Demystifying the Challenge of Enterprise Social Media

Demystifying the Challenge of Enterprise Social Media

Original Post @

Jeff Pulver (@Jeffpulver) recently mentioned that this year was his fifth anniversary of being in Social Media. This got me thinking, as five years is the typical run for any major technological boom over the past few decades.

In the 80’s we saw the PC rise to change the way we engaged with computing devices and managed our lives. In the 90s, the Dot Com boom gave rise to a vast number of internet technologies that have since been incorporated into products and offerings of major technology brands.  Oracle became more than a database and a few financial service offerings growing to encompass corporate portals, analytics and recently even Hardware. Microsoft’s applications are available in the cloud. E-commerce, once a multi-million dollar endeavor for corporations, has been democratized by Open source technologies.

All of these things happened in five-year spans.

Today, we’ve seen Facebook become a platform that rivals the Google Empire.  Twitter and Yammer are allowing for communication and information sharing in ways that couldn’t have been envisioned a decade ago. Brands have prospered and startups have become household names. However, there is one market segment that has yet to benefit from this change – the Enterprise.


So what is the Enterprise?

The enterprise refers to Fortune 1000 companies that comprise the majority of large employers globally. Enterprise companies operate a myriad of g systems that are comprised of technology that spans a fifty-year lifecycle. Companies that operate multi-million and often billion and trillion dollar operations on technology where new technology often becomes siloed before it’s value can be leveraged in a more comprehensive way.



Enterprise Companies have also made large investments in content, operations management and commerce systems that don’t easily integrate with social media technologies.  Lastly, the concept of user profiles is very similar to Marshall Sponder’s allusion to “ultraviolet data”. In the Enterprise, there’s unseen or “ultraviolet data” as well as multiple user profiles in multiple repositories across different corporate divisions (think CRM, CSR, Marketing, Corporate Communications and Operations).


It’s all about data.

In a world of Social data, Ultraviolet data and complex corporate repositories, we have to think differently.

Enterprises refer to the management of multiple repositories as MDM or Master Data Management. Social data covers to behavioral, influencer, sentiment and keywords. Ultraviolet data is the data “you could be catching, but aren’t” in both MDM and Social.


The chart above depicts the use of social and MDM data across departments within the Enterprise.

Combined this data could be better used to solve complex business problems; better market companies; eliminate gross inefficiency while driving innovation.


So what to do?

Complex business and data problems need what’s culturally acceptable for a large corporation while highlighting the value-add that Social Media presents. This can be done by employing an MDM + Social roadmap.


The Roadmap Basics


  • Educate the Executive: Corporate executives have seen their internal data for years. The value of Social Media data is a bit more nebulous.  Explanation and clarification of it’s utility to improve projects or enhance marketing efforts should be focused on.
  • Identify Executive Champions: Without support from the C-level, most projects are destined for budget cuts or failure. Nip this one in the bud.
  • Develop a Data Champion: It’s not all about Social Media data. Understanding MDM data will help highlight Ultraviolet data and allow for clearer mapping and use of Social Data
  • Commission a Social Readiness Audit: Your company may have survived the Dot Com age, but what systems need upgrading? What needs done to map data from AS/400 and Database repositories to Omniture, Social and behavioral data? For banks and retailers – do you have systems that contain profiles that should be included? Are you looking at the customer (B2B or B2C) holistically?
  • Develop Data Policies and Guidelines: Know how you’re going to use the data and where it may cause kinks along the way.
  • Following the Audit, Evaluate and Plan: Social Media data and Social Media applications shouldn’t be an afterthought. Evaluate critical business projects for areas where Social and Social data could be huge value-adds.
  • Manage Expectations and repeat the process quarterly: Change isn’t an overnight process. Inculcating Social and leveraging Social data could be a multi-year process. Just know that if these guidelines are followed, you’ll be in a good position to enhance the business in a way that adds to the bottom line.

Sucker Punch: An Odyssey in Post-Modernism

I never write movie reviews.


I typically hate movie reviews. Why? They’re usually very specific, in regards to the genre mindset of the writer or one’s personal bias towards film. It’s one of the last perceived havens of “Ecumenical compliance with a rote expectation of execution” on the director’s part. Movie reviews are not art and science – they’re gut and perjurious intent. That said, this is not a review – it’s a dabbling in postmodern exploration.

For several years I’ve been watching the evolution of the word hipster as something quite different from the construct “hipster”. The word, a mundane modicum of demagoguery for a cultural subset that is either friend or foe versus the construct which is altogether far more interesting.

