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Social and Media

Little Dialers Twitter Spam?

By | Social and Media

Fake Amazon SiteI was optimizing my Google Reader feeds this morning and I happened to check up on my LittleDialers listening station. Little Dialers is an app that I designed and financed the development of to teach my, then four year old, daughter an emergency phone number. You can read the behind the music here and see what people said about it here.

Long story short, my daughter rapidly learned her mom’s cell phone number and a bunch of my friends’ kids had similar results, but it never “took off” in the app store. I think I may have broke 200 downloads over the course of two months, which is definitely less than my strike it rich gold-rush app store aspirations. So it served its purpose in A. Teaching my daughter a phone number and how to use the phone in general and B. Teaching me about app development and promotion by doing…

The key takeaway here is that I haven’t even thought about promoting it since around the May timeframe.

So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I saw that three twitter accounts randomly promoted my LittleDialers app to actual Twitter users. (pic of one of the tweets below) The best part is that they’re using the name Little Dialers in the tweet but linking to a fake Amazon site to try to get people to buy iPhones, I guess? (screen shot above)

I’m writing this post, for the record, so that nobody thinks that I am a part of this scheme in any way. I am not. Since one account has been suspended, it appears as though the problem may be taking care of itself, but I don’t know that I have any way of stopping this in the future. If you have any ideas or comments, let them rip below.

spam tweet to a twitter user

Public Health and Design

By | Social and Media

I volunteered to put some posters together during Vaccination Awareness month this year as part of the #hcsmvac crew and I had a pretty good time of it. I followed a photoshop tutorial to make one design and attached a Google Map to a QR code for the other design. You can get the full story and find out how to do it yourself by clicking here.

This experience first led me to think about the intersection of public health and design. I realize that really smart people are already thinking about this, but that hasn’t stopped me from applying my brain power as well. The angle that is interesting to me specifically, is what if public health messages were cool enough to be put on T-shirts that people actually wore around. This wasn’t exactly all my idea, although I’ve been into T-shirt design for some time. I attended this year’s e-Patient Connections conference and saw what Zemoga and PSFK have done with UNICEF with regards to public health messages on shirts. See slide 7 for a visual.

And that gave me the idea to try to put something together myself:

Three Step Process to the Breast Self Exam

It wasn’t until after I put the design together that I learned about Pinkwashing and that Breast Self Exams aren’t as effective as once thought. Thanks to my friend Veronica Combs and to Katherine O’Brien for the education. That being said, I’m glad I put it together because it has helped me to imagine what could be… Not just with breast cancer, but with public health in general. I am inspired by both the design of Otl Aicher and the concept of information visualization… and now I’m thinking of of what’s next.

What do you think?

The Little Dialers Story

By | Social and Media

The Hall family made an iPhone app for our kids called Little Dialers, that you and your kids can use too, for free. Here’s the behind the scenes backstory, in case you were curious. As a prologue, it turns out that there really aren’t any good Smartphone apps out there to teach kids how to get a hold of you in case you’re ever separated. And when I say there aren’t any good apps, I mean that when I did a Google search two months ago, there weren’t any apps popping up in the top ten results at all…

Is this not 2011?

Little Dialers Trophy ScreenThe Backstory

So our four year old daughter is in pre-school and comes home one day with a paper cut out of a rotary phone. That’s how she’s supposed to learn her phone number. First off, it’s a rotary phone… No kidding. I’m 33 and I barely know what a rotary phone is or looks like. Second, it’s made out of paper. And third, it’s only seven numbers. Now this last one may not be a big deal for some people, but my wife and I picked up cell phones back in 2001, when we lived in Montgomery, AL. I was in the Air Force, and we’ve moved around some since that time, but we’ve always kept the same number out of convenience. We are now living in a suburb of Louisville, KY and really only ever use our cell phones. Plus, they’re always with us at all times, which is key when someone is trying to get a hold of either of us, like say our kids in an emergency.

