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February 2010

you might be a social extortionist if

Mug shot Yesterday I wrote a post on extortionist social influencers.  Some of the commenters (including my wife) asked where I draw the line.  Because to be honest, I have pulled rank and mentioned this blog in dealing with poor customer service representatives. 

So where is the line?  At what point does a mention of influence become extortion?  Honestly, I'm not totally sure.  But I would like to propose the following guidelines.  I would LOVE to get your thoughts and feedback.

You might be a social extortionist if:

  • You threaten to use your audience in order to gain unfair or super-standard advantages over all other customers, particularly as it relates to reimbursement.
  • You harass executives with threatening messages.
  • You contact anyone via personal, non-professional channels (ex. home phone).

note: harassing front line service level employees is just not cool

You're well within your rights to use your influence to:

  • Get the customer support everyone deserves.
  • Wake up a lazy call center representative/get better access to the channels everyone else has access to.
  • Raise a red flag to your audience about a policy you believe to be unfair.
  • Invite constructive feedback from your audience, and then pass it along to the brand.

The golden rule: Ask yourself, am I demanding additional concrete gains (cash or product) with the threat of my influence?  What would my audience think?  

 - - - - - - - - -

Am I an extortionist?  My cell phone company sold me a phone with the promise that it could do things that it was incapable of doing (like email).  The rep was misinformed.  They cited a policy and claimed I could not return for another model, only another unit of the same model.  I told them that I disagreed with this policy and would write a post to that effect.  They gave me an early upgrade.

when influencers become extortionists

Note: All of the actions below have occurred in real life.  I have read the complete transcripts and email records.

Cash Dear Social Extortionists,

By now, many smart brands are familiar with the game you play.  You call and you threaten.  You harass and then you post.  On the one hand you claim to be "the voice of the customer" while on the other you expect preferential treatment because you're supposedly more important.  So all pigs are created equal but some pigs are more equal than others?

Do you think you're special?  Do you think you're gifted?  Do you think your 1K+ followers on Twitter entitle you to something?  What would your audience think if they heard your initial phone call to the brand?  Your threats to write a post?  Your tone in addressing some poor call center rep?

Sure, there is the occasional customer service breakdown.  And you may have an honest bone to pick.  But let's be clear, your audience doesn't make you special or any more important than every other customer.  You don't deserve complimentary anything because of your audience.

You put brands in an impossible position.  Brands don't want to be negative or point fingers.  They don't want to post a full recording of the offending phone call or email.  They don't want to share with the world that you called their executives at home and harassed their families.  They don't want to air your dirty laundry.  But if you continue to push too hard, someone is going to start to put it all out in the open.


A guy trying to build this business instead of making executives run from it.

wishes and dreams : google's big social play beyond Buzz

Buzz isn't the be all and end all.  It's a product, a tool in Google's growing tool belt.  At some point these tools are going to come together to create something fantastic.

Below are three utilities that will bring Google's personal and social platforms to a new level.

  1. Identity - I want to see login with Google buttons everywhere.  Tight integration into existing Google tools like chat, gmail, voice and buzz.  I want to see Facebook Connect on steroids.
  2. Portability/API - I already have conversations on Twitter.  I want to see Seemic and TweetDeck with full Buzz integration.  I want to take it with me.  I want to blow it up on my desktop and relish the information overload.  I want to see engagement solutions like Radian 6, Visible Technologies, BuddyMedia and Vitrue and CoTweet with Buzz integration.  I want to comment on a tweet via Buzz, and post to Buzz from Twitter.  I want to have my cake and eat it too.
  3. Smart Filters - Google already imports my Yahoo Mail.  Their toolbar already tracks most of my web traffic and activity.  I know they know everything about everything about me.  Now I want a smarter feed.  Instead of my overloaded RSS reader, I want Google to show me what it thinks is most relevant to me.  This is the next generation of subscription management.  This is the future of personalized web search.  And PLEASE, give me the option to publicize my smart feeds.

PS - you can find me on buzz here.

how not to get ignored in social

  1. Social is a value exchange.  Plain and simple.  The more value I create for you, the more valuable I will be to you.  
  2. A relationship is only as strong as the least interested party.  The more I ask of you, the more committed I am asking you to be.  You, in turn, will only take this action if it is part of a broader value exchange that brings greater value to you.
  3. Social equity is about the total package, not just the conversation.  The most socially successful brands will not be the most conversational.  They will be those that bring the greatest value across product, packaging, support, distribution, content, conversations etc.  

Agencies can engineer additive and multiplicative social equity through content, experiences and conversations.  However, it all needs to start with a base value.  If your product has inherent social equity, you may not need too much agency support.  And if your product has little real value, all the social support in the world isn't going to make it much better.

beyond service: your customers may not care, but you should

Disclaimer: the references below are based solely on Joe's brief presentation last night.  I just picked up Flip The Funnel and hope to have a proper review up over the next couple of weeks.

6a00d83451c60869e20120a87110a5970bAs I stood and listened to Joe Jaffe wax poetic about his new book at the launch event last night, I was struck by a curious transition in the emerging industry we call Social _ _ _ _ _.  Just one or two years ago, the "fun" verticals like CPG got most of the big attention executing fun promotions, campaigns and communities, while most service brands were largely ignored.

