Mengel Musings

Late to the social media party and trying to catch up.

Move along now, lil’ doggies March 24, 2009

Filed under: About Me,Blogging — amymengel @ 9:59 am

This is my last post at

But WAIT! I’m not giving up on blogging! I’ve just made a new home for myself at! I started out two months ago not knowing if I would really be that “into” blogging, and thus just grabbed a free site to get going. Now that I’m enjoying it I have found myself wanting more options and flexibility for the look and feel of my site. I made the switch to self-hosted and will be posting there from now on.

If you are subscribed to this blog, please update your RSS reader and grab the feed for the new site here.

If you linked your site or blogroll to this site, I would greatly appreciate it if you could update those links and point them to I’ve updated each post at this site with a message and link to the corresponding post on the new site.

I hope you’ll come join me at my new place,!


Is Facebook the new AOL? March 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — amymengel @ 3:35 pm

exit(Mengel Musings is now at! Click Here to follow me to my new home on the web.)

When I was in middle school, EVERY family I knew that was on the Internet was on AOL. It seemed like the only way you could get online. Everyone had AOL e-mail addresses, AOL Instant Messenger handles, and those somewhat stalker-enabled AOL Profiles. There were some alternatives, like CompuServe, but essentially you were on it because everyone else was.

Fast Forward 10 or 15 years and enter Facebook. Lots of people are joining the site because, well, everyone else is on the site. People in my parents’ generation have started to join because they’re being left out of information and conversations that happen on the site. Grandparents are joining Facebook because that’s where pictures of their grandkids get posted. My husband calls his parents in Pennsylvania to fill them in on the health of a neighbor who recently suffered a stroke. My in-laws live 500 yards from this man, but since my husband has friended his daughter on Facebook, he knows much more about how the neighbor is recovering than my in-laws do – despite that fact that we live 250 miles away. If you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out.

But Facebook made changes earlier this month to its home page and the way information is presented. It now emphasizes friends’ status updates and photo posts and makes it hard to tell if they’ve joined a group, friended someone you know, became a fan of something, or installed an application. You have to visit their profile page for that. The process for things virally spreading through Facebook has been hampered, in my opinion. And according to TechCrunch, a new Facebook poll shows that 94 percent of Facebook users don’t like the changes, either.

In many industries, customers can “vote with their feet.” If they don’t like something, they leave. They take their business elsewhere. As alternatives to AOL began sprouting up, people began doing just that. They opted for a more open Internet, better connection service, less controlled content. But with Facebook, there doesn’t seem to be that option. How do you vote with your feet when there’s nowhere to go? MySpace is old hat and has its own set of issues that make it less user-friendly than Facebook. If all your friends are on Facebook and that’s where the action is, it doesn’t make much sense to leave in protest unless you can all go somewhere together. So as much as people are griping about the homepage changes, Facebook doesn’t have a ton of incentive to revert to the old site. Where are people going to go?

Facebook has shown willingness to listen to customers in the past – notably with its Beacon advertising platform and its recent changes to its Terms of Service. And several users weren’t fans of the 2008 design change, but Facebook stuck with it (those changes were more subtle). It has the luxury right now of being the biggest game in town. But judging by what became of AOL, that’s not a position that Facebook should get too comfortable in. Eventually, if Facebook users remain unhappy, expect a newer, cooler kid to roll in and start attracting attention – and users.

Image: Flickr user Scoobyfoo


Blogs on paper at 35,000 feet March 16, 2009

Filed under: Media — amymengel @ 1:40 pm

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I spent last weekend visiting my cousin in Pittsburgh (GREAT city, btw) and neglected to grab my book out of the pocket of my carry-on when I gate checked my bag. After about 10 minutes with the SkyMall catalog, I decided I’d had enough of virtual reality glasses, adult-sized footsy pajamas and portable neck traction devices, so I grabbed a copy of the in-flight magazine, US Airways Magazine.

usairwaysI started flipping through it and noticed that a lot of its content was pulled from blogs and other sources on the Web. A two-page business feature included excerpts from Harvard Business Review. Later in the magazine was a complete reprint of the first chapter of a forthcoming marketing book, Lynda Resnick’s Rubies in the Orchard. As I kept reading, I realized that essentially none of the magazine’s content was original. Just about the entire thing, except for one feature and some crossword puzzles, was repackaged from existing content and dropped into the magazine.

