Monday, March 30, 2009

Are You Bringing Sexy Back?

Every company needs to think carefully about what kind of a social media presence their brand should have, and perhaps it makes sense to dip a toe in the water to test it out before diving right in. From what I can tell, the lingerie line Agent Provocateur maybe should have planned a little longer before announcing their intentions to jump into the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook, just in time for a very sexy Valentine's Day campaign. Warning: it is pretty racy.

My problem isn't with their choice of vehicles; from what I can see, they hired the right voice to create a sexy yet approachable online personality. My problem is their apparent radio-silence after their campaign ended. Repeatedly I have tried to access their blog,, but each time I get a 403 Forbidden Error. Perhaps the site has come down. There are several Facebook pages dedicated to AP, but none is particularly informative or seems to necessarily be sponsored by the company. On Twitter, the last tweet from MsProvocateur is dated February 26. From a vague tweet earlier in the day, it seems like she has been sent on some kind of "research" trip:

so exciting! because of your comments APs sending me around the world to research sex! hot but ill miss u guys! will u miss me?

So apparently wherever they sent her does not have internet access. Frankly, now that it has been so long, I am a little worried for her safety. What if some indigenous tribe took offense at her lingerie?

All joking aside, once you start a discussion, you can't just walk away in the middle of it. AP took the time to announce their endeavor to the world and got some PR out of it. There are thousands of fans on the Facebook pages and a little over a thousand followers on Twitter. There is no way of telling what traffic on the blog was like.

Looking at StrawberryFrog, the agency AP hired to launch their foray into social media, they seem like a good choice as they describe their philosophy like this:

We create Cultural Movements for clients who think big.
StrawberryFrog is an independent Cultural Movement agency that helps our clients lead in the new world. We have strong partnerships with some of the best known brands in the world. Today, consumers don't just want to buy brands, they want to BUY IN to what a brand believes in. In this new age, we create Cultural Movement strategies for our clients. This is our DNA, our competitive edge. In a fragmented media world, a Cultural Movement gives our client's incredible momentum.

So where did it all go wrong? How could AP think it was a good idea to end their Cultural Movement before I even heard about it? Movement to me implies something ongoing or revolutionary, not just a Valentine's Day stunt.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tweet Revenge

In this wired world of ours, it is amazing how freely we give our information. As my friend Danny over at Digital Dirt can attest, once you put it out there it is pretty hard to take it back. Yet practically on a daily basis I see people posting up on Facebook how much they hate their jobs, how bored they are or even worse, what they are spending their time doing while they are clearly writing from the office. While I have never dissed my job on a social network I am certainly guilty of posting during working hours as well. But at least I try to keep it to a minimum, only putting up vitally important things like weekend, um, what was my point?

Oh yeah, so back to lamenting your job to the masses - people, if that random girl you vaguely remember who sat next to you in Algebra I (oh so many years ago) can see your post about how you wish you could tell your boss exactly what he can do with his TPS reports, then guess what? Your boss can probably see it too. Awkward.

And if not your boss, then how about your HR department? What do you think all of those people are doing now that the recession has caused so many companies to implement hiring freezes? They are looking for fat to trim, so don't be the bacon!

Clearly, I am no expert. I mean, I joined Twitter along with the other members of my poker group last December so we could keep tabs on each other during a trial run at the Master Cleanse. If you are familiar with it, I am sure you can imagine the lovely posts we were sending out into the Twitterverse about "salt water bathing." I don't think it even occurred to me at that point that other acquaintances might be on as well.

Perhaps "theconnor" another Twitter user thought the same thing when he sent out the following tweet:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

I read about this on, and as much as I love schadenfreude (and by the way I overheard some high-schoolers use that word last weekend and I was utterly amazed, but then skeptical that they might have learned about it from "Avenue Q") I felt bad for the person who, of course, got a response from a Cisco employee. This is nothing new, of course. There are countless other stories of people losing jobs, relationships and even court cases from foolish posts. Let's try harder to keep a few things to ourselves, shall we?

