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Video killed the cartoon star: Disney’s social media disaster

on Sep 01 in branding, celebrities, fun stuff, marketing, reputation management, social media, trends posted by

Donald Duck is sure to be mad with what Disney has done to his classic cartoonsI just love those classic cartoons. You know, Roadrunner, Sylvester the Cat, and, of course, Disney’s famed cast of characters.

But Disney have made a big mistake trying to “modernize” some of their classics, notably Donald Duck, in a series called “Blam!” The videos provide a voiceover that humorously points out Donald’s misdeeds and mistakes in a way that Disney evidently presumes is palatable to today’s youngsters.

Unfortunately, Disney’s misguided effort has fallen, true to cartoon form, flat on its face.

On YouTube, comments on one video, unimaginatively titled And Another Blam! go the whole way. Here’s a few:

  • ahermit Annoying and insulting. Whose stupid idea was it to do this?!
  • BrianSchultze There is a special place in hell reserved for the person who approved this. 
  • sbl195207 …I had no idea that my childhood was being raped.
  • r3dk9 This is the worst thing. Ever.
  • electrojones This is spectacularly lousy in every way. 
  • FrankieSmileShow Oh my god. What the fuck is this. This ruined my day.

And so on. Not one of the 157 comments (at the time of writing) can be in any way construed as positive.

And serious bloggers (well, as serious as they can get) are lambasting the effort left and right. Cartoon Brew says “ These Blam! episodes, which are probably named so because the viewer wants to blam their head off after watching them, destroy the spirit of the Disney cartoons and over-explain every joke to the point where it becomes unfunny.” The 103 comments on that post are similarly unimpressed with Disney.

Cartoon forums such as are also buzzing with negative response to the Blam! videos. 

Could Blam! be Disney’s big social media disaster? Disney’s heading over the cliff, but its executives won’t be laughing about it.

Popularity versus influence: what’s the difference?

on Aug 12 in business, celebrities, social media, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted by

What’s the difference between popularity and influence? Is it important? Brian Solis has an insightful article that highlights the differences and why we should be interested.

It’s easy to get bogged down in numbers. How many followers do I have? Is your Klout score more important than your Twinfluence? How many clicks did I get on URLs that I tweeted?

Just to clarify for those that have trouble wrapping their head around the concepts(I do!): You can be very popular (a lot of people know you) but have low influence (they don’t care too much what you have to say). Or your popularity can be low (few people know you), but you can have strong influence (they listen to what you say and act upon it). For example, Tim Berners Lee, who invented the Web has undoubtedly had a huge influence, but hardly anyone knows who he is. Practically everyone on the planet has heard of Muhammad Ali, but his influence is not very strong.

So where do numbers fit in? Let’s look at an example. On Twitter Brian Solis has about 62,000 followers, whereas Guy Kawasaki has about 265,000 followers. So Guy is more popular than Brian. But I have never commented on articles tweeted by Guy whereas I’ve commented a few times on Brian’s articles. So for me, Brian is more influential (using his definition).

Personally, popularity has never particularly interested me. So after three years on Twitter I still have only 945 followers. But I hope that among those that know me, I have some influence — so that a good proportion of my Tweets are RT’d, for example.

My baseline is simple: to provide value (to my Friends, Followers, clients, whoever). By providing value one’s influence will grow, and presumably popularity.

For social marketers, the next step is to evaluate the motives and needs of different users to categorize them as influencers or popular users (let’s call them celebrities).

For example, a business that wants to increase brand awareness might want to target celebrities. The business is not necessarily interested in a call to action so being known among celebrities with a large audience is likely to achieve goals faster than being known among influencers who have a smaller audience.

But say the business has a campaign to promote a special. They have a call to action (e.g. “buy my widget”). Now they will want to connect with influencers whose followers or friends will likely act.

My guess is that we will see a refining of user definitions and categories based on data. The influencer/celebrity dichotomy is too simplistic for targeted social marketing. We will want more sophisticated models that incorporate the various dimensions of user online behavior to ensure our messages have the greatest impact.

LinkedIn social media veteran gets a lesson in social media marketing

on Jun 09 in linkedin, marketing, social media posted by

I was so excited yesterday when I received an email from Michael Crosson (photo left), group leader of one of LinkedIn’s top social media groups, Social Media Marketing, which boasts almost 80,000 members.

