When You Win Over A Community: The Story of Help A Reporter Out

I don’t want to sound like a fanboy of Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) since I already posted about it recently, but I wanted to point out this video produced by one of the many fans of Shankman’s new query service.

In truth, I am sort of a fanboy for the service. I have found some real value from it since joining HARO when it was only a Facebook group, but I am using this video to illustrate a point.

When you have users like Bridgette here creating pretty high-quality content like this video for your brand, you don’t have to wallpaper the Internet with advertising for your brand or worry over every piece of negative press (although responsible advertising and protecting your brand are good moves). Your community can do some of that for you. When you win over a community — and by win, I mean doing the hard work to BUILD a community around your brand/product — your community becomes your biggest advertisement.

Where are your fanboys and fangirls?

It’s No Dark Night for The Dark Knight

I saw The Dark Knight at the first IMAX midnight showing Thursday night.

In the long line of fans and fanboys, some dressed in Joker or Batman costumes, I kept thinking about the viral marketing and alternate reality game, or ARG, that has now come to an end, I assume, with the release of the movie. Depending upon who you ask, people either saw a lot of marketing for The Dark Knight or just a few commercials here and there. For those who were listening, there was plenty to hear.

I speculated awhile back that this campaign might be looking to blow the top off traditional marketing if Heath Ledger’s death turned out to be some kind of trickery. I wasn’t the only one who thought that either. Of course, faking Ledger’s death would have been an extremely controversial part of any marketing plan, but I think there would have been an insane amount of buzz surrounding the film if they had spun the gossip readers around in their chairs.

Unfortunately, Ledger’s death was not any sort of hoax, but the ARG and viral marketing done for The Dark Knight still represents some of the best outreach for the hardcore fan crowd that I have ever seen. By stringing together ARG events, several websites, outdoor signage and more traditional advertising, The Dark Knight‘s marketing gave fans just enough to stay hungry until the release of the film.

Chris Lee of the LA Times went over all the many facets of the campaign back in March. Rather than being one deep alternate reality game or one simple viral website to promote the film, The Dark Knight marketing team and 42 Entertainment provided several big reveals.

By using several websites to run numerous small ARG projects, the marketers kept fans pining for the movie’s release. I am convinced that someone involved with the marketing for The Dark Knight is an insider at GoDaddy just looking at the complete list of all the sites affiliated with the movie.

The campaigns started off pretty small. One of the most noteworthy early on was making a game out of revealing the first photo of Ledger’s Joker pixel by pixel. Fans had to translate puzzles in email messages which unlocked just a pixel of the image until the entire photo was revealed.

Staged events like the street side campaign stands for Harvey Dent seemed to almost go unnoticed, but those true fans that ran into them on the street or sought them out through IBelieveInHarveyDent.com got free Harvey Dent swag and a reminder of the film.

While it looked like a perfectly legitimate campaign site for the fictional Gotham District Attorney at first, IBelieveInHarveyDent.com was defaced — we must assume by the Joker — as the film’s release grew closer. Prior to the “vandalism,” The Community Guy praised it for staying in character.

Defaced I Believe in Harvey Dent Site

To get the full story on the Dent campaign, you should also check out IBelieveInHarveyDentToo.com. Don’t ‘Select All’ in your browser, or you might discover something there as well.

The Joker set up shop at whysoserious.com to lead a scavenger hunt at San Diego’s Comic-Con and then provide the locations of bakeries around the United States where fans could receive a cake. Each cake was packed with an evidence bag containing a cell phone, phone charger, Joker gear and instructions to keep the phone on you at all times.

A similar piece of the ARG puzzle ran through the Clown Travel Agency, leading fans on another scavenger hunt for the Joker. In the end, a select group of fans who got there first received bowling ball bags containing a Joker-themed ball and a cell phone.

With all the various online and off-line marketing projects coming together, The Dark Knight had plenty of buzz opening weekend.

Early reports from E! Online are that The Dark Knight passed up Spider-Man 3 by grossing $155.3 million in its first weekend. The movie also set the records for opening day and single day.

While people all over the world may love their Batman, the success of The Dark Knight and especially this big opening weekend is a result of their innovative and consistent marketing. Even with the death of Heath Ledger endangering the project, the studio and 42 Entertainment put together enough rabbit holes to keep fans in the Batman universe and to keep the mainstream media reporting about their movie right up until the release date.

