Tag Archive | "strategy"

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What Does Innovative Social Engagement Look Like?


As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about the topic of Government 2.0 a lot lately. Part of this topic deals with the multi-directional engagement between government and citizens. This is what the White House and others have termed a more transparent, collaborative, and participatory government.

Unfortunately, the engagement for the most part is not very authentic nor meaningful. Boring “fan pages” on Facebook are one example I’ve written about, but there are many others. Often, engagement, when it does happen has so many rules associated with it, or such a high barrier to entry, or such a limited window as to be practically meaningless.

It seems to me that everyone can celebrate the fact that government entities merely have a YouTube channel here, a Twitter account there, or a Blogger profile some other place (the so-called “TGIF revolution“), or we can think a little harder about what the goals of citizen engagement really might be.

On the evening of Nov 2nd, I tweeted from my phone about a local restaurant, Co Co Sala, just as I was leaving. We had a nice experience, but the hostess had been a little, shall we say, disinterested in helping us? So I commented as much.

Less than a week later, the co-owner of Co Co Sala sent me an email and cc’d his general manager. He apologized for the treatment I experienced, assured me it was not policy, introduced me to the manager, and said he’d talk to his staff. It was a four-paragraph email. I’ve never met him before, and furthermore, my personal email is discoverable but not the most easy thing to find.

This is what real social innovation looks like. This is what customer service looks like. This is what true engagement with stakeholders looks like. I want to give this great lounge Co Co Sala a hearty shout-out for not only having a great product, but also really caring about their customers.

Now, imagine we weren’t talking about a restaurant here. Imagine we are talking about the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Patent and Trademark Office, or your Congressman. If you tweeted, would they see it? Would they care? Would they react in any way? I think the answer in many cases is no.

Let’s look at a sliver of data. According to TweetStats.com, the people behind the White House Twitter account reply to individuals less than 2% of the time, and seem to have never @ replied to any single more than once (i.e., they have never come close to a conversation). They re-tweet others’ tweets about 6.5% of the time, but they only seem to re-tweet other government accounts and the New York Times. Granted, there are more people tweeting about White House issues than Co Co Sala, but does the above data represent any caring in any way, shape or form?

The terrific TechPresident blog recently noted that actor Vin Diesel is the single most followed living person on Facebook – and that he recently passed up President Obama. Perhaps that’s because Vin Diesel’s Facebook fan page is awesome. He is engaged, his fans are engaged, and the tone is informal and fun. When did “serious and formal” become a substitute for “informative and meaningful” in government circles? Why is everyone scared of letting their guard down in public?

Posted via email from Mark’s Cheeky Posterous

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Social Networking: the Two Dirtiest Words in Government 2.0


Next week I’ll be speaking at a Sweets and Treats event called Social Networking: The Two Dirtiest Words in Government 2.0, which has been organized by Debbie Weil and is sponsored by Neighborhood America.

Sweets and Tweets features leading voices from DC’s diverse technology community talking about the use of social media by the public and private sector, from the White House and federal agencies to local startups. Previous events featured Mark Walsh on crowdsourcing and Andrew Wilson, who runs Flu.gov.

Neighborhood America is a terrific enterprise software company that has been doing cool things in the Gov 2.0 space before it was Gov 2.0, and Neighborhood America’s CIO Jim Haughwout will fly up from Florida to attend the event and mingle.

This is a private, after-hours event at the very cool Baked & Wired store in Georgetown. Attendees get free cupcakes, lots of time to mingle, and hopefully some food for thought about how social networking – those two dirty words – fits into the workplace, both within the government and beyond it.

Sweets and Tweets is Tuesday, November 17, 2009 from 7:00 – 8:15 PM, and you can get your tickets here: http://sweetsandtweets3.eventbrite.com/ (If you read about it here, use special discount code “sweeter3″ when you register!)

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Match Message to Medium: Talks Are Bigger Than Tweets


Learn one thing about Twitter: it is a unique medium of 140 character
or less communications. It’s like the haiku of the real-time Web. If
what you have to say is often longer than those 140 characters, maybe
you’re using the wrong medium.

Dig this. When you’re at a large conference with (say) 20 people live
tweeting every interesting sentence from every speaker, are you
thinking about your audience? I seriously hope not, because you’re
often delivering them a bundle of jumbled thoughts. And when you start
retweeting each other, and then people not at the conference start
retweeting *that* everything stops being real-time and becomes
wrong-time. We don’t yet have filters and interfaces that can make
sense of this stuff.

