Tribal Marketing

Why are companies beginning to pay attention to the potential of social media?

It’s pretty simple. People believe people they have connections to. People are now trained not to trust traditional advertising.

Traditional advertising often tries to carpet-bomb a bunch of “strangers” with a message. However, these strangers now understand that they are viewed as wallets, not friends. Objects to be exploited, not collaborators in the product development process.

Social media allows us to interact with friendly tribes, and thus, we are armed to resist the overflights of one-way, exploitative marketers.

Kind of like…well, these folks who have been in the news this week. ->

How can you reach those who don’t trust you or your message?

Think about it.

(Here are some interesting related thoughts from Christopher Penn)

What’s the Value of a Good Name? At VW, Nobody Knows!

It was bad enough when they rolled out something called a Touareg. A meaningless, hard-to-pronounce name that has all the cachet of rusted flywheel.

But they couldn’t stop there. No, today I see an ad for a new VW model called a “Tiguan.”

What’s a Tiguan? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s free-associate: Wigwam. Tequila. Iguana. Guano. Hmmm…all associations that make me think, desirable mode of automotive transport. Kind of like…Touareg.

How REAL Businesspeople Get it Done

This post is a bit of tongue-in-cheek, inspired by Ten Reasons why I won’t Use Social Media Sites, authored by John Mariotti. In it, John takes the position that “Real business people realize that this social networking trend is superficial,” and “All of us are drowning in a tidal wave of complexity already, and these social networking sites make this complexity worse by an order of magnitude.”

RBs (Real Businesspeople) sometimes see little value in things that are in early-stage evolution. Like, say, FAX machines and e-mail once were. NARBs (Not a Real Businessperson), on the other hand, sometimes see the inevitable trends of the future and jump right in, unafraid of the messiness, and ready to shape it.

Use of social media tools is a central part of my business, and a critical part of my future business plan. However, since I am now officially NARB, I must decline to join the illustrious ranks of many RBs who have gone before me:

    1. The many RBs who believed that computers would never make it into the home.
    2. The many who figured that e-commerce or digital music were a flash in the pan.
    3. Those who saw no future in the automobile. Only a NARB would trade in his horse.
    4. Those who belittled silly early adopters who chose papyrus over stone. NARBanderthals!

Social media is in its early stages, and the platforms are imperfect. It takes some patience to sift through the chaff and find the wheat. But disintermediation is a tidal wave that won’t be stopped. Immediate, global connectivity (often leading to face-to-face meeting) is a train that has left the station. The microphone is now in the hands of the people, and we can publish, connect, meet, work, seek, find, and share.

Sure, some of the social media applications are geared toward kid stuff, but for some of us early-adopting NARBs, we’re doing real business (wait, that would make us RBs). We’re getting to know real people, with borders dissolving (wait, that might open up future opportunities and collaborations). We’re looking beyond immediate ROI into a rich future of a networked economy, where individuals can carve their own path and do business at many levels with a variety of people of our own choosing.

How NARBulous. I think I’ll Twitter this. But if you want, I’ll send you a memo…!

What’s your Value-Add?

Call me an idealist, but I think true professionals yearn to add value. There is no fulfillment in collecting a paycheck while being unproductive (except for the chronically pathetic “worker,” but that’s another post).

So, in your current role, what is your value-add? How are you making life better for customers? How is your company benefiting from your contributions?

One of the key indicators that it’s time to “move on” is that you begin to conclude – over the long-haul, not just during a bad week – that you are no longer adding significant value. Either you have changed, your company has changed, the business environment has changed, or some combination thereof…whatever the reason, you are not in an optimal role any longer.

Or, perhaps, the role was a mismatch to begin with. You read “First, Break all the Rules,” and “Now, Discover your Strengths” and you realize that your strongest abilities are not really being leveraged in your current role.

What to do? Find a way to move on. No-one wins when you’re not adding the kind of value that you could/should. Determine where your “gold” is – where you are most productive, gifted, and fulfilled; and then find the place that needs you.

