May 31st, 2013
Reblogged from Andrew Teman
March 29th, 2013

How I tried to explain to a pastor friend that my marriage should be equal


This week was amazing.  I was so moved to see so many people - gay, straight, young and old posting the red equality sign and related sentiments to Facebook to show their support of the repeal of DOMA.  

Amid the support, though, I saw an old friend, who’s now a pastor, post his dismay over another pastor’s support for same-sex marriage.  My old friend warned to “beware of false teachers and those that distort the word of God in such a way they lead many astray. There is no doubt here, and we have a biblical mandate to warn you. Pray for this man and all that listen to him.” and then later posted that he would “post some thoughts on redefining marriage this week.”

I felt compelled to share my thoughts with him, our mutual friends, and potentially those who look to him for guidance.  I think the only way we can continue to change hearts and minds is through personal stories and shared experiences.  So, I posted to his wall and had some people ask me to share it more widely.  Below is that post.   I’ve removed his name to be respectful of his privacy, but otherwise the post is unaltered.  I hope others find it helpful or at least can connect with some of my thoughts and feelings.


Hi ***** – I saw your post about your dismay that a well-known pastor voiced his support of same-sex marriage and I saw your post that you intend to share your thoughts on “redefining” marriage.  I’m interested to hear what you have to say, both because we’re old friends and it’s clear that you have quite a few people who look to you as a thought leader.  As someone who probably sees this matter differently than a lot of people you regularly spend your days with, there are a few things I want to share with you as you develop your thoughts.  I don’t mean this to come across as an attack or anything.  I’m just hoping to explain my point of view in the hopes that it might help you as you develop and voice yours.

I’ve been married for almost seven years.  Our wedding was amazing and included over 150 of our friends and family members, some of whom you grew up with.  My parents, who used to drive me over to your house to play when we were kids, were beaming with happiness.  I was entering into the same union that they had been in for many years—not a different version, not a “redefined” version, but the same thing.  In fact, a year after our wedding, my husband and I surprised my parents with a trip to Italy to celebrate their 40th and our 1st anniversaries together.  I guarantee that the word “marriage” is just as important to me as it is to you and I take it just as seriously.

Our wedding was not religious (though I’ve been to same-sex weddings that are and they, too, have been beautiful). Regardless, the church (or any specific religion) doesn’t have exclusive rights on civil marriage.  I’ve heard anti-gay marriage people claim time and time again that God created marriage.  They’re entitled to that belief.  I don’t believe that.  I’m sure to some of your friends and parishioners, that makes me seem “lost” or something.  I’m not.  I’m healthy, happy, and surrounded by friends and family.  I volunteer with organizations focused on helping youth.  My husband and I do good things in the world and want to leave it a better place than when we came into it.  We’re hard workers, good citizens, and good neighbors. I’m still that same kid that Mrs. Long sat you next to in second grade on your first day at a new school because she knew I’d be nice to you.  I just happen to have been born gay.  If you’re right, and there is a God who is overseeing all of this, then I can tell you confidently that he made me this way, 100%, and I’d wager that he’s pretty happy with who I’ve become.

The beauty is that we all live in a country where we can have different beliefs.  We have separation of church and state.  And that extends to marriage.  Civil marriage is a legal contract between two people that bestows a host of benefits, and that comes with a common understanding and some societal expectations and norms that supports stability in those relationships.  Many of my gay friends are already married.  Many have children…amazing children who they love and who are very loved and who will grow up to be wonderful adults who will also do great things in the world.  They deserve the same rights and protections.  So do my husband and me.  

Members of the clergy can marry people, but so can a justice of the peace or even an ordinary citizen in states where they offer a one-day justice of the peace designation.  In fact, I recently had the honor of marrying two very good (straight) friends.  The fact that they now are granted 1,138 federal benefits, rights and protections that I still don’t have makes no sense.  We’re about to file our taxes.  Once again, we’ll file our state taxes as a married couple, as next of kin.  We’ll file our federal taxes as strangers.  It’s insulting and degrading.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for nine years now and has only strengthened existing bonds between people who were already going to be together and has provided more safety, security, and a common understanding among a number of our citizens.  It’s made our state a better place.  The current issue of getting rid of DOMA seems pretty simple to me.  It’s discriminatory and dictates that our federal government treat my legal marriage different than a straight person’s legal marriage, even though our marriages are exactly the same in the eyes of the state.

