The Hoggan Blog




Monday’s Social Media Caffeine

Posted on: April 26, 2010

The most exciting part of working in social media is that there is always a ton of things going on. Whether it be interesting new events,  new technologies or new ways of using the technology we already use, it’s tough to keep on top of it all. So now that the weekend is over, it’s back to work and that means back to reading the blogs for the latest in social media.

(By the way, the above image is the molecule for caffeine).

I am going to try and start doing this every Monday – I’m doing the reading anyways so I might as well share it. Should also have a newsletter sign for it shortly as well so you can get it in your inbox.

Here’s a few stories from the weekend that I found interesting and some news I will be following this week:

Perfect SEO Keywords
Great read on the basics of finding good keywords for search engine optimization.

Quick tips for avoiding Twitter burnout
Addicted to Twitter? Follow this 5-step program that will help you tame the micro-blogging beast. In a related article on Mashable (my favorite site), here’s a how to on cleaning up your Twitter account for spring – I just used untweeps to unfollow over 300 people who haven’t tweeted in the last 30 days. Nice tool.

10 Avoidable Problems that can cause your blog’s demise
I had never read this blog before, but they have some great content, including this article on how NOT to run your blog.

The Wall Street Journal Partners with Foursqaure
The mobile geo-location social media sphere continues to gain buzz, especially the apparent leader in the catergory Foursquare. Adding the Wall Street Journal to their roster of users will definitely perk up some ears on Wall Street.

How are non-profits using Social Media
We help out a lot of non-profits with their social media and online marketing, so this article was particularly useful. I had actually seen mention of the 12k for 12k campaign but didn’t know much about it. This article has a video explaining what it it all about.

Check it out:

Social Media Supremacy: 10 experts reveal their strategies.
This article has some great tips on using specific social media channels like Digg, Facebook Twitter and StumbleUpon (my favorite by the way).

Things we can learn from Julian Smith about Facebook

Posted on: April 23, 2010

If you don’t know who Julian Smith is, you aren’t addicted to funny Youtube celebrities like I am . Julian Smith has a weekly showon Youtube that garners around 1 million average viewers, making him more popular than a lot of TV sitcoms!

Last year Julian did a show called “25 Things I Hate About Facebook.”

If you’re interested in using Facebook as a marketing tool, then this 4 minute video is well worth taking the time to watch.  Some of the things Julian hates are just really funny, but some provide a pretty accurate description of things that people do on Facebook that are annoying and things you definitely don’t want to avoid when it comes to developing a social media strategy.

He also shows how “social” media is ultimately “social,” but for some reason things you would never do in-person, many of us think are okay to do on social media channels like Facebook. My rule of thumb: before you say/do/tweet or whatever on a social media platform ask yourself if it is something you would do at a party.

Enjoy!

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Oil Sands Newest PR Push Doomed to Fail – Again

Posted on: April 20, 2010

The recently launched Astroturf platform AlbertaIsEnergy.ca is yet another faulty step by the captains of the Alberta oil and gas industry – people more interested in ill-advised public relations campaigns than in coming to grips with the challenges facing their industry.

AlbertaIsEnergy.ca is the website and foundational platform of a new PR push, launched last week by a group of industry associations closely tied to Alberta oil and gas. The campaign was launched with a Calgary Chamber of Commerce speech by Dave Collyer, the President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Let me concede this right off the bat: the executives who control CAPP have every right to launch PR campaigns. They have a responsibility to their members – even to their members shareholders and employees – to make their point of view known in the community.

But they also have a responsibility to do so in a transparent and forthright fashion. And they seem to be coming up critically short of that responsibility in the way they have crafted this round of advertising and social media manipulation.

The first bit of evidence is available on the AlbertaIsEnergy.ca website. In the “About Us” page, the campaign funders describe themselves like this:

“We are bakers, mechanics, sales people, store owners, real estate agents, rig workers, engineers, bankers, truckers and more. We are the people that keep Alberta moving.”