I walked away from two professional positions (each after ~10 years) when I concluded that things had changed sufficiently that I could no longer provide optimal value. Amicably, with forethought and planning, I fired myself and embraced new opportunities that were a better fit. Had I become less capable or knowledgeable? To the contrary. It was just a matter of recognizing that I could no longer add value that way I needed to. And that’s OK.

Business conditions will continue to change rapidly. We needn’t assume that we’re going to be in one place forever, or that our contributions will be the same over time. One of my philosophical and practical goals in all areas of life is to create and build, get it established, then move on to new challenges. That’s how I add value – not by a lather-rinse-repeat cycle of repetitive tasks.

How do you add value? Are you prepared to take a clear-eyed look at your current role, ask yourself and others what your greatest strengths are, and look into new opportunities?

Online Video Toolkit now available

Jim Kukral (jimkukral.com) has just generously made available a series of tutorials (short videos, of course) on how to do basic online video using tools like the Flip video camera. Just go here – it’s free!

I have found Jim, and his on-line examples, to be quite helpful as I began my journey into video blogging. Just learned from the toolkit why I should probably wear a light-colored shirt. Of course, my first vlog featured me in a black shirt!

Highly recommended if you’re moving into this space…

Don’t Mess with (Me) – I Might Be a Blogger

Put (your name) in those brackets, and we have the new reality of customer service.

Bad products, bad customer experience, bad attitudes – all increasingly come to light and are publicly magnified by those who blog, Twitter, and otherwise engage in Share Media.

I think every corporate training program should emphasize this one overarching reality: today’s customer, no matter how unassuming-looking, may have outsized influence in telling others how bad – or how good – we are to them.

Can you imagine a restaurant owner not caring if a Nightly News anchor strolled in, cameras rolling, mics on, full entourage in tow – and was treated like dirt by the wait staff and the bartender?

That’s what happens when you mess with a blogger. And even long-tail bloggers, who are not widely influential in and of themselves, can do a world of hurt by a blog post or a Twitter message that gets repeated (or re-tweeted) into the RSS feed or comment stream or ears of other bloggers who command an audience of thousands.

Fear is a bigger motivator than goodness. I’d like to see businesses do the right thing out of motives other than fear, but if that can serve as the doormat to get people to take their responsibilities (and the power of social media) seriously, so be it.

On the other hand, we who may look unassuming but have a growing influence should be sure we share the good stories as well. Good deeds should be rewarded with our word-of-mouth publicity.

Maybe we should start a new T-shirt line:

The Little Spoilers that Kill a Sale

Last week, I went looking for a new vehicle for our family. We’d narrowed it down to a good-sized “crossover” SUV from one manufacturer, or a minivan from another.

As always, things look great on paper, but you have to test drive these things to see if they feel right.

I got into the crossover for the test drive, and before we went anywhere, I knew it wasn’t going to be the choice. Game over. Eliminated.

Had a similar experience some years back, when I bought a Mazda 626. One of the models I was considering was a Honda Accord – great name, excellent cars, well worth considering. But before turning the key, it was crossed off the list.

Why?

Seat belts. Specifically, the anchor points for the front seat belts could not be adjusted high enough, and therefore the seat belt tugged down on my shoulder. Game over.

I’m of average height – a little under 6 feet tall. A lot of people are my size and bigger. And do you mean to tell me that car manufacturers cannot put people my height into a driver’s seat during the design phase and check on a little thing like this??

That little spoiler has killed two car sales for me so far, and who knows how many others for drivers who have felt the same.

You can have the greatest reputation for reliability, cool design, top-notch features, but if you don’t make me feel comfortable, I walk.

User design matters. Not only in cars, but in software and everywhere else.

What are some of the spoilers you’ve experienced?

Twitter Rockstar Half-Year Calendars – Tweeet!

How can you better rejoice in the glittering elite of the budding Twitterati than by ordering your very own Twitter Rock Star Half-Year Calendar!

Yessir, it’s a fast-paced world! New Twitter stars have emerged over the past few months, meaning that the 2008 full-year edition of Twitter Rock Stars is already obsolete. Trashed! Now, you can get your July-Dec edition before some of the newest and coolest Twizzlers flame out into virtual oblivion.

