Weekly #6 It’s Not About the Tools, It’s About Behaviors – Barack Obama Then and Now

This week’s blog post is about the Obama 2008 campaign and its wildly successful integration of social media tools to win the presidency AND about the state of the presidency now, a week before the 2010 mid-term elections.

I’ll start off by stating up front that I am apolitical and a cynic.  I’m very thankful that I was out of the country for both the 2004 and the 2008 election cycles and didn’t have to be bombarded on a daily basis by election materials.  In fact, I probably know more about the provincial election system in Iraq and politics in Salah ad Din province than I do about US politics.

My memory of the 2008 election furnished me with snippets about text messages, crazy rumors that Obama is (fill in the blank) and lipstick on a bear (pit bull?? Teacup??).

A review of the reading material about the campaign’s social media integration is very impressive.   The Obama campaign didn’t invent new tools; they took existing ones and integrated them to motivate people into action.  That’s where their success came from, in contrast to the Dean campaign of 2004.  The Edelman review of the campaign sums it up nicely: “The Obama campaign leveraged all the tools of social media to give ordinary Americans access to resources usually reserved for professional campaign operatives.”  Also, integrating the online communications team into the rest of the campaign instead of treating it as an afterthought was key to the success of the campaign.

I was amazed to read about the integrated Houdini database (it’s so obvious and reminiscent of the restructuring of the US intelligence system post 9-11); the ability for ordinary people to make campaign phone calls (who knew?  I thought all calls were robo-calls) and the constant communication between the campaign staff and both the active campaign volunteers and ordinary people who signed up for more information on the websites.

Applying Shirky’s “plausible promise, effective tool, and acceptable bargain” formula to the Obama campaign shows us:

Plausible Promise:  Support the campaign/vote for Obama

Effective Tool: Social Media integration

Acceptable Bargain: Give us your information and time, we will empower you to campaign for a cause you believe in

The Obama campaign was able to effectively mobilize people into action by their effective organization plans, their use of social media tools and their ability to make people think their contribution to the campaign was valued, noticed and appreciated.  In short, they were effective communicators ala Cluetrain (campaigns are conversations).

The Obama campaign support base was transformed into Organizing for America and placed under the Democratic National Committee after the election.  It marked the first time the DNC, or any national political party, would have an arm that focused on policy, rather than elections.  I took a look at the website today though, and it looks pretty much like a campaign website to me, complete with get out the vote material and all the tools used in the 2008 election still there.  I did find the ability to buy a “Health Care Reform is a BFD” t-shirt or “Future President” onesie (Free Standard Shipping!) on the website though, so that was an amusing diversion.

It seems to me that the Obama administration has not done as well at communicating with its base of supporters as it did during the campaign.  If campaigns or presidencies are conversations, I didn’t see much of that reflected on the White House website or the OFA website.  Their twitter stream seems about what you’d expect (but a little humorous/partisan snarky) from a government agency and their 13 (!) White House blogs do not have the ability to leave comments.  Is anyone actually reading the blogs?  It reminded me of the “should the CEO blog” question we talked about a few weeks ago.  If you blog in a forest, does anyone hear it?  Wait, I think that applies to this blog too.  Hmm.   To be fair though, the blogs are there for anyone to look at and they do give a lot of information about hot topics in an effort to be transparent and I appreciate that.

The only evidence of a ‘conversation’ I found was on the White House Facebook page.  Boy, was I sorry I clicked on it though, because it was worse than the comments thread on a contentious story in the newspaper.  People were attacking each other left and right (get it, left and right, haha).  To their credit, the administration isn’t stifling ‘debate’ and doesn’t seem to be deleting comments that I could tell.  So I guess that is a conversation of sorts, although it’s not really between the White House and the people, it’s between the people themselves.

