Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Posts of 2010

Part of me hates these posts. Part of me feels like it's important to be introspective and acknowledge what resonated with those whom I am fortunate enough to read me (even if just occasionally). What I have tried to do here is provide a little behind the scenes commentary -- maybe my version of a "director's cut -- on each of my top 10 most popular posts for 2010.

  1. How Important is your Twitter Bio - Blown away by how many retweets and reads this got. It was a fairly basic post but it seemed to resonate. Not that I'm complaining...
  2. Are foursquare and Gowalla Just Shiny Objects - My favorite thing about this post was the conversation in the comments. I think no fewer than 15 new blog posts got written in the process and I learned a ton from people that are much smarter than me.
  3. What Marketers Want - This was the announcement post from our acquisition of crayon, Drill Team and StepChange earlier in the year. In some ways, this is like one of those great movies that you release too late in the season to be considered for the Academy so it ends up being a lame duck in the subsequent year's voting. Glad to see this land in the #3 slot.
  4. Initial Thoughts on Facebook Places - Not my best post but obviously a hot topic. I'm still VERY interested in finding out how disruptive Facebook will be in the world of location based services.
  5. Brand Haiku - One of the most fun (and easiest) posts I've ever written. I was blown away by the fact that many of my blogger friends were willing to participate in this fun little game. Let's just call this my 45 in 45 of 2010.
  6. Movember Time, Austin Style - Anyone that knows me, even a little - knows that I participated in Movember this year. I know, it gets old quick for those following me on Twitter and Facebook. But it was for a good cause. And we raised nearly $32,000 toward fighting cancer in men.
  7. Tale of Two CMOs: A Study in Contrasts - This goes down as the post with the most potential and the worst execution. I liked where it was heading but I immediately realized how hard it was going to be to write as a series the minute I started putting pen to paper.
  8. I See You - Maybe one of my favorite posts of all times. Riffing off the key phrase in the movie, Avatar, I loved what this post stood for. I was equally glad to see others embrace this.
  9. Pluralitas Non est Ponenda sine Necessitate - Flexing my Latin muscles a little. This was inspired by the principle of Occam's Razor. Surprised to see this make its way into the top 10.
  10. The Power of One - the result of a little experiment I did on Twitter. I'm sure there was little to no statistical significance of my study but it was a cool concept. And I liked the comments.
So who else wrote a post that you liked a lot this year? Make sure you post it in the comments. If I get enough of them, I'll either write a new post or at least include it in the body of this one as a post script.

Thanks again for taking the time to read and retweet me. Hope you have an awesome 2010 and if I'm lucky, I'll see you at SXSW this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Powered and The Power of Social Business Design

Cross-posted from

A new day is dawning at Powered and its name is social business design. If you've heard that term before, you can thank the folks over at Dachis Group -- who Powered is now a part of. That's right, you can read that again, "who Powered is now a part of." That's because as of yesterday, December 20, 2010, the very same Dachis Group acquired Powered and it's subsidiaries, crayon, StepChange and Drillteam.

Social Business Design
Over the past 2.5 years, Dachis Group introduced the concept of social business design to the world and they've grown their business around it. Social business draws on many disciplines.  It is composed of Enterprise 2.0 thought leaders including Dion Hinchcliffe, engaging with practitioners from the 2.0 Adoption Council, and bringing technology to life through Headshift. It draws upon the visual thinking capabilities of XPLANE and formulate business strategy through the business unit they've grown by hand since their beginning.

So how does Powered fit into social business design? Quite nicely in fact. Because Powered and its subsidiaries are all about social business customer engagement. You may know this as social media marketing, but calling it that doesn't do the concept of more deeply engaging one's customers justice. In fact, the problem with many social media campaigns is just that. They are campaigns, not sustainable programs that grow over time.

Where businesses truly succeed is when they transform from the inside out by re-engineering their processes, culture and technologies to get the most out of their relationships with their employees, partners, customers and fans. As part of the Dachis Group, Powered and its subsidiaries can now provide our customers workforce collaboration, customer participation (or engagement) and business partner optimization.

Needless to say, we here at Powered are excited to be part of the largest social business consultancy in the world. That, combined with the fact that we are part of a company with over 220 employees and offices in 10 cities across five different countries, gives us the best opportunity to win. And at the end of the day, who doesn't like winning?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Field Guide to South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi)

Originally posted on December 7, 2010 [UPDATED as of 3/7]

Every year, I have a few new friends that ask me if I have any tips for them as they get ready for SXSW -- an interactive, film and music extravaganza! Today, my friend Christine Perkett let me know that she was taking her maiden voyage to Austin next spring for this very event. My promise to her was an insider's guide to "South-by" as it's referred to by us geeks. I know I've missed a ton so I'm hoping that my fellow SXSW veterans and local Austinites will help fill in the blanks.

Lodging and Airfare
After buying your ticket to SXSW, this is the first thing you want to take care of. And by first thing, I mean now. Today. Not in two months. Trust me when I tell you that you will end up flying into San Antonio and staying somewhere halfway between San Antonio and Austin if you don't take care of this soon. Here are several hotels that are close that you should consider.

Map of Downtown Austin

View Map of Downtown Austin Hotels for SXSW in a larger map

HINT: I am not kidding about staying near San Antonio (which is an hour away from Austin) if you don't plan ahead.

One of the first things you will realize as you start to prepare for SXSW is that there are A LOT of things happening at the same time. This includes keynotes, breakout sessions, happy hours, etc. Per my friend, Kyle Flaherty's advice from a post he did about SXSW 2010, get focused on the 6-8 panels/sessions you really want to see. Make sure you're not just going to see the latest social media rock star but look carefully at the session title and description. Is the speaker a seasoned speaker or is this their first rodeo? As a result, you may want to have a "plan B" session" lined up for any selections you make just in case you need to call an audible.

HINT: Have all of your your notes/schedules printed out. Wifi and cell coverage can be spotty at times at SXSW.

There are a lot of parties at SXSW. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. More than you will ever experience anywhere else in your lifetime. This is obviously a great time to network so go light on the drinking (or at least pace yourself -- more on that in the next section). Also, just like the conference sessions, you will want to choose these wisely. Take note of the fact that for the signature parties (Mashable, DIGG, TechSet) there will be lines. Long lines. So get there early and move on to your next party before that party winds down. Also keep an eye on key people like Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble's Twitter streams. These guys create flash parties everywhere they go. Sometimes, those are the best ones. Another smart idea is to make sure you are signed up for services like Plancast and a location-based provider or two like FoursquareGowalla and Whrrl so you can monitor the action a little more methodically.

