Dear Foursquare: You just don't understand my feelings anymore


When we met, it felt like you really cared about me and my feelings. You used to help me stay better connected to people. Now you only connect me to places in a mindless game.

What was once an interesting and useful relationship has become an irrelevant distraction. I’m taking you off my iPhone’s shortcuts dock for now, but I hope this note might help you change in ways that make you relevant in my life again. I’m going to take a break from our friendship for a while rather than unfriending other people… Continue reading

Skittles goes all in on Twitter

Skittles Vodka (with instructions on Flickr)

Skittles Vodka (with instructions on Flickr)

In a brilliant publicity move, tonight Skittles made its website home page primarily a Twitter search on “Skittles.” (They overlay a menu that lets you get to other Skittles content, including Facebook, Flickr and Wikipedia.)

Even if they take it down quickly, everyone will be talking about it for some time to come.

Like any good publicity stunt, this required rare courage.

I’ve already read several folks putting obscenities together with Skittles (some more creatively than others), or folks just adding the word to any tweet. The conversation will be as much backlash and criticism as anything else. But the point is exactly that people are talking about what Skittles did. And any publicity is good publicity, right? You just can’t buy the kind of media this will generate.

As well, we’ll all learn something in the conversations and fallout. That alone is worth the experiment. Bravo, Skittles.

Update (9:21am Monday):
Skittles is generating so much traffic to to Twitter that users are complaining of timeouts on loading pages (and TweetSuite isn’t yet updating with all the folks who’ve been kind enough to tweet a link to this blog). I’m looking forward to hearing from @abdur, Twitter’s Chief Scientist and creator of, what he thinks of all this (and whether Skittles gave him a heads up).

@dalelarson on

@dalelarson on

Update 2 (Monday afternoon):
I liked this post, inspired me to think a bit deeper and comment:
Skittles Goes Modernista! With A Distributed Experience.

So far the only comments I’ve seen out of Twitter about Skittles are:
I am neither… there are both pro and con points” (thanks for getting back to me, Abudur!),
Netik’s quick response to @LaughingSquid: “I don’t know what they’re thinking.
Though one might take this status blog entry to mean that Skittles blew a fuse at Twitter’s datacenter: “We experienced a brief data center power failure this morning affecting a small number of servers. Site performance was degraded for 5 minutes.

A hint about good presentations, Politics as an example of transparency? and OMMA Social

The best speakers bring authenticity through personal stories.

It was easy to focus on Rich Ullman‘s lunchtime talk during OMMA Social today as he creatively wove in stories and slides from his experience over the last 48 hours. (Sorry about that olive, Rich.)

He made a point about transparency making newly appointed U.S. Senator Gillibrand an example. With the news around her appointment, he’d just learned that as a congresswoman, her Sunlight Report broke ground making her the first to list her official schedule daily (who she is meeting with) and among the first to disclose all her earmark requests and post her financial disclosure reports.


Take it one step further:
I’d love it if every member of congress had a Twitter feed updated as they went through their daily meetings and proposed, amended, or voted on budgets or legislation. Following those I vote for would be manageable and give me a much deeper awareness and sense of engagement.

[Rich was kind enough to upload his slides to Slideshare within an hour of my request. Thanks!]
[You might also be interested in live blog posts about each presentation at OMMA Social by @dberkowitz]

Best iPhone Twitter app comes down to Tweetie vs. Twittelator Pro

Tweetie screenshot main page

Tweetie screenshot main page

Gizmodo’s new comprehensive review of iPhone apps evaluated many more than I did (“ten zillion”), but matches my own experience. We both narrow it down to Tweetie vs. Twittelator Pro.

I’ve been switching back and forth between the two for the last month or two. Either is a great app with the edge for smoothness going to Tweetie (which also seems to display more tweets on the page). The edge for pure power goes to Twittelator Pro.

Twittelator Pro screenshot main page

Twittelator has a great feature I wish was included in other iPhone apps:  a button to scroll down a whole page at a time. This is especially useful in catching up with a long list of tweets. This is the only app I’ve seen with this functionality, so it’s a nice innovation.

The other power feature I make use of in Twittelator is the ability to define my own saved searches.

I can’t think of anything in Tweetie that Twittelator doesn’t do (well, there are fart noises and the flashlight if you enable the Popularity Enhancer).

Despite all that, my current swing is in favor of Tweetie, though I still switch it up. Which do you prefer?

One Best Business Strategy for Facebook, Twitter, Digg or LinkedIn

In Twitter isn’t the point, Holly Ross of NTEN comments on a study showing that influence and word of mouth are becoming more important than ever to consumer behavior, and more of it is happening online. She goes on:

I think we’re missing the mark, though.  It’s not really about Twitter.  It’s not about Facebook.  It’s not about whatever the next buzzword is.