I know the ARG definitely pushed me to go see it early. I don’t normally rush out to see a movie the first weekend it comes out, but because of all the marketing and the IMAX showings, I jumped on board to get a ticket early.

How did the ARG and viral marketing influence you? Did you rush out to see the movie this weekend, or do you have no interest in it? Have you even ever heard of Batman? Continue the discussion by dropping a comment below.

MySpace gives in to Facebook by redesigning for a second chance

One of the biggest knocks against MySpace — especially from me — was that the design of the profile pages was just too busy. Too much color, flashing boxes, music and spam.

I never even made a profile on MySpace because I never saw the need to enter that public online chaos. Technically, Facebook tricked me into joining by offering me a walled social sanctuary of fellow college students first…before snapping it away and throwing applications all over the place.

Accessing a friend’s profile took too long to load, and finding any info about the person on the page was like playing Mindsweeper if every box in the game flashed: DESIGN BY RaNdOmTxTLinX FLASH FLASH FLASH!

Now that MySpace is launching a redesign of the site to better organize it for function and advertising, are they admitting to Facebook that “the book” had the right idea all along?

Yup.

In changing up the look of the site, MySpace is saying: “We give up. You did better.”

To its credit, MySpace was first, the pioneer of modern social networking — well, besides Friendster. Facebook benefited from watching MySpace grow. Mark Zuckerberg saw where they encountered problems and where users desired more privacy and closed systems. When Facebook finally went up, they expanded slowly, college by college. This timed expansion gave them a chance to test and adapt. Of course, Facebook looked and navigated better when it hit the mainstream, and privacy features were there from the start.

While Facebook launched new advertising programs — even if they weren’t all successful — and brought businesses into its network by opening doors with applications and pages and allowing others outside of college to join, MySpace never really saw the advertising boom they expected.

Why?

Well, everything on MySpace looks like an ad, and I don’t want to click any of it. Why would a business want to throw their logo into the middle of a sea of logos, plagued with problems of privacy and illicit behavior?

The end result of Facebook’s hightened buzz and Microsoft deal was that MySpace has had to go on the hunt as the underdog. They have revised their strategy, and they are going after the application developers that Facebook loves so much.

With a redesign, they admit their biggest flaw and make Facebook look like a champ, but MySpace also finally grows up.

It was time for MySpace to get more organized, end the chaos and admit that they could do some things that Facebook showed users wanted. Otherwise, Facebook was going to keep snatching everyone up and not giving their data back.

In admitting defeat, MySpace has another chance to get back on top of the popular social networking buzz, but they will have to do more than just catch up to Facebook to come out on top.

Why I Have Resisted FriendFeed

I stand in the world without a FriendFeed. It may be a slightly darker, colder less RSS-blissful place, but I am okay with that for the moment.

If you’ve been trapped under some Web 1.0 rock, FriendFeed is an aggregate service that allows you to link all your social media profiles, blogs and services into one site and feed — Lifehacker can walk you through getting one and Tamar Weinberg analyzed it for us. With your account and page on FriendFeed created, you can connect with friends and contacts to follow the feed from their page and give them your own online activity feed.

In the end, through all your connections on FriendFeed, you create one massive RSS feed of doom that tracks all the actions of your friends online. Why would I resist such a thing of wonder?

To tell you the truth, I have been tempted to jump into FriendFeed for quit awhile ever since Robert Scoble began championing it even while it began to fracture commenting on blogs, but I have several reasons to wait on this one.

Online Account Zen – I’m a Minimalist

Call me a commitment-phobe, but I simply don’t want another account online. I have a profile on almost every major social media service, and yes, the idea of having it all linked together appeals to me.

Unfortunately, I don’t want to sign up for a service JUST to aggregate all my other services. I am an account minimalist and have recently been taking stock and collecting all my various accounts online. The count is already very high. With privacy concerns on every site where I sign up and port my online existence, I don’t want to put myself out there unless it’s really necessary.

Coming Soon…from someone else

The aggregation FriendFeed provides is something I see happening in the social media networks where I already participate, so why move and invest in a new social network?

Unlike some media powerhouses and major blogging moguls, it takes me some time to promote an online service to my many Web 1.0, non-blogging friends, create email invites, offer explanations and grow my network. It’s not worth it for me to go through all that trouble if FriendFeed will soon be competing with the services I already use.