Another important point to touch on here is that you will do some of the best networking you've ever done at SXSW. That's at least 67% of the value of the conference. Some of that happens at parties. Other times, this can happen via coffee, breakfast or in the Blogger's Lounge (this is one of the hidden gems of SXSW). I'll put up a link to more details about the BL as we get closer to SXSW. However, because there are so many events going on simultaneously, be sure to reach out via e-mail or phone with anyone you want to connect with in advance and set a time and a place to meet.

HINT: For most parties, you will need a SXSW badge. If you attend the conference rogue (sans badge), there is usually a list of parties that don't require badges (I will link to that when it's up). What I will tell you is that unless you are 5' 10", blonde and drop dead gorgeous, there is a 99% chance you will NOT get into any party that requires a badge.

Pace Yourself
As I noted in the "Party/Networking" section of this post, there are a lot of parties that go on during SXSW. Combine that with the late nights and the fact that SXSW takes place over the course of several days, it is imperative to pace yourself. Trust me, I'm not scrooge when it comes to having fun but ensuring that you eat well, get sleep whenever you can (hint: take naps in the afternoon), drink plenty of water and try and not pull an all-nighter during the first day or two that you're here.

HINT: The weather in March is usually mid-70s to high 80s during the day and low-60s at night. Shorts and t-shirts are de rigeur but you may also make sure you bring a fleece and a few pairs of jeans for the evening activities.

Content Creation
If you're a blogger, podcaster or videographer, SXSW is a wonderful place to create content. There is usually space in the hallways of the Austin Convention Center to set up shop although they hallways can get noisy in between sessions. Weather permitting, you can also shoot/record outdoors. Just make sure you bring extra batteries and be sure to test your equipment before you come down. If you're podcasting, you might even arrange with someone to be editing remotely so that you can post during SXSW. This means pre-recording your bumper music, creating a tag/hashtag in advance, etc.

HINT: As I mentioned in the "Networking" section, you will also want to try and schedule as many interviews ahead of time as possible. This includes putting together a schedule and finding a meeting place in advance e.g. outside the blogger lounge or near the Chevy pavilion near the entrance.

I'm in the process of adding more places to the map below (suggestions are welcome). [POST SCRIPT 2/29/2011: Our friends at just added a curated list of Austin/SXSW faves from a list of about 20 people -- food bloggers, Austinites and people like @SchneiderMike and I that just like food). For the BEST recommendations, go to my friend (and big time Foodie blogger), Natanya Anderson's expert post on this topic.

View Good Restaurants to Visit During SXSW in a larger map

HINT: The Salt Lick is a MUST visit while you are here for anyone that likes BBQ. Because it is in Driftwood which is a good 30 minutes south of downtown, you'll need to drive there. If you do decided to go, plan on it taking a good three hours out of your night. Also note that they are cash only and because Driftwood is in a dry county, you must bring your own beer and wine if you want to drink.

Other Useful Links
As we get closer to the event, more and more "how to do SXSW" posts will crop up. So that I don't overwhelm you, I will try and keep a running list below. I promise that I will personally curate these posts so that I only provide the posts that I see offering additional value.

As I noted above, I'm sure I've missed all kinds of other good tips so please let me know via the comments below. Or you can send me a link via Twitter @aaronstrout.

Monday, December 6, 2010

5 Reasons Why We Won't Experience another Dotcom Bubble

Thanks to friends Darin Kirshner and Joey McGirr for listening to me rant about this over coffee. I decided to collect my thoughts and put them down on digital paper.

While perusing my Twitter stream Sunday morning, I saw a tweet from long time blogger and Edelman SVP, Steve Rubel. For what it's worth, Steve is one of a handful of people who I pay very close attention to so I couldn't resist clicking through to the Newsweek article referenced in his update. The title of the article was Dotcom Bubble 2.0 and it focused on the recent speculation by venture capitalist, Fred Wilson that the current environment is looking a lot like the dotcom bust of the early 2000's over again.

While I respect Mr. Wilson and won't pretend to know 1/100th of what he knows about investing in companies, I did live through Web 1.0 and the first internet bubble. I was also a digital frontiersman meaning I know a little bit of which I speak. To that end, I couldn't resist throwing out my $.02 about why the current social media and location-based landscape is nowhere close to the environment of 1997-2001 when irrational exuberance took the world by the throat and temporarily choked the life out of it.

Here are five reasons why we will not live through a "dotcom bubble 2.0:"

  1. Initial public offerings are at an all time low. As a result, the only people who will get burned by investing poorly in startups will be venture capitalists and wealthy folks who make poor investment decisions. NOT the stock market. This is a HUGE difference between 2010 and 2000 (see history of IPOs here).
  2. Because of the bubble, investors, entrepreneurs AND the public learned a thing or two. Ask an entrepreneur or two how easy it is to get VC money these days. Go ahead.
  3. In 1997, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to start a business. That's because you needed a website, and infrastructure and lots of other stuff that cost a lot of money. Now, many of those services are free or incredibly inexpensive. That means good ideas are much easier to implement and get off the ground for a $50,000 tab on 3-4 credit cards.
  4. Many of the jackasses in 1997-2001 who got ridiculous sums of money from the VCs ran out and leased expensive real estate, went on wild hiring binges and then invested in things they had no business investing in like Superbowl ads. Think you'll see Klout, Gowalla or Pandora buying a Superbowl ad anytime soon?
  5. 9/11. Yes, this had nothing and everything to do with bubble 1.0. While we'll never know if we could have bounced back more quickly from the first Internet collapse, a catastrophic event that changed the world for ever happened and sent the US (along with many other wester countries) into a tail spin. Now I can't predict that this won't ever happen again but the odds aren't good.
Am I off base? Maybe. But I don't think so. I'll agree that there are similarities between today's business environment and ten years ago but many of the fundamental factors that created the bubble just aren't here. But you know me... I love to be proven wrong.

Image credit:

Monday, November 29, 2010

What Marketers Can Learn from Singer Leann Rimes

This post originally appeared on Social Media Marketing Magazine on 11/1/2010.

I have always been a music enthusiast, but I’ve never been that interested in country music. And while I’m not ready to race out and fill my iTunes account with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, I recently purchased a few songs by the lovely and talented Leann Rimes. Why the sudden change of heart? If you must know, it was because of a single tweet. Well, it was actually two tweets… and the fact that during a show I saw at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing event, she was authentic and genuinely made an attempt to connect with the crowd of 1,500 senior marketers.

As someone that embraced Twitter back in 2007, I regularly use it to learn, engage, and build relationships. To that end, I often make a point of acknowledging people, companies, and organizations when I feel like they are doing a good job. This may or may not mean anything to them, but it’s my style, and so far, it’s borne a lot of goodwill and business value for me.

