Social, Social, Everywhere…

The recent massive success of Barack Obama in garnering support online via social networks has brought what was already an emerging trend from the early adopters to the masses–or a lot more of them, anyway.

There is certainly no doubt that the power of these social networks is only starting to be realized, even though the internet has been a social phenomenon since its inception. Remember DARPANet? (For those of you much younger than I, it was the precursor of the internet.) Originated to help scientists share data and aid in each others research, it blossomed into such things as bulletin boards, which in turn have become Facebook and Twitter.

Whether or not anyone in particular agrees with it, big brands have discovered many of these social networks, and are using them (for good or evil, depending on your point of view) to talk directly to consumers with a much more personal voice. 

David Pogue, the technology writer for NYTimes, has several recent posts on Twitter, and the amazing power of tapping the collective conscious. 

Are we approaching the time when not having some kind of social network presence will be like not having a website? Maybe. But, whether we are or not, businesses that want to connect directly with their users (not just their markets), now have incredible ability to do so. You have to want to deal with the messiness of it, and be willing to hear what your users have to say, good or bad.

Is it polished and mature yet? No way. And, for those businesses who see the opportunity the way Barack’s team did, it can have incredible payoffs.

For more on social networking in Obama’s campaign, see our previous post “Politicians Get Social.”

Invisible Value

As marketers we are service providers. As service providers it has been often said that the best service is “invisible,” that the client sees the results and gains the service, but doesn’t (and, perhaps, shouldn’t) see the effort involved.

Now, if this is true, when it comes to marketing, how can we continue to provide this high level of service and still ensure that the clients understand the value they are receiving?

Clients see the quality of work they get from a professional organization — especially one like ours that delivers extremely high quality creative — and they know they like it. The question I have to ask is, how to relay to them the effort, creativity, experience — the value–they are receiving?

Does a professional organization not point it out and assume that, eventually, they’ll “get it”?

Nay, say I, there must be a better way.

So, the question of the day is, how to bring to consciousness the “invisible value” of the creative process?

Politicians Get Social

As the social networking wave continues to grow, sites such as Facebook and Twitter are attracting more than just party-seeking college kids and chatty tweens.

In February 2007, a young political official wondered social networking might help him take on a battle for high leadership.

His hope was that social networking, with its unmatched communications and database capabilities, would help him overcome tremendous odds.

I guess Barack Obama was right.

Obama’s election campaign was record-breaking in more ways than one. Not only did he become the first African-American presidential nominee in U.S. history; he also rallied an unprecedented number of volunteers — over 8 million, and received a record amount in donations  around $750 million, finishing with over $100 million in the bank.

His campaign’s success may have been a direct result of his grass-roots campaign strategies – and a clever use of the internet and social networking, which provided a constant flow of communication between his team and voters. He was able to get in touch with the American people in a more direct, personal way.

My mom, an ardent Obama supporter and campaign volunteer, would receive emails from Obama and his wife, Michelle constantly throughout the election. Obviously, these were mass emails sent by his team, but they were addressed to my mother and “signed” by Obama. It was a small, personal touch that mattered.

When I last logged in to my Facebook account, there were over 500 Obama-based groups, including “Obama Democratic Club of Silicon Valley” (322 members), “Obama for President!!!” (40,997 members), and “One Million Strong for Barack” (978,826 members).

And after he was elected and inauguration planning began, Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) launched a campaign-style social networking web site, Screenshots

On the homepage, you can sign up for inauguration e-mail alerts; and then you’re automatically directed to get your friends to sign up too. And for mobile users, they created PICMobile, where you can text HISTORY to 56333 and get inaugural updates “wherever you are.”

The PIC even created an inaugural blog, which covered the inauguration plans and events; now it posts photos sent in by people who attended the inauguration.

And if you scroll down to the bottom of the sidebar, you’ll see an area called “Connect,” with links to YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr.

Yes, Tumblr was new to me, too!

Social networking will likely be a big part of Obama’s presidency, and I think people are ready to embrace a social president. At least I know I am; mental note: post my inauguration pics on the PIC blog and investigate Tumblr.

