I’m just talkin‘ ‚bout my g-g-g-generation

I got lucky. Only one year earlier and I wouldn’t be part of the greatest generation. Not the one fighting in WWII, not the one fighting in Vietnam, but the Millenial Generation. People born between 1982  and 2003.Morley Winograd and Michael D.Hais wrote a book about us and how we change American politics. But who are we? What does make us Millenial besides a birth date that falls around a turn-of-a-century? Wikipedia, who calls us Generation Y, says:

Characteristics of the generation vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. In most parts of the world its upbringing was marked by an increase in a neoliberal approach to politics and economics.The effects of this environment are disputed.

Great. We’re neoliberal…What about this communication stuff?

The rise of instant communication technologies made possible through use of the internet, such as email, texting, and IM and new media used through websites like YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, may explain the Millennials‘ reputation for being somewhat peer-oriented due to easier facilitation of communication through technology. Members of this generation tend to use Google and Wikipedia uncritically as sources of information and to freely share information online without regard to copyright.

Really? So we’re not only neoliberal, we’re also stupid…and, oh, we’re democrats. At least that what the authors argue. Just like James  Carville, the two think that the Dems will rule for 40 plus years. Well…let’s see if 2010 holds what they promise. To be fair, you can’t blame the authors for the Democrats‘  fault of scaring away Millenials within only two years. Their argument is that Millenials are socially liberal, which might be true, but in the last 2 years NOTHING changed on that front. None of the initiatives, the President set in the last two years spoke to my ggggeneration. Plus I discussed already, why the Dems are losing the technology race.

Things they do look awful c-c-cold.

Brand Protection, Bryan Pendleton and British Petroleum

Poor Bryan Pendleton. He gets a lot of angry Twitter mentions these days. The curse of an early adopter combined with an unfortunate similarity of initials with a big oil company that currently tries to make the Gulf of Mexico into the world’s biggest deep fryer (churros anyone?). Bryan opened his Twitter account in 2006 and chose @BP as his handle. Four years later, Leroy Sick opens an account. He calls it BPGlobalPR and sends out statements like these:

So YOU want to see pictures of dead animals covered in oil and WE are the bad guys!? Sick bastards. #bpcares

Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no- profits, image, then safety, but still- it’s right up there

By reading this tweet, you have agreed to a non-disclosure agreement. #bpcares #shutup

People say our stock has plummeted because of the spill. False. It’s because that commie Obama hates the middle class. ^Tony

In a recent comment for Gizmodo he wrote:

“I started @BPGlobalPR, because the oil spill had been going on for almost a month and all BP had to offer were bullshit PR statements.  No solutions, no urgency, no sincerity, no nothing.  That’s why I decided to relate to the public for them.  I started off just making jokes at their expense with a few friends, but now it has turned into something of a movement.”

Indeed, within days he has over 100.000 followers. And counting. As a reference:  BP_America, the official BP Twitter account has 13.000.

What does Bryan have to do with all this? He is more proof for the most important statement in Leroy’s article:

The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND.  You don’t own it because it is literally nothing.

On the Internet everyone can brantend (think brand – pretend, clever, hun?). You can try to protect your brand, buy all domains, register all Twitter feeds and create all the Facebook fanpages in the world, but really…you cannot. Even if you do, you can’t protect it from the bad reputation you earned yourself. BP’s Facebook community page has about 1.000 fans. But – as discussed – those pages aggregate public content and content your friend’s posted into the page.

What does that mean?

It means that this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AAa0gd7ClM and this image:

Not even Leroy can protect his brand, although he tries really really hard, as the video shows:


Took the clue train, goin‘ anywhere…

My criticism of „The Cluetrain Manifesto“ can be summarizes in one picture:

It’s not that I think everyone and everything should have a Twitter account. But if you have one. And if you link it from your 10 year anniversary page. And if you try to be as visionary as Martin Luther (the German, not the Georgian) by posting 95 thesis on the walls of the Internet. Then I expect from you that your Twitter account has a) more than four Tweets, b) a Tweet that is less than 12 months old c) doesn’t overall show that you have no clue how to use the medium and haven’t even tried.

Yes, Cluetrain was maybe one of the first books to understand and discuss the power of the Internet (for one segment – business – of society). Yes, it foreshadowed what has now become know as web 2.0 or however you might call it. That was 11 years ago. But since then it tries to live off that fame and failed miserably to update itself a year ago. My friend Julie points out:

[…] despite the Cluetrain’s Manifesto’s exaltation of all things online, it does not take full advantage of its online format.  While it is available online in its original version, it lacks updates on the more recent web trends, like social media and social networking. The core ideas behind newer platforms, like facebook and MySpace are addressed, yet the outdated references to Usenet and email lists as primary communication are a bit distracting.