Finally, I’ve never been able to understand how religious-minded people can, with a straight face, say that they are so vehemently against same-sex marriage because of God and the bible, but then ignore or interpret hundreds of other parts of the bible to suit their own personal beliefs or societal norms —  eating shellfish, wearing fabric blends, not forcing rape victims to marry their rapist, etc..  I mean, this weekend religious people around the country will try to get their kids to care about Easter by enticing them with chocolate bunny eggs and marshmallow chicks.  No one’s exactly living a biblical life to the exact word.  If we just take marriage, itself, it’s changed and evolved many times over the years.  As you must be aware, as recently as the 20th century, the exact same bible that’s being used to argue against same-sex marriage was used to argue against interracial marriage.

So, as you formulate your thoughts, and you preach to people who listen to you, I ask that you think seriously about the difference between religious belief and civil liberties, the difference between religious marriage in your own church and civil marriage in our secular nation, the difference between being a good person as you think it’s defined by the bible and just being a good person, and the difference between the love of two people who were born straight and love each other and two people who were born gay and love each other.  And if you ever want to talk about it further with an open mind and an absence of judgment, I’m happy to have more of a conversation.


UPDATE:  He responded.  ”Hey Brad, and other childhood friends, thanks for being willing to share with me. I’m sure you’ll disagree with some of what I’ll say but I can deeply appreciate your thoughts and feelings. You’ve made one of the kindest, most thoughtful statements I’ve ever heard on the matter. I too, have very find memories of growing up together, and am glad you’re part of my life. I don’t intend for that to change, and wish geography wasn’t such a separation between us. I hope to give this issue the careful attention it deserves with my statement. Thanks for sharing this. I’m glad that we can do so in a loving manner!”  

Not sure where it will all go, and someone already commented that she hopes he can give me the answer I need and that my eyes will be opened by the grace of Jesus…but whatevs.  I still feel like we maybe made some progress here.  :)

Keep having conversations, folks…

March 18th, 2013

Holy crap, am I really that tall?

Since I haven’t been posting on my own, I figured I’d just piggyback off of Jess.  Started this morning with a bunch of hugs, situps, pushups, sprints and free gear from New Balance at the November Project.  Ended it leading our first Hill Holliday team Tough Mudder training.  Made for a good day.

If anyone wants to join these trainings or any other fun outdoor ridiculous in and around Boston, let me know! 

via jcole13:

Team Hill Holliday Tough Mudder Training: Day 1

With only a few months to go, and [hopefully] Spring right around the corner, it was time to get the team outside and start official training for this rigorous event that will challenge us both physically and mentally.

Heading out from the office, we ran over to Boston Common to do some stretches and warm-ups. Check out the Vine I captured mid-workout (sorry for the blair witch-like special features). Adding in some interval work with planks/dips/sprints, we were ready for the next event: hills.

Brad is about ten feet taller than all of us, so naturally he led the way up Beacon Hill’s steepest streets. Four hill runs up Joy Street should do it if you’re up for a challenge. 

And, like all good fitness junkies, we made sure to do appropriate stretching afterwards. 

It was only about 30 degrees outside, and four members of the team showed up today. Once the sun comes out and the temperatures rise, I’m sure we’ll have a stronger showing. But for today, we got our sweat on and some crazy looks from people passing us that were well worth the cold environment.

Reblogged from Just Jess.
January 1st, 2013

Deck of Cards = Instant Workout

deck of cardsI snapped this picture while pretty wet and dirty, but feeling great after a group workout with my friends at the November Project.  I felt like my arms looked pretty good for a tall, gangly guy.  But, my friend from college said all she could focus on was my skeletor-like fingers.

