Amazon and Social Business: #Fail


My position on social media is pretty straight forward. I do believe that we face unprecedented opportunity today to strategically extend our businesses and improve customer experiences using emerging technologies.  Digital and social media, including the web, mobile, tools and apps are an essential part of this.  However, I don't view social media as an anathema, and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success.

We live in an era where 10% of web tasks fail completely (and I'd say that's a conservative estimate).  The potential down-side of the 10% task failure alone is massive.   When we add mobile, apps, social media and maintenance tools and attempt to manage the dynamics of authorization, privacy and user behavior, we are forced to manage brand new task dynamics that complicate not only stand-alone web execution, but how we do business within the cloud.  Putting it all together and making it work (well) is a daunting task that is an ongoing, somewhat experimental journey for most companies.

How we will approach, harness and manage the channels and tools and the dynamics they create for users -- as well as within the enterprise  -- is a real challenge for businesses small and large.  However, regardless of the tools we use, there's got to be some clear picture of how they will be used  --- BEYOND marketing and PR purposes – to strategically extend, listen, learn and respond to the people we serve.

This is a central theme in an article I posted today at Marketing Profs, which evaluates Amazon’s use and integration of social media.  You can read “Why Amazon Doesn’t Understand Social Commerce” here.  One of the key areas of examination in my research was using social media to identify and respond to “point-of-need” mentions, which are defined as individual mentions, comments, or messages that express an explicit or implicit desire for a brand's attention, consideration, action, or response on the open social grid.  I believe getting a handle on these point-of-need issues and figuring out how to manage them effectively across channels is one of the best ways to latch on to social media success.  After all, this is what people expect.  For example, check out this this chart US Consumer Preferences for Company Use of Social Media from Customer Think’s July 2009 Customer Survey.

After spending almost 20 years in emerging media, I can’t help but reject a lot of the hype and misinformation that circulates today – and there is a LOT out there. At times, my neck hurts from shaking my head over companies positioning the use of emerging technology in a manner that is unfortunate and terribly short-sighted.   What hurts the most, however, is when a brand I respect gets so big, it begins to sacrifice watching and listening on the altar of automation and efficiency.  This destroys their ability to learn and apply critical thinking, damages customer relationships and contributes to the kind of business apathy and atrophy that destroys customer experience over time.  That's why, if we care, we should speak up. 

So... 

While the Amazon article is a bit long winded in its analysis, contains illustrative screen shots, charts and analysis, completed with the help of my friends at Radian6.   We hope this will help illustrate (not with surgical precision but as a base of consideration) the missed opportunity Amazon may be ignoring and serve as food for thought for other companies.   It is my sincere hope that the ideas presented -- along with your commentary (please leave some!!) --  will encourage Amazon to reconsider its approach to the social grid!

Influence, Schminfluence. People Matter.

Two years ago at an industry event, an executive from a major airline told me frankly the company would  NEVER go live on a platform like Twitter. “It’s Pandora’s Box” the executive exclaimed as we sipped glasses of wine, "There's no way we'd be on Twitter."  I felt my eyes widen as I responded:
I understand your concerns, and here's the problem with this thinking: “Pandora’s Box” is already OPEN!  Conversations about your brand are happening, right now, without you on the social grid. You can stick your head in the sand like an ostrich, but will only be a matter of time before the audience will demand your response. Wouldn’t it be better to enter the discussion proactively? Will it take a crisis to drag you into the conversation?  Can’t you see that these tools, like the Internet – have the potential to strategically extend your business – specifically in the area of Customer Service?
While my thoughts admittedly made a dent in this executive’s conscience – they didn’t make a dent in the company’s approach. Sadly, within a year, United Airlines was dragged into the open - totally unprepared - as Dave Carroll’s song, “United Breaks Guitars” became an overnight, viral phenomenon.



Prior to the summer of 1999, few people knew who Dave Carroll was. United Airlines did, but they didn’t seem to care – even though he’d been working to gain resolution on a customer service issue with United for almost a year. Dave had a band with a small following. He didn’t have a Top Marketing Blog listed in Ad Age’s Power 150. He didn’t boast more than 5,000+ Twitter followers or a kick butt Facebook Fan Page. In short, by current standards, Dave Carroll wasn’t an “influencer.”

United didn’t flinch when he warned them that, if he could not get satisfactory response, he would write a series of songs about United’s poor service and post them on You Tube for open consumption, votes and ratings.  Perhaps United believe him. Perhaps they didn’t care because they were locked in the world of policy and procedure. Perhaps someone just decided that Dave Carroll didn’t really matter.

But boy, did he turn out to be influential.

It’s been a year and I’m resurrecting an old story by Internet standards.  However, I'm doing so because I think Dave’s story illustrates some points about “influence” that many of the pundits in social media don’t seem to actively consider; primarily the fact that, in the present economy – and with a totally unstable level of predictability -- almost anyone can become an influential force overnight. Dave Carroll was an ordinary guy with a simple recipe:
  • A good story, artfully told
  • A clear plight or frustration that resonated with others
  • Access to / proficiency with You Tube and other social tools
  • Creativity and personality
  • Some good friends
  • A little dumb luck
So if we know this, why don’t we treat people better?


Today, I leave you with this thought, but I’m following up with another “People Matter” post. Until then, consider Dave's lesser known "Video 3" from the United Trilogy. For those of you who suffer from short attention spans, my favorite part of this video occurs at (:50 – 2:10 minutes) where he makes some good points about customer service:



Companies:  How does your company treat people like they matter? How do you use market segment, CLV, influence measures to enhance the service or experience you provide?

Consumers: How do the brands you support make you feel valued and respected?  How much of this is "going beyond the call of duty" vs. "providing a base level of good service"?

All:  This "broke" Dave Carroll's career.  So, what do you think of his (relatively) new, non-musical, customer experience venture "The Right Side of Right?"   Check it out and weigh in!

Comfort Spaces and CX: Lessons from the Bathroom Blogfest.


After reading my humor-driven posts on Bathroom Usability and Cottonelle on Crack, friends Becky Carroll and CBWhittemore asked me to participate in the “bathroom blogfest.”  This year’s theme is “Mad Men: Bathrooms of the 1960’s”.  You can read all it here, and access the Blogfests 30+ participants, as well! In short, it’s all about bathrooms and customer experience.

So I admit -- I'm the straggler.  It's 11:30 pm on Saturday night, I'm just getting this post in under the wire. I’ve been on-site at a client for six days and have penned this first draft at an airport... However, I did ponder over this topic sporadically during the week.  Here's the insight I drew from the writing challenge:

The architects and designers of the 1960’s knew how to use space, color and texture to create comfortable, luxurious spaces for relaxation and conversation. They used form, shape, color, pattern, texture and rich materials to create depth and warmth. They accessorized with over the top details and accessories. These trends are clearly seen in the bathrooms of that era – bathrooms that became more than just functional – but in escape from the frenzy of a pressure-filled decade.

Consider these images I found on Flickr last week (click to view the slideshow):


From chandeliers to mirrors, wood paneling to textural wall paper, granite to marble, luxury abounds in the bathrooms of the 60’s. Space was used creatively to establish zones for personal care, pampering and relaxation. Lounge seating was often installed. Traditional vanities and credenzas became more “furniture like.” Fixtures like chandeliers add a touch of glamour. Floor coverings like carpet and flokati rugs were brought in warm, luxurious comfort.