The construct builds on a postmodern concept that all old can be reinvented within a “simulacra” of one’s mind’s eye. What’s a simulacra you ask? Simply put, it’s your perception of something old or unfamiliar within the context of your ability to describe and discern it. It’s interpretation, but it’s more than that – it’s the design of a new cultural idiom.

The construct “hipster” as I see it is this new amalgam of fashion, art, culture and now film that has evolved over the past decade. It takes and borrows from a myriad of places, races, cultural contexts and experiences. It renders the past experience associated with whatever is being discussed moot and builds on a completely new, modern interpretation. This modern interpretation allows one to love animated art; be entrenched in video games; be a pop culture maven; have or have no religious identity or practice; be educated to a deep level but not grasp who the B-52’s are or what a monocole is and be comfortable juxtaposing things that were once guarded concepts within one’s social experience, as easily as one changes a pair of pants.

No longer is there the deep learning and sage experience associated with learning, say Japanese culture. There is the postmodern interpretation and identification. This is “hipster”.

Sucker Punch is the first true embodiment that I’ve seen of this cultural shift in psycho-social norms from the learned culture and experience to full on perceived culture and experience. It weaves a simple tale of a girl cone mad in the most creative way possible while mashing up genres in a way that only the construct “hipster” can. It’s pure entertainment for entertainments sake that tells the tale but postulates a solution that is within the hands of the viewer , not the movie’s key actor at its end.

It’s clever in that way.

I will however warn you that if you haven’t lived through the experiences of Gen-X’ers and Millenials that the notions within this movie could prove completely alien to you.

Sidebar: If you never listened to and loved a woman who loved Bjork – parts may not make any sense. (It’s a lil Bjork heavy – in a good way).

So, without looking at it from a postmodern eye – it may come off as confusing. Therefore, I say look at it as constructs not hard concepts. Leave much of it at the emotive forces that it tries to rais and understand it for the pure visual orgy that it is.

An Analysis of the Film

The film itself is a three level layered story.

Layer one is the girl gone mad and orphaned at the hands of a her father and a fateful mishap. The girl carried off to the Asylum. It’s a role Emily Browning (Baby Doll) has played before in “the Uninvited” but develops quite differently.

Layer two is the view of the lay of the land from Babydoll’s mind’s eye. To cope with surreality of her situation, she takes on a reality that is a prison / dungeon scenario. A modified version of prisoner’s dilema from a game theory perspective. This story ends with her losing the “game” in the traditional sense and is a throwback to a Shakespearian concept of sacrifice for the other, without the double negative of a Romeo and Juliet ending. There is tragedy that’s predicatable – just not in the traditional sense one would expect.

Layer three is where all the fun is. This is the eye within her mind’s eye – the pure postmodernism or construct “hipster” where she develops an id like character that moves her pawn in life through a phantasmagorical video game quest for a map, fire, a knife, a key and something mysterious that she will have to “lose something and gain something for”. This level is the bulk of the film’s charm. It weaves us through a construct “hipster” view of a myriad of historical contextual situations as a quest. Baby Doll flutters in between this id layer of reality and layer two in sorting the quest and getting to the the film’s culmination and it’s denouement.

It dabbles in steampunk, “Kill the Nazis” and cyberpunk while having a Dragon Age / Wolfenstien / Gears of War feel and a ridiculous attention to detail (look at the sizing and detail on Baby Doll, Sweet Pea and Rocket’s guns and accouterment or the painted Bunny Rabbit on the dreadnought in the middle of the steampunk battle with the Nazi, walking-dead, Kaisers.

The styling is evocative of the 50’s and a sort of “Rat Pack” feel. It’s not over the top T+A, but is fueled with enough cuteness to keep anyone interested. Half the time I kept thinking .. “you could replace all of these girls with Ubisoft’s FragDolls..”.

The magic of where this is where construct “hipster” could take film future forward. If we relase our notions of time and place within the context of the pre-internet – we find ourselves in this brave new world where the experience that was typically associative from a time / space period to become purely postmodern. You didn’t have to live in the 70s and participate in the Disco era; you don’t have to expect to know the history of Japan and forget historical context of quotes “you better stand for something, because if you don’t you’ll fall for anything” was said by Peter Marshall in 1947 – not Carradine playing the sage / guardian.

So take Sucker Punch for the Post-Modern simulacra bag of tricks that it is. Enjoy how it’s developing “hipster” as a construct and understand the impact that this can have on film and art to come.

Lastly, expect to get entertained  with a message. A message that while contrite to a boomer or a pre-war persona – makes plenty of “go get em” sense to those of us living in this pre-web 3.0 era.

