Facebook Is Using Minors To Advertise Alcohol

Social marketing holds lots of potential but also many perils, especially when it involves minors.

This is especially true for alcohol advertising. It is both illegal and improper for a 13 year old to promote Coors Light or a vodka brand in a television commercial or print ad.

But it appears that Facebook is clearly violating state and federal law – and its own policies – by using its rich social graph to promote alcohol advertising, on the Facebook pages of minors.

The fact that this is happening shouldn’t be a surprise to Facebook. They not only have known about it since 2007 when they launched ads – this is exactly what social graph based advertising was supposed to do. Here’s what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in 2007 when Facebook launched Ads

Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online. For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do … Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people. It’s no longer just about messages that are broadcasted out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system.

Want proof? Here’s the ad I saw yesterday on my daughter’s Facebook page. My daughter is 13.


How To Pick The Perfect Name For Your Startup

I’m often asked by young entrepreneurs whether it’s important to find a strong name for a new startup.

The name is important, but the process to come up with a unique name can easily distract you. For example, it took us nearly 50 hours to come up with “crowdSPRING” – time that would have been better spent focusing on developing the core business.

If you don’t have time too invest in coming up with a great name for your new company, you can leverage crowdSPRING’s community of more than 87,000 creatives to come up with your company name or a product name.

Whether you work on your own to come up with a name or leverage crowdSPRING’s community, let me offer 10 useful tips that should guide this process:

1. What do you want your company name to convey?

Your company name is an important part of your company’s identity. The name will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, promotional materials, products, and pretty much everywhere in print to identify your company or your company’s products and/or services.

Service oriented businesses should consider whether it will be easy for their prospective customers to recognize what services the business provides, based on the name of the company (example: Friendly Dog Walkers or Bright Accounting). This is especially important early in the life of your new company, when your brand is not well established and people don’t know who you or your company are.

Businesses located in rural areas and serving rural communities may want to project a smaller, hometown feel with their name. However, businesses planning to focus on bigger markets or bigger customers might want to project a larger, more corporate image with their name.

2. Brainstorm to identify name possibilities.

Start by thinking about words that describe your industry or the products/services you plan to offer. Think about words that describe your competitors and words that describe the differences between your products and services and those of your competitors. Consider too words that describe the benefits of using your products or services. Finally, think about words (and phrases) that evoke the feelings you want your customers to feel when they see your company name.

Tip: while brainstorming, look up Greek and Latin translations of your words – you might find new ideas from doing that exercise. Look at foreign words too (we spent some time with a Swahili dictionary looking for strong names).

3. Short, simple, and easy to write and remember is best (and consider acronyms of the name).

Obscure business names are often difficult to write and even more difficult to remember. This is a problem because for most startups and small businesses, word-of-mouth advertising is the most successful form of marketing. If your customers can’t remember your name or can’t spell it for others, it will make it difficult for them to help promote your business.

Think about the names of companies you admire. They typically have a few things in common: their names are short, simple, easy to write and easy to remember. (Examples: Apple, Google, Virgin, Southwest).

While it might be tempting (some startups think it’s cool to do), avoid using a “K” in place of a “Q” or a “Ph” in place of an “F” when coming up with your company name. Such letter substitutions makes spelling the name very difficult and will only cause confusion.

Also, don’t forget to consider the acronym of your company name (an acronym is composed of the first letter of each word in a phrase). You might not use an acronym, but your customers might refer to your business by an acronym. A name such as Apple Support Services can result in an unfavorable acronym – ASS.

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Do You Count Every Hour In The Day Or Make Every Hour Count?

Over the past five years, I’ve talked to thousands of entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams to build a successful startup. The most successful entrepreneurs had a number of things in common – including a deep understanding of how time constrains us.

Here’s the rub – those who were not nearly as successful also believed that they understood the constraints of time. They didn’t.

By definition, we are all constrained by time. There are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and 365 days in a year. We need sleep and time to eat. We need time to relax and time to spend with friends and family.

How is it possible that people perceive the constraints of time differently? Why do some succeed in managing their time and others fail?

I believe the difference is simple: some people count every hour in the day while others make every hour in the day count.

How we prioritize our time defines what we do, when we do it, and how we do it. It’s the difference between successful people, including entrepreneurs and startup teams, and those who fail.

The notion that you don’t have enough time in the day is a lie. You have the same amount of time per day that was available to Albert Einstein, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Hellen Keller, Marie Curie, among many others.

It’s all about priorities and what we do with our time. If the task is important to us, we make time. If it’s not important to us, we make excuses.

When we say “I don’t have time for this”, what we really mean is that “I don’t think it’s important enough for me to spend my time doing that thing.”

Some people prioritize their time by playing games on Facebook, watching television, spending time with friends or family, reading, writing, and in many other different ways. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things if they make you happy. But you have to understand that spending hours on Facebook or focusing on other distractions will lead you to count every hour in the day. Simply put: you’ll have fewer hours left to accomplish other things.

