Friday, June 26, 2009

You Must Opt In

So, there I was, taking a lunch break, sipping some tea, thought I'd check the Toronto Star for the latest GTA happenings. Saw a nice contest, win a weekend in Toronto, might as well give it a go. Filled out all my details, answered the taxing skill-testing question, pressed submit.

But wait. It didn't go through. Had I missed something out? Maybe my postcode or e-mail? So, went back to check ...

And there it is -- in red letters -- "You must opt in." So, if I don't elect to receive "special offers and news from Delta Chelsea" then I'm not allowed to enter the contest? Time to read the small print:

"To qualify, participant must register to receive Delta Chelsea Hotel eMessenger electronic newsletter," and "In addition, we may use this information to send you offers or information from us, our affiliates and from selected sponsors or advertisers ('Marketing Offers'). If you do not wish to receive Marketing Offers, you may opt-out at any time by: following the instructions at the bottom of any email Marketing Offer you receive, informing your telemarketer at the time you are called with a Marketing Offer, calling 1-800-279-0181 and requesting that your personal information not be used for Marketing Offers, or emailing and requesting that your personal information not be used for Marketing Offers."

I have to go to all that trouble, just to take myself off their list after "agreeing" to be on it? No thanks. Clicked away.

It's a shame people are forced to opt in; would have been a nice feel-good blog post about the Delta Chelsea Hotel, instead of this frustrating one.

And, as an afterthought, the definition of "opt" is "To make a choice or decision." Seems like the "must opt in" requirement takes that choice away.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Drip, Drip, Drip ... Or A Big Splash?

Getting ready to launch Greenscroll, our marketing so far has been very low key. We already have some followers on Twitter (thanks for the interest, guys!) and a company profile on LinkedIn, but that's about it. [This project is not our day jobs/work, so time is slightly limited at the moment, but that's what evenings and weekends are for, right?]

It's been a slow drip approach so far. The reason for that is that there isn't actually anything to show potential "scrollers" yet, so it's not worth going for a big splash, and then people say: "Great. Give us a call when there's something to see."

And, even if we do the big splash (eventually) then it's not a case of, "OK, done. Let's grab our coats and go home." It will be an ongoing thing, permanent marketing and chatting to people, online and face to face. Social media will play a big part of Greenscroll and we will be encouraging the green community to get involved and tell us what they want to see from the initiative.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Five Reasons Why The LCBO Is Like Social Media

People are stocking up on booze today in anticipation of a possible strike at midnight by the LCBO. I went at 10 a.m. and got my supply, and already there were long queues at the checkout. That was after skipping around the gargabe overflowing from the bins outside as the other strike enters its second day.

It could be a dry, smelly summer!

Anyway, it got me thinking. I looked at the crowd of people hanging around and thought about how the LCBO is very much like social media:

1) The LCBO has a monopoly on booze. You have to go there to get what you want. You also have to be in social media these days too, or go through a dry spell out on the fringes;
2) The LCBO has something for everyone's tastes -- social media does too. You may want to microblog, create a brand page on Facebook or buy the whole store and create a massive community based around your product;
3) The LCBO is a place where people meet who have something in common. I hate to say "getting drunk" but you get the idea = a common interest, something all the participants can relate to;
4) You may meet a wine specialist who can introduce you to a product you've never thought of trying before. Social media has a lot of experienced advocates who are helping others too;
5) Whenever I've been to an "unmarketing" event I notice that everyone always has a drink in their hands. (OK, bit of a stretch that one.)


Monday, June 22, 2009

Be Grateful That You Don't Need Those Sick Days!

First off, some background on the current strike in Toronto.

Snip: "Workers are entitled to 18 sick days a year. But if they don't take the days -- seen by the union as an incentive to not book off sick -- they get to bank the days at the end of the year. Over time, the days accumulate. And at retirement, the worker can cash in a maximum of 120 days, or six months' pay."

So, workers can get half a year's salary just for being lucky enough to have good health. That should be bonus enough.

People are pissed off that they won't be able to carry over sick days. Well, correct me if I'm wrong, why do you need to bank them? Are you planning to be "sick" next year? I suggest that if you don't need to use those sick days, then be VERY grateful that you have good health -- a lot of people are much worse off than you. Look at the big picture.

