We Lost Our Social Media Way


Signs which-way-to-go Once upon a time, in the days when blogs were beginning to make their way into the world of marketing, customer service and branding  blog content was created by CEOs, CIOs and others within the organization who were brand and industry knowledgeable. They were (for the most part) people who had a distinct point of view and, more than not, some prestige within the enterprise.

Posts were valued as nuggests of insights and supported business goals. However, the secret of blogs went beyond providing content. The world was introduced to the real people behind the brand. These real people were using blogs as a key to open doors to building important stakeholder relationships. 

Sure there were challenges .. lots. We were building a new way of communicating that ripped open the Wizard of Oz curtain. We learned to create 'gard rails' and 'house rules' that still allowed for authenticity.

From a recent Hugh MacLeod, gapingvoid post - 

.. it was hard work. You had to write a lot, every day. And you had to be a good writer with something to say. Or else it would wither on the vine.

In other words, the barriers to entry were high, in terms of both talent and energy required.

Then came the social networks and the slide from fully developed ideas to posts that required only 140 characters in a tweet or 420 characters in a Facebook post. (I must tell you I <3 Twitter and social networks that provide opportunites to build community.) Something interesting began to happen in the world of social media. 

Perhaps it was that writing short was perceived as a "throw away" that anyone one could do. Perhaps it was that since many students had spent their high school and college years playing on Facebook that it appeared easy to do. Perhaps it was the perception that if celebrities like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber were tweeting than The Twitter was indeed little more than a toy and not a real business tool. How important could it really be?

Marketing managers realized that updating social media networks could be time consuming. Since The Twitter and Facebook weren't really important, why waste the time of the important people?

Light bulb An ah ha moment! I-n-t-e-r-n-s, who more often than not, were here today, gone tomorrow and junior employees, who had little experience with the brand and less with strategy, were tapped.

Silly marketing managers gave control of builidng relationships in these new socal networks to people with limited brand  .. their brand .. experience. 

Somewhere along the way we as marketers lost our way.

We lost our way in our thinking .. short didn't require smart or brand savvy.

We lost our way in thinking ..  playing with new technologies were the same as building tactics based on strategy.

We lost our way in thinking .. creating games using new technologies equated to "social media."

We lost our way in thinking .. anyone could represent our brand if the "conversation" was short.

On MSN Business On Main post, The Runaway Brand: Who's Tweeting For YouJoanna Krutz provides a series of tips. Her point of view is that with strucure and guidance interns and junior staff can create social network content. I might align with her thoughts regarding junior staff but I would be very cautious about bringing in interns to serve as the front line voice of your brand. Skip over to BOM and let me know your thoughts. 

By the way, Joanna mentions the now imfamous Chrysler Twitter debacle in her post. Ed Garston, head of electronic media for Chrsler, told me the back-story in a Diva Maketing exclusive interview

Graphic credit: Hungry Health Happy The Adventures of Mr. Riley

Diva Marketing is part of an online influencer network for Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis. All opinions are 100% mine.

Diva Marketing Talks Social Media + eMail with Simms Jenkins and Morgan Stewart


Diva Marketing Talks is a live, internet radio (BlogTalkRadio) show. 30 minutes. 2 maybe 3 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.. 

On today's Diva Marketing Talks we're exploring how a "traditional" interactive tactic .. eMail can be integrated with social media to produce more compelling campaigns. 

Joining me as to talk about, what to some people seems a bit anti-intuitive, are Simms Jenkins, CEO, BrightWave Marketing and Morgan Stewart, Principal, ExactTarget's Research and Education Group.

The Details

eMail Marketing and Social Media: Marketing's New PBJ

August 19, 2010
Live At: 4:00p - 4:30p Eastern/ 3:p - 3:30p Central/ 2:00p -2:30p Mountain/ 1:00p -1:30p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924

2008SimmsJenkinsHeadshot  Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, an award-winning agency specializing in email marketing and digital targeted messaging programs. BrightWave Marketing partners with clients in the development, management and strategic optimization of digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a top tier client list including Affiliated Computer Services (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, O’Charley’s, RaceTrac Petroleum and Ted’s Montana Grill as well as leading advertising and marketing firms.

In 2010, Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association’s Atlanta Chapter for being the top agency marketer. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is the author of The Truth About Email Marketing, which was published by Pearson's Financial Times Press. 

Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news, information, commentary, advice, opinion, research, and reference in the world, online or off-. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers. 

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of EmailStatCenter.com, the leading authority on email marketing metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media. 

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors and recently completed his tenure as a Board Member of Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AiMA). Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta’s Brookwood Hills neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Find Simms on: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, eMail Stat Center and his book website - The Truth About Email Marketing.

Stewart1  Morgan Stewart is the Principal of Exact Target's Research and Education Group. Morgan began his email marketing journey in 1999 when he managed the development of Pampers websites and email marketing programs across the U.S., Western Europe, and South America. Morgan came to ExactTarget in 2004 to launch ExactTarget's strategic consulting group, which he managed for more than 3 years. His true interests lie in demographics and studying how consumers interact with brands. He now serves as ExactTarget's industry expert on marketing trends across all interactive channels. 

Considered one of the industry's thought leaders in interactive marketing research, Morgan is a regular columnist for Mediapost's Email Insider and frequently appears in industry publications such as MarketingProfs and iMediaConnection. His work has also been featured in leading publications such as Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, Mashable, and AdWeek. 

Find Morgan on: Twitter, Email Research Blog, Subscribers Rule eMail Subscribers, Fans, and Followers

Tips From The Diva Bag 

Complements of Simms Jenkins

Integrate not Isolate

Email Isn’t Dead or Dying

Social is Email’s New Best Buddy So Get Used To It 

Know Your Audience

Follow Your Customers 

Don’t Market in Silos

Talk Uniquely Where Your Customers Are

Don't Be the Cut-and-Paste Social Marketer

Share Content and Value

Use Both to Build Permission Databases 

Test & Measure 

Complements of Morgan Stewart 

Email, Twitter and Facebook all have unique strengths (and weaknesses) in the minds of consumers

Email’s key strengths are Relevance and Exclusivity – consumers expect highly tailored content that makes them feel special

Twitter’s key strength is Influence and Interaction – the people that are most active on Twitter have huge voices across the internet and they want to interact directly with brand insiders

Facebook’s key strengths are Entertainment and Discovery - Consumers use Facebook because it’s fun to see what their friends are into... Which includes brands. Consumers don’t go on Facebook planning to interact with brands, but they consistently find new things that peek interest through friends.

Marketers need to understand and leverage these nuances in order to develop integrated and optimized messaging strategies.

Consumers do not operate in digital silos. Marketers can’t afford to operate in silos either.

Halloween Fun With Augumented Reality


Augmented Reality. Even the name sounds scary and a bit creepy. Seems it's the latest shiny object to hit the social media world.

From a non tech perspective, augmented reality adds a 3-D touch to websites, blogs and mobile. David Berkowitz says, "Augmented reality provides a layer of digital content over real-world experiences." Marshall Kilpatrick says that Yelp was the first iPhone app to add augmented reality. John Mayer, singer-songwriter says it's a "digital hologram" and he's incorporated the technology into his video for Heart Break Warfare.

 Meijer, a retail store that opened its doors in 1934 in the Greenville, MI is certainly keeping up with the times. Meijer Their step into augmented reality is a quirky and fun Halloween experience. With your computer and a webcam you can be transformed into a scary Halloween mask that complete with sound effects. The sort of social aspects comes into play with the ability to send to your pals in Facebook, eMail or a tweet where they can comment on how cool or dorky you might appear.

Meijer is a client of BBF BL Ochman who offered to send a free webcam (via Meijer) to the first 12 people who raise their virtual hand and drop a comment that you want one. That's BL in the photo ..wonder what Benny Bix thought of the gorrila noises.

From an interactive marketing perspective it seems like a fun campaign but I'm wondering where the integration is from the website to the Halloween page and from the Halloween page to the website.  Can't seem to find the link.

bTrendie New Idea In Online Shopping


Passing along a rather cool "by invitation only" shopping site, bTrendie, that is modeled after QVC. Items, discounted up to 60%,  are available for only a short time. 

Products are for kids so any mommy bloggers popping by check it out. BBF Jeneane Sessum is behind the marketing and created a special code of us - BlogDiva. Would be cool if they expand into Diva Stuff!

Btrendie Hope to win the free birthday party package for Olivia who turns 13 this month and is still bravely batteling Cystic Fibrosis.