Another point of evidence: The book’s webpage www.cluetrain.com. This page is rockin‘ it as it was 1999. Ok, you could argue that they wanted to preserve the original page, since it’s the starting point for the whole idea. They „declared the site a read only landmark.“ Fair. But you can’t argue that about the author’s web presences. I especially want to point out Rick Levine’s links (the first link „the“) taken from the official cluetrain homepage LEADING TO A CHOCOLATE BLOG by a certain Seth Ellis. Ironically, this chocolatiers‘ page has at least in design arrived in 2005 – you can’t say that about the other three author’s presences.

Can I take someone, who claims to be an expert and writes a book about it seriously, when they don’t abide by their own standards? Markets are conversations, they say. Where is the conversation with their readers? Obviously not on Twitter, they do not have their own Facebook page (breaking another of their rules (No. 40): „Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.“), they don’t even have a 1999-style forum on their webpage.

It happens to me too. I claim to be fairly advanced in Internet (communication) strategies, yet my own blog is a wordpress.com standard theme, my last update before class forced me to was in December and the subpages of my blog haven’t been updated in probably a year. But to notice, you would have to dig a little. On the surface, my blog looks nice, my google results pop up just the way I want them to (the Applestrudel petition on act.ly might be the exception) and my Facebook and Twitter accounts are well-maintained. And I abide by the few rules I have posed on the gates of Wittenberg/made up for myself: I (for the most part – grr act.ly) control the online discourse about google result „Yussi Pick“

Not Everything on the Internet is…Part II

This is the second part of a blogpost that is inspired by a reading for my Internet Advocacy class. It shall be seen as my weekly social network discoveries post.

Nothing on the Internet is big.

There is an important concept behind this statement: The long tail. From Wikipedia: This concept gained popularity „as a retailing concept describing the niche strategy of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities – usually in addition to selling fewer popular items in large quantities.“ Translated into the political world: 30 years ago, when you bought an ad on TV, everyone saw it. Then cable came and segmented the market. Then the Internet came and segmented it even more. Today, there are a gazillion social networking sites, blogs, sources people get news from, surf on daily. This is an opportunity: It is way easier to target, since the segmentation usually happens for various interests. But it’s also a challenge: You have to be everywhere to be heard by everyone. Yes, that means also MySpace, where still was it 6 Million people log on daily? If you want to talk to midwestern, underprivileged folks on the web, MySpace is your platform.That’s what „nothing on the Internet is big“ means: You have to be everywhere, but don’t expect masses.

Not everything on the Internet is communication.

Political Online Strategists complain that the Internet by amateur politicians and operatives is often seen as an ATM. After all, Obama made X amount of money off the net. And they have every right to complain. It is not a fundraising tool – not exclusively. But it is also not JUST a tool for communication. This is an important revelation when you try to figure out where in your (campaign) organizational flowchart to put the New Media team. The answer: EVERYWHERE. There should be new media experts working with the communications team on delivering a message, there should be new media experts working in the fundraising to deliver the money, there should be new media experts working in field to organize (online) volunteers and bring voters to the polls…which brings us to …

Not everything on the Internet (should) stay on the Internet.

Actually NOTHING should stay on the Internet. It’s a – very complex and rich – medium, but it’s still that: a medium. Facebook Fans don’t win you an election. Voters do. Email Subscribers don’t convince other people to vote. Supporters do. Everything action on the Internet has to have a real life impact – or it’s a lost action. My friend Joe was at the Personal Democracy Forum in NY las week (i’mnotbitteri’mnotbitteri’mnotbitter) and tweeted wisdom:  „Great note by @heif of @meetup: If people are not meeting up, it’s not a movement! Use the internet to get off the internet!“

The Internet is not just built for elections.

If your last tweet is „Don’t forget to vote“ you didn’t get it. and webbies will notice that you just used them for the election. The Obama iPhone application was great – but useless after the election. Text messages sent since the election: 0. The Twitter account: dead for four months. Yes, it’s intriguing to raise funds, push message and organize till election day and then drop it like it’s hot. It’s like having no fundraising plan or media strategy until 6 months before an election.