My Inauguration Trip: Thawing Out and Looking Back

It’s definitely good to be home. While I love almost everything about the East Coast, and hope to live there one day, I appreciate the 60 degree nights of California! 

But now that I’m home, and the inauguration buzz has diminished, I’m able to reflect on my trip. I still can’t believe that I was a ticketed guest to the inauguration of our country’s first Black president. And it was even more special because I was able to share the experience with one of my closest friends, Amanda, who I’ve known since pre-school.

Also, the fact that I’m a graduate of SJSU’s school of Journalism and won the tickets because of my writing was icing on the cake. 🙂

The first person I told after I won the tickets was my mother. To say she was thrilled/overjoyed/excited/ecstatic are understatements. She called everyone she knew to share the news. In the week before I left, she called me every night to ask had I packed yet. She requested up-to-the-minute text messages with updates about what I was doing, and where I was going. She was my guest to Congressman Honda’s reception ceremony for the ticket winners. She experienced the inauguration vicariously through me, which was fine with her because she hates the cold. 

And boy was it cold.

The trip, even before the inauguration, was amazing in so many ways. I’d never visited Amanda in North Carolina, so it was nice to have that opportunity. And making the four-hour drive with her to D.C. was an adventure of its own. We saw Alice Walker, the “Refresh the World” Symposium, even just walking around Howard University (I almost went there) it was all wonderful and unplanned, which made it even better. 

The morning of the inauguration is its own memory: Waking up at 4am (having gone to bed only 2 hours earlier as we were too excited to sleep); pulling on layer, after layer, after layer … after layer of clothes to keep from freezing; rushing through the pitch-black city to the Metro, transferring trains and platforms with other inauguration-goers in a mad frenzy; fighting our way through the crowd UNRULY MOB in the Metro station, hands linked tight so we wouldn’t lose each other; running to the Silver Gate entrance (I admit that I was disappointed that we were so far away, as some other ticket winners from the contest were much closer); and finally waiting, along with thousands of others, the momentum and spirit (and size!) of the crowds building as each hour passed.

7.5 hours after waking up and 3.5 hours after getting to our viewing spot, the festivities finally began. I was relieved for many reasons, but mainly because it was the climax of weeks of waiting for this trip, months of Obama and countless other Americans campaigning for his election, and decades of civil rights tension and fights for equality in the African-American community; and also because my toes were cold numb frozen and I was in PAIN. (They took a day and a half to heal!)

The inauguration of Barack Obama was incredible, both historically and for me personally. I know how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to go and be a part of it. Watching him take the oath of office was such a proud moment, for me, my family, and everyone around us huddled together … it was the culmination of everything our country — and the African-American community (my community) — has worked for. We all cheered when we caught a glimpse of Barack Obama on the viewing screen at the ceremony, but during his speech, all 2 million of us were silent. It reminded me of election night, when a much older, African-American woman standing next to me proclaimed, “this is our new Dr. King.”

Looking back, I was right in thinking that the trip would go by too quickly … but I will keep these memories with me forever. And one day, when I have children, I will share these memories with them. Because I was one of a few who were able to go to D.C. and I was one of few who had tickets. And I would not trade the experience for anything in the world.

Inauguration Day Recap!

Here are some pics from inauguration day!

Inauguration Day

5am: On the Metro to the inauguration

Inside the Federal Center Metro station

5:30am: Inside the Federal Center Metro station

Inauguration Day

6:30am: In line at the silver gate entrance

Inauguration Day

It was so early, the sun hadn’t come up yet!

Inauguration Day

The sun finally came up … you can see the crowd below the Capitol building growing.

Inauguration Day

It was SO cold. My feet froze by 6:30am!

Inauguration Day

Standing on the Reflecting Pool after the inauguration ceremony.


INAUGURATION DAY: My best friend Amanda and I had planned to wake up around 5am and head to the National Mall; but at 4am that morning, the news was reporting that Metro trains were already packed. So we got out of the door as quickly as possible! 

It wasn’t crowded really until we got off the train at Federal Center. I have NEVER seen that many people in one station! There was a line snaking across the platform just to get up the escalator! 

Once we exited the station, it was an exodus to the Capitol building. We had to wait in line at the Silver Gate entrance for about an hour and a half — and it was FREEZING!!!