Other people prioritize their time obsessing about others. But as Steve Jobs smartly cautioned:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The next time you find yourself wanting to say that you don’t have time – stop and consider your priorities. You DO have time. But instead of counting every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.



We’re Living In The Dark Ages Of Social Media

If you believe the media and social media “experts”, we’re living in the Renaissance of social media. Novel and creative campaigns like the recent YouTube campaign from Old Spice purportedly demonstrate the power of social in marketing. Hundreds of thousands of blog posts, articles, and books are written every year about how big and small businesses can leverage social media.

If we all believe it to be true, is it true?


We’re living in the Dark Ages of social media. Here are four reasons why:

we value words over substance: look at the blog posts in your RSS reader or on Twitter. Most of the posts are social media 101 posts offering ten tips to use Facebook and Twitter. Even those basic posts often contain little real substance – most of them reflect the same 10 ideas, regurgitated and republished thousands of times by thousands of bloggers and journalists. There are gems too – but those are rare exceptions.

I’m not suggesting that simple is unimportant. Learning must start somewhere. But simple in social media has become the norm, much like artistic elements in the real Dark Ages reflect use of simple geometric designs and patterns.

we reward complacency: Popular bloggers publish post after post containing basic and uninspiring ideas that get re-tweeted hundreds of times not because the posts are interesting – but because it has become important (both to be social and to increase our followers) to be seen as re-tweeting something written by another person. We do this despite study after study showing that the number of followers doesn’t correspond to influence.

Again, there are exceptions – people who create inspiring, intelligent and thought-provoking content. You know who you are – you don’t need your ego stroked by hundreds of people re-tweeting your posts (although that certainly won’t hurt).

we value harmony over debate: when was the last time you saw two people active in social media disagree about anything? It rarely happens. Why is that?

Perhaps disagreement is rare because social media is, after all, “social”. But when everyone is promoting the same concepts (and content), there’s not much room for disagreement.

More importantly, people fear failure. They’re worried about not getting mentioned in someone else’s blog post. Worried about not being invited to speak at an upcoming conference. Worried that their audience won’t buy their next book about social media. And so they stay clear of disagreement and debate – at the expense of progress and innovation. This fear of failure can be very harmful.

we don’t challenge perspectives and traditions: rather than fight to challenge and change perspectives and traditions, we settle by convincing ourselves that we’re looking at the world through a different prism, when in reality, our perpectives are only marginally different.

For example, when we push the boundaries like David Armano did in his recent post in the Harvard Business Review – Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire A Community Manager – we miss opportunities. We should stop looking for ways to make social media work for us and our businesses, and instead look for ways that we can work with social media.

Rather than thinking in traditional organizational structures (i.e. which person should be responsible for community management), we should consider how we must change our entire organization to empower our social media activities.

Rather than embedding social media into every customer touchpoint, we should be looking for ways we can change our customer touchpoints to better leverage social media.

But surely the media and all those social media experts can’t be wrong!

They can be wrong. And they are wrong.

Ben Kunz, writing about another subject, explained Folie à deux:

Folie à deux means madness of two — a rare psychiatric syndrome in which a delusional belief, or psychosis, is passed from one person to another. There is a story of a woman named Margaret and her husband Michael who adamantly believed invisible people were living in their house spreading dust. The craziness usually starts with a dominant person, called folie imposée, who begins imposing the delusions on others … until it becomes folie à plusieurs, the madness of many.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Renaissance in social media is coming. We’ll have to do better than regurgitated social media 101 posts, if we want it to arrive sooner.

We’re living in the Dark Ages of social media. That’s the truth.

Social Media and Ant Colonies

Dozens of articles are written daily about ways that businesses and individuals can leverage Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, and other social networks. Many of these articles assume that one-size-fits-all when marketing on social networks. But for every individual or company that has successfully marketed on social networks, numerous others fail – even when supported by vast marketing budgets and expensive consultants. For example, Cisco tried to imitate Old Spice’s viral social media campaign and nobody noticed.

Why? And what do ant colonies have to do with social media and social networks?

Ants are fascinating insects. E.O. Wilson and Bert Hölldobler, in their 1991 Pulitzer Winning book The Ants, described an ant colony as a superogranism – a vast social network. The ants in the colony communicate with each other by following chemical trails left by other ants.

(Photo by aristeos)

In one sense, the strategy for success on social networks is not vastly different from the chemical trails that ants leave to guide other ants. Companies can leave digital “trails” by connecting users with each other and by engaging users in a dialogue with and about the brand. Old Spice successfully did this in their recent campaign.

If people were like ants and followed “chemical” trails, it would be easy to predict the success or failure of marketing efforts.

People are not like ants. People aren’t “programmed” to follow digital “trails” in the same way that ants follow the chemical trail left by other ants.

