Wednesday, October 29, 2008

how not to sound like a zombie on twitter

One of the most enlightening things about my extreme twitter experience has been to learn which tools are effective in building a twitter audience--and which are not.

For instance, by signing up for a service like TweetLater,  you can enhance your chances of retaining new followers by generating a welcome message to accompany the standard alert they receive from Twitter. I've never gone to this extreme myself, but check out this auto-greeting sent last week by the other twittering Betty Draper. Hats off to her, I think it's a winner:

Will you be my friend? My husband Don is on an endless ‘business trip’ and I’m not even sure I need him, anyway.

Her appeal, though canned,  is effective for three reasons: it sounds personal, it gives followers an idea of what kind of content to expect and is 100% free of marketing jargon. Twitter newbies might even be convinced that January Jones is staring at a screen somewhere, breathlessly awaiting their next post. 

Of course not every auto-greeting is as savvy as this one. Most are salespitches for things you don't want, from someone who obviously hasn't read your tweets, and sound transparently bot-generated, making you want to unfollow promptly. (Suspect you're one of these clueless senders? Track who unfollows you, and when. Sign up for Qwitter.)

Here are the lamest auto-greetings I received, tweeting as Betty Draper. Proof that as useful as bots and zombies can be, they still can't do the job of a good copywriter.

Elizabeth, thx for following.
— Beware the bot that formalizes nicknames.

Hi! I am a personal development coach. What are you doing in your life and your business?
—I'm an imaginary character in 1962. The only personal development coach here is Dear Abby.

Thanks for the follow. Btw, what are you working on at the mo?


Hi! Feel free to ask my your most pressing lead generation questions for real estate.
— Not even if divorce puts the Ossining house on the market.

Hey cool! In one tweet, what makes you unique?
— It would take a whole season.

Let's make Money Online Together!!
— Sure! I've been sitting around just waiting to meet a business partner this way.

Hi, Champion! Special Bonus for you "177 Motivational Success Quote"
— Um, did you mean to follow my horse?

Hi, would love to know what you think of my blog.
— Enough about you. Let's talk about you.

Thanks for the follow! Hope you have a fabulous day!!! The Blouse Gap Eliminator 
—Talk about a product with limited market potential. Better try @joan_holloway or @jane_siegel.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

how to know you're not in manhattan anymore

When there's a gun display in the toy aisle of the drugstore. Clients often tell us that New York is a world apart from the rest of the country, and I was recently reminded of the truth of this in North Carolina when I stumbled upon a wall of toy weaponry while hunting for toothpaste. It would have parents in my neighborhood up in arms, so to speak.

Monday, October 27, 2008

before wordle there was gastrotypographicalassemblage

RIP Lou Dorfsman, generally acknowledged to be the father of corporate design, who worked at CBS for over forty years, setting standards for branding back when it was called corporate communications. Son of a sign-painter, Dorfsman worked at CBS from the late 1940s through the 1980s, becoming creative director of the company. He designed two proprietary fonts: CBS Didot and CBS Sans and, in what was a revolutionary idea for the day, insisted on their use not just for advertising and marketing, but for corporate stationery, insertion orders, memo pads and matchbooks, thus ensuring all communication materials were identifiable as part of the CBS brand.

When CBS moved into a new building in 1965, Dorfsman was charged with the job of creating the interior and exterior graphics. He conceived design standards for every last detail, down to numerals on wall clocks, elevator buttons, even elevator inspection stickers and mailboxes. Discovering a 40 foot empty wall in the new building's cafeteria, he killed a committee's plans to put up wall maps of New York and envisioned a wall of solid type,  similar to a typesetter's tray turned on its side. He designed a 3D collage of more than 1,450 hand-milled wood letters and images related to the cafeteria's fare, calling it "Gastrotypographicalassemblage". In office parlance it became known as "the Wall."

The Wall (33 feet long x 8 feet high) graced the CBS cafeteria for over 25 years, until the 1990s when new management decided to scrap it. It would have been lost but for the building superintendent who called Dorfsman to tip him off to the wall's removal. (By this time, Dorfsman had moved on to the Museum of Broadcasting.) Dorfsman called Nick Fasciano, a designer who'd created several of the wall's sculptures, and Fasciano collected the discarded panels and brought them to his home in Long Island. There, they they sat in storage for more than 20 years, safe but deteriorating, until being acquired by The Center for Design Study, a not-for-profit in Atlanta.

