Brian Keaney

Tag: twitter

I will go up to the six fingered man and say…

…Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.

Just before I left work today I got an email from the corporate blog announcing that a new post was online.  I decided to wait until the following day to read it, and didn’t even check the headline.  I then began closing programs on my screen.  As I got down to Seesmic, I noticed that someone had tweeted at us a few minutes prior.  Turns out, it was Inigo Montoya, a star of one of my favorite movies.

The blog post uses “inconceivable!,” that classic Vizzini catchphrase, in the title.  It seems someone has set up a robot to respond every time someone tweets it with, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Inigo also tweets several other great lines such as, “You seem a decent fellow.  I hate to kill you.”

Absolutely brilliant.  Even the dred pirate Robert would agree, I’m sure.  Count Rugen, maybe not so much.

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All I know is that I know nothing

Before I begin, one of my favorite Monty Python skits ever.  It ranks up there with the Spanish Inquisition and the dead parrot.

My boss told me today that I need to watch more TV.  Basically he was calling me a geek, but I think I get enough pop culture in my diet to not get tagged with the term.  For example, I know enough about Jersey Shore to know that I never want to watch it.  Let’s also not forget that I can’t get through the day without checking Texts from Last Night a few times.

He’s also told me in the last week or so that he’s not sure if I get out too much, or not enough.  I think it’s the latter, but that’s really not the point.  His comments today came after I was telling him that I’m (still) reading a book on quantum physics.  While it hasn’t yet, it seems to be leading towards answering one of the questions I’ve long held about the structure of the atom.

I might be wrong, but so far I’ve surmised that a quantum leap isn’t a jump into an alternative universe, but is actually how an electron moves from one level of orbit to another without being anywhere in between.  I’ve been asking that question since high school and still don’t quite understand how, but I’m hoping I will by the time I finish the book.

OK, so maybe I am a geek, but I prefer to think of myself as a philosopher in the truest sense, as a lover of wisdom.  This afternoon I was brought back to a college philosophy course I took with one of my toughest and favorite professors, Fr. Brian Shanley.  I distinctly remember the class in which we discussed the problem of predestination.  If God is omniscient and eternal, the argument goes, then she must know what you are going to do in the future before you do it.

If that’s the case, then your entire life is set out before you from time immemorial, and thus there can be no such thing as free will.  According to that logic I’m writing this blog post because I was destined to do so, and I have no control over whether I act for good or for evil in anything I do.  Fr. Shanley got around the problem (as he certainly does believe in free will) by saying that the Almighty exists outside of time, in a sort of eternal present.  There is no future or past for God, only right now.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!&...
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One of the 182 people I follow on Twitter, a handful are religious types.  Of this category two of my favorites are @DalaiLama and @TheFuckingPope.  (The former claims to be an official feed; the latter, not so much.)  Closer to home, the Archdiocese of Boston tweets fairly frequently, and every day puts forth the name of a priest and asks that their 500 followers pray for him.  I don’t think my prayers count for much, but I am aware of what an important role these men play in the lives of so many people, so I do usually try and take a moment to send a note upstairs on their behalf.

Today they asked that we pray for all the deceased priests of the archdiocese, and thus we get back to Fr. Shanley’s class.  If I can pray in what for me is the present, and God is forever in the present, then does she hear my prayer yesterday, or last week, or 100 years ago as well as today?  If I can pray for the repose of the soul of a priest who died before I was born, but when I pray makes no difference to God, could I instead pray that he lives a good and holy life, or that his first girlfriend doesn’t break his heart, or that he aces his math exam, even those these events took place, according to my concept of time, tens or hundreds of years ago?  Going in the other direction, wouldn’t it make as much sense to pray for a painless death for my great-grandchildren – children that are not now and may never be?

I don’t know the answer to that any more than I know how a quantum leap works.  What I do know is that in the first book I ever read in college, Socrates, my least favorite of the Greek philosophers, said something that has stuck with me more than anything else I learned in those four years: All I know is that I know nothing.

I’m painfully aware of how little I actually know, so I don’t plan on turning the TV on any time soon, even if that makes me a geek.

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Reports of the press release’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

Cross posted to the EZG blog.

The web has been all a-Twitter lately.  Jamie and Kyle have both written about it over the past few weeks, and around the bustling halls of EZG today we’ve had some insightful emails about the New Twitter and what it means for us, our clients, and our industry.  What really caught my attention, though, was a recent AdAge post that declares the tweet has killed the press release.

[I]ncreasingly, the news media has a nifty new way of “reporting” entertainment news: regurgitating celebrity tweets. It wasn’t that long ago that a celebrity with something “important” to put out there, like an apology, would automatically say it through a tightly controlled protocol, like a set of engineered sound bites delivered via a well-staged interview. Now 140 characters or fewer suffices.

