Twitter and (the illusion of) Free Speech

This post appeared today on the Brand Camp University blog:


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Why Wegmans is a Trust Agent [and your Brand should be too]

Everyone knows that Wegmans is the best grocery store in the country. We in Central New York take this for granted because they began in Rochester and have been in the Syracuse area since the John Glenn Boulevard store opened in Liverpool in 1968.

Image courtesy of

If you’re unaware of the wonders of Wegmans, allow me to provide a brief overview.  Way beyond a grocery store, Wegmans is a total experience.  From the beautifully displayed fresh produce (of which there is more variety than you can imagine), their delicious prepared food items and  their friendly and knowledgeable  employees, Wegmans is three cuts above the competition.

Now Wegmans is becoming known for their prowess in another area: social media.  The @Wegmans twitter account is leading the way with 8,700 followers and a Klout score of 45.  What is Wegmans doing that is making them so successful at social media?  Let me tell you.

[At the end, I will share with you my personal story of why I will be a Wegmans customer for life.]

Offering Content their Followers Can Use. What would you want if you were following a grocery store on Twitter?  Wegmans knows.  They share a recipe of the day, information on new products, tips for using a variety of fresh ingredients and news about upcoming store openings.  Wegmans also posts links to well-written articles and quirky videos from their blog Fresh Stories on topics ranging from food and wine pairings to profiles of local farmers who they partner with.  If you’re following a grocery store, this is probably the kind of content you’re looking for.

Joining the conversation. @Wegmans bio on Twitter reads “Can’t wait to talk to you!”  And they really can’t!  If you mention @Wegmans, be prepared to get a response.  I have not seen one instance of a Wegmans mention going unnoticed.  They are consistently ‘on’, and they are listening to what their customers have to say.  In social media, if you’re not talking to people, you’re sunk.  This is a far cry from what Wegmans local competitors are doing in social media.  @PriceChopperNY doesn’t really do much conversing on their account, and they’re follower:following ratio is pretty low.  But at least they’re trying. P&C on the other hand, seems to be a lost cause.  They don’t even have a social media presence from what I could gather from their website.

Having a consistent voice. Even though they haven’t told us who’s tweeting for Wegmans, you get the feeling there’s a real person behind the account.  This is not easy to do when you are representing a brand, trust me.  And not only do you get the sense that it’s a real person, you get the sense that it’s the SAME person.  The tone of the conversation is always consistent: easy, friendly, engaging, without a hint of sarcasm.  You don’t get a young, bubbly voice one day and then a boring monotone the next.  Wegmans is always pleasant, and this fits perfectly with their brand.

Showing they Care. I was going to divide this into several sections focused on what Wegmans does right with their account:  following up, doing what they say they will do, being polite.  But then I realized that they are all about the same thing:  showing your customers that you care.  This is what Wegmans is best at, and it puts them head and shoulders above not only their competition, but most companies using social media.

I promised to tell you my Wegmans story. It’s the reason I wrote this post – and why they have me as a customer for life.

I found a new product that I really liked when I was on vacation in South Carolina recently.  Starbucks doubleshot Energy + Coffee in 15 oz cans.   When I got home, I went to Wegmans and searched the aisles for what I call ‘my new love.’  Hmmm, not finding it in the store.  I found a few similar items, but not the one I really wanted.  Having interacted with Wegmans on Twitter many times, and being the social media junkie that I am, I asked @Wegmans instead of going to the store manager. Then this happened:

1.  They asked me for specifics on the product.  I sent them this image.

2.  They responded that they would check with their supplier and get back to me.

3.  When I tweeted about it to my followers, they responded that they couldn’t promise anything.  That’s fair.

3.  They contacted me a few days later and said, sorry for the delay, we are still working on it.

4.  I got a tweet from Wegmans asking what store locations I usually shop at.  I gave them my #1 and #2 stores.

4.  I got a DM from Wegmans asking me for my email address.

5.  I got a very nice letter from Michelle, a Consumer Services Specialist.

6.  The products will be in both of my store locations of choice by the middle of next week, and I have a contact name in each store to follow up with if there are any questions or concerns.

7.  Customer for Life.

In their best-selling book, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith say this about the emergence of ‘Trust Agents’ in social media:

“People who humanize the Web are trust agents.  People who understand the system and how to make their own game are trust agents.  People who connect and build fluid relationships are trust agents.”

