Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why I'm Saying Goodbye Shorty


Dear Readers,

I've been nominated by various Followers on Twitter for the Shorty Awards in the "Brand" category. The Shorty Awards award those voted on by people on Twitter as the best short form communicators in their category. For those who don't know, Twitter is a social media platform that enables people and companies to communicate in 140 characters or less. I cannot say enough about how Twitter has enabled me to develop groundswell support for my company and gauge how my brand is affecting those around the country and the world. (Twitter has also enabled me to connect with my business heroes, advisors, Savvy Auntie Experts and much, much more. But more about that in another post.)

I didn't really pay too much attention to the Shorty Awards but appreciated all the nominations I was getting by my Followers on Twitter in the brand category. But things changed last week when I was notified by the people at the Shorty Awards that I was a finalist in the category and that there would be an awards ceremony in New York City on February 11 and..... and my ego kicked in.

All of a sudden I wanted to "win." Even though I am not sure I should win. After all, I think Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, should win if we're going to be legitimate about who is the best brand communicator on Twitter. But Twitter.com/zappos is not a finalist. Marvel is a finalist and so truly they should win. But they are not currently winning.

Over the last few days since the finalists were notified, Twitter.com/SavvyAuntie has been neck-and-neck with Twitter.com/MarthaVan. Heard of her? I hadn't. Her profile says she's the "Creator of Action Wipes. Gr8 after a ride, hike, climb, camping, Burning Man, Coachella and more. “Your face is not a baby’s butt. Don’t wipe it like one”." And I started to think that "Martha Van" isn't a brand. It's a person. "Action Wipes" are the brand. And so I started to ask people to vote for me because "Savvy Auntie" is a brand. I even sent Direct Messages (private Twitter messages) to Twitter friends asking them to vote for me.

And the whole time I felt like an idiot. After all, the winner, in my honest opinion, should be Zappos.

And then I really felt like an idiot when I received a note from the people at the Shorty Awards that the price for the awards ceremony would be $60 (free for me as a finalist). So if I did win this thing, I would have to then go back to the same people from whom I asked for a "vote" and ask them to shell out $60 to attend.

This has gotten way out of hand.

I am really honored (I am serious here) to have been nominated. When people nominate and the vote for you for the Shorty Awards, they have to say why they are voting. And frankly, I was so touched by so many of the things that people wrote about me and my brand.

And that's more than enough for me.

I am spending way too much energy exercising my ego in the Shorty Awards. Do I really need to win this to be proud of the fact that in six months Savvy Auntie has the recognition and buzz that it does? No. It's silly.

While it's not fair to pull of out the race because it wasn't my decision to be a finalist (it was the voters' democratic decision), I am no longer asking people to vote for me, checking my stats or frankly, caring. Those who have voted for me, I have thanked. If I haven't thanked you yet, it's coming. Because that's the "win" here. The win is having people who care enough to recognize me and my efforts...and a way for me to say thank you. The best shorty award vote came from someone I don't even know: "
smarkowski: @shortyawards I vote for @SavvyAuntie in the Shorty Awards Finals for #brand because she asks politely and sends thoughtful thank you notes."

Awards programs like these benefit the companies that initiate the awards programs more than the people who receive the awards. It's a profit making and/or traffic driving endeavor that plays on the egos of small (and large) businesses like mine. It's not a fair awards ranking program. It's a popularity contest and the nominee with the most energy to aggregate votes, wins. Basically, they aren't fair in a number of ways.

The award I really want to win will coming up in a couple of months. It's the Webby Awards. I have no idea if Savvy Auntie is even a finalist yet. But I want that award because it will recognize the team from Syrup that worked so hard and so professionally with me to develop the brand design, website design and strategy, and much more. Plus, it's decided on by experts in the digital media field and not a popularity contest....other than the People's Voice part of the awards program...which is already giving me agita and I haven't even been nominated yet. The primary part of the Webby Awards is about the work that my team did and that is completely legitimate and I honor the opportunity for them to be recognized.