Lest you think that this is only applicable to the latest B-lister to tweet her photo with Justin Beiber, author Simon Dumenco goes on to argue that “As the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America.”  Now I’m a big fan of Twitter, but just like video didn’t kill the radio star, I can’t accept his argument that “The long-suffering, much-maligned press release… finally died this summer” at the hands of the microblog.

Just because BP was made to look ridiculous when the fake @BPGlobalPR gushed black comedy gold and ended up with more than 10 times the number of followers the official @BP_America account did, it doesn’t mean that the public is going to turn to it for news.  All it means is that there is a greater appetite for gallows humor than there is for corporate spin.

More than that, the world is a complicated place.  Not everything, or even one thing, can be conveyed in a tweet.  While it’s possible to encapsulate all the germane details of some stories or events into a tweet (e.g. Tom Brady was in a car accident this morning. He’s OK, though.), for plenty of others it’s not only impossible, it’s also illegal.  Many professional and financial service providers are restricted from providing  commentary that can be construed as financial advice.  As a result, while they are increasingly using social media to get their message out, they are treading extremely carefully to avoid a slew of dangers that could  do great harm in both brand and legal terms.

Perhaps the best example of the continued vitality – and need – for press releases is Dumenco’s own post.  If everything that needs to be said can be said in a tweet, why bother writing an entire blog post?  He obviously felt the need to provide background and context necessary for readers to comprehend his post.  If he didn’t then the phrase “The tweet has killed the press release” would not only be sufficient, it is also well under 140 characters.

When the New York Times speculated that Mark Twain had been sent to Davy Jone’s locker, the great American novelist – who was alive and well – promised to “make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.”

Dumenco predicts that “press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”  A better guess is that PR folks worth their weight will continue to combine press releases with appropriate use of Twitter, blogs, social networks, and (gasp!) the telephone and actual face to face meetings… until any or all of these devices cease being helpful to journalists and other audiences.  If press releases are our only means of action, well, color me uncreative.

But in the spirit of Mr. Twain, I’ll make a similar inquiry into the brain eating status of the press release.  If I find it with arms outstretched and ambling forth in legions galore, I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll issue a press release.

The above photo by theogeo is used under this creative commons license.

Everyone loves free ice cream, and four Boston brands know it

There is a specific type of bell that can get my attention even if you ring it softly from 100 yards away.  I don’t know what it is called, and I would be hard pressed to even describe it, but it is one of those sounds that I would know anywhere.  I have a Pavlovian reaction, really, since each time I hear it I instinctively turn around and look for the Ice Cream Man.

He was a little old man who, for as long as I could remember, drove the ice cream truck where my family vacationed.  He would shake half a dozen or so of these bells from the top of the dune to announce his presence in the parking lot.  For the uninitiated, after the bells came a hand painted piece of wood with two words  on it: Ice Cream.

Before he could raise his sign the sound of those bells had every kid on the beach scurrying from Cape Cod Bay and back up the sand with our hands outstretched.  Who needed the ocean to cool off when there was ice cream, and what’s better than free (at least for us kids) ice cream?

For my money, not much.  I love the stuff, and your stock will go way up in my book if you start handing it out.  Fortunately for all of us, there are a few Boston brands that are ensuring I can get a free fix.  They’ve figured out that the kid in all of us is an emotional sweet spot that opens right up when ice cream is at stake.

The Red Cross is one outfit that is using ice cream as the pathway to our hearts (and arteries), although technically it isn’t free — you do need to let them take a pint of blood.  That’s not a bad deal; you give the gift of life and receive a coupon for a free quart ofFriendly’s ice cream for the effort.  Talk about a win-win.

If you can’t make it to one of the Red Cross’ dozens of donation sites around the area, fear not — the ice cream can come to you.  Ben and Jerry’s has a truck out roaming about the streets of Boston and the surrounding areas handing out free samples of their deliciousness.  Want them to stop by your office?  Send them a tweet at @BenJerrysTruck and ask them to pay a visit to you and your co-workers.  Corporate blogger and President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Paul Levy did yesterday, and it looks like the truck will be visiting today.  Talk about a way to boost employee morale!

If frozen drinks – no, not those kind – are more your thing, the hamburger joint b.good is now sporting a jet black ice cream truckwith orange flames painted down the side.  They are handing out free shakes downtown, in the Back Bay, and in communities with one of their restaurants as a way to drum up business.  They are also responding to tweets at @b_good_, so get social and get a free shake.

Ben and Jerry’s and b.good are both looking to boost sales, and even the Red Cross is hoping donations will pick up during the traditionally slow summer months by offering this promotion.  The Boston Police Department isn’t one of those organizations looking to increase its activity — but it  has realized that giving kids free ice cream is a great way to boost their brand, so they’ve gotten in on the action, too.

