Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Social Media Consultants Should Be Scared

I'm discovering that a lot of companies/clients still aren't aware of social media. That's good news (more biz opps for consultants) and bad news (they are missing out on more biz opps for them).

I don't think we've reached the tipping point yet, but I can envisage this conversation:

"Hi there. I'm a consultant. Need some help getting started with social media?"
"Nah, got that covered thanks. What else can you offer?"

Apart from being the shortest new biz pitch in history, that also shows that even though we think this "gravy train" (for want of a better disrespectful phrase) is going to last for ever ... it's not. What other skills do you have? Can you write? That's always handy. Can you do research? That's useful too.

If you concentrate on only one discipline then you are going to get left behind. It will probably be sooner rather than later, actually.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I got thrown a bit of a curveball yesterday that sidetracked me for a day, and it's something I may want to discuss in the future -- we'll see.

As of today, I had coffee with my fellow entrepreneur and signed off on some equity in a very cool green start-up that we'll be launching soon. Will blog it once we get closer to the alpha stage.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Totally Biased Heritage Toronto Advert

My wife is the director of communications at Heritage Toronto, an excellent agency that works very hard to make sure old Toronto is given the respect it deserves.

Tomorrow they start their season of FREE walking tours. Check it out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yet Another Pointless Post About How To Use Twitter

[Social media "experts" would charge $1,000s for this info, but in the spirit of social media, I am giving it away for free. Please pass it around, and yes, I am appearing in a city near you soon.]

1) Go to
2) Search for the box that says "Get Started -- Join!"
3) Join.

Deep breath. You're in. Start tweeting to your heart's content.

You'll start to discover a lot of blog posts about which people you should follow? ... should you follow someone if they follow you back? ... is it OK to talk about your brand? ... do a greater amount of followers mean you're popular?

Yes and no on all of the above. The thing about Twitter is you shouldn't follow anyone's specific advice about how to get value from it.

So you only have 10 followers? Are they all loyal customers who buy from you on a regular basis and you like to chat now and again? -- Great! It's working for you!

Do you have BIG FAT ZERO followers, but you follow a load of people? Do you learn something from their tweets about how to make your life, or your business better? -- Great! It's working for you!

"Don't do this." "Don't do that." Blah.

Just do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ten Social Media Commandments

Thou shalt not auto-DM me with free offers when I follow thou;
Thou shalt not kill your brand in 24 hours by offending thy mommy blogging community;
Honor your customers and engage with their needs;
Thou shalt not make of yourself a false avatar;
Thy will not covert your neighbour’s friends on Facebook;
Thou shalt not steal useful tweets without an RT;
Thou shalt nor bear false witness to YouTube comments such as "BigDawg pwned yo mom!";
Remember thy Follow Friday to keep it social;
Thou shalt not take the name of the Fail Whale in vain;
Thy will not blaspheme in blogs on how Twitter can make gold, it is a false prophesy.

Earth Day Canada

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Reasons Social Media Is Like Curry

1) People are a bit nervous to try it at first;
2) You can start off slowly, get a taste for it and then attempt the stronger stuff;
3) It's good for sharing;
4) You'll get differing opinions on different types of dish;
5) It just won't agree with some people's tastes -- but they'll swallow it anyway.

... and a bonus 6) It's really hard to determine what the "return" on your investment will be.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Don't Want To Be A Twitzophrenic

So, here's the deal. I have a personal Twitter account @johncarson that I've cultivated and followed/been followed by some very cool people. Use it every day, listen, learn, talk, pass RTs around etc. All good.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am now involved in two start-ups (actually, one is more of a website) that [fingers crossed] will be launching soon. I grabbed the Twitter names so they're safe.

Now, I am deciding whether to actively start using those separate new accounts when the sites launch -- pros: branding, clarity, transparency / cons: starting from scratch -- or, stick with my personal Twitter account and go into transparency mode whenever I chat about the two new sites. There are some people that I've built relationships with since joining last year, and I'm reluctant to begin all that again.

I look at the great work someone like @RichardatDELL has done, and think that might be the way to go. Then I think, if Richard left Dell, what would he do with that very specifically-named account. Would he keep it for his next role (awkward for, say, HP if they hire him!) or would he start from scratch?

Any advice? Please tweet me or post in the comments for others to read too. Thanks.

Facebook: The Electric Friendship Generator

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Need opinions please. If you heard of a start-up called, what do you think it would be about?

Case Study: Private School Learns To Embrace Social Media

I originally wrote the following article for this site:

Upper Canada College (UCC) is a private boys school founded in 1829 and located in Toronto, Canada. It is widely regarded as one of the premier schools of its kind in North America, with a student population of around 1,040 day boys and 90 boarders.