I for one just want to say how much I love my job and the people I work with...for no particular reason, I just like to say it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Oh female empowerment, why must we label? Don't get me wrong, I am all for women succeeding in the entertainment industry. I myself am a woman who would like to succeed in the entertainment industry. But every time I see women called out for their achievements as women, I get a little queasy feeling. I mean, if we are so successful in the first place then why do we have to make such a big deal about the distinction? I never hear people say, "That movie was great...and it was written by a man!" As silly as that sounds, no one seems to blink twice about saying the same thing about women. I know I am being holier than thou, but I just hate the double standard.

What got my mind wandering down this path was an article my amazing friend, Jessica, sent my way. It was about the new self-proclaimed "Fempire" of female Hollywood screenwriters featured in the New York Times Fashion and Style section (interesting choice) last week called "Hollywood's New Power Posse." My love of alliteration aside, that title alone got my tummy a-girgling.

The piece about the friendship of four successful writers, Diablo Cody (Juno), Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), Dana Fox (What Happens in Vegas) and Liz Meriwether, a transitioning playwright, paints the women as insecure, giggling pre-teens, especially when the author adds elements like "They all have dogs!" (I admit I added the exclamation point to that quote, but still) and "But these women also work hard: Ms. Cody, Ms. Fox and Ms. Scafaria can command seven figures to write a movie that makes it into theaters with big stars." Big stars? You don't say!

I realize I am being super sensitive and a little snarky here as well, especially since the article was clearly supposed to be written from a fashion/lifestyle angle, but why was it even written that way in the first place? And who even knows if these women want to be taken that seriously, especially since they are all comedy writers. Still, male writers like Judd Apatow are lauded for their work, however silly it may be, not by what they borrowed from their girlfriend to wear on the red carpet.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Almost as good as the Kindle...

For those of us who like to try out new recipes only to print them out and lose them to the abyss of our apartments, there is now a new gadget that stores them all for easy reference, the Demy digital recipe reader. If you know me by now, you know I want one.

All you need is a Demi and a account and you are ready to go. The Demi also is a timer, a measurement converter, offers suggestions for ingredient substitutions and knows what your favorite dishes are. If it did the dishes, it would be perfect.

Kirtsy? Sure, I can Digg it

My friend and fellow blogger, Matt, kindly introduced me to Kirtsy, another social voting site with a decidedly new twist: its target is a female audience. For many reasons, this is a great idea, but the main draw to me is that it may help women who might never have joined the conversation on Digg, StumbleUpon or Reddit (admittedly, I have never voted on these sites, though I do check them out occasionally - I do have a account, but don't really use it much either).

Posts on Kirtsy are decidely more girly fun than geeky fun. They may tend more towards crafts for Easter, off-the-wall wedding venues and lip balm, but you can still find articles about job-hunting, sports and current news as well. The color scheme is similar to Digg, but the layout is more vertical. One big difference between the two sites is that Kirtsy uses editors while Digg let's its users decide what they want to see most. I can really find topics I'm interested in on both sites, but Kirtsy does tend to be a little more like a gabfest among girlfriends than a serious news aggregator. Hey, not necessarily a bad thing though.

The site, originally called Sk*rt, got its start when three female bloggers decided to get together in 2007 and create something that was interesting to them. They found success early on, but met with some legal troubles over their name. So they quickly held a contest and relaunched as Kirtsy. Thankfully, most of the sites that were linking to them followed along.

Kirtsy is definitely a great site that I will be adding to my mix.

Priority #1: Save Money

In these difficult economic times, we ladies need all the financial help we can get. As trusted financial advisors like Jim Kramer get taken down a peg by people who are upset by their misguided advice, there are still a few people who are rolling with the times and tweaking their core strategies to better serve the immediate situation.

