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.

I recently taught a buying behavior class for UC Santa Barbara Extension and one of the two books I had my students read was “Buyology” by Martin Lindstrom (the other was “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly” by David Meerman Scott).

This unique book reports the results of the world’s largest neuromarketing study ever conducted and this presentation highlights the main points discussed in the book — it’s both fascinating and disturbing.

Please review the PowerPoint presentation below (available via SlideShare). I trust you will find the information presented in the book to be quite compelling.

Happy “Twitterversary!” Yesterday, December 19, marked the end of my first month using Twitter (my username is @doctorious). I am no longer a newbie!

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging website that provides you with a simple (and free) means of answering the question “what are you doing?” — to a potentially unlimited network of friends and followers. You can make updates with your computer, mobile phone and via several other related methods.

Here is a very straightforward (and creative) video explaining what Twitter is and how it works:

I can’t recall exactly why I decided to sign up, but I was definitely influenced by discussions I had with my students about the ways by which Barack Obama leveraged the Internet in his successful presidential campaign. Notably, Obama used Twitter to publicize campaign events and to announce Joe Biden as his running mate.

Aside from my minimal knowledge about Obama’s use of Twitter, I really did not have much awareness about it until I signed up. Now, in one short month, I am a Twitaholic. The first step is admitting I have a problem, right?!

Although I haven’t used Twitter to announce anything as globally important as my Vice President, the service has quickly catapaulted to the top of my list of communication tools. By the time of my “twitterversary,” I accumulated roughly 250 “followers” and was “following” approximately the same number.  During my first month I posted roughly 900 “tweets” (updates) as well.

I have connected with an array of “tweeple” with an impressive degree of insight and intelligence. You might be surprised who you find on Twitter and the inordinate amount of information that is freely shared on the site. I recall how pivotal the service was during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Foregoing official reports, many people closely followed the unscripted updates from people who were in the midst of that shocking event.

With regard to the chances of your making a viable connection, to paraphrase  Rodney Rumford, social media services like Twitter have cut the “six degrees” concept in half to “three degrees.” I can attest to this as, for some reason, I am only separated from actor Kevin Bacon by “three degrees” on my LinkedIn profile and not the six for which the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is best known!

In particular I have really enjoyed getting to know the following individuals and encourage you to learn more about them — you might already know or have heard about some of these interesting people:

@adonyawong
@ariherzog
@autismfamily
@bakomom
@barb_g
@bertdecker
@beverlymacy
@caseywright
@chrisabraham
@chrisbrogan
@danicar
@donttrythis (Adam Savage of Mythbusters — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with Adam)
@drgilpin
@frankkenny
@guykawasaki (Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with Guy)
@jimconnolly
@jpapakalos
@kimdeanart
@mchammer (MC Hammer — see a transcript of a brief exchange I shared with MC Hammer)
@mollermarketing
@nlbelardes
@nwjerseyliz
@prprof_mv
@rumford
@scottmonty
@shawnwelch
@shelisrael
@totspot

So, stop on by Twitter and give it a try — you just might find yourself addicted like me!

A belated reminder that Autism Twitter Day is now underway on Twitter.com!

autism-twitter-dayThis unqiue online event is focused no raising “positive autism awareness.” Prizes are also being given out and virtual “panel discussions” have been scheduled for 9AM, 12:30 PM and 8 PM (Pacific Standard Time).

Who can participate? Twitter members who are members of the Autism community or anyone with a direct or indirect connection to Autism (parent, sibling,  relative, teacher, therapist, friend).

When posting a tweet, use the hashtag “#ASD.”  To follow the conversation, open a browser to www.summize.com and input #ASD.

Reply to any tweet of interest or relevance to you and add to the conversation! And, even if you don’t get there today, you can still search the hashtag and learn about Autism at any point in the future.

Aside from my personal interest in better understanding Autism, I am also drawn to the implications of it from a social media research perspective.  I am eager to see what I will learn from it and how it might further strengthen the role of social media in our daily lives.

For additional information, visit http://autismfamily.tumblr.com or head on over to Twitter – my username is @doctorious.  Tweet you there!

After twice trying to find a doctoral program that satisfied my intellectual curiosity while giving me the tools and credentials I need to become a university-level researcher and teacher, I’ve decided that the time is now for me to finally make it happen.

pic_phd_degreeTo anchor this desire to a tangible goal, I will give myself until Tuesday, December 1, 2009 to prepare and submit all of my applications to doctoral programs.

From this point forward I will refer to this date is my “PhD-Day.”

Why this date?

Simple: of all the doctoral programs that interest me, December 1, 2009 is the first application deadline for fall 2010 enrollment. This is the date on which I will finally take that “one giant leap” into my long awaited career in academia.