Holiday Social Media Lessons From The Silver Screen


Social media teaches us lots of lessons. The big one for marketers is it is not all about the brand .. it is all about the customer. As with so many lessons, we seem to keep relearning this one.

Before you go off the grid .. or perhaps when you come back on .. think of a gentler time before the Internet, before Twitter, before blogs or Facebook or even before email. It is Christmas 1947 and the CEO of a major retail organization briefs the company's ad department.

"No high pressuring and forcing the customer to take something he doesn't want. We'll be known as the helpful store. The friendly store. The store with a heart. The store that places public service ahead of profit. The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before."

With those words Macy's Department Store launched the most innovative sales program ever viewed...on the silver screen. It was a Miracle on 34th Street. Customers would not be coerced into buying what they did not want and if another store had a better, less expensive product Macy's would send them to that store.Miracle_on_34th_street

Fast forward 61 years. Social media is one of the most exciting marketing strategies we've seen in the last 60+ years. However, in this model there is no room for high-pressure sales techniques. The customer is in control of the brand experience. As Mr. Macy learned .. the customer has always been in control but few marketers have helped to create that experience for their customers .. especially when it goes outside of the company-brand/s.

Adding a social media strategy to the marketing mix is a powerful tactic that actively demonstrates your customers' needs matter. The digital relationships that the people (not departments) in your company develop create continuous listen which leads to continuous learning which leads to a continuous conversations which leads to trust which leads to the cash register bells ringing. And every time a cash register bell rings a marketer gets a bonus or gets to keep her job (!).. oops wrong film. Sorry.

Corner grocery store digital relationships that are build not only with you and your customers but among your customers could never have been imagined when Kris Kringle entered Macy's Department in 1947. For many organizations these open conversations still seem like a Miracle on (insert organization name here) or like the ghost of Xmas future (oops wrong movie again. Sorry.)

Often it is not easy to hear the answers to questions you did not ask. In developing new ways to conduct business there maybe a few wobbles and perhaps even acknowledgment that all is not perfect behind the curtain of your brand. However, the surprise gift is that strategies built with integrity, honesty and transparency that offer an opportunity to create dialog with your customers show that you are more a like than not. And that builds relationships.

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible... consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

As the year 2009 approaches, technology developments spin even faster taking digital marketing into areas that were impossible in '47 or '57 or even '08.

Imagine a site that holds current inventory and pricing, allows for on-line financing and results in better, faster cheaper processing.

Imagine a site that allows for product customization.

Imagine a site where you can start a conversation with a real person about what matters to you regarding a product or service.

Imagine a site where you can talk to a real person who doesn't respond with an FAQ list.

Imagine a site where you can actually help change the direction of a product or service before it's even launched.

Imagine a site where you can include your review of the product, service or customer care.

Imagine a site where you can talk to people about their experiences and learn from each other.

Imagine a company that doesn't close the door (or comment section) to you or your ideas.

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

It's interesting to compare a 1940's film, where finding solutions to customers' problems was perceived as unique, to 2008 where finding solutions to customers' problems is considered ingenious.

The techniques may have changed. New buzz words may be added to the mix. Bells and whistles may be a little louder. However, after all is said and done, the premise remains the same:



-Add value

-Do what it takes to go the extra mile to delight your customer

The plan sounds idiotic and impossible...consequently, we'll make more profit than ever before.

Toby max santa hats  And with that Max and I wish you a holiday full of joy.

Sidebar: A Classic Diva Marketing post based on an article written for Marketing News

Bloggers & PR People Should Be Friends


I've been thinking about this post for several weeks and was inspired by Mack Collier's post on Daily Fix to finally put thoughts to virtual paper.

First a little background: I'm a marketer who blogs. I have never been a journalist nor have I ever worked in a PR firm. I was once a director for a non profit and with that came many hats including media relations. My deep dark secrets are I would have loved to have been a foreign correspondence wearing those cute jackets with zillions of pockets, drinking Scotch and yes, an occasional puff on a cigar. And I covet a real press badge that will get me into concerts and events for free. But I digress ..

With blogging has come many new opportunities, as well as a few surprising new identities. A couple of weeks ago I received a press release that referred to me as part of Atlanta's prestigious media. Maybe I do have a press badge but I just forgot where I put. But I can tell you that some of my best friends are in the PR biz. And I've met people who are true professionals in every sense of the word. What do they do that is right?