I have been a fan of personal finance guru, Suze Orman, and her spunky attitude since I first read her book, "Young, Fabulous & Broke." Though her advice has never been earth-shattering (ie. pay off your credit card debt and then save 8 month's salary before even thinking about investing) I appreciate how she keeps it simple, since I for one am no financial genius. She also has spoken directly to women with her book, "Women and Money." Plus, I admire the way she manages her brand, utilizing codes within her books to drive traffic to her website so users can gain access to planning tools and updated information. Once there, she can advertise her show and other appearances, sell financial products and promote her new book or the Save Yourself account she started with Ameritrade.

I had the chance to hear her speak at an event today where she was promoting her new book, "Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan." She was funny, inciteful and everything you want to be to sell a book, but she left me with a lot of things to think about as well. She kept stressing that times have changed, and we all need to modify our plans based on what we have now, not what we used to have. She advised to focus first on savings and paying the minimums on credit card debt, which is a huge seachange from her prior advice. With the uncertain job climate and changes within the lending industy, she felt that an emergency fund was the most important thing to focus on right now.

Now her folksy, perma-tanned personality is certainly larger than life, and it is understandable that SNL likes to poke fun at her (I think she called at least 3 people in the audience "girlfriend" or "boyfriend" at some point) but as I said before, at the core her message is very basic and straightforward. She wants to tell people about the benefits of a Roth IRA. She is concerned about people not having wills and trusts. Amazingly, she even thinks this current climate might be the best thing that could have happened for someone my age, because it means that now that crazy real estate prices have come down I might actually be able to afford a home some day, and also that the money I am contributing to my 401k at these historically low rates will amount to much larger sums by the time I retire. Boy did I love it when she put it that way! Woohoo financial collapse...well, not quite.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wedding Woes

I mentioned in a much earlier post that I am engaged to a guy I consider to be a tech genius. While I am often in awe of what he can accomplish, I also have to deal with talking him down during encounters with "poor design." We had one of these moody scenes last night.

Wedding planning can be a daunting task, and a girl needs all the help she can get. As I've been trying to get it together, I've relied on several websites to:

1. Point me in the right direction for vendors and ideas

2. Organize my information in one place

3. Keep me from crying hysterically because I am by no means an event planner

For general research I looked to and I also designed a very basic website on WeddingChannel and I manage my budget there as well. Of course friends and acquaintances all weighed in with advice which was very useful as well.

For some inexplicable reason, I decided to input my guest list on another site, I think a friend may have recommended it to me, but my memory fails on this one. All I can say is that their guest tool is lacking in a few areas, and Nien made sure to point out each and every one to me last night as we tried to figure out how many invitations we have to order.

First of all, we could see total number of attendees, but not total number of parties. This was our major source of contention. I said, "Don't worry about it, I'll just go through and count." Let's just say Nien wasn't having it. He was also flummoxed because one person was listed as "no response" for both the bridal shower and rehearsal dinner. Since we haven't invited anyone to either yet, that was a little irregular and he was determined to get to the bottom of it. Trying to find individual responses to each event was a nightmare because the reports that we were able to generate wouldn't isolate the events, so a person's name appeared 3 times, once for each one. He fiddled around with it unhappily a bit longer, and we finally decided to call it a day with WeddingWire. Going forward, we'll download the master list to an Excel file and deal with it that way.

It just goes to show you that you can have a great idea capable of streamlining processes, but if you don't think about how people will use that tool you can completely miss the mark. I see now that WeddingChannel also has a guest management tool. Dare I incur further engineer snobbery by migrating the info there?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kindle Update

Last weekend I headed up to Maine to visit with friends and hit the slopes. I had been looking forward to getting in touch with nature, but was a little nervous because I knew I was bound to have no service on my iPhone. I dreaded the inevitable separation anxiety, but figured it was probably for the best. I'm sure by my prior dependence-heavy posts you will agree I needed a little time away from the ol' girl.

