Making the impossible, possible

Last night at the Berkman Center for Law & Society at Harvard University, model turned innovator Lily Cole, introduced her latest venture “Impossible.” Impossible is a new social media platform with a simple goal and huge potential: to make wishes come true.

The website aims to create a community of people that can guide and give to one another. For free.

Need a photographer? Want to learn Spanish? Looking for a local perspective in a new city? Hoping to talk a problem out? Need someone to shovel your driveway (yep, this is an event in Boston after all)? Wish for it on Impossible.

Cole’s concept stems from the idea that we receive personal reward when we give and help others.  On Impossible, you pay for your wish with gratitude and appreciation. While Impossible has roots in a sharing and gift economy, it’s foundation is a feel good one.  Warm and fuzzies is its currency; altruism is its bank.

And while the panel (who included Jonathan Zittrain, Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web), Judith Donath & Rosemary Leith) raised concerns of trolls and coercion, the consensus is you can kill with kindness (Zittrain points out how Wikipedia handles its trolls by thanking them).
Cole’s eloquence, commitment and enthusiasm is inspiring and the project is without a doubt, impressive.

Optimists can sign up at

I just created my account and I’ll happily help shovel your driveway.
Mission possible.

4 Marketing Trends in 2014

It’s the new year and that time of year when we’ve rolled our sleeves up (or down if you are in the polar vortex) and focusing on what the next 12 months will mean professionally & personally.  Media plans are being written, strategies assessed & yes – marketing budgets defined. As I think about the year ahead, here are four trends I believe are worth paying attention to for 2014.

1. The rise of the “super consumer” & user-generated content

Move over bloggers, it’s going to be as some have called, “extreme consumers” and “mavericks, outliers, obsessives” that brands turn to for creating collaborative content for their online and social media.

Fashion brands like Free People are already tapping their customer base to reach new audiences through a user generated community board, “FP Me,”  their own online style community.

While integrating collateral created by fans is not new (brands like Bauble Bar are doing an awesome job at this with “the download” as have ASOS & the Gap), I believe that companies are increasingly going to turn to their expert customer to help with media, marketing & even innovating their product.

2. Ephemeral, or erasable, media is going to surge

Snapchat, the social media platform that deletes all uploaded media (the “snaps”) from their servers after 24 hours & vanishes immediately after viewing, is the app on all pundits lips and is already social media’s latest darling. With a “here today, gone tomorrow” mindset, this makes it an ideal network for brands to use when they want to promote flash sales, offer teasers for an upcoming launch, showcase new collections or highlight reactions at press previews.  Or even for retailers who want to offer “exploding coupons”.

Beauty brand Nars experimented with it in October, as did designer Rebecca Minkoff during the September shows at New York Fashion Week and just this week, HBO’s Girls joined in anticipation of their upcoming season three premiere.

Expect to see more to this over the coming months.  I bet it’s going to be used a lot more at New York Fashion Week in February.

3. Wearable tech will – literally – integrate the fabric of everyday life
With Google Glass being available to all in 2014 & the dominance of Nike’s FuelBand & rise of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear over 2013, more wearable media will be prevalent over the months to come.  Even at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, wearable media is taking center stage & technologies designed to connect all aspects of your life are being showcased (even down to toothbrushes that tells your phone how well you are brushing).

4. Content marketing will become standard practice

Content marketing has shifted from marketing hype to industry expectation.  As more business hire content managers (according to LinkedIn, there are over 8000 businesses seeking content marketers), content is no longer king – it’s de rigeur. As a result, quality & meaningful content will be needed more than ever.  As Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local shares on his 2014 predictions list, “if you think the social web is noisy now, in 2014 you’ll see more content than ever before. This means you and your business need to create better, more fun, and more valuable content in order to be noticed and to truly benefit from social media.

As you create your 2014 marketing & social media plans, what are your thoughts for the year ahead? Will you be using Snapchat for your business or plan on hiring a super consumer? Comment below or tweet me at @melissadewitte – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Things Social Media Managers Can Learn From George Takei

Who would have thought that George Takei, the 1960s Star Trek actor, would go from playing a helmsman on the Starship Enterprise to becoming a superhero across social media?  His witty & self-aware Facebook posts receive more likes & shares than most other actors & musicians or even global brands.  When looking at fan engagement, his posts trump the likes of Coca Cola & Justin Beiber.

So what can we as social media managers garner from George Takei when creating a strategy?

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from observing George Takei (& you can see him in action for yourself by liking his Facebook page here)…

1. Know your audience
From Star Trek fans to internet nerds & math geeks – George Takei knows what his fans are interested in.  He plays with the puns & humor appreciated by this character set.  But he keeps it broad enough that you don’t need to be a Trekkie, web geek or a math whiz to find these types of posts funny.

George Takei FB1

2. Have fun & have fun with your fans!
Takei doesn’t take himself or his craft too seriously.  His humor is his signature trait.  He acknowledges his audience & often shares posts his community sends in.

George Takei FB 2

3. Take ownership
While he will jest with these Trekkie & math nerd stereotypes, it’s clear he is proud of his craft & what he has accomplished.

