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If you haven’t heard the news, Apple just announced the iPad – a tablet device to really complement the iPhone and laptop/desktop. This post is not an analysis of the features/functionality, but rather my thoughts on how we as marketers can learn from their marketing.  But, to see a ton of posts on this go to Alltop, or see the full keynote here.

I was following as much of this as I could on Twit.tv where they had more than 100,000 following their live audio (and sometimes video) feed. The truly remarkable part of this annoucement was the viral nature of this. No press release was put out, but rather rumors emerged on the Web all the way from early 2009 on what this product would look like and have for feature/functionality. There was HYPE!

The announcement was not mind blowing. Some were dissapointed by lack of features such as not having a camera, mic, and multi-tasking, but all of those that I talked to said they would still buy it. Apple did an incredible job by embracing bloggers. They gave press passes to bloggers, which in turn they knew would “live blog” about this – I was also following 5 or so live blogs to see who could get up coverage faster. Engadget and Gizmodo actually went down a few times due to the amount of people viewing their site. And twitter, well that was a lost cause with more than 1,000 posts every few seconds.

The lesson for us all – success does not lie only in the press release. By embracing the Web and inviting bloggers to your events can turn into a huge Web event and free promotion of your product. In doing so, you find the true evangelists that will hype the product, even if there is a bit of disappointment in the final product.

Now I know we all do not have the luxury of being an Apple, but we still can take some of the success of this announcement into our practices when announcing products. Anything in the tech space can be ground breaking, and hype can be built on the Web around it –  the key is finding true evangelists on the Web to talk about it.

I’ve been putting off a new post for a while now and was inspired by this post from Jeremiah Owyang on “Community Manager Appreciation Day”. Within the organization where I am employed the community manager role has evolved as an essential role with our launch in 2009 of an external community for clients. Even more, I read about it every day thru Twitter, Friendfeed, articles from major publications and the blogs of those that have evangelized and basically created this space we call social media.

At the end of 2009 I carefully aggregated perceptions and predictions on what would happen in digital/social space in 2010. Social network aggregation and growth, video, and mobile were the key trends that I found. Although I do agree, I’ll put my bets on community building online (via paid community platforms).

Community building can be looked at a few ways. There are external communities that are housed on networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, but I see a big play in the organizationally created community. This would be something on a community platform such as Jive, KickApps, Telligent, and Awareness (to name a few). These types of communities can be structured to meet every organizational goal, which is something not easy to do on a “free” social network. They can be used internally and/or externally.

Home-grown communities can be driven from key initiatives in the organization through the collaborative nature of these platforms. If it be to drive sales, deliver thought leadership, customer support, consulting, or just giving a platform for customers to talk to one another, these platforms will be able to support it. Even better, you will have all of the activity on one dashboard, tailor promotions around one community (rather than multiple i.e. facebook, linkedin, etc.), and more importantly, moderate [and in a way] control the message – at least this is the tactic you can take to get executive buy-in.

When making this move it is essential for organizations to designate a community manager to be the “go to person” in building out  more communities within the organization – did I say that these platforms are very scalable! In talking to colleagues from various industries, I am seeing the creation of one community spark ideas and interest from many business units and groups within the organization that may have shyed away from the original idea of talking to customers online. And a community manager can facilitate all of this giving best practices and leveraging one platform across the organization.

The role is real and essential to build the proper roadmap and strategy for the entire online community involvement of the organization. I put my bets on seeing more and more community manger roles evolve for both internal and external roles. What are your thoughts?

My absence from blogging has had a lot to do with this post. Between putting in ridiculous hours and traveling some very cool places like San Francisco (where I may end up at the latter end of my life!) I have been realizing that us social media geeks need to un-geek ourselves sometimes! The social media landscape is vast and ever-changing, which makes it super exciting for a newly found geek like myself. But at the same time we have to understand that the majority of the population does not get it.

So I sit here, thinking how it (social) can all make sense to the “normal” corporate employee. Two years ago I stood in front of a handful of execs and tried to explain what social media was and how it needed to be integrated into the business. Reflecting back, has social media really changed? The tools, yes they have evolved. But has the mere premise of social being a collaboration, one-to-many function really changed?

My answer is NO, and the whole thought behind my un-geeking the geeks. We need to realize that not everyone knows how Facebook works. Not everyone knows how LinkedIn works. And I guarantee most people don’t have a f-in clue why we use twitter. We have evolved the tools much faster than the average internet user has evolved. Looking at the business world, well that’s a completely slower adoption.