It looks like the Obama team has realized that governing is not the same as campaigning, as Ari Melber writes.  It isn’t rallying activists for a cause, it is making concessions with the other side to pass legislation.  Looks like the Obama administration had to abandon the highs of campaigning for the realities of politics (as usual?).  To me that is where I question Organizing for America’s effectiveness.  Again, I missed most of the health care debate, but it seems to me that if 13 million people are on the OFA mailing list, certainly they could have mobilized them in support of passing the health care legislation (or any legislation for that matter) and have them work at the grassroots level to spread the world in communities around the country.  It looks like they tried to do it, but the mainstream media didn’t ever pick up on it and the debate got hijacked into death panels and contentious town hall scream-a-thons.  Is that progress?  Not in my opinion.

I don’t think the Obama administration is doing as well at having a conversation or at having the promise/bargain/tool as the Obama campaign did.  But I question is that the purpose of an administration?  They have to face the realities of governing.  Sure, they could improve their conversation ability but in the end politics is politics and you have to strike deals to get anything done.  Where they can improve is in explaining to the American public where they have been successful and why they are a good administration.

As a fun aside, I did notice that it doesn’t matter if everyone is coming, to paraphrase Clay Shirky, I only care about the people I care about.  I have 1 Facebook friend (a certain magazine editor who shall remain nameless) in common with the White House.  In terms of Dunbar’s number, the White House Twitter stream is only following 109 others…interesting.

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Response Post #1 – Meet the People, Eat the Food

Ericka and Kate inspired me to write my first response post.  Ok, it was them and some pregnancy-related insomnia…anyway I found myself thinking about how glad I am that the Army has forced me into moving a lot and experiencing things I never would have on my own.  I am so impressed with the people I’ve met in school here who have quit their jobs and moved to DC to go to school (without a job, did I mention that already???).  Their blog posts got me thinking about some of the different places I’ve lived.  The best memories I’ve made have been the ones that forced me out of my comfort zone and put me in the midst of ordinary people, eating the local food.

My first experience living overseas was in Uijongbu, Korea in 1996-1997.  I arrived there with a raging case of bronchitis and promptly got frostnip.  I almost cried when I saw the room I was going to live in.  Luckily for me, my boyfriend (now husband) was also at the same small post and that made all the difference in the world in adjusting my attitude.  I am laughing as I type this thinking of how nice that room was compared to some of the other places I’ve lived in since.

We used to take the bus and the train to go to Seoul.  One of my favorite things to do in a foreign country is take the public transportation.  Sure, it’s nice to have your own ride, but for some reason public transportation makes lifetime memories for me.  The first time I took the bus, we passed through the Uijongbu market and my eyes were accosted by tons of old, wizened farm women squatting next to hundreds of multi-colored plastic bowls.  Some of the bowls looked like moving water, but from the bus I couldn’t really tell what they were.  On the ground though, I realized they were tiny little eel-like fish.  I didn’t try any.  I did eat a lot of other street food though, unidentifiable meat-on-a-stick, chestnuts, juice filled with pieces of crushed fruit, some kind of waffle in a fish-shaped mold filled with bean paste.  Aah, the memories.  In fact, my husband and I often describe things that are just a little different as being like McDonalds in Korea: it looks the same but we don’t have sweet bean sundaes on the menu here.

My next time living overseas was in Iraq in 2004-2005.  It’s hard to characterize that as living in a foreign country though, because I was largely confined to a sprawling base (25,000 people lived there) and only got off base infrequently.  Somehow the days of being on-base have faded and what I remember are the times I got to meet real Iraqi people.  The first time I saw a pomegranate was on a dusty farm lane outside of Balad.  We were driving up and I saw 50 or 60 red things lying in the road that looked like apples, but weren’t.  It was only then that I realized, hey, that’s a pomegranate.  Obviously that was before the days of POM Wonderful drink and all the super-fruits at the grocery store.  Getting out of a humvee in those days was asking to be swarmed by 40 or 50 kids and teens, all shouting questions at you from about 2 feet away.  “Meester, meester, you married, you have baby, you have candy?  Can I try your glasses?  Where you from?”  It can be overwhelming to be surrounded and cut off and try to fend off the hordes of people who want to talk to you.  But that will create a lasting memory, I can assure you!

