45 Things I’ve Learned in My 45 Years on Earth

The other night, I was flying back from the west coast and found myself on a flight without wifi and in a rare situation where I was fairly caught up on e-mail/work. Instead of sleeping or reading my latest issue of Rolling Stone, I got thinking about how lucky I was 45 years into my life and all of the things that I had learned along the way. I was skeptical at first that I could come up with 45 lessons (to match my age) but low and behold once I started writing they managed to flow.

ocean

Many of you that know me have already seen this on Facebook (apparently it struck a nerve as I received over 200 likes and north of 85 comments as of the writing of this post). But given the ephemeral nature of Facebook and the fact that I would like to be able to hold onto these little “Stroutisms” as someone called them, I am pasting them over here on my now-seldom-used blog for safe keeping.

I amy also add to these over time in the comments. Feel free to do the same if you are so inclined:

Sitting on a plane with no wifi and thinking about some of the things I’ve learned over the course of my 45 years on this planet. Here are 45 things in no particular order:

  1. Raising children is the hardest job you will ever have.
  2. Raising children is the most rewarding job you will ever have.
  3. Being in love is an amazing feeling.
  4. Being in love with the same woman for 20 years is an even more amazing feeling.
  5. One of the keys to keeping a marriage alive is good communication.
  6. Another key to keeping a marriage alive is being willing to meet your spouse halfway. On everything.
  7. Dusk is my favorite time of the day.
  8. The ocean is one of the most remarkable things on this planet. If you live near it, never take it for granted.
  9. Everything in moderation… including moderation.
  10. I was incredibly lucky to grow up with two wonderful parents and four equally wonderful grandparents.
  11. No matter how many times I fly on a plane, I am amazed that something that big/heavy can fly.
  12. Nothing quite as good as tomatoes fresh out of the garden.
  13. Anything that is good in life is worth working for.
  14. If you don’t love your job, quit. Seriously.
  15. I have been lucky to always work at places where I have enjoyed and respected my colleagues.
  16. A good night sleep is underrated.
  17. Never stop learning.
  18. Never stop listening to new music. Ask your friends, kids, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations.
  19. I am still pissed that Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley died too early.
  20. Few things beat sitting on the patio/porch/deck in the morning with a cup of coffee.
  21. Okay, sitting on the patio/porch/deck in the early evening with a cool drink might beat a cup of coffee in the morning.
  22. There is something magical about a bonfire or a fire in the fireplace for that matter.
  23. Bacon should be its own food group. True story, I didn’t eat bacon for 20 years. I am now making up for lost time.
  24. It’s important to provide guidelines and discipline and firm boundaries for your children.
  25. It’s equally important to transgress guidelines and boundaries with your kids once in a while.
  26. If you have something to do, get it done first. Procrastinating just makes the time in between the present and what you have to do miserable.
  27. Writing a book is hard.
  28. Writing a blog consistently is hard.
  29. Running 3-4 times a week is hard.
  30. Writing a book is one of the most amazing things you will ever do.
  31. Writing a blog consistently is cathartic.
  32. Running 3-4 times a week feels good. And is good for you.
  33. Don’t ever take yourself too seriously.
  34. Compliment at least one person every day.
  35. Seeing a baseball game at Fenway Park at least once in a lifetime should be everyone’s bucket list.
  36. Having a soul mate makes life immeasurably easier.
  37. Tell your children you love them at least once a day – even when you are mad at them. Same with your significant other.
  38. There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. I am still working on listening more and talking less.
  39. Given a choice, I will choose plain cheese pizza over those with toppings.
  40. There are few things tastier than vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge.
  41. People are inherently good.
  42. There are no such things as absolutes in politics but rather shades of gray.
  43. Be comfortable in your own skin.
  44. The older I get, the less I realize I know.
  45. I love being 45.

 

SXSW Best Bars, Restaurants, Panels & Pro Tips from W2O

Looking for the “best of” SXSW Interactive this year? Look no further. The W2o Group team has put together a content capsule with lists of best bars, restaurants and panels, videos, survival tips and more. Got additional goodness to add? Throw ‘em in the comments.

Happy SXSW!

Austin Breakfast Places FTW

The other day, our family decided we wanted to break out of our normal habits of eating breakfast at Magnolia and Torchy’s so I asked my Austin friends where they suggested we should try next. The original thread on Facebook is here.

