Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ensuring A Successful Corporate Facebook Presence

This contributed article for Mediapost originally ran on March 22, 2010

Not surprisingly, it's difficult to find a large brand that isn't at least thinking about how it can participate in social networking phenom Facebook. With over 400 million members, Facebook teases with an audience that is nearly four times greater than that of the Super Bowl... every day. Unfortunately, many brands are finding that there is a big difference between setting up a fan page and creating a meaningful presence that attracts real customer engagement.

The single biggest point of failure according to my colleague, Kevin Tate, principal of StepChange, is an unwillingness to follow the four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence. Kevin knows a thing or two about this topic, as he has worked with nearly 100 brands to create meaningful Facebook presences in a world where many have failed.

The four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence are fairly straightforward, but to rush straight to stage four is where companies typically fall down.
  1. Strategy - Before you start building, there are a few things to think about. For instance, who do you want to talk to? What do you want to talk to them about? What do you want them to do? Figuring these questions out up front will help ensure a successful step two.
  2. Presence - With most companies, creating a solid presence requires creating one or more fan pages with several tabs. This is the "getting the house in order" step. Presence can be a difficult step, as this step requires patience while you build your following.
  3. Activation - This is the "what do you want them to do" part. A brand can have all the fans on Facebook, but what's the value of a fan just sitting there? Activation is the "what do you want them to do" portion of building a fan page. Real value is when a fan is doing something for you outside of being just another follower.
  4. Amplification - This is more of an outcome than a stage, but if you have the right presence and you've done your activation, amplification should allow you to tap your Facebook presence to amplify or build on current campaigns, in-store promotions and other marketing activities.
A good example of a company that has done a great job building out its Facebook presence, with a little over 1.1 million fans, is Dunkin' Donuts. The company has a "fan of the week," where it highlights that fan in its profile picture. In addition, fans celebrate promotions that are going on in the different tabs where they can dunk themselves in chocolate, design their own donut (leading to hundreds of thousands of likes and comments by fans) and even upload photos taken in stores or with Dunkin' Donuts products.

Unfortunately, for every Dunkin' Donuts, there are fifty other brands that have failed to lead with a strategy or even create a meaningful presence on Facebook, but instead have gone right to trying to "activate" their customers. Some will eventually figure out a way to engage with the 400 million-plus members of this increasingly popular site, while others will abandon their efforts and just assume that Facebook "isn't for them."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Quick'n'dirty Podcast 35: Wine + Techmology = Cool

Yes, I know I misspelled the word "technology." That wasn't by mistake. If you don't get the joke, maybe you should be spending more time watching Ali G. reruns...

In all seriousness, yesterday was a really fun show. It started with me raving about newly discovered podcast platform/technology iPadio (H/T to friend Bryan Person). My co-host, Jennifer, hadn't had a chance to spend much time with with the service yet but agreed with my assessment that they showed promise. Here are the four things I really like about their service:

  1. The sound quality -- at least on the iPhone -- is crystal clear. I assume the recording on other devices is equally good (you listen for yourself with my test podcasts).
  2. You can record offline (assuming you have an app) and upload when you have connectivity. This is good for planes or car rides where cell coverage can vary.
  3. When I decided to give iPadio a test and mentioned so on Twitter, James O'Malley (he mans their Twitter presence) immediately chimed in and offered up his help if I needed it.
  4. Their CEO, Mark Smith, followed up with me after my first test and let me know about a cool project they participated in recently.
Next up, we had one of our most interesting guests to date in Paul Mabray, chief strategy officer of Vintank. Not only is he funny (his Twitter picture says it all) but his company is bringing technology and innovation to one of the oldest industries in the world, namely, wine.

During our 25 minute conversation, Paul covered some of the reasons why it's tricky to innovate in the wine industry including state regulations, dirth of eCommerce know-how and a general lack of knowledge of the end customer on the part of most of the vineyards/wineries -- an issue caused by selling almost exclusively through intermediaries. As if humor and smarts weren't enough, one of the other things that Jennifer and I really appreciated about Paul/Vintank is that he brings 16 years of wine industry experience to the table. Yup, this guy knows the space inside and out.

Speaking of smart, our featured, "Twitterer of the week" was Lon Cohen aka @Obilon. While I wasn't as familiar with Lon as Jennifer was, he has an impressive background. His LinkedIn profile points to his background in strategic online marketing, communications, social media, SEO and content management. He also demonstrates a healthy dose of snark in his tweet stream which as anyone that follows our show knows is a huge plus in our book.

