Those of you who follow my blog and/or my monthly articles on LinkingRaleighNC  know that I am a big, big fan of social media.  All types – I text, instant message, FaceBook, Tweet, LinkIn, blog, comment on blogs AND yes I do a fair amount of it in the horizontal position.  I am one of those that ‘checks in’ if I wake up in the middle of the night – often times finding like-minded insomniacs to IM with on Yahoo or chat with on FaceBook.  My Android gets picked up before even my glasses (a testament to being in my 40s) upon waking to see what happened during the night.

 So, one would think that this week’s AdAge article stating that 10% of the under 25 category will respond to a text during sex wouldn’t phase me.

 Well, I guess I found my line….or at least one of them.  And, it’s not dotted….it’s thick, bold and drawn out in Sharpie-black ink.

 This got me thinking.  When/where else do I believe social media is not welcome? 

 What follows are my pet peeves – an arbitrary list of additional situations or scenarios where I believe a big NO SOCIAL MEDIA sign needs to be posted.

  1. Providing customer service.  This is a big one for me.  Not too long ago I was trying to share my displeasure about a service at my gym – O2 Fitness and the ‘service provider’ continued texting.  I felt unheard, not cared for and angry. 
  2. Operating heavy machinery.  This warning is not just for over the counter medications.  It never fails, it’s the middle of the day and I am driving behind someone who appears drunk – weaving ever so slightly, running over the little white bumps that separate the lanes.  I speed up around to pass them and glance over to discover that they are definitely intoxicated – mesmerized by the little keyboard on their smart phone.
  3. At the dinner table.  So, is this one way too obvious?  If out at a restaurant with someone, you wouldn’t consider staring and gawking at everyone that walks by, right?  Well, then what makes it seem ok to engage in a conversation via text or to push out Twitter updates in-between mouthfuls?
  4. Post two martinis.  Since social media platforms and cell phones don’t come with breathalyzers (a feature that I think should be added to cameras as well) it is probably in our own best interest to stay away from them if inebriated.  In my opinion, no good can come from those posts and once out there they are very hard to take back.
  5. Angry.  It’s bad enough if we say something in anger to someone but when we take the time to have it permanently captured digitally and then give it viral wings, one has to question IQ.  Once you hit ‘send’ or ‘share’ you are committed – for better or worse.  Bite your lip, throw a plate, punch a wall….all ways to express yourself and preserve your reputation – albeit there may be some blood or broken bones involved.

I am sure there are many other situations where participating in social media is not in our best interest or rude to others.  I would love your thoughts and comments.  I invite you to help me build on the list.  If it is robust enough, I’ll re-post the summary.  Just so that I’m clear, I write MarketingSmack alone, sober and not while driving.

Twitter Sold Me a Bridge

March 18, 2010

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal posted an article entitled Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media – Marketing via Facebook, Twitter Yields Results for Some, Others Say It’s Overrated; ‘Hype Right Now Exceeds the Reality.

The important words in the title are “Right Now”.  Don’t be fooled, Social Media is here to stay. If you ignore it, it will run you over. A true paradigm shift – reinforcing what is already a reality – consumers are in control.

It’s not new; consumers have been rating products online for more than 15 years. The “Social Shopping Study 2007,” commissioned by PowerReviews identified a significant segment of online shoppers as Social Researchers – “consumers who actively (always or most of the time) seek out and read customer reviews prior to making a purchase decision.” 86% of Social Researchers find customer reviews extremely or very important and 76% find “top rated product” lists (by customers) to be extremely or very important.

These results align with what I describe as Summit’s Credibility Pyramid.

We believe our own experience first and foremost, then we believe those who are similar or like us, third on that credibility scale are the industry pundits, analysts or media and at the end of it all – the least credible source is the vendor.

Why is understanding this concept critical in the advent of the rise of Social Media?

We no longer have to go online and “look” for reviews. Now these opinions – good or bad – get pushed to us anywhere at any time. Twitter, Face Book, Buzz, even LinkedIn all provide conduits for consumers to be heard and heeded. So while there may still be some skeptics about making the investment and not everyone will rush right out and pull a ‘Jackie Siddall’ and purchase a $1,900 folding kayak based on a Tweet, the power dynamic has permanently shifted and whether you are selling kayaks, bridges or pharmaceuticals you better join in the conversation.

Cross over to the Smack – https://marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Under New Management

March 10, 2010

My dojhang has been recently stamped with a – what is supposed to inspire glee and hope sign, “UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”. We’ve all experienced it – either within our own work environments due to mergers or acquisitions or in our communities. Typically it happens to a restaurant or bar that has been closed for a while and then, just like that – it pops back on the scene promising better food, ambience, hipper music. And, when that’s the case everyone’s the winner.

What happens when the business is an on-going entity with a subscribed set of consumers? How do you manage the transition to the new management without alienating your existing customer base – without stamping out the ‘culture’ so to speak? I do think the key word here is TRANSITION the concept of passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another ….rather than the abrupt, no room for dialogue, Alice in Wonderland ‘Off with His Head’ type moment.

