DAVID PERRY – On the “Dos & Don’ts of Social Media” – What is the etiquette of Facebook in 2010?

What is the etiquette of Facebook in 2010?

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

David Perry’s world is all about open communications. For more than 22 years, the San Francisco based team of David Perry and Associates has enjoyed a solid reputation as a full service strategic communications, marketing, public and media relations firm. For over 25 years, Perry has created dialogue for hundreds of clients and projects. David is a frequent lecturer on the subject of technology and the changing face of communications and regularly speaks on the ethics of public relations. David Perry is also a good friend. I am happy to have interviewed a number of his clients for SanFranciscoSentinel.com and to have been a guest on his local Comcast TV show, Ten Percent. On Thursday, January 21st, David and his associates will present the second of their New Media Made Easy seminars – “Dos & Don’ts of Social Media”. The event will take place at the Zeum, located at Yerba Buena Gardens. Just prior to our interview, I was feeling the fatigue of an overload of e-mail – some of which included message alerts from Facebook.

David: That is what the whole seminar is about. We started offering these trainings which we have marketed called, “New Media Made Easy”, because that’s what everyone wants to know – how to do this easily. 2008 was when people started understanding the difference between a library book and Facebook, or a YouTube and an inner tube. In 2009, people said, “Well, I don’t know if I want to use this or not.” By the end of the year, people are saying, “I guess the waves of progress are not going to stop beating against my computer screen. I have to understand how to use this.” So, last year we started this series of trainings to help people navigate these seas of new media. It is confusing. It is a lot. Over 70,000 new YouTubes are uploaded everyday. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users. If it were a country, it would be bigger than Brazil. These technologies are not going away. Last year when people said, “Who cares if Aston Kutcher and Demi Moore are sending me a Tweet about having a latte in Santa Monica?” The answer is: I don’t care. But, a million people said they did. Aston Kutcher beat out CNN in a highly publicized “contest”.

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David: New Media is like any new technology. When TV first came out, the content wasn’t super. It took a while to get to the Golden Age of Television. The same thing happened with radio. When phones came about in the late 19th Century, it took many years before 25% of the US population had a phone in their house. Facebook has been around for less than five years. Now almost 25% of US citizens have a Facebook account. These trainings are to let people know – you can use it; it’s not something that only your grandkids understand how to use; and, specifically for artists and small business people, that you can grow your business and use it to market what you sell.

Seán: It’s a great idea and I’m certainly hooked into it myself. I am a part of it and I try to keep up with it during whatever time I may have to spare. But, unlike what I perceive with some folks, Facebook does not consume my life.

David: And it shouldn’t. In one of the sessions, Andres Acosta – who is our Social Media Associate – is teaching, “Facebook In 15 Minutes-A-Day”. If you are spending more than 15 minutes on Facebook – especially if your job isn’t in PR like mine – it’s probably too much. Because you can get sucked into it. And you suddenly feel, “Oh, I should understand this better!”. I tell my all clients and friends to take a break. My job is to understand the technology. My husband (Alfredo Casuso) is a videographer and Internet strategist, so I live and breathe it 24/7 almost. And even I can’t keep up with it.

David: A lot of what I teach is how to access new technology, with good old fashion manners, and communication skills.

Seán: Tell me about the speaker line-up for the workshop.

David: The first part you get to hear me speak about what’s happening with Bay Area media as far as TV, radio, print – how the landscape has changed locally, nationally, internationally during 2009. Then I’m moderating a panel that includes Joe Brown who is flying in from Las Vegas just for the day. Joe was the Public Relations Director of the San Francisco Chronicle, many will remember him when he was the Editor of the Datebook. Joe has always been one of those people who embrace new media right away as a news story. He is the first person I knew who bought an Apple screen and used YouTube TV. We also have Jonathan Luskin who is the founder of Flying Moose Pictures which is one of the longest and most established professional video production teams in San Francisco. They have clients that have included the City of San Francisco, the Convention Visitors Bureau, and a lot of theatre groups in town. I’m asking them to talk about how video production has changed in the last few years. Their clients used to ask them to do video that they hoped would wind up on TV. Now their clients want them to do video that will wind up on YouTube. Also joining us for the seminar is the smartest PR person in town, Anne Wintroub. She was the Communications Director at KQED. She has graciously agreed to come down during the lunch break and give a keynote on her perceptions of changing trends and demographics in communications and journalism.

