Social Media Idea Management: An intellectual capital hustle?

07/16/2009

Idea light bulb Imagine this scene - You've invited me to your home to discuss my ideas that may help you .. fill in the blank .. do your job better/make a better product/write a job description, etc. You also invite lots of other people. We find our way to your house. Instead of drinks together in your living room or coffee around your kitchen table you show us to separate rooms.

Then you walk away. However, naive that we are, we assume you are listening, care about us, that we matter to you.  So we happily share our creative ideas. Although our thoughts echo in our empty rooms we smile pleased to be of service to you. Every once in awhile some one wanders by and chats briefly. But rarely if ever is it you. Not even to say "thank you." 

Where are you? You're sitting behind an online dashboard gathering our intellectual capital as if it were digital diamonds. No girlfriend, it's not a focus group. Or maybe it is. Maybe this is the social media version of a focus group but with less honesty and less transparency. It's called IdeaXYZ or IdeaFireStorm or My(your brand) or ShareYourIdeas ... But don't expect anything back other than the satisfaction you derive in a bit of ego boosting on a brand site with some people who might vote you up or vote you down.

Are The Brands exploiting customers in the name of "engagement?" Are we so excited that The Brands have given us a way to directly and easily express our opinions that we clamor to give mega brands our creative ideas without even expecting a "thank you" in return?

Or is this simply the way that Brands approach the interaction of social media. Is it the way they view their role in the "conversation" of social media? Is it naivety or is it digital social media ineptness on how they perceive what is appropriate to build and nurture relationships?

Social media has two aspects. The first is digital research. That simply means reading posts and tweets of your customers to better understand who they are, what they care about and what they say about your brand. I think of it as raw, informal, qualitative, real time or what should be the  "first listening post" in your marketing research strategy.

The second aspect is something that is unique to social media. Other than trade shows, there are no business initiatives that I know of where marketers can hang out with their customers. Like any person-to-person exchange it's rarely structured. It can get messy and to make it work there has to be genuine interest on both sides.

  • Establishing an authentic presence in social media is where many marketers fall down. "Most brands aren't doing it successfully." Shiv Singh, vice president/global social media lead Razorfish (study)

Then there is a new kid on the block - Digital Idea Management or Viralsourcing - which seems to me a mash-up of these two concepts. Although based on the user group experience this has a stronger social media overlay. Customers are invited into a special company-based website to talk about what would make a better computer or latte or retail experience.

It's highly social since comments are open, often voting of each idea is encouraged and of course every post comes with the opportunity to be Dugg, Tweeted, Facebooked (new word) etc. One would naturally assume that the people who are on The Brand side would pop in to offer encouragement, provide feedback, say thank you. In other words to join in the conversation or as Shiv Singh says, "Establish an authentic presence." Rarely happens.

 If I were a bettin' diva I would say that Digital Ideology sites will become more prevalent across industries and sectors. Maybe even to engage in real exchanges. For now it seems that companies are using it in a traditional media/marketing way.

Dell is exploring this model and sharing learnings. This presentation from Dell details their Idea Management strategy behind IdeaStorm.  On slide 12 Dell outlines customer expectations as positive experience, action taken on ideas and recognition. With tactics on How To Address including: timely feedback, clear status updates, thank you mechanisms.

Happy to help you out dear brands but I expect you to join in tThank-youhe conversation with me and at least say 

Ron Strauss On Knowledge Sharing As A B2B Strategy

03/23/2009

One of my joys is helping marketers understand how to use social media to build brand value. In the workshops and speeches I give one of the most Frequently Asked Questions goes like this: "When it comes to social media marketing all I seem to see is consumer products and programs that target moms. Can social media be used in a business-to-business environment? And How?!"

Toby blogher nyc 2008 That question always brings a smile since the business roots (versus the personal application) of social media began with the tech blogs and than were adopted by small business owners ..  many in the B2B space. Yes, Virginia social media is quite definitely a strategy that can be successfully used to help market products and services whose target audience is other businesses. 

For my money, one of the most effective tactics is using social media to position VIPs in your company as industry thought leaders. The heart of this initiative is built around sharing knowledge. Nothing new here. Businesses have been employing white papers for eons to set this in motion.

However, add social media tools such as blogs, live podcasts, social networks and even Twitter, to the mix and you go beyond what could be a white paper yawn. You have the opportunity for Exchanging Knowledge with your VIP as the leader of the discussion. Powerful way to enhance brand value and equity.

Ron strauss Recently my friend Ron Strauss, president of Brandzone and co-author of "Value Creation: The Power of Brand Equity" wrote an interesting post on an AMA listserve that dovetails with this concept. Ron agreed to share his ideas with us.