I'm not a political commentator (bores me actually) but it makes me very annoyed in this day and age when people forget to be grateful for what they already have in life.

End of rant.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trying Out CoTweet

I am trying out the beta version of CoTweet right now, and so far, it looks pretty useful. One thing I didn't know was possible is the option to manage more than one Twitter account through the interface -- I thought it was only for one company via multiple users, so that's a time saver in itself.

Now I have my personal @johncarson and side project @greenscroll both being monitored at the same time. Just sent invites to my two colleagues, and waiting for them to jump in and see what happens when we all try to update at the same time.

The layout is clear and self-explanatory, and there is a function called OnDuty that helps you stay in touch by providing e-mail notifications when new direct messages and @replies directed to your accounts arrive, at intervals specified by the user. I have that option enabled at the moment, but will see if it becomes "information overload" so may disable it down the line.

One glitch/bug I noticed on this function: every time I set it to "instant notification" and press save, it defaults to "every 5 minutes." Minor, but needs to be fixed for people like me who want instant access to people who are trying to communicate with me.

Overall, so far, I like CoTweet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Heritage Toronto At The Riverboat

I do some voluntary PR for Heritage Toronto, and can tell you there will be a VERY famous Canadian musician at this plaque presentation on June 18.

Update March 19, 2009. Yes, it was Gordon Lightfoot. Murray McLaughlin also attended, as well as Stan Endersby and more. Heard some great stories about Toronto's musical past. Awesome day!

Gordon Lightfoot

Jim Morrison Sings About Craigslist

As a big fan of The Doors, and also of Craigslist, it's fantastic to see the two combined.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Is An Obvious Ad For The Last Page Standing

I just did a contra deal with The Last Page Standing -- in return for getting a slot I am blogging about it here. First time I've done this sort of "advert" thing, but I liked the idea and was too cheap to spend $3.

If you have $4 to spend, then my part in [possible viral] Internet history will be gone soon.

Update June 12, 2009, 1:14 a.m. Just found out I lost the slot to someone who paid $4. Damn.

Has Twitter Jumped The Whale?

This post by Mashable's Stan Schroeder got me thinking this morning. He questions whether Twitter is starting to jump the shark because celebs are joining (and half leaving) and because PepsiCo dared to -- gasp! -- print their Twitter name on a can of their own product.

I am asking: Do you join and use fledgling social media tools because they are cool, and like to feel part of the "elite" before everyone else finds out ... or do you use them because they are useful and don't care whether they become mainstream two years later?

Personally, I'm into the new toys because I keep my ear to the ground and like to see what's coming around the corner. But if, as in the case of Twitter, I find it a very useful part of my professional life (I use Facebook for friends and family) then I don't care if everyone jumps on the bandwagon. As long as I can get some value and interaction from it, then I'll be using it for a long time.

There you go, it's official: I'm NOT cool!

p.s. And as for Trent Reznor, I think he "hurt himself today" by turning his Twitter stream into a one-way street. Please. Don't use Twitter for all it's worth, to interact with people and push products, and then moan about it because it gives people too much insight into your personal life. You can't have it both ways, man.

Behold The Number Of The Beast! 140!

The end of the Twitter world is coming! Oh, the humanity! Now we'll have to actually phone our friends and use that thing called a mouth to tell them we're in Starbucks instead of putting it in 140 characters!

No idea what the tech jargon means on Twitpocalypse, but I'm definitely not heading outside on June 13, 2009! Too many dramatic exclamation marks?! Yes!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who Wants To Be Amber Mac's Social Media Intern?

If you are a student and searching for a very cool summer gig, then you are in luck. Amber Mac is looking for a social media assistant/researcher for part-time summer employment at her company.

Two good things: you'll get some great experience from Amber, and it's also a paid gig.

Resumes to amber AT mgimedia DOT ca [begone, spam bots!]

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Need Some More Hours In The Day

I hate missing out on my blogging schedule; I feel that if I don't put at least a few words to computer screen once a day then I have let myself down in some way. I know, take a break, not the end of the world etc ...