Operation Hoodsie Cup has officers driving their own truck of ice creamy awesomeness to city parks and playgrounds through Labor Day.  Uniformed officers will hand out free Hoodsies, interact with kids and teens, and hopefully build a rapport with them.  They won’t make a special trip to see you, but if you follow them on Twitter at @Boston_Police or check out their website they will share their route for the day.

Other cities call their cruisers black and whites, but no one wants to see the inside of one — a Hoodsie, on the other hand,  is a black and white every mother would be happy to see her child get in to.  And that’s really the point of all of these efforts.  Whether trying to sell a hamburger, establish a friendly relationship with inner city kids, or convince someone to voluntarily get stuck with a needle, associating a brand (especially retail) with a positive, innocent, universal theme can tap into hidden reserves of loyalty.  Ice cream puts a smile on everybody’s face.  What brand doesn’t go well with smiles?

[Update: In the “every party has a pooper” department, it turns out not every mother wants to see their kids dig into a Hoodsie.]

Photo (cc) by Pink Sherbet Photography used under this creative commons license.

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Go anywhere – with Jeep or Twitter

I wouldn’t call it a New Year’s Resolution, per se, but I am trying to use Twitter more, and to use it better.  I’ve installed Chromed Bird to my browser, and while it is certainly helping me keep more up to date on whats taking place in the Twittersphere, I can easily see it becoming a distraction.

Regardless, there are some great and some poor uses for Twitter.  Some one of the people I follow tweeted today that dismissing Twitter because of ‘what I had for lunch’ tweets is like dismissing newspapers because of the National Inquirer.  Like anything else, it’s not the medium itself, but how you use it.  The same technology that published the Bible also published Mein Kampf.

An excellent example of a good use of Twitter came to me personally last spring.  Just as the weather was warming I tweeted

Sing hallelujah! The doors are off my Jeep for the summer!

Within minutes, a company using@AllThingsJeep responded to me by saying

We reccomend the CVS (crotch ventilation system) foot pegs for those hot summer days!

Before that, didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and the same was true in the opposite direction.  I’d never bought anything from them, and as that was my first Jeep tweet I’m fairly certain they had no idea who I was or that I drove a Wrangler.  Still, they searched Twitter for a term relevant to their product line, in this case Jeep, and discovered what I was doing with mine.

That gives them an idea that I’m a potential customer, but it’s how they used that information that really sold me.  There’s a common expression among Wrangler owners – you may have even seen it written across some windshields: “It’s a Jeep thing.  You just wouldn’t understand.”

We Jeep owners are a fun loving bunch.  Most Saturday nights in the summer I take my Jeep out onto the beach down the Cape.  The very fact that they sell a product specifically for people who remove the doors from a vehicle at a high risk of rolling over should tell you something.

They had a pretty good idea of the type of customer I was, and used a fun marketing technique like calling foot pegs a “crotch ventilation system” to pitch the product to me.  It’s not something you would do with a Cadillac customer.   For a Caddy it would be completely off-brand.

I didn’t end up buying the CVS, but now before I do anything with my Jeep I check out their website first.  I’ve got a sense of humor, and as long as I’m going to be spending money I’d like to spend it with a company that has one, too.

For politicians, I’ve seen a couple great uses of Twitter, and plenty of pols who think it is a new tool to use for old strategies.  Those who do better with it include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  About this time last year His Excellency made a visit to an office building in Cambridge.

A couple of employees at HubSpot, a company in the same building, tweeted him (@massgovernor) and asked him to stop by.  Guess what? He did.

As I tweeted yesterday, I think a mayor in New Jersey has accomplished not only the best use of Twitter for a politician ever, but also at the same time performed the best constituent service I’ve ever heard of.  A woman tweeted Newark Mayor Cory Booker and asked if he could send someone to her 65 year old father’s house to help him shovel the driveway.

His response came five minutes later:

I will do it myself where does he live?

That’s a vote for life right there.  Should any of my elected officials be reading this, tweet me at @BrianKeaney for my address.   My driveway is still a mess.

Social media as a marketing and campaign tool

Today at the 2.0 Life, David says that he is “a serial early-adopter” of social media.  I’m most certainly not, for a few reasons.  Most importantly, it’s  for the very reason David says he quits most of them:  “Most of the time, social networks don’t have any real value unless everyone you know is using them, and most don’t have any value even if everyone is.”

Like most people I know, I’m a busy person and I have neither the time nor the inclination to try every new fad that comes down the pike.  If I am going to invest in a technology, I want it to have a proven value.  This is often the advice I give to clients.  Many feel they should be everywhere at once.  I disagree, and counsel that rather than trying to do too much at once, they should focus on a few that 1) they (or I, under their name) can do well, and 2) give you the most bang for the buck.

