Friday, July 15, 2011

Google+: Hype and The Basics

Google+ will revolutionize social media. Google+ is a Facebook-killer. How can anyone use Facebook after using Google+? Google+ will change how brands interact on social media.

Do any of those comments sound familiar? Google+ discussion dominates my Twitter and Facebook streams. I can't go a day without seeing a story about it popping up on TechCrunch, Engadget or Gizmodo. People are convinced Google+ is the proverbial social media promised land.

People, Google+ is not even a month old. It's still invite only. How can we make these grand statements about it? Do you not remember the Google Wave hype? Or Color? Did you use Google Wave or Color the day after their release?

We all need to take a deep breath and let Google+ organically find its niche in the social media world (I mean, Google+ is currently almost 90% male, it's not really an accurate picture of social media).

So let's cut the hype and actually talk about Google+ for the average Joe and Jane, whom will ultimately determine if Google+ receives widespread adoption.

The Basics

Google+ is Google's answer to social networking. It incorporates Google's product lines under one umbrella.Your Google profile is now the hub of everything. Google Chat (or G-chat), the chat function of Gmail, is part of Google+. Hangouts, a new feature, allows you to video chat with several friends. You can post, comment and +1 on content. Does this sound like Facebook to you? Well, it's incredibly similar.

The biggest difference between Google+ and Facebook though, lies in who you share content with. When you add a contact to Google+, you put them in a 'circle.' These circles determine who gets to see your content. Circles are completely customizable (aside from the Public circle, which is what everyone can see), so you can categorize people how you like. When you decide to share content on Google+, you choose which circles can see it. This can be a little hard to grasp for people who haven't used Google+, so let's use an example:
John is one of my friends. Jack is a work colleague. Jane is a friend who also works in my industry. I would put John and Jane in my 'Friends' circle, while I would put Jack and Jane in my 'Professional' circle. Let's say I want to share some vacation pictures. Obviously, my professional contacts really don't need to see that content, so I would choose to share it just with friends. John and Jane would see my content, but Jack would not.
But let's say I was at an industry convention and took a picture of a really innovative booth (Company XYZ is using Fire Dancers at their booth!). I'd probably want to share that with both my 'Friends' and 'Professional' circles. John, Jack and Jane will see my picture. But Jane is in my 'Friends' and 'Professional' circles! Won't she get my content twice? Nope! If someone is in two circles you share content with, it only shows up once.
Hey, can't you do the same thing with Facebook privacy settings?

Not really. Facebook is very limited with privacy settings compared to Google+. On Facebook, you can only edit set levels (Everyone, Friends, Friends of Friends, Custom) and just determine what someone can or cannot view. On Google+, you just drag and drop people into circles. Controlling your content and making sure you 'talk' to the right audiences is very easy.

Will the average user abandon Facebook for Google+?

As much as I love the ease of content sharing on Google+, I really can't think of a MySpace-level exodus from Facebook anytime soon. Facebook has had some controversial privacy issues, but it hasn't alienated users to their breaking points yet.

Already, early adopters are having some gripes with Google+, such as issues of online identity, privacy questions and lack of a way to import contacts from existing social networks (Facebook, for example). Are these insurmountable hurdles? No. But they raise some significant questions about the network.

Plus, it's just a huge pain to migrate content over from Facebook to Google+.


Businesses will soon get their own way of using Google+ (testing will begin soon for selected businesses), so I will try not to speculate on what means for them. However, if circles act the same way for people as they do for businesses, segmenting your audience into circles and being able to have different messages for each will be fantastic.

I understand the excitement behind Google+, it has many possibilities. But we should not pull the cart before the horse. We have to let Google+: 1) Open up to the public, and 2) Organically flesh itself out. Otherwise Google+ is going to crash harder if it doesn't meet lofty expectations.

What do you think of Google+? Do you think we should be hyping it up?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Klout and Social Media Measurement

A little over six months ago, I talked about the so-called 'social media bubble' and my lack of faith in Klout. My argument came out of hearing people proclaim Klout as the only authority on social media engagement and influence. Upon further reflection, I was too heavy-handed with my thoughts on Klout.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe Klout is not the be-all, end-all of social media influence. Instead, Klout is just another tool (in addition to others) for social media measurement.

