Social Media and Hurricane Katrina: What If?

The first thing that hit me was the smell. I’ll never forget it. It was a mixture of salt water, diesel fuel and damp clothes that never quite dried. I was on the Mississippi gulf coast a week after Hurricane Katrina hit and that first moment of stepping out of the car is one which is forever seared in my memories.

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I grew up in New Orleans and though my family had all but moved away by the time it had hit-watching the aftermath unfold on TV, was as painful as anything I have ever been through.

Some thoughts  came flooding back to me of my time on the gulf coast.

I remember just how quiet it was. Just completely devoid of life. Not even birds or bugs wanted to be where I was. I was in Pass Christian, Mississippi-a little over an hour outside of New Orleans. If there was a ground zero for where the Hurricane came across, this was it. Nothing was where it used to be and what was left, I barely recognized.

This morning though, five years later, I was wondering if social media could have “helped”. The year was 2005 and we were just on the cusp of social platforms roaring into our lives. If we would have been able to use Twitter and Facebook specifically, would that have helped pre-and post-emergency services?

I remember the day after Katrina like it was yesterday. I was trying to call all of my friends and family that lived along the gulf coast. From Mobile, Alabama to Pass Christian, Mississippi to Mid-city, New Orleans, getting any information was maddening. I had no way to know what was going on. None of us did. We were relying on television and whatever info we could scrape off the net. I just had the sickest feeling though, I knew what had hurricanes had done to that region in the past.

Would have social media made a difference?

We brought 600 pounds of supplies and it was gone in less than 2 days. I stayed 1 week. I ate my meals at Army National Guard outposts. We slept at a friends house that wasn’t too damaged. Meaning not that many tarps. Not much was really spoken amongst us, most were still too stunned. But everyone had a story, either personal or of someone they knew, about survival, of “getting out”.

Cell phones were useless and with  zero communication with the outside world, we were pretty much on our own. Watching nightly news reports were virtually impossible, and what we did see, did not really tell the “whole story”. Not a whole lot of coordination happening.  I wasn’t thinking it then but I wonder if social could have helped?

After 3 days of trying to dig for and salvage anything for my friends, the soles of my boots rotted off from the toxic sludge we were walking through. I then stepped on a nail and had to get a tetanus. I was more mentally spent than physically spent. The heat was oppressive and the smell at times overwhelming but I wanted to keep going.. I had done everything I could and I remember thinking, it’s not even close to being close to anything of impact…

Below is a deck I did of the pics I took and the thoughts associated with them.

SEO and Social Media are Inextricably Joined at the Hip.

Is it reputation management, perception management? Or search management?

I was recently directed by Tom Martin to read an updated post by Rohit Bhargava on Social Media Optimization and while it did get me thinking again about something I had not given much thought to in a while, it, like many other blog posts, opened up another footlocker of thoughts.

As I’m wont to do oh so frequently, I started thinking about the term reputation management and what that really meant. Literally defined for us in the digital world, it’s the practice of managing your orgs reputation online.

For most of us lay people, reputation management means trying to control or do something about the bad comments that show up on Google’s first page of search results about our brand.  That something is usually defined as using social media and search techniques to make it go away or… Could we say that might be… Social Media Optimization?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Rohit’s definition or ” new rules” of SMO

  • Create shareable content
  • Make sharing easy
  • Reward engagement
  • Proactively share content
  • Encourage the mashup

But you see, at the end of the day the number of  social interactions/engagements you have, and the number of social profiles you have, and the number of social platforms you play on, all to a certain degree will be reflective in higher search rankings. So essentially Rohit’s 5 new rules contribute to better search results.

# of social interactions + # of social platforms + # of profiles = Better search results

Which means the reality is the sum total of all of this activity will alternately end up driving perception. So given that SEO is a key component, ancillary as it might be to contributing to social media, it still is the key determining factor in driving perception of people and brands.

I will say it again.

SEO and Social Media are inextricably joined at the hip.

So is managing your reputation via search and social also include your ability to understand the key components of search?

You bet it is.

Which means that bad companies ( poor customer service, bad products, etc.) could be very adept at SEO, and given that your perception may be controlled or driven by a manipulated or “gamed” search hierarchy, you would never know they suck.

