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I cannot believe that it has been over a year since I made my last blog post. I apologize to those who have followed me because I “had” some cool things to say. I will try to keep those types of posts coming, now that I have some more time on my hand.
For those of you who may know me, or follow Zynga, they closed their Boston office a few weeks back. While I had a feeling that something was coming, I actually thought that I would be ok, since I was assisting the Baltimore studio with a new game launch. Unfortunately that was not the case, and I was released of my duties.

Over the past 3 weeks I have really begun to think about my next move. While I have been involved in Social Media and Online Community Management and Sales for the past 14 years, is this something that will last? Something that has longevity?

Then I really got to thinking…..and said HELL YES!

As everyone in the field knows, it encompasses all aspects of Job titles & responsibilities. From Marketing, to Project Management to Customer Service and Public Relations, Social Media and Online Community professionals are being successful with all types of job responsibilities.

It is really time to harness our uniqueness and leverage that for our benefit. While my next position may not be a “Social Media Strategist” or “Online Community Manager”, you can bet that I will be leveraging my learnings over the past 14 years to excel at it.

* Thanks to http://markitors.com/ for the “Unique” image

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 I am pretty excited to be running a session at this years SXSW  Conference with Jim Storer, Mark Wallace and Heather Strout. The session is titled “Lurkers: Your most important Community Members”. This session is going to be very valuable for many different reasons:

  1. The panel members have significant experience in managing, moderating, strategizing and marketing of online communities
  2. The topic is one that is not heavily discussed, but it one of importance within any online community
  3. We will be discussing everything from measurement, engagement and strategies in how to accomplish your community goals

That is by no means an all-inclusive list of topics and points that we will cover, as with the experience that we have on the panel, you never know where the discussion may lead.

Please join us on Saturday at 5pm at SXSW this year for our panel. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in advance, and we will do our best to address them during the session.

Mark has already written a blog post concerning lurkers on his blog – http://commonground.edrnet.com/posts/0490906d9a so please check him out as well. I look forward to the discussion and meeting you all at SXSW this year.

Last night I attended the #NashuaTweetup and sat down with @SteveMurthey at the bar. We were talking about Social Media experts and how there seems to be so many “self-appointed” individuals out there, as this seems to be the latest and greatest employment opportunity for many. During our discussion, I came up with this comparison. It is like in the movie Aladdin. You had the Genie, who was obviously good at what he did. He knew the rules and was able to guide Aladdin into making some good decisions, and had “thousands” of years of experience in his back pocket.

* namecartoons.blogspot.com

But on the other hand you had Jaffar, and his snake staff. The staff was an incredible tool which mesmerized people and forced them to make decisions that they would not have if they had a better understanding of the situation and were guided properly. He also made promises that he could not keep, and there was always a “hidden agenda.”

 

* disneyvillains.net

Next time you sit down with some who is assisting you in anything, it does not have to be strictly a Social Media campaign or strategy session, make sure that you are not being promised things that seem unreachable, and make sure that you partner with someone who has proven their worth and has the experience to back it up. Don’t forget, you generally get what you pay for. What are your thoughts?

The more and more discussions that I have around Social Media and Online Community building and strategies the more the discussions are had around the concept of “Social” having a presence within each and every department. While I totally agree with this concept and think that every department should have individuals that understand Social, I don’t think that the concept of spreading Community positions within each department is the appropriate way to go and believe that Community and Social Media teams deserve their own department.

Seat at the Table

What are your thoughts here? Do we, as Social evangelists within our respective businesses, have the right to our own departments, with a “seat at the table”? Has the time come?

When I heard about Four Square day  last week, on 4/16, I got a little excited. I had thought that it was a great idea. I found that one of the cities around me (Manchester, NH)  was participating in the day. I looked at the local sponsors and tried to figure out how I could participate, given the fact that they were “passing out” a special badge to those who participated, I could not pass that up.

After looking at the Four Square day website I noticed that there were not many locations participating. I then went to the Facebook Manchester page and noticed that there were other places that were participating that were not advertised on the Four Square official page. Hmmmm, why not? Was this because Four Square did not promote this that heavily? Was it because the agency that was running the Facebook page did not upload the events into the Four Square Day page?

I am sure that the event was a success and got the word about to local businesses that were either unknowing of Four Square or unsure of what the benefits would be. 

The promotion in my eyes seemed rushed. There did not seem to be much promotion over the event in general, a centralized location to find businesses that were participating, or a straightforward way to participate, from a business or end user standpoint. Maybe I am being a little harsh, but, as many others I really see the benefits that this application/tool has for local businesses.