Although circumstances beyond my control were partially the reason behind my pulling away from my doctoral pursuits, I know now that I was also not clear enough about my goals. I just wanted a doctorate and did not give any meaningful consideration to the discipline in which it was anchored and how that would impact my future career options.

Previously I thought having a PhD qualified you to teach any subject, but I now realize that, with rare exceptions, the discipline in which you earn you PhD is the discipline in which you will concentrate your research and teaching.

Knowing the purpose of a PhD is to, as one of my colleagues comically suggests, know more about less, I must start with a question of “what” first, then determine “how.” I have therefore stopped first looking for a program (the “how”) that I will then try to make work with my interests (the “what”).

Instead I will take the opposite approach and first determine the topics I want to research and teach (the “what”) and then find a program that offered opportunities to study it (the “how”).

After evaluating what most interests me, I realized it had been staring me in the face the entire time: social media. I have previously mentioned my interest in this burgeoning topic in previous posts and in my list of research interests, so this is not breaking news by any means.

However, I have finally embraced the idea of studying it academically so I can understand it as a researcher and not just as a user.  Specifically, my research interest is to investigate the impact of social media on the creation and distribution of information.

What is social media?

I define social media as follows:

Social media includes information generated with and shared by individuals using various web-based tools including blogs, message boards, video sharing sites, wikis, chat, IM and similar technology.

I also feel it is related to concepts such as crowdsourcing and collective individualism.  Social media also touches on the idea of distributed computing, though in the case of social media the “nodes” are human and not computers.

In a more abstract interpretation, social media could also cross into the realm of artificial intelligence — especially as the tools we use to connect socially online continue to become more intuitive and personalized to each user.

The main use of social media is knowledge sharing among individuals for the greater good. However, it can also be leveraged (or exploited, depending on how you look at it) for commercial gain. Of course, marketing in this medium is not without its challenges and it certainly can’t be done in a traditional way (e.g. forced and artificial vs. the natural, organic feel of true social media).

Beyond products, people who participate in social media often market ideas or even products by the information they share (consider the metoric rise of Barack Obama who, despite your political persuasion, was impressively effective at using social media in his presidential campaign).

Social media can also be used as a training and development tool.  As a father to a child diagnosed with autism, I also wonder how social media might help my son learn social skills and share information in a virtual environment. As a parent, I have already been impressed by the power of social media to connect me with important information and individuals focused on autism.

I am also fascinated by the thought of using social media to enable many individuals to complete parts of a larger task (what first piqued my interest in this was when Steve Fossett went missing and there was an attempt to find him using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, even though that effort was not successful in finding him).

Clearly, social media can be both a communication tool and a marketing channel. I am interested in social media in both of its forms. It intrigues me that technology can so intensely enhance our human experience.

How will I study social media?

My investigation into current doctoral programs that include social media revealed it is relevant to several disciplines. Information Technology/Computer Science and Communication are the two I have most frequently found. Social media is also relevant to the disciplines of Psychology, Marketing and Sociology. Given the impact social media has had on the workplaces, Management is also a reasonable discipline in which to study it.

It makes sense that social media crosses into several disciplines — it is quite pervasive, but can also be investigated from many different angles. Perhaps what angles I want to study, or maybe how I want to study social media, will ultimately dictate the discipline within which I will investigate it further.

At the moment my assumption is that I will most likely be studying social media either within a Communication or Marketing program.

Where will I study social media?

Given my practitioner mindset and entrepreneurial orientation I would like to be able to teach in a business school. To do that I will need a PhD from an AACSB-accredited program.

However, given my background in communications and journalism I wonder if Communications would be a more suitable environment (especially since I am not as interested in traditional business subjects like finance and economics)?

I am still evaluating my options, but right now my top choices include the following (in alphabetical order):

  • Claremont: PhD in Management and Information Systems (Interfield)
  • Claremont: PhD in Management and Organizational Behavior (Interfield)
  • UCLA: PhD in Marketing (Anderson School of Management)
  • UCSB: PhD in Communication (Technology and Society Emphasis)
  • USC: PhD in Marketing (Marshall School of Business)
  • USC: PhD in Management (Marshall School of Business)
  • USC: PhD in Communication (Annenberg School for Communication)

Aside from the obvious criteria of being accepted into a program is the issue of funding. Having already borrowed my way through an MBA program, my goal with the PhD is to get the cost of the program covered while also earning additional income through fellowships and other related methods.

Why do I want to earn a PhD?

I have always wanted to understand why and how certain things work (or don’t work). Whether I am contrarian by nature or unquenchably inquisitive, I was never satisfied with a surface level answer about anything. My problem was, and remains, not having the proper “tools” with which to conduct proper inquiry.