Anyway, once you finish looking at my huge pipes or creepy-long fingers, you’ll notice I’m holding a deck of cards.  Some of the most challenging and productive workouts I’ve ever done were using just my own body and that deck of cards.  It’s so simple, but can be so effective.  It can be done indoors or outdoors, with weights or just your own body, at home or while travelling.  

Here’s how it goes…

As you know, a deck of cards has 52 cards (not counting jokers).  Pick an exercise for each suit.  For example, here’s one you can do anywhere:

hearts = pushups
diamonds = sit-ups
clubs = air squats
spades =  tricep dips (with your arms on a chair)

Shuffle the cards, note your start time or start a stopwatch, and start flipping. The number on the card is the number you do. Jack, Queen and King are 11, 12 and 13. Aces are 14.  

When you’re done, write down what exercise you did for each suit and how long the whole workout took you.  Now, you’ve got something to try to beat next time.

There are lots of ways to modify and keep it interesting.

  • If you want to just go hard on two exercises, then just go red/black.  For example, red = pushups, black = situps.
  • Bring them to the gym to keep moving and focused during a free weight workout.  For example, grab a set of dumbells and do shoulder presses, bicep curls, tricep extensions and chest flies.
  • Modify the intensity however you need to.  For example, if you can’t do full push-ups (it’s 104 of each exercise!), then do them on your knees.
  • Maybe get cards with sexy ladies or sexy gentlemen on them (whatever floats your boat) to keep you motivated.  :)

There are also ways to fancy it up.

While I love the simplicity of this workout, there are some fancier options out there.  There’s an iPhone app that lets you select different exercises and displays them for you so you don’t have to remember which suit was which exercise.  There’s also FitDeck Exercise Playing Cards, which are still physical cards, but customized for all different types of workouts.

Partner or group up if you can.

As with most exercise, I highly recommend doing this with another person or group of friends to keep each other moving and motivated (and to collectively groan when you get back-to-back face cards of the same suit).

Have fun!

August 23rd, 2012

What’s the one thing marketers should do every day?

customer service

Answer: Talk to customers.

But, wait. There’s more!

How many marketers have you heard espouse the benefits of social media because it allows them to have real conversations with customers?  (If for some reason you haven’t, I’ve heard it enough for the both of us.)

Though, dig a little deeper and you find that many don’t really mean it. What they really want is to “leverage” social media to expose more people to their marketing messages, then sit back and let the reports roll in that give them all sorts of numbers they can use to make their campaign sound successful. They want numbers of likes, comments and click-throughs.  They want reach and exposure.

I’m not saying these numbers aren’t important.  But, there’s a lot more you can learn when you regularly hear from people the difference between the story you’re telling them and the experience they’re having.

There are a lot out there doing it right.  I’ve heard Frank Eliason (previously of Comcast and now Citi) talk about how marketers shouldn’t say they use social media to have a conversation with customers unless they’re integrated with, or at least constantly talking with, their customer service people (who already have conversations with customer every day). Morgan Johnston, Corporate Communications Manager at JetBlue, said that he believes modern marketing requires that the marketers literally sit in the same room as customer service. John Battelle recently wrote a piece highlighting how GM CMO Joel Ewanick regularly experiences unfiltered customer feedback.

When you connect regularly with your customers, you rethink your role and your output.  It goes well beyond marketing, too.  If you’re a software developer and you have to regularly explain to desperate customers why it’s taking so long to get an update rolled out, you might rethink your priorities.

So, if you’re a marketer and you can’t remember the last conversation you had with a customer or unfiltered response you saw about your brand (and I’m not talking about something neatly presented to you on a PowerPoint slide), then ask yourself if you really know what’s going on out there. While it is changing, I think we’re still at a point where customer service reps and often low-level or contracted social media community managers have a better handle on what customers need and want than those in the C-suite.

