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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Location-based Services Goes Automotive

A few weeks ago, my friend, Eric Miltsch, sent me a direct message on Twitter letting me know that I might want to check out his latest offering called Car Zar. Having met Eric last year at the Driving Sales event in Las Vegas, I knew how passionate Eric is about cars AND social media. Eric in turn, knows how passionate I am about social media and location-based services. What I can tell you is that I think he's onto something with Car Zar -- especially for folks that fall into the "car enthusiast" category. Unfortunately, I don't really fit in that category but I can appreciate what this app. will do for that crowd.

Here my thoughts on the app in the quick video blog I recorded.

Quick thoughts on Car Zar - LBS for Automotive from Aaron Strout on Vimeo.

Do you have an industry specific location-based app? If so, please let me know. I'd love to check it out.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Social Media Help Desk: Social Won't Kill a Crisis, but Lack of Social During a Crisis Will Kill You

Date: Wednesday, October 27th
Time: 2:00 - 3:00 PM CT (note your time zone)
Speakers: Valeria Maltoni, Doug Wick (moderator) and me (Aaron)

A PR crisis comes and goes without much warning. The 24/7 environment of social media networks is a perfect farming ground for these potentially uncontrollable situations. While most companies have a solid foundation for social media engagement, these guidelines do not provide an integrated strategy, capable of navigating the murky waters of a PR storm. When the storm hits, the customer dictates how much preparation and reaction time you have. This is the worst time to learn to deal with the situation.

Establishing an integrated social media strategy is the key to weathering these situations successfully. Join Valeria Maltoni, Aaron Strout and Doug Wick as they explore the foundations for planning ahead and preparing for a PR crisis. Valeria will spend 30 minutes discussing the crisis communication groundwork and remaining 30 minutes will be focused on you and your questions. By attending, you will learn:

  • Why companies need to be involved and communicate early on.
  • The steps needed to build a communication framework for your organization and weather a crisis in real time.
  • How to keep your cool during a crisis.

You in? Sign up now. And if you want to ask questions ahead of time, feel free to leave 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Crowdsourced Photo Contest (Prize = $50 Gift Card)

I have a fun contest idea and I need your help.

Your job is to go in and tag 10 of my Flickr pictures that you think are my *BEST* work. Yes, this is totally subjective. But that's the way art works, right?

The Rules

  • The contest will close next Friday at 3 PM ET (10/8). At that point, I will collect every picture that has been tagged as a "favorite." Of those, I will take the top 50 or 100 ranked by number of favorites each picture has received.
  • I will then have my Maury Postal -- a rock star photographer (he has his own gallery showing next week in NYC) -- pick the top 10. Whomever has the most favorites in the top 10 wins.
  • In the event of a tie, we will either split the cash or I might pull in another guest judge to break the tie. Final decision will arrive on 10/13.

You in? Be sure that when you mark something as favorite, there is a way I can contact you (either via Twitter or Facebook). Questions? Ping me at @aaronstrout.