Since the beginning of the year an interesting online etiquette issue has arisen on Twitter: the use of automatic direct messages (private messages for those unfamiliar with the popular micro-blogging service).

Tweetdeck in action while using Twitter -- From 365 Days: 63/365 (February 1, 2009) by doctoriousBasically, a person on Twitter signs up for a third party service — SocialToo and Tweetlater are the top two that come to mind. These services automatically send a scripted message to people who follow them.

Once activated, these service send out messages created by the user ranging from the banal (“thanks for following me”) to badgering (“click my junk”).

The general consensus is that using automatic direct messages is bad form. Since social media is all about being, well, social, using an automated script to say the same thing to everyone  is disingenuous at best and downright rude at best — especially if all you are doing is promoting a product or service.

Twitter heavyweights Chris Brogan and Loic Lemeur have expressed concern about this issue. Even The Busy Brain discouraged the practice (and you better listen to your brain, no matter how busy it is!).

Long story short: don’t auto DM.

I’ve received several dozen automatic direct messages. For the most part I’ve found them to be bothersome, but also humorous. I deleted most of them and almost immediately unfollowed the person sending the message.

I wasn’t terribly bothered by the posts, but their use communicated to me that the person I elected to follow was not willing to make the personal investment in social media I feel must occur. In some cases, where there was a less “salesy” pitch it was clear the person was sending out the auto messages in a misguided effort to be polite.

If nothing else, the sheer “infomercial” nature of some of them made me wonder how truly effective any of them could possibly be.  My three favorite automatic direct messages (of those I saved) include:

“You totally ROCK. Since you’re following me I’ll be sure to check out your profile. What made you follow me?”

“Thanks Mathew for following. Here’s your gift. Get 1 Million Double-Opted In, Daily Verified Leads For F*R*E*E !!Come get it before they close this free offer ! [Link to website]

“Thanks for following me doctorious. Need a FREE Twitter Background/Theme? [link to website] We also do custom themes.”

Fortunately, a “hero” arose in the midst of this madness: the Twitter account “@optmeout.” However, the relief offered by this account only turnzs off automatic direct messages from people using “Tweetlater.” But something is better than nothing, right? Here is how the process works:

  1. Go to @optmeout on Twitter and Follow it.
  2. Receive a DM from @optmeout indicating it has followed you back.
  3. Send a DM back to @optmeout.
  4. Unfollow @optmeout.
  5. Rejoice!

After completing this process I realized there must be many “awesomely bad” auto DMs out there. Therefore, I invite you to post in the comments box below as many automatic direct messages you received or of which you have become aware. My goal is to amass a centralized list of automatic direct messages.

In closing, embracing the spirit if the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, I hereby say to you: Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled Auto DM’s yearning to breathe free!

If you consider that gravity is a natural force which causes two separate particles to accelerate towards each other then the inaugural “Gravity Summit,” which was held on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at the UCLA Faculty Center, was perfectly named.

Attracting a sold-out crowd of senior executives and decision makers from over 60 Fortune 500 companies and small businesses — more than 120 social media leaders and learners in all — the event gave attendees a forum through which they could share knowledge in person. It also gave attendees an opportunity to create new online connections following the event using the Gravity Summit network on Ning.

Gravity Summit seminars are designed to educate, inform and empower marketing professionals, small business owners, advertisers, and c-Level executives about social media.  Matthew Gilbert and Rodney Rumford at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009

This unique educational event was launched by Rodney Rumford (author, consultant and CEO of Gravitational Media) and Beverly Macy (the managing partner of Y & M Partners and a UCLA Extension instructor specializing in social media classes).

“The goal of Gravity Summit is to help bridge the gap between the new social media marketing tools and the business community, “ Rumford explained. “And we continue to educate and share information with our Gravity Summit alumni through an exclusive online social network community where they can continue sharing and building on the relationships that formed at the event with trusted peers and industry thought leaders.”

Beverly Macy and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009This was the first of several similar events to come that will take place on other college campuses nationwide. At each event individuals representing top brands are invited to speak based on industry expertise and their potential to provide unique insights into their social media marketing strategies.

