14 Posts to Take You Into 2014

A year ago my colleague Aaron Strout did a nice wrap up of the most interesting/appealing posts of 2012 on this blog. As Aaron noted, reviewing which posts resonated over a period of time can be informative to better understanding the interests of customers/employees/followers. By collecting the top performers in one place, I’m hoping to provide you with some relevant content you may have missed during the year. Like last year, you’ll notice some themes here – rankings, how-to’s, and analytics-based posts, in particular, continue to resonate.

In 2013 we’ve seen a marked increase in the frequency and number of colleagues contributing to this blog, which is great. And, with 50+ posts having over 2,000 views each, we had to be more restrictive with this wrap up than in the past. As a result (and with a goal of keeping it to less than 15), this year’s list is ranked based on the number of post views – with a minimum of 3,600 views required to make the cut. Of course, there are a ton of other great posts and I encourage you to go back and read these from Bob Pearson, Jenn Gottlieb and Jim Weiss. (Selfish plug, you might also want to read my post-ASCO blog post.)

This year’s list brings us some familiar faces – like Chuck Hemann and Brian Reid as well as some new comers to Common Sense such as Michael Brito and Michael Westgate.

So here it goes – our top posts from 2013 to take you into the New Year:

And the number 1 post of the year – with over 35,000 views…

#SXSWPickUpLines by Aaron Strout (35,847 views!)

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and that you’re looking forward to more engaging content in 2014!  What do you think? Are there topics you’d like us to cover? Interviews you’d like to see?  If so, please let us know in the comments below.

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It has been an amazing five years riding the rocket ship here at W2O.  I’ve witnessed incredible growth, seen peers transform, and have learned so many wonderful new skills rooted in our integrated approach to communications. That’s all about to change for me… at least temporarily.

You see, tomorrow I will start a five week sabbatical.  It’s the first time I’ve ever taken a sabbatical.  In fact, it is the first time I’ve taken more than one week off at a time in over a decade.  Obviously this is very exciting – and an incredibly cool company perk.  As I’ve informed clients and contacts over the last few weeks, I’ve heard things like, “I thought they only did that in academia” and “I need one!”.  It is a special opportunity and this is a special place to work — in fact, Jim Weiss is coming up on his second sabbatical!

Along with all this excitement comes a bit of anxiety.


Why?  It isn’t that I can’t unplug and relax – although I do prefer to stay active versus, say, laying on the beach.  After some consideration, I think the answer may be most obvious when I look at my iPhone.

With the constant consumption of content – email/twitter/email/Facebook/email/repeat – I think I’m going to have a hard time adjusting my habits.  Sure, I will still use my phone and stay active online over the coming weeks, but the notion that I don’t have to – that there won’t be an email to reply to at 6:52am or a tweet to RT at 11:34pm is interesting if not daunting.  Having discussed this with Jim, Bob and a few others this week – and upon seeing this post via Greg Matthews, I’ve decided to temporarily remove twitter and (work) email from my phone just to avoid the temptation!

So as I reflect on the last five years and look ahead to the next, here’s my 5×5:

Five highlights from my first 5 years:

  1. Going to Van Halen with Jim during ASCO (bcc: Geoff Curtis)
  2. Crashing the all-staff Vegas off-site (while I was technically still a client)
  3. The day we acquired Common Sense Media
  4. Joining Jenn Gottlieb and team to launch Twist in 2011
  5. Partnering with Brian Reid and Greg Matthews (and others) to launch The Social Oncology Project at #ASCO13

Five things I’m going to do on sabbatical:

  1. Visit Yellowstone National Park and fly fish on Trout Lake
  2. Build a tree house
  3. Read actual books
  4. Help in the garden at Ambler Farm
  5. Start planning my next sabbatical

What would you do if you had 50,400 minutes of free time ahead of you?

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About two weeks ago we launched The Social Oncology Project.  As that project (and subsequent report) came to life, our focus was on uncovering insights by analyzing the numbers.