Dig this too. There are alternatives. While celebrations of YouTube
and Twitter happen at dedicated events, you’re overlooking less-used
social technologies with great features, like Viddler and Posterous.
Look at my last few Posterous posts: they were from a conference I
attended. But instead of burying my nose in my BlackBerry for two
days, I listened and took notes, and when I saw something worthy of
250 or so words, I wrote a short post for Posterous and pushed the
info to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Xanga, Plurk, and more. What’s up.

Experiment with Web 2.0 technologies. Think about your audience. Do
what’s valuable for your community. Engage.

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Why You Probably Shouldn’t Mourn Media Property Loss


Today the editor of the terrific blog from PBS called MediaShift, Mark Glaser, pointed me via Twitter to comments on one of their recent posts about the closing of Gourmet magazine. Some people mourned its passing, and others didn’t. It’s more logical to be in the camp that didn’t. The reason is that a good deal of the content in a good deal of magazines and other media properties simply isn’t that valuable. It doesn’t have much value because it isn’t very unique, and it’s easy to duplicate and repurpose. Its fidelity is not high enough.

Commenters who didn’t mourn mentioned that they increasingly turned to sites like Epicurious.com for their information. Thus, in their minds, Gourmet (which costs a lot of develop, print, and distribute) is getting outcompeted by websites like Epicurious. If you want to sell hard-copy magazines for 4, 5, or 6 dollars, you really have to provide something on the order of 5X the value of all the websites I can access in 10 min. Otherwise, why would I make the effort to buy your magazine?

The 5X rule means that it is insufficient to simply have the same stuff as a website like FoodBlogs.com, and then add some glossy photos and an interview with Wolfgang Puck. Consumers no longer think that’s worth the money. What is worth the money? Unique, engaging, difficult-to-copy, valuable, branded content. The new database/wiki WhoRunsGov from the Washington Post is a good example of this strategy.

Another thing that is worth the money is getting you the same information as competitors, but faster, in a time-dependent situation. Unfortunately for Gourmet magazine, Thanksgiving dinner can be a few minutes late.

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Public Diplomacy 2.0


Tero Ojanperä wants to rule the world. Well, perhaps the September cover of geeky Fast Company magazine goes a little too far with that pronouncement. But despite all the media buzz about Apple’s iPhone and the fact that nearly everyone in Washington has a Blackberry attached to their thumbs, those two devices combined account for only three percent of the global phone market. Nokia, on the other hand – the company that Tero Ojanperä  is the Executive Vice President of Entertainment and Communities for – owns nearly 40%. If he who controls the medium controls the message, Nokia might very well control the future of mobile text, video, music, and other things you want to have on-the-go. And this in turn may affect international diplomacy.

But such global ambitions do not happen without good public relations and influencer outreach. Fast Company describes Ojanperä as a Warhol-meets-Bond-villain businessman wooing music industry executives at a fashionable Tribeca hotel. But this kind of public-outreach-meets-global-domination is certainly not unique to corporations. In fact, governments and empires havehad the lead on that score for centuries as they fight for and strive to maintain influence in the world, and Finland is no exception. Thanks to a new “sister city” marriage of Washington and Helsinki, a program called Invitation to Helsinki brought some District influencers to meet counterparts and exchange knowledge. With backing from Finland’s U.S. Ambassador, this brainchild of the Finnish Embassy’s cultural counselor Pekka Hako blossomed into a collection of relationships that may last far beyond the week-long trip that people like Government 2.0 Club co-founder Peter Corbett, Georgetown student body president Patrick Dowd, and political communications expert Blake Zeff took.

Read more about Diplomacy 2.0 in my full-length article at Washington Life magazine.

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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: Crooked Monkey Style


T-shirtI hadn’t heard of the popular t-shirt company Crooked Monkey until I was invited to an exclusive party they recently held. You see, even though they get great press from actors wearing their shirts in movies and magazines talking about their fashion styles, Crooked Monkey is based in Washington, DC not widely known as the fashion capital of the country. And they wanted to do some local brand building.

This wasn’t just any party. Sure, there were attractive guests in a cool setting with great drinks and music all the usual stuff. It was what they did differently that made it the most memorable event Ive been to in a long time.

