Blogger Outreach

defining "fair restitution"

Justice Company A messes up.  Consumer B complains. 
Company A offers Y restitutionConsumer B demands Z restitution.

What happens next?

Should Company A give into Consumer B's demands?  Who is the arbiter of fair?  

Where do we draw the line between fair and satisfactory?

In today's relationship oriented market, where consumer loyalty is increasingly more important, how far should Company A go? 

Pandering to the demands of every consumer is not a sound business strategy.  Customer satisfaction and retention are key to doing business in today's marketplace, but where do we draw the line?

How far can/should a major corporate entity go, to issue not only fair but satisfactory restitution to loyal customers?

Disclaimer: the views represented in this post are entirely my own and do reflect those of my employer.  Photo credit.


face it: your shoes (content) don't fit

Glass slipper If there's one thing I learned from Cinderella, it's not to trust talking rodents. 

If I had to chose another lesson it would be this: items are best utilized for their natural context.

If the shoe doesn't fit, forcing your way into it is both painful and useless. 


Contextual relevancy (the correct foot) is essential to obtaining the desired value (the prince) out of content (the shoe). 

We would do well to remember this.

Content delivers the strongest value to both the user and the content creator (or brand) when it plays in it's intended environment. 

A 90 minute movie may be enjoyable from the couch on a big screen tv, but it would be unwatchable when viewed a cell phone.  While a 30 second YouTube clip looks great on my cellphone, it is unwatchable on my TV.  Context drives the content experience.

Or as Valeria Maltoni said  "content works best within context".  I couldn't agree more.

And the implications are many.

Marketing Implications

Car lane The Current Dynamic: Content generators (newspapers) give the nod to feed aggregator users (Google Reader regulars), by creating RSS feeds.  These feeds feature the newspaper's existent text content and do not require additional formatting or redesign.  This content works reasonably well in the aggregate environment.

However, even as an avid feed aggregate user, I still prefer to read lengthy articles in their native environments.  There is a tangibly real value in reading content together with the pictures, formatting, sidebars and color schemes it was intended to be viewed within.

The Challenge:  Many brands are trying to live in the context of an aggregate experience (widgets in social pages, Google Reader, podcasts, etc.) by creating mini-microsites in the form of widgets and long form commercials in the form of podcasts.  A magazine ad would perform poorly on television. 

New Channel > New Experience > New Marketing.

The Solution: It's time that marketers began thinking about the aggregate user and the flaws of the strip-and-syndicate model.  We need to be building distributed utility that fits the need of the user within the context of the user, rather than the models that suit the brand low hanging fruit (text).  We need to think strategically within user and platform centric models, ultimately delivering unique utility that drives brand objectives.

It's time we started designing for success.

Technology/UI Implications

The Current Dynamic: RSS strips everything.  It strips the design, the context, the subsequent conversation.  RSS Readers strip much of the richness of the content in favor of the simplicity and ubiquity of pure text.

In a social media environment, RSS often strips even the social out of social media.

The conversational aspect of blogs as I see it, lives in three places -

  1. blog to blog conversations within the blog posts themselves,
  2. conversations living within the comments sections on blogs, and
  3. conversations (many of them public) taking place on external social media channels, such as Twitter. 

Read a blog in an RSS reader and you're only getting 1/3 the social capability of the channel.

The Next Steps

We can and will learn to aggregate and syndicate well.  But a new format is needed.

  • Wouldn't it be great is Google Reader could adjust the tonality and feel of their reader based on the piece of content being viewed?
  • Wouldn't it be fantastic if an aggregator could adjust the UI to the nature of the content (text, video, audio) rather than vice versa?
  • Wouldn't it be neat if Google Reader could display a few dynamic widgets on the page?
    • one containing related posts from across the blogosphere
    • another could contain comments and discussion threads in the blog comments together with the ability to contribute within the reader interface
    • a third would contain related media from across the internet - Twitter, traditional digital media, YouTube videos, etc.

Key Takeaway: Syndicated media need not lack for context.  However, without context, media is often stripped of it's richness and ultimately, value. 

By all means, syndicate and aggregate, but do so with caution.


eBook mania comes to Future Visions!

Epublishing_2 OK, so lot's of big news. 

Firstly, the wonderful community that has brought us The Age Of Conversation is teaming up once again on a new community book effort... and this time, I'm not sitting on the sidelines.  If you would like to join an elite team of fantastic authors (including yours' truly) on the next big publication to hit the social-media-sphere, sign up over at Drew's blog hereLooking forward to seeing you all there.

________________________________

In other eBook news, the wonderful Ardath Albee has just released a great FREE e-book on Catch Factors. What is a catch factor?  I'm so glad you asked!  You'll have to head over there to check it all out!

Just kidding!  A catch factor is the scoring process by which a marketer should be determining the level of influence and subsequent importance of their own communications to their target constituents.  Now, if that didn't make any sense to you, please read Adrath's definition below.

Catch Factor's Defined - in the author's own words

Catch Factors are the preferences and aversions that form a lead’s “gut” reaction to your communication. They help determine whether you capture your audiences’ attention—or not. They include split-second assessments about their urgency for your information (e.g. does it apply to a real problem they have right now), whether or not you can impact their professional success, the effort required to access and process the information, and, finally, on their perception of your company’s reputation and intent. The importance a recipient places on each of these five Catch Factors affects the attention you get—and the downstream revenue results.

Not only is this book a good primer for customer communications, it's a great baseline method for analyzing your own peer to peer communications, and yes, even your own blog posts! Check it out!


8 in '08 - things you may not know about me

So I got tagged by Scott Monty for 8 things you may not know about me.