I’d rather wait for Facebook or Google to integrate all my other social media feeds so that I have a one-stop shop for all interaction. It looks like my wait-and-see approach might pay off too since Facebook is already implementing FriendFeed-like features.

Bringin’ da Noise

As Scoble himself and others have pointed out, early adopters tend to thrive with a lot of noise. While I would love to be able to digest everything going on, and I enjoy the noise on Twitter, I am not sure that more noise in my life would add value.

I am limited to what I can easily track daily in my RSS feed reader. Blog posts, Facebook, Pownce and Twitter overflow my inbox and RSS feeds each morning.

Another online service that repeats some of the same messages would be overkill. I need no more sources to sift through every morning — at least not until I do another feed reader audit.

Fragmenting Comments

As a blogger, I have really enjoyed the feedback from hosting conversations about my ideas in the comments. Okay, Okay, I’ll admit it. I like the ego boost of getting comments as well.

With FriendFeed, my posts collect their own comments in various places that never ping back to my blog. These comments are never shared with regular readers. Even though there are now ways of pulling comments out of FriendFeed, it doesn’t catch all of the discussion, which is scattered throughout FriendFeed as Scoble explained (number 9), never to be reunited.

Spreading the discussion across different networks and feeds shatters the commenting system of blogs in my opinion. I love sharing my digital content, but I do enjoy that it all comes home — comments, trackbacks, social media shares and emails — to my main domain.

If FriendFeed would unite all the conversations happening on one item within their own network and then, minding privacy restrictions, port that conversation back to the original blog, I could be happy with the way the service shares blog posts.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

While I like the idea of aggregating all my social interaction, I have different networks and relationships within the various social networks. For example, I use Facebook for a great deal of personal interaction with people that I have met and known off-line. My network there is a little more personal. On the other hand, my Twitter followers and follows are mostly people I have never seen in real life. Twitter is like my great big cocktail party.

Combining these networks into one feed and joining with friends from both networks would be similar to hosting a party with your great grandparents and your drinking buddies in attendance. Now, I don’t have anything to hide in that situation, but you get the idea.

I maintain a pretty unified social presence across all services, but for those who do not, connections originally from one social media service might be bored or offended by your social actions and blogging within another service. As Tamar pointed out, the watch of others could make you censor what you do online.

In the end, I’ll probably cave…

FriendFeed certainly has a great deal of benefits and a lot going for it. If they have the motivation beyond dominating lifestreaming aggregation, they could scare or possibly overtake Google in the search market with their wealth of social, human-generated data. If they can accomplish that, the company should be around for a long time or until “the next Google” — has “the next Google” become a scary bedtime story that we tell to children yet?

In the interest of keeping it simple, I will try to hold my ground and wait for this whole aggregation business to mature. While I love to root for the new guys, I am hoping that Facebook or Google can implement the same kind of aggregate service so that I can simplify my daily online routine…but I might eventually cave for you, FriendFeed.

UPDATE — May 22, 2008: This post has been shared in FriendFeed. Scoble thinks I’ll cave with the conversation going on there. We’ll see how long I last outside of the FriendFeed.

UPDATE: I caved.

Why I Love Twitter and Became ProBlogger/YouTube Famous

Last month, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net asked his Twitter followers — that includes me – why they loved Twitter. He took those responses and turned them into a video slideshow on YouTube enhanced with a rocking instrumental track.

Check me out around 4:03 AND AGAIN at 4:17. Yeah, that’s right — twice. Don’t worry. I’ll sign autographs at the end of this post. I just couldn’t capture my thoughts in 140 characters.

While most people highlighted Twitter’s ability to create a virtual water cooler or bring a bit of social to the desktop of those who work solo at home, my response was simply this:

I love twitter b/c it keeps me up to date on the latest happenings and makes it easy to share interesting finds.

Before going a little deeper to say…

Most people I talk to are outside of the contacts I have in real life, so I get exposed to things I may not have seen otherwise.

To expand on what I twittered — see, I told you I couldn’t keep it to 140 characters — Twitter has thus far been my forum for geeking out and releasing my blogosphere-hugging link monkey. It satisfies my fear of missing something by allowing me to listen in and respond to the conversations of hundreds of individuals that I admire/watch/read but never meet for coffee.

