Being There is Not a Strategy

I had a great opportunity to run a working session at PodCamp NH 2010 this weekend on social media strategy. I presented a few slides for a framework, and then an excellent discussion followed.

Four people volunteered to talk about their goals so we could work on them together.  We had:

  • Tom: Working on an independent film.  Needs to raise awareness to generate interest in his film about the NH Lakes region.
  • Laurie: Experienced author and consultant.  Needs to reach more parents interested in whole health.  Also needs to promote her professional image online.
  • Robert: Working as a hotel consultant.  Needs to raise awareness and drive more business.
  • Sean: Works within an educational institution.  Needs to raise awareness of the expertise of his department’s work both within the institution and outside.

What I found incredibly interesting in the discussion about these challenges is that much of the advice shared was not specific to social media.  Social media gives us great new tools, but it’s important for us to see them just as tools, not as solutions in and of themselves.



Rule #3: Be The Gatekeeper

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #3 is “Be The Gatekeeper”

You should never be a roadblock. Give customers a clear path. Just being there isn’t enough. Communication has to go both ways. You now have access to incredible feedback you used to have to pay a lot of money for. Lead customers to where they need to be, and listen to what they have to say.

(if you missed it, see Rule #2: Address The Need)

Followers vs. Community

Rich Millington, on his FeverBee – The Online Community Guide blog shared two posts recently about a following vs. community: Why Most Organizations Shouldn’t Try To Create An Online Community and Clarity – What’s a Community?

  • A Following = an audience that interacts with you
  • A Community = an audience that interacts with each other

I see people confuse the two often (and I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of it myself.)  Rich says “organizations that sell sociable and highly engaging products/services” are suitable for community.  There are benefits to each approach and significant pitfalls from pursuing the an approach that’s not appropriate for your audience.

Does your audience want to know about your products or about each other?

What I want in a Social CRM (for me)

I’m on a quest to find a Social CRM to help me keep my people information at my fingertips.

Here’s how I currently try to track everything:

Address Book (2,000+ entries)

My address book is an extension of my brian.  I’ve been using it for keeping track of people I’ve met for years now.  It’s currently a Microsoft Exchange address book that I access from Apple Address Book, BlackBerry, and sometimes Outlook.  For every person I add, I go into “digital stalker” mode and dig for information about them from their online accounts, contact info, family, pets, twitter accounts, blogs, etc.  I also add notes on where I met them — because I know I’ll ultimately forget.

Evernote (8,000+ notes)

I take notes.  Notes on meetings, phone calls, ideas, etc.  I’ve accumulated over 8,000 notes over the years that I track in Evernote.  I even email voicemails into my Evernote to archive.

It’s a great platform and I love that my notes sync to their servers — there’ve been a few times now where laptop failures have required me to rebuild my system.  Each time I’ve only had to install Evernote, log in to my account, and it automatically downloaded all my notes.  Well worth the small monthly subscription.

GMail (5+ GB work, 5+ GB personal)

I’m a bit of digital communications packrat, GMail has become a close friend over the years.  I archive all my mail there (since 2004).  I can quickly search to find emails by topic or person.  You’d be amazed how much it comes in handy.

In my ideal solution, I’d no longer have to go to multiple sources to find my data.  I can’t exactly pull out my laptop, connect to wifi, and lookup notes from all these sources when I encounter someone I know at an event.  I want to be able to do the following from my computer, and preferably my BlackBerry (sorry, no iPhone, AT&T’s network doesn’t cover where I live), in order of priority:

  • Immediate and easy access to my contact information and core information about each
  • Quick access to their most recent contributions online, making a distinction between things they publish and those they just shared/liked/favorited
  • Quick access to my communication history with each contact, across all mediums like email, twitter, phone call notes, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • The ability to quickly tag when I’ve seen people (esp. at an event) and add notes about our conversation
  • Mine my data to find more connections *among* the people I know
  • Distinguish between my “work”, “personal projects”, “friends/family” connections — assuming some may overlap.
  • Be able to share contacts/groups of contacts with others in my account.
  • Possibly share a subset of my information with a work CRM like SalesForce.

I think what I want would be the love child of something like BatchBook and Silentale.


=  ?

