Tag : Marketingtwo

18 ways to use social for business

Social CRM chartJPEG

Jeremiah Owang has just published a solid report on how to use social techniques and technologies for sales, customer service, CRM, innovation. In other-words, all those critical functions that help a company build stronger relationships with customers.  I found his assessment of the market readiness of CRM use cases, based on market demand and tech maturity, to be especially insightful. Here’s the report.

A word of mouth story based on fear

I love spreading word of mouth about things that are remarkable. But last week a small restaurant tried shut me down in my efforts to do so.

Whenever I go to San Francisco I schedule my business calendar so that I can have breakfast at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building. The food is extraordinary, the restaurant  design remarkable. So while waiting for my breakfast I took out my Droid to snap a couple of photos to share with you.  Because no words can quite capture the beauty of this small little space.

After the click, owner and renowned chef Amaryll Schwertner came over and asked me to stop taking photos immediately. It was against her policy.

“But why,” I asked. “I wrote a book about word of mouth and like to spread the word about great experiences, and photos are a great way to do that.”

“We’ve had a lot of problems with people taking photographs and stealing our ideas,” she explained. “Photographs of our restaurant have ended up in places without our permission. We need to control who takes photos.”

The exchange left me cold and wondering. Just what could anyone “steal” by taking a picture of a  little restaurant?  A restaurant’s assets are its food, its service, and its vibe. How can one steal that total experience in a one-dimensional photo?

And why be fearful of letting people take a picture and spread word of mouth, the most vital marketing for a restaurant. Sure, my photos aren’t professional but I doubt I would hurt the restaurant’s image.

My advice for all businesses and Boulette’s Larder is to let go of  fear, and let people who love you spread the love, especially with photos. The greater the love, the less likely that any negative remarks or pirate photos will ever hurt your reputation.

Here’s a photo of the restaurant taken from Boulette’s web page. I hope I don’t get reprimanded again. :)


Lessons learned

Here’s a little secret for every project summary or report: add a section about “lessons learned.”

  • What you learned
  • What you would do differently in future
  • What new processes or training needs to be put in place for the organization

This simple section is more valuable than the “results” section because it helps us to keep learning and sharing that learning with our colleagues.

A side benefit is that it can  calm down anxious bosses who think things weren’t “good enough.”  Acknowledging that you know what didn’t happen perfectly and why — and will  do differently in the future — diffuses tension and focuses on the positive nature of learning and improvement.

The more new the area,  like social media, the more important and valuable “lessons learned” is.

Sisters, Raise Your Hands


Sisters, raise your hands and stand up for how good you are.  Otherwise no one will notice you, especially in this age where “personal branding” is so powerful and, perhaps, necessary for career growth.

Clay Shirky, of New York University and author of my favorite social media book “Here Comes Everybody,” writes a thought provoking rant on his blog this week aptly titled “A Rant About Women.”

Shirky’s point is that talented women are often overlooked by less competent men because we women don’t know how to raise our hands and say how good we are. Without being assertive and advancing our own cause, we get overlooked. Way too many of the male “arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks” (Shirky’s words)  get the book contracts, the promotions, the funding, the keynote speaking slots.

However, even in an ideal future, self-promotion will be a skill that produces disproportionate rewards, and if skill at self-promotion remains disproportionately male, those rewards will as well. This isn’t because of oppression, it’s because of freedom.

When I speak at conferences I’m usually the only woman. When I look at my library of professional books I see almost all male authors. When I look at annual reports the faces are male. It’s not that women aren’t as competent, it’s just that we find it distasteful to be self-promoters. Yesterday I saw  tweets from a former male colleague: “My book’s still selling big.”  “I’m on another best seller list.” Oh puhleeze, I thought. But the fact is that he is on the best seller list even though the book is only so-so.

Sisters, it’s time to put ourselves out there more and not worry about failing publicly. It doesn’t hurt that much (believe me!) and you still make a giant step compared to the baby steps when you’re invisible. Let’s stop  worrying what people might say about us. (Chances are it will be good anyway.) We have to become much more comfortable with tooting our own horns ’cause no one else is going to do it. Raise your hand and say “I can do that.”

This is road to advancement.

If you’re ever worried or hesitant about taking a chance, reach out to me and I’ll give you a boost.  Or follow Valeria Maltoni, a brilliant marketer who is generous in helping other women and also recognizes that women need to raise their hands more often.

