The short version of the story is that Motrin put out an ad that created an instant backlash among some of the people it was intended to appeal to, and angry "Mommy Bloggers" hit the internet in a hurry to express their displeasure.
Many folks in the social media field think that Motrin made a colossal error in judgment and cite this as an example of a corporation out of touch with its consumers and how social media will force business to alter their marketing tactics.
I disagree with the popular opinion. I think Motrin got it *right*.
You can check the ad out yourself, or do a search on YouTube to view the myriad of video responses. (well, okay, there are 347 search results when searching on "Motrin". How many is in a myriad?)
The point, imo, is not whether the ad is offensive or not, or even whether Motrin should have put the ad in front of more test audiences before going public with it as many social media experts have recommended.
The point is that social media and brand engagement is both a conversation and a relationship between the brand and the consumer. And in any relationship or conversation, one side is inevitably going to make a mistake or say something that doesn't quite come out right.
We're human. It comes with the territory. We make mistakes. ALL of us, at some time or another.
It's how we handle adversity--what we do when we've made a mistake-- that shows our true character and grace, and in this case, Motrin got it right.
Motrin showed a lot of class and character when they realized they made a mistake.
Forget whether the initial faux pas could have/should have been avoided. As a marketing geek, I could argue that Motrin has gotten FAR more reach out of this campaign than they could have hoped for. It wouldn't surprise me if they've seen a significant uptick in sales, despite all the venom spewed in their direction.
The point is--Motrin made a mistake, and they immediately recognized the mistake and apologized.
The apology was swift, heartfelt and sincere.
What else can you ask for in a relationship?
How many of us have done or said something in a relationship that accidentally hurt someone we care about? How many of us have been hurt by something that someone we care about did to us?
You don't have to raise your hand. You know who you are. I'm pretty sure we all have at one time or another.
Do we wish that the event never happened? Probably. But if you're in a relationship with someone, you have the grace to *forgive*, and the act of apology actually strengthens the relationship, doesn't it?
We give the grace that we hope to receive.
Mistakes are how we learn, and Motrin has demonstrated that they know how to be in a relationship with their customers by offering an apology for their mistake.
They have connected with a vocal part of their consumer base in a way that is new to them. Many social media folks are advocating that Motrin establish a relationship with a core group of "Mommy Bloggers" as a way to connect with their consumer base, and I agree with that notion--to a point.
Not EVERY woman with a baby found the Motrin ads offensive--many responded to the humor exactly as Motrin had hoped they would. Those that didn't, were just VERY vocal with their displeasure.
We should not give in to a tyranny of the minority, however, where those who yell the loudest online get their way. There is give and take in every relationship.
So yes...Motrin has discovered, by name, a whole group of women that Motrin wanted to reach. And they should definitely engage in a dialogue with those women--these people might enjoy being part of a product development process and can help Motrin craft their message in a way that more people might embrace.
On the other hand, I don't think Motrin needs to run every ad campaign by this group of people for their approval.
I don't NOT say something to my girlfriend just because I know she'll be upset by what I have to say. I don't shy away from controversial topics at a party when I know people will disagree with me.
Some people might not get every joke I tell. Some will find them hilarious. Some will find the same joke offensive. The listener bears as much responsibility for the quality of the relationship as the person communicating.
In other words, I bear some responsibility for not offending you, but you also bear responsibility for having the grace not to be offended where no offense was intended.
If we go awry in that negotiation, then the best I can do is apologize, and the best you can do is accept the apology without any hard feelings.
Motrin got it right. Some find the ad funny. Some find it offensive. To those who found it offensive, Motrin apologized. It's now up those who were offended to relax, accept the apology and move on without holding a grudge.
Kudos to Motrin for recognizing their offense and moving swiftly to make amends.
Sometimes, it's something to spend. Other times, it's something to kill. Having lots of time can get you into trouble, or could be just the thing you needed. Not having enough time can precipitate a disaster or could be the impetus for amazing acts of creativity.
Looking back over some of my entries regarding the show that I'm doing, I see that in just a scant two week period of time, my attitude has gone from one of embarassment of my association with the show to a calm acceptance of "it is what it is" to pride in how far we've come.
We're not ready for Broadway by any stretch of the imagination, but the show has really grown after just 5 performances. Having an audience has *really* played a big role in the development (read: improvement) of the show. They give us some energy to play off of, and inform us where some of the laughs are, and even in the places where they DON'T laugh, they give us good information to why something isn't working.
There have been a few reviews posted online that hint at the relationships between characters in the play, and these have really grown over time.
We're starting to gain more trust in each other on stage, and that really shows in our timing. We're able to allow each other 'moments', where we know that a pause is done on purpose and not because the actor is searching for the line. We've got more confidence in each other and in the audience to help us out.
We don't have to push so much--we can *allow* things to happen and know that the audience will follow along.
Which brings me around the concept of time...and social networking. (you knew I was going to get around to talking about work/social networking at some point in time, didn't you?)
Those of us who spend a lot of time online inevitably value SPEED and often need IMMEDIATE reaction to events. In my last blog entry, I wrote about the Motrin Mayhem, and one response to that post commented that some folks felt that Motrin didn't respond quickly enough to the unhappy masses.
Well, by my counting, Motrin responded within 72 hours of hearing of the controversy, and I think that's a pretty quick turnaround from first hearing of a problem to resolution.
Those of us who live online sort of forget that MOST of the population doesn't live the way that we do. We forget that not every email needs to be answered RIGHT NOW, every online argument doesn't have to be resolved tonight and that a bunch of people talking about something doesn't mean that something needs to be DONE.
Talk is healthy, disagreement is okay, and sometimes, giving something *time* to play itself out is a better choice than taking immediate action.
Wisdom is knowing when to take action, and when non-action is the best course of action.
I fear that in our 24/7, everybody-is-wired world, we are starting to miss out on that point, and we frequently OVERREACT over every little thing. We don't give things to grow...or die...of their own accord. We speed up the process and in doing so, we might be missing something very valuable in the process.
In my case, if I gave in to my *immediate* feelings a few weeks ago, I would have walked away from the show, forever staining my reputation as an actor in this area, and not only wasted 2 months worth of effort I already put into it, but I would have lost out on what has turned out to be a success story of overcoming long odds.
In the process, I would have hurt an organization that lives on the edge of financial success and caused them harm. And more importantly, I wouldn't have been able to participate sharing the gift of laughter with our audiences over the past two weeks.
The point is, the online world--and we are conditioning ourselves to move at internet speed in all facets of our lives--demands immediate reaction, and immediate reaction isn't always the best reaction.
What do you think?
Are we moving too fast? When should we move quickly...and when should we just slow down and let nature take its course?
With the myriad of blogs spewing so much content into the blogosphere like Bejing smog, why on earth would you want to read (and subscribe) to this one? Especially since topics covered will range from social networking, theater, arts, pop culture, politics and sometimes, nothing in particular?
1. I'm wearing a tin foil hat in my profile picture. How can you NOT want to listen to what a guy in a tin foil hat is thinking?
2. You won't get bored. If you don't like the topic one day, chances are I'll talk about something completely different the next day.
3. Continuity. Somehow, all of those random topics tie into each other to create a larger picture. Like a mosaic.
4. I have 2 cats, Sam and Cleo, who do strange things. Everyone likes to hear funny cat stories, don't they?
5. Perspective. Folks tell me that I have a way of connecting the big picture to little details or little details to the big picture. That I view things 'differently'. I think they are complimenting me when they say that.
6. I'm...uh...shall we say... 'provocative'. I'll say things out loud (and in print) that most people only think but never say. I laugh at funerals and flirt with the bride at weddings. And I always tell the emperor when he's not wearing any clothes. If the emperor is a woman, I keep my mouth shut. Why would I want her to put clothes on?
