Public Relations

Welcome to the Facebook party, Tupperware – what the hell took you so long?

I admit I’m pretty snarky. When a company’s marketing is slightly off kilter, or completely off balance, or just plain stupid, I have to chime in.

Then there are times, like today, where I am so completely taken aback by what is before me I literally stagger trying to think of what to goof on first.

Last week, the New York Times did a story on Tupperware starting a social media campaign. Well, we’ve heard of companies doing this before – so what’s different here?

NOTHING! Not a single, solitary thing! Tupperware wanted to jazz up their brand’s image, so they decided to sprinkle a little magic social media dust on it and watch as it turns into The Dougie.

So how does The New York Times have space enough to write such a non-story about a company finally finding social media? Wasn’t anything else going on? It’s not like US Special forces shot Osama Bin Laden in the eye or anything… oh wait! US Special Forces DID shoot Osama Bin Laden in the eye! I’m pretty sure that effected the economy somewhat, didn’t it, New York Times!?! Even a little bit more than yet another company finding social media? Even if they did it about three years too late?

Just to make things worse, the NYT article didn’t include a link to Tupperware’s Facebook page. Perhaps they did this so they could say, “this isn’t an advertorial.” That’s a bad piece of luck for Tupperware, though. If you do a search for “Tupperware” on Facebook, you get a number of pages – none of them, apparently, Tupperware’s.

Because they got to the game so late, their own brand and several versions of it were snatched up by more enterprising people. If you want to get to Tupperware’s own profiles, either on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll need to use the button on their corporate site.

In other words, if you want to do them the favor of following their profiles, you need to leave Twitter or Facebook, then go to their site, then press the buttons that take you back to Twitter or Facebook.

The purpose of either of these sites is ostensibly to get you to follow a link from them to their website. So there’s not only added steps involved in becoming a fan, but one of them requires getting people to do something they weren’t planning on doing anyway. Yikes.

Oh! Something else – here’s a great blurb from the aforementioned article:

“The goal is to find ‘more disruptive methods’ to dispel perceptions that ‘we are your mother’s Tupperware,’ said Rick Goings, chairman and chief executive of Tupperware Brands in Orlando, Fla.”

To prove this point, today they posted this:

"Tupperware is Made for MOM's!"

So this isn’t your mother’s Tupperware – it’s just that Tupperware was made for Mom’s. That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Finally, after their unprecedented NYT article, the number of people who have Liked their page is 8611 as of this writing. A nearly 100 year old, world-famous company, with a write up in the New York Times, only has some 8600 fans.

And don’t get me started on their Twitter account! There, the name is TupperwareUS – not TupperwareUSCA, which may be confusing to people who know of one and are trying to find the other. But we’ve all got to make a stand against Canada some time, and Tupperware seems to be making it on Twitter. Facebook is for US and CA, but Twitter will just be for the US. I guess. I’m not sure. It’s all a little too poorly thought out for me to get all at once.

But again, great success – because they now have 186 followers on Twitter.
Welcome to the party, Tupperware – you’ve got a LOT to learn.

Goodbye, Blockbuster – You died of laziness

Let’s be clear: Redbox and Netflix did not put Blockbuster out of business; Blockbuster put Blockbuster out of business. They were the dominant video rental company since I graduated high school, and they grew to such epic proportions they never thought they’d fail.

This week they announced they’ll be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If you haven’t heard about this already, you will.

The reason Blockbuster is dying, frankly, is because they assumed just being “bigger” made them safe. When Netflix started, it was a pretty small affair. Some Internet geek smart asses like myself used it, but it was niche, and Blockbuster didn’t see it as much of a threat. When they did, of course, they tried to implement their own mail in service, but it was too late. It was a response, not an innovation – and they paid for it.

Then Redbox came along. Am I the only one who thought those kiosks looked a little chintzy at first? It wasn’t until I really, really needed to see Moon, and they had it, that I gave it a try. Only $1? Wide selection? Locations everywhere, and I can return the movie at any one of them? THAT’S innovation!