Let’s show the world that you can advance your career by standing up and stepping out — without a trace of the arrogant jerk.

Nonprofit marketing recipe: Hope + individual stories + progress


Hopefulness and individual stories of transformation and progress. Those are the ingredients for successful marketing, particularly for non-profits and humanitarian organizations, writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof  in the Outside magazine article  “How to Save the World and Influence People.”

The lessons,  derived from numerous social psychology studies as well as Kristof’s personal experiences in writing about global atrocities, are certainly compelling for NGOs. I  think these ingredients are also relevant and often overlooked for for-profit organizations.  Here’s what triggers action:

  • Hopefulness, aspirations, possibilities: we respond to stories of hope  and transformation, not stories and statistics of desperation.  Making people feel guilty or overwhelming them with statistics of despair rarely moves people to action — or donating money. Showing them what’s possible does. Look to profile heroes, not victims in marketing efforts. “All the psychological research shows that we are moved not by statistics but by fresh, wet tears, with a bit of hope glistening below,” says Kristof.
  • Individuals, not groups: people  want to help  individuals not causes.  We respond to stories about a person, not a group. “As we all know,” writes Kristof, “one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”   Kristof shares the example of how early movements against apartheid focused in freeing political prisoners without much success. But when the organizers refocused on one individual — Free Mandela! —  it resonated far more widely. There was a face on the movement. Paul Slovic, psychology professor at University of Oregon, has found that our empathy wanes when the number of individuals profiled reaches just two.
  • Success makes people feel good: Knowing that our money is working makes us  feel good about giving. (And we do good things, say the social scientists, because it makes us feel good.)  To keep people engaged, show progress and share stories of triumph. (Making people feel good that their donations are working.) Research also shows that people want to save a high proportion of people, not just a large number of lives. One experiment found that people were far more willing to pay for a water treatment facility to save 4,500 lives in a refugee camp with 11,000 people than they were to save lives of 4,500 people with a camp of  250,000 people. Go figure.

For marketers, the lesson is clear: find stories about individuals overcoming adversity and succeeding in ways they never thought possible — and make sure your donors  feel fortunate to be a part in that person’s success. This, says Kristof and Professor Slovic, are the often overlooked ingredients to  to non-profit marketing success.

While the tragedy in Haiti today requires no marketing to nudge people to help. Six months or a year from now, aids organizations will have to work harder to raise money. Let us hope stories of individuals who rose from the rubble to build a new Haiti are plentiful.

Zappos' Sr. Human Resources Manager on Social Media

I’ll be moderating a session on how social media can affect employer brands at the Dec. 1 and 2 Conference Board “Extending Your Brand to Employees” conference,  with an amazing panel of executives from Zappos, Starbucks, Liberty Mutual Group and Prudential Financial.

I’ve asked the social media panelists to give us some pre-conference views on social media, using James Lipton’s “Inside the Actors Studio” question format.  Here are comments from Hollie Delaney, senior human resources manager at Zappos.com.

What is your favorite social media word?

Transparency.   At Zappos, we are obsessed with sharing our culture and way of operating our business with the outside world.  Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter have given us an outlet to do this on a higher level than what we ever thought possible.  One of our core values is to ‘Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication’, and this isn’t limited to the employees of Zappos; we would like for the outside world to be able to see anything that they would like about our business.

We have 450+ employees on Twitter, and there is no company policy to dictate what an employee can say. We just tell everyone to use their best judgment.  We even have a Twitter aggregate page which shows employees’ Tweets in real time, along with all public mentions of the company.

What is your least favorite social media word?

Expert/Guru. These are a series of new mediums, and we’re not sure that anyone can be an expert on a subject that we’ve only skimmed the surface of as an industry.

What turns you on about social media?

Its ability to engage with customers on a level that wasn’t possible just a few years ago.

What turns you off about social media?

When businesses look at these tools as a free way to spam customers.

What social media other than what you’re doing would you like to attempt?

We just try to form personal connections with customers.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube all seem to be the best tools right now, but we know that will change/evolve over time.

What part of social media would you not like to do?

We would like to stay away from using the mediums completely for selling products. Our idea for Facebook and Twitter is that it’s a place where people go to engage with Zappos as a brand, and just making it about sharing our culture.

What would you like to hear your CEO say about social media?


What one thing do you hope people will learn from you at The Conference Board’s “Extending Your Brand to Employees Conference?”