Seán: What will your presentation be about?

David: I’m going to talk about manners. My friend Anthony Turney recently joked that he thinks a lot of people have friends on Facebook because they can’t spell ‘acquaintance’. I think there’s some truth to that. Having ‘a friend’ on Facebook – what does that mean? I have almost 800 friends on Facebook. They are people with whom I have had a real live flesh and blood relationship with. Some of them are family members, colleagues, people I know face-to-face, that I’ve actually shaken their hand or sat down to a meal with. It’s going to be different with everyone. The reason I put that out there is because those friends are basically my viewership. If I were a network, these are my viewers. And each of those viewers has their own Facebook page. I think it’s important that when you approach social media, approach it in a way that reflects your personality. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing for some people – including politicians – who have tens of thousands of friends, because that is a certain use of social media. For me, Facebook is my core list. This is my universe of people that I know. When I ask people to be my friend, I send a personal note. I think that as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, people appreciate that.

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The view in Athens.

Seán: That sounds good to me. When I get requests from people I don’t know I always wonder how they found me and what my connection to them is about. Then there’s the time I spend processing abut why I should or should not respond and the frustration that goes along with it.

David: That’s absolutely correct! People ask me, “If I ignore someone are they going to be upset? Is that rude?” Personally, I think it’s rude to ask some who doesn’t know you to be your friend. I was raised in Richmond, Virginia where we sent handwritten Thank You notes – thank you very much. I say that, not to be silly, but to say that from a strategic communications point of view – what is it about? It’s about communicating your message. The first part of that is: who do you want to ingest your message? Nowadays, when we get 50 to 100 e-mails a day, it all becomes “white noise”. It becomes more and more important to break through the clutter. I think a great way to do that is to be personal again, to take the time to put a real face to a message. That’s why I think Facebook is very-well named. It’s a high technology, but one that allows people to show who they are personally. That is a good human trait and, frankly, a good business strategy.

Seán: I’ve always felt that handwritten notes – and the fine pen and stationery that goes with it – are the best way to go.

David: What I see more and more are people using technology as the message. Technology, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not the message. They are the medium. The message still has to be made in good old-fashion story-telling, facts, and personal communication.

Seán: You mentioned the 15-minute factor. I’m lucky if I can get away with 15 minutes. Between the e-mail I get that someone has sent me a message on Facebook, then going to Facebook and finding out what these messages are – some days it can be really time consuming and exhausting.

David: You raise a good point. One of the things we’re going to be talking about in the afternoon session with Andres Acosta on “Facebook In Fifteen Minutes A Day” and then James Teiser who will be talking on privacy and etiquette issues with social media is how to make those 15 minutes work for you. You can set Facebook so that everytime somebody sends you a message, you don’t get an e-mail about it. It reminds me of a column that Miss Manners wrote in the Washington Post about 25 years ago when high technology was an answering machine. Remember those? Someone wrote her saying that Miss Manners would not like answering machines. She wrote back, saying, “Answering machines are the Twentieth Century butler.” People would stop by – maybe you weren’t home or maybe you were and just didn’t have time or the energy to see anyone. There was the butler with the silver tray. You would leave a calling card on it. That’s what answering machines are. Just because someone calls does not mean you are ready to take the call. They leave a message.

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Alfredo and David

David: I think Facebook is the Twenty-first Century butler. Just because someone posts something on Facebook does not mean you have to or need to respond. That’s what I mean about teaching Old Fashion Communication Skills. Especially people in urban areas who want to stay up on the latest trends and feel that because someone has posted the latest score on “Mafia Wars” or the latest video on the Prop 8 trial – that they have to look at it and comment on it. No! It’s like a butler. They put their information on the tray and you have the choice to act on it. I’m a legally married Gay man in the state of California, so I have an interest in the Prop 8 trial. Today I received at least eight postings on the trial. I don’t think that because I may not respond to these postings that people will assume I’m rude. They let me know they’ve posted something. Having seen eight postings about one thing also lets me know that my friends think this is important. That’s interesting to me. Science has often said we only use ten percent of our brains. With the other ninety percent we can process a lot of information. What I’m saying is that we can process that information with good old fashion skills of politeness and understanding.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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