68 posts categorized "Social Media"

07/14/2011 Netflix: Another case of social cry-babies

Netflix just raised its prices. From the reactions of customers online you’d think Netflix had just decided to implement human sacrifice as a core business operation.

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What Netflix did was to separate it’s streaming subscriptions from its DVD subscriptions. Previously, if you subscribed to DVDs, you received free, unlimited streaming. Or, if you only wanted streaming, you added another $2 to get a DVD by mail.

The latest online trends show, pretty clearly, the amount of streaming is increasing greatly. So Netflix decided to clearly separate its offering. The biggest increase is for people who subscribed to streaming, but still wanted a DVD now and then. It looks like their subscription just went up $6/month. For those of us, like me, who had a 2 DVD/month plan, my subscription went up about $2/month, but I get unlimited DVDs.

And yet…people greeted the announcement on Facebook with over 55,000 comments! Most of them were furious at the change. My favorite quote is from an AP article

“I can definitely afford it but I dropped them on principle," said Joe Turick, a technology engineer in Monroe, N.C., who has been with Netflix for about a decade, cancelled his subscription within an hour of learning of Tuesday's price changes and plans to try competitors.”

On principle? What’s the principle? That you shouldn’t pay a fair price for products and services? That prices should never go up (unless it’s the price of your house)?

I think this doesn’t have anything to do with prices or services. It has to do with the greatest benefit of social media: complaining. Social does a lot of things well, but nothing can compete with it on a complaining level. Complaining at work or muttering at home, not to mention the occasional angry letter to the editor all pale in comparison with complaining on Facebook, Twitter or, now, Google+.

Well good for you, Netflix crybabies. Take your laptop and go home. Good luck finding some other service that’s just as good. Maybe, instead you could think really hard about how to budget that extra $2 for Netflix.

There’s a new term for something like this. It’s called “Free Lunchism” and, unfortunately, it drives a lot of the budget talk in Washington.

Yes, there are a lot of problems with the economy right now. But directing that anger at Netflix, instead of the real culprits is just silly.

05/31/2011 Your Mother Was Right: Be Nice!

Dan Zarella at HubSpot just released a report showing that people who ask others to “Please Retweet” get four times as many retweets on Twitter as those who don’t ask.  Even when you shorten retweet to RT, the number of people passing forward your tweets increases.

Let’s break this down: Asking people, in a nice way, to do something, or to help you delivers higher results than not asking people. I think there’s another corollary Dan should test: the difference of saying “Please” or not.

Nice helps. It helps online and offline, especially in customer service. Staffers who are nicer to customers have a better chance of defusing touchy situations as well as delivering positive experiences people remember.

I’ve got to dig around to find more data around this. I think the data will show that asking nicely helps. If anyone knows of any, post it on the comments. From a social media standpoint, it’s a no brainer.

It raises the question:
How much of advertising asks us nicely?

If nice works, why don’t companies use it more? Do they think it’s boring?

Or are all advertisers and brands just modern day Leo “The Lip” Durochers who think, “Nice guys finish last?” (And remember, that’s coming from someone who managed the Cubs!)

I think our mothers were right: Be nice. 


05/13/2011 Social Media really IS like high school

A recent report shows that luxury brands, while having Facebook pages, don’t engage people and for the most part act highly unresponsively. For these brands, Facebook is simply another broadcast channel. It’s not so much different than how the best looking girls in high school act toward the people around them. 

Think about it: luxury brands spend tons of money on glossy and classy print and TV ads. They’ve built up their brands with the help of impeccable stylists and image-makers. These brands focus on their looks with the promise of an “ultimate experience.”

And what they want is a lot of people who to aspire to be them, who long to be around them, and who simply want to associate with them that the hope that the brands’ beauty and coolness rub off on them. At least a little.

It’s the same behavior we saw with those beauties in high school. They didn’t have to be nice, smart, engaging or funny to have a gaggle of boys and girls tagging after them. The good-looking kids just needed to BE; it was enough to garner success. For some of the other kids, it was enough just to be seen in the company of or to exchange a few words with these high school stars.

The problem is that most brands and organizations look nothing like luxury brands or spectacularly looking people. Most brands are a little funny looking and quirky and mostly average when you get right down to it. Most brands haven’t spent a ton of money in traditional advertising glossing up their looks.