Your perception of their reputation is skewed by a high search ranking and a search result that may have also been manipulated or influenced by surface level social media participation as well.

Which means that the algorithm is flawed.

Given that most of us are intent on putting our best foot forward and are hell bent on quelling or snuffing out negative press-it would seem to me that a full understanding of the implications of search along with a full understanding about the power of how all of your social interactions influence reputation management would be a sound business decision.

So here’s your takeaways.

  • Know that search and social media are tied to each other.
  • Do not treat the fact that you can control these things lightly.
  • Search can be your friend as much as it can be your enemy.
  • Understand that everyone has the ability to game the system.
  • Do not want to wait to address negative search results after the fact.
  • Dive deeper when doing your homework on companies and people.
  • Create meaningful social profiles
  • Participate in social media because you want to, not because of the SEO benefits.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

What is the Strategy Behind This Email?

I got this email today:

My name is _________, and I write for the (Insert the name of something not even close to what I do) blog at_________
Would you be interested in receiving a guest post submission from me?
What I had in mind was just coming up with an article on theme with your blog and sending it to you for your approval.
I don’t have a specific topic in mind, so I’m happy to write on whatever topic you request, if you have a specific request.

Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing from you.


Seriously? Where is she getting her direction? Is there a strategy here? Did she come up with this on her own? Did a boss tell her that this would work? Let’s assume it’s automated, aren’t there filters so that you can at least focus on certain niche markets? Is this in a book somewhere?

And we wonder why sometimes blogging, SEO and search marketing get black eyes.
Who wrote it?  A puppet?

Crowdsourcing the Impact of Social Media on Non Profit Organizations

Last week we had the pleasure to have Beth Kanter host our weekly tweetchat over at Hashtag social media. The subject was obviously about Non Profit Organizations and how social media can play favorably with them. This is the sweet spot for Beth and as a host, I have to say she was beyond amazing. She embodied all of the qualities you would want in someone engaged with their audience. Below is a summary deck of what occurred in this one hour tweetchat.

The Most Effective Social Media Strategy… That I Forgot About

Call it an epiphany. Over the past few days I have gone back to my roots and I feel better about it. It’s almost as if I’m reading Naked Conversations again. What is it that has reinvigorated me? A new tool? A new app? Nope, it’s even more simple than that. It’s right there in front of us and yet I think we’re getting so caught up in a perceived race of sorts that it has caused us to lose sight of a stark reality.

Here’s what it is.

About 5 days ago I decided to start reading “other people’s” blog posts that caught my eye. Prior to that, I read the faves of my peeps and moved on. I was just consuming. In some cases I commented on the new blog posts I read,  in others, I would point out to others that this person is worth following on Twitter. If not that, I reached out to that person either publicaly or privately, and just told them that I thought they were doing great things. Simple.

The effect?

It felt good for starters. I was giving back again. The essence of social media-talking to people. It’s why we gushed about social media in the first place. The connections. The conversations. I think all of us, me included, sometimes get caught up in the chase, or the numbers, or the push for discovery and we lose sight of the thing that made it so great in the first place-and still do, the variety, the freshness and smartness of other people that you meet and get to know.

This epiphany has also extended to using Twitter in a more conversational manner when I can. It’s really easy and convenient to watch the tweets roll by and click on links of interest and leave it at that. But far too many of us have preached to others about using Twitter to have conversations with brands and customers etc. etc. Well guess what? Try it. Try talking to people instead of just pushing info out. The effect has been nothing short of really cool again. Quit consuming so much and start conversing.

Somewhere along the way the conversation has been trampled upon. But it still has a vital and vibrant pulse. You will get more out of your experience if you go back to having conversations. Period.

Social Media Conundrum #19 How to Mitigate Loss of Control

You do everything at your company. You wear lots of different hats. Enter social media. You’ve been reading a lot about Social Media and it has invaded your ecosystem.Blogs are your in reader but your involvement in it is marginal at best. Consultants and evangelists are outside your door.

You’ve been hearing that you should do it.  You don’t know what to do.

Every day you keep hearing more and more about social media. You’re freaking out. OMG.

