Conan’s brilliantly simple Facebook strategy

Brian Stelter has a great piece in the New York Times today on Conan O’Brien’s web strategy.  I was particularly impressed with his approach to Facebook:

Mr. O’Brien, for instance, has almost a million fans amassed on the “I’m With Coco” Facebook group, which formed during his feud with NBC and is controlled by fans. Rather than fully taking over the group, as they considered doing, Mr. O’Brien’s employees simply keep in touch with the pages’ operators and occasionally add links. Still, Mr. O’Brien’s official Web site encourages visitors to become fans of the group. Sometimes, it seems, it is better to embrace an existing online audience than to try to create a new one.

Well said, Mr. Stelter.  And well done, Coco.  Giving up control is understandably an uncomfortable idea for a lot of brands.  But the truth is that you never really had full control in the first place, so why not embrace and support the legions of fans who are already out there championing your cause?

Mike Pilarz

How to preserve literary treasures…and your users’ sanity

Looking for a way to irritate the heck out of visitors to your website? Make them decipher one of these garbled, cryptic CAPTCHAs during the registration process:

I pulled the image above from the registration page for an online ice hockey forum. (I’m in the market for some new gear and needed advice from other players.) After a few minutes of squinting, some cursing and several failed attempts at typing in the correct series of letters, numbers and hieroglyphics,  I gave up and moved on to a competing forum, where I got the information I was looking for.

What a lost opportunity.

I understand the value of these CAPTCHAs, a hilariously nerdy acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” In other words, they screen out spammers.  But there’s no reason to subject your users to such torture.

Check out the version of CAPTCHA used by sites like Craigslist:

See? Nice and legible.

The best part? This newer version, dubbed reCAPTCHA, is more than just a spam bot screener: it’s part of a global effort to help digitize books, newspapers and old radio shows.  Each time someone completes a reCAPTCHA on a site like Craigslist, they’ve actually helped digitize a small piece of scanned text from an old book or other piece of content that computers can’t always recognize.

So do your users – and the world – a favor and upgrade your site.  Here’s the pain-free registration form.

Mike Pilarz

Hey Post-It: Why Haven’t You Posted This?

When a video surfaced on YouTube in April featuring Domino’s employees doing some rather disgusting things to customers’ orders, it made all of us not only cringe, but reflect on how we, as communicators, might respond to a similar situation.  Plenty of bright folks have already weighed in with great advice on the lessons learned from that catastrophe.

So how should we respond when a video surfaces on a channel like YouTube that doesn’t intend to damage our brand, but to celebrate it?

Such is the case in this recent video from Bang-yao Liu, a student at the Savannah College of Art who used 3M Post-It Notes and some rather clever stop motion animation techniques to create his senior art project, a stunning video shown here:

The video has racked up more than 3,600 Diggs, is spreading like wildfire on Twitter, and is posted all over the blogosphere.  So far, it seems like just about everyone who watches it feels compelled to somehow share this amazing piece of art.

Everyone, that is, except for 3M.

Sure, just the attention this video has already generated is no doubt a big success for the company and they should be thrilled.  But why not take it a step further by engaging with the video’s creator and the thousands of people who have responded so favorably to it? Why not:

  • Embed the videos somewhere on the Post-It home page?
  • Share the video with the group of 2,000+ Post-It advocates on Facebook?
  • Reach out to Liu and politely request an opportunity to create a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary that illustrates how he created the video? (My first reaction to the video was probably the same as yours: “How the heck did he do that, and how long did that take?!” I’d definitely watch a short documentary. Wouldn’t you?)
  • Launch a contest encouraging other artists to create similar videos? Perhaps the winning video is incorporated into an upcoming ad campaign?

From what I can tell, 3M hasn’t yet taken any of these steps.

I’ll turn it over to you. What am I missing? How else should 3M capitalize on this opportunity?

[Kudos to Zach_ManchesterUK for the photo above]

Twitter Search is Going 2.0

twittersearch3Twitter Search is one of the most critical tools in my research arsenal.  At times, it’s much more useful than the mighty Google, especially when it comes to checking the pulse of a developing story or trend.

But it’s often difficult to wade through the deluge of tweets generated by a Twitter Search and make sense of the chatter.

That could be changing soon.

CNET’s Rafe Needleman, among others, recently spoke to Twitter’s Santosh Jayaram, the new VP of operations, and reported yesterday on two pending Twitter Search features that could make the tool much more useful:

…Twitter Search, which currently searches only the text of Twitter posts, will soon begin to crawl the links included in tweets and begin to index the content of those pages.

And:

Twitter Search will also get a “reputation” ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a “trending” topic–a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the Twitter.com sidebar–Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank the search results in part based on that.

No word on when these new features will go live. In the meantime, this begs a few questions:

  • When Twitter starts indexing URLs, how will Google respond?
  • How will Twitter Search determine the “reputation” of a user? By their number of followers or retweets? Needleman reports the decision is still in the works, but it’ll be interesting to see if users find ways to game the system.
  • Since Twitter plans to index links, will the new search also include a tool similar to Backtype Connect, which tracks the Twitter conversation around any given link? (A very useful tool for PR, by the way.)

What do you think? What will happen when Twitter Search goes 2.0?