My wife and I didn’t feel that our daughter should be forced to learn a useless number from a piece of construction paper in the shape of an extinct artifact that she may never even see over her lifetime.

How We Came To Build An App

I honestly didn’t think much of the paper phone, other than there was no way I was going to be able to teach anybody their phone number with it. Then one cold, January morning, my wife mentioned that we really needed to start teaching our daughter a phone number that she could call in case there was ever a reason for her to need to call. I did a search online and, as mentioned above, didn’t find anything.

Being that I have a decade of experience in software, web and now mobile development, I thought it would be a cool family project to design and build our own app that would just do one thing: teach our kids their mom and dad’s phone number through visual, auditory and tactile stimulation.

Thus, the idea of Little Dialers emerged.

I was able to convince a buddy that it would be a fun little diversion for him, to take on building this app for us on the side, and we estimated a timeline and a budget. Then I set out to design it myself. If you’re thinking about doing something like this yourself, I encourage it, but remember that complexity equals time and time equals money. The hardest part of building an app, even one with only three screens, is keeping it dead simple. That’s because the sky is literally the limit when it comes to whiz-bang features that can be added. So take these quotes to heart, and take the time to make things simple.

Once I finished designing the screens and functionality, we looked at it as a family, made some tweaks, and sent the requirements document and creative off to my developer friend. When it was all said and done, it took 17 hours to build, test and fix over the course of three weekends. Seven days after we submitted Little Dialers to Apple, our App had been approved and was downloadable from within the App Store.

And here we are today.

What We Want Out Of This

My wife and I did this primarily for the journey. It was definitely a fun ride coming up with the idea and building something to fill a need together as a family. Our kids are huge iPhone/iPad fans, and I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention that it’s an ego boost to have your kid use and enjoy something you built for them, on a platform that has completely captured their engagement. Our daughter has been using Little Dialers all week, five minutes at a time, and is now able to type in my wife’s cell phone number without help, which is exactly what we wanted…

The truth is though, building the product is only the beginning of the journey. We’ve seen Little Dialers work and think it can work for your child, too. It would be great if people used our app and shared their story with us. Maybe it helped your child or maybe it didn’t. Now that Little Dialers is out there, we’re interested in learning what you think about it, either way. You can let us know what you think by downloading the app, rating it, or leaving a comment here or on the tumblr account I set up to support the app. I’ll also be linking to anything written about the app there, to keep a record of the journey.

We hope you like Little Dialers, as much as we liked making it. Here’s to all of our kids, and the awesome, digital world they are growing up in today.

Making Friends for Fun and Profit

By | Social and Media
Relationship marketing means making friends

photo by: bradley j

Let’s talk for a minute about what social media is really good for, shall we? I have this crazy idea that social media has made everybody, who uses it, accessible. That’s what it’s good for, finding and connecting with people. You now have access to anyone and everyone. Take a moment to let that sink in a bit.

What could being able to connect to previously inaccessible people mean for you?

For me, it means a lot. It means that I can read this, say this, and connect with this guy over the phone the next week. The small world irony being that our companies already have a contractual relationship with one another.

The key is that I’m not selling anything, except myself… I’m honestly and earnestly trying to find like-minded people to make friends with, because friendship is what makes the social internets go around.

Friendship spreads messages.

Finding The Right People

Being able to connect with anybody is only half the battle, though. Most of your investment in social media, that you’d want to see a return on, is in time. Time is money. Therefore, you have to be able to connect with right anybodies, not just anybody. You need to connect with people who can help you and these people also need to be people who you can help.

So how do you go about doing this?

There’s this one tool that I’m really high on to help with the leg work. And I’ve come up with a methodology that I’ve been toying around with, in presentation form. It’s called: Relationship Marketing to Social Media ROI.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below:

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

By | Social and Media
Nuclear Blast 1945
Image by thw05 via Flickr

I’m working on a presentation, for giggles, that ties some of social media’s biggest “mishaps” back to quarterly revenues and stock prices. You know, something that probably should have been done a while ago…

I’m doing it because someone needs to connect these dots and I haven’t come across anybody else really doing it. There has been so much to do about social media, both historically and recently, that I’ve been wondering for some time now, along with Peter Kim, if social media has any impact on a business’ bottom line.