Getting back to Leann Rimes and her performance at the ANA conference last week: as she was wrapping up her set, I took the time to look her up on Twitter and send her a thank you tweet. Imagine my surprise when she actually tweeted me back (twice)!

The reason I’m sharing this experience is not to show off—although who doesn’t love having a successful female country singer tweet them back—but rather to point out a lesson that big brands could learn from this experience. For starters, it doesn’t hurt to follow Ms. Rimes’ lead and ensure that your brand is perceived as credible and authentic. That was the thing about Leann that got me to tweet her in the first place. But more importantly, the fact that someone as busy as she must be took the time to tweet back to a potential fan was huge.

Did she do it because she knew that I was on the fence about liking her? I don’t think so. Looking back in her tweet stream, it appears she does that with a lot of people. It’s just who she is. What I can guarantee is that while she is a very talented singer, one of the main reasons she has become so successful is because she engages her “customers.”

Now would I have been as excited if a brand like Lexus or Starbucks tweeted me back? Probably not. But I do appreciate it when a brand takes the time to acknowledge me, and it has made me more likely to stick with that brand. For example, in the case of WiFi provider Boingo, I’ve actually become one of its biggest fans, primarily because Boingo regularly engages me in conversation on Twitter. Now Boingo only earns $120 per year from me, but I tell everyone I know about Boingo, have mentioned it in blog posts, and have even gone so far as to be interviewed in an article about Boingo and the “network effect of super fans” on the FASTforward blog.

So is your company engaging its customers? It doesn’t take a lot to get started—just a good listening tool and an internal and/or external resource that can help reach out to customers (or prospective customers) who are mentioning you. You’ll be surprised how far a tweet, a blog comment, or even a Facebook “like” will go in turning people’s heads.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Social CRM FTW! (Guest Post)

Today we have a guest post from Lauren Carlson at Software Advice. I don't normally do a lot of guest posts but Lauren asked very politely and as a big believer of social CRM, I thought this might be an interesting topic for the folks that read me on Citizen Marketer 2.1. Enjoy!

Lauren Carlson of Software Advice
Social CRM has gone from vaporware to one of the most buzzed about terms in the enterprise software market. Take a quick look at Google Insights for Search and you will see that the term's popularity has increased exponentially over the past few years [see Google trend data below].

Paul Greenberg, the recognized thought leader in social CRM, describes it as "the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation." Essentially, it takes the vendor-customer relationship from transactive to interactive. That is all fine and good, but what does that mean for companies actually using the software?

With an eye toward providing a little clarity about the space, Software Advice, decided to write up some case studies that illustrate how actual companies have implemented social CRM technologies. Each study highlights how social CRM was used to resolve real world issues and improve business operations, taking social CRM from a concept to a solution. You can view the article here and read each case study in depth. However, the following is a very brief overview in problem-solution format.

Problem: Chordiant, an enterprise software company, needed to find a better way to coordinate the needs and desires of the individuals involved in the product requirements process.

Solution: They created Chordiant Mesh, and online community powered by Jive's Clearspace, where employees, developers, customers and partners can collaborate about product development. The feedback was very positive, resulting 15 successful collaborative product releases.

Problem: Linksys, a Cisco division that provides VoIP and networking solutions to consumers and small businesses, needed to reduce support costs while upholding high levels of customer support.

Solution: The company partnered with Lithium, an early leader in social CRM, to create an online support community. The deployment of the community increased self-service participation, which reduced the need on costly phone support. Linksys reported savings in the millions.

Problem: Enterasys Networks, a data-networking company, has hundreds of employees stationed around the globe. They required a social networking tool that would eliminated geographical boundaries and let their employees communicate in real time.

Solution: They decided to deploy's Chatter application. The company experienced improved service performance, thanks to real time collaboration on service issues. Additionally, the sales team was able to work more closely together and close a record number of deals in the first quarter after implementing Chatter.

Problem: H&R Block, the tax preparation experts, wanted to find a way to see what their customers were talking about in order to anticipate problems before they arose.

Solution: The company decided to use Radian6's social monitoring technology to achieve this goal. The trend analysis tool allowed the company to drill down into community conversations and see which topics were creating the most buzz. This gave them better insight, enabling H&R Block to be more proactive in their customer service.

Problem: Pepperdine University's business school was looking for a better way to encourage collaboration among students, staff and faculty.

Solution: They partnered with Yammer to create a Twitter-like environment where users could interact and communicate in real-time and with more transparency. They saw an increase in community participation, due to the familiar UI, which has helped to enhance the learning and teaching process.

Because it is still in its fledgling stage, Social CRM still has a few kinks that need to be worked out. However, these case studies stand as a testament to the potential of this new market segment. It will be interesting to see its growth and maturation of the coming years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What Can I Do for You?

As we move closer to one of my favorite holidays of the year -- that would be Thanksgiving -- I've doing a little thinking about what I'm thankful for this year. Of course I am extremely thankful for my loving family and my kick ass job, boss and colleagues here at Powered. But at the end of the day, I am also incredibly thankful for you. Yes, that's right, YOU. The people that read my blog, endure my tweets and indulge me on Facebook.

This year, with your support I've:

  • Landed a book deal
  • Been invited to speak at numerous conferences
  • Connected with dozens of prospects and even a few customers
  • Learned a TON about marketing, social media and location-based services
So now it's my turn to give back to you. Just tell me what you'd like to do (join you for a webinar, podcast, write a guest blog post, grab a coffee, help paint your kitchen). You name it. And while I can't promise that I'll do it in the next seven days, I'll try and schedule it as soon as possible. For FREE. Because you deserve it.

p.s. there is one thing you could do for me if you feel so inclined. As we wrap up Movember, I'm shaking trees for donations. Consider giving $5-10 to help kick cancer's ass?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We're Writin' a Book

Okay, when I say "we're writin' a book," it's a Dummies book. Which of course is a real book. But it's not like we're creating the next great American novel. More specifically, the "we" is my good friend and geo-location savant, Mike Schneider and me. And the Dummies book (Wiley imprint) we're writing is Location Based Marketing for Dummies. To my knowledge, it will be only the second printed book on this subject. Our friend, Simon Salt's book being the first.

In the book, we plan to cover a broad array of topics including:
  • Choosing the right platform(s)
  • Building a LBS campaign
  • Creating a relevant offer
  • LBS as part of your loyalty program
  • Integrating LBS with other marketing efforts
  • Developing a monitoring strategy
  • KPIs and Measurement
Mike and I have started writing the book already and plan to have the book wrapped up in March of 2011. The book is scheduled to be published in June of 2011. God willing, we'll start the pre-orders around May. As soon as there is a link up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, we'll be sure you know about it.