That sounds wonderful. It sounds like this is a true, grassroots organization of everyday folks just trying to add a little common sense into the conversation.

But that’s not who is behind this campaign. The actual list appears later, and there is nary a baker, a mechanic, a sales clerk nor a store owner anywhere to be seen. Here’ the list: of organizations behind the webpage:

These are the most powerful organizations in the province of Alberta – abetted by one of the nation’s most powerful manufacturers’ clubs. Together, they have huge budgets for advertising and public relations and direct access to government through lobbyists and association spokespeople. Why would people this powerful need to pretend to speak on behalf of bakers and sales clerks?

That, of course, is a rhetorical question. Polls consistently show that industry associations are among the least trusted of Canadian information sources. They have appropriated the voice of the common man because industry associations aren’t credible when they speak in their own voice.

And no wonder. One of the “value added” bits released with the PR campaign was a 15-minute video that you can find on the CAPP website. It’s a big budget celebration of all that is good about the tar sands – and a gauzy curtain obscuring all that is bad. For example, at one point, Dr. Eddy Issaacs, executive director of the Alberta Energy Resources Institute, says, “We certainly have seen a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the last 10 years. The number is around a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

That, however, is a complete fantasy. While the tar sands producers are proud – perhaps justifiably – that they have reduced the amount of GHGs produced PER BARREL OF OIL, their actual emissions have skyrocketed in the last 10 years. The tar sands is the biggest point source of new GHG emissions in the country – and the fastest growing source over all. It is a huge part of the reason why Canadian emissions have climbed more than 25 per cent since 1990, rather than going down by six per cent as we promised in the Kyoto Protocol.

In his own speech, Dave Collyer also had some clangers. For example, he said, “A recent Canadian Energy Research Institute study points out that each dollar invested in the oil and gas industry turns into more than three dollars of total economic activity for Canada. That’s a very good return on investment.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to assess how they came to that figure? Because “economic activity” can be a cover for many things. Just as the totals for “Gross Domestic Product” can go up to reflect the increased spending caused by a devastating hurricane, the economic activity generated by the oil and gas industry could include the hospital visits by asthma sufferers – by the people in downstream First Nations communities whose cancer rates have skyrocketed  since tar sands development began.

Collyer complains that his industry has been getting a bad rap: “Some of our detractors make a point of telling only part of the story: descriptions of vast tailings ponds fail to acknowledge that they, like oil sands mining areas, will by law be reclaimed.”

This would be easier to accept if the reclamation was actually happening. Instead, as reported here (http://www.oilsandswatch.org/blog/62) by the Pembina Institute: “Of the 600 square kilometres of land disturbed by oil sands mining operations, only 1.04 square kilometres is government certified as reclaimed.”

So, today, we have tailings ponds than you can see from space. We have tar sand companies in court trying to defend themselves against charges of killing 1,600 birds in those ponds and failing to report the deaths – and trying to withhold information from that trial. Yet, Mr. Collyer feels it’s appropriate to criticize the media for “telling only part of the story.”

Collyer goes on: “Characterizations of oil sands extraction as the most carbon-intensive oil production process on earth ignore that CO2 emissions from Canada’s oil sands account for just 1/1000th of total global emissions, or that emissions from many other crude oil products sources are comparable to those from oil sands crude on a full life cycle basis.”

This is tantamount to saying that we should feel good about throwing our garbage out the window of our car because it accounts for a very small percentage of the garbage dumped on the highway each year. You might just as easily ask, why should any country, anywhere in the world, take its environmental responsibilities seriously when these leading Canadians disavow any responsibility whatever.

One of the biggest problems with this particular PR push is its lack of originality: there are now a bevy of these organizations, acting like the amplifiers in an echo chamber, repeating and repeating a series of suspect messages.

There is the Alberta Enterprise Group. There is the flashy industry-funded website celebrating Canada’s Oil Sands. There is the In Situ Oil Sands Alliance. And there are the actual industry sites which, while acknowledging their self-interest, still repeat – extensively and expensively – the messaging. Take, for example, the Oil Sands Developers Group.