Do you think that if you and your company “do” social media, you’re going to lose control? That the customer will own you? That you won’t be able to handle it? or hire for it?

Don’t worry, you are from alone.

What do you want to do?

You want to bail and shut it down, don’t you? you’re thinking, “I’ll worry about it in 6 months.” or maybe you’re thinking, “I’ll just get a Twitter and Facebook account, that should please the C suite”.

That won’t get it done.

You know that.

Let’s think about it.

The “Other” Missing Link Between Brands and Consumers-The Foot Soldier

As I was glancing at my other machine, I saw this post tweeted by Tom Cummings from Dachis Group-Social Media Middlemen: The Missing link between brands and Consumers. If you get a chance to read it, do it, because Tom brings up a really good point and it’s this: If you are truly a social company or business, then that “socialness” needs to extend all the way down to your frontline, people facing, employees.

I’ve said for quite some time that in order to really be social, you have got to start from within, as soon as you have a firm base of knowledge that all of your employees can stand on, then you, as an organization, can do some really exciting things externally.


Wouldn’t it be great if your employees not only knew what Twitter was, but also knew what a Twitter discount code was so that they could also explain the benefits of following your organization on Twitter to anyone who walked into the business?

Thus the need to find those conduits between the brand and the consumers who use your brand. The “Middlemen” as Tom puts it. But maybe they’re not as much middlemen as they are foot soldiers? They may or may not do the heavy lifting as much as say a “middleman” but they are the “face” of your company. I think of middlemen being a little bit higher up the food chain.

I can’t tell you how many times I encountered frontline employees who knew nothing about a brands online or offline initiatives. Some might not even be able to tell you what the web address is of the company!

Employees in some cases, find out about web initiatives, much less online social efforts, when a customer asks them about it for the first time. At which point they go and ask someone else about it. You don’t have to fully indoctrinate your employees into the world of social media, they just need to know enough to help customers and clients. The more they know however, the better off you organization will be in the long run.

So, the question is this…Is everyone in your company on the same page when it comes to what your company’s social media presence is? Can they easily explain and or direct someone to become social with your company?

Should You Outsource Social Media?

This might be the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit. That if they had their druthers, they would outsource their social media activities. Why? Because what they won’t admit is that social media is a big time suck and furthermore, they might not even admit that they are tired of “engaging” every day. Why? because they didn’t know it was going to be like this.

It’s hard to be “On” every day isn’t it?

There is the pretty side of social media, the stuff that you read about every day about how cool it is and glamorous and sexy and blah,blah,blah, but the dark side is that social media is hard ass work.  In fact Amber Naslund just the other day, wrote a”be careful what you wish for” post about the down n dirty aspect of social media.

Those of us who have been around know this. I can’t tell you how many times I have bouts of writers block; and then other times, its a magical stream of consciousness that propagates itself in 3 posts in one day. But you see, there’s more than just the blog, that’s the easy part; there are status updates, there are content updates, consuming content, creating content, sharing info, driving traffic, analyzing data, connecting with your peers, finding your customers, making sure your clients are happy, and looking for prospects. All via social or electronic means. Every day and night. Which leads to this- and I know you’re thinking it or thought about it…

“If I could, I would love to outsource some of this stuff in a New York minute.

But is that really wise? To outsource your social media activities. Except for those times when I’m feeling a bit toasty around the edges, I like doing it. I like connecting and consuming and creating.

Have you ever wondered though if there are others doing it? Well I got news for ya. Hell yea and you betcha. Most wont admit it unless your name is Guy Kawasaki. Todd Defren points out in his wonderful social media ethics series that they have been faced with that exact dilemma, and still others are doing it and you don’t even know about it.

The sexy term might be aggregating activities

The fact is, there are a lot of people who are automating a lot of their social media activities and still another group that are completely ceding control of their social media day to day operations to someone else.

Either in an automated fashion, or by merely having agencies do the work for them in the form of ghost writing or status updates or flat out being someone they are not– people and companies are choosing to wash their hands of real life engagement. Some admit it like Guy Kawasaki and still others… You’d never know the difference.