Here's more on the Webby Awards: The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web's infancy, The Webbys are presented by
The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities.

To be clear, I value the people's votes for Savvy Auntie in these contests more than anything. But I am sick about how it feeds my ego, making me feel like I am part of a high school popularity contest, and so I won't do it anymore. And I won't ask for your votes anymore.

Because that's entirely your decision.

XOXO,
Auntie Melanie

PS - Follow my brand life on Twitter at www.twitter.com/savvyauntie. Please excuse all the "vote for me" tweets from the other day. :)

17 comments:

  1. Melanie, I appreciate your honesty and transparency here. I did vote for you because I think you have a remarkable brand and you inspire me to be the best at what I do. You are also kind and generous as http://twitter.com/smarkowski has said. After reading the post I would have to say that I agree with you. It is a bummer really because I think brands like Savvy and Luckystartups.com should be recognized for what they are are doing. I hope you make it in the Webby Awards. I will vote for ya.

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  2. Very well said! I saw that it was $60, and said forget it! I'll still vote for people (as I did for you)... but I won't be attending the ceremony.

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  3. Brilliant article. Who says the nominees and winners even have to attend? I certainly wouldn't be able to if I had been nominated or won... You've given me an insider's peek at Twitter fame. Enjoy the ride!

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  4. I agree completely, Melanie! Popularity contests really don't appeal to me.
    I did, however, enter The Dog Files in the Webby's for Video Show. I wasn't sure if they were voting from popularity or not, but I'm glad to hear from you that it's a group of professionals that decide.
    Hope we can both hang at the Webby's. Fingers crossed!

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  5. Melanie, I've never been a fan of the Twitter popularity contests and grades so I applaud your decision and your transparency. But then as a Savvy Auntie groupie, I applaud and marvel at all that you've accomplished in such a short amount of time.

    Keep inspiring us!

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  6. Well written. While I've never thought badly of anyone trying to chat up their votes in something like this, I've never done the same. I've always figured that my work should speak for itself on its own merits; this is probably one reason why I've never been made an admin over at Wikipedia- I refuse to toot my own horn.

    Oh, and the $60? A cheap price to meet (tweet) up with some of my friends!

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  7. Melanie, I agree with you about the Shorty awards. I was one of your major Shorty voters because I believe you deserve it, SavvyAuntie is a great brand. But no matter how often I voted for you, the votes didn't always count so I began to think something wasn't right.

    Regardless, I applaud you for following your heart and staying "real". I hope you get your Webby Award - your site is a wonderful place for me as an Auntie (of 5 fabulous nieces) to just "be"! Seriously.

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  8. Such nice support from everyone... means a lot to me. Truly. Thanks.

    Elias - it's not the $60, it's that I will feel badly if people come for me and have to pay it, is what I meant.

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  9. it seems like the shorty awards are just trying to do good things for the twitter community, not trying make a quick buck. as one of your loyal readers, i feel like you could have done your homework about this before asking us to vote for you. i wish i hadn't bothered. you asked a bunch of times, too, which is what's so weird about this. i think you're getting a little carried away with your perceived success, but nice job trying to put yourself in the running for a webby award. if you cared so much about zappos, why didn't you just for for them?

    -disappointed auntie

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  10. Auntie, in my humble opinion, there aren't many things that could be less savvy than this post.

    I'm no newbie to marketing, branding, or Twitter, so I trust you'll accept my commentary as perhaps just a contrary opinion from someone that's been around the block about 140 times and found myself pulled into the Shorty Awards (category #socialmedia) by my followers, a bit like you.

    First off, "wanting to win" is at the core of healthy entrepreneurism, and the thought that good "branding" alone will carry the day is a bit short sighted (no pun intended). Here we are on inauguration day in the U.S. and I'm thinking... wow, what if Barrack Obama had your philosophy? Would this work... "Yes We Can (but I feel like an idiot asking)?"