By the way, I'd like to give a special thanks to our acquiring publisher, Amy Fandrei. She's not only super smart but she knows her stuff and has already done a fantastic job at "herding kittens" so to speak. Let's hope she's not sick of us by the end of this process.

So How you can help?

I'm glad you asked. If you're a LBS platform or vendor, we are interested in access to your executives, platform and case studies. If you see a new LBS hit the scene, send @schneidermike and I a tweet with the hashtag #LBM4D. You can also keep checking in and letting us know if you discover cool offers, glitches, Easter eggs and any other LBS topics that might be noteworthy. Tell us if you have specific things you think the book should cover, we are always listening.

And of course, you can read the book!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brand Haiku

Some people hate the fact that wifi is now available on airplanes. Not me. That's because a few of my more creative ideas have come to me while on a plane (see my 45 in 45 series as an example). My latest is a fun little exercise that I've asked a number of my blogger friends to participate in. The goal is to write a haiku about a recent brand experience -- good or bad.

For starters, let me share my haiku about my recent experience at the Intercontinental Hotel's Crowne Plaza property in Atlanta. While I was only able to capture a brief part of my great stay at the hotel, I would argue that it was the most important part... and one that would make me come back for more.

Stayed at Crowne Plaza
Tons of workspace in lobby
They are biz friendly

And here is the list of my blogger friends that have also decided to participate along with a link to their blogs. If you want, we've made this easy by linking each blog post to one another. So while you can access all the posts from here, it may make for more fun to read them serially by clicking on the link at the bottom of each person's post:
POST SCRIPT (11/15 @ 9:45 AM CT): After a grueling last few weeks working on his Social Strategy Report, Jeremiah is taking a few days off from blogging. However, he did offer up his #brand haiku via e-mail. His is posted below:

Stayed at Encore.
Very nice rooms on the strip.
I will return soon.

And as a double added bonus, here is my friend (and occasional #bromance) David Armano's snarky haiku tribute to moi.

If you want to participate, feel free. Just let me know where your blog is and I'll add you to the list. And to keep things rolling, consider tagging one of your friends in your post so that the chain continues.

And a few ex post facto additions:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Webinar: Retain Brand Loyalty with Location-Based Services

So I'll be doing a webinar with social media smarty, Cody Barbierri of Piehead, next Wednesday (11/17) titled Retain Brand Loyalty with Location-Based Services. The webinar is free and it will take place from 2:00 - 3:00 PM ET.

Here's the official writeup of the event:
Facebook has expanded the value of location-based check-ins for its 200 million plus mobile users. Twitter has broadened the horizons of its geolocation platform to provide more value for businesses and users. Foursquare has exploded to more than 4 million users and continues to offer businesses ways to build brand loyalty. Location-based services are certainly here to stay.
Utilizing mobile and location-based concepts to engage an audience on new levels can do wonders for a brand that’s looking to increase customer loyalty. The marketing potential around these services, like Foursquare and Facebook Places, represents an opportunity for brands to engage and retain their key audiences.
Location-based services represent a new access point for brand engagement and marketing opportunities. While every brand’s marketing goals and objectives are different, some of the potential uses may include special offers and discounts sent via mobile, games and mobile apps.
Join two industry leaders for this thought provoking web seminar and discover how targeted location-based service campaigns can drive increased consumer engagement and long-term brand loyalty. By attending the event, you will not only learn about the major players in the space, but also gain greater insight into how to:
  • Track customers using various location-based services
  • Engage with users to ensure increased brand loyalty
  • Retain and develop relationships while giving potential customers reasons to convert
  • Analyze marketing efforts and customer response through continuous analysis
  • Cody and I will also be available to answer your questions during a live Q+A session.

Hope you can join us! Register here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paid Media... Meet Social Media: The New Twitter Model

For three years, many of us skeptics have wondered aloud about the viability of Twitter. Will they sell sponsorships? Can they corporate tools help merit their billion dollar plus valuation? Would power users be wiling to pay for their services? Apparently, the answer is no (or at least not at the core). Instead, Twitter is taking a page out of the paid media book of tricks -- but with a social twist.

Witness, the promoted trend. Some of you who still make your way over to may have noticed that at the top of the trending topics list, their is now a little yellow "promoted" box. According to a trusted source, this slot is purchased for 24 hours and as of right now, is selling for somewhere in the $100,000/slot range. While little data has emerged about the success of these promoted trends (or the accompanying promoted tweets), up to 80% of the advertisers who have tested promoted trends and tweets are repeat buyers.

Twitter also has a third product called recommended accounts which they plan to dial up over the coming months (beta tests with select brands ran in September). These accounts can include people, companies and services. What I like about this last model is that it fulfills on the promise of marrying social media (an annuity) with paid media (ongoing costs). It will also put pressure on companies to get strategic about their bio, picture and quality of their tweet streams.

Coming Soon

While I'm still not 100% sold on the value of the sponsored tweet (apparently they are sold on a cost-per-click basis), I do like the idea of the trends and follower recommendations, especially as things like geo, demographic and day-part targeting come into effect (I'm assuming that Twitter has plans for those in the works). All of a sudden, brands will have an opportunity an amazing opportunity to present relevant content via links based on location, profile, current trends and past behavior. And most important of all, this gets done in a place that's become a regular hang out spot for millions of regulars.

Where things could get really interesting is when tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are fitted for these same types of paid media opportunities. I'm just guessing here but I have a hunch that Tweetdeck's launch of their latest version that includes real time updates is signaling a tighter integration between Tweetdeck and Twitter (otherwise, I can't imagine that Twitter would allow Tweetdeck full access to its API). It's this kind of integration that will prevent Twitter from being disintermediated from itself by the ecosystem of tools and clients that have cropped up over the last three years.

Which brands will be most successful using Twitter's new paid offerings? I guarantee that any kind of travel and entertainment business will benefit from this. Retailers -- particularly around the holidays -- should also benefit from the opportunity. B2B will definitely have a tougher time cracking this nut but then again, many B2B companies are more niche advertisers anyway.

What do you think? Will Twitter truly realize it's billion dollar plus potential this way? I have a feeling that they may just be onto something.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In the Off Chance You Needed EXTRA Mo-tivation for Movember...

Here's just a few reason's why WE are supporting Movember.