So I am taking the geek out and basically positioning it how I would explain it to my mother (Mom no offense. You are awesome at attaching pictures now through email). Yes the tools are important to know and explain, and this needs to be done at an extremely basic level with absolutely no acronyms. But even more importantly, this means sticking to the basics and focusing on the real challenge at hand – how do we (as social geeks) collaborate, and fulfill our individual organization goals through the integration social media?

I have a pretty good idea, but that is staying with the geek in me.

As social media starts to ramp up and not just become a fad, but a reality to how organizations need to adapt, there is still way too much focus on the tools. I have had the luxury of speaking to many people trying to do what I am (building social media adoption), and have noticed that most conversations start with the tools. Things like, “Twitter has X number of users and Facebook has X number of users, we need to be on there.” Yes, great to know these stats, but brands that just go to the tools without going back to the basics will utimately fail.

Marketing 101. Most of us in the industry have gone through it. It’s all about identifying your target audience, creating some goals/objectives of reaching that audience, then creating a strategy around it. With all of the hype, I have seen a trend that ultimately cuts out what we have learned in marketing 101. Instead of indentifying the things we learned in Marketing 101, we just focus on hype –  twitter, facebook, youtube, yammer, etc.

The tools are great. I am a huge advocate and try to be a user as much as possible don’t get me wrong. But what we don’t realize is that not all of our target audience is on each tool. For example, look at this article in the WSJ that got a ton of traction that talks about how “teen don’t twitter.” I have heard from many industry connections about horror stories of companies trying to market on twitter to gen-y. Guess, what – not very good results.

So let’s all take a step back and go to the days of $5 AYCD, PBR, and Natty Ice…and Marketing 101. Before you determine what tools you want to use in your social media strategy, determine your target audience, goals, and strategy. You may find that twitter is not the way to reach everyone.

In the last few months, Twitter has taken celebrity status. In talking to our associates, friends, and family, it seems that although there is buzz, most people don’t get it. Below I have categorized the three types of “Twitter Users” in my opinion.

Contributer

  • Writes daily updates on what they are doing
  • Links to content that is of interest of followers
  • Mixes RT and original information

Follower

  • Explores the twittershpere and follows friends, co-workers, and industry actives
  • Reads and collects content from others
  • Goes to links and follows other’s conversations
  • Not much conversation, but uses Twitter as an aggregate to get information
  • May be a Re-tweeter of content

Power User

  • Mix of both Contributer and Follower types
  • “Joins the conversation” through twitter and other social sites
  • Is active on-and offline building personal brand
  • Uses @ name as a way for people to connect with them

Feel free to comment and add to this list. Over time I will revise this to make it more accurate.

For even more insight, check out this article from Mashable on “The 10 Users You’ll Meet on Twitter”

My last post was about terrible customer service I experienced at Golf Galaxy, where I was a very loyal and frequent customer. I gave it two weeks to see if I would get any type of contact from Golf Galaxy, but did not get anything. What I did get out of it was the satisfaction of finding out that this has happened to many other people. Many of it through the Web (comments on FB, email, etc.) and also through interaction with friends and family. One of my biggest accomplishments out of this was having one of my friends (who buys new clubs every year) react by saying, “Wow. I have had decent experiences there but nothing great. Looks like I won’t be going back now….ever.”

But through this experience there are some key takeaways that we can all take when it comes to your brand being exposed negatively on the Web. And let me get this straight, my experience was not like many recent ones that were just huge (Dominos, Motrin), mine was very small in Web proportions with having just over 400 people view my post, 4 RT on Twitter, and 12 comments (FB and email). But here is the deal, this is thousands of people being exposed to this experience. Not all will change their minds and stop shopping there, but a few will.

The biggest thing that brands are having issues with on the social Web is listening. Obvsiously noboby was listening on the Web for Golf Galaxy two weeks ago when this post came out. If they were listening they could have joined the conversation by commenting on the blog, sending me something on twitter or facebook, or direct messaging me via twitter or email. If they would have done so acknowledging the situation and apologizing I would have wrote a post about how good they were at listening. And even better maybe would have given Golf Galaxy another chance in the future. Instead, they have lost a customer (hopefully hundreds!) for life.

So what should they do to prevent this in the future. Just a few thoughts:

  • Start a twitter account and listen. Search golf galaxy every day to see what people are saying. Also use this account to put out sales or coupons (much like the emails that they send).
  • Start searching the Web for blogs that talk about them and join the conversation.
  • Start being social on their own. Align social tools with marketing objectives.

Good luck.

The Situation

I have been a big time golfer (well atleast the interest level is huge) for my whole life. I spend money on the newest clubs, balls, even biodegradable tees! It was time for new grips because the cord (style) grips that I had were just not cutting it for me. So, I went to Golf Galaxy where I always buy (in this case bought) all of my golf necessities.