7. Even though it's not very humble of me to say it, I'm smart. Or at least I think I am...that's something for you to decide, really. This blog will offer up lessons learned and enlightenment for your free use.
8. I'm not very humble, but I don't really give a rat's ass about celebrity, unlike many other 'gurus' who set themselves up as experts so they can sell books or boost their bill rate as a consultant. And if I ever write a book, it will be fiction, so I'm not looking to enhance my status in my industry--just give a little straight talk in a world where folks speak in platitudes and marketing-speak.
9. Actually, I don't know what "I don't give a rat's ass" really means. Why would anyone equate desire with a rat's ass? This an example of the kind of stuff that will keep me awake at night and lure me into research on the internet and share with you. So eventually, you'll learn fun things like, "what is the origin of the phrase 'I don't give a rat's ass'?" (tangent: did I punctuate the end of that sentence correctly? damn...another thing to go research) This will make you a very good living room Jeopardy player.
10. Experience. Man, I've been around the block, and have seen and done some **** in my life. I figure I've already made lot of stupid mistakes and also done some really good things, so someone should get the benefit of that experience. Sharing means caring, right? If I care enough to write, the least you can do is care enough to subscribe and read.
11. It's free. You know what they say...the best things in life are free. Like this blog.
Yeah, that's eleven items. I have a problem with rules and following directions. Even my own. Just subscribe and leave comments, would ya?
I don't totally buy that, and would to have to choose the phrase came about because, well, let's face it, a rat DOES have a pretty small butt. So if you're going to give a metaphorical comparison about how little you care about something, a rat's ass is very tiny indeed.
I've never measured one, but I'd have to guess that it is less than 2 mm wide, which is pretty small. (note: further web research indicates that a rat's anus is indeed 1-2 mm in diameter. isn't it amazing that there are people who get paid to study such things?)
Fascinating stuff, to be sure, but I mention it in context...here's something I DO give rat's ass about. Or to put it into a metaphorical context, I care a whales intestine about this. (fyi--intestines in humans are roughly 2 times the length of said human's height. In a whale, the intestines are typically 5-6 times the length of the whale. in other words, to care a whales intestines means to care a LOT).
Our show tonight was very special...it was a pay-what-you-can performance, which often draws a lot of homeless people to the theater, or unemployed folks who don't have any money to spend. These are always my favorite performances, because these are people who cannot afford to go the theater, but there is a deep-seated *need* inside them to come be part of the experience. It's a chance for folks without money to be entertained, connect and to escape for just a little while.
The cast was brilliant tonight. The audience was energetic, enthusiastic and had a great time, and in turn, we were at our best too. Easily our best performance as a cast, and even though we've had appreciative audiences so far, tonight was by far the best house we had. It was a real high to play tonight.
And then it all came crashing down. Hard.
After the show, I got caught by several audience members who were congratulatory and wanted to talk about the play and share how much fun they had. I'm normally on my way home within 15 minutes after curtain, but tonight, I was there for almost 45 minutes chatting with audience. When I finally did go outside though, my fun night came to a grinding halt.
A middle-aged woman in well-worn clothes was sitting on the cement sidewalk outside the theater in a light jacket on a very cold night, sobbing and wailing. She had the kind of weathered face that you could tell made her look a lot older than her actual age.
She sat on the ground repeating over and over..."why did they take my stuff? Why did they take my stuff? WHY DID THEY TAKE MY STUFF?"
I didn't know who this woman was. But she looked me right in the eye, bawling, and begged me to answer "why did they take my stuff?"
Talk about a downer. My heart took a hit like a rock flying up and putting a chip in a windshield.
Turns out, she was one of our audience tonight. A homeless woman. She lives in her car and at some point during the show, someone broke into her car and took a few shopping bags that were in there.
Those shopping bags contained all of her clothes...a thrift-store wardrobe to be sure, but all she had. Her official documents. Some makeup. A few trinkets that are worthless to most folks, but priceless to her. A few pictures. A little jewelry box a dead friend had given her. A cell phone charger. Remnants of her life before she hit hard times and became homeless.
Nearly everything that was important to her was in those two bags.
The last vestiges of who she is. Her past. Her life. All she has left.
To a person who has nothing and is living out of her car, a $30 phone charger is vital. The phone is her lifeline, that charger is what keeps her able to function.
I can't get her cries out of my head.
"WHY DID THEY TAKE MY STUFF?"
I spent an hour or so looking thru dumpsters, in the yards around the theater, even checking out trash cans that line the streets waiting for morning pickup, hoping someone took the bags, rifled thru them, didn't see anything of value and then threw the bags in the nearest trash bin.
One kind soul took her home so she had a place to stay. Tonight. Because her blankets were gone too, and it's cold outside--you can't sleep in a metal car in the cold without blankets. But her warm clothes were in the bags.
She was in her nicest clothes to go to the theater tonight. Not her warm clothes. Her nicest...her fanciest...because she was going to the theater.
I feel responsible. She was in the theater tonight to see ME. To get some respite, some laughs, to find a bit of refuge from her harsh life. Instead, her life has become even worse.
She came to what she thought was a haven. An escape. A safe place.
If her car wasn't in this place at this time...and she wasn't away from it when she normally would have been inside...
...she wouldn't have lost everything that is important to her.
You really have to hear what that sounds like coming from another person if you haven't. The rawness. It's primal. To have little...and then to have your soul ripped out and be left with NOTHING.
WHY DID THEY TAKE MY STUFF?
So I'm starting a collection at the theater and among my friends. I can't get her jewelry box back, but we live in a land of wealth, and while I can't make her whole again, a couple hundred dollars will allow her to get some new clothes, blankets, replace the makeup, get her a charger and maybe restore some faith in her, that while maybe *some* humans are so crass as to steal from someone who has nothing...
...there are also people who care enough to reach out and help someone in a real time of need. Even if that person is a total stranger.
If you care to donate, contact me (Mark Williams) at my email address on Pay Palemail@example.com. Send money. I'll collect money in my account for her.
Heck you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line DONATION, and tell me that you want to donate a certain amount, and we'll figure out how to actually get the money from you and into her hands. I'll make sure she gets some help immediately, though.
I'm starting the fund with $100, and hope to raise another $200 or so by Saturday night when we close. Hey, more would be better--it's not like this woman has spare cash sitting around.
We live in a valley of wealth here. Please, if you care to donate maybe a latte's worth of cash...or lunch money for a day...or the price of a night at the movies...$5, $10 or $20 would go a long way to making a person in pain feel just a little bit better.
In the social media circles, hot topics travel quickly, as you might expect. We are the fanners of the flame, after all.
Today's hot topic is the 90/9/1 rule. This principle suggests a benchmark for community participation--roughly speaking, an online community can expect to have 1% of its members be active content creators, 9% of the members will edit that content (comment, respond, vote in polls, rate, etc) and 90% are content consumers--they read but don't do anything else.
Martin Reed and Mike Rowland both challenge this principle from the perspective that accepting this principle is to accept less than the full potential of an online community. And of course, there are a whole lot of "amens" coming from both sides of the issue.
This is Sam's perspective of the issue. He doesn't really care. This pic isn't germaine at all. I just promised that my cats would appear in my blog and it's a reminder not to take any of these social media conversations TOO seriously. It's still more art than science.
My perspective on the topic...
90/9/1 is a guideline, not a rule. And a very, very valuable guideline. Many community managers look at online community with a wide-eyed sense of higher purpose and idealism. Online communities are changing the way that corporations interact with their customers, they give power to the people, can lead to dramatic social change, and they connect people around shared passions. There is certainly a strong sense of evangelism shared among community managers everywhere. Our cause is just and holy.
Yes to all of that.
