Friday, June 26, 2009

10 rules of twittertainment I learned from @bettydraper

I was thrilled to be part of the recent 140 Conference in New York, a diverse gathering of social media players from around the world. (Video of sessions available here.)

 Illustrator Jonny Goldstein took marvelous visual notes of our Mad Men on Twitter panel. (Hope he got one of the twittertinis served by Frank Adman recently outed as David Benardo.) 

I had the chance to meet tweeters I've admired from afar. Including @SavvyAuntie (Melanie Notkin) who's just signed with TNT to live-tweet Saving Grace. And now that Brillstein Entertainment has teamed up with Amy Ephron to do a reality series based around twitter, I'm thinking maybe twittertainer will be a bona fide job description someday.

So, for those looking to hone skills, here's a few tips I've learned from @BettyDraper:

1. Reserve character names in several iterations. (At least @firstname and @first_name) 

2. "Adopt" more than one character so you can stage spontaneous scenes which won't work as well if you have to wait to coordinate time zones and schedules with other writers. Novelists and playwrights speak for more than one character. A good writer can handle multiple characters just as successfully in this medium. Imbue each with a separate personality as distinctive on twitter as it is on TV. 

3. Don't deviate from storyline. You're looking to extend viewers' interest in the show, not showcase your own scriptwriting talents. If you go off storyline, fans will feel betrayed. The most common praise from Mad Men on twitter fans is how good we are at staying in character.

4. Remember, fans play a large role in twittertainment. Don't broadcast show schedules and timing. Twittertainment works only if it's entertainment. Engage fans by interacting with them, not just other characters. Incorporate fan tweets into your stream. Build out your character with Linked-in, Facebook, even a personal blog. @BettyDraper recognizes twitter fans in some of her blog posts. She also hosts (virtual) parties in Ossining to which not only characters, but fans are invited.

5. You don't have to respond to every tweet. Only answer questions that appeal to a broader audience. And when responding to tweets, incorporate the question into the answer, so followers will know what's going on. 

6. The shorter your tweet, the more retweetable . Two of the most retweeted Betty posts are the blandest : "Tying a scarf" and "Frosting cupcakes."

7. Get the details right. Fictional characters must be perceived as authentic. (!)  Part of what makes Mad Men on twitter work is ferocious devotion to period detail. I was born the same year Sally Draper was, so am personally acquainted with the 60s, but I don't trust details of the era to the memory of a child. I have an entire collection of vintage cookbooks and housekeeping manuals so that tweets will contain historically accurate references like "Rob Roys" and "bluing."

8. Use Twitter's "real time" advantage to dimensionalize posts. Mad Men characters still immersed in the 60's "unwittingly" comment on real time events. On January 20, Inauguration Day, Betty tweeted "Shocked by a colored man swearing on television." When Matt Weiner was honored by the Clios in Las Vegas, Mad Men tweeted from the CLIOs in 1963, from the Waldorf Astoria, where the Clio's that year had a Las Vegas theme.

9. Writing twittertainment is surprisingly time consuming, requiring time for not only posting, but research and reading and monitoring tweet streams of other characters. Don't expect it's something you or someone else can do in just a few minutes a day. And if you're looking to hire, don't just look for a good writer. Look for someone energetic and outgoing who loves to perform. Twittertainment is equal parts writing and improv. 

10. Have fun! Once your characters take up residence outside the (tv) box, there's no telling where their adventures will lead them. And you. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

museum of forgotten art supplies

At the 140 (twitter) conference in New York last week, I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind fellow Mad Men tweeter Frank Adman with whom I shared not only twittertinis but memories of once essential tools of the trade. Where have all the Acu-arcs, xactos and stat cams gone? To the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, of course!

Proportional Wheel
I started out as a junior art director but switched to writer partly due to lack of math skills. You had to be a numbers person to be an art director in the old days. Standard issue to ADs was this proportional wheel, which I never was able to figure out how to work. Most had the name of the owner markered in HUGE pt type on the back.

Rubber Cement Pickup
Used for removing "goobers" left after rubber cementing a layout onto foamcore.

