What companies could learn about new media from the LDS Church

I don’t usually talk about my religious view here on this blog. But in this situation I find it particularly relevant to the usual discussion here.

I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saint also referred to as lDS or the Mormons.

In this months Church publication, The Ensign, one of our Church leaders, M Russell Ballard, talks about how members of the Church should be using new media.

There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.

He even goes on to talk about how members should conduct themselves.

There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs. There is no need to become defensive or belligerent.

I wish more organizations and companies would take this wide open approach. Don’t try and staff up to respond to all the blogs, forums, micro-blogs etc. Instead empower your current employees/members to go out engage with the world.

The Church has always been really good about using new media. Their News Room has been RSS enabled for the past two years. They even have their own branded YouTube channel.

Louis Gray has a few posts talking about the Churches use of online video, here and here.

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Random Thoughts 06/30/2008

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Revisiting old topics [Tuesday Homework]

my real office with a window Today’s homework assignment is for those of you who have been blogging for *a while*. Now in the blogosphere that could be six months to a year.

I’d like you to take a moment and go through your backlogs.

Back when you were just starting off, back when you thought you knew everything.

Remember that great post you did, that you didn’t expect to get any comments and it was one of your most popular? Or that one perfect post that you thought would get a ton of traffic but didn’t?

Go back now, with the eyes of experience behind you and try and figure out what went right, or wrong. Was it the topic? Was it just lucky timing?

Whatever it was, I find that revisiting old content in a new post can be a great source of blog ideas. Has there been any changes to the current situation? Do you have any new insight or experiences that you’ve gained since then?

Use those new insights and old topics for a new blog post.

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Random Thoughts 06/24/2008

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Build a photo gallery for your blog [Tuesday Homework]

on my way into work this morning

In light of recent articles about the main stream media not wanting to play nice with blogs it seems like a good time to make your own blog more self relient.

Using photo’s in your blog can be a great way to make it stand out, grab your readers attention and convey a message that just can’t be spelled out.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to find photo’s that you can use legally. You can’t just go grabbing any photo you find off the Web, this can be a good way to get yourself sued if the photo is copyrighted.

Flickr’s Creative Commons
is a great way to find photo’s that you can use for free, usually you just need to acknowledge the author, with a link back to the original.

Where things get tricky with Creative Commons is it's been raining for 2 weeksthat you usually can’t use the photo for commercial gain. But what if you sell ads on the site or even just have an Amazon affiliate widget on the site? Can that be considered commercial? I haven’t heard of anyone getting in trouble yet but in the litigious society we live in, why risk it?

You can of course pay for services that give you the right to use professional photo’s, but most of us have no intention for paying for anything besides hosting (many don’t even do that).

I’ve found that by constantly snapping photo’s and posting them up on Flickr I’ve begun building my own personal photo gallery.

While snapping my own photo’s may not have the Seth and his blue guitarlevel of professionalism that some blogs have, I think they add a level of personality to the site.

So your homework assignment is to start snapping photo’s.

I use to carry around a small digital camera everywhere I went until I got a camera phone. I’ve also found that by setting up my Flickr account to receive MMS’s from my phone not only am I more likely to take photo’s I’m more likely to upload them.

Don’t think about taking the perfect blog picture, instead think about taking as many photo’s as you can.

The best wifi in Boise and its free You never know when that random photo you took will be just perfect for your next blog post. Or more likely you’ll never know which of your photos will kind of work for your next blog post.

And if it’s an interesting photo and has some of your personality in it then most likely your readers will appreciate it more than some obviously stock photo.

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Content Explosion and Re-Aggregation

There have been two huge enablers in my online publishing habits. FriendFeed and my BlackJack 2.

i'm armed and dangerous

I’ve always had a variety of desktop *publishing tools* but my BlackJack has enabled me to create content on the go, and FriendFeed pulls all that content together. While Louis Gray is the real maven on FriendFeed and all things aggregated I wanted to share with you how I’ve gone from being an avid blogger to being a Constant Content Creator.

I’ve also recently added to my online publishing arsenal: Jing and BrightKite.

Jing is a free service I’ve been using from TechSmith. You can use it for screen grabs (pic and vid). You can even set it up to publish your content online instantly. I’ve set up Jing to publish my screen grabs to my Flickr account.

BrightKite is still in closed beta but I got an invite from Justin Foster. BrightKite lets you send status updates from where you are. You send in text messages with as much location information as you can and it uses Google Maps to locate you (not GPS).

If Twitter is “What am I doing?” BrightKite is “Where I am?”

So I’m sorry to give you all that back history and flurry of links but I thought it was important to set the stage first. If you look at my FriendFeed you’ll notice I currently use 17 of their over 40+ services. The real power isn’t just the aggregation of content but the aggregation of the conversation.

flickr on friendfeed via mobile

If you notice this picture on my FriendFeed account, I took the photo with my phone, sent it via MMS to my flickr account with a descriptive title of what I was doing, “taking a lunch break away from the pc” not some artsy title like “Tranquility Among the Corporate Chaos“.

FriendFeed’s real time aggregation of content has turned everything into communication about what I’m experiencing.