However, according to Joe and many others in this business, service is the new messaging.  The rationale behind shift in focus is clear: customers care most about what we can do for them

I have seen countless presentations that start the following misleading phrase, Customers want relationships with brands.  Advocates want relationships with brands.  Most brands have a relatively small customer : advocate ratio.  The phrase should read Brands want relationships with customers, turning them into advocates.

All customers however, want to know that they are getting greater value.  Giving away 25% More Product Free! generates instant value, but no loyalty and little advocacy.  Hence, it does little to further the relationship.  Service on the other hand, delivers greater value to the brand and is therefor a more efficient resource allocation for driving relationships.

And this completes the transition.  Fun verticals have little opportunity for service.  I hope to never need a soda brand's service.  When I'm traveling however, I almost always need access and support with my airline.

This is where I respectfully disagree with Joe (as I understood him).  Relationship equity is the new messaging.  Service is a shortcut to that equity for service brands.  Soda companies however, can generate much the same equity, they just need to refine their pitch, get creative.


Service focused brands will find incredible potential in social service as messaging.

Everyone else is going to need to creatively define their personality and brand as a customer facing relationship equity exchange.

Smart brands are going to do both.

dear agencies: why didn't we see social calls to action in the superbowl?

Coke adzone

Dear Agency and Brand People,

You are smart, smart, smarty smart people.  You're creative.  You're strategic.  And there's something I just don't get.  Why didn't we see a social call to action tonight?  Why didn't we see a single Facebook url?

Your 2.5 million dollar investments could have gone a lot further.  Years ago you used to run website urls.  You used to connect to the web.  But this year you seem to have given up.  And it strikes me as odd.

When so many viewers are interacting, that the Dockers site crashes under the load, why aren't other advertisers putting calls to action in their spots?  And most notably, why aren't brands putting social calls to action in their spots?  Or, social-mobile?

Coca Cola ran two new spots. Well crafted spots, they spoke to Coke as a brand in a beautiful way.  I was already invested in these spots, as I had seen a preview of them on Coke's Facebook page (I'm a fan).  In addition, Coke is sponsoring the AdZone on Hulu.  The Hulu sponsorship contains a social call to action, with the obligatory Become a fan on Facebook.  Yet Coke's TV spots didn't so much as mention Facebook.  Something doesn't add up. 

Social is a connective tissue.  It ties your upper funnel branding into a real, interactive, human engagement.  It makes it real.  And at the very least, a social call to action in a branding spot opens the window for community and CRM.  And to Gary V's point, it's not like Denny's is drouning with the 25K fans they have right now.  The last they could have done was copy TGI Fridays! (TGIF is a client)

Many advertisers spent a lot of money tonight.  It's a shame none of them tied it back to Facebook (at the very least).  I can't help but scream, WHY NOT?

Sincerely yours,           


PS - kudos to Oreos (client) for putting their Facebook URL in their playoffs spot.  Well done. 

the rut of sameness

We're heading towards a rut of sameness.

Typical Brief

Mothers love their children and wish they had more time to spend with them.  Mothers report that they trust other mothers more than they trust cereal commercials.  Therefore, we need Facebook.

Typical Activation


Join us and we'll give you something for free. Join us and you'll have the chance to win something.  Join us and we'll give money to charity on your behalf. Tell your story through us, and you can win something big.   


I'm so sorry to hear that, let me help.  Contact me offline or via private message and I can help/escalate you in our call tree.
Here's a tool that does something interesting (ex edits your Facebook photo).


Vote to see who wins.  Submit your photo.  Interact with the tv spot in social (oooOOOoooh).

However, Social media is not going to continue to be the darling shiny object forever.  Eventually, marketers are going to need to start apart, to strongly differentiate who they.  And this is going to happen in four primary places.

Four Differentiating Social Factors
  1. Personality - I hope to G-d that Chester the Cheetah has a personality online.  So should Mr Met.  So should all of your brand personalities.  Aflac is doing a pretty good job of this on Facebook, and Mr Peanut (client) looks to be off to a good start.  These voices are entertaining.  They have depth and character they could never have in 30 second spots.
  2. Conversation - How many agencies are focusing brand Facebook pages on applications instead of the wall?  How many brands are fostering real, meaningful and compelling conversations?  It's far harder to be a great mass conversationalist than it is a copywriter.  But those who do it well will see incredible results.
  3. Flexibility - this about more than cross-platform syndication, it's about cross-platform experiences.  Facebook applications can easily port an experience across both Facebook, a brand site and a partner site.  We need to think about cross platform design beyond Facebook connect, and it's implications on user experience design and social/conversation design.  Don't even get me start on mobile.
  4. Shiny Utility - Something remarkable happens when shiny objects gain real utility.  There is no shortage of exciting technologies and platforms.  But if you can design a reason for re-engaging beyond the WOW of engaging, you're on to something big.

Inspired by Chris Brogan. And the video below.  This one was too good not to share.