In the spirit of sharing, I have created a blog post with each of the restaurants suggested, a link to the Yelp review (and menu where available). I’ve also included any notes provided by the recommender like “great brunch place” or  “good for “Bloody Marys.” If you have others you want to add in the comments, go for it. If you leave the link to the Yelp review and menu, I will go back and include them in the original list. Here goes:

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Yup, NFL season kicks off tonight. For many of us, this is like Christmas in September. After several long months of waiting, dealing with offseason moves/arrests etc., we’ve finally arrived at day one.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, several of my W2O Group colleagues — led by Michael Westgate – have put together a social ranking of all 32 NFL teams. You can get more details about the project and the methodology here. Of course I am immensely proud of the fact that my New England Patriots sit in the number three spot on the chart. Yes, I would prefer the number one slot but I’ll chalk this up to the fact that there is a lot of pent up enthusiasm around the Forty Niners given the fact that it’s been a while since they’ve had a relevant team.

21. Chicago Bears - 44.69
22. Oakland Raiders - 44.36
23. Denver Broncos - 43.86
24. Minnesota Vikings - 43.66
25. St. Louis Rams - 42.94
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 41.51
27. Kansas City Chiefs - 39.90
28. Arizona Cardinals - 38.34
29. Carolina Panthers - 35.83
30. Miami Dolphins- 33.22
31. Detroit Lions - 29.40
32. Cincinnati Bengals - 26.91

How about your team? A little surprised by the Bengals cellar-dweller status. Not nearly as surprised by Detroit owning the 32nd slot given their poor season last year. But given their revamped defense and the addition of a running game in Reggie Bush, don’t be surprised if you see their stock climb over the next couple of months.

My Wife the Community Manager

It’s funny how things turn out sometimes. As someone that has worked in the digital/mobile/social space for the last 20 years, I’ve always spent my fair share of time exploring what’s new on the Internet. Testing out new technologies. Embracing new mobile apps and even writing a book on the phenomena that is location-based marketing. The same could not be said about my wife, Melanie Strout, up until six years ago.

No, this post isn’t about how as a wife and mom that she is the “community manager” of our family (although she certainly is that and a good one to boot). She is in fact a real life community manager. She’s worked with big brands and small brands. She’s done community management, forum and Facebook moderation and even some social media marketing. Five years ago, however, I can remember a conversation we had about blogging. Let’s just say that she wasn’t the biggest fan at the time. But all that has changed.melanie

Rather than put it in my words, I’ve decided to interview her. Below you will find five questions about how she got started, what she’s learned along the way and what wisdom she might impart to others that are considering the same line of work.

  1. [Aaron] How did you get started with social media?
    [Melanie] About six years ago, I took the plunge and jumped on Facebook. At first it made me a little nervous putting myself out there for the world to see. But over time, reconnecting with old friends from high school and college made me realize that the value of Facebook far outweighed any of the downside of living my life more publicly.
  2. [Aaron] Tell us about your first job as a moderator.
    [Melanie] It’s funny, I had been out of the work force for about 11 years raising our three kids. But once they were all in school, it felt like it might be time to find a part time job to earn a little mad money for the family. My last job before having children was running an incoming call center for a customer service department so I felt comfortable dealing with customer questions, comments and complaints. It just happened to be over the phone versus online. It was a little bit of a stretch but between my comfort level with social channels and past experience with customer service, I took a shot and applied online for a job with Canadian moderation company called ICUC. Imagine how surprised I was the day I got a call back from ICUC six weeks later to do a short-term moderation project. It wasn’t particularly exciting — just approving or rejecting pictures of Toyota’s NASCAR that had been customized by fans and uploaded to NASCAR’s site. But, that job lead to other moderation jobs for ICUC’s client brand pages. I learned a ton in a short period of time.
  3. [Aaron] How did you parlay your content moderation job into a community manager role?
    [Melanie] After ICUC, a friend named Sylvia Marino saw that I was looking for my next gig and she connected with me a company she was working with called GenConnect. They were a content company that was looking to grow their social presences. That was a real roll up your sleeves kind of opportunity with just the three of us creating content, marketing the site and managing their social presences. Not long after the GenConnect job started, Sylvia also connected me with Edmunds.com. That led to a forum moderation job that helped me hone my skills.
  4. [Aaron] What was one of your most challenging moments as a moderator/community manager?
    [Melanie] Hmmm, there have been a few of those. I remember when I was managing Halls Cough Drop’s Facebook page and someone lashed out at the brand. For one, it’s always hard not to take those comments personally as an ambassador for the brand. You also are hyper-focused on making sure you are making good recommendations to your brand partners and stay in constant communication with the team (including legal).
  5. [Aaron] Your last job was as the community manager for California Restaurant Month. Tell us a little about that.
    [Melanie] That was a fun project working with Jay Baer and Lisa Loeffler. We had to create a brand new Facebook page along with several other new social channels. Fortunately, fine dining is a passion area for many folks so driving interest and engagement wasn’t as hard as it was with some of my past opportunities. One of the highlights of the job was leading/moderating Facebook chats with several celebrity chefs like Cindy Pawlson, Roy Choi and Tanya Holland. Not only was it fun to get to know those chefs but the conversations they created on Dine in CA’s Facebook page drove tons of comments, likes and shares which is always a good thing.