Lets start with how I even found out about the event a secretive email from someone I didn’t know telling me that my friend recommended me as a guest for the event. This is somewhere in between Facebook and Eyes Wide Shut.  Then, a request for my home address, to which was mailed a package containing an envelope with a paper invitation, and also a sparsely decorated white t-shirt, which I was required to save for the party two months later and bring with me to gain admittance. Finally, a bag of tart banana candies finished the package.

Further inspection revealed that the event was on a Sunday night (no night is safe from parties!) at a secret location to be given to us later. Keep in mind that I dont know the person behind the party, nor the other guests, and now also not the location. Still later I discovered by email invitation that the event would be in a warehouse in a not-so-savory part of Washington, DC and that we MUST bring our white t-shirts because wed be doing something with them on the night of the event.

When the day of the event came, I really couldn’t stand not knowing anything! I texted the contacts I had for the event to ask questions, but they revealed little. I emailed some socialite friends to try to figure out who else would be there we knew it would be all tastemakers of different sorts, but no one really knew who was going, which was exciting. I used Google Maps to investigate the location of the warehouse. I stressed about what one wears to such events (I think I chose well!).

Even the party itself was very engaging. An artist created a mural from our white t-shirts that we used for entry right in front of our eyes. An old-fashioned photo booth let us take pictures with each other, and the photo strips had (what else?) a Crooked Monkey logo on them.  Even the name of the event Photoshoot at the Warehouse gave the party an active quality.

Do you detect a pattern here? Crooked Monkey kept busy, elite attendees who get invited to tons of events mentally engaged with their event for weeks. They made us part of telling their story. They got us to talk about their brand before, during, and after the event.  And in the end, the event delivered with a cool venue, outstanding bar, fun atmosphere, and lots of fashion.

Photoshoot at the Warehouse is a great example of putting the public back in public relations and brand engagement. How great? Im writing an entire post about them – and I dont even like wearing t-shirts!

This post originally appeared on Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 site.

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The Five-Minute Citizen Engagement Plan


Ben Huh is an expert on audience engagement who’s best known for creating a platform where people can post photos of cute cats and funny captions. If you’re wondering what this has to do with the government and information technology, don’t worry — until recently, I didn’t understand either. But as I’ve spent time thinking about what citizen engagement means, I’ve become convinced that Huh might be on to something.

Huh’s company is named Cheezburger Networks, and its goal is to “make people happy for five minutes a day.” Not only does its Web sites have more than 11 million monthly visitors and more than 10,000 daily submissions, the commentary level in some cases rivals the number of votes cast in congressional elections. People undeniably enjoy participating because it’s fun and engaging.

So why doesn’t a federal agency have the informal goal of, say, “helping students learn for five minutes a day” or “teaching Americans about foreign policy for five minutes a day” by creating something equally fun and engaging?

Cheezburger Networks makes participation simple. There is a low barrier to entry for participation on its sites, and indeed, when prompted at a question-and-answer session held recently at Google’s Washington offices, Huh suggested that combining participation with humor could make the government more engaging. However, there’s definitely resistance to that idea.

When chatting with another attendee immediately after the event, I received feedback to the effect of “that’s not the government’s job.” What, being interesting? I’d like someone to show me the rule that says the government can’t use some engaging, tasteful humor to engage citizens and, in the process, convey information. The Forest Service still has SmokeyBear.com, after all.

True, a Web site like ICanHasCheezburger.com might be too far outside the box for the government. But what about another popular Cheezburger Networks site, GraphJam.com? GraphJam is a fascinating Web site that consists entirely of user-generated graphs like you’d make using data in Microsoft Excel — except they’re hilarious. The site lets you upload your own files and even has a proprietary chart builder for pie charts, Venn diagrams and so forth. Some graphs certainly take liberties with the facts, but they’re primarily fun and informative.

The government has so much data that it often can’t see novel applications for it. Engaging Web sites where people could create simple visual interpretations of government data and submit them for others to learn from, discuss and, yes, even be amused would be valuable. Why does all government data have to be treated so seriously? Does portraying it in a boring fashion somehow make it seem more important?

The key to building big, fun communities that can accomplish something useful is making it simple to belong and get involved. Narrowing the number of variables involved in the decision process to initially getting involved is critical to drawing people in. I wonder what people could collectively accomplish if they voluntarily engaged with government data for five minutes a day.