For those of you who participated, what are your thoughts? Did you find it easy, or do you think that it could have been organized better?

ps. For some reason when I logged into the location in the area that was sponsoring, I did not receive the badge. I am not bitter by any means, am unsure why I did not get it, but still think that it could have been better organized.

In the current state of the economy, it is no longer about simply reaching out to your audience and hoping that they purchase your product – keeping your fingers crossed that they will become a “fan” of you. It is now about creating, building and extending relationships with your audience. Whether they are direct consumers, partners or employees – it does not make a difference. Your company is at the center of all of these relationships. Businesses need to understand the importance of these relationships and how the “little things” can make a big difference.

Note: I am married and have always been told that it is the little things that make a big difference, and I am also still trying to grasp this concept

Case-in-point – FourSquare

from the nydailynews.com

If you are not familiar with FourSquare, it is a location-based application for your phone where you can “log-in” to places that you visit. You can “friend” other people and you can also gain badges for certain activities – visiting and logging in to 5 different Starbucks for example will get you a Starbucks badge – but more on that later. You can also become what they call the “Mayor” of these locations, meaning that you have visited that specific area and have logged in more than anyone else. There is definitely a gaming component to FourSquare as you can try to gather as many badges as possible, and take the Mayor-ship from others who you may, or may not, know – which makes it a lot of fun.

Now there are other things to think about when leveraging Foursquare, including who you friend and where you post your status updates, but that is not what this post is about, it is about how a Business can create, build and extend the relationships with its audience and embrace new ways to communicate.

When I got into work today, I opened Twitter up to see what was going on. After about 10 minutes, I saw this post from a former colleague, good friend, and Social Media (I hate to say this but insert a descriptive here – guru, all-star, rock-star, evangelist……) Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout ):

local @Starbucks celebrated wife, @MelanieStrout’s @FourSquare mayorship w/ this sign & free gift bag. Nice! http://tweetphoto.com/17496680

FourSquare Mayorship

Welcome to Starbucks Mayor Melanie

Now can you imagine walking into your local Starbucks, and seeing that sign? Also, it was one thing for them to create the sign and to have their employees sign the banner, but it was another thing to put together a Gift Bag for her – likely related to her favorite drink, like one of those insulated plastic cups that they have (just a guess here).

I think that they key thing to think about is that this type of public recognition does not have to take part on a platform or technology like FourSquare – but it does need to happen in some way, shape or form to your customers, partners and employees in order to survive in this ever changing evolution of Social engagement. This is also another way to take online interactions and take them off-line, in the real world.

By the way, added benefits of their gesture – a Twitter post that easily reached tens of thousands of people instantly, and also encouraged this blog post.

Starbucks is a great example of a business that is embracing Social Media, between their FourSquare presence/partnership and the My Starbucks Idea that they have launched and continue to monitor, they are building their relationships and creating customers for life.

Have you seen other examples of this, and if you have, how has it changed your perception?

When we talk to our clients about Social Media, we talk a lot about creating, building and growing relationships for the long haul. While you definitely need to retain your current audience (whether it is your partners, customers or employees, it does not matter), you also need to figure out how to engage with a new audience, or those who may not be aware of who you are and what you do and acquire new individuals. This is not specific in the B2B or B2C world; it is about business in general. When I was at eBay, we went by the rule of the 3 A’s – Acquisition, Activation and Activity. This is a good framework to think about when you are thinking about Social Media. How do you plan to acquire a new audience, activate them and get them involved, while at the same time engaging with your current audience? How busy is your website? Are you doing the right SEO steps to place higher on the result pages? Are you engaging with your audience and putting a personality behind the brand? Are you providing a compelling and interactive experience once your audience visits your site? Does your audience on your website know that you have a Twitter or Facebook account and vice-versa? How are you communicating on these platforms and broadcasting messages to them? I came across the following graphic a few months ago, and modified it slightly to update it with current Social platforms:

* original viewed on www.socialmediavision.com/social-media/

Now when we describe Social media and how it relates to your website, we envision this concept of the wheel. Your website is at the center of it all. You control the content of your site and the organization of that content – now granted user generated content (UGC) you may not control, but you do have the right to enforce policies so that you can remove specific pieces of content if they violate those policies.

You can leverage SEO techniques in order to get your ranking higher on the search results pages for the larger search engines (I realize that YouTube is one of the largest search engines, but I place them in the Social aspect for this purpose).

