All posts by alicelankester

Staying in touch with teens

As part of my job, I think a great deal about how to connect with teens. But the thinking goes way deeper than it just being part of my job. I have two teen girls in my household. So that makes the issue of relevance and communication very important.

Here’s what I have learned from my own experience:

  • Teens don’t read email; or if they do, it’s only intermittently and with minimal attention spans
  • Teens have multiple email addresses — the one they use to communicate with teachers is the most used
  • Teens pay attention to IM
  • Teens pay attention to SMS

On any given day, I’ll SMS with my teens four or five times at a minimum. It’s the only way to guarantee they answer.

Late at night, we’ll IM with each other using iChat, Facebook chat, or Google chat. They don’t use Yahoo, MSN, or AOL. iChat because it’s so much part of their Mac. Facebook because they’re always on Facebook. And Google (one of them only) because, well it’s Google and it’s what they do.

Cardinal rule: don’t post on their Facebook walls. Send private messages. Monitor, but stay out of the way. If you’re lucky, your teens’ friends will friend you, and that’s fun.

Facebook and MySpace Fan Pages — simply more fun and engaging than ads

MySpace and Facebook record impressive time on site numbers. According to comScore, Facebook users spend at least 9.8 minutes/visit on the site and MySpace* users 16.2 minutes/visit**. (Though I have to say there must be a whole load of people coming and going quickly, because my kids spend hours on their social network of choice.)

So how can brands participate on these sites? Without just buying ads? I’m not going to quote formal study data here. I’m going to voice what I see happening personally — I visit MySpace and Facebook every single day (some weekends excepted).

Both Facebook and MySpace have accessible ways for brands to gain customer insights, build loyalty, engage users in discussions and improve the reputation of a brand.

Facebook has set up a system for building brand Fan pages that’s easy and fun for a small, or big, brand to use. They don’t charge you for it. Your favorite TV shows probably all have fan pages, as well as all kinds of consumer brands from Nike to Monster Energy drinks. You find out when your friends join Fan pages, and like as not, probably join them yourself too.

Once you’ve built a Fan page on Facebook, you can bulletin your fans, send out updates, start discussions, post interesting data, invite fans to events. Regular users get engaged in what you are doing. How much better is that than a flashy old MREC?

MySpace lets brands build pages too, but MySpace puts financial barriers in the way of their fan pages — it’s pay to play. That leaves little brands with no budget out in the cold. There is no easy and simple discussion board mechanism. And unless you have access to cool creative and HTML resources, your page looks very same-old. Nonetheless, plenty of brands go the MySpace page route, and find it successful. Again, better than any ad.

I manage a Fan page on Facebook, and a brand page on MySpace. I find that I can post more, and more often on Facebook, because there are just fewer steps to get there. Plus, I can tie it into my blog for auto-posting, and my Twitter. But I find I can post more engaging things like slideshows and photos on the MySpace page. I have more control over how the MySpace page reflects my brand on MySpace. On Facebook all the fan pages look much the same. The user activity is different also. My bulletins to MySpace friends don’t generate very much response, but I usually get a few responses from the Facebook bulletins. I have about the same number of friend/fans on both. It’s an ongoing learning experience to find out what engages people on these fan pages.

I’d be willing to bet that before long, Facebook will offer some sort of premium fan page service to brands willing to cough up the bucks. And by that time, we’ll all be so addicted to chatting to our users on our Fan pages that we’ll all pay.

* Full disclosure: as of the time of writing this post, I work for a division of Fox Interactive Media, the same company that owns MySpace.

** comScore Media Metrix, US statistics, February 2009

I want my BBC!

I grew up with the BBC. I love the BBC. I have family members and good friends who work there, or who have worked there. I feel about the BBC as I do a kindly Uncle or a well-loved, well-read book. It’s comforting and brings back all kinds of good memories.

That sounds rather saccharine, doesn’t it? It’s not meant to be. I honestly have a genuine and deep admiration for the BBC’s high ground and high standards, albeit with lapses.

When I moved to the United States way too many years ago to kindly count, I missed the following things most fervently: real tea and the BBC. I could mail order my tea, but not my BBC.

Thank heavens the BBC embraced the podcast revolution from the get-go. Search for BBC on iTunes. You’ll find many of my favorites. In particular, “In Our Time” led by the wonderfully clever and boffin-ish Melvyn Bragg (definitely on my “people I’d like to have to dinner” list). My iPod is full of BBC radio programs that I love. More on them later.

But what about TV? The BBC has the most enormous repository of wonderful content. I grew up with Sir David Attenborough (“oh no, not another episode about the sex life of a blow fly” my Mother used to groan when we all tuned in excitedly to his weekly show). Today my whole family rocks with laughter to Top Gear and the delightfully wicked Graham Norton.

But where’s the rest of it?

BBC America is pathetic. Endless, endless re-runs of “How Clean Is Your House?” I don’t want to look at other people’s dirty corners and filthy kitchens. Yuck. And nor do I want to see people dusting off their Victoriana around the clock in “Cash in the Attic.” Stop it! Give me something intelligent.

Come on, BBC, give us some of the good stuff. Work a deal with whoever is stopping you. You can do it! You’re the BBC for heaven’s sake!

And if I can’t get it through my cable provider, allow me to pay you for the BBC iPlayer! Or do both! These days, my computer is hooked up to my TV regularly. My credit card is waiting right here. I’d pay for a subscription today.