And...online communities/social networks are also a commodity. They are an investment. *Somebody* is paying for the bandwidth, the people, the designers, engineers, moderators, etc. for a reason. There is something they want in exchange. While doing a greater good and shifting a paradigm is fun and part of the objective, let's face it, it's still all about the Benjamins.
As a commodity, social networking/online community is largely funded by marketing departments. At least, that's my experience developing communities for major brands over the past 10 years. Some online communities might come out of customer support budgets, but by and large, I think we're seeing the spread of social networking online as a function of marketing dollars at work.
Marketing people like metrics. It's what they do. They want results for campaigns that are measurable against benchmarks. Doesn't matter if it's a short campaign like a tv ad running for 4 weeks or a long campaign like an online community. They want to hear those 3 beautiful little words that drive relationships all over the world.
Return. On. Investment.
Now, I'm not saying that's the *right* attitude to take. Just pointing out current reality. As an industry, social networks/online communities have a serious dearth of available metrics that make a case for *value* of an online community in a way that marketers like to hear. Yes, I know there are all kinds of metrics out there that can (and are) used to illustrate value. Some of them are voodoo....some are quite useful.
But marketing folks like to know "I spent x dollars on y campaign and that moved sales z % against an expectation of q industry benchmark. Therefore, my campaign was a success (or failure)."
We're getting there, but we don't deliver those types of results in the social media world yet. We're in the process of defining metrics that do show ROI, and we're in the process of redefining what community 'success' means in the marketing world.
But that's a long road to travel and in the meanwhile, the people paying the bills want to know what they are getting for their money.
The 90/9/1 rule is just a benchmark for marketers to understand.
Remember those old TV car commercials where they would spout off gas consumption efficiency, and they always ended with the legal disclaimer "actual mileage may vary"? It's like that.
Marketing people aren't the type of people who are going to hand you a check for $250K to develop an online community and not expect to see some *results* for that investment. And saying "I don't know what type of results to expect" isn't a very satisfying answer.
Neither is "we're going to connect people with your brand in a holistic way so you can be part of a conversation with your customer."
Sure. Sounds good. To what purpose?
Enter 90/9/1. This principle gives marketers a rough idea of what to expect, although actual mileage may vary. There are SO many variables at play--site design, prominence of links into the community, content integration, outside marketing, tone and culture of the community, etc.--but it's better to have *something* resembling a benchmark than not.
Online communities still need to contribute to the bottom line of a company. Having the online community is either adding revenue, saving expenses or improving brand awareness or there is isn't much reason to have it.
And those criteria are measurable in every other aspect of running a business, so why not for online communities, too?
The 90/9/1 rule gives a standard to compare to, but it's like any other rule of thumb. It's a good approximation, not a specific measurement.
Get 20 random people together and I'll bet that their thumbs will show a variance of at least 50% in size. And yet the rule of thumb says that the width of a thumb is roughly 1 inch and that's close enough. The standard lets you know roughly what 'normal' is, even with a variance.
In my experience managing both online and offline communities, the 90/9/1 rule is relatively accurate. Yes, there are exceptions both in terms of far exceeding and underachieving those ratios, but I've found it to be roughly true.
Previous statement disclaimer: I don't quibble over movements of 1-5% in community metrics. I look for larger trends and dramatic impact. For me, 5% is that margin of error or 'your mileage may vary' factor. I just don't consider changes that small to be statistically significant over time. Community behavior is just too volatile to worry about small swings in behavior until they become consistent.
I think the real point in using this principle is that it gives some comfort to people managing communities that you can be successful with as little as 1% of your viewers contributing content. When you consider the emphasis place on BIG numbers by most marketing folks, you can truly see the value of the 90/9/1 rule--it keeps the expectations reasonable while trying to nail down the exact ROI of the site based on *actual* behavior.
Short version of the story--it's a good guideline, but don't freak out if your site doesn't measure up and you still feel like you're getting value out of your community. And if your metrics far surpass this rule and you feel your community is successful, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
If you're not measuring up to the guideline and you don't feel like your community is being successful, then it's time to examine your site strategy and implementation more closely and make adjustments.
The nagging question of 2009 in my line of work is—what’s all this ‘community’ and ‘social networking' stuff worth anyway?
Ask the right question.
I recently had an inquiry from one of our sales folks who asked a seemingly innocent and reasonable question: A prospect was asking “what type of participation can they expect if they added community to their e-commerce site?”
They wanted to know if x number of people visit the ‘main’ site, what y number of people would participate in the community?
I know both the prospect and the sales person were hoping for a neat, succinct answer. Say…10%. It really didn’t matter what the number is, they just wanted a number.
Implied in the question, of course, is the question “what is a community worth?” It’s that ROI issue—if a client invests money in a community site, how will they know if they got an appropriate value in return?
Now, I love our sales folks. They live and breath this stuff too and they have a challenging job. Part of my job is to give them insight/information to help make their job easier.
I hate giving a long answer to a short question, but here is my (edited) email response:
What Does 'Participate' Mean Anyway?
“Not only does community participation vary based on online/offline promotion of the community and how community is integrated on the website, it can also vary by what one calls 'participation'.
Responding to a poll question or clicking to rate something can be totally anonymous and not require any member self-identification with the community. Yet those are acts of participation that provide tremendous value to the community.
Reading a blog entry and gathering information from it is valuable to me, the reader, even if I don’t choose to leave a comment. Did I ‘participate’ in the community by reading the content, or do I only count as participating if I register, login and leave a comment?
Benchmarks, who's got benchmarks?
I know that everyone in the industry wants benchmarks so they can gauge the expected results of their community investment. The problem is that there aren’t any objective criteria to qualify benchmarks, in part because of the number of variables that enter into the equation.
Not only are there varied definitions of what constitutes community participation, but the site implementation and community visibility on the site factors in, as well as any offline promotion given by the client means that any figure we give is truly a wag. Sure, we can say 10-20% of total visitors on some of our sites will click on a ‘community’ link but we (or anyone else, for that matter) don't really have any reliable data to support what type of participation a community can expect.
Thinking in terms of "if we invest x number of dollars, we should get y number of posts, comments, visits, etc," is really the wrong way to think about online community, though. You probably already know that and this might not be what the prospect wants to hear but...
…the value is immeasurable. It has value, or course. We just can’t measure it yet. We need to rephrase the core question.
Value. C'mon, what's it really worth?
Here are a couple of examples of why we need to reshape that customer question/objection of what is essentially "what is the investment worth?"
1. I purchase a lot of stuff off Amazon and I read a lot of ratings and reviews before nearly every purchase. I don't buy things with bad reviews, I do buy things with positive reviews. I personally have never written a review and rarely leave ratings on products I buy on Amazon, yet I am significantly affected by the actions of the community.
There isn't a good way to track the value to me, or from me as a consumer, but I will state categorically that I do not buy ANYTHING without checking out reviews and ratings. I don't actively 'participate' in the community, but without it, I take my purchases elsewhere.
2. Many times on a community site, customers will complain about: --product defects --poor customer service --desired features that are lacking
Even when the forums are NOT specifically customer support boards, what is the value of the ONE post that asks a question/complains about a problem that is resolved by either: a) an official representative of the company or b) a member-generated response?
In either case, you could calculate the saving of a reduction in customer support call, but you don't really know the reach of the one question. The question could be posted once, but read by 100 people and thus saving 100 customer support calls at a cost of z dollars each, or it could have been seen by 1,000 people.
We really don't know since those metrics won't show up as 'participation'. The value is there, but how do you calculate it?
If Something Good Happens and No One Knows About It, Does It Have a Value?
Likewise, how do you calculate the benefit of the ONE feature suggestion that is really good and makes the product better and makes it sell better? I doubt if anyone can really say “wow, member BraNdLuvveR had a great suggestion and sales increased 17% because of that improvement they suggested.” The value exists in being part of the conversation with your customers on what they would like to see to love your product even more, but how do you quantify it?