I am one person managing my connections, but some are work professional, some are personal professional, and some are just good friends.  Having to switch systems for each category kills the productivity.  At some point I may want to share some of this data with others – or maybe a CRM like SalesForce, but I’m looking for something that will help me to really manage my personal/professional connections, for me.  Isn’t the social web, in part, all about the blending of personal/professional?

Is my dream social CRM already out there just waiting to ask me to to the Sadie Hawkins dance?


Rule #2: Address The Need

When you’re engaging with anyone online, rule #2 is “Address The Need”.

Everyone needs something.  We listen, we may even understand what we’re being asked — but it that what they really need?  If you’re engaging online, make sure you’re actually addressing the need.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently after a discussion with a support rep.  A customer on Twitter asked if the upload timeout could be increased.  The rep very diligently found the answer to her question — “Unfortunately, no.”  I asked the rep why the customer was asking for this.  A little investigation showed that the customer was trying to upload a file and it was failing.  Was file size the issue?  No, it wasn’t.  So she really didn’t need someone to increase the timeout, she needed someone to figure out why the upload was failing for her.  Armed with that, the rep was able to work on addressing what the customer needed, not just what she asked for.

(if you missed it, see Rule #1: Be Real)

Who does your incentive program benefit and is it clear?

Some of you know I have a bit of a Starbucks addiction. (I’m even the mayor of several Starbucks on Foursquare).

I was never a fan of paying to join member rewards programs, but last year I talked myself into buying the Starbucks Gold card.  By swiping the card at the register with each purchase, I’d get 10% off.  We even bought two for the family.  I’ve always viewed it as a psychological benefit – every time I made a purchase I would see the amount I had to pay go down.  It would make me feel like I was saving money and that made my daily stops ok.

Then Starbucks introduced their new My Starbucks Rewards program.  They took away paid memberships, instead offering a program where if you keep a balance on your card and pay with it each time, you can earn a free drink after 15 purchases.  There are other benefits like free syrups and soy milk, but those don’t really interest me since I get the same drink every time and don’t need them.

There’s been a lot of confusion around the new program.  I’ve even had some store managers tell me

that I can use the new card without maintaining a balance (similar to the old program.)  I’ve tested and this isn’t the case, either you pay with the card or you get nothing.  So I took a look at their FAQ to try and understand why they made these changes and what it really means.

Why is the program changing?

  • Be free at all levels – with no membership fee, it enables more customers to participate.
  • Be one simple program that is easy to understand and use.
  • Provide tiered rewards – once you achieve Gold level, you will still continue to enjoy the benefits offered at the Welcome and Green levels.
  • Recognize and reward our best customers based on frequent, personalized rewards including free drinks.

I read this as, we’re taking away the good high end benefits so we can reach more customers.  You now earn stars for each transaction, not the amount spent or even number of items purchased.  Once you earn enough points for a free drink you are sent a postcard in the mail that you need to bring to the store to claim your free drink.

Why do I have to pay with my Starbucks Card to participate in the program?
The program is designed to reward our many customers who use and pay with a Starbucks Card.

Even their FAQ doesn’t actually give a reason why you have to pay using a Starbucks Card.  Unfortunately they haven’t convinced me there’s enough benefit to bank my money with my new Starbucks-only debit card, earning no interest (which is what I’d be doing by carrying a balance.)  I’d be earning a free drink for every 15 purchases — only a 0.06% return if I’m just buying one beverage each time, even less if I stop to pickup a bag of coffee.

I’m convinced the program changes benefit Starbucks more than the customer.  It’s unfortunate they took a program that had a very clear benefit for loyal customers who actually paid to join (the 10% off applied to buying coffee beans as well) and replaced it with something apparently designed to save money for the company.  Loyal customers who spent money to be members in the old program are now freely enrolled in a program that offers very little.

There’s been a lot of positive communications sent to me from Starbucks about this change, unfortunately bright colored emails and postcards aren’t going to make me forget that I just lost my 10% off benefit. And it seems I’m not the only one with these feelings:

From what I’ve seen, Starbucks has chosen to not respond to their upset customers.

I have my new card, but no plans to use it.  Instead of sitting in a prime spot in my wallet like the old card, it’s gathering dust on a counter at home.

Facebook, enforcing like-ability, inspiring confusion?

I logged onto the Facebook Page I manage earlier today to find this message.

That message made sense to me, but I made the mistake of clicking “Learn more“.  It put me on a 7 section, 30 question FAQ.  I went for the “Liking” a Page section, hoping I was in the right place.