Wegmans has become a Trust Agent – and thereby my loyalty and devotion to their brand.  Isn’t that what every company wants?

Do you have a great @Wegmans story? or a story about another company who has your allegiance because of their astute use of social media?  Share in the comments.


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I work with a bunch of idiots: When & How to Cut & Run

We’ve all had days when we’ve thought to ourselves, ‘I work with a bunch of idiots…what am I doing here?’  Luckily, those feelings usually pass and we wake up to a better day.For others, those thoughts come on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  In fact, what inspired me to write this post was hearing several different people say basically this same thing to me within the space of a few hours.  If this describes the situation you are in, here are some things to consider:

–  How bad is this situation…really. Think about what the real issues are.  Is it the people themselves?  The work environment?  The combination of people? The tasks you are assigned? The hours?  The pay?  Do a rational assessment of what makes you crazy and think about whether or not you can change any of those circumstances.  Many times it’s all in the way you look at a situation that will determine whether or not it is worth enduring.

–  Can you afford to make a change? This is a very difficult economic time for many.  The job market is soft, the housing market is in the dumpster, and salaries are stagnating.  All of these factors affect people’s decisions on whether or not they want to stay in their current positions.  In fact, maybe some of those people who are driving you crazy also wish they could leave.  But before you make any decision, you will have to determine whether you need to have another job lined up prior to leaving, whether you can sell your home (if you plan to relocate) and whether you will be able to start somewhere else at a comparable salary.  The financial considerations may or may not give you the go ahead.

–  What needs to happen for you to make a change? In other words, how bad does it have to get before I have no choice but to leave? Think about your own situation, set some low-end benchmarks, create an exit plan and then stick to it.  For instance, you could say if XY&Z don’t change by December, I will start looking for a new job in January.  Only you can determine what XY&Z are.  And most likely they aren’t going to happen on their own.  Another realization you should make early on in this process is that nothing is going to change without action on your part.

–  Is there someone (anyone) you can talk to about it? Do you have a co-worker you can trust?  Someone who knows the situation from the inside who can listen and perhaps give suggestions?  Do you have a mentor in the company?  Mentors can be wonderful cheerleaders in times of frustration and anxiety.  In addition to someone inside the company, you should seek counsel from a trusted advisor outside the company.  This person can give you an objective outsider’s view and feedback on your assessment of the situation.  Perhaps they can also offer viable solutions that you had not considered.

What’s the payoff if you stay? When you hate to get up and go to work in the morning, the thought of a great retirement package 30 years down the road isn’t all that enticing.  In your planning process, make sure to consider what you will be leaving behind if you decide to go.  What kind of unique benefits do you have, not just monetary, but lifestyle.  Is your dog allowed to come to the office?  Can you work from home a day or two a week?  Do you get tuition benefits that might earn you a degree and launch you into another career?  Think about and weigh the pluses of your situation (if there are any).

–  Deal Breakers. If you are being asked or pressured to become involved in dangerous, unethical or illegal activities, or a combination thereof, you probably should move quickly to find other employment.  The exception would be if said dangerous or illegal activities could be reported to the highest levels in your firm without repercussion.  That being said, protect yourself as best you can and determine an exit strategy.

There are any number of situations that will make you hate your job and the people you work with.  I can say this because I have been in jobs where I thought I would lose my mind if I had to sit there one more day.  Luckily that has not been the case for me in several years.  However, I know how depressing it can become when every day is a struggle and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

If you determine that your situation is unbearable, just don’t waste too much time treading water.  It’s not good for your health, in any sense of the word.


Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Career, Uncategorized


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3 Simple Lessons learned from Two Years in Career Services

As I start down a new avenue along my ever-changing career path, I think it’s a good time to reflect on where I’ve just been.

In June 2008 I started work at Syracuse University’s Career Services office.  And when I took the job, I knew literally NOTHING about the field of career services.  Sure, I had the right mix of experience for the my job working with alumni, but the only experience I had in terms of career was managing my own, and somewhat poorly at that.

So two years down the line, I feel like a know a little bit about careers and job search and interviewing, and especially networking….all those mysterious things that every job seeker wants to know about.  I’m going to share with you a few of the most important things I’ve learned.