Or, what is the value of seeing one customer service issue resolved publicly that not only makes THAT customer happy, but also influences other readers of the forum who think "wow, this company is pretty cool and will resolve any issues I might have with them?"
Personally, I DO make purchasing decisions based on input that I get as to how their follow up customer support is likely to be. I bought Bose headphones for a Xmas present this year instead of comparable Shure headphones because I'd read on discussion boards that while both products fail at about the same rate, Bose will supply new headphones with no questions asked, where Shure's policy on returns involves jumping thru a bunch of hoops.
That was a $300 purchasing decision based on whether I thought I would have a *future* good customer service contact with the brand or not.
But how do you track that value?
What is the right question?
In sum--as a community manager, I would be very leery of giving out metrics and expectations of performance during the sales process. It's more valuable to get the company involved to CLEARLY state their objectives, and then see how we can move towards that goal, rather than tell them what they might expect.
The more pertinent question, imo, isn't what they can expect to happen...but what do they WANT to happen by developing and connecting with their community?
And then ask them how they would measure that.”
Amazingly, after a response like that to a simple question, my sales folks still talk to me and respond to my emails. I love the people I work with--they tolerate my roundabout responses to their direct questions.
And I'm getting double-duty from an email by getting a blog post out of it too, so I'm maximizing MY roi value from the question.
So my question to you, dear readers, is how DO you measure the value of an online community?
The terms 'social networking', 'social media' and 'community' get tossed around a LOT in my biz, as if they were interchangeable words, all meaning the same thing.
It's All About Me. Really.
Social networking is about ME. Whether "me" is literally, me, or whether "me" is a company. Or an idea. I, Mark use social networking to gather or give information, to meet people, to establish a reputation, to share my opinion, to give the wonderful gift of me to as many people as want to share me. (read that last bit with a sense of humor, please).
In a social network, the attention is on ME. Facebook is a great example of a social network. So is LinkedIn. So is Twitter. Sure, I'm connecting to you, but it's really about me.
Ever comment or read comments on a blog? MOST of the time, there is no *real* dialogue going on. The blog author puts out an opinion or observation. (like this one) People comment, giving *their* opinion on the author's opinion. The author then comes back and acknowledges the comments, what a nice point the commenter had, or they disagree, and thus show that the blog author (ie; ME) is a gracious conversationalist.
But *rarely* does a commenter on a blog post comment more than once. Rarely do people acknowledge other comments and lead the conversation into a new direction, as happens in *real* conversations. The blog author is saying this is MY opinion, and the commenters are responding with "this is my opinion about your opinion."
(try this sometime: count how many topics you will cover in a 10 minute conversation with someone in a ftf conversation. start with any topic you like, and I'll bet that inside of 10 minutes, you will have wandered and touched on at least 10 different topics or reference points)
Any way you slice it, the focus is on ME.
Tool? Who Are You Calling a Tool?
Social media...well...that's just another word for "tools". Social media are the tools that one uses to connect either in a social network or a community. It's technology...it's the conduit which leads to connection on either end.
While folks like to focus on the whiz bang, bleeding edge things that can be called "Web 2.0", really, *anything* that connects people with other people is a social media.
A telephone (remember using one of those to actually *talk* with people?) is one of the greatest social media tools ever invented, until telemarketers ruined it.
Television is a great social media tool. Sure, some folks will say "but there is no interaction with TV, how can it be a social media tool?"
Well, if you're a football fan, you certainly DO interact with your TV set when your favorite player drops a touchdown pass. Or when you invite your friends over for the game.
How many people would talk about the latest Seinfeld episode, or American Idol in the office? I can't tell you how many conversations we've had at my work place about Lost, or a sporting event, the presidential debates or The Office. (full disclosure: I once crashed our network by downloading Office episodes to my iPod, and event that STILL gets talked about. Sheesh, you bring the network down once, and for some reason, people never forget that!)
Television, at its best, gets people talking. It's a social media tool. Whether it's as effective as other tools is up for debate.
Things like Twitter, AIM, email, FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo, etc...they're all social media tools, used to connect people. They are the pipe thru which connection flows.
Human Beings vs. Human Doings
Building Community is the whole point of social networking and social media. Connecting the ME and turning it into WE.
What *is* a community, you ask?
I'm glad you did. A community is...as a community does.
In order for a group of people to turn into a community, it must have a higher sense of purpose...and it must have *action* as its ultimate objective.
Without action, there is no community.
Wah? You Got Some 'Splainin To Do, Lucy...
Think of anything that you can obviously call a 'community'. A church. Your local PTA. Your climbing, knitting, biking, golfing club. Your homeowners association. A trade association you belong to.
Each of these has *action* as the reason for their existence. We identify with the community based on the action we take.
I'm a golfer, for example, but I'm not in the community of golfers until I join a club. And the club will take actions like hold tournaments, get discounts on lessons and equipments...in order that I can take the action of playing golf.
Fans of a sports team or a rock band or a tv show...are just fans...a collection of people...until they take an action. Wearing a team jersey is the action of evangelizing for your community (team). If I'm sitting at home watching the game, I'm just a fan. When I invite my friends over, then we become a community, with our 'action' being to send our collective energy to will our team to victory.
If you think that's silly, well, in EVERY sport, there is a home field advantage that largely comes from the positive energy that the crowd supplies. If every fan just stayed home as an individual, there would be no advantage.
I might be a fan of Deadwood, but I'm not in a *community* of fans of Deadwood until I take some action protesting it going off the air and trying to get it reinstated.
It's not just common interest that makes a community, it's common purpose.
My friend Dave Land, who is the smartest person you've never heard of, made a comment to me on this subject that I love.
He said (well, tweeted, to be precise) "So a community is what it does, not who it is? Not disagreeing, I'm just sayin', is all… Are we human doings, or human beings?"
We Be as Me, We Do as (collective) YOU.
Which brings me to the final point. Yes, by ourselves, we are human *beings*. When I'm on Facebook, for example, I'm being me. I share pictures with my friends, I catch up on their lives, I am...just existing. (which is a perfectly good thing to do).
When I am on MyBarackObama.com though, I am *doing*. Which ultimately, has more power, people coming together around your product or service and *doing* something with it..and evangelizing to others to join them.
So What You're Really Saying Is...
If you're a marketer or a company considering getting into this 'social' space online, you should ask yourself what it you are really trying to accomplish--
Do you want people to DO something with you, or is it enough for them to just BE with you?
Either choice can be a perfectly valid choice, depending on your business needs, but they are two completely different business objectives.
It's just important to know the distinction.
What are your thoughts? Care to engage me in a conversation on this topic?
Today, of course, was Martin Luther King's birthday, a day we celebrate not just the man, but the ethics and noble ideals that he inspired in so many. We honor this man for his selfless dedication and ability to inspire others to commit to a higher purpose of achieving equality and justice for all.
All across America today, many communities participated in a day of service motivated, in part, by President-elect Obama's call to honor Dr. King's example by working for a common good.
President Kennedy's famous inauguration speech--"ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" has been a guiding principle in my life since childhood. I grew up with the sense of idealism and higher purpose Kennedy speaks of, and thankfully, it has weathered several decades of cynicism.
The Higher Purpose of Community
Today is a good day to remind ourselves that we ALL have a higher purpose, and this concept relates to the practical matter of using social media to develop online communities. Now, I don't want to diminish the magnitude of Dr. King's achievements by linking him with marketing and social media. Rather, I want to show how his inspiration can be applied to some of the common aspects of life too, not just the big things.
I've been musing a lot lately on the definition of 'community.' How do you define it? I'm coming to the belief that every community, in order to be called a community, must possess two core elements: action and higher purpose.