Why did I change my mind? Some of the recent additions and major adopters of Klout have started making it more than a passing fad.
  • Klout now has crowdsourcing elements instead of just hidden algorithms determining score and influence. The +K tool now allows users to identify those who are influential on certain topics and assign points. So if I think someone is influential on social media measurement, I can +K him/her. The +K I gave is now calculated into his/her Klout score. Update: Upon further research, +K does NOT calculate into your Klout score, but it allows users who view your profile to determine what other people think you are influential in. This is just another reason to look at Klout as a part, but not the whole picture in terms of social media measurement. I still feel +K does have value.
  • Klout now allows your LinkedIn account to be another variable to generate your score. In the B2B world, LinkedIn dominates. This lets Klout expand beyond the B2C sphere ruled by Twitter and Facebook.
The list of influential topics does need tweaking. For example, Klout says I'm influential on dogs. This is all because I tweeted a picture of a dog my family found and I reached out to media outlets to help me find the owner. Does this mean I'm influential about dogs? Of course not.

Twitter chats are another issue. Klout says I'm influential about #u30pro just because I participate in the chats every week. If you don't actively managing your Klout profile (Klout allows to delete items you feel you aren't influential about), your influential topics list could be completely out of sync.

I mentioned major Klout adoption, but what do I mean by that? Well, certain companies are taking Klout very seriously and are inviting influential users to receive perks:
Klout's widespread adoption is making it a major social media measurement tool. But it is not the only tool. Here are some others:
  • Speaking of Google Analytics, you can add tracking codes to links posted on social media and measure how well they perform.
  • Heck, you can still measure mentions, likes or comments on a post (NOT FOLLOWERS OR PAGE LIKES!) by hand!
Social media measurement is still very new and not all of these tools are going to be appropriate for what you want to measure. If you want to measure influence, Klout is a good tool. If you want to track social media conversions, you'll use Google Analytics. If you want to measure your company's thought leadership on social media, a mixture of Klout to track influence and Google Analytics to see how well your links perform are your tools.

Each tool has its own use, it's up to you decide what you really want to track and measure (and, ultimately, what defines social media success).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Read the blog before you pitch

Reading seems to be a lost art for so many people. I'll admit, I tend to do more skimming than reading these days. We all have plenty of work with tight deadlines and don't have a lot of time to get it done. Pitching your topic to the right blogs can be a long, tedious process. There are so many blogs to look at and only one of you!

But if you're going to pitch a blog, you better make sure you've read some of their posts before you fire off that email.

Last week the blogger behind Food Network Humor posted two examples of PR people pitching her blog. The title of the post? "Laugh of the Day: Clueless Guy Fieri PR People Asking FNH to Promote His Products."

Yeah, you know where this is going.

Not one, but two people associated with companies that do business with Guy Fieri, a famous Food Network personality, pitched the blogger to promote his products on the blog.

One cursory glance of the Food Network Humor site's header shows Paula Dean with a mustache, Sandra Lee next to two bottles of vodka and Rachel Ray with devil horns. In fact, several posts prior (and before one of the PR people pitched her) there is a post making fun of Guy Fieri. This is clearly not a blog where anyone would pitch this man's products.

This is why you read the blog before you pitch it. Nothing is worse for your company or client than becoming a big joke on a blog where you want positive coverage.

Luckily for the PR people, the blogger chose not to name them. Some blogs are more than happy to call out PR professionals for bad pitches (TechCrunch immediately comes to mind), so these people got off fairly easy. Their companies, however, did get named. I imagine these PR people are getting a stern talking to (hopefully it's not an intern at their first internship!).

Blogs are a whole different animal than traditional media. A misplaced pitch might just give you the coverage you don't want.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Food Adventure: Progressive Field

It's been about two months since my last post (yikes!), so I thought I'd change things up a bit:

The Cleveland Indians made some major changes to their food offerings this season at Progressive Field. Sure, the hot dogs, nachos and light beer are still available, but there is now a much wider array of options for fans heading to ballpark.

Three weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the local Yelp community manager (who rocks, by the way) about an opportunity to visit Progressive Field to see all the new food options. The invite also said I could stay for the Indians-Rays game afterward. There were 15 spaces available for Yelp elites (I am one) and I managed to claim a spot..

Full disclosure: I did not pay for parking, my ticket to the event or for any food and beverage.

Driving to Progressive Field was a breeze since it was a 12:05 p.m. game on a Thursday. The sun was shining and temperatures hit in the mid to high 70s. Wearing jeans was a bad idea.

Rob, the Indians PR guy (@tribetalk on Twitter), met and escorted us through the Terrace Club into the Champions Suite, the biggest suite in the entire stadium.

View from the Champions Suite

Entering the suite, there was a large spread of all the new beer offerings in the stadium. There were several local craft beers and other selections from the "Your Dad's Beer" stand. All of it was free for us to taste.

Some of the local beer offerings at Progressive Field this year. Obviously, I started tasting early.