Last but not least was our point / counterpoint. This week, we talked about "what comes first, philanthropy or fans." Jennifer talked about an example of a company that offered to send a pump to Haiti if they reached a certain number followers. Her gripe was, why not just buy the pump and send it and then encourage follower-ship based on the good deed. I argued that while it would be a noble for company X to send the pump up front, the reason they can afford to buy the pump in the first place is that they've made a strategic bet that the social buzz they create through this PR stunt can drive meaningful marketing results. Where Jennifer and I both agreed was that being singularly focused on quantity vs. quality of followers.

On the housekeeping front, here are three things Jennifer and I would like to to put on your radar:
  • As of April 29, Jennifer and I are going to move our "live broadcast" time from 6 PM ET / 3 PM PT to 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT. We are also trimming our show from 45 to 30 minutes (same format, just crisper).
  • We are officially looking for an unpaid intern / producer (we will pay in love, kindness and recognition). Time commitment is likely 1-2 hours / week. Ideally person has some podcast editing skills, knowledge of social networks and highly organized. If interested, DM Jennifer or me for details.
  • You can listen to past shows here, or read recaps on Jennifer's ZDNet blog or my Stroutmeister blog.
Until next week, booyakasha.

Five Minutes of Me: Why I Like Plancast

I've decided to start a new podcast series. I don't have a regular schedule but 2-3 times a week I want to start recording five minute blurbs about things I'm thinking about (or follow ups to conversations I've had with folks). The working title of this series is Five Minutes of Me (I'm also testing auto-syndication to this blog, Facebook and Posterous).

Yesterday, I did my second installment (1st was for AdVerve on location-based services: my segment is about 43 minutes in) and it focuses on reasons I like the new "planning" application/service called Plancast. Think of it as FourSquare but in the future. Two reasons why it works for me (Kyle Flaherty take note):
  1. I follow the right people -- and they happen to be people that I actually know
  2. I've subscribed to the digest which is essentially an itinerary of cool things to do
If you like Plancast or hate it (or fall somewhere in between), let me know why in the comments below.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How I Spent My "Geek Spring Break" (aka SXSWi)

It's been exactly a week since South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and I've had a little bit of time to let the dust settle. While this was definitely the most stressful of the three SXSWi's I've been to, it was also the most professionally rewarding. Yes, you heard me right. I actually had a good time at SXSWi AND found value unlike others who complained that it's become too big, too commercialized or too whatever. Rather than pile on, I'll let my friends Kyle Flaherty and Jessica Smith and sister, Heather Strout's posts speak to this point as they've really covered all the bases.

What I would like to cover in my recap of my experience at SXSWi are five things. I've bulleted the items below so you can focus on the areas you care about and skip the "who gives a shit" stuff.
  • Key take away's from the Dachis Group's Social Business Summit on Thursday
  • Location-based services - my $.02
  • Speaking at SXSWi and what I think it takes to get on a panel
  • The @Redsoxgnome photo meme
  • Parties: which ones I liked and why (including our very own Powered Inc. party)

Fortunately or unfortunately, I was not able to attend very many panels this year. Believe it or not, it was not a lack of want on my part but rather a lack of time (thus the stress) between meetings, briefings, client events, prospecting, etc. I did have the good fortune of sitting on two panels this year (more on that under bullet three) and did get a chance to catch my friend / mentee, Sydney Owen's panel, "GenY Wants to Work with You, Not for You (my friend, Elysa Rice was also on the panel -- both did a wonderful job). I also caught the first half of Twitter founder, Evan Williams', keynote. Like many folks, I was underwhelmed but found a little additional value in moderator, Umair Haque's blog recap/apology.

The reason I'm providing this prologue is that I didn't feel as bad about not attending panels during SXSWi because I had a day of great inspiration on the Thursday prior. (A big thank you to Peter Kim / Jeff Dachis for inviting me). You can visit the agenda to see a list of all the speakers and topics but the highlights for me were the breadth and depth of what was covered. In particular, I really liked Charlene Li's (Altimeter Group) talk on open leadership, Jaime Punishill's (Citi) discussion of operationalizing social, Kate Niederhoffer's (Dachis Group) primer on social psychology,  Frank Eliason's (Comcast) focus on social's impact on cultural change and finally Jackie Huba's (Ants Eye View) highlighting of why the "one percent-ers" matter. Don't get me wrong, all of the speakers were fantastic... these just happen to be the handful that really stood out.


One of the biggest takeaways for me at SXSWi is that location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are here to stay. Those two may or may not be the dominant players in the long run (I like both companies but my money is on Facebook for winning this game in the long run) but they definitely got their day in the sun at SXSWi. Author, Alan Wolk and 140 Conference founder, Jeff Pulver, shared some interesting thoughts here and here on what LBS lack and why they played a bigger role at SXSWi than Twitter.

