March 31: Weekly Content/Social Marketing Links

I recently asked my team (marketing, sales and product) to start coming to our weekly staff meeting with one article/blog post that spoke to them. It could be on anything but they needed to be prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about. The goal is to share these on a weekly basis. Here’s what week one netted:

DP Rabalais:
Interesting post by DirJournal on how airlines are using social media as part of their marketing strategy. The article looks at how four airlines are using social tools such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Blogs, etc, and what kind of results they’re getting. The airlines covered are: Southwest, JetBlue, Delta and Virgin.

Jay MacIntosh:
This MediaPost article is really strong in describing the importance of content (i.e. people sharing content is the fuel of social…) and how data and insight can/should drive ongoing improvement 

Doug Wick:

My article for today’s meeting is a post from Lenovo’s VP of Consumer Marketing, David Churbuck, on his personal blog, someone who is decidedly outside the social media echo chamber (not to discount the value of thoughts from within the chamber!).

This illustrates the mindset of many marketing folks out there who are focused on consumer marketing, and his advice hints directionally at what Powered does. But most people don’t connect this idea with social – it’s still a long walk from this first bit of advice. Anyhow, thought it might spark some interesting discussion for us. Also note the sole comment from Jim Forbes . . . yeah that Forbes.

Bill Fanning:
The iMediaConnection article that I’d like to share is titled “Rules of Engagement Marketing” at . This article discusses the benefits of having a two way dialogue with your customers as opposed to old marketing tactics of shouting at prospects in an interruptive manner and expecting them to listen.

Beth Lopez:
This ClickZ article discusses a new trend that is starting to take shape – Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are driving more traffic to sites than Google. Also states that social media is poised to become possibly the only growth sector in advertising in 2009. It will be interesting to see this play out in the coming year and how the social networks/platforms will monetize their platform w/o being serving intrusive display ads – particularly in light of Gen Y psychographics towards marketing. Another question that I will pose to our team (this article had me thinking on this) – Will Google and search become irrelevant in the future (or severely minimized) and lose out to social media sites? Only time will tell. But I will say that I, personally, am using Google less and less as I connect with friends and colleagues on twitter, yammer, Facebook and email to find out where to go on the Web. In fact, for the March newsletter, the majority of content was crowdsourced on yammer and our blog instead of me going to Google to search for relevant articles. Food for thought.

This post from the Creating Passionate Users blog does a good job of discussing the types of strategies that might be employed to help cultivate a community.

This ReadWriteWeb post reinforces the impact that strong relationships and information flow have on achieving business goals within the organization.

Experts in the Industry: Mark Wallace (62 of 45)

I’ve known Mark Wallace, VP of social media for EDR, for a few years now. He and I were part of the exec team at Shared Insights (along with Jim Storer) — a company that ultimately merged with Knowledge Planet to become Mzinga. The reason I mention this is that Mark and I have spend A LOT of time together… in a good way. From trips to Vegas (conference related) to attending Tool concerts together, we’ve had a chance to bond well beyond a tradititional business relationship.

What I appreciate about Mark (and have from the day I interviewed with him) is that he is a top shelf sales guy. Not the snake oil varietal but a guy that has worked his butt off building relationships, delivering value and ultimately trying to figure out how he can make his partners that much more successful. To that end, it’s not surprising that he ended up at Mzinga client, EDR, heading up their social and online community initiatives.
I could go on and on about Mark but for your sake, I’ll let his answers do the rest of the talking in the Experts in the Industry series:
In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am building a community for environmental and property due diligence professionals for Environmental Data Resources called commonground and have succeeded and failed enough times over the years to recognize how to create a vibrant and valuable community.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I originally got involved in online communities back in 2001. I worked very closely with Jim Storer at DCI building online communities in support of our exposition, conference, and seminar business. I remember when we sold our first web seminar for crmcommunity.com members to Siebel Systems (will always be one of my favorite sales of all time) when web seminars were an emerging trend. I remember the high fives flying.
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 think I would invest in HubSpot. In addition to the fact that I really like their business model, I feel like they are a company that has truly embraced social media through all aspects of their business. And, I really find value in the products and services they deliver.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
If I had to pick one, I would have to say Leonard Abess, Chairman and CEO, of City National Bancshares. What an amazing story. He succeeded where most other banks failed, distributed $60 million in bonuses to his current employees and former employees, and did not show up to take credit for the success when the bonuses were paid out. He is the true definition of a leader and team player. I would love the opportunity to meet him.
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I don’t think I would join a toothpaste community although it certainly sounds appealing! What I would like to do is to spend time with the folks who manage that community. I suspect it would be a fairly challenging task. Imagine what we might learn!
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Three of the most important things I have learned over the years are:
  1. Communication happens in three ways – face to face, over the phone, and online. Ignore that as part of your social media strategy and you are doomed to fail.
  2. Members, partners, and the community owner, need to receive value. If they do, they will participate and even spend money. 
  3. It is important to make time. Find a way.
You can also follow Mark on Twitter at @MWallComm