    Or, what if John McCain had made a statement like you have, to his followers... "the whole time I felt like an idiot. After all, the winner, in my honest opinion, should be..."

    Next, how savvy is it to throw Martha under the Van (@MarthaVan) for promoting herself as a "real person" behind her Action Wipes? I had never heard of either of you before The Shorty awards, but guess what... it was those darn "Shorty's" that brought both of you to my attention; NOT your branding. Isn't that what Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV does via his extraordinarily successful Twitter @garyvee branding strategy?

    Next the Zappos thing... Zappos is indeed an awesome company, but hey... in their own words, they claim to be a customer support company that happen to sell shoes. Is "Branding" really the category they should be in? And why did their Twitter followers not vote them in to The Shorty Awards?" It's clear that you want to vote for Zappos, but guess what... your followers want to vote for you! And surprise, surprise, I personally think your Twitter short content is better than Zappos! That's what The Shorty Awards is seeking.

    Now the "expert vs. follower" thing. I hardly know where to start. Perhaps you did not mean it the way it came off, but basically here's my take-away on your Shorty vs. Webby comparison:

    It seems that if a bunch of "experts" vote, it has value to you; whereas if your customers and followers vote for you it's nice, but no bananas? Again my opinion, but didn't you just throw a banana peel in your followers path? The internet itself and especially Social Media is all about letting "people" voice their opinions and favorites... not experts.

    Could it be, that you're making much-ado about something that should be fun... you know... like Twitter.

    And next we have that dastardly $60 Shorty Award ticket fee. I guess they should have offered up airplane flights, hotel rooms and dinner too... then all would be transparent and worthy?

    The Shorty Awards for me, have been extraordinary. I opted to embrace the Twitter love flowing from my followers. I opted to ask proudly for votes and endeavored to do so in a fun, mutually beneficial and educational way. I used the opportunity to network with others. In the end, based on my stats, it's been good for my followers as well (about 2000+ in 30 days) http://budurl.com/mystatistics (I track many other factors too).

    I've not only increase followers, but I've increased engagement, interest, interaction, revenues and fun... most importantly, I've increased active "listeners."

    My #1 reTweeted Twitter quote, more or less says it all: "Followers are fiction whereas Listeners are fact. In Twitter, you want more fact than fiction."

    In the end, we are never going to find a perfect contest; The Shorty Awards, The Webby Awards, The Oscars, Miss America or The President of The United States.

    I vote to lighten up a little and just be proud of what you do. If what you do is good and genuinely helps people, it is your responsibility to tell other about it. Asking for someone to vote for you (or your Brand) should make you feel proud.

    Enough already! Said my piece. I'm going to clean my Zappos shoes with my Action Wipes so I'm ready for The Shorty Awards :-)

    Who knows, maybe I'll see you there!

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  11. Thanks for all the comments -positive and not so positive.

    I never meant to throw Martha under the bus. Truly. My point was that perhaps the category was incorrect. One of the Twitter IDs in the Start Up category isn't even a start up. It doesn't mean these people don't tweet well. It just means that there is something off in this process.

    The thing is that I have a business to run and that the Shorty Awards have been going on for a many weeks now and I just don't have time to focus on asking people one by one to vote for me. Or to keep tweeting it out. That hurts my brand, IMHO.

    I think I said a number of times that I am so PROUD of those who did vote for me and did not say that an 'expert' vote is worth more. What I did say is that awards programs like the Webby's don't ask finalists to drive attention to the awards program by promoting it for votes. Basically, I am not made to drive people nuts asking to vote for me. And that's a relief, frankly.

    This morning I received a vote from someone I did not recognize on Twitter. Her reason for voting for me had nothing to do with my branding or anything else (I wont reveal what is was to protect her privacy) and then she Followed me. So this was someone who did not even know me and had not been following me in the past. I followed her back. She then instantly DMed me and said: I voted for you so you should vote for me in x category in the Shorty Awards. huh? That's corrupt in my book. I don't even know her.