The Difference Between the Expert Based Approach and the Knowledge Sharing Approach

  • TRUST. LEARNING. BUY-IN. PULL VS. PUSH.

TRUST. By sharing knowledge, the company demonstrates expertise and the confidence to 'give' this power to their client.

  • Since knowledge is power, sharing knowledge shares power - to everyone's benefit.  Trust is an intangible attribute and is one of the core values of every brand - essential to building and/or preserving brand equity.

LEARNING. By helping clients understand the implications of the knowledge they shared with them, and its application, companies are teaching how to apply these ideas within the context of the firm.

And the context of the firm is described by its processes, organization, business model, how it chooses its customers, etc.  Thus, organizations are teaching clients how to 'fit' the knowledge to their company's values in a way that created effective outcomes for their served clients. So, the company must understand how to apply the knowledge in a way that aligned with their customers' values and needs.

BUY-IN. Sharing knowledge in a way that encourages the learner to take responsibility for its application and for the outcomes of those applications, creates 'buy-in' from Day 1.

There's no need to 'sell' the organization on the program, the process of acquiring the knowledge and applying it does that. They sell themselves as they use the knowledge to overcome barriers and issues.

PULL VS. PUSH. Sharing knowledge and its applications in a manner that's consistent with the Brand Promise creates a 'pull' force field through out the organization.

In today's flatter, less hierarchical organizational structures this is necessary to quickly adapt to change, and to meet clients ever-changing requirements in a timely, fashion while remaining profitable. Employees need to be empowered to do what it takes to deliver on the Brand Promise, to create the kind of experiences that create loyal customers.

Interested in learning more about social media marketing for business-to-business? I'm honored to be a guest speaker at the webinar Using Social Media & Networking in Client Conversations  sponsored by References Online. I join Umang Shah of Cubed Consulting, Duncan Egan of Taleo Corporation and Lisa Hoesel, References Online. Date: Wednesday 3/25 Time: Eastern: 12noon - 1p  Central: 11a- 12noon Mountain: 10a-11a Pacific 9a-10a Registration

One more .. catch the recent article about social media in the Atlanta Business Chronicle - Executives using social media to brand themselves as well as their companies. Guess who was quoted in her local business rag .. yup me!

Diva Marketing Talks About Social Media Sponsored Conversations With "Auntie" Melanie Notkin and Scott Monty

03/19/2009

Diva Marketing Talks is a live, internet radio show.  30-minutes. 2-guests. 1-topic about social media marketing. Why? To help you understand how to participate in the "new" conversation without getting blown-up. Miss today's show? You can pick it up as a podcast or listen on your computer.

Today's Diva Marketing Talks explores the impact of social media sponsored conversations from both sides of the virtual fence: brand and content creator.  "Auntie" Melanie Notkin, founder of the innovative community for aunts, SavvyAuntie and Scott Monty, Global Digital Communications Ford Motor, discuss the impact accepting money or products/services can have on social credibility. We'll also talk about where blogger relations and pay per click fits into the picture. Question: Are social media content creators the new NASCAR drivers?

Topic for March 19, 2009: Do Sponsored Conversations Make Social Media Content Creators the New NASCAR Drivers?
Time: 7:00p - 7:30p Eastern/ 6:p - 6:30p Central/ 5:00p -5:30p Mountain/ 4:00p - 4:30p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924

Guests

Auntie_Melanie_Notkin_laptop_2_97061859 Melanie Notkin is the founder and CEO of SavvyAuntie.com, the first online community for cool aunts, great aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids. Before launching Savvy Auntie, in July 2008, Melanie was an interactive marketing and communications executive for global Fortune 500 companies, including New York Times Digital and American Express, as well as L'Oréal.

Melanie is a regular panelist on the Strategy Room on FoxNews.com and a contributing editor to Toy Wishes Magazine. She and Savvy Auntie have been featured on NBC, CBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The Charlotte Observer, Huffington Post, Mashable and TechCrunch, among others.

SavvyAuntie.com was ranked as one of Springwise's Top 10 Entreprenerial Ideas of the Year (2008) and Melanie was recently named a Heeb Magazine HEEB 100.

Find Melanie at Twitter Blog SavvyAuntie and of course on the SavvyAuntie Community

ScottMonty Scott Monty describes himself as a "Renaissance Man."  Although he is a marketer and communications professional focused on the digital industry his career spans a number of industries from healthcare, pharma, biotech, travel, automotive, tech, to communications. Some of Scott’s past clients include American Airlines, Audi, Starwood Hotels, IBM Healthcare & Life Sciences, Boston Scientific, The Coca-Cola Company, Millipore, Motorola and Kraft Foods,

Scott is currently the head of social media for Ford Motor Company, where he holds the title Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager.  While his role is based in the Corporate Communications area, he is a strategic advisor on all social media activities across the company. From blogger relations to marketing support to customer service to internal communications and more, social media touches many facets of Ford business, and Scott is there to ensure it is consistent across all of them.

