As part of our activities for Mesh Marketing, our team is using ScribbleLive to live-blog the event for people who couldn’t be there.
Here’s the feed:
The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, CTV, the Torontoist and blogTO all ran stories in the last day, alleging that staff of Toronto’s newly-annointed mayor elect, Rob Ford, used a fake Twitter account to deceive a voter into handing over incriminating materials during the campaign.
According to the reports, Ford was recorded offering to buy prescription painkillers on the street for a voter suffering from fybromyalgia, and tapes of the call were sent to the Toronto Star.
According to blogTO:
“In fear that the Star would release the information, Nick Kouvalis, a key Ford campaign member, tasked Macdonald with getting a handle on the situation. According to Maclean’s, “Kouvalis pulled aside Fraser Macdonald, the team’s 24-year-old deputy communications director–whose prior political experience consisted largely of his involvement in a model parliament club at Queen’s University–and told him to ‘do everything you can to get that tape….’”
Fraser Macdonald allegedly established a fake Twitter account (@QueensQuayKaren), with a bio that claimed ‘Karen’ was a “downtown Toronto gal who likes politics, my cat Mittens, and a good book,” and pretended to be a supporter of rival candidate George Smitherman. They allege he then befriended the person who made the tapes in order to get a copy. After receiving the tape, the campaign leaked it to the Ford-friendly Toronto Sun themselves, rather than having the less friendly Star release it at a time when it could be more damaging.
The fake Twitter account then continued its activity under the guise of being a supporter of rival candidate George Smitherman for the remainder of the campaign, posting messages including:
“I can see Ford’s appeal. I don’t agree with him on everything, but the man speaks the truth. George needs to improve on that.”
“@ThomsonTO that bitchy attitude sure got you far, Sarah [a rival candidate]. It’s funny that I once respected you. Now you’re just a total embarrassment”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the account was deleted shortly after the mainstream media caught wind of the deception. Fortunately, the Torontoist captured all of the tweets from the account beforehand prior to this happening. You can see them in their entirety here.
As a digitial communicator, I find myself actually getting angry when I think about this kind of tactic. I have no issues with the way the campaign leaked the tape once they had it, but the way they allegedly went about getting it is just disgusting.
Let’s go over this again – according to these reports, Rob Ford’s staff:
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Macdonald actually gloated publicly about the stories today, telling people to get over it:
Is this the kind of behaviour we should expect from our elected officials or their staff? As Dave Jones and John Leschinski pointed out, political campaigns have for a long time populated the Letters to the Editor sections of newspapers with letters under false names. Similarly, cynics will point out that politicians of all stripes have broken promises.
Consider: companies have been hung out to dry for years for this kind of deceptive behaviour when the consequences are far less substantial.
This isn’t just about politics. I don’t care which side of the political spectrum people fall; deceptive and deceitful tactics should be out of bounds. Given the uber-high standard to which we hold companies in the social space, I would hope that people would consider this kind of behaviour to be just as despicable.
If this is the kind of behaviour that is considered normal for the people we trust to run our governments, then our moral compasses are pointed in entirely the wrong direction.
I’m not sure if the City of Toronto’s code of conduct for council members technically applies during an election, or if the city’s Integrity Commissioner has jurisdiction over the actions of the staff of election candidates, but if either applies then I’d hope that this isn’t the last we hear of this.
Are you focusing your Facebook investment in the right place?
The immensely smart Jay Baer directed my attention to research conducted by Jeff Widman of Brand Glue, who found that 99.5% of comments on his clients’ status updates come from peoples’ newsfeeds, not from the pages themselves.
Interesting, right? As Jay notes, this means that a lot of effort which is expended on customizing fan pages on Facebook is, frankly, wasted.
The first time that people come to your page is absolutely the most critical. They’re not going to keep coming back for the sake of coming back. So, your job #1 as a steward of your brand’s Facebook page is to draw people to your page and maximize your conversion rate of visits to “likes.” Beyond that point, investment in “ongoing” features for pages may be money down the drain.