Please, corporate marketing friends. If you’re not doing this, start now. Forego one of your weekly chart-filled campaign updates and answer a call or two from your call center.  Respond to some tough tweets and Facebook comments.  Be OK with hearing that you’re well-crafted marketing messaging might be full of crap.  And do it every day.

July 19th, 2012

How to keep lawyers from killing your social media mojo


"The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers."  Shakespeare’s words, not mine.

Let me start by saying that I think killing lawyers is wrong.  But, if you work in social media for large organizations with lots of guidelines and regulations, you’re at least justified in wishing they would go away.

You come up with a great idea for a social campaign, and they destroy every bit of the creativity because it’s not enough in line with brand standards.  You craft a timely, empathetic response to a customer’s question on Facebook and they hold it up for approvals, suck all the personality out of it, and finally give you an edited version that sounds like a press release to post three days too late.  

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  With some perspective, research and good ol’ empathy, you can get along with the lawyers.  Your long term social media efforts may even be better for it.

1.  Understand where they’re coming from.  

At Useful Social Media’s mid-June Corporate Social Media Summit in NYC, a variety of big brand social media folks expressed different levels of  frustration with their legal processes.  Panel moderator Rohit Bhargava summed up the core of the issue and the inherent inherent conflict we need to understand.

  • Social media marketers/communicators have to assume some risk to be effective.  Assuming risk is part of our job.
  • Lawyers are supposed to eliminate any risk.  Avoiding risk is their job.

So, when they’re disrupting your social mojo, realize that you’re disrupting their lawerly mojo.  They’re really just doing their job.

2.  Write your own policies, or at least translate them.

At the same conference, Emily Berg, SVP for Social Media at Bank of America made the point that policies are typically written to protect “the company”, but to be effective in social media, you need policies that protect the employee and, ultimately, support the customer.

My first working relationship with lawyers spoiled me.  I was managing digital strategy for the Massachusetts governor’s office as social media was hitting the scene and we pretty much wrote the rules from scratch.   The lawyers I worked with really viewed themselves as public servants and, as such, wanted to craft policies in a way that truly supported citizen participation in their government.  In the corporate world, it usually isn’t this way.  Many lawyers think the best way to protect the company and it’s brand is to narrow what’s permissible and restrict access.  

Instead of leaving the policy-writing to them, write the policies yourself.  Then, let them challenge and modify what you’ve laid out only as absolutely necessary.  And don’t start from scratch. There are plenty of corporate, government and non-profit social policies out there to borrow from.

3. Question if you always have to involve them.

While I don’t advocate “ignoring” your lawyers, it could be possible you’re including them too much. 

Anna Ketting, Social Media Manager at Air France KLM, articulated a great example of this.  I’ll  do my best here to relay it.  

She told a story about a departing colleague who gave the team blue and white M&Ms as a goodbye gift (KLM colors).  They thought it would be fun to put them all in a container and have fans guess how many there were.  I believe there was a prize involved. They got some great engagement around it.  Fun, light-touch stuff.

I had to ask, “How did you just do that so easily?  Did you not have to involve your lawyers and coordinate with the M&Ms and Mars corporation lawyers and ensure your mutual brand lawyers were on board?”  She simply replied, “No. I didn’t even think to involve lawyers.  Why would I?  It was just a fun contest in social.”  

Didn’t even think to involve lawyers.  I like it.  After all, if you ask your lawyers to weigh in then they have to.  So, ask yourself if you really even have to ask in the first place.  You obviously don’t want to do anything that will really put your organization at risk, but sometimes, as the saying goes, “it is better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission.”

Find the Balance

In all of these situations, like with most challenges in social media, it’s about balance—between risk and reward, timeliness and process, confidence to move forward and getting full consensus.  So the next time your lawyers are driving you crazy, take a deep breath and try to figure out what you can do to make the situation better for all of you, before you go all Shakespeare on them.

April 1st, 2012

Why American Express Sync is Not a Social Media Marketing Success

I’ve been enamored with the American Express Sync program since the start. Essentially, you sync your AmEx card with your social media accounts (first it was Foursquare, then Facebook, and now Twitter) for exclusive access to deals and cash back.  It highlights offers based on your likes, encourages (and in some cases, requires) social sharing, and is easy to activate.  