If you want to get involved (and have some fun), details are here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

We're Excited about Social Media Week Atlanta (11/8-11/12)

Joseph Jaffe -- Greg Verdino -- Aaron Strout
Are you planning on participating in Atlanta's Social Media Week (November 8 - 12, 2010)?  It's going to be a week filled with great content, networking and of course parties. In fact, our company -- Powered -- is doing it's share to help on all three fronts. Here are the details:
  • For starters, our very own Chief Interruptor (and three time published book author) Joseph Jaffe, will give a keynote presentation from 3-5 pm on Tuesday, November 9 at the Newell Rubbbermaid headquarters. Jaffe will be discussing his latest book: Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones. Jaffe will follow the discussion with a Q&A and then book signings.
  • That same night, Tuesday, November 9, Powered will host a Meet Up, from 5-7 pm, at Wildfire in the Perimeter Mall area. Joseph and Iwill be there so we hope you'll join us for some food, networking and maybe an adult beverage or two.
  • Thursday, November 11, my colleague and Powered VP of Strategy, Greg Verdino, will conduct his own Author Event, from 11 am – 12 pm, also at the Newell Rubbermaid headquarters. Greg will discuss his new book, microMARKETING: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small. We will follow the discussion with a Q&A and then Greg will be happy to sign at least a few books.
  • Immediately following Greg's event, the two of us, will moderate a Social Media Innovations panel, hosted by Social Media Atlanta, to feature homegrown innovations. The panel will be from 1:30-4 pm (November 11th) at InterContinental Hotels Group headquarters, and the panel discussion will be followed by break-out sessions allowing attendees to interact with the local technologies.
So two things. 1) each event has it's own sign up (I've linked to all of them) so be sure to register as space will be limited and 2) if you're going to be there that week, please ping me on Twitter at @aaronstrout or e-mail me at aaron DOT strout AT powered DOT com.

For more information on Social Media Atlanta 2010, or to register for any of these, and other, free events, please see

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Location-based Services: Best Practices from Texas State University [video]

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on location-based services during Texas State University's Mass Communication Week. I was lucky enought o be joined on the panel with the likes of Simon Salt, CEO of Incslingers and author of upcoming book, Geolocation Marketing, Jonathan Carroll, community manager at Gowalla and Tony Alvarado of OneTaco. We covered a range of topics including:
  • Why one might use location-based services (LBS) as an individual
  • Use cases of LBS for small businesses AND big businesses
  • A case study from Tony about One Taco's partnership with Gowalla during SXSW 2010
  • Benefits of using LBS
  • Risks (including privacy) and much much more...


Big thank you to Dara (which is pronounced like "Sarah" but with a "D") Quackenbush and Cindy Royal for inviting us all to participate.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Get the Facts: Cool Live Web Chat

While I'm as big a fan of the sex as anybody, if you read my blog, you likely know that it's not something I write about often. And don't worry, that's not going to change any time soon. But I am a fan of supporting good causes so with that in mind, I feel like it is my duty to let you know about a cool webcast that my wife's company, GenConnect, is hosting tomorrow night at 8 PM ET (October 25).

The focus of the webcast is "sex for life" and it features noted women's health expert, Dr. Alan Altman, expert on the subject of hormone replacement therapy and President of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. While the webcast itself will be a rebroadcast from a live event recorded a week ago, Dr. Altman will be available on the website to answer questions and talk to the attendees live. The webcast addresses things like the physiology and psychology surrounding sex (particularly from a woman's POV) after the age of 35.

So guys (particularly you old dudes like me), if you want to learn a thing or two, here's your chance to get the inside scoop. Ladies, this is your chance to validate what you probably already suspected and even better, if you have questions, Dr. Altman is just the guy to help you get the right answers.

Here's the link for tomorrow night's live chat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How Important is Your Twitter Bio?

It's funny. I've been on Twitter for almost exactly three years to the day. During that time, my Twitter bio has evolved ever so slightly. I've always included my title and company name. In addition, I've made it clear that I'm married (happily) and have three beautiful children. Recently, I included the fact that I am the co-host of the Quick'n'Dirty podcast show. That's it. I think at certain points in time I included the fact that I'm a huge Redsox and Patriots fan. But while I waiver on whether or not to add that back, I like my bio clean and simple.

Why do I do this? For a few reasons. Over the course of my three years on Twitter, I've had a chance to go through at least 14,730 people's Twitter bios. Yes, I look at every single one before I follow back. I also check and see if they have a picture and will try and get a sense of what they tweet about. I like real people... not robots. In that process, I've found that some people say a whole lot of nothing in their bios. And that's okay. It just likely won't get me to follow back.

To that end, is it okay to mention the fact that you like a particular sport, type of food, wine, sports team or music? Of course. Personal is good. In my case, my family is my "personal" part. And while I'd like to connect with other people that like the Redsox, the Patriots, BBQ, Tool or the Black Keys, I already know who a lot of these folks are. Why? Because they respond to me when I talk about them on Twitter. And if we find mutual value in each other's tweets, we start to follow each other.

So while I'm up on my soapbox, here are a few other tips I'd recommend if you're interested in getting more out of Twitter.

Tip One
Here are twelve thirteen fourteen* people/organizations that I'd recommend following (high signal to noise ratio):
  • Ann Handley - Author and chief content officer at MarketingProfs.
  • David Armano - SVP at Edelman Digital [*shame on me for leaving him off the first go around]
  • Brian Solis - Two time author and principal of FutureWorks
  • Marshal Kirkpatrick - Co-Editor of
  • Robert Scoble Rackspace employee who provides tech news, videos and opinions
  • eMarketer - Digital intelligence for marketers and advertisers on social media, mobile, media, advertising, retail, consumer products, and more
  • Brian Morrissey - Digital Editor at Adweek
  • Simon Mainwaring - Ex-Nike/Wieden creative, former Worldwide Creative Director Motorola/Ogilvy, branding/advertising writer, author/speaker/blogger
  • Augie Ray - Sr. Analyst of Social Computing/Marketing @ Forrester, tracking Communities, Twitter, Influence, Facebook and WOM
  • Joseph Jaffe - Three time author and chief interruptor at Powered.
  • ANA Marketers - Official account for the ANA. Provides info on events, insights, advocacy, training workshops, and news.
  • Jeremiah Owyang - Partner, Altimeter Group
  • Brett Petersel - Business Development, Community and Events at Mashable
  • Ad Age - AdAge the magazine's Twitter presence. A great source of news, intelligence and conversation for marketing and media communities.
Tip Two
Don't be afraid to mix fun with business. I try and add value to everyone that has decided to follow me. Sometimes this is through sharing useful news/links.  Sometimes through snark. Sometimes by expressing my feelings -- happy, sad, angry or Zen. While I'm not everyone's cup of tea, I think the people that have stuck with me over the years would agree that I'm more valuable than not. Those that disagree vote with their feet.

Tip Three
Don't be discouraged if someone doesn't follow you back. Some people don't like to follow anyone but people they know well. Some will follow after you've engaged them in dialogue a few times. But the way I go into it is that if I follow someone, I don't expect that they will follow me back. I follow them because I find what they say interesting enough not to care. With that said, I know part of the reason I've been lucky enough to have nearly 15,000 people follow me is because I mostly reciprocate when someone follows me.

