From August 2010

5 for Friday, August 27

Frequency. Reach. Yield – this is a useful way to distill social media measurement into something your company can measure. Although I missed buzz2010, Olivier Blanchard’s slide deck provides the takeaways you can show your internal skeptics to help them understand the tangible benefits of integrating social media into your marketing mix.

Web analytics is more than just a measurement of your site’s traffic. Content marketers are always looking for subject matter that will resonate with their audiences. Rather than guess what your people want, what better way than to analyze the keywords people use to find you – and develop highly targeted content around that?

Most of us know that self-congratulatory press releases and messages that shout ‘look how great we are’ aren’t effective and memorable. You need a hook – a what’s in it for me the reader – to capture my attention. If you haven’t yet figured out that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to draw people in, here’s how you can integrate stories into your social media.

I’m a fan of Trader Joes and have yet to hear anyone personally, who isn’t.
I’m sure there are detractors, but it’s one of my stops every week. Why? Because they have some great stuff at great prices that’s easy to find. And their employees always seem happy and engaged. Rare for most grocery stores. As a communicator, I often think about the customer experience and how great businesses work. This article sheds some light on TJ’s – but also highlights why we don’t really know that much about them. I’m a fan of neuroscience and undertanding the problems of having too many choices – as Barry Schwartz eloquently outlines in The Power of Choice – and Jonathan Lehrer talks about in How We Decide. And as you’ll read hear – and experience at TJ’s is they limit our choices. They make it easy for us to feel good about the choices we make there – and save us time by editing those choices down to something we can quickly grasp. Who really needs 40 options for peanut butter anyway?

Data. Information. Knowledge. Wisdom – a path to innovation. “The faster information flows to individuals, the faster the process of knowledge creation and the easier it is to make appropriate decisions.” How can you remove the roadblocks to information flow and sharing to facilitate better decision making and ultimately inspire more innovation in your company?

Five for Friday, August 20th

Happy Friday everyone. Just wanted to share that I participated in #kaizenblog chat this morning, a wonderful Twitter chat focused on taking action – advantages and disadvantages. I recommend checking out the transcript

Smart phones are taking over and we’re going to see a rapid evolution of the apps as more and more people use them to manage more of their lives, with making phone calls moving far down the list. I, myself, just got an iPhone a week ago – and have found it an amazing device on so many levels. From simply staying connected to the ability to find pretty much anything on the fly. No longer do I have to go back to my desk or pull out and connect my laptop every time I want to hop online. Now I might be revealing that I’m late to the smart phone game, but it’s not because I didn’t want to earlier – it just hadn’t become a top priority. One week later and I’d find it tough to give it up! That said, making your mobile website work like a fine app is a sound development strategy you should consider when making yours mobile friendly. Here are five frameworks your development team should consider.

Apple definitely has a target on their back and Android is no doubt gunning for them. Who wouldn’t want a piece of the lucrative smart phone market? And AT&T certainly isn’t helping Apple’s cause. Now I’m no expert stock analyst and am an Apple fan – but recognize they can never, ever get complacent – but I wouldn’t necessarily count Apple out of the game just because Android is growing by leaps and bounds. I agree that Apple’s recent growth isn’t sustainable, and that Android’s a clear threat. But it wasn’t that long ago (10 years?) that many considered Apple dead. I’m betting they’ll come up with something to counter Android – and we’ll see some healthy competition. Afterall, I do believe the iPhone 4 has got to be one of the most beautifully designed devices out there – phone or not.  This is great food to munch on, however.

Here’s something to fuel your strategic thinking: how can you monetize your social network? Will your customers pay to be a part of yours? Or pay for your awesome content? There’s something to be said for the lure of exclusivity and restricted access.

If you’re like most companies, you’re likely struggling to find a way to make Facebook work.
How to format your page and gain traction. This is a great compilation of 25 companies who’ve seemed to figure it out. If you read the comments, you’ll note many point out upcoming changes that will restrict the page width to 520 pixels and may impact these designs. But it’s still great inspiration for your team.