I gotta say, that I’m not very surprised with the results from my research, so far.

The Risk of Catastrophic Failure

Fears of DEFCON 1 abound. I hear about the risks associated with social media everyday as we attempt to push the social media envelope within a Fortune 100 company. And these fears are all larger than life. I will concede that there are risks involved with external social media from around the enterprise.

But I argue that they’re not catastrophic in nature… at least not yet.

So I’ve been wrapping my head around the bad things that could happen to a company as a result of corporate social media gone wild, and it’s become clear that not all social media is created equal from a company’s perspective. A distinction needs to be made between social media that a company produces, for inbound marketing purposes or what have you, and the social media that is produced and shared from outside the company based on something that happened with the company.

In other words, there’s stuff that your company can do bad in the social media world. But there is also stuff that your company can do that is bad and gets spread around social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Here’s what I’ve been able to come up with during my research so far:

the boss is crazy This is social media that your company produces and shares on-line. And if your company is afraid to let the CEO have a voice on the internets because he/she may say something that upsets your customers and potential customers, then you may be worried about a risk that has a potentially high impact, but a historically low probability of becoming an issue.

the employees can’t be trusted Again, this is social media that your company produces and shares on-line. And of all the risks out there, I understand why this one is popular the most. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be mitigated, however. And my favorite response is that every organization’s employees are having analog conversations with friends, family and neighbors every day. If there is something wrong about the culture, those conversations are going to occur regardless.

the ads make people angry This is traditional media that gets spread around on the social web. Now, I know that it’s great to have people click on your company’s ads on YouTube just because they’re cool. But let’s say that your company makes an ad that offends people? Then what… catastrophic failure, or what?

the product is bad This is news that gets spread around on the social web. If your product is bad, or can not live up to the claims that you’re claiming, then people will find out about it and they will pass it along to their friends who they think would benefit from the information. I really like this category, because it focuses more on your company’s reason for being in business and less on fluff.

So What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

I’m hoping to have something put together in the this week/next week time frame. That is if I can stay motivated on it, because as I mentioned it’s just something I’m doing because it’s interesting to me. In the mean time, ask yourself which category your fears of corporate social media fall into, and why.

Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Media Discovery

By | Social and Media
bokeh link fence
Image by Will Montague via Flickr

The problem is that there are two different social media problems, and I’m using a solution on the problem that the solution I’m using doesn’t solve.

The two different types of problems are social media monitoring and social media discovery.

Social Media Monitoring

If you’re a brand, then your problem is that you care about what everyone says about you. Partly because you’ve been brainwashed that you need to join the conversation, but also because you really should listen to and act upon feedback. The customer helps get the bills paid, so they need to stay satisfied in order for the bills to keep getting paid.

For this problem then, we need to crawl everything on-line, because we wouldn’t want to miss what anybody says. This is what social media monitoring is all about.

Social Media Discovery

However, if you’re developing a new product, then your problem is that you care about concepts people are talking about. This is a completely different problem, and I’m finding that the solution for social media monitoring, which is crawl and return everything on the internets, doesn’t really work for social media discovery. It doesn’t work because there is too much out there on-line, and a lot of it is irrelevant if you’re looking to connect with people.

For this problem then, we need to crawl a much smaller subset of sites on-line, because we don’t really care what everybody is saying… This is what social media discovery is all about.

Start With Curation

Since crawling the entire web doesn’t really work when you’re trying to quickly make a list of networked influencers around specific keywords and visualize how they’re connected to one another… what if that initial list of bloggers already existed around multiple topic areas? If a list of bloggers around a certain topic already existed somewhere (I wonder where I could find one), then, theoretically, each of those blogs could be crawled and some kind of visual could be created to illustrate the networks around topics you care about.

