The Social Annie-versary Experiment

Today, my wife Annie and I celebrate 9 years of wedded bliss.  Okay, so it hasn’t been all bliss, but if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing.  And hey, that’s more than a lot of people can say these days (my wife included, I think).

Photo courtesy KC Brock

As the saying goes, opposites attract.  That’s certainly true in a lot of areas for us.  One of those areas is the internet and social media.  I’m heavily involved in both while my wife may occasionally send a friend an e-mail.  She could certainly do more in the space, she just chooses not to.

Still, sometimes I find myself wishing she’d stumbled upon my latest witty comment or random musing on her own instead of having to ask her to pause the DVR long enough so that I can read them to her out loud.  Sort of loses a bit of its magic that way, you know?

In comes the Social Annie-versary Experiment, an idea I came up with just yesterday (far be it from me to avoid last minute anniversary ideas now).

Watch the video for the whole scoop. And let me know your thoughts regarding social media and the experiment itself.  Is she better off staying away from Facebook and Twitter, et al?

You can help by commenting and/or spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter – use the hashtag #nothings – when you tweet/update ‘sweet nothings’ to your significant other.   I’ll peruse them throughout the day and may use my favorites on my honey (feel free to do the same).  Maybe before the day is over, you and I will have a crowd-sourced list of great ‘sweet nothings’ we can save for just the right moment.

Oh, and I may as well kick off the sweet nothings right here:

Honey, I love you more and more every day I’m alive.

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iPhone, Nexus and Droid, Oh My!

Before you ask, the answer is, “No, I do not now, nor have I ever owned a smart phone.”  Hard to believe, especially if you know me well.  Most of my Facebook friends and Twitter contacts are stunned when they learn I don’t own one.  I often hear things like, “I guess I just always assumed you did.”

I’ve had trouble in the past justifying the added data plan expense, and up until recently Verizon – my carrier – just hasn’t had anything compelling to offer.  That changed with the Droid.

My wife and I have been with Verizon for two years now.  We have no intention of switching especially when they’re offering $100 dollars toward a new phone (new every two).  More than once I’ve come this close to pulling the trigger on the Droid (which, for a limited time, includes a free HTC Eris for my wife).  Something though keeps holding me back.

First, there are the constant iPhone rumors.  Will the iPhone come to Verizon or won’t it?  I was extremely disappointed when there was no announcement from Verizon to that end last Wednesday (as was heavily rumored).  Google’s Nexus One (announced at this year’s CES) was another reason to wait (at least it seemed that way at first).  It doesn’t come to Verizon though until Spring.  And, by the way, what does that mean?  Could you be any more vague?  Spring?  Give me a break!

So, what to do?  I’m still not sure, but I know one thing: as you are a person who reads this blog – and likely a smart phone user – you have much wisdom and experience to share.  Am I right?

Help me learn from your expertise (or your mistakes, as the case may be).  Before you comment, keep in mind I have no intention of leaving Verizon as a carrier.  Now, if you will, comment away.

The Only Book on Social Media Marketing You’ll Ever Need

Several months ago I promised Tamar Weinberg I’d do a video review of her book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web.  My apologies to her for taking so long to get around to it.  After all, how hard can a video book review be, right?

After being sidetracked with other projects shortly after reading the first two-thirds, I finally got around to finishing it recently.  If you buy one book on social media, do yourself a favor and make it this one.

For the ultimate review of Tamar’s new book, check out this video from Polar Unlimited.

The New Seesmic: Update Facebook Pages and Twitter Accounts From a Single App

Did I recently post I’d given up on Seesmic?  Why, yes I did.

But wait.

No sooner had I gone back to TweetDeck – and I still really like the newest version of TweetDeck – the folks at Seesmic stepped up their game and added Facebook page functionality to the interface.

As someone who manages up to four Twitter accounts and five Facebook pages at any given time, I’d longed for a third-party app that would allow me to do this.

Until now, I’d utilized  Seesmic or TweetDeck to update multiple Twitter accounts only.  When I needed to update all five Facebook pages with the same status, I leaned on Ping.fm.  With the new Seesmic, managing these accounts across separate platforms is no longer necessary.