What noble ideal will inspire people to join...and work for this community?
Now, I am a community manager for several well-known brands and many folks might want to know where is the higher purpose in selling something? What's Nike's higher purpose? Exxon's? McDonald's? Can you really build a community around each of these brands? (note: I don't work for any of these companies)
Well, yes, I could. By bringing people together around what these companies either represent or COULD represent as their higher purpose.
What Business Are You Really In?
Nike isn't in the business of selling shoes. Their higher purpose is selling Excellence. Their higher purpose has to do with YOUR self-image--your desire and ability to see yourself as high performance, healthy person who values Excellence,Discipline and Hard Work. The shoes are just a means to those aspirations.
Can you create a community of people who are motivated to excel and give them the tools and peer support to do so? You betcha. A Nike community is easy to develop.
If I were developing a community for Exxon, I would suggest that their higher purpose is providing the energy that powers our life. (regardless of the lifestyle we choose). McDonald's higher purpose is feeding people inexpensively.
Image Problem? Look in the Mirror.
Each of the companies I've mentioned has an image problem, and yet, each of these companies sells their products to MILLIONS of people around the world. Obviously, they have some fans. If you buy these products or are employed by these companies, YOU are their image. What kind of story do you tell?
Having ordinary people tell their stories of how these brands have a positive influence in their life would go a long way to altering the common public perception.The fact is that Nike, Exxon and McDonalds DO do some good things--we just hardly ever hear about them.
Now, I'm not defending or promoting any of these companies...I'm just pointing out how appealing to a sense of higher purpose is needed to develop a sense of community. If these companies more clearly define their higher purpose and develop a community based on those ideals, then their community will help them...and help direct them towards right, noble actions.
No one would join a community that supports child labor in Third World countries, encourages the pillage of the environment or promotes obesity in children. Nobody is going to join a community about shoes, gasoline or cheap hamburgers, either.
Appeal to the Best in People, not their Fears or Prejudice.
50 years ago, no one would join a community and face jail, beatings and death to support the right of supposedly inferior humans to vote, sit anywhere on the bus or in a restaurant, or have equal access to schools either. It took the inspiration of a higher purpose--the appeal to more noble and loftier notions of Equality and Justice--to bring about that type of change.
Only communities--people acting together with a higher purpose--can deliver that type of change.
So before you build your community, ask yourself--what is your higher purpose? Make it big. What noble ideals are you promoting?
I've just recently passed the 10 year mark of working for LiveWorld, which I celebrated with a handful of jelly bellies, a diet coke and a passing nod that time really does fly when you're having fun. It's hard to believe that I've spent ten years working in the practice of developing online and offline communities--I still feel like I have start-up passion, conviction and optimism.
I'm not going to wax philosophical on the strange and curious wonders I've seen in this business--suffice it to say that my general observation is that building communities and brand engagement marketing is pretty much like reporting the news--the names and the tools used to do the job change, but the actual events remain pretty much the same.
I would, however, like to share a few lessons that I've learned that might be helpful both on a personal level in the workplace and for brands wanting to engage with their customers.
1. Listen to what is really being said, not just the words actually spoken. The words "I hate you" usually mean "I want to love you but something is in the way." Translation: your most vociferous detractors really want to be your biggest fans. Take action on what people actually say...and what they were really trying to tell you.
2. Everybody wants to help. Feedback, complaints, suggestions, comments--almost everybody wants to help! Regardless of whether you think the input is helpful or not, assume that people's intentions are good and give every suggestion the same consideration as if you had thought of it yourself.
My cat Cleo (pictured above) thinks she's helping me work by sprawling all over my keyboard and demanding attention. There are days when that seems really annoying and I want to push her aside. Those are the days when she is reminding me that taking time to scratch behind her ears will make her purr, and her purring will change my perspective.
Then there are days when I thank her for wanting to help, pick her off my keyboard and place her on the floor and get on with my work. But always acknowledge when someone wants to help and let them, or they will stop offering...and stop purring.
You want to encourage purring.
3. Everyone speaks the truth. Not all truths are the same, of course. One person can tell you that you're great, and another person can say that you suck...and they are both right. So who do you believe? You get to choose which truths you will accept and will act on, but listen to what everyone is telling you and find the truth in it that you can use. There's something useful in what both sides are saying.
4. Speak the truth, be transparent and do the right thing. It's a simple concept--don't lie or exaggerate. Just tell the truth. Admit when you make a mistake and when you are successful, don't take credit that isn't yours. People like the truth and we all know hyperbole when we hear it. "First, best, leader, anything ending in -est" is probably not the truth and will make people not trust you.
A corollary to this--give more credit to people around you than you take for yourself. It makes people feel good, encourages them to help even more and they probably deserve it more than you do anyway. Success is always a team effort.
And yes...do the right thing. This doesn't need definition--if you have to ask if you're doing the right thing, then you're not. Always go with your gut (and not your head) on that one.
5. Don't be afraid to fail. We learn more from failures than successes so change the word failure to education. You know that campaign you tried that didn't go over so well? We sure learned a lot from that experience, didn't we?
On the other hand, don't make the same mistake twice. The point IS to succeed and learn. Just remember that if nobody is dying for real, it's not really an emergency or a disaster. We'll come back and do better tomorrow.
6. Have Fun and Break a Few Rules Every Now and Then. 100% of the people I know would rather have fun than not have fun. Create an environment and user experience where people can have fun and good results will follow. Joy lightens everything it touches and makes all the hard work worthwhile...and makes people want to come back for more.
As for breaking rules...well... rules are for those who lack creativity and don't trust themselves to do the right thing. If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?
Do you have any rules for success that you'd like to share?
Finally home and mostly decompressed from SXSW. Long travel day yesterday--I missed a flight for the first time in my life!! Totally got caught in Austin traffic and it took an hour and a half to make what should have been a 20 minute trip.
Yeah, I know, I should have left earlier. I had a SXSW recap breakfast with Bryan Person and then caught the Birth of Cool exhibit that I missed on Monday, lost track of time and left for the airport later than I should.
How nerdy am I--missing a flight because I was at the museum. I am definitely not 'cool'.
Anyway, lots of really positive things at SXSW.
Special Recognition Goes To...
1) The SXSW organizing committee.
The event is very well produced and staffed. The volunteers away from the registration and information areas weren't all that knowledgeable and the signage/maps of events could have been better, but really, that's nit-picking. The web site was excellent, you could organize events online and sync them to your mobile calendar, the printed materials were outstanding. There was a wide variety of conference topics, social activities were great, special areas like the trade show, screen burn gaming area, blogger lounge and podcast areas were nice on-site getaways.
Special kudos for the designers of the pocket guide, which was truly a useful guide. Best I've ever used at an event.
Love it/hate it/indifferent. I feel all those things about Twitter, and at SXSW, it finally proved itself to be a very useful tool for me. Whether you were connecting with a friend because the cell phone coverage was sketchy, looking to find out what the hot panels were, searching for content in a session you missed or just participating in a backchannel conversation during a talk, Twitter really proved it's utility.
I know some people who weren't at SXSW complained about being inundated with tweets, but on the other hand, I also know a lot of people who didn't make the conference who felt like they got a lot of value by following the twitter-stream.
I still get annoyed by people using Twitter to give a blow-by-blow description about the party that they are at or who they are downing shots with, but who am I to judge?
Well, I'm me, and I rule. So stop it. No one cares who you are drinking with or that you are about to go sing karaoke.
2) Most Use(r)ful: Designing for the Wisdom of the Crowds by Derek Powazek . He's funny in a nerdy way, and chock full of useful information on letting users influence design. After all, it's called User Interface, right? Plus there were some really good notes and slides.