I worked there on a contract from June 2007 until May 2008 as the College's Acting Communications Manager. It was my job to write and produce the monthly e-newsletter, Connection, and to write and edit the monthly alumni publication, Old Times. I also wrote news for the College's website, press releases, helped the Advancement department with brochures and its fundraising efforts and also liaised with the press as required. It was an excellent experience.

There was one communications strategy missing that I thought UCC definitely had to pursue: social media. After 178 years(!) it was time for the College to embrace Web 2.0. More of UCC's advocates were online, including parents, students and donors, and the Communications and Advancement team thought it was very important to engage with them in this way, alongside the traditional direct mailings and brochures.

The UCC community is made up of many facets, not least the graduates. They are known as "Old Boys" by the College. The Communications and Advancement team has a very comprehensive database to keep in touch with Old Boys, and holds regular reunion events in Canada and around the world.

I am a very big LinkedIn fan -- been using it since it launched -- and knew that creating an Upper Canada College Alumni Group was the first step. It took minutes to set up, a few days for approval from the LinkedIn administrators and the best part? Zero dollars.

We promoted the new group in Connection, Old Times and various other school brochures. That got the membership off to a brisk start, but online word of mouth soon spread too between the alumni, and to date, there are 328 members of this group. It's also been a boon in helping graduates connect with current students using the UCC Common Ties Mentorship Program; the career-focused nature of LinkedIn was a natural fit for this initiative.

The Group has an "invite only" policy, and new members have to be approved by an admin that is familiar with dealing with the Old Boy community.

The next phase was to set up the Upper Canada College Group on Facebook. Again, it took minutes to set up with no cost involved. We promoted it in all the usual channels as mentioned above, but because of the "fun" nature of Facebook and the amount of students that use it, this approach was extremely successful -- there are now 909 members.

The Communications and Advancement team has used this group to great effect, sending out reunion and social event invites, helping Old Boys to reconnect with each other and announcing current news about the College.

As with all Web 2.0 concepts, there were some detractors, and some "unsavoury" Facebook groups had also been set up that mentioned UCC. With social media tracking tools, it was easy to find these and engage with the creators to request that they be toned down, if not closed. Some admins agreed -- some did not ... but at least we knew who was saying what about the College.

For example, when the College announced that it was contemplating ending the boarding program, a tradition that had stretched back to the school's founding, a groundswell of differing opinions erupted on Facebook. We monitored those conversations, directed people to send their opinions to the College's Boarding Task Force via a dedicated e-mail, and collected these as part of the official outreach. In June 2008, the Board of Governors announced that the boarding program would be retained and revitalized; I like to think that the decision was based not wholly on Facebook feedback, but at least in part.

We also created the Upper Canada College video channel on YouTube, and to date, the 11 videos -- ranging from recruitment drives, to student music to fun sketches -- have achieved nearly 15,000 views. Not bad for zero investment; just a passion and commitment to using Web 2.0 as an added strategy to reach the community.

The comments are monitored, and have to be approved by an admin before being published. We didn't see this as censorship, but the simple fact that strangers posing under false names and slurring the College was detrimental to the community feel that we’d worked hard to build.

These initiatives were recognized by our peers, and in 2008 UCC was awarded The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education’s 2008 PRIX D'EXCELLENCE Bronze Award for Best E-Innovation in University Advancement and also the Council for Advancement and Support of Education 2008 Circle of Excellence Bronze Award.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Race Is On!

I've decided to throw my name in the hat and join the race to beat @aplusk and @cnnbrk to be the first with a million Twitter followers.

If I can just acquire around 998,789 new followers to @johncarson in the next week, I think I can just squeak in!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Green Is The Word, Is The Word That You Heard, It's Got Groove, It's Got Meaning

I've always been a hippy ... a hug-a-tree kind of person, but haven't really pushed the boat out much as an advocate, apart from selling raffle tickets for an animal protection charity when I was a kid.

So, exciting news. I had a coffee today at my new office in downtown Toronto and met 1/3 of a new, green tech start-up. I say 1/3 because the other 2/3 was off in Europe, and the 3/3 is now me. I have been offered equity in return for handling the PR and communications strategy around this new venture. I hope that social media will play a big part.

I believe it is a very cool concept, and one that is long overdue in this world of Car Company Big Cheeses flying to their bailout hearings in their private jets. People losing their homes and paying taxes to help the big financial institutions.

All I can say is that there will be trees involved. So, get ready to hug a few and make the world more tolerable.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smak My Pitch Up

Gina Mom pitched me via Twitter about SmakNews, "a social media platform for 'women only,' where you can find the latest scoop on the 'who's who' and 'what's what' of celebrity, fashion and great buys." It launched on April 5, and I am assuming -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Gina -- that the site thrives on people enjoying smackdowns with celebs, hence the name?