On Validated Accounts and Pitfalls in Using Twitter’s Sponsored Tweets

I’m a big fan of Nick Cage Movies.  I’ve probably liked him since “Valley Girl”.

Nick Cage, however, isn’t what I expect to see in my tweetstream.


Yesterday, I started getting SOW (Season of the Witch) tweets in my stream. This was a bit odd, so I started looking at the account and how it engages.

The account is brand new (as evidenced by the follower counts) but is validated, which I found interesting. Twitter suspended the beta verification process while a new validation scheme is worked out, however the @SOWmovie account’s validated status would indicate that they may be testing out something new. I’m sure that the ambiguity surrounding this will be to the consternation of many people who have been waiting months for validation.

That aside, let’s leave specifics on the validation question up to @twitter for the time being.

Regarding Sponsored Tweets

I’ll save the history lesson on sponsored tweets for a later date, suffice to say that prior to Twitter’s implementation, sponsored tweets were provided through third parties and allowed users to be compensated for a brand co-opting their account.

Twitter’s moving to “official” sponsored tweets seems to have missed some of the educational foundations that earlier third party tweet companies  included.

Lesson #1: If you’re the advertising company developing tweets, try and keep them contextual and at the very least “interesting”.

The SOW tweets were targeted at me based upon a celebrity information account I follow, @iamrogue.

The tweets themselves didn’t really leverage the medium appropriately and referenced things that wouldn’t make me want to see the film or even view the trailer. I don’t see what “Forrest Gump” has to do with SOW and see even less cultural reference for tweens and Millenials who may be apt to see the film.

Lesson #2: If you’re a traditional marketer and Social is a new medium – ask for advice or hire a consultant. At the very least, refer to a qualified copywriter.

On Really knowing your Social Media “Medium” and “Netiquette”

My last point is more of a personal pet peeve, but a valid one – I think. If I were to somehow, magically, break into film tomorrow, the last thing I would do is push self serving nominations of myself.

Without even 30 tweets in the bag, and hardly a review, @SOWmovie was pushing for a #shortyaward.

I understand the desire of marketers to want to do something new or use a new “medium” or #award within a “medium”. Blatant self-promotion of this sort from an advertiser tends to do the opposite. If you know what a #shortyaward is, you may be like me in saying “Wow this lacks general sensibility and netiquette”.

Lesson #3: Be aware of the tenor of what you’re doing, the medium itself and the difference between #memes and #awards. Jumping on the latter without netiquette is just kinda tacky.

I’m sure we’ll see @twitter’s sponsored tweets evolve into a mainstream ad model within the medium. It just makes sense for Marketers and Agencies to brush up on Social before engaging.

Compliance in 2011 – How Costly New Media Regulations Can Impact Your Brand

In the past few years the Federal Government, State Governments, and even individual cities, have evaluated and enacted regulations that affect New Media.

I’m sure everyone reading this has developed, or at least seen a EULA – or End User License Agreement. EULAs are the fine print on websites that detail (or attempt to detail ) their data collection habits, terms, conditions and legal limitations.

Parents may all be familiar with COPPA (, which refers to regulations related to child protection.  However, if you’re not using Club Penguin, working with interactive rich media content or social gaming – this may be new to you.

COPPA typically requires a disclosure (posted like a EULA) on your site and brand intermediation, to ensure that children aren’t harmed. It typically only applies if you have a product that’s targeting a pre-tween crowd (think CPGs) through New Media.

Crafting these legal disclosures and their related compliance are probably something you’d dump on your CLO (Chief Litigation Officer) or General Counsel. They’re not something that could typically impact the way you do business or force you to alter your New Media Strategy.

Up until 2011, Brands have been pretty free with their incentivization of bloggers and vloggers. Prominent Mommy bloggers are well known for being amply compensated either financially or in product for reviews. Prominent Tweeters have seen the same rewards over the past few years, as well.

The trend dates back decades, as magazines and periodicals (e.g. Vogue,  Travel + Leisure) would typically receive gratis services, products and even trips and lodging for a neutral or favorable review. Commenters, not as much – but if you recall the PAYOLA scandals of a decade ago – the history of comments involved incentivizing teens in chat rooms and forums with free CDs for recommendations.

These latter actions got my CFO hauled in front of a Congressional Inquiry, when I was at TWEC | TWMC (the largest music retailer in the US).

The updated FTC regulations change everything.

In 2009, the FTC passed theGuides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”.

Note: The link goes to a lengthy FTC PDF, so don’t click through unless you’ve got your reading glasses on.