Like people in general, brands need to work on relationships to attract and keep people around. That applies to how they need to act in social media as well. I wonder if brand managers and marketers will look at that report and come to the conclusion that, since luxury brands ignore their customers in social media, other brands can do the same.

When it comes to brands and social media, most don’t look like luxury stars. They need to work on their personalities and looks, instead.


03/23/2011 Why #BTVSMB?

We had another great Burlington Social Media Breakfast last Monday. Nicole Ravlin of PMG put together Bill Gerth from Comcast and Morgan Johnston of JetBlue to talk about social media and customer service. While we got lots of press attention around the event, no one asked the question I was expecting:

Why #BTVSMB? Why are you doing this and what’s the purpose of these events?

Instead we got a lot of the same questions: Who’s doing social media? Who’s doing social media well? Why do you think social media is important? Good questions, but they tend to incur the same responses over and over again.

Back when I kicked off the first #BTVSMB I had some specific hopes for the event. I was lucky that Nicole, who partnered with me to organize future events, had the same hopes. They included:

1) Great Speakers – I don’t travel a lot and I don’t go to a lot of conferences. That means I don’t see a lot of the big speakers around the country. There are people in Burlington who do, but I think most of us are too busy in our jobs to do that regularly. I wanted to be able to see the top speakers without having to travel so much. That was my first hope.

I also wanted to bring in speakers who would set the bar high in the discussions about social media. I wanted people to leave inspired and thinking about things they normally wouldn’t in their day-to-day jobs. I find that those types of talks make me better at what I do, even if I can’t always do everything that we talk about.

We have received a lot of feedback asking how come we don’t do more practical hands on training about Twitter and Facebook. We’ve received those questions after almost every event. My thought is that there are lots of places to get that already and you can get those easily online. I’m more interested in ideas than training for these types of talks.

One other thing about bringing in some of the smartest people from outside of Vermont: I don’t want this to turn into a sales event for the speakers. I see lots of local speakers at various events (and there are still a lot of them) where the talk is in some sense a veiled pitch. It raises all sorts of issues and raises a lot of why them and not me questions. I’m too busy to deal with that kind of stuff.

2) Community – One of my great disappointments in moving back to Burlington was the lousy digital and creative community we had. I came from Boston where I was involved with MITX (and still am for that matter). What a great community that is! Up here, though, it seemed like we didn’t really want to talk with each other.

Social media, it turns out, is the one digital topic that everyone wants to connect around. I love that we’re able to bring together at all of the events some of the biggest companies and brands in Vermont and some of the smallest companies and brands. Big agencies and marketers show up and freelancers show up. Politicians and people from non-profits come to learn. I love that we’re able to bring together such a diverse group of people around one specific topic.

To be honest, I think the networking and connections are by far the best part of #BTVSMB. I’ve met more people in the last two years than I did in the previous nine! And I’ve pushed business towards those people as well. The community part is an economic accelerator for everyone.

3) Promote Burlington – Finally, my hope was that we’d start putting Burlington on the digital map in a more substantial way. I’m completely biased here, but I’d like to see Burlington’s digital community drive the economic development of the region (or at least contribute to it more substantially). I think we’re a perfect place for this type of thinking, for this type of business, and for the types of people who work in the industry.

One of the great responses we get from speakers is “I had no idea there were so many smart people up here. I knew it was beautiful, but what an amazing turnout!” They’re surprised to learn that companies like Gardners Supply is based in Vermont! When the outside speakers come here, we start showing that Burlington is a digital and social hub, especially when we outdraw events in New York and Boston.

My big hope is that those speakers will decide to open their next shop or satellite in Vermont. That’s when I’ll know we’ve succeeded.

Here’s what #BTVSMB is not:

It’s not a moneymaking business. I’ve never made a dime on these events, nor do I intend to. All ticket prices cover costs for food, venue and speaker costs. Maybe that’s stupid of me, but I’m not in this for the money.

It’s not a full-time job. It has to fit between my business and client needs. Neither Nicole nor I have employees assigned to running this. We bring in people based mainly on our relationships.

It’s not just us. Anyone can do an event, and we hope that if you have an idea for a social breakfast you want to organize, go for it. The more the merrier. Just don’t expect us to do it for you.

When I look back on Monday’s event, I think it hit all of my criteria. It doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. But it sure made me think about a number of new things.

What are your expectations for #BTVSMB?