Coming from the group’s leader, the offer for a free ebook, “42 Rules of Social Media” by communications professional Jennifer Jacobson, seemed too good to pass up.

So I clicked on the link, highlighted with the exclamation at the end of Michael’s post, “Get your FREE copy here.”

I was taken to the publishers page. But a header on the page reads: “Receive Your Complimentary eBook Excerpt NOW!”

Oops! The offer was for an excerpt only, not the entire book. Of course, an excerpt can be a few sentences from a few chapters but still might have been worth it. So I clicked through to the form. Then I saw that the form to get just the excerpt required about 20 pieces of information including job and company information as well as detailed contact information.

I balked. And so did many others who saw the offer.

The discussion thread exploded. Within less than a day dozens of comments had been posted. Most lambasted the offer, feeling misled about a free ebook when the offer was only for an excerpt.

The first comment started the discussion “Sounds interesting, but just to be clear – This is an excerpt from the book, not a free ebook as stated.” by Brendan Shanahan. But things spiralled down from there.

As the incident unfolded, comments ranged from disappointment to vitriol:

  • “The ebook is not free as you claim. … since you were not sincere in your promotion (and this is after all Social Media where authenicity is everything) I think I’ll pass. — John Doble
  • “Umm, you’re trying to mislead a group of savvy, smart-mouthed people” — Marilyn Casey
  • “A core pillar of social media is trust. … I trusted the link to the free ebook found that the link was bogus… For a social media veteran – this is a huge fail.” — Walter Pike
  • “Alas, I was duped. I would not have provided my info had I known it was for an excerpt.” — Kris Tazelaar
  • “Complete scam! and then reiterated in message above that it was a free book and not an excerpt – very bad practice.” — The Think Tank London
  • “An excerpt instead of the full book and involving a questionnaire that was only missing my shoe size – a reason good enough for me to leave this group. Foul play, guys, shame on you.” — Lukasz Dabrowski
  • “ would do well to ban and bar Michael Crosson, or whomever created his/her profile on LinkedIn …from the obvious and justified complaints here, you’ve hurt & compromised a lot of people, information and privacy-wise…” — Brian Uytiepo

Ouch! So Michael Crosson, self-proclaimed “Social Media and Interactive Advertising Industry Veteran” slipped up big time.

Well we all make mistakes! But how would the “industry veteran” respond?

Michael was soon on the thread with his mea culpa. He admitted the mistake in presenting the offer as a free ebook rather than the excerpt. Apparently, he’d been misled himself by the promoter from whom he’d received the information. He also forwarded the discussion comments to the promoter. And, very importantly, he also said that he would “personally check out these offers next time before posting.”

The ebook’s author also responded to distance herself from the incident. “I did not approve of the above referenced co-marked ‘seemingly spam-ish’ offer,” she wrote.

Lesson learned. What’s instructive here is to realize that yes, mistakes happen in social media. But their impact will depend on the response — its timeliness, taking responsibility and appropriate measures as needed. Michael Crosson demonstrated all of these with aplomb.

Some group members might agree. Marilyn Casey wrote “this was probably a valuable exercise for everyone involved.” and Tim Scapillato thinks that “This entire episode was a very graphic illustration of the power and speed of social media. You handled it well, Mike.”

Visit the discussion and see how social media pros respond when one of their own gets it wrong. Here’s the link to the discussion on LinkedIn.

Dealing with negativity in social media

on Mar 23 in branding, business, marketing, public relations, social media, strategy posted by

To make their point, protestors co-opted the logo of one of Nestle’s best known brands. In my experience, the most challenging aspect of actually implementing a social media program is dealing with negativity. You can never be quite sure what the response is going to be.

Look at the backlash on Nestlé’s Facebook page. That’s the sort of PR you don’t want.

But there are best practices for dealing with negativity. These can go a long way to dealing with its impact. The Nestlé incident is a clear example of how NOT to deal with negativity.

My guess is that Nestlé took the cheap option and hired a novice to manage their Facebook page. Now it’s costing them vastly more than if they had hired someone competent in the first place.

