Monday, March 29, 2010

Because People Are Stupid and Business is Social. And Vice Versa.



Based on the 1992 presidential debate that coined the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid!" We've all had our say about everything else that is stupid. Like people. Business. Taxes. Health care reform. Social media.

So on this dreary Monday morning, I present to you a slideshare presentation that does a great job outlining the facets of Facebook and the tremors behind Twitter. Not because it's anything new, really, but it's an intriguing way of illustrating the mix of old and new and oddly indifferent ways that people will use to connect to other people. It also takes a pragmatic approach in explaining social media on a global scale yet at the same time really illustrates how global means local and local means global.

Because while we say that things (or people or business or anything that may approach common sense) are stupid, what we really mean is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And if I'm going to point out a little powerpoint discussion on relationship management, I may as well also highlight some recent research that looks into the matter. In this posting, a contributor at the Altimeter group writes up his thoughts as the following:

The author suggests that in order for people, organizations and strategies to not appear "stupid," all they have to do is follow this simple plan:
  1. Discover where the conversations are happening in this new social world.
  2. Identify who’s influential and if they are customers or not.
  3. Assess friend or foe status and their willingness to engage
  4. Determine a tiered approach to engagement or re-engagement.
  5. Tie social channels to business value and objectives
  6. Bring the social channel back to existing CRM systems.
  7. Reallocate resources to support Social CRM efforts
Who can argue with that? And who can argue with the statement that most of the conversations about your business will, in fact, come from outside your business. It's like life. How many rumors have you spread about yourself lately? When was the last time you stood hunched over at the watercooler, whispering with a red face as you retold every detail about how you made an ass out of yourself in the boardroom or how great you are for some new fantastic innovation?




Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Is A Big Deal After All


Take a listen to what the Vice President whispers into the ear of President Obama after Joe introduces the man who intends to change history with the introduction of the health care bill. Watch the video and read the story here. I'm not positive, but I think I may respect the man more now that I've seen this. It's that or I want to have a beer with him.

The same author penned a salacious article that very well may be the flight plan of a few of my unemployed single female fatales if indeed the economy doesn't turn around soon. (You know who you are: don't do it!!!) I mean, really, why let a little integrity and ethics claim your seat at the table of the rich and fancy when you literally are one social media "fame-whoring" fiasco away from the likes of Tiger Woods, John Edwards and now Jesse James. I am positive that I've lost all respect for these men and I definitely don't want to share a beer with them. In fact, if you have, I would suggest you get yourself tested.

The very idea of "social media" may indeed be a big deal right now, but common sense always comes first. Your mama may have told you never to give out your last name and address to strangers, but did she tell you not to Tweet about it either? This poor girl learned the hard way that the tools may have changed (telephone to Twitter, social gathering to social media) but the message is the same: protect yourself.

In another prime example of "big deals" making headline news lately, Northern Iowa Coach Ben Jacobson is reeling in the big fish after having defeated the top-seeded Kansas City Jayhawks in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The team will play Michigan State in the Midwest Region semifinals in St. Louis tomorrow night. As for Jacobson, he celebrated his Jayhawk stomp by signing a new ten-year deal that elevates his annual salary to $450,000 with an annual raise of $25,000 until 2020. Not bad for a small town boy.

In what some may consider big deal news and other may consider simply the status quo, Google continues to monitor China as China continues to monitor Google. Time will tell what world power will dominate.

Wegivetoget.com offers great big deals every day to smart and conscientious consumers. Check out their pledge to take your hard-earned money and help others while also giving you something back. I think this is a brilliant idea, and not just because I regularly get hit up with requests for all sorts of monetary support for good, great and not-so-great charities and causes alike. And I regularly pay for services and products as a consumer. (Shoes!!!) The idea behind wegivetoget.com is one that makes sharing the burden of philanthropy more enjoyable and frankly, more attractive in this economy. I'm gonna spend money. I'm gonna donate money. If we can meet in the middle, it's a good deal for everyone.

What's your idea of a big deal?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Only Fun Dates For This Monday


I made pink lemonade today with real lemons. Everyone knows that's the official drink of summer, so let the games begin! Welcome sunshine, goodbye winter blues!

In other news, here is a short list of things to look forward to...feel free to add more in the comment section.

Eric Clapton will once again lead an all-star cast of guitar hero's for a day-long summer concert in Chicago set for June 26. Crossroads Guitar Festival will feature performances by the Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy and John Mayer, among others.