We have them all here. @scobleizer. @tobydiva. And, of course, @garyvee (thundering us off in July!). With stunning photos taken by some of the best Twitterazzi out there, straight off their webcams.

Each day of every month, you get some of the top Tweets from this all-star lineup, such as:

“Brain a wasteland. I need coffee!”

“Good morning Twitters! Have a glorious day!”

“You gotta check this out! http://tinyurl.com/3k3635″

And, everyone’s favorite: “Stuck on the runway at LGA AGAIN! I need a JetBluectomy”

For the low, low price of $49.95, you can take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – plus, if you order now, you’ll also have a genuine, up-in-the-sky star named after you! Just call the number at the bottom of this blog post.

Call today!: http://tinyurl.com/3k3635

Bonus - if you tweet in your order using BrightKite coordinates, you’ll get a free one-day following from our November Rockstar!

Memories: Mother’s Day

It’s going to be Mother’s Day this weekend here in the U.S. The easy remembrance is flowers, a dinner, a card, etc.

But why stop there? Shared memories are even more important.

What is your most cherished memory of your mother? What impresses you the most (particularly as you’ve gotten older)?

For me – and this won’t sound too flowery or sentimental – it’s her steadiness. I knew only stability growing up. Mom was consistent, steady, and sensible. We knew the boundaries, we knew our place, we knew we were safe. I’m quite sure, with 4 active boys, she and Dad did their share of pulling-their-hair-out behind closed doors, but we were spared displays of emotional fireworks. As I have grown older, I now see how incredibly important this was – and is, for my children, as my wife also has a steady hand on the tiller.

What about you? Share your memories, in the Comments or on Twitter or on your own blog. Let’s create a virtual memory book together in memory of great Moms!

(from my occasionally-updated personal blog, a tribute to my Mom from last year).

When the time is right…

How many times have you had a dream, or a goal, hanging out there like a brass ring, and determined that you’d start reaching for it “when the time is right”?

The time is right. Now.

Not that you can necessarily bring home the entire pot of gold at rainbow’s end by 4 pm today. But you need to zero in your sights where the rainbow hits the ground, and take a step. Then another one.

About 2 years ago, I started my own business. It was a risk, and by all objective measures, the time probably “wasn’t right.” Five kids. Mid-life. No major capital backing. Just an idea, a drive, a network of people, and a fair amount of experience.

I could easily have settled. But, you see, the time WAS right. I had an epiphany about 6-7 months before venturing out: No-one was ever going to offer me the ideal job. If I wanted to pursue my dreams and maximize the use of my abilities, I had to create it myself.

And I have further, longer-term dreams. Each week, I’m trying to move – in incremental steps – toward those goals. This week, I did my first video blog post. That was not just for geek-gadget purposes. It’s part of a much longer-term vision.

When will the time be right for you? Actually, today is good. Take those steps. Build YOU – your skills, your network, your opportunities. Tune out the naysayers, because the time is right…now.

(Image credit)

Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang, for the spark that led to this post.

UPDATE: Here’s a great post from Seth Godin that ties in perfectly.

Be Prepared – Network NOW!

Perhaps you’ve never been a Boy Scout. Whether you have or not, the Scout motto – Be Prepared – is a good one to consider right now.

You’re read about all the recent layoffs in many industries. You’ve heard about, or been part of, one or more of the many mergers in recent years. There is simply no more certainty in corporate America. Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us:

NETWORK!

The time to build a network – a professional and social web of contacts who can help out when needs arise – is now. It is very likely that your next career move (horizontally) or advancement (vertically) will come about because of pre-existing relationships. While you can post a resume on-line that the world can (theoretically) see, so can a few billion other people. Doors are opened by people who listen to the recommendations and referrals of other people.

How do you build a wider professional network? Let me suggest a few straightforward steps:

1. Embrace networking as a high priority, and determine to do it. Yep, it starts with an act of the will. Maybe you’re not a native schmoozer (I’m not). Maybe you’re introvert-ish (I am). Maybe you think, “I can never build relationships like so-and-so.” Actually, you can. You might not have the same ease as some, but believe me, you can do it, and even become good at it.