The guidelines specifically focus on New Media “Endorsements and Testimonials”.

Translation: Any sort of product, service or monetary incentive given to a blogger or vlogger or commenter on any New Media Platform. This can include Blogs, Forums, Twitter, Facebook and a host of other popular social media sites.

Also, opposed to being just guidelines – these disclosure requirements have been developed with a fine structure that starts out at $10,000 per incidence.

While this may seem a pittance for a multi-national, the impacts for mid-tier businesses are quite serious. Add to this the factor of improperly disclosed posts that are fed through RSS and a brand could be looking at a fine of $10,000 x number of reposts.

Imagine if your brand gave away $250 gift cards to 100 bloggers who were RSS’d 50 times each. The total number of violations would be 5000 with a potential fine of $50 million.

So, where do we stand today?

Over the past two years, the FTC has been working to establish how to best benchmark and set guidelines for compliance. Once they’ve completed that process, sometime this year, the FTC will begin looking for companies that are in violation.

New players in New Media (especially Pharma companies) should pay special attention:

The FTC has even gone as far as limiting Facebook news feed posts for Healthcare companies, due to the inability of these companies to include contradiction | risk notices, that we typically see in TV commercials, within wall posts.

Paying attention to this now could pay off big time for early adopters, who will be spared a costly compliance lesson.

So what to do?

Regardless if you’re an SMB, Large Brand or Multi-national – you’ll want to evaluate your existing processes and how your New Media folks or Agency reps are handling your account.

Keys to the Kingdom:

1. Assess your Baseline. (Do you have policies and procedures in place? How do you currently manage paid or incentivized blogging, vlogging and commenting?)

2. Evaluate your Readiness for Change. (I’ve worked with numerous clients that have either revamped their internal policies or who we’ve helped craft policies from scratch.)

3.  Get Qualified Assistance. (Make sure that you hire a competent consultant to handle this who can have the policies reviewed by outside legal counsel.)

4.  Develop a Social Media Policy that includes Required Disclosures. (It’s recommended that you use someone who’s done this before)

5. KISS (Keep it simple 🙂 Tools like CMP.LY (@cmply) can easily reduce the complexity of your compliance process while providing an audit trail

6. Keep your Disclosures updated.

Lastly, if you are the Multi-national:

7. If your Brand has multi-agency or multiple blogger | vlogger relations, you may need to evaluate systems as well as processes. Larger brands have more moving parts, which often employ intranet or extranet management systems. Further, if you are using multiple systems for RSS, Syndication, content management and customer engagement – you may want to perform a compliance audit.

As a child I remember hearing “an ounce of prevention can prevent a pound of cure”. As a Brand, his is a case where that should really be taken to heart.

Key Resources:

WOMMA’s, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Ethics review blog (

@Izea’s Disclosure policy Generator ( (thx @tedmurphy)

@CMPLY’s Compliance Management tools (

@CMPLY’s detailed list of the 8 key FTC disclosures: (

On Iconoclasts and Forced Expectations in New Media

It’s 2011. However, let’s take a quick stock of 2010.

2010 was the year where twitter was elevated beyond the marketing and communication medium that it is, to become journalist’s new media “source”. Politicians were harangued; retractions were made and everyone was pushed to watch their P’s and Q’s.

A few examples:

Sarah Palin (@sarahpalinusa) stumbled with her juxtapositioning of the word refute over repudiate to write “refudiate”, creating a media feeding frenzy.

Benny Morson of the Rocky Mountain News live tweeted a funeral resulting in a problems for the paper, as well as a “Miss Manners” like realization of “don’t liveblog a funeral”.

Mike Wise (@mikewiseguy) tweeted a few fake rumors about Ben Rothlisberger and the Steelers, resulting in backlash from a wide section of the football watching twitterverse and traditional media.

The personal livestreams of people consulting on @park51 became easily confused with that of consultants (including myself) who were working with the account.

Political rhetoric leading up to the the 2010 midterm election resulted in numerous politicians, pundits and politicos leveraging social media to put their two cents in. Typically, as it was either short form (Twitter) or easily taken out of context (Facebook, Twitter), it easily presented a cultural problem which even brands have had a hard time acclimating to.

In a nutshell, it violated Fuller’s law of 20% new for easy acceptance, and should be viewed as a foretelling of expectations to come.

Much of this comes on the heels of expectations carried over from the last dot com boom. Today, holding on to these expectations can affect brand health, political success and in the case of politicians, personal brand.