While we found the data interesting, we wanted to go a step further and include expert opinions because we think the stories of how social media gets used are a critical component to understanding where these tools are headed.  With that in mind, we headed to Chicago to speak with physicians, advocates and industry representatives about their use of social media.  Here’s a look at some of the things we learned:


  1. While some are more timid than others when it comes to social media, physicians are not afraid to get online.  Many recognize that it is a powerful tool for monitoring/tracking conversations and, in fact, a certain percentage is actively engaged in their field of expertise AND outside their field of expertise.
  2. One of the biggest barriers to physician use of social media appears to be time constraints/ competing priorities in their daily routine.
  3. If you’re interested in ASCO, there are definitely some ‘must follow’ people on twitter – and @MaverickNY and @adamfeuerstein  came up more than a few times.
  4. Social media is playing a significant – and still growing – role in patient education.  We heard about patient resources, educational videos, and group forums being shared online by The PAN Foundation,  Johns Hopkins , and Malecare, respectively.
  5. When it comes to social media, the pharmaceutical industry has made great strides over the last several years.  However, the lack of industry guidelines cannot continue to be an excuse from engaging with patients through channels they are active on.
  6. In the future, the use of social media within healthcare will become the norm. As platforms such as twitter become second nature, they won’t be considered time consuming and some believe social media will make its way into medical school curriculum.

For more information about ASCO 2013, check out these posts by colleague Brian Reid and friend Geoff Curtis.

You can view the full Social Oncology report, interviews and media coverage here:

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Tim Donovan, Senior Business Leader at MasterCard Worldwide. If you don’t know Tim, you should. If not for his intelligence, marketing savvy, and HILARIOUS sense of humor, then at least for his love of dogs. I caught up with Tim recently to cover a few thoughts on marketing. Have a read and, as always, comments are welcome.

Aside from Oreo and the Superbowl, what do you think were some of the more interesting brand/marketing developments in the first quarter of this year?

I’ve seen a few things that I found interesting. One is that I’ve seen more advertising featuring men in more of an “involved parent” – almost “Mr. Mom” – mode (making dinner, doing laundry, etc.). Typically, the father has been portrayed as an incompetent menace when it came to household chores (other than yard work) and now he’s shown making gourmet dinners, caring about how clean the laundry gets and so forth. Quite a change! I’ve also observed the increasing presence of same-sex couples in advertising. The Amazon Kindle was the most notable one where a man and woman are on lounge chairs talking about the glare on their tablets (or not) while both of their husbands get them a drink. You probably wouldn’t have seen that on mainstream TV media even a year ago.

I continue to be impressed by JC Penney’s advertising. A great campaign with a more modern Americana vibe, taking a page from the Target campaigns. Still, it doesn’t seem to have done much yet for their business. I think it’s going to take a lot more than just an ad campaign to change the perception people have of that brand. The “no discounts” strategy didn’t work and I think the jury’s still out on things the Levi’s Denim Bar are actually attracting buyers of Levi’s who will also shop around to buy some other items. JCP is trying to reinvent itself while distinguishing itself from peers like Target, Sears, Walmart, Macy’s etc. It’s not really any of those…so what is it? I’ll be curious to see how things shape up for that brand later this year.

How do you see B-to-B businesses leveraging social media for customer engagement?

One of the biggest trends I see in business-to-business social media is lead generation for sales. Through my LinkedIn profile alone, I receive tons of requests for meetings, product demos, etc. I’ve accepted some and also follow some of the blogs from these people just to see what’s out there. So, I guess you can say that blogs are also keeping me engaged.

What is your point of view on how agencies can best support clients in this era of analytics based social engagement and content marketing?

First, make sure they understand how your business works and how it makes money. If that’s clear then all of the ideas, regardless of the medium, should ladder up to how they contribute to the growth and health of the brand and its business. With social media, the key is to translate the strategies into how they support the business objectives. Help clients understand what a more engaged customer does for them. Provide examples of how deeper social engagement translates into stronger sales or greater brand affinity and preference. Is there really an ROI to social media and what is the best way to assess and measure its value? I don’t think anyone’s quite been able to quantify what “engagement” really means and that’s an essential piece of information to help determine how and why to keep investing in this space.

In the marketing discipline, what are three qualities you look for in new job candidates?

