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Social media is all about one-to-one communication, and marketers, of course, want to turn that into money – some for a good cause, some for good old-fashioned profits.
Twice today, I’ve received personalized pitches that I certainly had to stop and look at – they had my name, my photo, and quotes from me. But at the end of the day, I was impressed by the creativity of one of the pitches, and feel a little queasy about the other.

This personalized video is promoting a new online small business community called Shustir, that lets businesses build virtual storefronts to sell their products and services.
They created the customizable video to promote their site, and, create buzz, and, well, I watched. You can make and share your own version. Not the first such video – several have made the rounds. But it’s always fun to see your name.
Shustir is the brainchild of Shu Kim and Khanh Pham, former Lehman Brothers colleagues who “embraced their freedom” by starting the community. They sent the video to drive traffic to their site, and I’m sure it’s doing its job.
Study in contrasts
The second personalized marketing piece I received was from a blogger. Back in October, he sent an email asking me to tell him the name of my “favorite famous entrepreneur and give 1-2 sentences as to why they like him / her. ”
He said he was asking 30 top business bloggers, including me. Ok, what the heck, I replied that Howard Rheingold is my favorite because he predicted the social media revolutuon, is always way ahead of the curve and paints his shoes. Then I forgot about it.
Transparency is step one
Today, I got a proof of a card with Rheingold’s photo, a quote of something i said in the email, and my photo. The accompanying email said: “The reason I contacted you before is …”I’m putting together a line of famous entrepreneur trading cards called “Entrepreneur Heroes” – the profits [ italics are mine] from the sale of the cards will be going to support entrepreneurs in Africa through Kiva. So far we’ve helped over 750 African entrepreneurs. The cards will also be distributed for free to high school students interested in business through Junior Achievement.”
A better way
The charitable aspect is great – admirable, even. And the blogger”s intentions are good. So why not be up front about what he was doing on his first contact? Why not ask my permission to participate in the charitable project or tell me that I was being quoted? Seems to me that would be the ethical way to handle the project and enlist involvement.
It also would have been so much better to set up a site where people could name and vote on their most inspiring entrepreneurs, make donations to Kiva, and form a community around the idea. Other social networks could be engaged to drive traffic to it.
Because these days, every single one of us has the tools to make doing good even better.