Creating our own History

November 19, 2009

Are we blogging or are we creating our own social history?  When we learned about history it was from our grandparents or in history books, the library was the number one place to find all this information and for the more recent generations, Google was a great way to find some broad ideas on a topic.  Our grandchildren will know it all.  Every single detail because we have been writing it for them.  Historians who have come and gone and done extensive research to get even big details are rolling over in their graves. 

Our generation is allowing years of people to come to see what our interests are, our dreams, our pictures, and our individual taste in music.  We are engraving ourselves in the World Wide Web.  Twitter allows us to let a huge audience know what we are accomplishing that day, while Facebook allows us to keep in touch with people we may not have even met.  Our day to day interactions are being permanently recorded and formatted in easily organizable segments of information. 

 Historians in the future will have every detail, no need to leave anything up for question or giving them reason to guess.  Every single detail has the opportunity and in most cases is actually recorded in full detail.  Most of our friends know who we are with and what we did last night. 

Reality T.V. has become a real hit the past few years and why not, we all love to know what is going on in everyone else’s lives.  We want to know because of a mere interest but even to use it to compare our own lives.  It is so easy to interact with people now while they are doing things.  I can join a friend at a baseball game via Facebook or wish my cousin overseas a happy birthday via Skype. 

 Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are giving us the opportunity to make friends with people we may necessarily not have the opportunity to. We are also to keep in touch with our friends from college who moved two continents away.  We are able to learn about each other’s cultures and each other’s actions.  This gives us such a great opportunity to relate and understand one another.  History is starting to have a whole new meaning!

By Kate Ksielka.  Follow me on Twitter

Facebook: The Crimestopper Edition

November 13, 2009

In the last few years, Facebook has become an integral piece of our social fabric.  I remember being in high school, jealous of my friends who were already in college and eligible for membership to the then college-only network.  When I got my Facebook account, I instantly had a couple hundred new “friends” (the other freshman from my university were quick to start “friending” everyone in the class of 2009 and creating “09 is the best eva!” groups).  My mother was forced by her employer to create an account for business purposes.  My dad uses his to keep in touch with his aunts, uncles and cousins in Michigan.  Despite the ability to expand my social circle, I never found anything actually useful about Facebook (although I do check it quite frequently).  But now, Facebook has a new use – providing alibis and saving people from jail time.  Finally  – a legitimate excuse to use Facebook.

2 weeks ago, Facebook did much more than allow Rodney Bradford to keep in touch with his girlfriend.  Unbeknownst to him, it was also going to be a key factor in getting him out of jail.  After he was named as a suspect in a mugging, Rodney turned himself in – knowing that he hadn’t actually committed the crime and believing his name would immediately be cleared.  However, when the victim picked him out of a lineup, he spent 12 days in a New York jail.

Rodney’s alibi was that he was at his fathers house, and it was true.  However – once he was picked out of the lineup, the courts weren’t buying it. It wasn’t until Rodney’s father saw a message Rodney had posted to his girlfriend on Facebook, approximately 1 minute before the crime happened in another part of the city, that his name was cleared.  Using the timestamp provided in the Facebook post, and the location of the computer from which it was posted, authorities were able to determine that Rodney had, in fact, been at this father’s house in an entirely different part of the city 1 minute before the crime was committed.

Rodney’s home with his dad and stepmother now, cleared of any crimes.  And his family is probably thrilled with any time he decides to spend on Facebook.

Posted by Courtney || Follow me on Twitter

The Social Media Takeover – How Long Will the Empire Last?

November 2, 2009

In the past few months, popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter have been popping up everywhere – especially on your TV. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but in the past three weeks, I haven’t been able to go one show or broadcast that didn’t say something about Facebook or Twitter.

Popular shows such as “The Office” and “Accidentally on Purpose” are writing them into their story lines, newscasters are pitching their handles during every story, athletes are using them during competition, and the list goes on. The question is, will it cause a sensory overload for us “regular users” so much so that we step away for good because it has become too big?

Don’t laugh. It happened to MySpace. The site got so big that people began to walk away. Everything turned out alright for the company however as it focused in on its target market of musicians and is doing quite well. I wonder if the same type of phenomena will happen to other sites or are they here to stay for the long haul?

