I heart The Oatmeal

Enjoy the latest on the state of the web from The Oatmeal. (Not for those perturbed by profanity.)


Why Google+ Circles has it wrong. Sort of.

Google+’s Circles sound like a fantastic idea. Here is an easy way to sort your friends out. No more sharing nightclub pictures with your ten-year old friends! You can pick and choose which sets of your friends you want to share with.

When I first set up my Google+ account, I sliced and diced my friends into all sorts of categories. But then, when I went to share something, I couldn’t really remember who was in each group. And in fact, I just wanted to share with almost everyone. It wasn’t long until I went back and deleted most of my circles. I have now narrowed it down to basically 3 that I use: People I follow (I don’t share with this group — I just read what they have to say and possibly comment), people I share with just about all the time (basically, my “friends”), and professional contacts (with whom I might share something business-related, but nothing personal).

Guess what? With the exception of the Following group, this is exactly how I have Facebook configured. I know I am not alone in this: having the ability to micro-dice my audience hasn’t turned out to be that helpful, most of the time, and in fact, it’s kind of exhausting.

I have been pondering why circles have turned out not to be very helpful, and I think there are two primary reasons.

1) Google+ is not a reciprocal environment. I may put you in a circle determined by whether I want to share with you — but you may not even be following me! So my circle isn’t accomplishing what I want it to do. In this, it is more like a Twitter list than a sharing circle.

2) To me it’s all about Persona, NOT about Audience. Depending on where I am and who I am interacting with in real life, I take on a different persona (or, if you prefer, different aspects of my persona). Here in this blog, I am a social strategist. Elsewhere I may be the mother of a kindergartener, or a neighbor, a friend, or a colleague. In each of these contexts, my persona shifts slightly. I am more likely to share some things and less likely to share others. Neither Facebook nor Google+ facilitates shifting into different Personae, because I don’t always know who is interested in which aspect of my persona.

I thought about this recently when I wanted to share on Facebook that we had been assigned the kindergarten we had hoped for. This post received something like 30 comments and likes from all different people. Had I chosen who I should share with (a school friends circle perhaps?), many people who actually were interested never would have seen the post. OK, maybe they were humoring me, but still, do you see the point?

I want circles to work in the opposite way — I want people to be able to opt into my different personae or circles or whatever you want to call them. Imagine if I had a set of public circles where I could share around topics that were appropriate in that context. Just as at a PTA coffee klatsch I would only share certain aspects of my life, and at work I might share a different set. The set of people that I would share with in each environment aren’t organized around a specific interest — they are contextual. I know who I am in each context, and behave accordingly.

I’m not saying that this is easily doable, if it is even possible. I am just saying this is why Google+ Circles don’t work — for me. They are backwards. I am trying to share to people who may or may not be interested (or even listening), so in the end I share to most, and follow others.

Those of you really paying attention may have noticed that I have posted little to Google+. That is a whole other issue — I haven’t yet figured out what I would share there that I don’t already share on Facebook or Twitter. This post maybe?

But when I do share there, you can bet that it will be one of three ways: to friends, to professional connections, or publicly. My other circles? Just filters for the stream.

Are circles working better for you?


Share and share alike: the building block of social strategies.

This came up recently with a client. Although it may seem obvious as I spell it out here, I believe we often lose sight of the fundamental concept that drives social media: people want to share. They share articles, pictures, videos, opinions, ideas, jokes. They share our content and come back for more.

I often hear people talk about how to build audiences without mentioning sharing. Or else they are attempting to make something “viral” without understanding why it would be shared.

More simply:

The magic of sharing is that when it works, it is enormously successful at building audiences. Effective knowledge dissemination builds audiences, and and large audiences facilitate knowledge dissemination.

The point of all this is not only do you have to have something worth sharing, it has to also be easily share-able. Make sure your web site supports your social media efforts.  Just look at TED.com for a fantastic example of content worth sharing, made easy to share.

Facebook’s World Domination

Really, this video (“The world is obsessed with Facebook”) says it all.

#CMOSummit: From Sponsorship to Co-Creation for Education and Causes

I almost forgot to post this — here is the third of three sessions I blogged at the recent CMO Thought Leadership Summit here in San Francisco. This post can also be found at theCMOClub.com. This one was another round table.

From Sponsorship to Co-Creation for Education and Causes

  • Matt Yale – Deputy Chief of Staff, US Dept of Education (via Skype)
  • Stefan Weitz – Director, Microsoft, REDU
  • Michelle Kydd-Lee – Exec Dir CAA Foundation (Creative Artists Agency)
  • Moderator: Mark Bonchek – Social Architect

Education is one of the most serious problems facing our country today. Serious enough to move moderator and parent Mark Bonchek to tears. And as Michelle Kydd-Lee responded, “Being emotional is what it is all about.” And thus the question was presented to us: how can a room full of CMOs help Americans understand and respond to the need for teachers? How do we address the drop out rate? Education is a product and people aren’t buying.

Over the next few years we will need 1.6 million teachers to address population growth, replace retiring baby boomers, and fill already empty teaching spots across the country. The greatest need is for African American men, but all kinds of teachers are needed. Without a strong education system the country is in trouble. Even if you don’t like kids and don’t like schools, you should care about the future of the country.