In short, there is a critical mass of uncritical websites, promoting a rosy view of an industry that refuses to come to grips with its own environmental record and, in the worst cases, actually invests in denial of its role or climate change.

In light of all of the foregoing, it was interesting to see a story in the Montreal Gazette last week quoting Clive Mather, former CEO of Shell Canada. Mather said: “We have not done a good job in the oilsands, either in environmental performance or in communication. And we’ve got a big problem. It’s not life-threatening, but it could be.”

The most insightful part of that comment comes in the order in which he put the concerns: performance first, communication second. If the industry really wants to be taken seriously, it needs to work first on its performance. And then, rather than falsely claiming the voice of third parties to sing praise to industry, they should actually find credible third parties who will look critically at their operation and vouch for them – or condemn them, as circumstances might periodically require.

That, from a PR perspective, is ultimately the worse thing about this most recent campaign. Like so many before, it won’t work. All the goodwill it might have generated was dashed when, the day after the splashy launch, newspapers started reporting on a fresh batch of animal deaths caused by tar sands development.

As I argued in my book, Do the Right Thing, the rules for getting a good reputation a simple.

  1. Do the Right Thing
  2. Be Seen to be Doing the Right Thing
  3. Don’t Get #1 and #2 Mixed Up.

That – #3 – us what’s happening here. The industry associations are working hard at being seen to be doing the right thing, but the evidence of actual performance keeps tripping them up. Until they turn their process around, it will never change.

By Jim Hoggan, President of Vancouver Public Relations firm, Hoggan & Associates.

Cross-posted on Huffington Post here: Oil Sands Newest PR Push Doomed to Fail – Again

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Facebook Use in Canada – April 2010 update

Posted on: April 14, 2010

Here’s the latest updated version of the Canadian Facebook users map we keep here at Hoggan & Associates. Some interesting moves from last month’s Facebook usage map.

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Hoggan 20-10 Clean Company List beats overall equity indices in Q1 2010

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We released the latest update of the Hoggan 20-10 Clean Company list today.

The largest clean energy/technology companies traded on Canada’s Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) outperformed the overall Canadian and United States equity markets during the First Quarter of 2010, according to the latest update of the Hoggan 20-10 Clean Company List released today.

The average value gain of the 20 largest clean energy/technology companies traded on the TSX was 25% compared with the TSX composite whose average gain was 2.5%. In the U.S., the S&P 500 increased 5%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 4% and the NASDAQ composite average increased 5.5%.

The average value gain of the 10 largest clean energy/technology companies traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange Venture (TSXV) market was 4% compared with the TSXV composite average’s 4.8% gain.

The Hoggan 20-10 Clean Company List includes the 20 largest clean energy/technology companies traded on the TSX and the 10 largest clean energy/technology companies traded on the TSXV as measured by market value at close of trading March 31, 2010.

Also released today was the Hoggan B.C. Clean 15 list that tracks the 15 largest clean energy/technology B.C.-based companies trading on either the TSX or the TSXV. The average Q1 value gain of the Hoggan B.C. Clean 15 was 15%.

The lists, first launched in 2009, are updated quarterly by Hoggan & Associates, a Vancouver-based communication firm that specializes in the clean energy/technology sector.  (1) (2)

Shafiq Jamal, Hoggan & Associates Executive Vice President, said value gains during Q1 2010 have been achieved by companies that are successfully competing in commercial markets and are effectively communicating their progress to investors.

“The most impressive value gainers have been clean power companies that have won commercial power sales contracts with B.C. Hydro and clean technology innovators on the leading edge of enabling cleaner and more efficient cars, trucks and buses.

“Investors have shown they are not interested in pie-in-the-sky ideas. They are interested in companies that can fill the huge need for commercial alternatives to fossil fuels and energy waste,” said Jamal.  “Clean energy/technology companies that want to compete successfully for investor attention must effectively demonstrate that their business plans are leading to commercial products and services that generate revenue and profits.”