As someone that's spent more time than is healthy experimenting with location-based services -- I started using Brightkite in early 2008 -- I had the opportunity to experience the good, the bad and the ugly of Gowalla and Foursquare during SXSWi. For one, Gowalla and FourSquare helped me find out where the best panels, lunches, dinners and parties were during the conference. In particular, a simple check up on the whereabouts of Mssrs. Chris Heueur, Brett Petersel, David Armano or Robert Scoble more often than not let me know where the action was.

Using FourSquare and Gowalla was also particularly useful in trying to track down friends and colleagues when we got separated (which happened fairly often). Lastly, I was also able to figure out who was in the blogger's lounge at any given time (to that end, big ups to Porter Novelli, TechSet, Brian Solis, Stephanie Agresta and Windows for making the BL possible). The Bloggers' Lounge continues to be one of my favorite places to hang out during SXSWi.

On the bad/ugly side of LBS, there are privacy issues that are starting to arise. For one. FourSquare has developed a feature that automatically includes other "friends" that are checked into a common location when a user decides to cross-post on Twitter. Normally, this is no big deal but increasingly is starting to cause confusion or even trouble. As an example, think about this use case... I check into the Iron Cactus for lunch. As the day wears on, I get caught up with work and forget to check into another location. At 3:30, a female friend that I'm connected with on FourSquare checks into the Iron Cactus and says "doing tequila shots." The problem is, unknowingly the aforementioned female friend's tweet might look something like this, "@SusieQue is doing tequila shots w/ @aaronstrout at Iron Cactus (225 Fourth Street" While I may, or may not care whether I'm being accused of doing tequila shots, if my boss and/or wife are watching Twitter, they might see this tweet and wonder, "what the hell is Aaron doing with Susie Que at 3:30 in the afternoon when he should be working?

On a side note, one of the bright spots of SXSWi for me was a social network / platform called Plancast. I covered this with my podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, a few weeks ago on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show and will be interviewing their CEO, Mark Hendrickson sometime in April. Even if you are not socially inclined, it is a great way to discover events (and keep track of events that you have signed up for). You can also find out more from the interview that my friend, Simon Salt, did with Mark here.


As I mentioned earlier, this was my third year attending SXSWi. My first year here, I was just in awe of actually coming and did not submit for any panels. For 2009, I submitted for a panel that made it all the way to the finals before being nixed. And then there was this year. I only submitted one panel and that was on behalf of my colleague, Kathy Warren. It was to include Kodak client, Tom Hoehn, and friends, Shawn Morton of Nationwide and Peter Fasano of Coke. The focus was how businesses were generating ROI using social (I mean, who would want to see that panel, right?) Unfortunately, that panel did not make the cut but my friend, Tim Walker's panel on using sports metaphors in social did. I was also lucky enough to be asked to join a panel on Digital Identity Theft by my friend Beth Gwazdosky at CSIdentity.

What's the moral of this story? One, it's an arbitrary process from what I can tell and two, make friends with people who have a good shot of getting their panels approved. Oh, and keep trying because as frustrating as it is to submit and fail, you don't have a shot (unless you've got the right friends) unless you try. For summaries of the Digital Identity Theft panel I did with Bill Morrow, see my sister's post (referenced earlier). My friend, Christine Major, did a nice wrap up of the sports metaphor panel that Tim and Kyle Flaherty were kind enough to include me on.


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and that couldn't be more true when it came to this year's photo meme. For those who are wondering "what's up with the gnome," the short version of the story is that my good friend, Jim Storer (the photographer responsible for many of the photos in this post) decided to start a photo meme last year called, Sad, Mad, Glad. This year, our goal was to one-up that meme so we solicited suggestions from Twitter. Former colleague, Susan Koutalakis, teed up the idea of taking pictures with the Red Sox Gnome ala Travelocity. I've included a few of my favorites below but be sure to head over to Jim's Flickr stream to see all the victims participants in the meme.


I could wax poetic on this last topic for a while. But I won't. Mainly because I don't want to reinforce the perception that SXSWi is all about the parties. Don't get me wrong, there are A LOT of parties. But for anyone that really "gets it," you realize that the networking is what's important and that can happen in a number of different ways including breakfasts, hallway conversations, the Blogger's Lounge, car rides to the Salt Lick, etc.