It’s about friends.

It’s about building real relationships that inspire people to act on your behalf.  That’s the skill we should focus on building. Whether it’s Twitter or Digg or Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s about those relationships.

We have to teach ourselves to operate that way again.

We commonly use phrases like “Facebook Strategy” or “Mobile Strategy,” but we’d never talking about building a house in terms of “Hammer Strategy.”   The technologies are just tools and our language is tricking us.

When we’re wowed by case-studies showing off the power and effectiveness of these tools, we’re really being impressed the underlying strategy, a powerful one that we can all take advantage of.

It’s easy to forget that it has always been one of the best business and marketing strategies to make friends. We do that by focusing on others, on listening to them and meeting their needs. How will your business be making friends and thriving in 2009?

Six Alternatives to the Same Old Holiday Cards

What to do? Paper Christmas cards seem eco-unfriendly. Ecards just seem unfriendly. Thoughts/alternatives?

What to do? Paper Christmas cards seem eco-unfriendly. Ecards just seem unfriendly. Thoughts/alternatives?

Looking for the best way to connect during the holidays? Me too.

At one time, I mailed cards each December as part of maintaining important relationships personal and professional. But I’d fallen out of the habit.

Wanting to restart or create a new habit in line with my values, I turned to the collective wisdom of Twitter (and Facebook) to ask “What to do? Paper Christmas cards seem eco-unfriendly. Ecards just seem unfriendly. Thoughts/alternatives?”

I was surprised by the instant response with so many wonderful ideas to share! Read on for the best so far, and add your ideas to the comments. Continue reading

Could Twitter's transcendent clarity trump Facebook?

Like email, IM, and text messaging before it, Twitter is destined to become a common communication tool familiar to all. What might be less clear is the long term fate of particular social networks like Facebook and Linkedin.

How could this make sense? Facebook and Linkedin already have considerable revenues. Twitter has zero. They also have far more users than Twitter. And so on. Some have even said Twitter is not a business.

Yet Twitter has a kind of transcendent clarity.

It’s not that Twitter now tops the list of fastest growing social networks or that Facebook offered to buy Twitter for $500 million.

Continue reading

Mad Men, Zappos, O'Reilly: Brilliant use of Twitter for Marketing Doesn't Look like Using Twitter for Marketing

On Twitter I follow several people who have profiles associated with their brand. Not because I want to know how they use Twitter or even because I was particularly concerned with their company (to start, anyway), but because they have interesting things to say. That’s the key to successful marketing in this medium.

Even though I have a professional interest in how they market with Twitter (I’ve given talks at conferences on the subject), I’ll get bored with them quickly and stop Following if they aren’t interesting.

Through their personalities and authenticy, I’ve become more interested in their companies and bought things I might not even have known about otherwise.

One of the best examples is CEO Tony Hsieh. He posts as Zappos, but tweets less often about the company (with annual sales of $1 Billion) than the nachos he’s eating before a meeting, or to show pictures from his trip to the Olympics. He’s simply sharing himself as a real person (and several of his employees also do the same under their own Twitter accounts), or offering to buy me a drink on the roof of Medjool (thanks, Tony!). This degree of transparency is consistent with his amazing focus on customer experience. From Inc. magazine:

“We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes….” I’d rather spend money on things that improve the customer experience than on marketing. If someone is looking for a specific shoe and we happen to be out of stock, we have employees direct those people to competitors’ sites…. We interview people for culture fit. We want people who are passionate about what Zappos is about–service. I don’t care if they’re passionate about shoes.

(For more about building that culture, Harvard Business explains how Zappos even Pays New Employees to Quit. They mention the marketing success: “It’s not good PR, it’s humans acting humanly.”)

Transparency allows Tony to market by sharing what he’s doing (and letting his customers do it for him), and allows him to directly get feedback crucial to understanding how he can continue to improve experience. He replies personally to those who reach out to him. The human face he wears makes him feel like a friend, and makes the business things he passes on just more sharing himself and his passion.

Tim O’Reilly is CEO of O’Reilly Media, but also contributes to many businesses I didn’t know about before I started following him on Twitter. He’s another brilliant example of Twitter used perfectly to a marketing effect. You never get the sense that he’s thinking about marketing, just being himself. I know about his daughter’s wedding, his political views and many other small details of his fascinating life.

Very small details since tweets all fit in 140 characters. Which is also part of why this works so well. I have a small degree of intimacy and connection with folks who I know what they’re doing when they’re doing it, in such tiny slices that Tim has taken maybe 5 or 10 minutes of my time total in Twitter over many months (though I’ve also heard him talk at conferences or read articles he’s linked to). I can afford that time across more people than I could otherwise follow in blog posts or other long forms.

