Twitter How-To

As Mashable explains in "How Twitter's New Media Blog Aims To Teach By Example," Twitter is taking a pro-active role in teaching users how to make the most out of their service.

For all the folks out there — haters and otherwise — who continue to question the validity of Twitter as a communication medium, y'all need to pay attention. isn't just a blog. It's an important step forward in the evolution of technology-based communication.

MySpace started us off on the wrong foot by building a massive audience and not knowing quite what to do with it themselves. Let's assume they did their best to learn on the fly how to turn their website into a marketing platform, and as it goes with trial and error, success was very hit or miss (with lots of emphasis on "miss"). Most importantly, in typical old-media fashion, the assistance they provided was for serious advertisers only and it involved swarms of sales support teams and conference calls to help you figure out what to do to reach their crowd.

Then Facebook came along, with its brashness and anti-corporate attitude. Kind of like, "we don't care, you figure it out." It's taken years for them to come around, and even now most of their assistance is human-based. And it's mostly around advertising programs, rather than community building.

So now here's Twitter, putting it all out there on a blog for anyone to see. Their open style is the way of the future. They're giving us tips and case studies. It's almost like they want us to be successful using their service. What a crazy concept!

I'm not arrogant enough to predict where social media is heading, and I'm not here to say it's going to be all about Twitter. But I am certain that as things continue to get more complicated, the companies who take an active role in creating win-win relationships between marketers and their audiences will have a huge advantage.

MySpace // Don't Believe The Hype

old_v4_social_networksSocial networks are not brands... A recent TechCrunch article quotes MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta as saying “Our users don’t know if we’re a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub.” True indeed, but a bit like Phil Jackson having a revelation that Laker fans don’t like it when they lose. No shit, sherlock.

The rest of the article contains a memo outlining a series of personnel changes, with no real allusion to an actual plan. Worse, Van Natta seems to only half understand the problem. He correctly identifies a lack of focus as part of the issue, but that’s part of a bigger issue is that MySpace has no brand, at least not one that anyone really cares about.

MySpace is not alone in this. In general, the social networks have become centers for connecting with people you know, and people you don’t know. As such, they don’t really stand for anything. They’re so all-inclusive that as consumers we don’t really care about them. That’s why it was so easy for MySpace to pick up most of Friendster’s users, and then for those users to migrate to Facebook. FB is sure to suffer the same fate if it doesn’t get some fundamental brand issues right.

Frankly, I don’t think either site was ever really a brand, but many companies that start out well enough lose focus along the way as they scale. The thinking usually goes that we can only grow by attracting more people, which generally means watering down what we stand for in order to appeal more broadly. This is exactly the wrong choice.

Both MySpace and Facebook should follow our simple plan, and so should you:

- Determine who you are best suited for. Picture the one person on this planet for whom your brand is a perfect fit. You need to know absolutely everything about this person — what he likes and dislikes, his values, how he makes decisions, who influences him and whom does he influence, plus all the regular demographic stuff.

-What can you do to make this person love you? Notice I didn’t say make him buy your product. That’s only the beginning. Your core target customer has to believe that your brand was made for him, that you get him. Sure, you want him to buy your product, but you want so much more than that. He’s going to talk about you so much that his friends make fun of him, he’s got your logo tattooed on his body. He steals your promotional materials from stores to put them up in his house. He starts his own blog about your brand (do not sue him for this). What’s are you going to do to make him do all that?

- Then you need to focus all of your company’s efforts against making this happen, day after day. It’s not just about your marketing slogan, your focus on the customer has to be woven into everything you do.

- Three small notes about this process:

1. The answer to the questions above not only impacts what products you make, but also what kind of company you are. 2. Part of defining who you are for is also defining who you are not for. There are plenty of things and people your core customer does not like. He needs to feel you standing with him. If your definition of a core customer is “anyone who will give me money,” you’re way off track. 3. If you’re thinking this means you’re only going to appeal to one person in the world, or one type of person, that’s not true. Brands that have meaning create a resonance that radiates out from the core to people who want to be like your guy, or who see a little piece of your guy inside themselves. When it’s done right, the radiation is powerful and can be far reaching. Think about how many people all over the world saw a little bit of Nike in themselves because they wanted to “be like Mike,” even though they never touched a basketball.

This is simple, but not easy. It involves some tough decisions that run counter to the popular idea that all money is good money. But the best and most successful companies in the world — Coke, Nike, Scion, Red Bull, Zappos, Apple, to name a few — are the ones who do this as part of their DNA.

Hey Owen, Mark, Evan, why don’t you let us help you with this before it’s too late.

Social Networks // China Trip 12/18

Most people go to the beach or skiing during the winter holidays. Not me. Always up for an adventure, my wife and I traveled to China where we visited friends and family, saw the sites, ate, shopped and got lost. As always, my eyes were open for insights on culture, consumers, branding and marketing - you'll find them in this set of posts - most starting with a bit of business, followed by some fun (and strange) trip stories. (1st in a series) Insights - Social networks are a trip. Though MySpace is all but forgotten, and it seems like my entire middle school class just discovered Facebook (Everett, woop! woop!), some of the smaller niche networks are making themselves evermore useful.

Before my trip, I reached out for advice from fellow travelers in ASmallWorld. I got several responses from people I didn’t know (oops, I think that’s a no-no), including a hotel recommendation that turned out pretty nice.

While in Suzhou, We had a quick drink with Rebecca Chow, from Xing, a sort of second-tier LinkedIn that I signed up on in advance of my travels. Rebecca is a group moderator on Xing and I happened to get a random message from her as I was planning my trip, so we arranged to meet after she was off work and I was done being a tourist.