With that said, here are my five favorite parties/events from SXSWi in no particular order:
  • Allhat II at Guero's (thrown by Richard Binhammer and David Armano): Great people, great venue, great music and great food. Have I used the adjective "great" enough yet? (photos)
  • Firefly Fandango at Molotov (thrown by Jason Falls, Tim Hayden, Tom Martin and Chillie Falls): all the right people on a roof deck with enough room to move around. (photos)
  • TechSet at Speakeasy (thrown by Brian Solis and Steph Agresta): this party always tends to be one of the "Bells of the Ball." Fun accessories like Kyle Flaherty's boa (pictured at the top of this post) and funky white shades. Got a little crowded mid-way through but fun nonetheless. (photos)
  • Flash Party at Belmont (inspired by Chris Heuer): sometimes the best parties are the ones that happen spontaneously. I think this was the most fun because of who showed up and that it wasn't on anyone's calendar. Chris just made it happen. (photos)
  • The Powered Party at Scholz Garten (thrown by my company, Powered -- props to Drillteam and Beth Lopez for making this party kick ass): If the venue, people, food, weather etc. made Allhat II great, add actor/comedian, Brian Posehn, to the mix and you had a perfect mix of funny and chemistry. Thank you to everyone that showed up for this party. It meant a lot to me/us. (photos)
  • Honorable mention: The group that Peter Kim and I got together at the Salt Lick. (photos)
  • Also honorable mention: the Chevy party thrown by Christopher Barger at the Salt Lick. And yes, I got my share of BBQ during SXSWi as evidenced by the Porky badge I earned as a result on FourSquare.
So that's a wrap. Longer than I wanted it to be but missing a bunch of things I wanted to talk about. Isn't that always the way. An additional shout out to some of my peeps that I hung out with during SXSW including: Joe Jaffe, Doug Wick, Bill Fanning, Sydney OwenMason Nelder, Zena Weist, Adam Cohen, Selina McCusker, Zane AvetonBill Johnston, Jaime Punishill, Anna O'Brien, Frank Eliason, Deb Micek, Aaron Brazell, D'Ann Faught, Alexa Scordato, Keith Burtis, Rocky Barbanica, Brett Petersel, Reem Abeidoh, Heather Elias, Hadley Stern, Martha Hayward, David Smutek, Liz Phillips, Marlooz Veldhuisen, Jeremy Tanner, Maria Ogneva, Greg Narain, Ginger Wilcox, Derek Overbey, Andy Kaufman, Jeremiah Owyang, David Berkowitz, Maggie Fox, Lionel Menchaca, Greg Matthews, Shawn Morton, Chuck Hemann, Bryan Person and about a thousand other people I'm going to piss off by not mentioning here.

Special thanks to Jim Storer for being my partner in crime and making the conference incrementally more fun with all his awesome photos. And special, special thanks to my loving and supportive wife, Melanie and my three awesome children for letting me be an absentee husband/dad for nearly six days.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

7 Reasons You Know You're Experiencing SXSW Withdrawal

There's no doubt that by the end of South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), we are all tired, brain dead and a little overwhelmed... yet we all seem to have a big ole' permagrin on our face (not to mention hundreds of new Twitter, Plancast and and Gowalla followers). This is partially due to the fact that there is just nothing quite like "South-by" as locals call it. It's just such a perfect mix of sun, friends and a deeper understanding of what makes "social," well... "social."

As a three time veteran, I feel the need to let other South-by attendees that they aren't the only ones to feel that twinge of remorse as their planes touch down, especially those that have to go back to colder climes. What better way to empathize than to share my seven reasons you know you're experiencing SXSW withdrawal with my friends.

Drumroll please...

7. You can't stop using the world "douchebag"... including with your kids, grandmother and your boss.
6. Checking into every room in your house using Gowalla and Foursquare feels perfectly normal.
5. You find yourself daydreaming about BBQ... ALL THE TIME
4. Neighbors look at you funny when you ask them which parties they are going to tonight.
3. None of your co-workers know where or what the "Blogger's Lounge" is.
2. You can't help but wonder if you'll randomly bump into Robert Scoble, Gary Vaynerchuck or Guy Kawasaki  in your local Starbucks.


1. You keep looking at the @RedSoxGnome's Twitter stream to see which wild and crazy guy or gal he'll end up with next!

Great seeing everyone. Sorry we didn't get a chance to visit more. A more serious wrap up SXSW post will be coming soon!

Photo Credit: my main, techmology man, Jim Storer. (respect, respect)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Powered Video: Zombies Be Damned!

To celebrate South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) and help spread the word about what the new iteration of my company, Powered, does, our creative team put together a tongue in cheek video to provide some color.

Let me reiterate that this is done with a heavy undercurrent of snark. All feedback welcome so let us know what you think!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hey SXSW. Got .tv?

