Sunday, January 13, 2013

Little Social Effort = Littler Rewards

I read a study this weekend that said blog posts with photos in them get more readers. So...let's give it a shot:

Now...bring on the readers.

I doubt there is anyone out there who actually believes that this image (which was #1 on when I searched for "photo") will do any good at all. And I 100% agree.

However, I see businesses/brands do this all of the time. The create a Facebook Page because someone said that they should. Worse, they create a Twitter handle because it seems like "the thing to do". Brands join Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and/or numerous other Social sites simply because someone told them to or they feel, for some unknown reason, that they have to.

Trust me, throwing up a Page or creating a Social account without clearly thinking through the strategy and objectives is a recipe for failure. You will be unhappy with the results, your customers will be unfulfilled my this empty Social promise, and no needle will move (not customer acquisition, not brand awareness, not revenue generation). In short, you're wasting your time.

An abandoned or poorly functioning Social site is actually worse than not having a Social site at all. It's like promising a back-stage tour and turning your customers away at the door (or worse, standing them up for a Valentine's date).

Before setting up your Social channels, make sure you think through your overall Objective (gain customers, retain customers, provide customer service, etc.) and nail down your initial Strategies (voice/persona, types and frequency of content, architecture and/or hierarchy of sites, etc.) before launching straight into the Tactics (FB, Twitter, Yelp, etc.).

And if you have already jumped to tactics, take some time this week to reverse engineer your plan, to analyze what has and has not been working, and put a strong effort into rejuvenating your Social brand. If you're lucky, your customer will still be sitting at the restaurant waiting for you to arrive. 

But you might need to bring flowers.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

AmEx-Jack and Spidey Senses

I hadn't planned on writing tonight; it's my daughter's 6th birthday, and it's been quite a day. Also, I hadn't planned on writing about this particular topic so early, but thanks (I guess) to American Express, we're going to do a quick hit on the importance of voice and persona.

Without parsing out all of the details (confession: I already did, then deleted the lengthy post out of respect to brevity), let's just say that I would bet my first edition of Crow that AmEx-Jack was reading from a script during the lion's share of our call today.

Which is to say, it felt forced.

Which is to say, it felt inauthentic.

Which is also to say, I became guarded, distant, and a bit annoyed.

I have no proof that a copywriter somewhere should get the credit for the almost-friendly banter, the hey-we're-in-this-together chitchat, the Seinfeld-esque "can't wait for the weekend, right? Am I right?" repartee. #awkward

But regardless of whether AmEx-Jack's working-for-the-weekend persona was true or not, brands need to be keenly aware that their customer's BS meters are at an all-time high. Regardless of how authentic or legit you think your post/update/voice sounds, if it is not pure and genuine, it is highly likely that your audience will know.

How will they know? It will Like someone forcing a joke (or forcing a laugh) just seems counterfeit. And one counterfeit moment can wreck trust for a very long time.

If AmEx-Jack had said: "It's 2 am here in Gurgaon and rainy, but things are going pretty good" (or whatever valid remarks came to mind), there would have been built-trust, not receded-trust. And trust, these days, is top-shelf.

In the end, AmEx-Jack took very good care of me. But, you see, it's not only about the deliverable. Your brand's voice, the persona that you put forth (whether on the phone, in person, or via Social), must be genuine and true. Sure, Jack got me to the finish line, but the journey wasn't enjoyable. Why? Because I wasn't really traveling with Jack; I was traveling with AmEx-Jack, and AmEx-Jack...he just didn't feel right.

Faking a smile is annoying and offensive; faking a laugh is transparent and awkward; but faking empathy and rapport with your customers...that's damage that's very hard to undo.

Be authentic, be real, be open, be honest. But at the end of the day, just be you...your customers will appreciate it, and it takes a lot less work.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 2: What Am I Doing?

As I start my own Social Marketing consultancy, I'll be blogging the journey. For those interested in voyeuristically or vicariously taking the adventure with me, I welcome your company. #onward

Two questions I am being constantly asked (and am asking myself) lately:

  1. What does your business do?
  2. What exactly is "Social Marketing"?
Though I am very sure that the answers will evolve over time, some parts expanding and others tightening up, I'm going to spend the next few blog posts discussing these questions. I'm going to designate this blog as a working draft, so grab a grain of salt and put away the red pens; I know it's the internet, but there's no point in claiming any permanence this early in the game.

So what exactly is "Social Marketing"? I'm resisting the temptation to run to Google to find out how others have defined the term, partly because I don't want to be influenced by other talking heads and partly because I probably won't agree with many of them. It's the nature of mapping an evolving land...we don't often agree on the geography or boundaries. And that's ok. Just consider me another early cartographer adding to the collective conscious, perhaps getting things a little less right than the next guy but a little more right than the last guy.