I couldn’t resist including this one today because it’s such a rare experience. Perhaps you’ve seen it, but if not, here’s a flight attendant engaging in a light-hearted, spontaneous pillow fight on a recent Lufthansa flight, and captured by a passenger. How can you inject some of this personality into your brand? I believe that no matter how serious your product, there’s always room for a little levity. And that it helps the most serious become more human.

5 for Friday, August 13th

It’s another Friday the 13th, but what a beautiful one it is here in Portland. A perfect summer day shaping up. I hope it’s nice where you are too, although we’ve had a run on severe weather around the world – between fires in Russia to floods in Pakistan and Iowa. Here are my top five this week – the posts on content marketing and innovation captured my attention and are driving the work I’m currently doing.

On developing actionable marketing content- this is a great example in how copying one successful viral campaign (Old Spice) doesn’t work as Cisco found out by trying to do the same thing on the cheap. And ended with something less than memorable. This post provides seven recommendations for how to make your content more relevant and compelling. And with the proliferation of content everywhere – and as more companies jump on the content bandwagon, it’s only going to get tougher to create the kind of useful and entertaining content your customers and prospects will be inspired to share.

On the heals of creating content that incites action, Valeria Maltoni discusses further what makes up good content, listing several ways content can help form the right connections, and most importantly (imo) why it doesn’t scale (i.e. it’s very time consuming and expensive to produce). She also reminds us that we’re still in the early days of content marketing and everyone’s still learning what works and what doesn’t. While there are some best practices to draw from, always remember that you’re free to innovate, which the next post does a nice job with the “how”.

Innovation. It’s often elusive and hard to sustain when we’re working through the busy work that selfishly hogs our time. Sometimes we make things harder than they need to do. As business gets more complex and more competitive, we need simplicity. Apple is undoubtedly one of the best at innovation and executing simplicity. Tony Schwartz outlines six fundamental actions leaders need to take to create a culture of innovation and creativity. He also notes that he’s never seen one company do all six. Sounds like an opportunity to me.

We’ve all heard about sites like Please Rob Me that highlight the pitfalls of sharing when you’re going to be away via your various social media outlets. I know I’ve taken to sharing where I’ve been versus where I’m at especially when out of town. Location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are really cool – and fun to use, but sometimes  it’s a little too public. But Neer looks like the start of alternatives that only share your location with your private contacts.

There isn’t one right way to engage with your customers via social media. You need to ask yourself what you want to accomplish and what is the most beneficial for your customers. The goal, of course, is to forge a long-term relationship between your customers and your brand. Here’s a great overview of five different approaches to consider BEFORE you start rolling out the tools. From game-show host to good friend.

Five for Friday, August 6

Facebook is killing your website according to Jay Baer. And here’s how. This is a provocative, important post that really makes me think about where the web is going and how we’re entrusting our data into the hands of a few. We all know how much Facebook can be trusted to protect our data and privacy (not really). But then we really don’t have any privacy anywhere on the web. That said, Facebook offers huge value to people in terms of the shear number of users. It’s all about traffic. My main thought, though, is that you don’t own the space and can’t control it. What happens after you’ve invested in building your little corner on Facebook and it goes away? Until one has control over their online destiny – it still makes sense (at least to me) to maintain your own domain while taking advantage of Facebook. Tara Hunt has some thoughts on the pain of maintaining your own domain, which is why a venue like Facebook is so attractive. It’s all about convenience. Thoughts? I think we’re just seeing the beginning of how the web will morph and concentrate.

Empower vs. Influence is the way to go. Do you want to be influenced in making a decision (i.e. coerced)? Or do you want to make decisions because you’ve been given the ability to do so? Fast Company’s silly Influence Project has received a lot of heat – for being a hollow popularity contest. Lisa Petrilli writes about why you should really focus on empowering your customers and audiences. You’ll get so much further than wielding a heavy hand. I couldn’t agree more – nor said it any better.