I also fundamentally enjoy creating and sharing knowledge. Looking back to my years in journalism, I think the desire to craft a story and share it with readers is related to the same idea. Notably, I recently learned the first academic paper I wrote and presented was referenced in a book called “MBA in a Day” and an article I wrote about non-profit fundraising five years ago in Marketing News (the bi-weekly trade paper of the American Marketing Association) was cited in a recent academic paper.

I was energized knowing that something I wrote helped someone else create something of their own. I want to be an active part of this process. On a related note, my experiences at academic conferences were unquestionably positive and motivating. I relished those opportunities to exchange ideas and information with difference people, creating knowledge in the process. This is why I am so endeared to the concept of “generative learning,” which Peter Senge defines as learning that “enhances our capacity to create.”

My long term purpose in embarking on this undertaking is to secure a position at a university where I can engage in active research while still teaching. I have been adjuncting online and in person for roughly 18 months now and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been a very liberating and affirming time for me, especially when I continue to get positive reviews and comments from students. But I also want to be adding to the academic dialogue, not just guiding students to a basic understanding of what has already been produced.

Also, although I have no pressing desire to go back to the corporate world, I am open to partnering with industry on research and also potentially consulting on the side. I just really don’t want to have to worry about red staplers and TPS reports! Even when I was in industry I tended to approach things in a more intellectual way than most. I even had two managers with whom I had good relationships tell me I was definitely “an academic” and would do well in that world.

I am a thinker and a tinkerer, but not a hard-core corporate type. I enjoy discussing and debating a topic sometimes more than “doing” whatever that topic is related to. For example, I enjoy the concept of branding and understanding how people develop allegiance to a brand, but don’t necessarily want to go launch a branding campaign.

How will I stay focused on my goal?

Staying focused on achieving my goal of earning a PhD will be challenging, given the various personal and professional obstacles I will need to overcome to see it through. At the same time, I find myself thinking about a PhD with increasing frequency: it is something I must do, not just something I want to do.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of distractions. Ironically, during the past eight months, I have repeatedly encountered one kind of distraction while driving to and from my adjunct teaching job: a delivery truck with graffiti on the roll top door that reads “PhD.” I am sure this is some tagger’s initials, but for me it represents and reminds me of my dream: a PhD.

What makes it more significant to me is that I have seen it numerous times — driving north or south, in the morning or afternoon. Usually I encounter it on or near the Grapevine portion of Interstate 5. I am unsure where it is driving to or coming from, all I know is I have seen it numerous times — at least a half dozen.

Perhaps this truck is my albatross — or maybe its just coincidence? Maybe it was sent by the “PhDMV” to keep me on track?

Below are two photos I took of the truck on March 25, 2008 while heading home from DeVry (southbound on Interstate 5). Following the photos is a short video clip I filmed the morning of October 6, 2008 while heading north between the base of the Grapevine and the split between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 North (near Lebec, CA):

What are my next steps?

Now that I have defined and committed to this ambitious goal, how do I intend to achieve it? My next steps include the following:

  • Thoroughly research the PhD programs at the aforementioned schools.
  • Read “The Craft of Research” and write a specific research statement.
  • Begin reviewing the academic theories relevant to social media.
  • Speak with colleagues and mentors to understand my options.
  • Start writing my statement of purpose.
  • Explore grants and scholarships.

See you in a year on PhD-Day!


After reading an update from someone I am following on Twitter I signed up on “Help A Reporter Out (HARO),” a web-based service that connects journalists with the sources they require when writing a story using a social media platform.

According to the founder of the service — entrepreneur, author and speaker Peter Shankman— HARO already claims more than 36,000 members and has a growing number of national journalists using the service on a daily basis. The list was originally launched on Facebook, but because it limits group emails at 1,200 people it was expanded to its present incarnation.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each day, I will receive up to three emails from the service.
  • Each e-mail will have anywhere from 15-30 queries from reporters per email.
  • Every e-mail I receive will be labeled with [shankman.com] in the subject line.
  • If I see a question that I feel qualified to answer, I reply to the reporter asking it.
  • Voila: I am an expert (well, maybe not an expert, but perhaps I will get a quote or two).

That’s how I understand the system works, though I have not yet received an e-mail yet so I cannot speak with any real authority. However, the idea seems very clever and I am curious what the experience will be like. I will be sure to post an update as soon as there is something worth writing about.