As luck would have it, my wife, Melanie, is currently looking for her next community manager job. Ideally, it’s a 20-30 hour/work-from-home opportunity. She is open to both short-term and long-term project work. You can find out more about Melanie on LinkedIn here.

Think(ing) Like Zuck: 5 Facebook Marketing Tips

Originally posted on WCG’s blog on 1/15/2013.

When I agreed to review Ekaterina Walter’s new book, Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, I immediately tried to think of a way to make the book review special. After all, Ekaterina is not only a friend (and client) but more importantly, she’s a very smart woman who has achieved quite a bit at a young age. In addition to being a regular contributor to Mashable, Fast Company, and Huffington Post, she has also been featured in Forbes. If that wasn’t enough, she also sits on the Board of Directors for the prestigious Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).
The problem is that unless one regularly writes book reviews, they can be a little boring and probably not as informative as one would like. And while I’ve done a few in my day including Josh Bernoff’s book Empowered for AdAge, Clay Shirky’s, Cognitive Surplus and most recently, Chade-Meng Tan of Google’s, Search Inside Yourself, I still don’t have the swing of it. Fortunately for me (and you) Ekaterina not only learned some important business lessons from Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerburg over the last several years, she also knows how to share a few herself.
To that end, before get into a quick synopsis of Ekaterina’s book I am going to give you five of her best Facebook marketing tips. Note that these aren’t just tips that she picked up while managing her own personal page. In fact, these are tips that she’s learned from helping to manage Intel’s Facebook page which happens to have north of 16 million fans as of this writing. Here goes:
  1. Humanize your voice.
    Though you need to be mindful of the consistency of your brand voice, it doesn’t mean that it has to sound “corporate”. This is the community of people, not a platform for broadcasting the PR messages, so address your fans as they were your friends. Remember, the biggest ROI of Facebook is in humanizing your brand. So humanize your voice as well.
  2. Adjust your content strategy as you go.
    Besides being a part of the community and hoping to get discounts on your products, information is one of the most important reasons why your customers become your fans on Facebook. So add stickiness to your page through great content. Use 80/20 rule: 80% of status updates should provide value to the fan and 20% can be around your products or services.
  3. Keep your status updates short.
    Even though Facebook increased the maximum number of characters for the original post from 420 to 63,206, you shouldn’t by any means try to use all of them. A study by Buddy Media showed that posts 80 characters or less in length receive 27% higher engagement rates. Besides, if you ever want to use Sponsored Story products, only the first 90 characters of your status update will be visible in the ad.
  4. Post frequency and timing.
    Every brand is different, but normally posting once a day 5-7 times a week works rather well. By posting too much you risk alienating your fans, but not posting enough, you lose your reach. The study by comScore and Facebook found that each incremental day of publishing increases the reach among fans by approximately 2.5%. So my recommendation is to post 7 days a week.
  5. Moderation guidelines.
    Ensure that your Facebook community has clear House Rules or moderation guidelines. You should specify how you will manage your community, what to expect and which posts you will absolutely not tolerate (abusive, insulting, illegal, etc). Always be prepared in case you’ll have to refer your rowdy fans back to your guidelines. Also, specify what your response timing is, so your customers are not upset if you not able to address inquiries immediately.