Perhaps this extra attention to luxury and comfort are why the bathrooms of the Mad Men Era were commonly called “Lounges.” Perhaps these reflect the needs of an unsettled generation, looking escape the realities of a pressure filled decade if only for a minute.  At home, and in public places, restrooms became luxurious personal “comfort spaces” where people felt at ease, secure and free to relax and even converse. 

These rooms were less focused on the perfunctory and became more about the emotional and physical needs of the people that used them. I think this is where there's a take away lesson for all of us managing Customer Experience today.

We live again, in an era of distress and turmoil. We also live in an age where we are bombarded by stimulus. We cannot count the messages we have to process, the things we have to do, learn, know and understand. We are overwhelmed by information, stimulus and the pressure to make decisions, and we must do so quickly as we attempt to manage the onslaught. As a result, the brands that make us feel even more overwhelmed, pressured, “sold” and pushed are more at risk of earning our ire, rather than our affinity.

Instead, creating “comfort spaces” where the people we serve can interact with our brands can be instrumental in capturing affinity and attention today. This principle transcends the physical environment, extending into the virtual environments in which we connect with and serve others. When we focus on the experiences people have, rather than how we will “push” our messages to the masses, we focus less on blasting people with selfishly-driven messages (which creates discomfort) to meeting people in a more natural, organic way. Here are just a few modern day types of comfort spaces:
  • Starbucks is perhaps the king of the Comfort Space, as a huge public proponent of the “Third Place” theory creates comfort zones online, too. “My Starbucks Idea” lets customers share ideas and desires in a way that helps them impact the business. It has resulted in many new product ideas and has measurably changed the way Starbucks listens and responds to customers.
  • The Choppe Shoppe and other men’s grooming lounges make male grooming and pampering a macho thing. Smiling stylists in chic wear hand patrons a beer while football broadcasts on the big screen, and copies of GQ and Car and Driver grace the chrome coffee table. Suddenly, "manscaping" isn’t so scary.
  • Home Depot and Lowe's both offer classes to help customers complete “do-it-yourself” projects without totally screwing up. These classes drive loyalty and can result in increased product sales.
  • Best Buy’s Twelpforce helps people of all walks of life make decisions about new technology purchases with a no-pressure sales approach. This comfort zone is driving sales and reinforcing Best Buy’s thought leadership.
  • Tirerack.com (while not the best site from a usability perspective) offers several configuration applications that help users select everything from replacement tires and wiper blades to new wheels and preview the items on a schematic of their own car. It makes purchasing really easy.
  • Caribou Coffee – My husband and I often take our 3 year old to Caribou in the morning. We can enjoy a coffee and catch the news on our Droids while our little one munches on breakfast and plays with high quality educational toys in the play area near the fireplace. They offer leather lounge seating and even a quiet meeting space that can be used as needed, or reserved in advance by work shifters (like me) and other groups. 
From lounges for frequent flyers to clubs for frequent buyers.... there is no end to the types of Comfort Spaces we can create to serve the needs of our customers.  From bricks to clicks, just what kind of comfort spaces are best to create depends on the unique needs of the audience, juxtaposed with the core competencies of the business. Keep yourself grounded in reality, combine the two, and opportunities can become very clear. Comfort Zones can be useful in helping people with:
  • Discovery
  • Learning
  • Product Selection
  • Transaction
  • Co-Creation
  • Service
  • Sharing
… and when Comfort Spaces are designed effectively, they are very useful in merging your brand with the lifestyles, rituals and habits of your target audience. Comfort spaces can enhance and support the customer experience at key points in the adoption continuum. And of course, they can also be instrumental in driving positive business outcomes.


Business has shifted, and business people must find ways to ease into the cramped headspace of others in a manner that feels less invasive and more natural, comfortable, and even personal across channels. From the traditional mediums of communication to new channels that can help us extend our businesses strategically into the lives of those we serve.  Here's one example of that strategic extention at work in a bathroom.  I took this today, just prior to my flight in a very clean, well designed bathroom at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport....



Perhaps not a true "comfort space" but I loved the use of mobile here....

So, using thatbrooms of the 1960's as a muse -- name your favorite brand-driven comfort space.  What does it do for you -- and how does it motivate you to do what's good for the brand?   Are there any aspects of it that don't work? (E.g. the equivilant of the "flokati rug" in the space)?

Water: The Gift of Life & Blog Action Day

I wrote about Blog Action Day yesterday to get things flowing as we come together to take action on a single topic: water.  Our goal is to get clean water, safe water, enough water to under served people across the globe.  Since it's Blog Action Day and not just blog "write about it for a day" or blog "make someone else do something day" I wanted to write about two things I am doing to take action.


1. Charity:Water

As I mentioned yesterday, my co-authors and I are donating 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Age of Conversation 3: Time to Get Busy to charity:water.  This is a smart business book, great for your library or as a gift for business associates, clients, partners and friends.  Because all proceeds are donated, purchasing it is a bit like giving two gifts in one!
I purchased my copy, and a few extras for friends. You can get yours in hardcoverpaperback or for the Kindle. (Note - these are affiliate links and the affiliate proceeds are also donated!  Image above courtesy of Charity:water)

2. GFA's Water Program

My family and I are long-time supporters of Gospel for Asia, which has a tremendous water program that is bringing life and hope to many across Asia.  It's no secret that many villages do not have ready access to water, and people must walk miles to gather precious rations to sustain them each day.

While lack of water may be an availability issue -  very often gaining access to available water sources is a larger one. Tribal, caste, feudal or even faith issues prohibit "unclean" individuals from gaining access to drinking water - whether they are men, women or innocent children.  As a result, people suffer. GFA's Jesus Wells are established in the Spirit of their namesake. They are open to everyone - without discrimination. They often found near churches and become a center of communal life, and outreach, building bridges between peoples, supporting a better way of life, promoting economic growth and bringing hope to all who thirst.  Here's some field video from a GFA photographer in Ragasthan, India that will tell you more (This is pretty long - from a conference, I think)


GFA's well program is one of the most efficiently run water programs around.  Donate a well to a village for $1000 .  Send a BioSand filter for $30 to a family, and help them purify polluted water. All of your money will go to the cause you select.  There is no money subtracted for overhead, administration, marketing (etc.) because every GFA staff member raises his/her own support.  GFA also employs native workers and uses native resources for its work, creating employment and economic growth in each country. Supporting GFA has been some the best money we ever spent. They even call to ask how we are doing, periodically!


Purchasing Age of Conversation 3: Time to Get Busy, supporting charity:water and GFA are just three places to take action today.   If these don't line up with your vision, passion, faith or conviction, there are many other terrific charities on the Blog Action Day website.  Take action today!

Blog Action Day - What Are You Thirsty For?

Tomorrow, on October 15th, it's Blog Action Day - and thousands of bloggers are uniting to discuss one thing: Water. Our goal? To rally people to the cause, in a single day, to raise awareness, action and funds to help get safe water to the underprivileged and under served people.

Nearly 1 Billion people do not have safe water to drink? In fact, every day 42,000 people die for lack of safe drinking water - and 38,000 of those are children. In many countries, the scarcity and quality of water is a life or death issue. Water is a vital resource that is the cause of wars, strife and conflict that take many lives.