Overheard: I Survived SXSW ’09 and Lived To Talk About It (part 2)

Here’s the thing about SXSW. It’s just too great an experience to contain in one wrap up post. Last week, I wrote the first installment of my SXSX experience summary which gave six of my highlights from the event. Now it’s onto the second post about the event also known as “geek spring break”:

Experts in the Industry: Sara Dornsife (61 of 45)

Funny? Gosh darn Sara Dornsife is funny. I suspected it the first couple times we talked but what sealed the deal for me was her recent post about What your car says about you and why the U.S. auto industry is failing. I won’t spoil it for you but I guarantee you won’t be able to read it without laughing out loud.

That’s not the only thing I like about Sara, however. She’s also smart, insightful and has a certain hipness that makes me happy about the fact that I get to hang out with her semi-regularly (she and her husband live in Austin). She’s also on the market — think marketing meets great blogger/social media-type — if you’re looking (she’s @SaraD on Twitter). Given her most recent experience running projects at Sun Microsystems, she can definitely “hang” when it comes to the corporate environment.
I could go on all day but I won’t. Instead, let’s jump over to the answers to her five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a community advocate and marketing purist.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
The old fashioned way, I fell into it. When I saw the opportunity to get involved in something new and to learn new skills and new ways to market, I took it. In my case it was through open source. We used forums, wikis, IRC, local user groups, and blogs to communicate with our communities. That was my foray into social media tools. As a marketer it was a big shift. Our users weren’t interested in glossy color brochures full of catch phrases and adjectives, they wanted the facts. And more importantly, as users, they wanted to be involved to improve a product they use. It was both fresh and refreshing.

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 like Zecco’s model and their use of social tools and a vibrant community to help their users learn how to invest.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I have enormous respect for the people who generously give their time and energy to their local communities. The local Social Media Breakfast had the people from Mobile Loaves and Fishes in to get advice on to use social media to get their message out. I give them a huge and hearty standing ovation. I know they aren’t really public figures, but they deserve our respect.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Ah, the toothpaste community. No. Exactly, why? Communities are a relationship, and like any relationship require commitment and time to be meaningful. I wouldn’t give my time to toothpaste. It already gets 10 minutes of my life everyday. If I had an autistic child, for example, I could see giving a ton of time and commitment to that community as a means of mutual support. I can handle brushing my teeth all by myself.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
To me, social media is a tactic. A very important one listed with other important ones like branding, messaging, PR, website content, events… Where social media differs is in that it doesn’t fall into a single bucket, it helps with support, QA, communications and development. That makes a pretty powerful tool. Cluetrain came out over 10 years ago and we are finally just starting to get it. I’m pretty excited to see what comes next.

Mr. Transparent

In today’s Boston Sunday Globe, I was quoted in an article about the impact of social media during recessionary times. In particular, I talked about how important it is for businesses to be “proactively transparent,” especially in the event that a reduction in force is required.