With a nod to dystopian classic, Animal farm, you may have heard the quote "all [clients] are equal, but some [clients] are more equal than others. To that end, our newest client, VeriSign (the company best known for doling out "dot com" or "dot net" domain names), happens to fall into the "more equal" category. So it shouldn't surprise you to hear that they chose to kick off an exciting project at the event that has been dubbed by outsiders as "geek spring break" aka SXSW Interactive.

ImontvWhich project you ask? Well, let's just say it involves creating awareness around the .tv domains -- considered less valuable in the past -- to meet the growing need of video creators (like my colleague, Joe Jaffe) to showcase their stuff. Seriously, this is a perfect way whether your an individual or a company to showcase your commitment to video. Rather than hunting and pecking, customers/fans searching for video content can simply replace the "dot com" or "dot net" at the end of your URL and immediately see all of your video content in a single view.

To help generate excitement and education around this new initiative, the Powered and VeriSign teams have created some fun activities over the next few days to help you get started if you're new to video or get seen if you're already a video maven:
  • First of all, you'll want to check out Whether or not you're at SXSW, it's a great place to get a look at some of the cool stuff happening in Austin -- shot by the real people who are in the thick of things. As we say on the site, is a "living diary" showcasing video content from the insiders at the festival. Which brings us to point #2 -- if you're at the event and have your video camera or phone in hand, your content can be part of the line-up. Just hit the site, follow the submission instructions and your clips may be chosen by our curation crew.
  • You can be the Next .tv Star: We're not just giving you a chance to have your SXSW clips appear on our site; we're giving you a chance to hit the weblebrity big leagues (eww, yes, I ready said weblebrity.) All over the event, we'll be shooting audition videos for anyone who wants a chance to win a cool prize package and a shot at being a correspondent for an upcoming Best of .tv web show. The prize includes an all expense paid trip to San Francisco where you'll spend the day backstage at Revision3 and get a private video production coaching session from Diggnation producer Dave Prager, one of the guys behind one of the web's most widely watched video series. And of course, you could become a Best of .tv correspondent...
  • Read on for more details about how you can audition in Austin over the next few days. Or visit to submit an audition directly (and to learn all the rules and legal stuff, of course.)
  • The .tv Street Team: We'll have a team roaming the event, shooting audition videos for anyone who wants a shot at being the next .tv star and handing out must-have swag. Be on the lookout and make sure you say howdy (or whatever it is they really say in Texas...)
  • The Bigg Digg Shindigg: .tv is sponsoring Saturday night's Live Diggnation event (7pm at Stubbs BBQ). We'll have a big ol' tent where we'll be shooting auditions for the next .tv star and doing some other fun stuff, so be sure to check it out. If you can't be there, you can also watch the fun when the Diggnation episode hits iTunes.
  • Special Offers: And finally, to coincide with .tv's SXSW presence, we will have special offers for anyone looking for an excuse to get going with video. Check out the offers page on for your shot at freebies and more.
Special thanks to my friend and colleague, Greg Verdino, who let me -- willingly or unwillingly -- "borrow" some of his images and bullets for this post. You can read his more eloquent post on this topic here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 34: Pistachios Anyone?

The seeming trend recently has been that my Quick-n-dirty podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I have been more apart than together. This has been mostly my fault as my travel schedule has been a little nuts, but this past week, Jennifer got to take her "week off" as she was attending an RSA Conference. As a result, we had another special guest host. This week, it was none other than Laura Fitton, founder and CEO of and co-author of Twitter for Dummies.

As you know, we normally try and include a guest even when we have a guest host but this week, we went the unconventional route and I made Laura our guest during that portion of the show. Given her in depth knowledge of Twitter, this worked out well as she filled us in on their recent town hall, their upcoming developers event called Chirp and some of the rumors that have swirled based a certain tweet that led folks to believe that Twitter employees had access to some pretty phenomenal Twitter functionality that the outside world wasn't privy to. If you or your business spends any time at all, this interview with Laura is a must listen.

Of course no show would be complete without our featured social network of the week. This week's choice was social aggregator, Nomee. Having just seen a demo of all their slick funcationality, I couldn't resist highlighting them (thanks to Renee Leger whome my colleague, Bill Fanning, and I met at the recent Social Media Club Dallas event for connecting us with Nomee). The thing I liked most about Nomee was the fact that it allowed you to follow a group or individual's activities across 140 different social networks via a desktop (or iPhone) app and then drill down on a network at any given time.