This shines the light firmly on community managers as the key to Facebook success for brands. As with so many other aspects of social media, it’s not all about having a flashy, creative, well-designed page layout. It’s not about dazzling people with creative gadgets. Success on Facebook depends on companies providing interesting, valuable content that engages people through their home base on Facebook.
Facebook itself doesn’t make things easy for brands. Well, to be more specific, it doesn’t make things easy for brands who provide mediocre content. You see, Facebook doesn’t treat all content equally. The site uses an algorithm to prioritize content based on both recency and on engagement with that content. The key, then, with Facebook content, is to ensure that the things you’re posting actually drives people to interact with it rather than passively consume it. To do the latter is to ensure that the content appears in few peoples’ streams and is soon relegated to just appearing on your wall for the 0.5% of people who may interact there.
This isn’t universally true, of course. Specific initiatives can draw people to engage directly on your page (contests, for example). However, that kind of interaction isn’t sustainable from either side of the equation.
My colleague Steve Rubel has begun to talk recently about a new dimension we need to add to our digital engagement: time. In an age of Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds, it’s no longer enough to post the right content in the right place. We need to post it at the right time, too.
To maximize our effectiveness, we need to take data like this and optimize our timing even further to reflect the activity pattern of our own community.
The bottom line is that many marketers on Facebook are paying insufficient attention to content design while paying undue attention to creative design. While look and feel does matter, instead of spending the bulk of your budget on custom design and widgets, consider splitting that budget differently, with more of a focus on:
Do you agree? How do you approach your Facebook activity?
Another conference that caught my eye is the Art of Management – a conference focused on management and innovation, rather than my usual marketing niche – on November 15.
The organizers of the conference have provided me with two tickets, worth $399 each, to give away to readers of this site. To enter, leave a comment on this post with a link to a blog post by someone else that you think we should all read, and tell us why it’s so interesting by 11:59pm next Thursday (November 4). I’ll randomly pick the two winners.
The event has an amazing line-up:
(Note: the conference is in Toronto. You’ll be responsible for any travel and accommodation costs associated with getting there)
When I first received an email from Beth Harte, asking if I’d be interested in checking out a book on writing, I have to say I hesitated. However, having now finished Mark Levy‘s Accidental Genius, I have to say it’s proven to be one of the most compelling reads so far this year.
Accidental Genius focuses on the art of free-writing – freeing your writing by letting your mind run rampant while you’re writing whatever it is you’re working on. Free-writing is effectively focused around removing the roadblocks you have to your writing by forcing you to write continuously, wherever your mind takes you.
I’m actually using a lot of the lessons from reading Levy’s book while writing this review – as I write, I’m letting my mind wander over the book, what I learned from it and the reasons you might want to check it out (of course, I’m also going back over it later – now – and editing). So, as I write this my fingers can barely keep up with my thoughts and I’m going all over the place, while Toronto’s municipal election results blare on in the background.
Levy’s book walks the reader through a series of incremental steps as it introduces you to the concept of freewriting. Each chapter is relatively short – just a few pages, and the book itself is only just over 160 pages, so it’s a relatively quick read.
The book is divided roughly into thirds in terms of content focus – the first third introduces you to the basic concept of freewriting – how to go about it, why it’s useful and what you may be able to get out of it. The middle portion of the book focuses on additional tools to help you make use of the skill – things like prompts, games to play to free your mind from barriers and so on. The final section looks more at putting the skills into practice, and helping others to benefit from them.
To my surprise, Levy’s focus isn’t just on improving your writing, although that’s certainly a large part of it. Accidental Genius also shows how you can apply this skill to reveal more creative solutions to problems, and how businesses may take advantage of freewriting exercises to reveal creative ideas.
I mentioned that this is one of the more compelling reads I’ve had recently, and it’s frankly the only one I already find myself putting into practice. Instead of censoring myself as I write, I now allow my thoughts to wander a bit and then go back and edit later. It’s made writing much less stressful for me, and has resulted in blog posts and presentations taking far less time to prepare.
I find myself consciously turning to the lessons I’ve learned from the book, and that’s something that I can’t say about many other books I’ve read this year.
(Thanks to Beth Harte for the connection, and to Mark for providing the review copy)