Each person tends to use Twitter uniquely in some ways. A great thing that Tim does particularly often is to Re-Tweet, passing on interesting things that he sees from people he follows on Twitter. I learn things about who and what he finds interesting and see that he clearly uses this tool for himself personally. He is listening, not just broadcasting.

If someone posts too often with stuff I don’t care about deeply, I tend to Unfollow. Tony and Tim both post more frequently than most of the people I Follow in Twitter, but I don’t mind at all. They’re so spot on about the variety of things they post on and how open they are about sharing their true selves. I’m glad they post often.

But some posters put them to shame with volume. The latest, biggest example of how a brand is promoted effectively using Twitter unfolded over the last couple days and involves the hit TV show Mad Men.

Twitter accounts for each of the folks on the show shared aspects of their fictional lives and responded publicly to comments from other Twitter users, always perfectly in character. I’d been following Don_Draper (after my friend Betsy at FocusCatalyst told me about him over tea) and then was followed by many of the other characters. Already a fan of the show, I thought it was brilliant, despite the volume being heavy, and not choosing to follow most of the characters myself, and told several other people about it.

I was ready to congratulate the show on a stroke of genius. They’d extended the fictional world they’d created on TV (through meticulous research leading to nailing every details of an early sixties ad agency and office life). They’d allowed interaction with the characters, commentary from the characters. They’d done it in a short form that made it practical even for the volume that a major TV show can generate. The Word-of-Mouth was about to go through the roof.

Then I found out that the accounts were being deleted. It seems that they weren’t actually from the show, but were a kind of fan fiction, and the AMC network served Twitter with DMCA takedown notices. Those who’d taken on the characters were fessing up.

Fortunately, this turned around in less than 24 hours:

Deep Focus, the Web marketing group that works for AMC, tells us that they gently nudged their client into rescinding the DMCA takedown notice they’d sent to Twitter.

See, in Web marketing parlance, the Twitterers assuming the names of Mad Men characters are actually “brand ambassadors” meant to be cultivated, not thwarted. “Better to embrace the community than negate their efforts,” says a Deep Focus spokesman.

I’m back to calling it brilliant. Once you’ve created something worth talking about, people will talk. Share in the own conversation or get out of the way, but this isn’t about control. It’s about letting go. Letting go of controlling the message. Letting go of the sense that you have to be perfect — embracing the humanness of making mistakes, of listening, and of responding appropriately and without ego.

Update:Thanks for extra info and credit in your post over at CNET, Dan.

Update 2 11/2008: @Don_Draper revealed: Confessions of a (Fake) Mad Man

VP announcement via Txt: Do we care?

This afternoon I received a text message from the Obama campaign (I’d opted-in to text messaging programs for all candidates from both parties early in the year):

Barack will announce his VP candidate choice through txt msg between now & the Conv. Tell everyone to text VP to 62262 to be the first to know! Please forward.

I imagine this is intended mostly to try to get some extra publicity out of the announcement, to position Obama as being in touch with how Americans communicate, and to expand their list of txt opt-ins so they can ask for support and money throughout the rest of the campaign.  Mostly yawn.

I’d be interested to hear how this does in terms of new opt-ins, but is this news really compelling enough that people will want to sign up for it in particular?
As well, it’s too bad they continue to treat text as a broadcast medium and don’t invite any feedback, interactivity or community.  I’ve often suggested that a wonderful feature of text messages is that they force brevity. That frequently results in better thought out, poignant responses, and always makes it easier to read though what more people have to say.
When Obama reads and responds to some of the best SMS messages he’s received, then I’ll suspect his campaign might really be different and his White House more accessible to the people.
UPDATE 1, 10:26pm Friday, Aug 22:  So much for Text messaging being first… wire services report CNN says Biden will be the dem’s VP.  I’m still waiting to see the text message from Obama, but then I guess he hasn’t actually announced…
UPDATE 2: 1:02am Saturday, Aug 23: Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on Spread the word! I like that they tried to respond quickly to the breaking news once there was a leak, but I’m not sure it is ever a good idea to send commercial or political text messages at 1am (4am ET).  I’m pretty sure that the only text messages kosher to send at that hour involve a booty call.  
They announced on Twitter even later. 
If all you are going to use SMS and Twitter for is broadcasting, at least be polite about when you do it. Better yet, get an @reply in your tweetstream once in a while, or mention feedback you read in a text message when you’re responding to a question or putting out a statement.

Once you start actually having a conversation with me, maybe I’ll feel like you’ve earned the right to hit me up for a 1am booty call.