Archive for August, 2009
This past year has been truly exceptional and while I love blogging, I am not a writer. So from that regard, I struggle. I know this is *my* blog and I can do with it what I’d like, but I also don’t want to produce crap content. I have SO many thoughts rattling around in my head but the pressure to make them perfect stops me from writing them down. And the time to make them perfect doesn’t exist…so, again, nothing gets written.
My other issue is that I can no longer scale. Trust me, I have really tried. I have been up to all hours of the morning just trying to keep up. But now I need to have time for my family, my home, my life. That means I don’t have 6 hours to write a post (yes, posts take me anywhere from 4-6 hours to write each one. Pathetic, right?!).
As well, I know social media is quid pro quo and while I try my best to keep up with other blogs (reading and commenting), comments on my blog, etc. I am falling WAY short and for that I am terribly sorry. I would completely understand if people stopped commenting/tweeting my stuff.
Thanks for all of your support through the past year; it has meant the world to me.
I am not saying that I won’t be blogging anymore… I just don’t know when. I need to step back and re-think how I want to approach blogging because where I am now is not working for me.
P.S. I’ll definitely be blogging at the Daily Fix because, lucky for me, it’s part of my job. But here at THoM, I am raising the white flag.
Even More Goodness! Related Posts:
Teresa Basich and I teamed up to write this post after discussing David Armano’s post. Teresa kicked off a group conversation by asking the insightful question “Now, what could we add to David’s blueprint beginnings?”
Teresa wrote 3/4 of this post, so if you like the way her uber-smart brain works, be sure to check out her blog, Overcommunicated, too.
Back in June David Armano of Dachis Corporation had an interesting post on debunking social media myths featured on the Conversation Starters blog of the Harvard Business Review. David discussed how organizations continue to believe that involvement in the social media sphere is cheap, fast, and easy. David offered readers three factors to consider when diving into social media: Seeding, Feeding, and Weeding.
In essence, he states that seeding is bringing onboard multiple people (yup, PEOPLE) to create a thriving social media “ecosystem;” feeding is providing a constant flow of updated content to your internal team and customers relative to specific company goals and initiatives; and weeding is pruning out any material that could hinder internal or external growth, or even creating a separate environment for specific programs.
After continued discussion about this article over at the Marketing Profs LinkedIn Group, Teresa and I decided an expansion upon David’s initial post. David’s three social gardening must-haves are a great start, but there is more care for any garden-or social media program-to flourish.
The big takeaway for us came in the form of a great quote toward the end of the piece:
…Not taking into account the manpower that’s involved in these as you develop your social business design strategy can lead to a lack of adoption or participation-essential elements to any social initiative.
And it’s this quote that inspired additional gardening strategies:
As any gardener will tell you, you need to test the soil before you seed. It’s really important to test the pH to make sure that it’s at the right level to guarantee a healthy and fruitful garden. If your soil pH is off-balance you’ll have to add lime, minerals, compost or other goodies to make sure the soil is properly balanced (acidity and alkalinity) for seeding.
It’s the same thing with social media. It’s referred to as “listening” though. Before seeding it’s imperative for organizations to know what the pH level of their soil is. The testing phase is not something that organizations should rush through and it could take months to understand the condition of your soil. Are your customers and constituents complaining, are they neutral or are they evangelists? Your test results will help you to learn what additives might be necessary to prep for seeding.
Although David touched on this in his Feeding tip (we could liken ‘feeding’ to fertilizing), internal education needs its own gardening care tip. Providing updated best practices and regular training and education to your internal team is as important (if not more) as making sure to feed new, meaningful information to your outside constituency.
As hard as it is to believe, social media is an ever-changing beast (note sarcasm), and has to be dealt with as such. The parameters of a social media program and overarching business development philosophy are (or should be) in constant motion, and if you’re not relaying changes to your team on a constant basis, the messages between you, your internal people, and the outside world can become mixed. And nothing says, “We do not have our [act] together,” like fractured messaging.