My guess is that they will continue to grow for a few years and then slowly start to dwindle, the way its predecessors have done over the years. I do believe Facebook and Twitter may have longer shelf lives, but I don’t think they are indestructible. Sooner or later another up-and-comer will develop a new platform that will have Tweeters jumping ship.

I don’t think the preface of social media is going to go anywhere however. Platforms and mediums will change, but the basic thought process behind it all will remain the same.

Posted by: Lauren

The Science of the #TwitPitch

October 30, 2009

There are those of us (not me) who are excellent artists – like those people on cop shows that can draw a perfect rendition of the face of someone they have never met based on a description given by someone who was standing 100 yards away (“he had a nose… hair, it might have been brown – or black – maybe dark blonde.  Glasses, I think – but definitely eyes”).   There are those that are great writers – Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Perez Hilton (ok – maybe not so much with Perez – but he’s funny… usually).  And now, there is a new breed of greatness developing.   Those who are social-media mavens.  They can use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to do ridiculously amazing things, whereas I can only use them for what they were initially designed for – a way to keep in touch with friends and family.  There are those among us who are making a huge impact on the world we live in with 140 characters and the click of a button… comparatively, by the end of this sentence it will have taken me 196 words to get to the main point of this blog – and so, without further ado – I bring to you… the #TWITPITCH!

Kind of.  But first – a history lesson.

About a year ago, a journalist named Stowe Boyd decided that he no longer wanted to be pitched stories through the traditional means of e-mail and phone calls.  He preferred the 140 character method of Twitter.  By being able to pitch an idea in 140 characters (or less!) a PR professional should, ideally, be able to convey their entire message quickly and concisely.  According to the article from PR Daily, at least 2  other journalists have picked up on the trend, and encourage PR professionals to pitch them only via Twitter.

Taking a different approach – many companies are now turning to social-media to promote their brands; many companies are posting YouTube demonstrations of their products, almost every company has a Facebook “fan” page ( apparently I am a “fan” of a lot of things – including some things that have no relevance to my life what-so-ever), and lots of companies are taking up residence in the Twitterverse (which I tried to link to a definition, but apparently it doesn’t have an official one).  By using Twitter, companies are essentially able to pitch their new products and announcements directly to consumers, rather than just to reporters and editors.

And now, some real life application.

I had already started writing this blog when I was assigned the task of creating “10-15” twitpitches for one of our clients.  This particular client has one of their products in use in a very public place,  the plan is to blast a couple tweets out to the Twitterverse saying basically “hey if you’re here, check it out!”.   Perfect, I thought.  I am already “researching” twitpitches –  I’ll use this for my blog!  I figured that the assignment couldn’t be too hard – a couple quick short announcements of a fact.  EASY! Orrr not.

Here is what I have found (… well, decided).

Coming up with 140 characters of information is hard.  140 characters of “Hey I bought new shoes” is simple – see, I just did it!  But actually getting a message across takes some skill.  It took me about an hour to come up with 8 very different, but still informative and (hopefully) attention-grabbing tweets all focused around the same thing.  When you’re limited to 140 characters and you have to use the same basic words at least once in each tweet (obviously I had to mention the product and location each time, so those took up at least 20 of my characters) being creative is tough.

In theory, the twitpitch is great.  In practice – it’s astounding.  It costs nothing and assuming you’ve got a lot of followers, which a lot of companies do, you’re able to get your message out to lots of people.  Efficiency is key, however.  Telling the Twitterverse you’ve got a new product is cool, but linking to it is essential – and those links take up characters.  Making sure people know where they can find a product is important, but don’t forget to include the hashtags (ex: “#caster” – hashtags make words easily searchable through twitter).  Being able to tweet your product in 140 characters or less and have it be memorable and informative is practically an art form.  Do not take twitpitching lightly.  If you’re doing a great job of it, and using it sparingly – they could prove to be invaluable to your company.  If you are just bombarding your followers with links and “buy this now!” types of messages, you may find that you’re “unfollowed” pretty quickly.

Just for reference, below is an example of how long a 140 character tweet it.

DogWiggles has just released their most innovative dog leash yet and its only $40.  Buy it now at and have a happy pup.