Scott is an active blogger and podcaster. He writes about issues relevant to the intersection of advertising, marketing and PR at The Social Media Marketing Blog and also writes The Baker Street Blog, a literary undertaking. Scott has been featured in numerous news and business publications, on a variety of podcasts, and on national television. Scott is a recognized thought leader in the social media industry and frequently speaks at industry events. Scott received his Master's in Medical Science from Boston University's School of Medicine concurrently with his MBA from BU's Graduate School of Management.

Find Scott at Twitter, The Social Media Marketing Blog  The Baker Street Blog,

Tips From The Diva Bag

Complements of Auntie Melanie Notkin

1. Trust is something you earn. And it's the most valuable asset you have. Deserve it or fail.

2. As a company, you can't wake up one day and decide you are going to be authentic and transparent. It has to be something you were born with. And if you weren't born with it, apologize and be authentic and transparent about your journey to authenticity and transparency.

3. Social media and digital media enable us to be transparent and authentic. The minute you hire an intern to tweet for you is the minute you give the steering wheel to a student driver. From another country. Where they drive on the other side of the road. You'll never make it back home

Complements of Scott Monty

1. You know the phrase from Glengarry Glen Ross , "Always Be Closing"? Forget it. Instead, your mantra should be "Always Be Listening." Thanks to the open nature of the web and the ability for any one of us to create content, we have the ability to track and understand what they're saying about us. Listening is the first step to providing value for your community. If you know what they're saying and what their expectations are, you're well along the way.

2. Give your community a unique experience. Most likely, you work in a market where you're competing for your customers' attention, whether you sell consumer packaged goods, consulting services, or technology. If you can create an opportunity for them to learn or get something from you that no other competitor can offer them, they'll remember you better and come back for more.

3. Be human above all else. Let people know that there are real people working for your company, whether its a small business or a multinational entity. If you can let their personalities shine through and make it easy for people to relate to them, they'll be more likely to trust you with their business.

Richard Binhammer On The Social Media Scene At Dell

05/20/2008

In prep for my 400 word page in Age of Conversation book #2 - Why Don't People Get It? I asked a couple of corporate "non suit" types who do get it (Tony Hsieh, ceo - Zappos and Richard Binhammer, corporate group communications - Dell) for their insights into how social media is supporting marketing/business strategies at their companies.

Girlfriends, Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan are swell guys but they are really holding tight to a 400 word limit so I could only include a bit of Tony's and Richard's feedback. Too much good information in those interviews with Tony and Richard not to share with y'all. Catch Tony's post on Diva Marketing about how he is using Twitter to support Zappo's corporate culture.

Sidebar: Ryan Barrett has little teases from many of the author's pages. Quite fun .. check it out!

For your reading pleasure .. I give you ..

Dell_logo_4Mr. Richard Binhammer Dell, Corporate Group Communications fondly know as Richardatdell

Toby/Diva Marketing: What influence has social media had on how you conduct business? How has participating in social media influenced Dell's internal processes and customer communications?

Richard Binhammer: I believe social media helps us:

1. Learn from conversations with customers every day. That has influenced internal processes as we have identified issues sooner than we might otherwise have, learned to respond faster and generally

2. Listen and be in touch…the fact that customers talking online are heard and their voices are now inside the halls and walls of Dell every day, even if we are not out there meeting face to face every day…it brings a customercentric focus inside the business

3. That also leads to connections and relationships…there is an intangible of connectedness and relationships with people online.

4. All of that adds up to being a better company by listening and being involved in conversation with our customers.”      

Toby/Diva Marketing: Does Dell have a system or process in place to respond to the concerns/complements from consumer generated mentions about the company? And to respond back to the blogger, tweeter, etc?

Richardatdell_computer_2 Richard Binhammer: Absolutely, and since early 2006 we have been responding to concerns, complements and other peoples’ perceptions of us as they express it online.   

The system is still evolving, and it’s not perfect.  Its tough to get a perfect search every day and so we miss some.  In addition, we don’t respond to everything being said about us.  I'm sure people have seen I dropped by because of mybloglog photo or ip address.

We make some judgment calls about whether we need to respond, or simply digest the perspectives being expressed or go away and act on the information, or perhaps, in some cases, especially media and aggregator sites our customers may  already be responding sort of on our behalf. And on those latter occasions I say WOW and thank you! ... our customers are standing up for us ... that’s better than me saying anything. So I shut up.

Just as social media tools and outlets are still evolving, so are we.  For example, you cant search Facebook and contact people like you can with blogs on the web, so in Facebook we set up Dell Embassy, a place for customers to reach us if they have issues and want to connect.