Just because social is social and happens fast doesn’t excuse you from doing your homework. Adam Cohen provides 10 important reasons not to keep research in the back office. Research helps you determine where you should go and possible ways to get there. You learn by doing and there’s no one map, but it gets you grounded. Just don’t resort to analysis paralysis. It’s always important to innovate and iterate. Research helps you make smarter mistakes.

Raising funds for a growing start-up is a major distraction from the core of the business – exceeding customer expections, solving important problems and delivering the value the business promises. This is a great read on the future of start-up funding and why there’s more angel investment today. It’s actually a better environment for founders as they’ll be more able to retain greater control of their business – and be positioned to focus on the customer more than the investor. Something all too many companies forget about when they become purely numbers driven. Always an advocate for bootstrapping, it’s important to understand all of your options before you need them!

Social networking is taking off on mobile devices – particularly with the iPhone and Droid options increasing marketshare. People are using their mobile devices less as a phone and more as way to access info on the net as well as participate in their respective networks. 78% used their browser and 80% used apps as of April. This post provides great data showing year on year growth in how consumers are accessing content online and should inform your approach to building your mobile brand. And if you’re not yet talking about mobile, it’s never too soon to start thinking about how you can integrate it into your business and communications strategy. Just don’t spam anyone. Ever.

The Art of Boring

We marketers are always looking for the next big thing. The magic clutter cutter that rockets our lead flow beyond expectations. We want WOW. We want to show senior leaders we really know what we’re doing and that we’re making a big splash.

Afterall, a bunch of big splashes makes it look like we’re really on the ball – proactively engaging the market. Problem is, big splashes die down into a ripple. Requiring us to initiate another big splash to keep the momentum going. And the ante needs to be upped as fatigue sets in. In the social economy, big splashes, unless you’re a company like Apple w/1,000s of raving fans clamoring for your next revolutionary product, are not the best way forward. Certainly, there’s a time and a place, but what matters more, is to be boring.

Boring doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means doing the little stuff so consistently well that you create a frictionless experience for your customers. An experience that is almost so smooth your customers don’t notice it.

You make their lives easier. More productive. You get things out of their way so they can focus on what matters to them. You become a part of their monthly, weekly, daily lives. So much they can’t imagine life without you. So much that they automatically think of you first. They don’t need a big splash to do business with you.

Boring means executing all of the operational areas of your business extremely well. It means providing customer service second to none. Zappos is a company that gets this. They remove the friction – the fear of buying online  – by letting you order a bunch of shoes and send back the ones you don’t want. Even if it’s all of them.

Boring is about making sure:

  • the mundane tasks in your business are routine, frictionless and automated; frees people up to focus on inspiration.
  • you do little things well. A lot of distractions take away from the big picture thinking. Email, SMS, Twitter. If they’re idle chatter, they cloud your thinking and that takes away from what your team brings to the experience. Use time wisely. Think about how the tools enhance your customer experience, not take away from it.
  • phones are answered on the third ring.
  • customers don’t have to jump through hoops to buy from you. Or return a product. Or get help.
  • product is in stock and shipped without delay. If not, it’s automatically shipped as quickly as possible. The words “sorry, we’re out of stock” don’t exist. Instead, you offer alternatives. Anticipate attractive options.
  • your ordering is systematic, automatic – think about restaurants like Five Guys: they’re all about simple
  • you apologize for your mistakes.
  • you say thank you.
  • your employees are empowered to make decisions in the best interests of customers.
  • you break down silos and don’t permit turf wars. Ever.
  • accounting, development, IT, HR and marketing actually understand each other and work together. For the customer of course.

Boring isn’t sexy. It’s sexy to make a splash. It’s natural to want to point out the big launch. Boring doesn’t make for great news. A slick press release. But it’s the tiny things you do every day – from answering phones and email to ordering products to making the buying process easy.

We all know how hard some companies make it to talk to a human. To return a item. Boring is making everything simple. And simplifying it even more. And that’s hard. Because we get caught up by the new. The shiny. The exciting. Even the flavor of the month. Get boring right and you have the makings of a successful business.