I flipped back to the front to read the editor’s letter I had initially skipped over. It turns out that the March 2009 issue of US Airways Magazine was part of a redesign to merge the “immediacy of the web with the convenience and quality of print magazines.” (Read the full letter here.) What was even more interesting this paragraph:

The great thing about magazines is — strange as it may sound — their technology. Think about it: You’re holding an amazing device. You never have to load software, protect it from viruses, reboot it, or even plug it in. And you never have to wait for a page to load. You don’t have chaff, you have editors — real people who know what you want, do the selecting for you, and check the facts. If magazines were just invented, experts would be crowing about this cool new contrivance.

The magazine now pulls most of its content from the blogosphere and presents it to passengers in an “amazing next-gen device” (aka words printed on glossy paper and glued together). Editors check the blog content for accuracy. The Web site simply says “Contributors: The experts at Harvard Business Review, bloggers in the know, and more.”

Effectively, US Airways Magazine has eliminated the need to have writers on staff, or even hire freelancers for all but one feature story a month. I’m sure most bloggers and book authors would salivate at the chance to have their content featured in this space – I admit that I read the entire excerpt from Rubies in the Orchard and will probably find the book and read the rest of it. (It’s about the strategy behind bringing POM Wonderful juice to market.)

I can’t decide if the strategy is lazy or brilliant. It’s probably some of both. And seeing as how the airline was charging for water on flights up until two weeks ago, it’s likely due to financial constraints, as well. I’m actually surprised that airlines haven’t started charging passengers for a copy of its magazine. Is the future of journalism simply fact-checking and reprinting other people’s content?

Ultimately, I think airline magazines will quickly reach irrelevance when WiFi becomes more ubiquitous on flights. Who will want to read magazines when you can check e-mail, surf the Web, chat with your Twitter friends, make calls via Skype, or watch streaming TV or movies? Especially when you can do it on laptop, iPhone, or Kindle… which actually are amazing, next-gen devices.

What do you think? Check it out at

Image: Flickr user caribb


Social Media Smackdown: Magic Hat vs. Bell’s Beer March 9, 2009

Filed under: Social Media — amymengel @ 9:48 pm

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I have a highly embarrassing confession to make: I drank a lot of Coors Light in college. I think the beer gods have mostly forgiven me at this point – I was young and stupid! But thankfully I’ve graduated to the world of craft beers and microbrews. I’m currently partial to Magic Hat, brewed in South Burlington, Vt., but my Midwestern pals on Twitter are continually singing the praises of Bell’s Beer out of Kalamazoo, Mich. I can’t find it in Upstate N.Y. and thus I have yet to try it. So since I can’t do a blind taste test, I’ve decided to pit these beers against each other and see how their social media strategies fare in a head-to-head (get it?) competition:


Stats from

Round 1: Twitter
Both beers are on Twitter: @magichat and @bellsbeer (along with more than 50 other craft beers, btw). So far, despite both acquiring legions of followers, neither brand is terribly engaged with its fans. Here’s the shakedown:

Magic Hat: Following 3,110; Followers 2,829; Tweets 71
@magichat’s first tweet was nearly 11 months ago and so with only 71 Tweets, it’s not a terribly active account. Tweets have included some coupons, a few twitpics of a recent promotional event, a couple of contests, and links to some videos of its brewery. There are some replies sprinkled throughout its Tweetstream, but not many. If you look at @magichat’s statistics from TwitterFriends, it earns a CQ (conversation quotient) score of 14.9 percent, versus a 41.8 percent average. Its LQ (link quotient) is 53.6 percent. Its Twitter rank is 3329 out of 56585.

Bell’s Beer: Following 1,469; Followers 1,509; Tweets 56
@bellsbeer started Tweeting in July of last year and with 56 updates, it’s also not terribly active. It ranks 9500 out of 56585 according to TwitterFriends, but its conversation quotient is much higher than @magichat’s, scoring a 33.3 percent. Its Tweets are primarily informational – where to find their beers, info about beer events they’re attending, answers to questions. But Bell’s Beer does seem to be more engaged with its fans – more replies and a more conversational tone. Its replies tend to be answers to people’s questions on everything from where to find the beer to nutritional information to how to find the date each beer was brewed.
Point: Bell’s gets the point for engaging with its customers via Twitter moreso than just pushing out information.