Still, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had service for most of the 8-hour (yes, god help me) car ride, and pretty much over the moon when a bored search of the app store bore the most incredible fruit. Just when I thought the iPhone couldn't possibly get any better, it gave me Kindle, or at least a pretty acceptable approximation of it. If you recall, I was practically drooling over the Kindle in a prior post, but lamenting the high price tag.

The Amazon app allowed me the same access to digital books that the covetable Kindle does, and though the screen is probably brighter, definitely smaller and sometimes a bit reflective, there I was, clicking to purchase David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames. And thanks to Amazon's Whispersync technology (no idea what that is, but it sounds completely cool) I was reading it about two seconds later.

The text appears large enough that I do not squint at the screen, and turning pages with the swipe of a finger is pretty darn easy. It also remembers the page where I left off so I can pick it right up again, no problem. As I mentioned, it is a little brighter than my ideal, but I can certainly make it work, especially when it allows me to have any book I want at my fingertips at a moment's notice.

So once again, yay iPhone, and also yay free wifi once we got to our condo. Though my phone service was a little spotty, leaving me to check my messages up on the lifts, I was never once without Facebook, Gmail or Twitter updates. Sorry nature!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Buggy Backward Bebo

All of my social networking in one place? Yes please! Having to deal with AOL to do it? No thank you.

From my experience with Real Simple a few posts back, I learned that women sure are into organizing. Even I occasionally get the bug, so when I recently read that AOL had launched their Lifestream information aggregation tool by way of their Bebo social networking site, I was definitely intrigued. In a nutshell, this service takes all your updates, pictures, emails, etc. from sites like Flickr, Facebook, Gmail, AIM, and Twitter and (in theory) lets you view them all on one handy-dandy dashboard. Cool idea - if it actually works.

I created my Bebo account using my old, clunky, no longer in use AIM handle and found (surprise, surprise) that none of my old AIM contacts were using Bebo. I would have to import contacts from other avenues like my Gmail address book. I wasn't about to drag others into this thing before I knew what I was dealing with.

After an oversimplified sign-in to add my major social networks, I found that the only feed I was seeing within my Lifestream, sad little existence that it was, were my tweets. Aggregator indeed. Facebook was completely MIA. I even tried updating my status there to see if anything showed up, but that didn't work. Now of course, something probably went wrong with my initial sign-up, but an exaustive, time-consuming search of the site left me with no idea how I could fix it.

At any rate, this is what it is supposed to look like:

So I was left with a fairly empty profile page needing to be built from scratch. There were all kinds of tools and apps available to build that page, but why should I be reinventing the wheel when I already have other social networks that fill my needs? I think my biggest reluctance to embrace Bebo is from my perception of AOL. I left AOL years and years ago, never looking back. They would have to do something major to win me over, and sadly for them, this isn't it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Want to shop online? Password please.

Nowadays practically every clothing company has a web presence. While many offer online exclusives to entice impulse sales, their inventory is more often the same as their brick and mortar stores. Sure, many companies do a good job of duplicating their in-store experience on the web by using their logos and creative as well as other added-value features like blogs, music and social networking. However, some newer companies have popped up to capitalize on the more experiential aspects of online shopping, bringing the "joy of the hunt" that many of us experience in stores to the web.

Invitation-only sites like Gilt Groupe and RueLaLa make shoppers feel like the ultimate insider - you have to be invited by a member to get in. Once inside, the sites offer sales on luxury brands like Badgley Mischka, Tory Burch and Valentino. While these items are on sale, their sticker prices can still be pretty high. Plus, much like two women pulling on each sleeve of a sweater at a sample sale, you still have to get items into your cart before they are snapped up. Women often go to a sale and add as much as they can to their cart and then make their decisions about whether or not to purchase. Often an item will seem sold-out, but you can stalk it until it briefly appears or get notified if someone decides not to purchase. Vicious, but thrilling!

Then there is ideeli, another invitation-only site that allows basic 2nd row membership or a more exclusive 1st row offering that you have to pay to join. For $6.99 a month you get to shop sales an hour early as well as access even more exclusive events. Who knows if there are more options for the 1st rowers, but I haven't seen anything worth pulling the trigger on here.