(The link is fake – I made up a webaddress [I think] to show a shortened Twitter link, which people tend to use, rather than lengthy URLs.)

Notice that I didn’t include any hashtags, and it isnt exactly interesting.  But it’s all I could come up with in 140 characters and a fake product/company.

Posted by Courtney | Follow me on Twitter

A Year of Twitter

October 8, 2009

It occured to me the other day that October 1, 2009 marked a year since I began using Twitter.  I went back to my very first tweet, which was of course hopeful and abstract.  A lot has changed since that first tweet, both my perception on the concept of social media and its value and my preconceived notion that 140 characters was simply a useless amount of information.

I remember the first staff meeting when I brought up the idea of making our blog more dynamic, switching platforms (we were using a terrible self-hosted platform through our web server company) and setting up some additional accounts on social media networks….like, you know, Twitter or something.

The reaction, needless to say, was less than enthusiastic.  My boss seemed somewhat convinced but a week later after she began tweeting, she came back to the table uncertain of its value.

I didn’t know much, I will admit, about social media at that point.  But I had a gut feeling it was going to be important, more important than we were treating it at that time.  I knew it was foolish of us as an agency to present ourselves as cutting edge if we didn’t understand the current influencers in the new media space.  There was still a good 3-4 months of complaining and general cynicism around the table and I say this not to pat myself on the back for being right (though, I was…ahem) but more to point out that there are still people who don’t believe in the value or power of Twitter and social media in general.

Going through my Twitter feed last night, I was able to view my life, mostly professional but some personal milestones, connections I made and general growth I experienced.

For me, Twitter has:

  • Greatly expanded my contacts in the green and sustainable industry
  • Connected me to some influential editors, writers and analysts in my clients’ markets
  • Showed me some really fantastic stories I might have otherwise overlooked
  • Taught me brevity can be powerful and at times completely enough
  • Given me an outlet
  • Helped to gain expanded readership on both our blogs (here and Green Life Smart Life)

The list could go on and on.  I can look back on Twitter and see the first time I successfully pitched an NBC producer, the connection I made with a green editor at the New York Times, my acceptance to a PhD program, my first solo press event at Microsoft, the 3 (or 4) trade shows I attended in the past year, my triumphs and failures, the points where I had to make a big decision (and subsequently drink a lot of wine) – it’s all there.  140 characters or less, my work and life laid out in a nice little timeline.  1,590 tweets and 831 followers later – it turns out it’s not the numbers necessarily or the popularity.

Social media creates real connections.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

first tweet

Posted by: Ashley – who can be found on Twitter at

Social Media Brings Elite Tweeters and Menu Change to R.I. Restaurant

August 19, 2009

Twitter served as a rallying cry at the Cheeky Monkey restaurant in Narragansett where a “Tweet-up” of Rhode Islanders was held to foster networking and choose the next addition to the appetizer menu. Users came from Westerly and Warren, Providence, Portsmouth and beyond to discuss social media and forge new relationships.

The Tweet-up hatched from several months of pro-bono social media work done by Caster Communications in support of the local restaurant. Only five minutes from our office, the Cheeky Monkey is a favorite dining spot because of the menu and atmosphere but also because the husband and wife ownership team (who were friends of Caster before this started) epitomize the challenges that small, independent businesses owners face. Using basic tools like a Facebook fan page, enewsletter and twitter account, the Cheeky Monkey uses social media in a variety of ways, including to:

  • Announce menu specials
  • Encourage fans to vote for the restaurant in local awards
  • Solicit feedback on advertising or sponsorships
  • Share recipes and culinary knowledge
  • Offer exclusive “Twitter-only” specials
  • Expand communications with other local small businesses

The backbone of the tweet-up were the three appetizers sampled and voted upon for inclusion on the restaurant’s menu. The three options were:  

Whole-wheat thin crust pizza with crispy pancetta, portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese and mozzarella topped with local baby arugala and drizzled with a balsamic glaze

Panko-crusted nori tuna roll     

Shrimp wrapped in phyllo dough with an herb-filled stuffing drizzled with a garlic aioli

After every crumb was devoured, the first option came out victorious securing its place as the first pizza dish to adorn Cheeky Monkey’s menu.

