Category Archives: Customer Relations

Mr. Tweet Enables Spam on Twitter

Jeremy Pepper shared the following on Twitter, @jspepper.

@jspepper: I’m beginning to hate @mrtweet.

I felt compelled to respond with the following:

RT @jspepper: I’m beginning to hate @mrtweet. :o) Agreed. Relationships should grow organically, not en masse via flawed search algorithms.

@MrTweet ‘s use of the word “influencers” is a misnomer. They have vetted nothing more than keywords. Sigh.

By definition, algorithms solve problems. Mr. Tweet creates problems via enabling Twitter spam. @MrTweet

To expand upon that, I’m wondering who among us would choose an opt-out of Mr. Tweet search, if Mr. Tweet offered one? @MrTweet are you listening?

I wonder if Twitter is listening? Would they block access by one of their, I’m guessing, prized *46K plus followers* popular 3rd party apps? The number of ridiculous requests to follow has exponentially increased since Mr. Tweet came on the scene. Mr. Tweet, it seems, is more than happy to enable others to ping dozens, even hundreds or thousands, of users – as long as it broadens Mr. Tweet’s base.

I’m doubting Twitter would block @MrTweet as the app enables Twitter’s growth. Is @MrTweet a sign of a shark jump on the horizon?

This raises a question. Are third party applications actually detrimental to applications? We’ve seen 3rd party apps cause great unhappiness on Facebook. Now, as Twitter gains prominence, 3rd party apps are making people very unhappy, too.

Sites like Twitter find themselves in a quandry. They want to encourage 3rd pary applications as they help lead to greater numbers of users. The desire for growth, it seems, outweighs caring about spam and the opinions of current adopters.

I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about these quandries, so I’m wondering what you think?


One Reason Nonprofits Should Use Video :: Testimonials :: Two Video Examples

For almost three years, Camp ASCCA has been using blogs, podcasts and now a full blown niche social network – ASCCA Friends – to connect with ASCCA’s campers and their parents.

Danika Kmetz, a great PR intern from Illinois State University (and President of her PRSSA chapter), has created two very fun videos with the best kind of testimonials possible. The first is from Hope, a camper at ASCCA’s Teen Week taking place this week on Lake Martin. The second is a mashup of clips from last week’s Adult Mentally Disabled camp.

There are many ideas at work behind these sites. The most important is to provide a look inside camp that will reach out to our campers, their parents and anyone that has yet to consider a therapeutic recreation opportunity. Continue reading

Flickr Massage Feels Strange

Flickr is one of my favorite sites. Truly, they have a wonderful interface and hosting service for photos. It is my favorite of all the photo hosting sites – hands down.

Yet, tonight the site went down for one of their maintenance “massages” and that’s cool. Hey, I knew it was coming and wasn’t the least bit miffed. I’m still not miffed. But, I think there is a lesson here.

Flickr always seems to do this maintenance at good times. It is usually about midnight here when they take the site down. OK, no problem. But, still I thought I’d watch how they do the explanation of down time.

It is the little things that matter when dealing with your customers. I have at least two Pro accounts.

Currently, 15 minutes into their 30 minute massage, the site shows this message.

Flickr massage

Yet, when you click on their visit the Flickr Blog for updates message, you actually get the top post for Tag-O-Rama. Hmm? Ruh Roh! You see, it is the little things that count.

Let’s mark this up to a little site maintenance and customer service lesson. It is the little things … like pre-posting an explanation to the blog … that makes that little extra special difference to your visitors. After all, if you’re going to send them somewhere for info … have it ready for them.

Once again, Flickr is still the coolest of photo sharing sites. And, the site is back up now. It only took 26 minutes, not 30. Flickr’s still good.

Yahoo! Yodel Anecdotal and Paul Stamatiou :: Score! Big Time

Yahoo! and intern Paul Stamatiou unveil Yahoo!’s new official corporate blog – Yodel Anecdotal.

Paul descibes the new blog as:

It’s what Yahoo! is all about – the culture, the traditions and some dabbling of current hot topics in the general tech realm. You don’t have to be a Computational Media major at a top 10 public university to understand what’s going on. User interaction is encouraged on Yodel Anecdotal.

…Yodel Anecdotal is not the type of blog you visit to check if there’s a new API for that JavaScript library you so dearly love nor is it the kind of blog you go to get info on the company’s earnings reports. It’s what Yahoo! is all about – the culture…

Please note that we’re talking about Yahoo! – a corporate giant – giving this kind of responsibility (and opportunity) to an intern. I think that’s amazing, admirable and to be saluted. Now, Paul doesn’t seem like your average intern, so that may play into this a bit. But, the willingness of a company like Yahoo! to offer this to an intern just blows my mind. Yahoo! has won me over in yet another area.

Sounds like a good idea for a corporate blog, too. Looking forward to reading this one.

Paul’s work (and his group) is quite impressive. Congrats!