It’ll be interesting to see if TweetDeck can respond to the call.  If you too manage multiple accounts on Twitter and Facebook, or even if you manage a single Twitter account, a single Facebook profile and a single Facebook page, this new version of Seesmic certainly seems like you’re best app option moving forward.

All Access Interview

Recently, I was asked by Jackie Chapman (jchapman[at]allaccess[dot]com), the editor over at allaccess.com, to participate in their “10 Questions with” series.  All Access is a very useful and informative broadcast and music industry, members-only website.

Questions and Answers signpost

I thought I’d share my answers here before the interview is published on their site and, in the event you’re not an All Access member, give you the chance to see into my radio philosophies are little more deeply.

In addition to the “10 Questions,” I was given the option of answering 6 bonus questions.  My answers to the first 10 are wordy enough, so if you decide there’s not time to check out the whole interview, I’d skip the bonus questions.

10 Questions – Jeff Brown

NAME:            Jeff Brown (@thejeffbrown on Twitter)

TITLE:             Operations Director

WEBSITE:       wayfm.com

STATION:       88.7 WAY-FM (WAYM).  Also  88.3 WAY-FM (WAYQ) and 88.1 WAY-FM (WAYD)

MARKET:       Nashville (also Clarksville, TN, Bowling Green, KY among others)

COMPANY:   WAY-FM Media Group, Inc.

BORN (WHERE AND/OR WHEN): Indianapolis, IN / January 11, 1966

RAISED:          Indianapolis

BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:

Jeff did stints at several Indiana stations (WERK, WLBC and WXIR) in the 80s and 90s before moving to Nashville in 1996 to accept a radio promotions position with Myrrh Records, helping launch the career of Jaci Velasquez.  After stops at three other labels, Jeff joined WAY-FM full-time in 2000.  Jeff was promoted from production director to program director in January 2005.  After co-hosting several award-winning incarnations of the CHRSN Network morning show, he retired from full-time on-air duties in July 2008.  Now, as operations director, he is heavily involved in the day-to-day community impact of three of WAY-FM’s middle Tennessee stations with duties encompassing the areas of traditional marketing, social media (including his own music, radio and social media-focused blog at thejeffbrown.me), creative writing and community leadership.  He lives in Spring Hill, TN with his wife Annie and their two boys Fritz and Frank (miniature Dachshunds).

1) What was your first job in the industry? Did you have any mentors early on?

My first job was with WLBC in Muncie, IN (Top 40).  I did weekends until I pissed off a bunch of high school basketball sponsors with my on-air comments one night (my music-oriented show followed the sports coverage).  Seems those small markets are all about the sponsors.  Not many mentors back then.  It was sort of an every-man-for-himself environment.  Maybe a mentor or two might’ve helped me keep the job longer; though I can say losing that job directly led to my salvation, so maybe mentors are overrated.

2) What does your routine for morning prep include?

Not unlike most I would assume.  I incorporate a combination of showering, shaving and brushing my teeth along with getting dressed, patting my puppies on the head and kissing my wife as I leave.  Apparently the person writing these questions doesn’t realize I haven’t done mornings for a year.

3) What has been your favorite feature/spoof/promotion in the past year at your station?

It would have to be one of the most simple.  In March, a neighborhood in the nearby community of Murfreesboro was seriously impacted by a tornado.  We teamed with a Murfreesboro church to collect new and partially used gift cards for victims.  The response was very encouraging.  Because of the time of year this happened, the gift card idea (as opposed to cash) seemed to resonate.  Many who had yet to use all or part of gift cards received at Christmastime forfeited them for the benefit of others.  Local businesses (which we didn’t anticipate) even got in on the act.

4) Who is your favorite on-air personality NOT at your station?

Since you weren’t specific, I’ll say Brant Hansen.  He’s ON my station but not technically AT my station (I like taking advantage of loopholes).  Don’t try to hire him away from WAY-FM.  If I find out, I will kill you (watch out AIR1).  Second would be Scott Smith (apparently, Z88 is a kill-free zone).