Aside from those regular updates, your internal team should become more integrated over time, through education about the ties between all departments. Client services and support reps should be able to answer basic questions for other departments. At the least, each team member should become acquainted enough with all departments to act as a bridge for individual customers to connect with appropriate business lines.
Before we get too crazy with the gardening and short-cuts to make it easier, let’s stop and take a look at David’s mention of automating certain processes. While it’s true that a few aspects of a social media program- i.e., actual dissemination of information- lend themselves to automation, we think a reasonable rule of thumb is that if a process holds any potential to develop a relationship with your customers, do NOT automate it. Why? Well, the problem with automation is its lack of personal touch.
If a response to an inquiry is automated, it tends to halt conversation-there’s no invitation to continue discussing the question or problem, no opportunity to build up a relationship by remedying the problem or enlightening the customer to certain products or services that could be of great use to them, no chance to turn that relationship into loyalty. Customers want to feel personally attended to, and shelling out a pre-determined response deletes “We care about YOU” from your message. That personal connection is what this is all about, so if you remove it you’re kind of missing the point of the whole game.
A social media program is a long-term investment. It is a communications philosophy that should weave its way into your everyday business methods, but it is executed through smaller initiatives with set goals. Goals that must be reviewed and amended depending on what your customers want and need.
Of course, some goals will have little to do directly with your customers, but many of them, including new product offerings, Website updates, and even corporate responsibility, should be affected by what your customers have said and continue to say about your brand, products, and outreach. Online conversations and comments are a wealth of market research waiting to be analyzed, and filtering through those responses is essential to tweaking goals and initiatives in ways that allow your business to grow and help your customers the most.
Have you heard of crop rotation? It’s a trick gardeners and farmers use to conserve soil (i.e. nutrient depletion) by changing the crops grown on a given parcel of land from year to year. Crop rotation also has the added benefits of reduce disease and pest problems.
Employees active in social media daily to support their brands and customers know that burn out can occur over time. It’s important for organizations to realize that while on-going monitoring and potentially reaction is necessary, it’s important to make sure that employees have some down time. Consider rotating schedules and interactions.
As David pointed out, with weeding (prune and weed out material that can inhibit its growth), organizations should also recognize that customers and constituents might also tire of interacting with same people over-and-over and they might desire the need to interact with other departments/people inside your organization.
So, why bring the conversation here? Why make it so long? Because recognizing that social media programs are an investment is where it all begins, and making sure organizations understand that fact and what’s involved in creating a comprehensive program aimed for success takes many words and even more conversations.
Have we covered our bases? What other actions do you think fit into the garden metaphor? Would you change any of ours or David’s suggestions?
Even More Goodness! Related Posts:
By now it’s not news that there have been a lot of citizens sharing their thoughts and concerns about the national healthcare plan being discussed in local town halls (if you haven’t seen the videos, check some of them out on YouTube).
My friend Ken Yeung had an excellent post, What Happens When You Think your Customers Will Kowtow to You? (had to use the post name because I love the word kowtow), last week about how the AARP representative totally dismissed any comments or discussion that their members wanted to share in light of the position that AARP was taking in regards to national healthcare and sharing with them.
In short, the AARP representative told the members “we want to hear from you” and when they started speaking she said: ”Excuse me, but I really appreciate it if everyone could keep their comments quiet until there is time for the public…” By the end of the video, she was so mad that she couldn’t deliver her message that she walked out on the members. [Check out the video on Ken's post, it's quite interesting to watch.]
I don’t find any of the passion or discussions (some may call them disruptions) out of the ordinary at all. Why should I, right? We tell organizations everyday that they need to listen to their constituents and that they can’t push their messages, and that they are no longer in control of certain situations or their community.
But what did surprise me were the social media folks on Twitter talking about how these town hall discussions were out of line. Really?
I’m sure that Dell, Motrin, Dominos, Tropicana, Walmart, United and MANY more organizations felt that the discussions that their customers were having about them were totally disrupting to their business day. Right?