On Twitter, we have a group of Dell employees there, all ready to reach out and work with folks, which may be a little confusing but Twitter is all about people conversing and connecting, so how do you have a conversation with an inanimate object? 

I don’t know that any of this is the right or even final approach ... it’s the current approach

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advice would you give on how to incorporate social media and the feedback from social media into an organization?

Richard Binhammer: Roll up your sleeves ... search and get out there. 

Don’t be afraid and be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them (that’s OK and will be accepted)

Listen hard, learn, act and keep go/growing.

Enjoy!  Interacting with people who care enough about your business/company to write about you and say things about you is a great experience, offers valuable and important information/perceptions and are ultimately great connections and relationships.

Catch Richard blogging and tweeting! Yes,those are really Richard's fingers. Photo taken in Atlanta while we were chillin' drinking martinis after the AiMA meeting about social media.

Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos - Talks About Twitter

05/12/2008

In prep for writing my Age of Conversation book II page, I reached out to Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, for his insights about social media. Not only does Tony blog but he actively tweets (on Twitter the 140 character micro blogging platform).

In fact, that's where I "met" Tony. I sent him a Twitter DM (direct message). With Tony following 4658 people I Zappo_biz_card_2 wondered if he would respond. He did indeed .. within minutes (!) providing me with his off Twitter email so we could continue the conversation without the 140 character limitation.

Sidebar: Not to digress but .. where else .. how else could a little ol' diva in Atlanta connect with the CEO of billion dollar corporation based in Las Vegas? I tell you girl friend, that alone boggles the mind. One more testimony to how social media and in this case, Twitter, can open the doors and windows a little wider to  develop relationships.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  What influence has social media had on how you conduct business? Does Zappos have a system or process in place to respond to the concerns/complements from consumer generated mentions about the company? And to respond back to the blogger, tweeter, etc?

Tony Hsieh: We haven't really changed any of our internal processes yet. Right now the stuff I am doing on Twitter is just me... if someone Twitters me then I personally respond.

We now have close to 300 employees on Twitter, but

our main motivation for getting our employees to join Twitter was to help improve our company culture.

Company culture is our #1 priority.  We believe that if we get the company culture right, most of the other stuff (including great customer service) will happen on its own.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advice would you give to a CEO on how to incorporate social media and the feedback from social media into an organization?

Tony Hsieh: 

I think if the CEO starts using Twitter on his/her own and is actually passionate about it, then that passion will eventually rub off on the rest of the organization.

You can't fake or mandate passion, you actually have to be passionate. On Twitter, people can tell whether you are actually passionate about connecting with other Twitterers, whether they are your customers or employees.

About Zappos - Founded in 1999, Zappos is an online commerce company that got its start selling shoes. Since then their product line has morphed to include: handbags, clothing, electronics and more. According to Marketing Sherpa, Zappos anticipates to top $1 Billion in sales in 2008. With a focus on superior customer service Zappos is game to try innovative strategies that bring them closer to their customers. Zappos Blogs Zappo Tweets. Sounds like a match made in Social Media Heaven!

Biz Blog Profile Series: Dell with - Richard Binhammer AKA RichardAtDell

03/09/2008

Biz Blog Profiles is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and the arts are using blogs and other social media tactics to support their marketing goals.

Richardatdell About Richard Binhammer

After a career in politics and government relations in Canada, I moved to the United States to pursue a broader communications career. In the late 1990s I consulted to Dell and helped win a Silver Anvil for the company. I went on to NYC consulting in communications, winding my way back to Dell as part of the public affairs team.

Today, I am part of Dell’s Conversations, Communities and Communications team with responsibilities for listening and learning online. Basically, I listen to bloggers and engage in conversations about Dell.

If you really want to get to know me, join me on Facebook or subscribe to my blog, Around The Web With Richard at Dell, in your RSS reader.

About Dell

From my perspective, Dell is a phenomenal company and has been ever since I first met the people at Dell, Michael Dell and was a consultant to them back in the 1995 – 1998 period. 

It delivers great technology connecting people around the world.  It’s a young company, just 20 years old, so its still eager to learn.  And it does. That’s the hallmark of an interesting, growing company with growth opportunities. 

In addition, the premises underpinning the direct business model, known for efficiency and mass customization, are also fundamental to real and realized customer relationships (even with a retail component) and I believe that is still revolutionary in the marketplace…frankly contributing to some of what we do online and forging ahead. Direct To Dell Conversations With Dell

Toby/Diva Marketing: I took this from your blog - “I get to visit blogs, listen learn and converse.” For people who want to be involved with social media you might have one of the most enviable jobs on the planet. How did your job evolve?