Speakers at the UCLA event included:

  • Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media
  • Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners
  • David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)
  • Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint
  • Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive
  • Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo
  • Ricardo Bueno, Blog Director, Real Estate Tomato
  • Renée Barrett, Principal of Awareness, Action, Accountability
  • Karl Kasca, CEO, Kasca & Associates

Of those listed above,  PowerPoint presentations are available online from the following individuals (via SlideShare):

Beverly Macy, Managing Partner, Y & M Partners

Rodney Rumford, CEO, Gravitational Media

David Reis, CEO, DEI Worldwide and Founding Member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association)

Justin Goldsborough, Social Media Manager, Sprint

Ann Glenn, Senior Web Producer, Sony Pictures Imageworks Interactive

Tony Adam, SEO Manager, Yahoo

365 Days: 87/365 (February 25, 2009) [Matthew Gilbert and Justin Goldsborough at UCLA Gravity Summit]The event presented a tremendous opportunity for attendees to learn with and from each other.

I actually tweeted a good portion of the event live as it happened while sitting alongside Justin Goldsboroughfrom Sprint who was doing the same (as were several other attendees — all using the official Twitter hashtag: #gravsum).

This generated complimentary online discourse while the presenters simultaneously shared their information in person. Warren Sukernek of Radian6 engaged me at one point and I also connected with Carol A. Stevenson, a public relations professional and fellow Santa Clarita, CA resident who introduced herself to me from across the room!

By all accounts, the inaugural Gravity Summit was considered a great success — especially by co-founder Beverly Macy.

“We were able to build a brand in 60 days,” she noted. “We started planning the Gravity Summit event in late December 2008 and after the event we were quoted in the Wall Street Journal online. That’s the power of social media and specifically Twitter.  We ‘tweeted’ our way to the Wall Street Journal.”

Ricardo Bueno and Matthew Gilbert at UCLA Gravity Summit on February 25, 2009The next Gravity Summit will be held on May 5, 2009 at Stanford University and another is in the works for Harvard University in the fall.

Notably, the Stanford event was originally planned for June but it was moved ahead one month due to significant demand.

“At the conclusion of the UCLA event, we realized the overwhelming need for social media marketing thought leadership in the business community, so we moved the date up by one month,” Macy added.

Importantly, registration for the Stanford event is extremely limited: less that 100 registrations will be accepted. However, a new option for this session is live online participation!

For more information and to register for Gravity Summit Stanford go to http://gravitysummitstanford.eventbrite.com. And, for additional information about Gravity Summit in general, please read the following articles:

In closing, I feel quite fortunate to have attended this event. Although I had to leave early at 3 p.m. to teach a class at DeVry University in Bakersfield (a three hour adventure), the learning from this experience continues online and in the personal relationships that I created.

I also want to personally thank both Rodney and Beverly for making special accomodations so I could participate despite some significant personal limitations. I am definitely looking forward to future Gravity Summit events!

Last week, I received an e-mail from Kelly Sonora on behalf of Online Degree World with the following message:

We just posted an article, “Top 100 Edu Tweeters” (http://www.onlinedegreeworld.com/blog/2009/top-100-edu-tweeters/). I thought I’d bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting.  I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list.

Prior to receiving this e-mail, I had never heard of this list or received an inquiry from anyone producing it. So, without question, my being on it came as a total surprise.  I replied to the e-mail I received, asking Ms. Sonora how she found my Twitter account and chose to include it on the list, but I have not yet heard back.

UC Santa Barbara: 1109 North HallNevertheless, despite the mysterious nature of this recognition, I am honored to receive the distinction.

According to my colleague Bill Sodeman, PhD — with whom I became friendly on Twitter —  his inclusion on the list is a noteworthy event at Hawaii Pacific University where he is an associate professor.

The list itself, which was written/compiled by Courtney Phillips, counts me as one of 29 educators. I am number 84 overall in what appears to be a randomly organized list. In other words, I am not ranked 84 out of 100, but rather I am listed in the 84th position on a list of the 100 top people or organizations using Twitter who are involved in education.

When you review the list you will note that I am in good company. Other educators on the list include the following notable folks:

Universities and educational institutions include:

Publishers, Libraries & Librarians include:

Resources and support for educators and academia include:

All things considered, this was a pleasant surprise and an honor I am proud to have earned. Thank you, Online Degree World, for recognizing my efforts to share knowledge about education on Twitter!