I realize this is simplistic. I am sure there are all kinds of rights issues. But there must be something you can give me out here on the Left Coast that is half way intelligent.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep listening to my delightful podcasts from “Front Row” or “The Best of Today.” And hope that I get more of what I want. Soon.

Getting started with your brand on Twitter

A while ago, I started tweeting. Somewhat late to the game … by Silicon Valley standards … but way early by the standards of the rest of the normal, sentient world.

I wrestled my company’s URL — from some URL squatter (thanks to the kindly people at Twitter) and started poking around.

First, I simply searched for Photobucket. Wow. Lots of tweets. Then I searched for photo sharing. Then I searched for various competitors, and big brands to see what people were doing and saying. I reviewed the sites of my competitors, and of brands I admire, to see how they were handling their Twitter presence.

In the first two weeks I learned a ton. I started to get a feel for the language and environment. I started shyly following people. Hey, they started following me! It felt a little bit like opt-in stalking.

I started tweeting … pointing to news about Photobucket, blog posts, or fun images that we found on the site. But it was all one way.

Feeling emboldened, I started to answer questions or respond to specific users who mentioned Photobucket. And not just those that said “*&^% Photobucket” — one or two did for whatever reason — but also those that said “I love Photobucket” or “Sitting here tweeting and uploading hundreds of pics to Photobucket.” How did I respond? With a simple “Photobucket here. Thanks for using Photobucket! Let us know if we can help with anything.”

Response? So far universally positive. “Hey, I just got a tweet from Photobucket. How cool.” Or, “No I didn’t really mean that, it’s all ok. Thanks for the help!”

Having got a bit of a feel for the world, I drafted a delightful member of our customer service group to tag-team me. He answers the technical support questions. I answer the “F Photobucket” or “I Love Photobucket” comments. Every day I look at the list of searches and @messages.

Worthwhile. Really worthwhile. Jump in. Find out what people are saying about your brand. Learn the language, and get tweeting. Even if you only have 300 followers, you’ll still learn something.

Stephen Fry — he’s keeping it real on Twitter

I just started following Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) on Twitter. Reading through his Tweets, I feel that he actually is writing the Tweets himself. That sounds disingenuous. It’s not meant to be.

When I follow well-known people on Twitter, they just don’t seem to be that person at all. Most notable this week: the F.A.B. Sir Richard Branson (@richardbranson). It’s not him. It must be some PR hack. Come on Sir Dick. You’re so good at this.

Well done Stephen Fry for making it real. Love it.

I want my movies on my own terms

So these days, I have my Netflix account connected to my TiVo.

I have my Amazon account connected to my TiVo.

I have my iTunes connected to my TV via a video cable.

So when it comes to deciding where to get my movies, and what to watch, it’s a muddle. Is it in my Amazon queue, my Netflix “watch instantly” list, or in my iTunes?

Worse still, is that the selection of movies and TV shows on Netflix watch instantly, Amazon Unbox and iTunes is simply not good enough. The really good stuff is only available if I have my act much more together than I actually do. I can never find the Netflix envelopes, I keep losing the DVDs, or I find them covered in jam and dog hair under the sofa.

This shouldn’t be so hard. What I want is simple. One “watch instantly” list on my TiVo, managed on my computer. I should be able to plan Friday night Movie Night an hour or two beforehand, and have a nice queue of good movies waiting for me when I get home.

I don’t much care if I buy / rent the movies from Amazon, iTunes or Netflix. Just give me instant access, a good selection and one place to go. I’ll pay for it. Happily.

Twitter — Fool’s Gold?

Everyone has drunk the Twitter Kool Aid it seems. And more people are jumping onto the bandwagon today, hoping not to miss out on the ride — let’s hope it’s not a ride right over a cliff. I am intrigued by the one-to-many, micro-blog practice. I am finding it invaluable for watching what people are doing with, and saying about, the Photobucket brand.

But at some point, the whole thing becomes such an overwhelming mess and I want to just shut the computer and walk away. Tweets combining fascinating facts with an enormous load of drivel. You have to find the interesting facts and suffer the drivel.

Brands can use Twitter to monitor what people say. And to talk back. News organizations can push a micro-summary of interesting news for busy people on the go. (Though I still like my RSS Google Reader better.) But personally? I still like my Facebook status, shared with friends.

I just read the article “All That Twitters May Not Be Gold, Analysts Say” in the New York Times. I think Twitter faces a significant challenge finding a way to charge for their service without losing their mojo. Maybe people will just become so hooked on using the service that they’ll pay to keep the drug coming.

Tweet the Facebook and Facebook the Tweet

I have a multiple personality disorder. That is, my Photobucket identity is inextricably entwined with my personal identity. I have to log into two Twitter accounts simultaneously. My Photobucket Fan page is connected to my personal Facebook page because I admin the page. And more.

So my deathly boring “I’m glad it’s the weekend” post on Facebook along with the “We made Mobile Crunch today, read all about it” posts.

I need to “get a life.” And make that life my own. Ideally I’d like an app to help me do it. Something that maps my social identity as Photobucket, links me to accounts that, if they are the “real me” then hide the real me and let me be the Photobucket me.

Also, it would be nice for Tweet Deck to have slightly fewer than a billion bugs. It’s almost unusable. I’ve got to try something else.