My next trip to Iraq was in 2008-2009.  I was in the same province as my previous tour there but it was totally different.  180 degrees different.  I was able to get off-base a lot, I met many local Iraqi students and journalists and really got to talk to them and know them.  I also got to eat a lot of yummy Iraqi food and drink some crazy sweet chai (tea).  Imagine a shot glass filled 25% with sugar and 75% with scalding tea and you get the picture.  Yum!

We used to go to Tikrit University and meet with the students who were studying English for monthly informal ‘chats.’  There was no structure to the chats, it was just a chance for the students and soldiers to talk about whatever interested them.  The first time I went I talked with a group of about 10 women.  The comments ranged from, “Are you married and why are you here” to “American soldiers killed my brother.”  The last comment was really shocking to me.  Not because I doubted it but because I wasn’t sure what to say in response.  I wasn’t ready to hear that.  All I could think of to tell her was that I was sorry for her loss and that I appreciated the fact that she would still come and participate in the chat session.

My best memory came the last week I was there.  We drove in a Camry from Tikrit to Samarra.  In a Camry!  I can’t even explain to you how incredible this is – that the security situation had improved so much that it was relatively safe for me to hop in a car (albeit in a convoy of elected officials) with no body armor and drive some of the formerly most dangerous areas between the two cities.  I felt like a kid in a candy store, I kept staring out the windows and looking at everything that I could now see (you can’t see much from the back of an armored truck).  We talked about weddings on the drive to Samarra, apparently Iraqis LOVE a good wedding.

So as I lay awake this morning thinking about the blog posts, those are the memories that came back to me, meeting people and eating local food.  I encourage anyone who hasn’t been out of their comfort zone to go someplace foreign, take the subway, eat street food and talk to ordinary people.  You will never forget your adventures if you do.

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Weekly #5 – A Googol of Eggs in One Basket

When pondering the question “should we be afraid of Google,” I found myself amazed at how much there is about Google that I didn’t know.  The more I read up on Google (both in The Search and from the links off the class blog) the more I found myself thinking, “what is that old saying about putting all your eggs in one basket…bad idea, right?”

I don’t think we should be afraid of Google, but I do think a certain amount of wariness is called for.

Why be wary of Google?

To put it plainly, I am wary of Google for exactly the same reason that the old eggs in a basket adage is still valid – it’s not a good idea for any entity to be in control of everything.  It’s not that I think Google is the “evil empire” or is setting out do reverse its old “don’t be evil” motto and take over everything in the world, it’s that I think having one company in charge of so many aspects of our internet and daily lives is dangerous.  What if something unforeseen happened to Google – we could all be left high and dry because we’ve grown so knowingly and unknowingly dependent on the company.

Here’s just a short list of things that stood out to me in reading about Google:  Google’s buying up so much of the fiber backbone and building data centers all over the place; Android phones are outselling iPhones; Google provides free app services to educators (10 million at last count, including Georgetown); Google’s recycling water to cool its stacks; it’s researching robot cars; it’s been dinged for not participating in the marketplace conversation; and Google has bought 83 companies since 2001 (23 so far this year!).

Should anti-trust regulators be keeping an eye on Google?  Yeah, they probably should.  Am I super concerned that Google is evil and out to take control of everything?  Eh, not really.  I think Google’s mindset is more like “hey, we’ve got the skills and ability, wouldn’t it be great if we did x, y or z” (robot cars anyone?).

I’m not concerned about my house showing up on Street View like some people in Germany are.  Google Maps is an incredibly helpful tool to me, from daily navigation to finding rental houses in 3 states sight unseen.  Well, not really ‘unseen’ because with Street View and Google Earth I felt like I didn’t need to be there.  Would I buy a house sight unseen like a former co-worker of mine did, uh…nope!  But I will continue to rent sight unseen.  I’m actually more concerned that the county assessors office in the state where I own a house has my current address listed online.  But, I digress and that’s the world we live in now.

