Sonic Opens in Connecticut

I’m not normally much of a brand fanboy and often miss or tune out popular culture happenings, so it may seem strange to you that I’m writing about the opening of a new fast food joint in Connecticut, but here goes.

Yesterday, Sonic opened its first drive-in in Connecticut. I rarely eat fast food, but I did stop at a Sonic in Texas back about 2005, and I remember that they have good lime-aid. They’ve also been doing a good job with their social media campaign, so I thought I would trek over and check it out.

They had posted a message on a mailing list a while ago about a give-away that they were having that I had gone to and run into a social media buddy. I picked up a Sonic CT T-shirt and wore that.

My first stop was to pick up my daughter at camp. As I walked in a couple of the counselors saw my T-shirt and comment, “Oh, I forgot, Sonic is opening today.” I don’t think they were going to try and make the trip to Wallingford for a burger, however. As we walked out, one of the mother’s picking up her kids saw the T-shirt and commented about how she wished she were younger and could strap on roller skates and work at Sonic.

As we drove up, I told Fiona that it might be a bit of a wait. A lot of people might be stopping by to check out the new Sonic. As we waited in line to get into the parking lot, I asked Fiona how important it was to her to pull up at one of the drive-in spots and have someone deliver our food on rollerskates, or if drive-thru would be okay.

When we were told that the wait for a drive-in spot was around two-hours, she agreed that drive-thru would be fine. Yet even the drive-thru had a long wait and the guy directing traffic suggested we come back in about half an hour. I explained that we lived about half an hour drive away and that didn’t really make sense, so he waved us through.

As we sat in the car, waiting to order our food, Fiona and I talked about the events of the day. Her Nanna had gotten her a new T-shirt. It said KISS on it. Fiona had seen KISS on American Idol. She didn’t really like their makeup, but she thought their music was okay, and any shirt that Nanna got her is special.

We talked about camp, and swimming, and when Kim would be home from work. A Sonic employee came out with Slush samples for people waiting in line. Fiona took a shot of the Green Apple Slush. I had the Orange Slush. We both agreed that the Green Apple Slush was much better than the Orange Slush.

Finally, we got our chance to drive up and order. I had a cheeseburger with the works, onion rings, and a large cherry lime-aid. Fiona tried her first corn-dog, along with fries and a Watermelon Slush.

The burger was better than most fast food. The onion rings were very good, and the large Cherry Lime-Aid was very large. It was also very good. Fiona was pleased to have her first corn dog, but she didn’t really like it that much. The Watermelon Slush was good, but she prefers the Green Apple Slush. She had a bite of my burger which she enjoyed and discovered that she does like mustard on burgers afterall.

As we drove home, I reflected to myself, “Was it really worth the drive and the wait?” If I were just stopping to get fast food, it would not have been worth it. Yet the whole experience was about much more than that. It was about spending time with my daughter doing something fun and a little bit out of the ordinary. That is worth it, whether it be waiting for Sonic not so fast food on the day they opened, or many other quirky things that make life a little more interesting.

Sonic Comes to Connecticut

20100701_001.jpg, originally uploaded by Aldon.

I remember the first time I went to a Sonic. It was back in 2005 and I was attending DemocracyFest in Austin, TX. Kim and I were driving around trying to find some quick food and we saw a Sonic. Kim had read about Sonic on various food boards and had been told that the limeade was supposed to be really good. So, we stopped, had burgers and limeade and went on our way. Yes, the limeade was good and my recollection of the burgers was that they were pretty good as well. However, I didn’t leave Texas with any great craving for Sonic.

Recently, however, Sonic has announced that they are opening up stores here in Connecticut. The first one to open will be in Wallingford. It is scheduled to open on July 14th. Today, they sent out an email to people that have signed up for their mailing list, as well as posted information on Facebook and Twitter that they would be giving away T-shirts and other stuff at Villa Capri, just down the road from where the Sonic is going on.