So how could they have handled it differently? Their initial mistake was to criticize the person who was asking about the Greenpeace video (which got all this started). One comment called the response a “particularly indiscreet sense of arrogance.”

Instead, the Facebook Fan page manager should have acknowledged the user’s concerns. The manager could have admitted to the user that they had a right to expect the highest standards from a company such as Nestlé. He could have mentioned that Nestlé is not perfect, but always striving to improve. 

The most powerful tactic is to actually admit a mistake: “We’re sorry about sourcing palm oil from illegally logged Indonesian rainforests. We’re trying to figure out what went wrong and put it right.” And so on. A conciliatory tone would have been much less likely to invoke the huge backlash that now is simply a cringe-worthy embarrassment for the food giant.

Another ploy is just to wait and see. An immediate reaction might not be called for, especially when there is a risk of getting things out of hand. It’s always possible members of the community will come to your defense. Indeed one or two lonely voices are doing that on Nestlé’s Facebook page, but too little, too late.

The second mistake Nestlé made (and continues to make) is refusing to engage on Facebook following the initial flub. Now their official Facebook page looks more like a protest page, bombarded with negative comments. Many of these expand the scope of the company’s misdeeds.

When you’re talking to clients about the need for professional management of their social media program, you need to convince them to invest in training and hiring the appropriate expertise.

Incidences of negativity can be useful in your sales pitch. But you don’t want to go too far and put the client off social media altogether!

Social bookmarking basics

on Jan 26 in branding, search, social bookmarking, social media posted by

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the simple approaches work the best. Social bookmarking is a simple, effective way to increase visibility for your website, so let’s review the basics.

In a nutshell, social bookmarking lets the online community find and recommend Web content. According to Wikipedia, it is “a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages…”

In a world where the amount of information is making it ever more difficult to find what you want, this form of “social searching” is an increasingly efficient way to find needed content. Some observers suggest that the pace of growth will outstrip traditional search engines’ ability to find relevant content, so that social search will come to dominate the search industry.

Irrespective of punditry, social bookmarking allows your business to provide a way for your community to share content through sending URLs to colleagues and friends, and tagging and commenting on the quality of such sites.

The most popular social bookmarking sites are:


  • Delicious – Users label their bookmarks with tags that relate to the content. As of the time of writing, it had more than five million users and 150 million bookmarked URLs. Most businesses will benefit from setting up an account on Delicious and label their own sites with desirable tags. However, it is unadvisable to systematically set up link farms where you hire someone to mindlessly bookmark your pages. Let your content speak for itself by allowing other users to bookmark your pages. 
  • Digg – Focus is mainly on news, images and videos, and allows people to submit links and stories, and also to vote on those. “Digging” refers to voting a story up, “burying” is when a story is voted down. You can set up an account and submit your own stories to Digg. However, the site administrators penalize users who post items only from the same URLs, so the manager of your Digg account should also post items from other sites. 
  • StumbleUpon – customizes search results according to user-defined preferences. The user can install a “Stumble!” button in the browser’s toolbar. When clicked, a Web page is displayed, based on the user’s preferences as well as his or her ratings of previously “Stumbled” pages, or ratings of friends and users with similar preferences. 


These sites provide branded widgets that website owners can embed to allow users to share their URL (bookmark) with a single click. Better still, this activity can be pushed to social sites such as Facebook and Friendfeed, so that bookmarking becomes a social activity with broad impact.

Rather than embedding each of these in your Web pages, you can use a social bookmarking application such as AddThis.

According to their Web site, AddThis is “the #1 bookmarking and sharing button on the Internet.” You add a snippet of code to their Web page (preferably in an include file that is served to all pages). The button creates a pull-down menu that enables the user to select from a range of options, including


  • Adding to social bookmark sites such as Delicious and Digg
  • Adding the page to the user’s favorites
  • Emailing to a friend


The service provides analytics so you can see what services are most often used to bookmark pages. There is no fee to use the AddThis service.

Notes on the word “expert” (and social media)

on Jan 22 in facebook, social media, social networks posted by

Definitely an expert.A couple of weeks ago, I started a group on Facebook, Social Media Expert Directory, and created a social network on Ning. Wow! What a great response. In just two weeks we have 95101 Facebook fans and 23 members on the social network.

