In Praise of Gentle Giants

Many of us struggle with life on social media these days: the bickering, the artless insults, the escalation of every disagreement to defcon 1… I find myself spending more time on Instagram, surfing the brighter parts of friends’ and relatives’ lives.

For my father-in-law, the brighter part of his life has always been his big dogs. Actually, anyone’s big dogs. So this morning when I checked my email, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see he had forwarded another one loaded with adorable dog shots.

But this one felt different. It was a collection taken by Andy Seliverstoff, a photographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work features small children playing with very big dogs.  According to the email, Andy got into this subject later in life after taking family portraits for friends that included their Great Dane. He was fascinated by the relationship between the large animal and the young children. This dichotomy became his signature subject, to the point where early this year, he released a book called “Little Kids and Their Big Dogs.”

You can see a lot of Andy’s work on this page on 500px, a social network for photographers. I apologize that it’s not curated more ruthlessly, but if you are having an off day, or if you just like big dogs and play and smiling, click on the link and start browsing.

Some might find this work the canine equivalent of Anne Geddes‘ baby portraits; a little too adorable, too saccharine, too too. If so, I get it.

But compared to the sturm und drang of our political circus or the thought of Ted Cruz’ indiscrete habits, a healthy dose of gentle charm feels exactly right.

Happy Thursday.

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You Can Waste A Ton of Time In Sixty Seconds…

On Monday, MSNBC’s Technolog posted the graphic below which outlines exactly what happens out there on that World Wide Web every blessed minute of the day…on average of course.  Even a casual perusal can be kind of mind blowing: Google answers nearly 700,000 search queries, which is roughly the same number of status updates posted on Facebook each minute.  Over 168 million emails are sent, 20,000 new posts go up on Tumblr and over 13,000 hours of music stream over Pandora.  And beyond the limits of minutes, over 110 new pictures posted to Flickr every second!

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Of course, things really get crazy when you convert these minutes to full days.  Or god forbid, actual years.  Do the math on YouTube video uploads: if there are over twenty-five hours of video added every minute, that means there are over 1,500 hours each hour and a whopping 36,000 hours every day, which equates to well over four years worth of video. Every day.  Good luck keeping up with that.

Thanks to the ease of content generation, the explosion of social sharing and the basic premise of Web 2.0, content isn’t just King, it’s exponentially ubiquitous.  Or some other expression that means really, really freaking massive.

Damn internet, you scary big!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

PING Delivers A Powerful Non Word of Mouth Effort

Actually, it’s corporate public service, a humanitarian outreach to wounded US soldiers. As part of  the discharge process from rehab hospitals for some wounded veterans, Phoenix-based PING fits vets for custom golf clubs: woods and irons in a golf bag embroidered with their name and “wounded war veteran.” They also provide three days of golf instruction.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, AdvertisingPING does not advertise this program. They don’t even mention it on their website. Still, word has gotten out. I learned about it through an email from my father-in-law. And according to leatherneck.com, the US Marine Corps has already honored the company for their engagement with the Wounded Warriors Sports Project. A PING spokesman explained their participation in this program that serves veterans severely injured fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan “They learn to do sports — anything from skiing to golf to rock-climbing. It’s an amazing program…The Armed Forces have done so much to help protect our liberties and help us to be a successful company. The least we could do was to give back to these true American heroes.”

But that and a few random articles in places like Golf Digest is about as much as PING themselves will do to promote their participation. And it is far better that they don’t because they don’t have to. There are thousands of communities filled with people hungry for a good story about corporate decency more than willing to tell that story for them. Through emails. And, apparently, blog postings.

Well played PING, well played indeed.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

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Clouds Don’t Come Free: What Twitter Costs You and Why You Might Want to Rethink That Bargain

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of American jurists has been reducing our vivid national tongue into an indecipherable mind-numbing wall of impenetrable boilerplate.  Which is a form of job-protection I guess but otherwise adds precious little in the way of common clarity and understanding.

A Question Regarding The Cloud

A Question Regarding The Cloud

I’ve been thinking about that ever since the improbably-named Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sent out a change of policy email to all account holders last week.  Given that it was couched in dense legalese, neither me nor you nor the overwhelming majority of account holders bothered to hack their way through that thicket of legal mumbo-jumbo detailing something as seemingly innocuous as a policy change.  So we don’t really know what we agreed to.

But happily, out amidst the vast resources of curious active minds brought together on the web, a few smart people have.  I am particularly grateful for this wonderfully-clarifying analysis and editorial from Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age.  It’s well worth a read.