Now that we have Ekaterina’s five tips, let’s move onto a quick synopsis of the book.

What I like about the book is that Ekaterina starts off with a few examples of how Facebook is changing our society by connecting us in ways like never before. She follows that up with a few pages of mind blowing statistics (hint: Facebook would be the third largest country on earth). But that’s just the appetizer. It’s the main course — her five secrets — that really start the creative juices flowing.

With too many authors, there is a tendency to get wrapped around the axle with too much detail. Not in Ekaterina’s case. In fact, arguably the best thing about “Think Like Zuck” is the simplicity of the construct she uses to convey the CEO savant’s five life lessons: the 5 Ps.

The 5 Ps described in the book are:

  • Passion — Keep your energy and commitment fully charged at all times by pursuing something you believe in.
  • Purpose — Don’t just create a great product, drive a meaningful movement.
  • People — Build powerful teams that can execute your vision.
  • Product — Create a product that is innovative, that breaks all the rules, that changes everything.
  • Partnerships — Build powerful partnerships with people who fuel imagination and energize execution.

In addition to her five secrets (the 5 Ps), the other thing that caught my eye were the use of pithy but powerful quotes throughout the book. I’m not sure if this was intentional but these quotes (a few of my favorites are cited below) are similar to the “keep your status updates short” mantra in the five tips above:

  • Transparency and empowerment breed dedication, loyalty and trust. Trust is the unleashed imagination and unlimited innovation (p. 101)
  • A company’s success is serious business. But introducing a little fun into the workplace makes for a happy and highly motivated employee base (p. 110)
  • Make innovation personal! Involve your employees and give them freedom to create (p. 151)

The thing that I appreciated the most about the book? It was only 184 pages (minus the notes/appendix). To be honest, that’s about all the attention span anyone has these days for a business book. And considering the fact that Ekaterina was able to sum up the five things that make Mark Zuckerberg a great (even if improbable) leader in such an efficient fashion, I can feel good telling you that you should buy a copy, even if you aren’t destined to be the next CEO of the largest and most successful social network in the world.

2013 Predictions from a Bunch of “Dummies”

As we roll into the new year, it’s always a great time for us marketers to look ahead to what is in store for us. This year, I wanted to take a unique approach to my predictions of 2013 by asking some of my fellow Dummies book authors to provide their perspective within their specific areas of expertise. In most of the cases below, these predictions fall into the realm of social media/social media marketing (Marsha Collier is unique in the fact that she’s written several books including one on eBay for Dummies).

I do plan to do a predictions post on mobile/location-based marketing which will appear in my monthly MarketingLand column. You can also find thoughts by several industry experts on the state of the state in location-based marketing in this post I put together for my friend, Jason Keath, of Social Fresh here.

Without further adieu, here are the predictions by several very smart “Dummy” authors:

Marsha Collier (too many Dummies titles to list)

I think this is a great idea for a post – especially because “For Dummies” authors examine their topics so deeply. Seeing as I cover three areas in Dummies books…. you can find a fairly complete list of current books here:

eBay:
eBay will further to shed it’s “garage sale” persona (yes, there are still plenty of people who do not shop the site on a regular basis). Major brands will finally see eBay as a profitable and legitimate venue for end of season and liquidation selling. Buyers will realize that much of the merchandise bought on the site is covered under the same warranties as alsewhere – and are covered by eBay’s customer buyer protection policy.

Seniors and social media:
By exposing themselves more and more to social media, seniors will see through the myths that fostered fears of social media. It will become an accepted communication venue across the generations.

Social media commerce:
I first predicted this in 2009, but it is finally coming to reality. Consumer brands will realize that online/social powered customer service is far more expedient than phone for first contact. Brands that adapt in 2013 have the opportunity of learning from very public mistakes and create their own voice to their customers – without broadcasting. New relationships with the customer have proven to build sales.

Paul DunayFacebook Marketing for Dummies

Retailers Get Smart using Facebook Data
Major Retail Companies have failed at creating commerce on Facebook because they approached the channel as another outlet for their wares when in actual fact they need to be leveraging the data within the Facebook channel to provide the ideal customer experience on their site. Next year we will see this shift begin.