It's just been a hectic start to the week and it's only Tuesday. I had a meeting near the airport this morning, then had to pick someone up, then had another meeting in Bay Street in the afternoon, then had to pick someone else up. (Useless fact #265: I used to do some taxi driving back in the U.K. in the late '90s so feel quite at home driving people around!)

Anyway, all the above is to pay the bills. The fun stuff starts in the evening as we are still working on getting the Alpha version of Greenscroll up to scratch. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's a green non-profit project that we hope will make Internet users think about how much power is being used on a daily basis, and encourage them to "Green the Web" as our tagline says.

It's exciting, hard work and extremely fun to try and get this project ready for launch. I have been keeping it pretty low key for now, but feel that interested parties might want to know what we have planned, so will start working on that in a few days.

Please take a few minutes to sign up on the pre-Alpha page and we'll ping you about the next steps. No spam, commitment or signing your life away.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm Showing A Red Card To Toronto Football Club

I went to see Toronto Football Club play yesterday with my friend Mike. It was his 36th birthday, and he's been a season ticket holder since day one. In fact, he was one of the first 40 people to sign up. He goes to every home game, travels a lot to the away games in the U.S., and buys a lot of TFC products, such as jerseys.

In other words, Mike has pumped thousands of dollars into TFC over the last three years. He is truly a dedicated fan. Yesterday Mike was forcibly ejected from the game for "trespassing."

Here's how it went down.

He went to buy a beer and was asked for I.D. to prove his age. Mike certainly does not look under 19, but because he doesn't drive, he doesn't have a driver's licence, therefore couldn't prove his age.

So, he offered up his health card -- a government-issued document -- and they refused to accept that instead. In effect, that means you can have brain surgery with that card, but at BMO Field you cannot buy a beer as an adult. Stupid.

Mike started to protest this fact in a calm, but frustrated way, and after around 10 minutes was told he was now "trespassing" and then escorted outside by two security people.

Come on guys! Use some common sense and discretion. We know you have A Boss to answer to, but please, allow the customer service people on the front lines to make their own decisions when it comes to situations like these.

It's fans like Mike that have put TFC where it is today, and I think they certainly scored an own goal yesterday with their customer relations.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Networking" Isn't Only Good For 78 Points On A Triple Word Score*

I had a couple of interesting coffee meetings with some PR people yesterday, and one of the conversations revolved around networking, something that should be in the Top 3 of any professional's arsenal when trying to win some new business.

The crux of the matter is that sites such as LinkedIn make it ultra-easy to connect with new -- and reconnect with former -- colleagues and clients. You may get some referrals that way, or someone will remember you from the past and ping you for an update.

Networking deals in the currency of reputation, and we talked about never connecting to someone just because you feel that they may be useful down the line. That is totally unethical, and shows a lack of respect. Who wants to be used just for a quick hit? (Coincidentally, one of the women I chatted to remembered me from my Silicon Valley NORTH days, so some of the familiarity was already in place, which helps.)

On the flip side, sometimes relationships don't work out for the best. Maybe the fit wasn't right, or the parties concerned felt that they couldn't move forward on the same path. It happens. Agree to disagree, try and work it out ... or move on. No point ranting and raving and burning bridges.

Back in 1988 (yes, '88 and not '98!) I worked at a stockbroking company in London, U.K., and there was a really cool guy who everyone liked. To cut a long story short, he got let go, so proceeded to pop across the road to a pub, get smashed, and then came back in a drunken rage to berate the rest of the staff. Security had to remove him.

Guess what my last memory is of that hard-working Mr. Nice Guy is? Yep -- even 21 years later the image of his last drunken rage still lives with me, and that's how I remember him now.

We didn't have that new-fangled thing called the Internet back then, so dread to think what his networking prospects would have been. It was a small industry, almost like a Boys' Club then, so word would have got around about Mr. Nice Guy.

Always network in a responsible manner. You never know who knows the people that you treat badly.

[*Disclaimer: Make Johnny Cash has no connection or affiliation with Hasbro, makers of the popular board game Scrabble. We cannot confirm that the word "networking" is actually worth 78 points on a triple word score, and do not want to be held liable if someone tries that in an actual game and loses. We merely made up the number for blatant link bait purposes. Thank you.]

