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This is a fascinating (and somewhat horrifying) case study of how quickly a conversation can become negative online when geotargeted posts go awry. The Coca-Cola Facebook page, which has 33 million fans, geotargets its updates based on country and language. All standard fare for big brands, and it appears to be very effective for Coke.

Late last week, Coke accidentally posted an update in Portuguese to their entire Facebook audience. The post was supposed to be targeted to Brazil only. It was rather innocuous – talking about student day activities. The response from the community was anything but innocuous.

It’s unclear whether the post was just an accidental push by a community manager or an error on the part of their CMS, but what resulted was a full-blown page meltdown. The page was barraged by a series of xenophobic comments about English first and English only. The comments are aggressive and offensive to say the least.

After a few hours of vitriol, Coke took the post down because they said it was an accidental post and never should have been posted to the broader community. I figure that they thought this would be easier than scrubbing all of the negative comments individually and then facing the backlash from these individuals (even though they were clearly in violation of their house rules).

Ad Age has a good run-down of the play-by-play. There’s an opportunity to draw a number of important lessons here as well:

  1. Crisis Response – You must be hypervigilant in monitoring your pages and have a crisis plan in place for instances such as this. For example, there should be pre-approved language explaining if a post is accidentally posted to the wrong audience. You should also review your house rules to see what you would have done in such a situation.
  2. Segmentation – The interests, norms and sensitivities of different subsegments of your Facebook audience can be vastly different. One size does not fit all. Segmentation is the right approach for communicating with diverse audiences, particularly if there are substantive language differences and preferences among your audience members. (This does not justify xenophobic comments. But even minor differences in interests or norms can make a difference in how a post is perceived.)
  3. Geotargeting – As Facebook continues to become a more international, global platform, geotargeting will become even more important, as will posts in multiple languages. While the US Facebook audience grew by 4% last year, Brazil (Portuguese) grew by 23% and India (Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.) grew by 11%. Following and tailoring your engagement to align with the growth of your audience among people in specific countries – and even cities – can be an effective way to deepen relationships with your fans.
  4. Brand Consistency – Even if you geotarget your posts, you should be aware of the impact and perceptions on your broader audience. Programs should be tailored for local communities but still complement the master narrative for the brand. The same goes for applications, contests or general content on a country-specific page. For example, last year when the country-specific page for one beauty brand posted a skin-whitening application, people around the world weighed-in in scorn. Local stories, local applications and local controversies don’t stay local for long. The activities of your local divisions, employees and community managers impact the perception of your brand globally. You have one reputation. Protect it through smart guidance and sensible governance of your social channels.

We will be watching the situation continue to unfold. Lessons abound. How would you have responded?

Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Coke on Facebook and even more of a fan of Facebook in my refrigerator. I’m from the south which means I drink copious amounts of the stuff. My addiction has been made only more pronounced since Cherry Coke Zero came out. I don’t think Coke is an Edelman client, but if it is, I don’t work on the business, nor does this post reflect Edelman’s view of the company.

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I’ve been saying Google isn’t just a search engine, it’s a reputation engine. What people find on page one of Google is increasingly what they think about a brand, a product or even a person. Could Google also be a reflection engine, understanding our thoughts better than we do ourselves?

Google collects enough personal information about us to understand what we are looking for even if we aren’t articulating ourselves very well. It even serves up ads matched to the content that it has made matched us with. But it’s not Feltron yet. It doesn’t have enough info to map our entire lives – yet.

So sometimes it misses the mark. Maybe because the English language uses the same words to describe complete different things. Take the word “waffle.”

What comes to mind when I say waffle? Is it the morning time when you are reading this? Maybe you are thinking about Eggo waffles. Maybe you prefer to make your own waffles at home and you want the perfect recipe for chai waffles using your new waffle maker from William Sonoma. Are you from the south? Maybe your thinking about Flo, the snarky beehived waitress, at the Waffle House down the road.

Or maybe just maybe, you can’t decide what you mean by waffle, or even waffling, so you got to Dictionary.com to help figure it out. You are served with a handful of definitions for waffling and a bevy of ads. But that’s when things get a bit messy, and not just because there is batter splattered across the kitchen and leaking from the sides of your brand new spill-proof waffle maker.

