Industry Commentary, Agency Initiatives and Inspiration

How to Censor Your Social Media and Still Thrive at Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Online Marketing, Social Action, Social Media Aug 15, 2015 No Comments

Twitter, Facebook and Social Change

Recently we’ve shared some posts focused on how inventive marketers are using social media channels as a method to effect social change and generate awareness for cause-related efforts. Examples of these uses of Twitter and Facebook are numerous, read CreativeBurn posts How Twitter and Tats Will Change the World and Nikki Reed and MTV Want You to “Give-A-___” (some people don’t like us using the “S” word…).

But with the ongoing UK riots continuing, the discussion of how to control social media channels during times of civil unrest has once again been raised again; this time in Parliament. Which causes us to ponder the results of censorship activities in our social communities.

To Blackout Twitter or Not to Blackout?

English Prime Minister David Cameron recently raised the generally uncomfortable specter of censorship when he suggested that social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and mobile messaging systems could be faced with restrictions or blackouts during times of civil unrest when it has been determined that demonstrators were using such channels to communicate and organize. A few weeks ago, here in Chicago, it was reported that mobs of teenagers were allegedly using Twitter and other instant messaging apps to organize and coordinate en masse attacks on random citizens at high-visibility, high-traffic locations like the Michigan Avenue shipping district and the Chicago lakefront, the latter causing police to forcible close several Chicago beaches.

Social Commentary vs. the Common Good

The topic of censorship is that forever-cliched “slippery slope” to most in Western society where any talk of restricting individual rights is generally met with opposition. But where do we draw the line between the use of social media channels and potential censorship of our online communities? Is there a place where the so-called “common good” takes precedence over the passions of change seekers? Do we want to nurture communities while restricting the free exchange of negative ideas?

Is it Time to Censor Social Media?

While it’s not our intention to discuss politics, this idea of online community censorship is something worth talking about. As creative brand chaperones, social media gurus and community managers, our agency is keenly aware of the issues surrounding word-of-mouth marketing. And as such, we think it’s necessary to address the topic of censoring social media channels, while defining what this means when it comes to subjects of law, the general order of things, our society and our online communities.

Community Management is Not for the Weak of Heart

The concept of moderating communities isn’t a new one to anyone interacting with customers via either open social media channels or private online consumer communities. The potential for consumers to openly post unrestricted, unmoderated, unobstructed feedback strikes fear in even the most capable community manager. Grey Matter has worked on many social initiatives directly for our own clients as well as those of our strategic partners. And the decision whether or not to moderate — generally considered a “politically-correct” term for censorship — comes up often.

The threat of having potentially negative feedback posted by community members for all the world to see, is often a tough pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with social media. When discussing topics of negative feedback, we’ve seen the color drain from the faces of jittery clients and trained marketing professionals alike. Our professional counsel has always been to focus on the primary goal of the community. What is the true intent of your social media marketing initiatives? This should always be to champion open, honest and genuine interaction with members wherever you find them.

Censorship is Never Good Practice, Much Less Best Practice

There’s nothing that sinks the heart of a brand manager more quickly than reading a scathing review on Yelp or a brand-killing report of a customer service experience gone wrong on Google Places. No matter the situation you find yourself in, the most successful approach is to tackle the negativity head-on, in an open forum and resolve the issue to the best of your ability. As a general rule, we never encourage the censoring of member posts.

Negative reviews, less-than-positive commentary or other potentially damaging feedback should be viewed as an opportunity to change opinions about your brand. When members see you’re involved, that you engage unflattering issues directly and are actually working on real solutions, your respect level increases exponentially.

Negativity will happen. But never ever ignore this feedback or remove these posts, even if you have the ability to do so. There’s nothing worse than having an unflattering post languish unanswered; this is your opportunity to effect your own version of change. Even worse than that is having members read a negative post one day, then have it been silently “disappeared” the next. Don’t run your communities like a banana republic dictator. Such activities will kill your efforts faster than ice melting on pavement in Tucson in July.

Establish Rules of Engagement

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. Some include your taking action on personal attacks aimed at community members, or the use of highly inappropriate language, or the posting of patently objectionable or illegal material. A good rule of thumb in these instances is to ensure you handle these situations appropriately, while adequately explaining your actions to remove offensive materials or squash personal attacks. The more open you are with your members, and the more honesty you share, the more they will ultimately respect you.