Yes, there are hundreds of other good Twitter tips. But hopefully these will help. If you've got one you'd like to add, that's why God invented comments.

I Swallowed a Lot of Agression... a Long with a Lot of Pizza

That's one of my favorite lines from the Movie Stripes (yes, I'm that old). The quote was from an overweight John Candy who had just joined the army. His goal of course was to become a "lean, mean, fighting machine." Well, that's my goal too. Except for the fighting part. But you get my drift.

So why am I exposing my chest and underwear to you? For two reasons. One, I'm proud of the fact that after many years of being fit and trim... and then letting my younger children and two startups... get the better of me... I'm now down 15 pounds from my high water mark of 227 pounds. Yes, as you can see I still have a little ways to go but I am much happier at 212. And my goal is to be closer to 205 or even 200.

The second reason I'm exposing myself is because my friend, Simon Salt (who is working on a transmogrification of his own) pointed me in the direction of an amazing woman named Mish G who has started a movement called -- you guessed it -- the Exposed Movement. What's cool is that Mish has gotten over 100 women and men to expose themselves. And to face up to the fact that very few people have perfect bodies. To that end, we can either loathe ourselves our love ourselves. Mish and her community have obviously chosen the latter. And so am I.

Here's most of me. And with any luck, in another 4-6 weeks, you'll see an updated picture of an even slimmer Aaron. In the meantime, I'm going to keep eating right, exercising and loving what God gave me. How about you? Will you join the movement?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Movember Time, Austin Style!

Some of you may remember that last year, a bunch of us Austinites teamed up against some of my former Bostonians to raise awareness and help fight prostate and testicular cancer during the month of November. The end result of our Movember campaign was a 50 person team with over $18,000 in donations. This year, we're hoping to make it bigger... five times bigger to be exact. We have big plans to incorporate corporate donations, scavenger hunts, famous sports figures and lots more.

What's fun about this fund raising effort is that not only focused on encouraging people to donate money but more importantly, it's about team building and creating awareness so that blockheads like me who at least one point in time in their lives thought they were invincible, do something about getting regular checkups. Oh yeah, we also get to grow mustaches (or if you're female, you get to Photoshop on a mustache). In fact, the pictures you see here are some of our late stage "mo's" that team Austin grew last year.

Most importantly, you're probably asking yourself how you get involved. Well, I'm happy you brought it up. First and foremost, we'd like you to sign up. Don't worry, there isn't any hazing (well, not that we can speak of anyway). We have about 30 people 56 people on the team now with another 20+ that have verbally committed. That means we have 170 more to go. So get your friends, family and colleagues to sign up too.

Note - if you want an easy way to pass colleagues along to this post, you can use shortened URLs:

The second way you can help is to donate. Now I won't lie to you, if we're going to get close to $100,000 this year, we need people to donate. But if I had my druthers, I'd rather have you sign up for the team and not donate a penny than the other way around. With that said, I know many folks are pressed for time (or don't want to grow a mustache) so if this is your thing, far be it from me to stop you.

Finally, we will be spilling the fun over to Facebook and a central touch-base site that my man, Wesley Faulkner will be running. Stay tuned for details on that front.

[NOTE: You (and others) can also now pledge $$ using tweets. Find out more details here on the Help Attack! blog. Or contact Sarah Vela and/or David Neff for details.]

I'll also be keeping a running list of new team members below. Let me know if I've missed you:
  1. Joseph Jaffe
  2. Aaron Bramley
  3. Aaron De Lucia
  4. Aaron Strout
  5. Albert Morales
  6. Alex Stivers
  7. Amanda Adams
  8. Amanda Wagner
  9. Andrea Lipizzi
  10. Andrea Schulle
  11. Andrew Stidvent
  12. Art Thompson
  13. Avan Allen
  14. Bacon Ator
  15. Becky Parker
  16. Beez "the dog" Chen (our first canine on the team)
  17. Beth Gwazdosky
  18. Bill Gillespie
  19. Bob Dilly
  20. Brandon Herrin
  21. Brandon Sockwell
  22. Bret Cunningham
  23. Brett Agnew
  24. Brian Kotlyar
  25. Britt McMillan
  26. Brittany Oster
  27. Bryan Chaney
  28. Bryan Menell
  29. Bryan Person
  30. Carlos Urreta
  31. Charlie Browning
  32. Chino Monteleon
  33. Chris Bailey
  34. Chris Dienna
  35. Christopher Uhland
  36. Colin Alsheimer
  37. Corey Pudhorodsky
  38. Cuyler Owens
  39. D'Ann Faught
  40. Dara Quackenbush
  41. Darin Kirschner
  42. David Breshears
  43. David McCarl
  44. David J. Neff
  45. Dennis Hall
  46. Dennis Kristensen
  47. Denver Bronco
  48. Doni Wilson
  49. Doug Wick
  50. Dustin Wyatt
  51. Dylan Spurgin
  52. Edgar Dapremont
  53. Ehren Foss
  54. Elijah May
  55. Elmer Boutin
  56. Emily Babb
  57. Eric Weiss
  58. Erik McMillan
  59. Evan Sanders
  60. Felicia Adams
  61. Fernando Labastida
  62. Gard Mayer
  63. Glenn Banton
  64. Greg Ackerman
  65. Greg Matthews
  66. Greg Verdino
  67. Haley Odom
  68. Hawk Mendenhall
  69. Ian Greenleigh
  70. J Noel Kvale
  71. Jacob Burns
  72. Jacqueline Hughes
  73. Jake Sussman
  74. James Young
  75. Jared Haas
  76. Jason Kapler
  77. Jason Stoddard
  78. Jason Vogen
  79. Jeff Rousel
  80. Jen Orr
  81. Jennie Chen
  82. Jennie Loev
  83. Jeremy Brooks
  84. Jill McFarland
  85. Jim Bean
  86. Jim Cochrun
  87. Jim Keeler
  88. Joanie Pechenik
  89. Joe Cohen
  90. Joey McGirr
  91. John Cartwright
  92. John Johansen
  93. John Knox
  94. Jon Dunn
  95. Jonathan Gesinger
  96. Jonathan Weldon
  97. Jordan Viator
  98. Justin Crandall
  99. Justin Edwards
  100. Caitlin Pesl
  101. Karen Pascoe
  102. Kate Buck
  103. Kendall Schmidt
  104. Kenneth Cho
  105. Kevin Koym
  106. Kevin O'Brien
  107. Kim Hollenshead
  108. Kimbria Andreassen
  109. Kyle Flaherty
  110. Laura Beck
  111. Lee Baker
  112. Lee Parker
  113. Lisa Maxwell
  114. Mark Couvillion
  115. Mark Young
  116. Martin Montero
  117. Matt Curtin
  118. Matt Harris
  119. Matt McDougall
  120. Matt McGinnis
  121. Max Chirkov
  122. Melissa Reiss
  123. Merton Young
  124. Michael Adams
  125. Michael Yockey
  126. Mike Hamilton
  127. Mike Neumann
  128. Mitch Wilson
  129. Morgan Brown
  130. Paul Bonser
  131. Paul Walhus
  132. Peter Poulin
  133. Peter Bramley
  134. Rachelle King
  135. Ray Grill
  136. Ricardo Guerrero
  137. Ricardo Sanchez
  138. Rick Vlaha
  139. Robert Gilbreath
  140. Russ Somers
  141. Sam Eder
  142. Sarah Vela
  143. Saurabh Das
  144. Scott Hanson
  145. Scott Metler
  146. Sean Bell
  147. Sean Claes
  148. Sethho Sulser
  149. Shaine Mata
  150. Sherry Lowry
  151. Siam Saechew
  152. Simon Salt
  153. Sonny Johns
  154. Stacy Libby
  155. Sydney Owen
  156. Talmadge Boyd
  157. Tamar Weinberg
  158. Texas Stars Hockey
  159. Tim Hayden
  160. Tim Walker
  161. Tom Niemeyer
  162. Tom Trantham
  163. Tracy Trevino
  164. Travis Kenney
  165. Trey Swain
  166. Wesley Faulkner
  167. Will Staney
  168. William Kelleher
  169. William Mitschke
  170. William Morrow
  171. Yvette Leroux
Last but not least, here is our Flickr collection from THIS YEAR. I'll be swapping this out for this year's once we start to get our Mo on.