That it’s not how many fans or followers that you have, it’s about how you are engaging them and if you’re forming a personal connection.  You can have 1M fans, but if they aren’t engaged in your brand and they just signed up with a click and then forgot about it, the point is lost on the effort.

Social media gudelines and policies: more resources

Sorting through legal issues and creating social media guidelines continues to be a a big issue for most companies.  Here are links to resources I’ve found helpful on the issue.

Also, please note one legal issue that not enough people are paying attention to. Many companies’ HR policies prohibit  you from giving recommendations to people who have worked for them.  This policy applies to LinkedIn: most likely you should not be giving LinkedIn recommendations for anyone who has directly worked for you or is currently reporting to you. Here’s a good legal perspective on the LinkedIn issue.

If you know of other helpful policies, please share and I’ll post. Thanks. Lois

Online Database of Social Media Policies: links to 107 policies

Center for Social Media at American University

NewPR Wiki – Resources.BloggingPolicy

For Mayo Clinic Employees « Sharing Mayo Clinic

Enterprise Social Media Usage Policies and Guidelines | SocialComputingJournal.com

10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy

Social Media Policies For Your Company: Internal Policies | davefleet.com

A Corporate Guide For Social Media – Forbes.com Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. –

Wal-Mart’s Twitter Terms of Use Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

– Wal-Mart’s Twitter External Discussion Policy

SAP Social Media Guidelines 2009

Lawyers blocking social media is not a policy

ESPN Responds to Criticism and Publishes Social Media Policy | Wordpress Marketing

RightNow social web employee policy | RightNow

Social Media Policy and Employee Guidance « Candid CIO

Intel Social Media Guidelines

Social Media Policy Examples | 123 Social Media

Blogging and Social Media Policy Sample – See a Blogging and Social Media Policy Sample

WaPo’s Social Media Guidelines Paint Staff Into Virtual Corner; Full Text of Guidelines | paidContent

3 Great Social Media Policies to Steal From

Social Media Policies | Social Media Law Student

Beats and Tweets: Journalistic Guidelines for the Facebook Era – Inside NPR.org Blog : NPR

More egoboo

“How should we incent people to participate in our online community or be our word of mouth ambassadors?” clients frequently ask.

Forget money, give them egoboo.

Not the game Egoboo, but egoboo, derived from ego boost, which people get from seeing their name in “lights” and getting recognition for what they have to say.

According to Wikipedia, egoboo originated from science fiction fandom around 1947:

As a reliable way for someone to get their name in print was to do something worth mentioning, it became caught up with the idea of voluntary community participation. As a result of this, in later years, the term grew to mean something akin to an ephemeral currency, e.g., “I got a lot of egoboo for editing that newsletter.”The term later spread into the open source programming movement, where the concept of non-monetary reward from community response is a key motive for many of the participants.

Two programs to get on your calendar

I know it’s still the lazy days of summer (if only), but wanted to let you know about two programs I’ll be doing with the Conference Board in New York this fall in case you want to get them on your calendar.

The first, on Friday, October 16, is an all-day, roll-up-your-sleeves workshop on social media where we’ll go deep into HOW-to’s. This won’t be a day of PowerPoint presentations about the value of social media, but small group and individual work sessions where you’ll learn the fundamentals by doing.  Plan to have fun, learn a lot, and maybe be exhausted by the end of the day. But in a good way.

Check out the agenda/program and let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see added.  (Note click on the “download the full agenda” at the bottom of the Web page for details. ) Lastly, when you register mention my name and I believe you’ll get a discount.

The program, “Extending Your Brand to Employees” is on December 1. To me, this is a hugely valuable conference because employees are the front line word of mouth advocates (or not) for organizations. Yet too few conferences address this important group and topic. The speakers are an impressive bunch from Google, McDonald’s, Zappos, Hilton Hotels, and Boston Coach.

I’ll be interviewing my friend Larry Moulter, CEO of Boston Coach about how he led his organization through a drastic downsizing due to the massive cutback in travel services like Boston Coach’s this year.   Larry’s approach to communications and leadership, particularly in tough times, is quite inspirational and full of lessons.  Again, check out the program and let me know if there are questions you’d like me to ask Larry.

Until then, enjoy summer.

12 rules for bringing 'social' business

This week I met with a big global think tank that is evaluating social media strategy proposals. All the proposals focused on tactical items like creating a Facebook page and Twitter feed and none addressed high value opportunity areas that would provide additional value to the organization’s clients and/or create new business models.