Carl's Jr. Happy StarOn Saturday, January 31, 2009 Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc. (Carl’s Jr.), visited my UC Santa Barbara Extension “buying behavior” class.

She discussed the popular restaurant’s marketing strategy and, in particular, how the company uses social media in its outreach efforts.

Her two-hour presentation was exceptionally interesting and provided my students with tremendous insight into how a large corporation is embracing social media.

What you might find equally interesting is the process by which Beth wound up speaking to my class in the first place. A chronology of the events that transpired is provided below — note the pivotal role Twitter played in all of this (short version: without Twitter none of this would have happened).

It all began with a burger!

On December 20, 2008 iJustine tweeted that she was going to eat a cheeseburger (one of her more “insightful” posts!). I replied with a tweet in which I asked her what her favorite burger was — and included Carl’s Jr in the list of options (one of my more “insightful” posts).

Although iJustine never replied to me, Carl’s Jr. began following me almost immediately. This was ironic because I had no idea Carl’s Jr. was on Twitter and just three days earlier, on December 17, I had experienced a mild issue at a Carl’s Jr. near my house about which I intended to blog.

A week later, on December 24, I did just that and posted a sensational blog post about a negative Carl’s Jr. experience.  Then, to test the power of Twitter and the responsiveness of Carl’s Jr. on December 31, 2008, I tweeted about my aforementioned blog post, hoping to get a reply from the company.

A day later — New Year’s Day 2009 — I received a reply tweet from Carl’s Jr. along with a direct message (a private communication) from Carl’s Jr. explaining crisscut fries are always more expensive than regular fries, but, as a gesture of good faith, the company would send me some coupons.

At this point I still had no idea who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account.

Amazingly, the next day, January 2, 2009, I saw a tweet from noted technology writer Shel Israel promoting an interview he conducted with Beth Mansfield, the Public Relations Manager of Carl’s Jr.!

After reading Shel’s interview with Beth, I found my way to her personal Twitter account. I then realized she lived in Ventura, CA (which is just a few miles south of Santa Barbara).

I was surprised because I thought Carl’s Jr. was headquartered in Irvine, CA and assumed Beth would living in that area (in retrospect, I was thinking about Taco Bell which has its headquarters there).

This was really the “tipping point” because, prior to it, I did not know that it was Beth who was behind the Carl’s Jr. Twitter account and that she was so close to UCSB.

Realizing a potential opportunity, I sent Beth a direct message  to clarify if she was indeed in Ventura. She replied, indicating that Carl’s Jr. was based out of Carpinteria, CA.  It was at that point I invited her to speak at my class.  I did not know what to expect, but was relieved when Beth was immediately agreeable to the idea.

We went back and forth via direct messages on Twitter to determine the best date and everything. We confirmed the plans once more via e-mail, and then it all came together on January 31, 2009 — slightly more than one month after iJustine‘s tweet put this entire chain of events into motion.

If you’re interested in what Beth had to say (seven previously posted YouTube clips of her presentation were removed per a request from UCSB Extension), her PowerPoint presentation is available online at SlideShare:

Special thanks to Beth Mansfield for spending time on a Saturday to share some of Carl’s Jr.’s social media marketing secrets — and for Twitter, Shel Israel and iJustine (Justine EzarikJustine Ezarik) for helping to make this all happen.

Sometimes inspiration comes from strange places.

Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA

On March 9, 2009, two tweets from @DianeHessan caught my eye:

Ben Zander is the Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, a teacher, popular TED Talk presenter, and author of “The Art of Possibility,” an inspirational book he wrote with his wife,  Rosamund Zander, a family therapist and executive coach. The book presents 12 “practices” by which you can reframe your present situation to better achieve your goals. Basically, “The Art of Possibility” is about learning to take charge of your life instead of letting your life take charge of you.

Prior to seeing @DianeHessan‘s tweets I was thinking about my life and the challenges with which I had been dealing. The first practice, “It’s All Invented,” was particularly poignant for me, both for my personal situation and the larger economic situation. While there are still many unresolved issues with which I am dealing, reviewing the practices feels like a sensible way to make sense of a very nonsensical world.