TeamAUS Movember 2010 - View this group's photos on Flickriver

NOTE: Weekly team conference calls every Friday at 11 AM CT. Number is: 888-693-8686 / 2053266

Verizon's "Room to Learn" Community

Today Verizon and Powered are proud to announce the launch [pdf] of a new "branded engagement community" called Room to Learn. It's a big move for a smart company who operates in an industry that's not known for it's focus on customer service. In fact, the reason we're so excited about this project is because we see this as a big step toward the future of the way customer service will get done in the future.

Podcast: Director of eBusiness at Verizon, Mark Studness, and I talked about the project in a recent podcast.

What's unique about Room to Learn is that instead of waiting for customers to come to come to them with questions or complaints, Verizon is reaching out their customers with useful content. Content that will help them with all things media and home entertainment. Even better, the information and education that Verizon will provide it's customers (and non-customers) doesn't try and sell them anything. Imagine that?

Why would a company do this you ask? Because Verizon realizes that in order to maintain their leadership position in the market, they need to do something game changing. Something my colleague, Joseph Jaffe, likes to call customer service 2.0. It's the concept of the "give before the get." The results should be things like greater loyalty, deeper engagement, greater share of wallet and most importantly, referrals.

A few other exciting things to mention about this new branded engagement community:
  • The community manager will be none other than Becky Carroll, a seasoned social media professional who is well versed in blogging, podcasting and community.
  • A resident contributor in Alfred Poor. Yes, that Alfred Poor, the guy that has covered consumer electronics for 20+ years for the likes of PC World.
  • Community forums for customers to ask questions, talk with professionals or share ideas with one another.
What you'll notice today is that the conversations on Room to Learn are just getting started. If you're interested in joining, the good news is that you don't even need to be a customer. Obviously, Verizon expects that if you participate, you'll be respectful and will keep the language clean. But they are always looking for feedback to if you have constructive feedback or simple suggestions, you can let them (or us) know and we'll be sure to work it into the mix.

Is your company following Verizon's lead and getting proactive about customer service? If not, what's stopping you?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 Take Aways from the ANA's 2010 Masters of Marketing Conference

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending my first Masters of Marketing event in Phoenix, AZ (recap here). The thing that blew me away at that event and convinced me not only to come back, but also to sponsor this year, was the amount of talent amassed in one place at one time. Unlike many other conferences, the speakers all stick around and network... for three days. This leads to unprecedented access to people like:
  • Mark Baynes - CMO, Kellogg Company
  • Marc Pritchard - CMO, Procter and Gamble
  • Erin Nelson - CMO, Dell Inc.
  • Keith Pardy - CMO, Research in Motion
  • Ralph Santana - CMO, Samsung Electronics NA
  • Jim Speros - CMO, Fidelity Investments
  • Joseph Tripodi - CMO, Coca-Cola Company
  • Ted Ward - CMO, Geico Auto Insurance
  • Mary Beth West - CMO, Kraft Foods
  • Michael Francis - CMO, Target Corporation
What's amazing is that the ten CMOs I've listed above only represent about 1% of the senior marketers attending the event. Given the talent and experience the Masters of Marketing event attracts, you can only imagine the quality of the 3-day marketing "MBA" you receive after attending. And that's assuming you only make it to 50% of the sessions. Even more impressive is that many of the marketers seemed to be singing off the same song sheet. To that end, here are my five key takeaways from this year's event:

Top Take Aways
  1. Companies are getting back to basics when it comes to defining what their brand stands for. Several speakers talked about the importance of a brand having purpose and there seems to be a greater awareness of a need for the brand to be better connected with its customers.
  2. While the topic of social media came up in almost every presentation, it's still not a top priority for most brands. What is encouraging is that if social wasn't on last year's CMO's "must do" list, it definitely is this year, even if it's priority number 8, 9 or 10.
  3. As a follow up to point number two, most marketers are at least "social curious." As someone that lives and breathes social media, I had at least a dozen very interesting conversations with marketers who wanted to know more about things like Twitter, location-based marketing and developing a social strategy.
  4. While many of the presenters included clips of their 30 second spots, it felt more integrated versus "showcased" in comparison to last year's event. In fact, Coca Cola CMO, Joe Tripodi, only showed video clips from Youtube and customer research projects. By the way, with the exception of Seth Greenberg of Intuit, Joe seemed to be the most socially savvy CMO of the bunch.
  5. The uptick in the economy this year was reflected in the event itself. First and foremost, there were easily 50% more attendees this year. Also, the quality of the receptions and entertainment were ratcheted up a notch or three. To me, that's a good sign that marketers are feeling comfortable (or at least cautiously optimistic) about spending again.
Another thing I included in last year's wrap up post were some of my favorite tweets from the event (many were quotes from the speakers). You can see all the tweets from the event that were tagged with #ANAMarketers but once again, I've selected my top ten (in no particular order) out of the hundreds for your viewing pleasure:
  • @ANAmarketers: Friend casting on Facebook has no media cost. Friend casting was 4 more times more effective then a banner ad for #Intuit #ANAmarketers
  • @StepByStepMktng: AmEx CMO John Hayes: build a narrative around the WHY of what you do inside and outside the company. #ANAMarketers
  • @betterads: #ANAmarketers: @Starcom Laura Desmond - "Paid Media gets the party started, Owned & Earned keeps it going all night long"
  • @ANAmarketers:Very cool: #Target’s take over of the Standard Hotel in NYC #ANAmarketers
  • @WellsMelanie: Social media can do a lot--but it can't solve brand problems, say top marketers. #ANAmarketers
  • @lisarosenberg: Univision's Graciela Eleta: There is no average American. 46% of all people under 18 are minorities. #ANAmarketers #PNID
  • @cindygallop1: All CMOs speaking @ #ANAMarketers showing work - PLEASE give your agency shout-out by name. Best new biz opportunity they will have all year
  • @StepByStepMktng: Dell CMO Karen Quintos: we love data. We measure everything. we're mining through data all the time. #ANAMarketers
  • @aaronstrout: Laura Desmond also talks about curation, content, conversation. Did she read @JaffeJuice's #FliptheFunnel book last night? #ANAMarketers
  • @maryleesachs: Joe Tripodi of Coke talks about moving from measuring impressions to expressions, from loyalty to advocacy. Makes sense. #anamarketers
Oh, and while this isn't really of value to anyone but me, my response on Twitter from the lovely and talented, Leann Rimes, was hands down my favorite tweet during the event. In fact, I did a quick podcast a couple of days later on what brands could learn from how Leann engages with her customers (and prospective customers like me).
All in all, this conference felt like a big success. As I mentioned earlier, my company, Powered, was a sponsor and our goal was to meet some smart people, create some additional brand awareness, demonstrate our thought leadership (we gave out copies of colleague, Joseph Jaffe's latest book, Flip the Funnel, to 500 of the ANA's members) and managed to collect a few business cards in the process. While sponsorship wasn't inexpensive, I would definitely do it all over again if I had to sign on the dotted line today.

As an added bonus, there were some great performers at the event including the Goo Goo Dolls (remember them)? If you liked the song Name, here is a live recording (thank you iPhone 4) of the performance. I have to say, the sound quality is actually pretty good.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Two weeks ago, I kicked off a photo contest on Flickr. We had about a dozen people participate and those people picked some 131 favorites out of the 5,217 that I've uploaded over the past several years. My original goal was to have my friend, Maury Postal (who just had his own gallery showing in NYC), pick the ten winners out of the 131. Unfortunately, after Maury picked his ten it left a three way tie. To resolve the matter I brought in another judge (and master photog) Ken Yeung.

What were the results? Well, I now have over 100 photos that are the cream of the crop. Even better, I have twenty pics that have been hand selected by two semi-pro photographers that I trust and respect. This is what we call curation (more on that topic in a future post). As much as I'd like to think that everyone visiting my Flickr account wants nothing more than to see ALL 5,000+ pictures, what they realistically want to see are the best of my photos. And now I can deliver that to them.

Let's not forget about the most important part and that is the contest winner(s). There were actually two of them: the first was my favorite alien and avid Quick'n'Dirty podcast listener, Howie Goldfarb (aka @SkyPulseMedia). Howie had the most favorites selected (nine out of twenty) but when I went in and looked at how many pictures Howie had favorited during the first phase of the contest, I realized that he may have slightly exceeded the suggested number of ten choices. In the spirit of fairness, I decided that I would split the prize between Howie and Deards whose true identity is yet to be revealed (she picked six of the twenty finalists). That means Howie and Deards each get a $25 gift card of their choosing (iTunes or Starbucks).

Congratulations to the two winners. Thank you to our celebrity judges and a HUGE thank you to you all for participating and making this contest a success. In addition to Howie and Deards, the entrants included: Sheila Scarborough, Jim Storer, Jay Bryant, Darin Kirschner, Steve Golab, Liz Phillips, Tyson Goodridge, Helen Rittersporn and my mom, Martha Strout.

If you'd like to see the winners, the thumbnails are below. Or head on over here to see the final results.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Black Star Beer's Commitment to Conversation

In my colleague, Joseph Jaffe's, second book is titled Join the Conversationhe talks about he importance of a concept called, "commitment to conversation." You can probably guess what this means but just in case your like me and need things spelled out for you, the concept is directed toward businesses and strongly encourages them to not just join a conversation but to maintain and follow up on conversations with key stakeholders.

Glenn Banton touched on this concept of commitment to conversation in a recent post on practical uses for geolocation services. One of the examples he cited was a missed a local coffee shop's missed opportunity when I checked into a Starbucks across the street. Upon being invited to try their coffee instead, I  responded that if they could promise me a great tasting Americano (my drink of choice) and a 10% discount (the same discount Starbucks provided via their gold card at the time). Instead of continuing the conversation with me and potentially winning me and maybe a few of my 14,000 Twitter followers, they went dark. Why? We'll never know. But it was a bad move on their part.

So what does this all have to do with Black Star Beer? I'll tell you. To start with, they are the polar opposite of the aforementioned local coffee shop. The conversation started a couple of months ago when they invited me to head on over to their Facebook page to participate in a very cool, experiential contest they were running. While I didn't win the contest, I was impressed enough with their contest (and follow through) to mention them in a follow up post on the value of a Facebook fan. In the post, I used Black Star Beer as an example of a company that engaged their customers and prospects through a thoughtful and clever contest.

Following my write up, I got an nice "thank you" e-mail that was accompanied by an offer to send along a press kit. Intrigued by what a press kit from a beer company might entail, I bit. What arrived was a nicely designed box with a can and bottle of a new beer they were launching in LA, the double-hopped golden larger, a CD with several videos (I included one of them which shows their new brewery in action below) and a dozen beautiful product shots. There was also a press release but most importantly, a hand-written post it note.

Rumor has it that the beer was good but the moral of the story here is that through Black Star's commitment to conversation with me, they've received several mentions in my blog, on Facebook and on Twitter... an most importantly, a dedicated blog post patting them on the back for their good deeds. You know how much this cost them? $10-15 in shipping costs and then whatever amount of time their PR/social media person, Charlotte Robertson, invested in listening and responding. While I'm sure Charlotte doesn't come cheap, I'm equally convinced that I'm not the only blogger/journalist that she's reaching out to. And the result is not only earned media which does have a value attached to it but hopefully hundreds if not thousands of new customers (or more satisfied existing customers) thanks to others like me.

Is your company making a commitment to conversation? If it isn't, maybe it's time you take a closer look at what Black Star Beer is doing. Or give my company a call. We'll be happy to share everything we know.