When we moved from traditional brick and mortar to click and pay models, our Marketing and Advertising shifted. However, our CSR processes, CRM and PR stayed the same. Companies, Politicians and Icons who were accustomed to the “Mad Men” model of broadcasting their messaging and dealing with feedback or pushback through established, traditional means stayed the same.

As Web 2.0 evolved into social media, consultants from a wide variety of industries became new-styled change agents that helped companies market, advertise, address CSR and CRM issues WHILE performing a digital parallel of traditional PR tasks. This shift impacted industry in large ways, as companies were now utilizing the same employees or consultants to address campaigns and issues that were traditionally siloed within corporate departments.

One only has to look at any great Ad campaign to see the integration of traditional marketing with social media (e.g. Ford, Pepsi, OldSpice). In a short span of five years, what was once a traditional Marketing or PR function, has become part and parcel of integrated marketing and social media.

What does this mean?

It means that you can’t run a $2M print campaign and throw $20k at social with wild expectations of results.

It means that the complications that used to arise from a failed campaign are now more complicated.

It means that companies need to have social campaigns that are developed with a sensible strategy and adequate monitoring tools, so they can be tended to in realtime.

It also means that companies will have to deal with a new rank and file of employee or consultant. One that may have an online identity that is superior to your own brand and potentially a facebook fan page with more fans than your product.

These people are Iconoclasts and have a sense of humor and often levity that transcends their work. Simply, they are not your brand. They are their brand, often helping your brand in a social ecosystem.

While politicians are a hybrid of self-identity and brand, most traditional brands lack an identity.

Iconoclasts, in the traditional sense, become much more amplified within new media, as they leverage their consulting or marketing expertise in tandem with acumen for social media and market engagement.

They’re redefining PR and marketing, as well as forming a baseline of expectations for where new media will take MARCOM (Marketing Communications) in the next few years. The impacts on how they engage across new media via social

They also have lives that are separate from the brands they represent; lives that encompass a wide breadth of Millenial and Gen-X attitudes, interests and lifestyles.

In 2011:

Journalists would be best served to start using a crowbar to start separating the Iconoclast from the brand.  They’d also be better served by trying to understand the context of tweets, posts and wall posts prior to using them as “trusted sources” or erroneously reporting details.

Brands, who are dipping their toes in social media, should consider themselves on notice to begin developing reasonable budgets and expectations for both their consultants and campaigns.

Engaged Brands should seek to keep their leading edge, by leveraging metrics and tools in ways that tie their digital advertising and marketing to social media (also PR), video and SEO.

Lastly, we all should take stock of the changing nature of culture. If one can be lambasted in the media mid-year and have one’s “mistake” become word of the year – there’s obviously change afoot that we all need to pay attention to.

Happy New Year!

There Are No More Free Lunches in Social Media

Originally posted on Social Media Observer on September 20th, 2010:

It’s Monday.

Yesterday, I took my cousin (@drsidchiro of on as a client, in order to develop a Social Media marketing program that will help educate and market Chiropractic and Scoliosis treatments. As with a number of previous clients that have had a limited amount of exposure to Social Media, it involved quite a bit of explanation.

We had met the week previous, where I described a basic strategy to him that would leverage a blog with twitter for conversational engagement and Facebook to educate and develop a fan base. It’s rudimentary at this level and as with all strategies, required me to conduct a few focus groups and develop something that will actually allow him to develop brand traction online.

I’d tried to explain Social Media marketing and it’s value the year prior – but it seemed a bit like chatting and sharing pictures more than an actual marketing method to him. As with all new concepts, I knew it might take him time to understand its value.

Fast forward numerous case studies and projects and here we are today.

If you’re not familiar with me from my work or my involvement in Social Media, let me introduce myself. My name is Oz Sultan. I’m a Management consultant who specializes in Marketing and Social Media. I’ve 17 years experience in selling products and developing brands. I’ve helped a number of major clients, including FYE, JPMorganChase, the Economist, Kinect for Xbox, as well as, mid-tier companies, non-profits and individuals. I’ve lectured on social and educated corporate individuals from the board room to the call center. I’ll also be teaching an MBA class in Social Media at NYIT starting next January.

I had taken a colleague with me, who was coming on board at his practice as a new patient. She started with x-rays, while I proceeded to interview a small group of teenage Scoliosis patients and their parents. In order to develop a plan, I had to understand how patients found him and how satisfied they were with the treatments. So I held a focus group with patients we had selected the week before.

I was introduced as “the facebook guy”, which I let slide, as if you work with Social Media – I’m sure you’ve had as much trouble explaining the realities of new media marketing too.