Be curious, be flexible and be resourceful. Curious people have a desire to learn new things that will help them figure out how to do their job (and other things) better. They have a desire to learn more than just what’s required and this means they can grow in other ways than what the current job requires. Flexibility is important because you want someone who can roll with the punches and not get too bent out of shape when somebody’s moved their cheese. Being flexible doesn’t mean be a pushover and don’t take a stand. It means being able to take in new information, figure out the next best course of action and still move forward without too much trouble. So many industries have periods of uncertainty and you want people who can deal with that and course correct when Plan A doesn’t work out. Resourceful people get things done. They are typically self-starters and don’t need a lot of hand-holding for each step of the project. They can usually size up the situation quickly and then they tap into the strong internal and external networks they’ve built to get what the information they need to get the job done. Having people like this on your team is a gift when you’re under pressure to deliver something quickly.

What advice would you give to someone entering your industry straight from college this summer?

Be a sponge, be hungry, be courteous and remember – not everyone gets a trophy at work. Read everything you can. Listen first and then ask tons of questions to make sure you understand. And then ask more questions to make sure you really understand. Be hungry about wanting to do more than is asked of you and make sure that whatever you do, no matter how trivial it seems, don’t assume it’s “beneath you”. At this stage of your career, it’s not. Have high standards and don’t accept “good enough”. Be respectful to your colleagues and give the more seasoned ones the courtesy of listening to some of their “sage advice”. You may know all about the latest and greatest technologies to do your job quicker and more easily, but many of your colleagues (and maybe even your boss) have a level of business wisdom that comes with experience. The trophy comment is meant to tell people that there is real competition in work. You won’t all get the same rating, bonus, opportunities, period. Work hard and be honest with yourself. If your work isn’t as good as someone else’s – it matters.

What resources do you turn to keep abreast of marketing news & trends?

I subscribe to a number of e-newsletters about my industry, I read blog posts on LinkedIn, I read Adweek and other magazines about marketing when I have the time. I basically read whatever I can, whenever I can. I always click on, and other news sites to see what’s happening in the financial markets to see if there are any news items that might be impacting my company or my company’s clients.

Courtesy plug time: Tell us about an organization, person, movement, etc. that is important to you and that you think more people should be aware of.

I just learned about, which is a group focused on helping all kids in school learn how to write code. It’s a cool site and organization, but I’m just at the early stages of learning about it. I would love for them to do it at my kids’ schools because I think it’s important for them to understand all the possibilities once they learn how to do more than just consume or use technology. I’d love for them to combine their imagination and technical skills to develop massively popular apps that will make me and my wife rich enough to retire early!

Ok, just for fun… borrowing from James Lipton: what profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?

Believe it or not, I would probably consider acting. I always thought it would be fun and a good test of your mental endurance in the face of such rejection. However, I was always too chicken to really take it on. I like to eat and was never too keen on being a “starving actor”. I would never want to be one of those guys washing windows on a skyscraper. I’m not really afraid of heights but I don’t have any desire to do that. From what I can tell, there’s really no safe, quick way down when you have an emergency or have to go to the bathroom.

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After numerous requests – and despite reading this and this – I (along with my wife) agreed to allow my son to get an Instagram account. It seems I’m not alone in my debate on this issue. I’ve heard from many friends and family members with children about the same age and, generally speaking, the feedback is that only about half of the parents of tweens asked allow their child to use Instagram. Others noted that kids under 13 (or even 15) aren’t ready for this and there are numerous stories about the improper and inappropriate content/use by some (read the posts on the links above).

I know what you’re thinking – that I should know better. You’re not necessarily wrong. After weighing the pros and cons, I felt that, with specific rules and close supervision, it would be better to allow him to try Instagram vs. ‘suffer’ the social consequences of not being able to connect with his friends and classmates in this way. Social skills and making/keeping friends is hard enough for a child with Asperger’s, so I felt it would be better to give it a try. Also, there was a time when he was interested in photography (he even won two awards in a local photography show), so maybe this is a way to reignite that interest.