Bing, in the form of REDU, has partnered with the Department of Education to begin to reach people. Michelle and the CAA Foundation is working with them to include celebrities to help raise awareness. But more effort is needed.

As has often been said, doing good is good business. Bing has gotten strong repeat traffic as a result of REDU. Delta partnered with Habitat for Humanity and customer loyalty and employee retention both went up.

The request: What could you, or your organization, do to help make people care? All ideas, suggestions, and participation welcome.

#CMOSummit: A Smarter Strategic Marketing Mix

Here is the second of the three sessions I blogged at the CMO Club. This one was a roundtable discussion. This post can also be found on theCMOClub.com.

CMO Thought Leadership Roundtable: A Smarter Strategic Marketing Mix — Optimizing Across Digital and Traditional Media

  • Kenya Jackson, VP Marketing, Target
  • Terri Graham, CMO, Jack in the Box
  • David Hudson, CEO, NM Incite

Another title for this session might have been: “How do you best integrate social media into your marketing mix” given how much of the discussion focused on effectively leveraging social media. However we also heard from Target’s Kenya Jackson about their marketing mix, which goes beyond traditional and digital media to include signage and product packaging – and may even include sales associates.

Terri Graham kicked off the conversation with a case study from a cross-platform campaign for Jack in the Box. She credits the success of this campaign to the integration of social media from the outset, as well as the focus on “keeping it real.” They don’t tack social media on at the end; it is part of the plan, and part of the ideas, from the beginning.

David Hudson identified the concern that often holds companies back from leveraging social medial: How do we measure it? It’s clear that this is still an evolving field, although they have been able to demonstrate that exposure to sentiment drives purchases.

Target is looking at their mix (including broadcast, circulars, print, web, signage, packaging) from the customer’s point of view, in order to understand what really brings her into the store. And once she is there, what gets her to purchase? Should different departments within the store be presented differently? This would be a significant shift for the retailer. An interesting question was posed: could the store itself be considered social media?

Kenya Jackson considers their team members to be a “media type” – they are each representing the brand every day. Best Buy’s 3000 employees responding on Twitter are another example of the integration of online and offline branding through employee participation.

I found this discussion particularly compelling. For years, the internet was a place apart from real life. It was not particularly interactive, or, well, human. Now, it has developed into a social and engaging place, coming to resemble the real world more and more. And as the web becomes more social, we see that the line between online and offline is blurring. Does social media stop within the computer? I don’t believe the answer to that is clear yet, but the trend is there: we now do online what we do offline. We discuss the news, shop with our friends, share photos. Does the conversation end when we turn off the computer? Of course not.

Marketers have always been trying to sit at the family’s dinner table. Social media may just be the best way to join that conversation.

Guest blogger Sorel Husbands Denholtz often discusses social media at the dinner table and food with her online friends.

#CMOSummit: Don’t compete but change the game

This week I was invited by Ellen Seebold to be a guest blogger at the CMO Thought Leadership Summit, hosted here in San Francisco by The CMO Club. I was fortunate enough to listen in on three very interesting sessions. Below is my blog post from the first of these. It can also be found on theCMOClub.com.

KEYNOTE: Don’t Compete but Change the Game, speaker: Robert Kriegel.

What seemed at first to be a fairly straightforward talk by Robert Kriegel about the critical role of marketing in a world with rapidly changing technology quickly morphed into a whirlwind, astonishing discussion of how to be a winner – and have fun at the same time. Summarizing an hour of rapid-fire ideas and examples into a brief blog post is just about impossible, so I will simply recap highlights and key messages. Imagine everything below presented with fantastic energy and humor, well peppered with anecdotes.

Winners think ahead. Winners break the rules. The companies that win don’t respond quickly to change – they create the change. Think Apple, Cirque de Soleil, Domino’s Pizza. (Really. At one point, the fastest-growing fast-food restaurant.) These ”change-ready organizations:”

  • Constantly challenge the status quo. They don’t cling to old thinking, or “we’ve always done it that way.”
  • Always look for bold, innovative out-of-the-box ideas.

Customers’ needs are always shifting, and winning businesses continuously redefine their role with the customer.

Kriegel identified two major obstacles to innovation and gave us some tools for managing them. The second was predictable: fear. The first, however, may have surprised some: Focusing on working faster and harder. He implored us all to step back from the action to make room for our best ideas. If you are deep in the front lines, you will never get ahead. You need to be able to look at the future, not just what is right in front of you and your business.

To cope with fear, he proposed two simple steps. First, a reality check. Just how likely is that negative outcome? And then remain aware of the big picture while focusing on doing what is manageable. Take small steps. And if it is a bit uncomfortable, embrace that feeling. You are in the “challenge zone.” If it’s comfortable, it’s not new.

He left us with this thought: Everything that applies to work is just as true in daily life. What are the sacred cows in your life? You can end up doing and being more than you ever thought possible. Take risks, break rules, stoke the fires of passion, chase dreams, have a hell of a lot of fun.

I felt inspired at the end of his talk, I have to admit.