Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’


Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Call me old fashioned, but when I do business with someone, I like to know who they are. Online personas, avatars and other forms of identity cloaking are the stuff that online trolls and teenage bullies use, not professionals.  And isn’t social media supposed to be all about genuine engagement and transparency?

Yet, today, in another twist in the bizarre robocall saga, RackNine, the company that provided the automated calling service to the mysterious “Pierre Poutine” acknowledged that one of their employees uses an online pseudonym when dealing with clients.

The true identity of one Rick McKnight became an issue Monday when reporters, digging around the edges of the story, became intrigued by this person, who notwithstanding a massive online footprint, didn’t seem to cast a shadow.

RackNine decided to reveal the mystery man’s true identity and end media speculation. Rick McKnight–who has (had?) some 500 Facebook friends–is actually Rafael Martinez Minuesa, a Spaniard who works in web design and marketing for the firm.

In a statement, Mr. Minuesa said “Rick McKnight is a name I came up with to work with RackNine’s clients online and offline. I use this to discuss projects with clients, and online because it’s just convenient to have a persona for all the different social media sites.”

His boss, RackNine chief executive Matt Meier, says there’s nothing wrong with practice of using an alias when dealing with clients.

“We’re happy with people choosing whatever name they like. As a matter of fact, one of my tech support staff right now is named Timo.”

Now,  my name, like Mr. Minuesa’s, might not roll off the tongue as smoothly as say, Rick McKnight; and I may have to repeat and spell it from time to time, but it carries with it  the baggage–bad and good–of  five decades of personal and professional experiences and interactions.  Professionally and socially, one’s name should be their bond.

Creating an online persona to compartmentalize and cloak personal and professional experiences and social interactions is not only bad online form, but a terrible business practice.

Call me old fashioned, but whether they’re dialing our number, reading my blog or checking out  my LinkedIn account or our Facebook page I think our clients have a right to know that the “persona” they’re dealing with is the real McCoy.


Monday, February 7th, 2011

The federal Liberals yesterday launched “pucapab“, a French-language social media campaign they hope will become a “viral cri du coeur”.  While it may be too soon to say whether this latest  attempt to leverage social media for partisan purpose  actually catches on or fizzles out like so many others, this campaign  may yet prove that when it comes to online attack ads, less is more.

The name of the Liberal Facebook-based campaign is based on a colloquial contraction of the words “plus capable”, which translate roughly into “I can’t take it anymore”.  The animated YouTube video  at the centre of the campaign features a catchy tune and lyrics taking issue with Conservative policies on a pencil-sketched backdrop of  fighter jets, gallows and a padlocked Parliament.   

The  reason this latest effort may fare better than earlier online efforts by either party, is that the video is eminently sharable. It’s fresh and has one other thing going for it other online attack ads did not: It’s humorous without being mean-spirited.   Because it avoids harsh personal attacks, this is one video that moderate partisans will feel comfortable sharing with family and friends.

In an earlier blog post looking at Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s use of social media I said that an explanation for his social media success was that by being fresh and interesting, his campaign content encouraged sharing and in so doing tapped into the full power of social media. 

By being original, humorous and moderate this video campaign may just spark online (and off-line) conversations across a larger segment of the population and succeed where other harder-hitting campaigns failed. Will it go viral?  Time will tell.


Thursday, January 21st, 2010

  “Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.”

Bob Dylan

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is live-blogging on his Facebook page this afternoon.  Judging by the silence from mainstream media, most journalists are not impressed.

And who can blame them? Another baby-boomer politician on Facebook is not exactly a stop-the-presses story.

But if reporters looked beyond the obvious, they might just see an event that could very well signal a sharp change in how we conduct our politics and engage as citizens. For anyone paying attention to the growing chatter in the social media environment, Michael Ignatieff’s live Facebook conversation is happening at a tipping point.

Two recent events in particular signal a change in the prevailing domestic winds: the creation of an anti-prorogation Facebook page and the social-media response to the Haitian disaster.

