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Why Social Media Requires Sophisticated Branding

Be careful who you give your social media to.

This week, American Apparel apologized for an "international" employee who put a photo of the Challenger disaster on its Tumblr page July 3 and tagged it "smoke" and "clouds." The truth is, I don't get it at all. What was the point - July 4? What agenda did that advance? How was that supposed to sell clothes, especially after the company is reeling financially and embroiled in scandal due to ex-CEO Dov Charney?

A couple of months ago, in March, Saturday Night Live aired " Meeting Cold Open," spoofing the President's appearance on the very unfiltered web show "Between Two Ferns." The skit emphasized the President's likely embarrassment at having to do such "fluffy stuff, "along with his keen understanding that you must go where they are to make your case.

I can understand why the President would be nervous. Social media requires not only judgment but careful branding expertise.

And you can make mistakes without even trying. This week Esquire published "This Is Your Government On Instagram," which purported to show how feds of the digital engagement variety (one of which I am - full disclaimer, I'm not speaking for my agency here) waste taxpayer dollars on free tools for absolutely no decent reason.

Sure, they were trying to balloon controversy, for example saying that the White House spent "$54.3 million in communications equipment procurement (with no specific line items for social media) in 2014."  If you can't separate out how much the social media cost, why are you presenting the total figure anyway?

But communicators still have to be ready for attacks about what they are doing, on any front, whether it comes from within social media or without.

Joan Rivers has that senior judgment - she is an entertainer, a self-brander, and she has flair. Her "signature" is to make comedic outrageous statements.

She also understands that media, including social media, is fundamentally about going on the offensive to make a case in simple terms.

After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protested her wearing fur at a book signing event on July 1, Joan told them off and then did the same to CNN in an interview to promote the same book.

Asked about the PETA incident, Joan got the sense that the interview was turning "negative," told off the host and simply walked outcursing for good measure with the microphone still on.

Of course, most of us don't curse in order to do a good job defending our respective cases. (For some of us it's a conduct violation - seriously.)

Yet to do social media well, you have to understand that it's an aggressive thing, a branding thing, and it's much more than simply issuing a tweet. 

With social media, all of it goes together - the technical skill, the cross-fertilization between tools, the extension from traditional media and print, and most importantly the insight that a branding expert has: Your efforts only have to connect with your audience.

Remember, you aren't going to please all of them - not at all. So you decide who it is you're trying to reach, what's the best way to reach them, and how you're going to do that using social media tools.

And then you get ready for criticism, and have statements gathered to take the offensive just in case.

One culminating example.

The news came out in late June that Facebook did a secret experiment on its own users - messed with people's news feeds for a week in 2012. Some got more-than-average happy stuff; other people got predominantly negative items. Indeed, people were influenced by and tended to post either more positively or more negatively after that.

Personally I do not care. But others were upset about it. They took it as proof that Facebook can't be trusted with privacy. (The Atlantic has great coverage.)

Over the years, Facebook has been no stranger to controversy and much of it has been centered on its seeming disregard for privacy and use of customer data.

But they've also been very consistent over the years. And do you know what? If you're very into privacy, you aren't using Facebook. 

Michael Zimmer published "Mark Zuckerberg's Theory of Privacy" in the Washington Post, based on founder Zuckerberg's public statements. It consists of three "core principles":

1 -- "Information wants to be shared" - sharing information will make the world a better place.

2 -- "Privacy must to be overcome" - people must be convinced to shed their excessive fears about privacy.

3 -- "Control is the new privacy" - the idea is to be a part of the conversation but on the terms that you dictate.

I would argue that most Facebook users are not put off over their one-week study, which made absolutely no difference in anybody's life, because we aren't there for the privacy. We're there for the community, and to unravel ourselves to an extent, explore our identities publicly and make ourselves known.

Therefore, their so-called "blunder" was just fine.

In the end, social media all comes back to sophisticated branding.

* All opinions my own. 

The Mark of a Truthful Person

There is a new documentary coming out called "A People Without A Land." It is about the failed peace process in the Middle East and the possibility of an alternative, one-state solution.

The filmmaker makes it look like Israeli Jews are anti-Arab. I'm not there, but it seems to me like there is a lot of hatred on both sides, that could be cleared up by some solid and articulate leadership.

I think a lot about the State of Israel. I have trouble with the concept that it's a democracy and a Jewish state. It should be either one or the other - a democracy implies equality for all people, and a Jewish state implies theocracy that favors those who are Jewish.

It is uncomfortable for me to say this out loud, although I suspect a lot of people think about it. But there it is. I'd rather live in truth and look in the mirror and be proud of myself, than live a politically correct lie and be approved of by others. This must be a sign that I'm getting old.