Unfortunately, the way I was quoted in the article makes it sound like I was calling into question the comittment to transparency and thus, the ethics of a good friend and former employer of mine, Barry Libert. For this, I am truly sorry for two reasons:
  1. Barry has taught me a tremendous amount over the last three years and has helped me grow both personally and professsionally. For this reason, I will be eternally grateful to Barry and the lessons he’s taught me.
  2. Barry is one of the most transparent people I know. In fact, he is the inspiration for my regular use and demonstration of transparency at my currrent company. Anyone that has ever read my blogs knows this about me.
So just for the record, I AM still a big believer of transparency — as is Barry. And that’s why I feel like it’s so important for me to right this wrong, even if it was the furthest thing from my original intention. I’m going to go ahead and chalk this up as a “lesson learned.”
Best,
Aaron

Experts in the Industry: Sean O’Driscoll (60 of 45)

Sean O’Driscoll, CEO of Ants Eye View and former GM of Microsoft’s MVP Community has become a good friend over the last couple of years (I think this is what my man, Mike Walsh, was talking about in his latest blog post). I first met Sean via Mukund Mohan and did a joint podcast with the the two of them. It was one of the first handful of podcasts I ever did so I’ll apologize to Sean in retrospect for subjecting him to that experience. Since then, we run into each other at ForumOne events, online and most recently, walking down the street in Austin during SXSW.

One of the reasons you should pay extra close attention to Sean’s responses is that he is truly a “Community” guy. As the former community manager of Microsoft’s MVP community, he’s not just a “social media guru” but someone that has lived and breathed community management and building. He’s now taken those skills and joined forces with one of my other friends, Jake McKee and now helps companies think about their online community building efforts.
With that said, on to the answers:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I’m good at knowing what I’m bad at and being able to own that and resource around it! I guess beyond that, I’m a good translator in that I can generally help two groups of people who seem unaligned better understand what each other are talking about and how to get on the same page. This is the way I see it in social media – my job is to help translate this phenomenon into actionable strategy for business executives.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Accidentally of course! I was in Compuserve in 92 as a customer service rep for Microsoft. Then 10 years and many different MSFT roles later, I found myself running the Microsoft MVP program which identified, thanked and engaged the top global contributors to Microsoft product communities. 5 years in the trenches of leading that global program was an education I likely could never replace!

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?
Hah! I can only answer one way – Ant’s Eye View, the company my partner, Jake McKee and I founded. It’s a simple mission, do work that matters with people you can learn from – I’d love to have $10M to spend on growing that ambition. We are all about helping big (and sometimes not so big) companies re-learn how to have conversations with their customers – We take the “ant’s eye view” in saying you can’t treat your customers like markets, you have to get down, eye to eye and genuinely engage with them if you hope to build authentic differentiation around customer experience!

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
How many have said Obama? Easy choice and a lot to admire. I think as an entrepreneur in my late 30s, I’ll pick a category of business leaders instead of one person. I admire people with the vision, courage and will to leverage credit and do whatever it takes to chase their dream as small business people. I’m at a different place in my life as I start the journey – it’s scary and wonderful, but it feels way different to me at 39 than going all in at 22, 24, 28 or whatever. Props for that ambition – I wish you well re-inventing what the world does and how it gets done.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I doubt I would, but doesn’t mean there shouldn’t or couldn’t be one. I would join (and have done so) a BBQ community!

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Because I do what I do with a customer experience dream, let me just share these two thoughts:

  1. Customer Experience Management is NOT about better escalation management – come on people!
  2. Peter Drucker said “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Great statement that I’ll modernize this way: “the purpose of a business is to create customers who create customers!!”

Social Marketing: This ROI is Too Good to be True

Yesterday, Powered hosted a webcast titled “Social Marketing: This ROI is Too Good to be True (archive coming shortly). The presentation consisted of 20+ slides focused on:

  • Branded Online Community Measurement – Kathy Warren, Powered
  • Results of the 2008 ROI Benchmark Study for Social Marketing Programs – Bill Harvey, TRA
  • Social Media: Why it Makes Sense and How I Prove it to Myself – Brian Halligan, Hubspot
Social Marketing: This ROI is Too Good to be Truehttp://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=q109roiwebinarfinalpresentation-090326112754-phpapp01&stripped_title=this-roi-looks-too-good-to-be-true
View more presentations from astrout.

An archive of this webcast will be available shortly.