Blockbuster tried to follow with their Blue Boxes, but again, response – not innovation.

In fact, Blockbuster never used any of it’s power to find a new way of doing it’s business. This is why they are now dying. They took the Ma and Pop video rental store model of the 80s, and created chains. They’ve had 30 years to grow into something more, and the best they ever came up with was a broadband movie rental service with Enron. Anyone remember that?

Maybe that’s the experience that made them gunshy. “We’ve got a business that works, why let ourselves get scammed again on this newfangled technology?” Then this broadband idea, which was actually a good one, was used by cable companies as On-Demand programming. So add cable to the list of conspirators that stabbed Blockbuster to death on the floor of the senate. (And that’s your mixed metaphor of the week, by the way.)

Irony: Blockbuster’s business model drove the Ma and Pop video stores out of business. Now Ma and Pop are the people who own Redbox franchises. Suck it, Blockbuster!

So Blockbuster’s decline was inevitable, thanks to poor management and being over-satisfied with their position. There was a time all one had to do was get Blockbuster to pick up a movie for their stores, and it would make millions of dollars. You know that crappy DVD you always see and wonder, “who the hell watches that!?!” The answer is no one does.

It is definitely the end of an era, but in a capitalist way, it’s a good end. Their business is going away because no one needs it anymore. If they had been more interested in innovating solutions than just sitting back and collecting late fees, things might have been different.

iPad Database Hack: Who says no one writes anything for Apple?

A couple of years ago, in a staff meeting, our IT guy was telling us how many attacks from outside our servers fend off each day. Then the co-owner of the company – an Apple fanboy – asked,

“How many attacks are made on Apples?”

“A lot less,” the IT guy said.

“Ha!” bellowed my boss. I’d actually half expected him to, “Squeee!”

“Yeah, but no one writes anything for Apple,” I pointed out. “If more than nine people owned one of those things, I’m sure it would be worth the time of hackers to try an attack on them.”

The IT guy, who is eternally tired and didn’t really care either way, shrugging admitted I was right.

My boss scowled at me. Not because I’d contradicted him in a meeting – though I’m sure that was part of it – but because I’d dared point out a flaw in the perfect image of the company that Jobs built. To an Apple devote, pointing out anything negative – even as minor as that – is like suggesting Jesus Christ may have gotten laid once to a Christian. It’s just not said.

That was then, when the Evangelical Apple user had to cry, piss and moan to get their friends to try out a MacBook. Now everyone has an iPod, a lot of people have iPhones, and a few people have iPads. (And there’s still some MacBooks in there) All told, this accounts for 8% market share of domestic computers, and a 34% growth from this time last year.

Which means they’re growing fast – and about to face the problems PC companies have had for some time, problems they may have felt immune to: Namely, the attention of hackers.

Like most people who heard about the database hack of iPad users this week, I laughed.

I laughed because for once, the arrogance of the average Apple user was assaulted in a very public way. Keep in mind that iPads and Apple computers themselves were never hacked into in this story – because, as always, no one writes anything for an Apple, not even good malware.

In this case, AT&T was the victim. Hackers got in through by figuring out the a number pattern in ICC-IDs, which, when passed to the AT&T website, would send back the corresponding e-mail address.

Both Apple and AT&T were quick to point out how little data was lost, and how quickly the error was fixed. Of course, this isn’t the point.

The point is that AT&T does not guard the data of Apple users terribly well. What’s more, the publicity around this case has made them a prime target for more breaches, as they have shown they aren’t good at predicting what people will try on them.

Social Media Groundswells are all about People Goofing Off

Let’s all just face it: Social media makes weird things happen.

Betty White is set to host Saturday Night Live this week. Why? A Facebook Page titled, “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!” The page has over half a million fans now, most of whom got on board before she was announced to host. The show’s producer – knowingly or unknowingly – called the surge of interest in her hosting a “groundswell,” which is the title of the Josh Bernoff book about just this sort of thing happening with social media.