Google provides useful services to a vast majority of people, most of whom are blissfully unaware of the extent to which Google has its spiders crawling around.  Is that a bad thing?  Maybe.  Just be wary for now and find alternate ways to do things online is my recommendation.

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Here’s a post you can write a response to…

If, like me, you still need to write your response posts – here’s something to think/post about.

I’ve been wondering lately if people’s perceptions of what is/is not appropriate to post online is changing.  Something along the lines of a generational change.  If you ask me, I’m still of the old school that thinks, be careful what you post online, it may come back to haunt you.  Case in point: Krystal Ball and the photos posted of her and her ex-husband in the costume.  I know she didn’t post them herself, and her case started out with election politics but it brought to mind the question: Just because I’m concerned about what is posted online, will people 10, 20 or 30 years from now have the same concerns?  I’ve read tons of articles about deleting photos off Facebook and how when you apply for a job (or even college) the recruiters look at your social media presence and judge you off that.  Do you think that will still be the case 10 years from now or will the standards have changed?  We’ve all talked about how what you post online stays out there forever and ever, but do you think future generations will or won’t care as much?

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Weekly#4 Mmmmm…cookies……or maybe not.

If you had asked me oh, about 8 months ago, what my hobby was I would have said baking.  My favorite baking blog is Cookie Madness.

This woman bakes cookies, cake, something EVERY day.  Every day!  My hero.  I’ve learned so much from this blog (weighing ingredients is so much faster and more accurate, you can scale a recipe down and only make a few cookies).  Here’s what I’m going to make next off her blog (photo is Anna’s):

 

 

 

 

 

Did I mention she also won $1 million in the Pillsbury Bake-Off and never, ever mentions it in her blog?  I found out about her blog on Food Network during a highlight show of the Bake-Off.  I’m also impressed with JustJenn recipes

(Princess Leia cupcakes using Oreo buns, how cute! Photo is Jenn’s)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the FoodLibrarian (baking and books, my faves!).

But, you didn’t ask me 8 months ago; you asked me a few days ago.  So now my answer is looking for baby stuff online.  Specifically, looking for cloth diapers.

It’s pretty darn mindboggling how many options (sizes, types, material, detergent) there are for cloth diapers.  This is a community that needed the tools provided by the web to proliferate (a serious long tail if ever there was one).  There are more cloth diaper stores online than brick and mortar stores, which make the choices all the more confusing.  I didn’t realize that I was lucky to have a physical cloth diaper store in Hawaii – which is surprising because Hawaii usually doesn’t have a wide variety of stores.  I figured if there was one in Hawaii, of course there’d be one close by in DC that I could go to once we moved here.  Um, nope.  I was going to go to an online store’s open house this past weekend in Bristow, but it was unfortunately cancelled.  So I think I will take the plunge and go ahead and start to order online.  Luckily I found a 15% off coupon thanks to my RSS feed of one of the sites.

There are so many sites out there that I can’t even figure out who the community leader is.  I’ll tell you about the most helpful sites I’ve come across instead.  Green Mountain Diapers has incredible How To and FAQ pages – the formatting of the site is kind of amateur but the info is amazing.  Dirty Diaper Laundry has become a site I check almost daily, although it’s really hard to tell what is new on the site (unless you’re using the RSS feed, again, can’t believe how incredibly useful that tool is to me now…).  The site’s owner is also going to live tweet her homebirth (she’s now 2 days past due) so I’ve been following that just to see what it’s like.  Anyway, DDL has video reviews of the diapers, which has been super helpful since I can’t see them in person.  I also like Kelly’s Closet and their blog The Cloth Diaper Whisperer.  They also have very helpful FAQ and care pages too.  There is an Amazon community, but it’s not very active.  I think for this product, there are other options rather than Amazon.  There is a Ning network, but it looks like it’s only used by WAHM’s.  Here’s a look at the 100 cloth diaper blogs that participated in the recent unveiling of a new product (scroll to middle of post).