    The Shorty Awards, while community building at first, have become a little bit of a dirty business for some of the finalists. I just did not want to find myself in that position...DMing people for votes. And by the way I was. To people I mostly know personally or have a strong relationship with on Twitter. Not random people I don't know or barely know.

    The asking for votes thing ... well it's not professional. There's little integrity. And it's not Savvy.

    I am being transparent about why I am not asking for votes anymore. But I did not say that I was bowing out of the program because it was the popular vote that put me there and therefore it's not up to me to remove myself.

    By the way - I have received emails and DMs from other finalists who agree with me and are frustrated by having to spend time away from their businesses to drive votes.

    I also received tweets, DMs and emails from people who really do care warning me that I was losing and better 'step it up.' Sigh. It's just not a fun place to be.

    With regard to the pricing - it's not the price that I am concerned with. It's the fact that the winners will no doubt be asked to invite people to attend, which was frankly when I decided that that was the end of the line for me. I was being asked to ask too much of the people who care about me and my brand. I had to put a stop to it.

    I would love to win the Shorty Awards. And think there is a lot of positive that has come out of it. But I think that there is also a lot of not-so-nice things that are coming out of it too.

    And that's not good for my brand. Or for the Twitter community.

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  12. Excellent post, Melanie! You articulate so many of my issues with the awards. It's funny because when I first heard about them, I thought they were ridiculous and said so several times.

    Then, the nominations started pouring in and the Shorties completely changed...people created their own categories (1500!) that they thought were fitting and a wide assortment of non-A listers were getting some affectionate acknowledgement. I thought that was playful, creative and just great.

    So, I suspended my doubt about contests and supported the voting on the finalists. It was odd because the people at the @ShortyAwards provided real time results and the person who is ahead is the first name on the list (always a clear advantage). Anyone can see who was going to win and some of the screwed voting just didn't "make sense".

    That's when I was clued in by a friend on Twitter on how some people were "gaming" the Awards, basically accumulating as many followers as possible and flooding them with links that led directly to a voting form. Nothing illegal but it makes me doubt that the results will tell us anything meaningful about the state or quality of the Twitter community.

    Now, I'm back where I started, thinking the awards are a real joke, that's it just a meaningless badge someone is now going to stick on their website or blog, declaring themselves winner of a "Shortie". Yawn!

    I applaud your honesty about your sudden desire to win once you knew you had a chance. I think that would appeal to the competitive side of us all. I voted for you without being asked and I was happy to. Win or lose, you're Aces in my book.

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  13. I think you copped out. You had other things to do and another nominee out-hustled you. It's like saying "I'm losing at basketball. I'm tired. I don't want to play anymore. I'll tell everyone it was just a stupid game anyway and I didn't really try to win." You were losing. You quit. Where's the great glory in that?

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  14. @Dan @Anonymous

    Look guys,

    When I get 3-6 DM's a day from people saying "I'll vote for you if you vote for me", something just isn't right. Especially, when I have voted for somebody I didn't even know!! I was trying to be nice but, after a while I was like "why would I vote for somebody I have never even heard of"

    My company *LuckyStartups* is currently in 2nd place for "startups". Now, the leader in the *startups* category isn't even a *Startup*. How does this make sense?

    So, please do not compare this to a Presidential nomination, that's a silly analogy! Also, this is not comparable to a basketball game. This would be like dancers, ball players, hockey players, golfers etc. stepping on the same playing field. Please come back with an analogy that actually makes sense.

    I am with Melanie, I would rather spend my time improving my business and providing value to my customers than begging people who don't even know me, to cast a vote.

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  15. Wow. What amazing transparency Melanie - even in the face of some unkind comments. I applaud you for standing up for what YOU believe is right. As a fairly new person on Twitter, the frenzy around Shorty Awards was slightly baffling to me. Several of those I've come to respect most on Twitter have firmly stated their disintrest in participating, nominating, being nominated or voting because of the very issues you've articulated so well. Thank you for such a great example of authenticity!

