Dear Blogger

Dear Blogger,

I get it. Really, I do. It’s a tough world out there and your personal brand won’t build itself. You need to be aggressive about building out your customer base. Upselling opportunities are important, and there’s no better time to do it than when a prospect is engaged with your content.

But here’s a very important point to remember: when the VERY FIRST thing someone sees when they come to your website is a full-page takeover with a marketing message, it is not smart marketing. It is greedy and short sighted.

You were smart enough to create content that someone recommended – that’s how I came to your site. Stay smart and let that content do its job before you ask a visitor to engage with you more deeply.

I’m seeing aggressive takeovers on page load happen more and more these days. Maybe you think that “the other sites are doing it” and that you should too, but please, don’t. It just make you look like you care more about me as a sales prospect than anything else.

Sincerely,

The visitor who just left your site thinking worse, not better, of you.

Surprise and Delight

“Surprise and Delight” was one of the mantras we got trained on at Starbucks. The way Starbucks sees the concept, it was about doing what you needed to in order to exceed customer expectations — remaking drinks to make sure customers were happy, handing out samples, etc. When it’s done right, it’s a great way of building customer loyalty.

Someone over at wine.woot must have been paying attention, because today I checked my mailbox and found an envelope containing a bumper sticker and a little card that invited me to send them a photo of the bumper sticker in use to get even more “cool stuff”.

I’m at best a casual wine.woot customer. I’ve only bought from them twice. So I was definitely surprised to find a gift from wine.woot in my mail. And you know what? It worked. I certainly would have bought from them again, but I’m definitely going to be more diligent about checking the site regularly for their latest offering. I’ll probably put the sticker up somewhere; maybe on my car, maybe even on my laptop. And I’m blogging about the whole thing to boot.

Multiply that out by all the other customers woot sent this to, and for the price of a run of bumper stickers and some postage, that’s pretty good marketing. And good for customer loyalty too.

Bravo, wine.woot. Well played.

Who 'Owns' Social Media, Another View

I had to think long and hard before asking Jeremiah Owyang to include me in his “List of Social Computing Strategists and Community Managers for Enterprise Corporations 2008” post.

Although it’s always nice to see your name in print, and I am proud of my role at Adobe, I have a fundamental disagreement with Jeremiah’s suggestion that social media needs to have a senior strategist in the command chain of an enterprise in order to properly embrace this new challenge. This echoes some of the discussion I’ve seen on other marketing and social media blogs and even on Twitter about “who owns social media” and how to bring social media into the enterprise.

From where I sit, that sounds like an attempt to graft typical command and control structure onto something that should be far more organic and integrated into a company’s existing systems. And frankly, an awful lot of what’s being said out there is starting to sound like a load of self-referential justification and/or an attempt to sell one’s own particular products and services. I’d go so far as to say that if your company needs to create an actual person or group who “owns” social media, you’re screwed before you even start.

Social media is not a silo. It’s not even all that new. People have been having conversations on the Internet since the Internet got started. The only problem is that it’s taking time for businesses and people that are used to the old methods of mass communication to truly understand the fact that things work a little differently here.

I’m biased, of course, but I think Adobe is doing a pretty decent job of navigating these waters. Some groups are adapting faster or more thoroughly than others, of course, but we’ve got people throughout the company blogging, Twittering, making videos, interacting on Facebook, and generally getting with the post-Cluetrain approach to communication. And I believe we will continue to move in the right direction.

Getting back to my original point, though, I had to think about what the implications were of putting myself on a list even though I don’t necessarily agree with the underlying premise. Obviously, I opted to be listed, since aside from the issue of “ownership” I fit the role as Jeremiah listed it, but I’m also putting up this post as a counterbalance.

Interesting or Compelling?

Over at Mobile Opportunity today, Michael Mace makes a point that’s true not just for technology products, but for virtually any kind of product development:

Very often tech companies will fall in love with a concept that is compelling to people in the company, but not to non-technologists. They’ll convince themselves that people will want it because, well, they ought to want it.

A related problem: A company will come up with a product that’s nice, but doesn’t really address [a pain point]. You know you have this problem when someone in the company says that need a marketing campaign to explain to people why they should want the product. The really good products need marketing for visibility, not persuasion.

I think this is the underlying problem behind most failed web applications. They do something interesting, as opposed to something compelling.

What makes this whole problem especially tough is that you can’t just ask customers what they need.

Emphasis added.

I’ll add the caveat that the line between visibility and persuasion is not cut-and-dried. Look at the advertising for the iPhone. Most of the spots are product demonstrations. Clearly, you’re raising visibility by showing what the product can do, but isn’t that also a form of persuasion?

And as always, one person’s “eh, interesting” is another person’s “OMG must have now!” But even so, the point is valid.

Session Notes: Creating a Coherent Social Media Strategy

Here are my notes from the interesting and fun session Jeremiah Owyang & Chris Brogan gave on social media strategy today at BlogWorld Expo.

Topic today: social media and creating a coherent strategy.

What keeps you up at night? What do you want to know?

J: Definition of web strategy: long-term decision-making for your website that includes three areas: users & community / business objectives / technology.

B: People talk more about how to use services to push content. Few people ask “how do I listen?” You need to listen as well as make noise.

J: Here’s how you can listen.
-Use Google Alerts for yourself AND your competitors
-Use Technorati, Google Blogsearch (there are many others listed on J’s blog) Radian6 another new one to look at.
-Track regularly; weekly if not daily. You don’t want to find that your biggest customer flames you 2 weeks ago and you said nothing.

Once you’re listening, take a look at: Who is talking about you? Track them in a centralized way (spreadsheet or database, for example).

Start tracking early so you can create benchmarks. This helps you measure success.