It looked interesting; a Digg-style concept of voting for gossip, blogs and user-generated content. I signed up to try it out, and chose the user name johncarson, all well and good, got a confirmation e-mail:

Hello, johncarson. Your account at SMAK News has been successfully set up. Please keep the below information for future reference: Username: johncarson Password: (password choosen when registered)

So, I went back to SmakNews and tried to log in. Wouldn't let me. "Error! Incorrect username and password." Tried again, in case I'd typed it wrong. Same error message.

OK, I thought, give it a chance and use the "Forget Password?" option ... which I hadn't forgotten ... but reset it anyway. Got an e-mail with a new temporary password, and tried to log in again. Wouldn't let me. "Error! Incorrect username and password."

So, I gave up. Smak on the wrist to them!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Will Replace Social Media?

I do my best musing when I'm stuck in a boring situation and have no choice but to fire up the old brain cells: the treadmill, in the shower, getting my hair cut. So, as I was sitting in the chair around 30 minutes ago getting my monthly buzz cut -- #3 on the top, #2 on the sides -- I thought about the Google Alerts I've been getting for years.

I have quite a few set up, including one for mentions of my favourite band, Pink Floyd. Even though, unfortunately, they won't tour again, I still like to read news and comments about them. The little snippets of info and conversations arrive in my inbox, and I scan them to see what's being said about the band. All cool.

So, my point is, that's been an available service for years. It's social media. I monitor the Internet looking for those mentions of a brand -- oops, I mean band -- and then talk about it with other people, or blog about it, as I am now.

Someone, in the last few years, uttered those immortal words, social media, and a whole new movement was born, encompassing everyone from nervous newspaper barons to excited PR agencies. Now everyone can jump into social media and get involved, if they want to.

But, this is now. It still has a way to go before people start to omit the words "social media" in front of their strategies, job titles, workshops, webinars ... there will be no need to specifically mention it. It will be built in.

So -- and thanks for bearing with me on this theme! -- once people get restless, they will start to label the NEXT BIG MOVEMENT as, let's face it, we all want to be early adopters, or at the cutting edge of communicating with each other.

What will replace social media?

And, on a totally but kinda related FYI, I just downloaded Google Toolbar version 6, and now, when you open a new tab in Internet Explorer 8 (yes, flame me) you get a choice of "most visited sites" similar to Google's Chrome browser. Very useful; saves me at least six seconds of my very, very precious time writing blog posts and getting my hair cut.

Yes, We Can See You

I really liked Mitch Joel's blog post yesterday about the fact that you're probably online, all the time, even if you think you're not. That's a pretty scary thought to some people.

Having worked online in some capacity or another since 1997 when I put myself out there with Kibbutz Volunteer -- yes, had some anti-Jew flames (I'm not, for the record, but why should I need to mention that?) and community forum hack attempts -- I'm pretty comfortable with how I handle myself online. It's the old cliche: would I be upset if anything I've sent into cyberspace appeared on the front page of a newspaper?


Of course, there's some Facebook pictures of me dressed up as a giant ketchup bottle on Halloween, or enjoying a pint at my local with some friends giving me "rabbit ears" -- but, c'mon, if that hurts me as a person, or somehow implies that I'm not good at my job, then, well ... you're probably not the right employer or client for me. No offense. John has a personal life, and John has a professional life. Sometimes the lines blur a little, but not to the extent where it's worrying.

Obvious tip #1. Buy your own personal domain name now. Make it your central hub, personally or professionally. Take charge of yourself online. Others may be doing that, intentionally or not, so balance that out and let people understand that you know we can see you. Here you are. Represent yourself, your work, your interests and life (if that suits you).

Obvious tip #2. Realize that what you do online, those forums you flame people in, those e-mails that you send, those tweets that you submit, those photos you upload to Facebook, those dodgy sites that you frequent ... all those bits and bytes are travelling through someone's server. You are being tracked. Your IP address is stored somewhere. There is a permanent record of your online presence. So, make it count -- don't lie awake at night wishing you'd never clicked that publish button.

As I keep banging on, Web Who.0 began a couple of years ago. People are the killer app now. You're the content. Make it count.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PostRank Discovery Engine Beta Test

Carol Leaman, CEO of AideRSS, sent me a beta invite today to test out the PostRank Discovery engine, their new blog discovery site. I know it's beta, but there's some weird glitches that need to be ironed out.

The screenshot above is the top 5 ranking blogs for the search term "social media." I can understand Mashable and ReadWriteWeb being in there, but where's people like Chris Brogan?

