From the Left: 140 Tips on Social Media Marketing

A classroomTwo weeks ago was Jeff Pulver’s 140 Character Conference in Los Angeles and oh, what a whirlwind.  My head is still spinning from the two-day, somewhat star-studded event.  By day we all talked Twitter (while tweeting out all the conference’s big tips) and by night we all drank Twitter (while tweeting out all the conference’s gossip.)

The conference, which took place at the Kodak Theater (also home to the Academy Awards and the American Idol finals), was sponsored mainly by Kodak, along with Devries Public Relations, RealPlayer SP, Bing, Virgin America and a few other lesser known names.  Twitterati Jeffrey Hayzlett, chief marketing officer of Kodak, was one of the big presenters and was giving away their new video camera, the ill-named—his words, not mine—Zi8 pocket camera.  I saw it at their booth and it looked really cool.  Sadly, I was not one of the winners and could not convince them to give me one for review in this column.

After the very brief opening presentation, each speaker had only 15 minutes to speak, panels of 3 people got 20 minutes.  It was a fast and furious two days and here is what I took away from the show besides a T-shirt, Kodak’s social media tips guide and a new bag.

Right now, Twitter is what the Web was when I began doing PR for it in 1995. Everything is new, hence newsworthy. David Saranga, (who’s also got his own Wikipedia entry) an Israeli diplomat, discussed how he set up the first press conference on Twitter.  The Israeli consulate in New York was using it for press conferences before our government did it. Now, of course, you’ll have a harder time getting press for an event like that and by next year, not at all.  Saranga also discussed how you need to do a fusion of old and new media to multiply your message, a great take-away no matter what the next thing will be.

Next lesson: Celebrities watch out, the studios are out to depersonalize you.  The studios (film and TV) want to control the message but the panel thought it best to let the celebrities talk for themselves.  Not surprising since they all represented celebrities (Ben Stiller, Ryan Seacrest and Ashton Kutcher.)  They said that, “like how Tivo changed the way TV is watched, Twitter is changing radio.”  Radio is getting audience acquisition on the Web, through Twitter and the panel encouraged others to make Twitter part of their radio shows.

Then, a funny bit from Billy Bush, co-host of Access Hollywood, “No TUI—Twitter Under the Influence.” Hmmm, I wonder what he’s been tweeting? I must remember to add him to my follow list.

Twitter loves moms and moms love Twitter. Just ask Punky Brewster. Soleil Moon Frye went to the Web looking for mom mentors and found Twitter. Twitter found her too; she now has over a million people following her.  By her own admission, “I tweet often.” Megan Calhoun said that Twitter humanizes a brand.  Perhaps that is why Moon Frye tweets since she clearly links to her store, Little Seeds, from her twitter page.

When the comedy panel took the stage they just rapped about anything. They didn’t have anything to say about Twitter except each one mentioned how much they used it to promote their shows and stuff.  Out of the three on the panel, only one didn’t use it to promote at all.  I did hear a good joke though, “I got HIV. Fortunately, I got to pull 4 more tiles out of the bag.” They also read their especially rude tweets from their Twitter streams.

Scott Porad, chief technology officer of I Can Has Cheezburger, went over his 7 tips for Twitter, which included one that I’ve never heard before.  He recommends using one of the basic Twitter backgrounds that come on Twitter, claiming the ones people make for themselves can be distracting and can dilute your message.  He practices what he preaches using the basic blue cloud background for himself.

On day two, there were two speakers that got up and just blatantly pitched their products.  We all felt like we had stepped into a late night infomercial complete with fliers being handed out in the audience.  The tweets flying around during those few minutes were harsh—including mine.  It was almost as bad as when a China “expert” hijacked the stage, but he was only on for about 5 minutes.  Luckily the rest of the speakers all had something to say even if was just repeating some of what others had said before them.

C.C. Chapman, founder of marketing agency The Advance Guard, is very excited about Twitter. His take, “Brands can say, ‘yeah, we hear you…we can’t fix that but we hear you.’” He thinks that even if a company can’t fix a problem just being there to listen is enough. Also, “People want brands that are fun.”  Ultimately, though, he says it’s not about the tools (i.e. Twitter) but the message is more important than the medium, and on this we can all agree.

From the small business panel I learned that conversations are moving away from blogs and onto Twitter. Business blogs don’t get comments so Twitter seems a better choice for interaction.  The panel was encouraging social media marketers to target small businesses as, “there is a bottomless pit of interest among small businesses.”

Mariel Hemmingway, Academy Award-nominated actress, was there on an oddly-peopled panel that included Vroman’s bookstore.  (She does have a new cookbook out.) Though it truly got interesting when the panel started to discuss hate tweets.  “I want to kill the haters.  Block ‘em, spam ‘em, and grind them into the ground,” said Hemmingway. Who, by the way, looks great! And she even took the time to meet up with reporters and answer questions, including mine.  (Comedian Kevin Pollak, who was there the day before, was not so friendly.)

Last but not least, the best panel of them all: the porn panel! This one consisted of the Joanna Angel, founder of (a Suicide Girls knockoff site); Kelly Shibari,  a plus-sized adult performer (her words, not mine) and Brian Gross, a guy that used to do PR for Vivid Entertainment. Somehow Gross actually said, without a trace of irony, “messaging the audience.”  They were mostly talking about “breaking down the wall between porn star and real person.” Sometimes Angel will even just tweet about making a sandwich.  But I’m not sure that’s how she got more than 17,000 followers.  Then again, I just checked her twitter stream and the only f*cking (her word, not mine) she did was with the settings on her computer.

Other tidbits from day two: 92% of China is using Twitter, Facebook is better for publicizing events and the Twitter/X-box integration seems to be just a novelty.

Stay tuned…for my follow-up act: I Think I Met 140 Characters.  There we’ll cover the 140 parties and all the twitterati.