The focus group began with a 17 year old patient and her mother. What was interesting to discover was that she had found out about the treatments on twitter and had a number of discussions before suggesting that she try it to her mother. What was interesting was how involved she was in her own therapy, as well as how much Social Media played a part in her selection of the treatment.

Another younger patient’s father discussed the severity of his child’s curvature (Scoliosis throws a curve to both backs and lives) and noted that he had used “traditional media” to find the treatment that my cousin offers. When asked further, he noted that by “traditional media” , he meant the web.

My interviews took about an hour and when I finished, I joined my colleague in the massage chairs, to wait for my own adjustment (Yes, I’m not just a consultant, I’m a patient too!).

When I asked my cousin if he’d be starting treatment for her today, he cited that he’d have to take an hour or two to evaluate the x-rays, her medical history and develop a work up.

I finished my treatment and walked to the front of the office to catch up with my cousin and discuss next steps. He quickly asked me what I’d done with his twitter account in the last week (I’ve had a number of clients that think increasing twitter followers is much like an email marketing campaign).

I explained to him that much like the treatment regiment that he’d have to develop for my colleague, I’d have to perform some further research on the market, twitter conversations chiropractic best practices before presenting a plan of action. While his plan would be significantly smaller than what I’ve done for clients with corporate budgets, it would be equally as thorough. I also noted that calling me “the Facebook guy” is about as insulting as calling him nothing more than a “back cracker”. I cited that we’re both professionals, just in very different disciplines.

Almost instantaneously, his eyes lit up. He understood. It wasn’t simply fiddling with twitter and Facebook. It was actually data backed marketing. It also helped our subsequent conversation, where we discussed both cost expectations and patience (brand new Social Media campaigns typically take 3 – 6 months to achieve a measured degree of success).

I explained that it wouldn’t be a free lunch.

A decade ago, I remember clients that would tell me that they had a nephew or friend that could develop their website. They typically came back after a few months, a failed e-commerce effort or a brand embarrassment. We’d fix their issues with limited comment, and when they received the bill they understood our value.

That was the beginning of the end of free lunches in web development.

For professionals working with Social Media, the market has wrestled with where to place us for the past several years. We are Marketers, but we cross a number of disciplines that can involve:

Consulting (Strategy, Metrics, Conversation Modeling)
The Web (SEO, SEM, Affiliate Marketing)
Social Media (Microblogging, Blogging, Social Platforms)
Mobile (M Commerce, Mobile applications)
Digital PR (Blog Placements, Sponsored Posts | Tweets, Influencer Endorsements)
Location Based Services (Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown)
Localized Services (Yelp, Google Local, Citysearch)
CRM (both Social Media and Enterprise)
CSR (Call center augmentation, Microblogging, Web Applications)
Self Service CSR (Getsatisfaction, et al)

I could go on, but the purpose of this post isn’t to present a comprehensive list of Social Media tools. It’s to make a point.

As Social Media moves beyond it’s equivalent of the party years of the dot com era, we’ll find more business cases and reasons for business to adopt it. As this happens, companies need to understand, self-ordained Social Media gurus aside, that we provide a valuable service. A service that companies will not be able to avoid, as Social Media tools evolve and it’s use becomes more prevalent.

We have already seen major consulting companies adopt it, and one may want to ask Deloitte or Sapient or Booz Allen what their average strategy consulting engagement for Social Media costs. From my experience, it’s most likely well over $10,000, if not $20,000. Not to exaggerate, but I know from experience that’s what we charged at several consulting companies, to Tier 1 (Fortune 1000) clients, where I was previously employed.

Granted, not every individual shop commands these sorts of rates, however I simply ask any prospective client to pose this question to themselves: “If you’re a doctor, businessperson, actor, athlete or client of any sort. Why would you ask for a free lunch, in a situation where you wouldn’t offer one yourself?”

Original Post:

The “education” of ‘Mosque’ Social Media Strategist Oz Sultan

Originally Posted on Capital NYC on August 18th, 2010.

At 11:30 p.m. yesterday, Oz Sultan got on the phone, exhausted.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been fasting and it has been a very long day,” Sultan said.

It began when Sultan, the social media consultant hired to help Park51, the Islamic cultural center planned for lower Manhattan, sought to dispute a story in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz citing anonymous sources claiming the project was planning to abandon the controversial site it had planned to develop.

“On a side note, if Haaretz likes publishing fables, perhaps they could go back to the Yiddish ones with parables #welikethosebetter” was the tweet Park51 blasted out to its legion of brand-new followers, eager for chum from the advancing story of the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The tweet immediately raised hackles: was Park51 now using its tweetstream to make Jewish jokes about an Israeli paper? “Disturbing,” “dismissive” and “snarky,” the project’s tweetstream was called. More locally, Politico’s Ben Smith wrote that “the hyperactive Twitter feed” established the Park51 project “as, if nothing else, a thoroughly New York project.”

