Jun 27

Why Do Corporations Struggle with Social Media?

I see a lot of larger companies who don’t seem to get how social media makes things cheaper and well, just better. It’s a direct communication tool, like a cell phone. Big companies seem to just snuggle with Web 2.0 rockstars and then call it a day. That’s lame. That doesn’t make me want to throw you my money. I just want to know that you aren’t going to hose me or my friends and then we are cool.

Here are some tips for large companies on how they can cut costs, improve their products, and well, make the world a better place by using social media:

1.) It sounds harsh, but evolve or die.
Look folks, I’m not making this stuff up. Social media and in particular Facebook is a global revolution. Imagine a country that grows to 400 million people in six years. That’s Facebook. Twitter was founded in 2006, and studies show that 37 percent of journalists already use it. 59 percent of them already blog.

Yes, it sprung up on you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it seriously. If 37 percent of journalists are on Twitter, how easy is it for pissed off customers to hit them up with a juicy story about your company?

What am I saying here? It means 1.) Your communications people need to do their homework, 2.) Your senior leadership needs to do their homework, and 3.) You need to come up with a plan and a budget, and you need to revisit them frequently. Don’t just ignore it because the word “Twitter” sounds kind of dirty.

2.) Social media is not a marketing tool. It can be used by your entire company.
Social media tools like Twitter are merely communication tools. When I advise people about them, I use a term from the movie “The Matrix”:
There is no spoon.

This means you can use Vimeo not just to spam people with ads, but to instruct them how to use your product. You can use Twitter to follow potential business development opportunities or get feedback for your product teams. There really is no rigid “use” for social media. If you give it to the marketing team, you are essentially telling the world, “The only way we would like to communicate with you is to sell you something”. I suppose that’s within a company’s right, but there are many more useful ways to use social media to cut costs and make things happen in a short period of time.

3.) You are playing with fire when you outsource it to someone else.
Your customers are going to ask you all sorts of things.
Can I get a job at your company?
Fix this issue or I’m calling my lawyer.
Why hasn’t this tech support rep answered my email?

Can you really trust some 24-year-old at a marketing agency will get a tweet from a journalist or a very angry customer and is going to represent your company in a way that doesn’t get you in trouble with the SEC or the press? I don’t really understand this model of using social media. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Agencies can create good marketing campaigns using social media and can provide guidance for sure (see this and this), but they shouldn’t really represent your company’s presence online.

Again, trusting it just to the marketers means you are missing other opportunities to save money, like using these tools for tech support or product development.

4.) You let the lawyers take control even though they think “blog” is a drink you have on Christmas.
People seem to think lawyers know everything about the law. Here’s a secret: THEY DON’T. The law is very expansive and constantly changes. No lawyer knows everything about it and if they do, they are just big lying liars.

Lawyers should not be able to set policies on tweeting and blogging if they don’t have any familiarity with the mediums and in particular, the concept of Creative Commons. It just makes employees nervous and distrustful and then they do their own thing on the side anyway. Just like senior leadership should do due diligence to learn about social media, so should the legal department.

5.) People aren’t convenient numbers. They are people. Now they can form a “corporation” of their own, for you or against you.
This is perhaps the point where big companies struggle the most. You’ve got the bean counters who expect certain amounts of leads, profits, etc, whatever. They are used to a Cold War game, where you just outgun your opponent with huge shock and awe figures.

The game has changed. This is not a trend. This isn’t a fad. That game is gone and lost forever.

What the Cold War mentality isn’t considering in a new media world is that these numbers can all ban together and decide you rock. They can ban together and decide you suck. They now have easy access to each other. You can’t just hose a bunch of people and think they don’t know any better. It’s not the way it used to be. They are all talking about your company and comparing notes.

In a new media world, you just have to be honest and reduce your risk for IEDs, snipers, and the like. You have to win the hearts and minds of people and then ask them to spread the word.

It’s not that corporations can’t be agile enough–it’s that often the people in charge simply don’t get it. They didn’t get where they are at using it so there is no use dropping what works for some “fad”. A little research and a holistic strategy about social media could mean wonders for them. I don’t how you can look at social media tools and figure that consumers will ever stop using them to reach out to each other. They just help people make informed decisions.

Frustrated because your company fits this bill? Leave a comment for how big companies can improve what they are doing. You can use a fake name like Awesome McAwesomePants or something outrageously cool like that so as to not incriminate yourself.

Jun 24

When Closing More Leads Can Actually Hurt You More

Marketing. It’s often considered a spin doctor-ish, slimy profession intended to deceive people into buying something they don’t need.

Marketing as it should be done is actually a very noble profession that can improve people’s lives. However, not only is pursuing “anyone and everyone” at the expense of their happiness unethical, it is stupid and costly to your business.