1. They know who I am.
2. They tell me who they are.
3. They know what I focus on.
4. They offer background information.
5. They help me provide valued content for Diva Marketing's community.
6. Sometimes they even ask what I would like to make the post more compelling.
7. They offer me more than a vaguely clocked sales pitch.
8. They say "thank you."

For all of you a toss of aPink_boa pink boa!

Girlfriend, since we're talking among friends, here are a few pet peeves ..

1. Emails from people who at first glance seem to be my long, lost, best friend.
2. People who start their emails in the middle of a conversation and it takes me a second to realize I've never met the person in online or offline.
3. Emails that are so much like spam that they never get a glance. Off topic.
4. People who say lovely things about Diva Marketing and then ask for me to be their best friend and write about their stuff.
5. People who forget to tell who they are or who they work for or why I should take my time to promote their product.
6. People who forget to say  "thank you."'

That has me wondering why:

1. Some PR people seem to get it while others do not have a clue.
2. Some PR people seem to understand that bloggers are not representatives of a media outlet that is paying them to write about "news worthy" events.
3. Some PR people treat bloggers with the respect that they would give to an influential journalist from a publication like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or even The Star
4. While others do not.

Recently I received an email from a brand manager type who works at a very large company. She had hired a PR agency to conduct a Blogger Relations strategy and wrote ..

"We've discussed the fact that bloggers, by publishing their opinions and inviting readers to comment or contact them, basically agree to open themselves to unsolicited information." The ah ha light bulb moment flashed on.  My response back -

If you take that approach you'll open yourself to firestorms. What we tell clients is that the blogoshere is comprised of many "villages" and each village e.g., the cat pet village, the business village, the golf village, has a unique culture.

Within that culture each blogger has her own sense of what she will post .. how she deals with unsolicited "pitches" and so forth. That means more than identifying a bunch of bloggers who talk about a subject it means understanding the blogger. This post from Diva Marketing might shed some understanding.

The ah ha: People just don't know and some agencies dive into this space with little or no experience positioning themselves as experts .. getting their clients and themselves in Big Trouble. Blogger relations is different from traditional media relations. As BBF Paul Chaney indicated in the comments on Mack's post it seems to be a  training challenge .. or opportunity.

The friction between bloggers and public relations people reminds me of the song from the musical Oklahoma - "Farmer and the Cowhand .. Should Be Friends." So I'd like to propose ..  

Social media folks should stick together. Social media folks should all be friends.

Thinking about more blogger relations I was curious if reaching out to bloggers was in anyway in violation of the CAN SPAM Act. My pal Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing & EmailStatCenter kindly shed some light.

To begin to work together .. Bloggers and PR People .. this is for all of us. Thanks to Simms who agreed to let me post our email volley.

Simms Jenkins: The CAN SPAM act only requires some key elements, none related to permission.  Best practices of email campaigns are related to the subscriber proving an opt in. So spammers follow neither which means the law is powerless, for the most part.

Regarding the outreach, I think a one to one email provides more  flexibility - after all we all send some unsolicted emails hoping to get press, leads, friends :) ..once it becomes an email campaign, you should be more cautious as that is the brand not just an email sent to an individual.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  So if I'm hearing you right .. if the email from the, call it agency/person, includes a "if you don't want to hear from us again we won't bother you again" statement it would be okay and not fall into the CAN SPAM act?

Simms Jenkins:
I am defining campaign as an email from BrightWave Marketing promoting my book/website The Truth About Email Marketing - I need to follow the letter of can spam...however, if I send you an email from my personal account promoting the book, it allows a bit more flexibility but that is a general grey area and why I include an opt out note at the bottom of all of my emails to people

Social media folks should stick together. Social media folks should all be friends.

It's Not Spam It's An MBA Project


Funny story for you.

Last week I followed a link I found in Diva Marketing's stat referrals. It led to an amazon.com powered site ..Expert_amazon_page_may_5_08_3 Expert Choice. Have you ever wondered what books influential bloggers read? We did too. So we asked them.

Lo and behold I was included in this list of experts.