Best practice to effectively manage a private community is to develop and post rules governing acceptable behavior. And outline the results or penalties for breaking the rules. Most people welcome these guidelines, and will likely help you police inappropriate activity. Everyone wants a safe, drama-free environment in which gather. It’s your role as community manager to give them the tools to do so.

If the Goal for Your Community is to Fail, then Go Ahead and Censor Member Feedback. You Won’t be Around to Have the Problem for Very Long

Long story short. For any brand seeking committed open, honest and genuine communication, negative feedback should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a deal breaker. While negative comments will happen, this is your chance to resolve any issues. Your community will see that you’re as invested in them as they are in you. Embrace the unflattering. And never ever ever ever censor your members.

So, to answer the question: How can you censor your social media channels and thrive at your word of mouth marketing efforts? You can’t. And you won’t. Choosing this plan will seal your fate, sooner than you ever expected.

Extreme Air – The Art of Flight (Metal)

Advertising, Creativity, Things That Inspire Us Aug 01, 2015 No Comments

Go Big or Go Home and Do It Full Screen

There’s not much we can really say about this fantastic piece of extreme cinematography.
Nothing short of extreme. Extremely talented. Extremely athletic. Extremely beautiful. Extremely good.
Sit back, relax and enjoy. We recommend Full Screen and Full Volume.

A Crash Course in Social Media that’s Both Fast and Free!

Online Marketing, Social Media Aug 01, 2015 3 Comments

Figuring it All Out

Feel like the “Love Train” of Social Media has left you at the station?
Did the “Magic Bus” pass you by on the Information Superhighway?
Is Social Media just too much “Mystery Machine” for you to figure out?

Well, as you might expect, the Interwebs ain’t Al Gore’s Internet anymore. But, here’s a crash course on what you should be doing to understand Social Media Marketing today.

Beware the “Experts”

There are lots of agencies, organizations, “gurus,” “experts” and more that offer Social Media classes for a fee. Some are better than others. And, you can probably get the basics from these sources, if you want to part with some money. However, we’d recommend you turning first to the Internet where you can get the same info for free. Only invest in pay-for resources once you’ve decided the direction you want to take your brand.

1. Graduate from Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University

While not exactly for those seeking immediate gratification, the Hubspot Inbound Marketing courses will take some investment — time. Sixteen hours of courses that provide the fundamentals of Social Media marketing and a basic understanding of all you need to get started. The course includes classes on social media, SEO, landing pages, design, and a whole lot more. Best of all, a degree from Hubspot University is 100% Free!

2. Read the Best Social Media Blogs

Take some time and poke around the old standbys like Mashable, Social Media Examiner and Techcrunch. (We like them so much they’re in our Blogroll over there on the right. —>) There’s going to be a lot of content on each of these blogs that may make some newbie heads swim. But if you can keep from drowning in info overload, let the more heady stuff wash over you’re more familiar with what you’re doing. Just keep digging. You’ll find loads of invaluable information that will get you on your way.

3. Watch All the YouTube Videos You Can

Yep. That’s right. Just sit back, relax and watch some videos. YouTube is a great source for commentary and opinion on what you should be doing. Again, watch out for the “experts.” There are lot of ‘em on YouTube. Use the social power of the site itself and stick with the highest rated videos. And you’ll be well on your way.

How to Monitor Your Social Media Campaigns in 30 Minutes or Less

Social Media Jul 15, 2015 1 Comment

A Little Time Takes You a Long Way

Social media monitoring as part of your marketing mix has never been more important. And it’s not going away. The sooner you realize your brand needs to be in this arena, the better off you’re going to be.

As with all your marketing efforts, you’ll first need a plan. Carve out as little as 30 minutes a day to accomplish social media tasks.

Here are our recommendations to make your social media monitoring quick and painless.

1. Determine Where Your Brand Should Be

There are lots of networks, some more appropriate for your business than others. Once you choose where you need to be, make sure you set up your profiles consistently. Include consistent branding, links to your company website and a short, general overview of your product or service.