After all the other stuff going on in my life recently, I figured I could stand a drive to something a little more low key. When I arrived at Villa Capri, I saw that there were signs for a blood drive. I walked around front and saw a couple tables with the Sonic of CT logo displayed. There were probably about thirty people that arrived for when the giveaway started. People picked up T-shirts, cups, Frisbees, balls and other assorted things. I ran into an old friend from social media circles and we talked a little bit about Sonic, their social media efforts.

I chatted with others that had shown up. One family was from Monroe. They were heading somewhere else, and Wallingford was on the way, so they stopped. Others spoke about having grown up in the south and about being excited that Sonic would soon be opening in Connecticut. So, now I have a Sonic T-Shirt and I’ll share the various Sonic toys with my kids.

There were around thirty people that showed up right at 11:30, with a pretty constant stream coming in for the next half hour. They limited people to a T-Shirt each, but several people talked the folks into giving them a second T-Shirt. When I left a little after noon, there were still some T-shirts left, but soon a message went up on Facebook that they had run out of shirts. Various people expressed disappointment that the limited supply of T-shirts went so quickly. It isn’t too surprising however. Sonic of CT is rapidly approaching 20,000 fans. I have to wonder what opening day will be like.

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Follow Friday - #DPAC Recap

@tap11 @tristanwalker @lynneluvah @liveintent @perkyjerky @ckieff @geekychic @motherhoodmag @MaryAnnHalford

Well, I’m back from the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference. I’ll probably be tweeting a bit less today than I did during the conference. As I often do on Fridays after a conference, I like to write a brief Follow Friday blog post about tweeting from the conference. With Twitterfeed, it will end up as a tweet as well.

Let me start off by mentioning Tap11. They provide ‘Twitter Business Intelligence’. I took a look at their product at the conference and it looks really interesting. As I commented to @ckieff @motherhoodmag @ geekychic during cocktails, I would love to see Tap11 do a spotlight on their product at some future DPAC or Digiday conference. It would be interesting to see which speakers or panels get the most twitter traffic while they are speaking.

Some of this came out of a discussion about spotlight presentations. Several of the spotlight presentations came across a little bit too much as infomercials. They didn’t tell me anything new and excited that would get me engaged. Instead, I surfed the web during some of them, and I noted that Twitter traffic dropped off significantly during the least engaging spotlight sessions.

@tristanwalker from Foursquare was on one of the Local Content Creates Local Ad Sales Streams panel. That panel started off slowly, coming across as a little too much of an infomercial for the various speakers companies. Tristan brought a little bit of life to that panel.

@lynneluvah moderated the panel The Big Shift: Buying Content vs. Audience for Advertisers. This was a panel that had a lot of potential, but just didn’t live up to it, despite Lynne’s efforts.

To me, what makes conferences like this most interesting is what happens on Twitter during the conference. I had problems getting power during part of the day, so I wasn’t as involved in the twitter stream as I would normally be. It seems like future conferences might want to have power sponsors as well as wifi sponsors. provides the power and helps you get connected.

@liveintent was the wifi sponsor, as well as a provider of @perkyjerky, “The worlds first performance enhancing meat snack. Caffeinated Beef Jerky!” With my blood pressure, I figured I’d skip the perkyjerky. Caffeine and I just don’t get along well together.

I’ve met @ckieff and @geekychic at various other conferences and we tweet well together. It was fun to see both of them at DPAC. Joining in the serious conference tweeters were @motherhoodmag and @MaryAnnHalford. I met @motherhoodmag on the way to cocktails and we engaged in some traditional face to face conversation with @ckieff and @geekychic as we waited to get our drinks.

All in all there were some good conversations on Twitter and over cocktails at DPAC.

#DPAC Pregame - Is Targeted Advertising Ready for Prime Time

The other week, I attended Digiday:Target. It was a great conference with a lot of interesting information, but I left wondering if targeted advertising is really ready for prime time. Sure, innovators in large corporations might be able to use it, but what about the rest of us? Today, I will attend the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference, wondering the same thing.