After dumping about 800 pounds of shit in our river, Dave Matthews promises to be a good boy and this time will deliver a delightful performance if he takes to the stage at Wrigley Field in a proposed summer concert series that has aldeman talking to neighborhood association people talking to owners of the ballclub and more. It's a rather viscious circle of "What's in it for me?" When clearly it's all a bunch of crap. Let the man play, I say! More info to come, no doubt...

Sunday, October 10, 2010 kicks off the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. While I may not be ready for all that the day may bring, I will at least show up. That's half the battle, right? The other half of the battle will be to not stop in the middle of Boystown and join the revelers as they party like it's 1999! Yay!

I'm going to confess and say upfront that I deserve it all. Whatever it is that is coming my way. I deserve it. That's why I am adding this ridiculous purse hanging charm thingy to my list of clever things to do, see, puchase and partake in...
Yes, that's right...a purse holder from Red Envelope. Here is why I am adding it: I said something insulting and now I am eating my words. I recently made fun of a friend who pulled out of her carpet bag a certain lavishly decorated hook in order to carefully place her purse dangling from the table at which we dined. In public. For everyone one to see. And me. I saw it! I laughed. I may have snorted. I may have demanded that it be removed immediately for fear the fashion police would arrest us both and never again shall I feel the cool comfort of breathable cashmere or the insatiable runway stylings that only Via Spiga can deliver. And then a few nights ago I ate my entire dinner with my treasured majenta Coach purse tucked behind me in my chair for fear that the icky sticky would be stuck to my beloved handbag upon my exit from a certain sushi restaurant that shall remain unnamed (for now...watch out Yelp! Gulp.) Sooo...yeah...go ahead and spend the $15 to save yourself some back pain and some purse ruining...yeah...okay...moving on...

Check out the world premiere of P. Seymour Hoffman's  (otherwise known as Phillip Seymour Hoffman of Boogie Nights) The Long Red Road at the Goodman Theater. It looks intriguing because it is dark and human and local but I think my favorite line was from the behind the scenes look when the playwrite said the most fantastic thing was when "the cast brought as much of themselves as I brought of myself," to each day of work. Hmmmmm...I'm trying not to be cynical about this because likely I will love the production and later eat my words while sitting atop my purse, but I am mildly amused that some people take themselves SO SERIOUS. Seriously. Showing up is half the battle, I'm sure of that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NOTHiNG. But warm gooey goodness.


I recently chatted with a potential consulting client about his company's social media needs.

He said that his people were hearing lots and lots of negative feedback on blogs, twitter and other forms of social media.

I did some research and found nothing. As in, NOTHiNG.

Nothing good. But nothing bad, either. And I know I've said before that no news is bad news, but come on. If I can't find anything online about your company then I can't find your company.

So I thought for a moment and thought for a moment longer. And I asked him what he was doing. Was he creating a new position? Was he building up a marketing PR team? Was he looking for consultancy and strategy assistance? And I should not have been but I was surprised when he said he didn't have time for all that stuff. They wanted a full time employee who would occupy space in the office and would do a job. Every day. Like everybody else. He was not interested in any form of internal communication strategy work because as he saw it, they needed to deal with all the negative comments out there, not what their employees were saying. I asked him if he had a social media policy in his corporate communications and he said no. Why, he asked me? He didn't need to bother with that.

Oh boy. Let me back up. This guy was smart. As in, SMART. Impressive Ivy League education, stellar work history, executive title and all that jazz. But from my vantage point, when he sits down to hire another employee, that's exactly what he is going to get.

And the problem is that what he described to me is a need that most likely can be fulfilled internally with a bit of tweaking and a lot of trying. From all parties involved. And most likely a consultant to help drive the behavioral change that needs to start from the top down. But something that once started, could flourish. Research shows that customer response times and satisfaction rates improve, internal public relations efforts become more effective, brand awareness gets better and increased sales revenue should be a final factor in determining that your social media strategies were properly integrated into your big picture thinking. I firmly believe that growth starts internally and moves outward and I can't illustrate a need for that more precisely than this particular episode.

It's called brand advocacy and if you are an employer, you've already got 'em. They are called brand advocates. You may think of them as employees. Warm bodies. Clock-watchers. Time card punchers. Team members. Droids. Whatever. But they are more. They are people.