  1. I was the captain of my High School's Debate Team.  However, as this was an all boy's school and debates were co-ed, this was a popular position to be in (trust me).
  2. I enjoy soft color tones.  Not like them, ENJOY them.  I don't know why, but the right earthy red or pure slate blue just puts me in the best of moods.
  3. I cannot grow a mustache.  I've tried, it comes in all splotchy.
  4. I celebrate Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) every Friday Night through Saturday Night.  That means no computers, no cell phones, no driving, no cooking, just family, friends, singing and prayer.  And THAT'S why I won't be able to make the blogger social (sorry ya'll).
  5. I did two years of college at an accredited Yeshiva (religious school) in Israel.
  6. Over those two years in Israel, I narrowly missed (was just a block away) from two horrible terrorist attacks. 
  7. I'm addicted to music.  I play guitar, piano, saxophone, clarinet, the Irish whistle, and used to play the drums. I also used to sing semi-professionally. 
  8. I had a SEVERE speech impediment as a child.  NOBODY other than my parents and my brother understood me.  Years of speech therapy have eliminated this impediment.  These days, I think some people would be much happier had I forgotten how to speak.

Wow, that's a lot about me.  How about you?  Let's share the love!  I'd like to hear from (am tagging) Katie Konrath, Ryan Karpeles, Adrath Albee, Gavin Heaton, Barry Schwartz, and Allen!  Looking forward to hearing from you all.


social media 101: holiday etiquette

People send out holiday cards for ONE simple reason: to maintain a relationship; be it a friendship, family or professional.

Junk_mail15 years ago, NOBODY would have sent out a an impersonal, mass produced, pre-recorded message that didn't even feature your own voice or the name of the addressee.

This year, I got TENS of junk ecards from sales people.  They cluttered my inbox when I wanted to get out of the office.  They were an annoyance.  They generated anything BUT goodwill.

How did this breakdown of social etiquette occur?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, because I for one am at a loss.

Key Takeaway: Communications are only as effective as they are meaningful.

If someone produces a video especially for you, it is meaningful.

If someone composes a handwritten note personalized to you, it has some meaning.

If someone includes a personal picture that is of meaning to you, it has meaning.

The Golden Rule:  Generic communications work well for computers, not for people.  If you're selling yourself or your company to a PERSON, make it PERSONABLE.

If your message isn't impactful, what are you really accomplishing?

_____________________________________

For a great discussion around this meme, check out Scott Monty's post and the comments here.


blog everything/nothing day - support it by blogging!

Blognothingday
In support and solidarity with the WGA, I'm joining

That being said, I will still be commenting on other blogs and possibly even posting later today.

And my reason for doing so is this:
Writers are writing one way entertainment.  Blogging is a two way conversation.  To stop blogging for an entire day, to stop commenting, to stop talking is to kill the conversation.  Just by posting about this day, we are in fact conversing, we are blogging. 

So show your support - blog about Blog Nothing Day. 
    And then continue blogging away.
 

Bloggers are social media creators but we are also participants and spectators. 
To stop posting would be unnatural and uneventful, not to mention unnoticeable. 
    Nobody notices a silent protest.
        So let's speak up!


how would you tell your customers that they matter?

NOTE: this is more than another "I Love Dell" Story

Impressions_water Everyone is applauding Dell for trolling the blogosphere for negative feedback.  But the far better story is their 180 degree customer-first service turnaround.  The key here is this: Dell isn't solving problems, they are creating positive impressions by generating positive experiences.

Trolling the blogosphere is like thanking a burglar for only stealing your television but leaving the stereo system. It's reactive marketing. Customer support needs to be as proactive and delightful as possible.

  • Customers are paying for your product.  Customers expect not to face any problems.  There often are problems, and even if the user is at fault, brands need to create a positive user experience. 
  • Re-active blogger outreach and response is a negative PR/brand equity stop gap, not a solution. 
  • Active branding and successful marketing require more than satisfaction, they deliver delight.  And delight can only occur if the customer feels valued.

How do you know if a brand really cares about their customers?

Visit their websites.  Where is the contact form?  Where is the contact phone number?  How long does the average user have wait on hold before getting through to customer service via online chat or a phone call?  Is your customer service representative empowered with the ability to deliver timely and satisfactory resolutions to potential issues?

Jeff Jarvis wrote a fantastic article in last week's Business Week outlining Dell's customer service turnaround.  Michael Parekh recently posted about his own experience with Dell.  While Dell has come a long way, it still took a blog post from an influential blogger to get an executive response and a timely solution. Dell's customer support wanted to help, but their internal system was crippling their support personnel.  And this is coming from a market leader.

Dell_4Nevertheless, DELL WILL SUCCEED BECAUSE THEY COMMUNICATE THAT THEY CARE! Dell's website prominently features Support & Help with the same equal prominence as their products.  This makes a clear statement: customer support is an integral part the Dell product. 

This alone would be reason enough to buy a Dell - even if I haven't had YEARS of horrible experiences with HP.

__________________________________________

KEY TAKEAWAY: Too many companies are looking at the shiny object that is social media, viral PR, positive buzz and blogger outreach without reconsidering the basics.  New Media isn't about what's new, it's about doing everything that you should have been doing all along, and doing it better than ever before.  Don't just say that you care, market that care.  Feature that sentiment throughout your product marketing, be it the product, promotions, messaging, design or sales.  Dell will succeed not because they are minimizing negative buzz, but because their service and support is a featured part of their product offering.  Computers are frustrating. Dell sells more than a machine, they sell ease of use and peace of mind.