2. Engage, Engage, Engage

Your brand needs to remain active on all your networks. This includes providing news updates, responding to questions or concerns about your company and your industry in general, offering feedback, giving praise for positive comments, and immediately handling anything negative that you find. Never let a negative comment go unanswered.

3. Monitor Both Your Brand and Your Competition

You need to know what your competitors are doing and what their customers are saying. This is your chance to capitalize on negative comments lodged against your competition. But do so in a human way. Social media followers respect open, honest communication. Brand-speak is generally frowned upon. Just be yourself while being true to your brand.

4. Twenty Minutes is All it Takes

Break up monitoring of your four primary networks into 5-minute segments each day. Facebook and Twitter will likely be on your list. Take 5 minutes to scan your Facebook wall, providing thoughtful comment and feedback. Take another 5 minutes to review and respond to pertinent Tweets about you and your competitors. Then split the remaining 10 minutes between your next most important networks. Monitoring your online presence can be done in as little as 20 minutes a day. But do this every day of the week.

5. Ten Minutes More Keeps You on Top

For our clients with limited internal resources and small budgets who choose to handle social media monitoring internally, we recommend spending an additional 10 minutes to review RSS feeds and pertinent blog posts. Staying on top of how you’re being talked about online is critical to your brand’s social game.

Choose Your Partners Carefully

For those brands needing more direction, there are hundreds of groups, including Grey Matter, that provide additional strategy and complete community management. When selecting an external vendor to manage your brand socially, make sure you find one that truly understands your brand. There’s nothing worse than paying an agency to run your social game into the ground.

Artspiration: Paper – Sounds Boring, But It Ain’t

Creativity, Graphic Design, Things That Inspire Us Sep 06, 2014 2 Comments

Thousands of Uses…Here’s a Few More

Paper is a part of everyday life, and not just for graphic designers or wedding planners. We all use paper — to pay for things, to write memos, to express our love — but paper has become mundane, even vilified.

With the advent of the internet and email, the idea was born that print is dead and that paper is wasteful. Just look at the poor state of newspaper industry, or think about service providers urging you to go green by going paperless. And yes, I do recycle and I’m signed up for eBilling too.

But I hardly think paper is commonplace. As part of a graphic design agency, I’ve noticed we have fewer and fewer opportunities to produce printed work. And, on those rare occasions when we do, clients resist choosing special paper stocks. Well, that’s not entirely true. If their business runs on an enviro-friendly platform, they will consider specialty papers, but only those bearing that golden mark, “100% PCW.”

As interest in paper wanes there are several artists breathing new life into this ancient technology. Check out these 3 incredible artists who make paper anything but boring.


Yulia Brodskaya

Yulia Brodskaya‘s innovative, self-titled art or “papergraphic” was featured on the July 2011 cover of HOW Magazine. Papergraphic is a process of rolling, twisting and shaping many thin strips of paper to create intricate illustrations. Each “illustration” can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to complete. See more of Yulia’s work.

Nokia Ad

Nokia Ad by Yulia Brodskaya


London by Yulia Brodskaya


HOW Design Magazine Cover, July 2011, by Yulia Brodskaya


Jeff Nishinaka

A graduate of the prestigious Art Center College of Design, Jeff Nishinaka boasts an impressive commercial portfolio that includes work for Bloomingdale’s, Coca Cola and Paramount Pictures, to name just a few. For Jeff, paper is a “living, breathing thing that has a life of its own.” Check out more of Jeff’s work.

ANA Tokyo Hotel, 5th Anniversary

An Installation at the ANA Tokyo Hotel - 5th Anniversary, by Jeff Nishinaka

Bloomingdale’s Advertisement

Advertisement for Bloomingdale's, by Jeff Nishinaka

Permanent Installation at the Children’s Museum of the East End
Bridgehampton, NY

Permanent Installation at the Children’s Museum of the East End (Bridgehampton, NY), by Jeff Nishinaka


Won Park

An origami master, it’s no wonder that Won Park credits M.C. Escher as his favorite artist. Bending, folding and shaping money (his paper of choice), Won Park achieves incredible detail in each of his original pieces. No site of his own, but Google his name, and you’ll see examples of his work all over the internet.


Koi by Won Park


Scorpion by Won Park

Formula One Race Car

Formula One Race Car, by Won Park