02/10/2011 Your Social Media Checklist Isn’t Enough

Over the last year or two, your company wanted to jump into social media. You listened to the experts, read the articles, highlighted the five or ten things you read that you needed to do in order to succeed in social media and off you went. You probably created a checklist.

  1. Create a social media strategy (or at least an idea of what you wanted to accomplish). Check.
  2. Create a social media policy (optional). Check.
  3. Scout out the competition and listen to online chatter about your company. Check.
  4. Put together a content plan or editorial calendar. Check.
  5. Find, hire or train someone to manage your social media channels. Check.
  6. Start gathering or writing content and connecting with key people in the business. Check.
  7. Set up your social media channels. Check.
  8. Set up your monitoring channels. Check.
  9. Start publishing, responding and connecting. Check.
  10. Measure what’s happening. Check.

And…success, right? Well usually, no. Unfortunately, having a checklist won’t guarantee success at all unless you're lucky enough to work at a highly visible and buzzed about brand. It will guarantee that you will have a list of accomplishments for you and your team to show your superiors around annual review time. 

However, nothing in the above checklist guarantees success since it lacks a focus on customers and relevance.

The biggest mistake companies make is talking too much about themselves. They make the mistake of trying to please a small group of inside the company. There are ways to see if any of this is working, and then work to change it. That change usually involves shifting your focus to a more customer oriented approach, aimed at either helping people or providing information they crave.

  1. Does anyone comment, like or retweet your articles? If you post the links on Facebook or Twitter, does anyone click or comment on it? If not maybe your editorial calendar needs to change. Finding out what people really want to read about is a lot harder than writing something that’s easy to produce. It might mean you need to find someone who’s a good writer rather than the person who knows the most. Too bad. Success means working hard.
  2. Look at your Facebook wall. Is it all you? Or do you see comments and posts by your fans as much and more than you’re posting yourself? If it’s the former (which is pretty common) that tells you that no one really cares that much about what you’re posting. Yes, lurkers exist and consume content. But social is about connection and dialogue. If your wall is all about you, then stop being so self-centered. Reach out to your followers and engage them in a discussion about what your social channels should do.
  3. Are your follower levels stuck at low levels, even though you have a ton of employees and customers? That’s usually because you haven’t tried hard enough to integrate your social channels with the rest of your business. You need to have regular and strong connection to your customer support, product, marketing and sales teams. You need to find out what they need and offer social as a way to help them. Then you need to ask them to point people to the social channels in return. It usually works pretty well.
  4. Is the person responsible for your social efforts stuck in his office with his door closed? Does he not have personal skills and is disconnected to his social media world, both in your vertical and locally? Does he feel uncomfortable connecting with others in the company? If so, you’ve probably found someone who has the time to do the work, but doesn’t (yet) have the aptitude or skills. It won’t get better by itself. You have to either train your people and set clear expectations on behavior, or find someone new.

Checklists are easy because you can do them without thinking too much. Social is hard because it involves real contact with real people, both inside the company and outside in the real world. Checklists are neat, social is messy.

It’s good that you used your checklist to launch your social initiative. Now it’s time for the real work. But don’t worry; it’s never too late to change or for success.


10/13/2010 The Anger of Crowds

Or the Wisdom of Mobs

The crowd got angry again last week. This time the Gap had the pleasure of landing in the Social Media Klieg Lights with its new logo. People hated it. They screamed to high heaven online and created spoof sites for people to make their own fake logo. Within a week, the Gap folded like a cheap pair of pants and pulled the new logo. They had “heard” the message and, like a modern, social media savvy company, they listened and acted. Just like Tropicana did when they redesigned their logo.

I'm not sure whether the Gap's new logo was a good move or bad one. Maybe it would've helped. Or maybe it just wasn't that big of a deal. I mean, do people really buy stuff because of a logo? But people who DO know thought it was a huge mistake and they reacted.

Power to the people, right? A shift of control to the consumer, as promised.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Nestle succumbed to consumer pressure to stop using a palm oil producer, although Greenpeace drove that campaign from above. You can go all the way back to the Motrin Moms and see numerous occasions where customer complaints have driven companies to change something they did.

Which raises the question: Does social media only work in the negative? Is it a tool to make someone stop doing something, rather than to help someone do something different? Is it a source of complaints rather than construction?

The positive side is pretty light. Pepsi Refresh campaign and other campaigns have tried to encourage positive buzz around projects and local initiatives, but they don’t generate that much buzz and seem to revolve mostly about raising money, not actual positive change.