But wait a sec .. I had no recollection of reviewing these books. Even though it seemed to be associated with a not for profit, Kiva, I assumed it was a rather clever spam site. I noticed that Drew McLellan was one of the bloggers listed. Drew was on Twitter so .. yes, girlfriend, I tweeted. He had not a clue either. Amazon_expert_twitter

A few days later I received an email from Jeff Greenfield thanking me for participating in the project that he and his classmates, from the MBA class at Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine, had put together .. Expert Choice book store. Ahh .. lightbulb went off.

"We have created this webstore for our group project in EDGE, a course that explores how technology and globalization are transforming the business landscape – opening markets, redefining industries, and erasing boundaries.  Our project’s specific goal is to connect readers with business-related books that are recommended by industry experts. 

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of all books through our Expert's Choice webstore will be donated to the Kiva, a charity that lets you lend to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world – empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.

We sent out 25 emails and got 12 responses: Scott Berkun, Toby Bloomberg, Tom BlueMike Bonifer, Roger Dooley, Guy Kawasaki, Karl Long, Drew McLellan, John Seely Brown, Andy Sernovitz, Ron Shevlin, Scott WhiteWe went into this having no idea how many replies we’d get but we’re happy with the quantity and quality of the responses we received."

To ensure that there was no doubt that this was not only a legit initiative but one developed by a group of MBA students, I suggested a more prominent placement of About Us.  TheTeam Edge from UC Irvine: Jinu Choi, Erin Cueto, Jeff Greenfield and Chris Ting presents their project May 27th. Take a moment to visit the Expert Choice book store and help them out with a few clicks and it would also be swell if you bought a book too .. it's for a good cause. Maybe you can send it to the Masiguy to help him pass the time as he mends.

Lessons Learned
People are cynical. Ensure that your credibility information is front and center.
Need a fast response? Tweet.
Bloggers are kind and generous people. A 50% response rate is great.

Diva Marketing Talks About RSS With Bill Flitter and Lee Feinberg


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.

Today's Diva Marketing Talks takes the wraps off of Real Simple Syndication - better known as RSS. Our rock star guests Bill Flitter and Lee Feinberg will make RSS simple. They'll share how they used RSS to encourage viral marketing campaigns, talk about ads on RSS feeds, discuss if RSS complements or replaces eMail marketing and lots more.  If we're very lucky Bill will tell us what Santa Clause, the postman and the TV clicker have to do with RSS.

Topic for March 6, 2008: RSS: Alphabet Soup or The Power Behind Social Media

Time: 6:30p - 7p Eastern/ 5:30p - 6p Central/ 4:30p -5p Mountain/ 3:30p - 4p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924


Bill Flitter

Bill_flitter_2 Bill Flitter is CEO of Pheedo. Bill is considered an industry expert on syndicated content advertising and speaks regularly on this topic at industry events. Prior to Pheedo, Bill founded Email Shopping Network and directed its sales and marketing activities until its acquisition by eUniverse in 2002.

In addition to Pheedo and Email Shopping Network, Bill has started and helped build numerous early stage companies, developing hundreds of innovative products and services. Bill is also co-founder of Fastlane Ventures, a boutique management consulting firm focused on early-stage investments. Bill is a founding member of the Internet Content Syndication Council and chairs their advertising committee

Raised in Wisconsin, Bill graduated with a degree in Advertising from the University of Wisconsin. He founded the University of Wisconsin Interactive Advertising scholarship to reward outstanding excellence in this innovative field. Bill’s ruminations on a number of topics can be found on the Pheedo Blog.

Leefeinberg Lee Feinberg

Lee Feinberg is a business development leader and has devoted his entire career to create and launch interactive products and services.  For 20 years, he has guided innovation at Fortune 500 companies in financial services, automotive, consumer hardware, and healthcare.  His experience includes Internet marketing and eCommerce, high-volume transaction systems, mobile communications, and interactive TV.

Lee is currently Strategy Director, Avenue A | Razorfish and previously held the position of Vice President/ Associate Director, Digitas.  He was the President and Founder of e-thusiasm, inc. an independent interactive strategy consultancy whose clients included Johnson & Johnson, CheckFree, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ.  Lee has also held positions with Chase Manhattan Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and AT&T Bell Labs.

He received a B.S. and M.S. from Cornell University.  Lee serves on the advisory board of Pheedo, holds a U.S. patent for a PC-telephone interface, is a member of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, the Cornell Entrepreneur Network, and the Sandler Sales Institute Presidents Club.

