We Are Not Immune…

Bad news today. Really bad news. We had to lay off a number of our employees. What makes the bad news worse is that not only are these people good friends but they are smart, hard working people. People that would go to battle for you. People that had your back.

An easy question to ask is who is to blame for all of this? Sadly, the answer isn’t who, it’s what. And you already know the answer to that question because you’re hearing the same doom and gloom that we are regarding the massive layoffs and wild swings in stock prices. It’s the economy’s fault and unfortunately it caught up with us as well.
Ironically, last year was the best year the company ever experienced and it was continuing to grow at rapid, double digit rates. When the bottom fell out, it obviously hurt some of our clients. It also hurt our potential clients. When they hurt, they spend less money with us and new prospects take longer to sign contracts. That made it hard to afford the people we hired to staff for new business.
If there is any silver lining to this, and trust me when I tell you that it’s difficult to be positive on a day like this, it’s the fact that we have an equally smart and hard working group of people who are sticking around to be able to meet existing client needs. To that end, I’m confident that things will get better and when they do, we will be stronger than ever. But we have some pain to endure before we get to that place. And until that time, we will quietly mourn the departure of those smart, hard working colleagues that we had to let go of today.

Experts in the Industry: Todd Defren (5 of 45)

Full disclosure here, Todd Defren is the principal SHIFT Communications, the or our company’s agency of record. With that said, I would have chosen Todd irrespective of our relationship because he’s just plain smart. He’s also incredibly humble which is one of the things I really like about Todd (not necessarily an easy task when you’ve been named one of the “top 40 under 40″ by PRWeek).
Here’s how Todd answered the five questions from the Experts in Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 days post:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a communications specialist: I’m good at it (on good days, at least) because I can combine long experience with a fun, no-B.S. approach that synchs well with the more approachable form of marketing now on the rise. 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started blogging 5 years ago, but didn’t really “get into it” until 12 months later, at which point I was sick of seeing “Comments: 0” after every post.  It wasn’t until I took the initiative to discover what I was doing “wrong” that I realized I was missing out on a movement that re-inspired my passion for PR/Marketing.  I was skating on the surface with no clue as to the oceans underneath.  
With the wife and kids out for a weekend, I sat on the bed with my laptop and read every single Marketing/Tech blog I could find, and tried out every Web 2.0 widget available.  Epiphanies ensued.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Too easy.  Twitter.  This microblogging platform has yet to realize its full potential and still promises a lot of upside.  A lot of newly-unemployed folks may find themselves deciding to network on Twitter, as just one example: my point is that Twitter is approaching a tipping point in terms of mass appeal.  
Second choice would be Google – which, if they play their cards right, via tools like Google Reader, Blogspot, Feedburner, etc. could dominate the low-end blogging tech arena forever.  But given their crazy valuation, the upside is just not there anymore.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I’ve been an Obama partisan since his 2004 convention speech; I created a political blog last year with the sole purpose of defending Obama vs. right-wing smears.  Yeah, gonna have to go with Obama on this one – sorry to be so boring.
I actually never think in terms of “joining a community” in such a specific way.  “Joining” a community implies the acceptance of that community, and that comes via participation and feedback, not the act of “registering.”  I would participate in a community about toothpaste (though I cannot imagine why I’d seek it out), but would only “join” it if I gained personal value from the community members and overall experience. 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
“Happy wife, happy life” is my go-to pearl of wisdom.  (Might sound kind of lame – unless you’ve met my wife.)

Experts in the Industry: Mike Macadaan (3 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Mike Macadaan. By day, Mike is the VP product & design at Tsavo Media. By night (and on weekends, he transforms into one of the co-founders of the uber-trendy event series, Twiistup. In fact, I met Mike late last summer at one of his Twiistup events in LA. If I didn’t say it already, Mike’s a pretty cool guy.