Then your product managers can attempt to befriend those connected bloggers as a human being.

Does such a social media discovery tool exist today?

Three Questions Your Social Media Pitch Should Answer

By | Social and Media

I’ve pitched quite a few internal social media initiatives over the past year and a half and always seem to come across the same three questions. So I thought that I’d share them here, along with the answers that seemed to work for me during my biggest pitch to date, just yesterday.

But before I get into the Q&A, I think that a caveat is in order. Most of my experience has been around developing social media initiatives for ideas, as opposed to developing social media for established brands. If you’re interested in finding out what people want to know when they don’t really have a product just yet, and the answers that seem to make them comfortable, then read on…

When Do I Start?

I could regurgitate Groundswell* and every other social media somebody out there and tell you that you need to start listening today… But when you’re not dealing with a product that people already know about, which is the premise of this post, your next question will be something along the lines of how do I know who to listen to?

And that is the right question.

When we’re developing a new product, we’re in meetings all day and need to get the biggest bang for our relationship marketing buck. We want to find and develop relationships with people who share our views AND have an audience of their own, so the finding part comes before the listening part. The answer to this question is still, we can start today… but we must start by understanding who we want to listen to because we don’t have time to listen to everybody.

What do I do?

The next question you’re going to get is: “Great, so how do I do that?” And lucky for you, you’ve read this post and will have an answer to this brain teaser. There are plenty of tools out there that do social media monitoring. My friend Kevin Palmer put this awesome list of them all together and is threatening to start reviewing them because he is a machine who doesn’t breathe the same air that we breathe… Most of these tools cater to known brands, but there are a handful that generate network maps of the blogosphere based on keywords. Those are the ones that we want to know about.

The two I’m looking at right now are Social Radar and Sysomos.

It’s a little known fact that I make fun of buzz word expressions like “leverage social media” because it’s commonly misused and I hear it a lot. But building a strategy around the network effects that relationship marketing can possibly provide would be as close to “leveraging social media” as I’ve ever seen. The idea is as easy as the following six simple steps:

1. Establish the keywords you think people would use to find your product
2. Pump them into a tool like Social Radar or Sysomos
3. View a network diagram of the sites using those key words
4. Pick the most connected sites and put them into your reader
5. Build a Twitter List of those blog’s authors
6. Start trying to get attention and build rapport

How Do I Know It Works?

The beauty of tools like Social Radar and Sysomos seems to not only lie in their network analysis capability. There is also a tremendous amount of beauty in their reporting capabilities. We can use the tool to pick out the most connected blogs for a niche segment that we care about, start building relationships on their sites and on Twitter, and then follow those sites from within the tool to monitor conversation share.

Let’s say that we pick 100 “connected bloggers” that write about keywords similar to the keywords we created for our new product. And that over the course of two to six months we’ve been spending the bulk of our time building relationships. We’re not going to have been able to connect all 100, so we log the people who we have built some kind of rapport with, and then put a two sentence, personalized pitch E-mail together and fire away during our product launch phase.

What is interesting about the tools is that we can calculate social media reach and our increase/decrease in conversation share over time, in relation to our relationship marketing efforts. That’s definitely important. But we can also monitor the network effects of the relationships we’ve built by looking at the second order relationships, the people who are connected to the people we are connected too, to see if and how our message is spreading.

Now we just need to put that social media reach data up against our landing page’s web analytics data to see which of our relationships is driving the most traffic/conversions to possibly do something special with those individuals.

That’s It

That’s really all there seems to be to it. Answer those three questions and you’re on your way toward getting approval to move forward with social media for your new product launch. Let me know if you think that I’m out to lunch on this one, or if you have a different question that what questions you get and what the answers are in the comments below.

*I really enjoyed reading the Groundswell and highly endorse it as the place to start when thinking of social media for business. At the same time, the examples in the book are all known brands, which is different than what we’re talking about in this post.