Today, all but the most hardened sceptics or partisans are admitting that there might be something to the outpouring of online anger and frustration channelled by the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament  (now over 200,000 strong).  

And look at how social media sites are being used to share information and engage Canadians in Haitian relief efforts. You’ll see a different, more synergistic expression of solidarity than at any other time in our history. While Facebook, MySpace and other social networking platforms were around at the time of Hurricane Katrina or the South East Asian tsunami, this time the response has a different feel. It is not only more pervasive and widespread, but more organic.  

How can we explain this?

There are probably two key factors at play. We may have achieved a degree of critical mass in Canada with respect to social networking participation across demographics; and social media sites create both a platform for sharing information quickly within social networks and a place where subtle peer pressure is applied.

Today, Michael Ignatieff takes his first go at live blogging. In doing so he becomes the first federal party leader to use social media to engage directly and in real time with Canadians.  More importantly, taking a page from president Obama’s playbook, he taps into a powerful tool for citizen engagement that until today, had been largely neglected in  our country.

If the Liberal party extends aggressive online engagement to its spring policy conference, it could be riding a wave that changes the way the game is played; not only for the party, but for Canadian politics.


Monday, January 11th, 2010

As I write this, over 150,000 people have signed on to the Facebook page Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament and the counter will probably hit 155,000 before most  see this post.  The anti-prorogation page, the initiative of 25-year old Alberta student Chris White,  has generated considerable discussion in both mainstream and social media, not only on the issue of prorogation, but also around the usefulness of this kind of social media activism.

The National Post for one, chose to poke fun at rival Toronto Star’s assertion that the Facebook group’s numbers were  evidence a “popular uprising” was afoot. In a comment piece irreverently titled “The Toronto Star Discovers the Interweb”   the paper’s editorial board took issue with the Star’s assertion and pointed to other well-populated FB pages devoted to trivial or oddball pursuits as proof that people (and news media) shouldn’t get too excited over Facebook advocacy.  MacLeans blogger Paul Wells also questioned the political value of the FB group, suggesting a better way for people to have an impact would be to contribute financially to one (or more) of the opposition parties.   

But it wasn’t just online commentators from traditional media outlets that questioned the political effectiveness of the anti-prorogation group.  Ottawa blogger and social media guy Joe Boughner questioned how much traction the protest would really have when FB participation is so easy, and expressed the hope that organizers would be able to tap the group’s momentum for the planned January 23 anti-prorogation rallies.

What struck me most about these commentaries–and others–is that they missed the fundamental point about social media:  To paraphrase former US president Clinton, it’s the conversation, stupid.  And as anyone who has visited the anti-prorogation page can attest, there are a lot of conversations taking place.

It would be a mistake to measure the effectiveness of Facebook advocacy by how well it leverages traditional media coverage, the number of boots it can put on the ground or dollars it can raise.  Those are all important elements of social and political engagement, but they form the core of advocacy 1.0, not advocacy 2.0. 

Advocacy 2.0 should first be about encouraging conversations, online, but more importantly, around the watercooler. This very minute, dozens of people are sharing information about last month’s prorogation; they are sharing ideas, perspectives and arguments. And in so doing, they are validating the views, perspectives and arguments of others who may not have had the confidence to share them otherwise.

While it will be difficult to measure–unlike contributions to a political party or people at a protest rally–the real impact of the anti-prorogation Facebook group may ultimately be in the thousands of offline conversations it has generated and will generate, at kitchen tables, in offices and yes, even in the Tim Horton’s of this country.


Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Getting to 30

In an earlier post about social media and Woodstock, I wrote that we may not know our audience until it shows up (as happened at Woodstock in 1969) and that social media makes it possible for an organization to plant its flag on the web and have people rally around. Our recent experience validates that premise, with an important caveat: organizations must invest in an ongoing conversation with their community.

Last May, as a pro bono contribution, we created a Facebook fan page for a campaign to get more women into municipal government. The campaign is led by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). While the campaign has attracted some mainstream media attention and has pockets of support across the country, it’s far from a household name.