 

Laura Fitton | Twitter for Dummies

I see 2013 could be a really interesting turning point for Twitter, especially as IPO speculation heats up and business model clarity is needed. You have some of your most intense early adopters already trying to pronounce it dead or dying just because they’ve moved their more intense sharing onto other platforms like Path and Facebook. While that’s true there’s just no way to discount the upside potential of a truly mainstream Twitter. With 200 million monthly active users and nearly constant mainstream media exposure on television, print and radio, continued growth is almost guaranteed. On the other hand, the DM spam problems are getting terrible and I seriously wonder what the future of that feature will be, given how poorly they support it. Mainstream small businesses are really just getting exposed now to how they could use Twitter to better connect to their existing customers, let alone to grow their base of new ones.

The platform continues to suffer from terrible DM spam, and a lot of the early adopters are shifting their more personal interactions to other platforms

Kyle Lacy | Twitter Marketing for Dummies

The year will be forever remembered as the year of consolidation and leadership in the world of interactive marketing. Organizations will start to deconstruct marketing departments to cater to the need of cross-channel communication with consumers. Leadership will be defined as the organizations who listen to the customer and deliver personal messages via all channels – email, mobile, and social.

Deb Ng | Online Community Management for Dummies

Community management is going to be a more strategic role moving forward. While less brands will see community managers as glorified tweeters, I think the role will evolve into more a social media strategist role than specifically a community building role. It will be less about growing a community and giving a warm, fuzzy vibe, than it is about getting the right messaging out. Because of this, I also see community managers handling content distribution.

Note: Deb is also the co-author of Social Media Marketing for Dummies. 

Michael Schneider | Location-Based Marketing for Dummies (Mike and I are co-authors of this book)

I don’t see the “stitching data together” problem getting any easier in 2013 as more niche apps and new graphs emerge. The hot thing will be mood / wellbeing. Apps that use relationships and data to make us healthier and happier will be huge. We saw a lot on the fitness front in 2012 with Nike Fuel Band, the Nike+ suite, Larklife and the incumbent Fitbit. Garmin integrated with Strava for serious cyclists to build community, competition and virality. I see apps like InFlow, Happier, Superbetter, Happify and Hmmm that try to combine semantics, science, location and social to make us feel better being big.

Lori Randall Stradtman | Online Reputation Management For Dummies

When I think about which social media tools, trends or ideas I am most excited about as we head into 2013, I’m thinking big data tools. I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on a social media monitoring tool that can dive deeper than we’ve ever seen before into the dark waters of Big Data and surface with real-time treasures that show segmented information so that brands can find “their people” and create approaches that appeal to them specifically. This will also be huge for crisis management. The best way to deal with a social media meltdown is to nip it in the bud by paying attention to what’s happening around your brand.

 

I may have another 1-2 predictions coming from some other Dummies authors who are in the process of polishing their crystal balls. But in the meantime, if you have a prediction of your own (or one that you’d like to see, please include it below in the comments).

Explaining the Explainer (animation for marketing)

Guest post by friend and digital smarty, Susanne Schantz, Co-Founder of Small Island Studio

You may have noticed a small explosion in the number of animated videos on the web lately. They are everywhere now, especially the (sort of) ubiquitous one-minute ‘Explainer Video’. Why are animated videos so compelling, and so Zeitgeist right now? What makes an animation better than regular video at conveying a complicated idea and making it memorable?

The example that springs immediately to mind comes from the fantastic TED speech given in 2006 by Sir Ken Robinson called “Schools Kill Creativity.” It was an epic speech. First of all it’s important to note that Ken is one of life’s gifted speakers, with a gentle, Monty-Pythonesque style of talking that pulls you into the topic, using humour, a depth of knowledge and his incredibly sharp intellect to make you listen with more attention than you naturally would.

So watching that speech was compelling. I became a bit of a disciple of the topic after viewing it, and would demand friends, family, colleagues all watch it as well. Then one day, while searching it out on Google for the umpteenth time to show to yet another person, I saw that there was a new speech by Sir Ken in the results, created by “RSA Animate.”

So of course I looked. And suddenly, what had been an interesting topic became unbelievably compelling.

The RSA (Great Britain’s ‘Royal Society of Arts’) had created an animation of a Sir Ken speech, in a style known as “progressive illustration.”