Then I came across Dion Hinchliffe’s blog post where he also laments that people are missing the bigger opportunity for social business, where the greater value lies.  He also provides 12 excellent rules for taking your business social. Check out his post for details, but here are the 12:

  1. Social businesses are made of people.
  2. The right tools and infrastructure naturally enable good social business
  3. Foster conversations with your customers, partners, employees and everyone else that’s interested.
  4. Popular social channels and services are important but are the smaller part of the social business story.
  5. Put the community first.
  6. Add a social dimension to your business process.
  7. Rethink your views on intellectual property in a highly social world.
  8. You manage to what you measure; use a social yardstick.
  9. Do not use social channels for traditional push communications.
  10. Censorship kills participation.
  11. If you’re not sure where your organization ends and the network begins, you’re doing it right.
  12. Healthy social businesses explicitly extract value from the network.

Talking on the bathroom stall

Getting people to talk to strangers and participate in online communities and social networks can be challenging. The number of communities that have failed is astounding.

There is no easy way to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing and talking with new people, but a project that Nina Simon led with 13 grad students from from the University of Washington provides some lessons relevant to marketers and community managers.

The challenge to the students was to create a $300 museum exhibit within 10 weeks that would get strangers to talk to one another. A full report of the project can be found here at Nina’s wonderful Museum 2.0 blog.

Some relevant highlights:

1. Ask provocative starter questions and make it easy for people to respond. In the case of one of the museum exhibits, the grad students asked a few seed questions, like “how do you mend a broken heart,” and put them on signs behind glass. People passing by stopped and wrote replies on post-it notes, read other notes and created conversation chains and spin off questions. The lesson for business is that provocative, open ended questions that appeal to widely or deeply felt issues elicit responses and help to jump start participation. (We’ve seen too many business communities that are bland and boring. No wonder people don’t talk back!)

The whole exhibit modeled the potential for someone to respond to your query, and as it grew, the sense that you would be responded to and validated grew as well. We saw many people come back again and again to look at the post-its, point out new developments, laugh, and add their own advice.

2. Someone from the company doesn’t need to provide the advice: The team created an Advice booth and found that the best advice came from strangers helping strangers vs. staff helping strangers. (In fact, one eight year old liked being able to give advice so much that he came back the next day.) The students found that it was more beneficial for the facilitators to be “part of the experience vs. the focal point.” Good advice for companies in managing communities.

Because they were a part of the experience rather than the focal point, they could impart an air of friendliness and participation without making people feel that they had to participate. They reminded me of street vendors or great science museum cart educators, imparting an energy to the space without overwhelming it.

3. Good things come from talking on the bathroom stall. An undirected part of the project was letting people write anything they wanted on a bathroom wall, which elicited many responses, none of them offensive.

But the bathroom wall turned out to be a brilliant exhibit element. It was a release valve that let people write crude things and draw silly pictures. The bathroom wall was “anything goes” by design. And while the content on it was not as directed and compelling as that on the post-its, it served a valuable purpose. There was not a SINGLE off-topic or inappropriate submission on the post-it walls.

The bathroom lessons for business:  people want to have fun and be able to be creative in unexpected ways. Mix up the ways they can participate.  (Like the story about the chair in the corporate lobby.)   Second, fears about people writing offensive or negative things are usually unfounded — even when you go so far as letting people write on the bathroom wall.

Most valuable and under-used social media strategy

“What’s the best social media investment? Where we can really see a good ROI?”

The answer is easy. Getting companies to implement it is not. The most valuable and under-used social media strategy is embedding customer reviews in your Web site.  Not blogs, Twitter, communities or tagging.

An eVoc Insights study found that 48% of consumers need to read reviews before making a purchase decision. Neilsen’s research has found that consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78% of study participants.

What gives? Fear of having negative reviews on the company Web site.  According to Sam Decker, CMO of BazaarVoice, companies have three options if they’re selling a bad product and are afraid of negative reviews:

  1. Without reviews, you keep selling the product and risk costly returns and low customer satisfaction
  2. With reviews, you can use the leading indicator of negative reviews and quickly remove this product from inventory to reduce returns and improve satisfaction
  3. Or, just allow the negative reviews to steer customers to a more satisfying purchase within the category. Let the best products win, and you will win.