3) Most Validating: Managing Expert Clients by Kali Cover and Marili Cantu. These two laid out very practical how-to advice on managing client relations. Lots of nodding of heads in the audience when discussing the special challenges we face helping clients. The notes are by @MeganGarza.
Most Disappointing Panels
I don't want to call anyone out in public because any disappointment I had was *mine*, and I'm sure that for every panel I was in that I thought wasn't fulfilling, there were people in the room who thought it rocked.
Still, here are some things that disappointed me that ANYONE who speaks at a conference should heed:
1) Title are important. If you have a totally kick-ass title for your panel, your presentation should rock too. A provocative title means you will have bold opinions and definitive stance. A title with a question in it should ANSWER THE QUESTION by end of the session. (you'd be surprised how infrequently this happens) A vague title that requires a subtitle to explain what the topic is really about isn't going to get many people to your session.
2) It's not necessary that EVERY panelist responds to EVERY question. I saw a lot of time wasted and thus, not a lot of information being shared in panels where the moderator would pose a question and then the other 4 panelists would give their answers and they were all saying essentially the same thing.
If there is strong disagreement on the panels, that's good and makes for a lively discussion. Everyone agreeing with the first response and then saying why they agree pretty much wastes everyone's time.
I would rather see more points covered than making sure everyone got equal time.
3) Have enough topics to cover the time allotted. I saw several one hour sessions where there were maybe three bullet points covered in the entire hour. I wasn't sure if that was because that's all the moderator could think to cover, everyone just kept rambling in their responses or what.
But each case felt like a waste of an hour. I don't mind getting only one good takeway out of an hour presentation, but if you only cover three things, you're cutting down your odds of getting something awesome in there.
More isn't necessarily more, but less isn't always more either.
4) A presentation isn't a lecture, it's a performance. Please don't just talk about what's on your Powerpoint slides. If that's all you're going to do, just post your slides somewhere and let us get on to someone more interesting.
YOU are as important as your material. I hate to put any pressure on anyone, but if your name is in print, I'm expecting you to entertain me in some way. Be provocative. Witty. More knowledgeable than anyone else out there...be extraordinary.
5) Announce a sensible Twitter hashtag at the beginning of your presentation. If you don't know much about Twitter, then ask someone in the audience to set a hashtag.
Hashtags are how we are going to find notes and information from your presentation afterwards and Twitter just may become the new search. People are tweeting about your presentation and we want to find those notes later.
A clever hashtag like #cake draws a laugh from the crowd attending, but when you try to find a bit of information from that presentation 3 months from now or you weren't at the conference and the topic was really Building a Brand are you really going to look for #cake?
Now, I'm not picking on that particular panel--there were several others I attended that were also inappropriate. This particular panel just illustrates the point most clearly--NO ONE will think to look for #cake to search for the golden nuggets that really were presented in a panel on building a brand presence.
If the point is to share information with those who aren't there, then please choose a hashtag wisely.
1) I loved meeting the Southwest Airlines new media team. Southwest is doing some really cool stuff in the social networking/online community space, and they clearly 'get' this media. It's refreshing to see a corporation that knows how to have fun and be social with their customers.
2) Also enjoyed meeting @LPT--another person at a major corporation that is utilizing social media well, albeit different in tone than Southwest. Her blog is a good, thoughtful read.
3) I was amazed by @carbody, and she really opened my eyes as to what being a 'digital native' means. I watched her effortlessly tweet, listen, take notes, engage in conversation, email, add followers, fact check and absorb everything around her as easily as breathing. I don't even think she is aware of how extraordinary she is-but she is so fluent in this realm that it was truly inspiring.
I chatted with her during the breaks and found her to be quite thoughtful, eloquent, knowledgeable, passionate about social media and her clients and just a down-to-earth, charming person.
4) I was also lucky enough to chat with Andy Carvin of NPR and chat about the future of journalism and some directions NPR will be heading. He's a very thoughtful, forward-thinking person, and NPR is also doing some exciting things with social media.
1) Inspiration. It was a pleasure to see so many passionate social media practitioners in one place and learn by watching as well as participating. I have many new ideas and information to share with my team, my company and my clients.
2) Have a plan. I went totally free-form. I wasn't sure of what to expect, so I didn't plan much beyond where I was staying. I got a lot out of it by just wandering around and going with the moment, but probably could have gotten a few more connections, developed a few more relationships and learned a few more things by being more organized.
3) SXSW parties are not a good way to connect. They are good for having fun (you can never go wrong with free booze and food!), but it's tough to have meaningful conversations with music blaring.
4) Go with someone. I traveled solo for this, and it can be an extra struggle/effort to constantly meet people. I'm kind of strange, maybe. There are times when I can be very outgoing and love to meet people, AND when I'm in a big crowd, I can also just sort of sit on the sidelines and watch.
I didn't find many people at SXSW who made much of an effort reaching out to me (other than Bryan who I work with, and thankfully, he seems to know a lot of people), which meant that I was the one constantly going out of my way to meet other people.
That's not a horrible thing, just something that takes some effort. I'd recommend going with a friend--it's a better shared experience than solo.
5) Pace yourself. The smartest thing I did was get away from the conference for an afternoon and just enjoy Austin. The energy at SXS Interactive is very palpable and eventually becomes overwhelming. Don't be afraid to get away--Austin has many other nice attractions. Get 8 hours of sleep and drink plenty of water. It's a grind, not a sprint.
6) Blue Bell ice cream. This was recommended to me by a Texas native and I first thought it was just another "everything is better in Texas" kind of suggestion.
Blue Bell is REAL ice cream. Made from real cream. Waaaaaaaaaaaay better than Ben and Jerry's, Haagen Daaz or any other ice cream you've had.
Really. It's that good.
Yep. It's totally worth the money. I got enough ideas, inspiration and new friendships that totally made the trip worthwhile. I highly recommend attendance if you're currently using social media or are thinking about it.
I dove in and led two sessions--one called "Social Media Snake Oil" and the other "Metrics That Matter". (note to self--remember to ask someone to take notes-I forgot to get notes of the first session, but did get them for the Metrics panel.)
My main role, as I perceived it, was to instigate and moderate--challenge the 'conventional wisdom' (ie: you MUST be on Twitter) and prod the smart people in the room to come up with solutions to common problems.
I was really pleased when @sujamthe introduced herself after my first session to tell me that she liked the way that I conducted the session and it inspired her to lead a session as well. I also discovered that she leads Twitter meetups in the South Bay and that introduction led to my meeting @pcrampton, which in turn led to an afternoon and evening of deep discussion on measuring communities that led to the topic of the second session regarding metrics.
The metrics session went well--the conversation was lively, some practical tips were shared and nearly 75% of the attendees were still deep in conversation 15 minutes after the panel ended.
That response really told us that there is a lot of interest (and NEED) among community managers for some direction when it comes to measuring communities both qualitatively and quantitatively. So now we're looking at extending THAT session possibly into an all-day conference on community metrics. (ping me if you're interested in helping organize an event!)
It's really amazing how one small thing can lead to so many bigger things at these events.
Problems CM's Everywhere Face
I discovered there are MANY common problems among community managers. Chief among them:
--Not enough time. Communities/relationships take time and it's a messy job that doesn't fit neatly into predictable blocks of time (like coding). Most CM's are tasked with many functions as part of their job. --Which tools/platforms are the most effective & efficient to use? Where do you get the most bang for the buck? (Answer: it depends. Of course.) --Metrics are the 800 pound gorilla. Nearly all CM's struggle with developing metrics that gives REAL information. Most metrics are devised to satisfy either marketing or upper management that the community yield is worth the company investment, but what management wants is often misguided to what the community is actually doing or good for.
