Franklin Flooding & The Social Web – Continued

Friday May 28 Update: I received a text from Hollie that Extreme Makeover called her today. They had a 15 minute conversation and she was told “you are on our radar.” I’ll keep you posted.

There are many family and friends in the Middle Tennessee area that have lost much as a result of the recent flooding. You can read my original post here.

It has been amazing to watch how literally thousands of people have mobilized to help anywhere and anyway they can. Here is one story out of many.

I literally have a five-minute drive from my home to my office (yes, I probably should walk). On Friday morning I was listening to the radio while the announcer described that Extreme Makeover – Home Edition was looking for people who were impacted by the Nashville floods so they could feature them on the show. Anyone could nominate a deserving family. They gave the site and suggested going to Facebook to submit the nomination.

I immediately thought of Nathan and Hollie. Karen and I first met this couple in our church’s new members class. We realized that we have known Hollie’s parents for many years through our involvement with Young Life. We struck up a friendship.

I went to the site but could not find the correct information. I did find their Facebook Fan page, which listed how to submit a nomination.

My wife Karen is a wonderful writer, but was in Colorado at the funeral for a close family friend over the weekend. The nominations were due on Monday. She just did not have the time to put something together. I contacted a pastor (and friend) at our church to see if he could help put something together. Mike sent my request to Angela Fox, a member who is also a writer.

Angela put together a compelling nomination for Nathan and Hollie!

Click on this link and read Angela’s Open Letter to Extreme Makeover – Home Edition

I am doing everything I can to raise this family’s visibility to the producers of this show. E-mails, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter – all will be used. I have no idea what the results will be, but I will keep you informed.

What can you do to help? Simply pass this story along in any way you can. Thanks.

Diving into Internet Marketing

The cover story in the December 2009 issue of American Agent & Broker is an article by me where I describe the different ways the Internet can be the best marketing tool an insurance agent can have at their disposal.

Consumers’ buying and shopping habits have changed. Think about what you do when you’re thinking of buying a new product or service. For most people, the research process starts by going to the Internet and searching for that product or service.

To read the entire article simply to to the American Agent & Broker web site by clicking the link below.

I’m Helping Randy Get His Dream Job

I have played a very small part in an interesting marketing experiment that might be a good lesson for how agencies could leverage some of these new marketing tools.

A little background — I ran into my neighbor and friend, Randy Elrod, and his wife, Chris, at a local Mexican restaurant last week. They asked us (my daughter Stephanie) to join them and during the conversation I found out they were strategizing on how Randy could win a contest to land his dream job.

Murphy-Goode is a family-owned winery located within Sonoma Country’s Alexander Valley. They decided they wanted to leverage Web 2.0 tools to promote their wines to a wider audience. They wanted someone who really knows blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to get the word out about their wines. Randy is that person. He has taught me a lot about using social media.

To find just the right person, Murphy-Goode created a contest. They have asked each applicant to create a 60-second video and upload it to the contest site. They are then asking each applicant to demonstrate their social media influence by having their friends and followers vote for their video. Getting the most votes doesn’t guarantee a job, but it does help get an interview — the next step in the process. They will pick 10 people to interview and from them select the final candidate. The winner will live at the winery (at no cost) for six months and be paid $10,000 per month. The title of the position is: “Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent.”

We talked for a while and brainstormed on what his 60-second video should look like. They invited me to their house the next night to participate in a tasting of all of Murphy-Goode’s wines. Randy wanted to make sure he liked the wines! So we tasted eight bottles ranging from white to red. I was glad I could walk home!

My small part is during the tasting they shot some video for background and I am in the final video he submitted to Murphy-Goode. Well, at least the back of me is in the video.

I want to help Randy, and you can help as well. Why would you do this? Because it is an opportunity for you to experience firsthand how you might be able to use social web tools in your agency.

Here is your part. Please take 70 seconds to complete these four simple steps:

  1. Watch Randy’s very cool video on the Murphy-Goode website.
  2. Enter your email address to vote for Randy.
  3. Wait for the verification email and click on the link inside the message body. Note: Your vote will not count until you do this!
  4. Tweet this post or mention it on your Facebook page, or anywhere else you might have some connections.

That’s it. Pretty neat little experiment, huh? Not only is Murphy-Goode getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity, they are using the tools they want to develop to find just the right person for the job.

Technology in the New White House

The Obama campaign for President is a study in how to effectively use technology to communicate with people. Yet as the new staff moved into the White House offices in January, they found themselves in the technological Dark Ages.

As Obama officials try to bring the same social media sophistication they used in the campaign to governing, they have run smack into the constraints of federal bureaucracy, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts. That means no Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. No BlackBerry for the President. For a staff that mastered relentless online social networking, it will be an adjustment.

One of the first changes was the launch of the new Web site which became active minutes after Obama took the oath of office. One of the issues is that due to the Presidential Records Act, all office work must be preserved. It will be interesting to watch how the new administration will enable more open communication options within the constraints of government regulations.

Google Adds Social Networking Tool

Google has released a new service called Google Friend Connect that makes it possible for Web sites to easily add social networking features that don’t require visitors to join a new social network. Google Friend Connect lets any Web site operator easily add functionality to a site that lets visitors join the site, see other users of the site, and participate in social networking activities such as commenting on and rating content.

From a strict feature standpoint, there isn’t much in Google Friend Connect that seems all that new. There are many other services already available that offer these types of services. What does make this service stand out is its extreme openness and potential for near-unlimited extensibility. That’s because, rather than using proprietary technology, Google Friend Connect heavily leverages open technologies such as OpenID, OpenSocial, and OAuth.

To get the service up and running on your site, you simply need to enter the site information on the Google Friend Connect site, download two files that need to be uploaded to your site’s root directory, and choose the gadgets you want to add to the site. For the gadgets, Google Friend Connect generated code that I then needed to add to my Web site templates and pages.

Gadgets include a Members gadget that displays visitors who have joined the site. This makes it possible for visitors to sign in, join the site, and utilize other social networking gadgets. Other gadgets include a Wall gadget that lets visitors comment on and link to a site, a ratings gadget, and a couple of demonstration gadgets. There is also a code snippet provided to aid developers in creating their own custom gadgets.