Raising money seems to be the most positive action we can compel people to take and even then, only to a limited extent.

Politically we see this as well. The Tea Party as one of its core raison d’êtres has a super valid complaint that working people lost their homes while the Wall Street bankers holding their mortgages had their jobs saved and got huge bonuses to boot. This anger manifests itself into wanting to tear down the whole system, rather than create something that will help people who need it.

Social media has become a critical tool for Tea Partiers. It’s a perfect way for them to harness anger, complaints and negativity to get people to the polls and force out incumbent politicians. While the action is good (voting) it’s not used to create something new or positive.

Maybe this was at the core of Gladwell’s New Yorker article. Positive change, rather than negative, isn’t something the mob does well. The question is whether the crowd is much better.

Anyone have any great examples of social media activity and buzz that lead to something new, constructive or positive? If so, send it my way.


10/06/2010 Another Malcolm Gladwell Reaction

Boy, nothing gets people more riled up than criticizing our beloved Facebook and Twitter. That's not quite right. Nothing gets people more riled up then questioning the amazing, transformative, revolutionary qualities of Facebook and Twitter. So when Malcolm Gladwell penned his article in the New Yorker positing that Social Networks are not a prime mover in causing revolutionary change, you could hear the howls from New York to New Delhi.

You can read some of the reactions here:
The Guardian
The Atlantic

I think Gladwell got it right, but not completely right.  For now, at least, there are no good examples of groups of motivated individuals changing the world starting from Twitter or Facebook. There may be in the future, but there are slim pickings right now. It pains me to read the rebuttal arguments trying to prove they do exist; it sounds weak and a little pathetic. 

For most of us, it makes sense logically that tight-knit, hierarchical groups have the leadership, motivation and impetus to take personal risks that true revolution requires. And it also makes sense that engaging on Twitter and Facebook is not the same thing. 

I'm fine giving this point to Gladwell.

Where I think he misses the mark is the impact social networks can have on the support and ultimate success of these revolutionary changes. If you look at big changes in the 1960's, such as the Civil Rights movement or the Vietnam war, I'd argue that the tipping point came once the major broadcast networks started showing the stories on their network news shows and voicing support to these protests. It was then that the political winds shifted. Without those winds, you can wonder whether there would have been a civil rights act, or whether Lyndon Johnson would have declined to run for President again. 

Therein lies the revolutionary power of social media: to shift the perception and support of all of us lazy revolutionaries who will donate $25 but don't really want to get our butts out of our computer chairs to march.

And, as Obama showed us, those lazy butts can help. They just can't drive and create the revolution.

What's wrong with that?

09/27/2010 It’s not the media; it’s the social

A few weeks ago I spoke at the #140Conf in Boston on why smaller towns might be better at social media than bigger ones. One idea I put out there was that the chances of you meeting most of the people in your stream was far greater in small towns than it is in cities. I think that this helps with two things: it makes your social media world more relevant, while also encouraging more positive discussion and behavior.

More importantly, though, it places a greater emphasis on the social and less on the media. The media ends up acting as a conduit to face-to-face connections and as such, builds much stronger relationships than virtual ones.

I know that in the past 2 years, since diving into social media, I’ve met more people in Burlington during that time than I had met in the previous 10. And it’s not limited to Burlington either. But the small town-ness of the place means funny things will happen.

One of the panelists at the #140Conf, Cathy Resmer, told a story about car trouble in Burlington. When a guy stopped to help her, she looked at him and said “Hey, you’re @swichi293.” He looked back and said “Hey, you’re @cresmer!”

At my daughter’s soccer game, I sat next to another dad and we Dad-yelled and laughed during the match. When we got up and finally looked at each other, he said “Hey, you’re @rnadworny” to which I replied, “Are you @daveburkevt?”

We all end up repeating this stories to our non-Twitter friends again and again, as we’re delighted at the random meetings with people we already “know.”

The media set the stage for social connections. And it’s these in-person connection that lead to greater interaction and community. A recent study by the Keller Fay Group showed that most word-of-mouth for teens still happens overwhelmingly offline, in person. And while this was a study about teens, there's no reason to think the same isn't true for adults.

In Burlington, it sometimes happens more naturally. But in all places, we should think about how we can use the media to build more social, in-person interactions. These are the ones, after all, that leave a much longer lasting impression on us.