1.  It’s not Rocket Science. If I can do this, so can you.  Meaning, if I can learn how to connect with the right people, learn about job opportunities and market myself, so can you.  How did I do it?  Listen and observe. The best places to do that right now are on Twitter and LinkedIn.  You can follow the most amazing people, and they are giving away FREE advice every day of the week!  It’s there for the taking!

2.  Degree/Major ≠ Career. Having managed a database with 1,700+ mentors for the past two years, I can assure you of this fact. Rarely, do you run across someone who is 5+ years out of college who is doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE DOING.  The thing is, most kids growing up are only exposed to a handful of careers.  There is no way of knowing everything that exists out there, and on top of that, new career fields are being created all the time.  So when people get out of college they tend to go for the types of jobs they have *heard about*.  And that’s all well and good until they start getting exposure to the world of work and realize all the different things they could be doing.  At that point, it becomes essential that you follow what interests you, regardless of degree.  People do it all the time.  Take me for example, I have degrees in Psychology and Elementary Education.  Do I seem to you like someone who is pining away for a nice bulletin board covered with construction paper?  At one time I was…but the fantasy was better than the reality and I had to change gears.

3.  Most people are fundamentally nice. You know, it could be that there was some aberration and I was just handed the nicest people on the planet to work with, but I don’t think that’s the case.  From day one of my job in career services, I was able to interact with and assist and learn from some amazing people — students, alumni, recruiters, employers, faculty, you name it.  I could not believe my good fortune.  It seems that when you are in a position to help people, it works in your favor. People see *helpers* (for the most part) as being good.  Therefore, when they interact with helpers, they come in with their defenses down and their niceness up.  That’s a great way to interact with the world…so if you can position yourself as a helper, no matter what your career field or job title, you will be setting yourself up for success.

There’s lots more where this came from, but suffice it to say that grasping these three really simple concepts will take you places you never dreamed.

As I move into the new and exciting world of social media and become a communications professional, I will still continue to hone my skills in career and helping others find their dreams.  I will just be helping different people and using different platforms.  I hope you will come along with me on this journey and see what else we can discover and share.


Posted by on June 20, 2010 in Career, Networking, Uncategorized


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Is #FF worth it?

Is Follow Friday a Waste of Time?

Last Friday, as I spent what seemed an inordinate amount of time working on my ‘Follow Friday ritual’, I had to ask myself (with a nod to Carrie Bradshaw), is #FF worth it?

Follow Friday, or the now more popular #FF, started out as a way to help newbies on twitter find interesting people to follow.  If I follow someone who I think you might also like to follow, I post an #FF and let you know how great they are.   However, what I have seen evolve over time is an ever-increasing love fest that really doesn’t yield many new people to follow at all.

When I was first on Twitter, I was super-excited to receive a Follow Friday from anyone.  I would wake up on Friday morning and check my @’s and seeing my #FFs would make my day.  The more followers I have gotten, the more #FF’s I have received.  And while I am still thankful for the mentions (and still checking for them), I’m starting to wonder if the effort is worth the return, for either party.

You may ask yourself, what effort is involved in #FollowFriday?  Well, I’ll take you through the steps of my Follow Friday.

1.  Track @ mentions on Tweetdeck for who is giving me props via an #FF.  Separate #FF’s from RTs and other mentions and conversations.

2.  Near the end of the day, write down all the twitter handles of the people who have #FF’ed me, not including the ones who have RT’ed the #FF from someone else.  (This seems to be the latest fad ~ and the quickest way for you to receive another mention).  Last Friday I received 23 #FFs.

3.  Thank all the people who #FF’d me.  I like to do this in one fell swoop, instead of RTing to all my followers every time someone #FF’s me.  This gets kind of redundant.

4.  Figure out who I am going to #FF.  I usually like to do a couple special lists, ie West Coast Tweeps, Tweeps Wearing Shades in Their Avatars, Media Companies I Love, etc.  After that I usually do a list of Syracuse University tweeps (can be colleagues, alums, students) and then some locals (Syracuse/CNY).  I usually put a star next to, and #FF, people who have #FF’ed me for the first time that day, or tweeps of particular interest (ie w/large followings) or people who I want to build relationships with.  I also take a scan through what I have favorited for the week , and see who shows up there.  (Those are valuable tweeps)  For me, this takes time, effort and thought.