Did I mention the thriving community of “Work at Home Moms” (WAHM, as opposed to a ‘stay at home mom’ (SAHM)) who make cloth diapers at home?  A lot of the leading cloth diaper brands (FuzziBuns, Kissaluvs, BumGenuis, GroVia, Green Mountain Diaper just to name a very few)  were started by WAHMs who are now running large diaper businesses.  The resale diaper business is also a big one – sites like DiaperSwappers let people talk about diapers and re-sell them.  eBay and Craigslist are also big in the cloth diaper resale field.

I’ve also had to learn a totally new vocabulary in my research:

  • AIO – All in one, a cloth diaper that has all the pieces in sewn together in one product
  • Pockets – a diaper that has a pocket you can stuff absorbent material into
  • Hybrids –a pocket diaper that you can use either a disposable liner or a cloth liner in
  • One-Size – these diapers have levels of snaps that change the diapers size so you can adjust it as your child grows
  • Prefolds and Flats – what you think of when you hear cloth diaper, the diapers that used to be the mainstay before disposables (‘sposies’) came around
  • Sposies – disposable diapers
  • Covers – a must for waterproofing your baby’s butt
  • Snappis – no more diaper pins, you can use this plastic thingy to hold your prefolds together (but don’t forget the cover)
  • Fitteds – kind of like a prefold but it’s fitted, still needs a cover for waterproofing
  • PUL – Polyurethane laminate – a waterproofing material used in making diaper covers
  • Snaps/Aplix – two different types of fastening devices (Aplix is a type of hook and loop closure like Velcro)
  • Gussets – you want these to help keep all the ‘goodness’ inside the diaper and not leaking out the legs
  • Fluff – a way to refer to cloth diapers because they will make your kids butt more ‘fluffy’ or larger than a sposie will
  • Stash – what you call all the cloth diapers you have

Ok, enough of the vocab.  Check out this link to see why you should choose cloth over disposable.  Check out this link to see a video showing how using a liner makes cleaning poop off a diaper super easy and why not a lot of mess goes into your washing machine (warning, video shows actual poop in the diaper).  Here’s the link to my registry, just in case you want to contribute to my stash.  Just kidding, I wouldn’t do that to you all!

So, there you have it, a quick look at cloth diapers, my new hobby…

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Personal Post #2 – Let’s Panic!

So I’ve been contemplating writing a post on babies and pregnancy stuff, but hadn’t yet because I figured that it really wasn’t interesting to too many people and no one who wasn’t pregnant would care about it…but then I found this website thanks to my trusty Google Reader (thanks Garrett and Mike for making me sign up and for the “use the biggest button on the page” tip since I couldn’t remember how to add a new subscription until I saw the big button) feed of another blog and knew that I would have to post about it.

Let’s Panic About Babies kind of sums up what I’ve been thinking over the past few months now that I have time to obsessively search the internet for hours about baby-related stuff.  Everything in baby world is designed to prey on your fears.  Don’t believe me?  Go to Baby’s R Us or Buy Buy Baby or one of the many other millions of baby sites out there and read the product descriptions.  They all but say “Your baby will DIE if you don’t buy this gizmo”  or “You suck and will be a horrible parent if you don’t buy this gizmo.”

I saw one for a fetal kick count device that said on the back – “thanks to this thing I was able to find out that my kid had its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck and almost died.”  Um, I was just making sure the baby was still kicking 10 times an hour, hadn’t thought about getting a gizmo to press every time it did kick.  I can count to 10 pretty well. Although…there might be a community out there for that monitor with helpful photos of the device in question.  Maybe I should head over to Amazon to check it out.

Anyway, this site is very funny and will be entertaining for a quick read even if having a baby is the furthest thing from your mind right now.  And to answer Tara’s question in class last night, they have a test to determine if you really are a mom/pregnant or not.

So now that I’ve posted about baby stuff maybe I’ll follow up with a post about my upcoming pilgrimage to the cloth diaper store – my husband is eagerly awaiting that trip.  Stay tuned!