There are vast opportunities on social networks. They don’t all revolve around widgets, fan pages and viral videos. If you’re developing strategies to market on social networks, consider how you can differentiate yourself from others, not just in form, but in substance. Bring something new to the conversation. Find a different way to engage your customers. Develop a unique voice. Challenge yourself and your consultants to build new “trails” – like Old Spice did in their campaign – and not to merely recycle those left by others. Don’t feel compelled to do something merely because others are doing it.

How Often Do You Ask Why?

Why do birds fly? Why is the sky blue? Why do you drive a car? Why do I have to wear shoes? Why do I have to go to bed?

Toddlers are relentless in asking “why?” questions.  The questions are driven by sheer curiosity – they want to know about everything and it’s not unusual to hear dozens of “why” questions from a toddler – even if you think you’ve answered their question.

As toddlers become older, they stop asking “why” questions. They’re not less curious – they just assume, more often than not, that they understand “why”.

We all tend to assume – more often than not – that we understand why something happens. In delivering customer service, for example, many people try to correct a problem but rarely try to understand why the problem occurred. When a piece of code breaks, many developers implement quick fixes but often neglect to ask why the code broke (poor Q/A practices? never worked in the first place?).

Toddlers want to be heard and they want to listen. They often don’t really care that you answer their question – but they do care that you listen and they really care when you engage in a discussion with them. For example, a question: “why is the sky blue” can be answered in different ways. One could say that it’s blue because that’s the way the sky looks during the day. Or, one could take an opportunity and talk about the sky being blue on sunny days, gray on overcast days, and gray/black at night when the sun is sleeping. And sometimes, it’s orange or pink.

This is an important lesson for all of us and one we should not forget, particularly when talking to other people, and for those of us running businesses – when talking with our customers and our employees. We should never forget to ask why. If a customer or employee is unhappy and complains, asking a few “why” questions could uncover deeper problems than merely what appears to be the source for that unhappiness. When we answer questions, we should take the opportunity to explain, to probe further, and where possible, educate (if appropriate).

Our customers, employees and people around us want to know that we care about them and their problems, and that we hear them.

We can learn a lot from toddlers.

Do you celebrate incremental success?

Entrepreneurs interpret goals and measure success in very different ways. While most people appreciate huge wins, many have difficulty appreciating smaller accomplishments. After all, most of us are conditioned to believe that success in founding a start-up is met only if you sell the company for hundreds of millions of dollars. Many think that success in starting a blog is meaningful only if we have 50,000 subscribers. Some believe that success on Twitter means a minimum of 50,000 followers. Some think that being a successful graphic designer means being able to charge tens of thousands of dollars for a logo.

Setting very high goals is important – we do it as a company at crowdSPRING and I set high goals for myself as an individual. In fact, I believe that it’s impossible to become an industry leader and to innovate unless you push yourself. But setting very high goals can also paralyze because it takes an incredible amount of effort to achieve such goals. And while that effort is ultimately well-spent when you achieve your goals, it does limit what else you can do while you are trying to get there.

Success need not be a zero-sum game. Think of success as an incremental process.

Especially in today’s chaotic economic climate, it’s important to understand how to measure your own success. You should never lower your goals merely because it would be easier for you to meet them. But you should celebrate incremental success. And then you should build on that success, step-by-step.

Startup Tip: Marketing One-To-One

When most people talk about marketing, they talk about broad, strategic tactics focused on large groups of customers or potential customers. Adwords, banner ads, print ads, email marketing – these are all common tactics used by many businesses to market their products and services.

It’s easy to forget that some of the most important marketing opportunities arise when you deal with customers or potential customers one-to-one. The one-to-one marketing opportunities (while providing customer service, answering email, talking with people on social networks) are sometimes far more valuable than broad marketing tactics. Here’s why:

Do you agree?

Goals, Strategies and Tactics

It’s not uncommon for young entrepreneurs to focus on tactics at the expense of also setting appropriate goals and developing core strategies. It’s easy to fall into this trap when you see someone else successfully executing a tactic – and trying to duplicate their success by doing the same thing.

It’s not enough to understand your core business. Without clear goals – and strategies to accompany those goals – tactics could prove to be futile and a waste of time. Here’s why:

If you want to read more about this subject, you might be interested in today’s post on the crowdSPRING blogNew to the world: strategic marketing for startups and small business.

Do you agree that it’s impossible to succeed without clear goals and strategies? Are tactics enough?

How To Respond If A Customer Thinks You Run The Bunny Ranch

The customer service team at my company, crowdSPRING, has answered over 40,000 requests from customers. Few have been as entertaining as a recent note which opened with: “hello whores” and then proceeded to discuss vegetarianism, good & evil, moral high ground, and my personal favorite – capitalist baggage.  I wrote about that unusual note – and our response – in crowdSPRING’s blog today: Whore, Vegetarianism, Moral High Ground & Capitalist Baggage.