And at a time of growing concern around social media privacy, AmEx is proudly transparent about using your personal data and preferences to your benefit.  When you head to the Facebook app it rolls through your “likes” to personalize your experience (yes, cornhole).

Link, Like, Love Screenshot

There is one thing that’s frustrated me about the program, though.  Some marketers are touting it as an example of social media marketing success.  It’s not.  There’s a strong social marketing component, but it’s so much more than that.

It’s a social business success.

Social media is often treated solely as a marketing channel.  We social strategists are often tasked to “help extend the reach of the campaign by leveraging Twitter and Facebook to encourage engagement” (in other words, make something social that isn’t social to begin with).  The product or program is developed, the key messages are crafted, the television ads are in production, the print ads are going through their third round of approvals, now sprinkle on some social media magic and make people engage!  

American Express Sync is the opposite.  The program is social at its core and was developed with deep understanding of social media user behaviors and platforms. It required intricately supporting the social program across the business and in partnership with retailers.  

As Leslie Berland, SVP Digital Partnerships and Development at American Express said in a Mashable interview, ”The digital transformation occurring at American Express cuts across many business units, and it has to because of the breadth and depth of our business…From customer service to merchant services to our entertainment and travel business units, to corporate affairs, as well as our newly formed digital partnerships and development team, social media is a company-wide initiative.”

The social strategy came first. Ads came later.

After hefty strategic planning, the program was rolled out methodically, starting with a less used platform and growing from there.  And now, almost a year after they first launched Sync with Foursquare, after testing and learning and listening and expanding and letting the social program spread because of it’s usefulness and inherent social characteristics, they’re running the first television ad.  

Pretty different than the parade of SuperBowl ads that slapped on a #hashtag and called it social.

Score 1 for Social Strategy!

Congratulations to American Express, Leslie Berland, and everyone else involved (and guaranteed there were and are a LOT of people involved).

I tweeted Leslie after reading about her to confess my professional crush. Despite her “SVP, Digital Partnerships and Development” title, her Twitter profile says she’s “leading social media strategy.”  

I lead social media strategy too!  There’s hope for us yet.

March 11th, 2012

Fear not, gays. We’re winning the interwebs.

gays rock

The gay rights debate is in full swing these days, though it can be tough to tell who’s winning. Overall, things seem to be moving toward equality, but I sometimes fear the pendulum could swing the other way given the vocalized views of recent candidates and media reports that the US is still quite divided on the issues of gay marriage, military service, etc.

When I turn to the web, though, I’m encouraged.

One reason I love social media (when I’m not hating on it) is the opportunity to quickly ascertain sentiment and resonance of content. And of the larger social platforms, YouTube is one of the simplest to get a quick read.  The number of video views gives a good idea of reach and the like/dislike buttons give users a pretty simple, low-commitment way to express sentiment.  And those likes/dislikes seem pretty accurate.  For example…

  • Negative: A lot of people have seen Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and a lot of people find it annoying.  YouTube confirms about what you’d think. The video has over 25 million views. Of its 672,862 likes/dislikes, only 24% were likes.
  • Positive: Meanwhile, the little "surprised kitty" that’s pretty frigging adorable even if you’re a cat-hater has had over 61 million views and, of 257,109 likes/dislikes, a whopping 98.6% likes.  

When it comes to the gay stuff…

While certainly not a robust analysis here, I decided to take a look at a few recent gay rights-related videos and their stats.  Given that we constantly hear how divided the country is on the issue and that there’s a decent cross-section of the american population on YouTube, I expected a pretty even like/dislike split.  Surprisingly, here’s what I found. 