The thing is, it’s an awfully odd thing for there to be a groundswell around. The same, I think, is true of the “Leave Brittney Alone” video, the Shibu Ibu Puppy Cam Show, and everything about Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. These things that gain our attention, and make us giggle as we become participants, all feel like some bizarre practical joke.

“What’s the weirdest thing we can possibly do with all this media?” someone asks.

“I know,” someone says, “we’ll take pictures of cats doing strange things, then insert what they’d say in strange syntax! And they’ll all think in Bold Impact font!”

When people start talking about how to make viral content or something like that for their company, you know they’re hoping for a similar mad craze over their car insurance or cell phones or whatever. I think that’s the first mistake. Why?

Viral Content is Anti-Establishment

All of these examples are big because they are decidedly not mass media or helpful to anyone’s brand. People don’t sit down and think, “boy it sure would be fun to help out Samsung’s North American Telecommunications Division!”

No! At best, they’ll think, “can I make a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company really uncomfortable by talking about how awful they are?” Which leads to the second mistake of industry,

Viral Content cannot be controlled

People think they want to be mentioned in something hip and widespread, so their brand can become famous.

What they really want is for everyone to spread the word that their company and product is great, for free. (They don’t say that, though – not even to themselves. When you admit that out loud, you can hear how silly it sounds.)

What’s more likely to happen is someone videotaping one of your employees doing something… just bad.

I’d post for you the original video, but Domino’s had the video banned from everywhere.

Why, Domino’s!?! It made you guys famous! Why wouldn’t you want something all viral ‘n stuff making the rounds?

Because they learned the hard way that average people don’t CARE about pieces that are complimentary and nice. Just the helpful nature of a viral “campaign” is enough to turn people off. If people wanted safe and nice, Howard Stern would have never happened. (In fact, Howard Stern pulled off one of the early social media pranks, before there was any social media. If you know anything about Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf being voted People Magazine’s, “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1998, you know what I mean.)

Betty White got a nice surprise out of the Facebook campaign, but ultimately the joke was on Saturday Night Live. (Though they’re smart to play along.)

When you try to get people to do the same thing for you, remember that you are “The Man” simply because you’re not creating content to be odd or entertaining, but for promotion. Creating “messaging” to be used on Facebook or YouTube won’t do you anywhere near as much good as allowing others to make funny videos about you, and having a sense of humor about it.

If you can’t do that, you have been warned.

10 Things you’ll be sick to death of by the end of 2010

Everyone writes the introspective, year-in-review blog post around this time of year. As I am someone, that means I have to as well.

But I can’t easily write a, “Top 10 Things about 2009,” because for the most part, 2009 was rotten. Recession, the mortgage crisis, that Twilight sequel… This very blog was born out of my own layoff, since I no longer had my old company’s blogs to spout off on.

So instead, here is my warning of things you will have had just about enough of by the end of 2010.

(By the way, I specifically did not mention Microsoft here, because we’ve all been sick of them since 1998 or so. So if you want to add Windows 7 or Bing, just know that I am with you. I am with you.)

1) Augmented Reality – This is already a buzz word that’s making the rounds, with marketing managers scrambling to find out what it’s all about and iPhone app developers making “squwee!” noises loudly over this new use of GPS tracking and camera.

It’s a nice idea: Mash up your location with various social networking tools, so you can, say, see where geographically all of your Twitter friends are, or view a street with the names of all the shops listed on it. It is pretty neat stuff – but the deluge of articles and videos and seminars teaching you how to “harness this powerful new tool!” is going to hurt after a while. My suggestion: Just make sure your store is listed on Google Maps and all the other social tools you’ve heard about, and leave it alone.

2) Facebook – I’m going out on a limb with this one, but I really think people are going to start to sag with Facebook. It’s great for people to get in touch with people they haven’t seen in a while, but haven’t you noticed that a lot of your long lost friends have been lost for a reason? You don’t have any need to talk to them. Everyone else is a short found friend you talk to every day. That’s what phones and coffee shops are for. After that there are some games, but really, no new or useful information is shared on Facebook.