Why did “Become a Fan” change to “Like”?

To improve your experience and promote consistency across the site, we’ve changed the language for Pages from “Fan” to “Like.” We believe this change offers you a more light-weight and standard way to connect with people, things and topics in which you are interested.

Ok, this made sense too.  I can “Like” something and not necessarily be a “Fan” of it.

What does it mean to “Like” a Page?

When you click “Like” on a Page, you are making a connection to that Page. The Page will be displayed in your profile, and in turn, you will be displayed on the Page as a person who likes that Page. The Page will also be able to post content into your News Feed.

Ok, I think I’m following.  You’re now going to treat Pages like any other item in someone’s feed, but not really.  They can Like it, but that still means they’re a Fan and the Page can post content to their feed.

Can I still “Like” a News Feed story about my friends Liking Pages?

No. When you see a Feed story about a friend Liking a Page, there will be no feedback links below that story. However, if you hover over the Page name, you will see a small preview of the Page and the number of other people who have also Liked that Page. You can then Like that Page to add it to your profile, or you can click through to the Page itself.

So I can Like a Page, but I can no longer Like that someone joined a page, I can only Like it myself.  So if my friend joins a group called, let’s say, “Luddites for Social Media”, the only thing I can do to show my support is to Like the Page myself, even if I just want to encourage my friend? I guess so.  I hope the cause is worth it.

Is there a difference between “Liking” an item a friend posts and “Liking” a Page?

Yes. Liking a Page means you are connecting to that Page. When you connect to a Page, it will appear in your profile and you will appear on the Page as a person who likes that Page. The Page will also be able to post content into your News Feed.
On the other hand, when you click “Like” on a piece of content that a friend posts, you are simply letting your friend know that you like it without leaving a comment.

So to make this feel more lightweight and to encourage more connections across the site, you’re adding a new meaning to the word “Like”?  I guess this may encourage more Page connections as people are getting used to clicking Like on feed items.  Though I think it will create confusion.

I have to say I’m not a Fan of the change.  Can we add a “Don’t Like”?


Social media: swarm vs. strategy?

So you’ve listened and maybe engaged in social media, now what?

It’s important to be there since the conversations are already happening, but have you integrated that work into your overall strategy?  I was on a call Friday with a PR firm talking about social media strategy.  When I think about what many of us often do (and yes, I’m including myself in this), I can’t help but think of a children’s soccer game.

We may have passion and focus, but we’re usually just chasing the ball.

Many of us get so caught up in the tactical execution, we forget to look at the overall strategy.  Two great posts to get you thinking about this more are Leslie Poston on Social Media Curves and Shannon Paul on The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies.   Leslie discuses working from front end goals to setting “appropriate expectations” on the back end.  Shannon gets to the heart of the biggest problem, that most social media strategies are missing “actual strategy.”

We’re often substituting tactics for strategy.  One of the questions I discussed with the PR team on my call is “what are we trying to get out of this social media engagement?”  Shannon offers five “Steps to Defining the Strategy in Your Social Media Strategy” in The Missing Ingredient in Most Social Media Strategies:

  1. Push for clarity around the overall business strategy
  2. Push for clarity around the strategies you feel social media should be in direct alignment with; i.e. marketing, communications, customer service, human resources, etc.
  3. Ask yourself, how will you extend this strategic alignment to the social web? *hint, do not list tactics to answer this question, but rather focus on guiding principles or rules of engagement.
  4. Ask what experience/reaction do you want people to come away with when they interact with your brand/company online.
  5. Is your strategy proactive or reactive? Will you actively seek people out, wait for them to find you/mention you?
If you look at a children’s soccer game, the children typically chase the ball where ever it goes.  There’s very little understanding of positions team members should play and why they are important.  As the children learn to play assign roles, the nature of the game changes.  We move from swarm to more structured strategy.
Are you playing with a strategy? Or still chasing the ball?

When is it ok to ignore a comment, tweet, etc?

No peeking, via Flickr (Dave Rutt)There’s a ton of advice out there that you ignore social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) at your own peril.  I’m having a difficult time finding best practices on when you may need to use ignoring as an approach — or is it something you should never do?

I’d love to know how you feel on this.  Is it ok?  If yes, when? Feel free to comment below, send me a tweet (@kevinmic), or email me directly.