What I Learned at #CLS
I came away with enough fodder for several blog posts, but here are a couple of things that stick out in my mind:
1) Developer and open source communities have *incredible* passion and energy--probably more so than branded communities. Their energy level is palpable. Sometimes fierce.
2) Developer and open source communities take the concept of 'purity' VERY seriously, which makes managing their communities something of a challenge. It's an almost anarchistic environment and they like it that way.
These community members feel very, very protective of the communities that develop, and they struggle with how much guidance or control is appropriate in their communities.
3) It seems to me that branded communities like and expect a certain level of control by the brand in their communities. Yes, the members own the community, but they also understand that it will be policed and managed by the brand. Branded communities don't like to feel manipulated, but they seem to accept some degree of control better than open-source/developer communities.
Women Are Geeks Too
4) There were more women at this conference than most, and they wanted to educate the guys on how to bring even MORE women into conferences. The ratio was roughly 75% male to 25% female, and the consensus among the women was that the 'normal' ratio is around 90/10.
5) Lastly, in one session, we practiced developing a 45 second elevator pitch to describe what you do that is interesting and invites more conversation but doesn't make you sound like a robot or like you're selling something.
It's a LOT harder than it sounds. But invaluable.
I *highly* recommend people take a couple of hours and develop 3-5 different elevator pitches slanted towards different type of people you're bound to meet.
Mine still needs more refinement, but I was a lot better after the workshop and I'll keep practicing. It's really a very necessary skill to distill who you are and what you do into a 45 second message.
We all know that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you happened to stumble upon someone really, really important in your field and only had 45 seconds to talk with them about what you do, what would YOU say?
Somebody once said something to the effect of "empty what is full, and fill what is empty."
I take that statement to mean, "do the not-so-obvious when everyone is doing the obvious, and do the obvious when everyone is doing something different." In other words, I don't always go with what everyone else is saying or doing.
If you're looking to develop a community around a brand or an idea, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of 'how to' articles on the internet that can give you solid advice on getting started. That's what's full.
What is empty...or emptier, I should say, are thoughts on what NOT to do when developing a community. So here are 5 things that I reccomend that you should NOT do when trying to develop or grow either an online or offline community:
1. Talk with your community in marketing-speak.
Sure, you have an ulterior motive for developing a community--but people aren't "customers", "members", "users" or "clients". They're people. Talk with them the way that you'd talk with your friends, family and co-workers. Be a human, not a marketer.
2. Expect people to behave the way you want them to behave.
Yes, you have an objective for gathering people together and trying to form a community, and you have hopes for how they will act. But you can't force people to do anything, and this is REALLY important when developing a website.
MOST sites want people to register with the site--they want data like email addresses, demographic info, purchasing info for follow up marketing. So they force users to register for the site in order to use the features of the site.
Or they offer very limited functionality and try to funnel visitors to either the registration or purchasing tracks.
This is wrong. UI studies indicate that you have approximately 6 seconds to provide some usefulness to a site visitor or s/he is gone. If you're not providing *instant* value, then you're never going to get the visitor to registration.
Provide value to the visitors at first glance, and then *observe* visitor behavior and try to take advantage of what the GUEST wants to do, not what YOU want them to do.
It's a better, more fruitful experience for all and will lead to repeat visits and deeper engagement with the community/website.
Registration information given because the user had to give it (instead of wanting to give it) is useless and counter-productive. The first time you try to connect with that person, they will remove themselves from your emailing list and will form a negative opinion of you because they will remember that you forced them to give something they didn't want to give.
Give people the opportunity to give you information because they want to, and that information becomes MUCH more valuable.
3. Squash disagreements or negative comments about you.
Okay, it's your website or brand--do you REALLY have to listen to people talk trash about you?
Yes. If you want to create an environment where great ideas will grow.
Nobody likes to hear people say bad things about them, but people only say bad things because they WANT to love you/your brand, but something is disappointing them.
YOU want to please your customers and your friends, don't you?
The only way to know if you're doing that is to create an open, warm environment where people are free to speak their mind.
There should be rules of civil discourse, of course and you should definitely set the rules for the tone of the culture on how to disagree and express opinions.
Controversy and freedom of expression helps bring clarity to issues (not necessarily agreement), allows defenders to come forth and leads to new understanding.
Remember--everyone speaks their version of the truth, so there is something good to be found in every opinion. If you are looking to deliver the best possible product or service, those negative views are telling you where you could be doing better.
4. Feel compelled to ACT on every suggestion or comment from the community.
Someone has to set direction and the practical reality is that you will often get conflicting opinions from members of your community on what 'they' want.
THANK everyone in the community for contributing their thoughts and energy, let them know that they were heard and considered, and give them reasons for why you make certain decisions.
But once you decide to turn left, don't waste any more time explaining to people why you didn't turn right. It detracts from the focus of what you are doing.
5. Be afraid to make mistakes.
There are no guarantees of success in any endeavor--you take the best practices, create an environment for success and make the best decisions you can for the right reasons, and maybe success comes your way.
If you're into sporting analogies--there are 32 teams comprised of professional football players in the NFL. They all have amazing players, dedicated, workaholic coaches and organizations whose sole focus is to win games on Sundays and win a championship.
Yet, only ONE of those teams wins the championship every year, and less than half have a winning season. It's unusual when a team wins a championship two years in a row, so success is a very rare commodity.
So if you decide to turn left over opposition from the community, for example, and it turns out you should have turned right, well....
....admit it, and turn right. The community will forgive you (eventually) and your openness will signal to them that you are engaged *with* them and they will appreciate you for the honesty.
We learn more from our mistakes...remember them longer...and grow more attached people we have suffered with than those we have only succeeded with.
Failure makes you human, being human makes you endearing. And even brands can be endearing.
So if you try some initiative with your community and it doesn't work--that's okay. Try something else. Learn what you can from each experience and continue to *listen* to what your community is telling you.
After all, you are ultimately there to serve the needs of the community, not the other way around.
Those are my Top 5 Things NOT To Do when building a community.
I'm currently entering into final preparations for performing in the musical Guilty Pleasures in Lake Tahoe, Aug. 12-16.
Now, I'm definitely out of my element when it comes to musicals. As an actor, I love doing dramas and comedies. I've sung in shows before, but I'm more of a 'character voice', which really means, as a singer...I'm a hell of an actor. I can act the role well enough that the audience doesn't really care how well I sing.
In this role, however, I get to sing a sweet love song with a woman who quite simply has one of the best voices in Lake Tahoe. This makes me very, very nervous--I love listening to Sharon sing and as her partner, I don't want her song to not go well because I'm weak.
Nothing pulls an audience out of a moment like hearing Sharon singing beautifully one verse, and then listening to a frog croak in the next verse.
So I've been working very diligently on my vocal technique and singing the song, and I have to say that it's been going well in rehearsals.
And then last night, I had a breakthrough that was pretty profound.
There is one particular place in the song where I have problems finding my note and that one spot has been giving me fits. I miss the note half the time, which makes me cringe and it takes me the rest of the verse to get back on key.
Last night, I decided to forget about singing the song and that one particular trouble-spot, and focus more on *performing* the song. Really listening to the words, being moved by the music and letting go to *feel* it and express myself via song.
Really, just trusting the vocal work that I had done without thinking about it.
It went so well, that my song partner got totally caught up in what we were doing and feeling the song, that at one point, she forgot to sing! She was caught up in being in the moment and not thinking about what she was supposed to say next. I was actually kind of happy that she was so into our connection that she lost herself.
Now, that wouldn't fly in performance, of course, but that's not the point. Sharon is a total pro and now that we discovered a deeper connection in the song, she will take that and soar once the show opens.
That's what rehearsals are for, after all. Finding new connections and deeper meaning. And sometimes, when you make a new discovery, your mind just goes blank, it's so powerful.