Can't call in but have a question? Drop a comment and I'll ask it for you. Let me know what you'd like Diva Talks to chat about. Don't forget Diva Marketing Talks morphs into a podcast.

AiMA Goes Second Life Tonight


Aima_logo Join the Atlanta Interactive Marketing  community - AiMA - tonight for a trip into the world of virtual communities. Congrats to Joe Koufman and his committee for pulling together an innovative event.

Can't join us in the non digital world?  Del Ross, from IHG, will not only moderate the panel discussion in person, but his avatar will be simultaneously moderating the ACTUAL event in Crowne Plaza's Place to Meet, a Second Life island for private, secure meetings.


• Christopher Klaus – Founder and CEO for Kaneva
• Mike Donnelly - Director Worldwide Interactive Marketing for Coca-Cola
•Rhonda Lowry – Vice President, Emerging Technologies for TBS
• Paul Greenberg – Director of Consumer Marketing for The Weather Channel

6:30 pm - Networking
7:30 pm - Panel Discussion

Pay at the Door:
$25 - Basic Member
$35 - Non-Member

February's AiMA Meeting continues in the social media space. On Feb 28 27th Wednesdayhear how The Home Depot -- Shera Shrago and Ayres Nicholas -- (B2C), Goodwill of Greater Washington -- Brendan Hurley
Senior Vice-President -- (Not For Profit) and a TBD B2B brand are using social media and Web 2.0 tools to achieve marketing goals. Special guest presenter Geoff Livingston author of Now Is Gone. Peter Kim, Forrester Research will moderate what is sure to be a lively conversation.

Sidebar: Free wifi in the San Diago airport is making me a happy camper. Off to see what the Twits are talking about!

Friday Fun: DC Goodwill on the Social Media Runway


Today's post is a Two-for-One. It's Friday Fun  - Friday Fun is Diva Marketing's virtual happy hour from cosmos to Jack to lemonade. A waiting for the weekend 'playground' time to be sophisticated-silly. Or sometimes just plain silly. Combine with Biz Blog Profile - Biz Blog Profiles! is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and the arts are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

Take a brand with an image challenge. Add a unique positioning strategy targeting a new segment. Overlay it with the limitations (people and money) of a not for profit. Sprinkle with an innovative, never been done before social media strategy. Toss in a few vintage dresses. Mix well. Welcome to the world of the Goodwill of Greater Washington.

About Goodwill of Greater Washington
Goodwill of Greater Washington provides job training and employment services to people with disadvantages and disabilities throughout the greater Washington, DC region.  We fund our mission through diverse lines of business including our chain of nine retail stores, two e-commerce sites, landscaping, pest control and janitorial contract services, as well as a small amount of traditional fundraising (about 10%).

About Brendan Hurley
Brendan_hurley_2 I have been a marketing professional for 15 years, with a BA in Communications and an MS in Marketing.  I spent most of my career in the “for profit” sector, working primarily in the radio industry marketing for a variety of radio groups including Clear Channel Communications.  I came to Goodwill as the VP of Marketing when Clear Channel’s Regional Senior VP became Goodwill’s CEO in late 2003.  What I enjoy about Goodwill is that it is a charitable agency that helps the community, but also runs more like a business than a traditional non profit.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Vintage shopping is great fun but Brendan, I must admit when I think of diva, cool places to discover cute clothes Goodwill is not top of mind. However, you not only are changing the image of Goodwill of Greater Washington but are creating a new positioning for the organization … from thrift shop to vintage fashion.

How and why did an organization, that is not known for innovation in marketing, decide to step into the world of social media to support and promote that new direction?

Brendan Hurley: There is an interesting disparity in the vintage and classic fashion world. If you spend $150 on an outfit at a high end vintage retailer, it’s considered hip, but if you buy the same outfit at a Goodwill store or “thrift” store, many consumers perceive it as old and used. 

We didn’t want to alienate our core customers, many of whom are bargain shoppers, but we needed to find a way to grow a secondary market segment for Goodwill that we felt we could impact with the right positioning: young, professional females, who tend to be a primary market segment for vintage retailers. Ultimately we felt that a social media strategy would help us address this need.