So I found his details:

For some reason, his blog is listed as grasshopperfactory(?) and he has an engagement mark of MINUS 28%! We all know that Brogan is known for engaging with people online, so not sure why it reads as a minus number.

So, thought I'd search for someone else in the social media space: Dave Forde.

His name popped up OK, but it wouldn't let me click on it and check out his details, or subscribe to his blog. A one-click option would have been useful. Maybe I'm being too critical, and it was only launched today, but the overall experience seems pretty useful once the bugs are ironed out, and the rankings become more stable.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Biz From Old Connections

You really never know when new business is going to come from old connections. NEVER burn bridges. Connect connect connect.

Example 1: I have done/am currently working on some promotional copy for Upper Canada College. Via that connection, another private school in Toronto pinged me and asked for some social media advice, so I spent the last few hours putting together a "shopping list" of choices for them. They've already dipped their toes in, but the potential is so much greater, they need more!

Example 2: I knew Ian Kelso from my days as editor of Silicon Valley NORTH back in 1993. Started connecting again last year when I was at GCI, and attended a few Interactive Ontario networking drinks. Got chatting to a Russian tech company about football (soccer to the locals). Anyway, lo and behold, got an e-mail out of the blue last week -- "We're launching a new venture, need some PR, thought of you." Cool. Had a brief Skype call to Russia a few hours ago and chatting more tomorrow.

Example 3. I worked at a few years ago, and we featured an interview with an actress from a very famous film, although you wouldn't recognize her under all the special effects! Anyway, lo and behold part 2, I got a LinkedIn message today from her publicist -- she's starring in an upcoming horror series and they need to get the word out. So I am going to suggest some ideas there.

This all goes to show why it pays to make as many connections as you can, even if, at the time, it only seems if the other party is getting something out of it.

Karma baby!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Working On A Personal Project

I've been working with a couple of friends on a new website to launch very soon, hopefully at the end of April. I won't even call it a start-up. So far, we've invested $50 into it.

But, the excitement factor is what appeals to me as to whether there's a need for this site. And whether people will love it or diss it. I think it's better to try it and see what happens, than forever have regrets.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ninja Follow

You know the story. You go to an unconference, meet a lot of great unmarketers, and then want to connect to them on Twitter. But you have a ton of @social @media @guru @names that you need to follow, and are feeling pretty lazy in entering each one.

Ninja Follow wants to ease the strain. Just enter your Twitter user name and password, add the @names to the text box (comma separated), and -- voila! -- Ninja Follow will follow them for you, or let you know if you already do. Because we forget sometimes, right?

The page is pretty sparse of info, but Whois told me these guys may be the creators.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where The Fees Are

In recent times I was invited to sit in on a meeting whereby a vendor was unveiling a new advertising campaign. It wasn't that bad, not groundbreaking I thought.

What got me was that it took FOUR people from the vendor to unveil one piece of artwork. I think one was an intern and didn't even say anything. So, factoring in the cab ride from their office, the 30-minute unveil, and their cab ride back, you can bet it was a billable two hours.

I heard that this particular campaign was allegedly costing someone $19,000! That is crazy fees.

I sincerely hope for a future whereby we see an explosion of smaller agencies with a core of around five people that just hire freelancers and consultants, as needed, on a project by project basis. More nimble, faster to react, cheaper for the client, more work for talented people who may not be employed full time with benefits.

And yes, I am biased, as I currently work as a consultant.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rick Roll You Can't Close Is Great For My Traffic

On April 1, 2008 -- a year ago -- I blogged this about the Rick Roll that you can't close. It was the fad at the time, so I jumped on the bandwagon for SEO reasons. It's not even up any more due to the guy running out of bandwidth.

Anyway, it's now #1 on Google and the reason most people come to my blog. FAIL! Or is it?

OMG! I Actually Made Some Money From Social Media!

I'm shaking with excitement as I write this!

Here's the story: I wasn't happy with the rankings that my website was achieving in the search engines, so this morning at 5 a.m. I tweaked the meta tags and some of the content to include some social media phrases.

I decided to add ones that I thought people would be looking for now, especially as social media is getting extremely popular. Some of these included, "Britney Spears gets on Twitter and it becomes a circus," "How to set up a Fan Page and encourage fans to actually stick around," "Video of the ShamWow guy cursing out a lighting technician who mistakenly walks on set," and "Chris Brogan weeps as he admits using a ghostwriter for the last three years."

Wow! Just wow. I checked my Google AdSense a few minutes ago and my site stats had hit the roof! It's absolutely amazing.

As the fake client in Harold the Jewellery Buyer's video says, "It was so easy -- now I'm ready to shop!"