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Read Your Blogs Inside Tweetree

Allstate -- Time To Start Listening To Your Non-Customers

1) I do not have, never had -- and now, never will -- a policy with you.
2) My name is not John Lawrence as my e-mail clearly states.
3) I have already previously asked you to unsubscribe me from this e-mail list.
4) Please start listening to what your NON-customers are telling you.
5) Thanks.

Update June 8, 2009. Marcia, the Marketing Manager at Allstate contacted me via Twitter and offered to help me out. That was followed by an e-mail communication from Betty, an Executive Assistant with Allstate's Chairman's Customer Care Team.

I just got off the phone with her, extremely helpful and polite, the issue is being resolved so points to Allstate for resolving my frustration so quickly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are You A Social Media Unicorn Or Kitten?

As more people, brands and companies start to wake up, smell the social media coffee brewing in the pot, and proclaim, "Hell yes -- I'll have a cup of that please!" they can either go one of two ways.

Social Media Unicorns
These are the mythical beasts that everyone's heard of, but have never actually seen. Unicorns are the movers and the shakers, working unseen in the background to make sure that their clients look good and are the stars of the show. They may slip up, allow themselves to be glimpsed on occasion, but when you try to find them, all traces have been erased as they cover their tracks.

They know that it's not their place or role to take centre stage in the social media realm. They office advice and help to others, happy and content that their social media wisdom will enable their clients to flourish, engage their target markets and be able to carry on the conversation long after the unicorn has been summoned to help someone else.

Social Media Kittens
Everyone loves these ubiquitous characters and wants to personally engage with them. They are all over the Internet, frolicking in people's blogs and forums, throwing out ideas and inspiration like balls of thread.

Kittens may seem like all they do is spend the day playing around, but follow them closely and you'll see that if you treat them now and again with some of your own value, they'll return the favour big time. They may bat their paws at your ideas -- but, hey -- the kitten has had to rise above the pack to get noticed, and there must be a reason for that. It pays to take heed of their advice and help.

So, there you have it. Two very different kinds of social media beasts can live in perfect harmony. Which one are you?

[Thanks to Adrienne for the inspiration!]

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We Are Forever People

Forever people for now and for then
You see we're waiting and I say it is forever, my friend
Because the future is now and forever is here
Within visions of truth imagination is clear

So go forth!
With experimentation
Technology for the future generation
And knowing insights, mystical might
Forever people are still doing it right

~ "Forever People" by The Shamen talks about a concept I find very interesting, and topical: Foreverism. They sum it up as, "Consumers and businesses embracing conversations, lifestyles and products that are 'never done.'"

To me, that is the essence of what social media is all about. A never-ending online chat with people who are interested in the same things you are. It's not just a case of jumping in with a comment and then leaving; it should carry on over time, expand, digress, be organic.

The Trendwatching briefing talks about conversations, relationships and how companies should open themselves up more.

Well worth a read in your next coffee break. Or whenever you want, if you happen to be the boss. (But pass it to your colleagues!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Greenscroll -- Greening The Web

I'm very excited to announce the launch today of our pre-Alpha sign-up page for Greenscroll, a green non-profit with a social media twist. As Co-Founder and Communications Director, it is my job to get the word out there, build some traction and generally make the coffee when needed too. Whetever needs to be done, I'm in. Can't wait!

I love the Internet. I love surfing. I don't love the environmental cost that these two passions of mine create on the planet. Workstations, server farms, data centres, power grids -- all these are "brown electricity" users that contribute absolutely nothing to the Earth's natural resources.

Greenscroll thinks it's time to put something back into the environment that we are taking out.

Just by me writing this blog post, and you reading it, has damaged the environment in some way, down the line. Time to change that.

We are still working on fine-tuning some aspects of Greenscroll, but it will make you feel good, so please check out the website and sign up for early launch notification. No strings attached, no commitment -- it's simply a way for us to let you know once we get going. Then you can decide for yourself if it's something you'd like to get involved with. We sincerely hope you do!

One other thing ... we're not green experts. This is something the Greenscroll team wants to get off the ground, but rest assured, we'll be asking the green community for ideas, help, advice -- and their input will surely shape this non-profit as we move forward.

To that end -- any thoughts? Please contact me at or the Greenscroll team on Twitter.

Thanks for reading. Hope to chat with you soon ...