Facebook is an obvious choice, simply because it is so ubiquitous.  It is the place, as David says, where everyone you know (and many you would like to know) is already.  It doesn’t take much to set up a fan page or group, and, once you let a few friends know about it, then it can spread like wildfire.  Each time someone joins your group a notification is sent out letting their friends know they support a candidate, or enjoy shopping at a particular store.   If the friend also join up, a notification is sent out again to all their friends, and so on.  Even if they don’t join, simply seeing the notification is a free endorsement.

Twitter grows in popularity each day, but can be slightly tougher to do well.  It requires more work than Facebook, but the payoff can be even bigger.  At b.good (disclaimer: I am the winner of a contest there), they know how to “tweet” effectively.  b.good has an interesting marketing strategy.  Disdaining things like newspaper ads, they will tape coupons for free burgers and fries to objects in the neighborhood of their restaurants.   When they do, a tweet will go out  to their followers alerting them, often with a photo showing you where you can find them.  It’s a great way to get people in the doors who might not otherwise.

For the professional set, blogging is probably your best bet.  Of the three social media mentioned here it takes the most amount of work, but there is no better way for you (or me) to showcase your talents.  This morning Jay Donahue posted to his real estate agency’s blog the do’s and don’t’s for holiday decorating while trying to sell your home.

No one will want to buy the cow if you give away all the milk, but supermarkets know that by giving out samples they can entice you to buy.   The same is true with blogging.  If you are a tax professional, you don’t want to provide step-by-step instructions on how to file your tax return.  However, you can use it to alert your clients (and potential clients) of a change to the federal tax code that could affect them.  In doing so you can establish yourself as an expert on the topic.

All three formats mentioned here, plus many others out there, provide a very cost-effective way to expand your base of clients, customers, and constituents.   And, as they are social medias,  you might even find yourself making a few friends along the way.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the G-Bomb

I have a pretty varied set of interests, and nowhere is this more clear than by the list of 100 or so blogs and websites to which I  subscribe.  Thrown in the mix are some comic strips (who doesn’t love Calvin and Hobbes?),  a couple good political ones, a fair number focusing on economics, a few newspaper columnists I enjoy, and a folder I simply labeled “Learn,” because whether it is Constitutional law or cognitive psychology, I am constantly discovering something new from them.

A few months ago I transfered all of my feeds into Thunderbird.  I thought it would be convenient to have them in the same place as my email, and it theory it would be.  The problem is that Thunderbird did a lousy job with them.  It was difficult to add and remove feeds, and hours and days later the same feeds would get repeated .  I’d go back to check what was new, and would instead find a week-old post somehow landed in the feed again and was showing up as unread.

I went back to Google Reader, and I’m so glad I did.  I have become completely enamored with Google.  No matter what program you are running, it just works.  No error messages, no crashes, no lost data.  Add to that a web-functionality so you can find your work wherever you are, and throw in the myriad of great new programs that are constantly coming out, and it all adds up for me.

Not only are there far fewer problems with Google Reader (actually, I can’t think of any), it has a much greater functionality as well.  One of my favorite features is the popular items thread.  As you use Google programs more and more, it begins to learn what you like.  Many others have written very eloquently on the privacy concerns this entails, but I’ve come to terms with them.  I’ve accepted that this is a brave new world we are in, and I trust Google not to be evil.

Using the popular items thread, Google suggests things that people with similar interests also enjoy.  If peanut butter often  shows up in my account history, and others who like peanut butter also like jelly, it starts suggesting feeds on jelly as well.  A fair number of my now daily reads have been discovered this way.

More and more I find myself suggesting these tools to my clients.  If you are going to be a leader in your field, be it in commerce or politics or anything else, you will do well not only to keep on top of the latest developments, but to be constantly discovering and considering new perspectives as well.

Using Reader’s Send To feature, you can also easily send a link to your favorite social media program.  Say your city posts a notice on its website that a meeting is taking place to discus a new development in your neighborhood.  Since you are subscribed to the city’s RSS feed, it pops up in your Reader.  With just the click of a button you send it out to your constituents (and anyone else who follows you) on Twitter.  Soon after, the state releases a report saying that crime in your city is down 15%, and you pass it along as well.  The next week a fundraiser is being held for the local elementary school, and you use your network to promote that, too.

These are feeds you are probably going to be following anyway, and passing the information along only takes a minute of your time.  In the process, you become a central hub for information of concern to your constituents (or business partners, or customers, etc).  It also helps brand you as someone in the know, an expert in your field.  That won’t hurt the next time someone goes to cast a ballot, or makes a decision about where to buy a widget.