And yes, PEOPLE, make this small, small world go round and round.

If you are a company that is considering spending some of your marketing budget on social media this year, please first consider if blogging, tweeting and podcasting is something you really want to tackle in your overall marketing strategy. If not, then maybe next year. If so, then read up on what has worked for others (like Google, for goodness sake!) that face the same question of how to leverage your internal assets to best stregthen your brand across the social media landscape. After these ideas have soaked internally for a bit, bring in a consultant and pound out a long-term strategy based on clearly defined business objectives and resources. After all, you've already invested in the best. Warm. Employees.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Have You Hugged Your Bike Today?


The New York Times ran an article announcing Google's new project to add biking routes to their maps.

Titled, "Google Maps Adds Directions for Cyclists," the articles reads,

"Cycling enthusiasts tend to be a passionate bunch. So it is not surprising that there are lots of questions about biking information on Google Maps forums. One group, called googlemapsbikethere.org, has collected more than 51,000 signatures asking Google to add biking directions to its maps. On Wednesday, the company is answering the call, offering biking routes in 150 American cities in Google Maps."

Then there is a quote from a dude at bikehugger.com saying something about this being fantastic. And of course, there is a bit about how Google partnered with Rails-to-Trails conservancy in order to further promote sustainable practices and growth by turning old rail lines into trails and "conneting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people." All in all, really fabulous stuff.
 
But here is my concern; when will Google make MY life easier? Take for instance, this new map app which will allow me to plug in a few things here and there and then Google will do the rest to make sure my pedaling adventure is successful, right? But, Google, darling, I am so much more than a pedaler. I am also a parent, a shoe shopper, a writer, a cowboy boot collector, a coffee drinker and a novel reader, not to mention a fan of art museums, an occasional painter and cheesecake eater and a half marathon runner.
 
Which makes me wonder how long it will be before I pop open a can of Google-iciousness, jump into my account, plan out my daily route and have customized offers delivered onto me. For instance, when I am mapping out these plans for either public transit, walking, driving, or now biking, maybe at the last minute I will decide that I may want to get a manicure or an ice cream cone or a new favorite pair of hip-huggers along the way. Maybe I will want to check out a realtors office or a dry cleaner or a new fitness center? When will I have the option of plugging in my desires and have vendors fight for my consumer dollars?
 
I predict this is coming. I'm not that special so I'm banking on a groundswell of supporters that will drive this sort of marketing strategy from an idea to a Google app.

What do you think? Does this already exist in your world?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Good Stuff


What's your idea of "good stuff?"
Mine can be described in three words. Mysterious. Seductive. Liberating.

Like leftover cheese and onion pizza. Peanut butter straight from the jar. A bubble bath and a quiet evening with nothing other than a good book and a great bottle of wine. A warmed face of sunshine and a mouthful of clean country air. An art museum. Sand on a beach.  A sleeping dog.

Now think about what some may consider "common."

Much less exciting, but still, maybe all the same. Maybe what we tend to think of as "good" is easily discernable as "common" and vice versa. Hence, "uncommonly good stuff," may be rather difficult to come by.

So recently when I sat down to locate something as uncommon as a masquerade ball mask for my daughter's upcoming prom, I was rather surprised by how many varieties of vendors Google supplied with the click of a button. There was site after site that listed mask after mask and after a short while I was bored, completely bored and left with a sinking feeling that nothing would ever be great enough for my uncommonly good kid.

Then I found The J. Peterman Company site. In all fairness, I was told to go there by someone who knows me well. He said, "You know where you should look? J. Peterman. Like on Seinfeld. It's right up your alley."

So I did and I found love: the vintage flounce skirt. I also found a few masks that were perfect for the ball. Mysterious. Seductive. Liberating.

I was so enthralled by it all that I signed up for the email list. And I've since returned to the site to be delighted each and every time. I've also blogged a tiny about them.

So when I got the email invite to check out their newest adventure - a online off-shoot rendering of a sneak peek into the mind of John Peterman himself, I thought to my uncommon self, "Why not?" Here is my take on Peterman's Eye; A Community of Curious Travelers.