Not Everything on the Internet is…Part I

This week’s readings are the last two PDFs Colin Delany wrote over at www.epolitics.com. One is called “Winning in 2010” the other one “Learning from Obama.” Both are a good read for beginners to get an overview and for advanced users of the Internet to refresh, bounce off and have new ideas. I came up with/modified (used the reading as an excuse to impose on you) these eight rules what the Internet (in politics) is and is not. They are in random order and the ninth amendment is in effect (you know…the enumeration shall not be construed to deny or disparage, etc. etc.)

But first, a question from @Kenlevine: “Al and Tipper Gore are separating. Who gets custody of the internet?”

Not everything on the Internet is new.

At CongressCamp last fall, someone was hailing the use of social media during the CA wildfires. People would tweet about recent news and sightings of new fires. I couldn’t help but scream (inside): “If you see a freakin fire, turn on the radio and call 911.” I don’t think that things like rescue efforts or disaster relief should be decentralized. Some real space things do not have to be reinvented for or on the virtual space.

Same goes for the virtual space, some things look differently, but are really just an extension or modification from real space phenomena: “Using the internet for politics may seem new, but most online campaigning at some level just reincarnates classic political acts in digital form,” writes Delany. YouTube is the new TV Ad, Blogging is the new news source, Twitter is the new soapbox. Of course, there are differences in the medium and therefore different ways to approach it, but I don’t think the Internet reinvented the wheel. Just how we use it.

Not everything on the Internet is social.

Do not swim to the blinking object! Or rather: Do not ONLY swim to the blinking object. It was blogs, it was facebook, it will be mobile and geo-location. DO NOT JUST DO THAT. Do it all. And that means, sometimes, the old way is the best way. And by old, I really mean email. “Email effectively remains the “killer app” of online politics, despite constant predictions of its demise,” says Colin. I’m not sure if I agree 100%, but the take home is: Don’t forget Email! Everyone who has an account on any social network/platform/ANYTHING on the Internet demands an email address. And there are problems with email, no doubt. People have multiple email addresses, they don’t read them, your email is bad and they don’t click it, you really only use email for asking for money.

Not everything is on the Internet.

Colin says: “Text messaging will no doubt be a good fit for certain campaigns in 2010, but it’s likely to remain more of a niche application for now.” All I have to say is: Mobile. Just Do it.

Not everything on the Internet is earned.

I like the English distinction between „paid media“ and „earned media.“ The first referring to ads, the latter to outreach/pitching/media relations however you want to call what press secretaries do all day. Onceuponatime it was called free media. But free media isn’t free of course. Just because almost everything you do on the Internet is usable at little or no cost, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend any money on the Internet. Two great companies to throw money at: Google and Facebook. With Google, think in these terms: First, what do people who you want to reach search for? Maybe it’s „Jobs in Ohio,“ maybe it’s „SEIU Local 16“ (great read!) or „Gas price in Tennessee“ Then. your ad should correspond with the search term: „Vote Yussi Pick, he is for higher gas prices!“ Third, your landing page should correspond with the search term. The person who clicked on it, is most likely not in a political mind-set yet. Maybe s/he didn’t even get that s/he just clicked on a political ad yet. Fourth: Give the person something to do, but let it be done in a click. For clicks-sake the poor user already had to click two or three times, and you know that you can’t overwhelm an Internet user! Rather, let him/her leave his/her contacts so that you can get back to the user when user has recovered from clicking that often.

Part II is live later this week…

You’ve got your big G’s, I’ve got my hashtag.

When my Internet Advocacy class started a few weeks back, Trace suggested to start a Hashtag for class. #AUComm551 – American University Communications Class 551. We spread the word among our classmates and now you can listen in every Monday and Wednesday what our Professor and guest speakers say and during other times people share interesting links or announce their new blogposts. Just recently, I talked about a site that scans your Facebook privacy settings. I forgot the link, but because of the hashtag, could spread the word about it later.
Since #AUcomm551 was such a success, I wanted to try my own hashtag. Last night for my presentation in class, I asked people to tweet about the presentation with the hashtag #MSPC (Mobile Strategies in Political Communication). which I had vented in the afternoon (aka searched if someone else was using it). I didn’t expect much reaction, so I was surprised that the tag was used 16 times. While most of them were complimenting and not – as I was hoping for – summarizing and virtual note taking (in all fairness I hadn’t asked for that, but it was my experience so far from presentations and conferences), I was very surprised that the hashtag was used at all. After the presentation I could read what everyone had said and reconnect with my audience, send them the link to the presentation and would’ve had the possibility to answer any questions. Obviously, since I knew everyone in the room, that was not the case for this presentation, but it’s a good example of how powerful hashtags in presentations can be.