5) What does Christian radio need to do to break through to a mass audience on a more consistent basis?

To be brave enough to hire personalities who know how to communicate like real, transparent, fallible, imperfect human beings (a la the aforementioned Brant and Scott, along with Donna Cruz and Wally from Total Axxess), and be prepared to back them up when all the crusaders start coming out of the woodwork who didn’t give a crap about your station when you played it safe.  As long as stations are content with “good enough,” “great” will always be just out of reach.  Sure, with the top talent, you have to deal with the occasional ego, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.  Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be Wally’s supervisor.

6) What are the greatest challenges in your position/job?

Same as everyone else: finding the time to do all the things I want to do.  Social media participation, for example, can sometimes be a time suck when you add it all up, but ignoring it or making it one of my ‘back burner’ items is not an option.

7) And what are the greatest rewards in your position/job?

Working for the same company for 10 years, a new personal record, times five.  I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the business (Matt Austin chief among them), as well as up-and-coming talents like Katie Sivyer.

8) If you could have any other job outside radio, what would it be?

I think I’d enjoy consulting other stations/companies on the effective use of the social media tools available to them. At one point in my life I thought I’d be performing in front of arena-sized crowds singing and writing songs that make the whole world sing (or acting, writing screenplays or any other number of creative outlets).  Fortunately, radio provides many similar outlets.

9) Any favorite or funny artist run-ins? Highlights from a promotion or interview?

With few exceptions, I’m underwhelmed by most artists.  Many are horrible at the interview process (as are most radio people, unfortunately).  Even if they’re not horrible, often they so hate doing yet another interview with yet another unprepared, wasting-my-time radio jock that they can’t help but let their boredom and disdain show through.  It’s sort of the chicken and egg question though.  I’m not sure which came first, the lazy jock or the bored artist.

I’ve already mentioned the on-air talent I admire.  On the artist side, I think the true pros are people like Matthew West.  If every artist were of his caliber insofar as their ability to communicate minus the instrument, we’d have some pretty fascinating interviews taking place.

10) You’re an active Twitter user. Why? What is your reason?

Anyone who believes Twitter is for idiots (or “stupid crap” to quote David Letterman) has obviously never taken the time to investigate what can happen when you tap into its potential.  I often hear the phrase “too much time on your hands” from people critical of those of us who tweet.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me about 30 seconds to type 140 characters.  I repeat that process anywhere from 5 to 15 times a day for a total investment of about 3 to 10 minutes daily.  And, yes, I’ll occasionally dip my toe into the Twitter stream to see what’s happening.  But, if you’re convinced that tweeting alone requires much more time than that, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t graduate from a respectable college.

In regard to our station’s use of the platform, we have one account dedicated to traffic and weather updates, having recently separated those updates from our main account.  Anyone following @WAYtoWorkUpdate on Twitter (or any other account for that matter), can elect to have our “update” tweets sent straight to their mobile device.  When you consider cell/smart phones are probably our single biggest competitor for in-car listening, I think getting your listener’s attention (with their permission) on that very device and reminding them of who you are (while providing a valuable service) is a pretty good use of the technology.

Our main account (@wayfm_nashville) is branded with a human face.  This face (Katie) happens to handle the local elements for 88.7 WAY-FM during Mornings with Brant (the network morning show) so listeners know who she is.  She’s young, hip and right in the demo.  She tweets from a personal perspective as well as occasionally about things happening on the air right now or at the radio station in general.  Probably most importantly, she’s engaging our listeners in this space on a daily basis and developing relationships, giving listeners yet another “touch point” with the station.

Additionally, I’m contemplating a Casting Crowns ticket give away via this Twitter account.  Followers would be instructed to simply write a tweet that includes the hashtag #castingcrowns (or some other specific tag we choose) in order to be entered.  These are instantly searchable.  I can use a third-party service too if need be to select a random winner.  The cool part is it has the potential to be seen by everyone who follows each person who does this.  Currently we have 1,800 followers to our @wayfm_nashville Twitter account.