Round 2: Facebook
Each brand has a Facebook fan page. Magic Hat has 8,924 fans and the page is chock-a-block full of activity. A video post of a recent Mardi Gras parade it sponsored and 47 accompanying photos. An event announcement for Philadelphia Beer Week. An info center with graphics that link back to pages on the company’s web site (including its “Sip Code Locator” to find beer in your area). There are dozens of notes posted to the page that announce new beer variety packs, upcoming events, contests, and new distribution locations for its beer.

Bell’s Beer currently has 16,901 fans. Its wall includes 359 posts and there are three discussion boards. One is a forum for fans to discuss changes made to the variety of hops used in its Oberon brew. Bell’s hasn’t weighed in on the discussion at all. The photo section only includes images of each beer case design. There are 40 fan photos, many of them of a cycling team wearing Bell’s jerseys.

Despite the fact that the Bell’s Beer fan page has almost twice as many members, it doesn’t appear to be utilizing the space very well. Magic Hat is creating buzz about its beer and using Facebook as a platform to showcase its fans and customers using the product – pictures of people at Magic Hat events, for example. Its fan page makes you want to engage with the brand, while Bell’s Beer is pretty static.
Point: Magic Hat, hands-down

Round 3: Web site
Magic Hat’s Web site design is right in line with its trippy Vermont roots. If you click on the “People’s Place” blimp that floats across the screen, you’re taken to the “epicenter of all things Magic Hat.” There’s a blog (called a “glog”) that repackages some of the Facebook notes found on its fan page. You can create a login to become part of the community and see Magic Hat events in your area. The site includes polls, photos from both Magic Hat and the site’s users, an FAQ section, and an online press center. Badges on the left side of the page direct you to Magic Hat’s online presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace.

Bell’s site is a much cleaner and more traditional design. The beer itself is what dominates the site – just about the only images are of beer bottles! You can find during which season each of their varieties is available, purchase Bell’s shirts and products, and find a local distributor. But the site itself doesn’t lend itself to connecting with other Bell’s fans. There’s really no interactivity. You can sign up for an RSS feed of Bell’s Beer news items, but you can’t comment on them. The site doesn’t direct you to its Facebook fan page or its Twitter page. The design is nice, but in the end, it’s your basic static Web site. To beer fair, the home page claims that the site will be updated in the coming weeks.
Point: Magic Hat, for creating an online community that highlights its customers and allows them to connect in several different ways.


Image via Flickr user dnolan36

Round 4: Other social sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc.)
I couldn’t find a YouTube channel for either beer. Magic Hat has a Flickr account with several albums. The images feature the brewery and several Magic Hat sponsored events. I couldn’t find any sort of official Bell’s Beer Flickr account. Magic Hat’s MySpace page counts 3,746 friends and includes links to its “glog” posts. As far as I could tell, Bell’s Beer does not have a MySpace presence.
Point: Magic Hat once again

The Final Verdict: Magic Hat is clearly outpacing Bell’s Beer in the adoption of social media platforms to reach out to and connect with its fans. Magic Hat’s brand image is quirky and funky and it probably skews younger than typical Bell’s Beer fans, so maybe social media was less of a stretch for the company. I’d love to see Magic Hat become a little more engaged on Twitter and really interact with its fans in that space, rather than using it more as a platform to push information. And it would be great if Bell’s Beer could tap into its rabid fan base on Facebook and create a more interactive and engaging site.

But whether you kick back with a Two-Hearted Ale or a Circus Boy, either one definitely beats a Coors Light– and there are apparently thousands of fans online who agree.


Engage your B2B customers offline, too March 4, 2009

Filed under: B2B,Corporate Communications — amymengel @ 11:13 am

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For business-to-business companies, communicating with customers is always challenging. Their attention is focused not only on all their other vendors and suppliers, but also on running their own businesses and serving their own customers. While new and emerging social media tools provide a potential B2B communications playground, it’s worth remembering some tried-and-true way of keeping these customers engaged – and remembering that in a tough economy, a little extra attention from a vendor can go a long way. These five ideas are nothing new, but I’ve found them to be effective in making customers feel connected:

Handshake1. Invite key customers to become members of a “customer advisory council”
This tactic is a great way for you to get some authentic feedback from some of your top customers while involving them in your business and making them feel like they have a stake. Choose a manageable (7-10) number of customers—either top sellers, a representative cross-section of your entire base, or just key accounts you want involved. Let them know they’ve been selected to be a member of this council and invite them to join. Gather the group together via conference call every other month and use it as a forum to share ideas for new products, garner feedback, and take pulse of your market. Give the council an opportunity to make some decisions, as a group, about a new direction, product, or service that your company is thinking of offering. If you do have some budget or if the customers are located close to your facility, bring them in for an all-day meeting. Introduce them to executives, give them a tour of your site, have them meet and share feedback with product managers and other key personnel. Highlight the council when you roll out one of their ideas: “Based on the feedback from our customer advisory council, we are pleased to announce…”

2. Repackage useful information for them
In a down economy, a lot of businesses just can’t or won’t pony up the money to attend trade shows, training classes, or industry events—no matter how valuable the content might be. So deliver valuable content to them. Scour trade publications and the Web for great articles about topics relevant to your industry or customers. Break down the content from what would normally be a two-day product training class into a one-page summary guide. Share general business management tips. Take all of this information and compile it for your customers. Distribute via the channel (Web, mail, e-mail) and frequency (each week, month, quarter) that makes the most sense for your customers. Include your company’s logo and branding – “Industry Roundup from Company X.” It’s a great way to put relevant information in front of your customers that they probably wouldn’t come across or have time to look for anyway. (Always attribute the original sources, BTW.)

3. Feature your customers in your company’s marketing efforts
Instead of buying stock photography or using bland product images, highlight your customers. Hold a photo shoot at their location and show them using your products. Use these images in printed collateral materials, on the Web, in trade show displays. Profile your customers’ businesses on your Web site and include their quotes on how they’re using your products. Ask some of your customers to be profiled in case studies of your company. Look at the marketing materials you were already going to spend money on anyway – and then find a way to incorporate your customers into them. A great example is HighJump Software’s online resource center. It’s filled with customer case studies, videos, and webcasts that showcase how HighJump’s customers use its products.

4. Create a contest for customers to participate in
The options here are endless. Hold a photo contest where customers submit pictures showing a creative use of your product. Have a design contest where customers weigh in on the look, feel, color, style, or functionality of one of your products. Develop a charity or community service program where all of your customers compete in their local area to donate the most money, service, volunteer, time, etc. to a given organization. The prize can be free product, passes to an industry event or tradeshow, free literature or collateral materials – offer something of value to your customers that you already have or have access to, but make the contest itself more fun and worthwhile than simply the prize they’re competing for. As a bonus – you may end up with photos, videos, or product ideas that your company can use later!

5. Match up businesses for mentoring
Chances are, your customers could probably learn a lot from each other. You probably have a mix of long-established and developing companies in your customer base. Why not offer to match up your customers so that they can mentor each other? Broker introductions between customers and then give them some guidelines to get them started. Check-in throughout the year and ask how the relationship is going. Highlight successful mentor-mentee relationships to other customers to show how knowledge sharing can benefit everyone. And if you facilitate ways of making your customers more successful, it should lead to more success for your company, too.

There are countless additional B2B marketing and communications techniques that can help you connect to your customers in a personal way. In light of all the “new” communications tools and tactics available now, it’s important to remember that mixing in some of the “old” stuff can still be effective!

Image source: Flickr user ThomasHawk


Coming soon: Network Overload February 27, 2009

Filed under: Social Media — amymengel @ 10:43 am
Source: Flikr user NorthernLaLa

Source: Flickr user NorthernLaLa

(Mengel Musings is now at! Click Here to follow me to my new home on the web.)

Do you remember how your mom would tell you every year on Halloween that too much candy at once would make you sick? That you should save some for later, space it out over a few days? But that you were so excited to have all that candy that you scarfed it all down, and then paid for it later?

While a good deal of social networking might be in its infancy, we have to assume that eventually, a lot of these tools and tactics will become mainstream– if you can’t claim that already. As the late majorities and laggards start to come around, it’ won’t be long before Facebook and Twitter are as ubiquitous as e-mail. Niche-specific social networks have begun popping up like Whack-a-Moles. Will all this lead to a social meltdown? Will we really be able to keep track of all of our friends, followers, feeds and networks? Will we NEED a separate network for every conceivable aspect of our lives? Will too much make us sick to our stomachs?

I’m currently a member of two Ning networks: PROpenMic and my industry-specific network. (I’m sure many of you know this, but Ning is a platform for building a Facebook-like social network for a specific group of people.) As Ning and similar platforms become more widespread and more people become comfortable with social networking, I can only imagine that the number of groups creating their own social network will rise dramatically. Remember how it used to be so hard to build a web site and so not may people/organizations had one?

