases, so it’s spoiler city (b) Making good video is a lot more time/trouble/expense than making good audio and (c) It can be a pretty big distraction when we’re already trying to get a lot done in a short time. Someday!