For those seriously into fashion, who want to pull out new designer labels without piling on the credit card debt, there are sites like Bag Borrow or Steal that allow you to rent couture bags for a monthly fee...again there are tiers of membership that allow access to different levels of bags. One of the memberships is $400+ per month! It amazes me that someone would pay this, but clearly my hardly-ever-change-my-purse mentality takes me out of the target audience.

The list goes on when it comes to private shopping sites:
I've barely scratched the surface on this list, but still it is hard to resist the allure of a sale, even when the sale price is still way out of my range. It is human nature to look for a deal, and these fashion sites feed into our need to outwit "the man." What's more, we also get to give in to our most primal urges where we feel validated when we can proudly say, "I got that hammered silk wrap front gown! I rule!"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing

While I was saddened to hear of the shuttering of Conde Nast's Domino back in January, I knew I was partly to blame. While I admired the DIY shelter magazine, I had pledged my subscription years before to Real Simple, only reading Domino for free when killing time over coffee at Barnes & Noble.

Still, I had cause to regret my lack of loyalty once again when I decided to check out Real Simple's newly redesigned website. Real Simple has always had a function over form approach to their online experience, looking more like an overstuffed closet filled with buried treasures. In short, it was a pain to search for anything, but there was "gold in them thar hills." I'm pretty sure my number one go-to recipe, tuna noodle casserole (don't judge - sometimes I sub in salmon and gruyere to make it fancy) came from the site.

Yet, the new site looks a little sparse. When compared with the vibrant look of Domino (I'll provide the link, but no doubt the site will be down very soon) it just doesn't speak to me. Sure, they have added a section of how-to videos which is very helpful, but the site itself doesn't really read like the magazine, drawing me from topic to topic like Domino's does. I've put screen grabs of their front pages for you to judge for yourself.

For the sheer amount of information that's available, Real Simple can't be beat, but couldn't they at least make the experience more pleasant? Oh, and now that Domino is done for, why not incorporate/shamelessly steal their style? They could also take tips from the queen of Omnimedia, Martha Stewart., though also packed to the gills with information, still remembers to add a little color here and there.

That's about all I have to say on this topic, but now for your enjoyment, I give you "How-To: Slice & Dice an Avocado." It's absolutely riveting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Moving Beyond the TV, Part 2

Here is the second half of my interview with Kirstin Knezevich...

Are you excited about any particular emerging technology?

I think mobile is going to be a big opportunity for media companies as usage grows and mobile phones are becoming smarter. Though I am kind of old school and don’t have an iPhone, I still feel that as the quality of the video becomes better more people will engage with it on mobile devices.

So, even though it wasn’t the career you originally imagined for yourself, are you happy working in the digital space?

There are a lot of interesting things about it – content is moving online and people are experimenting in the space. Content is taking on a whole new meaning – TV, mobile device, internet, etc.). Digital is an interesting area that is really the place to be. It is hard to know every little thing going on in new media, and there is always something new coming up. Gen Y particularly is so engaged in so many places (online, texting, etc.) – it is amazing. I think I’ll probably end up staying within the industry.

Do you ever worry about all the noise?

I think that is the biggest challenge in the space. How do you get people’s attention? We are fortunate that we have a really strong brand. It would be much harder with a new brand. But once you have people’s attention how do you keep it? How do you keep them coming back for deeper engagement? Specifically trying to challenge that generation [Y] is hard across the board.

What is the coolest thing about your job?

Working with new partners. I have mostly worked with internal stakeholders, affiliates or ad agencies. Now I am working with new partners that are excited about our content being on their platforms as well. They are always asking what kind of content is coming down the pipe and are interested in promoting it. Working on the content side, it is now interesting to see how things work on the platform side. I’m also learning so much about what they are trying to do.

Any technology or company that you’d like to learn more about?