I can envision a point where my university alumni association, church, town, dentist’s office, neighborhood, family and even my pets all have separate social networks. It’s already underway- my family is getting into Geni, my alumni association has integrated lots of social networking features into its Web site. Dave Fleet just noted that he’s seen an uptick in Ning networks and inspired the title for this post:


The more diffuse my involvement in social networking, the less engaged I am. I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook. Then I discovered Twitter. I’m a member of Geni, GoodReads, TripAdvisor– and about a dozen other sites. The more I join, the less I seem to interact. My interest in one network gives way to another. I’m not so sure that it’s a matter of having the time to participate as having the attention span. Even services like FriendFeed that consolidate my activity into one place make it only slightly easier to handle. And often I’m connecting and interacting with the same people across all these different networks.

So what does the future look like? As we join more social networks, will we actually socialize less? Will people join everything but participate in nothing? What good is a network if none of the members actively participate?

People have been postulating for a while now that “social networking fatigue” will force more interoperability between networks. Will one network, like Facebook, dominate and roll-up all other, smaller networks under its umbrella? I don’t think people will want to manage dozens of profiles and interactions at dozens of Web sites.

As we counsel clients and businesses on social media and introduce them to the possibilities, I think it’s important to emphasize that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD (see: shoulder pads, Furbies, and the Pontiac Aztek). Social networking strategies need to reflect a business goals and provide value to an organization’s stakeholders. Just because it’s easy to create a specific social network for your customers/employees/members doesn’t mean that it’s the best tool or method for engaging that audience. Look at what’s already out there and what tools the audience is already using. Are most of them active on Facebook? Maybe a fan page is a better alternative to a separate social network. Maybe all you need to do is jazz up your existing Web site with some interactive features that don’t require a login or profile.

In all our excitement about new tools and opportunities that social media presents, we have to remember that eating all the candy at once is going to make everyone sick. Mom was right – you’ve got to pace yourself!


The basketball court of public opinion February 24, 2009

Filed under: Corporate Communications,Media relations — amymengel @ 7:39 am

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I don’t follow college basketball (people, I went to Georgia!) so I missed this story when it broke over the weekend. I heard the tail end of an ESPN radio show in the car that alluded to a dust-up between the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball coach, Jim Calhoun, and freelance reporter Ken Krayeske. The topic was Calhoun’s $1.6 million salary as a state employee. Check it out:

Most of the callers on the radio show were defending Calhoun. One caller stated that while he didn’t have a problem with Calhoun’s salary, he had a huge problem with the arrogant and insolent way that he addressed the question. I’m guessing this may not be the first time those two adjectives have been used to describe Calhoun.

Krayeske is apparently a bit of a rabbel-rouser and his “freelance journalism” has gotten him in trouble in the past. To be fair to Calhoun, I don’t think the press conference was an appropriate place to ambush him. But to tell a reporter to shut-up and call him stupid? Hello? That even trumps OSU’s Mike Gundy (“I’m a MAN! I’m 40!”).

Organizations have a responsibility to media train anyone who might step in front of a camera and represent them. For universities with big-time athletic programs, that means coaches and sometimes their star players. I don’t know if UConn has put Calhoun through media training. I’d like to think that with as high-profile a basketball program as the school has, it would have done so. But Calhoun was clearly ruffled and reacted in about the worst way possible. He was rude and insulting. He started throwing out numbers to back up his point, and they didn’t quite add up. He and the university are now going to have to backtrack, apologize, and commence serious damage control.

Media training can’t be a one-time event: people get better, more comfortable, and more able to think on their feet by practicing over and over again. The more comfortable they are, the calmer they’ll remain when the tough questions come out or the awkward situations arise. Put them in front of a camera a few times a year and toss mock interview questions at them. Watch it back with them and critique their answers. Anticipate tricky questions that might come up in certain situations and equip the person with some points to remember so they don’t get flustered. And repeat.

Calhoun should have stayed calm. He should have let the reporter know that he was there to talk about the team’s performance in the game that had just been played and not his salary or contract. He could have offered to sit down with the reporter at a later time in a more appropriate venue and discussed the topic.

This is basic blocking and tackling, guys. Or whatever you basketball fans call it.

More coverage from:
The Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs
The Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe



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