Freemium to Premium

By | Social and Media

“If it’s free, it’s for me.” – Gilbert Thomas Hall

But what happens when it’s not free… anymore? This was the case for thousands* of people last week when Ning announced that the service was no longer supporting free sites. Which leads to questions about people changing the rules on us mid-stream.

Are we more ok with having web start-ups change the rules on us and make their once paid site, free. Is it more upsetting when entire call centers getting outsourced?

For clarity, we can turn to Wired’s Chris Anderson who talked with Matt Bowman of Vator.tv about the implications of Ning moving away from a free price:

I’m a huge Ning fan (and a paying customer) so I support this move. Freemium worked well to get them to their current size (large and growing) and I don’t blame them for focusing on their paying core now. Now that they’ve reached critical mass, they may not need the free components anymore to get awareness.

That’s one take on the situation, another could be that they really need to make money… It is interesting to think, though, that free to a point may have been Ning’s actual business model all along once they reached a certain number of customers. If it were, would Ning have done better by their users to let that cat out of the bag from the start?

* may actually be more or less than thousands if I were to research the number

The Friendship Power Curve

By | Social and Media

Last week I drew up a Social Media Bell Curve, to illustrate the fact that in a given product development and release process, a majority of your social media time should be spent in establishing relationships with the target market you are trying to reach.

As good as the graph looked, however, it did not represent making friends and keeping them over time. That can be represented by the Friendship Power Curve

Three Phases to making friends online

Making Friends

If your idea of a good time in the world of social media is to actually meet new people that you have things in common with, who are doing things that either you are doing or you would rather be doing, then I approve of you. The tools around social media enable engagement with randoms, which could then lead to a rapport being developed, followed by actual friendship. Let’s look at the steps:

attention In order for someone to become friends with you, they need to know who you are… That’s where getting somebody’s attention comes into play. You know that you have received your target individual’s attention when they respond to your advances. The idea is to rapidly, but not overbearingly, become familiar to your target individual.

rapport One response doesn’t make a relationship. You will need to continue commenting and tweeting in a completely non-threatening way with an eye out for an opportunity to meet in person at a conference or to talk over the phone. It’s important to remember that you’re not selling anything, except the fact that you’re genuinely interested in the other person. So don’t SPAM people as you build rapport, but do make Twitter lists of them and put their blogs in your favorite reader for easy access.

maintenance Once you’re following an individual’s social updates and they frequently respond to you, it requires less effort to maintain a friendship using today’s tools. You’re always just a status update away from being able to relate and respond as if you were tracking them like it was your job.

The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve

By | Social and Media

It’s Friday, so naturally I want to share a theory that I’ve been kicking around upstairs for the past week: The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve.

A majoritiy of time needs to be spent building relationships in social media


Let’s say that we have a new product launch in six months and we want to “leverage social media” to get the word out. The Social Media Relationship Bell Curve illustrates the two sets of time within such a scenario, while showing where and for how long time needs to be spent.

project timeline If we have six months to product launch, then the X axis represents zero to six months in one week chunks

budgeted time Can not exceed the number of dedicated to social media labor hours within the project timeline

Three Phases

Within the hypothetical six month period prior to product launch, the Social Media Relationship Bell Curve shows that we will have to perform three tasks:

mapping The idea of mapping out the network of blogs for a specific vertical and keyword. With automated tools, this should take up very little budgeted and project timeline time.

relationship building The majority of time “leveraging social media” should be spent finding commonalities with influencers within verticals of interest, to establish real relationships with them.

pitching Toward the end of the project timeline, when the product is nearing completion, the fruits of the relationship building shall attempt to be harvested with an ask to all relationships to help spread product awareness far and wide within the targeted vertical(s).

Three Steps to Niche Marketing Online

By | Social and Media
Bacon, reprise.
Image by Drunken Monkey via Flickr

I was chatting on Facebook with my friend Tehlia last night, who writes two blogs, has a Twitter account, an Etsy shop, and a Facebook Fan Page. She’s an amazing designer of fabulous scarves, which my daughter can attest to, and she is quickly becoming connected in the communities that matter to her and her business via social media.