Dumenco points out how amidst all the details and ‘whereby’s’, Stone buries the small but not insignificant fact that Twitter reserves the right to all of the content you generate on their service.  That’s right: ALL the content.

Those one-liners you send out everyday?  They’re yours, but Twitter can put them into a joke book and not owe you a penny.  That news you saw happening and described from your unique POV?  Twitter can aggregate it and sell it to any of the major news wires.  That novel you’ve been tweeting?  Those lyrics you’ve been half-crowdsourcing?  That witty bon mot about a current event?  Twitter owns them as much as you do, and can profit on them or resell them or license them to whomever they darn well please.

To most of us, the use of this service and the simple fact that we’re not likely to toss off too many intellectual pearls within 140 characters makes this a fair trade.  And given the sheer dunning weight of meaningless prattle on the service, that is not necessarily a reckless position.  It’s a stretch to consider “Man I need coffee” as Intellectual Property, let alone IP worth protecting.

Still, Twitter’s value lies in aggregation.  In aggregation of opinion, in aggregation of highly-defined target markets and perhaps soon, in aggregation of bite-sized content around themes or lifestyles or specific events.  Would anyone ever want to order a copy of The Twitter Guide To Exceptional Birthday Wishes from Amazon?

If it would come out and you did buy it, you might even find your ideas in it.  Whether you’d be credited, well, there are no guarantees about that…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Social Media Giveth. And Just As Easily, Taketh Away…

Yesterday, my father-in-law forwarded me an email.  Jim forwards me a steady stream of all sorts of things: jokes and video clips, PowerPoints that showcase natural wonders and Christian or patriotic sentiment, and political screeds I dump without reading.  Overall, I enjoy getting these enough not to filter them out, because once I scroll past the half dozen or so forwards of mass e-mail lists, he sometimes turns up a real gem.  I checked this particular post on Snopes.com, and evidently, it’s legit.  Which in today’s fast-acting world, means bad news for Best Buy.picture-3

Under the title “Best Buy, My Foot,” an anonymous poster relates a lousy customer experience he had returning a GPS unit to the store.  The crux of his beef is that Best Buy has a policy of charging a 15% restocking fee, along with some other non-consumer friendly ancillary policies.  You can read a copy of the e-mail here.  

I don’t know if this particular effort caused any real damage to the company, but as someone who frequents that store, this e-mail made me pause.  Their policy does seem niggling, particularly the anything-but-transparent way they communicate these fees.  So in that sense, the anonymous poster did exact his revenge on the company: I will hesitate before making big purchases there in the future.  And up ’til now, I always liked Best Buy. 

This is what can happen when companies dis consumers who otherwise considered themselves gruntled.  This kind of thing happens in the modern age of widespread and convenient social media.  Anyone can take their beef to the web, and try to spread it under the universally admonishing subject line: “Important!  Forward This To Everyone You Know!”  People like my father-in-law will take them rather literally at that. 

And judging by the trail of forwards, so will a lot of others.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

CEREAL KILLER! Kashi’s Social Media Misstep—An Unnecessary Tragedy In Two Parts

Kashi has done an amazing job marketing their product, and those years of Kelloggs’ investments have paid off with serious growth in recent times.  The brand boasts a well-established brand story and message.  They seemed to really connect with their consumers.  Until now…

Today, a friend got this e-mail from the company…

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“Keeping it real”?  Are they kidding?  They pull the plug on a site a considerable amount of people opted in on with nary a mention of why?  Sure, they offer an interesting and useful little app with their Ingredient Decoder, but every other part of this remarkably tin-eared email reads like you’re getting dumped via voicemail: it’s perfunctory and weasely.

Within hours, the company heard back from their community.  And apparently, their community took exception with Kashi corporate.  Six hours later, this email arrived under the Subject line “kashi.com – still going strong”:

picture-11No kidding they made an “Oops!”—and that line itself reads like another mistake, like something a child might say in reference to an unfortunate potty-training mishap.  Eww…   

This follow-up email was the right idea, but again, poorly executed.  Consumers weren’t told they were signing up for a ‘temporary website.’  For whatever reason, Kashi decided that for them, and tried to make good by passing this community off to an entirely corporate, barely-interactive kashi.com site: far less-engaging, far less two way communication, far less Web 2.0.

 I can’t say what happened here but I have a pretty good guess: this smells like internal gamesmanship, a change based on re-prioritizing investments or managers—and possibly even vendors.  It smacks of brand politics.

None of which means anything to their consumers.  A pity, that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79