That might seem foreign to us here in the USA, where for the most part, we seem to have plenty of clean water. In the name of "healthy" and "convenient" we consume, on average, 200 bottles of water per year, per person. 86% of those bottles are never recycled. The 14% that are, require the consumption of 17 million barrels of oil per year to re-purpose. Imagine the funds spent on bottled water alone could do to support clean water projects all over the globe!

My point is this: It's time to get thirsty for the right things.   Every one of us can afford to take some kind of action in the name of responsible stewardship. At a minimum, we can all make a difference in the areas of water conservation and follow the conscience we all to often ignore. We can do so much more together to support the delivery of clean drinking water to people around the globe.

I am happy to say I've teamed with my co-authors on the book Age of Conversation 3 to donate 100% of the proceeds from our book to Charity: Water. The Age of Conversation examines how the global marketing landscape is changing. The book features articles from over 300 of the world’s leading marketers, writers, thinkers and creative innovators and is rich with information on a variety of complex topics faced by business people in all walks of life.  We're proud of the book, and delighted to supporting charity: water and the great work they do.  Here's more about it:



Together with Change.org and the community of bloggers participating in Blog Action Day, we are encourage you to ask what you can do to make a difference, today. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Spread the word at home, work, school & online.
  2. Visit the Blog Action Day site help with fund raising and even sign or start new positions to support a charity supporting water related projects.
  3. Tell your friends about Age of Conversation and help get the word out.
  4. Purchase "Age of Conversation 3" knowing your funds are going directly to charity. It's available in hard cover, paper back and for the Kindle.
  5. Participate in our "BUM RUSH" for Age of Conversation( Valeria Maltoni explains that here) to drive book sales and $$$ to charity: water
  6. Donate to a water related charity of your own
Finally, if you're a blogger, participating in blog action day is easy. All you have to do is register on the Blog Action Day website and write a related blog post on the 15th. The site includes a list of helpful facts and water related topics you can write about, to get those juices flowing.   Whatever you write -- do it from the heart! And if you're a fan of AOC3, consider mentioning it!

Beautiful things happen when beautiful people come together. Please join me and make your mark, as you feel led.  I'll share more of my family's personal involvement with water charities tomorrow. ;-)

Engage or Strategically Extend?


In the words of a former mentor, "Words mean things."  This is really simple but profound if you consider how seldom we really weigh what we say.  I think it's important not to take things at face value, which is why I previously tackled the charge to "Be Transparent" in a two-part post dealing with new levels of transparency in the  business cycle.  Last week, I responded to the lemming call to "Be Authentic!" addressing our need to instead embrace "authentic goodness." Now, I'm responding to another call I see regularly.... and the call is this:

"ENGAGE FOR SUCCESS!"

Raise the sword from the high horse and shout it loud as you lead the charge of businesses everywhere! This is the magic formula for success. It's not like it costs anything, right?  Wrong. This statement has zero context. Engage in what, with whom, and for what reason?

I often see this blanket charge is issued by people (including someone recently) who employ formulas and follow schemes to garner a massive audience.  They leverage follower numbers as a platform to try and establish "authority" or "influence" and broadcast messages out to a faceless sea of names in a manner that largely mirrors traditional one-way marketing.  They engage in a largely unfocused dialog that leads to little and usually to demonstrate their own knowledge, self-promote or attempt to game some influence.  They follow far more people than follow them back.  They rarely respond to DMs, (although they spam people with them) and haven't had meaningful discourse with 80% of their network. Beware of these people -  they don't understand business shift.

Any fool can employ a follow scheme and garner a massive audience overnight using bots and apps online - but without a plan, and decisive focus, it's a waste of energy. 

ENGAGE WITH FOCUS

Engagement is one part art and one part science and it must be driven by a larger picture for how it engagement will drive measurable outcomes.  Perhaps this is why brainiac Brian Solis dedicated an entire book to the topic of engagement.  That's right, an entire book.  In fact, a number of smart people have written about this.  Whether your focus is broad and expansive or narrow and deep - - there's got to be a a plan in place clear goal, a set of measurable objectives in place guiding engagement.

A number of people have complained about Guy Kawasaki, accusing him for a lack of focus and taking him on for his methods on Twitter.  Guy has garnered a tremendous following through his own reputation and effort, and by employing the use of follow bots, auto responders and not-so-ghostly support staff to manage communications to his network and manage tweets around the clock.  I don't personally love his approach -- but I really do respect Guy - because he does have focus. His entire goal is to target (in his own words) "anyone who can click"  - largely to drive traffic from all walks of live to Alltop   -- although this network is also instrumental in promoting his books and other efforts.  He's got massive focus.. and massive followers. He works in a direct-to-mass capacity --> and it works for him.  My only caution for those watching is this: Guy's approach may work for a huge persona, or a mega brand -- but it's not likely to work well for the the majority of us in business today.

We can all challenge ourselves to employ better focus. Identify the audience(s) that matter(s), understand the needs of each audience, approach engagement with a plan, use the tools that help you communicate better and engage in a manner that emphasizes testing, learning and improvement. Most importantly, establish your reasons for engaging. Here are a few broad ones:

ENGAGE TO LEARN

If you want to build a network that will serve as a valuable resource, attempt to build a following of smart folks who will readily engage with you to answer questions and solve problems.  They should dare to challenge what you say, probe with you, debate with you, give you ideas and promote you when you say smart things.  This is true whether you are an individual learning from others, or a person representing a company whose goal is to harness the input of the masses to better inform your brand's customer.  As you learn from them, celebrate their savvy and contribution to further bolster your network.

Engaging to learn means you'll be thinking, listening, probing, dialoging and debating as you fish for wisdom and insight within your interaction streams.  It also means you won't be fishing merely within your own stream.  Smart learners also mine available wisdom from other streams (related, competitor, etc.) using available technology and tools (disclaimer: both Clarabridge and RightNow are clients).  After all, there's a focus group happening online every day -- and smart people can readily use the knowledge exchange to create, innovate, capitalize, grow, reach and extend more strategically. 

ENGAGE TO SERVE

Business is all about people:  People serving people.  If you are not engaging in social channels to serve, you're not doing business well.  Whether you're providing helpful knowledge, directing people to channels for resolution, or solving people's problems -- you will be called upon to serve others in social channels.  Some of what your assistance may not even be your jobSome of what you do may not lead to a sale  - but it should lead to affinity.  When you behave in a stupid, insensitive manner, you may be called on the carpet, with ruthless public exchange on Facebook, Twitter or one of the thousands of websites, communities, networks or customer service portals out there.  . Take a page from the winners or the losers: Serve first, or die!