RichardatDell: I was part of Dell’s public affairs team involved with building out our presence and involvements in communities around the world. I was then asked to go out and interact with bloggers and online, I suppose because we thought of this a community and conversations with communities. In August of 2006, my colleague John Pope and I started listening and engaging online in conversations

Toby/Diva Marketing: How involved are you really in the space?

RichardatDell: Not quite sure what you mean?  John and I visit 100s and 1000s of blogs per week, participate on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, I have a blog…all part of listening and learning from customers, helping solve technical issues and joining conversations about Dell everyday.  I spend at least 50% of my day online, conversing … good and bad

Toby/Diva Marketing: You have a halo of celebrity. Do you find people want to be your “friend” or “follower” (on Twitter) because you are Richard a very cool dude or because you are Richard from Dell? Does it matter to you?

RichardatDell: I don’t think there is a halo to what I do.  It’s what any professional communicator should do…listen and learn…then interact to listen and learn some more. And, it is not just RichardatDELL.  There is a team of us at Dell, all committed to listening and engaging in real conversations online. We believe social media really is a new frontier and that we can make an impact….we make mistakes and screw up too….so no halo…please.

At one point I always asked people on Facebook, why we should be friends, if I didn’t know them. I find that interesting and puts some rationale around “connecting”.  Im sort of out of that habit these days.

I hope people want to follow me because they think we (all of us at Dell together) are doing interesting and good work.  I also like to believe that we are also really making a huge global business human … I think that is cool.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s cut to the chase .. does Dell really think that a blog and some conversation with bloggers will counter what some people have termed “Dell Hell?”

RichardatDell: Yes we do believe in the power of online conversations and communities. This is not about countering or changing some artifact or image…its about connecting with people and our customers.

Toby/Diva Marketing: On a high level, what is Dell’s social media direction?

RichardatDell: Keep going growing learning and get better. Experiment some more and keep going.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few of Dell’s innovative programs?

RichardatDell: Ideastorm gets lots of attention. I think our technical support and blog outreach activity is innovative and I don’t see others doing it … but I am biased too 

Toby/Diva Marketing: In terms of departments or functions, who “owns” social media at Dell?

RichardatDell: No one “owns” social media, except I suspect the customers and communities … everyone should engage with social media as a means to connect and build lasting and valuable connections … brand loyalty and lust

Toby/Diva Marketing: Does Dell have “success measurements” in place? And if so what are those metrics that determine success?

RichardatDell: We know there are on average 4000 conversations about us everyday. We know we have seen a decline in negative commentary from nearly 50 % to around 20%. However, we are working to move from traditional measurements of awareness and share of voice to conversations, communities and connections and how those can be valued … hard work and constantly fine tuning all kinds of metrics

Toby/Diva Marketing: Are social media tactics integrated into a master marketing plan? If so how do other initiatives support  Dell’s social media programs? On the flip side - how do social media tactics support other strategies?

RichardatDell: Increasingly social media and marketing are viewed as integrated or need to be. I think is fair to say that our CMO very much sees the world that way and hence the whole move to design DaVinci. Frankly, as a communicator, after 18 months in this field, social media should be a part of any company’s public relations (two words not practice profession or pr).

Toby/Diva Marketing: Recently Target created quite a buzz when it told the world that it would not respond to “non traditional media?” How does Dell perceive bloggers in relationship to the traditional media?

RichardatDell: I don’t think we distinguish anymore between a blogger and mainstream media.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few lessons learned for companies that are considering entering this space?

RichardatDell: Be honest, transparent, your self, and don’t worry about this control BS you hear about … how can participation with people who are interested in you, your products and services or business be wrong? And some people will never like you, so get over it

Toby/Diva Marketing: Where does Dell go from here in terms of continuing the innovation track it has taken in social media?

RichardatDell: Twitter, more blogs, more “interactive and social” things on dell.com … we will see where our customers want to go …

Toby/Diva Marketing: Richard Binhammer’s view on social media marketing

RichardatDell: I think I’ve said enough and would like to hear more from your readers and friends

Where Are They Early Business Bloggers?

02/21/2008

When Diva Marketing launched in the spring of 2004 business blogs were barely a blip on most people's radar. To help marketers understand why organizations were beginning to view blogs as a business tool, how to sell-in to management and most importantly to pass along critical lessons learned, in 2005 I launched the Biz Blog Profile Series where people who were doing "it" shared their experiences.

Fast forward to 2008 and blogs are just one tactic in an over-flowing social media tool box that are now used by Fortune 100 companies, small business and not for profits.

Recently Alex Brown and I had an interesting email volley. Alex was one of the first people I interviewed for the Biz Blog Series. He had the innovative idea of turning the Wharton Admissions blog in a portal which has since become the go-to place for how to get into B School.  Inspired by Alex, I thought wouldn't it be fun to  take a look at "Where Are The Early Business Bloggers Now?"