In my worldview, Social Marketing has two very important characteristics:

  1. a recognition of the power and importance of your customers, their voice, and their interactions (we'll call this "Social");
  2. a strategic effort to listen and interact with your customers, harness the power of "Social" to better meet the needs of your customers, and encourage social interactions that focus primarily on your customers ("Marketing").
In short, Social Marketing is putting your current and potential customers (be they consumers, community members, employees, or other) at the very center of your online and offline marketing efforts.

(Offline? Absolutely. But that's a topic for another post.)

It continues to be fascinating to watch the evolution (and I mean rapid, rapid evolution) of this new marketing world. Evolution in this space is an absolute which means that being ahead of the curve (rather than on the sidelines) is paramount to future success. The rules have already changed (and might change again tonight or tomorrow night), so right now is a great time to start thinking toward a social marketing plan (mapping out objectives, strategies, and tactics) for your organization.

Instead of a brand message --> consumer machine-gun approach (buy up tons of ad time, push the message as much as possible, hope that our ideal customers hear/see it and that it sinks in), we are racing toward a flow that is much too complicated for me to represent here (note to self: graphic that up). 

But you can imagine it: consumers talking with and about brands, brands seeking out and engaging with consumers, consumers talking with each other in person and online, consumers generating content for brands (some incented, some not), consumers providing highly-relevant, highly-public feedback (some brand-sponsored, some not)'s the friggin Wild West. And it's awesome.

It's the rise of the consumer voice, which means it's a great time to be a consumer. (But note, there is karma involved. The consumer --> brand is not a one-way street, and you must be prepared to give as you get, and vice versa. Another future post.)

What brands need to recognize is that consumers are writing reviews, checking in, tagging, taking pictures of, discussing, loving, hating, debating, and sharing experiences about your brand (and no brand is exempt, even your personal brand) constantly via social channels. Yes, that can be completely scary and overwhelming...but it's also a rich, rich goldmine (but trespassers just might be shot on sight, so tread lightly...another post for another day).

Perhaps Social Marketing is modern-day alchemy. If you want to turn nickel into gold, traditional marketing will fail you. Social, on the other hand, is where the magic can truly happen. Your customers can (and will) help you transform dreary to dazzling, if you gain their trust; you just need to empower them to do so.

(Per usual, I have wandered off of my original blog-path and mixed several metaphors along the way. Sorry. I have a lot on my mind and a lot of opinions on this particular matter.)

So what is Social Marketing? Easy. It's a call for brands to recognize the importance of, and pay holistic attention to, the customer voice, while also empowering a conversation- and connection-culture that uplifts both parties (both consumer and brand).

Ok,'s actually a bit more complicated than that. But Hello Social, LLC...we can help. (winky-face)

As of today, gold is worth $1655 an ounce. Do you know how many nickels that represents? Over 33,000. For my money, I'm betting on the customer.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day 1: The Beginning (almost)

As I start my own Social Marketing consultancy, I'll be blogging the journey. For those interested in voyeuristically or vicariously taking the adventure with me, I welcome your company. #onward

It's an odd feeling waking up to Inbox Zero. For the past eight years, it's been a fantasy. No extraneous meeting notices, no multi-voice conversations about stuff that rarely matters, no Q's that need A's that will just lead to more Q''s been a fantasy.

And today I get to live that dream. I woke up this morning to a completely dark inbox. 



Hmm...I guess I better start working, then.

Since I have a seemingly endless list of to-do's but no real understanding of what needs to get to-done first, or second, or two weeks ago, I'm happily flying blind for the first time in my life. I'm in the enthralling first days of creating my own business, which means that structure needs to be built, discipline needs to become a primary focus, and the reality of my decision needs to start setting in.

But that will all come in time (*note to self*: do those things). But before I dive into registering my new business, creating a business plan, figuring out an accounting system, redesigning my website (again), getting clients...first, I need to stop and enjoy the moment.

I remember distinctly the day my parents dropped me off at college. They moved me into the dorm, we met my roommates, I hugged them good-bye, and.....?

The mixture of emotion that occurred then is reoccurring now. The prism of freedom, responsibility, sadness, independence, fear, fear, fear, self-confidence, self-reliance, and (yup) fear; the palette of a moment in time where you are not only set free to succeed, but also set free to fail. What an amazing moment ("free" being the most important word).

There are very few rules once leaps of faith made: moving away from your support network, bringing your newborn baby home, or hanging out your own shingle. And therein lies the's all opportunity. Wide-open opportunity. It's the kickoff, the plane ticket, the opening bell. Opportunity.

The adrenaline of limitless, boundary-less, can't-see-or-think-past-tomorrow-ness that quiets the fear and doubt that could be crushing, really's a thrill, and I'm utterly thankful to be experiencing it.

I'll be documenting these early days (partly because I don't know what else to do and partly to help me remember the genesis as time speeds by), so I hope you'll stop by now and again to see what I'm up to.