“Our Hoggan 20-10 Clean Company and B.C. Clean 15 lists are scoreboards highlighting the success that clean power and clean tech companies are having at attracting investors,” said Jamal.

Click on the links below to download a full PDF version of:

Hoggan & Associates Clean 10 TSVX – 10 largest TSXV-listed clean tech companies by market value

Hoggan & Associates B.C. Clean 15 List – 15 largest TSX/TSVX-listed clean tech companies in BC.

Hoggan & Associates Clean 20 TSX – 20 largest TSX-listed clean tech companies by market value.

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Jim Hoggan on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show

Posted on: April 1, 2010

Check out Jim Hoggan, president of Hoggan & Associates on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s show last night. Jim is on the show in his role as the co-founder of Hoggan’s award-winning project DeSmogBlog, and author of the book Climate Cover Up: the crusade to deny global warming,

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The biggest threat to Google might be your friends

Posted on: March 17, 2010

This article was co-authored with Tim Kolke at Kolke Design and cross-posted on Huffington Post Tech Channel.

Finding good information on the web can be pretty frustrating.

Google, of course, has made this a lot easier but even then you regularly find that searches can go completely wonky.

Wonkiness aside, for the vast majority us Google is our first search.

With Google relevance is determined by a machine, directed by a long and complicated algorithm that takes into account all sorts of things like website meta-data, back-links, geographic location and so on. While the search results are usually pretty good it is clear that there is no conscious being on the other end sorting the nonsense from the relevant. It would be inconceivable that there ever would be anyone on the other end of a Google search given the fact that over a million searches are executed a day on the platform.

Microsoft and their Google-alternative, Bing are trying to capitalize on this, but quite frankly Bing just isn’t that much different – it’s still using a machine, directed by a complicated algorithm to find what we’re looking for online. Bing does have some pretty funny ad campaigns, but it’s going to take more than howling monkey people to unseat Google from its search dominance.

So what’s a better source of online information than these search machines? Who do we trust? Our friends of course, but looking to them to somehow offer up the best information on any given topic has its own set of challenges.

For instance, not all of our friends are online and those who are online and offering thoughts, opinions, recommendations and information are not all doing it in the same place. Some might be on Twitter, others on their own blog, instant messaging, forums or whatever else. And last time we checked, our collective group of friends are definitely not experts in everything we seek information on.

Information may be a little more scarce and hard to gather from our online friends, but at least the information we do receive from our friends has a certain level of built-in accountability.

So is this idea of social search the way to go when it comes to finding the best information on a given subject? Can we trust “the crowd” more than the machine?

We did a bit of poking around on the state of social search as it stands today.

The test case for our experiment was to find the best Lasik clinic in Vancouver, Canada.

First up, the machine.

Googling: “lasik clinic vancouver”, not surprisingly, spits out a list of Lasik eye clinics in Vancouver. Helpful, for sure, but the decision by Google as to which clinic is listed first does not necessarily translate into it being the best Lasik clinic in Vancouver.

We used a great tool called SEO Quake, to provide some insight into why Google chose the sites it did. Turns out that the top results are the Lasik clinics websites that have most links.

The ‘Google assumption’ is that the most relevant sites are those most linked to and therefore the most talked about. Links into a site kind of work like votes for Google. The Google machine, however, has a very limited ability to judge the nature of these votes. Why are people talking about these clinics more than others? Are they impressed or are they ticked? Are the voters employed by these companies and put up to it? We simply can’t tell by Google results alone.

Next we tried Aardvark, an online service calling itself a “social search service.” to get an opinion from our online network of friends. Aardvark attempts to get an answer to your question from a person(s) in your network who has ‘interests’ in the topic. In our case, Aardvark failed to find such an person. But even if Aardvark had succeeded, why would we trust that person? Exactly what is the person’s ‘interest’ in the topic ?