Around 8am, we made our way to the standing area of our section. We were right at the edge of the Reflecting Pool. While we could see the Capitol building very clearly and the crowds below, we were too far to get good pics of Obama and other officials. Still, we were closer than most. The general public crowd extended past the Washington monument!

Once the ceremony was over, people started to cross the Reflecting Pool! It was frozen over, but it wasn’t THAT cold…so everyone was afraid it might break. But at that point, the crowd started to surge towards the Pool! And we surged with it. Suddenly, we’re on the ice, crossing over to the other side! It was SO fun (definitely a trip highlight) and we both got our pics in front of the Capitol … until the ice started to crack. Then it was a mad dash to the other side. Once my feet were on solid ground, I almost died laughing!

Getting home, however, was no laughing matter. The crowds that flooded the National Mall were now flooding the Metro stations. All of them. We didn’t get back to Kim’s house for a few hours, and I immediately went to sleep. LOL. 

We drove back to North Carolina that night, and I spent today recuperating. I head back to California tomorrow. It’ll be good to be home — and out of the cold!

What A Day!

WOW. That’s all I can say. The inauguration ceremony was absolutely amazing. And the crowd…there were so many people of every age and race; it was quite a sight.

I have some great pics and stories, but I’m recuperating at the moment and need to sleep desperately. And we’re driving back to N.C. right now.

But I will say this: I’m leaving with some amazing memories. And some seriously aching feet. 🙂

The Inauguration Cometh…Slowly

We’re at our viewing spot–unfortunately, we can’t view anything! It is so crowded!!! We are close enough that I got some good pics of the Capitol building but not close enough that we’ll be able to see Obama.

We’re here not necessarily to have the best view, but to have the best experience. And memories are definitely being made.

We’re Here At The Silver Gate!

It’s 6am ET and we’re at the gate to the Silver Standing section. The gates don’t open until 8 so we’re gonna be here for a while, lol.

It’s super packed — we’re one big mass of people — an ever-so-slowly-moving mass of people. 🙂

More later!

A Closer Look At The “Refresh The World” Symposium

As an African-American, this inauguration is especially momentous. The fact we are swearing-in our country’s first Black president; I can’t tell you how much this means to all of my relatives, friends, and the Black community as a whole.

Some have compared Barack Obama to Dr. King — some have equaled his election to our Presidency as a culmination of civil rights movement. A testament to equality among Blacks and Whites. Others proclaim that we still have a long way to go.

So today, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, my friend Amanda and I went to the “Refresh the World” Symposium. Held in the Cramton Auditorium at Howard University, the Symposium addressed issues ranging from the economy to Black America and more.

There were five sessions held throughout the day: “Refresh Education,” “Refresh the Economy,” “Refresh Gender,” with Arianna Huffington, “Refresh Hip-Hop,” with Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy) and Queen Latifah, and “Refresh Black America.”

We watched “Refresh Black America,” moderated by Roland Martin with Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Cornel West, and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Here are photos from this amazing event. At one point, I even went up to the stage to take pics and made direct eye contact with Cornel West and Al Sharpton. WOW. That’s all I can say. LOL.

Amanda and I on our way to the Symposium

Amanda and I heading down into the Metro, on our way to the Symposium




At the “Refresh the World” Symposium

MLK Day and Activities Around Town

Well, today was a busy day! First, we went to see Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) at a small restaurant/bar/lounge called Busboys and Poets in downtown. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get in (the place was PACKED!!!!) but I did get some good photos of her through the window.

Alice Walker

Then we went to find commemorative Obama Metro cards — but they were sold out everywhere!

Finally, we headed to Howard University, where influential black leaders (like Cornell West, Jesse Jackson, and the Rev. Al Sharpton) were having a debate. Called “Refresh the World,” they discussed political, social, and racial issues facing Black Americans. It was so inspiring!

Now we’re grabbing some food — it is super crowded. The streets are filled with ppl, some here for the inauguration, some selling Obama gear, and others just hanging out.

Packed streets

I am blogging all of this from my iPhone so pictures will follow soon!

Thanks for reading!