I am proud that Jewish tradition emphasizes telling the truth, even when it makes our people look divided. It would be nice if we were all on the same page, all the time - it would be politically easier, for sure. But we're not.

There is a rather lengthy discussion on "Torah on the Web" about whether Jews are commanded to settle in Israel. The rabbis go back and forth but the upshot of it is, we seem to have been required to do so, and to "dispossess" other nations, before we went into exile. The requirement returns with the advent of the messiah, (not Jesus), who will bring the Jews back to Israel and establish a religious government there.

An organization called Jews for Judaism has been established to educate people about what Judaism really says, versus what missionaries would lead folks to believe. I myself was approached by missionaries in DC the other week, and I know how difficult it can be to argue when you don't have all the facts about what your tradition really says.

I am a supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, but I also understand that we are not yet living in the time that Judaism would describe as messianic. It would be a good thing if the rabbis could clearly articulate to us ordinary (not fully Torah knowledgeable folks) what the religious position is on Israel at this time, so that we can avoid unfortunate, ignorant, racist statements by Jewish people about "chosenness" that make it seem like we believe ourselves to be superior to others.

From what I can see, we want to do the right thing, but need some religious leadership.

* All opinion my own.

Via Inc. Magazine: How To Work Less & Be A Better Boss

Ever interested in personal & professional improvement I read two great articles in Inc. One was about saving time, and the other about becoming an "amazing boss." Thought to myself, this is definitely a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup situation, where the two go better together and can be combined. This slide is the result. Go to SlideShare to download it and get the legible view. 


* All opinions my own.

Freedom - for What?

Photo of starving girl via Wikipedia

It's Independence Day in the United States. A time to think about freedom and what we do with the choices that we have.

Jews and Arabs alike mourn the death through despicable killing of innocent teens. 

We are mothers and fathers and these bonds know no nationality.

In the land of my heritage, Israel, three Jewish yeshiva students, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, are brutally kidnapped, shot and murdered. 

Screenshot via NCSY

Shortly after their bodies are found, an Arab sixteen-year-old, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, suffers the same fate. 

Screenshot of "undated family handout" via AFP via Haaretz

It's not clear yet who is responsible, but there is enough hatred on all sides that the end product is the same - more and more rage.

Photo via Wikipedia

Curiously some people want to foment an ongoing feud over land the size of New Jersey, seemingly forever and ever. It is holy to multiple faiths - we could peacefully coexist there without too much trouble if we wanted. The bigger problem, meanwhile, goes frequently ignored - a poverty problem in the world: 40% of us live below $1.25 per day. 

Screenshot via ThinkProgress

The U.S. government and others are working on the technology to make that poverty go away within our lifetimes. Imagine an endless sea of food, water, shelter, medicine, and housing.

Photo by Georgie R. via Flickr

But hatred gets all the headlines, we're a slave to it. It happens in the most trivial and frivolous settings. The Kardashians for example have all the money in the world - but they too cannot escape the hate.

This week I saw a rerun of the show where Kim and her mom went to Vienna. At a glorious costumed event, out of nowhere a man in "blackface" assaults Kim with racist remarks. A couple of minutes later, the same thing happens. And again, a third time, off-camera.

We have been given so much - natural wealth, brains, the ability to make things that could ensure our collective survival. We have been given power.

Yet we don't understand that the power is a gift, from the Divine - a life-giving force within which we are all peons. 

We insist that we are better than everybody else, try to take what they have, and control their lives and fortunes.

Instead of coexisting.


* All opinions my own.

Everything And The Opposite

People can do what they can do. And so I wonder why we ask them to do everything.

We should let them be, and flop and flounder and flail until they find out what they're good at.

We should hire for attitude and train for technical skill.

Domino's Pizza has a great ad out on TV now. It talks about their various bad ideas, and ends with a little brag about a pretty good one. 

(It's a chicken dish with cheese that kosher folks can't eat and so I will have to trust them.)

Why, in workplace life, do we insist that every venture be an unparalleled success?

That left handed people be ambidextrous, or able to flip to right-handed?

That mistakes are unforgivable and bad?

Why is the subtext of organizational life the irrational expectation that we employ superhumans?

That every person be able to accommodate every whim, every change, every quirk of strategy and workload that the organization sets upon them?

The truth is that great fortune comes from allowing people to breathe, plans to fail, adjustments to be made along the way. 

It's called innovation, and it comes from necessity, not plans and schedules.

Great management is about nurturing people's humanity. And making adjustments along the way.

* All opinions my own.