I picked up my press kit and the tour began shortly after. We would be traveling to all the new and updated offerings in the stadium. It was a walking tour, so my jeans were a poor choice on this sunny, humid day. Luckily, I made friends with several other people from Yelp, so I was not going through this experience alone.

Our tour guide explained there would be more food variety in the upper deck seats (500 level). He emphasized the Indians wanted all fans to have the same, great experience. Personally, I loved this. All too often sports teams make upper deck fans trek to the lower level to get a decent variety of food and refreshments. This was a very nice change.

There weren't any food samples in the upper deck, so we made our way down to the lower level. Our first taste sample was a delicious sausage with peppers close to Section 114. The peppers weren't cooked to hell and back, so I actually got to taste their flavor. It was so good, I forgot to snap a picture. However, they did feature a huge, delicious hot dog (that's what she said).


Also included nearby were the Your Dad's Beer and the Burgers Loaded stands. Your Dad's Beer is described as, "a new beer stand with the nostalgia of your Dad's den or basement." My dad did not have a den or basement, so that sentiment is lost on me. It's basically a fancy way of saying the stand sells PBR and other 'older' beer. The stand also features a 'snack of the month.' For April/May, it was stadium jerky. For June, pickled eggs (yuck).

The next stop was Major League Pizza and Spirits of Ohio near Section 152. Pizza and booze, what could be better? The pizza is made fresh inside the park, no shipped in frozen stuff here. Of course they have the standard cheese and pepperoni toppings, but each month a new specialty pizza will be featured. For April/May, the "Pizza of the Month" is the 'Ballpark Classic.' This pizza features stadium mustard, mozzarella cheese, sauerkraut and spicy smoked sausage. We got to taste pepperoni, cheese and the Ballpark Classic.

Let me just say, I hated the Ballpark Classic. I'm not a big fan of sauerkraut, but this unholy combination was just too much for me. However, there were other people on the tour who absolutely loved it and said it was a classic Cleveland flavor combination. I'll pass. The upcoming pizza for June is the Smucker's Peanut Butter and Jelly. I'll pass on that as well.


Spirits of Ohio was close by. This is where you'll find the local craft beers and wine. I missed the samples they gave out here, so I can't really comment too much. Featured craft beers include Great Lakes, Thirsty Dog and Mt. Carmel.

The APPetizer Store was a short walk from Spirits of Ohio. Get it, App Store? I wouldn't call this place an appetizer stand as much as it is a fried food stand. Everything is fried. EVERYTHING. The 'App of the Month' for April/May was a fried oreo. A fried twinkee, or what tasted like one, was also an option. But what took the cake was chicken and waffles.

Not the first thing I think of when I want food at a baseball game.

Chicken and waffles is a classic Southern combination, but it was a little lost on me. The only meat I like my waffles with is sausage. Everyone I was with seemed to love it, but we all agreed trying one item here was more than enough. This fried food was very heavy.

Then we tried the Food Network stand. Before the tour started, everyone was talking about the Food Network stand. This was anticipated as being the big crescendo in the food tour.

The Food Network disappointed.

They had a signature steak sandwich (didn't get the chance to catch what was in it) and a 'Cleveland' steak sandwich. The Cleveland steak sandwich contained sauerkraut and stadium mustard (ugh).

Of course, I accidentally tried the Cleveland steak sandwich. Now, ignoring the stadium mustard and sauerkraut, the actual steak seemed to be cooked too long. It was fairly tough and a disappointment. Everyone in my immediate vicinity agreed this stand did not live up to the hype. At almost $11 per sandwich, I could not justify spending money at this stand.

But hey, I could have got the 'black sheep' of steak sandwiches that day.

The last new item we tasted was gluten free potato chips. I know many people who have gluten allergies, so this was an awesome addition. The chips weren't separated before we got to try them, so they were all sticking together like a giant chip ball. The taste was pretty good, but not your typical crunchy chip. These might not be a huge crowd pleaser, but those with gluten allergies will very much appreciate them.

Gluten-free, woohoo!

After the tour, we ended up back at the suite where we were treated to a full lunch of everything we got to try on our tour. Did I mention the free craft beer? Talk about a good time in the Champions Suite.

All in all, this was a great experience. Not because everything was free, but because of all the new ideas happening at Progressive Field. People often associate Cleveland with heartbreak and old curmudgeons stuck in their ways. This food tour showed the Indians are thinking outside of the box and want to make heading to the ballpark an experience. With the new Indians Social Suite, I'm really liking where this organization is going. It doesn't hurt that our team is doing pretty good as well (though we lost that Indians-Rays game pretty bad).

The next post will be on the press kit we received, since I'm a PR and marketing nerd.