They’re at a tipping point – a bad one, where people could start falling off at any moment. Add to that their ever-increasing need to monetize their user base, and they’re sure to mess it all up for themselves. As soon as someone introduces the, “next big thing,” Facebook will join MySpace out on the curb.

3) AT&T – Let me say, again, that while I don’t own an iPhone, I do think it’s a pretty rad little device. I have a G1, which I’m sad to say always makes me think of Ziggy from the show “Quantum Leap”: An amazing piece of hardware, but one that gives me so many problems I feel like I constantly need to hit it in order for it to work.

While it is a great phone, stories of AT&T’s idiocy abound. From denying Google Voice’s app to asking users to not use so much data, they’re begging people to switch carriers as soon as the AT&T/Apple contract expires. As much trouble as my G1 gives me, I’m thankful T-Mobile doesn’t give me as many headaches.

4) Information Overload – We’re in this now, but someone’s GOT to make this an issue in 2010. Between my Facebook Wall, Google Reader, Twitter, the blogs I read, the blogs I should read, SlideShare, YouTube… there’s just way too much stuff to stay on top of. I still seem to hear about the latest thing from actually talking to people who are in the know.

It’s actually what keeps me hopeful that FriendFeed will remain afloat for some time, as it’s the best aggregate of everything that still exists.

5) Social Celebrities – I will not name names, but there are far too many people famous in this enormous little circle to take seriously anymore. Some of them have great things to say, most of them are just brilliant at doing their own PR. The result is the interesting people are hard to find because they can’t be heard above the noise. The plus-side of this is it will be good for the publishing industry – because it seems if you really do know what you’re talking about, a publisher will be willing to commit your wisdom to paper.

In short, you aren’t an expert at anything unless you can prove you’ve done something more than get a lot of views on your YouTube channel.

6) Cable Television – Speaking of risky predictions, here’s a great one. Why the hell would cable television be at risk this year? Because the way we get content has changed so dramatically, we aren’t going to be willing to wait for our shows or movies to appear at their scheduled times. Netflix and RedBox are killing Blockbuster with this, as they’ve already killed Hollywood Video. Add to that Apple’s forthcoming subscription service, and you can see that consumers will soon be getting what they want when they want it.

Cable companies themselves see this writing on the wall, and are – smartly – making a good deal of their content available through their on-demand services. I have a feeling the flood of options coming our way will eventually make all cable television on-demand.

7) Web Cams – I know this is just me, but with handheld video cameras now so cheap, and each with a USB slot, there’s no longer any excuse to shoot your 12seconds posts or Vlogs with a web cam. No one hears what you’re saying, because they’re asleep from the visual of another nerd sitting in front of their computer. Unless you have an Internet strip show, you can take it outside.

Let me also say I’m so thankful to my girlfriend for getting me one of these for my birthday, so I can finally openly chastise other people over this. 😉

8 ) Social Media Marketing – I’m already seeing this now, in fact: Agencies abandoning social media as a marketing tool, and going back to traditional venues that have proven their worth before, like SEO and media purchases. This is because social media is supposed to be the voice of the user. You can teach a company how to use the tools, but you can’t out and do it for them quite as easily.

SMM itself isn’t going anywhere, but the idea of hiring someone to do it for you will slowly die. In it’s place, consultants will sell their services training businesses to do it for themselves, and specialty shops will make a fortune building phone apps, games, and anything else that seems like a good idea.

9) Digg – I don’t think I need to do too much of a tap dance on Digg‘s head here. While there is still a huge amount of traffic going to this site, it’s usefulness as a “social” news site is over. Let’s see if they improve after Google buys them up. It’s over, hammer.