All this being said, I think any parent should think long/hard about letting their tween use Instagram or other social media platforms. A few things we’re doing that you might want to consider:

  • Policy – in this case, a “rules of engagement” contract that my son will sign. Break the rules, lose the device.
  • Administration – The account will be set to private (Instagram’s default setting is that all your photos are public. Go here to learn how to change that to private.) In addition, the name, user ID and avatar will be determined/approved by my wife or me.
  • Community – Only “known” personal friends will be allowed as connections. No brands, celebrities or “trying to get 100 friends” allowed.
  • Monitoring – we will regularly monitor his activity on Instagram. Any violation = lose the device.
  • Trial – this is a trial, not “indefinite use allowed.” If successful, use can continue.

Finally, if you’re a parent facing the same dilemma, you should also be aware of Versagram and the notes app on your child’s iTouch/iPhone. Versagram is an app that allows you to create text messages with graphical backgrounds. It, along with the notes app, are being used by kids to send text messages via Instagram.

What are you doing to keep you (and your kids) safe online?

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Earlier this month, I came across a tweet about @Zamzee – a device that enables gamified fitness for kids.  Intrigued, I went to the site to check it out and learned that Zamzee is having some encouraging success getting children – even entire families – to be more active.  In fact, they’ve got data that shows that people using the device are nearly 60% more active.

Naturally, I think technology like this aligns well with the broader goal of addressing childhood obesity.  My immediate thought, however, was my son – who has Asperger’s — and  other children on the autism spectrum who dislike organized sports.  While he doesn’t face any challenges with his weight, he HATES “formal” exercise, mandatory physical activity and gym class.  (This is not to say he doesn’t like to bounce on trampolines or run around playgrounds for hours on end.) His love of video games is what made me think this approach to being active would be effective.

More than a pedometer

Zamzee is much more than a pedometer.  Not only does it measure your activity and the intensity of your activity, once you plug the device into your USB drive and go the site, you enter a gaming experience where you earn points, engage with the community, take challenges and earn “Zams” — a form of online currency – which can then be used to purchase items through the site!  I thought something like this would surely be appealing to my son, particularly since some of the items redeemable are versions of his favorite Wii game, Mario Kart.

Although he was skeptical, I reached out to Zamzee and got him a device.  Once he got onto the site, he took to it immediately, customizing his avatar and taking his first challenge within minutes.  In fact, I reminded him that a favorite TV show was about to start and he passed, saying he’d rather take the challenge and start earning points!

We’ve been using the device for about a week now and I’m hopeful his interest continues — it’s great to see him being more active.  Toward the end of the day, when he plugs his Zamzee in to upload his daily points, he inevitably goes for the next challenge for more points.  He’ll run in place, do jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs – as my wife says, if only we can figure out how to channel this into helping with housework (mopping and sweeping earn points, too)!

I’d really like to see if this is something that could help other children on the spectrum be more active.

What do you think?

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3D.1H.5K. – WCG, Edelman, and CommCore successfully partner at American Society of Oncology Annual Meeting to raise funds for
Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Sometimes, in the agency world, folks can cross the proverbial aisle to come together and really make a positive impact.

Earlier this month, WCG, Edelman, and CommCore joined together during the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference in Chicago to help further cancer research.   The partnership leveraged the reach of the “#ASCO12” hashtag and, for every tweet that included it, a donation – up to $5,000 – was to be made to Alex’s Lemonade Stand (, an organization dedicated to funding pediatric cancer patient/ caregiver support and research.

Amazingly, there were more than 10,000 tweets using that hashtag and, as such, we easily reached our goal and the full $5,000 donation has been made.

Why 3D.1H.5K?  The details:

3D: Started at 6pm on Friday, June 1 – coinciding with the unofficial ASCO12 tweet-up – we tracked tweets that include #ASCO12 for 72 hours, ending on Monday, June 4 at 6 pm.

1H: 1 Hashtag – #ASCO12

5k: Our goal, raise up to $5,000 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand

The brainchild of yours truly and Geoff Curtis (Edelman), the idea seemed like a no-brainer to Jerry Doyle (CommCore) when I presented it to him.  CommCore didn’t hesitate to join in.  Now, all we’re thinking is:  Let’s do it again.

This whole experience has been a terrific reminder of why we’re all in the healthcare business after all – to help communicate important information – very often related to cancer – with the hope of improving awareness and survival, finding a cure, and delivering hope to those who find themselves out of options.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was started by Alex Scott, who had been battling neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer.  At age four, she began with a small lemonade stand outside her Connecticut home in an effort to fund research to help other children suffering from cancer. Alex lost her battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 8, but her family and friends took up the cause and today, the foundation is a worldwide effort that has raised over a million dollars.