Seemed appropriate to start with Alex. I think it's fair to stay that social media has not only changed Alex's life but impacted thousands of people and horses too!

Alex_brown_2 Background: I now manage alexbrownracing.com which is a horse racing web-site that focuses on horse welfare.  Our mission statement (something we needed to create once we became a large community) focuses on ending horse slaughter, and rescuing horses that are in the slaughter pipeline. To date we have rescued more than 2,000 horses headed for slaughter raising close to $850,000 in doing so (not bad for an organization that does not exist ?)  alexbrownracing.com used to be timwoolleyracing.com and gained traction on the internet as we followed Barbaro's fight for life after his accident in the Preakness Stakes.

Basically I was in the right place at the right time and chose to blog about Barbaro with all the access anyone would need.  We gained a large community quickly.  Along the way I had to add a discussion board as the community grew too large to be managed simply by a blog.  Subsequently I also created a wiki to manage additional content: alexbrownracing.com/wiki

We are now working with others in the anti-slaughter community to put together Americans Against Horse Slaughter, two days of lobbying in DC, March 4 and 5.  We are gaining momentum and hoping to end horse slaughter once and for all.  I have committed to this project to the extent I no longer teach at the University of Delaware (Internet Marketing) nor work at the Wharton School (MBA Admissions).  My business card now reads: Horses.

What were your success?
I think as a community we can be proud of what we have accomplished.  2,000 horses have been saved to date, we have helped gain some ground on horse slaughter legislation.  It is wonderful to be doing something you can be truly passionate about and something that combines all my interests (Internet Marketing: which I began teaching in 1997) and horses (I have worked in horse racing on and off for more than 20 years, in the US and in the UK.)  Site data is also pretty cool.  Our busiest day, 70,000 visits.  Our discussion board gets on average over 1,000 posts a day (thanks Prospero).  Our community is large and active.

What were your challenges?
We have a huge online community that while can all agree on one issue (horse slaughter is wrong) has fundamental differences of opinion over many other issues.  Myself and one other administrator (WendyMI) has to try to keep this community together, and when things start to unravel, we need to figure out how to get people back on track.  I have realized that I do not have to agree with everything, and to be perfectly frank, I don't have to like everyone, but I do have to act with a very even hand.  That is very hard.  Some issues that came to the community came from previous history of which i was unaware.  There is a group of people on the internet who absolutely dislike more than one participant in our community.  Their goal is to get them banned.  Banning people is another issue.  When you ban someone, their friends leave with them.  These sorts of things I had not factored when we began.  Shit, I thought we would have no problems given the mission of the site.   Well welcome to the horse rescue / slaughter world to me!  I can provide links of discussion threads on other boards that absolutely bash me and the work of the site, and these are from anti slaughter people.  Odd stuff! 

Tomorrow the site may be over. It is unique I think, but a challenge to keep it going for sure.  It is the most intellectually challenging job I have undertaken, and I am thankful of a little knowledge in game theory and other fields to compliment my internet marketing background, and what I learned setting up communities at Wharton and teaching Internet Marketing with Blogs at Delaware.

What would you do differently?/What lessons have you learned?
Fortunately the mistakes I have made have not (yet) been catastrophic in terms of managing the community.  There are a few people I banned that perhaps with hindsight I should not have banned.  Early efforts to get help managing the site were a little rough, but overall I think for what we have done and the size of our community we have managed to bumble along without too much disaster!

What's next for Alex and the Barbaro in the world of social media?
I truly hope we can end horse slaughter this year.  I also want to explore a little more deeply what we have done, and what we can learn from it.  I want Knowledge at Wharton to do a case study on it etc.  I also plan to move out of this grotty motel room in Houston ... and by the end of 2008 be back in the UK!

(HP) Social Media Means NOTHING If Your Internal Processes Are Broken

02/17/2008

Memo
To: Smart corporate marketers who are including social media / Web 2.0 strategies
From: Your customers

Blogs, podcasts, videos, communities building, social networking, widgets and gidgets and digg and Twitter and the ten thousand other technologies are worth NOTHING if your internal processes are broken.

Forget about how to create, measure and analyze the buzz about your brand. It means NOTHING if your internal processes are broken.

My friend Marianne Richmond details a very frustrating story of how HP is playing games with the education of Sam - a high school freshman - whose HP laptop has been zonked (I think that's a technical word) since November 2007 ..  with no resolution dispute hours with tech support, emails to bloggers, on and on. What adds insult to injury is that this is the company that boasts not 1 or 2 or 10 or 15 or 20 but over 50 HP blogs along with podcasts and other social media initiatives. There is even one about social media by Scott Berg. They all mean NOTHING because internal processes are broken. 