Here are Mike’s insightful answers to my five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I work on a talented team of user experience visionaries and I’m good because I recognize and utilize the expertise on my team without letting my ego get in the way of where the best ideas come from.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I originally got into social media because it was an effective way to evangelize the benefits of balancing business driven design with more of a human centered approach.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I’d invest in a new company that balances amazing content with social principles that entices introverts to open up.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Sure – toothpaste is ripe for disruption.  I imagine that if you get enough bright people obsessing over toothpaste, the birth of a better mousetrap will occur.  After all, brushing your teeth is still kind of a pain in the ass so surely the toothpaste community will come with some kind of automated, green, politically correct, cost efficient way to clean the teeth.  Sounds like fun to me!
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Get your grandma, mailman, butcher, receptionist, admin or whoever else isn’t expressing themselves to jump into the conversation.  I’m inspired by the people I work with but it’s those that I least expect that floor me with simple wisdom.  Keep your eyes open for those everyday problems that haven’t been solved yet and create a better way to clean your teeth!

Experts in the Industry: Stephen Baker (2 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek. I interviewed Stephen last year prior to his book coming out in a podcast for the WE Show. Here are Stephen’s insightful answers to my five questions:
In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I learn about things and communicate what I learn, and I do it well–I hope–because I have extremely fresh memories of ignorance.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
BusinessWeek’s editor in chief, Steve Shepard, asked at a meeting in late 2004 if anyone would be interested in writing a cover story on blogs. I raised my hand. 
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
In this economic climate, I don’t think I’d put a lot of money into any company based on its use of “social.” The thing about social is that it’s hard to quantify the economic returns, especially now. That said, I’ve been impressed with IBM’s efforts in social media, from their blogs to their internal social network, Beehive. They not only encourage people to use these tools, but also have the “numerati” smarts to analyze the patterns of behavior and learn more about how their company actually works. So, since it’s a good bet that Big Blue will be around after this storm passes, I guess I’d put my money there. 
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders. 
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I would never dream of joining one. I don’t care about toothpaste and would be hard-pressed to think of a subject or a value less likely to bring me into contact with interesting or likeminded people. 
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I think my experience with social media has helped me, as an author, understand something about the dynamics of the book market. I started off thinking that my friends and family would be the core of the Numerati community, and that through marketing and word of mouth others would also buy it. Note the verb there: buy.
Now I realize that many people I know very well don’t buy the book, or even read it. Others do. But instead of focusing on who buys the book and who reads it, I’m now seeing that a community surrounds it. Some read it. Some hear about it. Some listen to a podcast or read a review or the blog. I think of my friendships, my colleagues, my family, Numerati readers and non-readers as this big set of venn diagrams with shifting overlaps. The key in the end is to create a vibrant community. And whether people buy or even read the book is really secondary.
Photo credit: Carolyn Cole from TheNumerati.net

Experts in the Industry: Shel Israel (1 of 45)

Thank you Shel for being my first guineau pig. Anwers to my questions from my Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days post.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I write and speak about social media and I’m good at it because of the passion I feel for the subject. 
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Desperation. My dotcom PR business tanked. If I was going to be broke, I wanted to do something I loved and that was writing. I asked four people if they would write a book with me. Scoble was the 4th and the 1st foolish enough to say yes. 
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Twitter. Because they have the greatest potential to grow the furthest and make the most ROI. 
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Barack Obama, doesn’t everyone? 
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Nope. I have no passion for toothpaste. 
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Time is the one resource you really cannot replace. Use it wisely and have as many enjoyable moments as you possibly can.

Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days

I’m trying a little experiment. If it works, it could make for some interesting insights. If it doesn’t, you’ll still get some interesting perspectives. I’m interviewing 45 interesting people in the 45 days leading up to SXSW. To that end, I sent an e-mail out last night inviting a number of luminaries in the world of social in to answer a few short questions:
UPDATE (3/27): I’ve obviously run WELL beyond my initial 45 and we are now past SXSW. HOWEVER, I’m continuing the series as long as I have interviewees. I’ll probably cap this at 90 but if you’re on the list below and don’t have a date assigned to you, I would still LOVE to get your answers.
NOTE (1/29) – there are some add’l questions in the comments that interviewees may want to consider from GGroovin, Alex, Debra, Chad, and Geekmommy
  • In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
  • How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
  • If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
  • Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
  • Would you join a toothpaste community? Why? [for background on this question, see the "Would you Join a Toothpaste Community"]
    NOTE: MY FRIEND SARA DORNSIFE JUST ALERTED ME TO THE PRESENCE OF SOMEONE THAT ACTUALLY PLAYS IN THIS SPACE – http://toothhugger.com/
  • Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
So far, here’s the list of folks that have either 1) already answered my questions or 2) have responded that they are willing to participate. For the folks that have already responded, I’ve put dates next to their names. First up, Mr. Shel Israel who responded within a couple of hours of my e-mailing him.
Here’s the roster:

*Trying not to shaft folks by putting up their post over the weekend.
**With so many folks agreeing to do this interview, I’m going to start doubling up
over the next couple of weeks.