ENGAGE TO SELL

This is placed intentionally at the center of these admonitions - because this aligns with the objectives you must have in mind as you focus.  When I sale - think of it this way.  Everyone is selling something. You might be selling your post, an ebook, a product demo, the menu of the day, or a product directly. That's why all of us should be able to drive measurable and meaningful transactions - from clicks to comments, cvisits to conversions, calls to foot traffic, leads to sales.You must master the art of the sale by presenting the right message, to the right person, at the right time - and that takes finesse and practice.  It also takes trust.  So, outside of NOT assuming everyone wants what you have to offer, there's no magic formula, here.  Leverage what has worked in the past but think outside the box. Experiment, measure and improve - and as you do, make this your mantra:

ENGAGE TO ENDEAR

Whether you are large or small, the goal of engagement is to endear the right audience, by providing value in a thoughtful manner.  Contrary to popular thought -- this doesn't mean everyone will always like you, or that you should please everyone.  In fact, if we're being honest, for most brands - and even people - there's an aspect of acceptable loss in all relationship building efforts. However, in the shakeout, you must manage all relationships in a manner that leaves you with a pretty loyal group of followers who support you for what you bring to the table.  If you play your cards right with your end-to-end experience, you may just find yourself emerging with a raving group of fans who will take a bullet for you - or at least brave the wait to buy your product.

ENGAGE TO MEASURE

By all means, it's okay to look at the qualitative and esoteric benefits of engagement, such as the friendships you have built, and their contribution and enrichment to your existence, how they make you feel.   However, it's essential to go full circle to and measure your performance against your plan and objectives using real data Are you moving the needle, driving desired results?  What trends do you see, and how can you boost results?  What have you learned, about yourself, your competitors and your audience?  What did it cost you?  What did it take to manage it and, forecasting ahead -- what's it going to take to better what you've done in the future? How can this and how should this grow or change over time?

DRIVE SUCCESS BY STRATEGICALLY EXTENDING YOUR BUSINESS

In the end, our engagement must be about adding value and improving the experiences we offer. If we are not engaging in a focused and intentional manner:  to learn, to serve, to sell, to endear, to measure... we may just be engaging for nothing. What do you say?  Please Add your thoughts... links, etc.    

Be Authentically Good

You've seen it in conference presentations, tweets, facebook posts. You've heard it in discussions, webinars and conference calls:  It's the new mantra -- the new admonishment - the key to success for all of us developing the next great brand or the next great customer experience -- especially in social media circles:

"BE AUTHENTIC!!!"

Say it with confetti, fanfare... raise the pom poms high -- as I gag audibly ... Perhaps it's my mood, or the fact that I don't have time to write an overly sensitive post, but I have to call "foul!" here.  The truth is this:

AUTHENTIC ISN'T ALWAYS GOOD!

When I have a bad experience, it's authentically bad.  Perhaps the whole thing sucked.... or maybe a chain of experiences sucked.   I was disappionted.  It was sucky ....and authentically ugly:  None of it was "inauthentic" at all.

THERE IS PLENTY OF AUTHENTIC BAD!

If the experiences we offer our prospects and customers fail to authentically aligned to the values we claim to have, they've gotta be fixed.  If you are on twitter auto following everyone, DM spamming people, and merely tweeting your press releases, you are making some authentically bad decisions.  If you have a broken communications infrastructure where various departments aren't talking to each other -- you've got some authentically bad issues to deal with.  If your customer service is flawed and you are breaking promises and creating ill will - it's authentically ugly to deal with.  The good news is this -- you can choose to...

BE AUTHENTICALLY GOOD!

Authentically good people and brands understand ethics, boundaries, and how to build relationships based on open exchange, giving and reciprocity.  Authentically good people and brands know that they won't always be perfect, but they can admit fault and fix things.  Authentically good people and brands don't rip off the competition -- they learn from the competition, and do things better.  In fact, authentically good people and brands are working hard to "create better" every day.

WHERE ARE YOU TODAY?

Dump the "lemming speak" and focus your energy -- regardless of where you are in the pecking order of your company -- on being authentically good and doing authentically great work.  Speak the truth with love, produce your best, serve others well, think outside your box (and your comfort zone) and strive to make things better.  The best brands alive are defined by the outstanding experiences they deliver.  Make this your focus and you'll feel the difference. Your customers will feel it, too!

A personal post: On Consumption & Conscience

Last week, I broke my pattern of business related posts and dumped my guts out on at This Mommmy Gig in a post about conscience, and how/if we allow our conscience to determine our patterns of consumption.  This post doesn't belong on this site. However, many of the points I raised, about the power of consumers and our ability to destroy markets for the reprehensible... and create new markets for the praiseworthy is something that any marketer or business should pay close attention to.  This is going to increasingly drive the marketplace within which we all function... and knowing how we will respond to concerns like the ones raised in that article is something to think about.  You can check out the article here and I would really value your input and feedback.   :-)

Social Media Celebrity - Infographic of the Day.

While I'm sure there are some exceptions (and they probably wear superhero capes), I was ruminating on the subject of web celebrity today...while chatting with @Marc_Meyer on Twitter.  We both expressed the delimma of being buried in the "real work" and not having time to be more active in the online and offline social grid. 

So, I drew this up afterward.  Does it make you want to laugh... or throw rocks at me? (click to enlarge)




Thanks to @geoffliving for reminding me that some of us go through intense periods of intense engagement.

Crossing the Social Divide: Assessing Your Current State


In my last post, I reacted to the question "Who Should Own Social Media."  I won't attempt to minimize this topic, as I believe there's a great need for discussion here.  As a consultant in this arena, I'm currently helping two large clients put together different operational models to help lead and guide web and social business within the enterprise - and they're both doing it very differently.  There's some rich discussion going on around the different operational models that can be applied to support digital media, especially in light of the subject of social CRM... and I hope to talk about these in future posts.

But first, Horse, Meet Cart.

While this is all very pithy stuff -- taking the issue of ownership without addressing the organization's need for a comprehesive understanding of (and strategy for) digital and social media is putting the cart before the horse.   Good operational models  (and ownership strategies) are designed to be facilitative, by nature.  That is, they're designed to help the organization collaboratively drive desired business goals and respond to people's needs in a timely, satisfactory manner.  So, when we talk about who should own the model -- and whether our ownership model should be distributed, centralized or coordinated, we are really trying to define an end result that should be an outcome of a solid strategy and tactical plan.

The most successful companies in social media have shifted emphasis away from tools and the issue of "ownership" to emphasize the experiences they are creating for various audiences in the digital space. These are the companies who are learning how to effectively extend their businesses in digital channels.  They are the companies that are realistically and innovatively positioned for the future.  These are also the ccompanies who are effectively managing to drive better outcomes.  And across the board, they are the companies who are grounded in the understanding of their current state:  they know where they are -- and where they are going.

Strategy, Smategy -- Let's Start with the Current State

While many companies think they understand their present state and experiences well, objective, third-party analysis often proves otherwise. I've encountered more than my fair share of companies that don't even have an accurate ready inventory of the digital access points (sites, apps, tools, etc.) they currently manage.  They're usually shocked when they conduct a count -- and usually have to add a list of  "stragglers" at some point - especially in the areas of "tools" that help manage and monitor digital, social and mobile media. 
 
Beyond the numbers, this lack of grasp on digital media means these companies are highly likely to possess an immature perspective of the time and resources required to properly manage these properties, an unclear picture of who is managing them, and an unreliable set of metrics that will tell them how these properties are performing.  This makes determining how to move forward strategically (much less in an "integrated" manner) pretty difficult.

Perhaps more importantly, many of the same organizations fail to understand the experiences people are having within and across these digital properties, and how those experiences drive business results and satisfaction.  This includes the provision of "free" or value-add content (webinars, white papers, tips, etc.) to prospects, and allowing people to accesss purchasing or post-sale service and support. 