Add to that Sultan’s approach, which was deeply rooted in the mores of Twitter even before every mainstream media operation started hitting refresh, using it to direct questions at the Park51 organizers, and quoting and analyzing all of its tweets for their audience, which would have Park51 respond to every single tweet directed at them. “Even with only three people,” Sultan’s tweetstream read at one point.

Scrap that! The organizers have been bombed now for the last 48 hours with tweets and questions of all kinds: a mixture of hate-tweets and serious questions from serious reporters and “you go girl!” affirmations from millenials. And obviously, the tweetstream’s responses were generally considered insufficiently serious in the context of the outlandishly huge story of Park51.

The “fables” post was ultimately removed, and another transmission added yesterday: “Update: We are in the process of introducing a new team and are issuing apologies for any prior tweets that may have caused offense,” as well as, “Note: we will be replacing one of the interns on the park51 account.”

Much has been made about the culture clash between American Muslims and the rest of the country represented by the Cordoba Initiative’s Park51 project. But Sultan’s tweetstream fell into the middle of a series of other culture clashes, too: the clash between New York City and the rest of the country, and between a young generation of digital natives and their elders.

The culture of Twitter is still obscure to most journalists who have recently adopted it as a forum for directing official questions at organizations and individuals, and for reporting and distributing their newsbreaks to colleagues. Most tweets don’t take the form “Ha’aretz: Ground Zero mosque scrapped” so much as “LOL Don Draper is a loser! #madmen #angry.”

A native of the New York social media scene, Sultan treated Park51’s tweetstream as a means of communication with the natives on Twitter, who’d have been able to get the “snark” without blinking, notwithstanding the fact that the tweeting was being done in the name of an institution in the thick of a overheated, international public-relations crisis.

But the positioning of these tweets also reflects the general, easy multiculturalism of Manhattan elites. Just as many private school students of the Upper East Side are already familiar with the Cordoba Initiative from any number of interfaith school field-trips, so Jews, Muslims, Christians and ethnic majorities and minorities trade an easy banter about cultural difference that might be hard for a blogger from Omaha to relate to.

Whichever intern posted the “fables” tweet returned to the well to explain that a Jewish aunt had told a lot of these sorts of parables in his or her youth; true or not, relevant or not, the explanation would likely have been unnecessary for a tweetstream with an exclusively New York audience.

And a local, hip audience is exactly what Sultan thought he was dealing with when he took the job.

FIVE WEEKS AGO, SULTAN WAS PUT IN CHARGE OF FIGURING OUT A SOCIAL media strategy—how to reach out to the local community, and to an extent the project’s thoughtful critics, before the story blew up online—for Park51. But as the Cordoba Initiative’s founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been overseas for most of the summer, on one of his frequent missions aimed at building bridges between Muslims and Americans, Sultan became an interim spokesman for the understaffed development. He answered questions from the New York Daily News and did a podcast interview with CNN.

“I was brought on five weeks ago to start [putting] together, just basically, social media engagement. It’s super nascent, where we are right now. A blog is launching in a few weeks, and we’re looking for more folks who will write for us.”

Three weeks in, the Park51 stream—run, according to Sultan, by a team of three to four interns—was born.

But it was only during the past week that members of the media and other Twitterers started @’ing them with questions. “We caught on in a five day period,” Sultan said.

The feed includes posts with official statements (“We are working towards our current plan – to build a Muslim modeled YMCA / JCC in LM that serves LM + all NYC”) and links to media reports with shoutouts to some (“Detractors, please pay heed to Keith Olbermann. American Muslims are not the enemy:”) and jeers to others. But the Twitter feed also veered into colorful tones and responses to critics, often including emoticons (^_^) and flippant hashtags (#justsayin, #fail). There are “how exactly should we respond to bigoted and insulting attacks? Hand out cupcakes?” and “Are you suggesting we hug it out?” There’s also this response to @drbaloney: “BTW how about that baloney today, I mean OMG.”

“Anything really serious floats up to me,” Sultan said. He did not reveal the names of his Twitter helpers or where they attend school. “I’m not going to put 20-something kids in the line of fire here.”

The initial goal of the feed, according to Sultan, was to respond to attacks and clear misconceptions. “Let’s try to engage, let’s try to spark the conversations,” he said.