Adding visuals to words is hardly a new idea; currently it’s huge in the modern digital space (just look at the explosion of Infographics). But in this case, adding motion and graphics to what was already a great speech (good writing still matters) perfectly demonstrates the power that animation can have in a business context.

The “Explainer” video business has been born on the back of this idea. There are dozens of companies that have sprung up (our own, Small Island Studio, among them) to provide companies with one-minute long videos to explain complex ideas and concepts in a simple, easy to consume and memorable format.

Explainer Videos have become popular for a bunch of reasons; their short, web-friendly format makes them easy to use across all types of mediums (and they work well on mobile), and the flexibility of animation means it can tackle a wide variety of topics without the limitations of live action.

And what’s in store for this space is even more compelling from a marketer’s point of view. Adding interactive elements, which compel the watcher to get involved with the video, will increase retention substantially. Gamification, the process of adding game design elements and game thinking/mechanics, will create a competitive environment among viewers, giving them a sense of ownership over the content that will be hard to match.

Location Based Marketing for Business

This was originally posted on WCG’s blog.

This morning, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel titled “On the Location-Based Services Horizon” at the second annual Foodservice Social Media Universe (FSMU for short). Joining me on the panel were three of the smartest folks not only in the restaurant industry but also in the world of location-based services. This group included Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonalds, BJ Emerson, VP of Technology at Tasti D-lite and Lauren Barash, director of corporate communications at Moe’s Southwest Grill.

  • During the hour long conversation, I kicked us off with a few relevant mobile/location-based facts including:
  • Smart phone penetration has reached 50% in the U.S. (mobithinking.com)
  • As of May 2012, 74% of smart phone users claimed having used a location-based service. This includes things like Google Maps. (Pew Internet Study)
  • According that same report, 18% of smart phone users claimed to have checked into a venue like a movie theater using a service like foursquare. That number is up from 12% year over year. (Pew Internet Study)
  • The leading location-based service, foursquare, has approximately 24 million users (LBMA September, 2012)
  • Photo sharing service, Instagram (now part of Facebook), has grown to 80 million users in just 18 months (C|Net)

Following the industry stats, each panelist took some time to talk about what their companies were doing on the location-based marketing front. Here are a few of the key take aways from each:

McDonalds: 1) during key pilots, they have gotten good traction with foursquare in driving increased checkins. 1) After analyzing their mobile web traffic, they realized that a) store locations with details about drive thrus and playscapes b) nutritional information and c) job applications are the top three most visited areas of their site. Their mobile app features those three items. 3) In order to train franchise owners, they have used location-based scavenger hunts (check into a bar/get a tip/complete an action). This has worked well in helping their franchisees understand foursquare and how it works better).

Moes: 1) They have a check-in club that allows customers to connect their foursquare accounts to Moe’s loyalty program. Customers earn points through check-ins and can achieve “rock star” status on Moe’s leaderboard. 2) Changing offers requires a lot of training for staff which sometimes slows the pace of innovation at many retail locations. 3) Moe’s is also working together with their cheese vendor to sponsor a free queso day tomorrow.

Tasti Dlite: 1) BJ and this CEO just wrote/published a book called The Tasti D-lite Way that document’s the companies location-based and social media journey. 2) An early innovator in the location-based space, Tasti D has created a way to connect foursquare, Facebook and Twitter to their loyalty card. When the card is swiped, it auto posts across the customer’s social networks and gives the customer points for each purchase/check-in. 3) BJ thinks that one way retail stores/restaurants can create higher engagement/check-in activity with their customers is to put a customer-facing camera at each register that would capture any willing customers as they checked in.

There were a lot of great tweets from our session as well as from the conference. You can see them here.

  • I said that I believed that Google would ultimately win the race given the recent UI change it made by allowing users from the mobile Google.com page to “use your current location” and then suggest nearby bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
  • BJ thought that a great focus on value exchange from brands and more “celebrating” of mayorships should take place
  • Lauren disagreed with me that Google would win (while agreeing that having one’s place page(s) correct was critical. For her, it’s about more check-ins and better offers/value.
  • Rick suggested that based on activity they are seeing from Radian6 whether or not photos are the new check-ins (McDonalds sees far more customer photo uploads than checkins — to the tune of thousands/day)

Last but not least, here is a list of some resources that I’ve pulled together for the last few LBM sessions I’ve done. Included on that list are links to BJ’s book and a few of the reports referenced in the report. Enjoy!