2. Help others. That’s right, don’t start with your immediate or future needs. The best way to build a network marked by mutual help and sympathy is to help others. You may have been schooled in the “me-first” ladder-climbing corporate mentality. Drop that like a bad transmission. When you pro-actively offer to help people, you’ll be shocked at how popular you become.

3. Focus on one drop at a time. You can’t just turn the spigot and gush out a flood of networked contacts. But you can greet one new person a day. You can help out one co-worker today. You can reach out to someone in a similar professional role with a question. Networking should be seen as incremental and cumulative – it becomes a lifestyle, not a one-time act.

4. Attend meetings. Not the kind that clog your daily calendar (well, I guess you should attend those, too)! Go to national conferences, join local chapters of professional societies, expand your network beyond the next few cubicles. New opportunities may open up from unexpected directions.

5. Cultivate healthy vendor relationships. Vendors and consultants often know “what’s going on” outside your four walls, and may be able to facilitate new contacts for you. Weed out the sharks, and find those people who are genuine, service-oriented, and personable (this goes for recruiters as well). If they do good work for you, recommend them to others. That will definitely increase your bank account of good will!

6. Take advantage of the web-based networking platforms. I highly recommend LinkedIn (see graphic) for helping expand your network through electronic means. Facebook is usually for more personal/social contacts but can also be valuable. Create a very robust professional profile and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and new links with others.

7. Cultivate a limited circle of influential, wise, discreet professional colleagues. These are the trusted advisers you can turn to when you see storm clouds on the horizon – your early-warning safety net. These are your serious allies who will go the extra mile for you when the ground starts to shake.

8. Be “findable.” Who will rise to the top these days, when there is information overload? Those who can be quickly found (especially on-line), and who make a professional and interesting self-presentation before the need ever arises. If you have the drive and the ability to write, create a blog around your interests. If you can engage in electronic discussions, jump into Twitter. Put your talent and creativity and accomplishments out there. When people Google you, they should find you, AND be impressed.

The time to network is not just when your job is in danger. Build your safety net now – and be part of the safety net for others. We have to build our own these days – we cannot count on any kind of corporate stability for our professional well-being!

(Image credit)

Share Media vs Tell Media

Of late, I’ve been burning up brain cycles on the branding of social media – that is, how can we simply and accurately present what social media is, and what it offers, to the vast majority of people who are non-users?

Wired in the way that I am, that always boils down to a terminology issue first and foremost. How to craft the best arrangement of words to express the message? Because I fear that the words we currently use may not give a good “hook” into the minds of those who are not “in the club” as of yet.

And we have to look at the social media revolution in at least 2 dimensions: the personal dimension, and the professional dimension. For the latter, how can people in the corporate world come to appreciate and embrace the business value of these new inter-communications? For the former, how can we simply and compellingly explain social media that it is not discolored by pre-conceived and inaccurate notions shaped only by, say, MySpace?

So, here is today’s thought. Share Media vs. Tell Media.

Traditional media is top-down, them telling us. We (the audience) have little to no input, little to no voice, little to no involvement. Tell Media.

The new web enables Share Media. We share opinions, thoughts, news, pictures, reviews, videos, and just about anything else. We are all publishers; we all have the microphone if we so choose. Communications are now rapid, de-centralized, and potentially viral.

For the personal dimension, this verbiage works. But it also works in the professional realm. We simply say to a Marketing Director: “OK, you have a Tell Media plan with your traditional advertising, PR, etc. Now, what are you doing about a Share Media plan?”

Let’s discuss together how to brand this world of social media. What are your thoughts?

::Matt Dickman explains a key business justification for the new approach here on his Techno//Marketer blog.

The “Brand” of Social Media

There’s a lot of hype – some of it, I’ll affectionately call “geek hype” – about social media applications. Frankly, I think a good bit of it is warranted. It’s not top-down-generated hype about some product, but it’s bottom-up enthusiasm and utilization of approaches that are changing the way we express ourselves and connect with others.