10) Paying for Wifi – If you have a hotel or coffee shop that has Wifi, for the love of God, give it to your customers for free. This is something so widely used it can’t be used as a profit center anymore. The occasional hip businessman with a laptop has been replaced by everyone. And everyone now has a smart phone and a netbook. If you just give this away, you’re enticing more people to come to you. You’ll get your money back, I promise.

If McDonald’s says it works, you know there has to be something to it. They’re 70 years old, make $3.9 billion a year, and they suck – so they know the tricks to keeping customers happy.

Media Bias against US Airways

On ABC World News Saturday, there was a bizarre example of the media’s hate/hate relationship with one of the nation’s largest air carriers, US Airways.

The story was about delays at airports, and a graphic of the average delays at America’s busiest airports was shown.

US Airways Graphic #1

The graphic was designed to look like an airport terminal, and a screen reminiscent of takeoffs and arrivals. But look more closely at the names on three of the bottom screens.

US Airways Graphic #2

For some reason, in this story about massive delays, ABC News chose to single out US Airways – in a story that wasn’t even about US Airways!

There are two possible reasons for this: One is a horribly misguided ad buy on the part of the airline, which I tend to doubt. Sure, they may have said, “yes, we’ll gladly pay for your animation if you put our name on it,” without asking what the context of the story was.

Now, if that is true, someone really needs to be fired.

Because the takeaway from this animation is that US Airways is consistently late in taking off at three of the nation’s major airports. The fact of the matter is US Airways was #1 in on time performance in 2008, and is predicted to keep this title in 2009.

Since the story was about the average delays for all airlines, people seeing this might think US Airways itself has this level of delay times.

Also, the three airports mentioned are the busiest in the nation – and all three have been in need of additional runways for some time. The reason these three airports have such lengthy delays is that not enough planes can take off – regardless of carrier.

And this all came after the story about an attempt this week to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit. So people not paying too much attention came away with air flight terrorism, lengthy delays, US Airways.

If this didn’t happen because someone at US Airways was using up their annual media spend and didn’t watch where it was used, this story shows a strange bias against the airline that I don’t frankly understand. This is something their public relations department should definitely get on top of.

Social Media Case Study: Ford Motor Company

As I said yesterday, this week I’m going to focus on finding the companies that have succeeded at social media by being social. In researching the short history of SMM, I found that there have been a number of individual campaigns that have helped brands create fans and drive purchases – what is interesting, however, are the cases where a company headed off a PR nightmare with it.

Scott Monty - Head of Ford Social Media

Case in point, Ford Motor Company. In the last year they’ve been hit as hard as any of the “Big Three” automakers in America. To make matters worse, an incorrect news story broke about their legal department demanding fan sites and forums to stop using the Ford name if their products were mentioned in them, and that they stop using Ford brands.

Think about that: You are in a very competitive consumer industry, and a group of people are not only brand champions of yours, but have gone to the trouble to make fan sites about your product. It’s the kind of word-of-mouth some companies pray to get.

The problem is, the site in question had been selling counterfeit Ford parts labeled as actual Ford parts. The move wasn’t designed to wrestle control of their logo, but to protect consumers from products they hadn’t made themselves.

How Social Saved the Day

Scott Monty is Ford’s Community Manager. He maintains a Twitter account the way I wish all top-level executives would:

  • It’s in his name.
  • He’s openly representing his company.
  • He shares internal details of his company.
  • He isn’t flushing out messaging and ad copy.
  • He is responding to people.
  • He posts daily.
  • If you bring up an issue with him, he’ll address it, not talk about what he’d rather you talk about.

As it relates to our PR fiasco story, this allowed him to explain just what had happened with the legal team, as it was happening. There was no spin to his posts, just someone trying to explain what was really going on. He was also maintaining several conversation threads at once with several people on Twitter who had heard the story of Ford burning Ford fans, answering their questions individually and honestly.

For PR professionals, this is unheard of. To actually share with the outside world what is happening internally would appear to serve nothing and no one.

The PR Disconnect at Work

This is where traditional public relations and new media split widely. PR professionals are either woefully unaware or refuse to accept that people today are cynical. We have all faced so many spin doctors at work that we can almost smell someone’s bullshit before they even start saying it.