 

Vintank Shows Us the Future of CRM for Vertical Industries

With the volume of conversations that take place online today — literally exabytes worth — I’m constantly amazed by some companies’ lack of monitoring/leveraging these conversations to improve marketing, product development and customer service. In some ways, ignoring this information is tantamount to having a group of your best customers sitting down in your companies’ parking lot telling you everything they like and don’t like about you and your competitors’ products through a bull horn. Instead of listening, you block your ears and pretend they don’t exist.

We believe that vertical social listening coupled with social CRM creates unprecedented and invaluable context to create more meaningful engagement with customers. -- Paul Mabray, Vintank, Chief Strategy Officer

Fortunately, more and more businesses are realizing that there is a wealth of online information that exists to help them run better. Also helpful is the fact that companies like WCG (the agency I work for), Social Dynamx (the company my sister works for) and Vintank (the focus of this post) are helping companies listen, analyze and then act on the trillions of conversations happening on the social web. To that point, I had a chance last week to sit down with Vintank’s CTO, James Jory, to get an in depth demo of their “social CRM” platform that targets the wine industry. What I can tell you is that I am impressed. Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I sit on the advisory board of Vintank (an unpaid position) so I know a fair amount about what James and Chief Strategy Officer, Paul Mabray, are doing. But what I can tell you as objectively as is humanly possible is that these guys are focusing on all the right things.

After walking through Vintank’s social CRM platform, I am particularly impressed with four aspects of what they do:

  • Vertically focused listening
    Their platform is optimized and tuned to effectively filter conversations for products and brands in the wine industry. According to Jory, this is particularly important for wine due to the various ways consumers identify and describe wine brands and products and the massive volume of product selection (150K wines released in US market just last year and most products stay in market 3-10 years). For example, a general purpose listening platform would likely consider “corked” and “cork” to be the same term in a conversation when in reality these words have entirely different meanings in wine.Also important is the fact that Vintank actively listens to and captures ALL conversations that occur in their segment and not just the conversations related to their clients. This allows them to reach back through three plus years of social media activity in their system to bootstrap new clients and provide historical views for existing clients. During the demo, Paul Mabray framed the importance of this feature by saying, “We  believe that vertical social listening coupled with social CRM creates unprecedented and invaluable context to create more meaningful engagement with customers.” Amen to that sir!
  • Social Commerce or Commerce + Social
    Paul and James believe that that the push to bring commerce to social is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, they feel that social media can be much more effective when it is brought to commerce in the form of customer context and customer intelligence. A winery may have 1 or 2 transactional interactions with a narrow segment of their customer base each year (a tasting room visit, wine club shipments, winery event, e-commerce purchase, etc.). This provides them with an extremely limited context for each customer. However, they know their customers are consuming wine all year long and increasingly sharing those experiences through social media.
  • Rich Customer Context
    Building on the thoughts above, the cornerstone of Vintank’s  social CRM strategy is customer context. This includes stitching together all of a customer’s social profiles, presenting views of mentions of my brand as well as wine general, interactions with owned channels (twitter, FB, LBS), most recent purchase, lifetime value, wine club membership, membership in customer segments, team notes, and so on. This allows both small and large winery businesses to be more effective with their social media activities and interact with their customers with more context and knowledge.
  • Winery Social Index
    Vintank’s Winery Social Index provides a scoreboard of sorts on how wine brands are performing in social media. The algorithm was built specifically to level the playing field for wineries of all size. It rewards engagement (I wrote a post on the importance of this metric last week)  and healthy fan growth over the vanity metrics such as reach. It has provided a valuable KPI for the wine industry as wineries find their footing in social media.

So what can your company learn from Vintank and the way they help their customers look at the market? At a minimum, the fact that you shouldn’t be ignoring that “group of customers with their bull horns” in the parking lot. Beyond that, you may also realize that paying closer attention to how you are engaging with your customers versus how your competitors are doing it is also key. And finally, what role can social play in your commerce and customer relationship management strategy? Hopefully, the answer is “a big one.”