It happens to us all. Just ask yourself these questions: Which members of your stream would you really love to meet face-to-face at the next SXSW? And why?


09/07/2010 In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king

I heard an old Tom Waits tune this weekend and when that line popped up, guess what I thought of? Social Media.

Perhaps I’m a little impatient, but for all of our excitement about the possibilities, our talking about the future of communications and our expectations of the transformative and chaotic power of social marketing, we don’t have a lot to show for it.

Or, we only have a few really transformative examples of how its changing life both inside and outside of companies.

We can talk about Zappos, of course. They certainly have taken their customer service focus and used the social channels to expand and reinforce that focus. We can talk about Starbucks who have used social channels effectively for everything from location-based promotions to HR hiring.

The larger question, to me at least, is whether social has succeeded in transforming any older brands or whether its simply another marketing channel brands now pay a little attention to. And I mean a little; while growing, when you compare social media budgets to the marketing budgets brands still put toward traditional media outlets, social is still teeny-weeny. While Pepsi might have won some props by not running Super Bowl ads, they still spend a boatload (an aircraft carrier’s worth) of money on traditional media compared with the little (a dinghy’s worth) they spend on social media.

The inner transformation within companies across silos and in service to customers is an incredibly slow, expensive slog. Let’s not forget that inner transformation costs resources. Which companies have really put down the cash to make that happen?

I wonder if the recession has helped promote the idea that things are changing more rapidly than they are. Spending on traditional media is down, but it would be anyway in our economy, social or no social. Transformation is easier to talk about when you’re facing a cliff economically.

It’s easy to promote the early social brands as winners today, but I wonder if they’re truly winners or just a little bit better than all of today’s mediocre social brands.

In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.



08/31/2010 Social Sinatra

I read a blog post by Mack Collier the other day that got me thinking. His post pointed out that having a social strategy and execution plan, while good, isn't enough. The post outlines a few bad backlash examples that resulted in companies not acting socially (or acting socially too late).

While you can help a company DO things in social media, can you help or train them to act socially? Can you help them BE social? It reminds me of the old joke:

Descartes: To Do is to Be
Sartre: To Be is to Do
Sinatra: DoBeDoBeDo

I'm with Sinatra this time, as it relates to social media. Here's why:

Some companies with a social strategy and execution end up worrying endlessly about follower counts, editorial calendars and metrics dashboards. Don't get me wrong; all of those are good things to pay attention to. The challenge is that having social checklists and Doing things doesn't always get companies what they want: loyal and engaged customers. That's because, ultimately, people want to engage socially with other people, not editorial calendars or timed tweets.

Acting socially isn't overly difficult for real people. It's doing all those things our parents and teachers tried to teach us when we were growing up. Things like:

  • Pay attention and listen to what other people are saying
  • Be polite, but stand up for what you believe
  • Say something nice
  • Don't just stand there; do something!
  • And, act toward others the way you'd like people to act toward you

The problem is that most organizations don't act that way. Even if the Supreme Court thinks corporations are individual people, I don't. So how do you help companies BE social?

I'll go back to my favorite quote of the year: You can't change beliefs, but you can change behavior.

Start by helping the groups responsible for social within a company to act socially internally. Help them set up systems and processes for listening to each other, and to listen to their fellow employees. Whether your doing this through regular meetings or virtual workspaces, it's not a difficult task to accomplish.

Make sure they spend lots of time listening and connecting with customer service people, who actually spend their day talking with real customers! I know; it's an amazing concept, but you can't be social without your customers.

Help different groups (or one group) figure out what they really stand for. I don't mean profits and business growth, I mean help them figure out what they can provide that actually helps other people. This is a great exercise and if done correctly gives your social Being a raison d'àtre (nod to Sartre).

Practice your niceness by highlighting employees who've gone above and beyond. It's a little easier to be nice to people you know. So start with email shout outs, or something that shows the company that it's a good thing to spread the love. Moving this over to social and customers will feel natural after this.

Finally, have each employee keep track of every time they've helped either another employee or customer. I don't know if you can teach helping, but you can make people aware of when they are, or are not, doing it. The whole point is to get people thinking: when in doubt, help someone. When you can translate that into your social media being, you win.

If companies can start acting that way internally, and then bring that to social media, they will BE social. They will treat their customers and other people in a way they hope to be treated themselves by other companies. Most importantly, they will act as people, working for a company, rather than as a company, staffed by people.

And that's social.



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