The Center is seeking to restore The Wall, a daunting endeavor in the nonvirtual world where there's no button to press to reboot or refresh. More than 25 percent of the letters have damaged beyond repair; they must be re-milled. The sculptures must be recreated by hand. If you'd like to do your part to save a landmark in design history, you can make a donation to the project here.

images via AIGA and Flickr

Thursday, October 23, 2008

i am @bettydraper

If you thought you were corresponding with January Jones or one of Weiner's writers or a neglected housewife circa. 1962--sorry for the spoiler. I am one of the large (and still growing) cast of Mad Men characters on Twitter.

As has already been revealed, the cast of Mad Men twitterers is in no way connected with AMC or Matthew Weiner. Neither are they part of Deep Focus (AMC's digital ad agency) or any other PR marketing group, despite tweets like one from @ddrager yesterday guessing tweeters are paid or "they wouldn't go to the lengths they have, and for how long they've been at it!" Rational people, he means.

My life as a Mad Man began as a lark. On August 26, just after AMC lawyers changed their minds about closing down Mad Men twitter accounts (persuaded in part by bloggers and journalists who couldn't believe AMC would toss away a brilliant promotional idea that did not cost them a cent) I went on Twitter to see which character was still available, and signed up @francine_hanson. I found a nice photo of her on the AMC website and started to tweet, trying to engage @betty_draper. But she wouldn't tweet back. Instead, she sent me a nasty direct message. So I went back on twitter and registered @bettydraper; now I had a Betty to play with.

Naively, I believed at that point the Twitter Mad Men were connected with AMC, that we were in some sort of "playoff" for jobs as twitter-writers for the show. Surely no one would do this for free, I thought, as days went by and I realized how much, how VERY much time it took to properly twitter a character (the reading! the rewatching shows! the historical research into what was around in 1962 and what was not!)

By the time I learned that what I'd signed up for was a volunteer effort⎯I was too hooked to quit. There is a thrill that comes with taking on another persona, interacting with the world as someone else, especially if that someone is as complex and interesting⎯ and as sexy and glam⎯as Matthew Weiner's Betty.

I found myself scouting for back issues of Life magazines, searching for things for Betty and Francine to do together. I ordered books online ("The Golden Age of the 60s") and spent hours and hours googling 60s culture, making sure that my tweets were historically accurate. (Of course, it helped that I'd lived the era myself, but I didn't want to trust my tweets to the memory of a child.)

Needless to say, all this living in the past took a toll on my life in 2008. I began to resent time away from the twitter screen, began to beg off social engagements, turned lunch meetings into phone meetings, neglected my work, friends, my family. My blog!

"You're not tweeting again, are you?" my husband would ask, coming into the room, when he knew I had actual deadlines to meet, emails to answer, bills to pay. "Uh, no," I'd lie, feeling as guilty as Sally caught smoking, hurriedly switching the screen back to Quicken.

What are you doing, I'd ask myself as I googled an old recipe for German noodles or the television schedule for 1962. But I couldn't stop. Just one more tweet, I'd think, then I'll go back to work. But to write that one tweet, I had to find out the year that Tastykakes were invented…

At first, the follower counts of the two Bettys were too far apart for the other Betty to care much, except to send me a few nasty dms. (" I suggest you try your hand at being who you really are, some (real, ok) woman dreaming about Don, and we'll all get by.") I had a few hundred followers to her fifteen hundred. But as weeks went by and my count kept going up, she began to make noise, insisting the Betty character was "hers" as she'd staked the claim first. The people behind the Don and Peggy twitter accounts agreed, insisting that "First come, first claim" was the rule--which surely made sense from their own perspectives. But "landing rights" seemed to me an odd approach for creative endeavors, like Weiner hiring the the first actor who shows up for the job. And I found it ironic--hilarious, even--that the character who was a wild philanderer on screen was proving so monogamous in the twitterverse.

If I'd been a sane person, I'd have quit when I realized that @don_draper wasn't going to acknowledge @bettydraper in the public timeline, though he'd sent her husbandly direct messages in private. ("Be home soon, Birdie" and "I'll be home in an hour".) In fan fiction terms, not being acknowledged by the main character is the equivalent of being sent to the Siberian front.