The Story

Monday 5/4/09 – Go to Golf Galaxy in Brookfield to get new grips. At the end of last year I had them put the Winn G8 on my 4 iron to test it out over the winter and see if it is what I wanted to switch to for all of my clubs. The test went good so I decided to switch to this grip. I went into the store and proceeded to the grip area. Went back and a guy was back there gripping a club. He was doing it for an elderly man who was trying to create some conversation with the employee – the employee wasn’t having it. Replied with one-word answers basically blowing the old man off. To be honest, don’t even know if the elderly man needed a regrip but really was just looking to  have some good golf conversation.

So I went and looked at grips. The G8 was advertised but did not have any grips for sale in the “bin”. I looked around and waited for the employee to finish the regrip. He finished and I asked if they had any G8’s in. He replied, “I don’t think so.” I asked if he could check “in the back” and he replied that they were all out and didn’t sell them anymore. BUT they were advertising them so that was a little sketchy.

Being open to other options I began asking questions. “Is this one like the G8?” “Is this one firm or soft?” “I don’t want a cord, so can you tell me which ones are opposite of that?” The response that I got was basically that it was a personal preference/he didn’t really care to help. Yes, I know it is a personal preference but you are paid to give me information! So we went around and around, basically I felt that the dude just wanted to go back for a cig break or think about his broken dream of being on the tour and now stuck in Golf Galaxy. So I found the Winn DSI. Nice grip but the display wasn’t on a shaft. Asked him if he could put it on one and employee said “no”. Ughhh.

You are probably asking now, “Why in the world did I even stay after this?” For me it’s all about loyalty. I have been loyal my whole life. Loyal in my job, loyal to my friends, girlfriends, and to my favorite stores. So I gave them a chance. I ended up getting the Winn DSI and had them put the grips on. I asked when I could get them and he said by the weekend. 7 days for 10 grips? Come one now! The guy was being a jerk. I tried to engage in conversation about a course that he and now another employee were talking about and they blew me off.

So I got an estimate for the work. I know it is an estimate and they can change it – yes I get it. But the guy’s estimate was only for the labor of 2 grips plus price of 10 grips for a total of around $65. I really thought he was hooking me up for being such a terrible help, but turns out he was just incompetent and couldn’t figure out how to work the computer. So I signed and left, asking to have the grips by the weekend and they said hopefully it could be done. 9 out of 10 times I would have brought up the mistake. But in this case he ought to be doing me a favor anyway.

Wednesday 5/6/09 – Early! Got an email the grips were done. Sweet, thanks buddy for coming through. I’m busy with softball the next few night so go in Friday. Go back by the club repair area and there is nobody around. Stand there for a good 4 or 5 minutes and two employees walk by but don’t acknowledge my existence. Awesome… Then the same guy comes back. Thinking he may have had a case of “the Mondays” during my last visit I give him a chance.

He walks up I say, “What’s going on man?” He blows me off…”Last name?” Really? After not helping me you have to be a huge prick. So I tell him my last name and look and the estimate is change to $90 (from $65). I say to him that the estimate was $65 when I signed on Monday. He replies that he screwed up (no “sorry I screwed up sir”) but just a non-genuine answer. So I say that the original was $65 that I signed and I shouldn’t have to pay for his screw up (in a very NICE way). He says he screwed up and I have to pay it, end of story. I come back and say that I have been coming here for at least 5 years and should not have to pay it. SIDE NOTE – if you know me, I am not cheap. Have never been cheap. But after how I was treated at Golf Galaxy I think I should be compensated for terrible service and shouldn’t have to pay for someone’s screw up.

So this guy then has the nerve to say, “So lookin’ for a freebie. I get it. You can go to the manager and try to get your freebie.” Basically saying that I am cheap. Golf Galaxy employees are now calling their customers (loyal customers) cheap! As you can imagine, I am furious. Just furious. So I go to the manager. Instead of apologizing and saying “Sir, I’m sorry that we screwed up but we cannot do anything about it,” he ends up telling me that the work was done and I have to pay it. I tell him that I don’t care about the money part, but the service was terrible. Even go on to tell him that his prick of an employee was unhelpful and extremely rude. He has no answer, but he can give me half off the difference ($10). I even said I would never come back again and he could still do nothing! Ohh, and still no apology on their mistake and his employees terrible service. I leave in frustration.

The Loss

I have been going to only Golf Galaxy for everything like I mentioned. Even have forwarded sales via email to friends, coworkers and family. Not any more. I am finished at Golf Galaxy for life.

My estimated future purchases and projected revenue lost for the next 40 years. Sorry Golf Galaxy but I’m going elsewhere.