To combat this lack of understanding, a current state assessment can be a highly useful tool.  In short, this examines what we've built, how people are responding to the experiences we offer, and how we're managing things today and can consist of a number of tasks.

What Does a Current State Asesssment Entail?

As food for thought, here is a list of some of the exercises a Current State Assessment may include.  Lest you be overwhelmed, think of this as a Chinese menu - you don't have to do it all -- just pick the right exercises to fuel forward progress. You can right size the work based on your budget and goals.  Just make sure you keep the assessment of your audience's needs and experience at front and center of your activities. 
  • Stakeholder Interviews (Because every department views the "customer" differently)
  • Digital Media Audit  (High level assessment of the digital media footprint)
  • Heuristic Analysis  (Profesional reviews of individual properties)
  • User Research (Interviews / Contextual Observation)
  • User / Usability Testing (Remote, On-site, Contextual)
  • Simple Segmentation (Focused on digital properties across spectrum of need)
  • User Personas (Including Technographics, Footprint Analysis)
  • User Needs Assessment
  • Competitive Analysis (Direct and indirect)
  • Operational Assessment
  • Market Analysis 
With a clear understanding of our current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks, a company is well informed to develop a grounded, future state vision. The company's strategy and long/short-term planning wraps around this vision, includes not only our go-to-market approach but an operational model and plan that will align and support the organization (owners and contributors) in delivering and measuring the digital experience. This fuels solid delivery and helps the organization collaboratively coordinate, plan execute, measure and improve digital media in an ongoing manner.

What Benefits do Current State Analyses Drive?

Objectively and unilaterally reviewing the current state can help drive the "aha" moments that pave the way to future success. In short, they make future state vision and startegy easier by helping companies realistically identify:
  • The true scope and nature of the digital undertaking
  • How the organization is handling digital properties across the company
  • How the digital presence meets the needs of the company's audience
  • The resources, time and investment that are required to manage the digital presence
  • Areas of inconsistency, inefficiency, weakness and shorcomings
  • Competitive and market opportunities that may exist
  • Results that can serve as benchmarks for future evaluation
As we gain this realistic picture of how we currently serve others, motivate desired behaviors and drive desired business outcomes, we become much more clear minded about our future approach, in a manner that is grounded by, but not limited to, the reality of the present.

Can We Develop an Objective Current State Using Internal Resources? 

As a consultant who is often hired to bring in fresh perspective, usher in people-centric insight, I readily admit my own bias in answering this question. Having worked on both the client and consulting sides, I have found it difficult to manage bias on internally executed projects  -- especially ones managed by a department or division within a single area of the business. The natural alignments and perspectives people have as corporate employees with various levels of "skin in the digital game" - makes it very difficult for internal resources to be objective across the board.

Again, what we're trying to do is look unilaterally at what we're doing across the organization and view it fairly and objectively -- and align resources to deliver better.  To do this right, it's essential to neutralize bias - even the perception of bias.  Otherwise we can undermine results as well as organizational collaboration.
While I do think that companies can be objective in some areas, and there are tasks that can be internally managed or collaboratively executed, I am usually a proponent of bringing in an third party agency or consultancy to help.  I'm also a fan of using objective research methodologies to evaluate the current state, audience sentiment, and existing CX.

Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn't have to cost much, and doesn't require a huge team of resources. In fact, obtaining outside perspective can be a highly effective way to burst bias bubbles and bring business stakeholders into a more reality-based, aligned, collaborative state of mind. It's also a great way to break up "analysis paralysis" and "he said, she said" logjam inside the organization.

Weigh In!
  • Have you done a current state asessment on your digital media approach? 
  • How do you balance your need to be tactical (execute) and strategic (plan/improve for future)?
  • How are you structuring to support your footprint? 
  • When are you bringing in third-party agencies or consultants, where has support been most valuable? 
  • Where do you insist on managing things internally? 
  • How do you manage internal bias or "silo-based thinking" so that it doesn't compromise your digital experience?

Who Should Own Social Media?


An interesting discussion started up yesterday during social media chat led by @marc_meyer and @adamcohen.  You can catch the transcript here. While there was a ton of good discussion, one of the larger questions that came up was this:

Who should own social media inside the organization?

I hear this issue raised constantly.  To me, asking this question is a bit like asking "Who should own the Internet inside the company?"   This can only lead to more questions, like "What are we specifically are we talking about owning?"
  • The Infrastructure?
  • Supporting tools and applications?
  • Which Website?
  • Usability and IA?
  • The Audience?
  • Content? If so, which content?
  • Customer Communication?
  • Customer Service?
  • Marketing?
  • Policies / Governance?
In short, it 'aint that simple.

Approaches to website ownership vary from one company to another.  For one thing, in most companies, there are a number of web properties. There are also a host of supporting technologies, databases and shared services used to publish content or facilitate transactions on these sites.  So, rather than being centralized, web ownership is almost universally shared.  Web management responsiblity is also dispersed across a number of "executive owners"  and aligned, from a task perspective, across an array of functional and technical stakeholders.

The same principles hold true for Social Media.

Especially in larger organizations, it's unrealistic to assume all digital media channels will be centrally "owned" by a single entity or department. There are too many moving parts.  This is especially true when one considers the nature of social media,  the dynamics of applications and tools, the broad scope of their application and their capacity for exponential expansion.  So, there's no canned ownership answer to the ownership question; no "one size fits all approach" to managing social media that will work for every company.

While many of us will offer a compelling argument for centralized oversight, accountability and governance, reality is usually quite different.  In fact, the companies that really "get" social channels will have many "hubs" of social business activity -- and dispersed involvement and ownership - just like the "traditional internet."

But isn't the CEO ultimately the owner? What about the C-Suite? 

Without question, the CEO is accountable for delivery and performance within digital channels. But what does establishing this really do?   When we talk about the nitty gritty aspects of ownership --  like providing real thought leadership, strategic direction, setting expectations and goals for performance, driving organizational participation and awareness, and coordinating delivery -- the CEOs of most organizations are challenged to deliver!  These areas are typically where most companies need the help.  

So the CEO relies on the C-suite.  The challenge is, the C-suite is too busy reactively managing organic growth in digital media, pertaining to their individual areas of responsibility. This is why there's often poorly aligned leadership, coordination, competency, organizational collaboration, metrics and delivery of targeted results.

While most of us would agree that a strong, '"top-down," strategically driven, leadership approach (and solid strategy) would be ideal, this is far from the reality in most companies today.  Without question, there needs to be executive led strategy and strong ownership in the C-suite... but it's a mistake to create the impression social media owned by a single person.

FWAP!!  (This is where reality slaps ideality in the face)

While there may be a few outstanding organizations that have phenomenal top-down leadership in the area of digital media (especially in the high tech space), it's the exception to the rule.  What's more common is a bottom up approach to managing digital media.  Perhaps this sounds familiar:

...Select individuals within the company realize the potential of new channels and begin develop new digital outposts and properties. They may do this in a manner that is accountable to leadership, but there's typically not a cohesive strategy in place and there are often multiple pockets of activity - each with different lines of accountability.  These early-adopters are typically under resourced, under appreciated, and sometimes under cover in their efforts... until they achieve success. When this happens (by art or incident), they gain a new level of credibility, turning executive heads and garnering executive support that may have been previously lacking. Then, (tadaa !!) they're suddenly in the spotlight, speaking at social media conferences and expected to have answers to every question...