I started the group as a response to critiques about the plethora of so-called “experts” who are exploiting the explosion of business activity around social media. Understandably, some group members eschew the use of the word “expert,” and a number of social media star players have questioned the use of the word. (See Chris Brogan’s What I Want a Social Media Expert to Know.)  

It’s become fashionable to bash those who call themselves “experts” (For example, Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter.) So it’s a natural response for social media providers to shy away from using the word.

But the danger is that we fall back to synonyms or euphemisms, only further muddying the picture.

Indeed, the positive response to the creation of the group shows there is a need for providers to push back against the negativity. For some, “expert” is a perfectly legitimate label. For the Social Media Expert Directory, I am using the word in its strict dictionary definition. According to, the definition is:

1. a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority

In this sense, my plumber is an “expert.” Thus, it is fair for someone who has a particular skill or knowledge in social media to call themselves an expert.

That said, the definition does imply that an expert is also an “authority.” This may be where people come unstuck, because having authority may be confused with being well-known or widely-recognized. And having a specialist skill does not necessarily confer fame! I believe that an expert can be an authority without being well-known, but, given the negativity surrounding the word “expert”, the onus is upon the self-anointed to be able to justify such a label.

In the case of someone who does have considerable skill, a review of their profile should speak for itself.

So yes, use the word expert, by all means, but be prepared to back that up. You need more than just being able to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account. You need to show how you offer value and insight to a business unique needs, and to frame this in terms of a winning social media strategy.

5 reasons DIY social media is a bad idea

on Jan 19 in business, marketing, social media, statistics, strategy, trends posted by

Recent online conversations by noted bloggers such as Brian Solis and Michael Brito have brought attention to the emerging cottage industry of social media providers who are promising more than they can deliver.

Such is the buzz that legitimate social media providers are becoming concerned about being tarred with the same brush. Conversely, businesses that would genuinely benefit from outside counsel for their social media strategy and implementation are increasingly wary, as they should be.

Given the doubts, businesses that may otherwise have sought outside expertise may turn more to a DIY approach. Many social media applications are free, and easy to set up, so why not do it yourself?

Here are five reasons social media providers can use to explain to prospective clients why DIY social media is not a good idea for businesses.

1. Without outside perspective you won’t have objectivity — Social media is a powerful tool for reaching out to your customers. So you need to understand how they perceive your organization. If your social media is done entirely in-house, it’s practically impossible to really understand objectively how the community outside your organization perceives you.

2. Your employees or you may not understand the nuances of developing social media strategy — A strategic approach is essential to succeeding in social media marketing. Without it, you are just throwing things out there to see what sticks. But developing a sound strategy takes considerable experience, preferably based on working with several different companies in different industries. Someone with such experience can distill best practices and focus in more quickly on what will work best for you. Such experience does not come cheap. If you do not have it in house, best to go to outside expertise for help.

3. You may not have the time or talent for cultivating your social media community — Online communities are rarely self-perpetuating, particularly in the early stages. You need to nurture online relationships with the members of your community. This takes time and effort. It also takes effective communication skills. If either of these are lacking in implementing your social media outreach, the community will take their time and attention elsewhere.

4. It’s tough to stay up-to-date — Social media is changing and evolving faster every day. Just look at statistics for Facebook usage, or Twitter. But more than that, the applications that support implementation of a social media presence are changing and improving all the time. What is the best tool to monitor your social media reputation? What tools besides Google Analytics can give you insight into the ROI of social media? Unless you can answer these and other questions, you could be missing the boat.

5. If poorly executed your own efforts may be less credible — Executing a corporate social media strategy takes a fine balance of professionalism and authenticity. A slick campaign-like approach can make your efforts seem more like advertising than an effort to engage the community. A sloppy effort on the other hand can damage your brand.

In the end, unless skillfully managed and executed, DIY approaches do not benefit the businesses that need social media. A failed social media presence is worse than none at all. Because that failure is there for all to see. Ultimately failure of go-it-alone efforts will reflect poorly on the industry. Social media providers therefore must make the case more effectively and come down hard on colleagues or competitors who make unsubstantiated claims.

Social media is a curse as well as a blessing for Haiti

on Jan 14 in News, social media, social networks, Twitter posted by

Over the last day or so Twitter has been indundated with tweets that the global shipping company UPS is offering free shipments to Haiti for packages under 50lbs.

