There’s Something About Memes (part 4 of ?)

Memes are defined as a unit of pop culture. The term was first coined by a British scientist, RichardDawkins,  to describe the evolution and spread of cultural ideas. Somewhere along the line, the term degenerated to describe LOLcats and Rickrolling.

The success and longevity of a meme depends upon how culturally relevant it is. Case in point, this past Sunday, MTV aired its annual Music Video Awards. As a big television event, the award show had lots of eyeballs on it, so when the  unexpected happened, it did not take long for that moment to bear fruit to a new meme. During an acceptance speech by country/pop singer Taylor Swift, hip hop artist Kanye West grabbed the microphone from her hand to proclaim that Beyonce, who Taylor had beat out for the award, had “one of the best videos of all time.” (Video here) This opened the door for a brand new meme that caught on like wildfire yesterday.

An example:


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Facebook vs press conference?

I came across this via @TreeHugger (one of the top – and my fav – green blogs out there) on my Facebook status updates and was inspired to post. So Michael Pollan, of Omnivore’s Dilemma fame, is apparently helping publicize a new documentary that he appears in, Food, Inc. I recently caught a live interview with him on KQED (local public radio in SF)’s “It’s Your World” segment, which I tweeted about. But today his publicizing takes a social media twist: he’ll be live chatting on Facebook about food and food politics.

Michael Pollan (via @TakePart)

Michael Pollan (via @TakePart)

It’s getting a TON of buzz on Twitter already. (The TakePart site this is posted on, by the way, is really cool and seemingly has great presence on social media sites).

I think this is a really great idea. We actually came up with a similar idea in a brainstorm for a client project (that was later cut, unfortunately) and I still think it holds water for client work. Instead of flying all your execs out for a (boring) press conference, why not invite attendees to listen to a webcast broadcast via Facebook/Twitter/choose-your-own-platform, and allow attendees to chat/respond via these vehicles?

I think it’s an awesome idea. Have you proposed something similar? How did it go?

Mean time, I will be listening to Pollan’s latest take on the food revolution today at 3pm PDT!

Happy Fourth of July weekend, all!!

Web Site Story – CollegeHumor video pokes fun at trendiest Web sites

Story of our lives, huh?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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]

There’s something about memes (part 1 of ?)

Memes – love them or hate them, they’ve been around forever. But, due to the critical mass in social media, some people are just beginning to discover them in earnest. Thanks to some of Facebook’s newer functionalities the ’25 Things’ meme has had some new life breathed into it. So much so, even TIME and Newsweek wrote about it earlier this month.

It occurred to me that now is as good a time as any to explore memes in more depth. Have you ever wondered what exactly a meme was anyway?

A lot of memes take the form of surveys or lists that will ask you to do things such as list 10 things you love that start with the letter “M” or, like a Cosmo quiz, will rate how girly you are based on your answers to questions such as “Do you go tanning?”  and “Do you paint  your nails?” Other memes are harder to define or even explain.

Case in point: Barack Obama’s inauguration took place  in front of the Capitol Building on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 where Aretha Franklin performed decked out in a particular hat.

Tell'em Aretha!

Tell'em Aretha!

The general public and the media was abuzz about the hat. Thanks to BuzzFeed, the truly obsessed  started editing pictures of the hat on themselves, their dogs, even the Capitol Building itself! And thus a new meme was born.

Stephen Colbert likes hats!

Stephen Colbert likes hats!

So do these little guys!

So do these little guys!

The Capitol Building is definitely rocking the hat!

The Capitol Building is definitely rocking the hat!

 Do you understand memes yet? I’ll be putting out a continuation of this post soon-ish. I could have probably defined a meme and its potential applications for our clients in just one post, but it’s way more fun to show off  pictures while I’m at it, right?

We like Tiny things – TinyChat

During our New Media call today, we conducted an experiment in Tinychat, a new (I think) Web-based chat service. If you weren’t there, you missed out. (Just kidding).


What is TinyChat? It’s a quick, easy and seemingly an efficient way to quickly join a group of people together for a chat session. It takes less than 5 seconds to generate a tiny URL once you go to the site and that link can then be shared via email (or Twitter or Facebook – choose your own adventure) to your intended chat mates. Efficient, right? Easy, right? Yep. We had a nice chat during the new media call about food, which left me hungry for lunch.

This is perfect for a work scenario, especially for a company such as ours where we are spread across the country/the globe. 

I found this tool on Twitter this week, as I saw @laughingsquid had posted a TinyChat URL inviting people to “break TinyChat”, aiming for 100 chatters – I joined then left after the ticker teetered around 80 participants for 5 minutes. Too much chaos with that many folks in the room, but was a useful experiment in its own right. 


For all its usefulness, though, I do have a few concerns:

  1. Apparently, you can’t “kill” the link when you are done. If I click the link after leaving the chat, I enter the same chat room and others could still be there, too. This gets weird if you post the URL on your Twitter feed where anyone can join. Talk about lurkers…
  2. Speaking of Twitter – please note if you choose to log in with your Twitter ID (optional), TinyChat posts a tweet that tells your followers “come chat with me” and links to the room. This would allow anyone following you on Twitter to join your chat. Not good if talking work and a reporter or your client pop in for a chat.
  3. Privacy is non-existent. While the site claims “these chat rooms are disposable” and after you close the window you can no longer view the previous chat (unless you save the log), I’m not sure there’s a way to make a totally private chat (though you can privately message one other person in the room by clicking their name then typing your message).

So – I think this is a useful service, but as with any online communications, please be wary of who you invite, how you invite them and what you say.

End results of the Burrito campaign – PDX

Many of you heard me tell this story on a team call in December, but wanted to share the final results because there are quite a few lessons to be learned about social media and PR.

Quick background: my friend Aaron, worried about his mom’s bookstore in Portland with the troubled economy and projected all-time-low retail holiday spending season, posted on his blog that he would offer a burrito to anyone who spent $50 at her store. He set the date – Jan 16 – for a “burrito party,” as he’d be returning home to Portland for a visit that weekend, and he put the wheels in motion on his blog, encouraging people to “shop local” during the holidays. He linked to the blog post on Twitter and his Facebook profile – where the story seemed to quickly grow legs.

Within a day, he says he had about 400 more views than normal at the blog. In a few more days, he saw local news blogs pick up the story, calling it “heartwarming.” Then the local broadcast news station picked up the story, interviewing his mother in her store on the Portland evening news. The Portland Mercury (like SF Bay Guardian or SF Weekly – event listings) wrote an article and just last week, The Oregonian reported on the story, following the burrito collection party.

Image courtesy The Oregonian

Aaron, friends and owner of Cha Cha Cha in Portland, OR. Image courtesy The Oregonian

 Some lessons (in my mind) to be learned from this:

  1. Twitter is a rapid-fire way to engage response and action
  2. Journalists do read Twitter and blogs – even personal ones, it would seem – for news sources
  3. A personal/local story makes personal/local news

Oh – and smart PR pays off: Aaron was offered a job in the marketing department at Birkenstock, where he previously worked on customer support/analytics, by the CEO after he caught wind of the “campaign.” The exec also asked my friend for advice on social networking (I assume he’s caught wind of the Zappos guy’s success).

Not bad traction for a quick, pleading blog posting, eh? :)


Aaron’s other new media success since moving to SF:

Meets Guy Kawasaki randomly at airport AFTER having worked with him to create, per a suggestion Aaron sent Guy on Twitter; Guy then mails him signed copy of his book.

Classic right place, right time – but also adding the right idea!