Cross-posted on http://blog.powered.com

Experts in the Industry: Rick Calvert (59 of 45)

When I think of my friend, Rick Calvert, CEO and founder of BlogWorld & New Media Expo, the words “nice guy,” “friendly,” “smart,” and “humble” all come to mind. I was lucky enough to meet Rick a year ago at SXSW during a blogger dinner at Stubbs BBQ in Austin. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Rick was definitely someone I wanted to stay in touch with. While I don’t stay in touch with Rick as regularly as I like, it’s always a joy chatting with him on Twitter or bumping into him in real life.

With that as a backdrop, let’s see how one of the hardest working guys in social answered the five questions in the Experts in the Industry series:

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Well I am news junkie particularly a politics junkie. I am just interested by the whole process and I love arguing about politics. Which isn’t something you can do in most polite circles so blogging was a natural outlet for me. I started my political blog The Real Ugly American back in 2005 and one thing lead to another where I wanted to go to the blogging tradeshow and figure out how to make my blog better. Of course there wasn’t any such thing so we launched BlogWorld & New Media Expo in 2007.

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?
Since I am absolutely the wrong guy to ask this question I am going to take a very contrarian position and say Yahoo. Now they don’t need my money and a lot of folks love to bash Yahoo but they may have more cool new media tools than just about anyone out there and if they figure out how to market and monetize them all with the full force of Yahoo behind them I think they are going to surprise a lot of people.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I absolutely hate picking one “best of” anything. So I will cheat and pick some past folks and present. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were both amazing men amidst generations of amazing men so those two stand out for me on a historical perspective. I actually have a portrait of Lincoln on my wall next to my desk. Haven’t found a good vintage one of Washington yet. For public figures today General David Patraeus will go down in history as a great military leader. I really like Mark Cuban. He says what he thinks and follows his passions.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
No. I am just not that into teeth.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I don’t have any pearls of wisdom. What I can say is I cannot express how excited I am to be a part of this media revolution. I think we all are. When people realize just how all encompassing new media is it really hits you like a ton of bricks. The invention of the computer in our lifetimes was a major turning point in history, the atomic bomb was a turning point in history and I think we will look back 20 years from now and say new media was a turning point in history. To be able to participate in something like that is a tremendous gift and a blessing.

Photo Credit: Keith Burtis

Experts in the Industry: Shawn Morton (58 of 45)

What can I say about Shawn Morton except that he’s a funny guy. A SMART and funny guy. One of my favorites from my 2009 SXSW experience. He’s also a senior consultant for social media at Nationwide Insurance — not an insignificant task given the current economic environment. In spite of all that, Shawn handles himself gracefully on Twitter and in person.

To that end, enjoy Shawn’s answers to the five Experts in the Industry questions:
In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
Wow, you know it will be tough for me to answer anything with just one sentence, but I’ll give it a shot. I am helping Nationwide Insurance become more connected to our customers, prospective customers, agents and employees using my experience in building web communities and aligning social tools with business objectives.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started working with online communities in 1999 when I joined the team at TechRepublic.com. I was fortunate enough to be paired up with Bill Johnston (who was featured at #43 in this series) for a couple of years as we built and grew a thriving community for IT professionals. I worked on TechRepublic.com (and consulted with other sites within CNET Networks) for a total of 9 years. During that time, we developed one of the largest IT communities on the web.

For the last two years I was with CNET, I also built one of the first lifestreaming services, Profilactic.com, in my spare time.

In July of 2008, I relocated to Columbus to lead social media at Nationwide Insurance.

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?
If I can’t keep the money to fund social initiatives at Nationwide, I think I would invest it in Zappos.com. They understand the importance of putting your customers first in everything you do. The transparency and responsiveness that they’ve demonstrated using Twitter further reinforces their brand promise.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
There are so many people in the social media space that I admire, so it will be difficult to pick just one. I think Tony Hseih and Gary Vaynerchuk, who couldn’t be more different personality-wise, both really get the power that social media has to provide an exceptional, personalized customer experience. That is part of our strategy for using social media at Nationwide, so both of those guys serve as an inspiration in that regard.