“We started trying to at least have some conversations online but what happened was everything started turning really, really, really negative,” Sultan said. “People are sitting there shoving visceral and vitriol down your throat and, because of the sensitivity of the situation, at the same time, you have to be sensitive to them. It’s like post-modernism in action.

“You know, the reason it became snarky was if you understood the culture of Twitter, it is predominantly millenial and there is so much pop culture idiom and American culture idiom. So if you’re not accustomed to the culture, you won’t understand it. We had people sending us videos of death metal bands talking about ripping us apart and when we posted that the intern would be removed from the team, they said that we were beheading them.”

“We’re trying to build bridges,” Sultan said. “Everything that we’re engaged with is ‘You murderer, you feminine genital mutilator, you satanists, you people who worship the moon.’ And we’re not even allowed to have a little level of Twitter jokiness?”

“We had endeavored to kill them with snark and that typically works on Twitter. What is Twitter besides peoples’ attitude? They’re not tweeting actors. We are [an] apolitical organization, we are a community commuted to educating people, of all types, to what Muslim culture is, what our religion is, what our history actually is without distortion.”

NORMALLY, SULTAN ADVISES BEAUTY, LUXURY and entertainment clients on how to build “fans” with deeper connections to their companies through social media sites. In a June 2008 blog entry, Sultan wrote that “individuals can extend their internet or off-line personas to develop their personal brand, in ways that engage the masses while carrying a distinctly personal message. Your personal style, sensibility and humor as well as cultural constructs are easily parlayed through short posts and messaging. Businesses, as the technology shifts from social acceptance to business productivity could shortcut costly / cumbersome wireless communication, while integrating both web console access of the platform and wireless productivity.”

He’s a light-hearted guy you’d find at most social media mixers in a t-shirt and a blazer who is usually willing to chat you up over cocktails. At the 140 Characters conference in New York in April, Sultan gave a short presentation about the healing power of social media after a death through remembrances on Facebook and MySpace. “Everything that you put out there, it’s got feedback and it’s got legs like it never has before,” he said, dressed in a “Hebrew National” t-shirt and jeans. “This new source-crowded community that we have, kind of consider it your family.”

Sultan previously served as a strategist and technologist for clients including Transworld Entertainment,The Economist and Microsoft products. He grew up Muslim in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Penn., where there were no Muslim schools.

He got his marketing and strategy degree from Duquesne, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, in 1994. He then studied German at the Goethe Institut and linguisitics and economics at the University of Pittsburgh before getting his master’s in information technology and policy from Carniegie Mellon. He worked at several digital consulting firms in New York and is an active member of the local startup scene as co-founder of the NextWeb social media gatherings and Lunch 2.0 meetups.

On the phone last night, Sultan said he had just gotten back from a big meeting at The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center in the Bronx, where Manhattan Borough president Scott Stringer’s Iftar Dinner was billed as “an opportunity for people of different faiths and backgrounds to come together to share in a memorable celebration of the holy month of Ramadan.”

Sultan said he didn’t think he’d be making too many more television appearances, though. “We’re picking and choosing who we talk to, we want people to understand our message,” he said. He said that going on the Bill O’Reilly show “is not going to benefit us, we’d just get shouted down for an hour.”

“What we are interested in is allowing for a dialogue,” he said. “What we need to fight the good fight. Because everyone involved in this is an American. We love our country.

“We are serving areas that haven’t really been all that populated since 9/11. There’s convenience stores and sex shops and there’s some gentlemen’s clubs, but there’s nothing really of merit down there. Ask anyone who lives down here and you’ll know that whole area of Manhattan shuts down at 8. The only thing that’s open is the Jubilee Food Market.”

“The goal is to educate,” he said. “It’s a Manhattan issue, but it’s also a global issue, to build interfaith and build a community that is already in itself insular to people coming from the outside, to open up and to kind of sort of pick out the bad apples and work with them.”

As for the Twitter feed, @Park51 has turned a corner. Yesterday, Sultan updated the account: “For the past week, we’ve focused on trying to respond to attacks and detractors of our project. what’s become clear is – they won’t listen.” He followed up: “Starting today, we’re going to begin addressing questions regarding park51. We’re open to any sensible discussion.”

Sultan said the Twitter feed will be “restructured” after the lessons they learned. “We found out that people expect some form of journalism on Twitter, some journalism that the Twitterati themselves are not all that accustomed to,” he said. “But this is the thing with Twitter, you try and you learn that’s exactly how we are going about this. There is no tried, tested, hard, fast answers on how to do this.”

Sultan said the job at Park 51 has been a new challenge for him. “Here’s the thing, no one has had a client like this,” he said. “No one.”

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