So continuing to spin more of it, with the help of a legal team, days after the first mention of a problem, is completely ineffective.

Mr. Monty shows that using social media isn’t about spraying out everything you want said about you, and never reading the pulse of what they really are saying. Failing to do so makes you look worse than simply outdated. It looks like you don’t care. Ford could have easily shrugged off the outcry from their fans. They could have simply said, “well, we’re in the right – saying anything will only make it worse.”

This example shows that, in fact, doing nothing would have made this situation worse. Openness and being willing to answer the concerns of others is today’s smart approach to both public relations and social media.

Stop trying to control the message

This week I’m going to concentrate on sharing case studies of companies that have actually had real world success because of social media, and in spite of ignoring traditional dictums like, “control the message.” I hate that concept. Is there another phrase that could possibly be more totalitarian or fascist?

Keep in mind: When the Chinese government arrests, tortures and executes dissidents who want to tell the rest of the world about abuses, they are also “controlling the message.” I don’t hear too many people saying that’s a good thing either.

It’s not easy explaining to people why it is good to talk to your customers.

That’s something I’ve been having some trouble understanding. Maybe that’s very Gen X of me. But I’m used to assuming that advertising is evil, and if anyone tries to “sell” me on something, they must be trying to screw me. Social media is a company’s way of saying, “here’s the real us!” so cynics like myself can get to know them, and maybe buy some stuff.

However, there are still people who insist only on sharing canned messages from boiler plates, and ignoring ANYTHING said about them. The thinking, perhaps, is that the risk isn’t worth the reward. If you get to know five customers, you may have to actually talk to them. Maybe there’s even a fear of having to answer someone publically with a complaint.

There are a mass of articles on, “Five steps to social media engagement” or “Top 10 reasons you need to be on Facebook.” But there’s still precious little advice for getting an old world communications team to learn new world tricks. There’s still a fantasy that all this Internet stuff is a sideshow in marketing budgets, and that the real thing happens in poorly written press releases, commercials and print ads.

People who don’t get it can no longer simply be patted on the head and looked at with sympathy. They are now, officially, in the way. These are the people who invariably try to push new media away because it isn’t something they personally control in their office fiefdom.

The good news is you don’t need to fight them on their ground, using their college textbook and what they learned when they interned. There are more case studies of stellar success from people using SEO, social media, e-mail, and more than there are companies knocking it out of the park with press releases.

When these people argue against social, they almost always do it with examples of some company that used Twitter to spew more one-way ad copy, more nonsense that is, essentially, “Web 1.0” thinking. When you can point that out, that someone slinging four messages a day on a company’s Twitter page while never saying anything back is not social media at all, then yes – failure is to be expected. The success stories don’t do that.

These stories are all you should have to bring to your boss, the one who only wants results. All you need to ask is, “Who do you want to be – Wolworth’s or Zappos?”

Should you use social if the “real you” isn’t interesting?

Phoenix Wordcamp 2009

Phoenix Wordcamp 2009

Just got back from Phoenix Wordcamp, and it was very hit or miss – the first half of the day’s speakers were… well, lacking.

But everyone later in the day was stellar, especially Merlin Mann’s “Something Something Social Media: The Overdue Minority Report,” which wasn’t really a minority report at all, since his opinions of social media were largely preaching to the choir: Stop trying to game people, stop worrying about your followers, post quality content… and so say all of us.

What I really found interesting, though, was a phrase he shared during a bit about Brand Management: “‘Brand Management’ is only necessary if you’re being fake, or you’re being boring.”

Fair enough – if you’re being your real self on social networks, there’s no reason to have to measure out what you say about yourself and how you say it.

But what if you are boring?

Well, in my opinion, if you don’t have anything necessarily interesting or useful to share with people, you probably shouldn’t be blogging. If your Twitter posts are all the stereotypical bits about meals you’ve had and where you’re going after work, you probably shouldn’t expect a superstar following. And if you have a business that has nothing worth sharing regularly, you really need to stop trying.