I think she is doing an awesome job at it, but all that is besides the point of this post. Right now, I’m talking bacon scarves… because that’s what we were talking about last night.

Who’s the Nicheiest?

I mean seriously, does it get any nicheier than writing about bacon? You don’t have to answer that… Tehlia was contracted to crochet a scarf that resembled bacon for a woman who writes a blog called, You had me at Bacon. The comedy, right? She ended up cranking out this stunner which is a ridiculously awesome rendition of @smorty71’s favorite swag from SXSW.

So we were chatting and I told her a few things she could do to get more targeted exposure for the bacon scarf, to see if there may be more demand out there. I came up with this method when trying to figure out how I could market @mathiask’s I am Choking iPhone app. Because let’s face it, it’s pretty niche in its own right. So here are the methods that I shared with Tehlia last night.

Finding Niche Bloggers

Finding people around a given niche isn’t all that hard, and finding out who they’re connected to isn’t all that hard either, apparently. Here are three easy searches to perform to start mapping out your niche:

google search I know it may sound lame, but whatever you do… don’t sleep on the Google search. As an example, searching the term “bacon scarf” turned up some interesting results. From the looks of it, Tehlia has no direct competition with regards to crocheted scarves. However, the bacon scarf has been done before in other materials. That’s nice to know, but what’s nicer to know are the URLs to the sites that have written about bacon scarves in the past. These are not necessarily sites that focus on bacon or scarves, but they may be apt to write a follow up story about a new bacon scarf kid on the block…

google blog search Obvious and necessary all at the same time. The Google Blog Search is a staple in every social media practitioner’s tool box to sniff out topical blogs around various niches. For these purposes, I found it more useful to use the Advanced search feature for the word bacon in the blog’s title. That seemed to return better results for what I was looking for in this instance, blogs about bacon. But feel free to mix it up to suit your individual needs.

alltop Usually my dark horse pick to find blogs around niche topics. It totally came through in this instance. I’ve personally found that using alltop to find blogs either works really well or doesn’t work at all. No middle ground there…

amazon I’ve grown fond of searching Amazon.com for book authors that I then cross reference on the Twitter. A bit of detective work on your part, but when you find an author of a book on the subject you care about, who has a blog or Tweets regularly, then you have possibly found someone who you really want to create a relationship with…

Organizing Niche Bloggers

Now that you’ve found some blogs that have created communities around the niche topic you care about, you should really organize them. Here are two things you can do:

spreadsheet The tried and true method for most people. Making columns for the pertinent details around names, links, and notes will really help you stay organized.

twitter lists I enjoy making lists of the people who I’ve gathered up, and importing them into Tweetdeck, because then I can see what they’re talking about and possibly comment or reply on what they are saying. When I do this over a period of time, without asking for anything, then I become familiar.

Pitching Niche Bloggers

Want to get an influencer’s attention about your product? Why not ask them how they like to be pitched? That’s exactly what Tamar Weinberg did in her tremendously in depth post, How to Get an Influencer’s Attention. The consensus:

short and sweet News flash: People you don’t know don’t care about your life story. So get to the point and get out. I like to use two sentences personally, that include:

– A brief description of the subject and why it benefits the blogger
– An open ended ask to be written about on the blogger’s site
– Links to more details

Here’s an example:

I made a bacon scarf that I thought your readers may enjoy, based on this post you wrote in September 2008. It would be really cool if you were able to write about it on the Royal Bacon Society.


Experiment with your tone and directness of your delivery to figure out what works best for you, but KEEP IT SHORT! If they think what you’re talking about is interesting they’ll click on a link to find out more and/or reply back to your E-mail. If not, no harm done…

That’s It

It’s really not that hard to find, organize and reach out to people around specific niche topics with all of the free tools available to you online these days. How do you like to attack this situation? Please let me know in the comments below.