  • Pro Equality: Ellen Addresses Her JCPenney Critics (97.6% likes).  In early February, the conservative “One Million Moms” group called for JC Penney to “replace” Ellen as their spokesperson because she’s gay.  The Ellen show posted a video of her on-show response.  The results to date? 2,058,293 views and 23,436 likes/572 dislikes.
  • Pro Equality: Republican Chokes up at Gay Marriage Debate in Washington (97.9% likes). During same-sex marriage debates in Washington state, republican representative Maureen Walsh gave a moving and personal speech about her reasons for supporting marriage equality. The results are 1,456,199 views with 20,218 likes/430 dislikes.
  • Pro Equality: It’s Time (94.7% likes).  OK, not United States-based, but this ad out of Australia promoting marriage equality went viral toward the end of 2011.  It has about 5.2 Million views and 75,925 likes/4,192 dislikes.
  • Anti Equality: Rick Perry’s Strong (3.3% likes).  I wrote about this video before, but Rick Perry’s early December anti-gay ad hasn’t fared so well with 8.2 Million views and 26,360 likes/762,679 dislikes.
  • Anti Equality: Romney on gay marriage at the CPAC (2.3% likes). Meanwhile, while not as popular, a clip from Romney’s recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference where he denounces same-sex marriage yields 5,529 views and 3 likes/127 dislikes.

So, what’s going on here?  

Is it the effect of who’s posting the videos, how they’re being shared through like-minded networks, etc?  For example, someone who hates Ellen may be less likely to watch the video her show posted.  Then again, I hate Rick Perry and I gave that puppy a couple of views.  So did millions of other people who disliked it.  Hm.

Could it be that people who visit YouTube are more liberal or more evolved?  I doubt it.  Pastor Joel Osteen’s videos do well and he appeals to a conservative crowd.  And as for evolved?  Well, I think the posting and popularity of recent cinnamon challenge videos answers that.

Is it age-related given that younger people are generally more supportive of gay rights?  Nope.  At least not if you look at YouTube demographics. While 18-34 is the most active demographic, it’s not nearly high enough versus older demographics to cause such a large difference.

All in all, it’s looking pretty good for the gays, at least through my little YouTube study.  Now if we can just get all those ‘likers’ out to the polls.

February 9th, 2012

Facebook’s strange sharing (or “Why is my friend’s shirtless picture on a colleague’s news feed?”)

I’ve historically been one to defend Facebook. When people freak out about privacy issues, I say, “then don’t share everything.”  I always commended them on the comprehensiveness of their privacy settings and figured that if people were too lazy to manage who saw what, then tough cookies.  And when they imagechanged their design back in September and people were going bananas, I posted this.

Now, this isn’t a tale of how I’ve turned totally against them or anything, but lately they’re doing some funky things which, if continued along this path could hurt their user experience and turn people away.  Or at least they’ll turn me away (and I have 1,116 friends, damn it).

My frolleague Andrew recently wrote about the hyperinflation of social sharing.  In a nutshell, he posited that the new “frictionless sharing” apps that automatically share when you’ve listened to a song, read an article, etc., are devaluing the very “share” they’re intended to promote.  When everything is shared, a share means less.  I’ve already had friends tell me that what I was listening to on Spotify was blowing up their news feed.

On top of that, I’ve had a few experiences lately that point to their EdgeRank algorithm (basically what Facebook uses to decide what’s most relevant for you to see in your feed) just getting it wrong.  

Case in point…

One of my best friends from childhood recently updated his profile picture with this imagebeauty.  Now, he and I have a little running joke (between us gays), that occasionally if we see a well-built guy walking down the street, we’ll say, “would ya look at the tits on that one.”  

I know, I’s a little offensive.  But you get it, right? The irony of gay men using a misogynistic phrase to objectify another dude?  Pretty harmless, but funny between us and a few people who know us well.   

So, as soon as I saw his new pectoral picture the other night, I commented with exactly that.  I snickered to myself, thinking about how he and a few mutual friends would likely get a kick out of my comment, and went to bed.  

The next day at work, my colleague Kristen walked into my office and said, “why is one of your friend’s shirtless pictures showing up in my news feed?”

Say what?  