It’s a bit elitist, though, isn’t it? When everyone says your business has to be involved in some way with social media, if you are a bore, what else are you supposed to do? Brand management – whether you’re a person or a business – is designed to calculate presentation so you can control what people think of you.

It’s basic PR: Mel Gibson was being himself a couple of years ago when he got pulled over for drunk driving. His being “real” didn’t do him any favors. (Though you have to at least give him this – he wasn’t boring.) Clearly, brand management is useful. Maybe some people are good enough and smart enough and interesting enough that they don’t need to think about it, but for everyone else it can be pretty important stuff.

Maybe that kind of elitism is good. Maybe it’s just common sense that if you don’t have something to say, you shouldn’t be trying to speak.

Sometimes being yourself and being interesting are mutually exclusive. If that’s the case, the next Wordcamp, or Podcamp, or SMAZ, or whichever Internet publishing event we all go to should have a panel on how it isn’t necessary to be involved in social media. Not just the usual, “video isn’t for everyone,” “blogging isn’t for everyone,” or “Twitter isn’t for everyone” warnings. But really, if you have a business in a boring industry, and you’re as boring as it is, maybe you really should just concentrate on your SEO and PPC and media buys for your web site instead of worrying about how to jazz up a blog.

If we can’t do that, then we need to stop talking about the tools of social media, and start talking about strategies for content.

Facebook Conversation Monitoring

Finding conversations on Facebook is an ordeal. Unlike Twitter, which comes complete with a search engine, Facebook profiles are closed off to anyone who isn’t a friend of that person. (Unless that person turns off that particular privacy filter, which isn’t often.)

So seeing as how Facebook is the Myspace for the moment, how do you find people who are talking about you or what you sell?

Facebook Cat

One way is using Facebook’s own Lexicon tool. This searches through Facebook wall posts looking for terms you select. However, it will only show you how that term is trending, and will only find something that already has high use. For instance, if I do a search for “beer,” you can see that this gets mentioned a lot – with an ungodly spike in use on St. Patrick’s Day. However, if I do a search for “Four Peaks Brewery,” a local micro brewery here in Tempe, there’s nothing. Even if it did turn up something, I wouldn’t be able to find out who is using this term, and how.

You can also use Facebook’s paid ad server to find out how many people use a specific word in their own profile. If you want to find people who list “pizza” somewhere in their profile, it will tell you how many do so to the person. It will also tell you their age group, gender, geographic location… it’s very neat for that.

However, it is also wildly unspecific. It doesn’t tell you what context people use the phrase in, so they could be using the phrase you are looking for in any number of ways that have nothing to do with what you’re looking for. Also, Facebook users aren’t prone to updating their profiles. Once they create an account and enter some information into those “about me” boxes, they usually stay untouched.

And after that, things dry up pretty quickly. Because Facebook walls off the information people post to their immediate friends, there is no easy way for you to penetrate this information.

My advice, frankly, is to monitor everything else. Remember, “brand monitoring” is simply a fancy way of saying, “what people are saying about you.” If the zeitgeist believes something about your business or industry, the frequency with which they say it on Twitter or blogs isn’t going to change dramatically on Facebook. If 60% of Tweets say pizza is delicious but 88% hate anchovies on it, you can bet Facebook posts aren’t going to be dramatically different.

If you are concerned with “what people are saying about you,” there is a wealth of free tools available to you, with more coming on line all the time. It isn’t something that takes a great deal of effort to look into, and can give you a good idea of what people do and don’t want.

Once you have this information, simply apply it to Facebook proactively through your Page, Group, text ads or applications.

What you are not likely to get any time soon is an easy road map to each user according to what they post. This is certainly annoying, given the number of people who use this site. However, it is only a matter of time before the next “big thing” comes along on the Internet. Perhaps the next Myspace will get you better information.

But if someone knows better, I am all ears.