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  16. I am a finalist at the #tech category, and after reading your post and all those others, I feel exactly the same, also, there is some gaiming going on, and my followers are too valuable to me to be part of this weird ego game ...

    @aschek

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  17. Hi Melanie,
    Looks like your article is getting a lot of response.
    I wanted to DM you on twitter, but you are not following back so i couldn't. We follow your tweets daily and love what you do.

    We wanted to respond here and share some thoughts as a fellow finalist.
    We're a finalist in the Business category.

    A couple things about us. We are Adam & Wendy (and our dog Lola) WOOF! We run www.pawlux.com which proudly offers eco-friendly, organic, all-natural pet products made in the USA or Fair-trade.

    Our mission is spoil pets healthy and provide Bark-tastic Customer service.

    We are just as new as you are. We launched in April of '08
    We joined Twitter a month before that.

    Our purpose of twitter is to connect open and honestly and to be transparent. We are just like anyone else, even though our website is nicely designed we are not some large corporation. It is just the 3 of us.

    Well Lola doesn't have opposable thumbs, so my wife & I do the bulk of the work. Lola is the face of the company.

    We recently passed 10K followers on twitter and we are truly humbled.
    With every tweet we try to add value to the community and just connect and help. Weekly we take tweeples pet questions and answer them on our blog, and host weekly giveaways. We also recently launched twitter.com/twoofnews to stream news feeds so our followers can get the latest pet recalls, news and funny stories to stay up to date and alert.

    We are very passionate about what we do, and even more passionate about our twitter friends. They have truly made Paw Luxury who we are. We have met so many wonderful twitter friends; we've helped them and more so they have helped us. One time Lola needed advice about an injury and we tweeted and the support came flooding. Another time we needed help finding a hotel for a trip, we tweeted and in 5 mins we booked one with the help of our twitter friends. They are so amazing!

    Since the shorty finals started we gained another 300, and we can't wait to tweet and meet them all. We are hear to help and talk, about pet topics, or all topics....if you just need to talk, we're here.

    Here is an article written about us, on how we use twitter.
    http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/max/

    Now on to the shorties.
    A few things, When we first found out our friends nominated us, we were so humbled and honored. Award or not, the fact that they find our tweets and advice useful is award enough for us.

    After the first round of voting was over, we were up in #1 place for the Business category w/ 205 votes.
    Well the shorty people disqualified 55+ votes because the people who nominated us put "because..." as their reason.
    Well ask any kid an "because is a reason"
    Our voters simply tweeted the form the shorty awards put in front of them.
    Because they took off 55+ votes, that put us to #2, that's ok...Like I said before award enough to know we make a difference and help.

    I talked to the shorty ppl and told them they should make a better form so people know to put a reason. The new form on the website did that, but still some people only put because.

    We made up a 1 click tweet form link for them to click to take the confusion out of it, because their vote should count right?

    I feel sad, that even some of the other finalist will loose legitimate votes because they only put because.

    In any case, When we learned we made the finals we were very excited. We are a small business, and entrepreneurs and even though this is a silly twitter award, this is the first award we would win, and it's huge recognition that our peers are validating that we're making a difference in their lives.

    Per your Zappos comment, I know tony, and I agree He should be in the finals, He was nominated, but didn't make it, perhaps he didn't promote or see the need to. Also @GaryVee should be in there. He got nominated too. Perhaps these guys are already so big and "made" it they wanted to leave room for us little guys to get recognition too?

    Just my thoughts.

    There are so many of our twitter friends that are doing an excellent job on twitter that didn't make the shorties. Perhaps lack of promotion or awareness about the shorty awards who knows. There is always next year...now that awareness is out there.