I have a number of other folks that I’ve invited to participate but if you know somebody that is a MUST interview, let me know. Also, it’s not too late to add a question or two. Just post ‘em in the comments.
If I’ve reached out to you via DM, you can e-mail me answers at stroutmeister AT gmail dot com
UPDATE 1/28 Just added Sam Lawrence, Greg Verdino, Doug Haslam and Adam Cohen, Peter Naylor, Mari Smith, Lionel Menchaca, Jennifer Leggio, Ann Handley, Dave Evans, Ben McConnell, Amber Naslund, Christine Perkett, Brooks Bayne, Leslie Poston, Marcel LeBrun, Laura “Pistachio” Fitton, Jim Turner, Francine McKenna, and Scott Monty

UPDATE 1/29 added Josh Hilliker, Bill Johnston, Jason Falls, Marvin Chow, Tim Walker, Stowe Boyd, Natanya Anderson, Patrick Moran, Sam Eder, Kathy Warren, Rachel Happe, Francois Gossieaux, Paul May, Gradon Tripp, Wayne Sutton, Lani & Benn Rosales, Ken Burbary, Mike Walsh, Sara Dornsife, Mike Lewis, Chris Brogan, Ari Herzog, KD Paine, Shannon Paul, Mack Collier, Doc Searls, Alexis Martin Neely, Aronado Placencia and Dennis Howlett

NOTE: Okay, I’ve officially exceeded 45. But that’s not a bad thing. Not changing the title of the post though.

Insight’s from the AMA’s M-planet’s Conference

The keynote at the AMA’s M-planet Conference kicks off with Dennis Dunlap, CEO of the American Marketing Association talking about the importance of scenario planning for CMO’s as they move forward. This approach should avoid missing opportunities while not betting the farm on a trend or technology that may or not pan out. Two examples Dennis gave that reinforced this message were:

  1. President and founder of once great Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), Kenneth Olsen’s, prediction in 1997 that “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
  2. Business Week’s prediction in 1968 that stated “with over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.”
Not a bad recommendation given the associated risks although I imagine this type of approach is hard for many companies to execute on given their quarter to quarter type of approach. By the way, Dennis/AMA took an interesting approach in his kick off by bringing four actors who were playing the roll of the CMO of the future (circa 2015). While innovative, it came off as a little bit contrived because you could tell that the actors had memorized their lines so it wasn’t as authentic as it could have been. I give Dennis an A for effort and a B- for execution.
Next up, Anne Mulcahy who is the chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation. Anne (pictured above) started her keynote by citing a number of statistics including the fact that Blackberry owners check e-mail on average 50 times a day and ironically that there are thousands of blog posts created every hour (which is exactly what I’m doing as she speaks). Most importantly, Anne did mention the importance of figuring out the impact/value of social media. Glad to know this is on her mind.
One thing I like about Anne’s talk is that she is talking about the importance of “listening” to their customers. The approach that Xerox is taking is more CRM and focus group oriented which is a good first step but it’s too bad that they aren’t taking it a step further and listening to the socialsphere. 
Anne went on to stress the importance of going back to basics with a focus on brand, messaging, and measurement. Certainly good advice to live by but nothing radically new. Anne did conclude during the Q&A; portion of her talk with a recommendation that companies don’t retrench but instead act boldly! This means that they need to listen to what their marketing departments have to say and to explore new avenues for growth opportunities.
More to come…
UPDATED: 12:15 PM ET
I missed Amex CMO, John Hayes, keynote because I had to jump on a conference call so here is  a nice wrap up of that session written by @marketingshift.
Next up is Mary Dillon, EVP and Global CMO of McDonald’s. Now there is no doubt in my mind that Mary is incredibly smart. She’s also quite eloquent. However, her presentation is a mix of cool McDonald videos/commericals and a very high level discussion of the way she/McDonald’s think about global brand. Obviously this is an interesting topic for some folks but I can’t help but think that there are a number of people in the audience (small businesses in particular) that are scratching their heads saying “how does this help my 15 person business exactly?”
Unfortunately, Mary yadda-yadda-ed over the most interesting part of her presentation which for me was McDonald’s covert but clever Lost Ring game. She did mention that it was a tricky concept to sell to her senior team. I can only imagine being a fly on the wall of that meeting.
NEXT UP: My session which is titled – Competing in a World of Networked Organizations: Implications for Marketing. Obviously I can’t live blog this section so I’ll either find the Twitter hash tags for this one (should be #mplanet) or I will do a summary post sometime this evening including my portion of the PPT which I will post on slideshare.

