Tuesday, December 09, 2008


This mini-movie is great. It's a brilliantly conceived and executed example of integrated, viral marketing. And effective, I should note, as I share the link here so you can see what I'm talking about.

Beware the doghouse, my friends.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I love Facebook.

There, I said it.

I must admit – and I may be dating myself by doing so – but I just didn’t get the concept at first. What IS this Facebook thing, I wondered.

Is it a site for sharing pictures? Is it an online lounge for casual, if virtual, encounters? Is it a networking tool? I didn’t understand the mass appeal. Why had millions of people signed up to be a part of this community? And did I really want to add my face to this book?

On the advice of a good friend who always seems ahead of the curve on all things up-and-coming, I decided to create a profile. It was simple to do, and more importantly - FREE. I uploaded a photo and entered some basic data about myself, things like where I went to school, where I work, books I’ve read, shows I watch. You know, the kind of stuff you’d get out of the way on a first date.

When I was done I sat back and looked at my profile. So that’s it, eh? That’s me? I had no idea I was so, er...boring. But online profiles don’t lie.

Happily married. Creative Director at a marketing firm. Enjoys sushi and watches Dexter on Showtime. Does crossword puzzles and plays guitar in his spare time.

I clicked around a little bit, but didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing, or why I would even be doing it aside from wasting time. It’s safe to say, even in hindsight, there wasn’t much utility in Facebook for me the day I signed up, so I logged out and did not anticipate returning.

And then it happened.

About six months later I began receiving emails from the Facebook website letting me know that people I knew personally were now a part of the community. These people were requesting to be my “friend” and Facebook wanted me to verify that I knew them.

So I logged back in and started accepting my “friend” invitations, but only from the people I actually knew. A lot of people on Facebook will ask to become friends with anyone because they like running up their friend count, but those aren't really FRIENDS, are they?

I thought about it and decided I'm really not accepting applications for new friends at this time. I like the friends I already have. Most of them, anyhow. So over the course of the next few weeks I started collecting old friends and connecting them together in a patchwork quilt of acquaintances unique to me.

Suddenly my Facebook page wasn’t so boring anymore. It wasn't merely showing off the few things I elected to share about ME, it offered windows into the lives of people I knew from various stages of my life. I could click around and see what other people were up to, and they could check in on me. Suddenly I felt like I should be wearing pants more often.

By virtue of the site's “Status Bar” function, which users can update as often as they want, I could see what every other person in my network of friends was recently up to. Or, more correctly, I could see what they WANTED me to see they were up to. You update your own status bar, after all, and can write pretty much whatever comes to mind.

I began updating my status bar several times a day.

Terry is…dreaming of a white Christmas.

Terry is…so nudely awakened.

Terry is…taking an 8-year-old out of school to fly to Vegas.

Terry is…not wearing pants, as far as you know.

Terry is…stewing in a marinade of commuter metal on 290 (via the mobile application for the iPhone)

It wasn't long before people started commenting on my status, and I started commenting back. It was like we were having an actual conversation - without the awkwardness of trying to have a conversation with someone you haven't seen in years. Small talk is still talk.

That's when the site finally made sense to me. Its utility is in the connections you make with the people in your life. If you’re only connected to a couple of people, the site has less value to you than if you’re connected to 20, or 100. And the quality of the connections you keep on Facebook is entirely up to you. You could have 10 close friends, 100 acquaintances, or 1000 strangers in your network.

When I had first signed up, there were only a couple of people I knew personally to connect with. I felt like the first guy to own a fax machine. Fancy piece of equipment – but until someone else got one, it was just a monstrous chunk of wasted potential.

The more people I knew who joined Facebook, the more value it had to me. I began adding old co-workers, high school buddies, bandmates, college roommates, cousins, and a lot of current friends I wished I could see more often. I invited all of my close friends to join. I encouraged my wife to sign up. I even told my parents that the best way to keep tabs on their son was to get on Facebook.

"Ever wonder what your kids are up to?" I asked them. "I tell everyone what I'm doing 3 or 4 times every day." Some people have noted that they don't really need to know when I'm dropping the kids off at the pool, but I don't buy that for a second.


People come in and out of our lives. We graduate. We move. We get new jobs. We move again. We get married. We move again. We get new jobs again. And as we perform the cultural rituals of our time, starting and ending the many different chapters in our lives, the people in our lives come and go.

Rifle through an old photo album. Look at all the faces you haven't seen in years. Grade school. High school. College. Spring breaks. Summer vacations. First job. What are all of those people up to now? Facebook helps us keep these people in our lives – but only the people we choose to keep.

Today I use Facebook to let people know what I’m up to…and my friends keep me posted on the goings on in their lives. It’s almost like living in the same house with everyone you know, minus the smell.

Sometimes I stroll the hallways of my Facebook house to see who’s around. I’ll check out the latest picture posts on their bulletin boards, read about their most recent entanglements, and see what books or movies they’re recommending. When something strikes me, I leave a message for them – another function of the site I love.

Commentary. Or, Comment Terry.

Facebook is perfect for someone like me because I like people…but I’ve never been a phone guy. I’m just not a fan of the spontaneous “Hey, how ya been?” call. I don’t know why, really – I can be quite gregarious in person, at least after a few pints of the black stuff.

Phones, though, make me nervous. It really is a miracle I found someone to marry me given my aversion to the telephone. Facebook provides an opportunity to reach out and touch someone without the time commitment of an open-ended conversation. And that is an interesting point that bears some attention.

Think about Instant Messaging. Remember when that got hot? You could see who was online in your AOL or Yahoo Messenger tray and instantly engage unsuspecting friends in conversation. What fun!

Yeah – it was fun for a while, but the novelty soon faded as more and more people discovered the “invisible” function. People, it turned out, liked having the OPTION to engage other people, on their terms, but weren’t always open to being engaged. We liked being connected, but not available 24/7. And there was always that one person who wanted to chat chat chat every time they found you online.

You are now Invisible.

Facebook offers NSIM – Not-So-Instant Messaging. You can poke around, add comments, make requests, send messages, and have entire conversations online – but entirely on YOUR schedule. You’re not staring at a blinking cursor waiting for someone to “brb.” You don’t have to respond right away when someone posts a remark. There’s nothing intrusive about it.

You’re connected when it’s convenient for you.

The people I know use Facebook for different reasons. I use it as a creative outlet, giving my status lines a little extra thought, and offering comments that beg for response. I use it to burn a few minutes between meetings at work. I use it to say happy birthday. I use it to stay connected to old friends and new in a way I didn’t feel connected before.

My wife is probably right – I am probably on Facebook more than I need to be, and probably at the expense of other things I should - or, COULD - be doing. Shoveling the walk. Writing my next big article. Planning our next weekend getaway. I'm sure the novelty will fade at some point and she'll stop calling herself a Facebook widow. A little melodramatic perhaps, but I do appreciate good hyperbole.

Today I completely recognize the value in Facebook, and I highly recommend it. If you don’t have a profile yet, go create one at Facebook.com. It’s easy, and more importantly - FREE.

Upload a photo, enter some basic data about yourself, and start filling your Facebook house with the familiar faces of friends from the many different chapters of your life. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to drop the kids off at the pool.