Polaroid SLR 680 Camera

Used to be, ad agencies did their own casting in conference rooms. Models were constantly parading through the hallways or freshening up at the ladies room mirror, where a girl could feel like a separate species. Casting directors had multiple 680s to grab headshots. I've long been in awe of one of the first casting people I worked with, an assistant named Avy Kaufman, who parlayed a knack for choosing shills for household cleaners into a brilliant career casting for Woody Allen and others.

X-acto Kit

No self-respecting art director was without a blue-anodized xacto knife, a swivel knife for cutting rubylith (see next item) and the super professional "burnisher" for rubbing down lettraset type. Letraset! Anyone remember?

Light-safe red film used by graphic designers for masking areas, used in various printing techniques. Some ADs sported a 7X magnifying eyepiece while cutting it or the other popular masker, yellow amberlith.

Many more blasts from the past on view at the always-open Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Unfortunately, no Lucigraph. Though Frank Adman claims to be harboring one in his attic.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2 days in a bunker with 140 characters

On March 23, Jeff Pulver put out the call: "Seeking creative, out-of-the-box explore the future." Must twitter.

He was trying to put together, in less than three months, an industry gathering of not just tech geeks, but "all kinds of people and the only thing they have in common is that they speak Twitter" ... something as diverse as the bar scene from the first Star Wars movie, he told The Observer.

IMHO, he succeeded. Of course, there were appearances by regulars on the twitter circuit like the ebullient (and ever mesmerizing) Gary Vaynerchuk who has turned his enthusiasm for running his family's wine business into a personal brand with 530,000 followers. Chris Brogan, social media magilla. Robert Scoble , blogger and professional digital taste-tester. Tim O'Reilly, using twitter mania to build a media empire. Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame and Brian Solis, writer and beloved social media philosopher.

There were also rarer opportunities to hear from others at the twitter forefont. Like Jack Dorsey, Twitter's co-founder who traced the roots of the platform to own his obsessive musings about infrastructures in high school. Ann Curry, anchor on the Today Show (and the darling of the conference, see why here.Moeed Ahmad, from Al Jazeera who shared how twitter is helping his journalists reach farflung sources and audiences. David Saranga consul for media at NY's Israeli Consulate: "there's no hiding behind institutions anymore". Fred Wilson, VC at Union Square Ventures (one of Twitter's main backers) who posited that links and retweets are the currency of the internet and will turn into actual money at the end of the day. (Which day, he didn't speculate.) 

Pulver observed throughout: "It's not about old media replacing new media, but the fusion of the two." Which set a generous tone and in part perhaps because of this, there was a refreshing lack of snark that pervades gatherings of digerati. Many of whom didn't seem to consider themselves digerati, but regular folks using the web as a tool to make their way in the world. 

In 20 minute strictly- timed "sets", (transgressors were threatened with the soundtrack from Exodus) fashionistas, filmmakers, mommy bloggers, musicians and jilted lovers took the stage, to the chagrin of some in the audience whose speaking proposals had been turned down.

There were reps of big brands like Kodak and Marriott and Macmillan and of one man brands and Adweek editor Brian Morrissey who compared seeing the social ineptness of most brands to "watching Dad dance--it feels awkward and creepy."

There was talk of inanimate tweeters like the Tower of London. A laundromat in Oberlin, Ohio that tweets when its wash cycle in over. Plants that twitter urgently to say they need water, according to Kevin Slayvin of Area/Code.

Female scientists stripteased off labcoats to demonstrate that science can be appealing.

We Mad Men served twittertinis (martinis in Dixie cups) to induce audience to stick around for our 6 PM panel at which Frank Adman was outed and Pete Campbell was revealed to be a woman. 

About that time, Twitter went down--not the usual brief fail whale, but extended routine maintenance that is usually performed during the wee hours. Turns out that the State Department had asked Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance shutdown out of concern for Iranians using the service during the election protests.

The fact that the microblogging platform which obsessed the hundreds of us in attendance was now acknowledged by the White House to wield the power to influence government--served to fuel the camaraderie, a feeling of being distinct from the madding crowds...which was intensifed by the bunker-like location: three stories underground where internet was ornery and cell service nil. This has been roundly complained of by a panelist. But, in truth, the online interruptions were intermittent, as you can see by the number of #140conf tweets: 17,698. The real problem was lack of power outlets. It was as if the site had been built for the Amish.