Before I go into details, let me present a few terms. In a sense, just about all advertising is targeted, just as almost all media is social. Standing in movie line on a Friday night with buddies years ago was a social event. So was sharing sections of the Sunday paper on the beach. Yet social media has come to mean using specific digital tools to connect and share media. The same seems to be the case with targeted advertising. The media buyer deciding whether to buy on television, radio, or in a newspaper was targeting his buy. It was further targeted based on the expected demographics of people that listened to specific stations at specific times, or read specific sections of specific newspapers. Now, targeted advertising seems to be focused on targeting a media buy on specific data that has been gathered from people using the web to hit a specific audience. Typically, this is thought of in terms of more than just targeting based on a search term.

Targeting on search terms is easy. I can go to Google Adwords, target my ad by location, limited demographics and then keywords. I can make my media buy as large or small as I want and I don’t have to deal with all kinds of pesky complications.

Likewise, if I want to get people to like a page on Facebook, I can do some very nice targeted advertising. They give me a choice of cost per click or cost per thousand impressions. They tell me exactly how many people I am targeting. For example, as I write this article, there are 200 adults in Woodbridge, CT that meet my test criteria. These criteria can include or exclude people based on their friendships or likes. This can get pretty powerful if you do something like target adults in Connecticut that like Dogs on Facebook. The problem is that you may want to reach a lot of other people in Connecticut that like dogs but aren’t on Facebook.

Neither of these examples gets to the real power of targeted advertising. Amiad Solomon of Peer39 spoke about semantic advertising. Simple keyword searches do not recognize irony or sarcasm and an advertiser might not want their ad on a site that is very snarky about the advertisers’ products. Peter Fernquist of Collective spoke about a ‘keyhole effect” when you take the intersection of too much data, narrowing down the search too far. Others spoke about measuring the effect of advertising campaigns and being able to adjust campaigns accordingly or of how to use exchanges to get the best price per ad.

Unfortunately, getting started with targeted advertising seems to be much more difficult than placing an ad on Google or Facebook. In the parlance of the conference, I posted a message on Twitter saying that I was interested in buying some ‘audience’ and invited any attendees selling to contact me.

Perhaps no one on the sell side was on Twitter, because I was only approached by one person; someone that worked for a data seller. While the potential buyer of audience needs to understand the quality of the data that is used in buying audience, and may need to be able to make informed decisions about which data to use in buying audience, the data is not something I would want to buy directly. Instead, I would want to go to a site where I can choose data from various sources and make my buy. The woman selling data gave me her personal views about which exchanges and networks were the best, and I later chased a couple of them down. I explained my project and asked for someone to contact me after the conference about how I could get going buying small audiences. So far, the only response I’ve received has been a NDA from one firm. That might work well for very large and sophisticated buyers, but for the average buyer, it is a big hurdle.

So, I will end off with my same request. I want to buy some audience. I would like to make small buys, perhaps lots of them. I would like the process to be as close to self service as possible and I would like to have as much access and control over the data I use as possible. Contact me if you think you can convince me that targeted advertising is ready for prime time.

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#ff #swct #getitdone in a #doacracy

#pcct #cttu #googlehaven

Typically on Follow Fridays (#FF) I list people that I’ve been following. I try to tie them together into a theme; people I’ve met at some conference, people I know from some online group, and so on. This week, I’m doing things a little bit differently. I am focusing on hashtags.

For those who don’t know what hashtags are, they are tags frequently used in Twitter that begin with the hash mark to get them to standout. #ff, #swct, #getitdone, #doacracy, #pcct, #cttu, and #googlehaven are all examples of hashtags. The theme is focused on Social Web Week Connectict, #swct.

#swct is an event bigger than any of us, so my perspective on how it got started will be different from other people’s perspectives. It is also hard to say exactly when and where it really started. In my mind, it probably started at the New Haven Social Media Club in May. As we talked, I asked about how Social Media Club’s activities related to other social media activities in the state. I talked about the Tweet Crawls (#cttu) and the Podcamp (#pcct) plans.