In some companies this leads to social media's transformation from the "ugly, red-headed, step-child" to the "prom queen" overnight.  Worse yet, because the tools are accessible, cheap (or free) the explosive interest in social media often sets off more unchecked development and experimentation across the organization.

Perhaps "How do we get this under control?" is a better question to ask.

If it's true that roughly 80% of companies are actively engaging in social media right now - we're already behind the eight ball on a "top-down" leadership approach. If this is true -- most companies aren't starting from scratch!  Their social media efforts have grown the way Internet sites did:  organically, often within silos, originating from either the bottom or mid-level up, and typically without a ton of executive oversight. 

While this has led to some incredibly successful and promising social media efforts, the organic growth and scattered ownership has also led to the development of digital channels that may be collectively described as:
  • scattered
  • silo driven
  • narrow or limited
  • not collboartive across departments
  • difficult to coordinate
  • redundant
  • questionably focused
  • questionably valuable
  • not well integrated with other properties
  • difficult to measure and justify
  • not strategically driven

In truth, the train left the station awhile ago. 

There is no easy way to seize ownership or control as it chugs down the tracks.  In truth, most companies are doing well if they manage to run along side runaway social media in an effort to mitigate risk and keep pace with the level of proliferation and change.  In most organizations, even with savvy, early adopting leadership at the helm, success is found in silos -- many people are playing catch up... and there are plenty of people who are totally in the dark.  So, even when a core group "gets it" there are still many practical challenges relative to mobilizing and coordinating solid, organization-wide delivery and service within digital and social channels.

Before enterprise steps in to "own and control" it needs need to make sure it knows how to drive!  

One of my current (very large) clients has over 50 digital media properties (no, this is not a joke). Out of this mix, I'd guess that maybe 25 are websites in various forms...from the main, branded corporate site to product sites, channels, lead generation and microsites, audience-specific sites, support sites and everything in between.  Then they have a number of different, audience specific Twitter Channels, several Facebook Fan Pages, multiple YouTube Channels, Slideshare, and other stuff.

There are many different owners and even third parties involved in the development and maintenance of the company's digital media presence, from marketing, sales, development, support, product, customer service and everything in between. It all grew organically, and exponentially in a short period of time, with little executive oversight.  There are incredible pockets of knowledge, experience, insight and core competency here, and there is a strong sense of ownership aligned to various properties.

As a consultant tasked with helping the organization streamline the digital media footprint I have been challenged to help this client figure out how to create more accountability, reign in development and drive better results within various properties. 

Asking "Who should own social media"isn't really productive or conducive to progress.

It would be absoutely foolish of me to come in blathering about centralized ownership. It would only result in  stakeholder resistance and discussions that get personal, tense and politically charged.  This approach could very well lead to stakeholder rebellion as the various owners assume that we (The executive sponsor I serve, his team and myself) are trying to take away ownership, control, "call their babies ugly", slow them down, tell them how to do their jobs, destroy their innovative spirit, kill their time-to-market.... or insert a relevant complaint or expletive here...

We must shift the conversation.

To provide pithy, useful answers about ownership, I assert we need to first to get very real about what we'er doing, and figure out how to collectively drive digital and social media to the next level. In my next post, I'll offer some practical recommendations for this but first...

I want to know what you  - my smart, insatiable readers think.  What's your reaction to the "ownership" question?  What has been your experience? What's your response to this (rather hastily assembled) rant?  I'm all ears!

CMO JOE AND THE DM SPAM - Part 2: Joe Speaks

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, it might be a good ideaIn short, last Friday, I was DM'd a self-promotional book message from a CMO of a major corporation, which led to some twitter discussion on DM "Spam" and the way this high profile personality handled things.  I've assigned him the name "CMOJOE" because frankly, I don't thrive on conflict or picking on people (and this is not the point anyway).

Interested in hearing his perspective, I politely tweeted CMOJOE a third time on Monday morning, mentioning a post I'd considered writing. This time, almost two hours later, I got a DM response. After a few DM's and some phone tag, he asked me if we could talk in person.

It's always interesting adding voice to an online persona.  CMOJOE was bold and direct. While initially, I found him a bit defensive, perhaps he expected me to be hostile or write a scathing personal attack.  In time, however, our tone became more upbeat, and instead of mutually interrupting each other with negative assumptions, we started banging around thoughts and input.

In a very direct fashion, CMOJOE made his position on the DM very clear to me.  His opinion, as summarized is this:
  • When we follow people, we give them permission to DM us.
  • Direct Messages work - it's been proven time and again
  • A single DM is not the same as "spam" which he referred to as "repeated" (unpermissioned) messaging
  • His position has been adamantly against Auto DM, although he admits to conflicting opinions about its use -- as well as the potential value and benefit improved DM messaging tools might have in the future
  • He did not use auto DM tools - He manually pasted 3 different messages into individual DMs, over a 3 day period (to a list of about 21k followers)
  • He has no recollection of being a member of the FB "I Hate Auto DM's on Twitter" Fan Page 
  • The positive response far outweighed the negative: Hundreds of congratulations, thousands of books sold and only 17 people offended from his follower list.
  • He responded personally via DM to most detractors and spoke a few by phone.
  • It is very easy to take his responses out of context - especially responses to some very rude, personal assaults, and fragments of threaded 140 character messages
  • He supports and welcomes open dialog and debate
  • In the end, people who don't like his answers are welcome to unfollow him 
  • In retrospect, we can all do things differently - That's how we learn.  
  • If he could do it over again, he would   - but he would would adjust/improve his message.
  • In the end, his excitement trumped caution - He admits he was "really excited" about his book's success and wanted "to tell everybody"
It was a good discussion. I didn't agree with his angle on all points but I appreciated his candor. I found him to be a good match to my own energy level, frankness and intensity. While he defended his position in a largely unapologetic tone, he did express some regret for offending a few people with his message. He also asserted that the majority of those who are complaining, including those "polled" in subsequent blog posts were not on his Follower list.

We talked about South Dakota and continuing some brain hockey around dinner sometime, and that's pretty much how it ended - on a friendly note.

I'm trying hard to be objective with this.  The  truth is, whether you or I agree or not with CMOJOE, there's a lot of fodder for discussion in CMOJOE's case.  Here are a few things that jumped out to me:


1. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE TOOLS
CMOJOE underscored that he did not use an auto-bot to tweet DMs to his follower list. I'm pretty sure people's issues were related the content of the DM itself, rather than the means of delivery.  Tools can be an issue when they fail (e.g. sending duplicate messages to same account), but it is primarily the messages we that we're judged on. Our messages are always interpreted within the contexts of our relationships. The value we place on our audience is inherently attached to our communication.  Even though CMOJOE didn't use an auto DM, his message felt mechanized.  In the words of one tweeter "If it looks like spam, feels like spam - to me, it's spam."

Even if he had chosen to used an Auto DM tool, the outcome would have been the same with that message because it created a perception for some people of spam.  Even if, in the future, DM tools mature to enable segmentation and testing, so our messages are sent with more care --> they'll still just be tools.  They'll never accurately interpret the "context" of our relationships, they won't write messages for us and they can't replace common sense.