At a conference, of the 200+ people listening, the one’s that are really interested will use the hashtag and so it’s much easier to filter out the engaged audience from the passive crowd.

Therefore my plea is: Create and use Hashtags for everything!

Mobile? Just Do it!

The reading is an excellent source to get started with a channel that has been ignored by mostly everyone so far: Mobile.

Why would you use mobile phones?

First, let’s clear things up: cell phones are more than mobile telephones. Not only are they capable of doing things, a phone didn’t used to do (text, web, applications, etc.), but it is also a more personal device than any other. No one shares a cell phone with someone else. it’s personal in two ways: As a campaign one can reach one and one person only with one number (other than with email, where people share addresses or more often have multiple addresses); it’s also intimate. I don’t feel very well if someone else has my cell phone. S/he could see what I was texting and with whom. Who I called last and for how long. Give me your cell phone and I can tell you if you are in a relationship, if and where you went out last night, most of the time even, when you got up (or at least when the alarm went off).

It’s also a very immediate device. Raise your hand, if you were more than two feet away from your cell phone during the last 24 hours. An Austrian blogger recently said: “In the morning, I wake up, check my phone, read new emails, react to comments on the blog and go to the loo. In that order.” Your cell phone is in arms reach 24/7.

Additionally, the opening rate is through the roof. While emails get opened somewhere below 50%, 90% of all text messages get opened by the receiver. The response rate is also higher than with emails. People react to texts. They like being asked questions. So ask them! About their ZIP code! About their favorite animal (if you are working on an animal rights campaign)! About their complaints. Then combine your cell list and your email list and send them stuff about how their fav animal is endangered. Send them a text that you just sent them an email. Combine mobile with another channel and you will see the effect.

And read the text to find all about the more technical stuff about list building, short codes and great case studies. http://mobileactive.org/files/MobileActiveGuide2_0_0.pdf

Today in class, I will also present findings of my thesis with my very first PREZI. It’s not very pretty yet, but I learned a ton and the next one will be better – I promise.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.944145&w=425&h=350&fv=prezi_id%3D9l_mqhlyo2cp%26lock_to_path%3D1%26color%3Dffffff%26autoplay%3Dno]

more about „Mobile? Just Do it!„, posted with vodpod

Why do Democrats lose the New Media Race?

For my Internet Advocacy class (one of two final summer classes in my program) with Alan Rosenblatt, I have to blog about the reading assignments every week. This week’s reading was Matt Bai’s The Argument. Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics.

It was 2004, the Democrats thought they would win (with John Kerry. Really.) They didn’t. They were shocked. The loss of Kerry left a Democratic leadership vacuum in DC. At the same time, the 2004 elections were the first to play around with what was then called Web 2.0. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, was running as a progressive in the Democratic primary. His campaign manager, Joe Trippi, always had been a geek and Dean gave him the freedom to explore things. Blogs were the trend du jour and they had one. They also created DeanTV, basically an early version of YouTube, a picture service and a whole bunch of other things that would emerge for-profit in few years to come. They connected with bloggers like myDD.com and DailyKos.com (about whose genesis one can read in Bai’s book). And then they found meetup.com. Meetup was created by people who were concerned about/wanted to prove wrong Putnam’s thesis in Bowling alone that the social capital in the US would decline (no one joins bowling leagues anymore). The Dean campaign found out that there were people already holding meetings for Dean, connected through Meetup.com. BUT instead of taking them over, they supported them and helped them organize. It’s what made Dean a front-runner in the primaries – until he lost badly.

This is the prologue of what  Matt Bai describes. The rise of Democrats through the Internet. So the question is. When they dominated the New Media race in the mid 2000s, why do they lose it now? Yes, Obama set new standards in organizing, fundraising, communicating through the web. But other than that? Republicans are more creative and more effective in web organizing. Not only the fringe Tea Party shenanigans, but also their recent social media race shows that. More Republicans are on Twitter and have more followers. Their approach is much more concentrated.

What changed?

Democrats are in power now. That means not only less time, to experiment with new media, it also means less incentive: Whenever the Dems want to go on the record with traditional media, they can. In the mid2000s, Republicans were in power, to push the message out, Dems had to rely on new channels. Now it’s the other way round.