We are pleased with the generosity of our friends and colleagues and we hope to grow this effort in the future.  Are you in?  Any suggestions on how we can make an even bigger impact?

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I recently had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with Nick Johnson, Founder of Useful Social Media.  USM is doing some interesting stuff and I wanted to share some of Nick’s points here.  Enjoy, and feel free to comment below.  

Tell me a bit about how you got into social media and how Useful Social Media came together?

I’ve been working for our parent company, FC Business Intelligence, for about five years now. Before USM, I was working on responsible business and sustainability. A lot of the people working in that space have come from, or still work in, marketing and communications. From chatting with them and reading up on the area it became increasingly obvious that companies were desperate to learn more about how to leverage social.

I did a bit of research and found that there was nothing out there for big companies. All the conferences were populated by social media ‘gurus’ and service providers. Coming from the conference world, I know how valuable it is for companies to learn directly from peers in a very business-focused environment. So I started to work on putting together a conference that would deliver that. Things just grew from there.

What are some of the common mistakes you see companies making when it comes to social media? How can they be avoided?

There are a few big ones. The first is not thinking things through – if you don’t have a goal in mind, and KPIs to hit, social media will either a) be a waste of time or b) cause you some serious problems.

The latter leads on to my second point: not briefing staff on what social is or what the rules of engagement are. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard of big mistakes happening because an intern had been put in charge of social media and merrily posted something that was offensive, incorrect, or a mistake in some other way. You’ve got to train and engage staff.

My third point is the ‘head in the sand’ problem. There are a lot of companies out there desperately trying to avoid social. They have no presence on the main networks, and they forbid staff from engaging. They don’t seem to realize that the conversation is already happening without them. It’s too late to assume this is all going to go away in a few years. It’s not. Social media is just another communications and marketing channel now. If you don’t engage, you’ll have no ability to influence and change the debate about your brand that is going on right now.

We’re half way through 2011… Where are we in terms of social media trends expected at the beginning of the year?

The big trend I was expecting to see in 2011 was the increasing use of social media for customer service – and it seems that is happening. It’s coming up again and again at our general marketing conferences – so much so we have now put together a show specifically on the topic – .

It was to be expected – once a company has set up (and is actively using) a Twitter or Facebook profile, it is only a matter of time before consumers started to use this new communications channel to ask questions, highlight problems, and – more positively – share how much they love a brand. In a briefing we wrote recently, we found that 70% of companies expect to use social media for customer service by the end of the year. I’d imagine by the end of 2012 that figure’s only going to grow.

What do you make of the Four Square’s Amex partnership recently announced?

It’s interesting. As far as I can tell, the two companies are simply making it easier to take advantage of opportunities already existing by automating the discounting process. My view of location-based social media more generally is one of confusion. I can definitely see how powerful the technology is to share discounts and deals – but it seems that there aren’t many examples of either a) companies going further and integrating location in a more interesting way or b) companies having much expectation that their current location-based strategy will do anything other than create a short-lived peak in activity. There doesn’t seem to be much of a plan for getting customers coming back for repeat business once they’ve taken advantage of a deal.

What’s next for Useful Social Media?

A couple of things: A full roster of conferences in the second half of the year. There’s one repeat event – our Corporate Social Media Summit Europe, which focuses on marketing and comms, but will cover other areas as well. In addition, we’re pushing out four entirely new conferences: The B2B Corporate Social Media Summit will deliver b2b-specific best practice and case studies – from research we know how different b2b social media is to b2c, so figure this will be of use. There’s also a show on using social media for customer service as I mentioned above. We’ve also got two really interesting events on understanding social commerce and how marketers can leverage social to increase sales and boost ROI; and a show on how to use game dynamics for better marketing.  To keep updated on all our conferences, head to

Second, we’re releasing an in-depth, 60-page report focused on the biggest issue in this (social) space: measuring impact and ROI. It’s a new venture for us, but we’re sticking to the key advantages we feel our conferences have on the competition –i.e., a complete and total focus on how BUSINESS should be measuring this stuff (nothing from service providers, gurus, ninjas or other ridiculous job titles), and practical, in-depth knowledge from those people working on this stuff directly at big businesses. We’ve got case studies: Whole Foods, Kodak, AT & T, WWE, Sony, Siemens, Vodafone and many more. Should be interesting.