But I wasn't a sane person. I had grown insatiable, driven by an almost physical need to communicate as Betty to my "fans." I had almost a thousand followers now. How could I let them down? My Betty had even begun to come to life in the blogosphere.

At this point, I gave away the Francine account, and a few other characters I'd picked up on the way, to devote my full energies and concentration to Betty. She was the main character, the most interesting one, the one I most wanted to "be."

My follower count grew. And grew. And I learned a lot about what fuels success on Twitter: your popularity is determined not so much by what you say, as who you are, saying it. If you want to build following, it's best to be (or pretend to be) an industry leader or a famous writer or one of the lead characters in a popular TV series. I'm not the first to observe that @don_draper's posts are pretty bland, considering the creative genius he's supposed to be. Yet this doesn't deter his 3800 followers. The person behind @pete_campbell doesn't post at all; he stopped after only four tweets in August, yet his follower list continues to grow, exceeding 760 as of this writing.

I also learned that your popularity on Twitter also has a lot to do with how many people you follow. For most twitterers, follow limits are capped at 2000. Which may sounds like a lot to you. But if you're building a fanbase, it's not enough. @don_draper has so many followers, in part because he follows over 3000 people. I somehow learned how to uncap my follow limit and @peggyolson sent me a friendly email inquiring how I did it. I thought about withholding the answer from her, knowing she'd pass it along to Don's Betty--but I recoiled at the thought of being so anti-social…in social media! Sure enough, the other Betty blew the cap off her follow count the next day.

Following people is tedious; a lot of hunting and pecking. Basically you're poaching from similar twitterers' follower lists or searching twitter for posts using key words like "Mad Men" and following the people who said them. Add following time to the time to research posts to the time to write them…what was I doing?

Yet. I couldn't stop. Now my fanbase numbered 2000!

For a while, Bud the Mailman made valiant efforts to get us to work as a team. He solicited our email addresses and circulated them but after a few rounds of enthusiastic exchanges (we could do storylines! product placements! sponsorships!) it became clear that we could never work together, as we could never agree on anything, not even on whether or not to meet up.

One of the most curious aspects of the whole experience is how true to character each of us stayed (except for the philandering); how even when dealing with each other we remained in character, as if we were actors instead of PR types, ad hacks and digerati for hire. In group emails, I found myself sounding housewifely and deferential; Peggy was earnest and fiercely loyal to Don (whom she'd never met); Sal was ironic and devil-may-care; Don was tacitly acknowledged to be the boss, and took an authoritative tone with us, as if he'd started a company instead of a twitter account.

My follower count at 2800 exceeded the other Betty's this week. Why am I outing myself now? I find I've lost stomach for our competition. I realize the lengths she is willing to go to, lengths that I am unwilling to match. I want my life back. But, you can take a valuable lesson from her, if you're looking to pump your popularity on Twitter:

1. Craft an auto-message that goes out to all the people you follow. The standard message people receive from Twitter when someone follows them is "Betty Draper is now following you on Twitter." But you can configure a unique appeal to accompany it. Something like "@Betty_Draper wants to be your friend and begs you not to follow fake @bettydraper."

2. Create a new character that will acknowledge you often in tweets, validating your character and sending you followers. (This means, of course, you'll have to keep up more than one character. Forget that day job.)

2. Set up a Twitter site ostensibly designed to impartially rate the quality of whatever category tweets you are doing. Like the @OnMadMen site run by ex-MM Twitterer @jimmy_barrett which claims to be "A critical look at Mad Men on Twitter…let's keep the game fun and healthy, shall we?"

This will allow you to:

a. Stage a contest between you and competitors
b. Dm followers asking them to "vote" for you in the contest.
c. Win the vote!

Inspired in spite of this post to launch your own Mad Men twitter account? Join the crowd. The latest cast count is 67, I think, including @ xerox914, the handsome new Sterling Cooper copier. You'll be helping to keep good TV alive by taking part in a small but effective branding campaign. How do I know it's effective? Lots of people post that they are inspired to watch Mad Men because of the tweets.

Which brings me to my bill, AMC. Given my day rate and the time I've put in so far, I figure you owe me $48,000.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

sally draper's doll collection

If you haven't seen Sunday's Mad Men, don't worry, this isn't a spoiler: little Sally Draper finally gets a Barbie. But Barbie wasn't the only doll girls pestered their parents for in 1962.