Toby/Diva Marketing: In a recent guest blog post on The Buzz Bin you said something very interesting: 

It wasn’t until I started developing our 2007 strategic marketing plan that I finally figured out my problem: I was trying too hard to develop a social networking strategy instead of incorporating social networking into my marketing strategy.

It’s the concept that I’ve been trying to help marketers understand. Would you please discuss that a bit more? How did you “get it.”

Brendan Hurley: Like many marketers (I think), I didn’t fully understand social networking as a “tactic” incorporated into a strategy. I kept wondering how we could integrate social networking into our marketing plan (trying to force it) rather than identifying our organizational challenges and applying the best marketing methods to address those challenges. 

Once I did that, the answer became clear:  The use of social networking would achieve multiple strategic objectives. It was like a light bulb went off.  An integrated social networking and new media plan would help us reach the audience we were targeting without alienating our core shopper, drive traffic to our virtual fashion show that we knew would convince visitors we had a good product, then provide them with an easy portal to our online retail store to make a quick purchase.  By integrating mission messages into each step along the way, we could also educate the population on the nature of Goodwill’s mission, thereby developing greater passion for our cause while generating brand loyalty.  The flow seemed very natural.

The only problem was that while I had read blogs before, I had never written one, so I didn’t understand the strategy behind it and how to make it compelling and sustainable.  Fortunately, I knew Geoff Livingston of Livingston Communications from a marketing committee we both serve on at the Greater Washington Board of Trade and I asked him if he would consult us on finding appropriate vintage fashion websites on which to advertise, and on launching our blog. 

It was Geoff that taught me that we had to treat the blog just like any other product with a mission statement, logo, positioning statement, etc.  Doing so has helped us stay focused and forced us to maintain product integrity so that the blog doesn’t become another blatant advertisement that will simply turn off any half educated reader. The content has value and I believe that is what keeps readers coming back. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s talk about your exciting initiatives. First the Goodwill Fashion Blog. Was it difficult to get buy-in from your board and how was it presented to them?

Brendan Hurley:  Our board LOVED the idea.  They believed that the use of new media was quite innovative in the non profit sector.  And certainly the use of fashion to help educate others on our mission was a very unique strategy.  While they seemed quite confident, my team and I were responsible for the execution of this complex initiative, so I was a a bit nervous having never launched such an effort before.  Fortunately, I have a fantastic team.  Our blogger, “The DC Goodwill Fashionista”, is an employee, Em Hall, who is very keen on fashion. She loves writing the blog and is very talented. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you establish success measures or goals and if so what were they? 

Brendan Hurley: We set financial goals for the fashion show, which we’ve already achieved.  We also set a goal on the number of unique visitors to the fashion show (10,000) which we are close to hitting now and we haven’t even posted the video on YouTube yet. Right now, the only place the fashion show can be seen is on our website.

We have a financial goal for our silent auction, but it hasn’t ended yet, so I can’t tell you whether or not we’ll hit that number.  However, I can tell you that we’ve already successfully converted better than 14% of our fashion show viewers into Goodwill online shoppers. That is a number I had no idea we’d achieve.  Our brick and mortar retail sales increased measurably as well in the two weeks since the fashion show launched.  However, I can’t say whether those numbers are sustainable at this point and how much the virtual fashion show and blog influenced that growth.

As for the blog, I would have been happy with 100 visitors a week and a retention rate of 25% after less than 90 days, but we’re presently averaging about 700 visitors a week and a retention rate of close to 40%.  The blog has also become the second largest referral source for our fashion show.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you perceive any risks in stepping into the blogosphere with a blog that has open comments?  What strategies are in place to mitigate risk?

Brendan Hurley:  When we decided to pursue a blogging strategy, it was an easy decision for us to establish a policy of posting both positive and negative comments, provided they were not  inappropriate. No comments go live without our review first.  However, I am a firm believer in transparency and integrity and if someone criticizes us, it will be seen.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The DC Goodwill FashionistaGoodwill_fashionista_blog seems to be having such fun with her posts but why did you choose to go the anonymous blogger route?

Brendan Hurley: That was a strategic decision to protect the long term sustainability of the blog.  We decided to give the blogger an alias because at some point, the author of the blog may change.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Then you took a step into wild side with the launch of what may be the first online fashion show from a not for profit  - The Fashion of Goodwill Virtual Runway Show and Virtual Auction. Please tell us the back-story.