Do you care about who you “think” you are talking to? Brand or otherwise,  I do. I don’t like talking to logos and when you say you are Mary, I trust that it is Mary that I’m talking to.  Some don’t care and some do- some seem to only care when they find out they are being duped. Some companies seem to think it’s OK to create fictional characters inhabited by multiple people within an organization, I’m not one of them, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Here’s the point.If you’re going to outsource your social media activities, I don’t care, and I won’t care until I find out that who you are is not who you’re supposed to be. I’m taking the don’t ask don’t tell stance. Why? Because I trust you. Funny thing that trust eh?

But I’m also not dumb.

I think that more and more people or companies are doing it (outsourcing their social activities) than you think. Or they are seriously looking at solutions that can streamline, enhance and speed up the reward of their social activities Why? Because I encounter companies and agencies every day that say they dont have time to do it nor do they care to, they just want to reap the benefits. I know it’s selfish and disingenuous but…

I’m ok with that. Why? because isn’t social media from that standpoint, just an extension of what a PR or ad agency already does? In their eyes it is. It’s marketing and PR. They will say, “What’s the difference”? Just do it for me and we’ll pay you. I’ll do it and get you started, but I’ll train you to do it for your selves and your company. You need to take ownership.

As social continues to grow and grow, some people just don’t want to do “it”, the social stuff, they would prefer that someone else do it for them- and you know what? There are plenty of people that will do it and… Do it well and.. You’ll never know the difference.

5 Reasons Why Social Media is so Explosive

Given that we have been punked by the dry erase girl it has become apparent to me a few things about our new social transparent world and why marketers want to tap it.

  1. We love to share stories where good triumphs over evil
  2. We love to talk and tell others about train wrecks for companies and people
  3. We can be easily punked
  4. We love watching video-and then sharing it-it takes no effort, none. zip.
  5. We are suckers for top ten lists

I know there are more, but these were the first 5 that came to mind..

The Social Media Pitfall of Assumptive Collaboration

Last week I was working with a client and we were at a critical juncture of a web development project in which we were discussing the jumping off points for their initial foray in social media. We were doing this by merely adding social elements to the website in the form of a few actions.

The first was instead of creating “a website” we decided to create it in WordPress so that we would have the latitude to “turn on” commenting for starters. let me back up, I just used the word “we” but in actuality the directives were coming from me and the developer. I had suggested Worpress and a specific WordPress developer.

During the development phase we ( the developer and I) decided to make the commenting more robust and so we decided to go down the path of Disqus. Disqus is a great product for those with social profiles who bop around a lot from site to site. It eases log in issues and multiple identity problems. We were on the fence about creating a community but we (the developer and I figured we could roll it out a week or two later). As an aside-let me also add that by doing this, the user would have had to create 3 separate user ID’s to access various parts of the site.

Do you see a recurring theme here? I haven’t mentioned the clients input at all and or their input in the whole decision making process? Well, that’s because at this point,  it’s very one sided. As a consultant I was not doing my job. I wasn’t consulting. I was dictating. You could argue that I was doing what I thought was best but I wasn’t really listening to the client.

A big mistake and I should have known better.

The developer and I were not out to just “crank” this project out with all the bells and whistles-well maybe we were, but what we got caught up in, was creating a site that fit our “needs”. The development fit my needs of what I thought the client needed. Me and the developer were on the same page. High five’s everybody!  I thought I had a good handle on what the client wanted or needed, I just neglected to educate, provide options and offer suggestions.

So while we were creating  this kick ass solution for us, I failed to remember that my client was just getting started with social media; and more importantly their customers might not be very social either.

Luckily, the client, in a stern but understanding way explained to me what was happening. At first my gut reaction was, “What are they talking about”? But then it hit home. My comfort levels were not theirs. My expectations were not theirs. Their level of understanding and comprehension was not mine. I failed as a consultant. I was an ally but I was keeping them in the dark and not listening. I wasn’t asking questions as we were going along.

I was collaborative but assumptive.

The good news? I realized it, thanks to them pointing it out. I backtracked and caught myself and was able to understand what I was doing. I apologized profusely and went back to the developer and we were able to make some things right and simplify some other things. I still have to get them to a level where they understand the thinking, the tools and the platforms that revolve around social media-but the lesson this time, the learning, it was all on my part. Next time, I might not be so lucky.