At the risk of falling into the ‘everyone’s a critic’ camp, I can certainly give you a fat list of what NOT to do. So, I’ll try – really, I will – to stay on track and stick to what should be done.

When managing the changeover, which may include – feature enhancements, price adjustments, rules of engagement alterations, employment modifications it is best to lead with what will be received well. If your promise is a better new widget then prove it. I may suggest to you that major price increases with absolutely no real change – but just a ‘promise’ for change – and an unclear promise at that, is a BAD idea. It builds resentment and mistrust, even amongst the most patient and loyal.

If your organization depends on the geography model, meaning your customers must be local to consume your goods and services then ignoring that communities’ ‘corporate culture’ is another grave error. While you may have standard operating procedures and a brand that works really well in your corporate headquarters they may not translate to outside of that location. Let’s face it, a hot new bar by the name of G-Spot or ManHole may inspire long lines in San Fran or Key West but would sit lonely and empty in ConservativeTown, USA.

As we all know change, no matter how it’s presented, can be stressful – the fear of the unknown, the break in routine, the adjustments to a new product or service. And while it is inevitable and can only be classified as ‘change’ for a short period of time before becoming the new ‘norm’, I do believe there are ‘better’ choices to be made when it comes to gaining customer acceptance and continued loyalty.

Managing to deliver yet another week of MarketingSmack http://www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at http://www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Last week I attended my first Triangle Social Media Club meeting hosted by Zach Ward from DSI Comedy.  I had been trying to meet one of the founders of the group, Wayne Sutton, for quite some time without much success and luckily saw his tweet regarding the upcoming opportunity.  The premise of the meeting was to showcase how analogous improvisation is to the art of social media.

 Not that any of you would know this, but I spent a great deal of time on ‘the stage’ in a previous life so this teaser was irresistible.

We gathered, about 25 of us, in the dark, musty theatre.  After the ritual milling around networking, Zach spoke to the group; first, showcasing how he has implemented and utilized a successful social media strategy to brand and promote himself and his theatre then secondly, to explain a core tenet of improvisation – Yes, And

Apparently, to be a successful (aka, funny) improviser, you need to master the skill of taking someone’s statement, AGREEING with it enthusiastically, and then BUILDING on it with a statement of your own.

Let me show you:

Jack: “My son loves dinosaurs”
Matt: “YES, your son does love dinosaurs AND so do I”
Jack: “YES, you do love dinosaurs AND I can never remember the names of them”
Matt: “YES, you can NEVER remember the names of dinosaurs AND neither, can I”….

I think we get the picture.

It’s this process of providing unconditional support to someone’s thought or idea and then augmenting it in a – and this is the tricky part – positive way.  This doesn’t work if you use the words “Yes, And…” but fill the gaps with statements that are typically preceded with “No, But.”  It also falls flat on its face if it isn’t authentic – which for some, might be the really tricky part.

The key here is to resist pushing your own agenda.  Let me say this again; resist pushing your own agenda. 

The rewards of “Yes, And…” seem obvious – outside of side-splitting laughter, you engender good will and establish a relationship that screams: “YES, let’s create a win/win scenario AND I’m ok helping you win first.”

Is it just me or does this seem like a viable life platform? 

YES, Zach had a lot of insightful words for us that night AND I walked out richer for the experience -a worthy blog topic, a fresh illustration to share with clients, renewed zest for my social media activities, and an inspiration to return to the stage. 

Dodging the ripe fruit and hook for yet another week – the MarketingSmack’s home theater is still at: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Recently Forbes published an article listing the companies that will continue shutting down operations in 2010.  The list has some well known brands: Blockbuster, Starbucks, Walden Books, Ritz Camera and Zales to name a few.  And, while all of these companies share in their financial crisis – only some will see the light of day again as disposable incomes peek out of the darkness of the recession.

People will buy coffee again.  Men will purchase jewelry again for their wives, girlfriends and mothers. 

Other industries have faced their ‘music’ so to speak as Internet enhancing technology proliferates.  Fundamental changes have been occurring for some time – no surprises.  The music industry with plummeting CD sales and rising piracy issues had to get clever and quick to save itself – and is still struggling with the paradigm shift.  And, who would ever think of buying a car without being armed with manufacturing costs, dealer mark-up data and blue book value of that trade-in? 

The playing field has changed – yet, again. What won’t we do anymore? 

We won’t drive to a physical location and browse the aisles in search of the latest release only to find it ‘taken’.  Not when we can download, immediately, at no extra cost, from the likes of NetFlix.

We won’t accept anything less than ‘killer-category’ inventory and bargain pricing for our written word – physical or E.  And, if we’re going to visit a bookstore it has more to do with the social opportunities – complete with coffee and live music.

We won’t print out hundreds and hundreds of 4×5’s and spend countless hours placing them in albums that take up valuable space and never get looked at.  Not when endless slide shows can play dust-free with minimal foot print.