The trouble-spot went by effortlessly and on-key, and I was on the next verse before I even realized I had just passed the spot that I usually worry about.
The joy of performance is not that you forget that you're under intense spotlights and many people have paid hard-earned money to watch you--you take all of that into consideration. You feel that pressure to perform and be worthy.
But you ignore the distraction of all those external fears and pressure and focus more sharply on just doing what you know how to do.
You lose yourself and become what you are doing.
What's really interesting...and pertinent...is the lesson that in order to perform well, you must trust what you know, trust your training, trust your experience...and then just let it all go and enjoy doing what you are doing.
I stopped thinking about singing my song, my cues, my notes...and just sang...and let the song move me.
I write this as a response to my own blog post regarding 5 Things Not To Do in growing a community. There are many good tips out there on Do's and Dont's that provide a solid background on how to develop communities, and I highly recommend that you read them.
But at a certain point, I'd also like to suggest that you STOP reading 'how to' articles, and trust what you already know.
We ALL belong to communities in our daily lives, be those the local PTA, an HOA, a church, professional association, running club, Scouts organization or what have you. We all belong to *something*.
We KNOW how to develop those types of communities in our daily lives, we know what gets us involved and contributing in those communities or what keeps us on the sidelines.
So if you're in the business of developing online communities using social media, at some point, you'll want to trust that you've done your homework and just lose yourself in the performance of *being* with your community. Forget about whether you're doing everything right...or not...
...and be human. Be a part of your online community the way you are in your real-world communities and lose yourself in performance. Just go with what's actually happening and 'be'. It's a magical feeling.
What do you think--have you ever lost yourself in performance?
I recently gave my team a challenge to develop 'elevator pitches'--short, 45 second introductions of themselves and our company. I suggested 3 scenarios where having something prepared that rolls naturally and easily off the tongue would come in handy:
At a conference of peers, and you get the inevitable questions-- "what do you do?" and "who do you work for?"
In either a business or social situation where you meet someone who might be a potential client and you want to introduce yourself in a personal yet professional way.
When your non-tech family and friends ask you "what exactly do you do for a living?"
As community managers, that third scenario is often the most difficult to describe, because there really isn't an off-line job that mirrors what a CM does.
She's done a brilliant job describing the role and I'm not going to recap her work here--I highly recommend you click on the link and check it out. I don't really have anything to add to her concise description.
Now, I still have to figure out how to put her wonderful CM description into 45 seconds or less so my Dad can understand what I do for a living, but that's another matter.
Rachel poses an interesting question on the topic--how do you prioritize your time as a CM? With so many different aspects to the job, how do you go about managing your day?
And that's what I'm curious to know too. I'm probably not very good at time management, because I find myself working on a Sunday afternoon, trying to catch up to work that I didn't get to during the week. I can get so wrapped up in doing daily maintenance tasks for my clients that I don't always get to the bigger, long term initiatives that will ultimately benefit both the client and my company more.
So here is my question for you, dear readers: How much of your day is taken up with 'mundane' tasks, and how do you carve time out for the bigger projects? I can find myself so occupied with responding to daily emails, looking at metrics and reports, surfing through clients communities etc, that I don't feel like I actually got anything done.
When I was a little kid, my family was kind of poor, and I learned at an early age not to ask for things. The answer always seemed to be a big, fat NO.
When my birthday or Christmas would roll around every year, I wouldn't even bother asking for the latest cool toy or new bicycle or any of those neat things that my friends always seemed to get. I’d take whatever came wrapped up in colorful paper and be thankful for it, rather than wishing for something really special. I wanted Rock'em Sock'em Robots but acted happy when I'd get a Slinky instead.
When I confided to my mom many years later that I felt a little cheated for not having some of the cool toys my friends had, she thought for a moment and said in a surprised voice "you never asked for any of those things, so I didn't think you wanted them."
I laughed and replied that I didn't think we could afford them and without blinking an eye, she shrugged her shoulders dismissively and said, "maybe not, but if you don't ask, you don't get."
This little life lesson has an amazing power that many brands engaging in social media never utilize.
If You Build It, They Will Come...and Create.
The promise of WOM marketing is pretty simple--give your customers a venue and some tools, and they will create all kinds of content, interact with others and become ambassadors extolling your brand's virtues.
But what do you do when that doesn't happen? What do you do when you've spent time and money to put a shiny new "Community" link on your site with a few social media tools, and slapped up a Facebook fan page or group, but nobody does anything? There are no comments, no blogs, no videos, no content.
You've provided tools and you've driven traffic, but nothing is happening. It's a ghost town. You wanted the Rock'em Sock'em Robots of a website, and wound up with a Slinky.
Why aren't the visitors doing what they're supposed to do?
Ask...and You Might Receive
The answer might be staring you right in the face: did you remember to ask people to participate?
Now, I'm not talking about the couple lines of text on a web page that go something like "this is your community and we hope you'll join the conversation!"
That's the lazy way of engaging your visitors and not likely to yield results. It's a waste of space on the page that could be used for a more useful link, in my opinion.
The thing is, most people on the internet are busy. They come to a website FIRST for information, not to make new friends. They expect to find content on your website—they’re there to consume your content, not help create it.
So how do you get visitors to go from consumers to creators? Well, it’s pretty simple.
You ask for help.
Ask your site visitors for their help...and their opinions. Those are two things that almost everyone loves to give.
Got A Fence You Need Painted?
I was reminded of this the other day by Bryan Person, our LiveWorld Community Evangelist, who sent me an email asking me if I had any good ideas for a blog topic.
Bryan phrased his question quite innocently, and made it sound like I could really help him out if I could come up with a good blog topic and write about it. He immediately got me thinking and this entry is the result of him asking.
Now, I’m in the social media business and in fact, it’s my job to regularly come up with new blog topics. But Bryan didn’t motivate like that…he didn’t demand that I create content, he asked.
He made it sound like I could do a good thing for other people if I could write something and what could have felt like a task, suddenly felt like a noble gesture.
It helps that Bryan has a Tom Sawyer kind of charm to him, and I’m sure if he asked me to paint his fence, I’d think I was getting the better end of the deal, and that’s really the point.
It’s not what you ask people to do—it’s how you ask that gets results. Ask in such a way that people want to give.
Oh Brother, Can You Spare a Comment?
If you’re finding that you’re not generating content on your social website, you might start with that simple premise. ASK people to contribute. As a website publisher, you have powerful data at your fingertips that gives you insight into your site visitors. Rather than wait for the visitors to engage with each other, you might consider engaging with them first.
Look thru your database and see which 25 people have visited the site most frequently. Or get the list of your 50 most active posters—these are folks who have already expressed some sense of attraction and participation with your site.
Ask them directly via emails, surveys or polls on the site,what they are thinking. What they like or don’t like about your site or your products.
Ask if you can interview them and feature them on the site. Ask them their opinions on a few topics and if you have an interesting email exchange with a member, ask them if they would post that thought on your discussion boards, or if they would write a blog article.
Ask them if they would invite their friends to the site, or what would make the site more invite-worthy. Ask them to do something specific for you.
The act of asking shows people that YOU are engaged and want to be more engaged. It sends the signal that “I want to listen to you.” Asking for something specific lets the person being asked know how much effort is required from them and makes it easy for the answer to be yes.
Most people like to help out, even if we’re incredibly busy. We feel good about doing something helpful for someone else, as long as we can see the benefit to helping. So give your site visitors that opportunity to feel good—connect with them and ask them to help out in a small way.
My Momma Always Said...
Remember, just because you ask doesn’t mean that the answer will be yes. But as my mom would say, if you DON’T ask, you won’t get.
What about you? Can you share an example of where you did something a little extra that you wouldn’t normally do—until someone asked you for your help?