Stranger in a Strange Land

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I’m at the AMA’s M-planet Conference in Orlando, FL, sitting of to the side of the show room floor (see picture). As I sit here recording this uttercast, I’m amazed by what a stranger I’ve become in this world of marketing. And that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially when I am a marketer myself and I’m supposed to understand the mindset of other marketers better than anyone else at my company.

The three points I made in today’s recording are:

  1. I shouldn’t be surprised that this is somewhat of a traditional conference because that’s what most of my marketing brethren/sistren are expecting (and that’s not a dig on anyone).
  2. This is a good reminder as to why I need to get outside the fishbowl. It’s fun to talk to my social friends and it’s why I chose to have dinner with Greg Verdino of Crayon last night but at the end of the day, it’s the marketers here I need to connect with.
  3. My job is to help the folks here understand how social media/marketing and online communities can be a game changer. That’s not to diminish other marketing channels like e-mail, SEO/SEM, online advertising, etc. but to let folks know that there is a game changer out there that will give them more than a .05% incremental return on their investment.

On that note, I’m off to network, watch some panels (with a little live blogging/tweeting where appropriate) and then some evangelizing during my speaking slot at 2:00 PM.

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Aaron Strout’s Bio

Aaron is the head of location based marketing at WCG, a global agency offering integrated creative, interactive and marketing communications services to clients in healthcare, consumer products and technology. At WCG, Aaron not only focuses on helping customers with mobile marketing and location based marketing but also helps provide social voice for the company. In this role, Aaron continues with his speaking, blogging (syndicated on socialmediainformer.com), podcasting and social networking activities with an eye toward creating awareness and lead generation for WCG. Prior to joining WCG, Aaron spent time as the CMO of social media agency, Powered Inc., VP of social media at Mzinga and director of interactive at Fidelity Investments.

In addition to his knowledge of the interactive and social media landscape, Aaron has more than 17 years of online marketing and advertising experience, with a strong background in integrated and online marketing. Aaron is a founding member and former president of (BIMA) and a member and former board member of the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX). Aaron is also on the advisory board of the prestigious Social Media Club.

In addition, Aaron is in the process of co-authoring the book, Location Based Marketing for Dummies(Wiley). The book is due out in July but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

You can reach Aaron at stroutmeister AT gmail DOT com or on Twitter.



UPCOMING

PAST

 

 

  • Wine Industry Technology Symposium, July 13-14, Napa, CAAchieving ROI through SMO and Location Based Marketing
  • Boston Social Media Breakfast, May 6, 2010, Boston, MA
  • Social Media Strategies and Community 2.0 Conference, May 3-5, Boston, MA
  • SXSW: March 12, 2010 Austin, TX


Aaron’s Areas of Expertise

    • Location-based Services/Marketing

 

  • Social Media Marketing
  • The New Agency: Picking the Right Partner to Support your Social Media Efforts
  • Social Media for Business
  • Enterprise Twitter Strategies
  • Location-based Services for Business
  • Building Business Communities
  • Blogging/podcasting Best Practices

 

MLK Day Special: Values and Business

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Yes, I’m working today. Apparently it’s a Texas thing. It’s not my first choice but then again, I don’t make the rules.

Given the importance of this day, I thought I’d take a minute to honor Dr. Martin Luther King by talking about something that I’m sure he would have appreciated i.e. values in the workplace. Specificically, things like authenticity, transparency and good old fashioned trust.

To that end, here are the URLs I metion in my video post below:

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