    Another thought about @MarthaVan in the brand category. She is a brand...when setting up twitter she put her real name, prob..because she didn't want to seem spammy...just like @garyvee did for the wine library. If it wasn't for twitter. I wouldn't of heard about you or any of the final nominees. Just shows that twitter truly connects!

    I think the ones nominated got there because their peers found them useful. Now once in the finals, they are getting votes for the same reason, and yes because they are asking for their friends for vote, Just look at CharlesTrippy in the humor category. He did a Youtube video!

    On to self promotion:
    We've tweeted a few times about it, and we've DM'd a few of our close friends to remind them to vote. Because we're excited about the nomination, and yes we would love to win, even you said you would love to win. Who wouldn't - now that we've made it to the finals.

    The rules for the shorty awards state:
    Finalists are welcome to campaign, and to encourage their friends to vote for them. After all, it's not like Barack Obama didn't do any campaigning to win the presidency.

    We're proud of being nominated. Webby awards or Shorty Awards, Recognition is recognition. Being a small business trying to survive in this econonmy we'll take any we can get. And i'm not discrediting the Shorty. Sure i don't agree with how everything played out or how it was put together, but they are trying. They stepped out and were the first to put something like this together. In turn giving more awareness to twitter in the mainstream, helping us connect with more ppl. So bravo to them, and i know next year they will have all the ducks in a row and it will be amazing.

    Also i checked their site, and they are trying to keep it honest, because looks like some people are trying to game the vote, so kudos to them for keeping it honest, Because we want out votes to count.

    This is what they said:

    Why do vote counts decrease?
    The Shorty Awards aim to be fair to all participants. We periodically discount votes that violate the rules of the awards. These include votes that do not include a reason (these will be counted if resubmitted with a reason), votes from Twitter accounts which clearly exist only for voting, and votes that violate the spirit of the awards (e.g. using Mechanical Turk to buy votes).

    This process involves automated flagging as well as review by the Shorty Awards team. The voting process on the Shorty Awards is transparent and public. We invite and encourage users to report suspicious activity to info@shortyawards.com. A final vote audit will occur on January 24th, after the final voting round ends.

    Moving on for the $60 tickets for the event.
    Did you get the email from them about tickets going on sale for the event? I did. It said they had 30 tickets available first come first serve for $60. Think this covers the food and drink they are giving out.

    Look like all the nominees get invited for free. & If you win they pay for you to get there. But for everyone else they are filming it and will release the video later. Hey we might even try to QIK the event live on our iphone so ppl can get a live stream.

    I don't think they are trying to get $60 from all our followers. And if you need to bring more ppl, just email them, i'm sure they can get your more tickets. We asked for 2 since Wendy & I equally Tweet. Sadly Lola won't make it. Maybe she'll do a Bark-cast of her own :-)

    In conclusion. I think you do a great job. This is about rather your tweeple think you produce great short content (your tweets) I think you should ask your freinds for your vote. With this post, you saying you won't ask...i think you just did ask...and people will vote for you because you are real and transparent. So don't give up, and I hope others don't give up either. Heck we're up against guykawasaki and his 50K followers! He even tweeted the other day "Should i win this with a link back to a voting form" I think it speaks volumes that ppl are voting for us, the "under-dog" ha ha literally. We are going up against HUGE competition. So I hope we win, because we can use it!

    Either way, we will still produce good content and be open and available to help our tweeples.

    I certainly Hope ppl continue to vote for us and support eco-pets everywhere.
    http://shortyawards.com/user/PawLuxury (Hint hint) :-)

    You're in the Brand category and we're in the Business category.
    So we support and applaud all that were nominated.
    We hope to meet you all in person in NYC on the 11th.

    Please DM, Tweet @pawluxury or email Bark@pawlux.com
    If you have any thoughts, questions or if you have any pet questions we can help with. If you want to "meet" us just search pawlux on youtube.

    Barkingly Yours,
    Adam, Wendy & Lola (Woof Woof)
    Paw Luxury
    Twitter.com/PawLuxury

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