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Weekly #3 – Bill of Rights for Social Web

Should we have a bill of right for the social web?  Well, it was proposed 3 years ago but doesn’t really seem to have taken off too much or that too many people are still talking about it (unless I am looking in the wrong places, that’s certainly a possibility).

As a newcomer to social media, the premises laid out by Robert Scoble in his blog seem fairly self-evident to me.  Put in these terms, of course I think there should be a Bill of Rights.

1. Ownership of our own personal information.
2. Control of whether and how such personal information is used.
3. Freedom to grant persistent access to our personal info.

I don’t have a good feel for how my information is getting used on the web and that’s partly why I’m not too active on it.  Also, I’m kind of an introvert – that might have something to do with it as well.  🙂

I’m still a bit confused on just exactly what the open social web movement really is and that makes this post hard to write.  After watching the one-year birthday video posted here to learn more about it, I thought the idea of signing in once and having access to all my platforms sounds nice.  I can’t remember all my passwords anyway.  Also, the customer being the center of the equation sounds in line with the Cluetrain Manifesto, and that makes perfect sense to me.

I think in a small way, we are there.  It seems like every website has a ton of links to social media sites where you can share content or link back to the original website.  But that’s not the whole point.   We aren’t really to the open social web yet, as Jason Kinner noted on the most recent (May 2010) blog post I found on open social.  He says no one is really building the open social web yet.  He argues that it can be done, however, he uses the AOL dial-up example to show how the web evolves and has kept open social from happening so far.  He says companies just need to figure out how to make money off the open web and that once they do, the open web will evolve.

So back to the original question – yes I think it would be nice to have control of my personal information and allow companies to use it in exchange for the service they are providing to me for free.  I also like the idea of putting my own limits on when and how that data is used.  But that brings me to another point – if I put it out there in public how am I going to keep track of who is using it, be they a social media company or a disturbed person stealing my identity ala Catfish?  It reminds me of the part in Here Comes Everybody where Clay Shirky talks about parents in his school system getting upset over students using calculators.  Am I just from a different generation and need to get with the times or do the times (aka internet companies) need to get real and treat people with respect in an open conversation?

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Personal Post #1 – Is it bad if…

…your car battery looks like this?

 

Apparently this won’t pass the Virginia car safety inspection.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why not.  Actually this isn’t *my* car battery, it’s someone else’s who lives in the same house with me and is the father of my child (not to name names).  He said I could refer to him as the “rock upon which I stand” if I wanted to.  Although that was in reference to the “about” section of this website.  Right now the “rock” is at the autoparts store getting a new battery.   To be fair to him though, I haven’t included the shot of the new paint job on my car door, it bears a very striking similarity to the new paint color they were using in the parking garage at school last week and which is now missing off one of the support poles in the garage, but I digress.

Anyway, Laura and Ashley inspired me to post something other than my required class weekly response since they’ve both been active on their blogs this week.  Yes, someone is actually reading your blogs!  Although I must confess that my post today pales in comparison to the thoughtful and developmental stuff Laura has been putting up.  I’m not quite to a Journey song yet but I have goals to strive for now. Thanks ladies!  🙂

 

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Weekly #2 The Secret to a Successful CEO Blog*

What to say to a CEO who wants to start own his own blog?

The main points I’d tell him are:

  1. Markets are conversations conducted in a real, human voice (Cluetrain) that is sincere and authentic (Say Everything)
  2. Blogging is one part of multi-faceted strategy to help build trust in the company (Edelman Trust Barometer) and communications must take place at the edges of the company, not just one-way from the CEO (Web-Strategist.com)
  3. Curating the web is a valuable service that our customers will appreciate, it can also establish us as experts in our field