The real value in Twitter for me is being able to listen in on the thoughts of like-minded Internet junkies. It’s like being a talking fly on the wall in a Web 2.0 startup or a major blog. I find things on Twitter that I wouldn’t catch anywhere else, and I follow others who have interesting things to say even if I can’t keep their blog in my RSS reader due to the overload.

Twitter is also my release for early-adopter-itis. Despite what the walking-two-miles-in-the-snow, non-Internet types might believe, friends from my own generation have not completely jumped aboard the twit-train or the Internet. While Facebook has gone mainstream, I am, for the most part, alone among my off-line friends in my Twitter usage and social network-aholism. I often explain Internet memes to friends and co-workers, but in Twitter, I get to join a cloud of people that know what’s up online. Is Twitter the Cheers bar of the Internet future?

I haven’t gotten the return value of a Scoble just yet due to the “friend divide” that Scoble defined. My growing army of followers don’t yield the huge number of responses that a ProBlogger can amount, but regardless, I have found value in Twitter because the people I follow keep me in the loop and make me, as Scoble said, “smarter, richer, cooler, and funnier” — and better looking.

“Dear Sister”: The Anatomy of an Internet Meme

First, it was just a silly scene at the end of The O.C. episode “Dear Sister” — I know, of all TV shows to create a meme, The O.C.

Then Saturday Night Live (SNL) made it into a digital short.

After seeing it spoofed on SNL, YouTube users made remixes of popular Internet videos based on the “Dear Sister” spoofs like this “Charlie Bit My Finger” remix

From there, it esploded all over the Internet. Just look at how many search results you can find for “Dear Sister” now — many of them completely recreated by users.

Has it now come full circle with a remix of scenes from The Office into a series of “Dear Sister” spoofs?

That’s a sample anatomy of an Internet meme — or in this case, a viral video — that I discovered today.

The things I do with my evenings. *sigh*

Time to work: Public Relations pitching in a social media world

Pitching bloggers, just like traditional media outlets, takes research and significant effort. To be effective, you really have to know your audience and what will interest them.

Off-topic pitches are a bad first impression, and they can stick with you if you are unlucky enough.

With the growing number of social media communication tools and the rampant abuse of journalists’ email addresses, more and more journalists opt to require that public relations practitioners reach out to them through their social network of choice. Bloggers and the stars of online media are leading this movement.

Brian Solis highlighted several preferred contact methods of the big names of the blogosphere today.

Some like Facebook while others are incredibly turned off when you bring business to their wall.

Several ask that all pitches be twittered to them and add a little bonus pressure to PR reps to cram their message into just 140 characters — if the message is really that good, you should not need all 140.

ReadWriteWeb‘s Marshall Kirkpatrick prompted Brian Solis’ post after he shared that his favorite method of receiving pitches was through RSS feeds. Bloggers have started to post this sort of information online to help us all out.

Brian highlighted Kirkpatrick’s opinion on getting something outside of the (in)box:

He summarizes what you should do this way, “PR people, please send us the RSS feeds of your clients’ blogs and news release. The full fire-hose of company news and updates for us to pick out what’s interesting, someplace outside of our email inboxes, free of dreadful press release rhetoric (skip to the second paragraph where details usually are, then skip past any executive quotes and hope there are readable details somewhere) – that sounds like a dream come true. I know that’s where I get most of the stories I write about, not from email pitches. Send both, but company feeds are likely to be looked at more closely.”

RSS feed pitching encourages the growing trend of corporate blogging, and in the process of demanding just a feed, Kirkpatrick is also taking away the control, the choice, that PR reps have in what they choose to send out about their clients. Is that such a bad thing? Giving the journalists more info about you on a regular basis and letting them highlight what they will?

Kirkpatrick’s post points out one particular tech-savvy PR practitioner who used Yahoo Pipes to create one massive feed of all his clients. Very clever. I’m jealous.

Read Brian’s complete post for several detailed looks at what prominent bloggers and journalists desire from their PR friends.

As each journalist better defines their pitch acceptance process, it’s on all public relations professionals to do the research.

Almost every blogger that has made up their mind has a contact page or post detailing how they like for PR people to reach them, and off-line journalists are speaking out to inform PR people what they like to see as well.

Find it and follow it or reach out to journalists and ask them what they like before you shoot off an email.

As Brian put it: “Yes, it’s time consuming. But this is about relationships and not about broadcasting spam.” Well said, Brian. Well said.