There are pros and cons.  If you allow each participant to tweet the tag multiple times (much more “viral” potential and better for us) you may risk ticking off the Twittersphere because you risk filling Twitter timelines with what might be viewed by some as spam if it gets out of hand.  Our plan to combat that is to suggest one “entry” per person.  It’s not quite as viral, but it’s much closer to a win-win for all involved than is the other scenario.

I’m also monitoring our company’s brand mentions on Twitter (along with blogs and the web in general).  Sure, I could monitor our brand on Twitter without an account, but maintaining one allows me the opportunity to engage those who do mention us?

Finally, if you don’t want to invest into it then don’t (time is the only investment, as it’s free).  That’s your call.  But please don’t criticize those who do.  I’m serious when I say that simply “following” key people on Twitter and just “listening,” even without any real engagement on your part, can be a near college education all by itself.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

1)      Do you read everything or nothing? Do you have any favorite magazines, books, newspapers?

I read Fast Company & Wired religiously.  I try to get my head out of the broadcast-only pubs mindset (are there any left?) and force myself to think about my station existing beyond the terrestrial signal and more as a media company.  I think we should be formulating plans for other ways for listeners to consume our content and consistently creating new and compelling content in a variety of spaces and formats (including online consumable, bite-sized audio and video, blogs, social media, etc.).  But while you’re at it, make sure you approach everything from a WIIFM camera angle.

I’d also recommend the following books (not a complete list): Tribes, Pyromarketing, Faith-Based Marketing, Good to Great, Made to Stick, A New Brand World and Tribal Knowledge.  You might also want to read the blogs of Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and John Haydon to name a few.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say Friendfeed, Seesmic, TweetDeck or Google Wave, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

2)      What music is in your CD player/on your iPod right now?

Not much. I’m a podcast guy.  Most 21st century music has sucked thus far (save for Brandon Heath, Mat Kearney, Fireflight, Downhere and a few others).  I have hundreds of songs on my iPod but I rarely listen to them.

3)      Cat or dog person?

Cats are of the devil.

4)      Describe your favorite meal.

It would involve the killing of some animal and then eating said animal, just the way God intended.

5)      What is your favorite quote?

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  Refer back to answer 4 in the original 10 questions.

6)      If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?

I really don’t know.  Stranded in an airport is a better scenario.  Strand me on an island and all I’ll be able to think about is how to get off it.  Strand me in an airport and give me my laptop or smart phone, my iPod, etc.  In other words: any electronic device that can allow me to continue to be productive OR completely waste away the hours.  My choice.  Islands don’t have electricity.  You may as well feed me to the sharks.

Twitter Client Seesmic Releases Updates

For several weeks now, I’ve been using the third-party Twitter client Seesmic Desktop to manage my Twitter engagement.  I actually migrated from TweetDeck, a platform I never thought I’d leave.  But just as I was wondering if I’d made the right decision, Seesmic released a few key updates yesterday that address specific areas I think were sorely lacking just a few days ago.  If you’re unfamiliar with Seesmic (or third-party apps in general), watch this video to get up to speed before reading on.

The most glaring shortcoming in the Seesmic Preview version I was previously running was the inability to push out tweets to multiple Twitter accounts at the same time.  Also missing was the option to send updates to your Twitter and Facebook accounts simultaneously.  I didn’t consider the latter a big deal in that there are so many other ways to successfully tie in Twitter updates to your Facebook status if you choose.

I do, however, have the need to sometimes push the same tweet to both my personal account and my company account.  One of the best options I’d found was SplitweetSplitweet works wonderfully and does a great job of allowing you to monitor your multiple Twitter accounts alongside your Brand’s mentions all on the same page.  The main drawback, at least for me, is it’s Twitter only.

Third-party clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic combine the ability to monitor not only multiple Twitter accounts but your Facebook stream as well.  Again, though, the major shortcoming was not being able to update multiple accounts at the same time.  That has now changed.

Yesterday,  Seesmic  e-mailed this update to TeamSeesmic Friends:

I’m happy to let you know that we are releasing a new version of Seesmic Desktop, Version 0.3 RC or 0.3 Release Candidate. This version is being released to our TeamSeesmic members for the next few days to review a couple of big features and get your feedback.