So that’s the ritual.  What is the ROI?  I know social media people don’t like that question.  But I tell you what.  I have seen the ROI of #FF go down in direct relation to its popularity.

In my estimation, what began as a good way to introduce your friends to each other has just become a bit of a nuisance, and something that a lot of people scroll right through.  The ONLY time I start following someone new based on an #FF is when a particular name catches my eye…and there’s no rhyme or reason.  And those are usually based on #FFs in which I am included in the list. I figure if someone likes me, they must like other people LIKE me.  So I will click on their name and see if I like their bio.  If that passes muster, I check out their profile page.  If all they have is a continuous stream of FF’s, I’m probably not going to be dying to follow.  So that’s not very effective for them, is it?

The other thing (and this one is probably going to get me in trouble) is that when the same people #FF all the same friends every week, who is that really reaching out to?  Why not throw a few new people in the mix and let us see who else is out there?  That’s what Twitter is all about, right…building relationships?  I already have a relationship with you…if you want to do something nice for me, retweet a blog post or give me a #FF once in a while.  I will appreciate it more, and I think it will be more effective for both of us.

I know we will all continue to #FollowFriday and it does have some value.  If you’re new to Twitter, I think it can be really valuable in terms of finding people to fill out your tweetstream.  For me, in addition to the *fun* aspect of it, I always do find a couple interesting new tweeps to follow, and get a few new followers as well.  But that usually happens organically, on a daily basis, without going through the #FF Ritual.

So what do you think about #FollowFriday?  Have you found interesting new people?  Do you have your own #FF ritual?  Do you think it’s become overkill?  Share….


Posted by on June 17, 2010 in Social Media


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@rotolo meets @biz


Originally uploaded by LuxBellaVita

The highlight of attending this past weeks Mirror Awards,was when I snapped this picture of Anthony Rotolo, Social Media Strategist for Syracuse University, meeting Biz Stone, founder of Twitter. Biz was graciously posing for photographs after the luncheon ended and then slipped into the crowds of Manhattan unnoticed. The man who helped changed the world was unassisted and unable to hail a cab in front of The Plaza.

One more thing of note. The AT&T coverage in New York City is notoriously awful, and proved itself again to be so during the Mirror Awards. An award for Twitter, and we were unable to Tweet.

There is a huge Apple store right across the street from The Plaza too. And guess, what — my phone said ‘no network coverage’ right there in front of the home of the iPhone & iPad.


Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized


Career Advice for New Grads in 140 Characters (more or less)

Has another year really gone by so quickly?  This post first appeared on May 14, 2010, but the advice still applies to 2011 grads.  If you contributed in 2010 and would like to update your advice, tweet at me using #Advice4Grads or leave your comment here.  Thanks again to everyone who contributed last year and best of luck to the Class of 2011!

The class of 2010 is graduating on Sunday. In their honor and in the spirit of true alumni networking, I asked many of the alums I interact with on Twitter to tweet me their best career advice for 2010 grads, in 140 characters or less.  

I got a great response and each is a little bit different.  Some of the alums couldn’t stop at just one,  and I included them all.   Us twitter folks are very good at writing concisely, and that is evident as you read through these snippets of advice.  Obviously, 140 characters of advice is not going to land you a job, but it can help you tweak what you are doing in your job search or how you behave in the workplace, to make that experience more successful.

Instead of providing the names, grad years and majors of these alums, I offer their twitter handles.  If you are interested in hearing more of what they have to say, follow them on Twitter; the vast majority have a link on their bio to a LinkedIn profile, website or blog.

You will also see a couple of longer bits here from a couple of alums who e-mailed me their advice, and a few more from some Non-SU alums, but nonetheless great people who I know from Twitter and wanted to help out.

Many thanks to all my Twitter friends who contributed to make this possible!  Many of the alums quoted here I have met on campus or at one of the SUccess in the City events, or spoken with on the phone.  Some I only know through Twitter.  All are wonderfully giving people who wanted to share what they have learned with you.  I would love to have your feedback in the comments section ~ let me know what your favorite bit of advice is and why.    (you’ll probably be able to guess what my favorite is 🙂

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 14, 2010 in Networking, Uncategorized


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