There was the American company's Betsy Wetsy who came with plugged "real " hair and an open mouth where you could insert a toy bottle. As soon as you "fed" her, water came out her other end, giving you the joyous experience of changing her diaper.

American also made Tiny Tears who had two tiny holes at the side of her nose that "cried real tears." That is, if you first fed her from a little bubble pipe that fit into her mouth. Feeding her the pipe while squeezing her stomach produced an unadvertised but even more entertaining result : she blew a big bubble.

Then there was unlikely-named Poor Pitiful Pearl, based on a cartoon character by children's book author William Steig. Pearl came dressed in her "pitiful" outfit (chic by today's standards): patched dress, red scarf, black stockings and shoes. In the package was the "pretty" outfit you could change her into (pink crinoline party dress, white anklets and Mary Janes) thus becoming her fairy godmother.

My sister's favorite doll was Chatty Cathy who spoke eleven phrases in random play when you pulled a ring at the back of her neck. The ring was on a metal string connected to a phonograph in her stomach. My sister adored her, as did so many other girls that Chatty Cathy became the second best selling doll in the 1960s, second only to Barbie. (Both were made by Mattel.)

I myself found Cathy's conversation wanting, as her repertoire included only stock phrases like "I love you", "Tell me a story" and "Will you play with me?" Even then persnickety about copy, I begged my parents for Little Miss Echo who would say whatever you wanted her to, thanks to a tape recorder planted inside her (flat) chest. Little Miss Echo was considered to be more of a "grown-up" doll, and now I see why. For some reason, the agency that made the commercial for her cast a girl old enough to be playing with real babies.

Monday, October 20, 2008

:) = (^_^) if you are in china, UPDATED

You might think, as I did, that emoticons are universal, but turns out if you're tweeting someone in Asia, you need a translator for emoticons, too. Want to add a smiley to the end of your message to Beijing? You should know that :) is (^_^) over there. To Asian speakers, the meaning of emoticons is derived from the eyes, while Western emoticons more often use the mouth to express meaning. A good illustration of this is the sadface. Look at our :( versus their T_T which is meant to suggest tears streaming down.

Western emoticons read left to right mirroring the way we read romance languages. But in Asia, emoticons read straight-on like pictograms, reflecting the graphic nature of character-based languages. Is it because Asian readers are more accustomed to graphic characters, or because they're more in touch with their feelings, that their emoticon glossary is more extensive than ours is. They've even got an icon for the pleasure of smoking.

(-.-)y- cigarette break

(v_v) silent resignation

(O_O) shocked

(o_O) confused, surprised, disturbed

d-_-b listening to music

fO_o scratching head

*^_^* blushing

\(^o^)/ happiness or wow!

(o)_(o) tired; sometimes used to mean crazed

(/_\) profound dismay

(H_H) pervert (from Japanese "hentai")

x.x Dead (in which case, how are you messaging?)

($_$) or (¥_¥) or (₩_₩) money eyes; thinking about money

And my two favorites:

(x(x_(X_x(O_o)x_x)_X)x) Alive among zombies

(-(-_(-_-(O_o)-_-)_-)-) Waking up in the subway


Joker adds a few of his own creation:

Bull fighter or horn dog. you pick


:P d:
Spiderman kiss.

Wishydig observes that Western emoticons don't read left to right any more than Asian emoticons read top to bottom. Western emoticons are turned on their side, but they are still just as image based. He sends a handy link to the world's most complete compendium of smiley face options, perfect for any occasion, including when you need to convey that "user is a midget" or "user is the Pope."

More emoticon translations here and here and here

Friday, October 17, 2008

i'm not pc, I'm the most ignorant commercial for fast food ever made

When the economy goes down, first casualties are industries selling discretionary items. So I'm wondering if this (very un-pc) spot for a South African-based fast food chain was originally created for makers of breast enhancements who already went, um, bust. 

Another fab find from GardenBroad

Sunday, October 12, 2008

for mad men addicts and codependents

another brilliant sentiment from Someecards

Friday, October 10, 2008

friday flashback--when flying was fun

Oh, for the days of flying in the Age of Mad Men. Fifty years ago this month, Pan Am inaugurated transatlantic jet service with a Boeing 707 they named the Clipper America. Here's a video that introduced the former comforts of air travel, which included " living room quiet and relaxation" and stewardesses lighting your cigarettes for you.