Despite the tech challenges, and the annoying lack of handheld agendas which would have made it easier to follow the fifty or so panels a day, I found the gathering enormously worthwhile. (Videos of all sessions viewable here.) I liked that it wasn't about branding or metrics or marketing or communication. It was about all of those things-- and almost any other subject you could possibly think of. Which is the essential value of twitter. Allowing you to connect with people out of your customary orbit, people passionate about subjects you'd like to know more about. Being there was like attending a two-day long cocktail party. With fascinating strangers. And friends of friends you'd long wanted to meet. In a secret bunker. BYO power plug.

Mad Men Panel photo courtesy @EmilySPearl (thanks, Emily)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

notes from twitter boot camp

Had the pleasure yesterday of speaking at Twitter Boot Camp, a crash course in Twitter for execs who don't have time to learn it the hard way. (Surprising how much there is to absorb about using a medium limited to a mere 140 characters.)

Representatives from companies doing it right offered tips and best practices to a crowd of a few hundred newbies who'd shelled out $399 (or convinced their travel depts to do so) and come from far away as Rejivak, Iceland.

Tim O'Reilly, who hosted the event, coined a phrase for disorder afflicting many of us with multiple accounts and followers: "stream fatigue." (No OTC remedies available yet.)

Corporate approaches to dealing with twitter reflected various company cultures. David Puner said Dunkin Donuts issues a social media guidelines policy for franchisees, designed to maintain cohesiveness of brand in digital space. As might be expected, Zappos' approach is more freewheeling. According to Tony Hsieh, its CEO, corporate social media policy consists of a single statement: Just be real and use your best judgement. (His standard interview question for prospective employees: Whether they feel lucky or not.) He added that Zappos twitter accounts are considered property of employees who are free to take them, should they leave the company. It's their lives, he shrugged when I expressed amazement at this hands-off approach later at an after-party his company sponsored at the Hudson Hotel. Clearly my old-school expectations needed loosening up. "Here," he said, kindly handing me another free-drink ticket.

Eric Peterson, creator of analytics machine Twitalyzer, used his metrics expertise to burst the bubble being floated by blue-sky marketers touting Dell's report last week of $3 million generated by Twitter. He pointed out that this number amounts to a mere .005 of the company's annual revenue. (Still. In this market, who's to sniff at an uptick of $3 million?)

Ted Murphy made a surprisingly persuasive case for his service Izea which is stirring up controversy among twitterati by introducing pay-per-post to twitter. (His premise: it ain't nothin new.)

I began my advice by pointing out the Four Stages of Twitter, as recently diagnosed by Jason Hiner.

Other tweet-sized insights:
The perfect corporate tweet is a trinity containing: 1. content of interest to the target, 2. a link 3. a call for a response (Marla Erwin, Whole Foods)

Marketers shouldn't overlook the most valuable thing about twitter (and other Social media): it's a 24/7 focus group (Reggie Bradford, Virtrue)

Don't forget your 8th grade grammar. Use abbreviations and lingo sparingly, as many in your target may not understand.  (Carri Bugbee, Big Deal PR)

To pump your company brand on twitter, seek out people who can become corporate all stars. Who best to do this may surprise you. Social media expertise doesn't respect traditional hierarchies. Your best spokesperson may not be your CEO, it could be your janitor. (Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital)
Off to put on my Betty Draper persona to speak at the Twitter Conference today.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

how to know you're on manhattan's upper west side

Check the street signs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

madison avenue blues

The demise of Advertising as We Knew It, to the tune of American Pie. Could have been edited down a bit, but good for a laugh or two. Which heaven knows you need.

excuse the hiatus

But my daughter just graduated. From Harvard. Who knew, what with pre and post-game events, celebration would last a week? Pardon my popping buttons, but here's a pic of her in Phi Beta Kappa parade. Only marcher wearing leopard print flats and trendy metallics. So proud :)