While Cheeky Monkey acted as the host, the event was truly a gathering of elite Rhode Island Twitter users. In a state the size of Houston, TX,  it’s easy to know a friend of a friend or figure out degrees of separation, especially when you’re conversing with Ocean Staters who are active in social media. Because it wasn’t a huge gathering, attendees had an opportunity to connect without  feeling like small fish in a big sea. Here are some interesting tweetbits I found out about some attendees:

@savorthethyme – Organizing a local bloggers event and working to get support of some prominent organic food vendors, she’s helping lead the R.I. Mom/Foodie movement and has a cool USB Flip camera that recorded some of the Cheeky action

@lilrhody – Putting together a panel of social media experts to discuss the benefits to small businesses in her hometown of Warren, RI, would also love a Cheeky-like restaurant to emerge in the East Bay

@GreggPerry – A major PR player in the Ocean State, he hosted a stellar Tweet-up at the beginning of the summer and also enjoyed his first Narragansett Beer in many moons with me. Call me jealous, he also knows Gene Valacenti. 

@AmyRoPhoto – Donated  her time and energy as a photographer to support a local Preservation Society event, she also enjoys adult conversation after a day of cajoling children into smiling

@davidsaraiva –  Offered fresh perspective on a client initiative I am dealing with. Also, if you’re a fan of Twitter management apps, remember the name Chatterbox

@JaneHCouto – Triathalete who goes for runs at 9p.m., deftly manages a slew of social media and still gets to bed at a decent hour

@JoeCascio – A sharp-witted content expert with a cheeky approach to social media, golf is often not far from his mind

I know I missed some folks so feel free to berate my absent-mindedness if you were ommitted. The first annual @CheekyRI  Tweet-up was a rousing success and we look forward to doing it again in the Fall when the menu needs tweaking again. Thank you to all who came out.

A special thanks goes to Stephanie and Jeff Cruff the co-owners who also act as head server and executive chef. It’s impossible to be more hands-on with a business than they are with the Cheeky Monkey restaurant.

Winners of two $25 gift certificates based on business card drop.

Winners of two $25 gift certificates based on business card drop.









Posted by: Nick B.


Journalistic Integrity Has Never Been More Important Than Now…

July 31, 2009

In the past year, Mommy Bloggers have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The group of micro-bloggers have proved to be an influential army that have halted media campaigns (just ask Motrin), has become the target of consumer PR campaigns worldwide, and most recently launched a Content Integrity Organization. Interesting.

While some bloggers (and, I’m not trying to single out the MBs) are intent are maintaining the same journalist integrity as the traditional breed of journos, some are standing by their right to snag free swag. See Ad Age’s recent article “Don’t Hate Mommy Bloggers for Their Swag”. It’s an interesting read that likens the group of bloggers to the long-standing practices of of lifestyle, women and parenting magazines and basically says, there’s nothing wrong with with accepting free product and endorsing them outright via social media outlets.

As a PR professional, I don’t entirely disagree as the practice has forever existed and will undoubtedly continue. However, a bloggers voice is not hidden in the pages of Vogue or Maxim, it IS your brand. Isn’t your voice, and its credibility, worth protecting? Regardless if your readership is audited or not, I think so.

Here at Caster, we and our client’s maintain a tried and true policy for review units. The majority of traditional journalists and gear/tech bloggers we send product to are extremely professional; signing loan agreements, reviewing and returning product, and slating the review for editorial coverage. They practice full disclosure to their readership by positioning the review as just that and identifying positives (and negatives, sometimes to our client’s dismay) of the product(s). Even though we sometimes have the opportunity to respond and work through snags, these writers maintain complete professional integrity which their readership, and we, value. While social media continues to govern the future of our respective professionals, I believe that journalist integrity will only become more important. In the absence of today’s publications (as we know them), consumers will look for credible resources through the weeds of the internet’s informational over-load. Your voice could be just that.

So, to mommy bloggers simply looking for an outlet to share their voice, I say go for the free swag and enjoy! To mommy bloggers who are vying to become a reputable, knowledgeable resource, whether it be for friends, manufacturers, marketing professionals, or other consumers, I would be a bit more cautious to avoid a stigma attached to your name.

Posted by: Katie | follow me on Twitter