Many words and brand names have been bandied about in the past few years as this train has rushed down the tracks. MySpace. LinkedIn. Twitter. Facebook. Ning. UGM. Blogs, vlogs, podcasts. Even for the initiated, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the pace. It’s communication on steroids, with little or no barrier to entry!

But I can’t help thinking about those that are the “uninitiated.” The majority of people – many of them incredibly bright, motivated, creative, and personable – are not yet on this train. Why? Well, very likely, they simply don’t feel the need. They haven’t heard the story. And I can only conclude that, as in all marketing and pre-sales, we have a job to do.

When you peel beneath the frothy foam that sometimes obscures the view – what is it that we’re actually promoting here? Is there a main message, a key point, a striking metaphor, that sums up the social media phenomenon in all its parts? Or, as I always like to begin with my clients: What’s the point?

At the root, it’s a branding challenge. We have a veritable Babel of messages out there, from a (delightfully rich) explosion of blogs and platforms, yet I don’t know that we’re communicating all the effectively outside of our own echo chamber.

I don’t have an answer. But the question does keep coming back to me, and perhaps we can wrestle with it together. If you had to pick one message, one metaphor, one image, one story, that would nicely sum up a key point of this social media movement, what would it be? Feel free to share in the comments, or write your own post, or Twitter some ideas. It’s a discussion we need to have as a community.

(Also, check out Lewis Green’s post on a similar topic)

(Image credit)

Six Things I Don’t Think About Anymore

1. Phone charges by the minute. My grandchildren will ask me about this one day, perplexed by the concept.

2. Geographical barriers. Without a second thought, I’m communicating with people around the world. Effortlessly. Any time. A lot of those barriers were in my mind only, it turns out.

3. Finding information. Any information. About anything. Just Google it. “Search and you shall find” takes on a whole new meaning.

4. Looking for stuff in stores. E-commerce. Enough said.

5. Repairing electronics. In almost every case nowadays, it’s cheaper to throw something out than fix it. And, if it’s over 6 months old, the replacement is already present, better, and cheaper!

6. Handwriting. Digital communication used to be writing using the digits on your hands. Now it’s all bits and bytes. I’m still not sure how I feel about this – it’s a lot easier to read my typing than my writing!

Case Study – how Social Media helped me this week

This has been a week of catch-up work in my home office. And it has provided several opportunities to gain real-life benefit from social media tools. Here’s how:

1. I’ve had an ongoing problem with my iPhone creating static-y noises over my computer speakers. Not the end of the world, but annoying. Out of the blue, on Twitter, I noticed that someone posted a simple fix for this (so I wasn’t the only one with the issue!) – just place the iPhone on a piece of aluminum foil, and voila! – problem solved. Now my kids tell me that the device looks like a half-unwrapped candy bar, but I don’t care – the static is gone.

2. I needed to find a service that could be used to create bound printed handouts for an upcoming conference, in which I’ll be presenting a workshop. I put out a call for recommendations on Twitter; my friend Jane Chin recommended Mimeo. So far I’ve been very impressed – they have a fully on-line system for uploading files and building the print product, and even spend 1/2 hour walking you through the system on the phone for the first run. Bonus – they ship a sample overnight (no charge!) of your first job so you can make sure it’s just what you want. Exactly the kind of service I wanted.

3. I’m planning to start incorporating some video clips into my blogging. Through Jim Kukral’s blog (The Daily Flip) I got to see how the new Flip video camera works, and decided to order one (even using Jim’s Amazon affiliate link, so he gets a little tip for the tip!) Hopefully next week I can give it a test drive.

Now, here’s a little bonus: someone else’s career-changing adventure using MySpace. The 70′s rock group needed a replacement lead singer, and they found a Home Depot employee named Tommy DeCarlo in North Carolina who had posted his vocals of Boston songs (sounds incredibly like the original lead singer, Brad Delp) on MySpace. The story is here; you can hear the amazing samples here.

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