Bottom line:  Avoid the illusion of spam!  Nobody wants to talk to an auto bot.  Make sure your messages, regardless of delivery engine, do not undermine the personal nature of social channels.


IT'S NOT ABOUT THE "RULES"
While technically, I understand where CMOJOE stands on the topic and rules of opt-in and spam, I believe he placed undue emphasis on this issue. I may have opted in for DMs when I followed him in return. However, as CMOJOE admits, the rules for social engagement are still evolving.  The old definitions of spam applied to email don't map neatly to new channels - just like there's no magic formula for the size of a blog post.  So, while the "rules" may permit to DM your follower list with solicitations, social ettiquite may suggest otherwise.  In the end, it's all about who follows you, and how you handle it.

Using DMs to self-promote requires a lot of thought and care -- because it can really turn folks off.  This is really important to consider in the age of transparency, because offending the wrong people can be incredibly damaging - and news travels fast!  It's not about the size of the audience... it's about influence, voice and tenacity.  Fortunately for CMOJOE, there doesn't seem to be any significant collateral damage - other than managing responses, which had to be a time sucking effort - and the good seemed to outweigh the bad. 


Bottom line:  Don't let "rules"dictate your approach - let relationships. Message others in a manner that builds and preserves trust and relationship.


DON'T GUSH IN A RUSH
CMOJOE admitted he was excited and busy. Frankly - if my book rose to the top at Amazon, I would be stoked, too.  In truth, whether we face a deadline, we're time starved or just rushing -- every single one of us, on Twitter, Facebook or other channels.... in a moment of haste, excitement or even momentary poor judgment, can inadvertently say or do the wrong things.  We can't always delete tweets, posts, profiles and/or affiliations we've made - because it's probably been seen -- it's out there in some version, somewhere.  You might get lucky and dodge a bullet or find that others are watching more closely than you thought.  In any case, we deal with the consequences of our haste. We must ready ourselves for the scrutiny of the crowd, with the knowledge that people can often be unfair, overly personal in their critique. 


Bottom line:   Stop and think:  It's not necessary to be paranoid. It is a good idea to take a breath and ask a couple questions BEFORE sending out any self promotional solicitation:
  • Is this the right thing to do?
  • How would I feel getting this message?
  • As the recipient, what would I do with this message?
  • Does this compromise another individual, violate trust or open doors for misunderstanding?

RESPONSE DRIVES RESOLUTION
If CMOJOE hadn't gotten back to me, and offered to call me personally and taken the time to follow up when he failed to reach me the first time, I'd simply have a lower opinion of him. Responding to constituent concerns in a reasonable time frame is key to managing delicate situations and diffusing any crisis.Whether we agree with the opinions or actions others take -- every detractor presents an opportunity to openly show ourselves to be gracious, open, thoughtful and responsive.  Every response is an opportunity to further underscore --  and help people understand  -- our position.

To some, CMOJOE may seem like an ego-centric self-involved promoter (I received some tweets that speak to that).  Let's be fair, though:  He is also a busy executive who was in the middle of a resignation, a press junket an an onslaught of messages (email, social and otherwise).  To his credit, he took time to respond individually and subjected himself to open debate with a crowd that at times got personal (and his responses were sometimes brusque and equally direct).  However, regardless of whether people agree or disagree with what he did or how he answered challenges -- or  whether or not people think his choice of using a DM to promote his book makes him a hypocrite ---> CMOJOE did himself a great service by putting himself out there and responding proactively. 

Bottom Line:  Taking time to listen and respond proactively underscores your respect for people and relationship.  Assuming this position helps diffuse conflict, breeds respect and provides a sense of resolution for detractors.  Ultimately, people want to feel they've been "heard" - and once they do, they're more likely to listen. 

MINIMIZE RISK  WHILE YOU MAXIMIZE RESULTS
I've heard it argued that alienating people is wrong -- that it won't produce positive outcomes.  Not only is this a gross generalization, the assertion flies in the face of the truth that there are many, highly offensive and tremendously successful people out there.  Consider polar opposites Glenn Beck and Ariana Huffington. They have both offended their share of people. Consider Steve Jobs!  CMOJOE isn't even a polar personality, by comparison.  The truth is, when we engage with people in any medium, we run the risk of alienating people. Ultimately, we're all managing risk in that regard - and while we minimize that risk, we need to maximize the reward -- both for our followers and our "brands."

Looking at CMOJOE's case strategically, his direct goal was to drive people to buy his book.  His related objectives may have included using Twitter to inform X people of the book's success, motiviate X followers to spread the message, and build X amount of buzz in the Twittersphere to support the pending announcement of departure from "Big company".  Whether that's 100% accurate or not is not the point -- it's an illustrative example to show that, judging from his own calculations, CMOJOE had his eyes on the prize.  This is something many of us in social channels are curiously shy about!

Bottom Line:  We don't work this hard for nothing.  Instead of being afraid of not alienating anyone, we should place our emphasis on fostering loyalty and response with the right people, and measuring our outcomes against established goals and objectives.

In summary, CMOJOE don't see everything the same way,  but like him, I'm open to debate and try to be fair minded.  Thank you for honoring me by reading this second part of the series.  If you have a moment tell me:  What do you think?  What other lessons or insights can be extracted from this situation?  Lemme have it!

(Note:  Again, please use care in your comments.  I try to treat others as I'd like to be treated and have decided not to name, or link to the "real" CMOJOE.  If you know him, just call him Joe.  Thanks!)

CMO JOE AND THE DM SPAM - Part 1 What would you think?

I was recently followed by a CMO of a huge corporation. Let's call him @CMOJOE. On Friday, out of the blue -- without any past contact, he DM'd me on Friday, actively promoting what I feared was a course in SEO magic...but turned out to be his book.
CMOJOE: LivePath Wow! @booktitle made TheDailyBeast-This Week's Hot Reads list, is #261 today on Amazon & #9 on "Mover &Shaker" List! http://bitlylinktobookthaticouldnotrecognize

Now, maybe it's just me, but his approach felt invasive to me.  I didn't know the guy. He'd never talked to me before. I didn't know he wrote a book.  It was a bit like the Twitter equivalent of accepting a first date and being groped on the spot. Irritated, I DM'd him back:
Livepath: Did someone hack your account, or are you actually DM Spamming me?
He didn't respond. I checked his Twitter stream and noted that I was not the only person who was irritated by the DM approach.  It doesn't seem he responded to everyone - but there was a lot of action in his tweet stream.  The responses he did send seemed a little brusque to me. Here were a few tweet "leftovers" I found:
CMOJOE: @personsname (It's) called communication - how else (to) reach you?


CMOJOE: @personsname You may call it that. I call it a DM. I sent it.


CMOJOE: @personsname on the issue... one thing i can tell u, DM's do work, big time. Some "rules" are not fully worked out, hence the comments.

In all fairness, i didn't have time to cross references his responses to the original responses. What I saw on the surface seemed, however, brusque and unapologetic. I was past really caring, and posted a single tweet on the topic without naming my offender:

Livepath:  CMO of major corporation is auto DM Spamming me about his new book. Had never engaged with me before now. UNFOLLOW!

This didn't elicit a response from CMOJOE.  However, I did hear from some other Twitter folks who put some virtual pieces together and responded to me via @ and DM.