It's a privilege to be blogging again, and I appreciate the time it requires of you to explore, learn, and journey along with me.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

the hard stuff

As many of you know, I have started a new adventure; Hello Social, LLC is my new baby, and that means it's time for the first steps:

  1. make "Hello Social, LLC" official (the forms, the fees, the structure...);
  2. build a website; 
  3. finish my logo; 
  4. get business cards; 
  5. more to-dos, must-dos, and might-dos.
And today was day one of the journey.


That's how I feel in the light of a new year. But truth be told, I heard more than crickets. I also heard Seth Godin.

In case you are unaware, Seth has a really great podcast called "Seth Godin's Startup School". I have listened to most of the released episodes (and most of those more than once), and a few bullet points have nested in my brain.

Today's direct hit: "Focus on the hard stuff."

The bottom line: your logo, website, pens, desk, designs, business cards, checking account, tax structure, embroidered golf shirt, mascot, theme song, bobble-head, etc., etc., etc...none of these things matter if you don't focus on the hard stuff: getting business.

All day I have wrestled with designing my website (primarily because I am not a website designer). I figured it would take me at least another week to get the site fleshed out. Then, I'd spend the following week making it better (evolving it from boring to somewhat interesting). These steps (designing the website, making it better) are hard for me. 

Note the emphasis; it might be hard for me...but it's not hard. I could hire someone who finds it easy, even interesting, work. Designing a website, creating a logo, setting up the business...these things are not hard. And they aren't even necessary.

What's hard is creating a successful business, a business that other businesses will trust and partner with. Creating a business that matters, that has worth, that is valuable in its that's the hard stuff.

All of that being said, here is my (current) website: It's not very interesting, there are no calls for engagement, there is really nothing "social" about it, ironically enough. But it's there. And I'm two weeks early on my deadline (which proves that it was a horrible deadline). 

As hard as today seemed, I know that it was easy. Tomorrow...the hard stuff.

Will you join me? Spend some time tonight figuring out your hard stuff, the necessary stuff, the stuff you have been avoiding. And let's pledge to focus on that. 

Sure, the bobble-heads would be fun, but in reality...those are easy.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Over the past four months, change has been the most active verb in my world. Some examples:

New job

New roof

New walls

New carpet

New cable provider

New phone

New computer(s)

New office

New baby (on the way)

New Twitter feed to manage

New FB page(s)/group/profile

New, new, different, different.

And, no, I am not alone. We are all aware of the consistency and omnipresence of change.

However, we should be mindful not to let such consistency so easily stray to apathy. Not in our own lives, nor in our relationships with our co-workers.

Apathy about change? Apathy about consistency? Think of the last time you purposefully watched the sun rise and/or set. Apathy, unfortunately, reigns where consistency exists.

So think, this week, about your peers, your direct reports, your colleagues, and be aware of their personal shifting; though you do not need to hear the list of change that is occurring in each life, be aware that change is happening, nonetheless. When someone reaches out, or reaches in; seems short-tempered or long-winded; passes by your message or passes on your message, remember that change might just be the agent at work behind the scenes.

Sometimes a penny's-worth of change is not enough for us to notice. But perhaps it should be.

And, in case you missed it, the sun did rise this morning; just wish I had been mindful enough to see it.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I had the great pleasure a few weeks ago to visit my faux-favorite place on the planet: the fishing pier on Okaloosa Island in Florida. Now, I say faux-favorite because my actual favorite place is the fishing pier just down the road at Pensacola Beach; however, the pier on Okaloosa is a nice substitute when I can't make the real pilgrimage.
I should state up front that I don't fish. So why is the pier my zen spot? Simple: emotional memory. It was a first, of sorts, for me. I have never been able to put my finger on the exact 'why', but I have an attachment to that place that exceeds all others.
Visiting the pier got me thinking about other attachments that I have, and more interestingly, those that I don't. We build attachments to many of our firsts: our first car, our first home, the first kiss. However, this phenomenon does not seem to apply to technology, and that was an epiphany that I was not expecting.

  • First internet experience: AOL, and I had no clue what to do.
  • First cell phone: cannot even recall the look or make.
  • First web page: a geocities mess with spinning graphics and a list of some of my favorite things.
  • Even my first Tweet (only 1100 ago) totally escapes me.
Contrast those to:
  • My first car: red Nissan Maxima, and I can still smell it.
  • First book I ever loved: Watership Down (in 7th grade)
  • First song I ever obsessed over: "You're the Inspiration" by Chicago; at times, it still gets to me.
  • First room of my own: Rast Hall dorm room, and I could draw every inch by memory.
  • First love: well...let's leave that alone.
So is there a Truth here? Do you find the same pattern in your life? Do you have attachments to the digital world that are as strong (or even less strong, but present) as those in the physical? I do not.
Unlike the fishing pier, I do not have a resting place online. Sure, I have sites that I like, sites that educate and inform me, sites that provide me with a service I appreciate. But when life needs respite, it's the real world that I run to.
If I ever go missing, rest assured that I will not be browsing the web, searching for pictures of a pier; instead, I will be found standing on one, far away from land. And I will have found the piece/peace that I need.