Is Google waffling on what it thinks you are looking for? The definitions on the page clearly talk about “ego” waffles, not Eggo waffles – the tendency to be indecisive, not to snarf down a toaster snack. Maybe it just didn’t have enough information about my personal tendency to waffle to understand that what I was really looking for was me.

Google’s good, but it’s not there yet. Maybe because we are still clinging to some elements of our privacy and don’t share everything with Google. But people share way too much on Facebook. And the news that Facebook is going to use your browsing habits on other sites to better serve ads on Facebook.com should be eye-opening. Facebook already targets ads based on your conversations on the platform; now they are looking outside the walled garden as well.

We come full circle. What better way to understand the personal tendency to waffle than to Google it, right? Maybe not. Facebook? Maybe yes. But I found a great new waffle maker from William Sonoma in the process, so at least I will eat well.

I wonder what the ads next to this blog post will be?

Was demonstrating how easy it is to create a blog post to some folks at Johns Hopkins.

This is still one of the best video presentations of how the web has changed:

So I just got out of the session on blogger credibility at SXSW. It was 90 percent about how bloggers can and should disclose relationships with brands. It’s a must attend/watch/read/follow for anyone who is a blogger or engages bloggers for a brand.

You can find the tweets with hashtag #bloggercred. You can also find a more detailed (and spellchecked) post at EdelmanDigital.com.

I’ve pulled together a summary of the key learnings I drew from the session:

  • FTC regs have put fear of god in brands and bloggers
  • Transparency is key – if you are being paid, say you are being paid
  • If you want to be truthful, provide info in description or link to a place with explanation
  • You don’t have to disclose anything if you are just a fan. If you happen to love Toyotas and write about them, no disclosure. But if give you car for two weeks, you must disclose. It is up to Toyota to tell you that you need to disclose
  • No difference in disclosure for product vs. service vs. coupon vs. other. Must disclose for all of them.
  • Must disclose somewhere in the post itself. Cannot post a blanket disclosure on the site that applies to everything. Same goes for tweet. Must disclose in each tweet.
  • FTC – you have to disclose relationship in every tweet, must go w/ the content. site disclosure not enough
  • popular hashtags for disclosure include #paid #ad #spon #sample
  • Can disclose relationship in a creative way. Does not have to be dry standard statement

Here are two valuable resource guides – from WOMMA and FTC:

If you have questions, you can reach out to via @justicefergie who provides guidance for FTC.

I’ve been playing with Foursquare for a little more than a month now in earnest. I signed up a year ago, but it took the Blackberry app beta to get me in on the check-in game.

In the last month, I’ve checked in just over 100 times – in about a dozen cities. I rarely send my updates to Twitter and don’t have it connected to Facebook yet. I’ve earned 11 badges, 10 of which I’d like to keep. That was all very almost-interesting to me, until I took a look at my mayorships on Foursquare and discovered that they do a pretty good job of capturing me during this bite-sized bit of my life.

I’ve been mayor of two Edelman offices – Washington, DC and San Francisco – neither of which I work at, but which I travel to. I’m the mayor of Virgin America IAD and the Starbucks in LAX Terminal 3, so I’m on the road too much and too early, auditioning for the real life version of Up in the Air. I’m the mayor of an In-N-Out, but not the one near my house, one way up the road. I don’t have any gym check-ins but I’m the mayor of Bronson Canyon Park, so maybe just maybe that balances out, but probably not.

So basically I am a caffeine-fueled over-traveler who needs to cut back on the double doubles and double down on the park. That sounds about right. The real question is – in another 30 days, will I be the mayor of who I want to be?

Raven Tools has compiled a pretty impressive list of niche social networks in about 30 categories, from animals to attorneys, music and movies to tech trends and food.

aniboom

Here’s the list of categories from the site. They have thumbnails for many of the sites and are still looking for more. You can visit the original post for the full spread.

What do you think? Facebook or Flixster? Where would you rather talk movies?

ht @muckifischer

Fall 2009 Student Blogs

Adam and Dawn both had a great suggestion. They thought it would be interesting (and helpful) to post the blogs, podcasts and videos of all the students from class so that you could learn more about each other and the clients you are working on for the semester.

We’ll start with the blogs. I will follow up with Twitter accounts, podcasts and Animoto videos.

Fall 2009 Using Social and Digital Media Student Blogs:

Enjoy.