We thought we could help by setting up a virtual space where people from all parts of the country could meet, interact and organize, with the fan page becoming the organizational hub of the campaign. We developed the fan page and a companion Twitter account and launched them in June, seeded with our own contacts.

Today, the page has more than 770 fans and the number continues to grow. Fans come from all walks of life, including politicians (provincial, municipal and federal), journalists, students, academics and business people, demonstrating that support for the cause is widespread and cuts across demographic and gender lines.

Facebook was the obvious choice for this, because it’s free, simple to set up and familiar to millions. We chose the fan-page format over a group page, because the fan page supports interaction. Facebook’s huge user base made it easy to connect with interested people and for fans to incorporate our page into their existing social media routine.

Other advantages of the fan-page format for a campaign are that it’s visible to unregistered users and indexed by search engines. Particularly important is Facebook’s news feed. When fans interact with the page, the news feed sends the post to their friends. As these friends also interact with the page, the news feed spreads the word to an ever-widening circle, recruiting more fans and promoting the campaign.

However, we found that we couldn’t just “plant our flag” and have people rally round. Active engagement is crucial to generating and maintaining interest in the page. People respond to fresh comment and content; they lose interest if the page goes stale. As well, campaigns have goals, and organizers need to encourage conversations that support those goals.

On October 1, we formally turned over management of the page to FCM. We expect it will become a key element in the effort to bring more women into municipal government. We will be watching with interest as this community continues to develop. You can show your support for more women in municipal government by becoming a fan of the page at

Forty Years after Woodstock, the Buzz Goes On

Friday, August 14th, 2009

What does Woodstock tell us about social networking?

I wasn’t at Woodstock for those “three days of peace and music” in August 1969, but I knew about it.

I was a recent graduate, mopping floors at a White Tower Hamburgers stand in Washington, D.C. I heard from a friend there would be a big concert at Bob Dylan’s farm in New York. He got the Dylan part wrong. My brother, a teenager in New Hampshire, heard about it too. He was one of the thousands who drove there, walked miles from the highway, got in free and slept in the rain.

Neither of us saw the guitar-and-dove Woodstock poster until much later, and neither of us saw any advertising. We heard about the concert from friends, as did many of the 400,000 people who went. When they showed up in Bethel, N.Y., they jammed the New York State Thruway and created a civil emergency.

All this was before Twitter, Facebook, texting or even faxes. Woodstock went viral when viruses just caused colds. So what does this tell us about today’s social networking boom? Two things: first, web-based social networks are effective because they tap a basic human urge to share what you know (whether your facts are right or not); second, sometimes we don’t know our audience until it shows up.

One lesson from Woodstock is that this mammoth flowering of the “counterculture” was a wake-up call to many in a divided America. Those who sang in the rain realized they were part of something big, maybe a movement. Older people found reasons to think these strangely dressed kids weren’t evil. Marketers saw a huge pool of potential customers, people who rejected materialism but would spend money on what they cared about. And politicians found the times really were a-changin’.

Today, social media makes it possible for an organization to plant its flag on the web, start a conversation and wait for people to rally around, creating a community in the process. Communications advisors and marketers used to tell us to identify our audiences, then target them with tailored messages. Now audiences identify themselves as they coalesce around a cause, a band, a brand or a viral video.

No one knew “Woodstock Nation” existed before Aug. 15-18, 1969. After that weekend, it was impossible to ignore for decades. More recently, we’ve seen social media used to generate the grassroots political movement that carried Barrack Obama to the White House. We’ve seen thousands of tweets about the Iranian election. And we’ve seen bloggers stoke fears about U.S. healthcare reform. What other social forces are germinating, waiting for an issue or call to action?

We do know that the communications model built on audience segmentation and manipulation is history, outrun by instant mass interaction. Audiences appear in a tweet and boil up over a blog post. Knowing whether the froth will harden into a political position or enduring brand preference takes time. Meanwhile, if we want an audience for our cause or a market for our brand, we must tell our story and stay tuned for the response. Most important, we must keep listening. Forty years after Woodstock, the buzz—and the beat—goes on.