Next, Tim seeded the question on Facebook and received a reply from a friend who had Lasik surgery done and was very happy with the results and service she received. While he highly values her input, at the same time it is only a single opinion. If there was only a way to tap all your friends’ collective thoughts on a given subject.

There will always be a place for machine-based searches, unless of course your friends can answer questions like: “What is the significance of black body radition in the field of Quantum Mechanics. But an effective automated system that can gather up all your friends opinions, thoughts and recommendations and index them in a way that can answer your questions, would be a very powerful threat to Google.

Just how much of threat comes down to the fundamental question of whether you trust your friends more than the machine when it comes to finding the best information online.

If enough people trust friends more than the machine, then Facebook is probably the online platform best positioned to develop such a robust social search service, given that it has the critical mass, the connectivity within it’s own platform, as well as across other platforms via Facebook Connect.

Easier said than done, but if you’re looking for the real competition when it comes to multi-billion dollar online search market (and you trust your friends), then forget the company building the better machine and look out for the genius who figures out to embrace the collective wisdom of the crowd.

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TckTckTck awarded a We Media Game Changer!

Posted on: March 15, 2010

A big part of our social media team last year was on a global campaign called TckTckTck.

It was announced last week that the project will receive a Game Changer Award at the We Media innovation conference.

TckTckTck was a worldwide open-source campaign that brought together the most prominent members of civil society to call for a fair, ambitious and binding international climate change treaty at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We were fortunate enough to be asked by the lead digital strategist, Jason Mogus and his company Communicopia, to come in and organize the social media outreach, online marketing and stakeholder engagement for the project.

This was a very challenging and very important project and a lot talented people came together to make it happen. While none of us were involved in TckTckTck to win awards, a little recognition is always nice to get!

Some of the things that made TckTckTck a Game Changer, according to We Media, were:

  • Our open source shared brand, TckTckTck (created by one of our partners’ ad firm), that was everywhere in Copenhagen
  • The way we re-framed climate change from an environmental issue to a justice and development one
  • How we got hundreds of “big brand” NGO partners to deeply collaborate, on strategies and actions, more than ever seen before
  • The huge success of our global aggregation petition, with over 15M people from around the world signing on
  • The innovative web tools we created to grow the petition and spread the word, including Facebook apps, mobile apps, widgets, and other distributed tools
  • The way we used and empowered alternative media channels – specifically bloggers – to help spread our messages
  • The Fresh Air Centre in Copenhagen, which was in many ways the culmination of many of our strategies in one physical media space
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Facebook in Canada Usage Map

Posted on: March 12, 2010

This is an updated version of Facebook users map broken down by province.  I do have a hi-res version if anyone wants to use it, just send me an email at kgrandia@hoggan.com.

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Social Media Midweek Round Up

Posted on: March 10, 2010

Here’s what the Hoggan Social Media team is keeping an eye on this week:

MySpace is talking about it’s future. This one is interesting because we’ve been watching Facebook really eat into MySpace’s audience over the last few years and this has left a lot of people scratching their heads when it comes to figuring out where MySpace fits in the social media sphere.

Bing – Microsoft’s answer to Google – has launched a funny new ad campaign in the UK. Not a big story in and of itself, but it’s always interesting to see where Microsoft will go next in this rather hopeless attempt to reign in the search engine supreme master.

Here’s the ad:

SXSW Interactive gets underway this Friday in Austen, Texas. Pretty jealous of all those who found the time to go down. Watch for a whole bunch of “cool new social media tech” announcements coming out at SXSW.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been test driving the location-based local “Twitter-like” sensation, FourSquare. While I do see how this could be a very cool and engaging tool for specific campaigns and events (like SXSW Interactive), I am finding it pretty uninteresting as a day-to-day tool.

And finally, I am working on a lengthy column for Huffington Post Technology looking at the idea of social search and how Facebook might just be the next Google. I will cross-post it here.

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