HP, I'd like to introduce you to two of your customers SamSam_richmond and his mom Marianne,  Marianne who are about to go MAC. Well, HP  you might say, the loss of one high school student and his mom .. no big deal. It's not like they are a Fortune 100 company where you might have opportunity for an account with hundreds perhaps thousands of orders.

Oh, by the way, HP if you or one of your 50+ bloggers happen to be listening to this conversation, I forgot to mention one minor detail. Mom Marianne is a highly respected blogger. Her post - HP: Customer Experience Disconnect might influence as many potential customers as that one Fortune 100 account. 

Some times life shows us some unexpected humor this cartoon Gaping_void_love_hate_2 from gapingvoid.com was next to Marianne's post.

Lessons Learned:

  • Social media is more than a well written blog.
  • Social media changes how we conduct business.
  • In developing your social media strategy do not neglect a review of internal processes. How will information be disseminated?
  • In the nano second world of the Internet, internal systems must be developed to ensure rapid responses to questions and problems.
  • Excellent customer service is not a nice to have .. it's critical.
  • Listening in on conversations means NOTHING if you can't take corrective action .. immediately.

An Interview With Geoff Livingston - Now Is Gone

11/29/2007

Now_is_gone A political election changed Geoff Livingston's business model and his life. No it wasn't the ideology of the candidate it was the way he was elected .. through the influence of social media. In his book Now Is Gone Geoff provides a framework for how an organization can participate in conversational marketing.

The book has a few extras like the excellent introduction by Brian Solis. Brian explains the evolution of PR and how the principles of social media are changing that industry for the better.

In addition, Kami Watson Huyse kicks off the book with an interesting overview of the Seven Categories of Social Media: Publishing Platforms, Social Networking Sites, Democratized Content Networks, Virtual Networking Platforms, Information Aggregators, Edited Social News Platforms and Content Distribution sites.

Bloggy transparency - I am honored that Geoff included an interview he conducted with me. For your reading pleasure Geoff lets us in on some of the back-story and his thoughts about social media marketing.

Diva Marketing: Love the title of your new book – Now Is Gone. Where did the inspiration come from and what is the significance for you?

Geoff Livingston: I wish it was really cool, but it came while watching Casino Royale on DVD.  It seemed like a great title for one of the Bond movies, but afterwards the name kept rolling around in my head. 

Within days of that night the need for a book became apparent. The title fit the current need to engage in social media. Now Is Gone was born, and the Broccoli family was opted out. 

Now Is Gone really conveys a sense of urgency.  I think the business marketplace senses that urgency, and smart players understand competitive advantage can still be gained… But it has to be done in the next 12-18 months.

Diva Marketing: Your “moment of clarity” about the influence social media can play on a political election led to a change in the business model of your public relations company. What was the ah ha moment when you realized that social media marketing could impact consumer behavior?

Geoff Livingston:  When George Allen lost the election and, as a result the Democrats took control of Congress. I couldn’t believe it. My wife wanted to kill me. I was all full of energy at 2 a.m., the numbers were in and Allen had a clearly lost (though he had not conceded). All because of a YouTube video. 

While the Dems haven’t done much better, to see a power shift of that magnitude just stunned me.  The light bulb went on.

Diva Marketing: Now Is Gone contains a wealth of examples and case studies ranging from large corporate B2C companies like Jet Blue to smaller B2B organizations such as Reston Limousine and even Not for Profit where you highlight the Red Cross. In your research did you discover any common lessons learned that you can pass along to Diva’s community?

Geoff Livingston: It’s all about them… Meaning the readers.  This is a theme Meerman Scott picks up on, too, in his excellent book The New Rules.

Look we’re in a fractured media environment with millions of options out there, particularly for those that like to partake in social media. Corporate social media is fighting for time with every single one of them, from the New York Times and NBC to the brand new blog on Blogger and someone’s first Seesmic post.

So the only way to get and keep eyeballs is to understand you must publish something interesting.  Interesting in their minds, not yours. Having an editorial mission to serve those community members goes a long way towards achieving that goal.

Diva Marketing/Toby: My neighbor in the Hot’lanta hood as our pal Shel Israel might say, Coca Cola, has dabbled in social media including Second Life. In fact, there is a case in Now Is Gone about that initiative. Coke is about to launch their first corporate blog What advice would you you give to them – and to any Fortune 1000 company that is considering entering the blogging space?

Geoff Livingston:  Fortune 1000s are used to command and control communications where they can dictate messages to the marketplace.  This is a two way form.  The best thing any of these folks can do is really get out there and participate before engaging.  See what’s happening on other corporate blogs.