Bazaarvoice is a company that allows companies to increase and measure reviews about their products. Here are some stats they’ve gathered about word-of-mouth:

*The average consumer mentions specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. (Keller Fay, WOMMA, 2010)
*90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. (Econsultancy, July 2009)
*Users put great trust in their social networks. One-half of Beresford respondents said they considered information shared on their networks when making a decision—and the proportion was higher among users ages 18 to 24, at 65%. (eMarketer, October 2009)
*Consumers trust friends above experts when it comes to product recommendations (65% trust friends, 27% trust experts, 8% trust celebrities). (Yankelovich)

Why are these statistics relevant? These along with reputable game theory studies show that people trust other people they know more than they’ll trust you. If you are doing the slimeball marketing tactic by focusing on sheer numbers and quotas, you aren’t focused on who is actually buying your product and if these people would actually enjoy using it.

LET’S DO THE MATH:

Let’s say that your manager wants you to meet a quota, and so you sell 10,000 widgets like you were asked. Because widgets are rather obscure, you sort of fudged the benefits of the product and now only 25 percent of the people who use them are happy with the product. That’s 7500 people who now hate your widget and probably you for selling it to them. According to a study cited by the social network DoctorBase, if these are social media users, a negative review from them will reach 130 people. That’s:

7500
* 130
975,000 people who now think you deceived them

Now let’s say you do this more responsibly. You ignore your manager’s quota and you say, “I won’t get 10,000 sold now, but I will have 3000 sold in six months, and 75,000 sold in a year, and I will do it in a way where we can spend much less in marketing and much more improving our product for the future”. How do you do this?

1.) Understand what your widget is, how customers use it, and how it compares to other products like it in the industry.
2.) Instead of figuring out how you can preach your product far and wide to everyone, figure out how you can get it to 3000 who would be insanely happy with it. This is a lot easier to achieve than finding 10,000 happy customers but requires a bit more homework.
3.) Make those 3000 people insanely happy with your widget. This may or may not cost money in product development, but that’s often what it takes to make people insanely happy.

Let’s be very conservative here. If you make people insanely happy with your product, asking them to tell their friends about you is actually quite easy. They feel like they are doing their friends a favor. So let’s say those 3000 people only reach out to an average of 25 people and convince them that your widget will totally change their lives.

3000
* 25
75,000 people bought your widget and love it.

That’s 7.5 times what your General Manager asked you to sell.

By marketing to those 10,000 instead, you now have to do damage control for your brand’s reputation. You have to spend more money sustaining growth because people aren’t talking about how awesome you are. You have to spend money on customer acquisition and retention. That means less money for product development. This hardly seems sustainable.

By being a marketing sniper versus a cannon, you can trust your community of users to do the marketing for you. Plus you can sleep at night, which is always a plus. ;)

Jun 03

Pitch in for Linux Against Poverty Because it Makes you Cool

I have always admired people who seem to be successful while still remaining gracious and humble. It inspires me to do more with my life because it shows me that you can be both successful and likable.

If you read my blog, you are probably a geek who likes his or her computer. You might be oggling over iPads or Mac announcements. There’s nothing wrong with that because you are perfectly entitled to work hard for things that make your life more pleasurable. Just appreciate that what you have right now may be good enough for what you need, and there are people out there who can’t really afford to pay their bills, much less buy a computer with an internet connection. Lynn Bender at GeekAustin is helping to solve this problem for Austinites and Central Texans with an event called Linux Against Poverty on June 19th. Essentially, he is collecting a lot of computers, installing the resource light Linux Ubuntu OS on them, and then giving them to people in need.

If you appreciate what your computer does for you (which I imagine is a lot these days), perhaps you’ll want to contribute so you can be one of those people who has stuff but is still gracious in life and considerate not only of what they could have, but the power they have to contribute to others now. Graciousness and humility are endearing qualities that make you cool. And who in their right mind does not want to be cool? That’s just silly.

Please consider contributing in the following ways:
1.) Go to your facilities manager (or the person who wears this hat in your company) and ask them if they have any extra computers in the office they could donate.

2.) Look in your house to see if you have any old computers that could go through the Linux Ubuntu Makeover Challenge. You’d be shocked how lean an OS Ubuntu is.

The instructions for dropping off computers are here.

3.) Check out the website for volunteer opportunities.

4.) Blog about it, email it around and let people know about the event.


5.) Attend the event. It’s on June 19th at Union Park.

6.) Sponsor it! Here’s the lowdown on that:

Platinum Sponsorship Opportunities
$700 Additional RAM for donated computers(we can also offer platinum sponsorship for equivalent RAM donations)

Gold Sponsorship Opportunities
$375 Additional RAM for donated computers
$375 60 days pre and post event storage for computers
$350 T-shirts for Linux Against Poverty Volunteers

Silver Sponsorship Opportunities
$175 Chair and table rental for Linux Against Poverty Install fest
$150 48hr Truck Rental for Linux Against Poverty

If you have questions, or would like to discuss additional incentives, please contact our donations coordinator directly at: laura.carbonneau(at)linuxagainstpoverty.org.

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