When it was decided to have the ShareAThon in July, we talked about trying to have a Tweet Crawl in July in New Haven as well. It turns out that Suzi Craig was already in talks with Bun at Miya’s Sushi about having a Tweet Crawl in New Haven in July and I wrote:

Sounds like New Haven Social Media Week 2010 is starting to take shape. Will GoogleHaven, Ripple100, or other groups arrange events? I'll see if there is the possibility of a Drupal Meetup sometime that week in New Haven

A few days later there was ‘Twushi’, a gathering of Twitter aficionado’s at Miya’s Sushi. A few of us talked more about the idea of a Social Media week in New Haven. A few weeks later, the idea was discussed at a meeting of people in the Left to Right movement, #l2r, Andre Yap sent out an email inviting people to the swct Google Group, I set up a draft website, and things were well on their way.

Here is where the genealogist in me takes over as I look at some of the ancestors of this. Social Media Club started in 2006 in San Francisco and has grown to chapters around the world. At one point, I received an email about a Social Media Club meeting in New Haven. I sent out a message that I would be attending, and about half a dozen of us gathered at a New Haven Restaurant. It turns out that the person who had initially set it up had a conflict and couldn’t attend. She had sent out a message saying the meeting was cancelled, but several of us didn’t get the message and we had a good meeting nonetheless. It was there that I met Amy Desmarais, who at the time still had a day job, but was working to help get Ripple100 launched.

Another important ancestor of #swct is #googlehaven. Like #swct, #googlehaven has its own history, and my views will probably miss important aspects. I first heard about #googlehaven, the idea of bringing Google Fiber to New Haven from Jack Nork. I’m not sure how Jack and I originally connected. I believe it was via Twitter and we ended up deciding to meet in the Woodbridge Starbucks to talk about Twitter and other social media.

Google is looking for a testbed to launch their fiber network, and municipalities around the country have put together proposals. Jack, together with Andre Yap of Ripple100 and others have done a great job in promoting #googlehaven. #googlehaven developed a life of its own. At one of the #googlehaven meetings I noted that there were many municipalities trying to get Google to chose them and I wanted to know what would happen to all the great #googlehaven energy after the application was completed and after the decision was made. This idea resonated and has fed into the #swct effort providing great energy.

There is also the Tweet Crawls. I mentioned how Jack and I had met via Twitter and our talk at the Woodbridge Starbucks was, in many ways, a very small Tweetup. I’ve been to many Tweetups over the past years. Joe Cascio has done some great work in pulling Twitter Aficionados together. Later, Suzi Craig took this to a whole new level with monthly Tweet Crawls at different locations around Connecticut.

Some of the people involved in Tweet Crawls also attended Podcamp Western Mass 2. At discussions at the end of that Podcamp and at subsequent Tweet Crawls, the idea of having a Podcamp in Connecticut was discussed and slowly emerged into a core group of people trying to organize PodcampCT. The first PodcampCT is now scheduled to take place in New Haven in October. The Podcamp planning, which overlaps nicely with the TweetCrawlers has been brought in as part of Social Web Week.

At this point, I would like to dig back to the very early roots of Podcamp. Podcamp is a derivation of Barcamp, which was a response to Foocamp, and all of them are based on Open Space meetings dating back to Organizational Transformation meetings in the 1980s, about the same time that I first got on the Internet. As far as I know, the early OT meetings did not use the Internet, but Internet tools are very well suited to Open Space meetings.

In this aspect, there are key ideas about barcamps, podcamps and related camps. Everyone is a rockstar. Whoever shows up are the right people to show up. Whatever are gets discussed are the right topics to be discussed. This fits nicely with Social Web Week. Somewhere along the way, a fleeting idea of New Haven Social Media Week has evolved. I don’t know the details of the evolution and it probably doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a great group of people have come together. They are people that #getitdone. They are connectors. They are people focused on a #doacracy approach to things. Organizational structure, meeting agendas and such only matter in so much as they help get things done, and if they get in the way of getting things done, they get passed over.

What will Social Web Week CT turn out to be like? It is hard to tell. It has evolved a lot since the discussions over sushi and it still has several weeks to continue to evolve. Whatever it finally ends up looking like, #swct, and related efforts like #cttu, #pcct, #googlehaven, and related efforts are well worth following this Friday and throughout the coming days.

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