Geoff_livingston_3Then, instead of getting stuck in technology tools, they should focus on principles of social media communications.  This is really the heart of forging a better relationship with the community.  Ultimately, social media isn’t about tools, it’s about people.  We created a Seven Principles of Social Media wrap up in the final chapter.  You can find them here:

Diva Marketing: How much back-end structure should an organization include with a social media initiative that helps mitigate risk but leaves the door wide open to encourage consumer generated content?

Geoff Livingston: It’s hard to say.  Really, it depends on the company, the community and the tools.  It’s just not something I can answer without knowing the specifics.

Diva Marketing: Chapter Three – Building A New Media Effort – includes a subtitle that I really liked. “Inspire Your Community To Believe.” Would you please explain what you meant and give a few ideas on how to that happen?

Geoff Livingston: It’s so easy to commit to a two way media form. That’s a decision.

Decisions must be backed with actions if they are to be effective.  That means companies really need to dedicate themselves to the long haul and give great content and information to their communities over and over again.  Here’s where companies must act and perform well.  This is where social media really matters. In the streets, everyday!

Remember, this is a pessimistic media form with really lukewarm community members.  They have been disappointed by numerous ethical transgressions by companies so they are naturally wary of the latest corporate social media effort. And quite frankly boring content. 

Inspiration comes in the form of consistently great execution. Similarly,true interest in the community is also demonstrated by continued participation. It’s the tortoise that wins this race, not the hair.

Diva Marketing: Diva Marketing is all about the marketing. From your perspective, what do you see will be social media marketing’s impact on PR, as well as, on “traditional” marketing?

Geoff Livingston: The good news is that it should bring all marketing disciplines closer to their stakeholders. Now we have to get into the street with our buyers, investors, employees and partners.  Dictating messages won’t work because we may find they don’t resonate… or worse they antagonize.  But that feedback will be invaluable and good companies will garner great advantages from a participatory approach with their communities.

Social Media A Way To Reach Out

08/01/2007

Bloggers are a funny lot. We love to chat it up. We love to build relationships. As we've seen time and again we are quick to come to our own conclusions. Maybe too quick at times. Limited information, not understanding the context and cultural nuances make it so easy to misconstrue some one's intentions. I raise my hand to doing that .. and having that done to me. No one is granted immunity on this one.

Social spaces from blogs to Twitter to Facebook and M-or-e provide easy, free  ways to tell our closest friends and friends we don't even know our opinions. That's great for the most part. And no girlfriend bloggers are not researchers or even journalists but sometimes we might want to go an extra step. Especially when it might result in a better conversation.

This week I wrote a post, Blogger Relations: A Side Step To Buy Buzz, and included information and links to several interesting research projects. Part of that information was pulled from a media release from Agency.com about their study, Who Is Driving Social Media, an analysis of what they term influencers - "uploaders." Here's a clip from the post.

The big strategic implication of the Uploaders study is clear – brands need to think of these digital influencers as a resource, not a target. - Dr. Paul Marsden.

That's an interesting concept. Agency.com doesn't say brands should build relationships and expand community with bloggers but instead suggests that bloggers should be positioned as a "resource." And what is a "target?" I've sent off an eMail to Marianne Stefanowicz, Assoc. Director, PR & Marketing Agency.com Worldwide asking for clarification.  Ms Stefanowicz was indicated as a contact on the release. Perhaps she'll drop a comment or respond back. If she does I'll let you know.

Agencycom_logo_2 Marianne Stefanowicz, Assoc. Director, PR & Marketing Agency.com Worldwide graciously responded to my email and agreed to let me post her response. Now we have a better understanding of what was behind Dr. Marsden's remark. And a nice little road map of how to engage bloggers.

Hi Toby - and thank you for your inquiry.

I fielded your question in the direction of James Clifton and this was his response:

The Ultimate Answer is an answer to the Ultimate Question which is a school of thinking led by Bain and Co http://bain.com/theultimatequestion/home.asp

The essence of the quote is that we need to treat people as a ‘resource’ - so listen to them, make them brand advisors by involving them in marketing and product innovation. By doing this, you create genuine dialogue and engagement which helps to make them advocates of a brand.

We should NOT to treat them as a passive ‘target audience’ which we simply message at through advertising.

Hope this helps. Please reach out if you want further information or to talk to James directly.

I did a little more digging and followed Marianne's link which led to the book written by Fred Reichheld, The Ultimate Question. The book addresses how to build community and customer loyalty by answering one, seemingly simple question: Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? By the way, Mr. Reichheld has a blog and Dr. Marsden blogs too. Sweet. I sent Fred Reichheld an email. Perhaps he'll drop by and leave a few words of wisdom. Who knows .. strange and wonderful things happen all the time in the blogosphere.

Lessons Learned: Reach out. You may find someone like Marianne who is happy to help ensure understanding. And if you pass that along to your community .. that's a powerful way to use social media tools.