It's a site that may or may not be from the desk of J. Peterman, but all the same, is written in the same unnerving yet pragmatic prose that beckons even the most mundane and traditional digestor of noteworthy news and gossip to read and ponder and occassionally chuckle. Akin to the retail site and the mail-order business, this site keeps with the theme of delivering unto it's viewers a sense of real old-world value and virtue coupled with a relentless quest to understand and experience every little last detail of the total experience (including new technologies)..like using the back of your fork to mash up the tiniest morsels of cake left on your birthday plate. Leaving you delightfully full and wondering what is to come, this site does not disappoint in it's main content or composure.

Similar to the astonishing flapper dress, the community-news style world traveler companion site offers a rare combination of let it all hang out fun with sophistication that you'll wear through any season. For any reason...check it out...politics, news and gossip, farming, history, travel...are among the top navs with sidebar content that will compliment the main drivers of a story.

As a reader, the stories unfold one tale of incongruence after another in a most amiable fashion, like buttressing Sir Thomas Malory up against Mark Twain in order to set a tone of mystery and balance like no other. (Alas, I consider Mark Twain among those like no other, after all.)

The site offers glimpse's into diverse topics such as finding your favorite chateau while donning your favorite cowboy hat while traveling to places you have never traveled before...uncovering the fame and peril of Knighthood while claiming that perhaps not even the most feminist among us would argue that, "women and children in the lifeboats first." And much much more when it comes to crossing the globe in relative fashion with relatively good fashion.

The best content is perhaps the links to history and bits and pieces of interesting facts that the author weaves throughout the main text - very much Peterman-style prose. It's not all up in your face with literary references and uppity dialogue, either. It's totally readable and pleasant and makes a reader want to learn the why's and how's and fasctinating history behind contemporary thoughts and practices. If for nothing more than pulling out of your back pocket the next time you want to impress the opposite sex, Peterman can be counted on for providing you with a litany of water cooler topics and factoids that are sure to assist in winning a deal, closing a deal or bedding a business partner. Seductive, indeed.

The right side navigation offers portlets to travel destinations that I am guessing the Peterman clan hand-picked via targeted marketing strategies and such. Nice work here. I didn't see a Cancun trip for college co-eds (thank God) but I did see an available chateau in the south of France that offers tours of Monet's gardens at Giverny. Holy crap! Who wouldn't want to do that?

Here is what I am curious about: who are the 52 commenters for the link to an article on bread? I realize that J. Peterman appears to have personally crafted a short note recommending a link back to his local Lexington paper, but really, who are these people who care so much? (I adore people who care, by the way!) Are they bread makers? Basket weavers? Devout followers? Restaurant owners? Employees? Wow. 52 comments is impressive. Or rather, it's the norm for this beta blog. Every article I investigate offers dozens of comments; ranging from a minimum of 15 to over 165. The topics of discussion cover the spectrum and the posting variation is quite regular, so it seems his team takes this site serious. But I'm not so much interested in cutting through 52 comments about bread. I tend to look for repeating themes in reviews to best gauge true consumer feedback. A quick look around the site shows me that Peterman offers a sort of incentive for feedback. Aha. A novel approach to collecting opinions in this world of naysayers and trend-jumpers, it seems Peterman is on a quest to keep his little piece of the pie. His interactive incentive program is called Peterman's Coat of Arms and basically as a consumer, you get rewarded for your level and depth of blog comment participation. Interesting. Not necessarily mysterious or liberating, but maybe a hint of seduction.

And what else can I say? I agree with Teiresias, for I am female and as much as I ache for challenge, I also enjoy an occasional lifeboat.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Racing and Shooting. Not at the Same Time.


Spring has evidently sprung. I know this because two things begin to happen once the ice breaks and the birds start chirping; my inbox gets flooded with two main themes; mailers and save-the-dates regarding upcoming race information and registration reminders AND photo contents.

Not those two things combined, mind you. In my world, it's either a photo contest or a race I shall enter. And truth be told, I've never entered a photo contest...not even with the stellar photo finish image of last year's Chicago half. See below.



Here is what's coming up...

1. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Twenty-six point two smooth miles of entertainment, chompy stomping grounds and absolutely the best cheering sections in the world make this the best marathon ever. October.

2. Rock and Roll marathon in San Diego. New course. Same great race. June.

3. The ING New York Marathon. Be there near the square. November.

Photo contests

1. The J Peterman contest of rare and strange and utterly unexplainable images. The ironic thing is that the J. Peterman catalog does not use photographs of products to sell it's products...they use artist's renderings..or drawings some would say...to tell you all about a fantastically decadent fully-lined sheep-sheered wool sweater overcoat from Ireland that can be combined with the most painstakingly produced high grain leather hip boots found only in the remote villages tucked far away from conventionalism of the outback and yada, yada, yada...you get the picture (pun intended!)