Would you join a toothpaste community?
I think insurance and toothpaste have a lot in common when it comes to interest and enthusiasm. At Nationwide, we are doing a lot of things to get people interested in engaging with us online that don’t focus primarily on insurance.

First, we are using a variety of services (Radian6, Google alerts and blog search, Twitter search, etc.) to listen and respond to what customers are saying about us. Over time, we want social media users to know that they can reach out to us on their platform of choice. We think this will help us provide a better overall customer experience.

Second, we are establishing presences on the leading social sites (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube) and posting content from Nationwide events and sponsorships. So instead of trying to establish an insurance-focused community, we are engaging customers and prospective customers around their areas of passion. These include our relationships with the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ohio State athletics and The State of the Black Union.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
A lot of people ask me how a big company can get started in social media. I think the best thing any company can do is to start listening to the conversations that are already taking place about them on the web. Whether they are on personal blogs, discussion boards, Twitter or sites like Epinions, you have to start paying attention. Not all companies are ready to start participating, but if you start listening, you’ll get a better sense of the opportunities you have to use social media to respond and interact with your customers online.

Photo Credit: Jim Storer

Experts in the Industry: Shannon Paul (57 of 45)

What a great day to feature my friend (on Twitter and IRL), Shannon Paul. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Shannon last week at SXSW in the blogger’s lounge, at the Social Media Club meeting and at a variety of parties across the event. In addition to Shannon being a super sweetheart (and one of the nicest people I know), she was also the recent winner of our “what is social marketing” challenge. Oh yeah, she is also the social voice and brains behind this little hockey team in Detroit called the Redwings (heard of ‘em?).

On that note, here are Shannon’s answers to the Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I have a lot of tenacity and an ability to help people connect ideas previously thought to be unrelated, which is what makes me good at my current position working in New Media with the NHL Detroit Red Wings.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I have always been an information junkie so it was really only a matter of time. I started researching this stuff when I was in college for an independent study project I proposed doing in lieu of attending a capstone course. For the project I launched a blog about literature that absolutely nobody read, but through that project, I learned how blogs work, a bit about HTML, what an RSS feed is, etc. It was during that time that I started reading blogs about blogging and social media. It took awhile for me to ever start commenting, but then when people started talking back to me, I was hooked.
Then I found Twitter and forget about it… people were exchanging information and talking to each other so quickly. Plus, it seemed like everyone I encountered there had something on the go. They weren’t just people who were punching a clock, they had passions they were devoted to on the side; they were creating and sharing content. Everyone seemed to have some kind of hustle; some kind of expertise. Right away, everything I was reading about social media clicked in my head and I dove in head first. I wanted to hustle, too.
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?
If I had $10 million I would start my own company. I have ideas… LOTS of ideas.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Toni Morrison. She is one of the most gifted writers of our time, but she was an editor in the publishing business before she ever published one of her own books and through listening to her speak about her work, I learned to be a lot more accepting of the market and how different people use the market to move ideas. In the past I was one of those people who would look down on a lot of people, especially artists, who embraced the market as having sold out. I love the fact that much of her work can be defined as high art, but she wasn’t above going on Oprah and engaging with regular women in a means of making her work more accessible. FYI, I think she qualifies as a public figure because she’s a Nobel Prize winner… that should count.
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I never underestimate the power of creativity and incentives. I can’t think of a reason to join a toothpaste community, but that doesn’t mean I never would. If there was a way to engage in a toothpaste community that offered a means of getting discounts on dental services, THAT would be worth something to a lot of people without coverage… or even to people with coverage if they could supplement it some way. Or, I’m not a parent, but if I were, maybe I would join a toothpaste community that gave me tips and tricks on how to encourage my kids to brush their teeth. I used to smoke (gasp, I know) but while I was quitting, I would brush my teeth ten times a day as a means of powering through the craving — a tip I learned in an online community — maybe a toothpaste company could launch a community dedicated to helping smokers and smokeless tobacco users to quit the habit — that’s good for oral hygiene right? The bottom line is that I would join any community that provided something of value to me. If a toothpaste company can figure out a way to do that, then yes.
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Never be afraid to do something that has never been done before. Somebody has to do it first, why can’t it be you? Oh, and listen to smart people.