Some of my favorite features included in this new version (from the Seesmic e-mail):

Multi-Account Posting with Smart Account Enabling:

We’ve upgraded the user interface to select which accounts to send posts to, saving you the time and effort it takes to post to each account separately. We’ve also added an option for Smart Account Enabling. With this feature turned on, this will allow Seesmic Desktop to change accounts when messaging your friends based on whom you are replying or direct messaging to. Seesmic will not change the accounts if you do not enable Smart Account.

Continued UI modifications, enhancements and fixes:

We’ve made continued modifications to the Seesmic Desktop user interface saving time when using Seesmic Desktop and space when reading your stream.


Some of the enhancements include:

-Minimizing the message panel until you start entering messages to send
-Enabling replies in your Facebook friends’ avatar to quickly add comments
-Inline reminders of what account you are posting from
-An added “Cancel” button to erase your messages in the message panel
-Updated scrolling arrows for enhanced browsing
-Ensuring all replies appear in your integrated timeline
-And many other additional fixes

If I could add two things to the updates that I still miss (and love about TweetDeck), it would be the auto complete feature and the ability to search within a specific Twitter stream.

Type in a user’s Twitter handle, and TweetDeck will fill in the name for you if it’s someone you follow (much like some e-mail programs will do when typing someone’s name in the “To:” field).  TweetDeck also allows you to search by username or search term within a specific Twitter account or Group you’ve set up.  Very cool.  Hopefully Seesmic will be able to add these features someday.

Finally, this video from Seesmic includes a complete overview of yesterday’s updates:

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

If you’ve recently visited Twitter.com to see what all the fuss was about, chances are you left a little underwhelmed.  Or maybe, amid all the peer pressure, you signed up for an account, gave it a shot and never experienced that “ah ha” moment every Twitter advocate in your circle said you would.  You may have even come to the conclusion that you’re just not narcissistic enough.

What Are You Doing

If any of these scenarios describes you, you’re certainly not alone.  For the reasons why, one need look no further than the question asked of all new Twitter users (“What are you doing?”)

The assumption by the uninitiated is that Twitter is indeed a narcissistic endeavor.  Check out this video for what I’m driving at. It’s been circulating the web for a while.  I first saw it a couple of months ago.  I suspect you’ll laugh watching it, but it’s not even close to resembling how the majority of us use, and find value in, Twitter.

Okay, I too laughed at the video. After all, I don’t mind being the butt of anyone’s joke.  But I will say it’s too bad people insist on making fun of something they obviously don’t understand.

But the blame lies with Twitter.  The question the founders (@ev and @biz on Twitter) ask of all new users, and the fact they’ve not bothered to update it to reflect how Twitter is used by most today, is short-sided at best.  They again participated in diminishing the experience, in my view, when they did this.  I won’t even go into the day-to-day Twitter patterns of the entire Twitter crew.

Don’t let that deter you though.  If you’ve given up on Twitter, or never gave it a shot in the first place, I encourage you to do so for the reasons I’m about to state:

I would argue I’ve learned more and discovered more since joining Twitter than anytime in my life before that, and that includes having earned a business degree from one of the top 20 business schools in the country and the 22 years I’ve spent in broadcasting (and I’ve been on Twitter less than 10 months).

I’ve conversed with CEOs and many others I never otherwise would’ve been able to reach.  I’ve picked the brains of authors, business people, social media gurus, successful non-profit consultants and others from all over the world who have greatly enhanced my life.  And my experience is anything but unique.

In fact, if I were forced to funnel my entire web experience through Twitter and nothing else, I wouldn’t blink.  I’ll go so far as to say my surfing would not be diminished in the slightest.  My Twitter home page (essentially my own customized news feed) is filled with interesting links, unique insights and often valuable life lessons, as are the home pages of so many others on Twitter.

Ignore Twitter if you wish, but realize you do so at your own peril.  When it comes to your next job interview, you may find yourself competing against a graduate of “Twitter University.”  My money will be on them.