And yet, social media proponents analyzed their every action (or inaction) to death, shared their opinions on Twitter, their blogs and in conversation. These same companies are often used as examples of “what not to do (or to do right…after the fact). We tell companies to get with the program because this is the way it is today because ALL customers have a voice.
If you are going to be advising clients, organizations or management on social media, please be very careful to not pick and choose when you think customer conversations are acceptable or not…especially if they are based on your own political affiliation.
I understand that some people are very passionate about their politics, but I ask you to remember one thing: the government gets their money from taxpayers. That means, just like organizations, they need to be prepared for conversations, disruptions, and negativity because ALL customers have a voice. Right?
(It doesn’t matter if it’s on- or offline because eventually it could end up online anyway.)
If you embrace social media…don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. You are either for open conversation and dialog in any form that it happens in or you aren’t. Which is it?
[Image: Flickr, Boxelf]
Even More Goodness! Related Posts:
Last night on our weekly PR 2.0 chat on Twitter (anyone can join this weekly chat Wednesdays at 8pm EST. Search on hashtag #pr20cat and join in!), we discussed branding and PR 2.0 and why PR folks (and marketers, that’s a topic on integration for another day!) need to understand branding and how it affects their interactions with constituents (or publics).
If you’ve hung out in social media circles long enough, I am sure you’ve heard “you don’t own your brand, your customers do.” Nothing can be further from the truth and why we need to be very careful with how we phrase this as marketers, consultants, agencies, etc.
FACT: You do own your brand and brand messaging
FACT: You don’t own relationships customers have with your brand
I kicked off by asking people’s definitions of branding and a lot of people responded with a brand relationship definition, which is great but I think it also leads us to, as marketers implementing social media, to want to easily hand over the keys to the castle a little too easily.
For some people it’s a chicken and egg situation. Do you love the logo or the company that produces the product/service first? Vanessa French asked me (paraphrased) “what if your mom gave you Pepsi as a kid, you’d have a relationship with Pepsi (based on emotion).” My response was “what if your mom served you Pepsi in a plastic cup and you never saw the bottle?”
People tend to identify with a brand (i.e. logo, message, etc.) first and then they relate to it. I think it explains why there are so many fake bags (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Hermes, etc.) not to mention other products on the market. It’s not that people relate to the company that owns the brand it’s that the brand (in this case a logo) gives them a perception of inclusion without the sting of the price tag. If they truly had a relationship with the brand they would never by fakes. Unfortunately, the perception of others is what spurs on the fakes market.
From “Driving Brand Value” by Tom Duncan & Sandra Moriarty (what I shared during the PR 2.0 chat):
Brand relationship is driven by:
(Sounds a lot like what we talk about with social media, huh?)
Five Levels of Bonding:
I think we also tend to mixed up brand perception with branding and brand relationship. My perception of a brand comes after my relationship with the brand. For example:
I bought a Jaguar and it was a piece of junk that could never be fixed. The Jaguar dealer and Jaguar wouldn’t do anything about it. I bought based on the brand (awareness/identity), my relationship was affected by lack of trust, consistency, accessibility, etc. My perception is that Jaguars are bad cars. I am sharing my story (WOM) on my blog (social media).
So, if you are Jaguar’s PR folks and I had consistent blog about this and chatted on forums, you might want to pay attention. I would hope.
The tenets of branding are still viable, but just like everything else with social media they are more visible today and brand relationships and perceptions are out in the open.
But we DO have control over our brand and messaging! You might want to reconsider using “trust” in your brand (logo) or messaging if the case is that the brand relationships and perceptions indicate that you are not an organization to be trusted.
By the way, Driving Brand Value was written in 1997, and yet offers lessons that we still have not learned. It’s available on Amazon starting at $0.38 USD. I suggest you snap up a copy.
Also, grab Integrated Branding by LePla and Parker while you’re at it…
What do you think?
[Image: David Armano]