This post originally appeared at Federal Computer Week.

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GovLoop Hires Government 2.0 Evangelist for Community Management as it Hits 20,000 Members


Following the recent major news of its acquisition by Minnesota-based GovDelivery, Inc., the premier social network for the government community, GovLoop.com will annouce tomorrow that it has filled a key leadership position – that of community manager.  And it has hired a visionary, tireless advocate for the application of social networking tools in the government – Andrew Krzmarzick.

Andy (He’s casual! Tweet him at @krazykriz or email him at andrew@govloop.com) will be responsible for encouraging outreach, partnership, and engagement to help the GovLoop community grow and deliver greater value to its members.  The expansion of GovLoop’s team reinforces its momentum of this so-called “Facebook for Government” and puts it heads and tails above any competition – including most of the government’s own internal tools, which often don’t cross between levels of government or different agencies within the same government.

In the last four months, GovLoop has added 10,000 new members, bringing the total over 20,000 – that’s more people than the Department of Energy employs, or more people than can fit into Boston’s TD Garden (you know, where the Celtics play).  It’s possible they might have over 100,000 members by next year at that rate!

Andy related, “I’ve watched with admiration…as the [GovLoop] community has grown and the members have connected with one another to share information and ideas generously.  I see its potential as a place where people in and around government can turn in real time to get linked with the people and information they need to perform their jobs more effectively.”

The president of GovLoop, Steve Ressler, has known Andy for quite some time, and when you can work with people you mutually admire, that can be a very strong move.  Since I know and admire both of them, I think this is a great move by the world leader in government-to-citizen communications solutions GovDelivery, Inc. (and GovLoop) and I expect great things from this social network for govies moving into 2010.  I have been a member of GovLoop.com for a long time, and you should be one too!

See also coverage of this story at Dorobek Insider.

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Conversations Are Intelligence, Not Invitation


Fox’s recent experiment of overlaying live tweets on an episode of Fringe was an epic failure unwelcome to Twitter enthusiasts and traditional viewers alike.  It’s hard to imagine anyone who understands social technology thinking that this was a good idea. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone working in entertainment thinking that this would add to, and not detract from, a fictional television drama. Conversations that happen via social media are not necessarily an invitation for businesses to join them. They are, however, business intelligence that can be collected, analyzed, and adapted to. In one of the best simple articles I’ve read on this topic, media and entertainment entrepreneur Patricia Handschiegel writes that,

If TV wants to have a presence online or integrate its offerings online, it needs to think like a user. Not BE a user, not be “part of the conversation,” but understand what is valuable to the user and deliver it. You all should be on Twitter telling us when your shows are going to air and what we can expect, showing trailers, driving us to YOUR website for contests, special footage, etc…Your job is to entertain and inform your audience. Nobody cares what people think of your shows but you, and nobody cares what people have to say about your shows but you… Just because you can “hear” the direct conversations about your brand via the web today doesn’t mean you have to go bananas with it. Listen, use it for insight, adapt your offerings around it, etc. Brands of all kinds are taking all of this way, way too seriously. Your message has always been reshaped and shared among people — the only difference now is that you can see and hear it. This is not something to be afraid of. This is something to use to your advantage.

This is related to what I’ve previously written about on O’Reilly Radar how for businesses and brands (including personal brands) Twitter should mainly be viewed not as a conversation to be involved in, but as a mechanism for providing great content to people. This can be derided by critics as “broadcasting” but there is a happy medium between being in a multiplex chatroom “engaging” with people and merely broadcasting. Listening, understanding, and some interacting is important – but it is not an end goal in itself. This is also related to what I’ve recently written about on PR 2.0, something I call proactive social media (or offensive social media) – filling the information space with great content that people will find if they’re looking for information about your area of expertise or your business sector. This is the strategy that I am beginning to talk about with individuals, government employees, and large and small companies that ask for my advice about how they should best be using social media to interact with the public.

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Proactive Social Media: Filling the Information Space With Great Content


I recently gave a talk titled Free the People! at the Potomac Forum’s Government 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration, and Public Engagement Symposium in Washington, DC that generated enough interest for me to post my slide deck and write a summary for a wider audience. These thoughts constitute some of my early ideas about “offensive social media” for organizations (this talk was particularly geared towards a government audience, but the fundamentals apply to the private and public sectors more broadly).

Read the rest of this article at the PR 2.0 blog!

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