For years, the friendly skies were the domain of businessmen and well-heeled families who could ante up for a first class vacation. Tickets were pricey and there was no point shopping around; airfares were controlled by regulation. The only way for airlines to compete was to provide the best service. Which meant free food and drink, no matter how short the flight was. And I'm not talking snack paks and half-cans of soda. There were three-course meals on fine china and linen and omelettes made from real eggs in the galley. Routine flights included roses for female passengers and stick-pin "wings" for their children which would be presented in a little pre-flight welcome ceremony. Of course, everyone would be dressed to the nines, as befitted the occasion; only after boarding would women remove their white gloves.

Speaking of wardrobe, I can't help remembering that outrageously sexist spot created in the late 60s by Mary Wells for Braniff Airlines. To convince businessmen to fly Braniff, she hired Emilio Pucci to design a new uniform for its stewardesses. He created a layered look that could be changed during flight. She called it The Air Strip. No doubt filling fleets of planes with Don Drapers and Pete Campbells.

Friday, October 3, 2008

problems with twitter? welcome to the twilight zone

You may have heard that Twitter is revolutionizing customer service, providing the platform whereby companies riddled with terrible reputations for customer service are now redeeming their good names. Comcast, Home Depot, Dell and others have set up Twitter accounts and assigned employees to lurk online, browsing Twitter Search for disgruntled consumers having trouble with their service, enabling the company to swoop in to solve a complaint instantly or put the complainer in touch with someone who can help.

You'd think that Twitter, ultimately responsible for changing the customer service paradigm, would be at the forefront of customer service themselves. You would be wrong.

A week ago, my twitter account began to have problems. At first, things went well. Help on Twitter's dashboard launched me into a website with the promising name of Get Satisfaction. But, it turned out to be a dispiriting place-- a repository for complaints about not just Twitter but "thousands of companies" where questions go unanswered for weeks, even even though the site claims "Twitter is here! 21 people are listening and participating!" A complaint similar to mine posted 2 months ago is followed by a happy face inviting me "to be the first to reply!" A sidebar asks the dispiriting question: "Know any helpful people? Email this question to them!"

It takes some time to post my complaint because, as is par for Twitter, parameters must be strictly adhered to. The first is: Give your problem a great title. Really? Seems just when your service is pissing me off, Twitter, is not the right moment to ask me to be creative. But. Whatever. I fill in a description of the problem, ("one or two paragraphs work best!"), come up with tags (couldn't Twitter make a bot do this?) then comes the most annoying parameter of all. "One last thing before you post…how does this problem make you feel?" My choices are four emoticons (I hate emoticons) : smiley, sad, serious, tongue sticking out. After choosing one (you can guess) I must "describe my feelings in words" to "increase the likelihood of my problem getting noticed." Really? Questions aren't answered in queue, Twitter decides which to answer depending on how people articulate their feelings?

Luckily, I must have chosen the right words, because my problem is addressed within the hour. Unfortunately, the answer is: we can't answer this, you have to post this problem on the twitter help site. But I thought this was the twitter help site? I log onto the new URL provided and go through the "fill in the boxes" thing again.

Days go by. (Days in twitter-time are equivalent to centuries.) I log back into Get Satisfaction (which must be the world's most ironically named website) to ask when I might be hearing from Twitter. It takes several more days for them to respond. Vaguely: "Unfortunately, it really does take some time before we see a response from Twitter Support because they're dealing with a backlog."

Twitter has no customer service phone number (naturally) but they do post a snail mail address. So I sit down and write an old-fashioned letter. Wouldn't it be ironic if it turns out that snail-mail is what it takes to get Twitter's attention? It's been 7 days and still no word from them. C'mon, Twitter. If you care about users (and some say that you don't) why not put some of that $15 million of venture into dealing with the customers you already have?

Twitter's @crystal (who kindly replied in a comment) worked doggedly to fix the problem and solved it w/in 24 hours. Thanks, Crystal! The lesson? If you've got a problem with twitter, forget their help desk. Post your problem to @crystal to Get Satisfaction.