So while Forbes’ list places the majority of the blame on the economic climate culprit – and, there’s no question that it is a contributing factor – the reality is that time has passed by the likes of the Blockbusters, Walden Books and Ritz Cameras of the world.  We no more need them than we need a public phone booth (although this has proven tricky for Superman) or a cigarette lighter at a concert. 

And while we’re no longer allowed those annoying phone busy signals to let the world know we’re unavailable, I still hope you have a little time to spend on the MarketingSmack: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Go Ask Lisa.

January 19, 2010

While I want to say I’m above it all, not enticed by the opportunities so abundantly provided to us by entertainers and politicians, I am not.  Today’s blog was inspired from a phone call I had last week with a dear childhood friend while on my way to a networking event.  She was actually delivering a message from her mother “You need to blog about your Lisa Druck story.” 

Who is Lisa Druck and why is she someone I should blog about?

John Edward’s dalliance, Rielle Hunter or Lisa as we fellow elementary school classmates called her, was in my fourth grade class at Pine Crest Preparatory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  She was super cool, wore make-up and didn’t succumb to the traditional white blouse under the forest green jumper uniform, so we all knew she wore a bra because we could sneak peak it from the side.  I coveted her brand – I wanted to be her.

I remember distinctly that for our big fourth grade book report assignment, Lisa read and discussed with poise and a sophisticated flair “Go Ask Alice” – a far cry from my “Harriet the Spy”. Her report clearly showcased a ‘naughty’ book that fascinated me, so I requested that my mom find, check-out and bring me a copy of it from the high school library, since any efforts to locate it in my lower school library were futile.

My mom, to whom English is a second language, dutifully sought out the book and upon check-out was questioned by her counterpart librarian as to who was going to read the book.  Needless to say, I never got my pudgy, fourth-grader paws on it.  It didn’t stop there.

“You MAY NOT be friends with Lisa Druck” – even in a heavy Spanish-laden accent, the message was crystal clear.

Can a nine year old develop a personal brand or did circumstances create it for her?  Did Lisa turn Rielle just continue to show up in the way that aligned with how she was perceived?

Everyone and every company has a brand; in some cases – and I bet it happens more often than not – that brand isn’t strategically constructed and managed.  The problem is that brands are enduring; even the bad ones.  Take Microsoft for instance; they’re well known for being stodgy and not innovative.  I doubt they like that.  I know they try hard to get us to believe something else.  Is that possible?  Can you re-invent a brand? 

With enough money, talent and perseverance you can.  Look at Target’s rise from K-Mart-type discount store status in the late 90’s and Chrysler’s recent logo re-fresh and “My Name is Ram” campaign to re-introduce the brand to truck lovers. But, it takes money and diligence.

And, while for some name changes – either company or personal – are attempted often in the hopes of brand resurrection, all bets are off if you don’t strategically develop and consistently maintain it.

MarketingSmack by any other name is still Jack’s blog: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Fish in a Barrel

January 12, 2010

I think it’s safe to say that in today’s environment almost everyone is frantically shucking oysters in search of that pearl – me included.  In that vein I attended the Triangle Business Advisors’ Round Table this past Friday.  I took note of this event on LinkedIn via one of my connections – an individual who happens to also be a business owner.  There were several professionals attending that I did not know and the topic – “Defining Your Target Market” interested me. In the world of ‘too many ways to spend your time’ I figured this one gave me extra bang for the buck – fresh meat and the potential to learn something, maybe.  Oh, and it was buck-less.

Trifecta!

The experience was well worth the investment.  While I didn’t necessarily gain academically from the discussion on target market, I did experience a brilliant implementation of pond stocking.  The discussion took place in the offices of one of the attendees – who rented or donated the crowded conference room – not sure which. 

When Bill Davis declared that his target market was limited to a five mile radius of his office space it was all I could do not to guffaw loudly and retort – “Don’t you mean a five foot radius?”  Whether we drove 5 or 50 miles that morning to attend the round table didn’t matter.  We were sitting on his home turf, literally feet away from his solution to our pain. 

Open Season.

Now the question is does he have the right bait? 

Bill has his version of the multi-billion dollar Subway $5 Foot-long campaign and it resonates with the hungry, self-selected, crowd.  Bill, and I know only after a five minute conversation with him that it was no accident, cleverly filled his conference room with HIS TARGET MARKET – individual consultants or owners of small business ALL looking to survive in the short-term and thrive…..eventually. 

I have been reminded recently by my readers that we who put a stake in the ground when we brand ourselves are not brave – but and I paraphrase ‘stupid’.  We just don’t know better – we don’t know or won’t admit that less than 20% of us will see the five year mark.  Here we were – a room full of ‘the stupids’ ready to hear Bill’s promise of 100 Days to Abundance(For $1 Day’)

While you can’t share it with a Coke and conversation over lunch it’s a pretty juicy worm ‘more product for less dollar’ value proposition.  One that is clearly ‘catching on’ because there were several of his clients present at the round table.  Not to be too cynical – but they would serve him better by staying out of the water – or he will need to dig out a bigger pond. 

Hook your latest MarketingSmack snack on: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Caveat Emptor: I have not participated in Bill’s program and cannot attest to the content, quality or results.