What social media tools do you find yourself using most often for business? What have you moved away from?

Well, LinkedIn is absolutely huge for us. It’s a great way to get in touch with practitioners at big businesses that we’d otherwise be disconnected from. Our LinkedIn Group is also doing pretty well and is a good place for companies to share best practice and knowledge when they’re not able to get to a show.

Twitter –@usefulsocial – is probably number one though – we use it to push out news and opinions, comment on big stories, and also live-tweet our conferences. Our recent New York event had about 700 people from around the world tweeting in questions, commenting on developments at the show and sharing key learnings. These are hugely valuable streams of information and we love seeing the conversations kick off and grow.

To be honest, we haven’t dropped any network yet. I suppose we had a Ning page which we don’t do much with any more, since our own homepage has developed so much. But there are areas we want to move in to. Our Facebook page is growing, but there’s an awful lot more we want to do there – ideally it will be a hub where we can share media, ask questions, and generate discussion with people that are interested. I’m also aware that we need to do more with location ourselves – we allow people to check in to shows and find out who else is in the room with them, but I’m sure there’s plenty more we could (and should) be doing.

Courtesy plug time – a brand, a person, or, more importantly, a charity you’d like to tell others about?

Wow – that’s nice of you! Well, in terms of things I’d like to plug, the impact report is something I’m really excited about. If people want to find out more about that, then please do head to

In terms of brands, I’d probably go with the WWE  – who have a first rate social media presence and are a far bigger company than I gave them credit for – a multimedia powerhouse! Corey Clayton is responsible for their social media work and is definitely worth a follow on Twitter. He’s a funny guy too!

Another person would be Richard Binhammer from Dell. He’s at the vanguard of this stuff and has been for years. And after spending time with him at our NYC show, I can also say he’s a lovely guy to boot!

Regarding charity, I suppose I should go with one who has had a particularly interesting social media story – the American Red Cross. I chaired a session with them at our San Francisco show on the 27th-28th June and found out an awful lot about not only their incredibly important work in disaster relief – but that the people working there are lovely, too! Considering what’s happening in the Arab world at the moment, I’m sure they and their colleagues at the Red Crescent deserve as much praise as it’s possible to give.

To borrow from James Lipton, what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Hmm – well, I was in a band for about five years and loved it – so I suppose I will have to go for rock star!

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     Now here’s a little story I got to tell…

     About three pharma brands I know so well…

     It started way back in Quarter 3 …

     There was X, Y, and oh, brand Z….

Ok, Beastie Boys aside, there are, of course, a lot of brands out there – including those of us branded Mark Bennett.  I’d like to think I’m unique, but I’ve come to realize I share the same name with a lot of other guys… heck, a Google search returns nearly 3.5 million results and I KNOW a lot of those results aren’t leading to me!

“So what?” you say. 

Well… say you are in charge of a brand – for kicks let’s say “Mark Bennett” is your brand – wouldn’t you want to ensure that your content shows up (hopefully at the top) in those 3.5 million results?   Wouldn’t you want to have your name secured on Twitter, Facebook, etc?

Well, that’s the point folks!

Locking up profiles across the social web is a key strategic consideration for brands/companies across most, if not all, industries.  Ideally, you put this into place before you announce your (product’s) brand name – even if you have no intention of ever using social media.  This goes for all social media channels, not just Facebook and Twitter.  If not, don’t be surprised if some (sketchy) other person/organization registers a profile on a social network using your brand name.  It’s important to note, too, that if this happens, some – but not all – social channels will work with you to secure a trademarked name.

Thankfully, there are some free and paid methods to prevent and, to some degree, correct this should you be a victim of social squatting.

So what are you doing to protect your brand?   Me… I decided to use a unique handle across platforms.  Let me know what you think below.  If you’d like to explore options to protect (or take back) your brand, drop me a line at

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