Kristen does not know this friend, nor is she connected to any other of his other friends.  Yet, Facebook’s algorithm has decided that, out of hundreds of potential things her own friends posted within the same few hour window, this photo of someone she does not know at all belonged front and center on her news feed simply because I commented on it.

Since I’ve mentioned it to others, I’ve heard similar stories of random people showing up on news feeds.  One friend almost commented on a friend’s ultrasound picture (“I didn’t know you guys were pregnant!”).  It wasn’t the friend’s ultrasound picture, though.  It was posted by someone that his friend knew (but who he had no other connection to).  His friend had just commented on it.

So what is one to do about this?

1.  Check settings before you comment on things. While Facebook touts that you can select who you share with, that does not hold true for comments.  You are at the mercy of the settings that the original poster set (in the case of my shirtless friend, his default is “friends of friends”, hence the reason my comment along with his picture could show up on any of my friends’ feeds).

2.  Check your own photo privacy settings at the post/photo level.  Again, I’m an oversharer, so this doesn’t bother me terribly.  But, when I think that I have over 1,000 Facebook friends and the average Facebook user has around 300 friends (I know this number varies), that means if I post a photo that “friends of friends” can see, over 300,000 people could potentially see it.  It’s not really an issue when you think that most of those strangers would never have cause to find you and look at your photos, but a different story to think that your photo could be showing up on a bunch of those strangers’ feeds just because a mutual friend commented on it.

3.  If you figure out a way to change the privacy settings around how things you comment on display to your friends, let me know.

Google+ anyone?

February 1st, 2012

How human should brands be?

When I hear folks claim that one of the greatest things about social media is that it makes brands “more human,” I shudder a little.  Admittedly I used to say the exact same thing, but many years of managing handles and working with large companies on how to operate in the unfettered world of “social” gave me a dose of reality.  Being human doesn’t always equate to being better.


I don’t totally despise people or anything. Sometimes we can be awesome. But I’ve come to accept that, by and large, we are messy, opinionated, irrational, paranoid, reactive, impulsive, defensive, self-centered critters. We’re full of characteristics that are generally not part of a company’s mission statement or brand promise.

When brands get too human in social, they end up in situations like Nestle when their community manager got in a petty argument on Facebook or Domino’s when some unauthorized company reps got snotty with some pizza. Opening up your brand to the unwashed masses can backfire, too, as we recently saw with McDonald’s McDstories Twitter campaign.  

Leaving people to their own devices doesn’t always yield the best results.  That’s why we have over 200,000 pages of federal laws alone.

Brands and their representatives need to be way the heck better than human.  They need to always rise above, be more positive, more patient and more helpful. They’ve got to reach out to people bashing them or asking (sometimes stupid) questions and be ready to respond, with empathy but not weakness, candor but not rudeness, personality but not too personal.  

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a worthwhile venture. Brands DO have a big opportunity and many of them have been hammering away at it for years.  We know the stories of big turnarounds and truly effective use of social through striking the right balance of ‘brand’ and ‘human’ - Dell, Dominos, Best Buy, Zappos.

Getting there is a ton of work though, especially for large, complex organizations who can’t start from scratch.  It doesn’t just happen on its own, nor can you just tell your marketing people to “make us social”.  You’ve got to have crystal clear policies that address real life examples for both on- and off-the-clock behavior and make sure everyone’s on board.  You’ve got to hire and/or train staff to manage social channels, monitor conversations, and empower them to respond.  You’ve got to work little-by-little to chip away at deeply embedded ways of operating and embed social media way beyond marketing, cutting across organizational silos.  It might not take 200,000 pages, but it takes a lot.

Of course many factors come into play…the size of the company, the industry, the regulatory environment, the brand’s reputation.  But, planning and executing social strategy for any brand requires a healthy dose of skepticism, especially when it comes to them “being human”.  Seems most of the time brands get in trouble in social is because they’ve been just that.

One Bostonian's take on social media, marketing, health, fitness, gayness, funny stuff, and finding some balance in our online and offline worlds.