A little side story is the choice of the blogging platform used for Yahoo’s corporate blog. MovableType’s ProNet discussion group – mostly developers – are a little bummed that WordPress was chosen. But, the unique aspect is that Yahoo! let the intern go with a platform he felt comfortable with – instead of one that was suggested (but not demanded) by IT. I think that’s commendable. Also, Yahoo! offers hosting for both platforms. So, either platform would be fine for the blog.

Is it a coup for WordPress? Sure. WordPress is now the platform of the Official Yahoo! corporate blog. That’s pretty cool. But, both platforms have gained from acceptance and adoption by Yahoo! over recent years. See Yahoo! Web Hosting and WordPress.

I do think that WordPress is continuing to erode Movable Type’s market share and if I were Six Apart, I’d be worried. Even the latest version of Movable Type 3.3 is encountering problems. The rebuild function of Movable Type makes it a “clunkier” platform than WordPress, in some/many instances. We’ll see how Movable Type’s viability plays out in the future.


The blog and discussion:
Introducing Yodel Anecdotal –
Yodel Anecdotal
About Yodel Anecdotal
Yet another self-serving corporate blog!

Discussion about the blogging platform chosen (WordPress):
Photo Matt » Yodel Anecdotal – Discussion at ProNet (registration required)

Two Reviews:
IMlog: Corporate blog: Yahoo! vs Google 1 – 0
Yahoo Yodels With New Blog

Customer Relationship Management and Marketing :: Campaign turns into a nightmare

No long post here, this time. Just go read this article from Dick Lee relates a very scary marketing campaign with disasterous results.

Say “Hello” to Your Inner Customer (If No One Answers, You’re in Deep Trouble)

A recipient of the campaign had this reaction:

She noted that “speculation about who could have sent (the campaign’s promotional item) caused tremendous anxiety and fear. (She) had a heightened sense of attention to (her) surroundings at all times, started to carry mace and was looking into purchasing a new phone with caller ID.”

But wait, this wasn’t a Mace marketing strategy or one of their campaigns. Mace wasn’t the intended client to benefit from sales driven by the marketing strategy. They had nothing to do with it. And, I’m betting they wouldn’t want sales driven by this kind of campaign.

This may be the first CRM campaign – or marketing campaign of any kind – that so scared recipients it caused them to actually fear for their lives.

Yep, that’s a pretty bad CRM campaign.

Facebook :: Ten Rules For School Administrators To Live By

I wish I had known of Fred Stutzman prior to HigherEd BlogCon and invited him to present his thoughts on Facebook. Fred “share(s) some suggestions regarding how administrators should approach and understand the Facebook.” It is well worth the read. Visit How University Administrators Should Approach the Facebook: Ten Rules.

actuarial: “statistical calculations used to determine insurance rates and premiums, based on projections of utilization and costs for a defined risk.”

Facebook is a bane of my, and other educators, existence. For anyone that deals with computer labs, the site has an addictive quality for students that surpasses crack and heroin. OK, a bit over-stated, but not far from the truth. 😀

Still, all that I can deal with if I have to on a day-to-day basis. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to make a student close the site. My real concern? The potential for harm that may come to one of my students is what really bothers me. Students are too willing to share any and all information about themselves. They do not take the precautions they should by making their portion of the site only available to friends – people they actually know and want to interact with online. They do not always leave off personal information. They too often post photos that may attract undesirable attention.

We have our own little goofy stories of students posting too much personal info and then having it come back to bite them. The one we most often refer to is the student that posted her life’s activity schedule from class to tennis playing online. She also had her phone number, home address and class schedule on her Facebook site. Then, one day she was stunned to be out playing tennis and receive an unwanted visitor. She reported to her friends that this “creepy” guy showed up at the tennis court and said he found her through Facebook.

My point? We have no idea if any assaults may have already occured via this kind of online stalking. I don’t want any to take place and therefore try to educate my students about the potential dangers. Facebook should be doing it, too. Collleges, high schools and parents – all of us – should be doing this, as well. The danger is too real.

I wonder if any actuarial tables already exist in C-suites and venture capital offices when the purchase or support of a social media site is being considered. The risk is high, I’d bet. It is untested in court, I imagine. Can Facebook and MySpace, etc. show that they have (a) provided enough cautionary advice to users and (b) made them go through enough hoops to assure the users have read all that cautionary evidence? I doubt it. Is it encumbent upon them to do so? I think it is. But, they likely won’t do it until forced to by a court case or overwhelming bad publicity. So, until then, the duty must lie with us to help protect the students.

Read Fred’s article and take it to heart.

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Disclaimer Longer Than Blog Post … Bait for Satire, or Reality Setting In?

So funny, yet so sad. The legalese is longer than the content.

Starwood Hotels is attempting something that is sort of like, well … it is trying to be like … well, it started as faux blogging and now it is …. well, just corporate blogging. In fact, it is corporate blogging that fits many stereotypes of legal and management “interference” – some PR practitioners like to call it.

Starwood launched The Lobby.

The blog states their focus and purpose:

To help keep Starwood Preferred Guests on top of the latest travel trends, Starwood and ElectricArtists have assembled a team of travel writers to contribute to this site. Every weekday this site will be covering the latest and greatest in worldwide travel.