I originally wrote the following summaries of the 12 practices on October 23, 2006 in EDOL 740, Personal Leadership, helmed by the always inspiring Robert C. Paull, PhD in the Pepperdine University EdD program in organizational leadership. I likewise hope you find some inspiration in my thoughts:

Practice One – It’s All Invented: Life is what I make it – because everything is about attitude. Although some events are beyond my control, the way I respond to them is within my grasp. This practice encourages me to realize that a scenario is just as likely to be positive as it is to be negative and, since being positive is healthier, why not look for the good?

Practice Two – Stepping into a Universe of Possibility: It is easy to live in a word of measurement in which everything is finite. However, beyond this world of limitations is a universe of limitless possibility. While recognizing the occasional necessity for measurement, I must endeavor to live in the universe of possibility as often as possible.

Practice Three – Giving an A: When I worry about being graded or judged on something, I focus more on only doing what it takes to ensure a good score. This mentality prevents me from learning and throws me into the world of measurement. While getting an “A” honors the potential in people, it doesn’t remove responsibility. It is a possibility to live into, rather than a standard to live up to. It also rests heavily in the concept of forgiveness.

Practice Four – Being a Contribution: A contribution is a gift of my insights, intellect and intention to other people or their gifts of the same to me. Becoming a contribution requires constantly contributing to the lives of those around you. However, being a contribution doesn’t mean I should shy from confrontation as that might be my necessary contribution.

Practice Five – Leading from any Chair: Where I am in an organization doesn’t limit or entitle me: I am more than my position, I am my possibility. As a leader I should listen to those who usually follow and invite them to share their ideas and implement their initiatives.

Practice Six – Rule Number 6: Life is a about learning, love and laughter. Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff! Through this practice I must learn to lighten up my calculating self and avoid the downward spiral of inadequacy, blame, resentment and frustration. By doing so, my central self – the generative, prolific and creative nature in the world and myself – can shine through like a light of hopeful possibility.

Practice Seven – The Way Things Are: I must be present to the way things are, both around me and within me. However, I cannot allow my expectations and assumptions about how things “should be” cloud my awareness of their existence in the present tense. Once I accept things the way they are, I can open myself up to my possibility and seek out solutions.

Practice Eight – Giving Way to Passion: Energy is the essence of life and passion is the conduit through which I can experience it. Being passionate requires realizing barriers are all invented and I must boldly engage my universe of possibility to realize the power of life.

Practice Nine – Lighting a Spark: If I want to enroll others in my vision I must energize people to follow me as a leader by igniting a spark of possibility within them. The key to lighting a spark is physical presence: being with a person and sharing in their energy is the only way I can demonstrate your commitment to them and ensure they become committed to me. I might also find that they light a spark in me as well, making the relationship reciprocal.

Practice Ten – Being the Board: I am the board on which the game of my life is being played and I can control the rules by which everything happens. So, when I start feeling like I am a victim and bad things in life are happening “to me” I need to stop and realize that things in life are happening “because of me.” In the event that things literally happen beyond my control, I must take responsibility for how I act and avoid “shoulds” and “oughts.”

Practice Eleven – Creating Frameworks for Possibilities: I must endeavor to live in a universe of possibilities by creating frameworks in which doing so can happen and the energy of possibility overcomes the downward spiral. Visions that speak to that which is fundamental to humanity enable dreams to make a difference. A vision can become a framework for possibility when it articulates a possibility, fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind, makes no reference to morality or ethics, is stated as a picture for all time no metrics, points to neither a rosier future or a past in need of improvement, is a long line of possibility radiating outward, and just speaking it transforms the person saying it.

Practice Twelve – Telling the WE Story: Life is not about “us” against “them” but about “WE,” the togetherness created by the union of a shared melody running through the hearts of all the people on earth. WE is about inclusion and cohesion – about finding what we have in common and working from that rather than looking for ways to separate us as different from one another. WE is the embodiment of symphonia – the sounding of all voices together, in unison as one living, breathing entity.

I hope you find as much inpiration and guidance in these practices as I have. I know that reconnecting with them has already begun to help me think more clearly. Happy birthday, Ben!