Markets are Conversations: Since the CEO already wants to start a blog, it’s a reasonable assumption that he already knows this to some extent.  Or he just wants to do a blog because all the other CEOs are doing it.  I’d show him a few examples of blogs written by the actual CEO in a human voice.  Then I’d show him blogs written by the PR person in corporate-speak and let him see which one he thinks is better.  I would caution about getting carried away with trying to be too authentic and writing provoking blog posts (he does have the company’s reputation to think about after all); he just needs to be himself (hopefully he’s actually a sincere guy).  (Know Me, Know My Blog – Cluetrain p. 258)

Blog is one part of multi-faceted strategy to build trust in company: The blog should just be one part of a strategy to engage in many different venues with many different spokesmen speaking the same message in their own voices. Other venues to consider engaging are social media sites; an improved, human-voiced corporate website; partnerships with NGOs for philanthropic activities; traditional media outlets; references on consumer review sites etc.

I’d advise the CEO to encourage internal discussions on communicating with customers and educate and empower the employees to be brand ambassadors.  If the employees see that the CEO takes it seriously enough to talk to them frequently about it and that he recognizes the good work they are doing in their own blogs then it’s a win-win situation.

The CEO should post on a fairly frequent basis and in a way that readers know it’s him posting.  Since it can be overwhelming to post something original and creative everyday, he (or the clearly identified designee) can fill up new posts with links to employee posts, responses to comments, links to trade publications or links to other blogs or news articles. Also, the CEO has to understand what he wants to get out of his blog and how that helps accomplish the company’s business goals.  The two must be tied together to be ultimately successful for the business.

Curating the web is valuable: I touched on this a bit in the last section, but in order to be seen as a trustworthy expert in his field, the CEO should embrace curating the web for references to the industry that the company is a part of.  This way, the company will emerge as an influential, expert leader in the industry.

Those are just a few of the main things I’d advise the CEO – be real; post frequently; encourage and train employees to blog and communicate with customers; and curate the web to emerge as a trustworthy leader in his field.

*By the way, I don’t really know the secret, CopyBlogger said you’d want to read my post with a headline like this!

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Weekly #1 – How many theses are there?

Trick Question – How many theses are there in the Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 Theses?  I believe there are eight.

1. Markets are conversations, conducted in a human voice.

2. Internet enabling conversations not available before in mass media market.

3. Online market different than mass media market.

4. Speed of marketplace changes everything.

5. Companies must join conversation or lose customers etc. (Companies must take a position and belong to a community).

6. Don’t be afraid of networked conversations within company (both internal and external).

7. Markets want to talk to companies.

8. We have real power and we know it; we aren’t waiting.

As Garrett pointed out in class, it’s easy to look at this list today and think that these ideas are pretty obvious, but putting yourself back in a 1999 frame of reference reminds you that these thoughts were revolutionary.  The most powerful ones at the time were that markets are conversations; the online market is different than traditional market; speed of the market; and most importantly, we have real power and we know it, we aren’t waiting.

The vast majority of business leaders grew up in a hierarchical system.  These leaders probably thought of themselves as benevolent – telling the ignorant masses what they needed to know.  To hear the masses start to speak up, directly to their email inboxes and their corporate checkbooks, was most likely a rude awakening for some.  Business leaders might have seen the situation as one of “the inmates taking over” only to find out these weren’t the uneducated masses, they were intelligent people with real power and sway.

There are certainly ideas on the list that companies have embraced in today’s marketplace; however, some companies still need to get on the Cluetrain before it beams away.  Companies (organizations, government entities etc.) need to stop being afraid of letting their employees be their brand ambassadors (don’t be afraid of networked conversations) and they need to speak in a human voice.

It’s a bit shocking to see the speed at which the marketplace has changed and realize that there are still hugely powerful entities that haven’t embraced these two concepts.  Oh sure, they have a PR person writing boring posts in their names on a Facebook page (I can imagine the conversation in the front office – “I don’t know what that Facebook thing is but I want one.”)  and they have a FAQ section on their corporate-speak website, along with an “email us, we care about your opinion” button, but they really haven’t truly embraced it.  Does it matter that they haven’t?  Do they have a captive audience, or does their audience not really care that they haven’t been embraced?  Only time will tell.

I think it does matter.

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