I love anything Apple related. I think they are so interesting as a company and so forward-thinking. There are a million small companies that are emerging that would also be great to learn more about, but it is so hard to keep up with them all. I’m also interested in seeing how Facebook meets the challenge of monetizing their product. Oh, and I can’t wait to see what the “next Facebook” will be.

Any last thoughts?

I think the danger that a lot of companies face is that they sit down and say, “So what is our Facebook strategy?” or “What is our MySpace or Twitter strategy?” when they really should be saying “What is our brand strategy?” It really is the most important element, and a lot of brands are missing it in trying to compete in so many spaces.

Moving Beyond the TV, Part 1

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kirstin Knezevich, a manager in branded digital platforms at the premium cable channel where I work. Kirstin, a California native, graduated from USC where she focused on business marketing. Intending to work in advertising and print, she found her way to new media when she first came to our company, starting first with its On Demand offering. She then branched out to brand strategy before moving to her current role.

So what exactly are branded digital platforms?

My group is charged with getting the brand out on various platforms, trying to reach non-subscribers and engage people making them more familiar with the brand. We differ from program promotions in that we aren’t advertising premieres or selling full length shows (though we will release full length shows occasionally if it makes sense as a sampling strategy). Instead, the platforms leverage clips from shows, buzz segments and other extra content.

What do you work on primarily?

I have been working specifically on creating a hub on MySpace which recently launched.

Tell me more about the other areas that your group focuses on.

My team is divided into three areas: internet video (You Tube, podcast and other potential opportunities), social networking (MySpace, Facebook and other partners) and mobile. Social networking is my area, and I find it to be such an interesting way to communicate with fans and subscribers in a relatively inexpensive way. It is a vehicle that everyone is playing with and one that will help us to get the brand out.

Do you use social networking sites?

I have both Facebook and MySpace personal pages, but prefer Facebook because of its template structure. It is a more organized way of communicating with people. They are also great about opening up the applications and making them adaptable to your needs.

MySpace is still a force in music especially, but You Tube is also huge for video and iTunes is a driver for entertainment – people are getting content now from lots of places. MySpace is more for entertainment and Facebook is for connecting with friends.

What do you think about brands on these platforms?

Brands are doing well on Facebook, but no one has really hit it out of the park, and it is very hard to measure success in social networking. The question I hear at every conference I go to is, “How do you measure ROI in social media?” You can say that a page has 100,000 friends or a video had this many views, but if it is really just brand engagement, I don’t know if you can measure it in any monetary way. You can get a sense of success from word-of-mouth; there was quite a bit of buzz on one of my brand strategy campaigns. Still, there is no real way to relate dollars spent to word-of-mouth.

Do you Twitter?

I signed up for a Twitter account, but don’t really use it.

Do you think our company should be on Twitter?

As it is right now, brands are using it more as a customer service tool. Twitter blurs the lines between marketing and PR. It would be great for a production blog or as a tool for a huge star to engage the audience. With every platform we have to evaluate what makes sense for the brand.

More to come...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Size Matters

And of course, by size I am referring to number of hits. Get your minds out of the gutter people.

A recent discussion on the message board for my class has centered on how to monitor blog traffic on the Blogger platform. From what I've been reading, a good way of tracking is through Google Analytics, which discreetly monitors your site's traffic (including time spent on the site) without listing page views on the site itself. Let's face it, though we feel like the stars of our blogosphere, for us beginning bloggers this number can be a little embarrassing.

I've just signed up, so I will report back if this tool actually works. It seems like it is geared more towards e-commerce. Hmm, now if I could only monetize my blog...

Dreaming big about blog hits led me to wonder about other successful female bloggers. While perusing, a site with many useful blogging tips, I came across their ranking of the Fifty Most Influential Female Bloggers. While beating out Ariana Huffington for the top spot, the founders of, an online community for female bloggers has engaged their audience giving them another place to promote themselves and share ideas. What a great concept that I will certainly be reading more about.