One tweeter questioned the "ethics" of CMOJOE's action (I don't think this is an ethics issue, incidentally). Others sent me thoughts and links to articles. All were equally turned off by CMOJOE's approach.


One individual pointed me to the "I hate Auto DMs on Twitter" Facebook Fan page, pointing out that CMOJOE was, curiously, a member. While, as of this writing, he seems to have discontinued "liking" this page, he did leave a post on the Page's Wall, which clearly states

"I put the auto DM people on my definition of a twanker! Despise auto DM's!"

Another user pointed out to me a post CMOJOE authored on the blog for his (former) large corporation --railing against "twankers" whom he defines as:
"Twanker (noun) a person, organization, or company who uses bad form on or exhibits bad behavior on Twitter."
(His post included auto DM's as twankish behavior.)
 
Another tweeter pointed me to an early release article stating that CMOJOE had resigned his position with major corporation to pursue full-time promotion of his book, "which was becoming a full time job."


Still another tweeter sent me a link to an article in a major publication, announcing CMOJOE's intent to launch into a television career:
"The gregarious executive, 49, tells me he has been approached 'by a lot of people to do TV' and he is now hashing out the details of a show, which could be on the air by fall, if not sooner."

Another sent another major media article to me about his resignation, which reads:

"(Huge Corporation CEO) knew he planned to leave the company this year. He decided recently to accelerate his departure. He plans to leave the company May 28.... (CMOJOE) says he will keep promoting himself and his projects through social media channels."

The press helped me fit some pieces together:  His book was doing well and he's moving on quicker than expected. All the more reason to aggressively push the book. Throw in a television deal... Okay - got it.
 
Later on, I saw that CMOJOE had become a last minute speaker at a conference that evening, and had spent 40 minutes on the topic with a passionate audience. I didn't have time to do anything other than retroactively scan some of the tweets from that session, and I don't like to formulate opinions when I'm not present for discussion. So, to avoid relying on hearsay, potential misquotes or information presented with a lack of context, I waited for some indication of personal concern from CMOJOE.

Maybe the message was sent in poor judgment... or maybe CMOJOE is a "twanker," to use his own term. The jury was still out for me.What do you think?

I admit, that when I have wanted some input, I've pinged a few friends via DM for attention... but it's always been a selective few... and I do it in a manner I hope doesn't feel like spam...typically these are people who are trusted sounding boards, and folks I do the same for on occasion. 

What would you do if, never hearing from before, you were sent CMO Joe's tweet?  Is it right or wrong to DM self-promotional messages to your follower list?  Where do you draw the line?  Do you use "Auto Bots?"  Thoughts?  




(Note:  I decided not to identify CMOJOE for a number of reasons ... The only one I choose to share is this:  I try to treat others the way I'd like to be treated in similar circumstances.  Please use care in your comments. It's not necessary to single anyone out to have constructive dialog) 

ON OLD SCHOOL "MEKETERS" & MARKETING SHIFT

After a hard day of work, I saddled up to the table last night, delighted.  My husband had prepared a nice dinner for our family. Our dining room has a window facing to the street. As we looked out into the grey, calm evening, we could see children playing and people walking their dogs.  I suddenly noticed a very tall, perky, smiling, canvassing, door-to-door marketer in a green jacket. 

Digging in to my lasagna, I said, "Man! Why do they always come around at dinner time?!"  My husband replied "Are you seriously asking that question?"   He was right. I know better.

Feeling uneasy, we began eating.  We watched as the "Perkiteer" reached our next-door, spanish speaking neighbor.  Her visit was predictably short.  She bounded down the driveway and turned for our house with a determined gleam in her eye.

As she passed by our dining room window, she looked directly into the window at us - clearly gathered around our meal. 

"You don't think she'll actually come to our door now, do you?"  still knowing better.  "Naaaw!" said my husband, sarcastically.   "I'm not answering it!!" I said, knowing I would, anyway.  We heard her feet on the stoop, and the knocking began. Our lab began barking hysterically, and the interruption was complete. I threw down my napkin and said "I'll handle it."

I opened the door to her smiling face.  "Hi! I'm KAYLA with TRU GREEN Lawncare and I..."  I interrupted politely, "I'm sorry, Kayla. As you can see, we are in the middle of our dinner."  Kayla frowned, hopeful "I'm sorry, I just wanted to..."  I interrupted again  "I'm sorry Kayla. We're in the middle of dinner. This is not a good time for us.  Have a good night."  Kayla rebounded, fervent in her approach "But, can I just give you a flyer?"  she said, desperately.  I sighed, "Sure, give me a flyer." She handed me a very large door hanger signed with her name and said to call her if we needed anything. I didn't thank her. I just said, "Goodbye Kayla." She went on, undeterred, to knock insistantly at more doors, at dinner time on a Thursday evening.

Staring briefly at the oversized door hanger in my hands, I ripped it into four pieces.  I sat down at the table, bristling. This wasn't really about Kalya. She was sort of cute and endearing.  It wasn't that it hasn't happened before.  My anger stemmed over the fact that this was simply stupid marketing.  It is simply astonishing how many companies do equivocably, the same thing: Irritate people, interrupt family or personal time, spoil dinner and then ask for our money!

"This is not even good marketing" I remarked to my husband, It's ME keting!"  Together, we worked up a definition of the MEketer: 
  • MEketers love interruptive, pushy tactics
  • MEketers are ego-driven, believing people should want to listen, just because they are a brand
  • MEketers are more concerned with delivering messages than building relationships
  • MEketers fail to demonstrate care or regard for people because they view them as a means to an end
  • MEketers often believe success is driven by working "more"  - not working "smarter"
  • MEketers favor tenacity over common sense
  • MEketers love the cookie cutters - They are formulaic marketers - doing everything the same way, every time.
Kayla chose to rudely interrupt us, and TruGreen lost a potential customer. If she'd gently left a door hanger with a personalized note, and returned at a later time, we would have talked with her.  Imagine this greetingL

Hi!  I didn't want to interrupt your nice family dinner!  I'll come back at another time!  Best, Kayla 
Unfortunately, Kayla had been schooled well in MEketeering.  Sadly, as more doors are slammed in her face, I can see her young optimism and perkiness eroding quickly.  Looking ahead, poor Kayla just may become casualty of lazy, old school training, resigning her green jacket for a fast food uniform.

As I've repeatedly mentioned in my blog posts, the old tactics don't work in the new economy. Marketing has fundamentally shifted:


The companies that really understand this shift will change their tactics to demonstrate genuine care and regard for people, devise out of the box methods for reaching people and building affinity, leverage new channels and tools to bolster service, and close deals by demonstrating respect, value and trustworthiness.

Companies of all shapes and sizes - especially those with a local presence:  Use your noggins!  Be people-centric. Celebrate your customers as they celebrate your products and service.  Get yourself on local, review driven sites like Angie's List and encourage customers to review your service or products!  Use Facebook to create a solid local network, bound by relationship.  Do something to improve a neighborhood, shout about it online and through traditional media.  Be authentically good!  And, if you go door-to-door, do it with respect and politeness, and in a sensible referral driven manner.  Demonstrate care for people, tell a compelling story and don't push too hard.  It's good business, and it's about time.  You can't afford NOT to make the shift in this tough economy!

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LEIGH DURST

LEIGH DURST
I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.

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Web Redesign: Workflow that Works