Archive for January, 2011

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!