Hence, I’m proclaiming a hypothesis:

The opposition party has to rely on channels outside of traditional media (what ever that is at the time) more  to push their message out and is therefore faster, better and more creative in adapting to new channels.

Proof: In mid 2000s the new thing was blogs, and Dems were dominating them (if they still are…I don’t know). Now, the new thing is Twitter, text (and to a certain but not quite degree Geo-Loctation) and Republicans are on top of that.


Community (Not the Show)

This week in my Internet Advocacy class I was mentioning Community pages and asked the professor, how they could be used for activism. He hadn’t thought about that yet and asked us to blog about it. Community Pages are a weird thing. I believe they are Facebook’s attempt to gain power on Fanpages, but let’s start in order. Facebook just reformed (or still is – my friend David claims he still hadn’t had the overhaul on his profile) for the gazillionst time in one year. This time the biggest innovations are among Fan pages: There are now two different kind of Fanpages (or are there?): One can now instead of “become a fan,” “like” the Fanpages someone created by clicking “create a page.” Interestingly, it is  not possible anymore to “like” that someone “Became a Fan of” – This is confusing, bear with me: If I become a fan of/like the page “Internet Advocacy” an update on my wall says “Yussi Pick likes Internet Advocacy”. Before the last reform people could give me, instead of commenting, a quick thumbs-up by clicking “Like.” NOW instead of giving me a thumbs-up, they become a fan of “Internet Advocacy.”

THEN there are COMMUNITY PAGES. They are not created by anyone consciously, so no one has admin rights on them. How are they created? Before the reform, people had interests, jobs, books, etc. on their profile. When one clicked that, Facebook ran a search and showed other people with the same keyword on their profile. Now, you come to a page that looks an awful lot like Fanpages, so if I for example say, I work for the Students Union, Facebook creates a page and not the organization but Facebook has control over it. They integrated a Wikipedia article if there is one, run a search among status updates and posts by friends and globally that contain the keyword and much more. A disclaimer says:

Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for College of Wooster, sign up and we’ll let you know when we’re ready for your help. You can also get us started by suggesting a relevant Wikipedia article or the Official Site.

So what does that mean for Internet Advocacy: One cannot tell as long as Facebook has absolute control over it, you can’t connect with people who are connected with the page, can’t send messages or update the wall. Right now, the only thing one can do is monitoring and waiting.

Activist Guides

For my Internet Advocacy class (one of two final summer classes in my program) with Alan Rosenblatt, I have to blog about the reading assignments every week. I apologize for this one being a little rant-y and scattered.

So here’s my issue with this week’s reading  “The Digiactive Guide for Twitter for Activism:” It’s a nice guide for getting started on Twitter. Yes, I agree one has to tweet constantly, not too much not too little. Yes, I agree that one shouldn’t follow people randomly just to be followed back. Yes, I agree one should NEVER send automated “Thanks for following” messages (Is it only my impression or did that habbit increase in the last weeks. I haven’t seen it for a while, but I feel it’s back – or maybe I just randomly followed a bunch of users recently who have it. Especially pretentious with private accounts, I think.) But these are very broad tips and have little to do with Activism. Their case studies are interesting but have one thing in common: they were not planned efforts. At this point I’m not even sure if you can plan a successful Twitter for Activism outreach, among other reasons because as we discussed in class: You can’t plan viral. My second issue: he doesn’t acknowledge that Twitter is a mobile device. He doesn’t for example talk about live tweeting to get the word out of your event for people who can’t make it.

My issue with the “The Digiactive Guide for Facebook for Activism” is similar, but has one MOST IMPORTANT TIP. It’s number six. It should be roman one. Begin Real-World Action. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. After all, it’s still the real world in which you get the votes or the results. What’s left out is the use of events. That – I would argue – is the first and best way to translate your Facebook audience into a real world crowd. Although expect that about 10% of the people that RSVPed attending actually show up.

My Guide for Activism is: Use both platforms differently. Use Twitter to connect you with strangers and them with each other, talk with them, get your message out and get them to spread your message (= bit.ly link).

Use Facebook to gather demographic data on your supporters. Get them spread the message  among their friends – but it won’t (and shouldn’t) be your message any more. It’s their words, their message, you are only the provider for information. No one retweets you on Facebook.

And finally, slightly unrelated, a piece on USENET use by white supremacists. Great essay, no need to paraphrase: http://www.drdigipol.com/2009/07/08/organizing-on-the-social-web-a-cold-blast-from-the-past/