This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Friday, September 26, 2008
"Rollin' VIP" in L.A.
I flew out to L.A. on Wednesday afternoon for a two-day business trip. I hadn't been to L.A. in almost 10 years, so I was excited to get back out there.

We had our first celebrity sighting in the Denver airport when I noticed that former New England Patriot and 3-time Super Bowl champ Ty Law was sitting about 10 feet away from me talking on his cellphone. Turns out he was connecting to L.A. on the same flight. Ended up bumping into him again at LAX baggage claim. While on his cellphone, I heard him utter these prophetic words, "I've got a 7 million dollar house, so I gotta take care of my cheese." Who can't relate with that?

As we arrived at our hotel (after an hour-long, bumper-to-bumper taxi ride on the 405 with no air conditioning), we run into the rest of our group who were just arriving from Dallas.

The view from my hotel room in L.A.
Depending on the smog, you could see the Hollywood sign from my hotel balcony

After getting checked in, we decided to hit The Ivy for dinner. No celebrity sightings there; however, we had a great dinner (I had the homemade lobster ravioli which was excellent).

After dinner, we headed back to the Four Seasons and I planned to call it a night. However, my friend Rob McKittrick (who wrote and directed "Waiting...") called and we decided to grab a drink. I hadn't see Rob in 13 years, so I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

We ended up going to The 3rd Stop in West Hollywood. There, we ran into Rob's producer friend Kat who joined us for a round. We were also briefly joined by Bryce Wagoner who is working on a new documentary about porn stars' lives after they leave the business. It is appropriately titled "Life After Porn." I ended up cutting the night short around midnight Pacific since my body was telling me it was really 3AM Eastern time.

Got up (too) bright and early on Thursday and spent most of the day at IPG's Emerging Media Lab. Met some really great people, talked about social media, gaming and mobile, and saw demos of some very cool technology.

Before heading out to dinner, we had a drink in the Four Seasons lounge. There, we saw director Joel Schumacher showing off his unique fashion sense (blue blazer, blue polo, burmuda shorts and rubber flip-flops) and his intense texting abilities.

Dinner was at Madeo on Beverly Blvd. The highlight of the night (and maybe the trip) was when Al Pacino arrived to have dinner with director Harold Becker and a handful of others at the table next to ours. Turns out it was Becker's birthday. Pacino and his female friend gave Becker a copy of "The Savage Detectives."

After gawking at Al for a while (and getting this really bad cameraphone photo), we decided to head out. On the way out of the restaurant, we walked past Robbie Robertson of The Band. Outside, the paparazzi were already waiting for Pacino to leave (Here is a video that one of them shot when he arrived. Note the shirt and scarves.).

We made a quick and uneventful (except for a loud, intoxicated cougar in thigh-high white boots) stop at AGO before returning to the Four Seasons. During our stroll around the Four Seasons' patio, we saw Nina Garcia from Project Runway.

We caught an early flight out of LAX Friday morning. On our connection to Denver, I sat next to green makeup artist Paige Padgett. I gave her some tips on Twitter and she told me about some of the work she has done for people like Tim Gunn, Phil from The Amazing Race and Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser.

During our layover in Denver, we spotted Dan Rather and his assistant. This would turn out to be our final celebrity sighting of the trip.

I spent most of today getting some rest and getting back in the real world. "Morton! Fries!"
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Twitter: a thin line between "cool" and "creepy"
One of the hotter topics in social media lately has been how companies are using Twitter. Business Week recently published an article that shared how GM, Southwest and JetBlue have been using Twitter to respond comments and complaints.

In the article, Ray Valdes from Gartner says that Twitter is a useful brand-monitoring tool, but it "can come across as a little creepy."

One of the stories was from Twitter user Christofer Hoff who got a Twitter reply minutes after complaining about a delay for his Southwest flight. He described the experience as "cool and frightening at the same time."

My role at Nationwide is to establish our strategy and best practices around social media. One of my personal goals is to be more "cool" than "creepy" when it comes to interacting with our customers.

In the past 24 hours, I have managed to do both.

The cool
Yesterday morning, I got a direct message from @timjeby. He pointed me to a post from someone who was having a problem with their Nationwide 401k.

"Closing down my Nationwide 401k account(s). General CS Dept was great, but was never able to get actual advisor on phone to guide changes."