Kindly users are offering useful suggestions such as “UPS is shipping anything 2 #Haiti under 50lbs for FREE: send a care box with things like food blankets candles tents batteries medicine etc.”

Unfortunately, the rumor is false. The company has in fact suspended shipments to Haiti. UPS’s latest blog post cites the “destruction of roads and communications networks” as the reason to put their Haiti service on hold. 

Another popular retweet was American Airlines offer of free travel to Haiti for licensed medical professionals. Again, airline spokesmen have denied the rumor as reported on CNN.

For social media providers, the lesson here is to verify the authenticity of offers or news before retweeting info

In the longer term, spread of rumors can only damage the value of social media. It behooves us all to double-check information unless we know it comes from a verifiable source.

More immediately, these rumors only compound the suffering of Haitians. Many of the country’s residents are reaching out to the outside world through social networks. Twitter and Facebook were for some the only meaningful contact they had with friends and relatives. (See Social media key in Haiti earthquake coverage.) Given the Haitian’s reliance on social media, how cruel to pile such hoaxes on top of their misery.

Please take a moment to post a Tweet to counter the rumors. Feel free to copy and paste the following: “Free Haiti American Airlines and UPS offers are hoaxes, according to CNN.”

Directory for Social Media Experts

on Jan 08 in business, facebook, social media, social networks posted by

A recent post on Mashable points out that more than 15,000 Twitter users list themselves as some kind of social media “expert.” The post prompted a strong response, getting 129 comments as well as responses from the blogosphere such as 5 ways to identify a social media false prophet by Michael Brito, for example.

The social media ecosystem (more about that term in a future post) is indeed complex. And many social media providers make exaggerated claims about the benefits of social media marketing. Organizations that see the potential of social media are excited about the possibilities, but understandably cautious about hiring so-called experts when there is so much hype and uncertainty about what constitutes an expert.

So it seems to me that there needs to be a place that will bring together legitimate (and modest) social media providers with those who need social media services.

I have created an online community, the Social Media Expert Directory to serve this need. The aim of the Social Media Expert Directory is to provide a place where social media providers can assert their legitimacy as “experts.” Those seeking services can then be assured that the listed providers meet minimum standards of experience and competence.

While anyone is welcome to list themselves, the Approved Members group provides those who are seeking such services with assurances that the member:

  1. Has a strong track record in providing social media services in a variety of commercial settings
  2. Does not make unsubstantiated claims for the efficacy of social media marketing
  3. Offers services at reasonable market rates

If you are a service provider, you are invited to participate in the Social Media Expert Directory free of charge (see site for details).

Those seeking social media services are invited to visit the site and to peruse the list of members. We will help you connect with the service providers that best meet your needs.

You can also connect with the Social Media Expert Directory community by becoming a Fan on Facebook.

The most compelling reason to hire outside help in planning and implementing a social media strategy

on Jan 05 in business, social media, Twitter posted by

Being away from my work and offline for the past two weeks gave me the chance to reflect on where I’m at and where I’m going. 

The biggest event for me last year was setting up shop as a social media “consultant.” I’ve been lucky to have some great clients out of the gate so that’s good. 

Coming back to the fray, I realize there is much hype out there. Many people are claiming social media expertise, that they are a guru or ninja. A post on Mashable noted that there are more than 15,000 Twitter users claiming to be social media experts. I’m taking this opportunity to clarify my own position.

Social media is an emerging technology and as such, “expertise” is subjective and any claims to such must be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s like in 1903 just after the Wright brothers’ first flight, saying you’re an expert in aviation (as I commented on a recent post by Michael Brito).

For myself, my website at Harris Social Media suggests prospective clients examine closely whether they need outside help at all and, if so, what to look for when choosing a social media consultant. 

The bottom line is that promises of increased sales, reduced costs, higher engagement from social media are claims of potential, not of fact. And a company can do much internally — setting up a Facebook page, Twitter feed and so on, with no cost aside from employee time.

But this approach misses the point. An organization establishing a presence in social media is presenting itself to the outside. Therefore an outsider can provide a unique perspective simply not available from inside employees. This is, to my mind, the most compelling reason to hire outside help in planning and implementing a social media strategy.