B: Find the people with bullhorns and turn them into party hats. Example: Dell Ideastorm, Saturn cars at BlogHer. Customers spend time and attention on you; make that valuable for them.

J: Use tools to help energize your customers and empower conversations, but the tools themselves are not as important as your strategy.

B: What if you had 2 fairly similar USB flash drive companies, and one of them came with all sorts of cool stuff? You’re differentiating by extending products and making them more people connected.

B: The elephant in the room – what do you do if someone says something bad about you? If I wrote that Blogworld Expo is stupid, what should Chris Calvert do? First off, say thank you for the comment.

J: Let’s imagine there is a really big elephant in the room. Example: A video company that stole content. What they did – they took the well-deserved beating they got and said thank you.

Case Study: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign.

An integrated campaign theme across ALL mediums and regions. They embraced parodies. They also launched a campaign across school systems to educate young girls about beauty. Successful.

Case Study: Hitachi
Integrated system across a number of organizations within Hitachi, throughout the product cycly.
Hired a company to provide reports on initial state of the social market vis a vis Hitachi.
Took on thought leadership by launching a blog (CTO blogger). Integrated it into the rest of their marketing.
It took time!
Figured out how these could be sales tools:
1) “Living white paper”
2) Door opener for sales – they could send the CTO blogger’s posts as conversation openers
3) Ongoing training
4) Rapid Response tool
Notes: they did not force registration for comments and did not pre-moderate, only pulled spam and swearing.
Created a “User to User” support forum to build community.
It built community AND reduced support costs; win!

B: Veering off to talk about Zoomr & how their launch went so badly. They turned on uStream and live cameras, showed themselves working hard to try to fix the problems. It generated a ton of sympathy and turned the bad PR right around.

J: Back to Hitachi & showing the forums. It integrated podcasts, videos, even stuff from competitors. He took a camera and shot videos of people at work, uploaded it, it became very popular.

J: Strategy on the next level – he created an industry tool, the Data Storage Wiki. NOT Hitachi branded (but had J’s name and title on it). Linked to everything a customer could want to help them pick a vendor, from all media and across a number of competitors. It got a lot of positive press & reception.

B: In short: Be helpful! The more helpful you can be, the better it is for you in the long haul.

Some baby steps & takeaways:
-Understand the Elephant
-Bullhorns into Party Hats – make a party or join theirs
-Develop a Plan
-Be Holistic – these tools work in a lot of different ways. This is not just about marketing.
-Just Tools – it’s about the connections. Don’t get hung up on the technology.

Q&A:
First figure out where the party is before picking the appropriate tools to help you join the party.

For example, Facebook has more people [than Ning]. But can you engage them there? Do you need lots of people or do you need the right people?

Twitter. Also a good microblogging tool, kind of like a chat room. More of a personal tool than a professional one? Some thoughts about twitter etiquette – don’t just post links, also engage and communicate. Be careful of the SEO repercussions of Twitter.

How do you get people to care? You can’t force them. Best bet – find what they care about and help them get it.

What about small businesses? How does the corner store do this stuff? Example: Chris’ mom, a jewelry artist. She started with a blog & talking about why she started making jewelry. Now the blog is on her business card & she gets ~20 customers a day visiting it.

Running out of time……

Session Notes: How Online Conversations Change Markets

My notes from Paul Gillin’s session at BlogWorld Expo.

One link from one blogger can drive more traffic than an email sent to 30,000 people.

Example: the Vincent Ferrari AOL cancellation video. In the old days this would have been an anecdote over dinner, but since he was a blogger, he posted it to YouTube, his blog and to Consumerist. It went viral and Ferrari went on Today, Nightline, and got a ton of coverage in the media.

Example: the Dell exploding laptop batteries. Less than 2 months from first photos published online to a 4,000,000+ battery recall.

Who are the New Influencers?

Examples – Google Blogscoped, AdRants, Fark, Craigslist(?), MommyCast
What makes these guys influencers? Quality content, unique voice. They tell stories and have passion for their subject. It’s about being specific.

[me: Craigslist isn’t a blog, though.]

New media model: immediacy. Getting new info up fast! It redefines a paradigm that had previously been set by the long lead times of print.

The nature of high-growth markets is a lot of churn. It makes it hard for marketers to place bets & know where to put their money. Last year it was MySpace, this year it’s Facebook. Next year, something else.

It’s traffic and it is very sticky.

“Newspapers aren’t dying, our readers are” [lol]

Change point: fast networks, cheap technology (both hardware & software). Allows new types of services to emerge. Also Google and how they figured out how to monetize sites of all sizes. Software is mostly free, means you don’t need to spend half a mil on Oracle when MySQL is free. Makes startups much cheaper.

Seth Godin = “Small is the new big.”

Smaller, focused sites with an engaged customer base are better than big sites. New media model is emerging –smaller markets, larger margins, low fixed costs, but no barrier to entry and lots of choices. Thus – very competitive and quality is the differentiator.

This compares to old media – big budgets, big markets, high barrier to entry, but also high margins.

New journalism – customers are also participants. Editors still necessary.

The new marketing – Influence points are proliferating. Harder to figure out your focus, because you probably don’t have the time to have conversations with them all.
Influencer’s motives are different from the MSM. You cannot control the message the way you used to.
Conversation is key.

Old tactics do not work anymore.

Example: Dell. “22 Confession”. BAD idea to turn it over to the legal department and to send a takedown notice. Just made things worse. The old threat tactics do not work.

The good news: the blogosphere is forgiving – IF you’re willing to step up and admit it when you’re in the wrong.

Joining the conversation:
This is the good news. You can get involved.
If you do get involved, you can have some real success in reaching your customers directly, without media filters.
Content and credibility are king.

Segmentation is not going away. Get used to it.
Leadership will emerge but will change over time.