Within 20 minutes of the original post, I was able to respond to our customer via Twitter and we had the following exchange:

Me: "Would like to hear more about your experience with us. DM me or e-mail mortons7 at nationwide dot com."

Our customer: "@nationwide: Thanks for your response. Wheel is already in motion to close it all down, but happy to share experiences with you. Will email."

Me: "We're sorry to lose you. Thanks for your willingness to share your experience with us, though."

We then took the discussion off Twitter and continued it via e-mail. I was able to get more details about the situation and let her know that I would follow up with the appropriate people internally.

She appreciated the outreach and I appreciated her willingness to share her story with us.

The creepy
Fast forward to this morning. Fresh off that positive experience, I came across this post:

"FYI - Nationwide Insurance has poor claim service."

Unlike the previous example, this was a pretty generic comment. I didn't feel like it warranted a public response of "Sorry to hear about your experience. Let me know if I can help." I felt that would have come off as insincere since I didn't know enough about the situation.

So instead of reaching out publicly, I decided to follow the user (using my personal Twitter account which lists that I work at Nationwide) who posted it *without* replying. My intention wasn't to be a stalker. I was actually trying to acknowledge the person's issue (since he would get an e-mail that I was following him) and give him an opportunity to make a connection by following me back (if he wanted to). To me, that would have been a sort of "opt-in" to direct message him (since you have to be mutual followers to send a direct message) to ask for more info rather than simply post the more generic public reply.

If he didn't follow back, I would take that as a "thanks-but-no-thanks" response and let it go. However, he would know that we were aware of the situation.

Unfortunately, he didn't follow my convoluted logic. A few hours later, he posted this to one of his Twitter friends:

"One crack about Nationwide and now I got this 'social media strategist' following me. Remind you of the Comcast thing?"

Yikes! While Comcast has been working hard to improve their Twitter interactions, I've been around Twitter long enough to know that he didn't mean that as a compliment. I was a Twitter stalker. And the only thing lower on the Twitter foodchain than a stalker is a spammer.

Community response
I shared the experience with the community on Twitter and got some great feedback. Some were completely fine with approach.

@warrenss said: "Sounds like he doesn't understand what the twitter community is all about."

@tgwilson said: "Weird. Seems like a fine approach to me. Seems like they'd think it's kinda' cool."

Others felt it could be a little stalkerish or passive-aggressive to follow and not reply.

@soldierant said: "Depends. If his comment was ( - ) then a follow-w/o-comment seems passive aggressive. If ( + ) then… no worries."

@brianherbert said: "Seems a little Big Brotherish, even if you are reading his tweets anyway."

Tweetin' ain't easy
These two experiences highlight how challenging it can be for companies to connect in an authentic way with their customers (or critics) using social media.

So much of how your message is perceived will be influenced by how people already feel about your brand. That can be tough to determine in 140 characters.

Would Apple be considered a stalker for following someone who posted something negative about their iPhone? How about Microsoft for following someone who hates Vista? I'm betting each of those would be seen differently based on how people feel about the companies. Same tactic, but different result.

I think Matt Hames (@mhames), who was responding to Jason Falls' challenge to describe social media in two words or less, summed it up when he said, "Respond accordingly."
FFL 08 Week 2: Big win over RTC
For some reason, I forgot to blog after my humiliating Week 1 loss to the (overrated) Lyndon Llamas. Must have slipped my mind or something.

This week, though, I am more than happy to share the results of Week 2 where I crushed Brendan Jackson's solid RTC squad 121-102. RTC was favored by 20 and their coach talked much smack heading into the season.

Fortunately, I got great performances from Jay Cutler (38), Anquan Boldin (32), The Bears defense (19), Torry Holt (13) and recent acquisition Eddie Royal (11). My two running backs combined for 1 point; however, I was still able to drop a tree on the car of RTC (Good thing we didn't play for the Benz).

This week, I will need to get my running game figured out before facing Earwood71. It's a must win. You can't mock the "71" and get away with it.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Telemarketer serenade
We came home to find this on our answering machine. Never found out where she wanted to take me, though.

Monday, September 8, 2008
Our house in Louisville is no longer ours
We officially closed on our old house in Louisville this morning. It was on the market for about 6 weeks, I think. Kind of lost track with all of the other relocation stuff we had going on.

We moved in almost 3 years ago and, even with the tough real estate market, we ended up making money on the deal. Can't beat that.

I hope the new homeowners enjoy the house as much as we did.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.