Irons (new every 5 years): $1000 x 8 = $8000

Driver (new every 3 years): $300 x 13 = $4000

Woods/Hybrids (new every 3 years): 3 clubs x $200 each = $7800

Balls (5 boxes year):  $40/dozen = $8000

Total Estimate: $27,800 – this does not include shoes, gloves, tees, bags, and clothes – all bought at Golf Galaxy in the past.

The Power of Social (social experiment)

RT and pass this along. Let’s see if I hear anything from Golf Galaxy. I will update the post if I do. Twitter tag: #antigolfgalaxy

I was on vacation a few weeks ago in Arizona and obviously had to do some golfing. Living in Wisconsin this is obviously not something that you can do at this time – although I do recall being dragged out by my father to golf when I was younger and there was snow in the sand traps and the ponds were still frozen. The two days that I went golfing, I got paired up with a different two-some of players. All four guys were mid-thirties with occupations ranging from an EMT, to dentist, to education. Being a game that does involve conversation, we all discussed what we did for a living. I said social media. Every response that I got was – like facebook…right?

So these people kind of got the idea of what social media was….kinda. They knew it was about building community over the Web, two of them even told stories about friending ex-girlfriends on facebook to see if they were “hot” anymore. But when it came to testing their Twitter knowledge, they were clueless. On the 13th hole at Vistoso and 17th at El Conquistador I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a scenic photo. Absolutely gorgeous in Tucson. After snapping it I put out a tweet that attached the image. Of course, my fellow golf partners asked what I was doing. And I said, “tweeting the hole.”

tucsonYou can image…. eyes in the back of their heads. I explained twitter was a tool where you post 140 characters or less answering the question “what are you doing?” but I use it more for information gathering from the top social media folks in the industry. They were intrigued. Only one out of four even heard the word “twitter” before, but didn’t obviously look much into it. So the question is, when does Twitter get the type of props that Facebook has?

Take a look at my post called “Are You Using Twitter?”. Is twitter right now just for the techies? I’ll tell you right now that only a handful (and I have small hands) of my gen-y friends are actually on Twitter. And only one or two actually use it on a regular basis. Will it only catch on if Facebook acquires Twitter? I look on facebook and see how much people love to fill in their status updates with crap. Useful information. So maybe I like Twitter how it is now. There is some crap out there, but it is mixed in with valuable information. People linking to content that can make me more knowledgable instead of wasting my time seeing the countless facebook status updates on Sunday afternoon of how everyone is hungover….although very funny if I have a clear head, which has been the case for a while now.

In these tough times there is absolutely no reason NOT to go out and build your personal brand. You need to absolutely kill it when it comes to your own representation. For ways to do this go to a post from last month on growing your network. I saw this opportunity to kill it on twitter the other night. I was relaxing and watching Scarface when I got a message that @Scobleizer is now following me. Are you kidding me! If you have no idea who Robert Scoble is, you need to start at Web 2.0 101. This guy is one of the most profound gurus in the space.

See, I took like 15 days or so off of twitter due to a ridiculous span of working my tail off and now have come to the realization that I need to take advantage of this opportunity. And taking advantage in no means is about  just posting more STUFF, which unfortunately  on twitter there is just a lot of STUFF, but it is about posting content that can build a relationship with a top guru in the space. And when I say stuff, I mean irrelevant information from individuals which I think actually builds the character of the tool itself – don’t take it out of context, twitter is awesome. It brings collaboration and socialization together. You can gain knowledge from others while also learning about them. Their travel, their habits, their personal experiences.

You know some say they have those life changing moments when they have a near death experience. Mine came with a simple email notification of a new follower. I gotta step my game up and kill it. I need to contribute content to the masses that is new and worthwhile. Crush it as Gary V would say….haha dude is another guru when it comes to the space.

Are you concerned about your job? Or do you want something even better? There is one thing that you can do to make yourself ready for a change – build your online network.

In times like these, it is essential to build your network online. Start making virtual friends with those in your field all over the world. Here is a list of some necessary steps to take online.

  • Go to Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, etc. and build your network of friends
  • Go to these social networks and join groups that surround your profession and PARTICIPATE
  • Participation is key. Be active and be well known and thoughtful
  • Join FreindFeed and subscribe to top professionals in your area (and me if you want!)
  • Join Twitter and follow top thought leaders and professionals in your area (@samsova)
  • Find top bloggers in your area and put them into an aggregator (like myyahoo.com) and learn
  • search for free or cheap events in your city

The biggest thing to take out of this is to build YOU online. Understand how people follow one another and how to be followed so that you are well know. Start a blog, contribute to a blog (comment). Be thoughtful. Just participate.

Hopefully taking some of these actions will help you understand more what is going on in your profession and will open up opportunities in these tough times.

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