2. The Groupon photo contest. This group offers daily coupon deals, a pretty good overall social media strategy backing it's marketing efforts and seems to be growing bu way of viral marketing quite nicely. Plus, they offer deals that real people use...like dining out deals, haircut coupons, spa treatments for half price and gift certificates to niche stores that you may otherwise walk right past. The photo contest asks for nothing more than a snapshot of you enjoying whatever it is that you purchased. Quick and easy. Just like taxes should be.

3. Enter the 8th annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest. This may very well be reserved for the serious lens worshipper among us, but it's still something that would look super duper cool on your resume.

Anything else going on near where you live? Any upcoming races or interesting contests? Please share!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Amusing Tales and A-Holes


Amusing Tales and A-holes

Laid off? Here is an interesting article that pokes fun at those laid off, their kids, kids in general and prom season. Titled, "Laid Off? Prepare For Your Kids To Turn Into Assholes, Says 'Emotional Intelligence' Expert," it takes a stab at emotional intelligence and all that is wonderful about being intelligent and emotional and frankly, being able to afford a prom dress during these tough economic times. It's a little whacky, but a good read nonetheless.

Here is an article detailing how General Motors will stop making Hummers. Titled, "Decisions to Stop Making Hummers Saddens Assholes," it's tongue in cheek but anyone who knows anyone who drives a Hummer also knows an asshole. Maybe they are the same person. Maybe not. All I'm saying...

Speaking of a-holes and f bombs, check out this story on CNET that includes email exchanges between a VP of an entertainment company and a disgruntled customer. It seems Evergreen Entertainment got a note from a theater goer that was unhappy she went to the show. She detailed her complaints and sent off the email. The VP, Steven Payne, fired back with an arsenal of profanity and offensive wit and then quickly sent another more apologetic email pretty much asking for her to delete the first response. But it's too late. The damage is done. This story illustrates a real danger when it comes to using social media when emotions are involved. Of course, it also illustrates how closely tied to social media we are becoming. So this is yet another example in my long line of examples that show how no one is perfect and everyone is human. The real fact is that humans are emotional and social media has the power to turn into "emotional media" if we are not careful. Or rather, if we are careful. More to come on this topic, I promise...


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Okay to Care. It's Even Better To Get Excited!


I once used the word 'fabulous' to describe something that happened at the large Fortune 500 global company I worked for, in trying to describe a new product launch or design feature or something else that easily could have disappeared from the press release story I was crafting if I didn't craft creatively. I was a corporate editor and I wrote frequently for the enterprise portal. During this particular episode of awakening (I'll call it an awakening because 1. I can, 2. I'm a nice person and 3. It's so very, very true), I was eager to share a story about how our company had made news for a certain new development and was actively being promoted in trade and popular press for our engineering accomplishments. My manager at the time scolded me for having an 'over-the-top artsy writing flair' that was not valued in such a 'traditional, conservative' corporate setting, providing me with a quote that I will never forget, "This is (insert company name). We are not fabulous."

It saddened me then and it still releases fresh nuances of how different people can be in the same setting. Not in a good way, either. For example, I was thrilled that I could be a part of something as great as making technological and engineering advancements that better the world and at the same time can appear as pretty darn cool to the average reader if explained in a way that didn't bore the reader to death or make them feel stupid for not understanding the intricacies of an engine block. I was also excited to be sharing the enthusiasm for a particular project because I was able to see first hand the developers and engineers who stood behind such advancements. They were a strange breed indeed, yet I worked to really understand their perspective and how what they were doing would translate to the customer who may find their thoughts and inventions rather enticing. Fabulous advancements, I thought.

As a marketing communications professional, there is little more depressing than someone telling you that you are getting too passionate about something that no one cares about. As a marketing communications professional, IT'S YOUR JOB TO CARE!!!

But sometimes this idea is lost in the muck. And it's so bad when that happens. But it makes it so much better to enjoy when it's celebrated. Just imagine if everyone cared just a little bit more. How exciting would that be? When was the last time you were surprised by how excited you were to be, well, excited?

I daresay we need a little more excitement in this small world after all.