…there needs to be a balance between form and functionality … legal considerations are important … but, when legal concerns interfere with the message, you may fall flat…

A legitimate idea. However, the authors in the blog seem more like jingle writers than travel writers. Each post is a commercial for some Starwood hotel or amenity.

Still, that’s not too bad of an idea. It is just the way they do it that seems contrived. Too planned. Too dry. Too predictable. The posts range from 100 to 200 words, with a few exceptions – the average is about 150. (This will be important later.) All of the posts are the equivilant to sidebar contextual ads with nice photos. It is one long list of short advertisements.

Starwood is using MovableType (MT). Many sites do. That isn’t uncommon. MT makes a fine CMS, aside from just a blog. But, The Lobby’s posts have links for tagging and bookmarking the site which many/most associate with blogs more than a dynamic site.

At first Starwood’s “The Lobby” did not have comments turned on.

Some people criticized them for that. B. L. Ochman called it a “dud” for more reasons than just the absence of comments. The Inside PR podcast also felt that the absence of comments did not help the blog’s legitimacy with audiences. There was no opportunity for a conversation.

So, Starwood turned comments on for some/most of the posts. However, in this instance they only made things worse.

If one is seeking to lay blame for this, I imagine the place to point is to upper management and the legal team. I doubt it is what the creative people wanted.

…if the disclaimer is your most dominant message, what are you saying to your customers?

When Starwood did turn on comments, they couldn’t help but turn it over to the legal department, first. So, now you have one of the most ridiculous comment sections, on every post offering comments, that you will see on a blog – in blogging’s brief history. The legal disclaimer is actually longer than the posts. Seriously, the post at that link is 194 words, whereas there are 282 words in the disclaimer before you may comment. And, most of the other posts are like this, too.

Need more irony? The title of one post is: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest. Um, no Starwood. This this is more like what happens when you don’t use Head and ShouldersTM … you appear flakey (or legally anal) – people notice, and you are embarrassed.

Sigh. So, bless their hearts, at least they are trying. How they could not see that their practice will bring snickers is kind of scary, but why am I not surprised?

Admittedly, there is legitimate concern for companies and individuals regarding the comments some people may leave in your blog.

Jeremy Pepper wrote:

Is it worth pushing the boundaries in a blog to get traffic, then end up in a libel suit? Are certain blogs that we all have seen – making fun of ugly people on the Web, making fun of Star Wars fans – worth the potential for a libel lawsuit?

Corporations have traditional boundaries and standards of practice. They are loathe to change them when the fear of legal entanglement may be the result. So, what you sometimes see is this kind of silliness.
I don’t know. Starwood can defend their tactic, of course. But, isn’t it kind of funny? Their fear is worth more text than their travel related content? B. L. was right. The Lobby is a dud.

Honestly, it reminded me of contract management. The rule-of-thumb was always – CYA or CYB. Here is the complete disclaimer you must wade through before getting to the comment forms:


You agree not to submit any comment that contains unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law.

You agree that all comments submitted by you should be relevant to the article and remain respectful of other authors and commenters.

You authorize Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., its affiliates, properties within the Starwood system and third party service providers (collectively, “Starwood”) to collect, process, use and display the information provided by you (including personally identifiable information) for any lawful, Starwood business related purpose, to store the information at and transmit the information to various locations, either directly or through its third party vendors, throughout the world, whether within your country of residence, the United States, or elsewhere; and to contact you regarding the information you provide.

You assign to Starwood the right, but not the obligation to edit, remove, modify, publish, license, print, transmit, display or otherwise use any comments you submit to Starwood and all accompanying personally identifiable information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity, without notice to you and without compensation, and you waive any moral rights you may have in having the material altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you.

You agree to indemnify and hold Starwood and its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, agents and employees harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorney’s fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of Your breach of these terms and conditions or Your violation of any law or the rights of a third party.

That is on every post where you may leave a comment. Can you believe that? I find it amazing.

Um, and you don’t click on “I AGREE” … you click on Preview or Post.

Do you really want to see and read that every time you want to post a comment?

Perhaps the better path to follow (aside from the obvious “Drop the facade.  Don’t blog.  Make it a static site.”) would be requiring all who wish to comment to simply register for your site. Then, they see the disclaimer once and are bound by the rules. As Starwood is doing it now, the blog is a chuckle on every post, at first. After a few times, it will become – simply – a pain. Are they really going to turn these posts into purchases of services at their hotels? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Here is an idea. Take the reigns off of the writers. Be bold. Take a chance. Let them write critically about your hotels and services. (I know. I’m dreaming.)

I don’t think Starwood Hotels did any reading or research into the mindset of most bloggers and blog readers. If they get laughed at online, it is their own fault. Of course, their target audience is probably not bloggers. It is business travelers. But, they are online and therefore open to these types of critiques.

What do you think? Is this a good practice by Starwood? Will they succeed? How would you suggest they blog?

Thanks to B. L. Ochman and Inside PR’s David Jones and Terry Fallis for the link.