Rebecca helps companies set up shop in China as a consultant at the City Development Law Firm. So if you’re ready to make the move, let me know and I’ll connect you, or just look her up on Xing.

Suzhou Lingering Garden

Trip Notes - We took a day trip to Suzhou because a travel agent told us there wasn’t much to see in Shanghai and that two days there would be plenty. Crazy that a city of 19 million would only have two days’ worth of stuff to see, but the persistent idea that travel agents are experts won over.

Suzhou is an hour away, or it would have been if our van didn’t break down. We had to be towed off the highway and then picked up by another van. From there off to a banquet lunch at the silk factory, a quick tour of the silk factory, and then a high-pressure sale from the silk folks. No deal.

Suzhou Canal

Called the Venice of China for its picturesque canals, Suzhou’s big features, besides the silk museum, are the Lingering Garden, a beautiful 6 acre park that’s over 1,300 years old, and the Beisi Pagoda, China’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

You wouldn’t know it from the serenity of the gardens, but Suzhou has about 6 million people, which makes it a “second-tier city.”

Click here for more pics in the Suzhou photo album

The Internet is Bad // Rebels At Large

From Josh: Dennis White is one of the most creative people I know. When he's not inventing new names to call himself (Static Revenger, D-Dub, Charm Farm, and probably some others I don't know about), he's making dancefloor-packing and chart-topping remixes and original productions, innovative videos or acting as a creative director for Rebel. Plus, he mixes a mean margarita. We've hung out together on more than one continent, and had each other's backs against barracuda. In other words, we've been in the shit. Dennis and I both suffer from a chronic condition: lack of tolerance for stupidity. We experience this affliction in different ways: You might say it makes his skin itch, while it makes my head hurt.

Read his piece here about one of the many things wrong with the world and how to fix it. Then check his music and video skills at and and

The Internet is Bad by Dennis White

So, here's my blog post. I hate blogs. Sounds like blob. And I'm not sure that I like blobs.

Mr. Levine has encouraged me to participate in the 'discussion' on Rebel Industries and I'm enough of a fan of his to want to follow his lead. I warned him that I don't like the internet, marketing, social networking, blogging, flogging, computer chatting, texting, tweeting, twitting, tight fitting jeans. I might NOT be the ideal contributor.

Problem is, I'm just old enough to have tried every new internet thing since 1993, the first time that it came out, when it sucked in obscurity. AOL Chat rooms? Freaks. Email? Bullshit. Online porn? Too slow. Social networking? Hows about you and I be friends, and cut out the middleman... I'm WAY behind on everything because I was way ahead on it.

I don't like any of this social networking nonsense. It is enslaving and alienating, and we're too caught up in bullshit updates, and friend requests from hot chicks, to know any better or care. I resent that our friendships are being exploited and re-purposed into bland entertainment to the benefit of companies using us as stooges to get their advertising space sold. And LOOK at the photos on most of those social networking sites... LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!!! I have muscles! I know hot chicks! I have big tits! I look good in a bikini! I've gone some place interesting! (click HERE to buy cheap insurance)... oh F**K OFF!

My engineer is trying to save me from my impending irrelevance, and signed me up on twitter. It's the thing this week. Maybe last week. Twitter. Really? I thought he was kidding. DORKster was taken? JERKster is owned by a Russian domain name sales site? Sigh. Fine. If you don't know about this twitter thing, then let me just take this opportunity to tell you that I love you. Really. The chances that you and I can be friends is far likelier than the chances of me befriending any of the thousands of friends that I paid some assistant to acquire for me on Myspace.

Twitter is bullet point blogging, more or less. You can write only a few sentences per 'update'. And people can subscribe to your updates, or you can deliver them online in various ways. Drew, my engineer, assures me that it's awesome, because (I stop listening about here)... so fine, I shall commence twitting. Is it called tweeting? Knowing this stuff is today's equivalent of knowing how to pronounce INXS in 1982. So, great - I have, like 4 people following me on twitter, so I figure, I better make it sound interesting.... HEY! I'm in Key Largo fishing and diving...HEY! I'm in northern Michigan snowmobiling....HEY! I heard me on the radio...LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! ....D'OH!

I am, however, under the brief impression that there are 2 things that I like about this - 1. it only allows me 2 sentences or so, so it doesn't take that much time to 'update' (no gigs, photos, subscriptions, etc.) and 2. there doesn't seem to be an advertising annoyance, except I've been getting some random twitter usernames following me in suspiciously relevant ways. For example, I updated that I was in Naples, Florida and 20 minutes later, I received an email telling me that I was being followed by my long lost friends at 'naplesscubagear' Wow. Clever. Now I really feel like a twit.

I don't like this form of communication because 1. it fills our head with even more useless nonsense (I caught a fish!) and 2. it robs us of the ability to introduce people individually to our experiences. I want to tell a friend where I've been and what I've been doing, with out it already being a re-run. 'DUDE! I caught a nurse shark with my bare hands!' 'Yeah- I know.' Sigh.

How about instead of advertising the highlights of your life to a bunch of people that wouldn't even CONSIDER driving you to the airport, take the time you spend fucking about on facebook to write a considered, and thoughtful letter to an actual friend. If you are uncomfortable communicating without an option for advertising, include one of those Bed Bath and Beyond coupons that we all have piling up in a drawer, but never seem to have on hand when we actually end up there.

I know that I ain't nothing but my grandpa complaining about Elvis right now, but dagnabit, I will NOT going quietly into polite societies good night- SOME one has to say it - we're being used, and enslaved by this nonsense, and society individually and collectively suffers for it.

See, I told you, Josh, I'm not the ideal blog contributer. Now leave me alone. I have iPhone apps to buy, and a wooden duck to carve.

Now playing: Beach Boys, 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.'