For our featured Twitterer of the week, we were pleased to announce Keith Burtis. Keith is an unusual combination of photographer, community manager, developer, podcaster and blogger. He's currently consulting but most recently was working for BestBuy and helped with their blogger outreach at last year's SXSW. This year, he's connected with a mutual friend, Patrick Moran of Fuzebox and is evangelizing new Fuzebox offering, Tweetshare. I haven't seen the app yet but based on what Patrick and Keith have told me, it's pretty cool. So if you like anything that has to do with community management, social media for business or photography, you'd be a fool not to introduce Keith into your Twitter stream.

Finally, Laura and I wrapped up with... what else but a conversation about whether Twitter will be sold this year and if so, to whom. We were tight on time at this point so we didn't get too far into a point / counterpoint but Laura believe's that IF Twitter were to be sold (and she's not convinced that it will be), Google will be the one to buy. I contended that I do think Twitter will be sold and it SHOULD be this year for them to obtain maximum value but that won't likely be the case. However, if/when they do sell, I believe it won't be Google who continues to try and replicate Twitter via acquisitions (Jaiku) and home grown offerings (Wave/Buzz) but rather Yahoo! MSN or Facebook.

Unfortunately, Jennifer and I won't be doing a show this week do to travel and the onset of SXSW. However, you can feel free to take this opportunity to read past write ups either here or one Jennifer's ZDNet blog. Or even better, you can listen to archives of the show on Blog Talk Radio.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Life in Hell: Six Hours with a Dead iPhone

Yes, I'm a big fat loser. I spent six hours yesterday with a dead iPhone and I almost didn't know what to do with myself. Below is a blow by blow of how that time was spent leading up to the resolution of my uncomfortable predicament. Did I mention that I'm a big fat loser?

1:05 PM I'm driving back from a meeting with the folks at CSIdentity (their CEO, Bill Morrow, and I are doing a panel on identity theft at SXSW next Friday). As I'm pulling out of the parking lot, my iPhone flashes the "battery under 20%" message that always creates a bit of panic for us iPhone users. In spite of my low battery level, I'm calling my wife back to discuss paint colors for our guest bedroom (riveting stuff, I know).

1:20 PM Running from my car to a product meeting (I'm twenty minutes late), I slip into the conference room and set my iPhone down on the table knowing that in minutes, it will revert to an inanimate piece of glass/plastic/metal. I breath deeply as I remind myself that in 40 minutes, I can plug my phone back in and bring it back to life.

2:03 PM Returning to my office, I remember that I lent my charger cord to colleague, Kathy Warren. I walk down to Kathy's office and ask (okay, beg) her to let me have my cable back. Fortunately, Kathy has purchased a new cord of her own so she graciously returns mine.

2:10 PM I'm on our weekly PR call with SHIFT and working hard not to be distracted by the fact that my iPhone does not buzz as I insert the charger cord. I pull out the USB end that goes into the laptop and try it in every orifice of my Mac. And then try it in every orifice of my PC. Nothing. Gulp.

2:30 PM Breathing deeply, I ask colleague, Doug Wick, if I can borrow his phone to see if maybe my cable is the culprit. I plug in Doug's phone and in my unnerved state, mistakenly diagnose the problem as the charger cord. Phew. Bad news is, I need a new charger cord. Good news is that I don't need a new phone.

2:37 PM I walk back down to Kathy's office and let her know that it was the cord (somehow it got broken) and fighting back panic, ask if I can borrow her new cord. She kindly agrees and apologizes for breaking my cord. I tell her no sweat, I'm just happy that it's the cord not the phone.

2: 39 PM With my phone plugged in using the new cord, my phone stays black and inanimate. Nothing. Holy shit. My phone is broken. Holy shit.

3:00 PM After being temporarily distracted with e-mail and a few phone calls, I remember that it's time for staff meeting. Putting on my best game face, I wait for folks to file into my office. I convince myself to "think of a happy place."

3:05 PM I ask Doug if I can try his phone again, this time with the new cord. His phone offers up that familiar buzz saying, "I'm charging." Damn you Doug and your non-broken iPhone. I don't say this aloud of course but you can bet I was thinking it. Sorry Doug.

4:03 PM Within seconds, I start to do the math to figure out if I have time to get up to the local Apple store (20 minutes away) before I head to my sister, Heather Strout, and Maura Thomas' #BOS2AUS tweetup which starts at 5:30. Once again, I walk briskly down the hall to Kathy's office and apologize for assuming that she broke my cord and acknowledge that it was my phone, not the charger that was at fault. Looks of sympathy from Kathy, Natanya Anderson and Kursten Mitchell say at all. They know I'm in a bad place.

4:48 PM After 45 minutes of pressing the on/home button on my iPhone (while simultaneously wiggling the power cord), I resign myself to the fact my phone is dead. My last bastion of hope is that maybe my phone charge got too low and I need to actually plug my phone into an outlet vs. my computer. This glimmer of hope is enough to carry me through to 5:30.