Considering one area of my research interests is the impact of Web 2.0 technology on business, to strengthen my credibility in this emerging area, it seemed important to ensure I was involved with as many of the latest online tools and services possible. To that end, I:

  • Signed up for Digg (impressively, less than an hour after I did, my profile page appeared as the fourth result when I searched “doctorious” with Google).
  • Created an account with Twitter (where I already have a student of mine from DeVry as a stalker, I mean follower).
  • Continued adding videos to my YouTube account (though I wonder how interesting my videos are!).
  • Updated my LinkedIn profile and engaged members of one of the several groups to which I belong.
  • Resurrected my del.icio.us account and promise to contribute to it.
  • Reviewed my profile on Technorati and added a feed from this blog.
  • Became very active on Facebook, finding old friends and making new ones.

StumbleUpon has also caught my eye and am considering signing up for it. What other sites and services should I consider?

If you’ve ever been curious what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, don’t as Wikipedia!

According to a June 21, 2008 Scotsman article by Martyn McLaughlin the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC)contends that Wikipedia and similar online research sources were to blame for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates.

Excerpts of the original article follows:

Wikipedia and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and Internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.

The group singled out online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.

Eleanor Coner, the SPTC’s information officer, said: “Children are very IT-savvy, but they are rubbish at researching. The sad fact is most children these days use libraries for computers, not the books. We accept that as a sign of the times, but schools must teach pupils not to believe everything they read.

“It’s dangerous when the Internet is littered with opinion and inaccurate information which could be taken as fact.”

Alan Johnson, the UK Education Secretary, was lambasted earlier this year for suggesting the website could be a positive educational tool for children.

He described the Internet as “an incredible force for good in education”, singling out Wikipedia for praise.

A disclaimer on Wikipedia states “it is important to note that fledgling, or less well monitored, articles may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information.”

Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of Internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers. Its articles are mainly edited by a team of volunteers.

Wikipedia was really a trailblazer in the current trend of virtual communities of practice, an area of my academic research interests. However, I know full well that whatever I read might not be accurate.

I once heard it said that Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, but a bad place to end it. I feel that is an accurate assessment. I personally enjoy exploring Wikipedia and often find I end up on a page I never imagined I would find.

As an adjunct instructor, I go to great lengths to explain why Wikipedia is not an ideal source for research information — precisely for the reasons mentioned above.  I explain that they can begin their research at Wikipedia — as it is usually one of the top five pages to appear following a Google search — but I tell them to follow the links to the resources cited on the page itself.

However, I am admittedly a bit of a hypocrite as I frequently link to Wikipedia pages in this blog due to the ease with which pages relevant to my topics can be found. Without question, Wikipedia pages are a great clearinghouse of information — a true crossroads of knowledge — and for that reason alone the site is a useful tool.

But, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness — one that will forever exist so long as the site remains as it is now.

Carrot-TopI recently demonstrated how easy it is to change a page on Wikipedia to one of my English classes by changing the Wikipedia page for comedian Carrot Top to indicate that he had died unexpectedly on that date.

I was even able to change to biographical information in the box that appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the page.

In fairness to Wikipedia, one of their editors discovered the false entry and deleted it within seven minutes.

Still, seven minutes is plenty of time for someone researching comedians to have found the page and added a citation to their paper that Carrot Top had indeed died.

So I really can see both sides of this issue — though as an educator I make sure my students understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia. Just like the students mentioned in the Scotsman article, I am likely to conduct my research virtually instead of physically in a library.

It is hard to not do so with resources such as ProQuest making almost anything you need available at the click of a few keys.

The main issue is to teach students how to properly conduct research and to ensure they understand why certain sources are more credible that others. Sometimes this can be difficult to communicate, especially when it comes to controversial topics for which there might not be a great deal of mainstream research materials available.

Clearly technology offers education an immesurable advantage, but the key is to learn to control it without letting it control us.

One of my research interests is the metoric rise social networking services: LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, MySpace.com and others. Typical social network services use software to help users create on-line networks with people who share interests and activities  or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.

My particular curiosity is learning how entrepreneurs and small business owners use social networking services to effectively make contacts, share information and build business.

So it was particularly interesting to me when I stumbled across a great post on a blog called “The Thinking Stick” titled “Moving from Consumer to Producer of Information.” It focused on the rise of social networking sites and blogs as the primary means of entertainment, information gathering and knowledge production (primarily among 18 to 24 year olds).

The blog presents research conducted by MySpace and reported by Netimperative this past January as follows:

  • Social networks are now so integral to daily life, for some, they have surpassed the TV as the entertainment media of choice.
  • Nearly half of 18-24 year old social networkers (45%) told Future Laboratory researchers that if they had 15 minutes of spare time they would choose spend it on social networking sites rather than watching TV, reading, talking on their mobile, or playing video games.  
  • The impact of this trend is so significant that a quarter (25%) of respondents state that the rise in social networks has decreased the amount of traditional television they consume.

Clearly, social networking sites have evolved between simple socialization and are emerging as an entirely new cultural paradigm. In fact, they are now even becoming relevant to business.