You’ll also notice that there is a place for people to comment on the photo if they want (as a surprise Easter egg, I’ve left a comment over there for you). I then took a screen grab of my flickr picture on FriendFeed using Jing, which then sent the photo to my flickr account with the title “flickr on friendfeed via mobile”, which has commenting enabled on flickr (is your head spinning yet?).

But it doesn’t stop there.
Traveling to RedSky PR

Here you’ll see my travels to a meeting with Jessica Flynn at RedSky PR’s new offices. Remember these post in reverse chronological order.

By themselves Twitter, BrightKite and flickr give you pieces of what I’m doing but combined they provide a much more rich experience. Now if I had just videoed some of our conversation and sent it to YouTube you’d have a true multimedia experience.

Pandora on FriendFeed
If I used Pandora on my mobile device and bookmarked the songs I was listening to on my way over you’d also have the soundtrack of my travels.

And it turns out that Marco, who has a great (and much shorter rant) about FriendFeed and early adopters, shares my taste in music.

FriendFeed is the Meta Social Network

Ever since MySpace went mainstream and everyone else decided they wanted to be the next MySpace people have talked about a social network that could overlay all the social networks and allow communication between them. While this will never happen completely FriendFeed gets us as close as I think we’ll ever get.

No longer does it matter if I still use Twitter and other people are moving to Plurk we’ll still see eachothers updates.

It won’t matter that I use Diigo and Mike Manuel use Ma.gnolia, we’ll still see eachother’s bookmarks.

And as new services get added to FriendFeed they’ll continue together more of the conversation. FriendFeed has already won.

When I hear people ask if this is all necessary or if it’s just a fad (they asked the same thing about blogs) I keep going back to my new favorite quote which I first mentioned in regards to wiki’s and the military:

the side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly – the side with the better learning organization – usually wins

I know that this seems like a lot, and I’m not suggesting that everyone jump into the deep end of the pool but things aren’t going to slow down. Most of you don’t see the business value in this yet (honestly most of us early adopters don’t see the full value yet either).

My suggestion: Start small. With 40+ services and growing there is probably some content you are creating that FriendFeed can aggregate. From there it grows organically. You’ll only use the services you see value in (I promise there is value).

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If you want you can even see this post on FriendFeed and see the comments there.

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Random Thoughts 06/12/2008

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Brand monitoring tips [Tuesday Homework]

I hope you guys are finding this series of Tuesday posts helpful. Today’s post is for all you corporate types (although this works for agency types working on client accounts).

Monitoring your brand online is critical for two reasons:

  • It helps prevent an online crisis from building up before you are aware of it and can respond
  • It helps you stay connected to how your brand is perceived by the public

The very first thing you should do is set up a Google Alert and/or a Technorati Watchlist for your company. I’ve found Technorati to be quicker but Google to be more comprehensive.

Some of the less common brand monitoring searches include searching on Flickr and YouTube for your brand. This can be a little bit harder because depending on how the person tagged their photos or videos could make it difficult to find relevant content.

Looking through bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, Diigo and Ma.gnolia can also turn up some invaluable results. I’ve often found stuff here the Google Alerts didn’t even turn up.

Following Twitter through services like Tweet Scan can give you a real-time view of what’s happening to your brand. This is where companies can really shine by being on top of customer service issues.

Finally (this one is really for larger companies) something I’ve started doing is searching LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for company employees that are using these services. This isn’t so much of a monitoring activity as it is a way to stay connected to what’s happening in my organization.

If I am going to propose an idea that involves buy in or involvement from a separate organization it sure makes it a lot easier if I know an insider that “gets it”. If I’ve already connected to that person they become an invaluable source of information. They can help me talk to the right people and save me weeks of emailing random people or following dead end leads.

Is there anything I missed? Do you have any tips for monitoring your companies brand?

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The rise of crappy pics and vids

Now that I have a 3G camera phone I feel this overwhelming urge to do more with pictures and video. As I’ve stated before I personally still prefer text over video for business applications. But there is no denying that video can really enhance certain types of content.

Pictures are an obvious fit in online content. They provide color, context and good visual elements that enhance a readers experience. That is, if it’s shot by someone with any talent at all. That’s not me.

Here’s a photo I took at the opening of the downtown Boise incubator I helped launch. That’s my wife Jen in the bottom left, she’ll be so happy I used this pic ;)

But my phone and I don’t stop at ruining good photo ops, we also take on video.

This is a group of us waiting for last weeks Boise Twitter lunch. (We would have Twittered from the event, but Twitter was down.)

This is the very first video I successfully shot and loaded up to YouTube with my camera phone. It’s absolutely horrible. I’m actually impressed the audio came out as well as it did. Being a test video and my first one, I can only get better (I hope).

I am not alone in my new visual capabilities. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people a day gaining this new capability via shinny new cell phones. I wonder what will happen as the Web is flooded with this content?

I imagine we’ll see very similar trends that we saw when blogging took online publishing mainstream. Millions of people will upload content daily. The popular stuff will rise to the top, the niche content will find it’s place and the rest will be relegated to being enjoyed by a handful of friends and family members.

If you’re interested my Flickr Stream can be found here and my brand new YouTube channel can be found here.

What do you see happening with the rise of online pictures and videos?

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Random Thoughts 06/09/2008

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