5:32 PM Plugging my iPhone into my car charger results in the same black screen. It's okay, I convince myself. I really just need to plug my phone into an outlet (heart starts to sink as I know that I'm trying to convince myself of a lie).

5:45 PM Walking into the bar, 3rd Base, I look for my sister. My hand goes to my pocket to checkin via Foursquare. Crap. Dead phone. I think about going back to my car to get my MacBook Pro. Thinking to myself, "if I remember correctly, 3rd Base has free wifi." Realizing how unsocial this will look, I fight the urge and make my way to the bar. But what if... nevermind. MacBook Pro stays in the car.

6:30 PM Heather, Maura, Simon Salt, John Johansen, Kim Hollendshead, Jack LeBlond, Stephanie Delk, Jason Stoddard, and Haley Odom have arrived at the #BOS2AUS tweetup. I can tell they are silently mocking me as they check Twitter and Foursquare on their phones. If it weren't awkward for me to get up and pace nervously at this point, I would. I almost ask Heather if I can use her phone to checkin to Foursquare. I don't.

7:15 PM First bio break. I reach into my pocket and check my iPhone one more time, just to make sure it hasn't magically come back to life yet. Nope, screen is still black.

7:41 PM In my car headed home. At least there is ZERO risk of me trying to text/tweet while I'm driving.

8:00 PM Following a quick tucking in of the kids, I immediately race downstairs to plug my iPhone into the wall so that I can once again see the friendly "charging" symbol on the main screen. I push the cord in slowly... hold my breath... press the "on" button... and... NOTHING. WTF!!! Immediately my heart sinks as I envision myself up at the Apple store first thing in the morning. Exactly what I did not want to do was to spend $250 on a new iPhone, especially when I've been questioning whether to jump ship onto a Droid or something that doesn't ride on AT&T's network.

8:03 PM My wife, Melanie, hears me cursing at my iPhone and tells me to let her look at it. I let her know that I would love it if she could make it work but that I had tried EVERYTHING and nothing was helping. I skulk over to her and hand her my phone. She holds down the power and home screen button for 10 seconds and voila, the angelic white Apple logo appears on the main screen. What the...??? I pump my fist and kiss my wife. "Honey, you are amazing," I tell her.

What's the moral of the story? Well, living without your smartphone for six hours sucks. That's one moral. The other is, wives are the smartest people alive. At least when it comes to turning iPhones back on.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Social Media for B2B: It CAN be done

This was originally posted on my friend Tommy Landry's blog, Return on Now, as a guest post on February 8, 2010.

Why is it that when it comes to conversation about social media, business-to-business (B2B) seems to draw the short stick every single time? As someone that does a lot of webcasts, blog posts and speaking gigs, the questions/comment that always comes up is, "what about B2B examples." Fortunately for me, I'm able to mention companies like BreakingPoint Systems and Hubspot that do a great job tapping into the power of social media but I often wish there were more examples (with public results) that I could discuss.

In thinking about this topic, one of the main reasons that B2B has taken a little longer to adopt social media into its marketing mix is that it's harder to do effectively. It's also feels risky because there is less control then there is in other channels. With that said, I personally believe that B2B companies stand to benefit the most from social media because they live and die based on the strength of their customer relationships. On top of that, many B2B companies actually know exactly know who their prospective customers are so seeking those folks out in a meaningful way and creating relationships with them can have a huge impact on the bottom line.

Given that I'm a prescriptive kind of guy, I'd feel remiss if I didn't offer up some ways that companies can start thinking about putting social media into practice. There are obviously tons of ways but here are a few (including a diagram that provides more color commentary on item number three):