Brendan Hurley:  For three years we have held an annual Goodwill Fashion Show that was designed primarily as a fundraiser and secondarily as an attempt to help change perceptions of the quality of fashions available at Goodwill Stores.  Unfortunately, while the unique fashion show received some good publicity, only a limited number of people could attend the event because it had a high ticket price attached to it.

By converting our live fashion show into a virtual fashion show that we could post on our website and promote through social networks, we believed we could reach a broader and younger market segment by providing entertaining and compelling content that would interest and excite the viewer.  This would also make our sponsors happy because we’d be reaching thousands of people rather than a few hundred who could attend a live event.

Goodwill_runway Creating a fashion blog and pages on social networking sites like MySpace would not only help drive traffic to the fashion show and our online auction site, but also give us access to influential social networks that may help position Goodwill as a knowledgeable resource on vintage and contemporary fashion, while also positioning our stores as untapped destinations for inexpensive vintage and contemporary fashions, rather than stores for low income shoppers. So far the virtual fashion show has been a big hit!

Toby/Diva Marketing: How is the eBay Auction working for you?
Sidebar: Today - 9-28-07 - is the last day of the auction. Take a break and do a little virtual shopping for a few cute vintage pieces .. at bargain prices! Send me a photo of you in your new outfit and I'll post it on Diva.

Brendan Hurley:  Since the auction hasn’t ended yet, I can’t tell you if we’ve hit our financial goal, but I believe we will.  We’ve got a lot of watchers on our site. Our fashion show has become the second biggest referral source to our eBay store behind eBay itself.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Were there any surprises along the way in terms of what people bid or perhaps who bid?   

Brendan Hurley: Yes, there are people bidding on some items I didn’t think would get much interest and other items I thought would be popular that few people are watching.  We did discover through some additional research that a Versace china collection is worth much more than we had originally thought.  The interest in that china has really skyrocketed.  There is also an interesting vintage circa 1920s clutch purse that I am not personally fond of, but is getting a great deal of interest from eBay shoppers.  Then again, I don’t know a lot about purses.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  Hmm .. eBay today .. perhaps Second Life next year. A few diva-type Goodwill_1920_hand_beaded_dress_2questions .. Who were the models?

Brendan Hurley: The models were fantastic. They were all local and supplied by Tu-Anh.  Tu-Anh is a locally based, but internationally experienced fashion designer and consultant who volunteered her time.  She runs a professional fashion consultancy called Polished. She knew exactly who to ask and all of them modeled for free. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: How were the garments chosen and who put together the outfits?

Brendan Hurley:  All of the items were literally taken off the racks from our nine DC area Goodwill Retail Stores by Tu-Anh and her staff. It didn’t take them long. I think they were only hunting for a few days before they had an entire collection. What can I say…the stuff you can find at Goodwill is pretty good! You just need to look.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How will you sustain this new positioning and does social media fit into the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s long-term marketing strategy?

Brendan Hurley: I suspect that we’ll see a bit of a drop off once the auction ends and the initial excitement over the fashion show starts to fade, but we’re committed to a long term blogging presence and will very likely do another virtual fashion show next year. The challenge now is sustaining and building upon our early success. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: What were a few of the lessons learned?

Brendan Hurley: First, treat your blog like a product, not a strategy.  Second, to be successful at a blog you need to be willing to make the commitment. A blog requires much more research and time than I would have ever thought.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What advise would you give a not for profit who wanted to step into the social media space?

Brendan Hurley: I would tell them something that sounds like a cliché:  Think out of the box.  If you want to engage a new audience and educate them on your mission, you don’t necessarily have to force your mission upon them. 

Engage them using a common interest. If your cause is homelessness, maybe think about developing a blog about homeowner related issues and weave your mission into the blog content. You’ll reach a broader variety of people, develop a personal relationship with them and then gain their trust and support. The population that is already passionate about your cause is going to support you anyway. Use the blog as a way to acquire new untapped supporters.

Brendan Hurley On Social Media
Your take on using social media as a marketing / business strategy. Your get the last word (smile)

I’m amazed at how others are willing to market your product or service for you if they feel it has value.  Build an online product with significance and treat it with the respect you would give any more tangible product or service. If you do, you won’t have a problem finding people willing to help you communicate your message.