You can also leverage these external Social Networks in order to create brand awareness and drive an audience back to your website – after all, is that really not the reason to have a presence on an external network – to drive people back to your website and increase your brand awareness? As I mentioned on a follow up blog post from my webinar a few months ago, leveraging these external networks are only 1 aspect of a Social strategy, you should not put all of your eggs in 1 basket.

Once you are able to drive people back to your website, what are they looking for, and how can you provide them with a pervasive web experience (I also borrowed that term from @rustyw who I believe coined the phrase).

Whether it is Blogs, reviews, ratings, forums, profiles, testimonials… you could go on and on with the different ways to provide your audience with a great interactive experience on your website. But the key is finding the right way to do it.

*cross-posted on Ektron.com and eBizq.net

The title of this post is the same as the title for the Editors note in this February’s Inc. – The Magazine for Growing Companies – magazine. I found it to be a very interesting Editors note, and wanted to highlight the closing point from Jane Berentson:

“Maybe we should replace “the customer is always right” with a saying that is more appropriate for the times that we live in: Customers and companies should do right by each other.”

The paragraph before that is actually better:

…customers, too, have a responsibility to make a commercial transaction easy and pleasant, and if something goes awry, they should make their feelings known in a way that’s considerate – and considered. It’s always been possible to complain about a sloppy salesperson or a slow waiter or aggravating help lines, but the Internet makes it possible to criticize in a public forum, which increases the string of that criticism exponentially. The web shouldn’t be a tool for cleverness or cruelty at the expense of someone else. Care should be taken.”

Now I understand that in some cases, emotions get the best of us, but time and time again I have also recognized the way that some of our expectations have become unreasonable. I briefly talked about this in a prior blog post, “Have we become spoiled”, but after reading this Editors note, and observing some recent incidents on Twitter and elsewhere, I wanted to revisit the concept.

Take this potential scenario from Twitter:

Customer – I just had the worst experience with Brand X

Brand X – We are sorry to hear that, please email us (help@brand_x.com) and tell us your story.

Customer – I just sent an email to Brand X and received an automatic email saying that they will get back to me in 7-10 days #fail

Customer – So much for Brand X addressing my situation, can’t believe that I have to wait #fail

Is that really a #fail? As a customer, you were able to vocalize your opinion to your network of people. Brand Y actually did engage with you and sent you down a communication path to inform them of your experience.

Somewhere along the road though, you are not satisfied with that. Is it because you have 10,000 followers and believe that you should be treated differently? What about everyone else whose email are waiting in that queue, why do you all of a sudden feel that your complaint should be put above everyone else’s?

If you do right by them, odds are they will do right by you!

New Domino’s pizza recipe double quarterly profits

Wow, I am shocked. While I am not a Domino’s regular customer, I have obviously been following their Social Media strategy as you can see from prior posts, Domino’s Part 1 and Domino’s Part 2. Because of what they have gone through, and what they are currently doing, I actually ordered a few pizza’s last week from Domino’s – it was the 1st time that I had their pizza in probably 10 years, honest ABE.

It was good and I was happily surprised with the results as were the 6 nine year-olds that also ate it.

Now is it because of this new recipe that they doubled their profits? Is it because of the way that they communicated this change via Social Networks? Is it because of their commercials? Is it because of the way that they gathered direct feedback from their customers in order to create a better product? Is it because of the fact that they took the direct and honest feedback and distributed it to the powers that be, and they took action to improve their product? Was it because of their new webpage, http://www.pizzaturnaround.com/?

Was Domino’s ready for this? Were they ready, really ready to listen to the feedback and take action depending on what the feedback was? Obviously they were, and not only were they ready, they were also unified in their approach and in their communication methods, from start to finish.

This is really a great business case for integrating Social aspects into your Marketing channels in order to build for success. While it is one piece of the puzzle, it is a significant piece that can generate significant results. What do you think of Domino’s, have you tried it recently? Maybe you should 😉

A quick note:

In the past, Social Media and Online Community initiatives have been pushed and pushed from week to week and have become an after thought, a necessary evil or even worse, a check box. When it comes to discussing Social media and online communities, it seems that most prioritize their time around it. Something always has seemed to take precedence. While it is a frustrating feeling to have to reschedule, I feel that the time has come where individuals are beginning to recognize that these conversations can not wait, and need to happen sooner rather than later. More and more people are being tasked with implementations and strategies that can not wait.

The time has come. Are you embracing the changes that are afoot and making the necessary changes?

Employment

I am currently employed at Autodesk as a Senior Manager of Online Community and Social Engagement. My team is responsible for the Customer Support initiatives across all of our Social channels.

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