“In cases 2 and 3 you remain a trusted editor of the best products; customers are happy; you maintain their loyalty, and avoid a return,” says Sam. For more on overcoming this obstacle, check out this classic article “Positives about Negative Product Reviews.”

Example: Consumer reviews on Panasonic.com

Odd CEO behavior

This week Beth Israel Deaconess CEO Paul Levy did something unusual for a CEO. When faced with layoffs he asked his employees for ideas on what the hospital could do to protect lower wage earning employees– the hard working transporters, food service workers, housekeepers.

That’s right, asked an auditorium full of employees for their ideas. Talk about respecting your people and valuing their counsel.

And, boy, did he get ideas.  A floor or nurses unanimously volunteered to give up their pay raise. A finance guy suggested working a day less a week. The ideas kept coming after the meeting — almost 100 emails an hour to the CEO.

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen wrote a beautiful column today about Levy’s bold leadership step, “A head with a heart.” Don’t miss it. Levy is an example of leadership for a new era, where CEOs trust, embrace and collaborate with employees to together do what’s best for all. Where participation creates solutions far more creative and accepting than those in the old command-and-control model.

“Paul Levy is trying something revolutionary, radical, maybe even impossible. He is trying to convince the people who work for him that the E in CEO can sometimes stand for empathy.”

Humanizing diplomatic communications

What was remarkable about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Asia last week was that it showed an innovative approach to diplomatic relations and communications. Rather than just the formal meetings with dignitaries Clinton showed a much more human communications style, both in style and actions, making time to speak at universities to talk with female students, to appear on a popular television show,  to go to church.

Clinton told reporters that she is determined to make a connection to people “in a way that is not traditional, not confined by the ministerial greeting and the staged handshake photo…I see our job right now, given where we are in the world and what we’ve inherited, as repairing relations, not only with people.”


Better yet, the previously overly cautious, overly messaged Clinton, has seen the light about the value of straight talk.

Mark Landler of The New York Times reported on Saturday: “Mrs. Clinton raised eyebrows among journalists and analysts with a frank assessment of how a succession struggle in North Korea could undermine talks over its nuclear program. She said she was baffled by the reaction.”

“Maybe this is unusual because you are suppose to be so careful that we spend hours avoiding stating the obvious,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I think it’s worth, perhaps, being more straightforward, trying to engage countries on the basis of the reality that exists.”

This straightforward, human approach to communications is what all people are craving — in foreign relations, in government, at school, in business. In fact, one of the effects of social media has been to amplify this desire.

Gary Hamel recently posted “25 Stretch Goals for Management” on the Harvard Business Publishing blog —  summarizing a two day summit of business leaders tackling the topic of how to reinvent management.  My favorite goal, which underscores Clinton’s recent style, is #24:

Humanize the language and practice of business. Tomorrow’s management systems must give as much credence to such timeless ideals as beauty, justice and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage and profit.”

Mrs. Clinton has come so far in changing her leadership communications style over the past two years to be more real, more human, more direct.  Now let’s help our business leaders do the same so they can be more inspiring leaders vs. merely effective managers.

Stupid press release tricks

I’m getting mighty tired of hearing executives demanding press releases for every little thing, turning smart PR organizations into press release factories with little strategic value.

What gives?   I recently heard that one CEO demanded at least 40 press releases a quarter be posted on the company’s news page to impress potential shareholders. (Are investors so dumb as to make decisions on the number of press releases? Seems so 1999 to me.)  Another PR group said that the product marketing people had a press release quota as part of their performance evaluation. So whether a product was newsworthy or not, the product marketing people hounded PR for their precious releases.

Then I see a silly release that SAP put out last week claiming that customers were migrating from their competitor Infor to SAP. The release is so full of jargon and marketing speak that’s it’s almost a parody of bad PR.

The really funny part was that I was with Infor folks last week in Europe. When they read the release they laughed (and posted this blog response)  because the customers and partners that SAP cited as moving from Infor to SAP  did so many moons ago for reasons that certainly wouldn’t be press release-worthy.   So much for any “news” in this release.

My guess is that some SAP marketing or sales manager thought it a good idea  to do a “momentum release” that they could give their sales reps who are competing in deals with Infor. In other words, press release as sales tool.

If PR gets no respect these days, it’s because too many people mistakenly think that press releases have some magical powers that will cure all types of business issues. If only.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with SAP and am doing work for Infor. These views are part of my usual rants on dumb company marketing and PR stories.