George Takei FB 3

4. Be consistent
He posts throughout the day, balancing anywhere from 2-5 posts over 24 hours.  According to an interview with Hyphen Magazine, he uses HootSuite to queue his posts.

5. Stay Focused
Takei is active in 2 causes: Asian American issues & homosexual rights.  He peppers in these topics sparingly (but again, with regularity).  Fans clearly know these are the two causes that matter most to him & rarely will he introduce other politics.  And while he still uses humor as a tool for activism he also balances it with a more serious tone when it matters.

George Takei FB 5

George Takei FB 5.2

6. Have a meaningful & relatable message
It’s the message that is important.  Takei shows us that you don’t need fancy or professionally produced graphics and slogans.  It (really is) the content, stupid.  Finding the right internet meme or fan submitted image gets the likes & shares.

Takei FB 6 Takei FB 6.2

7. Offer familiarity
He often acknowledges that he can’t respond to every single comment or write back to every single fan (one post can generate thousands of comments!). He sometimes refers to himself Uncle George & always keeps his tone chatty & informal.  But he still asks for fan feedback when he can with things like caption contests to keep things conversational.

George Takei caption content

8. Maintain perspective – positively
Takei keeps it real in upbeat, inspirational ways

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9. Go for the warm & fuzzies.
Takei taps into humanism & universality in touching & emotional ways. I mean, doesn’t this friendship against all odds make you feel warm & fuzzy inside?

George Takei FB 9

10. Have an all encompassing catchphrase
It’s amazing how Takei’s signature “Oh myyy” can be used as a comeback to haters, a reaction to the bizarre or even as a nod of Takei’s approval.  It’s even gone on to be the name of his book & his perfume (eau my).

George Takei FB 10

Have you learned other lessons from George Takei?  What do you think makes his posts so popular?  Share in the comments!

McLuhantic, part deux

Marshall McLuhan is the theorist de jour.  Across the mainstream press his maxim “the media is the message/massage” appears frequently, From Ebert to the Guardian, McLuhan pops up in any pundits diatribe of a media saturated society.

For someone who tried to distinguish between hot and cold media, this cool guy is a hot topic.  It is easy to see why McLuhan is having a theoretical renaissance.  From the iPhone through to an iPad, droid, Kindle, and Wii, media begs to be touched, stroked, Digg-ed, pinched, rubbed, thrown, shaken and in every physical sense – pampered and massaged.

Just as McLuhan proselytized, technology is increasingly becoming a prosthetic appendage – an extension of the human body.  We log in into Facebook; seek information like nourishment as we scroll though a news feed; we offer approval by clicking a “like” button which represented by a 2-D icon of a virtual thumbs up.  During Social Media Week, one speaker at JWT remarked social media is an extension of the human brain.  At a talk at Google, an MIT nueroscientist applied how the human brain is networked to interactions on social media sites.

Paradoxically, while we physically interact with media, communication has arguably become disembodied. We shout our thoughts into a void, not knowing who is listening, who will respond, or what will come back.  We share a like, but never know if it’s reciprocated. We can communicate without really communicating. We stay “in touch” with our friends by not necessarily touching back.  For example, through your updates, I know you’ve recently gone on holiday, were nervous about a job interview, had flu or worse, a baby …but I haven’t responded to any of it.

Does that make me a bad friend?

According to MIT professor Sherry Turkle, whose book Alone Together just came out, we’re becoming “less human” (see the recent Guardian review here). But is this McLuhan’s point? Technology is seemingly seamlessly substituting society and social interaction.  But in his vision of a global village (let’s temporarily put aside issues of the digital divide), does being “along together” result in deeper alienation or emphasized socialization?  According to McLuhan, participation distinguishes what makes a medium either a “hot” (low participation) or “cold” (high participation) category.  Conceivably then our digital technologies are presenting a new option: you decide what level you want to engage with it in.  We’re not really alone, but we’re not really together…

As our handheld smart phone mobile devices are a telephone, radio, TV, book, newspaper, music player all in one –categories can be collapsed even further.  We go in between hot and cold media all the time.  Is the hottest new phone or coolest new technology really just lukewarm, a tepid experience of emotions that blend passivity to engagement, empathy to disregard in just one click?

But before I sound like a complete advocate for technological determinism here – as I momentarily take a break to check my four (yes four) Twitter accounts, I do feel connected. The online world – as we fully enter an era of transparency rather than anonymity – is now a place where everyone knows your name.  FourSquare, hashtags, 2-D Twitter Avatars, are connecting people offline.  EXAMPLE: I was at a Social Media Week event and I decided to approach the amazing Danielle Friedland (whose claim to fame I later learned was selling her Celebrity Babies Blog to People) – cause I recognized her user pic from her highly entertaining tweets broadcast across the hashtag #smwcommerce throughout a rather annoyingly pompous event.

So just what are the theoretical explanations as to why I have never commented on your decadent vacation, congratulated your job placement, sent you get well wishes, or cooed at your wrinkly infant?  Well, I don’t think McLuhan can help me on that one.

And YO, check out McLuhan Centenial Worldwide Tour: Coming to a city near you!!!