  1. Start listening. This is easier to do than you think. Set up a Google alert for your company's name, your competitors' names and keywords for your industry. If you're already doing this, consider hiring a "listening" service like Techrigy, Radian6 or Meltwater Buzz. This will help you find out where all the relevant conversations in your space are happening.
  2. Create a Twitter account for your business. However, resist the urge to put up links to press releases, product specs and links to press that are signing your business's praises (at least out of the gate). Instead, talk about things that people in your industry care about. For instance, if you create bill payment software, talk about the needs of small to medium sized businesses across the financial spectrum (payroll, credit, vendor managment, etc.) Link to reports and industry analysis. Point out other people's blog posts and magazine articles.
  3. Set up a blog. Before you do this though, make sure you have someone (ideally internal) that is willing to commit to posting at least 5-6 times/month. This can be someone on your marketing, product, or PR teams or even better, one of your executives. Think about creating an editorial calendar to help guide your topics. Most importantly, spend time looking at other industry related blogs -- in fact, you should spend at least a month doing this before you set up your own blog. Be sure to comment on those blogs (talk about the topic, not your company). This will help with getting to know the relevant "social" people in the space.
  4. Create an online community. Once you've gotten comfortable with items 1-3, start thinking about a online community. Ideally, this is for both customers and prospective customers. Some businesses feel more comfortable about creating private communities where customers can talk to one another. The key either way is to hire a great community manager and let them help you create relevant content via webinars, blog posts and conference calls (see diagram below). A community manager will also help you draw out your customers and insure that conversations stay relevant and productive.
  5. Measure, measure, measure. This is less difficult than you might imagine. This really should start with looking at your current goals i.e. new customers, greater retention, larger share of wallet, referrals, etc. Then make sure you benchmark e.g. look at your webstats and current KPI's before you launch your social efforts. Then look at how your moving the bar over time. A key place to look is at your web analytics to see what kind of traffic and engagement your Twitter feed and/or blog efforts are driving. Also, it doesn't hurt to survey customers and ask them if your efforts are impacting their loyalty to your company.
    I won't lie to you, everything I mentioned above takes effort. But it's worth trying, especially when it's done right, because it will yield results. One thing that I failed to mention is the importance of integrating the recommendations above with your existing marketing/channel activity. Social media doesn't live in a vacuum and if nobody can find the fruit of your efforts, you may as well not have exerted the time and resources.

    Am I missing anything? You bet I am. But that's where you come in. What types of social media have you tried? What's worked? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

    Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 33: Reunited Edition!

    It's been a few weeks since my podcast partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio, and I have been able to do a Quick-n-Dirty podcast together. For two weeks in a row, travel prevented me from joining her on our weekly show. Fortunately, we had a couple of more than capable substitutes in Brian Solis (author and principal of FutureWorks) and Greg Matthews, director of innovation at Humana. Write ups from the shows with Brian and Greg can be found here and here on Jennifer's ZDNet blog.

    This week, Jennifer and I were back in the saddle again with me broadcasting live from Jackson Hole, WY (yes, I took one for the team). We had an action packed show starting with our featured social network of the week, Hollrr. Neither Jennifer or I had had much of chance to play with Hollrr but saw some decent potential in this site that Mashable likens to "Foursquare for product discovery" (full review here). Both Jennifer and I appreciated Hollrr's off-the-shelf integration with other social networks like Twitter and Facebook and I personally look forward to getting product recommendations from friends and connections. Oh yeah, they have a pretty cool logo too.

    Next up was our featured guest (and former "Twitterer of the week,") Simon Mainwaring. If you don't know Simon, you should. Officially, he is a branding consultant, advertising creative director, blogger, author and speaker. A former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, and worldwide creative director for Motorola at Ogilvy, he now consults for brands and creative companies that are re-inventing their industries. During this week's show, Simon shared some fascinating updates from a recent trip he took to the Middle East as a guest of the Brookings Institute. The focus was on social media and foreign policy, two disciplines that traditionally don't share the same space. I won't pretend to do Simon's interview justice so just this one time, I'm MANDATING that you listen to at least Simon's portion of the show (starts about 7 mins in and runs for aproximately 25 minutes).

    Speaking of "Twitterers of the week," this week's choice was principal of The Community Roundtable (and close friend), Jim Storer. As I mentioned during the show, nobody has done a better job at taking community management skills to Twitter than Jim. Regularly mixing helpful tips, humor, love of bacon and Red Sox commentary into his stream, Jim is a "must add" to anyone's Twitter follow list irrespective of what industry they are in.

    Last but not least, our point/counterpoint focused on one of Jennifer's recent blog posts, Twitter: Becoming Nothing Special. Jennifer's post theorizes that the recent announcement of Yahoo's partnership with Twitter pushes them from "new shiny object" into the merely "ordinary" category. While Jennifer didn't see this as all bad, she wondered aloud if this might hurt Twitter's future potential. Taking the opposing side of this issue, I argued that this is exactly what Twitter (and social media) need. Making Twitter and other social networks like "electricity" -- something we don't ever even think about in spite of the critical role it plays in our daily lives -- is a good thing. To me, this means that it's so ingrained in our daily lives, personal and professional, that we can't live without it.

    Looking forward to next week's show, Jennifer and I will switch places and I will be working with friend and founder of Oneforty, Laura Fitton, as my guest host. Jennifer will be attending the RSA Conference and thus will be out of pocket for this week's Quick-n-Dirty. I'm sure she'll want to listen to the show (as will you). Fortunately for her, our shows are archived here and on iTunes (search on "quickndirty").